Nick West didn't look up as both Caroline and Ronnie ran towards the young doctor, where he sat, shaking, on the side of the curb. He had thankfully observed the danger with just enough time to leap clear, skimming the curb abruptly as he had thrown his hands out before him to protect himself from the fall. As Ronnie reached him first however, the young doctor was staring blankly into space in a state of obvious shock
"Nick," Ronnie spoke cautiously as he approached "hey mate, are you alright?"
"Yeah," Nick nodded, quite slightly with this, as he responded absentmindedly, "I'm, fine."
"Nick!" Caroline finally approached him, bending down by his side, "Oh God! Are you alright?"
All three of them were still very much reeling in a state of shock ad when he failed to respond to her, she gently cupped the young doctors head in her hands, turning him to face her.
"Nick! I was so scared!" She cried, as she took his frigid hands in hers. He was still shaking, his palm's grazed and bleeding from the tarmac as Ronnie bent down besides his fragile form.
"They'll need looking at." He flinched, as he observed the young doctor's wounds.
"It's alright." Nick suddenly turned to Caroline however as though he had only just observed her presence, that subtly reassuring smile curling the corners of his lips, as he gently reached up to wipe a stray tear from her eye with his thumb at this, tears which she shed now out of sheer relief. "I've got something to show you."
"We'd better get him back to 'The Mill'" Ronnie explained. "He should really get checked over at the hospital though just to be sure, but…"
"I can walk!" Nick cut in suddenly however, still looking to Caroline, "That's what I wanted to show you. It was supposed to be a surprise."
"Nick, you've just had a massive shock." She responded reassuringly however, almost disbelievingly. "It doesn't matter now, it can keep."
She smiled affectionately at him as their eyes met, looking deep into his warm, although currently distant brown gaze, as though just to make doubly sure that he was alright. "All that matters now is that you're alright!"
"Doesn't matter?" Nick frowned , in apparent response to this although still not seeming to register the presence of any one single person. "Doesn't matter that I can walk, that I can run, kick a football, that I can finally do all the things that I've been working for the past couple of years towards?"
"No, that's not what I meant!" Caroline shook her head suddenly with this. " What I meant was…" immediately feeling a steady hand upon her shoulder, she looked up to see Ronnie, expression fixed with a warning stare.
"Well if you don't believe me…" Nick spoke in broken tones, "I'll show you!" He determined, staggering to his feet, before his knees seemed to buckle and his legs gave way from beneath him. Ronnie was there to catch him as he fell.
"Alright Nick." He soothed. "Just take it easy." Before turning to Caroline. "Here, help me get him inside!"
"Nick, Nick what happened?" Suddenly another voice rang out from the direction of the Health Centre, on the other side of the road, and as the small group turned they observed Melody running towards them, the sudden and frantic appearance of her slender figure leading Ronnie to suspect that the long minutes which appeared to have recently transpired between them had probably in reality been no more than a matter of seconds.
"He's alright." Ronnie was quick to explain to the young doctor as she approached. "He's just had a bit of an accident."
"I'm alright Melody." Nick reassured her, still shaking, although somewhat returned to his characteristic, caring self, before turning back to Caroline. "I'm sorry." He apologised. "I didn't mean to snap… thank you Ronnie."
"Don't mention it." Ronnie sighed through gritted teeth, as he struggled solely under the doctor's weight.
Suddenly Melody noticed the solitary figure of a young boy standing on the opposite side of the road, starring, scared, at the shattered fragments of Nick's mobile phone, still lying discarded upon the tarmac road.
"Hello." She smiled, reassuringly, "Are you alright?"
The boy nodded.
"Have either of you seen to him?" She asked, turning to Ronnie and Caroline as she did so, They both shook their heads.
"Alright." She sighed, "You se to Nick." She smiled as she made her way back over the other side, "Oh, and by the way he'll need lots of sugar for the shock. I think there may be some leftover cake and biscuits in the staff room." She suggested, "and put plenty of sugar in his tea, three spoons should do it." She continued. "No coffee!"
"Ummm, teaspoons or tablespoons?" Ronnie asked.
"Teaspoons." She frowned, as she approached the young boy. With this Ronnie and Caroline, along with Nick made their way back inside 'The Mill' as Melody turned to her young charge.
"What's your name?" She smiled.
"Max." Te young boy responded.
"Did you see what happened?" Melody asked, to which he nodded in his response, and the young doctor sighed, a reassuring, sympathetic smile still prominent against her soft features however.
"Where are your parents Max?" She asked.
Max simply shrugged.
"Well how about you come back inside with me then?" She suggested. "You can't stay out here by yourself, it's cold, and we can try to contact your mum, find out where she is, and she can come and collect you." Melody smiled.
Max seemed to tae a while to respond to this however, before finally smiling in return, nodding in agreement.
"You know that man?" He asked as they both turned the corner to the surgery, making their way inside.
"Nick." Melody offered, and Max nodded.
"Is he going to be alright?" He asked.
Melody considered her answer to this for just a second, before responding, "Nick's strong, he's a fighter. I'm sure he'll be fine."
Max looked at her with this. "I'm glad." He smiled.
Although as the pair made their way to the staff room a few minutes later, they entered in split second time to see Nick suddenly pull away from Jimmie, who had obviously taken over tending to him, leaving everybody aghast as his own legs carried him across the other side of the room, and he vomited heavily in the sink.
At this moment Julia entered behind them, coffee cup in hand, oblivious to all that had recently transpired.
"What's happened?" She asked, as she observed Nick.
"There was a slight accident." Ronnie explained as the small group looked on, at an apparent loss of what to do, or say. Jimmie meanwhile made his way over to Nick's side to check that he was okay. "Well nearly an accident." He elaborated. "There was a lorry…"
"Oh God!" Julia gasped.
"I'm fine, really." Nick explained, as he turned to face his colleagues.
"I'll call an ambulance." Julia offered.
"I don't need an ambulance!" He snapped, in his frustration.
"Still it's better to be safe than sorry." She assured him firmly. "You should really get yourself checked over just to be on the safe side."
Nick looked Julia in the eye, before turning to Jimmie and Ronnie in turn, before realising that everybody was looking at him expectantly.
"Alright, I'll go." He agreed finally. "But under my own steam."
"I'll take him." Caroline offered.
"Ummm, I'd better come to." Jimmie explained, "Nick will need somebody to keep and eye on him whilst you drive."
"I'm still in the room!" Nick sighed.
Jimmie turned to him with this. "You'd say the same if it was any of us!" He pointed out, and Nick realised hat he couldn't fault this statement, despite the fact he wanted to. He would say the same, and knowing him he would probably the one to offer to go to.
"I'll follow on." Melody offered. "It's what Joe would have done, but I want to see t young Max here first… Michelle." She called the young nurse over.
"Right, well, we'd better get going then." Jimmie prompted, as the three of them left the room, "We'll see you there then Melody." He hailed, but the young medic hadn't heard, and Jimmie closed the door gently behind him.
"This is Max." She had already started explaining to Michelle. "I said we'd try contacting his parent's for him." She explained, before adding more quietly and with a warning look at the nurse, as though to convey that much diplomacy was now called for. "He saw everything."
"Oh." Michelle mouthed, before smiling.
"Can you take care of him for me whilst we're out?" Melody asked.
Michelle nodded. "Sure." She beamed, at her nervous, young charge. "I'm sure we can keep him occupied whilst we wait for his um to arrive."
"I think there's some comics around here somewhere." Julia cut in.
"Thanks you two." Melody smiled, already on her way to the door as she looked from one to the other gratefully, sliding on her coat as she left. "We'll let you know how everything goes." She called as she went out, and the faint sound of the front entrance doors could he heard closing behind her.
A few hours later the decision had been made to close the surgery for the rest of the day, and appointments had already been cancelled. Nobody was in the right frame of mind to be seeing to patients with news of Nick still pending. Max's mother had finally been contacted however, and she had arrived soon after to pick him up, asking after her son, and Nick briefly in turn.
"Caroline called." Julia entered the staff room a while later to deliver the news to the small group who had remained behind after the surgery had been closed, to await news on their friend and colleague. "Nick's fine, she' taken him home."
"Thank God!" Michelle sighed, and George echoed this response as relief quickly swept through the small group with this, the smiles and relieved laughter gradually filling the room, as an oppressive cloud of anxious apprehension was finally lifted.
"He is however, understandably so, still very shaken." Julia continued to explain. "So I've told him to take a few days off, we'll see to his patients in that time."
Everybody nodded, understandingly.
"What about Melody and Jimmie?" George suddenly asked.
"I've sent them home for the rest of the day." Julia explained before adding as though in afterthought. "You lot may as well get off now too, there's no point you hanging around for the rest of the day when there's no work to do."
"Thank you Julia." George rose as she pecked her colleague gently on the cheek, Ronnie wrapping hi arm around his wife affectionately as she did so.
"What, no outstanding paper-work to catch up on?" Michele laughed.
"I think I can let you all off just this once." Julia smiled at this. "Now get going, the lot of you." She laughed as George and Ronnie vacated the room. "Before I change my mind, I want to get home myself, some time today you know!"
Meanwhile Nick and Caroline were already enjoying some down time together, as she prepared munch for the both of them, Nick under her strict instructions to take it easy whilst she waited on his every need hand and foot. The young doctor had smiled predictably at this, kissing her tenderly on the cheek, and then on the lips, cupping her head in his hand as he did so. Although she barley returned a less than half hearted response with this.
"Hey, what's the matter?" Nick asked as she pulled away suddenly.
"Nothing." She smiled reassuringly, brushing away a stray tear as she said so. "It's nothing."
"It doesn't look like nothing." Nick comforted. "Do you want to talk about it?"
Caroline laughed at this. "Always the doctor." She smiled.
"Well, I've been told we make pretty lousy patients." He grinned.
This appeared to have the desired effect upon her however, as she too gave a small laugh in response to this, before turning back to face him, no longer even trying to conceal the tears in her eyes.
"You're right." She nodded after a moment. "I do have something on my mind. I have something to tell you."
"What is it?" Nick asked.
"I could have lost you today." She cried, as Nick embraced her, leaning her head on his shoulder, burying her face deep into his neck as she did so, taking in her scent. "I donlt know what I would have done…"
"But you didn't." Nick squeezed her, interrupting reassuringly before she could continue.
"I know," She sighed, "but…"
"I'm fine." He smiles. "So tell me what it is you want to tell me."
Carline suddenly paused as though considering this for a moment before continuing somewhat hesitantly.
I'm taking Ed to France." She finally explained.
Although the reaction she appeared to have been expecting from the young doctor, to her apparent surprise never came as Nick simply smiled.
"Well I'm sure he'll like it there." He responded. "A holiday will do you both god."
"No, Nick," Caroline continued, fearing that if she failed to persist with this now she may never again pick up the courage she needed to continue. "We're not going there for a holiday! We're going to live in Franc12
"Oh, well," Nick suddenly and immediately faltered with this however, at a complete loss of what to say. "How long have you been planning this for?" He asked.
"Months." She admitted.
"And when did you plan on telling me?" This time it was Nick's turn to pull away, the hurt, evident enough, as it registered in his eyes and in his tone.
"I don't know Nick." She cried, "I guess things were just going so well between us, I wanted to see where things were going before I told you.. I wanted to be sure we could make this work, for all our sakes, before… before I asked you."
"Asked me? Asked me what?" Nick frowned.
"Nock, I want you to comee with us?" Caroline smiled, between the convulsions of her aching lings.
"Come with you? What?" Nick asked, uncomprehendingly. "For how long for? I mean I'm owed some holiday tome, but what would be the point if…"
"No Nick!" Caroline suddenly exclaimed with this, frustration and anguish evident now as it registered in her high tone. "You don't understand! If we're going to live in France I want you to come there and live with us to! I want to make a proper go of this Nick, a proper go of us! I want us to be a proper family, just the three of us! What do you say??"
Nick just starred a Caroline dumbfounded.
A few days later, finally back at work, although still forced to take it easy by his concerned and conscientious colleagues, Nick contemplated how to raise a particularly pressing issue with Julia.
His morning had been busy, occupied with the usual, daily routine, and inconsequential inconveniences, compared to those with which he was more accustomed… although it took a bit of getting used to, not having to negotiate the route of his wheelchair through the surgery corridors, or fight a loosing battle with crutches.
Later that afternoon however he finally found himself sitting in Julia's office, sipping coffee at her desk, finally broaching the subject which he had been in the lead up to… or at least attempting to broach, all day.
"Julia, Caroline has asked me to go to France with her." He finally explained, "…and I agreed."
"That's great Nick." She smiled in response to this, "you're well overdue a holiday!"
"Well, it won't just be for a holiday this time you see. She's moving there permanently, and she's asked me to go with them. It'll be forever."
The surgery was closed again… the staff had all gone to see Nick and Caroline off at the airport… Vivien, having already said her goodbyes, couldn't bring herself to watch them go… She stayed behind, letting herself into the surgery quietly.
Nick had already cleared out his room a few days before, although as she unburdened herself of her coat in the front reception, she saw no harm in giving it the once over now.
As she entered she observed his crutches, resting against the wall in one corner of the room, and smiled… he had no longer need of them anymore.
Vivien sighed… first Joe… now Nick…
She subtly let her hand come to rest upon his desk for a moment, before withdrawing suddenly as though realising that she had let pure sentiment come between reason and logic, and she turned to leave… stopping suddenly short however, as she noticed something out of the corner of her eye.
A photograph, of them all, Joe included… left discarded and forgotten upon his desk.
"Oh Nick…" She smiled as she turned to pick it up, noticing as she did so the message written, in Nick's own hand, upon the back.
Dear all, (She read)…
You should all know by now that I'm not one for sentiment… nor long drawn out speeches (It doesn't come natural to a man like me, as I know you will all realise!) So I'll keep this brief. I just wanted to say Thank You… mostly for putting up with me over the years, but equally for being there, especially when the going got tough, we wish you all Good Luck for the future (I'm sure both Caroline and myself will be hearing from you soon, so there will be no time for me to miss you), and Goodbye.
You were all right, I finally found my happiness!
All my love to you all,
"Goodbye Nick." She smiled, taking the photograph with her as she left the room, locking it behind her as she closed the door, knowing that Nick finally had all that he had ever wanted… and a family to call his own.