Title: Take Off Your Kid Gloves
Fandom: Star Trek 2009
Pairing(s): Christine Chapel/Leonard McCoy, Spock/Uhura, pre-Jim Kirk/Janice Rand, mild Scotty/Gaila, Sulu/Chekov
Word Count: 48,370
Rating/Warnings: M, sex, language, AU
Beta: The incredible fringedweller who helps me keep my tenses straight and the fabulous aj who helps me keep my characters in line.
Summary: Christine Chapel was just trying to work and renovate her house in peace. She hadn't counted on all of her friends deciding to collectively start behaving bizarrely. Or that Leonard McCoy, the new doctor, would be quite so hard to ignore. And really, it could all be traced back to the fact that the wrong bed got delivered. Star Trek AU (No space ships or aliens!)
Author's notes: So, this totally began as a response to a meme and then exploded. I've always adored Jennifer Crusie's novels and I thought that it might be fun to write a Star Trek AU with Jennifer Crusie undertones using my absolute favorite pairing of Christine Chapel and Leonard McCoy. I have to thank my friends-list for being awesome and encouraging and answering all my questions about everything! This story is for you!
The title is from Bonnie Raitt's song Thing Called Love.
Once upon a time, a royal couple decided to create their home a town called Enterprise in the wilds of Northern California. Tiberius and Guinevere Kirk, stars of the silver screen and Hollywood's favorite sweethearts, had longed for privacy and an escape from the flashing bulbs of cameras.
"They're simply looking for some peace and quiet," their publicist explained to the eager throng of reporters. "I hardly think that's too much to ask."
The Kirks visited the town often in between film projects and found a glorious estate complete with a gorgeous sprawling Victorian mansion that Tiberius was keen to renovate and expand. Then their first and only son, George was born.
Happy to keep their son away from the hustle and bustle that was Los Angeles, the Kirks remained in Enterprise and George cheerfully went through the local school system.
He eventually married Winona Sawyer, originally from Riverside, Iowa, who he met while he was studying film at UCLA while she was studying photography. It was Winona's wish to return to Iowa and George, a man truly in love, agreed. They had two sons, George Samuel and James Tiberius.
James adored his paternal grandparents and spent every summer with them in Enterprise, which is where he was eventually discovered by a casting director. He then spent the majority of his childhood in front of the camera on the hit sci-fi TV show, The Tarsus Project.
However, Hollywood is fickle and eventually the show came to its natural end. Jim soon 'retired' and went to college. After travelling the world and discovering a love for renovation (quite possibly inherited from his grandfather), he found his way back to Enterprise and set about revitalizing the town, first turning the old Kirk mansion into a historical monument and running for mayor - which after three separate campaigns - he won.
But, and this should be made clear, this is not actually Jim Kirk's story. This story is about the town of Enterprise and its current inhabitants. Including one Christine Chapel.
And at the moment, she's a little pissed off.
"What the hell is that?"
Christine stood glaring, clipboard and required signature forgotten as the delivery men struggled to bring in what appeared to be a massive hunk of polished oak.
"Uh, it's your bed," the deliveryman with 'Rick' stitched on his lapel said. "Where's the bedroom?"
"No. No! No, I ordered the simple pine frame with the light finish," Christine said. She gestured at the monstrosity being pulled and pushed through her front door. "That - that is a Viking sleigh. I did not order that."
"Well," Rick grunted under the weight of the headboard. "This is what was at the depot and this is what we were told to deliver and it's really heavy, so where's the bedroom?"
Christine felt her mouth open in shock and stared at the headboard. The one she'd ordered? That one was simple, and had slats and would be perfectly functional and comfortable. Instead, she was looking at what could only be a king-sized French oak in a deep mahogany finish that looked decadent and rich and, and, and provocative.
Christine Chapel did not do provocative.
Which may be your problem, a little voice piped up with. Roger's gone. You've finally got the house you've been lusting after and the world is your oyster. So to speak.
I've also got a mortgage payment that, if I'm lucky, will just about leave me enough money each month to buy peanut butter. The store brand, not a name brand, by the way, Christine told the little voice. The last thing I need is a bed that is more indulgent than a chocolate cake wrapped in ganache wrapped in sin.
The headboard slipped a little in Rick's grasp and Christine caught sight of an ornate carving with a fleur-de-lis and something inside of her melted.
Which Rick must have picked up on, because he said, "You know, that other bed? The pine one?"
"Yes?" Christine said warily.
"It's not a good bed."
Christine blinked. "I beg your pardon?"
"It's not a good bed," Rick said. "This? This is a good bed. Sturdy. Strong. Able to cradle you whilst you dream enchanted dreams of love and comfort."
Christine blinked again and felt the "you're bullshitting me" face slide into place. Sadly, it was one she'd had a lot of practice with lately.
"His five year old daughter's into fairy tales at the moment," the other delivery man said, whose name tag read 'Keith'. "Just go with it."
"O-kay," Christine said wondering how this had become her life.
"All I'm saying," Rick said with a pointed look at Keith, "is this is a quality bed. And I know beds. You don't deliver these things for fourteen years without knowing beds."
"He does know his beds," Keith agreed.
Christine opened her mouth to say something, although she wasn't quite sure what, but Rick cut her off.
"Look, just try it out," Rick said, his brown eyes twinkling. "It was made in Sweden, if that helps. They know their beds over there."
"You'll be dreaming of reindeer and fjords in no time," Keith said.
"That's Norway," Rick said jostling the bed frame a little. "Fjords are in Norway."
"Wait! Stop, okay," Christine said holding up her hands. She studied the bed a little more and then said slowly, "If it turns out that you guys delivered the wrong bed by mistake, am I going to have to give it back or pay the difference?"
"Hey, if it's our bad, you can keep it," Rick said with a shrug that had him scrabbling to hold onto the headboard. "And as for the money, who's gonna know?"
Christine stared at the mahogany and her fingers itched to trace the curve of the wood. She sighed.
"The bedroom's upstairs, first door on the right."
After Rick and Keith had left, Christine stared at her new bed. She tilted her head to the side. Well, it certainly looked good pushed up against the freshly painted walls, with the bay window letting light spill onto the mattress. Christine once again congratulated herself on at the very least getting her bedroom in order. The rest of the house might be a serious disaster, but she could sleep in peace.
And sleep she would in that bed. Sweet Jesus, it was huge, yet it somehow fit the rest of the house. Despite being the same size – at least according to the mattress – as the original order, this bed seemed… bigger. The dark paneling of the window-seat complemented the bed and the embroidered blue curtains her great-aunt had sewn herself fluttered in the light breeze coming in from the open window.
The house had been built in 1898 and over the years had been modernized and added on to. Christine's great-aunt Abigail had moved in with her husband Reginald in the early 1950s. Abigail had found her way from New Orleans to Los Angeles, in pursuit of stars and glamour. Luckily for her, she'd had the good fortune (or bad, depending on whether she was in a teasing mood or not) to meet and quickly find herself employed by Guinevere Kirk as the actress's personal make-up artist.
Guinevere appreciated talent and Abigail appreciated working with beautiful people. And Guinevere? Was beautiful. Abigail followed Guinevere most everywhere, including to Guinevere's home in Enterprise. Which is where Abigail Chapel eventually met Reginald Proctor, the local MD.
"It was love at first sight," Aunt Abbie had told a very young Christine on her first visit to California. She had been taking Christine on her first tour of the town, sharing gossipy tidbits for each point of interest. Her eyes sparkling, Abigail continued. "Oh, I was such a clumsy thing. Give me eyeliner and mascara and I've got the steady hands of a brain surgeon. But ask me to walk on my own two feet? Hopeless." Christine giggled as her aunt made a funny face. "I was right over there, outside the drugstore, running errands and I miss-stepped and took a massive tumble down those concrete steps. Smacked my forehead but good.
"So there I was seeing stars and feeling something running down the side of my face and the very next thing, there was this young man with the fullest beard I'd ever seen and hands so large, I thought he was a giant."
"Was it Uncle Reggie? He's very tall," young Christine said.
"It was! Well, I asked him if he was a giant," Abbie said with a smile. "He said, 'No ma'am, just your friendly neighborhood doctor and that's quite the bump you've got.' He helped me up onto my feet, then into his office and then straight into my heart."
She squeezed Christine's hand. "We got married a month later right here in Enterprise up at the Kirk mansion. Then we moved straight into Proctor house which his parents had left to him, and it's where we've been ever since."
Christine had always loved running about the lawn at the Kirk mansion, but that love was nothing compared to how it felt being inside Proctor house. The walls seemed to be filled with comfort and warmth and Christine had looked forward to her summer vacations in Enterprise.
It's such a shame those same walls are covered in mildew, she thought to herself, coming back to the present. This weekend I tackle the living room.
A door opened and closed downstairs and a voice called from the kitchen, "Christine! Are you home?"
"I'm upstairs, Janice," Christine called over her shoulder, not taking her eyes off the bed.
"I've got muffins," Janice Rand said as she clambered up the stairs. An ominous creaking was heard halfway up. "Oh, God! Are you going to get that step fixed, Chris? It gives me a heart attack every time I step-oh, my Lord, what is that?"
Christine looked over at one of her best friends who had come to a full stop just inside the room and was staring in bewildered fascination at the bed.
"It's my new bed," Christine said. She reached her hand out and Janice handed her the bag from the bakery.
"I thought you were going with the pine one," Janice said, looking very smart in her mayor's office clothes.
"So did I," Christine said pulling out an orange-cranberry muffin, handing the bag back to Janice and pinching off a piece. "Supposedly there was a mix-up and I got this one instead."
"Well, okay," Janice said pulling out her own apple cinnamon muffin. "It's kind of big. Like a sleigh."
"It's made in Sweden, apparently."
"They do know their furniture."
"Rick says I'll be having enchanted dreams in no time," Christine said.
"My fairy god-deliveryman."
"Right," Janice said giving Christine the side-eye. "How silly of me not to know that."
"His daughter's in to fairy tales at the moment," Christine said around a bite of muffin. "But, you know what? It's the perfect size and color for my grandmother's quilt."
"Wait, is that the one with the-?"
"Fleur-de-lis?" Christine supplied wryly. "Yep."
"Is that spooky or just a happy coincidence?"
"I think I'll go with happy coincidence," Christine said. "I don't have time for spooky."
"Especially not today," Janice said taking a bite of her muffin. She chewed and swallowed. "That's kind of why I came by. Jim says the new doctor will be arriving today."
"Today?" Christine asked looking Janice. "I thought that was next week."
Janice shrugged. "Apparently he wanted to get here sooner. He should be in by lunchtime. If Jim's to be trusted."
"Is he?" Christine asked with a smirk.
Janice snorted. "I certainly don't."
"Do you have coffee?" Janice asked.
"You're asking a nurse if she has coffee? What's wrong with you?"
"Sorry, sorry. I don't know what I was thinking."
The two women headed out the door, Christine giving her new bed a last look, all the while imagining it made up with her granny Katherine's royal blue quilt.
Janice preceded Christine down the stairs and winced as she stepped on the creaky step. Christine did a little hop and bypassed it.
"I'll have to get Hikaru by later to take a look at that," she said as they went into the kitchen, the only other room in the house that was remotely livable. Christine had attacked it with a massive amount of cleaning supplies and while the paint job was not quite the color she wanted, it was clean and the appliances gleamed. "Unless he's already got work?"
Janice groaned at the question and sat down at the kitchen table while Christine headed towards the coffee maker. "Hikaru Sulu Construction Ltd. will never need to look for work again if Jim has anything to say about it. They're starting on the old drive-in this week."
"Really? Spock agreed to it?" Christine asked as she poured two cups of coffee. She glanced at the clock on the wall and got out another mug and poured a third cup.
"I don't know if 'agreed' is the word for it," Janice said nodding her thanks as Christine gave her a mug. "More like gave in if only to shut Jim up. I know Uhura's going to kill him one of these days. Maybe suffocate him with one of her memos." She paused, a spoon of sugar just above her coffee, then said, "I'll probably watch as she does it."
Christine laughed as sat down with her cup of coffee to enjoy the rest of her muffin.
"What's so funny?" a voice said as the screen door opened. "Has Jim broken something expensive?"
Gaila, Christine's other best friend, strolled in, her red curls artfully done up in a messy bun and her brilliant kelly green dress swishing against her legs. She headed straight to the extra cup of coffee Christine left on the counter.
"Nope, nothing's broken," Christine said as Gaila sat down and made a delighted noise at the sight of a white chocolate and raspberry muffin. "Unless you count Janice's last nerve."
"Stupid jerk," Janice said with a sigh.
Christine and Gaila were familiar with that particular sigh and made sighs of their own. The three women sipped their coffees in a comfortable silence. Until, Gaila made a little sound and said, "I think I've made progress!"
Christine and Janice groaned and rolled their eyes.
"Honey, you say that every two weeks," Janice said.
"I mean it this time!" Gaila retorted.
"You say that every two weeks, too," Christine said. Janice snickered while a lovely pout appeared on Gaila's face. Christine caved. "All right, all right. What have you learned?"
"Apparently," Gaila said excitedly, "Guinevere Kirk visited Monaco when she was filming The Sheik's Promise. Do you know what that means?"
"What does that mean?" Janice asked almost by rote, the corners of her lips turning up.
"Tiberius could have won them off of some wonderfully rich royal in a game of poker at the Le Grand Casino! Can you imagine what they look like?" Gaila asked with a sigh, looking out the window at the mid-morning blue sky.
Janice and Christine shared another look. Gaila's fixation on the so-called lost jewels of Guinevere Kirk was getting out of hand.
"Gaila," Christine said slowly. "You do know it's a myth? A legend? It was probably something that Jim's mom told him to get him to sleep at night or something some stagehand made up and it took on a life of its own."
"Or," Janice added. "If, by some amazing chance, they are real and Guinevere did actually misplace some of her valuables, they're hardly going to be the Hope Diamond's long-lost cousins."
"I'm aware of all that," Gaila said lightly. "And I know that if I actually found them, all I'd get might be some kind of finder's fee, since they'd really be Jim's and all. But, what if they are the Hope Diamond's long-lost cousins? Wouldn't that be awesome?"
Christine felt the fight leave her and remembered why she adored Gaila so much. After all, it had been Gaila's unswerving optimism and determination that had helped Christine get over Roger and finally decide to buy her house.
Gaila wasn't a native to Enterprise, unlike Janice whose family hailed back at least three generations. But, she had taken to the town instantly.
She actually came to town on the arm of Scotty, the owner of the town pub. One weekend he headed off to Las Vegas to attend a conference and ended up sitting at a bar chatting happily with a lovely young woman with hair redder than the sun.
Gaila had been making her living working with one of the showgirl productions. However she was always prompt to point out that she worked behind the scenes with the hair and make-up.
"You know the movie Showgirls?" she was fond of saying, "Well, take away about a tenth of the crazy and it's pretty close."
Scotty fell for her like a ton of bricks and the feeling was more than mutual. She came back to Enterprise with him and found work at the local salon, which she then bought when Mildred, the previous owner, decided to retire to New Jersey.
Gaila was unfailingly nice, bright, and friendly and Christine had been delighted to make such a good friend.
So, Christine smiled and said, "Fine. If it turns out that they are actually these amazing and wonderful -"
"And sparkly," Janice interrupted pointing a slim finger at Christine. "One cannot forget the sparkly."
"Yes, of course, pardon me. Amazing and wonderful and sparkly jewels and you, Gaila Murphy, happen to find them by some brilliant stroke of luck," Christine said. "I will be the first to shout 'Huzzah!'"
Gaila grinned. "'Huzzah?' Is that what you're supposed to shout when you find hidden treasure?"
"Yeah, I always thought it was 'Woohoo, I'm rich!'" Janice said.
"You can say whatever you want," Christine said standing up to take her cup to the sink. "I'm saying 'Huzzah.'"
"It's all those old movies she watches," Gaila faux-whispered to Janice. "We really need to get her cable."
Christine rolled her eyes and deliberately tugged on one of Gaila's curls. "Don't you two have work to go to? You know, jobs or something?"
"Sadly, yes," Janice said checking her thin silver watch. She stood up and smoothed the front of her lavender button-down shirt. "I think I'm getting too old for this."
"You're twenty-five," Christine said dryly. "You don't get to say you're too old for anything until you pass thirty."
"I work for Jim Kirk and that panel of misfits we call our city council," Janice said. "I think that automatically ages a person at least five years."
Christine nodded. "You have a point."
"I love my job," Gaila said with a smile. "Mrs. Flannery is coming in and she always wants something new done to her hair and a full manicure and pedicure. Then Frances from your office is coming in, Jan." She made a face. "I've got a full schedule today. I can't be chatting all day long with you two. See you!"
With a bright smile and flip of her skirt, Gaila was out the door.
Christine chuckled. "I wish I had half her energy."
"I'd settle for a third," Janice said putting her own mug in the sink. "Did you know I once overheard Scotty telling Jim the reason Gaila and he divorced was because Scotty was exhausted?"
Christine's jaw dropped. "He did not!"
"Yep," Janice said picking up her purse. "And Scotty couldn't bear being the man that slowed her down."
"I can't tell if that's a terribly sweet or terribly patronizing way to split up," Christine said, grabbing her bag and pinning her watch on.
"I know," Janice said following Christine out the door. "At least it wasn't over arugula."
"Arugula," Janice said. "That's the source of the latest feud between Scotty and Chekov."
"Chekov's decided to add it to his portobello mushroom melt and has struck some sort of deal with the produce man making Chekov's his first stop in town," Janice said getting into her car, while Christine got in the passenger's side. "Which means Scotty gets second choice on produce."
"I know. I hear mothers were brought into it yesterday."
"All this over arugula?"
"I know! I mean, I could understand if it was about tomatoes or avocado, but arugula?" Janice said as she carefully pulled out of the drive and onto the road.
"I always thought it was more of a garnish," Christine said thoughtfully.
"Exactly!" Janice was quiet for a few minutes. "Why do we live here again?"
Christine thought of the new doctor arriving and the way the gutters on the house were always getting clogged and how much money she didn't have. The she thought about the way her grandmother's quilt was going to look in her bedroom and the way the sunlight just streamed into her kitchen and sharing muffins with two of the best friends she'd never thought she could have and she answered Janice's question with a simple: "Because we love it."
Leonard McCoy pulled his dusty Ford Explorer over to the side of the road and took a deep breath. He stared at a sign that read 'Welcome to Enterprise! We're happy to see you!'.
"Unless that's a banana in your pocket," he muttered. He scrubbed a hand over his jaw, his two-day old stubble scoring his palm.
He wasn't supposed to be here yet. He was supposed to arrive next week. But, once he had everything packed up, his secondhand furniture sent off to Goodwill and his job at the hospital over and done with, he'd looked around at his empty (and ugly, let's be honest) apartment and grabbed his bags and filled up the tank of his car.
Quite possibly spurred on by far too many readings of Kerouac and Burroughs, he decided to drive the whole the way from Atlanta to Enterprise to get the full effect of southwestern landscape as it turned into northern California.
Five days later, here he is, his old chambray shirt rumpled all to hell, Big Gulp cups littering the backseat and thoughts whirling around in his head wondering if he was absolutely insane to give up a promising career in a prestigious hospital to move across the country to accept a job in a clinic.
A job that Jim Kirk had offered him, for Christ's sake.
"I'm going crazy," McCoy told the sign. "Stark raving mad."
The sign said nothing back.
McCoy shook his head.
A pick-up truck pulled up behind him and McCoy swore.
"Please don't be the cops," he said to himself. "I might be going insane, but I'm not there yet."
A lean man of medium build with a healthy shock of salt and pepper hair got out of the cab of the truck. His jeans looked worn in with grass and dirt stains on the front and he was wearing a pair of cowboy boots that had seen better days.
He looked tough, but he didn't look like a cop. McCoy sighed and got out of his car.
"Doctor McCoy?" the other man asked.
"For all my sins, that's me," McCoy said.
The man smiled, the skin around his eyes crinkling. "Jim asked me to keep a look out for you. I'm Chris Pike."
He held out a hand that McCoy shook. "Enterprise's former mayor?"
"For all my sins," Pike said with a grin. McCoy grinned back. "Any particular reason you found yourself on the side of the road here?"
McCoy shook his head. "Just taking a moment to get the lay of the land."
"And have some second thoughts?"
"More like eighth or ninth thoughts," McCoy said.
Pike nodded and looked at the Welcome sign. "It's a good town, folks are friendly, I highly doubt you'll have too many challenges. We get a good case of flu every year and at least one kindergarten class comes down with the chicken pox. We've had one gunshot wound in the past twelve years and it was more of a graze than anything else. Every now and then someone gets stupid and drives too fast and wraps him or herself around a lamp post." Pike shrugged. "Pretty easy-going. Shouldn't be too difficult for an Atlanta man."
"I've never tried easy-going," McCoy said. "It may be more difficult than you suppose."
"Won't know until you try," Pike told him. "Care to follow me into town? Or do you need more time to reflect?"
McCoy took another look at the Welcome sign and the road leading into Enterprise. He shook his head. "Lead on, your honor."
Pike gave a full-bodied laugh. "Make sure to call me that in front of Jim. It's always fun to watch his hackles rise."
McCoy chuckled and then swore as a silver Cadillac came roaring around the bend, nearly clipping Pike. "Jesus Christ, man! You okay?"
Pike continued to chuckle. "Oh, yeah. They missed."
"Not by much," McCoy said frowning after the car that was quickly heading into the distance. "You know who that was?"
"Sure," Pike said as he headed towards his truck. "It was my wife."
McCoy stopped by his car. "Your wife?"
"She likes to keep me on my toes," Pike said with fond look in his eyes as he looked down the road.
Something occurred to McCoy as he watched the former mayor watch the Caddy go over a hill and disappear from sight.
"That gunshot wound," McCoy asked with narrowed. "Just what did you do to earn it?"
Pike looked over at him with surprise. Then his grin returned. "Some things are best left between husband and wife, Dr. McCoy."
Then Pike hauled himself up into his truck. McCoy got into his car and as he pulled onto the road to follow Pike into town he said, "Easy-going, my ass. And I'm definitely going insane."
At the same time McCoy was contemplating his life choices along with the "Welcome to Enterprise" sign, Christine was chatting with Dr. Puri, Enterprise's former doctor. The man who'd graciously come out of retirement to help out.
"Thank you again," Christine said warmly.
"As always, Christine, it's my pleasure," the small man said, his smile deepening the wrinkles next to his eyes. "Any time you need the extra hand, I'm here. I'm retired, not dead."
"No one could say otherwise," Christine said. "Where are you off to now? Alaska? Tierra del Fuego?"
"Smart mouth," he said affectionately. "I'm off to see the grandkids in Florida. Apparently we're needed to tackle the Magic Kingdom. Disneyland just isn't the same."
"Well, give Mickey my best," Christine said leaning in to kiss his cheek.
"Kissing other men, Christine?" a voice came from the open door to the office. "I'm hurt."
Christine looked over to see Jim Kirk - current mayor and former bane of her eight-year-old existence - standing in the doorway with a smile on his far too handsome face. While Jim as a child actor had appeared adorable and winsome, those same looks had taken on a more polished and mischievous attractiveness. Christine gave him a withering look. "Not as hurt as you're going to be if you've missed your appointment with the city council."
"Easy, She-Ra," Jim said using his old nick-name for her, "I've just come from there. I wanted to say good-bye and thank you to Dr. Puri."
He turned to the doctor and said, "Thank you. You really helped us out. I sincerely appreciate it."
"As I told Christine, it was my pleasure and I'm delighted to help out," Dr. Puri said shaking Jim's hand. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to take my wife out to lunch."
"Give Laura my love," Christine said.
Dr. Puri gave them both a wave and headed out. Jim turned to Christine with a smile. "How's my favorite nurse?"
"You only say that because Nurse Connors has refused to treat you anymore," Christine said walking out of the office into the reception area. "Now, when's your little friend getting here?"
"Any minute now actually," Jim said. "And he's taller than me."
"Uh huh, and why is he getting here today instead of next week?" she asked.
"Way he says it, he just felt the need to get out of dodge and had always wanted to drive across the country," Jim said putting a spare stethoscope around his neck, which Christine quickly took away from him. "I don't think he expected it to take as long as it did. In fact, I'm pretty sure he drove through a few of the nights."
"Must have read too much Kerouac in his formative years," Christine muttered to herself.
"Whither goest thou, America, in thy shiny car in the night?" Jim quoted.
Christine shot him a look. He shrugged. "What? I read."
Nora, the receptionist, snickered. Christine glanced over and smiled at her while Jim looked affronted.
"No one takes me seriously around here, do they?" he asked.
"We take you very seriously, mayor," Nora said. "We also think you're much too cute and too fun to play with to resist."
Christine smiled broadly at Nora. Nora, who had worked for the Enterprise Medical center for as long as Christine could remember and was also Janice's mother. If you could imagine Dolly Parton with a slightly smaller bra size and brown hair as opposed to blonde, that was Nora. She was singular in that she could cut a person down to size while wearing the sweetest smile and use the kindest voice in such a way that the person would thank her for her trouble.
"Nora, you gorgeous thing," Jim said leaning over to kiss her cheek. "When are you going to leave your husband and run away with me?"
"Along the time Satan starts handing out ice skates," Nora said. "Now, are you being nice to my daughter? Or have you managed to drive her 'round the bend and back again?"
"Oh, come on now, Nora," Jim said. "Shouldn't the question be: is your daughter being nice tome?"
Nora tilted her head to the side and just stared at him. Christine felt a smirk start on her face as Jim actually squirmed.
"Alright, fine," Jim said. "Yes, Janice's mom, I'm being very nice to your daughter. I have to be. I couldn't survive without her."
There was a tone in his voice that bordered on sincere and Christine and Nora exchanged glances.
"Anyway," Jim went on, "Bones should be here soon."
"Bones?" Christine asked, drawing the word out with an incredulous look.
"Yeah, as in Sawbones," Jim said grinning. "I gave him the nickname in college. It suits him. You'll see. He's very earthy."
"Un huh. And you're sure he's right for the clinic?"
Jim rolled his eyes and poked her in the side. "Yes, I'm sure he's right for the clinic. Come on, Chris, he's brilliant and gifted and he's got tons of experience working in a huge hospital, so this should be a snap." He poked her again. "Stop worrying, She-Ra."
"Do you have to call me that?" Christine said twisting away from his fingers.
"Yep," he said. "I'm afraid it's your lot in life to be teased by me." He wiggled his fingers at her and she glared and attempted to move past him to the hallway. Jim was faster and managed to snake an arm around her waist and dug his fingers in. Christine yelped and tried to stomp on his foot, while Jim just laughed.
"I swear to God! Jim!" Christine's voice rose to a shriek as he found that spot that made her flail like an idiot.
A low chuckle came from the door to the waiting room and Christine looked over through the strands of her hair that had come out of her ponytail. She felt her face flush as she spotted Chris Pike and a taller man with broad shoulders that could only be the new doctor. His face looked rugged with a generous amount of stubble on his jaw, dark brows that were raised in amusement and a mouth with a lower lip that was made to be nibbled on. His clothes looked rumpled and his hair could have used a quick brush. Essentially, the man looked like he'd just rolled out of bed.
Oh, crap, Christine thought dismally as she let out a squeak when Jim hit a soft spot. He's hot. That's not fair.
"Bones!" Jim said happily from his position of still digging his fingers into Christine's side. "You made it! Welcome to Enterprise!"
McCoy just shook his head at Jim's cheerful welcome and tried not to stare at the woman his friend had just been mauling. Jim let her go and strode over to give McCoy a handshake and one of those manly half-hugs. McCoy was honestly glad to see his friend. They'd roomed together while McCoy was getting through his internship and Jim was trying to figure out how to live his life post-fame. It had felt like a bad rerun of the Odd Couple before they both discovered they got along more often than not.
In fact, Jim was one of the only friends McCoy had kept in touch with. Lord knows McCoy had depended on Jim's advice more than the kid had ever depended on his.
However, that didn't mean McCoy wasn't irrationally envious of how Jim had been touching the blonde woman, who was clearly one of the nurses in the practice.
"How was your drive?" Jim asked.
"Longer than I expected," McCoy said bluntly. "But, gorgeous."
"Did you get your fill of the desert?"
"More than," McCoy said, trying to pay attention to Jim, while his gaze kept sliding to the nurse who was standing nearby, an embarrassed flush still in her cheeks.
She was slim and of medium height, with delicate features. If someone had told him she was an actress transplanted from one of Hitchcock's films, he'd have believed them. Her blonde hair reminded him of sunlight on a spring afternoon and dear lord, had he always been this sappy? Scrubs were never flattering and the ones she wore (bright blue with little fish on them) hardly displayed her figure, he could see the enticing curve of her neck and toned arms and her eyes...
McCoy raised an eyebrow as his eyes met hers and wasn't surprised by how sharp and keen they were.
Yeah, eyes like those made him positive she was a smart, perceptive person, ideal traits in a nurse and as he read her nametag, Christine Chapel, Nurse Practitioner, he knew she was the office manager Jim had mentioned in the first discussion about the job.
The intelligent and appraising look in her eyes made him know instantly that he wanted this woman in charge of his medical practice.
The faint blush still present in her cheeks made his palms itch to trace the curve of her neck and see if her waist was as narrow as he suspected it was.
Well, that's inappropriate, he scolded himself. At least get her name before you start to mentally undress the woman, you jackass.
"Well, let's go into the office and have a quick chat and get you to look over the contract and fill in the paperwork," Jim said. "Then I'll take you over to your apartment so you can get some sleep and a shower. You smell like you've been driving for hours."
"That's probably because I have," McCoy said dryly.
"Before we do, let me introduce you to She-Ra," Jim said indicating the blonde nurse, who rolled her eyes.
"Honestly, Jim," she said in a strong, clear voice. She met McCoy's eyes and held out a hand. "Christine Chapel. I'm a nurse practitioner and I also help with the management of the practice."
"Leonard McCoy," he said taking her hand and hoping like hell the surge of lust he felt from touching her wasn't written all over his face. "I'll do my best not to disrupt your routines. Just point me at the sick people and I'll stay out of your way."
She smiled and said, "Oh, I think we'll get along just fine. I'm sure Jim and Mr. Pike have a lot to talk to you about, so don't worry about learning about the routines today. Our part-time doctor, Dr. Geoffrey M'Benga is on this afternoon."
"What time do you want me in tomorrow morning?" he asked, stupidly reluctant to let go of her hand. Christ, when was the last time a woman had had this kind of effect on him? It'd been close to two years since his divorce, and he just hadn't felt ready for any kind of relationship, serious or otherwise. But, something was repeatedly socking him in the gut as he looked at Christine Chapel. Something that felt very much like his god damn libido.
"I'll be in at eight," she said.
"Then so will I," he said.
"You gonna let go of her hand this century, Bones?" Jim asked an unrepentant grin on his face. McCoy dropped Christine's hand and coughed, while she blushed. Pike simply stood by and watched everything with a tiny grin on his face.
"I've got patients," Christine said. "Jim, stay out of trouble and stop bugging Janice. See you in the morning, doctor. Welcome to Enterprise."
"Thank you, Nurse Chapel," McCoy said as he watched her walk away. He quickly turned his head and came face to face with Jim's stupid smirk. "Shut up, Jim."
"I didn't say anything!"
McCoy glared and looked over at Pike who started to chuckle.
"Sure you don't need more time for reflection?" Pike asked him.
McCoy shook his head. "I think it's too late for that. I've already decided I'm going insane. I may as well make it official. Where do I sign?"
"Right here," Jim said. "Follow me. We can use the office."
As three men walked deeper into the clinic and past reception, Jim shot Nora a wink and charm smile. For her part, Nora just rolled her eyes, blushing a little, before settling on a stern look.
"Bones, this is Nora, the woman who knows everything that goes on in Enterprise," Jim said. "She's also the beautiful mother of my assistant, Janice."
"I only know the juicy stuff, mayor," Nora said, lowering her reading glasses and meeting McCoy's eyes. "I hope you're a better MD than the last guy."
McCoy raised a brow while Jim and Pike coughed to hide grins. "Well, I promise to do my best," he said holding out his hand to Nora. She took it in a surprisingly strong grip and she nodded.
"We'll see," she said. The phone began to ring. "Now get out of our way, mayors." Nora turned her back on the men and answered the phone with a brisk, "Enterprise Medical, how may I help you?"
McCoy followed Jim and Pike into the small office in the back of the clinic. From what he could see, the clinic looked tidy and well-kept up. The machinery seemed modern, and the hygiene specs seemed on target. It smelled like a clinic always smelled, of chemicals and antiseptics, but there was an underlying scent of something fresh. Most of McCoy's concerns faded away.
Until he saw the supply room and he did a double take.
"That's an awful lot of bandages," he said calculating the stock quickly in his head. "Does the clinic really go through all that?"
He looked over at Jim who was sharing a look with Pike and McCoy frowned.
"Jim, what have you gotten me into?" he asked.
Jim grinned and clapped a hand on McCoy's shoulder. "Exactly what you were looking for, Bones."
McCoy let Jim steer him down the hall; the impending sense of doom that followed him through his internship and the six months post-grad that he and Jim spent as roommates making a sudden and firm reappearance."
The small office was crammed to the ceiling with medical texts and a few of the titles leaped out at McCoy and his fingers itched to pull them off the shelves. But he took a seat in one of the ancient chairs while Jim sat behind the clean desk and Pike took the other chair.
"Well, here you go," Jim said handing McCoy a small sheaf of papers. "As per the city council's mandate, you're on a month's probation and then we'll see about making you a permanent fixture to the place. That is unless, you decide you don't like it here and want to move on. We do ask that you give a proper notice and so on and so forth. Your benefits package is pretty good and if you've got any questions, just give my office a call. Janice can talk you through anything."
Jim paused and McCoy looked up from his perusal of the papers. "What? Spit it out, Jim."
"I, well, we hope you like it here, Bones," Jim said. "The last guy, well..."
"I don't think small town life was really to his liking," Pike said diplomatically. "When he found something more suitable, he left us high and dry."
"Some of us more than others," Jim muttered looking pissed off, which surprised McCoy. His friend wasn't one show his anger that obviously.
"Am I missing something here?" McCoy asked.
"Oh, tons of things," Jim said. "But, I'm sure you'll find out all of the gory details at some point."
McCoy snorted. Jim and Pike let him read over the papers and talked quietly to each other. When McCoy got to the dotted line, he hesitated, but only for a moment, and then signed.
"Great!" Jim said grinning. "You won't regret this, Bones. Now, let's go get some lunch and we'll tell you all about Enterprise."
"Sounds good to me," McCoy said the mention of food reminding him of his empty stomach. "Out of curiosity, where am I staying?"
"There's an apartment complex just down the road," Pike said as they all stood up. "Funnily enough, it's where the last doctor lived, but it's been cleared up and cleaned out."
"How many rooms?" he asked.
"You're still hoping to bring Joanna here?" Jim asked.
"For the summer at the very least, provided everything works out," McCoy said.
"Joanna?" Pike asked.
"My daughter," McCoy answered.
Pike smiled. "Enterprise is great for kids. Just ask Jim here. And Nurse Chapel for that matter. They spent a good portion of their formative years here."
"Nurse Chapel is from here?" McCoy asked, wondering if he'd imagined the slight southern accent in her voice.
"Naw, New Orleans," Jim said. "But she came to stay with her aunt and uncle during the summer when she was a kid."
McCoy nodded and followed the men out of the office. On their way out, he met the part-time doctor, Geoffrey M'Benga who seemed competent and friendly and another nurse named Alice Robbins. He caught a fleeting glimpse of Christine Chapel talking with one of her patients.
The curve of her neck was like a magnetic pull; pale and graceful in ways that made his skin itch, and good lord, he needed to grow the hell up because this was ridiculous. Just because his body had decided to wake up horny, didn't mean he had to. Mentally rolling his eyes, he turned back to Jim farewell-flirting with Nora. Who looked ready to smack him with her handset. Yeah, he and Nora were going to get along fine.
If he'd kept his eyes on Christine a just moment longer, he would have seen her glance over in his direction.
The men headed down the street in the direction of what looked like an honest-to-God pub, with the name Scotty's hanging on a sign over the door.
"Two o'clock," Pike said to McCoy giving him a wry grin. "You're in luck; we've just missed the lunch crowd."
McCoy chuckled. "What a shame. I was looking forward to the third-degree by the citizens."
"Oh, don't worry," Jim said. "Everyone will know everything about you by the weekend."
"Swell," McCoy muttered.
As they walked inside, the smell of grilled hamburgers made McCoy's mouth water. He looked around and marveled at the eclectic decor. Flags from random countries hung on the walls, next to odd pictures clearly torn from magazines and put into frames. But, the bar looked well-stocked and the floors and tables were clean and gleaming.
A slim, red-haired fellow was behind the bar, yelling at someone over the phone.
"For pete's sake," the man hollered, "it's the principle of the thing. I can't stand the particular vegetable myself, but that's not the point."
"Which vegetable is it this week?" Pike asked Jim.
"Isn't that a garnish?"
"That's what I thought."
"Do I want to know?" McCoy asked.
"No," Pike and Jim said in unison.
"Right. How're the hamburgers?" he asked.
"Char-grilled heaven on a sesame seed bun," Jim said.
Twenty minutes later, as McCoy was biting into what honestly was char-grilled heaven on a sesame seed bun, he met the infamous owner of Scotty's, Mr. Montgomery Scott, himself.
The Scotsman was a former merchant marine and had and had, through some twist of fate, found himself in the town of Enterprise in the mid-90s and stayed. He opened up his pub and business had been booming ever since.
"At least it was booming until that little upstart took over the Farragut," he told McCoy, Jim and Pike just grinning away behind their own burgers.
McCoy swallowed. "Upstart?"
"Pavel Chekov," Pike said. "Child prodigy. You should see the things he does with mathematics."
"Wish he'd go back to the numbers and leave the sandwich making to the professionals," Scotty said before taking a healthy belt of his cuppa.
"How did a mathematics prodigy end up in Enterprise running a sandwich shop?" McCoy asked.
Jim shrugged. "He says he hated academia and all those stuffy professors telling him what to work on. So one day, he left MIT, hopped a bus and wound up here."
"He says the symmetry of making sandwiches is similar to math and while his hands are busy, it leaves his mind free to think," Pike said.
"That...makes a certain amount of sense, actually," McCoy said.
"Course it does!" Scotty said. "And don't get me wrong, the lad's a deft hand with a pencil and set of matrices, but he's stealing my lunch crowd! Who puts apples in their chicken salad? It's madness!"
"But, really tasty," Jim said. Scotty glared at him and Jim went back to his hamburger.
The gentlemen passed the afternoon away by telling McCoy everything they thought was pertinent to living in Enterprise.
"And since you're the new doc," Scotty said with a gleam in his eye. "You get to work alongside the charming Miss Chapel."
Kirk grinned. "He's met her already. I think she made an impression, right, Bones?"
McCoy glared. "She seemed very competent."
"Competent?" Scotty said sounding excited. "The woman's more than competent. She's bloody gorgeous. And talk about refined. That woman is pure class from her lovely face down to her, what I imagine, are her lovely little toes."
"She did appear quite, ah, nice," McCoy said awkwardly.
"'Nice'," Jim repeated with a snicker. "Bones, you were smitten, don't deny it."
"Shut up, Jim," McCoy said looking away.
"Fine, fine. I give up. Oh and wait until you meet Spock," Jim said. "You're gonna love him."
"What the hell kind of name is Spock?" McCoy asked.
"One he gave himself, or so I heard," Pike said.
"Who is he?"
"The man who is going to help us put Enterprise back on the map," Jim said. "He's our architect. He's got a keen eye for design and you should see some of his plans for Main Street."
"Nothing too radical, I hope?" Pike said.
"Nothing radical, I promise," Jim said. "Just taking what's there and returning it to what it was with a twist."
"A twist?" Scotty repeated. "Saints preserve us."
"It'll work," Jim said stubbornly.
"Sure it will," Pike said.
McCoy yawned. Loudly. Everyone looked over at him and he apologized. "Christ, I'm sorry."
"Drive catching up to you?" Pike asked.
"More like punching me in the face," McCoy said. "If I'm going to be expected to actually treat people tomorrow, you'd better point me towards a mattress."
"No problem," Jim said. "Follow me."
McCoy reached for his wallet to pay for dinner, but Scotty told him to put it away. "First meal is on the house. But, only if you come back."
"You kidding?" McCoy said. "I can't remember having a hamburger that good since I was a kid."
McCoy said good-bye to Pike with a shake of his hand
"Once you've settled, you'll have to come out," Pike said. "We're out just on the edge of town, but we try to have an annual barbeque at the beginning of spring."
"Looking forward to it," McCoy said.
After picking up his truck, he followed Jim to his new apartment, which was clean and sparsely furnished. He couldn't tell if the dizzy sensation he was experiencing was a result of driving through the night or due to the crazy stories about the town Pike, Jim and Scotty had spun for him.
"What am I doing here?" he muttered to himself pulling into a small parking lot after Jim.
You're here because Atlanta was too much for you and you were starting to hate everything,he told himself. You're here because you needed the change. Don't back out now.
"It's a pretty modern place," Jim said once they were both inside. "It was built a couple of years ago and everything works."
"It's fine, Jim, thanks," McCoy said. "For everything, actually."
"Hey, I'm just glad to see you, man," Jim said with a smile. "You sounded like crap when I talked to you last month."
"Thanks," McCoy replied dryly. "Felt like it, to be honest." He took a deep breath. "I needed a kick in the ass to get me moving, Jim."
"Dude, I am always happy to kick you in the ass," Jim said sincerely. "And I hope you like it here. I really think you will."
"I'm just looking forward to working in a place that doesn't have wall to wall drama and political machinations," McCoy said. "I had enough of that in Atlanta."
"Well, there's a distinct lack of political machinations, but as for the drama..." Jim shrugged. "Who knows?"
"Uh huh," McCoy said not liking the look on Jim's face. "Go away, Jim."
"Sleep tight, Bones," he said with a wave.
McCoy walked through his empty apartment. Luckily, a few items of furniture had been left or purchased by Jim. He'd seen the bed earlier – although it was only a twin – made up with blue cotton sheets and a plain comforter. He detoured through the kitchen. He checked the cupboards, coming up with a few mis-matched dishes, and snagged a glass to fill up with water.
The place wasn't massive, but it was well laid-out, and with some work and shopping, it would shape up fairly nicely. He had several months before Jo had a school break and was scheduled to come visit. It wasn't bad. He could work with it.
He decided against making any plans considering he felt exhausted to his core. He kicked off his shoes and set the alarm on his watch. Then he shucked his shirt and jeans off and fell face first onto the bed, clad only in his boxers.
He shoved a pillow under his head as his mind raced over everyone he'd met. Just before falling asleep, the image of Christine Chapel's neckline appeared and he wondered what she looked like when she let her hair down.
As McCoy was wandering his apartment, Christine was helping Nora to close up the clinic. As they got into Nora's ancient Oldsmobile, Christine considered for the hundredth time whether or not she should just buy a really cheap car instead of relying on Jan and Nora for rides to and from work. But another quick calculation firmly refuted that idea. There was just no way she could afford a car right now.
"What do you think of the new doc?" Nora asked her, interrupting Christine's thoughts.
"I'm not sure," Christine said. "I think we'll see what he's made of tomorrow."
"It's a Tuesday," Nora said with a bit of a grimace. "You know how Tuesdays are."
"It's as if all the common sense they started out with on Monday morning has leaked out their ears," Christine said.
"Good old Enterprise."
Nora pulled up to the curb outside Christine's house and they said good-bye before Christine walked up the path to her front door.
Once inside, she headed straight up the stairs to the box that still held most of her linens. God, she'd been thinking about this all day. She couldn't contain the butterflies in her stomach at the thought of making up The Bed. Her bed. Then she walked into her bedroom, startling herself when she took in the size of her new bed.
"Good Lord, did you expand?" she said out loud. "Were you this big this morning?"
Shaking her head, she quickly changed out of her scrubs into a comfy pair of yoga pants and a t-shirt. Then she tore the plastic covering off the new mattress and box spring.
With a deft flick of her hands, she unfolded the bed sheet over the mattress and efficiently made the bed with a new set of light blue sheets. Then she went over to the hope chest and opened it. The smell of cherry wood made her smile and she lifted out her granny's quilt. The quilt had been made as a gift for Christine when she'd been a little girl. Thanks to a mix up on measurements and her grandmother's stubborn refusal to waste fabric, the quilt had turned out somewhat... larger than originally planned. However, Granny Chapel was not one for waste, so the quilt ended up being king-sized as opposed to twin. Christine loved it. The dark, rich navy blue was the perfect background to the swatches of light blue and purple material shaped into fleur-de-lis.
Christine carefully laid the quilt out on the bed and then stepped back to look it over.
It was perfect. The dark blue complimented the headboard and the bed looked sumptuous and divine. Christine sighed with pleasure.
"I hope you're as comfortable as you look," she said.
Later that night after eating some leftover chicken soup, she crawled under the covers and groaned happily.
It was definitely as comfortable as it looked.
She drifted to sleep with a smile on her face.
McCoy was standing outside the clinic the next morning at seven forty-five as Janice pulled into the parking lot to drop Christine off. He had a tray of to-go cups in one and a bag from the local bakery in the other.
"Hel-lo, salty goodness," Janice said looking McCoy over.
"Remind me to take away your Buffy DVDs," Christine said.
"Touch my James Marsters and die," Janice said not taking her eyes off McCoy. "Isn't he yummy looking?"
"Yeah, but can he practice medicine?" Christine said as she opened the door.
"He can practice anything he wants to on me," Janice said.
Christine made a face at her and closed the door. Janice honked the horn as she drove off.
"Mornin'," McCoy said looking refreshed and cleaner than he had the previous day. "I figure it'd be good to start my first day off with a bribe." He held out the tray of coffees and the pastry bag.
"And you went to Martha's," Christine said as she unlocked the door, ignoring the voice in her head that was gushing stupidly over the fact that not only was this man gorgeous, he was polite.Polite. The ultimate turn on. "Good choice."
"Glad you approve."
"How was your first night?" she asked holding the door open for him.
"Not bad," he said. "Considering I fell asleep as soon as I hit the bed. It's a quiet town."
Christine hid a smile. "Most of the time."
She flipped on the waiting room lights and headed behind the reception desk, McCoy following her. She put her bag behind the desk and turned to face him. Once again, he held out the tray and the bag, looking almost sheepish. She couldn't help smiling and wondered if the fluttery feelings in her tummy were butterflies?
Knock it off, she told herself. Be professional. It's not like he's done something amazing, it's just coffee and muffins. He probably didn't even bring cream and sugar.
Christine took a cup of coffee and the bag. "Thank you," she said taking out a muffin. "This was very thoughtful. You didn't have to."
"I'm a firm believer in keeping nurses as happy as possible," he said grabbing a muffin for himself.
"That's a very good policy," she said.
He shrugged. "You're the ones who run the place. I just work here. Oh, there's cream and sugar, if you need it."
Ha! a little voice said. Cream and sugar! See? Polite! Holy crap.
Christine smiled and he returned it with a smile his own, and holy cow, was that electric current audible? It felt like it was audible. And was this flirting? The smiling and the coffee and the muffins? Did that qualify as flirting? She needed a manual.
The front door opened and Nora came in calling, "Morning, dear! I wonder if the new boy will be on time."
McCoy gave Christine a look and with a smirk she called out, "He's on time and he brought muffins."
"Are they from Martha's?" Nora asked coming around the desk, squinting her eyes at the bag.
"They are," Christine said.
"Good boy," Nora said patting McCoy on the cheek and Christine simply had to laugh at his startled expression.
The morning prep period went by quickly. Christine and Nora showed McCoy the clinic in precise detail and he asked a lot of good questions that settled most of Christine's prior reservations.
As they walked out of what McCoy considered an impressive x-ray room for a small town, he asked, "Is there anything you'd like to know about me? Or ask?"
"I have to admit I've already had a pretty good look at your resume," Christine said. "I kind of insisted."
"I wouldn't have expected anything less," he said honestly as they walked into the reception area. "I'm really impressed with the way this place is organized and kept up."
"Well, it's got a fair amount of traffic that goes through it, so we've had to be economical and efficient about things," Christine said handing him the appointment sheet for the day.
He scanned it and said, "Looks pretty basic."
"Looks can be deceiving," Nora said as she did something complicated to the phones, taking them off the evening service.
McCoy raised an eyebrow and Christine simply said, "Don't listen to her; she's just trying to ruffle your feathers."
"Better to ruffle them now as opposed to later," Nora said almost ominously.
"Consider them ruffled," McCoy said looking back and forth between the two women.
"You'll be fine," Christine said. "Surely you've seen your share of action in Atlanta?"
"Too much," McCoy said going back to the appointment list. "I'm looking forward to a distinct lack of drama and emergencies."
Christine and Nora exchanged a look that went unnoticed by McCoy.
"Well, Nora's about to let the hordes in," Christine said. "Is there anything you want to ask us?"
"Can't think of anything at the moment, but I'm sure I'll have a list by lunchtime," he said meeting her eyes. "I should probably warn you that I have a terrible tendency towards bluntness and no filter whatsoever on what comes out of my mouth."
"Oh," Christine said mildly, cocking her head to the side.
"I've been told my bark is worse than my bite, but…" He shrugged. "So don't be afraid to tell me what's on your mind or if you think I'm doing something wrong, 'cause I can almost guarantee I won't."
Oh, hell. Polite and honest, Christine thought. I'm really going to like this guy, aren't I?
"Sounds like a deal to me," she said. He held out a hand for her to shake and after a slight hesitation, Christine took it. She couldn't help but notice how large and warm and nice his hand was. Just like his eyes. Warm and hazel and friendly. And weren't they such a change to Roger's cool, blue eyes that assessed everything and always found something wanting. Startled by the inadvertent comparison, she dropped his hand like a hot potato. McCoy blinked looking slightly unsettled himself.
Damn it, Christine, she thought. It is one thing to like the guy. It's quite another to think of him as an alternative to your ex. That's just wrong. And inappropriate. You're not looking to date the man.
I'm not? a very sneaky voice whispered.
"Well," McCoy coughed. "Better let the masses in."
"You got it, doctor," Nora said.
The morning set of appointments went very smoothly: a questionable rash that turned out to be poison oak, a urinary tract infection and a few standard physicals. Having decided to stick by McCoy's side, Christine quickly realized that it wasn't really necessary. He was efficient and to the point, but it became clear rather immediately that he wasn't dismissive. He listened. He asked questions. He, weirdly enough, put people – who weren't Christine – at ease. Honestly, it was kind of a shock.
By lunch she knew that Jim's magic 8-ball intuition was right; hiring his buddy was a damn good idea. Of course, she'd have to see how he handled the after lunch crowd, but she felt optimistic
Christine finished off her homemade salad and was chatting with Nora in the break room, when McCoy came back in from his lunch over at Pavel's.
He smiled when he saw her and she felt the something that was becoming worryingly familiar ping in her chest and was smiling back before she could help it. Dammit.
"I can see why Scotty's nervous," he said. "That was a damn good sandwich."
"Did you have the Reuben or the chicken salad?" Nora asked.
"The chicken salad," he said. "Apples. Who knew?"
Christine chuckled. He stood to one side as Christine and Nora exited the break room heading back to reception. Nora handed him a sheet of paper.
"What's this?" he asked scanning the sheet.
"The Walk-in List," Christine said. "Folks who've called and asked to come in. Dr. M'Benga and I will handle most of the scheduled appointments while you and Alice handle the walk-ins. I'll lend a hand when I've got a free moment, though."
"There's twenty different cases on this list," McCoy said with a frown. "Is that normal? For a Tuesday?"
"Welcome to Enterprise," Nora said dryly before she answered the phone. McCoy stared at her and then switched his stare to Christine.
She shrugged. "Welcome to Enterprise."
The clock struck one pm and then post-lunch crowd surged in.
Gaila ran a comb expertly through Mrs. Peterson's new bob and said cheerfully, "There you go! What do you think?"
Mrs. Peterson looked at her reflection in the mirror Gaila held up behind her head and smiled. "It's perfect, as always, dear. And it'll go wonderfully with my new dress."
"Ooh, new dress?" Gaila said as she took the apron off her client. "Sounds like someone's got a date."
"Herb's taking me out to that new place in Riverside that just opened up," Mrs. Peterson said.
"When? And what's the occasion?" Gaila asked trying her best to sound casual even though quite a bit was riding on the answer.
"Tonight! And no occasion, just for fun," Mrs. Peterson said leaning in to whisper, "Which is why I bought a new dress!"
"Well, I hope you have a fabulous time," Gaila said with a brilliant smile.
"Oh, I plan on it!" Mrs. Peterson gave a wave as she headed to the front of the salon to pay Gaila's assistant Sherri.
Gaila sighed and straightened up her station. She caught sight of the tray of bills and shuddered internally. Hesitating for only a moment, she picked up her cell phone and pressed three. She waved brightly at her next client while she waited for the person she was calling to pick up. It went straight to voicemail and Gaila said, "Hey, it's me. We're on. Talk to you soon."
She pressed end and stared at the phone for a second worrying at her bottom lip. Then she tossed her phone back into her purse and went to collect her next appointment.
"Yes, Mr. Turner, I do understand that the construction is quite loud," Janice said to the irate gentleman on the phone. "However, you were informed about it well in advance."
She listened to his complaints for a moment and then said, "But, you cannot sue the mayor's office over noise, Mr. Turner. It doesn't work that way."
She continued to placate the gentleman while sorting through the stack of folders on her desk and shifting emails and wondering where the hell Jim was. Spock was already waiting in his office.
Jim walked in with a bag and a cup of coffee just as she was about to send someone to go and find him. He grinned at her and she glared.
"No, I'm very aware of that, Mr. Turner," she said pointedly narrowing her eyes at Jim. "But, once again, I don't think it's the noise that's making your dog shed his hair."
Jim made a face and then mouthed, 'Old man Turner?'
Janice nodded and pointed her index finger at Jim and then dragged it across her throat, her tone on the phone never straying away from pleasant. Jim winced.
He held up the bag and cup of coffee so she could see it was from Martha's Bakery. Janice rolled her eyes and smiled. She mouthed, 'You're forgiven.'
Jim grinned happily and came over to her desk, placing his offering next to her keyboard. He leaned in and kissed her cheek.
They both froze. He'd done that before, of course. On New Year's and once on her birthday.
But, this time they stopped all movement. Janice felt the phone slip a little in her grasp as Mr. Turner continued to enumerate all of his problems. She turned her head to see Jim looking at her with a puzzled expression on his face.
She blinked. He blinked.
And whatever it was that had come over them evaporated. He lifted his head and backed away.
"Yes, sir," Janice said turning her attention back to Mr. Turner. "I'll make a note of it and will ask them to try to tone it down."
She pointed to Jim's office and mouthed, 'Spock.'
Jim nodded and opened his mouth to say something, but stopped and just turned and went into his office.
Janice sat down heavily in her chair and stared at the bakery bag and cup of coffee.
Janice Rand had met Jim Kirk when she was twelve years old. Her family had been in Enterprise for years and Janice had grown up running around the Kirk estate like most of the other local kids. She knew who he was, of course. She watched television.
He looked like he did on the television. Cute and blond and larger than life. He was a whole foot taller than she was and that kind of rankled.
He also seemed, well, fake. As though he was going through motions that he'd done a billion times before. And he probably had.
It made Janice feel unexpectedly sad for him. She wondered if he was lonely?
She also knew that she wasn't going to treat him any differently. No way. She was going to pretend that he was just any other boy.
Janice repeated this to herself over and over again each time she ran into him. When they met in the street or over at Christine's aunt's house. Over and over again. It worked.
Jim Kirk became just another boy and he became her friend.
Her best friend, next to Christine.
Janice had always been really good at fooling herself.
She came back to the present and Mr. Turner's voice still droning on in her ear.
"No, Mr. Turner," she said absently. "I don't know what to do about it either."
"Now, remember to take it easy," McCoy said to the last walk-in, a young boy of twelve. "No more skateboarding until that brace comes off. You got extremely lucky with only a sprain and not a broken bone. You hear me, David?"
"Yes, sir, Doctor McCoy," David said with a toothy grin. "No more ollies until this comes off."
"Well, considering asking you to stop with the ollies completely is an exercise in futility," McCoy said sternly. "That'll have to do. Now, get out of here and don't come back for another ten years."
David laughed and dashed into the waiting room to show his mother the bright blue brace on his left arm.
McCoy walked into reception and saw Christine, Alice and Nora grinning at him. He took a step back. "What? What are you all grinning at?"
"Oh, just your optimism," Nora said. "How many times have we seen young David this year?"
"Is it seven, including this one?" Alice asked looking to Christine for confirmation.
"We may be up to eight with this one," she said filling in a chart.
"Jesus," McCoy said shaking his head. "I have never seen a more clumsy community in my life."
"We have the highest accident rate within a twenty mile radius," Nora said.
"That's higher than all of Manhattan," Alice said.
The pride in their voices had McCoy looking to Christine in disbelief. She smiled and said, "It's always nice to be good at something."
McCoy stared at them and then laughed. "Well, you've got me there. Now, be honest, is it always like this? I mean, I saw three serious contusions within ninety minutes."
"We have our share of busy days," Christine said. "But this afternoon was busier than most."
"Word got out we had ourselves a new MD," Nora said. "Folks wanted to see you in action."
"Right." McCoy shook his head. "Well, I left a mess in Exam Room Three, I better clean that up."
"Oh, I've got it, doctor," Alice said moving to stand up.
"No, you keep filling out that chart, I've got it."
The ladies watched him go.
"That is one attractive man," Nora said.
"Coming and going," Alice said.
"Honestly. Listen to you two," Christine said. "What would your husbands say?"
"Stan would agree with me," Nora said.
Alice nodded. "I doubt Paul would kick him out for eating crackers in bed."
Christine laughed even as she rolled her eyes, then she went on filling out her paperwork, quietly agreeing with both of their opinions of the new doctor.
The clinic finally closed and locked its doors around seven and Christine made sure to set the alarm. McCoy stood next to her, ostensibly to learn how to activate the security system, but also to breathe in her light, fresh scent that hadn't faded as the day went on.
"Can I give you a ride home?" he asked as they walked into the parking lot when he realized that the only two cars left were his and Nora's.
"Oh, thank you," Christine said looking at him in surprise. "But, Nora's already giving me one."
"No car today?" he asked, wondering where her car was. Hadn't that little blonde girl dropped her off this morning?
"No, not today," she said. "Or any day, actually."
He frowned. "You don't have a car."
"Not currently," she said firmly giving him a look that clearly said to drop the subject.
"Well, if you ever need a ride…" He let himself drift off and he looked away.
Way to go, moron, he berated himself. There you go. Poking your nose into places it's got no business being in. Ass.
They arrived at Nora's car and ignoring the fact that she was blatantly staring at the two of them, Christine turned to McCoy.
"I thought you did very well today, doctor," she said. "I- I hope the afternoon wasn't too much for you."
McCoy laughed a little bitterly. "I've spent too many Friday and Saturday nights in the emergency room in a huge city for today to faze me too much." The furrow in his brow deepened. "I actually enjoyed myself today."
"You sound surprised," Christine said.
"I suppose I am," he said looking out into the fading light as the street lamps started to switch on. And he was. Despite all the ridiculous injuries, everyone he'd treated had been pleasant. Curious about the new doctor, of course. But kind. And the staff…well, when was the last time he'd felt comfortable and sure that his directions were going to be followed?
Like he'd said before: no machinations. It was refreshing.
"I think I'm a little surprised about everything in this town," he said almost to himself.
He moved his gaze from the street lights to Christine and she felt her cheeks heat up. Flustered, she looked away and fumbled with the door handle.
"Well. Well, um, have a good night," she said, "and we'll see you in the morning."
"Good night, Chapel," he said his voice low and warm following her into the car.
"Night, doctor," Nora said archly.
"Good night, Mrs. Rand," McCoy said touching two fingers to his brow in a salute.
Christine smiled slightly as she closed the door. Nora pulled away as McCoy walked to his car, Christine watching him as he went.
"I like him," Nora said.
So do I, Christine thought as she stared at the last of the sun sending streaks of orange and pink into the sky.
The next few days took on a routine that was familiar to the employees at Enterprise Medical and welcome to McCoy. The mornings were taken up by standard appointments with only a handful of walk-ins. Usually only Christine, McCoy, Alice and Nora were needed. The afternoons were filled to the brim with a reduced amount of scheduled appointments that Alice and Dr. M'Benga saw to, while the majority of the walk-ins were handled by McCoy and Christine.
As construction really started to take off, the clinic saw an influx of injuries and McCoy started to consider holding some first aid classes.
"What do you think?" he asked Christine during one lull in the afternoon. She tilted her head to the side in thought and he fought the urge to stare at the slim line her throat.
"I think it would be a good idea," Christine said. "Especially if we could schedule some in the evenings during the week. I heard from Janice that Jim's going to want to have some of the projects worked on during the weekends."
"I hope he's planning on paying folks overtime," McCoy said.
"Sulu wouldn't agree to it otherwise," she said.
Then a waitress from Pavel's walked in with a serious gash on her hand from a cheese grater and the conversation was stopped.
An hour later, McCoy was shaking his head as he watched the waitress walk out the door, her boyfriend next to her.
"Accident-prone doesn't even begin to cover it," he said. "Has anyone considered checking the water supply? Maybe it's some kind of epidemic."
Christine laughed. "If only it were that easy to explain. I think it's just Enterprise. Some towns have low crime, some towns have high crime. Some have a healthy tourism trade, we have-"
"People who walk into doors and grate their fingers as opposed to cheddar?" he supplied. "Well, everyone needs a hobby, I guess."
His eyes met hers and the now-familiar warmth spread through her chest down to her abdomen and curled up. Christine looked away and busily started to fill in a chart wondering if developing a crush on another doctor was really the smartest thing for her to do?
"Chapel-" McCoy started to say, his voice low and intimate.
The door to the clinic opened and Mr. and Mrs. Peterson walked in, Mr. Peterson with his arm around the waist of a clearly limping Mrs. Peterson.
"Sweetheart, I'm fine," Mrs. Peterson was saying. "It's just a stubbed toe, that's all."
McCoy and Christine immediately headed over and McCoy helped Mrs. Peterson to a chair.
"Oh, thank you, doctor," she said looking at him gratefully. "Daniel is making such a fuss over nothing."
"Nothing doesn't swell up and leave you hobbling about," Mr. Peterson said. He turned to Christine. "She whacked her foot but good on a table in the living room."
"When did you do this?" McCoy asked.
"Yesterday," Mrs. Peterson said. "I put ice on it and kept off of it, it's just not getting any better."
McCoy met Christine's eyes, who nodded. They helped Mr. Peterson get Mrs. Peterson into an exam room.
Christine gently slipped Mrs. Peterson's flip-flop off her foot and pursed her lips at the sight of the swollen big toe.
McCoy looked over her shoulder and said, "I think we may need to do some x-rays, ma'am."
He prodded at the toe and apologized when Mrs. Peterson winced and made a sound of distress.
"X-rays are definitely in order," he said. "Chapel, would you?"
"Of course," she said using the office intercom to get Alice to prep the x-ray machine.
"It's the silliest thing," Mrs. Peterson said. "I still can't believe I walked into that table like that. But, I could have sworn it was further over on the rug. We've had the furniture in that room in the same place for years. How could I walk into it like that?"
"These things happen," Christine reassured her.
"I know, but still." Mrs. Peterson shook her head.
"It could have been worse," McCoy said. "Even if it is broken, I'm afraid there's not much more to do other than keeping your weight off of it until it heals."
Mrs. Peterson sighed. "I know."
"Hey, look on the bright side," McCoy said. "You get to be waited on hand and foot for the next three weeks at the very least."
She smiled and looked over at her husband. "Hear that? You're at my beck and call."
"As if I wasn't already," Mr. Peterson said with a smile and kiss to her temple. Christine smiled herself and caught McCoy with a smirk of his own on his face.
"I'll go check on the machine," he said. "Chapel, you'll prep?"
"Of course, doctor," she said.
He left the room and Christine turned to Mrs. Peterson.
"He's the new boy, isn't he?" she asked Christine.
"He is indeed."
"He seems very pleasant," Mrs. Peterson said. "And was that a Southern accent I heard?"
"Atlanta," Christine said pulling a wheelchair over for Mrs. Peterson to get into.
"He seems pretty competent," Mr. Peterson said. "Reminds me of your great-uncle, Christine. What do you think of him?"
"I think we're lucky to have him," Christine said. "He's certainly proven he can keep up with the citizens of Enterprise."
"Careful, nurse," McCoy's voice came from behind her. "You'll turn my head talking like that."
Christine bit her lip and felt her cheeks flush as she helped Mrs. Peterson sit down in the wheelchair.
She avoided McCoy's eyes as she wheeled Mrs. Peterson to the x-ray room, but could feel them on her as she walked past him.
After sending the Petersons home with instructions to stay off the foot and keep it elevated and to take some Tylenol as needed, Christine sat down next to Nora to fill in the chart.
"Margie Peterson hasn't been clumsy a day in her life," Nora said. "Imagine walking right into your own coffee table."
"It does happen, Nora," Christine said.
"Not to Margie Peterson," Nora retorted. "Very odd."
"Well, what are your plans for the weekend, my girl?" Nora asked. "Hot date?"
"Oh, of course," Christine said. "Steamy, in fact." Nora peered at her over her glasses and Christine clarified, "With a wallpaper steamer. I'm attacking the living room this weekend. I refuse to have that god-awful wallpaper in my house another day."
"Well, be careful," Nora said. "And do remember that you're a young woman with great legs and it's a sin to let them go to waste."
Christine chuckled. "I'll keep that in mind. Thanks, Nora."
The door to the clinic opened and Jim Kirk wandered in. "Evening, ladies!"
Nora jerked her chin over her shoulder. "In his office."
"Thank you kindly." He gave Nora grin and tugged on Christine's ponytail.
He disappeared down the hallway only to return fifteen minutes later with a disgruntled looking McCoy in tow.
"Come on, Bones," Jim was saying. "Just a few beers with the boys. You have to meet Spock. He's never had buffalo wings before and I can't wait to watch what happens."
"Sounds thrilling," McCoy said in a deadpan. He looked over at Christine and Nora. "Ladies, do you need me for anything?"
Various images flashed behind Christine's eyes. All of them involved a sweaty McCoy in some state of disarray. She shook her head a little violently.
"Nope. We're good. Have fun. See you Monday," she said briskly.
"O-kay," he said slowly his brow furrowing. Jim just smirked at her. "If you're sure?"
"We're sure, doctor," Nora said. "Have a nice weekend."
"You too, Mrs. Rand," he said. His eyes met Christine's. "Good night, Chapel."
"Night!" she replied a little too cheerfully.
Still looking confused, McCoy left, Jim grinning like a fool at her as he followed.
Once they were out of the door, Christine groaned and let her head fall into her hands.
"There, there," Nora said patting her on the shoulder. "You're not the first woman to fall apart in front of a man."
"He's not in my plan, Nora," she said her voice muffled by her arms.
"I know, dear," Nora said. "The best ones never are."
Christine groaned again.
McCoy followed Jim into Scotty's and was only slightly surprised by the after work crowd.
Jim waved at Scotty who was already busy behind the bar. "Beer and wings, man! The spicier the better!" Jim shouted at him.
"On it, Mayor, Doctor!" Scotty shouted. "I've been experimenting with cayenne and jalapenos today! Say good-bye to your stomach lining!"
Jim laughed while McCoy cringed, caught up in a minor college flashback. How Jim had obtained his tolerance for spicy food, being from both Northern California and Iowa, McCoy did not know. Still, he'd never seen another human being with Jim's capsaicin tolerance, and that included night-time Food Network chili competitions.
Jim was stopped several times as they walked towards a booth. Most of the time, it was by someone who just wanted to say 'Hey' to the mayor while a couple of folks had honest questions that Jim answered sincerely and precisely. McCoy was impressed. Jim was made for this. The fact that he cared for his town was evident by his enthusiasm and concern for everyone. It was good to see his old friend settled into an occupation that seemed to be giving back to him just as much as he was giving to it.
But McCoy noticed something else that gave him pause.
For every five 'Hey, there, Mayor!'s that Jim was getting, McCoy got at least one 'Hey, there, Doc!' He nodded and spotted a few familiar faces, but by and large, he hadn't laid eyes on half the folks who were greeting him.
They finally made it to the booth. McCoy sat down heavily in his chair.
"Jesus, Jim," he said. "I've been here five days and I know I haven't treated half the people in this room."
"Yeah, but you've treated their sister or their brother or their aunt or their barber or their teacher," Jim said. "You're the town 'Doc', Bones. Everyone knows you now." He grinned. "It doesn't hurt that you're a stud, too."
McCoy snorted and shook his head looking out over the crowd. "Christ."
"How does it feel?" Jim asked smiling at the waitress who had just brought over two bottles of Sam Adams.
McCoy took a long pull of his beer before answering. Then he hesitated. Not because he didn't have an answer, but because the answer was kind of unexpected.
It felt good.
Being in a town where all he had to be was a competent, good practitioner of medicine felt pretty damn good. He wasn't jockeying for position in a city that he didn't like, he wasn't running into memories of his past (both good and bad memories, let's be honest, here) and he wasn't having to shake off the shackles of a messy divorce with a bunch of spectators who were just waiting for him to fail.
God, as much as he loved his daughter and missed her like nobody's business, Atlanta had been agony for him.
Enterprise felt good.
Jim cleared his throat and McCoy looked over at him in surprise. Jim just nodded at the beer bottle McCoy had paused halfway to his mouth while he'd been lost in reverie.
"It feels okay," McCoy said casually before taking another long drink.
Jim chuckled. "Bones, you are the master of the understatement."
But he held up his own bottle and McCoy clinked his to it.
"There's Spock," Jim said after they each took a drink nodding towards a man who was navigating the crowd with an impassive expression. His dark spectacles seemed to be a natural extension of his very dark hair. He responded to Jim's cheerful wave with a measured nod.
"Spock, glad you could make it," Jim said as Spock gingerly slid into the booth next to him. Jim motioned to McCoy. "Let me introduce my good friend, Leonard McCoy, Enterprise's new doctor."
"Doctor McCoy," Spock said with an incline of his head.
McCoy supposed he wasn't into shaking hands, so he simply said, "Spock. Good to meet you."
"Yes," was the reply.
"Do you go by anything other than Spock?" McCoy asked.
Spock cocked his head to the side and said, "I've never seen the need to."
"Right. Of course." McCoy looked over at Jim who was grinning like a fool.
"Spock is going to help put Enterprise back on the map," Jim said. "You should see our plans for the downtown."
"It is a welcome undertaking," Spock said. "Combining the clean lines of modern architecture with the gaudiness of 1950s Americana poses many challenges that have been stimulating to overcome."
"I can only imagine," McCoy said. He frowned. "Jim, if I may, why the hell do you need to renovate Enterprise?"
"For the income, Bones," Jim said a mien of seriousness coming over him. "Enterprise was always strictly agricultural, but with the changing weather patterns, cheaper sources of product elsewhere, the economy of this area is dryer up faster than you can say 'credit crunch'. Pretty soon, there will be nothing left. We needed an alternative means of income to the town."
"Tourism," Spock said gravely.
"Tourism, indeed," Jim said with a nod. "It's a pretty town with some gorgeous landscapes and some great people living here."
"Not to mention the Kirk Estate," McCoy said seeing where Jim was going with all this.
"Not to mention the Kirk Estate," Jim repeated with another nod.
"Enterprise already had the draw," Spock said, "in the form of Jim and his family legacy. It is simply a matter of altering the town slightly to accommodate an influx of tourists."
"Are people all right with all this?" McCoy asked.
"Most are," Jim said with a shrug. "The ones that aren't well, Janice handles them, to be honest." His face softened so much that McCoy blinked. "She's good at that."
"Here we are, gentlemen," Scotty's voice interrupted. He laid a massive basket of wings, carrot and celery sticks on the table complete with a wad of napkins, and another serving of Sam Adams for the three of them. "I call them my Flaming Fiesty Fiery Wings."
"I bet you do," McCoy said wondering if he should be impressed or worried by the look of the wings. He settled on both.
"Please do not be offended, Mr. Scott," Spock said, "if I don't partake of your dish. Nyota is meeting me shortly and we already have dinner plans."
"No offense taken," Scotty said amiably. "If I had a lady as lovely as Miss Uhura joining me for dinner, there isn't a wing in the world that would delay me."
Spock inclined his head accepting the compliment.
"That is probably one of the nicest things I've heard all week," a sultry voice said from just behind Scotty. The man turned quickly and smiled brightly.
"Miss Uhura! As always, it is a delight and a pleasure to see you," Scotty said to the, quite frankly, stunning woman behind him. She was slim with long, dark hair that was held up in a simple ponytail that conveyed elegance while her intricately wrought gold earrings reflected taste and youth.
McCoy reflexively stood up as she approached. She smiled brightly at him. "Oh, my. A gentleman," she said. "How rare. Mayor Kirk, take note."
"Bones always outdid me with the manners, Uhura," Jim said cheerfully. "I've given up trying to match him. Bones, this gorgeous woman is Nyota Uhura, the woman who gets all of the ideas out of Spock's head and into the world. Uhura, this is Leonard McCoy, Enterprise's new doctor."
"Ma'am," McCoy said taking her proffered hand.
"Oh, I've been hearing good things about you, doctor," Uhura said. "I believe you treated one of the men working on the new windows at the museum?"
"If you're referring to the boy who did a number on his foot with the window pane, then yes, I did," he said with a grin.
"Thank you," she said gratefully. "You don't know how much of a relief it is having someone who can patch us up."
"It is a great comfort," Spock said. "The last doctor was…less than pleasant."
Uhura nodded in agreement as did Scotty and Jim just looked grumpy.
Jesus, McCoy thought. What the hell did this guy do? Jim's not one to hold onto a grudge like this.
"Ah, should I ask what he did?" McCoy said slowly. "Or am I better off not knowing?"
Jim grimaced. "It's not exactly my story to tell, Bones. Just trust me, you're going to be a hundred times better than that guy."
"I hope to continue to satisfy," McCoy said slowly really wondering what the hell this other guy did to earn such a reputation. Maybe Chapel would know? He should ask her.
"Now, gentlemen, I hate to drag him away, but…" Uhura turned towards Spock who smiled softly at her in such a way that had McCoy's eyebrows raising. So that was how to get a reaction out of the man.
"Yes, we must be going," Spock said as he rose. "Jim, will we see you tomorrow?"
"Wild horses couldn't keep me away," Jim said.
"From what?" McCoy had to ask.
"The construction of the drive-in, Bones!" Jim said practically bouncing in his seat. "It took forever to get the planning permission. I can't wait to see it."
"Doctor," Spock said. "It was a pleasure to meet you."
"Likewise," McCoy said dryly. He smiled at Uhura and she gave him a nod. They said their good-byes to Scotty and then headed out. McCoy watched them walk out of the pub, Spock's hand on her lower back.
"That is one striking couple," Scotty said with a shake of his head. "And that is one heck of a woman. Speaking of, how is the lovely Miss Chapel?"
He gave McCoy such a look that McCoy wondered if he'd said something incriminating out loud. McCoy frowned and reached for a buffalo wing.
"Fine. Good. She's a great nurse. Efficient. Very good with the patients," he rattled off.
"Great legs," Jim added with a smirk.
McCoy rolled his eyes and took a bite of his buffalo wing. His eyes started to water instantly as the cayenne burned his tongue. "Good God, man! What the hell did you put on these?"
"D'you like 'em?" Scotty asked bouncing on the balls of his feet. "I'm thinking of adding them to the menu."
McCoy's answer was to drain the rest of his beer.
Saturday morning saw McCoy waking up rather leisurely and heading out to buy some groceries. Feeling content that he'd managed to find all the usual brands he liked, he drove through the town.
Jim had told him to check out the Town Hall and the new library to get an idea of what Spock and he had been up to.
"Spock really kept the original look but added some little touches that make a real difference," Jim said.
He was right. The buildings downtown looked traditional with clever archways and accents on the windows. Not that McCoy knew anything about architecture, but he liked what he saw.
Once he got back to his apartment, he put his groceries away, and then wandered through the rather empty apartment.
"I suppose I should think about furniture," he thought to himself, feeling low all of a sudden. Jocelyn had handled the decorating of their first apartment and then their house. McCoy had been too busy with his residency to really care. He sighed and wondered if the furniture from his parent's house was still in storage at his uncle's place. He made a mental note to call the old man and find out. Why bother getting new stuff if he could use what he already had. As he recalled there had been some very handsome pieces of furniture stored away.
He randomly pulled open drawers in the obviously Ikea-produced chest of drawers and blinked when he got to the bottom drawer. A set of nicely pressed men's sized Oxford shirts rested in the bottom.
"Whoops," he muttered. "Forget something?"
He thought about just dropping them off at the local Goodwill (after surreptitiously checking the size tag, too small for his frame), then deciding to be a good Samaritan, he called Jim.
"Hey, Bones!" Jim answered his phone, the high-pitched whine of a saw accompanying him.
"Jesus, Jim, you sound like you're at a construction site," McCoy said wincing.
"Bones, you're gonna have to speak up, I'm at a construction site!"
McCoy rolled his eyes. "Look, I'm just calling because I found some clothes that must belong to the previous tenant and thought he might like to have them back."
"Oh, hell," Jim said. "I have no idea how to get in touch with that guy." He paused. "And to be totally honest, I don't particularly want to."
"Is that right?" McCoy asked.
"He was a tool, Bones."
McCoy snorted. "Yeah, what is with that? Everyone seems to have had a problem with him. I thought the official story was that he was offered a better position?"
"Doesn't mean the guy wasn't a complete tool," Jim said. "Ask Christine. She'll back me up."
"Actually, you should ask her anyway, if anyone would know how to get the stuff back to him, it'd be her," he said. A loud crash was heard over the line. "Aw, crap."
"Do I need to get over there?" McCoy asked, straightening up. "Is anyone hurt?"
"Hey, Sulu! Do we need a doctor?" Jim shouted.
McCoy could hear a muffled answer.
"Okay! Naw, we're good," Jim told McCoy. "The only casualty was a stack of plywood."
"For God's sake, Jim," McCoy said. "Please tell me you at least have someone there certified in first aid?"
"I know CPR," Jim said. "And Janice is around here somewhere and she knows everything."
McCoy shook his head. "Call me if someone loses a limb or gets impaled by something."
"Will do!" Jim said cheerfully. "Are you going to call Christine?"
"I might just wait until Monday," McCoy said.
"Why wait? Just go over," Jim said. "She's in the big house on Starling Street. Number 12, Starling Street. It's the green one. I hear she's attempting to take down wallpaper and knowing her, she's overdoing it and is having a huge fight with the steamer."
"Maybe," McCoy said reluctantly looking down at the shirts and admitting to himself that he wouldn't mind seeing what his calm and collected nurse looked like on a weekend. The thought was so attractive, as was the mental image, that he couldn't be bothered to tell himself to get a grip and stop fantasizing.
"Dooo iiit," Jim said, drawing the vowels out.
"You are such a child," McCoy said.
"It keeps me from getting wrinkles," Jim said. "Now, go over and be She-Ra's He-Man while I make sure we have a working drive-in by next week. Later, Bones!"
Jim hung up and McCoy made a face at his phone, before slipping it into his pocket.
He glared at the shirts once more before muttering, "Aw, hell with it." He grabbed the shirts and shoved them into an empty plastic bag, then he headed out the door.
Contrary to Jim Kirk's predictions, Christine was not actually overdoing it and she was certainly not having a huge fight with the steamer.
The fight had actually occurred earlier with the cord to the steamer when it got wrapped around a chair. This had resulted in much cursing, banging, and a solid kick to both the steamer and the chair, but everyone quickly got over it and moved on.
So, just as McCoy was finding unwanted Oxfords in his drawers, Christine was happily steaming her way across the living room, strips of garish wallpaper falling in her wake. There were stubborn ones – there were always stubborn ones – but a few good yanks quickly changed their minds. Hand wrapped around a slimy piece of garish geraniums, she decided the entire process was more satisfying than it had any right to be.
With her iPod docked in its station and blaring out one of her favorite playlists, Christine steadily bopped her way around the room. She'd had to open several of the windows as the steam was making her flush something fierce and strands of her hair were sticking to the side of her face and neck. As Concrete Blonde started to lament about Joey, Christine rubbed the back of her hand across her forehead and concentrated on a tricky section just above the skirting board.
She set the steamer down and used her fingers to get a small piece of wallpaper off and realized that she was really and truly doing what she'd always wanted to do.
Christine lifted her head and smiled.
She was in the house she'd always wanted to live in.
She had a good job.
She loved her town.
She had good friends.
And there was leftover homemade spaghetti sauce in the refrigerator and one of her favorite songs had just come on.
With a laugh, Christine stood up and ripped a steamed section of wallpaper off the wall. The sound of it coming off was so freaking good, so she did it again to another section.
"Well, love sticks, sweat drips, break the lock if it don't fit," Christine sang as she ripped and tugged and whirled and oh, yeah, shook her booty.
The song came to an end and with a "then I set fire to our bed!" she ripped a final section off the wall with a spin and screamed when she caught sight of the tall figure standing in the doorway.
McCoy held up his hands and shouted, "It's okay! It's just me! Sorry! Your door was open! Sorry!"
The wallpaper fell to the floor and Christine pressed her sticky hands to her chest. "Jesus Christ, McCoy!"
"I'm sorry, the door was open," he said. "And I knocked. Loudly." He looked around the room, taking in the wallpaper strewn about the floor, the steamer still letting out a steady cloud of vapor and the remaining wallpaper on the wall. "You've been busy."
Christine followed his gaze and let out a laugh. "It's going a bit better than I thought it would."
McCoy nodded as he walked up to the wall and prodded at a section of wallpaper above Christine's reach.
"So, uh, what brings you here, doctor?" she asked, tucking strands of hair behind her ears.
"Hmm? Oh. I found these in one of the drawers at my apartment and thought the previous fellow might want them back," McCoy said handing her the plastic bag with the shirts inside. "Korby, right?"
"Right," Christine said taking the bag and looking inside. She stared down at the meticulously pressed shirts, knowing that they would be crisp to the touch and smell faintly of the chemical that the dry-cleaners used. Roger had never trusted her to do the washing and had always insisted on using the dry-cleaners on his precious button-downs, something Christine had considered a quirk at first, and later on incredibly pretentious.
Her 'high' started to fade as she remembered how she had longed to simply wrinkle his clothes while he pontificated and complained about living in Enterprise. His complaints became more about her than the town while her frustration with him built up.
"Aw, hell," McCoy said. Christine looked up quickly and met his chagrined expression. "Korby wasn't just the previous doctor at the clinic, was he?" he asked.
Christine considered lying. But only for a second. "No, he wasn't," she said with a sigh and a slump of her shoulders. "He was my fiancé before that."
"Aw, hell," McCoy repeated looking uncomfortable.
"It's fine," she said. "I mean, it's not fine, but it's going to be fine and that's what's important. That things eventually become fine."
"Right," he said looking at her with a remarkable amount of understanding than her ramble should have inspired. "Jim said the guy was a tool."
Christine burst out laughing. "Oh, god! Jim hated Roger. And the feeling was quite mutual. Roger just couldn't adapt to small-town living."
"So, why did he take the job?" he asked crossing his arms over his chest and looking confused.
"Because, when I told him the job was in California, near San Francisco, and that the mayor was a former actor, he assumed," Christine made jazz hands, "Hollywood."
"But, LA's three hundred miles from here," McCoy said.
"Three hundred seventy-five," Christine said. "Anyway, he came, he worked, he hated it." She sighed looking down at the shirts. "He refused to live in this house, even after I put a down payment on it. He's a plastic surgeon in the Valley now."
McCoy frowned. "He refused to live in this house? Why? It's a great house."
Christine blinked and smiled at him. "You really think so? It was my great-aunt's. I'm trying to restore it to how it looked when she owned it." She looked around the living room at the wallpaper still on the walls. "It's a slow process."
"I've got some time," he said. "You want me to get the paper up at the top?"
"I'm perfectly capable of climbing a ladder," she told him lifting her chin really not wanting him to think she was weak or fishing for assistance. Damn Chapel pride.
"I would never have suggested otherwise," he said. "But, and I'm being honest here, I really have nothing better to do."
"Well, heaven forbid you get bored on my watch," she said not really able to think of a reason to refuse him, but still… "Are you sure though? I mean, you really don't have to. This is hardly in your contract."
He chuckled. "No, it's not. But seriously, I need to have something to do. It's a matter of my mental health here."
"Well, in that case," she said feeling charmed and not really minding, which was something she'd have to think about later. "Get that steamer and head on up that ladder, pronto, doctor."
"It's Len," he said heading towards the steamer. "Or McCoy. 'Doctor' makes me think someone's bleeding nearby."
"In this town, someone probably is," she said.
"Yeah," he said picking up the steamer. "I'm beginning to get that impression."
His phone rang and making a face, he took it out of his pocket. His expression went from annoyed to soft in a heartbeat. It was weird. Maybe worrisome, depending on how her feelings and hormones shook out, but definitely weird.
"Hey, Jo-jo," he said into the phone. "How's my girl?"
He gave Christine an apologetic look and she smiled and waved as he went into the hallway.
Ah. His daughter, she thought. Stop feeling relieved.
As she picked up bits of wallpaper off the floor to go into a trash bag, she could hear tiny snippets of his conversation.
"Well, it's a big responsibility."
"You're an extremely smart girl. Tell the teacher she's wrong."
"A whole inch? Not possible. Better put some bricks on your head to stop you growing."
"I agree. Travis is a very fine name for a dog."
"We'll see, Jo. I'll talk to your mom about it."
"I miss you, too, baby. But wait 'til you see the ocean. It's so big and blue."
His voice sounded the same as it always did, but with a steady undercurrent of warmth and gentleness that made Christine smile and feel warm herself. Then she realized that she was unabashedly eavesdropping and quickly continued to pick up the room.
After a few more minutes, McCoy came back into the room, tucking his phone into his pocket.
"Sorry about that," he said.
"No problem. Your daughter?" she asked.
"Yeah," he said going back to the steamer. "She's eight and already knows everything. She's growing like a weed and has decided that having a puppy is vital to her existence."
"Well, they are," Christine said remembering Rusty the family dog. She'd taken care of him and loved him to his last day at a very respectable age of fourteen.
"Yeah, well I doubt my ex-wife agrees," he said. "And I'm not sure my apartment takes pets."
"They don't," Christine said flatly shoving more paper into the trash bag. McCoy raised an eyebrow and she shook her head. "Sorry. Reason number twelve why Roger was not the man for me."
"He doesn't like dogs?" McCoy asked. "Chapel, you're obviously a smart women, why the hell did you date the loser?"
Christine opened her mouth to answer and then closed it, looking away.
"Shit," McCoy said. "I told you I have a very bad concept of boundaries. Too soon to be asking those kinds of questions?"
"A little bit," she said meeting his eyes, wondering if she'd see disappointment, but instead seeing nothing but implicit understanding.
"Right, too soon," he said. "However, it isn't too soon for me to give you a hand with this stuff." He brandished the steamer. "Where do you want me?"
On your back, spread out naked on my granny's quilt, her libido promptly supplied.
Christine choked on air and waved off his concerned look as she coughed. "Sorry! Uh, the left-hand corner would be great. Thanks." She turned away and berated her libido for being such a tart.
"Sure thing," he said. He headed towards the ladder and then stopped and cocked his head, listening. "Chapel, one question."
"Uh huh," she said turning back to him.
"What the hell are we listening to?" he asked.
Christine listened for a second and then said, "Siouxsie Sioux and the Banshees."
"That's what I thought."
"It's my kickass ladies playlist," she told him.
"Right." Setting up the ladder, he asked, "What are the chances there's any Bonnie Raitt on there?"
Christine smirked and with a saunter, she walked over to her iPod and did a quick scroll. The sultry sound of Bonnie's slide guitar filled the room. She looked over her shoulder at McCoy who grinned at her.
"I knew it," he said.
"And if you're nice, I might just break out the Patsy Cline," she said.
"You can take the lady out of the south..." he said as he climbed up the ladder.
"I make bread pudding, too," she said.
"Careful, Chapel," he said giving her a look. "That's a dangerous thing to say to a Georgia man."
She laughed and went back to picking up bits of fallen wallpaper. She snuck a quick look at him as he got the steamer going and took in his determined expression.
Stop ogling the man, Christine and stop flirting with him. Stop it right now! she told herself. I don't care how great his ass looks in those jeans.
Stop ogling her, man, McCoy told himself as he tore off a bit of wallpaper. I don't care how amazing her legs look in those jeans. Stop being an unprofessional dick.
"So, exactly how did this godawful wallpaper get here in the first place?" he asked.
"My cousin sold the place to a couple who had rather unique taste in decorating," she said starting to scrub at the streaks of glue on the wall.
"Hence the lurid hydrangeas?" he asked steadily applying steam to the wall, his bangs dampening and sticking to his forehead, much like the way Chapel's had already done. He snuck a glance at her and looked away again quickly as the sight of her on all fours was far too freakin' sexy to be legal.
"I always thought they were geraniums," she said frowning at the wallpaper. "Either way. Gross and too loud."
"What are you going to do to the room after you've got all this stuff off?" he asked.
"Paint it, I think, something light," she said. "Uhura has said she can get me a good deal on some nice paint. Oh! Uhura is –"
"The Great Spock's assistant," he filled in. "I met her last night. Along with Spock."
"And dare I ask what you think of him?" she asked with a quirk of her lips.
"I think you probably already know what I think of him," McCoy said shaking his head. "I drove past the new buildings downtown this morning. They look nice."
"They do. They really do," Christine said. "Much better than before."
They continued to clear the walls of wallpaper with a kind of ease that had McCoy internally reeling with disbelief. He'd never found it easy to just fall into a rhythm with another person. Despite the closeness he had with Jim these days, in the beginning it had been fraught with arguments and McCoy feeling very unsure of boundaries.
What he was feeling currently working alongside Christine was unheard of for him. He felt relaxed and open and, as he snuck another glance at her flushed face and parted lips as she worked more glue off the wall, extremely turned on.
Not that he was going to do anything about it.
Although he sure as hell wanted to. But, clearly she was still reeling from whatever she'd gone through with that other guy and he hated the idea of being her rebound.
Once the paper was stripped and most of the streaks of glue were scrubbed off, they stood at the entrance to the room and looked around. McCoy nodded in appreciation at how much larger and light the room looked now and he switched off the steamer. He turned to face Christine and say something that he immediately forgot when he saw the look on her face.
She looked happy. Unreservedly happy. And so relieved.
"I can't believe this is mine," she said quietly, almost to herself.
"You mean the house?" he asked just as quietly not wanting to break whatever spell she was under.
She nodded. "I always loved this house. From when I was a child. I thought it was the most beautiful place in the world." She sighed. "It's why I came back here, you know. To Enterprise. The people who bought it from my cousin put it back on the market and I pounced."
She made a face. "I'm almost positive I paid more for it than I should have. And it's going to take forever to get all the renovations done on it."
"Are you doing them all yourself?" he asked concerned.
"That's…a big undertaking, Chapel," he said fighting the urge to smooth the strands of hair off her forehead.
"It's an expensive one, too," she said. "Do you know how much it costs for labor alone?" She shook her head. "Nope. The only way I'm going to get this done is if I do it myself."
"Can I ask you a really personal question?" he asked turning to face her. She blinked at him a little, coming out of her reverie.
"You can ask," she said hesitantly.
"How did you get up the nerve to do all this?" he asked. "Buying the house, I mean."
Her lips twisted into a moue of sheepishness. "Honestly? I thought I was getting married."
McCoy frowned. "Meaning you thought your fiancé would be helping you with the payments and the renovations? But he swanned off, leaving you with everything."
"Yeah, something like that," she said sounding dejected as she looked around the room.
"What dick," McCoy said. She looked at him in surprise. "Your fiancé. Not you," he added hastily. "Let me guess, Reason Number Two why he wasn't the man for you?"
She grinned and he felt giddy at the spark in her eyes. "Reason Number Three, actually. Reason Number Two was his irrational dislike of greasy food."
"Dick," he said solemnly. "Uncouth dick."
Christine laughed and he joined her with a chuckle. She turned to walk out of the room. "Speaking of food, I've got some leftovers if you're hungry."
"One thing you should probably know about me, I'm always hungry," he said following her down the hall to the kitchen where he blinked at the bright sunlight coming in through the windows and illuminating the clean space.
"Ah, well, good to know," she said going to the fridge and pulling out a casserole dish. "It's just baked spaghetti, if that's okay?"
"That's great," he said. He looked down at his hands and grimaced. "Is there a bathroom I can use to clean up?"
"Oh, yes," she said. "You'd better use the one upstairs. The one down here is a bit unstable. Just up the stairs and it's the first on the left."
"Thanks." McCoy headed up the stairs and once he got to the top, he spotted the bathroom. He glanced to the right and absently noticed that it was obviously her bedroom. He looked away quickly. Then froze in his tracks and looked back.
What the hell was Christine Chapel doing with a bed the size of Montana?
I wonder if he's seen The Bed, Christine thought as she re-heated the spaghetti and pulled out some plates. Oh, God. He probably thinks I'm some kind of hedonist.
And that's a bad thing? a little voice asked.
Yes? No. Yes. I don't know, she thought tossing a salad quickly. Why does he have to be the Anti-Roger? He just jumped right in. Manhandling that steamer like it was nothing.
She pulled out her pitcher of iced tea and lemon slices. She started to pour two glasses, still musing to herself.
I wonder if he'd be adverse to helping me with the gutters? I wonder if he does any carpentry? I wonder if he'd do me?
She stopped mid-pour, a little aghast at herself.
The last thing you need right now is a relationship, she told herself. You don't need more complications and the minefield of problems that they inevitably bring. The man's only been in town a week and it's a really, really bad idea. I don't care how big his hands are.
"And they are really, really big," she said out loud.
McCoy's voice in the doorway had her spinning and clutching the pitcher to her chest.
"Sweet Jesus, stop that!" she exclaimed.
"I'm sorry. Truly." The smirk on his face belied any actual remorse. "Can I do anything?"
"You can sit down and stop scaring the life out of me," she said pointing at a chair by the kitchen table.
"Yes, ma'am," he said giving into a proper grin.
Christine's eyes narrowed and she turned away before she did something dumb, like sit on his lap and nibble on his ear.
She handed him a glass of iced tea that he took with such a look of gratitude her knees practically buckled. Then she served up lunch.
They both dug in with identical vigor. Who knew ripping down wallpaper was such an appetite enhancer?
Once done, Christine leaned back and sipped at her tea, while McCoy finished off the rest of her spaghetti.
"That was incredible, Chapel," he said earnestly. "Thank you."
"Hey, anyone who works on my house is entitled to a free lunch," she said. "It's only fair."
"So then I should come around next weekend?" he asked. "If only to get a healthy meal to compensate for my abysmal diet during the week?"
"How are you with gutters?" she asked before the rational part of her brain could come up with a suitable reason why he shouldn't.
"It just so happens I was the chief cleaner of gutters throughout most of my adolescent life," he said. "Kept me out of trouble."
Christine found herself grinning. "I can only imagine."
He chuckled and looked down and she noticed that he had some adhesive stuck in his hair, just behind his ear. "Oh. You've got… May I?"
She reached over as he looked up. With a small smile, she raked her fingers through a small patch of his hair, tugging gently on the bit of glue and wallpaper. Her nails scratched lightly at his scalp and Christine couldn't miss the way he shivered and how his eyes actually dilated.
Her lips parted and she found she couldn't look away from his eyes, her hand still carded through his hair. They held hers for several moments before they darted down to her lips.
That pulled her out of her daze and she pulled her hand away, the bit of wallpaper in between her fingers.
They both started to talk at the same time looking anywhere but at each other.
"You just had some—"
"Yeah, not surprised. Was that—"
"Yeah, I think I got it all."
They actually sat there in awkward silence for a few minutes before McCoy made some sort of choking sound. Christine looked over in concern and then laughed, because he wasn't choking, he was snickering.
"Do you have any idea how long it's been since someone touching my goddam hair got me all flustered?" he asked her. "What is it about you, Christine Chapel?"
"It's probably the fumes from the wallpaper glue," she said giggling, "you'll get over it."
"I highly doubt it," he said wryly still smiling and her stomach was doing flips and there were butterflies and quite possibly bumblebees and oh, she wasn't going to do this, remember?
The smile slowly fell from her face as did his. She had no idea what expression was on her face, but noticed that his had transformed to worried.
She opened her mouth to say something but the front door banged open.
"Christine? Are you home? Do you have a screwdriver I could borrow? Don't ask me why, because I can't tell you—Oh! Hello!"
Gaila stood in the doorway to the kitchen looking carefree and cheerful in her flowery flippy skirt and tanktop, smiling brightly first at McCoy and then at Christine. "Am I interrupting something?"
"No, no," Christine said quickly standing up. "Gaila, this is Doctor Leonard McCoy, the new doctor I told you about. Doctor, this is my friend, Gaila Murphy. She owns the salon in town."
McCoy stood and offered his hand to Gaila. "Ms Murphy."
"Oh, it's Gaila, please," she said enthusiastically shaking his hand. "And may I say, it is wonderful to finally put a face to the name. I've been hearing all sorts of lovely things about you." She caught sight of Christine's glare and added, "From the town, of course."
"Thank you, it's been a good week so far," he said politely glancing at Christine. "I should probably…" He gestured in the general direction of the door.
"Oh, yes, of course," Christine said hurriedly. "Thank you again, for all your help. I really appreciated it."
"Anytime, Chapel," he said meeting her eyes and causing the butterflies and bumblebees to riot in her stomach and nether regions.
"Let me walk you out," she said as he nodded at Gaila and turned to leave. Christine ignored Gaila's thumbs up and ostentatious winking and followed him out.
They stood on her porch, McCoy looking up at her gutters. "You really need those seen to," he said. "I'll be here next Saturday."
"Look, McCoy, I wasn't serious before," she said. "You honestly don't have to…"
"Oh, I know, Chapel," he said patiently. "But, and how does this strike you? I want to."
Once again, she felt caught in his stare and despite the little voice in her brain shrieking 'Abort! Abort! Not in the plan! Complications, ahoy!', she simply said, "How do you feel about meat loaf?"
"I love it with a passion that cannot be contained," he said seriously.
"Then that's what you'll be getting for lunch," she said just as seriously.
"I'm looking forward to it," he said. Then he grinned. "See you Monday, Chapel."
She watched him walk with an easy grace down to his car and turned on her heel and went back into her house.
Christine closed her front door and leaned against it, staring blankly down the hall.
She was only somewhat aware that Gaila had joined her and was leaning against the door next to her.
"That is one fine specimen of a man," her friend said.
"Yes. Yes, he is," Christine said.
"Your living room looks great with that tacky wallpaper gone."
Gaila leaned her head on Christine's shoulder. "He seems nice."
"I think he is," Christine said leaning her head on top of Gaila's. "I think he might be a genuinely nice, good man."
"This is a problem?"
"I'm not sure yet."
Gaila nodded. They contemplated the hallway a bit longer, then Gaila said, "Chris? Would you still be my friend even if I did something monumentally stupid?"
"Monumentally stupid as in, dying your hair purple or selling babies on the black market?" Christine asked.
"Somewhere in the middle," Gaila said.
"Yes, I would still be your friend if you did something monumentally stupid," Christine said giving Gaila's curls a quick kiss. "Are you about to do something monumentally stupid?"
Gaila sighed. "Maybe."
Christine frowned at the tone of her voice. She lifted her head and looked down at Gaila. "Sweetie? What's wrong?"
"Nothing yet," she said softly. Then she bumped Christine's hip with her own. "Are we all still on for brunch tomorrow?"
"I hope so," Christine said. "I've been looking forward to a mimosa all week. I think Jan is bringing Nyota."
"Good. I like her," Gaila said. She sighed. "You said you had a screwdriver?"
Christine found her a flathead screwdriver and Gaila left with a wave and a smile that didn't come close to her usual cheerfulness.
As Christine wandered back into her freshly stripped living room and sat down on the floor, she wondered just what the heck was going on.
Hikaru Sulu was exhausted. He'd spent all day at the drive-in site making sure that everything went smoothly, that Jim Kirk didn't cause any delays, and that Spock understood just why they couldn't physically create some of his designs due to the constrictions of gravity and the laws of physics.
All he wanted was to sit in his living room with a beer and watch the game.
He'd just settled into his old lazy-boy when he heard something downstairs. He shook his head, thinking he'd imagined the sound.
He took a sip of his Grolsch.
Then he heard the sound again. With a groan, Sulu got up and went to investigate.
He lived right in the center of downtown Enterprise in a building that used to house the original hardware store. The building had been converted into apartments, one on each of the three floors, in the mid-80s. His was on the second floor and the bottom had been vacant ever since the Robertsons moved to Seattle.
Sulu grabbed his keys and using the back stairwell, headed down.
Just as he reached the door of the downstairs apartment, a figure appeared in the tiny foyer.
They both yelped and took a step back.
Sulu frowned and said, "Pavel? Chekov, is that you?"
"Sulu?" Chekov said nervously stepping into the dim light the small bulb gave off. "You live upstairs. Right. I remember now."
"Uh, yeah," Sulu said raking a hand through his black hair. "What, uh, what are you doing here?"
Sulu looked Chekov over and noticed the young man was wearing black clothes from head to foot, including a black cap that covered his curls and flattened them to his forehead. He also had a small toolbox.
He also looked very anxious.
"Okay, Pavel," Sulu said crossing his arms over his chest. "What the hell is going on? Please tell me you haven't taken up a life of crime because you're bored?"
"What? No! Of course not!" Chekov said indignantly. Then he looked sheepish. "Well, not exactly."
"It's not as bad as it looks," Chekov said.
"It looks pretty bad from where I'm standing."
"Well, I can explain, my friend," Chekov said. "See—"
"Pavel! Are you here yet? I think Sulu may be home, I saw a light on—Oh, hell."
Gaila stopped mid-sentence as she walked into the small foyer and she grimaced as Sulu looked her over. She was also wearing black from head to toe and held a screwdriver in her hands.
"Right. What the fuck?" Sulu asked flatly.
"We can explain," Gaila said, her eyes wide and her tone even and placating.
"I'm all ears," Sulu said still feeling a little angry but willing to admit that he was extremely curious.
Chekov looked at Gaila and made a motion that pretty much said for her to take it from there.
"Hikaru, have you ever heard of the Kirk Jewels?" Gaila asked a conspiratorial smile slowly spreading across her face.
Christine woke up on Sunday morning to the sounds of the wrens in the dogwood tree just outside her window. She smiled and let her fingers continue to trace the smooth, firm outlines of the figure above her head. Her index finger dipped and ran along a lovely curve and the wood felt cool and decadent beneath her fingertips.
She sighed and stretched her legs looking for a cool spot on her mattress.
Christine slowly opened her eyes and craning her neck looked up to see her hands were indeed, caressing her new headboard.
She very slowly removed her grip on the headboard and lowered her arms down to her sides. Then she just lay there in her bed.
"How much does it say about me that the most sensual experience I've had in the ten months since Roger left is a result of me stroking a headboard?" she asked out loud.
Neither the bed nor the wrens outside had much of an answer for her. She grabbed one of her pillows, held it over her face, and screamed into it.
Once that was done, she got up, cast a properly baleful glare at The Bed. It was mocking her with its hugeness, dammit. Angrily, she stomped into the bathroom for a shower. Afterwards, she came back into the room wearing her robe and her wet hair done up in a towel turban, still glaring at The Bed with the sheets and quilt all rumpled.
"It's not fair," she said as she sorted through clothes in her closet. "I mean, just because you're big and beautiful and comfortable, that does not give you the automatic right to give me the best sleep of my life. Honestly, it's just not right."
She pulled out a navy blue sundress that she hadn't worn in ages and laid it on the bed. Getting her hairdryer out she started to dry her hair, still talking to The Bed.
"You're just a bed," she said loudly over the roar of the hairdryer. "You shouldn't actually possess any supernatural qualities. I don't care if you do look like sex and passion personified. Or anthropomorphized, or whatever. Just stop being so damn big."
She turned her hairdryer off. The Bed remained large and luxurious.
"You're making me think I can have stuff that I clearly don't need," she said softly, her hair in complete disarray around her face. "You really need to stop that. I'm not ready for something that's going to change my life and has a lovely backside and warm eyes. I'm just not ready. Okay?"
The Bed seemed to exude disappointment and Christine just huffed and dropped her hairdryer to the floor. Then she pulled on her sundress, made up the bed, making sure to pull the sheets as tightly as she could and with one last look at The Bed, she left her bedroom to go have brunch with people who actually talked as opposed to staying and talking to an inanimate object.
"Because that's crazy," she said as she walked down her stairs cringing when she stepped on the creaky step. "Sane people don't talk to their beds. They also don't think the delivery of a massive, sinful bed is a sign that they need to drastically change their outlook on life. Be more sane, Christine. Stop thinking about the damn bed."
Think about sexy Doctor McCoy instead, a little voice said.
The image of him flushed and manhandling the steamer flashed behind her eyes and she felt a little weak in the knees.
"Oh, shut up," she said out loud to the world in general. She let her front door slam behind her as she started the walk to the café.
Janice and Nyota were already seated at a table at Martha's. Christine grinned to see the pitcher of mimosas already on the table.
"Please tell me you've already ordered," she said taking her seat in a bit of a huff. "I'm starving."
"Uh, no," Janice said not repressing the amused curve of her lips. "And did someone get up on the wrong side of the love boat this morning?"
Christine glared while Nyota blinked. "I'm sorry," she said. "Love boat?"
"Christine has a new bed," Janice explained. "It's sex made out of mahogany."
"Nice," Nyota said. She looked over at Christine who was pouring a large glass of orange and champagne. "Is it nice?"
"It's amazing," Christine said after a long sip. "But, it's too much. I woke up this morning stroking it. I have to send it back."
"No! Why?" Janice asked pouting. "It's gorgeous and made for sex. Sex, Christine. You remember sex, right?"
Christine rolled her eyes. "Yes, I remember sex. It's overrated." She told the voice in her head, that was about to counter her statement with the image of McCoy's hands and low voice, to Shut Up.
"You haven't been having the right kind of sex," Nyota said not quite smugly, but with a definite gleam in her eyes.
Janice and Christine exchanged glances. Spock was quite the attractive man, Christine had always thought so. So urbane and intelligent and perhaps in some other universe, Christine would have considered him as a possible partner. However, one had only to look at him when Nyota was in the room and see the utter love in the man's eyes.
That being said, Nyota rarely commented on the relationship, so…
"Oh, do go on, Ms. Uhura," Christine said. "I am all ears."
Nyota merely sniffed and said, "I'm simply saying that sex, when done correctly, is quite fulfilling and enjoyable."
"Is there an incorrect way to have sex?" Janice asked cocking her head to the side.
The three women paused to consider the prospect of incorrect sex. They all shuddered simultaneously.
"Yes," Christine said taking another sip. "There is definitely an incorrect way to have sex. I just had a flashback to my first year in an emergency room. Someone really should invent brain bleach."
"I'm fairly sure I don't want to know," Nyota said making a face.
"You don't," Christine said emphatically.
"Gross," Janice said wrinkling her nose.
"What's gross? Morning, ladies," Gaila said as she sat down. Christine frowned to see dark circles under her eyes.
"Gaila, you look exhausted," she said leaning towards her. "Are you okay?"
Gaila smiled at her and patted her hand. "Stand down, Nurse Chapel, I'm fine," she said. "Just had a late night."
"Scotty?" Janice asked with a wink.
"No, nosy girl," Gaila said indignantly. "We agreed to stop doing that."
"Doing what?" Nyota asked.
"Post-marital sexcapades," Gaila said matter-of-factly nodding her thanks to Janice who'd poured her a mimosa.
"I'm sorry?" Nyota said her eyes widening.
"Gaila and Scotty have the kind of relationship that only exists in movies," Janice said. She gave Gaila an affectionate look. "They kept hooking up even after the divorce papers came through."
"Well, I still love him," Gaila said. "And he still loves me and the sex is fantastic. Why should I stop?"
"Why did you stop?" Nyota asked.
Gaila frowned. "Things started to get complicated. And he said it wasn't fair, I should be out there looking for someone else." She sighed. "And work has been really busy."
Nyota still looked confused and when she glanced at Christine, Christine just shrugged her shoulders.
"Anyway!" Gaila said. "Enough about me, what were you all talking about before I got here? And have you ordered yet, I'm starving."
"Sex and no, we haven't," Janice said smiling at the waiter hovering in the background.
He came over immediately. "Ladies, what can I get you?"
They placed their orders (two veggie omelets, one big stack of pancakes with strawberries and one yogurt and granola) and toasted to the fact that it was Sunday. Their waiter came back with a basket of tiny muffins and they dug in.
"Cheers," Janice said.
"So, you were talking about sex," Gaila said. "Anything new?"
"Nyota is the only one getting it regularly, Christine is about to take her bed's virginity and I'm not even going to discuss my love life as I don't have one," Janice summed up with a vicious swipe of butter onto her lemon-poppyseed muffin.
"Maybe we should change subjects," Christine suggested. "As much as I enjoyed Sex and the City, I don't really have the need to emulate it."
"We-ell, Janice and I were talking about careers before you came in, Christine," Nyota said glancing quickly at Janice.
"Specifically, my career," Janice said taking a gulp of her mimosa. "I'm thinking of getting a new one."
Christine felt her eyes widen and wondered how hard she needed to kick Jim the next time she saw him.
"Oh, wow, Jan. Really?" Gaila asked. "I thought you loved your job?"
"I do, sort of," Janice said. She looked away for a moment and then back to the table. "I love organizing. I love diffusing situations. I'm good at it. But, I'm tired of organizing and diffusing the same people every day. The thrill is gone, guys."
"And it's not because of a certain mayor who will remain nameless?" Christine asked gently.
Janice shook her head. "No, it's not. Well, at least not one hundred percent him." She thought for a second. "He's probably forty-five percent of the problem. Which is actually one hundred percent my problem, you know?"
"No," Gaila said shaking her head. "I hate math."
"So do I," Nyota said nodding sympatherically.
They all tittered a little, relieving the tension. Then Janice went on, "Ny has offered me a chance at a job within their company."
"Oh, wow! Doing what?" Christine asked still reeling from the Janice's news.
"Pretty much what she does now," Nyota said. "But, in a more localized way. We always need someone to handle our public relations and I mean that in the most literal definition of the term. Jan would really be perfect."
"The downside would be the travel," Janice said biting her lip.
"Travel?" Gaila repeated.
"Because your firm works all over the state," Christine said as it dawned on her. "Jan, you'd be moving?"
"I don't know," she said softly.
Christine felt almost gutted. Her best friend was thinking about moving. Leaving Enterprise. How had things gotten this bad? And why hadn't she noticed?
The table was silent as the waiter arrived and placed their breakfasts in front of them. They continued to sit in silence until Janice shook herself a little.
"Look, nothing's been decided," she said. "It's something I'm considering. And I'd hardly leave while the town is in the midst of its current renovation, so, we'll just see, all right?"
"All right," Christine said with a nod trying to see the bright side.
"Right," Gaila said grinning despite the concern in her eyes.
"Right," Janice said with a nod to herself. "Now, let's get back to Christine's story about molesting her bed this morning."
"Ooh, and has she told how the dishy new doctor came over and helped to steam her wallpaper off?" Gaila added bouncing a little in her seat.
Christine buried her head in her hands while the other ladies laughed.
The second week at the clinic took on a similar rhythm to the first. Mornings were filled with regular appointments; afternoons were filled with a multitude of odd accidents and incidents.
McCoy's favorite was probably the young man who walked in with a pencil firmly embedded in his chin.
When McCoy asked him what happened, the kid just shrugged and said, "History's so boring. I fell asleep and when I nodded off, I kinda landed on my pencil."
McCoy looked over at Christine who was valiantly holding in her laughter and said, "I think we should start a scrapbook of this stuff."
He felt almost giddy when she started to laugh out loud.
Which was something he needed to work on.
It wasn't surprising that he was attracted to her, she was beautiful and smart and quite possibly one of the best nurses he'd ever worked with. No. Liking her wasn't the issue. That made sense.
It was whether or not he should do something about it that worried him.
She was clearly still trying to get over Korby and McCoy knew how that process felt. The last thing he wanted to do was start something she wasn't ready to start.
That he wasn't sure he wanted to start.
Who am I kidding? he thought as he watched her talking to a patient on the phone, strands of her hair that had fallen out of her bun tickling the nape of her neck, her voice calm and reassuring. I want to start something. Damn it. Don't screw this one up, man.
As for Christine, she was still wrestling with The Bed and having some of the best sleep of her life.
"I still don't see how this is a problem, dear," Nora had said that morning as they took a brief coffee break. "I'd kill to get a new bed, but Stan loves that old lumpy mattress of his."
"It's become this thing, Nora," Christine said trying to explain. "This symbol of what I've been denying myself and it's making me have urges."
"Honey, it's not the bed that's making you have urges," Nora said in a kind, and not a little patronizing, tone. "Those urges were gonna come with or without a new bed."
She patted Christine's arm and headed back to the reception desk, leaving Christine to frown at the coffee maker.
The only odd thing to occur during the week, and honestly Christine wouldn't have even clocked it as particularly odd, was when Mr. Gehry came in with a severely sprained ankle.
"He said it happened when he hooked his foot around the leg of his end table," Nora said snagging both Christine and McCoy before they went into the exam room. "It was out of its usual place. At least a foot away from the couch."
"So?" McCoy asked.
"So, that man has not even considered rearranging his furniture since his wife, Bess died," Nora said narrowing her eyes. "That makes two people in with accidents involving furniture in two weeks. Something strange is going on in this town."
She gave them both a pointed look over the top of her glasses, nodded her head and walked off. McCoy looked at Christine who just shook her head.
"The thing is, she's usually right," she said.
"Uh huh, well, let's see what the damage is," he said before absently placing his hand on her lower back ushering her into the exam room.
She did her level best not to blush at the contact and most certainly did not consider the sheer width of his hand.
As Friday rolled around and she started to mentally plan which home improvement projects she was going to tackle, Christine wondered if McCoy was actually going to come over and clean her gutters.
He'd made the assertion in earnest and he was hardly the type of man to ever renege on his word. She couldn't quite put her finger on how she knew that, but there was something in the way he spoke to the patients, how he reassured them and did everything with such care, it all spoke to someone who had integrity. Honor, even.
Jeez, Christine, her inner voice piped up. He's just a man, not a knight of the round table.
However, just then, the man in question was gruffly handing little, five-year-old Amelia Griffin a grape-flavored lollipop and Christine couldn't quite remember when she had become a complete and utter sucker for clichés. Because getting all hot and bothered over a doctor being kind to a child?
Mother and progenitor of all clichés.
And yet... It was totally working. His eyes were all soft, and he was tweaking her pigtail while little Amelia gazed up at him giggling. How was this man real? And dear God, the things she wanted to do to him.
Christine shook her head and headed off to exam room two to see if the Baker twins had come down with chicken pox or if it was simply a case of too many mosquito bites.
After Christine got off the phone with the school nurse to alert her to keep an eye out for any other cases, McCoy popped his head around the corner and asked, "Gutters, right?"
"Only if you're still in the mood for meatloaf," she said leaning back in her chair and not even bothering to fight off a grin.
"I'm a guy," he said. "I'm pretty much always in the mood for meatloaf." He frowned. "And I honestly didn't mean for that to sound the way it did. I apologize."
"I've heard worse, believe it or not," she said. "And do you prefer your meatloaf with a ketchup glaze or without?"
"With, of course," he said grinning. "I'm not a heathen."
"Of course," she said.
"Doctor? Exam room four is ready," Alice said from down the hall.
"Be right there," he called to her. He turned back to Christine. "When would you like me there? Is nine am too early?"
"Make it nine-thirty," she said. "I like to pretend I'm a lady of leisure and give myself an extra couple of hours on the weekend."
He chuckled. "I can only imagine. Nine-thirty it is."
He gave her a nod and headed off down the hall. Christine stared after him until Nora poked her side. Christine jumped and gave the other woman a cross look.
Nora just said, "Are you making that man your granny's meatloaf?"
"Yes," Christine said steeling herself for whatever saucy remark Nora was waiting to spring on her.
But Nora just nodded and said, "Good for you. It's about damn time."
Then she sauntered off to answer the phone and Christine just sat there, wondering if it wasabout damn time.
It wasn't until McCoy was actually in his car and pulling into Christine's driveway that he realized he was humming along to the Eagles on the radio.
Once he did realize that he was, in fact, making an ass of himself, he stopped. Then he just sat for a second and stared at the house in front of him.
It was a fantastic house, with a strong character and potential. There was a dogwood tree just next to the house that was about to bloom and he wondered if the azaleas were going to be just as much of a riot of color later in the spring here in California as they were back in Georgia.
Was he even going to be here to see it?
And was he going to be able to sit on the front porch in front of him and see it?
It was a nice thought.
It was a nice house.
And she was a nice woman.
He kind of wanted to be around to see those azaleas.
"Damn it." McCoy took a deep breath and got out of the car. He'd just lifted his hand to knock on the front door when it swung open, revealing Christine in those jeans again and a fitted blue t-shirt.
They just blinked at each other for a second, before she smiled. "Morning."
"Morning, yourself," he said.
"I've got coffee."
"You're a life-saver."
She grinned. "You know, I kinda am on occasion."
God damn it, he really wanted to be around to see those azaleas.
"Okay, when was the last time someone even looked at those gutters?"
At the sound of McCoy's voice, Christine spun around from where she was applying a coat of primer to the walls in the living room. She lowered the paint roller and bit her lip to hold in the laughter (and lust, let's be honest) that bubbled up at seeing him so disheveled.
He got rumpled at the office, his tie getting more and more askew as the day wore on, but this was a different type of disorder.
This was sweaty and dirty with streaks of mud on his arms and his shirt.
He looked delicious and it had been some time since she'd thought that about a man. Roger hadn't really done…sweaty. Urbane and polished? That was Roger.
Filthy and hot? Apparently, that was McCoy. She wanted to lick him. Sweet Christ, she wanted to run her hands up under his shirt and have his mouth on hers. She wanted to trace the line of his neck with her tongue and…
Jesus Christ, Christine! Stop it! Stop it right now! a voice shrieked in her head.
"It's been a while," Christine said faintly, referring to the gutters and not her libido. "The people my cousin sold the house to were less than enthusiastic about home improvement. Is it that bad up there?"
"Well, it could be worse," he said rubbing his palms on his worn jeans. "The gutters themselves aren't in bad shape, they'll last you another year, I reckon. There was just an awful lot of muck in them. There's a patchy section of roof I saw, on the far east side."
She frowned. "I know. I think it may already be leaking into the attic." Inwardly, she went over her budget and wondered if she needed to hold off on some of the more superficial repairs and sort the roof out first.
"I can fix that."
His voice once again had her lifting her head in surprise. "Really?"
"Sure," he said with a shrug. "It's not a big section, should only take me an afternoon."
"Really?" she said again, not quite comprehending the fact that he was voluntarily offering to replace a section of her roof.
He rolled his eyes. "Yes. It's not that big of a deal, Chapel. You need the roof fixed, I can fix it, it's as simple as that."
Christine had a feeling it wasn't as simple as that, but hey. Someone that wasn't her was going to fix her roof.
"Thank you," she said. "I'm almost done with this coat and then I'll put lunch on." She caught sight of the time on her watch and made a face. "Well, more like late lunch."
McCoy suddenly looked uncomfortable. "You know, you don't have to feed me. I don't want you to go to any trouble."
Christine laughed and turned back to the section of wall she was painting. "'Trouble' is getting up on a ladder and scooping out decade old leaves and dirt. Cooking isn't trouble. Go wash your hands and help yourself to a drink."
"Yes, ma'am." She glanced over her shoulder to see him grin and give her a salute, then he headed up the stairs, cursing when he stepped on the step that always creaked loudly.
She quickly finished the wall and cleaned off the paint roller. Then she headed into the kitchen to wash off her hands. It took a while because McCoy was using the bathroom upstairs and the pipes don't share the water very amicably, but she got most of the paint off.
With a twist of the dial, she turned the radio on and grinned as the local station was still in the midst of its Grand Ole Opry revival.
She pulled out the food she made the night before and slid a pan into the oven. Then she got out the veggies she planned to sauté. As she was bending down to pull a head of lettuce out of the crisper, she had the sensation of someone watching her, so she turned her head.
McCoy stood in the doorway, leaning against the door jamb, and he was looking at her butt. His eyes moved quickly to meet hers when he realized she was looking at him, but she'd seen him.
He had been checking her out.
She was glad the refrigerator door was open and the air spilling out cooled her cheeks, because she was pretty sure she was blushing up a storm.
Christine turned back around and finished getting the salad stuff.
No one said anything. She didn't know what to say. Did you thank a person for checking you out? She kind of wanted to. It'd been a while.
She heard him make his way over to the fridge and pull out the pitcher of iced tea. When she looked over he held it up in a silent query. She nodded.
"Glasses are just there," she said nodding at the cupboard next to her head.
He reached up and she had to tear her eyes away from looking at the way the muscles in his lower arm moved easily under his skin and the strong sturdiness of his wrists. He poured them both a glass of iced tea and Christine gratefully took a sip.
She continued cooking, while he leaned against the counter. His lips twitched when the radio played something by Hank Williams and she couldn't stop the fond smile that spread across her own face.
"You have, ah, a little paint," he said eventually as she sliced a tomato.
"Do I?" Christine frowned looking down at her arms.
"In your hair, actually," he said. He reached over and those long, strong fingers of his threaded through a section of her hair just above her ear. They skimmed the length of her hair, just brushing the shell of her ear and she gasped.
Honest-to-God gasped. He froze with his fingers still touching her hair.
"Soft," he said absently.
She turned, tomato forgotten and the knife going slack in her hands. "What?" she asked.
"Your hair," he said. "It's soft."
"Oh, thank you," she said calmly as though his fingers weren't still caressing strands of her hair and she wasn't spontaneously combusting internally. "I use Johnsons and Johnsons Baby Shampoo. It makes Gaila furious."
"Why?" he asked distantly, his fingers now tracing the curve of her ear.
"Oh, God," she said breathlessly, her eyes closing, chills racing up and down her spine at the feel of his touch. "Because she spends a fortune on salon stuff and I use the cheap baby brand stuff."
"Whatever works," he said. "I think your greens are ready."
"What?" she said dumbly, her eyes opening. He dropped his hand and nodded to the pot about to boil over on the stove.
"Oh. Oh! Crap." Christine hurriedly took the pot off the burner and gave it a quick stir.
"May I help?" he asked not bothering to hide his grin.
"No, you may not," she said firmly, turning to face him, knowing her face was seven different shades of red. "You may sit down at the table and stop distracting me."
The man had the audacity to wink at her and then followed her instructions and sat down at the table.
Lunch, well, dinner was pretty quiet. She asked a few questions about the hospital in Atlanta and he asked about New Orleans.
The praise he gave her meatloaf made her beam with pleasure and she confessed that it was her granny's recipe.
Once they finished, she walked him out and they stood on the front porch, watching the sun begin to go down, the air turning crisp.
"Can I ask you something?" she asked not quite meeting his eyes as she leaned against the side of the house. He mimicked her pose across from her and leaned against the porch rail.
"Always," he answered which made her smile.
"Did you get over it?" she asked wondering if she was pressing her luck, but desperate to know. "Your divorce. Did you get over it?"
He chuckled and shook his head. "No. That's the big lie, Chapel. You don't ever get over it." He took a deep breath and looked out onto the quiet street. "You move on. You adjust. But you don't ever get over it." He shrugged and looked back at her. "But, if you're lucky you learn something along the way."
"That's what I thought," she said with a sigh, scuffing the floor with her tennis shoe.
"My turn," he said firmly, his eyes soft as they looked at her. "Do you not have a car because it's too expensive? Because you're trying to pay for this house all on your own?"
Pride, that damn Chapel pride, sat up straight in her chest, which in turn made Christine straighten up and look him in the eyes.
"Yes," she said. "I sold my car and I'm lucky enough to have friends who live nearby and don't mind giving me a lift. But, yes. I can't afford it."
He nodded but didn't say anything else. They stood in silence before he let out a dry laugh.
"I think you should know something," he said looking down at the porch floor. "I like you,"
Christine opened her mouth to say something witty but all that came out was, "I like you, too."
He looked up and she shrugged helplessly. "I do. I like you. And I have no idea what to do with that."
"Who says you have to do anything with it?" he asked.
"Well, no one," she said looking away and picking at a bit of the peeling paint. "I didn't plan on this happening again."
"You know, a relationship. With someone I work with," she said.
"It can make things awkward," he said. "But, it's not impossible."
"True." Christine felt odd, as though the rational part of her was having the conversation, the giddy part of her was still dancing around in response to him saying he liked her.
"And, for the record, I'm not him."
Christine jerked her head to look at him. He looked determined and almost grim. "I know that," she said. "Oh, believe me, I know you're not him. I'm not making comparisons."
"Sure you are," he said casually and she made as if to argue but he kept going, "It's perfectly natural, Chapel. Of course you're going to compare me to Korby. I'm gonna compare you to Jocelyn." She frowned at his irrefutable logic. "But," he went on, "I'm going to do my damnedest to not expect you to behave the way she did. I hope you can do the same."
"I'll try," she said slowly, knowing that most of her hesitation came from still feeling hard done by Roger. "I imagine you come with your own set of issues."
"I've got a U-Haul full of 'em," McCoy said with a quirk of his mouth. "Just like you do."
"Please," she said airily. "As if I'd use a U-Haul. Mine come in a lovely matched set of luggage."
McCoy let out a bark of laughter and said, "You know the first night I was here, someone said you were a classy woman. They weren't wrong."
Christine grinned and laughed a bit herself.
"So...are we doing this?" he asked still looking amused.
She looked away again and peeled another bit of paint. "Can I have some time? To think?"
"I'm not going anywhere," he said softly reaching out a hand to touch her face. The backs of his fingers trailed down the curve of her cheek and she shivered.
He dropped his hand.
"I better go," he said. "You're a gorgeous woman, Chapel and I've only got so much self-control."
"See you Monday, then," she said, fighting the urge to press her fingers to her cheek to hold the sensation of his hand on her skin.
"Yeah, Monday." He gave her a tight smile and headed for his car.
"Hey, McCoy!" she called. He turned with that eyebrow of his raised. "Next Saturday?"
"Yeah?" he asked warily.
"You fix my roof, I'll fix pot roast," she offered.
A look of bliss came over his face. "You'd better stop saying things like that, woman; or else I'm coming back up there."
Christine just grinned and waved her fingers at him. She could hear him chuckle as he shook his head and got inside his car.
She tilted her head to the side and watched him pull out of her driveway and head down the street, then she wandered back inside.
The front door closed behind her with a soft click. Then, because she could, because it was her house and there wasn't anyone around, she let out a happy shriek and ran up her stairs, hopping over the creaky one, dashed into her bedroom and flung herself on her ridiculously massive bed.
The Bed held firm when she landed (as she knew it would) and she laughed and kicked her feet, messing up her neatly made up sheets.
Then she lay there, listening to her heart beat and her breathing, the sounds of the house soothing and calming. She stretched her arms up over her head and ran her fingers along the headboard.
"He likes me," she whispered to the house feeling like a teenager. She thought those kinds of feelings stopped eventually. That you outgrew feeling giddy and happy all because someone liked you.
But if her current mood was anything to go by, apparently they didn't. Christine laughed and kicked her feet again.
Then, because she was still an adult, even if she was having a truly teenage moment, she jumped up out of bed to go and clean up dinner.
But, in a nod to adolescents and their apparent wisdom, she put some Pat Benetar on, and danced around her kitchen to Love is a Battlefield while she did the dishes. Somethings deserved an 80's soundtrack.
Something had shifted between McCoy and her, Christine noticed on Tuesday. It wasn't anything she could put her finger on, but something felt different. Light. Fun. Flirty.
It was probably her. Something inside of her had just given up on fighting what was clearly The Bed's influence. She found herself smiling more. Usually at McCoy, which made him all sorts flustered and adorable.
She had also indulged in actually physically flustering him, purely to see if she could.
She'd been in the supply room doing a quick inventory of their anti-histamine samples when he'd come past.
"Do we have a dermascope?" he asked coming inside and scanning the shelves, his presence instantly making the small room just that much smaller and the scent of him invading her nose.
"Oh, um, yes," she said setting her clipboard down. "We should."
She scanned the shelves herself and saw the black case that housed the instrument. "There it is."
They both moved at the same time, Christine getting to it first. McCoy inadvertently pressing up against her back as they both reached for the case.
"Sorry," he murmured as he gently collided into her.
Feeling brave and rested and just plain because she wondered if she could, Christine grabbed the case and turned around slowly, letting her body slide against his. She saw his Adam's apple bob as he swallowed hard. His hands hovered just above her shoulders.
"Here you go, Doctor," she said her voice going throaty as she looked up at him.
He swallowed hard once more and said, his voice going a bit hoarse, "Thank you kindly, Nurse Chapel."
His long fingers brushed against hers as he took the case from her. Christine kept her eyes open and unblinking, her mouth curving upwards ever so slightly.
"You're most welcome," she said.
His lips twitched in what she hoped was amusement and then he was gone.
She let herself slump against the shelves and pressed the backs of her hands to her cheeks. Then she smiled, straightened up, and went back to her inventory.
It was turning into a pretty good week.
Gaila walked into Scotty's pub to collect lunch for the herself and the girls back at the salon and felt a pang at the familiar smell of oak, beer and the grill working in the back. She wasn't too proud to admit that she missed Scotty and the life they'd had, but she wasn't going to be that woman who went crawling back to her old life when her new one threatened to get overwhelming.
Scotty came out from the kitchen and as soon as he spotted her he grinned. That mad, loving, wonderful grin that had charmed her out of her wits. And panties, come to think of it.
"Afternoon, sailor," she said giving him a grin of her own. "Tell me you have got some fine, fried food for me and mine behind that counter of yours?"
"Of course, my love, anything for you," Scotty said reaching down and bringing back up a bag with three to-go boxes. "Yours is the one with the extra pickle."
"You spoil me so," Gaila said with a sigh. "How much do I owe you?"
"Not a penny and don't argue," he said pointing a finger at her. "Just give me and a couple of the boys in the back a trim one of these days."
"Deal," she said grabbing his finger and pressing a kiss to it. She pulled the bag towards her and closing her eyes, she breathed in the smell of one of Scotty's fabulous BLT's.
"You look tired, love," Scotty said softly and Gaila's eyes opened and she met his concerned gaze. "What's troubling you, darlin'?"
"Nothing," she said too brightly and she winced as he frowned. "Well, mostly nothing. But, I can handle it."
"You can handle anything, Gaila, that's not what worries me," Scotty said. "It's the fact that you don't always have to."
"Scotty, it's fine," she said ignoring the voice inside her that was begging her to tell him about the invoices that were piling up, the creditors that had suddenly come knocking at the door, the fact that she was two months behind on her loan. She was going to do this herself, remember? "And I don't look too bad, do I?" she asked running a hand through her curls.
"There's not a thing in this world that could ever make you less than beautiful," he said with such honesty Gaila felt tears spring to her eyes. She looked away, hoping he didn't see, but he did. He always saw. "Gaila, love?"
"I'm fine, thanks for lunch, I'll see you," she said quickly giving him the barest of smiles. Then she hurried out of the pub.
Scotty watched her go with a worried expression that quickly became determined.
Janice answered her phone without looking away from her computer or even checking to see who was calling. "Spock's due at any time. I've already briefed Uhura on the changes you wanted to make to the drive-in's entrance."
"Does she want me dead still?" Jim asked. "And don't think that I don't think it's uncanny that you always know it's me calling."
"It's just after lunch," Janice said. "You're always late after lunch because at least twelve people stop you between here and Scotty's to ask you something."
"Thirteen people stopped and asked me something today."
"Ooh, a baker's dozen," Janice said with a grin. "Nice work, your honor."
"Hey, that's how I roll," he said and she groaned easily seeing his cheeky grin in her mind.
"Never, ever say that to me again," she said.
"Way too much."
"Well, I'm almost to the office," he said. "I just had to pick something up first."
"What?" She frowned. "Sarah already picked up your dry-cleaning."
"This was more of an impulse buy," he said his voice actually coming from the doorway.
Janice looked up and her jaw dropped. In a bit of a daze, she hung up the phone and took in the bouquet of sunflowers, cheerful and brilliant and already situated in a lovely glass vase. She closed her mouth and swallowed hard. Jim's head peeked around the blooms.
"They're sort of a thank you in advance," he said. "The council is not going to like the new planning permission forms and I know you're going to have to deal with the fallout, so...here."
He thrust the flowers at her and with unsteady hands, she took the flowers and said faintly, "Thank you. They're... Jim, they're lovely."
The smile he gave her wasn't the trademark Kirk smile, carefully developed over the years to charm and impress. The smile he gave her was almost bashful and Janice couldn't help but remember him giving her that smile when they were kids and she had been so determined to treat him just like any other kid. She smiled back.
"Whenever I have to explain the reasoning behind the new bureaucracy, I'll look at them," Janice said trying to regain her equilibrium. "Thank you."
"You're welcome, Jan," he said.
They sort of stared at each other for a few moments. At first in a kind of peaceful and happy way that eventually dissolved into an awkward silence. The vase was cool and heavy in her hands and Janice looked away to find a place on her desk to set it down. She pushed a book about landscaping to the floor and placed the vase down. The flowers jostled a little and a few petals drifted down.
She smiled again at the flowers and looked back up at Jim who was still looking at the flowers.
He met her eyes and opened his mouth to say something and was interrupted by the door behind him opening.
Spock and Nyota entered looking cool and professional. Nyota met Janice's eyes and gave her a small grin. Janice returned it. Nyota caught sight of the flowers that Janice was still holding onto and raised an eyebrow.
Janice quickly took her hands away.
"We must discuss the facade to the drive-in," Spock said to Jim without preamble. He straightened his dark-rimmed glasses. "I think we were optimistic in our initial sketches. It cannot overshadow the landscape, it must enhance it."
"My thoughts exactly," Jim said with a quirk of his lips. "Come on into my office. We'll chat."
Spock nodded at him and then at Janice. He stopped when he saw the sunflowers on her desk. "You have an admirer, Miss Rand?" he asked.
"Uh, no," she said dumbly. "They're, ah, from-"
"Me, actually," Jim said. "In appreciation for everything she's done lately."
"I see," Spock said while Nyota gave Janice a look that clearly said they would be talking later. Spock continued, "Did you know in the Victorian era, flowers were often used to convey messages? The sunflower was used to convey the message of 'adoration' and 'constancy in affection'."
Janice's eyes widened as Jim choked on air and Nyota delicately smothered a chuckle.
"Well, I always learn something new when you come around, Spock," Jim said. "Thanks."
He then disappeared into his office, Spock giving Janice a small bow as he followed. Nyota stopped next to her desk.
"They're very pretty," she said her fingers caressing a petal.
"Yeah," Janice said eyeing the flowers with suspicion.
"I sent you the application you asked for," Nyota said quietly.
"Yes, thank you," Janice said reaching out and lightly touching the center of a sunflower. "I'll take a look at it."
Nyota patted her on her shoulder and went into Jim's office. Janice sat down heavily in her chair.
She stared at the flowers and at the tiny petals that had fallen earlier. Another fell onto her stapler.
"Yeah," she repeated to the flowers. "You and me, both."
"You guys do realize this is breaking and entering?" Sulu said for what was probably the fifth time since he'd joined Gaila and Chekov on their little treasure hunt. It was an ordinary Wednesday night and they were trying to get into a house on the edge of Main Street. This was complicated by the fact that Main Street was the only one that had actual street lamps after a certain time. Apparently, it had once belonged to Tiberius Kirk's agent and – according to Gaila – this meant he'd at least known about the jewels. Maybe stored them somewhere.
"Yes, but we're not stealing anything," Chekov said so earnestly Sulu struggled not to pat his curly little head. "We're just looking."
"For jewels," Sulu said his eyes darting over the darkened backyard. "You're looking for jewels. Jewels that may not even exist. And if they do exist, they are supposedly buried in someone's house under their floorboards. Why am I even doing this?"
"Because you have a raging crush on Pavel and like the excitement," Gaila said fussing with the lock on the Brewer's kitchen door. "Now, hush and swing that flashlight over here."
Sulu sputtered. "I- What?"
Chekov looked at him with a pleased smile on his face. "You have crush?"
"No, I don't have crush," Sulu said quickly. Then at the downcast look on Chekov's face he said, "I mean, not that you're not... It's just... You have nice hair," he finished quite lamely.
Gaila snorted while Chekov brightened up again.
"So do you," he told Sulu. "It's very dark and thick. It's very nice."
"I've always thought so, too," Scotty's voice interrupted.
The three would-be thieves yelped and turned around in unison.
"Oh, crap," Sulu said shining his flashlight in Scotty's face. Scotty made a face and Sulu dropped the beam.
"Scotty! What are you doing here?" Gaila hissed angrily, but gave herself away by twisting her hands around her screwdriver.
Scotty shook his head and laid a gentle hand on her shoulder. "Following you, love," he said, his normally fond smile shaded with worry and not a small amount of concern. "After the other day, I was worried." He eyed the lot of them and raised an eyebrow. "Seems I was right to at that."
Gaila lifted her chin. "Everything's under control. You can go now."
"Un huh," Scotty said. "You're still looking for the Kirk jewels after all this time? Why?"
"I have my reasons," Gaila said.
"None of your business."
"I think mom and dad are having a fight," Sulu whispered to Chekov.
"Yes," Chekov whispered back. "Is not very nice."
Gaila rolled her eyes and glared at Chekov. "We're not fighting. Scotty, this doesn't concern you, just go. Please."
Scotty cocked his head to the side and said, "The fact that you're trying to pick a lock with a screwdriver concerns me. Step aside, gorgeous."
He stepped in close, winked at Gaila and with a grin, he let the pads of his fingers slide up under her black cap. She slowly smirked when she realized what he was looking for and he smirked back when he found a bobby pin. He slowly pulled it out and pressed a quick kiss to her lips.
"Stand back and let me show you how to properly pick a lock," he said. "And turn that bloody torch off, Sulu, before someone sees us."
When Friday rolled around, Christine was still feeling quite good. Maybe too good, she thought as she rolled out of The Bed.
You said you weren't going to do this, she thought as she showered. You know, the whole awfulness that was Roger is not worth experiencing again, remember?
Well, yes, she answered herself. But, clearly, McCoy is not Roger.
True, but he comes with his own difficulties, she thought. He has an ex-wife. And a daughter. That's big, Christine. Very big.
Yeah, but I like kids, she thought as she got out of the shower and toweled off. I think I might do this.
Are you sure? she argued.
Nope. But the prospect of not ever kissing that man is not an option, she thought firmly looking at herself in the fogged up mirror.
She didn't have a counter argument for that one. Christine nodded and went to get dressed and wait for Janice to pick her up.
On the way into work, Janice looked preoccupied, which seemed to be her default setting these days.
"All right, spill," Christine said. "You look grumpy."
"I do not look grumpy," Janice said glumly. "I look conflicted. Which is what I am."
"You're really considering taking the job, aren't you?" Christine asked, her brow furrowing in concern.
"I am," Janice said twisting her lips. "Is that wrong?"
"What? Considering a job that would give you a wealth of new experiences while letting you exercise everything you already know in an interesting field while working with intriguing people?" Christine said. "No. Wrong is not the word I'd use. I mean, I'm going to miss you like crazy and we're going to rack up a deadly phone bill, but no. Honey, it's not wrong."
Janice sighed. "Thanks, Chris."
"I think we need a girl's night," Christine said. "My place. Saturday. Sangrias and margaritas and all the fruity drinks we can handle."
Janice grinned. "Sounds like heaven. And I bet Gaila's up for it. She's been looking stressed out for weeks now."
"I'm worried about her," Christine said. "She was going on last weekend about doing something stupid. Should we ask?"
"Definitely," Janice said pulling into the clinic's parking lot. "But, let's buffer it with fruity alcohol."
"And brownies," Christine said with a decisive nod.
Janice grinned. "Your doctor's here. And it looks like he brought breakfast." She nodded at McCoy who was leaning against the side of the clinic, a bag of baked goods and a tray of coffee in his hand.
"He keeps doing that," Christine murmured. "I keep staring at his wrists, Jan. I think I have a problem."
"Well, it's easily solved by having an enthusiastic romp in the bed of yours," Janice said matter-of-factly. "You should get on that. And by 'that', I mean his body."
"Thanks, Jan," Christine said getting out of the car. "You're a peach."
"Love you, too, Chrissy!" Janice called before pulling away.
Christine shook her head and smiled as McCoy straightened up away from the wall. "Good morning."
"Mornin'," McCoy said. He nodded at Janice's disappearing car. "That Nora's daughter?"
"Janice? Yes," Christine said as she unlocked the door.
"You can tell," McCoy said with a smirk. "Something in the eyes."
"Not to mention the rapacious wit," she said as they walked inside.
"And the chocolate muffin goes to the woman who managed to use the word 'rapacious' accurately before eight am," McCoy said chuckling.
"Why thank you, kind sir," Christine said with a laugh.
They sat down behind the reception desk and Christine sighed happily as she broke off a piece of her muffin, while McCoy ate his own muffin in five bites exactly.
"So, how much do you want to bet we've got another three cases of chicken pox by the end of the day?" he asked arching an eyebrow.
Christine shook her head. "No bet. That's a sure thing. I'm wondering how many fractured wrists we're going to get. Supposedly a new skate park opened up on the west side of town."
"Skateboards," McCoy said shaking his head and rolling his eyes. "I hate those damn things."
Christine giggled and ate another bite of muffin.
"So, do I need to stop by the hardware store and pick up your roofing stuff?" he asked, taking the lid off his coffee.
"Oh, Nora was going to take me tonight," she said. "I've already ordered it."
"I can do it in the morning," he said with a shrug. "Save you and Nora a trip."
"You don't have—"
"I know I don't have to," he said reaching his hand out and tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. "I want to." He frowned. "That's getting to be a familiar refrain, Chapel. I hate repeating myself."
"Fair enough," she said smiling. "It's under my name. Just ask for Dave. He'll have the order."
The door to the clinic opened and Nora came bustling in, her hair a mad riot of brunette curls piled onto the top of her head. Christine grinned to see her wearing her bright red scrub bottoms with the matching top with Dalmatians on it. Christine felt so boring in her plain navy blue scrubs.
"Well, campers, are we ready for a fun day filled with chicken pox and broken wrists?" Nora asked cheerfully giving Christine a wink and pinching McCoy's cheek.
"Always," McCoy said dryly as he blushed. Christine just laughed and handed Nora her muffin.
There was something fundamentally ordinary about hearing someone hammering on a roof on a Saturday. It was something that brought to mind summer and lemonade and family and running around in jean shorts and no shoes on.
It's comforting, she thought as she sanded down the window-frames on the front porch.Nothing like hammers and Tom Petty on the radio to really scream Americana. Smirking, she leaned over and turned up the volume.
The ladder propped up against the house rattled as McCoy descended and Christine looked over. It was one of the first truly sunny days of spring and already it was promising to be an unusually hot summer. He had sweat dripping down the side of his face and gratefully accepted the bottle of water she handed him.
She couldn't help but watch him and he drank the entire thing in one long go, the muscles of his throat working and his eyes closed.
Her mouth went dry.
Therefore, she sure as heck wasn't going to turn away when he set down the bottle and took off his old chambray shirt, leaving him in a grey tank top. She blinked as she took in the seriously defined upper arm and shoulder muscles he had going on. She knew he was in good shape and had a good, strong grip, but sweet Jesus, she hadn't expected him to be quite so…built.
She looked away and shook her head, chuckling to herself. It's really been a while, my girl, she thought. Hasn't it just.
"Do you mind?" he asked and she turned to see him handing his shirt to her with a sheepish smile. "I know if I leave up on the roof I'm liable to just forget it up there."
"No problem," she said setting down the scraper and taking the shirt.
He flashed her a grin that she had to return and as she folded up his shirt he headed back up the ladder.
The hammering commenced after a few minutes.
Christine spent the better part of the next hour peeling the remaining paint off of the window frames. Back aching and feeling more than a little accomplished, she set the last one aside and stood. She'd gotten a lot done. Hell, they both had. From the sound of things – the banging was a lot more frantic which was quite different than the steady bang-tap of her new shingles going on – McCoy was just about finished. And from the position of the sun, it was definitely time to check on her roast. As she tidied the porch and stowed her sanding tools, she idly wondered why she was spending so much time feeding the man.
And okay, no she didn't. She was a Chapel. Showing... appreciation through food was what they did.
Not to mention it had been ages since she'd had the urge and inclination to cook. Now that it had started, she wasn't sure it would stop.
She had just pulled her Aunt Abbie's cast-iron pot out of the oven and lifted the lid, letting the aroma of a properly cooked post roast and vegetables fill the air when McCoy appeared at the kitchen entrance.
"Jesus Christ, Chapel," he said almost reverently. "That smells amazing."
She smiled at his sincere look of rapture and just said, "It's almost ready. Go clean up."
He nodded dazedly and walked away looking longingly over his shoulder at the roast. Christine just chuckled.
As they sat down at her kitchen table and McCoy made tiny noises of pleasure over her pot roast. After a bite, Christine agreed with him. This was her best attempt yet. Wanting to know more about him, Christine asked about his daughter.
"Joanna?" he said swallowing a mouthful of potato. "Joanna is eight going on thirty. She's got the McCoy stubbornness with a healthy dose of her mother's pragmatism. Which was equal parts charming and alarming to see in a toddler."
"She loves being outside," he said looking out of the kitchen window. "I took her camping when she was four and she fell in love with it. She's sharp as a tack and when she sets her mind on something… Well, let's just say she's does her research and will give you every good reason under the sun to give her what she wants."
He chuckled. "She's still extolling the many virtues of a puppy."
"Daddy's little girl?" she asked still smiling.
"I wish," he said looking down at his plate. "We tried to keep the fighting around her to a minimum, and God knows I wanted more custody than I got." He shook his head. "We got divorced when I was right in the middle of my residency and working all kinds of rotten hours. It made perfect sense for Jocelyn to get the lion's share. But, now…"
"Now?" she said softly.
He looked over and smiled at her. "I hear there's great camping around here."
"There is," Christine said with a grin. "Redwoods with trunks the size of a small car."
"Perfect," he said. He got another forkful of pot roast then said, far too casually, "You'll like her."
Christine's fork paused halfway to her mouth, then she replied, just as casually, "I bet I will."
They kept eating in an amicable silence. Then once they were finished and McCoy had been given a healthy portion of the leftovers, Christine shooed him out the door.
"I see how it is," he said as he sauntered out. "Getting ready for your night of debauchery?"
"Yep," she said, tucking her hair behind her ears and waggling her eyebrows. "There are brownies to be made and tequila, Cointreau and lime to be shaken."
"Good God," he said shaking his head. "Look, go easy on the tequila, all right?"
"Leonard McCoy, are you implying that a girl from New Orleans would ever have difficulty holding her liquor?" she asked putting her hands on her hips and narrowing her eyes playfully.
"I would never dream of it," he said the corners of his mouth curving upwards.
"Good," she said with a nod. "Now, be gone with you. I have limes to slice."
He sketched her a salute and moved to go, but stopped and turned to give her a quick kiss to the side her neck, just below her jaw. She sucked in a surprised and pleased gasp.
"Have a good time tonight, Chapel," he said with a wink.
Then he was gone and she was left standing on her porch, blushing and with an incredibly dumb grin on her face.
It would be wrong to call the girls and tell them not to bother coming over and go over to his apartment and let him do naughty things to me, right? she asked herself as she headed inside.
Well, not wrong wrong, she told herself. But, you'd feel guilty about it.
"Would I?" she said out loud going into the kitchen. "Would I really?"
She tilted her head to the side but before she could answer herself, the kitchen door banged open and Janice came inside with a bag that clinked.
"I have brought the vodka and cranberry juice," she said proudly. "In case we felt like Cosmo-ing up."
Christine shook her head. "Good. Make one while I get the brownies going."
Janice set the bag down on the table and looked at the dishes in the sink. "Was that Dr. McDreamy I saw leaving?"
"Yes," Christine said. "And please, he's McSteamy if he's anything. Or maybe McBig Hands That Have No Earthly Right to Be So God Damn Big."
Janice raised her eyebrows. "Oh, my. Did you know you used the word 'big' twice?"
"Yeah. I'm fixating," Christine said staring off into space. She re-focused when a glass with pink liquid was thrust under her nose.
"Drink," Janice commanded. "Then tell Auntie Janice all about your unresolved sexual tension, for she doth understand."
Christine snickered and then she drank.
"An hour into drinks, chatting, and the destruction of most of the tray of brownies and all of Nyota's orange-chocolate chip cookies, Janice set down her drink, put on her resolve-face and demanded, "Right, Gaila. What's going on?"
Gaila choked a bit on her margarita. "What? Nothing! Why? Did someone say something?"
The fact that her voice got very high towards the end of her babbling had everyone staring at her with expressions of concern.
"Gaila?" Christine said. "What's going on, honey?"
"Nothing," Gaila said looking down at her drink, her curly hair pulled up for once on the top of her head. When no one seemed to buy her statement, she sighed. "Okay, look. Things have been…tight around the salon and I'm trying to work out some money issues."
"Anything we can help with?" Janice asked.
"No, no," Gaila said shaking her head and taking a drink. "It's not serious."
Christine wondered why she wouldn't meet anyone's eyes and judging by the look on Janice's face, Christine wasn't the only one.
"You seemed pretty upset the other day," Christine said gently. "You know we just want to help."
"If you need any financial advice, our broker is fantastic," Nyota said leaning in. "He's extremely reasonable and very friendly."
"Thanks, girls," Gaila said still not quite looking at anyone and nervously twirling a curl of her hair around a finger.
"I just wish you'd let us know what's wrong—" Janice started to say.
"It's fine!" Gaila said loudly. She closed her eyes. "Sorry. But it is. I promise." She gave everyone a forced smile and then asked Janice, "So, are you abandoning us for the glamorous world of architecture?"
The dismissal of her own issues was very clear and so reluctantly, Janice said, "I don't know. Possibly."
"It would be a great opportunity for you," Nyota said gently. "And I'd love having you in the firm. I honestly wouldn't have brought it up if I didn't think you'd be a great fit. Not to mention the opportunity to do more."
Janice smiled. "I think I'd love it, too. I don't know." She sighed. "I wish I could just be given a sign or something. Something that says, 'Yes. This way. Go for it.'"
"Don't we all," Christine said glumly.
"But you got your sign," Janice said pointing in the vague direction of Christine's bedroom. "You got the Love Bed."
Gaila and Nyota looked at each other and then with a screech of their chairs, ran out of the kitchen and up the stairs, both shrieking when the funky step creaked loudly, then shrieking again when they saw the bed.
"Thanks," Christine said to Janice.
Janice shrugged. "Just spreadin' the love."
Nyota and Gaila came back down, both wearing looks of disbelief mixed with envy.
"Christine, it's enormous!" Gaila sounded utterly delighted.
"That's what she said," Janice said snickering. Nyota snorted and then looked so appalled at herself, it set everyone else off.
In the midst of their laughter, the doorbell rang.
They all stopped so abruptly, they then started to laugh at how ridiculous they were. Christine got up from the table and said, "Leave me some brownies. I'll see who it is."
She steadied herself by trailing her hand along the wall of the hallway and then peeked around the curtain to see who it was. She blinked at the sight of McCoy looking awkward.
She hadn't exactly expected him.
Stay in the kitchen, girls, she thought. /iPlease don't embarrass me./i
After making sure she didn't have brownie on her face, she opened the door. "Hi."
"Hi," he said sheepishly.
"Come to check up on me?" she asked swaying a little.
He smirked. "Actually, I forgot my shirt."
Christine frowned. "Oh. It's probably where I left it." She stepped out onto the porch and walked over to the railing and yes, there was his shirt. She picked it up and handed it to him.
"Thank you," he said full-on grinning.
"You're welcome," she said, looking him up and down and beginning to smile.
He arched an eyebrow. "Well, now, that's a wicked look you've got, Ms. Chapel. Just what have you been drinking?"
"The usual," she replied. "Do you not like me looking wicked?"
"I could get used to it," he said sounding amused.
"I could get used to you getting used to it," she said wondering if that made as much sense out loud as it did in her head.
He chuckled, but kept his eyes on her.
"Did you really come all this way just to get your shirt?" she asked.
"Nope," he said shaking his head. "I'm definitely checking up on you."
She stood up straight and lifted her chin. "I'm a grown woman, McCoy."
"I noticed," he said returning her move from earlier and looked her up and down.
"I like your wrists," she said leaning up against the side of the house, feeling the peeling paint crinkle under her palms.
"Yeah? I like your legs," he said.
"I thought you were looking at them."
"Just try to get me to stop."
"I think I'm going to kiss you now."
McCoy blinked and then smirked. "Darlin', you're drunk."
"I know," Christine said. "That makes it the perfect time to kiss you."
"Perfect? How so?" he asked putting a hand on the house, right beside her head. The move brought his eyes and his face and that mouth just that little bit closer, which was highly convenient, but he asked her something, didn't he?
"It's the perfect time to kiss you because it means that if it sucks, well, I was drunk and that can explain that," she said. "Also, I wouldn't normally just kiss a guy out of the blue, but hey! I'm drunk. I can hardly be held responsible for my actions."
"I think the fact that you can rationalize all of this means you're not actually drunk and therefore you are responsible for your actions," he said sounding maddeningly sober and pedantic.
Christine rolled her eyes. "Oh, shut up. I'm drunk." Then she grabbed the front of his shirt and pulled him down those tiny inches and kissed him. Hard.
His hands immediately fell to her waist and when she felt the sheer width and breadth of them on her ribcage, she moaned. Hand-to-God, moaned.
Which apparently he liked because her mouth was instantly plundered by his tongue and he pressed her up against the side of the house, the crackling paint pricking into her skin through her dress.
Like she cared.
She was making out with Leonard McCoy on her front porch, his hands were the size of Utah and they were sliding up and down her sides, brushing against the side of her breast and one crept down to her thigh to slide up under her skirt and hitch her leg up against his leg.
Christine raked her nails over his scalp and his hips surged against hers.
It was hot. It was incredible. It was...ringing?
McCoy broke away from her mouth with a 'god damn it!' and answered his phone.
"I swear to God, Jim, someone better be dead!"
Christine stared at him as he talked to Jim (she could hear some of what Jim was saying, something about a two-by-four and Scotty), feeling an interesting mix of drunk and giddy. His hair was mussed and his lips were red and slightly moist.
I did that, she thought proudly. I think I want to do it again.
McCoy finally hung up and closed his eyes. Then he opened them and looked at her. Her breath caught at the darkness in them.
"Jim and Scotty hit each other over the head with a two-by-four," he said in a tone that did things to her stomach.
"On purpose?" she asked her fingers itching to dive back into his hair.
"That remains unclear," he said. "I've got to go and make sure they don't die."
"Do you need me to go with you?" she asked trying to regain some inner balance and beat her hormones into submission.
The smile he gave her was slow and tempting and did nothing to reign in said hormones. "Honey, you smell like lime and tequila. Jim has pretty low standards when it comes to his health, but even he might take issue with your lack of sobriety."
"You called me 'honey'," Christine said having not heard a word he said after the endearment.
"Yeah, I did," he said leaning into her once again. "Got a problem with that?"
Christine thought for a second. "Nope."
"Good," he said ducking his head down and kissing the curve of her neck, letting his tongue dart out briefly for a taste. She shivered and bit her lip.
He pulled his head back and she blinked at him.
"I'm going to be back," he said taking a step away from her. "Although maybe not tomorrow. Something tells me you're going to have the mother of all hangovers."
"I'll be okay," she said just watching him and starting to grin.
He shook his head and turned away quickly. "You've got one hell of kiss there, Chapel," he threw over his shoulder.
"Not too bad yourself, McCoy," she called after him.
She watched him pull out of her drive and head down the road. Then with a little shake and spin, Christine walked back into her house in a daze, the feel of his hands on her ribcage lingering and her lips felt swollen and overly sensitive.
The girls were arguing over the last of the sangria.
"I deserve it because I had to talk down three people from suing the Mayor's Office this week," Janice was saying.
"Ha! I had to give Mrs. McKensie a bikini wax," Gaila said. "I totally deserve it."
"I had to herd four groups of construction workers," Nyota said. "And put up with several artistic temper tantrums."
Christine reached over and took the pitcher out of Janice's hands and poured the remaining sangria into her glass. The ladies stared at her slightly shocked.
"I deserve it," she said. "Because I just frenched Leonard McCoy and my only regret is that I had to stop."
The ladies stared at her in silence until Nyota let out a delighted laugh. Janice grinned and Gaila clapped her hands.
Christine woke up on Sunday morning feeling like the floor of a taxi-cab. Looking up she noticed both Gaila and Janice spread out on her bed. Christine dimly remembered Nyota's getting picked up by a sober and highly amused Spock. Although whether he was amused by the actual drunkeness or Ny's booze-fueled rendition of "Landslide" was still pretty fuzzy.
She groaned and laughed when she remembered what she herself had done. Her hand covered her mouth as she giggled softly. She closed her eyes and could still feel the warmth and breadth of McCoy's hands on her waist as he'd kissed her. She frowned as her eyes opened to stare up at the ceiling trying to determine if she was okay with her actions.
She'd kissed him.
She really kissed him.
A grin spread across her face.
"I want to do it again," she whispered to her ceiling. "I really, really, really want to do it again."
Buoyed by that thought, Christine rolled out of bed. Unfortunately, her stomach didn't get the message and kept turning as her feet hit the floor. Clasping a hand to her mouth, she gingerly walked towards the bathroom, ignoring the synchronous groaning in her wake.
She needed coffee. Lots of it.
Which she would make! As soon as her stomach rebelling and her mouth stopped resembling a shag carpet.
Christine had regained most of her equilibrium come Monday morning and she grinned at the sight of McCoy waiting outside the clinic while Janice just snickered at her. Christine got out of the car after sticking her tongue out at Janice and ambled towards him.
"Morning," she said cheerfully.
"Mornin' to you," he said, his drawl in full effect. "I heard from Jim that you had a slow Sunday."
She grimaced. "Yeah. It wasn't pretty. But once we drank two gallons of coffee and ate some of Janice's pancakes, things started to look up."
"Glad to hear it," he said as she unlocked the front door. "I thought about coming by..."
She turned to face him. "Why didn't you?"
He shoved his hands in his pockets. "I didn't want to rush you or imply anything."
"Imply anything?" she repeated.
"Well, you were a little on the incapacitated side, Chapel," he said looking uncomfortable and not quite meeting her eyes. "I didn't want you to think that what happened had to mean something. Unless it did," he said in a rush. "But, like I said, I didn't want to rush you or-"
He stopped when she stepped forward and put her hand on his chest. "I was slightly drunk, McCoy," she said looking up into his eyes. "But, I wasn't blotto. I knew what I was doing. And I'm going to do it again."
"Yeah?" he said a little breathlessly. "When might that be?"
"Not sure yet," she said shrugging. "Possibly when I know no one else is around and when Nora isn't about to come storming through that door complaining that we forgot to invite her. She has a thing for sangria."
"Chapel," he said his hand finding its way to her waist and she automatically shivered and closed her eyes at the feel of his hand settling just on the curve of her hip.
"Christine Chapel, what is this I hear about sangria being drunk and me not getting an invite?" Nora's voice interrupted the moment and McCoy stepped back abruptly while Christine bit her lip trying not to giggle.
Nora came to a stop a few feet away from the two and peered at them over her glasses. "Oh, my. Well. It's about time."
She sniffed and continued on her way to the reception desk. McCoy sheepishly rubbed the back of his neck and Christine couldn't stop the giggle from escaping. They stood kind of stupidly in the dim waiting room and stared at each other, until Nora flicked the lights on and then they stood there blinking at each other kind of stupidly.
Dear God, Christine thought. I really do like him. How fun.
"Are we planning on working anytime today, children?" Nora called out. "Healing the sick and the infirm? All that good stuff?"
"Coming, Nora," Christine called. Then she gave McCoy a bright smile and turned away putting just the hint of a swing into her step as she walked towards the reception desk. She heard a muffled curse before McCoy followed her.
Sadly, the beginning of the week proved to be far too busy and hectic for them to find any time together. In fact, before McCoy knew it Wednesday had rolled around and apart from their brief moment on Monday morning, he hadn't been able to talk to Christine about anything that wasn't related to medicine.
And then things went a little weird.
McCoy was walking Mrs. Timmons out when Jim and Pike strolled in. They stood off to the side while McCoy chatted quickly with Nora about arranging another appointment. Once he finished he turned to them.
"Mayors," he said. "What can I do for you?"
"Have time for a quick word, Bones?" Jim asked. "Nothing scary, I promise."
"Right," McCoy said dryly taking in the similar looks of amusement on their faces. "This way."
They headed towards his office, but stopped when Christine emerged with Mrs. Thatcher on their way to reception. The gentlemen stood to the side to let the women pass.
"Tell me, Christine," Mrs. Thatcher said as they approached McCoy and the other gentlemen. "How did we manage to snag such handsome mayors?"
"I think it's in the job description," Christine said with a straight face, while Jim winked and Pike shook his head.
"And this new doctor of ours," Mrs. Thatcher went on to say, looking McCoy up and down, making him feel like a piece of horse flesh. "You're quite easy on the eyes, young man. And speaking of, that's quite a pair you've got."
"Thank you," McCoy said dryly. "They came with the face."
"Come along, Mrs. Thatcher," Christine said sounding far too amused. "You'll make Dr. McCoy blush."
"Now, that I'd like to see," Mrs. Thatcher said as they continued towards the reception desk.
McCoy shook his head as Jim and Pike continued to chuckle.
"I've always liked Tabitha," Pike said as they watched the women continue down the hall. "Never afraid to tell it like it is."
They headed into McCoy's office and McCoy took a seat behind his desk, while Jim and Pike sat down in the chairs in front of him.
"So, mayors," McCoy said with a wry grin. "What's this all about?"
"We're just here to check up on things," Jim said. "Nothing major. I've been hearing very good things around town."
"Extremely good things," Pike said inclining his head. "I hear you even managed to get Mr. Givens to get that bum leg of his checked out."
He arched a brow at the mention of 'things', but then McCoy shrugged. "All the man needed was the reassurance that I wasn't going to chop the limb off."
"Yeah, but that's more than anyone's been able to do in years. And your month probation is up on Monday," Jim said earnestly. "Bones, we want you to stay."
Pike nodded. "And I think the entire town agrees with us."
"What do you say, Bones?" Jim asked grinning. "Feel like sticking around to see what winter looks like around here with all the icy sidewalks?"
McCoy snorted. "Not sure if that's a joke or a threat." He took a deep breath and stared down at his hands. "I'll be honest, gentlemen. I do enjoy it here. More than I thought I would. And I'd love to bring Joanna here." He furrowed his brow and then looked up at Jim. "Give me until Monday? I mean, I'm tempted to just go ahead and say yes, but…"
"You need to think it over?" Pike said.
"Or think it over with someone?" Jim asked knowingly.
McCoy rolled his eyes. "Just give me until Monday. And if you don't mind, I do have patients to get back to…"
"Works for me," Jim said cheerfully. "Monday it is."
They all got up and McCoy shook both Jim and Pike's hands; then they headed out into the clinic. As McCoy walked them into the reception, the door opened and a large, burly, bald man wearing a sheriff's uniform came in. He nodded at Jim and Pike who nodded back.
"Sheriff," Pike said.
"Sheriff Cupcake," Jim said in a cheerfully wicked tone.
The Sheriff rolled his eyes. "Mayors. Doc."
"Bones, this is our sheriff, Jack Smith, also affectionately known as Sheriff Cupcake," Jim said to McCoy.
"Good to meet you," Sheriff Smith said. "Been hearing good things about you."
"Thanks," McCoy said shaking his hand. "And I'm afraid I have to ask, why-?"
"Why Cupcake?" he said. He snorted. "Blame Mayor Kirk. I won a competition once."
"How many cupcakes can a man eat in five minutes," Jim said rocking on his feet and smiling.
"Turns out about fifteen," Sheriff Smith said with a rueful grin.
McCoy grimaced. "Good God, man. How sick were you afterwards?"
"He wasn't!" Jim crowed.
"Hence the nickname," Pike said clapping a hand on the sheriff's shoulder.
"Hence the nickname," Sheriff Smith said shaking his head.
"A well-earned nickname," McCoy said. "Are you here for an appointment?"
"Actually Ms. Rand told me you were here, Mayor," Sheriff Smith said to Jim. "I need to have a word with you."
"Of course," Jim said. "We can head back to my office."
"Well, actually. Since you're all here…" He sighed. "We've got a bit of a problem, mayors."
He seemed to include McCoy in his address and so McCoy offered, "Would you like to step into my office?"
The sheriff nodded and the four men headed back into the recently vacated room. Chapel caught his eye from where she was ushering a mother and daughter into an exam room and gave him a fairly justified look of confusion. He gave her a nod and a shrug that was meant to mean "I'll tell you later".
From the answering nod he presumed she got the message.
There not being enough chairs in the small office, McCoy just leaned against his desk, Jim next to him. Pike stood to the side and Sheriff Smith stood in the middle.
"There have been reports of breaking and entering coming in from all over town. Primarily in a number of the house built prior to 1970," he said and Jim's posture straightened. "Now, no one's reported anything stolen, just things not where they should be, furniture rearranged just enough to cause worry."
"Christ," McCoy said shaking his head. "And I thought she was worried over nothing." The other men looked at him. "We've had at least four cases of people injuring themselves at home. Tripping and running into things that they were sure was in the wrong place. Didn't think much of it, but Nora swore up and down that these folk were not the clumsy type."
"Can you tell me names?" Smith asked his forehead creasing.
McCoy grimaced. "Don't reckon I can, confidentiality and all that." He held up a hand to forestall the obvious argument Jim was about to make. "You come to me with names and I can confirm or deny if they've happened to darken my doorstep, but beyond that? Sorry, gentlemen."
"You always did have morals, Bones," Jim said sadly. He looked at the sheriff. "What do you want to do?"
"Well, my first thought was to shut down the renovations. Now, hold on, Mayor," he said as Jim stood up straight and protested. "I'm not going to do that because no one can afford to, but let me just ask, how well do you know the folks that are on those construction teams? They're new and not locals."
"Those teams have undergone a vetting process by Sulu and Spock's companies," Jim said. "Do you think either of them would hire anyone they didn't trust?"
"Fair point," Smith said nodding his head.
"How do we know it's not just kids," Pike said. "Looking for a thrill."
"We don't," Smith said. "And honestly, I'm tempted to leave it at that. But I'm going to be putting a few more patrol cars out in the evenings."
"Sounds wise," Jim said. "I'll ask around. See if anyone's heard anything. Surreptitiously, of course."
McCoy snorted in disbelief and Jim just replied with a cheerful, "Shut up, Bones."
After Jim, Pike and the Sheriff left, McCoy remained in his office. He took a seat behind his desk and closed his eyes in thought. They weren't second thoughts in regards to the position, just…thoughts.
Forgetting about the breaking and entering, he just focused on the notion of staying in Enterprise. Making a permanent home in the town. The image of Christine sanding away at her window frames and brushing her hair off her forehead with the backs of her hand flashed in his mind and his eyes opened.
Staying has an awful lot of appeal, he thought. It would never be boring, that's for sure.
He furrowed his brow and mentally listed the pros and cons of staying and to his surprise, he couldn't think of any cons. Well, despite the utter lack of common sense displayed by most of Enterprise's citizens, but all that really meant was he'd always have something to do.
A soft knock broke him out of his contemplation. "Come in!"
The door opened and Chapel poked her head around. "Permission to enter?" she asked cheekily.
"Permission granted," he said with a grin. "Get in here and get a load of this."
She raised her eyebrows and took a seat. "What's up? What did Sheriff Cupcake want?"
"Ridiculous appellations aside, apparently there's been a rash of breaking and entering going on in town," McCoy said.
"What?" she said blinking in surprise. "You're joking."
"Nope," he said. "All those times Nora said there was something funny going on? With all those normally sensible people tripping over their own furniture? Supposedly, there is something going on. Someone's been breaking into the older houses in town and looking for something. They aren't taking anything, just looking around and moving the furniture."
Christine looked shocked and then thoughtful. "But they haven't stolen anything?"
"Not yet," McCoy said shaking his head. "God. Only in Enterprise, right?"
"Right," Christine said absently, her eyes staring into middle distance as though she was trying to figure something out.
"You okay?" he asked leaning towards her over the desk.
"What? Yes," she said coming out of wherever she'd gone. She smiled. "What did the mayors want?"
"Oh, they just wanted to tell me that my probation was almost up and to give them an answer on Monday," he said leaning back in his chair and propping his feet up on the corner of his desk.
"An answer?" she repeated looking confused.
"As to whether or not I want to stay on permanently," he clarified. He gave her a tiny smile. "I'm leaning towards 'yes'."
"You are?" she said suddenly looking wary.
"Well, yeah," he said. "I like the job. The town's great, Jo will love spending time here, the practice is fantastic and well, there's you."
"Me?" she said her voice squeaking.
"Ye-ah," he said slowly sitting up, his feet falling to the floor. "You're part of the reasons to stay, Chapel. I figured you knew that."
"Oh, well, I mean," she said sounding flustered and looking anywhere but at him. "You should think about it, you know. We don't know each other all that well and I'd hate for you to stay somewhere just because of me. That's a really big responsibility and you should make sure you're staying for more reasons that just that."
"I am," he said feeling confused and a little disappointed. "Christine, what's going on? I thought we were going to see where this went?"
"We are," she said brightly still not looking at him. "Just, you know, don't jump into any big commitments. Sleep on it. And, um, yeah. I have to go."
She stood up quickly and headed for the door, looking for all the world like she'd been spooked and McCoy guessed she had.
"Chapel," he called standing up. "Please don't freak out over this."
"Freak out?" she said with a nervous laugh. "Who's freaking out? I'm not freaking out."
He gave her a look and she just sort of waved her hand and left his office. McCoy let out a gusty breath.
"She freaked," he said quietly. "Damn it." He looked around his office helplessly. "Damn it."
Christine hurried back towards reception, her mind reminding her that Julie Parker was waiting in room two for her annual exam, but at the last second, Christine veered off into the ladies' room.
She threw the lock on the door and stood in front of the mirror, her hands grasping the edge of the counter, her head bowed.
He was thinking about staying. Staying in Enterprise. And his reasons were all the good ones: he liked the practice, he liked the town, it would be good for his daughter. All fantastic, logical reasons. So why was she having a minor crisis in the bathroom? She bent her head further and squeezed her eyes shut.
Because, he also said that he'd stay for you, you dope, she told herself rather archly. And that kind of statement of obvious intent scares the crap out of you. You know, considering Roger was supposed to stay. And look what happened there. He left. How do you know McCoy won't leave? Answer: you don't.
Christine opened her eyes and started to wash her hands, making sure to run her wrists under the water. She needed her pulse and thoughts calm, and her options were kind of limited right now. Unfortunately, the remainder of the tequila was far, far away, and misusing her pharmacy key was just… Well, not an option.
However, her internal voice wasn't finished.
The fact is, my girl, you like him. More than that, you're halfway to falling in love with the man and this time you know it's real, the voice said. He's not Roger. Not even close.
"Which means that it will hurt all the more if things go wrong," she said out loud pulling out far too many paper towels to dry her hands with.
So you're going to do nothing? she thought. Just in case it does go wrong? Christine Chapel, don't you dare be that cliché.
Throwing the paper towels in the trash can, Christine had to concede that maybe she had a point.
But, there were patients to see and she had a job to do and she could think about all of this later in comfort of her own home.
Your home that you-know-who has spent the last three Saturdays helping you renovate of his own free will, her internal voice reminded her.
"Oh, shut up," she muttered, before unlocking the door and going back to work.
Christine wasn't too big of a person to not admit when she was ignoring someone.
So, here goes: Christine Chapel was ignoring Leonard McCoy.
And to his credit, apart from some cross looks that had a tinge of desperation to them, he was letting her.
Nora kept shaking her head and the other nurses looked confused at the fact that that their head nurse and doctor – who had been getting along so well – were barely speaking.
Christine was very aware of all this. She really was.
She just didn't know how to stop herself.
By the time Saturday rolled around Christine had gone from panic directly into listless. She had no idea what to do, or even what she SHOULD be doing to distract herself. Finally, she settled on poking half-heartedly through tile catalogs and making vague plans for the downstairs bathroom. But by five, she hadn't decided much, other than burnt umber was a stain upon all humanity, and why were they even making it anymore?
Seated in her newly-painted living room, she reflected on the idiocy of tile manufacturers and watched the sun go down through her bay window. God, she was such an idiot. She should have just told him that anything he decided was fine. That's what she'd been doing with Jan! If she'd just said that, he could be over right now. They could be kissing.
They could be doing more than kissing. With tongues. And probably a lot of hands in new places.
"That would have been a much better response," she said out loud.
The sound of her cell phone ringing startled her out of her gloom and she stretched to reach her bag. Gaila's name flashed at her.
"Hey, sweetie, what's up?" she answered.
"Chris!" Gaila whispered. "Chris, I'm in trouble. I need you to go to 45 Robin Hood Drive and knock on the front door."
"What?" Christine said sitting up straight. "What are you talking about? Why are you in trouble? What's going on?"
"I don't have time to explain, just please, Chris, please! Get over here as soon as you can!"
Christine thought she heard a muffled curse with a distinctive Scottish burr attached to it. "Gaila? Is that Scotty? Why are you whispering?"
"Because I'm stuck in a closet in a house that was supposed to be empty but the owners just came home and I'm stuck in a closet!" Gaila whispered harshly.
"Oh, my God!" Christine whispered back getting to her feet. "It is you doing the B & E's! Are you seriously looking for the jewels in people's homes? Gaila!"
"I know! Look, yell at me later," Gaila whispered back. Her voice turned frantic. "Christine, please! I am begging you. Help me!"
"Ugh! Fine," Christine said sliding her feet into her shoes. "But I am doing this under duress. You will stop this now."
"Yes! I promise! Hurry!"
Gaila hung up. Christine stood in her living room for a second staring at her phone wondering if she should call someone. Deciding there wasn't really anyone to call, Janice would be obligated to call Jim and Nyota would most certainly disapprove, Christine knew it was down to her.
With an exasperated sound, Christine grabbed her dark blue cardigan and threw it on over her t-shirt and jeans and headed out the door.
"This is nuts," she said walking quickly to the sidewalk. "Absolutely nuts. What am I even doing?"
When McCoy had the thought that staring at the blank walls of his apartment just might drive him around the bend, he made the decision to go over to Christine's house. He wasn't about to let the woman that sent him into such a tizzy out of his life. More than that, he'd already decided to stay in Enterprise and that meant that if she wanted to take things slowly, they could take things slowly.
"Hopefully, not too slowly," he muttered remembering how smooth her skin felt under his fingers and the enthusiastic and sensual way she'd kissed him.
He pulled onto her street just as she was exiting her house. He frowned when he noticed she looked flustered and worried and was walking very fast down the sidewalk. Little alarm bells went off in his head and he slowed down to pull along side her.
At one point, she stopped, shook her head and turned around heading back to her house. Then she stopped again, said something out loud and then turned around once again.
McCoy pulled up next to the curb. "Need a lift?"
Christine shrieked and jumped away. When she saw him, she groaned. "Oh, God. Look, I have a lot to say to you. I really do. But I can't right now. So, don't take this the wrong way, but go away. Please?"
"Wow, yeah," he said shaking his head. "That's not going to happen. What's wrong? Can I help?"
"No, you really can't," she said looking close to frantic. "Please, McCoy? Just go away."
"Chapel, shut the hell up and get in the car," he said gruffly. "I can at least drive you to wherever it is you're off to in a hurry."
She put her hands on her hips and looked back towards her house and then down the street. Then down at the ground. She raised her head and pinned him with a seriously cross look. "You're not going to go away, are you?"
"It's the famous McCoy tenacity," he said. "I'll follow you if I have to." She seemed to waiver. "Get in the damn car, Christine."
"Fine," she said exasperated. "But don't ask me any questions."
She walked around front of his car and got in, automatically buckling her seat belt.
McCoy breathed in the scent of her, lavender and vanilla and knew he'd probably do anything she asked him to. All he said though was, "Where are we headed?"
"Down the street, first left and then the first right," she said her hands fidgeting with her phone.
They sat in silence, McCoy driving carefully while Christine shifted and acted for all the world like a toddler who couldn't keep still.
Finally she said, "Aren't you going to ask me what this is all about?"
"You told me not to," he replied casually.
"Since when do you follow directions?" she asked irritably.
"I think I've done pretty god damn well," he said taking the first left. "I've left you alone the past two days when all I wanted to do was grab you and make you tell me what was going on in that pretty head of yours."
She winced and he immediately felt bad. "Shit. I'm sorry, Chapel," he said. "That wasn't fair."
"Yes, it was," she said softly. "I freaked. I'm sorry."
He took the next right and shook his head, really wanting to press her on it but sensing now was not the time. "It's fine."
"It's really not," Christine said putting her hand on his arm and facing him. "But I want to make it fine, but I have to do something first. Can you pull over next to the large oak tree?"
He spared her a quick look and did as directed. She unbuckled her seat belt and said, "Now, just wait here. I'll be right back."
Before McCoy could say anything, Christine was out of the car and dashing across the street to a large house with green shutters on it. He narrowed his eyes and watched as she knocked on the door and bounced on the soles of her feet, looking extremely nervous. No one came to the door.
"What the..." he muttered. "Christine, what is going on?"
She knocked on the door again and when no one answered, she shot a look back at McCoy who just raised his hands helplessly. She held up her own hand in the universal movement to 'stay'. Then she squared her shoulders and put her hand on the doorknob.
"Christine Chapel, you are not walking into that house," McCoy said out loud. "Woman, what are you doing?"
Then, right before his very eyes, Christine Chapel walked into the house.
McCoy sat in his car feeling stunned.
"Shit," he said loudly.
A navy blue car drove down the street heading his way. Instinctively, McCoy ducked down, slouching in his seat, his eyes just above the dashboard.
The car turned into the driveway of the house with the green shutters.
"Oh, fuck," McCoy groaned. "Get out, Chapel. Get out, get out, get out!"
The garage door opened and the car rolled inside. McCoy could see the owners get out and head to the door on the inside of their garage. As they opened the door, the front door opened and Christine gingerly stepped out. She tried to peer around the corner, but couldn't quite see the garage. She looked over at McCoy.
McCoy sat up straight and held up his hands, mouthing 'Stop! Wait!'
She pulled back a little. McCoy watched as the owners stepped fully into their house and then motioned for her to come.
Fast as anything, she darted across the lawn, over the street and into his car.
McCoy stared at her in disbelief, while she tried to get her breath back, her hand pressed to her chest.
"She wasn't there," she said in between breaths. "I guess she got out. Jesus."
"Right," he said flatly. "What the actual fuck, Chapel?"
"Long story," she said breathlessly. "Which I'm happy to tell you the entirety of. But first, can we get the hell out of here?"
Wordlessly, McCoy turned the car on and pulled away, heading back to Christine's house, while she tried to call Gaila.
"So, let me get this straight," McCoy said as they walked into Christine's house. "Your little friend, Gaila, has been hung up on finding Jim's grandma's lost jewels and has begun breaking into people's houses in order to search for them?"
"That's what it looks like," she said distractedly, still trying to reach Gaila, but having no luck. "Crap. I think something's wrong. I've got to go."
She turned and came face to face with McCoy who looked stern.
"Christine, there is no way I'm letting you out of this house," he said. "You do realize you just broke the law?"
Oh, she was very aware of it. Her heart still hadn't stopped racing.
"I know," she said sadly. "Believe me, I know. But, she's my friend."
"Which you can't reach," he pointed out. "She's probably gotten out but got distracted."
"Maybe." Christine chewed on her bottom lip feeling unsettled and antsy. McCoy's thumb came up to smooth her lower lip from her teeth's assault on it. A feeling of pure lust socked her in the solar plexus and she made a tiny sound. Which he heard, of course. He let the pad of his thumb brush the length of her lip and then dropped his hand and looked away.
Christine felt bereft and her heart continued to race madly, but for a totally different reason than before.
"I'm thirsty," she said firmly. She turned on her heel and went into the kitchen, McCoy following her. He took a seat at the kitchen table while she automatically pulled out her iced tea pitcher.
After pouring them both a glass, she sat down at the table. Christine stared at the condensation on her glass.
Eventually, McCoy cleared his throat and said, "So. You freaked."
"Yes," she said with a wince. "I freaked."
"Do you know why you freaked?" he asked her taking a drink.
"Honestly?" She raised her head and considered him. "I have no idea." He nodded and she went on, "I think I couldn't believe that it was this easy-"
"Of course it is," he said interrupting her. "Falling for you has been the easiest thing I've ever done in my life. This part's always easy. It's the staying that's hard."
She frowned. "Do you want to stay?"
"Yes," he said and she started to interject something but he cut her off, "and before you start on some nonsense about not staying for you, I'll tell you that I'm not. I'm staying for me. I'm staying because this ridiculous town has hooked its little fingers in me but good." He grinned slowly. "The fact that I'm plumb crazy about you and would dearly love to see what a lifetime of house repairs and kisses on your front porch is like...well, that's just a neat, little perk."
Christine actually laughed. "I've never been a perk before. I'm not sure how to take that, to be honest."
"As the compliment that it is," he said seriously yet still grinning.
"I can't guarantee I won't freak out again," she said looking back down at her glass.
"I can't guarantee I won't either," he said. He put his hand on hers and electricity shot straight through her. "But god damn it, Chapel. We've got to at least try."
She looked up and studied him, his warm, hazel eyes and strong jaw, his hands that felt so good on her skin.
Jesus, he really was nothing like Roger.
The absolute truth of that statement hit her square in her stomach. He was nothing like Roger and therefore who she'd been with Roger, how she'd reacted to things he did, how she acted… Christ, it really had no business being a factor in considering McCoy.
He's a different person, she thought. A completely different person. And so am I. Oh, damn. I want this. I want him. I want all of it!
"It would be a crime against nature if we didn't," she said thoughtfully, feeling that familiar giddiness rise up within her. She furrowed her brow and stood up, her hand sliding out from underneath his. He frowned as she picked up both their glasses and set them down next to the sink.
Christine paused for just a moment, staring out into her backyard in the dimming evening light. There wasn't any doubt anymore. That second little voice inside of her was silent and she felt as though it had all been inevitable from the start. So, she may as well go for it.
She heard him get up from his chair and come to stand just behind her. The heat from his body enveloped her and she took a deep breath.
"I promise to give you all the time in the world, Christine," he said, his voice low and intimate. "But, please don't turn me away. Give this a chance."
Her body swayed of its own volition towards him and Christine knew, simply knew, that this was going to work. They were going to make it work.
However, her realization was strictly internal and so McCoy had leaned in closer and she could feel his breath on her neck as he said, "Tell me to go, Christine and I will, but God above I really don't want to."
"Neither do I," she whispered.
Quick as a flash, she turned and looked up at him, her hands coming to rest on his chest and then gliding up to twine around his neck. She rose up as he leaned down and then they were kissing with a kind of passion that she'd never experienced.
It swept over her so fast, she felt dizzy. Or maybe it was due to the fact that his tongue had traced the seam of her lips and was now tangling with hers and his hands were roaming up and down her sides, over her bottom and down her thighs.
She made a noise of pleasure when his palm curved over her butt and then down to massage her hip. She felt as though she was on fire and she couldn't stop kissing him, her fingers threaded through his thick hair and then moved to grasp at his shoulders.
His hands spanned the width of her thighs and he raised her up so that she was on her tiptoes and her pelvis was flush against his.
They moaned in unison when she rocked against his erection and Christine scrambled for purchase to get a better friction going. Her hip hooked over his and he eagerly pulled her up all the way to perch on the edge of the sink.
Distantly, Christine heard her cell phone ring, but paid it no mind because McCoy's mouth was on her neck and even as her head fell back to give him more access, she was bunching up his t-shirt.
Her cell phone stopped ringing just as her hands found his bare skin and she was anxious to touch as much of it as she could.
Their hips had managed to find a suitable rhythm without either of them knowing it and when he pressed against her just right, Christine cried out.
"Oh, fuck, Chapel," he muttered into her neck.
"Yes, God, yes," she said back, her nails digging into the skin of his lower back as they rocked, still fully clothed, against each other.
Christine's house phone rang just outside the kitchen and while Christine thought it was odd that anyone was bothering to call her on that line, she was too busy approaching what promised to be one of the better orgasms she'd ever had and she still hadn't removed any clothing.
McCoy was busy sucking a bruise onto her collarbone when Christine's answering machine kicked in and as Christine pulled his face back to hers to kiss him, a frantic Janice left a message that echoed in the hallway.
"Chris! Christine, where are you? Gaila, Scotty, Pavel and Hikaru have all been arrested for breaking and entering and everyone's in jail! Pick up! Or God, just get over here! Chris! Now! Please!"
Christine pulled back and looked blankly at McCoy, who looked blankly at her. She noticed that his lips were moist and swollen and assumed hers were as well.
"Did she just say everyone had been arrested?" she asked, electricity still humming in her veins.
"Yeah," McCoy said. He swallowed hard. "They're all in jail?"
"Oh. Well. Fuck." Christine slumped. "I think I have to go."
"Yeah, I'll take you," he said resigned. He helped her hop down and she, in a daze of disbelief, shock and unabated lust, headed towards the door. She absently smoothed her hair down and saw McCoy doing the same. She'd just opened the door and caught his eye. They stared at each other for a second before he snaked an arm around her waist and pulled her to him, crushing her mouth to his.
The fierce kiss had her bending slightly backwards over his arm and when he raised his head to look at her, he said, "We will go bail your friends out from jail and then we are coming back here and finishing this. Right?"
"Right," she said starting to smile in spite of it all. "Now, get me to the jail, McCoy."
Located on just the edge of town, Enterprise County Jail was a neat, tidy building that looked like it hadn't been updated in a few decades – and didn't need it. Following Christine up the front walk, McCoy admired the regal way she held herself, despite being dressed in tennis shoes, and blue jeans that were fraying along the cuffs and back pockets. Honestly, it was one of the best views he'd had in a while. He allowed himself a good leer as he remembered how it felt to touch those curves. Mentally he cursed Christine's friends' larcenous tendencies and edged around her to hold open the front door.
She stalked straight up to the deputy sitting at the front desk and said, "Excuse me, Deputy Donovan, but I believe my friend is here."
The deputy looked up and her eyes widened. McCoy stifled a snicker at the look of panic on her face. "Oh, hello, Nurse Chapel. Umm, you'll be wanting to join the others?"
"Others?" Christine repeated.
"Damn it, Cupcake, I'm sure there's a good explanation for this!" Jim's voice could be heard coming from the cells. McCoy didn't bother to hide his snort and just grinned at Chapel when she glared at him.
"Well, Mayor Kirk and Ms. Rand are already here," Deputy Donovan said with a cringe. "And Mr. Sulu called Mr. Spock, so he's here with Ms. Uhura." She sighed. "I imagine another two won't make much difference at this point."
She pressed a button and waved them on through.
McCoy simply arched an eyebrow and followed Christine towards the raised voices.
Inside the cells, McCoy just observed the ruckus: Jim was facing off against a determined looking Sheriff, Janice Rand and Ms. Uhura were standing close to Gaila, who was dressed all in black and looked beyond miserable. Scotty was in a cell with Sulu and Chekov who were bickering with each other, while Scotty was trying to interject his own complaints to the sheriff. Spock, of course, was silent while he watched the goings on.
Christine headed straight for Gaila and McCoy strolled over to stand next to Spock.
"Evening," he said to him.
Spock inclined his head. "Good evening, doctor. I must admit, I never expected such...activities to occur in such a quiet town."
"Tell me about it," McCoy replied flatly.
McCoy turned to watch the sheriff as he tried to explain the situation.
"Mayor, the last thing I want to do is lock up upstanding citizens of this town," Sheriff Smith said with a definite edge to his voice. "However, they were caught red-handed, in a closet, wearing black, after having broken in to another person's home. That is illegal."
"You weren't there when I went over," McCoy heard Christine whisper to Gaila.
"You went over?" Gaila whispered back, her eyes wide and hopeful.
"Of course I did," Christine said. "45 Robin Hood Drive, like you told me."
Gaila closed her eyes looking pained. "Oh, God. I meant Robin Hood Lane."
"Oh, hell," Janice said rolling her eyes. "Gaila, for the love of Pete, what is going on?"
Here, here, McCoy thought.
Janice's query seemed to quiet down the entire room and everyone looked over at Gaila. She sighed and slumped against the bars of her cell, her bright red curls a startling contrast against the gray metal.
"I know everyone's always thought it was silly of me to be so interested in the Kirk jewels," she said hesitantly. "And honestly, it was more of a fun hobby than anything else. You know, something to think about and research."
"You researched them?" Jim asked cocking his head.
Gaila nodded brightly. "Oh, yeah! Did you know they have a name? The Fontis de Juvenis jewels. I found it in one of your grandmother's journals, the ones you can look through at the estate. She talked about how Tiberius bought them for her and how much she loved them.
"Apparently, they went missing after an attempted robbery on the estate," Gaila continued. "Guinevere decided to hide them for safe-keeping. Some place that only she, and the person she entrusted them with, knew about." Gaila frowned. "I got the impression it was the hiding itself that was part of the fun."
Jim nodded and had a small smile on her face. "She always loved mysteries."
"Go on, sweetie," Christine said holding Gaila's hand.
She took a deep breath. "Well, like I said, it was just a fun hobby. I hadn't planned to really doanything about it. But..."
"But what, love?" Scotty asked gently.
"But, everything went wrong," Gaila said throwing her hands in the air, dislodging Christine's. She started to pace in her cell. "One of the companies I bought my salon equipment from got taken over and they raised the monthly payment fees. Due to the stupid recession, the bank had to raise the interest rates on my loan and once I was delinquent on one payment, the fees just started to add up. And it's not like business is bad, but it's not booming by any means. But, I was hardly going to raise my prices ridiculously to pay people off."
She sat down on a bench. "I'm going broke and I don't know how to stop it."
"Why didn't you tell us?" Janice asked. "We could have helped you." Christine nodded in agreement.
"How?" Gaila said looking at her friends with pleading eyes. "Jan, you're hardly making the big bucks and Chris, you had to sell your car to make ends meet. No." She shook her head. "I wasn't about to ask you guys for help when it was my bad business plan that was the cause."
"You could have told me," Scotty said lowly. McCoy could see no trace of the jovial barman, just the stark emotions of a man still crazy about his wife.
"I know," Gaila said softly looking at Scotty sadly yet with so much affection, tears formed in her eyes. "But, I've got that Murphy pride, you know. I couldn't."
"So, you decided to look for the jewels?" Uhura asked. "In order to help recoup some of your finances?"
"Pretty much," Gaila said wiping her eyes. "I wasn't going to keep them!" She looked at Jim. "I swear. I was just going to find them. Leave them where they were and then tell you where to look. There's that finder's fee... I would have just collected that."
"That's a heck of a long shot," McCoy found himself saying gently.
Gaila gave him a wry glance. "Tell me about it."
"So, how did these guys get roped in to everything?" Jim jerked his head towards Sulu and Chekov.
"I ran into Gaila at the estate, looking at the diaries," Chekov said straightening up. "We started to talk about jewels. Where they could be. It was fun. A diversion." He smiled at Gaila. "No regrets."
"I, uh, ran into them when they were, ah, checking out a place," Sulu said reluctantly. McCoy arched a brow at the blush spreading across the man's face. "I kinda went along with them."
"I followed Gaila one night and saw how bad her lock-picking skills were," Scotty said casually. "I had to help."
Sheriff Smith sighed. "Jesus, people. While I can get how money matters can make you desperate, Ms. Murphy, that's no excuse for breaking the law." He looked at everyone in the cells. "No excuse whatsoever."
Everyone nodded looking a bit like reprimanded schoolchildren.
"Now, nothing concrete can be done tonight," Sheriff Smith said. "We'll have to wait until morning to see if the Kleins want to press charges. Until then, you'll all be staying here overnight."
The cells exploded into angry shouting.
"Now, Sheriff," Jim started.
"My mind's made up, your honor," Sheriff Smith said firmly glaring at Jim. "The law is the law."
"They're clearly remorseful," Jim said for once not trying to pour on the charm. McCoy had the impression it wouldn't have worked on the sheriff anyway. "Isn't there anything you can do?"
"They have to remain in police custody until a charge has been made," Sheriff Smith said not moving an inch. "Surely, you understand, Mayor Kirk."
Jim nodded thoughtfully.
"No! You can't do this!" Janice said edging in front of Jim and glaring up at the sheriff. "They're hardly hardened criminals."
"Jan-" Jim said.
"No!" Janice whirled around, her short ponytail whipping her on the side of the face. "Jim Kirk, you fix this, right now."
"They broke the law, Janice," Jim said his voice going low. "I can't overrule that."
"Yes, you can," Janice scoffed. "Of course, you can."
"Not this time," Jim said shaking his head. "I'm sorry, guys. This one is out of my hands."
There were grudging murmurs from Sulu, Chekov and Scotty. Gaila just nodded, pulling her knees up to her chest while Christine gave her a sympathetic look.
Janice, however, was not so accepting. Her lower lip actually trembled, but McCoy wasn't sure of it was due to frustration or despair.
"Jim," she said quietly. So quietly that Jim's entire expression changed, becoming the most unguarded McCoy had ever seen the man. "Jim, please fix this. Do not let Gaila sleep in a jail cell overnight."
"She won't be mistreated, Miss Rand-" Sheriff Smith stopped talking when Janice's tiny hand was sharply held up in front of his face.
"Jim," Janice repeated. "Your Honor."
"I can't, Jan," Jim said his voice practically breaking.
Janice studied him for a moment longer and then nodded. She turned to Uhura. "I sent in that application this evening with a note saying to wait until I was sure." Janice lifted her chin. "I'm sure."
"What?" Jim shouted. "Application? You mean a job? Janice, what the hell?"
"Uhura and Spock have kindly offered me a position in their firm as a project manager," Janice said evenly. "I have decided to accept."
McCoy noticed Gaila get up off the bench and come to stand next to Christine, their hands blindly linking together as they stared at their friend.
"You-You're leaving me?" Jim asked looking crushed. McCoy cringed, he'd never seen that look on his friend's face. Jim shook his head. "No. You can't. You can't go."
"I'll stay until the majority of the renovations have been at least started and underway," Janice said obviously blinking back tears. "But, I believe there is a project starting in Riverside that they'll need me on."
Jim turned to Spock. "You're stealing my assistant?"
"Hardly," Spock said. "We merely offered her a job that she would have eventually found for herself."
"Did you think she'd stay with you as your personal assistant forever?" Uhura asked not unkindly.
McCoy grimaced as Jim continued to look lost and confused. Eventually, Jim turned back to Janice.
"Tell me what to do," he said stepping close to her. "This town needs you to make sure it runs smoothly. Tell me what to do and I'll do it."
"There's nothing you can do," Janice said shaking her head. "Jim, this is something I have to do. I have to go."
"Is it because of this?" He waved a hand at everyone currently locked up. "Because I won't force Sheriff Cupcake to break the law?"
"No!" Janice said stamping her foot. "Because I'm so frustrated with you that sometimes I can't breathe. Because half the time I want to hug you because you're such and idiot and the other time I want to smack you in the face. Neither of which I can do because you're my boss! It's an impossible position to be in and I just can't do it anymore."
"But, we, I," Jim faltered a bit, but continued, "I need you, Janice."
She shook her head and laughed so bitterly that everyone winced at the sound. "No, you don't. You need Janice Rand, PA Extraordinaire. Not Janice Rand, the girl. I'm tired of being the former for you. Not when I'd like to be the latter so much."
McCoy looked away from the sheer amount of emotion displayed on both Janice and Jim's face. He found himself looking at Christine, who was looking at him with sad eyes. She gave him a small smile and he returned it. Christ, compared to the rest, he thought she and he had gotten off pretty lightly. McCoy did not envy Jim's situation. Or Janice's, for that matter.
"So," Janice said tossing her head in a deceptively breezy manner. "I'm taking the job with Spock's company because it will be a fantastic career move for me. Because I want it."
"Janice," Jim said taking her hand. "Please. I...I don't..."
Janice squeezed his hand. "You'll be fine. I know it. And so will I."
She let go of his hand and turned back to Gaila who was watching her with huge, teary eyes and a quirky smile on her face.
"Go you?" Gaila offered awkwardly.
"Go me," Janice said with a nod. She met Christine's gaze and Christine just nodded.
Then Janice left the cell. McCoy turned to look at his friend who looked awful. Gutted.
"What do I do, Bones?" Jim asked brokenly.
"You let the woman go with dignity and then ask her on a date, you moron," McCoy said rolling his eyes.
Jim blinked at him.
"Well, was she right?" McCoy asked gruffly. "Do you want her as, how'd she put it...PA Extraordinaire or as a girl?"
The corners of Jim's lips started to quirk up. "It never occurred I could have the second option," Jim said.
"Well, you could," Christine said bluntly. "So man up, Jim and don't screw this up."
McCoy smirked. God damn but he loved that suffer-no-fools-gladly tone of hers.
"Anything for you, She-Ra," Jim said winking at her. He turned to Scotty, Sulu and Chekov. "Uh, guys. I gotta-"
"Go get her, man!" Scotty waved Jim off. "We'll be fine. Not the first time I've spent the evenin' in a cell. Not likely to be the last."
Jim grinned and with a heavy slap to McCoy's back, he dashed out of the cells.
"Is my first time in cell," Chekov said looking around nervously. "Is kind of cold. Like Russia." He looked hopefully at Sheriff Cupcake. "Can we have cocoa?"
"No," the sheriff said flatly.
Chekov nodded glumly. "Yes. Figures."
McCoy snorted. He stood aside as Spock and Uhura left, Spock telling Sulu that he'd be happy to provide his company's legal counsel if it was needed.
Christine and Gaila were talking quietly and McCoy waited, eavesdropping shamelessly.
"Go home," Gaila told Christine. "I'll be fine. I promise."
Christine nodded. "If you're sure?"
"I am," Gaila said. She glanced at McCoy, then said, "I get the feeling we interrupted something rather important."
"What? No. You didn't," Christine said.
"Oh? So, that's not the beginnings of a hickey on your throat, then?" Gaila asked grinning.
McCoy looked down at the floor while Christine gasped and her fingers came up to touch the love bite that he had indeed begun to give her earlier. He glared at the guys in the cell who were craning their necks to get a look at Christine's throat.
"Knock it off," he growled. His warning was met by snickers, guffaws and some thumbs-up. He rolled his eyes, feeling irrationally proud of himself.
Christine kissed Gaila on the cheek and with one last look at her friend, headed out. McCoy nodded to Gaila and gave her a wink, which she returned. He kinda liked her. She had spirit.
They left the jail in silence.
Christine walked into her house, McCoy at her heels, for the second time that evening. She felt exhausted. Emotionally, physically exhausted. She headed straight for the sink and filled two glasses with water. She handed one to McCoy and took a long swig from her own, only kind of wishing it was something stronger. Tonight had been... well. Tonight. Man, what a mess.
Then she sagged against the counter, McCoy mirrored her position next to her.
"Did you know that Janice liked Jim?" he asked after a few minutes.
"Sort of," Christine said with a sigh. "I knew she liked him more than she thought she should. Ialways knew he liked her, though."
"Think they'll figure it out?" she asked quietly tilting her glass back and forth, watching the water slosh from side to side.
"They've got as good a chance as any of us do," he said. She could feel him looking at her.
"Especially now that she's not going to be his subordinate." Christine frowned as the fact that technically she was McCoy's subordinate dawned on her.
"Oh, don't you start looking for excuses," he said, nudging her. "I don't do the hiring and the firing, you know. The town does. I'm not your boss."
"True," she said thoughtfully wondering he could truly read her mind or if she was that obvious.
"How are you?" he asked. "Are you okay?"
His tone was brisk, but the fact that he was asking and the look on his face when she glanced over at him, well, it just melted something inside of her she hadn't known was frozen. He cared. It wasn't just to get her horizontal or anything other than just plain concern. She liked it.
"I'm okay," she said, giving him a half-smile. "Thank you for asking."
He shrugged and she shook her head as she turned to face him, leaning her hip against the counter. "No, really. Thank you for asking. Most people wouldn't."
McCoy looked at her and said, "Most people meaning your ex?"
"Well, yes," she admitted, darkly. "Of course, he wouldn't have gone down to the jail either."
"You know, I had pretty much just considered the man a bastard," McCoy said conversationally, as though they were discussing the weather. "But, now I think the man's a fool."
"Is a fool worse?" she asked watching his mouth form the words and not bothering to hide her ogling.
"Oh, yeah. See, a bastard could have cunning and intelligence, which I'd have to give credit for," McCoy explained gesticulating with his empty glass. "Whereas a fool is just plain ignorant."
"Well, I suppose I was a bit of a fool for thinking he was more than what I made him out to be," she said not a little ruefully.
"Nah, you're not a fool, Chapel," McCoy said. "You just trusted him."
"I think you may be giving me the benefit of the doubt," she said meeting his eyes.
"'Course I am. I like you," he said simply. "And it's not like I didn't have a big stretch of my life where I qualified as a damned fool, either."
"Well, possibly," Christine said smiling. "But, you got your daughter out of it."
His face softened instantly. "Yeah, I got my Jo. Wouldn't give any of it up for her."
He looked down at his glass and she studied his profile and any doubts, any misgivings regarding him or her just faded away.
"I feel I should tell you that I'm extremely turned on right now," she said casually setting her glass down in the sink.
McCoy turned his head slowly. "By me?"
"Oh, yes." She nodded.
"Well now, that's something a man likes to hear a beautiful woman say to him," he said, his drawl becoming more pronounced and sending a frission of lust through her body.
"What do you want to do about it?" she asked.
He set his own glass down in the sink and shrugged. "Grab you. Tear your clothes off and take you on the kitchen table."
Christine swallowed hard. "It's not a very sturdy table."
"Counter then; I'm not picky," he said, his light tone completely belied by the intensity of his stare.
He didn't move though. But she knew it was because he was letting her make the first overtures. Christine appreciated the gesture, but she knew what she wanted.
So, she stepped up close to him, her head tilting back as she maintained eye contact. For the second time that night, she laid her hands flat on his chest and smoothed them up to curl around his neck. Apparently, she was taking too long, because just before she could lift her mouth to his, his own hands stole around her waist and he pulled her up flush against him, his mouth covering hers.
Christine really didn't mind his enthusiasm.
Her mouth opened under his and their tongues twined and she felt that frission of lust again, coiling up tight in her abdomen.
"Christine," he said against her lips. "Jesus Christ, I want you."
She licked at his Adam's apple and said, "Take me to bed, Leonard."
"God, yes," he said before kissing her again deeply. She let her hand snake down to find his and entwined their fingers together and before she could change her mind and just let him fuck her on the kitchen floor, she stumbled towards the stairs, still trying to continue kissing him.
They broke apart long enough to rush up the stairs, McCoy cursing her creaky step, and then they were in her bedroom and he was pulling her cardigan and t-shirt off. His hands immediately palmed her breasts and she sucked in a breath at seeing his large hands on her. His index fingers brushed over her already hardened nipples and he bent his head to suckle at one through the satin of her green bra.
Her head fell back and she held his head to her breast, her back arching to give him as much access as she could while they were standing. He switched his mouth to her other breast and she cried out something like his name.
She let go of his head long enough to unfasten her bra and he lifted his lips just enough for her to take it off and then his mouth was on her breasts. She rocked into him as his warm, firm lips caressed her nipples, sucking and laving, sometimes gently, sometimes hard and with the nip of his teeth.
"Oh, God," she breathed. "The bed. I want you on the bed. Now."
He raised his head and kissed her, her hands yanking at his button-down and then his undershirt, while he undid her jeans and pushed them down.
They both got a bit tied up when they realized their shoes were still on and there was some breathless laughter as they did their best to kick shoes and socks off. Then McCoy grabbed her around her waist and picked her up, her legs hugging his hips as he walked them over to the bed. She fell onto her grandmother's quilt laughing and pulled him down to her, the front of his jeans rubbing roughly against her panties. It felt delicious.
They kissed and kissed until Christine thought she'd pass out from so much sensation and she finally pushed at his shoulder, turning them so he was on his back and she sat astride him.
He felt so real under her hands. Real and vital and solid. Roger, and all that he'd represented, had been an illusion. An image she thought she'd needed to be. Whereas McCoy...
Oh, this man she wanted. Desired.
Her mouth roamed over his chest, while his hands threaded through her hair, massaging her scalp.
She worked her way down to his belt and swiftly undid it and the button and zipper below. Eagerly, she pulled his jeans and boxers off his lower body, dropping them on the floor. Then she knelt on the bed, feeling remarkably comfortable wearing only her panties. She smiled at the sight of him spread out on her bed, looking ready to be thoroughly debauched. His eyes had darkened with desire so that only a hint of gray-green remained.
"That is one heck of a look you've got there," he said as she smoothed her hands up his calves, over his knees and squeezing his thighs. She grinned a little and let her hands just brush the base of his erection. "Christ, Chapel."
She ducked her head down and kissed the length of hipbone, laving all the way down to hover just over his cock. She looked up at him and he stared back at her.
"I don't know whether to be scared or grateful here," he said slowly.
She grinned again and said, "Both."
Then her mouth descended, engulfing him as far as she could.
His shout of "Fuck!" echoed in the room and she hummed in amusement. The she dragged her tongue up the side of him and proceeded to tease and suck and lick while thoroughly enjoying herself and all the noises he made.
Eventually, his hands found her shoulders and he sat up long enough to pull her up the length of his body and kiss her, his tongue plunging past her lips as he fucked her mouth.
He rolled them so that she was beneath him and he kissed the length of her throat and along her clavicle. Then he returned to her breasts and paid them the same amount of attention as he'd done previously, this time with the added effect of his naked erection between her thighs while she rocked against him. Sparks of pleasure shot through her and good God it had never quite been like this before. She felt gorgeous and desired and so damn aroused she wasn't sure she'd be able to come down from this.
His mouth continued to kiss and suck tiny red bruises onto her skin as he moved down. She looked down just as he looked up and she had to moan at the look of want in his eyes. Christine bit her lip as he slowly, so slowly dragged her panties down her legs. It was his turn to kneel on the bed and look up the length of her.
"Your legs, Christine," he said hoarsely. "They're a fucking miracle."
"All the better to wrap around your waist?" she offered.
He smirked and raised her right leg in the air and kissed her ankle, then her calf, then the inside of her knee. By the time he got to the inside of her thigh, she was squirming and this close to begging him to just touch her already.
Which he did, by dragging a finger through her very wet folds. Her eyes squeezed shut and she lifted her arms up over her head, where they found purchase on her headboard. She tried to remember to breathe as he worked one finger inside her, then two, his thumb barely brushing her clit.
"I want to hear you, honey," McCoy said sounding out of breath.
"Oh, fuck, McCoy," she gasped out.
Then his fingers were replaced by his tongue and she shrieked.
Which was a first for her, it has to be said.
Christine couldn't stop her hips from rocking and one hand left the headboard to hold the top of his head as he stroked her outer folds and then flicked against her clit. How could this feel sogood? She could feel her control beginning to fracture and it was wonderful.
"So close," she said feeling her orgasm building. "Len!"
McCoy raised his head and wiping his chin on the back of his hand, he moved up her body, his thick erection sliding against her folds. She pulled his face to her and kissed him, her tongue seeking out her taste.
"Condom," he said bracing himself above her.
"Bedside table," she told him. "Unopened box."
"I'm flattered," he said stretching across her to open the drawer. She retaliated by nipping at his nipple with her teeth. He yelped and moved back to kiss her firmly.
Then he sat up on his knees and she watched as he opened the packet and rolled the condom down his cock. The image of him masturbating shot through her hard, making her shiver and moan with possibility. Oh, they were doing that eventually. Yes, they were. McCoy just arched an eyebrow, taking in the ever-expanding flush of her skin. She rolled her eyes.
"Get down here and fuck me, doctor," she said reaching for him.
"Gladly," he said aligning his hips to hers. With a snap of his hips, he slid into her easily and they both groaned.
"Oh, my God," Christine said relishing the feel of him hard and warm inside her.
"Yeah," McCoy managed before pulling out and then surging back in. Christine raised her legs to wrap around her hips, holding him close and she started to rock her hips. They found a rhythm almost instantly and Christine arched her back, loving the friction against her clit.
"God damn," McCoy said, pressing his face to her neck and mouthing at her skin, his hands firmly holding onto her hips.
He did a harsh thrust against her, hitting something just right and she was coming. She threw her head back and cried out his name. Her knees trembled and her skin felt electrified.
She opened her eyes to find he'd stopped thrusting and was just watching her with a look of awe mixed with desire and she gave him a shaky smile.
"Not bad, McCoy," she managed to say.
His eyes narrowed as he slipped out of her and hauled her up. Still in the throes of post-orgasm lassitude, she let him manhandle her body, so that she was on her knees, her back to his chest. Her hand automatically curled around his neck as she tilted her head to kiss him messily.
She felt his still hard cock against the cleft of her bottom and while they continued to kiss, McCoy lifted her so that her thighs rested just along his, his cock coming to nestle against her folds.
"Not bad, my ass," he muttered against her mouth. Then he surged up inside her and she gasped into his mouth.
The hand that wasn't curled around his neck shot out in front of her, looking for something to brace herself with. It found purchase on the top of her headboard, the cool mahogany warming under her tight grip.
McCoy's hips kept up a steady rhythm and she soon matched it, their mouths brushing against each other. He let one hand palm her breast, massaging it, cupping it, brushing his fingers over her nipple, then tweaking it. His other glided down over her stomach to comb through her curls, then slide over her clit.
Christine tore her mouth away from his to gasp in air as another orgasm threatened to peak.
"Come on, honey," he grunted next to her ear. "One more. You can do it. Come on, Christine."
"Fuck! Len," she said, beginning to say things she'd never dreamed of saying. "Oh, God, you come, too. Come with me."
"God damn it, darlin'!" he said as his fingers slid hard against her clit and Christine cried out as her second orgasm burst. She felt tears leak from her eyes from the force of it and McCoy's hips stuttered against her as he pressed his open mouth to her neck.
They remained upright for a few seconds, before their energy deserted them and they slumped to the bed. McCoy just managed to not crush Christine with his weight but it was a near thing. Christine gingerly straightened out from a fetal position to her back, while McCoy groaned as he did the same. They met each other's eyes and gave exhausted smiles.
"Still not bad?" he asked.
"You'll do," she replied. He snorted and just tugged her to him.
Christine stretched out her legs underneath the crisp bed sheet and her toes brushed against McCoy's calf. He twitched next to her and pulled her closer, his head resting on her chest, where he pressed a kiss to the top of her breast.
She sighed and closed her eyes. "We definitely have to try to have a relationship."
"The fact that we just had amazing sex totally tipped the scales for you, didn't it?" he said his hand skimming her side, over her ribs to her hip and then back up.
"Pretty much," she admitted carding her fingers through his hair.
He pressed another kiss to her skin and then another on her collarbone, then another on her throat and after he'd kissed his way back up to her mouth, he kissed her so slowly, so thoroughly and so deeply, Christine was drunk with pleasure and was beginning to writhe beneath him once more.
"Cannot get enough of you," he murmured before kissing her again.
After he'd kissed her to the point that they were both breathless, he lifted his head and studied her.
"It's entirely possible I may be in love with you," he said seriously.
"Really?" she asked starting to smile. "That's nice. It's entirely possible I may be in love with you."
"How about that?" he said the corners of his lips quirking upwards. Christine lifted her chin to kiss him and their hands began to roam over each other's bodies once more.
She arched her back as his kissed the spot where her shoulder met her neck and he said, "Did you know that 'fontis' is Latin for fountain?"
"Mmm, no, I did not know that," Christine said dazedly her hand smoothing over his back. "Tell me more."
"'Juvenis' means youth," he said his head dipping to kiss the peak of her nipple.
"Mmm, that's-Wait." Christine lifted his head from her breast and stared at him. "It means youth?"
"Uh, yes," he said frowning. "Why?"
"The Fontis de Juvenis translates into the fountain of youth?" she asked an absurd well of hope forming in her chest. "The jewels are called the Fountain of Youth?"
"Ye-es," he said slowly, "I guess they are. Again, why?"
Christine swallowed hard and tried to stay calm. "Guinevere Kirk always called my Aunt Abbie her personal fountain of youth. Because Abbie always kept her looking so young."
McCoy's brow furrowed as he said, "You don't think-"
"That the jewels might be hidden inside the house that once belonged to Guinevere Kirk's most-trusted friend and make-up artist?" Christine finished for him, her voice getting louder as she spoke.
His eyes widened. "Chapel, why does that step in your staircase creak so badly?"
Christine sucked in a breath. They moved at the same time, jumping off the bed, McCoy tried to put his jeans on and cursed when his foot got caught. Christine managed to grab her panties off the floor and slip them on, then she grabbed McCoy's button-down shirt and threw it on, only bothering to button some of the buttons and getting them wrong.
"We need a crowbar," McCoy said as they left the bedroom.
"I've got one in the garage," she said, "I'll get it."
They rushed halfway down the stairs, both stepping on the step that creaked and looking at each other when the step seemed to curve upwards under their feet.
"Be right back," Christine said rising up on her tiptoes to press a kiss to his mouth. She scurried down the rest of the stairs to the garage, the cold concrete shocking her feet as she whirled around looking for the crowbar. She could hear McCoy inside on the stairs, grunting as he attempted to lift the step with his bare hands. Spotting the crowbar sticking out of her toolbox, she grabbed it and raced back inside to where McCoy was crouched down on the stairs, a determined expression on his face, his chest bare and his jeans riding low on his hips.
She took just a moment to appreciate the view and with a wicked and giddy smirk handed him the crowbar.
"Get to it, doctor," she said.
"Anything for you, She-Ra," he said dryly and Christine groaned.
"Stupid Jim," she muttered, stepping down a few steps to give McCoy room to maneuver.
With a firm shove, he stuck the crowbar in the seam where the top of the step connected with the base. Then he gritted his teeth and started to lift the crowbar up and down, loosening the step. Then with one final heavy lift, the nails in the step squeaked as they came loose and the step lifted up completely.
Christine bit her bottom lip and fisted her hands in the tails of McCoy's shirt. She moved up to crouch next to McCoy and looked into the space beneath the step.
A small, dusty metal box sat squarely in the middle.
"It was too tall to fit easily," McCoy said quietly. "It rubbed against the wood every time someone stepped on it."
"Oh, my God," Christine said. She reached in and pulled the box out. Setting it on the step above, she undid the clasp on the front and with a squeal of the old hinges, opened the box.
They both leaned over to see inside.
A stack of letters addressed to Guinevere Kirk from various people sat on the top. Christine opened one and scanned the contents.
"Fan letters," she said. "Very kind fan letters. Oh, Jim is going to have to see these."
She sifted through the letters and smiled at some old photographs of Guinevere and Tiberius in Enterprise. Her eyes watered when she came across one of Guinevere and her Aunt Abbie smiling and hugging each other.
"Your aunt?" McCoy asked. Christine could only nod her head, so overcome she was at seeing the image. He pressed a kiss to her temple. "You look like her. Strong and gorgeous."
"Charmer. Oh, she would have loved you," Christine said laughing.
She lifted out the photos and the letters and froze when her fingers brushed against something soft and velvet.
"Oh, holy crap," she breathed as she pulled out a black pouch. "Len."
"You're kidding me," he said shaking his head.
Christine opened the pouch and looked inside. "Son of a bitch," she said softly.
She tipped the pouch and a sparkling necklace with silver filigree dripping with sapphires and diamonds spilled onto her hand.
"Unbelievable," McCoy said reaching a hand out to touch the large sapphire pendant. "Un-fucking-believable."
Christine shook her head. "Under the stairs, this whole time."
"Jim is going to freak," McCoy said.
"Gaila is going to freak," Christine amended. "I'm giving her the finder's fee. I mean, they would have been found eventually, but if she hadn't done all the research and found out the name of this." She sighed and tilted her hand letting the dim light of the hallway make the jewels sparkle. "No. Gaila is getting the fee."
McCoy nodded. "I figured as much. But, what are you going to get?"
She looked at the jewels and then down at the photos of her aunt. Then she looked at McCoy.
"I think I'd kind of like to 'get' you," she said thoughtfully. "If that's all right with you?"
"Oh, it's more than all right with me," he said cupping the side of her face. "In fact, I'm more than happy to let you 'get' me for quite some time."
Christine smiled and leaned forward to kiss him. The kiss quickly turned deep and heated and the jewels were unceremoniously dropped back in the box, while Christine and McCoy stumbled up the stairs, back to The Bed.
"The roads are so twisty."
McCoy smiled as he glanced down at his daughter as they drove slowly towards Enterprise, her eyes wide as she tried to see everything. In fact, he hadn't stopped smiling since he got in the car that morning to go pick her up.
He'd just picked her up from the airport after her first flight all by herself. McCoy and Jocelyn had discussed how Joanna would visit him and he hadn't had any problem with going to Atlanta to get her, but in the end Joanna had begged and pleaded to fly on her own.
She'd run into his arms at the airport, at least two inches taller than he'd last seen her and her hair was up in one ponytail at the back of her head instead of the two pigtails she'd worn before.
"Daddy," she breathed into his neck and he'd felt the tears prickle behind his eyes as he squeezed her even tighter.
They'd hopped in the car and grabbed some McDonalds before hitting the interstate. McCoy took the scenic route and it had been worth it for the look of sheer wonder on Joanna's face when she saw the Pacific.
"It's so big, Dad," she said when they'd pulled over at one of the viewing platforms. "Can I swim in it?"
"Yep," he said. "We thought we might take a trip one weekend while you're here. What do you think?"
Joanna had nodded vigorously.
Now, they were just on the edge of Enterprise.
"What's that?" she asked pointing.
"That's the new drive-in," he said feeling his age. "They show movies on a big screen that you park in front of and watch in your car."
Joanna wrinkled her nose looking very much like her mother for a second. "Do they have popcorn?"
"Popcorn and ice cream, or so they tell me," McCoy said. "And I think they're showing theWizard of Oz this weekend."
"I love the Wizard of Oz!" she said happily and promptly launched into a slightly off-key rendition of We're off to see the Wizard. McCoy couldn't help chuckling.
After she'd sung the chorus twice, she asked, "Are we going to meet Christine today?"
McCoy had told Joanna (and Jocelyn, by extension) about Christine shortly after he'd moved into her house. Jocelyn had sounded conflicted for a split second before wishing him luck (although with far more warmth than he'd seen in some time).
Joanna had been a little reluctant but after a few phone conversations with Christine and the discovery of a mutual love of animals and the color blue, Jo had accepted the other woman in McCoy's life.
"We are going to see Christine today," McCoy said as he turned onto Starling Drive. "We're going to drop off your stuff at the house and then go meet her at the clinic. Sound good?"
"Sounds good," Jo said with a nod.
They pulled into the driveway and Jo said, "It's so pretty!"
McCoy agreed with her. It had taken all spring and they still weren't quite finished, but the outside of the house had been painted a light green with a white trim that matched the original paint job that Christine remembered as a child. The azaleas in the front were blooming like mad and just last weekend, McCoy had finally got around to putting a swing on the front porch. He spared a quick moment to look at all their hard work and feel proud of the way the house was coming together.
Jo hopped out of the car and ran up the path to the porch, where she promptly sat down on the swing. McCoy grinned and grabbed her suitcase from the trunk, then joined her on the porch.
"Like it?" he asked.
"It's like at Granny McCoy's house!" she said smiling.
"Want to see you room?" he asked unlocking the front door.
"Yes, yes, yes!" she said bounding over to him and taking his hand.
"Okay, okay, okay," he said as they went inside, Jo peeking in each room. The living room was still one of the brightest rooms in the house, though the kitchen had been re-painted a cheerful yellow. It felt like a proper home. Their home.
They walked up the stairs, Jo stopping on the infamous step that had a big X on the top.
"Is this where the treasure was buried?" she asked McCoy giving him a skeptical look.
"It is indeed," he said nodding. "Later, we'll go over to the museum and see all the pictures and the jewels themselves."
The jewels had, of course, been turned over to Jim and Christine had been awarded the finder's fee, which she, in turn, gave to Gaila.
There was a huge row between Christine and Gaila over the money and finally, Gaila accepted the reward with one proviso, Christine was to be a shareholder of sorts in the salon. She got a say in some of the larger business decisions and naturally, free hair-cuts for her and her family for life.
Not that Gaila, Scotty, Sulu and Chekov got out of their troubles scot-free. While the Kleins decided not to press charges, all four had to do some extensive community service. Sulu renovated the playground in the city park for free, while Chekov had to cater every town meeting.
Scotty and Gaila happily picked up trash and worked at the youth center. Something they'd both continued after their hours were up.
And if the gossip was to be believed, they'd started to see each other again.
Dates with dinner and dancing and Scotty depositing her on her front stoop at a reasonable hour.
Christine expected him to pop the question (again) fairly soon.
"Your room is the second one on the right, sweetie," McCoy told Jo once they got to the top of the stairs. Jo skipped ahead of him and poked her head around the edge of the door.
"It's blue!" she shrieked. "Daddy, there are clouds on my walls! Oh, cool!"
She dashed in and jumped on the single bed covered with a soft quilt with moons and stars on the cover and she knelt to touch the clouds that Christine and Janice had painted on the wall.
Janice had come to help during her first real weekend off after starting as project manager for Spock's firm. She'd ostensibly come back to help Christine, but the real reason for the trip had been her first official date with Jim.
Neither Jim nor Janice could stop grinning like fools at each other the following day at the Pike's annual bar-be-que. Plus, they'd seen each other on alternating weekends after that, so...
McCoy suspected things were going well.
Jo's room was decorated in all shades of blue imaginable and McCoy suspected that if he hadn't put his foot down, the bedroom he shared with Christine might have suffered a similar fate.
"Dad! This is awesome!" Jo said giving him a brilliant smile. "I get to sleep in the sky!"
"Just remember to thank Christine, she's the one who painted them," McCoy said setting her suitcase down and going over to press a kiss to the top of her head.
"Oh, I will, it's so pretty," she said her finger still tracing the edge of the clouds.
"You want to come with me to get her now?" he asked. "Then we can go get some dinner?"
"Sure," she said bouncing a little on the bed, then bouncing to the floor, her sneakers making a squeaky sound on the hardwood floor.
They headed back downstairs and out to the car, Jo talking eagerly about her new room and how her friends back in Atlanta were going to be so jealous.
"There's really only one thing missing from my room, Dad," Jo said seriously.
"And what is that?" he asked pulling into the clinic's parking lot.
He refrained from rolling his eyes. "Uh huh. Well, we'll see."
Jo made a face. "Hillary says that when her dad says that it means 'no'."
"Well, when this dad says it, it means 'we'll see'," McCoy said chuckling.
"Fine," she said her lower lip sticking out in a pout that he well remembered. He reached over and tried to pinch it; she giggled and squirmed away so he was reduced to simply tickling her. When she started to shriek with laughter, he couldn't help but join in.
Finally, he stopped and let her catch her breath.
"Ready to meet Christine?" he asked, feeling a little apprehensive. Christine was fantastic with kids, but this was his kid and he just wanted them to get along.
"Ready," she said smiling. "I have to make sure you're being looked after properly."
McCoy let out a bark of laughter. "Yes, you do, Jojo. Come on then. Inside."
Jo hopped out of the car and immediately put on her determined face, but also held onto McCoy's hand tightly.
They opened the clinic door and stepped into chaos.
"What the-" McCoy stared wide-eyed around the waiting room at what he thought was the entire Little League baseball team.
"Whoa," Jo said quietly, taking a step back and blinking rapidly.
A dozen young boys were wearing very dirty uniforms, three were sporting black eyes, another two were cradling their arms, one had a nasty cut on his shin and they all had bruises and scrapes.
"Oh, thank God," Dr. M'Benga said when he saw McCoy.
"We really need you, Doctor," Nurse Alice said before flying past him with a small triage kit heading to one of the kids with a gash on his arm.
Christine looked up from where she was giving one little guy an ice pack. She patted his hand and walked over to McCoy.
"What happened?" McCoy asked meeting Christine by the reception desk, holding Jo's hand firmly.
"Well, a little scuffle broke out between the short stop and the pitcher," Christine said indicating two of the boys with black eyes. "Then the right outfielder and the third baseman got involved. Which got everyone going and somehow they all managed to fall straight into the dugout on top on each other."
She took a deep breath and continued, "There's a broken nose and a broken wrist already in the exam rooms."
Then she looked down and smiled. "Hi, Joanna. It's so good to see you."
"Hi," Jo said shyly. "Thank you for my clouds."
"Oh, you've seen them!" Christine said delightedly crouching down to Jo's eye level, completely ignoring the madness in the waiting room. "Do you like them?"
"They're great!" Jo said slipping her hand out of McCoy's to make the shape of the cloud. "They're so fluffy and it's all in blue and it's really, really cool."
"Oh, I am so glad you like them," Christine said smiling. "You know I was thinking about painting something in the kitchen, too. Do you want to help?"
"Yes, please," Jo said bouncing on the balls of her feet.
A loud wail came from the kid who'd just had some antiseptic applied to his cut.
"Ouch," Jo said. "I hate that stuff."
"So do I," Christine agreed.
She stood back up and looked at McCoy. "We kind of need you."
"No," McCoy said flatly.
"What? I'm on my day off," McCoy said to her. "I've got my daughter. I can't just-"
"Dad," Jo said tugging on his hand and rolling her eyes. "Don't be silly. You've got to fix them. You're a doctor."
McCoy stared down at his daughter who stared up at him. He looked over at Christine who gave him a smirking smile that seemed to say 'I told you so and so did your daughter.'
He scowled at her and then crouched down to look Jo in the eyes. "If you're sure and you're okay with it, then I'm going to go work long enough to get these kids back together. Okay with you?"
"Okay with me," Jo said brightly. He pressed a kiss to her forehead.
"Okay," he said straightening back up. "Now, where can you go while I do this?"
"Ah, Nora said she'd be happy to look after her," Christine said looking slightly guilty all of a sudden. "She said she had some...things to occupy Joanna's time with."
McCoy narrowed his eyes. "What things?"
"Well," Christine avoided eye contact and instead smiled at Jo. "Want to see what Nora has behind her desk?"
"Sure!" Jo took Christine's hand without hesitation, a move that made Christine's smile waver just a bit as she looked up at McCoy with barely concealed joy at his daughter's apparent acceptance of her. He winked at her.
"Well, see," Christine told Jo as they dodged the horde in the waiting room making their way to the reception desk. "Nora has a dog named Priscilla and about a month ago Priscilla had-"
"Puppies!" Jo cried out seeing the laundry basket filled with five four-week old Golden Retrievers. Christine laughed while McCoy groaned.
"Aw, hell," he said. "I knew it."
"No cussin', Daddy," Jo said absently, her eyes round and wide in her face as she looked at the puppies.
"Yes, ma'am," he said while Christine snickered.
Nora grinned at Jo and said, "Now, seeing as your daddy and Christine are going to be very busy doing their jobs, your job is to hold each and every one of these puppies all afternoon. Can you manage that?"
"Yes, ma'am, I can do that," Jo said seriously nodding her head.
"We're getting a puppy, aren't we?" McCoy muttered to Christine.
She elbowed his side. "You knew Nora was bringing them in today, don't act like you don't want one, Mr. Grumpy-pants."
"Woman," he said warningly, but she just smiled serenely at him and said, "Do you want the possible broken wrist or broken nose?"
"Wrist," he said kissing her cheek. "You take the nose."
Then with one last look at his daughter speechless in puppy heaven, McCoy and Christine headed out once more into the fray.