Day 2 (cont)
Bugalu had just pulled off his uniform tunic when he heard his bedroom door open. Now what? He turned in time to catch Mac as she threw herself against his chest. I’m going to have to start changing in the bathroom. Locking my door would hardly slow her down. Once more, hot tears fell on his skin. Why’s she upset now? “Mac?”
“He’s right!” She sobbed. “I never should have come! I couldn’t even answer his first question! He was so disgusted, he didn’t bother to ask any more! What would he think if he knew I got the answer from Abdulla? Well, obviously, he couldn’t think any less of me! What made me think I could pull this off?”
Bad day at the office. Smythe gave her the opening salvo, I suppose, and she’s taken it hard. She never could accept criticism. He rocked her back and forth, made shushing noises into Mac’s fraying topknot. She cried a long time, but eventually started to wind down. “He kept saying that every detail is important, and he’s right, it could have been my forgotten detail that got Matt killed!”
He stopped rocking. An icy chill slid down his spine. “Mac, you had nothing to do with Matt’s death.”
“I know, but what I meant was, he might have died because somebody forgot some tiny detail, and I don’t want to be the cause of anybody else’s brother dying. I was an idiot for coming here!”
“No, you weren’t,” he told her firmly, sitting her down on the edge of his bed. “Look, maybe you’re a little rusty.” All her assignments have been tugs; she could be a lot rusty. “The regs give you six months to prove yourself. Whatever questions he asked you today were just a kind of preliminary test; they weren’t official. We’ll just go to Abdulla and ask her to help you review—“
“Oh.” She held up a small disk. “She is. She’s really very nice, Bugs. Is there anything between you two?”
When did she have time to ask? “Good. Yes, she is. Nothing in particular. Don’t change the subject.” He tapped her skull. “I want to be sure we get this straightened out in your head. You have six months to relearn whatever you haven’t used these past four years. But you did know it once, or you wouldn’t have graduated the Academy, so it’s merely a matter of refreshing your memory, Mac. Just focus on review. You watch, you’ll pass probational on first try.”
She rolled her eyes. “I don’t know about first tr-“
“Tut, tut,” he interrupted, wagging his finger. “Your first try. You have more brains than you give yourself credit for, Colleen MacDowell. Now, you have your disk to study, and that’s what I suggest you do, just to ease your jitters from today.”
She eyed him wonderingly. “You have a date tonight, don’t you?”
“I do,” he admitted. “An eagerly awaited date with a special woman named Ivy. So if you are done with me-“
“Special in that she works swing shift, and I’m not the only one she dates, so I have to work hard for the few dates I do get to have with her. We’re meeting for a drink in the officer’s lounge at 1930-“
“Just one,” he confirmed. “Then we’re going to recroom 2 for a concert by some musically-talented crewmembers, and I hope to bring her back here, afterwards. She’s insisting that we dress for the concert, and I need to eat, so if you are done with me--?”
“Back here?” She glanced at the bed she sat on, stood up quickly, and headed for the door. “Okay, bed. I mean, bye.” He had already unfastened his pants and was preparing to push them down when she suddenly reversed herself. “Oh, speaking of bed-“ She whirled again, to face the door, while he hurriedly re-fastened his pants.
“What?” He tried to keep impatience out of his voice.
“I need to ask you- Someone has asked to be my friend, and I need to ask you about him. What you think of him.”
She wants to be friends with a man? That hasn’t happened since ... well, since me, and look where it’s gotten us. “Who?”
“Dr Drake MacGregor.
MacGregor? “Is he your molehill, Mac?” Look how pink the back of her neck is.
“No, not Mac.” She’s already shortened his name. He’s doomed. “It’s just that— He said if we couldn’t be friends, he’d have to bed me, because he couldn’t ignore me.” Sounds like the Doc. But I don’t know of any man who can ignore her.
“Then you’d better be friends, don’t you think?”
She sighed in relief. “I didn’t want to hurt him.” As in hitting him. But she would, if he tried to bed her. “Thanks, Bugs.”
She stepped forward to leave, and the door opened so she could. As she stepped through, she stopped as a mass of copper nearly ran into her. “Oh, sorry, shorty,” Tall Bear apologized, and yawned. “Didn’t see you. You should try growing a foot taller.”
“You should try waking before walking,” she returned. “Even the dictionary knows that.” She scooted past him.
Tall Bear stepped into the open door, leaned against the doorjamb, arms crossed. With the AmerInd in the way, the door wouldn’t close. “What are you looking at?” Bugalu asked.
Bear grinned. “You don’t usually try to fit two women into one day.”
Bugalu snorted. “If you listen to Ryan, I already did that this morning.”
“Yeah, I heard. I can’t blame you. If shorty gave me a second glance, I’d sure fit her in whenever I could, too.”
“It’s not like that. I roomed with her brother. She adopted me as a brother.”
“Oh, a case of ‘vice is nice, but incest is best’?”
“Bear!” But Bear had stepped back into the hallway, allowing the door to close. He had been teasing, of course, and would not be spreading any rumors about Bugalu and Mac. Tomorrow he would need to think of a suitable response.