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Author's Chapter Notes:
DD's been asking me to update this for a long time now. Sorry it was such a long wait! Not sure where I'm going with the story but I do plan to continue.
The table had already been cleared and wiped down when he got back. A little disappointed since there’d been quite a bit of food left, David slumped his shoulders and sat back down in the booth. He’d only been there a few minutes when the waiter came over, apologizing about taking the food and offering him a replacement order. David immediately filed this information in the back of his mind, since in his pretty lengthy history of food and restaurant experiences such a thing was practically unheard of.

“That’d be great, thanks. I’m actually gonna wait here awhile if that’s all right…” he told the waiter, looking around a little doubtfully as the line at the counter kept growing.

“No problem, this crowd will probably be take-out orders anyway. Just let me know when you want me to get started on your stuff, okay?” the waiter answered cheerfully, heading back to the front of the restaurant before David could come up with a suitable reply. He sat back in the booth and tried to relax a little, although his heart was still racing from the discussion he’d just had as much as the jog.

**********

Miranda wasn’t able to keep her mind on much of anything, which was one of the reasons she was happy to be on rounds rather than something more intensive. Not that she was completely lost in her thoughts, of course. She was able to hold conversations with all the patients, aside from the ones who were already asleep, and her checks found nothing amiss with any of them. Some were in pretty bad shape and she felt incredibly sad for them as she always did, but the conversation with David was at the forefront of her mind. At least for tonight.

She couldn’t help feeling a little guilty in being grateful for that, but she did all the same. It felt somehow wrong to be glad to focus on her own life for once, no matter how messed up that was, than to feel her heart breaking at what felt like every other room. Not that the talk with David could completely take away her empathy for her patients or the sadness she always felt when she knew the situation was nearly hopeless, but it did help her not to focus on it so much. Which she considered a good thing.

Finally stopping to take her long overdue evening break, she sat at one of the tables in the lounge with her head resting on one hand, the other playing with her nametag. She noticed that she really needed to update the picture on that thing; she hadn’t worn her hair like that for years, and it made her look a lot younger than she felt she should.

“I’m trying to be a respectable adult here,” she muttered aloud to the image on the nametag before she could stop herself, then shook her head in dismay and sighed. She had no idea whether it was her recent lack of sleep, the stress from the job or tonight’s conversation with David, but she hadn’t felt this much like a teenager even when she’d been one.

She knew she’d handled things badly. She probably would have even if she’d been well-rested, though. Romantic conversations and feelings in general weren’t something she excelled at, and she’d considered herself lucky that nothing like that had come up for a long time now. She’d known she’d have to discuss it with David for some time, but his taking the lead in the discussion had been a relief. She’d been somewhat surprised by his honesty and how open he was about his feelings, and while she’d told him she’d felt the same, she hadn’t really elaborated. She’d honestly had no idea how to do so, and was immensely grateful that she’d needed to come back to work. She did feel awful for running out on him the way she had, but that much emotion hitting her at once hadn’t been something she’d expected and she’d had no idea how to react.

She still didn’t, but she knew she was going to have to come up with some way to talk about it. He was coming back before too long, and when he did, she was going to have to tell him something. No matter how vulnerable it made her feel, or how much it would break her to realize that although she cared for him a great deal, he was going to take the job and leave her anyway.

There was no reason for him not to. It had been the same with her father; while she knew and had always known that he loved her mother, Miranda had realized early on that his job would always come first. She couldn’t even blame him for it, really. He’d sacrificed so much of his life training for it and then dedicating himself to it that it was no real wonder he’d placed it before his wife and child in many ways.

Not that she didn’t resent him for it, and for the affair that still upset her if she let it into her mind in any way. But she could understand it, and that was the point. She could never ask David to stay for her. Even if they’d been a couple, and they weren’t. She couldn’t allow herself to be the reason he put his career in jeopardy, no matter how deeply she felt for him.

She had to really think about that, too. She’d been avoiding it for so long now that it was hard to judge just how she felt about him. At first it had been no more than a passing crush, but as their days working together had become more familiar and more welcome, she’d noticed an intensification of her feelings. Which was no surprise; she’d studied enough psychology to realize that the very nearness of him was probably the reason her feelings had continued to develop. She didn’t think that made them any less real, though. If anything, it probably made them more valid. But she couldn’t let that familiarity and feeling of safety influence her, especially not now.

She knew it was futile to think about it, but as she sat in that chilly lounge by herself she couldn’t help wondering how things might have been if she’d admitted her feelings earlier rather than dismissing them as something unsubstantial. She was lonely, and had been for a long time. The guys she’d seen for a date or two had never really gotten close enough to make her feel anything real, and David had done that from the very start. She’d heard about things like that, but had never thought they were anything more than romantic passing fancies brought on by too many romance novels and movies. She’d brushed it off, and now she wondered where things might have been if she hadn’t.

A passing nurse made her shake her head and get up from the table. She still didn’t know what she’d say to David when he got there, but there was no point staring at the table thinking about it. With an exasperated sigh, she adjusted her nametag and went back to her rounds.

**********

David was there at 9:50, a white bag with a fresh cheesesteak and fries in his hand when Miranda walked out of Three Rivers. “They remade the order for me,” he told her upon seeing her surprised expression when she opened the bag and steam hit her face. “Hope you’re hungry.”

She graced him with one of her rare smiles, and he felt ridiculous at the way his heart leapt at the sight. But as they started walking and she began to tell him very matter-of-factly about the thoughts she’d had sitting in the lounge, his heart seemed to crash back down to earth again. She was talking fast while looking at the ground, seeming determined to get everything out. He decided to let her finish, and when she had, he sighed and stopped walking.

“You make good points,” he started, and held up his hand when she tried to interrupt. “But I think you should consider how I feel.”

Miranda glanced at him and looked away again quickly. “You’ll be gone less than a month before it stops mattering,” she said. The words made him sad, but her tone even moreso. She wasn’t bitter or angry, just sad.

“I don’t really think you can say that with any authority,” he replied. The usual joking between them was gone, and he was completely serious. She’d hurt him, and it was evident in his voice.

“That’s how life is,” she said with a resolute shrug. “People move, and they move on. It’s how it has to be.” She started walking again, more to distance herself from the conversation than from him, but he still had to jog a few feet to keep up.

“It’s my life, and my career. I’d like to think that I have at least some say in the matter.”

“Obviously, but you need to make the decision for your career, not for me,” Miranda said firmly.

“I can set my own priorities,” he shot back stubbornly. “We haven’t even given it a chance, why are you so sure it would fail?”

She sighed. “I can’t be sure of that, but you can’t be sure it’ll work, either. It’s stupid to throw away an opportunity like this for a relationship that could implode in a day.”

“I could hate the job,” he countered. “I love Three Rivers. I’m comfortable here and I can advance. Maybe not as fast as in Chicago, but the possibility is there. And you’re here…” he saw Miranda shaking her head slowly and took her hand. “Please don’t sabotage it. If you really don’t want to try, we won’t.”

“It has nothing to do with what I want,” she said, getting a little annoyed at his lack of understanding. “I just DON’T want you to sacrifice your career for something that may or may not work.”

“I’m not sacrificing my career. If I’m good, I’ll get more offers. And it should be my choice where I work and where I live.”

The conversation ended when Miranda realized they were very close to her building. She turned to look at David, confused as to what to do. He didn’t look any more confident, though. Still, she decided not to analyze it when he leaned in to kiss her, deciding to just let things play out as they would.

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