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Ghosts of the Past

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Shaun Murphy was having a good day. His patients were doing well, he got to assist in a complicated surgery that was very successful, and now he was sitting down at his favorite table to eat his usual lunch. He had only been sitting for a few moments when his other fellow residents joined him. He let out a small "Hello" with a smile before continuing to cut his sandwich in half. Shaun never had many friends, his autism made it hard for others to truly understand him. However, here at St. Bonaventure, he had found many people who accepted him for him.

Not participating in the conversation about some show they had all seen last night, Shaun picked up his sandwich to take a bite when someone snatched it out of his hands. He looked up in surprise to see his boss and partner, Neil Melendez smiling down at him, holding another sandwich out to him, "It had pickles on it, the cafeteria worker caught up to me just now. He felt really bad and rushed this out when he ran into me."

Shaun took the sandwich Neil was offering with a smile of his own, "Thank you Dr. Melendez."

It wasn't unusual for Shaun to refer to him as his professional title at work, even though they had been dating for almost eight months at this point. Neil leaned down and brushed a kiss against his cheek and was gone as quickly as he was there. He had a lunch time meeting today, otherwise he'd be sitting with them. Shaun turned back to the table to find the other occupants grinning at him. Morgan was the first speak, "I thought you two were off your rocker eight months ago, but you guys are so cute it's almost sick."

Claire immediately shoved Morgan lightly before telling Shaun, "It's not sick, I love how happy you two make each other."

"Thank you both." Shaun replied, smiling, even though he wasn't looking at them.

The group finished up their lunch with easy conversation. Shaun didn't contribute much, but they all knew he was listening and enjoyed just being there with them. He had grown on them after being there for over a year and a half. They all admired his mind and surgery skills, but they also loved him as a person. He brought out a protective instinct in them all. They had bits and pieces of his past life before coming to their hospital, none of which they liked to hear. Shaun was different, but he didn't deserve the mistreatment he often got because of his autism.

As they finished lunch, the group all walked back to the elevators, talking about how they were going to split afternoon duties when they were intercepted by Marcus Andrews and Allegra Aoki who didn't look happy.

"Dr. Murphy, can we please have a word with you?" Aoki asked him, trying to smile but it came off as pained.

"What's going on Dr. Andrews?" Claire asked first, stepping towards them.

Marcus made eye contact with each of them except Shaun as he told them, "This involves Dr. Murphy. It won't take long though, he will join you after we are done."

It was obvious that it was not up for argument or discussion so the other four residents gave Shaun a look of confusion before continuing on their way. Shaun started rocking slightly on his heels as the two turned their attention back to him.

Aoki spoke first, sounding gentle, "There has been a complaint about you. However, we're questioning its credibility at the moment. Two people came to Dr. Andrews this morning. All they would tell us is that you were responsible for their son's death, they specifically sited your autism as the reason, and they are calling for us to fire you immediately." Shaun started rocking faster and he couldn't look either of them in the eye as she continued, "We do not believe these complaints at all Dr. Murphy. Supposedly, this happened before you even came to us. We will, however, have to investigate them. Do you understand?"

Shaun forced himself to take a deep breath, gripping his own hands tightly in front of him, still not meeting her eyes, "Yes ma'am. What do I need to do?"

"We will be taking a meeting with the legal department right after we're done here and then we're going to go from there. They will not give us their last name for some reason, but soon there will be a meeting with me, yourself, Dr. Melendez, Dr. Andrews, Jessica from legal, and the couple themselves. This will not be over until the truth is out Dr. Murphy. I promise you that." Aoki told him sincerely, making his rocking stop and he met her eyes finally.

"Dr. Murphy, do you know a man and a woman who would do this?" Dr. Andrews asked him, studying him closely. He had a suspicion about the mystery couple, but until he was certain, he wouldn't say anything.

Shaking his head slowly, Shaun looked over at Marcus, telling him, "Most of the people I know are from here. I do not think I have enemies."

Marcus nodded, it was hard to believe that anyone could hate him honestly, before telling him, "If you need to take the rest of the day off, we would understand."

"No. I need to be here. I have patients." Shaun immediately replied, his voice rising slightly with anxiety. He couldn't imagine going home alone right now. He needed to work.

"Okay. I believe you. Well we won't keep you any longer, but the offer to go home stands for the rest of the day." Marcus gently said, studying the young man closely.

Shaun nodded before turning and walking off, his hands still clasped in front of him tightly. He made it to the elevator with no one stopping him thankfully. When he entered the empty carrier, he walked to the back, leaning against it, trying to remember the anxiety relief tricks Neil had taught him over their relationship. His breath was slowing down, but his mind was still racing. Who would want to ruin his career? <><><><><><><><><><>

Neil was leaned against the nurses station in the emergency room next to his long time friend Audrey Lim. She was telling him about her disaster of a date last night that somehow ended up in her throwing her leftovers from dinner on the guy. He was grinning at her exaggerated hand motions as she told him how she just turned and left the guy in the bar, covered in her soup. He noticed his residents heading towards them and looked to greet them, immediately frowning when he didn't see Shaun with them. Audrey saw his face and turned around to see the four residents, asking with a grin, trying to lighten the obvious tension in the group, "Where's the boy genius? I have a cool surgery that's right up his alley."

They all exchanged looks that Neil couldn't identify, but he knew he didn't like them. Claire was the first one to speak, looking directly at Neil, "Shaun was stopped by Dr. Andrews and Ms. Aoki. They didn't look happy, but they said he'd be right behind us. We waited for a while and can't find him now."

Audrey just looked over at Neil quickly, she knew how much he loved Shaun. She was the one who helped him plan out how to ask Shaun to move in. Before anyone else could say anything, she told him, "You should go look for him."

He didn't respond, just immediately started walking off. His mind was racing with questions as he reached the elevator. What did Marcus and Aoki talk to Shaun about? Where was Shaun now? Why did he have a bad feeling deep in his gut? Taking things one step at a time, Neil pressed the button for the floor that had his office. Shaun was quick to seek Neil out when he was overwhelmed, maybe he had headed up to his office on instinct.

When he exited the elevator, Neil was surprised to run right into Shaun himself. Neil took quick catalog of Shaun's body language, his hands were white from how tight his grip was, he wasn't standing still, and he wasn't making eye contact, which he did with Neil better than anyone else. Grabbing his hands, Neil just pulled him until they were hidden in his office. Shaun pulled away from Neil to start pacing around the small room.

"Shaun, I know you're overwhelmed, but I need to know what happened." Neil started, trying to sound calm, but he was extremely concerned about the way Shaun was acting. He had gotten so much better at communicating his needs, at least to Neil, so it was easier to help him before he got to this point. Neil didn't even know what was wrong though, so he felt helpless as he watched Shaun.

Shaun didn't stop walking, but he did finally speak, "Someone wants me fired. They told Dr. Andrews that I killed their son. Before St. Bonadventure. I do not know." His voice was raising in volume as he started hitting his forehead with the palm of his hand.

Knowing that sometimes, especially in moments like these, physical contact with anyone even Neil, was unwelcome, he walked towards Shaun slowly. He wanted him to have time to put more space between them if that's what he needed. However, Shaun just watched him warily as Neil got closer. Neil stopped in front of him, reaching out to touch his arm, sliding it down to hold his hand. Shaun's eyes closed, his breathing got deeper; Neil could see him try to get himself to relax. Proud, he recognized the anxiety relief tricks Neil had been teaching him over time. Pulling Shaun over to the couch, Neil sat with him, never letting go of his hand.

"Did they let you know the credibility of this complaint?" Neil asked him gently, running his thumb over the top of Shaun's hand, a move that has calmed him down successfully many times over their relationship.

Shaun opened his eyes to finally meet Neil's, whispering, "They do not believe it."

Neil felt his whole body relax at his words. Logically, he knows Shaun has nothing to worry about. However, he couldn't help the twist in his chest at Shaun saying someone wanted him fired. It was easing, but Neil was starting to get angry. Whoever this was, this seemed like personal revenge rather than a concern that Shaun wasn't a good doctor. He took a deep breath, trying to clear the frustration from his voice for Shaun's benefit before talking to him in a low voice, "Of course they don't believe it. You were a medical student before you came here. I've seen your whole file, so has Marcus and everyone on the board before you were even hired. We're going to get to the bottom of this Shaun."

Lifting Shaun's hand so that he could kiss the back of it, Neil studied Shaun intently. His mind was still whirling, Neil could see it all over his face. He wanted to suggest Shaun head home, but knew he would immediately refuse. Shaun doesn't like to be alone during crisis moments ever since he started finding comfort in Neil's presence. Neil also didn't want him all the way at his own apartment alone. What if Shaun needed him? They sat there silently as Shaun continued to focus on his breathing and started doing complicated math problems in his head. After a while, he looked over at Neil, "Thank you for finding me."

"I'll always find you." Neil told him firmly. He waited to see if Shaun had anything else to say, but his partner remained silent so Neil continued, "I want to go find Marcus and find out what he knows. Are you okay to work?"

Shaun paused for a moment before slowly saying, "Dr. Andrews said I could go home. I do not think that would be good. I do not want to be alone."

Neil considered his words for a moment. He didn't say that he was okay to work, just that he didn't want to go home to an empty apartment. Speaking carefully, Neil presented a different idea, "How about this? You hang out in my office while I go find Marcus. I got all your favorite medical texts in here for you to read if you want. Then when I'm done, I'll come back and we can decide what to do from there?" Shaun hesitated, but Neil went on, "I'm not going to make you do anything Shaun. However, you're not going to be any good to our patients if you're overwhelmed."

He could see Shaun going over his words, considering all that Neil said. Shaun hated to be treated like he couldn't handle himself, but Neil knew when he was at his limits. He finally nodded, "Okay. I think reading would be nice."

Sighing in relief, Neil smiled a small smile as he reached out and brushed his hand over Shaun's hair lightly, "Okay. I'm going to find Marcus. I'll be back soon."

Neil stood up before leaning back down to brush firm kiss across Shaun's forehead. Shaun gave him a small smile as Neil left. Closing his office door behind him, the anger he kept at bay for Shaun was at the front of his mind. He was finding Marcus now and getting to the bottom of this. <><><><><><><><><>

Audrey was waiting outside the hallway of Marcus' office when Neil rounded the corner. She put her hands up, blocking him from entering even as he shot her an angry look, "Look, don't give me that look. You're mad. I get it. How about we go over a strategy before you just barge in there?"

Neil studied her, his look of irritation not fading at all, "Who did you run into?"

Audrey grinned at him, "I have no idea what's going on honestly. I just know you. You're my friend and you love Shaun. Obviously as soon as you got him calm, I'm assuming he's reading a medical text in your office, you would be coming here to confront Marcus." She ignored his glare for the moment, "Look, I'm not telling you that you shouldn't go in there. All I'm saying is let's think for a moment on what you're going to say. Maybe even let me come in there with you, just to be safe."

Rolling his eyes and running his hand over his face before he replied, "You can come in, I'll tell you what I know first, but that's as long as I'm waiting to go in there." She shrugged in agreement as he went on, "Someone wants Shaun fired for supposedly killing their son, but it was before he came to our hospital. That's all I got out of Shaun."

Nodding her head, she told him, "Well, let's go find out what the hell."

Neil led the way into the office, ignoring the Marcus' secretary trying to stop them from going further. When he opened the door, he found Marcus sitting at his desk with two people in front it, the man standing, his stance aggressive. The man was angry, his face red, while the woman sat silently beside him. She looked up at Neil and the breath was knocked out of his lungs as he met the exact same eyes as the love of his life's eyes. Audrey saw it too immediately, he could tell by the way she tensed beside him.

"Dr. Melendez, what a nice surprise. I wasn't planning on involving you just yet, but since you're here, come on in. You too, Dr. Lim." Marcus greeted them with a wave of his hand.

The pair came further into the office, closing the office door behind them. Neil could tell Marcus was mad, but as acting president of the hospital, he had to remain calm. The knowledge that Marcus was mad for Shaun's sake eased Neil's anger. He and Audrey moved to stand behind the desk, waiting for someone to speak.

The angry man spoke first, "Are you two going to be more cooperative than this idiot?"

"Well he's the president of the hospital while we are just lowly surgeons." Audrey told him, but the edge in her voice was clear to the entire room.

The woman with Shaun's eyes spoke up, her voice timid, "My husband is just very upset. We came out to this hospital because it was the best for my cancer and to find that you've hired Shaun Murphy as a doctor is very concerning."

Before he could help himself, Neil spat out, "Why is that though? He's been here for over a year and a half and has built up an excellent reputation for himself as a surgeon. What exactly is your problem with Dr. Murphy?" He had to stop himself from saying Shaun at the last moment. Neil had a feeling that if these people knew how close he was to Shaun, it would start another yelling match.

"He KILLED our son! Why is that not good enough for this hospital?" The man yelled, slamming his hand down on the desk. None of the doctors even flinched though.

Marcus spoke up, obviously trying to keep his voice neutral, but failing, "Well Sir, the fact of the matter is, you will not tell us your name, your son's name, how you know Dr. Murphy or any details. Dr. Murphy was a medical student before coming to us, so I'm confused on what you're telling me."

The couple shared a look, but said nothing. The woman just stared down at her lap while her husband glared at the three doctors across from him. Audrey spoke up first, "How do you know Shaun?"

"That's none of your business. Look, I've never used that dumbass as a doctor, but I know him. I know he's stupid, dangerous even. There is no way a person like that is anyway qualified to be a doctor." The man snapped, not giving anyone a chance to respond before continuing, "Fine. Don't fire the retard, but he will under NO circumstances treat my wife!"

Marcus glanced at Neil quickly, whose hands were clenched into fists, before telling the couple, "I have no problem with that because I would never subject one of our best residents to any verbal abuse from you two. We are happy to treat you Ma'am, but under no circumstances are you two to approach Dr. Murphy. There is obviously something personal between you all and if you cannot behave like adults, I will have to transfer you to another hospital."

The man glared at them before yanking his wife up out of her seat, pulling her towards the door. It slammed behind them. Marcus slumped in his seat, sighing loudly, "They have been in my office since eight this morning. The only reason they can still receive treatment here is because legal said if we want to avoid being sued, they have to actually approach Shaun. Yelling at me isn't good enough."

Neil could hear the anger and frustration in his voice at the situation. He took a few deep breaths before asking the room, "Did you two see what I saw?"

"I'm willing to place serious money that those are Shaun's parents. I don't know much about them. Why would parents be like this towards their own kid?" Audrey asked, confusion laced through her voice.

Rounding the desk to take a seat in front of it, Neil sighed, "This is just for this room for now, okay?" He waited for them both to nod before continuing, "As we all know, Shaun's autism makes communication difficult. It was even worse when he was a kid. His parents didn't understand autism, didn’t want to, didn't get him into any therapy, his dad just wanted to beat it out of him. When Shaun was fourteen, he got kicked out of his third school. His dad decided to beat him and throw his pet rabbit against the wall, killing it."

Marcus and Audrey's faces were hard in anger, they had heard from Shaun that he saw his precious pet die, but that was the extent of their knowledge. Neil rubbed his hand across his face, suddenly feeling exhausted, as he went on, "Shaun's brother, who protected him, decided they were running away. For six months, they lived in a tent, then in a bus. Steve didn't want Shaun to go back. There was an accident where Steve fell and hit his head. Shaun tried to get help, but it was too late. The police tried giving Shaun back to his parents, but Shaun freaked out to the point the cops weren't comfortable leaving him. After that, he ended up in foster care and never talked to his parents ever again. Luckily for him, he had Glassman."

They sat in silence for a moment, trying to process the days events. Audrey spoke up first, "We should find out for sure if they're his parents before we say anything to Shaun. What if we're wrong?"

"I already pulled her file, last name Murphy, gave birth to two kids, same years as Shaun and his brother. Unfortunately, we are not wrong." Marcus told her, leaning against his desk to look more intently at Neil, "You need to take him home and break the news to him there. I'm not saying this because I think less of him, but this situation is a lot for anyone."

Neil nodded in agreement, suddenly thinking of something, "How did they know Shaun worked here?"

Marcus rolled his head on his shoulder, trying to alleviate the tension as he answered him, "They wouldn't say. Which makes me believe they got the information from a source they want to keep a secret."

Audrey and Neil nodded in agreement before she burst out, "Oh my....I bet they know where he lives."

A pit dropped into Neil's stomach as he realized she was probably right, "I'll figure it out. We have tomorrow off, I'm going to take him home now though." He paused to give Marcus a chance to object (not that that would change Neil's plans). When he didn't, Neil finished telling them his plan, "I don't think we should take this lightly. Did you see that guys temper? He's going to take a swing at Shaun."

"Or worse." Audrey added, solemnly.

"Take him home, Melendez. We can handle everything here. If he needs another day off after tomorrow, just call. I know that means you'll be out with him, but we all care about Shaun. He needs to process this in his way." Marcus spoke in his usual business tone, but Neil knew the words were true.

Nodding, he stood up to leave, telling them, "I'll let you know. Just to let you know, don't let my residents treat her. They're all Shaun's friends. As soon as they find this out, it's going to be messy."

Marcus nodded in agreement and Neil turned and left. He had an overwhelming urge to get back to Shaun now. He was about to get in the elevator when Claire and Morgan ran up behind him, both asking question after question. He silenced them with a wave of his hand and then gestured for them to follow him onto the empty elevator. He hit his office floor number before turning to them. Both women looked worried and confused. Morgan spoke up quickly, "What is going on? Shaun doesn't miss his rounds for no reason."

Claire nodded quickly. Neil sighed, feeling angry at the situation all over again as he spoke to them, "Shaun's parents are here. His mom is getting treatment for cancer and his dad wants him fired for the accident involving Shaun's brother. Right now, I'm taking Shaun home."

They had reached his floor and got off the elevator, but Neil stopped them from going further, "This isn't public knowledge, you got me? Also I don't want any of you saying a word to them. Am I clear?"

The women were clearly upset but they agreed easily. Neil gave them a small smile before leaving them standing there to walk into his office. He found Shaun in his desk chair, reading intently from a medical journal. He paused as he shut the door, watching Shaun with fondness before crossing the room the kneel beside the chair. Shaun finally noticed that he wasn't alone in the office anymore and turned to Neil with smile. One that faltered when he got a good look at his partner. Shaun was as good at reading Neil, as Neil was at reading Shaun.

Neil just leaned forward to kiss him gently, cupping his cheek. Shaun returned the kiss easily, but pulled back with a questioning look. He wanted to know what was going on, but Neil couldn't bring himself to tell him here at the hospital. Instead he smiled, telling Shaun, "This isn't up for debate. We're going home. My home. We're going to stop by your place for whatever you'll need for a while." Shaun looked like he was going to protest, but Neil just brushed his thumb over his mouth, "We're going to talk, but I need you to trust me on this Shaun."

Shaun regarded him for a moment before nodding once, "I love you."

Sighing with relief that a fight was avoided, Neil smiled again, "I love you too. Let's go home."

Chapter Text

Claire was trying her best to focus on her patient files in the break room, but it was hard. After Neil had left them in the hallway with more questions than answers, the women had returned to work, only to find that a Mrs. Murphy was admitted for treatment and was under the care of Dr. Lim. None of the surgery residents have even so much have glanced into the room. Alex and Jared got filled in in hushed tones and the team was tense anytime they were near that room.

"Our shift is almost over, want to go get a drink?" Morgan asked her, making Claire jump slightly. She had forgotten that Morgan had been working on her own charts next to her.

"You scared me, you've been so quiet that I forgot you were even in here!" Claire exclaimed, giving Morgan a playful push.

The rivalry between the women was still there, but at the same time they were becoming closer. It was nice to have another woman doctor that they could relate to. Morgan had grown over the course of the last six months, trying to engage her coworkers instead of alienate herself from them. She was still competitive though, that would never change, but lately it had turned into more a friendly competition rather than the intense version Morgan so often started.

Shaking her hair out of its ponytail, Claire thought about the offer for a moment, "Okay, but don't be offended if I just talk about Shaun the whole time."

"You in love with Murphy too? Melendez would probably go to blows over him." Alex told him as he entered the break room.

Claire fake glared at him, trying to hide her smile as she shot back, "I love Shaun, but I'm not in love with him. Also Melendez would probably secretly have me 'taken care of' without a second thought." Morgan laughed at her air quotes.

The group shared a chuckle when the door of the break room flew open and Audrey came storming in. They all exchanged looks as she aggressively got herself a cup of coffee, not saying a word to anyone. Claire looked at Morgan knowingly, they had a feeling what the attending was upset about. Mr. Murphy had not kept his opinions about Shaun and him working at the hospital quiet at all. Many of the nurses had already refused to return to the room because of it. Shaun was loved at St. Bonaventure and not one of them took kindly to the words coming from that room.

Audrey turned around and seemed surprised that they were all there, "Oh. Hey there."

"Tired of room 345 already?" Alex guessed, correctly by the look of exasperation on the older doctor's face.

"How someone so kind, honest, smart, and caring come from that pair, I will never be able to explain. He wouldn't even let me explain his wife's treatment, he just wanted to rant his ignorant opinion about Shaun." Audrey ranted as she sat at the table with the residents.

They all nodded as Morgan added, "It's going to be night shift's problem too. Nurse Fryday is on tonight too. We all know how well she tolerates people talking negatively about Murphy."

Nurse Fryday was an unlikely ally to Shaun, they started off rocky. As Shaun proved his skill though, Nurse Fryday grew fond on him. At this point, it's almost as if she views Shaun as a selective grandchild. She was not going to take kindly to Mr. Murphy's words.

Audrey's pager went off before she could respond and the group knew where she was being called by the scowl on her face. They gave her supportive smiles as she got up to leave. Putting on her best fake smile, Audrey entered the room again to find Mrs. Murphy alone for the first time since they arrived. Walking over to the bed, Audrey gave her a soft smile, asking, "Is there something I can help you with?"

Mrs. Murphy looked around the room before answering, "I just want to apologize for Edward. He can be very aggressive about his opinion, but he does mean well."

Not responding right away, Audrey regarded the woman in front of her. She had a strong suspicion that Edward's temper didn't end with Shaun. This woman was timid and let her husband answer for her in a way that was too familiar to Audrey as a doctor. Pulling the rolling chair over closer to the bed, Audrey sat down saying, "He may mean well, but he's royally irritating every staff member in this hospital Kathrine. Can you tell me why he hates Dr. Murphy so much?"

Mrs. Murphy didn't answer her doctor's question, instead asking a question of her own, "Is Dr. Murphy well adjusted? Does he have friends? Every one keeps saying he's a great doctor."

It hit Audrey all at once, Mrs. Murphy didn't feel the same about her oldest son as her husband did. She considered her answer carefully as the woman watched her. Audrey smiled again, telling her, "One, Shaun is an amazing doctor. I like to call him the boy genius. He sees things that none of us think of. We are very lucky to have part of our team." Mrs. Murphy nodded thoughtfully as the doctor went on, "As for well adjusted and having friends, yes. He has friends that have turned into family here. He has a partner too that loves him very much. Shaun's autism isn't a curse. He's different, but in the best way."

Audrey waited for Mrs. Murphy to respond, but she stayed silent. Waiting just a few more moments, Audrey got up to leave. She had hoped that Mrs. Murphy would say something to indicate that she regretted how life happened with her oldest boy, but she stayed quiet. Walking up to the nurses station to write down some final notes for the night shift, Audrey felt sadder than ever for Shaun. He deserved parents that loved him. He wasn't a broken person like they thought he was. Sighing sadly, Audrey only hoped Neil was doing well with him now.

<><><><><><>

Neil and Shaun had just finished eating at their favorite local diner and were currently heading back from the latter's apartment from getting the things he needed. They hadn't talked about why Neil insisted they leave work yet. Neil had explained before they left that this was at home, in private kind of conversation. Shaun's mind had been going non-stop since they left the diner. Eating dinner helped distract his mind, but now that they were back in the car driving in silence, Shaun was assuming the worst.

"Will you tell me what we have to talk about? Are you mad at me?" Shaun asked quietly, seemingly out of the blue, but Neil knew better. It had probably been on his mind ever since Neil told him that they were leaving.

Reaching across the center console, Neil grabbed Shaun's hand tightly, telling him, "Absolutely not. It's about the complaint Dr. Andrews got, nothing to do with us as a couple. I love you Shaun."

Shaun didn't respond, but he held Neil's hand just as tightly. Neil knew his unspoken words, lifted his hand up to place a kiss on the back of the younger man's hand. They drove in silence as Neil headed to his place. This entire day had weighed down on them both, but they still had to talk. Neil refused to break this news to him in a place that Shaun didn't feel comfortable in. Shaun needed as much support as Neil could provide and he could do that best in private.

They pulled into the parking garage and exited the car without saying anything. Neil grabbed the bag that Shaun had packed from the back seat before meeting him at the back of the car. Shaun immediately reached out and grabbed Neil's hand as they made their way up to the apartment. It wasn't uncommon for Shaun to initiate contact with Neil, but it was usually the other way around. Neil knew he was feeling anxious and was happy to link his fingers with his partners. The air around them was tense.

"I would like to talk now." Shaun announced as soon as the front door shut behind them. It didn't surprise Neil at all, he honestly expected it earlier.

Neil dropped his work bag on the kitchen island, running his hand over his face quickly as he replied softly, "Okay Shaun. Where should we start?"

Shaun thought over that carefully for a moment, telling him, "What did you find out from Dr. Andrews?"

Walking over to the couch, propping his feet up on the coffee table, Neil gestured for Shaun to join him as he launched into his explanation, "Marcus was actually in the middle of meeting with the couple that made the complaint themselves when I got to his office," He paused as Shaun deposited himself next to him, leaning into his side. "They were rude and loud. Their complaint was unsubstantiated as I thought. Honestly, I wouldn't worry about the complaint itself. You aren't going to lose your job over this."

Taking in Neil's words, Shaun was silent. He knew Neil was not lying to him, but he could sense there was something else. Neil's voice was tight and his body was tense. Shifting so that he faced his partner, Shaun asked him, "What else is there?"

Meeting Shaun's eyes, Neil felt his heart twist. He wished he could shield this from Shaun forever, never having to unintentionally hurt his heart. Shaun wasn't a child though, he wasn't incapable of dealing with this and it would be unfair to him to treat him like he was. Neil reached up and ran his hand over the side of Shaun's face as he continued, "Their last name is Murphy. Audrey, Marcus and I all think they are your parents. Marcus even went though your mom's medical files to be sure. She's being treated at the hospital for cancer."

Shaun was silent but his eyes went wide in shock. Neil could practically see the wheels in his head going faster than normal. Trying not to startle him, Neil reached out to hold his hands that were firmly clasped together in his lap. Thankfully, Shaun did not try to pull away, he just let Neil hold him without moving. After a few minutes, Shaun spoke and surprised Neil, "I would like you to look over my mother's treatment."

Choosing his words carefully, Neil responded softly, "You know I can't be her doctor. We're together and I know how they treated you. It's a major conflict of interest Shaun." Shaun nodded carefully, but Neil knew he didn't like that answer. Continuing after a few moments of silence, "Audrey is her doctor and she's one of the best. What I can do is look over her chart every day, just to be sure Audrey didn't miss anything."

"Thank you. My mom was nice." Shaun whispered as he moved his hands to grip Neil's just as tightly as he gripped his own.

They sat there quietly for a while as Neil let Shaun process the information. He was carefully watching his partner's face, hoping to get some insight to how the younger man was feeling. When he couldn't wait any longer, Neil whispered to him, "Are you okay?"

Startling Neil, Shaun jumped up off the couch and started pacing as words just flew out of his mouth, "They want me fired for Steve. That is ridiculous. It was an accident. I was not a doctor. I tried to save him. Why are they here? Why are they trying to ruin the life I have?" His voice was rising again and Neil could see him physically stop himself from hitting his forehead.

Neil stood up and crossed the room quickly to Shaun, pulling his hand away from his face. Shaun tried to pull his hand back for a second, but then just stood there in front of Neil, his face full of anxiety and sadness. Pulling him just a step closer, Neil started talking to him in a low voice, "I can't answer the whys. I wish I could, but they haven't even admitted that they're your parents, much less why they're being this terrible. I can tell you that they will not succeed. You have the whole hospital's support. They cannot take the life you've made. I promise."

Shaun nodded once and Neil could see that even though the words were comforting, his mind was still whirling. Stepping forward slowly, Neil waited to see if he would move away. When Shaun just stood there, Neil wrapped his arms around him, making sure not to squeeze too tight. Shaun rested his head on Neil's shoulder, not bringing up his arms to hug him back, but his body was still tight with tension. Neil let him stand there for a while, knowing he was focused on breathing slowly, before asking, "How can I help?"

He didn't answer. Neil should have expected that considering Shaun doesn't like questions. Lightly tracing random patterns on Shaun's back, Neil lost track of how long they had been standing there. He didn't want to be the first to pull away, Shaun deserved as much time as he wanted.

After a while, Shaun lifted his head to look directly at Neil. Neil gave him a comforting smile as Shaun opened his mouth to speak, "Will I have to see them? My father was a mean man. I do not think it has changed."

"I can't promise anything Shaun, but I'll do my best to make that possible. Their complaint is ridiculous and shouldn't even be brought to the board. I'll find out for sure when we go back to work."

Shaun gave one quick nod and then leaned against Neil again. The older man could tell how exhausted his partner was instantly. Most of Shaun's weight was being held up by Neil at this point. Gently tugging him, Neil guided them to the room without breaking the contact they had. Once they reached the edge of Shaun's favorite side of the bed, he looked up, sleepily protesting, "I should do my night routine."

"I think, just this once, it'll be okay to skip." Neil insisted, looking at him intently. Shaun was now swaying, his eyes drooping as the weight of the day hit him.

"Okay." he simply replied as he turned to get into bed.

Neil rounded the bed, shed his shoes and dress shirt on the chair nearby, before joining Shaun under the covers. Almost immediately after Neil's head hit his pillow, Shaun rolled over into his space, draping his body over Neil's. Night time was the time that Shaun reached for Neil the most, he once told Neil that him being helped Shaun sleep easier. Gently wrapping his arms around him, Neil turned slightly so that Shaun was more firmly against him. Their breathing evened out together as sleep started to claim them. Neil was sure Shaun was already asleep by the way his body was relaxed. Shaun was only this relaxed at night it seemed like and Neil loved it.

Out of the darkness, Shaun whispered, "You make me feel safe. It's almost like you are my home."

Neil's breath caught in his throat as he took the words in. Before he could assure Shaun that he felt the same way, the younger man was snoring softly. Shifting slightly, Neil held his partner as he slept, feeling so incredibly happy at Shaun's simple words. He would always do anything he could for Shaun. Feeling determined, Neil decided that tomorrow was the perfect day to finally ask Shaun to move in. Neil wanted to spend his life with this man and this was the next step.

Soon the room was filled snores from both men as they drifted into peaceful sleeps that could only be achieved with each other.

Chapter Text

Neil woke up to the sun shining through the windows, surprising him that he actually slept in. Stretching for a second, Neil looked over at Shaun's side of the bed, expecting his partner to be sitting up watching the news, but he wasn't there. Sitting up quickly, Neil listened carefully, hoping to hear the shower running. The apartment was quiet though. It wasn't like Shaun to leave without saying anything, but he may still be spiraling from last night. He was about to get up and start searching when Shaun walked in, smiling when he saw that Neil was awake.

"I have been up for a very long time." He announced as he crawled on the bed to sit in front of Neil. He crossed his legs to get comfortable, settling close to the older man.

Brushing his hand over Shaun's hair, Neil smiled back at him, "Why does that not surprise me at all?"

Shaun hummed happily when Neil took his hand, but gave him a questioning look, "Is that a question that requires no answer? I don't have one."

Laughing softly, Neil just leaned in to give Shaun a kiss. Shaun returned the kiss easily, relaxing into his partners touch. They sat close together for a moment, just enjoying the peacefulness. Shaun pulled back suddenly, looking at Neil intensely. Neil waited to see if he'd say what was on his mind, but Shaun stayed quiet. After a minute, he couldn't' wait anymore so Neil asked, "What is it Shaun?"

"I do not want to go back to my apartment." He declared, shifting his eyes to break the eye contact. Neil expected him to continue, but silence filled the room.

Neil watched him carefully as Shaun's eyes bounced around the room, never landing on one thing for long. He was good at reading between the lines with Shaun and there was words unsaid in his simple statement. Neil's heart started beating faster, maybe Shaun meant that he NEVER wanted to go back to his place. Reaching out to grab his partner's hand, Neil took a deep breath. He wanted this and couldn't keep being too nervous to approach the topic.

Shaun met his eyes for a moment before looking away, but Neil could see the hesitation on his face. Neil leaned in a bit so he could run his fingertips against the side of Shaun's face as he told him, "I would never make you leave Shaun."

Nodding his head, making his whole body rock with it, Shaun whispered back, "I did not mean today."

"Neither did I Shaun." Neil told him, waiting for Shaun to look at him again before continuing, "I've been wanting to ask you to move in for a while, but I didn't want you to feel pressured to if you didn't want to."

"I want too!" Shaun assured him, almost urgently like he was afraid Neil didn't believe him.

Neil felt his heart twist at the desperation in his partner's voice and reached out to cup his face, bringing him closer for a kiss. Shaun relaxed, but only a little. When Neil broke the kiss, he stayed in Shaun's space to ask him softly, "So want to make this place our home?"

Nodding his head rapidly, Shaun rushed out, "Yes. I really want that."

The men shared a smile while they soaked in the peacefulness in the room. Neil leaned back to give his partner space, but was surprised when Shaun just followed him to lay his head on Neil's shoulder. Even after all the time, Neil was amazed at how comfortable Shaun was reaching out to him for touch. It was very well known that Shaun did not like to be touched, but when he was with Neil, it was different. Shaun's hesitation to touch Neil faded fast and now he needed the comfort that Neil's touch brought him often.

"I love you Shaun. Are you hungry? I can make some pancakes?" Neil offered, leaning back to get a good look at the younger's man face. Shaun smiled a relaxed smile, one of Neil's favorites, and asked, "Can I have four pancakes?"

"You can have as many as you want." Neil replied, leaning in to kiss his nose.

Shaun scrunched up his face for a second in response for a second before replying easily, "I only want four."

Smiling fondly at him, Neil stood up to head to the kitchen. Shaun stood up right after him, hands folded easily in front of him as he followed Neil to the kitchen. As Shaun sat himself at the kitchen island and Neil got started on the pancakes, they both had smiles on their faces. Neil loved the easy rhythm they fell into, but the events of yesterday started to weigh on his mind. He tried to keep his face blank as to not ruin Shaun's peaceful mood.

"Are you thinking about my parents?" Shaun asked him, studying Neil's face carefully.

Neil let out a single chuckle, he shouldn't be surprised at how well Shaun reads him. Taking the few steps over to his side of the island so he could lean forward on it, looking at Shaun intently, "Kind of. I'm mostly thinking about you and how tomorrow is going to go."

Shaun nodded carefully, looking around as he mulled over Neil's words. Neil could tell he was giving a lot of thought before he was going to respond. His face was thoughtful though, he didn't look distressed. That thought put Neil a bit more at ease. After a few moments of silence, Shaun looked at Neil, telling him, "I do not have an answer."

Reaching across the island to cover the younger man's hands with one of his own, Neil replied easily, "That's okay. We'll just take this one day at a time. Marcus offered you more time off it you wanted it, so you have the option to put it off if you want to."

"No thank you. Putting it off will not make me feel better." Shaun explained with a shrug.

Nodding in agreement, Neil stood up straight to turn back to his goal of pancakes. Shaun just watched him happily as he went about making them. They were going to spend their day in the happy bubble of the apartment and then tomorrow they would handle everything else.

<><><><><><><>

Claire was walking up to the nurse's station to begin her day when she spotted Shaun and Neil already there. She and Morgan had spent all of the other night gossiping about them and worrying about how Shaun was doing. Speeding up with her face breaking out in a grin, Claire greeted them, loudly, "Hey Shaun! Dr. Melendez! I'm so happy to see you both!"

Shaun glanced over at her and grinned at her happy energy, greeting her fondly, "Hello Claire. How are you?"

Neil looked up and smiled at the respectful distance that Claire automatically gave Shaun as she responded, "I'm doing good. Yesterday was pretty uneventful for the most part. How was your day off?"

"Dr. Melendez asked me to move in." Shaun told her as he turned back towards the desk to grab the files he needed. He jumped back around when Claire squealed loudly in happiness. His hands went up to cover his ears, but stopped when she noticed and clasped her hand over her mouth, looking regretful. He gave her a questioning look, his eyes narrowing.

"Sorry Shaun. I can't believe I forgot you hate that noise." She apologized sincerely. "I'm am just so happy for you two!"

Neil watched her gush with amusement from his spot a few feet away as Shaun's look of annoyance fell away. They were good friends, it was hard for Shaun to stay annoyed at her. Claire was the first friend he made at the hospital and she truly made an effort to understand him. She was usually very good at knowing exactly how to interact with him. Shaun had turned back to the desk again after answering none of questions she had rapid fire asked him as Claire turned to Neil, her eyes determined, "Are you going to be more forthcoming?"

"You and I both know that's not going to happen." Neil told her flatly, trying to keep a serious face in response to her big grin.

Claire opened her mouth to say something, but she was interrupted by Morgan, Alex, and Jared coming up behind her, greeting the group all at once. She rolled her eyes and declared, "This isn't over."

"What are you all talking about over here?" Morgan inquired with a grin of her own. Neil rolled his eyes at the way they all gathered around for the gossip Claire had.

"Shaun's moving in with Neil." She gushed to the rest of the residents, ignoring the groan from Neil.

Shaun eyed them all curiously as the entire group turned their grins onto him. Neil could tell by the way he leaned backwards on his heels, Shaun didn't appreciate all the attention being on him. The group of doctors mean well, but they were making his partner uncomfortable. Clearing his throat to bring all their attention to him, asking sarcastically, "Do we pay you to gossip?"

"No, but can you imagine how close we all would be?" Jared asked back quickly, nudging Alex with a chuckle. Alex narrowed his eyes are Jared in amusement.

Neil made a pointed look over to Shaun who was no longer looking at any of them and they all got the hint immediately. Neil felt relief when they all started reaching for their files and moving away from Shaun. Shaun let out a deep breath of relief of his own, one that Neil was sure only he noticed. Morgan crossed over to go behind the nurse's station while she insisted, "We can play the long game."

Before Neil could do more than glare at his resident before Audrey popped up at his shoulder as she slapped her files down on the desk, murmuring, "I hate today already."

"Very professional." Neil told her, with a smirk as he started handing out the charts to each resident.

Audrey just leveled him with a look of her own. Neil eyed her warily as he commanded his residents to get their morning work done. They all walked off without argument, but they each gave their attending a look as they passed. Neil kept a straight face until Shaun passed him and he broke out in a grin. Shaun returned the smile briefly before he was off. He looked back over to glare at his now laughing co worker, "Why are you laughing?"

"You try so hard to be this tough attending, but as soon as you look at Shaun, you're a big teddy bear." Audrey teased him, nudging him slightly.

Neil chose to ignore that comment and asked her seriously, "How's it going with the Murphy's?"

Rubbing her hand across her face for a moment before replying, "Kathrine is most likely the target of Edward's anger from what I've been able to see. Marcus got them to drop the complaint though. He told them we had the best doctors and if they wanted to continue getting her treatment here, the best solution was for them to stop trying to get Shaun fired. He is a piece of work though."

Sighing in response, Neil just gave her a nod. That was honestly the best resolution he could have asked for at this point. Shaun wouldn't be pleased if they have to transfer his mom and Neil couldn't monitor her treatment anymore. At that thought, Neil remembered that he hadn't actually discussed this with Audrey yet. She was currently sipping her coffee a few feet away, lazily jotting down some notes. When Audrey noticed Neil was watching her, she quipped at him, "Why don't you take a picture?"

"That's so old." Neil teased, but continued before she could respond, "Okay so I know I should have asked first, but I promised Shaun that I would review his mom's treatment. He wanted me to take over, but we all know how bad that would go."

Audrey nodded thoughtfully as she told him kindly, "I honestly expected it, knowing Shaun and having interacted with Kathrine for the last few days. She doesn't seem to hate Shaun like Edward. I'll forward you everything."

Neil nodded in thanks before heading towards his office to prepare for the surgery he had scheduled soon. The friends he and Shaun have here still blow his mind. The amount of support and understand with this entire situation was more than he could have ever hoped for.

<><><><><><>

Shaun had just left the cafeteria when he was intercepted by a nurse. He wasn't familiar with her yet since she had just started, but she was kind as she told him he was needed in room 345. Not recognizing the room, but trusting the nurse, Shaun headed off to see what he could do. He was hoping to run into a fellow resident or even Neil to fill him in on the patient, but he did not see a single one on his route.

Putting on a smile as he reached the room, Shaun knocked briefly before entering the room and coming face to face with his mom.

Chapter Text

Shaun stood there in the doorway just staring at the women in the hospital bed. He had not seen or talked to his parents since he was fourteen and to have his mom just sitting in front of him was jarring. He was considering just turning around and walking away, but something kept him rooted in place. Kathrine stared back at him before starting to smile slightly, "Well aren't you going to come in and say hi?"

"I do not know if I want to." Shaun immediately threw back, his voice loud and his hands so tightly clasped together almost turning his knuckles white.

Kathrine nodded thoughtfully, her face was almost pained, but she tried to coax him again, "I'd really like to hear about your life. I'd like to know what kind of man you became, but you don't have to talk to me, obviously."

Eyeing her carefully, Shaun took one small step towards her as he told her in a matter of fact tone, "I know that. I am an adult and you are not my patient." He paused, glancing over the equipment near her bed. The doctor in him took over instantly and Shaun automatically took note of her vitals before continuing, "I am sorry that you have cancer."

Kathrine was taken back by his sincerity. The last time she saw her son he did not make eye contact and hardly spoke. She wasn't even sure then that he felt emotions, much less have sympathy. Shaun looked into her eyes for a moment before taking to looking anywhere but her. She shifted a bit in the bed before telling him honestly, "I'm sorry I wasn't a better mom."

Shaun looked over her suddenly, obviously not expecting that. He did not respond though immediately, just observing her like he was trying to figure out a puzzle. Finally, Shaun spoke up again, "Thank you for saying that."

Expecting more, Kathrine kept quiet. However, Shaun resumed looking around her room while rocking slightly on his heels. She wondered if he was nervous or that was just his way of standing. It was almost like he was trying to rock the nervous energy out of himself. When he didn't speak again, Kathrine asked, "Will you tell me about your life now?"

Thinking the question over for a moment, Shaun sat in the chair close to the door as he answered, "I am a doctor. Surgical resident actually. I think I am doing well. I live in an apartment, but I am moving soon. I do not answer these questions well. What do you want to know?"

Smiling at his sing song voice that it seems he never grew out of, Kathrine asked, "Do you have good friends? A girlfriend?"

"I have a boyfriend. His name is Neil. That's who I'm moving in with. I have good friends." He replied easily, but he wasn't looking at her anymore.

"A boyfriend? Wow, okay. Are you happy?" Kathrine was surprised, but honestly any romantic relationship involving Shaun would have been considering how she remembered him

Shaun finally looked into her eyes again briefly as he told her sincerely, "Yes. I am happy."

Kathrine was about to say something back, but was interrupted by Audrey walking in. Audrey looked between them in surprise for a second before walking over to her patient with the chart. Before Audrey could say anything, Shaun was up and out of the room. Looking down at Kathrine, Audrey could see she was disappointed that her son had left so abruptly. Telling her in a light tone, "Don't take it personally that he didn't say goodbye. He does that to all of us."

"I always wondered why he was the way he was. I thought why would God give me a child that I obviously couldn't parent. I thought Shaun's mind was broken. Seeing him as a doctor, finding out he has a life, a partner, a career; it's a slap in the face that I ever thought that." Kathrine blurted out to her honestly, the pain evident in her voice. She was staring at the door, as if she expected Shaun to be coming back.

Audrey nodded at her as she sat on the end of Kathrine's bed. She waited to see if she would go on, but she stayed silent so Audrey filled the silence, "Autism was very misunderstood, sometimes still is. Shaun's mind processes things in his own unique way. Honestly, there was a lot of push back when Shaun first started working here. Many of us had the same impression that you had, but we were all so wrong. Even if he wasn't one of the best residents I've ever seen, I can say I'm lucky to know him. He doesn't lie or sugarcoat things, he's kind, and he makes everybody that knows him better people and doctors."

She was quiet for a moment before Kathrine told Audrey regretfully, "Edward won't ever be able to see that."

"Are you going to be okay knowing that now though and go back to never seeing Shaun again?" Audrey asked her, sadness clear on her face.

"Yes." Kathrine whispered, not meeting her doctor's eyes.

Sighing, Audrey dropped it and started going over her treatment plan for the day. She wished she could shake sense into the woman and scream that she's being a terrible mother, but it wasn't her place. Glancing at the door Shaun exited through, Audrey hoped Neil would find him after he was done in surgery.

<><><><><><><><><><><><><>

Shaun arrived at Neil's office quickly, thankfully not running into any of his fellow residents on the way. He had finished his afternoon rounds quickly so that he would have time to sit and process what just happened. The door was closed, but not locked. Neil stopped locking it during the day about six months into their relationship when he found Shaun in a supply closet to try to get a few minutes of silence. He had insisted that Shaun use his office whenever he needed. He didn't use it very often, but it was comforting to know the option was there. Even though Shaun loved the hospital, the noises could become overwhelming and just a few minutes of silence helps him anchor his mind and focus better.

Walking in, Shaun knew it would be empty. Neil had surgery this afternoon that Claire and Alex were helping with. Although he would like to see Neil and get some comfort, Shaun was grateful for at least a few minutes of alone time. He walked around the desk to deposit himself in Neil's desk chair. Shaun never told anyone this, but sitting in the chair while he's in here alone is almost like having Neil with him. It was comforting.

As he got comfortable, he noticed a sticky note on the screen of the computer with his name written on it in Neil's neat handwriting. He looked closer to read, 'Shaun, for some reason I feel like you're going to be in here today. So if you're here before I'm back, I love you. Neil.'

Smiling a wide smile, Shaun reached out to carefully take the note and slip it into his pocket. Neil was fond of leaving notes for Shaun, but he didn't know that Shaun had taken to keeping them. He had a wooden box that he gotten from Dr. Glassman a long time ago and now that was filled with notes from his partner and a few pictures of the two of them that Claire had helped him get printed out. They had been together for a while now, but Shaun's whole life had taught him not to trust people so the extra reassurance he got from re reading the notes helped a great deal.

Leaning back in the chair to try, Shaun tried to will his muscles to finally relax. They had been tense ever since he had locked eyes with his mom. It wasn't as overwhelming as he had anticipated it was going to, but he had a strong suspicion that was because his dad was not in the room. He thought the talk went over okay, but he felt very worn down now that he was in Neil's office. She had apologized to him and while he didn't know if he forgave her, it was pleasant to hear. However, it was also confusing too. He wasn't sure how to react to it.

Shaun's thoughts were interrupted by his partner walking in with Dr. Andrews behind him. They spotted Shaun immediately, who stood up to leave, "I did not know you had a meeting. I will leave."

Neil moved swiftly so that he was directly in Shaun's predictable path to leave as he tried to keep his tone light, telling him, "We're not in a meeting, Marcus is just telling me what a great surgeon I am."

He had kept his tone light, but he could tell something was off with the younger. Shaun wasn't obviously distressed, but his whole body was tense. Marcus scoffed beside, drawing his attention away from his partner for a second as his boss told him, "I just told you the surgery was a good one. I'm not complimenting you anymore."

Marcus moved back towards the door as Neil called out, keeping his tone flat, "What a sad life I'll lead."

His boss said nothing and left the room quickly, as if he could sense the tension in Shaun too. Neil turned fully to Shaun who had settled back into his chair. He walked over and leaned on the edge of the desk next to Shaun so he could look down at his face. Shaun gave him smile before telling him, "My mom called me to her room to talk."

Neil immediately tensed at the words, but kept silent. Shaun was showing no signs of being distraught or angry. He was tense, but his words were calm and his hands were resting easily in his lap. If Neil reacted in anger immediately, he could upset Shaun and ruin their chance to talk about it now which is what Shaun seemed to want. However, Shaun kept quiet for a few moments, staring off at the wall. Neil knew he wasn't really seeing it though.

"How was it?" Neil asked him, reaching out to run his hand through Shaun's hair.

"She was kind. We talked for a brief time, but she asked about my life. She seemed surprised that I had friends and you." Shaun told him, but paused thoughtfully before finishing, "She apologized for being a bad mom."

Taken back by that for a moment, Neil waited a second before asking him quietly, "How do you feel about that?"

"Overwhelmed, but I do not know why." Shaun told him truthfully, slouching in the chair to get comfortable.

"That's normal. Even though it went okay, I'm sure it wasn't easy to see her after all this time. Was your dad there?"

Shaun shook his head in a negative, but didn't speak any further. Neil watched him carefully for a moment before grabbing his hand to pull him into a stand position. He opened his mouth to question his partner, but Neil just wrapped him in a hug. Feeling the younger man's body start to relax made Neil feel more relaxed himself. They stood there for a few moments before Shaun pulled back to say, "I have tests to do."

Neil smiled at him, leaned in to brush a kiss across his lips before replying, "Yes you do, you're with me on my evening surgery."

"I know. I read the schedule." Shaun told him, eyeing him curiously as if wondering if Neil didn't know that Shaun checked the schedule religiously.

Neil laughed as he leaned in to kiss Shaun again, "I love you."

Chapter Text

Shaun was exhausted as he walked out of the employee locker room. He had packed all of his stuff, taking care to double check he had everything, and now was heading up to Neil's office to wait for him to finish up the paperwork he had. After his talk with his mom, Shaun was pulled in different directions for the rest of day to finish tests, talk about diagnoses, go over the surgery plan, doing the surgery and he even did a consultant for one of his favorite nurses. Even though he was thoroughly worn out, Shaun loved his job. He loved that his co workers trusted his input. He was extremely happy to be heading home with Neil though.

As he reached the elevator to head up, his name was shouted from down the hall. Confused at the intensity of the shout, Shaun turned to answer only to be met with a fist to the jaw. He hit the wall with a thud and shrunk himself as far back against it as he could. He could hear more shouting, footsteps, and the sounds of what seemed like a fight, but he just covered his ears and closed his eyes. He couldn't form any thoughts. The lights seemed brighter, the hallway seemed like it was closing in, and the shouting wouldn't stop. Someone reached out and gently touched his arm and he shrunk further away from them. He was overwhelmed and scared and just shut down.

<><><><><><><>

Neil saved the final bit of his paperwork on his computer as he glanced at the door again. Shaun was meeting him up here, but hadn't shown up yet. Objectively he had no reason to worry, his partner can be easily persuaded to help others, but Neil couldn't stop the anxiety that was building inside him. He leaned back in his chair and ran his hands over his face. He was considering paging Shaun just because he could when a nurse burst in without even knocking.

"I'm so sorry for just coming in, but someone told me to get you. It's about Dr. Murphy." She rushed out as she stood in the doorway.

Neil was out of his chair instantly, "What's going on?"

She shrugged helplessly, "I'm sorry I have no idea. He's on the floor right by the elevator on the floor of the locker room and won't talk to anyone. His-"

Neil just shoved past the young woman, cutting off her explanation. He needed to get to Shaun. He skipped the elevator for the stairs and ran down them. He ran into Audrey, but just pushed past her without a word, not noticing she immediately followed him. When he finally reached the floor that Shaun was on, he immediately saw people crowded around Shaun who was sitting against the wall, head buried in his arms and legs, hands over his ears. His father was in cuffs along the opposite wall and the entire hallway was full of voices. Shaun was probably in overload hell.

"Hey! Everyone needs to take like ten steps back away from him. Also let's lower the talking." Neil snapped at the entire hallway, pushing his way towards Shaun.

The officer that was knelt next to him, his hand on Shaun's arm, gave Neil a dirty look, "And who exactly are you? We need this kid's statement."

Taking a deep breath to control his temper first, Neil told him in a cold tone, "I'm Neil Melendez, I'm a surgeon in this hospital and that's my resident and partner. He's autistic and he's overwhelmed. The noise, the crowding, and the touching is not going to get him to talk to you. He needs space if you want anything from him."

The officer stood up and opened his mouth to argue Neil suspected, but was interrupted by Marcus walking into the crowded hallway, his tone commanding everyone's attention, "I hope you're not planning on arguing with my staff right now. Yes, Shaun will need to give a statement and he will, but obviously he cannot do that right this second. Why don't we all move to conference room down the hall to give him space?"

It was phrased as question, but it was obvious by his tone and stance that Marcus expected it to be treated as a demand. The police officer gave Neil one final look before helping usher everyone down the hall. Neil gave Marcus a look of thanks before turning his attention back to his partner. Shaun had not moved a single inch since Neil first laid eyes on him. His hands were pressed tightly against his ears still and head buried in between his arms and legs, trying to block out all of his sense Neil realized as he knelt next to him.

"Shaun?" He asked softly, not touching him yet. It's been a while since Shaun was this overwhelmed, but Neil wasn't a stranger to it.

Neil saw Shaun's muscles start to move and breathed a sigh of relief. The hallway was now silent and Shaun removed his hands from his ears slowly, but still didn't look at his partner. Shifting closer to him, Neil reached out and very softly brushed his fingers across Shaun's cheek, telling him, "It's just you and I right now."

Shaun finally pulled his head up to look at Neil and he instantly felt sick when he saw the younger man's face. His jaw was forming a nasty shade of purple and swollen. His face was full of pain and anxiety. The doctor in Neil took over instantly and reached out to touch his jaw gently. It was obvious that Shaun was still in shock by the way he just let Neil examine him without a word or even a noticeable reaction. Satisfied that his jaw wasn't broken, Neil let his hands fall to Shaun's shoulders and pull him into a hug.

"I knew he was the same man I remembered." Shaun mumbled into Neil's shoulder, bringing his arms up to tightly wrap around his waist the best he could from his spot on the floor.

The older man couldn't come up with a response, he just held Shaun as he started to shake. They sat there for a while until they heard footsteps behind them. Neil turned the best he could while not releasing his hold on Shaun to see Marcus and Audrey standing near them with somber looks. Turning back to Shaun, he moved back so he could look at his face, even though Shaun wouldn't make eye contact to tell him still, "I'm going to go to talk to Marcus and Audrey."

Shaun nodded slowly and resumed his place against the wall, staring blankly at the opposite wall. Neil watched him for a second before rising and walking over to the pair waiting on him. His anger was rising fast and judging by their faces, they weren't too far off.

"Mr. Murphy's story is that Shaun hit him first." Marcus started, holding up his hand when Neil opened his mouth to protest. "I've already pulled the security tapes for the officers. It was very obviously a lie. He ran to catch up to Shaun when he saw him walking and when Shaun turned, sucker punched him. The officers believed Mr. Murphy at first because of the way Shaun wouldn't respond, but are placing him under arrest as we speak. Since there is actual footage of the incident, Shaun just has to write an incident report and drop it off to me by tomorrow."

"What the hell did he punch him for? And what are we going to do to keep it from happening again?" Neil spat out, trying hard to reign it in, but his anger was obvious.

Audrey raised her hand slightly in response, "I know the answer to that. I'm sure that you've heard that Shaun had a conversation with his mom today. Well after that, I don't know where it came from, but Kathrine went off on Edward. From the way the nurses described it, she threw things and was yelling. She demanded that he be removed from her room and was on the phone with a lawyer when I last checked on her for a divorce. Her reason? Shaun. She couldn't pretend to hate him anymore she said."

"I did NOT tell her to do that." Shaun told them loudly without moving from his spot.

Marcus smiled slightly at that before asking Neil seriously, "Is his jaw broken?" When Neil shook his head no in response, he went on, "Edward Murphy is banned from our hospital we'll be giving his picture to all security guards and I'm placing a few more on patrol during Shaun's shift. Also the police are recommending that Shaun press charges and get a restraining order. Take him home and both of you are taking tomorrow off. That's not negotiable. You hear me Murphy?"

Shaun nodded his head slowly, rocking his body slightly with it. Marcus gave them both one last look before he started walking back towards the conference room. Audrey paused, bit her lip and then threw her arms around Neil, surprising him. Right before she let go, she told him softly, "I'm so sorry that this happened to Shaun."

Before Neil could respond and tell her that this was no one's fault but Edward's, she was walking off. That could be dealt with later though, he thought as he turned back to his partner on the floor. Shaun finally looked up and made eye contact with him, looking more exhausted than Neil's ever seen him. Crossing the hallway to stand him front of him, Neil held his hand out for Shaun to take and pulled him up, telling him softly, "Let's get out of here."

<><><><><><>

The couple walked into the apartment that they were sharing, even though Shaun hadn't moved everything over from his place just yet it was theirs. Shaun immediately disappeared into the bedroom, returned with his pajamas and then went into the bathroom without a word. Neil wasn't surprised though. He had been quiet all through dinner and the drive home, but the older man didn't blame him. The last few hours had been intense for him and his regular routine was a helpful tool for calming down.

Neil dropped his work bag on the kitchen island as he heard the shower turn on and made his way to the bedroom. He quickly got into his own pajamas and slid into his side of the bed before pulling the covers down on Shaun's side for when he comes to bed. Reaching over and grabbing the remote, Neil flipped the channels until he found the weather channel and set the volume to low. This was the most intense situation he has faced with Shaun since they got together, but he was pulling all his tools from the box to try and help.

His thoughts were interrupted by Shaun walking into the bedroom and unceremoniously dumped himself on his side. Neil was going to ask him how he was feeling, but by the look on his face it wasn't anything good. His jaw was less swollen but the bruise had deepened considerably. Before Neil could decide the next best course of action, Shaun scooted over as close as he could possibly get to him and laid down next to him. Shaun's arm was tightly wrapped over Neil's stomach and his head was buried in his shoulder. Neil could hardly make it out when Shaun mumbled, "I am sorry that you have to deal with this as well as me."

"Don't ever say that to me." Neil told him, a little aggressive at the thought of Shaun thinking he didn't deserve what Neil was doing for him. Shaun tensed up, but didn't move away. The older man took a few deep breaths before continuing in a softer tone, "I only meant that I'm honored to be by your side for this and everything else. Don't apologize for something I want to do."

Shaun relaxed at his partner's words almost instantly as Neil turned so he could hold Shaun tighter. They laid like that for a few minutes before Neil tried to pull back slightly, but Shaun's grip just got tighter and he made an unhappy noise in his throat before whispering, "Please stay."

"I'm not going anywhere Shaun. Not now or ever, but I know you don't like this for a sleeping position. That's all." Neil whispered back as he shifted back into his previous spot.

"I need you close. You anchor my mind. It is not logical, but that's how I feel." Shaun mumbled back, almost defensively.

Kissing the top of Shaun's head gently, Neil told him with affection, "That is actually very logical. It's the exact way I feel about you."

The younger man never responded though because he was asleep with moments after that. Neil waited a while to see if he was going to be plagued with nightmares tonight, but laying there with the love of his life wrapped in his arms, it wasn't long until Neil was asleep as well.

Chapter Text

Neil was currently waiting on Shaun to finish checking his bag to make sure he had everything before the pair left for work. Their day off had flown by quickly, too quickly for Neil, but Shaun was ready to head back to the hospital. They had spent the day yesterday filling out the police report for Marcus and dropping it off to him, filing for a restraining order which was granted almost immediately, and then moving all of Shaun's stuff over to Neil's apartment. Shaun had spent much of the evening happily rearranging stuff to make everything fit to his specifications.

The bruise on Shaun's jaw had lessened, but still there as glowing reminder on why Neil would never forgive Shaun's dad. Even though him and Shaun had multiple talks throughout their day off and Shaun reassured him many times that he was okay as long as he never had to see Edward again, Neil was still angry. He was trying to let it go as easily as Shaun did, but seeing his partner hurt like that was not something he ever wanted to see again, much less forgive the person that did it.

Shaun hummed happily when he was satisfied that he had all of his things and then moved into Neil's space to kiss him on the lips. Reaching up to hold his face, Neil deepened the kiss as the anger he felt at Edward started fading. Being close to Shaun was the most comforting thing in his life, Neil thought to himself. The two kissed for a few minutes in their living room. Breaking the kiss gently before they could get carried away, Neil smiled at his partner's far away look on his face, teasing him, "What you didn't get enough affection last night?"

Predictably, Shaun's face flushed as he remembered the night before and how they stayed up late doing very affectionate things. He leaned in and gave Neil one last kiss before telling him quietly, "I do not think I can ever get enough."

He couldn't help his smile at Shaun's admission, he knew when they started dating that physical affection was difficult for him. However, Shaun loved their bedroom activities to the point that if they went a few days without, he'd bring it up with a reproachful tone. Neil reached out and grabbed Shaun's hand so they could head to work because if he kissed the younger man again they were definitely going to be late. Shaun let himself be lead out of the apartment easily enough, letting Neil know that he was probably thinking the same thing.

By the time they had reached the hospital, Shaun had already gone over the schedule for the day twice and reminded his partner about every surgery Neil had for the week. Neil knew he was talking non stop because his anxiety was rising so he let him talk without a word. Reaching across the car to grab Shaun's hand, Neil lifted it up so he could give it a kiss. The smile on Shaun's face made his heart soar. He could spend the rest of his life making Shaun smile.

As they walked into the lobby, they were immediately surrounded by the other residents and Audrey. They kept a respectful distance, but there was worry on each of their faces. Neil's phone had been vibrating all day with questions about Shaun yesterday, however he ignored them all in favor on focusing on his partner instead. Neil knew they all understood, but it didn't ease their worry any less. Shaun smiled at each of them, happy to see his friends, but moved closer to Neil subtly. He didn't like to be surrounded, but was trying to handle it because he knew they were worried.

"We have been so worried about you. Are you okay?" Claire asked him, trying to smile but as she examined his face, her eyes got darker with anger.

Shaun started rocking slightly on his heels, making Neil place his hand on his back reassuringly. Taking a deep breath, he told the group, "I am fine now. My jaw only hurts slightly."

They all nodded in response, expecting more, but Shaun was already moving towards the elevators. Before they could question him, Neil told the group, "He really is fine. He really just wants to get to work and have a fairly normal day."

Claire and Morgan followed Shaun after hearing that, but Alex and Audrey stayed with Neil. Once they were far enough away, Alex spoke up with a tense voice, "Did you get a restraining order?"

"Yes and did the incident report." Neil assured him with a pat on the arm. Alex's former cop instincts had taken over, but Neil knew it was because he cared.

Alex nodded and hurried to catch up to the rest of the residents as Audrey and Neil watched. She turned back to him, but before she could start talking, Neil held up his hand, "Don't even apologize again Lim. This was no one's fault, but Edward's."

Audrey nodded and reached out to pat his arm with a smile, "He's lucky to have you."

"Funny, I think it's me that's lucky to have him." Neil told her with a smile, looking off in the direction Shaun had disappeared in.

<><><><><>

Neil was packing up his stuff from his office to head home for the night when Shaun walked in, ready to go himself, "Hello Neil."

Shaun walked up and stepped into his personal space to drop a kiss on his lips as Neil greeted him warmly in return, "Hey Shaun. You ready to go home?"

"Actually, my mom would like to talk to me again. I have put it off all day because I would really like you to join me." Shaun told him as he rocked on his heels and wouldn't make eye contact.

Reaching out to grab his hand, Neil waited until Shaun met his eyes before telling him sincerely, "I would love to do that."

The younger man visibly relaxed as he smiled at his partner. Neil returned to his task as Shaun rocked beside him in a mixture of nervousness and being content. Once Neil had finished gathering up the papers he needed into his bag, he grabbed Shaun's hand again. They made their way out of the office and down to his mom's room in silence, but as they got closer Shaun's grip on Neil's hand got tighter as if he was afraid Neil would change his mind. Right before they reached her door, Neil tugged on his hand to bring Shaun to a stop. Shaun gazed at him with a puzzled expression for a moment before Neil whispered, "I love you."

"I love you too." Shaun whispered back with a smile.

They shared a smile for a few moments, not noticing the nurses who were gushing over how they all thought the pair was. Shaun turned and knocked on Katherine's door with his usual three sharp taps then waited for her to say, "Come in."

Neil and Shaun walked in, Shaun's grip got tighter again, but he smiled at his mom standing near her hospital bed. She was out of her hospital gown and in her regular clothes, with her bag packed on the bed.

"Have you been discharged?" Shaun inquired with confused look, letting go of Neil's hand to walk over and grab her chart.

Kathrine smiled warmly at Shaun before giving Neil a look over, feeling pleased at Shaun bringing him to meet her. She recognized him from the meeting with Dr. Andrews, but she didn't realize that he was her son's partner. Turning back to Shaun who was reading her chart intently, she told him happily, "Yeah, the only reason I had to stay is because they were worried about my vitals, but they've evened out I guess. You probably understand it better than I do."

"Yes. I am a doctor." Shaun agreed with ease as he sat the chart back down carefully, not looking her in the eyes.

Neil chuckled at his partners matter of fact tone, bringing Kathrine's attention back to him. She walked over and greeted him, "We haven't met officially yet. I'm Kathrine Murphy."

"I'm Neil Melendez, I'm Shaun's partner." Neil greeted her back as they shook hands.

"I wanted him to meet you." Shaun informed her, not meeting either one of their gazes in favor of staring at the ceiling.

Kathrine watched Shaun then turned back to Neil who had all of his focus on Shaun as well. She could very obviously see the love and admiration on the older man's face as she told him, "I'm very honored to meet you."

Neil turned his attention back to her and met her smile with one of his own, "It's nice to meet you as well."

"Where will you be staying?" Shaun interrupted, taking a step towards them.

"An old high school friend lives out here now and she's offered me a room for as long as I need. I was actually hoping we could see each other from time to time, if you're up for that?" Kathrine asked him, looking hopeful and nervous at once. Not for the first time, Neil marveled in how much Shaun looked like her.

Shaun looked over at her as his face broke out into a wide smile, "I would like that."

The three of them chatted easily as they all walked to the exit. Kathrine saw her friend waiting for her and turned to the couple with a grateful smile, "Thank you for giving me a chance to know you."

Giving them one last smile, Kathrine walked off to meet her friend as Shaun and Neil headed the other way to Neil's car. Shaun was quiet on the walk until they reached the car and he stopped suddenly to tell Neil, "You are my forever. Thank you for loving me."

Neil's breath caught in his throat for a moment as he pulled Shaun close by the hand, telling him softly, "I will always love you. Forever. Let's go home."