Prelude (Ethan x f!MC)
Book: Open Heart, Book 1
Pairing: Dr. Ethan Ramsey x F!MC (Dr. Lilac Allende)
Word count: 1.5 K
Premise: Three moments leading up to their fateful meeting.
Author’s Note: In which I try to explain why MC didn’t know what Ethan, her medical hero, looked like. Also, my (late) fic for the book 1 replay. Thank you @aestheticartsx for pre-reading!
Harper frowns down at the file in her hand, her sharp gaze burning into the collated papers as though coercing them to solve their dilemma once and for all. From the end of the table, Cyrus lets out an inpatient sigh.
“It's very simple, Harper,” he drones. Ethan's fists clench reflexively at his sides, urging to remind Cyrus that Harper is the chief now and warrants more respect than his insufferable tone is offering. “The last spot should go to the candidate from Harvard. We are the best hospital on the east coast, after all. It only makes sense.”
Harper looks unconvinced and still, her pensive expression remains fixed in the file.
“An ivy league degree does not a good doctor make,” Naveen adds sagely into the ensuing silence. His smile is placid enough but Ethan knows the older doctor well enough to hear the warning edge in his voice. Evidently, even Naveen disapproves of Cyrus's lack of respect for their new chief.
“And if you need further proof of that, Doctor Cyrus,” Ethan begins dryly, eyes boring into him. “Then look no further than your side of the conference table.”
A few attendings—at least the ones who have become increasingly tired of Cyrus's boastful proclamations about his alma mater—laugh quietly at the jab. Cyrus splutters, his face an unpleasant shade of red as he glares daggers at Ethan.
“This candidate,” Harper says at last, unaware or uncaring of what she had just interrupted. Her two lone words are enough to command the room's attention at once, but her hazel eyes are on Ethan. “You're convinced she's the best fit for Edenbrook?”
Ethan meets her eye and pauses.
It's the first time they look at each other directly since he ended their relationship two weeks prior. Despite the brief time apart and an unshakeable resolve to be professional, his stomach sinks heavy, like a stone.
Harper looks as graceful and dignified as ever, keeping every emotion in check. Yet, as she holds his gaze, Ethan can see a small flicker or sadness and his stomach twists with guilt.
“I'm positive, Chief Emery,” Ethan responds. “This candidate exhibits the type of potential we look for at Edenbrook.”
The use of her new title seems to snap Harper out of a reverie.
“She graduated top of her class and ranked in the top percent among our chosen cohort of interns,” Ethan continues. “I've also looked into her research and it's among the most promising I've seen. I recommend her without reservations.”
With a single nod and a sense of finality, Harper closes the file.
“Then it's settled. We have our last intern.”
“You're joking, Harper,” Cyrus blurts out, incensed. “We're giving a coveted spot to the candidate from UCLA?”
He says the name of the school with so much derision, Ethan feels his ears flare up.
“That Doctor Ayala?” Cyrus continues.
“Doctor Allende,” Ethan corrects, jaw clenched.
“Don't we have enough charity cases in the cohort already? This is token—”
But the vitriol is quickly interrupted by several things happening at once: Ethan darting forward, fists ready; a startled, collective gasp from the other attendings; Naveen, quietly intercepting Ethan and halting his steps with a steady hand, a feat that is impressive for a man much older and shorter; and Harper, also on her feet, directing a disgusted look at Cyrus she doesn’t bother to disguise behind professionalism.
“I would think very carefully about finishing that sentence if I were you, Doctor Cyrus,” she says, her voice low but with the impact of a clashing gavel. “And I ask that you address me as Chief Emery moving forward.”
“If you end up marrying someone with a Boston accent,” Laurel is saying with a devilish grin. “I will never be able to keep a straight face when they talk. Pahk the cah in Hahvahd Yahd.”
Her older sister peers at Lilac over the flaps of an open cardboard box, the glint in her eye growing wickeder still. “Imagine what they’d sound like in bed. You're so fucking gawgeous, dawctaw—”
Before her sister can escalate that impression into disturbing territory, Lilac silences her with a well-aimed pillow. It succeeds in hitting Laurel straight in the face but also in turning her laughter into a cackle.
“Are you going to help me pack or not?” Lilac says sternly, though the effect is entirely ruined by the smile that manages to break through.
Laurel raises her hands in defeat and returns to packing Lilac's books neatly. They work in companionable silence for a few minutes with nothing but their favorite music blaring from the speakers of Lilac's phone.
“Is this the book?” her sister asks suddenly, turning a worn textbook in her hands and studying it closely. “The one written by your medical crush?”
For some inexplicable reason, Lilac feels her face flare with heat. “He's not my crush.”
“You just worship the ground he walks on,” her sister returns, flipping through Diagnostic Principles. “Though, you're right. In order to have a crush you'd need to know what he looks like.”
Laurel reaches the back cover, frowning. “Why wouldn't he add an author picture?”
Lilac says nothing, biting the inside of her cheek. She can't blame her sister for being curious and a bit disappointed at the lack of visual representation. After all, Lilac had felt crestfallen when all she found in the author's information section was the green and blue Edenbrook logo.
“Maybe he's a private man and doesn't like his picture out in the world? Maybe he wants aspiring doctors to focus on his research and not his looks?”
“So he's either really hot or really ugly,” Laurel returns, unmoved by Lilac's impassioned speech. “Have you ever tried looking him up online?”
Lilac had been tempted many times, but she was fiercely adamant about keeping her medical hero a mystery outside of his work. It already felt invasive enough to track down his undergrad research and every other minor paper he'd ever written. When it came to Ethan Ramsey, Lilac had searched every corner of scholarly journals and databases, absorbing every piece of his work with an adoration that was already embarrassing enough.
Plus, she would never admit it out loud, but she was also afraid that knowing what the brilliant doctor looked like would somehow ruin him for her. Or at least, alter the image of him she had constructed in her head for so many years. It felt right to continue seeing Dr. Ramsey as the brilliant force that pushed her into her dream career and not as a definitive set of features.
“It doesn't matter what he looks like. He's the best and I'm going there to learn from him, not to judge his appearance.”
“I'm Googling him,” Laurel announces, already typing furiously into her phone. After a few seconds, her phone returns results and her eyebrows shoot up, staying suspended for longer than normal.
“What?” Lilac asks despite herself.
“Just… wow.” Her sister seems to blink out of a trance, turning the screen toward Lilac. “Here, see for your—”
But Lilac turns her gaze away almost out of reflex.
“I don't want to see! I'm already nervous enough about this whole thing without having to worry about this wow-worthy revelation.”
Laurel rolls her eyes.
“Besides, I'm going to see him in less than a week anyway. If I waited all these years, I can wait that long.”
A knowing sort of smile pulls at her sister's face. She mumbles something over the music and Lilac can swear it sounds oddly like: “...worth the wait.”
Ethan should have taken the broken and sputtering coffee machine in his apartment as an omen. His morning definitely declined from then on, starting with gridlock traffic and ending with an infuriatingly long line at his favorite coffee place.
The ultimate lack of coffee is probably his fault because Ethan had spent too much time deliberating whether or not he wanted to go with store bought coffee on what promised to be a grueling day. When he had finally made up his mind, however, the line was already out the door.
Irritated and caffeine deprived, he drives back to Edenbrook.
“You're earlier than we agreed,” Naveen says as soon as Ethan accepts his incoming call. “What was the point of rearranging the whole schedule if you were going to come in when you pleased anyway?”
“I'm not even through the gates yet. What are you spying on me?”
“No need. You forget how predictable you are.”
Naveen chuckles as he says this which eases some of Ethan's irritation. The older doctor had purposely scheduled him later in the day to give him some peace on the first day of the new intern cohort.
Naturally, Ethan arrived several hours early, as per his custom.
“Or maybe you know me too well by now.”
Naveen's benevolent laughter turns into a dry but lingering cough on the other end of the line. Instantly, Ethan's insides freeze over, his stomach sinking unpleasantly.
He opens his mouth to question his mentor about this persisting symptom, when sheer reflex prompts him to stomp on the breaks so suddenly, his body jerks forward then slams against his seat.
Something—or rather someone— had crossed the parking lot road right in front of his car, standing mere inches away from his front bumper.
“Ethan?” Naveen asks through the speaker.
When Ethan recovers and regains movement of his arms and legs, he feels the spike of adrenaline give way to pure annoyance.
The offending pedestrian is a young brunette clad in blue scrubs, a medical intern by the looks of it. She stands there in the middle of the road, her mouth hanging open in a way that would have been comical to Ethan if he wasn't so irritated.
They stare at one another, though Ethan is convinced she can't see much through the tinted glass.
Then, right before his eyes, she seems to recover from the shock. Drawing herself to her full height, she glares at Ethan. At least, he thinks she's glaring through the dark lenses of her sunglasses.
Ethan almost scoffs.
She has the audacity to be angry when she was the one who made the rookie mistake of aimlessly crossing in front of him?
Who the hell does she think she is?
“Asshole,” she mutters, the word quite audible through his windows.
Before a stunned Ethan can respond, she turns on her heel and rushes toward the hospital, a curtain of dark hair dancing behind her.
“What was that?” Naveen asks, still on the call.
“I hate interns,” Ethan responds much to the older doctor's amusement.
Author’s Note: In other words, my MC was late to her orientation because of Ethan and that’s how she met him in the waiting room lol. Thank you so much for reading!
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