Disclaimer: The Street by Jimmy McGovern is copyright BBC. All Rights Reserved. No copyright infringement is intended and no money is being made.
Author's Note: Missing scene written for the Jonas Armstrong Fansite. (What happened next in the scene where Gemma is at Nick's bedside?).
Unbeta'd, so any and all mistakes are mine.
Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock, tick tock.
Nick doesn't need the cheap, plastic clock with its big, black numbers to tell him that Gemma isn't coming back; and if he didn't have a plastic tube running out his right arm, if he wasn't feeling groggy from the painkillers, he would hurl something at it, hospital staff be damned.
At dawn, as Manchester was waking up – a world that feels a million miles away from the hospital bed and the taxicab that Nick jumped in front of last evening – he had found Gemma at his bedside. She had been stroking his face and talking about being beautiful. Not about her being beautiful, although she undeniably is, but him, Nick – burned, stitched and scarred. Ugly, ugly, Nick.
Tick tock, tick tock.
9.30 am. A shaft of sunlight falls across Nick's ravaged neck and face, causing his already squinty right eye to squint even more. Not so beautiful now, am I, Gemma – in the cold light of day?
Nick glances sideways, notices the glass water jug sitting on the bedside table, and thinks it will make a decent projectile. He shuffles further up the bed, awakening his bladder; he ignores it, and reaches with his good hand – the one that still has all its fingers – for the jug.
Dismayed, he watches as the slippery jug skitters across the metal surface of the table and plummets towards the floor, recoiling at the ear-splintering crash as glass meets unforgiving floor tiles.
The door to his private room smacks back on its hinges.
"Heavens, Mr Calshaw!" the ample-chested nurse exclaims. "What you doing giving me such a fright before my first cup of caffeine? I told you to ring the bell if you need anything."
Nick doesn't answer. He rolls back onto the sweat-stained sheet, turns his face towards the large window and the unlovely Manchester skyline.
"Where's the blond lass gone?" the nurse asks, picking up the larger pieces of broken jug and popping them into a plastic bag.
Nick stares resolutely out the window. An aeroplane winks by, its plume of white smoke cutting the blue sky in half.
"Here." Despite his affected disinterest, the nurse worms her strong arms under Nick's shoulders and helps him sit. "Looks like it's going to be a fine day." She nods towards the window. "You're lucky to see it by all accounts. I've heard many ways of hailing a taxi, but throwing yourself in front of one probably isn't the smartest of them."
If she thinks he is going to crack a smile, she can think again.
"I'll go get you some more water and fetch a dust pan," the nurse says. "And I'll let the doctor know you're awake again."
Nick doesn't want to be 'awake again'. He doesn't want to think about trying to commit suicide last night, or the poor taxi driver who he'd chosen to help him accomplish the task. Most of all, Nick doesn't want to look at that damn clock, marking time, reminding him that he has days, months, years of being someone he doesn't want to be: an ugly bugger, forever regretting that he didn't do the right thing when it mattered, that friends and comrades died horrifically because he couldn't do one simple thing – pull the trigger.
As if in answer to that thought, Nick hears – far-off, but unmistakeable – a baby's cry.
9.45 am and the nurse is back, with water and a bedpan. Nick pops the painkillers into his mouth, swallows easily. He drinks some water and assures the nurse he doesn't need her to hold the bedpan.
The nurse leaves, stating the doctor will be making his rounds soon and reminding Nick not to forget to press the buzzer should he need anything.
Nick remains rudely silent, goes back to staring out the window.
I had a bit of a revelation. Beautiful is loads and loads of different things at different times; like in the middle of the night, Manchester through that window with all its lights – that looks beautiful. And the funny little doctor who told us you were going to be all right, looked really, really beautiful.
Gemma said something else, something about green beans. Nick can't remember.
Sometimes beauty can be a little bit cheeky, sometimes it sneaks up on you when you least expect it, sometimes it hides and then you've got to look for it.
I am beautiful, aren't I?
Those last, his words – easy to believe when you're still half-drugged, when the woman you love is brushing away your tears and kissing you and you still haven't looked in a mirror that morning.
Tick tock, tick tock.
Gemma isn't coming back.
Awkwardly, Nick uses the bedpan, and then wonders whether he should empty the contents before hurling it at the offending clock.
It is Gemma, hair scraped back in a ponytail, wearing no make-up – still pretty. Her cornflower blue eyes sparkle from lack of sleep and happiness at seeing Nick awake and sitting up.
Ridiculously, Nick is still holding the bedpan, his tears drip dripping into hour old urine.
"My love?" Gemma moves to his bedside. "What is it?" She eases the bedpan from his hands, slides it under the bed. "I'm sorry I've been so long," she says, glancing at the clock. "The doctor said you'd probably sleep for a while and I wanted to go home and fetch some things."
"What things?" Nick chokes.
Ignoring the question, Gemma says, "Hey, why the tears, lovely boy? I thought we were over all this self-pity stuff. I'm not going to sit in the canteen with you if you're going to be doing your poor, wounded soldier bit."
Fresh, green beans that I had downstairs in the canteen today, looked beautiful next to the shitty, pale, dried up roast chicken and chips.
"Why would you want to be eating with me, Gemma? Why are you even here?"
"Between dawn and now, did you suddenly develop amnesia along with everything else?" she asks.
"Did you hear a single word I said to you this morning?"
"No buts, Nicky 'who's-going-to-want-an-ugly-bastard-like-me' Calshaw. Because I'm the one that wants you – remember? I'm the one who's going to cook your breakfast every morning, who's going to burn your toast, who's going to make your sandwiches for work—"
"What's with you and the food thing?" Nick asks, his lips twitching on the edge of a smile.
"That's better, handsome." Gemma perches on the edge of the bed. "I'm working my way through the day, that's all. Anyway, skip breakfast, lunch and dinner. I'm the one you're going to lie next to at night, whose cold feet you're going to warm with your warm ones, the one you're going to hug and kiss and tell her that everything is going to be all right – the one you're going to make love to every night and—"
"Every night," she says firmly. "And I'll have my eyes open the whole time, watching you, watching me, staring into those gorgeous blue eyes of yours."
"You really want to do that?"
"I just said so, didn't I? Now shove over, because I've got something to show you."
Gemma leans over the side of the bed and picks up a white plastic bag. She slides some glossy brochures onto the bed – wedding brochures.
"What's all this for?" Nick asks.
"I thought we'd do some sticking," Gemma says. She rolls her eyes. "For our wedding, you dolt."
"You still want to marry me? Looking like this?"
"Well, it'd be better if you were in a morning suit and not a hospital robe." Gemma gives Nick a light punch on the arm. "Of course like this, you idiot. Besides, who wants a groom who looks prettier than the bride?"
Tick tock, tick tock.
Nick glances at the clock. It's quite a nice clock really – clean, white, nice looking numbers, like century text on a computer keyboard.
The clock is marking time. Not time past, but time to come. Time they will spend together – Gemma and Nick. Because Gemma loves Nick, despite his face. And Nick loves Gemma because she is a beautiful person, on the outside, but especially on the inside. And he is like the Manchester skyline and the funny little doctor and the green beans.
Nick smiles. He can live with that.