"Okay, Colonel, you know the drill." The words were accompanied by the faint metallic snick of the curtain rings as the curtains were twitched into place round the bed.
Jack sighed. He certainly did, and rarely looked forward to it.
"Is this the abbreviated version, or the full meal deal?"
Janet cocked her head to one side, a mock-severe expression on her face.
"You need to ask after a homecoming like that? It's the full meal deal, with all the bells and whistles." As Jack opened his mouth and took a breath, she forestalled any comment he might care to make with, "And any untoward intransigence will only prolong the agony."
When Jack opened his mouth again, that particular look on his face that always meant a diatribe was imminent, she added crisply, "As will any mention of the words 'Napoleon' or 'power monger'. C'mon, Colonel, bite the bullet." Her eyes twinkled, belying the stern tone, as Jack shrugged, resigned, and tackled his boots and socks. Part of being in command was recognising when you were outgunned. He was definitely outgunned here, he knew it, and what was worse, she knew it.
His comment was muffled as he pulled his tee over his head. "I was only going to say - if I'm ever allowed to get a word in edgewise - I feel fine. Nothing happened to me out there, I came out of it without so much as a scratch."
Her face was bland when his head popped out from the folds of fabric. "Well, I'm probably the best judge of that. C'mon, Colonel, it's been a slack week. Give me a chance to earn my pay."
She turned away to the instrument cart as he grabbed his belt and undid it, shucking his fatigue pants and shorts in one smooth movement before he eased himself up onto the gurney, settling the examination drape across his middle in a last ditch attempt to pander to his fondly-held illusion that he might have one last shot left to call. Janet turned back, snapping a rubber glove into place with a smile that bordered on devilish to his jaundiced eye and made his ass clench reflexively, and he winced before shooting her a withering look.
"Just my luck to usually fetch up in here when you're bored. Okay, do your worst." He squinted against the light being shone into his eyes. "Ya know, I've never understood why your first line of attack is to blind people - what good can that possibly do anybody?"
"You mean you fail to see it?"
Jack snorted and rolled his eyes. "Medic humour. Now, see, the guy on the receiving end just never gets that."
She smiled sweetly at him. "Keeps us going, though. Now open your mouth, I want a look at your throat. I'll need to take a couple of swabs too."
The tongue depressor slid along his tongue and the dreaded swabs rubbed swiftly across the back of his throat. Janet grunted with satisfaction as the second swab withdrew. "Nicely suppressed gag reflex there, Colonel. Makes my job a lot easier. Is that something they teach you in Special Ops?"
Jack chuckled internally, but kept his face straight as he replied nonchalantly, "Yeah, and one way and another I've had a bit of practice since. Nice to know it comes in handy." He'd need to remember to share that one with Daniel since he'd certainly appreciate the joke, maybe give him a practical demonstration later as a 'thank you' for reinforcing his training on a regular basis.
A stethoscope appeared round Janet's neck and she sounded his back. "That's fine. Now lie back, and stay quiet please while I sound your chest and heart and do your blood pressure."
Jack did as he was told, leaning back with his free hand behind his head. Beside the bed, Janet was keeping up an intermittent commentary on what she was doing, but since he couldn't answer, he tuned it out with the ease of long practice and turned his thoughts instead to his upcoming mission report.
He was pulled out of his reverie by the quizzical tone of her voice as much as by her use of his given name: briefly disorientated, he wondered what has caused it, before realisation that the examination drape had been removed came crashing in on him and with it, the reason for her startled informality: his groin, or more correctly, the current comparatively hairless state of it.
Damn it, he'd genuinely forgotten! How had that happened?
Answer? Blame it on regrowth issues, the discomfiting downside of which he'd become quite painfully aware of a couple of days after his and Daniel's little venture. Talk about having a wild hair up your ass! He'd been glad to repeat the experiment for that reason - and other, more enjoyable ones - and now he was so used to being shaven, he'd stopped even noticing that he was. A fragment of conversation flashed through his mind, in Daniel's voice: "…but we do have a problem. What the hell are we going to tell Janet?" Shit, maybe he should've bought a rug - was a crotch rug feasible? …double shit: Daniel was about to be busted as well - maybe they could shrug it off as some kind of hazing thing … deep shit - there was no way in hell that anyone would swallow that... accept that line, even if by some miracle Daniel came out with the same story as him without prior discussion. He and Daniel really should have finished that conversation when they had the chance, hashed out a plausible explanation rather than doing the guy thing, falling asleep pretty well immediately and then forgetting all about it in the morning.
A barely audible murmur of "Oh my!" confirmed his growing sense of surrealism as he ruthlessly quashed his initial impulse to bring his hands down over his crotch double time and rapidly reviewed his options. Attack or retreat?
He settled for neither as one interrogative eyebrow went up: stonewalling, that was the way. Combined with outright, unashamed defiance. Time to show that he still had the balls that had earned him his birds. No, wait up - bad image, the balls in question were already all too obviously on show. Although he didn't need any sort of a ball to foresee a potentially extraordinarily embarrassing lecture in the not too distant future: if it involved anything except strictly practical advice on dealing with the prickly interregnum between shaves, he really didn't want to hear it. And maybe not even then.
He made the kind of snap decision for which he'd been trained: he'd go for icy formality, freeze the subordinate out.
"Doctor? Something amiss?"
A rapid gulp and the slight stain of a blush over Janet's cheekbones was the only response. Jeeze, he'd never seen her even close to blushing before, in all the years that he'd known her. The total ludicrousness of the situation suddenly hit him like a runaway train and he was hard-pushed to swallow his grin.
"Best close your mouth, Janet honey, you'll only end up catching flies."
A hundred and one smartass replies flashed through her mind - none of them even close to appropriate in this time or place or to a superior officer, especially not the one that was persistently uppermost. Janet settled for clearing her throat, attempting to gather together the scattered remnants of her professionalism and making no immediate comment.
"No, far from it. From what I can see, you seem to be in excellent shape."
He stared at her, incredulous, for fully twenty seconds, watching as she finally flushed a rich and satisfying scarlet at the implications of what she'd just said, before he felt the laughter bubbling up. She suddenly caught his eye, her mouth a small round 'o' of mortification, and he couldn't hold it in any longer.
It was very contagious: Janet started to snigger, which deepened into a chuckle, which grew into an outright belly laugh, and soon they were both giggling hysterically. In between gales of laughter, Jack managed to gasp out, "Jeeze, if I'd known a surprise package was all it took to throw you off your stroke, I'd have done this years ago!"
Janet's eyes flashed wickedly as she recovered her composure slightly. This was too good an opening to miss: slightly drunk on the potent cocktail of hilarity and relief from profound embarrassment, she couldn't have stopped herself if she tried. "Sugar," she drawled, "if I'd realised what I was missing all this time, I'd've helped you unwrap it!"
Jack's laughter stopped abruptly as his jaw sagged in shock. Total silence reigned as he stared at Janet again, the colour rising in his face, before he flopped back onto the gurney and laughed 'til he cried.
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