A Desperate Searching Place
Day 4 (cont)
Fishing lines disappeared into placid water. MacGreg's voice droned about stress levels and hormones needing balance, but Smitty wasn't listening. A flash caught his eye; the water's surface broken by a tail fin too large for anything but a shark.
"That's the one I want." MacGreg wriggled his fishing pole. "That'll balance my hormones just fine." There was another flash as the creature turned their way, then it jumped from the water, landed in MacGreg's lap. Smitty stared in astonishment at the fiery hair, bright green eyes and pale skin of the mermaid. MacGreg was already fondling her as she turned her pink mouth toward the doctor. Smitty swatted at a buzzing insect, aware of his own body's interest. He-- blasted insect!
Smitty opened his eyes as he recognized the insistent ringing of his doorbell. Blast these infernal dreams! "Computer, open!" he snapped, sitting up. "What in space do you want?" he demanded, twisting to face the opening.
The corridor light revealed Lt Bugalu. "I'm ... looking for Lt MacDowell."
"You won't find her here!" Smitty growled. He bristled as brown eyes roamed around his room, as if to test the veracity of his statement. "Lights on!" he snarled, and then blinked his watering eyes in the sudden brightness.
"Of course I didn't expect to find her here," Bugalu stated. "But, uh, I was wondering if you'd seen her ... any place ... this evening?"
Repeatedly, in my dreams! Smitty pulled his blanket into a lump in his lap, trying to hide his erection. "Not since the end of shift. I signed her shore leave authorization, and she left with Abdulla."
"Oh." The younger man looked thoughtful for a moment. "Thank you for giving her all 3 days, Mr Smythe. She needs them."
"So MacGregor said." If the fool doesn't realize he's got competition for her, maybe he should wake up.
"MacGregor? I thought Abdulla--"
Smitty gave him a sharp look. Sicced Abdulla on me, did he? Didn't work; she gave up after only one try. "MacGregor was quite ... insistent," he stated. Even got the captain involved. He must be as crazy to get his hands on her as I am. I am not! It's not going to happen! I have to forget her! "Lights out!" he barked, and threw himself down on his bed. "Lock my door!"
He rolled over to face the wall. Disheveled red curls accented the astounding body lying next to him. Emerald eyes watched him from behind fiery lashes as she slid closer. Smitty groaned and pretended - again - that the hands belonged to her.
Day 4 (cont)
MacGregor awoke to the pleasant realization that he was not alone in his bed. Beth's head rested on his shoulder, her arm lay across his chest, and her leg was atop his. How did I ever give this up? He placed a light kiss on her forehead. She snuggled closer. "Sorry. I didn't mean to wake you."
"That's okay," she returned sleepily. A moment later, she asked, "Drake, where does this put us?"
"We're in my bed. Why, did you think we'd sleep-walked?"
He felt the corner of her mouth smile. "I meant our relationship. Are we back where we were 5 years ago? Or 5 days ago?"
He thought about that for a moment, remembered ugly details he'd tried to forget. "Remember Dr Jamison and Nurse Randle?"
"Hard to forget that ugly mess. Everybody knew they were together."
"Randle was also dating Capt Acosta."
"And things blew up when Jamison found out."
"Actually, things blew up because Randle got impatient, threatened to file sexual harassment if Acosta didn't 'make her an honest woman.' Acosta told Jamison the nurse had been cheating on him, and then, everything blew up." The whole ship had been effected, though most of the crew didn't understand what was happening.
She was silent a moment. "I'm not Randle," she said. "Jane Burke is definitely not my type. And I'm not interested in only seeing you. Never was."
Am I relieved or disappointed? "Never meant to imply you might be like Randle. Could have handled things better, I know. I was running scared. Things were spiraling out of control. Knowing Randle - or thinking I did - I was afraid she'd take more of us down with her. I stopped dating. Almost stopped talking. I must have seemed psychotic. When the accusations started, I sat tight and sweated."
"I hoped it was temporary. That it would blow over, and we could date again."
"It did, eventually," she stated.
"Jamison and Randle were gone. A couple others, and months later, Acosta. All of them transferred, sent who knows where. A flurry of promotions, transfers, rearranging of personnel, and when the dust finally cleared--" He pulled her closer. "I was Chief Physician, you were Head Nurse, on the same shift. That made it too easy."
"Made what too easy?"
"You didn't date me, anymore."
"I was afraid to. Before that, we'd been on opposing shifts. Planning time together took thought, effort, and being discrete was part of it. With us on the same shift, I was afraid I'd get sloppy. So I didn't ask." He sighed. "I should have at least explained it to you."
She sighed. "Eventually, decided you weren't interested anymore."
He guided her hand to his growing manhood. "Seems like time for more therapy."
She smiled as her hand encouraged his lower region. "You haven't answered my question."
He fondled her breast. "If you want an answer, you'll have to repeat the question. My mind keeps wandering to ... other matters."
Her lips brushed his jaw. "Are we back to 5 years ago, or 5 days ago?"
He didn't know how to answer, so he gave her a passionate kiss, tried to ignore the insistent buzzing doorbell. Finally, he broke the kiss and slapped the intercom button. "This had blasted better be a medical emergency!"
"Uh, Dr MacGregor, it's Lt Bugalu."
Beth stiffened, and MacGregor saw her eyes were round with shock and disbelief. "What's the matter?" he asked.
She mouthed, My date!
"I need to talk to you," Bugalu answered over the intercom.
"Not now." MacGregor fumbled for the intercom button as he lowered his mouth to cover Beth's.
"It can't wait!" Bugalu insisted.
"Go to sick bay," he instructed.
"It's about Mac," Bugalu added hurriedly.
Beth moaned, and her hand jerked, sent agony through MacGregor. He gasped, took a couple deep breaths. "I take it you don't want him to know --." He tried to whisper, but the pain made his voice hoarse. She shook her head. "No, it's probably best," he agreed. "Hold on a minute," he told the intruder, and turned the intercom off at last. Climbing to his feet, he grabbed a robe from the closet.
"Drake!" He turned to Beth as he tied his robe closed. "Mind if I listen in?"
"Our date went sour because he was so obsessed with where Mac was, what she was doing."
"It can't be easy, being her watchdog," he replied. It's a job I volunteered for.
"I don't think she needs one as badly as he thinks she does. Anyway, I was so angry, I ... well, I implied you were trying to ... have your way with her."
"I know, but ... he's so positive she can't take care of herself. She's not a little girl! And she's not helpless, either. In 5 short days, she's gotten you out of your rutting fever and made you an uncle. If she can manage that, he doesn't need to be that worried about her!"
"But you deliberately fed those worries," he pointed out.
"I'm not proud of it! I was angry."
"So, why do you want to listen?"
"If he gets too intense, I'll help you explain."
Would he be any more calm to find I'm with his date, not his sister? Maybe. He's never been jealous of any dates. "We just discussed being discrete," he reminded her. "Listen, if you want, but stay in here. And quiet."
MacGregor padded through the living room to the corridor door, where he saw Bugalu staring at his bedroom door. "Alright, what's this about?"
Bugalu turned and came forward, slowly closing the gap between them. "I can't find Mac."
He's so tense, he can hardly walk. If he really thinks I've-- This could get ugly. "Maybe she's avoiding you. That was a hell of a fight you two had."
"A stupid fight. I intend to apologize, as soon as I find her." He stopped a couple feet from him, then visibly relaxed. "Sorry for interrupting your date, Doc, but have you seen Mac this evening?"
Let's get this straight right now. "She's not here."
"Of course not. But since you had supper with her, maybe she mentioned what she planned to do?"
What does he mean, of course not? "On the other hand, she's a gorgeous young woman, enough to boil a man's blood. And I am a man."
Bugalu frowned. "You can't think like that and expect to be her friend."
"Maybe I've given up on friendship. Maybe I've decided to try for something ... more." Blast! I'm doing the same thing Beth did! Never realized Bugalu was so irritating.
Bugalu nodded slowly. "Can't say I'm surprised. She'll be disappointed, but--"
"I don't think she was," Drake broke in. He is completely blind to the others might also see her non-sexual but lovable qualities. No wonder Beth was angry with him. "Surprised, when I first made the suggestion, but then she liked the idea."
Shocked, the helmsman gave the doctor's face a good look, then shook his head. "She didn't hit you. It's possible she didn't understand what you were saying."
"I was quite explicit. We discussed all the ramifications."
"Doc, you have no idea how naive Mac is. What's explicit for you is thick mud for her. That gives me something else to explain, so unless you have an idea where she might be, I'll keep looking, and you can get back to your date." He started to turn away.
"Maybe she's my date." Yep. I thoroughly understand Beth's anger.
Bugalu paused. "No, she's not."
"What makes you so sure?"
Bugalu glanced both ways and lowered his voice. "You had the intercom on, Doc, I heard your ... activity. If it had been Mac, you'd be a bloody mess. Besides-" He indicated a spot next to Drake's mouth. "-Mac doesn't wear lipstick." He turned again. "My apologies again to you and your friend, Doc."
He is so sure of his knowledge, it's maddening! "When you find Mac," Drake stated, folding his arms, "tell her I meant what I said, about meeting at my hotel."
Again the helmsman stopped. "She won't."
"Maybe not," Drake conceded. "But she said she'd think about it. And it makes sense, since we're getting together on shore leave."
Dark eyes went cold. "Lay a hand on her, and I'll--"
"She's old enough to make her own decision."
Bugalu hesitated. "Legally, but ... not in her mind."
"She's not stupid."
"No, just horribly naive. Blast! If Matt hadn't been so pig-headed-- If she hadn't been so pig-headed-- If her blasted father hadn't brain-washed her!"
MacGregor stared at the younger man in realization. The poor guy is desperate. All this lip-service I've given to how hard it is for him, and I make him think it's worse than it is. "Maybe you need someone to help."
"Not with this. There's nobody I can trust."
"Sorry to hear it." He sighed. "Because she's decided to trust me."
Danger flashed in those dark eyes. "Not after I tell her-"
"I wish you wouldn't." He sighed. "She's still getting used to me as her uncle."
Bugalu's anger changed to shock. "Uncle! But you said--"
"Forget how I said it. We're getting together to fish. She agreed my hotel is the logical place to meet. We have moved on from being friends. Any other questions?"
"Do you have any clue what you've gotten yourself into?"
"Probably not, but I'll give it my best, just like you. Good night."
"Have you seen her this evening?"
Right, that's why he originally came. "Not since supper. She wasn't going to study, but she had something to do. She didn't say what. Is it that important?"
"I don't want her to wind up in the brig."
The brig? "Is that likely?"
"Is it likely someone will ask her to bed, and not accept 'no'?"
Drake frowned. Damned likely. She had a couple missed leaves on her first assignment, because she was in the brig. "Well, if it happens, let me know. I'll try to pull strings."
Surprised, the negro gave him a rueful grin. "If it happens, make sure you chew her out. Don't let her think you'll rescue her all the time."
"I'll keep that in mind. Now I suggest you get some sleep."
"Not until I find her," Bugalu stated, and walked away.
MacGregor let the door close behind him. He tripped over a shoe on his way through the living room, but he soon slipped his robe off and climbed back into bed. He scooped Beth into his arms and kissed her.
"And the answer to my question?" she asked.
"Somewhere in between," he answered quickly, before he lost the thought. "I'm not willing to give you up completely, not again. But discrete has to be the rule."