The chronicle of the final voyage of the medical relief ship GSC Nightingale.
Tuesday, October 5th 2213
Stacy’s patient was crying again.
Linda sat on the edge of the bed and sobbed, shoulders shaking and heaving as she gasped for breath. Stacy handed her a box of tissues, and she pulled one out and blew her nose with a loud honk.
“Thank you,” she mumbled.
“S’okay,” he said, sitting next to her on the bed. He stared at the wet handkerchief; even after two weeks with the robots, their engineering still awed him. Robo-boogers. “Can you tell me why you’re so upset?”
Linda sniffed and dabbed at her nose with the tissue. “I don’t know. I just am.”
He understood that. He was experiencing it with his roommate, Lucy. Ever since she had flashed her boobs at him, she’d been skittish and embarrassed whenever he walked into the room. Again, he understood her reaction. She had thought he was gay. He was not.
Lucy was nice, and cute, but Stacy didn’t feel that way about her. She was too nice and cute for him. He needed someone with more miles on them. He’d be surprised if Lucy had ever left the garage. Besides, they were roommates, and he had made a rule a long time ago that roommates, no matter how attractive, were off-limits.
As Stacy encouraged Linda to explore her feelings, he glanced up at Sarah. She stood by the sink, holding her clipboard like a shield, and glared at Linda with a scrunched face.
Sarah had probably never left the garage either. She probably stood inside the door with a shovel and beat anyone who attempted entry.
Linda sniffed and said thickly, “Do you think I could have some water?”
Before Stacy could respond, Sarah leapt away from the sink. “I’ll get it,” she mumbled, and was out the door before Stacy could say anything.
The door swung shut, and Stacy smiled at Linda. “I’ll be right back.”
In the hall, Sarah booked it toward the water machine. Stacy had to jog to catch up with her.
“Sarah,” he said. When she didn’t respond, he raised his voice. “Hey!”
She whirled. “What, Stacy? What?”
Her mean little snarl might have scared everyone else in her life, but Stacy had seen much meaner. She’d have to step it up a notch to put him off.
“What the hell is your problem in there?” Stacy asked, swinging his arm back toward their exam room. “I really hope you’re not planning on getting into any kind of medicine that involves people skills, because—”
“Shut up,” Sarah snapped, snatching a water cup off the counter. “Like I care what your opinion of my practice is.”
“You should care,” Stacy said. “We’re a team, Sarah. We have to work together, and right now you’re just being a bitch to our patient. Who, by the way, doesn’t need one more thing making her life hard.”
Sarah scowled. “It’s not a real person. It’s a robot.”
“She is the closest thing resembling a patient that we have.” Stacy plucked the cup out of Sarah’s still hand, ignoring her furious glare, and put it under the spout of the water machine. “And we get a grade for Linda’s treatment, so you might consider shaping up a bit.” He filled the cup halfway and then left, not looking back at Sarah as he returned to Linda in her room.
He knocked gently on the door and poked his head in, offering Linda a smile. “Hey. Here’s your water.”
Linda accepted the cup with a wan smile. “Thank you, Stacy.” She sipped at the liquid as the speaker in the room’s ceiling informed Stacy that the morning clinical was over and it was time for lunch.
He looked down at Linda. She was still, cup of water halfway to her mouth. That happened every time the speaker—what Stacy came to think of as The Big Voice—signaled the end of a session.
Stacy took the water cup out of Linda’s frozen hand. He assumed the mechanical patients shut down for updates whenever the students went to meals, and he didn’t want her to drop the cup and create a mess for someone to clean up. He set the cup beside the sink and exited the exam room.
In the hall, Stacy smirked. Sarah was nowhere to be seen.
Stacy hurried to the cafeteria, trying to look casual as he speed-walked down the hall. He wanted to have lunch with a certain someone and he needed to make sure they didn’t escape.
He slipped in line and grabbed a tray, using his time in the line to observe who sat where in the cafeteria. As he made his way through the line—choosing chicken parmesan as an entrée—and waited to pay, he began to fear his target person wasn’t there.
Then, as Stacy swiped his badge to pay, someone tapped him on the shoulder. He turned, and Jack grinned at him, holding a tray of his own.
“Hey Stace,” Jack said.
Stace. He was sure someone had called him “Stace” before and he’d been annoyed, but Jack’s rough brogue made it okay. Stacy was fine with whatever Jack wanted to call him. Jack could have called him “Petunia” and he would have been thrilled.
“Hi Jack,” Stacy said, moving off to the side so Jack could purchase his own meal. “You’re eating lunch, huh?”
As soon as the words left his mouth, Stacy regretted them. Ugh. Stupid. Of course he’s eating lunch. Why else would he be here paying for food?
Jack smiled at Stacy’s awkward comment and tapped his badge on the payment scanner. “Yeah. You?”
“I’m starving,” Stacy said. “You wanna sit together?”
“Sure.” Jack had finished paying, so the two of them found an empty table and sat down.
Stacy had butterflies. When was the last time he’d had those?
Lucy had made fun of him a couple weeks prior, teasing him about kissing Jack. Stacy’s response had been that they hadn’t kissed because he wasn’t that easy, but he was. He totally was. If Jack had tried to make any moves that night, Stacy would have been up—or down—for just about anything.
But Jack hadn’t. He was classy. He was a gentleman, and Stacy was terrified that he would make an ass out of himself.
Jack put his napkin in his lap—gentleman—and said, “So, how’s the day going?”
“Fine,” Stacy blurted. He recovered with, “I spent the morning consoling a crying patient. And my partner kind of made things worse.”
“That sucks.” Jack used his fork and knife to cut bite-sized pieces of chicken with such gentle care, Stacy kind of expected him to lift a pinky finger. Jack was big and muscular and had a rough quality to him, and seeing him eat with such impeccable manners was endearing in its juxtaposition. “Who’s your partner?”
Stacy chewed through the mouthful of food before sneaking out, “Sarah.”
Jack smiled and nodded. “Ah. I see.”
His tone said more than words could have. Stacy smiled as he said, “Oh right. I forgot you two don’t really like each other.”
“I like her just fine,” Jack said. “Britain’s dissolution happened so long ago. It’s ridiculous to hold grudges over a war that happened before either of us was born.”
“Was it even a war, though?” Stacy asked. “I thought it was more like a… conflict.”
“People can die outside of war.”
“Yeah, but Glasgow got firebombed,” Jack said. “My granddad used to tell us stories, before he died. English military driving tanks up and down the streets in Edinburgh. Curfews. Soldiers quartering with Scottish civilians while they had Parliament under siege.” He stabbed at a piece of penne. “Seems pretty war-ish to me.”
Stacy regretted bringing it up. “Right.” He didn’t understand the Welsh involvement in Scotland’s break from the rest of Britain—he hadn’t really paid attention to that part of history in school—and he didn’t want to ask. “We don’t have to keep talking about it. Sorry.”
“S’okay,” Jack said. “It’s a happy ending, yeah? We won our independence. Hell, we won it for Wales, too. When they announced their independence years later, England didn’t even argue. They just said, ‘fine, do what you want,’ and let Wales go.”
“Not Straya, though,” Stacy said, grinning.
Jack matched Stacy’s expression. “No, not the Land of Oz. England would never let you go, anyway. Where else are they going to get their camel meat?”
“Those damn camels,” Stacy said. “Everywhere.”
Jack poked at his chicken. “I wouldn’t be surprised if this were actually camel. Do camels have white meat?”
“Oh yeah,” Stacy said. “White, dark, every kind you can think of. And milk. You can make camel cheese. You haven’t lived until you’ve had camel’s milk ice cream.”
Jack wrinkled his nose and Stacy’s heart almost passed out. Jack was adorable.
Their conversation went no further. Sarah appeared at the table with a boxed salad in one hand. She hovered near Stacy and fixed Jack with an unpleasant look.
Jack smiled at her. “What can we do for you, Sarah?”
She didn’t move to sit down. “I need to say something to Stacy.”
“Okay.” Jack drummed his fingers on the table for a moment, and when it became evident that Sarah was waiting for him to leave, he said, “I’m going to give some of that cake a try.” He got up and left quickly, and Sarah slid into the empty seat next to Stacy.
He turned to face her, meeting her eyes with his own. Despite being a cranky bitch, she was fit. Stacy would have been interested in her if she hadn’t been so growly. Some of her attractiveness was because of her meanness, which is why he was surprised to find himself strangely aroused at her submissive aura.
“I wanted to apologize,” she said. “I shouldn’t treat the patient that way, or you.” She put her hands on her lap and looked properly ashamed of herself.
“Oh,” Stacy said. “That’s okay. Thanks for apologizing.”
Sarah directed big brown eyes up at him, and his alarm climbed as he found himself turned on. He preferred her mean: it made things easier.
Stacy knew he was bi at a very early age. His brothers assumed it meant he would have sex with anything that didn’t get away from him fast enough, and he eventually got tired of explaining why they were wrong. Stacy had very definite types, mostly related to the physical size of the person he was in a relationship with. He liked bigger partners—thus far, they had always been men—to be the dominant half of the relationship, and he liked smaller partners to be submissive.
He had Sarah pegged for a dominant, bossy personality, but now as she sat in front of him with sagging shoulders and a clearly submissive attitude, he couldn’t stop himself from imagining her nude, beneath him or bent over a table, crying out his name.
Just when he thought the situation couldn’t get any worse, she put her hand on his thigh. Her fingertips brushed his gracilis, dangerously close to his stirring junk, and he simultaneously loved the contact and was horrified by it.
“Thanks for being so understanding,” she said in a soft voice. She pulled her hand across his thigh, retreating from the medial part with slow pressure. “See you after lunch.”
Sarah left with her salad, and Stacy’s shocked brain had a handful of seconds to process what had just happened before Jack returned. He placed a small plate of cake on the table as he slid into his seat.
“You okay?” Jack asked. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
Stacy nodded, swallowing hard. “I’m fine. She just wanted to apologize. It was nice.”
“Really?” Jack frowned thoughtfully. “I didn’t have her pegged for the apologetic type.”
Stacy nodded again, not adding that Jack probably didn’t have her pegged for the type that would hit on Stacy, either.
Stacy excused himself from Jack’s presence not long thereafter. The interaction with Sarah had knocked him off his game, and he knew he’d say something stupid in front of Jack and mess up their courtship.
He meandered back to Linda’s room, surprised to find Sarah sitting on the bed beside the unmoving DEXTER unit, picking at her salad while she read one of her textbooks.
They matched gazes for a second, and then Stacy looked away.
“Sorry,” he said. “I didn’t realize you were in here. I’ll—”
“It’s okay,” Sarah said. “I like to read while I eat, and the cafeteria’s too noisy. You can stay if you want.”
“I don’t want to bug you.”
“You aren’t,” Sarah said. She shut her book and set her salad down, smiling at him.
An alarm went off in Stacy’s head. That smile meant something. He had seen that smile before. He had flashed that smile before.
That was the “I’m glad you’re here, because I really want you to sex me up” smile.
Sarah climbed off the bed, unfolding long legs as she rose. The scrubs did their best to make everyone shapeless, but hers clung to her in all the right places. Even her white lab coat accentuated her sexiness. She kept her eyes turned downward for the most part, flicking them up at him with shy hesitancy.
Half of his brain wondered how she had figured out what he liked. The other half was preoccupied with controlling the erection attempting to erupt to life in his scrubs bottoms.
His dick was winning. Half of his brain wasn’t going to be enough.
He licked his lips as she stopped in front of him. “Sarah—”
“Shh.” Her fingers found the tie at the front of his scrub pants, and with one quick tug, his waistband loosened.
Shit yes crap no yes no yes yes ohhhh yeah wait no yes.
She slipped her fingertips between his waistband and his skin, feeling for underwear, finding none.
He wanted to kiss her, grab her, do to her clothes what she was doing to his, but before he could, she shoved her hand down his pants and used soft, warm fingers to caress his erection.
It had been a long time since Stacy had been with a woman, and as Sarah wrapped her little hand around him, he wondered why the hell he had taken a hiatus from the fairer sex.
He glanced at Linda, still frozen on the bed. How long did they have before she reactivated?
Are you actually going to have sex with Sarah in a patient’s room?
He answered himself by seizing Sarah’s hand on his dick and pressing her tighter against him. At the same time, he grabbed the hair at the back of her head and brought her face toward his, slamming his mouth against hers in a kiss that was rougher than he’d intended.
What about Jack?
Jack wasn’t there with his hand down Stacy’s pants.
Jack had had his chance, hadn’t he?
Sarah’s hand was gone from his pants then, and she pulled the curtain in front of the door. For added privacy, he assumed, and an extra layer of protection since the door didn’t lock. She didn’t return her hand to its prior location when she was done with the curtain; instead, she grabbed his waistband at either hip and yanked his pants down. His scrubs pooled around his ankles as a sudden, cool breeze shocked his previously warm parts.
Stacy reached for Sarah’s scrubs bottoms, intending to do to her what she’d done to him, when the speaker in the ceiling came to life.
“Hello students. The scenario from this morning is to be continued with your DEXTER unit. Please carry on through your assessment.”
With wide eyes, Stacy watched past Sarah’s head as Linda blinked and straightened.
Sarah followed Stacy’s gaze and turned as Linda became aware of her water cup’s absence. “Where’s my cup?” she asked.
Stacy bent to grab for his pants as Sarah said, “Linda, cool it.”
They had all heard the phrase used before, when Natalie wanted to pause the patient scenario to offer teaching. Stacy had assumed it was something only the instructors could do, but as Linda stopped her movement and slumped as she temporarily powered down, he realized he had assumed wrong.
Stacy’s eyes were wide, shocked at Sarah’s unapproved usage of the DEXTER pause feature. He had only pulled his pants halfway up his thighs, too alarmed by the things happening around him to cover himself completely.
Sarah turned back to Stacy with a sly smile on her face. “Where were we?”
“Sarah, are you allowed to pause them?” Stacy asked.
“I don’t know,” Sarah said. She pulled his pants out of his hands and let them drop to the floor again. “I don’t care.”
She reached her face for his, intending to kiss him, and he stopped her with hands on her shoulders. “If we’re going to go further, I need to explain something to you.”
“Oh, we’re going further,” she said.
“Okay,” he said, concentrating on keeping his grasp on her shoulders gentle. His muscles twitched and ached, begging him to throw her around a little bit. “I like it rough, Sarah.”
He thought he saw a little fear behind her eyes, but she didn’t flinch away from him. Her smile widened and she pressed closer to him. “How rough?”
She said, “Hm,” and rubbed her hands down the outside of his thighs. When her hands reached as far down as they could go, she knelt in front of him, and he groaned as she pulled him into her mouth.
Of all the things he’d never thought would ever happen on this voyage, getting head in an occupied exam room from Sarah was at the top of the list.
Lucy walked from Otto’s room toward the water machine. He was always thirsty, and Daryush had okayed a cup of water. As she passed the room she knew Stacy and Sarah were in, she heard a groan that sounded almost painful.
She paused, lingering outside the door, and then rapped on it with timid knuckles. “Everything okay in there?” she asked.
“Lucy?” It was Stacy’s voice, higher pitched than usual and almost panicked.
“Yeah,” she said, “Stacy, are you okay? You sound—”
“We’re fine,” he said. “Everything’s fine. I’m fine. Patient’s fine. We’re fine. You don’t have to worry.”
Lucy’s hand shifted toward the knob. “Are you sure?”
“Yep! No worries! I’ll see you tonight!”
She withdrew her hand from the door, frowning. Something was going on. “Okay. See you tonight.” She continued down to the water machine, unable to shake the ominous feeling that Stacy was in some kind of distress.
Ten minutes after Lucy’s near-intrusion, Stacy had his pants back on, and Linda was relating her depressive symptoms to Sarah. Stacy stood off to the side, clipboard in both hands, trying to pay attention to what Linda was saying. His mind was preoccupied with a replay of the best blowjob he’d ever had, however, and he could hardly make any sense of Linda’s words.
Sarah nodded, more interactive with Linda than she’d been in the past two weeks. “Linda, it sounds to me like you’ve got depression. I’d like you to see a counselor, and in the meantime I want to start you on an antidepressant that will help with your symptoms. How does that sound?”
Linda sighed. “That sounds fine.”
“Okay.” Sarah smiled at her as she pulled her prescription pad up on the clipboard. “I’m just going to get that prescription in really fast. Can you tell me if you have any allergies to medications?”
Linda nodded and opened her mouth to speak, but nothing came out right away. When she finally made a noise, it was a rattling, strangled cry, and then her eyes rolled back in her head and she collapsed.
Stacy saw the fall coming. He dropped his clipboard and caught Linda before she smashed onto the floor. She seized as he held her, and he eased her to the floor, kicking the trashcan and a chair out of the way. He checked his watch and timed Linda’s seizure. It lasted eleven seconds but felt like it lasted eleven hours.
When Linda finally stopped convulsing, Stacy rolled her onto her left side. He grabbed the pillow off the bed and put it under her head, watching to make sure she was still breathing. He looked up at Sarah, who stood by the door, petrified.
“I don’t think it’s depression,” he said.