Random little idea I had... I'm not sure how it turned out but I hope you like it anyway! Please R&R :)
It was a month after John had left Adile stood, a pillar of hatred, on the bridge at sunset. A month since Martha had nearly died because of him, a month since she had stabbed Halit Kemal. A month since he had left Martha, the only woman he had ever loved, and walked away from his job, his old life, and retreated into his flat, becoming a reclusive enigma to his neighbours, the strange man who only came and went in the small hours of the morning, leaving bedraggled and half-asleep and returning with cans of lager and jars of instant coffee powder.
It was a rare early morning jaunt that revealed to him the tiny bundle on his doormat, and curiosity overwhelmed him as he bent to the basket – some part of his memory called it a Moses basket – pushing aside the blankets to reveal the thing he least expected.
A baby blinked back at him, fully conscious and alert, and it smiled at him widely as he stared at it in shock.
"Baby. Shit, baby." He murmured, and engulfed in a fug of beer and coffee breath, the baby wrinkled its nose and scowled.
He noticed the corner of an envelope poking from under the coverlets and he fished it out gingerly, the infant grabbing at his hand playfully as he did so. The crumpled envelope yielded a single piece of lined paper, covered in spidery, achingly familiar handwriting, the childish scrawl barely decipherable.
John... They've condemned me... and sentenced me. Five years. This is my daughter. I never told you because I was scared... I didn't want you to judge her. Her name's Maggie... please look after her. She's a year old on Monday. One day, I will be free. I love you. Martha x
He looked back at the little girl in shock. Martha... daughter? It was an unthinkable concept, but he couldn't just ignore her request. He knew what had happened. Hours after the stabbing, Halit had died, and whilst he was dimly aware of the trial, he hadn't realised they had found Martha guilty of manslaughter. Five years... Martha would never last five years in prison. She was far too vulnerable, too fragile, to withstand the atmosphere in there. And a copper... she would never last. No chance.
His fingers traced the last few words in a trance. She loved him. It couldn't be possible. Someone like Martha just didn't fall for men like him, men with a past, men who had done unspeakable things and betrayed the ones he loved. But she had written the words, and left him her daughter to care for... that must count for something, surely?
The baby in the basket gurgled, and he looked down at her, lost in thought. She had Martha's eyes, and Martha's hair, but something else about the face was familiar. He couldn't place why, but he knew the line of the jaw, the shape of the nose. He wondered who the father of this unknown child was, but he knew wondering was fruitless.
Instead, he stooped, scooping up the infant and holding her gingerly, staring into the hazel eyes, enraptured.
"Dada." The word was clear and joyous, and he frowned.
"No... I'm not your dad, kid. I'm just the babysitter..." He tried to explain, but the little girl smiled wider.
"Dada." She repeated, and he couldn't help but smile.
"Well... I suppose... it works for me. Easier than anything else. You and me now, kiddo. You'd better behave." He threatened half seriously, his heart already warming to the child in his arms. He carried her into his flat, unsure what the future would hold, but determined already to do his best to raise her.
Months passed slowly. Each day offered something new, something different that Maggie would do or say, some new joy for John to discover. He found that he enjoyed parenthood – no matter how unplanned – and the more time he spent with Maggie, the more he asked himself the same question. Who was her father? Who had Martha cared about enough to spend a doomed night with – he always told himself it was a night, not ever a relationship – and ended up with a child? Did the man even know about Maggie?
He knew there was no point worrying. He tried to seek solace in Maggie's joys and adventures, taking her shopping and pushing her on the swings and spending hours inventing elaborate games and stories with her cuddly toys.
She was three when the call came from the Met. It was Maggie's second week of nursery, and he was as nervous as any conventional parent about sending her to be cared for by strangers, but he knew he needed the respite. When the phone rang, his immediate thoughts turned to his adoptive daughter, and he snatched the phone from its cradle.
"Hello?" He asked urgently, and the voice at the other end laughed.
"Why so urgent, John? It's AC Wainwright from the Met. Wondered if you could do us a favour." The voice purred in dulcet tones, and John felt a brief stab of confusion. After everything... they still wanted him?
"What?" He managed at last. "What can I do for you?" he corrected himself, and AC Wainwright laughed again.
"After the, erm, incident with DSI Lawson, we got a new Detective Superintendent in running the IDU. Promoted Anthony up to DI, but he dropped out last week for family reasons. Wondered if you wanted your old job back. Full pay. Any hours you like." He offered, and John could only gape. It was a dream come true for him – his job, his life, back. But things were different now. He had Maggie to think about.
"It's a very kind offer, but I've got family commitments..." He pondered aloud, and there was a brief pause.
"Part time hours are available." The Assistant Commissioner offered, and John smiled.
"I'll think about it." He answered. "Call me back."
With a click he hung up the phone and sank down on the sofa. Could he really accept the offer? What if he ended up like Martha, a workaholic?
But he needed to support Maggie... his savings wouldn't last forever. Should he accept?
The phone rang again. He needed to decide, and decide now.
It was three years later that she stood outside the unfamiliar flat door. Her hair reached her shoulders now, and her skin was tired, with none of its old luminosity or brightness. From inside, she could hear the squealing laugh of a child, and her heart ached with longing. Unable to wait a second longer, she raised her fist and knocked, and a second later the door swung open to reveal John Bloom, smiling broadly.
"Martha?" he recognised her instantly, and she smiled weakly at him.
"John." She confirmed, and there was a brief moment of hesitation before he opened his arms to her and she fell into them, feeling their reassuring warmth despite their unfamiliarity.
"Daddy?" A voice asked in the hallway behind him, and they broke apart instantly, John moving aside to reveal a young girl with flowing burnt auburn hair and hazel eyes, staring at the adults in confusion. John was beside her in an instant, crouching to pick her up and then resting her on his hip so she could survey Martha from a level height.
"Maggie... this is your mum. Martha." He explained, and Maggie smiled the same smile as John, holding out her arms to Martha with youthful exuberance.
"Mummy." She said warmly, and Martha took her daughter for the first time in five years, holding her close and rocking her.
"You've done an incredible job, John. I knew you'd do the right thing." Martha murmured, looking up at him through her eyelashes. "You are her father after all."
"I don't... what?" he managed, his brain clouded by confusion.
"You don't remember, do you? That night? In the bar?" Her voice was hesitant, and John closed his eyes, trying to cast his mind back over the last seven years. Memories of a dark bar. A woman with burnt auburn hair. Hazy air. A dark alleyway.
"That... that was you?" he whispered, and she nodded over Maggie's head.
"You're a dad, John. In every way." She confirmed, and he blinked in shock. It explained why the little girl had looked so familiar, why she was so like him in every way. Not acquired characteristics, but inherited.
"I'm a dad..." he realised, and with that, Martha set her daughter down and took him into her arms once more, pressing her lips to his tenderly.
"I love you." She whispered, her voice husky with emotion. "Thank you, John. I love you so, so much."