Note: Based on a challenge from Hannah Moonmoth, where Archer and Reed go on a dangerous away mission during which it's imperative that no one knows their ranks, and they have to use each other's first names.
Disclaimer: Yeah, yeah, yeah, etc. All in fun, no profit.
"In honour of the completion of this sale, you will stay, partake in the Kwarmathonsis, yes?" the shopkeeper, Cratera, said happily, slapping his palms down on his shop counter as he smiled at Reed and Archer with satisfaction, his deep violet eyes twinkling merrily.
Archer looked at Reed, seeing his own wariness reflected in the other man's now-lilac eyes. Although he knew that they'd been lucky to find someone willing to trade with them, and they should be careful to show their gratitude, he also knew that, the less time they spent on this planet, the less likely they were to be revealed as off-worlders. And besides, the contacts they were wearing to change their eye colour, help them blend in with the locals, were starting to bother him.
"I'm sorry," Archer said. "We really need to be going…"
Cratera leaned back slightly, looking at Archer oddly. "How can you even think of leaving without the Kwarmathonsis?" he asked, puzzled. "That would be rude."
"I'm sorry, I…" Archer said.
"Come on, you know that it's traditional, seals the deal," Cratera interrupted. He glanced from Archer, to Reed, then back to the Captain. "Actually," he said hesitantly, looking Archer up and down. "I think I see the problem - you're kind of old for this sort of thing, yes?" He turned to Reed, smiling again. "And at least one of you should stay sober, eh?"
Archer looked to Reed, seeing alarm in the other man's eyes as the shopkeeper bent down behind the counter, then stood, placing a small package on its surface. He fiddled with the wrapper, trying to get it open. "Only the finest," he said, raising his eyebrows, then smiled, an amused glint in his eye as he finally opened the package to reveal a small, dark-brown cake.
Archer looked at Reed, who raised one eyebrow.
"What is it?" Archer asked, his eyes moving warily from the cake, to the shopkeeper.
"Don't you recognise it? It's Kwarma, of course." Cratera looked at Archer like he was from Mars. Or a complete idiot. "Just how old are you?"
Archer nodded. "Oh, sorry." He grinned what he hoped was a winning smile. "It's been a while, is all."
The shopkeeper nodded, then turned his gaze to Reed. "Like I said, he's kind of old for this sort of thing." He slid the cake towards Reed. "Go on, you first. You know the drill."
Reed nodded and reached forward, breaking off a small piece.
The shopkeeper smiled and took a small piece for himself. "Cheers," he said, raising the morsel slightly, placing it in his mouth.
Reed raised his own piece. "Cheers," he said. Then he glanced towards Archer, shrugged, and popped the cake into his mouth.
"So then the man said, and I quote: 'Are you a Blehuana, or are you just glad to see me?'" Cratera said with a broad smile.
Reed, sitting on the edge of his chair, started laughing so hard that he slid off, landing on the floor with a muffled 'thud'. Seeming to realise what had happened, he stopped laughing for a moment and glanced at Archer, who was seated nearby.
Archer gave Reed a pained smile.
Reed grinned wildly. He turned his eyes back to the shopkeeper and started laughing again.
Cratera stood abruptly, wavering slightly. "Excuse me, gentlemen." He strode unsteadily to a door at the back of the room, turning back before he left. "Feel free to have some more Kwarma while I'm gone."
Reed nodded and leaned forward, taking another small piece of the cake and popping it into his mouth, chewing slowly with a satisfied smile. He closed his eyes and allowed his head to roll back onto the edge of the chair behind him, exhaling with a loud sigh.
Archer leaned forward in his seat. "Malcolm?" He glanced at the doorway through which Cratera had disappeared, then back to Reed.
Reed's eyes snapped open, and he pulled his head back up with some difficulty. Seeing the concern on Archer's face, he started laughing again, clapping his hands together twice in his joy.
Archer stood and moved to Reed's side, squatting and bringing his face level with Malcolm's, whose laughter subsided to the occasional snicker. "Are you okay?" he asked, taking in Reed's reddened eyes, and the lack of focus in his gaze.
"I'm great, Captain," Reed mumbled around his mouthful, trying to stifle a giggle. "This stuff is brilliant."
Archer interrupted. "Malcolm, we're supposed to be brothers," he said in a whisper as he looked at the other man with a worried smile. "I don't think it would do for you to be heard calling me 'captain'."
Reed looked at him with confusion, the intoxicant in the cake obviously affecting his ability to think clearly. "What should I call you, then, sir?"
"Jon," Archer whispered. "And don't call me 'sir'."
Malcolm nodded. "Sorry, si…um, Jon." He snickered. "Jon, Jon, Jon…" he began repeating in a sing-song, a broad grin creasing his face.
Cratera stepped back into the room, a small box cradled in one arm, and Archer stood. "I'm sorry, gentlemen, but it's getting late, and I have a family dinner to attend." He walked toward them, holding out the box. "Here's your solenoid."
Reed used the chair to push himself to standing as Archer accepted the box, tucking it inside the bag he'd brought. "Thank you, Cratera," Archer said with a slight smile as Reed wavered beside him. Archer reached out a quick hand to steady him.
"Thanks," Reed said happily, grinning madly. "Fabulous time, absolutely brill."
"You are welcome," Cratera replied, guiding them towards the main door. "Perhaps we can do business again sometime."
Reed nodded with enthusiasm as Archer helped him through the exit. "Please. That would be lovely."
"Good night," Cratera said, smiling gently as he closed the door behind them.
Reed slumped against the shop's wall, and Archer turned to face him in the dark alley. "Can you walk, Malcolm?" he asked, concerned.
Reed nodded, smiling as he pushed himself away from the door. "Certainly, si…um, Jon." He took an unsteady step forward, then paused, trying to find his footing, his body weaving slightly as he stood. He laughed and reached one hand out to the wall, resting his fingertips against its surface. "Right," he said firmly.
Archer stepped to his side and wrapped one arm around Reed's back, holding him close, trying to steady him. "Come on, Malcolm. We just have to make it back to the shuttle."
Reed peered up at him from under his lashes, his eyes blinking languidly. "This has been a lovely night, Jon."
Archer smiled down at the inebriated man. "Let's go, Malcolm," he said softly, gently nudging the man along as he guided him down the alley.