Pairing: Leonard McCoy/Christine Chapel
Fic Title: Hearts From Iron, Minds From Steel
Genre: Angst, Drama, Romance
Why This Must Be Read: It shows what a real honest-to-God fight between two people that love each other looks like. Both Christine and McCoy are partly to blame for the fall out of their relationship, and the author does a great job of putting them back together again.
They've been dancing around each other for a stupid amount of time, clinging to some sense of professionalism on her part and a divorceė's wariness on his. But that's been over for months; they've been good together, better than good. It works, between them. And the fact that he's going to mess that up without so much as consulting her, well, it really fucking pisses her off. She stews about it through the rest of her shift, vacillating between maybe there's an explanation and I'm gonna kill him and make it look like a medical tragedy. By the time she makes it to his quarters and uses his code to enter, she's pretty firmly settled in the "medical tragedy" camp.
He isn't there, which doesn't help matters, in her mind. She sits at his table in the semidarkness, like she's waiting to strike. Maybe she is. She can't quite work through her resentment enough to care.
After a time, she hears the beep of the keypad signaling his arrival, and has to tamp down the urge to meet him with a knee to the groin.
"Christine?" he calls from the entryway. He orders the lights on, his face softening into what passes for a McCoy smile when he sees her. "Hey, b-"
"You're going to 'baby' me right now? Really?" Her voice sounds like she feels, hard and unforgiving.
McCoy looks confused for a moment before it hits him. He drops his PADD on the table and sighs. "I take it you've heard."
"Yes. The new CMO was kind enough to tell me the news, since the old one was too busy being a dickhead."
He reaches a hand to her shoulder and she slaps it away, standing up and stalking to the bookshelf. "I was going to tell you," he says to her back.
She scoffs. "Before or after the bon voyage party?"
"Tonight," he insists. She can feel him come up behind her, but he keeps his hands to himself, which she thinks is a wise move. "Nothing was final until today. Should have known that nothing stays secret on this godforsaken ship."
"I guess you're well shed of us, then," she snaps. He's never liked being out in space, she knows that much. She's always figured the good outweighed the bad, but then, it's not the first time she's been wrong.
"That's not what I meant and you know it," he retorts. "You gonna let me explain, or do you just want to be pissed at me for a while? I can wait."
"I can do both," she tells him, turning to face him and crossing her arms over her chest. His hair falls over his forehead when he angles his face toward hers, attempting to get her eyes to meet his. Her fingers itch to brush it back in place.
"I was offered chief of surgery at a hospital back home. It's a good job, and it's close to Jo." His eyes plead with her to understand. "I can't keep missing out on her life. I won't. She's thirteen and she doesn't know me at all. Pretty soon she won't care to."
Damn you and your damn father card. "Okay," she says frustratedly, looking down at their regulation boots lined up toe to toe. "Okay. You didn't think to tell anyone?"
"Jim knows," he says offhandedly.
"Of course he does," she spits out, suddenly as furious as ever as her eyes snap up to his face.
He spreads his hands out in a what did I do? gesture. "He's captain of the ship!"
"And you wouldn't take one step if you didn't have the Jim Kirk seal of approval." She brushes past him to sit on the bed, lamenting the size of his quarters that leave her with nowhere else to go.
"What does that mean?"
She shakes her head. That's one fight that's not worth fighting; she wouldn't even consider it if she were thinking clearly. "It means you should have told your girlfriend before you made a life-changing decision."
"I'm telling you now," he says, sitting next to her.
"So, what? You're done with being in space and it's 'see you later, Christine, thanks for all the sex'?"
"Of course not," he grits through his teeth.
"Then what am I supposed to do here? Did you even think about me at all, or did I just not factor into your carefully thought-out plan? Tell me, because I'm interested-"
"You're supposed to marry me!" he yells over her, stopping her in her tracks.
"Don't," she says before she can think, vaulting off the bed.
"Don't what?" He looks up at her, his eyebrows gathered in the middle.
She's wondered, before, if they'd ever make it to this point. And, sure, maybe she's pictured how it'd happen a time or two. She's never imagined it coming with strings - give up everything you've ever worked for. She's never imagined saying anything but yes.
"Just...don't," she says. "In case you've been too busy to notice, I have a job to do here, and I'm nowhere near done."
"Christine," he starts, grabbing her hand, but she can't listen to his justifications. She won't.
She pulls her hand out of his grasp. "You think I want to end up another one of your ex-wives, taking care of your kid when you decide you've had enough?"
"Don't bring my kid into this," he snarls, surging to his feet in front of her.
It's ugly, and she knows she should take it back. She stares at him instead, refuses to concede.
He grips her arms, one last advance in a battle that's already lost. "It's simple. Do you want to marry me or not?"
Not like this, she thinks. "No" is what she says.
His expression shuts down; he nods, once, and releases her. "I have to pack," he says quietly. "I'll see you tomorrow, Nurse Chapel."
Christine turns, walks toward the hatch. She doesn't look back.