Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Vision / A Little Help

A Vision
Month 1, Day 9
0757 Hrs

     Burke studied the electronic clipboard as she and Takor walked down the corridor. "I don't see any problem," she stated. "If nothing else-"
     "Wait a minnut, wait a minnut!" came a plea from up the hall.
     Jane looked ahead to see two women stopped in the corridor. The AmerInd yeoman folded her arms as the other - a fabulous redhead wearing a yellow pantsuit - carefully leaned against the bulkhead. Lifting one foot, the redhead slipped out of a very tall high heel. After a moment, she had slipped out of the other also, and breathed in relief. "Now if I fall," she slurred to the other woman, "it won't be from the third floor." She sighed. "It's been yearsh shince I wore toe shoesh."
     The AmerInd knelt to roll up the pant legs, revealing shapely ankles. Gathering the heels, she got up and offered a supporting hand to the redhead.
     "Well, looks like you enjoyed your R&R," Jane observed with a smile.
     "Nope," the redhead denied. She pulled away from the bulkhead and started off with the help of her friend. "No R&R. Gave him sheveral opportunitiesh, he didn't take a shingle one. Shtupid man."
     Astounded, Burke watched the women until they disappeared around the corner. What stupid man? One of my crew? Someone on the station? What idiot could possibly refuse that? "Who-?"
     "I recognized Yeoman Yellow Dog," Takor offered. "I am less certain about the other, as I have not seen her as frequently, but I believe she was Lt MacDowell."
      Jane almost rebuked the alien, but realized it was doing the best it could. Actually, she was surprised it had used correct pronouns to refer to the two females. It was learning. "Yes," she agreed. "It was MacDowell."

A Little Help
Month 1, Day 9
1005 Hrs

     Smitty's stomach churned as he entered Sick Bay and approached the nurse's station. "Beth," he breathed.
     Both nurses looked up. The younger smiled invitingly. "Hello, Honey," she purred. Her voice drilled through his head.
     Beth frowned disapprovingly at the other woman's behavior. She kept her own voice low as she came around the end of the counter. "Under the weather, Chief?"
     "Yes, I--"
     "Save it for the doctor," she suggested, leading him into MacGregor's office. "He's here," she announced. Smitty gratefully took a seat in the nearest chair.
     "Later than I thought he would be," MacGregor stated, turning from his computer. He got up to step around his desk and took the medical scanner from Temple. "What in space possessed you to drink that much, Smitty? I'm amazed you managed to get back to the ship."
     "None of your business," he growled. "I didn't come here for a lecture."
     "I didn't intend to give one," MacGreg returned, and mumbled to Beth, who left the room. "I assume there was a reason you had Monroe with you the other morning, and that's good, but hopefully you didn't spend last night alone." As Smitty glared at him, he sat down on the edge of the desk. "If I'd thought about it, I could have given you a reference for a companion agency."
     "I didn't need your reference!" Smitty spat.
     "No, you're perfectly capable of finding your own women," MacGreg mumbled. Beth returned with a loaded inoculation gun. MacGreg gave him the shot. "Hope you're not in any hurry; that will take a couple minutes to work." Smitty sighed and sat back in his chair.
     "I guess you enjoyed your shore leave, Chief?" Beth asked as she made modifications to the settings on the inoculation gun.
     "No," Smitty answered shortly.
     "Too bad," she said, handing the gun back to the doctor. "Maybe you should have looked me up," she suggested as she left the room.
     "What?" But the nurse was gone, so Smitty turned his attention to the doctor, was surprised by a started look on his face. "What did she mean by that?"
     MacGreg shook himself a little. "Um, probably what I've long suspected, that half the females on this ship would like a chance to share your bed."
     "Half the females on this ship are my subordinates," Smitty growled.
     "Which leaves the half who aren't." MacGreg gave him another shot. "Including my nurses."
     "I don't need their pity."
     "Pity doesn't get you very far with a woman," MacGreg answered. "They're too smart to be taken in by that. Look, Smitty, this is me. We've been friends a long time. I can see that something has you tied in knots, and I'd like to help, if I can."
     "I don't need your help. I can get my own dates."
     "I know you can," MacGreg stated, setting the inoculator aside. "If you bother. Look, just tell me this, did you get any action on shore leave? Any at all?"
     "Yes," he declared hotly, although this was none of MacGreg's business, as he'd already said. "Both nights!"
     "Good," MacGreg stated, and moved back to his chair. "Now, maybe you should consider getting some between shore leaves."
     Smitty blinked. "You mean... on ship?"
     "Well, that's usually where you're at, between shore leaves."
     "But... everybody would know about it!"
     MacGreg blinked. "Not if you're careful."
     "I don't need that sort of... complication in my life."
     "Then choose carefully. Sex doesn't have to be a complication. Women need companionship, too, and the smart ones know how to be discrete."
     "Captain says--"
     "I don't always agree with the captain," MacGreg broke in. "And in this case, when the physiological - not to mention psychological - well-being of a crew member is involved, I'm allowed to express a different opinion. So, my prescription is that you periodically get laid, even on board. I could even make suggestions who with, but that's dipping back into my capacity as friend, rather than doctor."
     "I've done all right so far," he stated, climbing to his feet.
     "Oh, yes," MacGreg agreed sarcastically. "So well, you nearly drank yourself to death last night."
     "You're lecturing," Smitty said coldly. "Did you give this talk to... Lt MacDowell?"
     He had startled the doctor. "Mac?" He frowned thoughtfully. "That's different."

     "I'm sure it is," Smitty growled, signaling the door to open. "It wasn't my bed she was in on shore leave!" He walked out; out of the office, out of sick bay, and headed for his own office. Halfway there, he realized his headache was gone, and he actually felt hungry. Well, he knows his medicine. But the rest of it - that's none of his business.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Surprise! / Almost Caught Dead

Shore Leave Day 3
2050 Hours

     The meal was over, and now Smitty was in that awkward position he always encountered with a companion. The social event was over. They both knew the reason why he'd hired her, but he found it difficult to baldly suggest that time had arrived.
     Small talk isn't easy for me. I don't care to ask questions about her life or thoughts. Anyway, she'd resent queries that are too personal. I've only hired her for the night and will never see her again. I should suggest we go.
     A flicker of red pulled his attention to the dance floor. Bridget. He still could not see who she was with; the shifting bodies on the crowded dance floor revealed only occasional glimpses of vivid curls and yellow pantsuit.
     "Shall we dance, Ms Chang?" he heard himself ask.
     "If you like, Mr Smythe," she returned. Once they were among the other dancers, she said, "Perhaps 'Ms Chang' is too formal? You could call me Sunshine. Or Sunny."
     He tried not to frown. She's gone to first-name basis. Now she'll want to use my first name. "Sounds delightful, Sunny." He smiled. "Call me Smitty."
     She nodded. "Have you been aboard the Fireball long, Smitty?"
     "Years," he returned. "I was-" He stumbled as the crowd thinned behind her, and he caught sight of Bridget, deep in a passionate kiss with her brown-skinned employer. Frowning, he changed directions, placed the dramatic couple behind him. So Bridget's working. Means nothing to me. I don't know her. It's only that she reminds me of - someone else. And I don't need to be thinking of... that person!
     "Is something wrong, Smitty? You're suddenly very tense."
     "It's time we got out of here," he heard a familiar voice behind him.
     His head swiveled, he glimpsed the brown face of the redhead's partner as he led her off the dance floor. Not Bugalu! That would make her-! No! It's not them!
     "What? Oh, sorry. I... thought I saw a... crew member."
     "Someone you don't care for?"
     "Hmm? No, Lt Bugalu is fine. He's just... a... womanizer, that's all."
     Sunny considered that. "He's been stepping on your toes, would be my guess."
     "I'm sorry, did I step on your toes?" If I can change the subject- "I don't get much practice at this, I'm afraid."
     "My toes are fine," she answered, let the subject drop. They continued dancing.
     "Of course we'll get more whiskey," he heard. "But no movie, and certainly not 'Horror from Mars'. You saw that enough at the Academy."
     "I know what you want, Mac, but I can't spend all night doing that. I'm on duty tomorrow, and I have to get some sleep!"
      Smitty froze as one word drilled a hole in his brain. Mac! "MacDowell!" He whirled. It is her! Curls, flower, pantsuit, cleavage - it's all her! He took a shuddering breath; it seemed like forever since his last one. She watched him, waiting for him to say something. He couldn't think of anything to say.
     Green eyes flicked beyond him, returned. "You have a lovely date tonight, Smit."
     "You are a lovely date tonight," he breathed. She's always lovely.
     "Excuse us," Bugalu placed a hand on her arm. "Come on, Mac."
      She turned slowly to Bugalu, and Smitty forced himself to let her go, kept his hands to himself. "He didn't cancel me," she muttered as they moved off.
     Bugalu glanced back at him. "Why would he?"
     As they sat together in a bar booth, she asked, "Now what? R&R in your bed?" / As they walked across the dance floor, Bugalu told her, "I know what you want, Mac, and I can't do that all night." Maybe he can't, but I wouldn't mind trying.
     The view of swaying hips in bright yellow was obscured. He focused his eyes on the much-closer face of his companion. "Looks like he just stepped on your toes again."
     He blinked. "I thought she was Bridget."
     "From here on the station? That wasn't Bridget."
     "No," he agreed. "She's another crew member."
     "She's left you in the cold because of him," she guessed.
     "No," he denied. "She's a subordinate. I couldn't-"
     "But you want to," she muttered. He shook his head, trying to deny it. She took his arm, led him off the dance floor. "Why don't we go? I can ease your tense muscles."
     How can she possibly- Blast, if my feelings are so obvious to this woman, who hardly knows my name, then how many others can see them as well? I have got to get a hold of myself!

Almost Caught Dead
Month 1, Day 9
0751 Hrs

     Two transport pods touched down almost simultaneously. There's not many left to report back. I wonder who this is? The first door opened, and he gasped at the woman inside. Mac? Must be Mac, with that hair. I thought she looked good before, but this-!
     "Hello, Mac." Her low purr threatened to set his blood on fire.
     Bugalu emerged from the second pod and asked, "You got plenty of de-tox?"
     "Of course."
     "She needs a blasted strong dose." He reached inside her pod to pull her upright, for she'd been leaning against the pod's wall. With exaggerated care, she lifted a foot to step out of the pod. Then her leg buckled.
     Bugalu caught her and somehow pulled her from the pod, despite her giggly efforts to help. She landed on the floor. The ensign at the transport controls took a step to help, but Bugalu waved him back. With a quick look at his scanner, which definitely showed a high level of blood alcohol, Drake gave her a shot of de-toxicant.
     Mac's eyes closed as she slid into unconsciousness. "More," Bugalu instructed.
     "You telling me how to do my job?" MacGregor growled.
     "I know how much she drank."
     Frowning, Drake scanned her more carefully. "Black space!" He quickly gave her two more doses of de-toxicant."
     Beth looked on in alarm. "Doctor?"
     "We may have to admit her to Sick Bay, put her blood through a scrubber," he told the nurse as he watched the readout. "Bugalu, how could you let her drink that much?"
     "How could I stop her?" Bugalu returned. "She's Gaelunder."
     "Get a double dose ready, Beth," MacGregor told the nurse.
     "No." Mac opened her eyes. "No more." She struggled to stand up. "I'm fine."
     "You should be unconscious about three times over," he told her. "You're still plenty drunk!"
     "An' I need ta be."
     She stood, with Bugalu's help. "If you tink I'd be caught shober on the Fireball looking like thish--" Her gaze moved past him. "Hello, YD."
     The AmerInd yeoman walked over to separate the helmsman from his adopted sister. "Bridge," she told Bugalu, and with a glance at the clock, he hurried off.
     "I should slap you into Sick Bay," MacGregor told the redhead.
     She stood up straight, seemed too tall. "I am going ta ya room and go ta bed!"
     "Your room," he corrected. "Go to your room, not mine."
     "That'sh what I shaid!"
     He shook his head, heard Beth chuckle. "YD--" the nurse started.
     "Yes." The yeoman gently pulled the redhead away.
     Beth looked ready to say something, then her eyes slid past him, and her light-hearted grin failed. "Here's another."
     MacGregor turned to find Smitty standing outside a transport pod. The engineer's eyes were bloodshot and red-rimmed, glaring at the universe from under a lowered brow. He stood solidly, legs apart and firmly planted. He was leaning forward slightly, his shoulders hunched, his hands clasped behind his back.
     "You look terrible," MacGregor said, and scanned the man.
     Smitty glowered. "Just give me a blasted shot so I can work," he snarled.
     "Right." MacGregor took the inoculation gun from Beth.
     "That's set for double-dose," she stated hurriedly.
     "Good," he said, and injected the engineer. Smitty sighed and started to step away. "Not yet," he told the engineer, watching his readout.
     "I need to report for duty," the man rumbled.
     "Not drunk," MacGregor returned. He waited through two more slow breaths, gave the engineer another shot.
     Smitty looked him over carefully. "By my reckoning, that's four doses you've given me. You only gave Colleen three."
     "You insist on going to work," he returned. "Mac was going to bed."
     "Yours," Smitty breathed, and loosened his shoulders to stand straighter.
     "If you heard that," Drake muttered, "then you know I told her to go to her own."
     "This time," Smitty added, and shifted his stance. "Can I go to the bridge now?"
     Drake frowned at his med scanner. "If you insist, but you won't have a good day. De-tox can only do so much in so short a time. See me if you need help today."
     With a wordless growl, Smitty walked away.
     Drake looked around to see if any other transport pods had arrived, but the transport room was devoid of them. The ensign still looked stunned, but not beyond the ability to think. "We expecting anybody else?"

     "No, Doctor. Mr Smythe was the last of them."

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Bird in the Bush / Revelations

A Bird in the Bush
Shore Leave Day 3
1948 Hours

     Smitty opened his menu, but stared at the woman at his table. Her features were oriental, with sleek black hair and almond eyes, but she was almost as tall as he was. She's beautiful. I couldn't have found anyone more gorgeous, though there were plenty of beautiful companions to choose from. Including Bridget. No, I couldn't hire her. That would have been too- Sunshine Chang will do the trick. I almost wish I hadn't said dinner would be included. We could go to my room and... get started.
     "Do you know what you want?" Her voice was soft and musical.
     "I certainly do."
      Her smile said she appreciated the compliment, but otherwise, she didn't react. "I'd like the sirloin tips," she stated, closing her menu. "And white wine."
      "I'll have a filet mignon," he told the waiter, handing the menus back. "And a gin and--" His gaze fell on a woman emerging from the restroom across the room. Bright red curls cascaded down one side of her face, balanced b y a white flower behind the other ear. Her yellow pantsuit emphasized her astounding shape, while her gold and mahogany necklace decorated her cleavage. With each step, her hips swayed and her breasts gently bounced.
Bridget has a job tonight. Can't be MacGreg; he's back on the ship. Probably not any Fireball crewmember this time. She looks almost as good as--
     "I'm sorry, sir." The waiter broke into his thoughts. "I didn't quite understand. Did you wish both gin and whiskey? Perhaps you want them mixed?"
     Smitty gave him an irritated look. "Forget the gin. Whiskey. Irish whiskey. Neat." Once the man had left, he glanced back across the room. The redhead's gone. Just as well. I've got a companion for the night.

Shore Leave Day 3
2002 Hours

     When Mac returned, Bugalu held her chair for her. "How're you doing?"
     "I'm fine. You know I'm just getting started. Don't worry."
     He glanced at the bottle on the table; her second and nearly empty. He stumbled slightly as he returned to his own chair. "I'd forgotten how much you can put away. Not used to anyone drinking that much, anymore."
     "It's starting to hit you, isn't it?" she asked.
      "We'll switch your drinks to tonic water. And order dinner. I'll have filet mignon."
     "Sirloin tips," he decided. Mac gathered the cards and set them aside. They talked of various crewmembers while they ate. He knew they were repeating things he'd already told her, but didn't mind. It might give him an opportunity to return to a subject they had not thoroughly explored earlier.
     "So, to recap," he stated at the end of the meal, "the captain doesn't date aboard ship. Takor doesn't have any gender without another of its kind at hand, so it doesn't date aboard ship. Most of the other senior officers either don't date, are married and/or are extremely discreet. I mean, when I heard Doc with a woman in his bed, I was shocked."
     "I thought you said he was as popular as you," she returned.
      "I said he could be," he corrected. "I've overheard women talking. I've seen them with him. He loves to flirt. I hadn't realized he did more than that on board."
     "So... you think I'm safe from the senior officers?" she asked.
     "Except Winthrop," he qualified.
     She nodded. "I've been warned about him."
     "Who warned you?"
     "Abdullah. Beth. Maybe others. I haven't run across him. What's his field?"
     "Head of security. He's supposed to be on duty days, but we hardly ever see him. He's probably avoided you because you've been working with Smythe. They don't like each other. Nobody likes Winthrop. His own second works midnights to avoid him as much as possible."
     "And who is his second?"
     "Tall Bear. You've met him. He and I share a bathroom."
     "I have met him." She turned intense green eyes his way. "Several ladies say Tall Bear can be wonderful."
     Bugalu nodded. "That's his rep."
     "But what do they mean, Bugsy?"
     "That he's a fun date. Particularly in bed." Does she really need me to explain that? Or is this a chance to get back to a taboo subject?
     Her cheeks went pink. "I thought so." She toyed with the food on her plate, and he knew she was uncomfortable.
     "What were you going to do, if you hadn't joined the Fleet?" he asked, suddenly choosing a different subject. "If you'd stayed on Gaelund, what would you be doing at this point?"
     She grimaced. "Well, I see two possibilities. In the first, I would be a prisoner in my father's house, unable to step outside without heavy escort. In the other, Pa would have married me off, and I'd have 3 or 4 babies, with another on the way."
     That last thought caught him by surprise. "Wow. I was looking for what career opportunities you would've had."
     "Those are the career opportunities I would have had," she returned sourly.
     "No wonder you ran away." He paused for a moment. "So, when you joined the Fleet, what career did you want?"
     "Away. I was escaping, remember?"
     "Mac," he protested.
     "Really, Bugsy. I was just getting away. I would have taken anything. I signed up for security because that's what Matt was doing, but I didn't really care. Pa insisted I change to food prep or laundry. He knew I hated those, figured if he could get me switched, I'd change my mind. But I was so desperate, I would have even taken one of those, if I had to. Luckily, I didn't."
     "You wanted security?"
     "I wanted to escape. And I did."
     "But at what a cost, breaking off all contact with your family." He tried to imagine what it would take to make him that desperate to escape. I don't have enough imagination.
     "I had Matt. Anyway, it was their fault. Pa started it, but not a single brother stood up for me. I suppose they couldn't, really, but at least Matt sometimes chaffed at Pa's restrictions on me." She paused, a far-away look in her eyes. "Matt was a good brother. Once we got away, he took care of all my needs."
     "Except for a normal life," Bugalu stated. "Teenagers... young people... need contact with the opposite gender. You never got that. Not entirely Matt's fault, but he was hard to convince you could not live by Pa's dictates in the real world."
     "Don't say bad things about Matt," she told him. "He was only twelve when Pa discovered I was female. He was brainwashed, too. Half my brothers were out of the house, married, making their own babies, and they fell right in line with Pa. Even brainwashed, Matt tried to do what was good for me."
     He shrugged in reluctant acceptance. "I suppose."
     She suddenly smiled. "Do you remember when I'd get depressed and upset? I couldn't leave Matt alone, but all we did was fight. Remember? Eventually, he figured out what I needed."
     "Yeah, that got bad," he admitted. "What did you need?"
     "A man."
     He stared at her in shock as nasty thoughts chased through his mind. "You-! Matt- Mac, that would be-" He couldn't finish.
     She gave him a funny look. "Matt figured out that if he held me long enough... like through a couple movies on the tube... I'd settle down. For a week or so."
     He cleared his throat. "Just holding? He didn't... touch you?"
     She picked up her glass of whiskey. "Of course he did. I just said that."
     "I meant... in a non-brotherly way."
     She drained her glass. "That's even worse than Pa, Bugsy. Or maybe I don't know what you're talking about, so you decide. You were there most of the time. Even took over for him a couple times."
     Bugalu entered his dorm room with a pizza, to see Matt and Mac on the couch, a familiar horror movie on the tube. "Not Horror From Mars again!" he protested. "It always scares Mac to death."
     "She's fine," Matt returned. "What flavor did you get?"
     "Ham and pineapple. What else?"
     "Thank you, Bugsy." He could hear the grin in Mac's voice. She'd never had pineapple before coming to the Academy. She had loved it immediately.
     They ate the pizza sitting on the couch, the movie still playing. Even eating, Matt kept one arm around his sister, and she stayed pressed against him. Bugalu couldn't understand why his roommate periodically, perversely tortured his sister by making her watch horror films like Horror From Mars, Blood Death or Hell's Revenge. Strangely, Mac never complained. Sometimes, he wondered whose idea it was.
     That movie ended, and the next began while Bugalu finished his studies. Matt glanced around. "Bugalu, come give me a break, will you? I need the bathroom."
     "Turn the stupid movie off," he suggested, walking over. "Give her a break. This can't be any fun for her."
     "You'd be surprised," Matt stated softly, which seemed to imply that maybe she was the instigator, not him. "Come on, she just needs a little... support during the nasty bits."
      "I have a date to get ready for," Bugalu said, but sat down next to her.
     "So do I," Matt returned. "That's why I won't hit pause. Mac, switch brothers. He'll do just as well as me."
      "There's nothing to keep her safe from," Bugalu protested, but found himself receiving a bear hug. "It's just a movie," he finished.
     "Yes, we've been through all that," Matt agreed, standing up. He wrapped Bugalu's arms around her, headed for the bathroom.
     Mac was trembling, her fists pressed against his spine. He didn't look at her - he was already going to be more than ready for his date, after this - but he told her again, "It's just a movie. There's nothing to be afraid of." Maybe her arms would loosen if he distracted her. "Where are you at in your studies? Anything you need help with? I'm free tomorrow afternoon."
     She relaxed against him. "Maybe... math?"
     He grimaced. "Not my strong suit. But we can try." He almost stroked her hair, instead settled into the cushions to watch the tube until Matt returned.
     Who did initiate those marathons? And why include me?
     "I really miss those hugs," Mac stated. "Since you guys graduated, I've been... hugless."
     "You need a boy friend," he suggested.
     "Probably," she agreed, and he caught his breath in surprise. "But it's not that easy. Not for me."
     "That depends on how weak Pa's getting."
     She rubbed her finger around the rim of her glass. "Not that weak. I think." The band started a new song, and she watched the couples on the dance floor. "That looks like hugging. Except they're moving."
     "You want to try it?" he asked.
     She gave him a glance. "It doesn't look difficult."
     "Come on." He led her onto the dance floor. Slipping one arm around her waist and gently taking her injured hand in his, he soon had a place for them among the other dancers. "You're doing great," he told her after a few minutes.
     "I was going to ask you to be patient," she returned. "I've never done this before."
     "Never? Not even with brothers or cousins?"
     "Would have had to be a brother, and they couldn't be bothered."
     "You must have had a terrible childhood," he observed.
     "No, childhood was fine," she denied. "Pretty much the same as all my friends' lives. Dolls, toys, games, ballet lessons, coo--"
     "Ballet!" he exclaimed. "You took ballet lessons?"
     "Doesn't every little girl?" she replied. "I think it's supposed to teach us balance and poise, or something."
     "I'm surprised Pa let you. You did so little that most girls get to do."
     "Ma got me into ballet long before Pa discovered I was a girl. The lessons were entrenched by then."
     She hardly ever mentions her ma. I wasn't sure she had one. "Were you any good? I've never heard you mention ballet before."
     "I thought so," she answered. "I don't talk about it because it hurt, having to give it up."
     He frowned. "Pa?"
     "No." She sighed.
     "Well, I'm confused. If you liked it, were good at it, and Pa didn't make you give it up, why did you? Give it up?"
     "You're staring at them," she replied quietly. With a guilty start, he realized his gaze had been on her cleavage for a long time. He raised his eyes to her face, which was almost as fascinating. "Puberty hit," she went on. "I not only did not grow tall, I developed the kind of figure that does not lend itself to ballet. I tried, but I couldn't overcome my own body."
     "That's too bad," he told her gently.
     "It's over," she muttered, then flexed her shoulders in mild irritation. "This doesn't feel right." She glanced around at other dancers.
     "Do you want to stop?" It would be a crying shame. Holding her feels good. I have to stop thinking like that! She's my sist-- Her body pressed against him, her arms wrapped around his torso, and their feet did little more than shuffle.
     "Much better," she sighed, and lay her head on his shoulder.
     Her head's on my shoulder, not my chest. "You're too tall."
     "Heels," she answered.
     "Your uniform boots have heels."
     "Not like the ones I have on."
     They fell quiet, which unfortunately left his thoughts free to wander. None of my real sisters feel like this! "Mac." He cleared his throat. "I'm out of practice."
     "You're doing fine."
     No, I'm not. Sweat had broken out on his forehead by the time the song ended. "We need to stop," he said, breathing faster than normal.
     "But-" she protested, a dot of color in each cheek. The next song started, and he saw tears in her eyes. "Please, Bugs. It's been so long," she whispered.
     "I'm rusty," he answered. "I don't want to get hit."
     "Pa's very weak," she answered. "I won't hit you." She stepped closer, and he could not make himself move away again.
     "I don't want to... jeopardize our friendship," he growled.
     "Just a little while?" she begged.
     I can't resist her. This is a dangerous precedent to set. They resumed their former embrace, began swaying again. I can't change from brother to lover, I can't! Think about something else! Math. Volume equations. Do I remember any? The volume of a cone is- Her breasts are like cones. Full and firm-No! He lowered his chin to say something - anything - and found her mouth within kissing distance. Instinct took over.

     Eventually, the kiss ended, and he found one of his hands had drifted to her rear. She showed no inclination to deck him, merely stared at him with smoke in her eyes, her lipstick slightly smeared. "We need to get out of here," he stated, and led her back to the table to claim their belongings and pay their bill.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


Shore Leave Day 3 (cont)
1146 Hours

     Tired of drumming his fingers on his thigh, Bugalu got up to stare at the exotic fish in the restaurant's wall-sized aquarium. Where is she? Why did she postpone? This is where she said to meet in her cryptic message.
     He checked the time. I'm early, but not much. She needs a new outfit? She just went shopping the other day. This is supposed to be our day, but she hasn't arrived yet. It's almost noon. Where is she?
     A movement of color that wasn't inside the tank caught his attention, and he focused on the glass. Now, that is a redhead! He turned to face the woman who had just entered the restaurant. Her yellow pantsuit set off her coloring to perfection. Coppery curls were gathered on the left side of her head, balanced by white flower behind the right ear. The sway of her hips produced a hypnotizing bounce in her bosom. When she neared, he saw a white complexion, green eyes, and lusciously moist lips. She walked up to him, used a painted nail to close his mouth, and waited. Just before his lips touched hers, she asked, "Am I late?"
     The kiss was addictive and whiskey flavored. It's exciting, full of promise. If I weren't waiting for Mac-- Wait-- He pulled away so quickly, his back hit the fish tank. "Mac!"
     She carefully wiped the edges of her mouth to tidy any smearing of her lipstick. "That answers the real question I wanted to ask."
     "It is you!" He kept his eyes on her face. Even that's dangerous; she is gorgeous! "What's going on?"
     "Blame it on last night's movie. You know, a plain girl becomes a ravishing beauty and thereby gets the boy she's been pining for. I thought I'd try it."
     If she wants me, I'm in deep trouble. If not, I'm jealous. "What boy?"
     She blushed so deeply, he could see the pale powder on her face. "Oh, who says there is one? It was just an experiment. Just to see if-"
     "You were not plain to begin with," he told her.
     She smiled. "Thank you. But I wasn't fishing for compliments."
     Like space you weren't. A woman does a makeover because she's uncertain she can attract a man. Mac's never wanted to, until now. Smythe? Or someone else? Is she so frustrated already, she'd settle for someone else? Maybe anyone else? We aren't planning to leave this club for some time, so there's no chance for her to impress him. And I can't see her wearing that outfit - looking that good - on board. I hope. There'd be no stopping the men if she did. Some of them are already determined.
     Hard to think of her as a sister when she looks like this. If she gave me any encouragement at all-- I don't know whether to run away and hide or throw myself down and surrender.
     Green eyes looked at him between darkened lashes, and then looked down again. "Do you know what you want?"
     "I can't decide between ham quiche or a cheeseburger with mushrooms."
     He realized that they had been seated while he was thinking, and her green eyes were studying the menu, while his menu sat unopened. Mac doesn't need me as another would-be lover. We had that opportunity. It wasn't right then, why would it be right now? She needs a brother. "It isn't likely to be real meat," he stated, opening his menu.
     "At the prices they're charging, it had better be real meat," she breathed.
     Wow! "We could go somewhere else," he suggested.
     She considered the suggestion, sent another green glance his way. "I can handle Dutch treat, if you can."
     "The entire day?"
     "Well, I haven't used my credit card yet," she stated.
     "After all the stuff you bought?"
     She handed him her bank and credit cards. The balance on the bank card was low, but not empty; the credit card's available balance was untouched. "Wow." He handed them back and grinned. "Why not?"
     "Good. What do you want?" His grin grew; she rolled her eyes. "What'd I say?"
     He carefully worded his answer. "Any sane man's gut reaction is that he'd like some of you." She frowned. "Be careful how you say things, Mac." He motioned to the waiter so they could place their order. Afterwards, Bugalu asked his companion, "How was fishing?"
     "The fishing part was boring," she answered. "But being with Mac was... good. Fun. He isn't surprised by much, so I don't have to watch every word. He did ask some silly questions. Like, wanting to know every person I met when I came aboard, from stepping out of the pod until my medical."
     "Beats me. Said he was trying to solve a mystery. But I'm not sure. Fact is, things had gotten... intense. Suddenly, Pa was back in full force, and I couldn't continue the previous conversation, even though I had started it, so I asked to change the subject. That mystery was what he came up with."
     "How intense?"
     She turned red, averted her eyes. "I kissed him."
     Doc yesterday, me today. What has gotten into her? "Shame on Pa," he whispered.
     She looked confused. "You didn't object to a kiss."
     "That's different. I was in shock." No, she's got the wrong idea. "I'm not objecting, I'm confused. Where's Pa? Didn't think he'd let you kiss anyone."
     She opened her mouth, stopped. Her eyes went cloudy as she thought about it. "I- I don't think he's as strong as he used to be."
     "You're kidding!" he exclaimed.
     "I thought you'd be happy," she stated in confusion.
     "I am," he assured her. "More than happy. I'm ecstatic. I want to know what's happened so that we can duplicate it. So- how long as he been weakening?"
     "Since I came to the Fireball, I guess."
     "That recent? I'm disappointed. I'd always hoped some of what I said at the Academy might have taken root."
     "I think some did," she allowed thoughtfully. "But once you two graduated, there was no... buffer between me and the world, and Pa round up firmly in control."
     "Blast! After all that work to find guys you could date."
     "I tried," she answered. "Pete took me to the movies first week of junior year. But he was under the impression he was supposed to keep an eye on me until I graduated, when you and I would get married." He stared at her in shock. "I don't know where he got the idea. Didn't realize he had it until we got back to the dorm, when he said something outright." She frowned at the memory, sighed. "I should have confirmed it."
     "What happened?" I'm pretty sure I know.
     "Try to understand, Bugs. I'd just gotten back from Gaelund when Pete suggested a movie. I managed to agree - knew it would please you and Matt - but Internal Pa had me so nervous... When Pete commented about you and I being lovers, Pa hotly denied it. And then Pete tried to kiss me."
     "Oh, no!" He groaned.
     "I didn't deck him," she stated. "I shoved him away, and I - or Pa - threatened to deck him, if he ever tried again." She sighed and sat back. "That was my only date."
     "And Pa's been in control ever since," he concluded.
     She frowned. "Pa got even stronger, after Sloan."
     "Sloan?" he repeated. "I don't remember a Cadet Sloan. Was he in--"
     "She wasn't your type," Mac told him. Bugalu looked up sharply. "But for a while, she thought I was her type. Between Sloan and Baker, I felt like an overloaded phazer, ready to explode."
He sighed in frustration. "So you couldn't even trust women not to be a Baker." How lonely she must have been, those last two years.
     "Most women are fine," she returned. "Even the ones who like women - like Sloan - are hardly ever Bakers. If you say you aren't interested, they generally accept it." She gave him a wry smile. "My life would be a lot easier if men were like that."
     "Every man wants to think he's irresistible," he told her.
     "And then there's the men who are," she muttered in return.
     "Like Dr MacGregor?" he asked. Green eyes turned his way, and he added, "You kissed him. You went to his hotel room drunk and let yourself pass out."
     Her eyes flashed. "You make it sound-"
     "I'm trying to figure out how weak Pa is. When you mentioned irresistible men-"
     "Isn't that how women see you?" she asked.
     "Oh." He thought about that. "Doc could date as much as I do, if he wanted. He's considered a hot date." And she adopted him, both of us. That's an interesting coincidence. To make us behave around her? Or because adoption opened the possibility of touching - and kissing - that's otherwise forbidden? He leaned toward her. "Aren't you like other women, Mac? Don't you find us irresistible?"
     Well, if I expected an immediate denial, I didn't get it.
     Green eyes studied him as one hand fiddled with the other. "I'm not like other women," she finally said.
     But she didn't say- "Do you find us irresistible?"
     Her gaze fell to her hands. "I'm not sure what that means."
     He pondered what that statement might mean. I'd forgotten how hard it is, sometimes, to have a conversation with her. "It means when you don't want to do something, and we ask you to, you have a hard time saying no. It means you want to spend as much time with us as you possibly can." Too tame an explanation, but if I don't keep it simple and safe, Pa might shut down the whole conversation.
     "You've talked me into lots of things. Mac took me fishing. If that makes you irresistible-"
     "Not exactly," he broke in, and re-evaluated. Pa shuts down any sexual conversation, which makes it hard to talk to her about sex. She doesn't recognize the euphemisms. It's like he's walled off her sex drive. Well... she has been asking-- "Where was Pa when you kissed Doc?"
     "Screaming in the background."
     "And when you kissed me?"
     "You kissed me," she corrected.
     "You didn't stop me, so let's not get hung up on semantics. Where was Pa?"
     Her lips pressed together, her brow furrowed. "Further back in the background, screaming."
He refused to ponder those answers. He sat back and quietly asked, "Are we sharing a room tonight?"
     "We always share a room on leave."
     When there were three of us, we did. "Are we sharing a bed?" She jerked, as if he'd hit her. Pa's back.
     "We've never done that," she stated.
     No, we haven't. Would have been awkward, with Matt there. And dangerous, both of them determined to protect her virginity. Still, that was a mild reaction for the question. Pa's very weak. Come to think of it, that wasn't an answer. "Want to?"
     She seemed frozen, suddenly pale. No explosion. I could almost believe Pa dead. She hasn't answered yet. Blast, she can't be considering it! Sure looks like she is! What in space do I do if she accepts?
     "I'll be drinking," she stated softly. "You're on duty tomorrow, so you need sleep."
     His inner sigh of relief was accompanied by a perverse wave of disappointment. "So I'm not irresistible," he stated. "And the Doc? Would you share a bed with him?"
     She squirmed and slithered around the question. "He hasn't asked."
     "If you keep kissing him, he might not think it's necessary to ask."
     The corner of her mouth lifted, and a glint appeared in her eyes. "That's kind of what he said," she stated.
     He grunted. "Gave you warning, did he? Good."
     "He's going to teach me about the birds and bees." The waiter lost his grip on her plate, and it clattered to the table, but didn't spill. She blushed and waited impatiently for him to leave.
     "I thought Matt had that talk with you long ago."
     "He did," she answered, fussing with her silverware. "Well, he tried. Pa got in the way. Matt got tongue-tied. I couldn't listen. It didn't make sense."
     "How did the subject come up with Doc?"
     "We were discussing-" She stopped as the waiter renewed their drinks. Once he left, she started again. "We were discussing that Gaelund girls start having babies young, then I kissed him and asked if that would be enough to- to get me-"
     "You can't even say it," he pointed out. "Why do you want to get pregnant?" She looked shocked, her face white, and for a moment, he thought she would bolt from the table. There's pa! But instead, she took a deep breath, swallowed, and stared at her food. She didn't give in to his dictates. Wow!
     "I never said- Why would you think- Really, Bugs!"
     "You brought it up," he stated. "You seemed to be trying to figure out how to get..." Watch it! If Pa is back- "...that way."
     She shook her head gently, and savored a bite of quiche. "Bugsy, it's finally occurred to me that by not knowing how- I have no idea how to keep from doing it."
     "Except Pa's method," he pointed out, and immediately felt like kicking himself. Wait. She frowned when I said that!
     "Yes, there's Pa's method," she agreed softly. "But I'm tired of being an idiot on the subject. I'm tired of being suspicious of every word any man says. I feel like I'm missing out."
     "Missing out on what?" he asked gently.
     Her face turned red, modified only slightly by make-up. Her mouth opened a couple times, but no sounds came out. She put her fork down, drank half her Collins, then closed her eyes, as if shutting out the world.
     Pa's finally shut off this conversation, but who would have thought he'd do it without exploding? Or even let it get started?
     "Sex," she muttered.
     "What?" he blurted in shock. It's still going!
     She drank again, her face still red, and resumed eating. "Baker said I'd like it. All the Bakers say that. It can't be too bad, or why would everyone always want it?"
     The waiter approached, and Bugalu ordered more drinks, since hers was nearly empty. With the waiter out of the way, he took another bite of his lunch before he responded. "Instinct."
     "What instinct?"
     I really need to think before I speak. "Instinct keeps the idea on my mind. But I also have a mind, which controls my body. So, what that means-" Why is she looking so stunned?
     "It does?" she asked.
     He blinked in confusion. "Um, I'm lost," he told her. "Expand the question, please."
     "You said your mind controls your body. But men have no control. Around a woman."
     Baker must have told her that. Or Pa. Who said it doesn't matter. "That's a lie. On Earth, a lot of cultures throughout history dictated that women be covered from head to toe, with the idea that men could not control themselves. As cultures and fashions changed, most men showed themselves perfectly capable of controlling that urge, but those who didn't want to would use that ancient argument. Because if they can't control themselves, they can't be blamed. It's been used for ages as a defense for rape. Just means he's too self-centered to care."
     "That's... interesting," she stated softly.
     He grimaced. "Okay, to be honest, once a man reaches a certain stage, it's almost impossible to stop. But if he has to, he can. He won't be happy, but he can. An intelligent woman won't take him that far and then change her mind."
     "How could she? Wouldn't she also have trouble stopping?"
     "Women aren't the same as men," he stated.
     "How are we different?" she asked, leaning forward. Her gold and mahogany necklace pulled his attention to her cleavage, where he let it tarry for a moment before pulling it back to his meal. "Besides the obvious ways, I mean," she smirked.
     "I'm not sure," he stated slowly. "Women generally seem to have more control."
     "Like Della?"
     She would think of Della. "Della chooses not to have any control. That's because nature made sex blasted enjoyable."
     She took a slow drink as she considered that. "How much enjoyable?"
     He paused, chewing the last of his meal as he thought. She finished her meal and pushed her plate away, sipped her Collins. Green eyes watched him as he ruminated. " I- don't know how to answer that," he finally said.
     "Why not?"
     "Because I can't imagine how to explain it," he answered. The waiter began to clear the dirty dishes. "You want desert?" Bugalu asked.
     "I ate my meal," she stated patiently. "It's time to get to what we're here for."
     "No deserts," he told the waiter. "Keep the drinks coming. I'll stick with Tom Collins, and she'll have a bottle of whiskey. Irish whiskey."
     "A bottle?" the waiter asked.
     "Bring a glass, if you insist. But no ice. It just waters the drink down."
     "I see," he stated, and left.
     Bugalu took out two decks of cards and handed one to her.
     "I've not known you to be... unimaginative," she said, shuffling her deck.
     He also shuffled. "I can't describe the emotions, tension, abject pleasure and ecstasy. It can't be described, it must be experienced."
     She sighed deeply. "Well, that leaves me out, doesn't it?"
     Does it? They began setting their cards out in a double game of solitaire. "Do you realize we've been here over an hour, talking about sex?"
     "Has it been that long?" she asked, fussing with the bandage on her hand. She set her cards down to examine her right hand. "Does that look swollen to you?"
     That's the end of that conversation. He considered the hand she offered for inspection and set his own cards down. "Yes. What do you want it set for?"
     "Mac said to set it to cold," she stated. As he set to work with the tiny controls, her emerald gaze watched him. "Is that important? How long we've been talking? We've had long conversations before."
     "Not about sex."
     "No, that's true."
     "Pa always shut down the conversation before," he stated. "You said Pa wasn't as strong, but this is astounding. All this progress in the week you've been on the Fireball?"
     She finished her Collins as the new drinks arrived. "Maybe. I'm not sure."
     "What are you not sure about?"
     "Let me think," she requested, and they played cards in silence. Eventually, she poured herself a stiff dose of whiskey and downed it quickly. "Okay, Pa's weakest when I'm tired, drunk, and with-" She threw a glance his way and blushed. "-certain people. He's strongest when I've just woke up and sober. Especially if I'm with a Baker."
     "Certain people," he repeated. "I assume that includes me and Doc."
     "Looks like it." She grinned at him, then considered her cards.
     "And your mountain?" he asked softly. "Is he a 'certain people' also?"
     She froze, her gaze glued to the cards, her face flushing. For a long time, it didn't look like she would respond. Remembering what she had said, he poured her another drink, waited patiently. Eventually, she gulped down the booze and set the glass down solidly. "I think he is the most certain of certain people," she stated, her voice gruff.
     Pa has lost a lot of control! "Okay. Can you explain-"
     "Bugshee," she interrupted. "I am drunker than I should be," she stated carefully. "I have to show down. Could we... change the shubject?"
     If Pa can't stop it one way, he'll do it another. "What do you want to talk about?"
     She smiled. "I knew you could count on me."
     "Yes." He signaled the waiter. "Bring her some sour," he instructed.
     "An Irish sour?"
     "Just the sour," Bugalu reiterated, and the waiter turned away.
     "What should we talk about? I know. Why don't we talk about the people I met my firsh day aboard?"
     "I thought you did that with Doc."
     "Don't know what he wanted. I want to know which onesh I can't trush."
     "Pa's back in full force, is he?"
     She gave a slow blink. "I don't think sho. It'sh jush... if I can't trush 'em, how can we be friendsh?"
     "Friends," he repeated, and grinned. "Good idea."