Month 2, Day 30
I should be at work, not hanging about. Smitty drank the last of his coffee and silently set his cup down. If she realizes I hang around while she’s studying- If the captain realizes I’ve spent so much time here, instead of working-!
He glanced at the clock. Almost time for someone to send her to bed. Wonder who it’ll be today. Bugalu, MacGreg, Yellow Dog, Abdulla? Someone will come. She’ll protest, but she’ll go. And for all that Bugalu and MacGreg tell her to get 8 hours of sleep, she’ll be in the gym by 1800. That’s only 6 hours, at most. Can’t keep that up.
Maybe she’ll pass tonight. Then she could stop all this studying and get on with her life, have dates, get a decent night’s sleep.
And what about me? If she passes, what does that mean for me? She wouldn’t be here every morning to study, so I’d have no reason to be here. Not that I really have any reason now. I could get some work done. And once she starts dating, I could- what? Date her? Not a chance! Date others? I can now, but when Anna pointed out what I was doing... It’s not fair to any woman. And not safe, if I use her name when I’m with someone else. No, I’m doomed to remain in inferno the rest of my life. Until she leaves the Fireball.
Black space, that’s a depressing thought. Years and years of having her so close, and yet... untouchable. Or else not having her here. Don’t know which is worse.
The door opened, and he looked at the clock again. They’re a little early. She won’t like that.
“Lt MacDowell, I assume,” said a greasy voice, and Smitty stiffened. Scooting his chair backwards, he scowled at what he saw on the other side of the well through a small hole devoid of foliage.
Colleen had stood up. She shut down the reader and gathered her files. “Lt Cmdr Winthrop,” she named the newcomer.
“What I’ve heard doesn’t do your beauty justice,” Winthrop stated, stepping forward.
“Um, I’ve heard about you, too,” Colleen stated, keeping the table between them.
“We should... discuss that.” The security chief shoved the table aside.
The redhead thwarted him a second time by pulling a chair between them, a hand on its back keeping it at some small distance before her. “Sorry, I’m busy. It... it’s past my bedtime.” Wrong thing to say to him, darling!
True to form, Winthrop leered. “That’s an intriguing thought.” He tried to move the chair, but she had a firm grip on the back of it, and it didn’t move. “We could explore that option together,” he suggested, again trying to move the chair.
“No,” she answered shortly. “Now, if you’ll excuse me-“
“Not just yet,” he told her.
Oh, blast, he’s not going to let her leave. In ten minutes, someone will come for her, but that’ll be too late. I’ll deck him if he lays one hand on her.
“Sir!” Colleen protested as Winthrop jerked at the chair.
Smitty jumped to his feet and started around the well. “MacDowell!” he barked as soon as she was in sight. Both heads turned as he hurried up to them.
“What are you doing here?” Winthrop growled.
Smitty gave the other man a cold stare. “Looking for my lieutenant.”
“For me?” Colleen squeaked.
“You say that like you own her,” Winthrop snarled. “We were in the middle of-“
“Tough,” Smitty told him. “She hasn’t passed her probational; it’s time for a quiz.”
Colleen’s face went white. “Now? Here?”
“Not here,” he returned, realizing she believed every word he had said. “Abdulla will score your results.” He took her arm and pulled her toward the door. She followed woodenly, but without protest. I can feel Winthrop’s stare boring a hole into my back. He won’t forget. Like I care. I never did like him.
They were in the lift before he realized he still held Colleen’s arm, his thumb gently rubbing her sleeve. Can’t blame Winthrop for desiring her, she’s woman enough to- He quickly let go of her as the doors closed. “Where would you like to go?” he asked through a constricted throat.
Colleen looked at him in utter confusion. “Well, where’s Abdulla?”
“On duty, I imagine. Or possibly she’s gone to lunch. Why?”
“You said she was... The quiz...”
“Oh.” He reddened, couldn’t look at her. “I just said that to cut off Winthrop’s arguments. There is no quiz.” He realized the lift had not yet moved, and sent it toward her quarters. “I thought you needed help getting away from him, and I-“ He let it die, uncertain what to say.
“You... rescued me,” she breathed, as if she couldn’t believe he would ever do such a thing, especially for her.
How do I tell Jane about this without revealing I’ve been spending mornings in the rec room instead of working? Winthrop is a slimy hedgehog who has no business around women, though to hear him talk, his methods... Oh, space, Colleen wasn’t playing hard to get, was she? Smitty cleared his throat, attempting to dislodge the lump so he could speak. “You could go back, if you wish. I imagine-“
She violently backed into the lift wall, her face even whiter. “Absolutely not!”
He nodded in relief. “Good.” No way that can be taken the wrong way, is there? Still- “I mean, he expects sex from every woman, as if it’s owed to him, or something. I’m surprised nobody’s warned you.”
She frowned, staring at the floor. “They have. Anyway, I’ve... dealt with his type before.” She rolled her shoulders, as if loosening her muscles for some heavy endeavor.
“What’s next, R&R in your bed?” Why not a quiz in my bed? I’m sure she could pass that! Space, I’m as bad as him! The lift door opened. Her quarters - her bed - is only a few steps away. Blast! “I hope you go to bed now.”
She raised her head, muttered, “Yes,” as her green eyes relentlessly stared at him. “I’ll see you?”
That was an invitation. No, it wasn’t. Get a hold of yourself, Smythe! “Tonight,” he stated breathlessly. “It’s test night. You’d best get some sleep.”
She nodded. “If I can.”
That sounds familiar. I’m sure she didn’t mean it the same way, though. As she stepped for the open door, he mumbled, “Good night, Darling.” The last word slipped out before he even knew it was there.
“Good night, Dear,” she answered absently, and left him alone in the lift.
The door closed, and he sent the lift toward engineering. She called me an inappropriate term of endearment again. Of course, I started it, but I’m not sure she heard mine. Anyway, she probably calls everybody that. Sure could wish it was meant for me alone. Lt Cmdr Smythe, you have to stop that kind of thinking!