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Cathy German


She could not remember ever feeling as sad as she did at that moment.

She was drowning in it, the sadness. Together they’d sailed some rough seas and met some bad times, but never anything as overwhelming as this was, as bleak and dispiriting as this was, and it was killing her.

Uhura looked over at the captain. It was killing him, too. Any time she started feeling sorry for herself because of her loss, she would look over at him and feel ashamed of her self pity.

He was at the epicenter of this. Spock was his first officer, confidant, brother, and something else that defied definition. Although the captain had always been caring and affable, few had really moved into his inner circle, and Spock was one of them who did. Spock and the doctor.

What were they now, in their fifties? Sixties?

Boys. She thought of them that way—as boys—in spite of the gray hairs and wrinkles, and that’s how she’d always see them. Boys—playing together, biting at each others’ heels like pups, getting in trouble, getting out of it, impressing the planets and stars, saving each other and all of the rest of them. Treehouses and wooden swords, Huckleberry Finn and Peter Pan. The captain, the first officer and the doctor.

Oh, God, here it comes again. Grief in waves that nearly knocked her to her knees. How long will this ceremony last? The captain would say some words, she knew that. Oh, Lord. They wouldn’t expect her to speak, surely. If they turned to her, she would melt. She would fall into a puddle of tears. Some communications officer she was.

She must be strong. She mustn’t bawl like a newborn babe—which is exactly what she wanted to do—until she reached the privacy of her cabin. She wanted to stomp and cry and howl at the heavens. She wanted to hit something. Instead, she would be the good soldier. Stiff upper lip and all that. But in her mind, as she stood there in the harsh lights of the torpedo bay, her cabin seemed like a dark and warm and welcome womb, and she could hardly wait to crawl into it and have a good old-fashioned three-day cry.

And somewhere on the journey back, sometime, she’d toss back a few shots of something nasty with Sulu and Chekov and Scotty and weep with them, but until then, she would be a good soldier.

For Mister Spock. He would have appreciated a stiff upper lip on his behalf. Yes. For him, then. For him and for the captain.

Oh God, she thought. Look at him. No. She turned her face away. Don’t look at him. Leave him in peace, Nyota, she thought to herself. Leave him to his despair. She’d never seen it on him before, and he didn’t wear it well. It hung on him like an ill-fitting uniform. James Tiberius Kirk was meant to be strong, virtuous, victorious, not like this: wrung out like a dishrag, spine straight but hollow, eyes bleary with a thousand-yard stare.

She’d seen him mad enough to spit nails. She’d seen him eerily quiet before a big decision. She’d seen him in his cups, seen him ill, seen him in a toga and in Romulan ears. She’d seen him as a vaporous image floating in her cabin when they were trapped by the Tholians. But she’d never seen him like this, and that’s what would undo her—the way he looked right now—that more than anything else.

And she was worried for the doctor, but in a different way. Leonard had always worn his heart on his sleeve. The good part about that was that she could see when it was breaking, and she could love him and pat the hurt away. Not so with the captain. His heart was someplace else. Always had been. And now it was tucked so safely away that she was afraid that no one would ever see it again.

Leonard did not look himself at all. This would hit him hard, she knew. He and Spock had come to an understanding after all of their years together. Spock claimed that the doctor could never change him, so he should simply stop trying. Such futile attempts were illogical, he’d said. The doctor had agreed. He’d be damned if that green-blooded, pointy-eared so-and-so would ever change him, either. So they’d toned down on the sniping, and without officially calling a truce, they’d called a truce.

This occurred, if she remembered correctly, right about the time when she’d realized that they had each had a profound impact on the other, and each had changed for the better because of it.

She actually grinned a little as she thought about it. It felt funny on her face. There hadn’t been too much to smile about lately. She looked over where Leonard stood and felt her half-smile fade. He was gray-faced. She shook her head and decided that she must spend some time with him later, alone. She was worried for him.

She scanned the crowd.

Oh, God. Scotty. No. Not that.

She knew what he would play. It would be "Amazing Grace" as sure as she stood there trembling. She’d heard him play it before when they’d suffered a loss. She would kill him. She would kill him when this was over with her bare hands. She couldn’t believe that he’d actually be able to play the damn thing. It required a lot of lung, and she didn’t see how he could have any. Scotty had lost more than a shipmate. He’d lost a nephew as well. Again, she chastised herself for her thoughts of self pity. Others had lost so much more than she had.

Like the captain. Look at him. What was he thinking? She knew what she was thinking: she wouldn’t believe it until that coffin went out the tube.

She was waiting for some kind of miracle to occur. It always had before. Always. Some last minute salvation, some happy cosmic surprise, something had always pulled their collective lucky butts out of the fire. She wouldn’t exactly say that serving on the Enterprise assured you a chance to rise from the dead at least once, but that’s how they’d always felt. Blessed. Protected, somehow, by something. By some karma, some warm energy, some divinity. There was something out there that had kept them from dire harm.

Until now.

Look at him. He was going to speak.

His mouth was not his own. It seemed to belong to someone else, and it trembled and twisted, and his voice did funny things she’d never heard before. As she watched this, her throat constricted so completely that she inadvertently made a weeping sound, and she found it necessary to take great gulps of air to steady herself.

"... of all the souls I have encountered, his was the most...Human."

Oh, God, and it was so true. The perfect thing to say and, arms tight at her sides, she bowed her head and squeezed her eyes closed. Just a few minutes more now, and either their miracle would occur or Mister Spock would be sent out the tube to burn up in the orbit of Genesis.

She didn’t believe in The Genesis Project. The creation of worlds needed to be left to the universe to oversee. Let things take their natural course, she believed. Let stars be born and wormholes form and planets collide. Leave it be. They could barely guide a starship through the universe without harm let alone act as midwives to the birth of worlds. Let things live and let things die. It was unnatural to try to stop it.

Let things die. Who was she kidding? If she could snap her fingers and make the natural unnatural right now, she’d do it without a backward glance, without a thought about the morality of it. But there was no last-minute reprieve for them there, no bullet they could duck, no clock they could stop, and she was just now realizing the truth of it.

But there was hope on the horizon, for she was sure that the ceremony was nearly over, and her cabin and its dark privacy was only two decks away.

When she opened her eyes, the sleek black coffin was clacking away from them on the torpedo track. Upon the command, she snapped up a salute. She was frozen. Mesmerized. This was really going to happen. This was not a dream, not some temporal anomaly. This was happening. And—oh God—there was the wheeze of that monstrosity that Scotty was going to play. And ... oh please no ... "Amazing Grace."

She held on as long as she could and then she surrendered. She could be the good soldier no longer and her cabin might as well be on Antares. Her hands on her face provided the only privacy she could buy, and she let loose the tears. And for the first time since she had set foot on the Enterprise all those years ago, she felt vulnerable and exposed. The safe walls of her life collapsed, and she stood at the edge of the galaxy, unprotected.

This was not play. They were boys no longer.

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