12: Clearing the Air
Tom strode down the hall with all the speed of a grazing herd. His eyes were on his charts, but his head was still toying with recollections of the meeting that concluded not fifteen minutes prior.
He'd waited weeks to even come forward with his discovery. He wanted to keep his word to Mr. Porter regarding retention of rights, royalties, and such for his work to date. So, he'd hired lawyers to draft documents and contracts to protect Porter's investment in the process should the board even consider using it.
Pitching a new medical procedure to a generation of men and women that weren't always focused the best method to save lives – rather the least costly – was never an easy thing. He'd taken a tremendous risk, and put his reputation on the line by even proposing the meeting in the first place.
Topping it all off was his severe dislike of speaking in front of others, and he'd spent the entire meeting trying not to get defensive at even the most innocuous questions.
He was still questioning his own decision to even propose this to his hospital. Steve was right, he'd really done a turnaround on how he felt about this process and the man who created it. He still got twinges of guilt and betrayal that he didn't just hammer the guy for what happened with Mira.
And yet, the proof was right there…
The guy's team had kept meticulous notes about her process, her progress, and the times when her health had taken turns for the worse. Compared to the other patient's experiences, hers seemed to be an outlier case and not the norm for the process.
And in the end, it seemed that the board was going to buy off on it.
A small smile managed to crawl across Tom's face, because he wanted to see just what this process could become in a well-supported, well-staffed environment.
He'd happily give up cybernetics in favor of natural replacements to amputations, deformities and birth defects.
Finally he put his notes away and started into his rounds. As usual, he saved Mira's room for last.
Quietly he opened her door, half expecting her to be asleep at this point. He was more than a little shocked to find that Mira was propped up on some pillows. In the high left corner of the room the vid was on, but Mira wasn't focused on it, even before he opened the door.
In fact, she lifted her single-eyed gaze from an electronic reader.
"Well, good evening," she stated, a crooked grin on her face. The reader settled into her lap. "Was beginning to think you'd dropped me off your rounds."
"Had to go on a field trip," he evaded. "The backup crew treated you well, I hope?"
She shrugged, and then winced when it pulled at the stitches in her side.
"Careful," Tom uttered, slipping further into the room.
She grunted his direction. "Just healed enough that I forget it's there sometimes."
Nodding knowingly, Tom finally settled his frame onto a bench across from her bed. She noted the lack of proximity, for she leaned closer looking confused.
He tapped his fingers, wondering just how much he should tell her about what he'd found out in that remote mountain facility.
"Your 'field trip'? You went and found the guy didn't you?"
He sucked a breath before he could check his responses. His gaze darted to her, locking on her intent expression.
Finally, he let his head droop. "How could I not?"
When he hesitated, a sigh of frustration escaped her. A knot formed in his gut that she could still read him so easily even after all the time since their breakup.
"You went soft on him, didn't you?"
Tom took a deep breath, trying to settle his body's reactions.
"We looked at the records, talked to the remaining patients." He shook his head negatively. "Your case was the only one with complications."
"Complications?" She glared at him. "Seriously, Tom? He left me awake!"
"He had to."
"No, no he didn't. He did it just because he could!"
Once again, Tom negated her assessment. Leaning forward he explained what they'd found. "It wasn't his fault, Mira. It was the prosthetic's – my fault."
Mira straightened, looking flabbergasted.
"Trust me, I didn't want to believe it. Steve didn't want to believe it. But the evidence was all there for us to read."
Disappointment and weariness settled into his chest – waiting for Mira to blast him for his shoddy design.
When the silence went on too long, Tom felt compelled to speak again.
"I'll understand if you don't want to be my patient anymore."
Still she said nothing, the only sign of emotion was the working of her lower jaw in slow circles, almost as if she was chewing on his information.
Once again he felt the need to break the tense silence. "Now that you're stable enough, we'll get you transferred over to Concord General. I've already spoken to Henry, he's agreed to handle your case personally."
"It'll be about two weeks."
"What if… I'd rather stay?"
Tom grit his teeth. He shook his head, finally angry with the toying Mira was doing with him. "I can't do this," he muttered raising his eyes to meet hers.
"What?" She feigned innocence. "It's obvious you still care. Why else would you go out of your way? We could…"
His cheeks flushed hot at the innuendo in her words. He cut her off before she could say more. "What do you want from me?"
She turned a somewhat coy expression on him
"No… no, no, no." He rose to his feet, shaking his head. Decision came to him quickly – surprising considering his previous indecision. "I can't do this again. I gave you nearly two years of my life, heart and soul. You dropped me because I wasn't allowed to have my own beliefs – because you harbored a prejudice you never let me in on. It wasn't easy recovering from that – I'm still recovering from that. Yeah, I loved you – I still do, but it's not fair for you to do this."
He stalled as anger and frustration built behind his breastbone. "I've tried to move on, Mira. I've got someone else in my life, someone I love. I will not let you ruin that for me. Stop taunting me like this! You can't have me back."
He was about to say more, but further argument was stalled in his throat by her expression. She wasn't upset… she was… smiling!
When she started nodding and clapping, he was even more thrown for a loop. "Damn, it took you long enough."
"What?" was all his shocked brain could come up with.
Flexing her regrown hand, she peeked from it to his stunned stare and back again. Finally, she lowered it into her lap and met his gaze in full. "I've been waiting for you to tell me to go fuck myself for a while now. Was beginning to think you were never going to get there."
Unable to articulate, Tom merely blinked.
She scooted closer to the head of the bed, leaning toward him. "You think I didn't see your conflict? At your house at Christmas? When I woke up to your ugly mug?"
The last startled an unexpected laugh out of him.
"I knew our parting couldn't have smothered how you felt for me. What I said in my delirium state couldn't have made things better."
"No," Tom admitted, now embarrassed and just a bit mad that she knew he wasn't over her.
She sighed peering down at her hands before continuing. "We both know, we're not the best match. We'd never work out – and not even for the reasons I originally thought. I just – I didn't want you to be stuck in that limbo, wondering if I meant something more than I intended. Have I missed you? Yeah, I have. But it's like I said at Christmas. I just want us to be friends again. I didn't meant to threaten what you have with Sarah, and I'm sorry if that's how that came across."
"Oh." Tom was stupefied as the facts fell firmly into place. He looked away, and then unable to help himself, he started laughing. He laughed so hard tears sprang from his eyes.
Mira was smiling too but looked as if she didn't quite get the humor. "You okay?" she giggled.
He wiped the moisture off of his cheeks. "I am such a fool!" he chuckled, finally coming down off of the high. He shook his head. "God Mira, you don't know how much better you just made me feel."
That giddiness followed Tom home that night. It was as if a huge burden had been lifted. No more divided loyalties. He'd managed to set himself free of the anxiety and fear.
He found Sarah in the kitchen looking somber as she fixed the evenings meal. He pulled her around and before she could protest or ask what was going on, Tom pulled her into him and smothered her protest with a kiss.
She struggled a bit, but soon melted into him. Tom hugged her tighter to him, lifting her smaller body up until she was supported by the countertop.
He leaned back cupping her cheeks with his hands and smiling at her.
She licked her lips, searching his expression and when it did not give her the answer she was looking for, she said, "Wow, what was that all about?"
"Because, I am a fool." Tom shrugged and pecked her on the lips again.
"That has never warranted a kiss before." She tilted her head to one side.
"I love you Sarah Roy, and I have neglected you these past weeks. I have taken your love for granted – I apologize profusely and beg you to forgive me."
She shook her head. "I have no idea what brought this on Thomas Martin, but you'd better not be pulling my leg."
He was already shaking his head in the negative, pinching his lips on a Cheshire grin. "I guarantee you – I mean every word of it."
"You can explain later." She laced a hand across the back of his neck. "Dinner can wait." She drew him close returning the passion of the previous kiss three fold.
She scooted closer to him. She always did like the disparate feeling of flesh and titanium against her, liked how the hot and cold heightened the experience for her. He realized just how much he missed her enthusiasm over him.
Tom pulled her off the counter, easily supporting her as he headed someplace more comfortable. Sarah never stopped kissing him during the transition. As the flopped onto the sectional, she said, "Welcome home."
A/N: Oh look a wild update! Yeah I'd been having trouble tying what happened last chapter to what's been in this chapter seemingly forever! LOL BUT I think I finally got it nailed down! So yeah!
Mira feels she has to take drastic measures to get Tom to break the thread eh? Not sure Tom liked that strategy, but it all worked out in the end!
Soooo... just one more chapter in this tale to go! I am not going to spoil things by telling you in advance!