Lots & Lots of It
Shore Leave, Day 1
Bugalu glanced at the door to the liquor shop, then winked at the comely blond who was window-shopping nearby. She had repeatedly glanced at him as he leaned against the bulkhead, and now smiled invitingly. The shop door opened, and Mac slipped her arm around him. Surprised, the blond quickly left the area.
“All done,” Mac reported, and showed him the bottle in her other hand.
That can’t be all she got. “Did you get enough?”
“This is for immediate drinking. They’ll send the rest to the ship. I got-“
“Don’t tell me!” he exclaimed, and clapped his hand over her mouth. Her brow furrowed in confusion. “Technically, I’m your superior,” he explained, letting go of her. “If I know you’re sending more than your allotment of booze to the ship, I’m required to do something about it. Like report it. And there goes your stash.”
She nodded. “I never thought of that,” she stated. “Scary.”
Scary is remembering her smashed up against me in the transport pod. No, Bugs, don’t think about that. “Well, let’s just concentrate on having fun,” he suggested, turning onto the station’s central business corridor.
“I saw the blond,” Mac told him. “You could probably still catch her, if-“
“Mac, I promised you the whole shore leave,” he returned. “Except for shopping. So, until you meet the other ladies, what do you feel like doing?”
She tugged at his sleeve and he stopped. She chugged a third of her bottle. He waited patiently, knowing it was better to stop and let her drink, rather than make her try to both drink and walk. “I’m not used to having shore leave,” she stated as they continued walking. “What do you usually do?”
I usually have a date on my arm. “We could play no-G ball,” he teased.
He grinned, unable to say anything else for a moment, as they passed the open doorway of a noisy game room. He stopped and looked back at the place, then turned to face her. “Did you ever learn to play Phybu?”
“I manage a passable game.” She took another drink.
“Hmm. Only passable, huh?”
She stuck her tongue out. “Passable means you haven’t got a chance!”
“You’re on!” They turned back for the game room.
Shore Leave, Day 1
Abdulla considered the turquoise outfit she had pulled off the rack. This has possibilities. She turned to Beth. “What do you think?” she asked, holding it up.
Beth looked at the outfit. “Wrong color for Mac.”
“Oh, of course, not for Mac. I was thinking about me.”
“The color’s good,” Beth decided. “But do you like that neckline? Seems like it would make your neck look short.”
Abdulla gave the outfit another look. “You’re right.” She put it back, and glanced at Mac, who was taking a gulp from her whiskey bottle, her laced up leather vest trying valiantly to keep her decently covered. “Where did she get that top? It doesn’t look her type.”
“Borrowed it from YD,” Beth returned. “What YD was thinking, I have no idea. Every man who sees Mac in that can’t take his eyes off her.”
“And that differs from her uniform how?” Abdulla asked.
Beth laughed, then shook her head. “It’d drive me crazy.”
“I don’t think Mac even notices,” Abdulla stated.
“She’s afraid to notice,” Beth returned. “If she notices, it’s real, and she’s to blame.”
“What, exactly, would be her fault?”
“Sometimes colony societies develop weird beliefs. Especially about sex. The woman always gets blamed.” Beth looked at two outfits thoughtfully, and then turned to the others. “Mac, give us some clues, at least. What do you like to wear?”
“Pants,” the redhead stated firmly, and took another drink. “I just want clothes that aren’t sexy.”
“On you? Can’t be done.” Look at that bleak look on her face. Oh, space, all those missed shore leaves on the Bartholomew! “Mac, if you’ve had problems with unwanted attention from crewmates, I can’t blame you for being worried. But the Fireball is not a tug. If you have problems with anyone, you have a lot more avenues for lodging complaints. Captain doesn’t tolerate misbehavior. You can relax and be yourself.”
“I can’t hit them when they get obnoxious,” she stated.
“Oh, space, no!” Beth declared. “Don’t do anything to wind up in the brig!”
Abdulla felt herself go pale. “Absolutely stay away from security,” she agreed.
Mac looked confused. “Tall Bear seems … not too bad.”
Abdulla and Beth both smiled. “Tall Bear can be … wonderful,” Abdulla stated. “But he’s only the A shift supervisor for security, not the chief officer.”
“Stay away from Lt Cmdr Winthrop,” Beth advised. “The man is slime.”
“Worse than slime,” Abdulla agreed.
“All men are slime,” Mac stated, and hesitated. “Well, most of them.”
Yes, she’s definitely had problems. But obviously, she doesn’t feel that way about Bugalu. “Look, what clothes you wear is your decision. Like that top you have on today.”
“What about it?” She tried self-consciously to adjust the item in question. “Bugsy liked it.”
“I’m sure he did,” Abdulla agreed quietly. “He likes cleavage.”
“MacGregor, too,” Beth said, and blushed at Abdulla’s questioning glance. “I’ve worked with the man for years!”
True, but-- Maybe I’m too suspicious. “Well, if we’re going through what various men like, Tall Bear likes shapely legs. Winthrop likes a woman to be naked and in his bed, and the closer she gets to that, the better he likes it.”
“No matter what it takes to get her there.” Beth shuddered.
Winthrop again. He’s not worth this much attention. “If you’re into women, Captain Burke likes a tight butt.” Now Beth raised a questioning eyebrow, and Abdulla became defensive. “I’ve noticed where she looks when she thinks no one is watching.”
“And Smythe?” Mac blushed as they both turned to her. “Well, you mentioned everybody else I know,” she muttered.
She must be worried about him. Makes sense, after seeing her record. “Mr Smythe does not fraternize with his subordinates,” she stated firmly. I’ve told her that before. How else can I reassure her?
Mac frowned and took another drink. Yellow Dog asked, “Smythe?”
Abdulla blinked. “You, YD? I thought you were interested in Tall Bear.”
“MacGregor will be disappointed,” Beth muttered.
“And Bugs,” Mac added.
The AmerInd shrugged. “Undecided.” She gave Abdulla a questioning look.
Abdulla found she had no answer. “Smythe has always been a gentleman, no hint of any sexual overtures that I’m aware of.”
“Smythe is a whole-package man,” the nurse stated.
“Whole package?” Mac repeated. “What's that mean?”
Abdulla asked, “Has he asked you out?”
Beth laughed. “If you watch Smythe with a pretty woman – and his mind isn’t busy with engineering, which is rare – his eyes start at her face, travel down and back up. So I figure he’s interested in the total package.”
“That makes sense,” Abdulla agreed. Now that I think about it, I’ve seen him glance at busts, derrieres, legs, any and every piece of a pretty woman. Never stares, only glances. Still, I won't mention that around Mac! “Anyway, we’re trying to find clothes for Mac.”
“Whatever will make them stop asking me out,” Mac stated.
Abdulla sighed in exasperation. “You can’t mean all of them!”
“Yes, I-“ Mac closed her mouth and colored.
Apparently not all of them. I wonder who-
“I can’t-! I just want them to stop asking me out!”
“Then tell them no.”
“I have! I do! Repeatedly! Emphatically! Even violently! They don’t pay any attention! And now I can’t hit them, so- what do I do?”
“First, don’t get upset,” Beth suggested. “Don’t hit. Don’t get angry. Just tell them no. And here’s the important part; act as if you expect them to accept your decision.”
“Right,” Abdulla agreed. “You’re an officer now, Mac. Time to develop dignity. No matter who they are, they can’t make you --” Woops, that’s too close to what she’s already experienced! “For instance, let’s look at your run-in with Jones the other day.”
“Oh. You heard about that.”
“The Fireball is a big ship, but its crew is human – mostly – and there’s still a grapevine,” Beth stated.
“Anyway, Jones made a suggestion, which you didn’t like. You got mad, shoved him, threw your drink at him, would have hit him.”
“A simple no, with no embellishment, no feelings … how can they argue with that? But anger, violence … those are forms of passion. And a man will think that if you’re that passionate, then you’re just playing hard to get, and all they have to do is wear you down.”
“Smythe told you to calm down and report such transgressions,” Beth added. “He was saying that you don’t have to deal with these … problems alone.”
“But that’s how I was raised,” Mac protested.
“You’re not a little girl anymore,” Abdulla stated. “Time to become your own woman. Now, about this mystery man of yours-“
Startled, Mac finished her bottle. “I need a drink.” She looked around, like she needed rescued.
“Let her have her secret,” Beth admonished. “She’s not ready. Mac, when you’re alone, no one else is around, what kind of top do you like?”
“When I’m alone?” the redhead repeated. “Well, sometimes, I like loose tops, not confining. But other times, I like them tight. Like I want to feel that I’m decently covered.”
That’s no help. Abdulla asked, “What about night clothes? Do you wear pajamas or nightgown?”
“You sleep naked?” That’s got to mean something. I wish I knew enough psychology to know what.
“If I wear anything to bed, it gets all twisted up and uncomfortable.”
Beth resumed the search for clues. “What about underwear? Obviously, you aren’t wearing any under that top, but in your own clothes-“
“I only wear underwear in uniform. Because it’s required.”
Abdulla and Beth looked at each other, and then put back the clothes they had been considering. “We’ve started in the wrong department,” Beth stated calmly.
“Right,” Abdulla agreed. “When she said she needed a new wardrobe, I never thought to include lingerie!”
“I don't need that,” Mac protested. When YD took her elbow to urge her along, she sighed. “Can we detour through the liquor department? I need another bottle.”
“Mac, you’re drinking a lot,” Beth stated. “I’m surprised you’re still standing.”
“I’m Gaelund,” Mac returned. “I’m out of practice, but I’m just getting started.”
“Drake does not know what he’s got himself into,” Beth muttered.
MacGregor? Abdulla wondered. Is he Mac’s mystery man?