A Bird in the Bush
Shore Leave Day 3
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
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?"
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.