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Goralis System: Republic of Cardassia

"I swear, Sir," Katie said spooning another mouthful of Tigranian's chicken curry and rice into her mouth. "You looked like you about to have an aneurysm while that Cardassian was speaking to you."

Tigranian leaned back in his chair at the head of the dining room table. He and Laria were continuing the tradition of having the entire senior staff over for dinner. He had even left the bridge early to cook a real, unreplicated meal.

"Let's just say I don't have a lot of patience when dealing with our grey-skinned friends on the other side of the demarcation line…" he said pouring himself another glass of the cardamom and kava iced tea Laria had brewed.

"Or with their pointy-eared friends, present company accepted," Annabeth said motioning towards T'les seated next to Scharr.

"No offense taken, Round Ear," T'les replied holding up a glass of water. Annabeth laughed.

"Let's just say you're not alone in those feelings, Dan," Annabeth said.

"Glad to hear it," the captain said taking a bite of his own food. "The ridiculous baktag he was spewing in our direction. I wanted to reach through the viewscreen and choke slam him."

"He was just trying to ruffle your feathers, Dan," Alex said with a smirk. "As your doctor, I have to advise you to keep calm. It's not good for a man of your age to have your blood pressure rise like that…"

"OOOOOOO," the entire table leered.

"A man of my age?" Tigranian said incredulously. "Tren is more than decade older than I am."

"Yeah, but I'm not a weak-ass, pink-skin," Scharr replied putting a forkful of sauced chicken into his gullet.

"I will have you know that I am in better shape now than when I graduated the Academy."

"The waist size of your trousers begs to differ, dear," Laria said batting her eyes.

An even louder hoot of approval echoed around the room.

"Whoah!" Tigranian said to everyone. "This is what I get for slaving over a hot stove for this crew?"

"You'll make someone a really great wife, one day, C-O," Annabeth chuckled.

"Eh, if I can ever get him to do a load of laundry right," Laria complained. "He mixes colors and whites together!"

"Gasp, Dan," Alex replied satirically.

"yInDayajmeH 'oy' yISIQ," Tigranian muttered rubbing his eyes.

"I'm not sure that's the correct usage of that particular phrase, Sir," Katie said.

"Oh, you speak Klingon now?" Tigranian replied acerbically.

"No," Katie said. "But I have hard time believing any Klingon proverb has to do with cooking or washing clothes."

Her barb elicited another chuckle from everyone, including Tigranian.

"Count it!" Phil said holding up his palm. Katie slapped it triumphantly.

"Speaking of ridiculous conversations," Phil said taking another bite from his plate. "I had a crazy one with Katie the other night…"

"The one where you told her you were going to be the man in the relationship?" Scharr interjected. Another snicker circled around the table.

"For the record, I make Phil do all the cooking and laundry," Katie said holding up her fork.

"So noted, Katie," Tigranian said nodding his head.

"No," Phil said rolling his eyes. "Katie was telling me she thought X-O was pregnant…"

Dead silence encompassed the senior end of the table. The sound of Annabeth's fork dropping to her plate echoed across the bulkheads.

"I mean…" Phil stammered picking up on the awkwardness. "It's ridiculous…that you could be pregnant, Ma'am," he paused as she looked down at her plate. "Right, Ma'am?"

"Phil…" Alex said from across the table.

"Actually, I am pregnant," Annabeth said confidently raising her head. "I mean," she said turning to Alex. "There's really no point in hiding it. My stomach is going to betray me pretty soon anyways."

"Fascinating," T'les said pausing at Annabeth's revelation.

"Congratulations, Ma'am and Ma'am," Katie said raising a glass of wine in Alex and Annabeth's direction while attempting to smooth over the awkwardness caused by her loose-lipped fiancÚ.

"Thank you, Katie," Alex said pushing the food around on her plate. She wasn't sure why this sudden reveal was so difficult. She glanced over to Tigranian and Laria who were pursing their lips tightly.

"We found a donor who was willing to help us," Alex said to everyone. "He is a good friend of both of us, but we strongly looked at all the candidates. No one should feel bad we didn't ask them instead," she said trying to prevent anyone's feelings from being hurt.

"You say that like we all know him, Doc," Phil said laughing.

Alex twitched as she realized she revealed too much.

Katie's instincts immediately picked up on it. She glanced over to the captain and Annabeth and realized both their cheeks were flushed.

"Ohhh…Dear…God…" she thought to herself as her eyes grew wider than her plate. She immediately slammed both hands down on the table.

"Katie, what's wrong?" Phil asked concerned.

"Nothing!" she said grabbing a napkin and wiping her face. "I just remembered that I have a diagnostic on the torpedo targeting sensors scheduled for 0500 tomorrow morning."

"You never said anything about a diagnostic tomorrow morning?" Phil replied.

"That's because I don't tell you everything…." she said gritting her teeth.

"There wasn't any diagnostic on the schedule for tomorrow morning," Annabeth said very confused. "And certainly not at 0500."

"That's because it's a surprise inspection," Katie stammered. "Trying to keep the night crew on their toes. Don't want them getting complacent, right Sir?" she stammered to Tigranian. He grew very concerned.

"Katie, are you sure you're alright?"

"I'm fine, Sir, but I better call it a night," she said pushing back from the table and stretching her arms over her head. "Thank you for the meal, it was delicious."

"Half of it is still on your plate, Lieutenant," T'les said pointing with her fork.

"Then, I'll take it to go!" she said running to the replicator and materializing a paper container. She ran back, quickly shoveled her food inside, closed the lid, and then kissed Phil on the cheek. "Early day tomorrow, I'll spend the night in my quarters. Wouldn't want to wake you up early. See you!" she said running out of the room.

"The hell was that?" Scharr said looking down the table. "That was weird even for Stone."

"I don't know," Phil said putting his napkin back on the table, "but I'm going to find out."

"Let her go, Phil," Annabeth said softly. She was convinced that Katie had figured out the whole thing and was not reacting well. "It was obvious she wanted to get away from the group for a while."

"Ma'am," Phil said more than a little desperately. "We all know that when she wants to get away from people, it can be dangerous…"

"She'll be alright, Phil," Tigranian said rubbing the side of his face. "I don't think it's that." He flashed a glance over to Annabeth and Laria. They each took a deep breath.

"That was great!" Scharr said putting his fork and knife across his empty plate. His words broke the uncomfortable silence. "What's for desert?"

"Sir," Phil said turning his head around. "With all due respect, how can you think of desert at a time like this?"

Scharr leaned back in his chair, his antennae slowly moving from side to side.

"Philip," the way the old Andorian said his full name automatically made him seem wiser and more paternal. The entire table shifted to hear his words. "We all love Katie. By Uzevah the Infinite, I don't know why I do, but I do.

I have three wives and ten kids back home with another on the way. I've been in Starfleet for a quarter of a century. I've been to over two hundred planets across three quadrants of this galaxy, and do you know what I've figured out over the years? It's always gonna be something.

Alien parasites are inside a crewman's bloodstream, the baby's got colic, there's a radiation leak in the warp core, your middle daughter got a skinned knee cause your oldest son pushed her down, or somebody at this table is struggling with something we don't understand," he subtly raised his eyes towards the two married couples at the other end of the table. "If you fly off the hinges every time something in work or family life is amiss, you won't make it very long in this life. However, there are very few problems that can't be made better by sitting back and enjoying a good piece of uttaberry pie a la mode."

The others were stunned at his frank and rather poignant advice.

"Mr. Scharr," Phil said leaning forward. "That was either the wisest or the stupidest thing I've ever heard.

"The best counsel is usually a bit of both, Kid," the Andorian said with a grin.

"I'm afraid we don't have any uttaberry pie, Tren," Tigranian said, "but would you be willing to settle from some peach cobbler?"

Scharr sighed.

"I guess that will have to do, Sir."

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