Author: spc6grl PM
Stephen Connor isn't the only superhero at the NIH. Sequel to 'Superman'Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Romance - Words: 11,495 - Reviews: 2 - Favs: 3 - Published: 07-02-09 - Status: Complete - id: 5186004
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Stephen Connor walked through the halls of the NIH. Well, not really walked but stalked through the hallways. He was finally back from his two month long vacation with his son. He had to admit it was just the R&R he needed, but now, he was ready to get back to work, and a certain doctor had plagued his mind ever since. Before he left, he promised himself that he was no longer going to deny himself to her. Six years he had to keep his feelings for her at bay, and he'd be damned if he had to do it another year.
The looks he got walking down the halls were so priceless, he wished he had his camera. The look Kate gave him was indescribable. It was a cross between surprise, horror, and even disgust, and the only thing he felt compelled to do in that moment was smile that 'Stephen Connor' smile, and kept walking. Finally he reached his office. It had been left the same way it was before he left. His desk lamp, a cup of pens and pencils, and no papers on top, seeing as he was planning on not coming back. Not a second after he laid his briefcase in his chair did he hear a knock on the door. He turned to see who it was, and smiled.
"Didn't think you were coming back?" Frank asked him.
"Well, I thought about it, and I realized I would be awfully board with all that spare time," Stephen replied. Frank walked over to him and shook his hand.
"Man, I am sure glad you're back. Without you here, Kate has had me and Natalie to yell at," Frank explained.
"Oh, speaking of Natalie, where is she?" he asked, changing the subject.
"She's in the lab," Frank said. Stephen was about to move passed Frank when he stopped him. "Hold on, Stephen, I gotta tell you something," he said in his 'Serious Frank' tone. This made Stephen look up.
"What it is?" he asked. Frank turned and shut the door. He turned back around with an apologetic look on his face. "Frank, what is it?" Stephen asked again.
"I'm sorry Stephen, but Natalie's dating someone," he said. That caught his attention.
"What do you mean she's dating someone?" Stephen asked, his tone turning serious.
"The day after you left, some guy sent her a bouquet of multi-colored roses," Frank said. Stephen's lip twitched.
"Did the roses say who they were from?" Stephen asked.
"No name, but the guy is referring to himself as 'Superman'," Frank said.
"'Superman'?" Stephen asked, acting as if he didn't believe him.
"That's what I said. But as soon as Miles was done reading the card, she had this look on her face as if she was on cloud nine," Frank explained. Stephen slowly turned away from Frank. "And that was after Eva explained all the meaning of the roses."
Stephen bowed his head and brought his hand up to cover the smile that was growing on his face. Yeah, the florist had to explain them to me, too.
"Stephen, whoever this guy is, he voiced it loud and clear that he loves her, and she welcomed the declaration with open arms," Frank said, crossing his arms over his chest. Stephen's smile grew wider.
All right, Stephen, you're going to have to do some excellent acting here. Stephen wiped the corners of his mouth with his index finger and thumb, in order to wipe away his smile. He slowly turned back to Frank, while rubbing his chin. His hand drops as he sighs and slightly smiles as he looks to Frank. "I'm not worried," he says with confidence. "This may be a road block, but I will find a way around it," he said as he tried once again to walk past Frank, but Frank grabbed his arm.
"Stephen, I'm serious," Frank said. Stephen looked from his hand to his face. "I truly believe she has some serious feelings for this guy." Stephen slightly smiled, and patted Frank's hand.
"All right, Frank, I won't do anything, for now, anyway," Stephen said. Frank nodded.
"Good man. But now that leaves you. What are you going to do about Lisa?" he asked. Stephen sighed and looked down to the floor.
"I still don't know," he said, looking back up to Frank. "I'll figure something out soon," he said, then walking out the door. Frank just shook his head as he watched his friend walk down the hall.
Stephen, hurriedly, walked down to the lab, with a grin on his face. Well, I'm glad she liked the flowers. He continued down to the lab, and caught sight of her through the window. He walked over to the open door and just watched her. Her head was down while she was filling out some sort of paper work that Kate must have given her. He knocked on the door frame, but no reaction, her head remained bent over her paperwork. He knocked again, no reaction. Finally, he walked to her, and grabbed the pen out of her hand.
"Hey!" she snapped as she looked up, thinking to see Eva or Frank, but her eyes met the eyes of her boss. Stephen smiled.
"Is this what it takes now to get your attention?" he asked, while tossing her pen to the table, while never breaking eye contact. A smile grew on Natalie's face.
"Hey!" she exclaimed as she threw her arms around his neck. Stephen laughed as his arms went around her waist.
He's back! He's really, really back! Natalie thought as her arms tightened around his neck, then unwound so she could look at him.
"So, when did you two get back?" she asked, while his hands rested in the small of her back.
"We got back on Friday," he said. "He wanted to have a couple of days to hang out with his friends before school started back up."
"Well, yeah. He spent the whole summer on the road, who wouldn't?" Natalie said. Stephen nodded.
"Yeah, you have a point there," he said. They stood there for a moment, just looking at each other.
"So," Natalie said, trying to break the uncomfortable silence.
"So," Stephen said. "I heard my flowers caused a stir," he said, smiling. Natalie moved away slightly as the grin on her face returned.
"Actually, I thought they were Superman's flowers," she said. Stephen rolled his eyes and sighed.
"Alright, fine. I heard 'Superman's' flowers caused a stir," he said, correcting himself. Natalie moved away from him and grabbed some papers off her desk.
"Actually, they did. And Eva is quite upset with me for not telling her who he is," she explained. Stephen's eyebrows narrowed and crossed his arms.
"Isn't that why they call it a 'secret identity'?" he asked. Natalie laughed.
"Yes, I suppose so," she said, walking to the back counter.
"But you did like them," he said. She turned to look at him.
"I loved them," she said, smiling.
"I'm glad," he said, smiling back. "When the florist explained to me what the bouquet meant with all those roses, I thought they would be perfect to say what I wanted to tell you," he explained.
"Well, to be honest, Stephen, I had no idea what they meant, either, until Eva explained it to me," Natalie explained. "And then after Miles read your card, I thought they were perfect." Natalie continued to write on the paperwork she had earlier. This worried Stephen because it appeared as if she was trying to avoid him.
"Natalie, would you look at me?" he asked, getting closer to her.
"Stephen," she began, still avoiding his eyes. "I've been thinking about this, and I don't think it would be a good idea for us to start anything until the situation between you and Lisa is resolved," she explained. Stephen moved behind her and placed his hands on her arms.
"Natalie, please turn around and look at me," he said. Natalie sighed and put down her pen, then turned around to look at him. Stephen kept his hands on her arms. "I don't understand. What reason do we have to wait?" he asked.
"You're married, Stephen," she said.
"Natalie, I'm legally separated from her which makes it perfectly okay for me to move on," he explained.
"No, Stephen," Natalie said, shaking her head. "That's not what I'm talking about."
"I don't understand, Natalie. Please tell me, what's wrong?" he said. Natalie sighed and looked down to his left hand.
"Stephen, look at your left hand for me," she said. Stephen's eyebrows narrowed, then he looked at his hand. "You still wear your wedding band," she said. Stephen looked from his ring to Natalie. He removed his other hand from her arm, and took a step away from her. "I need to know that you're in this 100%, and not still lingering on the past," she explained. "And if we were to start anything while you still wore that ring, I wouldn't be any better than my ex-husband," she said. Stephen just starred at her blankly. "I'm sorry," she said, as she placed a hand on his arm, then moved past him.
"Don't say you don't have feelings for me," he said. Natalie stopped in her tracks.
"I'll never say that," she said. She stepped back to him and leaned in to whisper in his ear. "I've had to wait six years for you, I don't mind waiting another six." Stephen's eyes closed as she walked out of the lab. He brought his left hand to his head and rubbed his temple. He definitely was not expecting that 'welcome home' greeting.
"Hey! You're back!" Eva exclaimed. Stephen turned around and smiled.
"Yeah, I'm back."
Stephen dragged himself into his apartment. He let his briefcase fall to the floor, not caring where it landed. He walked over to the bay window where his stereo was and put his favorite CD in. Van Morrison always seemed to relax him. As the music played, he walked over to his couch, and flopped himself down. He leaned his head back and closed his eyes. He brought his hands up to rub his face, and kept them there for a moment, as if he was shielding his face from the light. Natalie's words from earlier still echoed in his mind.
I need to know that you're in this 100%, and not still lingering on the past.
His hands fell from his face and he lifted his left hand to look at it. He rose off the back of the couch and leaned forward to rest his elbows on his knees, while still looking at his ring. He lightly pulled on it and held it in the palm of his right hand. He looked back to his left hand and saw the tan line of where it used to be on his finger. Suddenly, a tight feeling grabbed a hold of his chest and he slid the ring back on his finger. It was at that moment he realized why he had yet to take his ring off.
I'm afraid, he thought to himself, while rubbing his eyes with the palms of his hands. After many years of wearing it, he found himself scared to remove the gold band that signified his now broken marriage.
You coward! What are you so scared of? His conscience asked him. Are you scared of what Lisa would think of you? Yeah, that's right, think about what she thinks of you when she was the one who started this crap in the first place. She was the one who told you to move on, remember?
Stephen's head rose from his hands and he slowly leaned back into his couch. He didn't lean his head back, but stared straight into the space in front of him.
By continuing to wear that thing, you're hurting two people. Yourself, and that wonderful woman who said she'd wait for you. Stephen's eyes widened as Natalie's words, once again, came back to him.
I've had to wait six years for you, I don't mind waiting another six.
Stephen's eyebrows narrowed and his lips pursed into a straight line. He looked down to his left hand, and the anger boiled inside of him. "No more," he said aloud as he ripped the ring off his finger and slammed it against the coffee table in front of him. He sat there for a moment and just starred at it. Slowly the anger dissipated, and for the first time, Stephen felt the weight of the whole situation lift off his shoulders. He got off the couch, turned off the stereo, lights, and went to his bedroom. Maybe, he thought. I'll be able to get some sleep tonight.
Lisa Connor marched through the halls of the NIH, her high heels clicking with every step she made, with her arms swinging like an out-of-control swing set. This woman was not happy. (Honestly, when was she ever happy?) When she had learned of Jack's new attitude toward his father's job, she knew there was only one person who was responsible, and it sure as hell wasn't Stephen.
Natalie stood by the secretary's desk signing some papers, when Lisa walked up beside her.
"Natalie," Lisa said with a very stern look on her face, while placing her fists on her hips. Natalie turned and slightly smiled.
"Hi, Lisa," she said.
"Don't 'hi' me, Natalie," Lisa said. Natalie's smiled dropped.
"Well, how exactly am I supposed to greet you, Lisa? 'What's up, Doc?' 'What shakin', homie?'" Natalie asked.
"Cut the crap, Natalie, I want to know what the hell you've been telling my son," Lisa said crossing her arms over her chest. Natalie smirked and shook her head.
So, that's why she's here. Natalie turned back to her paperwork. "I believe that is none of your concern, Lisa," Natalie said.
"Like hell it is!" Lisa said, her voice raising with every word. Natalie turned back to her. "I want to know what you told my son!" Natalie slammed her pen against the desk and looked Lisa square in the eye. If it was a yelling contest she wanted, a yelling contest was what she was going to get.
"You want to know what I told your son? Fine, I told him the truth, Lisa, which is a whole lot more than what you've been telling him," Natalie said, raising her voice to the same level as Lisa's.
"It is none of your damn business what I tell my son!" Lisa yelled.
"Honey, I hate to break this to you, but it became my business the moment your son opened up to me about the crap you've been feeding him," Natalie yelled back, while placing her fists on her hips.
"It's not crap, Natalie, it's the truth," Lisa fired back.
"Right, Lisa, but telling your son that his father is a workaholic and that he loves his job more than him is a load of crap!"
"Right, and when he cancels a date he made with his son because it's a 'Code Yellow,' he's definitely not a workaholic," Lisa said sarcastically.
"May I remind you, Lisa, it was you who told those soldiers where to find him," Natalie said. Lisa, taken back by this, turned on her heel and began to walk away, with Natalie right on her heels.
"I have nothing more to say to you, Natalie," Lisa said.
"Like hell you don't," Natalie fired back. "What is this really about, Lisa? Huh?" Lisa continued to walk down the hall. "This isn't about Jack or Stephen working all the time, it's about you," Natalie said. Lisa quickly turned around.
"Shut up, Natalie! You have no idea what you're talking about," Lisa said, her voice rising again as she pointed her finger at Natalie.
"Really? You wanna bet?"
"You have no idea what it's like to have your husband stop looking at you the way he did before you got married," she said. Natalie sighed in frustration.
"Lisa, I'm a divorced woman, so you do the math," Natalie said.
"Okay, so you know how it feels to have your marriage fall apart, but did your husband stop looking at you?" Lisa asked. Natalie crossed her arms.
"Actually, my husband had a problem with keeping his hands off of other women," Natalie said.
"Alright, so maybe you do," Lisa said, sounding frustrated.
"Okay, Lisa, he stopped looking at you, so what did you do?" Natalie asked.
"I beg your pardon?" Lisa asked.
"Lisa, it's called 'cause and effect,' I'm pretty sure you've heard of it. Men don't get turned off from their wives for no apparent reason. So, what did you do to make Stephen stop looking at you?" Natalie asked. Lisa didn't like what she had to say. Her face turned bright red as she clutched her fists at the sides of her thighs. "Come on, Lisa, what did you do?" Natalie asked again, a smirk growing on her face. Lisa then stomped her foot, and turned to walk away, with Natalie close behind her. "If you didn't do anything, Lisa, why are you walking away?" Natalie asked.
"I am done talking to you, Natalie!" Lisa yelled.
"Like hell you are!" Natalie yelled, jumping in front of her. "My, my, Lisa, if you didn't do anything, why do you look so guilty?" Natalie asked.
"It is none of your damn business what I did!" Lisa yelled.
"Ah, but you did do something," Natalie said, pointing a finger at her.
"How the hell would you know that, Natalie?" Lisa asked, crossing her arms. Natalie's fists went to her waist.
"Because you just admitted to it, Lisa," Natalie said. Lisa was taken back by this. Natalie watched as Lisa mentally reviewed what she said in her head, then when she finally realized what she had said, she closed her eyes and bowed her head. "So, what's his name?" Natalie asked.
Lisa looked back up to Natalie. "His name is Jason," Lisa said. Natalie shrugged her shoulders.
"So, have you told Stephen?" she asked.
"I believe that is none of your business," Lisa said through gritted teeth.
"Is that right?" Natalie asked.
"Yes, that's right!" Lisa said, her voice rising again.
"Well, sweetheart, I hate to break this to you, but the moment you served him with separation papers, he became none of your business!" Natalie said, this time her voice rising.
"He is my husband!" Lisa yelled.
"You have his name. That is the only thing that links you to him!" Natalie said.
"I am the mother of his son, and you will respect me as such!" Lisa yelled, probably screamed was more like it.
"Any woman who tries to turn her son against his father deserves no respect whatsoever!" Natalie yelled back. Lisa was taken back by this and finally was at a loss for words. "And you're absolutely right, Lisa. Stephen is none of my business, but he is first and foremost my friend, which is more than I can say for you!" Natalie said sternly. The look on Lisa's face went from shock to defeat. She bowed her head as she realized Natalie had won. "Now if you'll excuse me," Natalie said calmly. "I have patients I need to attend to," Natalie said as she adjusted the lab coat she was wearing. "Break it up!" she yelled to the crowd that had gathered around her and Lisa. At that Moment, everyone scattered as if they hadn't witnessed Durant going at it with Connor's wife.
Lisa just stood there, dumbfounded, until she heard heavy footsteps coming up behind her. She slowly turned around, for fear of who it was. But her fear quickly came true as her eyes met the blue eyes of her husband.
"Lisa," Stephen said calmly with his arms crossed over his chest. Lisa swallowed the lump that had formed in her throat.
"You heard that, huh?" she asked, slightly smiling.
"Lisa, I think that the whole NIH heard that," Stephen said, his tone the same. All Lisa could do was nod her head.
"Yeah," she said, barely audible.
"Lisa," Stephen began.
"Yes, Stephen?" Lisa asked.
"I want a divorce," he said with certainty in his voice. Lisa nodded and looked to the ground.
"Okay, Stephen," she said in agreement to his request.
"I also want joint custody of Jack," he added. Lisa's head shot up.
"Stephen," she began as if to argue with him, but he held up a hand.
"I want joint custody," he said with finality. Lisa got the jest of his tone and just nodded.
"Okay, Stephen," she said, looking down to her hands. Stephen turned to walk away, but then paused.
"Oh, and Lisa, one more thing," he said. Lisa looked back up to him and watched as he took his wedding band out of his pocket. He held it between his index finger and thumb as he held it in front of her face. "I never cheated on you, not one time while we were married," he said.
"I know, Stephen," Lisa said, the lump in her throat returning.
"Here," he said while handing the ring to her. "I don't want it anymore," he said as she took it from him. "Do whatever you want with it." Lisa took the ring and just stared at it as it rested in the center of her palm. "I'm picking Jack up from school today," he said. Lisa nodded, but Stephen had already walked away.
Eva stalked down the hallway to the portion of the building that contained their offices. She had just heard something very juicy from Brenda in Accounting, and by God, she was going to find out if it was true.
"Eva!" she heard someone call behind her. She turned and saw Frank running up to her. "You heard didn't you?"' he asked.
"Who hasn't? I was just on my way to find out," she said.
"Come on," he said, grabbing her arm as they continued down the hallway.
"Hey, where are you two going?" Miles asked. Frank and Eva stopped and looked at him.
"Didn't you hear?" Eva asked.
"Hear what?" he asked.
"Never mind," Frank said as he and Eva continued down the hallway.
"What did I miss?" he asked, following them.
"Just follow us," Eva said. They continued down to their offices, and found Natalie in her office, with her head in her hand, while filling out some paperwork. Eva walked up to her desk and slammed her hand on her desk, causing Natalie to jump back. "Natalie, I am in awe of you right now," Eva said. Natalie sighed and buried her face in her hands.
"Would you three please be the ones to not ask?" Natalie asked, sounding exhausted and agitated in the same voice.
"Hey, I'm here because they told me to tag along. I have no idea what happened," Miles said.
"Nat, we're here to get your side of the story, even if half the NIH witnessed it," Frank said. Natalie shook her head.
"Guys, it was something that was below me, and I shouldn't have done that, no matter how much she had pissed me off," she said as she looked back up to them, with her agitation showing. Eva grabbed her hand.
"Natalie, you told off Connor's wife. That, by the way, is something all of us have wanted to do for awhile now, and I think Frank would agree with me when I say 'thank you'," Eva said, shaking Natalie's hand. Natalie couldn't help but smile.
"Wait, you told off Connor's wife?" Miles asked. Frank and Eva rolled their eyes.
"Yes, Miles, I did tell off Stephen's wife," Natalie said.
"Word on the street is she was so dumbfounded, that she finally stopped talking," Frank said. Natalie rolled her eyes.
"Actually, she stopped talking when she realized she was talking too much," Natalie said as they all began to laugh. But their laugh was short lived when there came a knock on her doorframe, and they all turned to see Stephen standing there.
"Am I interrupting something?" he asked as they all got quiet.
"No, no you're not, Stephen," Natalie said, finally breaking the silence.
"If you three don't mind, I would like to speak with Natalie privately," Stephen said, this actually being the nice way of telling them to 'Get the hell out!' One by one they filed out of Natalie's office, with Stephen shutting the door behind them.
"Stephen, I'm so sorry," she said, after he closed the door. "I shouldn't have done that, no matter what she had said to me," Natalie said, hoping he wouldn't be too angry with her. Stephen shook his head.
"Natalie, I'm not here to reprimand you," he said. Natalie was taken back by this.
"You're not?" she asked.
"No, I'm not," he said, shaking his head. He started to continue, but was interrupted by a knock at the door. He growled and walked over to the door and opened it. "What?!" he yelled, not expecting to come face to face with Kate. She raised her eyebrows at his tone and placed her hands on her hips.
"I would like to see both you and Natalie in my office, now," Kate said.
"So, Natalie," Kate began when they were situated in Kate's office. "What is this I hear about you and Stephen's wife getting into a fight?" she asked while folding her hands on top of her desk.
"Kate, if I may, it wasn't exactly a fight, it was a disagreement," Natalie said, trying to defend herself.
"Oh, yes, Natalie, it was definitely a disagreement. It happened to be a very loud disagreement, one that I could hear two floors down," Kate said.
"Kate, she came here looking to get into a screaming contest, and yes I did get into it with her, but she started, I just finished it," Natalie said. Kate tensed in her chair.
"Really?" Kate asked. Natalie rolled her eyes, she was definitely not in the mood for this.
"Yes, really," she said. Kate turned to Stephen.
"Don't you have anything to say?" she asked him. Stephen shrugged his shoulders.
"About what?" he asked. Kate let out a frustrated sigh.
"About Natalie disrespecting your wife in front of the whole NIH," she said.
"First, it wasn't the whole NIH, and second, I'm glad she did it," he said. Both Natalie and Kate's mouths hung open.
"You are?" they both asked.
"We're separated, what am I supposed to do? Suspend her for something I've been dying to do myself?" Stephen asked Kate. Kate's eyebrows narrowed.
"Natalie, would you please wait outside for a moment?" Kate asked. Natalie looked from Kate to Stephen. She got up, and closed the door behind her. "Do you realize that the Director and the Chief Executive witnessed that little episode between her and your wife?" Kate said, crossing her arms.
"Really? Did they enjoy the show?" Stephen asked, grinning a little.
"That is beside the point!" Kate said, pointing a finger at him. Stephen couldn't hide the smile. "I am absolutely serious about this, Stephen!" Kate yelled.
"So am I, Kate! Why do you think I'm still here for?" Stephen said, also raising his voice.
"Do you have any idea how long I had to listen to those two laugh and talk about their little escapade? I want disciplinary action taken!" Kate said. Stephen shook his head.
"Kate, you absolutely amaze me," he said as he leaned forward in his chair. "This isn't about Natalie or Lisa, it's about you," he said looking at her.
"I want disciplinary action taken, Stephen!" Kate said, scooting forward in her chair.
"For what? A little entertainment that this place has been lacking for quite some time now," Stephen said.
"You call that spat between your wife and your pathologist entertainment?" Kate asked.
"Kate, the spat was between my son's mother and mypathologist. And if you think that I'm gonna do anything when both the Director and the Chief Executive found nothing wrong with the situation, you've got another thing coming," he said, leaning back into his seat.
"Stephen, if you don't, I will," she said, while crossing her arms. Stephen turned back to her.
"Like hell you will!" he yelled, jumping forward and slamming his hand on her desk.
"Then I suggest you better take care of it before I do," Kate said with finality. "And I will not accept anything less than suspension from work." Stephen stared at her for a moment in disbelief.
"You know, it's funny Kate," he began calmly, as he rose from his seat. "I never thought you capable of being this cold-hearted." He turned towards the door. "Guess I was wrong," he said reaching for the door knob.
"Stephen," Kate began. Stephen froze. "This isn't personal, just protocol. Don't let your feelings get in the way."
"Just like yours did?" he asked.
"Now, wait a second, that's not fair, Stephen!" Kate said.
"No, let me tell you what's not fair, Kate," he said walking back over to her. "The one time I needed you the most, the one time I needed your help," Stephen paused. "You did nothing," he said while shaking his head. Kate expression softened, and her arms dropped to her sides. "You left me to fight a battle I couldn't win, when you knew damn well I couldn't." A lump began to form in Kate's throat. "And here I am again, needing your help, and still you won't offer it." Stephen walked back to the door, and turned the knob. "Is this really about protocol Kate?
God forbid someone else close to you does something to make you or the NIH look bad." Stephen opened the door, and walked out.
It was half an hour later that Stephen summoned Natalie to his office. While walking to his office, Natalie knew what Kate was making him do, and she decided it was not going to phase her one bit. She defended herself, and if she had to be punished for it, by God, she was going to take the punishment. When Natalie got to his office, she found his door was open, but Stephen was flipping through a file. She lightly knocked on the door, and he looked up.
"You wanted to see me?" she asked. Stephen sighed, closed the file and motioned for her to come in.
"Close the door behind you, please," he said. While she was closing the door, she paused and turned to look at him. "What?" he asked.
"You said 'please.' What in the world happened to you over the summer, huh?" she asked. Stephen laughed as she took the seat in front of him. They sat there for a moment and just stared at each other.
"Natalie," Stephen began.
"Stephen, please don't sugar-coat it. Just tell me what you have to give me," Natalie said. Stephen sighed and placed his clasped hands on the top of his desk.
"For your record, I have to charge you with 'disorderly conduct,' and I have to suspend you from work without pay, for the rest of the week, starting immediately," he said. Natalie nodded.
"Well," she began. "Had I known that was all I was going to get, I would've been a little more honest," she said with a slight smile. Stephen smiled.
"Yeah, I know what you mean," he said, looking down to his hands.
"But I really am sorry, Stephen, if I embarrassed you in any way," she said. Stephen shook his head and raised his hand for her to stop right there.
"Don't be sorry, Natalie. The only person who needs to be embarrassed right now is Lisa, she deserves whatever she feels right now for coming here and trying to start something. Oh, and before I forget, she is no longer allowed on the premises, unless there is a medical emergency," Stephen explained.
"You're going to tell her, right?" Natalie asked.
"Nope, I'm gonna let her figure that one out herself," Stephen said, shaking his head.
"Stephen!" Natalie said. Stephen chuckled.
"No, I am going to tell her, along with a few choice words," he said.
"Well, when you do it, don't yell at her," she said.
"I won't, but she will get a piece of my mind," he explained, leaning forward on his elbows.
"Just try to be nice about it, okay?" Stephen nodded.
"Okay, I will try to be nice, whether I succeed or not will be another issue." Natalie smiled and looked at the clock.
"Well, since I am suspended from work, effective immediately, I might as well get a move on before Kate wanders down here and wants to know why I'm not gone yet," she said as she got up from her seat. Stephen got up and followed her to the door.
"Natalie, I would like to say I am sorry for the suspension," Stephen said. Natalie shook her head.
"Stephen, don't be. I know that it was out of your control, so don't even fret about it. Besides, I've been wanting a couple of days off, anyway, my apartment is a wreck," she said, smiling. A small smile grew on Stephen's face as he placed his hands on her arms. "Thanks for trying," she said. Stephen nodded and shook her arms slightly. Natalie, then, to the surprise of both herself and Stephen, moved closer to his chest, rose up on her toes, and pressed her lips to the side of his mouth, while placing her hand on his cheek to hold him there for a few moments. Finally, she pulled away, smiled, and walked out the door of his office. For those brief seconds, Stephen Connor's brain shut down, and when it was finally able to process again, it left him wondering what in the world had just happened.
"…just not the same when they're not playing at the Superdome," Frank said, while opening the door to the conference room and switching on the lights.
"It is a building with a field in the center. How badly can it affect their playing performance?" Miles asked, following him in.
"It affects them greatly. They only won 3 games that season, and they were dead last in the division. Now, you tell me if there is any other reason why the 'New Orleans Saints' didn't have a better season," Frank said, placing his bag in the seat beside him.
"Frank, Hurricane Katrina just hit. Many players probably lost a lot of their possessions, maybe even a few family members, and you're gonna stand there and tell me the reason why they lost every game, except three, was because the 'Louisiana Superdome' was shut down?" Miles asked taking a seat. Frank just stood there glaring at him.
"All right, you may have a point there, but I can guarantee you they would've had a better season if the Superdome would've been open," Frank said, taking a seat.
"Frank, have the Saints ever had a good season?" Miles asked while opening the Styrofoam box that contained his omelet.
"All right, watch it now! You treadin' on dangerous territory," Frank said pointing a finger at him. Miles laughed and watched Frank take out a plastic bottle from his bag.
"Honestly, do you eat that stuff on everything?" Miles asked Frank, who was pouring the concoction of 'volcano' sauce all over his omelet.
"Only on the stuff that's bland," Frank replied.
"Bland? You asked for every pepper known to man in that thing," Miles said, taking a bite from his omelet.
"The peppers get cooked down, so afterwards I have to add my own kick," Frank explained. Miles laughed and shook his head.
"Morning, you two," Eva said walking in.
"Morning, Eva," both Frank and Miles said.
"What are you two talking about?" she asked as she put her bag in her chair.
"How the 'New Orleans Saints' suck at football," Miles replied. Frank glared at him with a look that said 'You will die by my hands.'
"I think this is one conversation I will stay out of," Eva said.
"Morning, all," Natalie said.
"Hey, hey, looks who back from banishment," Frank said.
"Yes, I missed you too, Frank," Natalie said.
"My God, I can't believe it, you survived almost a week away from work," Eva said placing her fists on her hips. Natalie glared at her as she placed her bag in her seat.
"You know, my name is not 'Stephen Connor'," Natalie replied as all three of them giggle.
"You've been back for less than one minute and already you're talking about me," Stephen said as he walked in with a cardboard tray of coffee for all of them.
"Morning, Connor," Natalie said while rolling her eyes.
"Morning, Natalie," Stephen said.
"My goodness, Stephen, you brought us coffee, what's the celebration?" Eva asked taking her cup.
"Natalie's back, so she can help us with the mountains of paperwork Kate so lovingly dumped on us," Stephen said as he handed a cup of coffee to Natalie with his left hand.
"Amen to that," Frank said, while taking another bite from his omelet.
"So, Natalie, just how bored did you get while you were gone?" Eva asked as she took a sip from her coffee. When Natalie didn't answer, Eva looked to her, and saw that she was, mindlessly, staring at her coffee.
"Natalie!" Eva yelled.
"Huh, what?" Natalie said, being snapped out of her trance.
"I asked you what you did while you were away," Eva said, finally taking a chair.
"Well, the usual. I cleaned my apartment, caught up on sleep and a couple of books I had been reading. On Saturday, I even went to get a massage," Stephen's head snapped up to look at her. "It was the first one I've had in over five years, and let me tell you, I was due for one," Natalie said, then taking a sip from her coffee. Eva nodded her head.
"I can tell you right now, I am most definitely due for one," she said.
"What is it with women and massages?" Miles asked.
"It is the most relaxing thing you will ever experience in your life, Miles," Frank said. All four of them turned to look at Frank. Once he realized it had gotten quiet, he looked up to find them starring at him with these questionable looks on their faces.
"You get massages, Frank?" Natalie asked.
"Look, Kim wanted me to go with her to a spa one year for our anniversary, and at first I was hesitant, but afterwards I was signing us up for our next appointment," he explained as they all laughed.
"So, who did you have, a man or woman?" Eva asked. Stephen paused to hear her answer. Natalie looked to him, then back to Eva.
"I had a guy, but he was gay, so I wasn't too worried about it," she said, partially looking to Stephen when she answered.
"How do you know he was gay?" Stephen asked. Natalie looked to him and smiled.
"Stephen, if I asked you the question 'what are your hobbies,' what would you say to me?" Natalie asked, taking a sip of her coffee.
"I would say 'my hobbies are playing baseball and spending time with my son'," he said.
"Alright, you know what his answer was?" she asked while holding her coffee cup with both hands. "'I like gardening, cooking, and taking pictures of my gorgeous-ass boyfriend'," Natalie said, changing her voice to mimic that of a gay guy. Stephen's eyes widened and Eva, Miles and Frank howled with laughter.
"Oh my God, he was gay alright," Eva said, trying to catch her breath.
"Yeah, you think?" Natalie said, trying to not laugh herself.
Dr. Vanessa Harpen had been with the NIH for almost a year now. She and a few others had been assigned to study the effect of the drug psilocybin on advanced cancer patients with anxiety, and when she saw just who her patients were, she wasn't too thrilled. The days were usually long, mostly because each session lasted for six hours, and most of the patients babbled on and on about what scares them the most. Today, she knew, was going to be especially long, because today Ernest Coulture was coming down from Springfield Psychiatric Hospital for his turn with the drug. He would be escorted in with his usual guards, put up a little fight, and then after the first hour, he would usually succumb to the drug.
Finally, the time came, and Ernest arrived with his guards. "Good morning, Ernest, how are you feeling to today?" she asked him.
"I- I'm fine, okay, I'm f-f-fine," he stuttered. Vanessa then noticed he was shaking more than usual, and his skin looked clammier than usual.
"Why is he shaking so much?" she asked one of the guards.
"I don't know, you're the doctor, you tell us," he replied. Vanessa placed her hand on his forehead, he was running a temperature.
"He's sick, why on earth did you bring him?" she asked.
"Because he wanted to come," the other guard replied, frustrated.
"Ernest, you don't have to do your session today if you don't want to," she told him.
"No, I-I want to d-do it," he said, still shaking. Vanessa nodded and they went into the room to begin the session. She led them to the cot that he would be lying on, and motioned for him to lie down. He complied, but once he saw the guard ready the straps he rose up. "Uh, c-can't w-w-we do th-this without th-the st-st-straps this time?" he asked
"Ernest, you remember what happened last time, don't you? You ripped the tube right out of your arm, and we can't have that, you could seriously hurt yourself," Vanessa replied, getting everything ready.
"Y-yeah, b-but I pr-promise I w-won't do it a-a-again," he said. Vanessa could tell he was really nervous today, and the sweat was pouring out of his shaved head.
"Yeah, you promised last time, and you still got upset. This is for your safety, okay?" she said, nodding to him. "Strap him in," she told the guards. They moved to strap him in, but Ernest had other plans. His fist collided with one of the guard's face, and as the other guard went to grab him, but Ernest had somehow grabbed a hold on the gun from the other guard's belt, and pointed it right between his eyes.
"Back off!" he said. A lump had formed in the guards' throat as he slowly raised his hands and backed away slowly.
"Easy Ernest, it's gonna be okay," the guard said.
"Oh yes, it's going to be okay," Ernest said, as he grabbed Vanessa and pushed her in front of him. "Don't try anything, or she gets it," he said, moving towards the door. They both walked out the door, and scared quite a few people, and once Ernest had seen even more guards, he quickly pushed Vanessa out of the way, and began shooting in their direction. Thankfully, none of them got hit, but they did return the fire, and one of the bullets grazed Ernest's right ear. Once he saw the blood, he ran down the hallway, where they lost sight of him.
"Are you alright?" one of the guards asked Vanessa, while helping her to her feet.
"Yes, I'm fine, but we need to find him! Not only is he a danger to the people in this building, he's a danger to himself. He is capable of hurting himself," she told the guard.
"Initiate Code Silver," the guard said to the others.
"So, what happened to you this morning?" Stephen asked Natalie when they were alone in the lab. She looked up from the paperwork she was filling out.
"What do you mean?" she asked.
"For like ten seconds you stared at your coffee, Eva had to knock you out of your trance. So what happened?" he asked.
"Oh, that, uh," she paused and smirked a little. "I noticed that your ring was gone, and it sort of threw me," she explained.
"Well, you know, it has been gone for a week now," he said smiling, while crossing his arms over his chest. Natalie smiled.
"Yes, well, I was sort of preoccupied with paperwork, crazy ex-wives, and an unexpected vacation," she said. He nodded, and was about to reply when his phone went off. He took it out of his pocket and looked at the page. "What is it?" Natalie asked.
"It's an emergency call from Kate, I gotta go," he said. "We'll finish this later," he said, turning to the door.
"Alright," Natalie called after him.
Stephen arrived at the conference room, Kate wasn't alone. She was with the other heads of the various departments the NIH had.
"What is it?" he asked.
"We have a Code Silver," Kate said, looking up to him. Stephen's eyes widened.
"Code Silver, are you serious?" he asked, almost not believing her.
"I'm dead serious. We had a patient come in this morning from Springfield Psychiatric Hospital for his clinical trial, and wound up punching a guard and stealing his gun," Kate explained as Stephen and the rest of the people who were in the room just listened in horror. She passed a paper copy of his picture for all to see his face. "I did speak with the head of the hospital and he told me 'Ernest Coulture' is an ex-Marine who is terminally ill with cancer, so please, if you come into contact with him, remain calm and notify someone as quickly as you can."
"When was the last time he was seen?" someone asked.
"He was last seen downstairs in the clinic where he got into a gun fight with a few guards. I have been told that he was alright, however one bullet did graze his ear. We have sealed each floor of the building, and guards are being placed on each floor, but we are still unsure whether or not he made it outside," Kate explained.
"Great, that means he could be anywhere on the campus," someone else said.
"Wait, what happened to the security cameras?" Stephen asked. Kate sighed.
"The tapes were being switched out at the time," she said. Everybody grunted.
"Great. We have the most advanced medical technology, just not the most advanced security system," Stephen said.
"Yes, we're working on that Stephen," Kate replied. "We're going to have to go slow in the evacuation of the building, so tell your people to remain calm if they come into contact with him. Don't do anything that will make him want to fire that gun," she with finality. Everyone nodded and dispersed to return to their various departments. Stephen immediately dug out his cell phone.
"Durant," he heard Natalie say on the other end.
"Natalie, listen to me, we have a Code Silver," he said, walking a little ways down the hallway.
"My God, are you serious?" she asked, disbelievingly.
"That's what I said, it is the real thing. The patient's name is Ernest Coulture, he's a patient from the Springfield Psychiatric Hospital that freaked out this morning before his clinical session. He managed to get a gun away from one of the guards that were escorting him, which was easy for him because he's an ex-marine, so please tell everyone to be careful if they come into contact with him."
"Where was he last seen?" Natalie asked.
"Down stairs in the clinic, but the cameras weren't rolling at the time because the film was being switch," Stephen said.
"Wonderful. What does he look like, just in case he happens to show up here?" she asked, grabbing a pen and a piece of paper.
"He's Caucasian. He has no hair and very pale blue eyes, and he has a very visible scar above his left eyebrow. He was also nicked in the right ear earlier," he explained.
"Alright, got it. Are they going to evacuate everyone since the building has been shut down?" she asked.
"They have to go slow about it, but guards have been placed on each floor so there's no way he'll be able to use the stairs or elevators," he said.
"What are you going to do? You've got that tone in your voice," Natalie said.
"I don't know, I'll keep you posted."
"Stephen, be careful, and don't do anything stupid," she said. Stephen smirked.
"You know me, always the problem solver," he replied.
"That's what I'm afraid of," she said. Stephen laughed.
"Just make sure everybody knows," he said.
"I will," she said.
Once Natalie had gotten off the phone with Stephen, Eva walked through the door.
"Hey, what's going on? I heard there's been some commotion going on downstairs," she said.
"Is Miles and Frank out there, I have to tell you guys something," she said. Eva rounded up Miles and Frank and returned to the lab.
"Code Silver has been initiated," she said. Frank and Eva gasped, and Miles just stood there with a confused look on his face.
"What's 'Code Silver'?" he asked.
"'Code Silver' means there is a combative person with a lethal weapon running around, and the situation has turned violent enough for the premises to be locked down," Natalie explained.
"Wow, who is this guy?" Eva asked.
"His name is Ernest Coulture, he's an ex-marine who's been at the Springfield Psychiatric Hospital for a while," Natalie explained.
"That explains why he's running around with a gun," Frank said, not sounding too pleased with the whole situation.
"We've been told to remain calm if we come into contact with him, and to not do anything that would make him want to fire that gun," Natalie said.
"No kidding, otherwise you're gonna end up on 'Channel 5 News' tonight," Eva said.
"This is serious, now. Stephen said they have to take the evacuation slowly, so it will be awhile before we're able to get out of here."
"I thought this was supposed to be a safe job?" Miles asked.
"Well, as safe as you can be from killer bacteria," Frank replied.
"Stephen, where are you going?" Kate yelled while following him down the hall.
"I'm going to check the cameras, Kate. There are only so many places he can hide in this building," he said, not stopping for her to catch up to him.
"Right, there are only a few dozen supply closets, back hallways and stairwells he can hide in. Not to mention this building has more than five wings and more than 10 floors," Kate replied. Stephen turned around to glare at her, and Kate placed her fists on her hips, challenging him to say something.
"You want to argue, Kate, or do you want to try to find this guy?" Stephen asked her. Kate sighed in defeat.
"What did you have in mind?" she asked. Stephen motioned for her to follow him.
"If we can study the cameras long enough, and as SWAT evacuates each floor, we'll be able to pinpoint which floor he's on. I will admit this isn't going to be easy, he's a marine, he's in survival mode right now, and if anybody gets in his way, he will not hesitate to eliminate the threat," Stephen explained as they walked down the hall.
"Then let's get to it," she said. They walked into the security room and just stared at what they saw. "My God, Stephen, this is going to be like looking for a needle in a hay stack," Kate said. Stephen walked over to the security guard watching the screens.
"Can you playback the film from the time you started recording this morning?" Stephen asked him.
"Well, which camera would you like, there were 32 cameras reset today," he said. Kate grunted.
"Start with the cameras closest to the downstairs clinic," Stephen said.
They viewed those tapes, nothing. They viewed the next set of tapes, still nothing.
"Stephen, let's face it, he's hiding somewhere we can't find him," Kate said.
"Someone who's hiding can always be found," he replied. "Next tape," he told the security guard. The next tape was the recording of a huge hallway, one that many people used.
"There's a crowd there. There's no way he would risk going into that crowded hallway with a gun," Kate said.
"Not unless he was in disguised," Stephen said. "Pause the tape," he told the security guard. He did so, and Stephen pointed to someone wearing a lab coat. "I believe that's him." Kate looked closely, and there was the visible scar above his left eye.
"My God, and he even looked at the camera," she said.
"He knew he was being watched, so he had to find someplace to hide and quick, and he even stayed close to the wall so no one would notice his ear. What camera is next after this one?" He asked. They followed his movements from the third floor elevator he got on to the fifth floor, then moved to a supply closet where as far as they knew he remained. "It was an hour and a half ago when he walked through that supply closet. Fast forward it to see if anyone else walked through the closet," he said. The guard did, and they watched as the tape fast forwarded through the past hour.
"You mean to tell me he's still in that closet after an hour?" Kate asked, unbelievingly.
"So far, that's the way it's looking," Stephen replied.
"This is great, Stephen, we know where he is," Kate said.
"No, wait," Stephen said, and the tape resumed normal speed. They watched a nurse walk into the closet, pulled out a cart with trays on it, and shut the door behind her as she moved with the cart down the hall to the elevator. "If she had seen him, she would've jumped back in fright," Stephen said.
"And that cart had a curtain covering the sides," Kate said.
"When did this happen?" Stephen asked the guard.
"About ten minutes ago," he said.
"We need to know where that nurse went with that cart, right now!"
"I haven't heard anything from Stephen in over an hour, I sure hope everything's alright," Natalie said, as she and Eva were walking down the hallway to the break room.
"Me, too, but it would actually be nice if they got to evacuating our floor," Eva said. Natalie smirked.
"We have to be patient, they have to search each floor thoroughly before they can start the next one," Natalie explained. Eva groaned as they turned a corner.
"I wish they would pick up the pace," she said. Natalie laughed as they came to the front desk.
"Oh, hang on a sec, I need to check on something," Natalie said as she picked up a file off the desk.
"Sure," Eva said as she crossed her arms and turned to look down the vast hallway in front of the desk. Her eyebrows narrowed as she caught sight of a bald man wearing a white lab coat, drenched in sweat, and breathing very deeply. She walked over to him slowly. "Sir, are you alright?" she asked him. He looked up to her slightly, then bowed his head.
"Yes, I'm fine, just needed to rest a moment," he replied. Natalie's head shot up, and it was then she saw the scar above the man's left eyebrow. She dropped the folder and moved towards Eva.
"Eva," she said. Eva turned to look at her. "Come here," Natalie said, motioning for her to come back.
"Why? What is it?" Eva asked, not moving.
"That's him," Natalie said. Eva turned back slowly to look at the man, who was now looking at her. Eva backed away slowly, but he got up and started to follow her. Eva turned and ran back to Natalie, with the man drawing the gun from his pocket and pointing it at them. Natalie pulled Eva behind her as Ernest pointed the gun at her chest. "Easy, Ernest, easy, we're not going to do anything to you," Natalie said after she raised her hands, with Eva clinging on to waist for dear life.
"You're gonna tie me down," he said, still pointing the shaking gun at her.
"No, we're not going to tie you down, I promise you that, Ernest," Natalie said while shaking her head.
"You know, they kept me tied down for almost a year," he said.
"Who did, Ernest? Who kept you tied down?" Natalie asked.
"The Taliban, they thought it was funny watching me squirm as they cut me and put salt in my cuts," he said. Both Natalie and Eva closed their eyes.
"Ernest, I promise you, were not going to do that to you," Natalie told him once more.
"Oh yeah, tell it to the ones who tried to tie me up this morning," he replied, still holding the gun to her chest.
"Yes, that was wrong of them to do that to you, they shouldn't have tried to tie you down," Natalie said, trying to sound sympathetic to him.
"You're damn right, they shouldn't have," he replied.
Kate and Stephen watched the tape as the nurse who was pushing the cart got on the elevator to the seventh floor.
"My God, Stephen, that's your floor," Kate said.
"Yes I know," he said as he watched the tape. They watched as the nurse pushed the cart to a room, stopped it right outside the door, picked up one of the trays, and went inside the room. Then they saw one side of the curtain being pushed away, and Ernest climbing out of the cart. "All he had to do was wait for someone to get him out of the commotion," Stephen said. They watched him straighten out the curtain, and began to walk down the hallway, away from the cart. "That's where the secretary's desk is, pull up the tape from that camera," Stephen told the guard. As the guard pulled up the tape, his finger accidently switched the camera back on the screen and all three of them saw what was going on in front of the secretary's desk.
"Oh my God," Kate said as she covered her mouth with her hand.
"Is this happening right now?" Stephen asked.
"Yes sir," replied the guard. Faster than a speeding bullet, he turned and bolted out the door.
"Stephen, wait!" Kate called after him, but he was too far gone to hear her, not that he would've turned back anyway. Kate pulled out her cell phone, and called the police chief.
"Ernest, listen to me. We're not going to do that to you, so you need to put down the gun before someone get hurts," Natalie said. Ernest shook his head.
"No, no, how do I know you won't?" he asked her, still pointing the gun at her chest.
"Because I don't have anything to tie you up with, and I would really prefer it if I didn't get shot today," she said. Ernest thought for a moment. He was shaking more violently now, and Natalie knew he wouldn't be able to take much more of this.
"No!" he yelled. "No, no, you're just like them, and I won't take that chance," he said as he steadied his gun. Natalie felt a lump form in her throat as she realized that this was it. Suddenly, they heard a door slam, and very fast-paced footsteps.
"Natalie!" Stephen yelled as he caught sight of the scene. Ernest glanced to Stephen, then turned to aim the gun at him.
"No!" Natalie shouted. She kicked the gun out of his hand, thrusted her right palm into his nose, breaking it and making it bleed, and slid on her knees to grab the gun. Once Natalie had hold of the gun, Eva ran in Stephen's direction, getting out of the way. Natalie turned and aimed the gun right at Ernest, to make sure he didn't try anything funny. "Down on the ground, Ernest," Natalie said as he was wiping the blood away from his nose. He looked up to her and saw she did indeed have the gun in hand, her right index finger at the trigger, with her left hand supporting her right hand on the butt of the gun. He looked from her to the gun.
"You don't know how to fire that thing," he said, then he went to grab the gun, but Natalie had had enough, and she shot the spot right beside his foot to let him know she meant business.
"I wouldn't bet too much on that if I were you," she said. Ernest, now, had fear in his eyes as he slowly moved back away from Natalie. "Down on the ground, or I promise you, next time I fire this gun, I won't miss." Ernest tried the swallow the lump in his throat, but it wasn't going down, and he slowly raised his hands above his head.
"O-okay, I-I-I'm going," he said as he dropped to his knees and lowered himself, face first into the floor. Natalie kept the gun pointed at him until Stephen came over and gave him a sedative in his neck. Once they were positive he was out, Natalie let out a sigh of relief and took the ammo out of the gun, and placed it in her pocket. Stephen also let out a sigh of relief and looked at her.
"Are you alright?" he asked. Natalie smiled an exhausted smile.
"Yeah, shaken, but okay, are you okay?" she asked.
"Oh yeah, I'm okay, I was worried more about you, considering he had the gun pointed at you," he said. Natalie smiled and looked over to Eva.
"Are you alright, Eva?" she asked.
"Is he out?" she asked, not wanting to get close.
"He's sleeping like a baby right now, he can't hurt anybody anymore," Stephen said.
Later on, Natalie was gazing out the window, watching the paramedics get ready to transport Ernest, when Stephen walked up beside her. "Hey," he said, placing a hand on her arm.
"Hey," she said, being knocked out of her trance. Stephen looked down to see what she was watching.
"Making sure they get him out okay?" he asked. Natalie shook her head.
"I don't know. I guess I'm watching to make sure he leaves," she said with a slight smile. Stephen nodded and they continued to gaze out the window.
"So, where did you learn how to do that?" he asked, looking back to her. Natalie looked to him with a look of confusion.
"Learn to do what?" she asked.
"That kick and that thing you did with your palm," he said, mimicking the motion she had used on Ernest.
"Oh, that," Natalie smiled, embarrassed that he had noticed her movements. "One of my best friends from college lost his sister when she was mugged. And the cops told him that if she had been able to defend herself, she would've survived. So he vowed to protect the women he loved the most, and I was fortunate to be one of those women," she explained as an honest smile grew on her face. Stephen smiled back.
"And the gun?" he asked.
"My grandfather was a cop. He always said I needed to know what it felt like to have that kind of power at my hands, and boy was he right," she said.
"Old fashioned, wasn't he?" Stephen asked.
"Oh, big time, you know it," Natalie said. They looked at each other for a moment, then turned back to the window to see the paramedics finally loading Ernest into the ambulance.
"You know, 'Superman' is not the only hero at the NIH," Stephen said. Natalie narrowed her eyes, and looked at him. "You," he began, but couldn't find the words. "You. Woman, you save lives when the situation calls for it, you mend broken relationships, you fight off crazy ex-wives, you save the entire building from a lunatic running around with a gun, and you do this while putting up with me and my crap," Stephen said. He paused to wait for her reaction, but when there was none he continued. "I'm gonna start calling you 'Wonder Woman'." Natalie laughed at that, and so did he. Natalie laughed so hard she covered her mouth and had to hang on to the side of the window so she wouldn't fall over. Once she had calmed down enough, she wiped away the tears from her eyes, and gazed into those beautiful blue eyes of his.
"Yeah, 'Superman' and 'Wonder Woman', the ultimate couple, huh?" she said. Stephen grinned.
"My thoughts, exactly," he replied as he placed his hand on her arm. Natalie looked down to his hand, and took it in both of her hands. She ran her fingers over the spot where his wedding band used to be, and lightly caressed the rest of his hand. She brought his hand to her lips, and kissed his palm softly, then moved to another spot on his palm and kissed it again. She looked back up to him, and entwined their fingers. Stephen, looking as if his brain wasn't processing anything anymore, pulled their entwined hands to him, and kissed each and every one of her fingers, slowly and softly. Once he had kissed the last finger, he untwined their fingers and placed her hand over his heart, keeping it there with his hand, silently telling her what she wanted to hear more than anything. Natalie sighed, and every ounce of control she had left relinquished. She placed her hands on his face and pulled him to her, catching his lips in a bruising, but passionate kiss. As Natalie wrapped her arms around his neck, he wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her up off her feet, and continued to kiss her, mindlessly.
Finally, after an eternity, the need for air overpowered the need to feel each other's lips, and Stephen lowered her to her feet, and pulled away. It was then when he finally saw the tears of joy that were flowing down her cheeks, and he took it upon himself to kiss them away. Natalie's eyes closed as he kissed one cheek, and then the other, and finally, kissing down her neck, until he came to the base of her neck, where he buried his face to smell the scent that was Natalie, his Natalie. Natalie kept her arms around his shoulders as they both stood there and just held each other. Tomorrow, there would be no need to worry, because finally, finally, they belonged to each other, and nothing would tear them apart. Not deadly bacteria, not crazy ex-wives, not a lunatic with a gun, not even Lex Luthor himself could tear them apart.
They wouldn't allow it. Not 'Superman' and 'Wonder Woman.'