Title: Purple Tails and Silver Flowers
Authors: Wushu & Krashkart [aka Squid109]
Summary: Harper and Trance wake up together, will this be the end of their friendship or will love overcome all.
Disclaimer: Andromeda is owned by Tribune entertainment, or someone who is neither krashkart nor myself. We are making no money from this.
AN: This story was a collaboration that krashkart and I began back in 2009. It was finished and posted to his account, however he decided it would be best that I post it since he was streamlining his own account. So, without any more fanfare, here is the reposted version of Purple Tails. Enjoy. Please remember that feedback is greatly appreciated.
"Uhg... my aching head, did I step in front of a speeding freighter?" Harper asked as he awoke to a throbbing headache.
Groggily he lifted his head, which felt like a Magog was sitting on it. Struggling to see through bloodshot and bleary eyes, he raised his hand to rub his eyes.
The mere act of lifting his hand from the blankets brought home the realization that he was naked. Confused as to where he was and why he was naked he began survey his surroundings.
Looking around he realized he wasn't in his quarters. The soft white sheets beneath him proved that; he'd never had white sheets in his quarters, reminded him too much of a Hospital. Nor was he in any of the quarters aboard the Andromeda that he recognized; yet there was something vaguely familiar about them and the hint of lilac in the sheets.
Sitting up straight in bed, his mind began a frantic chase. He must have gotten monumentally drunk last night, but he couldn't for the life of him remember a single thing that had happened.
Realization suddenly dawned that he wasn't alone in the bed. He looked over at the sleeping form, a stray draft causing it to shudder and dig deeper into the sheets, its tail brushing against his leg as it curled in on itself.
"A tail? Oh no, oh please no, don't be who I think it is, please don't be her," he silently prayed to the Divine, hoping that He'd be listening.
Unable to make out any details through the sheets, he slowly folded down the covers, still praying against what his heart already knew, revealing the figure's head. He stopped as soon as he saw the person, an expression of shock coming over his face.
"Trance..." he said in despair as his mind went into overdrive, trying to remember what the hell had happened last night, and why he was in bed with a sleeping, naked, Trance. Realizing that something bad must have happened he fell back into the blankets and threw his arm across his head as he tried to remember.
A few minutes later, after almost falling back to sleep, he was abruptly shaken from his thoughts as he felt a soft arm drape over him. Turning his head he noticed that Trance had rolled over and cuddled up to him. He smiled slightly, knowing that she was still lost in sleep; he took this time to savor the moment for he knew that one way or the other he was a dead man walking.
"Mmm," a soft noise came from his side, Trance was waking up and Harper was royally screwed. Holding as still as he could he waited for the inevitable.
He didn't have to wait long. Her eyes opened and she smiled softly for a moment before returning her head to his chest. Then she abruptly stiffened and her eyes shot open.
"Harper!" she cried as she literally jumped from the bed to land on the floor three feet away, her hand pointing at him accusingly. Harper for his part had done much the same thing, landing on the bedside opposite to Trance.
"What are you doing in my room?"
"What am I doing in your room?"
They both cried at the same time, confusion written across their faces.
"What do you mean? I thought you knew," they once again spoke in unison.
"You don't remember anything from last night?" Harper asked.
"No, it's all a blur," Trance said. She was silent for a moment then hysteria took over.
"Get out!" she screamed, advancing on Harper's position.
"What?" he replied as he backed up into the wall, an enraged Trance coming ever closer. He knew from experience that a mad Trance only meant trouble.
"You obviously did something to me," she said. She was standing inches from him, her hands balled into fists at her sides.
"What? I'd never…" he was cut off as one of her hands came up to beat on his chest.
"Well obviously you did! How else can you explain it?" she said as her other hand replaced the first and she began to beat a rhythm against his chest. In an act of self-defense, his hands shot up and grabbed her wrists, preventing her from striking him again.
"Well, I did…" he trailed off as he noticed something shining on her finger.
"You did! See I told you! You..." Her voice trailing off in turn as she noticed the look of shock and horror on Harper's face
"What's wrong?" she asked, concern for her friend overcoming hysteria.
Harper's response was to release her hands and move away from her. Once he had a safe distance he answered her.
"Your hand Trance," he said as he walked over the bed and sat down heavily on the edge, hands hanging between his legs as he stared blankly at the wall.
"My hand? What about my hand?" she began only to cut herself off as she noticed what he had. Hand lifting to her head she stumbled to sit beside Harper on her bed.
"A … a ring?" she mumbled as she pulled her hand from her head and held the clothed finger before her. After studying it for a moment she glanced over at Harper who was sitting on her right, her eyes lighting on his ring finger.
"Harper, look at your hand," she said.
Without a word he merely raised his left hand to gaze at it. It was exactly what he thought, he too had a ring. Without a word he let his hand fall back to where it had rested, his head hanging from his shoulders as he took a breath.
"Oh no," Trance muttered, realizing what Harper already had, "What have we done?"
"We're married Trance, we got married," he supplied into the silence.
Neither said a thing after that, both sitting in silence and occasionally glancing at the other.
"We need to try and remember what happened," Harper said after a few minutes of silence. Standing up he moved to her desk and sat in her chair, taking a flexi in hand he created a new document. Turning to face her with flexi in hand, he just stared for a moment before looking away.
"What is it?" she asked when she saw him look away.
"Nothing," he replied as he returned his gaze to her, keeping his eyes locked on hers.
"So what's with the flexi?" she asked as she watched him fidget, confused by the action.
"I'm making a list of what we remember from last night. Maybe we can try to piece enough together to have some idea about what happened."
"Ok, so what do you remember?" she asked.
Harper was silent as he stared at the blank flexi before him.
"I got nothing," he replied after a moment's consideration, as he was thinking his hands had begun to aimlessly tap the flexi. His tapping brought up another document that had already been open, something that he had failed to notice earlier.
"Hey, what's this?" he said as he noticed the official looking document.
"Let me see," Trance said as she moved to his side and gently removed the flexi. "It looks like a marriage license."
"So," Harper said as he released a sigh, "we really did get married then."
"It would seem so," Trance answered as she scanned the document.
"We need to remember what happened last night," said Harper. "Maybe there will be something that we can use to annul this." He pointed at the ring on Trance's finger as he said 'this.'
"Try again, Harper" said Trance still staring at the flexi. "What do you remember from last night?".
Harper put his hands to his forehead trying to concentrate past the pain of his hangover. "Let's see." he said. "Aside from a whole lot of nothing, I remember the party Dylan dragged us to."
"I don't want to be here" groused Harper. "It's Christmas Eve. We should be back on the Andromeda decorating the tree and celebrating."
"You know the Pra'Nath aren't Christians Harper," chided Rommie. "To them this is just another day and their importance to the Commonwealth is just too important for Dylan to ignore their request for a diplomatic gathering. Even if it does fall on Christmas Eve."
"I still don't think its right," Harper continued to complain.
Rommie put her hand on her friend's shoulder and gently turned him toward the direction of the refreshment area.
"Look," she said as she gave him a little shove forward, "there's Trance standing over there by the snacks. Why don't you get her and yourself a glass of punch? Be careful though, the Pra'Nath make a punch drink out of fermented dongle berries. They add a lot of fruit juice to it so you can't really taste the alcohol, but it's extremely potent, two or three glasses of it will intoxicate just about anyone."
"Yeah," he said as he began to walk toward Trance, "thanks Mom."
With a backward wave he left his android friend and approached his alien one.
"Hey Trance," he greeted as he took his place beside her, his eyes sweeping over the food before him.
"Hi Harper," she answered back with a happy smile. "Enjoying the party?"
"Meh," he replied as he added some fruit and pieces of what looked like cheese to a small plate. "I'd rather be decorating the Andromeda, but you know Dylan and his parties."
Trance only giggled at his reply before handing him a glass of bubbling liquid.
"Here," she said.
"What's this?" he asked as he set the plate down and took the glass. He inhaled quickly to try and catch any trace of alcohol. He knew Trance wasn't able to hold her liquor, but he couldn't detect any hint of alcohol in the drink. All he could smell was the tang of a local fruit.
"A carbonated fruit juice," she replied with another giggle as she let the bubbles of her own glass tickle her nose.
"Are you sure it's fruit juice? Rommie was warning me about this drink they make," he asked in concern. Trance had a habit of trusting bartenders at their word.
"Of course I am, silly," she replied with a laugh and a light hit to his arm, "Beka is the one who told me about it."
"I see," he replied after a moment's thought. The tone of his voice caused Trance to raise an eyebrow. As much as Harper loved Beka, he wouldn't trust her with drinks. "Let me see."
The drink tasted as harmless as it smelled. "I guess maybe she was right about the drink," he said skepticism still evident in his voice. "I don't taste anything but the juice, but Rommie did say that the drink would sneak up on you."
With a sigh he set the glass down beside him, deciding to practice caution with the beverage, just in case. Suddenly found with nothing to do, he returned to his forgotten plate and eagerly popped a piece of cheese in his mouth as he watched Trance enjoy her drink.
As he swallowed he turned an interesting shade of red and grabbed for the nearest wet substance, his heretofore-ignored drink.
The cheese turned out to be surprisingly spicy. Harper gulped down the remainder of his drink and obtained another glass of punch for both himself and Trance, of course after he had sated the fire that had suddenly ignited inside his mouth. So, having finally quenched the flames of Hades that had until recently existed in his mouth, Harper decided that the juice was just that, juice.
Several glasses later, however, found both he and Trance giggling like six-year olds, utterly oblivious to the rest of the party and only interested in making the other laugh.
Suddenly Harper felt like his stomach was attempting to turn itself inside out, revenge of the cheese from hell no doubt. He put his hand over his mouth attempting to control the bout of nausea and only just succeeding. The action didn't go unnoticed by Tyr and Rev who had just walked up to the couple, a look of annoyance on Tyr's face and one of concern on the Magog's.
"If you are going to demonstrate how poorly you can handle your drinks, boy," Tyr began with a sneer, "Do so outside so you will not embarrass the rest of us."
"It might be a good idea if the two of you went outside," agreed Rev. "The night air should help Harper's stomach and you both might enjoy a stroll through the compound's gardens, they have flowers that are quite lovely and have only recently come into bloom."
Trance giggled at the idea even as she began to pull the ill Harper behind her.
"Thanks Rev," she said with a slightly giddy laugh.
Once they passed the threshold of the ballroom and crossed into the gardens, Harper broke from her grip and barely managed to make it to a large clump of ficus before emptying the contents of his abused stomach.
After his purge Harper returned to where Trance had sat on a bench near the flowers that Rev had mentioned; surrounded by the blooming flowers and drenched in the silvery moonlight. The scene created an ethereal sense in the young man, made all the more surreal by the pixie awaiting him on the bench.
"Feel better?" she asked with a giggle.
"Much," he said with a grin as he plopped down next to her. They sat in companionable silence for a minute, watching their breaths create little clouds and blowing the clouds about, when Trance began to shiver. Realizing that she must be getting cold, Harper opened up his jacket and threw an arm over her shoulder so that the jacket was covering both of them. Her response was to lean her head on his shoulder and wrap her arms around his waist.
Both let out a contented sigh at the same moment, happy to just be here in this moment with the other when Trance suddenly put her hand over her mouth to cover up a very unladylike hiccup. "Maybe that punch WAS more powerful than Beka thought," she said. "I'm feeling a bit woozy myself."
"Maybe," said Harper as he reached around to encircle Trance with his free hand. "You know Beka; always ready to get a laugh out of someone else making fools of themselves." Harper knew that they were entering dangerous ground; even in his befuddled mind he knew he and Trance were fast approaching a point of no return, with every new touch and hold. Soon they would reach a point where they could no longer be just 'friends' and would have to face a decision; become more or lose the other forever.
To be truthfully honest he wasn't sure he wanted to stop, yet a part of him was screaming to resist; that her friendship was more important than any carnal desire he may feel for the girl.
Casting these thoughts from his mind he instead focused on the feel of her in his arms, of the pollen from the blossoming flowers floating through the air like snow, of the comforting feeling of her tail wrapped around his waist and her head on his shoulder.
Neither knew how long they sat there, inhaling the enticing scent of the blooming flowers as the pollen floated through the air and the blooms themselves called to this planets equivalent of bees. They both knew that eventually they would have to leave and return to the ship, return to being just Harper and Trance; best friends. Neither wanted the moment to end, nor did they want to return to being them at the moment. So, it was no surprise that they both stood of their own volition and spoke at the same time.
"Let's take a walk."
Smiling and nodding their acceptance of the other's offer they began to walk, just a little unsteadily, away from the still raging (even though using that term to describe a party like this one was an insult to raging parties everywhere) party. They had only taken a few steps when Trance stopped.
"Just a minute, Harper," she said. "These flowers are just too pretty to leave behind." Working quickly she braided some of the blossoms into a pair of rings and then placed one ring around each of their necks as flower necklaces. "There, now we can take the flowers with us," she said. Then the couple resumed their walk strolling further into the garden that surrounded the building and eventually into the city proper itself.
They strolled aimlessly for a while simply enjoying each others company, feeling no need to fill up the silence with words. As they walked Trance noticed that Harper was holding her hand. She hadn't noticed him taking it, but if felt natural for him to be holding it. She also noticed that her tail was wrapped around his waist and that too, felt natural, as if it belonged there.
They encountered numerous Pra'Nathians as they strolled. Many of them gave them the ear twitch that was the Pra'Nath equivalent of a smile while others held out their hands palms down thumbs touching, the local friendly greeting gesture.
Their meanderings eventually led them to a small lake. The lake had frozen over and was being used as an impromptu skating rink. Large numbers of Pra'Nath children, looking for all the world like animated Teddy bears, were playing on the ice under the watchful eyes of their parents. The couple stropped to watch the cheerful chaos.
"The Pra'Nath must like large families," commented Harper. "It looks like there's six children for each adult." He paused for a moment then continued in a wistful tone of voice. "I always wanted a large family."
"I want to have lots of children myself someday," said Trance.
"It's too bad we're not the same species," said Harper. "Then we could get married and have as big a family as we wanted."
"Actually we can have children, Harper," said Trance. Seeing the astonished look on his face she continued. "It would take a while but if," she blushed as she continued, "but if we exchanged, uh, body fluids on a regular basis your sperm would eventually change to become compatible with my eggs and we could make babies, lots of babies."
Before Harper could respond they were interrupted by a voice from behind them. "Excuse me," said the voice in Pra'Nath accented Common, "But if the two of you are going to the chapel you had better hurry. Your Frost Blossoms are starting to wilt and it's an ill omen to be bonded as life mates if the flowers aren't fresh."
The two turned around to see a Pra'Nath male, who judging by the amount of grey in his fur was old enough to be their father, or at least Harper's father. His ears twitched and he held out his hands in the traditional greeting.
"What makes you think that Harper and I are planning to become life mates?" asked Trance her tail still wrapped around Harper's waist."
"The flowers of course," answered the Pra'Nathian. "When a Pra'Nath couple decide they are going to become life mates the make a necklace of Frost Blossoms and wear them as they walk to a chapel where they exchange their promises to each other, the community, and to the gods. I wouldn't worry too much about the wilted flowers though. Considering their effect on lowering inhibitions and raising libidos, quite a few young couples come in with their necklaces much the worse for the wearing. But you had better hurry. I spoke to Natal not too long ago. He will be closing the chapel shortly to come down here to watch the junior league splat ball games. It's only a ten minute walk down the path," he pointed towards one of the well worn paths through the park, "so you should have plenty of time provided you don't yield to the flowers and consummate your union early."
"We aren't planning to become life mates, err I mean married," Objected Trance. "We're not even engaged. We're just best friends."
"Yeah," added Harper. "Just friends, that's all we are."
"Of course," said the Pra' Nathian in a tone of voice that said If you think I'll buy that you must think I fell off the turnip truck. "But you must excuse me. I need to get down to the lake. My granddaughter's splat ball team will be coming on the ice soon and I promised I would be there to cheer them on to victory. And when you get to the chapel tell Natal that Barak has five ducats that say the Lightnings will beat his Raptors." With that he twitched his ears once more time then trotted down to the lake.
Trance and Harper watched the children for a few more minutes then resumed their stroll. Perhaps it was coincidence or perhaps it was something else, but they started following the path Barak had pointed out to them. They had walked for about ten minutes when Trance heard herself saying.
"Harper did you mean what you said about us making babies?"
"Ahem," Trance's trip down memory lane was interrupted by the sound of Andromeda's voice. "If I may interrupt," said the image in the view screen, "I've sent a Maria to your quarters to get you some fresh clothing. Harper, I think you'll want to change before the rest of the crew arrives."
"What do you mean, Andromeda?" asked Harper.
"Look for yourself," was the reply.
Looking around Harper found his clothing strewn helter-skelter about Trance's stateroom. Turning his attention to his trousers he noticed they were caked with mud.
"Try your shirt," suggested Andromeda.
Picking up his upper garment Harper realized that not only was it as dirty as his trousers but all the buttons were missing. From the broken threads it appeared that his shirt had been literally ripped off his body.
"I'm sure you'll find the buttons somewhere on the floor," said Andromeda. "That is where you lost them."
"How would you know that, Andromeda?" asked Trance. Then she answered her own question. "Oh no, we must have forgotten to request privacy mode. Andromeda, did you record EVERYTHING?"
"Every bump, grind and moan," said the ships AI obviously enjoying the couple's discomfort. "Five times in one night, you really are a love god, Harper. And Trance, I never realized you were so ... athletic. The two of you could probably earn a very comfortable living working in a certain portion of the entertainment industry. But don't worry; I have no intention of making the recording public." She paused then added in a mock threatening tone of voice. "Except maybe to the rest of the crew if you two get out of line later."
Her threat was interrupted by a knock at the door.
"There's my Maria at your door. The two of you had better hurry and get dressed. Oh and one other thing," her tone of voice softened. "I really am happy for the two of you." With those words the image on the view screen winked out.
"What are we going to do, Harper?" asked Trance. "We're going to have to tell the others something when they come in to congratulate us."
"I don't know Trance," answered Harper as he gathered up the clothes that Andromeda's Maria had dropped outside the stateroom. "But we're going to have to tell them it was all a mistake. Maybe we can get the marriage annulled."
"But we slept together Harper," wailed Trance. "Andromeda says we consummated the marriage. Even if we do find some way to get the marriage annulled we still slept together."
Harper walked over to where Trance was still sitting on the bed close to tears and put his hands on her shoulders and lowered his head so their eyes were meeting. "We're best friends aren't we babe?" At her nod of consent Harper continued. "And sometimes people, even friends, do something they shouldn't. But friends can forgive each other's mistakes. After we tell Dylan and the others that there was some sort of mistake we can go about being friends, we can forgive each other and go on as if nothing happened last night."
"I guess you're right, Harper," admitted Trance. Then her face brightened up a bit. "And since neither one of us can remember what we did, it's like it never really happened, isn't it."
"That's my purple pixie. She always has an answer. Now if we can just find a answer to how to get this marriage canceled."
"What else can you remember about last night, Harper?" asked Trance. "Maybe there was something that we can use to have the marriage annulled."
"Let's see. " said Harper, "I can remember a bit..."
"Harper did you mean what you said about us making babies?"
Harper couldn't have been any more shocked if Trance had announced that she was the genetic reincarnation of Drago Mussivini. He had brushed off the earlier conversation as a cultural misunderstanding and had assumed that Trance had done the same. Now though as he looked at their surroundings he realized that while she very well may have, there before them was the chapel. Perhaps seeing the building had caused her to come to a decision, he would never know for sure. What he did know, however, was that his relationship, whatever it was, with Trance was hanging in the balance. His next statement could very well signal the end if he didn't think about it first.
He looked up at the small chapel then back to Trance then back again to the chapel. Eventually his eyes settled on Trance. She was looking up at him, her brown eyes filled with a desire he had never seen before. He knew what it was, a desire to be loved and to return that love. To have a family and watch her children grow and have children of their own. He took one more look at the chapel and then the woman standing beside him and realized that he felt the same way.
As he stood gazing into Trance's eyes he realized there was only one thing he could say. It was soft and gentle, motivated by nothing but love.
"Every word," with that he closed the gap between them and captured her lips with his own. As they kissed he was overwhelmed by sensations; body tingling, lips burning, skin on fire, and his nose was assaulted by the most wonderful scent he had ever smelled.
As they pulled apart, they smiled at each other as the scent wafted over them, the necklaces of crushed Frost Blossoms forgotten as their eyes remained locked.
Leaning in to kiss again neither were aware of their feet leading them toward the doors of the chapel. Only once they had parted did they realize where they were.
Glancing around the small building they noticed the minister sitting at a small desk in the front filling out papers. As they were debating on whether or not to turn around and leave, the man before them looked up.
"Ah," he greeted with a smile as he rose to meet them. "It is not often that we get off world couples in our little chapel. Please come in and have a seat, will the rest of the party be arriving soon?"
"Uh," said Harper somewhat hesitantly. "There isn't going to be any rest of the party."
"Ah, I see" said the priest. "An elopement." He turned to an intercom on his desk and spoke into it. "Jubak, Rasha, will the two of you come into my office please. I'll be there in a minute with some guests." He then turned his attention back to Trance and Harper. "Why don't we talk in my office? If the two of you were Pra'Nath I would know if you were ready to be married but as you aren't there are some questions I would like to ask you and it will be more comfortable in my office."
"Why do you think that we're here to get married?" Trance asked as she and Harper followed the priest to his office
"Three reasons," replied the priest and raised fingers. "One, you are here. Two, you are holding hands, and three you're wearing Frost Blossom necklaces."
By this time they had arrived at the priest's office. In addition to the usual desk, chair, and computer there was a small couch and a couple of additional chairs. There were two Pra'Nathians sitting in the chairs, a male and female both as far as Harper could guess, younger than the master of the chapel.
"I haven't yet introduced my self," said the priest as he waved Trance and Harper toward the couch. "My name is Tybik and these are my assistants Jubak and Rasha. Jubak, Rasha, our guests are Seamus Harper and Trance Gemini of the Andromeda Ascendant," Catching the stupefied looks on both Trance and Harper's faces Tybik explained. "I'm a priest not a hermit. The Andromeda Ascendant's arrival and your reason for being here was well covered by the local news services."
"Now my first question is this. Have the two of you really thought out the consequences of your marriage?"
Forty-five minutes later, Tybik was finished with his interrogation. He had asked them questions ranging from how they felt children should be disciplined, to what they did during their off time, to what they would do if during a military conflict Dylan ordered one of them to do something that the individual wouldn't survive. Sometimes the couple had answers and sometimes they had to admit that they didn't know. But eventually he asked his last question.
"Do the two of you still want to get married?"
"Yes!" exclaimed Trance while Harper nodded his agreement.
Tybik reached into a drawer in his desk and pulled out a bottle and several glasses. "In that case," he said with a smile. "Congratulations on your marriage and it's time to drink a toast to the bride. You've satisfied me that you are ready for marriage and during my questioning you promised each other that you would love and protect each other, that you were aware of and could put up with each other's faults, and that you have a realistic idea of the responsibilities of marriage and are willing to accept those responsibilities. You have done so in the presence of each other, the community," he indicated Jubak and Rasha, "and to the Divine. So in my capacity as a priest of the Way, I now declare the two of you man and wife."
A he was speaking he poured some of the contents of the bottle into the glasses and handed them around. "To the new bride," he toasted and downed the contents of the glass in a single gulp. Harper took a cautious sip and nearly choked. The drink was nearly strong enough to blister his tongue.
Tybik looked at his glass in disgust. "Jubak, "he said, "This is something I would give to my granddaughter. Go down to the cellar and get something suitable for adults. Then we will celebrate properly."
The young attendant grinned for a moment before leaving to do his master's bidding. Once he had returned a few moments later, Harper and Trance soon found their cups filled with another clearly alcoholic and much more potent beverage.
Sharing a glance the couple knew they couldn't offend their hosts by not drinking. So with a shared look of discomfort they both drank down their glasses.
During the time they had been in the chapel it had begun to rain, a soft steady drizzle that gently wet the ground, turning the once hard packed ground into a muddy bog.
Having decided, in their inebriated state, to make their way back to the diplomatic reception Harper and Trance soon found themselves stumbling through the muddy paths they had walked not more than a few hours ago.
Trance giggled as Harper stumbled and fell head first into the mud, the rain falling gently around them. As she moved to help him up she lost her footing and joined him in the mess. Laughing, they managed to crawl from the mud and to their feet, giggling like children and just as dirty.
"We are drunk," Harper commented as he and Trance staggered along.
"Yup," she replied with a giggle as Harper staggered into a tree and apologized once he had regained his balance.
"Here let me help you, Harper," said Trance. She held out her hand only to slip and fall back into the mud.
"Clumsy, teased Harper. He held out his hand to help his new spouse out of the mud only to have her yank on his hand and pull him into the mud beside her.
"Now who's the clumsy one?" asked Trance. She gave him a wet and muddy kiss and began to unbutton his shirt. Harper began to return the kisses oblivious to the cold. The shirt was off and the pants were around his knees when it occurred to him that they were in a very public spot. Passion died as quickly as it had arisen.
"Come on," he said "We need to get back to the party and let Dylan and the others know that we got married." With that the couple helped each other upright and began to walk, somewhat unsteadily back to the reception.
"Congratulate us," called out Harper as he and Trance entered the reception hall
Conversation stopped as the two mud covered young people walked into the reception hall leaving muddy footprints on the carpeted floor. If Beka hadn't known that Trance's skin color was purple she would have been unable to tell from looking at the girl. There was not a single inch of skin that wasn't covered by mud. Even her hair was mud colored. Harper was nearly as muddy; however there was a patch around each eye that showed skin rather than mud. The conversation began again but this time there was a hostile undercurrent to it most of the hostility coming from the Pra'Nathians and directed at Harper and Trance
"Do those two belong to you?" the Pra'Nathian ambassador asked Dylan in a voice that made glaciers seem warm by comparison.
"Uh, my chief engineer and environmental systems office," admitted Dylan
"We got married," put in Trance. Then she added, "To each other."
"I see," said the ambassador, suddenly sounding less hostile than he had a moment ago as he looked thoughtfully at the couple in front of him. He walked up to the mud spattered duo and bowed before them. "The two of you do my planet much honor," he stated. "It has been a long long time since anyone has performed the Garuna rite of fertility. But the Frost Blossom necklaces, the consummation of your marriage in the soil of mother Garuna, and the offering of the wine show me that you have done so. You have my and my planet's thanks for your blessing of our planet."
The ambassador gave another bow and turned away to walk back towards Dylan. As he turned the hostile murmuring ceased to be replaced by one of interest. Once he arrived at Dylan's side the ambassador said in soto voice. "Captain, I have no idea what Garuna fertility rites were but I seriously doubt that they included wallowing in the mud and getting falling down drunk. Now will you please get your crew members out of my reception hall and back aboard your vessel before anyone starts asking awkward questions about how they learned about ancient Pra'Nathian fertility rites. Additionally they reek of mojo and if they drip any more mud on the carpets my junior spouse will have me cleaning the carpets with a toothbrush."
Dylan nodded his understanding then gestured for Beka to come over to him. When she was close enough so that he could speak low enough that Trance and Harper would not be able to over hear he gave her her instructions. "Get them both out of here and safe aboard Andromeda. And make sure they don't do anything that they might regret in the morning." The way he said 'anything' made it quite clear exactly what he meant by anything. Beka's silent nod was her only reply as she began the task of leading the inebriated couple from the hall.
"You're back early" said holographic Andromeda as Beka led the giggling couple out of the landing bay and into Andromeda's main corridors. "And what happened to you two?" she asked of Trance and Harper.
"We got married," said Harper proudly. He followed up his words by giving Trance a muddy kiss.
"You what?" exclaimed Andromeda after a moment of slack jawed astonishment..
"We got married," said a giggling Trance. "See," she held up a disposable flexie. "It's all right here."
Andromeda looked questioningly at Beka who shrugged helplessly. "I'm as confused as you are," she said as she took the flexie from Trance. A moment later her expression mirrored Andromeda's earlier one. "It's a marriage contract," she said. "They really are married."
"Told you," said Harper."
"We'll talk later," said Andromeda to Beka, "Right now we need to get them to their quarters and cleaned up.
Beka began to shepherd her two inebriated crewmembers toward their quarters. They reached Trance's stateroom first. "In you go Trance," said Beka. "And take a shower before you crawl into your bed."
Trance stepped into her stateroom and Harper began to follow. "Where do you think you're going Harper?" asked Beka as she put up a hand to stop him from following.
"With my wife," said Harper
There was something in Harper's tone of voice that made Beka hesitate before speaking rather than automatically telling him 'no way'. But before she could decide just how to respond to Harper's response Trance let out a heartbroken wail.
"Harper, we don't have rings. How can we be married if we don't have rings?"
"It's ok, babe," said Harper as he pushed his way past Beka to hold his spouse. "We can get rings later."
"No, it's not ok," sobbed Trance. Tears were starting to run down her face and wash off some of the mud. "We can't be married if we don't have rings."
"That's right," said Beka thinking she had a wedge she cold use to carry out Dylan's orders . "You're not married if you don't have wedding rings."
The heart broken look that came over Trance's face was just to much for Beka to bear. The couple before her might have made a mistake getting married but it was their mistake to make. They were young but they were old enough to marry and neither she nor Dylan had any right to interfere. The best thing she could do at this point would be to help them make the best of it and ruining their nuptial night wouldn't be helping them.
"Wait here," she said. "I'll be right back." She headed off back to the Maru walking so quickly she was almost running.
A few short minutes later she returned holding a small box. Trance and Harper were still standing in the doorway of Trance's stateroom. Beka opened to box to reveal two golden rings.
"These belonged to my parents," she explained as she gave each one a ring. "When Mother left she left her ring behind. Maybe the two of you will have better luck than my parents had. Each of you put the ring I gave you on the other."
Harper put his ring on Trance's finger. The ring sliding easily onto her finger. Trance in turn placed her ring on Harper's ring finger. The fit was tighter but the mud on Harper's hand acted as a lubricant and Trance was able to force the ring onto Harper's finger.
"You're officially married now," said Beka. "Harper it's traditional for a husband to carry the new bride across the threshold. It's supposed to ensure a long and happy marriage."
Harper picked up his new bride in both arms and stepped into the stateroom. As he did so Beka called in after them. "Both of you take showers before you get into bed."
As the door closed Beka couldn't help the small grin that made its way to her face. The muffled giggling following the dull thump told her that the poor drunk couple hadn't even made it a few steps before falling over. Walking away in a slightly better mindset she couldn't help but think that the hangover tomorrow would be well worth any inconvenience she had today. That and the panic those two would be in would be priceless.
An even bigger grin growing on her face, Beka couldn't help but chuckle in evil glee as she imagined the reaction of the newly married couple once they realized what they had done.
Yeah, life was definitely going to be interesting in the next few days.
"Ok," said Trance. "We know what happened but what do we do now?"
"I dunno babe," said Harper. "Maybe we should just tell everyone that it was a mistake and that we're not married."
"Do you really think that will work?" asked Trance.
Before Harper could answer thee was a knock on the door. "Ok lovebirds," came Beka's voice from the other side of the door. "Time to face the music and explain why the two of you eloped instead of inviting us to the wedding. Andromeda open up the door please."
The door opened and the entire crew, Dylan, Beka, Rev, Rommie and Tyr walked into the room, each of them carrying a wrapped present. Holographic Rommie appeared in the middle of the room while Andromeda's core self manifested herself in the room's viewscreen.
"Congratulations," said Dylan as he held out his hand to Harper.
"It's about time you stopped chasing those overinflated bimbos Harper," said Beka "and settled for a woman who will love you and make you happy."
"You'll probably have better luck housebreaking him than I did," said Rommie. "But if you need help let me know. I know where his ticklish spots are."
Harper spared a glance at Trance who looked absolutely terrified. He understood her feelings. Someone had to break the news to the crew that he and Trance weren't really married and who ever did it was going to be the villain. He stepped forward to place himself protectively between her and the others. Married or not it was his duty to protect Trance. He was going to be the bearer of bad news not her.
"I wish we could accept the presents and the congratulations," he said. "But we can't. We're not married."
"What do you mean you're not married?" asked Dylan. "Andromeda showed me a copy of the marriage certificate, you're both quite married. The fact that it took place on a non-Commonwealth planet is irrelevant. Commonwealth law is quite explicit about recognizing the validity of other planets' marriages."
"We were drunk and drugged at the time," said Harper determined not to let Trance be dragged into what was undoubtedly going to turn ugly. "And Commonwealth law is also very explicit that a couple has to be sober when they are married. The dongle berry punch at the reception and the frost flower pollen are enough to annul the wedding."
"What dongle berry punch?" asked Rommie. "There was nothing more than fruit punch at the reception. The ambassador knows better than to put dongle berry punch out at a state reception. I was just trying to get you to stop grousing and pay attention to Trance."
"And the frost flowers?" asked Trance. She was not going to let Harper fight this battle alone.
"They only effect Pra'Nathians and the effect isn't very powerful with them either."
"I fear Master Harper, Mistress Trance," said Rev "that the two of you are both well and truly wed."
"No," stated Harper flatly. "We're not married. We can't undo what happened last night be we can do something about this sham of a marriage. If it can't be annulled we'll divorce. Now everyone get out of here and let us decide what were going to do."
The expression's of happiness on the crews' faces changed to one of surprise and shock.
"But..." began Beka. She was regretting that she hadn't followed Dylan's orders last night and kept the two young people separate. She had been looking forward to seeing their reaction in the morning when they realized they were married. She hadn't expected anything like this.
"What part of 'get out of here' didn't you understand," asked Harper.
The guests left Trance's quarters in shocked silence. As soon as they had departed Harper sat back down on the bed. Trance joined him an instant later.
"Thank you Harper," she said. "I'm not sure if I would have been brave enough to tell them that we're not married."
"Yeah. Well someone had to do it," said Harper, "and I wasn't going to let you take the heat. Rommie sent me over to protect you. I didn't do a very good job last night but it's my job to protect you and I wasn't going to let you down a second time. Thanks for backing me up though."
"That's what I'm here for," said Trance reaching out to take Harper's hand. "To make sure you don't have to fight your battles alone."
The two sat in companionable silence for a moment then something occurred to Trance.
"Harper," she said, "If the punch wasn't alcoholic and the frost flowers only effect Pra'Nathians why did we act the way we did."
"It's called the placebo effect, babe," said Harper "Beka explained it to me once."
"I know what the placebo effect is Harper. What I want to know is why we acted the way we did. Why is it that when we had the excuse of being drunk and drugged we decided to get married? Do you remember what you told me about wanting to make babies with me? I know how hard it is for you to talk about your feelings. Is that something you said because you thought you were drunk or did the excuse of being drunk let you say what you really feel?"
For a moment Harper was silent and a look of sadness came across Trance's face then Harper spoke. "Yes babe, I meant it. I want you to be the mother of my children. I want to be with you as they grow up and have children of their own. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you marry me?"
"We're already married, Harper," said Trance with a giggle of relief.
"Maybe" said Harper. "But we didn't do it right. Maybe we ought to try it again and this time do it correctly. Andromeda, can we talk? There's something we need to tell you."
Andromeda's holographic self formed before them. "Yes?" she asked. The tone of her voice would have made a glacier field seem balmy.
"I think Trance and I need to explain something. The reason we can't be married is that we weren't married aboard you. "We'd never get married anywhere but aboard you. Since we haven't we can't be married."
"That's right" said Trance. "There's no way I would get married without Rev conducting the ceremonies and letting Dylan give me away, and having you, your sister self, Rommie and Beka be my bridesmaids."
"Tyr wasn't there to be my best man," added Harper.
"I see," said holo Andromeda her voice becoming much friendlier. "Does that mean that you're considering the prospect of getting married?"
"Yes, Andromeda, we're going to get married," said Trance.
"When?" asked Andromeda genuine interest in her voice.
"Well in Boston a couple were required to publicly announce their intention to wed then wait a minimum of three days before they could actually be married. So I guess three days from now. If that gives you guys enough time to get organized."
"Oh I think that will give us enough time," said Andromeda's core self from the viewscreen. "But we do need to tell the others." She and her sister self blinked out of view.
"I love you babe." said Harper "but I think I need to get to work. The slipstream generator is out of focus again." He started to get up but Trance caught his hand.
"Harper, what do you remember about last night?' she asked
"Uh nothing. I was pretty drunk. So where you for that matter."
"Uh huh," agreed Trance. "Andromeda said that you really were a love god." She pushed him back into the bed and began to undo the buckle of his belt. "I think you should refresh my memory about that. I believe she said five times."
For Trance and Harper the story is just beginning but for you and I dear reader this is...