I couldn't sleep. Today had been officially one of the worst days ever - even shopping with Vanessa hadn't been this bad.
I saw movement out of the corner of my eye and turned my head to see Ellie standing up and attempting to walk away. I say 'attempting' because she was limping pretty badly. I hated seeing her struggle so I got to my feet and teleported to her side.
"You need to rest that," I said and wrapped my arm around her. I gently pulled her towards a tree and sat her down carefully. When I thought she was comfortable I moved to examine her ankle: hoping to work out what the damage was.
"So what's the problem doc?" she teased making me smile. I glanced up and met her warm, brown eyes. I felt a swell of unfamiliar emotions and a change came over me. I knew that the same was happening to her. We gasped together and forced ourselves to look away. Thinking she wanted space I began to move away but she grabbed my hand. I was surprised by the panic in her eyes.
"Ellie?" I said, confused.
"I don't want to be alone," she whispered, "The fire. It reminds me of my mum. I was alone then." My hand tightened around hers. I hated seeing her in this pain and I hated that she was afraid to be alone. So how could I leave her? I couldn't, it was as simple as that. I sat next to her.
"What happened to her, Ellie?It's like you close off your past. Whenever someone mentioned anything about their family, you... I don't know." I had noticed something in her eyes but had been unable to identify it.
"You want to hear my story?" she asked in a disbelieving tone. She wouldn't meet my gaze and I wasn't having that. I put a finger under her chin and forced her to lift her face to mine. There it was, in her eyes, except this time she wasn't trying to mask it.
"I can see pain in your eyes," I said softly. Her pain bothered me. I didn't want Ellie to be in any pain.
"One year ago, there was a fire," Ellie began quietly and she touched her stomach. I didn't want to interrupt to ask. "Our house was on fire," she continued, "We don't know how it happened. Dad wasn't even there, no idea what was happening. They said I was lucky to be alive, when I woke up in the hospital. Mum, she... She didn't make it."
"Ellie, I'm sorry that must have been awful for you." I wrapped an arm around her, wishing I could take away her anguish. She leaned into me and I tightened my hold.
"Dad couldn't forgive himself for not being there. He started drinking to hide his grief. The past few months I was the one looking after him. Uncle B, erm well Bradley, he was mum's younger brother, really young," there was a small smile in her voice and her tone was affectionate, "He tried his best, but I've ended up doing everything." A lot of things about her fell into place.
"Guess that explains why you're looking after us all," I realised. She looked up at my face and I knew she had one last thing to add.
"I haven't cried once. Not when they told me about my mum. Not at her funeral. Not when I was sorting through her things. Not even now," Ellie breathed.
"Not even when you looked through photographs?" I asked surprised at how tough she must be.
"Not a single tear." I stared at her face. She had cried, just not on the outside. She'd shed all her tears on the inside. I brushed my lips against her forehead.
"Go to sleep, Ellie. You won't be alone," I promised. She rested her head on my shoulder and relaxed as I wrapped my other arm around her too. I held her close as she slept, not wanting to let her go.