“ ‘We have an obligation to Madeline, Jonathan.’ “ Jonathan mimicked Malcolm's staunch cadence. “ ‘If we are going to… carry on… in this manner, then you should at least meet my sister.’ “ Jonathan paused to sit down on his bunk and scratch Porthos behind the ears. “I don’t know, Porthos. Plenty of men on a ship together… carry on, as Malcolm put it, and yet, don’t have to meet each other’s family members. I’m really, entirely, not so sure about this.”
Porthos had no opinion to offer, though he was happy to stare up at Jonathan with his large beagle eyes.
Jonathan, of course, couldn’t stand to sit quietly, and so kept talking. “It’s not even that I don’t like Malcolm – I do like him, of course, very much, obviously. I’m just… this is just a fling, isn’t it? A nice little fling like many men have on board ship, and if it’s just a fling, why should I meet his sister? Meeting family members is important, isn’t it? It's a big step. Are we up to big steps? I don't know if we're up to big steps. This was just supposed to be a..." Jonathan stopped, at an uncharacteristic loss for words, before saying again, "fling." He paused, sighed, and regarded the top of his dog's head. "At least it’s not his disapproving iceberg of a father. ‘Until Malcolm decided to join Starfleet.’ ” Jonathan mimicked Malcolm’s father’s British accent and sneering face. “Then again, maybe that’s why it’s his sister we’re meeting, and not his parents.”
Porthos huffed out a small breath and rolled over onto his back to show his belly, clearly tired of the human's angst. Jonathan knew when he was being asked for and obligingly gave up the belly scratches.
“I just don’t know, Porthos. Then again, if this is just a fling, why am I so nervous about meeting his sister? If this is just a fling, I shouldn’t be this nervous.”
The door beeped and Jonathan sighed. “Come in.”
Malcolm strode into the room. “Hi, there.”
The two men stood and eyed each other awkwardly before Malcolm moved to sit beside Jonathan on his bunk. “So,” Malcolm began.
“So.” Jonathan stared down at Porthos.
“Is that what you’re wearing?” Malcolm eyed Jonathan up and down, half in appraisal and half critically.
“They’re the nicest civvies I have on board.”
“Well. That’s fine then.”
The silence stretched a little longer, before Jonathan said “Look-“ and Malcolm said “This seemed-“ at the same time. The men chuckled.
Jonathan pulled Porthos up into his lap. “You first.”
Malcolm grimaced a bit, but continued. “This seemed like a good idea a month ago when we set it up.” Malcolm’s sister, Madeline, was going to be in San Francisco for a conference at the same time as the Enterprise was going to be back for a rare visit home. It had only seemed natural that Malcolm introduce the two most important people in his life to each other. Now that the day was here, though, he wasn't so sure. However, he'd be damned before he'd admit that to Jonathan.
Jonathan, for once, was not opting to project false bravado. “That’s okay. When you said ‘Would you like to have dinner with my sister?’ it sounded like a good idea. Now…” He trailed off.
“You’re using that dog like a shield, Captain.” The corners of his mouth crinkling were the only signs that Malcolm was amused.
“Well, can you blame me?” Jonathan was hoping he didn't sound defensive, and was pretty sure he was failing miserably.
“You’re a starship captain and regularly face down threats to the ship, if not the universe, and yet dinner with one very mild mannered British woman is scaring you like this?”
“Precisely!” Jonathan looked more relieved now that Malcolm understood the full weight of the issue.
“Oh, you.” Malcolm pulled the other man into a long kiss; at some point, Porthos ended up pushed to the floor, where he settled in for a nap.
“How long do we have before dinner?” Jonathan asked.
“Oh, a couple hours. I’m not entirely sure why you’re dressed this early.”
“We can fix that.”
They managed to arrive at dinner right on time. Madeline, it turned out, was very lovely. After a bit, Jonathan managed to relax. Malcolm had picked an amazing steakhouse right down on the water (“Why not? It’s not like I’m on Earth to spend this kind of money very often.”) Also, Madeline was skilled at making small talk, and eventually, Jonathan loosened up (the beer they were drinking likely didn’t hurt), and started breathing again. Malcolm felt reasonable enough about how things were going to excuse himself to the restroom, leaving Jonathan and Madeline alone.
Was that the same gleam Jonathan saw in Malcolm’s eyes before the armory officer was going to say something particularly evil? “So, Jon. How long have you been sleeping with my brother?”
Jonathan choked on his beer. “I… er… how did you know?”
“You two ooze caring for each other. And captains don’t usually call their armory officer’s parents to find out what said officer’s favorite food is for his birthday.”
“Well, if I’d met your parents, I likely wouldn’t have called them.”
“They can be hard.”
“That’s a good word. Your mom seemed all right…”
“Mummy is not so bad. Father is… father.” Madeline wrinkled her nose a bit and took another swallow of her beer.
“They weren’t very helpful.” Jonathan finished off his beer and then fiddled awkwardly with his glass.
“I wasn’t very helpful, and I’m his sister. Malcolm is a hard nut to crack. And you haven’t answered my question.”
“You noticed, eh? He’s spending a long time in the head.” Jonathan thought And isn't coming to rescue me, is he?
“I would imagine he wanted us to have a chance to talk.” Madeline, on the other hand, was amused and definitely enjoying this conversation, much more than Jonathan was.
“Right. Well, we weren’t sleeping together when I called your folks about his birthday. But, then night of his birthday…”
Madeline leaned forward, interested. “Do go on.”
“Ensign Soto managed to find out that pineapple was his favorite food. It turned out he’d even been taking allergy shots so he could eat it! We had chef make a pineapple cake. It’d been a stressful few days, and there was beer, and…”
“And you two ended up back in your quarters together.”
“How did you know that part?”
“You’re the captain, and you’re going to have large private quarters.”
They sat with that for a moment. “I didn’t mean for it to happen… a captain and one of his officers, after all. It’s not the best idea.” Jonathan was back to staring at his empty glass, not Malcolm's sister.
“No” Madeline agreed. “And yet, here we are.”
“Here we are.”
“Do you love my brother, Jon?”
Jonathan was saved from answering that by Malcolm – finally – arriving back at the table. “Well, you two seem to be getting along.”
“I think we’re doing all right, don’t you, Madeline?”
“I think we are.”
Madeline was in the middle of a story about Malcolm climbing to the top of the tallest tree at the park near their home when he was ten, and getting stuck, when the maître d’ softly coughed. The three of them noticed that they were the last patrons in the restaurant, and that the staff had been trying to unobtrusively clean up around them. They argued over the check briefly before Malcolm won with “This dinner was my idea, and I’m paying.” Outside on the sidewalk, Madeline first hugged Jonathan (“So, so lovely to meet you”), and then Malcolm (“Don’t forget to call when you can, please, brother?”) They asked if she wanted to come back up to the ship for a drink, but she demurred (“I’ve had more than enough beer for the night, and I have to be professional in… not so many hours.”)
Madeline started to walk back down the sidewalk to her hotel when Jonathan said “Oh, and Madeline?”
“Yes?” She turned around to look at them holding hands on the sidewalk.
“I think the answer to your question earlier might just be yes.”
“Good.” She grinned before turning and disappearing into the fog.
“What question?” Malcolm puzzled.
“I’ll tell you when we get home.”