AN: Yesterday's chapter was a bit sad, wasn't it? Well, I promise I'll make up for it!
Enjoy today's chapter and if you'd like to leave a review, I've got absolutely no objections :-)

December, the 6th

Kathryn saw with regret how the walls of the living room were disintegrating around them. Even though they had just witnessed a nasty dispute, it had been such a wonderful feeling to be home again. But now she stood in the empty corridors of another building that Kathryn knew very well.

"The Academy," she whispered involuntarily, even though she knew that no one could hear her.

Since it was impossible to commit all the high holidays of each species of the Federation, Starfleet had decided to simply ignore them all long ago. And even if halfway around the globe the Christmas rush declined every year, Starfleet Headquarters and the Academy remained a bastion of sober objectivity. The Cadets were allowed to decorate their own bedrooms, nothing more. But one year, things had been different.

"Is this the year ...?" Kathryn inquired.

Kirk grinned from ear to ear, and pointed down the hall. A door opened, a dark figure peered through and waved some people who were hiding behind said door to follow.

Kathryn watched breathlessly as the door opened quietly and a group of cadets dragged a huge and bushy something slowly and carefully into the hallway.

Now someone stumbled, almost fell into the bushy something and cursed softly. Indignant hissing silenced him immediately.

The two captains followed the group quietly until they arrived at their destination: the great hall of the Academy.

There, the figures went to work immediately. It seemed like everything was planned with military precision. The man - or woman? the gender was hardly noticeable in the darkness – they saw first, gave orders with soft words and gestures, orders that were immediately followed by the remaining members of the group.

In no time, the group had transformed the bushy something into a beautiful Christmas tree, decorated with twinkling lights and shimmering red Christmas ball ornaments.

The leader - in the light of the tree one could clearly see a red plait which revealed that it had to be a woman - gave the signal to depart. While her cronies disappeared she turned one last time and put a little straw star between the branches. Then she slipped through a door and the spook was over. Only the lonely tree was shining in the quiet night, admired by two Starfleet captains from completely different times.

"What an operation," Kirk said, beaming. "I wish that had been my idea. This politically correct posturing had already left me on my nerves in my time."

"I remember the excitement the next morning well," Kathryn smiled. "The Bolians were quite indignant; the Betazoids insisted that in the face of the tree, everything should be decorated for their celebration of free love, too. The Andorians demanded that the tree should be removed immediately, what the Humans denied. Several felt that if the tree was already there they could also leave it. However the Vulcans argued that this would create a precedent for more inappropriate changes to the decoration according to the folk customs of each species present in the Federation."

"It must have been most shocking to our purist friends, I imagine," Kirk grinned.

"Especially Admiral C'Tum opposed vehemently," recalled Kathryn. "Have you ever heard of a practice called Carnival, which is cultivated in some parts of Germany? Apparently the Admiral was there at the wrong time at the wrong place ... Rumors go of a very humiliating incident with a Clown, some bottles of German beer – the proper stuff of course, no synthehol – and a Klingon disguised as a Tribble."

The two captains laughed softly to themselves.

"I wonder where they got this beautiful tree?" Kirk said thoughtfully as he was coming closer to the tree.

"Sabine, my roommate at the academy, descended from a family that owned vast forests in Canada," Kathryn said, seemingly just lost in thought. "She missed Christmas greatly and thought it a shame that it was no issue at the Academy - as did some others. There had even been a claim of responsibility, signed by the Christmas guerrilla."

"The Christmas guerrilla?" Kirk grinned. "I guess they were people who put humanity over rules at the right moment."

"They were young," Kathryn said. "Very young."