Okay, so I wrote Casualty fic. Don't judge ;-) I mostly wrote it because I'm attempting to get a multi-fandom achievement on h/c bingo, and need at least five different fandoms to do it, and I don't actually write for very many fandoms and had run out of the regulars! Plus, the episode 'Born Lucky' was just made for Cal and Ethan-related angst.
Title: What We Do
Pairing/characters: Dr Caleb Knight, Charlie Fairhead
Warnings: Mostly just angst.
Spoilers: Multiple spoilers for 29.5 – Born Lucky
Disclaimer: Not mine. BBC owns them.
Word count: approx 1340
Summary: He had hesitated, and it had almost cost Ethan’s life.
AN: Fills the hc_bingo ‘Surgery’ square on my hurt/comfort bingo card.
AN2: Fic follows on from the end of episode 29.5 – Born Lucky. Thanks to clea2011 for the quick beta.
Cal stared down at his hands. They were still shaking and he couldn’t damn well stop it even if he tried.
He had frozen. The moment kept haunting him, invading his thoughts, even though it was hours since the paramedics had brought Ethan in to the ED. Cal had practically begged Connie to let him be the one to work on his brother, but then, when the moment of truth came, he had damn near bottled it.
Cal closed his eyes against the memory, but it didn’t help.
He knew it was more than likely just the exhaustion. It was almost eleven o’clock, and he had long since been thrown out of his brother’s room in ICU. Visiting hours were well and truly closed, and no amount of charming or sweet-talking the dragon nurses who guarded the department could get him access to his brother until they reopened the next morning. Seriously, where the hell did they get those nurses from? Cerberus, the multi-headed hound of hell would have been a less formidable obstacle!
Cal knew he ought to have gone home, but he had ended up drifting aimlessly until, to his surprise, he had found himself standing in the ED break room with no memory at all of how he had arrived there. Talk about homing instinct. So he had made himself a coffee which he had then failed to drink, and relived those moments in Resus over and over until all he could see was Ethan’s blood and Ethan’s broken body and all he could hear was the beeping of the heart monitor and all he could feel was his own stupid fear and panic in that second when he was holding a needle over his brother’s chest with the sudden and overwhelming knowledge that he could not do it.
His eyes snapped open and he looked up, but in truth he would know that voice anywhere.
He pasted a smile onto his face and clasped his hands together to hide the tremors.
Charlie offered him that patent reassuring smile of his, and came over to sit down next to Cal on the little sofa.
“You’re here late.”
Cal nodded. “Yes, I am.”
Nice to know Charlie was still as observant as ever.
Cal took a breath to organise his thoughts before he spoke. “Stable. Mostly out of danger. Still unconscious, last I saw.”
Strictly speaking it wasn’t. Ethan ought to have woken up by now. Then again, maybe he had, and the dragon nurses just hadn’t bothered to let Cal know.
“What about everyone else?” Cal asked. “How’s Ash? And Dixie?”
Charlie hesitated. “Ash is recovering well. Dixie... I don’t know.”
It was still sinking in that Jeff was actually dead. With everything that had been going on with Ethan, Cal had been slow to catch up on the news of the others who had been involved in the crash. From what he had heard, Jeff had been the one who was talking to Ethan while he was trapped in the wreckage, he had kept Ethan calm, and Jeff had got him out. And now Jeff was dead, and Cal would never get the chance to thank him for saving his baby brother.
“Cal, is there someone I can call for you?”
“No. I’ve already left two voicemail messages for Ethan’s father, but honestly, the guy is even more useless than my father. It’ll be a miracle if he even bothers to call back, let alone come to visit.”
“I wasn’t talking about calling someone for Ethan. I was talking about someone for you.”
The look on Charlie’s face told Cal that he wasn’t even remotely convinced.
“We deal with major trauma every day, but it’s always different when it’s our own who are hurt. Today was about a bad as it gets.”
If Charlie had a point, Cal wished he would just get to it and leave him the hell alone.
“Look, all I’m saying is that you and Ethan have got a lot of friends in the ED. If you need to talk, if you need someone to listen, if you just need someone to share a pint, there are any number of people who will be there for you. This is what we do.”
Cal nodded, but in truth the thought of talking about what had happened today was the very last thing he wanted. They had joked and given him the cupcake for officially having the worst day in the department, but that had been before they heard the news about Jeff. Now, Cal couldn’t stand the thought of everyone feeling sorry for him because he’d had a crap day, or telling him how great he was because he had saved his own little brother with his brilliant surgical skills. From what he had heard, Jeff had saved more lives today than he had. And as for who’d had the worst day, at least Ethan had survived; Dixie had lost her husband.
Cal felt like a bloody fraud.
“You did a good job today. You know that, right?”
Cal suddenly couldn’t look him in the eye.
“You could sound more convinced, you know?”
Cal wanted him to shut up. He wanted to be left alone. He didn’t want bloody Charlie Fairhead, who had been here pretty much forever and had seen everything and done everything and always knew how to deal with bloody everything to see him like this.
He stared at his hands again. He was still shaking, and now it wasn’t just his hands. He hated feeling like this. Hated it. He was always supremely confident in his skills; it was just one of the differences between him and Ethan. Cal knew he was good at what he did, knew he was calm in a crisis, knew that he was the man you wanted when lives were on the line. It made what had happened today in Resus even harder to deal with. He had hesitated, and it had almost cost Ethan’s life.
“Cal, you did a damn good job in a really bad situation. If anyone says differently they’re an idiot.”
“I almost didn’t. I almost couldn’t.”
Cal heard his voice crack and hated himself for admitting it. He hadn’t meant to say anything, but the words were out before he had even realised he was speaking.
He felt Charlie’s hand on his shoulder.
“But you did. You saved his life. Not that I would ever want to encourage this sibling rivalry between the two of you, but that’s got to be worth a few points in your favour the next time you’re at each other’s throats.”
A chuckle escaped before Cal could stop it, and he smiled for the first time in hours.
“That’s better,” Charlie said.
A thought occurred to Cal, and he frowned.
“Why are you still here? The shift finished hours ago.”
“The same reason you are. I was worried about a colleague.”
It took Cal a moment to work out what he meant.
“I’m fine,” Cal insisted.
Charlie stood up and squeezed his shoulder one last time.
“Course you are.” Charlie walked across the room and paused at the doorway. “When you stop being fine, remember what I said. This is what we do.”
Cal looked up and Charlie met his eyes with a knowing look. Cal finally nodded, and watched as Charlie left and closed the door behind him.
He took a deep breath and tried to convince himself he was really okay. He didn’t want to talk about it. He didn’t want to rehash the events of the day. He definitely didn’t want a bloody group hug.
But at the same time, right at that moment he suddenly knew he didn’t want to be alone.
Cal got up and all but ran to the door before he could talk himself out of it. He found Charlie leaning against the wall beside the door, an expectant look on his face.
“Charlie... about that pint?”