Authors Note: Oh bloody hell. Saddest episode EVER last weekend. I am so distraught. Knew it was coming for Ethan but they played it so much more beautifully than even I had hoped, it was better than fic and i'm so very glad about that. What an episode. I do hate that we always miss the immediate reaction and fallout though. And can i take the time here to apologise for not updating my other bro fic, life got in the way and I quit my job and i am now all over the shop so then the show took over and rewrote a beautiful way for the huntingtons diagnosis to come out. So here's my take on what happens after. It will be multiple chapters. There are so many rich ways they can take this story. Can't wait to see George smash it and what he and Richard do with this sad material.
"But the world moves on, even when you don't want it to, even when change feels like the end of everything. It never stops."
― Ann Aguirre
Emilie's pulse is non existent between his cold fingers and Ethan gently takes his hand from her and looks away. Cal knows what that means. The wind rages around them, fierce and dominating filled with ocean spray. Ethan has suddenly never been more aware of anything in his life. He feels cold to the very bone. Cold, weary and totally bereft. His vision blurs and he doesn't know if it's because of his lack of glasses or his tears.
He becomes all too aware of everything, the ocean, his own pulse pounding in his ears, a vice like terror grip around his chest and the fact he's sitting in a wheelchair. The most horrifying irony. He feels sick. Sick and old and he needs to get out of that now. He hauls himself up by the handles of the chair and staggers to his feet. His legs can barely carry him and he shuffles to his feet. His hands shake. He should throw the results away, throw them away, then nobody needs to deal with this, nobody needs to face it. He has an absurd notion that if they disappear into the sea then the gene will go with it. For the briefest of moments he moves as if to throw the letter into the sea, but he stills himself. Collects himself for a second. No. No. He can't handle anymore secrets. He's so unbelievably over secrets in his life at this point. His hands shake as he folds the paper out, gingerly, eyes desperately hoping he'd been wrong. No, all there in black and white.
'Abnormal HTT expansion detected'
His brain whites out momentarily. Cal must see something on his face. 'What?' he asks. Ethan can't say anything, couldn't form the words to say it.
I've tested positive Cal, i'm going to die a painful, slow, degenerative death. My life is over.
He shakes his head instead, settles for avoiding any kind of eye contact. He can't deal with anyone else's reaction yet, not when he hadn't even begun to process his own. Cal audibly gasps and Ethan can't be around for this. He can't fit anyone else's suffering into the space in his heart right now. He's too consumed with shock. Too full of the horror of this moment. He turns on his heel and he walks. Away from his dead mother, away from his broken brother, away from a future he'll never have.
With each step he feels the horror become more real as it begins to sink into his consciousness. Huntingtons. He had huntingtons. He had feared this outcome of course. But like Cal had so aptly named it he'd put it at the very far edge of the antiseptic ethan bubble. Hadn't really wanted to grasp the thought that he might have this disease. So there it stayed. Until he was ready to get tested, to take that step. He'd thought he had time, to process Emilie, the adoption, her dying, the test… he thought he'd have time.
Cal had taken that choice away from him. He had taken every choice away from Ethan in this and the younger man had no idea what to do with that molten hot rage right now. He should never have opened it. He should have lived in blissful ignorance and just never have known. He doesn't want to know. Oh god he doesn't want to know this.
What the hell is he supposed to do with this?
How can he be a doctor? How long can he still be a doctor with this sort of degenerative death sentence hanging over his head? Five years? Less? More? How old was Emilie when they'd been taken away? How young was she when this started? Was that why he'd been feeling so down and so dissatisfied with everything lately? Oh god what if it had already started?
His hands shake so hard he digs his nails into the palms of his hands. He's at the end of the walk now and he doesn't know where to go. He has no idea where to go.
He walks down a ramp and onto the beach. The beach where just moments ago he and Cal had laughed and chased one another and been ok, been sad, but ok. He feels like that Ethan from the beach died here, died right there with his mother. Sat in that godforsaken wheelchair, lying to her as she died.
He'd known, as soon as he got the envelope and tried to process what Cal had done, he'd looked out at the ocean for a moment and he'd known he would lie. Whatever the outcome Emilie would always think he was fine. It was a conscious decision. It made the most logical and emotional sense. Ethan was a statistic man. He knew the odds were very much 50/50 on this, but he knew which outcome he'd be giving Emilie before he'd even opened it. She deserved to die at peace. She deserved that final act. The only comfort he could give his mother, he owed her that.
His heart had stopped, the moment he'd read the results. White out. For an instant. A total white out. Then the noise of the waves came crashing in again and the weight of the air, the expectation, the disease, it all hung suspended on Ethan in that moment. And so he smiled. At the very worst moment of his life. He smiled. He schooled himself. He slammed down the floodgates. He put on the best performance of his life. 'I'm clear as well.'
The relief on their faces. The pure happiness on Emilie's. He knew he'd done the right thing. Had hoped they'd leave it at that but Emilie wanted a story. A story of a future with a woman Ethan would never call, would never inflict himself upon now. And he couldn't talk. Cal had started to talk and then Ethan found himself picturing it. He could literally see Kate in his mind, stood in a wedding dress, 'ready to marry me Nibbles?', he could see it as clear as day, and he could see Cal drunkenly embarrassing him with the world's worst best man speech, could see their daughter her tiny face nestled in the crook of his arm, for the briefest of minutes it all became real. And then it began to fade, began to vanish piece, by piece until all that was left was him, sat in that chair, hollow and fading into nothing.
He finally lets his legs give out and he slumps, back to the boardwalk wall, down on the sand. Staring at the sea.
'Ethan!' Cal shouts, trying to see over the board walk, 'Ethan!' his voice is shaking, stilted. Where did he go? Where did he go?
He can't see his brother. He can't see him anymore. He's panicking, heart threatening to beat out of his chest, he looks back at his mother. He wants to go after Ethan, every instinct screaming to help his little brother but he can't leave the dead body of their mother alone on a bench. He needs to wait for Ian.
He texted the paramedic, the name of the bay and a simple one word text 'come'. He'd be on the way now.
Cal didn't care. He didn't care about anything other than what Ethan had just told him, had just shown him really. He was consumed with grief and guilt. It was worse. It was worse than his mother dying. That might make Cal an unfeeling son but this was worse. His brother…the only person who'd supported him and stuck with him, his only brother, his little brother, oh god…
He was going to die. He was going to die like Emilie. Cal was going to have to watch that smart, beautiful, funny soul just wither away right in front of him. How could he do that? He couldn't do that.
'I run and I hide, cos that's what's in me Charlie'.
He wants to run. He hears his own voice telling the older nurse who he was. Ethan had always known who Cal was. How he dealt with these situations, who he was in this moment. He was the one who ran. Ethan was the one who stayed, the one who picked up the pieces, the one that humpty dumptied everyone back together again. That was Ethan. Cal turned his back. Cal walked away if he didn't run. That was Cal.
Stood on the boardwalk though, his dead mother lying in front of him, his poor, devastated little brother somewhere out there on that beach Cal couldn't bring himself to run. He couldn't do it. He owed it to Ethan, to Emilie to step up. He had to. They had nobody else.
Cal had ran for most of his life. Ran and never looked back. It was time to stop now.
Ian was fuming. He tried to pull himself together though. Jez sat beside him, mercifully quiet for once. Charlie was driving after Ian's foot injury. Ian tried to calm himself down. As angry as he was with Cal and Ethan their mother was dying and he was trying to remember that. What that must feel like. A mother they'd only just discovered was their mother. It was a little Jeremy Kyle here but he needed to be there for his friends. Didn't mean he wasn't going to smash Cal one later though. You don't just steal a man's ambulance.
Charlie pulled up alongside the ambulance and the three men jumped out. It was locked and Ian thanked god for at least that bit of common sense from those guys. Squinting across the bay he caught sight of a figure stood at the railing further ahead. 'I've got them Charlie!'
The three men strode across the boardwalk. The closer they got the more worrying the scene appeared. Ethan was nowhere to be seen, Cal was stood, clearly in some form of shock and Emilie was lying prone out on the bench. Oh no.
'Cal!' Ian cried, breaking into a swift jog. 'What happened?'
The younger man just shook his head wordlessly, eyes wild.
Ian knelt down at Emilie's side and reached over to feel for a pulse. He already knew though. He looked up at Jez and shook his head.
Charlie meanwhile was stood at Cal's side. He put a comforting arm around the shaking younger man. 'Oh Cal, I'm sorry'.
Cal seemed frozen, totally unable to speak. Ian had only seen a look in someone's eyes once before and that was when he was in the forces. Haunted, broken, someone who'd seen too much. Shock. He thought and nodded his head at Jez to go back to the rig. 'Go grab some blankets and the stretcher mate'. Charlie grabbed the keys from a still motionless Cal and threw them at Jez who jogged off back to the rig.
'Cal lets sit you down ok?' Charlie said quietly, nurses instincts kicking in. Trying to push the other man over to the lonely wheelchair. 'Where's Ethan?'
Cal's eyes suddenly widened, became to big for his face. 'Ethan…' he bent over at the waist, as if in pain, 'oh i…he…Charlie…'
Charlie straightened. 'Cal?'
'I can't do this.' Cal managed, straightening up again. 'I can't DO this Charlie.'
'Can't do what?'
'I can't help him. I can't watch it. I can't…' Cal's breathing was becoming faster and faster and Ian glanced at Charlie worriedly.
'Alright Cal mate, deep breaths ok?'
Charlie continued to hold onto Cal but he let go when Cal thrust shaking hands towards him which contained a letter. Charlie took it out of his hands. Eyes falling upon Ethan's name. And then taking in the result.
'Oh no. Cal…'
'He lied Charlie. He just lied to her…' Cal's voice was high pitched, clearly out of it. 'He did it so well. When did he learn how to do that?'
Ian was looking between them both confused now. 'What?'
'He let her die Charlie, he let her die thinking he was alright and I can't…I can't…'
Charlie sat Cal in the wheelchair, his own eyes welling up at the now obvious situation. 'Cal, listen to me, where's Ethan? Where is Ethan?'
Cal doesn't respond.
Ethan stares out into the sea. It's not a grey wall this time but he's completely unsurprised when it's Charlie who eventually sits down wordlessly beside him. Cal will have run. It's what Cal does. He might as well run now and save them both the needless heartache of hanging around to bail on Ethan later on.
It's all pointless anyway. He doesn't need anyone. He doesn't feel anything except totally and utterly numb.
Charlie gently places a blanket around Ethan's still form. Ever the nurse. Then he sits back, sits next to him.
'You don't have to say anything Ethan'. Charlie says quietly, just watching the water with him. 'You can just listen now ok?'
He's talking like Ethan's a wounded animal. Like he needs to coach him down. It's nice. It's gentle. It makes Ethan want to slit his wrists all over the sand before him.
'I can't begin to understand what you're feeling right now Ethan.' Charlie says softly. Eyes still on the sea. 'But can I tell you something, I see a lot of people in that hospital, a lot of people with awful illnesses and ailments and i can tell you now Ethan, they all wish they could have lived more life before they come in. Don't write your life off now, you could have so many good years before this comes, so many good moments, you're a young man, don't go assuming you have no time now. And think of all those medical minds around you? You're in the best place possible to hear of any breakthroughs in this research into a cure. I'm not saying it's going to happen. I wish I could give you that reassurance. But i can tell you we're here. We're all here for you and this right here is not the end for you son.'
Ethan's still numb. 'Ok'.
Charlie puts an arm around his shoulders then and it feels nice. It feels a little less lonely.
'Has Cal gone away yet?' His voice sounds quiet, childlike all of a sudden. Shock. He thinks.
'Did he wait for you to take Emilie away at least?'
Charlie's confused. 'Ethan, Cal's still there. He's just taking a moment. He hasn't gone anywhere. He hasn't left you.'
Ethan tucks his chin onto his huddled knees. 'Just a matter of time Charlie.'
'Listen' Charlie attempts, arm still around the young man's shoulder. 'Your brother isn't going to run away this time ok? He'll be here for you Ethan. If you let him.'
There's a naked pain in Ethan's eyes of the likes Charlie's never seen before. Eyes that have seen too much, gone through too much, know too much. He's an old soul Ethan. They cloud in disbelief as they stare at the older nurse.
'Then you don't know my brother Charlie' is all he says.
The next time Ethan looks back it's like a light's gone out and all of that expression, all of that torn up naked vulnerability is gone and there's nothing but a wall there now.
'I'd like to go home now'. He whispers. 'Can I go home now?'