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The Pursued and the Pursuing

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   When Dr. Melendez first arrives late to the gala after finishing his last surgery much more late than intended, he considers just blowing off the event all together. But as he gracelessly yanks his scrubs off in the loneliness of the abandoned locker room, he can't help but to let his mind wander as to how his colleagues look out of their daily uniforms.  How long brown locks would look free from the restraints of a hastily tied bun, or how his taller colleagues would look in clothes made fit perfectly for their abnormally long limbs, since their scrubs just never seem to fit just right. Or if a certain pair of blue eyes will shine as brightly without the assistance of the matching masks and outfits of the OR, or if hands stay as delicate as they are when at the operating table.

 With freshly slicked hair, and a pair of his nicest new shoes, Neil begins to make his way to the lobby. Stand up straight, shoulders back. He steps into the gilded room San Jose's richest, and only then does it occur to him that the last time he saw most of these people, he had a beautifully intelligent young women by his side, and were in the process of planning their wedding. Now, he must face the careless great-great grandsons of railroad fortunes of which his hospital rests on the shoulders of, alone. He never was very good with people, especially when it came to convincing the ones who had more money than they knew what to do with to give hardly a fraction of their fortune to benefit the community. Even now, on the ample salary of a successful surgeon, he could never understand how their was always so much money. Who needed that much? These people donate such large sums, but in reality, they hardly even notice it's missing! Meanwhile, Neil regularly gets patients whose illness' effects could have been greatly reduced had they sought help earlier. When he would ask why they hadn't got help as soon as the pain had started, they would say they didn't want to waste money on a doctor's visit over something that was probably nothing. He absolutely resents these events, even when he had the help of his ex-fiancee.



 "Neil." Dr. Glassman calls from where he is standing at a nearby table, and begins to approach him. "Have you seen Shaun this evening?"



 "Not since before I went into surgery tonight," he tells him helplessly, "Why?"



 "There are a few guests that I think it's important he meet." the president replies. Melendez promises to send him his way if they meet, and then sets off to find him before Dr. Glassman does. Someone hands him a flute of champagne.  



 Smiles and waves to blurred faces and forgotten names in an endless sea of bottomless glasses and sparkling dresses, with the occasional "Nice to see you Dr. Martinez", or a "how's the wife?" followed by a glum "I'm not married". Neil can not believe how many people can possibly fit in this one section of the whole hospital! It seems like they've got the whole city picking h'orderves from silver platters, a new face every way he looks, but never the precious familiarity of St. Bonaventure's most-



 “Ah, Dr. Melendez” another rich white man greets him with a hand on his shoulder, pulling him closer to the other richmen he’s sitting with.



 “It’s nice to see you again Dr. Levy-” big blue eyes lock graciously with his own, and he can’t seem to rip his gaze away “I see you’ve met Dr. Murphy”



 “Yes.” Shaun replies, breaking their stare. Neil just can’t seem to look away.



 “How’s Miss. Preston?” inquires Dr. Yang, a personal friend of Jessica’s father.



 “You know, Dr. Murphy is our newest resident, yet one of the finest surgeons I’ve yet to work with?”



 Shaun thinks of cutting in, as he is not a surgeon, simply a surgical resident. But Dr. Levy speak up before he gets the chance, “Yes, I’ve heard the name.”



 “It’s usually followed by complaints.” Dr. Yang utters under his breath. Melendez barely has any time to react, before a women he had not yet met tries to cover up her colleague’s rude statement.



 “Dr. Glassman speaks very highly of you” she looks directly at Shaun, who immediately diverts his eyes to the table nearest them, where sits Claire, clad in a long, fitted black dress that flares out at the knees. She stands in such a sure, yet delicate manner, similar to her stance at work, yet so different. Professional, yet carefree- she accepts a glass handed to her, and in that moment she turns with the most dazzling smile, briefly interrupted by her temporary shock from seeing their most treasured colleague.



 Leaving her previous table unannounced, she quickly steps into the bubble that was solely occupied by Melendez and Murphy themselves “Shaun!”



 “Hi Claire.” he replies, topped with a nervous wave. No need for him to step back (closer to Neil), as Dr. Browne already has gotten to know him so well, she knows his boundaries well enough to not bother with going for a hug, or even a handshake.



 She looks him up and down with a look of indecisiveness that Neil finds unsettling. It’s as if she joined them out of impulse -very out of character for the resident- and in that moment, he despises her. He knows in his heart that he cares deeply for each of his residents, but the way she begs him for a dance, and the encouragement from those they were conversing with at the table beside them, he can’t seem to ever recall enjoying her company.

 

 And of course he accepts! How could he not, after being put on the spot like that? He watches as Shaun saunters off with Claire, in his usual manner; hands clasped, and curious. The song is cheerfully upbeat, luckily for Shaun, so he doesn’t have to do a whole lot he’s not comfortable with. They stand several feet apart, but he can still feel himself becoming increasingly more green by the second as envy takes over. He can’t bear it a second longer, as he sets his empty glass down with more force than originally intended, and would not be surprised in the slightest had it cracked.

 

 “Excuse me.”