Rating: T for language and themes

Characters: Chapel, McCoy and minor OCs.

Summary: Chapel is having a bad day. McCoy makes it all better! :)

Disclaimer: I do not own Star Trek or anything associated with it. I'm doing this for fun, not profit.

Author's Note: Thank you so much to everyone who's reviewed, favorited and added this story to their alert list! You guys are all so AWESOME!


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The Federation Enquirer

~Part 4~

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Christine and Eliza stumble through the main entrance of Star Fleet Medical Hospital clutching at the contents of Eliza's trashed shoulder bag. They nearly fall on their faces (again) when Christine looks over her shoulder to see how the security detail stationed outside is handling the tide of paparazzi, vying for position and still yelling questions at the two nurses. The transparent aluminum doors cut off their voices, hissing shut as soon as the women clear the pressure sensitive tiles on the floor. The paps don't push too much at security, they've learned in the past couple of days not to mess with the red shirts.

"I'm sorry!" Eliza gasps wetly. She's trying to straighten her jacket, push papers and PADDs into what remains of her bag and take the rest of her personal items out of Christine's arms all at the same time. "I- I'm sorry, this is all my fault!"

"Did they touch you?" One of the red shirts stationed by the front desk asks, jogging over to them. His partner follows close behind him. "Did they grab your bag or your clothes?"

"No." Christine answers, taking Eliza's effects out of her trembling hands and looking up at the man in front of them. He's big and if she weren't a nurse Christine might have been intimidated by him. But there's genuine concern in his eyes despite the way he's tensed up for a fight. "Eliza's bag was just over stuffed as usual. It gave up the ghost while we were crossing the parking lot."

"I'm sorry." Eliza mumbles again. She looks over her shoulder at the crowd, whipping her head back around when a few flashbulbs go off.

"They won't come in here if they know what's good for them." The man's partner says, resting one hand on her hip, fingers twitching against her empty phaser holster. She tosses her long, coppery braid over her shoulder contemptuously. "I don't care what Vice Admiral Rescher says. They set foot in this hospital, I'll kick their asses. Those vultures shouldn't be allowed on campus."

"Easy, Williams." The man, Christine glances down at his sleeve, the lieutenant directs his partner back to their post by the desk with a nod of his head. She sniffs, throwing one last glare out the main doors before turning her back and walking away. "Sorry, ladies. We have orders not to instigate a confrontation unless the paparazzi make physical contact or vocalize a threat. You sure you're alright?"

"Yes, Lieutenant, we're fine." He glances between Christine's stony expression and Eliza's unshed tears, running one hand over his goatee as if he's debating whether he should call her on it, before he nods and turns away. "Come on, Eliza. We're going to be late as it is."

Christine takes long strides down the hallway, navigating her way towards the ground floor crash room on autopilot. There's an extra bag in her locker that she can lend to Eliza before the other nurse heads up to radiology. Her boots make satisfying clacks against the tile floor, Eliza's own heels clicking not far behind.

It's been a little over a week since the Enterprise limped into Earth's Space Dock and, overall, Christine has been doing alright. She's been able to spend some time with her parents and brother in between shifts and make time to decompress. PR hadn't shown any interest in tapping the lower level medical staff for publicity, much to her relief. After her debriefings had finished she'd managed to stay under the radar of anyone interested in insider details of the Narada Incident. But the paparazzi have been getting more and more aggressive over the past few days and it was only a matter of time before they started going after the little guys for information.

Christine's going to be in a bad mood for the rest of the day. Not a good thing when her boss is blowing gaskets over his own lack of privacy.

They reach the crash room just as Aggy Pramn, head nurse and self righteous tyrant, comes out. She holds the door for them, hand on the control panel, staring down her prominent nose in disdain. "You are late, ladies. I know Dr. McCoy's standards are easily met, Miss Chapel, but Dr. Miller and myself are not so lax, Miss Reinald. You should consider buying a new wristwatch in addition to a new bag."

"Yes, Ma'am." Eliza says, ducking into the crash room.

Two weeks ago Christine would have done the same. She would have taken the easy route and kept her nose out of Nurse Pramn and Dr. McCoy's ongoing war of words. Two weeks ago Christine respected the doctor professionally, was in awe of his talent and intellect, but knew better than to step in where she hadn't been asked to.

Two weeks ago Christine hadn't seen Dr. McCoy pull a broken Med-bay together, take untested techs and nurses firmly in hand and lead them through the most horrifying experience of their lives. She hadn't watched him fight for every life, accepting no failures. Throwing his nurses and medics into tasks they would normally have blanched at, seen how they'd succeeded at them if only because he expected them to. She hadn't picked herself up off a bloody floor with the rest of Med-bay, after the ship jumped and lurched unexpectedly, to look around at all their frightened but determined faces and think 'If I make it through this, whatever happens, wherever I'm stationed, this is it. This is my ship, these are my people and he's the heart of us. If I leave this place, it'll be because they're dragging me out kicking and screaming.'

Two weeks ago, McCoy was just her boss.

But that was two weeks ago.

Christine shifts Eliza's things to one arm, brings herself to attention, stares Pramn in the eye and salutes.

"Sir, yes, sir!" She belts out loud and sharp enough to make two techs down the hall jump and turn to gape back at them. "This nurse will endeavor to arrive on time, sir! Would sir like this nurse to convey sir's opinion of the Lieutenant Commander's professional criteria to the Lieutenant Commander upon reporting for duty, sir!"

Christine can see Eliza frozen in shock out of the corner of her eye, mouth hanging open, her torn bag laying forgotten at her feet. Pramn recovers from her own surprise quickly and narrows her cold, gray eyes, thin lips pursing. Christine can practically see the wheels turning as the woman sizes her up.

"That won't be necessary." She snaps. Pramn gives Christine one last calculating look before stalking off down the hall to terrorize the nurses working the front desk.

Christine darts into the crash room before the door can slide shut. Her heart is beating a mile a minute and she has to dump Eliza's things into the nearest chair because her entire body is trembling. She's royally pissed off and riding a frantic kind of victorious high that shoots lightening from the tips of her fingers down to her toes.

"I can't believe you did that." Eliza whispers, hands cupped over her mouth. "She's going to make our lives a living hell! Cristy, what were you thinking?"

"She's a bully and she deserved it." Christine snaps. The door of her locker protests briefly but bursts open when she hits it with her palm. She snatches her spare bag out and tosses it at her friend. "I missed the bus, got waylaid by paparazzi and feel flat on my face right in front of them. I was on the Enterprise. I'm not putting up with her shit. Not today, not ever!"

"I just-" Eliza stops, closing her eyes to keep herself together. She takes a deep breath and Christine feels herself come back down to earth.

"I'm sorry, Liz." Christine says, resting a reassuring hand on her shoulder. "Let's take a couple of minutes and get your things packed up, okay?"

They've got Eliza's PADDs and paperwork organized and stowed away when the door hisses open again. Christine's head snaps up – a small, utterly ashamed part of her worried that it's Pramn come back to chew her out. But it's Dr. McCoy who storms in, one hand holding his chirping comm up so he can glare at it.

He flips the cover open, lets the man on the other end get as far as "Dr. McCoy, our readers would like to know-" before holding it up to his face and yelling into the receiver. "Stop comm-ing me, you jackass!" He snaps the comm shut and throws it across the room and into the recycling bin. His lips twitch into an almost-smile at the dull, metallic sounds of crushed cans.

"You're just going to have to dig it out again." Christine says after a few moments. McCoy turns to them and scowls. She's known him long enough not to take it personally.

"You're late, Chapel." He growls and points at the wall in the direction of the front desk. "There are God-damned paparazzi outside the doors and Pramn's glaring acid at me. Is that your doing? As if I don't have to put up with enough bullshit from that woman-"

He stops abruptly, staring past Christine's shoulder, completely flabbergasted. She turns her head to see that the dams have finally burst. Eliza is sobbing quietly over her scuffed compact.

"Chapel... the hell is going on?"

"I'm sorry!" Eliza wails before Christine can answer. "Pramn is m-mad at us and Cristy sassed her and you're y-yelling at us and-and-and the paps were chasing us and they got a p-picture of my bum!"

Eliza gasps, trying to reign herself back in as Christine rubs her back in a soothing manner. The doctor's gone very still. He glances between Eliza, the clutter of items and the ripped bag; though the wall as though he's looking at something far off, eyes narrowed. His gaze comes to rest on Christine's and she could swear his eyes look more green than hazel. Green like copper pennies consumed by fire.

"That's it. They've gone too far." McCoy says, voice low and dangerous. He turns and palms the door open, moving out into the hall.

"Stay here, okay?" Christine says before darting out after him. The hallway is empty when she looks out but McCoy couldn't have gone far, she wasn't that far behind him. She heads toward the stairwell knowing that, if McCoy's gone that way, she'll be able to hear his amplified bitching even if he's managed to reach the topmost landing.

"-what Jim says, I don't need him defending my damned honor." The door of the hypo storage room hisses open, emitting McCoy's grouchy ramblings followed by the doctor himself. Christine spins away from the stairwell and practically sprints back past the crash room, closing in on her superior. He's inserting a couple of serum canisters into a pair of hyposprays as he turns the corner towards the front desk. "They can have all the scandalous pictures they want. But harassing my nurses, that's over the fucking line!"

"Eliza works in radiology." She says when she catches up, eyeing the man as he adjusts the settings on his tools. "What are you doing?"

"Right now, every nurse in the God-dammed building is one of mine!" McCoy snaps. Christine's almost having to jog to keep up with him. They're far enough done the hall that the nurses at the front desk glance up to see what's going on. "And I'm going to teach those bastards a lesson."

"What? You can't do that." Pramn is leaning over the front counter to glare at whoever's making the racket. A look of morbid satisfaction comes to her face when she sees who it is. "They've got cameras!"

"And I've got highly potent, fast acting laxatives," McCoy smirks, tossing one hypospray so it flips up in front of his face before snatching it out of the air and tucking it into the pocket of his labcoat, like a cowboy holstering a pistol. "In a convenient, one touch applicator."

"That's a bad idea!" Pramn's face is turning scarlet as they get nearer. She's rounding the end of the front desk, marching out into the lobby to intercept them. Christine tries one last time. "Dr. McCoy!"

"Christine, I'm about to be arrested for physical assault. You can call me Leonard." He gives her a nod as he breaks away. The two red shirts leaning against the desk exchange a look as McCoy approaches. Williams bounces on the balls of her feet, face perfectly blank and the Lieutenant is brushing his goatee with one hand, as though he's trying to hide his expression. McCoy nods to them as Pramn storms up, cutting between him and the main doors. "Morning Ensign, Lieutenant Cupcake."

"Sir." William acknowledges and manages, through exceptional self control, not to snicker.

"Bone Doctor." The Lieutenant nods back.

"Dr. McCoy!" Pramn hisses, hands on her hips, glaring up at him. "Don't you dare disgrace this Institution any more than you already have!"

A gasp comes from Christine's left. She thinks it sounds like Eliza, maybe she followed them, but she can't take her eyes off Pramn and McCoy to check.

Everyone has seen the pictures, has heard the stories both old and new. No one has ever even hinted at them to the doctor's face.

The lobby has gone perfectly still, watching as the two try to stare each other down. Christine is holding her breath, not even daring to breathe, the tension in the room is so thick. Pramn's stepped too far, taken her own dislike of the man beyond any reasonable measure. Everyone in the room knows it. Even the red shirts can sense it, watching and waiting with steady hands and sharp eyes.

Pramn knows it too, drawing herself up taller, chin stuck out. But she's too prideful, too self assured, to back down.

'Say something.' Christine thinks, hands bunching into fists. 'Say anything. Don't let her stand there, looking down on you. You picked us up when the world was breaking and kept us standing, don't you bdare/b let her cut you down!'

"Nurse Pramn, please inform the Dean that I won't be completing my shift today." He steps around her and walks out the doors. The paparazzi surge forward to meet him.

"Well." Pramn trembles in fury, sucking in deep breaths of air. She rounds on the red shirts. "Well? Aren't you going to go out there after him!"

The Lieutenant brings his hand down from the comm unit at his throat to stick his thumbs in his belt, watching the mayhem unfold out past the doors. The two guards outside have stepped back from the fray, taking it all in as they observe from the sidelines. The Lieutenant tilts his head toward Ensign Williams. "I don't know... our orders where pretty clear. What do you think, Ensign?"

"Oh, I think we probably should." Williams answers, grinning. "After all, some of those paps are getting away."

"An excellent point." He replies, pushing off the desk and leading the way across the lobby. "Note of caution, Ensign. Stay well out of the doctor's way. We wouldn't want any casualties, now would we?"

"Dully noted, sir."

"I can't believe this! You're superiors will hear about this!" Pramn yells over the screams as they walk through the main entrance. She turns back toward the desk. "One of you comm the nearest PD, this instant!"

"He's quite something." Eliza breaths out. They watch as Williams catches a pap off the rebound, directing him back toward McCoy's whirlwind of shiny, neck stabbing doom. "Is he single?"

"He seems to think so." Christine grins, watching as one pap tries to dart into the safety of the lobby. He hits the transparent aluminum hard. The Lieutenant has his hand pressed to the emergency lock. The whole thing reminds her of mischievous blue eyes, how they'd be framed by laugh lines if he were here. "Though for the life of me, I can't figure out why."

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The next morning Christine buys a tabloid on her way to the hospital. When she gets to the crash room (no paparazzi to be seen and Pramn manning the front desk, looking like she's choking on what should have been a personal victory) she cuts out the front page and tapes it up in a place of pride. The morning shift all gather around to admire it.

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Crazed Doctor Attacks Innocent Bystanders!!! "Not the First Time" Claims Earth's Savior!!!!!

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~End Part 4~