A/N – This is a slightly different version of events following Louisa's return to Portwenn at the beginning of series 4. I should point out that there are deliberate changes to the story. The most obvious being that Edith isn't around, and also I have intentionally had Louisa dropped off by the taxi in the village instead of up at the surgery.
Thanks to Gill for her advice and to Diane for her beta skills. Any mistakes are my own.
Disclaimer – "Doc Martin" and its characters belong to Buffalo Pictures Ltd.
Rating – T – for minor language and adult themes.
Sitting alone in the surgery kitchen, playing with a solitary piece of smoked salmon – which had long since surrendered – Martin's thoughts turned once again to the moment when Louisa walked away from him, down Roscarrock Hill and out of his life. That was the last he'd seen of her and although it was six months ago, the pain that the image invoked was as sharp and piercing as ever.
For Martin, it had been six months full of uncertainties and unanswered questions. How was she? Where was she? Had she moved on? Was she in another relationship? Did she ever think about him?
The questions were never answered in his head, and his life in Portwenn had become so dreary and pointless without her that he'd begun to make some enquiries about the possibility of returning to surgery. Of course, there was the small matter of his haemophobia that required some attention, but he knew he was a very capable man and he felt sure that the problem wasn't insurmountable.
Finally putting the smoked salmon out of its misery, he skewered it with his fork and popped it into his mouth. After washing it down with a mouthful of water, he picked up his plate and placed it into the washing up bowl. He washed up the plate and cutlery and placed them onto the draining board. Usually he would dry it all up if he hadn't used the dishwasher and put it away before retiring upstairs, but tonight he just didn't have the energy or the inclination.
After folding the tea towel neatly and placing it over the handle of the oven, he took one final look around the kitchen before reaching for the light switch.
He didn't even have the chance to flick the switch when he heard a tapping at the kitchen door.
It was already quite late, and the thought of having to deal with Bert or any of the other irritatingly selfish villagers who wouldn't think twice about disturbing him in the evening made him want to ignore the knock and continue up to bed. However, just as he was about to do just that, he heard the tap again, and this time it was a little more insistent.
"Oh, God," he grumbled aloud, "why can't they just bloody well leave me alone?"
As he walked towards the door, reaching for the handle, his breath caught in his throat as he saw what appeared to be a familiar silhouette through the frosted glass.
Standing by the pub, Louisa gazed at the familiar landmarks around the harbour. She breathed deeply and savoured the salty sea air that seemed to pervade her whole being. She had missed Portwenn. London had been okay; it was what she'd needed at the time, or so she thought. Looking around her once again, she looked out over the harbour and instantly her eyes were drawn towards the surgery. She could see that the lights were still on, so she knew that Martin would still be up. However, the thought of facing him made her doubt whether returning to Portwenn had been one of her better ideas. Maybe it would have been different had she been returning say at least four months earlier. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, however, and the fact was, here she stood. She debated whether to just go and find out if there was an available room in the pub. That way she could freshen up after her journey and then get herself a good night's sleep before having the inevitable combative conversation with Martin the following day.
After reflecting on her choices for a few moments longer, she suddenly decided, what's the point of putting it off, there's no time like the present. That and the fact that if she went now, there would be far fewer prying eyes around that could then set the gossip off round the village the following day.
Half way up Roscarrock Hill, Louisa started to wish that she'd just got the taxi to drop her off at the top instead of down in the village. She paused by Bert's restaurant and leaned heavily on the wall. Suddenly she saw a light illuminate the terrace below. She heard Al's familiar chuckle followed by Pauline's unmistakable cackle. The last thing she wanted was to bump into anyone, so she hastily made her way up the remainder of the hill
"Well, here I am," she whispered to herself, as she stood at the front of the surgery catching her breath. With some relief, she noted that Martin's name was still displayed on the plaque by the door. It had crossed her mind that he may have left Portwenn, but then she'd figured that he really didn't have very many other places to go, given his phobia. She also knew that he would want to stay close to his Aunt Joan, since she was the only family that he really had, that meant anything to him, that is.
For a fleeting moment she imagined not having to get a room in the pub. She wondered what it might be like staying here at the surgery with Martin, just as she would have been doing had they actually wed. Gathering her thoughts, she decided to walk round to the back door. Having known Martin's evening habits, albeit briefly, she was aware that he would likely be retiring upstairs at any time.
She walked quietly around the side of the building and glancing in through the kitchen window, she suddenly saw him and her heart thumped violently in her chest. She felt a flutter in her stomach, but wasn't altogether sure if it had been caused by her sudden re-acquaintance with his imposing figure or her current medical condition. She stroked her tummy tenderly before proceeding to the back door. He was about to turn off the light, and so after taking a deep breath and straightening her dress, she knocked lightly on the door.
The seconds seemed like hours as she stood waiting for him to answer and when he didn't, she rapped on the door a little louder this time.
Finally she saw a large dark outline approaching and she put on her best smile, even though inside she felt like she was about to crumble.
Martin stared at the door momentarily before walking forwards and reaching for the handle. As he opened it, Louisa stepped back, a little startled. Martin's face was a blank momentarily, before he finally spoke in surprise.
"Hello, Martin". She smiled as she struggled to contain the emotions that were fizzing inside her.
"How are you?" Martin asked, and as his eyes were suddenly drawn to her midsection, he made the most obvious statement that he could ever have uttered. "You're pregnant!"
Give that man a medal, she thought as she cradled her ample bump and nodding her head, she confirmed, "Yes, I am."
The silence was deafening and Louisa craned her neck slightly to look into the kitchen. As far as she could see, nothing had changed. It was still pristinely clean with a place for everything and everything in its place… typical Martin.
"Err, can I come in, Martin?" Louisa asked, slightly irritated that he was happy for her to be standing on his doorstep in full view of anyone passing by.
"Oh, um-yes, of course."
Martin looked down at her suitcase as she walked past him and into the kitchen. He gestured towards it. "So, you are staying…"
"I'm staying at the pub," she lied, "but I thought I'd have a stroll up here to see you first… so I could tell you in person." Louisa was trying to stay calm, even though her heart was racing, and she felt sure she'd turned a bright crimson colour.
"Err…I was just about to go to bed actually," Martin replied bluntly, with very little expression to give away the fact that he was desperately trying to make sense of the sight of the significantly pregnant woman standing in front of him.
Despite the best intentions she'd had of trying to remain calm and accept that the news would come as a shock to Martin, Louisa's frayed nerves got the better of her and she felt the anger rising in her throat.
"Well, fine, I should have known that you wouldn't want to talk about something as trivial as this baby," Louisa said sarcastically, as she swept her hands over her stomach in an exaggerated fashion. "You carry on; I wouldn't want to disturb your beauty sleep." After all you certainly need it, thought Louisa as she turned and walked out of the door.
After a moment's hesitation, Martin followed her around to the front of the surgery building.
"Louisa." Martin waggled his finger at her stomach, "That…um, this… um, pregnancy… it's…"
"It's ours, Martin – yours and mine."
Stuttering and struggling to contain his composure, Martin tried to reply in the way he thought best. "Right… and what do you want… do you want to get married? I mean… you're certain it's ours?"
"Yes, I am certain… and no, I don't want to get married," Louisa snapped back, through gritted teeth. Wasn't this just typical; how could he think that the baby wasn't his? Did he have so little respect for her? And how could she have even entertained the thought of living with such an insensitive imbecile.
And as if the conversation couldn't get any worse, Martin then opened his mouth and uttered something so unbelievably hurtful that Louisa wondered why indeed she had bothered to return. It seemed that Portwenn held nothing for her any longer.
"You know it's a bit late for an abortion." There it was- the stinging admission that he wanted nothing to do with the baby. To him it was just a foetus, easily disposed of if it wasn't planned or wanted. How could she ever have thought he would be glad to hear her news?
She turned her head away, unable to look him in the eye any longer, and it was only her stubborn pride that made her continue with their decidedly unsatisfactory conversation.
"I thought I should tell you before the village finds out."
"Why are you going to the pub?" asked Martin, a little unsure why she would come all the way up to see him with her suitcase, only to have to make the journey back down again.
"My house is rented out."
"Why aren't you in London?"
"I didn't like London and the school didn't like this... so…" Louisa stuck out her bump as she patted it lightly.
Martin looked once again towards her middle. "Oh, err- no… right." He nodded, as if completely agreeing with the fact that she had been forced to leave her teaching position because she was a single woman with child. His comments did nothing to heal Louisa's already fragile disposition.
"So… you're here."
"It's gonna be fine, Martin. It's not your problem. Bye." And with a forced smile that did little to hide her anguish, Louisa made her way carefully down the steps onto the road and tottered off back down Roscarrock Hill.
Still in a state of shock, Martin stared as she precariously descended the steep path. His brain felt like it was about to explode. His heart was still racing and gradually he tore himself away from the sight of Louisa, once again walking out of his life.
Slowly he shut the back door and slumped down into the nearest chair. He was aware of the fact that the conversation hadn't gone well. As usual, his lack of tact and emotionless responses had driven Louisa from him. If only he could open up to her. Why hadn't he told her that all he'd thought about for the last six months had been the possibility that she might return to Portwenn; that if she had returned, he would have told her how wrong he'd been about not getting married; that he knew that he'd made a mistake, if not the biggest mistake of his life, when he'd told her his reasons for not marrying her; and, most importantly, that he really couldn't bear to be without her.
None of it was important now. As he put his head in his hands, he realised that there was little hope that she'd ever want anything more to do with him, and he really couldn't blame her.
Louisa felt sure that she could feel Martin's eyes drilling into her back as she tried to walk in as dignified a fashion as was possible, being six months pregnant and carrying a heavy suitcase down an unbelievably steep hill.
With a great deal of relief, she reached the bottom and then made haste towards the pub. The thought that there might not be a room available hadn't crossed her mind earlier, but now that she just wanted to sit down, kick off her shoes and make herself comfortable, the sudden realisation that there might be no room at the inn, so to speak, hit her right between the eyes.
There was no way that she would be going cap in hand to Martin to see if he would put her up. That particular idea had been blown completely out of the water.
Nearing the doors of the pub, a loud cheer greeted her and with a sigh, she remembered it was quiz night and the place would likely now be heaving. That was really all she needed-to walk into there and have the eyes of the whole village focussed well and truly on her bulging midriff.
Oh well, they had to find out sometime, she thought. With a deep breath, she took a firm hold of her suitcase and entered the pub.
It was indeed packed as she walked in. Al and Pauline were at the bar, laughing away without a care in the world, along with several other villagers.
With her head held high, Louisa walked into the centre of the pub and, making a circular waving motion with one hand, she said a very jolly, "Hello!"
Suddenly you could hear a pin drop as everyone turned and immediately stared at her, their eyes soon drifting downwards.
Al, being the sweetheart that he always was, managed a less than convincing, "Alrigh' You... erm...you...erm...back for good or jus' visitin'?" struggling desperately to maintain eye contact with her.
"Well, I've got a job interview at the school tomorrow, so… fingers crossed."
"Do you wan' a drink…" Pauline looked down once again to Louisa's tummy. "Or are you not drinkin'?"
Still smiling, Louisa pushed out her stomach and replied, "A glass of water would be lovely." She moved towards the bar, leaned in and asked the landlord. "Have you got a room, John?"
"Certainly 'ave," he replied with a friendly expression on his face and a warm smile.
She couldn't help letting out a sigh of relief, as at least now she knew with certainty that she'd have a roof over her head for the night.
Pauline let out a brief laugh, as much out of shock as anything else - that and the fact that she knew this was the best piece of gossip to have come her way in a long time.
"So ...err…" she said in her most serious and concerned voice, unable to pry her eyes away from Louisa's baby bump.
"Yep, six months."
"Does he know?" Pauline enquired, as Al now looked to his feet in obvious embarrassment.
"If you mean Martin, yes he does. We're both fine about it… still good friends."
"Awwww," said Pauline tutting slightly. "He didn't ask you to move in then?"
"I wouldn't want to, actually, Pauline." And becoming a little weary of the interrogation, Louisa decided it was time to beat a hasty retreat.
"Thank you, John," she said as she gratefully accepted her glass of water off him. "Do you know what, I think I'll have a little lie down."
The whole pub continued to stare as John came round and took Louisa's case from her. "Harbour view?"
"Harbour view'd be nice, thank you." And with her head held high, Louisa followed John up the stairs towards her room.
Down below the whole pub started chattering excitedly. Sally Tishell, who had been quietly listening to the entire conversation, now saw Louisa in all her pregnant glory as she climbed the stairs and with a sudden swoon, she collapsed to the floor in a heap.
"Martin Ellingham, you are a fool and a stupid, stubborn, self righteous idiot," he told himself. "Are you about to just sit here and wallow in self pity when the woman that you love, in fact the only woman that you've ever really loved is down there - in the village- carrying your child?"
Having chastised himself for a little longer, he suddenly stood, pushing the chair over behind him in the process. Not bothering to pick it up, he headed towards the back door and closed it firmly behind him as he left.
Focussed, he marched purposefully down towards the pub. He wasn't exactly sure what he would say to Louisa when he got there, but the thought of letting her slip out of his life for a second time didn't bear thinking about. There were so many things that he needed to explain to her, so many wrongs that he needed to put right. Most importantly, he had to make her see that he wanted to be a part of his baby's life, even though he knew he'd already given her the impression that he would have asked her to terminate the pregnancy if it hadn't been too late.
As he reached the door of the pub, he heard the rowdy and excited conversations, and he knew full well that his private life would be the hot topic of the night.
He walked in and looked towards the bar where he saw Pauline glaring at him. He was aware of the fact that most people had stopped in mid-conversation. A few, however, continued in hushed whispers and the word "tosser" could be heard more than once in the background.
"You've seen Miss Glasson then?" Pauline growled. "Shame on you, Doc, not asking her to stay up at the surgery; you've got bags of room up there."
"Shut up, Pauline," Martin snapped back to her.
"Well! I was only sayin'. It's a crime it really is, poor Louisa, and her… with child," Pauline mumbled to herself.
"He's righ', shut up, Paul," Al added, his embarrassment now complete.
Martin looked around to find John, the landlord. Seeing that he was crouching down by one of the tables, Martin made his way over. John was just helping Sally Tishell off the floor and placing a glass of water down on her table.
"Err, what appears to be the problem here?" Martin asked.
"Oh, Mrs Tishell fainted. I think it just got a bit… hot in here, tha's all," John replied, raising his eyebrows.
"Ah, I see, right. Err, if you continue to feel unwell, Mrs Tishell, please make an appointment to see me at the surgery. Now... um... John… isn't it?"
The landlord nodded. "Please could you direct me to the room that Miss Glasson has reserved for this evening?"
"I'm not so sure, Doc. She seemed pretty tired when she went up, said she wanted to 'ave a lie down."
"I'm sure she was tired and that's precisely the reason I need to go and see to her… erm... I mean look her over - examine her - check she's all right." Martin coughed nervously as he glanced towards Mrs Tishell, who was staring at him intently.
"Well, I s'pose," agreed the landlord grudgingly. "This way."
As Martin followed John up the stairs of the pub, they heard the unmistakable dull thud of a body hitting concrete, as Mrs Tishell once again slumped to the floor.
The room was comfortable enough. It was clean and nicely decorated and the view across the harbour was second to none.
After putting her case down in the corner, Louisa had taken off her shoes, sat on the edge of the bed and massaged her weary feet. She'd been having problems with poor circulation, and after a few minutes of gentle rubbing, the feeling came back to her toes. She wiggled them and they felt much better.
Down below she could hear that the pub continued to buzz with the news of her and Martin's baby. She loved Portwenn, always had done. In fact, she'd felt privileged as a child growing up in such a beautiful part of the country, but the one thing she hated was everyone knowing everyone else's business. In London she'd just been a nameless face amongst thousands of other nameless faces, nobody was really that interested in her or her story. She could fade into the background so easily… but not here.
Seagulls screeched outside and she went over to pull the window too. As she did so, she looked across towards Martin's house. The lights were still on and she wondered what he was doing now. Probably tinkering with one of his damn clocks, to take his mind off the fact that I've ruined his precious reputation, she thought.
Tears pricked her eyes as she tried to put him to the back of her mind. But she couldn't. After everything that had passed between them, she still cared a great deal for him. She knew that he was hurtful and cruel, but she also knew that he couldn't help himself and that really it was never anything personal towards her. In fact, having spent six months away from him, she'd come to realise that their relationship had failed not only because of Martin and his foibles, but also because of her own sensitivities.
However much she had dreaded telling Martin about her pregnancy - because she'd feared that he would react in just the way that he had done - she had also been extremely excited about seeing him again. Whilst not conventionally handsome, she had always found him to be incredibly attractive - his intelligence, his stature… his safe, warm arms. She cursed inwardly for allowing herself to fall under his spell once again.
A knock at the door interrupted her daydream. Fearing it was Pauline coming to fawn over her, she decided to ignore it.
"Looks like she's already settled down, Doc. Maybe you should come back tomorrow."
"Not possible," Martin barked. John looked at him stonily. "Erm, what I mean is I will be busy tomorrow up at the surgery. I really need to see Miss Glasson now."
Martin pushed the landlord to one side and proceeded to thump the door with some force.
"Louisa, it's me. Look, just let me in, we need to talk."
"You've made yourself very clear, Martin, so there's nothing left to say. Just go away and leave me alone." Louisa prayed that he would see sense and leave before the already embarrassing situation got any worse.
"That's the point, I haven't made myself clear at all. As usual I've just made things worse. Please let me in so I can explain myself to you… please, Louisa." She heard that he was pleading and rather than allow their conversation to continue through the closed door, she slowly opened it.
"Thanks, John. I'll be fine," she smiled at the landlord, who nodded and made his way back down towards the bar.
"You'd better come in, Martin."
"Thank you." He slipped passed her through the doorway, making certain that he didn't make any physical contact with her on the way through.
He stood in the middle of the room with his hands behind his back, shifting nervously from one foot to the other.
"Well…" Louisa said, impatiently. "You wanted to talk?"
"Yes, um… I think you probably misunderstood me… earlier, I mean."
"No, Martin. I actually think you made your feelings about this baby crystal clear."
"That's just it, I didn't. You assumed that because I mentioned an abortion that I didn't want you to keep the baby."
"Oh, I see. So it's all my fault is it. Next you'll be blaming it on my hormones or something."
"Well, it's easy to blame hormones for the things that go on during pregnancy, bloating, blemishes, emotional outbursts…" As Martin continued, Louisa's face dropped and she felt her blood start to boil. "…but actually, they are guilty as charged. In fact…"
"Shut up! You're doing it again...just like you always do."
"What? I didn't mean anything; I didn't mean to offend you. Why can I never say the right thing to you?" It suddenly dawned on Martin that maybe she would be better off if he just left her alone. He would never be able to change. His natural interest in all things medical and scientific meant that he couldn't help himself. If he found something interesting, then he always assumed that others did as well. The problem was… they didn't.
Louisa walked towards the window and leant wearily against the sill. The darkness was quickly closing in and the clouds had taken on an ominous deep purple hue. The wind was picking up and had started to whistle through the badly fitted window frame.
"I'm sorry, Louisa. But I find it very hard to understand you sometimes. When we spoke earlier about the baby, I was merely pointing out a medical fact. I never for one moment intended you to believe that I wanted you to terminate the pregnancy."
Martin glanced over to where Louisa was standing, staring silently out across the water. He sensed that his words weren't irritating her, so he decided to carry on. If he didn't tell her how he felt now, then he never would.
"I've been considering leaving Portwenn. After you left, there seemed to be little point in remaining here."
Louisa turned, slightly stunned by his news. "But you have your aunt here. Surely that's reason enough to stay close by."
"Joan has managed perfectly well in the past without me being around. I think she'd actually do remarkably well without me. After all, I only end up insulting or embarrassing the people in my life that care about me."
It would have been easy for Louisa to walk over to him and hold him close to her. She'd always felt that he was a somewhat troubled soul. But she stood her ground. She wasn't going to succumb to emotional blackmail, not that she actually thought that Martin was using the tactic deliberately.
"So, are you serious about leaving?"
"I have made some enquiries about returning to surgery… that is, if I were able to overcome my… slight blood issue." Martin walked over to where Louisa stood by the window.
"I see," she said, a little shocked. "Well, I'm pleased for you. I know you've never really been all that keen on our little village." She smiled, trying to look convincing, even though she was falling apart inside at the thought of him not being around.
"Are you?" he asked, more than a little disappointed that she didn't seem bothered if he left Portwenn. "I mean, you think I should go back to London?"
"Of course, I know you were… are a skilled surgeon and I suppose your talents are wasted here. You should be doing what you do best." Louisa smiled, but she couldn't stop the tears that were starting to fill her eyes, threatening to overflow. She could keep up the pretence no longer. Tears started to flow down her cheeks as she desperately tried to swat them away.
Martin was confused; she was saying one thing but behaving the total opposite. He resisted the urge to explain to her that she was more than likely emotional because of her pregnancy and instead decided to simply ask her.
"Why are you crying?"
"It's us Martin. It's this baby. It's everything really. I should have come back months ago. I really don't know why I left it so long. Maybe if we'd had the chance to come to terms with things sooner…"
"Shush now," he said, as he placed his hand on her shoulder. But she shrugged him off and turned back towards the window.
Taking a deep breath, he decided that it was now or never. He'd told himself that if she ever came back, he'd finally admit his feelings for her. No matter how uncomfortable it would be for him, he realised that the only way to make her see that he cared about her was to overcome his inhibitions.
"Louisa, for the last six months I've regretted the words I said to you the day that we should have married. I just didn't want to drag you down, to trap you in a marriage that you would come to resent. But I never, ever doubted your ability to make me happy. When I found out that you'd left the village, it was as if a part of me had died. And I know that sounds terribly sentimental, but it's truly how I felt. I once told you that I couldn't live without you… well, it's true. That's why I was prepared to run away from the painful memories. From the moment I look out of the window in the morning across to the school until the moment I go to bed alone, without you, you're all I ever think about. Please, Louisa. I want to try and make this work."
Feeling more confident about expressing his feelings, he made a bold move. Walking up behind her, he wrapped his arms around her and rested his head on her shoulder.
"After all, there's more than just us to consider now," he said as he gently caressed her belly.
Louisa placed her hands on top of Martin's and tilted her head so that it came to rest against his.
"I don't want to get married, Martin. If we did that then everyone would assume that it was for the sake of the baby." Louisa's tears had dried now, but she was still incredibly emotional, especially after Martin's frank admission about his feelings for her.
It was exactly what she had hoped to hear. But she wasn't stupid enough to believe that all their problems had been solved by a few fraught conversations. However, resting against him, his arms encircling her, she felt a security and belonging that had evaded her since she'd left for London. One day she'd tell him all about the doubts that she'd had over their non-wedding… but not today. There had been enough confessions for one night.
"Louisa." She turned slightly so that she could look into his eyes. "You don't have to stay here. Come back to the surgery with me. I have a spare room that you can take until you can make more appropriate arrangements."
She could tell from his eyes that he was sincere in his offer and, with a sense of disappointment, she also knew that he wouldn't force a relationship on her, hence his offer of the use of his spare room.
"Thank you, Martin." Looking around the room she nodded. "It would make more sense I suppose… just whilst I look for somewhere permanent to stay."
"Yes, of course." He nodded. "Right, I'll gather your things together then," and he moved to collect her suitcase and coat from the bed.
"No - wait, Martin. I've been up and down that bloody hill twice today already; I really don't think I could manage it again tonight." Noticing that Louisa looked tired and worn out, Martin reluctantly put her case back down.
"Right, yes, I see. Well, I'll come back tomorrow morning before surgery and help you." Slowly he started heading towards the door, but he felt Louisa's hand on his arm and he turned to see her standing behind him, a warm smile lit up her face for the first time that evening.
"There is an alternative, Martin." He looked at her, slightly puzzled and not at all prepared for what she was about to say.
"Stay with me tonight."
"I… um, perhaps it's not such a good idea," he stuttered. "I mean, what would everyone think, they might think that I'd… you know, that we'd…"
"Martin, I think they're already fully aware that we've…" she pointed at her tummy.
"Oh, yes...um...I know, but…"
"I don't want to be on my own, Martin. Please stay with me." She reached up to stroke his cheek and then gently running her hand around the back of his neck, she pulled him down to her and placed a soft kiss where her hand had just caressed him.
She took him by the hand and led him back into the room.