Disclaimer: Doc Martin is the property of Buffalo Pictures. I own nothing.

Chapter Twenty-three

Martin exited Molly's room, satisfied that Mr Finch was at least marginally competent. The neurologist had wanted to confer with him before prescribing antibiotics for Molly in case of an allergy. Stu Mackenzie had been too upset to give him a coherent answer the previous evening and Molly had never been in hospital before so they had no previous records to fall back on. In fact, Molly was a robust child who'd only had amoxycillin twice in her life and had suffered no side effects either time. He left Mr Finch to talk to Stu Mackenzie and went round the room checking each child's chart and doing examinations as required. He was pleased to find Tom, the boy whom he'd resuscitated, sat up in bed chatting happily and proudly showing everyone the bruise on his chest from Martin's CPR. The bruise was already a vivid purple and would take some time to vanish. Martin checked Tom's chart to make sure that his ribs had been x-rayed and that his blood oxygen saturation levels were at one hundred percent. Only then did he transfer his attention to Tom,

'How are you feeling?'

'Fine.'

The answer was bright and Tom smiled at him but Martin could tell that something was bothering him,

'You need to tell me if there's anything wrong. At your age, there are treatments and therapies that can be used to correct a lot of things.'

Tom looked at the blanket and whispered,

'My legs felt funny when I stood up.'

'Hmm…when was this?'

'After breakfast. I went to the toilet and my legs felt really weak.'

Martin pulled the blanket off and carefully examined Tom's legs. Tom had feeling in all of his toes, no numbness or pins and needles and there was no bruising on either leg.

'How did you feel otherwise? Any nausea? Dizziness?'

'I felt a bit sick.'

'It might have been delayed shock. Try standing now.'

Obediently, Tom swung his legs off the bed and stood up. Martin watched him closely as he took a few tentative steps,

'How do they feel now?'

'Better.'

'Good. Come and see me if you experience any other problems.'

Without waiting for an answer, Martin went to the next bed.

After about half an hour, Martin was longing to return to Louisa. Not only did the children keep wasting his time with chatter, but all the parents wanted to thank him personally when all he'd done was do what he was trained to do. Anyone would think they'd never seen someone doing their job properly before. Mind you, with people like PC Penhale and Bert as examples for them, perhaps it was no wonder that they were surprised by his competence and efficiency.
Even worse, some of his patients had tried to consult him about their medical problems in the middle of the ward. Bert had wanted him to look at his back, which was bad enough but nowhere near as bad Trevor Bailey who'd wanted him to look at a suspicious mole on his left buttock. Martin had brusquely told them both to make an appointment,

'But when for, Doc? That's the thing, you see. I don't want to make an appointment for tomorrow only to have it cancelled at the last minute.'

Bert's question made Martin realise that he was going to have to cut down on surgery time if he was going to come to the hospital every afternoon.

'From tomorrow I'll be doing an extended surgery in the morning and an emergencies only surgery in the evening.'

'Right you are then, Doc.'

Bert ambled off and Martin glared indiscriminately around the ward, daring anyone else to approach him.
He finished going round the ward as quickly as possible and hurried back to Louisa's bedside.

Louisa was cuddling Peter who was sound asleep and Pauline was gossiping with Joan Norton.

'…she never?'

'Oh, yes. I saw them myself. Completely brazen about it. Hello, Marty. Everything all right?'

'Yes.'

'Did Mr Mackenzie kill that reporter?' asked Pauline, hopefully.

'Of course not. Mackenzie may be an idiot but he's not violent.'

Martin had hoped that a brief answer would have sufficed but he was forced to give a complete recap of what had happened in the ward. By the time he had finished, Peter was grizzling.

'Do you want me to give him a bottle?' asked Aunty Joan, eagerly.

'Yes, please, Joan.'

Louisa gave the baby to Joan, who smiled gently at him,

'I'll go and feed him in the café. Come and find me when you're ready to go, Marty.'

'Pauline you need to go back to Port Wenn so that people can reschedule their appointments. I shall do a normal morning surgery from eight-thirty to one-thirty and an emergencies-only surgery from six to seven in the evening. Make sure that everyone knows that the evening is for genuine emergencies only. I'm going to be extremely busy so tell everyone that I don't want to see any time wasters or malingerers. Far too many people come to me with minor things when they should be going to see Mrs Tishell; she's perfectly competent. I need to see Chelsey Baker with both of her parents as soon as possible.'

'Yes, Doctor Ellingham. Am I going to get paid overtime then?'

'Since you'll be getting the afternoons off, no.'

Pauline looked furious but Peter's grizzling had turned into loud crying and talking became impossible.

Pauline and Joan left together and Martin was finally alone with Louisa.

'You'll have to pay her, you know,' said Louisa gently.

'If she does the work.'

Martin's tone was indifferent; his attention was on Louisa. She was looking tired, her hair was messy and her hospital gown had had to be cut to fit over her cast but she was still amazingly beautiful. As he gazed into her eyes, Martin felt an overwhelming surge of love. He took her free hand in his, saying,

'You look tired.'

'I am tired. Though my headache's a lot better.'

'Good. How's your vision?'

'The same.'

'Well…um…I'll leave you to sleep.'

'Can you stay for a bit?'

'I ought to get back to Port Wenn,' said Martin awkwardly.

He wondered whether to tell Louisa how he felt about her but decided to wait until she was feeling better; she wouldn't want to be bothered by him when she wasn't feeling well.
He kissed her softly and left.

The rest of Martin's day was filled with looking after Peter and seeing patients in Port Wenn. By the time he'd finished it was after nine o'clock and too late to return to Truro so he reluctantly left a message for Louisa, promising to visit her the following afternoon, and went to bed.

The next morning was spent seeing more patients, most of whom seemed determined to waste his time by talking about what he'd done when the school collapsed. The villagers all loved to gossip but Martin was at a loss to explain why they were so fascinated by his triage skills, particularly since most of them were ridiculously ignorant about even basic first aid. It was with relief that he closed the surgery and set off for Truro.

He parked in the consultant's car park as usual and strode into the hospital, completely oblivious to the looks and comments from staff and visitors.
Having used the alcohol scrub to disinfect his hands thoroughly, he hurried into Louisa's room. Louisa was sat up in bed, surrounded by newspapers, crying. Horrified, Martin rushed over to her,

'Louisa! What's wrong?'

'The papers…I saw the pictures of the school…and I remembered.'

'You remember?'

'I remember seeing Sam driving towards the school. I…I remember telling the children to get under the desks and the ceiling collapsing towards me.'

Helplessly, Martin held Louisa as she clung to him,

'You'll need counselling. I'll arrange for someone to come and see you as soon as possible.'

'Thank you, Martin.'

Louisa sniffed a couple of times,

'Martin, can you pass me a tissue?'

Martin passed her a box of tissues and sat down on the bed, moving a couple of newspapers out of his way.

'You've already read them, then?'

'What?'

'The newspapers?'

'No. Why would I be interested in the outpourings of a bunch of semi-literate hacks?'

'Oh, Martin, you are hopeless.'

Louisa was smiling as she passed him the papers. Glancing at the headlines, he saw that the disaster at Port Wenn had made the front page not only of the local press but of several of the national papers too. Well, it involved children so perhaps it wasn't surprising. Casually reading the article in one of the more reputable broadsheets, he was amazed to see a picture of himself along with the headline,

"Unlikely Hero."

Reading further he discovered that Stu Mackenzie had given an interview in which he was quoted as saying,

"Martin Ellingham is the rudest man I've ever met. He's arrogant, insensitive and opinionated and treats everyone as if they're inferior to him. Whenever the Board of Governor's meets we argue for hours as he's convinced he's always right. But he's the best doctor I've ever had. People come from miles around to consult him because if you're ill, he'll find out what's wrong and get you the right treatment. If it weren't for Doctor Ellingham my daughter would be dead. He knelt down in the middle of rubble and operated on her and because of what he did my wife arrived home from her mother's to find Molly in a hospital bed instead of a coffin. Port Wenn is lucky that he was there when it happened."

Startled, Martin flicked through the other papers,

"Is this the rudest doctor in Britain? Perhaps, but his patients wouldn't swap him."

"Astounding triage skills from astoundingly rude doctor."

"Locals count their blessings (and their insults!), 'There would have been many more dead if it wasn't for Doc Martin,' says villager."

Baffled, Martin looked at Louisa,

'But I was just doing my job.'

'Yes but they appreciate you doing it.'

'Why would I train as a doctor and then not treat people?'

'It would never occur to you to walk past someone who needed a doctor, would it?'

Martin shook his head, completely confused.

Louisa smiled and pulled his head down so she could kiss him,

'I love you, Martin.'

Heart racing, Martin forced himself to reply,

'Um…uh…ditto.'

The End

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