Summary: Set during 2x08 'A Name Written in Water'. What if the Night Nurse had agreed to Alison's proposition? What if Alison had taken her own life to spare Robert's? How does he react when he gets better and finds out that Alison is gone?
Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters mentioned in this piece of fiction. Nor do I own the brand "Smarties". Alison owns that.
Author's Note: This is my first Afterlife fic.
"Take me instead," Alison pleaded desperately. The Night Nurse looked at her with an expressionless face. Then she smiled. And nodded slowly. Alison's eyes widened and her breath caught in her throat.
"You'll let Robert be, then?" Another nod. "Do you promise? You'll let him live?" The Night Nurse's smile widened. She stretched out her hand to Alison.
Alison looked down at the sharp instrument in her hands and bit her lower lip hard. Then she put the edge against the soft skin on her wrist. She inhaled deeply. There was no fear in her mind, no hesitation. She was ready. She wouldn't be able to have Robert. He'd never be hers. But that was less important. He'd survive. He'd live and laugh. Too many people would hurt if he died. Jude. Barbara. Jenny, his mother. His many friends. His students. He had so much more to live for than her.
Robert wasn't ready to die. Alison was. She'd been close twice before. Death held no terrors for her, perhaps because she'd been there before, perhaps because she knew that death wasn't the end.
She pressed the sharp edge against her skin, took a deep breath and slid the instrument downwards, gritting her teeth against the pain. A deep, dull ache spread through her arm as the glass pierced her skin and her deep red blood began to flow freely down towards her hand and dripped to the floor. Alison put the piece of sharp glass back to her arm and cut again and again, creating more gashes. The blood ran freer and she began to feel light headed. The pain was dull and sharp at the same time, sharp at her skin, at the cuts and dull in her entire arm. Dull in her heart. The Night Nurse was still looking at her; calmly with no emotions in her white face or dark grey eyes. Alison looked back defiantly while her blood spilt on the floor. She didn't know for how long they just stared at each other, but finally, the dizziness got to Alison and she collapsed on the floor. Tears were beginning to run down her cheeks. Live, Robert, she thought. Live! Don't let this be in vain. I love you. I can't bear to watch you die. You are needed in this world. You have to live. I love you.
She lost consciousness from her blood loss.
Suddenly, she was standing again, looking at her own body on the floor. There was blood everywhere, in a puddle around her arm, on her clothes. There were tears, dried but not gone, on her face. Alison looked down. She wasn't bleeding anymore. But there were gashes in her skin, showing where she had cut herself open with a piece of a broken strip light to save Robert's life. The Night Nurse was standing next to her, smiling softly. She held out her hand again, as if to say 'come, we will go now'. Alison hesitated.
"Can I please tell him goodbye first?" she requested. The Night Nurse bowed her head.
Alison nodded her thanks and ran down the corridors and back to Robert's bedside. His eyes were closed and despite all the machines he was hooked up to he looked peaceful. Tears welled up in Alison's eyes as she looked at him. She sat down in the chair she had occupied for so long and took his hand.
"You'll be okay, Robert." She was whispering despite knowing no one would hear her. "Please forgive me for what I did. It was for your sake. Please be happy. I… I love you, Robert. You know that, don't you? What I'm leaving behind is so precious to me…" She was silent for several moments. "I might come back to haunt you," she finally giggled. "Throw Smarties at you." She sobered again and stood. Tears coursed down her cheeks. "Please be happy, Robert. Please. That means more to me than anything else." She touched his cheek gently, caressing his skin. His eyes fluttered open and looked straight into hers. For a moment she was certain he could see her. But then he frowned and looked around. His hand very slowly, very painstakingly made its way to touch his own cheek and Alison had to swallow a lump in her throat when his hand covered hers. A tear dropped from her face. "Goodbye, my darling."
She turned her back to him and left the room through the door that the Night Nurse held open for her. She never looked back.
Robert stared into the ceiling, confused at what he was feeling. Something felt wrong, like a part of him was missing. He had woken up and been sure that Alison was there, he had felt her presence. But the chair next to his bed had been empty. No one had been there. It had been a strange feeling. Something had touched his cheek softly and a drop of liquid had fallen onto his face. He had reached up to touch it and his fingers had come back wet and he had no idea where the water had come from.
He closed his eyes against the glaring white of the hospital walls.
The next time he woke up, Jude was sitting next to him. He smiled weakly at her.
"How are you feeling?" she asked softly. Robert closed his eyes.
"Surprisingly well," he answered, surprised to find that his headache seemed less prominent. Jude nodded.
"The doctors said you were awake a few hours ago. It surprised them."
Robert continued to wake up every so often throughout the night. The next morning, the flabbergasted doctors tested him and sent him in for a scan and could disbelievingly conclude that his cancer had gone into remission on its own. No one could explain why. And Robert didn't care why. Getting better seemed like a miracle. No, getting better was a miracle.
A part of him wondered where Alison had gone. When he asked Jude, she had narrowed her eyes, frowned and then said that she hadn't seen her since the day before. Robert sighed. He wished Alison would be there. There were so many things he needed to tell her. So many things that he hadn't realised until after the news that he was dying… so many things that he couldn't tell her because he was dying. He fell asleep again.
A young nurse walked through the deserted corridors in the part of the hospital that was being renovated. He was caught up in his own thoughts and didn't see the body until he almost stepped on it. His eyes widened at the sight of all the blood. For a long moment he just stared at the body, at the long, blonde hair that had been spread out like a fan, at the bloody marks on the clothes, at the pale cheeks. Then his training kicked in and he bent down to search for a pulse. The body was cold and he swallowed. He gently opened an eyelid; the bright blue eye stared back at him coldly, deadly. He sighed deeply and got up to get help.
Another nurse recognised Alison's body and tears were brought to her eyes. The woman had clearly cared deeply about the dying man with the brain tumour. Had she taken her own life because living without him would be unbearable? It all seemed so meaningless. Especially because Robert Bridge was now feeling better. The nurse shook her head sadly.
When Robert woke up again, this time feeling even less of his previously never-ceasing headache, he was alone. Jude had gone home, he supposed. But he still hadn't seen Alison. Not since yesterday when he had woken up with the feeling that she was there with him.
A nurse noticed that he was awake and came over. She was youngish and her face was pale.
"Doctor Bridge," she began. He interrupted her.
"Please, just call me Robert."
"Robert," she amended. She drew a breath and sat down in the chair next to him. Robert got scared. Were they going to tell him that the cancer had spread? Was he dying? Again? He closed his eyes. The nurse continued, "We, um… your friend, Mrs Mundy? We found her earlier today. She's… she died yesterday." The nurse's voice broke. Robert's eyes shot open and he stared at her. Alison? Dead? What? How?
"What… what do you mean?" he asked hoarsely. She couldn't be dead. Why would she be dead? He was the one who was supposed to die, not her!
"I'm terribly sorry," the young woman said quietly. "She… she took her own life."
Robert averted his eyes from the nurse's and stared into nothing, trying to digest what he had just been told. "But…" he said. Nothing else. He was unable to continue the sentence. But why?
The nurse left him.
Alison. Why? Why now? Oh, no, Alison. Why did you do that? How could you? Then something clicked in his brain. Yesterday. The nurse had said that Alison had died yesterday. He had felt her there! The realisation hit him like a ton of bricks. He had felt her there with him. Something had touched his cheek. He closed his eyes against the tears that welled up inside them, trying to keep them from falling. But they fell, coursed down his cheeks and he sobbed desperately.
God, no, Alison! ALISON! his mind screamed in agony. His chest began to hurt with the dry sobs but he didn't care. He couldn't stop them anyway. He felt like his heart had been ripped out of his chest and trampled on, only to be put back, battered and torn into pieces, never letting him feel whole again. Why now? I'm feeling better, Alison. Why did you have to go now?! Don't you see how much I need you here with me?
For days, Robert hardly spoke to anyone, but just stared ahead at nothing or into the ceiling. When he finally spoke, it was to a doctor and it was only to insist that he be let out of hospital to go to Alison's funeral. Jude almost protested, but she realised that that would only damage their relationship further. Since the news of Alison's death, Robert had refused to talk to her or even acknowledge that she was there. He pulled away from her when she tried to touch him and although it hurt her, she understood deep down why he reacted the way he did. She had realised what his feelings for the spirit medium were before he probably realised it himself. And when they had got back together, she had known it was only temporary. And later, she knew that it was only because he didn't want to die alone. And he didn't want to cause Alison the pain that he surely would if he had told her of his feelings for her only to then tell her that he only had a few months left to live. No, then keeping their friendship was better for them both.
The doctors hadn't liked letting him leave the hospital, not even for a funeral, but Robert had insisted. And Robert could be quite convincing.
Alison's funeral had been arranged by her father who had come down from Manchester as soon as he was phoned by the hospital.
Robert, having finally convinced the doctors to let him go to the funeral, sat in the front row and watched as the coffin with his best friend, his soul mate was lowered into the furnace. His chest constricted and he followed the coffin with his eyes until he couldn't see it anymore. You weren't supposed to die, Alison. A nurse had told him that she believed Alison had taken her life because she couldn't bear to live in a world without him in it. It just made it all the more meaningless to him.
After the cremation, after the urn with her ashes had been buried, he kneeled in the wet grass by her gravestone and let his fingers trace the engraved words. Alison Mundy, 1966-2006. Deeply loved. Sorely missed. He breathed deeply. The wind was chilling and he pulled his jacket closer around his frame, insulating him from the brisk weather. Tears brimmed his eyes and he didn't even bother to blame the wind. He looked up, to the skies, whispering, "Goodbye, Alison."
He had no doubt that she would be in Heaven, if such a place existed. If not this courageous, fragile, broken soul, then who? If not this woman who had spent her life trying to help lost souls, then who?
If not Alison Mundy, then who?