Disclaimer: The story and characters of Doc Martin belong to Buffalo Pictures. This work of fan fiction is for personal amusement only and no infringement of any legal rights is intended.

Many thanks to jd517 for beta reading this chapter; all errors are of my own doing.

The Consultation

Chapter 24

The police truck drives away in a cloud of dust and turns onto the road to Truro. Martin watches it leave and he feels that his day had gone on as if he never awoke from last night's horrid dream; night had segued into day but the nightmare of James Henry's abduction by the village's psychotic chemist had been very real.

But it was all over. On Penhale's request and despite the pain in his leg, Clive Tishell had driven the police truck from Port Wenn to Pentire Castle. Ruth had with some difficulty coxed an agitated Sally Tishell into its back seat, and Penhale had taken the wheel as Clive clambered in next to him, bellowing that they would keep Martin informed on "his Sally's" progress. Martin had sneered, and was about to yell for him not to bother, when he remembered that Tishell's wife was, unfortunately, still his patient. He shakes his head, once again astonished by the stupefying lack of common sense exhibited by most villagers.

Martin turns his attention to Louisa, who is securing James in the infant seat. She smiles at the baby, but he can see the strain in her eyes as she looks at him and says, "We should go. He'll want a feed and a nappy change any minute now."

Louisa's voice sounds calm to her ears, but it belies her true state of mind. A jumble of emotions runs amok through her, ranging from the abject terror of James's kidnapping to sheer amazement at Martin's words to her at the castle. None of it has sunk in, and Louisa feels somewhat dazed as she gets into the car next to Martin.

"We should go to the surgery so I can thoroughly examine James," he says. Louisa nods, not caring where they went, as long as it is far away from Sally Tishell. She closes her eyes for a moment, and images swarm like a disjointed film playing on the screen of her mind; her mother leaving Port Wenn without a care, Sally Tishell holding their baby hostage, Martin saying he loves her. The last thought causes a sensation of slow warmth to fill her chest and trickle down to her toes. Louisa reaches for Martin's hand, and he holds on to it like a drowning man grasping a life vest for dear life.

The car pulls in next to the surgery as the late afternoon sun casts long shadows across the narrow village streets. Louisa carries a grizzling James Henry up the steps to the front door, and shivers in her thin cardigan as she waits for Martin before stepping inside.

They find the reception empty, except for Morwenna who is anxiously waiting for them. She jumps to her feet, bracelets ajangle at her wrists and feathered earrings swing from her ears . James fixes a wide eyed gaze on the receptionist's colorful accessories, and quiets down.

"Thank goodness the little one is alright! Half the village has been in here asking about him and wondering about…" Martin scowls and Morwenna trails off, thinking it best to keep Mrs. Tishell out of it. "Anyhow, I told everyone who called for an appointment they'd have to go to Wadebridge if they needed to see a doctor."

James loses interest in Morwenna's trinkets and starts to whinge. His father reaches for him and says, "Best if I go and look at him now."

Louisa watches Martin carry the baby into the consulting room. Morwenna picks up her bag and says, "If it's all the same to you, I'll be on my way. Ben's being released from hospital tomorrow and I have to see about setting things up for him to convalesce with Granddad and me."

She pulls on a faux fur neon pink jacket and makes a small moue of distaste before adding, "That overbearing mother of his wants him cared for at the family home in Devon, but he doesn't want to go."

"Sounds complicated. Let me know if there's anything I can do to help," said Louisa, edging towards the consulting room door.

Before Morwenna can thank her, Louisa hurries to Martin's side just as he finishes his examination. "Is he alright?" she asks anxiously.

"He appears to be fine. No bruises or scratches. It's fortunate, considering the unstable state she was in." He can't bring himself to say her name, and he feels another flash of anger towards the woman who put their baby at such risk for bodily harm.

James Henry's tummy grumbles and he now starts to cry in earnest. Louisa picks him and says soothingly, "It's alright, your mummy's here."

"I think he's hungry, Louisa. You can go upstairs, if you'd like" said Martin, stowing his stethoscope in the desk drawer.

James Henry's cries turn to a soft whimper as Louisa walks up the stairs and into the bedroom she shared with Martin after the baby was born. She settles on the bed and James latches on hungrily, his eyes half closed with contentment.

Martin had followed them and now watches from the doorway, wishing that everyone's state of happiness could be reduced to a cuddle and a full belly. But his life is not that simple, and he feels his stomach clench at the decisions he will have to make in the next few days. But with Louisa at his side, he will weather through it all, and the warmth of that thought unwinds something inside him that had lain dormant for far too many years.

He gently strokes the baby's head and leans over to softly kiss Louisa on the cheek. "I'll go make us some supper," he says and she gazes at him thoughtfully as he leaves the room. They have so much to talk about, but she knows that with Martin everything has to come in its own time.

She props James on her shoulder and rubs his back. "Time for a bath and sleep my love," she says, getting up and going into the bathroom in search of a basin and towels. She finds these next to James's bath toys, neatly stowed in a basket along with a bottle of baby shampoo and a few colorful flannels. Martin must have kept these after she left the surgery with James, and she feels tears prick at the back of her eyes. "Your daddy does love you," she says, nuzzling the baby's head in an effort to ward off the tears that are threatening to spill onto her cheeks.

The creaks and groans of the surgery's ancient plumbing tell Martin that Louisa is running a bath for the baby. He looks at the grout crumbling around the sink and thinks it would be a good idea to hire a reliable contractor to fix the worst of it, now that it appears he'll be staying in Port Wenn, at least for the short term.

But Martin doesn't quite know why he's thinking about plumbing and grout when there are more pressing matters to attend to, such as calling Imperial to let him know they will need to look for a new chief of vascular surgery.

Yesterday's panic attack, triggered by Bert Large's bloody laceration, had brought home the painful truth that he wasn't ready to be a surgeon again. Martin looks at his hands, hands that may never wield another scalpel, and he thinks this doesn't matter very much at the moment.

He hears Louisa singing to James with her lilting West Country accent, accompanied by giggles from the baby happily splashing in his bath; a Handel sonata would never sound as lovely to his ears. To think that he almost walked away from all this, threw it all away because he couldn't bring himself to tell Louisa how he felt about her.

Martin opens the fridge and takes out the fish he had bought that morning, which came with a dose of unsolicited advice about the perils of bachelorhood from one of the village's fisherman. A smile flits across his face; no danger of that now, or so he hopes.

He slips off his jacket, drapes it neatly on the back of the nearest chair and goes about preparing the fish for the oven. The filet is small; there won't be enough for two so he takes out a few eggs to make an omelet for himself. He's about to pour the eggs in the pan warming on the cooker when his mobile rings. He wipes his hands on a tea towel and retrieves it from his suit pocket, hoping it won't be a patient with a so-called medical emergency. But no, the screen flashes Ruth's mobile and he quickly answers.

"Martin, I thought you'd want to know that Sally Tishell was admitted to the psychiatric ward at Truro hospital. The consultant believes she'll be fine, once the drugs clear her system. How are the baby and Louisa doing?"

"Fine." He listen's for the sound of her voice, but all is quiet. Louisa must be getting the baby ready for bed. "James doesn't have a scratch on him."

"Luckily, he won't remember a thing," said Ruth, as she hurries out of the hospital and into the gathering dusk. A blue Volvo pulls up to the curb and she waves at the driver before continuing, "I'm leaving now but I left my number with the Clive Tishell, just in case."

"Do you need me to fetch you from Truro?" asks Martin dutifully.

"No, I'm having dinner with an old friend," answered Ruth. She gets into the waiting car and smiles warmly at Hamish Morgan before turning her attention back to Martin. "I'll come by tomorrow, if that's all right."

"That will be fine," Martin answers. They wish each other goodnight, and he shrugs; Ruth's comings and goings are really none of his concern, but for an instant he wonders with whom she might be sharing her dinner tonight.

He checks on the fish and heads upstairs to look in on James and Louisa. As Martin nears the top of the stairs, he hears muffled crying coming from the bedroom. He hurries into the bedroom to see Louisa hunched over James's cot, her slight frame shaking with every sob. Martin strides in, looks into the cot and is relieved to see James safely asleep under his favorite blanket. He hovers uncertainly, but then places his arms around Louisa and gently pulls her to his chest. She turns and leans into him, clutching at his shirt with fisted hands.

"What if something terrible had happened to our baby? I couldn't have lived with myself," she cries, her tears soaking through the thin fabric of his shirt.

"But it didn't, Louisa. He's safe. Here, with us." He tilts her chin with one hand and gently wipes the tears from her cheeks.

She looks at him, the anguish in her eyes making his heart ache. "It's all been too much, Martin. With my mother leaving, and then you as well…"

"Shush. I'm not going to leave you."

She holds his eyes in an unwavering gaze and knows he's telling the truth. Her arms find their way around his neck and she pulls him close. "I love you, Martin Ellingham," she whispers as her lips seek his. They kiss deeply and thoroughly, and he loosens the pins holding up her hair. "You are so beautiful," he murmurs as glossy chestnut strands tumble around her face and shoulders. He gazes at her, transfixed by her loveliness as she nimbly removes his tie and undoes the buttons of his shirt, one by one.

His body throbs with pent-up desire, but he forces his mind to think rationally. "Louisa, are you sure this is a good idea? You are just recently delivered…"

She puts a finger against his lips and shakes her head. "Don't spoil it, Martin."

He decides it's in his best interest to keep quiet, and wordlessly removes his cuff links as she tugs at his shirt and vest. Her hands travel slowly down his bare chest, and a seductive smile hovers on her lips as she starts to unfasten his trousers. A moan escapes from deep within him, and he greedily captures her mouth with his as he pulls with increasing urgency at the zipper of her dress. The unfastened garment slides to her feet, and he relishes the feel of her skin against his, when she suddenly tenses and pulls away.

"Martin, what's that smell?" she asks, looking around the room in alarm.

"I don't smell…" he starts to say when the sharp and acrid smell of something burning fills his nose.

"Bugger! The fish!" Martin exclaims as he runs out of the room , wearing only his pants. Louisa collapses on the bed into a fit of giggles, and covers her mouth to avoid waking the baby.

What a day this has been, she thinks, craning her neck to see if the baby has slept through the commotion. She wraps herself in the duvet, goes to stand by the cot, and tenderly gazes at their sleeping son.

"My life with your daddy will be many things, but it will never be dull," she whispers.

And that will suit her just fine.

The End

Author's Note

And so, I have come to the end of my tale. My intention was to write a one chapter story, but with the encouragement of reader reviews and my fellow FF writers, I just kept going.

Thanks to both robspace54 and jd517 for reading through my drafts and making thoughtful suggestions along with patiently correcting the sometimes wonky grammar and syntax. It has truly been an honor to learn from these two very talented writers.