Month 4, Day 20
"Don't fret," Jane told her pre-occupied chief engineer as they walked down the corridor. "I don't plan on taking your head off, if that's what you're worried about."
Smitty seemed startled. "What? What have I done?"
Finally, something caught his attention. "Nothing too bad, so far. But you have been... absent-minded of late. Is there something you need to talk about?"
"No," he answered shortly.
A very quick and final negative. That's always a bad sign. They turned the corner together, headed for the lift. "That's good. But I do seem to be missing some engineering reports." She signaled for the lift.
"You'll have them in the morning," he muttered.
"Good." He hasn't missed a report in years, so I know something is bothering him. I wish he'd talk to me about it. I hate turning my imagination loose without any information. The lift arrived, and they stepped aboard, to find it already occupied. She looks familiar, but civilian clothes tend to throw me, unless I've known them for years. She took another look at the redhead leaning in the corner and realized the woman's eyes were closed. She's asleep! I don't recognize her, so she's not anybody on the bridge. Probably hasn't been aboard long, either. What's her name? What color uniform does she wear? What's her rank?
"Lieutenant," came a croaked whisper from the opposite corner of the lift.
Jane looked around to find Smitty pressed against the lift wall, his gaze glued to the sleeping figure, his face white. She must be one of his, one he recognizes. Doesn't help me, much. "Lieutenant," she greeted the redhead, and reached out to wake her.
"Captain!" Smitty jumped forward and stopped her. "It's not safe to touch her when she's asleep, Captain! Last time, she gave Tall Bear a black eye!"
This tiny package gave Bear that shiner? I wouldn't think she could reach that high, let alone with enough force... "Halt," she told the lift, for she didn't want to arrive at the bridge and leave the girl sleeping here. One never knew when Winthrop would make an appearance.
The lift gave an almost imperceptible shudder as it stopped, and the redhead began sliding out of the corner, would have landed on the floor if Smitty had not instinctively stepped forward, stopping her fall with his body. His arms, quite naturally, wrapped around her to keep her steady.
No sign of giving him a black eye. That would be striking a superior officer, but if she's asleep, she wouldn't know that. "Anyone that tired should be in bed," Jane stated.
"Bed," the redhead mumbled, and snuggled against the man's chest. Smitty's hands slowly curled into fists and his back stiffened, but his face glistened with sweat and his eyes were glazed.
That's a blasted strong come-on, even if she's awake. Especially in front of me. And he's fighting his inclination to respond, something I've never seen him have to do before. Because I'm here? Or because- "Is she one of yours? An engineer?"
"Communications," he answered.
Same thing; she's under his command. Come on, Jane; check your crew roster. Communications lieutenant. Obviously not Abdulla. That leaves Clines and Chun, who are male, and the new girl. Oh, blast, this is his troublemaker! The one who can't pass probation, and who couldn't take her eyes off him when she first came aboard! Jane noticed one of his hands uncurling to rest on the girl's rear. "Smythe!"
The engineer jerked at the angry bark, which shoved the girl away. The redhead staggered to retain her footing, blinked at her two companions in confusion.
"Take her to bed," Jane instructed.
"What?" Smitty's mouth dropped open in shock, while the girl backed against the wall, her face as red as her hair.
That didn't come out the way I meant it. "Take her to her room-" Dangerous suggestion, from the looks of it. She turned her attention to the girl. "Lieutenant, go get some sleep."
The younger woman tried to stifle a yawn. "I'm meeting Ivy to study."
"I didn't ask where you were headed. I told you to get some sleep!"
Jane glared at the girl. "Do I need to make it an order?"
The redhead finally seemed to get her thoughts pulled together. "No, sir. I'll... do my best."
"See that you do," Jane growled, and let most of her anger go. "What deck are your quarters?"
"Deck 4. East," the redhead responded, and the lift started for this new destination.
The small confines were silent, with neither the redhead nor the engineer sending a single glance toward the other. But when the lift door opened and the girl exited, Smitty couldn't keep his eyes off her until the door closed again.
"Bridge," Jane instructed, and considered her chief engineer's pensive expression. I'm standing right here, and obviously, the only thing on his mind is her. If I wasn't here, would he have been right behind her? And it doesn't seem she would turn him away. I can't approve of that, but like Duck said, I wouldn't necessarily know about it, not until it became an issue. Would it be so awful, if that's what they both want? But if I look the other way because their situation is different, it wouldn't be long before everybody's situation was 'special'. Then how could I keep Winthrop in line? Not that I manage it now. "She's a subordinate," she stated flatly.
Startled, Smitty's face went red. "I know."
He's fighting it, he's just not winning. Is she trying to use sex to get past her probation? Didn't I ask Takor to investigate her abilities? I haven't gotten that report yet. "It might be best if you avoid her. As much as possible."
He sighed. "I've been trying."
For all the good it's done him so far. No wonder he never comes to the bridge first thing in the morning any more. And then to find her asleep on the lift! What if he'd been alone? Worse, what if he had been Winthrop? If she thought my bark was a rude awakening- Didn't I tell Duck to fix her sleeping problem? Obviously, he hasn't. That's something I can check into this morning.