The Jefferies tubes on the Enterprise couldn't be called spacious -- they weren't even a meter across, just barely wide enough for two humanoids to crawl through them side-by-side -- but compared to the maze of deathtraps in the innards of a Hermes-class ship, which Gaila spent all three of her junior practical exams squeezing herself though, they were downright luxurious.
Still, it wasn't exactly the best place to eat lunch. Gaila sighed and poked at her meal. She'd been having to isolate herself during her triyearly pheromone peaks since her Academy days, spending two weeks sealed off from all human noses when her pheromone levels got so high that even her daily counteractive hyposprays couldn't suppress them anymore, but she'd never really gotten used to it. Her crewmates were understanding and supportive, and kept up with her through the ship's computer network, but nothing really compared to actual human -- or Orion, or Vulcan, or Andorian -- company. It made her wonder if she would ever get used to being lonely.
A rattle and a muffled curse from the u-bend made her look up. A dark-haired head poked into the tunnel.
"Oi, there, Lieutenant! Fancy meeting you here."
It was Scotty.
"Mr. Scott!" said Gaila, grinning back at him before she remembered the state she was in. The smile faded from her face. "Oh... Chief, you know, I really..."
"Ach, no, you're not in trouble," said Scotty, who sounded like he might have a cold. "Starfleet wouldn't have made the Tubes so cool if they didn't want us to hang around in them, I always say. Here, now, this looks a perfect place for a picnic." Scotty reached back into the tube and pulled out a somewhat battered-looking sandwich wrapped in white paper.
He settled against the opposite wall in a cross-legged position, like her, and gave her a grin.
Gaila wanted to smile back, but her heart was sinking. This had happened more than once over the years during her peak phases. She would accidentally run into a guy when she was trying to find a suitable place to quarantine herself, and he would be utterly charmed by her, think she was the most beautiful and intelligent woman in the entire galaxy and want nothing more than to spend every minute listening to her speak (and would be more than pleased to do... other things with her, as well).
But once her pheromone levels evened out again, the guy would come to his senses like someone waking from a dream, and she'd never hear from him again beyond the rumors that he was resentful of being beguiled and manipulated, as if it had all been Gaila's plan from the start.
The starry-eyed look Scotty was giving her now as he chattered on about some new power couplings suggested he was her latest victim, and the thought made Gaila's chest ache. She liked Scotty so much -- she couldn't bear the thought of his losing respect for her, or never being able to talk to him again.
"Chief?" she said softly when he paused for breath.
"Oh, now, Lieutenant, you must call me Scotty."
"Scotty." She smiled a little despite herself. "I, um, I'm really sorry, and I hope you don't take this as, as anything personal, but I'm afraid I really have to be by myself right now."
Scotty's face fell.
"Oh," he said. "Oh, well, of course, we all need that sometimes. And me all bargin' in here without even asking, ach. I'm very sorry -- I'll be on my way now."
"No, I love that you barged in!" Gaila blurted. "I mean -- I'd love your company, I really would. It's just... well, there are these certain times when Orions... it's that --"
"Do y'mean your pheromone levels?"
Gaila blinked in surprise.
"You know about that?" she said.
"Aye," he said, blushing a little. "I wasn't prying or anything, mind you. It's because I'm your department overseer Dr. McCoy wanted me to be aware."
"Oh," said Gaila. Scotty's cheeks were still red. Yes -- he was definitely affected.
"But it seems such a shame to me that you have to be all by yourself for that whole time," he continued. "It must be terribly lonely."
Sympathy, after so long, had Gaila suddenly blinking back tears.
"I... thank you, Chief," she said hastily. "That's so kind of you. But I'm afraid there's really no other way around it --"
"That's why I made these!" Scotty exclaimed, thumbing his nose at her.
At first Gaila was just startled. Then she saw them: a pair of tiny, electronic noseplugs.
"Completely filters out all organic compounds from the air!" Scotty was gesturing with both hands now, the way he did when he was excited about a theory. "I've been workin' on 'em since the last time you had to disappear -- Dr. M'Benga provided the hormone strains for testing -- quite pungent, let me tell you. Of course these are only the prototype, but they're lab-tested, and I hope to eventually create a whole set for you to give to your mates and such."
"You mean," said Gaila, trying to take this in, "you mean, right now, you're not..."
"I am wholly unaffected by you, Lieutenant," Scotty said proudly. "Er... well, that is to say -- physiologically speaking, of course, since of course you are a profoundly affecting lass in other ways... er, that is to say..."
His face was red again. Gaila was grinning so hard her cheeks hurt.
"I just thought I might come to tell you myself and, you know, give you some company. If you'd like, that is. I don't mean to imply it's only my company that you should have, or anything -- that is to say..."
"Scotty," she said, interrupting him.
"I love your company."
"And I can't think of anyone else I'd rather have with me for a picnic."
She picked up her Alysian salad and held out to him with a wink. Scotty grinned, figuring out what she meant, and tapped the crust of his sandwich against the bowl in a little toast.
"Same here, Lieutenant," he said.
"Call me Gaila."
"Well, then." He smiled sheepishly; his ears were red. "Gaila."