It is to Nurse Prasad’s great credit that she doesn’t even flinch when Inspector Sullivan bursts into the hospital reception.
“I’m here to see—! I, I’ve come to visit—!“
“You’ve come to visit Mr. Carter, hm?” The nurse says. She shuffles some paperwork on the desk before looking up at him with a sympathetic, knowing smile. “I was told you would be on your way.”
Sullivan swallows thickly. He takes his hat off and crumples it anxiously in his hands.
Nurse Prasad takes pity. “Follow me, Inspector,” She giggles, tipping her head towards a long, brightly lit corridor.
“Mr. Carter is doing very well, you’ll be pleased to know I’m sure,” Nurse Prasad begins, walking with exceptional speed for someone so small. She readjusts her hat and flips through some notes on the clipboard in her hands, “He’s in a room on his own at the minute but that’s just as a precaution. Please do not worry.”
The nurse stops in front of a room labelled Carter, S., and before she gets chance to knock the door swings open.
An exhausted looking Lady Felicia emerges. She looks as if she has been crying and her suit is unusually rumpled.
“Oh, Inspector! You made it,” Felicia sniffles, blotting under her eye with a tissue.
Sullivan isn’t sure what emotion is written on his face, but Felicia’s eyes soften as she looks up at him.
She smiles gently and squeezes his arm. “He’s awake; you needn’t worry. He’s waiting for you.”
Sullivan nods stiffly, finding he can’t make a sound through the emotion seizing at his throat. He does his best to acknowledge Lady Felicia and Nurse Prasad, hoping they’ll forgive his rudeness, before he hurries into the room.
“‘Ello,” Sid croaks, “I was ‘oping you were coming.”
Sullivan nearly sobs there and then.
Sid looks so small and fragile lying there in the hospital bed, covered in wires and surrounded by beeping machinery.
“You told me you were fine,” Sullivan hisses, his eyes stinging. It sounds horribly accusatory, and he feels awful but he really can’t help himself.
A grin ghosts across Sid’s face, although it’s somewhat dimmer than usual. “I felt fine. Thought I was a bit bruised, that’s all. Never thought I’d end up like this,” He nods at the set up around him.
“A man hit you with a car and you thought you were bruised.”
“Come an’ sit ‘ere,” Sid instructs, nodding to the chair beside his bed.
Sullivan nearly gripes at him for trying to change the subject, but he capitulates and does as he’s told. He drops himself down onto the creaky vinyl and folds his hands in his lap. He desperately wants to reach out to hold Sid’s hand and stroke his hair, but he frets about disrupting the equipment.
Sid reads his mind. “You can hold my hand, y’know. I’d like you to.”
Sid turns his hand palm upwards on the bed, and smiles when their fingers entwine.
“I was worried,” Sullivan whispers.
“Everyone keeps sayin’ that!” Sid has the audacity to roll his eyes. “It’s nothing to worry about, honestly.”
“You—“ Sullivan has to take several steadying breaths before he works himself into a hysterical mess, “When we arrived at the scene of the crash this morning you told me there was nothing wrong. Then three hours later I get a phone call from Hercule Flambeau of all people telling me that you collapsed and were taken in to emergency surgery! That is categorically something to worry about!”
Sid thinks this over for a moment, before settling on giving Sullivan’s hand a reassuring squeeze. “S’pose you’re right. Well, it’s all over now, I’m much better. I’d be even more better if they’d let me leave this place and go ‘ome.”
“You are not going back to the caravan in this state!” Sullivan contests hotly.
“No, no, ‘course not the caravan,” Sid waves his hand vaguely in the air, dismissing the thought. “I mean the Presbytery, Montague, or yours.”
Sullivan’s heart skips a beat. Sid says things like that so casually, like it’s normal. Like it’s completely obvious that his tiny little cottage is somewhere that Sid considers a home.
“I doubt Mrs McCarthy or Lady Felicia would let me take you to the police cottage.”
Sid sighs over a chuckle. “You’re probably right. If it were up to me though I’d go wi’ you any day. The pair of ‘em would mither me half to death! I’m going to be in trouble for weeks,” His face betrays his true feelings, however, as he looks unbearably fond, “And anyway, what d’ya mean, in this state, there’s nothing wrong with me!”
Sullivan fixes Sid with a glare. “You had internal bleeding.”
“Yeah, but the doctors fixed that!”
“I really don’t think that’s how medicine works, Carter—”
“—You’re doing the Carter thing again,” Sid frowns petulantly, “I like it when you call me Sid.”
“Sorry, I just— I don’t know.“ Sullivan takes a deep breath and drops his forehead to their laced fingers.
“Hey,” Sid hums, petting clumsily at Sullivan’s hair. “’S ok. I understand. I’m sorry for worrying you.”
Sullivan sits up again a few moments later and nods, brushing away a stray tear that somehow slipped out.
Sid trails a finger along the underside of Sullivan’s jaw. “Handsome,” He says, softly to himself.
Sullivan goes shy, looking down at his lap with a bashful smile on his lips, “Just how many drugs have they given you?”
“Stop it! I keep telling you,” Sid snorts and playfully bats at him. “You are handsome. Prettiest man I’ve ever seen.”
“Pretty and handsome aren’t the same thing.”
“Don’t be finkt- fineck— fin—“
“Yes! Don’t be finicky.” Sid drops back against his pillows with a puff of air.
“Are you tired?” Sullivan asks, as he gives in to temptation and gently sweeps loose strands of hair from Sid’s forehead.
Sid nods, “Li’l bit.” His eyelids flutter closed for a moment.
“I’d better go home soon,” Sullivan swallows down the lump in his throat. “Nurse Prasad will throw me out if I’m here too long.”
“Don’t want you to go,” Sid whines, “There’s plenty of room for you up ‘ere.”
Sullivan eyes the hospital bed sceptically. “They seem pretty hopeful about your condition. They should let you out soon.”
“They’d bloody better do. I’m bored,” Sid grumbles, albeit a little sleepily now.
Sullivan reluctantly gets to his feet before fluffing the pillows on Sid’s bed. “Are you sure you’re warm enough?” He frets, pulling the blankets up and tucking them around Sid.
Sid gazes up at him, looking snug and comfortable, and Sullivan’s anxious heart settles a little.
“I’m toasty. Thank you, buttercup.” Sid whispers, already looking like he’s drifting off to sleep.
Sullivan melts. He sweeps his hand across Sid’s forehead one last time and bends to press a soft kiss to his lips.
The heart monitor trips and starts beeping a little more frantically than before.
Sid giggles delightedly as Sullivan blushes.
“Make sure you get a good night’s sleep, won’t you?” Sullivan says as he walks to the door.
“I will,” Sid says, snuggling down under his covers and yawning. “You’ll come back tomorrow won’t you?”
“Of course,” Sullivan whispers, “Good night, Sid.”
Outside Sid’s room is a row of uncomfortable looking plastic chairs.
Sullivan is unsurprised to see Lady Felicia sitting on one of them.
“You’re doing the night shift as well, I take it?” Sullivan says as he sits down beside her.
“Naturally,” says Felicia with a wry smile. “I had to fight both Mrs M and Father Brown for it, though,” She adds, before retrieving two steaming cups of tea from the chair beside her. “I presumed you would be keeping me company.”
She hands a cup over and Sullivan takes it with quiet thanks.
With that, they settle into a comfortable, understanding silence for the long night ahead.