trekwriter151: (phlox)
[personal profile] trekwriter151
Disclaimer: Don't own 'em, don't make money off 'em.

Notes: I actually had to diagram Phlox and his relationships with his various wives, their other husbands, the various kids, etc. and integrate what was said in ENT: "Stigma" with my made-up stuff. Yeesh, and I thought MY family was complicated, LOL!

We meet some of Phlox's family here, and yes, Feezal makes a reappearance. For reference (I hope this makes sense):

Azkiel is Phlox's first wife and she's a botanist. Yutis is her daughter (who is getting married) Opur is her second daughter (also getting married). They are NOT Phlox's. Mettus IS Phlox's son (his youngest), and he's the one who has the anti-Antaran beliefs. You find out where he got that from. The Matriarch who died, Shastia, was the eldest female in Azkiel's branch of the family.

Feezal is Phlox's second wife. Her daughters Lailah and Treesal are also Phlox's. Both Lailah and Treesal have no mates. Yet.

Zariel is Phlox's third wife. Her oldest son Nesnuz is an artist and a potter and her middle son Reestus is a director (both are Phlox's sons). Okrna is her daughter (getting married) and Ghoris is her son (getting married) from other mates (NOT Phlox).

"Ich hab' mein Herz in Heidelberg verloren" literally means, "I've lost my heart in Heidelberg", and is the first line of a love song. Heidelberg is supposed to have the reputation of being a "romantic city", so Johannes Birkenwald (from Heidelberg) teases Bernhard Mueller with it.

The teledrama "Three Gals and a Denobulan" was mentioned in one of my other fics, "Deadly Negotiations". Travis mentioned a subspace subscription of it to Malcolm as a prank... and um...someone else got it by mistake. And actually didn't mind.

Rating: T


Three

Feezal Phlox sighed as she snapped shut her bioreader. Next to her, her daughter Treesal chatted with Nesnuz, her half-brother. Nesnuz was a potter, who lived with his mother, Zariel, who was Phlox's third wife. Nesnuz talked about his latest creations; Feezal only listened with half her attention.

"The budium oxide sample you gave me gives the clay the richest scarlet hue I've ever seen. I don't think prusarium achieved it in fifty applications..."

"Well, I mentioned to one of my biochemist colleagues about your latest project and he said uiorum mixed with the budium should alter the chemical composition—"

"What will be the result? I don't need to hear the details about its positive and negative ions and its covalent and weak bonds, Treesal." He grinned to take the sting out of his words. "I'm an artist, not a scientist."

Treesal rolled her eyes and replied, "Nesnuz, you need to know how the compounds react to each other...in this case, the two should give you a deep royal purple, enough to satisfy the Dogia's wish for her formal plateware..."

Feezal chuckled to herself. She was lucky that her children had inherited Phlox's good charm. Lailah, the surgeon, was telling stories to the younger ones at the back of the room. Feezal's gaze drifted towards the group of adults huddled in the corner, all dressed in black and muddy maroons. The colors of mourning.

A pair of bright blue eyes met hers. Azkiel Phlox wore a flowing gown that only emphasized her girth and the cowl and hood only made Azkiel seem more intimidating. Yet Feezal saw the pain and vulnerability in those eyes. Two of her daughters were getting married and she'd lost her family's Matriarch. Feezal felt a flash of pity for Azkiel, so she gave the botanist a small smile.

Azkiel's eyes crinkled in humor, though the cowl and hood hid her smile. Thank you, she seemed to say. Azkiel leaned to her left and whispered some words to Yutis, her second daughter. Yutis, in turn, turned to another black-clad Denobulan sitting to her left.

Mettus. I thought he wasn't coming. Phlox's youngest son only nodded in response to his sister's words. Ironic that Mettus was the one whose physical features resembled Phlox the most, but his attitude resembled Phlox's the least. Feezal couldn't understand his closed-minded attitude, but...

He was the Matriarch's favorite...and she stuffed the boy's mind with all kinds of outmoded rubbish. Feezal bit her lip as she remembered one particular summer day, years ago, at a naming celebration for Azkiel's youngest daughter, Opur. The Matriarch had called Feezal over to her side and...

*****

"Feezal, my dear, will you get my Mettus a cup of kassa juice? He's busy translating some passages out of the Treatises of Antaran War for me."

Despite herself, Feezal's eyes drifted to the serious scholar sitting next to the Matriarch, completely absorbed in the text. She forced herself to smile and answered, "Certainly. Mettus, which kind of sweetener would you like in your kassa?"

Mettus's head snapped up with a look of annoyance. "I don't care, as long as it isn't too sweet."

Feezal frowned, and the Matriarch admonished him, "Mettus, please apologize to your father's wife. That is not how you address your elder." The words sounded sincere, but Feezal noted the glimmer in the Matriarch's eyes.

Mettus sighed and put his book down in his lap. He pressed his hands together and bowed his head in the traditional manner. "Forgive me, wife of my father."

Feezal nodded and replied, "You are forgiven, son of my husband." If it were anyone else, she would have been touched by the traditional apology. Mettus seemed to transform the words into an insult instead of an apology. She tried to keep an open mind, but Azkiel's only son was as unpleasant as a rotting dechasa.

"I will return with your kassa." And Feezal left as quickly as she could.

*****

"...kassa, Mother?"

"What?" she asked aloud. She turned her head to see Lailah looking at her with concern. "I'm sorry, Lailah, my mind was elsewhere."

"I asked you if you would like some kassa," Lailah repeated. "I put double cream in it, just as you like it."

"Thank you, my dear." Feezal accepted the mug with a smile. Lailah had inherited the reddish-blonde hair from Feezal's family and Phlox's extraordinary fine motor skills, which served her in good stead in the operating theater. Lailah also possessed her father's sensitivity, for she glanced in the direction of Azkiel and her family.

"Mettus seems quieter than usual," Lailah said in a neutral tone.

"He's lost his greatest supporter, Lailah," Feezal reminded her. "The Matriarch indulged him in all things and now she's gone. It is natural for Mettus to be in shock from his loss."

"It's more than shock, mamah. If I didn't know better, I'd think he was planning something."

Feezal sighed and shook her head. "Lailah."

"I don't like him, mamah. He's a bomb waiting to go off."

Feezal sighed again and tried to make light of the situation. "Well, at least we'll have several of Enterprise's Armory officers around for protection, just in case. I've told you about Lieutenant Commander Reed and his wife, but now there are two others that will be our guardians this time out."

Lailah raised her eyebrows and a glint of interest came into her eyes. "Really? Do you think Reed might consider a second wife sometime?"

Feezal chuckled and shook her head. "Humans don't see relationships that way, unfortunately, but if a man is unmated, well, anything goes." She re-activated her bioreader and brought up some information. "Listen carefully, my dear. One of our guardians is named Bernhard Mueller—"

*****

Ensign Johannes Birkenwald worried about his fellow Armory officer's sanity. Both Lieutenant Commander Reed and Commander Tucker had updated him about Feezal Phlox's previous visit to the Enterprise. Bernhard Mueller's hand fidgeted towards the phase pistol at his side; Johannes seriously considered taking the weapon away from him, just for safety's sake.

The Bavarian gave Johannes a weak smile and resolutely clasped his hands behind his back. "Geht Dir gut, Bernhard?" Johannes asked in German. Are you OK?

He sighed and rolled his eyes. "Bitte, ich brauche einen Unfall." Please, I need an accident to happen.

"Willst Du so wie der Kommandant werden?" Do you want to be like the Commandant?

"Der Doktor sieht immer froh aus, wenn der Kommandant in der Krankenzimmer kommt, aber wenn ich dort werde, es wird mir sehr froh, dass Feezal dort -mich nicht jaegern wird." The Doctor's always happy when the Commandant ends up in Sickbay, but if I end up there, I'll be happy because Feezal won't be hunting me there.

Bernhard's remark surprised him into a chuckle. Like Mueller, Johannes hailed from Germany, but from Heidelberg. It was time to break the tension. He chuckled under his breath and sang softly in a sweet tenor, "Ich hab' mein Herz in Heidelberg verloren..."

Bernhard groaned and fixed him with a glare.M "Bitte sehr, Johannes. Es ist nicht zu lacheln." Come on, Johannes. It's not funny.

"Verzeihung, Bernhard,"
Johannes apologized, though the grin negated the apology. "I couldn't resist."

"You're supposed to be helping, Johannes."

Birkenwald sobered at the reminder. "Yes, Commanders Tucker and Reed told me about that. Don't worry, Bernhard; she'll not get her hands on you."

The door to Jupiter Station's Receiving Deck hissed open and Captain Archer arrived, also in uniform, and looking as uncomfortable as Bernhard. Then Travis showed up, in civvies, and other members of the crew trickled in.

Hoshi Sato arrived next, her long blue-green skirt brushing against the floor. The whole ensemble looked more like a cross between a sari and a Greek chiton: sleeveless, with iridescent strands of Triaxian silk embedded within it. Technically, she wasn't on duty; she and Malcolm were supposed to be on leave, but their curiosity about Phlox's extended family got the better of them. Malcolm followed, armed with a phase pistol and prepared for trouble.

"Herr Kommandant, Lieutenant," greeted Bernhard. He'd recovered his professional demeanor and gave his commanding officer a brisk nod.

"Is everything ready, Bernhard?" Malcolm asked. The nickname brought a slight smile to his face, despite his efforts to keep a neutral expression.

"Yes, sir."

"Good man."

Phlox walked in and everyone gaped at his costume. Hoshi raised her eyebrows at the garish orange-and-brown striped tunic, with glitter and gold at every hem. "Quite...becoming, Phlox," she said.

He beamed at her. "A gift from my third wife, Zariel. She's an actress and a director on the Denobulan stage. She's on hiatus from directing 'Three Gals and a Denobulan'."

"She's the director?" Travis asked. "Wow, I didn't know that. I gotta ask her about last season's cliffhanger. I mean, c'mon, I can suspend my disbelief, but what's the deal with Xarez and Felita?"

Johannes shrugged and said, "Felita's innocent, sir. Yobis is the one who threw Xarez off the balcony. Now Yobis wants to blackmail her."

"Yobis? When did Yobis work out in the gym? She couldn't go up the mansion stairs without wheezing, Johannes!"

"Xarez was wearing his new flight wings at the time, remember? I don't think we've seen the last of him."

"Those flight wings couldn't hold up a flea, much less a twenty-six kilo Denobulan male!"

"Xarez fitted 'em with extra boosters in his garage before he went to confront Felita and Yobis. Those ones he stole from the weapons labs. They had the same ID numbers."

Travis laughed. "What, do you have a high-definition receiver, Johannes? No way you could've been able to see those numbers."

Johannes maintained his deadpan expression. "I'm an Armory officer, sir. I'm trained to notice that kind of thing."

The rest of the crew listened to this exchange with great humor. Malcolm raised his eyebrows at Johannes and said, "I had no idea that Denobulan programming could be used as a training video, Ensign Birkenwald."

Johannes shrugged and replied, "It's applying the principles to real-life situations, sir."

Bernhard chortled in laughter and said turned to him with a smirk. "Ach so, Johannes. Now I know what to get you for your birthday, Johannes. A subspace subscription to 'the best of Denobulan teleoperas'."

"Sorry, Bernhard. I already have it." And Johannes gave Travis a significant look. The helmsman blushed and shrugged good-naturedly.

Everyone laughed. Johannes exchanged a grin with Malcolm; Bernhard seemed to regain his sense of humor. Phlox turned to Travis and said "Ah, I'm sure Zariel will be thrilled to find sone admirers of her work. She is quite charming in her own right, you'll see."

A voice came over Jupiter Station's speakers. "Medical frigate Junzek has docked and passengers have disembarked."

Hoshi slipped her arm within Malcolm's as the door opened once more. Feezal Phlox stepped into the room, her eyes widening at the size of the reception. Her eyes lighted on Phlox and she smiled.

"Beloved," she said. Phlox stepped forward to greet his wife; Hoshi hid a smile at Johannes's dumbfounded look at the "smell and greet", as Trip Tucker had dubbed it. As they drew apart, she added, "You look well."

"As do you," Phlox said. He smiled at the cream-colored dress and orange accents that brought out the highlights in her hair. "I hope your trip was pleasant."

"Pleasant and educational, actually," she answered. She smiled at Captain Archer. "Captain, a pleasure to see you again."

"Hello, Mrs. Phlox," Archer said as he took her offered hand. "Likewise." He made quick introductions of the Enterprise crew in the observation room. Feezal smiled at Bernhard, then at Johannes.

"Gentlemen, it's a honor to meet you both," she said. "I have confidence that you will be able to keep the peace between the members of our family."

Phlox looked over shoulder. "Where are the girls, Feezal?"

"They're busy herding the little ones. The family's grown since I saw you last." Feezal kept her smile, but everyone saw the worry in her eyes. Bernhard glanced at Johannes, who glanced at Malcolm, but even Malcolm seemed puzzled at the change of her demeanor.

"Mrs. Phlox?" Hoshi asked. "Is there something wrong?"

Feezal sighed and addressed Phlox. "Azkiel. Yutis. Opur. Groznik. And Mettus."

Phlox blinked in surprise, which quickly turned into consternation "Mettus? Here?"

"Yes. Your youngest son decided to come at the last minute, Phlox. I decided to come early and warn you. He isn't exactly...sociable right now and with the Matriarch gone..." She sighed and nodded at Hoshi's look of sympathy. "Well, Zariel's brought her clan too, along with Resnuz and Okurna. So, we're about twenty seven in all."

Bernhard choked, "Twenty seven?"

She smiled at him. "Don't worry, Ensign. My daughters Lailah and Treesal have both assured me that they will protect you and Ensign Birkenwald from the, well, eligible women of the clan."

"Um...thank you?" Bernhard said, his tone of voice making it sound more like a question.

Phlox caught the gleam in Feezal's eye and chuckled. No, he wouldn't interfere with her plans right now. This would be interesting to see what would happen.

"You're in good hands, then," Phlox said, addressing Feezal and the Armory officers. "So, shall we proceed to dinner, then? Captain Archer, if you'd mind—"

"Of course." Archer's smile was frozen as he offered Feezal his arm, and with Phlox on her other side, they left the Observation Deck, with Hoshi and Malcolm, Bernhard and Johannes, Travis, and the rest of the crew trailing behind.

Four

Hoshi had visited the bazaars of Marakesh and the open-air markets of downtown Naples. She'd been to the popular shops on Risa and the humble Andorian fire-gem fields. The sights and sounds of these places had been a wonder to behold: all the bright colors and smells and tastes, all exotic and familiar at the same time.

A traditional Denobulan dinner reminded her of those visits, all packed into a single evening. Chef placed the steaming trays of food in strategic places of the mess hall, so a diner didn't have to walk far to get food. Low tables sat among floor cushions and overstuffed pillows. Electric candles provided the ambience; the shadows danced on the silk drapery on the walls. Native Denobulan drum and flute music came from the speakers. The room's temperature was set several degrees below normal. Hoshi shivered at first, but with the number of Denobulans and Humans, she soon found the air stifling warm.

She sat cross-legged on an oversized pillow, her long green skirt spread around her like petals of a flower. Several conversations rose and fell around her, and she concentrated on keeping track of some of them. Although there were no formal seating arrangements, Hoshi noticed that the various branches of Phlox's family tended to stay with their immediate kin. The only exceptions seemed to be Phlox, Feezal, Feezal's daughters, and Zariel.

Zariel was quite a character, as Phlox had described her. Her blonde hair spilled over her shoulders in an elaborate hairstyle, her face done up with cosmetics, her dress decorated with more glitter and gold than Phlox's tunic. Zariel laughed as she entertained Travis and Johannes with stories about her theatrical career.

Hoshi grinned as she saw Zariel touch Travis shoulder in a friendly manner. The helmsman barely noticed the contact. Johannes didn't seem to mind Treesal's arm within his; in fact, Johannes shared a grin with Phlox's daughter as they listened to Zariel.

Are all Denobulan women so friendly? She wondered. Even if they weren't in mating season, they had no fear or shame around Human males. It wasn't a deliberate seduction, like what an Orion woman would do. It seemed to be from a genuine curiosity and friendliness.

"Lieutenant Sato-Reed? May I speak with you a moment?"

Hoshi turned to see another Denobulan female standing over her shoulder. This woman wore a black gown trimmed with gold and red, with a soft hood over her cranial ridges. Hoshi immediately identified her as one of the family members mourning their Matriarch, but couldn't remember her name.

"I am Yutis," she said, her voice quiet. "My parents are Azkiel and Kannik."

"Ah." So this was one of Azkiel's daughters, one of the two who were getting married soon. "Of course, Yutis." Hoshi followed Yutis to a relatively secluded corner of the room. Relatively was the relative term indeed; the room was so crowded, Hoshi was surprised that anyone could have a private conversation anywhere.

"Denobula has 12 million inhabitants on a single continent," Yutis said, as if reading her mind. "We are used to such crowded conditions. We learn to close our eyes and ears whenever necessary. It is a survival skill."

Hoshi nodded. "I can see that. What can I do for you, Yutis?"

"Like my second father, Phlox, I am curious about other people and cultures. I know that certain subjects are considered...private among Humans, but I wanted to ask you a question. You are married to the Armory Officer...how did that come about? Did your parents arrange a match?"

Hoshi smiled at the earnest expression on Yutis's face. "No, our parents didn't arrange it. Malcolm—Lieutenant Commander Reed—and I knew each other for years before we were married. In fact, we met when Enterprise launched on her first five-year mission. He was a lieutenant then, and I was an ensign. I suppose you can call us the most unlikely couple to get together."

"How so?"

"Well, his job was to defend the ship, and sometimes that involved using weaponry or force. My job was to translate and extend the hand of friendship to different cultures."

Yutis raised her eyebrows in surprise. "Yes, that seems an...unsuitable match, indeed."

"We have a saying that 'opposites attract'. It happened in this case."

"Denobulans have a similar saying, 'The moon attracts the sun and the sun attracts the moon'." Yutis managed a smile. "Phlox told me that you do not marry multiple mates."

"No, it isn't our practice, although other cultures, like yours, do."

"What would happen if you and your husband didn't desire each other anymore?"

Hoshi shrugged and tried not to think of such a thing happening. "If that happened, well, we'd probably go our separate ways."

Yutis's eyes widened and her mouth dropped, aghast at the concept. "Without support? Without other family members to help? That would be very lonely. I couldn't imagine being all by myself in that kind of situation."

She nodded and said, "Yes, it would be lonely. That's why we treasure our single marriage bond and make sure that doesn't happen. If it does, well, that's also why we have friends and colleagues to help us through the tough times."

A look of understanding passed across Yutis's face. "So you have a...substitute family, of sorts."

"Yes, I suppose you can call it that." Hoshi chuckled and added, "The Enterprise crew had become my family, since my own is so far away at the moment. It helps ease the loneliness."

"Do you consider Phlox part of your substitute family?"

She laughed and nodded. "Yes; your second-father reminds me of my grandfather sometimes. Always with a kind word and a laugh, and not hesitating to dispense his advice."

Yutis's laugh was dry. "Yes, the elder members of the family don't hesitate to make their opinions known on every subject in the universe. It's even worse when you decide to marry. My mother and second-mother want this color, that color, this flower, that flower, this music, that music, no animals and no alcoholic kassa. It's enough to drive a single woman mad!"

"My mother was just as fussy, Yutis. I think it's genetically programmed into all mothers to fuss over their daughter's wedding. Mother wanted a traditional Japanese wedding; Malcolm's mother wanted all the formal bells and whistles. We had to compromise over a lot of things. In the end, it was worth it."

Yutis inclined her head. "If Phlox is like a grandfather, then may I call you Sister? I would like that." She extended her hand, palm up to Hoshi.

"Thank you, Yutis. I would like that, too." Hoshi put her palm on Yutis's, sealing the adoption.

*****

"Mother, this is dangerous. I don't trust them, and now you allow my sister to adopt one of them into our branch of the clan?" Mettus Phlox's voice was a low hiss, unheard by anyone but Azkiel. The bright blue eyes flashed in anger, but Azkiel saw something else underneath the anger. Fear.

"Mettus, these aren't the Antarans," Azkiel reminded him firmly. "These Humans have been very accommodating to us, allowing us to have the ceremonies here so the family can be together. Please show some consideration. After all, you decided to come along, and as such, you must obey the rules of hospitality."

"Yes, Mother," he muttered under his breath.

"If you'd get your nose out of the Matriarch's old tomes, you'd find out that the universe is a much different place now than when she was young. Think of it—"her eyes flashed with black humor, for she knew exactly how to bait him—"as we become friends with other species, even family traditions may change."

Mettus hissed again, this time in annoyance. "Human adoptees? Human wives and husbands? That's as bad as the Antarans, Mother!"

"Open your mind, my son!" she admonished him, her tone still low and dangerous. "If you will not, at least be civil for your sisters' sake and for your father's sanity! I noticed that you haven't approached him yet for his blessing. Can you at least unbend enough to do that?"

"No," he replied simply. "Never."

Azkiel shook her head in dismay. Where did he inherit this stubbornness? She thought back over Mettus's childhood, as he sat at the Matriarch's feet and took every word she had said as gospel. Not for the first time, she cursed the old woman for poisoning her son's mind. And she cursed herself, for allowing it.

"What shall I ever do with you, my son?"

Mettus didn't answer, for uproarious laughter erupted from the center of the room. Zariel, Phlox, and Feezal was in the middle of a scene from "Zeret's Big Block". Somehow, they'd managed to rope Captain Archer and a dark-haired human—Azkiel recognized him as Hoshi Sato's mate, Malcolm Reed—into participating in the spontaneous drama. She raised her eyebrows as Archer made some kind of speech about "the noble and grace of the eagle in flight" and something concerning "gazelles and wild stallions", whatever they were.

After Archer's long-winded speech, Reed piped up, in a strange accent completely different from his own, "Tarnation, Cap'n! Herdin' them stallions are gonna be like herdin' cats. Or stubborn beagles! How're we gonna do that?" He rolled his eyes and with one hand on his heart said, "Perhaps we need t'ask Missus Zariel t'sing again and charm 'em all with her voice. What ya say, Cap'n?"

The Humans completely lost any sense of formal decorum and just about all fell over laughing. Even Hoshi Sato laughed until tears streamed from her eyes. Reed looked over at her and gave her a full-blown smile. Azkiel had the impression that he didn't smile like that very often, and if he did, it was reserved for his wife.

The sun attracts the moon, and the moon attracts the sun. She thought the saying fitted them both. Azkiel saw Phlox's grin at Zariel as he began singing in a deep bass voice, his "operatic tone", as he called it. Feezal clapped her hands to the beat and soon the entire audience followed suit. Azkiel didn't join in, for she was supposed to be in mourning, after all, but she did tap her foot, out of sight of Mettus and the others.

Mettus stayed stubbornly silent, while Yutis and her youngest daughter Opur watched from the fringes of the crowd. Azkiel noticed Yutis's fiancé Idmu had placed his hand on her arm, while Opur's fiancé Kiritan gripped her shoulder with white knuckles.

Azkiel blinked tears from her eyes. Where have I gone wrong?

*****

"Too bad Trip isn't here," Travis chortled, as the Enterprise crew gathered together after the impromptu entertainment. "Dinner and a show."

"You did a pretty good imitation of his accent, sir," Bernhard added, with a touch of surprise. Lailah, sitting next to him, looked suitably impressed. "I didn't know you could do impressions like that."

"It's not something I do often," Malcolm admitted. "When you're around Trip Tucker enough, you pick up a word or two."

"That was more than just a word," Jon Archer objected. "That was the intonation, the stress, everything. Even I was impressed."

Treezal chuckled and squeezed Johannes's arm. "If you and Bernhard use your accents enough around Zariel, she'll probably be able to reproduce it accurately. She's always interested in new techniques for her acting repertoire."

"A mimic?" Hoshi asked, her interest piqued. "I can help her with that."

Feezal sighed as she glanced at Phlox, who looked over at Mettus. His son sat with his back to the gathering; Phlox gave a silent sigh and turned his attention back to Feezal. "He'll come around, Phlox. Give him time."

"It's been ten years. I suppose his attitude has hardened even more that duracrete during that time."

"The Matriarch sheltered him, protected him. Now she isn't here to interfere." Feezal linked her arm through his. "The funeral will be tomorrow afternoon. After Mettus sees Shastia properly interred, perhaps he'll be more willing to listen."

He patted her hand. "I hope you're right, Beloved. I hope you're right."

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May 2012

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