Its three months after Hathaway had been temporarily paralysed by a man who was threatening to kill his son, that Lewis wakes up to a letter on his doorstep.
We don't have internet, so I thought I'd write. We're all moved in...we'll we're here and there are boxes all over the bloody place. Sam's in his element, seems to be the only one making any sense out of the chaos. He's decided he wants to be a painter when he gets older.
Anyway, just wanted to give you our address, when the house actually resembles a house, you should come up for dinner or something. I still need to thank you for looking after us for near enough five weeks, and since you're an old fashioned sod and won't accept money, that's the only thing I can think of.
Lewis laughs as he reads the letter, only James could sound polite while insulting someone. Not that he's really being insulting. Although the daft sod could have just called him, don't need the internet to use a phone. And they both have mobiles, they've been keeping in touch with the bleeding things. Still, at his age, letters are normally bills, pension payments and invitations to funerals. Its nice to get one that doesn't bring bad news.
He picks up his mobile, bringing up James' number and presses call, grinning.
"...'old fashioned sod?' James, I'm wounded."
"Haha, hello Robbie, you got my letter then?"
"Yeah, I got it lad, you could have just called you know."
"Never! I wouldn't have been able to call you an old fashioned sod out loud." That facetiousness hasn't changed over all the years that Robbie has known the younger man.
"Idiot. How's the decorating going?"
"Enthusiastically, but slowly. Bless Sam, he means well but..."
"He's painting pictures on the wall?"
"Yeah pretty much." Lewis laughs, the mental picture that conjures up is adorable.
"Do you need a hand mate?"
"I couldn't ask..."
"James," Lewis sighs. "I just offered right. Anyway, I like DIY. I used to work in my uncle's decorating company when I first left school."
"You mean, you weren't born a copper?" The wondrous tone is clearly designed to be cheeky.
"If I was there lad, I'd cuff you round the back of the head. D'you want me help or not Jim?"
"If its not too much trouble Robbie. On one condition."
"What?" Lewis says warily.
"You stay here so you don't have to drive every night, and you let me cook." Lewis makes 'hmm' noises and then replies.
"Done. Tomorrow ok?"
"Yeah sure. Cheers..." Lewis hears a crash and then the sound of crying.
"James what-" he begins as James cuts in.
"Shit, Sam's just...I told him not to play on the ladder, I've to to go, see you tomorrow?"
"See you tomorrow Jim."
Lewis is relieved when he gets text off James five minutes later.
Panic over, nothing bruised but his pride. Little bugger's already pestering me to go to the park.
Robbie smiles. He's looking forward to tomorrow. While he's talked to them both a few times over the phone in the last three months, he hasn't seen either of them. And of course he's missed James, but he's really missed Sam. In those five weeks that the two Hathaway's stayed with him, he got used to having people around, and more importantly, having a kid around. He replies to James' text and settles on the sofa, planning what he'll need to take to Hathaway's and whether he'll need petrol on the way.
James is a little nervous the next morning it has to be said. What was I thinking asking him to stay, when the house is just full of boxes? He knows that Lewis isn't going to be bothered, but there's something about it that doesn't sit right with him. Lewis had called that morning to say that he'd be there in the evening, and Hathaway had told him not to eat anything, he was going to cook. There had been no arguments from Lewis and Sam had heard the conversation and become ridiculously excited.
Hathaway looks around. There's the sofa, which folds out into a bed. There's a desk and the tv, his laptop sat on it, internet-less as it is. That's about it. He's already decided that Lewis can have his bed, Sam will sleep on is own, and James himself will take the sofa-bed. He won't let Lewis talk him round either, his sofa bed is not made for people over 60 with back problems. Come to think of it, its not made for 40-somethings with knee problems either, but James will deal.
"When's Unca Robbie coming?"
"Later on this evening."
"Why not now?"
"Because he has stuff to do?"
"Why don't you know."
"I'm not psychic Sammy."
"Should be" the little boy mutters, as he wanders off. James counts to five slowly in his head. Sure enough, on zero, Sam walks back in.
"What does 'sycic mean?"
The conversation that follows takes a lot of time, and ends in Sam announcing that James is making it up because if people could read minds, then no one would need to have a bath. Hathaway puzzles over that long after the boy has given up on the conversation, but try as he might, he has no idea what Sam meant.
At half past six, the doorbell rings and Hathaway carefully puts down the lasagne that he's just about to put in the oven.
He opens the door, and Lewis walks in out of the rain. Robbie grins, seeing his friend again, and Hathaway looks much more healthy than he did three months ago.
"Hello Robbie. Er...you'll have to excuse the state of the place. We've been living out of boxes the last few weeks.
"Ah, no worries man. Where's the bairn?" Before James can answer, the sound of little bare feet slapping against the floor, signals the arrival of the kid in question.
"Unca Robbbbiiiiiiiiieeee" Sam squeals, and Lewis braces himself against the attack, scooping the little boy up. He laughs as Sam starts to wriggle in his grasp, before giving up and wrapping his arms around Robbie's neck.
"Hello kidda. Blimey you've got bigger in a few months."
"I been eating my veggies."
"Aye well, you keep doing that, you might get as tall as your Dad eh?"
"I'm gonna be even taller." He stretches and reaches his hand over Robbie's head to indicate how tall he's going to get.
"I'll do me neck in talking to the both of you."
James takes Sam off of Robbie and helps the older man bring his bag inside.
"Oh yes, Haven't had a proper lasagne in years."
"Glad to be of service." They walk into the kitchen, so that James can finish preparing the meal. Lewis frowns a little as he watches James walk. But Sam comes rushing over, determined to show Robbie his Lego plane. He sits there listening to Sam as James fixes up the food. The little boy is so excited, that he's fumbling over his words and getting annoyed with himself and although its frustrating the kid, Lewis can't help but think that its adorable.
Dinner is lovely, as Lewis expected and James hoped. They turn the TV on and there's an old re run of an some action film on. Sam is getting sleepy and he's lying on the floor, half heartedly rolling a car back and forth. James goes and picks him up. The little boy doesn't protest as he's carried to his room. In ten minutes, James comes back into the room. In eleven minutes Sam follows him in.
"Sam? What's wrong?"
"Didn't say na'night to Unca Robbie." Robbie smiles at him, and James also has a soft smile on his face. Sam staggers over tiredly and climbs up on the sofa, hugging James and Robbie in turn.
"Na'night Unca R'bbie. Na'night Daddy." He mumbles sleepily, before tugging on James' arm.
"You can tuck me in again please Daddy?"
"C'mon then mate."
"Night bonny lad." Robbie calls after them.
James comes back in, still smiling softly.
"Spark out as soon as he hit the pillow." He walks half way into the room, and then stops.
"Thought you'd never ask." James heads into the kitchen, and now Sam is not a distraction, he intends to tackle the subject that had worried him slightly earlier.
"Jim?" James jumps a little, he hadn't heard Robbie follow.
"You're still limping." James looks down as if he hadn't noticed, and then nods.
"Yeah, not much though."
"Should be sorted now kidda. What's going on?"
"Nothing. Just, might have...damaged it more than I thought that's all." Lewis sighs. He'd hoped that James would recover from his dislocated knee properly, he'd found it hard to watch the younger man in that much pain.
"How damaged is damaged?" Hathaway shifts uncomfortably.
"Er, Well, its not likely to get much better. It doesn't hurt that much, honestly."
"James, please tell me this isn't because you didn't go to physio or something. And it must hurt, otherwise you wouldn't limp."
"No...No its not, promise. It was just more damaged in the first place than they thought." He sees Lewis' sceptical look. "Look, there's just more damage to the ligaments or tendons or bone or whatever that we thought there was. It's not crippling or anything.. All it means is that I limp a bit every now and then. Could have been a lot worse. Its really not a problem." Robbie frowns.
"Still, must be a pain." James grins a little and reaches to a shelf about the kettle, pulling down two boxes of pills.
"Painkillers Robbie, the wonders of modern medicine."
"Its not a bloody joke James!" Hathaway sighs a little.
"Would it make you feel better if I told you that these aren't painkillers," he says waggling a box labelled 'Prazosin'
"That highly depends what they are for James."
"Nightmares." He puts the box down, talking as he continues to make the tea. "You were right. Chronic Nightmares. Quack put me on these, and some Image Reversal Therapy thing. I think the plan is to take me off the drugs after its all working."
"And is it? Working that is."
"Mostly yeah. Still having a couple of them, but that's normal. And manageable." Robbie's frown softens a little and he leans back against the counter, holding the cup of tea that James has handed him.
"I didn't think that you would actually see someone."
"I didn't have much of a choice really." Lewis raises his eyebrow, and James carries on:
"I woke Sam up every night for a week. He wouldn't sleep in his own room, because my screaming scared him, and then when he slept with me, it woke him up anyway. I couldn't expect him to live like that. He needs sleep. And a Dad that can actually hold himself together, you said that yourself."
"I'm glad that something I said actually sunk in."
"Yeah well, you never let it drop did you. Thanks for doing that by the way."
Not long later, they decide that its best to go to bed. James won't hear anything about Lewis sleeping on the sofa bed.
"Its like you wouldn't accept any money. I'm not inviting you here, whether you're helping decorate or not, and then having you sleep on my back killing sofa. That's out of order." Lewis gives up. When James is being that stubborn, there's really no point arguing with him.
He lies in bed, staring at the walls, the wall paper hanging of them in bits and the floor covered in slivers of paper. Smiling he turns on his side to fall asleep. He's actually looking forward to this. Bit of manual labour, Val would laugh if she could see it.
And Hathaway seems to be sorting himself out, which is a weight off Robbie's mind. He'd been worried about the younger man, especially after James had phoned him the morning after some of the more vivid nightmares. James hadn't come out and said it, but Lewis had been able to tell that James had been seriously freaked out by something.
But Hathaway seems to be making progress, and Sam is clearly full of energy and life and everything that a kid should be.
He's smiling as he falls asleep.
Downstairs, James sneaks into the kitchen as quietly as he could, grabbing his tablets from where he had left them on the work top. He swallows one with a glass of water, and shudders, before going back to bed and talking himself through the therapy techniques that the doctor taught him. There's no way he's letting himself have a nightmare tonight, not after he's convinced Lewis that he's ok. After all, he can hide the fact that his knee might hurt. He can't stop himself from screaming in the middle of the night, until it's too late and Robbie has heard.
No, tonight, he's going to sleep.