Title: Three Days

Rating: PG (K+)

Summary: He wouldn't have pegged her for someone who slept in her uniform.

Notes: Set during the graphic novel "Double Time."

-

Mac catches up with her in the hallway as she's hurrying back to her quarters to change. It's 0600 and the corridors are still deserted. Elizabeth is grateful for that small mercy.

"Nice pajamas, Eppy."

He's smirking. She can tell by the sound of his voice. It takes every ounce of willpower she possesses not to turn around and strangle him.

"I wouldn't have pegged you for someone who slept in her uniform, though. I can't imagine that it'd be very comfortable."

She walks faster, hoping that he'll just shut up if she doesn't reply.

"See, I prefer to sleep as comfortably as possible," he continues. "Sleep is hard enough to get as it is, so I don't usually wear pajamas--"

Elizabeth stops dead in her tracks, almost causing Mac--two steps behind her and closing in fast-- to almost walk right into her. He swears, his hands gripping her shoulders to steady himself. She pulls away and spins around to face him.

"There were other ways," she says. "You didn't have to do that."

He doesn't play dumb, thank god. "There aren't a whole lot of ways to save a planet from being destroyed."

"It wasn't up to you to decide whether to save it or not. That wasn't your choice to make!"

He's smiling now, faintly. "And by standing aside and doing nothing, I would have condemned millions of people to death. It didn't seem like much of a choice to me."

"It wasn't that simple."

"Seemed like it to me."

"Well, it wasn't," she says. She takes a breath. "Look, I know that you want to make things better, to put it simply. You want to help people, and that's a commendable attitude to have, Mac. An attitude very much in line with Starfleet, actually--" She ignores the faintly sour look on his face. "But thing is, Mac, you can't just walk in and start interfering with planetary affairs, no matter how well-intentioned you are."

"I can't?" There's an edge to his voice that wasn't there before, but she ignores it.

"There are regs like the Prime Directive for a reason," she continues. "You don't know how your actions are going to affect matters, if they're going to set off a chain of events that wouldn't have otherwise transpired. You can't take that chance." She pauses. "What happened down on that planet was a tragedy. There's no question about that. But you can't just decide, on your own, to fly the ship back in time, no matter how noble your reasons might be. And look, I know you don't think much of regs, but did you consider at all the Prime Directive? Or the possible ramifications of what you were about to do?"

There's a pause, and then, "Not really, no."

"Mac, dammit--!"

His voice is sharp and annoyed. "What the hell do you think I did, Eppy? That I did this for fun? Or that I just did it to make you crazy?" Without giving her a chance to reply, he says, raising an eyebrow, "And it's a little too late now for this discussion, isn't it?"

"I am going to kill you, Mac, I swear."

She has yet to decide whether it will be for breaking half a dozen regulations in the space of five minutes or for giving her that mental image of him sans pajamas which will undoubtedly surface in her mind at the worst possible moments. Like their weekly briefings with Jellico.

And it's her fault for letting him get to her, but she's been pushed completely over the edge and she doesn't care.

His smile only widens, mocking. "Are you really."

"Slowly and painfully," she says, and at this point she really means it.

He nods thoughtfully, but the glitter in his eye gives him away. "Well, that doesn't sound like it would fall under regs." And then, as if he knows what she had been thinking, "What would Jellico say?"

That's the last straw. "You flew this ship back in time!" she explodes. "Do you realize how many regulations you violated in that single act!"

"I know, it's undoubtedly some sort of record. I wouldn't suppose they give out special awards for that sort of thing?"

Yes, she wants to reply. Like prison sentences.

But instead she takes several deep breaths and forces herself to calm down. Blowing up at him won't help matters. But still, she just can't get over his casual attitude toward the Prime Directive. It's nothing new, of course, but this is by far his worst violation yet.

She knows she doesn't have to give him a history lesson. Mac knew the risks of time travel. He knew the dangers of going back in time, but he did it anyway, in flagrant violation of the Temporal Prime Directive. He did it because he thought he was more competent than everyone else who had attempted the same thing. He thought he could avoid the pitfalls of time travel and complete his mission successfully. She knows this because she knows him and she knows how he thinks.

One of the most infuriating things about this whole debacle is that because she knows him so well, she also knows that he's right, however arrogant he may come off. She knows he can do this mission.

Despite herself, she trusts him to pull this mission off.

Though apparently he didn't trust her to do the same. And that, even more than his breaking regs, is what hurts most of all.

She's trembling with suppressed rage when she says, "I'm going to kill you."

"You're getting repetitive, Eppy." He leans against the wall, looking cool and calm and collected, at peace with himself.

"I wouldn't need to get repetitive if you didn't keep not listening to me and breaking regulations!"

"Well," Mac says reasonably. "I never told you in the first place, so how could I listen to you when you hadn't said anything about the subject?"

He's being annoying, intentionally missing her point, but she decides to overlook it. "Yes," she says instead. "That's it." She jabs a finger at him for emphasis. "You never told me. I'm your first officer, Mac. I need to be included in decisions like this."

"There wasn't a need for you to know about this one."

"Really," she says, folding her arms.

He looks at her, almost as if he's surprised that she is still pursuing the subject. "Yes," he says.

He looks so calm, and Elizabeth wants to take him by the shoulders and shake him. Make him feel the frustration, the anger that she feels now. But he just watches her placidly, not moving from his position next to her. She turns away, folding her arms, and stares at the wall across from them.

She knows this is typical Calhoun. She knows she shouldn't be hurt over this, because in all likelihood, he was trying to protect her from an investigation into the time travel-- should they get caught, of course. He must have been trying to protect her from the questions that would be asked, and those she would be forced to answer, if there were an actual inquiry into the matter. And of course, he probably wanted to avoid the time-consuming argument that would ensue if he let her into his confidence about his plan, because God forbid he should ever have to second-guess himself.

This is his modus operandi. Elizabeth has known him for a long time. She should know this by now and she should be used to it.

"Should," of course, being the operative word.

She has the overwhelming urge to sink down on the floor and rest her head on her knees. All she does, however, is lean against the wall and close her eyes, feeling very tired all of a sudden. Her anger is fading away as quickly as it came, leaving her shaky and drained.

Beside her, Mac sighs. "Eppy, I..."

She opens her eyes. "What?"

He's frowning slightly as he looks at her, tilting his head to meet her eyes. "I do these things because they need to be done. It's not personal."

She wishes that she could believe him.

There's a long silence, and then, "Eppy?"

She meets his gaze, and he looks at her curiously for a long time, until she feels her stomach twist in a not wholly unpleasant way. "Yes?"

He looks like he's about to say something, but changes his mind. "You're still mad at me, aren't you."

She laughs softly, tiredly. "Yeah, I am. And I'm still going to kill you."

One of these days, she thinks. She can picture herself driven into a homicidal rage by something he did, finally gone around the bend. And all because of him.

He nods, seeming to absorb this information. "Well, could it possibly wait until after 0700?" he asks. "I've scheduled a briefing then and my death would undoubtedly put a end to it."

When she doesn't answer immediately, he continues, "Should I expect you there?"

"Yes," she says. "Yes, I'll be there."

It's not like she has much of a choice now.

Mac nods again. "Good."

He looks over her shoulder at the people beginning to fill up the corridors as they go to the morning shift. "I should get back to the bridge. There's a lot of work to be done." He pauses for a moment before he leaves, eyebrow cocked, as if expecting her to say something. When she doesn't reply, he turns and begins to walk away, but he doesn't go far before before he turns back to look at her.

"Cute pajamas, by the way," he calls over his shoulder.

Then he's gone, and Elizabeth stands in the corridor for a long moment, shaking her head. She can't believe him.

But she has a meeting in less than an hour, and so she turns and heads back her quarters to get changed.

end.