Charlie let himself into Max's apartment with the spare key he'd been given. He couldn't say it felt like coming home though. He was always very aware that he was a guest, and perhaps an unwanted one at that. Still, it had been an exhausting day what with the department being in thorough disarray and he was looking forward to a few hours relaxing.
He had barely taken his coat off when Max appeared in the hallway, stony-faced but with a dangerous glint of anger in his eyes.
"I've just spoken to Duffy." He said in a steady and unnerving tone.
"Oh. Is she alright?" Charlie replied, unsure where this was leading.
Max took a step closer to him. "She's fine, I think. She sounded a little confused though. You see, she thinks that Tina Seabrook is in Holby, and what's more she thinks that Tina's had my baby…"
Charlie closed his eyes and tried for a second to wish the world away. His immediate thought was to blame Duffy for not keeping her mouth shut, but it didn't take long for him to realise he shouldn't have broken Tina's confidence in the first place. Besides, he realised with an inward groan, she probably thought that Max already knew.
"Tina is here, or at least she was this morning. I think she's gone back to London now". He replied hesitantly. He could see Max's face contort with blatant hostility.
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"She asked me not to. It's not my business..."
"No, it isn't Charlie, but as usual that hasn't stopped you from interfering! So come on then, is it true? What Duffy said about the baby, is it true?" Max advanced on Charlie, towering over the nurse angrily.
"I don't know. Tina isn't sure either. Look, Max, you weren't supposed to find out like this".
"Obviously" he said bitterly.
"No, I don't really want to hear anything that you have to say anymore. I thought we were beyond all this petty power play business. We're supposed to be friends Charlie, but it seems more like we're only friends when it suits you!"
"Hey, that's not fair Max…"
"Isn't it? I think maybe you should leave now Charlie".
"You're throwing me out?"
He paused briefly to consider it. "Yes." Then strode back to his living room without second glance back to Charlie.
Sean glanced down at the crumpled piece of paper in his hand, and hoisted his bag a little higher up on his shoulder. He'd never visited Tina's parent's house before, in fact although he'd spoken to them occasionally, he'd never actually met them either. He gulped, his throat dry, and walked up the few steps to the front door, knowing all too well that this was probably not the best circumstance to be meeting his mother-in-law in.
The sound of the doorbell rung out and seconds later Sean heard footsteps advancing on his position. The door opened and a well-dressed woman in her late fifties gave him a disdainful stare.
"Mrs Seabook? I'm Sean Maddox".
Her expression changed to show a smile but a wary look was still apparent in her eyes. She, of course, had seen photographs of Sean, but he had looked a good deal better groomed in them than he did standing exhausted on her doorstep. She opened the door wider and invited him in.
"Tina didn't mention that you'd be flying over as well. She told me that you had too much work on".
Sean deposited his bag and coat in the hallway and followed her through to the sitting room, sinking gratefully onto the maroon leather settee. It was only once the weight was off his feet that he realised what she'd said. Tina obviously hadn't told her mother the full truth of the situation.
"I found someone to cover for me, Mrs Seabrook".
"It's just a shame that you couldn't make in time for Douglas's funeral. I could have introduced you to the rest of the family. Oh, and seeing as we are family, please call me Mary".
"Mary, um, I was very sorry to hear about your husband's death". He replied slightly awkwardly.
"Thank you Sean. But I must admit having Tina home again has made things a bit easier for me. I always feel that families should stick together. Don't you Sean?"
He nodded slowly, "Well, yes that's why I'm here".
"You miss little Dawny". It was more a statement than a question.
"Tina has implied that things between you haven't been all that good of late… " Mary wasn't a stupid woman, and even though Tina had not furnished her with any concrete details about her relationship with Sean, she'd picked up enough to know that all was not well.
Sean paused, unsure how best to respond to her. "No, but a lot of it's been my fault, and I hope to try to make it up to her".
"My daughter can be very stubborn Sean. Whatever has happened between you, you're going to have to make a supreme effort if you're serious about winning her back".
"I intend to. Honestly, I love Tina… and Dawn, they are everything to me, Mary".
Mary looked pleased by this affirmation, and her smile broadened and finally reached her eyes. "Right then, how about you go upstairs to freshen up, say hello to Dawn, and I'll make a nice pot of tea".
"Charlie, what are you doing here?"
"Good evening to you too, Josh". Charlie answered wearily, "Can I come in?"
Josh backed away from his door and proceeded to his living room, leaving Charlie to shut the door and follow. "What's with the bag?" He called over his shoulder.
"Ah, well, you see Max and I have had a bit of a disagreement…"
"I get it" Josh cut him off, and made himself comfortable in his favourite armchair. "You need somewhere to stay tonight. Yes?"
Charlie dropped his bag and at opposite the paramedic. "I'm sorry to descend on you like this Josh, but I don't have anywhere else to go. And last time we lived together it worked out OK, didn't it?"
"Look, if don't want me here I can stay at a B&B or something. I don't want to get it the way of you and Colette".
"I wouldn't worry about that" he replied miserably. "You can stay if you like. The place is in a bit of a mess though… but then I remember what yours was like so I expect you'll cope! Do I get to know what you and Max fell out about though..?"
Charlie winced, and rubbed the back of his head. "It's a bit sensitive I think, not really my business to gossip".
"Fine. I'm getting quite used to being kept in the dark about things". It was clear from his tone that he had something other than Charlie and Max's argument on his mind.
"Are you alright?"
"Yeah." He replied solemnly.
"Colette?" Charlie ventured.
Josh sighed. "Did you know that she has a daughter?"
"Colette. Her name is Natalie, she's sixteen".
Charlie shook his head. "She's never mentioned anything to me. Are you sure?"
"Charlie, she introduced us! Sort of. Only because Natalie turned up at the hospital. Apparently Colette gave her up for adoption when she was born, and she's only just got in touch again".
"Does it matter? I mean, it all happened long before you two ever met. Is it going to make a difference to your relationship".
"It already has! It's taken months for us to get to this point in our relationship. I thought she trusted me, but there's this whole part of her life that she wasn't even going to tell me about. And after the fuss she made about Helen and the kids".
"I'm sorry mate. It seems that in these last couple of days everyone's had their lives tipped upside down. So, have you broken up?"
"I hope not. I still feel the same about her, regardless of her daughter, but I feel like she's shut me out. I'm a third wheel in the relationship at the moment. I don't know if she wants me or not." He stared at his fingernails, knowing that the way he was feeling he might do something silly like cry if he didn't keep concentrating on something else. "I should be used to this by now; one minute everything is going great, then suddenly it all crashes down around you".
"A daughter? Are you sure?" Amanda stared at Max.
She was surprised, to say the least, by this revelation, but as had Max continued to explain the circumstances leading up to the conception of Tina's daughter she'd became more and more concerned too. When he spoke about Tina his voice took on an almost wistful tone, as though he was remembering a fantastic love affair that could not be surpassed. Amanda didn't know what to make of it. It was clear that Max didn't even realise that he spoke of Tina in the most glowing of terms, and she couldn't help wondering if he was as over her as he tried to make out.
He sat down next to her and held her hand in his. "I don’t know, not for sure. In the morning I'll track down Tina and sort this out once and for all".
Max hadn't been certain at first whether telling Amanda was the best thing to do, but he'd reasoned it out in the time between Charlie skulking out with his tail between his legs, and Amanda's arrival. As far as he was concerned, if Tina had made the effort to come all the way back to Holby from the other side of the world, there must be a pretty good reason. He could also remember times when they weren't as careful as they should have been; there seemed a very realistic chance that Tina had been carrying his baby when she'd left him, and run off to be with Sean.
"And if this child is yours, what then?"
In all truth Max hadn't got as far as contemplating that. He told her as much.
"I think you should work out just what you want Max, before you do anything else. Are you going to try for custody? This Tina person lives in Australia, you'll probably end up in the same boat as Charlie if you try to fight her… " He stood up and started pacing the room, deep in thought. Amanda had a point about custody. No court would take a baby away from a loving mother to live with a father who'd never even seen her. Even if he had slightly more chance than Charlie did financially. "By the way, where is Charlie?"
"Really? I thought he didn't have anywhere to go. Where's he gone?"
"I don't know. I don't care either, I have more important things to think about than Charlie Fairhead!"
"There's no need to snap at me Max! How do you think this makes me feel? One minute we're talking about moving in together, and now you're talking about bringing up some other woman's kid!"
"It might be my kid! I've already lost one child, I'm damned if I'm going to lose this one too. You have no idea how I'm feeling right now, Amanda!"
"You're right. I have no idea at all. I think that's a damn good reason why we shouldn't move in together, don't you? Not until this is sorted out one way or the other anyway. You call me when you work out what exactly it is that you want".
She stood up and grabbed her coat off the arm of the sofa as she stormed out. In the street she could feel her eyes start to sting with tears. Not one hour ago she was seriously thinking about asking him to marry her, now though she wasn't sure how she felt about him. He was still the same man, but then perhaps that was the problem, he was still the same man who'd fallen for Tina a year before she'd even met him. How could she compete now that there was a kid involved? She let herself into her car and couldn't hold the tears back any longer.
The drive back to London was exhausting and made worse be the thoughts that buzzed incessantly around Tina's head. Her talk with Charlie had given her a lot to think about. Maybe Max did deserve to know the truth. He'd probably take far more interest in Dawn than Sean was prepared to; even if they could never be a family.
It seemed to be one of those occasions when a good night's sleep was a required part of the process. She turned into her mother's road and turned off the engine, looking forward to seeing Dawn again, and relaxing in a nice long bath. As she locked up the car, she noticed that the front door to the house was opening, and as she stared at it, she saw Sean waiting for her.
"Sean? What are you doing here?"
"I missed you. I've been really stupid Tina, can you ever forgive me? I want you and Dawn in my life. You're my family, and I love you".
Tina didn't know what to say to that. She had almost resigned herself to never seeing him again, and suddenly he was right in front of her, telling her what she'd always wanted to hear.
"Tina? Say something? Please?"
"You know that I love you Sean, but it's not as simple as that anymore, is it?" She stepped towards him, and suddenly became aware that her mother was watching proceedings from behind the sitting room's lacy curtains.
"It could be as simple as that. We could treat this as a little holiday then go back to Alice and start over. Pretend that none of this has ever happened…" His enthusiasm was very nearly catching, but Tina had been hurt once to often to let herself fall back into his arms without discussing a few things.
"But it has happened. You walked out on us. You couldn't bear to be in the same room as Dawn…"
"He's been playing with her while you were out Tina love. Give him a chance, eh?" Mary suddenly announced, appearing in the doorway behind her son-in-law.
"You really want us to be family, a proper family?" Tina asked, holding his gaze.
He walked down the steps to stand in front of Tina, clasping her hands in his and nodding gently. "Yes, I do" She let him kiss her, soothing away her anxieties as only he could, "And nothing will change that. Nothing."
Go to Part Six