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Sickbay, E deck, 2020 hours June 5 2151

"Archer to Sickbay"

The comm. buzzed and Jean went over to the wall panel to answer it. "Sickbay, Olenick here. Is there something you need, sir?"

"I need to speak with Phlox."

Jean looked over at the Sickbay doors which had just closed behind Phlox as he headed into the corridor, medkit in hand. "He's on his way to the launch bay now, sir."

"One of the Novans was hurt in a cave-in on the planet, so we have two patients coming aboard Enterprise."

"Understood, sir. I'll inform Phlox and get Sickbay ready."

A few minutes later the captain and Phlox arrived with Lieutenant Reed and a few Novans in tow. The injured Novan, Akary, was carried in by the Novan leader and two crewmen while Archer helped Reed limp into Sickbay and over to a biobed.

After putting away his medkit, Phlox spoke with Jean. "Ensign, I think it would be best if you saw to Lieutenant Reed. The Novans have met me already, so it would be easier for me to treat the other patient."

She nodded in agreement, eyes briefly darting over to look at the lieutenant. "Alright. Reed was shot in his left leg, right?"

Phlox tilted his head to one side for a moment, trying to work out which leg she meant. Every so often, he still found the nuances of English confusing. "Yes, and since he was on the planet much longer than the rest of the away team he was exposed to far more radiation, so there might be some residual affects."

Akary was becoming increasingly uneasy, and when he saw the Denobulan doctor coming towards him he shouted for the captain. "Archer! How will your skyship fix my leg?"

The captain had been standing near Reed and speaking with him, but at this outburst he patted the lieutenant's shoulder and flashed him a rueful smile. "Duty calls." Reed nodded his understanding and Archer walked across Sickbay to calm the upset Novan. On his way across he passed Jean who was heading over to a supply cabinet near the biobeds.

She got out an instrument tray and put a few things on it before coming over to Reed. He was perched uncomfortably on the edge of a bed, sitting awkwardly so that his injured limb wouldn't touch anything, and carefully balanced to keep himself from falling. His uniform was dirty and he looked tired but relieved to be back on board.

After she put down her tray of instruments on a small rolling table which she set up next to Reed's bed, she turned to face him with a warm smile. "Welcome back, sir. If you'll just lay back I'll take care of that bullet for you."

He shifted position and smiled at her briefly. "Thank you, Ensign. I've been hoping to hear that."

She administered a local anesthetic and within minutes she'd located and removed the bullet from his leg. Afterwards she cleaned and bandaged the wound, put aside the instruments to be cleaned, and discarded everything which wasn't needed anymore.

Reed idly watched her tidying up, trying to process all that had happened since the morning. Just a few hours ago no one on board had any idea whether or not there was anyone still living on Terra Nova. Now the 70-year-old mystery was solved and all of the Novans, descendants of the original human colonists, were going to be relocated to the safety of the southern continent.

Suddenly, he noticed that Jean was standing nearby and looking at him expectantly; he must have zoned out for a few moments, thinking about the planet, and missed something.

He sat up, shaking his head at himself for being so impolite. "I'm sorry ensign, did you say something?"

She narrowed her eyes and looked at him curiously. "Are you feeling alright, sir?"

He nodded slowly and returned her curious look. "Y-es, ensign. Except for my leg I feel fine. I was just thinking about everything that happened today. My mind must have wandered while we were talking."

Now she wasn't looking at him but at the scanner. The scans seemed normal aside from a slight drop in red blood cell count, but she attributed it to the blood he'd lost from his wound. She lowered the scanner and shook her head. "I think we were talking about the mission before we got side tracked."

The medical scanner was still humming so she turned it off. "I asked how the Novans treated you."

He shrugged. "Well enough." He sat up and looked across Sickbay at the Novan Phlox was treating. He wasn't one of the Novans Reed had seen in the tunnels, but he had the same grayish flaky skin and odd colorful designs on his face as the others.

"I tried to strike up a conversation with one of the guards. He wasn't interested in making small talk, but later on he offered me something to eat."

As they talked Reed began to feel strange. His tiredness, which he'd written off as a result of the mission, was increasing as time passed and not abating as it should. In fact, he could barely keep his eyes open. He blinked a few times and shook his head slightly to wake himself up, but instead his stomach clenched in a familiar way.

Oh damn. I don't need this.

He gritted his teeth and took slow, deep breaths, trying to push aside the sudden nausea.

Good thing I'm already sitting down. Can't carry on a decent conversation standing up and feeling like this... He looked up guiltily, realizing that his conversation with Jean had ended mid-sentence.

"I'm sorry again, Ensign. I can't seem to concentrate for some reason."

She looked him over carefully and, on a hunch, took the scanner out of her pocket. "Sir, are you sure you're okay? You don't look too good."

He shook his head in confusion and then blanched as his stomach did a flip. "I don't know, actually. I feel... odd. Like being seasick." He'd put an arm across his middle and shut his eyes tightly in a grimace.

Quite a lot like being seasick, actually. Or when I had zero-g training. Well, we know what comes next, don't we? I wish she'd stop watching me so closely.

He felt her hand rest briefly on his arm. "Why don't you lie down again?"

He shook his head 'no', pressing his lips together tightly and crossing both arms over his stomach as he bent forward slightly.

"Would you like a bag?"

He forced his eyes open briefly and looked at her for barely a second, not trusting himself to speak.

Her eyebrows knit worriedly at the pinched, anxious look on his face and she offered a weak smile. "I'll take that as a 'yes'."

Reed turned away slightly, closing his eyes again and letting his head droop. He seemed to wilt, resigning himself to the coming embarrassment. Sickbay was full of people. Phlox, Cutler, and Jean were all there, not to mention Captain Archer and the two Novans.

And everyone will find out exactly how strong my stomach really is in less than a minute. Perfect.

Jean stepped away from his bed, moving quickly. She dashed over to a cabinet on the far side of Sickbay and pulled open the drawer which contained the air-sick bags. She grabbed a bunch before closing it again and rushing back to her patient. Once she was close enough, she grabbed the end of the privacy curtain and pulled it shut around Reed's bed. He glanced up at the sound of the curtain rings sliding along the track and seemed to relax after seeing that the curtain had been drawn again.

He didn't stay relaxed very long. Bare moments after she stepped over, he started retching, one hand clamped over his mouth and the other still on his stomach. She opened one of the bags for him and pushed it into the hand over his mouth. He gripped the bag so tightly that his knuckles turned white, but he soon realized doing that just closed the bag so nothing could go into it, so he loosened his hold. As he emptied his stomach into the bag, his other hand migrated up to help keep the bag in place.

Half a minute later, it was over. He coughed a little, trying to dislodge something that had stuck in his throat, and absently noted that Jean had put one hand on his upper arm, holding him steady while he was being sick. Her other hand had been, and still was, occupied with holding several more bags, in addition to holding onto his other arm.

Good thing, too. Might've lost my balance, otherwise.

He lowered the bag and carefully sealed it, trying to avoid catching a whiff of the sick while he did so.

She hovered just at the corner of his vision, not wanting to crowd him but still watching him worriedly. As soon as he was satisfied that the bag was closed adequately, he started to hand it over and she took it, putting it aside.

He was surprised when she handed him two cups, one empty and one partially filled with water. When he looked at her in confusion, she nodded at the water. "So you can rinse the taste out of your mouth."

He accepted the first cup without saying anything, just took a small sip of the water in his mouth and swirled it around a little before spitting it out into the empty cup. He grimaced. It helped a little, but the taste of bile was still fairly strong, so he repeated the process until the cup of clean water was empty.

"Sir, would you like more water?"

Instead of looking at her, he took a minute to run his tongue along the inside of his teeth before answering. "Yes, thank you."

She nodded, awkwardly patting his shoulder. "Don't mention it." She took the cup of dirty water from him and disposed of it, coming back over with a fresh cup. He accepted it without question and resumed trying to get rid of the sour, sickening taste. It took another cup before he was satisfied.

"All done?"

He glanced up at her and bobbed his head once, still holding a cup in either hand. When she took the cups from him, she noticed that his hands were shaking very slightly. "Sir, why don't you lie down? I'm sure you'd be more comfortable."

Reed nodded and complied without argument, which was enough on its own to make Jean worry. He generally fought his doctors every step of the way and insisted that he was fine. On the rare occasion when he didn't fight, it was because he didn't have the energy to, and he actually felt sick enough to be cooperative.

She turned the scanner back on and checked the readings more closely. Reed was showing signs of mild radiation poisoning, but he hadn't been on the planet long enough to cause this level of exposure. Her brow furrowed in the glow of blue light from the scanner as she tried to think of something which would account for his symptoms. Hold on...

"You said the guard offered you something to eat?"

Reed had closed his eyes but now he opened them again. "Yes. Some kind of local animal. It wasn't cooked thoroughly. Looked kind of like an armadillo, actually... "

Her eyes went wide. Bad. Very very bad. "Sir, you are aware that those tunnels and the creatures living in them were heavily irradiated?"

His brow crinkled, remembering T'Pol's initial scans from orbit. "Subcommander T'Pol said there were low levels of surface radiation, but it was so minimal that a few hours of exposure wouldn't be dangerous."

"Yes sir, but you were on the planet much longer than anyone else. The radiation is actually worse in the tunnels, since the groundwater and soil are saturated by it. Their groundwater is contaminated, too, so any prepared food they gave you was also contaminated. The Novans have an inherited immunity to the radiation and they're used to their own foods, so they wouldn't think that it might make you sick. It was a good faith mistake."

He groaned, cursing himself for an idiot. Good job, Malcolm. Serves me right for eating something cooked by a tunnel dweller on a radioactive rock. The diggers could've at least had the decency to glow or something. Small wonder my lunch tasted off.

"Good faith or not, I assume this won't be pleasant."

"It isn't serious, but you're right; it won't be fun. It should be like having a bad stomach bug. You'll need to sleep as much as possible during the next few days and you'll have to stay hydrated. It'll give your body more time to recover and if you're asleep the time will seem to pass more quickly."

He closed his eyes and made a soft noise of displeasure, quietly mumbling "bloody wonderful."

She stood by the bed and looked at him sympathetically for a minute before going to a drawer and taking out a vial of blue liquid. She loaded it into a hypo and touched his shoulder, holding it up for him to see. "Here, this'll help with the nausea and it'll let you sleep."

Her hand was halfway to his neck when she paused. "Ensign?" He stared at her expectantly, raising his head from the pillow when she lowered her hand. "You are going to give me that medicine, aren't you?"

She shook her head, thinking. "Yes sir, but first I'm just gonna make sure it won't interact with the other meds I have to put you on." She stepped away from his bed and over to the diagnostic console, where she quickly pulled up the necessary information.

He started to sit up, blanched, and lay back again. "What other medicine?" He couldn't see what she was doing from where he lay, but he heard her move away from the console and start taking some things out of drawers and storage cabinets.

"Well, when someone's been exposed to radiation we use a mixed treatment to take care of the aftereffects. The fact that you ate radioactive material will make treating you trickier, and the fact that you were shot won't help any."

Not being able to see what she was doing made him uneasy, as did her mention of a less than straightforward treatment. He hoped that the treatment would just be limited to a short stay in Sickbay, a few doses of painkillers and something to settle his stomach, but he had a sinking feeling that it would be more involved than that.

Jean stepped back through the curtains, a worried frown on her face. "I'm sorry sir, but I have to tell Phlox about your exposure to the radiation."

Reed slowly raised his head, looking at her and not seeming to understand. "But you're a doctor. Can't you tell him after giving me the medicine?"

"I could, but Phlox has more experience. He might know about a better treatment option. Besides, he's my CO. He has to sign off on my treatments anyway." Reed frowned and Jean lightly tapped his arm. "I'm sorry, sir. I didn't mean to make you wait, but it won't take long."

He scowled at her back as she moved into the main part of Sickbay. Her footsteps moved towards Phlox's voice and Reed listened with some amusement as the doctor tried to chat with the Novans. They didn't seem inclined to be very talkative, so the Denobulan found himself doing the lion's share of the talking, which was probably why he sounded so happy when Jean came up to him, PADD and scanner in hand. The two doctors spoke very briefly and then Jean was walking back over to her patient.

As she got closer Reed saw that she had returned with a variety of medical equipment, including an IV stand, a sealed old-fashioned hypodermic needle, tubes and what looked like a few bags of colorful liquid.

He eyed the equipment distrustfully, especially the IV, which he didn't seem to like the look of. "What's all this for?"

She indicated each item with her chin, not looking at him as she put them down on the small rolling instrument cart. "The IV fluids will keep you hydrated and replace the nutrients you've lost." And the ones you're going to lose. Odds were he'd be sick again over the next few days and the dextrose and electrolyte solution would keep his blood chemistry at the right balance. "There's also an antibiotic since the radiation might make you more susceptible to infection, plus a painkiller and something for the nausea."

Reed nodded, not overjoyed at the prospect of having a needle stuck in him for an extended period of time. At the same time, though, he was glad that she wasn't trying to use any of Phlox's creatures on him. No matter how much he disliked the idea of needles, they were better by far than any treatment involving the Osmotic Eel or Regulan bloodworms. At least with a more conventional treatment, there was no x-factor of another living being and whatever unpredictable things it might decide to do.

Jean smiled, taking a small antiseptic swab and wiping it over the back of his hand. She'd put on new gloves at some point, but Reed hadn't seen her do it. Must have been when I wasn't looking, or when she was over with Phlox. He idly wondered what the gloves were for, trying to look up at the ceiling and not to think about the sterile needle she'd just unwrapped.

"Okay, sir. You'll feel a pinch in the back of your hand. It may hurt a little, but the pain will pass in a second or two."

He looked over at her, trying not to let his apprehension show – he'd never liked needles – and trying not to let his eyes slip to what she was holding. "Do get in with it, ensign."

She nodded, giving him a quick, sympathetic smile. "Yes sir."

He heard a plastic 'pop', assumed it was the cap coming off the needle, and went back to studying the ceiling. His stomach was churning again and he bit down lightly on his lip, trying to squash the feeling. Reed didn't know if it was because he was uneasy about the needle or because he wasn't well, but he knew that he'd be sick again, and soon, if that anti-nausea medicine didn't find its way into his bloodstream quickly.

"Don't worry, sir." He felt a tight pinch and sudden pressure in the back of his right hand. True to her word, the pain was gone in an instant. "Nobody likes this part."

He looked down, curious despite himself when he felt something being smoothed across the back of his hand. He saw Jean inserting a small tube at the end of the IV line into what looked like a small duct. The duct was attached to the needle she'd inserted into his vein and taped securely in place.

That must have been what she was smoothing. A tiny bit of blood, no more than a drop or two, had spilled onto his skin. Neat job. The IV tube went into the duct and Reed felt an odd, slight pressure on the back of his hand as the IV fluids started into his system.

Jean had hung the various bags from the IV stand and positioned it near the head of his bed. At the moment she was turning a small knob, adjusting the rate at which the drugs dripped from their bags into Reed's IV line.

"Alright, sir. I'm going to give you a mild sedative..." she turned around, loading a hypo. When she turned back, some of the color had returned to his face and he'd released his lower lip from his teeth. Jean was visibly relieved; she hadn't enjoyed seeing him in distress. "Are the anti-nausea and pain meds working?"

Reed nodded, feeling suddenly buoyed up by the medications and oddly touched by her concern. "Yes, actually. Thank you."

She smiled, putting a gentle hand on his shoulder. "Here's the sedative, sir. You should be asleep in no time."

After she administered the dose, he groaned quietly and then crossed his arms, trying to ward off a strong shiver, but being careful not to move his hand too much since he didn't want to inadvertently remove the IV. She put down the empty hypospray and took a pillow and some blankets out of a drawer located next to the bed. When she slid the pillow beneath his head, he opened his eyes briefly and thanked her through chattering teeth.

Chills were racing up and down his back, beginning to move down his arms and lingering on the back of his neck, making the short hairs stand on end. When did it get so cold in here?

Suddenly he was warm again and he opened his eyes curiously. He saw that Jean had spread a couple of pale blue medical blankets over him and was reaching for a knob on one of the wall panels.

"Not that I don't appreciate it, Ensign, but I don't intend to stay here for long. I'll be going back to my quarters shortly, so the blankets aren't necessary."

Jean lightly bit the inside of her lip, knowing he wouldn't be too happy about this. Of course, she was a little surprised that he hadn't figured it out on his own. After all, how usual was it for doctors to stick a patient with an IV line and then send them on their way? "I'm sorry, sir, but Phlox is keeping you here overnight for observation. He'll release you in the morning depending on how you're doing."

Surprisingly, Reed didn't seem annoyed. In fact, he actually looked relieved. As much as he wanted to be back in his own quarters, he'd been dreading having to limp all the way there from F Deck. He'd barely been able to get from the shuttle to Sickbay, even with help, and they were fairly close together on the same deck. At least now he wouldn't have to worry about walking anywhere until the next morning.

A bit confused but glad that he was taking it well, she put her hand back on the knob and turned down the lights over his bed. "Are you comfortable, sir?"

His eyes were already closed but he answered in the affirmative, thanking her afterwards.

"Sir, if you need anything, please press this." Reed felt her put something into his hand. He opened his eyes, curious about what it was, and saw a small flat disc with a button on it and a cord connecting it to the wall.

He looked at it blankly. What exactly does she think I might need?

She saw his look of doubt. "Just press it if you have a problem, sir. Sleep well."

He looked up at her, puzzled, but he didn't hand back the call button, even though he clearly wanted to. "Thank you, Ensign."

She shook her head, allowing the beginnings of a smile to tug at her lips as she closed the hanging curtains to give him some privacy. I wish he'd stop being so damn proper and reserved. Well, at least it means he's cooperating.


A few hours later, well after Phlox had finished treating the Novans, both of the doctors and Crewman Cutler were all still in Sickbay. The Novans and Captain Archer were all gone by then and Reed was the only patient left.

Jean was puttering around, helping put Sickbay back to rights, when a soft chime sounded on the bio-monitors. It was Reed's call button.

She grabbed a couple of air-sick bags and quickly walked over to his bed, stepping past the curtains. He had twisted onto his right hip and was trying to edge his head over to the side of the bed while simultaneously holding his stomach.

"Sir," Jean moved around to stand by his head and bent down, putting a tentative hand on his arm. "D'you want a bag?"

He nodded, blanching afterwards but not letting go of his stomach. Of course, this meant that he didn't have a hand free to take the bag. Jean shook her head. Holding a bag for him would be tricky and might embarrass him, so she tried to guide one of them into his hands, but he wouldn't uncurl his fists.

"Would you rather use a bin?"

Reed forced his eyes open a tiny bit and gave her a miserable little nod.

She grabbed the nearest bin – it happened to be on the floor just behind her – and held it even with his mouth just as he started to be sick.

"Here it is, sir." One of her hands held the bin in place and the other rubbed his back as he curled up on the bed, heaving. "Shhh. It'll be okay, sir."

His head hung over the side and she gently held onto his shoulder, wanting to make sure he wouldn't lose his balance. Reed took a hand off of his stomach, curling up a bit more to compensate for the loss of pressure, and grimaced when he moved his leg. He was a little surprised that moving it hurt more now than it had earlier, but it was far from his main concern at the moment. He gripped the edge of the bed so tightly that his knuckles went white, trying to steady himself as he was sick.

He'd caught sight of one of the diggers on the mission, just before it all went wrong. Armadillo-looking creature... but it felt like the damned thing was still alive in his stomach and crawling around. Last time it had just been nausea and the all too familiar message coming from his body to his brain that there was a mutiny in progress. Now, Reed was getting the distinct impression that not only was the digger crawling around in his stomach, but it wanted out. It wasn't too sure about taking the long way, but it knew that it could leave the same way it had initially come in...

Jean perched on the upper part of his bed, sitting behind him and still holding the bin in her right hand. He'd moved down a little when he curled in on himself, freeing up some space, and she took advantage, switching position so her left hand was rubbing his arm comfortingly and that arm was looped around his shoulders. "I've got you, sir. You won't fall off." He responded by relaxing his hold on the bed slightly.

The vomiting seemed to peter off after less than a minute. Jean expected him to be relieved, like she was, but even after he was done, Reed still held his stomach and looked nauseous. The digger still wanted out. He kept his eyes tightly shut and his face stayed in a pained grimace.

Jean had a feeling that he'd want to rinse away the taste like he'd done before, so she called Cutler to come over. "Liz?"

Cutler started to walk over and was just about to pull the curtain aside when Jean spoke sharply. "Don't look in here! I just need two cups, one full of water and one empty. Just hand them through when you've gotten them ready."

Cutler's silhouette shook her head and the crewman sounded a little put off by Jean's brusqueness. "Of course, doctor."

Jean knew that she should have gotten the water herself, but she didn't want to leave Reed. He still looked miserable and she wasn't sure if he would be sick again. It seemed likely, and even if it didn't happen she wanted to stay where she was, just for moral support. She kept rubbing his arm and hoped it was helping him.

Reed turned his head slightly, curious and wanting to see her but not wanting to show his face. "Why did you ask her to stay outside?"

She just shrugged. "You're embarrassed enough with me here." Jean saw his expression shift slightly and hoped it meant that he appreciated the gesture. "I figured you wouldn't want her to come in, too."

He was about to reply when Liz's outline darkened part of the privacy curtain. "Doctor, your water." Cutler fumbled around trying to hand the cups through, but couldn't find a break in the curtains with both her hands full.

Jean offered Reed a sheepish smile and gave his arm a pat before she got up.

"Thank you, crewman." She walked to a break in the curtain and leaned through, making sure not to give Cutler a view of Reed as she accepted the cups. Jean looked down at the cups and then gave Liz an apologetic smile. "Sorry I was short with you, before."

Liz smiled and made a 'forget about it' motion with her hand. "No hard feelings. When I'm sick, I don't like an audience, either."

Jean grinned at that and looked back over her shoulder, checking Reed's reaction. His face had relaxed a bit and he almost smiled.

Good. Now he knows that we want to help and that we'll give him some space. Jean nodded at her. "Thanks, Liz."

She ducked back through the curtains and started to hand Reed the filled cup, but he wouldn't take it. "Sir?"

Reed shook his head a tiny bit, trying not to make himself dizzier. He opened his eyes and gave her a look which could only be described as mournful.

She tilted her head at him, ducking down to be at his eyelevel despite the possible danger. "Sick again?"

He nodded, closing his eyes and pressing his cheek into the faux leather of the bio-bed covering. His face had a distinct green tint. He almost looked like a blushing Vulcan. He opened his mouth, wanting to say something, but started vomiting again instead.

Just before it started, Jean must have seen something pass over his face because she quickly moved out of the line of fire, put the cups aside, picked up the bin and held it in place for him. She stood beside the bed this time, keeping a firm hold on his left shoulder as he began to shake. This time it only lasted for ten seconds or so, but afterwards Reed felt like he'd been turned inside out, held up by his feet and shaken. He tried to pant quietly as his breathing slowly became regular again.

"Shhh. Feeling any better?"

He almost laughed, vaguely noting that she was rubbing his arm. "Not really." He coughed and then swallowed, grimacing at the sick, sour taste.

"Please have the water, sir." She was holding it out to him. Once he was finished being sick, she had put down the bin and reached for the water with her free hand.

He nodded, accepting the filled cup. As soon as he did, she reached for the empty cup, also holding that one out to him. Still lying twisted onto his side with his head slightly raised, it wasn't hard for him to do the next bit. He took a sip of clear liquid, taking the other cup at the same time. After swishing around and spitting out a few mouthfuls, he was satisfied and let his head drop back onto the bed. "Uhhg."

Jean moved away from the biobed, taking the cups from him and dumping them in the nearest sink. When she turned back, he was shivering. The blankets had been disturbed by all the movement and now they were dangling from the bed, half trailing onto the floor. She picked them up, spreading them over him again and nudging his elbow. "Move up in the bed, sir. Just rest your head on the pillow there."

He followed her directions without protest, settling back at the head of the thin, narrow bed, and hissing as he tried not to move his leg. Once he was marginally more comfortable, Reed closed his eyes and took a few deep, calming breaths. He wanted to get back to sleep but was wary of asking Jean to give him something.

Jean rested a hand on his arm, smiling down at him sympathetically. "Try to sleep, sir."

He smiled without opening his eyes. "I'm already working on it, ensign." His stomach churned unpleasantly. Armadillo escape imminent. The faint smiled disappeared.

She moved her hand, squeezing one of his hands through the blankets. "Want some help?"

He opened his eyes and just looked at her, blinking suspiciously. It was a strange thing to say, even for her. He licked his lips, a bit apprehensive. "What did you have in mind?" He was still staring at her warily.

She smiled at his unease, apparently amused by it. "Watch."

His knees were raised and she slid a pillow under them, asking him to relax his legs on it. Then one of her hands hovered over his stomach for a second and she looked at him for permission. He nodded, curious.

Besides, she can't possibly do anything that could make it worse.

Her hand started moving in a circle, applying pressure tentatively at first, then more firmly. Her other hand joined in, and then both of them paused for a few seconds, allowing him to get used to the sensation before they started moving again. The hands circled clockwise, one following the other and moving from the bottom of his rib cage to just above his pelvis. Jean wasn't too sure how he'd react to that, so she proceeded cautiously with the massage. However, about a minute later Reed made a noise.

"Mmmnnnhhhmm."

Jean looked over to his face. "Is that a good sound?" There was a smile tugging at her lips, but since his eyes were closed, he didn't see it. He only nodded.

Her smile grew as he seemed to relax, letting himself melt into the bed. After an interminable minute, she asked "It feels good?"

He nodded again, relaxing further into the bio-bed. Just after she'd started the massage, his stomach had calmed down. As a matter of fact, it hadn't bothered him at all since the belly rub started. Reed smiled, relieved.

Thank god for that.

He felt himself drifting off to sleep, absently noting, even as he dropped off, how silly it was that he was getting his tummy rubbed.

Small wonder Porthos enjoys them so much. Hm, maybe that's why the armadillo stopped trying to escape. Guard dog on duty...

Jean had barely been doing it for five minutes when she heard a soft snore from the vicinity of Reed's pillow. She grinned, slowing the motion of her hands until they'd stopped, and then withdrawing them. "Good night, sir," she whispered to him, gently passing her hand over his hair, smoothing it in place. He smiled in his sleep at the touch, and she had to bite back a laugh.

The big tough Lieutenant Reed, terrible ruler of the Armory and fierce protector of away teams, lulled to sleep by a belly rub. She picked up the dirty bin and stepped back out of the curtains again, thinking.

Actually, it makes a good deal of sense. He's a guard dog in terms of personality, and even the toughest, meanest, most dangerous guard dog likes getting a belly rub from someone they trust. And I suppose this means that he trusts me. She smiled to herself, carrying the bin over to the trash chute and removing the plastic liner from it.

Good, that should help me out when I'm trying to take care of him.

Liz came up and tapped her. "How is he?"

Jean grinned. "Sleeping like a baby. Hard to believe how angelic he looks when he's asleep..."

Liz handed her a new trash liner and threw the dirty one down the chute. She tried to imagine Reed looking angelic, but couldn't quite picture it. "Hard to believe," she agreed. "We're done cleaning everything and putting things away. I was just gonna go get a bite to eat in the mess hall. Care to join me?"

Jean put the new liner in the bin and walked back towards Reed's bed. "I'd love to. Just one sec."

She stepped through the curtains, putting the bin next to the head of his bed, just in case. The beeping monitor caught her attention and she looked up at it, momentarily worried. His vitals were steady and he was still fast asleep. Jean walked to the end of his bed and fondly tapped his still-booted foot. "Night, sir." She resisted a ridiculous urge to call him Fido and stepped out of the curtains again, heading to the open Sickbay doors where Liz was waiting.

"Night, Phlox."

The Denobulan doctor nodded at the two women as they left and then resumed studying a tissue sample taken from Akary's leg. The microcellular decay really was quite fascinating...