Disclaimer: It's Paramount's galaxy. I just told a story there.

Note: Set at Starfleet Medical in San Francisco. Ixchel is pronounced Eesh-CHEL. Ixchel is the Mayan goddess of the moon, the dawn, and the rainbow.



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ONE IS FOR SORROW

Stardate 60750.27



He hears her in his sleep. Her voice carries on the wind. Calling him. A raven's cry. Her voice. Calling.

He startles awake, blinks at the ceiling. He covers his face with his hands and slowly pulls them down until his fingertips rest on his jaw. He tries to place himself. Home. He is at home. Their bedroom, their bed. He rolls over and his arm reaches for her. He finds empty space. Remembers.

He stumbles into the morning. 0600. No marine layer shrouds the bay. Dry winter, dry spring, dry summer, and now a dry autumn. The region is moving into a drought cycle. He retrieves a mug of coffee from the replicator and walks onto the balcony. Squints at the rising sun. The air is clear, no haze. Seasonal winds blow from the east. Devil winds. Incendiary. He can taste the fires that sear the parched hills. The air is clear. For now.

She calls. A raven's cry.

No. Not a raven. A crow, in the native oak that shades the balcony from the morning sun.

One crow for sorrow, two for mirth,

Three for a wedding, four for a birth...

The ancient rhyme comes to mind as it does every time he sees a crow. As it has every time since he was a child.

Omens.

He is not normally a superstitious man.

There is one crow.

He searches the tree for others, wills others to join the bird that perches there, head cocked, malevolently eyeing him. Taunting him.

No others arrive.

"Four," he says. "Give me four."

She would think him foolish if she could see him standing here, talking to crows. But her teasing would be gentle. She would appreciate the sentiment, the gesture. However futile.

The crow watches him.

One is for sorrow.

#

She is in the same position she was when he left late last night. Lying on her left side to ease the strain on her heart, the fingers of her right hand splayed, like a web, over her gravid belly. Her eyes hooded and veiled, focused inward.

He sits in the chair next to her bed. Traces the star-shaped implant under her right cheekbone, and continues down around the curve of her jaw. He takes her left hand and holds it between both of his. Kisses it. Holds on, for dear life.

Hers.

#

The medical team gives him the morning briefing. She is "tenuously stable." He translates this as meaning that the doctors are hedging their bets. She may stay as she is. She may get worse. Looking at her, he thinks it unlikely that she will get better anytime soon.

Her cortical node remains at seventy percent. That explains her decreased level of consciousness. The Borg and human immune systems are co- existing once again in an uneasy truce. Nevertheless, her body is ravaged.

"Two more days," the doctors say. "Two more days gives the baby the best chance."

Does she have two days?

Her breathing is labored. Her heart is failing. He sees hands holding a hypospray to her neck. He has long since stopped paying close attention to what they give her, what they do for her. He watches her face. Looks into her eyes.

He thinks of Borg.

He tries to suppress the rage that rises in him, then... No. Damn it. Feel it. The bastards. Feel it. The bastards. Feel it. The bastards. The goddamned bastards. What they did to her. What they took from her. What they still try to deny her... A child. So simple a wish. So small.

She'll die trying.

He takes his rage, he stokes it. He breathes it to power. He tries to send it to her as strength.

She squeezes his hand, weakly, a bare flutter of her fingers. Her eyes meet his. Recognition. He smiles. She draws their clasped hands to her pillow, rests her cheek on them.

He leans over her bed and embraces her, imagining his arm as a wing.

#

The winds shift and rain moves in from the northwest, off the Pacific, dampening the fires in the hills. He stands at the window, looking out on the day. Behind him, the monotonous rhythmic beeps from the monitors. The doctors' murmured conferences. Her labored breathing.

#

She moans. Softly at first, then louder.

Her right hand is tensed on her belly. She breathes quickly, panicked. "Something is wrong," she says in a whisper. "Something... Wrong. She's in trouble."

Alarms sound, echoing her warning. Doctors snap to attention: scanning, conferring, moving into position. He is pushed out of the way. He feels her eyes looking for him. He pushes back in at the head of her bed. Holds her hands.

"I'm right here," he says. "I love you." The words sound like a plea. Or a prayer.

He focuses on her face. She focuses on his.

"Hold on," he says. "Just a few more minutes."

She grits her teeth. She'll die trying.

Her eyes roll back, her body tenses. Bucks. Heaves.

Doctors' voices: "She's seizing." "Watch her blood pressure." "I can't get a lock on the baby." "She's going to stroke." "Cortical node destabilizing." "I can't get a lock until you stop the seizure." "She's going into neural shock." "There, almost..." "I'm losing her..." "We've got her."

The neonatologist calls to him. "Captain, over here, please." He looks down at his wife, releases her lifeless hands. Starts numbly, blindly toward his daughter.

Behind him, a doctor's voice: "Now." He hears her body buck from the shock of the neurostimulator. "Again." Again she slams against the bed.

The neonatologist hands him his daughter. She is tiny, barely a kilogram. She fits in his hands.

Behind him, a doctor's voice: "Again."

He holds the baby in his arm and, in accordance with tradition, lightly runs his finger over her lips to part them and breathes the barest whisper into her mouth. Her respiratory reflex is stimulated. She gasps. She cries. "Welcome to life," he says.

Behind him, a doctor's voice: "Again."

The baby cries.

And then the reassuring rhythmic beep from a monitor. The doctor's broad smile. "Cortical node stabilizing. Neural patterns returning to normal." A collectively held breath, released.

They revive her. She blinks. At first she doesn't seem to realize it is over. He carries the baby to her, helps her to hold her. She can barely lift her hand; she cannot lift her head. She counts fingers and toes, in accordance with tradition. She laughs. She cries. She beams.

He has never seen her so beautiful.

#

She regenerates. The baby sleeps. He stands at the window. The rain has stopped and smoke from the dying fires lies heavy over the hills. Sunbeams pierce the breaking clouds. A rainbow arcs across the sky.

Ixchel, goddess of the rainbow. Their daughter has a name.

In the maple just outside, four crows sit on a branch, their black feathers reflecting the rainbow's hues.

He chuckles. "A little late to be acting as omens, isn't it?" he asks.

She would think him foolish, talking to crows, particularly through a window through which they can't hear him. He looks across the room, watches her. Watches their daughter. Closes his eyes, thanks the grandfathers.

She might think him foolish.

He watches the crows.

Four for a birth.

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