(c) 2001 Jungle Kitty
Star Trek and its characters are the property of Paramount. This not-for-profit piece of fan fiction is not intended to infringe on that ownership. The author's copyright applies only to the creative content and her original characters.
This story is one in a series about the relationship between James Kirk and Suzanne Brandt. The Kirk-Brandt Chronology lists all the stories, both in order of occurrence and order of creation.
Spock leaned back in his chair, blinking slowly. When Admiral Kirk had suggested that he might be more comfortable with the crew’s holiday activities if he were to understand them, Spock resolved to fill the gaps in his knowledge of human celebratory traditions. When the ship put in to Earth two days before Christmas, he took advantage of the vast store of material available at the New York Public Library, much of it on paper. He had puzzled over the appeal of such "quaint" but inefficient methods of storage but had treated the dust-laden books with the respect due to antiques. Still, after reading a brief article entitled "The Botany of Christmas," he had come quite close to slamming a large book shut in disgust.
During his tenure as first officer of the Enterprise, he believed he had grown accustomed to humans and their irrationalities, but the perpetuation of so distasteful a tradition went beyond illogical. He would have to ask Admiral Kirk...
At that thought, he realized it was nearly time to meet the admiral. He pulled on his thermal jacket and left the library, shuddering as he passed under the spray of greenery that decorated the doorway.
"Ah, Spock!" Jim’s breath, rendered visible by the cold air, formed a ghostly cloud as he spoke. "There’s nothing like Christmas! Absolutely nothing in any part of the galaxy compares to it!"
Spock pulled his jacket more tightly around himself and kept silent, although he could think of several memories that "Christmas shopping" invoked. The food riots on New Antarctica, for one.
Despite trying to adjust the balance of the shopping bags he carried, Jim noticed Spock’s shiver and said reassuringly, "We’re almost there. I didn’t realize it would be this cold. You probably should have stayed at the library. By the way, how’s the research going? Anything interesting?"
"As a matter of fact, I have learned something that--"
"JIM!" Kirk nearly stumbled in the snow as something slammed into his back. "Where the HELL have you been?"
Both men turned toward Captain Brandt, who continued to assault Kirk with a fist encased in a brightly colored mitten.
"I’ve been STANDING in front of that FUCKING RESTAURANT freezing my ASS off for TWENTY minutes!"
"Why didn’t you go in and get a table?"
"They won’t seat until the entire party is there."
"The entire party is here. Let’s go in and--"
Jim looked across the street and saw that the popular restaurant had a very long line outside. Frowning, he rapped Brandt sharply on the head.
"You could have at least stayed in line!"
"I could hardly feel my toes. I had to move."
"Excuse me, Admiral, Captain," Spock interrupted. "May I suggest that our current dining plans are no longer viable? Perhaps we might step into this drinking establishment to discuss our alternatives?"
A significant look passed between Kirk and Brandt. Spock? Suggesting a bar?
After a moment, Kirk said, "Excellent suggestion, Spock. Let’s warm up, and then we’ll figure out what to do about food."
Although there was no line outside the bar, once inside, they discovered that seating was at a premium.
"Keep your eyes peeled for a table," Kirk instructed as he divided the shopping bags between Brandt and Spock. "I’ll get us some drinks."
He disappeared into the crush, leaving Brandt and Spock with the nearly impossible task of locating three seats. They circled slowly, peering into the crowds.
"There! Let’s--Nope, too late!" Brandt shouted over the merrymaking. "Oh, I think they’re about to--DAMN!"
"Captain, if you will permit me."
Spock handed his shopping bags to Brandt and astounded her by spending several moments making sure she was holding them "just so." After instructing her to keep the largest in front, he approached a table near the window. It was occupied by a man and a woman nursing a pair of steaming drinks, and as he began speaking, they leaned toward him, straining to hear his words. The woman shook her head. As the man joined in the negative response, Spock
gestured toward Brandt. At that moment, one of the bags slipped from her hand and as she bent to retrieve it, a nearby "Santa" shifted his pack, bumping Brandt’s backside and sending her tumbling ungracefully to the floor.
"Shit," she muttered as she began gathering her scattered packages.
"Let me help you."
Spock extended his hand and helped her to her feet. Pushing the largest of the Christmas bags into her arms, he said, "Those people are willing to give us their table. I suggest you hurry, before they change their minds."
Brandt pushed her way through the crowd until she arrived at the table Spock had indicated.
"No, sorry, it’s taken," the woman was saying as she put herself between the table and a man wearing a Santa hat. Then she turned and saw Brandt. "Oh, here you are. Have a seat. Comfy?"
Brandt nodded dumbly as the couple pulled on their overcoats.
"Well, it’s better than a stable, isn’t it?" the man said cheerily.
"Oh, Fred!" the woman admonished him. "Let’s go. I want to see the ice-skaters."
After wishing Brandt a merry Christmas, they departed. Puzzling over their remarks, Brandt removed her hat and coat and was brushing the snowflakes from her hair when Spock appeared with the rest of the bags.
"Spock," she said once he was settled in. "What did you tell those people?"
"I made an allusion to ‘no room at the inn.’"
"But I’m not pregnant."
"I saw no reason to inform them of that."
After briefly considering the large number of people in the bar and the small number of tables, Brandt smiled shrewdly and said, "Good thinking."
"I’m a little surprised that you know the Christmas story."
"I have been researching holiday traditions."
"Planning to trap someone under the mistletoe?"
"No. But I would like to--"
"All right!" Kirk said heartily as he joined them. "One manhattan, straight up with a cherry, a non-alcoholic eggnog, and a bottle of winter ale. Have any trouble getting a table?"
"Spock, I couldn’t help noticing that you’ve been watching the door for some time. Are you expecting someone?"
"No, Admiral, I was--"
"Spock, we’re off-duty. I’m Jim."
"And I’m Suzanne," Brandt chimed in, although she had never been successful in that endeavor.
Spock cleared his throat. "I have been watching the people as they pass through the doorway. When entering the bar, they are quite intent on finding places to sit. But when leaving, most of them respond to the mistletoe hanging above the doorway."
The two humans craned their necks and saw a man give a woman a quick peck on the lips.
"Hmmmmm. We’ll have to check that out when we leave," Brandt said.
"Which is right about now," Kirk said as he rose. "The line across the street has gone down."
As they were donning their outer garments, Spock asked, "Are you aware of the origins of the mistletoe tradition?"
"I’m sure we’re about to find out," Kirk said amiably.
"The mistletoe is--" Spock began.
"Wait a minute." Brandt straightened, suddenly alert. "Is that guy stealing the mistletoe?"
"I do not believe so," Spock replied. "Etiquette requires a man to pluck a berry when he kisses a woman under the mistletoe."
"I never heard that," Kirk said.
"According to Sara Williams, author of ‘The Botany of Christmas,’ that is the correct procedure."
"What else did she have to say about it?"
"The mistletoe is a hemiparasite that usually grows on the branches or trunk of a tree, taking nutrients from its host. The Phoradendron flavescens, which is native to this continent, is most commonly used as a Christmas decoration. However, the tradition started with the Viscum album, which is of European origin. It was first associated with the Greek festival of Saturnalia, as well as primitive marriage rites. In Scandinavia, it was considered a plant of peace, under which warring spouses could reconcile."
"Do birch trees come into this?" Brandt asked hopefully.
"Not according my research. The ancient Druids believed the plant had magical properties when found growing on the sacred oak. It was regarded as a sexual symbol and was considered to be the home of the oak’s soul. The ritual of cutting it from the tree symbolized the emasculation of the king."
Noticing Kirk’s pained expression, Brandt muttered, "I guess I won’t be getting kissed in that doorway." She drained the last of her manhattan sadly.
"Unfortunately," Spock continued, "the Druidical tradition is not alone in its lack of appeal. The word ‘mistletoe’ is derived from the ancient belief that it was propagated from bird droppings, which is not completely inaccurate. We now know that mistletoe is spread by seeds that have passed through the digestive tract of birds. However, some of the other beliefs about mistletoe have little if any relation to fact. It was believed to bestow fertility, and the dung from which it was thought to arise was also said to have life-giving power."
Brandt’s lip curled in disgust as Kirk looked similarly revolted.
"Its name," Spock concluded, "comes from two Anglo-Saxon words and means literally ‘dung on a twig.’"
By now, they had reached the doorway and Spock watched as Kirk and Brandt warily eyed the greenery overhead. Their eyes met and then Kirk’s mouth curved in a mischievous smile.
"It is a tradition," he said.
As they shared a kiss, Spock discreetly raised his eyes and studied the small plant that bore such a strange history. He saw Kirk’s hand pluck a berry from the plant, and after a moment, another. Noting that the plant no longer bore fruit, he looked down and saw that Kirk had set his shopping bags down and had one arm around Brandt’s shoulders as he moved in for yet another kiss. Spock coughed quietly.
Kirk turned to him. "Yes?"
"Etiquette also states that when the last berry is gone, there should be no more kissing."
"Spock, tradition is a wonderful thing, but let’s not get carried away."
As they kissed once more, Spock raised an eyebrow, considering that perhaps the tradition, which appeared quite pleasant when observed closely, redeemed the lowly origins of the mistletoe.
I'd love to hear from you! Please use my Guestbook to leave story feedback. Your guestbook entry can be public or private. You can also sign up to receive new stories by email.
If you navigated to this story from anywhere on my website, that window is probably still open right behind this one. If you navigated to this story from anywhere else, please visit Invisible Planets for more of my stories.