The talk that Tom & Chris should have had when he returned from Africa.
It was early evening when they returned from the clinic run. Sam and Kate had gone to the pub. Chris had to go back to the base to pick up some papers, saying she'd join them over there in a minute. The lights were still on in the base, and as she entered she could see Tom in his office. Her heart skipped a beat and she hated herself for it. It was pathetic. All these years and Dr Tom Callaghan could still have that effect on her.
Tom got up from his desk as she rounded the corner.
"Hi Chris. I didn't expect you back here tonight. I was just finishing up some paperwork before I went home. How was the clinic run?"
Chris looked up at him. "Good," she said. "Tiring. You know."
"Yeah. Hey, you want to go for a drink at the pub?"
"Oh, I don't know. I told Kate and Sam I'd meet them there, but I think I might just head home. I've got some paperwork to do tonight."
"Chris I'm worried about you," said Tom. "You've been working so hard since I got back. You'll run yourself into the ground."
Chris looked at him. What would he care? Oh, that wasn't fair to him – he cared about her alright, just not in the way she wanted him to.
Tom wasn't convinced. "Are you sure? You've been looking tired lately."
"Thanks a lot." Chris was almost snapping at him now.
"Well if you're sure." Tom put a hand on her shoulder and she shrugged it off.
"I did miss you, you know. Whilst I was away," he told her. "And I'm back now."
Having only received three postcards at sporadic intervals, this was news to Chris. She decided to have it out with him then and there.
"Why have you come back here Tom? You made it perfectly clear that you're no longer interested in me when you didn't call to tell me you were back in Australia." Chris could hear her voice getting higher and higher and wished it wouldn't. She took a breath. It had cut like a knife when Tom had confessed that he'd been back from Africa 6 months and hadn't contacted her.
"It took me a long time to get over you Tom – I'm still not sure I have. But it's clear you've moved on."
She stalked into her office and picked up the file she'd come in for. As she turned around to leave Tom blocked the doorway. Ignoring him she walked through the door that connected her office with Geoff's, but Tom was quick and blocked the exit to that too. Chris saw red.
"Five months I'd been here! Five! I was still finding my feet professionally, but you, being with you, loving you, being loved by you – that was a constant, a comfort, something I could rely on. And then you up and left and I was alone and struggling to survive having lost the love of my life."
"Chris, I'm sorry. I didn't know it was hard for you. I wanted you to come with me, but I couldn't stay. It was something I had to do. I thought you'd be OK here. You have friends and were building a life here. I didn't know what you were going through."
"Well how would you?" Chris was really letting him have it now. Tears spilled down her cheeks but she didn't care. "You never called, you never wrote!"
"Three postcards, Tom," yelled Chris. "Two years and three lousy postcards was all I got from you!"
She pushed past him through the doorway and stomped off towards the door. Tom took off after her.
"Chris wait!" He caught up to her and put a hand on her shoulder.
"I'm an idiot," he said more softly. "I love you and I should have told you that everyday. I should have called when I got back but I need time. Time to get my head together and prepare myself to return to real life. A rehabilitation period if you like."
He pulled Chris into his arms and she let him, too tired to fight anymore. She let him hold her there for a moment and then pulled away as it really registered with her what he had just said.
"Back up a moment there Tom. What did you just say?"
"The rehabilitation part or the I love you part?"
"The I love you part. You've got a funny way of showing it Tom Callaghan."
"I know and I'm sorry. The Africa thing was just something I had to do, but it's out of my system now. I feel like I've done my part to help."
"You hurt me Tom. You hurt me badly. When I found out that you'd been home so long and not called me I couldn't believe it. I think up to that point I'd been clinging on to some hope that you'd return to me and that revelation forced me to let go."
Tom's face fell, but then he remembered she was still in his arms. He knew he had to ask the question he didn't want the answer to – unless the answer was no.
"What about now then?" he said after a breath. "Am I too late?"
"Oh Tom, I don't know" said Chris, but cuddled closer to him again. She hadn't forgotten how good this felt but resolved not to let him off so easily. "What if you suddenly decide you have to go away again? I don't know how I would cope – I'm not sure I would cope with losing you again."
"Chris, I promise you – I'm not going anywhere. I love you and I'm not going to risk losing you a second time. If you'll have me back, that is."
Gently he moved her away from him a little and held her arms in his hands. Looking deep in her eyes he asked another question he only wanted one answer to.
"Do you still love me?"
Chris looked up at him. "Yes," she said and didn't get any further because Tom kissed her, hard on the mouth.
Despite herself Chris found she was kissing him back. And thoroughly enjoying it.
"I missed you so much," gasped Tom when they came up for air.
"Me too," said Chris and she kissed him this time.
As they parted for a breath Tom looked at her.
"So what do you say then, how about we give this another shot?"
Chris smiled at him. She took his hand and nudged him towards the door.
"You can start by buying me dinner at the pub, and we'll see."
They turned off the lights, locked up and started across the street hand in hand.
"So," said Tom, "I'm the love of your life am I?"
Chris punched him playfully and Tom's arm went around her shoulders, hugging her close to him. Chris smiled knowing that this was the beginning of their second chance.