Well, I never expected to write a Star Trek fic. Particularly not for these two. But I always did like Shran and Archer's friendship... and I have been raised on Voyager and then Enterprise... so maybe something like this was only a matter of time.
A friendship based on obligation lacks dignity.
Archer had read that somewhere. Probably at the Academy, or from one of the tidal wave of philosophers and thinkers that his father had introduced him to.
What had made him think of that?
Oh, right, the staggering amounts of alcohol.
Wasn't Andorian ale illegal? It could probably pass as a weapon of mass destruction…
Shran had matched him drop for drop, which meant that the first flask was already bone dry. The alien commander – and friend, Archer had to remind himself, though that term was debatable in light of how his liver must be dyed permanently blue by now – enthusiastically opened a second flask and topped off both their cups.
Archer said, "How mush of thish shtuff'll kill ya?"
Shran, in considerably better control of himself, took a long draught and said, "It's not me that it'll kill first, human."
"How mush'll kill me?"
"Relax. This is a celebration."
Right. A celebration. The details were hazy, now, but there had been some fuss about Tellurite trade routes being pirated, and then… Shran had appeared out of nowhere again, he did that from time to time… and they had apparently saved the day…
Archer downed the new cup and fought the instinctive urge to vomit. "Urgh. Give me a nishe Earth-shtyle burn in my chesht any day."
"You would rather have something poisonous and flammable in your ridiculous asymmetrical stomach, pinkskin?"
"Well, ish thish flam-am-able?"
Shran regarded his half-full glass, translucent blue on the sides where the thick drink had stained it. "It smolders. Good fuel for a fire, at least. Also, very resistant to freezing."
"Leave it to people who evolved on an ishe planet…" Archer mused fuzzily, but poured some more ale and didn't finish the sentiment. Instead, he thought, which some drunks tend to do. "Hey, Sh-s- Shran," he stumbled through the technicalities of pronunciation, "what do I owe you thish time?"
Shran's two antennae, weaving woozily to and fro, attempted to focus on him at the name. "Why can't you talk anymore, pinkskin?"
"Becaushe you're giving me something that's poi- poishonoush and probably really sssimilar to what would happen if beesh used blue antifreeshe instead of pollen."
Shran blinked, slowly, his eyes half-crossing. "You know that I've never been to your planet, don't you, pinkskin?"
"Don't worry. I've been there a few timesh and it didn't even make sssensh to me…"
"Why are you slurring like that, though?"
Archer finished another cup and set his very heavy forehead on the cool metal table. He had the strength to find one word which contained no 's'. "Drunk."
"Really?" Shran put his hand out for the flask and missed by a foot both north and east. "Human biology is very illogical. You get poisoned and the first thing affected is your speech?"
"An' reacshun timesss. And hand… hand-eye coorid-thingy. You've got that."
Shran took a shot in the dark. "You mean coordination?" He waved his hand in a huge and unnecessary circle for the audience's attention. "Andorians get most of the world through sight. The first thing affected by the ale is the interpretation of the sight… sensory data from the antennae… and then the data doesn't match up with the… eye-data… and the world is split into two different scenes. Do you see?"
Having only two organs with which to view the world, instead of four, Archer did not see. "Righ', yeah, makesss perh-fect sssenshe…"
They sat for a moment in silence, and Shran became bored of this. "What were we talking about before human inadequacies?"
"I ashked a quesh'un…"
Archer mumbled something about not knowing. Or something insulting about Shran's mother. Seeing as Archer had never met Shran's mother and she was busy on the other side of Andorian space with teaching in a new colony, Shran gave the pinkskin the benefit of the doubt.
"You're useless as you are."
Archer helpfully rolled his forehead from side to side of the table, giving himself a good supply of seasickness.
When the human was still once more, Shran risked the consequences and nudged Archer's head with the bottom edge of his glass. Archer's shoulder tried to lift, but failed. There was no further movement.
After five tries, Shran located the button to activate the comm viewscreen on Archer's desk. A directory popped up with the names of Archer's most recent confidantes. He was unable to read them – they were in both a different language and quadruple-vision. Shran could only hope that the humans had at least developed voice commands. "Get me sick bay," he said to the flat and innocent screen.
The screen flashed white. Or white-ish. With a darker figure in the center… or two…
The darker figure became larger, and resolved into something resembling a face. An orange-and-grey face. Aliens always looked so bizarre, Shran mentally grumbled.
The doctor said, "Oh, Commander Shran. Has Captain Archer succumbed to the highly toxic affects of your species' ale already?"
"He isn't talking," Shran complained. "Humans have a very strange idea of hospitality."
"You've dosed him with a severe depressant that is basically corroding all connections between his brain and his body," Dr. Phlox reminded him merrily.
"Fix him," Shran commanded.
"Anticipating this inevitability," Phlox continued with an upbeat tune lurking under his words, "I placed a hypospray containing a counteractive agent on the captain's desk. It should remove all symptoms."
Shran had a short internal debate about allowing Archer the joys of Andorian ale versus his own entertainment. Entertainment won. He fumbled – with dignity, of course – for the hypospray, found it, tried to administer it from the wrong end, righted it, and finally heard the appropriate hiss as it was activated.
Within half a minute, Archer lifted his head and blinked around at his quarters. "What happened?" he asked slowly.
"You were unconscious. I told your doctor to fix you. Now, you're fixed. Entertain me."
Archer shook his head experimentally, still moderately surprised when his brain only felt like it was made of mud instead of jello. "I see that your manners only improve when you drink, Shran."
Shran's antennae tried to pin down the elusive captain. He said, "You asked me a question. What was it?"
Archer had to think for longer than was proper before he hazarded a guess. "Something about what I owe you. For your favor. Or for helping. Whatever it is that you do."
Shran located the second flask. It was nearly empty anyway; he topped off his glass, finishing the flask. He said, "By my count, this was the one that would set us even."
"Really?" Archer laughed. "So I have no obligation to you?"
Shran peered at him, far from adept at reading human tone and body language – the things didn't even have antennae to fold back when they were angry! "There's no guarantee that it'll stay that way. At the rate you pinkskins are going, I'll be saving you before long."
Archer laughed again, watching Shran drain the glass. "I was thinking of a quote from somewhere. I don't remember where…" He adopted the singsong voice of one reciting from memory. "'A friendship based on obligation lacks dignity.'"
"You think our friendship lacks dignity simply because one of us owes the other something?"
"Oh, a friendship? Is that what this is?" Archer teased, recovering his good humor. "I thought that it was an alliance between our worlds?"
Shran's antennae paused their weaving to spread farther apart and then pull together. As Archer had learned, this was akin to a shrug.
Or he was a little drowsy from the medication and it meant that Shran was annoyed.
He waved his hand. "Right, never mind. Don't worry, we have dignity."
Shran grumbled, "Besides, there isn't any obligation. Our score is settled."
Archer set his elbow on the table and his mouth in his hand before allowing himself to smile. "Well, that's going to change. It always does. And then this… friendship… will be based on obligation again. Because one of us will owe the other. But we still do that with dignity?"
Shran said, "It is a point of honor to repay my debts."
"And Starfleet hasn't laid down any ground rules on honor, but I'll repay my debts, as well."
Shran nodded resolutely, set his cup down, and confidently went from sitting in a chair to lying on the ground with a soft thump.
Archer opened one of the empty flasks and sniffed, holding it away from him quickly when his sinuses mounted a rebellion. Maybe this stuff was a biohazard.
Shran started to snore and curled up in a fetal position on his side. Archer sighed, trying very, very hard not to laugh loud enough to wake up the commander.
If they didn't respect each other so much, he could take a picture and have it across the Andorian fleet by morning…
Instead, he called Phlox – who, as it turned out, had another cure prepared and in hand.