I have a sign on my door that reads "A clean room is the sign of a procrastinating student."  Well, so are short stories like this, written one afternoon when I was supposed to be studying.  It is meant for reading by Trekkers and non-Trekkers alike; being knowledgeable about the show will only enhance the epilogue.  Hope you like it.  As always, feedback is appreciated.  Oh, and Paramount owns everything connected with Star Trek...except my imagination!  These characters are my own, save the one at the very end, and the story is mine, as well.  The rest of the ST universe is theirs.

N'aylil sighed as she realized that she would again be late in starting supper.  Sha-mor liked it to be on time, though he could hardly blame his wife for its tardiness tonight.  She had been given a project to complete at work, and hadn't been able to leave until it was finished.  Now she drove home as fast as her personal transport vehicle could take her, knowing that her husband was probably already climbing into his to begin the half-hour trip home from the city.  She was still ten minutes away, and dinner would be late.
    It was not that he would be angry with her; he was always patient, and never raised his voice.  But she knew how he liked things to be prompt, whether lectures, appointments, or in this case, dinner.  And tonight she wanted everything to be perfect.  Tonight she would tell him what she had learned last week....

Sha-mor sighed as he realized that he would again be late to supper.  Not only did he like things to be on time, he hated to disappoint his wife by arriving after the food was cold.  After the last student had left, Sha-mor tucked his PADDs into the old-fashioned briefcase his wife had given him on their anniversary.  He remembered the anticipation on her face as he'd unwrapped the gift.  She knew him well, and her enjoyment at his surprise almost surpassed his own.
    Sha-mor waved to his secretary on his way out and headed to the parking facility.

"Computer, time?"
    "Seventeen fifty-five," the disembodied voice replied.
    N'aylil's sigh was one of relief this time.  Dinner would only be five minutes late.  Perhaps Sha-mor would change his clothes or check his mail before dinner, giving her time to get it on the table.  She double-checked the casserole in the oven, turned down the potatoes, and hurried upstairs to change.

Sha-mor called his wife on the communications console beside him, but she didn't answer.  Instead, the computer played the automated greeting.  Sha-mor disconnected without leaving a message, and looked up just in tome to see an animal enter the road.  He swerved and applied his brakes, coming to a stop next to a very frightened...something.  It took him a moment to recognize the filthy creature as a dog.  It had frozen with fear when his vehicle approached, and only seemed to wake from its trance as Sha-mor emerged.  The dog turned and began to stumble away, but made it only as far as the side of the road before it collapsed.  Sha-mor automatically moved towards it.  The fact that he was already late for dinner didn't enter his mind until he had already knelt beside it.  He started to rise, telling himself that he would call animal control, and cast one last look at the dog.  It - or rather she - was pregnant.  He sighed and knelt again.  It was too much - he just couldn't leave the injured mother-to-be there.  Lifting the dog, he carried her back to the vehicle.  She didn't open her eyes, but gave a feeble thump of her tail as he put her in the back.  Sha-mor quickly got in and started again towards home.  How would he explain thins to N'aylil?

N'aylil quickly stepped into her dark blue dress.  She wished she'd had time for a real shower, but she'd settled for a sonic one.
    "Computer, messages?" she asked out of habit.
    Well, he should be on time, then, she thought to herself.  She carefully fastened on the earrings Sha-mor had given her for their anniversary, smiling as she remembered their day together a month ago.  It had been wonderful...
    I don't have time to dwell on that now, she reminded herself as she hurried downstairs to check on the food. Hopefully tonight will be just as memorable.
To N'aylil's surprise, Sha-mor was not waiting for her when she got to the kitchen.  She peeked out the window.  Only one vehicle, hers, was parked outside.
    The food was ready, but she merely turned off the heat, leaving it to keep warm until her husband arrived.  That was the problem with "real" cooking - you had to keep it warm yourself.  Since she had a few extra moments, N'aylil worked on the dining room's atmosphere.
    "Computer, dim lights to 40% and play something by Beethoven," she instructed, then lit the candles on the table.

Sha-mor glanced at the dog.  Her breathing was becoming more labored, and he worried that she might need more help than he and N'aylil could offer.  His wife was good with animals, but not this good. I'll have to stop in at Tim's, he decided, and turned at the next intersection, heading to veterinarian's house.
Forty minutes later Sha-mor carried a cleaner, healthier dog out.  She would need plenty of rest, but with care and good food, she and her four unborn puppies would be fine.  N'aylil would certainly be able to find her a good home - if they didn't keep the animal themselves.  Sha-mor was already growing fond of her.
    He realized that he hadn't called his wife yet, but decided that he was close enough to home that he might as well wait and see her when he arrived.

N'aylil looked up from her knitting as she heard Sha-mor drive up.  She breathed a sigh of relief, but her dissipating worry was replaced by annoyance.  Where has he been?!  She didn't bother to put away her project, but hurried to the kitchen.
    The over-done casserole practically clunked as it landed on the plates.  She pretended not to hear the door as she spooned out the now-cold potatoes.
    "Honey, we have a visitor," Sha-mor called as he entered.  N'aylil was shocked.  If he's brought home another student for dinner... she fumed, not noticing that the cheer in his voice was forced and laced with worry.  She angrily spun away form the stove, headed for the dining room, and promptly tripped over something hairy, almost spilling the plates.
    "Careful, you'll hurt her," Sha-mor said automatically.  He quickly added, "Are you OK, N'aylil?"
    N'aylil put the plates on the table and turned to look at what she had tripped on.  "Her" turned out to be a scraggly mutt, and Sha-mor winced at the look his wife gave him.
    "Is this...thing why you're an hour late?" she asked.
    Sha-mor paused for a moment, then said, "Yes.  I almost hit her on the way home.  I couldn't just leave her on the side of the road!"  He glanced at N'aylil, and hurried on, "She needed to see a vet, and I didn't get a chance to call you till I was almost home, and by then I figured it wasn't worth it," he ended uncomfortably.
    "She can go outside," N'aylil decreed.  "I won't have her ruining my carpet."
    "But she's - "
    Sha-mor resignedly lead the limping dog to the back door.  N'aylil almost relented as she watched the animal's pained movements, but steeled herself and turned back to the table.  She sat silently as her husband washed his hands and took his seat across from her.

Sha-mor was disturbed - almost angry - at his wife's reaction.  She was usually understanding when he was late and she liked dogs well enough.  Why was she so tense tonight?
    It was then that he noticed the burned-out candles on the table.  His eyes jumped to his wife's attire, and he noticed she was wearing his favorite outfit.  The food too was his favorite - or would have been if it hadn't been overcooked.  He started to ask what the occasion was when his wife burst into tears and fled the room.

N'aylil's sobs had run out, and she lay crying quietly when she heard the door open.  A moment later she felt Sha-mor's had on her shoulder.  She hesitated, then turned her head to look at him.
    "I'm sorry that I'm late, and that I spoiled our dinner," he said softly.
    "Oh, it's not your fault," she said through her tears.  "It's just...I...."
    "I know," he said.  "I found this on the couch."  He held up her knitting needles, from which hung a baby bootie.  "I assume this means we're expecting...?"
    She nodded.
    "When did you find out?"
    "Last week.  I - I wanted it to be special when I told you."
    "I'm sorry," he repeated.  "Is there anything I can do to make it up to you?"
    She thought about it for a while.  "Well, you can give me a hug, for starters."
    He did, and as he released her, she suddenly grinned at him.  "Then we can go downstairs and make some rocky-road ice cream."
    He grinned back, and hand-in-hand they made their way downstairs.

    With one last push, the baby emeerged into the world.  N'aylil gasped for breath, and the newborn drew its first.  A hearty cry filled the room as the doctor announced, "It's a girl!"
    N'aylil smiled and murmered something.  Her husband bent to hear her, and she repeated, "Amanda.  Her name is Amanda."  Then her grip on his hand loosened, and she drifted off to sleep.

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