Chapter 1

"God damn it!" Sahira half-shouted, slamming her retractors down on to the tray beside her. Her patient lay in front of her on the operating table, covered in blood which was dripping off the table and on to the floor.

She had been trying for twenty five minutes to resuscitate the woman in front of her. She was only forty-two. She was too young to have died. Sahira had tried everything to get her heart beating again, but after a violent car crash, the woman, Janet, had so much glass embedded around her heart that she was lucky to have even survived the ambulance journey to the hospital.

Ten minutes later, Sahira peeled off her gloves, washed her hands and headed for the door. Her mind was buzzing. She was already thinking about how she was going to tell her family the bad news. This woman had two teenage children and they were about to be told they no longer had a mother. The thought made Sahira feel a little sick. She couldn't help imagining something terrible happening to her and her own sons being left motherless. Trying to control her own emotions, she braced herself for the impending tragic meeting between herself and her patient's family.

As she left the theatre on her way to the relatives' room, she heard the familiar click of Hanssen's shoes coming up behind her.

"I was watching your operation," he said simply. He didn't have to say any more, Sahira already knew he was going to make some kind of comment about the outcome of the operation.

"Before you say anything, Henrik, just... don't," she said. The long operation had left her upset and exasperated and not in the mood for any of Hanssen's matter-of-fact speeches.

Ignoring her request, Hanssen continued,

"I think it would be prudent for you to stop engaging with the patients on such an emotional level."

Despite trying her best to hide it, Hanssen had obviously noticed her eyes fill with tears of frustration and pity when she realised she couldn't save her patient.

"In cardiothoracics," he continued, "you can hardly afford to get emotionally attached to every patient you encounter."

"Well thanks for the advice," Sahira snapped. "Forgive me for showing compassion, but I was under the impression that it was an important part of being a good doctor."

Hanssen didn't say anything, but just looked down at her with one eyebrow slightly raised.

It had been a long time since she had been intimidated by Hanssen's towering figure and sceptical expressions. Unlike the rest of the hospital, she had no problems voicing her opinions to his face. Taking advantage of his rare silence, she continued on her irate rant.

"I would have thought in a hospital, people would want to know that their doctor cares about them, but obviously I was mistaken. God forbid I should actually give a damn about anyone in this hospital!" she snarled, struggling to keep herself from shouting.

"Really, Miss Shah," he said coolly, "you are beginning to make a scene."

Sure enough, her furious tone had started to attract some inquisitive looks from nearby staff, but a few curious glances weren't enough to stop her.

"I'm making a scene because I actually care about my patients. I would much rather be taking my patient up to Darwin now, but I'm not. She's going to the morgue and I need to explain to her husband and children that they have just lost the most important woman in their lives. I will get as attached to my patients as I please. As much as you might disagree, it doesn't make me a worse doctor. I would rather care a little too much about my patients than end up like you."

And with that, she turned on her heel and headed back to the ward. She could feel Hanssen's eyes burning in to her as he watched her walk away. She was so infuriated by him and his heartless attitude. He used to care about things, he used to care about his patients, but now all he did was sit in his office and do calculations and budgets.

Heading for the relatives' room, she tried to put Hanssen out of her mind. She knocked on the door and opened it. Simultaneously, three pairs of wide eyes looked up at her.

"Mr Peters, Harry, Rachel," she said, addressing her patient's husband and two children. She hesitated for a moment before continuing but the family had already realised that it wasn't good news.

"I'm so sorry," she said simply. "We did our best to save Janet, but her injuries from the crash were just too extensive."

The daughter, Rachel, was the first to start crying, while her brother tried to stop himself from doing the same.

"I really am terribly sorry," Sahira said, struggling to keep her own voice steady. "If you have any questions about anything..?"

The teenage boy just shook his head and put his arms around his younger sister.

Mr Peters hadn't reacted at all from the moment Sahira had walked through the door. She wasn't surprised though; most people reacted similarly, caught in a state of stunned silence.

"I'll leave you guys alone for a while, but I'll be just outside if you want to speak to me."

Mr Peters still said nothing, but rose to his feet and stood at the window, gazing out on to the car park, his hands in his pockets.

Sahira turned and left the relatives' room, feeling, if possible, even worse than she had done when she lost her patient on the operating table.

She walked over to the nurses' station and slumped down on to an empty seat with a shaky sigh. She would wait there for a short while in case Mr Peters or his children wanted to speak with her.

As she sat there, she had to fight hard not to let images cross her mind of something awful happening to her. A car crash, a house fire, an illness... If working in a hospital had taught her one thing, it was how incredibly fragile people are. Her life could be ended in a heartbeat and the thought of leaving her little boys was almost too much to bear.

For the second time that day, she was dragged out of her dark thoughts by the sound of Hanssen's shiny black shoes clicking down the corridor behind her. She knew she wasn't going to get away unscathed for shouting at him earlier but a reprimanding from Hanssen didn't scare her like it used to.

To her surprise, he strode right past her with no more than a scornful sideways glance in her general direction. This didn't do much for her mood. She knew she was in trouble when Hanssen was too angry to speak to her. It wasn't the threat of a scolding from Hanssen that worried her, it was the guilt she felt about effectively calling him heartless. As much as he could be cold sometimes, she knew she had overstepped the line.

"You alright?" came a familiar voice from beside her.

She swung round in her wheelie chair to see Greg Douglas looking at her sympathetically.

"Tough day?" he asked.

"That's an understatement," Sahira muttered.

"I heard you lost your patient, I'm sorry to hear it." She found his laid-back Irish brogue oddly comforting. His had been the first friendly face she'd seen today.

"Here," he said, holding out a cup of coffee.

"Thanks," she said. Taking the cup from him, she noticed that her hands were still shaking from the strain of the day.

"Cheer up," Greg said, with a handsome smile. "Things can only go up from here."

"You would think so," Sahira agreed. She didn't know if Greg was right or not, but at that moment all she wanted to do was leave the hospital behind her for the day and get home to her sons.

Hanssen sat in his office with an enormous pile of papers before him. He had been trying for weeks to think of new ways to make cuts without losing his staff, but he was realising now that he was going to have to be brutal. He was going to have to lose members of staff whether he liked it or not.

Checking his watch, he noticed it was eight o'clock at night. He let out an exasperated sigh, realising that he spent the better part of his life in this office.

He felt a deep sense of regret within him, for many different reasons. For one, he had argued with Sahira just half an hour before. He greatly admired her fiery personality and passion, but that meant their personalities often clashed. He also felt regret for the loss of the best part of his career. It was a rare sight for him now to see the inside of an operating theatre. Now he felt more of an administrator than a surgeon. He had thought he had left the mounds of paperwork behind in his foundation years as a junior doctor twenty five years ago.

There was a nagging feeling at the back of mind telling him to get on with his budget reports but he was finding it incredibly difficult when his spat with Sahira kept taking over his thoughts. Trying his best to get her out of his mind, he turned to a long memo and started to read it.