Francis McNish..this name surely rang a bell, Greg thought while he was studying the file. He had nicked him on suspicion of murder multiple times but always had to let him go due to the lack of evidence. Three young women had been killed by what looked like the same person and all traces had let to McNish. Something had felt odd during this case but Greg hadn't been able to pinpoint what it was. It had been one of his first cases as a DI at the Homicide and Serious Crime Unit an in hindsight he wished he had known Sherlock back then. After they had to let him go the third time the whole case kind of went a bit downhill for everyone involved.
Greg remembered that McNish had also been investigated by the Trafficking and Prostitution Unit of New Scotland Yard and that the three dead women where all involved in the sex trade. He was eager to make an arrest. The press was on his back and his picture had been in the papers with lines like “ Is the new Detective Inspector fit for the job?” and “ Detective Inspector Lestrade incapable of catching the new Ripper” And that had been the nicer ones. So after a fourth body, who as well as the other three had been in the trade, had been found they teamed up and got a search warrant for McNish's business as well as private premisses.
The team from the other unit opted for searching the brothels so Greg's team did the search in McNish's home. It didn't went down easy and McNish got violent attacking Greg and his team. Greg had suffered a sprained wrist, thank you very much and McNish could only be stopped by the Armed Response Team which luckily was on stand by outside the house.
But McNish was dead. He had died in his own living room, hit by bullets fired by the ART. And it was over 10 years ago. So why would anyone of McNish's Gang have any interest to get him killed? Why now? No there must be someone else Greg thought closing the file and he was about to put it on the “nope” pile when he suddenly remembered that McNish had a son. He had witnessed the whole disaster and Greg now vividly remembered that, while he sat in the living room leaned against a wall cradling his hurting wrist and waiting for a medic to see him, the boy stood in the door frame staring at him with such a hate Greg never had seen before in the eyes of an 11 year old.
Greg involuntarily shuddered. When the medics had called out McNish's death the boy went straight to Greg leant over him and whispered “You killed my father, you bastard. You're a dead man!” Back then Greg had shrugged it off. The boy had been taken into the care of social workers and Greg hadn't heard from him for quite some time.
Greg rolled back and grabbed his mobile from the bed-site table. “Donovan? Lestrade here. I need every file we've got on Brandon McNish”
“Um I don't think I can do that Boss. You're on sick leave. You're really not supposed to look through files.”
“Ah come on Donovan. This last one.”
“No I can't. The Chief Superintendent had already found out about the last files I brought you and I had some serious explaining to do. Sorry.”
“Ok, if you can't get the file to me then I've gotta come to the file” Lestrade said annoyed.
“Boss you are not coming in just to look at a bloody file!” Donovan sighted, “look we want to find the bastard who did that to you as much as you do. It's our top priority right now, believe me. If you think there is something we should investigate concerning this...what was his name?
“McNish, right. If there is something you think is important tell me and I will look into it,Ok?” She could hear Greg moving around.
It took a couple of seconds until he answered. “I think he might be our guy.” He told her everything he remembered about that day and that he knew that Brandon had took over his Dad's businesses as soon as he was old enough.
“I will look into it,” Donovan promised. “And you just concentrate on getting back on your feet. Everyone around here misses you. Dimmock...well he tries but he'll never be as good as you are, Boss.”
A small smile formed on Greg's lips. “Thanks. I'll try my best.” He ended the call and put his arms behind his head. Sally was on it but non the less he intended to inform Sherlock as well. He sent a quick text and then settled down on his balcony. A couple of minutes later he got a reply. “Good choice Detective Inspector. SH” it read.
Greg groaned. “Could this man for ones try not to speak in riddles. Good choice? What the hell does he mean with that?” he thought. He knew that it was pointless to ask Sherlock to be more clear so he just had to wait. That made Greg chuckle a little bit. Since the day he got shot his whole life kind of consisted of waiting. Waiting to get out of hospital, waiting to get the feeling back, waiting to be able to walk. In two of these he had succeeded. Well at least partly. More and more feeling started to return in his legs and his therapists were quite pleased with the progress he made. He had been in Rehab for 2 weeks now and had nearly daily pre-gait training to prepare him to move from weight assisted gait training to the regular one.
A couple of days later he got a phone call from Sally that there seemed to be a connection between a case Greg had worked on and Brandon McNish. Unfortunately McNish was nowhere to be found but Sally assured him that his team was working hard to find out his current whereabouts and drag him in for questioning.A suspicion aroused in Greg. He couldn't pinpoint what but something felt utterly wrong.
It was his birthday and his fifth week in Rehabilitation. He still hadn't heard any word from Sally if they had got any closer in finding McNish.
Greg hadn't expected much for his birthday. He got a couple of calls from colleagues in the morning and Molly promised that she'll pop by later.
What Greg didn't know was that they had a huge surprise planed for him so when Molly had arrived and conspiratorially asked him to change into something more representable he was what could have been called slightly confused but complied. “So what's this all about?” Greg asked while he peeled himself out of his sweatpants. “I don't really need to dress up for the cafeteria, do I?”
“No, not for the cafeteria.” Molly looked him straight into the eyes. “Hurry up, the car is parked in the short term parking lot.”
“Car?” Greg raised his right eyebrow. “What do we need a car for?”
“We're going into town, right?” Greg had been in the town a couple of times within his wheelchair mobility training group. There they had learned things like how to manoeuvre curbs and public transport. It had felt strange at first being out in the real world and he felt like everyone was staring at them but with the time he had grown more confident.
“Well...kind of into town. But maybe not the town you have in mind right now. Oh and you better pack something for overnight.” A mischievous smile broke out on Molly's face.
Now Greg was completely confused. He had no idea what Molly had planed and decided that it would probably be best to wait and see.
Molly helped him into the car and stowed the wheelchair away in the boot. After they had left the city limits of Stanmore behind Greg looked over to Molly. “Ok, where the hell are you taking me? You do know it is highly illegal to kidnap a police officer especially if he's on sick leave?” he laughed.
“Yeah I do know that and believe me it's all arranged with the Rehab Facility and even with the Yard.” The mischievous smile from earlier had returned.
“I'm not quite sure if that's supposed to reassure me or if you just want to confuse me even more.”
“Well maybe a bit of both” Molly said patting Greg's right knee.
“That's...we are...this is where I live. We're in Rotherhithe,” Greg said dumbfounded after he spotted the first familiar buildings of his borough.
“It is.” Molly smiled at him. “We're a little bit early so we have to make a small stopover,” she said turning into Elephant Lane where Greg's flat was located. She stopped in front of the building and helped him out of the car and through the front door.
While they were waiting for the lift Greg looked around. It felt strange being here after all these months. He wondered what his apartment would look like. He couldn't remembered how he had left it behind and wondered if John or Molly had done some cleaning. God he hoped not.
During the lift ride he noticed Molly typing a quick text holding the display out of his sight. He frowned. What the hell was going on?
The lift doors opened and they exited to his floor. His apartment was located at the end of the corridor and upon arrival Molly handed him his key. “After you,” she said now spotting a wide smile, barely able to contain her excitement.
Greg looked up at her still not quite sure what to make out of all of this. He opened the door and wheeled himself into the hallway of his apartment.
Greg had moved here after his divorce. He had chosen this 2 bedroom flat as it was not that far away from the house he had with his ex-wife so that his boys could stay over night during the week and wouldn't have to travel far to school. He had gotten really angry when he had learned that his ex-wife was moving with this PE teacher up to Scotland, taking James and Oliver with her meaning that he could see his sons only on some weekends.
“Do you want anything to drink?” Greg asked turning in his wheelchair. “I think I have some tea somewhere in the kitchen.”
“Thanks, maybe later.”
“All-right.” Greg opened the door to his living room and nearly got a heart attack when a sudden “Happy Birthday” rang out.
Greg started to laugh. “Dear God. You just can't scare an old man like that. I nearly jumped out of my chair.” He wheeled himself towards his sons who bent down to give their father a big hug.
“Happy Birthday, Dad.”
“Yeah, Happy Birthday.”
“Thank you. Wow that really is a surprise. I haven't seen you two in ages. When was the last time? Back in hospital, wasn't it?”
Oliver nodded. “Yeah. How are you doing, Dad? It's cool to see you mobile.”
“I'm..I'm good. The physical therapy sessions are starting to show successes and I'm getting really good at basketball. I think I can even beat you two guys now,” Greg laughed.
“Pfff.” The disapproving sound came from his youngest son, James. “As if..you couldn't even beat us bef...” James quickly corrected himself: “the last times we played you lost quite badly, remember?”
“Maybe, but now I really had time to train and I have some new tricks up my sleeve.”
“You're up for a game to prove that?” Oliver asked. He looked over to Molly and added: “ I think we still have a couple of hours, don't we?”
“A couple of hours until what?” Greg looked between his sons and Molly.
“You'll see, Dad.” Now both of his sons were spotting the same smile Molly had before.
“It better is something nice. You know it's rude to keep an old injured man in suspense,” Greg said mockingly.
“It is nice. You'll love it, believe me,” Molly said. “I'm going to leave now anyway to let you guys have some time for yourself. I'll be back in around 2-3 hours.”
“Ok then,” Greg said turning his wheelchair, “let's see if I can find a basketball somewhere around here. I think I saw one in your room.” He rolled towards the boys room and opened the door. James and Oliver followed him in some distance. “Ah, yes. I knew it. There is one up on the shelf. Would one of you be so nice and get that ball down. I can't reach it.”
“Sure.” Oliver made his way past James, who was looking at the floor, and his dad and got the basketball from the shelf.
“Thank you. I'm going to change into something more comfortable for the game and then I'm ready to go.”
Greg wheeled himself into his bedroom and frowned at the wardrobe. His sport shirts where all unreachable from his wheelchair and he didn't want to ask his sons for help again. So he settled for a plain white shirt he normally wore under his button-down shirt and black sweatpants which he found lying on the floor. He had no clue what would happen later but he didn't want to be sitting there with a sweaty shirt and pants. It took him quite a while, getting in and out of pants was still a hassle, and when he finally exited his bedroom his sons were eagerly waiting in the hallway.
“I hope that the court is vacant otherwise we have to play an other time. “
“Are you getting cold feet, Dad?” James said picking up the ball.
“No not at all. I was just thinking that the basketball court is quite often occupied.”
“It's early afternoon on a weekday. There'll most likely be nobody or we wait until they are finished.“
“Speaking of weekdays,” Greg said looking up at his sons. “Shouldn't you two be at school normally? Maybe the blows to my head knocked something loose put I'm pretty sure that there are no school holidays at the moment, not even in Scotland.”
“Gosh Dad, some things are more important than school. No, there are no holidays at the moment but Mum allowed us to take a couple of days off to come to London for your birthday. And before you ask – yes we will of course work off everything we missed.“
Greg smiled, “your right. Some things actually are more important than school. Having you two here is the best birthday present I've ever got. Now shall we?” He gestured towards the front door.
They made their way to Southwark Park which was a short walk away. Greg had never noticed how many curbs he had to go up and down on that route. When he had been able to walk he had never wasted a thought on them but now that he was sitting in a wheelchair they could become quite a problem. The small ones were easy. He had learned how to pop a wheelie, as his trainer had called it, and was able to get up and down small curbs pretty easy now. But he still was slightly afraid of the bigger ones. During training he had nearly fell over a couple of times because he had leaned back too much or didn't have enough momentum. Luckily his trainer had been able to catch him every time.
Noticing the insecurity of his sons when he more or less clumsily managed the first curbs Greg decided that a talk was urgently needed. He could sense that they were not sure if they should help him and if it would be Ok to ask him if he needs some help.
Greg knew why his sons had been so eager to have a game of basketball. It was something they had always done together. Either right after they had arrived when they came to visit or back in the days when he still had been living with his wife and had the weekend or a day off. It was a piece of normality for them in this difficult time.
During one of his psychological therapy session Greg had been made aware of the fact that this whole situation was not only life changing and difficult for him but also for the people around him, especially his sons who had seen him at his worse in the ICU and now also have to deal with the possibility that their father might never be able to walk again. He decided to have the talk after the game as he didn't want to destroy the tradition they had since he had moved out. First play a round of basketball and then have any serious conversations which sometimes had been due. But what he had to do now was to address the curb-problem.
Normally he hated it to be asked if he needs some help as he wanted to be as independent as possible but he had the feeling that he had to make an exception for his sons. He stopped his wheelchair and turned it around so that he was now facing James and Oliver.
“You know it's always Ok to ask if you want to help me with something,” Greg said with an encouraging smile. “Like with this curbs here. The smaller ones are Ok, I can manage them well.” Seeing the doubtful faces of his sons and that they were dying to give a stupid remark he smilingly added, “don't you dare!”
Both boys raised their hands in defeat and laughingly assured that they never had intended to do say anything.
“Very well then, I'm going to believe you for now, “ he laughed. “But back to topic - I still have problems with the bigger ones as you may have noticed and would be more than happy if either of you could help me in situations like this. I know it's strange. It is for all of us but it is something we have to deal with for now and I was thinking that after the game we pop in our usual pub on the way back, talk about all of this,” Greg gestured over his body, “and I'll try to answer every question you two have. You're Ok with that?”
They both nodded and for the rest of the way they were fighting over whose turn it is to get their father up or down a curb as they were now both very eager to help.
Greg could feel the unease of his boys returning when they arrived at the basketball court and saw a couple of teenagers hanging around. They were smoking something that suspiciously didn't smell like a cigarette and they looked like they most likely lived somewhere around Rotherhithe New Road. It wasn't the first time these guys were occupying the court when Greg wanted to have a game with his sons but on the times before he had been able to walk up to them and ask them to leave and on the times they hadn't complied he had put on his professional face and, much to the embarrassment of James and Oliver, had pulled his warrant card and told them that it might be better for their future if they smoke their herbs somewhere else. There had been the usual insults but they had complied every time.
“Oi, look who we've got here!” One of the teenagers said nudging his friend and pointed at Greg. He stood up and crossed his arms over his chest. The other four looked in Lestrade's direction.
“It's the bloody copper.”
“You're coming to chase us away again? Sorry not working. Find somewhere else to play.”
“Bet your not even a copper anymore,” another one added eyeing Greg's wheelchair.
Greg started to wheel himself towards the group which was sitting in the middle of the court when he felt a hand on his shoulder.
“Let's just go somewhere else and wait until they leave,” James his youngest said quietly.
Greg shook his head. Just because he was sitting in a wheelchair didn't mean that he would withdraw from this conflict. The teenagers where now all standing showing a quite aggressive body language. “I don't want to cause any trouble, “ he said directed to the teenagers, “We just want to have a quick game of basketball. You can have your court back in 30 minutes or so.”
“Can he even play basketball?” One of the youth said to his friend nodding towards Greg. They all broke out in laughter.
“Yeah man, why are you a cripple now? Fell over a box of doughnuts?” Their laughter grew louder.
“We're not going to leave because a fucking gimp says so,” the first one said, demonstratively blowing smoke in Greg's face before sitting down again.
Even though he was used getting insulted, it was something that comes with the job, these remarks really did hurt. But Greg didn't allowed himself to show it. He just was going to defuse the situation when he suddenly felt someone walk vigorously past him.
“What did you say?” Oliver asked angrily, “what the fuck did you call my father?”
“Gimp,” the guy from before repeated provocatively. “Got any problem with that, asshole?”
“Fuck you,” Oliver retorted. “Say it one more time and I swear I'm going to smash your fucking face.”
Greg reached up and grabbed Oliver’s arm. “Calm down, we just walk away and wait till they leave,” he said quietly and then loud enough for every one to hear he added: “ this guy is not worth to fight, Oliver. Tried to buy some faked Viagra ones because he was too embarrassed to ask his doctor about his erectional dysfunction. Read it in his files. Let me tell you about the others.” With a victorious smile Greg turned his wheelchair around and made his way off the field, followed by his sons.
As predicted by Greg the boys had cleared the court when they returned.
They had played for 20 minutes when Greg decided that it was enough. Not only was he out of breath, he was still far away from his old lunge capacity, the pain in his chest and abdomen had also returned.
But the main reason why he wanted to end this game was that he was loosing quite badly. He had regretted it pretty soon that he had told his sons to not go easy on him and play as usual.
“I think..I am...I'm done,” Greg panted. After he had caught his breath he added “you guys beat me again.”
“Shame, Granddad said that you were quite good at basketball when you were younger. I can't really believe it,” Oliver joked.
Greg pretended to smack him over the head, “Oi! Bit more respect for your old injured father.
When you guys visit me at rehab I'm getting you two wheelchairs and then we'll have a rematch,” he laughed.
“Looking forward to it. Bet we're going to beat you there as well.” Oliver retorted
“And besides, as you should know, I'm more the football type but playing that is out of question. You would beat me there as well now I'm afraid,” he slightly hit his legs. “But you know where you will never be able to beat me?”
Both of his sons shook their heads.
Greg let out a hearty laugh: “musical chairs!”
James and Oliver couldn't really laugh about that joke. They looked hat their father uncomfortably
“Too soon?” Greg asked carefully.
“Too soon.” Oliver confirmed.
Greg sighed. Joking about it was his way of dealing with this whole situation but he had to understand that it was something not everybody was comfortable with.
“Ok I'll try to keep these jokes at bay when I'm with you guys. But just so you know this doesn't save you from all the other great jokes I normally make. I know how you love my awesome puns.”
Now it was James' and Oliver's turn to sigh and groan.
Upon arrival at the pub Oliver offered that he would get the drinks while Greg and James should look for a nice table outside. Greg handed him his wallet and ordered a coke. He was dying for a beer but his scheduled dose of painkillers was due and he didn't want to take his pills with alcohol. Oliver put the ball in his father's lap and quickly made his way inside. Greg watched him and saw that Oliver didn't head straight to the bar but was making a slight detour to a young lady who was about to leave. He could see Oliver greeting her with a kiss and while talking to her he was pointing in Greg's direction. Greg noticed the slightly embarrassed look on his face. He tried to convince himself that it was not because of his wheelchair but because parents are always embarrassing when you are a teenager. When she turned around and looked at him Greg first wanted to wave but remembering the dressing-down he had gotten from Oliver on how embarrassing he had looked the last time he settled for a smile and a nod. She returned the nod and Greg could see the pity in her eyes. He looked at James, “he's still going out with Vanessa?”
“Apparently so,” James was not really interested in discussing the relationship matters of his older brother with his father. “Let's find a table.”
They settled on a partly secluded table and waited for Oliver to return.
“So what's the news? Did you find yourself a nice Scottish lady yet? Back when I was you age I always... ”
A couple of minutes later Oliver arrived. He placed the coke in front of Greg and gave him back his wallet. For him and his brother he had gotten some lemonade which was popular with the young and trendy and was most likely highly overpriced Greg thought. He raised his glass: “Cheers! To us. It's great to see you.”“To you, Dad. Happy Birthday again.”
Greg took a sip and put the glass down. He pulled out his pillbox and quickly swallowed the necessary pills. Greg sighed with relieve when the pain which had been bothering him for a while now slowly became subdued. “Ok, I think it is time to talk. I don't know how much your mother or the doctors back in hospital have told you so I don't know...you have any questions about my other injuries?”
“No, Mum and the doctors had explained everything to us when we first came to visit you.”
“Ah Ok, good. Well...uhm..I heard that you saw me in the ICU. I don't remember much about my stay there, I'm afraid. But if there's anything you want to know or talk to me about just fire away. Same goes for everything else you want to know. Just ask. There are no stupid or embarrassing questions. Most of them I most likely have asked my doctors and therapists as well.” Greg leaned back and sent an encouraging smile towards his sons.
Oliver broke the silence. “When we learned that you had been shot and that they didn't know if you would survive it was the pure horror. We were in Cambodia and had no possibility to get a plane to London. Mum did her best to keep us calm and was in constant contact with your doctors. But I just thought what if he dies? What if your dad dies alone in a hospital because some asshole shot him and you are sitting here on the other side of the world and can't do nothing. Later that night Mum told us that a friend and Molly were allowed to see you and that this friend stayed with you after you were brought out of surgery. So I knew you would be Ok. Then we finally were able to visit you in Intensive Care. You looked really horrible, white as a sheet, a lot of tubes and things coming out of and going in to your body. If it weren't for the monitors showing your heartbeat and that machine breathing for you I would have thought that you were dead. I don't know what I had expected and I just don't know why I though that but I somehow imagined that you would be yourself and that our visit would make you happy and calm but you acted really strange. You didn't really seemed to recognize us and were panicking, trying to remove your breathing thing. We've later been told that it had been the medication you had been given that made you act the way you did but it was really frightening for us. We visited like a week or so later and there you had been way more calmer. It still wasn't easy for us because even though you seemed to recognize us it still seemed that you weren't fully aware on what was going on and that sometimes you wanted to communicate but just couldn't. Sorry for spilling my heart out on this matter but I would really want to know if you can remember us visiting you?”
Greg took a deep breath before answering. He felt sad for his sons that they had to go through all of this. “I'm so sorry that you had to see me in that state. I really am. I can totally understand that you were afraid. I was afraid too. As I said before I can't remember much but what I can remember is lying there, too weak to do anything and having no clue what was going on. People coming and going, talking to me. Asking me to do stuff that I couldn't. Touching and moving me. When they talked to me their words didn't made any sense. And I remember seeing you two, crying. Don't ask me why but I thought we were in danger because you were crying and I couldn't move. After I finally got more and more lucid and aware of my surroundings I understood that I'm in a hospital and that I got injured.”
“How did you feel learning about..you know?” James asked.
“Honestly? I cried. I can still see it in front of me. The doctor came into my room and talked to me about the injuries I had sustained. When it came to the bullet to my abdomen he said, and I will never forget that, -Mr. Lestrade,- he said - unfortunately the bullet did injure your spine. Therefore you are paralysed from the waist down.- He then also told me that it seems to be something what is called an incomplete injury and therefore there is the change to walk again but all I could think about at that moment was paralysed. So after he left I cried for hours I think. I just couldn't stop. I was really depressed for quite a time but Molly and my friends helped me to keep my head up and to think positive. And now at rehab I have a really good therapist to talk to and a lot of great people in the same situation who help me deal with all of it.”
“What is it like in rehab? What are you learning there?”
“Rehab is really hard work but also kinda fun. I learn basic skills like moving around in a wheelchair and transfer myself from the chair to a bed and other stuff. And..”
“Is it hard to manoeuvre a wheelchair?” James interrupted him.
“Surprisingly yes. You can try it out back in my flat if you want to. You've gotta learn how to open and close doors without hitting yourself, managing curbs and slopes and stuff like that. And you know how clumsy I am. It took me ages to learn. We learned how to manoeuvre our chairs around the real world as we call it, like public transport and stuff like that. I'm really not looking forward to using the tube the first time, “ Greg said laughing. “How to quickly turn around and god knows what else will come up. My planed stay is for at least 4 month, I hope I don't need mobility training during all of them. “
“Do you already work on your walking? How much feeling do you have in your legs?”
“I do and there is more and more feeling returning but that doesn't mean that I can move them. That still doesn't work. It kinda feels like my body below my belly button either fell asleep or doesn't exist at all depending on how much feeling returned. I'm doing a lot of physical therapy to get me back on my feet but first of all we've got to try to teach my muscles how to work again before I can try to make my first steps and see if my spinal cord sends the signals from my brain to my legs. But that's still very far away.”
They talked for quite a while about Greg's life at rehab and about how it is to be in a wheelchair. Greg had told them that he actually couldn't say much about it as it only was his fifth week but that he was more than happy to keep them up to date. “You get a different perspective of the world. You always have to look up while all the other people have to look down to you. And they look different at you. Some stare, some try to not look at you and more than enough you can see pity shining through their eyes. And nearly everybody treats you different, like you are not the person you have been before.“
After a while Lestrade could see James and Oliver exchanging looks, nudging each other. It seemed that there was something more they wanted to know but neither of them had the courage to ask.
Greg looked at them expectantly. He had a feeling what it could be but didn't want to push that topic as it was something he preferred to keep to himself whenever possible.
Then James took heart and asked: “you said that it starts below your belly button. Do you...I mean can you...? Because we once saw a documentation about paralysed people and there they said that there are often problems with...well..you know down there.”
“Not at the moment, no. There is still no feeling down there and I have to wear a catheter like I did in hospital. It is annoying but I somehow got used to it. And my therapists says that there is a good chance that I can get rid of it in the near future.”
Greg finished his drink. “Anything else you guys want to know right now?”
“Do you...do you remember how it happened?” James asked quietly just at the moment when they were starting to leave. Greg rolled back at the table.
“I wanted to interview this guy. He had showed me towards his living room when I suddenly felt something hard hitting my head. Next thing I remember is that I somehow was talking to Sally on the phone and then there is only pain. I remember John and Sherlock talking to me and that I couldn't breath. So yeah, thanks to that idiot who thought it would be a great idea to gun down an unarmed Detective Inspector I'm now disabled,” a bitter smile crossed his face. It still wasn't easy talking about the attack and he remembered more than he wanted his sons to know, sparing them the bloody details.
“Dad, please. Don't call yourself disabled,” James said, “it just sounds so harsh, so definite. Like you actually are one of them.”
“I am one of them now!” Greg replied sharply.
“No your not! You're different. Your my Dad. You just have to get up and walk.”
“I can't James, I wish I could but it's not possible for me right now. I work hard on it, trust me. There is nothing more I want to do right now than to walk but I can't. I just can't. And I don't know if I ever will. I have to accept that and I'm asking you to do the same. Please. Don't make this whole situation any harder for both of us.”
James looked down. His shoulders began to shake and Greg could see the tears falling. “It's just...I don't know...I didn't meant to hurt you. God I'm so sorry, Dad. But..I don't know...I think I'm just afraid 'cause everything around me changes. It's just all so fucked up at the moment. First you and Mum divorce, then she drags us up to Scotland to live with that idiot and now this. I'm afraid that we can't do the things together any more I have always loved to do with you.”
Greg rolled away from the table and wheeled himself towards his son. He laid his arm around his shoulder and gently pulled him towards his chest. James began to cry even harder. “I'm so sorry Dad, I'm a horrible son saying things like these.”
“Shhh, it's all good,” Greg stroke the back of his youngest. “Don't beat yourself up about it. It's hard for all of us and we all have to get used to it. But things won't be much different when you come to visit me here in London. We can still do the same things we've done before,” he slowly moved James head up, wiping away his tears and smiled at him. “or have you forgotten that we played our usual match of basketball only an hour ago and I was as bad as ever?”
“See, some things will never change.” Oliver said patting his younger brother on the shoulder.
“Guess your right.” James snuffled and peeled himself out of the hug his father was still holding him in.
“You know what we could do to help you guys get more accustomed to this situation and let you see how it is for me? I'm going to talk to your mother and my rehab team to see if it is possible to have you two stay a couple of days at the rehabilitation facility I'm at. Either you two together at the same time or after each other depending on how you like and the facility allows it. How does that sound?”
“That sounds great. We would really love to do that, wouldn't we Oliver?”
Oliver nodded: “Yeah, that sounds pretty awesome.”
“Great! Now I think it's time to go. I still have no clue what'll happen later but I'm quite sure that Molly will get angry if we're not ready on time,” Greg sniffed his armpits, “and I'm afraid I have to shower which nowadays takes a while.”
“Yeah about Molly,” Oliver started while they made their way back to the street, looking over to his brother who spotted the same cheeky smile.
Knowing what would come Greg prepared himself for it. He put on an innocent face and looked up to his sons: “Yes, what should there be about Molly?”
“Well, when we first met her visiting you in hospital, she said that she was working with you and you two were good friends but..uhm...we don't really buy that story. We're no kids any more, we noticed the looks the two of you exchanged. Is she your new...I mean are you two together?”
Greg couldn't hide a smile. “Yes, we're dating. It started quite badly as we had planned our first date to be on the day I got shot but I know Molly for years now. She works as a forensic pathologist so we meet regularly during cases and on some private occasions of shared friends so we knew each other quite well. And yeah over the last months we grew even closer and are now having something what you actually could call some kind of relationship.”
“That's so cool, Dad!” James exclaimed happily. “She's awesome and we really like her.”
“And you know what the best thing about this is?” Oliver asked.
Greg shook his head. “Except the fact that your old father somehow managed to find a new girlfriend?”
Oliver and James laughed. “Even better – Mum hates her. We think she's somehow jealous. And that makes us like her even more.”
“Really? Well then I can't wait for the next family celebration,” he smiled.
They returned home and after he had washed Greg moved himself from the wheelchair to the couch so that his sons could have a go in it. He positioned his legs on the sofa and leaned back. “Ok, if you want to you can try and have a little insight on how it is to be in a wheelchair. Who wants to go first?”
“I do!” James exclaimed before Oliver even had the chance to say anything.
“All-right, have a seat then. Let's try something everyone has to do on a daily basis. Oliver close the door to the hallway. I want to see if James is able to open it. You can try afterwards, Oliver,” Greg said smirking.
“Wow, that's really hard!” James struggled to open the door and manoeuvre the wheelchair at the same time. “Is there any trick?”
“Let me try!” Oliver said shooing his younger brother out of the chair.
“Daaad, I wasn't finished.” James complained walking towards Greg.
“Sit down next to me and watch your older brother fail, “ Greg said padding the place next to him. James did as he was told and together they watched Oliver struggle to open the door. “See not as easy as you think it is, isn't it? And now imagine clumsy me trying this over and over again. “ He laughed. “And this is one of the easier exercises, believe me.”
“Dad? Can I have another go?”
“Oliver, let your younger brother try again.” His eldest murmured something disapproving but complied.
“I'm going to relax a bit anyway here on the couch so you two can try out my chair for that time. But I don't want to hear any fighting and you've got to promise me to bring it back as soon as you are finished or when I need it. Because otherwise I'm completely helpless.”
“Will do Dad.”
Lestrade repositioned himself and watched his sons trying out different stuff with his wheelchair.
He had been dozing for a while when he heard the doorbell. “Guys, I need my chair!”
Since he was still a little bit tired and the couch was quite soft the transfer wasn't as smooth as it was supposed to be but he hoped that nobody noticed. He wheeled to the door and let Molly in.
“Hey, how was the game?” She asked bending down to give Greg a kiss. She stopped when she saw James and Oliver standing in the hallway looking at her.
“You can kiss me,” Greg whispered. “They know about us.”
“Oh!” Molly looked up and smiled shyly.
“Yeah, we're totally cool with it.” James confirmed, nodding vigorously .
Molly gave Greg a quick kiss on the forehead and made her way towards the living room. Greg turned his chair around and followed, telling her how shamelessly his on blood and flesh took advantage and didn't left him any chance to win.
“You said we should”
“Yeah, right. I did.”
“And next time you'll have the advantage, Dad.”
“But I think he'll still lose. He's hopeless at throwing,” Oliver added nudging his dad's shoulder.
“Stop teasing your old father. Or I have to join the next game and believe me I'll kick all of your asses,” Molly joked.
Nearly simultaneously both Greg and his sons protested. James and Oliver exclaimed that they would never lose against a women while Greg denied that he was old.
“You are, Dad. you've got grey hair. That means that you are old. You wanna know what your hair colour is called? Graveyard-blond!” Both of his sons were shaking with laughter.
Greg faked a hurt face. “See what I have to deal with. No respect for their ol...I mean young father,” he joked.
Molly looked at her watch. “I hate to interrupt this lovely bantering but think it's time to go. Are you guys ready?"
“If I knew what you are planing I would be able to tell you if I'm ready or not,” Greg muttered. “Could you at least give me a hint?”
“Hmm...I think I have to ask the boys if it is Ok. Most of it was their idea,” Molly said ushering James and Oliver towards the kitchen.
They bent their heads together and whispered . Sometimes one of them looked up towards Greg who was craning his neck to make out some words. Carefully he tried to slowly wheel towards them to get within hearing but he got busted right away.
“Oi! Stay put!”
Greg apologized and rolled back.
A short time later the three returned and told them that they decided that he should know where they were going.
“Since Mr. Grumpy here keeps on complaining about missing to enjoy a nice Steak and a good pint since he woke up in hospital we thought it would be a great idea to go to The Old Salt Quay. James and Oliver told me that this is your favourite pub when it comes to food.”
A huge smile crossed Greg's face. “It is. The food there is delicious. I'm ready, let's go!”
The Old Salt Quay was an old warehouse right down at the River Thames. It had a nice outside area where one could sit and enjoy the view over the skyline of London. Greg often met here with friends for dinner.
Molly opened the door for Greg so that he could easily wheel through. He entered the pub and started to make his way towards the bar when he suddenly heard a well known voice.
“Why do I have to be here?”
“Because it is Lestrade's birthday.”
“We've could have send him a birthday card.”
“Sherlock! John! Great to see you!” Greg exclaimed. He rounded the corner and noticed that it was not only John and Sherlock who came to celebrate his birthday. His closest friends were there as well as Sally and some other colleagues he sometimes met privately. A few had visited him in rehab but most of them he had seen the last time back when he was in hospital. Greg was dumbfounded.
“Wow, that really is a surprise!” He didn't know what else to say so he started to make his way around to greet everyone.
A lot of hugs, happy-birthdays and you-look-really-goods later Greg finally settled at a table. He looked around. “Thank you all for coming. Had no clue. I don't know about you guys but I'm quite hungry and I'm dying for a Pint. Hadn't had alcohol for month.” Greg grabbed the menu to see what he would order from the bar.
“Wrong,” Sherlock corrected him. “It is quite obvious that you drank alcohol with your friends at rehab, Detective Inspector.”
Greg starred at Sherlock. “How did you...ah never mind.” He had no clue how the hell he could've known that and if he was honest he wasn't interested. He was here to have a good time with his friends and not getting insulted by Sherlock. He rolled his eyes and concentrated on the menu again.
Greg had settled for a nice rib eye steak which he just finished. Happy he leaned back in his chair. He watched Sherlock annoying his friends as he was deducing things they preferred to stay private. His latest victim was Thomas who looked pleadingly around for someone to help him. Greg had mercy and wheeled himself over to where Sherlock and Thomas were standing.
“Hey Thomas, how's your wife and kids doing?” Greg started, patting his friend on the back. “And no, I don't want to hear it from you, Sherlock,” he added seeing Sherlock starting to say something.
Muttering something obscure Sherlock turned around and walked towards Sally who was sitting at a table with some of his colleagues. Greg frowned, Sherlock would never talk to Sally if he didn't have to.
“Pain in the ass, as always.” Thomas laughed. “You know how it is.”
“I do...I do. Never felt so good than after my divorce.” Greg said smiling.
“I can imagine. How are you doing? You look way more better than the last time I saw you in hospital. And much stronger, I guess.”
Greg hated that statement. Of course he looked better than in hospital. And of course he was much stronger. That was the whole purpose of being in a hospital and then be send to rehab. To not look like you just had been injured. But it was something he heard nearly every time from people who hadn't seen him for quite a while and he somehow understood that they say things like these. He would probably too if he'd been on the other side. But still it annoyed him and he had to bite back a groan.
“Thanks. Yeah, I'm feeling good. Rehabilitation is really helping me.” It felt like he had said the exact same sentences over and over again since being out of hospital.
They talked for quite a while about their kids and the same old stories they always talked about. They worked together back in the days when Greg was fresh on the beat and and remained friends ever since. He was one of the few friends with whom Greg could talk about nearly everything and Thomas had been a great support during his messy divorce.
“It had been great seeing you, Greg. But unfortunately I've gotta go. Gotta work tomorrow. You know how it is.” Thomas excused himself.
Greg nodded and laughing said “Yeah. Luckily I've got quiet some time off now,” beating against his wheelchair.
“See, there is always a positive side to everything,” Thomas replied winking. “I'll come to visit you in Rehab, when does it fit you the best?”
“Well I'm always there so come whenever you like. Weekends are probably the best as I don't have much therapy sessions then."
"God it just came to me that it just sounds like you have an alcohol problem which of course is totally absurd.” Both of them started to laugh uncontrollably. Thomas bend down and gave Greg a hug. “Keep your pecker up, old bastard. I'll try to come around next weekend or so.”
“Will do! And speaking of alcohol problem – I think it's time to get me another beer.”
Together they made their way towards the bar. When they came past Sally and Sherlock Greg tried to eavesdrop on what they where talking about. They were definitely not arguing, which was odd enough but when Greg wheeled past them Sally nudged Sherlock at the shoulder and they both stopped talking. Now he was completely confused. What the hell was going on between the two?
“You Ok, or do you need any help getting that pint back to the table?”
“Nah I'm fine but thanks for asking.” They parted and Greg put the glass between his legs made his way back to his friends.
Sherlock was now talking to his sons, most likely teaching them new ways to annoy their father. “Well at least that hadn't changed,” Greg thought and chuckled. He sipped at his pint and watched his friends and colleagues talk to each other. On one hand Greg enjoyed not being the centre of attention for once but on the other hand he, somewhere deep inside his brain, heard a little voice telling him that he just wasn't the centre of attention because his friends didn't know what to talk to him about. That they also treated him differently and that nothing had changed since his time in hospital. That there was still the same sorrow and pity in their looks. Always the same questions on how he was doing. Always lying and telling them that he was doing fine. He wasn't. He was scared like hell. Suddenly a huge wave of sadness overwhelmed him and he could feel the tears rising up. He had to get out of here quickly. He placed the pint on the nearest table and excused himself for a moment. He rolled outside and took a deep breath. The tears where now streaming down his face. It did not take long until he was brought out if his thoughts.
“What are you sitting here all by yourself, Gregy-boy.” Peter, his best mate asked, slapping Greg on the shoulder.
“Dunno, absorbed in thoughts I guess.” Greg quickly tried to discretely dry off his tears.
“Yeah, yeah. I'm fine. Just wanted to see how the new outdoor area looks like and then got distracted by this beautiful view.” Greg lied.
Peter nodded and went back inside. He shortly returned with a chair which he placed in front of Greg. Peter sat down so that he was now the same heigh as Greg. This little gesture nearly made Greg starting to cry again. No one had ever done this before. The all either stood so that Greg had to look up most of the time or when they actually did sit down it was because there was a chair, a bench or table to sit at and not with the intentional purpose of getting down to his heigh.
Peter leaned forward. “No, how are you really Greg. You always say your fine but right now you don't look like it to me. Be honest. How are you coping?”
Greg snuffled. “How I cope? Look at me. I'm a 46 year old man crying on his own birthday. The littlest things make me cry nowadays, you know? It sucks. I should be inside and have fun with you guys being happy that I'm still alive. But I just can't. It's a lot to handle right now, Peter. It is just to much for me. There is always the anxiety about the future. That I won't be able to walk again. That I will be treated differently for the rest of my life because I'm not normal any more. I notice that people look at me differently since I'm in that damn wheelchair. Even my friends when they visit me in rehab or here at the party. I know they don't do it on purpose but it still kinda hurts. Do you know that you are one of the few persons who treat me the same way like before I got shot?” Peter slowly shook his head. “You are. And I really appreciate that you came out to see if I'm all right. Thank you.”
Peter got up from his chair. “That's what mates are for. You're not different to me because your a couple of inches shorter for now. Actually it makes me being taller for once which will finally give me an advantage over you with the ladies.”
Greg wiped away the tears and smiled. “Well but not for long, so you better don't get used to it. And I don't know what your wife thinks about that anyway. But if we were on the hunt like back in the days I would still collect more numbers than you. Do you know what the nurses called me in hospital? Silver Fox.” They both started to laugh.
“See that's the attitude I want to see from you. And by the way – you've found yourself quite a nice lady I must say. I had the pleasure to talk to her tonight. She's great. Good looking and intelligent...you don't get that often. Especially not at our age.”
Greg chuckled “Thanks. Yes I really like her and I hope that it'll work out between us. She's the woman I can see myself getting old with. Molly is such a great support for me during this time. Helping me keeping my spirits up and to never lose hope. Did you know that she and my sons had planed all of this?” Greg asked with a happy smile.
"No I didn't know. You're ready to go back inside?”
“Not right now, sorry. I think I still need a couple of minutes.” Greg said slowly wheeling towards the fence.
“Mind if I quickly fetch our pints and then join you?”
“No, not at all,” he answered, resting his arms on it and looked over to the Tower Bridge.
A couple of minutes later Molly turned instead of Peter and handed him his pint.
“Peter said that you would probably prefer me over him right now.” Molly explained.
A smile crossed Greg's face. “This man knows me like no one else.”
Greg took a couple of sips and looked at Molly.
"I'm so sorry,” she started. “ Your sons thought that you would enjoy seeing your old friends and colleagues on your birthday. And so did I. We didn't know that...”
“It's Ok, Molly. I do. It's a great idea they had and I love them for that but it's all a lot to handle. It just became to much for me right now. I just needed some time for myself.”
Molly had moved the chair Peter had left outside and was now sitting next to Greg. For a while they both stared out at the Thames watching some boats passing by.
“Do you know that this was the place I wanted to take you on our first date?” Greg said breaking the silence. “Before I got shot.”
“Really. That would've been lovely. And I guess that you just had chosen this location because of the nice view and the good food and that it has nothing to do with the close proximity to your bedroom.” She replied with a wink.
“Of course not. I would've never thought of such thing!” Greg tried to look as innocent as possible but couldn't hide his typical boyish smile. “But now that you mention it – I know how dangerous the streets of London can be at night. Don't you think it would be best to spend the night somewhere near instead of having to travel all the way up to Leyton?”
Molly started to laugh and rested her head on Greg's shoulder. “Well if Scotland Yard says that is too dangerous than I guess I have no choice.”
“It most certainly is.” Greg put his arm around Molly and together they sat there enjoying each others warmth in that chilly early summer night until Greg moved his head and looked at her. He took her chin in his hand and slowly pulled her closer, their lips touched and their shared a long and passionate kiss.
After a while they parted. "I think we should go back inside," Greg said, looking at Molly, "I'm sure the others are missing us already."
"Yes, we should." They shared another long kiss and then made their way back to Greg's birthday party.