Magharibi (Star Trek: TOS, Uhura/Chapel, PG)

Her shift ends at fifteen-hundred hours. The Doctor's arrived on the bridge for the fourth time in three hours and the usual row's erupted with Mr Spock. While Chekov and Sulu take the opportunity to gossip under the din and the Captain exercises his diplomatic skills, she slips away from her console, greeting her relief at the turbolift door and heads for sickbay.

It's practically empty as it always is when she arrives. Christine's applying a hypo spray to someone and sending them off. As Chris tidies away the equipment, Nyota heads into the back office and pours two cups of coffee (regulation black with regulation sweeteners) out of the old-fashioned kettle that the captain gave the Doctor as a birthday present that year they spent shore leave on Earth. It's a shame to only make cheap rationed coffee with such an interesting antique, she always thinks. It's been altered, the system of wires and plugs replaced with something more compatible with modern functions, but otherwise it's a pretty much identical replica of the classic design. White curved plastic and an unusual screw-top. The button on the side doesn't click off properly when the water's fully boiled, which had struck her as being pointless but Christine had told her this was a traditional design element of the Electric Kettle.

She turns to Chris, who's come into the office, and hands her one of the cups. Chris sits at the Doctor's chair. 'Len doesn't mind' Chris always says, which strikes her as a little unlikely for the man who apparently lives for opportunities to bicker with people. Nyota tells her about the things she's seen on the bridge. You don't see much from sickbay, Chris is always complaining, especially considering that any and every opportunity to get onto the bridge gets snapped up by the CMO. Nyota perches on the desk, her calves almost touching Chris' knees, and talks about routine surveys and incoming communications from Starfleet and the occasional life-or-death situation. Even poor excitement-starved Chris has to admit she's not missing much.

Sometimes Nyota talks about Sulu or Chekov and Christine listens politely. Sometimes she talks about the Captain. She sometimes wonders if Chris is trying to remember their faces from the medical records while she's telling her stories. She tends to avoid the subject of Mr Spock. It's not that she doesn't care about Chapelıs problems, it's just that there are some things that Chris just doesn't understand about Mr Spock. She only ever sees him when he comes down to see McCoy, she doesn't see what Nyota sees. He's a statue to Chris, something far away to be admired and agonised over. Uhura's said as much before and found that it's not worth getting arguments with Chris over Mr Spock.

But talking is one thing and listening is another. Mr Spock is, apparently, the trauma of the day. Chris has picked up on the fact that he tends to ignore her when he comes down to sickbay. Is it because she's ugly? Or because she isn't interesting enough to the Vulcan intellect? Is it, perchance, something to do with the fact that Doctor McCoy never speaks to Nyota on the bridge- he has bigger fish to fry. Look, she thinks, it's bad enough that he's got the Doctor spitting sexual tension at him wherever he goes, the last thing Mr Spock needs is silly girls mooning over him. And she should know.

She doesn't say it, of course. Chris has to work with McCoy and, for some reason, she even likes the crotchety bastard. Why rock the boat for them?

So it's back to sitting and smiling and nodding sympathetically while Chris goes over the usual ground. The odd fascination, the unrequited love, the loneliness! The sheer stupid adolescence of it all is nearly enough to make Nyota want to scream. Instead she leans further in and puts a comforting hand on Chris' shoulder.

Itıs hard being a nurse, Chris says, having to care for everyone all the time and never having anyone take care of you. Nyota can kind of relate to that. It's bad enough listening to Christine Chapel talking about how hard it is being in love with Mr Spock without having the population of the ship she doesn't care about queuing up for coffee and a cuddle too.

Chris' shift ends when McCoy returns to sickbay. He grumbles and stomps through his office, fussing over Uhura's mishandling of his kettle and insisting that the 'girls' get out from under his feet.

In Uhura's bedroom (it's always Uhura's), they're calmer. She plays records in Swahili - modern singers recorded as digital information, ancient songs and melodies - she likes the sound of her heritage. Other people's nostalgia, with a significance that she wasn't around to remember but wants to keep alive nonetheless. Christine's been trying to learn Swahili, just her way of trying to be closer. So somehow the mispronounced words and the badly formed sentences sound beautiful instead of tiresome.

She changes into something more comfortable - she never felt comfortable in such a short skirt - pulling on a dressing gown and watching Chris stretch out and lean back across the scatter cushions. It's nice, this post-shift period. The calm punctuated by the frantic beating of drums. The speakers turned up, the lights turned down.

She fills the room with pretty things, the hangings that decorate the walls - one for each planet they stop off on. Christine goes to the markets with her now, helps her find the right colours and shades to match the others but still be unique. They have meals in restaurants, once with the boys on a space station near Ursa Minor. Christine's leg presses against hers in dark theatres while some faraway diva sings songs about unrequited love.

Nyota drew a picture of Mr Spock some months ago - nothing fancy, a sketch - and Christine keeps it in a frame in her bedroom. She talks to herself in sickbay, complains to Nyota about Mr Spock. In Uhura's room they listen to African music and speak in broken Swahili. They drink cheap booze picked up in some dive and laugh about things that don't matter.

Chris leaves far too late and Uhura goes to bed. Christine will go back to her own bedroom - silent and empty, which is the way she likes most things - and say goodnight to Mr Spock before ordering the lights down. She'll see little details in the picture that aren't right, that only she would have noticed and that Nyota wouldn't have been able to draw properly. She wouldn't try to change it though, Nyota decides. In her mind, the only alteration Christine makes to the picture is tucked away, hidden under the frame. Written in soft pencil and folded out of sight, is a single scrawled word.


NB. according to various googled sites, Magharibi is Swahili for dusk and Nakupenda means 'I love you'.