Epilogue – One Month Later

McCoy washed the blood from his hands and examined the bustle around him, searching for a particular face. He was tired, his body ached from being bent over patients for the last forty-eight hours and his patience was wearing thin. This was not how he'd planned to spend shoreleave. He finally found her, annotating the chart of a sleeping patient, a look of concentration on her face, strands of hair coming loose from her normally neat bun. She looked shattered – she'd had to educate and organise a primitive medical staff in aseptic technique in addition to assisting him and looking after patients. She'd been more overworked than he had been. And, of course, she'd done it all with a smile. She really was something else, and he would love to do nothing more right now than kiss her just for being so damn well perfect. But, of course, he couldn't – at least not publicly – shoreleave or otherwise. He could never damn well catch a break. The earthquake had hit almost as soon as their transport had landed, and they could hardly have turned a blind eye – not when their own medical knowledge was so much more advanced. Of course, the people had seen it as fortuitous – them being here at a time like this. He supposed it was. They had saved many lives. But he didn't have to like it.

He studied her slim form and those blue eyes, and scowled. If he didn't know better he would have thought that she was deliberately ignoring him. He'd barely had a chance to speak to her since they'd got here. There had been a few minutes when they'd both been cleaning up following an op – but she'd ensured that there wasn't much talking and he'd been more than happy to comply (he was finding that he liked that side of her more and more). Now their role was over, they had less than twenty-four left, and he most definitely didn't want to spend it here. He wanted to be with her. And for once, fate owed him.

Christine had begun to feel that warm sensation on her peripheral vision that told her that he was watching her, and attempted not to smile. It had been a long few days – and not what she had anticipated at all – but in some ways it hadn't been a total loss. They had saved a lot of people, made a real difference, and built a good relationship with the people that might lead to a promising alliance. But that was not why they had come here and she could practically feel McCoy bristling with frustration from across the room.

Things had been peaceful between them since the circumstances that Jim now called the Korby Incident. Of course, the doctor still got angry occasionally, and they sporadically argued over the staff or his stubbornness, but things were different. Because she was sure of his feelings now, and he was sure of hers – and she knew that behind every one of his harsh words there was a softness that he kept for her.

"If I'd realised you were so slow at updating the drug charts Chapel, I would have requested another nurse." She jumped – she had never seen him move towards her. Well, that was what she got for daydreaming. His voice was insensitive and loud in her ears but the hand at the base of her back was entirely different. Perhaps it was scarcity of physical contact she'd had with the Doctor on the Enterprise, but every touch sent her heart into overdrive at the moment. She had a feeling that he knew that.

She forced her face to calmness and turned to him with a small smile. "I imagine another nurse would have said no to you, doctor. We are on shoreleave after all."

He scowled at her, and removed the drug chart from her hands. "Don't remind me of that. Come on, let's get out of here."

The idea was tempting – more than tempting when he was looking at her with heat in his eyes – but there were still so many things that needed to be done. She was hesitant to leave such an untrained staff to their own devices. "I can't. There's still more drug charts I need to check over, and the patient in bed ten's wound is weeping again and-."

"Damn it Chapel. Stop mothering them. They'll be fine on their own."

"Even so..."

"We're leaving." He gave her a firm look she knew too well. "Don't make me order you."

She raised an eyebrow at him, smile coming to her lips. Clearly he'd forgotten why they were here in the first place. "As I recall doctor, you can't order me at the moment."

He stared at her, then frowned. "No I can't. But I swear I'll carry you out of here kicking and screaming if I have to."

She laughed at the earnestness on his face. "I'm not sure if I should be alarmed at your threats to abduct me. Do you have somewhere to be?"

"Damn right I do. And so do you." He took her hand. "Come on, before someone notices and needs us to do something."

He all but dragged her out at an almost jog. She wondered if he was worried she'd escape if he paused. As if she'd want to. The butterflies in her stomach and the heat where their hands met ensured her than she wanted to be there as much as he did. She wouldn't have minded if he'd abducted her one bit.

And then they were free. McCoy breathed the sweet air deeply in the darkness, ignoring the dust in the back of his throat that arose from the destroyed homes. Given the size of the quake, the actual number of buildings flattened was unexpectedly small. The unfortunate part was that the epicentre had been under a filled arena, where most of their patients had come from. It had been carnage when they had arrived, all smoke and noise and running. Nevertheless, as far he could make out from his subtle questioning, their hotel was still intact and functioning. A small mercy at least. He glanced at Chapel, who seemed to have revived in the fresh air. She smiled at him, squeezing his hand. It was strange how such a small action fed fire through his veins and made his heart race. Or perhaps not given the intensity of his feelings for her. It had been a long month. If Jim gave him one more knowing wink he was probably going to punch him, friend or otherwise. He made Spock look a whole lot more bearable. At least the Vulcan wasn't interested in his personal life.

They rounded the corner in easy silence, lights flickering from ships up above. He liked that she didn't small-talk – he always had. For once he could imagine that they were any other couple on shoreleave. No one even gave them a second look as they walked down the street – Humans were a regular sight here. He kissed her hand, just because he could, and they entered the hotel. He'd meant to choose it himself when Jim had finally decided on a location for shoreleave, but he'd run out of time, and finally he'd had to rely on Jim's recommendation. He was expecting something as gaudy as the women that Jim seduced, but felt considerable relief when he finally saw it. It was small and plain-faced, an inn for locals rather than tourists. Sometimes Jim could be surprisingly perceptive. Things might just be salvageable.

Christine smiled as they collected keys and he handed her one. He'd got her a separate room. Something about that lack of presumption touched her. He was going to leave this in her hands – let her decide what happened between them. Well, she hadn't waited a month just to hold his hand.

They paused outside her door and things seemed suddenly awkward between them. She found it slightly amusing – she spent the majority of her day with him, they spoke about virtually everything, and yet here they were, like any other couple, standing outside of a door and waiting for the other to say something. Another couple walked past them. The man was whispering something a blue skinned woman's ear and the girl – a Tyirna? – was giggling. McCoy looked visibly sickened and she felt a wave of pity for him. For them both. They were too old for such games.

"Do you want a drink, doctor?"

"Hell yes." He looked visibly relieved as he followed her into her room.

She located the replicator and ordered something she vaguely remembered hearing the name of, and an orange juice for herself. McCoy was still standing, leaning against the wall, watching her with his arms folded. He looked tired, stubble lined his cheeks, and his hands were shaking slightly. But his eyes were warm and appreciative, despite the frown on his face, and she found it reassuring. She handed him the drink wordlessly. He met her eyes as he took it, placed it on the cabinet beside him, then wrapped his arms around her waist and kissed her so thoroughly she would have dropped her glass had he not taken it at some point at placed it next to his own. She had forgotten exactly what it felt like to be kissed by him. His touch alone was electrifying, but his kiss was something else entirely. When they broke she was breathing hard, her arms still locked around his neck.

She smiled at him. The awkwardness between them had vanished. "Better?"

He returned her smile, looking suddenly younger. "Much." He hadn't realised how much of a strain it was keeping away from her until he didn't have to. Hell, the woman had no idea of the effect she had on him. Especially with her arms still around his neck. Especially when she smelt so strongly of pear drops. And when she kissed him back the way she had. He reached down and kissed her again, gentler this time, enjoying the feeling of her, committing to memory her taste and the feeling of her skin. He was going to have to go a long time before he could do this again, and he was going to memorise as much as he could about her while he could. She stroked his back slowly as if sharing his thoughts, replacing his tension with a different sort entirely. When they broke she looked up at him, cheeks flushed and eyes shining that brilliant blue that almost broke his self-control.



She gave her best nurse's look. "If you're going to keep kissing me like that, may I suggest you remove the pins from my hair? I've found they get in the way." She said it so matter-of-factly that he burst out laughing. There really was no woman like her.

"Get in the way of what exactly, nurse?"

She frowned at him, but his laughter was reflected in her eyes as he moved her away slightly and began to remove the pins. "Well doctor, I would have thought you'd heard, but when two people care for each other very much-."

"Stop being smart with me, woman." He silenced her with a kiss to her neck, then continued to pull out the pins as she grinned at him. Her hair loosened, falling thick and golden down her back, and he ran his hands through it appreciably. There was something intimate about seeing her with her hair down. Perhaps it was because he was one of the few people that had. "You should wear your hair down more often Chapel."

She touched his face softly. "And you should get more sleep. We both know that neither is practical."

"Perhaps." He supposed he preferred her just keeping it for him anyway. He kissed her on the temple. "Certainly sleeping doesn't seem practical right now."

She laughed. "And what does?"

"I can think of a few things."

"Only a few?"

"Well I've had a damned long day. You're usually the one with all the ideas, Chapel." She kissed him softly, then deepened it, hands winding around him until she filled his senses and stopped coherent thought. Just when the flames were becoming unbearable she broke suddenly, leaving him breathless.

"Like that one?" She gave him an amused look, breathless herself.

"That seems along the right lines." He managed to get out. Then he pulled her to him and lost himself in her beauty.

An unwanted sound broke both their thoughts a few minutes later. Christine did her best to ignore it, but could feel McCoy begin to freeze. She felt herself sigh, and pulled away.

"Damn it." The doctor muttered. He pulled himself off her and the chair they had been sitting on. His communicator was beeping loudly for attention. "I swear, I'm going to murder him." He stomped his way across the room in fury. She watched him, shirtless, as he groped for it in his pack. "I am going to make it nasty. And I'm a damn doctor. I can make it nasty." He finally found it, and held it in his hand for a moment, scowling.

"Doctor?" She wondered if he was going to answer it. He probably should – it would be important if they were contacting him on shoreleave.

He looked up at her for a second, and then, before she could protest, he grabbed his phaser from his holster on the counter, and shot it. The sound died immediately and he contemplated the smoking remains with a satisfied look on his face.

She got up slowly and made her way to him, attempting to refrain from sighing. Sometimes he was entirely ridiculous. She calmly took the phaser from his hand and put it back down on the counter. "That seemed a little unnecessary, Leonard."

He turned his scowl on her, but it softened on contact, and he had the decency to give her a slightly rueful look. "Even if I hadn't answered it, Jim would have used it to track us down. You know what he's like. He'd knock the door down if I told him to go away."

"I doubt that it was the captain, doctor."

"Of course it was – who else..." He trailed off, then gave her a sharp look. "What makes you say that?"

She smiled slightly. "Well, he promised me that he would leave us entirely alone for the whole of shoreleave."

"And you believed him?"

"You might have forgotten doctor, that I knew Jim as a child."


"And that makes me privy to a great deal of information about him that he may not wish to become public knowledge."

He gazed at her for a moment, then arched an eyebrow. "Chapel, did you blackmail your captain?"

"That's a strong word. But yes, I believe I did." She had a feeling that Jim had rather liked being blackmailed. It hadn't taken much either – a few simple references to the first (and, as far as she was aware, only) girl to break his heart and she had won. She had a feeling he'd wanted to give in anyway. He liked playing the victim.

McCoy was giving her an appraising look. Then he grinned. "Chapel, have I told you recently that I absolutely adore you?"

"No, but then, as I recall, you never were a man of words."

"Damn right." He pulled her close and hugged her tightly. "But, for what it's worth, I love you."

She gazed up at him– the man who had stood by her side through everything, and kissed his cheek. She did not know what she'd done to deserve him, but she'd thank her lucky stars every day. "I love you too."

The End

Or Just the Beginning

Just wanted to write a thank you for all the support you've all given me over the last 9 months. This was my first fanfiction – and I don't think I would have been able to finish it without the reviews and support you've given me. Thank you again for being wonderful readers and not eating me alive (I've reread some of the early chapters and I might have deserved it) and putting up with my somewhat questionable music taste. I have several stories in the works (and I need to go back and edit this), but the one that is coming next is going to be called The Art of Rescue – and goes something like:

"Jim had known his best friend's daughter since she was five, and had always been her favourite uncle. But a chance meeting with the girl, now a woman, opens up feelings for him that could be dangerous for them both. And Joanna has secrets of her own – secrets that could get them both killed."

Anyhow you get the jist. Unfortunately you'll get some spoilers for my next McCoy/Chapel fic, since this is set afterwards, but you won't get the details of course. I'm simply bursting to tell this story. I'm hoping to make it a whole lot cleverer then At Your Side, and I'm really excited about it. They're two entirely complex and brilliant people. And let's be honest – Joanna's the only person that I think could take Jim. It was what the writers always intended. However, it should fit nicely with the new film that's coming out next year too.

I have another McCoy/Chapel fic up my sleeve of course. It's untitled but goes something like:

"Having an illicit relationship on the Enterprise is by no means easy for Christine and McCoy, but when the Federation is plunged into war the Enterprise is forced onto the frontline, and they find their problems are only just beginning. In such peril they must fight not only for their love, but for their lives. Expect aliens, medicine, general grumpiness, and turning tables."

I've wanted to do a war fic for a while and I think they're a great couple to do it with. There may or may not be the baby word involved (you'll have to read the Art of Rescue to find out). Plus you get to find out how Christine finally gets to be a doctor.

Anyhow, review or message me and let me know what you think. The Art of Rescue won't be ready until next year because of its complex timeline – you'll see when you read it. Thank you again and cheerio for now.