I wasn't sure whether to write a second chapter for this, but I couldn't resist :). This is for all the people who reviewed/followed/favourited, I hope it meets your expectations. My apologies in advance for any mistakes, I wrote this rather quickly and I'm not a native speaker.
As it turned out, the ugly gash on her hand did need stitching rather badly. The make swift bandage he had put on it for the time being, had already begun to turn red once they reached the hospital. He had his back to her while readying his equipment. Mainly because he needed to do his job as a physician, but also because he found his heartrate would go up every time he looked at her.
It was hard to believe this was the same woman who had been crying her eyes out. Then again, it was even harder to believe this very same woman had all but thrown herself at him just a few minutes ago.
The woman who was sitting in front of him as he stitched her hand, was wearing her blank expression as a mask. She wasn't shaking or sobbing, she was perfectly still. Almost too still, he realised.
One of the challenges he faced as a doctor, was to make his patients stop moving. However, now he found himself wishing she had hissed when he locally sedated her. Instead she didn't even flinch when the needle broke her sensitive flesh.
It was disconcerting to say the least, to see Isobel Crawley sobbing on the kitchen floor. But it was nothing compared to seeing her so perfectly composed, almost cold even. It was like her light had gone out. Like her spirit had been broken.
They didn't speak on their way back to Crawley house. She hadn't protested when he said he would walk her home, but she didn't take his arm when he offered. He kept steeling glances sideways, trying to catch a glimpse of the woman he used to know. It was too soon, he realised.
He bade her goodnight at her doorstep, despite knowing that good had nothing to do with this night. When there came no response he turned around. It had been a long day and although sleep was the furthest thing on his mind, he was looking forward to sitting quietly next to the fire and reading a good book.
Before he had the chance to take even one step away from the house, he felt her good hand closing around his upper arm. His heart skipped a beat when for the second time that night he felt her lips pressed against his.
"Isobel, I can't…"
He moved his hands to her shoulders to push her away, finding it was taking him a lot more effort than expected. Her hand was still on his bicep, holding on tightly while her other hand had winded up on the back of his neck.
"You don't have to play the gentleman. It's alright, I know what I'm doing."
She tried to kiss him again. Momentarily he was taken aback by the strength of the slight woman before him, but eventually he managed to keep a semi-respectable distance between the two of them
"You want to forget. I understand that Isobel, I really do..."
He wanted her to know that he wasn't rejecting her, that he had no desire to reject her, but that he didn't want her to regret her actions in the morning. In that moment he was a truly selfish man, he didn't think he could bear the look on her face.
"No, I don't think you understand at all.
Her voice was sharper, reflecting the fire in her eyes. Right here, half in his arms, she was coming alive again.
"Matthew was my son. If I don't remember him, who will?"
Doctor Clarkson wisely kept his mouth shut, knowing it would do no good to remind her she wasn't the only one feeling the loss. She wasn't ready to share the grief. It was hers and hers alone.
"I don't want to forget. I just need to feel something…."
She paused for a moment as if at loss for words. Her eyes were darting back and forth looking everywhere but his face.
"Physically. I need to feel something physically. Even if it's only more pain."
She finished, still refusing to look him in the eye. He was silent for a moment, stunned really. Isobel had never been one to shy away from a subject, but he hadn't expected her to be quite this forward.
"What makes you think I would hurt you?"
He asked after a moment, when her words had finally sunken in.
"Because I would ask you to."
It wasn't more than a whisper, but he heard it anyway.
Suddenly it dawned on him what she was trying to do, what she'd already don really. She blamed herself for Matthew's death. There was no other explanation for her request than her feeling the need to somehow punish herself.
"When I found you, tonight…"
He wasn't sure how to ask the inevitable question. There was nothing to soften the blow, no amount of caution to limit the damage.
"That cut on your hand, did… did you do that to yourself?"
He saw her eyes widen momentarily, before she closed herself off from the world again. Her hands, which had been still fisting the lapels of his jacket, fell limply to her sides. Two steps backwards increased the space between them.
"Forget I asked."
She turned around and vanished into the house.