DISCLAIMER: These characters are property of Southern Star Entertainment and Channel 7. No copyright infringement intended. No ownership claimed.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILERS: Occurs towards the end of series 8.
You're not as tough as you think you are. Really, you like to believe you've got thick skin. But Addy was much butcher than you could ever be. Even with her Home and Away looks and impossibly girly blonde hair.
You don't know when you developed such a mean streak. Was it all the way back when Bron broke your heart? Was it when you broke Vincent's? Was it when your sister threw insults at you, and your parents, giving you that look. You know the one pitying glances, turned-up lips, narrowed eyes. Who the hell were you, and what had you done with their perfect little married daughter?
Lesbian, Mum. I'm a lesbian. It wasn't so hard to say it; the hardest part was the aftermath.
That's when you decided you didn't give a damn what other people thought. Let them snigger and whisper Poor Vincent, turned his wife gay, did he?. Screw them. Screw everybody and their crippling, narrow little world.
But despite your grandstanding and your stubbornness, you know you're not tough at all. You know this because it never takes much to topple you over into despair. You have a short temper, and a low tolerance for bullshit. And when you fall in love, you do it so sharply and awkwardly, it almost doesn't seem worth it.
You don't know how many people can see through you. Vincent would, if you let him get close enough to catch your fake smiles. Bron could, but she just used you, anyway. Grabbed you by the pulse point, and threw you out stumbling into the world, knowing too well what you were missing out on, without her.
Poor Charlotte. Sometimes, when you're in one of those moods where you're thinking too hard about things you can't change, you start wondering if you will ever get that woman out of your head.
It gets worse when she appears, unwanted, in the Emergency Department. It's a slow day, where you just can't seem to get stuck into the rhythm of the place. And at first you think she's jumped out of your daydream, and is floating around in 3D just to torture you further.
She comes to the window, and looks through to where you're standing. Stunned deer in headlights it's a great look on you.
"Is Von around?" Something in her expression changes when she notices you gaping at her. "Charlotte?"
Jess gets to her first. "I'm sorry Miss; you have to get in line with everybody else."
You immediately march to the automatic doors, and let her sneak through. Jess is at your heels.
"Are you nuts? We've got people out there with serious injuries." She narrows her eyes at Bron. "You don't look sick."
"She's fine " then you falter. "God, you are fine, aren't you? I mean "
She smiles. "Hi, Charlotte."
You wish you weren't blushing. "Hi."
Then a look of recognition crosses Jess's face, she glances at both of you with distaste.
"I was kinda after Von " Bron manages to smile at the irritated nurse. "She left me a message?" Then she stares back at you again, but you can't cope, looking at her too closely.
"Jess," you snap. "Go see if you can find her, ok?"
"Great," Jess throws her hands up, then mutters. "Just a bloody messenger, am I?"
"Now?" you say, sharply. Jess storms off, grumbling.
Bron chuckles, startling you, "They still make idiot nurses, even down in Emergency?"
You glance at her, then stare down at the backs of your hands. "She seems worse than she really is." Then you tilt your head and smile. "Come on, I'll show you where we keep the disgusting instant coffee."
Bron laughs, and claps her hands. "Oh, you know what I like."
You're stirring coffee you have no intention of drinking, and Bron is sitting next to you, doing the same. You really should be back there, performing a thousand medical miracles. But you're afraid that if you go, Bron will dissolve into nothing before you can get back to her.
"So, Beaumont. What's it like, in the mad underbelly of the hospital?" She's trying to be witty, but the amusement isn't reaching her eyes.
You shrug. "Mad, but normal. I've almost forgotten what it was like, working up on the wards." Almost.
There's so much you want to ask her, but you're anything but a brave person. "So, Von called you, then?" How did Von get her number? You almost started believing she'd changed it, just to avoid you.
Bron sips her drink, but doesn't seem to swallow. "Well, I called her, really. Terri left some stuff at her old flat. Wanted me to get it."
You hesitate. Terri? You give her a weird look. You're probably glaring. "Why the hell are you in Sydney, Bron?"
She sighs, and puts her cup on the floor. "I'm going to visit Terri."
"In Scotland?" You splutter.
"She thinks I could use a break. So, I dug into my savings. You know they get snow, up there? Can you imagine what Christmas is like?"
"I don't care about Scotland," you mutter. "What about your husband?"
Bron shrugs, and looks into the doorway, as if she's waiting for something to save her.
"He's gone. I mean, we're on a break," She sighs. "Indefinitely."
You have to stand up. No, you can't. Your legs don't want to support you, right now.
"Look, Von said you had today off," she says, quietly, staring at her hands.
"Well, obviously I took another shift," you glare at her. "Bron, what the hell's going on?"
Bron's expression floods with relief, when she notices something at the door.
"Hi, Von," she glances back at you, and then looks at Von, gratefully. "I was just waiting."
Von gives you a weary look. "Charlotte ." She appears to grasp the importance of the moment she's just interrupted.
You get to your feet, shakily, and maybe you're glaring at them both - you definitely look coldly at Bron. She appears mortified, when you let out a small laugh.
"God." You drink down your luke-warm coffee. "You're such a bloody coward."
It isn't enough to have known her for the amount of time you did. And it really isn't worth a damn, seeing her for five minutes between patients, when you had no time to prepare yourself.
You spend a good ten minutes in the bathroom, just breathing deeply with your head tilted towards the sink. You're not going to throw up. You're not that pathetic. You splash water on your face, and then spend the rest of your energy fixing your ruined make-up.
Please, Beaumont. Stop being so melodramatic.
You stride into the corridor, careful not to meet anyone's gaze too directly. You push yourself through the rest of the day and ignore Von repeatedly, whenever she manages to catch your eye.
"Christ, it's not like it's my job to be a bloody match-maker," she mutters. You managed to avoid her all the way to the car park. But the cow refused to take the hint.
"Stop following me, Von."
"You should call her, you stupid girl."
You laugh - you're good at doing that when you feel like you're being ripped apart inside.
"Great advice," you shake your head, still managing a fake smile. "And why the hell should I call a woman who doesn't want to see me?"
Von does that thing where she grits her teeth to the point where it looks uncomfortable.
"You really haven't the faintest." She begins to walk off.
"Hey," you stride towards her, with no small amount of irritation. "Are you going to give me her number, or what?"
Typically, the number is for Terri's flat. And that's when you make a decision.
Bron smiles at you, when you appear unannounced.
"What are you doing?"
You stand there awkwardly, while you try to get your words into some semblance of order.
But you only manage to tilt your head and gasp.
Bron narrows her eyes. "Do you wanna come in?"
"You were just going to piss off to another country?" You snap, ignoring the way her body slackens with your tone. "You're honestly telling me you were perfectly happy to leave, just like that, and never say boo to me."
Bron appears irritated. "Boo," she says, without humour.
"Great," you cross your arms.
"Look, what do you want me to say?" She is almost begging you. "Could you please just come in here?"
You throw your hands up and walk inside, intent on keeping control of this situation. However, when you see her face to face, in the clear light of Terri's kitchen, you realise you have no idea of what you're doing.
"So, I'm in here." Your arms are still crossed.
Neither of you appears willing to budge. So you crumble, you slump down onto a kitchen chair.
"You left Ben. No drama, no reason-"
"You really think there wasn't a reason?"
"Well, I dunno," you snap. "It bloody seems that way, doesn't it?"
She sighs. You're making an effort not to stare at her. "Charlotte, I don't blame you for it."
"Me? Blame me?' You stand up. "I should bloody hope not."
She looks irritated. "Well, thank Christ we settled that."
"You blame me? When you're the one who just ran off with that ambo..."
"Ben," Bron looks almost upset. "He was my fiancé, ok? And didn't I just tell you? I don't blame you for mucking things up with him."
"Well, great," you're getting sick of this. "Then I don't blame you for " And the list flashes through your mind. What a list. You realise how much you could hate her. "No, actually I do blame you, come to think of it."
She slides back in her seat. Exhaustion makes her look less attractive than you remember.
"Fine," she seems ready for a real fight. "Blame me."
"You took advantage of me," you manage to choke out. Anger makes you bold.
"I did no such thing," Bron says, but her voice is wavering.
"Is that how you get your kicks? You wait for someone to fall in love with you, then you do your best to completely screw them over."
She paused and swallowed. "Are you in love with me, Charlotte?"
"It doesn't make a difference now, does it?"
"Of course it does." Then she stops, and when she speaks again, her voice kind of chokes out of her. "I didn't mean to hurt you. I didn't know I thought no. No I didn't even think." She swallows again. "And then after, I thought I could handle it. But I had no bloody clue."
She gives you a look, like you should know the answer already. But you honestly gape at her, impatiently. "Handle what, Bron?"
She closes her eyes. "I don't want to do this. Not now. It doesn't make things any better."
You're really losing your patience now. "Bron. Jesus, what the hell are you talking about?"
"Charlotte, you know why I left him, right?"
And then it finally clicks. The way her shoulders are shaking, the way she stares into you, and then quickly looks away.
"No " You stand up. You're not going to deal with this shit right now, even though it was the entire reason for you coming over.
You hate being right, when you are so convinced you've been deluding yourself.
"You left Ben, why? Because you had a one night stand with a lesbian doctor?"
"Listen, you confused the hell out of me, Charlotte."
You wanted to laugh. "Wait, I confused you? Can you even hear yourself?"
Bron looks down at you. "You're a cow, Beaumont."
"You knew perfectly well that I had feelings for you, ok? That's exactly why you used me to get back at him."
"No," Bron says. "Maybe at first, alright? But after "
"After your wedding? You what, had a big revelation and suddenly decided you liked pussy?"
Bron cringes. "I'm not talking to you when you're like this."
"Well, when?" You take a look around the room, and notice the open bags. "You were just going to leave," Your voice is quiet now. "Weren't you?"
She swallows and lets out a long breath. You're almost afraid of interrupting her, she looks so tied-up in her thoughts.
"I am a coward." She says it so softly, that you'd never have picked it up if you weren't leaning towards her.
"Hey," you go to her and cup her face in your hands. "Hey, it's ok."
"No it's not bloody ok," she murmurs. Then she looks into your eyes. "I'm ..sorry."
You bring her lips to yours, kissing her lightly. She lets out a small moan and pulls you forward into a more drawn-out one. Her hands don't seem to know what to do with themselves, they go from your hair to your shoulders, and back up again.
When you pull back for air, she chuckles and bites her lip.
"I'm such a coward."
"Yeah, well so's everyone else." You smile at her, squinting your eyes in confusion. "Are you ok, noodle?"
She nods and lets out a short laugh. "I love that you haven't forgotten that stupid nickname. Three years?"
You laugh, but don't say anything until she pulls your toward her again.
"When are you leaving, Bron?"
She sighs and looks down.
"It's ok," you say, pressing your forehead to hers. "Unless do you wanna stay?"
She doesn't say anything, she just drapes both arms around you and kisses you again. You're not sure which one of you is supposed to speak, now. One of you should probably be apologising, or crying, or storming out of the door. But you both just sit there, in Terri's old kitchen. It's the most romantic, most painful moment you can remember happening. And maybe that's ok, maybe there won't be a happy answer. But you're happy to curl up with her for as long as you can, before someone has to make a decision.
You're tougher than anyone gives you credit for.
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