Day 4 (cont)
Drake tried not to look like he was following Mac as she ran out. Unfortunately, by the time he got to the corridor, she was nowhere in sight. He turned to the off-duty crewwoman coming up the hall. "Did you see a redhead?"
"Privacy room." She indicated the nearby door. "She looked upset."
"Exactly," he returned quietly.
The red light next to the door said the room was occupied and the door was locked. These tiny cubbyholes were scattered throughout the ship, meant to provide some solitude on a ship where privacy was hard to find. The door didn't close tight until the person inside deliberately did so, and then the door locked, keeping everybody else out. Mac didn't want Bugalu following her.
MacGregor sighed and placed his left thumb over the red light. "Medical emergency," he muttered. Recognizing his fingerprint, the ship's computer unlocked the door. He slipped inside, closed the door behind him.
Privacy rooms were tiny. Some held small sofas, and those were popular with technicians and ensigns looking for private sex. This one held a table and four chairs. One chair held a weeping redhead.
MacGregor cleared his throat. "I thought you might need-"
"Men who offer a shoulder to cry on, Dr MacGregor, are just trying to take advantage!" she declared, raising her head to glare at him.
What happened to calling me Mac? I never liked it before she started it; now I miss it. "What about a sympathetic ear?" he asked calmly. "I've got two of those."
She hesitated, uncertain. "You won't ... touch me?"
"We'll keep the table between us," he suggested, and lowered himself into the opposite chair. "You know, that argument with Bugalu sounded like ... jealousy."
She shrugged and sniffed. "People hear what they expect to hear."
He opened a drawer and pulled out a tissue for her. "I know better, and it still seemed to be flavored with jealousy. I gather he's been ignoring you?"
She wiped her eyes, but the tears kept flowing. "It's not his fault. I didn't tell him I was coming because - well, I didn't have much notice myself. And I wanted to surprise him. I thought it would be just like at the Academy, but it's not! I never should have come!" She succumbed to her tears again.
"So, he isn't giving you the attention you want," Drake suggested again.
"That does sound like jealousy, doesn't it?" Her lips curled briefly in an attempt to smile. "But we aren't-- It's not boy friend/girl friend jealousy, I just-- I need him!"
"To do what?"
Now she looked confused. "Do? Boss me around! Keep me out of trouble! Let me hang around and pester him! To--"
"Be a brother," he summed it up.
"You had one at the Academy," Drake pointed out. "He couldn't do it alone."
"Yes!" she agreed. "So he drafted another brother for me! It became a tag-team effort, and I didn't completely disrupt either brother's love life! Brothers really get upset when I interfere in their love life!" She frowned at the tissue twisted in her hands. "I need another brother, but-" She shook her head, dismissing the idea.
"There's over 300 men aboard ship," he pointed out. "Surely-"
"Most of them have already propositioned me," she returned. "And I don't just think they have! Bear's attempt to get my shirt off was downright subtle in comparison to most of them!"
I believe it. Almost every man who sees her is going to immediately think of sex. I don't understand how Bugalu avoids it. Unless it's because he has no many other outlets for his desire?
"Capac hasn't. Yet," she continued thoughtfully, then shook her head. "He's nice, but I can't see him bossing me around."
"Seems unlikely," he agreed, though he wasn't sure he remembered the name. "What about a sister, then? Out of a hundred women-"
"Some of those have propositioned me, too," she stated. "But ... it just doesn't feel right."
Is she talking about sex with a woman?
"I've never had a sister."
"I thought maybe YD-"
She grinned. "YD's fun. We have a blast together. But she's not bossy."
He sighed. I was afraid it would come to this. What's the difference? I already promised to behave. He forced his voice to be light. "What about an uncle?"
"Uncle?" she asked, looking confused.
"That's kind of like a brother, only older."
"I know what an uncle is," she grinned. "And not necessarily older. I have a brother twenty years older than me, and uncles only 2 or 3 years my senior."
"Space!" he exclaimed. The whole family must be sex-crazed.
She shrugged. "Gaelund's population is still growing." She wiped her eyes, began folding the tissue carefully. "Let's see. I haven't met all the senior officers, yet." She frowned. "Very few, actually." She shuddered. "As a rule of thumb, I avoid them."
After studying her files, I can understand why. Blast it, I thought I was obvious, but apparently not. "What if I volunteer?"
She sat back in her chair, the tissue forgotten, and studied him carefully.
What does this mean? Am I not uncle material?
"You'd do that for Bugalu?"
"For Bugalu? No," he responded. "I'd do it for you."
Her eyes clouded with confusion; a small furrow appeared between her vivid brows. "Why? What do you get out of it?"
The question caught him off-guard, and he thought before he responded. "Would you ask that if I had said I'd do it for Bugalu?" That got her. Keep going. There's a long way to go. He leaned forward, folded his hands together on the tabletop. "Let's lay our cards on the table, Mac. The first time I saw you, you set my blood to boiling."
She pushed away from the table, putting more distance between them. Keep going. Don't let her get stuck on that thought. "Of course, I'd just given a physical to YD, so my blood was plenty hot to begin with." True, but misleading. "The more I talked to you, the more you confused me. And that's still true; the more I'm with you, the more I want to solve the puzzle that is you, learn what makes you the person you are." Well, that's got her thoroughly confused. "I like you, Mac. I knew it before I even finished your medical. Knew I wanted to be friends. You've agreed to that. Would my being an uncle be that much different than my being a friend?"
She stared at him. "Being an uncle won't get you kisses. Or fondling. Or sex."
Too bad. No, I didn't have any chance of that anyway. "Figured that when I became a friend."
She reached out, touched his hand with a cool finger. "Mac, you don't have to-"
"You remind me of my daughter." Where did that come from? Still, if it works-
Her eyes were round. "I didn't know you had a daughter."
"I misspoke. I don't have a daughter. As a Fleet officer, I haven't had many chances to ... settle down. I daydream, sometimes, about how things might have been. I thought maybe I could ... experience that a little by being your uncle."
Eventually, she nodded. "Yes. I understand. Okay, ... Uncle Mac."
"Good. Glad we got that settled. Let's have supper this evening."
She straightened away from him quickly. "I don't-"
"It's not a date," he interrupted. "It's a family thing." She looks uncertain. "You have meals with Bugalu. You've shared a table with me before, and we weren't even officially friends. So why not?"
"Yes." She smiled. "Why not?" She got up, started for the door. Suddenly, she whirled around, and he found her sitting on his lap. His arms automatically started around her, but he stopped and moved them behind the chair. She buried her face against his neck, and he felt hot tears on his shoulder. "Thank you, Mac," she breathed.
This is torture. She can't possibly know what she's doing. Or is this a test? "Mac," he gasped.
"If you don't get up, I might try for incest."
She was up in a flash, standing at the door, her eyes mere slits of anger. "I knew it! Like every other man, you just want to-"
"I am a man," he shot back. "But I didn't do anything, did I? I warned you instead. I'm new at being an uncle; it's going to take time to get used to it."
She hesitated. "I have to get to work," she muttered, opening the door.