DISCLAIMER: Maca, Esther and the rest of the Hospital Central characters are the property of Telecinco. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILERS: Season 9, up to ep 9.08.

Long Way Home
By Indigo Star


Part 1


Chapter 1: "Are you leaving me?"

Maca didn't know how long she sat on the bench in the locker room, incapable of movement or thought, conscious only of a terrible feeling that the world she knew had somehow slipped out of her reach, leaving her stranded in a cold, empty place. And it was all her own fault.

Luckily there were no more children admitted that night, as she couldn't have dealt with any patients. It was a surprise to discover that she could still walk and talk, as though she was still alive and not just a hollow shell going through the motions of life. Somehow she made it to the end of her shift, and went home on the bike. She scarcely paid attention to the traffic on the busy streets, it seemed to belong to a different, living world, while she was surely now a ghost.

Home. The solitude that Maca had craved that morning now hung around her like a shroud. A noise from the kitchen startled her.

"Esther?" She ran towards the sound, her lover's name a magic charm to put things right again.


The kitchen was empty. Slowly, she walked through the rest of the flat, checking each room. All empty. Despair closed in around her and she sank to the floor. She couldn't save Jaime's life, despite all her training. Why even try to save her own? Maca heard strangled sobs tearing their way out of her chest through a place where her heart used to beat, and felt her face twisting with pain, as some dark corner of her mind watched this display of weakness with disgust. After some time, the sobs subsided, to be replaced by feverish shivering as Maca realised that she had absolutely no idea how to carry on a life that did not have Esther in it. Like a sleepwalker she stood up and returned to the kitchen to look for a bottle of brandy.

"Hi mum."

"Hello Esther, hey, no need to look pleased to see me!"

"I'm sorry, it's just been a really hard day at work. Mum, can I… Can I stay with you for a while?"

"Of course, dear, no need to ask! What time is your friend coming to pick you up?"

"Mum… she's not… she's not coming, okay, I'm not going back there."

"What's up sweetheart? You two had a falling out? Listen, you can talk to her tomorrow and sort it out, sleep on it and things will look different in the morning, right?"

"I don't think so, Mum, not this time, it's… it's just not working out, okay, the two of us sharing a flat…"

"Well, you can always find somewhere else. Then you'll be friends again, instead of flatmates, no? Listen, get yourself a cup of tea, I'm going to make up a bed for you."

"Mum, let me…"

"No. Tea, and a comfy seat. You look shattered."

"Thanks, mum."

Cup of tea in hand, Esther sank onto the leather sofa and looked around the light, airy living room, so different from the rich, warm colours at home. The sudden realisation that she would no longer be able to think of Maca's apartment as home was like a blow to the chest and she gasped in pain. No more evenings spent snuggled up on the couch together, no more falling asleep wrapped around her lover or waking up to her beautiful smile. Everything that made up for the daily stress of hospital life was gone. Esther forced herself to remember Maca's recent behaviour, how Maca had pushed her further and further away after Jaime's death, in order to control her sudden urge to pick up the phone and call Maca, just to hear her voice again. The strain of the last few weeks overwhelmed Esther and she put her head in her hands and wept.

Encarna sighed as she came back into the living room and saw her daughter hunched over, sobbing. There was obviously something Esther wasn't telling her, and by the look of things, there had to be a man involved somewhere. That was the problem with going out with beautiful girls, they always got their choice of men, and too bad if you were after the same one. Encarna knew her daughter was pretty, and her fiery personality was certainly attractive to some, but she also knew that next to a woman as effortlessly beautiful and elegant as Maca, most men would hardly notice Esther. Maybe it hadn't been such a good idea to encourage their friendship after all. She sat down beside Esther and put an arm around her heaving shoulders.

"Oh mum, I tried so hard, but she… she… wouldn't let me… oh, what am I going to do?" Esther choked out between sobs.

"Shh, sweetheart, whoever he is, if he can't appreciate you for who you are then he's not worth it."

"Mum, you don't know…" Her mother's sympathetic look was more than Esther could stand. Wiping her eyes on her sleeve, she stood up.

"I'm sorry, look, I'm just going to go to bed, okay, I'll… I'll be better in the morning."

"That's my girl. Goodnight, Esther."

"Goodnight, mum."

Esther walked down the hall, back to the bedroom she had slept in as a child, threw herself onto the bed and cried herself to sleep. Encarna sat there for a while, listening to Esther's heartbroken sobs, and decided that sooner or later she would get the full story out of her stubborn daughter.


Chapter 2: Fear of flying

Arriving at reception, Maca's face was as white as her coat and jeans.

"Have you seen Esther?"

Begoña, the junior nurse, rolled her eyes at the paediatrician's brusqueness.

"She's gone with Javier in the helicopter to get a donor kidney from another hospital."

"In a helicopter?" Maca raised an eyebrow in disbelief. It had taken Esther weeks to feel comfortable on the motorbike, and now she was in a helicopter?

Aime called her away to look at a patient before she could ask when Esther and Javier were due back. The morning passed in a blur of activity, a constant stream of patients with minor injuries keeping her so busy she barely had time to grab a coffee. Returning to reception to collect the results of a blood test, she saw Esther and Javier arriving with the kidneys. Her heart lurched at the sight of Esther grinning at Javier, his arm draped casually around her shoulders as he complimented her in front of everyone.

"What a brave girl! First time in a helicopter and she only threw up once! What's next, going to get your pilot's licence?"

"Silly," Esther grinned in reply. "No, next time I think I'll try something easy, like sky-diving maybe. Come on, let's get these along to theatre," she continued, walking past Maca without a glance.

Shocked, Maca pretended to consult her clipboard for a moment before she could face Teresa. She was surprised by the receptionist's look of sympathy, rather than the inquisitive expression she had expected to see.

"You know she probably didn't have lunch yet, I expect she's going to the canteen afterwards. It'll be quiet now the lunchtime rush is over," Teresa suggested.

"I have patients to see," Maca's reply was cold. How dare Teresa try to interfere in her life? And more to the point, why go to the canteen so that Esther could ignore her in front of yet more people? She walked slowly towards the cubicles to review the blood test results. They were negative, but that didn't mean that there wasn't something serious causing the small boy's fever and vomiting. Just then, Aime appeared.

"You got the blood tests for the boy in cubicle 4?"

"Yes, they're negative."

"Great, then we can discharge him."

"No, Aime, we need to send him for a scan."

"What for? He has no other symptoms, it's just a gastro."

"We don't know that for sure. What if it was your child?"

"Maca, it was my child, remember? When I brought Nuria in, she had the same symptoms, you did the tests, they were negative and you sent her home. She was fine!"

"But Aime…"

"No Maca, enough, we're discharging this patient now. That's an order."

A wave of dizziness rolled over Maca and she staggered slightly.

"Hey, are you okay?" Aime took her arm. "You look really pale. Have you eaten?"

"Not yet."

"Come on, I'm taking you to the canteen, you need to eat you know, or you'll be no help to the patients," he smiled.

The last thing Maca wanted was to be escorted to the canteen if Esther was in there having lunch. On the other hand, at least if she was with Aime then she would have company, it wouldn't matter so much if Esther blanked her again. And Aime was totally oblivious to that sort of thing anyway. If she could just get him talking about something work-related he would sit there with her for hours.

Her heart sank as they entered an almost deserted canteen. At the back table sat Teresa and Esther, deep in conversation. At least Esther had her back to Maca, but without a doubt Teresa would tell her who had just come in. Aime gestured to a seat in front of the fridge, and passed over some fruit and a cake.

"Just eat something before you have a coffee, okay? Otherwise you won't have any appetite. Right, I've got some patients to take care of, I'll see you later."

Abandoned, Maca stared at the food in front of her as if by willpower alone she could transform it into something she wanted to eat. When that failed, she poured herself a cup of coffee and forced herself to eat a banana, each soft mouthful an effort to swallow as her throat felt so constricted. The click of high-heeled shoes on the linoleum floor warned her that Teresa was leaving, presumably in a tactful attempt to allow Esther to speak to her privately. Looking over, she could see Esther's shoulders hunched up and for a moment contemplated going over to ease her tension with a massage as she had done so often in the past. She wanted so badly to be close to her again, to touch her smooth skin and feel the warmth of her embrace, and as Esther pushed her chair back and began slowly walking towards her, she knew that Esther felt the same.


Chapter 3: Back to square one

Maca's warm smile froze as Esther drew near. Esther's face was hard and closed, a gathering storm in her dark eyes the only trace of emotion.

"I need to speak to you, Maca."

"Well, have a seat, I don't bite."

"No." Esther folded her arms. "I need to pick up my stuff from your place. I'm going to go over this afternoon when my shift ends. I'll give you the keys back tomorrow."

"Esther, please. Don't you want to wait a bit? We could have a drink tonight, talk things over…?"

"We've had weeks to 'talk things over', Maca. I tried talking to you. So many times. But you weren't interested. So don't bother now."

The harsh words hit Maca like a slap in the face and she sat there speechless as Esther turned and left the canteen. She hadn't realised how angry Esther was. Yesterday she had seemed sad and subdued as she told Maca that she was leaving, but today she was furious. Maca sighed as she remembered how she had treated Esther the previous day, brutally dismissing her romantic offer of a trip to Paris without the slightest consideration for her feelings. It was only later in the day, when she had spoken to a woman who had lost her husband in a car accident just days before their tenth anniversary, that she realised what Esther was offering her. It wasn't just a weekend away together, but the promise of a whole life together, helping each other through whatever problems came their way.

She had gone looking for Esther straight away, to try to reconnect with her, but by then it was too late. She had succeeded in driving Esther away. Maca felt tears well up as she imagined how hurt Esther must have been by her behaviour in recent weeks. No wonder she was angry now. There was only one thing Maca could do. She would have to get home while Esther was still packing her things, and somehow find the right words to make Esther forgive her. Newly energised, she left the canteen to go and find someone she could persuade to cover the end of her shift.

Hector drove a hard bargain – she was going to have to cover his next Saturday shift, and on top of that, she was sure that despite his protests, he was secretly relieved to have an excuse not to have dinner with the Davila family that night. At least he had promised not to divulge the real reason she was leaving early, as the last thing she wanted was to have her and Esther's business made any more public than it already was. Handing in her clipboard, she hurried to the exit, aware of Teresa and Rusti's eyes on her and hoping that for once they would show some discretion, at least for Esther's sake.

She fought her way through the traffic, desperate to get home before Esther left, and raced up the stairs to her apartment.

"Esther! Esther!" Out of breath, her heart pounding, she moved through the flat. From the bedroom came the sound of drawers being yanked open and slammed shut. Esther was stuffing items into a large holdall, and looked up at Maca, eyes blazing.

"What? You couldn't even let me pack up my things in peace?" she spat.

"Esther, darling, wait, please, I'm sorry," Maca stumbled over her words. "Please, just a few minutes to talk? Please, sweetheart?"

"Don't call me that! And I already told you, it's too late for talking now. It's over, Maca. Don't you get it?"

"No, it doesn't have to be over, Esther, listen to me, just listen a minute."

Esther clutched the holdall in front of her like a shield. "What do you think you could possibly say to me that I would be interested in hearing?"

"That I'm sorry? That I love you, Esther, I want to spend my life with you… I've been such a fool, I know I've been a nightmare to live with these last few weeks but I can change that… I've missed you so much, I can't sleep without you…"

"You missed me because you couldn't sleep without me?" Esther's voice rose in scorn. "What am I, just some security blanket for you?" Her dark eyes flashed with anger.

"No, Esther, that's not what I said!" Maca couldn't help rolling her eyes in frustration at how badly this was going. "You know that's not what I meant…"

"Oh and now you think you can patronise me too? Do you really think I'm that stupid? That I should be so grateful to be with you that I should put up with whatever shitty arrogant way you decide to treat me?"

"No Esther, I'm sorry, that's not what I meant, I don't think you're stupid. Please, put that bag down a minute, let's just sit and talk, sweetheart," Maca suggested, keeping her voice low and calm as though she were talking to an upset patient. "Come on, let's sit down for a minute."

She reached out to Esther, and ran a hand down her arm in a gentle caress. Esther flinched as if burned by the touch.

"Take your hands off me." Esther's voice was harsh with pain. It was hard enough arguing with Maca, knowing that the beautiful paediatrician no longer really loved her, no matter what she claimed. Maca's warm hand on her skin was more temptation than she could stand. It would be so easy to give in, to drop the bag and fall into Maca's arms where an embrace would lead to a kiss, and before she knew it they would be falling into bed… and she would wake up the next morning back to square one, with a lover who only looked for someone to comfort her through bad dreams in the night, and would wake up a distant stranger in the morning, giving nothing in return. Esther forced herself to remember the cold, arrogant Maca of recent weeks, the woman who barely spoke to her without sneering and rejected every loving gesture. She stood up straight and met Maca's gaze.

"I'm leaving now. If all you need is a warm body in your bed at night, why don't you ask around. I'm sure there'll be plenty of volunteers."

Maca's eyes widened in shock, her mouth opened but she could find no words to reply. Esther stepped around her and quietly left the flat. It was only as she crossed the street that she realised tears were streaming down her face.

Part 2

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