Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Musical Chairs

Musical Chairs
Shore Leave Day 2 (cont)
1934 Hours

     In a small bar, Smitty sat in a booth, staring at his empty glass, trying not to think about what he'd seen that afternoon. What was I doing in the park? I knew MacGreg was taking her 'fishing'! Unfortunately, that seemed to be the only thoughts his mind would entertain. The redheaded mermaid slid an arm over the doctor's shoulder and leaned forward to kiss him. MacGreg pulled her closer.
     Smitty blinked, realized where he was, and looked up at the middle-aged waitress standing near his table. "What?"
     Her lips toyed with the idea of smiling. "I thought you looked a few light years away. I asked if you decided on supper yet, honey?"
     "Not yet," he told her carefully.
     She frowned. "That's not water, you know. And you've drunk a lot of it."
     "Yes." He started to nod, but the movement made him dizzy, so he stopped.
     She sighed. "That's what I thought. Look, honey, you need--"
     I need a woman. From the look on her face, he had said it out loud. He cleared his throat. In for a penny, in for-- "When do you get off?"
     She arched an eyebrow, studied him carefully. "I won't jeopardize my marriage for a one-night stand, so I pass. A fine Fleet captain like you will have no difficulty finding a date."
     "I'm not a captain."
     "Sorry. I never get the ranks right. Anyway, there's several paid-companion services on the station. Do you want the contact numbers?"
     A bright tongue moistened strawberry lips. "I really should be clinging as I do you--" His jaw clenched at the memory, but he managed to push out, "No."
     The waitress shrugged. "Then how about some food? Joe does a mean hash and eggs."
     She's as bad as a mother hen. And she's not wrong. He managed a small smile. "That sounds fine."
     She moved off, was back shortly to set food and silverware in front of him. "None of my business, I know, but if you're that hungry..." She wasn't talking about food. "...surely you could have found a crew woman to... be with?"
     She turned to him, her face lit up-- "I'll be directly under you?" He swore under his breath, shoved the memory away. His hand shook as he picked up the fork, so he put it down again. "It's not that easy." He held up his empty glass. The waitress nodded and left. Not when the one I want is a subordinate. Of course, she's not MacGreg's, so it's perfectly okay for him to... unless she complains about him. Face it, Smitty, she didn't object to his attention. He reached for the glass, remembered it was empty, and began eating.
     People entered the bar, and soon the place was packed. Good thing I got my food when I did. I'll have to give a bigger tip than I'd planned. As he ate, someone jostled his table - hard - and fell into his booth, her rear landing against his thigh. The heat of her body spread quickly, setting his blood on fire.
     "That wasn't nice," she hissed, her hands balling into fists.
     Without thinking, Smitty threw his arms around her and held her tightly. "Let it go, Colleen," he whispered in her ear. "It's not worth landing in the brig."
     She turned her head to see who held her. There's hardly an inch between our lips. I bet hers taste as sweet as they look. She's so beautiful. It's not that far to my hotel--
     "Making your move already?" she breathed. "It usually takes longer than this."
     He was surprised by her pungent breath. "You're drunk."
     "So are you."
     There's no one here to see us. I hope. Kiss her, Smitty, see how she reacts. She's coming closer--
     "Talk about luck landing in your lap." The waitress chuckled as she set another glass of gin on the table. "Will the lady have anything?"
     "Same as me," he stated. Go way. Leave us alone. Colleen, my sweet-- He breathed in her perfume. "Enjoying your shore leave?" What a daft question! Of course she is! She's been with Bugalu, and MacGreg. And who knows who else?
     Her eyes widened, and her voice was higher than normal. "Are you... canceling it?"
     Canceling! "Why would I do that?" I should let go. She'll get the wrong idea. Would it be wrong? I've got several ideas, and none of them feel wrong. Not right now, they don't.
"Captain Nash thought the only R&R I needed was in his bed."
     I could give her R&R in my-- Wait. Nash? That's why-- She's been expecting-- Yes, that's Nash's style. Just like Winthrop. It's why he still drives a tug. And has such a sour wife-- He stiffened, forced his arms to loosen their grip. "Nash is married."
     "Definitely." She shuddered. "She threatened to drum me out of the Fleet."
     "The fact that he's married didn't matter?" It doesn't, to some women."
     She shrugged, and he realized that her hand was on his arm, her thumb softly stroking him through his sleeve. "Well, he's a man. Being married didn't keep him from offering me R&R."
"In his bed," Smitty muttered. No wonder the wife wanted her gone. Obviously, she has no shame for what she's done.
     She blushed, turned her delightful lips away. "He wasn't the only one."
     How many? No, that's none of my business. Confirms what I should have kept in mind; she's not for me. He removed his arms from around her, turned her to face the table, and scooted away. "Eat your supper," he instructed. He pulled his plate to his new location and continued his meal, although the food no longer had any taste. She looked confused, but ate. Silence kept them company for a time.
      "Men... usually offer me a drink, not supper," Colleen stated softly.
     She stepped down, tucked her tiny tools into her cleavage and pulled the zipper up. "Would you care for a drink?" he heard himself ask. "I offered you a drink once," he reminded her. "You refused. Anyway, you're already drunk. What you needed was food."
     Colleen continued to eat, looking thoughtful, even confused. Smitty pushed his empty plate away, tried to keep his mind empty. She took a drink and started coughing. He reached over, slapped her back. "That's not water!" she exclaimed.
     He glanced at what was on the table; two plates that held the remnants of hash and eggs, two glasses that still held some clear liquid. "I'm drinking gin," he stated and put another inch between them. "She probably gave you the same." What's the big deal? She's already plastered. Well, she got a drink out of me, after all.
     Colleen eyed the liquid, sipped, grimaced and set it down decisively. They were silent, watching each other uncertainly, then her gaze fell. "Now what? R&R in your bed?"
      He could feel heat creep into his face - as well as other parts of him. He frowned at confirmation of his weakness. "I never said that," he growled. It's a good thing she made things plain before I stumbled into that pitfall.
     "It seems... expected," she said.
     Meaning I'm no different than Nash or Winthrop. "Not by me," he stated shortly, angry at being seen as just the same as those men. "Don't be insulting. You're on shore leave. Your time is yours." She stared at him for a long time, her green eyes clouded. Is that disappointment? No, if she's disappointed, it's not over me. "You're free to go back to MacGregor, if you want." Like he needs me to send women his way.
     She started to shake her head and stopped suddenly. Too drunk. I know the feeling. "No," she said. "Mac couldn't take anymore, so he turned me loose."
     She wore out MacGreg? And still wants more? "Where's Bugalu?"
     "On duty until morning." She sighed, and her gaze landed on his glass. "Gin? Must be an acquired taste."
     "There's nothing wrong with a good gin."
     "I prefer whiskey," she returned. "And it doesn't have to be good." She looked around to consult the clock. "I don't know what I'm going to do with myself, but I'll find something." She stood up, then paused, her face red. "If you aren't going to be like previous superiors, I don't know how to... please you, Boss."
     What does she want from me? No, that's obvious. At least, what she expects is obvious. That's not acceptable on the Fireball. Jane would skin me alive, and rightly so. "Just do your job, Colleen," he told her gruffly.
     He finished his drink, realized she was gone. A flash of red across the room revealed her speaking to his waitress as she handed over her bank card. She'd better not be paying for her meal! I ordered it for her!
     The waitress returned, handed the redhead a bottle and returned her bank card. He frowned. In her condition, Colleen doesn't need any more to drink. Well, none of my business, unless she lands in the brig.
     The waitress placed a bottle in front of him, began stacking dirty dishes. Smitty stared at the unopened bottle of gin. "I didn't order that."
     "Red sent it. You were doing so well with her, Honey. Why let her get away?"
     "She's a subordinate." He picked up the bottle. It was a very good brand. Probably beyond her means. "Are you sure she meant for you to bring me a bottle? A glass, maybe. Or perhaps she meant her own bottle."
     "Her instructions were clear," the woman stated. "What's her rank got to do with it? You're on shore leave. It looked like you were both willing."
How to explain? Colleen has expectations. "It wouldn't end with shore leave."
     "So what? If you're both willing."
     No, didn't think she'd understand. He shook his head. "We only have one night before... her boy friend gets off duty."
     "Oh." She nodded and picked up the dishes. "You're right. That fire couldn't be put out in one night."
     Not when it's already worn out MacGreg. She just wants entertainment while she waits for Bugalu. He opened the gin and poured himself a stiff drink, which he studied for several minutes. Finally, he tossed it down his throat.
     "Oh, it's you, Mr Smith."
     Smitty looked up to find a beautiful blond smiling at him. "Smythe," he corrected, his tongue thick. Definitely getting drunk. "Who're you?"
     She flushed. "I'm Monroe, the Fireball's new nurse."
     Drat MacGreg! Can't he mind his own business? If I want to get plastered, that's my affair! "You here to detox me?"
     Her blue eyes grew large. "Oh, no!" She smiled lop-sidedly. "Actually, I could use a detox myself." She lurched against the table. "Could I sit down? For a minute?"
     He indicated the opposite seat, and she sat down heavily. Poor girl doesn't hold liquor very well. Doesn't imbibe much, I suppose. Course, I don't know how much--
     "Oh, that was a strong drink," the blond muttered. Just one, then. She tried to sit straight, but had a tendency to lean. "Glad I got out of there. No telling what might have happened. They might have... raped me!" She shuddered, then grabbed the tabletop wildly.
     Smitty patted her hand comfortingly. "You're safe now."
     "Oh, I knew I would be, once I found another Fireball crew member." She adjusted her sitting. "I'm never going to one of those places again!" What kind of place? None of my business. She pulled out her payment card and frowned. "They kept the money! What did I expect? It was obviously a con job! I wish I could have seen that earlier." She wiped a tear from her cheek. "Well, I got out alive. Chalk it up to experience, that's all." She sighed deeply. "I'll go back to the ship, I guess. Can't even afford a sleeping box, with what they left me. Let alone a room with a bathtub!"
     "I have a bathtub," he muttered. Great! Rub salt in her wound. I'm a cad!
     She looked dazed. "Is it-- You're so lucky. Is it one that agitates the water? That's the apex of luxury--a long hot bubble bath!"
     I never saw the charm. A shower is quicker. "It's a 5-star hotel, so I imagine..."
     She bounced in excitement. "Wonderful! Oh, you are a gentleman, to rescue me from my follies and fulfill my deepest longing!" She put a chilled hand over his. "Words can't express my gratitude, but I promise your gallantry won't go unrewarded. Shall we go now?"
     Go where? She can't mean-- She thinks I've invited her to my room! What in space-- He took a drink, stalling for time. She's lovely. She's not engineering. And I need a woman. He smiled, the decision made. "Yes, why not?" He climbed to his feet and waved for the waitress, who was quick to respond.
     "Leaving so early?"
     "I need to settle my bill," he stated carefully, pulling out his bank card.
     "It's been settled," she returned. "Red took care of it."
     A flash of red halfway across the room as she took her bottle and her debit card from the waitress. "She bought herself a bottle," he reminded the civilian.
"Red bought herself a bottle of whiskey," the waitress agreed. "She also bought your bottle of gin, paid for both suppers and settled your tab. You haven't gotten anything since then."
     Something- someone pressed against him. "Was Mac trying to buy brownie points? Some women look for the easy way. Shall we go, Bart?"
     He winced. I hate that name. "Okay." He turned for the door.
     "Don't forget your gin," the waitress reminded him. He stepped back, and she placed it in his hand. "Good luck," she told him softly and threw a glance in Monroe's direction. "Still, you can't get burned when there isn't any fire."
     That kind of fire couldn't be put out in one night. Blast! What business is it of hers who I spend the night with?
     By the time they reached his hotel room, Monroe was clinging to his arm. Like a lovesick puppy. Colleen was holding onto his arm, her thumb softly stroking him through his sleeve. Smitty took a shuddering breath. Not much difference, I suppose. Why, then, did Colleen's touch make my whole body hot, and Monroe's makes me... uncomfortable?
     "Beautiful!" the blond exclaimed when the lights came on.
     Smitty felt a cold chill. The room was identical to MacGreg's. His gaze landed on the mussed bed. There's no mistaking that mass of red curls, even if the face is turned away. No, this is my room. This bed isn't mussed. There's no redhead in it. And won't be.
     "The bathroom's through there," he stated, pointing.
     She turned to him, an invitation on her face. "Will you join me?"
     Churning hot water. Not a good idea, as drunk as I am. Makes me nauseous just thinking about it. "Not in my condition."
     Her arms slid around his neck. "Maybe I should put you to bed." She pressed her lips to his.
     He closed his eyes. This is what I need. All the right curves, and plenty of them. He pulled her close, thrust his tongue into her mouth. "Making your move already? It usually takes longer than this."
     But what he heard was, "That's more like it." Monroe unfastened his tunic and pulled him toward the bed. "I was beginning to wonder if I had your attention, Bart."
     Wish she wouldn't call me that. They fell onto the bed, each too busy groping the other to be graceful. She's got curves. But she's blond. "Lights out," he commanded. Darkness reclaimed the room.
     It didn't take long to reach nakedness. Breathless, he fondled her breasts, anticipating the nipples would come erect. However, like his organ, they only responded to a certain point. I'm stiff enough to show interest, but not hard enough to reach climax. What's my problem? She's got curves, I can't see her hair color--
     He became aware of a weight atop him, of one hand encircling a feminine body to rest on a round buttock while the other fondled a firm, large breast. I have felt Colleen before! And compared to that, this is too... soft. It isn't the same. And there goes what little erection I did have.
     With a sigh, he rolled off the woman and muttered, "Sorry, I can't."
     "What's wrong?"
     There's an edge to her voice. Can't blame her; she expected fireworks, and I can't manage a sizzle. "Too much alcohol," he offered, rather than the truth. "I've been drinking most of the day." I could use another drink now.
     She curled up alongside him. "Maybe later."
     Not likely. "You could take your bubble bath now, if you like."
     "Bubble bath? Oh, I guess I'm also drunker than I thought. I'll stay here with you."
     Which means I can't get a drink. Too early to sleep. Would be insulting to turn on the viewer. All I can do is lay with this woman - who I can have - and try not to think about another woman - who I want, but can't have. How did I wind up in this mess?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Gone Fishing

Gone Fishing
Shore Leave Day 2 (cont)
1237 Hours

Drake smiled at the comely blond who was window-shopping nearby. She smiled back invitingly. The liquor shop's door opened, and Mac placed a quick peck on his cheek. Looking shocked - and peeved - the blond quickly left the area.
"What was that for?" he asked. She shows up at my place drunk, climbs into my bed, takes off her clothes, and now drops an 'innocent' kiss on me. Am I sure it's an uncle she's looking for?
"Mostly because that blond was flirting with Bugsy yesterday. I wonder if she's an unlicensed paid companion." She started walking, and he fell into place beside her.
"So you marked me as yours?" he asked guardedly. "Make her think I'm taken?"
"Oh, she already does. Just seeing us together. Anyway, if you want another paid companion, you'd better get one with a license."
She's giving me advice on shore leave? "Wait a minute. Why would she think we're together, if you hadn't kissed me?"
"Because people do. Whenever they see me with a man, they assume we're lovers." Her face turned red. "If you have a girl friend, you ought to warn her. The rumors will fly about us. If you need me to tell her what's really going on, just say so."
Anybody else, I would suspect of angling for names. "No one in particular."
She sighed. "Believe me, people will think that. I don't mean for it to happen, but it does. Apparently, if a woman sees you as a sex partner, she can't imagine that I don't. Then she thinks I'm competition, and before you know it, she's angry, and it's a mess. I've already got two women to set straight for Bugsy. If I'd known one was Beth, I could have done it yesterday."
"This way." He veered down the stairwell.  "Beth sees you as competition?"
She paused to think. "I'm not sure what Beth thinks," she admitted. "Her date with Bugs didn't go well, because of me, but she was civil yesterday. No, not civil; that implies hidden hostility. Open and friendly. She's very accepting, don't you think?"
"Yes," he agreed. "She wants to be your friend. I doubt she's serious about Bugalu, so that's not a problem. Unless you object to her seeing him?"
"Not me." After a brief hesitation, she asked, "Do you?" He tried to think how to phrase his answer. "Please don't... test our friendship," she requested. "I saw your face when she said she didn't date doctors."
"Observant, aren't you?" He glanced around. Seeing no familiar faces, he went on. "We hadn't dated in years. I hadn't realized how long it had been. I have no right to object to her seeing anyone." They arrived at the 'park' doorway. He stepped up to the information window. "Picnic basket and fishing gear for MacGregor?"
He spent several minutes organizing, until Mac tucked her bottle under her right arm and took the picnic basket with her left, leaving him with two poles, a blanket and a tackle box to carry. As he prepared to protest, she stated, "I'm Gaelund, remember?"
He sighed. "Alright." He pointed left. "The pond's this way." When they reached the lake, he chose a flat piece of bank.
"Are we going to sit on the grass?" she asked, glancing down at her outfit.
Can't blame her. It's a nice pantsuit. Green looks good on her. And those flared pant legs with that iridescent embroidery emphasize her shapely legs. The jacket hides the top half, but that's probably best, since I'm supposed to behave. Anyway, it'd be a shame to get stains on it. "The blanket goes down first," he said, shaking the blanket out. "We go on top of the blanket."
He lay the blanket down. "Look, you were in my hotel room, in my bed. If I was going to try something, wouldn't I have tried it there, rather than here, in public?"
She regarded him thoughtfully. "Yes."
"So. You were testing me. In my room."
"Not consciously," she returned. "I was too far gone to do much of anything consciously. I was looking for... safety, with Bugsy unavailable, and you passed."
"When?" He sat on the blanket, and indicated the other half was hers.
"When I showed up and you sat down to talk, rather than try to... get me into bed." She set the basket down, but seemed uncertain about sitting down.
"I did get you into bed." It was out before he could stop it.
"I got into bed," she corrected. "Alone. To sleep. And you left me alone. Plus, you got me up on time." She put her bottle next to the basket and half-fell to the blanket, grimacing as she caught herself with her bandaged right hand. "Ouch."
"Feel like telling me how you did that?" he asked.
He sighed. "It's not broken, but it is badly bruised. If not how, then when did it happen?"
"Last night."
"And you were too drunk to see a doctor right away?"
"Too angry. Too embarrassed."
"Well, keep that bandage set to cold today. Tomorrow, 20 minutes of warmth every hour. If it starts swelling, go back to cold."
"Yes, doctor." She picked up her bottle, took a large swig.
Drake frowned. "You haven't slept off the last batch of alcohol."
"Yes," she agreed. "That delightful stage where I'm relaxed, without being uncoordinated or stupid. If I'm careful, I can stay at this stage. At least until tomorrow."
"What happens tomorrow?"
She grinned. "I spend the day with Bugs."
Meaning I shouldn't worry. He got the fishing lines ready, dangled them into the water, then propped the poles up. "There. Now we're fishing."
"I always thought there would be more to it," she stated.
"Depends how hard you want to work," he returned. "All I really want today is to learn about you. Tell me your life story." He lay down and got comfortable.
She seemed confused. "What do you want to know?"
"Everything." Whatever she's willing to tell me.
She frowned. "Well, I'm the last of nine children, the only daughter."
"Eight older brothers? That must have been awful."
"Not too bad," she answered. "None of the local bullies pestered me. Then I hit ten."
"What do you mean?"
"Pa realized I was a girl. Suddenly, I had to have an escort everywhere. Everywhere. My brothers could swap off, but it got real old, real fast for me. I still have trouble believing I've escaped."
"Escaped? From your family?"
"Sounds weird, doesn't it? It wasn't easy, but I was determined. Figured escaping from one brother would be easier than trying to escape from seven, so I enlisted."
"If your father didn't want you to, how did you manage that?"
"Matt was home from the Academy. I convinced him he needed to double-check his orders, that they didn't make sense. Tagged along with him. While he tried to explain to one enlistment officer what didn't make sense on his papers, I quietly told another guy that I wanted to enlist. Pa had a fit, but in the eyes of the Fleet, I was old enough to legally sign the papers, so there was little he could do." She gave a heavy sigh.
Little, but not nothing, from the sounds of it. "What did he manage to do?"
"Change my field," she stated sourly. "He thought I should be laundry or food prep. I only managed communications by saying it was only connecting one channel to another, that no repairs or anything technical was involved. Luckily, the enlistment officers played along, because laundry and cooking would have been a waste. I was surprised Matt kept his mouth shut, but he did."
"Why nothing technical?"
"Gaelunders think women can't fix things. They cook, they clean, they make babies. Well, except Pa didn't want me making babies, either."
"That is a... Neanderthal way of thinking," Drake muttered.
"I never claimed Pa was a modern man."
"So, his reason for keeping you under such strict escort was..."
"To keep me from having babies."
"No boy friends, then. But... from the age of ten?"
"Gaelund is still growing. It's not unusual for girls to start young."
"At ten?"
She shrugged. "I guess he didn't want to wait, then find he'd waited too long."
How would I feel, if I started a 'birds and bees' talk with my daughter, only to find she was already pregnant? "Well, I can't fault him for wanting to protect you. That's what fathers do. But once you enlisted, your field was your decision. What field did you want, anyway?"
She shrugged and reclined onto an elbow. "I'm in communications. Too late for anything else."
Pragmatism? Fatalism? Depression? There's got to be a more cheerful subject we can move to. "You hungry? Corned beef sandwiches, like you wanted."
"Yes. Sounds good." As he rummaged through the basket, she sat up and toyed with the closure of her jacket. "Mac?"
"It's, um, warmer than I thought it would be, and, uh--"
He looked up, saw her snatch her hand away from her jacket. Afraid to take her jacket off. Whatever's underneath must be revealing. He returned to the basket. "You were naked in my bed, and I left you alone," he reminded her. "White bread or rye?"
He selected sandwiches, crackers and cheese from the basket. He almost dropped the cheese when he raised his head. That's not revealing. It clings, but it has everything hidden. But the color is a perfect match for her skin, so it looks like she's wearing nothing. "Why did you get naked, anyway? You weren't naked when you got in."
She blushed, took the sandwich he offered. "Not completely naked," she whispered. "But if I wear clothes to bed, they get twisted up and uncomfortable. So while you showered, I took them off."
"I see." Peeling down to her underwear is practically naked. Has she always slept that way? "How's your sandwich?"
She grimaced. "It's got mustard on it."
"Sorry. I must have forgot."
"Or the food prep people did. It's so common, I've gotten used to it. I just prefer a lack of mustard." They ate for a few minutes in comfortable silence, then she took another drink of her whiskey and lay down, using her folded jacket as a pillow. "If this is all there is to fishing, I might fall asleep."
Not a bad idea. "If that's what you want to do, I won't stop you."
"It's not what I want to do."
"What do you want to do? I won't keep you from something more interesting..."
She opened her mouth, but nothing came out. Her face turned red. Green eyes studied him, her color slowly drained, and then she turned red again. "I... I want... Space!" She slapped her hand against the ground, then groaned in pain.
"Stop aggravating that hand!" he told her sharply.
"Yes." She grimaced. "I forgot."
"You can talk to me about anything," he told her, making a show of checking the fishing lines. "I'm a doctor. There's nothing that will shock me."
"Bugsy says I've been brainwashed. Maybe he's right. There's some subjects I can't broach, certain questions I can't ask. Even slightly drunk."
"Whenever you're ready, I'll be here," he told her.
She sighed, tried to speak, blurted out, "Tell me what it's like. Being married."
That surprised him. "I'm not sure I'm the person to explain that."
"Why not?" she asked. "You're married."
"Not any more. Not for years." He considered the surprise on her face. "Wait a minute. If you thought I was married, why did you ask about girl friends?"
"Being married doesn't keep a man from having girl friends," she stated blandly.
"Depends on the man," he responded. "I didn't cheat on my wife. Even so, the marriage didn't last."
"Tell me about it," she asked.
"Why so curious?"
"You wanted to know my life story."
"Fair enough. "I met Pamela during my residency. We got married. Had to cut the honeymoon short, because I suddenly got orders for duty. I reminded headquarters that being married, we were a package deal. They said they didn't currently have an opening for her, but she would get the very next opening. I felt like I couldn't lose. I went."
"But she never joined you?"
"No, she--" He paused. I thought I was over this. "I'd gotten her pregnant," he stated. "A military ship is no place for children."
"That's an interesting thing to say," she observed.
"A warship isn't for children," he repeated. "I agree with Fleet about that."
"Not that," she dismissed. "That you got her pregnant."
He looked at her sharply. "Pictures of Suzette make it obvious she's my daughter. She was born 9 months after the honeymoon."
"No, I didn't mean that, either," she said hurriedly. "Back home, it would have been, 'she got pregnant'. As if the man had nothing to do with it."
Does that surprise me, after what she's said about Gaelund?
She worked hard to say something else. Her face absolutely red, she stated, "For a long time, I didn't think men did have anything to do with it."
He stared at her for a moment. "We need to have a talk about birds and bees," he stated softly. At her age. What kind of father expects to protect his daughter without telling her what to avoid?
Mac shook her head. "He told me not to let men touch me. That was enough instruction, in his mind."
I asked that out loud? I have to be more careful. "What would happen if a man did touch you?"
She choked, finally ground out, "I'd get pregnant." She turned away.
"It takes more than a touch. Space, I know Bugalu has touched you! And I kept you from falling down this morning. You didn't seem worried." He frowned. "Of course, I made a big deal about your birth control shot when you came aboard, didn't I? I suppose that complicates your thoughts--"
She whirled to face him and placed her hands on his shoulders. "Mac! You're confusing me!" He obediently shut up, and she went on. "Touching is allowed between family members. Pa never said that, never explained it. My brothers were allowed to touch me, so I figured it was okay."
"And Bugalu and I are adopted."
"Right. The shots don't enter the picture, because Pa's views were well entrenched long before the Fleet started giving me birth control shots."
If he started when she was ten, and she didn't escape until she was 18, then I imagine the brainwashing was pretty thorough. He watched her take another drink, considered protesting so much alcohol again. This time, she didn't put the bottle down, but slipped that hand over his shoulder and pressed her lips against his. What--? Well, it's her idea, and she hasn't hit me yet. Go with the flow, Drake. He pulled her closer, made it a real kiss.
A kiss she soon ended. She breathlessly asked, "Without the shots, would that have gotten me-- gotten me--?"
She can't say it, not about herself. "Not by itself. But keep it up, and we could try for it."
She scooted to the far edge of the blanket. "I can't override Papa long."
"I see." He turned for the basket, pulled out the wine and a glass. "It'd be easiest if you were naked. Me, too. It's not something we'd--"
"Mac!" she gurgled, her throat so tight she had difficulty getting one syllable out.
He poured himself a stiff dose of alcohol. "What?"
"Change the subject! Please!"
"Need to go through it in bits and pieces, huh?" That could get more confusing than enlightening. He raised the glass, intending to drain it, but watched her take another swig of whiskey. Both of us drunk is not a good idea. He sipped his wine. Besides, it's sweeter than I hoped. "I've been trying to figure something out. About your arrival on the Fireball. Tell me everybody you met, that first day."

She looked confused but thankful, as her mind returned to the week before.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Incomplete Apology

Incomplete Apology
Day 7 (Shore Leave Day 2)
0812 Hours

Smitty stared at the hotel clerk coldly. "What?"
"I asked if you were Dr MacGregor's brother," the man returned. "The doctor appears to be having a... family reunion this morning."
What in space does that mean? "No," the engineer stated firmly. "We're fellow officers aboard the Fireball. I have my own reservation here, if you care to check." Maybe I should cancel it, go someplace else, if the staff is this nosey. "Now, would you please tell me what room MacGregor is in?"
The clerk tried to hide his frown as he consulted his computer screen. "Three seventeen."
"Thank you." Smitty turned and looked for the elevator, and his doubts nearly kept him from seeing it. Maybe I should wait. I've only come to apologize for being rude, that last night before leave. I don't have to do it this minute. He realized his feet had paid no attention to his doubts when the elevator closed its door behind him and started off. Well, I suppose it's best to get it done as soon as possible. Not let it fester. We're not really close friends, but Fleet life kind of requires you keep any friends you can manage to make. If you don't want to be lonely.
The elevator opened and he got off, took a moment to remember the room number the clerk had given him, and started looking for the correct door. A quick apology and I'll feel a lot better. Maybe I'll take him to breakfast. Maybe he's scoped out the companion agencies and can steer me in the right direction. At least I got some sleep last night, without any ... ah ...distractions. Here it is. He knocked on the door, waited impatiently for a while, and knocked again.
When the door of room 317 finally opened, MacGreg looked disheveled and wet, clutching his untied bathrobe closed. He seemed surprised to see him. "Smitty!"
Smitty hadn't known what to expect, after the clerk's strange behavior, but- Not too busy to open the door, then. He grinned. "MacGreg, I've come--" His voice failed as his gaze wandered to the bed. There's no mistaking those red curls, even if her face is turned away. It's her. Of course she's here. What was I thinking? Who could blame him? Every man who sees her wants her. The bedding only emphasizes her curves, like that vest she wore yesterday barely covered her delectable breasts.
That's the one I want," MacGreg stated. "That's going to balance my hormones just fine." But that had been a dream, nothing more than a terrible, terrible dream. Hadn't it?
The doctor turned his head back from a chagrinned glance at the bed. "It's not what it looks like," MacGreg stated.
Smitty somehow managed to tear his eyes away from the vision to look squarely at the doctor. "It's none of my business," he croaked, then forced himself to turn away and leave. Space, I need a woman!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Unexpected Visit

Unexpected Visit
Day 7 (Shore Leave Day 2)
0727 Hours
Drake awoke with a woman in his arms, but this time, there was also an intermittent pounding to claim his attention. Two nights in a row with Beth? That's dangerous. And who's pounding? However, it was black hair he brushed out of his face. Not Beth. Not my quarters. Right, it's shore leave. A paid companion. Who is pounding?
He slipped out of bed and wrapped the bedspread around himself. It was the hotel manager at his door. "Dr MacGregor, sorry to bother you-"
A white hand impatiently pushed the man aside, and there was Mac, her bright hair a mass of unkempt curls, her vest not hiding much, a shopping bag clamped tight under her arm. "Morning, Mac. Bugsy ssays tag, you're it." Her voice was mildly slurred.
"Morning, Mac." Last night's exploits with his paid companion suddenly seemed flat and unrewarding.
"This person claims to be your... niece," the manage sniffed.
"If he weren't my niece, how could we have the same nick name?" Mac asked.
The manager looked affronted at such nonsense. Drake smiled. "Absolutely right. Come in, Mac," he invited, opening the door further. The hotel man was aghast at sight of the bedspread around him. As soon as the redhead entered, Drake closed the door, cutting off any protests.
Mac stopped just inside the door, staring at the woman in the bed, the sheet covering her form without hiding any curves. What curves she has. Nothing compared to Mac. Drake caught Mac casting a nervous glance at his bedspread. What am I thinking, just standing here? Look at her. Scared half to death.
"Let me put something on," he suggested, and went to the bathroom, where he swapped the bedspread for underwear and a robe. When he emerged, Mac sat on the couch, ignoring the bed.
Drake shook the sleeping woman. "Wake up."
She grimaced but opened her eyes. "Morning call is another fifty credits, Honey."
That wasn't mentioned last night. "Take a shower, get dressed and get out. I have company."
She sat up, saw Mac on the couch. "Who's she? She's not licensed on this station! You can get in a lot of trouble, using an unlicensed companion!"
"None of your concern," he told her coldly. "As it happens, she's a shipmate. Believe that or don't, I don't care. But before you try to turn us in for unlicensed companionship, remember that a charge for morning call was not mentioned by your agency." Frowning, she jumped up and flounced to the bathroom.
Drake crossed the room, took a seat on the chair facing Mac. She tossed a quick glance at him and looked away again. He made sure he was decently covered. "Always a pleasure to see you, Mac, but I wasn't expecting you this early." I wasn't expecting her to show up here at all.
She picked imaginary bits of fluff from her pants, her right arm still clutching the bag, apparently afraid it might skitter away. "I'm sorry, Mac. I know it always makes Bugs cranky when I interfere with his love life." She sighed. "I shouldn't have come."
"Because of a paid companion?" he asked. "I can always get another."
She turned red. "If I hadn't come, you would have... enjoyed her again."
"Didn't really enjoy her the first time," he muttered, remembering the night before.
"Why not?" she asked, and blushed even more.
Doesn't matter what she looks like, I have to remember she is completely naive. Needs everything spelled out. "Because she doesn't enjoy it," he stated calmly. "It's a job she's tired of." Wow. Thought I was being as plain as could be, and she looks confused. A discussion of birds and bees this early in the morning? It can wait. "So, to get back to my question; why are you here?"
Reaching into the shopping bag, she pulled out a nearly-empty liquor bottle, twisted off the cap, and finished off the contents. "I'm drunk."
No kidding. "Do you want a de-intoxicant?" I don't have any with me.
"Oh, no!" she declared in alarm.
She leaned forward to confide, "It's embarrassing. I thought I was pacing myself well. With drinking. My usual pace. But I've been dry so long, the alcohol hit me harder than I'm used to."
"Snuck up on you?"
She gave an embarrassed smile. "I need a place to crash for a couple hours."
"Hotel room," he suggested.
"Right," she agreed.
"I don't think you can afford one in this hotel." She looks confused again.
"You already have one."
She can't mean... He inhaled. "You expect to stay here? In my room?"
She shrugged. "I do with Bugs. It's no big thing."
She spends the night with Bugalu in a hotel room, and it's no big thing? Now I'm confused. "Where is Bugalu?"
"On the ship, on duty," she answered. "Or headed that way."
"Why didn't you just keep his room?"
"I didn't spend last night with him," she answered.
"But you just said-"
"I meant back at the Academy, when we all had leave together. Bugs and Matt in the beds; me on the couch." She leaned back. "This'll do fine."
"The space it will. Climb into my bed." She stiffened, her eyes big. "Well, that came out wrong," he stated. "Still, I'm done with the bed. No reason you can't use it. I'll get dressed and leave." He stood up and held out a hand. "Come on, I insist."
"I know you don't want me to order you to bed," he told her.
"You could have told me she was your Morale Officer," came across the room. The paid companion had emerged from the bathroom.
"I am not!" Mac declared.
"You're not Fleet," the companion sneered. "Fleet doesn't let men order subordinates into bed!"
"True," Drake stated.
"Some of them try," Mac returned, but Drake refused to react.
"Mac is my niece. If I order her around, I do it as her uncle."
The companion smirked. "If you like incest, I'd have been your niece last night."
"You've been paid," he told her. "Get out."
"I'm going," she answered sweetly. "He's good, sweetie. Slow on the second set, but not hopeless. If you come back this way, Uncle, look me up." She picked up her shoes and slipped out the door.
"Well, that was nasty," he commented with a sigh.
"She's not the kind Beth said you like," Mac observed, climbing to her feet.
Beth! "Why would she say anything about-"
"We were discushing the kinds of women diff'ent men likes," she stated, her speech suddenly very slurred. She turned to the bed and paused. "I shudna've drunk that lash bit. I-"
"Go ahead, climb in," he told her. She lurched forward, one step. "I'll cancel the picnic basket and fishing rods, and you can sleep the day away."
"No!" she exclaimed, whirling to face him. She lost her balance and he suddenly found himself holding a very drunk redhead. She must be too drunk to hit me. "Don't wanna," she stated, her eyes half closed.
"Don't want what?" he asked.
"Sheep the day away." She rested her head on his shoulder, lifted it again to stare at him. "Promished, and I keep my promishes!" She tapped his chest to emphasize her words.
He sighed. "Mac, you are too drunk to-"
"Jush a little drunk!" she declared. "Wait." She paused to think, made a correction. "A little too drink. Spend entire leaves a little drank, so don't wanna sheep it off. Sheep off a little. Then wake up, and we go fissin'. Promish!"
"You go to sleep, and-"
"Promish!" she insisted.
"Would Bugalu make that promise?"
Thought he was trying to take care of her. "Tell you what. I'll call Bugalu. If he thinks it's okay, I'll get you up to go fishing. But I'm not promising anything until I've talked with him."
"Okay," she agreed, and worked at standing upright. "You call Bugsh, and we'll go fissin'." She lurched for the bed, crashed onto it, her head somehow finding the pillows. "I promished," she muttered, and was asleep.
Now that he looked at her, he realized her laced vest did not contain her well. I cannot look at that and think of her as a little girl. He tossed the bedding over her and headed for the bathroom.