The First Cut Is The Deepest

A dry and sunny afternoon had turned into a cold and misty evening by the time Doctor James Radcliffe had seen to his final patient of the day, and was in the process of closing his surgery doors for the evening. A cold, autumnally breeze had been blowing as he'd held the front doors wide open to allow his final patient to take their leave – watching old Mrs Gumtree hobble away slowly with a friendly smile as she stepped out into the frosty night. Although it was nearing five o' clock by the clock on the waiting room wall it was still relatively light outside for this time of year, and James shivered slightly – pulling his jacket even tighter around him to shield himself from the cold.

Kate had been gone for over an hour now, but James wasn't worried. She was a kind, and conscientious young doctor, and old Mr Granger could be a complex, and trying patient – she could be gone hours yet.

He was only halfway back up the small flight of stairs separating the reception area and waiting room from the corridor leading to the two small consulting rooms however when there came a knock upon the glass window of the surgery's front door.

Doctor James Radcliffe sighed, looking down at his watch to see that it was now past five o' clock and normal surgery hours were officially over – never one to turn away a patient however, no matter what hour of the day or night, he turned to make his way wearily back in the direction from where he'd just come.

"Nick!" He exclaimed in surprise at the sight of the visitor standing on his doorstep, as he unbolted and opened the door he'd only recently locked up for the evening – this was indeed an unexpected surprise.

Nick smiled.

The policeman's complexion appeared slightly pale, and his forehead clammy with sticky perspiration as the doctor's trained and attentive eye wondered over the bedraggled figure of the other man. Nick shivered, and tentatively pulled his thick trench coat even tighter around him. "What are you doing here?"

"Sorry to drop in on you like this James…" Nick apologised. "But is Kate in?"

"No… no I'm afraid she's out at the moment." He faltered, frowning, and slightly perplexed. If Nick had just wanted to talk to Kate he could have easily just phoned… but then again their phone conversations had started to become fewer and shorter in length lately. "But come in, perhaps I can help you."

"Thanks James." Nick nodded to him as he stepped back to permit his colleague's husband entrance into the warm alcove of the entrance hall, before closing the door behind him – shutting out the cold draft in an attempt to keep the heat in.

As Nick smiled in gratitude however – stumbling slightly as he tried to negotiate the step up into the small surgery waiting room – Doctor James Radcliffe's attention was drawn to the makeshift bandage still swathed tightly around the policeman's hand. The white of the linen material was now almost entirely stained scarlet and soaked with still slightly oozing blood.

"Nick, what happened?" The doctor asked, gesturing towards the wounded limb.

Nick looked down at his injured hand, seemingly having forgotten about his injuries which had in all likelihood been the initial intended reason for his visit.

"Oh it's nothing." He responded, shaking his head absentmindedly and trying to brush off the doctor's concern. "Just a scratch really… I was making an arrest… they had a knife…"

"But Nick, that needs tending too." Doctor Radcliffe insisted. "Why don't you come through to the surgery and I'll…"

"I just wanted to talk to Kate…" The young police officer faltered, cutting the young doctor short in his desperation to speak to his wife.

"And you drove all this way?" James asked.

Nick looked at him uncertainly – his expression slightly distant – and it almost seemed to the doctor as though he might have been looking through James rather than directly at him – perhaps even glancing into a void that the young medic could neither see nor currently understand.

"I suppose…" Nick began, but this time it was Doctor Radcliffe's turn to cut the young police officer off mid flow.

"Come through to the surgery, and I'll take a look…" He insisted – taking Nick firmly by the arm, and wrapping his own guiding arm around the small of his back firmly.

The doctor assisted him into the surgery consulting room, and helped him up onto the examination bed. Nick paled and swayed slightly, but James managed to catch him before he fell and helped him to lie down – his head resting against a couple of cushions his receptionist had insisted were necessary to 'brighten up the consulting room' – a woman's touch!

"How're you feeling?" He asked, as he gently started to un-wrap the bandage swathed around the deep laceration to the soft fleshy surface of Nick's hand.

"A little woozy." Nick confessed, closing his eyes and sinking even deeper into the cushions and the soft examination bed. "But I'm alright…"

"You've lost a lot of blood Nick." James frowned, observing the wound critically and turning the injured limb over gently within his own hand. The bandages were by now completely soaked with blood, and he'd packed the wound with what on first glance appeared to be cotton wool – the fibres of which had now become deeply embedded into the wound. He sighed. "You should have gone straight to the hospital in Aidensfield, you've probably done yourself more harm than good by trying to drive here in your condition."

"I had to see Kate." Nick grimaced. "I had to talk to her."

"Well you're going to need stitches in this, and I'm going to give you a tetanus just to be on the safe side." Doctor Radcliffe explained to his patient. "But, as I said, you've lost a lot of blood Nick. We need to get you started on intravenous fluids and antibiotics, and I know that you probably won't like this, but we need to get you checked out at the hospital as soon as possible, just to be on the safe side."

James was surprised that Nick didn't appear to protest at this however. Instead the young man nodded, struggling to sit up slightly as James crossed to the door to fetch a bowl of warm water in which to bathe the wound before cleaning it.

"Not until I've spoken to Kate first though." Nick insisted and Doctor Radcliffe nodded – smiling sympathetically. He understood Nick's desire true enough – he'd known the pairs relationship and marriage had hit a rocky snag lately, and had been going through a turbulent period for rather a while longer. He'd long since wanted to do something to try and help the young couple and to get the two of them back on track again. He appreciated better than most the value of the couple's previously tight relationship – but had certainly never thought that something like this would have to happen in order to achieve this.

"I'll do everything I can do Nick." He reassured him. "I'll clean the wound, and bandage it as tightly as I can for now to stem the bleeding – but you are going to need stitches, and I'll give you a couple of injections, just to make you more comfortable, and to prevent those wounds from getting infected."

Nick nodded. "Thanks James." He sighed wearily. "I really do appreciate this."

Doctor James Radcliffe smiled slightly, looking back at Nick with a concerned gaze – the two sharing a mutual understanding and sympathy – before he left the room.

The young doctor had only made it part way down the hall in the direction of the kitchen however when he heard the turn of a key in the latch of the back door and he realised that Kate must have returned - carrying on in the direction of the kitchen, mulling over and over in his mind how he was going to divulge to her the identity of his latest patient.

Filling a large sink bowl with clean warm water he dropped a couple of pipette-fill's of iodine into the bowl, and watched as the deep yellow liquid swirled around in the water for a moment, stalling for time – before making a slight detour on his way back to the consulting room.

He eventually found Kate where she'd migrated to the front hall, hanging up her dripping wet coat and waterproof hat upon its allocated peg – it had evidently started raining. He watched her twist her wet locks of hair through her fingers, stroking her fringe away from her damp forehead, and smiled.

Kate was everything his late wife had been – kind, and pretty – it had been nice to have a woman around the house for a while. She'd brought a touch of feminine tact and diplomacy into all of their lives – something which his frequently overbearing receptionist seemed to be lacking – and something which their lives seemed to have been devoid of for such a long time. But Nick was a good husband – loving, and affectionate, and devoted – and she didn't seem to even recognise the good thing the pair had going anymore, and which had been staring her in the face the whole time.

"Kate…"

The young woman whirled around immediately at the sound of her business partner's voice, and smiled – surprised – as she observed his kindly expression.

"James…"

"Kate, I'm afraid I've got Nick in the consulting room with me." He explained – the young woman clearly hadn't heard him behind her, and now she'd recovered from the initial shock returned to trying to squeeze the excess water from her hair without seemingly noticing the bowl of water in his hands.

With the mention of her husband's name however she whirled herself immediately around again to face him, expression deeply concerned.

"Nick?"

"Yes." James nodded. "Kate… I'm afraid he's been hurt…"

"Hurt?" The young woman exclaimed, and James could tell in that moment, by the look of horror in her young eyes – wide with fear as her heart leapt into her mouth and her stomach lurched – that despite their recent differences she really did still love Nick.

And Nick' actions tonight proved that he still loved her too.

He nodded. "Rather badly, I'm afraid." He explained. "It would seem that he was making an arrest… Kate, they had a knife…"

"Oh God!" She exclaimed, and her hands immediately shot up to her mouth in shock.

"It's alright, he's not in any immediate danger…" James tried to reassure her. "But he's sustained a pretty nasty laceration to his hand. It's rather deep and he's lost a lot of blood." He explained. "The thing is he drove here all the way from Aidensfield rather than going straight to the hospital there – he said that he wanted to see you!"

"Kate…"

Both doctors now turned to the sound of Nick's voice. He was standing in the doorway, complexion still pale and his skin slightly clammy. He was cradling his injured hand.

"Nick…" Kate sighed, and she immediately approached her husband's side. Tears glistened in her eyes as she took a tentative look at the deep laceration to his hand – hissing in sympathy.

"Hsshhhhhhh… that looks deep." She explained, before appearing overcome with emotion, and she couldn't disguise the note of anger which crept into her tone when she next spoke. "James told me what happened! I could have lost you!"

Nick simply looked down at her and smiled meekly, shaking his head. He placed a delicate peck on the top of his wife's head, but James could tell that instead of just the glassy glaze of pain and shock from earlier there had been a renewed flame lit within the young man's eyes now, and he held his breath, preparing himself for the inevitable ensuring argument – this was not his business, and he suspected that Nick probably had something to say which Kate definitely needed to hear.

"It's alright…" He smiled down at her, as he spoke. "It's my job." – reiterating Kate's words of earlier.

The young woman flinched, the pain of having her own words turned back on her evident in her expression as she pulled away – but Nick was neither a cruel nor malicious man, and where others whilst feeling hard done by might have said more, he simply waited for these three simple words to sink in.

Doctor Radcliffe sighed, whilst both could be equally as bad as each other Kate had been too busy trying to play at being 'Super Woman' lately – wife, doctor, expectant mother – to pay very much attention at all to the husband and unborn baby who still needed her.

Finally she spoke.

"It wasn't just you…" She sighed, wiping away the salty tears which now spilled from her dark brown eyes and cascaded down her soft cheeks.

"What?" Nick frowned, bemused by his wife's reaction.

"It wasn't just you who imagined it…" She explained. "I did too. You're reaction when I told you… how happy we'd both be as we told everyone… and everyone smiling. It was supposed to be so perfect, and I ruined it… I ruined everything!"

"Hey," Nick smiled, wrapping his one good arm around her slender torso, and pulling her towards him as he held her comfortingly against his warm body. Kate placed her head upon her husband's shoulder. "It's alright. It's going to be alright."

"I've behaved so badly." She sniffed. "I've been trying so hard to prove that I'm capable of doing this job that I forgot about also being a wife… and a mother…"

"Listen," Nick grinned, "I love you! We can make this work… for everyone."

"I love you to!" Kate sighed, a slight smile curling the corners of her painted red lips, and James too smiled as both leaned in to kiss each other delicately upon the lips.

He watched the young couple as they remained locked in the moment – suspended in time for several long seconds, as if almost trying to make up for all the lost hugs and missed kisses over the past few months – before they eventually pulled away…

...and then Nick swayed.

"Nick…" Kate gasped, but James immediately leapt forward to grab him, and managed to catch him before he fell.

Kate sighed.

"You'd better go and get that cleaned up." She smiled, indicating her husband's injured limb, and Nick nodded in agreement to this.

"Right…" Doctor Radcliffe sighed – wrapping a supporting arm around Nick's torso to steady him, and throwing the young Constable's arm over his shoulder as he spoke. He directed a reassuring smile towards Kate at the same time. "Let's get you back into the consulting room and take a look at that hand, shall we."

"I'll put the kettle on." Kate suggested, as she handed her colleague back the bowl of warm, sterile water he'd deposited upon the hall table as he'd leapt forward to catch Nick before he fell.

"Thank you." He sighed, and smiled his gratitude. The young woman returning his gesture, before leaning in to give her husband one final peck upon his cold and pale cheek.

Nick would still have to go to the hospital he realised, as he guided the young Police Officer back in the direction of his consulting room a few moments later – as Kate headed off in the direction of the kitchen. He'd need stitches, and they may well decide to keep him in as they administered anti-biotics, and replenished the fluid levels in his body to compensate for the amount of blood he'd lost, but that decision would be in the hands of the consultants once he got there. He would need complete rest over the next few days, and both the young couple would need their friend's and family's full support throughout the following months to come as they got their relationship back on track, and made preparations for the new addition to their small family.

But James was at least now convinced that if anyone could make a go of things again Nick and Kate could. The couple were both still evidently very much in love – and now that priorities on both sides had been straightened out, and if they did not forget about the wakeup call of the past few days in lieu of life's many petty distractions, there could be no reason why they should not now go from strength to strength.