"You're a man now, Spock.  You will attend your mother in my place."

His father's parting words rang heavily in Spock's ears.  On Vulcan it would have been an easy task, but how was he to do that on thisforeign planet?  Here everything was alien to him.  Even his motherhad become a stranger.

Right now she was in the kitchen.  The house stunk strongly with the smell of the fatted foul she was helping to roast for the occasion.  He had already watched her gnaw the boiled neck of the bird with a gusto that was alarming to him.

He had also seen the subtle shift in her eyes as she started to offer him a taste, and then swiftly changed her mind.  For some reason he did not quite choose to understand, her reactions made him ache.

So now he chose to sit in the living room, stuffed with his Terran family, not one of whom he knew.  Alone again, in the crowd.

The younger ones stared at him openly from a distance.  They backed away if he came too close.  Little Janna had actually cried and buried her face in her mother's dress when he had raised his hand to her in salute.  He observed her display stonily.  It would have made his father proud.

The older ones stared too, but only when they didn't realize he could see.  They wouldn't shy away from him, but sometimes he could sense that it was a close call indeed. They were all purposefully thoughtful and accommodating, all carefully polite as well-bred people should always be with guests.

But his mother had told him that they were his family, so why in the world would they treat him so coolly?

He had studied for days in preparation for this gathering.  He had learned of the legends and mythology behind this celebration.  He read the Bible passages and the classical literature.  He learned the children's stories and, the significance of traditions around the globe.  He had thought he could join their collective as an expert, but the little things kept taking him by surprise.

The house was acceptably warm, but closed in and stuffy.  He had not realized how the very air of home would have a character all its own. The lesser gravity made his movements clumsy and uncertain, as if he might overshoot his intentions at any time. The proffered beverages had either been intentionally poisoned with ethanol or were of an
illogically high caloric density.  Even the water carried alien tastes of unpalatable minerals and acid that burned his tongue.

The twins Rick and Kyler were his own age, eight years old, but they wrestled and sulked and played as children.  But his father had told him that he must be a man.

And so Spock sat stiffly in a chair, reserved and proper so as to cause no inadvertent offense, and observed the Christmas Day festivities go on around him.  Eventually, they all seemed to forget that he was even there.

In the corner, someone played a card and the table grew quiet in concentration.  The children were also engrossed, and many second, the only sound was that of the Mediacast system playing musak carols.  It was one Spock recognized, and so he picked up the lyre his father had sent with him.

The song had come up in his research.  The melody was simple enough.  The words told of a special birth on that special, silent night.  The computer had held translations into 87 different Terran languages, but none for Vulcan.  So as a simple exercise onboard the earthbound shuttle, Spock had translated a Vulcan lyric.

So, it was in Vulcan that he began to sing.  He started, so softly, below the range of Human hearing, but unbeknownst to himself, he gradually increased the volume.

Just about to begin the second verse, he looked up with a start.  Aunt Erika had broken in, loud and strong in the guttural German of her homeland.  He watched her lips carefully and played now in time with her voice.  But by the last verse, most of the room was mouthing along softly in English. The very room waved in unity, both harmonically and psionically, with the unity of the spirit as the people sung.

With great reluctance, as the chorus ended, he set the lyre down. Cousin Terry pulled a harmonica from his jacket pocket and asked him if he knew more.  He nodded solemnly and Billy turned the Mediacast off.  They reached.

With his usual frozen expression he began to tune the lyre to the key of the little mouth harp.  Kyler and Rick were still singing, childishly off key and a cappella, but with unabashed enthusiasm, of someone sleeping in heavenly peace.

Janna wandered up to him and met him squarely in the eye.  She gravely extended one tiny hand.  It contained a polymer wrapped baton made from multiple sugars and mildly oncogenic red and white dyes.

Spock accepted the candy cane with suitable gravity.  He popped it into his mouth.  It was sweet and hot, and too much and not quite enough, all at the same time.

Janna smiled and climbed up into his lap as he prepared to begin the next song.  She traced her finger along the outline of his ear and he counted each precariously slow beat of her pulse against his arm.  But it seemed that each of them was faring quite well, despite their differences.

From the kitchen doorway, Amanda watched, her heart finally at peace.