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Two Sides of the Same Coin

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Paul closed the fridge door, hung his head and sighed

“I just don’t see why they can’t just write it down or just leave a note”

“Honey they are between the ages of seventeen and twenty-five. It just their job to be unhelpful”

“Yes, Terese but, as clearly stated, it was mine.”

“Oh, poor you” she said sarcastically, looking at him with sad eyes. “Do you want me to tell them off”

“Well they won’t listen to me will they”

“Oh, grow up Paul. We’ll stop somewhere on the way home”

“Fine, but don’t tell me you’d be fine with it all if they finished something you’d look forward to”

“Well next time just hide it, or get up earlier”

He slammed his hands on the island, lifted his head”

“Well the blame for that Mrs. Robinson lies with you doesn’t it” He walked around, put is arms around her waist and pulled her closer “and I know a way you can make it up to me”

He leaned forward “You can give me a pass for this weekend” he said with a smile on his face

She wrapped her arms around his neck. “Nice try”

As he let go, she gave him a kiss on the cheek. She started walking towards the coffee table.

“Why is it so important that we all go anyway?” he asked

“Because he wanted family there, and that means the five of us”

“Does it?” he looked at Terese with his eyebrows raised

She looked at him, her head tilted with a sympathetic look on her face. He looked at her for a while. Looked at his hand and started playing with the ring on his little finger. The silence was broken by Roxy as she headed in from the back.

“So Paulie ready for the road trip.”

Paul lifted and shook his head at Terese before turning around to face Roxy.

“I was just telling the guys about this epic playlist I’ve made for the ride. You like dance, right?” she teased as she walked towards the sink.

“Roxy I am not in the mood”

“Relax I was just kidding. What’s got your knickers in a knot?”

Before he had time to answer, Ned and Harlow walked in laughing. Their laughter turned to intrigue as they sensed the tension in the room. They both looked at Paul

“Grandad, what have you done now?”

Paul looked at Harlow bemused. Why was it always him? Why was he always the cause of any friction or tension in the house? God forbid it was Roxy that started it all, it wasn’t like she had a past in wind up or breaking the rules was it! And it couldn’t be Terese could it, she was perfect in their eyes. He smiled to himself. That was one thing they had in common. She was perfect in his too. Sensing her husband was about to disappear into one of his “I don’t need this” rants Terese decided to split up the tension.

“Did you guys have a nice breakfast?”

“Yeah, it was good. Just the five of us” Ned answered

“Yeah bet you did” Paul muttered

“Sorry” Ned said with a confused smile on his face. He looked at Terese as she nodded towards his hand. Ned looked down.

“Oh, the vegemite. I am so sorry, Vi had already emptied the jar before I even realized.”

Paul looked at him. His eyes were raging. He opened his mouth, without saying a word he clenched his fists, took a deep breath, turned around and walked towards the window. Terese headed after him.

“Hey, it wasn’t their fault”

“Never seems to be.” He said looking back in their direction before turning back to the window.

Terese looked at him. His eyes were different this morning. Last night had been wonderful, just perfect. The two of them had a lovely dinner, his special fish dish. They caught up with some tv before they ended the night snuggled up in the garden watching the stars and putting the world in its place. It was the sort of night that didn’t come round often these days, but with Roxy at work, Ned at the Kennedy’s and Harlow with McKenzie it all fell into place. She had been dreading this weekend for a while, when she mentioned it to him, he took some convincing and for good reason. But he finally seemed to be at peace with the idea. Last night she was sure that it was all going to be smooth sailing, this morning it seemed like it would be anything but. He really must’ve been keeping everything under the surface, hiding behind a wall of pretend just for her. It certainly seemed to be weighing heavily on him this morning. It was anybody but the kids’ fault yet anything they did annoyed him. This was often the case in their house, but this morning it felt different. All three had upset him before they even started the day. But she was not going to let the past win, she was determined that last minute worries were not going to derail their plans. She was going with her family. All of her family.

She rubbed her hand on his back.

“Darling, what’s going on this morning? Where’s my Paul from last night gone”

“He woke up to the reality that his house is a mess and nobody understands the meaning of respect”

“Look, they meant no harm.”

Paul turned to look at Terese

“And yet my day keeps getting worse. Do you really expect me to sit in the car with the three of them for hours? Me and Roxy in a compact space together, listening to that noise she calls music”

“I just worry about the rest of us.” Terese said with a sly smile

He gave her a sarcastic smile back. His smile disappeared, he looked at her and sighed.

“Can’t we just drive up together.”

Terese looked at the kids and looked back at Paul.

“Will that put you in a better mood.”

“Won’t make it all better but it would be a step in the right direction”

“Fine. I guess we do it your way again.” she sighed as she headed towards the kitchen. Paul watched her walk away. He was doing all this for her. Was he being unreasonable wanting to spend time with his wife without having an audience? Last night was wonderful, but today was here and it was going to be enough of a struggle without having to listen to Roxy talk about everything and nothing for hours. He followed Terese to the kitchen.

“Right, the plan has changed. We are now taking two cars.”

“Alright, me and Harls in Hermione right, old peeps in the family car.” Roxy butted in

“Did you get that service done” Paul asked

“She’s fine” Roxy quickly answered

“As I thought” he said as he shook his head “No service, no trip”

“So, we’ll take your car grandad?” Harlow tried her luck.

“Nice try. Me and Terese will travel in my car, you three take the family car”

“Oh! You want some alone time.” Roxy teased

“Yes” Paul answered “From you”

“Paul!” Terese said swinging her arm to hit his.

“No, its fine Auntie T, we’ll be living it up, you’ll be loving it up. It’s a win-win. I can annoy Paul enough over the weekend, what’s a couple of hours, right?” Roxy said looking at him with a cheeky grin on her face.

Terese smiled. Roxy knew exactly how to wind him up and she couldn’t help but be amused at times. Paul’s face was far from amused as he turned around and headed for the door. He picked up his keys off the side table.

“I’ll go move and pack the cars” Paul shouted from the door. He grabbed two cases before heading out.

“I’ll come give you a hand” Ned said following him to the door and grabbing the three bags. As Paul stepped out Roxy smiled and shouted after him.

“See you later Uncle P”

Paul turned to Ned “I wish she wouldn’t call me that”

“C’mon she only pulling your leg.”

“Well I’m not in the mood today.”

“I know, but that’s hardly her fault is it.”

“No, it’s your girlfriends.”

“What” Ned stopped and then remembered “Oh right”

“But you know what, I’m glad Terese changed her mind about the cars. She is the only reason I am going today and I need this morning to be about us, just the two of us.”

“So, you land me with Roxy” Ned joked

“Thanks for understanding” Paul said as he tapped Ned on the shoulder.

“Oh, don’t worry I’m sure I’ll find a way for you to repay me”

“Yeah yeah.” Paul said nodding his head

Ned looked down at his watch, and the back at Paul with a surprised expression on his face.

“We’d better get moving or I think you’ll be regretting your wish to travel alone with Terese.”

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

Hitting the road with Terese was supposed to be the one good thing about this weekend. So far it had been a rubbish morning, now all he wanted was to pull the roof back, stick some music on and enjoy the company of the most important person in his life. Typically, the weather didn’t feel like playing along and just as soon as they left the street the rain began to fall. Roof closed, he was determined to enjoy the time they had together. He glanced over at Terese sitting in the passenger seat, for some reason she had been rummaging through her handbag ever since they set off. He smiled as he watched her struggle, knowing any minute she would give up and pretend she wasn’t even looking for anything specific. She closed her bag and placed it flat on her lap.

“So, did you find it?” Paul asked as he turned his attention back to the road

“What? Oh no I was just checking something”

“Ok” he said smiling

She looked at him. He looked brighter, he looked calmer, he looked almost happier.

“Well whatever it is it seems to have cheered you up a bit. This what getting your own way looks like”

“Listen to that Terese. Can you hear it?”

“What?”

“The absent of youth. The calm.”

“Doesn’t that usually come before the storm?”

He turned to look at her. His face etched with no amusement. He tuned back to the road.

“Yeah, but for the next couple of hours it will be just what we wanted. Now how about some music for the journey.”

“Fine, but it better be different to what you play in my car. If I have to hear…

Before she had a chance to finish, he switched the stereo on. There was a loud beat followed by noise that should never be heard by human years.

“Well this is different.” Terese said sarcastically

Paul quickly switched the stereo off. And looked at Terese.

“Roxy! That girl is unbelievable”

“Paul come on how could that possibly be Roxy’s fault”

“Isn’t it always. Did you hear her in the kitchen earlier?”

“Yeah but that doesn’t prove anything, we were all going in the same car remember”

“It has her written all over it”

“Fine”

“The glovebox. My music should be in there.”

The car fell silent as Terese opened the glove box to find, among a mountain of old receipts, an old iPod.

“Right here we go.” She looked for the button on the iPod and switched it on. “You know she only drives Hermione right, why would she even have played with the radio in yours?”

“All I know is that device is always connected, and what, all of a sudden it’s not and my radio has been set on, whatever you’d call that!”

“But didn’t Roxy?”

“What?”

“Never mind”

“Anyway, we came in my car to be away from Roxy, not to spend every minute talking about her.”

Terese looked at him with slight disgust

“Why do you do that, talk about her like she’s a nuisance? Is that what you think of her?”

“What. How could you think that? Roxy is Roxy. We get along when we need to and we bicker when we need to, there is no rules when it comes to her.”

“But today has all been about her. Ned and Harlow are just as much to blame but you only seem to blame her, for everything”

“Aww c’mon Terese you saw how she was”

“Maybe it was her way of showing she cares.”

“Yeah maybe? But it’s what we do. Don’t worry about her she gives as good as she gets and will probably make up for it tonight.”

Terese looked at him and shook her head before looking back at the iPod.

“You only have one playlist on this?”

“One what?”

“Never mind.”

He waited for the first song to start and a smile creeped onto his face

“Now this is what I’m talking about”

“Really, do you have the same songs in every car?”

“No, this is a very special selection.” Paul said as he turned to look at her. “Songs that remind me of you.”

She started scrolling through the songs.

“Never Gonna Give You Up? Really”

“Yeah, meaningful and despite want others think I know you love it”

“You know me too well.” Terese said with a smile on her face still scrolling through. She stopped and shook her head. “But not well enough, Rick Astley is fine but where is Stefan Dennis”

“Who”

“Don’t It Make You Feel Good” she looked at him, she could tell by his face that he didn’t have a clue what she was talking about.

“Don’t what make me feel good?”

“No.” she said laughing “Never mind.”

As she watched him drive, she thought she could have some fun here.

“Tell you what though, he had no trouble making me feel good.”

“Oh, is that so.” He said turning to her and raising his eyebrows. “Well what happened to this Dennis bloke then”

“Don’t know”

“Well lucky you found me then isn’t it. And doesn’t that make you feel good” he said with a cheeky grin on his face. “Anyway, this is my list to remind me of you, I don’t need your teenage crush hovering on here with his one hit wonder.”

She smiled and carried on scrolling through the list. She suddenly stopped and looked at him with confusion.

“Southern Nights by Glenn Campbell reminds you of me how?”

Paul indicated and pulled up. He turned to Terese, she looked at him and smiled.

“When he was a kid his dad told him, you’re having the best time of your life, and you don’t even know it. Listening to this reminds me that this is my best time. Being with you is my best time. Nights like last night, where it’s the two of us, happy under the stars, happy just being together. There was no rush, no agenda, no worries. Just us being us. No interruptions, no dramas.” he sighed “When I travel alone, listening to this, all those songs, makes me think of us, it makes me think of home”

Terese reached out and placed her hand on his cheek.

“Our best times are just getting started darling I hope you know that.”

He reached up, grabbed her hand and held it in his.

She looked at him. He had a glint in his eyes. The one he always got when he spoke about them. A soft look, a look that made her feel warm. She knew she was exactly where she was meant to be when he looked at her this way. This was their time, their best time. The rain had finally stopped. As she chose Southern Nights on the iPod, he pulled back the roof. As the first notes of the song kicked in, they put their chairs down, looked at each other and smiled. Paul turned his head to look at the sky.

“Can we stay here today. Just you and me?”

As Terese looked up she thought to herself, why not. Paul was happy, she was happy. Did they really need this weekend? Just as she was about to reply her phone started vibrating. She opened the case and rolled her eyes.

“It’s Roxy”

Paul turned to look at her.

“Is that serious or is this another one of your very poorly timed jokes?”

She showed him the phone.

“Leave it, it probably just another Roxy wind up. Let’s just ignore it and enjoy this a bit longer.”

“But...”

Before she had a chance to answer he grabbed the phone and threw it over to the back seat. He turned to Terese and gave her a cheeky smile before leaning over to give her a kiss. He sat back as both relaxed, listening to the music alone, in their own little bubble.

As the song came to an end Terese looked over to Paul and smiled. She hated that she was about to ruin this for him. It always seemed when they were enjoying some time together something had to ruin it. Today it was her and their destination. She sighed as she stretched over to the back seat and grabbed her phone. She looked at the screen, there was a voicemail. She pressed play. As she listened to the message her smile disappeared. She reached over and nudged Paul.

“We need to go darling. We need to go right now”

“What’s the rush, can’t we just sit for a little while longer.”

“No, we need to go right now.”

Paul picked up on the panic in her voice. The blissfulness of their day had disappeared and replaced by a sense of rush and worry. Terese looked scared, the look she often got when something was happening out of her control. He switched the music off, lift his chair up and started the car. He looked over at Terese.

“Where’re we going?”

Chapter Text

Ned grabbed the jar of vegemite off the table and looked at it before placing it back down in the exact spot.

“Paul is going to kill you” Roxy said with a smile on her face

“Can”t you just say it was you?”

“Uh no. He already thinks I steal his booze, no chance I’m taking the rap for that too.”

“Harlow?”

“I am terrible at lying. That’s one Robinson trait I didn’t inherit”

“More to the pity” Ned muttered

“Oi” Harlow exclaimed as she grabbed a half-eaten piece of croissant off the table and threw it in his direction

The three fell silent as they started sorting the plates on the table. Roxy looked at the house as she saw Paul in the kitchen window.

“What do you reckon the mood will be today?”

“Grandads will probably be foul. Terese will be joyous as always.”

“Be fair Harlow, today can’t be easy for him. I know if I was in his shoes, I’d hate it.” Ned sympathised

“You’re right. I just can’t see why he’s still holding on to this.”

“I’m pretty sure if you were in his shoes, you’d be holding that grudge for a lifetime”

"Maybe”

“C’mon Harls, you know better than anyone how to hold a grudge?” Roxy joined in the conversation

“Yeah that’s defiantly something you’ve inherit from him” Ned joked

“Ha Ha” Harlow said sarcastically “But he did this with Dad, and look what happened there when he learned to let go”

“He didn’t, though did he?” Ned said

“Didn’t what?” Harlow questioned

“Let it go. Harlow the only reason he did what he did with Robert was for you and David. I doubt he would’ve ever gone there otherwise” Ned commented

“And he’s probably only making an effort this weekend for Auntie T” Roxy jumped in

“Exactly”

“Well then it’s up to us to keep his spirits up, keep him distracted.”

“I doubt that’s what he needs.”

“What”

“You Rox. You and your mood”

“My mood is fine and just wait till you hear the epic playlist I’ve made for the ride. Paul will love it”

Roxy grabbed a couple of plates off the table and headed inside full of confident that she was the answer to all of Paul’s problems today. He was going to need the distraction and someone in his corner, she was planning on being both no matter how much he protested. Ned and Harlow watched her walk in before picking up more of the breakfast dishes and heading in after her. Ned turned to Harlow with a smile on his face.

“So, do you think her plan will work?” Harlow asked

“$20 says it will last till half way.”

“Half way. That’s very optimistic”

“Your right, I’ll give it an hour”

“An hour of Roxy, plus dance music?”

“Shall we just knock him out, maybe it will be better for all of us” Ned joked

Ned and Harlow walked in laughing. Their laughter turned to intrigue as they sensed the tension in the room. They both looked at Paul

“Grandad, what have you done now?”

Paul looked at Harlow bemused. Why was it always him? Why was he always the cause of any friction or tension in the house? God forbid it was Roxy that started it all, it wasn’t like she had a past in wind up or breaking the rules was it! And it couldn’t be Terese could it, she was perfect in their eyes. He smiled to himself. That was one thing they had in common. She was perfect in his too. Sensing her husband was about to disappear into one of his “I don’t need this” rants Terese decided to split up the tension.

“Did you guys have a nice breakfast?”

“Yeah, it was good. Just the five of us” Ned answered

“Yeah bet you did” Paul muttered

“Sorry” Ned said with a confused smile on his face. He looked at Terese as she nodded towards his hand. Ned looked down.

“Oh, the vegemite. I am so sorry, Vi had already emptied the jar before I even realized.”

Paul looked at him. His eyes were raging. He opened his mouth, without saying a word he clenched his fists, took a deep breath, turned around and walked towards the window. Terese headed after him.

“What happened” Harlow asked looking at Roxy

“Nothing.”

“Seriously”

“I only mentioned the playlist and he said he wasn’t in the mood. Then you came in, accused him of creating drama and then showed him that" Roxy said pointing to the Vegemite jar.

“Surely this didn’t cause that.” Ned said pointing towards Paul and Terese. The three of them stopped and tried to listen but hushed tones were at play and none of them could catch anything.

“I guess you were right about that foul mood Harlow” Ned said breaking the quiet

“He looked a bit lost. Like his mind was anywhere but here. His reaction to my entrance was totally not Paulesque”

“Isn’t that a good thing? Ned replied

“Not always”

“So, you on to plan B then Rox?

“Nope, day is still young, and when it’s old, Paul will be smiling.”

“$20 here I come” Harlow said looking at Ned with a smile on her face.

“What’s this?” Roxy questioned

“Just a little wager, that I will happily collect at the end of this interesting day.”

“Yeah yeah. Just you make sure you buy your grandad a fresh jar of Vegemite with your winnings.” Ned answered with a cheeky grin.

Roxy rolled her eyes. She was still looking at today as the perfect opportunity for her to show Paul that despite everything that was going on, he had people in his corner. She knew what it was like to feel alone in a crowd and he had been through a lot these past months, knowing someone was there for him was all he wanted today. She looked in Paul and Terese’s direction and smiled. Despite everything there was one thing that not even her charm and awesomeness could beat and that was their relationship. For him to agree to this weekend just showed why he would never let her Auntie down. As she smiled to herself, they came walking towards the kitchen.

“Right, the plan has changed. We are now taking two cars.”

The smile disappeared from Roxy” face but not wanting anyone to see her disappointment she jumped in before Terese had a chance to finish.

“Alright, me and Harls in Hermione right, old peeps in the family car.” Roxy butted in

“Did you get that service done” Paul asked

“She’s fine” Roxy quickly answered

“As I thought” he said as he shook his head “No service, no trip”

“So, we’ll take your car grandad?” Harlow tried her luck.

“Nice try. Me and Terese will travel in my car, you three take the family car”

“Oh! You want some alone time.” Roxy teased

“Yes” Paul answered “From you”

“Paul!” Terese said swinging her arm to hit his.

“No, its fine Auntie T, we’ll be living it up, you’ll be loving it up. It’s a win-win. I can annoy Paul enough over the weekend, what’s a couple of hours, right?” Roxy said looking at him with a cheeky grin on her face.

Terese smiled. Roxy knew exactly how to wind him up and she couldn’t help but be amused at times. Paul’s face was far from amused as he turned around and headed for the door. He picked up his keys off the side table.

“I’ll go move and pack the cars” Paul shouted from the door. He grabbed two cases before heading out.

“I’ll come give you a hand” Ned said following him to the door and grabbing the three bags. As Paul stepped out Roxy smiled and shouted after him.

“See you later Uncle P”

“Roxy” Terese exclaimed as the boys closed the door after them.

“What I’m just trying to lighten the mood a bit.”

Harlow looked at Roxy and shook her head before turning her attention back to Terese

“How was grandad this morning, we assumed this wasn’t about the vegemite”

“No, but that didn’t help.”

“Well was he like this last night.”

“No, we had a lovely night. It was so good, but I guess with Paul you can never be sure can you”

“He owns the word unpredictable that’s for sure”

“You must’ve known it could go this way though right? Roxy questioned “I mean, how long did it take him to agree to it in the first place?”

“Maybe, I just thought he had come to peace with the idea. I don’t blame him for feeling like he does, I just wish he would talk straight, not hide behind everything else”

“C’mon Auntie T, you know him better than that. Anyway, wasn’t it your idea to split cars”

“No that was him again”

“So, he wants to spend more time with you before it all gets crazy busy. I would take that. You need that. He needs that.” Roxy said

“Why are you pushing this so hard? What am I missing?” Terese questioned

“Let’s just say I am on a mission and it will benefit all of us”

“Do I want to know?”

“She is on a mission to get grandad smiling” Harlow said with her eyebrows raised.

“That’s brave” Terese said looking at Harlow before turning her attention back to Roxy “But you heard him, he is not in the mood today. Please don’t push him”

Roxy walked past Terese with a smile on her face that only meant one thing. Terese sighed. It was going to be a very interesting couple of days. I guess it was going to be too much to ask for a quiet, uneventful one. Of course, it was. She looked at Harlow, she smiled back.

“I guess it will be nice for you and grandad to have the journey up there together. Maybe that’s all he needs to cheer him up. The three of us, in the same car as him, today of all days, might not have been the best plan”

“Yeah”

“Or maybe just not him and Roxy in the same car!” Harlow joked as she headed after Roxy who had stopped at the stairs.

“Oi” Roxy answered with disgust

Terese smiled as she watched the girl’s bicker as they headed upstairs. She walked towards the door, before turning around to see the bomb site they used to call kitchen. What a morning, she thought. It could only get better.

“I’m off girls see you later” she shouted as she headed out the door to join the boys.

………………………………………………………………………….

“I can’t believe you won that rock, paper, scissors. I’m pretty sure Terese would prefer Ned to drive her car” Harlow said looking over to Roxy. She looked back at Ned, who looked comfortable lying in the back. “Ned?”

“Nope, I’m all good back here thank you”

Harlow sighed

“Right where’s that music you were talking about”

“Hmm?”

“Your, and I quote, awesome playlist”

“Oh, it’s on my phone but I doubt you’d want to play it”

“Why, too loud”

Roxy glanced a look towards Harlow before turning her attention back to the road.

“Too old maybe?”

“Too old?”

“Rox?” Ned curiously joined the conversation”

“Fine, the music was a playlist Paul has in his car for Auntie T”

“Wait. So, no dance music”

“More importantly, you messed with Pauls car?” Ned stressed

“Firstly, I have dance on there if you really want it, party Harlow. Secondly, I put everything back as it was, he would never have known the difference, so all good.”

“Aah.”

“Aah what?” Roxy turned to Harlow “What’s aah?

“Where was Grandads music.”

“It was an old iPod in the glove box. When you start the car, it’s connected. All I had to do was connect it back and he would never know the difference.”

“Do you have to reconnect” Harlow said turning to Ned

“Yeah, no connection and it goes to radio. I learned that the hard way”

“Wait you’ve driven the Audi.” Roxy cut across the conversation “He let you drive it?”

“Nah Leo did. We took it for a spin, tunes on, hood down.” Ned paused his story and looked out his window “Didn’t count on Paul coming home so early did we.”

“That is the best” laughed Roxy as she carried on driving. She glanced over to Harlow who looked a bit panicked.

“What is wrong with you”

“I might have put Grandad in more of a bad mood.”

“Why?”

“We messed around in the car last week”

“What” Ned shouted from the back seat with surprise in his voice

“No. Seriously Ned” Harlow looked at him disgusted

Sorry, it just...”

“Get your mind out of the back seat cuz. So, what did you do?

“Hendrix wanted some pics with it, keys were out I thought why not.”

“Rebel Harls, I like it. But what has that got to do with anything”

“He put his music on there, just to show Richie.”

“Hendo showing off again”

“Yeah. Terese came home so we left.”

“Did you put the hood back up”

“Yeah that was closed way before then, we were just sitting there, you know, just hanging. But we panicked when we heard the other car, we just locked it up and headed back to the house”

“Well golden child I think your halo might’ve slipped a bit today” Roxy tease

“Hey I wouldn’t worry too much Harlow. It will annoy him and they he’ll just blame it on Roxy.” Ned commented

“I guess” Harlow agreed

“Oi.”

“Also, if he’s put the music on it will be Terese that gets the earache. She will put him in his place, and he won’t dare to mention it again”

“Yeah Harlow don’t stress, Auntie T will sort him out for you”

The car fell silent for a while. Harlow sat there scrolling through the playlist. This was a new side to Paul. The songs didn’t seem like songs he’d ever listen to but here they were, on a playlist for Terese. I wonder if he had others she thought.

“Did grandad have other playlists Roxy?”

“No, just that one in his car. Have you been through it?”

“Yeah” She kept scrolling “It’s different”

“Right. Those songs are the way he feels every day. How he feels for Terese. Look how much Love there is. How much Love he has for her.”

Harlow turned to Roxy and smiled. Roxy sense she was being watched.

“What”

“It’s just nice to hear you talk about him like that”

“Paul maybe a lot of things Harlow but his love for Auntie T is unquestionable. Right Ned?”

Harlow turned to the back seat. Ned was lying there, sleeping peacefully. She turned back to Roxy

“Out for the count” Roxy asked

“Yeah. Hey listen, why didn’t you tell him about the music?”

“I wanted to surprise him, like I said he is going to smile today, this was my first attempt.”

“And he would’ve thrown it back in your face, you know that right?”

“Why do you always do that?”

“Sorry?”

“You talk him down; you assume the worst”

“Well he’s never given us a reason not to”

“Maybe, but there is always a reason behind someone’s actions, maybe he doesn’t always get a chance to share them.”

“Well he’s lucky to have you in his corner isn’t he.”

“Everyone’s lucky to have me babes” Roxy answered with a smile.

A rustling sound came from the back, as Ned woke up and straighten himself in his chair.

“Do you want me to drive for a bit Rox?

“No, I’m fine. Cursing along with my sis. You can go back to nod land if you want Sleeping Beauty.”

“Ha Ha.” Ned replied with a sarcastic smile on his face. His smile soon tuned into shock.

“Rox look out!”

Chapter Text

As Paul drove, he could sense the worry from Terese. He reached out his hand to hold hers.

“Don’t worry darling, we don’t know the full story yet. You know how kids can be, full of exaggeration”

She shifted her hand away from his.

“You know what Paul why don’t you just concentrate on the job in hand. What’s the point of having a sport car if you’re not going to use the extras it gives you?”

“Darling I’m already going way over the speed limit. Can’t you just relax, we’ll be there in a bit.”

“I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that. How can you just tell me to relax, do you even care or are you more bothered that their call interrupted your perfect drive?”

“That not fair Terese. I care just as much, you know that”

The car fell silent as they rushed back along the same route they just travelled. Terese looked at Paul. He didn’t look at all worried, but was this another one of his fronts? All morning he had been in a mood, a mood because of something he had been hiding from her for weeks. He was fine when it was just the two of them, the car seemed to have been a place he was desperate to escape to today. But all of a sudden, their day was once again about someone else, something else and he should be anything but this calm. But here he was telling her to calm down and relax. Maybe he was right. Maybe she was panicking for no reason, maybe it was all going to be fine. But was he this calm because his day was now getting better as everyone else’s got worse? His fear today was seeing the man that hurt him, that made his life hell. Terese knew how much of a sacrifice today was going to be and she knew he had only agreed because of her. The fact that he loved her so much to sacrifice his beliefs and happiness was everything to her. But now that this wasn’t their destination, that must be a relief for him, despite anything else that was going on.

“I’m sorry. It’s just you didn’t hear her voice on the phone. She was scared”

“Who, Roxy?”

“No, it wasn’t Roxy on the phone, it was Harlow.”

“What, but you said…”

“No, she used Roxy’s phone, and now I can’t get through to them.”

“Well did you try Ned?”

“Yes no one is answering.”

“Seriously, the one time we want them on their phones and they don’t bother looking at them.”

“I doubt it’s that simple Paul.”

“It shouldn’t be that hard, if you call someone with a message like they did keeping your phones on should be the number one priority.”

Terese rolled her eyes as she once again checked her phone.

“Anything?”

“Still nothing”

Paul suddenly hit the brakes. Ahead of them there were five cars already stopped. In the distance flashing blue lights were to be seen. Paul and Terese looked at each other. Paul turned the ignition off and opened his door. He stepped out and looked over in the direction of the lights. This side of the road was filled with passengers of the cars. The other side of the cordoned road were people rushing around. He leaned over into the car. He looked towards Terese and nodded. She opened her door, stepped out and walk around to his side. As they walked closer to the crowded area Terese reached for Pauls hand. They didn’t know if this was their emergency or someone else’s but whenever she was unsure of something, the touch of his hand in hers made her calmer, more secure. He looked down as she wrapped her hand around his, she squeezed it tight. He looked at her and gave her a reassuring smile. As they approached the cordon the Police started sending people back into their cars. The call of “please respect the casualties” was heard on both sides of the road. A sea of people started to come towards them as they fought through the crowds to see what was going on. Reaching the barrier felt like a journey but when they did, they realised that their fight was only beginning. Terese let go of Paul hand and placed her hands on her mouth in shock, her mind was racing by the image she saw in front of her. All the questions she wanted answers to were flying around in her head. She looked around frantically for some answers, someone. A voice shouted from behind the police officer.

“Grandad, Terese”

“Harlow” Terese replied lifting the cordon up and running towards her. Both greeted each other with a hug that could’ve lasted for days. Terese held her face in her hands and looked at her.

“Are you ok?”

“I’m fine, just a few bruises”

“Ned and Roxy”

“A bit more serious.” Harlow said with a worried look on her face. Terese gave her another hug, afraid of letting her stray too far from her. Harlow embraced Terese, but looked over her shoulder towards Paul. He was still standing by the cordon. He looked frozen, almost as if he was waiting for someone to give him an invite to approach. His eyes caught hers and he soon came rushing over.

“Oh, darling are you ok?”

“I’m fine” Harlow said letting go of Terese and giving her grandad a hug that he seemed to want more than her. The sigh he let out was one of relief. But something was still not right, Harlow could feel the tension in him.

“Roxy and Ned, how are they?” he asked as she let go of him.

“They are still in the car. They needed more time.”

As Paul and Terese walked towards the car both could only think of the worst. Harlow tried to reassure them but nothing was getting through. Both started running towards the car. Ned was out by now and sitting in the back of the Ambulance talking to the paramedic who was standing beside him. He gave Terese a wave as she approached him. As she and Harlow headed towards the ambulance Paul headed towards the car. He stopped and looked. The driver side of their car had been completely pushed in, the plastic covering and glass from the light panels and the car door were scattered across the road and the wing mirror was lying underneath the boot. He looked down at his feet, there were skid marks leading towards the car and a couple leading away, and then nothing. He lifted his head again to the sound of a paramedics reassuring voice.

“Not long now, we are just waiting for the fire brigade.”

Paul continued his walked towards the car. Still sitting in the driver’s seat was Roxy. She seemed ok but the chat she gave was her nervous one rather than her usual trivial nonsense. She often talked when she was nervous, a bit like Terese in that sense. Not wanting to show her weakness she would usually talk her way through any situation. Paul smiled to himself before reaching the car.

“Hey.”

“Hey Paul, you missed the party”

“Looks like it.” He looked at the paramedic “What’s the delay, why is she still here”

“Janice this is Paul, and he likes to be in charge” Roxy butted in

Janice gave a little giggle before turning to Paul

“We need to clear the driver door before we can move Roxy, we can’t risk moving her too much.”

“Why”

“Because of this.” Roxy said pointing to her side. Paul looked through the broken window and horror engulfed his face. His breathing started to become slightly more laboured as his mind started to run away from him.

“Well have you called the brigade?”

“Yes, and they are on their way. They were on another call, and Roxy wasn’t a priority so…”

“Not a priority. Not a.... She’s got glass sticking out of her side, how is that not a priority” Paul said raising his voice

“For now, she’s stable and alert. The fire service has informed me that they are on the way. How about I call them to put your mind at ease?”

As she got hold of her radio and asked for an ETA, Roxy looked at Paul. She smiled at him, but he could see in her eyes that she was scared.

“Right that’s it. You’re coming out right now.”

As Janice and Roxy watched, Paul tried the handle on the outside. There was no give. He tried to force the door open from the side but it was too damaged. As he reached inside to grab the handle, he caught his arm on a shard of glass that was hanging on the door. He didn’t feel the pain, still fighting, trying every which way to open it. As he took his hand away from the inside Roxy grabbed it. He looked at her as she held his hand and shook her head.

“Leave it.”

“But...”

“There is a hot man in uniform on his way to save me, I have waited this long for him, the least you can do is respect my choice to still wait for him. Besides I think you might need Janice’s help”

Paul looked confused at her.

“Look at your arm”

Paul looked down; all he could see was blood.

“You need to hold that arm up slow the bleed down”

“Its fine, can you just concentrate on Roxy”

“You should get Auntie T here she’ll sort him out” Roxy told Janice with a smile on her face.

“I’ll be back in a bit” Janice left and headed toward her ambulance. She saw Terese and Harlow chatting, giving everyone else that space they needed to work, unlike Paul.

“Hi, which one of you is Terese”

Terese turned around, looked in Pauls direction and looked straight back at Janice.

“Is Roxy ok?”

“Yes. Your husband on the other hand.”

“What’s he done now?”

“He’s being a bit stubborn. Is that normal?”

“Terese sighed

“Anyway, he’s injured himself but won’t listen to either of us.”

“Right.”

Terese came walking towards the car, having already been filled in on Roxy’s situation by Ned. As Paul saw her walking towards him, he stood up and smiled.

“Finally, now can you please tell this woman we need to move”

“Darling what happened to your arm?”

“I caught it on the window. But its fine. Can you tell them they need to get her out?”

“I’m sure that Janice knows what she’s doing”

“That’s up for debate” Paul said looking in her direction

“Oi” Terese turned his head towards hers. “Listen, they need to do their job and I need you go look after Harlow and Ned.”

“But...” he said looking towards the car

“I can’t look after you and the others. I need you fighting fit. I need you to go with Harlow and Ned and get that arm checked out”

He looked at her. His eyes were anywhere but here. He looked lost, as if he was fighting with someone, with something. He looked at his arm and sighed. Looking back at her, there was a reluctant there to leave, but he gave her a nod. She leaned in and gave him a kiss on his cheek.

“We’ll be right behind you don’t worry”

As he walked towards the Ambulance, he turned to look at the car. His hand was by his mouth, his face full of worry. He turned around, head down and carried on walking. It was all going to be fine he thought, we’ve been through worse. We’ve been through much worse.

………………………………………………………………………………………

Paul looked at the four walls that surrounded them as he stood by the door of the hospital waiting room. Too often in the past couple of years he had been here, too often he had called this room his bed for the night. Too often it had been his fault. Terese, David, Harlow, Ned and now Roxy. There wasn’t much he could’ve done to stop any of it happening it just seemed, looking back, that behind every story here the previous chapter revolved around him. He could see that the others thought the same, no one would say anything but it was there, a sneaky look here or a throw away comment there. Just enough to let him know he should’ve done something different. He started pacing, chewing his nails in an attempt to distract himself from his thoughts.

“Darling can you sit down”

He glanced towards Terese who was sitting down, watching him with a worried look on her face.

“Paul please.”

He sighed as he thought about what to do next, he walked towards the seats and sat next to her.

“Where’s Harlow” he asked as soon as sat down.

“She went to call Hendrix, she wanted him to know what was going on.”

“Oh, ok?” Paul said nodding his head. His reaction far from what she expected. His behaviour had been colourful today to say the least. From one extreme to the other she had seen every side to him in a single morning and that worried her.

“Hey, what going on with you today”

“Hmmm?”

“You, what’s going on with you”

“I’m just worried about Roxy.”

“Nice try but you can’t use her as an excuse this time.”

“Excuse” he laughed in disbelief before looking straight ahead towards the wall “You wouldn’t understand”

“Understand what? Paul, let me in please.” She reached out and held his hand. He looked at her. “Explain it to me, make me understand”

“Oh Terese, I’m so sorry...”

“Paul Robinson?”

They were interrupted. Both turned around, standing in the door was a nurse.

Terese sighed and gave him a smile.

“Do you want me to come with you?”

“Nah, I won’t be long”

Paul gave a smile before he got up and followed the nurse out the door. Terese watched him leave. Why did he apologize? What was he about to tell her that she wouldn’t understand? They were supposed to be a team, know everything about each other, the good and the bad. He never failed to surprise her though but this didn’t feel like a surprise she needed today, not on top of everything else. As she kept looking at the door Ned came in, his arm in a sling.

“Hey”

“Ooh, how bad is it”

“Dislocation, same place as before.”

“Are you ok”

“Could’ve done without the reminder but I guess it could’ve been worse”

“Yeah” Terese agreed tapping his leg

“Where Paul”

"He’s just been called in, they needed to stich his arm.”

“Was it serious?”

“Nah, his arm will be fine”

“His arm, why what’s wrong with the rest of him?”

“I don’t know”

Ned saw the worry on her face.

“Hey, todays been a big day, he’s bound to be a bit off.”

“His behaviour is very erratic Ned, it like he doesn’t know who he’s meant to be today.”

“This morning was tough for him and he was looking forward to spending that car ride with you, he really needed that alone time. I guess he got that and then it all fell apart”

“Yeah, but the way he’s been with Roxy, it’s not him. He didn’t even realise he was injured, all he wanted to do was get her out.”

“Listen, things haven’t always been great between me and Paul but he was by my side through the whole aftermath of hurricane Scarlett also Dipi told me how hard he fought to find me. Roxy is in the same boat now so naturally he becomes protective. It’s just his nature. Give it a couple of days, you’ll be wishing for this version of him and her.” Ned said with a smile but he knew that what he said didn’t make a difference. After a short silence Terese turned to him.

“What possibly could he be sorry about?”

Ned got up and went to sit on the other side of Terese.

“Come here” he said as he put his arm around her and pulled her closer just so her head rested on his shoulder. “That’s a question only he can answer, but today has been rough, on all of us. Certainly, wasn’t the day we planned. But you’ll see, he’ll be back to talking Lassiters and Vegemite before we know it!”

“Yeah.” She pulled away and looked at him “Now I best go see if he’s ok. You know how he likes to overreact the smallest injury for sympathy.”

“Oh yes, especially when you’re around” Ned agreed with a cheeky grin as Terese headed out.

………………………………………………………………………………………

The night was setting in as the family of four sat in the waiting room. Harlow had fallen asleep on Ned shoulder as he tried to text Yashvi without disturbing her. Paul and Terese sat opposite them, their hands interlocked together as he moved his thumb up and down in a calming motion. His head rested on her shoulder as her head rested on his. She closed her eyes, it had been a long day, being with Paul was exactly what she needed tonight. Ned lifted his head and smiled. They looked peaceful, if the world pressed pause right now, he thought, Terese would have nothing to worry about. His vision was distracted as a doctor knocked and opened the door.

“Is this a good time?”

As soon as she stepped in Paul and Terese’s peaceful bubble disappeared. They turned around to greet the doctor as she walked towards them.

“Hi, we’ve moved Roxy from Recovery to the side room now, she is still asleep but there is nothing to worry about.”

“Any complications “Terese asked

“No one came to talk to you”

“They came to say it was all ok but no details. “

“Right, well all went smoothly. The glass wasn’t as deep as first thought, it was all fairly routine. She has a broken arm, bruised ribs and some minor cuts but all in all we are hoping she will be home in the next couple of days.”

“Good. Good” Paul said with relief in his voice.

“Right, well I’ll leave you guys to get some rest, if you need anything just pop by the nurse’s station.”

“Thank You” Terese said as the doctor headed out the door. “Well I guess that was the best news we could’ve asked for tonight.” She said looking at Ned

“What about Harlow? Reckon we should wake her to let her know?”

“Nah, let her sleep. The news will be the same when she wakes up”

Terese looked at Paul. He was looking into the distance, drifting.

“You ok darling?”

He turned to look at her.

“Yeah, yeah. It’s just been a long day.” He reached out and held her hand “Right now I think Harlow’s got the best idea, don’t you? He smiled as he rested his head back on Terese shoulder and closed his eyes.

………………………………………………………………………………………

Terese woke to the sound of Ned and Harlow snoring. The sweet wrappers and drink bottles around their feet was proof that this hadn’t been the picture all night. She smiled as she looked at them sleeping. Ned’s head was resting on Harlow as hers rested on the wall behind them. Terese lifted herself up in her chair and looked at her watch. It was three in the morning. She looked to her side and saw nothing but an empty chair. She looked around, already knowing he wasn’t there but felt the need to go through the motion. She got up, walked into the corridor and looked towards the nurse’s station. She kept on walking until she came to a glass window. She stood there and looked in. Roxy looked so peaceful sleeping. Terese smiled to herself as a warmth came over her. Sitting next to the bed, fast asleep in the chair was Paul. His hand holding his head up on one side and the other hanging over the arm of the chair. This is where he’d disappeared to. She thought about joining them but for some reason it felt like she was intruding, with a smile on her face she headed back to be with Harlow and Ned.

Just as she walked past the nurse’s station, a woman walked towards the room. She stood in the window and looked in, she had a worried look on her face as she watched Paul and Roxy sleep.

“Maybe tomorrow” she muttered to herself before walking away.

Chapter Text

Roxy woke to the sound of rustling papers. Soon as she finished writing the nurse lifted her head.

“Good morning, how did you sleep?”

“Alright. What time is it.”

“Nine am” she clicked her pen and placed it in her pocket. “Almost home time.”

A shuffle came from the seat next to her, she turned her head.

“How long has he been here”

“Your dad?” the nurse questioned

“He’s not my dad”

“Well you must mean a lot to him; he’s been there all night”

“Seriously”

“Yep. We did ask everyone to stay in the relatives’ room so you could have a proper rest. He didn’t listen”

“That would be right”

“Didn’t do any harm though. Do you want me to wake him?”

“No let him be” Roxy said looking at Paul and smiling “You could do something else for me though.”

Roxy told the Nurse what she wanted. The nurse looked at her confused but nodded her head as she left.

“Anything you need I guess, I’ll be back on shift later, is that ok?”

“Fine, I’ll still be here”

The Nurse had a little chuckle before walking out of the room. As she walked out Paul started stirring in the chair, as Roxy watched him, he opened his eyes.

“Good Morning Sleepy.”

“Hey”

“Boy the nurses aren’t happy with you. Sneaking in here last night, refusing to leave.”

“Oh, come on. I was just being…”

“Relax, I’m just messing” Roxy said with a smile

“Well I’m glad you’re feeling better”

“Yeah, well we all survived yesterday didn’t we.” She said looking at his arm.

“You were lucky Roxy; you know that right”

“Trust you to bring the mood down. My morning was going so well.”

Paul rolled his eyes

“Why did you stay with me last night anyway. I would’ve assumed you’d have wanted to be with Terese or Harlow.”

“The chair was more comfortable here.” Paul paused for a bit. He looked at Roxy who gave him a look of disbelief at his answer “Fine. No one deserves to wake up in hospital alone, I’ve been there I know the feeling. After yesterday, I didn’t want that for you.”

“Aww”

“Yeah yeah, now you’re awake I’ll go get the others.”

As he got up and walked towards the door. Roxy watched him and smiled. His limp was slightly more obvious as it always was when he’d been sitting somewhere for a long time or when he’d take a nap on the sofa at home, and when someone came in, he would jump to his feet and pretend he was doing anything but. Roxy shouted after him, stopping him in his tracks.

“P-Dawg.”

He turned around, shook his head and smiled at her.

“Thank You, for staying with me.”

He nodded his head, looked at the chair before turning around and kept on walking. Looking down the corridor, walking towards him was Ned, Harlow and Terese carrying what looked like 4 coffees.” He welcomed Terese with a morning kiss on her cheek before turning to Ned.

“One of those for me”

“Yep”

Ned passed the cup over to Paul and he took a sip.

“Is Roxy awake?” Terese asked

“Yeah, I was on my way to come and get you… Wait how did you know I was with Roxy.”

“I came to look for you last night.”

“Oh right. Listen I’m sorry, I didn’t want to wake you.”

“That’s fine darling” Terese said placing her hand on his arm

“Tell you what’s not fine, this coffee.” Paul looked at Ned “Did machine say dishwater or coffee.”

“Not sure, it’s been a long night” Ned said with a cheeky smile on his face.

“Ha de ha ha. Very funny” Paul replied taking another sip with a sour look on his face.

As they walked towards Roxy’s room Terese spotted someone standing in the room with her. Assuming it might be her doctor she thought nothing of it. As they approached the room, Harlow sneaked under the window to give Roxy a surprise. As she knocked on the window the woman jumped. Turned in a panic and left the room in a hurry. Harlow came round to the door where she was joined by Ned, Paul and Terese.

Who was that?” she asked

“I don’t know, she came in, said she wanted to say something and then you all came and she left” Roxy answered just as confused.

Thinking nothing more of it, Ned and Harlow continued towards the bed. Harlow gave Roxy a hug as Ned made himself comfortable in the chair. Paul was otherwise distracted. He was looking in the woman’s direction, who had just wondered past the nurse’s station. Wondering what she wanted in Roxy’s room. He looked at Terese, she could see that he was planning something.

“Just leave it Paul”

“What”

“Just leave it, she probably just got the wrong room”

“If that’s the case, you’d just leave. No, I want to know what she wanted.” He could see unimpressed written on her face “Don’t worry. I’ll just go and ask.”

Paul turned and walked after the woman. Terese thought better than to let him go alone so she joined him. As they approached Terese decided that she’d better take lead on this one.

“Excuse me” she said tapping the woman on her shoulder. The woman turned around “can we help you?”

“Sorry”

“You wanted to talk to Roxy?”

“Oh no, I just got the wrong room, sorry”

“That fine.”

“Terese”

“Paul leave it”

“I’m sorry, if it was the wrong room why did you leave in such a hurry?” Paul questioned, looking at the woman. She was looking around avoiding his gaze at every possibility. “what did you want with Roxy?”

“I don’t understand what you expect me to say?”

“The truth maybe, what is so important to tell her but not us eh?”

“Please don’t do this”

“Don’t do what? It’s a simple question”

“Paul just leave it, you’re upsetting her”

“I just want an honest answer then I’ll let it go.”

“Fine, you want the honest answer, you want to know why I went to see your daughter. It was because I felt guilty. Because I wanted to explain.”

“Guilty about what?” Paul answered with confusion in his voice. “Who are you?”

Terese realised what was going on but didn’t know how to explain it to Paul. She thought about taking him from there but he needed to know, she knew he deserved to know.

“I’m sorry, I am so sorry” the woman continued

It finally dawned on him where the conversation was going. He looked at Terese, he could see the hurt and sadness in her eyes. Surely, he wasn’t right, surely, she wouldn’t be this idiotic or was its cleaver thinking she’s gotten away with it if she apologized.

“Are you telling me you’re the reason we are here. You’re the idiot that crashed into them and then drove off. Well?” his voice raised as he looked at her with anger in his eyes. The woman looked at Terese “don’t look at her look at me. Did you crash into those kids yesterday?”

“Yes, and I can’t tell you how sorry I am”

“Staying with them would’ve been a start.”

“I took my eyes off the road for a second, Nick was ill I had to check on him”

Paul shook his head. Terese on the other hand was intrigued.

“Who’s Nick, your son?” she asked looking for some justification.

Paul looked at her astounded in the fact that she seemed to be giving this woman a chance.

“Yeah, he’s my boy. He was fine, and then he threw up. I just looked back for a split second and that’s when I saw the car. I hit my breaks and skidded sideways; with the back of my car slightly damaged I assumed the other car would’ve been fine too so I left. I did return afterwards but the police were turning everyone away. That’s when I knew it was serious”

“So where is Nick now? Is he here?”

“No, he’s outside."

“Hold on” Terese questioned with confusion in her voice “So you care about him enough to break the law but not enough to keep him with you at the hospital. How old is he?”

“Four”

“You’ve left a four-year-old alone in the car”

“He’s not allowed....”

“Is he a dog” Paul asked with anger in his voice. The hesitation in her response spoke volumes. Paul laughed in disbelief. “You risked the lives of three people, three kids, for a mutt. Are you serious?”

“Paul!”

“No Terese. Her dog threw up. Her dog. Not her child or relative, her dog.”

“Nick means the world to me; he’s my family.”

“And those three are mine.” He said pointing towards Roxy’s room.

“And I’m sorry” the woman said in a teary voice

“My family could’ve died all because your dog got car sick and you didn’t have the decency to check the damage you caused.”

“Please can I just explain to your daughter, tell her I’m sorry?”

“You are going nowhere near them”

“Paul that’s enough.” The anger in his voice was scaring Terese. He was protective at the best of times but this felt different, she looked at the woman.

“Maybe you should leave us be, go to the police tell them your story. Let us explain to Roxy.”

The woman looked towards Roxy’s room, and then back at Paul and Terese.

“I am sorry, I really am”

Paul just looked at her in disgust. As she turned and walked away, Paul got his final word in.

“Oh, you will be.”

Terese looked at him.

“What was that all about. Don’t you dare do anything stupid you hear me”

“Yeah because that all I’m capable of right. Thanks a lot, Terese. You know, I thought you’d at least be in my corner on this.”

“Of course, I’m in your corner. This is my family too you know; you don’t get to own this?”

Paul looked at her and said nothing. He just walked away. As he passed Roxy’s room he looked in and smiled before carrying on his walk and disappearing out of sight.

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

Terese had left it a while before following Paul. As she reached the door, she looked around but she couldn’t see him. He might’ve gone to the car she thought. Just when she started to walk towards the car park, she caught a glimpse of him sitting on the bench just over the road from the hospital. She crossed the road and joined him.

“This is where you disappeared to”

He lifted his head; took a deep breath before looking back down. Terese sat next to him. The sound of the cars passing filled the silence.

“I thought you’d be in the car?”

“I didn’t have the key”

“Could’ve jumped over the door”

He turned his head suddenly with a disgusted look on his face.

“Did you leave the roof open”

“I was just kidding”

“Oh right”

She looked at him, he was drifting again. Lost in his own little world. The scene he pulled in there was still on her mind. She placed her hand on his knee and looked at him. As always, he placed his hand on hers.

“What was it all about”

“What”

“You, in there, just walking out”

“I needed some air”

“And a cool down by all accounts”

Paul moved his hand away from hers.

“That woman deserved everything she got”

“Did she”

“What? Of course, she did, she’s the cause of all of this Terese. But you don’t seem to share the same anger.”

“Don’t turn this on me, you know I’m just as angry as you are. But making an example of her like that was not fair. She was sorry, she felt bad enough as it was, she didn’t need us making it worse for her.”

Paul laughed in disbelief

“Are you serious, she almost killed Roxy and you think I was in the wrong”

“It’s not about right or wrong, it about time and place and here was neither.”

“Then she should’ve thought of that before coming here.”

Terese sighed and looked at him

“I know it’s difficult to understand how she feels Paul but she did what she thought was right for her family.”

“So, did I”

“Did you. Did you even consider me or the kids before going all Alpha male in there?”

“It was a dog Terese. Her dog. And don’t get me started on him”

“Oh, what you going to start blaming the dog now are you. He should’ve picked a safer spot to be ill. Wait till he reached a layby?”

He looked at her. Both fell silent as the sound of the birds sang in the trees behind them. He looked at the ground and started to play with the ring on his pinkie.

“Did you hear what his name was, the dog. That name Terese is ruining this weekend over and over again. Just the thought of it yesterday morning was enough, just thinking about seeing Nick again, it made me nervous. Everything just felt like I was fighting with myself. You know, last time I saw him I hated every second of it. The only good thing about it was the fact that he saved you, and there was no reason for it to be any different this time. But we seem to escape one only for another to create a whole new set of problems. Why that name, Terese, like it’s all part of some sort of a final revenge play. Him once again getting the last laugh.”

Terese looked at him with sadness in her eyes.

“You know what, there was a part of me that was glad when the girls called us today. Glad. I thought, this is it, my get out of jail free card. Whatever they had done, it didn’t matter because I was once again getting my own way. Just like it always is.”

“You know this isn’t your fault, right?”

He stood up, walked a couple of steps and turned to look at her.

“My stubborn ways lead us here today, how can you not see that. It was me that wanted to travel in separate cars, Roxy was trying this morning but I had to be difficult. I had to change the plans, make it all about me. And look where we are. It keeps happening Terese. I want something, I succeed only for it to hurt someone I care about. David, Ned, Harlow, you. You all have been casualties of either my work, my pride or my reputation.”

“Oh Paul” Terese stood up and walked towards him

“Seeing her in that car Terese, how could I have been glad of something like that.”

“Hey” she placed her hands in his and looked at him “we could never have known what had happened until we arrived. Ok. None of this is on you. None of it"

“We should’ve been there with them. It should’ve been me in that driver’s seat. Me in that hospital bed. My life in the hands of others”

“And what difference would that have made eh?”

Paul looked at Terese, his eyes filled with tears.

“I was so angry yesterday morning, took everything out on her when it wasn’t even her fault.”

“Yeah, but like you said, that’s just the way you two do things”

“What if yesterday had ended differently. What if we hadn’t been so lucky. I have lost too many good people without having a chance to say goodbye, what if Roxy had become another.”

“Listen” she squeezed his hands “We didn’t lose her, our family is still in one piece.” she said with a smile on her face to cover her tears “No one deserved to be in that car today, and it was purely chance that it happened. Nothing to do with anyone or any grand plan. And don’t ever think we would be better off without you; we need you just as much as you need us. Never forget that.” She dropped her hands and embraced him. He held her tightly back, a tear fell down his cheek as he closed his eyes and rested in her arms.

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

Paul and Terese walked into the hospital arm in arm. He looked at her and gave her a smile as they heard the sound of laughter coming from Roxy’s room.

“I win again” Harlow gloated

“We are literally playing like one person.” Ned said pointing to his and Roxy’s arms.

“Don’t be a bad loser, we Robinsons are good at winning. It’s in my genes”

“Robinsons like to cheat too, is that in your genes?” Roxy mocked

Ned laughed; Harlow only looked at her

“Just because you’re here don’t think you can get away with everything”

“What she pulling now” Paul asked as he stood in the door.

“Wouldn’t you like to know?” Roxy teased.

Harlow ignored her and turned back to Paul.

“Where did you disappear to, did you go get lunch?”

“Nah” Paul said looking towards Terese

“We are going to head home to grab some things for Roxy if you’d like to join us, we could pick something up on the way.” Terese said

“Sounds good.”

“Oh, can I come too? I need to change from these clothes.” Ned joined in

Everyone stopped for a second and looked at each other.

“You know what, you three go I’ll stay here.” Paul said looking at Terese

“I don’t need a baby sitter” Roxy interrupted

Paul looked at her then turned his attention back to Terese.

“You can grab me a sandwich on the way back”

“Are you sure, darling?”

“Yeah, you go. Can’t have Ned scaring people with a stench like that on him”

Ned scoffed

“That’s called revenge, bad coffee doesn’t sit well with me” Paul joked

Ned gave him a sarcastic smile and nod before he and Harlow stood up. Harlow leaned over the bed to give Roxy a hug before she and Ned headed out the door. They went and stood in the window, pulled some faces and left. Terese walked towards Roxy to give her a goodbye hug before going back to Paul and gave him a kiss on his cheek. His hand lingered in hers as she walked away. Soon as she left Paul turned to Roxy.

“We need to talk.”

Chapter Text

Roxy looked at Paul as he sat down and made himself comfortable. Was this the part where he’d place the blame on her, make her feel guilty for the whole thing, shout at her for the hurt she’d caused. Let’s face it they had a past in that field. Then again, so far, his behaviour towards her during all this, had been different. He’d stayed with her all last night, he’d, although they were just guessing as they only heard snippets, showed a very protective side towards the three of them. Could that be because of Harlow though. Yet that didn’t explain why he would stay with her. All night. He turned to her, as he started talking, she thought, here we go.

“That woman before, the one that came to see you, she was responsible for this.”

“What?” Roxy said confused

“She was driving the car that hit you. But don’t worry I’ve made sure she won’t get away with it.”

"What is that supposed to mean”

“I’ve sent Toadie a message, he’s happy to come round once you’re home.”

“And what if I don’t want that. Do I get a say in any of this?”

“Why wouldn’t you, she almost killed you, Ned and Harlow.” He said with disbelief in his voice

“But she didn’t, so why make everything harder. What happened anyway”

“She turned to check on her dog”

“Aww was he ok?”

Paul rolled his eyes

“The dog? You’re worried about the dog”

“Yeah, it’s not his fault is it.”

“His name was faulty enough” Paul muttered under his breath.

Roxy looked at him with slight confusion.

“And what was her name.”

“Didn’t ask. Why does that matter anyway. You’re worse than Terese. What is it with you all wanting to give this woman a chance?”

“Calm down, I just asked what her name was. What is it with you and this anyway? She’s getting charged, we're all fine, why drag it out?”

“Because she deserves it”

“Does she, really?”

“And you three deserve it”

“And you? What’s in it for you?”

“Nothing.”

“C’mon Paul. That’s how it usually works right. Something for us, something for you”

“Well maybe this time it’s different. Maybe I need to do this for you.”

“Why”

“Because.” Paul looked at her “I need to get something right.”

Roxy looked at him with a puzzled look on her face as he carried on.

“I need you to understand that I never wanted any of this today.”

“Uh... did anyone?”

“You could’ve died Roxy, and this morning wasn’t our finest moment?”

“It was just us, that’s always us” she said with a smile on her face

“I had a “just us” with someone else once and then just like that they were gone”

The room fell silent for a little while. Roxy gathered her thoughts as she wondered who was he talking about. Only able to think about one person she decided to throw the name into the conversation.

“Is this about Gary?”

He looked at his hand and started playing with his ring.

“You see, he was a sparring partner; I’d serve him he’d serve back.” He sighed, looked to the floor and then back at Roxy “It was my serve next, but the idiot left mid game didn’t he.”

“Every game has an end right? Did you at least say your goodbye?”

“No, it didn’t feel right. I didn’t deserve that right. Anyway, not saying goodbye means the game is still on, my final gift to Gary. You see he got the last word, not finishing the game gives him a win, and I bet he’s enjoying that”

Roxy smiled at him. It was nice to hear him talk about Gary like this. It wasn’t often they did this; it wasn’t often she’d get to see this side of him. But why was this important today. What did she have to do with Gary?

“What’s this got to do with me?”

“Me and you, it becoming a bit like that. All I could think today was I’ve lost someone else without having the chance to say what I really think of them, someone else has left me without me getting a chance to say goodbye.”

“Well I disagree with you”

“What’s to disagree. Tell me what’s different?”

“Did you and Gary have good times?”

Paul stopped to think and smiled to himself.

“For me they were. But no, I wouldn’t call them good times, more like comfort in a crisis.”

Roxy looked at him with a puzzled face.

“Times of need, we were there for each other. Like last year when we went to get Harlow. I was being me and he was feeling guilty and a bit lost so I took the blame from him. Made it my fault.”

“That was sweet”

“Yep. Gary was an idiot, but not everything he did was wrong, just a little bit…”

“Gary”

Paul smiled.

“See that’s the difference. Because we’ve had good times, right.”

Paul nodded his head but didn’t look at all convinced about her statement.

“Like the time we did the wine tasting at the bar and pranked Gary with the vinegar. Or that day we were angry about Auntie T and Vance, you took me out for coffee and we ended up in the penthouse drinking whiskey and playing eye spy on the balcony!"

"And that woman got angry when you dropped the glass and it smashed right next to her" Paul said laughing

“There was also that time we watched Mark’s farewell videos together. Then you made cheese and ham sandwiches and tea and we sat in the garden talking about his pros and cons.

“More fun for you than me that one”

And then there was that time when you left your engagement party to come look for me after that disastrous…”

Paul cut across just before she finished her sentence.

“That was the day you saved my life.” He looked at her with a smile on his face

“And on the island, you saved mine”

Both fell silent as they stopped to think.

“Just because we fight or annoy the hell out of each other, never think that I don’t know that somewhere in there you care.” Roxy looked at him and smiled. “You want to know a fun fact. Today was the first day I’ve heard you call us a family.”

“I...

“And it felt nice. I always knew, but it was nice to hear you say it out loud.”

“Family is everything to me. Never think that just because I never say it, you’re not included. Every family needs a...”

“Party chick”

“I was going to say annoying, loud, stubborn” Paul teased her with a cheeky grin on his face “I do mean It though, never assume you are any less than Family.”

Paul and Roxy exchanged a smile before a nurse came in with a box in her hand

“Brenda asked me to drop this off, she thought you might need it sooner.”

“Alright” Roxy said with a smile on her face as she looked cheekily towards Paul “I wanted something to thank you for last night, so I got the nurse to find me this.”

She emptied the box on the table.

“Really Roxy. This is what I mean about annoying. You know I hate this game.”

“Because it’s dangerous?” she said sarcastically

“Yes, who on earth would give this to any kid.”

“C’mon Paul it a classic.”

“For a cowboy maybe.”

Roxy laughed as she set the horse up.

“Why would a hospital give this to the kids anyway. Safe way to keep them here longer.”

“How about I give you all the easy ones, buck won’t buck with them. C’mon Paul, the patient is always right.”

Paul grabbed the plastic rope piece off the table and placed it on the horse.

“Just once, but just because you are on that bed it doesn’t mean you get it all your own way.”

“Aww Paul, you know as well as I do, one Buckaroo is never enough.”

Paul looked at her as she placed the frying pan on the horse. A smile crept on his face. This was nice, just the two of them, after all that happened, this was all that was wanted.

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

As they got out of the car, Harlow rushed over the road to No24. She had called Hendrix on the way, he would be waiting for her right now, waiting to see if she was ok. Ned and Terese walked up the drive and into No22. The kitchen was the same bomb site that was there yesterday morning, it didn’t feel that they had left at all. The lack of Paul and Roxy bickering said otherwise though. Terese placed her bag on the bench and sighed

“Hey, you were quiet in the car, are you ok?”

“Yeah, I’m just worried about Roxy”

“And Paul?”

Terese nodded her head.

“He’s been distracted this past couple of weeks Ned, keeping things from me. Putting up a front, and for what.”

“Hold on, is that what he was sorry about?”

“What?”

“In the hospital you said he was sorry about something but didn’t know what”

“I never got to ask him about that.”

“What did you guys talk about on your walk then?”

“He was angry with himself for the way he treated Roxy yesterday morning, he felt like this was his fault.”

“C’mon, no one could’ve seen this coming it was an accident, right?”

“Yeah but try telling him that, trying to make Paul see that it was just chance that it all happened is near impossible. It seemed like he felt it was planned.”

“Did that woman at the hospital have something to do with it. His reaction to her was pretty fierce.”

“Yeah she was the driver.”

“Aah makes sense why he reacted like that”

“But it wasn’t as much her he was angry with but the name that came up, that’s what upset him the most”

“What name”

“Nick, the woman had a dog names Nick”

Ned laughed in disbelief

“Her dog was called Nick, that is a bit creepy don’t you think?”

“Why”

“Seriously, I can understand why this would play on Pauls mind. He sets out on the day thinking about one Nick and then another comes and ruins it for him”

Terese stopped to think for a second.

“Did he say anything to you while loading the car yesterday?”

“Like what”

“Well I know he was in a mood about the fact that we were going at all to Nick’s celebration, but did he say anything to you about it.”

“All we talked about was you. He wanted to enjoy his morning with you. I think he wanted one perfect thing before everything else took over.”

“Why can’t he just talk to me about this. Why can’t he just be honest?”

“Did he give an inkling or say he didn’t want to go”

“He did but I thought he was just being difficult, you all tried that one this week, it’s just his style to change it last minute “

“But he had more of a reason than any of us”

“Well it shouldn’t have come as far as yesterday morning then should it.”

“Paul is a complex man Terese. But his Love for you is never in question. He’d do anything for you, even party with Nick.” Ned sighed “Look what he went through with Robert for David and Harlow. And months down the line he’s doing it again. Or he’s trying. He’s as stubborn as a mule but family means the world to him.”

“So, you think this is my fault”

“No, but just think about it. We were going to Nicks Party, a family celebration. Maybe Paul was going for some other reason?”

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

“Right that’s it, no more. I am not picking those pieces off the floor again.” Paul grumbled as the Buckaroo once again bucked the pieces off his back. Roxy laughed as she watched him shuffle around the bed picking the pieces up one by one.

“So, I win.”

“Yeah yeah.” Paul said placing the pieces on the table. He sat back down in the chair as Roxy set the horse back up, she knew he never left a game with him on the losing side and that in the next couple of minutes they would return to the bucking horse.

Paul looked at his watch.

“Hungry?” Roxy asked him

“Yeah they must’ve been caught somewhere. I might go look for something to eat. You want anything?”

“Yeah a drink would be great. Anything but water.”

“Vodka” he said with a smile

“Bottle. With a straw” Roxy mocked his suggestion “

“Well I’ll see what I can find”

As he got to his feet, Roxy stopped him in his tracks.

“You remember that playlist, the one that kinda annoyed you yesterday?”

“Yeah”

“It was actually this.” she reached over and grabbed her phone off the table. She winced as she handed it to him. He looked at the screen, with a confused expression.

“These are my songs. When did you...?

“It doesn’t matter.”

“But this is supposed to be private.”

“Well why not share, it’s sweet.”

“Because it’s mine and Terese’s. I don’t want everyone to hear this.”

“Why? And why those songs?”

Paul looked down at the list

"You are not letting this go are you? You really want to know?".

"Yep" She said turning her full attention to him

“The songs, when I listen to them, which is not often, makes me think of her. Every word makes me think of her. Whatever else is going on, where ever I am, playing these takes me back to us. Me and Terese”

Roxy smiled as she felt a warmth come over her.

“You know I can’t wait to find a man like you”

“Sorry, a man like me? You do know me right?”

“Yeah. Someone who looks at me the way you look at Auntie T. Someone who talks about me the way you talk about her. Someone who makes mixed tapes and not share them with anyone but me.”

She stopped for a while.

“Someone who looks out for his family the way you do. Sometimes unconventionally, but always with the best intentions”

Paul hung his head and smiled. Still smiling he lifted his head to look at Roxy.

“That medication affecting your judgement, hmm. I’ll have a word with the nurses.”

She held her phone up and a click rung around the room.

"What was that.’

“Proof and $20 coming my way”

Paul looked at her confused

“Your smile has been a rare item recently, this weekend the price of one was $20”

“Okay. But you know you could’ve just asked me to smile for a photo, right?”

“It needed to be genuine and right now is perfect”

He gave another smile as he nodded in agreement.

“When I come back, I want a rematch on that thing.”

He walked towards the door, turned around, looked at her and smiled.

“Thank You”

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

“Hey you’re back?”

Yep, with food.” Ned answered placing the sandwiches on the table, next to Buckaroo.

“What’s with the game? Don’t tell me you actually got Paul to play.”

“Yep, and I whipped his butt.”

“Still scared of the old buck, then is he?” Ned joked

“Paul is scared of any game he can’t control.” Terese joined in

“Unfair Auntie T. There is a rematch later though.”

“Where is Paul anyway?” Terese asked

“He went to look for something to eat, you guys took forever”

“The traffic was crazy.” Ned said before whispering to Roxy “Plus Terese drove like a snail”

“I heard that” Terese responded looking down the corridor “You guys ok here while I go look for Paul”

“Sure, he has been gone a while. Please tell him I’m desperate for that vodka”

Terese had a confused look on her face as she left the room. Do I want to know she thought as she walked past the nurse’s station? Best not she decided as she shot a smile towards the nurses before continuing around the corner. Soon as she was out of sight Roxy turned to Ned.

“Is she ok?”

“Uh Uh, you first. What’s the deal with Paul?”

“No deal, he’s just got stuff on his mind”

“So, there is something, she was right to be worried”

“Not really. Not sure.”

“What does that even mean Rox”

“It means I have a plan and I need your help”

Chapter Text

Roxy sat on the sofa at No22, having been home for the first time in 3 days she was making the most of been tended on by all the family. Paul, Harlow and Terese had nipped to the shops to get some supplies. They had asked Harlow and Ned yesterday, but for a reason only Roxy knew, they had forgotten. They weren’t happy about it but she was hopeful tonight would change that. Things hadn’t been great between them since the accident. There was air that needed to be cleared. Paul was hiding his true feelings and Terese was holding back on getting the truth out of him. The chat he shared with her about family seemed to have been weighing heavily on him. And it didn’t seem like he’d shared any of that with Terese. Everything since had been quiet, nothing conversations. As much as she loved those, they needed to have a proper chat. Paul was worried, Terese was worried. They were usually worried together but these last couple of days they were carrying all of it on their own. But tonight, they had a plan that would make all that disappear, hopefully.

“Rox, where did you say it was?” Ned shouted from upstairs

“On the dresser or it might be in the wardrobe”

“Right.” His footsteps were heard walking back to her room, there was a shuffle or two before he came running down the stairs “Found it”

“Good now is it all set outside”

“Yep, not that you helped?”

“Uh in case you didn’t notice I’ve been in hospital; I deserve this afternoon on the couch.”

“Yes ma’am, I’m sorry ma’am”

He gave her a sarcastic curtsey before heading into the kitchen. He opened the grill door, looked inside, before closing it.

“Food is nearly ready, table set outside”

“Are we doing table or bench”

“Table, weather is a bit dodgy”

“Ok, now all we need is them”

Silence filled the room as Roxy looked at Ned. He seemed genuinely worried about it all. She struggled to her feet and joined him in the kitchen.

“Do you reckon they’ll be ok Rox?”

“It’s not like they’re fighting or this is a major break up or make up situation, we just need them to open up to each other. They have been concentrated on us and everyone else recently their time for a heart to heart has been non-existence, and not wanting to create anything of nothing they have just buried it. Giving them a night to themselves will give them time to hash it out.”

“Hash it out, really”

“Yep”

“Terese was worried he wasn’t being honest with her about something but she couldn’t put her finger on it”

“Maybe that’s the problem, he doesn’t want to tell her, afraid of disappointing her?” Roxy suggested

“He knows her better than that, you’ve seen how much they care for one another. He’s disappointing her more by not sharing”

“Maybe, but I’d assume those people would be the hardest to be honest with.”

As Ned nodded in agreement the front door opened. Harlow came walking in and rolled her eyes.

“Next time we do something like this you can go shopping and I’ll cook. They are a nightmare in the shops.”

Ned laughed

“I’ve been with Terese she’s bad enough on her own”

“And you send me out there with two of them. That is all kinds of cruel”

“Cheer up Harls, you get to spend tonight with us, the three amigos.” Roxy said with a smile on her face.

As Harlow placed the shopping bags on the counter Terese and Paul came walking in. All three stopped to look at them, they stopped in their tracks, creating a friendly family face off.

“What’s going on “Paul asked suspiciously

We just thought we’d help you keep those” Roxy answered

“Since when do you help keep the shopping, and why would you with your arm like that?”

“Fine, can you just put the shopping down then, and come to the back with us.”

“Why” Terese questioned

“I haven’t got time for these games; I need to go check on the hotel” Paul answered

“It’s seven at night” Ned questioned

“Thank you speaking clock”

“So why are you going, you’ve just come home”

Paul looked at him with a questionable look on his face.

“Look, you are staying her tonight. You will put those keys down and follow us, right. “Ned said raising his voice

“Fine” Paul placed the keys on the worktop as he, Terese and Ned followed Roxy outside. Both looked at each other as they walked towards the table in the garden. It was all set out; the water was placed in the centre surrounded by the sauces with two placemats bordered with a knife and fork.

“What’s going on?” Terese asked

“You have been looking out for me, us and everyone else recently, now we are repaying the favour.”

“Roxy that is...” Terese awed

“Sweet I know. Now sit down. Waiter, would you please bring the main course.

“No starter” Paul joked

“We didn’t have any soup” Roxy said seriously, giving Ned a darting look

Round the corner came Harlow with two plates in her hands, she placed one in front of each of them. Paul and Terese looked at each other as Harlow disappeared back inside

“Yep, Ned and Harlow ruined this a bit so this is it. But you like fish, right?”

Terese looked at her and shook her head. Harlow came back out with a bowl in her hand

“So, for your main you both have a Willis special, fish finger sandwiches and a bowl of chips to share.”

“To share” Paul reacted

“Yes, it makes it romantic, sort of. Ok. Enjoy your night”

As the three headed back in Ned turned around.

“And please just talk”

As Ned followed the girls inside, Paul and Terese looked at each other and laughed.

“I guess this is us for tonight then.” Paul said with a smile on his face

“Fish Finger sandwiches and chips” Terese replied

“And a talk, according to Chef Willis in there. Do we need to talk? Am I missing something?”

“You tell me Paul.”

He sighed as he looked at her.

“Tell me what’s going on with you, what’s going on in that mind of yours. You’ve been all over the shop this last couple of days. You’ve been angry, you’ve been moody, you’ve been emotional, you’ve been erratic. When I think I know what’s going on, you change the game again. I’m worried about you, and I’m afraid that it’s because of me.”

“Oh, Terese why would you think that, why would you think any of this could be your fault.”

“Because of Nick and that stupid party. I knew you weren’t going to be too happy about any of it, but I just thought maybe this was the perfect time to bring everyone together”

“You know when you first showed me the invite, I was angry.”

“That lasted a couple of days.”

“I know, but then one day you sold it as a family event. All of us together and I thought, you know why not, why shouldn’t I go and show off my beautiful wife. Why should I hide, why should Terese and the kids miss out because of me? So, I said yes. You four deserved to be with family, and I thought that’s what I wanted. And I was fine, everything was fine. Friday evening was great, it was everything we wanted. But that night, I couldn’t sleep. Every time I closed my eyes all I could see was him, that smug smile, being celebrated and it made me angry. That’s why I woke up Saturday not wanting to go. Just the thought of him.”

“It’s ok darling, I know it was a big step for you, and I would never want you to suffer because of me.”

“You’re my world Terese. All I want to do is make you happy. That smile you shared when I told you we should go; how could I ever take that happiness away from you?”

“He’s my brother but…”

“I know how much family means to you; how could I make you choose between me and him. So, I decided to go along with it, it was only meant to be a couple of hours how hard could it have been.”

“And Roxy where does she fit into all this?”

“How do you mean?”

“Well even you have to admit your behaviour towards her has been a bit.” She paused “different since the accident.”

“Is this about that woman and the dog.”

“Yes, and everything else. Paul you fluttered between misery, panic, scared, protective, angry and worried all in twenty-four hours. Even for you that was a record.”

“I told you at the hospital, that was because of the guilt. I felt like it was my fault she was there.”

“Yes, you said about the guilt, the dog’s name, and that you were scared of losing the chance of saying goodbye and I get that was scary. But it felt more than that, like you were scared of losing more than just the chance of saying goodbye.”

Paul sighed as he realised that she was not letting this one go. He started playing with the ring on his little finger.

“Roxy is the other side of the coin. She’s annoying, opinionated and way too reckless. She enjoys winding me up and watch me go.”

“And you give it back, like you said, that’s just the way you are”

“And like I told her, I used to have that with someone else.” He paused for a second. “You see Terese, I reacted as I did because when I saw her there, stuck in that car, I thought this can’t be it. This can’t be because I was weak. I saw her and all I could see was my family suffering, once again, because of my decision, my problem, my stubbornness.

“Oh Paul” she reached out her hand and met his half way.

“When I saw her in that car all I could think about was how Nick was once again coming between me and my family. I had been so angry with her Terese and for what, why? The way that man still affects me like he does, it worries me.”

“Listen, we all understood where you were coming from that morning, I just wish you’d been more honest about it.”

“How could I. You saw at Christmas what happens when I try to keep people in the past, be honest about my feelings. I almost lost David and Harlow over Robert; I will never risk losing you over Nick.”

“That would never happen”

“He’s your brother Terese. He’s your family. But I’m not ready to call him mine yet”

“Hey. You’re right. He’s my brother. But I also have a husband, and for some crazy reason he means the world to me, despite being an idiot.”

“Well maybe I should meet this idiot husband of yours” Paul said with a small smile.

“You should!” Terese looked at him and squeezed his hand “I know what he did to you was unforgivable and I would hate to think I was putting you in a position where you’d feel anything but comfortable. I pushed for the weekend because it gave us a chance to show that despite him and everything else we’ve been through; we are stronger and happier than ever. Our family, as mismatched as it is, it’s ours, and it’s all we need”

Paul nodded, smiled and interlocked his finger with hers.

“I don’t want you to think that I’m not trying to accept him, it’s just hard.” he paused and look towards the house “you know this weekend was the first time Roxy heard me call he family.”

“I’m sure she already knew”

“She assured me she did. I never realised until our chat all the times I’ve needed her and she needed me” He paused for a bit “She should’ve been my priority, all of you should’ve been.”

“And we were. You were going for me and for them. You were willing to sacrifice your own happiness just for us. Despite everything, your priority was the happiness of your family above anything else and that means the world Paul, never assume anyone will see it otherwise.”

He rubbed his thumb on her hand and gave her a smile.

“I’ll tell you who will not be happy if we don’t eat this soon.”

“Chef Willis” Paul replied looking down at his sandwich, lifted the top just to have a look before closing it again. He grabbed the bowl of chips and handed it to Terese.

“Chip my darling”

“Why thank you kind sir” Terese mocked his serving skills. He put the bowl down and sat for a while watching her dig into the sandwich. He chuckled as the sandwich collapsed on her plate. She looked up and smiled. “That’s a sight for sore eyes”

“I don’t deserve you know. I really don’t”

‐----------------------------------

As their movie finished the night had settled in. Everywhere fell silent as the tv was switched off. They looked at each other before heading to the kitchen window. They looked outside but there was no sign of Paul and Terese. The plates had been stacked on the table and left as it was. As they looked at each other they heard a giggle coming from the sun room. They headed in that direction as Ned grabbed his final surprise of the night. Opening the door, what they saw was picture perfect. Sitting on the sofa was Paul, curled up and snuggled next to him was Terese. One arm wrapped around his shoulder, the other placed on his chest, as they both looked at the laptop in front of them. They lifted their head only to see Harlow and Roxy standing there, Ned soon joined them.

“What are you doing here” Harlow asked

“It got a bit chilly so we moved” Answered Terese with a smile on her face

“So, how was it” Roxy questioned

“Five-star quality. We should hire you for Lassiters.” Paul mocked.

“Ha Ha.” Ned reacted before turning the conversation “All good here though right”

“Yeah, it was good, thank you” Terese answered

“Now for the cherry on top”

“But we are quite happy here. Can’t you go back to whatever you were doing?” Paul questioned

“But we were going to play a song off the playlist.” Roxy joined in

“Did you share that with everyone? Why?”

“Because its lovely grandad”

“Yeah, own it Paul.”

“Is this the playlist from the car? How does Roxy have it?” Terese joined the conversation

“She stole it”

Roxy” Terese exclaimed

“Chill Auntie T we’ve been through this at the hospital, it’s all good. Now pick a number”

Terese looked at Paul. He rolled his eyes, knowing he was not winning this one.

“Fine, just pick a number. You three might as well stay, nothing special about that list now anyway if everyone’s seen it.” He said throwing a gaze towards Roxy “You want this to play it?” Paul said offering Ned the laptop.

“No, I’m all set.” Ned replied placing a pink wireless speaker on the side table.

“So Terese from one to twenty-two, what will it be?” Ned asked

“Twenty-two?” Terese questioned looking at Paul.

“Like I said, when I listen to it, it reminds me of home. Everything has a meaning not just the songs”

She placed her hand on his cheek, lifted herself up and gave him a kiss.

“Right, how about number...” Terese said before getting interrupted

“Tell you what, why don’t you guys go get some snacks and drinks, maybe that bucking horse. We’ll make it a games night. Fancy?”

“You’re on.” Ned answered ushering the girls out of the room and closed the door. Once on the other side Roxy looked at him with disgust “C’mon Rox he wanted a moment alone with her, if that wasn’t a hint then nothing will he”

“Fine, but can we wait to see what she picks.”

“If you must” Ned said clearing the door so the girls could stand closer

On the other side Paul had got up and made his way to the phone. With a glint in his eye he smiled to himself and knocked on the door knowing they were listening in. He picked up the phone and scrolled through the list.

“Perfect” he muttered as he pressed play and made his way back to the sofa. The opening notes of Annie’s Song played across the room. Both sat back, Terese snuggled back in his arms, resting her head on his shoulder. He looked at her and smiled before kissing her on the head. He rested his head on hers. This was perfect, no worry, no drama. Just the two of them in each other’s company. This was their best time, and nothing or no one could take that away from them.

“So is there a story behind this one then” Terese asked

“No. This one speaks for itself, and it always will.”