Notes: This takes place early in the first season.

Warnings: Swears. Slash.

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Trip let his back rest against the pile of cushions behind him, enjoying the warmth flowing from the body of the beautiful woman at his side. Sure, in an ideal world, that woman might not have been his friend Hoshi, but for some reason, he wasn't so worried about that right now. Maybe it was the drink.

As soft music started, he smiled down at Hoshi, who was pressed close beside him on the small, plush couch. Too bad she was in uniform; these outfits were more utilitarian than fashionable. He'd kind of like to see her in a pretty dress, maybe something red, to match their surroundings. As his mama would say, bet she cleaned up real nice.

Not that he was attracted to her, not as such. She was his friend, and sure, he knew she was attractive, but she really wasn't his type. Still, a bit more of this drink, and likely most anyone would be his type.

Trip raised his glass and took another sip. The liquid burned warmth down his throat, and he lifted the clear glass before him and rested it on his knee, allowing the shimmering amber fluid to take the light. Damn, this stuff was good. He'd have to see about getting some bottles sent up to the ship.

Dinner was long past, and they'd moved onto the entertainment portion of the evening. Their hosts, aliens who called themselves Durilia, had brought them into this theatre and coupled them off seemingly at random. Groups of two now sat inside a series of red curtained enclosures, each small, private warren set off from the next by what seemed to simply be flowing silk, but which in reality had to be something else, as it had amazing sound-deadening properties. He could clearly hear the performers on the stage before them, but damned if he could hear the folks sitting next to them, who couldn't have been more than a foot away. He knew that Malcolm and Travis had been seated to their left, with Jon and T'Pol to their right. He thanked his lucky stars that he was with Hoshi because somehow, he suspected that Jon and T'Pol most definitely were not enjoying the gentle buzz of the liquor, nor were they snuggled up together. He tried to smother a smirk: he'd pay cash money to see what Malcolm and Travis were doing.

A warm, spicy scent wafted past, and Trip inhaled deeply, feeling the effects of whatever it was go straight to his head. He heard Hoshi do the same, and she glanced up at him with a soft smile. They'd likely pay for this in the morning, but tonight? Tonight he was just enjoying the ride.

Drink in one hand, he touched her hair with the other. The feel of it was so different from his own, so smooth and straight, but quite thick. She nearly purred as he carded it through his fingers.

With Hoshi, he felt comfortable. They'd been developing a friendship over the last few months, and had even been spending time together, off duty. It probably helped that neither of them were particularly "military", so they'd been able to break down the barriers of rank and so on, and get to the people underneath. That hadn't been the case with him and Malcolm. They were friends, of a sort, but there was still that "chain of command" thing in between them, even though, technically, he wasn't Malcolm's boss. Still, Malcolm intrigued him, and he'd always been one for a challenge, so he'd spent time on the man, trying to get him to loosen up. It hadn't been easy. He supposed he had Malcolm's military upbringing to blame for that one. And he could certainly understand the need for fraternization rules on a traditional ship, but this was a long-term mission, and Jon had told him that such rules were being relaxed for the duration. God, they could be out here for years, and it wasn't as if they really had a traditional command structure, despite the official ranks.

If Malcolm was only willing to be friends with people of his same rank, that left him... Trip did a quick thought check. That left him with no one. And damned if Trip would let him remain friendless; not on a mission that could last years. So lately especially, he'd taken it as a bit of a personal mission to get the man to loosen the fuck up. He'd tried inviting him to movie nights - that'd proved useless. Malcolm had either not attended or, on the one time he had, he'd sat there stiffly, obviously not enjoying himself. So Trip had invited him to drinks - now, that had ended up being promising. Not that they drank all the time or in excess or anything, but something about that sort of situation seemed to get Malcolm to unwind a bit. In fact, he'd found he'd enjoyed Malcolm's company more than he'd expected to. The man was deadly attractive, and could be damn funny when he wanted to be, with a dry sense of humor that would sneak up on you at the oddest moments. Get a couple drinks in him, and he could really get you rolling. Actually, if he had to pick someone else to spend the evening with, other than Hoshi or Jon, at this point he'd probably pick Malcolm. He wondered what Malcolm would be like with a bit of this drink in him? Funny, probably. Snarky, he was sure. And as always, completely unattainable.

Speaking of drinks - his was somehow, suddenly empty. He frowned at the glass, twirling it in his fingers. The stuff they'd been drinking had seemed innocuous at first, but two glasses in, it had hit him like a ton of bricks. And then he'd lost track of how much he'd had, but he could certainly use another. Hoshi, who was smaller than he, was probably worse off. She was leaning against his side, and he tucked his arm around her, pulling her in close. It had been a while since he'd had someone at his side in that way. It felt good. It almost made him wish that he did want her in that way. It'd be fun. God, this drink was making him...

A server came by, nodding quickly as his red-clad hand placed another flask at their feet. Trip smiled his thanks. Fabulous.

The scene before them on the stage changed, and now it was two dancers, lovers meeting, swirling as soft gong-like sounds flowed around them. It was really quite beautiful. Peaceful. Wistful. Romantic.

He heard Hoshi sigh beside him. "Too bad."

He turned his face down so he could see her. The lamplight was a soft caress against her skin, setting it off in golds and oranges. "What's too bad?" he asked.

"Too bad you're gay."

Okay, that sort of ruined the mood. Trip sat up straighter. "Excuse me?"

"Oh, sorry," Hoshi said, her words slurring a bit. She winced. "Was I not supposed to know that?"

"No," Trip said, unsure of how to respond. "I mean, what?"

Hoshi traced a gentle finger up his arm, sending chills across his skin. "I mean it. You're cute. And I know you've hooked up with alien babes, or you used to, before..." She sat up somewhat straight, seeming apologetic as she moved slightly away from him. "Sorry, that'd make you bi, right?" She smiled, slumping against him again. "Anyway, too bad you're taken, one way or the other."

"What do you mean?"

Hoshi stared up at him from beneath dark lashes. "You've got to realise that half the girls on ship want to scoop you." She shrugged. "Hell, I'd scoop you, but I like the friendship thing we've developed."

Trip decided that playing along was probably his best option. He sank back into the pillows again. "I'm taken, eh? Who by?"

Hoshi slapped him lightly on the arm. "By Malcolm, of course. Everybody knows that." She settled further against him, face up, eyes a bit glazed. "Lucky bastard," she added under her breath as her lids fell shut.

Trip stared down at her in surprise, and she emitted a soft snore.

So, everyone on the ship thought he was gay, and that he and Malcolm were...

Oh, shit.

He sat up in shock, Hoshi falling across his lap as he moved. Malcolm. If half the ship thought... Christ, what had Malcolm heard? And did he... with all the extra attention that Trip had been spending on him lately...

Trip closed his eyes with a groan.

x-x

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