Title: A Major Variation (Coda: Harbinger)
Author: Kathy Rose
Rating: PG
Category: General/Humor
Codes: S, R, H
Disclaimer: Everything belongs to someone else, etc., etc., etc. I'm not making any money, I'm just having fun with the characters. Wish I'd thought of them first.
Summary: Hoshi sees a change in Malcolm's relationship with Major Hayes.
Author's Note: This idea kept running around in my head after seeing "Harbinger" and wouldn't let me do anything else until I got rid of it. Thanks to smurf for some wonderful betaing.

Hoshi was trying to get a good look at Malcolm's bruises. It wasn't easy, even though she was sitting directly across the table from him. No matter which way she leaned, he kept the more severely injured side of his face away from her.

"I don't remember you getting hurt so badly during our last training session," she said.

"I wasn't," he muttered.

It must be a reflection of his distracted state of mind, she thought, that he didn't recall that the senior staff's most recent session with the MACOs involved firearms and not hand-to-hand combat. Of course, that was before the latest alien of the week took off running through bulkheads and tried to blow up the ship by damaging the warp engine.

"So what happened?"

"Hmm?"

"To your face."

"Oh, that. You might say that Major Hayes and I had a private training session."

"Looks like it was more intense than what the rest of us have been doing."

Malcolm gave a grunt in agreement, then grimaced as he tried to chew a piece of roast beef. After he managed to swallow the morsel of meat, he switched to eating the jello on his plate.

"So?" she prodded.

Malcolm finally looked straight at her. She could see the cut on the side of his face, the reddish-purple discoloration around his eye, and the swelling of his battered lips, and she winced in sympathy.

"Major Hayes and I had a 'discussion' about the hierarchy on board the ship," he said in a tone that dared her to contradict him.

She had a pretty good idea of how they had gone about discussing the issue. She knew Malcolm had been royally ticked ever since the MACOs came on board, concerned to the point of paranoia over what he believed were the major's attempts to usurp his authority.

Impishly, she said, "Looks like the major did a lot of talking."

Malcolm glared at her. "Believe me, Hoshi, I did a lot more 'talking' than he did."

"I'm sure you did..." Her voice trailed off as she saw Major Hayes walk into the mess hall and begin piling food on a plate.

Malcolm also saw Hayes. Hoshi was surprised not only when he waved for the major to come over but also when he subsequently invited the major to sit with them.

Hoshi got a good look at the major's face as he sat down. It was just as bad, if not worse, than Malcolm's. With amusement she saw that he had selected items that didn't require chewing -- mashed potatoes, applesauce, pudding -- in massive quantities. All those muscles suggested by the snug fit of his uniform had to be maintained, she supposed.

Hoshi watched as the men applied themselves to their meals. Neither looked at the other, but they didn't seem uncomfortable in each other's presence. She waited until the major had finished most of his food, then said, "Malcolm was telling me that you two had a 'discussion.'"

Hayes stopped eating and managed to convey the impression that he was at attention even though he was sitting. "Yes, ma'am," he said. "We did have a discussion."

Hoshi looked at him, raising her eyebrows to encourage him to continue. Malcolm, having already undergone her interrogation, watched their exchange with interest.

"We managed to reach an understanding," Hayes said.

"That's good." Hoshi smiled at him, and he returned her smile. Hoshi decided that he had a very nice smile, even with all the little cuts and bruises on his face.

Malcolm regained her attention when he cleared his throat. He was looking at her with a smug expression. "Satisfied?" he asked her.

"What? Oh, I suppose I'll have to be," she said, and turned back to the major. She found that his scrutiny of her hadn't abated.

"Would you be interested in some...individualized...training?" Hayes asked her with a straight face but a definite twinkle in his eye.

Hoshi's eyes widened. Two could play this game, she thought. As innocently as she could, she asked, "Would you by any chance be my instructor?"

"Yes, ma'am. It would be my pleasure," he said with a wink.

"When do we start this training, Major?" she asked, lowering her voice when she said his rank.

"How about right now?"

She could tell Malcolm didn't like the turn the conversation had taken when he tried to intervene. "Major--"

"Yes, sir," Hayes cut in. "I'll take it easier on her than I did on you."

Hoshi tried to hold back a snort at the outraged expression on Malcolm's face but couldn't. To cover her gaffe, she said quickly, "Well, Major, we'd better be going."

After standing up, Hayes pulled Hoshi's chair back for her as she rose. As she started for the door, he stayed behind for a moment. Hoshi, with her superb hearing, was able to hear the brief exchange between the two officers.

"Once again, Lieutenant, may the better man win," Hayes said.

"You hurt her in any way, Major -- and I do mean any way -- you'll have to deal with me, again."

"Understood, sir."

Hayes caught up with Hoshi and gestured for her to precede him out the mess hall doors. As they exited, she took a quick look back at the vexed tactical officer, and was willing to bet that he and the major would eventually have another "discussion."