Disclaimer: Doc Martin, the program and characters are the property of Buffalo Pictures.

CHAPTER THIRTY FOUR

Forgiveness

Early the next morning there was a knock on Louisa and Martin's front door. Louisa opened the door to see a middle aged woman carrying a medical bag.

"Hi, you must be Dr Ellingham's wife. I'm Helena the locum, I've been asked to call in first thing this morning before surgery."

"Yes that's right, I'm Louisa. Come on in Helena, I'll take you up to him."

Going into their room Louisa said, "Martin, this is Helena. She's filling in for you while you're sick."

With the introductions over, Louisa left Helena with Martin while she went downstairs. Something had been worrying her for a week or so and she wanted to discuss it with Helena when Martin wasn't present. She didn't have to wait long for her opportunity. Obviously Helena's meeting with Martin was short and to the point, as was to be expected when it came to Martin. As Helena made her way downstairs Louisa asked her if she had a few moments to spare and then proceeded to discuss her situation with her. Helena nodded and said that it wouldn't be a problem, as she would be coming back that evening to check on Dr Ellingham anyway. Greatly relieved Louisa smiled at her and walked with her to the door.

Unlike Louisa, Chris hadn't had a good start to the day. The previous night he'd slept as soon as his head hit his pillow but woke still feeling tired, however he made his way into Truro to work. He was hoping for a nice straight forward morning so that he could reach Elizabeth's house fairly early and have the whole afternoon to spend with her, and to finally get a few things sorted out. However fate seemed to be conspiring against him as complications ensued with his scheduled operation that morning and he didn't reach Elizabeth's house until 2 pm.

Sitting down, Chris ate a lovely lunch and sat back to listen to Elizabeth telling him of her week. Her soothing voice combined with his tired mind and body soon had him fast asleep in his chair.

Fortunately Elizabeth was aware of the busy time that he'd had recently so didn't take offence when he fell asleep. Instead she covered him with a light blanket and turned off the light to leave him to nap in peace. Chris eventually woke at 4:00 pm and decided that now was not the best time to get into any detailed discussions as he wanted to get back to Portwenn before it got too dark so he could check up on Martin.

Thanking Elizabeth for lunch and apologising for falling asleep on her, Chris kissed her goodbye and was soon on the road to home. After parking his car he began walking across the road, planning to go and knock on Louisa's door. While still crossing the road he saw Louisa opening the door to allow a middle aged lady to leave.

"Thanks for checking up on him Helena, and for that other thing too" Louisa said.

"No problems Louisa, I'm glad I was able to help. Let me know if you need anything else won't you?"

"I certainly will, thank you so much, bye for now."

Louisa was about to close the door when she saw Chris approaching. "Hi Chris, have you come to see Martin?"

"I was just wondering how he's going? Is he feeling any better?"

"He's quite a bit better today, that was the locum that you saw leaving when you arrived. She's checked on him and thinks he's still a fair way off being totally well, but he is making good progress since that horrible first night."

"That's good to hear"

"So, did you talk to Elizabeth like you said you were going to?" Louisa asked.

"I had every intention of doing so but my operation took longer than planned today, and I was so tired when I got to Elizabeth's I ended up falling asleep for two hours and then it was time to go home. I'll try again on Wednesday, I promise" Chris said.

"OK, just make sure you do. Come on up and see Martin" Louisa said as she headed towards the stairs, putting a small package that she'd been holding, down on the hallway table as she went.

"Martin, Chris is here to see you."

"Martin was sitting up trying to get some reading done, but was finding it too difficult to do for more than a few minutes at a time".

"How are you feeling today, any better?" Chris asked.

"Quite a bit better, but now that I don't need to sleep all of the time I'm getting a bit fed up. I can't read for long as my eyes and head hurt, and the TV is too loud, and I'm pretty sure that I'm driving Louisa crazy" Martin said.

Looking at what Martin was trying to read Chris said "Would you like me to read some medical articles to you. I haven't caught up on this edition yet myself, so we'll be killing two birds with one stone so to speak."

"That would be good. Louisa has tried reading to me, but she's unfamiliar with the terminology and I can see she finds it boring."

Chris picked up the medical journal, turned to the page that Martin had been on and started to read. They were both quite engrossed in the articles and spent some time after each one discussing what they'd just read, it felt like no time before the complete journal had been finished.

Looking at his watch Chris saw that it was now quite late and said that he really should be getting back home.

"I enjoyed our medical discussion Martin, would you like me to come over and read some more to you tomorrow? I must admit it's good to have someone to discuss the articles with, and as I said I needed to catch up on my reading anyway."

"That would be good Dad, thanks" Martin said. Not realising that he'd called Chris Dad once again.

Louisa hearing Chris saying his goodbyes to Martin came in and walked him to the door. "Thanks for reading to him Chris, he's been bored stiff all day, and I've been finding it hard to find things for him to do."

"No problem Louisa as I said to Martin, I enjoyed myself and I needed to catch up on those articles anyway so it was actually good to have someone to discuss them with. I've promised to come over again tomorrow to read some more. It's amazing how much more you pick up from these things when you have someone to talk them over with."

Waving goodbye Chris headed home and Louisa locked up, then picking up her parcel from the hall table headed upstairs.

The following morning, Chris was as good as his word and came over with a pile of medical journals and sat down next to Martin and started reading. While the men were occupied, Louisa went next door and played with Phil for a while. He had been enjoying his holiday with Grandma and Grandpa but now that Martin was feeling so much better Phil was able to visit Martin during the day, even though he was still spending the night at Joan's. Louisa and Martin didn't need Phil trying to get into their bed in the middle of the night while Martin was still infectious.

At lunch time, everyone went back to Louisa's house. Joan had made a lovely lunch and Louisa carried it over while Joan held Phil's hand. When they got inside Phil raced upstairs to see Martin.

"Daddy, Daddy guess what? I've been on holiday at Grandma and Grandpa's." When he got to the bed Phil stopped and then stared at Martin and then Chris. "Daddy, your face is all hairy like Dochris', and you both look the same now. Why is your face hairy Daddy?"

"Daddy hasn't been well so hasn't been able to shave, and that means his face has got all hairy like Dochris' " Louisa explained.

"Don't you get sick Mummy, you'd look horrible all hairy like Daddy and Dochris" Phil said.

"Don't worry Phil, I won't get all hairy like Daddy and Dochris, even if I should get sick" Louisa said. "It's only Daddies who get hairy."

"That's OK then" said Phil, still unsure about Martin's new look.

"Dochris, will you play with me?" Phil asked.

"That would be great fun Phil, but I've been playing with Daddy" Chris said. "I've been reading him stories while he's been too sick to read to himself."

"Oh, OK" Phil said. "I know, I've got a great idea" he said as he raced off.

While he was away, Martin and Chris began to eat their sandwiches. It wasn't long until Phil returned with a pile of books.

"Now you can read stories to both of us Dochris" Phil said as he dropped the pile of books onto Chris' lap and then climbed up onto the bed and cuddled up with Martin.

"Do you feel like a change in reading material Martin?" Chris said laughingly.

"It looks like the decision has been made already" Martin said with a slight smile as Chris began to read stories from "Thomas the Tank Engine."

Chris' voice was quite soothing, and soon both Martin and Phil had fallen asleep in the middle of Thomas being cheeky to Gordon the express engine.

While Chris had been reading to Martin and Phil, Louisa had snuck off to get her camera and managed to get the whole thing on video, along with some photos. This would be just the thing for Phil's 21st birthday party she thought.

Chris by this stage was starting to lose his voice so decided to head home and get a few things done, and maybe have a nap himself. Joan, tired from all of the babysitting went home for a nap too. Louisa joined her men on the bed, dozing for a couple of hours before waking up to get a meal for them all.

Later that night having bathed Phil and taken him back next door, she came back upstairs and mentioned to Martin what she had been discussing with Helena the locum. Martin agreed that she'd done the right thing and that it was time. Martin then pulled her to him for a cuddle while being careful not to breathe on her.

Wednesday dawned bright and clear. Martin woke feeling significantly better and was even able to get up and get dressed and to spend the day downstairs. Next door Chris headed off to work, hoping for a better day than Monday had been, and in fact things were going really well for Chris for most of the day. His operation went smoothly and he got to Elizabeth's early. They enjoyed a lovely lunch and they'd even been able to discuss their relationship.

"So you see Elizabeth, I really value your friendship, it means everything to me, but I'm finding that I'm thinking of very little else but you now a days. As you know, I'm only just starting to get back on track financially, and my scarring is not something that I could ask anyone to have to live with on a daily basis, and my track record with relationships is pitiful, yet you know all of this and still seem to like me. What I'd like to know is do you think there could be any future for us down the track when I'm better able to support you as you deserve to be supported, and do you think you could stomach living with someone as disfigured as me?" Chris asked, expecting Elizabeth to now let him down lightly.

"Chris, first of all this is the 21st century, who said that you need to support me? If we're broke we'll work on the problem together, and if I found you hideous and couldn't stomach looking at you, would we be here today? Of course I can see a future for us; I've just been waiting for you to get a move on. In fact I was going to take matters into my own hands on Valentines Day if you hadn't said anything." Elizabeth replied.

Chris, not believing his luck bent over to kiss her when his phone rang. He went to turn it off then noticed that it was Margaret calling.

I'm sorry Elizabeth, this is Margaret calling I dread to think what she wants of me now, but I need to take this to see what she's up to.

"Margaret, what do you want?" Chris asked abruptly as he answered his mobile. "Uh huh, what! No you can't do that. I won't let you. Don't you dare! Chris stared at his phone with utter dislike as he said to Elizabeth. Sorry, I need to get home as quickly as possible. Margaret's boyfriend has left her for a younger woman and Margaret is in Truro right now. She said that she is heading off to Portwenn now. She won't tell me what for, but it doesn't take much to realise that she's going to go to Martin and try to sponge money from him and Louisa. I can't let her upset him again, especially after she told me what she had actually said to him before she left for Portugal. It's horrible to think that I spent all of those years married to her, and that I was just as bad."

"No time for recriminations now Chris, Let's get in your car. I'm coming with you." Elizabeth said as she grabbed her bag and quickly locked the house up behind them.

Chris didn't think he'd ever made the trip that fast before, but was soon entering the village just as school was getting out. Quickly he parked the car when he saw Joan and Phil leaving the school.

"Joan wait, I need to tell you something" Chris said to her as he limped at speed to catch up with her. Joan momentarily distracted let go of Phil's hand. Phil seeing his friend on the other side of the road quickly started to cross over so that he could see his friend's toy train again. Phil was in the middle of the road when Chris saw a small car coming along far too fast. Before he could think what he was doing, Chris raced into the road and threw Phil clear of the car, then tried to get across himself. The car attempted to brake but was going too fast and knocked Chris flying into the gutter.

"Chris! Elizabeth screamed as she ran to him. Joan looked at the driver and couldn't believe what she saw. Margaret was behind the wheel and getting ready to back the car away. Fortunately she was thwarted by Bert Large's restaurant van that had driven up behind her. Bert had been about to drop off a food delivery to the restaurant when he saw the accident occur. Always liking to be amongst the action he drove up to see what was what and inadvertently blocked Margaret's car off before she could get too far.

Penhale was actually in the right place at the right time for a change as he'd been giving a talk on stranger danger at the school and was able to arrest Margaret for attempted hit and run, and for speeding in a school zone.

Joan in the meantime had called Louisa's mobile and then Martin's followed by the surgery. The locum was currently on a house call but it wasn't long before Martin arrived a little bit the worse for wear, but functioning.

Running to his father with his heart in his mouth, Martin called out "Dad, Dad!" but Chris just laid there unresponsive. Asking Joan to call an ambulance he checked to make sure that Chris was breathing. When he noticed with relief that he had a strong pulse and was breathing regularly he ran several other cursory checks. "He appears to be concussed Elizabeth. Stay with him and keep talking to him". Louisa by this stage had come running out from the school and gathered Phil to her. Martin went to Louisa and said, "When the ambulance gets here I think it's best if Elizabeth and I go in with Dad. Can you drive Joan and Phil up in my car and organise to leave Phil with Clare while we're at the hospital?"

"Yes, that's a good idea, I'm sure she'd help out" Louisa said as she quickly dialled Clare's number.

The ambulance could be heard in the distance by this time, "Get out of the way, can't you hear that an ambulance is trying to get through you rubber necking ghouls" Martin said to the villagers, dispersing them more rapidly than Penhale had been able to do. Martin spoke to the ambulance officers as they loaded Chris inside, then helped Elizabeth up, then got in himself.

Louisa gathered the rest of the family into Martin's car and followed the ambulance into Truro, making a slight diversion to drop Phil off at the Stone's house.

When Joan and Louisa arrived, Martin met them in the waiting room. They're running some tests now but from what I could see Dad has concussion. How bad his condition is, we're yet to find out. Martin led them to where Elizabeth was seated. "It was Margaret, she was coming to Portwenn to cause problems, and Chris raced back to stop her as he didn't want you to have to worry about your Mother. It was her that ran him over as he pushed Phil to safety. If she had hit Phil at that speed…." Elizabeth shuddered and then broke into loud rasping sobs. "Things were going so well too, we were just sorting some things out when the phone rang, and now who know how badly he's been injured" Elizabeth sobbed even louder.

Joan put her arms around her and hugged her tightly. They all sat with their own thoughts wondering what was going on when Jeff came out to meet them.

"When I saw that it was Chris that was injured I followed him around while he had all of his tests and said I'd come to speak to you. Basically there's good news and bad news I'm afraid, he said putting his arm around his Mum's shoulders. Chris does not appear to have broken any bones, but he is badly concussed and he has sprained his left wrist. We have been unable to find any structural damage to the brain tissue and expect a full recovery in the near future. He is however still unconscious at the moment and is only allowed one visitor at a time. Who wants to go first?" Jeff asked.

"I do, Elizabeth said" as Jeff showed her to Chris' room. Sitting down next to the bed Elizabeth held Chris' hand and said "You were so brave today Chris. We're all here at the hospital worrying about you, you have a family now Chris, and we all care. Get well soon my dear" Elizabeth kissed him softly, squeezed his hand and sat with him.

"He saved Phil's life today Martin" Louisa said holding Martin tightly to her and tucking her head under his chin. "Yes" Martin said, shuddering at the thought of how close his son had come to being run over by Margaret. He couldn't bring himself to even think of her as his mother, as far as he was concerned Joan was the only one who had earned that title.

"I think after Chris' heroics today that your Dad has earned your forgiveness don't you?" Louisa asked.

"Yes I think so. When it's my turn to visit I'll tell him. Did you want me to tell him everything while I'm there, it may help to bring him out of it?"

"Yes, please do. I think he's earned that at the very least don't you?"

"Yes, I think so too".

Half an hour later, Elizabeth came out of Chris' room. "I think he'd like to have you visit with him for a while too Martin, but I'd like to go back again later if you don't mind?"

"I don't mind Elizabeth, I'll come and collect you when I've had my visit" Martin replied.

Walking into Chris' room, Martin noticed how old and frail his father was beginning to look, it was as if some vital spark was missing.

"Ahh, emmm Dad" Martin began. "Thank you for saving Phil today, we are all in your debt. I thought I should also let you know that I forgive you. You were a pitiful excuse for a father when I was young, but I hope that now the years have passed we can learn to be family again. Chris began to stir slightly, I also wanted you to be the first to know that Louisa is pregnant and you're going to be a grandfather again, but that's still a secret as we're still to tell the rest of the family. You will have to start Training Phil to say Granddad and not Dochris too, mind you it is a catchy name".

There was a definite twitching, he was sure of it. Chris opened his mouth and said, thank you son, I love you. Then for Chris, all was black once more.