A final HUGE thank you to Ceri for the great beta. PLEASE READ NOTE AT END OF THIS CHAPTER.
Disclaimer: Would love to own ST, but I just borrow the characters and return them intact
McCoy checked his uniform for the fifth time. A summons to the quarters of Starfleet's Surgeon General was like being called to the principal's office – it probably wasn't good news.
Enterprise had arrived at Starbase 17 two days ago. Captain Pike had been whisked away by experienced hands and McCoy had suddenly found himself with little to do other than catch up on paperwork. Until, that is, he received notice to report to the Surgeon General's office. No explanation given.
He gave a final check of his uniform and chronometer then pressed the bell announcing his presence. The door opened. As he'd been trained at the Academy, McCoy took two steps into the room and came sharply to attention. "Lieutenant McCoy reporting as ordered, sir."
Surgeon General and Admiral Elise Waylan stood at one of the large picture windows that overlooked the sprawling facility. Second in size and scope only to the medical facilities on Earth, Starbase 17 represented only a fraction of her command. There were medical outposts of one size or another at every Starbase, a fleet of medical support ships, hospitals, rehab facilities, training centers – she was responsible for a small army of medics and a plethora of medical facilities throughout the universe.
Since receiving the summons, McCoy had familiarized himself with Dr. Waylan's background. She was a neurosurgeon by training, having come to medicine only after a stint as a helmsman where she'd distinguished herself in several armed conflicts. There were rumors that she'd once been a Starfleet spy. For reasons not fully explained, she'd transferred to Medical, served as CO of medical scout ships Respite and Relief, CMO of the Intrepid, and then moved to HQ where she'd quickly risen up the ranks.
Still, her recent promotion to Surgeon General had come as a surprise, and many in the old guard criticized the decision saying she lacked "experience," which, in McCoy's opinion, meant only that she wasn't one of them.
She turned from the window, revealing a tall, willowy woman, with dark hair that reached just her shoulders. Her face was severe, almost aristocratic and yet there was a certain playfulness in what had to be the darkest eyes McCoy had ever seen. He knew Waylan to be in her early 50s; she could easily pass for a decade younger.
"Doctor." She nodded formally. "I expect you are curious as to why I requested to see you."
McCoy grimaced. "The thought had crossed my mind."
"Relax, Doctor. At ease."
McCoy tried to convey alertness and respect while forcibly relaxing his muscles. It was hard.
"I understand you've requested reassignment to Starbase 17."
"Yes, sir." He started to explain his reasons then thought better of it.
The brown eyes appraised him carefully and McCoy resisted the urge to check once again that his uniform was in order. "Why?"
Well, since she'd asked . . . "I believe that my skills would be put to better use in a surgical environment."
"Do you now?" She came around the front of her massive desk and pointed with an open palm to the small sitting area. "Please, sit down."
He dropped onto the settee, perched on the edge. Then, deciding he looked like a mischievous schoolboy, did his best to relax into the cushions. When he looked up, Waylan was already seated across from him, managing to look completely relaxed and yet totally in control at the same time.
"You did an excellent job with Captain Pike."
"I did my best. But as you know, I'm not a neurological expert—"
"Well, as you know, I am." She smiled and McCoy couldn't help but feel like the mouse looking into the face of a hungry cat. "I reviewed your notes of his care very carefully."
McCoy gave thanks for the fact that he'd finished them before they arrived. From a purely professional perspective, he was anxious to hear what he should have done that he hadn't done.
"I will tell you Doctor, that there is not one thing that you did that I would have done differently."
"Well, there was one thing." That mischevious smile was back.
Uh-oh, here it comes.
"I'm not sure I would have tried the benzotrexate compound you used to restore some of the Captain's vocal pathways. That was inspired, Doctor. truly inspired."
What did he say to that? Nothing came to mind. Finally, he grew uncomfortable with the silence. "How is Captain Pike?" He'd heard that Waylan had come out to Starbase 17 in part to take personal charge of his care. Word had it they'd long been close friends . . . and maybe more.
"Better than he has a right to be, thanks to you."
"Will he walk?"
"I hope so." Her eyes held his and only a slight tightening of her jaw revealed the level of her concern. "There's a lot of cord damage and the paralysis is troubling, but there are a few things I want to try that may help." She favored him with a tight smile. "In any event, he has a long recovery ahead."
Again, McCoy decided to keep quiet. She'd called this meeting; best to let her take the lead.
"Back to your request for a transfer," she continued smoothly. "I must tell you that I intend to deny it. However, given your performance onboard the Enterprise, I felt that I . . . owed you an explanation." She pressed a small button at her side. Within seconds, a yeoman appeared. "Doctor," Waylan asked, "would you like something to drink?"
Yeah, a double scotch would be great right about now. "Water would be fine."
"Make that two." After the yeoman left, she turned back to him. "I became Surgeon General three months ago. In that time, I've decided that Starfleet's best doctors aren't where they should be." She gestured toward the window. "Out there, on ships with the fleet. Too many of them are in places like this, sucking up to people like me, hoping to be people like me.
"It's wrong," she continued. "Our men and women on the front lines deserve the very best care. Men like Captain Pike. In the hands of a lesser physician, there would be no hope of improvement; he might have even died. What you did in administering the benzo compound is exactly what I want to see."
"It might have failed." Shit, he'd opened his mouth.
"Yes, it might have and that might not have helped your career. But it was a calculated risk in a situation where doing nothing meant certain failure. Doctor, I need physicians in the field who can make those decisions, doctors who are willing to take risks in doing what's best for their patients, even at the expense of their own careers."
This time he managed to keep his mouth shut.
"So I've decided to assign our best to the Fleet as CMOs, starting with you, Doctor."
"Unhappy, probably." A half–smile played on her lips.
The yeoman returned, and Waylan was silent until the water was served and the yeoman had excused himself.
"I won't give you a choice about going to the fleet, but I will give you some choice in the matter. You've earned that much. You can stay as CMO of the Enterprise or, if you prefer, I'll assign you to the starship of your choice."
A Hobson's Choice if he'd ever heard one. "Permission to speak freely, sir."
Another smile. "Always, Doctor."
"I appreciate your confidence in me. But I don't think I'm cut out to be a CMO."
"Captain Pike certainly thinks you are."
"I'm a surgeon and a good one. Beyond that, I had no idea what I was doing out there. It was like flying blind. Half the crew probably hates me—"
"You're there to be their doctor, not their friend."
Kind of what Collins had said. "I didn't know the first thing about what I was doing, or even supposed to do."
"Considering you had no starship experience, no training in the duties of CMO, I consider your performance admirable. Other than, perhaps, the little mishap with Cadet Kirk."
He'd been afraid that would come up. He braced himself for a reprimand.
"Don't worry. We offer a course for prospective CMOs. I teach it, so I think I can probably get you in."
Damn, no reprimand for his little stunt with Jim. And, the Admiral had a sense of humor.
She took a sip of water. "Don't forget that I've been in your shoes. I know from personal experience that the job of CMO isn't easy. But in my opinion, it's the single most important job in Starfleet Medical and, as I said, deserves the very best we have."
"Admiral, with all due respect, I think that—"
"Doctor McCoy." Her voice was like quicksilver. "You forget one thing."
No doubt she'd tell him what that thing was.
"This is Starfleet. No one gives a damn what you think. The advantage of being an admiral – and Surgeon General – is that people do," she pointed at her epaulets, "care a great deal about what I think. And I think – no, I know – that you belong as CMO of a starship. Now, the only question is whether you want to stay on the Enterprise or move to another ship. Enterprise will remain at Starbase 17 for another seven days."
How did she know that? Even Jim didn't know how long they'd be here.
She was still talking. "I'd like to have your answer before the Enterprise departs."
"Who will be commanding the Enterprise?" Crap, he'd opened his mouth again.
"An interesting question, Doctor." She gave him another tight smile. "What makes you think I would have this information?"
Because I think you know quite a bit about a lot of things. "Just a hunch, Admiral."
She rubbed her hands together. "Let me say this. Captain Pike thinks very highly of Jim Kirk, and his views on this subject . . . carry great weight."
So, maybe Jim wouldn't be court-martialed after all. Shit, if Jim was going to be on the Enterprise, someone had to be there to clean up after him. Might as well be me. Who else could handle him?
"Then I don't need a week to make my decision. I'll stay where I am. I just hope you don't regret my decision."
"Doctor, I'm confident of my decision and yours. And, to date, most of my decisions have been correct." She stood up and he jumped to do the same. "You'll be receiving your orders and your promotion to Lieutenant Commander by the end of the day." She held out her hand. "Good luck, Doctor."
He exited Waylan's office and the headquarters building. He was headed back to the Enterprise, back to Jim and probably that pointy-eared hobgoblin as well. Back to Collins and Beckworth and an office that would now truly be his. Back to being responsible for the lives of 500 men and women whom he would soon call his friends. Oh, what the hell. Back to his future and whatever it would hold.
NOTE: Thanks to all of you who took the time to submit a review -- your comments were much appreciated. For those who enjoyed this story, another is on the way. It will be a follow-on to Complications, but not a sequel per se. Look for it in about a month.