Shore Leave Needs
Whistling, tuxedo jacket slung over his shoulder, Bugalu left the turbo-lift, walked down the corridor, and entered a living room that looked much like his own. An alarm clock sounded in the bedroom and was silenced. "Mac?"
She emerged from the bedroom, her arms full of clothes. She looked him over as she walked toward the sofa. "Looks like you didn't make it back to your place."
He grinned. "We used hers."
She dumped the clothes onto the sofa. "And you came to tell me the details?" She paused to open and refasten her uniform, which had been sloppily closed.
He pulled his gaze from the revealed uniform shorts and mandatory bra; it landed on the untidy stack of clothes. "You need help with that?"
She giggled. "I figured out how to dress myself long ago." She started sorting the clothes into random piles. "Speaking of clothes, how come you never told me not to wear mine?"
Because that would make it damned hard to keep being a brother. "Who told you not to wear clothes?"
"Silly. He didn't say to wear no clothes. He told me to change what I wear off duty."
Why can’t she stay on one subject? "Who he?"
I should have known, I guess.
"He wasn't very helpful about what I should wear, though." She contemplated the clothes on the sofa. "Well, not the exercise suit." She picked up a brown unit and stuffed it down the recycling chute.
That looked like the suit issued at the Academy. He studied the remaining clothes more carefully. Most of these items she had at the Academy, I think.
Mac took a deep breath. "Might as well get to it," she muttered. She picked up the clothes item by item, then tossed them into the recycler with a comment such as, "Too short, too tight, too small, low neckline-"
What’s she doing? He watched in horror as she rapidly approached the last few items on the sofa. Doesn't look like she's going to stop. She picked up a pink shirt, frowned at it, and got ready to toss it out without any comment. "What's wrong with that?"
She looked up in surprise. "This?"
"Yeah. What's wrong with it? Too small, too old, wrong color, what?"
She frowned in disgust. "It's the right size. I haven't had it long." She hesitated. "What do you mean, the wrong color?
"Every woman has some colors that don't look good on her. But if it's not your color, why did you buy it?"
"I didn't!" she hissed, and balled it up for the recycling chute.
She whirled, the pink shirt still in her hand. "Why not?"
He indicated the items left on the sofa. "That's the last shirt. Throw it out, and you'll have nothing to wear with these pants off-duty. The ship replicators only supply uniforms."
She frowned. "Alright. I guess I’ll keep it. Until I get it replaced." She began folding the shirt and remaining pants.
"When do you expect to do that?"
She blinked, picked up the folded clothes and started back for the bedroom. He followed. "I hear there's a shore leave coming up."
So she has been thinking. "That's right. Space Station B27, in three days. Should be plenty of clothes to choose from."
“Good.” She tossed the items into a drawer and fussed with curls that had already escaped from her bun. “I’ll give you my measurements and my payment card, and you can bring back whatever you think I need.”
She wants me to shop for her? "Why in space would I do that?"
Another alarm clock blared. "Because I need clothes." The alarm stopped, and the woman in the other bed rolled over, but made no effort to get up.
"Obviously, since you just threw all your clothes out," he returned, but she had turned to frown thoughtfully at the other bed. "What's wrong?"
"That's the third time her alarm's gone off," Mac muttered. "I don't know how she gets to work on time."
"She often doesn't," he returned, and turned to pull the blankets off the other woman, who was wearing a very skimpy excuse for pajamas. "Della, if you're late again, Mr Smythe will be all over you!"
"He's too busy being all over the new girl," she returned, still half asleep.
"You know better than that. He keeps tabs on all his people. If you're late-"
"All right, all right," she groaned, and laboriously rose to her feet, her eyes still mostly closed. She lurched for the bathroom door, would have fallen if he hadn't caught her. Taking a peek at the world around her, the dark-haired woman slid her arms around his neck and kissed him. "Morning, Bugalu."
"Morning," he got out before their lips met again. Oh, why not? He pulled her close, and let one hand slide down to her buttock. Blast, now I want her. That's why not.
"Thank you for a lovely time," she murmured as she untangled herself from him.
"I wasn't your date."
"Really?" She tossed her tangled curls, yawned and stretched. "I wonder who was?" She turned and stopped, seeing Mac.
The redhead smiled. "I'm Mac, your new roommate."
"Hey, I'm sorry. Was Bugalu your date?"
Mac shook her head. "No."
"I was with Ivy last night." Bugalu tossed Della’s blankets back onto the bed.
"Oh, that's right," Della stated. "I got to console LaPour." She stepped to the bathroom door, rolling her eyes. "I don't know what Ivy sees in him."
"That's good to hear," Bugalu muttered as the bathroom door closed. He turned to Mac, who was grinning. "Where were we?"
"For a minute, I thought you’d show me what all this sex fuss is about."
"Very funny. Don't change the subject. I might decide to discuss last night's clock incident."
She shrugged. "We were discussing clothes."
"That's right. You threw all of yours out."
"Not all of them."
"Close enough. And for some reason, you expect me to get new ones for you."
"Well, somebody has to," she stated.
"Yes," he agreed. "You."
"Don't be silly. I can't shop from shipside."
"Why would you still be shipside?" She’s suddenly tense. Uncertain. And blushing. "What's going on, Mac?"
"Do you ... think I wouldn't be? Shipside?"
"It's shore leave. You know, a chance to get off the ship. We don't get them nearly as often as a tug, so they're a big deal." She won’t even look at me. What has her so upset? "Why do you think you’ll be shipside?"
"Oh, well." She turned back to the mirror to fuss with her hair. "I've only been aboard a couple days, and someone's got to man the ship, so I figured-"
She's lying. Something has her spooked. If I push, she'll skitter away. And she doesn't have Matt to go to. "It doesn't work that way here," he told her. "Everybody gets shore leave. It's a 3-day stay, so everyone gets 2 days. Even new people. You should have plenty of time to shop."
"Well. We'll see," she answered, and suddenly stopped fussing. "Then I'd have to figure out what to buy!"
"You find something you like, and-"
"No, no, that won't work!" she exclaimed, whirling. "It's got to be stuff that men won't find sexy! I don't have the foggiest idea what that would be!"
Can't be done. She'd be sexy in a- Whoa, got to stop thinking like that. I should have spent more time with Ivy this morning. "Mac, you always make things so complicated. Just take someone with you when you go shopping."
"Right," she agreed. "You."
"Not me." That's the last thing I want to do on shore leave.
"Why not?" she asked. "You could tell me if something was sexy or not."
I wouldn’t dare think about it. "Mac, brothers never think their sister looks sexy. I would not be any help."
"But I don't know any other men to do it!"
Why not MacGregor? He got her started on this. On second thought, he couldn’t manage it, either. "Don't take a man. Take a woman."
"How would a woman know-"
"Believe me, they know. Well, some of them. So pick someone who looks nice, and ask for help. She’d probably jump at a chance to go shopping, even if it isn't for her. Abdulla, maybe."
Della emerged from the bathroom, a towel wrapped around her, and stopped to consider them. "Bugalu, if you weren't my date last night, and you weren't hers, why are you here?"
"I'm taking Mac to breakfast," he answered.
"No," Mac told him.
"What?" She’s never told me that before!
"No time," she explained. "You might barely have time to get into uniform."
"I‘m off today. But we must hurry, or you won't have time to eat. Come on." He slipped an arm around her waist as they left. All these years apart, and she still lets me put an arm around her, but wants to deck anybody else who taps her shoulder. She's a bundle of contradictions, like always.
Something has her upset about shore leave. After breakfast, I'll figure out what.