NEW MIS In Coventry 1/1 [PG-13] (Christmas Story)

Title: In Coventry

Author: Paula Stiles (

Series: MIS

Part: NEW 1/1

Rating: [PG-13, for war nastiness and some bad Brit language]

Codes: None

Summary: War is a dangerous business for orphans far from home.

Disclaimer: The Paramount scroogies own Trek and its universe, but all the characters in this particular tale are mine. If you want to borrow them, you have to ask. Not making any money off of the story. Really. Please don't bother to sue me. I live overseas and I'm skint.

Note: The English carol used in this story is the 15th century 'Coventry Carol' (yeah, yeah. I know it's a bit late, even for the Slaughter of the Innocents). This story centers around an OMC named Alex Sawalha from my DS9 story, "Triage". If you liked him, you should like this story.

Archive: Sure, if you ask.


The Jem'Hadar bombardment of Danilon Five began at 1400 hours on December 24, 2374. It should have been difficult to tell that it was Christmas Eve. The Veracruz had been evacuating colonists all day from the mining colony, which was just outside the Badlands, 153 light years away from Earth. The season seemed clear enough, though, from the foul mood of all the Humans on board. Every one of them, regardless of race or creed, undoubtedly wished that Santa would send them a cease-fire for Christmas. Unfortunately, Santa wasn't delivering out that far.

"Looks like we've been sent to Coventry again," Sawalha quipped, as the tunnel shook around him.

"From your mouth to the Vortas' ears, Lieutenant," Dr. Tiggert, the Veracruz's Bolian CMO, said dryly. He continued down the tunnel towards the medical center. Sawalha trailed after the shorter man, like a greyhound after a pit bull. He yawned and rubbed the stubble on his face. He and Tiggert had been the last team to beam down to the mines below the surface, before the Veracruz was forced to break off. Nobody else would come until the relief force arrived to drive off the five Jem'Hadar ships bombing the planet. Christ only knew why the Dominion wanted this air-deprived ball of ice and dust in the first place. Nobody ever told the medics that kind of information.

Sawalha rubbed his eyes. He'd already done a shift and a half in the Veracruz' sickbay before beaming down. He didn't think he'd catch any sleep before ship's morning. If he'd been smart, he wouldn't have volunteered in the first place. He could have just sat there and looked blank, like everybody else, when Tiggert gave the assignment. Even though he'd known he wouldn't, Sawalha sometimes wished he didn't look so insufficiently reluctant.

Tiggert gave him a sharp glance. "Can you handle this, Alex?" he asked. "I know you were on duty all night. I need you alert."

Sawalha waved it off. "Can't be helped, now. Just pour a few cups of coffee into me and I'll be fine."

They rounded the corner and entered a scene out of some frenetic comedy of errors--except that what was happening didn't seem at all funny. The OR, an open area with rough, rocky walls, was crowded with patients being bandaged, patients being cut open, patients screaming and crying and coughing and moaning. Plenty of meatball surgery here. Gurneys stretched down the opposite tunnel, as far as Sawalha could see. A medic in a nondescript, white ground unit's uniform trotted up to them. She was a short, compact Trill. The spots down the side of her face looked smudged with chronic fatigue. Sawalha hung back as Tiggert stepped forward to greet her.

"Are you the medics from the Veracruz?" she said.

Tiggert nodded. "I'm Commander Siro Tiggert." He jerked his head at Sawalha. "This is Lt. Alex Sawalha. What can we do for you....?"

"Commander Gora," she replied. She looked from Tiggert to Sawalha. "You guys are it?"

"I'm afraid so," Tiggert replied. "We're full to the gills ourselves on the ship. They'll have to offload what we've got before they can come back. They may send back another ship entirely."

"Shit." Absently, she rubbed her arm. "That could take days. Either of you any good at triage?"

"Alex is a trauma nurse. His usual duties include triage, when appropriate," Tiggert said. "I'm a surgeon, so just tell me where to scrub up and I'll get down to it."

"Good. You can come with me, Commander." Gora glanced at Sawalha, and pointed at the tunnel from Hell at the far side of the room. "We've got plenty of work for you tonight, then, Lieutenant. Knock yourself out."

"I'll try not to," Sawalha muttered as he headed across the room, dodging gurneys and harried personnel. Yeah. This was gonna be a bugger of a night. Why couldn't he have a normal Christmas Eve like other people? He could be back home in Cardiff having dinner with his mother and her partner, or out getting pissed with old schoolmates. But no, he always had to be stuck out on the frontier in the middle of somebody else's bloody war.

*Just pretend you're any place but here.*

Even Sawalha's Vulcan father-in-law did more to recognise the holiday than he could. That reminded him. He'd just received a disc from Simal yesterday. It must have been sent months ago, because nothing newer was getting through. Sawalha had slipped it into one of his pockets just before he and Tiggert had beamed down here. He might get a chance to look at it after he finished this shift. Whatever it was, it was bound to put him right to sleep. He could use that right now. He was starting to see twice as many patients as he really had.

The letter most likely included some bland Christmas greeting that Simal had created months before, just in case something happened to delay mail transit--like, say, the first full-scale conflict in over a century. Leave it to Simal to be the only sentient being in the quadrant to be prepared for a Federation-wide war.

Simal was one of the most humourless people that Sawalha had ever met. Strangely enough, the two of them always got on well. Simal seemed to assume that if a Human like Sawalha was willing to put up with the idiocies of a Vulcan wedding and the difficulties of the marriage afterwards, then it was only logical that he must love Simal's only daughter. Sawalha respected Vulcan logic a good bit more now than before his marriage. It shielded a considerable intensity of emotion.

Blood and other humanoid fluids smeared the tunnel walls, the sheets, the gurneys. This wasn't a neat, clean job, being a nurse. Sawalha didn't get sad. Instead, he just got himself a cup of coffee and started working his way down the tunnel. 'Sad' was an unwise thing to be, in his business. He did speak sometimes to a counselor, when some case or other had hit too close to the bone, when it felt like he'd walked over his own grave. Mostly, he just let it be.

Ducking and diving and just appreciating the combat rush--that was the way to get through this job and stay sane.

Today, he moved briskly, coffee in hand, amongst the wounded, the almost dead and last, the dead. The plastic barbecue smell of disruptor burns followed him. The dead were easiest, because they required no treatment--just a blanket pulled over the head to make their status clear. The wounded were the ones who required some skill. Sawalha assessed injuries, gave immediate treatment where he needed to, labeled the patient for the orderlies, and moved on. He might toss a smile and a joke at some of the less wounded, but he stayed on the balls of his feet, detached, calm. Really, it was like a dance, some sort of Maori war stomp, or a sword kata. And if it made him look like an insensitive asshole, so be it. That was his job. He could do it in his sleep, if he had to.

"Sir?" A one-armed woman in a yellow engineer's uniform tugged at Sawalha's uniform, bringing him out of his mental meanderings. "Am I--am I gonna die?"

Sawalha smiled at her. "Of course not," he assured her. *Although the guy next to you probably will in the next hour or so,* he thought. "You'll be fine. Everybody's just a bit overworked at the moment. They'll get you all fixed up and settled in, you'll see." It was all bollocks, of course, but it seemed to reassure her. She still looked hopeful when the orderlies whisked her into the OR, two hours later.

Eight hours after that, Sawalha was wishing that somebody would give him the same reassurance, or maybe even a back rub. Nobody ever gave him such a thing, aside from his wife, T'Lal, but it was a nice fantasy. He had processed all of the patients and was crouching against a wall, drinking his fifth cup of replicated coffee, thinking about reading Simal's letter, when Tiggert came up to him and tapped him on the shoulder.

"Why don't you go get some sleep, Alex?" Tiggert said. "You look like Death warmed over."

Alex snickered up at Tiggert. "Thanks a lot, Boss. What about you?"

Tiggert shrugged. "Me? I've had a little more sleep than you have in the past twenty-four hours, Alex. Besides, I'm off to have a nap of my own."

Sawalha nodded at that, then drained his coffee before he stood up, not trusting himself to keep from spilling it. "Just point me in the direction of a bed, oh, mighty Commander, and I shall do as you command." He stretched, but a wave of dizziness made him stop. Damn. He *was* tired.

"Allow me." Tiggert took Sawalha by the shoulders and steered him back through the OR and down another tunnel. They went through a set of pressure doors into a ward area, somewhat larger than the OR. Sawalha noticed an incubator with a baby in it (of all things!) and maybe twenty filled beds. Miraculously, an empty one appeared before him. He lay face down on it, grouching at the blanket which refused to pull up over his feet, since he'd tangled them in it. He felt Tiggert untangle the blanket and lay it over him.

"Thanks," he muttered.

"No problem," Tiggert replied. He might have said something else, but by then, Sawalha was asleep.


"I really wish that kid would stop doing that."

"Why? It's not as though you can hear him."

"Yeah, but you can *see* him. Screechin' his little lungs out. It's creepy."

"Maybe the little guy's just hungry."

"Nope. See that milk dispenser? He's all set. Nice and warm and fed. Better than you and me, that's for sure."

"Maybe he just wants somebody to hold him."

"Yeah? Well, you go right ahead then. Knock yourself out."

Sawalha lifted his head from his pillow. He wiped dried drool off of his mouth with a sigh of disgust. *Reckon you got bed blotch all over your face, too, mate,* he told himself. He muzzily took in his surroundings. He was in a ward filled with patients. The conversation that had roused him came from the two men in the beds next to him. He looked across the room at the object of their discussion. It was the incubator--or more accurately, it was the baby inside the incubator.

"What the hell is a baby doing here?" he said, squinting at the incubator.

"His mother was some Bajoran refugee," one of the guys who was having the conversation said. "She came in on a ship from the Badlands. We think she might have been Maquis. Who knows? She died this morning, right before he was born, so I guess it doesn't matter anymore."

"Oh." If he were honest, Sawalha felt no more for other people's children than most career officers. Sure, he'd like to have one of his own someday, but that depended on many factors. Not least getting a bit more shore leave with his wife, or maybe even an assignment together. She might be Vulcan, but she certainly didn't mind making babies with a Human.

The little mite in the incubator, though, looked so thoroughly miserable that Sawalha did feel a twinge. It was Christmas, for Christ's sake. There the poor kid was, screaming his lungs out to an unsympathetic universe. And the universe couldn't even hear him.

Reluctantly, Sawalha rolled off the bed and headed towards the incubator. He really hated being the one left holding the bag all the time, but he couldn't just lay there and watch the poor kid.

"Hey, you," he said gently, sliding open the incubator. The baby, startled by the change in his environment, stopped crying for a few seconds. Then, he took a huge breath and let loose. Wincing, Sawalha stepped back from the onslaught.

"God! Close that thing, will you? People are trying to sleep!"

"Yeah, yeah," Sawalha muttered. He scooped up the baby and put him over his shoulder, patting him on the back. The baby belched milk all over Sawalha's shoulder, then sighed in obvious relief. "Eugh," Sawalha said irritably. Oh, well. His uniform was already dirty, anyway. At least now, the precious little munchkin was settling down. He must have been gassy. Sawalha sniffed cautiously at the baby's bum. Well, the diaper smelled all right. No science experiments in there yet. Sawalha scratched his own bum and yawned. These bloody, regulation boxers always rode up his arse whenever he slept in his uniform.

"Get him out of here before he starts up again," somebody called grumpily from across the room.

"Have a little pity, eh?" Sawalha snapped back, as he detached the milk bottle from the incubator, and grabbed the baby's blanket. "It's Christmas." Without waiting for a reply, he headed to the door. He wasn't sure what was out there, but he was certain that the airtight ward doors would cut off any sound. As he went, he made a detour to pilfer the blanket and pillow from his bed, grabbed a chair near the door and dragged it out behind him into the corridor. Might as well make the best of a shitty night all round.

The sound of the bombardment was louder out in the tunnel. Sawalha didn't like the near constant fall of dust from the ceiling. He had to walk down quite a way before he could find a level, relatively quiet spot for the chair and set it down. The baby did not want to settle, at first. He screamed inconsolably for a long time. Sawalha was almost knackered enough to fall asleep on the kid but not quite. After pacing back and forth for some time, unsuccessfully trying to feed the little bastard, he wrapped his blanket around himself, sat down in the chair and put the pillow behind his head. He pulled his father-in-law's letter disc out from his pocket and activated it. The glowing, holographic Christmas tree that sprang up from the disc startled both him and the baby. The baby stopped crying, staring up at what must have been, to him, a blur of multicoloured lights. Then, the music started. After listening to it for a moment, Sawalha laughed out loud.

"Oh, Simal. That is just your kind of Christmas carol." he chuckled. Strictly speaking, 'The Coventry Carol' was not a Christmas carol so much as a post-Christmas carol. A very old one, too. Nearly a millennium. Not to mention extremely depressing, since it was about Mary and Joseph's flight into Egypt and the "Slaughter of the Innocents" by King Herod as he searched for a way to murder the baby Jesus.

At least the baby liked it--enough to stop crying, at any rate. He continued to stare at the tree, his face bathed in Tannenbaum light, as the melancholy tune filled the tunnel. Looking down at him, Sawalha had an idea. He rocked the child, summoning up the carol's words from his memory. He didn't so much sing, as growl, the carol, as softly as he could:

"Lully, lullay, thou little tiny Child,

By, by, lully, lullay.

Thou little tiny Child,

By, by, lully, lullay.

"O sisters too, how may we do,

For to preserve this day?

This poor youngling for whom we sing

By, by, lully, lullay.

"Herod the king, in his raging,

Charged he hath this day.

His men of might, in his own sight,

All young children to slay.

"That woe is me, poor Child for Thee!

And ever morn and day,

For thy parting neither say nor sing,

By, by, lully, lullay."

And finally, thank the God whose birth night this also was, the baby fell asleep.


"Alex." He was being shaken. Yet, it was suddenly, blessedly, eerily quiet. No more things that went boom, and the baby was sound asleep. "Alex, wake up."

"Ohh." God, he was stiff. That was what he got for falling asleep sitting in a chair. "What time is it?"

Tiggert leaned over him. "0630 hours. The bombardment stopped over an hour ago and we're almost done evacuating the place."

Sawalha stared up at Tiggert. "But--why didn't you come wake me?"

Tiggert smiled wryly. "We didn't know where you were, so we kind of forgot about you, I'm afraid. We took a few hits that got through, and we've been scrambling around too much to count heads until now."

'I don't understand." Sawalha shook his head to clear the sleep from it. "Why didn't the blokes in the ward tell you I'd come out here? I told them where I was going."

Tiggert sighed. "They had a cave-in at 0515 hours in the ward. Everyone in there is dead, Alex, so it's just as well that you brought the little one out here. You'd both be dead, otherwise."

Sawalha stared up at Tiggert. "They're all *dead*? All of them? Are you sure?" Most of his triage patients, the ones who had survived the OR, had been in there.

Tiggert nodded. "Yes. Come on. Let's get your patient up to the ship."

Sawalha took Tiggert's proffered hand and scrambled to his feet, his mind circling this news. They were all dead. All of them! And if he hadn't been so orientated on getting the little one fed and tucked in, they would both be dead, too. War was...well, it was damned bizarre. He pushed gently at the mental glass wall that kept him calm as a Vulcan, detached from the worst of it. Sensing something horrible behind it, he stopped pushing. Best to leave it for now. Get through all this, and then go home and see a good counselor. Or better yet, visit T'Lal and shag her blind. He hadn't seen her in over two months, and he missed her every damned day.

Sawalha looked down at the baby in his arms, then kissed his fine hair. "Herod missed you this day," he whispered to the sleeping child. The baby slept on, oblivious. As far he was concerned, the war was over.