A Sixpence at Christmas

By Lt. Zoe Jebkanto

Rating: G

Genres: drama

Keywords:

This story has been read by 567 people.
This story has been read 962 times.


Disclaimer:  Not mine.  Not here.  Not in the A U and (fortunately for all of us here on planet Earth) not in the “Twilight” Universe either.

Key words: Memory loss, Twilight Universe, Christmas guests…

A/N:  This one is for Asso, who has gifted me stories, friendship and inspiration!  Thanks my friend!


 

25 December, 2063

Ceti Alpha V

Twenty two hundred thirty hours

This had been a long day.

T’Pol paused by the round kitchen window, watching the lights beyond it go out one by one, turning the refugee community into a land of shadows and silhouettes as the stars overhead brightened the skies of Ceti Alpha Five.

Her evening meditation complete, she had come in here to make herself a cup of tea before retiring to bed with her day-full of memories.

The sound of the comm link had come to her early this morning, along with the wafting warm aroma of the coffee she’d set to brew, while she stood before the mirror tying back her straight, shoulder length hair.

The reflection of a raised eyebrow had asked the silent question: who could that be?  It was not yet seven hundred thirty hours.

On bare feet she hurried to open the link before its repeating chime roused Jonathan.

“This is T’Pol,” she said in a brisk, businesslike tone, even before the face on the old monitor came fully into focus.

“Good morning, T’Pol.” The small quirk at one corner of Captain Tucker’s mouth was a ghost of the grin he sometimes flashed at her back when they served on Enterprise under Captain Archer.  That grin had been starting to generate some surprising and… (She had to admit it to herself)…some intriguing responses deep within her during the last months before the accident which brought her here.

It was rare these days for her to hear from the Enterprise captain.  When she did, the news was seldom good.  Supplies delayed.  Xindi vessels sighted on long range sensor scans.  A convoy of ships missing or another human colony destroyed.  Rarer still to see even that bare suggestion of a smile.

She waited, aware that apprehension had tightened her grip on the table where the link rested.  An emotional response, she knew, but any preoccupation with Vulcan decorum seemed somewhat trivial now, with each day a struggle for strength, sanity and survival.  “What do you want, Captain?”

His smile widened a little, the corners of his eyes crinkled and, except for the graying hair, he was the Commander… the Trip… she had known back then.  “Merry Christmas.”

Christmas?  She considered.  The date seemed right.  The holiday was celebrated in San Francisco when she lived at the Vulcan compound, and during her first two years on Enterprise.  Since then, those finding spiritual significance to the occasion carried out whatever rites they found comfort in among themselves, but the resources and even energy for generalized, secular observances had dwindled after Earth’s destruction.

“Merry Christmas,” she had replied in rote acknowledgement of his words, then repeated.  “What do you want?”

“I’ve been thinking…” said Tucker.  “About the captain.”

She hadn’t reminded him he had been Enterprise’s captain for years.  They both knew he meant Jonathan.

“He always enjoyed Christmas,” said Tucker.  “I’m not talking about the presents.  Hell, what with the way things are, none of us have anything to give each other anyway.  But even in those days, Enterprise was just about his every wish come true.  It was all about being together, the food, the fun and the carols.  He used to have a real fine singing voice.  Probably still does for that matter.  Well, Phlox’s latest letter says he might be onto something to cure the captain’s short term memory, but til then…”  He searched for words to express even half of what the last years had been like for Archer and for all of those who cared about him.  “We just got a convoy of supply ships through the blockade, so I was thinking we might arrange some kind of Christmas get together with him.”

“That is a considerate plan, Captain, but you do realize that when he wakes up, he will not remember it is Christmas.”

“No, but once he knows, he’ll remember what he used to do and enjoy.  His memory’s as clear as anybody’s up to the day of the accident.”

 “Captain Tucker,” there had been an unintended note of reproof in her tone.  He could not comprehend the delicate emotional balance she and Jonathan had managed to achieve here.  There was no way of knowing how a major change in routine could disrupt it.  “You must understand that once his questions about all that has happened since the accident are answered, his losing command of the Xindi mission because he can’t retain memories more than a day, and Enterprise failing to stop their weapon from destroying Earth, he won’t feel much like celebrating.”

Tucker’s wince was quick, there and gone as he blinked away ghosts of Christmases more than ten years past.  She was certain she read a weary compassion in his voice as he continued “I suppose not.  Any more than he remembers how many times you’ve had to tell him about it.  But deep inside, in his heart, maybe?  T’Pol, it’s wearing on him.  I see it in his face whenever I can get a chance to visit.  Fresh grief every day, and no real chance to help with self-defense or bringing in survivors from our old colonies.  Those things have at least given the rest of us a little hope to keep going on with.”

She must admit he was right about Jonathan’s frustration. “What are you proposing?”

“Malcolm reports things look quiet on long-range sensors.  What do you say to our old senior staff taking a few hours off patrol duty to share a meal, sing a few songs and reminisce about the times on Enterprise the captain still remembers?”

T’Pol frowned.  Tucker’s intentions were good.  His history with Jonathan went back long before the accident.  For the first Christmastime in years, Enterprise was not leading a convoy of refugee ships across the sector in hopes of escaping the Xindi, but was guarding the encampment in this star system.  It was not surprising he wanted to spend some time with his old friend at what was, for humans, a sentimental season.  And he was right.  Whether Jonathan consciously remembered anything of the last ten years, the daily swings between confusion, grief and futility were taking their toll.  But…

“You do remember,” she said.  “That now, since he no longer resides on Enterprise, soon after awakening he becomes aware that there is a break between where his memories end and where he finds himself now.”

“Yeah…”  Captain Tucker sighed.  “He’d have to be told about his condition.  How he’s living planetside because of it.  Even that he’s here instead of… home… because there are still problems with the Xindi.  But maybe, for one day, we could, I dunno, leave out the rest of it…?”

“Are you suggesting we lie to him?”

Tucker’s tired face seemed to age five years.  His shoulders slumped as he shook his head.  “When you put it like that…”

T’Pol was silent for several seconds as she studied Tucker’s… Trip’s… shadowed blue eyes over the link.  She remembered that same chronically haunted look following the first Xindi attack and the news of his sister Lizzie’s death.  Jonathan, she realized, wasn’t the only one to be worn down by the ongoing tensions of the last years.

“If I recall,” T’Pol’s voice softened.  She chose her words with care.  “The captain said on more than one occasion celebrations are important to morale.  That there are times to concentrate on the moment, rather than either the future, or the past.”

“Did he?”  His fragile enthusiasm exhausted, Trip’s tone was more tired than curious, though he squinted, as though he could find that memory if he looked hard enough.

“Yes, Captain.”  T’Pol met his blue gaze as directly as if they were not separated by several hundred kilometers’ distance and speculated whether he believed the widespread notion that Vulcans never lied.  “And if,” she continued.  “Like you, he doesn’t remember saying that, I will remind him.”  Her tone became brisk.  “Now, if you can estimate your arrival time, I will prepare Jonathan to welcome you.”

“Okay,” Tucker roused another flickering ghost of a smile. “I’ll get back to ya.”

T’Pol stared at the darkened monitor, then padding to Jonathan’s door, knocked softly.

“Come in…” His voice had been early morning husky, but not slurred with sleepiness.  As she entered his small, neat room, he looked up from where he sat on the side of the bed, unshaven and barefoot, but already dressed in sweat pants and tee shirt, holding a small notebook with a dark blue cover.

It was a journal he had been keeping for approximately eight months.  One of the many ideas he’d tried for reintegrating the memories of his past and present.  He sometimes wrote in it before retiring, when he had a full day’s recollections within his grasp. He’d shown it to her several times, because, detail-oriented as ever, he wanted to be certain he was logging the dates correctly.  Most of the entries were brief and often repetitious.  Walks around the compound pieced together from old ship components.  Names and descriptions of people he’d met for the first time on ten, fifteen or twenty earlier occasions.  His grief over the loss of his world, appalled bewilderment that anything so catastrophic could slip his mind, and frustration that everything he worked all day to construct would be gone by the time he woke the next morning.

He had been enthused when he started the endeavor, as much for her sake as his own. “It must be hell for you,” he’d said to her more than once.  “Telling me these terrible things day after day.  Maybe this will help me tell them to myself.”

The problem was, in the morning he didn’t remember anything about the book.  He tried pre-guessing himself, setting it where he couldn’t help but find it: on the bedside table, on top of his dresser, even on the edge of the bathroom sink.  But if he came across it, it seldom occurred to him to open it.  Instead he’d put the obviously misplaced little volume back on the shelf with the collection of his other books.

But every so often, like today, he would discover it and follow his curiosity inside.

She looked at his face for signs he had read about the devastation of Earth, found only a familiar determined expression suggesting he was trying to put together the pieces of an incomplete puzzle.  On the Enterprise’s bridge it had usually sharpened to decisive resolution, then to plans of action.

What reaction, she wondered, standing in the doorway, was that look trying to evolve itself into here, today?

“Good morning,” Jonathan,” she said.

“T’Pol,” he had acknowledged, glancing over the top of the book with raised brows.  “Is this right?  We are on Ceti Alpha Five?”

“That is correct.  You were in an accident that has necessitated considerable time away from your duties while a cure is sought for your condition.”  Before he could start any one of a series of painful questions, she continued.  “We can discuss that later if you wish.  For the moment, do you recall what day this is?”

Still gazing at her, he lowered the book.

“It is Christmas.”  Without giving him a chance to formulate a further response, she continued.  “The fact was brought to my attention moments ago by…” In deference, she did not say Captain Tucker.  Instead, after only the briefest of hesitations she substituted

“…Trip.  He wishes to come here with your Enterprise senior officers for a small holiday gathering.  My recollections of how Christmas was celebrated there are somewhat incomplete.  After breakfast, will you help me prepare an appropriate welcome?”

His brow furrowed.  Then, to her relieved surprise, it smoothed out and he nodded.  She saw a flash of the old, decisive resolution as he set the book on his bedside table.  “All right.  When do we expect them?  By the way, is that coffee I smell brewing?”

Her nod, followed by an announcement that there was toast and melon to accompany the aromatic brew, and of course an option for him to share some of her plomeek broth, had set momentum to the day.  After breakfast, the morning was filled with preparations.  The already neat house was re-tidied: dishes washed, furniture dusted and round windows wiped down, while vegetables grown in the back garden simmered themselves into stew atop the stove and an improvised pie made with berries from native bushes was baked in the oven.  Somewhat to her surprise, Jonathan worked with determined concentration, focusing on the tasks at hand rather than dwelling on or questioning the circumstances of his life as he usually did.

The door chime signaling the arrival of their guests sounded shortly after fourteen hundred hours.  Jonathan had greeted each one with warm recognition, even as he took in the changes time had wrought with the same amazement he found when gazing at himself in the morning mirror.  But after an appreciative smile for Hoshi’s bobbed hair and Malcolm’s dignified beard, it gave way to a grateful acceptance of their presence.  She saw that there was a startled look at the grey in Tucker’s hair and concern for the lines and shadows around his blue eyes, but he made no comment.  Again T’Pol glimpsed Jonathan’s old decisive resolve.  His friends had come to his home to celebrate Christmas with him, and that was what they were all going to do!

The hours that followed had been a fascinating blend of present and past.  In all the years the two of them had shared this house, she had never seen Jonathan so animated.  He laughed when Hoshi lifted the cover of an insulated pot to reveal the same Japanese family soup recipe she’d made over and over again under the effects of a singularity near a black hole.

“Actually, I think this is finally the last batch she got out of the freezer!” Travis told him in an exaggerated aside.

He exclaimed in delight over the plum pudding Chef had made under Malcolm’s detailed, traditional British direction.  “I had an old sixpence my grandfather gave me as a child,” Malcolm explained.  “I convinced Chef to hide it in there, so be careful not to eat too fast in case it ends up in your portion!”

“That was money from a long time ago, right?” asked Travis, the space-boomer who had grown up on cargo freighters far from Earth and most of its traditions.  “Why would somebody put money in a dessert where it could be swallowed?”

“I think I remember what that means!”  Tucker, who had probably been the quietest of the guests up until then, spoke up as he searched back through old memories.  “Malcolm, did you say once whoever received the sixpence got a secret wish come true?”

“Precisely,” Malcolm agreed.

There was a brief silence.  T’Pol again recognized a moment of un-Vulcanlike apprehension.  She was certain all of them had not-so-secret wishes they knew would never come true.  Then Hoshi broke the moment by announcing “I already had mine fulfilled, even without the sixpence.  I talked Travis out of bringing the strawberry shortcake ration packs he liked as a kid to be his contribution to our dinner!”

“Hey, those are really good!” Travis protested amid a rising tide of laughter and T’Pol felt her breath let out in a long, relieved sigh.

Conversation and merriment had ebbed and flowed, ebbed and flowed around the crowded dinner table, with people leaning forward, back and sideways, elbows hugging close to their sides to allow others access to fragrant bowls, platters and plates.  Second and even a few third helpings traded turns with well-told shipboard stories.  There was no talk of Earth, no mention of Xindi, whether by unconscious design, or because the memories this group of people shared were all centered aboard Enterprise.  Dessert was served and enjoyed amid more laughter as Tucker had to pound Malcolm on the back when he forgot his own advice and almost swallowed the sixpence.

Tucker, T’Pol had observed, kept stealing glances at Jonathan.  From over the rim of a coffee cup, he watched his old captain laughing, and when it was lowered, through the gently rising steam she found the smile spreading across his face had at last reached his eyes. The old familiar sparkle there did not fade as Tucker… as Trip… turned his head to meet and hold her gaze.

Those long-ago sensations were still as intriguing … (and even more surprising) … than they had been all those years ago.

Intriguing… a disturbing.

For her, it had come as something of a relief when the singing began shortly afterward.  It started as the dishes were cleared away, quick, lively tunes to move the work along.  Once everybody crowded into the tiny living area in search of places to sit, they began some of the slower carols.  T’Pol listened with appreciation to harmonies both ancient and modern, as well as some that were occasionally quite… unique!  Even at those moments when the parts went, as Hoshi diplomatically put it, “a bit astray”, or to T’Pol’s sensitive Vulcan hearing, wandered all the way into sour territory, nobody complained.

Jonathan, whom she was pleased to note, did have a very fine singing voice, performed a solo version of “White Christmas” that movie buff Tucker insisted was better than Bing Crosby’s.  Looking at least five years younger than on the monitor this morning, Trip then pulled out his trusty harmonica and played a jaunty tune T’Pol had not quite believed was truly titled “Grandma Got Runned Over by a Reindeer”… at least until Travis followed it up by singing what he vowed was a genuine boomer hit, “Santa’s Wonderful Warp Seven Sleigh”.

It had been almost twenty one hundred hours when they departed.  The house had still been ringing with the sounds of familiar voices talking and laughing, when Jonathan announced he was going to the kitchen to make a cup of tea, then write a journal entry.

 “Before I…”  The laughter had faded from his green eyes as he stood beside the front door.  “…before I go to sleep tonight and forget that this day ever happened.”

Despite a faint wistful note in the words, there was a certain serenity in his green eyes that she had not seen since… since she could recall precisely when.

“I’m going to write about it,” he said.  “Because, even when they aren’t here, I want to know about the friends who have remained my friends, even after all this time.  I want to know that our connection goes deeper than whatever happened to my memory.  That what we have shared reaches across it unbroken.  Will you remind me to read it when…” He paused as though planning his next words with careful consideration.  “…I become too consumed with anger or frustration or… or grief about all the rest of it?”

“The rest…?” she had faltered.  What had he meant by “the rest”?

He touched her shoulder.  “Never mind that right now.  Only please, T’Pol.  Promise me you’ll remember?  You’ll tell me to read it.  Call it your Christmas gift to me.”

“Certainly,” she said as he turned away. “I will remember.  A Christmas gift.  Good night, Jonathan.”

That was an hour and a half ago.  She had checked the living area for left-behind cups and glasses, found none, gone to take a shower and then to meditate. She had just blown out the candle on the small table in her room when she heard Jonathan’s quiet footfalls passing her door, then the soft closing of his own.

Now, as she turned from the window and crossed the kitchen to prepare her own cup of tea, she saw the small, blue book still lying on the table.  An old fashioned pen was clipped to it, acting as a bookmark for an opened page.  Along with it was a single small sheet of paper with her name at the top of it.

Picking that up, she stared down at the page containing more of Jonathan’s strong, familiar hand.  She wasn’t certain whether or not she was meant to look, but she found herself reading:

25 December, 21 ­___?

I woke today to stillness and silence in what I thought was a strange bed.  The chronometer said 0630.  This book was lying on the table beside it.  I wasn’t certain if I were on shore-leave or off-ship on diplomatic business, and wondered if it might have the name of the hotel or embassy I was visiting written inside.

Instead, I found I have had a sort of ongoing amnesia for years.  Throughout this time T’Pol has served as my faithful friend and companion.  She has endured my bouts of confusion and rage.  It seems each day she has re-experienced with me the grief of knowing that Earth… God, it hurts to write this… Earth is gone.

I was about to go find her, demand details, when I realized they were probably all written in this book.  At some point as I read, I heard her up, awake and out beyond my door, talking on the link to Trip.  They were discussing a Christmas get-together with my friends from Enterprise.  At first she seemed opposed.  I think she was concerned it could upset me.  She has, undoubtedly, dealt with that happening a great many times.

Though he was harder to hear, one thing I did make out was Trip saying what with the way things are now, nobody has anything to give each other.  But I decided I could give T’Pol something.  One day, today, of not having to tell me all the things I had written in this volume.  I would share that silence with the others as well.  Argue T’Pol into letting them come if I had to, so we could all have ourselves a day without Xindi.  A day without could-have-beens.  I don’t know what it was that made her change her mind, but I am so glad that she did.

I think, from what I have read here, that what I miss, the thing I have secretly wished for most, is the sense of being useful, connected.  Today, that wish came true.  Ironically, by resisting every impulse to discuss a present that will mean nothing to me by tomorrow morning, I believe I was being both.  Even though I no longer carry the rank, I felt as if I made a command decision, took charge of a situation and that, with my silence, I captained my crew, and walked with my good, good friends, through a real old-time Enterprise Christmas.  I hope, even if I don’t remember it tomorrow, that I will be stronger by having done so.  Even more, that all of us will.

The entry ended there.

It was several seconds before T’Pol realized Jonathan’s note was still waiting in her hand.  Stepping away from the table and the journal, she turned the paper over and read.

“Thank you, T’Pol.” It said.  “Will you check the date on this?  I forgot to ask what year it is.  It is important to know because, today, I was given a sixpence”.

For a moment, she was confused.

(Wasn’t it Malcolm who had found, then almost swallowed the small, ancient coin?)

Then Trip’s words surfaced in her mind.

Whoever received the sixpence got a secret wish come true.

For Jonathan, today had been a gift.  One outside the ordinary run of events.  Of resolves made and kept, of time passed in song, laughter and informal companionship with the people who were so important in his life.

And perhaps, he wasn’t the only one who had received a sixpence.

Again she saw Jonathan’s eyes lit with pleasure as he sang, and how the years of command responsibility drop from Captain Tucker’s…  No, not Captain Tucker’s, but from Trip’s… face, at least for a little while, and realized she herself hadn’t only received one sixpence.

She had gotten two.


Comments:

Alelou

That was meant to be an exclamation point. Sorry!

Alelou

Oh, lovely! Glad I checked in and found this?

Asso

And thanks!:D

Lt. Zoe Jebkanto

I'm honored by your comments- and delighted that, after the quiet around TriS these last months, that we're all dropping in to meet again- I've missed all of you and the visions we've shared about those wonderful Enterprise folks- thank you!!!

Eireann

Oh, this is such a beautifully crafted story.  You don't spare the weariness and sorrow that Jonathan's condition brings with it, but this day suddenly steps forward out of the darkness and shines.  The darkness will come again, but this day has conquered by simply HAPPENING, like a valiant ray of sunshine breaking through the storm that all know is not yet over.  It is a testament to the selflessness and determination of all the survivors of the tragedy.

Your writing is always of the highest calibre.  In my opinion, this is probably the best you've ever done.

Cogito

It was a melancholy episode and that has carried through to your story, but you have brought out the strength and determination of these characters in the way they deal with it. I like the fact that in this AU Jon had enough intelligence and consideration to play along with the fiction that Trip and T'Pol had arranged for the evening instead of allowing himself to burden T'Pol with his anguish. And I particularly like the way that T'Pol viewed Trip and Jon's pleasure as gifts to her. It emphasises the selfless nature of the sacrifice that this T'Pol makes every day in staying with her friends and colleagues, when no doubt she could have been far safer and more comfortable back on Vulcan.

Bravo!

Weeble

Wonderful.  you blended sadness and happiness into love. and even joy. a pleasure to read.

Asso

Delicatissimo.
That's to say... Exquisite.

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