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.
Of course, she didn’t beat Jim “I’ll do it in three” Kirk to graduation as nobody in their year had a real graduation, in the proper sense of it. Half of their graduating class died, after all, and the rest were rubber-stamped through in order to get them serving as quickly as possible.
She’d been assigned the Enterprise, and had been yanked aside in the rush to embark by Lieutenant Commander McGarry, her instructor.
“There’s a lot of you assigned to the Enterprise, Chapel. It’s newly commissioned and hasn’t got a proper crew yet. Most of the nursing staff is from your class and they’re going to need you to keep them focused up there. Listen to the Head Nurse, keep a clear head and get the others organised. You can do it Chapel. Now, go.”
It had been the last thing that McGarry had said to her; she’d been assigned to the Farragut. No hands survived.
When she got to the ship it was chaos. The corridors were full of newly commissioned cadets tugging on unfamiliar uniforms and running to their duty stations. Sickbay was slightly more ordered, with the CMO, Dr Puri, and the Head Nurse, Lieutenant Commander Janney, preparing for mass casualties. It was a drill that the nursing cadets had run a hundred times, and they snapped to their jobs quickly and efficiently. Christine was fitting sterile sheets to the biobeds when she saw McCoy lurch into the place, half-dragging a very sick-looking Jim Kirk with him.
“Don’t tell me,” she snapped as she helped move Kirk onto a biobed. “I don’t want to know.”
“Allergic reaction to the Melvaran mud flea inoculation,” McCoy reported as Christine scanned Kirk with a medical tricorder.
“Why the hell were you doing giving him…no, I’m not asking. Standard anti-histamine shot?”
“Double it,” McCoy said, putting his thumbprint on the screen of the tricorder she’d handed him, authorising the treatment. “He’s going to need it.”
“Better get changed out of the reds,” she advised. “Puri will notice.”
“Stay here,” McCoy ordered Kirk, who waved at him weakly as he disappeared.
“Hey Christine,” he said, waving a distorted looking hand at her. “Blue suits you.”
“Thank you,” she said absently, loading up a hypospray with a double dose of antihistamine and injecting him. “Stay here,” she warned him. “Your hands are looking a bit strange and McCoy will need to see them when he gets back from the changing room.”
She had to leave him then, to get on with her previous job of preparing the biobeds. She heard the announcement from the bridge about Vulcan and witnessed Kirk leaping up from his bed and making a break for the door, McCoy on his heels. She had just enough time to snatch up an emergency kit and thrust it into McCoy’s hands as he went past her.
And then everything went wrong, in a very messy, explosive and bloody way. It was bad enough dealing with a constant stream of wounded and dying from other areas of the ship, but when Sickbay took a direct hit, well, it was beyond awful. Puri died in front of her eyes, shrapnel from the hull caught in his throat. She had tried to help him, but even as she worked frantically she could see that it was useless.
Most of their medical staff was from the Academy, including the doctors. She caught sight of McCoy in the chaos and hurried over.
“Puri’s dead,” she told him. “You’re the only person with any real surgical experience, so I guess you’re in charge.”
“Shit,” he cursed, wrist deep in somebody’s abdomen. “Janney was down on deck five when they got hit. If I’m acting CMO then you’re my Head Nurse. Get someone to come and assist me, and start triaging. Break out the tags as soon as they come through the door.”
The tags were something that all medical staff knew about, and hated. When a patient came into a triage situation, they got tagged. Yellow tag meant non-life threatening injury. They were the lucky ones. They could wait for treatment. If you got a red tag it meant that you needed to be seen as soon as possible and if you were lucky, you wouldn’t die while a doctor could be found. Black tags were put on people who were either dead on arrival, or whose injuries were so severe that trying to help them would put red tags at risk of death. Black tags got a hefty shot of whatever painkiller could be spared, and that was it.
The tags went against every instinct they had to try and help as many people as possible, but they were a necessary evil. In an emergency triage situation, you just couldn’t save everybody. It was a harsh fact, and the triage training drills often reduced trainee doctors and nurses to tears. They were designed that way on purpose to make people realise the harsh reality of the life that they were choosing. The most common mistake made by trainees was to red tag too many people. Nobody wanted to use the black tags. It felt like giving up.
Christine wasn’t afraid to use the black tag. Whether it was all the Section 31 training or a natural ability to detach her emotions from her work, she wasn’t sure. She just knew that in the simulations that they ran, her team always had the best survival scores. Now it was time to start using that detachment.
“Ling, get over here and assist Dr McCoy,” she yelled over the noise of the room. She grabbed three scared looking nurses and stationed them at the doors.
“Tag,” she instructed, giving them bundles of coloured cards. “I’ll be back to check your accuracy.”
The doors to Sickbay opened and a new rush of patients staggered or were carried in.
“Go!” she ordered, and their training kicked in as they started to assess the needs of the people groaning in pain around them.
She did a quick sweep of the room, checking that all the nurses were accounted for and that they were all doing something practical. Some she assigned to assist the surgeons who were already operating, others she rounded up and started them prepping any red-tagged patient for treatment. She caught one or two performing treatments that technically only doctors were supposed to perform, but she said nothing. There weren’t enough doctors left, and it was clear that they knew what they were doing. Later she’d get McCoy to backdate the orders for their treatment and get him to sign off on it.
If they survived until later.
She went back to the triage area, and started to help separate those who could be saved from those who couldn’t.
Time passed in strange bursts of frantic activity and blood-sodden stillness. Just as soon as they got a handle on the casualties already in Sickbay and were cleaning up, another wave would come in. The last patient through the doors was their captain, and McCoy yelled for her to follow him into the sterile prep room.
The surgery was long and arduous, and wasn’t helped by the fact that they were nearly sucked into a black hole during the middle of it. That was something that McCoy ranted about during the length of the operation to remove the Centaurian slug from Captain Pike’s spine, and Christine really, really did not want to be in Jim Kirk’s shoes when McCoy got his hands on him.
And then it was over; the ship was headed back to Earth, albeit at impulse speed. Captain Pike had made it through surgery and was starting the beginning of a gruelling recovery period. All the yellow and most of the red tagged patients had survived their injuries and were also recovering. Maintenance staff (and that meant anybody who could be pressed into service by the new Scottish chief engineer) were patching up the ship left, right and centre. Sickbay staff were on a rolling sleep schedule, as were the rest of the crew. Kirk was visible everywhere, meeting crew, supervising repairs, reassuring the wounded. He was followed by a dogged yeoman, a small blonde woman called Rand, who kept badgering him to complete paperwork and sign things as he moved. To McCoy’s amusement, Kirk couldn’t shake her throughout his Sickbay visit.
Rooms were being allocated to the crew, something that there just hadn’t been time for in the rush beforehand. She insisted that McCoy sleep first as he was nearly dead on his feet and was only conscious due to stubbornness. He took a room as close to Sickbay as possible and made her swear that she’d wake him the second any of his patients needed him. She promised, and then threatened him with a sedative if he didn’t leave Sickbay immediately. They were in the privacy of the CMO’s small office, so there was nobody to watch him pull her in for a long hug, and a gentle kiss on the forehead.
“I’m glad you didn’t die,” he said eventually.
“I know,” she sighed. “Same.”
She knew that if she stayed in his arms for much longer she’d end up following him back to his room and crawling under the covers with him, so she reluctantly detached herself and shooed him on his way. He was back after a couple of hours – not long enough, in her opinion, for a real rest – and he sent her off to find a room. A harassed operations officer told her that they were having to double up due to the damage done to the accommodation decks, so nobody thought it strange that she used the room McCoy had just vacated. He had showered in the sonic unit, as she had, because the sheets were clean but they still smelled of him. She buried her nose in the covers, and fell quickly asleep.
Getting home took a long time. Starfleet Medical sent out emergency transport vehicles for the most seriously wounded patients, so they were able to off-load those able to travel. That relieved the pressure in Sickbay significantly, and meant that they were able to start dealing with the massive backlog of paperwork that followed each patient. The bulk of that fell on Christine’s shoulders, as the other nurses provided care for the patients and got on with other necessary tasks. She would have preferred the patient care, or even the unenviable job of sorting through what remained of their stock cupboard, inventorying the remaining medicines and putting in a requisition order. However, her field promotion had been ratified by the new captain (actual words, as overheard by Christine outside McCoy’s office: “Thank God you’ve got someone who can cope with your moods, Bones”) and that meant she got a tiny office just off the nurses’ station and a stack of PADDS about two metres high to wade through and complete in triplicate. She also got a reasonable shift rotation sorted out for the staff, and made sure that they all had housing on board. For some reason that she wasn’t too willing to think about, she didn’t get round to swapping her room, and she and McCoy shared it. They never needed the bed at the same time, thanks to the shifts she organised, and neither talked to the other about the situation.
She liked that the pillows smelled of him.
It was perhaps time to concede, she thought as she sat at the desk, that her relationship with McCoy had moved beyond “hook up partner” and even beyond the “friends with benefits” that it had moved into. They were friends – honest ones. Their flight simulation lessons had revealed his honest phobia of shuttlecraft, and she’d been surprised that he’d let her see how terrified he actually was of being in a shuttle. That unexpected honesty had touched her, and to distract him from his fears she’d talked. About anything and everything. Sooner or later she hit on a topic that interested him, and their discussions grew and grew. They’d spend as long in bed just talking as they did having sex, and it hadn’t seen weird to her at the time.
She wasn’t completely stupid. She knew that he wanted more from her than she allowed him to have, and she was the one that kept him away. He’d been an antidote to Roger when they first met, and if she’d been smarter then she wouldn’t have encouraged him after that first night. But that was her problem, wasn’t it? Diving in head first, regardless of the consequences. Allowing both her personal and professional life to be tied so closely in Roger had been a huge mistake. And then what had she done? Rushed into signing up for Starfleet, of all the things, so she could put hundreds of thousands of lightyears between herself and her embarrassing mistakes. Then, of course, to compound the problem, she’d allowed herself to be pulled into a shadowy and mysterious secret branch of Starfleet on the same night she propositioned McCoy.
For a clever person, she was fully capable of making very stupid decisions.
If she gave in and started something real with McCoy, wasn’t she just making the same mistakes that she had with Roger? Tying her personal and professional lives together? What if they got back to Earth and they were separated, posted to different ships? Or worse, what if they weren’t separated, were posted together and then decided to break up? She’d be stuck on board the same ship until she could get reassigned somewhere else.
She folded her arms on her desk and laid her head on them. This was all very confusing.
“You look defeated,” a voice rumbled from the doorway.
She looked up to see McCoy blocking the entrance.
“There’s so much,” she said gesturing at the PADDs. “You think you’re making a dent in it, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg.”
“I know how you feel,” he said. “I’m escaping mine for a bit for lunch. You want to join me?”
“Yes,” she said immediately.
“I could have asked if you wanted to run the sterilization checks on the bed pans, and you would have agreed,” he joked.
“I’m saving that for when I finish one whole stack,” she told him, standing and stretching. “It’ll be a treat.”
“I heard a rumour that the engineers have managed to get the food replication units running again,” he told her as they told their replacements they were taking a break. “And that chocolate cake is on the menu.”
“Don’t tease me with the promise of chocolate, McCoy,” she warned him. “If you get my hopes up and you can’t deliver…”
They were in the turbolift now, heading down thirty decks to the main mess hall. He turned suddenly and advanced on her, pressing her into the wall of the life.
“When have I ever failed to deliver anything to you, Christine?” he asked, looking at her directly in the eyes.
“Never,” she whispered, before pushing up on her toes and grabbing his face for a kiss. His arms came around her tightly, and thank God one of them had the sense to flail madly at the control panel and pause the lift, because their kiss seemed to go on for an eternity. They parted eventually, red-faced and panting.
“We can get that chocolate cake to go,” she suggested.
“Good idea,” he said, running his fingers through her hair in an attempt to smooth it. She laughed, and batted his hands away.
“Get us moving again,” she told him. “Otherwise they’re going to think something’s happened in here.”
“Something almost did,” he replied, discreetly adjusting his trousers as he hit the release for the lift.
They did grab their lunches from the take-out counter in the mess, and there was chocolate cake, which they ended up eating later, in bed.
“If I believed in gods, I’d think chocolate was a gift from them,” Christine said happily.
McCoy said nothing, but merely grinned at her.
“What?” she demanded.
“You have chocolate on your chin,” he told her. “It’s cute.”
She yanked at the sheet to wipe her face, but McCoy protested.
“I’ve got to sleep on these too,” he grumbled. “Here, I’ll get it.”
He leaned over and wiped her chin with his thumb. Christine darted forward and licked the blob of chocolate from it.
“I can’t waste it,” she explained, and he shook his head in fond exasperation. He kissed her again, and rested his forehead against hers.
“We need to talk,” he said, his voice a low rumble.
“I know,” she sighed, not quite able to look him in the eye. “Can it wait for a while, though?”
“Not too long,” he warned, running his fingers down over her ear and across her jawline. “I can’t wait for too long.”
“I know,” she repeated, her skin prickling in just the right way as he did it. “I just need to work through some stuff.”
He sighed and lay back on the bed. “We’ve still got a few minutes,” he said, looking at the clock on the bedside table. “Come here.”
She went willingly to his arms, and they lay in silence until the seconds ticked away and duty called them both to Sickbay once more.
McCoy had to leave Sickbay not long after his lunch break for the daily staff meeting with all the heads of section. There they all reported to the captain about the state of the ship as they were responsible for its running. Lieutenant Commander Scott had taken the majority of time in these meetings for the last few days, as he and his team had the most work to do. McCoy listened with half an ear to most of Scott’s report, and sent a message to Christine on his PADD warning her to expect more accidental injuries from repair teams to come in over the next few days. As the repair crews were made up of anybody who could reasonably be pressed into service, Sickbay had seen a lot of burns from welding kits and sparks from electrical explosions as well as trapped digits and other minor injuries. They weren’t anything that Sickbay couldn’t handle, but it was good to be prepared.
Once all the section heads had made their reports and recommendations, Kirk dismissed them all, including his yeoman, who had been taking notes and handling the flow of information with a professionalism that had impressed everyone involved in the meetings.
“Bones,” Kirk said as he made to leave the room. “Can I have a word?”
“Captain?” asked Yeoman Rand hesitantly. “Do you need me to stay?”
“Private medical consultation,” Kirk assured her. “Doctor-patient confidentiality.”
“Of course,” she said, frowning a little. “You have a conference call with the admiralty and the captains of the ships in the Laurentian system in fifteen minutes, Captain.”
“Understood,” he said. “Dismissed.”
The yeoman left, and Kirk waited until the doors had hissed shut before he left out a relieved breath.
“That woman is like a fiend,” he said, shaking his head. “I swear to god, she pencils in time on the schedule for me to take a….”
“What did you want me for, other than to complain about somebody doing their job?” McCoy asked. “I take it this isn’t really a medical consultation? Your ribs are ok?”
“They’re good,” Kirk said dismissively. “I wanted to talk about you.”
“Okay,” McCoy said slowly.
“One of the many, many forms that Rand has had me put my authorisation to over the last week has been the crew housing manifest,” Kirk said slyly.
“Alright,” McCoy said. “I don’t see what I have to do with me.”
“I couldn’t help but notice that you and the lovely Christine are down as sharing the same cabin,” Kirk said, advancing on his, wiggling his eyebrows. “Has your friendship turned into something a little more…intimate?”
“Oh good God, you’re out of your mind,” McCoy sighed, trying not to blush and give the game away. “Most of the crew are sharing rooms, Jim. I’m just lucky it’s only two of use in there. Some are four to a room.”
“The phrase ‘strange bedfellows’ has never been more accurate,” Kirk reflected. “I’m sharing with Spock, and that man is preternaturally tidy, Bones.”
“If that’s all, Captain,” McCoy said, starting for the door.
“It is not all!” Kirk said indignantly. “You can’t tell me you’re not sleeping with her!”
“Jim, I can say with all honestly that Christine Chapel and I have never slept together,” McCoy said with a breathtaking combination of precise accuracy and complete untruth. “And that I will swear on the grave of any dead relative you wish me to.”
“Fine,” Kirk said grumpily. “But what’s stopping you, man? You’re single, she’s single, you’re clearly compatible. She even laughs at your jokes, and God knows how rare that is in a woman.”
“Hey,” McCoy warned, pride knocked just a little.
“If it’s a workplace thing, there isn’t anything in the rules that says you can’t have a relationship with her,” Kirk pressed on. “You just have to declare it and run any promotions past a review board.”
“It’s complicated, Jim,” McCoy said, in a strong enough tone to make Kirk back off, just a little. “I…,” he sighed. “It’s not an easy thing, me and her. There’s a lot of baggage for both of us. Just back off and let us work through it at our own pace, okay?”
“I am there for you man,” Kirk said solemnly, and McCoy groaned. He’d been on the receiving end of Kirk’s ‘help’ on previous occasions, and on not one occasion had it ended well.
“I don’t need any help,” McCoy warned his friend as he gathered up his belongings and headed for the door.
“I’m your wingman, buddy!” Kirk called.
“I don’t need a wingman!” McCoy yelled back over his shoulder as he made as hasty an exit as he could.
“I’m your coach! Your mentor!” Kirk called after him down the corridor.
“Stick with being my captain!” McCoy called back as he rounded the corner and could escape back to Sickbay. “Jim Kirk, my captain,” he said in wonder as the turbolift arrived. “God help me.”