Chapter 1: Chapter 1
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.
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
Insomnia – Part Two
It wasn’t that cold, but Sam found herself shivering regardless, pulling her coat tighter and wrapping her arms around herself as an attempt at self comfort. The sun had not long been up but already the light was making her feel more tired, cementing the fact that this had been a whole night without sleep. Every muscle in her body was so far beyond exhaustion that she wasn’t even sure she could move and, yet the events of the night meant she knew she had very little choice. There was going to be so much to do and she was not sure she could begin to face any of it.
“We’re fairly confident the fire is out,” came a male voice from beside her, pulling her out of her thoughts. “The embers are still smouldering though, so we will stay for a bit longer to continue to damp everything down,” he continued, his words forcing her to finally look up at the scene in front of her that she had been steadfastly avoiding looking at for the last couple of hours. “You should get him checked out at the hospital,” he concluded, patting her on her shoulder.
Sam reluctantly faced the lead fireman, before following his gaze to where a dazed Dylan sat wrapped in a blanket on the bank, dog curled up his feet. The three of them had been sat silently together for most of the last few hours before the lack of response from her ex-husband had become too overwhelming and she’d instead decided to stand.
When he had called her in response to her text message, she had assumed they would talk and she would try to convince the stubborn man to accept her help. At no point at she considered he would be calling to inform her that his home, the boat, was fully ablaze and that he had very nearly just burned to death. In fact, she was almost certain him calling her had been a reflex response, not really a decision he had made at all.
The sick feeling that had ripped through her on hearing quite how close she had come to losing him forever was one she had seldom felt, reminding her quite how much she cared about Dylan, but for every ounce of her that loved him, right now she wanted to throttle him. Whilst he had accepted her placing the blanket around his shoulders, he had rebutted any attempts by the Paramedics to take him to hospital or to do more than cover the burns on his arm and side. She knew he could have smoke inhalation and compromised lungs on top of the obvious physical injuries, but there had been nothing that would make him budge whilst the fire still burned. It was as if he needed to watch it die out to believe it had happened at all.
“Thank you,” she finally replied to the fireman, attempting to conjurer up a smile. “What happens next? To the boat I mean.”
“Well the Fire Investigation team will be taking over the site shortly,” came the response. “They will want to figure out what happened, how the fire started, that kind of thing. You’ll need to talk to the owners here, about what to do with the boat when we’ve finished. Obviously, there is very little left, and we will secure the wreckage to the mooring, but I’m sure they will want to have a conversation about what you want to do and lifting the boat,” he explained, prompting Sam to nod.
She walked over to Dylan, standing in front of his view to try and get his attention. He slowly looked up and met her eyes, his unkempt exterior making him look like he’d not slept in weeks.
“Time to go Dylan,” she started, knowing he really had no intention of moving. “Fires out, there is nothing further we can do here now. Let’s go and get something to eat, clean you up a bit,” she elaborated, trying to sound authoritative but getting no response. “Dylan, I’m not joking. We have to leave. We have things to do,” she added, more forcefully. “If you won’t let me help you we at least need to sort out that damn dog,” she concluded, finally eliciting an acknowledgement from the stunned man. “You might not care whether you’ve been burnt or inhaled ridiculous quantities of toxic smoke, but I am not having the death of that dog on my conscience too,” she finished with a flourish, sticking her hand out to him to help him up.
No one was more surprised that Sam when Dylan actually took her hand and stood, but as he walked away without speaking, dog at his heel, she couldn’t help but wonder if he was about to leave her standing right there and disappear off somewhere. It was only as she watched him approach her car before looking back towards her, that she realised he expected her to be by his side. She could only assume that his car keys had been lost in the blaze, because she knew that whatever state he was in he had never appreciated her driving abilities.
“Are you coming or not?” he shouted back, as she stood staring at him, contemplating her next move. She forced her hands into her pockets and trudged after him, tiredness threatening to overwhelm her, taking one final look back at the charred wreckage of the boat which had until the early hours of this morning housed everything in the world that mattered to her. She rubbed at her eyes, wiping away both tears that were threatening to fall and exhaustion in equal measure.
“We are going to the vets,” Dylan announced loudly as Sam got closer and bleeped open her car. She watched as he opened the backdoor, letting the mutt jump in, before clambering slowly into the passenger seat and cursed him for caring about that dog more than her or himself.