Claire’s shift had ended three hours ago and she was still in the hospital.
Normally she would have been eager to head home; she loved her job, but she needed downtime just like anyone else. Last week she would have changed into her comfortable clothes, made herself a bowl of ice cream, and sat down to work on her newest song book for the guitar.
But tonight none of that was on her mind. She was solely focused on the moment. And her surroundings.
Shaun, sleeping, in a hospital bed. Shaun, as a patient.
It still didn’t feel right. Nothing had really felt right since she found out Han had fired Shaun, but this whole day had felt as if it been one twist after another and by now Claire was exhausted. And seeing Shaun in this state just made her weariness all the more apparent.
But she wasn’t going to leave him. She had rushed up here the second her shift had ended, finding Glassman and Lea waiting by Shaun’s bedside.
He had been taken off the ventilator a few hours prior, and they were now just waiting for him to wake up. Lea must have seen how upset she was, because she immediately got up and walked over to reassure her.
“He’s fine, Claire. He’s going to be fine.” Claire couldn’t help but balk at everything; even without the ventilator, seeing Shaun in that bed, with the IVs, the blood pump, the heart monitor, was overwhelming. She had no idea how she had composed herself earlier when Lim was with her. Now, she felt seconds away from crumbling.
“I am so sorry,” was all Claire could get out in response. “Doctor Glassman, Lea, I am so sorry.”
“You didn’t do anything Claire,” Glassman replied, stretching his legs out in front of him. “No one knew what was happening.”
“I should have known. He was lying...he never lies...I should have gotten it out of him...I could have helped him-”
“Claire.” Lea was square in front of her now, and putting her hands firmly on her shoulders. “You didn’t do anything wrong. Shaun is okay now.” She pulled back and smiled. “He’s gonna be just fine.”
“Okay,” Claire responded softly, the lingering uncertainty making her voice waver. She quickly tried to change the subject, to put on a happy face. “How are you two doing? I’m sure you’ve been here all day…”
“Yeah,” Lea replied, trying to seem casual, but Claire could tell how tired she was, physically and mentally. “We didn’t want to leave him.”
“I understand. If I could have gotten off work I would have come to see him.” Claire looked at Shaun solemnly, pushing down her hesitation and emotions. He looked peaceful, there was more color to his face than there had been when she had first gotten to him. It filled her with a overwhelming sense of remorse. She hadn’t been there for him before he collapsed, and she had been so focused on trying to figure out what Shaun thought the diagnosis was of his attacker, she hadn’t even stopped to realize how hurt he had been.
“I’m sure Shaun would understand,” Glassman said. “If he had been awake he probably would have insisted you go back to work. God knows he’ll try to get back as soon as-”
He stopped, and coughed, as if it would erase the words he had just spoken, erase the fact that for a brief moment, Shaun being unemployed was the least of everyone’s worries. And now it was all brought back again. It made Claire’s heart hurt even more; Shaun nearly died trying to save the man who attacked him, and it still didn’t matter. It would make no difference to Han. Shaun could invent the cure for the common cold and Claire doubted it would even earn him a nod of approval from the man.
“I know Shaun will be glad to have you here now,” Lea finally continued, filling the silence but not offering any mental ease to the problem Glassman had just reminded them all of. She turned to look at Shaun and smiled. “He really cares about.”
“I care about him too,” Claire replied, her eyes still fixed on Shaun. He didn’t deserve this, he didn’t deserve any of this. “I’m going to help him, I promise.” Claire didn’t know if she was saying that to Lea and Glassman or to Shaun. The three stood in silence for a moment, just watching Shaun, watching his breathing, listening to his heart beat on the monitor. Claire finally spoke up.
“You guys should go get some dinner, maybe take a nap and shower in the family room.” She turned out to face them. “I can stay with Shaun.”
“Claire, you don’t have to,” Glassman replied. “We’re both fine, I can call someone to bring us up food.”
“Guys, be honest with yourselves. You both look awful,” Claire laughed a bit on that remark, trying to lighten up the tone. Or lighten up the room in general. “No offense.”
Lea looked to Glassman, as if waiting for him to speak. He was clearly thinking it over, but it must have been taking too long for Lea, because she turned back to Claire and shrugged.
“I could use a snack. I don’t think I’ve had anything since breakfast.” She hesitated, looking down at Shaun again. “Just promise you’ll let us know if he wakes up.”
“Of course. I have Doctor Glassman’s number.”
Lea took a final glance at Shaun before turning her head to Glassman. “Come on Glassy, before you fall asleep in that chair.”
“I’m coming, I’m coming,” he responded, standing up stiffly and stretching again. “Why do we make relatives sit in this things? They should be classified as weapons of torture.” After saying a quiet goodbye to Shaun, the two of them headed off.
“See you guys soon,” Claire said softly, unsure if they even heard her. She turned back to Shaun, grabbing the chair Lea had been occupying and pulling it near his bed.
That had been nearly an hour ago. At first Claire didn’t even look at Shaun; she told herself it was because it felt weird, as if she was intruding on something. She wouldn’t want someone staring at her while she slept. But deep down, Claire knew it was just as much a product of the guilt that had been slowly building ever since Shaun had collapsed.
How did she miss the signs? She didn’t expect Shaun to be able to diagnose himself when he was so badly hurt and under so much stress, but why didn’t she?
And why wasn’t she fighting for him?
Her thoughts were a mess. She couldn’t tell if this guilt she was feeling was from her lapse in medical judgment or from the fact that she didn’t think she had helped him enough with Han.
Claire wasn’t lying, learning to get over rejection was an important skill, but it wasn’t fair for Han to do this and she knew that. She had been so resigned to feeling like there was nothing she could do for Shaun after being shut down by Morgan and Alex when she had brought up wanting to help. But they were wrong. Shaun didn’t deserve to be treated like this. If nearly dying in the process of saving a man’s life wasn’t enough for Han, and she knew it wasn’t, nothing would be.
What if Shaun had died? What if he had died because he was upset about Han? If it wasn’t for him, Shaun would have been at work this morning, not at a bar. If it wasn’t for him, Shaun wouldn’t have been too distracted to notice his own symptoms.
If it wasn’t for him Shaun would be happy.
Claire’s guilt and remorse began to manifest into rage. Her hands curled up, as if that would actually do anything about the situation. She wanted to scream, she wanted to go up to Han’s office and throw the account she had made of every, single, patient Shaun had helped at his head. She wanted to make him feel small and unvalued and every single other thing he made Shaun feel.
But she couldn’t do any of that. What could she do? She could quit in protest, but she knew Shaun would never want that and it wasn’t like Han would reinstate him in response. She wasn’t important enough, maybe if she got Lim or Melendez to walk out he would fold.
But she knew, even if she couldn’t admit it to herself, that wasn’t going to happen. Han was too stubborn, he would never admit he did something wrong. He was just like Coyle, and it absolutely killed Claire that people like them could, and would, go through life facing no consequences for hurting others.
And now she was looking at Shaun, she was staring at him. Her eyes had begun to water and she lied to herself, saying it was from exhaustion. He looked so small, despite being practically a foot taller than herself. He had bags under his eyes; had he not been sleeping? Claire fell further down the rabbit hole, replaying their conversation in her mind.
Why had Shaun said those things to her today? Why had he told her he didn’t know how to fall in love?
She had enjoyed their little dating role play, she missed Shaun at the hospital terribly, and seeing his earnest kindness had been a welcome experience. But now she was thinking about the context. Had being fired convinced him he wasn’t valuable, not just as a surgeon, but as a person? That he didn’t deserve to be loved? The mere thought tripled the anger she was already feeling.
Claire had told Shaun she wanted to fall in love. And that hadn’t been a complete lie.
But it hadn’t been the complete truth either. And although she was still struggling to admit it to herself, she knew didn’t really want to fall in love.
She wanted the person she had already fallen in love with to love her back.
She never let it on in front of Lim or Melendez, but she had been terrified all day. Logically she knew they had gotten to Shaun in time, they had treated him, there was little chance of complications. But little chance wasn’t enough. She hadn’t allowed her thoughts to spiral while working; she knew she had a responsibility to her patient, no matter how much she despised him for what he had done. But now she didn’t have that weight on her shoulders, she didn’t have Lim and Melendez looking over her every move, she just had herself and Shaun. Shaun, who was in the hospital bed less than three feet from her.
What if he had died?
Complications happen, doctors miss things, patients are fine until they’re not. Any number of things could have happened to Shaun. He could have flatlined, he could have fallen into a coma, he could have developed a respiratory infection.
He could have been gone. He could have been gone and she never would have told him the truth about how she felt. She would never be able to tell him how she hadn’t felt the same since that day he arrived at Saint Bonaventure. How he made her a better doctor, a better person. How she was finally admitting to herself that she had fallen in love with him.
In one moment that could have all been taken away, every possibility, even moment in the future.
Claire had been upset with Shaun for lying, but he hadn’t been the only one.
She would have continued to stew in her quiet emotions, only to be interrupted later when Glassman and Lea eventually returned, but she was distracted by a small movement. Shaun’s head had turned, the flash of his brown hair falling against the starch white pillow. Claire immediately straightened. The tears that had long since overtaken her eyes were forgotten, in any other situation she would have been conscientious of the fact and taken a moment to wipe them away, but in this second it was all forgotten.
“Shaun?” She said softly. “You’re okay, everything is okay.” Claire didn’t know if her words were more for Shaun or for her own reassurance.
He was waking up. He was okay.
For a moment, it seemed like this might have just been a fleeting moment Shaun had before falling back into unconscious, and Claire found herself holding her breath. But eventually his eyes were opening.
“Hey Shaun.” She struggled to find the words to say. “You’re in the hospital, but everything is okay. I promise.”
He looked around slightly, his blue eyes never resting on her. This was a small relief to Claire; it was just like the Shaun she knew.
“Zack...is he…” He trailed off, but Claire got the idea. Leave it to Shaun to be so selfless; wake up in the hospital and your first concern is for the person who put you there.
“Zack is fine, Shaun.” She smiled, feeling the tears presence on her cheeks, but not even caring by that point. “You saved his life. I...I thought about it like you did and I figured out what you had realized. It was brilliant, I don’t think any of us would have ever even noticed.”
There was some tension in Shaun’s face still, as if he didn’t believe her or wanted to get up and check for himself. But his expression soon relaxed, and he closed his eyes again. Claire remained silent, in case he had fallen back asleep. He must have been exhausted; she wanted him to have his rest, now that she had actually heard him speak and she finally felt like he was out of the woods.
But just as soon as they were closed, Shaun opened his eyes again. And this time he was looking at Claire.
“Claire…” he mumbled. “You’re crying.”
“Shaun...Of course I’m crying!” Claire didn’t realize how loud her voice had raised until she saw Shaun flinch. She immediately lowered it. “You scared me. I was worried about you.”
The question took her aback. Was he asking why he had scared her, or why she had been worried about him? She chose to believe it was the former.
“You were really hurt. You’re...you’re fine now, but it was still scary.” Shaun’s comment had encouraged Claire to try and wipe her eyes, sloppily, with her sleeves, but it didn’t help much, as she still continued to cry softly.
“I didn’t...I told Carly I was hurt,” he hummed. “I was upset, I don’t remember a lot.”
Claire almost laughed at this; she had assumed Shaun was too out of focus to realize his own injuries, but now she realized how ridiculous that was. The man could probably predict the next time he would get the flu.
“I’m glad you told Carly, but next time you gotta let us know before you pass out,” she said this with a small giggle, despite the sadness still weighing heavy in her chest and the tears straining her voice. “Are you feeling okay? Do you need anything?”
“My chest hurts,” he mumbled bringing his hand up to it, as if wanting to exam himself as a patient. “But that is normal, I don’t believe I have any complications.”
“We’ll have to wait until your doctor runs some more exams, but I trust your judgement.” Claire sighed, feeling some slight relief just hearing his voice again. She watched as Shaun leaned back further in the pillow, eyes trained on the ceiling, in thought.
She was about to ask if he was thirsty when she remembered what Lea and Glassman had asked her. Claire began digging around in her pocket, before pulling out her phone and sending out a quick text message to Glassman, saying Shaun was awake and responsive. In the moment she had completely forgotten about how worried they must have been.
“Doctor Glassman and Lea are going to be happy to see you. They haven’t left your side once, I had to kick them out or else they would be the ones in the hospital bed after passing out from low blood sugar and exhaustion.”
Shaun hesitated. “Lea is here?”
Claire looked up from her phone. Shaun’s gaze was still fixed on the ceiling. “Yeah, she came in with Glassman right after we called.”
“That was very nice of her.”
“Yeah, yeah it was,” Claire agreed, her voice still raspy from the tears that, while beginning to diminish, still remained. “Doctor Glassman hasn’t responded yet, but I’m sure they’re tripping over themselves to get back up here.”
Was Lea the person Shaun had wanted to ask out? Had that been who he had been preparing for? Claire couldn’t say she was surprised, she was well aware of how their past relationship, but she was also well aware that Lea currently had a boyfriend. She didn’t want to assume, and she would never bring it up at a time like this, but she was worried about Shaun getting hurt again.
Almost as if reading her mind, Shaun whispered, “I don’t know what to say to Lea. I don’t think I like her anymore. I think I like someone else.”
“Oh.” Claire wasn’t sure how to respond. Her immediate reaction, she hated to admit, was a slight happiness. Was Shaun talking about her? She pushed the thought away. “Well, you’re still her friend. And that’s a great thing too.”
“Yes,” Shaun agreed. “She’s my friend.” He was silent for a moment, before adding, “You’re my friend too.”
Claire smiled softly. “Thank you Shaun.”
“You helped me when I was upset about Doctor Han. When he...fired me. You let me be sad and angry, you didn’t tell me to calm down, you just sat with me. I never told you thank you.”
This response returned all the guilt Claire had been feeling earlier. She had let Shaun be sad and angry, but that was days ago. And now all she had done was try and encourage him to get over it.
“I’m sorry Shaun,” Claire started, pausing for a breath when her tears began to overcome her yet again. “I shouldn’t have told you to move on today. You’re right. We gotta fight for what we deserve. And I want to help you. Han isn’t gonna get away with treating you like this.”
Shaun didn’t speak for several moments. He finally responded, “I’m sorry you’re sad.”
“I’m not sad, Shaun.”
“They’re happy tears,” she tried to smile more as if to prove that to herself. She was happy, but she was also sad and angry and still guilty. But none of it was directed at him. “I’m just so happy you’re okay. You were hurt and you still put another persons needs ahead of your own...people are so wrong about you. You care more about your patients and saving others than any other doctor in this hospital.”
To Claire’s surprised, Shaun responded by reaching his hand out. He held it, awkwardly resting it on the bed railing, probably too tired to move it any further. But Claire knew what he was trying to do.
She scooched her chair forward, a bit too quickly, as she nearly fell forward and Shaun shut his eyes and flinched against the scratching sound it made against the tiled floor. Claire mouthed a silent apology as she readjusted her seat. She was much closer to the bed, her knees were practically bumping up against the side. She reached out, and picked up Shaun’s hand, gently, making sure she wasn’t squeezing.
“I don’t ever want you to think you aren’t allowed to feel and express your emotions, okay?” Claire rubbed her thumb over his palm softly and slowly, in case he didn’t like the feeling and wanted her to stop. “I’m here for you, Lea is here for you, Carly is here for you, Doctor Glassman is here for you. And this is gonna end. You are going to be a surgical resident at Saint Bonaventure again because you belong here.”
Shaun smiled at the encouragement, speaking slowly. “I am a surgeon.”
Claire found it hard not to swoop down and hug him. She settled for raising his hand up slowly. Shaun followed her lead, and Claire was soon clasping it between her own hands, near her chest, as she leaned forward, closer to Shaun. “Yes you are Shaun. You are a surgeon.” Her voice was breaking, but she wasn’t trying to hide her tears anymore. “And Doctor Han can never take that away from you.”
It was a promise. Her feelings for Shaun were still jumbled and it didn’t help that she had no idea if Shaun even felt anything towards her, but when it came to helping him, she was still sure of one thing.
She wasn’t going to back down.