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Leslie had to come to terms with a lot of things, in Caduceus.

 

She’s known since young she was a “people’s person” – someone who wanted to know others, who liked to discuss and help her peers out – so becoming a nurse was only a natural fit. The aspect she enjoyed the most wasn’t helping in the OR or the paperwork associated with it, far from it – that’d be taking care of patients after their surgeries, making rounds to make sure they were recovering and sometimes providing company to the lonely.

Of course, when she got scouted by Madame Director to join Caduceus East Branch, she had to scratch that out and start anew as a mostly assisting nurse in the operation room – too bad, she thought, but the promise of helping medicine advance and save more people was the hook and she bit it. She knew the consequences, so she doesn’t regret her choice, and working there was a big opportunity, especially if she was good enough to get into the prestigious Caduceus.

 

For a long time, it was just Dr Everett, Dr Tsuji and her on the surgery department, as East Branch was more focused on research than West Branch. They got to know each other, during that time, and the first thing that Leslie realized was how closer she was in mentality to the cheerful and fatherly Dr Everett rather than the cold and emotionally distanced Dr Tsuji with whom… Oh, how much did they not get along!

It was a shame, really, because Leslie found Dr Tsuji to be a very attractive woman and, on top of it, to be an excellent surgeon; but there was this something about her that convinced Leslie this doctor would have been less than ideal in a traditional hospital due to her… fairly lacking social skills and bedside manners, shall she have said. Being near her during rounds was always a little nerve-wracking as a result, but after some time, she started getting used to it.

 

Then, two surgeons and another nurse joined their little branch, and Leslie met with two amicable doctors, despite Dr Vaughn’s uneasiness with all these new persons. Elena was immediately fun to chat with and show around, while Dr Blaylock always had a little something nice to say. It was a nice chance of pace and, well, it gave them a lot of publicity because these two kept getting involved in weird things with the new threat that was the Stigma epidemic.

They made TV shows appearances and brought East Branch under a better light as she remembered Dr Tsuji scowling at the TV screen as her former med school classmate boasted about the Samaritan intentions of Miracle Surgery, then his downfall on live television to a new strain of Stigma. To this day, she doesn’t know what made her the most nervous – but she’d very much not have to give a definitive opinion on this, considering how hard-boiled Dr Tsuji is.

 

Well, was, at least, because then a true miracle happened. Dr Blaylock, Dr Vaughn and Elena saved her cousin, and since then, Leslie gradually saw her workmate soften and open up. It was gradual, of course, as all healthy chances in a person’s behaviour are: it started with a questioning period, she’d guess, and small gestures like holding doors or little waves here and there. It spread to their work environment, as the air in the OR was noticeably less tense when she was helping her. Not as light as when she was working with Dr Everett, of course,

One day, she asked Dr Tsuji directly about these changes, mostly because they were pleasing to see and she wanted them to remain and go further. Dr Tsuji, still reserved but far more open to discussion than when Leslie first joined Caduceus. That’s when she confessed she was this focused on work because she cared about doing her job well before they headed for another operation, and that was when something clicked in Leslie’s head.

 

Dr Tsuji was not going to be appreciated like the other surgeons despite how hard she worked. Despite everything that bothered her about her, Leslie couldn’t deny she was sometimes working with a very serious and involved surgeon, and hearing from her mouth she was constantly concerned with doing her best for her patients – it made sense. It just made so much sense and, in turns, it made her sad that her workmate would never get as recognized as their disease counteraction counterparts.

Dr Tsuji has never been a public figure, but her efforts to be a more amicable person have been real, and Leslie has been left wondering if she couldn’t do something about it. Surely there’s got to be a way to show how much her work has been appreciated, and if Leslie needs to do it on her own, then she’ll do it – perhaps asking Elena for some advice and a second opinion, because Elena is such a nice girl she’d only offer the best of advice in that regard, but that’s it – she swears.

 

Over the days, Elena has proposed a couple ideas to show recognition to someone, based on how she’s kept up with thanking everyone in her life who’s had a positive impact on it: chocolates, a free meal… One proposition she makes catches Leslie’s attention the most, though: a bouquet of flowers. She’s seen what may have been a lotus tattoo peek from under her shirt collar on some days, so it seems like the most rational choice.

Plus, flowers are the least risky choice, if you ask her. Even if the person doesn’t really want them, they can always use them as decoration and, well… they don’t last long, most of the time, so the burden doesn’t weigh for a long time, staring at you like the unwanted, poisoned present they are. They’re beautiful but never a bother – a perfect present, in her case.

 

This is how she finds herself in a florist’s shop, staring at the different arrays of colours and inhaling the wide arrays of scents when she comes across the perfect ones – peonies. Beautiful petals and fragrant shades, their scent not too strong, and the significance she was told about – masculinity but, mostly, courage, in the Japanese flower language. That’s more than enough to her and, well… their fragrance remind her of her colleague. It’s good enough, she guesses.

When she shows the bouquet to Elena, the latter is instantly hyped up, making Leslie think this is a good idea – there’s just this soothing aura to Elena that would reassure anyone around this girl, be it her soft smile, the faint yet sweet scent of her perfume on her Caduceus uniform or her cheerful voice.  

 

Leslie is still a little nervous to give someone like Dr Tsuji, who always looks busy and about to scorn you for disturbing her in her work, something as silly-sounding as a bouquet of peonies. Yet, because you won’t get anything if you don’t risk something in exchange, Leslie takes the initiative, knocks on the door, opens it and finds herself in front of a surprised surgeon.

A surgeon who is holding a bouquet of pear flowers – everlasting friendship, from what she’s learnt online. The etiquette attached to the paper around the flowers says a name she can read from where she is fairly well: it’s a very familiar given name as, well… it’s hers.

 

It’s awkward, but for the first time, Leslie hears Kanae laugh, and it’s a spectacle like none other.