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with a little help (from my friends)

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“Is this seat taken?” a tentative voice asked, the sound coming from somewhere above Morgan's head.

My day just gets better and better, Morgan groaned inwardly, as she recognised who was speaking.

She'd been so caught off guard by Shaun's polite rejection of her offer of civility – if not a genuine friendship – that she'd stayed put in her chair after he'd left, grouchily crossing her arms over her chest and glaring angrily into her lap.

As a result, she had failed to take notice of Claire, who had been walking towards her table.

Can't you see that I don't want company? she thought. Least of all yours? Apparently Murphy isn't the only one who can't take a hint.

“No. Feel free,” Morgan mumbled, instead, attempting to sound somewhat gracious. She felt the table rock as Claire sat down opposite her.

“What's the matter with you?” Claire asked curiously, as she unzipped her lunch tote and took out a sandwich wrapped in clingfilm, followed by a bottle of VitaminWater.

“That stuff is full of sugar,” Morgan commented about the water, still not bothering to look at Claire.

“Oh, well, I don't drink it every day,” Claire replied, dismissively. “Plus, I could use the short-term energy boost.”

“So, has Lea presumed to tell Shaun he can't talk to you outside of work, either?” Morgan asked, looking up at Claire, and trying not to sound too interested in the answer.

“... No? Why would she?” Claire asked in confusion, after taking a bite out of her sandwich, and washing it down with her water. “Has Shaun said something?”

“Yeah. Little bit. And he's gone back to calling me ‘Dr. Reznick’,” Morgan said, her voice full of derision.

“Well, did you think you guys were gonna be pals after that idiotic plan of yours? Is that it?” Claire questioned her. “You sound surprised about his reaction.”

“No, I — ” Morgan stammered. He sent me flowers, she finished, lamely, in her head. They weren't quite as epic as the pop-up Chelsea Flower Show he sent to you, but I just thought – I helped you write that damn paper, too —

“Oh, right. A kiss to build a dream on, huh?” Claire ventured, feeling like she was starting to understand Morgan's frustration – and also getting an inkling of just why Lea might have put her foot down about Shaun continuing to have some semblance of a friendship with the girl who had preyed on both of their insecurities. “You're upset that he's dismissed you. You've served your purpose. He doesn't need you now.”

Yeah, but he always needs you, doesn't he, Browne? Morgan practically spat in her mind. Being so pedantic about calling me by my title, yet calling you 'Claire'. Delineating, with his usual brutal honesty, who his real friends are.

“Did you even try to tell him that you care about him?” Claire asked, incisively. “Shaun doesn't really do hints. If you want to be his friend, tell him.”

“I said that I wasn't opposed to us being nice to one another, getting along, I mean, it's... whatever,” Morgan explained, reluctantly.

Claire fixed her with a pitying look. “And he said...?”

“'Thank you for helping Claire write that essay'. It was essential to him getting his job back, he told me.”

“Sounds like Shaun was being pretty nice to you,” Claire mused, giving Morgan a knowing look. “Polite and gracious. What more could you want?”

“I want him to ask me why I helped you,” Morgan admitted, colour rising in her cheeks. “Not why you wrote it. Those reasons are obvious to everyone except Shaun. But why I helped you to write it.”

“Surely it wasn't because you were trying to do something nice, for once in your life?” Claire ribbed her. “And, for the last time: Shaun has a girlfriend.

“Well, now, I wouldn't call that a denial,” Morgan shot back.

“Call it what you want,” Claire retorted. “I don't care. Personally, I think you're projecting. You are obsessed with the idea that I might be in love with Shaun, and it's getting weird how invested you are in that concept — ”

Because... you... are,” Morgan said, speaking very emphatically and deliberately, as though Claire was a particularly slow-witted five year-old child. “The mistake I made wasn't that I tried to get someone to pine after Shaun. The mistake was that I helped Shaun get the wrong girl.”

“In your opinion!” Claire countered hotly. “He wants Lea. You don't even know how damn long he's wanted her. It just pissed you off, didn't it, having to look at his sad blue eyes every fucking day, even though it had less than nothing to do with you. And, paradoxically, he's currently the happiest man alive because of what you did. So don't tell me you helped Shaun get the wrong woman. You got him the woman he's in love with. The woman who's in love with him, too. Not... the woman who loves him... who he doesn't love.”

Morgan watched in fascination as she saw Claire gradually come to terms with what she had just admitted to.

“... Feel better?” she offered tentatively, smirking, as Claire gave her a very dirty look.

“If you tell him – or anyone – what I just said, I swear to God, I will kill you and make it look like an accident,” Claire hissed desperately, as Morgan's Cheshire Cat smile only grew wider.

“Please, Morgan, don't screw things up for Shaun, okay? I can get over him, but I don't think he was doing all that well at getting over Lea. Seriously, if it happens with me and him, it happens,” Claire went on, beseechingly. “I'm appealing to your humanity here. I really want to stay friends with him. Like I told Melendez — ”

Morgan nearly choked on her own breath at that unexpected revelation; Claire, meanwhile, looked absolutely furious with herself.

“So Melendez knows, too?” Morgan asked. “Wow, you're really doing a bang-up job of hiding how you feel about Shaun, aren't you?”

“Apparently,” Claire acknowledged, laughing weakly. “I've already started talking. I might as well go for broke.”

“Hang on, Lim's texting me. Let me just put her off,” Morgan responded, while dashing off a quick message.

“Oh, that's okay — ” Claire cut in.

Morgan waved her off with an impatient gesture before saying, “Right. Okay. Melendez caught on. What led up to that?”

Claire sighed, resignedly. “He cornered me Friday, and asked me why I went to all that effort for a man who hadn't even thanked me for going to the trouble. I tried to redirect him, claimed that I had watched Jared lose his job, and that I wasn't gonna sit around and watch Shaun lose his – I'd already been a coward once. I could have done more for Kalu. It haunts me that I didn't. But Melendez knew that wasn't the whole story. Then he told me that if Shaun and I were going to be a thing, he, as our attending, needed to know, because it would be a 'HR minefield' for two of his residents to be dating.”

“Did you actually tell Melendez what you really feel for Shaun?”

“No. Not in so many words. He asked me what I would do if Shaun and Lea broke up. I told him Shaun's stubborn, and that the only person who's more stubborn is Lea. Morgan, I need you to understand this: I don't want to do anything about my feelings for Shaun. They'll fade in time. And I have to work with him – potentially for the next few years, at least. I honestly don't know what a post-relationship Shaun looks like, but an abandoned and confused Shaun isn't pretty. I've seen it.”

“Okay. I hear you,” Morgan said. “You're right. Shaun is a lot. I still think you two would make a sweet couple. You're so fucking functional. But that's not particularly exciting, is it?”

“It really isn't about excitement,” Claire insisted.

“Whatever you say, Grandma,” Morgan replied, teasingly. “But, then again, if the sex is anything like his kisses, well...”

“Please just quit while you're ahead,” Claire begged her.

“You must know a little — ” Morgan wheedled.

“Unfortunately,” Claire conceded, flatly.

“And...?” Morgan prompted.

“He is fucking her absolutely stupid,” was Claire's blunt reply. “That lucky bitch. And what did I do? Encouraged him to talk to me about it!”

“Whoa! Tell us how you really feel, Browne,” Morgan replied, a little bit shocked by Claire's frankness.

“Honestly, it felt good to get that out,” Claire acknowledged. “Listen, I'll let Shaun know you're not actually Satan. As we all know, he listens to me. God help me. But I'm not telling you anything more – I let my frustration get the better of me.”

“I already knew you weren't really 'Saint Claire',” Morgan assured her.

“I fucking hate it when people call me that,” Claire groused.

“See you out there,” Morgan said, silencing her phone and getting up from the table.

After Morgan had left the breakroom, Claire pulled out her phone to text Shaun: Hey, Shaun, did you really tell Reznick not to talk to you about anything apart from work?

His reply came: I am uncomfortable being around Dr. Reznick. I have kissed her. You know that.

She wrote: Did Lea tell you that you're not allowed to talk to Reznick, though?

His reply: Dr. Reznick is making it weird.

Claire and Shaun were teamed up again for afternoon rounds, and it was a rare quiet day, so they had plenty of opportunities to chatter. Shaun was relieved to find that Dr. Reznick was working in Trauma with Alex.

“Hey, Shaun?” Claire began, and Shaun looked up from the iPad in his hands, waiting for her to speak.

Claire clasped and un-clasped her fingers together, wondering how to bring up Morgan in the conversation organically. Not that Shaun would necessarily notice if she did it weirdly, she noted absently.

“You said, um – you told me that Morgan's making it weird. What do you mean by that, exactly? I – I meant to ask — ” Claire continued.

“My girlfriend doesn't like her,” he responded.

“Okay, but do you like her?” Claire prodded Shaun.

“She was easy to talk to. Now she's not. She made it weird,” Shaun answered.

“Did you like kissing Morgan, Shaun? Is that what's 'making it weird'?” Claire asked him, gently.

Shaun gave a reluctant nod.

“You know, it wasn't a crime to kiss her,” Claire explained. “Lea sure didn't hold back on bringing Jake home, did she? And it's not like you kissed Morgan in front of Lea. She would have been none the wiser if she hadn't walked in just after.”

“That is true. But I'd still be uncomfortable, because I kissed Dr. Reznick to prove a point,” Shaun answered, now walking into a patient's room to study the chart hanging from the foot of their bed.

He pointed to the bag of saline hanging from the stand, and Claire went to check it, nearly tripping over the catheter on the floor. Recovering swiftly, she noted that the colour of its contents didn't quite jive with the amount of saline that had been hung.

“I don't like this colour, Shaun,” Claire said, gesturing to the catheter. Replacing the chart in its holder, Shaun came over to look at the bag on the floor.

“Can you see any gross haematuria? You see colours the rest of us don't. Oh – Shaun, no,” she groaned, as Shaun put on a pair of surgical gloves, then got down on his hands and knees to inspect the bag's contents at close range.

“Well, how else am I going to see what I need to see?” Shaun countered.

“The floor is probably filthy,” Claire observed.

“Yes. Quite possibly. But my other choice is to lift the bag up, and that means touching it.”

Shaun studied the patient's urine, then pronounced himself largely unconcerned and moved to get up from the floor, until something else caught his eye. He resumed looking at the bag.

Claire took advantage of his distraction to say: “Morgan helped me to write that essay for you, Shaun. You know that, right? She isn't awful.”

“Yes, I know that Dr. Reznick helped you with the essay, Claire — ” Shaun said, bending this way and that – if Claire stood at a certain angle, she had a very nice view in front of her – notwithstanding the cath spoiling the picture, of course – but... details... “ — and I have already thanked her,” Shaun finished, now getting back to his feet.

“Maybe you should ask Morgan why she helped,” Claire suggested.

Taking off his gloves and tossing them in the biohazard can, Shaun replied: “But I already know why Dr. Reznick helped. You asked her to help.”

Claire nodded. “I did ask Morgan, and she could have said 'no'. But she didn't.”

Shaun looked thoughtful. “That is true. Okay, when I have a chance, I will ask Dr. Reznick why she helped you to write that essay. I hadn't considered that she might have done so for her own reasons.”

“Just... call her 'Morgan', Shaun,” Claire told him, before she decided to move on to a new subject. After all, there was only so much to say about Morgan before it sounded strange – and even if Shaun didn't find it odd, Claire knew she'd feel self-conscious about it.

Plus, the discussion of Shaun kissing Morgan sort of made Claire's hackles rise. A little.

... All right. A lot.

“Okay, new topic. Are you gonna talk to Lea? I think you have to tell her something soon, or it's just going to get worse. It's already A Thing. You don't want it to mutate into this, like, huge.. crisis situation, do you?” Claire mused aloud, as they went into the next patient's room.