Month 6 Day 16
Bugalu carried a lunch tray into sick bay, but slowed and stopped at the sound of raised voices coming from the patient ward. He recognized both voices, but they were muffled just enough that he wasn’t sure what they were saying.
Two nurses working at their station looked up at him. Monroe gave him her usual smile and ‘I’m ready’ look, but Karu’s greeting was more specific. “Please, go right in, Bugs. Maybe they’ll stop fighting.”
“Don’t call me that,” he stated absently. He walked across the lobby, put the tray on the counter. “What are they fighting about?”
Karu glanced at the wall that muffled the voices and shrugged. “She wants to be released. He wants her to sleep. He’s even threatened to sedate her.”
“I was hoping she’d be awake now, that she might have taken a nap following this morning’s negotiations,” Bugalu stated, and glanced at the tray he’d brought. “Thought we could eat together.”
“She had a nap,” Karu confirmed. “Think it lasted 5 or 6 minutes. They’ve been arguing since. Apparently, the restraints no longer help.”
“I saw him put the restraints on her this morning, when we brought her back from the mess hall. I thought she was joking about escaping, but if he’s been using restraints...” He shook his head in incomprehension.
“Actually, until today, she’s been an amenable patient,” Karu stated. “She complained of boredom yesterday, but that’s understandable. She’s not the kind to sit still. No, the restraints are to help her sleep.”
“How does being tied to the bed help anyone sleep?”
“I don’t understand it, but apparently, every time she falls asleep - for a couple minutes - she has a nightmare - which she can never remember, afterwards - and wakes up. Violently. MacGregor didn’t want her falling out of bed, so he put restraints on her. And for 2 days, more or less, she’d get up to 45 minutes of sleep before the nightmare would wake her.”
“I’ve never known Mac to have nightmares,” Bugalu muttered.
Karu canted her head to one side. “Are you that familiar with her sleeping patterns, Bugsy?”
Walked right into that one, didn’t I? “No,” he denied, and gave her a lop-sided smile. “But if she had complained of nightmares, her brother would have told me.”
“My roommate at the Academy. That’s how I met Mac. And please don’t call me Bugsy.”
Karu gave him a small frown. “Mac calls you that all the time.”
“Mac gives everybody a nickname. And nobody can get her to stop using it, no matter how much it irritates them. Least of all me.” He turned his head, realizing the wardroom had fallen silent. “Sounds like they’re done arguing, so I’ll go in.”
“Maybe he finally sedated her,” Monroe suggested.
“You know she doesn’t want that,” Karu told the blond.
Monroe seemed unconcerned. “Since when does the patient dictate their medical treatment?”
In the patient ward, MacGregor stood beside Mac’s bed, watching the display board over her head. He glanced around as Bugalu put the tray of food on the bedside table. “How is it you always manage to arrive just as she’s fallen asleep?”
“Beats me, doc. But it’s disappointing. I came to have lunch with her.”
“I thought you had brought a lot of food. Well, pull up a chair and wait. This will only take a couple minutes.”
“What do you mean?”
“Her blood pressure’s up, breathing and heart rate erratic. My guess is she’s already having that blasted nightmare, whatever it is.”
Bugalu watched her face instead of the display. “Poor Mac. No more spots, but she looks as bad as I’ve ever seen her.” He wrapped his hand around hers and bent over. “Wish I could help you, Mac,” he whispered, and placed a brotherly kiss on her forehead before he straightened up. Somehow, her face looked more relaxed.
“What did you do?” MacGregor asked.
“Her blood pressure, heart rate, breathing... all headed for normal sleep. That’s what the restraints used to do for her. Course it didn’t last long, but a 45-minute nap is better than a 4-minute nap. I saw the kiss on the forehead, but what did you say to her? If you don’t mind telling me.”
“Just that I wished I could help her,” Bugalu answered. “And - if it makes any difference - I’m still holding her hand.”
“You were holding her hand when you brought her down here this morning,” MacGregor remembered.
Bugalu grimaced. “More like she had a death grip on mine. The idea then was to keep her from punching Tall Bear.”
“Right. He got a black eye the last time. And Tall Bear’s the proverbial gentleman. She really doesn’t trust men, does she?”
“No. Well, relatives, I guess.”
“Can you stick around? After you and Tall Bear left this morning, she slept an hour and a half. That’s the approximate length of a sleep cycle, so if she could just get a half dozen naps that long, she’d be in a lot better condition.”
“It’s my lunch break. I can’t stay that long.”
“I’m not suggesting it. You held her hand for what, less than 10 minutes this morning?”
“Yeah, about that, counting trying to pry my hand out of her grip.”
“Ten minutes or less, and then she slept 1 and a half hours. Another 10 minutes now might do the same.” He looked around and brought over a chair for Bugalu to sit in. “You told her you wanted to help.”
“Helping Mac is not usually this simple,” Bugalu told him, and sat down. “Good thing I brought sandwiches. Easier to eat with one hand. I’ll stay until I have to report back, okay?”
“Sounds great,” MacGregor replied. “Let me know when you leave. I’d like to compare ratio of hand-holding to amount of sleep.”
Bugalu grunted. “Now we’re an experiment?”
“The better to help me figure out how to help her,” MacGregor replied.
The helmsman smiled and shook his head. “You’re the doc, Doc.”