Greg's knuckles were white from the force with which he was grabbing the rails. He was standing between two parallel bars trying to move his legs forward, preferably without falling over. His physiotherapist was standing behind him, promising to catch him should he stagger. He had done this kind of gait training endless time before in the last few weeks but this time, unlike all the other times, he was neither hold at his waist nor were there two additional physiotherapists who were helping him moving and positioning his legs. He was completely on his own this time. Only Dan standing behind him and his two sons sitting at the end of the parallel bars.
“Come on Dad, I know you can do it!” Oliver shouted.
“Just put one foot in front of the other” James joined in.
Greg rolled his eyes. Of all days were they had to reduce the support it must of course be the one where is sons had arrived to visit him for 3 days. He looked at his sons and smiled. “You know, not that long ago I said the same things to each of you when you were learning to walk.”
“See, and now we're just giving back.”
Greg chuckled. “Well, as long as Oliver doesn't push me over as he did with you, James, when you started walking.” His voice already sounding strained. “Right, let's go then.” he slowly pushed his hip forward concentrating hard to bend his knee and raise his left leg. He let it fall down ungracefully and dragged his right leg forward until it was next to his left leg.
“What did I told you about dragging, Greg?” Dan scolded. “Raise your feet!”
“I fu...” Greg looked up, “I can't. I just can't raise that bloody leg high enough. I can't even feel it properly.” He started to get frustrated again but pulled himself together. He didn't want to have an emotional outbreak in front of his sons.
“Bullshit. We trained that. I saw you doing it,” Dan said with a stern voice.” I know that you can do it and I want you to do it.“
Greg groaned. Dan was right, during his PT sessions he was able to slightly move his right leg when he was lying down. But that didn't mean that he could do it standing upright between two parallel bars.
James and Oliver looked away, feeling rather uncomfortable at the moment. They had never seen their father getting a dressing down, except by their mother when both still had been married and were fighting over the littlest things. And seeing their father struggle to walk didn't make it any easier.
“Groaning doesn't help, Greg. You need to push yourself if you want to walk. Just remember - this is not a race. Just slowly try to raise your leg and move it forward. Even if it's just a couple of millimetres.”
“Yeah I know. But couldn't we do it with help again? Just this time?” He turned around to see Dan shaking his head. “But I won't be able to raise my foot all the way.”
“That's just fine. As long as I see you bending your knee and try to raise your leg it's all good.”
Greg closed his eyes and readied himself for the next step.
“I can help you if you want, Dad.” Oliver offered.
Greg looked up, “Nah, Dan's right. I've gotta do it on my own. But thanks for the offer.”
He took a deep breath and gathered all his strength to make a step forward.
A few minutes later he was unable to hide a proud smile when he actually made a couple of steps without having to stop.
“That was awesome, Dad.” Oliver said while they were walking back to Greg's room. “I knew that you could do it.”
Greg looked up to his son. “Thank you. Was a hard piece of work, though.”
“Yeah, but you totally rocked it. Even your therapist was impressed.”
“He's very good with taking the carrot-and-a-stick approach, “ Greg laughed. He looked over to James who was walking silently at his side. He hadn't talked much the whole day since Greg had picked him and his brother up from the train station.
When they reached his room Oliver went straight inside. Before James could follow his older brother Greg put his hand on his arm and pulled him aside.
“You're Ok, James?” Greg asked, concern showing on his face. After getting a not really convincing nod as an answer Greg studied his youngest more thoroughly. “Really?” he asked again trying to look James into the eyes but he kept avoiding Greg. “If there's something bothering you, just tell me. Don't be afraid.”
“It's nothing, really.”
Greg looked at him with a face he normally used when he was interrogating suspect and they were trying to sell him for stupid.
His youngest sighed. “It's just,” he took a deep breath and looked away from his father. “It's seeing you like this. Not being the strong dad that I used to know. I mean you're still strong but it's different than before. Seeing you struggle to walk. All these other disabled people in that room. It's all rather intimidating for me. Oliver and Mum said that I shouldn't worry. That you'll be fine and that you'll still be the same person like before. I know that but...“ his voice began to shake, tears falling from his eyes. He wrapped his arms around his father and sobbed into his father's shoulder. “ I...I, I don't want you to have to go through all of this alone. I want to be there for you every day. And now that I'm finally here I'm scared and crying like a fucking baby.”
Greg gently rubbed the back of his youngest. He could see Oliver looking over to them and signalled to his oldest that he would need another 5 minutes.
Oliver nodded. He understood. James had been very distressed since their dad had gotten shot and really needed some time with him alone to come to terms with all of that. James had always struggled dealing with the situation when their father had suffered a work related injury. And these had mostly only been minor cuts and bruises, so this had thrown James off the tracks completely. He hoped that he would get the chance to talk to his father as well, he really needed it. Being the strong one for his brother was starting to take its toll on him.
“Let me tell you something,” Greg said running his hand through the hair of his youngest son, “and you are the only person to know about this, Ok? I was scared as hell when I arrived here. So it's perfectly Ok for you to be intimidated by all of this. God, I was so intimidated and scared the first days that I would've preferred to go back to the hospital if I'd been given the choice. What helped was to talk to people who were in the same situation as me. So please ask if there are any questions and talk to me if anything bothers you. If you have problems watching me during one of my upcoming therapy session it's perfectly fine when you leave. You don't have to stay if you don't want to. I won't be offended. You do know that you are always there for me, do you?” Greg felt James shaking his head. “You are. The messages and phone calls mean a lot to me. With them you are with me every day even when you are not physically there. And I also got Molly and my friends who help me a lot and even Sherlock drops by every now and then. “
James lifted his head and leaned back. He wiped away the tears. “Yeah, maybe. But it sucks being stuck in Scotland while you are here.” He sniffed. “It is horrible not being able to see you whenever I wanted since we moved there but now that you got injured it is even worse.”
“I understand that James and I really miss seeing you guys as well. But we talked about it when your Mum and me got divorced. Because of my job it was the best for you to live with her. I didn't know that she planed to move to Scotland, but that's how it is right now, I'm afraid. I would love to see you guys more often and I'm pretty sure we'll find a way when I'm out of rehab. Did I tell you that the Yard is taking me back part time until I'm fully recovered? So I'll have a lot of free-time to visit you in Scotland.”
James face lit up. “They are definitely taking you back Dad? That's fucking great.” He stood up and turned towards the open door. “Did you hear that Oliver? Dad's getting his old job back as soon as he can leave here.”
“No fucking way?” Oliver shouted back and moved through the room towards his younger brother and father. “ Is that true, Dad?”
Greg laughed, “language guys. Yep, they told me I can start by helping out other DIs with their cases and then return to my old position when everything is cleared.”
Oliver nudged James on his shoulder. “See, I told you he'll stay a copper.”
The rest of the evening they sat in Greg's room, making plans about Greg's visit to Scotland. Oliver's upcoming Birthday would just be perfect and that he of course must bring Molly.
The next morning they met in the breakfast room. Greg was already there, eating his toast when his sons arrived.
“Ah, finally risen from the dead?”
Oliver groaned and rubbed his temples. “It's 9.30am. Way to early for a Saturday morning.”
Greg laughed. “Yeah well maybe you shouldn't have sneaked out at night to meet with that young nurse.” He leaned over to Mark. “Had to call me at 2am because he couldn't get back into the building and his younger brother had his phone on silent.”
“Daaaad!” Oliver boxed his brother who was laughing uncontrollably. “Shut up you idiot.”
“He was lucky that out of old habit I leave my phone on all the time. Had to call the night nurse to get him back inside. “
Oliver put his head in his hands. “Stop telling this to everybody, this is so embarrassing.”
“Believe it or not, it was embarrassing to me as well, having to call a nurse in the middle of the night and then having to tell her that I actually don't have an emergency but that my teenage son is standing outside not able to get back in. You're lucky that she has kids as well and saw the funny site of it. I could've easily been kicked out for that.”
Mark laughed. “Just imagine Mrs. Armand would've been the night duty nurse. She would have kicked you out right away.”
“Yeah, I guess she never had anything that could closely resemble a love live, except handling male patients.” Greg watched his eldest son shaking his head, muttering something.
Philip looked over to Oliver sympathetically . “Dads are always embarrassing, I can tell you that. And the worst thing is, they'll never stop. No matter how old you are. But I bet you that your Dad is not as bad as mine. I'm Philip by the way.”
Oliver shook the hand Philip had held out. “Hi, I'm Oliver.” He grabbed a chair and placed it next to Philip. “You have no idea how embarrassing he can be.”
“Oi! Heard that!”
“Well it's true,” James aided his bigger brother. “Remember when you had made Oliver and his friends return all the beers they had bought at a local a couple of years ago? In front of the girls they had invited? Not to speak of all the embarrassing jokes you tend to tell in front of our friends.”
“Thank you very much, Brutus. May I introduce to you, my two sons James and Oliver who clearly love me dearly.” James and Oliver rolled their eyes while the men laughed and went to get themselves some breakfast.
“So which of the nurses did you chat up?” Philip asked after they had returned.
“That young one with the blond hair. Ella 's her name.”
“Oh yes, she's really hot. If I were single I would totally go for it."
“Wasn't she your nurse,Greg?” Mark asked.
“Still is, through she doesn't have much work with me anymore since I....”
He was interrupted by Oliver: “Dad, please stop. Whatever it is I don't want to know, Ok?”
After breakfast they went over to collect the wheelchairs Greg had secured for the boys last week.
“All right now, let's see if you are as good as you say you are. “ He pushed his wheelchair until he was a couple of feet away and quickly spun it around.
“Show off, “ James said while he was struggling to move his wheelchair as fast as his father.
“Not as easy as it looks, is it?” He moved back to his sons. “Try to grab the rim as far back as possible and then give it a good push. For quick turning just move one wheel forward and the other backwards.”
After a while both James and Oliver got the hang of it and they made their way outside to the basketball court. Much to Greg's embarrassment they were still better than him in throwing baskets so they actually were winning most of the games.
The next days during their stay they spend most of the time talking. They mostly went into town, which was something Oliver preferred as he wasn't allowed to smoke on the premises. Greg wasn't all too happy that his son was smoking under aged but he remembered how he had been during that age. So they made a deal. Oliver was allowed to smoke during his visit as long as he would give Greg a cigarette every now and then without telling Molly, his ex-wife or anyone else who might be interested in the fact that he had picked up smoking again. Molly would kill him if she found out. She was always in his ears, that this was just perfect for him to stop smoking and now that he was smoke free for such a long time he surely wouldn't start again. He just hoped that Sherlock would keep his mouth shut.
On the last day of their visit Greg had a long talk with his eldest son. He thanked him that he was there for his little brother when Greg couldn't but he also told him that he needed to make sure that he keeps looking after himself. That it shouldn't be his job to replace the father. “What about your mother? Or Sam?” He unintentionally spit out the name, still hurt by the fact that this was the man with whom she cheated on him for over a year before he finally divorced her.
“We can talk to Mum and she really tries her best but she's busy a lot with her new work and stuff and well Sam,” Oliver looked at his father and shrugged his shoulders, “He's not you. I don't really want to talk to him and so does James. When you and Mum had still been married you had always been there for us. You had often been away working on cases but when you were at home we always could talk to you and you did stuff with us, no matter how tired you had been, you know? You went to football matches with us or came to watch me play basketball even though you were nearly falling asleep during some matches.”
Greg let out a laugh. “And all the years I had hoped that you hadn't noticed.”
“Of course I did. And I was pissed off back then but now I'm grateful that at least you came, that you cared. With Simon it's different. He comes homes and wants to be left alone. He doesn't really know what to do with us, how to have a proper talk with us.”
Greg nodded and he couldn't really believe that he was actually going to say the next words. “Give him a chance. He doesn't had any children before so this is a complete new situation for him. He needs time, just like you do. But I'll call your mother and talk to her if we can find a way to see each other more regularly.”
The day of Greg's discharge from rehab had finally arrived. He wasn't really able to walk out of the clinic as he would've hoped but Dan offered him to get one of these special walkers he had been training on and then help him to make the couple of steps towards the car.
Molly had already stored Greg's stuff in the car and let out a yelp of surprise when she saw Greg slowly walking out of the building. His face was distorted by exertion and he didn't make it more than a couple of feet out of the door until he had to signal the man who was helping him that he needed to sit down again. While the man got back inside, Molly quickly snapped a picture. “See, I told you that you would be walking out of here. I'm so happy for you.”
Greg looked at her and a strained smile crossed his face. “Yeah, I promised it to the guys.” He carefully sat down in his wheelchair again and turned around towards Dan. “Thank you for everything. You really did a great job. Sorry that I sometimes had been a bit moody.”
“No worries. It was a pleasure working with you. Keep me up to date on your progress, will ya?”
Molly helped Greg into the car and slowly drove of the driveway. Greg looked out of the window and watched the landscape go past. It felt strange leaving this secure place for not just a couple of days but for ever. He was happy that he was finally out of rehab but somehow afraid how he would manage at home on a daily basis, not only for a couple of days.
“You Ok?” Molly asked snapping him out of his thoughts. He noticed that she had put a hand on his leg. He felt her fingers gently messaging his thigh. It still felt like his leg has gone dead but he could feel it. “Huh? Yeah, I'm fine.” He smiled at her and put his hand onto Molly's locking his fingers into hers.
When they arrived at Greg's flat Molly helped him to get his stuff inside. “Do you want me to stay or do you want some time for yourself?” she asked.
“No no, please stay. We haven't really seen each other for weeks.”
They snuggled on the couch watching some telly and enjoyed the company of each other.
“Can I ask you something, Greg?” Molly stroke her fingers over Greg's temple. “You don't have to answer if you don't want to.”
Greg pushed himself up a bit. “Just ask.”
“The scar on your right temple. I don't know why it matters to me but I wondered about it since I saw the wound back in hospital. Do you remember how it happened?“
“Bastard hit me over the head with something. First on the back and then on the side. Hoped to bash my head in I think but luckily I developed a pretty thick skull over the years.” He knocked against his head laughing. “Something you inevitably get when you're running around with Sherlock, arresting criminals without any proper backup. You see the little dent over my left eyebrow?” Molly nodded and Greg took her hand and led it to the left side of his head right above his ear. “You feel that?” He asked, leading her fingers towards the temple.
Molly nodded, feeling an about 5cm long scar under the hair. “Good god. What happened there?”
“Iron rod. Rounded a corner and the suspect swung at me. Gave me a couple of broken ribs, a broken arm and these two beauties. Kept hitting me while I lay on the ground writhing in pain. I passed out and he escaped. Not for long though. Sherlock kindly told us where to find him and my team arrested him a couple of hours later.“
Greg laughed. “That's exactly what my ex-wife said as well when she saw me in A&E. It actually was quite bloody. Half my face looked pretty horrible for a while.”
“I can imagine.” Molly propped herself up and gave him a kiss on the lips. “Promise me to be more careful in the future Ok?”
“I'll try my best.” He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her closer. “Already had my fair share.” He chuckled slightly. “You know what the worse thing about this story had been?”
Molly moved her head so that it was now resting on Greg's chest. “Worse than being beaten to a pulp? I can hardly think of anything that could be remotely worse.”
“Turned out the suspect was the son of a Minister so the press had been on our heels. And of course they had been following us on that day. Don't need to mention that I wasn't particularly happy about the fact that they were filming and taking pictures of me getting treated and then wheeled out of an alley after getting beaten up by a youth. My face was blurred but still, it had been all over the news. Wasn't easy for the family. The boys had been quite young back then.”
“That had been you? Gosh, I remember that story. The whole investigation had been quite a scandal back then.”
“Yep, all me. Press had never been my friend.”
“Ouch,” Greg swore when he felt the knife cut into his finger. “Molly? Can you get me a band aid out of the bathroom? Top drawer!” He leaned forward and put the finger into his mouth to slow down the bleeding.
Suddenly it felt as if he was back in Greydon's living room. The taste of his blood filling his mouth. Greydon standing over him, the gun pointed on his head. It felt like he was drowning in his own blood all over again and he began to panic. With the feeling that his breaths weren't delivering him enough oxygen, Greg began to hyperventilate. His eyes moved back and forth and he was suddenly pretty certain that he was going to die.
Suddenly he could hear Molly's voice. “Greg, Gregory, everything is fine. You're safe! Look around, you're in your kitchen. It's just a flashback.” Molly repeated this several times until after 5 Minutes his senses slowly returned back to reality. The walls of Greydon's living room were replaced by the walls of his kitchen and he noticed Molly kneeling in front of him.
“Is it Ok, if I touch you?” Molly asked carefully.
Greg nodded and felt a soft touch pulling his left hand with the still bleeding index finger from his mouth.
“Just take slow and deep breaths, Ok?” Molly said with a soothing voice while she was putting a band aid on the wound.
Greg did as he was told and started to calm down. He was still shaking but wasn't panicking anymore.
“My therapist told me that this might happen, “ he started after he had finally calmed down. He took a sip from the water Molly had brought him. “I thought I jumped the wagon on PTSD flashbacks because they never occurred before. Guess I was wrong.” He smiled at Molly. “Took one little cut to bring me down.”
“You can't predict what will trigger it.”
“It was the taste of blood in my mouth I guess. It felt like...” he stopped and made a wiping movement with his hand. “Never mind, don't want to burden you with it. Let's continue making dinner.”
Molly put her hands on Greg's knees. “No Greg, it's perfectly fine. If you want to talk about what happened I'm always there to listen.“
“I thought I was back in that living room, dying. It seemed so real. You know back then I genuinely thought that I was going to die that day.” Greg said quietly. His eyes filling with tears. “I couldn't breath. My blood was everywhere. It was scary. I could taste it in my mouth, felt it on my chest and under my back. Felt like I was drowning. Somewhere deep down I prayed that the gun aimed at my head would finally take me out of my misery. There was pain everywhere and I had reached a point where I just wanted to die. And then there were John and Sherlock. They assured me that everything was going to be fine but I could see on their faces that it wouldn't. They were fighting for my life while I had accepted that I'll die.” His voice broke and he was unable to talk any further.
Molly pulled Greg into a comforting hug. “But you didn't. You're alive. Something, most likely your bloody stubbornness, made you pull through. And I am very grateful for that.”
After a while Greg chuckled slightly. “Yeah, for once it actually saved my life.” He moved back to the table where he was cutting the potatoes. “Right, back to work.”
“Are you nervous about tomorrow?” Molly asked while they were eating dinner.
Greg swallowed a piece of meat. “You can't imagine. It's like first day at work all over again. On one hand I'm excited as hell to be able to go back but I'm equally frightened on how I will manage and how I will be received.”
“You'll manage fine. Remember it's only paperwork at the beginning. “
“Yeah, boring. I fear I'll go crazy after a couple of weeks, watching my team rush to crime scenes and do arrests while I'm stuck at my desk.”
“Well I think we had enough excitement for a life time this year. I must admit that I'm actually happy knowing that you are save at the Yard and not chasing around the streets of London.”
“I will return to active duty eventually. I'm not made to only sit behind a desk. “
“I know, but please don't rush it, Greg. I don't want to see you hurt again.”
Greg looked Molly in the eyes. “I'll try my best that you won't.” He smiled at her, knowing that he couldn't promise her that but he didn't want her to have to go through all of this again. And neither wanted he.
He woke up early the next morning. Molly was still asleep so he quietly got out of bed and into the bathroom. After he had showered and dressed he made himself a cup of coffee. He looked at the watch in the kitchen. He still had some time until he had to leave or he would be at the Yard way to early even though he most likely would have to wait a couple of tubes until he would fine one with enough space during rush hour to squeeze in. He checked the news on his phone and then made his way back into the bedroom. He kissed Molly on the forehead. “I'm leaving for work.” She cracked one eye open. “Have fun.”
He made his way towards the tube station. The cold wind biting at his hands. “Need to buy me some gloves.” he thought to himself. He took a deep breath before entering the station. He had hated the rush hour crowds already before he got injured and now it was even worse. He always had the feeling that he was pissing off people, taking up way to much space or not moving fast enough out of the train or through the tunnels. Greg moved his chin up and made his way into the Underground Station and onto the platform. As predicted the trains were crowded as hell and Greg had to let a couple of them go past until he found one where he could squeeze in. It was impossible to move his wheelchair even a couple of inches inside the crowd so when people wanted to get on or off the train the had to squeeze past him. Luckily it only were 4 stops until he finally was able to get off, carefully manoeuvring his wheelchair backwards out of the train because there was no space to turn it around.
When he arrived at the Yard his fingers felt like they were frozen. His heart pumped in his chest. He was fairly nervous now. He made his way up to his old floor and frowned when he found the booths of his team all empty. “On a crime scene then” he thought to himself and made his way towards his office. Greg had to admit that he was slightly disappointed. He had hoped that his first day back wouldn't start with him being alone in his office figuring out what to do. He opened the door and jumped. His whole office was crowded with people. A banner was hanging over the windows reading “WELCOME BACK”
“So happy to finally have you back, Boss.” Donovan said and gave him an awkward hug.
Greg looked around noticing the cakes on his desk. “It feels good to be back, but guys you really shouldn't have.” He nodded over to his desk.
Sally laughed. “Yeah, it got a bit out of hand. But at least we won't go hungry today.”
Greg clapped his hands together “Right guys, let's get the cakes over to the conference room, grab some plates and coffee and then fill me in about any recent cases and stuff that had happened while I was away.”
A couple of hours later Greg sat in his office doing the paperwork and research for a recent case when his phone beeped. A message popped up on his screen. “Good to have you back, Detective Inspector. Will come over for cases when needed or bored. SH” Greg smiled. Of course he would call Sherlock whenever he is stuck on a case and of course he would roll his eyes but secretly be happy whenever Sherlock storms into his office unannounced demanding a new case to solve.
“Thanks. Will let you know when needed. GL” he texted back.
The next couple of weeks went like a blur. Working was really taking a toll on his body. Back at rehab he had been able to lie down every now and then but that wasn't possible at work. That constant sitting and moving around the office plus the PT sessions throughout the week were really eating his stamina. His shoulders were killing him from all that pushing and his chest, stomach and back hurt more than usual at the end of the day. Greg jokingly had asked Sally if she thinks the bosses would allow him a couch in his office.
His pain medication had been further reduced since he was out of rehab which meant that the pain was only dulled but never quite vanished. That made him quite grumpy form time to time and more than often Molly had been on the receiving end.
She had practically moved in after he was discharged, helping him with day to day chores. His flat wasn't really made to live in with a wheelchair. Greg couldn't reach the top cupboards in his kitchen nor the top shelves at his wardrobe. He had tried to move all the stuff there to the lower ones but that had ended in total chaos. So begrudgingly he had accepted Molly's offer to move in. It had been either that or making his flat wheelchair suitable, which was something he refused vehemently. For him it would be a defeat. And as long as his gait training showed at least some progress he kept fighting.
He was thankful for Molly's help. He really was. But sometimes he just needed to be alone. He still was struggling with depressive episodes. He was able to control them with medication most of the time but from time to time he just had to let out his frustration and indulge in self-pity. And he preferred to be alone when that happens to stop him from hurting the people he loved.
It happened mostly when he had PT right after work and was hurting all over. After the progress he had made at rehab he had the feeling that he was not advancing at his out patient therapy. He still was stuck at the parallel bars with a few session walking with a walker in between, not really able to move his right leg, not able to make more than one or two steps at once without having to stop and catch his breath. His therapists had assured him that everything was fine. That he was making progress, it just had slowed down a bit but that this was nothing to worry about.
One day was particularly bad. He had come home after a frustrating day at work and PT. His whole team had been out to question people related to a case and shortly after they had come back they had been called out again to conduct a search warrant related to a different case. A search warrant he had signed. His mood dropped significantly with every hour he was alone in the office. The PT session he had afterwards didn't really help either. He had expected to do gait training as usual but his therapist insisted on doing movement training on his legs. It felt like he was making steps back not forwards.
The tube back home was crowded as usual during rush hour, which made him even more irritated. “Fuck off,” he snapped at a man who had complained after Greg had accidentally hit him while positioning himself inside the tube.
He was glad when he finally reached home. “Hey, how was your day?” Molly greeted him with a kiss.
“Shit, as usual. I was fucking bored to death at work and PT didn't do anything good.” Greg made his way into the kitchen and grabbed a beer from the fridge. He moved onto the couch and let out an relieved breath after he felt the cool liquid running down his throat.
“You know that it'll get better. Soon you'll be back at your old job. And then you'll complain to me how stressful it is.” Molly said trying to cheer him up.
Greg looked over to her and took a sip from the bottle. He shrugged his shoulders. “As if you would know.”
“Well first of all I do know that your days aren't usually shit and secondly I know that work can be frustrating. Don't tell me that in the last years your job had always been great and that you loved every single day of it.“
“Of course it's different. What did you expect? That you return to work and everything will be the same? That they let you do arrests?”
Again Greg shrugged his shoulders. “ It's just all taking so long.”
“You're out of Rehab for nearly 4 weeks now. You're doing great. You've got to give yourself time.”
“Shut up Molly. I can't hear that phrase anymore. Everyone is saying 'you're doing great, Greg.' 'give your body the time and it'll come, Greg' 'Not long and you'll be back on your feet, Greg.' . Fuck that talk. I can't hear it anymore. It's been nearly a year. Over five month of physiotherapy and what did that do? I'm still sitting in that fucking wheelchair.“
Molly angrily got up form her armchair. “You know what Greg, I'm not having that discussion over and over with you. You know my point of view. You know that I do have a medical degree and therefore some knowledge on this matter. You know that your doctors say the same. It takes time to relearn walking. You've already achieved great results. “
Greg let out a snort.
“You did. Accept that, god dammit.” She inhaled deeply. “I need some fresh air. I'm going to meet some friends. I'll probably be back later this evening. I hope your mood has improved by then. Call your mates, go out for a pint. Do what ever helps to lighten up your mood.”
Greg watched Molly leave, not sure what to do now. He lay on his couch and stared at the ceiling. Going out probably was a good idea. His friends would at least understand him. He called Thomas and Peter, his best mates and an hour later they met in a pub in Whitechapel.
Thomas just came back with their second round when he pointed at a table on the other side of the pub. “Isn't that Molly?”
Greg look over and saw Molly with her friends. He turned back to Thomas and Peter and nodded. “Yeah, didn't know she's here though.”
“Let's invite them over.”
“Nah, not a good idea right now. Anyway, you were saying?”
Peter frowned. “You two had a fight, hadn't you?”
Greg ran his hands over his face and massaged his temples. “Let's not talk about it. We fight pretty often lately.“
Thomas and Peter looked at each other. “What are you two fighting about?” Peter asked.
“Dunno, small stuff. She moved in to help me, which is great. That's not the point. But sometimes she just doesn't understand.”
“Doesn't understand what?” Thomas asked.
“That I don't need her 'all will be good' talk. Her doing everything for me. You know, sometimes when I get frustrated by something, I let out my mood on her because she's always so positive. She's always trying to lighten up my mood and sometimes it just drives me mad.”
Thomas nodded. “I can understand that. But what else should she do? Leave? Then you would probably be mad at her for not listening to you.”
Greg looked down into his Pint : “She did today. And I was angry that she did, yes. But I don't know what else she should do. Most of the times it helps, and I feel better afterwards. But when we fight I wait for her to try to cheer me up and then really celebrate my bad mood, telling her I don't need that talk. That she has no idea and stuff like this,” he admitted.
“Molly is a fine lady. She doesn't deserve to be the punching bag of your emotions. It's hard for both of you and both of you have to find a way to deal with this without hurting the other. If you want to be alone she has to accept that but you also have to accept that what she does is only to make you feel better. Don't use that against her.”
“Peter's right, Greg. Go and apologize to her.”
He looked over to Molly again. It looked like she was discussing something with her friends. Gesturing widely and putting her head in her hands. She looked pretty frustrated. He watched as one of her friends patted her back while the other two got up, probably to get drinks.
He groaned and let his head fall down onto the table. After a while he looked back up, propping his chin onto his forearms. Both Peter and Thomas looked at him, their faces clearly saying “go talk to her you idiot.”
Greg sighted. “Yeah, maybe you're right.” he took another sip and made his way through the pub.
He noticed one of Molly's friends seemingly recognizing him and saying something to Molly. He could only make out the word “arsehole.” She turned around and looked at him quizzically. “What are you doing here?”
“Hi, I'm here with some mates,” he gestured over to the table were Peter and Thomas were desperately trying not to look as if they were watching him. “I, well to be honest Thomas, noticed you sitting here so I decided to come over and say hello.” He let out an uncomfortable laugh. “What a coincident, innit? So many pubs and still here we are.” He noticed the piercing looks of Molly's friends. Greg uncomfortably ran his hand through his hair and scratched the back of his head. “Um, maybe we can have a quick word in private?”
Molly looked at his deep brown eyes. “Yes, of course.” She turned towards her friends, “I'll be right back. Let's go outside, Greg.”
They just had turned away from the table when Greg heard one of the woman say “ You know I really try to hate him but dear god, he's even hotter than on the pictures Molly had shown us, isn't he?”
Greg felt himself getting red. He looked up to her to see if she was overhearing the conversation as well. She either wasn't or was very good in pretending. He wanted to get out as soon as possible but of course right now their path was blocked by an old couple who were putting on their jackets.
“Doesn't look like he's nearly 50.” another friend giggled. “Pity he's...you know” the third friend added. “Who cares? He's hot.” the first one said and the second one affirmed: “Yes, Theresa. That doesn't make any difference. And besides, do you remember what Molly had told us?”
He wondered what Molly had told them about him. It was getting a bit too embarrassing for Greg's liking and when their path was finally clear he quickly made his way out of the door, holding it open for Molly. She went past him and leaned herself against a low window ledge crossing her arms over her chest.
“I just wanted to apologize for earlier. I behaved like an idiot and you don't deserve to be treated like that.”
Molly looked at him not showing any emotion. “You know you just can't keep apologizing and then not change anything.”
Greg licked his lips. “I know. We need to lay out rules on how to deal with these situations in the future. I'm sorry for the last weeks. I wasn't fair to you. I know that. That's why we need to talk.”
“But not here!”
“Of course not here. Sometimes...” Greg shook his head, “never mind. Tomorrow or on Sunday. When ever's the best time.”
Molly looked at Greg sternly. It took a while until she answered. “Yes, that's probably a good idea. Can we go back inside? I'm freezing.”
Greg moved closer and rubbed Molly's arms. “Let's go inside. Do you want to come over to us? Thomas and Peter would be very happy, though I suspect that they only want to chat up your friends.”
“I thought they were both married?”
“They are. Though Peter's about to divorce his wife. But you didn't hear that from me.”
Molly laughed. “I will treat that information as highly confidential and will only hand it over to my single friend on our next trip to the bathroom.”
They went back inside the Pub, Greg to his mates and Molly to her friends.
“And?” Thomas asked .
“All good. “ Greg took a huge sip from his beer.
“Yeah, but are they coming over?” Peter asked.
“You're not even fully divorced and already back on the hunt.” Thomas laughed.
“So what, only because it took Greg ages to find a new girl it doesn't mean that it must be the same for me.”
“Shut up, Peter.”
“Are we interrupting?” Greg heard Molly say behind him.
He turned around. “No not at all. Have a seat.”
Molly moved a chair next to Greg. “Greg, these are Carina, Zinat and Teresa.”
Greg held out a hand. “Hi, nice to meet you. Thomas and Peter. “ he pointed at his friends. “Just ignore them when they get annoying, that's what I always do.” The women laughed.
“You're a bloody idiot, Lestrade.” Peter said, mocking their Chief Superintendent. They both stated laughing.
“Sorry, a little inside joke from the Yard,” Peter explained. “That's what our boss always says whenever Greg is about to gets his ass kicked.”
“Which, I must clarify, isn't often, don't want you to get a wrong impression of me.” Greg send one of his famous charming smiles in the direction of the women.
“Yeah, we've already got an impression of you, don't we?” Teresa said looking at him disapprovingly.
Greg could see Molly shooting her a look. “Great,” he thought. “She definitely doesn't like me. That's gonna be fun.”
“Finally we've got to meet you,” Carina said. “Molly never stopped talking about you.”
Greg laughed slightly. “ I do hope there were at least some positive things among it?”
“Molly said you were a copper?” Zinat asked.
“Still am,” Greg corrected her. He noticed her playing with her drink uncomfortably and send her a cheery smile. He knew he had to use all of his charm to change the view Molly's friend had of him.
“We all are” Peter said. “Me, Greggy and Thomas over there.”
“Really? You still work for the Police?” Theresa asked.
Greg narrowed his eyes. “Why shouldn't I?”
“Don't know. Maybe because of your...”
“So you all three working together then?” Zinat interrupted trying to rescue the situation.
Greg gave Theresa a long look then turned towards the conversation.
“Unfortunately not. Greg and me work at the Yard, same division but lead different teams. And Thomas is still on the beat.”
“Oh shit, now we've got to behave. Better not to tell any stories from university.” Carina laughed.
Greg inwardly rolled his eyes. He hated that response. As if the fun in your life stops as soon as your become a law enforcement officer.
Molly laughed. “Believe me, the stories Greg had told me when these guys were out for a pint are nothing against our university days.”
“You know what they do with snitches, Greg,” Thomas said, trying to look at Greg with a serious face. “And especially to the ones who rat out fellow cops.”
Greg laughed. “Yeah right, I'm shaking already.“
He finished his Pint and pushed himself away from the table. “Anyone else want another drink? My turn to buy. “
Molly, Zinat and Carina as well as Thomas took up his offer. Teresa, who had also finished her drink denied, claiming she would buy her own drink later on.
“Very well then,” Greg said and made his way towards the bar.
“I'll help him carry.“ Peter got up, hurrying after Greg.
“Excuse my French but what a bitch,” he said after he had caught up. “What's her problem with you?”
Greg shrugged his shoulders. “I don't know. It's either what Molly had told her about our fights or it's general dislike. I genuinely have no clue.”
“Well the other two seem to like you so I guess it's the latter.”
“Can't have everybody to like you, can you?” Greg forced a smile and turned towards the barkeeper to order the drinks.
Thomas looked at his friend. Greg tried to look as if it doesn't bother him at all but Thomas knew him long enough to be able to look through this façade. Greg started to get insecure again. He had noticed the little tell tale signs which only were visible to those who knew Greg very well.
“No you can't.” He handed the tray from the bar to Greg who put it on his lap and then took the remaining two glasses. Thomas then put them down again. “You know what Greg?”
Greg looked up at him quizzically. “I know the last time didn't end very well but I think this situation calls for shots, doesn't it?”
“Dear God, I'd thought you'd never ask. I need to get seriously drunk or I'll kill that woman at one point.”
“Right, lets have one round here and buy another one for the table.” Thomas ordered the vodkas and they quickly downed their first round.
Carefully balancing the tray Greg wheeled back to their table. He noticed Theresa staring at him but tried to ignore it. Still he prayed that he would be spared the embarrassment of spilling any of the drinks. After 2 pints and one vodka shot he had to concentrate more than usual but he managed. He placed the tray on the table and handed everyone except Theresa a shot. He ignored her huff and leaned over to Molly giving her a kiss. “I promise you I'll handle it better this time.” A cheeky smile crossed his face.
“I won't visit you in hospital if you don't.” Molly joked and reached for her glass. “Cheers.”
The others raised their glasses. “Cheers!”
When Molly woke up the next morning she turned around and looked at Greg who was already awake but looked rather miserable. “Morning,” he croaked.
Molly smiled at him. “Morning. Bit of a hangover?”
He nodded and squinted when the pain in his head got worse which caused Molly to chuckle slightly.
Greg groaned. “That's not funny. It's a mystery to me why you don't have one.”
“It's because I'm still young, Greg.”
Greg jokingly poked Molly in the arm. “You're maybe younger but I wouldn't call you young.” He turned onto his back and instantly regretted that movement as it sent the room spinning.
Molly stood up and walked around the bed. “Shut up silver fox.” She laughed seeing Greg's face instantly turning red and bent down to give him a kiss but withdrew quickly. “Eww, you smell like a Pub.”
“Sorry, I'll brush my teeth as soon as I'm able to get up.”
“No need to rush. I'm going to occupy the bath first anyway.” She was nearly out the door when she heard a pitiful “Molly?” She turned around.
“Could you make a detour to the kitchen and check if we have any coke in the fridge? And some Aspirin somewhere?”
Molly jokingly rolled her eyes. “I'll be right back.” She went into the kitchen and searched around the fridge .” No Coke,” she shouted.
“Anything else with some taste in it?”
She could literally see Greg's disappointed face in front of her. “Only some Orange or Mango juice, I'm afraid.”
There was a long pause, Greg most likely considering which was the lesser evil.
“I'll take the orange juice then.” “And don't forget the aspirin, thank you.” he added.
A couple of minutes later Molly was back with the desired drink and a glass of water for the aspirin. “Here you go. But don't get used to it.”
“You're an angel, Molly.” Greg said, pushing himself up to a seating position. He took a careful sip of the orange juice before emptying the aspirin bag into the water glass.
When Greg hadn't gotten up over an hour after Molly had settled herself on the couch she went back to the bedroom. What she saw made her chuckle. Greg was fast asleep again, sprawled across the whole bed. One arm over his head, the other spread to the side. With his mouth open he let out a soft snore from time to time.
Molly leaned against the door frame and watched him sleep. She watched his chest rise and fall. His breathing was nearly back to normal. The episodes where he woke up at night having trouble breathing were almost gone. He was still out of breath faster than usual and often had to cough after exercising or heavy laughing but that was normal after these sorts of injuries. He was still in some pain from time to time but she hoped that this would get better with time. The wounds had healed nicely and she was pretty certain that the scars would too. His chest hair was returning.
Her eyes wandered up to his face. That silver-brown stubble he wore since a couple of days. At first she had hated that prickling feeling and had complained to him but now she had to admit that this look really suited him. And those eyes, now closed but she could get lost in those dark brown eyes. They were her kryptonite. That and his boyish smile. She felt a tingling sensation in her stomach. God she loved that man. If he just would stop being that idiot he sometimes was. She moved towards the window and opened it to let the smell of alcohol and sleep out. Greg let out a grunt and moved slightly. She waited a couple of minutes for him to wake up. When nothing happened she went back to the living room to let him get the rest he needed.
An hour after Molly had settled back on the couch she heard Greg moving from the bedroom to the bathroom. Another half an hour later he finally emerged, hair still wet. He wore a grey hoodie and tracksuit trousers. He went straight into the kitchen to make himself a cup of coffee. “You want one too?” He asked looking over to Molly.
“Yes please. What about breakfast?”
“I'll get the stuff out.”
“You shaved your stubbles,” Molly noticed.
“Yes, said you didn't like it.”
“I did but got used to it. It suited you. Wouldn't mind if you let it grow back.” she said with a wink.
“I'll maybe let it grow again, then.” Greg smiled and placed the ham, cheese and bread on the table. He took a huge sip of his coffee. “Ahh, finally feeling at least halfway decent.”
“Yeah, it was quite a night yesterday. Not a good combination your mates and my friends. At least not for the liver.” Molly laughed.
Greg chuckled. “But at least Peter managed to get Zinat's number at the end. Not quite sure she knows what she's gotten herself into.”
“And I'll be the one who takes the blame.”
“I'll pass it on to you then. Oh I talked to Theresa by the way,” Upon hearing that name Greg's head snapped up.”I told her to get her act together. Her behaviour was absolutely unacceptable. We're going to meet in a couple of days to have a proper talk.”
“Never mind, she just didn't like me.”
“That's still no excuse for the way she treated you.“
“Maybe she just doesn't like cops? From time to time you meet people who had a bad experience and now think all coppers are bad.” Greg shrugged his shoulders. “She didn't talk much to Thomas or Peter either.”
Greg swallowed a mouthful of bread. “You're other friends, Zinat and what was the name of the other one?” he waved his knife.
“Yes Carina. They seemed to like me.” A cheeky smile crossed his face. He took another bite of his bread. “Well at least if one can believe what women say to each other when they think no one can hear them.”
“What did you hear?”
“Nothing, really. Just some things they were saying when we were leaving to talk outside.”
“Oh god, and I hoped that you hadn't heard that.”
“I might be old but I'm not deaf.” Greg laughed “Some say I don't even look like I'm nearly 50.”
“Well no need to puff yourself up. It probably just had been the dim light which made you look younger. Or,” Molly pointed at him, “which is even more likely, they were talking about somebody completely different.” Secretly she was happy that Greg had overhead what her friends had been saying about him. That could prove as a well needed boost for his self-confidence.
“Say what you want, I'm still a womaniser.”
Molly smiled and send him a kiss. “Of course you are.”