He was crazy. Reckless, violent, chauvinist, and crazy. When she first met him, she would have said he was a menace to society, as so many other people claimed. After she got to know him a little better…. Well, true, he was still reckless, violent, chauvinist, and crazy. But he knew it. So did she. And somehow, being around him made her a little more reckless, a little more violent…and everybody said they knew she was crazy for sticking with him when she could have moved on in her career. So in their own ways, they were both crazy. So be it.
Not that it didn't wake her up at night. She had a recurring dream in which she beat the pulp out of a nun who was jaywalking, only to find that the nun was only jaywalking because she was blind and had missed the crosswalk. Every time she had this dream, she woke up hating herself, vowing not to let him influence her any more than necessary, not to succumb to the darker impulses within herself, not to eat spicy foods so close to bedtime.
The first time she had the dream, she told him about it at work the next day. That was a mistake. He went off for twenty minutes on the state of the regulated crossings in the downtown area, and how people ignored them, and how it would seem that whole age groups had gone blind, based on the number of kids he saw running across streets a few yards down from the crosswalks, and on and on and on. She had actually been glad to hear of the robbery case they were assigned to that day; he might have kept up his tirade for hours otherwise.
As time passed, she found it harder and harder to resist smiling at his madcap antics. She began to stop flinching when he reached for his gun. She became quicker to put her martial arts training into practice offensively instead of just defensively.
One day, she caught herself studying his right hand, his gun hand, and idly wondering if he caressed his gun as he slept, if his touch was more tender when he was unconscious, and she had to cover her embarrassment at this train of thought by pretending to choke on her coffee. He had come over to slap her on the back helpfully, which quickly turned pretend choking into actual choking and blissfully caused her to forget the thoughts that had caused the incident. For a time.
It was pointless, she knew, to allow any attraction to exist between working partners, especially when one of them was in a monogamous relationship with a sidearm. But maybe that very pointlessness was itself the point: it was a challenge. He was a challenge. A challenge she was determined—to ignore. She was a cop, not some silly schoolgirl. She had enough to handle with proving herself as a legitimate law enforcement officer in a world that still saw her legs as ornaments before weapons. She didn't have time to prove to him that women could be colleagues and that colleagues could be women. There wasn't enough time in the world. The equation was too difficult.
Then he asked her to marry him.
She couldn't help it. She laughed. "Are you…serious?" she said, and she suddenly found herself in the awkward position of believing that he was serious and believing that he could never be serious.
He paused. "No," he said, shaking his head.
She rested her arms on the bar and buried her face in them, the better to take deep, calming breaths, the kind she had tried repeatedly to teach Captain Trunk. The better to hide the tears of frustration burning the corners of her eyes. The better to grimace and mutter in a decidedly unladylike way.
"I'm bushed, too, Doreau," he said, "but this is no place for a nap!"
She raised her head sharply, teeth still bared and facial muscles still contorted.
"Whoa," he said, with a hint of admiration. "Whatever you have to say to me with that face, Doreau, this bar is not the place for that, either. Let's go."
She stormed past him and out the door. He picked up his pace and followed.
"Where are you going?" he called after her.
"I can take the bus," she said.
"What's the point of that? My car's right here, I can drive you home."
"Look," she said, turning on him, "I can't…."
She stopped and stared at him intently. For just a second, she had seen…but that was…wasn't it? Impossible?
"You were serious," she said.
He did a double-take.
He reached for his sunglasses.
He shook his head and put the sunglasses on.
"What…I mean…no! Not at all!"
"I mean…I don't even know what you're talking about!"
He laughed, shaking his head.
"Honestly, there's no telling where you women get your ideas! Crazy. I don't know where your head's at!"
Doreau folded her arms and tilted her head to one side. "Sledge, it's after 9:00 at night."
"Your point being?"
"It's a little late for sunglasses."
"Yeah, whatever, Doreau. Hey, you're going to miss your bus."
"No," she said. "No, I don't think I am."
He shoved his hands in his trouser pockets. "I'm out of here. See you at the precinct."
"Sledge," she called after him. He stopped, but didn't turn around. "If it's okay with you, I'd like to take you up on that ride offer."
He removed his sunglasses as he turned to face her. "I'll take you home anytime you want, Doreau." He fumbled with the glasses as he tried to slip them in his jacket pocket. "That is…what I meant to say…that came out wrong…."
On her way to the passenger side of the car, she stopped and kissed him.
"I don't know," she said. "I think I heard you all right."
Before he got into the car, she saw him shaking his head as if to clear it. She smiled to herself.
He had been serious. Given time, he would be even more serious. For some reason, she felt she was ready to give him that time. She was ready to wait.
In her own way, she realized she was at least as crazy as he had ever been. And she realized that she was okay with that.
Crazy always seemed to work for them.