This story has been rather a long time coming. I never planned on getting hooked on Holby, but Ange and Chloe's relationship is just so interesting, and I wish the writers would explore it more alongside throwing Dom into the mix. So I've been thinking about writing this for weeks, but I couldn't come up with a title at first. Originally, I wanted to pick a title from Scottish folk music, but I couldn't find anything that quite fitted. This story was actually very, very nearly called Auld Lang Syne, which you may be familiar with- Auld Lang Syne translates from traditional Scottish to 'once upon a time.' I then stumbled upon Karine Polwart's version of The Mother We Share, and it just works perfectly for Ange, Chloe and Dom. The original is by the Scottish band Chvrches, and it has that melancholy feel to it Scottish folk does, but it's definitely more mainstream. It's from Karine Polwart's Scottish Songbook, and you can find it on youtube if you want to listen. Absolutely optional, but it might help get you in the mood!
This is the first time I've tried to write anything for Holby, so reviews would be massively appreciated. Constructive criticism/suggestions/things you would like me to include also welcome!
Never took your side, never cursed your name
I keep my lips shut tight
Until you go.
And we've come as far as we're ever going to get,
Until you realise, that you should go.
The ventilator clicks loudly, methodically, bringing harsh, mechanical interruptions to the painful silence of the side room off the ED intensive care unit.
It feels as though it's been hours and hours, but it can't have been, he tells himself. He shudders, so caught between intently focused and completely and utterly zoned out, disassociated, thoroughly in shock and survival instinct kicking in, that he's lost all true sense of time, trapped in a living hell so far from anything he could possibly have imagined just a few short months ago, back when he was still an only child, back when he still had just the two parents, just the one mother, back when it was all so simple and this isn't happening, this can't be happening, not like this…
It can't have been hours that he's sat here, watching intently as all his hopes of a miraculous recovery his medical training tells him perfectly clearly won't come are crushed by the ventilator again and again, the lack of a struggle, the complete and utter dependency upon the machine.
It can't have been hours, because she isn't out of theatre yet.
She's still in theatre, still in blissful ignorance, and he's lost track of time completely in the moments he's spent trapped here in limbo but sooner or later she'll be finishing up, sooner or later someone will have to tell her, get her down here and her world will shatter, he knows it will, how could it not…
Have they done the right thing?
This is one of those situations, Dom considers numbly, one of those awful situations in which perhaps there isn't a 'right' thing at all, not really.
They were faced with two choices, after all, and neither of them were pretty.
They could have pulled her out of theatre, rushed in there armed with a back-up plan, someone, anyone, to take over and got her down here as soon as possible, but she would have been right at the crucial stage of her laparoscopic colon resection as it all unfolded and he'd thought about it, he really had, debated it with Essie and Sacha but in the end, they had decided that approach would only make it worse.
She would have panicked, then. She would have known it was serious, devastatingly so because why else would they pull her out of theatre, put her patient at risk like that? She would have panicked, but what if she hadn't immediately, what if they hadn't been able to persuade her out of theatre at first, acting upon minimal information besides their anxious instructions? They would have been forced to tell her the whole truth of it, and that would have ended in disaster; what if she hadn't focused during the theatre handover, what if something had gone horribly wrong? She would have had that hanging over her, too, held herself responsible, and what if…
What if they got it wrong? Dom panics. What if they got it all wrong... because they didn't count on this scenario, admittedly, not quite like this, not when they made their decision to say nothing for now, to attempt to manage it all themselves and fill her in post-surgery. What if there have been further developments by the time she finally makes it down from theatre, what if she's too late, what if it's all over and none of them can even offer her an explanation as to how it happened, not one that doesn't open a Pandora's box of questions, each more uncomfortable than the last?
What if she's already slipped away by then?
What if it's all too late?
He's out of his depth.
The still form lying in the hospital bed beside him is his own flesh and blood, and yet he doesn't have a clue how to handle it, how to help, how to do anything.
He should know. Instinctively, he should just know; isn't that supposed to be how it works? It should be as simple as his family need him, surely, no one should have to tell him but he should know, instinctively so, he should be able to handle this, hold things together until the third of their number finally makes it out of theatre and he can stand down a little, hand over responsibility and watch and learn, because this is his family, for god's sake.
This is his mother and his sister and it shouldn't matter that he hadn't even known they existed a few months ago. He should know what to do, he should just know, but all he can make sense of is the medical side, the desperate nature of this situation they're in now, the sats monitor reporting rock-bottom blood pressure, and they'll have to wait for the bloods to come back from phlebotomy to confirm it for definite but it's not as if they don't all already know exactly what this is.
Four in ten.
How can the odds be only four in ten?
He's only just found them. They've been in his life a mere matter of months and they've wasted most of that with one rift after another between them, he's barely had a chance to get to know them at all and if she slips away now…
If that happens, he'll lose them both.
Dom is almost certain of that.
Painfully, he lifts his gaze, glances back to the still form in the hospital bed beside him.
Can they survive this? Can the two of them left behind struggle on if she…
Except he isn't included in that, Dom decides, shakes himself furiously, all of a sudden suitably embarrassed and ashamed that he even dared imagine he was properly part of their little unit of two.
This isn't about him, not really. He can be there for them, try his hardest to pick up the pieces if she… if that should happen, but this isn't about him.
This is about Chloe and Ange, just the two of them, pure and simple. And yes, it hurts, but he has no right to dwell on that, Dom reminds himself, no right to feel pushed out, not in these circumstances.
They need each other. The two of them, Ange and Chloe, he can't… for all their disagreements over the last few months- his fault, most of it; he sees that now, but Dom doesn't particularly want to think about that, not when it could all end like this.
It can'tall end like this.
It just can't.
She'll be out of theatre any minute. She'll be out of theatre and blissfully unaware, she could have moments left before her world is turned upside down and he just wishes he could do something, anything, wishes it wasn't all so hopeless…
How did he miss it? How did they all miss it- hell, how did she miss it? She must have known. She's a surgeon, for god's sake, she's not stupid, she must have known what was happening to her, all it would have taken was a quiet word with one of them, any of them, weeks ago, a trip down to the ED after her shift, even, and all this could have been avoided, she would have been fine, right now she'd probably be operating herself and the world wouldn't be crashing down...
He knew something was wrong. He knew something was wrong and he was so concerned with maintaining the delicate, wings-of-a-butterfly-like strands of a blossoming relationship between the two of them again that he had pushed all his concerns to one side somewhat- those concerns, at least.
They've all been preoccupied with the wrong thing. They've all been so busy worrying over the obvious that they missed this entirely, should have pushed her harder, should have frogmarched her into a cubicle and dealt with it weeks ago, they should never, ever have allowed her to reach this point…
The door creaks open, and it's a slow, gentle movement, apologetic, almost, but still it catches Dom so completely by surprise after goodness knows how long of nothing, absolutely nothing but the sound of the ventilator masking the faint bleeping of the heartrate monitor that he jumps at first, momentarily startled, because she's just so still, because he's been watching her carefully for the last few minutes and she's just so horribly lifeless and pale and limp and hopeless, it's been all-too-easy to forget that the rest of the world has kept on turning.
Alicia Munroe from the ED stands in the doorway, smiles, compassionate, fights to hide her sympathy but it's written all over her face- and it's bad, Dom realises.
This has gone beyond now.
"Hey. We're still waiting for her wound secretion test," Alicia explains apologetically. "So no formal confirmation yet. But her bloods just came back and her kidney function is extremely low, which…
"Which explains the edema." Dom closes his eyes.
"Yes," Alicia agrees carefully. "Yes, it explains the rapid onset of the edema. So we're going to get her started on dialysis in the meantime, that should reduce the swelling relatively quickly."
Dom closes his eyes.
"I'd like to get her upstairs for a CT, once we've stabilised her. And I think we need to inform her next of kin at this point, given the…"
"She's in theatre, we thought about it earlier, before… before she went downhill, we thought it was best we wait until she finishes up before we…"
"No," Alicia tells him gently. "She's in Aberdeen. Her next of kin is down as a Peigi Godard…"
"Ange's mother," Dom says quietly.
He's never met her, of course. Peigi Godard is just a name brought up in a fragment of conversation, one night while Chloe was away in Iceland, back when they were getting to know each other at their own pace, relaxed, finding their way, back before it all went so horribly wrong.
He's never even seen a photo. She's his grandmother, she's going to be frantically booking a train ticket- maybe even a flight, come to think of it- can you fly from Aberdeen? This is his history, his roots, it's in him, and he doesn't even know if Aberdeen has an airport… is he even from Aberdeen? Is there any connection there at all- Ange clearly isn't, wrong accent, too harsh, too Glaswegian, but what about his grandmother? Did she grow up there, move back some years ago, was it a post-retirement relocation- is she even at that stage in her life? He knows nothing, doesn't even know how old she is, knows only a name, and Ange has hinted to him that her mother was practically his primary caregiver at times during those first six months before he was surrendered for adoption, but he doesn't know, not really.
Peigi Godard is going to be turning up in a total panic in the next few hours, summoned down to Holby with a call from the ED and she won't know him, he won't know her, Chloe and Ange will need her and where does that leave him? He'll be redundant, cast aside, not properly a part of their family unit and he really should leave them to it once he's no longer the only one who can be here but he doesn't know if he can bring himself to leave her, not like this.
She could still crash.
She could crash, and it could all be over in moments because while they've managed to resolve her breathing with the ventilator, if this is really what the ED team think it is, what all the signs are pointing towards…
They should have got her out of theatre. They've got it all wrong and they'll never be forgiven, he'll never be forgiven, shit…
"Okay," Alicia says gently, pulls him back to reality. "I think we need to call her. And yes, I know what you're going to say. But Peigi is her next of kin, she needs to be informed at this stage. We'll know more after the CT…"
"You're thinking she's at risk of a stroke, or liver…"
"It's something we have to consider given the state of her heart and her kidneys, yes. She's stabilising now, we'll know more after the CT and the wound secretion results. We'll keep monitoring her for the time being. It might help if you talk to her, Dom," Alicia tries. "She's not sedated, she's just on high levels of…"
"I…" Dom shuffles awkwardly, shakes his head. "I wouldn't know what to say. It's… it's complicated, I didn't even know I was adopted until a few months ago, and ever since then things have just been… her mum will be here soon, I don't know what I'm doing, really, I'm just staying with her until someone else can… her mum…"
"Okay," Alicia sighs softly. "Okay. If that's what you think is best. I'm going to book her in with CT, make a call to Peigi. I'll be back to reassess her later."
"Alicia?" Dom calls, as she moves towards the door. "Has there… do we have an update on the whole… the…"
He's hesitant to say his name, just in case Alicia is right.
"The… security situation," he forces out at last.
Alicia nods. "There are security guards all along this corridor, outside the ED entrances as well. He's not getting in here, Dom. She's safe. You're all safe."
He waits until Alicia is gone, door closed behind her, slowly, cautiously, reaches out for the still, pale hand resting downturned on the bedsheets, swollen, skin mottled, distorted, but even the lightest pressure leaves indentations in her wrist from the edema and he doesn't want to hurt her, lets go abruptly, drops her hand back down.
Dom isn't convinced she can hear him at all.
He watches her for a while but she's just too fragile, a pale, china doll they've all let down so badly, too busy worrying about everything else that they missed that they missed this right in front of them and it's only making it worse.
He almost can't bear to look at her when she's like this.
He gives up, pulls her notes from the stand at the foot of her bed, and perhaps it's prying, but he's a doctor, he's family, surely it isn't so bad? He works himself into a panic over her obs, over the bruising patterns, the ribs, the little things they all should have seen but didn't, tries and fails to make sense of the unpronounceable jumble of letters listed after her first name on the front of her notes beside her NHS number and her date of birth (Scots Gaelic? It has to be Scots Gaelic, surely; did he have one of those, once upon a time, was it lost to history with his new birth certificate post-adoption?), encounters the Crohn's Disease he hadn't known she had and the anxiety diagnosis he did but the ad hoc medication he didn't and suddenly it all feels like a horrible intrusion, throws her notes aside as though he's been burned, glances back across to her still face and if anything she just looks worse, closes his eyes, winces, can't get anything right and he doesn't know what to do, he just doesn't know what to do…
There's a sudden flurry of activity in the corridor outside, and then the door is pushed open with such force the whole room seems to shudder, and she's standing in the doorway, shell-shocked, face white, eyes red-rimmed, trembling, and she's not looking at him, not really, realised he's there but she's too focused on the fragile life in the hospital bed, just about clinging on, struggling desperately to process it all.
He doesn't know what to say.
He feels as though he should say something, but there are no words, nothing to make this better, nothing to take away the pain he knows she must be feeling, insurmountable, far more devastating than his, nothing he can say to even explain how this managed to happen while she was trapped in theatre, oblivious, and he should have been looking out for her but he just couldn't stop it…
She beats him to it.
Rooted to the spot, she shudders, panic and pain and desperation in her eyes, almost as though she can't bear to run to her, to accept that this is really happening, and suddenly, Dom feels redundant, because the answer was in front of him all along, the only word that needed to be said and she locates it, sums it all up because this is all that matters now, her universe shattered to pieces and nothing either of them can do to stop it.
"Chloe," Ange whispers.
It was always about Chloe.
Come in, misery, where you can seem as old as your omens,
And the mother we share
Will never keep your proud head from falling,
The way is long, but you can make it easy on me,
And the mother we share
Will never keep our cold heart from calling.
-The Mother We Share, Karine Polwart, Karine Polwart's Scottish Songbook.