Actions

Work Header

The Way Things Are

Chapter Text

The moon was shining down as the smell of barbeque lingered in the air. Over by the grill Paul stood, looked on and smiled. This was life now, this is what Terese gave him and he wouldn’t change it for the world. A couple of months ago this group had a different vibe, the first and only time they all came together was before Sonya died. Paul sighed as he thought about that day and what she told him. That day was when he was welcomed into their world and at the time he couldn’t help think he didn’t belong there. He wouldn’t have been there if it wasn’t for Terese and even then did they want him around? Sonya always had a way to welcome anyone in. All of them had been good to him in the past but did they really want him hanging around, spending lunch with them? Tonight felt different though, this felt like what Sonya had planned for them, their thing, and his thing. He felt like he belonged, like he was part of something special. Terese looked over and gave smile. This was all because of her, the Penthouse never offered this kind of life. Moving into Number 22 with his now fiancé had been a world changer and if tonight was anything to go by it was all for the right reasons. He smiled as he headed over to the sound of Karl talking trams.

“What now Karl, more nonsense business ideas?”

“What. No” stuttered Karl

“Not nonsense Paul, no, just stupidity” sighed Susan

“Nothing new there then”

“Paul!” Terese gave him a slap on his arm. “It not that bad of an idea, just ambitious” she said shrugging her shoulders

Toadie struggled to hold in his amusement.

“Let hear you come up with a better one then Toad”

“To beat your wonderful touring trams”

Paul burst out a “HA”

“I couldn’t possibly”

“No come on, no judgments till you can bring something to the table”

“Fine how about earplugs for blocking out specific people” Toadie suggested looking at Karl

“Now we’re getting somewhere” Paul teased “Put my name down for a pair!”

“Oh ha ha, very funny” Karl muttered unamused

“Told you I shouldn’t have shared” Toadie laughed

Susan put her arm around Karl, looked at Toadie and whispered “Put me down for a pair”

“Oi” Karl exclaimed

The sound of laughter filled the back garden as the candles flickered. Terese looked around the table

“Well this has been a good night.”

“It’s been a right laugh but I should probably go before Karl’s drink comes flying over the table”

“Don’t be silly Toad, I would never waste such a good tipple”

“Right, so I’m safe as long as Paul keeps pouring” he chuckled “But no I really should be heading”

“Are you sure” Terese asked as he got up.

“Yeah and I’ll drag Yashvi home with me!”

He walked towards the house, turned around, waved “Thanks Guys”

“Ok see you Toad”

“Bye Toadie”

As he walked in Paul and Terese looked at each other sympathetically. Paul reached over and held her hand.

“Just makes you appreciate everything doesn’t it” Susan said looking at Karl

“Yes it does” Terese agreed squeezing Pauls hand.

“You know this was all because of Sonya to beginning with, us all coming together, that day we had pizza at yours” Paul reminisced

“All she wanted was you and Toadie back on speaking terms. Me and Paul were there to make it less obvious of an ambush!” Terese continued

“You knew all this” Susan looked confused

“Of course, come on who would invite me otherwise” said Paul

“Sonya only would’ve invited who she really wanted there, the ones she considered family.”

“I know” Paul agreed looking at Terese “That day started as what I considered a nightmare”

“Why, didn’t want to be seen mingling with the commoners?” Karl butted in

“What do you think? Of course not”

“Why then?”

“Well you were all Terese’s friends, that’s why I was invited.” He looked at his hand and started rolling his ring “I guess I wondered did you really want me there.”

No one answered for a second until Susan replied “We’ve know you through good and bad. We know who you are and who you can be. You may not always want to be but there is always a place for you with us. Always”

Paul lifted his head, looked at Susan, nodded his head and smiled.

With everyone falling into silence Karl suddenly changed the subject

“So any plans laid out for your big day. Venue, Guests, Music...”

“Well…” Terese looked at Paul cautiously

“Because Bea and I have been working on something”

“I think that’s our cue to leave” Susan suddenly interrupted

“Thank God” Paul mocked.

They all chuckled, got up and headed inside.

“Thanks for tonight guys the food was wonderful”

“Yes Paul, but the sausages could’ve been cooked a bit longer. Maybe next time”

“Comment on the food and you expect a next time”

“Boys, why is it always with the sausages” Terese exclaimed.

“Just kidding darling. No it was nice, next time sounds good”

Susan gave Terese a hug and they headed towards the door

Terese waved “See you guys”

“Yep see you” Paul shouted as they headed out

As they headed out Roxy walked in and joined Ned and Harlow.

“So fun night?” Ned questioned

“Yes it was thank you” Terese answered

“He wasn’t really asking you Auntie T”

“You know what Roxy” Paul joined in “It was nice”

“Wow look at you a proper street resident” Ned mocked “What next a heart to heart with Mark”

“Har de Har Har! Mock all you like but remember this moment when you come looking for dinner tomorrow night!!”

“Fair point. On that note I’ll head upstairs”

“Right behind you cuz” Roxy headed after him

“Well he told you” she laughed as they headed upstairs.

Harlow stood up “I’m glad you had a good night”

“And you?”

“Yeah third wheeling was fun”

Terese and Paul looked at one another

“I’m kidding, we had a good time”

“Oh good” Paul sighed

Harlow smiled “I’m going to do some reading before bed, night guys”

“Night darling” Terese said as she followed Ned and Roxy upstairs.

Paul watched her and smiled. Watched by Terese he headed into the kitchen.

“What was that?"

“What? Oh you know just thinking of the way things are now”

“How so?”

“Well you know us engaged, barbeques with the neighbours and three young adults to take care of. Never did I see this coming a year ago”

Terese had a worried look on her face. Wondering where he was going with this.

“Oh no darling nothing like that. I mean yes the house is crowded and Roxy hogging the shower, that needs to be addressed but I never thought I would enjoy it, the hustle and bustle of a full house”

“But your Penthouse...”

“It was never full. Full of individuals’ maybe but never all at the same time. This is different, a good different”

She stepped towards him and held his hands

“Well I know we all have made adjustment but for the first time in a long time this house feels like a home”

“Because of the nice home cooked meals right”

“Of course what else” she smiled

He smiled back and leaned in for a kiss

She kissed him and then pulled away

“Now shall we leave the washing up for the young ones in the morning and have some fun”

“Yes! I’ll set out the board” Paul walked towards the coffee table

“Winner buys coffees in the morning” Terese said walking behind him.

Paul laughed. Before he could say anything her phone rang and Pipers name popped up.

“Oh its Piper, do you mind.”

“Of course not. Take as long as you need.”

Terese answered the phone and headed to the back

“Tell her I say Hi” he shouted as she disappeared out of view.

He could hear her in the distance chatting and laughing. He couldn’t hear details but he was content just to listen to the happiness in her voice. He continued setting the board. Lifted his head and looked down again. This was his life. Him and his queen. Their family were the six by their side while the guards out front were their friends. Terese had once compared his life to that of a chess game, looking at the board tonight that filled up a whole different meaning. He smiled, placed the queen in her place and sat back in his chair. He looked over to the picture of Terese on the shelf. Everything was good, his family, his business, everything had fallen into place. It may have been a bumpy road at times but that had only served to make this little family stronger.

All of a sudden his phone rang. He had a disgusted look on his face as he reached into his pocket. Who would be calling him tonight? Hoping for it to be anything but work he opened the case. His face turned to a look of confusion. Why were they calling tonight and why now?

He answered with a questionable “What could you want at this hour?”

After listening for a while he looked to see if Terese was coming, and answered

“Yes I promise, now tell me everything you know.”

Chapter Text

Paul sat up in bed. Last night still on his mind he looked over and saw Terese cuddled up next to him. She was on such high when she came off the phone, Piper was happy, her career was growing and she and Tyler seemed to be in a strong place. His phone call was completely different and worse he was keeping it all from her. This was them in a nut shell he thought to himself. Every time it all comes together there is someone or something waiting to put a dent in it. He sighed as he opened his phone, scrolled, stopped, his finger hovered for a while. He looked over and suddenly closed the case. Not this morning, not now. She looked so peaceful, how could he tell her anything that happened last night. He kiss her of the forehead and smiled. No need to ruin today as tomorrow hadn’t even been touched he decided as he placed his phone back on the table and snuggled next to her.

........................................................................................

Paul came down the stairs to the sound of laughter from the kitchen table. He placed his folder on the counter and went to pour himself a coffee. Behind him Ned appeared with a pleased look on his face.

“Thank god you are down; these three are in a funny mood this morning”

Paul walked towards the table, where the three women were having a giggle.

“So what’s going on here then?”

“Oh I was just telling the girls about Pipers phone call last night”

“And” Ned encouraged rummaging through the fridge.

“And Roxy was telling me about Ned’s little morning accident”

“Your what,” Paul said looking in Ned direction with a confused look on his face

“It was nothing. Apparently not to the girls though”

“You’re right it wasn’t that funny. We’re sorry.” Harlow apologized.

She looked at Roxy and the girls shared a pleasing smile between them

“Ok.” Paul said still a bit confused. He sat down next to Roxy. Helped himself to a croissant. As he reached over Roxy decided to pick his brains.

“So Auntie T was on the phone for a while last night”

Paul looked at her and answered

“Yeah, Piper hadn’t called for a while. I’m sure she had a lot to talk about”

“And you?” Roxy questioned

Paul look at her with a slight frown. He quickly took a bite of his breakfast.

“Who were you on the phone with?”

“Someone called you last night?” Terese interrupted before he had a chance to answer

“He was talking to someone when I came down”

“You came down?” Paul changed the subject quickly

“Yeah I forgot my phone. So?”

“It was no one, just business.” He looked towards Terese “Ready to go darling”

“Bit late for business wasn’t it?” Roxy pushed

Harlow sensing that this was not a conversation that Paul was comfortable with she decided to follow Paul’s lead.

“Grandad, can you give me a lift to Harold’s?”

“Yeah sure” He looked towards the counter. “Ned?”

“No, I’m going to meet Leo before I head to work.” He looked at his watch “Actually I’m late, so I’ll see you later”

He finished his juice and headed towards the door. Paul finished his coffee and got up.

“You ready”

“Yes I’ll just grab my jacket from upstairs.”

As Terese left the table and headed upstairs, Paul turned to Roxy and angrily asked her

“What are you playing at?”

“What, I was just asking who was on the phone.”

“To be fair Grandad it was a fair question,” Harlow agreed

“Really left you on edge though. Why?” Roxy questioned

“Not today Roxy.”

“Not today what? Terese asked coming down the stairs.

“Roxy not getting away with the dishes again” Harlow stepped in

“Fine I’ll do them this morning, but you owe me,” she said looking at Paul

“Fine”

They headed towards the door. Paul looked back and Roxy just looked at him and shook her head. He turned around and slammed the door behind him.

……………………………………………………………

The sun was shining on the complex as Harlow and Terese walked through. Terese turned around and looked at Paul walking behind them. He looked distant, lost in his own little world. Something was bothering him this morning. He had been a bit distance since she returned off the phone last night. Sure, he listened to her stories but it was as if he was not really concentrating and when it came to the game, looking back, that was the ultimate clue. He won. Nights like last night he lets her win, thinks she doesn’t know but she does, but his game last night was different. It was competitive, all about the win. Was it something to do with the phone call Roxy kept going on about? Let face it she knew how to push his buttons but after the night they had for the mood to just change like it did, that phone call must’ve been something. She turned to Harlow

“What do you think, do reckon your grandad is ok?"

"I think so"

"Did Roxy tell you about this phone call?"

"No first I heard was this morning." She smiled at Terese "Are you Ok?"

"I don’t know, maybe Roxy was onto something, he has been a bit distracted since last night."

"Are you sure?"

"Well we played a game after you left, he won"

"Really?!”

Terese looked at her and nodded her head.

"Listen, just ask him. Second guessing won’t do anyone any good."

She stopped outside the Hotel. Harlow headed off to Harold’s. As she headed Paul finally caught up with Terese

"Harlow gone?"

"Yes she was meeting Yashvi to study. Didn’t we mentioned this in the car?"

"Yeah sorry, course"

"Are you ok?”

“Yeah”

She looked at him unimpressed. He sighed.

“Oh Terese”

“Is it something to do with last night, the phone call?"

“Don’t worry, I’m handling it"

"So tell me, what was the phone call?”

"Like I said it was business"

“Which I’m a part of?”

“I have other businesses apart from the Hotel”

“Don’t you dare do that?”

"Terese, yesterday was good but that phone call makes it feel like a distant memory. Do we really need this today?"

"Now I’m really worried"

"Bloody Roxy and her phone.” He sighed under his breath “Fine but not here. Your office"

"Sure"

“I’ll grab us that coffee and meet you up there"

He headed towards Harold’s. As he walked away Terese looked worried. He wasn’t hiding this very well and what could possibly be so bad that’s shook him so much in such a small space of time. Who could possibly be on the phone regarding any of his businesses, if it even was regarding business? Maybe it was a family issue or his health. He was never one to hide from anything though which made this all the more puzzling. It was something obviously he wanted to share but at the same time wanted to keep from her. She paused to think. Was it to do with her? Was he delaying telling her because he didn’t know how? Stop she thought to herself, she was probably making it all worse than it was. She walked into the hotel. She looked around at her staff getting on with their day, all of them helping to run her business. She walked towards the lift. All the tragedy and heartbreak this place had served her over the years yet she could never walk away. For all the bad times the good ones outweighed. Without this place she’d have never met Paul, never know the family she now has at Number 22 and the street she’s so fond of. She smiled as the door closed. This was her empire, their empire.

……………………………………………………………………..

“The usual for me and Terese please Shane”

“Usual coming up”

Paul opened his phone to the sound of a message. He shook his head. Every ding on his phone was unnerving him. He hadn’t heard anything since last night but just that one phone call was ruining his day. This was not happening. How everything could just be falling apart on this unsuspecting Monday morning was beyond explanation. Was it too much to ask just to give him some time with it. He told them he would sort it. Surely, the situation wouldn’t change in the next couple of days. He closed the case, put the phone back in his pocket and looked around impatiently for his service. Shane was watching from the Coffee machine.

“You Ok Paul” Shane asked coming over with the coffees

“What”

“You seem a bit, I don’t know, worked up”

Paul looked at him with a glare. Shane knew better than to further the conversation. He placed the coffees on the counter. Paul grabbed the tray and headed out. Harlow looked towards the door and then at Shane.

“Don’t take it personally; he’s been a bit distracted all morning”

“Don’t worry that’s not the first glare Dad’s had over the years? Mum gives them on a daily basis.” Yashvi tried to lighten the situation.

Harlow gave a little smile but she was worried. There was only a handful of times she has seen him this distracted or worried and most of that time it was because of family. Did this have something to do with family again? All she hoped was that it would be sorted out before it ate away at him too much. It was already causing awkwardness and that was only the phone call, who knows what else was coming their way.

“So English poets?” Yashvi said to capture Harlow’s attention before both girls turned back to their books.

…………………………………………………………..

Terese sat in the office. She looked at the clock wondering where Paul had got to. He must’ve been caught up somewhere on the way over. She turned back to her laptop. Her door suddenly opened, she lifted her head and was taken aback with who was
standing in her doorway.

“Hi Terese”

“Lucy hi, what are you doing here? Paul never mentioned you were heading our way?

“He doesn’t know I’m here”

“Oh, well if you were looking for him he’s on his way over”

“It’s actually you I came to see Terese. It about the hotel.”

The room fell silent as Paul marched in, head down, with his coffees.

“Oh darling sorry I took so long. Harold’s was busy and then Aaron wanted me to sign a couple of things for the Shed at The Waterhole.”

He looked at Terese, she had a worried look on her face.

“Terese, you ok”

“You tell me Paul” She said and nodded towards the door

He turned around and saw his sister standing just behind. He sighed as his head dropped.

“So either of you going to tell me what’s going on because I can sense this is not the reunion any of us wanted.”

“The investors reached out Terese. There has been a complaint and they need answers.”

“So why not come to me?”

“It not that simple?”

“Lucy come on, if this is to do with our Hotel then surely it should be dealt in house.” Paul interrupted

“Don’t you think I tried that? But that “our” is part of the problem. I’m sorry Terese, but I have no choice but to place you on leave until the problem is sorted.”

“Are you serious?”

“I’m sorry but I promise I will deal with it as soon as possible”

Paul looked at Lucy and shook his head. He put the coffees down on the table and gave Terese a hug. Once again he had let her down. He should’ve prepared her for this, instead he dodged every opportunity and now all he could do was comfort her. He wasn’t letting this go; he was going to fix it, no matter who stood in his way.

“Wait” Terese said pushing him away “Was this the phone call. Did you call him last night?”

“No I told you he didn’t know I was here did you?”

“I was going to tell you, I just didn’t think Lucy would come here so early. I was hoping to catch her before and sort it all out.”

“And how did you know I was here, no one knew apart from…”

”Chris” He turned towards Terese “It was Chris on the phone last night. He told me everything but made me promise to sort it. I couldn’t keep it all from you though; I know how much this place means to you.”

“Well not enough obviously. You should’ve told me last night Paul, and don’t you dare use Piper as an excuse.”

“I’m sorry.”

“You know what, not good enough” She walked out leaving Paul and Lucy looking at each other.

“You could’ve waited. You know how much this place means to her” Paul snapped at Lucy

“I’m sorry, but I will sort it”

“You better, because this is the last thing we need.” He sighed “It was all going so good” He left the room, hoping to catch up with Terese. As he left Lucy sighed.

“I really am sorry” she whispered to herself as she sat down “But I will fix it”

Chapter Text

Terese walked out of the office, everything and nothing was going around in her head. Had she storm off too quickly, should she have stayed and talked to Lucy? Did she want to hear what Lucy had say? Did she want to know where this ridiculous complaint was coming from? What sort of complaint was it even? She hadn’t even stick round to hear any fine details. She heard complaint and thought she had to get out of there. Why Lucy felt she couldn’t just deal with it was beyond her, surely she could convince the board that it would be in the best interest of the hotel for her to stay there while the investigation was ongoing. The investors knew her, knew what she was about, why would they all of a sudden go behind her back like this? Fine, maybe things hadn’t been smooth sailing recently with the whole stolen horse fiasco and the lunch that was interrupted sure but that was months ago and everything had been running smoothly since then. There were new investors on board thanks to Pierce, his wine was selling well enough and she and Paul was running a successful ship. Or so she thought. What had changed in the last couple of months that would offend someone this much.

She arrived at the lift, doors opened and she stepped in

Was this even about her? Pierce had bought into the hotel, it could be that someone didn’t like him. But then again why make the complaint about her, the Hotel was the only thing connecting her to Pierce. Other than that they didn’t spend much time together. Plus why would anyone complain about him, he’s kept a pretty low profile since arriving back in town. Maybe it was to do with Roxy or Harlow? But things were going pretty well there and neither was really involved with the hotel. Ned worked there but he had been really settled recently she doubted his work would offend anyone. She sighed. But there was one person. She didn’t want to think about it but it was hard to ignore when, after eliminating all, he still sat there as an obvious choice. Paul and her were in a really good place at the moment but he was no stranger to confrontation. Paul was defiantly not one to back down from anything. If he thought he was right he would follow that till it was proven otherwise. I guess we both have that in common she thought, not one to cause a stir but she could be stubborn when she wanted to be. But surely not, this couldn't be something he had done. Then again I guess one way to get revenge on him would to punish her. If there was something he didn't hide that was how much she meant to him. She smiled to herself. For years they had always been one disagreement away from settling down. If it wasn't the hotel, it was other relationships. There was always something not quite putting them on the same page. But this year, it all had changed. They were happy, yes it had been a bit messy at times but for some time now it was settled, it was quiet, it was a change, a nice change! But that should be the big clue to this puzzle, when they settle there is always something coming along to disrupt them. This was it.

The lift doors opened, she looked out onto the reception. For some reason the view was different now. Same room, same staff but that homely feel she usually had wasn’t there. To think one of these people could be the one causing all of this that was going around her head. Could it be a staff member or was it a guest? Paul must know more that he let on. Yes she walked out of that room before they had a chance but he had all morning to prepare her for this. All morning to tell her what was going on, what Chris told him on the phone. Yes Lucy claimed that he didn’t know she was coming, but he knew she would be here eventually so why hide it from her. This was always his move, whenever something came up he hid it. He would go behind her back to sort it and then when it all came to the surface they ended up having the same old conversation. Trust and honesty. She needed to know she could count on him to be honest with her with whatever came his way. But it was always the case that the conversation would sink in till the next time something came up and it was back to the same place again. He always had a reason, an answer to why he played this way, but this wasn’t as simple as some of the other times. This was her career, her life, their life. He should know that, out of everything he should know that. She sighed. Maybe this wasn't like those other times though maybe this was different. He was distracted, had been since the night before. He did say that he was planning to tell her and maybe if she'd gone with him to Harold’s it would've been fine. It obviously was weighing on him and with some telling him not to mention it and her constantly in the back of his mind she could see why he couldn't just tell her straight off. He had his chance but I guess the same as with everything regarding Paul, it had to be the right time, his time. She couldn't help but feel annoyed though, not only because he didn't tell her but because he knew before she did. She was the manager and yet this had slip past just like that. He didn't deserve her wrath though, this wasn't all on him on neither of them. It was this individual who thought they could disrupt her work, her family, her life.

As she walked through Reception she felt the eyes of the whole world looking at her. The doors of the lift pinged, she turned around. The look on his face was sympathy, the last thing she wanted. She shook her head, turned and walked out.

“Terese wait”

She wasn’t ready for this, for him.

“Wait, wait. Terese wait”

He finally caught up with her outside. She looked at him, waiting for some explanation, but he had nothing for her.

“Oh come on Terese do you think I would’ve just let you hear it like that if I knew she was coming”

“I don’t know Paul, she is your sister”

“You know as well as I do she shares more with you than me. Believe me if I knew she was coming I would’ve…”

“Told me, funny that cause you knew there was an issue and chose to just what, bide your time, get someone else to break the bad news.”

“Chris only called me last night, he said Lucy was on her way. I thought I could’ve reached her before she came here.”

“So what happened?”

“I tried to call but she didn’t answer. You saw something was up so I decided to tell you which obviously wasn’t soon enough”

“So do you know who?

“What?”

“Do you know who’s done the complaint? Do you know what it’s about? How serious?”

“I didn’t ask. Chris didn’t really know much and I didn’t wait to hear what Lucy had to say.”

“Well you need to go back up there, find out, sort it out.”

He reached out and held her hands.

“Don’t worry darling, I will do everything I can to fix this”

She looked at him. He looked worried but this was the man she loved, she trusted. If there was one person that was defiantly going to fight her corner, whatever happened, it was Paul. She squeezed his hands.

“I know you will.” She smiled at him. “And don’t look so worried, I’ll be back in that office before you know it. So don’t get comfortable”

He chuckled. He gave a peck on the cheek.

“I’ll see you for lunch”

“Yeah”

He headed back inside. She watched him walk away. She turned and walked towards the bridge. A worried look on her face, she looked at her phone. She had a message from Harlow. She smiled to herself as she read. Couple of days that’s all, couple of days and all will be back to the way it was. At least she had lunch to look forward to. She looked back at the hotel. He’ll fix this, she thought, he’ll fix it.

Chapter Text

“Right tell me what you have so far”

“I’m sorry” Lucy replied to Paul’s sudden demands as he walked through the door.

“Where are you up to with this ridiculous complaint?”

“I’m handling it”

“And”

“Come on Paul you know I can’t involve you in this”

"Oh Lucy just give me something to go on, just something" He looked at her with hope in his eyes but she had nothing for him

"Sorry Paul you know how these things work”

“Yeah well they usually work differently for family, at least they do when I’m in charge”

“That’s not fair. And don’t you think that’s the reason they want you nowhere near this?

He scoffed

“Is that so? They don’t want me near because I what, have values”

“Don’t do that”

He shook his head in confusion

“Make it out to be something good. Family loyalty it may be but it also your way to get what you want”

“Answers”

“Usually, followed by a plan of action that ends up getting way out of hand”

He smiled

“If it gets the job done”

She looked at him unamused

“Kidding. I was kidding”

“Hmm. Maybe try to sound a tad more convincing next time. Now go so I can do my job. I’ll come round yours later for a catch up. Nothing more than a personal catch up, no work.”

“Fine but you can explain that one to Terese. “

As he headed towards the door he turned around. She looked at him and smiled.

“I know it hurts, but I will sort it”

“Well we both know how much this place means to her”

“To the both of you”

“It’s ours, you know, always been ours. Can’t really imagine us being any other way.”

“So let me sort it.”

He nodded his head and left the room. Lucy quickly got back to her Laptop. A message had popped up, as she looked at it her face dropped. What on earth was going here? Terese’s name was being thrown about like a ragdoll, the power that be wanted answers and she was stuck in the middle. Terese was like family to her, well she was family now that she and Paul were engaged but that couldn’t mean anything now that the investors had put her in charge to sort this. It should do but it couldn’t. She just hoped that Paul would, as he always does, ignore her and find his own way of getting to the bottom of this. Sending him away was not ideal but it was the only way he could be helpful without putting the hotel under more pressure. She sighed. Back to it she thought, the quicker she would figure this out the quicker she could leave them be. She hadn’t been home in a while but talking on the phone, not in a long while had she heard Paul sound so settled as he did. Calling Terse and it was the same. They were happy and everything was just working out for them. Sort this and it could all go back to that. That’s all they all wanted. Suddenly she stopped to think. What was the name on that email she just read? Was that really who she thought it was? It couldn’t possibly be surely?

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Terese sat outside looking at her phone. This was ridiculous she thought to herself, surely, she had something she could do to pass the time. Was there washing that needed doing, cleaning maybe or even some cooking. She looked towards the house. The hustle and bustle of that morning had long since gone. To think seven of clock this morning everything was as it should be 10 o clock and there was chaos. She hadn’t even spoken to Lucy since walking out but she had Paul there for her, she knew nothing or no one could get rid of him that easy. She decided to head inside, make herself a strong coffee. She looked at her phone again, this was driving her insane. She place it on the table and walked towards the sink, stopped and looked out the window. Daydreaming, she jumped as the front door shut behind her.

“Roxy please.”

She turned around and much to her surprise Paul was the only one standing there. She looked confused, puzzled as to why he was here and not at Lassiters. See walked around to meet him

“Bit early for Lunch isn’t it”

He had a very apologetic look on his face, something she didn’t want to see.

“Are you serious?”

“I tried but she wasn’t having any of it, I’m sorry Terese, Lucy doesn’t want me anywhere near the hotel”

“And you just took it, that’s a first”

“C’mon you know me better than that. Lucy does too”

“What are you up to?”

“You see she has had instruction of what needs to happen with this. Mainly keep me away from it all, I apparently “cause trouble”, so she did what she had to do and sent me on my way.”

“So what happens now?”

“I have eyes and ears everywhere at the complex. As for us, we can figure it out together.”

“By eyes and ears you mean?”

“I have people working on it.”

“So you’ve dragged more people into this mess”

“Yes but only a handful.” He held her hands “We will fix this, and by this time next week it will all be back to normal. Or as normal as it gets.”

She smiled

“So who are our eyes and ears then?”

“Ned with Staff. Chloe with guests. Shane in Harold’s. He chats to everyone so he’s bound to pick up something of value. Also Harlow will listen out, and Sheila will keep an eye out at the bar.”

“And they all know why they are getting involved”

“Nope, I told them there has been a complaint against the Hotel, so they know what to listen out for. No specifics. I promise you.”

“Thank You”

“I should’ve told you earlier Terese, about it al. I wasn’t open enough and you had to find out in a manner no one deserved. This, this is the least I can do”

“Well let’s get started then”

They walked into the kitchen; he sat down at the table as she headed back towards the fridge.

“Well since you are off work how about you make yourself useful and make us both a coffee”

“You know what I’m starting to think this was all you. The complaint. Anything to keep me here as your personal housekeeper.”

“I do miss the penthouse life I must admit.” He looked over and gave a cheeky smile

She shook her head and grabbed two mugs off the shelf. She looked at Paul and smiled to herself. This was going to be a long couple of days but having him home with her made it a bit better. Their work was their life, and their life was each other. That was all she needed to fix this.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Harlow sat alone in Harold’s having shared lunch with Yashvi and Ned, both had gone back to work. Paul’s words had been going around in her head but all she could wonder was why was he hiding the truth from her. The mysterious phone call, the awkwardness at breakfast between him and Roxy it was obvious this had something to do with their family so why not be honest with her. Many had mentioned this about him and sure he wasn’t perfect but he should know that she wouldn’t judge or spread any news he shared with her. The café door opened and in walked Roxy. Now this one on the other hand she thought, this one was something else. Roxy headed towards her table and sat down.

“So did you hear anything “she asked with a glint in her eye

“About”

“Granddaddy and the Auntie of course. Did he tell her this morning?”

“Tell her what Roxy, what are you going on about?

“The phone call, the one last night”

“No and you do realise that you are the only one bothered about that.”

“Didn’t seem like that this morning. Paul couldn’t wait to shut me up”

“And you wonder why? Why Roxy do you constantly stir up trouble for him?”

“Because it fun and makes life a tad more interesting”

“Well could you not, he is not some game you can play whenever you get bored you know.”

Roxy looked bemused at Harlow. Confused with the outburst she got up on her feet

“Chill out I was just teasing. You know what you could use a little fun once in a while, those books are doing you no favours.”

Harlow looked at her, tempted to tell her what was going. I guess she was part of the family, she just like everyone else in the house deserved to know what was going on. But could she keep it to herself? Knowing Roxy that was near impossible but she could be useful. She knew everyone, talked to pretty much anyone. With her mouth she could find anything out. I guess I could let her in on the whole thing, but keep it simple because let face it she didn’t even know the whole story properly.

“Roxy, I’m sorry. Can you sit down for a bit please I think I need your help.”

Roxy looked puzzled but was intrigued and so obliged.

“So what’s up HR? And how can I help?

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

“What was that ham you had? Not the usual was it?”

“No I think someone else bought that last week”

“Thought as much, can we stick to the other one next time that was a bit...”

“Thin”

“Watery”

Terese smiled at him as he pushed his plate towards the middle of the table and moved his laptop back round. He looked at her.

“What’s got you so cheery?”

“Us. This. The random conversion about a slice of meat. Small thing we don’t seem to appreciate from one day to the next.”

“Okay” He looked at her confused “I’m glad my ham problem is amusing you but we should get back to business”

“No I mean it. Look, three of us are working on solving this problem for me and that is wonderful, it’s just nice that we can have this time to do it together.”

“Your right. So can we do that because I can guarantee you that probably by now Roxy will be clued in to the whole thing? Harlow will be itching to share her concerns and who better than a woman that can talk to anyone with a pulse.”

“So you think Harlow has figured it all out”

Roxy knew about the phone call and Harlow about the complaint, the two together will make a pretty good assessment of the situation, don’t you reckon.”

“So what do we have so far then?”

“List of staff who have been let go. List of complaints made at front desk in the last year. List of bookings made in the last year.

“Anything jumping out?”

“Not really, nothing obvious for a complaint anyway.”

Paul read the list on his screen again and slammed his hand on the laptop.

“Come on how hard could it be to pinpoint a troublemaker out of these?”

Terese closed the lid of the laptop. He turned to look at her with a questionable look on his face.

“Maybe we need a different approach darling, the lists are a bit of a long shot. Maybe wait till Ned or Chloe come back with something.”

“I thought you needed to fix this as soon as possible?”

“I do but not if it going to stress you out like this. We’ll wait for a bit what do you say?”

Paul nodded. He got up from the table and walked towards the sofa. He sat down as she walked over with the laptop and placed it on the table next to his chess set.

“You see the pawns usually protect the queen. They are willing to sacrifice themselves for her no matter what. They are as loyal as they come. Pawns know their job, they know their place.”

Terese looked at him confused

“Your staff Terese. Have any sacrificed themselves for you. They work for you sure but have any taken a hit for you, taken blame or jumped the ship for you?”

“Wait, what? My staff aren’t there to serve me Paul, to sacrifice when I need an escape. I would never do that to them.”

“Not directly maybe but could someone have been caught in a crossfire and not made it back in?”

“Can’t believe you are asking that. So what you think someone was let go by the company because of me? You think they would sacrifice a member of staff just to keep my place there?”

“I don’t know, if you mean what we think you mean to the company then I doubt they wouldn’t. So do you remember anyone just disappearing from the payroll?”

“Well there was one but that was years ago and it wasn’t really about me. It was more about family”

“Then we need to start there.”

“I don’t know Paul, seems a bit of a long shot”

“But we have nothing. So it something right”

Paul got to his feet, he looked at Terese.

“I’ll call Lucy tell her to come over for about 7. See where she’s at and then maybe we can drop this suspicion see if she gives us something.”

As he headed upstairs Terese looked at the chess board. Could it really be this? Was it because they had been protecting them that all this had happened. She would never ask anyone to be sacrificed for her but thinking back people did disappear off the payroll time and time again. How many times did they protect her and Paul in the past? How many complaint had been made and they were oblivious to the whole thing. This one was only making more of a splash because the drama that had been this year, and possibly because they were a couple. Was giving the name worth it or was it time just to let this go and accept what was coming. Was it time just to face up to it all?

…………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Ned, Roxy and Harlow sat in the Waterhole looking at each other none of the willing or wanting to say the first word. Ned picked up his glass and finished his drink, he put the glass back down and stared down at the table.

“This is ridiculous” Harlow exclaimed finally breaking the awkward silence between the housemates. “You know Terese better than me, can you think of a reason she would be in trouble with the hotel”

“Complaints are not uncommon Harlow, it could’ve been about anything”

“But do they usually make a fuss like this?”

“Well no this is fairly new. But it can’t be serious”

“Wake up cuz Auntie T is at home with Paulie because they aren’t allowed anywhere near the hotel. I’d say serious with a capital S.”

“So who knows?”

“All of the details, Grandad and Terese. This guesswork only us and we need to keep it that way” Harlow turned her head towards Roxy “Are we clear on that”

“Would’ve been at lunch time”

“Are you serious, who could you possibly have told in the last couple of hours”

“Just Shane at the café, no one major”

Harlow looked and shook her head. She knew telling Roxy was a gamble she was just lucky the story had only reached Shane. Then again Paul did always say that he was the biggest gossip on the street, so this could go either way.

“Doesn’t really matter though does it, all that matters is fixing this.”

“Right any ideas?” Harlow questioned

“Yes we talk to Paul and Terese tonight, Lucy is coming over for dinner so we are bound to get answers”

“Who is this Lucy that’s in the equation all of a sudden?” Roxy questioned a bit confused

“She is Pauls sister but also head of Lassiters Worldwide. I knew when I saw her earlier that something was not right. Never thought she’d be here for Terese though.”

“Right but we need our own answer before then”

“Why?”

“Because we need to help them fix this. They are in a good place at the moment this can’t ruin that.”

“I agree but what can we do if we don’t know the full story?”

“I guess there is one way”

Ned and Harlow looked at Roxy with hesitation wondering what on earth was going on in her head.

“We ask her. We go up there and ask her.”

“We could just as easily do that tonight.” Harlow said stating the obvious

“So just wait a couple of hours then”

“Roxy can you please take this seriously.”

“I am, just I can’t see what we are supposed to do without the full story.”

“I hate to agree but Rox is right. I know you want to help but maybe we should wait till we hear it from them”

“Fine, but we help them afterwards yeah?”

“Of course. Don’t worry I’ve seen them tackle a whole lot worse than this and got through it together. It will all be fine.”

………………………………………………………………………………………

The night was quite but the sound of conversation from Number 22 was flowing. Sitting outside in the shade of the fire the food had gone down a treat and their catch up was underway, with everyone avoiding the one subject everybody wanted to talk about.

“So how is the wedding preparations going?”

“Yeah they are coming along nicely, we had Karl here last night helping with the music”

“Really”

“Nah I’m only joking” Paul said with a glint in his eye.

Lucy smiled. She looked around the table. Never had she seen Paul in a household so full of life and happiness in a while, it was wonderful to see. But there was a cloud hovering over this table. She knew she said no taking shop, but something had to be said because this was getting awkward. Just before she had the chance to say anything, Roxy jumped in.

“So what’s this about a complaint then?”

“Roxy” Terese interrupted “Not tonight”

“No it’s ok Terese, I know everyone is itching to talk about. To be honest so am I”

“So, have you got anywhere because Terese and I were talking and we may have an idea, well Terese does”

“I got an e-mail this morning after you left.”

“And” Paul rushed her along

She looked around the table and looked back at Paul and Terese. Terese took the hint and turned towards the three sitting by them.

“Can you guys go start on the washing up please?”

“Auntie T come on, we have a right to be here for this.”

“Roxy please”

“No she’s right Terese, we have been pretty worried about the whole situation and what were not allowed to help you figure it out.” Harlow stepped in

“I’m sorry guys but we need to figure it out first. When we have an answer we will fill you in”

“But Paul asking us to keep an eye out is all well and good but how are we supposed to do that if we haven’t got the full story.” Ned tried his luck

“Just like all the others” Paul got in on the conversation

“But we aren’t are we, we’re family.”

“And I’ll tell you once we know ourselves, but the truth is we have nothing much yet. So can you please just let us sort it for now?”

“Fine” Ned finally accepted her request and got up. The girls followed suit and headed after him.

Terese watched them walk inside. Why was it so hard to let them in on this? She looked at Paul.

“Don’t worry darling, they know you are trying to protect them. Like they said they are family, family that will always be here for you. No matter what happens from this they will always be by your side. We all will. No amount of complaints is going to change that.

“I know. It’s just hard to keep them at arm’s length.”

Paul nodded before turning his attention back to Lucy who was sitting there admiring the family dynamics.

“So this e-mail?”

“You better be ready because it was a pretty big shock when I read it”

“Is it family?” Terese asked

“So you know?”

“Unfortunately yes but I can’t for the life of me figure out why now, after all this time”

“That is something maybe you can help with.” Lucy looked at Paul. He looked back at her, how possibly could he help her, this was about Terese.

“Me?”

“The e-mail was a game changer Paul, seems there was a reason they didn’t want you anywhere near this. I’m sorry”

Chapter Text

Three days had passed since Lucy had been in town and the situation created by this complaint towards Terese was nearing being solved. They had finally found the culprit but it was not a name they wanted to hear. A random individual would have been fine but for someone they know to pop up like this it was a challenge none of them saw coming. Today was the day it was all going to change hopefully; they were all coming together to sort it out once and for all. Ned sat on the sofa, he smiled as he twiddled his thumbs on the phone. Paul came down the stairs looked over at him.

“What are you so happy about?”

“Oh just Pipes sending me random videos.” He lifted his head “How are you feeling today”

“Fine, why”

“Well it a big day for Terese. For both of you”

“Nah, we’ll be fine.”

“You’re pretty calm for someone who’s about to face a woman who bought so much trouble your way.”

“Ah that’s why you see. She bought the trouble. Once we get in there it will all be sorted and everything will go back to the way it should be.”

“That easy huh?”

“You know me”

“You’re right. No messing”

“Yeah...” Paul stopped and looked blankly into the distance

“You Ok?”

“Yes, will you be around tonight?”

“Yeah, I’m having a drink with Aaron and David after work but I should be around after that.”

“Good, Lucy will hopefully be leaving.”

“Nice”

“No you know what I mean. I would like a family meal before she goes.”

“No worries. About eight”

“Perfect.” Paul said while walking away, he suddenly turned around “Oh and thank you Ned”

Ned looked confused at Paul, not knowing where or why this appreciation was coming his way? Not needing to look ungrateful he went along with it.

“Sure”

“You and the girls have been great helping Terese with the drama. I know I speak for both of us when I say how much we appreciate your help and concern.”

“Well she has given everything to us, we will always fight her corner when we need to.”

“Family comes first”

Ned smiled and nodded. As Paul walked out the back Ned watched him and smiled. They were a lucky bunch, all five of them. Sure their family wasn’t perfect but it worked. This needed to be sorted as soon as possible, they really didn’t deserve this drama, not now that their dynamics had just settle and the house was once again a home. He took a good look around, grabbed his jacket and headed out the front door.

……………………………………………………………………………………………….

Lucy sat in the car looking at the Hotel. She admired the impressive image Paul and Terese had worked hard on to get Lassiters just the way it was. Coming over to visit under this cloud had been a shame. This was an exciting time for them, finally happy and planning their wedding. This was supposed to be a good time but as usual work had a very different idea. Why was this complaint such an important move, why now after all this time? She knew what was happening, knew what had been happening and should’ve put it all behind her as it clearly didn’t have anything to do with her now. The name was connected to family but she had nothing to do with Terese so why now? Why at all? As she looked towards the hotel she saw her approach the front door. She was early. Lucy was sure she said 10 o clock at reception and it was only 9. Was this a ploy to get them into more trouble? The conversion on the phone had gone so well, and it was a miracle they were flying over considering they had only made 1 visit in the past 3 years. But now she was early and there was no sign of Paul and Terese. She looked at her phone, looked at her emails and after scanning it was definitely 10. Lucy sighed. Just her being eager then? Just to be safe though she decided to call Paul, see where they were at. After a couple of rings there was no answer.

“For goodness sake answer the phone Paul. Oh great leave a message. Today of all days.”

She closed the phone, got out of the car and headed towards the hotel. How to sneak past their “guest” into the lift was going to be a challenge. Just as she approached the door she was stopped in her tracks by Sheila on her way to work.

“Oh Lucy I was hoping I would see you before you left.”

“Can you walk with me please I’m kind of in a hurry”

“It’s about that complaint?”

“Complaint? I don’t...”

“Don’t worry, I was asked to keep an ear out”

“For”

“Any rumours, any gossiping that was going around although if you ask me it all sounds a bit suspicious. Why was Bags so keen for me to keep it all hush hush, it as if he was protecting a certain someone”

“And who might that be Sheila”

“I’m not one to speculate but if I’d have to guess, himself. Although with you in charge why would he have to right?”

“Believe me I’ve been asking the same question for days now. Anyway sorry to rush you but I have a meeting this morning that I’m late for. I’ll see you soon yeah?”

Before Shelia had a chance to reply Lucy had stepped into the lift and the doors had closed. She breathed a big sigh of relief. Despite not wanting to take sides she really wasn’t in the right mood this morning to see her. Everything was heading towards 10 o clock so it needed to stay that way. No changes, no interruptions. The day was as it should be, no exceptions.

…………………………………………………………………………………..

The car ride to work this morning felt like the longest it ever had been. Every traffic light was turning red, every corner had a row of traffic as if waiting for them, delaying them from sorting this. Terese looked at Paul, he looked worried yet determined. There was a very unnerving vibe coming from him. She understood that he was angry with the whole situation, angry with the individual but this was not about him and she certainly didn’t want him making it worse. She always appreciated his support, him always fighting her corner but this was personal and personal and Paul didn’t always make a good team.

“What is wrong with the traffic this morning” Paul said angrily changing his gears

“It just traffic Paul.”

He looked over at Terese

“You think.”

“Yes same as always”

“Well this is impossible. Why didn’t we get going sooner? Really could’ve done without this today.”

“Well I wasn’t the one chatting about nothing with Ned was I”

“How is this suddenly my fault?”

“Paul come on what’s going on, this morning is hardly the other drivers fault is it.”

Paul sighed as he reached over and grabbed her hand. A sense of calmness came over him. No matter what was going on having her there as a hand to hold was always a nice distraction from everything else going on.

“I’m sorry Terese, I just can’t believe she would do this. And how can you be so calm?”

“Because I need to hear why, this just doesn’t add up. She knows nothing about me and I certainly haven’t given her a reason to create trouble at work, so why the complaint? What’s going on with you any way, you were fine this morning at breakfast.”

“Just talking to Ned I guess got me thinking, I need to tackle this with all I’ve got. No messing”

“Tackle what Paul? Can you just please let us sort it out, no games, no handling it “your way”. This no messing stuff will do no one any favours if we don’t get the result we want”

“But I need to fix this”

“No we need to fix it, so please let Lucy handle this morning. That’s all I want from you, just let your sister sort this. I just need you there for me, nothing else”

Paul parked the car, looked at Terese and smiled.

“Whatever you want darling. I don’t agree with it, but this is your fight so I will follow your lead.”

“Thank You. Now I think we better head in before anyone has a reason to add to the complaint.”

They got out of the car and looked at the hotel. Terese sighed and turned her head.

“Was that your phone?”

“Yeah, Lucy’s tried to call three times. What on earth could she want this morning?”

He looked at the phone a message popped up. He took a glance, lifted his head and looked in shock at Terese.

“What’s going on?”

“She was early so Lucy has called her up already.”

“But Lucy said 10 right and its only 9:30. Why so early”

“Need to get it over and done with hopefully so we all can move on from it”

“Shall we head up then?”

They both looked at the hotel. As they walked towards the front door Terese grabbed hold of Pauls hand, he looked at her and both carried on walking. This was it and all she wanted him to do was be there for her. I can do this he thought, just sit there and listen. I mean, Terese and Lucy were a formidable force together, no one was going to win in a battle of wills with those two. No, it was all going to work out, just as long as I keep my calm he thought.

…………………………………………………………………………………..

Ned had just walked with Yashvi and Harlow to school and was heading back to Harold for breakfast with Roxy and Leo. He looked at his phone it was 9:30. Half an hour he thought, just half an hour. They had been in tough situations before, the two of them together, but this was different and after hearing who was involved it was worse. Seeing Paul this morning made it all more confusing, it was like he didn’t really grasp how much he was involved in this. But he was sure he would make it all ok, fix things for Terese and settle any bad blood between all involved. He walked into Harold’s and saw Roxy sitting with Leo at the back table. He had hoped to arrive before Leo, just to remind Roxy not to mention any specifics about what was happening today. Seems like he had to play it by ear and see how it went.

“Hey guys, have you ordered?”

“Yes bacon rolls, that Ok?” Leo asked as Ned sat down

“Yeah great. So what were you guys so deep in conversation about?”

“You know, the hot gossip?” Roxy jumped in

“Which is?”

“His daddy and my Auntie”

“Are you serious? We agreed last night we were not going to tell him. I’m sorry mate, you shouldn’t have found out like this”

“Found out what, I’m good with everything that’s going on with them”

“Yes I was just telling him about the wedding, how they have finally agreed on the music” Roxy suddenly interrupted

“Oh right, the music”

“Hold on, you were talking about something else.”

“No mate, I just got mixed up that’s all”

Roxy pulled a face at Ned. What on Earth was he thinking, there was no way he was going to get away with that, Leo wasn’t that gullible and he defiantly wouldn’t miss a trick. Roxy and her games once again were landing them in situations they didn’t want to be in. Was it too much to ask to have a nice breakfast with no complications.

“Come on guys, you really need to work on your poker faces if you are going to lie. What’s going on? And what’s it got to do with Dad and Terese. Did he get you to organise this to get me out of the way for something?”

“Yes and no” Ned answered

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“He didn’t organise this, this was just us wanting to hang out, well me anyway someone came for the free brekkie!”

“What, I deserve it after what I’ve been through.”

“What our family’s been through.” Ned shook his head and looked at Leo “You have heard about this complaint right?”

“The Lassiters one? Yeah Sheila mentioned something last night but it was irrelevant right?”

“It’s against Terese” Ned told him with a sigh

“Really, well have they figured out who it was yet?”

“Yes” Roxy looked at Leo with a cheeky grin on her face. “And I think you’re going to need something stronger than that coffee when you hear the rest of the story”

………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Lucy sat in the office, her laptop placed on the table. Across from her Paul and Terese sat. Next to her was a figure of disapproval. She looked at Lucy. Looked at Paul and Terese and shook her head.

“You got something to say” Paul decided to break the awkward silence that hindered the room

“Well someone should say something, I thought that’s why we were here”

“You’re right, maybe I should start?” Lucy interrupted “Well we all know why we are here today. We need to clear the air, try and figure out a way we can all move on from this. Can I ask you to go first, explain why you felt the need to make such a complaint against Terese?”

“Why do you think I decided to do this Terese, can you think of anything?”

“Not really no, I barely know you and I can’t think that I’ve done anything that would cause offense in the work place.”

“Nothing.” She looked at Lucy “You see this is why I’ve made the complaint. She is oblivious to all the heartache that she has caused in this whole situation. She took advantage and now she has to answer for it. The stress that she has caused my family over the past months needs to be addressed.”

“Stress, ha you wouldn’t know the meaning of the word.” Paul jumped in to defend.

“Paul, please” Terese suddenly turned on him “You promised”

“So what do you hope today will bring us all” Lucy carried on the conversation

“Just for her to acknowledge what she has done. For me and my. …..

Before she had time to finish her sentence the office door opened and Leo came barging in. He looked at the table.

“Leo what are you doing here? It was Roxy wasn’t it?”

“Not now Dad. There are more important issues here.’ He turned his head ‘Mum, what is going on?”

Kim looked at her son with a surprised yet pleasing expression on her face. Now that he was here she had someone on her side, someone that would help fight her corner.

“Leo! Is David with you?”

“No he’s at work. What are you doing here? What have you done?”

“It was my relationship with Leo, that’s why we are here?”

“Yes, you took advantage of my boy and you need to realise the mistake you’ve made”

“Took advantage. He knew exactly what he was getting in to and if I remember correctly he was the one that made the first move.”

“He was your employee, you should’ve known better than to use him like you did and then toss him aside when you had enough”

“Mum it wasn’t like that. Terese and I were in Love, It didn’t work out. I’ve moved on. Why on Earth haven’t you?”

“Because she wasn’t the one listening to you upset on the phone when you call all hours. She wasn’t the one having to listen to your brothers concerns about you. I was so far away and I couldn’t do anything to help my boy”

“So you make a complaint that could ruin Terese, so you can feel better.” Paul decided to step in.

“No because my boy was suffering, she needs to understand what she has done.”

“Believe you me I know what I’ve done, how much I’ve hurt Leo. How I wish things could’ve worked out differently, but you can’t help who you fall for.”

“Clearly”

“Kim, I’m not going to apologise for following my Heart.”

“My Leo lost his job, his business, his home and the woman he loved because of you and what, you land on your feet while he has to start over. You took advantage and then left him out to dry while you moved on to his dad.”

“It was never like that. Help me out here Leo.”

“Mum come on, I know you feel like Terese let me down and for a while so did I. Yes time was tough back then, losing everything was hard but some of it was my fault too. I wasn’t mature enough to keep my professional and private life separate and that was on me. You can’t keep blaming Terese and Dad without blaming me a bit too.”

“And what about you.” Kim said looking at Paul

“What about me? I’m only here for Terese, this is her fight. I’m just moral support.”

“I left them here so you could look after them, be there for them, guide them not ruin their lives”

“Excuse me”

“I asked you to be someone they could look up to, someone they deserved. And look what they got”

“Hold on, you can’t throw all that on me. Where were you on your son’s wedding day or when Leo was being threatened by a gang from out of town. I was here with them while you were swanning around taking care of yourself, so don’t you dare pull the caring card because it a couple of years too late.”

“So Mrs Tanaka, what can we do to help you come to terms with this and put it all behind us?” Lucy jumped in to stop the spiral

“She wants nothing Lucy, this is ridiculous” Paul came back in

“An apology for what happened to my son and for the stress you caused me.”

Paul scoffed as Kim looked at Terese. Terese looked at Leo, he looked back apologetic but went along with his mother’s request.

“I am so sorry for what happened to you, and although we’ve moved on I will forever be regretful of how we all handled the situation”

“Thank You Terese.”

“I will also write you a written apology and pay any compensation that is agreed Mrs Tanaka for all the trouble caused.”

Kim looked at Leo and then back at Terese

“If that’s good enough for Leo, then that will do”

She shook Terese and Lucy’s hand and started collecting her things.

“Can I have a word Terese, outside?” Leo asked

“Sure”

As they headed outside. Lucy started to collect her things. As she did, Kim decided that she wasn’t done yet and went around to stand next to Paul. Paul looking at his phone felt a silhouette cast a shadow over his shoulder. He stood up just to get out of her way.

“Nothing to say to me Paul, not wondering why I targeted Terese and not you?”

“You know what, I don’t care. It’s all finished now, you will leave and Terese can go back to her normality. “

“It was because of you. You will always be the reason. Yes she broke my Leo’s heart but that was because of you and the flame you carry for her. You got her into trouble, you made her unhappy, this was and will always be on you.”

“That’s rubbish”

“Really, then tell me why did they not want you involved in this, why did they feel the need for the big guns? Hmmm? Because they knew deep down this was all you. She may not see it today but one day Terese will get fed up of constantly being thrown in the path of destruction, suffering for days or weeks like this because of you. Eager to jump ship, she like all the rest, will just leave.

“You know nothing about us”

“Maybe not but I know you have a full house at home, a nice made up family, but little do they know what’s around the corner. You may live there but Terese is the glue, if she leaves then the whole family will fracture and once again you will be alone, left wondering the what ifs.”

Paul was taken aback with her words. Before he could do anything Leo and Terese stepped back in the room. Sensing the tension Leo decided to interrupt.

“Mum, do you fancy joining me for lunch while Terese sorts out the paperwork and flights? “

“That sounds nice, can we swing by the hospital first see David.”

“Sure. I guess we’ll see you guys around.”

As they headed out the door, Paul just watched them leave with her words ringing in his head. Terese closed the door and breathed a sigh of relief. It was finally over, but it all felt a bit unfinished. Like there was more to come!

“Terese can you draft an apology letter and your compensation offer and send it to my e-mail?

“Will do. Anything else”

“No it went quite well otherwise. Can’t believe it was all because of a broken heart. And her sons at that. Lucky Leo came in though, that really helped the situation. “

“Yeah, he did apologise to me before about the whole drama, apparently she hadn’t told them she was coming at all!”

“So celebration at yours tonight, maybe that Red Fish dish I like” Lucy said looking at Paul

“Sorry, what?” Paul drifted into the conversation

“Red Fish dish, tonight? What time do you want me there?”

“Anytime, really. Around 7?”

“Sounds good”

“Right I’ll go write that letter this afternoon so we can enjoy tonight. Oh and thank you Lucy for sorting this.”

“No problem. Family comes first right.”

Terese nodded her head and left the room. Paul stood there staring into space, rotating his ring. Lucy watched as he drifted further into his own little world.

“You ok?”

“What, yeah”

“What Kim said, it wasn’t fair or true you know that right?”

He looked at her and chuckled

“Doubt I would listen to anything she says. No right to comment really has she?”

“No, no right”

He walked towards the door, stopped and turned around. Suddenly he walked back and gave her a hug.

“Thanks Lucy, for everything.”

She hugged him back. This was nice, this was very rare so she was going to savour every second of it.

“Like I said, Family comes first.”

……………………………………………………………………

The sun set on what had been a very eventful day. Around the table, the sound of five happy individuals deep in conversation filled the house. This complaint saga had been something of a whirlwind and tonight marked the end of all that drama. Paul sat on his own. He watched from afar, as the rest enjoyed themselves. He was quiet and distance, something no one should be tonight. This was their final night with Lucy in town and it felt like the only night she had been here properly. With nothing hanging over their heads, this was the time to just enjoy and have fun before she left. Terese looked at Paul; he looked lost as if he was anywhere but here. She got up and went over to join him.

“Roxy’s trying to bag herself a free holiday. “

“I’m sorry”

“I was just saying Roxy’s on a mission over there thinking she can sweet talk Lucy for a free holiday. That girl has no idea when it comes to money.”

“Oh right”

She looked at him; he wasn’t with them at all. He was lost in his own mind.

“You Ok darling. You seem to be drifting.”

“What. No, I’m okay. Just admiring the view”

“Of a happy home”

“Yeah, something like that”

“Come join us, I’m sure Lucy could do with your help over there”

Paul got up and walked around the sofa. He glanced across to the kitchen and looked back at Terese.

“I’ll be back in a bit, just need to sort something out for tomorrow”

Before she had a chance to say anything, he turned around and headed upstairs. As she watched him slowly making his way up Lucy looked across from the table. Sensing all was not right she got up and joined Terese.

“Is he ok?”

“He’s been quiet since this afternoon. You know, he’s been fighting this so hard and all of a sudden he doesn’t seem all that bothered about the result.”

“Well you weren’t the only one going through a rough trot today; he certainly got his fair share from Kim”

“What do you mean?”

“When you headed out with Leo she didn’t half lay into him. He pretended it didn’t hurt him but he couldn’t hide it from me”

“That woman. So by fixing one problem, she created another”

“It was nothing he hasn’t heard before. I think it just caught him off guard.”

“What exactly did she say?”

“She was just lashing out. Talked about family and how everyone eventually leaves.”

“Leaves him?”

“I think so, why?”

“No wonder he’s been distancing himself. I need to talk to him.”

Terese headed upstairs. She reached the bedroom door looked in and saw him standing on the balcony outside. Under the moonlight stood a lonely figure; she walked in and joined him.

“Waiting for your Bat signal?

“Yeah, more like Joker’s smile”

Terese looked at him confused.

“You know, the villain of the piece. The one that always bounces back no matter what as everyone around him falls.”

Terese looked at him with sadness in her eyes. She put her hand on his and wrapped it round tight. He looked at her and smiled. This was all he needed tonight, his best friend by his side.

“You know this is where I will always be don’t you. Right by your side”

He looked at her with worry in his eyes.

“Can you really promise that this will always be us Terese? Can you really?”

Chapter Text

Paul looked at Terese. There was a slight hesitation between the pair as she gathered her thought.

“Where is this coming from? Is this about what happened this afternoon?”

“Forget I said anything”

He started to head back inside, she held his arm back.

“Don’t do that Paul, don’t shut me out. I see you. I know you.”

“Then you know that I’m fine. Please just leave it.”

“You can’t say something like that and expect me to just move on from it”

He sighed. His head dropped as he held her hands.

“This week had been a bit hectic and the end of it all just got to me.”

“Okay. Fine. If that’s all you think it is. When you’re ready to tell me what’s really going on I’ll be downstairs spending time with my family.”

As she walked out the door and went back down stairs Paul sat on the bed. Everything was still going around in his head. She now referred to them as her family. Was that the way she always did or was she playing a game to get him to open up? He looked at the floor. Why was he even feeling like this? This wasn’t him. Yes it was always important to him what his family thought of him, and yes he disappointed them more often than not but they always found a way back to where they were supposed to be, eventually. So why were Kim’s words haunting him so much. Was it because his family had grown since he got together with Terese. There was no way some would’ve even called him a friend in the past let along family but now they were having nights in and meals together, and to his surprise he was enjoying it. His life had been just him for too long, stuck in that penthouse, keeping the world at bay. Moving onto the street had been a change, a good change. Was this why Kim’s words were ringing in his head. Was she right in saying that one day this will all be for nothing and that he will end up back where he was?

“Paul we are having Ice Cream. Come down or it will all be gone” Roxy’s voice echoed form downstairs

He smiled to himself. What was he doing? Overthinking everything instead of actually spending time with them. He got to his feet. Kim’s words might’ve been confronting but tonight wasn’t the night to ponder about them. But he knew this wasn’t over, Terese needed answers but he didn’t want to ruin her night, he’d already done enough of that. He headed downstairs to the sound of idle chit chat.

“Right Paul, settle this please.” Ned got in before he had a chance to reach the kitchen.

He looked towards Terese and gave her a reassuring smile.

“What am I settling?”

“Clementine. Does she like Roxy or not?”

“Ha. You are kidding right, that cat doesn’t like anyone giving her competition for attention”

“Excuse me”

“Come on Roxy, how many times has she been sick on your shoes?” Harlow joined in

“Fine, just for that this tub is mine”

As the conversation carried on Terese took Lucy to one side.

“Now that’s a front if I ever saw one. Look at him, that not Paul”

“He’ll come around when he’s ready you know. Just give him time.”

“I can’t help think that this is all my fault.”

“Don’t do that. Ok. There is only one person to blame in all this and she’s living the life tonight at our hotel.”

Terese stopped to think for a while. She turned around to look at Paul and suddenly she turned back.

“Can I ask one more favor from you before you go?”

“How can I help?” Lucy said with a smile.

……………………………………………………………………………………….

The sun glared through the kitchen window as morning broke. The sounds of last night were replaced by the quiet thought of this morning. Paul had already left to take Lucy to the airport. The kettle had finish boiling and Terese stood in her dressing gown pouring a cup for herself. As she carried her cup to the table she caught a glimpse of Ned coming down the stairs.

“Morning”

“Hey, how are you this morning?”

“I’m good”

“Paul gone with Lucy”

“Yeah, they left around 7:30am”

Ned poured himself a cup and joined her at the table.

“Was he ok last night?”

Terese sighed

“You noticed too.”

“I don’t know, he just seemed a bit quiet. Not that he’s usually the life and soul of a party but he seemed distant last night. Like he was somewhere else”

“He was defiantly somewhere else. Lost in his own little world.”

“You two ok?”

“I think so. We haven’t really had the chance for a proper catch up since last night.”

“Something happen last night”

“Not last night, no. Lucy informed me that Kim served him some harsh words before she left yesterday. Last night he asked me a question, but seemed worried when I didn’t answer and then just brushed it off like nothing.”

“Odd. It not like Paul to take notice of anyone else’s opinion of him.”

“It was more about us than him I think.”

“The two of you.”

“No all of us, this family.”

“So it’s not about the two of you it more about him and the rest of us. Why? Paul’s part of this family, he’s always been. He understands that right? Is that the question he’s been asking himself?”

“I think Kim’s words have made him think, figure out where he fits into the equation. Where he would stand should something happen.”

“Well I’ve been around long enough to know he will never leave your side, and considering we could talk about anything this morning and it all been about Paul I think I can fairly say that you won’t leave his either. So why is he second guessing everything.”

“I don’t know. I need to talk to him. If that fails I have an idea how to make things better, but I might need your help.”

“Anything to make this a happy household?”

“Great I’ll let you know this afternoon which way the wind is blowing. Thanks Ned”

Ned looked at his watch. And finished his cuppa.

“Well I’d better head to work, those bosses of mine are real nightmares when things don’t go their way”

“Oi.”

“See you later” he shouted as he headed out the door.

……………………………………………………………………..

What is going on with me? Last night was one thing. But today I should’ve just moved on from it right? I should’ve forgotten her cynical words and enjoy my time with Lucy. And I did for most of it, don’t get me wrong it was good, just me and her finally getting a catch up. But now on the way back the silence in the car and a couple of meaningful songs on that radio and I’m back to where I was last night. How can I possible explain to Terese what’s going on if I can’t explain it to myself? How can I tell her that I’m afraid that if she’ll leave me I will end up alone? How can I tell her this is all to do with her without sounding selfish?”

He leaned over and placed the flowers on the stone in front of him.

“I lost you when I didn’t expect it and that was my fault. My history got you killed and I will never forgive myself for that. It was supposed to be the happiest day of your life and yet again I ruined it. My past will always come back to haunt those I love as I keep putting them in harm’s way. Maybe Kim was right maybe I am the problem and never the solution. Oh Kate what am I supposed to do? Do I dare tell Terese all this and risk her having these thoughts in her head or do I carry on as I always do?

He stood there for a while as if waiting for an answer. He looked up and smiled.

“I think I know the answer to that one don’t I. She has been searching for an explanation since last night, when I ruined her celebration. I really need to talk to her. Will she understand, I don’t know. Maybe she will be able to shed a light on what going on in my head.” He gave her a smile “I’ll see you soon darling.”

As he turned and walked towards the car a familiar face came towards him.

“Left any room for me to share? Mark asked as he approached Paul

“She wouldn’t have it any other way” he smiled

He reached his car and glanced back. Life was cruel at times but it also gave us the best times, and all he needed for that was Terese. He got in the car. I’ll order lunch he thought, no one would want to cook today, not in this atmosphere.

………………….………………………………………………………………………

The front door opened much to Terese’s delight. Paul stepped inside with a generous bouquet of flowers in one hand and his keys in the other. As he put his keys down on the sideboard Harlow came rushing down the stairs.

“Hey grandad, did Lucy get off ok?”

“Hey darling. Yeah she got her flight. She’s going to give us a call when she lands. Are you joining us for a late lunch?”

“No I had a sandwich before, I’m heading out to meet Yashvi. I’ll see you later. Bye Terese”

“Bye Harlow.” Terese shouted from the kitchen.

Paul came through the living room and handed her the flowers. He looked at her with a loving smile.

“I am so sorry about last night”

“I’m not angry Paul, I was just a bit disappointed. I can’t help you if you insist of shutting everything out when something is going on.”

“I know, but I needed to figure it out on my own.”

“Not if it’s about the two of us. Not if it affect me too.”

“It didn’t. Not really.”

“So why did you panic last night? Why did you decide to crawl back into your shell before I even had the chance to answer your question?”

“Because the question wasn’t fair. Last night was your night, it should never have been about me”

“Last night was about us, and the fact that you don’t seem to want to share it is really worrying me. What on earth did she tell you?”

“I’m sure Lucy filled you in?”

“Well I’m asking you. I need to hear it from you.”

“Fine. She told me that I should enjoy my life as it is because it won’t last long. The complaint was all because of me. You were being punished because of me and it’s only a matter of time before you realise that your life would be easier without me.”

“So it was about us”

“She said everyone leaves. In the end everyone leaves and I would be left to wonder the what-ifs.”

Terese took his hands. Looked at him. He had the same worrying sadness in his eyes as he did the night before.

“You know I love you more than anything don’t you. More than any disagreement or complaint. More than any job or hotel. I will always be by your side no matter what is happening around us.”

“Oh Terese I know you love me, and I love you too.”

“So what’s the problem?”

“It not you, it everything else.”

“I don’t understand. What else is there?”

“It sounds silly. I don’t even understand it properly myself. I certainly don’t understand why I let it affect me so much.”

“Talk to me.”

“I know you will always be there for me Terese, but what if you left?”

“I told you I’m not going anywhere.”

“By choice maybe. People leave all the time. Who says we should be any different. And if something would happen, what then?”

Terese was a bit lost in the conversation so she guided him to the sofa and they both sat down.

“If I lost you I would lose everybody and everything. This family, Terese. I was never keen on the idea of moving to the street, but now I can’t imagine living without it. But what if Kim was right, if you are the glue holding us together then my life is the same old empty one as it was before. Am I only Paul Robinson from the Penthouse without you?”

“Oh Paul, you are much more than that. You asked me last night if this will always be us. You left before I even had the chance to answer. But you weren’t asking about the two of us were you?”

“Can you really see the Kennedys, Ned and Roxy having any time for me without you around?”

“I think you’re not giving yourself enough credits or them to be honest. Ned and Roxy will always be here for us, for you. As for Karl and Susan, you know how much they care even when you don’t make it easy."

“I know, like I said its silly all this going around in my head. I just feel without you, my life will be empty. A lonely journey that no one could save me from.”

“Nothing is silly about this. There is nothing to be ashamed of. You like everybody else deserve family and friends around you.”

“Do I?”

“Yes and there are plenty of people around here that would be there for you should something happen? Now come here.”

She leaned over the sofa and gave him a hug.

“Thank You Darling”

He hugged her back but something was not right. Her hugs usually fixed everything, and the conversation had been good but there was still something just niggling away at him. This was her talking and sure her words were enough but for some reason they didn’t reassure him, not today. He got up on his feet and looked at the door.

“I might go pick something up for lunch”

“But I thought we were putting something together here”

“I called the Waterhole on the way, the takeout is ready for us.”

“I’ll come with you then?”

“No you stay here, I won’t be long”

“Ok, see you in a bit”

As Paul left Terese sighed. He was really shook up over Kim’s words and despite sounding like it was all ok something was still not quite right. This time her words didn’t seem enough so it was time for plan B. She reached over to the coffee table and grabbed her phone. She found Ned and started typing, it was time to bring the plan together. This was certainly going to cheer him up.

…………………………………………………………………..

Ned opened his phone to a message reading “Plan B”. He opened the door of Harold’s and saw Susan and Shane chatting at the counter. He walked towards them with a smile on his face.

“Hey guys” he casually said as he approached them.

“Hi Ned, how’s Terese? Shane filled me in.”

“Yeah she’s good. Glad it’s all over. If only everyone was as good as her.”

“You ok?”

“Yeah, it not me. Paul’s been a bit out of sorts since yesterday.”

“Shock seeing his former lover making life hard for his future wife to be no doubt.” Shane jumped in

“No, that didn’t faze him at all. If anything he was all geared up for that fight. Something happened after that and all of a sudden he’s gone into his shell.”

“Paul in his shell, that’s not good” Susan agreed

“Exactly. From what I gathered from Terese she mentioned people leaving him. Now we think he’s overthinking about being alone.”

“How can you be alone on Ramsey St?” Shane questioned

“I think he feels we all are only there for him because of Terese.”

“Poor bloke.” Shane pitied

“Can we help at all?” Susan asked

“That’s why I’m here actually. Terese has an idea how to help him but she will need our help.”

“What do you want” Shane said eagerly

Ned pulled a message up on his phone and handed it to Susan.

“Can you gather these and meet us here around 6 o clock?”

“Leave it with us. Shane and I will get on the case.”

“Thanks guys. I’ve got a list as well. Let me know if you get stuck with anything.”

“No worries mate. 6 you said right?"

“Yeah” Ned headed towards the door “Thank You”

Susan looked at Shane.

“Better get started then”

………………………………………………………………………….

Terese and Paul walked hand in hand towards the complex. He was quiet. Lunch had gone ok, but it was all petty converstion and mindless chat. After their heart to heart he had spoken no word about it since. She looked over to him. What he was feeling was normal for anybody else, but not for him. That”s why it hit him so hard. Tonight was going to fix everything though, she hoped. Paul suddenly stopped and looked at her.

“Why don”t we just go somewhere different for dinner tonight. Just the two of us. Celebrate this whole drama being over with.”

She looked at him with confussion on her face yet she knew exacly why he was suggeesting.

“How about that lovely Tuscan resteraunt in the city.”

“Don”t be silly. All I need to celebrate is you by my side, no matter where we are. No, The Waterhole is just fine.”

As they carried on walking Paul sensed something was going on. Why was she determined to eat at the complex tonight? They deserved a proper night together and normally she would jump at the chance. Something was defiantly going on here. As they came closer to the Hotel he saw something of a gathering.

“Something going on here tonight? I don”t remember there being an event? Is this to do with Pierce?”

“Can you stop asking so many questions and just go along with it?”

“Along with what? Terese what have you done?”

As they came round the corner Paul's face lit up. He looked at Terese.

“Is this you? Did you oraganise this?”

“With a little help from Lucy and our friends.” She said pointing to the crowd

He walked towards the giant chess board that was laid on the floor.

“One problem, where are the Black pieces?”

She walked towards him.

“Paul, you told me the other day that a chessboard symbolise the very reality of our day to day life. The King and Queen with their family by their side, and their friends protecting them. You have been so distant after what Kim told you and it breaks my heart to think that you feel you need me to have family and friends around you. Look around, everyone here tonight is here for you. “

“Oh Terese”

“You've been everything to me these past couple of days. You've been my rock. The one keeping me sane through the whole drama and you desseve to know that no matter what happens you will always have someone by your side. You have been doubting everything today and I hate that my words are not enough to reassure you, so let me show you the only way I know how. You are the King and I am The Queen.

She guided him to the two empty squares on the board.

“Your family are the ones always by your side.”

As she looked towards the crowd Ned, Roxy, Leo, Amy, Harlow and David walked towards them and took they place in the empty six spaces either side of them. Leo looked towards him.

“I”m so sorry she caused so much hurt Dad. David and me made sure she knew she was in the wrong”

“Thanks Son”

“And to finish the board, your friends, protecting and defending whatever happens”

As she talked Karl, Susan, Toadie, Kyle, Aaron, Chloe, Sheila and Shane took their places in front of them.

“Never doubt that we would be there for you. You can be a really pain, don”t get me wrong, but we”d never leave you out to dry. It”s just not the way things work around here.” Karl reassured him

“I know.” He looked up and down the line in front of him. “I just don”t know what to say.”

“Just say you now understand how all this works. Tell me you see that Kim was wrong.”

“My darling. I've lived here long enough to know how this community works. This had been playing on my mind yes, but as always you have put it at ease.”

“I”m glad” she leaned in and they shared a kiss

“Now we play right?” He asked eagerly

“Hold on no one said anything about being Bags's real pawns” Sheila panicked

“Ooh, are we doing the whole Harry Potter thing” Chloe got excited

“Sorry Sheila, Ned was suppose to fill you in on this. Yes we are playing.” Terese broke the bad news

“So who's White?” Paul asked

“Well Mark has kindly offered to be the competion” Terese filled them in as he waved.

“You are going down bro” Aaron shouted across the board.

“Let's play then.” Paul said quite excited at the prospect of being the master of his team “Sheila, F5”

He had a little chuckle to himself as she turned to give him a disapproving look before moving to her new space. As Mark pondered his first move Paul turned to Terese.

“Thank You for this. You are one in a million. This is just the best gift I could”ve asked for. My own human chessboard, it”s like you can read my mind” he joked

“Living the dream right”

“You know it” he said with a smile on his face

As he turned to make his next move Terese watched him. He was in his element, the first time this week she had seen him so happy, relaxed, just being himself. Everything had gone to plan and now everyone were enjoying themselvs. As the game carried on the sound of laughter grew and grew, this was the perfect end to a week that no one could forget in a hurry.

…………………………………………………………………………….

The moon shone as Paul and Terese stood on the Terrace having a drink looking down at the aftermath of their game. The party was in full swing as their family enjoyed the night.

“Oh Lucy called earlier. The board are happy so I start back on Monday.”

“That’s two reasons to celebrate tonight then”

He leaned over and gave her a kiss.

“So you have two days to do whatever you want. And I know exactly what we can do.”

“Oh yeah?” she said flirtatiously

“Yeah, book the musician for the wedding. Karl is sensing that we are stalling and I don’t like it”

“Oh does Karl Kennedy make you nervous.”

“A little bit yeah!”

She put her arm round his shoulder and pulled him closer.

“Better now.”

“Always” He looked at her and smiled. “My dreams became my reality this year and I can’t wait to put those rings on our fingers and call you my wife”

He lifted his glass

“Here’s to you, Mrs Robinson”

She looked at him and smiled. She raised her glass towards his.

“Here’s to us.”

“Just the way things are”

“Always”

 

THE END