Christmas Eve 2020
Sonia Fowler was finishing her twelve hour shift at Walford General on Christmas Eve. She couldn't wait to get home. Bex was home for the holidays and they'll be visiting her mother, Carol, tomorrow at Bianca's. Sonia was exhausted after twelve long hours of caring for those so much less fortunate than she. She waved good bye to her fellow nurses in the intensive care unit and headed towards the elevator passing by the patient rooms decorated for Christmas, when something stopped her. Room 143. The patient in room 143 had been in a coma for over two months. The patient was left for dead in a fire and was also found to have been bludgeoned in the head with an object. The patient was in bad shape. Some doctors think it's even a miracle that he survived at all and are unknown on what's to come if he wakes up. Sonia looked in the window to his room. Gauze covered his body to help his second degree burns heal. A breathing tube was in his mouth; his only lifeline to the world. The bruises around his eyes are now turning yellow, rather than remaining black and blue. For all the problems Sonia feels she has, she doesn't have it as bad as the patient in Room 143.
"Pardon?" Sonia asked, turning towards the voice.
"He hasn't had any visitors since they brought him in over two months," Faye replied. Faye was the biggest gossip of the nurses. She knows everything and anything about the doctors, nurses, patients. You name it, she knows it.
"Really? Not a one?" Sonia questioned.
"None. Poor lad. To be so close to death and not one visitor. I know he has a mother who is alive and some kids. Wouldn't you think they would be here? He must lead a very isolated life."
Sonia sighed and nodded. "Poor guy. No one should be alone in that state."
Faye hummed in agreement. "Night, Son. See you after Christmas!"
Sonia waved and exited to the elevators. Her mind was still full with thoughts of the patient in room 143. Faye was correct. No one should be alone in that state. She would hope that if she was ever on a ventilator with burns covering over fifty percent of her body, Bex would race home to be by her side. It will be Christmas Day tomorrow and no one will probably visit the man in room 143. The most blessed day of the year, as Dot would say. You should be with the ones you love on Christmas. The elevator dinged and Sonia exited the hospital and walked towards her car in the garage. Her thoughts were still only of the man alone in his hospital room. She knew it wasn't her place to fix this man's situation, but if she didn't do something, she would regret it for the rest of her life. Sonia arrived at her car, sat in the drivers seat, and pulled out her phone. She scrolled through her contacts searching for the name she knew she needed to call. The person she hasn't spoken to in a long time. But a person who would want to be there for the man in room 143. She pressed the number and listened to it ring twice before hearing, "Hello, Sonia. Long time."
"It's Ian. He needs you."
2 months ago….
"You killed my son!"
The Vic, empty besides Sharon and Ian, dressed up in Halloween decorations, had a spooky aura about it. Dark. Dismal. Twenty minutes before, Ian was on a high. It was his first big celebration in the Vic since becoming landlord. He needed it to be a success. He wanted to prove to the square, to his sons, to Phil, to Dotty, that he is the big man. He will come out on top.
Dotty. He has been able to convince Sharon that he did not kill Dennis ever since Dotty opened her mouth. He told Sharon that Dotty was just mad that he was the one who snitched on her selling drugs. Also, after buying Sharon the Vic and helping her with baby Albie, Sharon trusted him. She believed him over Dotty. All that changed tonight. Ian was hosting the party downstairs, when out of the corner of his eye he saw Dotty and Phil sneak upstairs. He turned a blind eye and focused on the party, which looked as if it was bringing in a huge profit. Twenty minutes later Sharon, accompanied by Phil and Dotty, stormed into the downstairs and Phil bellowed, "EVERYBODY OUT! PARTY'S OVER!"
"What?" Ian asked.
"Party's over, Ian. Now," Sharon grimly responded.
As the last of the punters were exiting, Phil turned to Sharon, "You want me to stay?"
Sharon shook her head. "No. I can handle this."
"Handle what, Sharon?" Ian, bewildered at what was happening, questioned.
Dotty smirked at Ian as she left and Phil's red face wouldn't stop glaring at Ian as he left the pub.
Ian ran his hands over his face. "Sharon, let me explain. Please!"
A red faced, tear stricken Sharon cried out, "No! There is nothing to explain! You killed him! He said it! I heard the voice message!"
"I locked him in the locker room before the boat was even going down! How was I supposed to foresee it crashing, which was Phil's fault I might add."
Sharon slammed her hand on the bar top. "You locked him in there. He never had the chance to get out! You took my baby away! And what-You thought letting me live with you, taking care of Albie, buying me the god damned Vic was going to make me brush aside the fact that you, Ian Beale, murdered my son!"
Ian groaned. "I would have done all of that even if what transpired with Dennis never happened! But I didn't kill him," Ian paused, "Not on purpose. Sharon, you are going to believe Dotty Cotton over me? Really?"
Sharon pulled out a shot glass, filled it with vodka, and downed it. "At least she told the truth. Something that can't be said of you!"
"If you would just let me explain what happened that night, please. Then, maybe you would see my side."
Sharon's eyes grew large and she scoffed. "Your side? Your side?! Ian, you murdered my son and then tried to cover up any way of me knowing! There is no your side!"
"I will tell you the whole truth! I swear! On my sons' lives."
Sharon laughed. "You never tell the truth Ian! And on your sons' lives? One son hates your guts and the other you are constantly distant with. So, please, save it."
"He had Bobby attacked, Sharon," Ian whispered.
"What? Who?" Sharon replied, surprisingly calm.
"Dennis. He was behind the Islamophobic attacks online. Because of those online campaigns that Bobby was a terrorist, thugs attacked him, Iqra, and Habiba the day of the boat crash," Ian relayed solemnly.
"Denny wouldn't do that."
"He did, Sharon."
Sharon shook her head. "No. No. Denny was a cheeky, stubborn, hard headed, little boy. He wouldn't do something like that."
"Dotty found it on his laptop in The Arches. She told Bex and Bex told me. I was so angry. Who would want to hurt my son?"
Sharon scoffed. "Who knew you would care about your son, the murderer of your daughter?"
Ian rolled his eyes. "He's still my son! I lost two kids already! No matter what, I wasn't going to lose a third."
Sharon poured herself a glass of vodka, ditching the shot glass. "So, let's say what you're saying is true. Not that I believe you, but hypothetically, let's say Denny was behind the attacks on Bobby. How did you go from being at Bobby's bedside to killing my son?"
"Bex called me from the boat. She said Dennis was there. All I saw was rage. I arrived on the boat and confronted Dennis. He was drunk, rude, and belligerent. I was so angry that he didn't understand that he almost had my son killed! I dragged him below deck to a locker room. I locked him in there and told him to sober up," Ian softly retold the details of the fateful night.
"Then what? What was your plan, Ian? Was it murder all along?" Sharon cried.
"I was going to keep him down there until the party was over. After the boat was docked, I would release him and take him to the hospital so he could see what he did. I wanted him to feel remorse, Sharon. That's all!"
"Then what," Sharon demanded.
"I was standing in the corner with Denise, Jack, and Max. Denise and I were talking about Bobby and Lucy. Suddenly, the boat shook. The captain came and told us all to evacuate because the boat would soon be sinking. I dashed from the party room. I arrived below deck and it was already halfway filled with water. I had the keys in my hand. I was going to open the door, get Dennis out, and all would be forgiven. The boat shook again and I dropped the keys and my glasses fell off," Ian relayed quietly.
"Then, what? You left him there?"
"For a second, I contemplated it," Ian embarrassingly whispered.
Sharon's eyes grew wide. "Ian!"
"I'm telling you the truth. For a second, I thought about leaving and getting out. The water was so high. I just wanted to get out. But then I heard him call out my name. I thought of you! I thought of Lucy. I didn't want you to go through what I did. So, I told him to count while I searched for something to smash the door in with. It took me a while, but I found a fire extinguisher and was able to break a hole through the door. Dennis apologized for Bobby and I knew he meant it. I heard a young you, Sharon. I didn't care anymore what he did to Bobby. I pulled him through the door and we both thought that the worst was over. But.." Ian replied, chocking up towards the end of the story.
"But what?" Sharon softy responded, knowing where the story was heading.
Ian wiped the tears forming in his eyes and cleared his throat. "We turned towards the exit and took a few steps in the water, but a second later we heard a loud noise, turned towards it, and a huge wave of water came towards us. I tried to hold onto him, Sharon! I tried to keep him with me. I did! One second I had him in my arms, the next I was waking up in a hospital bed with Mum next to me telling me Dennis didn't make it," Ian cried.
"It should have been you," Sharon uttered.
Ian nodded. "Yeah. I wish it was."
"I hate you, Ian Beale. I hate that you killed my son. I hate that you tried to hide it. You complain about how awful Phil is, well at least he took responsibility for the boat crash. You, you just hid what happened and hoped it would disappear. You disgust me," Sharon said with total venom in her voice.
"How did you find out?" Ian pondered as Sharon gathered her things behind the bar.
"Dotty. Dotty told Phil that you killed Dennis and that Dennis may have left a message somewhere other than The Arches. They came here and told me to check my phone. And lo and behold. My precious boy left me a message. He left me a message telling me about you locking him in a room."
Sharon walked towards the door about to leave, but turned around at the last second. "Enjoy the Vic for one last night, because come tomorrow, everything you own will be gone. You took away my world, I'm taking away yours, piece by piece," she said maliciously.
The Vic's door slammed behind her and Ian sat at the bar with his head in his hands. "How could everything go wrong?" Ian cried out to himself. He walked back behind the bar to pour himself a glass of whiskey, something to ease the pain. As he was downing his drink, he started to smell something smokey. As he turned to the back staircase to see where the smoke was coming from, he was hit from behind and everything went dark.
Christmas Day 2020
Kathy, Peter, and Bobby were sitting around the Christmas tree in No. 45 opening presents with the sound of carols playing on the radio in the background.
"Thanks, Nan! I love it!" Bobby exclaimed as he held up a new prayer rug.
"Habiba and Iqra helped me. I know you're not really supposed to be celebrating Christmas, so I thought what the heck! I'll mix the two!" Kathy replied with a chuckle, a signal to the brothers that their nan was on her way to being smashed after already downing four glasses of her "special" egg nog.
Peter smiled at Bobby's excitement over a piece of cloth. He may never fully forgive his younger brother for what he did to Lucy, after everything they found out about their dad these last couple months, the brothers formed a bond. Peter picked up a small box and handed it to Bobby. "Here, bruth. It's from me."
Bobby smiled and grabbed the box to unwrap. "New sunglasses! Thanks, Peter!"
"You need new ones to dance around the living room in, while wearing so much aftershave my nose hairs get burned off."
"Shut up!" Bobby laughed.
Kathy smiled at her grandsons. Finally, she thought. Finally, they are getting along. If anything good can come from what transpired around Halloween, Bobby and Peter being brothers again would be it.
"Nan, what time is the turkey ready?" Peter asked.
"Should be finished in a few minutes. Then, after our Christmas meal, we head over to the Vic. Sharon is re-opening it today after the fire," Kathy replied softly.
The house went silent. Any mention of the Halloween fire causes the Beales to tense up. None of them have visited Ian since they all found out about his role in Denny's death. "Do you think we should visit Dad today?" Bobby gently asked.
"No," Peter responded firmly.
Kathy shook her head quickly.
The oven beeped, breaking the awkward silence and Kathy got up from the sofa to take out their meal. But, before she even made it halfway to the kitchen, the back door opened loudly and a face the Beales never thought they would see again appeared in the kitchen doorway.
"Why did I have to hear from Sonia Fowler that Ian has been in a coma for two months and that no one has even visited him?" Jane Beale incredulously asked a shocked Beale family.