Growing up in New Chicago gave Tiger an early education in adjusting to different temperature zones. All denizens were required to spend at least one quarter of the year working in what was left of the Old City, a monument to the rise and fall of the lakes through the centuries. Camping on the frigid remains of the lower Michigan basin was as much a tradition as Bears games and hot dogs, as was the next day's inevitable scorching dawn.
People always looked askance when he spoke fondly of his time out in the uncontrolled weather, but Tiger only laughed when they asked if he was joking. It was his absolute favorite part of being from New Chicago: people never quite knew how to take him at first glance, so any lasting impressions they formed were entirely of his own making.
A close second to that advantage, though, was his adaptability. Hot, cold, rain, shine: New Chicago had taught him to take all forms of weather in their stride. Moving to Hospital Philadelphia for Medical School hadn't bothered him a bit. While other students whined about the snow or the lack of it, Tiger whistled on his walk to class and actually danced in the rain when the weather controllers let it pour. He'd never worried once about going out on a General Practice Patrol ship after graduating.
His first Koenig star-drive trip made him sicker than he'd ever been in his life (he'd never claimed to enjoy interspace physics). Once that headache cleared, though, Tiger took to space travel like one born to it. His equilibrium was challenged far more by his crewmates than his environment, but there wasn't much he could do on that front until His Highness Dr. Jack Alvarez acknowledged that Tiger's little Garvian friend Dr. Dal Timgar had just as much right to serve on their ship as anyone else.
Unfortunately, Tiger's resilience sometimes blinded him to the lack in others. During the first helter-skelter weeks of life aboard the patrol ship Lancet, Jack took it upon himself to set the temperature controls. He did have the decency to ask about it after the fact, to which Tiger only shrugged. "No problems here," he'd assured the Blue Service doctor, glad to have at least one thing they agreed on.
It wasn't until they'd been out on patrol for several months that he realized they'd forgotten to consult their third crewmate when it came to climate control. The problem caught his attention while he and Dal cleaned up the lab one day. Jack had once again found something "important" to do rather than help out, and Tiger complained warmly as he scrubbed the animal cages. "Jackie boy's going to be real sorry if we stop doing this, especially when he orders up new cultures."
"Let it be Tiger," Dal answered from his place by the sink, sanitizing pipettes and beakers and slides.
"I mean it Dal: he's just going to keep sticking us with the job unless we make him help."
"It's OK: I like cleanup duty."
Tiger jerked his head up. "Sorry, I think I've got rat pellets stuck in my ears: you actually like cleaning out used lab equipment?"
"Sure." Dal shrugged at his friend's continued stare. "Not all of it, of course, but I wish I could run the water more often. It's such a nice change." The furry Garvian breathed in the steam with a deep contented sigh.
Tiger didn't press the matter, but he made a beeline for the ship's computer room once they were done. Since Dal's home planet of Garv II was such an important planet in the Galactic Confederation it didn't take long to find the information he sought.
"Holy moley," he whispered as he read. It turned out that Dal hailed from a tropical paradise, with average temperatures rarely dropping below the 80s. The Lancet must have seemed like a meat locker in comparison, and poor Dal never spoke up once. While Tiger would like to blame Jack it wouldn't wash. He'd spent eight years of medical school with Dal, after all, and never once suspected how uncomfortable the poor guy was.
But whatever inattention to detail led him to this point only strengthened his resolve to make things right. After all, he was a Green doctor: problem-solving was his specialty, and he got to work on this particular problem at once.
It took time, patience, and a few favors called in, but Tiger finally put a solution together. He found his friend hunched over the computer room's tape-reader and tapped him on the shoulder. "Happy New Year!" he announced as he deposited a package in the Garvian's lap.
Dal blinked, looking like a little mole caught out of doors. "I didn't realize we were exchanging gifts," he said, tapping the box with all four fingers of his left hand.
"No, silly, it's not Earth's New Year," Tiger assured him, "or Christmas, for that matter. I looked it up: it's the first day of the Garvian calendar."
Dal glanced down at the computer. "Oh, yes, it is."
"And your people sometimes celebrate birthdays on your first calendar day, right?"
"Well..." Dal let the syllable hang between them, obviously torn between his friend and his honesty. "We don't actually celebrate birthdays the way Earthmen do, but ..."
"But it is a commemoration of some sort, right?"
"In a way—"
"Anyway," Tiger cut off the obvious prevaricating, "it's a gift for you, and it doesn't really matter what day it is." Tiger had never been patient at holidays, and he almost grabbed the gift back to open. Barely restraining himself, he placed a hand on Dal's shoulder. "Look, it's just a little something, from a friend to a friend. You don't have to get me anything in return, you don't have to even keep it if you don't like it. It's just my way of showing that I think you're doing a great job, even if no one else does. Okay?"
The little doctor grinned. "Okay." He ducked his head, finally opening up the box. His smile opened to a full whoop when he saw what lay inside. "Are these really—?"
"Yep." Tiger grinned back, holding up a sleeve. "Space thermal wear, used by all the best Confederation trade ships. Well, close to the best anyway: some of those cost a fortune, and the regs wouldn't have allowed it anyway. But these are thin enough you can wear them aboard ship under your scrubs. I tried to order the smallest size they had available: if they don't fit, maybe we can get somebody to take them up when we land next. Come on Dal, say something: will they work?"
For a brief moment Tiger worried he'd offended Dal, violating some unknown Garvian custom or insinuating that he didn't think his friend was as able as his crewmates. "Look, Dal, it's okay if you don't want them, I can still probably send them back—"
"No!" Dal hugged his gift to himself in a sudden grab that surprised them both, then sent them giggling like children. "I really like them Tiger. Thank you."
"No problem." Tiger patted Dal on the shoulder one more time, then stood. "I'm going back to the radio: let me know if you need anything else." He gave his friend a very un-Tigerlike glance, trying to put as much meaning in it as possible. "Anything at all, okay?"
"Sure," Dal answered. "Thanks again Tiger."
"No problem." Tiger fairly skipped back to his post, humming happily. "You're the pride and joy of Illinois, Chicago Bears, bear down!"