spock: logic is sexy

Fic: Legs Her Only Weapon (Chapel, gen)

Title: Legs Her Only Weapon
Author: igrockspock
Character: Chapel
Rating: PG
Summary: For the prompt "fauxhawk nurse: musings on uniforms, what she likes and dislikes about hers or other officers" at the Intergalactic Women's Day fic fest.

Christine peels off her stockings and stretches her legs out on the desk in front of her. Her skirt slides back, exposing her thighs nearly all the way to her panties. She doesn't really mind; in fact, in the solitude of her quarters, she welcomes the way it makes her feel faintly wanton and indulgent. It's a sign another day is done, and if it's not quite as good as a drink at the end of her shift, it's as close as she can come without defying Starfleet regulations regarding the shipboard consumption of alcohol.

Absently, she retrieves her padd from the desk and thumbs through the messages. Her sister has sent a picture of herself wearing scrubs, clearly posed to satirize the saucy picture Christine had sent of herself in her new Starfleet uniform. Attached is an editorial from a nursing journal entitled "A Call for Starfleet to Stop the Objectification of Its Female Medical Personnel." Apparently, Starfleet uniforms are a hot debate topic planetside these days.

"Everyone knows that nurses' uniforms have to be different so that patients can distinguish them from doctors, and so that doctors can find assistance when they need it," the editorial begins, and Christine huffs faintly. So that patients won't bother doctors with trivial requests, more like, and because the world would end if a doctor accidentally barked an order at another doctor. If some news article wanted to take up the cause of nurses, she thinks they may as well tell it like it is.

"Twenty-five years go, Starfleet's nurses wore long white dresses," the article continues, and Christine rolls her eyes. Anyone who could run in that white sheath was a superwoman. She'd actually heard of whole relay races where the winner was whoever ran the fastest without splitting the tight seams. Her uniform dress posed some logistical challenges in bending over, but at least it never prevented her from reaching a patient.

She skims the rest of the article, picking out the predictable keywords: unprofessional, demeaned, degraded, chauvinist patriarchy. And then she laughs. The sound of it echoing around her empty quarters makes her feel insane, but god, she needs to unwind. The idea that she should care so much about the length of her skirt when she'd just watched some kid close his eyes for the last time... Well, she'd rather laugh than cry.

No matter how many times her instructors had tried to drill it into her head, she had never quite believed that in Starfleet, everyone's life is at risk every day. But the proof was in the death certificate she'd finished filling out eighteen minutes ago. Even on a quiet supply run like this one, one person forgets to push a button or switch off a power relay, and they're gone. Emotional detachment had been easier with anonymous strangers in the emergency room. Here on the Enterprise, she might not know everyone, but she knew they were friends of someone she cared about. She could picture the life they would have had on the ship, had watched duty rosters re-organized around their sudden absence. On dark nights, she contemplated how she would rearrange her own nursing staff if -- no, when -- one of her colleagues died. Thinking about her skirt right now seems ridiculous and self-indulgent, but it's a distraction, so she finishes reading anyway.

"Doesn't everyone deserve a little respect when they're on duty?" the article asks, as if "on duty" could be neatly separated from "off." Her communicator is always on. She checks the sickbay log before she goes to bed every night, whether or not it's her day off. While her instructors had never successfully convinced her that lives were at stake every day, they had taught her -- and everyone else -- that being a Starfleet officer meant being on duty all the time. Most people never took off their uniforms till they went to bed, even though it wasn't a regulation. Something about psychological guidelines and stress relief prevented Starfleet from requiring its personnel to be in uniform 24/7. But it was rare to see civilian clothes. Battles and accidents happened without warning, and in the middle of all that chaos, people needed to see whom to obey. If someone died, they needed to count the stripes on everyone else's sleeves to know who was in command. Rank didn't matter so much in sickbay, but on the rest of the ship, it was dangerous for people not to know she was a nurse. What if they mistook her for another blond in engineering, lost vital seconds begging her to do work she did not and could not understand? What if someone needed a nurse and could not find her because she was lounging in her jeans? The risk was too big to take; Christine lived in her uniform, just like everybody else.

And maybe people who did not know her life might imagine she longed to be professional for every moment of her very serious job. She had been issued uniform pants for that exact purpose, but she did not like to wear them. She wiggles her pink-polished toenails and contemplates her legs. Serving on a starship had made her quite proficient with self-tanner, and her smooth brown skin stood out nicely against the gray and white institutional surfaces of her quarters. In another life, she had worn scrubs to work every day and mini-skirts to bars with her girlfriends. But here on the Enterprise, she does not have the luxury of dividing her life so neatly. Every choice she makes is ruled by duty, practicality, and necessity. Except this uniform. Some days, watching people watch her legs is the only thing that reminds her she's a human being, and a woman. So she heaps on the eyeliner, plaits her hair in fanciful braids, and sends home saucy pictures of herself in a sexy uniform.

It's fun. She thinks it might keep her alive.
I love stories from Chapel's POV, and this is no exception. She really is a fun girl, and she has an interesting way of showing it in this, accenting her sense of duty instead of going head to head with it.
Interesting take on those uniforms! I really like the way Christine uses the uniform to keep hold of her own sense of self.
I'm a nurse myself, and because the world would end if a doctor accidentally barked an order at another doctor. made me nod and think oh, yeah. That hasn't changed a whole lot! I've had thoughts like that frequently. ;P

Edited at 2010-03-20 04:44 am (UTC)
Fascinating take on the uniform! Thank you for sharing. :-)
Love this. Fascinating take on her character. Very sexy and confident.
I loved this, although I'd have loved it more with the original series Chapel & her uniform. At least the female versions had long enough sleeves that they could wear rank stripes. The movie versions had those stupid little cap sleeves which looked great, but meant that no-one could tell what rank the person involved was.

One thing that always struck me about those old uniforms was an interview with Nichelle Nichols (the original Uhura). She said that back then the actresses didn't feel demeaned wearing those skimpy skirts. Those skirts were a (very) recent sign of a woman's sexual freedom, & she was proud to wear hers.

Just thought I'd throw that story in since it fitted in wonderfully with Chapel's attitude in this fic.
I think the best thing about this (besides, you know, exploring my favorite character) is the contrast between those that speak of far-distant issues and those that live the things they speak of.

I really love her justification for wearing the miniskirt as well as the fact that she doesn't feel the need to explain herself, just sort out her thoughts in her head.
Thank you so much!

the contrast between those that speak of far-distant issues and those that live the things they speak of.

That is exactly what I was going for!
Fascinating take on Chapel. Another commenter noted the sexual freedom and powerful femininity symbolized by a mini-skirt, and this comes across clearly in your story. I was in awe of your powerful writing (as always), and especially by the punch of your last sentence:

It's fun. She thinks it might keep her alive.

Brilliant and thought-provoking all at once.
Thank you so much! This was a kind of challenging piece to write, so I'm really glad that it resonated with you.
It keeps her alive, and ~alive. I love this fic, an excellent look at a character that all too often gets portrayed as a pining flower, and shows her strength.
I love Chapel here! This is a unique take on this and I enjoyed it. I liked her laughing at the article and the reasoning behind why everyone remains in uniform-- which was very realistic and poignant. :D
Oh *wow*. I LOVE this - aside from the sharp look at the uniforms, I like how you show that being in space erodes the personal/public divide, and it goes both ways.