Day 2 (cont)
Bugalu glanced at his chronometer as he emerged from the shower and hurriedly pulled on his uniform pants. With a sigh of relief, he retrieved his towel from the bed and began to dry himself more thoroughly. The door to the hall opened, and Mac came in, her uniform immaculate, and her red curls confined to a simple top-knot. “You’re late,” he accused. And it’s a good thing, too, or I wouldn’t have been dressed.
She didn’t answer, just came forward to put her arms around him, placed her head against his chest. As he returned the hug, he felt her breathing get ragged. “I’ve missed you so much, Bugsy. I’ve needed you so much. When Matt died-“
“I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you,” he whispered. “I didn’t hear about the Flame for a month. Academy roommates aren’t considered relatives.”
“The Fleet can be stupid,” she stated softly. He felt hot tears on his chest.
“You’re getting me all wet,” he complained lightly.
“You weren’t that dry to begin with.” She stepped away.
He used his towel to dry her face. “Still don’t wear make-up?”
She laughed and took the towel, turned him around to dry his back. “Women wear make-up to trap a man. And since I’m not allowed-“ She tossed the towel over his shoulder, and bounced onto his bed, leaned against his pillow.
“Wish you’d get over that.” He slipped his uniform tunic over his head.
“I don’t know. Sometimes it makes sense,” she returned. “Otherwise, I’d be some tug captain’s floozy by now.”
An interesting remark. Seems too definite to be something brought on by her papa’s dictates. Sure would like to know how she got that stripe! “I can’t see you being anybody’s floozy. And where did you pick up that word, anyway?”
Her face blanched absolutely white. “First assignment.”
“Did they tell you what it meant, or did you have to figure that out?”
Now she blushed. “It didn’t take long. To figure it out. It was pretty obvious.”
“You could have asked.”
“I did,” she returned, and reached out to touch the hologram on his bedside table. She looked longingly at the redheaded security cadet on the right side of the hologram. “By the time Matt answered, I knew.”
“I get the definite feeling,” he stated, turning to check his hair in the mirror, ‘that you have not had an easy time since the Academy.”
“Not since you and Matt graduated,” she agreed.
She still had 2 years there. And that would have been hard enough, but she hasn’t complained about that. “Well, you’re here now. So tell me,-“ He stopped, hand reaching for the pair of socks he’d left on the overnight stand. Socks that weren’t there now. “Where are my socks?”
She glanced at the stand. “What socks?”
There she goes, trying to look innocent. “Give me my socks.”
“What socks?” she repeated, but he could see a piece of dark material peeking from behind her.
“Give me!” He lunged forward to grab them, began to tickle her to make her release the socks. “Come on, give me!” They wrestled for possession of one pair of socks that were identical to many other pairs in his dresser. It’s good to hear her laugh.
Someone cleared his throat. They stopped to see who it was. Ryan. It figures. “What do you want, Ryan?”
“I wouldn’t mind doing what you’re doing.”
“We aren’t doing anything!” Bugs declared, even though he knew what it must look like. Us on the bed, me atop her, our uniforms maladjusted, and her topknot loose. Yeah, I know what he’s thinking.
Ryan grinned. “Still, I like the looks of it. When you get tired of Bugalu, sweetheart, you look me up.”
“Get tired of Bugsy? Never.”
“When he gets tired of you, then,” Ryan stated loud enough for them to hear, but pretending they weren’t supposed to. “I thought you might like to get breakfast, Bugalu, but I can see you’re busy.” The Irishman turned and left.
Bugalu groaned. By the time I get to the bridge, the whole ship will have heard we had a quickie. Well, if it keeps some of the men off her back for a while, maybe that’s not too bad. Give her some breathing room. For a while.
“You going to get tired of me, Bugs?”
He turned back, found green eyes watching him. “One doesn’t get tired of a sister.” He climbed off her and the bed. “One endures them.” She grimaced and threw the socks at him. He caught them and tossed a comb back to her. “Straighten that uniform and hair. I’m not sure you made a great impression on Lt Cmdr Smythe yesterday, so don’t give him anything to complain about today.”
“Right,” she agreed, and climbed from the bed with a grimace.
“What’s wrong?” She’s not as bouncy as usual. He sat down to put his socks on.
“Just stiff. I had a rough time last night.”
“Who with?” It was out before he remembered who he was with.
He froze in shock. “What?” Ferguson might have enough muscle to counter-balance hers. Did he force himself on her?
She turned to him in confusion. “Ferguson spotted for me.”
Spotted. Weight-lifting. Of course. What was I thinking? That’s she’s a gorgeous redhead, and everybody wants her, but I already knew that. He pulled a boot on, and she smoothed her hair.
“It wasn’t going well, until that doctor guy showed me the variable-gravity station and set it for Gaelund. And then I overdid it. So today I’m stiff.” She took a final look in his mirror, adjusted her uniform, and turned to face him. “How’s this?”
He pulled his second boot on, got up and settled into them as he looked her over. Taking the comb, he worked a wayward curl in with the rest of the hair headed for the topknot.
“It won’t stay there,” she warned.
“Probably not, but it can at least start there,” he returned. “So, tell me about your roommate. How do you like her?”
“I haven’t found anything not to like.” She fussed with the lay of his uniform. “I haven’t seen her yet.”
That’s odd. “Do you know her name?”
“Della Harris, they tell me.”
He laughed. “What a mis-match!”
“Uh oh. She’s going to hate me, isn’t’ she?”
He shook his head. “Della’s not a hater. If you haven’t met her yet, it’s because she slept over with someone. You know, had a date.”
“Oh.” Her fingers were suddenly trembling, and she clasped them together. “How does that work, exactly? I mean, if one has a roommate-“
She’s getting inquisitive about sex. My little sister’s growing up, I guess. He put a reassuring hand on her shoulder. “First, we don’t all have roommates.” He glanced at his single bed. “So, for example, if I had someone sleep over, then her roommate could have someone sleep over, and his roommate, and so on. Theoretically, the entire ship could be having one big sleep-over. In Della’s case, she might deal with the roommate situation by making it a threesome.” Her body jerked away from his hand and she blushed deep red. Not quite grown up yet. “Just let Della know that that’s not something you want to be involved in, and she’ll work around it. Anyway, if you work opposing shifts, it might not come up that often. Now, you ready for breakfast?”
“Breakfast. Yeah. I guess.” She turned for the doorway.
Wait. There was a reason why she came this morning. He pulled her back. “You had something to talk about. Urgent, you said. So go ahead. Talk to me.”
“Oh, him,” she muttered, and the blush that had faded deepened again.
“No, it’s nothing. I’m making a mountain out of a molehill. Come on, I’m starved.”
He allowed her to pull him out the door and down the hallway. A man could be a molehill for any other woman, for any man is going to be a mountain for Mac. Still, if she’s not ready to talk after all, what can I do but be here for her when she is ready?