Six Loose Ends in Search of Three Knots

by Taylor Dancinghands

Thine, oh Paramount/Viacom, All thine and never mine -these characters, situations, and all the myriad creations of the Great Bird. Pray indulge us this humble fanfic, and I'll make no claim to it's rights.

Knot the First:

Requiem for a Starship

It was a measure of how much they knew each other, how well they intuited each other's needs, and states of mind, that without collaboration or conspiracy, they all wound up at Scotty's place that night.

Scotty's place, of course, being a grand home in the old historical officer's housing compound in the old Presidio in San Francisco. Probably the most prestigious and coveted housing Star Fleet had to offer and if anyone merited such housing it was any one of the crew of heroes just returned from saving the Federation yet again: the Senior officers and staff, late of the Starship Enterprise.

They'd all been given the option of top-notch housing, and Uhura and Chekov were also each staying in pleasant duplex flats in the same compound, but Captain Kirk preferred his own apartment in the Marina District; Spock was staying in quarters in the Vulcan Embassy, with his parents, and Sulu was once again bivouacked in sumptuous but modern quarters at Starfleet's New Mexico testing range, where he was always welcome when staying on Earth. But it was Scotty's where they gathered at the end of two days of hearings, debriefings, ceremonies, interviews, briefings, receptions and medical exams. An exclusive ceremony, a celebration not so much of heroes, but survivors, gathering in the memory of those who were not.

The situation was a familiar one to this band of companions. In many ways the events of the last few months was just like any of dozens of capers, escapades, debacles, and other sorts of close scrapes and misadventures they'd endured over the years. Once again their "differences of opinion" with Command were forgotten. Once again they were heroes, able to claim the most favors, the best perks. But this time, for one of their number the praise, the accolades, the rewards, were all hollow, falling on shoulders still bearing a heavy burden of grief. Throughout the days of ceremonies, receptions, speeches and dinner parties they had all watched Scotty struggle to keep up the merry demeanor which people expected of him.

And why shouldn't he be happy? All of them knew, whatever their status or merits, they were profoundly fortunate to be given a new ship, and assigned together again--none of which, at the moment, would be of any consolation to Scotty. In fact, it seemed to Uhura, a little bit like rubbing salt into the wound.

Enterprise "A" indeed.

Scotty had never said such a thing, not in anyone else's presence anyway, but Uhura had seen that glower on his face when he thought no one was looking. He didn't begrudge anyone else their happiness, in fact he seemed not to want anyone else to know he wasn't as happy as they were.

*But*, Uhura had thought to herself, *we know each other too well now*, and besides Scotty had never been too adept at hiding his feelings. Uhura couldn't remember ever seeing him try so hard before, and for Scotty the job appeared to get harder as time went on. He'd been floundering especially badly at a gathering the night before and some young aspiring Commodore had actually commented on it in a high-handed way to Uhura. She, on the other hand, had been feeling increasingly troubled on Scotty's behalf as the evening progressed, and gave the unfortunate officer an earful in response.

"Well, what did you expect?" she'd replied with a full head of indignation. "Think of what he's lost, and we haven't even given him time to mourn.

“They even managed to hold a memorial service for David Marcus on Vulcan for Captain Kirk's benefit, but what about the Enterprise? He loved her with all his heart, and it seems like no one's even noticed she's gone. We can just slap the name on some other starship we've got laying around and no one'll notice the difference, right? Well, it's not that easy for Montgomery Scott. Unlike some people in Star Fleet his loyalties aren't discarded so readily."

She'd rendered the poor man speechless, of course, but she'd gone home that night and worried, and wondered if the others had noticed. But she needn't have.

When she arrived, unannounced, at Scotty's the next evening, she found Kirk, Spock, and McCoy had beaten her there by an hour or so. They'd brought Saurian brandy (two bottles!) and were well into the first already. She, as it transpired, was the only one who'd bothered to actually find a bottle of good Scotch whiskey, and this had earned her an enthusiastic, brotherly hug. (And would it not be such a bad thing, she'd caught herself wondering, if there could be something more than a brotherly hug between them someday?)

It had been a tradition, especially with Scotty, in the past, that any particularly brutal caper be followed by an equally enthusiastic drunk, and it was in this spirit that Kirk, McCoy, and Scotty, with Spock an interested observer, had started. Uhura was no stranger to these rituals of inebriation, and when, to no one's surprise, Chekov and Sulu appeared, bearing respectively a bottle of vodka and sake, all six of them set to with an enthusiasm born of long fellowship and much experience.

But as the evening grew later and gradually drunker, Scotty remained steadfastly sober, in demeanor if not condition. A normally garrulous and jolly drunk, he remained dour and taciturn as the evening progressed. It wasn't for lack of good company, either. The Captain was holding forth with typical skill and aplomb, dragging out every old funny story (especially ones about the Enterprise and engineering) and with Spock and the Doctor's sparring growing increasingly outrageous as the latter became increasingly tipsy, elicited laughter and memories from all present. Even Spock seemed remarkably at ease and even forbore to take a glass of sake inspite of Dr. McCoy's excessive hyperbole and tendency to grow maudlin after too many drinks.

None of this served to lift Scotty's spirits, and astonishingly he was matching them all, drink for drink, lifting his glass diligently with every toast, muttering "Aye" as he tossed it down. Uhura could tell he knew they'd come here for him, to stand an informal wake for the Enterprise--his Enterprise, but he still could not seem to bear to broach the subject himself; the malaise which gripped him was not to be easily shaken. As the evening wore on, his drinking began to take on a tenor of desperation and his melancholy dogged him like a relentless nemesis.

When the Doctor's sentimentality began to veer towards the dangerously sloppy, Kirk and Spock made their farewells and bundled him off to his rooms at Starfleet Medical. That left what Uhura had at one time referred to as the "Junior Officer's Club," and she thought to herself that it might make things a little easier for Scotty, what with the "brass" being gone.

Watching Sulu disappointedly drain the last drops of brandy into his glass, Chekov stood unsteadily to fetch the bottle he'd brought from the kitchen. They had indeed finished the last of the Saurian brandy, and the sake, and they'd given the bottle of Scotch over to Scotty to drink himself.

"Now," Chekov said, slamming the bottle of real, made-from-potatoes Russian vodka onto the table a little harder than he'd meant--"Now beginss de serious drinkink."

Chekov then began a seemingly unending series of toasts. Demanding that everyone drink with him, he started by naming an astonishing collection of old Russian Orthodox saints (Uhura never did find out if Pavel Chekov really knew the names of every single Russian saint that ever lived, but it seemed like it at the time). When he ran out of those he moved on without a pause to Russian Czars, and there were even more of those.

Whether or not it had been Chekov's intention to rouse Scotty out of his torpor through sheer irritation, that was, in the end, the result. Chekov had worked his way well into the early Soviet Premiers when Scotty held up his hand and decorously poured the last considerable measure of Scotch into his glass.

"Noo, I've got one, lad," he said.

Watching him straightening in his seat to make his toast, Uhura and the others could clearly see at last just how drunk Scotty really was, but they could also see how important it was to him to say whatever it was that he was about to say.

Two bottles of Saurian brandy, one of sake, Scotch, and most of a bottle ofvodka had been required, but at last Scotty was ready to speak his piece.

"To th' finessship . . ." he began, slurring, and then he drew himself up even straighter, to gather what remained of his wits and tongue. It was, Uhura could see, painfully important to him that he said it right.

"To the finest ship," he began again, carefully, drunkenly over-enunciating, "that ever sailed the stars. There was never one like her before, and there'll ne'er be one again."

Uhura could see tears start in his eyes as he spoke, and his voice broke a little as he finished.

"To th' Enterprise. May she ne'er be forgot." And with that he lifted a more than half-full glass of Scotch and with one gulp downed the whole thing. He then slammed the empty glass onto the table, gave a little sob (or perhaps, a hiccup), and, without further decorum, fell face down onto the table. He had given his all.

The others drank their measures in respectful silence, and after they had Chekov regarded the not-quite-empty bottle of vodka for a moment.

Finally declaring, "Vell, I can't top dat," he tossed the open bottle over his shoulders, and all but Scotty (unmoving on the table) winced as it crashed on the kitchen floor.

"Maybe we'd better go now," said Sulu, eyeing the inebriated Russian beside him, as well as the somnolent engineer.

"Just give me a hand getting him to bed before you go," Uhura said, standing carefully. It took all three of them to maneuver the unconscious Scott onto his bed, and, moved by a generous spirit, went so far as to remove his boots. Chekov actually made a creditable effort to clean up the broken glass and spilled vodka on the kitchen floor, and, when he was done, he and Sulu departed, exiting into the chilled and foggy night.

Uhura had intended to follow them shortly, but first she stopped to check on Scotty again. He'd rolled onto his side in the bed, and pulled in the arm they'd left hanging over the side. He looked as if he might be cold, though, so she found a blanket to toss over him, and as she leaned over him to pull it over his shoulders a surprising impulse took her. Caught up in the moment, leaning close over his face, she paused and kissed him tenderly on the cheek.

*You have had just a little too much to drink, Sugar,* she admonished herself as she stood back to regard the sleeping engineer. But she did feel a terrible protectiveness as she watched over him, as though she'd seen a dangerous vulnerability revealed in him somehow. Perhaps it was the dried tears around his eyes, or the childlike innocence revealed on the sleeping face. Whatever it was, suddenly she didn't want to leave him alone. Not that she seriously thought he'd endanger himself or anything so foolish, but . . .

The engineer sighed heavily in his sleep, a mournful, heartbroken sound.

*That's just it,* Uhura thought to herself. *He's still hurting, even if it takes a couple of bottles of booze before he'll even begin to admit it, but he still needs, well, he needs to talk to someone, at least.*

And who better to talk to than the communications officer?

Not sure whether she'd arrived at a constructive solution for Scotty's woes or merely rationalized her own maternal protective urges, nevertheless Uhura went and found herself another blanket, a comfy chair in the living room, kicked off her shoes, and settled in for the night.

Like most people, Uhura slept lightly when dossed down on a chair in someone else's home (though, come to think of it, nothing but her quarters on the Enterprise has seemed like home to her for a long time), so the faint noise of Scotty stirring in the next room woke her.

In the darkened house all she could see of him was a bulky shadow shambling into the kitchen, and she wished she was surer of the job Chekov had done cleaning up the broken glass on the kitchen floor. She realized that she was herself no more than an unmoving dark lump on a dark chair. She rose and walked into the kitchen to make sure he was allright, hopefully without frightening him half to death.

She heard the water running in the sink before her eyes adjusted to the dark kitchen, and when she could discern more clearly, she could see that Scotty was standing at the sink drinking glass after glass of water. She stood quietly in the shadows feeling stupider and stupider, till, finally, she succumbed to cliché, and cleared her throat.

"What the divil. . .?" Scotty startled, dropping his glass onto the kitchen counter, where it fortunately didn't break.

"What in Heaven's name are ye still doin' here, Nyota, lass?" he asked, fumbling to recover his glass.

"Sorry, Scotty, " she said, thoroughly embarrassed now. "I'm . . . I didn't mean to startle you. I just . . .we thought . . . I was worried," she confessed at last.

"Worried? Lass, whatever for?" he asked, not unkindly. "I've done far worse wi' my drink than last night."

"Well, sure," she replied. "But . . . Scotty, we've . . . you've never lost the Enterprise before."

This, at last, elicited a pained expression from the engineer which he attempted to mask by downing another glass of water. It was, by Uhura's count, his fifth.

"Do you always get up in the middle of the night and drink ten liters of water?" Uhura asked, shifting the conversation to something more harmless.

"Only when Ah've been drinkin,' lass," he said, and then went on in answer to her puzzled look.

"Hangover prevention," he explained cheerily. "Ye know it's dehydration that's responsible for ninety percent of yer hangover. If ye can remember to drink a lot of water after ye're done drinking, ye can save yerself a lot of grief."

"And you actually remember to get up and drink ten glasses of water whenever you've been out getting pie-eyed?" said Uhura incredulously.

"Well," Scotty smiled, "ye don't get to be an old inebriate like me wi'out learning a few tricks."

"I've personally found most of the doctor's hangover cures to be perfectly effective," said Uhura, watching Scotty drink yet another glass of water.

"Aye, they are," Scotty replied with one last swallow, "but goin' to the doctor for a pill means that you've already woken up feelin' like ye've got a pair o' Aldebran wildcats fightin' inside yer skull and a tribble in yer mouth. And then ye've got tae get oot a'bed and make it all the way to sick bay and face th' doctor like that. I lost me taste for that kind of adventure when I passed twelve stone."

"Well, when you put it that way," Uhura said with a laugh, "maybe I'll take a glass of water myself."

Scotty gallantly filled a clean glass with water and handed it to Uhura, who drank about half of it and then, not liking the way it was hitting her stomach, thought the better of it.

"Have they hidden any food replicators in this antique?" she said, making a face over her glass. "I think a cup or two of mint tea might sit a little better."

"Och, I don't know, lass." Scotty dramatically overplayed the beset host. "First the lot of you invite yourselves over, and now yer askin' me to serve ye drinks. I don't mind tellin' ye, I don't know what all the fuss is aboot. And I've no idea where the replicator is," then, mollified, he went on, "but I'm sure they've got tae have one. Let's just have a look, then."

They found what they were looking for, hidden behind one of the exquisitely restored kitchen cupboards, and when Uhura had her hands wrapped around a steaming cup of lightly-sweetened mint tea she went back to pick up the conversation where the engineer had left it off.

"You know why we came, Scotty," she said, walking back to the living room to find a seat on the old-fashioned plush sofa. "You haven't been yourself since we got back, and we all know why. Everyone else thinks the only thing that matters is how lucky we've been in getting off so well, and getting assigned together again. They forget we've had our losses, too, and if they don't, all they think of is David Marcus, and that's not fair to you."

Scotty had come to sit on the other end of the sofa, and Uhura looked ove at him when she finished, but Scotty just stared down at his hands.

"Och, I don't know why I let meself get so worked up over a . . . piece of hardware. Everyone knows it's the Captain and crew as makes a fine ship, not bulkheads and engines. But I guess by now it's no secret I'm a sentimental old fool. Ye really shouldna spend too much time worryin' aboot me. I'm bound to come t'me senses sooner or later."

"Scotty!" Uhura's heart sank in dismay to hear the engineer speak so self-deprecatingly. She reached over to take him by the shoulder. "You know there was more to the Enterprise than duranium and duo-tronic chips. We all knew that, just like we knew how much you loved her. They way you called the engines your 'bairns' every time the Captain made them do something crazy, how protective of them you were. And there wasn't anything you wouldn't do for her--like the time you climbed into the Jeffries tube when we were stuck at warp 9, or how about the time you nearly caused a diplomatic incident because of the way some Klingon insulted her?"

This elicited a reluctant smile from the engineer. "Aye, I did let myself get a little worked up there," he admitted.

Now that she had gotten him to own up to his affection, Uhura knew she must get him to admit his sorrow, and to do that, she was afraid she would have to be a little cruel.

"Even when the rest of us left her, you never did, and when we came back to her there you were, still faithful. And after all that time, all those years together, Scotty, you had to be one of the ones to condemn her to death. You had to give the order to end her, and then watch her go down. It's as if the Captain had been forced to stick the dagger into his own son's heart, Scotty. Don't you dare trivialize you’ve lost. I won't believe it and neither will anyone else who knows you and cares about you."

*It's how we all feel.* She remembered saying those words to an impassive Spock upon the occasion of his unexpected return to the Enterprise. He'd coldly rebuffed them all, but the events that followed showed that he'd known all along, and cared deeply. For the Vulcan it had been sufficient to let these things out gradually and coincidentally, but the man sitting hunched over miserably on the sofa needed something else, and with luck she'd finally convinced him that he'd made a very poor Vulcan.

"Och, it's worse than that, it is," the forlorn Scott said at last. "I knew, lass, I knew we were done for when we tangled with that madman at Ceti Alpha V. Ye don't take a twenty-five-year-old ship what's been through two refits into a firefight an' shoot 'er full o' holes and expect to be able to . . ." --and Uhura heard his voice catch--"to put 'er back taegether again."

"But Scotty," she asked, "You objected as much as any of us when they said they were decommissioning her. If you knew that. . .why, Scotty?"

"I was a daft fool, I was," he said angrily, "but I couldna bear the thought. . ." he shook his head in despair, "I couldna bear the thought of havin' her stripped down, disassembled, settin' those recycler ships on 'er like vultures on a corpse. It's no way for a fine ship like her to go. . . no way. I just couldna bear the thought of it. But I'd no idea how to save her. After all the years we been taegether I couldna think of any way to save her."

He paused and looked up to meet Uhura's eyes imploringly. His expression told her more than even his words could. It wasn't just grief, she realized, but a terrible guilt that plagued Scotty, like a doctor who had failed to save his best friend. Somehow they had all missed how responsible Scotty had felt for saving the Enterprise. When the rest of them were still struggling with the death (and possible resurrection) of Spock, Scotty had been racking his brains to find a way to save the ship, and he'd been all alone.

*Worse still*, she realized, *in the end he'd failed. He'd been desperately struggling to save the Enterprise before any of them even realized she was in danger. He'd poured heart and soul into the effort and in the end, even as we thought we'd succeeded with Spock, he'd failed anyway*. His anguished gaze told her that it was absolution he sought, not just comfort, and it was her he sought it from, not because she was particularly qualified, but because he needed it so badly it didn't matter where it came from. It was the Enterprise herself he truly sought forgiveness from, and she, Uhura supposed, was as qualified as anyone to speak for her. After all, as communications officer, she had literally done that in the past. Why not now?

She took his hand, heavy, gnarled, and work-hardened, between her own two, wanting to assure him that forgiveness was his for the asking. He seemed to understand, or at least take some comfort in it, for he swallowed and went on.

"If the Captain had asked me to do what I did to th' Enterprise under any other circumstances. . . I know it was to save Spock, but I wouldn't have cared if there were a hundred Spocks dancing in a line stark bloody naked on that Genesis planet, I did things to that ship no engineer should ever do. . . but I knew that as long as she stayed in a Federation space dock, her days were numbered, and this would get her out of there, get her away from the ones who wanted to butcher her. . . and what good did I do 'er? I didn't save her from anything. All I did was cripple her so that when Captain Kirk sailed into the jaws of disaster just the way he always does, I sealed her doom. It were right and proper I had a hand in 'er finishing. I brought her end about just as surely as Captain Kirk did. At least this way. . ."

Uhura felt a lump in her own throat as Scotty's voice broke, saying, "At least this way she went out in a . . . in a blaze o' glory." Scotty choked on the tears he'd tried for hours (days?) to hold at bay, and Uhura pulled him close to lay his head on her shoulder as he wept at last. She held him tight in her arms, willing him to shed the anxiety and guilt of the last few days and weeks, along with his tears.

"Don't you think," she said, when she thought she could trust her voice, "Don't you think that she'd have rather had it that way? Going out in action, sacrificing herself so that you, and Spock and the others, could be saved? Don't you think it was better that way than being picked to death by recycling tugs in a Federation scrap yard?"

"Och, aye." Scotty sniffed after a moment, mournfully lifting his head to wipe his tears with the back of his hand. "D'ye know, though," he went on, voice still not quite steady, "I'd always imagined. . . I mean, it always seemed to me that we'd. . . that we were meant to go out together. . ."

"Oh, Scotty. . ." Uhura gasped, thinking how she would have felt if, waiting on Vulcan, she'd learned that they'd lost not just the Enterprise but her Engineer as well. An empty dread filled her with that imagining, and she felt a powerful urge to hold the engineer tight and close.

Some of her anxiety must have been telegraphed to Scotty, because he tried a mournful half-smile as he said, "Well, it's too late now, at any rate. And no doubt she's happier this way."

Uhura relaxed a little to hear him say so, and found him meeting her gaze with a mix of expressions including, she thought, gratitude, and perhaps something more?

"Nyota, lass," he said after a thoughtful moment, "I dinna think I can thank you enough for the kindness ye've shown me tonight. Ye've done my old heart a world of good, but I've no idea what moved ye to want to spend a night listenin' to a drunk old engineer cry over his lost love."

"Scotty, you're not the only one who's still a little drunk," Uhura said with a smile, "and you're not the only one who cared about the Enterprise. No one loved her as much as you, but we all feel her loss, Scotty. I'm just the . . . official delegation bearing a message of condolence." She smiled and squeezed his hand in companionship.

Scotty smiled back, a hint of a twinkle of his ordinarily indomitable good spirits showing in his eyes at last.

"Aye," he said, "but of all that lot, how was it you got the job? Why not
the Doctor, for instance? He's a great one for a drunken commiseration, ye know."

Uhura smiled at the memory of an enormous drunk that Scotty and Dr. McCoy had shared after Mira Romain had left the Enterprise, and thought of what answer she might give to Scotty's real question. There were half a dozen flip answers she might pass off that would table the discussion, and steer the conversation away from possibly dangerous ground, but Uhura thought that she detected a more serious question hidden within what Scotty had asked. At least, she hoped there was.

"I think it's probably just as well they took the Doctor home last night. After all he's been through, I imagine he still needs a little time to recover on his own. But Scotty," she plunged ahead, "I stayed, because as much. . . as much as I cared about the Enterprise, I care more. . . about you."

Uhura watched as, in a matter of moments, a regular pageant of emotions crossed the engineer's face. But it was a tragic story that unfolded itself there, for thought it began with hope, it was quickly overwhelmed with self-doubt and denial, and finished, sadly, with a well-worn old shroud of self-deprecating nonchalance.

*Why*, thought Uhura with smoldering indignation, *why doesn't he think anyone could really care about him?*

"Now lass," Scotty finally said with a tone that was probably not meant to be patronizing, but certainly was, "Surely ye don't mean that."

Nyota Uhura let her indignation spark to anger. No doubt, he thought she'd take the first chance to forget what she'd said and let the matter drop. She was not, however, inclined to give up so easily.

"Pardon me, Mister," she said, drawing herself up to seem as irate and intimidating as possible, "But would you mind explaining to me where the Chief Engineer gets off telling the Communications Officer what she does or does not mean?"

Mortified, Scotty stammered an attempted apology, but Uhura was pleased. She had successfully pulled the carpet of assumptions out from under the engineer. It left him flailing around like an idiot, but at least the assumptions were gone. She leaned closer to him and took his hand again.

"You're forgiven Scotty," she said, beaming disarmingly, "but will you answer something for me, seriously?"

"Aye," said Scotty, eager to make amends.

"Scotty, can you tell me why you find it so hard to believe that anyone ... that I could. . . care about you?"

Scotty frowned in an honest effort to determine the answer to her question. "Och, I don't know, lass," he said at last. "It just seems like. . . like we've known each other too long to be talkin' this way now."

"Too long, Scotty?" Uhura asked. "Actually I'm beginning to think that maybe we've finally gotten to know each other long enough."

"How d'ye mean?"

"I mean, I'd say I've finally known you long enough to guess that you're just as tired as I am of eating dinners by yourself, just as tired as I am of waking up alone in the morning, just as tired of not having someone to come home to and gripe about how lousy your own day was. And what's more, I'm willing to bet that I've known you long enough to guess that you'd be happy to take care of all those things for me, if only you thought you could let me take care of those things for you."

Scotty bowed his head down and closed his eyes, struggling with something internally, Uhura's hand still clasped firmly in his own. He was silent a long time, and Uhura began to worry a little, but then he gave her hand a squeeze and looked up. His expression was guarded as he met her eyes; he would not yet share freely with her the nature of the doubts he wrestled with.

"I can't deny," he said, speaking carefully, "the truth of what ye've said, and I won't try. I only want to be sure. . ." and here Uhura saw his eye betray him--this was what he feared. "I only want to be sure that we're doin' this. . . that ye're wantin' to do this for... for the right reasons."

*He's afraid I'm doing this out of pity?* Uhura's eyebrows rose, preparing for indignation. *Or maybe he's afraid it's out of desperation. Do I look desperate?*

"Scotty," she began, trying not to sound exasperated, "let me put it this way. If I were to imagine myself in a similar circumstance with, say, Pavel Chekov, or maybe Hikaru Sulu. . . Well, I really can't. I can't imagine having this conversation with anyone else, Scotty. I wouldn't *want* to be having this conversation with anyone else, not even a certain James T. Kirk. Really."

*How dare he look skeptical?* Well, Uhura mollified herself with the reminder that Scotty probably wasn't used to the idea of being able to compete with Captain Kirk on this particular playing field. Maybe, she thought, it was time to turn the tables.

"But," she went on, as though this was what she'd meant to say all along, "If this doesn't seem right to you, if ... if it's not ... if I'm not ... the right one, not ... what you had in mind, then it doesn't matter what I feel, Scotty."

The engineer winced in shame, which was the intended effect, but he said next went far beyond Uhura's wildest expectations.

"Nay, lass," he said at last, shaking his head, "In all my years, I can say I've seen starfields, and nebulae almost as beautiful as you, seen suns and stars that shine nearly as bright as your eyes--" and he paused here to peer into her own with such intensity that her breath caught in her throat, "but they don't have your smile, lass," he went on, "an' they don't have your voice, and as much as the stars have always had a claim on my heart, like any old spacer, it's not like the one you've got on it, not anywhere near like."

"Oh, Scotty," whispered Uhura, thunderstruck, and before he could say another word she seized him and kissed him with a passion that even surprised herself.

It took him a startled moment, but Scotty responded. A little tentatively at first, but like one waking from a long sleep, he responded with growing assurance, and only at the last offering a bright glimpse of the passion that lay carefully concealed within.

He drew back before too much could be revealed. His eyes told Uhura that he'd conceded, but there were still formalities to be observed. She'd let him set the pace now.

"Noo," he said when he'd caught his breath. "That's no way to treat an old space dog, lass."

"No?" she said, reaching her arm around him as she felt the solid warmth of his over her shoulders. "Well, I don't know about any old 'space dogs,' sugar, but it sure as hell is the way I'm going to treat you."

End - Knot the First