Spoilers for Home, Teliko, and Unruhe.
I'm not a dense person, at least I don't consider myself one, but watching her now, I can almost smack myself. I was not only dense, but self-deluded to boot. How did I not see this earlier? Why did it take me almost two months to figure it out?
Denial is my first guess. Finding a woman who is not only smart, but beautiful, in the Washington DC dating market is damn near impossible. And, if she isn't married to her cell phone, or compelled to gab incessantly about policy and politics, you've struck gold. As far as I could tell, I'd struck diamond with Dana.
She was even sane.
I met her in a small independent bookstore downtown, we were both browsing the medical sciences periodicals. She's a doctor and agent with the FBI, which while some guys might be threatened, I was relieved. I'm a neurosurgeon, my manhood is pretty protected. More importantly, she wouldn't be needy or bitch at me when I had to cancel a date or got paged away from one.
So, I invited her for coffee. It was nice, though she didn't seem to want to talk too much about her own work, except to say that it was demanding and she did a lot of traveling. Dana did mention her partner though, a few times, and I got the feeling they were close. Not really a worry though, they were cops, it was normal.
I liked her. She was interesting to talk to, and when she wasn't being too guarded she showed her great sense of humor. By the third date, I was thanking god I finally found a great woman and excellent excuse to turn down the constant blind dates my mother and her Mahjong group set up.
I got the first inkling that I might, might be in over my head when she canceled our fourth date. It was a good excuse, certainly one for the books. She was under quarantine. Literally. Dana called me from inside a military hospital where her and her partner were being detained and monitored for symptoms of an unknown pathogen. She couldn't identify it, but at least three people in the small town they were in had been infected and it was spreading. She and her partner were exposed while she was conducting an autopsy on the first person it killed.
Yeah, she's a death doctor. Horrified my mom, but I only liked her that much more.
Anyway, after determining that she was alright, and probably wasn't sick, I told her to keep my updated. She promised, sounding more pissed than worried or scared; I got the distinct impression that it wasn't an uncommon occurrence.
So, her job comes with a few quirks... I enjoy her company and she's cute, I could live with that.
Dana was stuck in quarantine for two weeks, and was in the office the morning after they were released. Paperwork, she'd said, before they went home to their own beds. I shifted a surgery to later in the day, and showed up with flowers. She was surprised, but I could tell she was touched. That was also the day I met her partner, and I'll admit to a little flare up of insecurity.
I knew he studied psychology at Oxford, and was the FBI goldenboy for several years. Dana said he was very smart, that his mind makes leaps that no one else can see. That's why she likes working with him, she's never bored. Needless to say, I expected the guy to look like a nerd. Nope. The SOB looks like he just stepped off a GQ cover. Now, I'm not a bad looking guy, and as a surgeon, I have no trouble with women, but that doesn't mean I want my girlfriend spending forty or more hours a week with Mr. GQ. Or overnight trips.
But, I decided to be an adult, and respect their relationship for what it was, rather than freak out about something I knew it wasn't.
Then she left to get a vase for the flowers, I was stuck there alone with him, and developed a certain sympathy for those bugs in specimen jars. He studied me, and I really mean studied me, as if he was trying to read my mind. It took me all of two minutes to remember that he was a behavioral profiler, and realize that that was exactly what he was trying to do.
I stood there stupidly, and watched him study me. His expression was mostly passive, but I could have sworn I saw sadness pass through his hazel eyes, just before he put on a bright smile. It wasn't fake per say, but I could tell he was feeling something else behind that superficial happiness. But, he was a man of few words.
"She's happy with you...keep it that way."
Anything else he could have said would have been redundant offered beside the threat on his otherwise expressionless face. Serious, meaningful, that about covered it. The way an older brother looks at you--hurt his baby sister, and you'll live to regret it (especially when you're explaining to future dates why you can't have children). I'm not easily intimidated, but the man had a gun (somewhere, he's a Fed), and he was only looking out for her well-being. I could let that go. Besides, you don't get into a fight with your girl's best friend. You'll always lose. So, I'd simply nodded at him, and he seemed satisfied with that.
That night Dana showed up at my apartment with a bottle of Merlot and a smile. Any early misgivings regarding her partner were quickly forgotten. I don't know where they get it from, but Catholic girls know their way around a bedroom, catechism and confession be damnded. That helped me make a decision later that night when things took a drastic turn.
The idea that I might be in over my head came back like a sledgehammer to my face.
She had a nightmare. Not a bad dream, but a full-blown nightmare, complete with waking up gasping and shaking like a leaf. I think seeing an unfamiliar apartment upset her more, but she calmed down once the light was on and she was more awake. She was embarrassed then, and explained with more detachment that I could ever have had, about a case she'd had two weeks before the whole quarantine episode. A guy had abducted her, and nearly shoved an ice pick through her eye in an attempt to give her a lobotomy.
Holy Fucking Shit.
I thought my job was stressful.
I realized that night, that if I was going to date her, it was going to be serious. No fooling around. That kind of baggage comes with a lot of responsibility, and no room for the head games of dating. It was a bit of a daunting thought, but ultimately, I was alright with it. I'm 36, I don't really want to screw around anymore. I'm looking for a woman to settle down and start a family with, not take on a drunken club-hopping binge. Besides, a smart, independent, beautiful sex-kitten needs a fault, or she'd be wonderwoman.
We continued seeing each other, though between my schedule at the hospital, and her cases, the nights together weren't as common as I would have liked. I had another moment of pause after one of her cases made headlines, something about an extremely inbred family. A couple cops were killed, and I was reminded that part of dating a cop is wondering if they're coming home. It was an unnerving realization. What if I fell in love with this woman? What if we got married and had kids? How many nights would I like awake wondering? Could I handle that?
I buried all of that for the time being, we weren't quite that serious yet, there was no need to get scared yet.
I also got to see firsthand the stress of a weapons discharge review. Both her and her partner had a mound of paperwork, and hearings with their superiors. They'd both fired their weapons, and killed two men. Dana wouldn't say much besides that, but I had the opportunity to talk to her partner alone again. She'd emptied her clip into a guy, and saved him from getting his head taken off. He was clearly grateful, but she felt guilty for taking a life.
Hell, maybe she is wonderwoman.
That brings us to Philadelphia, now. Dana came here on a case, and I got here early this morning. It's a radical procedure we're going to perform, and I'm both flattered and excited to be included, as one of the best in my specialty. We're prepping and discussing with the patient today, and will begin surgery tomorrow morning. It's going to be long, very long.
I've been in Thomas Jefferson Hospital all day, and I wandered into the ER to talk to an old Med school buddy, when the intake nurse began shouting that they were bringing in an FBI agent with complete paralysis. I knew Dana was in the city, so I was afraid it was her. I was relieved (yes, I'm an ass) to hear her partner's name tossed around. I watched as paramedics rushed the gurney in the hospital, Dana jogging beside them, one hand around her partner's limp one, speaking soothingly to him.
I managed to catch her eye despite the chaos, and she called that she'd talk to me later. That was an hour ago. He's still paralyzed, though I'm told it's getting better. He can talk a little, move his fingers and toes, but she hasn't moved from his side, and they still held hands. I was telling myself not to be jealous, I already knew they were very close. This might have scared her as much as it had him.
She brushed hair away from his face. It was very intimate. It might have meant nothing between two other people, but it was impossible to even think that with them. I swear to god, I'm seriously wondering if their psychic. I can see them through the window, looking very intently at each other. Occasionally, one of them speaks, but they don't seem to need it. I've seen people communicate silently, but with Dana and her partner it's different. Honestly, it's just...spooky.
I knock on the door and enter.
"Doug, hi, did you have your surgery yet?" She still doesn't move.
"No, today was all prep. How's he doing?" I nodded toward Mulder.
"Better, he can talk a little. Actually, would you stay with him a minute, I need to uh, hit the bathroom."
"Sure, go ahead," I said. She smiled gratefully, finally released his hand, and headed out the door.
"Ul'ike hilly?" A voice slurred behind me.
"I'm having a better time here than you," I chuckled.
He offered an awkward grin, still not in control of his muscles enough to look anything but emotionally disturbed. There was even a little bit of drool on the corner of his mouth.
"Ow uch lon'er am I hon the hort bus?"
"Nobody knows what the guy gave you, so we're not sure. But, you're doing pretty good, I'd say a few hours," I said, standing beside him. "...so, you guys had some excitement tonight?"
He snorted. I suppose I'd be pissed too.
"Didn't think I'd see Dana for days, until I got back to D.C.," I said.
"Miss er l'ready?"
I shrugged. "Maybe."
"Sh'is easy to'miss." He eyes looked toward the door as if to prove his point.
"You two are really close, aren't you?" I asked, though I knew the answer. I suppose I just needed to hear it.
"Ike heas in a hod." He tried to smile again, and it was as warped as before, but I realized that drooly, nightmarish grin probably made my girlfriend very happy. "Sorry to'ake all yer girl's 'ime."
For some reason I started at that, as if it didn't sound right. I think we both realized it at the same time, a look between men who share the same woman. Really, I already knew it, but I guess it was confirmation. Maybe he knew it too, because I was surprised to see not only relief, but also disappointment in his face. As if, while he wanted her, he really wanted more for her than himself.
Part of me hated him then, and wanted to let him have a right hook, but... He just looked so pathetic, and seemed to have such a low opinion of himself, it didn't seem fair. If he wasn't drooling at me, I might have, but as it were, that would have been like picking on the smallest kid with the biggest glasses and worst lisp. He's already suffering enough, no need to make it worse.
We both turned at the sound of the door, him much slower and more deliberately. He smiled at her--still the warped clown grin with drool glistening on his chin. As if to confirm my thoughts, she returned his smile, with one that suggested that fucked-up grin was the best thing she'd seen all day.
She'd never be my girl.