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Critical Care

Chapter Text

“Christen, can you just take bed seven before you go?” Crystal’s voice rang out pleadingly. She knew just how bone-tired Christen was. Her shift had been just as long, but with the added stress of being the one responsible for it all. If anyone else had asked, Christen would have been infuriated, but Crystal had done her enough favors dating back to their days in medical school to take the sting out of the request.

“Bed seven,” she acquiesced with a heaving sigh, mustering up a barely there smile in the direction of her dearest friend.

She had been so close. Her shift should have ended well over an hour ago, and all she could think of was the leftover slice of lemon meringue pie sitting in her fridge. She’d spent the last six or so hours daydreaming about pulling on her thickest, fuzziest pair of socks, climbing into bed, and savoring that slice of pie -- the only worthwhile part of her failed dinner date from the previous night.

“I promise. Bed seven, and then you can go home,” Crystal said, laying a sympathetic hand on Christen’s shoulder and giving her a reassuring squeeze.

Christen gave her another, brighter smile this time, hoping Crystal wouldn’t pick up on it being just as fake as the smile she gave before.

No such luck. Crystal gave her shoulder another squeeze before she was off to handle the next emergency, yelling her thanks as she rounded the corner.

The moment she was out of sight, the fake smile dropped from her face and she steeled herself for one more patient.

“She’s cute. You can thank me later,” Crystal shouted, her head peeking back from the corner she had just disappeared around. With a wink, she was gone again.

Christen couldn’t help the bark of laughter that escaped her. If she didn’t laugh right now, she’d cry. One more patient, she told herself. One more patient, and then she could put her aching feet up and maybe even treat herself to a heat patch on her lower back. God, even her scalp was sore from the tight bun her hair had been pulled back in for the last nineteen hours. She rubbed at her temples futilely.

Just one more patient.

***

Tobin couldn’t believe she was here. Of all the ways she could end up in the emergency room, this was never one of the scenarios that would have crossed her mind. She hadn’t even been on shift. It was just meant to be a quick drink with some buddies from the precinct and then she had three glorious days off after pulling three double shifts. Of course she would be the landing pad for the drunk bridesmaid with a penis headband when the heel of her stiletto slipped on a lemon wedge, sending her vaulting forward. Her glass of rose caught the edge of the bar before subsequently making itself at home in her torso.

She didn’t think it was that bad.

It hurt like a bitch, but the little things always did. Like a paper cut or a splinter. All she needed was a little rubbing alcohol and neosporin and she was convinced she’d be fine. Captain Saurbrunn didn’t think so though. She’d gone as far as escorting her to the front desk at the ER and checking her in herself just to make sure she didn’t go home to play doctor. She’d made it clear that Tobin would not be setting foot back in the precinct unless she had discharge papers that definitively cleared her to return to duty.

She was a big girl. She could handle a little cut. What she couldn’t handle was the exorbitant medical bills she was soon to be the recipient of for the care of said cut.

The thought of all the extra shifts she was going to need to pick up to pay this off was overwhelming.

She shifted uncomfortably in the bed trying to find a position that hurt just a tiny bit less to no avail. To make matters worse, the sheets were scratchy against her skin, and they rustled absurdly loud every time she so much as deigned to breathe. Everything was irritating her. Especially the length of time she’d been in this tiny room watching people run back and forth past her door but never stepping inside.

All she wanted was to go home, crawl into her own bed, and forget this night had happened, but the rate this was going, she’d still be here for breakfast tomorrow morning waiting for a nurse to slap a bandaid on her stomach and charge her a year’s worth of her rent.

They must charge a rental fee by the minute for these beds or something. She sat up a bit, biting back the groan at the searing pain ripping through her abdomen at the action. She had wanted to lift the gauze the receiving nurse had pressed against her when she’d arrived, but her discomfort sent her collapsing back against the mattress, with a whispered, “fuck.”

“Hello, Ms. Heath.”

Finally.

She grunted out a greeting she hoped was sufficiently polite and hoped the sweat she’d just broken out in wasn’t too noticeable. Not that the woman would notice anything. Her attention was entirely focused on the tablet in her hands, tapping away at whatever it was that doctors tap away at.

Tobin noticed her though. Her slight, hunched figure was engulfed by her white coat, and a mass of curls had escaped from what Tobin imagined had been a neat bun at some point many hours before.

“Can you tell me what happened?”

She looked like she wanted to be here just as much as Tobin did. She still hadn’t even looked up from her tablet, scribbling down her notes on the chart as she listened to Tobin’s brief recounting of how she was on the losing end of a fight between citrus fruit and a glass shiv wielding, phallus-clad, bridal party.

The doctor just hummed at her.

Hummed.

That was all.

And she continued to stare at the tablet.

If Tobin hadn’t been uncomfortable before…

“So, uh, think you could tape me up and jot down a note that I’m good to go?” Tobin stammered, not accustomed to having someone interview her and ignore her simultaneously.

“Of course, Ms. Heath. I’ll get you right out of here,” the doctor replied nonchalantly, tapping the stylus pen against the edge of the tablet a few times before setting it to the side and turning to wash her hands.

She still hadn’t even looked at Tobin. It didn’t fill her with the confidence one would hope to have in the medical professional that was about to be poking around an open wound on their body.

Despite not having the best bedside manner, Tobin couldn’t help but empathize with the sheer fatigue rolling off the other woman in waves. It matched her own weariness.
It also made her want to lighten up the mood a bit.

“The worst part was the shrieking. I guess I dripped blood on her Jimmy Choos.”

That managed to pull the doctor’s head up. She turned to Tobin with a half smile and sparkling - if a little tired - eyes. It knocked the air out of Tobin’s lungs, her first real sight of the doctor. She suddenly couldn’t remember how to breathe.

The doctor, Press, she noted from the stitched name on her coat, gave her a once over and took stock of her vitals before finally dropping her gaze to Tobin’s wound. She hummed again, dried her hands and pulled a pair of gloves out of a box with a snap. She sat back heavily on a rolling stool, like her legs had given out on her, before rolling herself over to Tobin’s side to take a look.

“I’d probably shriek too. Do you know how much those cost?” She gave a quiet laugh, and Tobin felt her soul ascend at the sound. She knew she needed to hear it again.

“People will stab you, and then get offended, saying you have no right to bleed,” she shrugged, as if her ordeal was just another casual occurrence.

That managed to pull another slight smile out of her.

Tobin was officially a goner. She should probably get herself out of here before she embarasses herself.

“Anyway, Doc, if you could just bandage me up and write my Captain a note saying I’m fit to work, I’ll be out of your hair.”

“Captain? Police officer?” She asked while cutting a larger swath of material away from Tobin’s black dress shirt to better assess the damage. She had to peel it away from Tobin’s skin, stuck with half-congealed blood.

“Detective,” Tobin answered, watching regretfully as her already miniscule wardrobe was rendered even smaller.

Dr. Press just hummed again. Instead of the irritation she had felt earlier, this time, Tobin found the hum endearing.

“I’m going to need you to lift your hands so I can see the damage.”

“Oh, right, uh, yeah,”

When Tobin removed her hands, Christen’s eyes went wide.

“I thought you said it was just a little cut.”

“Yeah. No big deal.”

“If this is your idea of ‘no big deal,’ I’d hate to see what is a big deal,” Christen retorted, standing up with a newfound burst of energy, grabbing for a clean pack of gauze. The pieces that had previously been applied had been entirely soaked through. The dark dress shirt helped disguise the extent of the bleeding.

Tobin couldn’t help the mewling whimper escaping her when Christen pressed the clean gauze on her and began to irrigate the area.

“Sorry, Detective. You’re in for a long stretch.”

***

Christen could not believe the pain threshold of some people. There was a literal hole in this woman’s side and she’s fucking cracking jokes.

And dammit, Crystal was right. She was cute. Well, maybe cute wasn’t the best word to describe her.

Smoking hot was more precise, with her slightly lopsided smile that lit up her entire face, and there was no missing the hard lines of defined abs even beneath the blood and swelling.

Christen let the guilt wash over her momentarily that she had let her own misery overshadow her professionalism when she had first entered the room before she pulled herself together again.

When her next swipe over the gash pulled a hiss from the detective, she tried to make up for her former negligence. “Let’s see if we can do something about that pain.”

“S’alright. Just wrap me up and I’ll be good to go.”

Christen couldn’t help the snort. “Sorry, but you’re definitely going to need stitches. And a lot of them,” she said while preparing her supplies. She tried to match the brilliance of Detective Heath’s smile with one of her own. She already missed the self-assured look on the woman, replaced, instead with an ashen sullenness.

***

Fortunately, though the laceration ran deep, no real damage had been inflicted, and the worst of the pain had been negated by a few magic injections along the injury.

By the time Dr. Press had stuck the last corner of the bandage down with tape, Tobin was exhausted and a little delirious.

Maybe it was the lidocain, or maybe it was the sleep deprivation, she’d never be able to tell, but she scrounged up some courage surprising even herself as she laid her hand on top of the doctor’s gloved one.

“Thank you.”

Tobin knew she’d be eating packs of ramen noodles for the rest of her life, but it was worth it to see the beaming smile on the doctor’s face. She sent a silent prayer of gratitude up for the celebrating, dick-brandishing bachelorette party that landed her in the emergency room that night.

She sent another prayer up in hopes of seeing Dr. Press again.

But next time, she hoped, would be under better circumstances.