Beta: The amazing seren_ccd
Warnings: Sex and violence, but only for the deserving.
Word Count: 50000
Disclaimer: Nothing recognisable is mine, and trust me, I'm making nothing from this!
Notes: Written for het_bigbang.
The rest of the year passed, if not quickly, then at least in a blur of classes, exams, practical tests and snatched orgasms when he or she had both the urge and the space in their calendar. The first time he sought her out specifically had been some months after their shuttlecraft simulation. He’d appeared at her table in the mess hall, agitated and tense. She’d invited him to join her, but he’d just sat there silently, jogging his leg up and down nervously as she tried to initiate conversation.
“I’ve got an hour,” she said finally.
“When?” he asked sharply.
“Now,” she said. “Then I’m due on the wards.”
He’d nodded, risen from the table and accompanied her back to her room where as soon as she’d locked the door, he pounced. He wasn’t aggressive in a threatening way, but it was clear to Christine that this time he was going to be in charge. His kisses were intense and his actions just on the pleasurable side of roughness. It was a different McCoy to the one she knew, and afterwards, after he’d come with a great sob, she’d watched him carefully as he rolled away from her to the other side of the bed.
“That was…different,” she said diplomatically.
“Was I too rough?” he asked, glancing in her direction.
“No,” she told him. “I liked what you were doing. You would have known if I didn’t. I can handle a little rough sometimes.”
He nodded, and they lay there in silence until she spoke again.
“What was it?” she asked.
“Who said there was…” he began, but she rolled over and grabbed one of his nipples until he swore and swatted her hand away.
“Don’t you bullshit me,” she warned. “Something’s up with you.”
She waited for confirmation, but none was forthcoming.
“It must be your ex,” she said after a while, and the tensing of his body confirmed his guess. Micro gestures, the tiny movements of muscles in the face that gave away what a human really felt. Pretty much useless on other races, she’d learned during her Section 31 training, but pretty damn accurate on humans.
“I got some boxes this morning,” he said eventually. “Some stuff of mine that didn’t get put into storage when I first left. Must have come right out of the attic.”
“That’s not easy,” Christine commiserated.
“You had some?” he asked, turning to face her.
“I had a video call from the new owners of Roger’s apartment a few weeks ago,” she said. “They found some boxes of my things thrown in a closet when they moved in, and they managed to trace me through my old neighbours. I had them ship the boxes to my parents’ house. I haven’t had a chance to look through them. It’s clothes, I think. Some books too.”
McCoy sniffed, and didn’t say anything for a while. His hand reached out and found hers, and he traced a spiral pattern on the palm of her hand with his fingers as he thought, then spoke.
“Mine had some of my dad’s things in them,” he said eventually. “He had a bag that he’d take with him when he made house calls. His equipment. Some of his books. His certificates, framed, that used to be in his office.”
“Your dad was a doctor?” Christine asked.
“Yeah,” he said. “General practice in Georgia.”
“Not a surgeon like you?”
“No, he liked to call himself an old fashioned country doctor,” McCoy said, fondness tinting his words. “Although there were a few emergency tracheotomies here and there, and a couple of difficult births that never made it to a hospital.”
Christine waited for a while before she spoke, unsure of his response.
“Your ex knew that these things were important,” she said eventually. “She knew that you valued them and she made sure that you got them. That’s a good thing, right?”
He let out a heavy breath.
“Yeah,” he said eventually. “Yeah, I know. And I am grateful that she didn’t just…”
“Ram everything into some boxes and stick them in a cupboard, then leave without bothering to pass them on?” Christine said brightly.
“Alright, you win, your ex is the worst,” he grumbled. “It’s just that…I should have brought that stuff with me to begin with. I shouldn’t have left it there at all.”
“Anger can make you do strange things,” Christine told him. “You know that, Mr Psych Rotation. Stop beating yourself up over something that, in the grand scheme of things, is not a huge deal.”
He grunted, not sounding convinced. Christine sighed.
“Fine,” she said, deliberately sounding aggrieved. “Just think of the trouble that your ex had to go to, packing everything securely and finding out your address and driving the boxes to the post office and…”
“Alright,” he said, rolling over so that he lay on top of her again. He kissed her to silence her list of annoying chores that his ex-wife had been forced to endure. The kiss continued past it’s jokey start, and started to deepen into something more interesting, but an alert sounded from Christine’s PADD.
“No round two today,” she told him, sliding sideways out from under him. “That’s my ten minute countdown alert.”
She got into the sonic shower and shivered as the waves blasted her body, getting rid of the sweat and the smell of sex from her body. She pulled a new uniform from the wardrobe and dressed quickly.
“Sorry,” she said apologetically as she grabbed her bag and her PADD. “But Lieutenant Commander McGarry hates it when we’re late.”
“She scares me,” McCoy said, hunting for his underwear. “Go.”
“You can shower if you want to,” she told him. “Just don’t use my water ration, I’m saving it for a day when only a hot shower can make you feel better.”
“Thanks,” he called over his shoulder as he ambled into the bathroom. Taking the opportunity for one last shameless ogle of his backside, Christine left for her ward duty.
Now that she was nearly at the end of her first year of her nursing qualification she was gaining in confidence on the wards. Her understanding of the theory behind her learning was unsurpassed and she regularly came top of her class in examinations. Her time spent interacting with patients was very different to a classroom, and in her year of training she’d learned that monitoring vital signs and administering medicine were only small parts of her job as a nurse. More important was to build a relationship with her patients; she had to learn which patients were frightened, and needed reassurance, and which patients needed cheerful company and kind words. She had to learn to bite her tongue and not respond to the patients who snapped at her with the same level of rudeness. She had to learn that their rudeness masked their pain and their fear, and that they felt powerless when they were confined to a hospital bed.
Starfleet Medical had several different care facilities and they were world renowned for their outstanding diagnosis and treatment rates. Not only did they heal sick and wounded Starfleet personnel, but also the families of those in the service as well as non-Fleet people who were referred their by their own local hospitals for specialist treatments.
At the end of her first year her practical experience hours found her assigned to the paediatric centre. It was decorated in cheerful colours and had lots of toys and games for the patients to use, but Christine found it the most difficult placement she’d worked so far. Children shouldn’t be sick like this. All of the kids on the ward were suffering from diseases and illnesses that either weren’t responding to standard medicines or were so new that the doctors weren’t sure on how to handle them. Their eyes were dull instead of bright, and they all had at least one intravenous drip continually dispensing liquids or medicines into their systems. Some could make it out of bed to sit in the play areas, but some were so weak that they could barely move their heads on the pillows. Christine was there when one child died; she was logging the boy’s vital signs and trying to make small talk with the tired-looking parents when the biobed started blaring out a distress call to the main banks of computers at the nurses’ station. Doctors and nurses appeared from nowhere and elbowed the stunned Christine to one side as they tried to resuscitate the boy. She watched as they tried again and again to start his heart, going as far as to crack his chest to manipulate the heart directly. She had been instructed to escort the shocked parents out of the room then; she had to separate them from their dying son so they didn’t see the gruesome lengths her colleagues went to in order to save their child.
She didn’t know what to say to them, other than try to answer the barrage of questions they had about their son. When the grave looking doctor came into the room, his eyes full of pity, Christine had to excuse herself and find a store cupboard she could cry her eyes out in. After ten minutes her supervisor found her sitting amongst the saline kits and spare tricorders.
“The first patient you lose is hell,” she said, not completely unkindly. “It’s worse when it’s a child. Ten times worse. But you have to keep yourself together and keep on going because you’ve still got patients left, Chapel, and they’re not dead and they need you. So get up, wash your face, and keep going. Your shift isn’t over yet. You have work to do.”
She got up, scrubbed her face in the staff bathroom attached to the ward and went back to work. After her shift finished, she went to the nearest off-campus bar and drank more alcohol than she’d ever managed to drink before in one sitting. She was so drunk that the owner of the bar wouldn’t let her leave on her own, and was threatening to call the police to take her to sleep it off in a cell. She managed to tell the bar owner McCoy’s name, and half an hour later he turned up at the bar to take her home.
“Come on,” he said as he hoisted her up onto her feet. “Time to sleep this off.”
“He died,” Christine moaned into his chest as he started her walking for the door. “He was six years old, and he died.”
“It’s always bad when it’s a kid,” McCoy told her, his strong arms keeping her pinned to his side as he half walked, half dragged her along. “It’s even worse when it’s your first patient that dies.”
“New rule,” she told his chest. “Kids aren’t allowed to die.”
“Okay,” he told her, flagging down a cab. “I’ll tell everyone at Medical the new rule.”
She didn’t remember anything after that. She woke the next morning in her bed, still dressed apart from her boots. Her head was pounding and her mouth felt that some small animal had died in it. There was a big glass of water on the nightstand, and a hypospray with a note attached. When she got her eyes under control, she drank the water and read the note that told her the hypospray contained an old medical school hangover cure that was guaranteed to kick in after an hour. She took it and went back to sleep for another three hours, but when she woke up she felt much better.
She sought him out later, to thank him. He brushed her thanks to one side, telling her that someone had done something very similar for him once, and that she’d have to do it for somebody else in the future. They ended up in bed again, but this time it was slower, and Christine kept her eyes shut for most of it. For some reason she couldn’t look at him as he slowly and patiently took her apart with his hands and lips. It felt too much like making love, and that wasn’t what she wanted from him.
Section 31 had left her alone for a while. She thought that they understood that the end of year testing was hard enough on her without them calling her in for an evaluation too, but the day after her last practical examination found her sitting in the back of another anonymous groundcar with an agent and a hypospray.
When she came to, she was lying on a hospital biobed. She was fully clothed this time, she realised in relief, and she recognised her whereabouts. She was in one of Starfleet Medical’s critical care facilities, or rather, she was in a holosuite programmed to look like one of the critical care facilities. She was surprised when Admiral Marcus appeared in the doorway to her room.
“Cadet,” he greeted her. “This is your final examination for your first year.”
“Yes sir,” she said, standing to salute.
“Your task is simple,” he said. “Your orders are to terminate the life of the patient in the next room.”
Her first response was to protest. No. Her job was to save lives. However, as she’d been reminded constantly through the year by her Section 31 tutors, sometimes saving many lives required taking one single life. It wasn’t often that she’d be called upon to carry out this task – after all, the psychologist had told her, most Section 31 agents are never activated and most do their jobs remotely, via computer. But some are activated, and some are asked to do this one thing that they have been taught since birth is the most evil and repugnant act that one person can inflict on another.
It’s just a simulation, she told herself. It’s not really real.
“Is there a specific way you’d like the job done?” she asked.
The admiral shook his head.
“It’s up to you,” he said. “But it should look natural. In your own time, cadet.”
“Yes sir,” she said, and walked as calmly as she could into the next room. The smells were all wrong, she couldn’t help but notice as she made her way towards the still form on the biobed ahead of her. They could get the look of the place right, and the familiar sounds of the biobeds recording the vital signs of the patient were correct, but every medical facility had a strong smell of disinfectant that was missing from the simulation.
She stopped as she got nearer the bed. The body inside it lay still, a faint movement of the covers the only indication that person was breathing. It had looked wrong from the doorway but now she had crossed the room she realised why.
It was a child in the bed. In fact, it was the child that had died only two weeks earlier.
“No,” she whispered.
“Yes,” said the admiral’s voice from behind her. “His mother is the leader of a large political party on Betazed. She had been threatening to raise the issue of Betazed’s withdrawal from the Federation, but then her son got ill. His death will distract her from politics and make her step down from her party’s leadership. Betazed will remain in the Federation, and many hundreds of trade and political agreements will remain secure. Their people will continue to flourish and the Federation will not have to cope with weakness that a defection of such an important planet will bring.”
“But he’s a child,” she protested.
“He’s dying,” the admiral countered. “It’s an act of mercy.”
“You don’t know that,” Christine said desperately.
“You do,” he said flatly. “Look at his chart. Remember how you saw him die.”
It came back in a rush; the awful sobbing of the parents, the shouts of the medical team that worked on him. His horrible, painful death. How much kinder it would be just to insert a syringe full of satricolamine into his IV and watch him pass away peacefully as his breathing stopped. It wouldn’t show up on a post mortem examination – the medicine he was already taking would mask the compound in his blood. How she hated that she knew that, that despite her shock and revulsion some part of her mind kept ticking over, getting the job done. It appeared that they’d been right to choose her a year ago.
“He shouldn’t have to suffer because of this,” she said through gritted teeth, tears already beginning to sting her eyes.
“Your methods are up to you,” the admiral said. “You can be an angel of mercy if you want.”
She stiffened at that; there had been a lot of time spent during her medical ethics lectures spent discussing “angels of mercy”, medical professionals with psychiatric disorders that found satisfaction in killing people they thought were beyond medical help. Their cases had fascinated her, as she could not understand how any medical professional could do that to somebody in their care. She looked at the readout on the biobed, and then over at the admiral. Now she had a chance to find out.
She left the room and headed down the corridor towards the supply closet where all the drugs were stored and carefully counted. She paused and ducked into the staff changing room, where she found what she was looking for – an open locker, with another nurse’s identity card thrown carelessly in while the owner was in the shower. She took the card, exited the changing room and used it to swipe open the store room. She found the satricolamine, pocketed it and left. She appeared back in the patient’s room and used the ID card to engage the privacy shield around the biobed, blocking both patient and nurse from view of anybody else in the room. She took the vial of medicine from her pocket and expertly loaded it into the IV line. She forced herself to look away from the boy in the bed as she depressed the syringe, and instead watched the clear liquid drop into the large bag of clear medicine already being carefully introduced into the boy.
Still looking away from the child, she used the sleeve of her uniform to rub away any fingerprints she had left on the IV stand. She disengaged the privacy screen and took the lock off the door, then put the empty syringe in the recycling unit in the corner of the room. Without looking back at the boy, she left the room and went back into the changing room. The whole thing had taken less than four minutes and the owner of the card was still in the shower. She wiped down the card and replaced it in the locker.
As she left the changing room the medical centre faded away and was replaced with the familiar black and yellow striped room. The admiral was looking at a PADD, and was clearly inputting data.
“May I ask how I performed, sir?” she asked.
“Well, you went through with it, which is a start,” the admiral said, not looking at her. “Although you took your damn time about it, which is not a point in your favour. Your delivery method was good – the medicine you chose would have been undetectable in an autopsy, although it wasn’t the quickest way you could have gone.”
“It would have been painless,” Christine couldn’t help but say.
“That wasn’t a criteria of your assessment, cadet,” the admiral said dismissively.
“I know that I may be asked to kill, sir,” she said, her mouth seemingly working independently of her brain. “But there is no need to be sadistic. The psychologist and I have discussed this.”
They had, as well. They had talked about all manner of abstract things, including what happened to agents who found it a little too easy to kill.
The admiral’s PADD bleeped, and he frowned as he stabbed at the screen.
“Your tradecraft needs to be worked on,” he said, ignoring her. “You wiped down the IV stand and the card, but your fingerprints were on the bed and the control panel for the privacy screen. You also could have been spotted both taking and returning the card as you completely failed to assess the location of potential witnesses.”
Christine nodded. She had, indeed, failed to do those things. However, as this was the first that she had heard of ‘tradecraft’, she felt that she had done a good job.
The PADD bleeped again, and the admiral nodded. “The judges have made their decision, cadet,” he announced. “Your effort this year has been found satisfactory. You will move forward to the next phase of training.”
“Thank you, sir,” was all that she could manage.
“Your monitoring will continue during your leave time,” the admiral told her. “Don’t think that just because you’re going back to Louisiana to spend time with your family that we won’t be keeping track of you. The rules still apply.”
“Yes sir,” she said.
“Dismissed,” the admiral said curtly, and the door to the holosuite opened to let him out and another stranger in.
Christine sighed, and turned to allow the stranger access to her neck. The hypospray hissed, and the next time she opened her eyes she was in her room again.
“One day,” she said aloud, “I’m going to figure out how they get me up seven storeys.”
Then she remembered the boy and the syringe and the drip, drip, drip of the medicine as it fell into the IV bag, and she vomited.