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In a Heartbeat

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It was a quiet day. Something rare at London’s St Dales Hospital and two doctors in particular were taking advantage of the lack of patients bleeding out and coding every five seconds.

Dr. Adam Barton juggled an armful of chocolate, crips and cans of drink in one hand as he pulled away the curtain to find his best friend and fellow doctor, Aaron Dingle sprawled out on an empty hospital bed.

“Oi budge up, I brought us a picnic” Adam said.

Aaron squinted with one eye open against the bright hospital fluorescents. Slowly he budged up slightly giving Adam room to jump down next to him and empty out the food in his arms onto the bed in front of him.

“Thank God, I’m starving” Aaron said as he opened a back of Quavers and practically poured the whole bag into his mouth without even sitting up. “I just got out of a six hour surgery, some idiot stuck a batman figurine up his-”

“Ew dude not while we’re eating!” Adam complained, snatching away the crisps. He let out a laugh, “ah the life of a doctor, saving lives and removing foreign objects from peoples arsehole”.

“Exactly what I envisioned when I dragged myself through med school” Aaron snorted then opened his mouth, “Quaver me”.

Adam obliged and crushed a handful of crisps into his best friends mouth. “You coming out tonight? I need a wingman”.

“Finally getting over your crush on Vic? Does this mean we get to eat at the burger van again instead of the hospital cafeteria?” Aaron asked.

The past four months, ever since the hospital hired a new catering company Adam had been pining over one of the chefs, dragging Aaron there for every single meal.

“Victoria Sugden will always be the love of my life but I’m starting to realise if I carry on this almost stalkerish behaviour I’m gonna get lectured by the suits upstairs”.

“Fair enough”.

“So wingman after shift? I’ll even buy the first round”.

Aaron started in on the bars of chocolate and shook his head. “Sorry mate. Liv’s got a school art show and I promise I’d go, if not I’ll be waking up to find all my t-shirts turned into crop tops again”.

Adam stuck out his bottom lip in an over exaggerated pout but didn't say anything else about it. Aaron closed his eyes again.

"You can take a nap if  you want” Adam told him, “can’t promise I won’t draw a dick on your face though”.  

Aaron elbowed his friend but didn't stir. It was going to take a lot of power naps and Red Bulls to help him get through the rest of his very long shift and then survive schmoozing with parents at his sisters school. 

“Do it. I’ll go mention to Victoria how you slept with a dinosaur night light till you were sixteen”.

“Go ahead. It’ll make me seem sweet and sensitive”. 

“Pft if you say so”. 

They managed to make their way through half of their vending machine food stash before finally the peace came to an end. Halfway through a Snickers bar and a healthy debate over the previous nights football match the voice of the head nurse Pearl could be heard calling out “incoming!”

Aaron stuffed the rest of his chocolate bar into his mouth and then him and Adam were immediately up and running. 

“What have we got?” Aaron asked wiping his mouth for any residual chocolate. 

“Nate Daniels, twenty-one. Bicyclist got trapped under an out of service bus. His legs are crushed and he’s bleeding internally” said the young paramedic Gerry. His professionalism only lasted a minute as he burst into a grin, “god it was so cool, this guy was there when we arrived on the scene, he started ordering people around and he used a freaking pen to keep the guy breathing!”

Aaron didn't have time to ask what man Gerry was talking about before he got his answer. A young man, presumably Nate Daniels, was wheeled in. The most alarming thing about the man was not his worryingly pale skin or the pen sticking out of his throat but the blonde man on top of him dressed in what must once have been a very nice and expensive suit but was now soaking in crimson blood.

“He’s bleeding internally into his lungs, if we don’t hurry he’s gonna drown in his own blood”. The blonde man said. 

“Who the hell are you?” Aaron asked, Adam quick on his heels, “and why the hell did you perform a tracheotomy with a ballpoint pen!”

Blondie shoot Aaron a glare, “if I didn't he’d be heading straight down to the morgue”.

“His legs aren’t getting enough blood circulation” Adam said “we need to get him into the OR or risk losing his legs”

“His legs are the least of his problems if he chokes on his own blood” the blonde said, “all that pressure is gonna weigh down and start effecting his heart soon enough”. 

Aaron hated to agree with the intrusive and reckless stranger but he was right. Aaron nodded, “we get him up to the OR, handle the internal bleeding and save his legs at the same time, one surgery will cause less stress on the body”. 

Adam nodded, “sounds good to me”. He turned to a nurse, “page cardio”. 

“Why drag someone else down here when you’ve already got the head of cardio right here?” blondie asked. Due to the blood staining his hands red he couldn’t hold out his hands for a shake so instead he nodded in greeting. “Robert Sugden, new head of cardio. Somebody get me some scrubs. Looks like my first day’s starting early”.

***

There was no time for pleasantries or further introductions as the three surgeons scrubbed and prepared for surgery. It wasn’t until an hour into the surgery when the young man was finally out of imminent danger and he could breathe without choking on blood that the conversation switched from medical to more personal. 

Really Roberts job was done, the heart and lungs were working more or less how they should be but he’d insisted on staying through the rest of the surgery while Adam fixed the boys legs and Aaron checked to make sure they’d missed no organ damage.

“So Sugden, new head of department? What brought you to our humble abode?” Adam asked as he was handed different drilling devices by the scrub nurses. 

“Shouldn’t you be concentrating on making sure this lad can walk properly and not on playground gossip?” Robert asked from where he stood at the head of the table, eye flicking between the heart rate monitor and Adam, and occasionally Aaron who was digging around somewhere near the man’s liver. 

“I work best when I multi-task. Don’t want to overthink every little thing ya know, Aaron’ll tell ya. It’s the ADHD”. 

Robert looked to Dr Dingle either for confirmation or because after an hour standing closely opposite him Dr. Sugden had discovered the trauma surgeon had a really nice face and he wanted an excuse to look into his bright blue eyes. 

Aaron met his gaze and grimaced, a private thing between him and Robert. “It’s true. If you don’t answer him he’ll just keep badgering ya until he’s asking you if slugs have feelings at 2am the day before your exam that would determine if you become a doctor or not”. 

Adam groaned “will you let that go already! It’s been years! Don’t pretend rooming with me through med school wasn’t the best years of your life”.

“Let me get this straight-” Robert started, “you two roomed together through all of med school and now work together too, talk about joined at the hip”.

“Are you kidding, me and Aaron have been best mates since we were thirteen. And my mums married to his uncle, my baby brother Isaac is Aarons cousin so I mean we’re basically family” Adam told them just before he powered on a noisy drill. 

Over the shrill noises of the drill Aaron met Roberts eye and rolled his eyes and shook his head at his friend. 

“So come on spill!” Adam shouted over the drills until it cut off and he could talk normally again. “How’d you beat out Nicola for the job? She’s been in even worse of a mood recently, no doubt you're the reason to blame for her current reign of terror”. 

Robert shrugged, he had no clue who this Nicola was but if she was bad as they were making her out to be he was going to have a problem on his hands. “My sister told me ‘bout the job. She works in the cafeteria and I wanted to be closer to h-”

“Victoria! You’re related to the Victoria Sugden!” Adam gaped and as Robert stared at him in bewilderment Aaron snorted out a laugh.

“I’m guessing you know her then”.

Adam flushed under his surgical mask and looked away back at the bones he was working on. “I know of her”.

Robert suspected there was more to it then that but didn’t press. He’d get his answers eventually.

Arriving by way of gurney in a bloody suit and making first introductions to his new colleagues was not how Robert had pictured his day going when he woke that morning but he had a feeling he was going to enjoy his time working at St Dales hospital quite a bit.