Month 4, Day 11
"All I'm saying," Ferguson told Tall Bear as they waited in the gym, "is that it explains why I haven't made any progress with her."
"No, it doesn't,' Tall Bear muttered, crossing his arms. It only explains it because you want a reason why she doesn't find you irresistible.
"Look, it confirms she's dating Bugalu, which was obvious, despite their denials. If she's dating him, I bet she dates MacGregor, too. And with those two sharing her, she doesn't have time for anybody else."
"If you believe Ryan." Are you the fool for believing what you want? Or am I?
"You think Ryan lied?"
Tall Bear kept his face stony. "White man often speak with forked tongue."
"Very funny." Ferguson's gaze wandered to something behind Tall Bear. "Here she comes. I'll give you 2 guesses who she's with."
"No." Tall Bear was pretty sure who Mac was with, based on Ferguson's tone. "You go ahead; it's your turn tonight." He turned to find Mac was with Bugalu, as he'd expected, and there was no sign of Yellow Dog yet. The small redhead moved off with the big cook, headed for Weight Station C. "I think she looks a little better," Bear observed quietly.
"She still has a lot of sleep to catch up on," Bugalu responded. "But she did get some today. At least 6 hours."
Tall Bear never had any problem talking to Bugalu about anything, so he didn't hesitate now. "You know I like Mac, right?"
"Yes," Bugalu agreed.
"I'd like to date her."
"You and-" Bugalu stopped what he was about to say and hesitated before saying, "I know."
"You told me there was nothing between you two."
"Nothing sexual," Bugalu confirmed.
Tall Bear nodded. "Okay."
"Just like that?" The negro sounded surprised.
"Who would you believe? Ryan? Or me?"
"Good point." After a moment, Bugalu asked, "Made any progress? Getting a date?"
Bear turned his head to look at him. "No."
Bugalu nodded, but his face held a slight frown. "I'll see what I can do. But even if she agrees, don't expect sex. Or a kiss." The helmsman thought for a moment. "She probably won't even hold your hand."
"Sounds like a novel date, but she's still fun to be with." When Bugalu turned to give him a quizzical look, he added, "We have lunches together. Keeps Evans and Adams from pestering her."
"Good. That's a big point in your favor." With a smile, Bugalu started to walk off.
"Where are you going?" Bear asked.
"I left my book somewhere. Probably her place. And Della's got a date tonight, so I have to look there before he shows up. But I'll be back before Mac's done."
Bear watched him leave, turned to start warming up and ran right into Yellow Dog. His arms instinctively flew around her.
"Coup," she said, wrapping her arms around him as well.
"No, I'm going to contest that," he told her. "I touched you first." She smiled, her dark eyes staring into his. Okay, technically I did touch her first, but she somehow put herself there without me knowing about it. I hate it when she manages that. But she's good at it. "Okay, you win. It's your point."
She smiled and pulled away, took her position at weight station B. They began her workout - he used too much weight for her to be able to spot for him - and almost before he realized it, they were at the end.
"Mac?" he heard Ferguson at the next station. "How does she do that?" Bear looked over, but the redhead was merely standing near a tall rack, not doing anything. Ferguson looked around. "Well, everything's put away. Computer, standard gravity on weight station C."
The cook swayed as the gravity changed, but Mac screamed, her arms flailing. Shocked, Ferguson reached out to reassure her, but she shoved him aside with one hand. Yellow Dog scooped the shorter woman into a tight embrace. The scream became hysterical sobs.
Bugalu suddenly appeared and slipped his arms around the redhead. "What happened?"
"She was asleep," Ferguson stated. "Standing up, but asleep."
"I was... falling!" Mac sobbed, only Tall Bear wasn't sure if she'd said falling or failing. He assumed the change in gravity had made her feel like she was falling.
"You won't," Bugalu told her, with steel in his voice. "I won't let you." He raised his head to look at Ferguson. "You guys done?"
"Yeah, just now."
"Come on, Mac, let's go study," Bugalu stated, and they left.
Apparently, Bugalu heard the other word.