She spun, looked at him leaning against the corridor wall next to the door she'd just come through, and asked, "Do you have a problem with standing up straight?"
"I just prefer to lean," he said with a small smile. "Nice deflection."
"What do you want?"
"Far be it for me to criticize someone for crossing ethical lines..." he started.
"But you're going to."
"Not exactly, I'm just here to point out that you've gotten too close for you to continue to be her therapist." He waited a beat then added, "No criticism attached to the observation."
He looked at the floor. "Look, it's not uncommon for someone to become friendly with a patient; we get to know them better than their closest friends and family," he said. "As far as I'm concerned, when not dealing with assholes, professional detachment is bullshit." His eyes slowly came up to meet hers, "But you're getting to be more than friends with her, aren't you?"
"What's your point?" she said, failing to keep the defensiveness from her voice.
"What I said it was: you can't be her therapist any more."
"I have to be the one treating her," she said, "the fact that I'm personally handling her case is the only reason they're keeping her in a hospital instead of a prison."
"That's right," he said, as if just remembering. "I forgot that we had a real life action hero working on this floor."
"And thank God for that. We'd all look so much worse in comparison if you were outperforming us while saving the world on the side."
"Why is it that even when you say something that should be a complement, it still sounds hostile?"
"It's a gift." There was a stale silence. Finally he conceded, "Prison definitely would be bad for someone in her mental state."
"So you understand."
"You being her therapist isn't a reality, it's a legal fiction designed to keep her out of jail," he said. "That about cover it?"
"Yes," she said. "Are we done here?"
She simply glared at him.
"Don't get me wrong, I understand legal fictions," he said. "I once created a seven generation genealogy of a family that never existed in the first place to get one of my patient's treatment paid for."
She was downright befuddled. "What?"
"There were HMOs involved." He shivered. "It was the dark ages."
"Whatever. If you understand why I need to be her therapist--"
"I understand that you being her therapist is a necessary legal fiction," he said, "but what you have to understand is that legal fictions are just that: fictions. If you being her therapist is fictitious, then she doesn't have an actual therapist."
"So what do you recommend?"
"Recommend?" he scoffed. "I think you're screwed. Before you brought up the point about prison and all that, I figured it would be as simple as finding someone else willing to do psychotherapy for her--which would be hard enough given that she might incinerate someone she doesn't like--but--"
"She's not a danger."
"Whatever," he said. "Now that you've pointed out that you can't get anyone else on the books as her therapist..."
She waited for him to finish the thought, when he didn't she gave an annoyed "What?"
"I'm just trying to figure out how it would work," he said, closing his eyes. "You walk up to one of our colleagues, 'Hi, how are you? Listen, I was just wondering... in addition to your regular workload, would you like to do my job for me with one of my patients?'" he paused. "'Off the books, of course. No, you wouldn't get paid. No, you wouldn't get credit. Yes, you might get arrested because this is so I can fraudulently claim to be doing my job when I'm no longer qualified to do so with respect to this patient.'" He paused again. "'And the people I'm making fraudulent claims to: Feds.'" He paused a third time. "I'm sure that'll go great for you."
"Thanks for volunteering," she said cheerfully.
"I'll tell her that you'll be taking over as her actual therapist so I can keep on being her let's-pretend-so-you-stay-out-of-jail therapist the next time I see her."
"I feel much better knowing someone who hasn't gotten overly close will be helping her."
"I'm not going to--"
"See you around," she said, then left.