The Beautiful Tennessee Waltz by Djinn
Roger's famous. In his orbit, Chapel's a minor satellite. This doesn't bother her, except when they're out like this. When everyone else is touching and talking and taking him away.
The music plays, and glasses tinkle, and she throws back her champagne and isn't sorry to see a waiter show up with a tray full of more. She resists taking two glasses.
She's in a burgundy gown she purchased with her own credits; Roger would have paid for it, but she hates living off his largesse all the time, so she paid far too much of her own money for this lovely sheath of satin that he's not even noticing.
She's swaying with the music, and her gown moves sinuously around her legs. The dress is made to dance in and she loves to dance.
"Excuse me, but why are you alone?" A voice behind her, close to her ear, warm breath spreading the question on the trail of a mild southern accent.
She turns. He's gorgeous.
"You shouldn't be alone," he says, holding out his arm to her in a way that evokes cotillions and verandas and lovely, old ballrooms.
She glances back at Roger; he's caught up in the adoration, going on about something. Her mystery man follows her gaze.
He laughs softly. "Old Roger sure does love to hear his gums bump."
"You know him?"
"Yep. Old friends."
"Not old enough to know you're hitting on his girl?"
He shakes his head. "I will go to my grave wondering how that man manages to get such lovely women on his arm." His smile is crooked, almost mean. "But then you're not on his arm, now, are you?"
"You're not the nicest friend of Roger's that I've met."
"Well, that is almost certainly true." He looks pleased with her, as if he lives for this kind of verbal salvo. "So, are we going to dance or aren't we?"
She starts to turn to look at Roger, but the man pulls her onto the dance floor. "He's busy, darlin'. And he's not going to be free any time soon. I've seen plenty of these shindigs and him at them. Holding forth. The great Roger Korby."
"You don't like him?"
"Like him lots. But that doesn't mean I can't see the flaws. And leaving you alone is a very big flaw in his character." He says the last part with a sparkle in his eyes that makes her feel warm and appreciated.
"He loves me," she says, but she lets the man pull her into his arms.
"I'm sure he does. And I'm sure you provide the proper amount of adoration. You were his student, I take it?"
She tries to pull away; he's a lot stronger than he looks.
"Don't get angry. Were you?"
"And you don't have a problem with that? The favoritism factor and all that?"
"I didn't need any favoritism. I'm quite good all on my own."
He laughs, and it's a nice laugh, as if again he approves of her quick return of verbal serve. "My name's McCoy, by the way. Leonard McCoy."
"Lovely to meet you. Let's show these other folks how this is done."
She realizes that the music has changed to the Tennessee Waltz, and he smiles as he moves her around the floor. He's good, and she's good, and the others back away and let them have the floor.
"Now, who's the star?" McCoy whispers in her ear and as the music ends, he doesn't let her go, just holds the position as if they're going to play another waltz any second.
"Christine?" It's Roger. He's looking bemused. "Who are you dancing wit-- Leonard!" He breaks up the clinch she's got going with his buddy and pulls McCoy in for a manly display of a-frame hugs and back slaps. "How long has it been? Let me buy you a drink." He starts to pull McCoy away, but McCoy turns to look at her.
"Save me a dance," he says, and there's something in his eyes that seems to be asking why she's not being invited along for the drink, why Roger doesn't want her there. Or worse, why Roger has forgotten all about her.
She feels as if all eyes are on her, and she walks as gracefully and nonchalantly as she can to the balcony, where there's fresh air and no prying eyes.
A woman follows her out. Small, curvy, auburn hair. She smiles and then goes to the far side of the balcony and stares out over the city spread out before them. "Are you from here?" she asks Chapel. "You don't seem to notice how pretty San Francisco is."
Chapel takes a deep breath, wondering why this woman has to destroy her bliss--or her attempt to find some. "I'm from Seattle. We have hills and water and big buildings, too."
There is a moment as the woman seems to process what to do with that statement. There is another moment as she apparently decides to do nothing with it, and the silence grows strained. "You know Doctor Korby?" she finally asks.
Chapel smothers a groan. Not another intern groupie trying to secure a post-grad assignment with the great Doctor Korby. She's annoyed and when she's annoyed, she says things she shouldn't like: "I know him in the biblical sense."
"Oh. Okay." The woman is blushing. "I was just wondering if you ever talk to him about his post-grad openings."
"Yes. Tell me your name and I'll be sure you don't get one." She's not sure why she's being so unpleasant. She just knows this woman rubs her the wrong way. "Do you mind? I came out here to be alone."
"Of course." The woman's cheeks are flaming now. "Sorry I bothered you."
"Not as sorry as I am," Chapel mutters as the woman flees back inside.
He finds her later, this McCoy who seems to see far too much about her relationship with Roger. As he's moving her back to the dance floor, she sees the young woman who accosted her circling around Roger, trying to get noticed. In the dress she's wearing, with its crisscrossed straps barely covering her breasts and leaving lots of bare skin, it's only a matter of time before he does notice her.
Roger loves his adoring public. Especially when they come with a pair of 34Cs.
"What are you thinking about?" McCoy's voice is gentle, mellowed, she thinks, by the booze she can smell on his breath. Whiskey by the scent, some good southern blend, no doubt.
"I'm not thinking about anything."
"Liar." He pulls her closer and she can feel that he wants her.
"You're his friend," she says, as she pushes in to demonstrate why she's telling him this.
McCoy closes his eyes. "He doesn't deserve you."
"And you do? A man who doesn't respect another man's prior claim?"
He rubs her back, his hand light and teasing on her. She finds it hard to look at him.
"I'm sorry, Christine. Did you want me to respect his claim?"
It is a difficult question to answer when she's being held so close and touched so gently and feeling how much he wants her. So she doesn't answer, she just gives in and buries her face in his neck and surrenders to the dance he's taking them on.
He pulls her off the floor, back to the balcony, and there is another couple there, in a clinch that looks like it could go on for hours, but McCoy says "We need some privacy. Medical emergency. She needs air." When they just stare, his voice changes, becomes harsh and hurting, and he says, "Are you deaf as well as horny? Get the hell inside."
They get the hell inside.
"Why are you doing this? Did he steal your girl once upon a time?"
"Shut up." He kisses her. And as he kisses her, he pulls her close and strokes anywhere he wants, and moans softly as she presses against him. His lips are sure, his tongue is wicked, and his hands are most definitely quite adept at identifying nice spots to linger on.
Roger hasn't kissed her this way in over a year. Actually, she's not sure Roger's ever kissed her this way.
She finally pulls away, breathing hard, wanting nothing more than to be back in McCoy's arms, but she forces herself to stand up straight, to cross her arms over her chest to create a barrier between them, to make her eyes go hard and her mouth go straight. "I'm with Roger. And if you don't leave me alone, I'll tell him exactly what kind of friend you are."
And then she makes a very quick and ungraceful exit, because he doesn't get mad like she expects. Instead he just holds his hand out to her and says, "Let's get the hell out of here."
She sees Roger and she hurries to him, fighting her way through the crowd of orbital human detritus to get to him.
He frowns at her expression. "Is everything all right?"
She nods quickly. "Just missed you."
He looks vaguely pleased.
Too bad it's a lie.
Chapel checks herself out in the bedroom mirror. The dress is gorgeous; she looks good in it. It seems a shame to take it off, like the magic may end.
Roger comes in, mumbles something at her, and walks into the bathroom.
The magic, if it was ever there, has long since ended. She sighs as she unzips the dress and steps out of it. She's been in love with Roger for a long time. But being in love with him is not, she is finding, as easy as worshipping him was. As a student, he was the unattainable, and she adored him. As her fiance?
Hell, he's still unattainable. Some part of him will always be unattainable. She slips on pajamas; she used to buy sexy things, but now she just sleeps in what's comfortable. He doesn't seem to like them any better or worse than the fancy negligees.
He comes out, gives her a quick kiss, and heads to bed.
"This Leonard McCoy. You've never mentioned him."
"Oh, well, it's been years since I've seen him. Knew him when I was younger. When he was, too." Roger sits up, a smile playing at his mouth. "Introduced him to his wife, in fact."
He nods. "They're getting a divorce. Doesn't surprise me. She deserves better."
"Better? I thought McCoy was your friend?" Hasn't she already had this conversation tonight? How do these men define friendship, anyway?
"He is. But Jocelyn is a special person. And Leonard can be difficult." He shrugs. "They got a beautiful child out of the deal. It's not a total wash." He reaches over, palms off the bedside light, and lies down. Conversation over, apparently.
"No. Not a total wash." She's suddenly glad she didn't give in more than she did to McCoy. Bastard was out for revenge sex. And she was just the stupid pawn in the middle.
She's drinking coffee in the little cafeteria outside the science building. She sees McCoy before he sees her, has her face schooled into blank serenity before he can cross the room.
"There you are." He sits down as if they are old friends.
"Here I am?" She sips at her coffee, trying to let what a jerk he has proven to be offset how attractive he is to her.
"I figured you'd want to talk. After last night."
"Last night? A momentary indiscretion." She gives him her haughtiest look.
"I didn't mean when we were groping each other on the balcony, my dear. I was referring to the talk you must have had with Roger afterwards." He leans back, his eyes sparkling the same way they were the night before. "So what did he tell you?"
"That he introduced you to your soon-to-be ex wife. Getting revenge this way on him? That's pretty weak. Especially since he's hardly to blame for introducing you to her--not getting along with her was your fault."
"Getting revenge? Is that what you think I was doing?"
"Seducing me--or attempting to, at any rate--yes, I think that's what you were doing."
"Did you tell Roger about that?" He doesn't wait for her answer. "And I wasn't getting revenge on him. I was trying to protect you."
He gets up and heads for the counter, making her wait until he's gotten coffee, fixed it up the way he likes it, and made his leisurely way back to the table.
"Roger happen to mention why I'm divorcing my wife?"
"She cheated on me."
"I'm sorry. But I still don't see what that has to do with Roger."
"Or with you." He stirs his coffee methodically, as if the action is grounding him. "Why didn't you tell him? About me kissing you?"
"There was no need. I wasn't cheating on him. I was just lonely for a moment...vulnerable."
"Why were you lonely? A roomful of people. Your brilliant fiance just steps away."
She grabs her things and gets up. "I don't have time for this."
"She was cheating on me with him. With Roger."
She sits back down, nearly knocks what's left of her coffee over as she sets it down awkwardly. It takes her a long time to get out: "I don't believe you."
"Yes, you do." He leans forward. "If you were mine and you were wearing that dress, I'd have been dancing with you. I'd have made love to you when we got home till you couldn't see straight." He takes her hand. "Did he make love to you last night, Christine?"
She jerks her hand away, but she doesn't answer.
And he leans back, a sad smile on his face, as if that is an answer. "How long has it been since he really saw you?"
She thinks of the woman on the balcony, of how mean she was to her. Was it because the woman was annoying? Or was it because she was afraid Roger would like her?
"Roger helped Jocelyn work things out to her advantage. I've got nothing left."
"I'm his fiancee. He wouldn't do this to me."
"And I was her husband. You'll be a lot easier to ditch." He makes a face. "I'm sorry. I don't want to be mean to you. You're not the villain."
"He's not, either." She gets up again. Slowly. With dignity and belief in the man she loves.
"Ask him. Ask him outright. He's not a good liar, Christine, as we both know."
"Did you ask him last night?"
"No. I don't have to. I have proof."
"Let me see them."
"You want to hurt him, you want me to hurt him, the way she hurt you. Or... something. And I won't. I love him and I know he loves me." But she doesn't know that. It's just been too long that she's been with him. Too many years spent believing in this thing that is the two of them. She kicks her chair back.
He throws a datapadd on the table. The first shot is Roger and a dark haired woman at a table in some kind of fancy restaurant.
"Go on. Look at them."
She picks up the padd, thumbs through. Them laughing over a meal. Them holding hands. Her leaning over to kiss him. Him holding her chair. Then them leaving. Going to a hotel. There are notes from whoever took the pictures. At the reception, it says, "No time spent registering." She understands this means they have a standing reservation.
"Where's the money shot?"
She sees the date change. There's more dining, and then this time no shots at the reception. But pictures of the two of them in the room. Whoever took the shots must have found a vantage point from a nearby building. Roger and Jocelyn clearly have no idea they're being observed. Even in stills, they look energetic. Passionate.
She pushes the padd back to him. "I hate you."
"I know. I kind of hate me, too."
She gets up, walks past him, is stopped short by his hand on her arm.
"Your things, Christine."
She looks back, sees she left her pack with all her stuff in it. Work that will benefit Roger. Keys that will open Roger's door. Credits that Roger gave her.
She grabs it and hurries out. When she's far enough away, she throws away everything that has to do with him. Except the credits and the keys.
And then she goes to the nearest Starfleet office and enlists. They're short of nurses. The recruiter seems to think she'll make a good one. She's told him she's a science major; she hasn't told him she nearly has her doctorate in biochem.
A nurse sounds fine. There will be training for that, and she can lose herself in the work. Training for Starfleet things, too. Military protocol and such, things that will take the place of everything she's had for years.
Everything but Roger.
She makes sure he's at his office and then lets herself into the apartment to pack up the few things that are really hers and to use some of the credits he's allocated for her to ship them into storage. She leaves the credit chip still mostly loaded, and sets it next to a note telling him exactly why she's leaving.
She makes sure to let him know it was his good friend Leonard McCoy who told her the truth. She thinks she owes him that.
And maybe it's her revenge on McCoy for telling her.
The Enterprise is being taken over by cadets, all the soon-to-be officers pouring onto it, filling the corridors with scrambling blurs of red.
Chapel waits for the new personnel to hit sickbay. As an Officer Candidate School graduate, she boarded the new ship early. She's enjoyed her time in space so far, worked hard and got promoted fast on her first assignment. Her CO suggested she apply for OCS and she made the cut first time. She knows it was probably the education she didn't tell the recruiter about that clinched the deal. That and the fact that she has no life other than the service, other than medicine.
She's made it her religion not to fall in love. Especially not with the handsome--or not so--doctors who think nurses are there only to love and serve them--preferably at the same time.
There is a commotion at the far end of the main room, and she hurries over to see what is going on. She's head nurse now; it's her job to maintain order.
All sense of composure flies away as she looks at McCoy, who's supporting another cadet, one who looks very ill. "You," she says to him.
"You," he says, with a quick grin before he manhandles his friend onto a bed. "A little help here?"
She can tell there is something distinctly non-regulation about the whole thing. But she also likes the look of McCoy's friend, and sees a desperation in both their eyes that she's come to recognize in the best of the men she's treated and served with. McCoy's an ass, but in this case, he's doing something good--or at least believes he is.
She hasn't seen McCoy since she left Roger. Never tried to look him up. Learned through some mutual friends that Roger took Jocelyn with him on some expedition he mounted. A planet Chapel had never heard of. She quit keeping track of him after that, let all her old friends go. Never mentions to her new friends and shipmates that she was once important to the "Great Roger Korby."
That part of her life is over. She misses Roger sometimes, but less than she would have thought. It probably speaks volumes about their relationship that she didn't mourn it long, but she's still mourning her own stupidity.
McCoy has left sickbay, and there is confusion and she goes back to doing her job: keeping order, readying the ship to treat wounded that Doctor Puri has warned her about. They are going out to meet something bad, and she should be frightened, but she's turned so much of herself off since she enlisted that she's not sure what she feels.
Other than annoyance when she hears McCoy's voice and knows he's come back to sickbay.
The ship shakes, and then there's a jolt, a strange screaming as if the hull is protesting, and everything that isn't nailed down goes flying. Chapel's been in an earthquake and this is like that, only worse, because there's nowhere to run.
"Doctor Puri, I need some help--" McCoy's voice is strangled as he breaks off, and Chapel whirls to see that Puri has been hit by something. He's fallen, and his limbs lie in a way that living people don't tolerate well.
She rushes over, sees that McCoy has a look in his eyes that is bordering on sheer panic. She recognizes it because she feels it, too.
"Look at me," she says softly, and when he doesn't, she grabs his hand and digs her fingers into his palm until he reacts to the pain. "Look at me."
He looks at her, seems to see something in her eyes that reassures him in its sameness. "We can't do this. Holy God, Christine. What are we doing up here...in a goddamned war in goddamned space."
"I don't know." She looks around. They're on the floor, kneeling over Puri, and others are elsewhere not looking at anything but their patients, so she pulls McCoy to her and kisses him hard, almost viciously.
It takes him only a moment to kiss her back.
When they pull away, she says in her best "Nurse Chapel" voice, "You're in charge now, Doctor."
"Do the regs say that?"
"Yes." Actually, she says that and hopes the regs will back her up. But the other cadets are children compared to McCoy, and if they're going into war, she wants a doctor who's at least old enough to shave running the show. "What would you like to do next, Doctor?"
He rallies. He stands and he surveys, hands on his hips as he mutters to himself about "stupid goddamned military egos," and then he puts out a hand almost absently and helps her up. With a small smile, he says, "Nurse Chapel, prepare for hell. I'll go fill in our fearless leaders on what's happened."
"Yes, Doctor." But before she can turn to go, she feels his hand on her arm, the same hand she's dug her fingers into, leaving little indentations, no doubt, in the flesh. She turns and meets his eyes.
She smiles gently. "You're welcome."
"And I'll want to talk to you when this is all over."
"Assuming we survive."
"Make damn sure you do. I'll do the same." He lets her go and is off, finding a comm station, making his report.
"I didn't sign up for this," she mutters, sounding amazingly like McCoy as she goes off to start putting things back into order.
Chapel slumps against the wall as she hears McCoy's friend--who inexplicably is their new captain, at least for the duration of the crisis--announce that they can stand down.
"I knew he could do it," Captain Pike mutters in his drug-induced fog. They've done what they can for his immediate injuries; they'll let Starfleet Medical do the heavy lifting on this one. The nerve damage is extensive and McCoy doesn't want to make it worse.
She can tell he admires this man who was his instructor. She has seen much in the time Pike's been in sickbay to admire herself.
She cleans up, replenishing hyposprays and sanitizing instruments. She gives two of the nurses a break, tells them to get some rest. The others work with her to put Sickbay into some kind of shape.
McCoy comes in; she can tell by his footsteps--when did she learn the pattern of his walk? He walks over to where she is working, stands next to her, and says, "Come into my office when you're done."
She realizes that he's leaving her the option to never be done. That if she wants, she can stay out here in sickbay until they limp home.
She finishes her immediate task and then goes to his office, the door opening for her and shutting as soon as she's through the door.
"Lock door," McCoy says as he gets up from the desk and pulls her into his arms.
She knows this is entirely against regulations. He's her boss and they need to maintain a professional distance. But she's never been very good at following rules. It was not seemly to be sleeping with Roger when she was his assistant, but she did it anyway.
She leans in and kisses McCoy, even if it's wrong. He pulls her closer, moves her back until she hits the wall. He's not waiting, is pulling her underwear off, and she helps him by undoing his pants. He hikes her up, she wraps her legs around him, and they are together.
It's quick. It's frantic. They kiss desperately, and he is whispering her name, and she says, "Len," over and over and by his smile, she can tell he likes her calling him that. He is slamming into her, but it feels right, it feels good after everything that's happened, as if he's laying claim to her, as if they've survived and now there's this.
She comes and he kisses her, muffling the sound of her, then of himself coming. She slides off him, and they lean together, still kissing, the touches gentle now, and he is touching her the way he did that night they met, his hands dancing over her body and hair and then her sex as if he can't get enough of her.
She's very glad of that. She believes it's possible she won't get enough of him, either.
"Kirk to McCoy."
Chapel laughs and he laughs, too. He bends down and gets her underwear, hands it to her, then fastens his pants. He doesn't answer the hail until she's back together. And when she starts to leave, he shakes his head, so she stays.
"Command wants our reports, Bones. So we better start them."
"I was working on mine when I was rudely interrupted." He winks at her.
"Well, don't dawdle. Command wants them ASAP. They're going to study what happened before we get home. Probably to figure out just how big that brig cell needs to be." Kirk sighs. "Is Pike in any shape to make a report? They're particularly interested in his take."
Len looks at her and she mouths, "Later, maybe?" and he says, "I'm not sure, Jim. We'll do our best."
"We? Oh, that nurse you were telling me about. The one you--"
"Okay, Jim. I'll get right on that. McCoy out." He cuts the signal.
She laughs. "So what did you tell him about me?"
"I may have noted you were here."
"You didn't know I'd be here?"
"No. We were assigned so quickly. Did you know I'd be here?"
"I'd have transferred off if I'd known."
He moves back to her, pulls her into his arms but not to kiss, he's dancing with her, to music that isn't there until he begins to hum the Tennessee Waltz. "I'm sincerely glad you didn't know, then."
"For what it's worth, I did not enjoy hurting you."
"Actually, Len, I think you did a little. I think you were hurt and angry, and you wanted company in your kingdom of misery."
He sighs. "I prefer my version." And then he stops dancing and pulls her close and kisses her, his lips gentle on hers, his hands roaming again. This time he takes off her underwear slowly, lifts her onto his desk, waits for her to undo his pants. Then he's inside her again, and it's not frantic or quick.
She is trembling by the time he gets done with her. He's soon trembling, too.
"Roger has no idea what he's lost, the big fool."
"I think the same goes for Jocelyn." She pulls him back to her, kisses him tenderly. "I haven't made love since I left Roger."
"I wasn't so celibate." He looks down. "I wasn't a particularly nice person to be with."
"They both left us with our own version of darkness. Yours just wanted company."
He laughs. "I just want your company now." His eyes are guileless. This honesty and directness shouldn't be unexpected, given their interactions, but it still moves her.
He starts humming again, swaying slightly against her, dancing with them still joined. "Yes, he lost his little darling the night they were playing that beautiful Tennessee Waltz," he sings in her ear, his voice gravelly and low as he changes the words to fit their situation, and she holds on and kisses his neck and lets him lead them in a dance she hopes never ends.