"Ssssssshhhhh! He'll know we're out here!"
Hoshi nudged Trip, trying to get him to stop giggling. Yes, giggling. The man was giggling.
She glanced at Travis, who was biting his lip in an effort not to laugh, and the look on his face was enough to set Hoshi off in gales of her own laughter. She hastily clamped her hand over her mouth, her eyes getting as big as saucers as the door to the captain's ready room suddenly slid open.
For a moment there was silence as members of the assembled group looked anywhere but at their commanding officer. Behind him, Hoshi could make out T'Pol, both of the Vulcan's eyebrows up so high they were practically under her hairline.
Bemused, Jon asked, "What is going on out here?"
"We're carolin', Captain," Trip said happily. "We were gonna surprise ya, but looks like the surprise is on us."
Trip dissolved into giggles again under Jon's incredulous stare.
"Um, that's right, sir," Hoshi put in. "We're just trying to get in the spirit of Christmas. Chef was trying out some new eggnog concanctions...connoctions...oh hell, drinks--"
"Hoshi!" Jon said, startled by her unaccustomed use of profanity.
"She tends to get a little loose verbally when she drinks concoctions," Trip said in a loud stage whisper to John, and got an elbow in the ribs from Hoshi who was peeved that Trip could pronounce the word and she couldn't.
"What exactly was in Chef's eggnog creation?" Jon asked.
"Dunno," Trip said. "But it was blue."
"Blue? As in Andorian ale blue?"
Anything else Trip was going to say was drowned out by Travis saying, "One, two, three," and the group starting in on "God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen." The effect was ruined somewhat, however, by Liz Cutler adding "and ladies" when the group paused for a breath at the end of the title phrase.
They got through two verses before running out of steam.
"Hell, we don't know all the words," Trip slurred out happily. "Let's try another."
Jon turned to exchange glances with T'Pol.
"An Earth custom concerning the Christian observance of Jesus Christ's birth?" she asked.
He nodded, but before he could explain it to her, five voices at full volume shouted out, "Deck the halls with boughs of holly. Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la!"
Jon took an involuntary step back from the door and T'Pol cringed at the assault on her ears.
Ever the scientist, T'Pol asked loudly over the noise, "What is a fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la?"
"Hell if I know!" he shouted back. "It's one of those unexplainable things that humans just take for granted."
After the first verse, the singers' words degenerated into round after round of "Fa-la-la-la-la's," not all sung in unison. Jon waved the group into silence, wanting to laugh but trying mightily to hold it in so as to not hurt their feelings.
"That was truly unique," he praised them diplomatically.
"Great! We weren't sure you'd like us, Cap'n," Trip said. "What do you want us to sing next?"
"We're taking requests," Travis put in. "If we know the words, that is."
Jon thought quickly. Why should he be the only person subjected to...ah, entertained by...the impromptu carolers. The more crewmembers who saw them, the greater their embarrassment would be when they sobered up.
"Why should T'Pol and I be the only ones to enjoy your Christmas spirit?" he asked. "I'm sure there are plenty of the crew who would like to hear you."
Hoshi pouted. "They threw us out of the mess hall."
"Malcolm started singing 'Britannia Rules the Waves,'" she said indignantly.
"That's not a Christmas song," Jon remarked.
On cue from the back of the group came a stentorian tenor singing, "Rule, Britannia! Britannia, rule the waves: Britons never will be slaves."
"Ah, jeez, Cap'n," Trip moaned. "You set him off again. Ya have any idea how long it took us to get him to shut up?" Turning toward the soloist, Trip yelled, "Malcolm. Hey, Malcolm! Shut up!"
Immediately Malcolm closed his mouth, looking at Trip through bleary eyes. "I'll have you know we sing that every Christmas in my family."
"We know!" chorused the other carolers.
Jon decided it was time to take charge of the situation. "Please, don't let the sub-commander and me keep you from your rounds, people. Go spread some Christmas cheer."
Trip, Travis, Hoshi and Liz immediately broke out in big grins. "Thanks, Cap'n," Trip said.
Jon watched bemused as the happy group — well, happy except for the armory officer at the rear — ambled off. He could have sworn he'd heard Malcolm humming "Britannia" under his breath, and bit back another laugh until the door closed.
Jon couldn't bring himself to meet T'Pol's eyes. Looking around the room, it suddenly hit him that something was missing.
"He's makin' a list, chicken and rice!"
"That's 'checking it twice'!" Hoshi hissed. "Get it right."
"I don't care. I'm hungry," Trip retorted. "Wish we hadn't gotten kicked outta the mess hall."
"In the meadow we can build a snowman, and pretend that he is sparse and brown."
"'Parson Brown'!" Hoshi said, exasperated.
"Sorry," said Travis, not the least bit apologetic. "That's how we sang it on the Horizon."
"We three kings of Orient are..."
Hoshi glared at both Trip and Travis, knowing what was coming, but the glare didn't work.
"...smoking on a rubber cigar."
She threw her hands up in the air in defeat as they continued.
"It was loaded, we exploded, that's how we got to Mars."
From the rear of the group came a disgruntled British voice, "Some nerve they had shouting me down. At least I got the words right."
The group made a detour to the mess hall, where Malcolm snagged several glasses of blue eggnog before Chef caught sight of him and ran him back out. Apparently the carolers' banishment from the mess hall had yet to be rescinded.
Trip, however, did manage to abscond with several fried chicken legs.
"That's not exactly holiday fare," Hoshi said sourly.
"It was the only portable food there," Trip replied with a shrug. "I couldn't figure out how to carry the mashed potatoes and gravy."
"Speaking of food," Travis said, "I've always wondered -- what exactly is figgy pudding?"
"I thought it was piggy pudding," said Liz.
Hoshi grimaced as she took a slug of eggnog. "Ew."
"It's not that bad, really," Malcolm said, looking at the cup she handed back to him.
"No, what she said," Hoshi commented with a hiccup. "I always thought it was picky pudding."
"Travis was right," Malcolm informed her. "It's figgy pudding. It's...it's...I don't know what it is. I just know the right words." Shooting a glare at Trip, who was gnawing on a chicken drumstick and feeding tidbits to Porthos, he added, "To all the songs."
Trying to head off an altercation, Hoshi asked the group at large, "Well, where do we go next?"
"How about sickbay?" Travis said. "I bet Doctor Phlox would love to learn about the Earth custom of Christmas caroling."
Hoshi brightened. What a marvelous idea! Of all people on board, Phlox was likely to be the most appreciative of their musical effort. And sickbay was just down the corridor, too.
"I think we ought to sing a song for Chef for the great job he did with the drumsticks," Trip said, turning clumsily back toward the mess hall.
"No!" several voices yelled, and Malcolm and Liz each grabbed Trip by an arm and propelled him down the corridor.
"We three kings of Orient are..."
Not again, thought Hoshi, rolling her eyes.
"...traveling in a fancy car."
She stared at Trip and Travis, not believing what she was hearing. There was another screwed up version to this song?
"It is slowing, if we don't keep going, we won't get very far."
They were halfway through "Silent Night" without doing too badly, much to Hoshi's relief. There was even some nice harmony from Liz. On the second time through, the men didn't sing at first, then started in repeating each line after she and Liz sang it. It was rather nice, Hoshi thought as they neared the end of the verse. Even Porthos' howling blended in.
"Sleep in heavenly peas, sleep in heavenly peas."
"Oh, for pity's sake, Trip!"
"Can't help it. Ah'm still hungry."
"Here we come a' waffling.."
The group was beginning to run out of steam as they approached the armory. Even Trip was behaving, singing the right words. When he remembered to sing, that is. Someone they had serenaded had given them Christmas cookies, and the engineer was concentrating on eating rather than singing, sharing pieces with the dog that was enjoying being part of an unruly pack.
"How about 'The Twelve Days of Christmas'?" Liz asked.
Travis groaned. "Do you know how long that song is? We'll be here the rest of the night."
"It's not Christmas unless you sing it!" Liz insisted.
"Says who?" Travis asked.
"Shut up and sing!" Hoshi said, inserting herself between the two, and was rewarded by twin blasts of alcohol-fumed breath from the squabbling pair. Waving a hand in front of her face to clear the air, she said, "We sing here, and we've done the whole ship!"
"Yeah!" put in Trip. "Hey, that sounds kind of kinky, Hoshi."
Ignoring him, Hoshi started singing and the rest joined in.
"On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...."
Malcolm, still sulking about not getting to sing "Britannia" in its entirety, waited until the group paused for breath at this point and then sang out.
"...a cartridge in the ar-mor-y."
Everyone in the group as well as members of the armory staff who had gathered round stared at Malcolm.
"I can't believe you did that, Mr. I Know All the Right Words," Hoshi said indignantly.
"If Trip can mangle all the songs, I at least should be able to change one so that it's appropriate for the setting of its performance," Malcolm said self-righteously.
"Hey!" said Trip. "I resemble that remark!"
Ignoring Trip, Hoshi asked Malcolm, "How is what you sang appropriate?"
"A cartridge. Get it? As in a power cell cartridge for a pistol. We're in the armory with all the phase pistols and rifles," he said with a satisfied smirk.
The other carolers groaned. Hoshi, shaking her head, led the weary carolers and one dog out the armory door, the applause of the armory staff following them out into the corridor.
What they didn't see were the armory crewmembers gathering around a monitor after they left.
"I'm so glad the captain comm'd down here and tipped us off," Foster said as he instructed the computer to play back the surveillance recording of the carolers' visit. "He wants this, but I'm making copies first."