Von and Frank clinked their glasses together. It had been an amazing twelve years.
The next morning, right on the dot of seven, Von entered through the STAFF ONLY door and proceeded to her office. She still had a few days left of work with plenty of filing and home-care visits to make. As she made her way down the main corridor, she caught Frank's furtive smile before returning it with a stern glance. He choked back a chuckle. A rarity in itself. After filling out some paperwork, she filled her bag with supplies from the drug room and began her home-care visits, quite oblivious to the plans Frank was about to make
As soon as Von left, Frank barked across the ED, "Beaumont!"
Charlotte had just entered through the triage entrance with her brief case in one hand and a coffee in another. "What, Frank? I'm on time, in fact," she said glancing at her watch, "I'm half-an-hour early."
"Good, good. Look can you assemble everyone in the common room, now, I need to have a meeting."
Gabrielle found herself once again stooping over the toilet bowl. She was nearly fourteen weeks pregnant and the morning sickness was beginning to take a toll on her body. In a flurry to avoid Steve, Frank and Jo's watchful eyes, she fled to her home in the country. For a week she had stayed here helping Ben clean out with the farming chores and cooking. After their father had died, Gabby chipped in on weekends and helped Ben clean out the house.
Last night, she had received a phone call from Frank letting her know about Von's resignation. At first, she was shocked by the sudden news but knew Von needed a well-deserved break. Gabrielle agreed to return back to All Saints, knowing that Frank would want to send her off in style. But before she left, she had to tell Ben about the pregnancy.
Already she had lied to Ben about Steve and her rekindling their relationship after he started working at All Saints. This was not the time to keep yet another secret from her brother - not that she could for much longer! It was possible to guess she was pregnant with a small baby bump showing.
Nervously, Gabrielle walked into the kitchen to find Ben already munching on toast and gulping down a cup of coffee.
"You alright?" he asked in between bites of toast.
"Yeah, fine. Look, Ben, you sure you don't want me to stay for a couple more nights? I can always ring Frank."
Ben waved his butter-knife at her, "Gabs, honestly, I'll be fine. The Samsons' are pitching in and you've cooked up a storm for the rest of the week. Don't worry!" He smiled and squeezed Gabrielle's hand. "You sure you're not trying to hide from Steve, right?" he asked jokingly.
Without warning, she burst into tears. For weeks, Gabrielle had been so emotional over everything - from dropping a fork accidentally to a patient's blood results.
After being comforted by Ben, she managed to stutter, "Ben, I'm - I'm pregnant."
"What? Jesus, Gabs, and you didn't bother to tell me! When did it happen? How many weeks are you? Who's the father?"
Ben made another coffee for both of them while Gabrielle told the whole story.
"So let's get this straight," Ben said setting their coffee mugs on the table. "You told Steve you had decided to have termination without even talking to him about it?"
Gabrielle nodded sadly. Although it sounded so stupid, the main reason she didn't want to have the baby was because she was scared about whether or not Steve and her would get back together and whether it was right. She wondered whether it was like revenge for sleeping with Ashleigh while they were still together. And after all, both Steve and Gabrielle had been through far too much to even try and repair the damage they had both done to their relationship - it was too late.
"What should I do?" Gabrielle asked Ben quietly.
"Do you want to have a baby, Gabs?" Ben stared at her intently.
"... Yeah. I do... I really do." she whispered.
Steve rang the doorbell.
It had been a few months since he and Claire had broken up and after Gabrielle's plan to terminate the baby, he was desperate for some company, at least someone to preoccupy himself then let the urge for alcohol get the better of him.
"Steve," Claire said in astonishment. "Come on in, I was just finishing getting ready for work. You hungry?"
"Thanks," Steve replied and stepped inside. Her home had become increasingly crowded - mostly Bree's things scattered her and there to fill in the empty spaces.
Once both seated on the couch, Steve mumbled, "Look, I know we split up on a low note, but I still care about you and wish we could start over."
Claire gazed at Steve for a long time. "Steve, I know. I was too hard on you and just assumed your actions to be the same as Ian's. If I could, I would take back every word I said against you. Steve, you're a great guy and shouldn't have to be labelled like that."
Steve waved off the apology. He pulled Claire closer and asked, "Can we start again?"
Claire leaned forward until their noses were nearly touching. "Yeah," she murmured "I think we can."
Steve wrapped his arms around her waist and kissed her softly.
"Okay is everyone here?" Frank barked across the tearoom. With the exception of Gabrielle and Von, the rest of the ED team had managed to cosily fit into the small room. Bart and Amy had snuggled into a corner of the room still discussing wedding plans. Bree and Jo were leaning against the door's frame, while Steve and Claire sat at the table, holding hands and whispering to each other. Adam and Charlotte, although had been on a couple of dates so far, thought it best to keep their blossoming relationship to themselves for a while.
"Listen, I don't want to take too much of your time, but I have an important announcement - Vlasek! Get in here!" Frank added just as Mike passed the tearoom. Although he was under strict orders not to work, he still hung around the ED nagging Frank and redecorating the MRU headquarters.
Elliot traipsed in after Mike and went to sit with Amy and Bart.
"Right, well now we all are here," Frank started again.
Charlotte butted in, "Wait, where's Von?"
"I think she started her home care visits. I saw her walk to the car park," Bree said.
"I can see her! She's getting into her car. Hey, Von!" Bart knocked on the window waving frantically at Von's car.
"Shut up!" Frank bellowed. "Homer, Von's the reason I need to talk to you all."
Everyone looked up in astonishment.
"Now as we all know, Von has been working at All Saints for a very long time, and last night she gave in her resignation."
"WHAT?" Everyone said in unison.
"I know, so she asked me not to tell you all, so keep this under your hats, alright? This is her last week and I thought maybe we could all keep Friday night free to have a surprise party."
"Bart, cancel dinner," Amy ordered.
"Yeah, I'll call Zach's babysitter and ask her to stay on Friday night," Charlotte said.
"We can go away on Saturday instead," Claire said to Steve.
"Now listen," Frank said, "I've already spoken to Jaeger about this, but I thought about inviting some past members of staff who were close to Von for a kind of reunion."
At this, Charlotte, Bree and Bart stood up. "Who?"
"That, you will find out on Friday night when you meet them," Frank said grinning.
Charlotte said to Bree and Bart, "I'll call Gabrielle. She'll know."
"Gabrielle doesn't know and anyway she's coming back today," Frank said.
"Is she alright, Frank? She hasn't been herself lately," Adam said.
"She didn't say much, but I think she's okay."
Frank glanced at Steve. He had been avoiding Frank's eyes and kept talking to Claire. At that point, Frank and Jo also looked at each other. Frank had a feeling she knew something and Jo nodded, understanding.
"We need to talk," she mouthed at Frank.
Glaring at the rest of the ED team, he yelled, "Well, what are you all waiting for? Get back to work!"
Jo followed Frank into his office. She closed the door behind her before taking a seat. "So how is Gabrielle?"
"I have no idea. She kept skirting the topic when I asked her," Frank replied.
"How did you find out?" he asked.
"Steve caved and told me. I only half the story about Gabrielle and Steve so I'm not too sure whether I got the facts straight," Jo said.
"So what do you know?"
"Well, Ben told me and Mike when he got his arm caught in the spreader. He said Gabrielle and Steve had been together for a long time and he wasn't too sure how or why they had broken up."
"Apparently, Steve slept with Gabrielle's best friend while they were together," Frank said quietly.
"That must've destroyed her," Jo replied. "Was this when Steve was an alcoholic?"
"When Steve started working here, he still was one. And that was a couple of years after they split up. They got back together for another few months before Steve decided to give up drinking. Mind you, Gabby stood by his side the whole time."
Jo whistled. "It must have been so hard on Gabrielle, poor thing. She didn't deserve that. No-one does."
"To right you are. But now what I'm concerned about is Steve and Claire. When did this all happen?" Frank asked, bewildered.
"I'm not too sure, but it must have happened only a couple of days ago. After Gabrielle told Steve she was terminating pregnancy..."
"What?" Frank said. "She didn't even talk to Taylor about all this?"
"I know, that's what got me too. He must have hurt her pretty bad to decide this on her own. Because when Steve told me they were going to have a kid, he seemed pretty chuffed about it." Jo said.
"I reckon there is more to their history than we know," Frank said.
"Yeah I agree with you. Do you reckon that's why Gabrielle went away for a week, because of the termination?"
"From what I saw, Gabby was all over the shop," Frank said remembering the near-nervous breakdown she had.
"Okay, I'll try and squeeze some more out of both of them and let you know," Jo said standing up.
"Yeah, thanks Jo. One thing is for sure, they need to talk about this before it's too late. God, I hope it isn't," Frank said gravely.
Jo smiled weakly and headed out the door. It was time to find out the real story behind Steve and Gabrielle.
As the day wore one, the ED team were kept on their toes. Jo and Bree were called out on three emergencies, while the rest of the team treated the casualties. In between patients and breaks, they found time to talk about Von's resignation.
"I can't believe she's leaving," Charlotte said to Bree and Bart. Them, Frank, Gabrielle and Mike had been working at All Saints for a number of years and had grown very close to Von.
"Yeah, I know. Von's always been there for me," Bart said remembering the times he struggled with Frank as an intern and his former girlfriend, Ann-Marie and her deterioration.
"I tried to find out who's coming from Frank," Bree said to no-one in particular.
Both Charlotte and Bart turned to stare at Bree.
"And?" they both asked.
"He told me to bugger off, of course." They all three rolled their eyes.
Although they were sad about Von's leaving, they were so excited about meeting up with their past friends.
At reception, Steve and Claire were getting cosy in the drug room. "Maybe, we should go to the Hunter Valley, this weekend," Claire murmured between kissing Steve.
"Yeah," Steve mumbled, "Sounds good."
At the same moment, Adam knocked at the door and said, "You two, you're both needed in re-sus."
Steve and Claire grinned at each other and went back outside.
Gabrielle hugged her brother one last time. She had packed the car with her few clothes and a sandwich for the way home.
"Gabby are you sure this is what you want?" Ben asked. He was still concerned about her uneasiness - which was not like her.
"Yeah, I'll be fine."
"As soon as you get to the hospital go and tell Steve," he reminded her. "Not that he won't notice. It looks like you've been on an eating frenzy," he added.
Gabrielle laughed and said, "I wouldn't be surprised if the whole ED turned up demanding questions!"
"See you next weekend, Gabs," Ben waved as she reversed out of the driveway. "Good luck!"
Gabrielle waved back and drove off. She turned on the radio to her favourite song. Everything was going to be alright. She and Steve were going to be parents.
to be continued... Would love to hear feedback! :) I've got the next chapter pending depending on whether you guys like the story!