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with a little help (from my friends)

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“Could you please check the access credentials on my hospital pass?” Shaun asked, holding his employee badge out to the Security Officer. “It should be set up, but I just wanted to know for sure.”

“Yeah, give it here,” the officer said, taking the ID from Shaun, and scanning the barcode, then looking at the database record that had popped up.

Shaun waited anxiously while the officer skimmed the file.

“Good to go. All areas. Hasn’t changed since it was granted in June of 2017. Surgical resident. That about what you expected, Dr. Murphy?”

“Yes,” Shaun breathed, taking the pass back from the officer, and stowing it securely in his pocket, feeling sheer relief wash over him.

“Anything else?” the officer said.

“No. Thank you,” Shaun replied, walking away from the security desk.

Shaun?” came a bewildered voice, from almost directly behind him, and Shaun turned around towards the source of the sound. He’d know that voice anywhere.

“Dr. Glassman,” he answered, happily, as Aaron approached him.

“Shaun! I didn’t expect to see you back at work until Thursday. I guess that’s why you invited me for dinner tonight, and not lunch today,” Aaron said, checking his watch as he spoke. “Well, in the meantime, are you free for brunch? Or... are you starting your Pathology residency early?” he guessed next, a look of distaste clouding his face.

“No, Dr. Glassman. I got my old job back,” Shaun told him, as they walked together across the foyer, heading in the direction of the cafeteria. "I am a surgeon again."

Aaron’s eyes widened. Then he broke into a proud smile.

“That’s terrific news. All right, pancakes are on me, and you can explain exactly how that came about,” Aaron said.

“Okay. That would be very nice. Thank you. Why are you at work today, Dr. Glassman?” Shaun replied, adding his own question. “Aren’t you still on medical leave?”

“Frankly, Shaun, I'm starting to think we both got interesting phone calls from Marcus Andrews this morning,” Aaron commented, as they entered the cafeteria and claimed their usual table, sitting across from one another.

“Yes. Dr. Andrews called me this morning to invite me back into Surgery,” Shaun recounted. “He asked me whether I felt up to returning to work, and I said yes, but that my Path residency didn’t start until Thursday. Then Dr. Andrews told me that there’s a department here that needs me more, and he meant Surgery. He said he was in a conference room with a group of people who wanted me back in my old job. Dr. Han didn’t, but Dr. Andrews said that he was ‘outnumbered’.”

Aaron chuckled. “Nice.

Shaun shrugged. “I don’t think Dr. Han found it very nice. I heard him yelling in the background that he is still the Chief of Surgery. He was angry,” and here, he leaned in conspiratorially, “Dr. Glassman, I am afraid I might see Dr. Han today. I am scared to walk around the hospital alone. I am very glad you’re here.”

“I don’t think you’ll need to worry about the possibility of running into Han for too much longer, Shaun,” Aaron reassured him.

Shaun looked doubtful. “Dr. Han still works here. He is still Chief of Surgery.”

“Actually, I don’t think he is,” Aaron said. “I mean, whether he still works here or not – that, I’m not entirely sure of – but he’s definitely not Chief of Surgery.”

“How do you know that, Dr. Glassman?” Shaun asked.

“I know Han is no longer Chief of Surgery, because the reason I've come in today, is to talk about a job-share arrangement with Marcus,” Aaron explained. “The discussion was going to be scheduled for tomorrow, but since you said you weren't free today, I told Marcus I could stop by, if today suited him.”

“A job-share arrangement?” Shaun echoed, questioningly.

“Yeah. You’re not the only one getting their old job back, Shaun. Marcus called and offered to share the Presidency with me, until I’m well enough to return to work full-time. Then he’s going back to his old role as Chief of Surgery, permanently. I assume in the interim, he will spend a little more time being the Chief of Surgery, than he will being the President."

"I think Dr. Andrews will be happier in his old role," Shaun commented. “He was better at it. Did you know I won a staff betting pool that he would keep both roles – President and Chief of Surgery? Practically everyone else bet on Dr. Melendez or Dr. Lim. I was the only one who bet he would try to do both.”

Aaron laughed. “Oh, that’s good. Did you buy anything fun with your winnings?”

Shaun shook his head. “No, I saved them.”

"That’s interesting..." Aaron began, coming to a sudden realisation. "Marcus said something strange in that phone call, that I only just made sense of: 'You might want to check where Shaun is, first'. So, he must have called you, and then me.”

"Do you think that will make you happy, Dr. Glassman? Do you want to be the hospital President again?"

"Yes, Shaun. I do,” Aaron confirmed. “It gives me purpose. I have felt as though I’ve been missing my purpose, ever since I was diagnosed. The days I was sick all bled together. I’d wake up of a morning, not knowing what day it was.”

“I’m glad you will be President again. Then you will be happy.”

"Well, thank you, Shaun. Okay, how many pancakes do you want? Four?" Aaron asked, pulling his wallet from his pocket. “Syrup? Chocolate chips?”

Shaun nodded. “Yes, to all three.”

"Do you know what happened in the meeting this morning? I assume Han was there? Your attendings? Andrews, obviously. Anyone else?" Aaron asked Shaun, who was in the middle of practically inhaling his pancakes. Aaron was eating his own at a much more leisurely pace.

"My co-residents wrote an essay," Shaun explained, when he’d swallowed the food. "They compiled details about all the cases where my contributions were unique, and outcome-altering.”

“‘They?’” Aaron queried. He had a sneaking suspicion he knew who would have written it. Not least because there weren’t many people it could have feasibly been...

“Yes. Claire and Morgan wrote it. Alex helped, too.”

Aaron sighed. “I’ve been meaning to talk to you about Claire and Morgan. Shaun, you want to be careful with those two. Particularly Claire.”

“Why do I need to be particularly careful with Claire?” Shaun asked. “She is my friend and my co-resident.”

Aaron stared at Shaun for a few moments, trying to gauge whether the seeming naivety of that question was genuine or not. Reaching no definitive conclusion either way, Aaron opted to ask a few more questions.

“What do you think of Claire?” Aaron asked. “No, actually, that’s the wrong question. What does Lea think of Claire, Shaun?”

“I don’t know. They’ve only met three times,” Shaun answered. “Is that important?”

“Has Claire ever mentioned having feelings for you, Shaun?” Aaron asked, bluntly.

“No,” Shaun answered, looking anxious.

“I think you should be careful with Claire,” Aaron warned him. “Have you given her any reason to think you might feel the same way?”

“I didn’t send any red flowers in her arrangement on Saturday,” Shaun assured him. “I have saved the red ones for Lea.”

To Aaron, however, this statement was utterly apropos of nothing.

“You... sent Claire... flowers?” Aaron demanded.

“Yes. Of course. Claire came up with the idea to write the essay,” Shaun said. “Lea said it had to be flowers. I don’t know what else Claire likes, anyway.”

Lea said it had to be flowers?” Aaron repeated blankly, now totally non-plussed.

“Yes. My attendings told me about the essay, before I was discharged on Friday morning. Then Lea and I came home from Subway on Friday night, and Dr. Melendez sent me a text telling me he knew I hadn’t thanked Claire for what she did for me.”

“Right, right, you had to leave the hospital, you didn’t get to see Claire before you left,” Aaron filled in.

“I read Dr. Melendez’s text out to Lea, and she became really upset with me. She told me it was ‘unacceptable’ that I hadn’t thanked Claire. I was confused, because I didn’t have my job back yet, so I wasn’t sure what I’d be thanking Claire for — ”

“Oh, Shaun,” Aaron groaned, his hand to his forehead in exasperation.

“Yes, Lea displayed a similar reaction to yours. Then she told me that I had to send Claire flowers, to express my gratitude. I didn’t want to send anyone flowers, because I’d never given flowers to any girl before. And Morgan helped write the report, too. So I sent flower arrangements to Claire and Morgan.”

“Oh, Lord...” Aaron sighed.

“I also gave Lea flowers,” Shaun finished. “They were meant to arrive before Claire’s and Morgan’s arrangements. They didn’t.”

Aaron breathed a sigh of relief. “Okay, Lea got flowers too. Great. What kind? Roses, I imagine?”

Shaun nodded. “Yes. Two dozen red roses.”

“Two dozen red roses,” Aaron repeated. “You must have spent a pretty penny on those.”

“I realised that red roses had to be what I sent. Lea was explaining to me that flowers don’t always have to be romantic. They’re given at lots of other times, too. But then she also said, ‘a dozen red roses ain’t gonna be what you send’. So I made sure none of Claire’s or Morgan’s flowers were red, because red sends a message. I don’t completely understand how a flower’s colour sends a message, but I trust Lea to explain things to me. And I know colours have messages. We use colour codes here, and triage tags. Those colours have meanings. Red flowers do not say ‘thank you’. I understand that.”

“Well, you’re right about that,” Aaron agreed.

“I couldn’t make sure Lea was the first girl I ever gave flowers to, but I gave Lea her flowers in person. The others, I had delivered. So Lea is the first girl I have ever personally given flowers to, and she is also the first girl I have ever given red roses to,” Shaun explained.

“That’s... a lot. You got together on Friday? And by Saturday you gave her flowers? Shaun, that’s – that’s a little fast, don’t you think?”

“Dr. Glassman,” Shaun began, putting down his knife and fork, his face set, “I cannot remember when I started wanting Lea, but I think it must have been soon after I met her. I have never stopped wanting to be with her. I have been waiting and wanting to do these things for Lea.”

“I understand that, Shaun, but — ”

“I have waited to love her, Dr. Glassman,” Shaun stated, with finality.

Aaron knew there was absolutely nothing he could say to contradict Shaun’s honest statement. And he wouldn’t even have dreamed of trying.