"This isn't food!"
Christine rolled her eyes in exasperation and glanced over to the side, where acting CMO M'Benga was currently busy entering research results into the ship's computer. The doctor didn't look up to meet her gaze, but Christine saw the corners of his mouth twitch up as he suppressed a grin. So he had heard it, and simply chose not to do anything about it.
With a sigh, Christine put down the PADD she had been working on and turned towards the corner area of Sickbay, where one single biobed was shielded from view by a privacy curtain. Christine wanted to ignore it, she really did. But experience had taught her that it was only going to get worse, much worse, before it stopped.
Christine liked Doctor McCoy, she really did. She appreciated his professional capacities, enjoyed working under him and all the things she had been learning for the past year that she had been serving on Enterprise. And yes, admittedly there might be some feelings she harbored for her superior officer that weren't entirely professional. But right now? She kinda wanted to smother him with his pillow.
Anybody who had ever complained about McCoy's bedside manner really had no idea what they were talking about. They should see him as a patient, that would shut them up quickly.
It was five days now since McCoy had been shot. By medical standards, his recovery was going well, and that was something Christine was grateful for. She only remembered all too well how bad his injuries had been. And she had read the medical log of McCoy's emergency surgery. She knew how hard Doctor M'Benga had struggled during those hours to keep McCoy alive, and that he had actually lost him once on the table. Christine also remembered her own fear and worry for the doctor, and she remembered how devastated Kirk had been at the prospect of losing the other man.
McCoy had come very close to dying, and that was the only reason why Christine was cutting him some serious slack during his recovery.
But all that didn't entirely make up for the fact that as brilliant as McCoy was as a doctor, he made for a horrible patient. And Christine's patience was running thin.
Determination in her steps, she walked over to the privacy curtain that was half-drawn, shielding McCoy from sight of those who entered Sickbay on everyday business. She didn't bother announcing her presence with anything but the sound of her approaching steps. The curtain was as much privacy as McCoy was going to get for as long as he was still confined to medical care, and as the CMO he knew that. Besides, it wasn't more than five minutes since Christine had last been at his bedside.
Yes, her nerves were seriously strained, and she had only just started her shift.
McCoy was sitting up as Christine rounded the curtain, with the back of the biobed raised to support him in this position. It was a compromise M'Benga had only grudgingly agreed to. With his injuries, McCoy should actually be lying flat on his back for a while longer so as not to put any strain on the extensive damage the projectile to his abdomen had caused. They had tried that for two days, then the entire medical staff had agreed to allow McCoy to sit up for short periods of time. It had been a necessary decision to protect their sanity.
The doctor was still pale, but nowhere near the deathly white pallor he had sported immediately after the surgery. It was yet another sign that while he was well on his way to recovery, he was nowhere near there yet.
But his glare was already back in full force as he sat there with his arm crossed loosely over his chest. Christine however chose to ignore that. She knew that McCoy was probably going to fall over as soon as he tried to leave his bed on his own, and with that knowledge in mind the glare couldn't really faze her.
Kirk was sitting on the side of the biobed near McCoy's knees, and contrary to the doctor, he was grinning at her as Christine approached the bed. The Captain had spent the first two days after McCoy's injury in Sickbay nearly without interruption. Only when McCoy had woken, really woken up and not just opened his eyes for a few seconds of half-aware glances, had he left to get some rest and sleep.
After everything Christine had gotten to know about the two men and the depth of their connection, she had understood Kirk's refusal to leave before he had seen with his own eyes that McCoy was on the way to recovery.
It still hurt, though.
Not that her own feelings about McCoy had ever been more than an infatuation, something she secretly indulged in without any plans to ever act upon it. But still, the definite knowledge that McCoy and Kirk had what Christine could only dream of was painful.
After McCoy's condition had stabilized and he had woken up, Kirk had returned to duty. But he had taken up on coming to Sickbay for a visit before every shift, and he spent most of his free time when he was not on shift here, as well. So it wasn't surprising to see him sitting by McCoy's bedside this morning before the start of his shift, either.
There had been no fallout from Christine's behavior while she and Kirk had been waiting for the results of the surgery. And that had actually been very surprising, considering that she had not only snapped at Spock and downright yelled at Kirk, and on top of that had held a deeply revealing conversation with Kirk that had gone far beyond the boundaries of what was appropriate to discuss between a crewmember and the Captain.
But it was as if nothing had happened. Kirk was his usual self when interacting with her, cocky, with an easy smile, and seeming a lot more relaxed now that he knew McCoy was going to recover just fine. He had never even mentioned again that Christine had yelled at him, and strangely there hadn't been a reprimand from Spock about her behavior towards the First Officer, either. There should have been though, because she knew for a fact that she had claimed an authority she didn't possess when she relieved Kirk of duty, and her tone while doing so had been anything but appropriate. She had the strong suspicion that Kirk had something to do with that lack of reprimand, but if so, he didn't let it on.
He didn't let on at all that anything had changed, actually, even though things definitely had. Christine knew what was going on between the Captain and his CMO, and now she also knew that it was much more than just causal sex. And now Kirk knew that she knew. Christine had no idea if McCoy also knew that she knew, all she was really sure of was that thinking about all this gave her a headache. So she left those thoughts well alone. She was fairly sure that she was going to keep her job despite everything she had seen, heard and done, and everything else would just have to wait until McCoy was back on duty and she could see whether anything had changed in their working together.
If she didn't strangle him first, of course.
And right now, with McCoy glaring at her while Kirk was watching the display, struggling very hard not to laugh, death by asphyxiation by an exasperated nurse seemed more and more like a distinct possibility.
"What seems to be the problem?"
McCoy huffed as if the answer to that should be obvious. While Kirk watched on with barely concealed mirth, McCoy pointed to the tray sitting in front of him. Christine didn't need him to point it out, she had only brought that tray over five minutes ago.
"Yes? That's your breakfast, what about it?"
"Breakfast?" McCoy spluttered indignantly. "That's not breakfast. It's not even food! It's a poor excuse for something that wants to substitute for food once it grows up."
Christine crossed her own arms in front of her chest and glared right back at McCoy, not in the least intimidated by the doctor's outburst.
"It's pudding", she stated calmly.
"Exactly! Which is bad enough. But it's not even real pudding. It's replicated pudding! On the food chain, that's just one step above swamp mud!" McCoy ignored Kirk's snort of amusement and pointed at the offending bowl in front of him. "Pudding! At eight in the morning! That's not food!"
"Well, it's all you're going to get, so you better eat it if you want anything before lunch."
"It's pudding!" McCoy repeated, as if saying it often enough was going to sway Christine into giving him something else. "Damn it Nurse Chapel, I'm a doctor, not a toddler…"
"No," Christine interrupted, startling McCoy so much that he interrupted his rant abruptly.
She forced herself to remain calm. "You're not a doctor. Not right now. For as long as you're lying on this bed, you're a patient. And patients eat what's put in front of them. Especially patients who had their insides rearranged by an antique projectile weapon. I don't believe your small intestine would appreciate any kind of solid food right now, and since I'm not in the mood for mopping up vomit first thing in the morning you'll either eat your breakfast now, or you'll go hungry until lunch. Which is going to be soup, just so you know. Those are your choices. Like them or not, I'm not going to budge."
Two days ago, Christine might have still bothered to be more considerate. She knew that McCoy didn't have it easy right now, and normally her tone when talking to a patient was an entirely different one. But McCoy wasn't made for lying around staring at the ceiling all damn day long, as he put it, and he had not missed one single opportunity to make that absolutely clear over the past days. Somewhere over the course of that, Christine's level of politeness had sunk somewhat. McCoy didn't seem to take offence, but then again he was too busy grumbling about anything and everything to even notice.
Normally, he gave back as good as he got, but before he had the chance to reply anything to Christine's small rant, Kirk, who was still perching on the edge of the bed, suddenly leaned forward and snatched the bowl of pudding off the tray.
Kirk grinned and stuffed a spoonful of pudding into his mouth, swallowing it down with a low moan of appreciation.
"Vanilla. It's good, Bones."
"I was going to eat that, Jim!"
Kirk rolled his eyes and ate another spoonful. "You said it wasn't even food."
"Yeah well, seeing that it's the only thing they're giving me, I don't have much choice now, do I?"
Kirk seemed unfazed by the fact that he was stealing McCoy's breakfast and kept on wolfing down the pudding with a mischievous grin on his face.
There had been no public displays of affection in Christine's presence over the past days, despite the fact that she now knew about the relationship between the two men. There had been nothing other than the occasional touch of a hand to an arm, or a pat to the shoulder. Nothing that would have made Christine suspicious had she not already known what was really going on between these two men.
But Kirk's moans of appreciation as he spooned down the pudding were bordering on obscene, and Christine was fairly sure that what his mouth was doing with that spoon was illegal on a number of Federation planets. Judged by the faint blush on McCoy's pale cheeks, the display of spoon and lips and tongue wasn't lost on him, either.
But before either of them had the chance to react, Kirk scratched the last of the pudding out of the bowl and slid down from his perch on the bed.
"I gotta get to the bridge. Can't let Spock do all the captaining on his own. I'll drop by again later, don't give anybody a hard time until then."
McCoy just grumbled something ineligible as Kirk moved to leave. He patted McCoy's leg fondly through the blanket, and before he turned around to leave he put the bowl back down on the tray and in a movement so fast that there was no way to dodge it, stuffed the spoon with the last remaining pudding right into McCoy's mouth.
McCoy lips closed around the spoon with a startled oomph, eyes wide and just one step away from downright outrage, staring at Kirk as the Captain shot him another grin as he left Sickbay and headed for the bridge.
"Damn it, Jim!" McCoy yelled after he pulled the spoon out of his mouth and swallowed down the pudding, but the other man was already gone.
Christine silently shook her head at the two men, then she picked up the tray with the empty bowl and took the spoon out of McCoy's hand.
"I'm going to get you another one. You need to eat something."
McCoy looked anything but pleased. Disgusted would be more to the point, and his jaw was working as if he was trying to get rid of the offending taste of the pudding in his mouth.
"Eggs would be nice," he grumbled even as Christine was already turning away form the bed. "Eggs and toast. I'm a doctor, I know what my stomach can handle. And right now it can definitely handle some toast and eggs! That's my professional assessment."
"Of course, doctor," Christine replied calmly as she went over to the replicators to get another pudding. She had half a mind to go ahead and get the doctor some eggs and toast, just to prove that after his injuries, his body was still miles away from being able to handle solid food. But it was only eight in the morning, and she really didn't want to start her day with mopping vomit off the floor. McCoy was just going to have to live with eating pudding and soup for a day or two longer. If there was anything Christine knew how to handle, it was a grumpy patient. Even if that patient was her superior officer.
Just a few days more, then things would be back to normal. Or as normal as they ever got around here, anyway.
Christine couldn't wait.