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XII

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After his wife is sedated, the remaining medical staff insist Spock leave the operating room. Knowing that he is emotionally compromised and having the strong desire not to shame himself in front of strangers, he obliges easily.

He considers going to the waiting area to share company with the Uhuras. Yet for reasons he cannot fully comprehend, as he is approaching the area where Nyota's family loiter, he hears them talking in hushes tones, sharing words of worry and sadness, and cannot bring himself to enter. Instead he finds an empty corner in an empty corridor and waits.

Doctors and nurses find him and give him news. Nyota has multiple postpartum complications brought on by the synthetic hormones, copper supplements and various other treatments she was given to support her hybrid pregnancy. He is informed of the location and well-being his oldest daughter. Nyota's mother is called to donate specimen for a blood transfusion. Next he is made aware of his son's circumstances. Dr. M'Benga completes his youngest daughter's heart surgery and manage to find an ancient dialysis machine. Nyota is finally stabilized. 6.9 hours have passed since parturition.

Plagued by his own thoughts, Spock compiles detailed health reports. For his wife, he writes: "As anticipated, Nyota demonstrated physical signs that her body was responding poorly to the dramatic change in hormone levels immediately following childbirth. A list of the synthetic replacement hormones she was prescribed and pharmacological information on them is attached to this document. Nyota also appears to have reacted negatively to the anesthesia used during her cesarean section, a drug chosen for its benign influence on Vulcan-human hybrids. Unfortunately it is also known to occasionally have adverse effects on humans, as was evidenced by Nyota's circumstances. Approximately 3.7 hours after accouchement, Nyota began developing symptoms of acute copper poisoning. At approximately 1:15, this morning, in order to counteract her symptomatic regurgitation, Nyota was given an anti-emetic. She then appears to have had an allergic reaction to . . ."

He continues, ultimately filling 7.4 pages, which he then send to Dr. McCoy on the Enterprise for his records. As more information is given to him, he begins to compile similar report for his children.

Their firstborn daughter. Nyota liked to call her their Baby Alpha because she was always the largest during prenatal medical examinations.

Weight: 2.49 kilograms.

Height: 50.8 centimeters.

Born: Stardate 2271.58, 21:08 hours

Comments: She is small for a human infant but has exceptional proportions for her gestation. Dr. M'Benga arrived earlier and informed me that she has atypically good health for a premature infant. He has stated she will be brought for viewing soon.

Their son, the middle child. Spock had made the mistake of turning to check on Nyota's well-being and missed his opportunity to have a satisfactory look at him in the operating room. He is only able to confirm that the boy had thick, curly hair.

Weight: 2.40 kilograms

Height: 53.34 centimeters

Born: Stardate 2271.58, 21:09 hours

Comments: He requires supplemental oxygen and is having issues regulating his body temperature. He will be kept in confinement.

That is the Vulcan way. Unhealthy infants, when it is deemed medically necessary, are kept in almost complete isolation to prevent infections. Vulcan parent do not mind this as they usually have a strong mental connection to their children before birth and do not require close contact to bond. Nyota will not be given special treatment, despite having different expectations and requirements.

Their youngest daughter. He had reacted negatively to the news of her prognosis. He could only imagine the suffering Nyota had endured, waiting for news. However, when Spock had touched the child in the operating room, he had felt a spark of life, an unexpected but undeniable determination, to continue breathing, to survive.

Weight: 1.69 kilograms

Height: 43.18 centimeters

Born: Stardate 2271.58, 21:11 hours

Spock pauses, uncertain how to continue

Comments: Her surgery was successful although her prognosis at this time is uncertain. She is being closely monitors for organ rejection. She currently being treated for anemia and jaundice. She too in in confinement.

Spock stares at the communicator, reading his words repeatedly yet somehow unable to absorb their meaning, until the background light on the screen turns off.

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Sarek finds Spock in an empty corridor three floors below Nyota's hospital room. His son is leaning against a wall next to a door, breathing heavily. Sarek opens his mouth to inquire on Spock's well-being before he feels multiple foreign sensations: the tightness in his chest, the heat on his skin, the new exertion it takes to breath.

On the door, in dark writing: "Isolation Unit M."

Sarek reaches out to touch Spock's shoulder, both to steady himself and to notify him of his father's presence. Spock looks at him, eyes inflamed, flesh trembling under Sarek's palm. Both father and son barely need to strain their ears to hear the sounds emanating from within the room. There is a delicate hum of machines and the almost inaudible sounds of life.

Through the tip of his thumb, which is pressed to the patch of skin above Spock's collar, Sarek feels confusion, physical pain, and guilt. He cannot discern which feelings are his son's and which belong to his granddaughter, recovering from her cardiac surgery within the room they stand next to.

He can see her in his son's mind. Inconceivably tiny, producing a distressing sound as Dr. M'Benga holds her for her parents to see. Nyota's face is wet with tears as she whispers sweet words to the child which sound far to much like a farewell.

You will always share her pain, in all its forms, he says to Spock's mind. Instantly, Sarek regrets the sentiment. The words are meaningless, almost too superficial to be worth articulating.

Dr. M'Benga and Dr. McCoy both acclaimed Nyota's adherence to medical treatment. Additionally, the ailment was the result of inheriting my blood type. Therefore, her suffering is the immediate consequence of my genetic influences, Spock thinks, I am at fault.

You are not at fault. Her ailment is an improbable outcome, Sarek replies through their connection.

Spock finally meets his father's gaze and there is anger in his stare. I do not desire any more of your trivial consolations.

He attempts to pull away from Sarek but his father's grip on his shoulder tightens to prevent his movements. Spock's jaw clenches and lifts a hand to forcibly extricate his father's grip. At the last moment, Spock's pauses and his hands returns to his side, relenting to the older Vulcan's presence without any further protest.

They remain in the hall for a significant amount of time, silent in both their words and in their minds, both more attentive to the life inside the isolation room to converse further.

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The first time Nyota awakens, there is no pain at first, only a general awareness of her left arm and the intravenous devices inserted across the limb. The one on Nyota's hand is feeding a clear fluid into her veins. The other is full of a warm, dark red substance. Blood?

"On average, women lose at least a liter of blood during childbirth, even more during a c-section. Don't be afraid if you wake up with a blood transfusion going on." Dr. M'Benga had told her as they wheeled her into the operating room. He had given several pieces of advice as they prepped her for surgery.

The hurt comes when she tries to sit up. A line of stitches on her lower abdomen are tugged on sending a searing pain through her body. Blood rushes to Nyota's head and she is certain she will pass out. She relaxes. The room slowly stops spinning, the pain fades to a dull ache, and her heart rate falls.

Next, she notices an oxygen tube against her nose, forcing air into her nostrils. Her skin, especially the surface of her lips, is numb and painfully dry. She tries to move her right foot and fails miserably. It feels as though someone encased her entire body in lead.

Her eyes burn as she opens them fully, a thick crust clinging to her eyelashes. Everything is covered in a haze, even after several blinks. Her head is facing right, she can tell by the bright light pouring from the window. There is no one with her from this angle.

She tries to twist her head but the gesture sends a bolt of pain down her neck. Nausea fills her skull and she squeaks.

Nyota hears the rude noise of a chair being pushed back and someone taking her hand, cradling it gently, careful of her IVs. A warm mouth kisses her deathly cold knuckles. A voice chokes, "My sweet girl."

It is her mother. Nyota clenches her fingers to reassuring squeeze her hand but her fingers barely move. Something crinkles against a plastic cup next to Nyota's ear. Ice. She opens her mouth as best she can and her mother presses a few chips past her lips. They are blissfully cool on her cracked mouth. The ice grows lukewarm on her tongue and Nyota swallows the hydration.

M'Umbha puts the cup down and strokes her daughter's hair until Nyota falls asleep again, her mind too foggy to maintain wakefulness.

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The second time Nyota awakens, a few hours or minutes later. Her mother is still nearby but fast asleep with her head on the table across the room. Nyota's grandmother is resting on the couch. Something is pressed against her hand. It's Makena, resting her head on the mattress. Nyota tugs on her sister's hair and the younger woman's eyes open. Nyota gives her a weak smile, a silent word of thanks on her mouth but Makena just rolls her eyes at this before turning into the mattress to fall into slumber again.

Nyota looks around the room. She is still attached to several machines but it sounds like there are fewer now than before. Her mind is quiet and she wonders where Spock and Sarek and the rest of her family is. But she is still tired and the thoughts don't plague her for too long.

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The third time Nyota awakens, Uncle Rai, Uncle Behr, her father, and Kamau are in the room.

"Biutral! They actually gave her biutral as an anesthetic." Uncle Rai snaps, "Look at these blood pressure readings!" He waves her medical file around, "I want to speak to the chief of surgery."

"You do that," her father says, watching her monitors, "When they throw you out, don't tell them you came with us."

Uncle Behr snorts. Kamau, who is leaning on his hands next to her, covering his mouth to hide his amusement, sees her open eyes. Like Uncle Rai and Alhmisi, and Nyota's cousins Asha and Rashid, Kamau is a physician. Unlike the rest of the family, Kamau tires of talking about his job. Nyota likes talking about medicine even less. Normally, Nyota would excuse herself. Since she can't move, she simply closes her eyes again.

"What are you looking at Kamau? Did she wake up?" Uncle Rai asks, "I want to examine her stitches."

But Kamau, her hero, swiftly says, "Nope. Still asleep."

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The fourth time Nyota awakens, her cousins Nuru, Asha, and Rashid are with her, along with Kamau's wife Suri and Nyota's Aunt Sanaa.

"Beautiful. Just absolutely beautiful," Aunt Sanaa says. She is massaging warm oil into Nyota's palm, which is almost putting her niece back to sleep, "Your doctor let us see her through the nursery window. She's absolutely precious."

"Her hair sticks straight up, Nyota," Suri says, putting another spoonful of applesauce to her mouth for her to eat, "It's adorable."

"Your son is doing well too," Nuru says, "He stabilized overnight. He still has the oxygen but Dr. M'Benga thinks he'll be fine."

"But the hid him away. We're not allowed to see him. Can you believe that? I don't care what they say, Vulcans are barbaric," Aunt Sanaa says.

The room goes silent. Finally Nyota asks, "And my little daughter?"

"We haven't seen her," Asha says at the same time that Rashid says, "Not well but don't worry."

Her relatives fall silent again. Finally Nuru says, "She has a fever. Dr. M'Benga isn't sure if anything is wrong yet so he says we just have to wait and see."

Suri pokes the side of her mouth with another mouthful of applesauce but Nyota doesn't want anymore. Aunt Sanaa finishes massaging her hands and gestures towards Nyota's chest, "Should I have them bring a pump for your milk?"

"No," Nyota says, firmly. Nyota doesn't have the heart to tell her she wouldn't be breastfeeding; she can't supply the right nutrition for the job. She is useless to her children.

Asha and Rashid begin playing cards. Suri finishes the rest of the applesauce. Nuru begins ranting endlessly about her dissertation for her doctorate in Neurological Engineering which only Aunt Sanaa politely nods in response to. Eventually, Nyota pretends to fall asleep again.

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The fifth time Nyota awakens, it is nighttime. The lights in the hall have gone out and it is incredibly quiet except for the intermittent beep of her machines. Spock meditating in the corner. Sarek is seated next to her, reading. When he notices her, her father-in-law puts his book down and waits for her speak.

"I don't think I can handle it if she dies," Nyota says.

Nyota feels Spock in her mind. He is surprised at the strange new intimacy that has evolved between his wife and father. Briefly she feels what is either jealousy or sadness.

"She is receiving superlative care." Sarek says. He doesn't tell her not to worry, as if that is actually something she can do. Nor does her remind her the matter is out of her hands. He does not try to preach or rationalize or give advice. He simply waits with her and for that she is more grateful than she can possibly say.

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The sixth time Nyota awakens, one of her babies is in the room.

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His oldest granddaughter has ten well-formed fingers, each capped with an exceptionally small, smooth nail. Sarek vividly remembers Amanda obsessively counting Spock's digits in the days following his birth. She was firmly convinced that the fact that he possessed the correct amount of digits was evidence of something, although Sarek had never understood what it could possibly be a sign of.

Amanda also performed copious examinations on Spock's toes. Sarek could not do this however: his granddaughter was wearing a garment that encased all but her head. Thus, he had to content himself with examining her face, which features her mother's high forehead, long nose, silky brown skin, and delicate chin. Above her bulbous cheeks, he can see the beginnings of familiar high cheekbones.

"Usually I like to take a little credit for my patient's success. It's essential for my sanity. But I can't take any credit for this little's one's good health," Dr. M'Benga says, stroking the infant's smooth hair, "That was more of Mom and that Dr. McCoy's doing."

Nyota's family is crowding around Dr. M'Benga as he speaks but he appears unaware.

"I did almost nothing for her in the nursery. She had vitals so good I almost cried with joy when I saw them and, if I'm being honest with you, I'm probably going to keep a record of her blood results for times when I need a boost."

Dr. M'Benga smiles down at the baby and she stares back at him with a critical look, a funny expression for a three day old child. One of Nyota's cousins, Nuru, makes an strange noise at this and moves closer behind Dr. M'Benga. The rest of the family follows suit. Dr. M'Benga looks up when he feels Uncle Behr's form touching his back but he is still ignorant of what is likely about to occur. Sarek, however, is not so naive and takes a step back to stand with his son in the corner.

"So," Dr. M'Benga continues, "She lost a little weight. Almost all babies do. They're mostly water when they're born but if she get back to her birth weight, I think she can go home with dad. Maybe even within the week!"

Now, several hands are reaching out, to touch her small feet and have her hands clutch fingers. Dr. M'Benga's eyes follow these new movements and widen. Suddenly nervous, he tries to press his way back but he is blocked.

"And I spoke to my partner and he agrees she can be kept in here so if you want to hold her -"

In an instant, someone has picked up the infant and Uncle Rai pushes him out of the way to get a better look. Dr. M'Benga isn't mad. In fact, he can't stop smiling. The relatives fuss over the baby, showing her to her mother and father, adjusting the dark green onsie she is wearing, giving her kisses and hugs.

Dr. M'Benga moves around the perimeter of the room until he is at Nyota's side. She is much too ashen and when he squeezes her hand, she can barely return the gesture but she has still improved greatly in the past few days. He pulls out a stethoscope as he says, "She's a lucky girl."

"She is."

"And how are you? Your Kayser–Fleischer rings are looking better. Copper levels dropping. Looking much better."

"You don't have to lie. I was worried I looked awful earlier," Nyota says, "But then I thought:I expelled three beings from my person. I'll look how I want to look. Thanks."

"Good. I like that."

"I'm thinking for putting it on the birth announcements."

Dr. M'Benga chuckles as he writes her vitals into the PADD.

Nyota struggle but can't pull herself up. She falls back sighing, "Can you prop me up? I want to hold her."

He grabs several pillows and arranges her arms. Then he snatches the baby from her grandmother and rests her on Nyota's chest. M'Umbha protests but grudgingly smiles at her daughter.

The infants squirms for a moment and then rests her head over Nyota's heart, eyes drooping as the rhythm slowly puts her to sleep. Now, even Dr. M'Benga has to stop himself from squealing. The infant's chubby cheeks, pressed against Nyota, are squished.

He shakes his head at his own absurdity. He has to leave or he will go crazy.

"She looks just like you, Makena, and Alhmisis," Uncle Rai says, reaching across Nyota to gently pinch the baby's cheeks, "But she has Spock's. . ." Uncle Rai pauses, scanning her feature for something which was inherited from Spock.

He is silent for several minutes before Nyota finally speaks, "She's a Mama's girl."

Nyota feels a swell of pride as she notes her child's familiar traits but she is also somewhat sad. She doesn't have Spock's eyebrows or his ears. Suhayl didn't have both either.

"Yes," Uncle Rai says, relieved she alleviated the awkwardness, "Oh, your firstborn!"

Makena's eyes flash towards Nyota, a knowing expression on her younger sister's face. Sarek glances over as well.

I had a son, Nyota think and Sarek nods in affirmation when she shares this thought through their bond, I had a daughter. They were my babies too.

Her vocal cords are tight so Nyota simply nods, pushing her lips into her newborn's hair to hid her mouth.

"Finally, right?" Aunt Sanaa says.

Makena jumps to her feet so fast her chair makes a small dent in the wall, "Hey, how about I buy everyone lunch. Give Nyota and Spock some time with the little one?"

"Sounds good!" Uncle Behr says, pulling Alhmisi and Uncle Rai to their feet. He throws one arm around each of his brothers and says, "Doesn't it make you happy when the kids pay for things?"

"You know it does," Kamau says, pulling Makena's hair as she walks past.

"You know what would be good too? If we went somewhere cheap," Makena says, helping her grandmother to her feet. The family laughs at this but Makena adds, "I'm serious." Makena glares at Nyota, mouthing the words, 'You owe me.'

Sarek follows them, lingering for a moment before he closes the door and Nyota and Spock are alone with their daughter. Spock moves closer to sit by Nyota's bed.

"Your Uncle was correct in his assertion that she strongly physically resembles you," Spock states.

"And what did you think of his second assertion?" Nyota asks. He didn't even glance at her when Uncle Rai or Aunt Sanaa were talking.

Spock's eyebrows knit, "To what statement are you referring?"

"He said she was our firstborn."

"She was born approximately 1.2 and 3.6 minutes prior to her siblings. Therefore, his statement was correct."

Now Nyota feels like she was being oversensitive and that just makes her more annoyed. "And my Aunt?! 'Finally' What does that even mean?"

"I am fairly confident is was merely colloquialism referencing the 10.4 years between their birth and our marriage."

He is defending them. They are not even in the room and he agrees with them.

"How did you just," she shakes her head, hoping to stop but the impulse too great, "forget them?" Before he can respond, she contiues, "If I hadn't gone on that mission, she would be almost ten, asking to hold her little sister or feed her a bottle, and he would be seven and he might be jealous but you don't think about any of that because you just swept them from your mind, didn't you?"

The baby on her chest yawns, obvlivious to her mother's despair. Spock opens his mouth to speak but Nyota interrupts him again, "And what will you do if our youngest daughter dies? Will we just fly off into space, tell everyone we have twins, and never mention her again? I can't do that. Not again."

She turns her head away from him, breathing hard to prevent tears from falling.

"Is this why you found comfort in my father's presence last night above mine?" Spock asks.

"We understand each other," Nyota says.

She and Spock have grown apart, Nyota realizes. He could compartmentalize things which she never could. Perhaps she knew this fact for some time. Admitting to it, however, is not cathartic in anyway.

Spock stands, lifting their daughter from her chest. He holds her for a minute, close to his chest, examining her feature before he places her in the bassinet Dr. M'Benga left behind. Then he leaves without another word. Guilt is swelling painfully in Nyota's stomach but she does not stop him. Nyota is left alone with her tears and the child she desperately wishes she could look at without feeling the need to mourn.

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". . . Rhea submitted the application, turned it in and four hours later, they told her there was a spelling error and she needed to fill it out again. So, they resubmitted it and are waitting again but Jade tells me Rhea yelled at the inspector, which I completely believe, so I think they're going to wait longer this time."

"But how long?" Makena asks, "They've been there five days."

"Counting prep and travel time, at least twenty seven hours," Perris replies, crunching on something into the earpiece of the phone. She's one of those people who take the phone with her to the bathroom, outside, everywhere. She's probably having breakfast.

Makena sighs. There was a reason she didn't bank on the crew getting the artificial heart out of the shipping depot. Still, she wants it on New Vulcan as soon as possible, just in case the baby needs it. "That's fine I guess."

"Anything else you want to talk about?"

For the last few days, Makena has been able to keep herself together. Somehow that single statement pulls her apart and she tells Perris everything, from how hard she tried to bring her family to New Vulcan right up to the screaming match on the transporter pad she had with her father, whom she's currently avoiding.

Perris swallows hard on her end, "I was actually hoping to talk about the loan we got for the ship repairs I want."

This only inspires Makena to start babbling about Nyota and how insensitive her family is being and how worried she is about her nephew and nieces.

"Having a hard time?" Perris says when Makena stops to breath.

"I try too hard. That's my problem," Makena says, ignoring Perris' statement, "When I was an idiotic teenager and I didn't care about anything, I was so happy. I'm going to try and be more idiotic."

Perris says, "You don't need to try and be idiotic."

"I'm hanging up," Makena says.

"No don't. I'll be nice," Perrris says, "I mean, I'm sure it will all work out with the kids. And I'm sure it sucked being yelled at in front of stranger but - "

"Not strangers! My own family!" Makena snaps, "All those stupid perfect doctors with their stupid degrees and their stupid prestige."

"I know," Perris says. But Makena isn't sure she does know, "If it helps, I think you're awesome."

"So, you'll come to New Vulcan and support me?"

"Oh, hell no. The only person your father hates more in the universe than you is me."

Makena agrees with that statement in its entirety. Ten years prior, as Makena and Perris recall, Makena and Perris moved off planet to start new lives on Mars. Alhamisi Uhura, however, would remember that same event differently: Perris seduced Makena and kidnapped his naive young daughter away to an another planet.

"I'm always there for you," Makena says, "Like that time those Orions gave you that 'special beer' and I carried you twelve blocks."

"Yup," Perris says, vacantly.

"And Krakau! I saved your ass in Krakau! You almost died in Krakau."

"Sure," Perris says.

"And how many times have I defended you when you messed up in front of the crew?"

"Most definitely," Perris says. On the other end, Makena hears a hiss of gas then a hum.

"You're not even listening to me. What are you doing?" Makena asks.

"Welding," Perris says, her voice muffled by a mask, "The door on the Machiavellian is loose."

"You're welding the door of a spaceship shut?"

"Absolutely. This ship already cost us a fortune in repairs. I'm not paying a hundred credits to replace the screw."

"How do you plan to get on the ship if the doors don't open?"

Perris pauses, "Can't we just jump through the overhead window like the Duke cousins did? I think it comes off."

"So you're going to remove a window?"

"Yes," Perris says, annoyed, "But you can put it back on."

"The airlock windows?"

"Uhuh."

"On a spaceship? Do you have any idea what a vacuum in outer space does to the human body? Probably to any species' body? If you don't put it back on properly every time -"

"Fine," Makena hears a click on the other end of the earpiece; Perris has turned off the welding torch, "You're better at mechanical things than I am alright. You better get back her soon so I can criticize everything you do."

"Clearly." Makena strains her ears. Perris is clanging on something, "You already welded one of the doors didn't you?"

"Shut up!" Perris snaps, hanging up.

Makena sends a text message to her secretary X'Jaya, begging him to go the hangar and prevent Perris from destroying the oldest ship in their fleet. In some ways, it's nice being on vacation with Nyota and the others. Mostly though, she's terrified of her employees. She trusts them, somewhat. Or more truthfully, she trusts Kor, X'Jaya, Thrange, and even Perris, to a point because they can occasionally be counted on to avert disasters. (Perris is a better business partner than she is a mechanic). But it only takes one person making one mistake to ruin everything.

Makena knows. She still able to recall the time Jade mistook a canister of hydrocarbons for compressed oxygen. Makena's eyebrows only just grew back. She is rubbing the ridge above her eyes, where the hair is still rather thin when she notices Kamau, leaning against the wall, grinning at her.

"What?"

His face distorts into an ugly, fake smile. Kamau would make that same face when they were kids just before he would mess up her hair or pinch her cheeks "Nothing. It just makes me all warm and fuzzy seeing you all grown up. My big girl. Sunrise, sunset," he walks towards her, arms open for a hug, "Come here."

"No," Makena says, flatly, "Get away from me, you freak."

She feints but he's been annoying her too long to fall for it. He lunges, wrapping his arms around her shoulders, tight like a snake around its prey, and falls over her to pin her in place. He's taller than her and when he lays his head on her shoulder and shifts his weight on her, she can't move unless she struggles. If she moves though, he will fall on her and she's doesn't want another scene.

"Get off," she snaps.

"No," he says.

"Now!" she seethes.

"I love you," he whispers.

"You're thirty-three years old. You have a wife. You're a doctor. Why are you still like this?!"

"Because you're my baby sister," he says, bending his knees so she has to grasp at the walls. An orderly passes and Kamau gives him a grin, which disgusts the Vulcan, naturally, "What? You don't want me to hug you?"

"Stop stop stop stop stop!" Makena yelps.

He stands up, still making that stupid face. He hasn't stopped bothering for since he arrived. When he's not with her, he's sending her texts, calling, and smoke signaling.

Makena sighs, "Can you keep a secret?"

"What kind of secret?" Kamau asks, wrinkling his nose and crossing his eyes at her.

"I know where we can find a dead body." Makena says.

"I'm not falling for that twice," Kamau says.

"Okay," Makena says, straightening her clothes, "I guess you don't want to see something super cool."

It works every time. Kamau protests a little but when she starts walking away, he follows.

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"Do these individuals belong with your party?"

M'Umbha swallows heavily on her tea - a lovely chai her sister-in-law Sanaa grabbed from her house when they arrived to take her, her husband Rai, and her twins Asha and Rashid to the shuttle port - and contemplates the faces of her two youngest children. Kamau is pointedly avoiding her eyes and Makena is smiling much too much to be innocent of anything. It is good tea, comforting and tasteful, and it gives her an opportunity to think as she has to dry her mouth and carefully put her cup on the table before she can respond to the security guard who had brought her son and daughter to her.

"I've never seen them before in my life."

"M'Umbha!" Sanaa protests, "They are her children."

"Procedure dictates we remove those who enter restricted areas without proper clearance but Dr. M'Benga insists they remain here. In spite of that, I must insist they be monitored."

"Of course," M'Umbha says. She gives Kamau and Makena a look and they immediately sit down. The minute the guard is out of earshot, she says, "You know people always pitied me because I often couldn't control my own children. You were wild but even your worst I always thought, they'll grow out of it. Lo and behold. It's not a phase; it's your personalities. You enjoy making me suffer."

"If I may," Kamau says, "This is all Makena's fault."

"Own your action, Kamau," M'Umbha says, "You were both wrong."

Makena rolls her eyes, leaning back to put her PADD next to Nyota before M'Umbha can turn her attention away from Kamau.

Nyota glances at the screen. On the PADD is a picture of an infant with dark brown eyes and upright curly hair. She studies it for a moment, "Is this?"

"Your baby boy," Makena says, turning to smile at her, "I heard one of the nurses talking and she said they were moving him out of the intensive care unit so we followed."

"Let me see," M'Umbha says. Aunt Sanaa comes to look over her shoulder. Nyota touches her cheek, wishing she could preserve the sweet smile on her mother's face forever.

"That one looks like you too," Uncle Rai says when they pass the PADD to him, "Same nose. Same mouth. Same skin. Lucky Spock gets to be surrounded by Uhura beauty, huh?"

Nyota holds her hand out for the PADD, wanting to stare at the image forever. Uncle Rai is right. This is definitely her boy. Curved eyebrows, she thinks sadly, curved ears too.

He has a line for oxygen though. Plus his blanket is glowing, which couldn't be normal. In the bassinet next to her, Nyota hears his sister fuss. Aunt Sanaa is at the infant's side in a heartbeat to soothe her.

"He'll be with you again soon, Nyota," Makena says.

Nyota traces her son's chin on his picture.

Her boy.

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He couldn't deny it any longer: he was feeling a little stressed. He had barely slept or eaten and the last twelve hours had been one trying case after another.

"Perhaps this is maladaptive," Dr. M'Benga thinks as he devours three more cookies at once. Couldn't be helped. He had missed his last two breaks because a patient had had an allergic reaction to some antibiotics. He'd also forgotten to pack a lunch and disliked that cafeteria food. And if he was being honest with himself, he would admit he was still shook up over the death of one of his elderly patients, a sweet grandmother with Bendii syndrome who he had stupidly allowed himself to grow fond of.

So, it made sense, somewhat, to be eating the entire box of his favorite cookies that his father had made and sent him, in an empty hallway.

It was his pattern after all. When he was 11, attending boarding school, the night after he had failed an advanced calculus test, he had cleared out the communal fridge in his dorm. The morning after, the residential advisor gave him an educational pamphlet on binge eating.

"It's fine," he assured himself. The last time he had been overwhelmed like this, he had eaten two pounds of grapes. It balanced out, even if the very fact he thought this would no doubt break his nutrition professor's heart. He tossed the empty box of cookies in a trash can, suddenly craving grapes. No one knew where he was and his next appointment wasn't for another 30 minutes. Perhaps he would take a nap. He knew one of the lounges nearby was being painted. It was the middle of the night so there would be no workers there now.

Rubbing crumbs off his mouth, he thinks, "Fantasizing about an empty room. This is what I've been reduced to."

He was turning towards the direction of the lounge when his pager went off. He instinctively pushed the call-back button. The nurse on the other end didn't mince words, "Patient 6890 requires your attention. It is not urgent." Then she hangs up without another word.

He recognizes the number. The littlest triplet.

"She has mild arrhythmias intermittently," the nurse says when he arrives. She quickly brings him a scrub and helps him dress. Then she pushes him through the sanitizer, a humming machine which lights up as he passes through, raising the hairs on his skin as it kills dangerous microbes and pathogens on his skin. He enters the isolation unit.

It is, as always, unsettling how quiet it is. There is a clear temperature-controlled therapeutic dome over the infant and when he unlatches it, he finds she is making a strange noise, much like a small cat searching for its mother.

Her skin, which was pasty and yellow earlier, looks much better. Her heavy metal bloods levels are improved too. The heart monitor, however, as he reads the old findings does indicate abnormal heart beats.

Dr. M'Benga checks the heart monitor pads and then machine. Both are functional properly. He can see the artificial heart working too. Her chest is still open, a clear covering allowing him to view the titanium and plastic heart at work. He watches it for a moment fascinated by the false organ. It too seems to be working fine.

He glances at her temperature reading. High but he can't be sure yet whether that is normal for her as a hybrid or not yet.

She squeaks and he looks down at her. Dr. M'Benga looks. The nurse isn't watching. He quickly repeats the alphabet backwards to clear his head of extraneous thoughts and cups his hands around her head and back. She relaxes at his touch. If a simple touch helps newborn humans, it might help a newborn hybrid.

"That's right. You just want a little attention, don't you kitten?" Dr. M'Benga pulls a chair close with his foot. He had twenty three more minutes until his next appointment. The empty room can wait.

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