Tina was only vaguely aware of Sean leaving Max’s side room. She didn’t mean to ignore him but Sean’s sulk about chasing after the man who’d once been his rival was definitely second place to the state Max was in. She clasped Max’s hand, squeezing it tightly, hoping to illicit some response from him, but there was nothing. Even though she’d been assured that his injuries were highly unlikely to prove fatal she’d been a nurse too long to take anything for granted. She shuddered at the thought.
“Wake up Max” she whispered.
Rob pulled his jacket tighter around himself, and breathed warm air on his hands. On the horizon he could see the first rays of the new day streak through the night sky. He looked hopefully at his watch.
“Three more hours” he sighed.
“Talking to yourself? You know what’s the first sign of madness…”
Lucy grinned, and slipped her arm around his waist, snuggling close to him for warmth and comfort. He put his own arm across her shoulders, and sighed again.
“You have to be mad to work here”.
“That’s why I don’t!” She held the hem of her jacket out with her free hand and shimmied like a model, showing off her green paramedic outfit. “Wouldn’t catch me shut up in that place all day”.
“No, you just turn up and antagonise the staff every now and then - ow! That hurt!”
She had pinched his waist, and he disentangled himself from her embrace, frowning at her all the while.
They smiled at each other, simultaneously thinking that it was their good tempered arguing that kept them sane. For a moment they became lost in their thoughts, perfectly at ease in the silence of each others company.
It was Lucy, as usual, who broke that silence. “So then, what’s up doc?”
He groaned at the joke she’d made so many times before but didn’t comment on it. Instead he pushed his hand through his short brown hair and took the two steps back to the building so he could lean against the wall.
“Nearly home time. We can have a nice hot bath, yeah?”
“Not that sort of tired. Well, yes that sort as well - and the bath sounds nice - but it’s more than that. The only two people to die in that RTA earlier were a couple of kids who weren’t wearing seatbelts. Lauren and Alex, seven and five. I just had to tell the mother”.
Lucy moved toward him, her eyes screaming with the sympathy that she didn’t know how to put into words. “That’s awful”.
He let her reach up and stroke his cheek, a motion of empathy and affection that seemed to encourage the tears that were forming in his eyes. He turned away. It had taken him a long time to learn how to share his intimate emotions with her, but even now, after four years of being together he still refrained from letting her comfort him in public. He was one of the senior doctors, a tall rugby playing man in his thirties and as such it just wasn’t the done thing.
She let him shy away from her, knowing that it wasn’t a personal rebuke but wishing that he could follow her example of showing whatever emotion she was feeling in glorious technicolour despite the situation. But then, she figured, perhaps they levelled each other out somehow.
“You mustn’t take it personally Rob. I saw those two at the site, no doctor could have done more for them”.
“That’s not the point. She was probably a good mother; she made one mistake by not making sure they were strapped in safely and now they’re dead. She’ll have to live with that forever and there was nothing I could say to reassure her. She asked you know”.
“What? If they would have lived if she’d…”
“Yes” he interrupted, feeling his voice straining and tying to compose himself before he continued in a whisper. “I lied to her”.
“I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what I’d have done”. She shook her head gently thinking about it, and wishing she didn’t have to.
He looked directly into her pale blue eyes that always betrayed her emotions. “You would have told her the truth”.
It was what he admired the most in her, that she had such a no nonsense attitude. He had spent too many years playing the power games that doctors so often seemed to become embroiled in, where arrogance in your own opinions was sometimes more important than actually being right. He could keep the image up though, not that he’d let anyone other than Lucy know that that's all it was.
“It was a judgement call. Whether it was the right or the wrong thing to do, you had good intentions”.
“And you know that they’re what the road to hell is paved with”. He snorted a pathetic laugh. “Doesn’t matter anyway, what’s done is done, and all that. Any minute now I’ll get bleeped, and you’ll get a call through, and we’ll be catapulted into some other poor sod’s worst nightmare. Can’t win ‘em all”
“Don’t talk like that Rob. You saved that bloke earlier, that one we couldn‘t identify…”
“Max Gallagher” he informed her.
“If you say so. The point is that someone somewhere will be thanking you tonight. You’re a great doctor, I’m a fantastic paramedic, and we’re a bloody excellent team. And you know I never lie. Never”.
He kissed her forehead. “I know Lucy. I know”.
Sean flopped onto the first bench he saw on leaving the hospital grounds. He could see the doctor he’d spoken to in Max’s room earlier talking to some paramedic a few yards away, and slumped forward so that his elbows rested on his knees in the hope that the man didn’t see him. He needed time to think about things.
He laughed inwardly. Dawn’s parentage had been a major factor in his life and his thoughts for months, some days he’d thought of nothing else, but now he knew the facts he had to start over again. Before it had always been a case of coming to terms with whether or not he could love another man’s child as his own. He’d never questioned that Dawn was Max’s daughter.
Now he knew differently.
He should have been happy, he knew that. It was what he’d originally wanted, before Dawn was born and he’d come to the conclusion that such a fair child couldn’t possibly be his. He’d spent months planning how he would be the world’s best father; how he and Tina would provide a stable and happy life for their child, but when that first doubt appeared in his mind he’d abdicated all the responsibilities of fatherhood. It hadn’t even been a conscious decision at first, it was pure instinct to shy away from the baby, not to get attached in case Tina went back to Max.
Even though he liked to think that that wasn’t on her agenda, even though he loved Tina, and wanted them to be a family, he still knew that Dawn wasn’t his. He even congratulated himself on being decent enough to put that fact aside.
So, although he knew he should be happy, all he felt was guilt and shame. Guilt and shame for disowning his own daughter, physically back in Alice, but more importantly mentally since that day she was born. He thought of everything he’d missed out on, and how he’d treated Tina. He thought about it all and felt tears begin to trickle down his cheeks.
He was trying to compose himself, when he felt the bench shudder as someone sat down next to him. “He’ll be alright. He’s in good hands up there”.
With one final swipe at his eyes, Sean glanced to the owner of the voice, “You what?”
“Max Gallagher. Sorry, I didn’t mean to disturb you, only you looked… well, I thought that maybe what I said to you upstairs might not have sounded too, um, positive. I just don’t believe in giving false hope, but Mr Gallagher’s condition is stable and improving all the time”.
Sean stared blankly for a second, Max’s condition so far down his list of priorities that he’d almost forgotten what had happened. “Yeah, right, thanks, Dr…?”
“Rob Markson, and it’s Mister actually”. He held out his hand for Sean to shake, but it was a gesture that went by ignored.
“Sorry. Yeah, I remember actually, I just have a lot to think about right now”.
“No, I’m sorry. For disrupting your thoughts I mean. But if there’s anything to want to know about Mr Gallagher’s treatment then please ask”. Rob smiled as best he could under the circumstances. He wasn’t renowned for his interpersonal skills, but he made the effort to try. Especially when people looked as stressed as Sean did.
“I’m a doctor too actually. I understand about Max’s condition - I took a look at his notes”.
“Ah” Rob said, settling into a more comfortable position, “Where are you based then?”
“I’m an SHO in a small hospital in Alice Springs, Australia, but before that I was in Holby.”
“So you’re here on holiday, visiting old friends? Shame you’ve ended up here”.
Sean took a moment to think about it. “I don’t know, perhaps these things happen for a reason…”
He let his gaze drift down to the floor, his mind back on his revelation. Without Max’s accident telling him that Max had type A blood, he would still be living with the fact that he was generously bringing up Tina‘s baby purely because he loved her.
It was one of the most basic facts about blood groups, he’d been taught it back in school, before his medical training had gone in rhesus factors and other complications, that a child like Dawn who had type AB blood, with a mother like Tina with A blood, must have father with either B, or AB blood. He had known that he himself had AB blood, so he could theoretically have been her dad, but it was inconclusive whilst he didn‘t know about Max. A formal DNA test would have been required to learn the truth. And they’d already decided not to take one.
Perhaps things had happened the way they had for a reason, but he wished they hadn’t. There was something to be said for blissful ignorance after all.
Noticing Sean’s distraction, Rob cleared his throat softly, “Is there something you’d like to talk about?”
Sean looked up once, more. “Not really. I’ve just realised that I’ve made a terrible mistake, and I don’t know what to do about it”.
“Well, I can’t promise I’ll have a solution, but if you want a second opinion…?”
Sean instinctively shook his head, not wanting to tell his secret to a complete stranger, but even as he did so he wondered if perhaps it could help.
“No” He laughed weakly. “Being sure is all a part all part of the problem!”
“I don’t follow”.
“It’s my daughter…” The words seemed to hang in the air, and he paused as he realised that that was the first time he’d said them with any conviction, “I’ve just found out that I’m her father. What I mean is that I wasn’t sure, actually I was certain that I wasn’t her Dad, she doesn’t look like me, and I know that my wife, well, she wasn’t at the time, but, well, I knew that she’d been seeing someone else. Max”.
He waited for the name to register with Rob before carrying on “I’d accepted the situation, It took me a while, but I did. I’d accepted that we’d be a family regardless, but just now, when I saw his notes I saw his blood group. Now I know that Dawn’s mine - which is great - but it means I’ve been acting like a fool for nothing.”
“Everyone acts like a fool every now and then”
“I really hurt her. But I told myself that I was in the right so it didn’t matter, but now I know that I wasn’t. I was just a jerk”.
“But you’re together still, so she still loves you”
“That’s why she’s up there with Max is it? If I’d stuck by her in the first place, we wouldn’t be back in England like this, Max would be none the wiser about Dawn, and he wouldn’t have been in an accident either. It’ll all my fault, and now I have concrete proof of that!”
“I’m sure it’ll be OK…”
“Well, I’m not. When Max comes around he’ll ask for a DNA test, Tina will find out that all our arguing was for nothing, and guess who’ll be there to lend her a shoulder to cry on?”
“Exactly. Any suggestions?”
Rob shook his head vigorously, sympathetic to Sean’s problem but glad that he wasn’t in a similar situation.
“For what it’s worth, I would just tell her and get it over with. Like ripping a plaster off, you know it’s going to hurt so you do it quick. That way you’ll have time to make it up to her before Max comes round”.
“You might be right. I don’t know. Life’s never simple these days is it?”
Charlie dragged himself into work, feeling decidedly un-refreshed from his sleep. A fact that wasn’t helped by being woken at some ridiculous hour by the sound of the front door slamming shut. At the time Charlie had wondered where on earth Josh could be going at that time, but the fact that he’d failed to reappear led Charlie to believe that Colette would be making breakfast for two about now. Well, Charlie thought, allowing himself to expend some energy on a small smile, at least someone has got their life together.
The trauma of the last few days, and the staff shortages associated with it had left Charlie utterly exhausted though, and he knew as soon as he walked into the reception area that it wasn’t going to be a quiet day. The sun was barely up and already the place was buzzing with patients.
“Good morning Charlie!” Jack called to his boss.
Charlie groaned. “Allegedly”.
“Never mind. Anything I should know about?”
“Erm, there are a few notes my predecessor left you, I’ve only just arrived though so I haven’t checked them” He held a small bundle of letters and memos out, and Charlie took them resignedly, flicking through them as he leant on the desk.
He stopped when he reached a hastily scribbled one from the receptionist herself. He had to read it twice to make sure that his tired eyes weren’t deceiving him.
Jack hoisted himself out of his chair, trying to get a glimpse of what the note said. “What’s the matter?”
“It’s Max. Pass me that phone, will you?” Charlie dialled the number written on the paper, and, as he waited to be connected, he asked Jack to track down the phone number for Amanda Lewis.
“Where have you been?” Tina asked softly, too tired to shout at Sean for his disappearing act.
“Just went for some fresh air that’s all. Sorry” he replied.
“Sean, you’re not angry that I wanted to come and see him, are you? Because I thought we were past all that now.”
She let go of Max’s hand and stretched back on her chair. Sean pulled a second chair out from the corner of the room and placed it next to Tina’s though a little further out from Max’s bed. He sat down heavily.
“We are, I hope. Unless you still have feelings for him…” He knew as soon as he’d said it that it was a particularly stupid comment, but it was playing on his mind and as such his mouth had opened before his brain had engaged.
Tina shot him the most withering look she could muster. “He’s badly injured Sean, he’s got no one here to sit with him. I suppose in that respect I do have feelings for him. I care enough not to walk away and let him wake up alone and scared. I thought we discussed this. I love you, not Max. Always have. There’s no reason to be jealous”.
Even as she assured him though, a little voice inside her wondered if she was right. Not about loving him. She did, no matter what arguments they’d had, she’d fallen for him years ago and even when she tried, she couldn’t un-fall. But she did wonder if Sean would ever stop seeing Max as a threat whilst the question of Dawn’s father was still open. They’d agreed to close the subject but Max had opened it again. She glanced at his sleeping form, and noticed for the first time that his eyelids were starting to flicker.
“I know” he responded quietly but forcefully. “Look Tina, there’s something that I should tell you”.
He waited for her to look at him, to give him some sign that she was listening, but it didn’t come; her head was turned away from him, back to Max.
“He’s waking up. Sean, get someone will you, he’s waking up!”
“But, there’s something I want to say…”
“Sean it can wait, can’t it? Get a nurse in here…” When she realised that he still wasn’t budging she turned to face him properly, a frown heavy on her forehead. “What then? Come on, what is it?”
He took a deep breath. “Max can’t be Dawn’s father. I saw his blood group in his medical file. She’s been mine all along”.
Sean watched as Tina stared back at him. The frown didn’t lift, and she didn’t grab him and hug him, she didn’t tell him how happy she was - the way he’d hoped she would. Instead, she stood up and went to the door. “I’ll get the nurse then”.
A few seconds later and Sister Robbins bustled into the room and set about checking Max’s vital signs. Sean took hold of Tina's elbow and pulled her outside.
“Did you hear me Tina?”
“Of course I heard you!”
“Well, what? What do you expect me to say. I’ve always felt like she was yours, I’ve always wanted you to feel the same. You told me you did, so finding out the truth shouldn’t make a difference should it? You told me you’d accepted her as your daughter, that you loved her as your own. So what’s changed?”
“Well, now we know the truth”
“Ok, so now we know the truth, but why tell me then Sean?”
“What do you mean?”
“Why such desperation to tell me that before Max woke up? What did you expect me to do? Say ‘Oh well, no reason to stay here anymore then, let’s go’? Well, did you?”
Sean scratched his head and avoided eye contact.
“I’ve told you I love you, but it’s just not enough is it? Not only do I have to love you, but I have to hate Max!”
“That’s not true…”
“No? If you trusted me you wouldn’t care that I was here with Max. He’s a friend Sean, alright so once upon a time he was more, but that was a year ago, and even then I left him to be with you. And even when you didn’t want me, I didn’t go back to him”.
She was struggling to keep from shouting. Her whole body tense from the effort associated with keeping her temper. She knew that she was right, that Sean was still painfully jealous of Max, it was obvious by the way he wasn’t arguing back. If anything he looked sheepish, ashamed. She felt her temper cool, and her shoulders sagged as she exhaled a long breath.
“When will you understand Sean. I love you. Even if you don’t deserve me!” She smiled tentatively. He reciprocated.
“I don’t deserve you, I know that. I’m sorry”. He kissed her forehead.
“So you should be. But I’ll let you into a secret…”
“Even though the green-eyed monster has nothing on you Sean Maddox, I’m glad that you’re Dawn’s dad. I wouldn’t want anyone else to be” and she kissed him back.
Go to Part Nine