Term of Endearment
Day 3 (cont)
The work day was finally ending. It had been a nerve-wracking day of complete silence. Smitty stopped working to watch the redhead from the corner of his eye for a few minutes. She hasn't once asked for help. But she's been slow, as if she has to think intently about each project.
He turned back to work, reached for a tanderin wrench. A cold wrench I understand, but soft? Looking down, he saw his hand around hers, which was wrapped around the tool he wanted. "You have warm hands, dear," she muttered.
He let go at once. "Let me know when you're done with it." She gave one short nod, and that was the end of their conversation.
He glanced at the chronometer as she completed her project and closed the panel. Too late to start the next one. "Do that tomorrow, Lieutenant. There's not enough time to get a proper start. Report back at 0800."
She collected her tools. "Yes, dear."
He stiffened. "What did you call me?"
She faced him, face white, eyes confused. "What do you mean?"
He faced her squarely, determined to settle this. "There's been times when you called me 'dear’, instead of the 'sir' I'm sure you meant." She looked shocked, and then flushed deep red. "Let's not get the two terms confused again," he told her.
"No, dear," she mumbled, then raised her face to bark out, "No, sir!"
He watched as she put away her tools. With a glance his way, she turned for the door. "Good night, dea-Sir!" She hurried away.
He finished his own chore and closed his panel. It occurred to him that his nerves were frayed. Too much silence. I'm not used to it. Somebody's always talking on the bridge, or in engineering. I hadn't thought this one to be so quiet. I must have scared her really badly yesterday. Well, probably a good thing. I'll just stop at the nearest recroom and get a cup of tea. That'll settle my nerves.
Day 3 (cont)
Capac sat down heavily and shuffled his deck of cards. Days on the bridge without Bugalu are so boring. I can never think of anything to say to Amano, so the day drags. If I were Bugalu, I wouldn't have trouble talking to Amano. Or any woman. He sighed. If I were Bugalu, I'd have a date, not play solitaire all the time.
He looked up when Mac entered, her face red. She crossed to the dispenser, manipulated several buttons, and was rewarded with a tall iced drink. When she turned around, she almost ran into the engineering ensign standing directly behind her.
"Ensign," she greeted him, frowning. I don't think she likes him. She tried to step around the man, but he blocked her path again. She stared at him coldly. "Did you want something?" I’d be frozen solid by a voice that cold.
But the ensign was too hot-blooded to be stopped by a chilly reception. "You know what I want." He started to step forward, but her slim hand on his chest kept him at arm's length. "MacGregor's not here to keep us from going to my quarters. I can treat you a lot better than that old man."
Her eyes flashed with anger. "You're not my type." She gave a little push, which shoved him backward several feet.
That won't do it. Jones doesn't accept rejection.
"What did MacGregor promise you, beautiful? Because you can't actually enjoy sleeping with a man as old as your father."
“Father!” She threw her drink at him. Jones ducked, the drink sailed past him and struck Mr Smythe's shoulder as he walked in. The entire drink soaked into his uniform.
"Oh, dear," Mac squeaked, suddenly white. She stared at her commanding officer in dreadful anticipation.
Already got her 'welcome aboard' chewing out, I guess. That tradition never made sense to me. But nobody ever asked me.
Smythe glared at her before he spoke. "All right," he growled. "What's going on?"
Nearly every person in the room began to speak, except Mac. Smythe studied her; folded arms, lips pressed together, white face. Smythe took a step closer, and the other voices died. "Was that your drink, MacDowell?"
She raised her face to look him squarely in the eyes. "Yes, sir." Her head canted as she shifted her gaze to Jones, now behind the older man. "I apologize. My aim was off."
"Sir, she tried to assault me!" Jones stated.
Her eyes narrowed.
"I'm sure she had a reason," Smythe stated, startling her. After a moment, he told her, "What was your reason?" She opened her mouth, blushed furiously, and refused to answer.
"I want to press-" Jones began, but Smythe glared at him and he shut up.
"I'm waiting for your explanation," Smythe reminded the redhead.
She lowered her head, took a deep breath. "Ensign Jones made a remark that ... that I took exception to."
"So you threw a drink at him?"
"He was too far away to punch," she muttered.
Smythe seemed shocked. "If he'd been closer, you'd have hit him?"
She shrugged, and hugged herself tightly. "I usually do. In these instances."
"Not anymore!" Smythe growled. Her head jerked up, her face pasty as she stared at him. "You can't go around hitting your crewmates! You can't, and you won't! From here on out, you walk away from insults! Understood?"
"Do you understand?" Smythe bellowed.
She swallowed and hoarsely said, "Yes, sir."
"Good. Then I won't be hearing about any outbursts on your part." He paused to watch her for a moment, as if expecting her to protest. She stood where she was, staring at the floor, her face now red. Calming down, he ran his fingers over his wet tunic and started for the door.
"Mr Smythe," she called, her voice tight and hoarse.
The senior officer faced her again. "What?"
"If I can't hit him, what do I do with him?" Jones leered, and she tensed. "Stop it! I want nothing to do with you, can't you get that through your thick skull?"
Smythe whirled his head in time to catch the leer on Jones' face, although it was quickly erased when the ensign realized his superior was watching. "Been pestering you for a date?"
"He's been pestering me for sex! I don't recall any mention of a date!"
Smythe shook his head. "That's not the way to--." He glanced back at the redhead again. "You made it clear you weren't interested?"
"Yet he keeps asking?"
"Repeatedly!" she confirmed.
"Then report him," Smythe told her succinctly.
She snorted and crossed her arms again. "Like that will accomplish anything! Nobody pays attention to that!"
"I pay attention to it," Smythe growled. "If that's not enough for you, Captain Burke pays attention to it." The redhead sighed and lowered her face, shaking her head.
Smythe headed for the door, paused as he reached the ensign. "Mr Jones."
"Sir?" the young man asked, swallowing.
"We've had that conversation before," Smythe told him.
"Yes, sir," Jones agreed uncomfortably.
"You will not be happy if we wind up having that conversation again," Smythe warned him, and walked out.
Jones stared at the redhead for a moment before he left. Mac took a deep breath and threw herself in the chair opposite Capac, wrapped her arms around her lowered head. "Bad day?" Capac asked. Brilliant! Like it wasn't obvious!
With a low growl, she suddenly started pulling her hair out of its bun, and then shook her head until the red curls bounced free. "I feel like screaming."
Capac nodded. "I've felt like that, sometimes."
"I needed that drink!" she groaned.
She's melodramatic. "Get another iced tea," he suggested. "The dispenser will give you all you want."
"Iced-" She stopped, a funny look on her face. Her eyes fell on the cards spread out before him. "Black queen on red king."
"Where?" He studied the cards.
"There. The king of diamonds," she pointed out.
"I can't do that!" he protested. "That king is sitting on down-facing cards. Putting more cards on top of it is against the rules."
"No, it's not."
He frowned at her. "I know how to play solitaire." I do it every night.
"I know 257 versions, and none of them have that silly rule," she stated.
He stared at her. "Two hundred fifty-seven versions?"
Space! I thought I was lonely! But she could have any man she wants! Why spend so much time playing cards? He slid all the cards together and began to gather them. "There must be something else I can do with my time."
"Of course there is." She smiled. "Just look around, see what others are doing."
"What are you doing this evening?" I can't believe I asked!
"I'll be in the gym for a while," she answered easily. "Probably." She sighed. "And then I hit the books." Definitely gotten her 'welcome aboard' chewing out. Poor girl. She rose to her feet. "Maybe I'll see you there."
"In your books?" he asked in confusion.
She laughed. "In the gym, silly. Everybody should get exercise once in a while." She bounced out of the room.
"Capac's got a date," Fiala stated.
The other man slugged him gently on the shoulder. "Capac, we all heard it. She’ll meet you in the gym. Promised you extra exercise, too," Fiala added. "I'm jealous."
"It's not what you think," Capac said as Fiala walked away. I wish it was.