Title: It's Going to Be One of Those Evenings

Author: MJ

Author's e-mail: mjr91@aol.com

Author's URL: http://www.geocities.com/coffeeslash/mj/

Date: 05/10/02

Fandom: Enterprise

Pairing: Archer/Reed

Rating: PG-13

Archive: Archer's Enterprise

Series: Xynobia (first in the series)

Next story: I'm Having One of Those Days

Summary: First contact with a very friendly planet turns out to be more than anyone on Enterprise bargained for.

Author's note: The question has always bothered me—what would life be like on a planet just like Earth if the majority population weren't heterosexual? Here's ONE take on the problem…

The nook in the Armory had seemed private enough, or so they had thought. Archer had seized the opportunity to put down the modified phase pistol Malcolm had been displaying for him, and work a hand into the shorter man's thick, dark hair, easing him back against the wall and leaning in for a kiss. Malcolm had just relaxed fully into his lover's grasp, tension sliding down from his shoulders in a wave, and had begun actively participating in the exchange when there was a passion-killing noise from the corner.

"Whoops!" Ensign Watkins gulped. "Sorry, Sirs…I—I'll just get right out of your way…" The young woman blushed and backed off in a rush, lowering the weapon she had been working on when Reed and Archer had passed her earlier. Apparently she had been thinking to ask Reed about the repair she was making when she had interrupted the embrace.

"Damn," Reed whispered, wiping a hand over his face. "Talk about your bad timing."

"I'm sorry, Malcolm," Archer muttered. "I—never mind. I just hope we're not going to have any problems with her."

"Watkins?" Malcolm grinned. "No, she's a good one. Keeps her thoughts to herself, keeps pretty much to herself. She's not one to talk. I suspect the only person she tells might be her girlfriend."

"Huh?" Archer stared at his lover.

"Really, Jon!" Malcolm broke into a bigger grin. "Surely you didn't imagine we were the only couple on this whole ship?"

Archer leaned against the wall. "You know, I've never thought about it. I've just been so busy worrying about keeping this"—he waved his hand between the two of them—"quiet, that I've never particularly worried about what anyone else on board was doing." He straightened his uniform. "I'm still not all that comfortable with the crew knowing; I've just never thought it was a good idea for a crew to have any thoughts at all on their captain's personal business."

Malcolm nodded. "And I've always found it best to keep myself to myself, as it were. It saves a lot of trouble in the long run. But I don't think you need to worry about Watkins."

"Well," Archer mused, "let me get back to the Bridge. You and Watkins finish up those repairs, and I'll see you at dinner." He strode off, taking a route that Malcolm could not help noticing avoided passing anywhere near Watkins' work bench, on the way out.

Malcolm headed back around the corner, where Watkins was now tinkering with another phase pistol. She lacked Malcolm's passion for major explosions, but the woman had a fondness for sidearms that Reed found quite endearing. She was the only other person in the repair area, and was humming a cheery tune under her breath as she examined her work. "Looks good, Ensign."

She looked up. "Thank you, Sir. I'm sorry about…before…Sir."

"Never mind. It was our fault, I'm afraid. I'd prefer if word didn't get around, if you don't mind?"

Watkins shrugged. "Of course, Sir. No one's said a word to Nereida or me, or about us, as far as I know, but I suppose it's different for the Captain."

"So he feels." Malcolm peered over her work area. "That's a very fine job. Keep it up. I think perhaps tomorrow we'll go a few rounds with those modified phase pistols we've been working on. I'll take you on at twenty-five and fifty yards. After lunch."

Watkins grinned broadly and nodded. "Thank you, Sir. I'll look forward to it."


"Come in." Reed entered Archer's cabin after dinner to find Archer in the middle of a tug of war bout with Porthos. "I may need a hand; it looks like Porthos is winning."

"Sorry," Malcolm replied, settling into the couch. "My money's on Porthos, and good luck to him." He watched, amused, as Porthos finally yanked the small piece of knotted rope from Archer's hand. "Good boy!" He clapped his hands near the floor so Porthos could come over and smell him. "You've got quite a tug there, boy. Good job!" Porthos responded with a healthy wag of his tail.

"Traitor," Archer laughed. "Backing Porthos instead of me, hmm?" He lowered himself into the couch beside Reed. "It's been a long day." He slid an arm around his lover, pulling Malcolm gently against him. The two shifted slightly as they settled in against each other. "How's the ensign? I forgot to ask you at dinner."

"Watkins?" Malcolm laughed. "She's fine. I think she thinks we're a bit silly, though, pretending nothing's going on here."

Archer sighed. "I know, maybe I'm not giving people enough credit, but I'd still rather wait about telling anyone." He planted a kiss in Reed's hair. "We'll be all right."

The comm went off. "Bridge to Captain Archer."

"Yes, Hoshi?"

"We're being hailed by an alien vessel, Captain. I—I think they're friendly; I'm gathering their captain wants to say hello. You might want to speak to him."

"I'm on my way."

"I'm trying to get Lieutenant Reed, just in case…but he's not in his quarters. Should I try to locate him?"

"No, I know what he's doing; I'll get him on my way in. See you in a few. Archer out." Archer eased himself to his feet, sighing. "Guess I'd better crawl back into uniform."

Malcolm stood up, looking over at Porthos. "I suppose it's going to be one of those evenings."


Archer and Reed entered the Bridge to find T'Pol already there with Hoshi. "This is Xynobian military space, Captain," T'Pol explained. "They are, from what I can determine, a relatively peaceful planet but they do have a strong space defense system. The ship that hailed us appears to be a Xynobian war ship returning from military exercises. Ensign Sato says that the ship's name is the Garmandra."

"Do you know much about them?" Archer asked as he made his way to the front.

"Unfortunately, no. I have heard the name of the planet before but not much more." T'Pol slid out of the Captain's chair.

"Hail the Garmandra, Hoshi."

"Yes, Sir." Hoshi turned to the communications controls. A clear picture came on screen of a sleek ship's bridge with a well-groomed, red-uniformed crew.

"Captain Jonathan Archer, commander of Enterprise, to Garmandra."

A thin man with graying hair but a young face replied. "Jamaya, Captain of Garmandra. Pleased to meet you, Captain Archer. You're in Xynobian military space, I'm sure your crew has told you. May I ask the reason for the visit?"

"We're from Earth. This is our first Warp Five vessel, and we're on an exploratory mission."

"Really? Congratulations. I knew we'd never seen a ship of your design before. Brand new, eh? We've run a scan of your ship—I hope you don't mind, it's standard procedure for us—and I'm sure you're correct; you don't appear to be kitted out for full-scale military operations. No problem letting you pass through…but we've never met anyone from your planet before, either. It's a bit late right now by our time, but if you're willing to track us, we're heading back to base on Xynobia. You might like to exchange visits with our ship—and maybe your crew could handle a couple of days' shore leave? Our base is near the capital, and there's really a great deal to do there; we have a lot of ships from this side of the galaxy that come into port for leave here."

Archer mused. "Can you send my ship some information on the planet?"

Jamaya laughed. "Of course, Captain." He turned to a younger man behind a console. "Garan, send the usual planetary data over to Enterprise. And maybe a couple of vacation guides for the crew to read."

"You've got it." Garan grinned broadly.

"Thank you," Archer replied. "Why don't you come over to visit Enterprise in the morning? Say around 0900? I'd be pleased to give you a tour. We'd be happy to have you stay for lunch if you like."

"That would be very kind. In return, may we offer you an afternoon visit and dinner? We should be ready to land crew in Xynobia the next morning."

"We'll look at your materials, but that sounds like it could be a plan. We'll see you in the morning. Archer out." The screen dimmed, and Archer turned around to find Malcolm craning over Hoshi's shoulder. "Well, Hoshi?"

"Please, Captain," she sighed, "can we stay for a week? It looks perfect." She stared at her console. "It's their summer in the capital right now. Atmosphere and gravity are virtually the same as Earth, and this park looks just beautiful."

"So does that military museum in the travel guide," Malcolm retorted. "An entire exhibit of space munitions throughout this galaxy for the past two centuries. Do you have any idea what I could learn down there? Parks? Fun? My sensors indicate their ship has torpedoes like nothing Starfleet's ever seen, and that museum probably has them right on display."

"Calm down, children," Archer laughed. "Fine, I'll consider shore leave for the crew. Let's actually meet these people first, though."


"Welcome to Enterprise. I'm Captain Archer. This is Science Officer, Sub-Commander T'Pol; Chief Engineer, Commander Tucker; Armory Officer, Lieutenant Reed; navigator, Ensign Mayweather; and Communications Officer, Ensign Sato."

"I'm delighted to meet you. I am Jamaya, of Garmandra; this is Officer Katama, my assistant, and Officer Lanata, her bondmate, our navigator." Jamaya presented a willowy red-haired woman and a shorter, round-faced woman with short, dark curly hair. "Officer Garan, our Senior Communications Officer, my bondmate. This is our second command together." T'Pol, hearing the introductions, raised an eyebrow unobtrusively. Trip Tucker tried hard not to blink. Reed shifted his weight uneasily from one foot to the other, wondering what Archer was thinking.

Archer, whatever he was thinking, was poker-faced. "It's an honor to have your crew visit. Trip, Malcolm, why don't you show the other officers around? I'll escort Captain Jamaya around the ship myself." Archer watched the officers exit the Bridge. "T'Pol, the Bridge is yours. Travis, keep us alongside Garmandra."

"Will do, Captain."

"This is a beautiful ship, Captain," Jamaya told Archer. "We don't have much information about Earth, but I'm certainly impressed."

"Thanks," Archer responded, grinning. "I'm kind of fond of her myself. I have to admit, my father designed the engines."

"Did he? Then certainly you'll have to give me a tour of the Engine Room. I'd be very gratified to see your father's work."

"Thank you. Oh, Hoshi?"

"Yes, Captain?"

"Please check the data banks and send Garmandra a transmission on Earth history."

"Yes, Sir."

Archer placed a hand to Jamaya's elbow. "This way. Engine Room first?"

Jonathan Archer loved showing off Enterprise to visitors. He suspected that all ships' captains felt the same way; all of them tended to be proud of their vessels. However, as far as Archer was determined, Enterprise was special. Of course, all captains probably thought their ships were special, but he was certain that, in his case, it wasn't just a matter of thinking so. The fact that in some small way he felt related to Enterprise, as if his father's handiwork were in some way his sister, might have contributed to his certainty. There was no other Starfleet captain, no Vulcan captain of whom he knew, possibly no other starship captain in any galaxy, flying the engines his father had built. Only freighter captains, from some references Mayweather had made to him, had such a relationship with their ships, and that was often because they had been born and grown up on the ships they commanded. He might a well have grown up on Enterprise; he had been raised by the man who had held her design in mind. It pleased him greatly that Jamaya admired the ship's design so much, comparing it favorably to the Klingon Bird of Prey design and the Xynobian ships' architecture.

As they moved from Engineering to Sickbay, the conversation turned to life on Xynobia. Xynobia, in Archer's mind, sounded much more like Earth than most of the other planets Enterprise had encountered; their development had been roughly parallel, and their technology similar. Even the popular foods sounded somewhat familiar, though the cultures of the planet were much different from Earth's. "So," Jamaya continued, as they made their way down another corridor, "that was when Starship Command decided that all starship officers should be assigned to the same ships as their bondmates."

"Are all your officers…er…bondmates?" Archer asked. "I think the term we use back home is 'married.'"

"No," Jamaya replied. "We have a fair number of single officers, especially the younger ones, of course. But it relieves a lot of anxiety—and, obviously, a great deal of…er…tension?—if an officer and his mate are traveling together. Some of our men do wind up pairing off as cadets, or as enlisted, but that's not so common."

"Ah," Archer replied, the subject having been broached. "Are all of your officers, um, in same-sex relationships?"

Jamaya raised an eyebrow. "Just about, of course. Really, there are so few people who are…well, it isn't really natural to be interested in the opposite sex, is it? I mean, there's a few of them everywhere, of course, even in Starship Command, but how many do you actually know?"

Archer stopped walking. "I have to tell you…on Earth, I'd say, most people are in opposite-sex relationships."

"Really? That's incredible. I've never heard of anything like that in an advanced civilization. We'll have to look at the biological information about your people. I wonder what causes that? But surely—now, don't try to tell me that you're like that, Captain Archer. I can't imagine anyone putting a ship like this in the hands of someone that unevolved. Is your bondmate on board with you, or does your Starfleet insist on separating couples? I've always wondered if—"

The question was left unfinished, and Archer was relieved to be able to duck the answer to the previous query, as Phlox emerged bustling from Sickbay. "Ah, Captain! Captain Jamaya! Please, come in. I've been looking forward to this. Your navigator, Officer Lanata, is being kind enough to let me do a scan of her for our records. Do you object if I draw a blood sample from you, Captain Jamaya? I so rarely get to meet new peoples whom I have an opportunity to study properly." He ushered them into Sickbay with a proprietary air. "You may notice I'm not an Earth human, Captain. I'm a Denobulan. I don't believe that we've ever encountered Xynobians myself; I've never seen any medical information on your people, so this is quite a thrill for me…" The rest of the hour was spent in Phlox's tour of Sickbay and in an effort to prevent Phlox from trying to run a full endocrine panel on the Xynobians.

After lunch and a formal departure by the Xynobian officers, Archer pulled Malcolm and Trip aside. "My quarters, gentlemen. Now."

The door had barely slid shut behind them when Trip asked, "Problem, Cap'n?"

"Sit down. The three of us need to talk. Now."

Tucker and Reed hastily obeyed, not quite used to such abruptness on Archer's part in a non-emergency situation. "What's the matter, Sir?" Malcolm inquired.

"In two hours," Archer expounded, pacing in front of the other two, "I'm sending a team down to the Xynobian ship. In case neither of you noticed anything—"

"Oh," Tucker broke in, "you mean like they're all queer?"

Reed recoiled slightly at the term, though Tucker, looking the other way, didn't notice.

"Trip!" Archer spoke sharply. "If that's your actual attitude, perhaps you shouldn't be in the delegation."

Tucker blushed. "Sorry, Sir. I think y'all know me better than that, it's just…I'm not used to the idea of being surrounded by a whole bunch of 'em. I know a few of 'em, we get along okay, but the way that Communications Officer was eyeing my ass, Sir, it gets a guy kinda edgy?"

Archer laughed. "You've had enough women check you out, Trip."

"Yeah, but they're supposed to." A brief pause. "But no, okay, I didn't really think I was in danger of getting' jumped. At least not on my own ship."

"Not around his captain, either," Archer commented dryly. "From some of my conversation with him, I get the idea he's a pretty jealous husband. I think you're safe. Now, here are the real points—first of all, yes, they're a predominantly homosexual society. They definitely expect that starship officers are gay. Do I send down the usual team, or should I include at least one pair that I'm aware is a couple, since they seem to prefer to deal with couples?"

"Who were you thinking of?"

Reed shot a look over to Archer, who nodded back. "I believe," Malcolm said, "that the Captain is thinking of Ensign Watkins, from Armory, and Lieutenant Patel from Engineering."

"Patel?" Trip gulped. "Really? I had no clue. And she's cute."

"So is the Xynobian navigator," Reed commented. "You'll live with it."

"But I was gonna ask Patel to the movies…crap."

"I think Ensign Watkins beat you to it," Reed rejoined. "However, Sir, I think they should be asked to accompany the team. Not only would it be well received by the Xynobians, Sir, but we should have a few other officers able to handle various away team functions so that senior officers aren't always placing themselves at risk. This would be an opportunity for two officers to have their first such event in a clearly non-threatening environment."

Trip shrugged. "What he said, I guess. 'Sides, you don't mind my saying so, in this case you might be able to substitute those two for people who might be a little less comfortable with the idea of bein' confined on a ship with a whole crew of…well…"

"You're obviously one of those less comfortable people," Archer observed. "And you're still going, Trip. I was planning to have you and Hoshi come with me. Next question, gentlemen. Their captain has specifically requested that I bring my…umm…partner with me. I didn't say anything to him one way or the other; however, he made it fairly clear that he expects I have a spouse and that I'm going to bring him."

Trip sighed. "Look, Jon, you're my best friend. I'd do anything for you; you know that. And I'd do anything this lady here needs. You want me to go on that ship and play like we're married, hell, I think I can choke it down for the day. Just as long as I don't have t'—y'know…that I'd have a problem with."

Archer leaned against the wall of his cabin, looking out towards the stars. "No, Trip, I'm not going to ask you to do that. For one thing, I hate to tell you, I just don't see you being very convincing. You'd be too busy getting whiplash checking out the women on their ship. You do seem to have a penchant for…ummm…getting friendly with the natives."

"Just part of our mission, Sir," Trip deadpanned. "I've been tryin' to improve intergalactic relations one lady at a time." He ran a hand through his hair. "Y'know, Sir, the easiest thing might just be to tell 'em the truth straight up."

Archer sighed heavily and turned towards Tucker, leaning his back against the wall near where he had been stargazing. "Which is?"

There was an awkward silence. "Huh? Y'know, the truth. Like, 'Gee, I hate to tell you guys, but I'm straight and unattached.'"

There was an even more awkward silence. Tucker suddenly realized that his captain was biting his lip and that the man sitting beside him was shifting uncomfortably in his seat. "Uh, why do I get the strange feelin' I'm missing something important here?"

"Look, Trip, I…"

Malcolm butted in. "Captain, are you quite sure about this?"

"No, I'm not. And I should have talked to you first, but there isn't that much time today. And this is an executive decision, Malcolm, so I'm going to have to ask you to forgive me. Trip, one of the other reasons I wasn't going to ask you was that it's pretty obvious that if I do take anyone on Garmandra with me, it's going to be all over this ship in a matter of hours. I figured neither of us needed that going around about us. And, since, as you say, the truth is a good idea…if there is going to be a rumor buzzing around the ship, it might as well at least be true. Malcolm…do you think you can handle it?"

Reed shrugged quietly as Trip nearly exploded. "Jonathan Archer, if you're sayin' what I think I hear you sayin', just how long have you been keepin' news like this from your best friend? You've been seein' someone right under my nose on this ship and you don't even tell me? I mean, Malcolm, you I'd believe—I could work right beside you for ten years and have to pry information outta you with a crowbar about the goddamned weather that day, but for cryin' out loud, Jon!"

Archer held out his hands. "Maybe because I wasn't sure how you'd react. And what I've been hearing from you this afternoon has pretty much justified that concern. But if the whole ship's going to wind up hearing about it, you've certainly got a right to hear it from me first. How long? Four, maybe five months. Malcolm and I were just discussing yesterday what we were going to do about letting anyone know. This isn't exactly when or how I'd have done it. But I'm not comfortable with lying about it to the Xynobians, and that changes everything. Malcolm, if I asked you to accompany me to Garmandra not as chief of security but as my partner, would you?"

Malcolm's eyes widened. "Is that an order?"

"I'm not ordering my Chief of Security to go there with me; I'm asking my lover."

Malcolm blushed fiercely. "You're right, this isn't exactly what I'd pick for a public announcement…but yes, I'll go with you." He suddenly grinned. "Seeing that there could be a military diplomacy crisis if you go without me, that is. I'd hate to provoke a war with the Xynobians because you showed up unattached."

Trip buried his head in his hands. "Oh, Lordy."

"Are we going to have a problem here?" Archer inquired of his friend.

Trip, head still in his hands, shook his head. "No," he said emphatically. "I'm gonna get over it. But it's not gonna be this minute. It's gonna take me a little time here. You gotta realize, Cap'n, you've just sprung a lot of major news on me at one time. And most of it's tellin' me I don't know my best friend the way I thought I did. Plus it's kinda throwin' it in my face the way I feel about a lotta stuff I don't usually bother thinkin' much about. I'm gonna be okay, but I'm gonna have to go deal first."

Archer nodded. He'd thought that his friend might have difficulty with the information, and he'd been right, but he'd counted on Trip being mature enough to examine the matter rationally. "Fair enough. I don't know about you two, but I have a ship visit to get ready for. Trip, you might let Hoshi know she'll be coming along. Malcolm, I really think one phase pistol for you and one for Watkins will be more than enough protection for us on this visit; we have plenty of evidence that the Xynobians are perfectly friendly. I'll see both of you in an hour."


"More?" Jamaya indicated a tray of roast poultry as he looked indulgently at Trip, who was polishing off a leg from the bird.

"Yes, please. It's delicious." Trip took another leg. "It sure beats that blood soup we had in that desert."

Garan shuddered. "Blood soup? I don't think so. Not on our planet."

"Your foods are very much like ours," Hoshi told the Xynobian officers. "We have almost exactly identical foods on Earth, and we cook them much the same way." She bit into a vegetable that resembled a miniature broccoli spear.

Katama, the second officer, nodded. "From the information you sent us, our planets are extraordinarily alike. Most of the places we go, the cultures and foods—not to mention the various humanoids—are very different." She brushed a lock of hair back over her shoulder. "I was so glad at lunch to see that you have t'singa in your diet too. I love them." She pointed at an item on her plate.

"Oh!" Hoshi said. "We call them noodles."

"Noodles," Katama tested. "That's a funny word. It feels funny when you say it. That 'ooo' sound."

Garan nodded. "Most of our languages do not have a drawn-out vowel sound of that sort."

"We seem to have a few other differences, as well," Jamaya observed. "I still cannot really imagine, Captain Archer, that our planets are so much alike and yet, according to you, your population is so heavily…primarily opposite-sex relationships?"

"Absolutely true," Archer replied. "Malcolm and I," he said, gesturing to Reed at his left, "and Lieutenant Patel and Ensign Watkins are, as far as I know, very much in the minority on our ship."

"You mean," Garan inquired of Trip, "you actually…uh…with women? Really?" He was utterly astonished, and it showed.

Trip nodded. "Yup. It's kinda…the way we do things back home."

Kamata and Latana, the navigator, glanced at each other; Latana began to giggle and covered her mouth quickly. "I'm sorry," Latana said when she recovered. "That just sounds so…strange."

"Sorry to hear it, Ma'am," Trip informed her. "Back home, you'd be pretty popular with the gentlemen."

Latana giggled cutely again and blushed. "That's okay," she said. "Over here, I think you would be." She turned to Patel. "Kamata and I have been bonded for three years now. How long have the two of you been bonded?"

"Nancy and I have been together for about a year," Patel informed the Xynobian. "But we're not…what do you call…bonded? Does that mean you have a ceremony of some sort?"

"Of course," Kamata told Patel. "Doesn't every couple do that at some point?"

Jamaya clucked his tongue. "Captain Archer, I have always found it one of the major privileges of being a ship's captain to be able to do bondings. Why haven't you?"

Archer pursed his lips. "Well, aside from the minor detail that Patel and Watkins have never asked me…we actually don't have a ceremony for it back on Earth." The Xynobians all murmured and looked amazed. "We have one for opposite-sex couples," he continued. "But, although most countries on Earth have recognized same-sex couples for most purposes, there are so few of us, comparatively, that there isn't a formal ceremony of any kind."

"That's odd," Jamaya mused. "We use the same one here for everybody. It certainly seems to work." He looked over at Patel and Watkins. "Well, Captain Archer, if you can't…ladies? If the two of you are interested, tomorrow morning, before we land, it would certainly be our pleasure. I could get you the paperwork tonight." He looked back at Archer. "We're pretty informal about it. Xynobia's a big resort planet in these parts. A lot of people come visit to get bonded and spend their post-bonding vacations here."

Patel and Watkins looked at each other and nodded. "If you don't mind, Captain," Patel asked Archer.

Archer grinned. "It'll make an interesting report back to Starfleet, Lieutenant, but be my guest."

Watkins looked vaguely embarrassed. "Um, Captain Jamaya, I don't know about your customs here, but…on Earth, when people get married, especially women, there's usually friends or family members who…um…"

"Oh!" Jamaya perked up. "Giving away the children? Yes. It's frequently done here, too. Anyone you'd like to have involved, by all means, please ask them."

Watkins looked even more embarrassed. "Um, I hope you don't mind my asking," she said, looking down the table, but, um…" She was starting to blush. "Lieutenant Reed?"

"Me?" Malcolm gulped. "I—um—me—why—yes, of course, Ensign. I—I'm quite flattered. If, of course…" he said, turning to Archer.

"I suppose so," Archer said, looking grim. "But only on one condition."

"What's that?" Malcolm asked.

"If Ensign Watkins can ask a lieutenant to do that, than it seems only fair that Lieutenant Patel should be able to have a higher-ranking officer perform the same service. If she wants to." He smiled. "If my crew's going to go off and make Starfleet history, Patel, I think I'm entitled to be involved."

Patel squirmed, but had the trace of a smile on her face. "I'm not sure how I should go about making the request, Sir, but, um…"

"I'd be delighted, Lieutenant," Archer replied. "Will that do?"

"Yes, Sir," she said, nodding. "Absolutely."

Hoshi looked across the table at Reed and Archer. "So…Malcolm, why don't you get married?"

Malcolm squirmed. "Me?" He turned to look at Archer. "Us? I-um…"

"You," Hoshi giggled.

Jamaya peered intently at Archer. "Of course. I'd be quite delighted to do the honors for another ship's captain."

"I think we're being put on the spot here," Malcolm sighed to Archer.

"Nope," Trip volunteered, "You're not bein' put on the spot, Malcolm. Old Johnny-boy here is. Look, Jon, this is your best friend talkin' to you. You gonna make an honest man of Malcolm, or what? You really wanna keep goin' through space with everyone wonderin' how long you're gonna keep shackin' up like that with your Armory Officer, or are you gonna make things nice and respectable, huh?"

Archer glowered at Trip. "Trip Tucker, I wish you'd taken a little longer to process all the overwhelming information I gave you earlier."

Trip shook his head. "Sorry, Sir," he said, smirking, "but you know it's true. Everyone on board Enterprise is gonna be wonderin', once Patel and Watkins get hitched, why you and Malcolm don't. Unless, of course, you ain't serious about him. In which case, there's gonna be one heckuva lotta talk goin' on."

Archer shrugged. "You're actually right," he sighed, "but I'm still going to get you for this." He turned to Malcolm. "This isn't the sort of thing I would ever have thought of turning into a public event, Malcolm, and anything either of us says right now is going to go down in Starfleet oral history, if not the records, so we're going to have a lot to live down here…Look, Malcolm, you know I love you. While we're here with the Xynobians, would you like to…er…"

"It's a good thing I actually want to say yes," Malcolm told him, "because if I don't, neither of us is ever going to be able to live it down, are we?" He grinned. "So I'm afraid I'll have to say yes, and you'll just have to live with the consequences. I must warn you, it's not easy being married to a Reed. You can ask my mother. You can, but I won't—I'll pass on the pleasure."

"Wait a minute!" Hoshi blurted. "You have to kiss each other now, don't you?" She clasped her hands together and made an exaggerated sigh, batting her eyelashes.

"No!" Reed stated. "We do not." He looked at his lover. "Don't even think about it. I've had quite enough of a public display for one official dinner. Or for a dozen. Yesterday we weren't planning to tell anyone about us and tonight I've had to deal with a public proposal? I think I'm at limit here." He frowned at Hoshi. "So calm down."

"Sorry." She didn't look the least bit sorry in Malcolm's estimation, however.

"I must say, this is really quite exciting," Jamaya said, rubbing his hands together. "I'll get two sets of paperwork, then."

"He sounds like Phlox," Reed muttered under his breath. Archer kicked Malcolm's leg under the table.

"Oh, Trip," Archer said placidly, "considering that you've been my best friend for so long, would you care to do me the honors as best man?"

Trip laid his fork on his plate. "Y'know, Cap'n, I'd always kinda figured one day you were gonna ask me that. I can honestly say, however, that this was not exactly the situation I figured it'd be in."

"You should've thought of that before you opened your mouth," Malcolm called down the table.

Jamaya rose. "Well, we have a busy morning before our ships arrive for docking, and I have paperwork for some of you to take care of. This will be so much fun! Katama, can you help me get the paperwork for them?"

As both groups of officers rose from the table, Trip tugged Archer and Reed aside. "Look, gentlemen," Trip sighed, "about this best man thing…"

"Do you have a problem?" Archer asked him.

"You bet I do!" Trip spluttered. "Look, this is uncharted territory here. What am I supposed to do? I mean, Jon, if you were marryin' some girl on ship, I'd know my job—take you to my cabin tonight and get you stinkin' drunk and watch you pass out. But this—I mean, am I supposed to take both of you and get you both stinkin' drunk? It ain't right for both of you to be gettin' tanked together the night before. You ain't even supposed to be in the same place together the night before."

Reed raised an eyebrow. "One of us needs to be sober, anyway. I don't care to give away Ensign Watkins tomorrow morning with a splitting hangover. However, if the Commander insists that some degree of riotous behavior is called for on my part, I think that Travis and I can manage to toss back a few Aldarian brown ales this evening while the Commander gets you sotted." He paused for effect. "And don't even think about my coming by this evening. I understand it's bad luck. As head of security I don't believe in taking any kind of unnecessary chances with bad luck." He winked at the other two. "I'll see both of you in the morning." A fast peck on Archer's cheek. "I love you, Jon. Even if Hoshi and the good Commander here did rather push this on us, I'm actually glad about it."

"So am I," Archer replied, giving Malcolm a brief embrace. "You go catch up with Watkins. I'll see you tomorrow."

Malcolm turned and flagged down the ensign and her partner, then heading over to them.

Trip shifted uncomfortably. "I think Hoshi and I have really gotten you two into a mess here, haven't we?"

Archer smiled slightly. "No, you didn't. It's not a mess, it's just something neither Malcolm nor I would have handled quite this way left to our own devices. I think he and I are still worried about dealing with the crew even knowing we're together; I'm not sure how they're going to take having this sprung on them." "Give us a little credit," Trip told his friend. "I think you'll be surprised."


T'Pol looked around the Bridge in wonder. "What do you call this, again?" she asked Hoshi, who was standing on a chair with her hands full of streamers.

"It's called crepe paper, T'Pol."

"I do not understand its purpose." T'Pol watched two enlisted crew placing signs on the Bridge.

"It's an old Earth custom," Hoshi replied as she threw the end of a long piece over to Travis Mayweather. "Don't you have wedding customs on Vulcan?"

"Yes, but they are not similar. We do not torment the parties involved."

"It's not torment," Travis replied. "Humans know you like them if you yank their chains a little."

"That is not logical."

"No," Hoshi called down from her perch, "but it's fun!"

An enlisted man entered the Bridge with two others in tow. "I just spoke to Chef," he called to Mayweather. "Chef says he has some tin cans, or something like them, but is it really safe to fasten them to a shuttlepod?"

"It's just the looks," Mayweather told the gaggle of crewmen. "The cans will just burn up in the engine exhaust; it won't hurt anything."

"Great! Commander Tucker's heading down to the bays now; we'll get the cans for him." As they headed out, two enlisted from Security came in waving signs.

"How do these look?" one asked Hoshi. "We needed some for Ensign Watkins and a couple more for the Lieutenant. He'll hate them, won't he?"

"He'll live," she told the painters. "Besides, it wouldn't be fair to harass her and not him. Make a few more. And hurry up. He's liable to go in there anytime."

"Nah, he won't," Mayweather told the crew. "He had enough Aldarian brown ale to keep him asleep till his alarm clock goes off. No early morning Armory prowls for our boy this morning."

"Good, we've got some time." The sign committee headed for the door.

An enlisted woman from the Mess Hall ducked in. "Chef says he can do one layer of that cake in pineapple. He's working on it right now. Is there anything we've forgotten?" She held a PADD out to Hoshi.

Hoshi took the PADD from the young woman's hand and peered over it. "That's a spice cake for Watkins and Patel? That sounds wonderful. I think a chicken curry and a vegetable curry should be fine for the food. I know the Captain and Malcolm both like chicken curry. I think Patel and Watkins are both vegetarians. Maybe…well, ask Chef to have one extra dish for the people who won't eat curry. Someone must not like it."

The cook nodded as she took back the PADD. "I think something with beef. And will we have guests from the Xynobian ship? They liked the potatoes a lot; maybe that vegetable curry should be a potato curry."

Hoshi nodded. "Officer Katama said they'd follow the party back to Enterprise. Oh, they do like chicken, though. We ate something like it last night on their ship. And what flavor's the punch?"

"It's citrus. I'm making it myself."

"Thanks, Katy." More crepe paper went up over a console.

A burst of static came through. "Engineering to Bridge."

"Commander Tucker!" Mayweather called. "What about the shuttlepod?"

"It's gettin' done, so hold your horses. Just wanted to tell you the cap'n just woke up and cursed me out somethin' fierce. I think he's headin' to Sickbay to get Phlox to sober him up before he does anything else. But he'll be up on the Bridge soon, so get things finished."

"We're trying!" Hoshi called as two other women wormed around the chair she was balancing on. "Get up here!"

"Think we'll get killed?"

"I'm hoping there's safety in numbers. I'm sure the Captain and Malcolm wouldn't really kill off half of the ship."

"No," Trip snorted over the comm link, "just the officers who conned them into this. Good thing Malcolm's people all think he's God. Security and Armory have been busting their asses. They're working on the Mess Hall now."

"That's because they love how excited he gets at things going boom," Hoshi laughed. "Now, get up here and help us string this crepe paper!"

"Can't. Once Jon leaves his cabin, I've gotta sneak in there and get Porthos. I'm takin' the dog along. Hey, how would Porthos look with a couple of tin cans on his collar?"


"Ugh," Malcolm sighed as he looked in the mirror. "Are you certain I look all right, Travis?"

Mayweather nodded as he watched Reed finish dressing. He had never realized just how much of a perfectionist it was possible to be, but Reed was outdoing even his usual performance and trying for a personal best in obsessive detail. "You're fine, Malcolm. Relax."

Reed turned to the side, looked again, and sighed. He absently polished one of his rank pips that seemed not to be exactly as shined as the one beside it. "I'm sorry," Malcolm sighed, "but an officer has an image to maintain. Especially when he's doing something like this. You don't get married every day. Unless you're Phlox."

The ensign snorted. "Let's not go there. Now come on, you're supposed to be up on the Bridge to report, and then you and the Captain are heading over to Garmandra. You're going to be late." He bit his lip, hoping that Tucker was pacing the Captain's arrival on the Bridge. Getting everyone else up there first was no small feat. Getting Archer and Reed to arrive there at the same time after that was even trickier.

And keeping them both out of their cabins from now until the time security finished moving all of Reed's belongings into Archer's cabin was also going to be fun. Maybe they should have asked about that, Mayweather thought. But he wasn't the one who'd given orders for it. Fortunately.


Shock. That was the word. Total, absolute shock. Half of the crew on the Bridge. Crepe paper—for God's sakes, crepe paper—all over the place. As for the signs…

"Cap'n," Trip grinned, "you were wondering what the crew was gonna think when they heard the news?"

Archer sank into the captain's chair, wincing. "Right now I'm wondering how this much crepe paper wound up in one place."

Malcolm made his way through the crowd to the side of the chair. "One word, and I'll have the whole lot of them in the brig, Captain. There's a Starfleet regulation against this. I'll find one. If I can't find one, I'll invent one. When do you want them executed? Before or after the hearing?"

Archer shook his head. "There's too many of them."

Hoshi laughed. "I told you, Commander."

"I just want you to arrest the ringleaders. Hoshi and Trip. Don't kill them. Just make them take down every strand of crepe paper on this ship by themselves. With their teeth."

"Awww, you wouldn't do that to me, would you, Cap'n?"

"In a heartbeat, Trip." Archer looked around the Bridge. "This crew did all this overnight? I suppose we have to thank all of you for this."

"Oh, this isn't the half of it," Trip volunteered.

"And that doesn't include everything we did for Patel and Watkins," Hoshi added.

"This outpouring of affection is appreciated," Archer continued, to some clapping by the crew, "but there may—just may, I say—be such a thing as an excess of it. Please don't tell me the whole ship looks like this."

"Not the whole ship," a crewman called out. "Just the important parts."

"The ship's captain doesn't get married every day of the week," Trip explained. "People got a little excited. They can't help it. 'Sides, now you know what they all think—they look pretty happy about things to me."

"All right," Archer sighed. "Point taken. And I do want to thank everyone here for all of this. It really does mean a lot to me—and, I'm sure, to Malcolm—that we have this kind of support from all of you. I know this was some very sudden news, and I'm sure it was a surprise to you in more ways than one, so it's important to me to know that you're with us on this."

"Indeed," Malcolm added. "I'm not particularly given to speeches—"

"Wait until lunch!" Trip interrupted. "We'll getcha then."

"But I would like to thank all of you, with the possible exception of the Commander, whom I will personally keel-haul if I can figure out how, for your congratulations."

"And we have to get you two down to Garmandra," Trip continued, "or you'll be late. Shuttle's waiting." He made hurrying gestures to Archer and Reed.

"T'Pol, you have the Bridge." Archer rose and followed Trip. Malcolm was at his side, still eyeing the crepe paper suspiciously. Hoshi was glad that Malcolm hadn't seen the Armory yet. She wondered if Watkins had been there yet, and what Watkins would be reporting to him on the shuttlepod. Maybe the idea of streamers in the torpedo tubes hadn't been the best thought. At worst, she could always blame Tucker for everything. She suspected that the captain just might believe it.

"But so help me, Trip," Archer threatened as they exited, "if I find tin cans tied to anything that moves on this ship—especially Porthos—one single tin can…I'm warning you now…" The rest of the threat went unheard on the Bridge as the doors shut behind the departing men. Mayweather and Hoshi looked at each other and grinned.

T'Pol eased herself into the captain's chair. She would never understand humans. Not even if she lived to be 700.

In her own way, she wished Archer and Reed well, and the other couple as well, even if humans did have an irrational view of relationships.

But…crepe paper? Tin cans? Perhaps they were some vestiges of primitive human religious rituals…She made a note to check the Vulcan data banks for information on these Earth customs. Perhaps she had something to add to the data banks.

"Maintain distance from Garmandra, Mr. Mayweather." Enterprise stayed locked in synch with the Xynobian ship as the shuttlepod prepared to leave for docking with the aliens' ship. The sight of the other ship, and of space beyond it, eased T'Pol's mind as she watched the viewscreen and as thoughts of crepe paper strewn over the Bridge were set aside. "Shuttlepod, prepare for departure."

A voice broke in over the comm. "Shuttlepod to Bridge, this is Captain Archer. We'll be leaving just as soon as Commander Tucker takes these damned cans off of Porthos and puts them around his own damned neck where they belong. And I don't care how he explains it to the Xynobians."

Obviously the ritual tin cans did not belong on dogs. Perhaps that was important. She filed the information away for future reference. "Very well. T'Pol out."

No. She would never understand humans.

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