Month 4, Day 20
Time had gotten away from Smitty as he finished the missing reports for the captain. When Lt Wilson came on duty and found him still there, she had brought a tray from the mess hall, and then helped him finish up. Otherwise, he'd still be there, his mind wandering more than staying focused. A hot shower and an early bed was what he needed.
He turned the corner, headed for his quarters, but stopped when he saw the redhead sitting on the floor ahead. What's she doing here? At least she's awake. She isn't - she can't be waiting for me! Is she?
A door opened, and MacGreg stepped into the corridor, stopped in shock as water drenched him. "What in space-?"
Colleen laughed and climbed to her feet. "Happy Birthday, Mac!"
MacGreg wiped his face, then flicked droplets off his fingers. "Glad you didn't have any skunk oil left. But it’s not my birthday."
She stared at him with wide eyes of mock shock as a smile played with her mouth. "It's not? Then I'll have to find a better gift for when it is!"
MacGreg gave her a sharp look. "Now that I think about it, this, uh... gift... will do fine." She smiled as she closed the distance between them and gave him a brief hug, despite the wetness. "Okay, what's the real reason for this... shower?"
"I needed a laugh. And the look on your face! Thank you, Mac."
"Glad to help," the physician replied. "But you usually turn to Bugalu for things like that."
She scrunched her nose briefly. "I picked on him last time. Anyway, I was going to study with Ivy today and supposedly sleep this evening, so he's on a date. My plans got messed up, but I'm trying not to keep him from concentrating on Beth this time."
"Beth? Temple? My Beth?"
You’d think he was jealous of-
"You don't own her, Mac."
"No," MacGreg agreed at once. "Of course not. So your plans for the day got rearranged. How did you sleep?"
"Same as usual. More not asleep than being asleep. But I tried! I had to; Captain threatened to make it an order!"
"I heard about that. And I need to work harder on curing your insomnia. Those are my orders. Since we're both free this evening, let's discuss possibilities."
"Sorry, Mac, I can't. I had to cancel my time with Ivy, but I found someone to help me study this evening. First, I really need to clean up this mess. Somebody's left water on the floor, and I don't want anybody to slip and fall. Then I've got to-" She tipped her head back to study the corridor ceiling. "-figure out how to get that down."
Smitty tore his gaze off the girl's damp form and up to the ceiling, where a modified MN27 hovered above the doctor's doorway. "What in Black Space-!"
"Oh, dear!" Colleen whirled around and stared at him. Smitty was surprised how close he had gotten. There were only a few feet between them.
MacGreg turned. "Evening, Smitty. Didn't see you at supper. Mac just dumped the old bucket of water on me from over the door. Although, I don't see where the bucket went. Mac, I’ll lift you up to get that thing."
He'd love to get his hands on her! Smitty jumped up and grabbed the mini-grav unit with one hand. His mass bore the unit downward easily, and he shut it off, then studied the contraption at leisure. "Who taught you how to do this?"
He gave her a disbelieving glance. She's not engineering.
Her face went pink. "I mean, um, well... no one."
Maybe she learned on a previous assignment.
"It looks complicated," MacGreg stated.
"Not really," Smitty returned, and handed the doctor various pieces as he took the thing apart. "An antigrav unit to get it above your door, a balloon to hold the water. Sensor to react when the door opens, tape to hold it together, and a tack to break the balloon. Simple, actually." I'm surprised no one's dreamed it up before this. I can expect a rash of these, once she tells them about this... joke. He hardly dared to look at her. "You won't do this again, Colleen."
"Umm, okay." She sounded distracted.
"I knew it was risky, getting one of his friends involved," she told the AmerInd brave. She doesn't always do things alone. "And you will not tell anyone else how to do it, either." She didn't respond this time, just stared at him. Like she did when she first came aboard. Space, let's not think about that! "Understood?" His voice was unaccountably hoarse.
"Of course she does," MacGreg stated. "Balloon explains the lack of a bucket. Mac, make sure no one slips on this water. I'll get a towel." MacGreg entered his quarters, leaving them alone.
Smitty couldn't help but return her stare. She is so beautiful. If she slipped on the water, I'd be happy to catch her. "Take her to bed," Captain Burke ordered him. "Oh, yes," he agreed readily.
"What?" Colleen asked.
"Bed," he reminded her.
"Oh." Silence returned.
What am I thinking? She's not for me! "I mean, did you sleep today?"
She blushed. "I tried."
Somebody interrupted her, I suppose. "The captain intended for you to sleep," he reminded her. "She practically ordered it."
"You can't order a person to sleep," MacGreg stated, having returned in dry clothing. "That's like ordering someone not to think about elephants. They immediately do. Likewise, when you order someone to get some sleep, they develop a bad case of insomnia." MacGreg handed a towel to the girl, who started mopping up the water. MacGreg stepped back, out of her way. "So you had to recruit someone to help you study tonight. Who did you get?"
"Steph and Russ."
"Who?" Smitty asked. She shortens everybody's name. I don't remember putting a Stevenson or Russell on that list I gave her.
She glanced up briefly. "Stephanie Freyer and Russ Xylander."
"I didn't realize you let men help you study," MacGreg stated. "Other than Bugalu and me."
"Russ has never asked me out. Now that I know why, we get along fine."
Smitty had already moved past Xylander, who was an adequate choice but hadn't been on the list because Abdulla had specified no males. "Freyer is only a technician. Of engineering."
Colleen's face, what little Smitty could see of it, went pink.
"It's a new thing Abdulla's trying," MacGreg responded. "Tag team questioning. All the helper - or helpers - need to do is read the question that the computer displays. Mac answers, the computer grades it. Pretty much like a standard probationary test, I would think."
Sounds like a good idea. If she gets used to taking the blasted test-
"Let's hope it works," Colleen breathed as she stood up, the damp towel in hand.
"It will," MacGreg stated.
If it works, she passes her test, and she'll be here indefinitely, making my life unbearable. If it doesn't work, she's gone, making my life unbearable.
MacGreg took the towel and gently turned the girl away. "Go study. But come to sick bay as soon as you get off tomorrow, so I can take another stab at your insomnia."
"Stab it, drown it, choke it. Anything to get rid of it," she stated as she moved off.
MacGreg chuckled. "That's the spirit!" He turned to consider Smitty. "Why can't you cut her a break? She's killing herself trying to pass your blasted probational test."
"It's not my test!" Smitty protested. "It's a Fleet regulation that she pass a test."
"A test," MacGreg repeated. "One presumes a communications test, since that's her field. Not a test with questions even Abdulla can't answer. Not a test that dips into engineering and who knows what else, but a test on communications, of the amount that one would expect a new lieutenant to know!"
"That's the kind of test I expect her to pass!" Smitty insisted.
"Are you sure? Because the last time I helped her study, the computer gave her a 99%. And Abdulla says her program grades harder than the actual test program."
"Abdulla never should have gotten involved."
"She's the senior communications lieutenant, she's supposed to be involved if a junior needs some help."
"I meant, she shouldn’t have gotten involved emotionally."
"Oh." MacGreg paused for half a breath. "Yeah, those things can get messy, emotions." He took a deep breath. "Look, if you want me to play table tennis, I decline. I'm on my way to the library for a fresh book. I want a quiet evening of reading and an early night for a change. Perhaps another time."
Smitty resisted the urge to argue as the doctor walked away. An early night is what I want, too. And I surely have a technical journal I could read. Or re-read. He turned and went to his own quarters.