trekwriter151: by <lj user="cedarrapidsgirl>" (malcolm hoshi)
[personal profile] trekwriter151
Three

Hoshi stood at the edge of the pavilion with a glass of golden syrup in her hand. The "rah(click)" beverage gleamed in the overhead lights. She gave it another cautious sip; it tasted somewhere between pineapple and cranberry, and Eee-yenia told her it was made with the purest ingredients. The sense of warm bliss uplifted her spirits. She hadn't felt this relaxed since...well, she couldn't remember.

High above her, the flickering colors of a nebula decorated the sky. The Iz(cluck)Yeen hated enclosed spaces, so their architecture reflected that need. The huge pavilion took up most of the summit of the mountain, with a transparent bubble roof that could be retracted at will. The guests flew from ground to a series of perches built directly into the mountain.

"Yaaahoooo!" Travis's joyous shout echoed as he hung on for dear life on the back of an Iz(Cluck)Yeen. Hoshi involuntarily ducked as they swept overhead in a turn that went into a barrel roll. Travis's bright orange fez tumbled from his head and fell straight down. She reached out and snagged it before it hit the pavilion.

Her mouth dropped open as a second Iz(Cluck)Yeen flew past with an ecstatic Jonathan Archer on its back. She had never seen the captain like this, as if he was a little boy up early for Christmas presents. She grinned and returned his wave as the Iz(Cluck)Yeen arced up and out of sight again.

There was a series of squawks from the assembled people, then a pair of Iz(Cluck)Yeen took to the skies just as enthusiastically. One of them picked Trip up, literally by the scruff of the neck, deposited him on its back, and launched into the skies. Trip yelled as he grabbed onto the Iz(Cluck)Yeen for dear life.

"Boys will be boys," Eee-yania commented from behind Hoshi. "Someone will need to make sure they do not break their necks."

"Bloody hell," Malcolm swore as skidded to a stop next to them. "What's got into them?"

Eee-yania swiveled her head around to give him an appraising look. "Will you accompany me, Shadow-dancer, to supervise their antics? I know you do not approve of their reckless maneuvers, and they unsettle your stomach, but I would be more at ease if there is a watchful eye among them."

He hesitated for the briefest of moments before he nodded. "Thank you, First Henn."

"Climb onto my back, Shadow-dancer. I will try to be mindful of your comfort." She helped him climb onto her back and with a powerful beat of her wings, followed the others.

Hoshi heard Eee-yania's voice in her head, I will be gentle with him, Star-searcher. His sense of honor and the need to protect those close to him override his potential wariness.

Thank you, Hoshi thought back. So the Iz(Cluck)Yeen were telepathic as well as empathic. They reminded her of the Betazoids, but less, well, sophisticated. No, not sophisticated...less pretentious.

"Indeed," T'Pol agreed. "They appear to be more complex than at first glance."

Hoshi turned to her in surprise. "Are you reading my mind, Commander?"

She didn't quite smile, but Hoshi felt her humor nevertheless. "No, but it seems that this environment enhances latent telepathic abilities. It is fascinating...but also unsettling."

"They seem to be quite perceptive and very accommodating to our needs."

"Yes." T'Pol's eyes took on a faraway look, as if she was seeing something that wasn't there. "Ensign, what is a 'roller coaster'?"

Hoshi blinked at the apparent non-sequitur. "A...'roller coaster'?"

She was silent for a minute, then said in an uncanny imitation of Trip's Southern accent, "This thing reminds me of a roller coaster...I just hope I don't upchuck what I just ate! The Cap'n and Travis are absolutely nuts!"

Hoshi's eyes widened at the words coming out of T'Pol's mouth. It sounded exactly like Trip, down to the accent and the cadence. She automatically reached for T'Pol's arm, but stopped when she remembered that Vulcans were touch-telepaths. Somehow, the Vulcan was mind-linked with Trip; Hoshi had heard that it was possible among Vulcans, but she'd never seen it to this degree.

"Commander?" she asked carefully, for she wasn't sure to whom she was addressing.

"Hosh? Hey, what're you doin' up here? I just saw Malcolm comin' up with the First Henn, so I guessed you might be right behind him. The Cap'n and Travis are showin' the younger ones some acrobatics. I've never seen the Cap'n so carefree before...it's pretty nice to see him not be so responsible once in a while. I'd better make sure he doesn't break his neck, so I'll check back with you later. Oh, and I'll be careful, t'hy'la, don't worry. Ssazh-clicky here won't let me do anything stupid."

T'Pol blinked rapidly, then staggered a step back. This time, Hoshi grabbed her arm before she ended up on the pavilion. "Commander? T'Pol? Are you all right?"

"I am...functional," T'Pol whispered. She took a deep breath, but still looked shaken. "In Surak's name..."

"What happened? Did Trip just talk...through you?"

"It appears that we were...mind-linked for a moment, entwined so deeply that I could not tell where one of us ended and the other began. I've never experienced such-" T'Pol broke off and stared at her hands. "It is quite unsettling."

Hoshi stared at her for a long moment. "We'd better get you some help."

"It took me unaware...I only need a moment to center myself, Ensign." T'Pol closed her eyes and allowed her breathing to become slow and even. Hoshi knew that the brief contact had shaken her more than she was willing to admit.

Another voice interrupted them. "She is distressed. Is there anything I can do to assist you?"

Hoshi turned to see a fiery red-orange peacock, with a plume as long as her arm. The bright golden eyes bore into her with all the force of a strong personality. She felt a sense of surprise and immediate contriteness, then the pressure eased, as if it had turned off a switch.

"Forgive me, I am Kawak-sssh(kuk), but you may just refer to me as Kawak. I am the equivalent of a mind-Healer. I suspected that some of you may share our ability to sense, but not to such degree." Kawak gave T'Pol a look, then nodded as if in silent agreement and left her alone. "Unexpected contact can cause damage to the mind, but it appears your friend is recovering by employing techniques, with which I am not familiar."

Hoshi nodded. Kawak reminded her strongly of Phlox, both in speech and temperament. "Her people are more sensitive to empathy and telepathy, Kawak, and have procedures in place to protect themselves."

He inclined his head in curiosity. "You are also sensitive to such things, yet you two look nothing alike."

She shrugged. "The talent is variable among my people. Some of us don't have it at all, and others are more attuned."

"Ah, so it varies among individuals, just like our people." Kawak turned back to T'Pol with a slight frown. "Her dak-shek...he must have some talent as well, but no training. That is dangerous, especially when incidents like this occur. Such strong personalities must learn to keep themselves in check, for their dak-shek's sake."

Hoshi shivered, despite herself. "Dak-shek?"

Kawak's eyes didn't leave T'Pol, who was still deep within meditation. "Her...I suppose it would translate as mind-mate in your language. Among our people, such bonds are common, and we mate for life. The dak-shek-tukk can be wondrous, but harrowing at the same time. It runs so deep that when one dies, the other does as well."

"Like a mind bond?" she carefully asked.

"Indeed. Our very environment strengthens and enhances it." Kawak was silent for a moment. "In times of danger, one mind-mate can lend their abilities, emotions, thoughts to the other in assistance. But that is risky...it can damage the mind beyond repair. Which is why I am concerned about her, and her dak-shek. If she is affected so deeply by him, and him by her...it may prove disastrous to both."

T'Pol finally opened her eyes, her features serene. "I have erected my mental shielding, Kawak, and such incidents should not happen again. His presence took me by surprise; I will be more prepared this time."

Kawak didn't seem convinced. "If you would permit me...?"

T'Pol hesitated for a moment, then replied, "Proceed."

Neither touched the other, but Hoshi could feel the whisper of currents between them, like the slightest of summer breezes. Less than a minute later, Kawak nodded in approval. "Very good. If you require any help in shoring up your mental defenses, please ask me. I wish to serve."

"Thank you, Kawak. I will keep the offer under consideration." T'Pol glanced at Hoshi, and added, "When Trip and the others return, it will be prudent to warn them of this. Kawak is correct in saying that most Humans have no training in mind defense. Perhaps such training would be wise before others visit the Iz(Cluck)Yeen."

Hoshi nodded; it sounded reasonable. "Good precaution, Commander. It would prevent more problems."

Kawak relaxed his feathers and folded them out of the way. "I am glad we are in agreement here. Ah-I believe your intrepid flyers are returning to the nest."

The sound of wings beating the air punctuated his statement. Hoshi glanced up to see several Iz(Cluck)Yeen gliding in for a landing on the pavilion. The grassy moss cushioned the impact as they skidded to a stop. Travis clambered down from the Iz(Cluck)Yeen's back and was immediately surrounded by several younger members of their group. The youngsters squawked and clicked excitedly about the flight; two of them danced around in glee. Hoshi couldn't help but smile at their antics.

"Children," Kawak said with a touch of humor. "They see the good in everything and everyone."

Travis laughed and scratched the jowls of a blue-green Iz(Cluck)Yeen. "You'll have to teach me that move. I've never seen someone stop in mid-air for a second, then change direction ninety degrees. That takes skill. I think Captain Archer was impressed."

As if summoned, Archer and a second wave of fliers landed nearby, followed by Trip and another clutch, and finally Malcolm, Eee-yania and a fourth group. Archer slid down, nearly bounced off the feet when he hit the moss, and grabbed the nearest Iz(Cluck)Yeen for balance. Trip wasted no time disembarking from his and made his way towards Hoshi and T'Pol. He gave Hoshi a look of surprise, as if he hadn't expected to see her back on the ground so soon, then he brought his attention back to T'Pol.

"T'Pol, you all right? I had the weirdest thing happen to me up there-"

Several of the Iz(Cluck)Yeen hissed and placed themselves between Trip and T'Pol. Their eyes blazed with anger and their claws upraised in an offensive posture. Trip, startled, took a step backward and raised his own hands. Malcolm reached for the knife at his side, but the nearest Iz(Cluck)Yeen pecked him on the arm. He swore vehemently and dropped the knife, which bounced and rolled out of reach.

Hoshi winced in sympathy as she felt a stab of pain through her right arm. "No, wait! It's all right!" she shouted.

T'Pol looked up at the biggest Iz(Cluck)Yeen in her way and said in a firm tone, "He is my Dak-shek. Scan our dak-shek-tukk, if you wish. You will see it is true. You cannot keep me from him." She looked around and met the hostile gazes all around her. "None of you will keep me from him."

"Hoshi," Archer said in a low voice. "What the hell's going on?"

"It's complicated, sir," she replied, "but apparently, Trip and T'Pol have a mind bond between them that's enhanced by the Iz(Cluck)Yeen's presence. Something happened while you were flying...and now they're concerned Trip will harm her."

"Commander Tucker would never harm Commander T'Pol," Travis said, his eyes widening in disbelief.

"No, he wouldn't. We know that, but they don't." Hoshi took a deep breath as the tension around them became almost too much to bear. Then it lifted slightly, like a heavy velvet curtain, and allowed her to breathe again.

"Hoshi?" Malcolm asked hoarsely. He reached for her with his good left hand and just like that, she felt his concern and dread, held back behind a tightly constructed wall. She understood why he kept those feeling locked away, for if he allowed them loose, they would rage out of control, like a forest fire.

The Shadow-dancer has the power to hurt as well to heal. Suddenly, Eee-yania's words made perfect sense. Hoshi accepted Malcolm's hand and thought directly at the Iz(Cluck)Yeen: Yaak-klak(click)squaa-squaa-dak-shek-tukk. Ne-hek-nak-(cluck)-ik-ikkak.

Kawak reared his head and produced a two-toned screech that cowed all the Iz(Cluck)Yeen present, except for Eee-yania. The First Henn opened her beak and produced a set of tones that burst into a full-fledged song. The dulcet sound struck Hoshi like a physical blow; she stumbled and found herself sitting on the mossy ground, with Malcolm's arms around her, supporting her.

"Wow," Travis breathed, and the captain could only nod in response.

And bright colors erupted from all around them, and flowed over the pavilion.

Four

Hoshi blinked as she found herself back on the Enterprise. She stood on the opposite side of the Bridge from the comm station, close to the engineering screens. It was quiet, with the lights dimmed for the Gamma shift. What's going on?

"Ensign? Ensign Sato?"

She opened her mouth to respond, then to her shock, she saw herself at the comm station, the transtator in her ear, eyes closed in concentration. Hoshi remembered this from her memories. It was shortly after Enterprise had launched from Spacedock on their maiden voyage. They were bringing Klaang back home to Qo'noS. She had spent time with Klaang, learning his language; now she was transcribing it to the Universal Translator...

"Ensign Sato."

Past Hoshi's eyes snapped open at the strident tone. Her eyes narrowed in irritation as she turned to address the speaker. "I'm concentrating on a Klingon translation, Lieutenant. The captain wants this done by morning."

"Forgive the interruption, Ensign, but we agreed to speak about your visits with Klaang. I'm concerned for your safety." Malcolm Reed leaned against the railing next to her station, his mouth set in a thin line. "I'd feel better if there was an extra guard during your language sessions."

She raised her eyebrows at him. "Lieutenant, you've already assigned two of your Security people to him. Nothing has happened so far-"

"It's the 'so far' that worries me, Ensign. He's a Klingon."

"Yes, he is, and the captain considers him a temporary guest, not a prisoner of war." She managed to keep her tone low and even. He's only doing his job, Hoshi. Everyone's safety is his priority.

"True, but I'd rather be safe than sorry." He crossed his arms in a mannerism that Present Hoshi now knew very well. "We're still several days away and there's no telling what might happen."

Past Hoshi sighed and resisted the urge to roll her eyes. Yes, he was Head of Security, but she had never seen someone so paranoid. Captain Archer had confidence in this man's ability, so that had to count for something. Never mind that he was so a smug, condescending, stubborn pain-in-the... hmmm...he did have a really nice...She stopped herself. Don't go there, Hoshi.

She gave him his best 'teacher look', but he didn't seem intimidated by it. For the first time, she noticed the color of his eyes: blue with a hint of gray, the color of icy seawater. Hoshi thought it was rather appropriate; his personality was the exact opposite of hers: closed in, reserved, hidden. Malcolm Reed acted more like a Vulcan than Sub-Commander T'Pol. It should have repulsed her, but instead, she found it oddly fascinating.

"I would feel better, if there was an extra person to watch over you, Lieutenant, since I can't do it myself."

Hoshi held his gaze for a heartbeat longer, then gave him a reluctant nod. "Fine, but our previous agreement stands, Lieutenant. I don't tolerate interruptions during my language tutoring sessions. I don't care if it's Vulcan or Klingon. Unless Klaang's actions become a threat, they're to watch, not to interfere."

He didn't look happy about that, but he relaxed slightly at her words. "Agreed, Ensign. Thank you."

"Lieutenant." Her tone indicated that the conversation was finished, and she turned back towards her station and replayed Klaang's recording again. Past Hoshi didn't notice Malcolm's expression of relief as he turned to go back to Tactical. He paused once to glance over his shoulder at her, shook his head, and sat back down.

Present Hoshi stared at Past Malcolm for a long moment. Now that she was an observer, she realized he was more concerned than was obvious. Yes, he needed to make sure Captain Archer's translator survived through this first mission. Yes, Klaang was a 'temporary guest' who could probably flatten the translator without much effort. Malcolm had taken the extra time to talk to her about his concerns.

He gazed at her from across the Bridge, and she was struck by the intensity of that gaze. With a start, she realized that had been how it all started for him. As Present Hoshi watched, her past self seemed to sense someone watching her, but just before she looked up, Malcolm brought his attention back to the schematics at his station. Present Hoshi stifled a smile at the covert vigil.

But why had she been brought here to this particular point in time? To show her the exact moment when Malcolm had noticed her? Hoshi recalled how intimidated she was of him during those first few months, how she felt clumsy, how she doubted she could live up to his exacting standards. Then they had been trapped on that sinking Klingon cruiser, and she'd seen the look Malcolm had given her when she'd suggested they fire all the torpedoes. And the time in Decon afterwards, sitting next to him...the blood rushed to Hoshi's face.

Admit it, Hoshi, if T'Pol hadn't been in Decon with us at the time... A clucking sound came from next to her and she turned to see Eee-yania.

"Zzzhah-sak-(click)-chuck-dashek-caw," the First Henn said. "Squawk." Hoshi translated the words in her mind. He realized that you were his dashek. Beginning.That last 'squawk' had a falling tone, which usually meant "a beginning, a start", or could be used as a greeting, like "Hello. This is the start of our acquaintance."

Hello, friend. Hello, lover. Hoshi's mouth twitched, then she laughed softly. "I understand, Eee-yania."

"Good."

The scene changed to other bits and pieces of their journey on Enterprise: the gelatinous creature that had held Archer and Trip prisoner, and she and Malcolm arguing on how to resolve the situation. Her search for Malcolm's favorite food for his birthday. Their harrowing time in the Romulan minefield, when the mine's blast slammed her to the deck.

"Any casualty reports?"

"Figures are coming in, sir. Seventeen so far, including Hoshi. No fatalities."

He hadn't even noticed one critical word. He had referred to her by Hoshi, not 'Ensign Sato'. Captain Archer either didn't hear it or didn't care; as Archer watched her leave the Bridge on a gurney, she saw Malcolm's tightly controlled expression behind him. Malcolm's face gave nothing away, but his eyes reflected something dangerous.

And a quiet voice over Hoshi's shoulder said, "I could have lost you that day, Hoshi."

Hoshi turned her head and met a pair of stormy gray-blue eyes. She managed a smile and replied gently, "And you had your leg speared by another Romulan mine."

Malcolm chuckled and placed a hand on her shoulder. "It was a bad day for both of us, I think."

Eee-yania nodded gravely. "It is good that you have found us, Shadow-dancer."

"Why are we reliving our memories?"

The Iz(Cluck)Yeen inclined her head at his question and replied, "One way to validate a bond in our culture is to pinpoint the times when it began and how it has strengthened through time."

"So...we're basically proving why we should be together?" Hoshi asked. "Shouldn't that be obvious?"

Eee-yania cawed in dry humor. "Sometimes, yes, sometimes no. The closest bonds are forged in times of trouble, and the ones involved may not have been aware of it at the time."

And their surroundings melted again...

It was Hoshi's turn to worry when Malcolm and Archer had been slated for execution on that pre-warp planet. They're going to be hanged in the morning. Hoshi stubbornly stayed at her post and forced herself to listen to the news reports. As the hours counted down till dawn, she blocked out the grim visions in her mind. The captain and Malcolm, standing on the gallows...

"Tucker to Enterprise. We've got 'em and we're comin' back."

Cheers rang out over the Bridge and she sagged in her chair in pure relief. It took her a moment to recover enough to answer Trip's hail; his Southern drawl was more pronounced than usual. That told her the rescue had been closer than Trip admitted.

"Acknowledged, Commander Tucker. Enterprise, out." She couldn't wait until they had returned, safe and sound.

The time she'd been trapped in the transporter for eight critical seconds. It had been Malcolm's voice she had heard, bringing her back to reality. "Come on, Hoshi. You can do it. It's as easy as one, two, three." She felt his desperation as he worked the controls; Trip next to him, assisting Malcolm as much as he could. Then the utter relief to see her on the platform; he was so overcome with that relief that he needed a moment to regain his equilibrium. By the time he managed to lock his feelings away again, Trip was there in the hall, trying to reassure her there was no bomb aboard Enterprise...

"Why hide your feelings for her, Shadow-dancer?" Eee-yania asked him.

"Truthfully? Regulations aside...I was afraid. Afraid of breaking her heart and having mine broken in turn," Malcolm answered, just as softly. "I couldn't risk it."

"Sometimes the risk is worth the outcome, Shadow-dancer," Eee-yania whispered, "and you and Star-singer aren't the only ones who began with misunderstanding."

Eee-yania waved her wings and a spicy perfume surrounded them.

Hoshi found herself in the Captain's Ready Room, again an observer. T'Pol and Trip Tucker stood a mere ten meters away from them...a past T'Pol and Trip. Hoshi watched as Trip offered her a handshake in welcome, and T'Pol refused to shake his hand. Hoshi blinked; she had never known about that.

"They had a...rocky start," Malcolm murmured. "Not surprising."

Eee-yania croaked with sarcasm. "Vulcans are touch-telepaths, much like my people. He had no way of knowing that. His offer of friendship was only out of politeness, but she, too, had a lot to learn."

"T'Pol and I didn't get along at first, either. I actually cursed at her during our first mission." Hoshi flushed crimson in embarrassment.

"And now?" Eee-yania's tone was one of curiosity.

"We have an understanding. You find out things about people when you live in close quarters on a ship for five years."

Eee-yania nodded sagely. "And those ties bind you and strengthen you...and give you courage, before it is too late..."

The Xindi attack. Hoshi stood next to Malcolm and Trip at the Florida trench. Her throat closed at the sight of the burned, blackened earth. She experienced Malcolm's shock and helplessness as he stood by, unable to give comfort to his best friend. Hoshi's heart cried out for them both.

Lizzie Tucker's death had devastated Trip. He had isolated himself from everyone during that time, driven by anger and revenge. He had pushed everyone away, Hoshi and Malcolm included. They saw how T'Pol had brought him out of his self-imposed cage and forced him to admit his grief and how they had become close after that...

"We do foolish things in the midst of grief," Eee-yania commented. "We hurt those who try to help us see the light."

Hoshi raised an eyebrow at her. "'The spear in your heart is the spear within your own. You are he'," she quoted Surak.

"Yes. Very much so," Eee-yania replied. "And not only Soul-searcher and Heart-warmer..."

Hoshi saw herself and Tarquin, the telepath in the Expanse, through Malcolm's eyes. He hated to leave her there, alone, and forced himself to leave with Captain Archer in the shuttlepod. And when she had been kidnapped by the Xindi, Malcolm had been on that mission to the Xindi Sphere. Losing Corporal Hawkins hit him hard; finding out the Xindi had snatched Hoshi right off the Bridge infuriated him. He knew that if he'd been there, it wouldn't have made a difference. Maybe. He wanted to lead the rescue team, but Major Hayes rightly pointed out that his place was on the Bridge.

And if he'd gone instead, he would have died instead of Hayes. Hoshi gripped his hand as she saw herself, sick from the mind parasites, doing her duty, no matter what. She felt a surge of pride through the worry, pride that how much she'd matured since that first day.

And it went on. Memory after memory, all the little clues that Hoshi had missed, over the period of five years. Like her and Malcolm, Trip and T'Pol gradually grew closer together. Even after T'Pol had married-and divorced-Koss, and even after Trip left-and returned-from Columbia. Eee-yania whistled and bobbed her head in approval.

Both Hoshi and Trip were more empathic, more emotional. Malcolm and T'Pol shared personality traits too: quiet, more reserved. Opposites attract, Hoshi thought.

Eee-yania made a thoughtful noise. "Indeed," she replied. "He is the 'Heart-warmer', who thaws the iciest surface. She is the 'Soul-searcher', who seeks the truth, and the missing part of her psyche. I believe she may have found it in him. They complement each other, in the truest sense of dashek."

Hoshi nodded in agreement, but her next words brought back the worry "It does not preclude the danger that he poses to her, unless he learns how to control his wild talent."

"True. T'Pol's people do have certain exercises and protocols they use-"

"He is not of her people."

"No," Hoshi admitted with a chuckle, "but one trait of my people is that we can learn and we can adapt. It may take us some time, but it can be done."

Eee-yania rumbled in agreement. "Spoken like a true teacher, and he seems more adaptable than most. As long as they he is willing to learn, and she is willing to teach."

Suddenly, they heard a distinct Southern accent on the wind. "If you Iz-Clucky people can read minds and feelings, feel free to rummage through mine, if it'll prove to you how much I care about her!"

Then Kawak the Healer replied, "You would be willing to risk your existence to prove this point?"

"Didn't I just say I would? Go ahead, see for yourselves." Trip's tone trembled a little, but he remained firm. "I'm not afraid of you."

Hoshi gasped as she felt the heavy curtain bear down on her once more, but Malcolm squeezed her hand to reassure her she was not alone. Trip and T'Pol will need our support, love. Don't just tell them about how they belong together...show them!

And together, with all the full force of the combined memories and experiences, they bolstered Trip's strength, and T'Pol's as well. Hoshi felt their surprise, but T'Pol welcomed their efforts. It lasted only a few seconds, but those few seconds were enough. Words were fine, but the Iz(Cluck)Yeen wanted action as proof.

And abruptly, Hoshi found herself sitting on the green moss of the pavilion, leaning heavily against Captain Archer. "What-?"

"Hoshi, are you all right? You nearly fainted. What happened?" Archer's urgent gaze bore into her eyes, as she felt the raw edges of his concern. Not only as her captain, but also as her friend.

"T'Pol? Trip? Malcolm?" Her voice scraped her throat raw, as if she'd been screaming at the top of her lungs for hours. She drew her attention to Malcolm, who sat nearby, looking as stunned as she did. Travis had a hand on his shoulder for support.

Eee-yania towered over her people and announced, "Aak-klak(click)squaa-squaa-dak-shek-tukk. Ne-hek-nak-(cluck)-ik-ikkak. We have all witnessed and confirmed their dak-shek-tukk, the mind bond. No one can separate them now." She swiveled her head around to glance at Malcolm, then Hoshi. "We have two bonded pairs, and in the tradition of our people, they are our brothers and sisters. Do not hinder them!"

The Iz(Cluck)Yeen burst in songs of happy jubilation. The ones who blocked Trip's way quickly stepped aside, and didn't interfere when he reached T'Pol's side. He enfolded her in a brief hug and whispered something into her ear. Hoshi was too far away to hear the words, but T'Pol nodded in obvious relief.

"We missed something," Travis grumbled. "It took all of two or three minutes, but we missed something."

Archer didn't quite roll his eyes. "You weren't the only one who missed something."

"Sorry, Captain," Malcolm said as he made his way to them with a confused Travis in tow. He smiled and put a hand on Hoshi's shoulder. "It seems that the Iz(Cluck)Yeen are now convinced Commander Tucker will do Commander T'Pol no harm."

Archer didn't look too convinced, but he said, "As long as they keep believing that-"

A ring of younger Iz(Cluck)Yeen circled them and began pulling Travis aside. They chattered at him at high-speed, but he raised his hands to stop them. "What? Slow down. I don't understand a word you guys are saying." He glanced over at Hoshi. "What are they saying?"

Hoshi blushed, then smiled at Malcolm. "Apparently, this has turned into more than just a First Contact party. They want to throw us some sort of wedding reception."

Malcolm's jaw went slack. "What?"

Archer and Travis looked at each other, then burst out laughing.

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May 2012

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