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Ann Zewen

"I canna leave her now when she needs me the most."


"Ach lass, what are ye doin' here all alone?"

At the sound of the soft brogue, Nyota Uhura lifted her head, squared her shoulders, and finally turned. She found her old friend looking at her with both concern and affection.

"Just thinking, Scotty. Just thinking," she answered huskily.

Montgomery Scott watched her silently for another moment, then reached for her with one hand. "About what ye said?" he asked with a hopeful note in his voice, " th' Sickbay?"

Uhura's gaze dropped from his, then rose again as she steeled herself to say the words she suddenly realized would wound him deeply. "Yes. I..." She paused briefly, then rushed ahead. "I never thanked you properly for what you did...all those years ago, for helping me, for staying..."

The hope dimmed in his eyes. "I never asked for yer gratitude."

"I know...but you have it anyway, and my undying friendship. I don't know what I would have done without you." She forced a gentle smile. "You made the most painful and difficult time of my life bearable, mostly by just being there when I needed you, and I never told you how much it meant to me."

"Those are th' feelin's ye wanted to discuss?"

"Yes. I couldn't talk about it before, but now, since Sybok..." She shrugged. "It still hurts, Scotty, but I can stand it now."

"I'm glad for ye." Scott barely managed to get the words out, then turned and blindly made his way from the observation lounge. He didn't even notice the man he passed in the corridor en route to the turbolift.

Captain James T. Kirk watched the lift doors close, then turned to look in confusion at the entrance to the observation lounge. The last he had seen Scotty, the engineer had been happily sharing a series of drinks with General Koord. "What got into him?" Kirk mumbled to himself as he entered the lounge. He drew up short at the sight of the figure standing there, staring at the stars, lost in thought...or memories.

"Mister Scott?"

"How is she?"

"She'll be fine; she just needs rest now."

"Can I stay a while?"

"It's not necessary. She's sedated, and will probably sleep through the night. Why don't you go home and get some rest of your own?"

"Nae. She might awaken and be upset or frightened. I canna leave her now when she needs me the most."

"All right, if it'll make you feel better. Call me if she needs anything."

"Scotty? You're still here?"


"You won't leave?"

"Nae, lassie. I'll no' leave ye."

"Thank you, Scotty. You're too good to me."

"That's what friends are for."

"Uhura?" Kirk's voice drew Uhura back to the present.

"Captain!" Her fingers brushed quickly across her cheeks as she faced him in surprise. Why did he have to come here now? she asked herself silently. She knew she needed a few more minutes to pull herself together after the scene with Scott. The last thing I need is his captainly concern. I don't think I can deal with that right now.

"Are you all right?" Kirk asked when Uhura just stared at him.

"I'm fine," she managed to answer, and tried to push past him. "I'm going back to the party now."

Kirk stopped her with a hand on her arm. "No, you're not," he countered, and Uhura wondered fleetingly which statement he was answering. She decided it didn't matter.

"I really should get back to the party," she insisted and tried again to leave, but he refused to let go of her arm.

"No," Kirk repeated. "Not until you tell me what's going on. First Scotty, then you. I want to kno--"

"It's none of your business," she blurted, then slapped her hand over her mouth at the stricken look on his face.

"Excuse me." He spoke through tight lips. "I didn't realize you had joined the conspiracy."

This time she stopped him from leaving. "What conspiracy?"

Kirk looked back over his shoulder at Uhura. "The conspiracy of silence..." he accused, "...of keeping secrets from me. Spock and Sybok, Bones and his father, Scotty and whatever's eating him...and now you, too. You're all keeping things from me, but you didn't seem to have trouble sharing..." He sneered the word, then realized how petulant he sounded, how self-pitying, but he continued anyway. "You were able to tell Sybok."

"We didn't tell him anything," Uhura responded with a sad little smile. "I don't think any of us would have told him voluntarily the things he learned about us. Some things just hurt too much to talk about, so we go around hiding from the pain, wallowing in our own guilt, and we never really recover from whatever it was that hurt so much."

The words cut into Kirk, but he refused to acknowledge the wounds, instead mocking, "So Sybok took that pain away."

"No." She shook her head slowly. "Not the pain, just the guilt, but that makes the pain bearable."

"And now you can talk about it?" he demanded.

"A little, maybe," she agreed. "But not with just anyone. Tonight's the first time I've discussed it with Scotty...and he was there." I canna leave her... "He already knew it all, but I was unable to speak of it with him until now. I don't think there are many people I'd want to tell."

"Can you tell me?" Kirk whispered the question, and suddenly Uhura saw the pain behind his anger and defiance. She reminded herself that this man had been through a lot in the past year. He had lost Spock, then found him again only to lose his ship and his son. And he still hadn't dealt properly with any of it. As always, he shoved his pain away, and refused to even acknowledge its existence. Some day it was going to catch up with him, and he was going to collapse under the weight of all that guilt and suffering. Maybe it would help him to hear her story.

Uhura hesitated only a few seconds, then she took a deep breath. "It was almost two years after the end of the five-year mission..."


"No, no, no!" Uhura scolded the young communications technician when he made the third mistake in as many minutes of work on the subspace radio system.

"But that's the way I was tau--"

"I don't care what they taught you," the lieutenant commander interrupted him. "The system is more efficient if you do it this way."

The technician sat back on his heels and watched Uhura hook up the board in half the time it would have taken him to complete the same job. He shook his head when her hands moved faster than he could keep up with the variations she was making on the standard connections. His academy instructors would have been horrified at the configuration the woman was forcing on the system. He was dazzled.

Uhura finished and slid out from under the comm board. "Now that's the right way to do it," she said. "We'll get twenty percent greater range with ten percent less utilization of power.

"You're sure?" The Rhaandarite technician knew Uhura knew her job, but she had just done things to her board that he had been taught were impossible...and she said it would improve the system. He shook his head again unconsciously.

"Are you questioning my judgment, Ensign?" Uhura's voice was level and calm, but there was neither warmth nor patience in it.

"No, of course not, ma'am,," the Rhaandarite young man stammered, his face turning indigo blue. "'s just..."

"Well, see that you don't." Uhura's voice rose slightly. "I'll have you know, I've forgotten more about this system than you and your instructor know between you. I--" She stopped suddenly when a familiar figure approached them, a scowl on his face. "Dismissed," she told the young ensign, who quickly scurried away. Uhura turned to the man who had joined her. "Did you want something, Scotty?"

"What's wrong, Uhura?" he asked gently. "That's the fourth time this week I've heard ye talk like that to one of the new crewmen. It isna like you, lass. Me, yes, but not you. What's troubling ye?"

"None of your damned business!" she snapped and then stormed off. Montgomery Scott shook his head as he watched her leave and determined he would find out what was bothering way or another.


The next time Scott saw Uhura, she was again kneeling beneath the Enterprise's main communications station. She was alone this time, though, no comm technician standing over her. In fact, she was practically alone on the bridge. At this stage of the refit, there was no need to maintain full staffing around the clock, and only a skeleton crew was on duty this late. Again, Scott shook his head as he watched Uhura. She shouldn't still be on duty. She had been working too hard. Her confrontation with the Rhaandarite technician earlier that day was a clear warning sign that she was under too much stress. For the last couple of weeks, she had been working overtime most days, bringing the comm system up to her own high standards and specifications. Scott understood the perfectionism that drove her, but he was concerned about the way it was affecting her. He cleared his throat. "Uhura?" he called.

She backed quickly from beneath the board, bumping her head in the process. "What is it, Scotty?" she demanded, rubbing a sore spot on her forehead. "You scared the life out of me."

"Sorry. I dinna mean--" He broke off when her face took on a gray hue and she swayed dizzily. "Uhura?" Scott slid a supporting arm around her waist and helped her to a seat. He hovered over her solicitously, watching while her skin returned to its normal rich mahogany tone. "Are you all right now, lass?" he asked gently when she seemed more her normal self.

"I think so." She looked up at him with a small smile. "Thank you, Scotty, and don't say anything about this to anyone--okay?"

He squeezed her hand. "On one promise me you'll see a doctor. I've never known you to faint before, and--"

"I didn't faint now," she protested.

"Close enough. Promise?"

"But, Scotty, I'm just tired...and hungry." She grinned sheepishly. "I've been so busy, I didn't get dinner."

He peered at her carefully, noting her slimmer-than-normal figure. "No lunch either, I'll wager," he accused.

Uhura was thankful for her dusky skin that hid the blush she could feel. "I haven't been very hungry lately."

"That does it," Scott declared. "Put that stuff down, right now. We're going to get you some food."


"No arguing, lass."

"All right," she agreed with a sigh.

A short while later Uhura was seated across from Scott, intent on the menu. She looked up and smiled when the waiter appeared. "I'll start with crab bisque, then a house salad with vinaigrette, a steak, the biggest you have, rare, with baked potato, sour cream and butter, and, for dessert, chocolate/chocolate cheesecake."

Scott's eyes widened. "You are hungry!" he declared.

Uhura laughed. "Yes, starved suddenly. It's the first time I've had an appetite in at least a week."

He grinned back at her and placed his own order. As soon as the waiter had left, Uhura leaned forward and placed her elbows on the table, looking at him with sparkling eyes.

"Oh, Scotty, can you believe it? Just a few more months, and we'll be back out there." She looked up toward the ceiling, then sobered a bit. "Of course, it won't quite be the same, without the captain or Mister Spock or Doctor McCoy, but at least we'll be in space again, aboard the Enterprise."

At that moment, the waiter appeared with Uhura's soup and their salads. Uhura picked up a spoon and dipped it in the soup, lifting a spoonful of the fragrant liquid to her mouth. She took one sip, and turned as gray as before. Dropping the spoon into her bowl with a slight clatter, she rose hastily to her feet. "Excuse me," she barely managed, and fled the room.

Scott stood up when she again approached their table a few minutes later, still looking shaken, all of her earlier sparkle gone. "Lassie..."

"I'm sorry, Scotty, but I seem to have lost my appetite again." She attempted a reassuring smile, but didn't quite succeed. "I'm going home to get some rest."

He dropped his napkin on the table, and took a step away from his chair. She shook her head. "No, you stay. I can make my way home alone. There's no need to spoil your dinner, too."

"I'm seeing you home," he insisted, taking time only to settle with the waiter, assuring him they had no complaints about what little food they had eaten. Once outside on the street, Scott offered Uhura his arm gallantly. She accepted it and leaned against him a little, suddenly very tired. He patted her hand. "See a doctor tomorrow, please. Promise me."

Uhura opened her mouth to protest again, then closed it without a word, nodding silently. They walked along in silence until they reached her building. "I'll go up by myself. You go on and get some dinner."

"You'll be all right by yourself?"

"I'll be fine. I promise."


Scott hesitated a moment outside the apartment door, then shifted the package he was carrying from his right to his left arm. He pressed the buzzer and waited impatiently for the summons to enter. He didn't have to wait long.

"Scotty!" Uhura greeted him with shining eyes and a welcoming smile. "What are you doing here?"

The engineer let out a sigh of relief at Uhura's obviously cheerful mood and glowing health.

"I was concerned about ye, lassie, and wanted to see what the doctor said."

"Why, Scotty, how sweet of you," she patted his cheek and reached for the bag in his arms, ignoring for the moment the question inherent in his last statement. "What have we here?"


"Wonderful! I'm starved." She carried the bag into her kitchen and began to empty it, listing the delicacies as she removed their containers. "Grilled, fresh salmon, marinated asparagus and artichoke hearts, mushroom rice pilaf, fresh-baked sourdough bread and..." she paused to look over her shoulder at him with a grin, "deep dish Kaferian apple pie. You do know how to spoil a girl, my friend."

"What are friends for?" he asked innocently, then added shyly. "I thought a little spoilin' couldn't do ye any harm."

Uhura flashed him a smile. "And what's this?" She dug into the bottom of the bag and pulled out a very old bottle. "Scotty!" she exclaimed. "Glenfiddich scotch. I don't dare guess how many credits this cost you."

"Only the best for you," he replied gallantly.

Her eyes twinkled at him. "Are you flirting with me?" she teased.

He flushed, then stammered. "No, of course not. I dinna ken where ye got that idea, lass. I'm just concerned about a good friend."

Uhura reached over and squeezed his hand. "Thank you, my friend," she whispered, then turned to look at the bottle. "I'm afraid you'll have to drink this by yourself, though...or wait about eight months to share it."

Scott looked puzzled. "I dinna understand."

"I'm pregnant, Scotty," she explained.

"Preg...but what about yer contraceptive injection?"

She shrugged. "They're not infallible; ninety-nine point nine nine nine nine percent effective." She flashed him a rueful grin. "Trust me to be the one-in-a-million." She sobered. "Actually, the doctor said I can probably blame it on working too hard."


Uhura laughed at his confusion. "He said all the stress of this refit could have upset my hormonal balance and shortened the effective duration of my last injection. It's a moot point now anyway. I'm pregnant; that's all that matters."

"Who?" Scott asked, mentally reviewing the men they both knew, trying to guess the most likely paternity of the child, and not really pleased with any of the possibilities.

She shook her head. "No one you know." She shrugged. "It isn't important. He's long gone now, and it's just as well. We didn't get along that well." She laughed at the shocked expression on his face, and added teasingly, "...out of bed anyway."

"But the bairn..."

"The bairn," she told him emphatically, "will be better off without him, too."

Scott shook his head solemnly, thinking of his own, now-fatherless nephew. "All bairns need a father."

"Only if he's the right kind of father," Uhura argued. "The wrong kind can do more harm than good."

"Aye," but Scott was still doubtful. "It will be hard, havin' a bairn on yer own."

"I won't be alone, Scotty. You're here." Again, she was twinkling.

"You're pleased about th' bairn?" He ignored her last comment.

"Yes, surprisingly." Uhura looked thoughtful. "At first, it was a real shock, but when the doctor told me it would be a boy, suddenly he seemed so real." She placed one hand protectively over her flat abdomen. "My son, Scotty. My son! I can hardly believe it."

"And your career?"

She turned away from him before answering, suddenly busying herself with the food. "I'll work that out somehow. I'll make arrangements for family maybe, to care for him when I'm away. And I'll be with him myself as much as I can whenever we're on Earth."

He looked doubtful.

"Don't worry," she reassured him, then repeated her earlier statement with more confidence. "I'll work it out." She smiled again. "Come on, let's eat. I'm starved!"


Montgomery Scott sat alone in his apartment, nursing a glass of scotch and thinking morosely about the forthcoming mission. As the refit inched closer to completion, all he could think about were the changes.

First, there were the changes to the Enterprise herself. She was virtually a new ship, rebuilt from the inside out. Since Scott had been in charge of implementing, and even designing many of those changes, however, they didn't really bother him. He knew the rebuilt Enterprise as well as he had known her before the refit--"as well as the back of my hand," he muttered.

No, what bothered Scott were the personnel changes. Although he usually was more at home with engines and other machinery than with people, the engineer had developed close professional and personal ties with several people aboard the Enterprise during the five-year mission commanded by James T. Kirk. Many of those people would be absent this time. Kirk, Spock and McCoy--each for his own reasons--had all opted to leave the Enterprise at the end of the previous mission. Now Uhura. Would she be able to leave her newborn son behind? He shook his head, uncertain of the answer. "It willna be the same," he mumbled and took another sip of his scotch.

The sound of his apartment chime startled Scott, and almost made him spill some of the precious liquid. He managed to prevent the scotch from sloshing out of the glass, however, and rose a bit unsteadily to his feet. He checked the security system, then called "Come" when he saw the woman standing outside his door.

"Don't you know better than to drink alone?" Uhura chided gently as soon as the door opened and she noted the glass in his hand.

"Ye'll be joinin' me, then?" He sounded hopeful, but she just laughed softly.

"You know better than that, Scotty, but I will keep you company. You could make me some tea, though."

Scott brightened. "Then I willna be drinkin' alone," he declared happily and headed for the kitchen, Uhura following on his heels. "Is processed all right, or would ye rather have fresh-brewed?"

"Brewed would be heavenly," she sighed as she shrugged out of her raincoat. "It's awfully damp out there."

"Aye," Scott agreed with a wistful smile. "Reminds me of Aberdeen."

Uhura laughed easily. "It would." She sat down at the table, and waited until he prepared her tea and joined her. "Scotty?" She placed one hand over his. "I have a favor to ask."

"Anything, lass." He turned his hand over and squeezed hers.

"You'd better hear the favor before making any rash promises," she teased, then continued when he gave her an encouraging look. "I'd like you to be godfather to my son."

Scott sat up straighter in his chair, chest swelling as he drew a deep breath. "Godfather?" he breathed the word. "Me?"

"Aye," she mimicked. "You, laddie."

"I'd be honored, but...why me?"

"Who better?"

He shook his head. "I couldna say, but I would have thought there was someone..."

"No one better than you, Scotty dear." She paused. "You'll do it?"

"With great pride and pleasure. I'd do--" He stopped himself before going any further, but Uhura wouldn't let him off so easily.

"You'd do what?" she prodded.

He took another deep breath, then blurted. "I'd do more than that, if you'd like." He paused, then continued shyly, speaking barely above a whisper, "If you wish, I'd be his...his father."

"Why, Scotty, is that a proposal?" Her eyes twinkled at him.

"Aye..." His hazel eyes widened in wonder, as though he only then realized what he was saying. "I suppose it is." He paused, then--"I said it before. Every child needs a father, and since yours has nae other, I'd be proud--"

"Scotty," she interrupted before he could continue and embarrass them both. "I appreciate the offer, really I do. But it will be enough if you'll just be his godfather. He doesn't need a father, just a father figure, and you can fill that role quite well by serving as his godfather." Her smile and gentle words softened the rejection. "Your offer is the sweetest I ever received, but I don't believe in marriages of convenience, and, as much as I love you as a friend, I don't think either of us should ever settle for that."

"If you're sure..." If he was disappointed, it didn't show...much.

"I'm sure."


Scott crawled out of the Jefferies tube to find his young captain waiting for him. "Cap'n?"

"How's it look, Mister Scott?" Willard Decker clapped a friendly hand on the older man's shoulder.

"Good, sir. Th' bairns are shaping up well. We're way ahead of schedule."

"No, we aren't."


Decker grinned. "I told the admiral how well we're progressing with the refit, and he approved an accelerated time table for us." He paused. "We launch in seven months instead of ten."

"Seven months, sir?" Scott did some quick mental calculations. Uhura's baby would be born a month after the mission began.

"Why the long face, Commander?" Decker stiffened. "I thought you'd be pleased not to have to wait so long to try out the new engines."

Scott forced a smile. "Aye, sir. It's good news. I just have something on my mind." He paused. "Has the word gone out to the rest of the crew yet?"

"Not yet. As you're Chief Engineer and Executive Officer, I'd like you to inform the crew in the next few days so they can make any necessary arrangements for the change in plans."

"And if they canna?"

"I don't understand."

"If someone is, well, on another mission and canna return in time, say, matters prevent them from reportin' on time, will they be able to join us later?"

"Probably not. They'll most likely be reassigned and replaced in the crew." Decker peered at the engineer. "Did you have anyone special in mind?" He knew a number of the old Enterprisecrewmen were serving temporary assignments elsewhere, but couldn't think of any that far away.

"No," Scott answered hastily. "No one in particular. I was just wondering."

"Well, if you think of anyone who might have a problem, let me know right away. We have a good crew, the best available. I'd hate to lose anyone, but if I'm going to, I want to know now, so I can find the best replacement possible."

"Aye, sir."


"Scotty, dear, are you checking up on me again?" Uhura looked up from the communications station to greet him with a surprised smile that faded when she saw his mournful expression. "What's wrong?"

"We have to talk." He glanced around the busy bridge. "Come with me." Uhura followed him into the turbolift. Neither spoke until they had reached the privacy of a conference room. Then she broke the silence. "Will you tell me what this is all about?"

"We have new orders, lassie." He launched right in with the bad news. "The Enterprise refit is going on an accelerated schedule."

Uhura had a sudden heavy feeling of dread in the pit of her stomach. "How much sooner?"

"Three months. We launch in seven, Uhura."

"Seven months..." She backed away from the door and made her way blindly to the conference table, sinking heavily into a chair. "That's a month before the baby..." She looked at him hopefully, as though wanting him to deny the truth she already knew. But he just nodded his head.

"I won't be able to go," she whispered.


"Maybe I could join the ship later?"

Scott shook his head. "Captain Decker said anyone who canna go with us then, probably canna remain on the crew. They'll be reassigned and replaced."

"Reassigned...replaced...Scotty, I don't want to leave the Enterprise. I counted on that assignment."

"Aye," he agreed.

"If I transfer now, for maternity leave, it'll set my career back a year at least, maybe two or three." Her dark eyes filled with tears. "What am I going to do?"

"I dinna ken, lass. I dinna ken."


When Uhura met Scott for lunch the next day, there were heavy smudges beneath her eyes that looked almost like bruises. She looked exhausted and depressed.

"Lassie!" he exclaimed. "What have ye been doin' to yerself?"

"Nothing, Scotty. I just didn't sleeping well last night. I've been trying to find a solution to my problem." She walked over to the servocomp and ordered a sandwich.

Scott followed her. "And have you?" he asked, retrieving his own lunch from the unit.

"Yes." She carried her plate to an empty table.

"Uhura?" Scott's eyes pierced into hers as he took his place across from her.

She dropped her gaze, unable to meet his. "I have a doctor's appointment tomorrow. I'm going to terminate the pregnancy."

"Terminate!" he cried. Then, realizing he was attracting attention, he lowered his voice. "An abortion?"

"Don't, Scotty," she begged. "I've gone over and over this in my head since yesterday. It's all I have thought about. I can't have a baby now. It's that simple."

"But I thought you wanted the bairn," he protested.

"I did...I do, but...I can't have it, not now." She blinked her eyes and straightened her slumped shoulders. "It's my decision, and I've made it." She faced him squarely now, body stiff with determination. "I'm going to that doctor tomorrow."

"Are ye?"

"Yes," she whispered, but she no longer sounded so sure.


Uhura lay awake for hours that night, arguing with herself. That morning, she had been certain of her decision, not really happy about it, but certain--or at least she had convinced herself she was. After talking with Scott, though, her earlier doubts had returned. She finally abandoned the attempt at sleep and left her bed.

"This is ridiculous," she told herself as she paced the length of her living room. "You've made up your mind. Now you need to stick with your decision." She looked at the tiny replica of the Enterprise that sat in place of honor on her mantle. Captain Kirk had presented them to his senior officers at the end of the five-year mission.That little pewter starship was more than a memento of a previous assignment. It represented her hopes and aspirations for the future.

"Another mission aboard the Enterprise, and I'll be ready to seek my own command," she reminded herself. Captain Decker had already promised to allow her increased responsibility outside the field of communications. Another captain on another ship might not be so accommodating. "And there'll go my chances for command." She stopped pacing and sat on the sofa. "That settles it. I'm keeping that appointment. I can have another child later, when it's not so harmful to my career."

She stood up again. "Like hell I can. When? After this mission? Not if I get my chance at command. A few years after that? Fat chance. I sure won't give up command once I get it. Maybe I could do it when they get around to kicking me upstairs, like Jim Kirk." She laughed shortly. "Sure. If I ever make admiral, I certainly won't be the youngest one in the fleet. I'll probably be too old for motherhood. Face it, Uhura. It's now or never for you. This baby...or none."

Uhura stopped at the window, and stared out at the misty view, remembering Scott's shocked reaction to her announcement. She closed her eyes and placed her hand protectively over her abdomen. "Don't worry, little one," she whispered. "It'll be all right...somehow."

"Right," her pragmatic self argued. "You're just going to jettison your entire career, everything you've worked so hard for, all for a baby that hasn't even been born, a fetus that's just a few weeks old."

"No!" she argued back. "I can't, I won't, I...oh!" She doubled over in sudden pain, then straightened up a few minutes later. She stood still a moment, as though waiting, then bent again when the pain struck a second time. This wasn't like the tiny twinges of discomfort she had felt earlier in the day. This was excruciating.

Frightened now, Uhura started for her BellComm unit. She stumbled when another pain knifed through her just as she reached the unit. A sudden warm wetness flooded between her legs, and she pressed the button that she knew would place an emergency call with no other effort required, bringing the med-techs to her door almost instantly. In the few seconds she had to wait, she punched a second code into the unit. A man's face appeared on the screen at the same instant Uhura saw two figures begin to materialize in her living room. Ignoring them, she faced the BellComm.

"Scotty," she whispered. "I'm losing the baby..." and she collapsed into the med-techs' arms.


A long silence followed the conclusion of Uhura's story. Finally, reluctantly, Kirk broke it. "You miscarried?"

"Yes," she whispered. "I lost the baby that night. The med-techs hurried me to the hospital, but it was already too late. Something...just wasn't right. The doctor said I couldn't have carried it to term in any case; it was best I lost it when I did."

Kirk didn't comment, and Uhura continued, "Scotty was so good to me. He met me at the hospital and stayed all night, then took me home when they released me. He stayed with me for a couple of days, making sure I ate properly and got enough sleep." She paused, and her eyes softened at a memory. I canna leave her now when she needs me the most. She blinked and resumed talking. "And he never once said a word about the abortion."

Kirk began pacing back and forth in front of the observation window. "Why would he? I don't see what you have to feel so guilty about," he insisted. "Why should he blame you, or you blame yourself, for a miscarriage? You couldn't have prevented it; the doctor told you so."

She shook her head slowly. "I know that, but that isn't why I felt guilty. It was for never having made a decision." She paused briefly, then continued when he made no comment. "No matter how frightened I've been in my life, I never considered myself a moral coward--not until I was unable to decide whether to go through with the pregnancy...or the abortion."

"But you would have made that decision," he protested stubbornly, still unable to understand. "If you hadn't lost the baby, you either would have kept that appointment the next day...or you wouldn't have. Either way, it would have been a decision. You just hadn't made it yet. That doesn't mean you wouldn't have."

"Exactly," she agreed, then elaborated when he looked more confused than ever. "I didn't have to make a decision, and the relief over that was overwhelming. It was the only emotion I did feel. I had just lost my child, maybe the only child I would ever have a chance to have, and I couldn't even grieve for him. All I could feel was relief that I didn't have to choose between him and my career after all."

"You were in shock."

"Maybe," she admitted, "but if I was, when that wore off, the relief still didn't give way to grief. Instead, I just felt guilty." She smiled for the first time since she had begun her story. "But now the guilt is gone; that's what Sybok took away, and now I can grieve for my lost son... finally."

Kirk stiffened. "And that's what you were doing here tonight...grieving?"

"Yes," she whispered, turning back to gaze through the huge window at the starfield outside.

Kirk stared at her back a moment. He opened his mouth to speak, then closed it again. Without another word, he turned and left.

This time, she let him go.

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