News had spread fast…

Sergeant Charlie Buckton had been shot at her home, 2 shots to the abdomen, condition critical….

The words from the radio announcer kept repeating in her head, shot and critical. The raven beauty was anxious to return to Summer Bay if only to catch a glimpse of her beloved Charlie once more. To apologize and say goodbye. Too much time had passed, over 2 years in fact since she left. Haunted still by the memories, Joey Collins cast them to one side as she headed back to the place she had once called home. Her thoughts were on one person only- Charlie.

….

In the hospital, anxiously waiting for any news were Ruby and Brax, both unaware of Joey's imminent arrival. Charlie had never discussed her previous relationships with Brax and he had never asked. Their sole focus was the vital signs on the monitor and the broken body that lay before them. Each of them in their own thoughts but united by a common force- the love for the one important woman in their life.

….

As Joey arrived at the hospital, familiar faces could be made out in the corridor just beyond. Discreetly she checked the nurses' station for Charlie's room and navigated towards it, eager to remain unnoticed. She slowed down as she saw a man exit the room, visibly upset. As she saw Leah and Alf approach him, she quickly ducked into Charlie's room, unprepared for the sight that lay before her. Tubes hanging out everywhere, the vital signs machine whirring quietly with the occasional beep and ruby. A broken young woman, completely devastated and broken by the sheer thought Charlie wouldn't make it.

As Joey sat down in the chair, Ruby didn't even acknowledge her presence until she placed her hand on her knee asking 'Rubes?' As Ruby looked up, she rubbed her eyes, honestly believing her eyes had played tricks on her and this was a dream. She looked again and blinked, wide eyed she replied 'Joey?'

In an instance she had wrapped her arms around Joey in a big hug, tears falling like a waterfall. She no longer had the strength to keep them in. So many questions had engulfed her brain but all she could say was 'This shouldn't be happening. It was to be Mum's last day at work. We were moving to the city….' Joey stepped in not realizing the context, 'Mum? What, When, How?'

Then it dawned on ruby, Joey's reaction, she didn't know. So many things had happened after Joey left, the discovery of being Charlie's daughter one of them. So Ruby began to tell Joey all the facts relating to their relationship. One would have thought Joey would have walked straight out but she stayed, her eyes filled with love and compassion for the woman she now understood. The attention and persistence relating to Joey's case was not just to do her job. Charlie was trying to get justice for a rape victim. She was trying to undo the damage of past pain. They had fallen in love in circumstances which neither of them could predict.

As Ruby came to the end of her story, Joey began one of her own, where she had been these past 2 and half years and why she had never returned despite promising to return after 3 months. A short distance away, at the nurses' station, Dr Sid Walker was checking the computer on the vital signs. There had been movement, previously unnoticed but now very evident. As he took a look through the window of the room in which Joey sat, his thoughts lay with one question "Why did this young lady trigger such a change in Charlie's vital signs?" Slowly he opened the door and closed it quietly; he didn't want to alert the others outside to the conversation that was to take place.

"Dr Walker!" Ruby exclaimed as he came to her side.

"Ruby, how are you going? Did you want something to eat or drink?"

Ruby looked at Sid quizzing, her mind confused. "No its ok but I would like to introduce you to someone." Looking at Joey, she went on "This is Joey, mum's girlfriend".

Sid looked at Joey smiling, and reached out his hand "Nice to meet you Joey".

Joey blushed. She was unprepared for introductions, even less so for the affiliation questions that were to surely arrive regarding her relationship with Charlie.

"Rubes, can I have a minute with Joey?" the doctor asked.

Ruby hesitated; she didn't want Joey to disappear again. Her eyes revealing her fear, Joey gently coaxed her out saying "it's ok Rubes, I'm not going anywhere. I want to see those beautiful blue eyes open up and until they do, you're stuck with me."

Ruby broke out a smile for the first time and giving Joey a hug and her mum a kiss with a few whispered words, she slid out of the room leaving the doctor and Joey staring at each other, neither sure what to say.

Sid broke the silence. "So… I wanted to talk to you about Charlie…." He began.

"We're exes… I left her over 2 years ago. I meant to return but my heart was broken and I couldn't do it." Joey stuttered.

"Joey, it's ok, I'm not here to quiz you on how you know Charlie. Quite the opposite in fact. I now understand why her results are the way they are…

"Wait… results… is she going to be ok?"

"Joey…." Sid began again, patting a chair for Joey to sit down "Joey since you entered this room I have compared Charlie's vital signs to what they were with everyone else who has come in. Honestly you are the only one who has triggered any major sign of improvements or change."

"I don't understand" Joey stuttered, her eyes fixed on Charlie, hoping for a sign of recognition of her presence.

"Joey, you're the only one that has made her heart beat and blood pressure rise. With you here, there are changes on the monitor that are only visible when you're talking. Joey, she's listening to you, Charlie can hear you. Every word is like food to her. Even Ruby doesn't have this effect. I don't know how to explain it except to say, the words of a lover, are etched forever in our minds. Their voice can never be forgotten, it is like a forgotten piece of music. You may not hear it for sometime but when you do, it brings you back to life."

By this time Joey had taken Charlie's hand, Sid's words repeating themselves over and over. All the memories, good and bad had returned. Tears threatened to overcome her. She wanted to say sorry. Sorry for not returning. Sorry for leaving in the first place. Sorry for being so harsh. Sorry for just not being there.

Sid could see Joey was breaking before his eyes. A comforting hand on her shoulder, he whispered, "Joey, keep talking to Charlie, your voice may be what brings her back. For that I know Ruby will be forever grateful. Perhaps, you may even find peace and solace again." With that he slipped out of the room to talk to Brax and Ruby and the others.

Joey kept talking, she told Charlie everything about where she had been, the travels she had undertaken, and the many changes in her life that were directly as a result of leaving Summer Bay. She apologized for everything she had done wrong. She wanted to take away Charlie's pain but most of all she wanted to look into the sea of blue and see a happy face. One that she would treasure for life if she were to get a second chance. The only thing she couldn't factor in was Brax. She didn't know of the plans which had been so abruptly stopped. For a moment she thought to herself she was being selfish but she realized, she had come back to Summer Bay for a reason. She was chasing a dream. She wanted to right the wrong she made in 2009.

….

Outside Ruby had pulled Brax aside and advised him of Joey's presence in Charlie's room and their relationship. She was hesitant of full disclosure, but if it meant a chance of her Mum making a full recovery, then she was prepared to take the gamble.

Brax was shocked but as he looked through the window, he realized he couldn't stop Joey being there. Charlie had found plenty to love in both of them so to deny her the right to a chance of survival would be unfair. Arguments and questions would have to wait as to the denial of the relationship. For now, it was essential for Joey to continue working her magic. His own heart was breaking as he watched Joey hold Charlie's hand, stroking it and kissing it like he had done himself so many times before. Could this woman be the one to take Charlie away? Could the universe have an alternate plan and reunite 2 former lovers?

Brax couldn't take it anymore, he had to get out. His heart was breaking; never before had he felt such love and compassion for a woman. As he walked out the hospital main door, he blocked out Ruby's crying out of his name, he blocked out the memories of him and Charlie. This was the final goodbye.

….

Alone in the hospital room with Charlie, Joey finally stood up and looked out the window. She could see Brax getting into his car, Ruby running after him. Looking out to sea, she let out a sigh as she remembered what had triggered her to leave Summer Bay all that time ago. Was it about to happen all over again? If Charlie woke up would she dismiss her and tell her to leave?

Her thoughts were broken by a shallow and raspy voice…

"Joey?"