Source work and author: Original Character Door: Marvel Character Journal name:deployed Character Name: Penny "no, its just Penny" Ross Character Age: 37 Character Played By:Kelli Giddish
Character History and Personality:
Born in the south in the small town to a small family and brought home to a small house, Penny's life was always just a bit sheltered. Of course in small towns there wasn't much to do for kids and teenagers so they found ways to get into trouble. Just the usual, drinking, smoking, listening to loud music, passing notes in church, parking in cars with boys, and always trying to make sure you were friends with the kid who had a brother over 21. Everything else kids in Maplesville, Alabama (population 853) did for fun. Penny's father, much to her chagrin, was the Pastor at the Maplesville United Methodist Church. Even worse, her mother was the attendance secretary at the K-12 school she attended. If Jesus wasn't always watching, her mother certainly was.
She drove a pick up truck that had room for three in the front (including her) and an exceedingly large number of hollering teenagers in the bed of the thing. Her grades were good, all in all she was a good kid, she wasn't anything like the weird kids who lit a barn on fire - or the kids who rarely showed up to class. She was popular and pretty, she had the right amount of rebellion mixed with small town girl. Other parents liked her, her parents took good care of her, she knew she was a country girl, and didn't care much about that at all. It wasn't until she got out of the country that she realized, as much as that was at the heart of her, she was capable of so much more.
She knew, by 8th grade that she didn't want to die in the town she'd grown up, but she knew that her parents would, and she accepted that was one thing they would never see eye to eye on. There were a couple ways out of Maplesville; for those that could afford it college was the most obvious option, offshore oil rigs, and the military. Occasionally people went against the grain, a few of the girls Penny went to high school with became dental hygienists in Mobile, a few others became hairdressers all the way in Louisiana.
After weighing her options she thought long and hard about which option was going to give her all of the above. Sans oil rig perhaps. So, before she even graduated from high school, she and her parents went to the recruiter's office and she signed up the for the United States Army. She would be leaving for basic training two weeks after her high school graduation.
Some people were surprised at her choice, having always done well in school they thought for sure it would be college for her, but she knew she didn't want to rack up the debt. The military would pay, and she would have a job, and maybe she'd get to see the world. At the very least she was going to see Columbia, South Carolina where she attended basic training at Fort Jackson.
She did well in the army, the first two weeks were hell. Complete and utter hell, she wondered what she had gotten herself into, she realized - despite her rural upbringing - that she had lived a fairly pampered life. She learned this, not only from the Army, but she learned it from the women and men she was in boot camp with. Even in those initial weeks she found kindness from unlikely sources, and learned about different parts of the country. A friend of hers, an avid reader, began loaning books to her and she started reading anything she could find. She had read books before, obviously. Usually school assignments, and the odd romance novel with the good sex scenes in them. But these books were different, some were non-fiction, others were classics, and she found most of her spare time was spent reading. Granted, there wasn't much spare time in basic training, but what little freedom she had she spent with her nose buried in a book.
That was just the first of many changes in Penny's life after she joined the Army. Her self confidence soared, she found the structure and learning opportunities around her to be almost sensory overload. She was a good soldier, she was a good friend, and she was a great drinking buddy. She wrote to her relatives often, sending funny pictures and postcards.
After her time in basic training, she was transferred to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas to begin her individual training with the Army Medical Department and School. She had been under pressure to pick a field to go into when she enlisted and in the end she had checked the medical box because it sounded the most interesting to her. She had visions of being a battlefield nurse, some kind of Florence Nightingale complete with ridiculous hat.
What she found instead was that she loved it, she was training to be a medical technician, she was earning certificates, and finding a niche that surprised even her. She was still intent on becoming a nurse, and once she was officially stationed in San Antonio to complete her education. Once she had that squared away, she had plans to eventually go to work at the United States Army Medical Command.
She was a trained EMT, a trained medical technician, and working on getting a a degree as a registered nurse. Two years into her Army life, and halfway done with her studies in the early fall of 2001 America was attacked by terrorists and she was almost immediately deployed to Iraq. While there she worked as an EMT, and got her first real look at combat medicine. While it was hardly the slaughter of Americans that the world was sure would happen, and hardly the gruesomeness of the wars preceding it, it was still a shock to the system for a girl from Maplesville, Alabama.
She was often afraid, but when her job included tasks such as routine physical exams, penicillin shots, and setting up mobile clinics for local civilians, she felt pretty good about her choices. While deployed she watched the Army doctors work their magic, at times lose their patients, and at other times enjoy cigarettes and poker with the infantry men in their care.
At one point, 4 months into a 12 month tour of duty, she spoke to one of the doctors on site, one she'd grown close with, and asked him if she thought she go on to medical school after she got her RN. From that moment on, she became his right hand woman in just about all things. He let her watch him as he did medical procedures and explained, in calm tones even during tense situations, what he was doing and why. It was hardly medical school, but she was learning a lot. And being quizzed a damn lot. To this day, he remains her mentor.
After her 12 months in Iraq were up, keeping up with her studies via online classes and special arrangements made through the military, she was back on American soil. She spent two weeks of leave after her return with her parents in Maplesville, and for the first time she realized how ugly the world she had grown up in had the potential to be. Trying to explain the people she'd met, and the things she'd learned about herself, the people in Iraq, their faith, and their way of life, was next to impossible in a town full of people who were all old and set in their ways no matter how old they actually were. She explained the friends she'd made, some snide remarks were made about some pictures she showed to everyone, it was the longest two weeks of her life and while she still loved home life had begun to change her in ways she didn't know were possible. She felt free, despite being on a strict schedule, she was as free as she'd ever been. She hadn't realized that her decision to join the Army would be the escape she didn't even know she'd needed.
Of course it wasn't all sunshine and roses, school could get frustrating while she was working so many hours. Her bunkmates were on her last nerves half the time, and readjusting to life in the US was harder than she thought it was. Not so much because she couldn't sleep, or because she was troubled by what had happened (which she was), it was that she'd been so far away from home, and learning so much, and doing so much to help people, even as war ravaged their country. She knew there were bad soldiers as much as there were bad people in Iraq. She knew that the war had started to bring out the bad in people she'd called friends. But she also saw the good they did and it meant something to her.
She wasn't deployed again until she got her RN, this time she was deployed to Afghanistan and worked as a combat nurse. It was a different experience for her, actually knowing instead of watching. Being hands on and as involved as she was gave her an adrenaline rush, and once again - far from home - she felt free.
Unfortunately not all things that happen are good things. And while single soldiers are actively discouraged from having sex while deployed, everyone knows it goes on. And it did go on, she met a man from the motor pool, he was handsome, funny, and broad shouldered. He had brown hair and green eyes, freckles from the months spent in the desert sun. The flirting started when he came to the medical tent to have his bandage changed after an accident while working on one of the trucks caused him to need stitches across the palm of his hand.
Flirting was easy, sex was imminent. And what had started as harmless quickly turned to a lusty infatuation on both of their sides, and even more than that it became love. They were secretive, a select few people knew, and neither one of them dared think about what would happen once their deployment was over. He was stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina and once her deployment was over she would be going to Bethesda, Maryland to get her MD at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. She was re-enlisting, she was determined to study hard and become an Army Doctor.
When she was four months from her deployment ending she wound up pregnant. Which was not, at all, in the plan. She knew immediately what she was going to do, it was only a matter of trying to figure out how to tell her CO and how to tell her boyfriend. Abortion was not covered by the military, it was barely tolerated even if you privately funded it. They were rarely offered on bases, and only in life threatening circumstances. Despite being a pastor's kid, her mind had been opened and widened by her time out in the world. It wasn't only something she tolerated, it was something that she viewed as a necessity. It was easier stateside, she'd gone with her girlfriends before, no one really knew - sometimes rumors started, but it was better than winding up pregnant in Iraq while on deployment.
The women who had gotten pregnant were stigmatized as trying to get out of deployment early, or as sleeping around, all of the things men tell themselves to make themselves feel better about themselves. With only four months to go she wondered if she could hide it, but she knew by the time she got home the chances of obtaining an abortion that far along were slim.
She first stopped and talked to her boyfriend, she informed him what had happened and he immediately began talking about how she could go home early, and get a transfer to his base, and everything would be sunshine and roses. That was the moment she realized she was definitely making the right choice. She explained to him, as calmly as she could, that her decision had been made and that they couldn't rush into anything because of an accident. He did not take it well, her christian soldier from Iowa. She was half afraid he would report her to her CO before she got a chance to explain herself by the way he reacted.
It marked the end of their relationship, and she only wished she'd had the good sense to end it just a month earlier and she wouldn't have been in the situation in the first place. To her surprise, he didn't tell anyone that she could tell. No one whispered, no one wondered, they both said things just hadn't worked out, and for the time being her reputation was saved. He always had been a nice boy.
A week later, when the tension had died down for her on the ex-boyfriend front, she went to her Commanding Officer and very matter of fact informed him, not that she was pregnant, but that she needed an abortion. She had no idea how he would react, he had always seemed like a reasonable man - and he was a Doctor. And frankly she had nothing to lose, either he would help her or she would be immediately sent back to the States with her tail between her legs and get it taken care of there.
When thinking about it after the fact she is still convinced that the moments of silence before he spoke lasted for hours. However, when he finally spoke he told her easily that he could give her one week of leave and then two weeks of modified duty. He told her she would be going to Brussels to see a doctor there, and that he would inform his superiors that it was for a gallbladder surgery.
After her week away, she was flown back to Afghanistan, put on modified duty, and felt better than she had in ages. A huge weight lifted off of her shoulders, the idea that she had learned so well to put herself first. She didn't tell anyone for several years, not because she was ashamed but because she wanted to be able to talk about her experience in general terms so as not to get anyone into trouble even when years had passed.
She finished her second tour of duty and was sent to Bethesda to begin her fully subsidized medical school. She'd applied for Officer Status on completion of her RN and when she was accepted to the medical school she was granted the honor. Second Lieutenant Penny Ross, medical student and Commissioned Officer. It blew her mind more often than she was willing to admit.
Halfway through medical school she met a civilian doctor, Dr. James Forbes - a cardiologist working at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on the same campus where she was studying. He was a handful of years older than her, and took her to nice restaurants. He talked about his family, which was full of doctors, and how he went to all the best schools, and had all the privileges life had to offer. She told him funny stories about life in Alabama, he liked her accent, and thought her upbringing sounded charming. She was a success story and he thought her Army service was admirable.
Eventually it became serious, she met his parents - that had been odd - and he met hers - that had been even more odd. A month after she - Captain Penny Ross, MD - graduated medical school, in between graduation and sitting her board exams she got married and moved into a house he'd bought them as a wedding gift in Bethesda. It had four bedrooms, three and a half bathrooms, a swimming pool, a three car garage and a gated driveway. They skipped the honeymoon so she could sit her exams, and once she was done he offered to take her on a vacation anywhere she wanted - and they vacationed for three weeks all over the United States, because that was certainly one place she hadn't seen much of, strangely enough.
Things were good for a while, she wasn't deployed again until 2010, three years spent at the military hospital learning trauma medicine, and obstetrics/gynecology. Trauma medicine was required, and ob/gyn was what she'd decided to specialize in. She wanted to go back overseas and help ensure that the women in combat situations were well looked after - knowing that it could be hard to find compassionate care while deployed.
Her marriage was healthy and happy, she wasn't always the perfect doctor's wife - despite being a doctor herself - and where most people seemed to expect a Southern Bell and they got a working class soldier from Alabama, needless to say her F bombs were mostly said under her breath after a while, just to avoid the looks from her husband's stuck up colleagues. She teased him about them often, and behind closed doors he agreed, though he did get uptight from time to time. All in all, things were good. Until 2010 of course.
Another 12 month deployment back to Afghanistan was two weeks away, and she was on her way with short notice to her and her husband. A wave of 30,000 troops were being sent to Afghanistan and as much as she tried to control herself, she was excited to be going back. Not for the battles and the lost comrades, and horrors of war - but to feel freedom again.
Her first leave from her tour had her back in Bethesda for four days. She had seven days of leave but nearly three of them were travel days. Four days she spent at home with her husband, who was finding the absence difficult. She tried not to speak too fondly of the work she'd been doing, and the experiences she'd had. He didn't want to hear the stories about war, what it meant to have troops on the ground - and how each and every one of them mattered and were part of something bigger. He wasn't interested, but once again he found her charming. And for the first time, in all the times he'd said it - she felt patronized.
After her leave, and back to skype conversations and the postcards and care packages that took forever to arrive, she was back to work. Trauma and healthcare for the female soldiers who were deployed. She had actually made it, she had people saluting her, and standing at attention when she walked by. People called her sir, and she knew she had done something special. And she took pride in it, and didn't modestly accept compliments at her accomplishments. She acknowledged them all, and owned them all. She was assertive and smart, and good at her job. Success story or not, it was her success and she chose to wear it proudly.
After her third deployment, she returned back to Bethesda and her post delivering babies, and giving physicals, at Walter Reed once again. She didn't fall into the routine as easily as she had when they'd first married, but she did put in an incredible amount of effort to act as if everything were fine. It drove her mad, she'd never hidden who she was, and the more she tried to be what he was looking for the more she disliked herself. There were moments when she wondered if this was what married life was, if the whole point was to give up something of yourself for another person. She just hoped it wouldn't always feel so awful.
In 2013, her 14th year in the Army, her 5th year as a doctor, her 4th year of being married, and nearly two years since her previous deployment. She was being asked to go again, an 18 month deployment working with local infrastructure to bring medical care to underserved, and underdeveloped, countries in Africa. She dreaded telling her husband, expecting a fight once again. Assuring him she'd be back on leave before he knew it. Instead when she informed him that she was being deployed again he was quiet before telling her no. Which led to a fight. Which led to what he called make up sex, which later she learned was actually called marital rape, which nothing ever came of, except six more months of the ugly side of her husband.
Six more months of the ugly side of her as well. A few thrown vases, yelling, and blame being thrown around like a ping pong ball, he finally left, and she went about preparing to leave the country, wondering if there was possibly any way she could just be deployed forever. She knew it wasn't practical, or healthy, but she didn't want to step foot in Bethesda for a very long time.
It wasn't a combat situation in Africa, but it wasn't always safe either. Working alongside volunteers from the Peace Corps was a bit ironic to her, but there were marines, missionaries, nurses, the Red Cross, and all of them intersected in one way or another. She helped educate health workers on how to advise their patients about safe sex, reproductive help, and assisted setting up women's clinics and family planning services (where they were legal), and did what she could to ensure care was being given where it was most needed.
Seven months into her tour, she was working in a clinic in Botswana helping to educate people and reduce the risk of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, given the pandemic in that particular country. She was doing family planning, and health screenings, delivering babies, saving babies, losing babies, terminating pregnancies, and running the gauntlet of red tape within the Army, and working with the rules of the Red Cross and the other groups she was working with.
It was in Botswana that she received her divorce papers and she took her two weeks of leave.
Divorced at 30. And living in Africa watching eight year old rape victims with HIV come into her clinic every day was a bit much. So she took her two weeks. And she went home to Alabama.
It might surprise someone to learn that Penny celebrated her 37th birthday surrounded by her NYPD department colleagues, her girlfriend, and a bunch of waitresses at Hooters. In fact that probably surprised anyone at this point in the story.
While Penny was in Alabama she got a phone call from a VA victim's advocate who was dealing with the NYPD and CID on a pretty terrible assault of a servicewoman by servicemen. Penny was the only doctor said servicewoman wanted to see, and at that point Penny was dragged into the ugliness everyone knew about but few tried to do anything about in the military. Her good recommendations began to fly right out the window at a rapid pace, the more she helped, and the more she protected, and the more she got her hands dirty. She made some good friends, she made some bad enemies, and she quietly rode out her commission and to everyone's shock decided on early retirement from the military, giving up a big ass pension. But the truth was, she was half afraid she was on her way to a dishonorable discharge. So, she waited it out. And she decided to be a cop.
And a while later she was blowing out 37 candles on an ugly ass grocery store sheet cake while everyone around tried to sing Happy Birthday in TERRIBLE Alabama accents. And her girlfriend was super hot. Life wasn't so bad. And its funny when people call her doctor detective.
Journal/Key: Journal is an iPad mini, and the key is a keycard and a five digit code similar to what one would use to enter a restricted area at a hospital.
External Door items: Penny is bringing her knowledge, her military history, her degrees, her savings account and the hotel has been good enough to provide a cop job.
Open: Comrades - Anyone from her military days - even someone already in game if need be. Open: Patients - She's a good lady bits doctor - hit her up clinic people Open: That guy - The ex husband. She doesn't like him very much, though she's been very zen about it.