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.
They made it back to Earth two days later, and after a debriefing that seemed to go on for weeks rather than the days it actually took, Christine was free to see her family and friends. There was a welcome home party for her, where everybody ate and drank far too much. Carol had managed to make it there, which was a pleasant surprise. Her ship had been in the Laurentian system, too far away to be any good at the Battle of Vulcan. She’d arrived home that day, and was spending her two-day leave with Christine.
As the party continued far into the night in the house below, Christine snuck upstairs to her old bedroom with Carol and a bottle of wine that her grandmother had made. It was potent stuff, and a few glasses left both women a little drunk.
“I was so worried about you,” Carol said, topping up her glass. “When we heard what had happened we were at warp straight away, but we knew we wouldn’t be in time to be of any help.”
“It was awful,” Christine said, sipping her own wine. “You go though the drills and the preparation, and they get the smoke and the confusion right, but they never get the smells right in the simulations. You know that? Simulations never get the smells.”
“No, I suppose they don’t,” Carol said. “I hadn’t really thought about it.”
“The blood feels real on your hands in a sim, but you don’t get that iron tang in your nostrils that you do when there’s real blood. Or the sweat from the person you’re dragging across the room to a biobed. Or the vomit, or the smell when someone’s had their guts ripped open and…”
“Alright, I get the picture,” Carol said, her pretty face wrinkling in disgust.
“They should get the smells right,” Christine said. “You don’t expect the smells.”
“You’re pretty drunk,” Carol told her.
“Not drunk enough,” Christine said, reaching for the bottle and pouring the rest of it in her glass. “Not to forget the smells.”
A half remembered nugget of information surfaced in her brain.
“You worked on the holosuite designs, didn’t you?” she said.
“My father let me play with the specs,” Carol said, shrugging. “I wasn’t on the team that created them or anything.”
“You should tell him to get the smells right,” she said. “It’s important.”
Carol shrugged. “It’s not really his area,” she explained. “He’s in starship development.”
Christine almost snorted into her wine, but she controlled herself.
“Are you going to ship back out when the Enterprise has finished repairs?” Carol asked.
“Yes,” Christine said. “At least, I assume so. They’re not going to keep me as Head Nurse now, but I would have thought I’d get a posting there.”
“Who said you won’t get Head Nurse?” Carol asked indignantly.
“I’m barely qualified,” Christine explained. “There are people in the Fleet who’ve been doing the job for years, and deserve the promotion to the flagship. They’re not going to give it to me.”
“Who’s the CMO?” Carol asked.
Christine shrugged. “If Jim Kirk keeps the captaincy, like all the rumours are saying, then I think that he’ll keep McCoy on. They’re best friends, and McCoy got the Centaurian slug out of Pike without killing him or permanently crippling him. No way that he’d be replaced.”
“Is he the one you’ve been having all the sex with?”
“I haven’t been having all the sex with him,” Christine said, after taking a healthy gulp of wine.
“Have you been having sex with anybody else?” Carol asked, ruthlessly practical despite being inebriated.
“No,” Christine admitted.
“I don’t know,” Christine said. After a pointed look from Carol she sighed and added, “Probably not.”
“Do you think he wouldn’t hire you because you’re sleeping together?” Carol asked.
“No, but I don’t think he’d offer me Head Nurse when there are other, better qualified people out there,” Christine said, draining her glass. “He’s a professional, Carol. He’ll do what’s best for the ship, and that’s having the best qualified staff.”
“How very grown up of you,” Carol said dryly.
“Someone had to be,” Christine said. “Come on. I’m not drunk enough yet.”
“More wine,” agreed Carol.
Going back to the Academy after her leave was hard; so many people were gone. Classmates from her nursing course had been lost, those that had been assigned to the Farragut and other ships in the fleet. She felt the loss in other ways too; corridors didn’t seem as full any more, and the mess hall and common rooms weren’t as crowded. Bodies were missing.
The day after the announcement of Captain Pike’s promotion to admiral, and Jim Kirk’s promotion to captain, Christine was called to Admiral Marcus’ office. The same Andorian yeoman was on duty in the outer room, and once again she was made to wait until the admiral deigned to see her. She was waved into one of the bucket chairs, and she forced herself to sit calmly and not fidget as he finished reading the PADD in front of him.
“Chapel,” he said eventually. “I’m just reading the report of your performance on the Enterprise. It’s positively glowing.”
“Thank you, sir,” she said evenly. She’d read it already – innate nosiness combined with Section 31-approved tuition in computer skills meant that she knew how McCoy had praised her performance under fire and her cool and calm demeanour as she managed the triage of the injured personnel.
“Is it so good because you’re sleeping with the man who wrote it?” the admiral challenged. Christine didn’t flinch.
“No sir, it’s good because I performed well. If you think that Leonard McCoy would falsify a report because of our personal situation, then you just don’t know him very well, sir.”
“He’s an honest man?” the admiral asked.
Christine nodded her head once.
“And how would your honest man react if he knew that you’d been lying to him for three years?” the admiral went on.
“I don’t know, sir,” Christine said, her anger beginning to rise. She tried to keep a tight lid on it. “But as he’s never going to find out, I really don’t think it’s going to be an issue.”
The admiral stared at her for a while, then returned his attention to the PADD in front of him.
“He’s requested you for assignment to the Enterprise,” he said.
Christine said nothing. That information she’d been able to find out too.
“But not as Head Nurse,” the admiral went on. “He’s gone with a Lieutenant Callis for that position.”
Christine stayed silent. That had been on the report she’d read as well. McCoy had praised her abilities, but had written that he’d need somebody with a few years seniority over the rest of his staff, which Callis had. Chapel, although very good at her job, was a product of the same class of cadets that made up the majority of the nursing staff and he felt that he needed somebody with more experience.
Christine couldn’t argue with him, as his reasoning was eminently logical. Of course, part of her wanted the Head Nurse job, but she understood why Lieutenant Callis was being offered it. Although not far off in age, Callis had trained as a nurse from the beginning and had racked up nearly ten years worth of experience in various ships and starbases. He was the obvious choice for a plum job like this aboard the Enterprise.
“Have you anything to say about this turn of events, Chapel?” the admiral pressed.
“No sir,” Christine replied. “Doctor McCoy has made a logical and well thought out decision.”
“He’s your lover,” the admiral challenged.
“He’s also the chief medical officer of the ship,” Christine said calmly. “He has a responsibility to the captain and crew, and that includes hiring the correct staff.”
“You really mean that, don’t you?” the admiral said after a moment’s careful scrutiny of her face.
“Micro expressions don’t lie, Admiral,” Christine told him.
The admiral shook his head in disbelief. “We were right on the money with you, weren’t we, Chapel?” he asked.
Christine said nothing. He was right. Whatever answers she had given to the testers back in her first year had marked her out as a potential Section 31 agent, and she had learned well from all of her teachers. She’d always had the ability to compartmentalise her feelings, and that ability had served her well.
“Don’t worry about the McCoy thing anyway,” the admiral said. “You’re not going to the Enterprise.”
“I’m not?” Christine asked, genuinely startled at the news.
“No,” the admiral told her. “The whole Narada incident has cost us significantly, Section 31 included. We lost too many agents who were serving on ships lost at the Battle of Vulcan. We need to deploy you on your first mission for Section 31, in defence of Starfleet and the Federation.”
Christine blinked, shocked at the admiral’s words. Although she’d received a lot of training in the three years that she’d been with Starfleet, she never really thought that she’d be activated as an agent. All of her meetings with the psychologist had been about concealing her training and coping with lying to her friends and loved ones for years at a time because Section 31 agents were used so rarely. Of course, the decimation of the Fleet had shown itself in many ways, and she shouldn’t have been surprised that Section 31 would have been hit too.
A viewscreen turned on, and Christine turned to face a map of the border between the space belonging to the Federation, and that belonging to the Romulan Empire. The Neutral Zone was marked in stark red against the blackness of the map, but the map also highlighted a string of planets that ran closely along the edge of the border on the Federation side.
“What do you know about the planets highlighted on the map, Chapel?” the admiral asked.
“They’re known as the Outer Territories, sir,” she said, frowning as she took in the information detailed on the map. “Frontier planets, class K, L or M with no sapient species, populated by a variety of settlers from all over the Federation. The planets are rich in important minerals, such as dilithium. Conditions vary on the planets, but none have significant settlements. Most of the settlers are miners who work a claim for a while, sell their product and retire rich, selling on their claim.”
“Good,” the admiral said approvingly. “The Outer Territories are largely self-sufficient, but are dependent on Starfleet for shipping various commodities that can’t be found on the planets themselves. Little bits of luxuries and home comforts. We also provide medical staff and engineering expertise as part of a trade agreement – in exchange, we have first refusal on all minerals mined on the planets.”
“I’m to be sent as medical support to one of the planets?” Christine asked.
“That will be your cover, yes,” the admiral said. “In reality, Section 31 is extremely concerned about the location of the Territories so close to the Romulan border. Long-range scans from our base in the Territories have suggested that the Romulans are heavily mining mineral-rich moons just inside their borders. Those minerals are on the verge of running out, and the Territories are very close to the edge of the Neutral Zone.”
“You think there could be a Romulan incursion there?” Christine asked, peering at the map. The Neutral Zone didn’t look that big.
“We are certain that Romulan spies have been sent to the largest dilithium producing planet, here,” the admiral told her, expanding the map so that a small planet close to the border was magnified. “Genetically altered, of course, to pass for human. We need you to go there and take over the settlement’s medical facility. Screen all the inhabitants for genetic alterations and identify the spies. You’ll send the information back to us, and we’ll do the rest.”
“How?” Christine asked, frowning. “You’ll be a long way away, and the whole settlement requiring medical testing will warn the spies that something’s up.”
“We have a research and design facility located underneath the town’s main settlement,” the admiral said, after a pause. “Agents assigned there will take care of removing the spies. Your cover as a Starfleet nurse will remain intact. Starfleet rotate the staff assigned there on a regular basis – two years, I think. You’ll do a full rotation and then we’ll assign you somewhere else. No suspicion will fall on you, although you may have to get creative to get a genetic reading on all of the settlers.”
“Will I have any assistance?” Christine asked, her mind racing at the scale of the task ahead of her.
“You will have a contact with the base, but for the majority of the time, you’ll be acting alone,” the admiral warned her. “You think you can cope with that, Chapel?”
“Yes sir,” she said immediately.
“Good,” he said gruffly. “This is an easy assignment, Chapel. No terminations required, just genetic analysis. Our R and D section has created a few little toys for you. They look like standard field equipment, but they’re actually very advanced technology. It’ll be like having the full power of Starfleet Medical in your hand.”
“When do I leave?” she asked.
“Tonight,” the admiral told her. “You’re being taken to Starbase Seven on board the Valiant, and from there you’ll be picked up by one of the ships that do the run from the Outer Territories. Total travel time is about three weeks, so we’re just hoping the Romulans aren’t further along than we think they are, otherwise you’ll be arriving to find an imperial warbird in orbit around the planet.”
“Yes sir,” she said, swallowing hard. A few hours wasn’t going to be long enough to say goodbye to everybody.
“Non-classified details will be sent to your PADD by seventeen hundred hours,” the admiral told her. “Good luck, Ensign Chapel. Dismissed.”
Christine rose and saluted, and left.
McCoy had been commissioned as a lieutenant commander, because of his promotion to Chief Medical Officer. The Enterprise was in spacedock being fixed properly, and all the section heads apart from engineering had been given small offices in the administration block of Starfleet Headquarters to try and organise the staffing of their departments. His name and rank were embossed on a little plaque next to the door, and for a moment Christine had difficulty thinking of him as Lieutenant Commander L. McCoy, M.D, CMO Enterprise. He was the gruff and unsure man she’d coaxed out of a crowded club, who’d thrown her into the cold ocean after their second outdoor encounter. He was the man who’d got her safely home after she’d tried to drink away bad memories and he was the one who had repaired the damage that Roger had done.
He was the man she’d fallen in love with, she realised, and now she was going to have to tell him goodbye. It wasn’t fair to ask him to wait for her to come back, especially considering that, Marcus’ assurances to one side, she could very well die executing her mission. She didn’t think that Romulan spies were particularly merciful.
She pressed the buzzer, and heard his yell of “Come in!” through the doors that were supposed to be soundproofed.
He looked up as the doors opened, and smiled at her.
“Christine!” he said, getting up and moving piles of bureaucracy out of the way. “Come and sit down.”
“Thanks,” she said, looking around at the small, grey room. “Love what you’ve done with the place.”
“Oh don’t you start,” he said tiredly. “It’s only temporary. Jim wanted me to get the walls painted. I told him I don’t intend to be here long enough to care about what colour it is.”
“I bet his office is pretty fancy,” Christine said, taking in the piles of paperwork, the PADDs stacking up, and the remnant of a replicated meal in the corner of the room.
“He’s got a window,” McCoy shrugged.
A pause followed his words. He fiddled with the PADD on his desk, before taking a deep breath and plunging into his next sentence.
“I’ve asked for you to be assigned to the Enterprise,” he said quickly. “But I’ve had to recommend somebody else for Head Nurse.”
“I know, Len,” she said gently.
“It’s not that I don’t want you,” he ploughed on. “It’s just that the Admiralty want somebody with a bit more experience for a leadership role and...”
“It’s okay,” she said firmly. “I understand, and I agree. If I was in your position, I’d do exactly the same thing.”
“You would?” he asked suspiciously.
“I would,” she assured him, leaning forward across his desk to take his hand. “Your nursing staff is going to be predominantly this year’s cadet class. You need someone with a few years experience under their belt.”
“You could do the job,” he said after a few moments. “I know you’ve got it in you.”
“And one day, I will,” she told him. “Just not yet.”
She sighed, and held his hand a little tighter.
“I won’t be coming with you on the Enterprise, Len,” she said. “I’ve already been assigned somewhere else.”
“Where?” he demanded, pulling back.
“The Outer Territories,” she told him.
“It’s the back of fucking beyond!” he said indignantly.
Christine shrugged. “I have to go where they tell me to go,” she said gently. “Your glowing review of my performance on the Enterprise must have caught the attention of somebody higher up. I’m going to the Territories to serve as part of the medical team that rotates through there.”
“No you’re not,” he said determinedly. “I’ll get Jim to pull rank and demand you’re assigned to the Enterprise, I’ll...”
“It won’t do any good,” she said calmly. “I’ve received my orders and I’m shipping out tonight. I’ll be gone for two years.”
“No,” he said again, looking stricken.
“Yes,” she said, tears beginning to fall.
He rounded the desk and caught her up in his arms, holding her tightly against his body.
“I don’t want you to go,” he said, emotion colouring his voice.
“I don’t want to go,” she admitted, crushed against his chest. “But I have to.”
They stood there for a long time, before they realised that the door was lockable, and this was probably going to be the last time they saw each other for a while. He lifted her with one arm, and used the other arm to push a pile of paperwork off the desk and onto the floor. At any other time she would have laughed at the absurdity of the gesture, but right then all she cared about was getting her skin pressed against his. The love they made on the desk was frantic and fast, leaving scratches and bruises behind. Later, on the floor, it was slower, more gentle. More loving.
“I suppose you realise that I love you,” he said gruffly. They were laying together on the floor, and her head was pillowed on his arm.
She didn’t say anything. She tightened her hold on him.
“I know that wasn’t supposed to happen,” he went on. “But it did, so you’re just going to have to live with it.”
She pressed her face into his shoulder, and didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
“Two years isn’t that long,” he went on. “There’ll be leaves. And when you finish your assignment, there’ll be a place for you on the Enterprise. With me. If you want it,” he finished, and his whole body tensed up.
Gently, she pulled herself out of his arms and kissed him.
“I want it now,” she said. “And I want you now. But two years is a long time. You may find that you’ve moved on by then. I don’t want you to make promises that you won’t be able to keep, because you’ll tear yourself to pieces. I know you, Leonard McCoy, and it would.”
“Do you love me?” he asked.
“God Len, this isn’t about that,” she sighed.
“Do you love me?” he repeated.
“This wasn’t supposed to be about love,” she said, turning away so he wouldn’t see the tears start to form in her eyes. She rummaged about for her clothes, and started to put them back on.
“I know what this was supposed to be, and I know what it actually is,” he said, his voice starting to raise. “Just answer the damn question Christine, do you love me?”
“Of course I love you, you fucking idiot!” she yelled. “Why the hell do you think that this is so hard for me to do?”
He rose and hauled her in for another demanding kiss.
“So if I love you and you love me,” he asked, his forehead resting against hers, his hands on her shoulders, “why the hell are you pushing me away?”
“I’m going to be gone for a long time,” she said, running her hands along his arms. “Anything can happen. I don’t want you wasting your life waiting around for me. You’re a good man. You deserve somebody in your life that won’t be hundreds of thousands of light years away.”
“I want you,” he muttered.
“Well, you can’t have me,” Christine said, eyes bright with tears. “And I’m not going to be responsible for making your life miserable for the next two years.”
“You don’t think I’m going to be miserable without you anyway?”
“I think you’ll mope for a bit,” Christine said, aiming for a cheerful tone. “And then, if you’re lucky, you’ll meet some pretty young thing who won’t lead you a song and a dance.”
“Not going to happen, darlin’,” he said sadly. “I know the signs. It’s you, and that’s the end of it.”
“I don’t want you to wait for me,” she told him. “You’re a free man, McCoy.”
She pulled out of his arms and dressed in silence. He picked up his own clothes and dressed too.
“Goodbye, Len,” she said, once he was presentable again. “You’re going to be a great CMO. I wish I was going to be with you.”
“In two years, you will be,” he said simply. He walked towards her, and kissed her gently. “I don’t believe for one minute that you want me to find somebody else. That’s just you trying to run away from feeling things.
“I am not...” she began, but he clapped his large hand over her mouth to shush her.
“When I met you, you were hurting,” he said simply. “I was somebody you used to get your confidence back, and don’t get upset with me,” he warned her, “because that’s what you were to me too. We were damaged, Christine, and we fixed each other. Then it got deeper, and you kept me at arm’s length because that scared you and I was too scared of losing you to risk doing anything about it. Now I get you to admit that you love me, and you think I’m going to let a few years get in the way of that?”
Christine swallowed, a little stunned at the force of his words.
“I don’t want to let you go, Christine, but I don’t get to make all the rules around here. So you can say goodbye and walk out of this door,” he warned, “but I’m going to be waiting for you to walk back in when your time in the boondocks is up. You don’t get to tell me how I feel about you, and you don’t get to tell me when it’s time for me to stop.”
He let go of her mouth and stepped away from her.
“I...I can’t promise that I’m going to walk through that door,” she said.
“Then I’m just going to have to hope that you do,” he said, with a finality that both crushed and uplifted her.
He gave her one last kiss and stepped away.
“Goodbye Christine,” he said. “I’ll see you in two years.”
“Goodbye, Len,” she said, hesitated, then turned and walked away.