Note: This has become a combination of Drown Malcolm month (November!) and an EntFicathon challenge for CassieValentine, as follows:

Story 1: Trip/Sato, planet, desperate situation. Angst/hot lovin's always welcome.
Story 2: Porthos. He's cute, fun and under used. You can throw the crew in too.

I took the following elements: angst, desperate situation, Porthos, the crew. Oddly, it ended up being mostly Hoshi and Malcolm, so I added a splash of "Drown Malcolm" in honor of November. It's not shippy at all.

I hope CassieValentine likes it, 'cuz it ain't what she'd asked for, but sometimes inspiration takes you, and you're helpless but to follow where it leads.

Beta: SueC.

Warnings: None

Disclaimer: I don't own it, I make no money from it. Not written for profit, simply for pleasure.

x-x

"I just feel bad," Hoshi said as she stepped into the shuttle, Porthos' leash looped lightly through her fingers. The dog jumped up onto the bench along the wall and she unclipped his leash, reaching down to give him a pat on the head.

"Why?" Tucker asked from the pilot's chair, his back to her as he readied the shuttle for takeoff. "The Captain's probably already up on Enterprisem Wilcou leaders in tow. Whatever the misunderstanding was, he'll figure it out. It'll be fine."

"Yeah, so long as we leave, 'Or else'," Hoshi replied with a wince, remembering the sudden change in the atmosphere of the meeting and the Wilcou's demands that they depart immediately.

Reed brushed past her on his way to the co-pilot's seat, and she turned to a nearby compartment to see if the doggie treats she'd stashed away were still there. "Things were going so well until the end," she said half to herself as she rummaged in the compartment. She found the small bag and took out one treat. "Sit, boy," she said to the eager dog, who promptly lay down on the bench. "Good enough." She smiled and popped the treat into his mouth.

She moved to the shuttle's open hatch and reached out to close it. "I'm not sure what happened," she said in Tucker's direction. "I think it was something in the translation - Damn it," she muttered as Porthos whipped past her and ran down the ramp. "Porthos!" she shouted, watching the dog sprint across the small field to a nearby bush.

"I'll get him," Reed said, moving to her side. Before she could object, he stepped out of the shuttle and walked to the end of the ramp. He called out to the dog, who ignored him, now sniffing the grass.

Reed turned to her with a frown. "Do you have any more of those treats?" he asked just as Porthos sped between his legs, up the ramp and past her into the shuttle.

Hoshi raised one eyebrow. "Well done, sir," she said with a smile.

"Right," Reed said. He returned her grin and strode back up the ramp.

As he reached the door, Hoshi heard a muffled "flump-flump-flump," three sounds in quick succession. A projectile of some sort sped past the lieutenant's right arm, hitting the wall behind her with a clatter, and she started in shock. The second one hit his shoulder, pushing him forward a bit and spinning him around, facing out the door.

Hoshi froze, staring at Reed. Where was the third one? she thought. She'd heard three, she was sure of it. When Reed didn't move, she stepped to his side. "Lieutenant?" she asked in a small voice.

Reed turned in her direction. She saw a look of surprise on his face, of shock more than anything, and he lifted a hand to his stomach. She watched as blood began to flow between his fingers.

x-x

"That would be acceptable," Merva, the leader of the Wilcou, said. Her image smiled at them from the screen at the front of the bridge, her brow ridges rising high in pleasure. Hoshi watched in fascination as she quirked an antenna. "We would like to invite members of each Enterprise species," she said, looking down at a device in her hand. "Vul-Can. Hu-Man. Deno-Bulan. Ca-Nine."

Archer smiled. "Phlox, the Denobulan, is our doctor. T'Pol..." he waved at the Vulcan beside him. "...is my first officer. Unfortunately, both must remain with our ship. As for the canine..."

Hoshi moved a hand to her face to hide her grin. She exchanged a quick glance with Reed, who hid his own expression by staring down at his station.

"His name is Porthos. He's my pet."

Merva's smile broadened further. "Our cultures share much. Animal companions are an important part of our society. In fact, I also have a pet, a wrole. I would very much like to meet your Porthos."

"Then I will bring him," Archer said.

"Excellent!" Merva said. "I am excited to meet your Ca-Nine. See you soon."

Archer nodded, and Hoshi cut the transmission.

"Interesting," Tucker said from his position at his station.

"Yes, Trip?" Archer asked, turning to him.

Tucker stared directly at T'Pol. "Seems the Wilcou would rather meet the captain's dog than his first officer."

T'Pol turned to Tucker and raised one eyebrow.

x-x

Hoshi grabbed Reed, pulling him inside just as another projectile flew past her face and embedded itself in the shuttle wall behind her. Tucker was beside her in an instant, pulling the door closed in a rush.

Tucker helped her lay Reed on the floor of the shuttle, and she checked his body for injuries. She saw the small wound in his shoulder, the blood circling it beginning to be absorbed by his uniform. She turned to the wound in his stomach, grimacing as she put her own hand firmly over his, trying to staunch flow of blood that was coming over and between his fingers. Tucker, beside her, handed her a wad of bandages from the medkit he must have grabbed. She took them in her free hand.

"Move your hand," she said to Reed, surprised to find her voice so calm. He didn't move, so she bent down close to his face. She could see the fear in his eyes. "Let go, Lieutenant," she said gently, lifting his hand. She slid the bandages into place, then pressed his hand, under her own, back down on top of them.

Tucker stood and moved to the front of the shuttle. She heard him comm. Enterprise, and felt the ship shift and move as it began its flight.

Hoshi took the scanner from the medkit that Tucker had left beside her and began to scan Reed, but she could tell just from looking at him that he was in trouble - he was pale, and when she touched his forehead, his skin was clammy. She put down the device and sat there, staring at his profile as he lay with his eyes focused on the ceiling, his breath coming harsh and rapid under her hand.

She knew that there wasn't much she could do against the internal bleeding. She knew that all they could do was get him to Phlox. And she knew that all this was her damn fault: her fault for letting that stupid dog slip by her, her fault for not understanding the language well enough to -

Malcolm coughed, bringing her back to the moment. She could see that his eyes seemed less focused now, and there was blood trickling from the corner of his mouth. She forced herself to look away and felt the fear take hold of her. He can't die. He can't. After four years, he couldn't die now.

It would be her fault. If he died, it would be her fault.

She switched out the bandages, pressing down harder and eliciting a groan from the injured man.

"Sorry, Malcolm," she said under her breath, and her eyes met his. She couldn't call him "Lieutenant" now, or "Reed". Those were too impersonal. His blood was all over her hands. His life was her responsibility. His death would be, too. Her fault.

She watched as his eyes drifted shut. "No," she said harshly, shaking him slightly. His eyes flashed open. "Stay with me," she said as his eyes locked on hers.

She started babbling, trying to talk about anything, to keep him focused and awake. "Tomorrow's ethnic food day at lunch," she said, her voice shaking as she felt his eyes burn into hers. "Everyone's bringing in a dish. I was thinking about bringing in something Japanese. Do you like Sushi?" She paused a second. "How about ramen? Maybe I'll make ramen, easy enough to make. None of that instant stuff, though. Homemade." His eyes began drifting closed again, so she said, "Malcolm!" with force. She whispered, "Stay with me."

Malcolm's gaze on her, she kept talking. "Were you planning to bring something?" She gave him a shaky smile. "I'm not even sure what foods are British. I mean, what would you bring? Salt and vinegar crisps? Haggis? No, wait, that's Scottish." Hoshi winced, then said, "Not that Scotland isn't - sorry. Cadbury's chocolate? That's pretty good stuff. Maybe one of those Dairy Milk bars. Or something from Malaysia..."

Hoshi let herself ramble on, conscious all the time of Malcolm's eyes on her, his hand under hers, his blood welling up and wetting his uniform, covering the skin of her hand.

She felt the shuttle dock, but she kept her eyes on Malcolm's, moving aside only when Phlox arrived. She watched as they worked, her eyes locked with Malcolm's even as they wheeled him away, Tucker following close behind.

She heard a whine beside her. She looked down and saw Porthos staring up at her balefully. "Hey, boy," she said quietly, reaching out a hand to pet him. She pulled back in horror - her hand was crusted in blood. Quickly, she pulled several antiseptic wipes from the medkit and began to wipe her hands clean.

x-x

Hoshi's hands moved mechanically as she chopped the garlic for the base of her miso ramen. The oil crackled merrily as she slid the garlic into the pan, her hand stirring automatically as the garlic released its fragrance into her quarters. Finally, she added the miso paste, soy and chilli peppers, stirring slowly as they cooked.

She watched her hand move as it stirred. Her hands were clean now - that had taken some time. She rubbed a finger against the handle of the pan, remembering the sticky feel of his blood, his blood which had gotten under her nails, had stained her palms. If she thought about it too much, she could still feel his blood flowing across her fingers and smell its metallic scent. She gave the base one final, frustrated stir.

She turned the heat off the pan and stopped, frozen, as it all clicked into place. What had happened with the Wilcou - it was a mistranslation, as she'd suspected, but it didn't stop there. She sat heavily on her bed, her soup now ignored. She should have realised, right from the start. Why hadn't she seen?

The words she'd translated had been right. She was sure of that now. But it was the words together -

She stood and entered her lav, turning on her sink. Grabbing the bar of soap, she began scrubbing her hands again.

She should have realised. The words, individually, were translated correctly. It was the idiom she'd missed, the real meaning behind the words. She stared at her reflection in disgust. That was her job, after all. It was what she was supposed to do. Sure, they needed her there to translate the words, but any computer could do that. The reason why she went on missions with the universal translator was so that she could be sure that they understood, not just translated.

She'd let herself become too reliant on that damn computer, too complacent. This was all her fault.

x-x

Hoshi stood just inside the doors of sickbay, a covered bowl of ramen cupped in her palms. As Malcolm, propped up in bed, looked up from the padd he was reading, she forced a smile onto her face and stepped towards him. "I brought you some of the ramen I made for the ethnic lunch," she said awkwardly, sliding the bowl onto his bedside table. When he looked at her doubtfully, she went on. "Phlox said that you could have some of the broth." She shifted uncomfortably. "And I felt so bad..." she let her voice drift away.

After a moment, Malcolm asked, "That I missed the ethnic food thing?"

Hoshi nodded, letting him think that was true.

"Yes," he said brightly, although his voice was weak. "I was planning to bring Chicken Tikka Masala myself, but..." He frowned towards her bowl. "This is about all I can handle right now, I think." He placed a hand, gingerly, across his stomach.

She stepped to his side, staring into his eyes anxiously. "Lieutenant, I'm really sorry."

"Off-duty, you should call me Malcolm." He smiled. "You did back on the shuttle."

"You remember all that?"

His expression turned serious. "I felt like I was drowning. You kept me afloat, focused. If not for you..."

She interrupted. "If not for me, you wouldn't be here."

Malcolm nodded. "Thank you."

Hoshi shook her head. "No, that's not what I mean," she said, fighting back tears. She wiped impatiently at her eyes. "If not for me blowing that translation, then letting that stupid dog out, you wouldn't have gotten hurt." He tried to interrupt, but she drove on. "I almost got you killed."

"No," Malcolm said firmly. "This was not your fault. Things happen. We do the best we can, but still, things happen." He took her hand and dropped his voice. "We're none of us perfect. We may want to be, but..." He gave her a gentle smile and shrugged. "We do the best we can." In a firmer voice, he added, "It was my own fault, anyway, exposing myself like that."

She shook her head.

"None of us is blameless, Hoshi. It's all right."

She tried to fight them, but she could feel the tears welling, then streaming down her cheeks. "I am so sorry," she said as he pulled her to him. She grabbed his shirt, careful of his wounds.

"Everything's fine," he whispered as he stroked her hair.

Everything wasn't fine, she thought. It never would be fine, not completely, not when tragedy could spring up out of nowhere, over a minor misunderstanding. But she'd learned something here, something important - that her role on the ship was more important now than it had been before the universal translator. People relied on her, just like they relied on Tucker, or Archer, or Malcolm.

That mistakes would be made. She shook her head slightly, and rephrased her thoughts.

That she'd make mistakes.

That she wasn't perfect. None of them were. Not her, not Malcolm, not even Archer. Not one of them - none of them were blameless.

After a moment, she sat up, wiping the tears from her cheeks. "So we'll remember this, and do better next time, won't we?"

"I hope so," Malcolm replied.

Hoshi smiled shakily and said, "Doesn't seem quite enough, somehow."

Malcolm stared at her a moment, and nodded. "It's all we have."

x-x

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