auswitcheroo151: AU Sato and Mayweather (Default)
[personal profile] auswitcheroo151
Odd incidents begin to occur on board Enterprise. Hoshi and the Away Team participate in a Luran party...and must adjust when the High Chieftain changes the rules.

Commander Travis Mayweather breathed a sigh of relief as he heard Captain Sato’s report. He’d come close to sending a full Security squad when she’d told him about the melee on the planet. Now he was shaking his head at the whole incident.

They wanted to test the Away Team’s devotion to me.” Hoshi’s voice was dry. “I’m not sure they actually wanted to harm us, but I think they’d expected to flee in the shuttlepod at the first sign of trouble. When we stood our ground, I think we earned their respect.”

He whistled softly and shook his head. “That was a risky decision, Hoshi.”

We didn’t have much of a choice. High Chieftain Mu’harex has invited us to a celebratory meal at his fortress. I’m hoping the negotiations aren’t going to last very long, but we’ll see. The Lurans seem hospitable.”

Let us know if you need anything.”

You know I will, Travis. Sato, out.”

Travis shook his head as he closed the channel. It was amazing at how many scrapes Hoshi had been in and was still able to get out of it relatively unscathed. Even the Disaster Twins had come out of the fight without major injuries, and Jon Archer was also unhurt. Still, they were pretty damn lucky.

He heard a muted sniffle from behind him. Travis swiveled around in the command chair to see Lieutenant Varianis wiping her face with the back of her hand. He frowned and glanced around the Bridge; no one seemed to notice. So he quietly made his way to the science station.

Hey, Ellen, you okay?”

She shook her head and buried her face within her hands. Travis put a hand on her shoulder. “C’mon, Ellen. Over here.” He escorted her to Hoshi’s Ready Room. She collapsed onto the couch; Travis sat next to her, but he was at a loss on what to do next, so he only waited until she calmed down enough to speak.

I’m sorry, Commander—“

What’s wrong? You don’t usually burst into tears on the Bridge.”

No, I don’t sir, but—“ Varianis took a deep breath and tried to stifle her sobs. Travis massaged her shoulder, giving her time to recover. Long minutes passed as the science officer slowly pulled herself together. Finally, her sobs quieted and her shoulders stopped shaking, but her face remained hidden from Travis.

Ellen?”

I’m sorry, Commander, I don’t know what came over me,” she murmured. “I promise it won’t happen again.”

Hey, if you want to talk about it—“He broke off as he saw Varianis’s eyes grow hazy and unfocused. Then she did something unexpected...she started laughing. It wasn’t the laugh of a person who’d heard a joke or of someone finding a pleasant surprise. Her laugh was wild and tinged with madness.

Ellen?” This time, she didn't answer him. He stifled a rising panic; what was going on with his friend? Travis kept his eyes on her as he moved to the com panel on the wall. “Mayweather to Sickbay.”

Cutler,” came Cutler’s voice, but she sounded distracted and worried.

Travis's frown deepened. Liz wasn't even suppose to be on duty; Kov was on the scheduled roster. Had something happened in Sickbay? He replied, “Liz, something’s wrong with Ellen Varianis. She’s gone loopy all of a sudden.”

Liz didn’t sound surprised. “Bring her down, Travis. She isn’t the first and I have the bad feeling she won’t be the last.”


 Travis stared as Varianis thrashed within the bed restraints Liz had given her a sedative, but it didn’t seem to have any effect. Liz was reluctant to give her a higher dose, for the first dose been the maximum allowed for a human. Slowly, Varianis's body relaxed and her face became more peaceful.

Next to Ellen was Kov. Unlike the science officer, the Healer lay placidly on the biobed; he even snored a little. TheVulcan had been attending a minor injury in Engineering when he’d dropped like a rock. Lieutenant Rostov had attempted to catch him before he’d hit the floor—and got flattened in the process.

Is he okay? He gave us a pretty bad scare,” Rostov said as he perched on the exam table with a ice pack on the side of his face. Kov was popular with the younger officers; Travis understood Rostov's concern and shared it.

He'll be all right, Mike,” Liz said with a worried expression. “His brainwaves indicate he's in some sort of healing trance.”

Healing trance? Was he already injured but didn't tell anyone?” Travis asked. That sounded a lot like Malcolm Reed. Perhaps some of Malcolm's bad habits were rubbing off on Kov; Travis made a mental note to talk to the doctor when the Away Team returned to the ship.

No, he's in perfect health. I don't understand it.”

Travis's brow furrowed in concern. “Crewman El-Sadr's physical showed not problems, either, and he's been acting out of character.”

Rostov followed the thought to its conclusion. “You think whatever's affecting Saeed is doing the same to Ellen and Kov?”

Liz moved over to her computer and checked the medical logs. “We’ve had a steady stream of people coming in since Doctor Reed headed for the surface. Minor things...clumsy accidents, lapses of concentration and memory, people finding themselves at the wrong duty post, that sort of thing.”

Weird,” Rostov added. “Richard Kelby and I had to chase McIntyre off the engineering deck. He was rambling about how he was convinced that he knew more about warp technology than either of us. How the hell can a steward know more about the warp core than two trained engineers?"
 

Travis rolled his eyes. “He thinks he wants to switch to Engineering?”

Travis, you know Sean McIntyre. He’s one of the most self-effacing guys on the ship,” Liz objected, punching him lightly in the arm. “I took a brain scan and there was nothing physically wrong.”

Drunk?” suggested Rostov.

Liz sighed. “That's what I thought too...he certainly acted like it. The thing is...McIntyre's a teetotaler. Doesn’t even touch alcohol.”

Travis shook his head. “You said it, Mike, weird. Do you think this’ll put the ship in any danger?”

The minor things, no, but—“ Liz nodded at Varianis and Kov. The science officer and the Healer slept quietly. “I’m concerned that it might get worse.”

Travis sighed and shook his head. “I’ll make a general shipwide announcement. Mike, you, Richard and Phlox keep an eye on the Engineering department and I’ll tell Ensign Rickover in the Armory to watch his guys. I’ll get back to the Bridge. The captain’s in negotiation right now, so it’s going to be a while before I can talk to her.”

Before he left Sickbay, he glanced at Ellen. Her madness both shocked and worried him. What was happening?

By the time he reached the Bridge, Gamma shift had already taken over for Beta, and a new slate of Bridge officers sat at their stations. Travis told them that Ellen Varianis was in Sickbay, but should be all right, then he made that shipwide announcement and informed the Armory.

Lieutenant Bennett?”

Sir?” Lieutenant Christian Bennett swiveled around at the science station to face Travis. The young man tried to hide his nervousness at being addressed by a senior officer. Travis gave him a smile of reassurance.

I want a sensor sweep of the surrounding area, Chris. Radiation, delta waves, the whole spectrum. And pull up the latest data on the Urathan Nebula.”

Bennett nodded and tabbed the buttons on his board. “Yes, sir. You should be getting that information on your PADD now.”

Sure enough, Travis's PADD lit up with an image of the nebula. The data scrolled down the right side of the screen. He was glad that he'd suggested launching the warning buoys. The radiation levels had jumped slightly, but not enough to endanger the Enterprise crew for now. Another millennia or two would be a different matter.

Not enough to cause the strange behavior among the crew. If it's not the radiation, the what the hell is it? He sent a copy of the data to Liz in Sickbay and Phlox in Engineering. Perhaps they might see something that he wasn't seeing.

Hours passed with no other incidents and Travis tried to relax. With Trip on the planet, the next person in command of Tactical was Lieutenant Trace, the relief Armory officer on the Bridge and Trip’s second. Travis caught Bryan Trace’s quiet grin at the Weapons station.

Suddenly, he felt a slight shudder through the deck under his feet. “Engineering?” he barked into the comm. “What was that?”

 I don’t know, Commander,” replied Phlox’s voice. “There’s some sort of surge—“

From where, Phlox?”

The helm station in front of Travis went up in a shower of sparks, the explosion throwing the relief helmsman and navigator to the floor. Crewman Norby at communications dragged the helmsman out of the way, while Trace vaulted the railing and did the same to the navigator.

Medical team to the Bridge!” Travis yelled and dove for the helm. “Trace, take navigation!”

Yes, sir!” Trace shouted back and settled into the navigator’s chair as Travis took the helm.

Travis glanced over the controls. He had a rudimentary idea on how to pilot a starship; he’d stood watches on his family ship, the Horizon, and had taken some cross-training at Hoshi’s insistence, but science was his strong suit, not ship operations. His hands flew over the console, stabilizing Enterprise’s position, compensating for her drift...by the time he’d actually thought about what he was doing, he’d already done it.

He stared at the controls under his hands. How did I know what to do? I’m not—He felt someone’s eyes on him and realized Trace had been staring at him. The relief Armory officer flushed and brought his eyes down to the navigation board, then back up at Travis.

Good job, sir.” Trace’s voice was barely audible.

Travis held his gaze. “You too, Bryan?”

Trace knew what he was asking. “Yes, sir.”

Not a navigator? Usually, anyway?”

Hell, no...sir.”

Travis looked up at Liz Cutler, who was tending to the groggy helmsman. “How are they, Lieutenant Cutler?” he asked formally.

 Just minor burns on both of them, Commander. I’ll need to bring them both to Sickbay to treat them, but they should be able to return to duty.”

Do whatever you need to for them. Lieutenant Trace and I will hold down the fort here till they get back.”

Liz gave him a look of surprise at seeing him at the helm station, but she covered it with a “Yes, sir.”

Again, he and Trace exchanged a look. The Armory Officer-turned-navigator said it for both of them. “I hadn’t thought we’d be this good at multi-tasking...sir.”


The celebration at the High Chieftain’s fortress was in full swing. Warriors all around reclined on thick mats on the floor as servants came around with food and drink. Musicians pounded on drums with more enthusiasm than actual skill. The air rang with conversation, laughter and snatches of song. The thick scent of spicy musk hung heavily and clung to everything in the hall.

T’Pol sat on her mat and watched the others as they mingled with the Luran Council. Jonathan Archer was describing San Francisco to High Chieftan Mu’harex, with Hoshi Sato occasionally chiming in. Another small crowd cheered as one of their younger warriors hit the floor, the eager victim of one of Trip's self-defense lessons. The Luran bounced back up and bowed to the fawh-der, who bowed back. Another Luran took his place and asked another question about the technique.

T’Pol was getting a headache from it all. Her sensitive sense of smell was assaulted by the aroma and her ears rang from the drums. She had been surprised at the choice of dishes from the High Chieftain’s kitchens, for there were plenty of vegetarian dishes with the meat platters, and fresh spring water to drink. The servants were most accommodating to her different needs.

They must have asked Jonathan Archer about her preferences. It was the logical reason.

Are you okay, T'Pol?”

She winced, unsure of whether it was because of Trip's unexpected question or the concern under the words. “This celebration is...overly exciting, Lieutenant Commander.”

We’re at a party, so call me Trip.” He glanced over at one of the warriors and returned the man's salute. “C’mon, I gotta stretch a cramp in my legs. ‘Sides, the captain told us to mingle, so we might as well mingle.”

T’Pol glanced at his hand. “I do not think it’s advisable to—“

T’Pol. Can’t disobey the captain’s direct order. Not to mention the fact that Old Mean and Ugly over there’s been eyein’ you somethin’ fierce. I know that bein’ my ‘mate’ is supposed to give you some kinda protection, but I don’t wanna take any chances.”

She looked behind her and saw a burly Luran reclining on his mat, his eyes glittering with purpose. The man’s thoughts were clear on his face; a sly smile passed over his lips.

I see the logic in your suggestion...Trip,” she said, and took his hand. He pulled her to her feet, then gently guided her through the chaos on the floor. She was aware of Trip’s left hand at the small of her back and tried to shore up her battered mental shields.

Valhalla,” mused Trip. Although he was given a reprieve of wearing the cumbersome armor in the High Chieftain’s hall, he had kept the daggers in his belt. His right hand touched the hilt of one of the daggers.

Excuse me?"

This all reminds me of Valhalla.” A slight smile played on his lips. “It’s a place in Norse mythology. After warriors die on the battlefield, the Valkyries take them to a feasting hall where they party for all eternity. I thought this place kinda reminded me of Valhalla.”

Ah, I see.” T’Pol replied. She glanced over the room with a sharp eye. All evening, she had felt a strange undercurrent in the air. It had took her a long time to identify it: anticipation. For what? She hadn't been the only one to feel it.

They circulated around the room several times, chatting with the warriors and sharing outrageous stories of their exploits. T’Pol resisted rolling her eyes at the more-than-slight embellishment of the details of Trip's stories.

He is quite the storyteller, isn’t he?” came Malcolm Reed’s quiet voice at his shoulder. “If he writes half of them down, he’d make a fortune.”

She frowned; how did he know what she was thinking? Trip chuckled and turned to face Malcolm. “Yeah, but words on a PADD don’t do it justice. You gotta actually see it bein’ told, Malcolm. The effect isn’t as great if you don’t.”

The doctor nodded as he gazed out at the festivities. “Indeed. I feel like I’ve been put in the middle of a real-life production of Beowulf.”

You mean the part where the warriors party themselves senseless?”

I was thinking more of what happens afterwards.”

T’Pol glanced sharply at him. She was familiar with the Beowulf saga. After the warriors had fallen into a deep slumber, the monster Grendel came into the hall, kidnapped one of them, killed him and had him for a meal. “You feel a sense of foreboding, Doctor?”

He met her glance and she saw something within his eyes. “Call it instinct, T'Pol.”

Trip nodded in agreement and said, “Maybe you oughta transfer into the Armory, Malcolm.”

And I've already told you my reasons why I feel more useful as a doctor.” He glanced over his shoulder. “I should go back to Hoshi. Jon’s watching her back, but I trust the High Chieftain about as much as I can throw him right now. He’s been given her some looks that I find disturbing.”

Yeah, and you’re already on his crap list, Malcolm. After all, you’re the one who poked his wrist with a needle.”

I was defending the captain, Trip,” he said stiffly. “I had to make do with whatever I had on hand at that moment.”

See? You’re already soundin’ like an Armory officer.” Trip clapped him on the shoulder. “Go ahead, Malcolm. We’ll keep watch here.”

Malcolm headed back to Hoshi and Jon while Trip and T’Pol continued on their rounds. Trip found a cozy spot near the front of the hall. He leaned against the wall and T’Pol settled next to him, close enough to touch, but not touching him. They both watched the festivities in companionable silence. Malcolm sat on his mat, leaning casually on a bed of pillows, with Hoshi comfortably settled in the crook of his right arm. T'Pol noticed his hand resting on his medical pouch.

He has surprising abilities for a chief medical officer.”

Like his uncanny aim with sharp objects? And how he isn't too bad with a phase pistol and would probably do pretty well if he wore one? I tell you, T’Pol, I’d welcome him into the Armory in a heartbeat.”

His words stirred a sense of unease in her. She caught Malcolm gazing at her with those sharp blue-gray eyes, then the doctor gave her the slightest of nods. She pretended she hadn’t seen it.

A gong rang over the hall and she clapped her hands over her ears. Trip winced, and they saw Hoshi jump at the abrupt sound. High Chieftain Mu’harex stood over the crowd and raised his goblet towards Hoshi.

I propose a toast to our brave and gallant warrior and her party,” he boomed. “May we have a long and fruitful relationship between our peoples!” Mu’harex bowed to her and added, "Mu'ra sak he'wu!"

Hoshi repeated the toast and raised her goblet and together they drank to their friendship. She caught T’Pol’s eye and gave the Vulcan a smile, but T’Pol noticed that it didn’t reach her eyes.

Somethin’s wrong,” Trip murmured.

Yes,” T’Pol agreed. Her instincts screamed a warning, but she couldn’t see a visible threat. The air seemed to gather itself above them, like an approaching storm, threatening to crash over all of them.

There was a yelp of surprise, then a servant stumbled over Trip's legs. The wine he carried splashed all over Trip's chain-mail tunic and T'Pol's gown. Whatever color remained in the Luran’s face vanished as he immediately prostrated himself in front of T’Pol and Trip.

My apologies, warrior lady, for my transgressions.”

Silence fell in the hall and all eyes were on the cowering servant. T’Pol watched the High Chieftain out of the corner of her eye; the Luran settled back on his mat as if awaiting some kind of twisted entertainment. Jon Archer looked panicked, and Captain Sato’s mouth tightened in dismay. Malcolm shifted to put his body between the High Chieftain and Hoshi.

His life is yours, warrior lady,” announced the High Chieftain. “He has offended you and your mate. If you choose to destroy him, there are more to take his place.” The hall erupted into catcalls and growls.

T’Pol met the High Chieftain’s gaze squarely. “And if I choose not to destroy him?”

He shrugged and replied, “Then the fawh-dehr is entitled to his life. If not him, then the Healer. After three refusals...he dies anyway, a slow and painful death.”

T’Pol turned her attention back to the trembling servant. “On my world, we do not execute those who act out of ignorance, but we do show them the error of their ways, which—“she allowed a small smile—“can be just as enlightening in itself. The transgression is not forgotten, but the transgressor learns a lesson.” She glanced at Trip. “What shall we do with him?”

Well, I think he should learn a lesson,” he replied easily, although his undertone said, I hope to hell you know what you're doing.

She drew herself up to her full height and commanded, “Get to your feet and face me.”

Shaking, the servant jumped up as if T’Pol had swatted him with her ahn-woon. She gazed at him like a queen regarding a tiny ant beneath her heel. She raised her voice and called, “Do you understand why you are held accountable in front of your peers?”

Yes,” the servant whimpered.

Louder, so they all can hear!” she snapped. The abrupt change in her tone startled Hoshi, Jon and Malcolm, but Trip only glared at him. A smile appeared on the High Chieftain’s face, but T’Pol ignored him.

Yes!”

Will you repeat your shameful actions in the presence of me, the fawh-der, the captain, the Healer, the translator and your own High Cheftain?"

No, Lady Warrior!”

Tell me what you will do differently.”

I—“ the Luran squirmed under her scrutiny. “I will listen, I will obey, and I will respect the wishes of the Lady and her fawh-der."

Just we two?”

The servant cast panicked eyes on the rest of the Away Team. “And the captain, the Healer, the translator, and all who are in position above me.”

Excellent.” T’Pol turned to Trip, who nodded his approval. “Will that suffice?”

I’d like to add one more thing.” Trip got to his feet. A minute later, Trip’s fist connected with the man’s jaw, knocking him to the mat. The servant blinked in surprise; he was unhurt, but stunned at the force of the blow. “Don’t forget it or I won’t be as kind the next time.”

T’Pol turned to address the High Chieftain. “I have shown him the error of his ways, and I plan to keep him by my side for the remainder of our visit, so he can watch, and listen...and learn. That will be his sentence and he will remember what he has done for the rest of his days. Rest assured, he will not do such a foolish thing again.”

The High Chieftain nodded. “You are as wise as you are daring and I applaud your punishment.” He jerked his goblet up into the air. “To the Lady Warrior, may you serve long and well!”

The whole hall erupted into a cheer, then the celebration resumed. Trip sat between T’Pol and the servant, who breathed a ragged sigh at his unexpected reprieve.

Sorry ‘bout that, son,” Trip apologized in a low voice, “but I don’t think the High Chieftain would’ve bought our ruse if I hadn’t given you a thrashing.”

I owe you my life, fawh-der," the servant whispered, "to you and your lady. I thank you."

Trip's eyes softened; the abrupt change took T'Pol by surprise. “What’s your name, kid? It's not polite among my people to just yell out, ‘hey you!’”

Shi’vujh, my lord.”

You don’t have to call me that. Fawh-dehr is fine."

Very well, Fawh-der.”

Hoshi Sato glided to T’Pol’s other side and gracefully sat next to the Vulcan. “Well played, Lieutenant. I wasn’t sure how you and Trip were going to get yourselves out of it, but you did.”

T’Pol inclined her head. “Another one of the High Chieftain’s tests.”

Yes. He seems quite fond of throwing those at us.” Hoshi shook her head, making her dark hair swish over her shoulders like a curtain. “I have a feeling he isn’t finished with us yet.”

Indeed.” T'Pol nodded at Shi'vujh, who was making an effort not to spill his goblet of wine again. “Shi'vujh, it seems that your people thrive on challenges, both physical and mental”

He nodded so hard that a lock of reddish hair hung over his eyes. “Yes, my lady. The warriors bore easily, in mind and spirit. They constantly crave the thrill of the hunt, the competition against an enemy.”

My Healer believes that living in boredom is detrimental to your people's health,” Hoshi remarked.

There are stories of chieftains who have conquered all there is to conquer, and thus go insane.” The boy's voice dropped to a whisper. “There is constant warfare among the families. There are winners and there are losers, and the losers are lucky to keep their lives.”

Trip's tone was once again gentle. “I take it your family was one of the losers.”

I was fortunate the High Chieftain took a shine to me and installed me as a servant.” Sh'vujh dropped his eyes. “I live by his whim, fulfill his every wish and desire, should he ask it of me.”

Provide 'entertainment' for his guests, even the the cost of your own life?”

Yes, Fawh-der, even so. He wanted to see how the warrior lady would punish any insult.” Shi'vujh's glanced at T'Pol under his lowered lids. “Justice, loyalty...they are important to my people. We must constantly test ourselves and prove ourselves. That is our way of life.”

T'Pol inclined her head and said, “That is similar to the ways of my people, long ago, before they abandoned the path of war.”

Sh'vujh looked up at her. “Surely you have magnificent tales from that time, my lady!”

Indeed.” T'Pol paused as she realized her conversation had attracted the attention of the other warriors on their side of the room. “Even my own ancestress was an advisor to a warrior clan. The Matriarch T'Raeva valued Advisor T'Lyess like her own granddaughter. In fact, my mother's name is a form of T'Lyess.”

Was T'Lyess--” Sh'vujh's tongue stumbled over the name, “--was your ancestress also skilled in the ways of your whip?”

Yes. My people still possess the knowledge of weapons-crafting, though we are mostly a peaceful race, now. T'Lyess was at the Matriarch's side at the Battle of Vennik Plain, and they planned an assault upon the S'Korek Clan--”

She continued the tale of T'Lyess and S'Korek and Matriarch T'Raeva, how the battle raged for thirty days and thirty nights, and how the walls of S'Korek's stronghold were breached. Silence fell over the feasting hall as T'Pol related how S'Korek's brother, General Lukek, escaped with little more than the clothes on his back, and how the great Surak took Lukek into his own Clan.

General Lukek...wasn't he Soultek's ancestor?” Trip asked quietly. “I remember you mentionin' him while we were stuck in that mud pit.”

T'Pol nodded. “Yes. Matriarch T'Raeva offered him her youngest granddaughter as a wife, and thus was his Clan reborn. I understand that Lukek did not...waste any time in re-establishing the family. Fifteen children in all, thirty-nine grandchildren by the time Surak fostered peace.”

Trip winced and exchanged a look with Jon. “Yeah, he definitely didn't waste any time, then.”

When Vulcan turned from war, Matriarch T'Raeva also laid down her arms. T'Lyess was bonded to another Clan advisor, and it is from that line from which my own family comes .”

The High Chieftain spoke up from where he sat in the middle of the room. “An honorable tale, Lady Warrior, of your kin. One would nearly mistake it for a Luran saga; the events are similar.”

T'Pol replied, “There are many similarities among all cultures, Lord Mu'harex, even ours.”

Yes, so it would seem.” Mu'harex nodded at the musicians. “Play more music, a thrilling sound, one that the Warrior Lady's ancestress would approve of!”

The drums and flutes started again, and some of the warriors took up a drinking song. T'Pol sighed as the tension in the air faded away and a sense of revelry took its place.

Good job, T'Pol,” Hoshi murmured.

It was a matter of finding those...commonalities,” she said. “It would appear that the Lurans and the Vulcans have more in common that it appears on the surface.”

Yeah.” Trip wiped the sweat off his forehead. “I wonder how long this party's gonna last. It must be close to dawn by now.”

The High Chieftain gestured for Jon to approach him. They all watched as Jon listened to Lord Mu'harex; the diplomat's eyes widened slightly at the words. Jon bit his lip and nodded in reply, then he re-joined the Away Team.

"Lord Mu'harex has invited us to stay the morning here at his fortress. He considers it part of his duties as a host."

"We were under the impression that we going back to the ship after the formal reception," Hoshi said. "We aren't prepared for an extended stay."

"I think he knows that, but he's changing the rules again. Mu'harex said he will provide all the amenities, including changes of clothing and accommodations." Jon sighed and gave her a look of apology. "And there's another--ah--tradition involved with guests who stay here."

Trip rolled his eyes and glanced at T'Pol. "Why do I have the feeling we're not gonna like this?"

"Depends on how you look at it, Trip." Jon struggled to keep a straight face as he explained, "Apparently, 'mates' are supposed to share a room--"

T'Pol's eyebrows shot up to her hairline, while Hoshi's face turned an interesting shade of pink. Malcolm and Trip only exchanged looks. Jon cleared his throat several times before continuing. "The warriors try to 'disrupt' any-ahem-'nocturnal activities' that might occur--"

"What?" Trip choked. Malcolm sighed and tried to focus on everything else in the room but Hoshi. The captain's face went from pink to scarlet, while T'Pol shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot.

T'Pol looked over at the High Chieftain, who seemed amused at their reactions. "It appears that he wishes to ascertain our efforts to secure a mutual treaty."

"He wants to see how far we'll go to make this a successful mission."

"I believe I just stated that, Trip."

Sh'vujh whispered, "The High Chieftain likes you, so he wishes to formalize the bonds between our people. The bond between warriors is important...doubly so between mates."

"What about you, Jon? You don't have a...mate," Hoshi said.

He grimaced at the question. "I get to sit up and share the High Chieftain's vigil, with more of that brain-scrambling ale and more storytelling. You're going to have to drag me back to the ship, Hoshi. I don't think I'll be conscious when we finally get back."

"Ouch." Trip also winced in sympathy. He took a deep breath and glanced at T'Pol. "Well...when in Rome--"

"I have confidence in your sense of gallantry, Trip."

"Yeah...you'll bust more than my head if I try to do anything. Lemme warn you, though...I tend to snore."

Hoshi felt a gentle hand upon her shoulder and she looked up at Malcolm. "I assure you that you have nothing to fear...like Trip, I have a sense of gallantry as well."

She managed a smile, but it she wasn't worried about his actions.

She was more worried about what she might do.

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October 2012

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