Finkle and Fury
When I agreed to be Ms Sigyn-Laufeyson's obstetrician, I'd done so because the idea of being involved with an extraterrestrial pregnancy was too fascinating to pass up. I wasn't kidding when I'd told her I'd always wanted this since watching the X-Files and it's still true. Lots of people think Exobiology is just a theoretical science but I'd like to be on the cutting edge of anything to do with visitors from space.
Unfortunately to get to visitors from space I had to go through assholes from earth, namely S.H.I.E.L.D. and their mountains of paperwork. Luckily I'm a determined person, and the official liaison, Special Agent Coulson is a pretty nice guy under all the dark suit blandness he projects. It's camouflage of course; Man in Black sort of stuff. Thanks to him I was able to get through the various briefings, debriefings, classified documentations and receive my own Level Three pass. Now I'm allowed into most S.H.I.E.L.D. facilities and I've even been on the fancy-pants helicarrier. Normally I kvetch about how my tax dollars are spent, but that helicarrier brings a tear to my eye—so cool.
Anyway the point is, I was drafted for the duration of Ms. Sigyn-Laufeyson's pregnancy, and while that caused all sorts of re-arrangements with my own practice and Doctor Hildy Abo, my partner, I had to admit that the end result was pretty cool. Not that I was bored with delivering human babies—far from it. I love my profession, and I'm damned good at it. No, I think what I mean to say is that it's neat to be able to take my skills into another sphere. I was going to be the first obstetrician to bring an extraterrestrial hybrid into the world!
That is going to look SO good on my CV, when I can finally list it.
Still, I couldn't monitor Cynara—Ms Sigyn-Laufeyson—every minute of the day, so S.H.I.E.L.D. gave me an office in the Infirmary of the helicarrier and put me on the roster there. Three doctors, six nurses and three medic teams. I was given the option of doing research or taking a shift of duty, so naturally being the overachiever I am, I chose to do both. I spent my time bandaging up agents who got too close to exhaust vents or got careless with heavy machinery, listened to a lot of gossip and generally kept busy. Made some friends, too—Phil Coulson for one, and David Agrino, the chief surgeon.
In fact, it was all pretty good as long as I didn't have to talk to Nick Fury.
Fury, gah! He's a large brooding collection of everything that pushes my buttons bad AND good, and it doesn't help that he's the boss. Of everything, according to my S.H.I.E.L.D. handbook. Colonel Nick Fury has unlimited authority over anyone who's in the organization and his whole attitude is that anything you've got to say is either something he's heard before or something he thinks is asinine.
I don't do well with that sort of machismo. It's not like he polishes guns or swaggers around or anything—don't get me wrong. He's got what it takes to back up his attitude, certainly but it doesn't mean I have to put up with it. The agents around here think Colonel Fury is either the greatest soldier since Captain America or the baddest badass you don't want to be on the wrong side of. Me? I think he's forgotten how to be human.
Seriously, I can't imagine him having a good belly laugh, or farting, or rooting for the Jets. It probably hurts him to smile, and I doubt he's ever sung in his life. He's all about strategy and defense and the ongoing military-related stuff S.H.I.E.L.D. generates, and normally I'd just stay out of his way, but no, he wants regular updates on Cynara's health, and because patient/doctor confidentiality is sort of moot in this case, I'm required to have 'consultations' with him.
The first few were dry readings of my reports, and I tried not to let his gaze intimidate me, but it wasn't easy. Fury may have only one eye visible but it's got the intensity of a flare and that combined with the general non-smiling nature of his expression could make stainless steel sweat. Believe me, it's damned hard not to be intimidated, but by the third time I decided I wasn't going to let him scare me. After all, I was the baby expert, right?
So I walked in, sat down and looked across the desk without opening the report. He made a 'go ahead' gesture and I tossed it onto the desk, then got up and leaned over it to look at him. "Colonel, I can email this to you; you do know that, right?"
"I do," he came back, steepling those fingers of his together. "But I prefer doing it this way so if I need any clarification I don't have to bother with emailing you back, Doctor Finkle."
"You haven't had any questions so far," I pointed out. "Not one, which means I'm either wasting my time, or you are."
For the record, stare-downs with the head of S.H.I.E.L.D. are scary and I don't recommend them. I kept it up though, and made myself consider how attractive his goatee was. I like them; not so much the landscaped sort that Mr. Stark wears, but the scruffy kind currently on the Colonel's chin.
He looked ready to hold his gaze for the next three days, but I decided I didn't want to keep going and tapped the report with my nail, breaking our stalemate. "Look, the basic numbers are dutifully recorded as are my other medical notations. If you want my input or opinions, just ask. If you don't have anything to ask, then I respectfully submit that we're done here."
That should have been it; I should have been able to sweep out of that office with a swagger and collapse in a heap of giggles in the elevator, glad to be alive after that confrontation, but no, nooo, that's not how it went down.
Truth is, I went down. I've got this weak ankle, legacy of all that roller derby practice with mom, and just as I was giving Fury my best glare, it wobbled and down I went, disappearing from his sight like a puppet yanked off the stage.
So much for standing my ground, right?
There are a lot of things I don't have time for. Some of them I don't give a damn about, like finding parking spots, or gossiping around some damn water cooler in some office building trying to figure out how to keep up with the neighbors or get my kids into fancy schools. Those are things that I and my organization are protecting so thousands of citizens CAN do them. S.H.I.E.L.D. handles the boundaries of necessary defense and we do it damned well because we're dedicated to the job.
I've been running S.H.I.E.L.D. longer than many of my teams have been alive, and it's one I'm good at doing. I've been on the job through more wars, police actions, operations and military interventions and in all that time I've pulled together the best people to get the work done.
Frankly I don't deal with civilians all that well. If Stark is any example then it should be clear that I prefer people trained to recognize and follow authority. I'd hoped that would be the case with Doctor Josephine Finkle, who for the record would not have been my choice of obstetrician. No slight on the woman's credentials, but I reiterate, she's a civilian and not at all familiar with military protocol.
But trying to find a balance between appeasing a pair of capricious aliens and dealing with the only rune expert working for S.H.I.E.L.D. made it necessary to compromise a bit. Coulson vouched for Special Technician Sigyn-Laufeyson's choice and when the woman was willing to sign on as a consultant I decided to let things stand.
Let me make it clear that I wasn't interested in this pregnancy because I'm a sentimentalist. My concern lay strictly with the politics of the situation and not with the biological details. Still, keeping on top of the developments was part of being prepared for whatever might happen. I expected Doctor Finkle to understand that, and comply with my simple request of weekly briefings. The first two went fine, and then the woman tried to get in my face during the third one about it being a waste of time.
Since S.H.I.E.L.D. was paying her I didn't really see it that way and was prepared to point that out when she . . . fell. Doctor Finkle went down like a condemned building and it took me a moment to realize this wasn't some sort of combat roll or defensive maneuver. I swung myself over the desk and reached her just as she looked up at me and I've never seen anyone so damned pink. Would have laughed if I didn't think it would piss her off further.
"Bad ankle," she told me. "Roller derby injury."
That hadn't come up in her background check. I won't say I was impressed, but having seen some fierce match-ups in my time there might have been a moment of re-consideration. I watched her slip off her pump and flex her foot for a second before speaking.
"Are you going to be able to walk?"
"I need to wrap it first," Finkle told me. "Not even a class one sprain. Ice and elevation; I'll be fine."
I moved to make a call, but she reached out and caught my sleeve.
Nobody grabs my sleeve.
I looked down and she let go, still pink, but talking quickly. "No. If you call and someone has to come get me, I'm going to end up an even bigger joke than I already am on this flying barge, Colonel. I can wrap it myself and if you walk me to the infirmary nobody has to know, all right?"
She had a point, and just because I wasn't thrilled to have an obstetrician on staff didn't mean life had to be any more difficult for either of us.
"Stay put," I told her, and went out to the First Aid locker just outside my office. When I handed it to Finkle she dug out the ace bandage and tried to start, but it wasn't going to work. Ever try to wrap your own ankle, especially when your ass is on the floor?
I took the bandage from her and got to work, even as she started to sputter about it, mostly because she was in a skirt. I didn't say anything but I took my time wrapping. Nice ankle, as those go. I'm not a leg man myself, but Finkle's looked to be pretty good. "Too tight?"
"No, it's fine. You've done this a lot, haven't you?" she asked me in a quiet voice.
I nodded. "You could save I've had some experience with bandages."
"I bet." She handed me the butterfly clip and I finished it off, then rose up and held out a hand to haul Finkle to her feet.
Strong grip for such a small hand.
"Thank you," she told me, and worked her foot back into her pump. "Okay then, I'll just get going . . ."
She would have gone down again if I hadn't caught her elbow, and it became clear to both of us that I was definitely going to have to walk her back.
It went about as well as you can imagine. Every time someone came down the hall Finkle would let go of me and pretend we'd stopped for a little chat until they passed us by. Since everyone under my jurisdiction knows I don't do small talk it was about as believable as the Easter Bunny.
Still, the woman needed my help, and civilian or not she deserved her dignity. I let her hang onto me and shortened my stride, thinking it had been a long damned time since I'd done anything like this.