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They Take Their Shots (We're Bulletproof)

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i.

The first time it happens, it takes them both by surprise.

“Morgan, have you seen my shoes?” Mindy absentmindedly looks around her office, brow furrowed. “I barely took them off for two, maybe three hours, and now they’ve gone missing.” She gasps. “Is the ghost back?”

“Don’t worry, Dr. L!” Morgan suddenly appears in the doorway to her office, electric blue suede pumps in his hands. “I snuck ‘em out while you were taking a little napperoo at your desk. My buddy Dave’s a suede guy.”

She eyes him suspiciously, taking the shoes from his hands. “Thanks? I don’t know what they needed a suede guy for, but…”

“Oh, everybody needs a suede guy. He’s great with all kinds of animal skin, too, if you’re ever interested.”

“Sure, Morgan.” She slips the heels back on her feet. “Wait-- do you mean he’s a guy who works with suede? Or a guy who’s, like, into suede?”

Morgan’s wobbles his hand back and forth, palm flat. “Little bit of both?”

“Please never invite me to meet your friends.” Following him into the outer office, her mood suddenly shifts from run-of-the-mill Morgan-related distrust to glee. She claps excitedly. “When did all this happen?”

The office is completely covered in Christmas decorations. Garland adorns the reception desk; three separate trees are trimmed complete with brightly-colored lights; tinsel is strewn everywhere.

“It looks like Santa got shithoused on ‘nog and threw up in here,” says Peter, flipping through a stack of files.

“Shut up, Peter,” Mindy says, not sparing him a glance. She sighs happily. “It’s magical. Plus, I didn’t have to do any of the work!” She looks over at Morgan with urgency. “I plan to be equally absent for the clean-up, just so you know. Whatever day that’s happening, I have very important plans I just can’t break.”

“Got it.” Morgan nods solemnly, and Mindy goes back to admiring the decorations. Moments later, Danny walks in the front door of the practice, removing his coat and hanging it up. “Hey, Dr. C! Like what we’ve done with the place?”

Danny turns from the coat rack and scans the office warily. “It’s a little ostentatious, if you ask me.”

“I don’t know what that means,” says Morgan, “So I assume you love it!” Danny just shrugs, grabbing a file from reception and making his way to his office, passing Mindy as he goes. Morgan gasps suddenly, stopping Danny in his tracks and pulling Mindy’s attention from a set of Santa Claus nesting dolls. Morgan clears his throat pointedly, crossing his arms and looking up at the ceiling. Mindy’s and Danny’s eyes follow his gaze.

“Ah, Christ, Morgan, mistletoe? Really?” Danny sneers up at the hanging plant. “That’s the number one cause of winter onset oral herpes.”

“Excuse me, Danny, but my mouth is pristine,” says Mindy, pointing a finger at him. He’s only a couple of feet away, and if she reached out further, she could poke him in the chest to emphasize her point.

“Oh please; you’ve made out with half of New York City.”

“The clean half!”

“Joke’s on you, because there’s no way a full 50% of New Yorkers are clean.”

“Guys, guys, I hate to interrupt,” begins Morgan, “But you’re still standing under mistletoe. You gotta kiss.”

Mindy locks eyes with Danny. His face is twisted up in an expression that tells her everything she needs to know about how badly he does not want to kiss her right now, and she can’t say that she’s enthused about the idea, but she takes a tiny step toward him anyway.

Peter rolls his eyes from where he stands, still holding his files. “You know Morgan’s gonna physically press your faces together if you don’t do it.” A stony expression crosses his face. “And it won’t feel good.”

“Who’d he make you kiss?” Danny asks.

Peter’s eyes flick to where an oblivious Beverly stands by the water cooler, picking at her teeth with what appears to be a chicken bone. He shudders. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Dr. Prentice is right. You gotta kiss.”

Danny takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly, eyes on the offending plant hanging from the ceiling. Mindy taps her foot impatiently, arms crossed, then rolls her eyes. “Just get over here, Danny.”

“Fine,” he huffs, closing the distance between them. He leans in stiltedly, hands at his sides. She awkwardly moves her hand to hover at his shoulder, then his bicep, not quite touching him as she leans in, too. When their lips meet, it’s strange and familiar at once, Mindy thinks, and oh man are Danny’s lips soft. She kind of likes how this has shut him up, and her hand finally lands on his arm just as he breaks the kiss, pulling back a few inches. Their eyes meet and she finds herself holding her breath and she doesn’t quite know why.

“That kiss looked really great.” Morgan’s voice comes from somewhere to her left and far too close, and she turns to see he’s moved much closer, looking down at them expectantly. “Really, really great.”

Danny looks as if he’s about to say something, but doesn’t. Instead, he smiles tightly and turns around, slipping into his office and shutting the door. Mindy watches the closed door for a few seconds, thoughts muddled.

Morgan clears his throat, and she turns back to him, only to gasp when she sees he’s moved even closer. He stands in front of her, eyes closed and lips pursed, and she realizes he’s angling for his own mistletoe kiss. No chance, buddy.

“Ew, gross, Morgan, get your lips out of my face.” She swats at his shoulder and steps around him, crossing to her office. “If anybody here has an unclean mouth, it’s you.”

As she’s shutting her door behind her, mind still occupied by Danny’s freakishly soft lips, she hears him mutter, “They’re cold sores, and the CDC estimates that 80% of adults will have them by the time they die.”

She shakes her head, pushing cold sore facts and thoughts of Danny’s face parts out of her head, and sits at her desk. Nothing clears the mind like online shopping, and she happens to have swiped a stack of discount codes from beside the register the last time she was in Kate Spade.



ii.

The second time it happens, it’s inevitable.

It’s Friday, and it’s been a long one for Mindy. An early-morning delivery followed by three lengthy new patient consultations would exhaust anybody. In fact, everyone in the office seems to have been unusually busy all day, and irritation shows on their faces.

“God, I could use a drink,” Mindy says, rolling her neck until she hears a satisfying pop and leaning on the reception desk.

“You can come to the club with me and my girl Asia,” offers Tamra. “She’s really flexible and so we won’t have to pay for drinks all night.”

“As fun as ‘da club’ sounds, Tamra, I think I’ll have to take a rain check. I don’t have the energy for that kind of thing today.”

“Probably for the best. They might not let you in wearing so many layers.”

Mindy looks down at herself, affronted. She gestures broadly at the navy cashmere sweater she wears over a cream-colored button-down with tiny teal polka dots. “This is incredibly sexy, and it’s probably a good thing I’m not going with you and your friend because all of the men would be paying attention to me, and there’d be none left for you.”

“Whatever you say, Dr. L,” Tamra says, though Mindy has an inkling she doesn’t mean it.

“Danny and Jeremy and I are going over to the Spotted Dog, if you wanna come,” says Peter, exiting his office. “We’re gonna do bro stuff, but you can be a bro for the night.”

“Aww,” Mindy grins. “I can be a bro?”

“Yeah. Just mess up your hair a little, and play darts with us, and only order brown drinks.”

“Okay, well, my haircuts cost more than your life, probably, so I’m gonna keep this look,” she waves a hand over her head, “in tact. And I have delicate bird wrists so if I throw a dart they might snap in half, and only clear liquids are allowed on the Elementary School Skinny diet, so I can do none of those things. But I’ll totally be your bro tonight!”

“Dude, you invited Mindy?” Danny comes out of his office, flicking off the light and shouldering his bag. “That’s fine, Pete, if all you want to do tonight is take quizzes on her phone about which Kardashian you are.”

“I’m a Disick, obviously.”

“Okay, cool it, guys,” Mindy says, holding her hands up placatingly. “I may have the hair of Khloe, the face of Kourtney, and the body of Kim, but I can still be a bro.”

“Prove it,” says Danny, one eyebrow raised tauntingly, and she narrows her eyes and makes for the door, because Mindy Lahiri doesn’t back down from a challenge.




Of course, an hour and forty minutes later, when she’s spent altogether too much money on some kind of bourbon that Peter forced her to order that had “dick” in the name, she’s not feeling very bro-like. Mostly she’s just feeling tipsy and a little turned on.

The guys are posted up by the dartboards, and there’s something about the way that she can see Danny’s back muscles move beneath his sweater when he throws a dart that she can’t tear her eyes away from. She brings her glass to her mouth, sucking the last of the bourbon through a straw, and gestures to the bartender for another.

“You see that, Min?” Danny strides toward where she sits at the bar with a proud, lopsided grin on his face. “I wiped the floor with ‘em.”

“I’m better at more gentlemanly games, like croquet,” calls Jeremy over his shoulder as Peter wipes their scores from the chalkboard with his sleeve.

“I did see, Danny. You threw the thing good.”

“It’s a dart.”

“So that’s why it’s called darts,” she says, and he fixes her with a put-upon look she knows well. He gestures to the bartender that he’ll have one of what she’s drinking, and she sips from her own fresh glass.

“Are you drunk yet, Danny?”

“Gettin’ there.”

“You know what I’ve been thinking about since last week?”

“My guess would be whoever that Taylor Swift person’s dating these days.”

“She’s taking time for herself right now, and that’s okay.” The bartender sets a bourbon in front of Danny, and he takes a long sip as Mindy continues. “No, Danny, I was thinking about your mouth.”

He almost spits out his drink. “My mouth? Why?”

“How do you get your lips so soft?”

He visibly relaxes. “Oh. You want, like, skincare tips. I actually have a detailed nightly regimen--”

“No, it was rhetorical, whatever. Just-- can you finish your drink, please?” He looks at her warily, but brings his tumbler of bourbon to those soft lips and downs it, setting the glass decisively back on the bar without breaking eye contact. “Can you help me find the bathroom?”

His brow furrows, but he gets up from his seat at the bar anyway. “How drunk are you, anyway, that you can’t find the ladies’ on your own?” He follows her past the bar, around the corner and through the lounge filled with low leather chairs and couches toward the back of the restaurant. He jerks his thumb behind him. “I think we passed it.”

“I don’t really have to pee, Danny,” she says, rolling her eyes impatiently as she stops abruptly.

“You don’t?”

“No.”

“So why-- what then?” His voice lowers and he darts his eyes around the room. “Number two?”

“Ew! Gross, Danny, no!” She smacks him on the arm.

“Well I don’t know! Why’d you drag me over here, then?”

She sighs, then looks up and fakes a gasp. “Oh my god, there’s mistletoe hanging above us! I had no earthly idea that would be there!”

“Why’d they put mistletoe outside the bathroom?”

“The bathroom’s not over here, Danny.”

“Then what are we--”

If she wants something done right, she obviously is going to do it herself. She grabs him by the upper arms and pulls him to her, pressing her lips against his. He tenses, but his hands seemingly instinctively fly to her waist and he doesn’t pull away. His lips are just as soft as the week prior-- seriously, she needs to have him write down that skincare regimen-- and he tastes sweet and spicy like the bourbon they’ve both been drinking. She slides her hands from his arms to link around his neck, and feels his tongue swipe along her lips. She shivers, and opens her mouth to meet his tongue with her own. One of his hands grips tightly at her waist, and the other dips low on her back, holding her nearly flush against his body. He makes a low sound like a growl in the back of her throat and it does nothing to stop the fire in her veins, and she’s trailing her hand down his back when--

“Can I get you two a menu?” The gruff voice belongs to a burly, bearded man in a Spotted Dog t-shirt, hands on his hips a few feet from Mindy and Danny. They leap apart, Mindy’s hands brushing imaginary wrinkles out of her skirt and Danny’s on the back of his neck, his eyes on the ground.

“We’re good, thanks,” he says, still not looking at the man, who just mutters a “Whatever,” and walks away.

Mindy and Danny just stand there for a moment, looking everywhere but at each other.

“I think I’m up next in darts; I better go back over there,” Danny begins.

“I’m gonna go see if they can put extra cheese in their mozzarella sticks,” Mindy says at the same time. They stand in place for a moment, silent, before Mindy says, “Right,” and they both rush to return to their friends.

As Mindy retakes her seat at the bar, beside Jeremy this time, Danny hurries to take his place at the dartboard and mutters, “Those things’ll kill you.”

“So will vegetables, probably,” Mindy bites back. “Throw your dart.”

“Where’ve you two been?” asks Jeremy. Mindy can’t look at him because she can feel herself blushing, thinking about Danny’s hands and mouth.

“Oh, nowhere.”



iii.

The third time it happens, it’s a little strange.

It’s lunchtime, and Mindy’s one of the only people in the office. She knows that Peter and Jeremy have deliveries, and Morgan and Tamra both called in sick (those fakers). Danny’s god knows where, and Beverly’s playing online poker with her headphones on, blaring what sounds like either Jay-Z or ancient monks chanting and nothing in between.

Mindy likes it this way. She’s got a McChicken sandwich and an extra-large iced tea, and she can spend the whole lunch hour perfecting her karaoke renditions of every song on Taylor Swift’s 1989 with no one around to ask where that screeching is coming from. Perfection.

Suddenly she hears a thump, followed by the unmistakable sound of Danny cursing, and then-- is he giggling?

She presses pause on “I Know Places” and unlocks her office door, peeking out to see Danny standing over a plastic replica of the female reproductive system, pieces strewn across the floor. He has his hands at his sides and his chin at his chest and he’s just standing there, giggling.

“What the hell, Danny?”

He stops laughing, but is slow to turn toward her. When he does, his eyes light up. “Min!”

“Danny, are you drunk?” She crosses her arms across her chest. Dealing with a drunk Danny in the middle of the workday is really going to get in the way of her Taylor Swift time.

“No! No, ‘m not.”

“Then what the hell is wrong with you?”

He starts to giggle again, but stops himself. “‘S nitrous.”

Her eyebrows raise so high she can feel the forehead wrinkles forming. “You’re telling me you’re high?”

“No! Well, maybe a little. Just got back from th’ dentist. He maybe gave me a little too much.”

Oh. Well, that was slightly better than just getting baked in the middle of a weekday. “Why do you get laughing gas anyway? Isn’t that for four-year-olds and psych patients?” He shifts back and forth on his feet, looking down at the floor again. He doesn’t seem to know what to do with his hands-- first he clasps them together in front of him, then he crosses his arms to match her, then puts them on his hips.

“‘m kind of...afraid of the dentist, okay?”

She can’t help but let out a laugh. Danny Castellano is afraid of the dentist? She can’t decide if that’s shocking or so, so fitting. “Did you have to get a root canal or something?”

“Um.”

“Cavity filled?”

“Well…”

“God, Danny, what was it?”

“Just a cleaning.”

She stares at him for a moment before bursting out laughing. “A cleaning, Danny? You had to get put under laughing gas to have your teeth cleaned? That’s… that’s adorable.”

He’s spent most of this conversation looking hesitant, nervous, but now he’s half-smiling and looking her right in the eyes. “Adorable, huh?” That sobers her up.

“Well, I mean, not that adorable. Not like, Violet Affleck adorable. Maybe North West adorable.” Why is he stepping closer to her?

“You think I’m adorable.”

“When you’re on drugs, maybe. Which I hope is rare.”

“You think I’m adorable.” He’s still moving closer to her. She’s planted in her spot, unsure if she actually wants to move or stay put.

“Beanie Babies were adorable and they’re worth nothing now. I have a whole investment portfolio full of Chocolate the Moose and Pinchers the Crab that apparently isn’t going to help me retire at 35, says my accountant. So it’s really not that great a thing to be.”

He’s right in front of her now. She tucks her hair behind her ears, glancing up to see that the mistletoe they kissed beneath a week earlier hangs just a few feet away. Close enough, she thinks, as he reaches a hand to cup her cheek and leans in for a kiss.

Her eyes close and her mouth opens, though this time when their tongues meet, it’s slower and gentler than their kiss at the bar. His lips are still soft and his mouth tastes like mint, with maybe a faint hint of glove-grade latex that’s easy for her to ignore. The hand that rests on her cheek slides into her hair, tugging a little, and she splays her fingers along his sides, dimly realizing that she might be getting used to the way his body feels up close to hers.

After a moment, he pulls away, blinking slowly. Then, almost as if he suddenly realizes that his hand’s still in her hair and his other’s still on her hip, he drops them to his sides quickly, taking a stride backwards. “That was, um.” He clears his throat and points vaguely at the ceiling.

“The mistletoe. Yep,” she responds, feeling almost as shaken as he looks.

“Gotta get back to work.” He continues to back away, almost tripping over a plastic ovary. He scoops all the reproductive pieces back into the model womb and places it carefully on the countertop.

“Yeah, me too,” she says, heading for her own office door. She’s through the entrance and about to shut the door behind her when he calls out to her.

“Hey, Min.”

She keeps her eyes on the door for a second before turning her head to him. “Yeah?” The expression on his face is unreadable--until suddenly it isn’t, because he’s smirking in that infuriating way that she’s really used to, one hand bracing himself against the doorjamb to his office.

“I am adorable, aren’t I?”

“Ugh, Danny.” She rolls her eyes so hard it hurts a little, and a memory flits through her mind of her mother telling an 8-year-old Mindy that if she kept doing that, they’d get stuck that way. When she shuts herself in her office, she can still hear Danny chuckling and the tinny sound of music coming from Beverly’s headphones where she sits at her computer, unaware of the whole encounter.

Door closed and locked for good measure-- though the flimsy lock can’t keep out the memory of how Danny’s cologne mixed with fresh mint smelled better than ever-- she leans back, palms flat against the cool wood.

“Shit,” she mutters, thumping her head back against the door.

“I won!” she hears Beverly’s muffled shout. “Suck it, worldwide web!”



iv.

The fourth time it happens, it’s intentional.

It’s two days after Danny kissed her while hopped up on nitrous oxide, and Mindy’s barely had a chance to think about him between appointments and procedures. Until this morning. She has two hours before she has to be at the hospital, so she shoves the mounting pile of paperwork to the side of her desk and pulls a pad of pink monogrammed stationery and a turquoise pen with a fluffy end that reminds her of a troll doll out of her top drawer.

“Okay, Danny,” she says aloud to no one. “Time to figure out what to do about you.”

On the pad she draws a line down the center, and writes “Pros of Kissing Danny” atop one column, and “Cons of Kissing Danny” atop the other.

“Pros,” she says, absentmindedly rubbing the troll hair end of the pen back and forth across her nose. “Soft lips.” She writes that down. “Good at it-- though let’s be real, that’s probably because I’m so great at it.” She writes it down anyway. “Great body.” It goes on the list. “Butt that won’t quit.” Also goes on the list.

After a second of careful thought, she draws a star next to that last item. It’s pretty important.

“And cons. Let’s see… I work with him.” She writes down ‘Co-workers’ in the righthand column. “Peter would probably make fun of me.” It goes on the list. “Adam Levine could happen by the office and see us kissing and think that I’m taken and never ask me to go on a horse-drawn carriage ride through Central Park in the spring.” With a worried look, she writes ‘No Adam Levine date’ on the list and double-underlines it.

She sets the pen down on her desk and stares at the list, biting her lip. After a moment, she sighs. “It’s simple math, really.” Four versus three. She tears the top page from the pad and crumples it up, tossing it in the wastebasket before grabbing her purse and hurrying out the door.



When she returns thirty minutes later, she’s carrying a Dollar Tree bag, which she dumps out onto her desk-- a pack of thumbtacks, a roll of Scotch tape, a ball of twine and a sad-looking sprig of waxy-plastic imitation mistletoe tumble out. She had no idea what the best way of affixing mistletoe to a ceiling might be, and she wasn’t about to raid the reception desk for office supplies and risk someone asking her why.

Seconds later, she’s pushed her desk chair out to rest a few feet from her office door. She toes off her heels and climbs onto it, steadying herself with one hand on the chairback. It wobbles precariously-- it is on wheels, after all, and she is trying to block out the fact that this is a truly stupid idea-- but she’s determined. Tape, a tack and twine in one hand and the stem of the plastic plant clenched between her teeth, she carefully raises to her full height, and can just reach the ceiling.

The thumbtack seems like it will work best, so she presses it through the mistletoe stem, shifting her hips back and forth to accommodate for the instability of her perch. Reaching up, she pushes the tack into the ceiling, pulling her hand away and smiling proudly when it stays in place. “Mission accomplished.” Now, it’s just a matter of climbing back down.

Mindy tosses the wheel of tape and the twine ball onto the carpet below so that she can use both hands to grip the chairback. She lowers herself into a kneeling position in the chair, her front flush with its back-- no small task in a charcoal gray pencil skirt-- when three things happen at once.

One: she hears a knock at the door.

Two: whoever is knocking says “Hey, Min, are you in there?”

Three: that person, who is of course Danny Castellano, rudely barges into the office without so much as waiting for a response.

The door flies open and knocks into the corner of Mindy’s chair, sending in into a spin. Mindy grasps at the chairback, but it feels like the chair is spinning much faster than she knows it probably is, the way she always felt like she was going to throw up on the tire swing in elementary school when the other kids laughed and said she was barely moving. Her hands slip from the sleek black leather-- dammit, shouldn’t have chosen a chair with such supple upholstery!-- and she feels herself pitching backwards, and there’s nothing she can do about it.

“Whoa, Mindy!” She’s falling backwards and then suddenly she’s not anymore, because Danny’s behind her, his hands under her armpits. He looks down at her quizzically. “What the hell were you doing?”

She pushes herself up and out of his grip, turning to face him and brushing her skirt with her hands. “I was changing a lightbulb, Danny. You don’t expect me to work in the dark, do you?”

His expression is skeptical, and he crosses his arms. “You call Morgan over to change the lightbulbs at your apartment. And we have a maintenance staff, anyway. Why would you be changing your own lightbulb?”

“I’m a strong, capable woman, I’ll have you know.”

“I know that,” he says, and the thing is, he looks like he means it. She’s silent for a moment, and so’s he. “So you’ve got a bulb out? I can…” His eyes flick up to the ceiling and he trails off, then shifts his gaze back to her with a smug smile on his face. “Oh.”

“What do you mean, oh?”

“I see what’s goin’ on.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She pushes her chair back behind her desk, then crosses back to where she’d left the twine and tape. No use in someone tripping over those. But before she can lean down to pick them up, he’s suddenly grabbing her, both hands firmly on her waist, and pulling her to him. She hasn’t put her heels back on yet, and she lets out a small gasp of surprise as she looks up at him. His eyes are dark and he looks cockier than ever, and she doesn’t want to look at that expression on his face any longer, so she doesn’t. Instead, she closes her eyes and kisses him-- or he kisses her; she’s not really sure at this point.

What she does know is that his tongue is already on hers and one of his hands is sliding over her ass and the other has moved up to palm the back of her head, and they’ve only been kissing for 0.5 seconds. She feels like she might be letting him win a little, so she works one hand under the hem of his sweater, gripping the hot skin there, and scrapes her teeth against his lower lip, grinning into the kiss when that elicits a groan. He pulls back from her mouth, and she wants to yell at him for that for the split second before his hand guides her head gently to the side and his lips are on her neck, kissing his way up to her earlobe and then nipping at the skin there before kissing it again. She reaches further up his sweater, feeling the smooth muscles of his back, and sighs as he licks at her pulse point. She makes a mental note to add “Danny’s tongue” to the “Pros” list.

“Hey Dr. L, I need you to sign this form,” calls Morgan from the outer office, and Mindy and Danny seem to realize at the same time that the door is still partially open. They jump apart, each straightening their own clothing, as Morgan pushes it all the way open and enters. “Oh, hey, Dr. C.”

“Hey, Morgan,” says Danny, breathing a little hard. Mindy’s relieved to know she’s not the only one.

“Just give me the form and get outta here, Morgan. We’re working on important business.”

“Okay, okay.” He hands it to her, and she leans over to bear down on her desk, signing it. “Somebody’s touchy.”

“Touching? What’re you talkin’ about? Nobody’s touching,” says Danny, holding his hands up as if to prove it. Mindy shoots him a glare out of the corner of her eye.

“Wait a second.” Morgan narrows his eyes. “Wait just a second. I know what’s going on here.”

“What? What are you talking about? No, you don’t,” says Danny.

“Nothing’s going on here!” Mindy says at the same time.

“Don’t lie to me, Dr. L. I know you better than that.” He turns to Danny. “You too, Dr. C.”

Mindy looks over at Danny, who’s standing stock-still, wide-eyed. She wonders if she should have added “Morgan’s too nosy for his own good” to the “Cons” list, but regardless, it looks like the jig is up.

“Working on important business, ha! I know the truth.” He leans down and grasps the twine and tape, holding it up like evidence. “You guys were wrapping my Christmas present, and you don’t want me to spoil my surprise.”

Mindy nervously giggles, and Danny exhales, eyes darting to her before smiling at Morgan. “You found us out, buddy.”

“I should have known,” says Morgan. “Don’t tell Dr. Prentice or Dr. Reed,” he begins, lowering his voice conspiratorially, “but you two are my favorite doctors.”

“Thanks, Morgan,” Mindy says, feeling equal parts touched and guilty. She thinks that she’d better remember to get Morgan something better than the $10 MTA gift card tucked away in her desk drawer with a bow on it.

“I’ll leave you two generous souls to it, then.” Morgan turns and takes the form from Mindy’s desk, then exits the office, closing the door behind him with a wink.

And then it’s just Mindy and Danny, alone. Part of her wants to pick up where they left off, but part of her worries the spell has been broken, and the way Danny is looking everywhere but at her all but confirms it.

“So, I’ve gotta get back…” he starts.

“Yeah, yeah, I have to get to the hospital.” She looks at her watch. “I’m running late,” she says, even though she isn’t yet.

Danny backs away, toward the door. “So, I’ll, uh. I’ll be seein’ ya.”

“Yeah, Danny, I’ll see you in like, three hours when I get back.” She’s baffled at how easily he can shift from the smooth-as-hell guy who grabbed her and kissed her ten minutes ago to the awkward one who’s trying to put as much distance between them as possible now.

“Oh, yeah. So, I’ll, um.” He reaches behind him to turn the doorknob, swinging it open and backing out, bumping into the jamb on his way. “See you.”

“Yep.” She holds up one hand in a half-hearted wave. “See you.”

“Bye.” He shuts the door behind him, and she sighs.

Before she leaves for the hospital, she fishes the crumpled, pink pro/con list from her wastebasket and smooths it out on her desk before putting it in her top drawer. She has a few items to add to each side.

 

 

v.

The fifth time it happens, it’s getting a little ridiculous.

Two more days have passed since the kiss in Mindy’s office, and she’s embarrassed at how much of those two days has been devoted to thinking about kissing him again. But he hasn’t had reason to stop by her office (or he’s avoiding her office, she worries but tries to pretend she doesn’t).

It’s Friday evening, though, and this time, Mindy has a plan. She just has to make sure that she walks out to leave work at the same time as him.

“Oh, what a surprise, Daniel,” she’ll say. “I had no idea you’d be on your way out at precisely the same moment as me.”

“What a coincidence, Mindy,” he’ll exclaim. “Say, would you like to make out with me under this mistletoe?”

“But of course, Daniel! Forsooth, put thy hand on my ass post haste!” And he will, post haste.

Yep, she thinks to herself. It’s a great plan.

So she sits at her desk as darkness falls outside her window, tapping her pen impatiently. She can see through the open door that the office has all but cleared out. She knows Danny hasn’t left yet, though-- she’d seen him go into his office a couple hours prior and he’d have to pass her line of sight to leave.

“Have a good weekend, Dr. L,” said Morgan, poking his head into her office as he wrapped a scarf around his neck.

“You too, Morgan.” He turns with a wave. “Hey, Morgan, wait!”

“What’s up?”

She bites her lip, unsure if she wants to get Morgan involved. “Is Danny still in his office?” Morgan leans back and cranes his neck to check, then nods at her.

“Yep. Looks like he’s catching up on paperwork. He’s got a big stack in front of him.”

“Oh.” She sighs. “Okay, thanks.”

Morgan looks at her slyly. “Got more presents to wrap with Dr. C?”

She smiles at him in spite of herself, feeling glad that she’d ordered a nice, distressed leather messenger bag on Hautelook earlier that day to give to him for Christmas. “Something like that.”

“Alright, well, hope you don’t get any papercuts. See you Monday!”

And then she was alone. From the sound of it, she and Danny were the only two left in the office. She wondered how much paperwork he could possibly have. She opened a new tab on her computer and clicked the bookmark for her favorite celebrity gossip blog. “Ugh, Kristen Bell, stop it. Everybody gets it. You’re the cutest pregnant person ever.” She closes the tab. It’s all stuff she already knows, anyway-- she gets the push notifications on her phone, after all.

She sighs, leaning back in her chair. She could just go into his office… but no, there’s no mistletoe in there. If she went in, she’d have to admit that she wanted to kiss him for real. No, it would have to be a coincidence, two co-workers happening upon mistletoe at the same moment... for the fifth time in two weeks.

The minutes tick by.

She reads the latest issue of Cosmo cover to cover.

She touches up her manicure where it’s begun to chip on her right pointer finger.

She somehow manages to smudge the polish, and touches it up again.

She watches the “Blank Space” music video seven times in a row.

She’s just finished ordering herself a new pair of ankle boots from the Nordstrom website when she hears rustling coming from the direction of Danny’s office, followed by the flick of a lightswitch. She stands up so fast she gets a headrush, grabbing her purse and rushing to the door only to slow when she reaches it, casually turning off the light and walking into the main office.

“Danny?” She does her best to sound befuddled. “What are you still doing here? It’s--” She looks at her watch. “Almost eight o’clock.”

He looks at her, shocked. “What are you still doing here? I thought you must’ve left hours ago.”

“No, I’ve been here… working hard.”

“Ah.” He swallows. “Me too.”

He’s right outside his office, and she’s right outside hers, and he’ll have to pass under the mistletoe to leave. He starts to move, and she advances on him even though it means going in the opposite direction of the exit, but who really cares at this point because he’s gripping her face in both hands and pressing his mouth searingly to hers, and she’s dropping her purse to the ground beside them and wrapping her arms around his back, pressing her body against his. Then his hands are everywhere-- trailing down her spine, grabbing at her ass, untucking her blouse and stroking the skin at her lower back. She whimpers into his mouth, and she’d be embarrassed if she wasn’t enjoying this so much. She threads a hand in his hair, her nails scratching against the back of his scalp and he makes an unintelligible little noise that she files away in her mind as yet another for the “Pro” column.

He begins to move, walking her backwards until she’s pressed up against the reception desk. The edge of the desk is digging into her back but she doesn’t care in the least as he presses his hips into hers and nips at her lip gently before kissing her deeply once more.

“Oh my god, Danny,” she says against his mouth, and he just hums in response. Her senses are so overloaded that she doesn’t hear the door to the practice open, but she does hear it when a voice calls out, “Sorry, sorry!”

They break apart and Danny takes several shaky steps back as she leans against the reception desk on her elbows. The voice belongs to a maintenance man, standing in the doorway with a vacuum cleaner.

“I can come back later?” he asks.

“No, no, that’s okay,” says Danny. He spares a glance at Mindy, then picks up his bag where he’d dropped onto the carpet and starts to walk toward the door. “I gotta get out of here anyway,” he says to her. “I’m meeting Richie.”

She reaches down for her purse. “Oh, okay.”

“I’ll see you Monday?” She can’t tell if he’s hopeful or apologetic or both. She nods, a small smile on her face.

“See you Monday.” And then Danny’s gone. She takes a second to collect herself, too many different thoughts in her head.

“You two bonin’?” The maintenance guy looks at her knowingly, snapping her from her reverie.

“Ugh.” She clutches her purse under her arm and quickly walks toward the exit, holding up a hand. “You’re gross.”

“I’m not the one with my tongue down some dude’s throat in the middle of my office.” He pushes his vacuum forward as she passes him to leave.

“Excuse me? I’m calling your supervisor tomorrow.” She pulls the door shut behind her, but not before biting out a harsh, “Have a nice day” in his direction. Jerk.



vi.

The sixth time it happens, it doesn’t.

It’s the last workday before the office closes for Christmas, and it’s probably the earliest in the morning that Mindy has ever arrived to work. She might not even be awake this early if not for the text she’d received from Danny the night before.

Danny Castellano (11:56 PM): going into the office early tomorrow. 6:45. maybe you should too.

Normally, she’d reply to a text like that from Danny with an indignant lecture about how she does her best work at two in the afternoon anyway, after a heavy lunch, and how he should know that she requires a full nine hours of sleep a night like teenagers do, so no, she would not be showing up to work at that ungodly hour.

But she suspects his intention might not be to chastise her for not working hard enough.

She feels a thrill of excitement running through her as she waits for the elevator in the lobby. She’d gotten up at a time she still thought of as the middle of the night in order to curl her hair and pick out the exact right outfit, so she knows she looks damn hot. Work-hot, anyway. She glances down at her watch. By her calculations, they should have roughly 40 minutes of mistletoe make-out time before anyone else arrives at the office. Maybe more, if I call a bomb threat into the subway… She contemplates, but shakes her head. She doesn’t have the voice of a criminal. They’d never believe her.

“Oh, hey, you’re here early,” says Danny from behind her. She can’t help but grin, but forces herself to calm down before turning around to face him.

“Oh, hello, Daniel.”

“Daniel?”

“Danny. Whatever. You’re here early, too.”

“Yeah.” He smirks at her. “I’ve got a lot of… paperwork… to finish.”

I knew it, she thinks to herself. His expression is most definitely not that of a man who’s excited to fill out forms early in the morning. The elevator dings, and they get on, standing close to each other but not touching. That can wait until they’re under the mistletoe. The anticipation sends a shiver up her spine.

Throughout the elevator ride, he keeps looking at her out of the corner of his eye. He’s rocking on the balls of his feet like he’s impatient. Good. She’s glad she’s not the only one.

When the elevator dings on their floor, finally, they both rush out at once. He holds the door open to the practice, gesturing for her to go first, then following her in. She can barely contain the giddiness she feels.

And then they’re standing in the entrance to Shulman & Associates, the least festive OB/GYN practice in the greater New York City area.

There’s not a scrap of red or green to be found in the entire office. All of the trees are gone. So is the garland. There’s no tinsel to be found, and tinsel is like glitter-- it gets everywhere, and it’s impossible to clean up.

“What the hell happened here?” mutters Danny, scanning the room. Mindy gasps, and her eyes shoot to the ceiling where the mistletoe should be hanging. It’s bare.

“It looks like Whoville when the Grinch punished those kids for being so annoying!”

Danny looks at her, bemused. “That’s not what-- whatever.” He steps forward to the reception desk, where a folded note sits on the countertop. “This is for you,” he says, handing her the note.

Sure enough, it has her name on it in Morgan’s untidy scrawl. She unfolds it and reads it aloud.

“Dear Dr. L-- I broke in late last night to take down all the decorations so you wouldn’t have to help at all.” Then, as an aside: “It’s not breaking in if you work here, Morgan.” She continues reading. “Consider it my Christmas present to you.” To herself: “Ugh! Not having to do work’s a terrible present. Maybe I should give you that subway gift card after all.” She focuses on the letter again. “Hope you enjoy the completely Christmas-free office! Love, your friend, Morgan.”

She looks around the office. It really is Christmas-free. But then she suddenly remembers-- there’s still a sprig of mistletoe hanging in her office! Operation Make Out With Danny Again is a go!

She glances back down at the note and sees that there’s a postscript. “P.S.,” she reads. “I even took down the sprig of mistletoe hanging in your office. Don’t know how that got there!” Damn.

Mindy refolds the note and places it on the counter, then meets Danny’s eyes. He looks conflicted. She feels conflicted, too. No mistletoe means no ready-made excuse to kiss him. And she’s not sure she’s ready to admit that she might not need an excuse.

“It’s cool,” he says, breaking the silence. “I mean, I was getting tired of kissing under mistletoe anyway.”

What? Jerk. “Yeah,” she agrees. “My lips were chaffing like crazy. I went through, like, a whole tube of strawberry Chapstick last week alone.”

“It’s a blessing, really. Think how much more time we’ll have on our hands now. We can… catch up on paperwork. Actual paperwork.”

“Ew, Danny, no. We pay Morgan pennies to do that for us.”

He takes a step toward her. “Well, there are lots of other things we can do… with all this free time we’ll have now.”

She’s been leaning against the reception desk, but stands up straight now. “Lots of things. Much better things to do than kissing you.”

“Yeah.” He takes another small step forward. “I thought it would never end, to be honest.”

She jerks her head back, eyebrows raised. “Whatever, Danny. Just keep your mouth away from me.”

Another step toward her. “Won’t be a problem.”

“Good.”

Another step. “Fantastic.”

“Totes.”

And another one. “Don’t talk like that. You’re a doctor, not a teenager. Nobody’s gonna want their baby delivered by the female Doogie Howser.”

“Thank you for acknowledging that I have the nubile body of a hot female version of 16-year-old Neil Patrick Harris, but I’ll talk how I want. Totes totes totes.”

He’s now standing right in front of her, invading her personal space. “Stop it.”

“Make me.”

He sucks in a breath. “Okay.” And then he is. Lips on hers, hands holding her waist, but it’s gentle this time. Sweet. It’s not the hurried making out of their last kiss, and it takes neither of them by surprise. It’s soft, and it’s slow, and he pulls away after a few moments, moving his hands to cup her jaw, both thumbs brushing her cheeks.

“Mistletoe’s a crutch,” he says softly.

“Uh huh.” She’s smiling, and he’s looking serious, and it’s so them that she feels just as excited as she did in the elevator next to him.

“Maybe we don’t need a crutch.”

“Maybe not.” She snakes a hand up to wrap around the back of his neck and pulls him down, kissing him again. Maybe they can walk just fine on their own.