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Schmitt scampered down the hall, slipped around the corner, nearly tripped as he bumped his hip on a passing gurney but caught himself a few inches from the floor.  If his knees didn't hit the tiles, it didn't count as falling.  He made it to the patient's room late right as Link finished presenting the case and waved for Kim to choose an intern to help.

Hands shot up in the air.

Kim looked through the overeager, desperate crowd, craned his neck and spotted him in the back behind everyone else, out of sight and unprepared.

"Schmitt."

He smiled in surprise and stepped forward as Roy frowned and whirled on him.  "You can't pick Glasses.  He doesn't know a broken bone from his own ass."

He was just mad because Schmitt had accidentally knocked Roy’s watch out of his locker, stepped on and cracked the face of it all in one rapid tumble earlier.  He’d offered to pay for it!  But Roy had stalked off in annoyance when Schmitt asked if they could work out a layaway plan.

"Thank you for your opinion, Roy," Kim said mildly.  "I'll remember it."

Triumph quickly switched to confused dismay in Roy as Dr. Kim's subtle displeasure sank in.  He filed out with the others and cast annoyed glances back at Schmitt.  Link studied the patient's chart and monitors and paid them no attention.  Kim's hand went lightly to Schmitt's back as he pointed out the patient's injuries and explained the case to him.  Schmitt leaned in closer on instinct but was caught off guard by how close Kim was when he looked up and bumped his nose with his.  He pulled his head back, startled.

"Sorry," he said with a nervous laugh, but Kim's responding smile was soft and did something inexplicable to his chest.

Neither of them pulled away as he continued explaining the case.  Schmitt tried to listen and not get distracted by the warmer press of Kim's hand on his back.  Or the fact that he was leaning into it.

****

Webber asked Kim to get an intern to scrub in with them and went into the OR to get into his gown and gloves.  Roy perked up immediately where he'd been delivering news and took a hopeful step forward.

"Roy," Kim said.

"Yes?"  He beamed in anticipation.

"Page Schmitt to come scrub in."

Roy's face fell.  Kim shook off his hands at the sink with a quick, empty smile and followed after Webber.

****

Roy, Helm, and Qadri cut in front of Schmitt in line at the cafeteria, citing a scuffle they got into with Karev as justification.  He tried reclaiming his spot, but it was three-on-one and he wasn’t good with one-on-one.  He was happy to be last as long as he got one of those brownies being served.  His mouth started watering the second he glimpsed one on somebody’s tray as he walked in.  His morning was boring and stressful in turn, but nothing a little chocolate wouldn’t fix.

“All out,” the lunch lady told him as he finally reached the serving tray.

His shoulders sagged as he followed the others to a table.

“Aw, poor Blood Bank.”  Helm gave him a teasing pout as she bit into her brownie, the last of the batch.

“Karma is a terrible and powerful lady,” Schmitt warned.  “You shouldn’t cross her.”

The others were all holding their brownies up to toast each other at his expense when Dr. Kim walked over.

“You know, he’s right,” he said.

All snickering stopped as the interns collectively sat up straighter and dropped the goading they preferred to display behind the backs of those with power over them.  Schmitt, however, felt a comforting glow of wellness that had been kicking up around Kim lately, in stark contrast to the tension that stiffened the others.

“It’s kind of like the butterfly effect, isn’t it, and that’s basic science.  One thing happens—say, you choose to cut in front of someone in line—and who knows what other events that sets in motion?  Could be nothing.  Could be things you’d never even think to connect to that decision: tripping on a rug at home or being unable to find your keys.”  He shrugged.  “Missing out on surgeries?  Never can tell.”

Schmitt nodded up at him.  Very wise.  “Life’s a funny thing, right?”

Kim returned his smile.  “Very.”

Roy looked down at the brownie in his hand and made a face, shifting uncomfortably in his chair.  “I don’t even like chocolate,” he said and tossed it onto Schmitt’s tray.

Schmitt flinched in surprise, but the happy turn of events was followed by two other miracles.

“Not very hungry,” Qadri said under her breath, setting hers down on top of Roy’s discarded brownie.

“Chocolate is stupid,” Helm mumbled and piled her bitten brownie down onto the others, which was definitely a miracle because he’d seen Helm thumb-war Roy so hard for a Twix that he’d nearly needed a consult with Link.

“Wow!  Thanks, guys.”  He bit into Helm’s brownie with the missing chunk and beamed up at Kim.

“Enjoy your lunch,” he said and pulled his hand away from the back of his chair to squeeze Schmitt’s shoulder gently.

“You too!”  Schmitt waved as Kim left to join Link at his table and did a double take on the others when he turned back around.  They looked strangely annoyed after being so charitable.

Helm glowered at him.

Roy coughed around something that sounded suspiciously like teacher’s pet and dug into his salad.  Schmitt glanced around at the suddenly hostile table, bewildered, and wished it wouldn’t have been weird to get up and join Kim and Link.  He had no opinion on Link, but good things tended to happen whenever Kim was around.  He was an ortho god and the king of happy coincidences.

****

Schmitt wasn’t the kind of kid in school that spiked the punch bowl, put graffiti on the bathroom stall, or got into fights.  That wasn’t to say that he was unfamiliar with the principal’s office.  Schmitt didn’t seek trouble.  Trouble came through a series of accidents and the general misfortune that plagued him from his first steps (according to his mother, he took two triumphant ones… and two more sideways into the fireplace; it wasn’t on, but it was a good indicator of his luck to come).

It was that kind of luck that landed him in a line against the wall with the other interns after a mix-up with charts and bad communication sent the wrong two patients to get X-rays.  No harm done, but it was their second collective mistake of the week and Webber wasn’t having it.

He was mid-lecture and fixing to dole out punishments in the form of Pit sentences and gross scut while the five of them stared at the floor and tried to dissolve into the wall.  Not blood, Schmitt was still naive enough to hope.  Anything but blood work, anything but blood work, anything but—

“Dr. Webber.”  Dr. Kim’s voice drew Schmitt out of his doom-induced gloom.  He caught his eye, and Kim shot him a wink.  His knees suddenly went to jelly, and he half slipped down the wall before catching himself.  . . . But that was obviously just fear of punishment making him weak.

“Yes, Dr. Kim?”

“I heard about the X-ray problem.”

“Yeah, I’m handling it now.  They are being handled.”  Webber turned a stern glare on the interns, and Schmitt was quick to throw his gaze back down to the floor.

“Of course,” Kim said.  “I just wanted to clear up the matter of responsibility.  Schmitt was helping me on an acetabular fracture this morning.  He wouldn’t have had time to mix up an X-ray.  The woman’s pelvis is mangled.”

Schmitt’s gaze jumped back up in confusion.  He wasn’t on any case.  He must have been mixing him up with someone else.

“Schmitt, for God’s sake,” Webber said.  “You gotta learn to speak up for yourself.  If you weren’t there, say something and save yourself the trouble of taking on your fellow interns’ guilt.”

“Uh…”  What was the move here?  Honesty felt dangerous, but he didn’t want to get Dr. Kim in trouble if Webber realized he was mistaken.

“Thanks,” Kim said before he could put his foot in his mouth and take wobbly steps into the fireplace that was always right at his side; one of these days it would have actual flames in it.  “We just got her in the OR.  You mind if Schmitt scrubs in?”

Webber waved at Schmitt in annoyed dismissal.  “Go on.  Learn something.  As for the rest of you…”  He launched back into his lecture as Helm shot him a dirty look and Kim took his elbow to lead him away.

“Uh, Dr. Kim, I should probably tell you I wasn’t on any case this morning.  I think the X-ray thing might’ve been partly my fault.”

“Everyone makes mistakes,” Kim said but didn’t seem concerned at all about making one himself by saving him from Webber.  “Come on.  Let’s get a scalpel in your hand.”

“Oh.”  Uncertainty lingered, but Kim’s smile was as warm as his hand on his elbow and he could only mirror it as they walked down the hall, farther away from Webber’s loud scolding.  “Thanks.”

“Anytime.”

In the next few weeks, he backed up the sentiment, extricating Schmitt from various other fireplaces.  It was kind of nice, Schmitt thought, to have someone pulling him out.  There was less fire these days and more dustings of soot.  Not a bad change of pace at all.

****

Doing rounds started to invoke memories of his first time having to work on a cadaver in med school ever since Mr. Rochman was admitted.  He was a cranky old guy with no filter, a general hatred for everyone, and a particular hatred for Schmitt.  Working with dead bodies for the first time had been a learning experience.  He learned about anatomy.  And he learned how easily he fainted.  Presenting Mr. Rochman’s case was unpleasant, embarrassing, and though he knew he would survive it, the actual process left enough room for doubt.

Schmitt followed Jo to his room with the rest of the interns and regretted stepping forward initially.  Rochman was one patient he would happily lose out on to anyone else interested, but his condition was neither interesting enough nor was his Hell-spun personality an incentive to stir up the natural competitive spirit among the others.  Rochman was just the latest of a series of mistakes on his part.

When they reached the room, Dr. Kim was stepping out.  That was odd.  Unless Rochman took a tumble down the stairs since his last bedridden warpath (and Schmitt at least felt guilty about not feeling guilty about fantasizing about that), he didn’t have any injuries that required ortho.  Dr. Kim caught his eye and winked at him as he passed.  The increasingly familiar flustered feeling that tingled up inside of him whenever he found himself the subject of Kim’s attention had him turning to watch him go—and turn back around to walk directly into the doorframe.

The interns laughed, and Schmitt braced himself for the verbal beating he was in for from Mr. Rochman.  It was bad enough without him feeding him inspiration for his biting remarks.

What he got instead was a shock that slapped a dumb look of surprise on his face when Rochman snapped at the interns to shut their cake holes since Schmitt could at least walk into a doorframe right, which put him one up on the rest of them.

“Well, go on, son.”  Rochman gestured for him to start.  “Put me on display already so I can get these ingrates out of here.”

It only became more bewildering from there.  Rochman took all his surly energy out on the others for the duration and even complimented Schmitt on a job well done when Dr. Bailey asked him for his medical opinion.  He left the room feeling like he was the butt of a new joke somehow, but he wasn’t blushing with his self-esteem in the toilet so he called it a win.

“Got someone in your corner,” Bailey told him with a knowing look that he couldn’t relate to since he felt like he knew less than ever.

He thought she was talking about Mr. Rochman until he took a five minute break on the catwalk, looked out at the busy day outside the walls of the hospital and felt someone come up to his side.  It was Dr. Kim.  Schmitt was worn out from a long day but had a sudden burst of restorative energy.  The quick break was clearly a good idea.

“I heard rounds were less torturous today,” Kim said, leaning forward on the railing.

His forearms were nice, well-built, strong.  Schmitt snapped his gaze up.  Fixating on people’s forearms was weird.  Or possibly a sign that studying anatomy for so many years had simply given him an appreciation for the male form.  The human form.  Male, female, either way.  It was all the same to Schmitt.  Really, it would have been weird if he never noticed anybody’s forearms at all.  They were right there on display all day.  It was people with forearm blinders on that were the weird ones.

“Huh?”

Instead of getting annoyed at Schmitt’s absent-mindedness, Kim’s lips quirked.  He nodded his head toward patient rooms.

“I heard Mr. Rochman was in a good mood this morning.”

“Oh!  Yeah.  Well, no he wasn’t.  He really laid into the others.  I don’t think Roy will ever be the same,” he said, only half-joking.  Roy had left the room with a shell-shocked expression.  Schmitt was supposed to take the grenade hit from the defect in Rochman’s personality, which accounted for all of it.  “But he was super nice to me!  It was weird.  I don’t know what to do with all this self-esteem left over.”

“Maybe you can trade it.”

Kim turned to lean his hip on the railing and was closer than Schmitt expected.  They weren’t a nose-bumping distance apart, but people came with invisible personal boundary lines.  They needed to recheck the zoning laws on theirs, because Schmitt was pretty sure they were trampling those boundaries.

“What’s the exchange rate for self-esteem?”  Schmitt grinned.  “Could probably make out like a bandit around here.  Being an intern has a way of—”

“Sucking the soul out of you?”

Schmitt nodded.  “I’ve got a wallet full of self-esteem.”

“Good.  You can buy me a drink when you get off.”

“Oh.  Yeah.  Okay.  We—I can do that.”

“See you in a couple hours?”

He nodded, feeling once more like a top in full spin.  A crazy thought occurred to him.

“Yeah.  Hey, Dr. Kim,” he called after him as he started off.

He turned back around and corrected, “Nico.”

“Nico.”  An inexplicable thrill went through him at the taste of his name on his tongue.

He had mentioned that doing rounds had felt more like enduring a scene in a slasher film than work lately when Dr. Kim (Nico) asked if he was alright yesterday following a particularly brutal encounter with Rochman that had him stumbling into the cafeteria looking like Roy had this morning.  Nico had treated him to lunch, assured him that his glasses did not actually make him look like a startled grasshopper, and distracted him from his spiraling self-consciousness with an offer to scrub in on his surgery that afternoon.

“You…  You didn’t have anything to do with, uh, Mr. Rochman’s personality transplant, did you?”

Nico’s pager went off, and he checked it distractedly.  “Personalities aren’t my field.  But I wouldn’t worry about Rochman anymore.”  He looked up and shot him a smile that put his well-sculpted forearms to shame with its perfection.  “If someone warms up to you… it’s probably for the long haul.”

Schmitt watched him go and couldn’t diagnose the ache in his chest.

Amazingly bright and warm smiles that tugged on a guy’s heart and made him feel like someone special instead of the group joke were part of faces, which was just more anatomy.  And a fixation on anatomy was a healthy love of science.  Any young doctor would agree that Nico’s smile was worth hoarding in their memory to reference (many, many times) later.  Scientifically speaking.

Schmitt went back to work with a dopey smile of his own.