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Finding Forever

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Neil Melendez just finished talking about his patients case to his colleague, Audrey Lim, when he noticed Jared ditch (what might possibly be his favorite resident not that he'd ever admit that to anyone, even under extreme duress) Claire on the dance floor, looking close to tears.

"Hey, I'm gonna go talk to some people who are actually important, but try not spill your drink on any of our benefactors." Neil said teasingly to Lim, mirth dancing in his eyes and started to head towards the dance floor.

"That was one time!" Audrey called after him, with a huff. He was never going to let her live it down.

Neil looked back with a smirk on his face and just held up two fingers but didn't respond.

"Bastard." Lim muttered to herself, the second time didn't count and focused once again on schmoozing the big wigs.

Claire's eyes darted around the room not knowing what to do. Jared just told her he loved her. Panic started to build in her chest, Jared just told her he loves her. Her eyes were filled up with tears. Today was hard enough after seeing Boris kill himself, she didn't want to have to worry about her love life. Or her nonexistent one at that, now it seems. She also still needed to get off the dance floor, maybe go after Jared. Different thoughts raced through her head she didn't even notice someone step in front her, I thought that I was clear enough about our relationship, I thought that Jared understood, we were having fun, I'm focusing on my residency. I never thought he'd fall in love with me.

Before Claire's mind could fall further into a tailspin, she felt a warm hand on her shoulder and looked up. Her attending was standing in front her, Doctor Neil Melendez. The man who pushes her buttons, always seems to have a differing opinion, a soft spot for kids, and a brilliant surgeon she looks forward learning from every day. Possibly the real reason Claire doesn't feel something for Jared, well....she does, it's just not enough... for either of them. Claire would never admit aloud to anyone but she might've developed a crush (or even worse, actual feelings) for her mentor, one she didn't even realize developed until Shaun pointed it out to her.

"Is everything okay?" Melendez asked imploringly.

"Um, I don't-I don't think so if I'm being honest," Claire blinked quickly trying not to shed any tears.

"Jared just told me that he-" she didn't even want to finish. "I think I just got dumped? Even though Jared and I were never really dating, I'm still trying to wrap my head around what just happened." Claire stopped explaining figuring she's already overshared with her boss, "Sorry, I know it's probably the last thing you want to hear me going on about after today."

Neil eyed her worriedly, he's never seen much faze her, "I think we're even," he said with a soft smile remembering when he went to her about Jess. "But let's get some drinks, yeah?"

Claire nodded her head jerkily and Melendez guided her to the bar with his hand on the small of her back, a comforting weight.

As they leaned against the bar and Dr. Melendez ordered them whiskey sours, he noticed Jess dancing with Glassman and was able to finally fully take notice of Claire. She was wearing a more understated black lace dress compared to his ex-fiancée's over the top one. Jess always had a more expensive taste, he thought to himself reverently. But Claire seemed to just let her inner and outer beauty speak for itself. His resident's updo had left soft tendrils framing her face, Neil's always wanted to run his fingers through her hair to see if it was just as soft as it looked. And Claire's red lipstick made him think about kissing her, a thought that's crossed his mind more then once lately but always tried to bury.

"Did you want to talk about happened out there?" Melendez asked as they waiting for their drinks.

"I think it's just no matter how I've tried to tell Jared, he's always put more stock into our relationship then I've wanted." Claire responded, idly tracing shapes with her fingertip on a cocktail napkin. "I just wanted to focus on not washing out my first year of residency." She finished disparagingly. There was still a tight feeling in her chest about hurting Jared and she hoped it wouldn't irrevocably change their relationship.

Before Melendez could could try and offer any words of wisdom or even comfort the bartender came back with their drinks. Before Claire could down hers like she desperately wanted to, Neil proposed a toast.

"Relationships are hard, finding that one person you want to spend the rest of your life with is even harder. I should know." He said with a wry smile, echoing the words she once said to him. "But that just means not having that makes us more dedicated to our work and allows us to be good surgeons, well in my case an excellent one." He finished teasingly.

Claire rolled her eyes but he could see corner of her mouth tugging up and she could feel the vice around her heart already loosening.

"Is that the end of your toast? Are you just going to praise yourself and your work?" Dr. Browne asked him with a laugh, "Because if so maybe I should give you and your ego some alone time."

"May I remind you Dr. Browne," Neil remarked in a mockingly stern tone that "I'm your superior, which make you my inferior. No interruptions." He tsked with a gleam of amusement in his eyes

"You're right," she responded with faux seriousness, "How could I forget, I sincerely apologize. Please, please continue." She nodded once, firmly.

"You're forgiven." Neil jested, "But let's drink, to us, doing our jobs well,"

"To finding forever with someone that isn't work, one day," Claire concluded with a smile, her eyes locking with Melendez. She felt something that she could never feel with Jared, no matter how hard she tried. Because it would just be easier to feel something, anything for her fellow resident then what Claire feels for her boss. It doesn't help tonight that Doctor Melendez is wearing that suit, she thought despairingly.

"To finding forever." Neil murmured back, clinking their glasses together, their fingers brushing up against one another. There's a moment between them. A moment that’s happened countless times but has always been ignored, a chemistry they’ve always felt but never had the courage to admit.

He took a sip of his drink and gazed at her lips when she downed her drink in one go. When she finished, Claire's eyes flickered to his mouth and back up. The fire burning brighter between them.

Jessica Preston just finished a couple dances with Glassman and was headed to the bar to refresh herself and get a drink. Her steel grey dress sparkled in the light as she walked towards the bar, putting some thought to what her second father figure had said, trying to move on would be good for her. As much as she hoped Neil would fight for them, she knew he would never go against what she wanted. Jess knew breaking up with him was for the best but it didn't mean that it didn't hurt any less.