Sam had never noticed how loudly the clock ticked until she was unable to sleep. Insomnia was enough to frustrate anyone, but after the shift from hell dealing with a winter crisis the health service apparently wasn’t having her body was exhausted even if her mind would not shut down.
She was used to being kept awake with the trauma of dealing with patients, worse now than when she was an ED doctor, but she had coping mechanisms for this dating back to her army days and Iain for company when things got tough. Now, just like then, his banter and smile was enough to make everything almost okay even when the worst situations were unfolding around them.
However tonight it was not her job keeping her awake, but a fleeting interaction with a colleague. That was the simplest word to describe him, even if ex-husband would better fit the bill and one day she hoped friend would be the best way to describe their relationship. She had seen him for a matter of five minutes and spoken to him for no more than a few seconds in a patient handover but that had been enough to trigger the wave of thoughts that was threatening to overwhelm her as sleep stubbornly refused to come.
She could not describe precisely what it was in his demeanour that caused her to study him more intently, because with a few notable exceptions he was normally grumpy and sharp. However once her eyes were upon him and he locked gaze with her she knew without a shadow of a doubt that he was in trouble. His red eyes, bordered by dark bags and his unkempt appearance, with tousled hair and crinkled shirt would be written off by most as a stressed out doctor working on the edge. Understandable to most given the volume of patients stacking up on trolleys and in ambulances that the ED team were struggling to process.
But Sam knew different. From the moment his expression faltered as their eyes met and he looked away, she felt like she had been punched in the stomach. As far as she knew it had been years since he had touched a drop but without any doubt she was certain he had relapsed. She had almost kicked herself for not spotting it sooner, because given how visible the signs now were she knew it must have been going on for months. After all, she had watched that descent once before and was well aware how bad it had to get before it was openly identifiable.
She had tried and failed to find him every time they had come back to the ED later on in the shift, but Iain had rightly been concerned about getting the ambulance back on the road after too much time spent parked outside the ED waiting to handover in the queue. By the time she had clocked off he had been gone and she had walked all the way to his boat. The vessel had been in darkness so she had reluctantly given up to go home, deciding that she would try again tomorrow.
Yet despite that resolution sleep would not come. She knew it was not just because he was drinking and the risk he therefore posed to patients and himself, but out of sadness for all that had gone before that had led to this moment. She had hoped that her return to Holby had not caused any situation he was going through to worsen and hated herself for not being a better friend to him since she had been back. She wondered if it was possible to rescue someone once they’d already been saved once before, how many times could you sink before it was impossible to keep you afloat?
Sam shrugged, shaking herself free of that particular thought and rolled over, grabbing her phone and flicking open her messages. Taking a deep breath she quickly composed a message and sent it, refusing to give herself time to think through the implications.
“If you need a friend x”
She sank back into her pillows, staring at the ceiling and listening to the rhythmic ticking of the clock as the minutes passed. She was determined to support him, even in spite of what happened the last time he had been drinking, because she would always still care. She still loved him, she always would.
The ringing of the phone disturbed her thoughts and a wave of emotion flooded over her as she considered that his response on receiving that message was to call her, no matter how drunk he might be when she answered. Without hesitation she answered the phone and pressed it to her ear.