Blue Christmas

A Vignette by Cheryl Petterson

(Standard Year 2251)

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The recreation area of Starfleet Headquarters in San Francisco was nearly empty. Most people had gone home to celebrate one of Terra's many holidays that coincidentally clustered around the Winter Solstice. Lieutenant Commander Jeremy Paget knew it wasn't really a coincidence, but he had long ago learned not to try and discuss the matter with anyone celebrating any of those holidays. He would have liked to go home and celebrate his own holiday with his family. They were just down in Los Angeles and it had been a long time since he'd been able to be there for Christmas. But he was on 24 hour duty, and he knew very well his charge wasn't about to go anywhere to celebrate anything. Even though Noel DelMonde had been raised Catholic and had family in New Orleans, there was no one there Del wanted to see, not since his uncle had died three years before.

Jeremy heard the soft strains of a guitar and a slow, sorrow-filled voice singing a slow, sorrow-filled song:

Click here to hear the song.

"I have a blue Christmas wit'out you
I be so blue jus' t'inkin' 'bout you
Decorations o' red on a green Christmas tree
Not be th' same, cher. You not here wit' me..."

Jeremy shook his head. He hadn't heard Del play that song since they were at the Clave, a couple of lifetimes ago. Then, he was mourning the loss of his beloved mother. Now, Paget knew, the loss was very different, but no less painful.

"An' when those blue snowflakes start fallin'
That when those blue memories start callin'
You be doin' all right, wit' your Christmas o' white
But I have a blue, blue blue blue Christmas."

Paget crossed the large room and pulled up an empty chair next to DelMonde.

"You know," he began, "I'm from Los Angeles. We don't have white Christmases there."

"Shut th' fuck up," the Cajun snarled at him. "I not write th' damned song."

Jeremy grinned. "Just sayin', I won't be all right with my Christmas of white."

"Mais, Christmas o' beach, then. An' th' caps on th' waves white, non?"

"Still won't be all right, my friend. My loss may be a little bit older than yours, but that don't mean it's stopped hurting." The TerAfrican's smile turned wistful.

"That s'posed t' cheer me up?" Del scowled.

"Just commenting on the song, babe," Jer returned.

"Jus' bein' a whole big lotta pain in th' ass."

Del started singing again - he hadn't stopped playing.

"You be doin' all right, wit' your Christmas o' white....."

He held out the last note of the phrase a long, heart-breaking time.

"But I have a blue, blue Christmas."


Commander Kevin Riley was walking past the rec room when he heard the sound of a guitar and a voice singing an old Valley Collection song. He stopped to listen. He hadn't heard any of those songs in over two years, and thinking about them - and the woman who had once sung them - had almost lost its sting. The voice sounded vaguely familiar, but he couldn't really place it - until he heard another matter-of-fact-that-wasn't comment about being from Los Angeles. That voice he had no trouble recognizing: Sulu Takeda's best friend, Jeremy Paget, who had been the Chief of Security on the Hood when he'd transferred just after Ruth Valley had broken his heart.

And so the one singin' has to be DelMonde, he told himself. He'd heard a great deal about the Cajun engineer from Ruth in the year they had spent together; a year he had once hoped would turn into a lifetime. The rumors of her affair with him after her marriage to Captain Spock were all over Fleet, and Kevin, for one, had no trouble believing them. Not due to his own bitterness, though that could have played into how readily he believed it. No, from the way Ruth had spoken of DelMonde, the wistfulness in her voice, the joy sparking behind her eyes - there was no doubt how she felt about him. And if the tales of 'Captain Bastard' - that were also all over Fleet - were even half true, it wouldn't surprise him in the least that Ruth would've tried to find solace in the engineer's company.

She's real good at findin' solace with others when things with Spock don't go well, he mused, and frowned as most of the angst he'd worked so hard to put into perspective flared up within him.

"You be doin' all right, wit' your Christmas o' white.....
But I have a blue, blue Christmas."

With sudden determination, Kevin Riley decided to join the party.


"Ah, and is this a private pity party or can anyone join in?"

The falsely cheerful voice made Del look up and Jeremy groan. The man it came from was only average in height with red hair, blue eyes and a gold Commander's uniform. Before the Cajun could growl a 'fuck yeah, it private, so you jus' get th' fuck on out here, boy,' Jeremy stood, offering his hand.

"Fancy meetin' you here, Kev," he said. "I didn't know you were stationed at Headquarters." He turned to glare a 'be nice' to Del. "N.C., this is Kevin Riley. You've met, haven't you?"

"If I met him, why th' fuck you introducin' him?" Del returned sourly, at the same time Riley said,

"Not formally, no, though I know who you are, Mr. DelMonde."

The engineer glanced up. "An' how that be?"

The Irishman grinned. "Well, for starters, you're playing a song from the Valley Collection. I dated Ruth Valley for a year aboard the Enterprise and she talked about you." He paused. "A lot." A frown crossed his features, but he quickly shook it off. "Second," he continued, ticking off reasons on his fingers, "I worked in Engineering for a while, and everyone in that section is familiar with your work. Third, recent events have made you a person of interest in the gossip columns; fourth, your poetry is famous; fifth, I was a good friend of Sulu Takeda and he talked about you." The grin returned. "A lot."

"Mais, I his friend too an' he never once mention you."

"N.C.," Jeremy put in quietly, filling his thoughts with meaning, "Kevin transferred just before you came aboard the Enterprise."

Del scowled at the TerAfrican, but nodded. "Yeah, okay, what you be wantin', Mr. Riley?"

Kevin reached behind him to pull up a chair and sat down. "Would a little camaraderie and commiseration be too far out of line, then?"

The engineer's black eyes raked over him like high-intensity scanner beams for a moment, then DelMonde's lips curled into a mighty frown.

"Ah, hell..." he growled disgustedly, then shot a murderous, 'why you not ever warn me?' side-glance at Paget who immediately answered with an unapologetic 'why don't you ever listen to me when I'm trying to warn you?' smile. The Cajun closed his eyes and shook his head. "Ah, hell no..."

Riley shrugged and started to rise, "But if you..."

"An' when you least expectin' it," the engineer complained to the heavens, "Th' biggest, extra special bonus kick in th' damn balls o' havin' been screwed over by Ruth Valley is that you find you in this big-ass club o' sad sons o' bitches from all over this side o' th' galaxy that all got they asses dumped too." The Cajun gritted his teeth in a fierce parody of a smile at an unseen observer from above. "Thank you, darlin'. Merry mother-fuckin' Christmas to you too."

Riley took in a deep breath, seeing that he had inadvertently waded into deeper waters than he expected to, but it only called to his own sense of betrayal. "So true," he murmured.

"Irish, huh?" DelMonde's witheringly penetrating glare fixed on him once more.

"Ye-es," Riley answered hesitantly, then glanced at Paget, who he remembered as being a thoroughly decent sort of fellow. The Security Man gave him a friendly 'he's always like this' shrug.

"Then it a given we gonna be drinkin' like a couple o' parched-assed motherfuckers," the Cajun surmised with another mighty frown and laser beam stare. "An' you a cryin' drunk, non?"

Although this was hard to deny given the circumstances of their mutual acquaintance, Riley's self-esteem prompted him to try, "Now, I wouldn't say..."

"Sweet Mother Mary..." The engineer winced and rolled his eyes as if he were instantly downloading the unedited story of Riley's last year on the Enterprise. "An' he an orphan too," The Cajun concluded with uncanny accuracy as he shot another accusing glance at the ceiling. "Girl, what is it wit' you draggin' poor, pitiful, sad-ass puppy-dogs home t' bed?"

Riley's mouth fell open as his brain tried to catch up to the breakneck pace for revealing painful personal observations that this near-stranger was setting.

Pointing at him as if he were no more than an extra chair, DelMonde turned to Paget with another forbidding frown. "This motherfucker outrank me?"

Giving Riley an apologetic smile to show that he, at least, did still recognize that Riley counted as a sentient being, the Security guard answered, "He's got some seniority on you, N.C."

"For which..." The Engineer swung his finger so it was level with Riley's nose. "Let us be clear, I do not give so much as one flyin' fuck. 'Cause you will not be -- an' I not give a damn how cryin'-pukin' drunk we are -- you will NOT -- under any circumstances -- be callin' me 'me boyo.' You got that, Irish?"

"Sure an' ..." Riley began, then caught the 'oh shit' look Paget threw his way. "No 'boyo'," he agreed as he watched the Cajun put away his guitar with swift, agitated movements.

"An' if I catch you sayin' so much as to whisper 'boo' to Rachel Kamens or one o' her herd o' blood-suckers," the Cajun warned, snapping the guitar case closed as Paget returned a bottle of liquor to a cabinet, "I will break your skinny-ass, freckle-faced, pencil neck. You hear me?"

"Definitely," Riley agreed, mindful of Paget's warning. "Are we going somewhere?"

"We not gonna end up in no whorehouse," DelMonde warned as sharply as if Riley had been begging to do so for hours. "So you best not let me catch you even givin' half a look in that direction -- no matter how roarin', cryin', singin' off-key -- which you had also best avoid if you know what good fo' your sorry ass -- drunk we get."

Riley found himself murmuring a half trying-to-be-agreeable and half trying-not-to-be-scared-spitless, "No whorehouse, no singing," at the engineer and security guard who were both on their feet now and headed towards the door. "We're going somewhere to drink," he added, hoping he sounded at least a little confident.

"You buyin'," DelMonde commanded, exiting.

"And I'm navigating," Paget explained, gently taking him by the elbow and guiding him towards the door. "Because we will have Rachel Kamens and a hoard of journalistic bottom feeders on our trail as soon as we set foot outside the yards. Buckle up, Irish," Paget advised with a smile. "It's gonna be a bumpy sleigh ride tonight."


Jeremy navigated them to the Bourbon and Branch on Jones Street, just a few blocks north of Market. He had a quiet word with the newly installed Haven bouncer who agreed to keep Rachel Kamens - or any other journalist - away from them. It took less than an hour for two of the three officers to get roaring, crying, sorry-ass drunk. DelMonde drank his usual bourbon, while Riley met him shot for shot with Bushmills single malt Irish whiskey. Jeremy sipped at a beer, keeping a watchful eye out for anyone who seemed to be looking too hard in their direction.

"Ah, it's not that she promises anything, y'know," Riley was lamenting.

"Leas' ways not in words," Del interrupted.

"For sure, they sparkle from her talented brain nonetheless," Kevin agreed.

"An' then she claim it your fault for heedin' them pretty li'l flashes..."

"It must be so much harder for one who has the same gifts as she," the Irishman sympathized.

"I drink t' that, son," the Cajun said, lifting his glass.

Jeremy inwardly shook his head. Riley had managed to suss out exactly the right things to say to DelMonde to keep the famously bad temper in check - even after having been lashed with it such a short time ago, the TerAfrican mused. He wondered if that was a factor in the equally famous Irish charm. Maybe it was due to some touch of empathy that gave Riley the ability to read another's emotions without even being aware he was doing it. Like Sulu, his thoughts added, never being very far away from the helmsman. Then he chuckled, knowing the fierce scowl the Asian would give him if he suggested such a thing.

"And after I was there for her when she came back from curing her green-blooded idol from an incurable cordrazine addiction," Riley said, a touch of bitterness finding its way into his tone.

"An' me lettin' her throw her damn self all over me when he not bother wit' her on leave..." DelMonde added, his own bitterness far more than a touch.

"She never said she loved me but a man knows..."

"You lucky, then, son, 'cause she tell me all th' damn time - even after she marry that Vulcan sombitch."

"Did ya know she said yes to him mere hours after she said no to me?" Kevin asked despairingly.

"She let me transfer from th' Hood wit'out even tellin' me.”

"She let me make a fool of myself in front of the entire ship..."

"Hell, I had t' walk into a ship full o' her friends an' all those wishin' her an' the cold bastard felicitation..."

"She's so beautiful," The Irishman sighed. "She always felt so good, so right in my arms..."

The Cajun's eyes narrowed.

"And she talked about you," Riley went on, "and about Sulu, and about other men but I thought she was gettin' past them, that she was tellin' me in order to sweep them away so we could start our life together."

"Oh, that what you thought?" Del muttered.

"We were so good together, I made her laugh, she was exactly what I needed, in bed and out..." Riley downed another drink. "Sweet Mary, Mother o' God," he sighed, "why did I ever meet her? Why did I ever fall for her? Why did I ever believe she cared for me?" Tears were welling up in his blue eyes.

"Sweet Mary, Mother, o' God," DelMonde repeated in a disdainful growl, "why you not shut th' fuck up 'bout her?"

"You feel the same way, boyo," Riley shot back harshly.

So much for knowing the right things to say, Jeremy sighed and started to rise, ready to place a steadying hand on DelMonde's shoulder.

He was a fraction of a second too late.

Despite being as drunk as Jeremy had ever seen him - which was saying something - the Cajun was out of his seat in a nanosecond, his chair crashing to the floor behind him.

"I done tol' you, motherfucker," he growled, "you NOT be callin' me 'boyo'!"

Far from being intimidated, Riley, too, was up like a shot, his face reddening, his fists balled. "So it's fisticuffs you're wantin', boyo?" he sneered.

"I wipe the floor wit' your scrawny ass, Irish motherfucker!" Del countered.

With a mighty heave, Kevin upended the table and all their drinks. "Come at me then, ya gobshite!"

Jeremy was unable to tell who threw the first punch, but the Haven bouncer threw the last two - taking down both combatants.

"Get 'em out of here," he advised. "Fleet Security will come lookin' after the noise any second."

Paget grinned. "Good thing I AM Fleet Security then," he said. "Give me a hand." He tipped the Haven generously as they escorted the stunned officers back to the nearest transport station.


As something of a scholar regarding the religions in the Federation (mostly as an adjunct to his psychological studies, though also due to his own fervent if private faith), Jeremy was aware that there was no real difference between "Irish" Catholic and any other kind - as far as the religion itself was concerned. The cultural differences, however, were what gave rise to the term in the first place. Roman Catholic wakes, for example, were solemn, mournful affairs, often filled with the wails of grieving relatives. Irish wakes were loud, boisterous, awash in beer and ale and whiskey, full of music and dancing and laughter and, of course, fighting. This was due, in Jeremy's considered opinion, to the blending of the native Celtic paganism of Ireland with the beliefs of the Catholic Church. And of course, New Orleans Catholicism was always blended with voudon, paying much more attention to the rites of individual saints and the celebration of feast days like - most famously - Mardi Gras.

Jeremy kept his mind busy with such thoughts as he waited for his guests to wake up from their sedative-induced slumber. He had managed to get them both to his and Del's cabin at the shipyards and had hypo-ed them both when they had started to reprise their fight.

He knew that, if left to his own, N.C. would wake up annoyed but contrite for causing Jeremy trouble - at least as contrite as the Cajun ever got. Not that he'd ever show it, Paget mused fondly to himself.

Riley was an unknown factor. They had never been good friends on the Hood, though Jeremy had watched out for the Irishman - as Sulu had asked him to - until he had seemed to recover from his Ruth-Valley-engendered devastation. All he had to go on were Sulu's stories of Riley from the Enterprise. Jeremy hoped the man wouldn't start singing old Irish ballads. That would only cause N.C. to kill him, came the slightly amused thought.

Del roused first, mostly, Jer knew, from the fact that he had grounded out on sapphire so many times that a normal state of unconsciousness didn't last very long. The other part was that his gifts didn't magically disappear when his unconscious state wasn't the grounded kind. The Cajun groaned softly, then sat up, giving a bleary-eyed glare in Paget's direction.

“I not need no damn hypo,” he growled.

“Well, I don't have a Haven bouncer here,” the Ter-African replied, “so I figured it was the next best thing.”

DelMonde glared again, then – as Paget knew would happen – sighed and ran his hand through his hair.

Mais, I done tol' him not t' call me boyo,” he muttered. Which Jeremy knew was as close to an apology as he was going to get. He shrugged.

“He's Irish,” he said by way of explanation.

“That not no damn excuse.”

“Never said it was. Just an explanation.”

Riley chose that moment to wake up with a snort and a moan, and Jeremy quickly moved to his side.

“Don't sit up too fast, Kev...” he began, then just as quickly stepped back as the Irishman tried to stand, only to fall back onto the bunk. His face twisted into a grimace, as he was inelegantly sick all over Paget's military-made coverlet.

“Oh shit...” Jeremy began, then sighed as he heard Del following suit on his own far-from-military-made bed. The Cajun had always had a weak stomach.

Paget yanked on both his friends' arms, pulling them to the deck, then raced for the cleaning supplies in the head. A bucket was produced for each man, and Jeremy simply rolled up the bedclothes and dumped them in the recycling unit.

When he turned to them again, he was surprised to find both of them laughing between bouts of spewing bourbon and Irish whiskey into their respective buckets.

“It all th' talk 'bout that green-assed motherfucker,” Del gasped between choking. “It 'nough t' make any man sick.”

“Sure and you're right there, boyo,” Riley replied amidst his own hilarity and retching.

Paget winced, ready to give them both another hypo.

“I tol' you not t'...” Del began, then choked again. “Aw, t' hell wit' it.” He wiped his mouth, then rinsed it out with the water Jeremy produced. Kevin did likewise, and they grinned at each other like – well – like drunken fools.

The night ended with both of them singing “I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen” at the top of their voices. For his part, Jeremy put in some earplugs and waited until they both passed out.

The End

Blue Christmas by Elvis Presley

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