I mull over that moment for a while. All through my surgery in fact. I have to, since they gave me a local and won't let me watch. (The stuff on TV these days and they're worried about someone getting faint during their own surgery. I mean, really.) It happened so fast, I'm 50% convinced that I didn't see anything at all and 45% convinced that he was just leaning in for a hug. But that 5% has me grinning from ear to ear for a moment.
"What so funny?" the surgeon asks.
After enjoying the glow, I force reality to set in. It would not be the first time I have misread a man's friendly intent for something more, though it's usually the flirtatious types that get those messages confused. While Alec is warm and friendly, he is definitely not a flirt. But, as I look at my bruised face in the mirror, now with 27 tiny black stitches in my eyelid replacing my eyelashes, I'm not exactly the sort of girl one risks one's career over.
Oh yes. Professional ethics.
Damn them all.
So it is with a wistful sigh I bundle everything into my backpack after I have been discharged.
"Oh good, I caught you. Let's have a look. May I?" I can feel Alec's long fingers splaying through my hair as he tips my head back slightly and surveys the sutures appreciatively. "Nice work. I told you he was the best. What's so funny?"
He lets me go and pulls something from one of the many huge pockets in his coverall. Then suddenly, adorably, he seems a little unsure.
"I, uh, brought you one of my t-shirts. So you won't be subjected to public scrutiny in pastel polkadots."
"Again, that's very kind of you. Thank you." He steps to the far side of the curtain as I pull it closed to change. "I'll wash it and get it back to you."
"No need. It just a vest really, I get them in a six pack."
Calvin Klein. Expensive six pack. But I say nothing, tucking the white v-neck into my jeans, one half of which has recently become a pair of shorts to get over my cast. It's not a tent on me, but it does need to be tucked in to...bring out some of my better features.
"Well I appreciate it. You have no idea," I say as I pull the curtain back. "There are many things I can withstand, but pastels are not one of them. I had enough that, and neon, as a teenager."
"Don't remind me." He shudders comically, studiously keeping his eyes above my collarbone after a quick glance. After I refuse a chair, he carries my backpack down to the exit as I get to know using crutches for the first time in a while. It's all rather charmingly "high school" as we chat about our embarrassing clothing and musical tastes from that era. And even more reluctantly admitting some of the musical tastes still cling.
"No, you seriously do not know the lengths to which I go to hide it." He leans in conspiratorially. "If Naz realized that the "West African Rhythms" playlist on my iPod was actually a bunch of 1980's dance music, I would never hear the end of it. Ever."
"I did a tour with Medicines Sans Frontiers a few years ago in Liberia, Sierra Leone. It's the perfect cover."
"…Wow. That's rough duty."
He shrugs noncommittally. Whether in humility or avoidance of the topic, I can't tell.
After reception calls a cab, we head outside where he deposits my bag on a bench.
"Well, I should get back to work." He looks at me regretfully.
"Yeah," I reply lamely, looking at my toes wiggling in my cast. Oh this is pathetic. "I was wondering if maybe you wanted to get a cup of coffee or something. Your next day off, I mean."
Suddenly he is extremely unsure, shifting uncomfortably and glancing down, taking a deep breath before looking me dead in the eyes (Wow, blue. His eyes have gone pale sky blue.) and launching into, "Look, you must understand you've just been through a very dramatic experience, one that naturally left you feeling very vulnerable. You may be confusing feelings of comfort and gratitude for a false sense of intimacy..."
I let him paternally pontificate on in this vein for a few minutes, his head tilted downward to meet my eyes as if trying very hard to explain something complicated to a small child.
Condescending, but cute.
Because what is pointedly missing from this well-rehearsed speech was even the slightest indication of a lack of interest, which I know is what is advised in these situations: A gentle but clear and firm brush off. And a doctor this good looking has had to have dealt with this situation more than a few times. But it's not there. Not even an "I'm flattered but..." statement. Not "I don't want this," but the assumption "You're making a mistake."
I nod sagely as he comes to a rather eloquent finish about "...my true feelings sorting themselves out once I've had a few days to reflect."
"Are you finished?"
"Er..." He blinks in surprise.
"First of all, don't tell me how I feel," I reply. "That's really annoying. Secondly, this is not the first time I have been injured. However, this *is* the first time I have found someone in the hospital attractive. And third, we got about as "intimate" as two complete strangers trapped in an elevator for an hour. I don't make life decisions based on an hour of conversation, but I will ask someone to lunch on it. You were barely my doctor for all of 15 minutes almost 20 hours ago. You are certainly not my doctor now. So..." I lean forward slightly, looking up at him condescendingly as he had just looked down at me, jamming my hands deep into my front pockets in a seemingly innocuous move that is a guaranteed cleavage attention draw. "You can stop with the psychiatric analysis, stop trying quite so hard to not eye the way I fill out your t-shirt, and call me after your shift is over...Or don't. In any case, thanks for everything and it was very nice to meet you."
If I could have rocked up onto my tip toes, I would have finished what he started earlier. As it is, I have to settle for sticking my hand out, which he shakes briefly and then strides back inside without another word.
Upon catching sight of myself in the reflective windows of the building, I congratulate the British pharmaceutical industry. Did I really just make a pass at a staggeringly handsome man looking like that? Oh Gawd."