Month 1, Day 20
Drake drummed fingers against the opposite bicep of his folded arms. She's late. Well, she's a woman, so why-
"You waiting for me, Mac?"
He looked up from the floor to smile at the approaching redhead. "Yes." He stopped leaning against the bulkhead. "You look tired. You sleeping okay?"
She yawned as they entered the small mess hall. "That depends who's asking."
What's she mean by that? "I'm asking." He steered her to a back booth. She slid into a seat, and he took the opposing side.
"Are you asking as Uncle Mac or as Dr Mac?"
He started to answer, then paused. If I ask as her doctor, she might answer. Or she might say I'm off duty and she won't make me talk shop. If I say as her uncle, she might answer. Or she might say that sleeping's not something an uncle can help with, and close the subject. "Whichever one will get me an answer."
She chuckled. "You learn fast, Mac. Shall we order now, so we can eat?"
"Are you going to answer me?" he countered. If I let her change the subject...
"As soon as we order, I promise."
And a promise is a promise. He gave in. Mac chose oatmeal, eggs and fruit juice, typical breakfast. But it was supper for him, so he ordered beef stew and French bread. He leaned back. "Well?"
She stifled another yawn. "I'm a restless sleeper, Mac. Never noticed it before coming here, but I move around so much, even eight hours of sleep isn't enough. And working midnight bridge - with Evans - often gets me so upset, so - tense, that I can't sleep right away."
He tried not to frown. "That could become a problem."
"It is," she admitted. "It's started to nibble into my evenings. That's why I'm late - I only drug myself out of bed twenty minutes ago."
"What have you tried?" I hope it's not booze.
"For a couple days, I tried running for half an hour, to work some energy out. I'd prefer to punch, but I haven't found a sparring partner. But running only woke me up. So, the last couple days, I've spent time in the whirlpool." That should help, as long as nobody bothers her. She continued. "If I go directly from bridge to whirlpool, I generally have the place to myself." She sighed. "Hope nobody figures that out, or I won't have that option anymore."
She frowned. "It's hard to relax with a gaggle of men crowded around, pestering you for a date."
Several men, all sporting white feathers and orange beaks, splashed around Mac in the whirlpool, all honking loudly, snapping at each other and generally making pests of themselves. Drake chuckled.
"You think it's funny?" Mac asked.
He shook his head. "It was the idea of a gaggle of men."
Her brow furrowed. "Did I say it wrong?"
"The word usually refers to geese, so the picture it brought to my mind was... amusing. Still, your meaning is clear."
"They act like geese, sometimes," she grumbled. Their food arrived by dumblift; they transferred it to their table. She smiled as they worked, but sighed as she added milk to her oatmeal. "I wish someone besides me could take this seriously."
"I do," he assured her. "It was just the mental picture that was amusing. So, you need a way to relax that won't put you in the same place at the same time every day. Ideally, you need several ways, so you can mix them randomly."
"The only way I've found so far is the whirlpool," she reminded him.
Good. Not a word about whiskey. "The sauna is also a warm place to relax."
"They're virtually the same place, Mac," she pointed out.
"True, but the sauna has walls. If they expect to find you in the whirlpool, they might not look in the sauna. If someone does bother you, just leave."
"And do what? It's hard to fall asleep when-"
"Go to your quarters. Tell the computer you don't want to be disturbed, and the doorbell won't even work."
"I know that, but if I'm still tense-"
He shrugged. "You could always take a hot shower." She jerked back in her seat. What did I say to elicit that response?
She was pale. "You want me to-!" She seemed unable to finish.
She acts like that's against Pa's rules, but what does a shower have to do with sex? "Why not?"
Her brow twisted around itself. "Is that... healthy?"
"Why wouldn't it be?"
She considered his question carefully. "Pa-" I don't believe it. Although, according to Bugalu, I guess I shouldn't be surprised. She finally went on. "I don't remember exactly what Pa said, but I've always thought only cold showers were healthy."
Another of Pa's methods of negating her sexual urges? I am not going to raise that subject! "A hot shower is a good way to relax," he stated, buttering his bread. "As long as you don't scald yourself. But if Smitty's people are doing their job, the showers won't be hot enough to scald." Now what did I say?
"Smit." She stared at her eggs.
"Has Smythe been giving you a hard time?" It wouldn't be personal, but if he feels she needs to study-
She shook her head without looking up. "No. I've hardly seen him since... just after shore leave."
That's not adding to her stress, then. I thought shore leave would fix his infatuation. "Good. I was afraid he might encourage you to study. Too much, I mean."
"I've been studying," she admitted. "He made that need clear. I think it's a relief to Bugs. He sends me to hit the books, and he has time for a date." She gave him a sudden grin. "Very reminiscent of the Academy."
"Not much of a brother, is he?" Blast! I should not have said that! "I mean, I know you've been working out, too. So when does Bugalu see you? For that matter, when do you get time off? All work and no-"
She smiled. "Worried about me? My days are pretty uneventful. Bugsy checks on me as we pass at shift change. Then he apparently warns Evans to leave me alone, which doesn't help, but that's a brother for you. Usually, Bugs gets me up when he gets off duty, and we have supper together."
"If I'd known, he could've joined us."
"It's not every night. Tonight he's having supper with... someone else. Anyway, then I go to the gym, and then I study."
"You study every night?"
"Pretty much." Drake started to object, and she hurriedly added, "But not tonight."
"I'm taking the night off. For good behavior, I suppose." She giggled. "No gym tonight, and no books. Bugs is taking me to the movie."
Bugalu whispered into Beth's ear. Beth responded by turning her head and giving him a sizzling kiss that sent waves of steam emanating into the darkness. Drake swallowed at the memory. "You sure that's a good idea?"
She grimaced and began stacking her empty dishes. "I would have preferred staying in his quarters, but he insisted nobody pays any attention in the theater." Yes they do, they just don't say anything. "Anyway, he promised me this on shore leave. I think it'll be weird, us seeing a movie that isn't 'Monster from Mars'." She seems perfectly okay with this. Either I'm mis-judging things, or-
She put her dishes on the dumblift. "If you don't mind, I'm going to take off. I was in such a hurry, having overslept, I didn't comb my hair properly. But if you like, we can do this again in four days." She smiled brightly.
"Maybe I'd like to take you to the movie," he suggested rashly.
She looked shocked. More to this than just watching a movie, obviously. "You?" She swallowed. "I've never... done that... with an uncle."
A lot more than watching a movie. Now what am I getting myself into? "Well, think about it," he suggested. "You adopted me, too. Why is Bugalu the only one who gets to see you?"
Her smile was back as quickly as it had disappeared. "I've missed you, too. Look, as soon as I pass probation, we'll be able to spend more time together." She cleared her throat nervously. "I hope you've got my lessons ready."
Lessons? "That's right, the birds and bees," he muttered.
"And flirting," she added as she walked out. Almost, he called out, asked what she meant. But his gaze caught the sway of hips, and his demand for info was never made.
Once Mac was gone, Drake sent the dirty dishes back to the kitchen, and left the small dining room. He almost ran into Lt Cmdr Humara on his way out. "Sorry, Anna. I should watch where I'm going."
"Don't worry about it, Drake. I saw the redhead, and figured somebody would be following her. She got on the turbolift."
"It's not-" Never mind. Not worth it. He glanced at the two pieces of pie she held. "Double helping, Anna? You'll spoil your girlish figure."
She gave a bark of laughter. "Too late to worry about that! And don't gallantly deny it. Go, catch your redhead. I think she went up."
"Probably," he agreed. "She went to get ready for her-" What do I call it without getting into a long explanation? "-date."
He smiled. "Not with me."
"Oh. Well, keep trying. They never resist you for long."
This is becoming hopelessly tangled. He smiled and stepped aside. "It's good to see you, Anna. You keep hiding in the kitchen."
"Yes. I've noticed that, too," she stated, and moved past him, into the dining room. Drake headed for the library.