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You Beside Me

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Chapter 1- Louisa Clark Traynor

 

The accident had happened almost three years ago.

And ever since I had lost all movement in my lower body and was confined to a motorized wheelchair, since I didn’t care for traditional ones due to my arms tiring from rolling around. Will had said it was called paraplegia what I had, and when he had first started caring for me about two years ago I realized he was very smart.

“Clark, love,” I woke up to Will’s voice and him right next to me, he usually called me by my soon-to-be maiden name as he had in our early days together. I could see his hands moving against my lower back even though I couldn’t feel them: one of the ways he fave me in home physio. Will was a physio by trade even before he met me and after my accident he had gone to finish medical school so he could provide full care for me. “Can you feel my hands?”

“No.”

He asked a lot if I could feel things and too often nowadays, the answer was no.

 

In addition to Will caring for me I had a nurse named Nathania but she rarely came around now because Will was so insistent about caring for me himself because of a perfectionist nature within him so when Nathania did come it was a surprise to me. Today she had her dark hair up in a simple bun and had blue scrubs on when I saw her walk through the door of the Annex. “Hi Lou,” she called me Lou just like my family did.

Will had built out the stables in Granta House, his family’s centuries-old estate, into the Annex and had it adapted for me so it could serve as an apartment for us. Given, we were still living with Will’s parents (a fact I knew Will himself detested to no end) but the Annex served my needs well for now and occasionally we’d get to see Georgina, Will’s older sister, when she flew in from Melbourne.

The morning sun dripped into the main living area and it reflected off the wheels of my chair and my purple painted toes. When I sat in my chair at home most times I didn’t wear shoes because I wanted to show I was comfortable in my environment.

Today I was wearing an aqua dress shirt, one of my many ‘interesting’ outfits Will lijkes to say. This dress was long sleeved but had some of the arms cut out and in an odd way it matched my engagement ring that had all kinds of colored stones on the bands that held the diamond in the center. Will had tied my hair into a low bun even though my hands still worked.

“Hi Nathania,” I greeted her cheerily as she kissed my cheeks in a friendly hello and a smile painted her lovely face, “how are you?”

“Lovely, this weather makes me so happy to feel warmth after such a long winter. Is Will still taking good care of you? Sometimes I doubt you even need me,” she joked heartily and I looked up at Will who stood behind me and my bright yellow wheelchair, his hands on my shoulders (one of the places I could actually feel him).

“Yes,” I laughed, “but what would I have done without you before he came along, Nattie?” I asked using her nickname I had come up with.

“You wouldn’t have a yellow chair, that’s for sure,” when I had first been recovering I was sitting in a plain old black chair and hated how dull it was. I was partially famous for my crazy fashion choices after all so why not extend that to fit my new reality? So one day, Nattie had painted my chair bright yellow and now it was famous in our little town.

“I seriously owe you,” I laughed.

“Right then, Will I suspect since our Lou is already dressed you took care of her morning intimate needs,” Nattie used to do that for me but after Will proposed to me three months ago he had taken over after much insistence from me that he didn’t have to but his own insistence and constant reminder that he was trained to deal with much worse overpowered my argument. When he first did it, I couldn’t look at him because my cheeks would set aflame so easily

“You’re all clear, Nathania,” he told her with a smile. In my head I could remember how he had said, “Louisa, love, look at me,” and as I had I found it damn near impossible to stop crying because in that split second I had come to the realization that nothing seemed to shy Will away from me and I thought I didn’t deserve that at all.

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Chapter 2- Will Traynor

 

They say I have ‘Out-Bonded’ James Bond himself.

That might be true, sure, but I didn’t really take much pride in that fact. To me, it was just a part of the life I used to live back before my choice to leave the business world for medicine (a choice, might I stress, not at all brought on by my ex-girlfriend, Alicia, cheating on me with my partner and friend Rupert). I used to be something of a mogul: rich from my own earnings at a young age and now by the age of thirty-five I still have more money than I could comprehend that was mine rather than my parents’.

A lot of my funds I set aside for Louisa, anything she wanted or needed I wanted to give her. Bumblebee tights. A trip to the States. Pain meds that I would give her. Anti-spasticity meds twice a day. A holiday to Paris that was upcoming. Anything. I used to work paid internships in physio clinics before getting a job in one as I went through med school and occasionally I still pop in and do some work there but I hate to leave Lou, but the bloke who runs the clinic, named Florez, is actually nice enough to pay me when I work with my fiancee alone.

After Nattie left, I loaded Lou into the car that I had adapted for her complete with a ramp for her chair. “Where to, Traynor?” Lou and I still playfully referred to each other by our surnames like we had when we first met since I had liked to poke gentle sarcasm wars with her which she was getting better at over time.

“I was offered some hours at the physio clinic,” I said as I got into the driver’s side next to her and started to head that way. I liked to hold Lou’s hand while I drove because I knew she could feel it as opposed to when I might electrically stimulate her leg muscles either at the physio clinic or the Annex on nights where she would take a break from sitting in that god awful chair and sit in my lap.

When we got there, I unloaded Lou but I carried her so I could leave the chair. My Lou couldn’t move her legs much so I would carry her like a bride when I did. I never knew exactly how much pain Lou was in, but I could only imagine. I walked in and Flores, the Spaniard who owned the physio clinic and a good friend. “Well if it isn’t Will and his Lovely Lou?” Lou laughed and it reached her eyes, a sight I loved to see.

“Hi Flores,” she said, “you really should stop flattering me because I’m seriously considering leaving Will,” she joked.

“Oh, Lou, you’re best to stick with him. He’s one of the best physios I have ever seen.”

“You’re already too scored on my heart to leave, Clark,” I said kissing her forehead, “You can’t leave. Sorry.”

After a few more minutes of chatter with Flores I walked over and set Lou on one of the flat metal tables covered in a cloth sheet with a pillow at the head, laying on her stomach so I could hook up the pads to her skin.The clinic was busy today with people ranging in age from teens with sports injuries to older stroke survivors doing things like the treadmills or lifting light weights. I usually steered away from those with Lou. “Will?”

“Yes love? I’m about to start the EMS. Can you feel my hands?” Was I stupid to hope that one day the answer would be yes?

Chapter Text

Chapter 3- Lou Clark-Traynor

Will handed me my phone and then he bent my legs and straightened them out (which I couldn’t feel) to test range of motion or something like that. My iPhone’s wallpaper was a picture my sister Treena had taken of me and Will on our last holiday to the beach a while ago. I unlocked my phone with my fingerprint and hit the FaceTime app to call my sister.

Treena and her five year old Thomas lived with my parents as Treena finished up at university and worked at a flower shop. After I had moved in with Will, the smaller bedroom in my house had been converted into Tom's room. I would visit sometimes with Will for dinner or to spend the day with Mum or Treen. “Hello?” my sister’s dark hair that matched mine and her eyes were actually brown versus my hazel.”Lou?”

“Hi, Treen. How’s school going?”

“I’ve got only two semesters left after this one and am scheduled to graduate next spring,” she said excitedly, “How’s living in a castle?”I laughed. Granta House was on the same grounds as the ancient castle in our town so naturally everyone assumed I lived in a castle because I lived with Will.

“It’s still amazing to think I live there,” my eyes flashed to Will who was working his fingers into some of my leg muscles and he smiled. “We are going to Paris next week,” I told my sister, “can you believe it? I’ve never been,” I couldn’t contain my excitement about finally getting out of the village for the first time in my life.

“I’m so jealous,” she said, “maybe I’ll sneak in your bags.”

“Go ahead, but you and Thomas might not fit,’ I laughed and the sound rang around the physio clinic.I saw Will smile and he laughed as well.

“D’you mind if I steal her for a while, Katrina?” he always called Treena by her full name and she had called him ‘William’ just as sarcastically.

“Of course William. Bye Lou, will I see you soon?”

“Of course,” I replied right away, “soon.” She blew kisses into the camera before ending the call. Will was now by my shoulder and he kissed the crown of my head. I used my arms to prop my upper body up to kiss him, a trick he used to incorporate physio into my daily life at home. He would often tease me that I had to earn his kisses.

“The sheet Will had over my back to keep me warm slid a bit as I pushed myself up as far as I could so his lips could meet mine gently and the kiss held for a moment before Will settled me back, his hands lowering my shoulders easily back onto the table and then cradling my head as I let it loll. On his left hand he wore a watch I had gotten him for his last birthday made of silver.

When we were at Flores’ clinic there were usually other physios besides Will, but Will was very specific that no one else was to work with me. I suspected it was because Will was somewhat of an expert in my particular case and no one wanted to question that. “Will?”

“Yes, Clark my love?”

“I love you.”

“And I you, Louisa Clark. You are scored on my heart.”

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Chapter 4- Will Traynor (Flashback)

 

I, William Traynor, was going to be my Lou’s first. And goddammit I wanted to be the only.

My innocent Louisa sat on my lap one night in the Annex while my parents were kilometers away in London closing out the last of what remained of my company and as it poured rain outside Lou ran her hands over the skin of my chest and her legs gently bent around me as we sat in a chair, a discovery I had made in my research that apparently would help me loads. All the while my mind raced with images of sentences from books and articles I had read in preparation for this.

I had started off massaging Lou’s legs to help with her spasms and then I had taken out the catheter that I myself had placed inside her and dealt with it securely. She had her eyes on my hands as if she was trying to make sense of what she could not feel, “I have to take out the catheter to do this,” I said gently to her, “but I’ll put it back.”

“Will?”

“Yes, Clark?” I spoke into her hair as her arms wrapped around me and I could feel myself press into her. In that moment I was relieved that she couldn’t feel pain but saddened beyond my own comprehension that she could not also feel to full pleasure I could give her. With Alicia, this had been an easy and quick thing.

But with my Lou it was special.

To touch her was to set my now medically trained hands on vitality and life and as they descended, on numbness. She decided to watch my hands as I gently used the heel of my hand to lube her innocence that was being given to me even though there was no way I bloody deserved it.
I had decided to explain with words all the things Lou could not feel me do. But I was delighted when she would let her head loll against me because that meant she could feel and liked what that feeling was. “Will?”

“Yes?”

“Is this going to be good enough for you? Enough for you for the rest of your life? I totally get if if you…” I cut her off gently and a soft snarl escaped me because I detested the fact that Lou would say she was unworthy of my love.

“Shh,” I had her look up nto my eyes, “if anyone should be worrying it’s me, Louisa. I often think that there isn’t a way I could ever give you all you deserve out of life.”

My Lou, who hid nothing she felt, sobbed and sobbed and I just sat in that chair holding her and smelling her skin that had a touch of honeysuckle scent like the bath soap I used on her as I comforted her and didn’t even lift my eyes to the storm that was raging outside and the lightning that was a squad of fireflies, lighting up the room every thirty seconds.

When I finally got Lou basck into herself, I began to kiss over the parts she could feel my lips and in between kisses I would tell her what my hands felt, touching her gently and with almost surgical precision. Lou, being so innocent regardless of her condition, liked me talking her through it all almost like she could feel the touch of the words on her.

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Chapter 5- Camilla Traynor

 

I will admit I was jealous of both my children.

I was jealous of Georgina because she was living a free life out in Melbourne, she had a great job, was single and had not one bloody care to give about it, she actually had friends who were friends rather than the numerous acquaintances I had who never made an effort to truly care about me on a deeper level.

I was even more jealous of Will and his relationship with Louisa Clark. Will had gambled everything in order for him to leave his companies after the mishap with Rupert and Alicia and enter the medical world and he had won. I was jealous that he didn’t need me and now had people who needed him more than I. He was often away all day and scarcely present at night. When he had started as a caregiver for Miss Clark (being paid a miserable salary for his hard work if you ask me) I had lost the rest of him.

Everything Will did now was for her. And I resented her but Wil kept on. He built out the steeples for her after a year and a half of seeing her, even though I wondered if it was not a breech in procedure a therapist dating a patient but then again no one here would really argue with a Traynor. Now the girl lived with us full time and when Steven and i did see Will he was with her either walking beside that god awful bright chair or carrying her himself. I didn’t say anything anymore in regards to this after the first big row Will and I had after she moved in where he had threatened to cut ties with me if I was not at least civil to this homewrecker.

They were everything Steven and I had lost: so in love it sickened me to my stomach to be near them, Will’s devotion unlike anything I had seen from him (to the point of him not letting others touch her for very long) and the worst part was that she was just as devoted to my son as he her. It would have been a bloody load easier if she snubbed him but she never did.

And worse still, Georgina loved Louisa too, and so did Steven.

Steven was a whole different misery. Ever since George left for Australia and Will for medical study in London we had sat in this god awful house alone every night and sometimes Steven wouldn’t come home until late himself. Soon I came to realize the reason this was, but I had kept quiet partially in fear of losing Steven just as I had my children.

In time I had began an affair with the man who taught yoga classes I went to three times a week and it seemed like a cordial agreement between Steven and myself that we both would not acknowledge the affairs while in each other’s company. I honestly doubted Will or Georgina would care if Steven and I divorced now.

But this wasn’t about them: it was aboyut my need to maintain the image I had made for myself in this town.

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Chapter 6- Georgina Traynor

 

I got off the plane from Melbourne at Heathrow that evening after a long time of travel. I was going to visit Will and Lou so I could finally congratulate them on their betrothal in person. I had on a simple blue travel dress and one of my favorite sun hats I wore in Melbourne to keep my face from the sun and I carried my Louis Vuitton carry-on as I walked to meet Daddy at baggage claim.

“Georgie,” he gave me a hug and took my bag, “Good to see you. Good flight?”

“Good to see you too, Daddy. Yes the flight was all right. Are Lou and Will in the car?” I asked. Since this family had begun to fall apart years ago I had shifted closer to my brother since I felt like he was the only one who could understand the unsteady home life we now had. And when he had met Lou my heart had bursted with joy. Will needed someone better for him than the shallow bitch Alicia.

“He’s doing Lou’s physio, love, so he said he’d see you tonight,” my father said as we strolled through the bustle of the airport to the car. Still, I thought, it was strange that Will was no longer the buisnessman he had been and now held a physio degree in addition to a medical one. Lou had changed him, made him open up and love and Will loved passionately when he found someone or something worthy of the feeling.

As my father drove me we chatted aimlessly as if we were avoiding that underneath this posh facade we were truly all broken and the damages were beyond our repair. After an inquiry about how work was going for me and a bit of chat on that and then the weather there we shifted to silence until we pulled up to the house. Will was standing outside, behind a bright yellow wheelchair I knew belonged to the spunky Lou who sat in it.

By now it was dark and the lights on the nearby castle and my home lit the driveway as I got out of the car to hug my brother. Lou had a smile on her face and she was wearing a light almost mint green nightdress with a floral pattern on it and a shawl to match. I bent and gave her a hug being as careful as i could. “Congratulations,” I said, “both of you.”

“Thanks,” Lou said cheerfully, “Will can Georgina stay in the extra room in the Annex?”

“She’s more than welcome,” my brother said. Just the way he spoke to her made my feelings explode with happiness and yearning for a person to love me as much as Will did Lou.

“I’d love to,” I agreed.

“But first let’s go greet your mother,” Daddy said. Will shot me a look of empathy; I knew Mummy didn’t care for Lou and since Lou was the closest thing to a sister I had ever had I resented Mum for disliking someone ao beautiful inside and out. I knew the only reason Will still lived here for now was because Mum was trying to be pleasant to lou under the duress of the threat of Will leaving as I did.

“All right,” I said and followed Daddy into the main house.

Chapter Text

Chapter 7- Lou Clark Traynor

 

“Tell me something good, Will,” I said as he sat with me on the L-shaped sofa in the Annex’s living room, a fire rippling in the fireplace. Will had bent my legs over his body and my head rested on him. He took a minute to think.

“We are moving to Paris soon, just you and me,” he said, “A place is being adapted near Place Dauphine. I’ve set up everything: our French citizenship requests are granted, faxed case notes to the French neurologists at the closest hospital, have found physios close by, am going to have our address changed and such. We move next week and movers will send for our things we need like your crazy dresses,” I took a minute to process what Will was telling me. We weren’t visiting Paris next week we were going to be living there. “Georgie knows, as does Dad. Mum won’t like the idea but it isn’t her choice.”

“May I share with Treena?” Finally both Clark girls would be living full lives.

“Of course.”

A knock on the Annex door jolted me from my excitement. Georgina came in rolling her luggage. “How were they?” Will asked.

“Mummy flipped out because we got in late,” she said, “she thought that Maisie might have called for him,” I knew Maisie was Mr. Traynor’s secretary he had been seeing secretly for some time, “so I’d say they’re the same as usual.”

“Sorry Georgie,” Will said, “you didn’t come all this way for that.”

“I certainly didn’t. I came to see you lot. And that’s what I’m going to do,” she said and she stood up, “I’m gonna go put my bags up and change.”

“I’ll still be here,” I joked.

“Ha.”

Georgina left to head to the spare bedroom in the Annex and Will stretched out my legs to rest on an automun and I looked at my painted toes. Sometimes Treen would ask Will if she could take me to the nail parlor with her and he would agree but he would come along on occasion to bend my knees so my feet could go in the water. Other times Nattie came and we had a girls’ day which was always fun. I wondered if Georgie might want to do that sometime while she was visiting.

“When do you two head for Paris?” she had come back, now wearing a large t-shirt that went down to her legs, “I might stick around to help with the move if I can manage to shift things around,” she went for the coffee pot, “Want some coffee or tea, Lou?”

“Tea sounds lovely.”

“We leave Monday week,” Will said, “everything is finalised.”

“You know Mummy is scared to death you’ll leave like I did,” she said as I heard her getting out the tea kettle.

“I know,” he said, “that’s why I’m doing it. They either need to reconcile or divorce at this stage it’s getting ridiculous.”

“How long have they been married?” I asked curiously.

“Almost forty years,” Georgina said as the kettle whistled to let her know it was done, “but enough about them. I’m here to celebrate you two. Isn’t your birthday tomorrow Lou?”

Chapter Text

Chapter 8- Will Traynor

 

The next morning I had awoken in the “master” bedroom of the Annex to the bright sun letting itself in, shining particularly on Lou like it knew it was her day. Lou always slept against me with her legs straightened out but sometimes she’d wake me and ask me to curl them and roll her over, which I would do.

I had dressed myself as I let Lou sleep in and I saw Georgie off into town for a gift for Lou from her. I woke Lou after my sister left with twenty-seven soft kisses on her cheeks. “Happy birthday, Clark,” I said as I sat her up in my lap, “Georgina is going into town and will be back in a while.”

“Will, I want to…” I knew what she wanted because her cheeks flamed with embarrassment like she assumed I was too repulsed to touch her in those ways which was the farthest thing from the truth. If anything I didn’t trust myself to be gentle enough with her. I took her in my arms and carried her into the adapted bathroom and peeled off her nightdress so her beautiful skin was against my chest; the silver scars on her spine from surgeries past glinted.

I sat with her on the commode and touched her where she could feel me: her neck, her shoulders, her full breasts that I brought my lips to delicately and one of her hands came to my hair. I touched the soft skin on her abdomen but she could barely feel it. Then I began using my words, explaining to her how she tingled for me and how I had to help her lubricate but the years of medical training made this kind of talk almost like something I did daily. “I love you Louisa Clark Traynor,” I loved my last name on her.

I entered her very slowly and gently and even though the nerves inside her here were dead she was still warm and vital. “I poured my heart out to you Will Traynor,” she said as I pushed deeper gently, “What does what you’re doing feel like?” she was curious.

“It generally brings pleasure, love,” I said almost using my detached medically correct tone, “signals in your brain release chemicals that tell your body you feel good in this moment.”

“Wow.”

“Happy birthday, Louisa,” I said, kissing her.

After getting her properly dressed her in one of her polka dotted dresses with white dots on the black dress, bumblebee tights, and doing her hair into two braids Georgina came back as I set my Lou in her chair and she wheeled over to Georgie. My sister hugged my fiancee and handed her a parcel. “Happy birthday.”

“You didn’t have to get me anything,” Lou protested as she shook the box.

“Pish. Also, we’ve got dinner tonight at seven with your family,” Georgina said, “is that okay?”

“And did you arrange that?” Lou’s face lit up like a thousand suns and I bent and kissed her forehead.

“Maybe.”

“Physio today?” Lou asked me. We usually did some form of physio every day whether we went to Flores’ or not. Lou didn’t mind physio at all maybe because I didn’t have strange physios treating her: I wouldn’t have that. No one understood her case like I did.

“We might be able to skip today if you like or do just the massages rather than the exercises.”

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Chapter 9- Lou Clark Traynor

 

Treena surprised me when we went out for coffee at a place called the Buttered Bun that was a cute cafe not far from Granta House. I got a cappuccino and the owner, Frank, brought out a little fruit tarte for me with a candle on it. I sat in my chair and ate happily and screamed in delight when my sister showed up out of the blue. “SURPRISE!” she exclaimed.

“Oh my god, what are you doing home?” I asked as she hugged me.

“It’s your birthday, idiot girl,” she joked, “What kind of sister would I be if I missed it? Tom is with Mum but he sends his love.” I smiled and I looked at Will who had a beautiful smile on his own face and he came and got me from my chair to sit in his lap. No one else in the cafe dared look our way, they all seemed overly interested in their own food.

“You know, Clark,” Will’s voice was low in my ear, “I think my loving you this morning helped your spasticity.” I laughed into his shoulder like it was an inside joke we were laughing at, which it actually was. I took anti spasm tablet four times a day but according to Will, sex had been known to help control spasms.

“Guess what, Treen?” I turned to my sister who sipped her coffee, “You know how we’re going to Paris next Monday?”

“I still wish I was coming,” my sister said as if she was jealous of me for a change.

Soft Coldplay was playing and the windows let sun drip in the cafe as I motioned her to give me her ear, “We’re moving to Paris, me and Will.” Her eyes widened and she covered her mouth.

“Oh my god do Mum and Dad know? Can I help you move? I can switch some things around, have Mum and Dad keep Tom…”

“Sure,” I said. I actually really would love for my sister to be there.

“Are there doctors in France you know of?” Treena asked Will. It seemed that after my accident that my whole family’s focus had shifted to my medical needs, at least until Will had taken over such concerns. Treen took a bite of muffin.

“One of my mentors from a rotation in neurology and spinal cord injuries, Girard Marseilles, is a Frenchman who works at the closest hospital to the new place,” Will explained. I had met Dr. Marseilles twice before and really liked him. He didn’t treat me like a child but yet he was gentle to me: letting me sit on Will’s lap as he had looked at me the first time we met and also again letting me sit with Will in the induction suite as I had gone to sleep for my latest surgery. “He loves Louisa.”

We finished at the cafe and then we headed over to my old house to see my parents. A ramp had been installed for me to get into the house easily in my chair but today Will left the chair in the car and carried me into the house with the backpack full of my stuff I needed through the day strapped on his back. We found my parents in the kitchen and Mum smiled as we came in, “Happy birthday, love,” she said as Will bent me down so Mum could kiss me on the cheek. Treena and Georgie followed us in. Will sat me at the table and had me take my first of my anti spasm tablet dose of the day.

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Chapter 10- Treena Clark

 

I left Thomas with Mum and Dad that day as Will, his sister, and I took Lou shopping in town to get her new Lou-ish clothes for Paris.

While Mum and Dad chin wagged with Lou after our return home with bags of new dresses, shirts, and skirts of all sorts of designs Will and Georgina pulled me aside to inform me of their plans. Will was taking Lou tonight on the Eurostar to Paris and Georgina was following tomorrow morning on the same train as was I.

“I’ll have our things sent for,” Will explained in a hushed tone, “Also, Nattie can come with you girls if she’s not working. Our train leaves at nine so if you could come over around six, Katrina, that’d be lovely. I’m going to have Lou strapped into the harness I had built so I can carry her on my back so if you two could handle her getting her chair to Paris I’d also appreciate it.”

“Can do,” I agreed. I knew Will’s mother was a bit of a nightmare so I asked, “Does your dad know?”

“Yes and he’s prepared to help in any way you might need him to." I nodded, “I’ll give you his mobile number if you need.”

“And Lou herself?”

“We’re taking a taxi to London and I’m going to put her out to make things a bit easier for her. You know how Lou can be. You have my mobile, yes?”

“Roger,” I said.

That afternoon included opening presents in our living room, a special tea time, and lots of laughs. I snuck upstairs at one point to grab some things from my university suitcase and throw them into a smaller duffel bag. I had arranged for my parents to keep Tom after the big news of the true reason for Paris was revealed (with the still incorrect date) by Lou to my parents. After Lou, Will, and Georgina had left I told Mum I was leaving tomorrow.

“Will’s taking her tonight,” I explained, “his sister and I are following tomorrow and I’ll be back in two or three days to get to uni.”

“All right love,” Dad said, “Good for you.”

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Chapter 11- Will Traynor

 

I sat now with Lou in the Annex’s living area as the sun descended to its resting place for the night. I had offered her tea and she accepted gladly without any questions and she drank it as the Lunesta took her system over and I gathered her up and ran out to the taxi cab parked behind the Annex. Thank god my mother had to go to Liverpool for the night, it made things easier.

“All set, Mr. Traynor?” the cabbie asked as he let us settle inside. I had Lou’s harness in the seat beside us as well as her handbag and a duffel for me.

“Yes, thanks,” I said as the car drove away from Granta House where I had spent many years and now hated. At one of the windows I spotted Georgie and Dad each nodding as we sped out of sight. The journey to London seemed to pass by in a flash and in the cool night I strapped the harness on and secured Lou as we arrived at the station and the cabbie handed our things over.

Our seats were in first class and the ride was a bit over two hours long. I had myself a glass of champagne as if to mockingly celebrate my liberation from that god awful town while the train zipped out of England. Lou slept even as I finally disembarked in Paris at almost midnight; her body secure against mine as I hailed a cab to the Hotel Dieu hospital where I planned to meet Marseilles and have Lou stay until the morrow so Marseilles could make sure she took the travel well.

I greeted my old friend warmly. Marseilles was a man about as old as my father with the same almost snow white hair and a kind face and he had been running Hotel Dieu’s neurology department for ten years. “William,” he greeted me warmly as he led me in, a mix of his French accent and a slightly learned British one in his voice, “How is Miss Lou? Any progress in her physio since I saw her last?” he led us to an elevator and we went to floor eight. We got the premier room on that floor and put Lou in the bed and Marseilles carefully helped me change her into hospital attire.that looked it was straight from the 1940’s with its sleeves that cut off below her shoulders.

“A bit with the feeling in her legs. Sometimes I can get a sensation or two from her,” I said as Marseilles adjusted Lou’s pillows for her and he got a bedpan brought in so I could dispose of what her catheter was holding. I settled with her in the bed afterwards and after Marseilles was gone. I shot Georgie a text: All well here, she is good. What time is your train tomorrow? xx

I settled into a pattern of quasi-sleep and when Lou woke the French sun was greeting its newest guest by shining on her face. “What happened?” she asked me.

“Bienvenue a Paris,” I said pulling my best French accent out, “I kidnapped you, drugged you, and took you to France.”

“But your mother, and Georgie, and Treena, and Mum, and…” I silenced her with my lips touching hers.

“Louisa, do you see why I had to drug you?” I said gently, raising her chin with my hand, “Everything is taken care of. Do you remember Dr. Marseilles, love?”

“Yes,” she said as I remembered Marseilles and I in an induction room with Lou on my lap as I held her steady for anesthesia to course its way into her system. Marseilles had been encouraging Lou and offering her validation for doing as he told her. “He’s your French mentor.”

“That he is,” I agreed as Marseilles entered the room and kissed Lou’s cheeks in the style of a French greeting.

“You must take care of Madame Louise, William,” Marseilles said using Louisa’s French variant name, “She is the newest gem of France.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 12- Lou Clark Traynor

 

According to Will, our sisters were on their way as we did my physio and Dr. Marseilles popped in every so often and Will allowed him to give me my morning meds. Today my physio was just more massages I couldn’t feel but I imagined they felt nice in Will’s hands. Will said once our sisters arrived we’d leave the hospital.

Treen and Georgie got in at half eleven and to leave the hospital I wanted to still wear my pretty gown I had on that looked almost vintage. Will had pulled my hair back into a French braid and he carried me on the harness. I was thinking about the new Coldplay song, “Adventure of a Lifetime” that went like this: If we’ve only got this life, you’ll get me through.

We pulled up to an apartment complex and Will got me and our things out of the cab as I breathed a mixture of his scent and the French air. We went to the top floor of the building and Will used a keycard to let us into this beautiful almost golden in color living room that had windows on the back wall that looked over the city. Light couches, chairs, and loveseats decorated the room and on them sat our sisters. “Trip all right?” Will asked as he laid me on one of the sofas, my head against him.

“No problems,” Georgina agreed, “when did you lot get in?”

“Almost midnight. I took her to Hotel Dieu where we had the French doctors looked at her and kept her there for observances,” Will explained. On the flat screen telly attached to one of the walls the last Harry Potter movie played softly in the background. Will was bending and straightening my legs as he explained our journey; a story that enthralled me.

“I had some croissants being brought up for us,” Georgina said as she sipped at some tea. She brought me some too. “You two need more sleep,” she said. Will nodded band he carried me to another bright room that had yet another impressive view of Paris and also had my yellow chair safely inside as well as charging in an outlet. Will put me down and closed the blinds so no light disturbed us. It looked as dark as midnight.

“We’ll have the croissants when we wake up,” he said.

I slept easily and my dreams were filled with crazy French clothes and trips to the ocean in the south and trips to places I had never seen before; Switzerland’s Alps and laying down in a field at their base, old German cities with castle ruins from a time centuries before mine riding on Will’s back as we looked, snow covering the streets of Oslo as we participated in a festival honoring Vikings.

I slept for a while and when I got up Treen brought me in a croissant, “Mum says hello from England,” she said placing it and some tea on the nightstand, “So I went out while you were asleep and wow.”

“Meet any dodgy French men?” I teased.

“Oh tons,” she laughed, “there’s a flower shop close that I visited. Had a nice chin wag with the owner about flowers and he seemed impressed.”

“Katrina has found her soulmate,” I laughed.

Chapter Text

Chapter 13- Will Traynor (Flashback)

 

The surgical lights were god awful bright I couldn’t help but think as I sat with Lou on my lap in one of the induction rooms in one of London’s best hospitals. Marseilles had ridden in from Paris for this surgery that would alleviate some of the pressure on Lou’s spinal cord. Generally in the U.K. a special needs adult could have someone with them in induction rooms.

Marseilles and I spoke French to one another to avoid Lou panicking because of medical jargon she didn’t understand, but to comfort her we both spoke soft words. Her legs were gently placed in my lap and her head rested on my shoulder. Marseilles and I had suggested to the anesthetist to induce with an IV rather than a mask because I had recalled Lou had not liked it. She wasn’t too keen on needles either, but it was much better than last surgery when the mask had been used and she had panicked about feeling suffocated.

The anesthetist was a nice woman who called my Lou love and chatted with her as Lou held mine and Marseilles’ hands. The anesthetist had Lou drink a milky solution to sedate her and as she drifted I had sung, “I wi-li-li-sh I li-li-ve-ved in the molohanky la-la land. The land where I was bo-lo-lo-lo-lorn…”

Marseilles had helped me get her to the operating theatre and turn her onto her back while the nice anesthetist stayed by Lou’s head that had a cap on it to cover her hair. Marseilles let me make all the incisions as he had taught me to do and I ended taking out part of one of the discs of Lou’s spine close to the injury site.

I studied the nerves carefully. They looked just like any other nerves I had seen in books or in practice like nothing was the matter but I knew if I touched them they wouldn’t respond to me. The procedure itself took a few hours and once I had scrubbed out and changed back into street clothes I went to the postanesthetic care unit where Lou’s parents and Katrina were waiting.

“Is Aunty Lou okay?” the five-year-old Thomas asked of me as he saw me, “You’re Aunty Lou’s doctor, right Will?”

“Yes,” I told him, “she’s okay. You know what, Thomas, let’s go see her soon. How about it?” The child smiled at me and I said to Josie Clark, “I’m going to settle her into a room and then come to get you lot to see her.”

“Thank you, Will, for everything.’

“I should be the one thanking you for her, Josie.”

I disappeared into the PACU and moved Lou with Marseilles beside me. Lou had her eyes open and she smiled at me as I walked beside her bed. “What happened?” she wondered.

“I decompressed your spine and took out a disc,” I told her, “Your family is all here and anxious to see you,” my lips touched hers as we reached a room and settled her inside. I had her rolled onto her stomach against me and Marseilles took off Lou’s surgical cap and her chocolate hair fanned out.

“You did well, Madame Louise,” Marseilles said, “tres bien.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 14- Steven Traynor

 

Camilla returned from Liverpool the morning after Will’s midnight flight to France with Louisa.

I had told him to go, encouraged him to do so now. I told him to leave his mother a letter saying it was best he left while she was away. I knew Camilla would probably have done everything in her power to prevent our son from leaving this immaculate castle that concealed within its walls a broken home. “Go, my son. Tonight. Now. Don’t look back.”

“Where are Will and Georgie?” Camilla asked as she set her bag down at the foot of the staircase in the main house, “They aren’t in the Annex.” I looked up from the morning paper, not having realized my wife had been home for longer than a few moments.

“Will is taking Louisa on a holiday. Her birthday was yesterday,” I reminded my wife, “we got her a lovely dress that she can wear to nice events and shoes to match, dear.”
“Where did they go?” I could tell she was fighting to keep calm in the face of this, “Surely you know. And is Georgina with them? Her stuff is gone,” I had been lying to Camilla for so long now that even the voice she used in her magistratory work could not crack me.

“He didn’t say, dear. Louisa was with him when he left so he didn’t want to spoil the surprise of the destination before they arrived. I’m sure he’s alright. Georgie had to catch the next flight back to Melbourne because of work something had come up unexpectedly. Shame, I was looking forward to time with her since it seems like a while we last saw her.”

“What are you not telling me, Steven?” the panic had risen.

“I’m not sure what you’re talking about, Camilla, but as we got onto the subject of surprises so easily I have one for you,” I handed her a manilla envelope, “I can’t do this any longer.”

“Fuck you, Steven Traynor. First you take my children from me and then you run around with your little secretary. We’ve been married for almst forty years for god’s sake.”

“Far too long in my opinion, I agree,” I said rising, “we’re broken beyond repair Camilla. Will and Georgina are moving on and it’s not your place to resent them because they left you behind as they did or Louisa because she’s helping them by giving the love they both deserve that we apparently denied them. Now, I’ve made it easy for you: just sign and this will be settled. The courts won’t make a fuss and I’ve arranged for an apartment for you in London.”

“Where are my children? So help me god I’ll…”

“I’ve told you all I know. And I don’t think it would be smart if you unpacked.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 15- Georgina Traynor

 

Later in the day there was a knock at the penthouse door. Treena Clark and I had just gotten in from a stroll a few hours ago and we were arranging some of the nicknacks from the Annex that the staff had brought up along with the rest of Will and Lou’s things. Will and Lou had just gotten up from a nap and Will was taking care of Lou’s tubes I thought.

I went to the door and I was surprised to find my father. “Where’s Will?” he asked. Will apparently heard his name spoken and emerged from the master bedroom, dressed immaculately and looking at Daddy in anticipation at first and we both realized at that moment that the Traynor ‘family unit’ we had charaded to be was dead.

“You did it, didn’t you?” I asked Daddy. He just nodded once. I could imagine Mummy in that house storming around furiously in her heels. I had the sudden thought I should offer my father some champagne to celebrate the end of this elaborate lie that was our public image. Daddy took a seat on the couch next to Treena, who as I could imagine, felt a bit confused. I busied myself with opening a bottle of champagne that was already in the well stocked cellar. Will had disappeared again to get Lou and help her shower. “Where is Mummy?” I asked Daddy.

“Camilla is still at Granta House but she’s probably moving to London, your mother. I’m planning on selling Granta House.”

“It’s about time,” I said as I handed him and Treen a glass, “Where are you going to go?”

“I was considering Normandy, near the beach. I’ve always fancied the water.” My father took a sip of champagne, “I’m sorry for you and Will that I didn’t do this sooner.”

“Better late than never,” I consoled him, “I thought you and Mummy might die with this tension unresolved.’

“Camilla misses you and Will.”

“Yes,” I took a sip of my champagne and said thickly, “I imagine she does. She resents us for leaving her alone. I know it, so does Will.” My father stared at me and he couldn’t deny I was right. After a few minutes of silence Will came out with Lou on his back: she was dressed in a white shirt, a jean skirt, and black and yellow tights that looked like something she’d wear. My father stood and kissed her forehead like he did to me.

“Louisa, you look very French,” Daddy said switching the subject, “You are certainly a unique addition to our family.”

“Thanks, Mr. Traynor.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 16- Lou Clark Traynor

 

I got to venture out into Paris proper for the first time that afternoon. We had a late lunch at a cafe and I was munching on a warm croissant with jam as I sat on Will’s lap, free of my yellow chair for the time being. Will had asked the concierge in our building about accessible dining for me and my honker of a chair.

Paris glittered before my eyes like a shiny new toy I had just opened. Posh people walked the streets some with little dogs. I thought about the pictures I’d seen of the Eiffel Tower or Notre Dame and made a list in my head of the things I wanted to see in my new home city. I could almost feel the wind brush my legs.

Treen sat beside me and she smiled at me, “Louisa Clark in Paris. I was beginning to think you’d never leave that bloody town,” my sister said, “You’ve impressed me.”

“Thanks, Treen.”

“Who will be taking over her care of medical sorts? Do you have a hospital of sorts on file?” Will’s father asked him. I remembered waking up at the Hotel Dieu this morning with Will and Dr. Marseilles attending to me so I imagined that was my future as far as the medical aspect went. I bet they had tons of neuro doctors and physios there.

“Girard Marseilles, my mentor from medical study, lives in the city and works the Hotel Dieu nor far from here. He’s treated Lou a bit since her last surgery,” Will explained, “he has a staff of physios and neural surgeons working under him. He’s very smitten with our Lou,” Will smiled proudly, “tries to teach her French.”

I laughed. Dr. Marseilles had taught me how to tell Will I loved him in French (‘Je t’aime William John Traynor’). “Marseilles is a brilliant chap,” Mr. Traynor said, “he’s well suited to take care of your Louisa.”

As I ate Will sang the Molohonky Song that I had once been singing a few days after he had started working with me. He had asked about it and I had been surprised of his unfamiliarity with it as I had assumed every English child had known it. I had performed a rendition for him that in his words was ‘a god awful injustice to this song’s renowned nature’ and once I knew, months later, that I was falling in love with him he had sung it for me as we were laying down in my room on the floor and listening to rain bounce off the roof of my house.

“Yes, Girard has a brilliant staff under him so Lou will be in very capable French hands. In fact, we go see him tomorrow so he can do a full assessment of Lou for his records and to see if we need to make changes to her care. I must say I like the French healthcare system a margin better than our own,” Will told his father.

“Maybe you were a Frenchman in a past life,” I told Will, “William the Conqueror perhaps.”

“I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest,” he said and he got the attention of our waiter and ordered us all another round of sodas as I looked around watching the people. Some smiled at me genuinely and blew kisses to me and Will, apparently thinking our sitting together was ‘bella’ as they said. I wondered what that meant, and asked Will. He was fluent in so many languages he’d know.

“They said we are a beautiful couple, Clark.”

“That’s so nice. I really enjoy the French people,” I observed.

“And they seem to reciprocate the feeling it looks to me,” Will was saying, “I can see some ladies sitting just over there admiring those stripey bumble bee tights of yours.”

“Do they have such fashions here?” I found it odd if they didn’t. France, especially Paris, was known for fashion. Even I knew that.

“If they don’t, you’ll certainly bring some fashions I’m sure the French will love and even get your advice on their own trends.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 17- Dr. Girard Marseilles

 

The next day, young William arrived at nine in the morning with Madame Louise. My protege shook my hand and I kissed his fiancee’s. The Hotel Dieu, despite being the oldest hospital in Paris that still ran, was very busy with my fellow practitioners scurrying about their routines. William had Louise on his back and I led them to the neural unit to my office.

I had summoned in Odette, one of the gynecology specialists, at the behest of William, to talk with Louise. Odette was dark haired and it matched her chocolate skin and eyes. “Bonjour,” she greeted me and William who held Louise on his lap on the table covered in thin sterile paper and he was straightening and bending her legs. To Louise herself she spoke gently, “Hi, Lou, I’m Odette. May I call you Lou?”

“Sure,” she said as Odette smiled and took her hand and then said something to William in a low tone that I recognized as ‘She will be just fine with me’.

“Lou, your Will has told me he thinks it might be easier for you if we put you on hormone injections that will stop your periods. Will can give them to you himself,” she explained to Louise in soft English. To William she said in quick French, “Will she agree?’

Louise looked up at William, “You can do this?”

“Of course,” he said into her hair softly like he had promised the globe to her, “I know you don’t like needles, love, so look at this,” he pulled from his pocket what looked like a toy bumble bee, “Inside this there’s vibrations and a small cold compress that help your arm go numb.”

“Where’d you get it?” Louise was interested.

“I have a family friend who works in medical technology and he got me one wjhen I asked,” William spoke to her softly and Odette waited patiently as did I.

“Okay, Will.” Her face lit up in a smile and his followed as if prompted by her, as if her smile was infectious. Odette stood and bid her farewells and left us. I had William lay Louise down and he stood with me beside her as I bent one of Louise’s knees and brought it to her chest and then straightened it back.

“Does that bring any sensation to you, Louise?” I asked her and then I had William do the same with her other leg, “Not even for your Will? That’s rather rude of it, hmm? It must not like him as much as you do,” I got a laugh out of her.

“Well, it’s stubborn,” she said, “I can’t blame it.”

“Here,” I had William help her down and I had him hold her hips in a standing position, “let’s have you walk on William’s feet.”

I walked in front of her as William held her hips and used his own walking motion to get her legs to move, “Tres bien, very good,” I encouraged her, “You know, you could be the dauphine of this hospital now, Madame Louise. You are loved by many here.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 18- Lou Clark Traynor

 

The hospital had beautiful gowns, or maybe they only had one beautiful gown and I was wearing it. It was white and had long sleeves and the neck was shaped like a V so I could show off the yellow diamond necklace that had been shaped like an infinity symbol that Will had gotten me. As I walked on his feet with Dr. Marseilles walking in front of me I thought about how lucky I was to be in Will’s life.

We left the hospital around a quarter to noon and I still wanted to wear this gown. I sat in my power chair as Will walked beside me, whistling to himself. The hospital was only a block or so from my new home so we got back quickly and Treen, Georgie, and Mr. Traynor were waiting. “Good report?” Mr. Traynor asked as he saw us.

“Very,” Will said, “she walked today with my movements helping her.”

“That’s fantastic!” Treena exclaimed and hugged me and Will, who took me from my chair to sit with him and he rubbed my shoulders. I hung my head to look at my new pretty white gown and flesh colored ballet flats I had worn. My long braid slung over my shoulder and Will kissed my neck. I heard the stereo playing a well known song called “Eyes on Fire” I had heard once on the telly.

I’m taking it slow / Feeding my flame / shuffling the cards of your game.

I hummed along with the music until I got a call on my rather new smartphone. Up until a few months ago I had been the proud owner of an old Nokia phone that was a bright green color. Will had laughed at me and he had presented me with the latest model of the iPhone the next day, “Get with the times, for God’s sake, Clark,” he’d said laughing.

I accepted the call and Mum, Dad, and Tom lit up the screen. I imagined Granddad was asleep in his room or in the living room watching the telly since my parents were in the kitchen. I tilted my phone so my parents could see Treena too. “How’s France, love?” my mother asked, “Your dad and I went once before you and your sister came along and loved it.”

“It’s fantastic,” I said, “the French are so welcoming and the culture is amazing.”

“Did Nathania make it over?” Dad asked. My parents loved Nattie like she was their own daughter and they always told her they owed her so much because without her I don’t know what would have happened in between the accident and Will coming to work for me. Nattie had helped us so much and she still did.

“She might have had another patient, but she might come,” I said, “she trusts Will to handle me.”

“As she should,” Mum agreed, “do they have good physio programs in Paris, Will?”

“They have excellent ones, Josie. I have her working with myself and Girard Marseilles, who taught me all I know. He works at the oldest hospital in the city that’s about a block from us and we’re thinking about doing some water therapy for her so perhaps a trip to the south is in order,” Will always spoke as if he had a concrete plan.

“Sounds lovely,” Dad said, “Maybe your mother and I could tag along. Perhaps we can go on one of those excursions that you and Will went on a while back where he actually had you skydiving,” Will had bet me, about two months ago, that I wouldn’t jump out of a plane. I had bet him a hundred pounds and he had arranged for me to be with him strapped into a more protective harness than the one he used to carry me on the ground. I had buried my face into his shoulder but finally got the courage to look out as we fell.

Chapter Text

Chapter 19- Will Traynor

 

That night Lou and I went up to the roof of the apartment building. Along with the glittering Parisian lights the light in the rooftop pool shone as did the light in the Jacuzzi. Lou wore a red polka dot suit and I carried her in my arms, stunned by the fact I held all the beauty the world could offer me in my arms. No one else was at the pool tonight and my sister, my father, and Katrina were out exploring the nightlife.

I lowered Lou into the water and held her close to me as I kissed her. She stretched out her arms in the water and the lights shone on her arms making them glimmer like gemstones. “So are you sad about your dad and mum?” she asked me as we had drinks brought out for us. On the stereo some Duffy was playing softly. My hands rested on Lou’s shoulders.

“I can’t say I am,” I said truthfully, “this has been going on for so long that honestly this was the outcome Georgie and I had hoped for from the word go. It gives me a reason to never return to that god forsaken town of ours. In fact, if you want, we could relocate your parents here to Paris.”

“Maybe one day,” she said, “but I expect this means my dad won’t be working at the castle much longer since your dad is going to Normandy he said.”

“That gives them a perfect chance to get away from our restrictive town. The job market there is never good and your dad needs to be using his skills so I bet if we talked to my father he could have your dad work for him and your parents could live in Normandy.” I loved the Normandy area, it was so peaceful and whispers of history and some of my own relatives were buried there after losing their life in the D-Day landings.

“That’d mean they’d only be two hours away,” she said excitedly and she threw her aems around my neck. I carefully helped her legs do the same as I had us standing up in the water with one of the best views in the world. Lou closed her eyes and I kissed her shoulder; the skin tingling because she could feel my lips on her. “Will?” she spoke after minutes of silence.

“Yes, love? Is something wrong?” One of my greatest fears was seeing Lou’s pain overcome her happy self. She could accept her limitations in a way I found so inspiring to anyone even me. I always carried around a bag with us wherever we went full of Lou’s extra meds just in case she needed them. “Do you need anything?”

“No. Will, I love you.”

“I love you so very much, Louisa.”

And then she began to sob: horrible sobs that shattered my heart into a million pieces. Louisa had been diagnosed around the time of her accident with anxiety that could cripple her if not taken care of as fast as possible after the onset of an attack. “Will,” she said my name but it was thick in sobs. I had never worked as fast as I did then by reaching into the pack and withdrawing her anxiety medicine.

“Louisa Vivienne,” I used her full name to get her attention, “let me see that face,” her head had buried into my shoulder. After a few moments she looked up at me, lines of hot tears staining her face and her cheeks pink, “What is it?”

“I... don’t deserve you, Will,” she told me and my blood boiled. Of course she deserved me; in fact she deserved more than I would ever be able to give her. “You’re so wonderful… staying with me out of pity…”

“Louisa,” it was gentle but there was anger on her behalf in my tone, “Never say that. I love you so much, Clark, don’t you understand?” I kissed her hair softly and got her to take the tablet for me. After she had calmed I decided it was time to go inside.

Chapter Text

Chapter 20- Dr. Girard Marseilles (Flashback)

 

Young William had come to me to talk about Madame Louise a few months after the first surgery I had done on her spinal cord, which she was recovering from very well he said. He had caught the Eurostar to Paris for the night to see me in person versus speaking over the phone or the Skype.

I met him at the entrance of the Hotel Dieu and we walked through the grand old halls up to the neuroscience unit. “So where is your lovely Louise?” I asked my former student. He laughed.

“I have her other caregiver, Nathania, is filling in,” William said as we ascended the grand stairs to my office where we could chat without prying ears upon us. When we got to my office door I unlocked it swiftly and led him in. I had quite a good view of my home city from my office that I rather enjoyed and heard the same about it often from clients.

“How might I help you, young William?” I asked as we sat. William wasted no time in telling me he wanted to ask Odette something so I summoned for her but I looked sadly at William, “She won’t feel you within her, William,” I told him plainly. I imagined, smart as he was, that he already knew this but his determination to give Madame Louise the best of lives melted even my heart that was hardened by all the tragedies I’d seen doing this work.

Odette came and William explained his wish to her and a smile burst onto her face, “I don’t see why not, then,” she told him, “if you can find ways to help her, what is your English phrase, get off in other ways that involve what she can feel then I expect you two could be quite successful.”

“Thank god,” William said, “she deserves to experience this, and I’ll be damned if she never experiences it.”

“Has she not?” Odette asked.

“No.”

“Well in that case, Louisa needs to be allowed to feel like a woman,” I thought I saw her eyes tear up slightly. We French were very sensual people as a whole so love stories like William and Louise’s were what gave life to our beliefs in romance. “Give her the time of her life,” Odette said.

“I agree,” I said, “thank you Odette for the consult.”

“What can I do that she’ll feel?” William asked me. I rose and got Louise’s file from my cabinet to see her latest X-rays and I motioned William over.

“Since she’s a T-7 injury she has good control and feeling above her waist.I would start by suggesting emphasis on the suprasternal notch and her fingertips. I’d also suggest her neck and earlobes as well,” I said looking at the scans.

“Can I still fill her?” I suspected being a student of medicine in France had relaxed the innate English uptightness about sexuality that I assumed was programmed into all Brits had eased and dissipated in William.

“Of course, but keep in mind as I said, she won’t feel you so communication there is key. Perhaps you could explain to her how it feels. You’ve read on it, I assume?”

“Yes.”

“Then there is your answer, my boy. Go give your Louise everything you possibly can offer her.

Chapter Text

Chapter 21- Lou Clark Traynor

 

The day after my panic episode Will had insisted that he keep a closer eye on me than normal. He gave me my bath and as I stood before him with the help of a bar he had installed in the bath on the side where an able bodied person would get on. I had this feeling again as my hands gripped the bar that I was nowhere near worthy of gorgeous Will who stood ready for the day in his usual dressy casual Polo and khakis and that Polo with the top two buttons left undone.

“You’re so beautiful, Clark,” he told me as I looked down at his hands that were made for the surgeries he did as they touched my skin where I could feel him. That feeling of unworthiness began to rise up in me but Will took my lips and then surprisingly he took me from the bath and set me in the wheelchair that he would sometimes give me my bath in back home if he felt like I was not strong enough to stand that day.

The chair was situated right by the sink in the bathroom and he bathed me like I was a child; his washcloth washing me with soap and then rinsing me with sink water. I closed my eyes as I felt the hands of William John Traynor, ex banker and now skilled surgeon, make me clean. When he was done he got me from the chair into his arms in a towel and just stood there for a moment, maybe a gentle kiss or two was paced on my neck during that eternity as the sun shone through the bathroom windows.

Will dressed me in a teal dress that had a belt around it and the design on the fabric was almost floral. He then carried me to our home’s main room where Georgie, Treen, and Mr. Traynor were waiting on us with cups of tea. “I think I might have to head back later today,” Treen said, “I have to sit an exam at college tomorrow.”

“Aw,” I said. Despite the fact these past few days I had outshone Katrina as the more interesting Clark child U liked having her here; it made Paris a place I felt I belonged.

“If you want, I could lend Mum and Dad money to get on the Eurostar and come,” she offered.

“No,” Mr. Traynor said, “If they want to come see her I’ll forward the money for tickets and put them up in Splendid Etoile hotel on the Champs-Elysees, my favorite hotel in Paris. It’s the least I can do for you Louisa. I can ring your father later.” A smile lit up my face and Will squeezed my hand, “I myself am heading in to Normandy later in the day, so maybe we could look at arrangements for your father’s employment there.”

“That’d be lovely!” Treeba said, “And Tom could visit on weekends. It’s not far.”

I thought about it, “What if you could come to school here for a while, Treena? Does your college offer credits for abroad studies?”

“I think so.’

“What university is it?” Will asked my sister, “The community one in the next town over?”

“Yeah.”

“I’ll ring them,” Mr. Traynor said with no second thought, “You have a child, am I correct? I can set up a two bedroom flat and we could finance it for you on the condition that you provide your own money towards expenses like food and such for yourself and Thomas, isn’t it? We’ve got Will’s trust fund that he signed over to us once he made it on his own that now belongs to your sister as I signed it over to her.”

What? Did he mean I had money now?

“I can help too if you need,” Georgina said to my sister, “I’m usually half a world away but I might be able to help with the logistics of your move if you decide to do it.”

“Of course,” I thought I saw tears well in my sister’s eyes, “I’ll go call my headmaster now to see if any courses in Paris have a spot open for me,” she got up and walked out onto the balcony that overlooked the grand city. I was still trying to process what had just happened: basically Will’s family had just given mine another chance.

Chapter Text

Chapter 22- Josie Clark (Flashback)

 

We had been advised by Nathania to hire an at home physio and backup caregiver for our Lou six months after she had fallen off that god awful balcony. We could barely afford to pay Nattie for her services because now only Bernard worked and his income was not near enough to pay for everything these days. I had been to the Job Center today to interview for a position as a beautician to see if I could bring in income to help.

The physio’s name that Nattie had given us seemed familiar to me: William Traynor. I wondered if he was related to the Traynors who lived in the castle in town. Nattie herself had arranged for William Traynor to come meet Lou and us today. Lou was wearing a dress with black and white stripes and a yellow stripe as the last stripe.that matched her newly painted yellow chair. “He’s here! Bernard!” I called to my husband as I gave Lou a cup of tea.

Bernard answered the door and led in William Traynor, who I ultimately recognized as one of the bigger bankers in London from a photo I’d seen in the paper years ago. I had no idea he was one in the same with Lou’s new caregiver. He was dressed in clothes that I could bet cost more than this house but he had an air about him that told me he could care less about the fact he was ungodly wealthy, “Mrs. Clark, I’m Will Traynor. Nathania said your daughter is looking for an in home physio, and I have been a certified physio since last month. Studied in France,” he handed me a packet that seemed to be all his qualifications but honestly I was just going to hire him on the spot we were in such need.

I smiled, “Please, call me Josie. Come, let’s go see Lou,” I led Will into the living room already liking him. And then my heart burst in happiness when Lou turned and saw him; her expression of shock told me two things: one was that she knew who he was, the second said she was already lovestruck by him.

“Louisa,” Will dropped to one knee to be at eye-level to talk to my daughter; something I had only seen Nattie or Treena do, “I’m Will.” He took her hand in his and I thought I was going to cry. There was no way we could afford to pay Will Traynor what he deserved but in that moment I hoped that we could find a way.

“Hi,” Lou finally managed in a dazzled tone and she gave Will Traynor a hug. This couldn’t possibly be the same Will Traynor that all the local tabloids from London featured as somewhat of a Daniel Craig-esque man: wealthy, successful, often going on dangerous adventures that the media loved to cover. If it was, then I knew that Lou had always fancied him and I would inform her whenever I read something about him.

“May I call you Lou?” Will asked. She nodded, “Well Lou, what d’you say we get you out of that chair and have me help you stand so I can see how good of balance is in your legs?’ He lifted her into his arms and set her feet on his and he held her securely. I could see Lou’s face light up because she hadn’t stood properly since her initial physio in the hospital immediately following the accident. None of us were strong enough to hold her up for long.

“I’m standing,” she said as if she couldn’t believe it.

“You’re standing,” Will confirmed, “can you feel your legs wobble?”

“No,” her voice was still dazed like she expected to wake from a dream at any moment and be back in her bed. “Will?”

“Yes, Lou?”

“Can you stay?”

“Believe it or not, that’s actually in the job description.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 23- Will Traynor

 

Katrina Clark called her university and secured herself a spot in their Parisian sister institute. Once she had come back in, Georgie had opened up to windows to allow fresh air to get into the penthouse and the sounds of cars and sirens and of chatter floated from the streets and we had popped champagne. I had moved Lou to one of her physio tables that stretched out in the main room of the flat and was doing some exercises with her, bending her knee towards me and then away. “You got it?” Lou asked Katrina.

“Yeah,” Katrina said as my sister handed her a champagne. Lou squealed in excitement.

“Mum and Dad are going to flip! This is so great Treen, our family is getting a chance at a completely different life.”

“I guess we should thank you for falling off that building,” Treena laughed and Lou did too. Georgina sat a glass down beside me.

“Can Lou have a champagne, Will?” my younger sister asked me as she went back into the kitchen to go fix the next glass. I didn’t see why not so I gave the okay for a glass.

Lou reached across and took my free hand as “The A Team” by Ed Sheeran came on the stereo. Georgina came and set a glass of champagne on the coffee table for Lou. “Squeeze my fingers as tight as you can, Clark,” I felt her grip my hand and I knew she could feel my hand in hers which brought an insurmountable joy to my heart. “That’s excellent,” I said in the encouraging tone of a physio. I bent down and kissed Lou not caring that anyone else was there.

“I love you, Will,” she said and I took her into my arms and walked her outside onto the deck to let the sun shine on her skin. I watched her look out into the city with the eyes of wanderlust. I felt the slight breeze ruffle my shirt and Lou’s hair that was down for the day. I switched Lou’s position against me so now she was on my left side still mesmerized by the city. I reached for the pouch on my belt that had the bumblebee cool pack and let it stay on her skin for about half a minute and then gently I gave her the first of her hormonal injections into her deltoid, just that easy.

“Will…”

“That’s it, let me see that face,” I used the phrase that could get her to look at me when I needed her to that I came up with early into working with Lou, “It’s the only way it’ll be easy, to give these to you when you least expect,” I said gently as she closed her eyes, “But good news is that we don’t have to do that again until a quarter of a year from now.” I kissed her, “And you get that instead of those god awful stickers they have at doctors offices.”

“I guess I’ll do it for that, in that case.” I heard her say as I dressed the tiny wound. Then I carried her back inside and handed her the glass of champagne, “And for the champagne.”

“We will pop a bottle for every time then, love.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 24- Georgina Traynor

 

That afternoon we decided to take Lou shopping in the city. I was wearing a white two piece ensemble with dangling earrings I had bought at a market in Sydney last time I had been there for a benefit at the opera. I had simple white pumps on my feet and I walked beside Lou’s chair that had new tires put on it so that it could handle the cobblestone streets.

Paris seemed to be alive and busy around the lunch hour and people were out walking and chatting and shopping. People were also sitting at corner cafes enjoying coffee or lunch and some street musicians were playing with their instrument cases open to collect coins from admirers. On one street I could swear someone was playing Coldplay which I found funny because I didn’t quite picture the French as British music fans. They were playing the song ‘Death Will Never Conquer’ which I had thought was one of the songs of theirs that few knew much like ‘42’ or ‘Life in Technicolor II’.

I hope sweet heaven has a place for me.

Lou was moving her upper body with the music and my brother was singing. Treena was walking on the other side of Lou’s chair holding a bag in her hand, she had bought her son a pack of toy soldiers. Will had bought Lou some nice perfume and a new dress so far but Lou was the type of girl that Will’s lavishing of gifts didn’t phase. Lou wanted just all his love.

We got two a cab to the Champs Elysees and the cabbie was so nice to get one of the local police to make sure that Lou’s chair would be there when we arrived. Lou sat in Will’s lap so Treena and I sat beside each other and Daddy sat in the passenger. “I hate that I have to go back to Melbourne,” I said as I looked out at the city that zipped by.

“You must come for Christmas,” Lou said.

“I’ll be here.”

When we got to the famed street, the cabbie let us out and Will took hold of Lou. In addition to Lou’s yellow chair were also her parents whom I had no idea were coming. Lou’s mum had a kind face and she held on to Lou’s nephew’s hand. Lou’s dad had her mum’s hand in his and he shook Will’s with his other. “Surprise, love,” Lou’s mum said.

“What are you guys doing here?” Lou asked amazed as her parents kissed her cheeks. Lou looked genuinely surprised, much like I was.

“We decided we couldn’t grant you all the fun,’ Mrs. Clark said, “When Treena called and told us about her college we had to come see you girls.”

“And,” Mr. Clark said, “It seems I was offered a maintenance job in Normandy.”

“AUNTY LOU!” the little boy screamed in excitement, ‘Mummy is moving to Paris like you!” He ran up and tapped Lou’s shoe but I didn’t think she could feel.I stood beside Daddy and looked over at him. It was a good thing you did I said with my eyes.

Lou is our family Georgie.

She certainly is.

Chapter Text

Chapter 25- Alicia Dewar-Freshwell (Flashback)

 

After the ceremony I walked around speaking to those who had stayed for the reception of my wedding to Rupert. We had rented out a venue on a lake and as the sun was now setting and dinner was to be served I stopped by to make sure I at least said a few words to every guest. At one of the tables sat Will Traynor in a nice suit along with his sister and the girl I had seen at his home that day I had stopped by to announce my pending marriage to Rupert but her name escaped me.

Will’s sister, Georgina, was wearing a long purple dress that made her look very slim and for a moment I thought she looked better than me. Her hair was pulled into a neat bun and she was laughing with Will’s new girl next to her. The other girl had on a dress that reminded me of tye dye but also looked like the color had been vomited on it. “Alicia,” Georgina looked up from her drink.

Georgina Traynor hated me, I knew it. When Will and I had been together she had rarely said much to me when I would come to the castle with him other than maybe a curt hello. She had even hated me before I had cheated on her brother with Rupert but what else was I to do when Will’s nights were consumed with the hospital and not me?

“Thank you for coming Will, Georgina,” I said nodding to her, “It means the world,” I said as I found my eyes traveling to the new girl who now sat in Will’s lap. I noticed a yellow painted wheelchair was next to Will’s and I assumed it was this girl’s. “Remind me of your name,” I said to her. Oddly I didn’t like seeing Will with her at all.

“Louisa Clark,” she said.

“Thank you for coming Louisa,” I said hoping I sounded sincere. God I hated to dislike her because of her situation but then again Will’s attentions were on her and not me so I had a right to hate her didn’t I?

“Why don’t you take Lou for a dance?” Georgina said to Will. I knew that meant she had words for me alone; another one of her verbal attacks on me was coming. I doubted Georgina Traynor liked more than five people on this Earth and again I hated Louisa because I suspected she was one of those five. Will picked up Louisa carefully and had her enfold around him before they went to the floor. I turned back to Georgina.

“Why are you here?”

“I’d be lying if I said for you, so I’ll say the alcohol. I like the vast selection of things that can get me through this shit show,” she sipped her Pimm’s. I rolled my eyes. “I’m sure you might need one for every minute of your marriage so I’d start drinking now.”

“What did I ever do to you?” I demanded.

“It’s not me I care about here. But Will, you broke his heart when you decided to fuck with Rupert and maybe you’re right, I don’t like you or most people for that matter. But mark my words if you fuck up this newfound happiness of Will and Lou’s I will make you wish you hadn’t. So be a good girl and accept your choices, Lissa.” She got up and smirked and flipped me the bird, “Nice wedding by the way.”

“Fuck you Georgina Traynor,” I made sure she saw my lips form that sentence. She just shrugged.

“Best not let Rupert hear you’re already thinking of cheating on the wedding day,” she said at normal level and then pranced onto the dancefloor.

Chapter Text

Chapter 26- Lou Clark Traynor

 

After a nice dinner in the city my parents and Tom came back with us to the penthouse and sat on the couches in the living room while Will did some EMS stimulation on my legs with me laying on my physio table that was set up in the living room. Will had emptied my tubes and had put me in my pajama set with bumblebees on them. The little sticky pads were on the back of my legs and I saw Will’s hands rubbing the back of my legs as if helping them.

Will was singing to me as we had music on in the background along with the city noise. It was near ten but the nightlife outside was just beginning to shape up. I recognized Ed Sheeran’s song Sing as the song that was playing and Thomas stood over by Will, “Will, what are you doing to Anty Lou?” Thomas asked.

“It’s a little machine that might help her feel her legs better,” Will explained to my nephew, “See buttons can control how much of the little pulses your Aunty Lou gets.”

“Will you ever walk again?” Thomas asked me.

“No, buddy, she won’t,” Will answered my nephew, “but that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun with Aunty Lou or that her life isn’t valuable anymore,” Will had gotten on his knees to be eye level with Tom and I thought I could see Mum crying quietly, “It just makes Aunty Lou special. Can you tell her she’s special?”

“You can do anything Aunty Lou,” Thomas said, “that’s what Will says and Will is your doctor.” Tom blew me a kiss and ran to Treena who say him on her lap. Will brought his hands back to my leg muscles I saw. I closed my eyes for a bit but the ringing of the doorbell made them shoot open. Georgina got up and got it and I was delighted to see Nattie standing there: her blond hair pulled behind her in a messy bun and she wore a white romper which was unusual since I saw her in pink scrubs usually. “I went to your house, and found a note from your mum that said you were in Paris,” she said, “This is how much I like you Lou I hopped on the very latest train here.”

I laughed, “You didn’t have to Nattie if you had other clients.”

“Well, most of my other clients are grumpy old ladies so you’re by far my favorite,” she said as she came in and Georgie asked her drink order. “I’ll have whatever you lot are drinking,” she told her. Tom ran up and gave Nattir a hug.

“Will already did Aunty Lou’s tube things, Mum said,” he told her.

“That’s part of his job,” Nat told Tom, “I used to do that bit but when Will came he decided he could do it because he has more specialized training than me and he can lift Aunty Lou better than I can.”

“I want to take care of Aunty Lou too,” Tom said, “Can I have a job?”

“Of course,” Will said, “How about you hold Aunty Lou’s hand while she has her physio? We must watch out for her, you and me,” Will explained.

Chapter Text

Chapter 27- Steven Traynor

 

That night Camilla’s divorce attorney called me to tell me Camilla wanted to take me to court over the money issue of our divorce, saying she wanted a fifty percent share in the money I had mostly made. After Katrina Clark left with her parents and son to stay with them at their hotel with Lou’s other caregiver Georgie went and popped champagne.

I knew that the situation at Granta House had been hard on my daughter and I knew it still was. In Georgie’s late high school years she would go and party with her friends and often Will being the caring person he was would have to escort her home because she was in no shape to drive. Angry at the world Will had put it to me about his sister when I had once asked. I couldn’t blame her.

Louisa still lay down on the physio bed and Georgie put some music on the stereo system, settling for song by some newer British artist a lot of younger people fancied. “She can’t take that money,” my daughter said, “unless you signed a prenup that entitled her to that much.”

“Your mother and I, we did sign such a thing but I offered her thirty percent and she only signed after figuring I would not change the number I was offering her.” I took the glass my youngest offered me and took a sip, “And some of that money was later turned into your trust fund, which you have access to and some of it is now Lou’s fund but was your brother’s originally.”

“Maybe she doesn’t feel financially stable with Yoga Man,” Georgie said, “I never understood why she didn’t shag a banker or one of her fellow judges if that was the case.

“Georgina Catherine,” I was incredulous that such a vulgar thing came from her.

“I’m just saying,” she took a sip of her drink but I knew secretly she was probably correct that it made no sense that if Camilla wanted financial security after our divorce why she didn’t grow close to someone with her same financial standing. Will took Louisa and flipped her onto her back and disconnected the little stickers from her calves. Lou turned her head to Georgie.

“Sell the house and split the profit with Mother,” Will suggested. Will had always been weary of Camilla but nonetheless he was her son so he loved her and avoided criticizing things he didn’t agree with to her face unless there was no other option he saw. Georgina and Camilla on the other hand were like water and fire and often had engaged in screaming matches or wars of silence especially in these past few years since Will had brought Louisa into our lives.

“Yes,” Louisa seconded, “that sounds fair. I’m sure a house of that size on the castle grounds will sell for quite a bit.”

‘Is Maisie due to arrive any time soon?” Georgina liked my assistant and mistress Maisie a bit better than she did Camilla at the moment but I assumed Georgie just didn’t care for many people these days. She adored Will, and she loved Louisa like a sister (something that actually struck me by surprise considering the aforementioned dislike my daughter had towards most of humanity.

“Yes, tomorrow I think. Then I’ll be on the way to Normandy with her to meet a realtor in the area,” I said and then I smiled at Louisa, “You and Will can get to settling in soon enough.”

“They’ll be putting up with me for a bit,” Georgina said, “I took a few more days citing family issues. Is that a lie?” my daughter shrugged and threw back another sip of alcohol.

Chapter Text

Chapter 28- Nathania

 

Will had a surgery he got called in to consult on the next morning so I rode the tram over to the Place Dauphine while I let Mr. and Mrs. Clark explore the city on their own. Treena had taken Thomas to a children’s exhibit so it was just me and Georgina Traynor at the apartment with Lou. Will had left a note:

Nat, gone to the hospital for a surgical consult. I might be a couple of hours. Lou is already dressed and tubes are taken care of. See if you and G can take her somewhere or get her to eat something for breakfast. Call me if you need, W.

I found Lou sitting in her chair with a current romance novel in her hands, “Hey,” I said to her, “Pretty day out, huh?”

“Yeah,” she said, “we should go see Will when he;s finished. You in, George?’ She looked at the other woman who was laying on the couch who shrugged.

“I’m down. What shall we do until then, ladies?” she asked.

And so it was we ended up at a corner cafe about a block over from the apartment with warm croissants and cafe au lait on our little table. Lou was in a spunky dress of white with all sorts of patterns that reminded me of flowers arranged in interesting shapes and she wore a beret to match. I took my phone from my pocket and sent Will a text: Let me know when you’re done with surgery; all fine here but we’re planning something.

About an hour later Will responded: Done. Bring her here, will you? W. How he always knew my plans was astounding, I swear. So we walked to the Hotel Dieu, the hospital Will was affiliated with that was about the same distance from the flat as the little cafe. The hospital looked to me like it had quite the history just from looking at the outside, but indoors it was as modern as any London hospital I’d seen.

Will came bounding down the grand stairs and the second he saw Lou he smiled and like a chain reaction so did she. “Let me see that smile, Clark,” he said. She was smiling like she hadn’t seen Will in years.

He came and lifted her from her chair and twirled her like a figure in a snow globe. Will was still dressed in blue scrubs similar to the ones I wore for about ninety nine percent of my free time (but Will wore them better than me with his charm and his hair slicked back he looked like a real life Dr. McDreamy) and the whole hospital lobby seemed to stop and watch this epic love that unfolded before our eyes.

It was like Will and Lou were two halves of the same whole now, and for someone as cold hearted of a romantic as me to say that it had to be true. The French who watched had smitten looks on their faces and some even clapped for Will and Lou. “Bloody perfect, aren’t they?” I asked Georgina Traynor softly.

“So bloody perfect it sickens me,” she responded.

Will beckoned for me and his sister to follow him and Lou, so I just pushed Lou’s empty chair to the front desk and asked them to watch it before I followed them up a few flights of stairs to what seemed to be the rehabilitation ward for neuro injuries. The long hallway the doors led to had others in scrubs and patients of mostly middle to older age in hospital gowns. We followed Will, who met with a French doctor who must’ve known Lou because he kissed her hand, “Madame Louise, young William here suspected you might come see him.” I recognized the man as Lou’s French doctor, Marseilles.

“Hi, Dr. Marseilles,” Lou said.

“I bet it must feel good for you to come here as a visitor for once, no?”

Chapter Text

Chapter 29- Will Traynor

 

That night I decided to treat Lou to a dinner just us in the city. No family, no therapies, just two betrothed people going out for a good meal. Lou had me put her into a red dress that had little sleeves and black shoes that went with. I had made reservations at a nice place in the heart of the city and I strolled beside Lou’s chair that glinted under the lights of the city like a yellow diamond.

I had arranged for our families to have a nice dinner as well since tomorrow Dad was heading on to Normandy with Maisie to meet with property agents. It had been so long since Lou and I went out just by ourselves like two normal people because of the transition to French life was consuming us. As we strolled towards the place I held Lou’s hand that wasn’t controlling her chair.

The stars above glittered like the city lights were reflecting off them and that night Paris truly was a city of lights. “Feels like forever since we’ve done this,” Lou spoke my mind.

“I know. And without our families. I vote no talk of families or physios or surgeries tonight. Tonight we can be just Louisa and William: two people who just moved to Paris and are planning a wedding set for December.” The date was set on December 7th and I had already secured the wedding to be in the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles after my father had made a call or two.

I ordered us a plate of cheeses and got the recommended wine brought out. Lou wasn’t too familiar with the French way of eating so I explained that there were different courses for us with this being the first. “I have a theory that you were a French king in a past life,” Lou said.

“Perhaps Louis XIV,” I suggested laughing.

“Or maybe you’re just a want to be French real life James Bond.”

“Bond has cooler tools than scalpels and cooler cars, although I used to test drive Astons all the time just for fun although I’d never invest in one. Too much of a disaster waiting to happen.”

“For a man who has apparently ‘Out Bonded Bond’ you’re quite tame, Will Traynor,” she said, “I remember when I was a teenager I saw this one thing the local news did on you for your birthday and they called you ‘Wild Willy Traynor’ I think. I got a giggle from it.”

The cheese plate was cleared and some French onion soup replaced both of our plates. “What about you, Clark? Any wild stories I don’t know?”

“The wildest thing I’ve done is when we jumped from that plane,” Lou said, “How you convinced me to do that I still wonder.” I had found a skydiving company that catered to people with disabilities and I had contacted them even faxing Lou’s basic medical notes to see if she could do it. They had cleared her and allowed me to go with her so I could dispatch the parachute. I recalled she had a panic attack as we got ready to jump and I had given her a countdown but had gone before I reached one.

“See, I’m exposing you to all sorts of new things. They have a multitude of adapted sports these days,” I said. “You have to live boldly, push yourself, and never settle.”

“Maybe we can swim the Channel next,” she joked. I had swum the Channel years ago back while I was still in banking and I couldn’t think about a better person than Lou to do it with again. In fact, about six years ago a Frenchman who was an amputee had successfully swum the Channel and in 1998 John Maclean, an Australian paraplegic, had successfully swum it with no issue.

In fact, I just might have to contact him.

Chapter Text

Chapter 30- Lou Clark Traynor

 

After dinner I was surprised that Will and I still had alone time so we went to the pool with me on Will’s back. Once on the roof I used my arms and kind of bum shuffled like Will had taught me to do to get into the pool, “Damn Clark, who was your physio?” Will asked as he jumped in himself. I found a float in the pool and used my arms to help me get on it and I steered it towards Will.

“He’s the best,” I said, “you might could learn a thing or two from him.” Laughter. I looked up and it seemed like all the stars in the sky had stopped by for a nice chin wag with us as they sparkled on our skin. “So what did you bribe our families with to get me alone?”

“Ah, you’re breaking a rule. We said no family talk,” he pointed out, “Ten points from Ravenclaw.”

I laughed; of course I was a Hufflepuff and he the Ravenclaw, “I’m a Hufflepuff!”

Will laughed and came over and took my hand and swam by my float, “My mistake. You know, I think you could swim the Channel. Your upper body strength is actually beyond what even I expected.” I wondered what everyone had expected - Mum, Dad, Treen, Nattie, Will, and even Dr. Marseilles? Had I, plain old Lou Clark, beat the odds for once? “You are extraordinary, Clark.”

I got off the float and used my feet like a mermaid to swim to Will with a noodle I’d found in the pool. Will met me and took me in his arms where I would always be warm and welcome. “Will, can I ask you something?’

“Ask away,” I could feel him vibrate with sound as he spoke like he was the beat at a live concert. I took a breath.

“Will I ever be enough for you? Girls like Alicia, they can give you so much more and I don’t want…” I thought I felt him snarl.

“Louisa,” he used my full name to show he was absolutely serious, “I don’t believe you understand my feelings for you. For example, the physical love between Alicia and I was almost mechanical but with you, oh god Clark, it’s unlike anything. You test my mind because there is nothing more that I want than for you to be able to feel the pleasure of everything I do for you but there’s only so much I know you can feel.” He kissed the hollow of my throat and I tingled.Will had explained to me what was going on but I couldn’t feel and that made me tingle more.

“Will, I love you/”

“Oh my lovely Lou, you do not even know my level of affection for you.”

We had swam into the late hours of the night that night and when I got tired Will had carried me inside. We had gotten into our big bed and I had cuddled against Will like any normal girl would her fiance and I fell asleep with the perfect end to a good day replaying in my head as Will sang softly.

Little did I know the next day would be one of my rare bad days.

I woke up the next morning with a pounding in my head and I said Will’s name multiple times before I finally could break through the haze of pain in my head to hear him. “Lou, my love, listen,” he said softly, “You have a fever all right? I need to get it down,” he was now the medically precise surgeon Dr. Traynor as he lifted me and my head lolled on him. His hands that held me felt cold but fantastic and I said, “Will…” a few more times for good measure to make sure this illness wouldn’t take my speech and the ability to say my favorite word in the entire English dictionary from me.

Chapter Text

Chapter 31- Will Traynor

 

I felt like one of the scalpels that I often used to slice open other people were slicing its way through my heart as Louisa moaned my name. I could tell it was one of her very rare bad days and on those days I would give anything even more to take her place and endure this so she wouldn’t have to. I had called Marseilles and he was on his way to help.

To take care of Lou’s fever I put her into a bath that was full of cool water. “Will…” she said my name and I dipped my fingers into the cool water and ran them over her skin. I comforted Lou with soft French words of love. Marseilles arrived quickly and he held Lou secure on her feet as I ran a cold washcloth over her skin and he didn’t even bat an eye at doing it.

“Did you know, Madame Louise, that when the Dauphine of France was ill back in monarchy times all of the country would cry for her? All of France is in sorrow for you, Madame Louise. Even your Will cries for you,” he said as he held her up for me to run a washcloth over her skin that was starting to cool.

When I got Lou out of the bath and wrapped in a wrap around towel I carried her to the bed and Marseilles had ibuprofen ready for her to swallow. I put my fingers on the side of her neck to check her pulse rate and Lou herself was still wrapped around me as I sat on the bed. “Will.”

“I’m here,” I said softly.

“My legs hurt,” she told me what I was already assuming. Sometimes, Louisa would get phantom pain in her legs much like an amputee did. I immediately had Marseilles also give her some of the anti-spasm meds she got four times a day but he increased this dose a bit. “Are my parents coming?” she asked.

“No love they’re still at the hotel,” I said, “It’s best they don’t worry. Unless you want them here?”

“No Will, I want you here.”

“I’m here.”

Her temperature seemed to be stabilizing as I sat with Lou on the bed in my lap and Marseilles was on his knees before us. He helped me lay Lou in bed and then he said, “Just a moment Madame Louise, I want to ask your Will something.” I got up and followed him out to the deck of the bedroom that overlooked the magnificent city.

“What can we do?” I asked, almost seeming desperate for an answer. If Girard Marseilles had told me in that moment that the only way to take this away from Louisa was to cut off my own legs i wouldn’t have questioned him at all. He thought.

“Let’s try muscle relaxants and perhaps hydrocodone in a small dose,” he suggested. I nodded and we broke like a huddle in rugby after calling the next play. I had Marseilles stay with Lou as I walked to the kitchen cabinet with all her medicines and got the ones I needed; 5 milligrams of Lortab that I’d give her every 4 to 6 hours. I also got her a muscle relaxer and I went back to the bedroom.

Lou was propped up in bed and I sat by her bed and had her take the pills. “Your mum called you just now,” she said after the pills were swallowed.

Fuck.

“I’ll be back,” I said taking the phone and kissing Lou.

Chapter Text

Chapter 32- Camilla Traynor

 

I stood looking out of the window of my flat staring at the bustle of London below me while the phone in my hand rung. I was calling Will to figure out where he was because fucking Steven wouldn’t tell me and Georgina never answered my calls anymore so my best hope was William. “Mother,” Will’s voice said.

“Where are you?” I cut to the chase because by now not knowing was driving me mad. Just because Steven had walked out did not mean I couldn’t know the location of the children I had emerge from my own body. There was a long pause and I wondered if he had hung up.

“I don’t have time to talk Mother, Louisa has taken ill and I need to be attending to her,” he finally said, “but I’d love to have this chat some other time if you’d like.”

“Louisa can wait five minutes, William,” I scolded.

“Actually it seems she can’t. You may not care Mother but Louisa is in quite a bit of pain today and as her caregiver I’d be neglecting my job if I don’t attend to her so I’m afraid I have to go,” he said in that voice that Will very rarely spoke in; a voice of brewing rage. Much like Steven’s.

“Is she more important than your own mother, William John?”

“Actually, she kind of is. Louisa is going to be my wife soon Mother, whether you approve or not, and quite frankly the only reason you resent her is because I was devoted to her as much as Iam because it seems to me that you’ve never felt that devotion and I feel sorry for you on that account. Now if you’ll excuse me, I must get back to work.”

“William if you hang up this bloody phone on me you might not bother to call me again,” I warned him but I felt like my voice had come out small.

“Consider me as lost to you as Georgina then, Mother. And I wouldn’t bother coming to my wedding since you don’t approve of my choices,” the line went dead and I sank my knees crying tears of anger. Fuck Steven for ripping my family from me. Fuck Louisa Clark for ripping Will from me.

Will was getting married and he didn’t even want me there!

Georgina was thirty two and I hadn’t had a proper conversation with her in years!

Steven was fucking a secretary and shoving it in my face and involving our childtrn in his life choices like I wasn’t even a consideration at all.

“Milla?” It was Kale, the yoga instructor I had met back in Stortfold ho had accompanied me to London when Steven had handed me the papers. He now taught yoga at this alternative medicine clinic that had yoga classes. He was about forty and had that dreadful long hairstyle popular with the youths.

What had my life become?

Chapter Text

Chapter 33- Lou Clark Traynor

 

I was surprised that my parents, Treena and Tom, and Nattie stayed put as I lay in my bed in Paris pretty doped up on pain and antispasm meds. The bed’s white duvet was pulled up to my waist and Will and Dr. Marseilles both sat close to me, adjusting me when I wanted to move. Will’s mum had called him and when he came back he looked oddly at peace.

“What is it?” I wondered. I know from Georgie that Will and his mum had some rows over me being in Will’s life so I couldn’t help think this was my fault.

“Nothing you need to be concerned over now,” he sat and kissed me, “Georgina was right.” About what? The fact that she saw her mum as a nuisance? “How are you doing, love? Is the pain gone?”

“Yeah.”

“That’s good,” he said as he lifted me up to take me to change the tubes. He said something in French to Dr. Marseilles who got up and stood by the door of the bathroom as he and Will conversed in French. Will sat me on the bathroom counter and I watched Will’s perfect surgical hands thinking about how this would feel. I leaned forward and Will’s lips landed on mine.

“What happened with your mum?” I asked.

“She’s no longer a concern for us, Lou,” he said calmly as if it was nothing, “It’s just you and me now,” he kissed my forehead and I reached out my arms for him to pick me up. Will could change my tubes so quickly now that I barely noticed. He swung me up and I giggled. Oddly the thought of it just now being Will and me was delighting, no more Camilla Traynor.

I gave Will another kiss and he set us on the bed, rocking me back and forth. “I’m sorry.”

“No, this is good,” he smiled, “it’s just you and me now, Clark.” I nestled into Will and I was amazed at how Will’s body accommodated mine like I was a puzzle piece that fit with him. I didn’t even care that I was still in the wrap around towel from getting out of the bath. My hair was dry as were my shoulders and my hair just hung down and Will braided it quickly to get it out of the way.

To keep my temperature the same Will or Dr. Marseilles would run a washcloth of cold water on my face and shoulders every half hour or so. Around lunch Will gave me more meds. Also around lunch there was a ring at the penthouse’s house bell and Will carried me out to the foyer to see who was here. There stood Georgina in a posh looking minidress that was black on top and red on the skirt. She had on a white short sleeved jacket over and heels I assumed were designer.

“What’s up?” Will asked of his younger sister.

“So Mum just called Dad and they had one of the biggest rows over the phone which could only mean you realized I was right,” she said walking in, “So I thought I’d celebrate.”

“Georgie, as much as I’d love to, can we postpone? Lou’s not well today,” Will said and Georgina gave me a look of empathy and I smiled.

“If I looked as good as you do sick Louisa I’d be sick more often.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 34- Will Traynor

 

As the day wore on into the afternoon Georgina stayed with us and I kept Lou’s temperature in the range I wanted it and Marseilles handled the drugs she needed. I had called Josie and updated her every two hours and insisted that I had things under control with Lou. I kept her in that towel wrap so I could douse her shoulders in cold water via a washcloth every half hour. Georgie made tea that had a lemon flavor that she put on ice for Lou and on the stereo I had one of my favorite ‘classical’ music artists, an Italian girl named Elisa, playing softly.

At about two in the afternoon I stood up and took Lou in my arms for a dance. Elisa’s song “Dancing” was filling the apartment and even went beyond it through the open window. Lou looked the most stunning I had ever seen her in that wrap around towel and her hair in the French braid I had done that hung over her shoulder.

Time is gonna take my mind and carry it far away where I can fly.

I spun Lou slowly t match with the pace of the sweet notes that electrified the room. Georgina had her phone out and looked to be taping the entire thing with a big grin on her face, one of the biggest smiles I had ever seen from her. Marseilles himself was even smiling, the true Frenchman in him enjoying such a display of love.

Music is the reason why I know time still exists.

“Did you know something Clark?” I asked Louisa, “You are pretty much the only thing that makes me want to get up every morning.”

“I love you Will.”

She leaned into me and rested her head on my shoulder as the song ended and I continued to sway us. “You are scored on my heart Clark. How’s the pain now?”

“I can’t feel it Will.” I stopped swaying and the sun hit Clark perfectly on her creamy skin that covered her shoulders. When I sat down with her Dr. Marseilles had the washcloth of cold and ran it over Louisa’s face and shoulders.

“The whole of France is sad for your illness Madame Lou. Look up for me,” he said as he gently ran the cloth over her sweet face, “We French love our dauphine. Are you sure you’re not a pretender to the French throne after all?”

Lou laughed, “You flatter me, Dr. Marseilles.” He laughed.

“You actually might be a modern day Queen of France because it looks to me that is what your Will thinks you are.”

“Can paraplegics be queens?” Lou asked as if she didn’t believe it.

“You might actually be the first,” I said to her, “but there’s a first for everything right?”

“Then you’re king, Will,” Lou said.

“I suppose so, right?” I kissed her forehead, “Je t’aime, Louisa Traynor.”

Lou, not knowing much French, looked at Marseilles to translate for her. “Will just said he loves you Madame Louise. Now you say it back.”

“Je t’aime, Will.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 35- Lou Clark Traynor

 

That night after Dr. Marseilles had given me another round of meds and left Georgina had the stereo in the penthouse on and she was playing a Lorde song. My parents as well as Mr. Traynor were being treated to a nice dinner in the city thanks to the Hotel Dieu while Nattie and Treena were out seeing a movie I think.

I had some loaded baked potato soup that Will had ordered for us and he fed me while I sat on the couch with him. Georgie painted my nails a pretty blue green color and Dr. Marseilles had the cold cloth ready when I needed it and he told me French tales about historical queens who had changed the course of history as I held onto Will’s free hand imagining us as these kings and queens.

Before Dr. Marseilles left he lifted me into my chair and told Will to call if I needed anything. When it was just us three with me sitting in my yellow chair I watched Georgie tackle Will to the ground playfully and I laughed, “You magnificent bastard William Traynor! What did you tell her?” she asked him as they got up.

“I don’t think she’ll be coming to the wedding,” Will said, “I told her best not to.”

“HELL YES WILLY! I knew you could do it, I never doubted you,” she sipped the glass of red wine she had put down on the coffee table. I had one myself in the cup holder on my chair. Will got to his feet and leaned over and kissed me and I tilted my head up to meet his.

“God, Clark, you are teasing me desperately in that wrap around,” he said into my ear.

“Maybe if you wanted to…” I could never finish the sentence without going red as a cherry in my face. I loved it when Will would….and he would tell me about it…

“Listen to me Lou,” he said even softer, “it’s not a matter of me, it’s about you. Even though you can’t feel it still comes down to what you want me to do. Have you ever heard the wordconsent? Such as informed consent?” I was resting my head on his shoulder and I halfway nodded. “So, would you like me to?”

“Yes Will,” I said.

“Hey Georgie, would you mind maybe running downstairs a bit or going to check if Maisie arrived?” Will asked. She stood and I thought she winked at me before she left Will and I. Will sat us down with me wrapped up in his arms. I looked at Will.

“Can I keep this on?”

“Of course, Clark,” he kissed my forehead and then my lips, “If you experience any pain in your legs we must stop, I don’t want anything to be hurting you.” He kissed my lips and I closed my eyes to savor Will. He was so good and he was mine.

I felt his warm hand on my neck and his lips followed. “Do you know what an erogenous zone is, love?” I shook my head a bit to say no, “It’s the zones of your body that can feel pleasure and since your injury the ones above your waist have heightened for you. “ He kissed my neck and his lips moved down a little.

“Will hold my hand,” I begged him and his free hand grasped one of mine.

“There’s no need to be afraid, love, I’ll stop if you need.” God, how did I deserve him. I shook my head and buried into his shoulder as I felt something build up in me as he stroked my breasts that I didn’t know what to call. I bet if I asked Will he’d know. “You are so beautiful Louisa.” I squeezed Will’s hand.

“I love you Will.”

As it went on I lost sensation except for the one of Will’s hand in mine. “Louisa, did you know that you like the feeling of me?” Will asked. I wondered what on earth he meant. I remembered he had said once that he had to help me produce fluids and sometimes he’d keep some of that medicine to help that with him. “You’re very wet Lou.” I secretly hoped the water wasn’t dripping on him then! “No, love, it means in this case that you can respond to me in these ways,” he must’ve seen my facial expression.

“From that medicine you carry?”

“Mostly,” he said, “you can still do a little on your own but I have to help mostly but I don’t mind,” he kissed me gently.

Chapter Text

Chapter 36- Georgina Traynor (Flashback)

I had Will on the phone as I sat in the living room of my bachelorette pad in Melbourne. The apartment was close to the heart of the city and I could hear the noises of nightlife from my window. I had a cup of tea in my hands and I had the tv turned to Bridget Jones’ Diary, my all time favorite film.

I wondered if Will had put Lou to bed yet. Sometimes he’d help her to bed before he himself would go too but I also knew other nights she’d call for him. “Georgie?”

“Hey. How’re things in Hell?” I opened with. To me Granta House was a personal hell so that meant Camilla was damn sure Satan. Will laughed.

“Fine, the usual. Nothing to report. How’s Down Under?”

“Sticky, miserable. I hate summer.”

“Well, come to England where there’s some nice snow on the ground. I know Lou would love to see you again,” I had met Lou Clark only a handful of times since Will had started being her caregiver about a year and a half ago and she was one of the maybe ten people I could say I loved in this world.

“Tell Lou hi from me. So did you ever hear from that French bloke who taught you in med study about whether it’d be good for Lou to have a baby in the future?” If there was one thing I knew about Will it was he was always two steps ahead of all of us.

“Marseilles told me it’s best that she not. There’s already so much stress on her that we don’t want to add more.” I translated that response to a ‘no because it might kill her’ response and if there was one thing Will couldn’t live without now it was this girl. I personally felt bad because I could see Lou as a very good mum to some kid. Me, no thanks I’d rather vomit. I took a sip of tea.

“Have you and Lou talked about it?” I asked.

“She was there with me that day but she didn’t seem put out in the slightest by it which I was kind of expecting. I asked about it and she said we could get a dog one day.”

“She doesn’t have one of those assistance dogs?”

“Her family can’t afford it, George. I’ve offered to finance it myself but they won’t let me even though they’re not paying her medical costs now since she’s on my insurance plan but then again with the NHS her costs weren’t much to begin with.”

“What about her surgeries? Don’t those cost quite a bit?”

“The first ones before I came along did. Now that I have Marseilles working with her as well as me we will do her next surgery in a few weeks with no cost to anyone. My insurance will cover everything including the hospital stay.”

“Lou is so lucky to have you, Willy. Really.”

“Thanks, G. So how are you? Any more suitors I should know of?” At thirty two I still wasn’t ready to settle down and my last serious relationship had lasted all of four months before I’d broken it off once the ‘L’ bomb had been dropped unexpectedly. Maybe I’d dated him because Camilla hated him.

“Well I’m currently having tea watching Bridget Jones’ so I’d say I’m bloody good.”

“So unlike you,” he laughed, “listen, I’ve got to go change Lou’s catheter. Talk to you soon, sis. Love you.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 37- Will Traynor

 

“Oh,” Louisa said like she understood what I had told her. I didn’t want to take Louisa’s sweet innocence of the correct terms from her, I wanted to teach them to her myself. I was sure she had heard a vulgar sex slang term here and there from the youth in our little hometown but then again knowing Lou and who she was it was quite possible that she had ignored such talk or also possible that she might never have heard it.

Lou was warm and I thought I could feel a tingle of response to my hand. I kissed her lips and took my hand from her and joined her free hand with my free hand to better explain the situation. My fingers were soaked with her, “Can you feel that?” I asked her. She nodded, unsure of how she was supposed to react, “It’s a good thing, love.”

“Okay, Will.” She smiled at me.

“You’re going to finish love, I can feel it. It’s okay,” I kissed Lou and I felt her splash onto our interlocked hands. “There.”

“Will, can you…?”

“Not tonight, love, you’re not well tonight Louisa. I was worried about even going this far with you in such condition but we will another time,” I brought her against me and she closed her eyes not hurt at all but I just couldn’t. Even as we did this I could still see hints of spasms in her legs that the opioids numbed her to. I wasn’t going to risk it.I already was sometimes prone to having nightmares about my Lou’s heart giving out on her and as ridiculous as that was I knew I’d do anything to keep her alive and out of pain,

“Oh.” She smiled at me as I cleaned off her legs.

“Let’s go to bed now,” I lifted her up into my arms and I carried her to the main bedroom where the lights of Paris shone up to us. I took Lou’s hair out of its braid and put her under the covers of the bed and curled her close to me. “I love you so much Louisa, you are scored on my heart.”

“Thank you, Will. I love you too.”

That night Lou woke me a few times to turn her position in my arms or once to change her tubes and such but that aside we both slept well. I got up at dawn like usual and checked Lou’s pulse and temperature before making myself coffee and putting on my favorite recent Bond film, Skyfall, in the living room on low volume. I sat and watched the opening sequence with the Adele song before Lou wheeled herself in.

“The name’s Bond, William Bond,” she said as she controlled her chair over. Since she was a high functioning para she could move from bed to chair easily. She was still in her little wrap around towel from yesterday and her hair stuck up but she was like a goddess regardless. I came and put my hand on her forehead; she felt better. Her pulse was stronger.

“Feel better?” I asked as I lifted her from the chair. Her skin was back to normal temperature and today she woke smiling which was good.

“Oh yes.”

“What are you doing up so early, Mrs. Traynor?” I loved the sound of my name on her. She shrugged.

“I felt you get up so I followed.”

“In that case, go back to sleep Louisa, you need it,” I kissed her chocolate colored hair and curled us up on the couch and without the help of sleeping pills Louisa slept.

Chapter Text

Chapter 38- Treena Clark

 

That day Will finally gave us the okay to go see my sister. I decided to put on one of my simple silver dresses that was nowhere near the posh standards of the Parisians I saw on the streets or the outfits Will dressed my sister in now. Nattie was coming with me and she held Thomas’ other hand as we crossed the street after coming up from the subway.

Thomas was beside himself excited to see his aunt and when we entered the penthouse he rushed up and hugged her legs. Lou was in a pretty lavender lounge dress with her hair in a high ponytail and she was sitting with Will (who never looked casual that I’d seen) who was dressed like he was some banker in a nice shirt and slacks with what looked to be a utility belt at his waist. “Look who came love,” he spoke to Lou softly and she smiled and patted my son’s head.

“Aunty Lou!”

“Hey Tommo,” she said with a smile, “Hi, Treen. Hi Nattie. Mum and Dad coming?”

“They’re on the way, they sent us ahead because Thomas was so excited,” Nattie said, “Your mum has been so worried Lou. Is there anything I need to do Will?” she asked as if assuming he might say yes this time.

“No, thanks Nattie.” Will smiled and Nattie rolled her eyes playfully.

“You’ll damn near put me out of a job Will.”

“What about me?” Tom asked Will, eager to help. Will smiled at my son.

“How about you hold Aunty Lou’s hand like last time?” he asked and Tom eagerly took my older sister’s hand that Will wasn’t holding. Will kissed Lou’s hand and Thomas did the same thing. “Do you remember what we told Aunty Lou last time, Tommo?’ Will asked my son who looked at him like a father, ready to do anything to make Will happy with him.

“You can do anything Aunty Lou. I’m sad your legs don’t work but maybe one day you can be a Transformer and have good legs. Can you do that Will?”

“When we learn how to Tommo I promise I will give Aunty Lou legs like Optimus Prime, eh?” Will smiled at Tom and I found myself smiling. Tom had never had much interaction with males other than my father so it was nice to see him with Will and Will play along and include Thomas.

“You like Transormers, right Aunty Lou?”

“My spirit animal is the bumblebee car, Tommo,” my sister said. In fact today she was wearing the pair of bumblebee striped tights she had that clearly contrasted with her lavander lounge gown in only a way Lou could pull off and look gorgeous wearing it. “Isn’t his name Bumblebee?”

“Yes!”

“And Will has seen all the movies so maybe when you’re old enough to and your mum says you can, Will can watch them with you. Wouldn’t you?” Lou looked at Will. My experience with men led me to believe that most men wouldn’t want to hang out with their fiancee’s sister's son and watch movies like that, but not Will. Will wanted to be involved with our family and I loved him for it.

“Absolutely,” Will smiled at my small son and gave him a high five, “do you think Aunty Lou would like to join us?”

“Do you want to?” Tom looked expectantly at my sister who smiled.

“I’ll be there,” Lou said with a smile, “Maybe while we do that Mummy can get some errands done, right Tom?” I didn’t often get time to myself nowadays so I’d love an hour or two to just do what I wanted to do without worrying about Thomas getting into mischief.

“Yay Aunty Lou!”

As Tom excitedly babbled I got a message from my mother on my phone: We’ll be there in 5 mins. Xx

Chapter Text

Chapter 39- Lou Clark Traynor

 

I opened my eyes from a sweet kiss from Will when my parents walk into the penthouse. Mum almost tripped over her feet as she came in to see me. “Oh love,” my mum said as she came over and kissed my cheeks and Will’s too, “Will we owe you so very much,” she said to him. Will shook his head and smiled.

“She is my joy, Josie, so I would do anything for her.” I knew it was true: Will told me daily and Georgina had once told me that Will told her that sometimes he has bad dreams of my organs shutting down and with that knowledge I guessed that also meant Will would do anything within his power to keep me alive too.

“You both are two of my joys. So how are you, love?” she asked me, her hand resting on my forehead. Her hand was warm just like Will’s but it seemed like lifetimes ago that Mum had taken care of me when I’d rarely fallen ill as a child. Will turned me around in his grasp so I was now facing everyone else in the room, being extra careful with my legs as he rearranged me, my knees bent and my legs hanging over Will’s that were much longer and didn’t look like skinny pipe cleaners.

“Is there anything we can do for you, love?” My father asked me, “Could I get you some tea? Do you want me to call Georgina to come?”

“Georgie won't be coming,” Will said, “She’s seeing my father off for Normandy today on the train and staying the night at his new house. Bernard, has my father been in contact with you about moving you and Josie to Normandy?”

“I am in so much debt to your family, Will. Truly. We are,” my father said and Will shrugged.

“It’s my pleasure Bernard. In fact I think my father was telling me that he has already set up a nice lodging situation for you both not far from his estate,” Will said as his hands settled on my shoulders and began to knead and I felt my upper body succumb to Will’s beautiful hands that were trained for things like massage therapy.

“That’s so good love,” Will’s voice said into my ear, the praise from him making me want to keep doing what I was doing if it meant he would keep talking to me, “Do you know how much I love you, Louisa? I don’t think you ever could really know.” Will smiled one of those smiles that took my breath away because I don’t think I had ever seen something that beautiful in my life.

“So why Normandy for your dad?” Treena asked Will, “The history? The beach?”

“I think it’s a bit of both. See, he had relatives fight in the D-Day and they’re buried somewhere around the city. Plus my father is ready for a bit of a scenery change as I bet we all were. Stortfold gets quite old after a few years I think,” he said.

“Well then we’re glad you came to work with Lou, because she might have not left our little town if she wasn’t pushed to,” Dad laughed. He wasn’t wrong. I probably would have stayed in my little hometown for the rest of my life if it hadn’t been for Will. It was one of the many experiences his presence in my life opened the door to. Will kissed me and sometimes his kisses would knock the wind out of me because they were filled with so much love, passion, and care that I didn’t think I even deserved.

“Take a breath, love,” Will instructed in my ear as he let my lips go. I could hear a hint of that urgency to keep me alive in him now. I filled my lungs with air and Will’s right hand set his watch and then came to the artery on my neck.

“What did you guys do yesterday?” I asked my parents, “Sorry I couldn’t join you.”

“You’re still not fully well, Lou,” Will’s voice said into my ear, “Let’s just continue resting today then tomorrow I’ll take you to the top of the Eiffel Tower.”

“Okay,” I whispered, already excited for a secret adventure with Will. I wanted yo wrap my arms around his neck so I said, “Can you turn me back?”

“Of course love,” and he did.

“Oh we went to the Louvre, Lou, you’d love it,” Mum gushed as if my side conversation with Will hadn’t taken my focus from her, “Will you must take her! Bernard and I nearly spent the whole day there it was so lovely. Treena and Nattie took Tom to a park where he met some French children.”

“Do French children speak English?” I wondered, because I sure only knew a few words of French. I knew Will was fluent in French because he spoke it with Dr. Marseilles and I could see him learning it as a child in whatever school he went to.

“Some children learn languages early,” Will told me, “Georgina and I started learning quite early ourselves,” I knew it. “Do you remember the phrase Marseilles taught you?”

“Je t’aime, Will Traynor.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 40- Will Traynor

 

God when Clark spoke French.

I kissed her softly and then pulled her close being mindful of her lifeless legs. She smelled like strawberries against me and I rested one of my hands on her neck to get her pulse. I set my watch to time her heart’s beats to make sure her heartrate was returning to normal after a bad day yesterday. Lou liked my watch because it could play music while it kept time and often during physio I would play music from my library on it.

Twenty-nine, thirty, thirty one, my count I was whispering under my breath was on par with my watch as Lou’s mum was telling her about the Louvre and the art there. I was personally quite fond of the museum I loved to visit every time I was in town and I knew even more that I couldn’t wait to share it with my Lou. “Maybe we can go tomorrow, love,” I told Lou.

“Oh yes Will!” Her smile was brighter than the Parisian sun. Forty four, forty five, forty six. “Can we also swim again, Will?”

“Of course,” I said kissing her forehead, “anything you want.”

“You two are just too cute,” Katrina said as she watched us from the other couch, “Are you sure you don’t have a brother, Will?”

“Sorry Katrina,” I smiled, “only son.”

“Bugger,” she said and Thomas’ head perked up from the toy car he was playing with and he laughed.
“Do you need anything Aunty Lou?” Tom asked Louisa offering the toy car, “Here, Aunty Lou this can be your special car and it can fit your chair and Will can drive it. Can you drive cars, Will?”

“I rather love cars, Tommo. I have some pretty fast ones that you can ride in with me one time if your Mummy thinks it’s okay,” I told him. “I can even drive ambulances and helicopters too.”

“Aunty Lou, have you ever been in a helicopter?” Tom asked.

“Once, when I fell off the roof Tommo when you were smaller,” she said. I seemed to remember that Josie had explained to me after Lou’s accident they had her flighted to London (where I was actually living and working at a banking firm at the time) where she had spent nearly a month in hospital.

“Thomas,” Katrina warned, “Aunty Lou might not want to talk about her fall.”

“It’s okay, Treen.”

“I’m sorry your spine has an ouchie on it Aunty Lou,” Tom said.

“Thomas, remember your Aunty Lou can do anything,” I told him, “just like you and me, right?”

“And her life's worth living,” the child repeated my own mantra back to me with enthusiasm and I smiled at him, “Will and me will protect Aunty Lou and one day she’ll be a Transformer.”

“Maybe one day,” I agreed. I stopped my watch timer after giving it an extra few minutes to monitor Lou’s heart rate. “Your heart is just as perfect as you are Louisa, and don’t you dare try and object.” I whispered.

I caught the beginnings of a tear falling down her face. “Louisa,” I seemed to forget others were in the room as I made her look at me, “Let me see that face,” she looked up at me, “You really don’t get it do you Clark? I love all of you.”

“Oh Will.” I began to rock her back and forth. I saw Josie stand and motion for everyone else to leave the room with her so I could be alone with Lou, who obviously was not recovered from yesterday just yet.

Chapter Text

Chapter 41- Georgina Traynor

 

On the train to Normandy with my father I had a Bloody Mary because I was feeling the vodka and I had my earphones in listening to Only by Nicki Minaj (because liked to think of myself as something of a bad bitch). I had been texting Will asking about how Lou was doing. I knew on a regular basis he feared for her lungs as well as her heart considering paralysis victims with spinal cord injuries were more prone to things like pneumonia and to date Lou had only experienced a minor vout about two years ago before Will had entered her life and I’d bet my inheritance that if he had been the one taking care of her then he could have prevented the ordeal itself.

She had a bit of a meltdown, taking care of it x W he had just replied.

Oh god poor Lou. What’s her favorite film? I find those help when I break down x I replied immediately. Even though I knew I might not be able to do much if I was there I still wanted to see if I could help. “Who is that texting you?” Dad asked.

“Will. Lou hasn’t been well for the past day or so,” I explained, “I might catch the train back tomorrow if she’s still not well to see if I can help Will.”

“When are you going back to Melbourne?”

“Probably next week or I just might relocate myself to France since it seems to be the bloody trend and I pride myself on my fashion sense. Plus there are plenty of newspapers written in English in Paris that I could write for an edit.”

I have her some tea now xx W the reply lit up my phone. I responded immediately.

Try vodka x

G, you have a serious issue hahaha x W

I’m a hot mess, so tell me something I don’t know x

I laughed to myself as I stared out the window as the countryside zipped by the train as we trod on. The song changed to Jumpman by Drake and Future on my hip hop playlist. I downed that Bloody Mary and ordered another because I could and honestly there was no way I could get through an evening with Maisie sober. Good thing Will had cathed me before I left so I wouldn’t have to use the on board loo.

Maisie Higbee was a few years older than me but younger than Will which quite frankly disturbed me to no end. She looked as if she was manufactured: platinum blond hair, perfect spray tan, eyes the perfect shade of blue, always wore the high in clothes as I did. But she thought she was cool, trying to connect to me by constantly trying to chat me up on whatever and surprise I wasn’t impressed.

Maybe I should have just stayed in Paris. Goddammit. Fuck.

“How is Louisa doing?” my father asked as if he hadn’t already done so and was trying to get me to talk.

“Will’s taking care of her, she’ll be fine,” I replied as I went to another playlist and Fuck You by Lily Allen came on and I smiled. Lily Allen was one of my spirit animals along with angry Alanis Morissette. I took a sip of my drink and shot a text to Will.

Catheterizing me so I can drink without pissing on a train was brilliant, love you Willy x

Have a drink for me and Lou, G x W

Chapter Text

Chapter 42- Maisie Higbee

 

Steven and Georgina arrived in Normandy in the early afternoon and I met them there wearing a pretty pink dress that Steven had bought for me. Georgina was wearing a dark black dress that had buttons on the top which I found odd because it was spring and everyone wore bright colors but Georgina was a different kind of woman. She was talking on her phone when she got off the train: “Yeah? So I just leave it? Bad ass.’

I kissed Steven hello, “Hello, darling. Your trip all right?” he asked as he linked our hands. Georgina stayed a few paces behind and I smiled at her, hoping that was inviting to her. Georgina didn’t like most people Steven said but I hoped she could like me so we could be like sisters!

“All right,” I said, “who’s she talking to?”

“Will I imagine or Louisa,” Steven said. I had met his son Will and liked the bloke a lot but I hadn't met his Louisa yet. Apparently the poor girl was in a wheelchair paralyzed from the neck down I thought but she seemed like a happy little thing from what I’ve heard.

“When are they getting married? Should we tell them we’re coming?” I liked Will a lot even though I’d only met him a few times even though I had never met his Louisa so I hoped I could meet her soon as well.

“December,” he said, “and yes we are going to be there for them. I believe Georgina is a bridesmaid for Louisa along with one of her other caregivers I saw Georgina still on the phone as we walked to the car I had waiting.I heard her say to the phone, “So can you just pull it out when I get back?’

“What’s she talking about?” I wondered.

“I haven’t a clue darling,” Steven replied as he opened the car door for me so I could ride on the passenger seat. Georgina got in the back and was now off the phone. “Georgie, did you see Maisie?” Steven asked as the car was put in drive. She nodded.

“Hey, Maisie.”

I smiled, “Hi, G. It’s been forever since I’ve seen you! We can go shopping if you’re planning to stay, or maybe watch Bridget Jones!” I had always wanted to break Georgina’s walls down but she would never let me.

“I go back to Paris in the morning,” she said.

“Maybe another time then? Was that Will you were talking to? How are he and Louisa? What’s she like? Paralyzed from her neck down, right?”

“From her waist, actually,” Georgina corrected me, “and you’ll see when you meet her.” I didn’t understand why Georgina Traynor shut me out like a wall but she did.

“Oh. Tell her I’m sorry about it, will you?”

“She isn’t I’ll tell you that and I hope you could realize that just because she had an accident doesn’t mean she’s pathetic like you are Maisie. Some of us don’t try to constantly pry into people’s lives to see if you have it better off than they do, which is pitiful.”

She wasn’t wrong, that was the worst of it.

Chapter Text

Chapter 43- Lou Clark Traynor

 

My parents, sister, Tom, and Nattie came back into the room and we ended up watching Spectre, the newest Bond movie, and eating popcorn. “What was Georgina saying?” I asked Will as he got back in from taking a call from Georgie who was traveling to Normandy. She had come by early this morning while I was still sleeping, Will said.

“Funny story I’ll tell you later,” he said as he lifted me from my yellow chair and sat me with him. He didn’t let me sit in my chair for long periods of time because that could cause pressure sores which was a common concern among wheelchair users and I hadn’t suffered them since before Will came into my life. I kept my eyes on the screen as the main villain had captured Bond.

“Okay.”

“Can I get you anything, love? Tea, maybe?” Will asked me. I shook my head.

“I want to walk with you,” I told him. Will often liked to walk with my feet on his so he could make sure my leg muscles stayed intact. Another one of his fears for me involved muscle atrophy in my legs as well as the pressure sores from sitting in my chair constantly, both of which were common problems with paraplegics that I had not much experience with myself. I loved walking with Will because sometimes I forgot the motions of being able to walk.

“Up we go,” Will got me up and his hands rested firmly on my hips as my frame melted against his as we started to move, it was like Will was a harness designed to keep me on my feet.I squealed with delight as I looked at my feet moving with his. “Your leg movements are so good, Clark,” Will said softly to me. As we moved I couldn’t believe that twenty four years of my life had been spent walking without Will. I almost regretted my years of ablebodiedness - no, I absolutely did.

I would never trade my life for a working pair of legs. It was almost like the accident three years ago had been a bad thing that had happened simply as a precursor to the best thing that would ever happen to me. I looked and saw my sister, father, and Nattie smiling and my mum in almost hysterical happy sobs. Will turned me to face him as we stopped, his left hand with the watch I was so fascinated with held me securely. “You’re so beautiful Lou,” Will said into my hair, “I am the luckiest man in the world.”

“Will, can we go to Switzerland soon?” I asked, thinking about the mountains I had seen pictures of in travel magazines before and I had always wanted to see.

“What’s in Switzerland, love? The Alps? Is that what you want to see?” Will asked me. I nodded. “We can rent a house and stay for weeks, love..”

“When?” I really wanted to go.

“Possibly later today if you wish. I’d need to make some calls and then we could. Could we maybe strike a deal, you and me?”

“Sure.”

“Here’s the deal: I want you to just clear your head of thoughts and look at me, use me as a focal point,” his hand cupped my chin softly, “If you have a stray thought just come back to looking at me.” I didn’t know what Will was doing was called but I had heard of it and seen it before on the telly, “Relax, Louisa. You might want to close your eyes and fall back now, and if you fall I’ll catch you. Now, you won’t wake up until I say so, love, but trust me.”

I closed my eyes and even though my legs couldn’t move I felt I was falling, if for the briefest instant.

Chapter Text

Chapter 44- Will Traynor

 

Lou took to the hypnosis easily and I secured her in the harness as I spoke to Michael Lawler, my personal right hand man when it came to anything at all, through a Bluetooth earpiece and packed for myself and Louisa. He assured me a two bedroom house would be ready upon our arrival.

The Clark’s and Nattie went back to their hotel after I explained I was taking Lou to Switzerland for a few days, assuring them it would be good for her. I called my sister and told her to come to Switzerland from France saying I’d send a car for her at the station. I changed Lou’s tubes and actually used the hypnotic state she was in to have her wake briefly, yet unknowingly, to take her medicines.

The trip was seven hours by train from Paris for us but I managed to keep Louisa asleep and comfortable.

I myself spent the journey replying to both John Maclean himself (“Will, thank you for contacting me about your Louisa and your wish to swim the Channel with her is inspiring. Consult her physio beforehand and if she’s not particularly a strong swimmer might I suggest looking into adaptation for her? Best of luck mate x JM”) and also from one of the ex-professors at my alma mater, Cambridge (“William, it was nice to hear from you after all these years. I do remember speaking with you after you attended one of my lectures years ago. Hope all is well with you, and thank you for sharing the story of Louisa with me, perhaps I might meet her one day? If you have not, please show her the film “Theory of Everything” as she might find it inspiring. Best-SH’)

Finally at six in the evening we disembarked from the train and I had our luggage handled. I was not surprised that Lawler had a car ready to pick us up and once inside I spoke to Lou: “Time to wake up, love.” Her eyes opened almost immediately after I had spoken.

“What happened Will?” she asked me.

“We’re staying in the Swiss Alps for a few days, love. I’ve been assured it’ll be very good for you.”

“Really?”

“Really.”

“Wow this is amazing, Will. Can we have food? I’m hungry,” she said as we were driven away from the station into the streets of a valley flanked with high peaks and snow capped summits as well as all kinds of colors. Lou ooh’d and ahh’d and said "Look Will!" at the things her eyes were beholding on the drive even up to the car dropping us off at the quaint little cabin we were staying in that was brown on the outside, had a porch swing and a cute chimney attached to it. I got our things and carried Lou inside. Lawler had also promised me food would be delivered and stocked for us and he did not let me down.

I got Lou to eat some stew that was already ready and sitting in a pot on the stove for us. “Will, how did you learn how to do the sleep thing?” Lou asked as she sat on the couch with me in the living room. We had decided to eat where we had a good view of the mountains and it seemed in the small and cozy living room with its cute furniture we did.

“It’s called hypnosis and it’s basically me being able to get you to relax your body and mind so you can go to sleep well. It works because I know you trust me,” I said.

“Oh.”

The television we had here could stream movies so I put on “Theory of Everything” for Lou and me to watch. “Do you know who Stephen Hawking is, love?” Because he knows of you as everyone should, Louisa.

“He’s that scientist in a wheelchair, like me,” she said, “He talks through that computer.”

“He taught at where I went to university and I once saw him lecture years ago and then spoke to him afterwards.”

“You know him?’ She looked amazed.

“I have made his acquaintance, yes. He wishes to meet you one day, Lou.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 45- Lou Clark Traynor

 

I sat curled with Will as we watched the movie and I actually didn’t find it surprising Will had met Stephen Hawking, but what amazed me is that someone as important as he was wanted to meet someone as unimportant as I was. “What’s he like?” I asked Will as I watched Eddie Redmayne on screen.

“He’s a good bloke,” Will said, “brilliant; understands things I never could imagine. He’s very approachable but most people are too awestruck by who he is to do so, it seemed which is a shame.” I imagined Will’s self-confidence had made it no trouble for him at all to talk to Professor Hawking because to me, Will was just as important. “He even said you’d like this movie.”

“I like Eddie Redmayne’s acting,” I said, “Treena and I watched The Danish Girl not long ago on a girl’s night when you were working at the hospital.”

“You fancy him,” Will joked, kissing me. I laughed.

“I fancy you Will,” I laughed as he wrapped the blanket tighter around me. The cabin’s living room was decorated in all chocolate furniture to match the seemingly woody feel of the room that the light brown walls gave off. Will had my legs over him and I saw his hand was drawing tiny circles on the skin of my feet.

“Believe it or not Clark, I fancy you as well,” he said. His hand that wore the iWatch stroked my hair. I had always loved Will’s watch because it could do so many interesting things like play music and it could show me what Will’s heart rate was which was cool for me to see. I rested my head against Will so I could feel Will’s heart.

“How did you convince Dr. Marseilles to let me go to Switzerland?” I asked Will, thinking about my sweet French neurologist.

“Marseilles told me a trip would be good for you,” Will said into my hair softly, “The transition to French life has been stressful for you, I know it.” I couldn’t even deny it, because it was absolutely true. Sometimes Will just knew things. I kissed Will.

“This movie is nice because it has a sweet message that everyone should live well,” I told Will, “don’t you think so?”

“It does. From the day we met that’s what I’ve been trying to show you, Louisa. Your life has so much value sweetheart. Just like Professor Hawking’s, just like mine, just like Treena’s or Georgie’s.”

I squeezed Will’s hand. How I got so lucky with him I’ll never know.

After the movie, Will gave me a bath. Since the house wasn’t very accessible to my personal needs Will had me sit on the bathroom counter by the sink while he bathed me from the sink like Treena would do with Thomas when he was to small for the bath. As Will was washing me, his phone rang and he put it on speaker: “Hey G,” he said into the speaker.

“Will, did you know the next fecking train to Switzerland isn’t until tomorrow? I might die before then,” his sister said. I laughed.

“Hi, Georgina,” I said over the speaker.

“Hi Lou. Sorry, I’m a bit drunk already if you can’t tell,” she said, “no way I’m gonna make it through this sober. Maisie’s put on Bridget Jones.”

“You love that movie, G,” Will said as he washed my shoulders, “you can quote every line.”

“You’re no help in my time of need, big brother.”

“Sorry,” Will laughed.

Chapter Text

Chapter 46- Georgina Traynor (Flashback)

 

When I was eighteen I had tried to kill myself.

Looking back on it, I don’t think my heart had really been in it because if it had really wanted to, I would have died. I had swallowed a bottle of sleeping pills in my room one day after a particularly bad argument with Camilla about my doing poorly in school and how at that rate I’d never graduate and make the family look bad blah blah blah.

Will had found me in my room that afternoon when he had come home from Cambridge for the weekend. I had slipped into unconsciousness and slit my wrists with a razor blade for good measure like I hadn’t believed the pills would work. I had put on some Wagner on my iHome speaker, as I’d thought he had dark and yet beautiful compositions to die to.

There’s a rule in emergency medicine that goes for CPR: the rate of compressions and breaths is now thirty compressions to two breaths. Will had done sixty and still it had looked like I might have succeeded in my attempt to leave this god forsaken world. Camilla had come in, starting to bitch at me for something when she had found Will over my body.

Will had told me he had actually used the words “Shut the bloody fuck up, Mother” at Camilla, which honestly still makes me proud. Will himself had driven me to the hospital: neither Camilla or even my father (who had been at work that day) had come with us. All of this had happened long before Will actually had a degree in medicine but looking back I’m not surprised at all now that he eventually did earn one. If there’s one thing I know about my older brother it’s that his greatest fear is losing someone if it could have been prevented. I think that’s honestly why now with Louisa in his life he treads so carefully around her, which in my personal opinion and also from hanging with Lou alone quite often I think is wrong of him to do.

Anyway, we had gotten to the hospital and they had taken me in immediately and pumped my stomach to rid it of the medicine as fast as possible to save my life and then they had forced some god awful liquid down my throat to get any residue that the pump had missed. I had woken up in the hospital room and now my whole family was here, including Camilla.

“I don’t want her here,” I told Will, “use your rowing strength to throw her ass out the door.”

“Georgina Catherine,” Camilla started in on me and I rolled my eyes, which surprisingly hurt.

“Shut the fuck up Camilla. Did it ever cross your shallow and small mind that perhaps the reason I did this was you? I wouldn’t be surprised if it hadn’t. Perhaps Kale’s dick has penetrated your cunt all the way to your head. That must be a record. I must send him flowers. Get. Her. Out. Will.”

I had made Camilla Traynor, who I imagined was made of stone all these years, cry. No, I had made her sob. Apparently my ignorant father had no idea of the affair that had just begun and this was years before he himself took a mistress of his own. “What is she talking about, Camilla?” My father’s anger was just like Will’s: rare but dangerous.

And when she cried, I had just smiled. There is nothing I did better than revenge.

Chapter Text

Chapter 47- Will Traynor

 

Louisa fell asleep against me and I tucked her into the bed in the main bedroom and I hooked her up to the breathing machine I sometimes did with her as part of my plan to keep pneumonia away from her lungs. I lay awake as Lou slept and the machine breathed with her. I sent a reply to the kind email about Lou from Professor Hawking telling him I had shown her the film and she had said it was now her favorite.

As usual Lou would wake me occasionally for me to turn her and then she’d fall asleep and I’d follow, sleeping lightly. I was awakened again at seven-thirty to a knock on the door to the house and wondering who in the blazes it was I took Lou up in my arms, disconnecting her from the nebulizer. At the door I found my sister.

“Feck, it’s early,” I said to her as I murmured softly into Lou’s hair to keep her asleep.

“I had to get out of there, Will,” she said as I led her in. She dragged her suitcase, “The train left at eleven last night and then I had to take a cab to find this place.” She sat on the couch as I wrapped Louisa in blankets and studied my sister. I noticed she already looked hungover and as I took her pulse I guessed she was running on a mix of caffeine and adrenaline.

I uncathed her and got her a cup of coffee. “I take it Maisie was well?” I jested with her quietly not to wake my fiancee.

“Feck off, Will,” Georgie laughed, “D’you mind if I just pass out here on the couch?”

“Be my guest but there’s another bed if you want it,” I told her, “Down that way,” I pointed out the guest room to my sister and I brought her luggage there, “G, when are you due back in Melbourne?”

“Feck Melbourne,” my sister said. I smirked, “How is she? Better?” Georgie asked of Lou.

“I think the transition to French life has put unnecessary stress on her,” I said putting my lips to Louisa’s hair, “She needs this. Have you talked to any of the Clark’s?”

“I talked to Treena, she starts uni there on Monday. Lou’s parents are catching a train to the French version of Hell this morning.” I laughed. “Nathania has to go back to Stortfold for work.”

“God help her.”

“I thought the same,” Georgie said, “god, I’m exhausted. I think I’m just gonna crash on the couch for now,” she stretched out and I handed her a blanket. I took Lou carefully up but she woke up.

“Hey, G. Did you just get here?” she asked.

“Yup, and now sleeping off a hangover,” she said with a laugh, “How are you feeling?”

“Good.”

“Lou, bring your eyes to me,” I said softly to her, “Remember yesterday when I had you clear your thoughts? Do that again and if a stray thought comes, look back at me.”

Chapter Text

hapter 48- Georgina Traynor

 

I watched as Lou fell under Will’s influence. “You know, you can’t keep doing this to her,” I said, “She’s twenty-six, Will. Just because she can’t walk doesn’t mean she’s a kid and can’t do things for herself. I love you Will and your love for her, and Lou’s such a sweetheart she puts up with this because god she loves you.”

“Has she said that to you?” Will looked surprised, like this was the first he was hearing about this which wasn’t surprising. I knew Lou wanted to make Will happy so she never told him that he could be a bit smothering at times which was very true.

“Yes, of course she has. And she’s said it to Nathania and Treena...”

“Her parents?”

“I dunno, I’ve only met them just this month so I can’t be sure. But knowing Lou she probably has done the same for them. Lou is the kind of girl who doesn’t want those she loves to be unhappy so she’ll just suffer in silence, a trait I personally could never have.”

“How long has she said this has been going on?”

“How long have you been working for her? Two years, right?”

“Yeah.”

“How long have you been in love with her?”

“G, I loved Louisa from the minute I walked through the door to her family house,” he said and honestly I had seen that coming from a kilometer off. “I’m so afraid to lose her, G. I mean she could die from pneumonia or her heart could just stop and I might have been able to stop it….”

I couldn’t help but think Will’s fear of loss was partially my fault. I looked down at the scars that had now turned silver and shone in the light when it hit my wrist.

“I know how afraid you are, Will, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t let Lou do things for herself like wheel around the streets of Paris. Her chair has tires fit for the cobblestone, you know. She needs to be allowed to feel like an independant woman and kill it. I get there are some things she just isn’t able to do like have babies because that might actually risk her life in her case but there are so many more things she can do.”

“Am I an idiot, G?”

“A bloody idiot, but you’re our idiot so we still love you,” I laughed to release the tension in the room that had surrounded my speech. “Get her up.”

Will sat down, holding Lou against him and her arms around his neck, “Lou, sweetheart, I need you to wake up a moment,” he said into her hair and she did exactly as she said like he was that Criss Angel bloke on the telly that hypnotized crowds at shows in the States. She rubbed her eyes and looked at my brother and she smiled. “Louisa Vivienne, you should have told me you felt like I was smothering you a bit, love.”

“I’m sorry, Will,” she sighed, “I just want you to be happy with me even though you could be so much happier with somebody else and so you won’t quit working for me because my family and I really love you and….”

“Clark I would never do that. Louisa, did you know that your family no longer pays me?”

“That’s awful. I’ll talk to my parents because you…”

“No, Louisa, listen to me. I told them to. I have more than enough to fund us both for as long as the universe wants to give us, I just hadn’t realized I was putting you in a gilded cage.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 49- Lou Clark Traynor

 

Georgina ended up going to sleep in the guest room and I sat on the couch with Will, his arm around me. “I’m sorry Will,” I said, “I wanted to tell you but you’re just so happy now and I don’t want to ruin it for you.”

“How about we go for a swim? There’s the pool in the back of the cottage’s yard,” Will said and he got up and brought the power wheelchair that had been here so we didn’t have to haul my other chair here. I preferred power chairs to manual ones because my arms tired easily if I constantly used them to roll around. Will walked beside me to our room.

I got my bathing suit with bumblebee stripes on it from the dresser that was actually at level with my chair. It was a cute bikini that had a top that just slipped on over my head since I didn’t like the complicated ties. In my early days after the accident the hospital physio and later Nattie had taught me to dress in my chair since dressing in bed could be a nightmare and the chair really worked for me.

When we were both ready we went quietly to the back as to not wake Georgie from her sleep. Sure enough in the yard there was a fenced in and nice sized pool. I got my phone from the bag on the side of my chair and snapped a picture for Treena. Even at the pool you could see the outline of the Alps like they were penciled in. Also in my bag I had the latest in a series of romance novels I was reading and I got that out as I parked my chair next to a pool chair half in the sun and shade.

I put on my bumblebee sunglasses and I let Will help with sunscreen on my back while I sprayed the rest of myself. I smiled as he took me in his arms and began to walk towards the pool, “Would you prefer to get in yourself, love?”

“No this is okay, Will,” I told him. The water felt warm which was nice because this particular morning it was a bit chilly. I let Will hang on to me in the water since I usually preferred to hold onto him than sit on noodles because that would make my legs hurt sometimes. “Will?”

“Yes love?”

“If we’re in the water can we…?” I could practically feel the blush rise in my cheeks as usual and I bet my cheeks were tomatoes in color.

“I don’t see why not, love,” Will’s lips came to my neck and I rested my head in the crook of his shoulder as I looked up at the Swiss sky that was cloud free this particular morning. “God Clark, I’ve underestimated you, and I’m so sorry.”

“Georgina says you’re afraid to lose me,” I said, “I bet I’m more afraid of losing you.”

“Losing you, Clark, would kill me,” he said and I bet Professor Hawking would say a star had exploded as we kissed.

Chapter Text

Chapter 50- Treena Clark (Flashback)

 

The weeks directly following Louisa’s fall were full of time at the hospital in London for me and my parents. Since we couldn’t afford a nanny for Tom he had to come with me to see Lou who had been moved to the in-patient rehab wing after the first forty eight hours post injury. They said she was now not going to have control below her waist.

I knew if it had been me in her position I would have been a bit bitter, and even that was an understatement. But Lou still seemed to be her normal and bubbly self: tying ribbons we had made from paper into her hair and chatting up the nurses and physios. This particular day when I arrived by myself at the hospital while Tom was at home with my parents I found Lou in her room watching the telly. She was laying in her bed with the covers drawn up to her waist and the ridiculous paper streamers were still in her hair.

“Hey,” I said setting some flowers from my flower shop on the side table. In the arrangement I had all kinds of yellow, pink, white, and purple flowers. “Tom sends his love.”

“Hi. Did you see that there was a special on Will Traynor, that banker bloke? It’s his birthday today,” Lou never admitted it but I knew she had a fascination with this banking hotshot who was often in the spotlight because he came from old money. “I’ve been watching it.”

“No,” I said, “but if you want I could totally track him down and arrange your marriage,” she rolled her eyes. “He lives here in town, right?”

“I think so, but his family owns the house on the grounds of the castle back home,” Lou said as one of her nurses came in. She had blonde hair that was pulled into a bun and she work pink scrubs. “Hi, Nathania. This is my sister, Treena,” Lou said. I smiled.

“G’day,” Nathania said in an Australian accented voice to me and she hugged me, “I’ve been Lou’s nurse.”

“Hasn’t given you any trouble has she?” I asked, smiling at Lou who rolled her eyes at me.

“Nope, she’s happy as a little lark she is. I was telling Lou she’s the happiest spinal patient I have ever seen,” Nathania said.

“She always has been annoyingly happy,” I said and laughed, “and a bit of a klutz,”

“I’ve told her that I wish all my patients had an attitude like hers and if they did I’d like what I do a bit more. I’ll be sad when they say she’s discharged.”

“Maybe you can come with me, Nat,” Lou said, “We can kidnap you.”

“I actually wouldn’t complain. Where’s home for you?”

“Stortfold, out in the country. It’s a small little town,” I explained, “all we really have is a big castle there and a cafe and a few shops.”

“That actually sounds refreshing to me,” Nattie said.

Chapter Text

Chapter 51- Will Traynor

 

I swam with Lou to the swim out that was in the deep end of the pool. I kissed Lou’s neck right at the spot where it connected to her sternum. The water covered us up to about her chest as we sat on the swim out, or rather she sat and I held on, using my arms to hold me up. “I figured out that right here is an erogenous zone for you,” I told Lou, “do you remember me explaining that to you?”

“It’s how I…” she trailed off the words and I smiled at her reluctance to say the words. She turned her head from me.

“It’s how you lubricate, Lou. You can say the word, love, there’s no shame in it. It’s such a natural thing,” I said to her softly and she turned her eyes back to me as I kissed her neck again and her head fell forward. With Louisa, she never could resist me long so I hoisted myself up to hold her. Her head rested against my shoulder and I felt her carotid pulse quicken. She kissed me.

I let my hand linger on the pulse on her neck and her eyes closed. I had to remind myself that Louisa wanted me to let her do things for herself more so I just let her lead for a bit but within me I kept the fear that I would accidentally hurt her with the motions of me moving inside her when the time came. “Will…”

“I’m right here, Lou,” I said to her softly. I could feel how warm yet unresponsive she was to me in that sense. I moved carefully and kept a pulse count in my head as I kissed her neck. I would absolutely honor my Lou’s wish and make her life as normal as it could be but that still couldn’t wash away the fear of hurting her or her premature death.

“What’s happening, Will?”

“Do you feel any pain in your legs, love?” The dragon of fear manifested and I was already beginning to plan how fast I could get to the bag on the back of her chair that had her meds in it. But Lou smiled and shook her head.

“I want to know what you’re feeling,” she said putting her head on my shoulder that was wet with water from the pool. I thought about how to explain.

“Like when I kiss your neck your brain will send hormones and messages to you saying that you feel good. With me, I feel that less strongly than you do simply because I’m not as special as you are, love. Your senses have been heightened for you since your accident, but god Clark it feels amazing to be with you.”

“I’m sorry I can’t, um, clench for you, Will,” she said but I shushed her with kisses.

“Never apologize for that Louisa,” I said into her hair as I moved carefully inside her, “Do you realize how much you mean to me?”

“I love you, Will.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 52- Georgina Traynor

 

I woke up in the second bedroom at the secluded Swiss retreat to see a glass of Gatorade and an Advil already on the bedside table for me. If anyone knew how to handle my hangovers, it was my brother because he’d taught me how.

But then again this was the Will who took care of everyone he loved as if his life depended on it and the Will who had called me in a panic before he had Lou physically for the first time, worried he’d kill her (a notion that’s completely ridiculous to me) even after her doctors had cleared her to do this and since Will was one of her doctors maybe that drove his fear. I don’t even know.

(“G, I don’t think I can do this.. I think her heart can’t take it and will give out and I’ll kill her…” “Oh my god Will, are you fecking serious? I’ve lived through many sessions myself and sadly so have girls as awful as Lissa, so Lou will be fine.” “Yes, but you and Liss don’t deal with the things Louisa does…” “Will hang up the phone or I will hang up on you.”)

We’re a fucked up bunch, the Traynors. I mean, but you knew that right?

I got up and went to the bathroom attached to my room. I still wore the outfit I had traveled to Normandy and I felt disgusting so I jumped in the shower and changed clothes and threw my hair up into a high ponytail to not have to deal with it. While I had napped, a girl from the office called Jenna had rang me to ask when I was due to return and I sent a message back to her that I wasn’t sure if I was returning. After I was dressed I came out of my room and sat on the couch and looked at the time. It was already half three in the afternoon.

Lou wheeled herself over to me, dressed in a white dress that had blue patterns on it and a halo of flowers on her head like a headband. I gave her a hug, “You feeling better?” I asked her. Will stood behind her with his hands resting on her shoulders. Lou nodded.

“How are you? You pulled off an escape for the ages,” she said, “I didn’t know trains ran that late.”

“I lucked out. Have you met Maisie yet?” I asked her. Lou shook her head no. “Take everything you think I’d hate in a person, make her a year older than me, and that’s Maisie. You might like her, that is if she manages to treat you like a normal human being. I think she pities you.”

“Tell her she doesn’t have to,” Lou said shrugging it off. I thought there was no way I could be like my future sister-in-law: so kind to everyone and frankly too good for this world. “Is she coming to the wedding?”

“I think if my father’s there she’ll be on his arm, yes. How many d’you guys have coming? Are any of our extended family coming?”

“Grandma and Poppa Traynor are,” Will said. I shrugged: our Traynor grandparents were all right, much better than Camilla’s parents, “but other than them I’m not sure. Some blokes from my old work are coming and so is Dr. Marseilles. And Lou’s family and Nathania.”

“Is your dad escorting you down the aisle?” I asked Lou, thinking of how sweet it would be to see her dad walk beside her as she wheeled her way down.

“Actually, Bernard asked me to carry Lou down the aisle,” Will said, “that way, Lou can indirectly walk down the aisle since every bride needs that experience and this wedding is already going to be non-traditional.” I looked at Louisa.

“Do you want this?” I asked her.

She laughed, “I actually suggested the idea to my dad, G.”

“Just checking.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 53- Camilla Traynor (Flashback)

 

When Georgina was about sixteen she pulled a stunt where she ‘ran away’ from home. Will was in his first year at Cambridge at the time and he came home every Friday for a dinner with us and sometimes he would stay the weekend. As it happened, I found Georgina gone right as Will pulled in. ‘William, where is your sister?” I asked as he got out of the car.

“Hello, Mother. And no, I haven’t seen her since last week so no I have no idea. Did she leave a note?” Will made a move to get back into his Bentley, “Did you call her by chance?”

“She didn’t pick up.”

“Well then, I suppose I’ll go find her,” Will said and there was a bit of annoyance in his voice. Secretly I hoped my daughter was the one he was annoyed with. “I assume you’ll stay here?” Will roared the engine to life. I didn’t move. It was then I figured that I was the one at the other end of Will’s annoyance.

“Yes. Call me when you have her.”

Will nodded and he drove a few feet towards where I still stood, “I will. How about you do me a favor in return and act like a mother for once in your bloody life?” Will had never spoken to me like that and I was stunned. I was used to William being my golden boy who would make up for his nightmare of a sister and restore our family.

“William John, get back here this bloody fecking second!” I shouted as he drove off into the distance away from me. As he disappeared I seethed and tears of rage pricked at my eyes. I called Steven on his mobile, thinking that he would side easily with me in the matter of our children’s misbehavior.

“What is it, darling? I’m a bit busy,” Steven always was busy I couldn’t help but think. It was almost like I was the one who had to hold this family together and parent our children while he spent long hours at the office.

“Our daughter went missing and our son came home and mouthed off,” I said.

“When did you last see Georgie?” he asked, concern in his voice.

“This morning before I left for work. She had taken the bus to school and then I got home today and she wasn’t here. Will came home just after I did.”

“Is he searching for her?”

“Yes, and you wouldn’t believe the god awful things he said to me as he left to go search for her…” Steven cut me off.

“So are you saying you yourself are not looking with him for our daughter?”

“I thought to stay because…” he didn’t let me finish.

“Good god Camilla, do you care in the slightest about Georgina? It seems to me like you don’t which quite frankly makes you look like a horrible person. Am I correct in assuming that is your worst fear? Is that along the lines of what Will said to you?”

“How did you…?”

“He called right before you did. I just got him to pick me up, Camilla, so we could both go search. I’m seeing now that he’s actually right. I’ve got to go.”

“Steven if you hang up this goddamn phone I swear on my life I’ll…” the phone clicked and then went dead before I could even finish.

Chapter Text

Chapter 54- Dr. Girard Marseilles (Flashback)

 

The first time I met Madame Louise was the day of what was to be her sixth surgery post accident. Young William had requested me to be the one to do the procedure so I came in from Paris to London to perform it. When I walked in to Madame Louise’s room just prior to it being time for induction I saw her sitting up in bed with William.

She was wearing a bland hospital gown but I thought it seemed like that fact couldn’t bother her. “Love, d’you remember how I would talk about how I studied in France? This is Dr. Marseilles, who I studied neurosciences with,” William said to Louise, “I called him from Paris to do the surgery for us.”

“Hi, Dr. Marseilles,” Madame Louise said and she smiled at me. To William I quickly whispered in my native French that it was time to go to the induction room. He nodded and took Madame Louise in his arms to carry her, carefully wrapping her legs around his own form that had on a surgical gown so he could be with her as she fell asleep.

“It’s time to go now, love. I’ll be able to come with you,” William said as we both walked towards the induction room, Madame Louise seemed relaxed and I assumed they had given her some sort of sedative to accomplish this. Once inside the induction room William hopped up on the bed with Madame Louise and laid them both down and cast a blanket that had been heated over her. William put the stickers on her to help us see and monitor her vitals.
“Cold,” she murmured.

“I know, love.”

“Will?”

“I’m right here, Louisa.”

“Madame Louise, what I want you to do now is tilt your head to look at William, and hold his other hand,” she was laying her head on his shoulder so it was easy for her to do as I said. I had William hold the mask while an anesthetist actually had the medicine flow to it. William had said his Louise was not keen on needles so I figured we could induce with a mask.

“Watch what I’m doing love,” William spoke to her softly, “all you do is breathe and then go to sleep,” he held the mask to show her. Madame Louise nodded as if she understood and William lowered the mask on her nose and mouth. I saw her chest rise and fall as the medicine entered her system and headed for the brain.

“Will, I can’t breathe oh god…” she seemed like she was panicking despite the sedation, reaching with her free hand for William.

“You’re breathing fine love, I promise. I would never let this hurt you,” William said and like magic she was out.

Chapter Text

Chapter 55- Lou Clark Traynor

 

Will jumped over the couch to sit beside me. He had me lay on my stomach against his legs, with a pillow ready for my head to rest on. Will’s fingers ran gently over the skin exposed by my backless dress. I could feel Will’s fingers and I wanted him to not stop touching me because it felt so good. “Keep doing this, Will. I can feel you here,” I told him.

“I know,” Will leaned down and kissed my hair with his fingers still drawing circles that I could feel, and I turned my head to watch his hand and I felt the sweetness of his touch that was the equivalent of a drug. Georgie sat beside us and she was updating her social media. I had never been much of a social media girl until Treen set me up and now I liked to see what everyone posted. On my page now there was a picture of me and Will on the beach in Mauritius as my profile picture and as a cover I had a picture of me with my family around me as I sat in my chair. I loved how on my page it said I was “Engaged To William Traynor”.

I loved doing photo albums and naming them clever things. I had started an album for France called ‘Vive La France’ or my engagement photo album was called “I Knew I Would Love You Until The Day I Die”. I had an album called ‘Dare To Live’ which had pictures of me and Will on holiday and doing things like skydiving or that one time we had gone cliff diving and I had almost had a panic attack looking down into the water at the great height. On my social media, Georgie had already listed me as her sister-in-law. “You crazy girls and your social media,” Will said as he looked over Georgina’s shoulder. I had my phone in my hand too and I was uploading some pretty pictures of the Alps and some cute ones I had taken with Will. Treen loved to show Mum those.

“I’m thinking about calling Melbourne and giving my two weeks,” Georgina said, looking up from her phone, “Move to Paris, y’know taste wine and write about it. I’m nearly thirty-three and no one has their shit together in their thirties except you, Will.”

“Come and move into our building!” I said, “Move across from us or like a floor below!” I loved the thought of all the people I loved living in France! Now all I needed was to convince Nattie to leave Stortfold.”Would you?”

“Lou, honestly I would learn to become a caregiver of yours if I could move to France,” she laughed, “say, do you need a special degree to do that?”

“I don’t think so, but maybe it depends on what you’re doing. Nattie is a certified nurse and Will is a physio so maybe if you just did daily tasks with patients you don’t need a certain degree. I met this bloke at the hospital who was a C-5 injury and he was going to have somebody feed him, he said. His name was Pat. Maybe it’s like how Professor Hawking has people help him.” I wished one day I could be as brave as Professor Hawking is.

“His condition, called motor neuron disease, is a bit worse love,” Will said, “what he has will slowly cause his muscles to fail over time just like they are and it will stop his lungs at some point and there’s no stopping it. If I could stop it, I would.”

“Have you seen the Theory of Everything?” I asked Georgie, “It’s my favorite film.”

“We should see it sometime.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 56- Nathania

 

I felt weird to be back in Stortfold after such a whirlwind few days jetting off to the posh streets of Paris. Coming back to the small town with the castle in the background felt like waking up from a dream in the bed of my flat near the small county hospital where I worked as a rehab nurse.

Donning my pink scrubs and grabbing my phone at six in the morning like usual felt like hell today and I felt like I was a zombie as I did my rounds. On my lunch break I logged onto my social media to check if Louisa had posted any pictures and I shot her a text in the group message I had with her and Treena Clark: “So jealous of you both, specially you Lou.” A reply came back with a picture of Treena’s view of the Eiffel Tower and I wrote: “Feck off xx” but put a smiley face as I sent a picture of the coffee I had.

When I had gotten back to Stortfold I had ridden by the Clark house and I was surprised to find it empty because I was so used to it being full of energy that now seemed to have died. I wondered since Lou’s dad was working for Will’s in France if they would keep the house or sell it for some extra money.

“Nat.”

“Oh feck,” I looked up, ripped from my musings by an intern named Sam Marshall. Sam was training to do what I did and our paths crossed often here at the little hospital. Sam was a year my senior in age but he had come to the realization this was what he wanted to do later in his life but honestly I couldn’t blame him as I was still convinced that at the ripe age of twenty seven that I was still going to marry Prince Harry one day. “Hi Sam.”

Sam was much taller than little old me/ towering over me even as he sat next to me on the bench in the main hall. He had almost jet black hair and Harry Potter green eyes and he was in blue scrubs instead of my colorful choice of hot pink.

“How was the holiday you went on?”

“How did you know I was on holiday?” Hopefully I hadn’t gotten drunk one night and texted him or something. Lou and Treena always teased me about romantic tension between Sam and me ever since I told them about him. I reached for my phone discreetly hoping he wouldn’t see me.

“I saw you were tagged in pictures on social media by a girl named Louisa. Isn’t she your paraplegic friend who is married to the Traynor’s son? The physio bloke?”

“Will. And no they’re not married yet. 7th December is the wedding,” I said, “d’you know Will?”

“Came across him once in London. He was performing a surgery I was observing from the gallery on a spinal cord,” Sam explained, “About six months ago.” Six months ago was when Lou’s last surgery was, holy hell.

“I think he was actually operating on Louisa when you were there,” I said.

“He can’t do that, can he?”

“Who the bloody hell is going to say no to a Traynor?” I asked seriously, “I sure wouldn’t. D’you know they practically own this town?”

“Really?”

“Oh god yes, but they’re good people, at least the ones I’ve met. Will’s a good man and his sister Georgina is funny and great but she’s had a rough go.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 57- Georgina Traynor

 

Later that night Will cooked as Lou and I sat at the bar and drank wine from the fridge that was stocked with food. The bar stools had backs on them so Lou could sit at them with me but Will had to lift her up to sit. We were on FaceTime with Treena on Lou’s iPad now, she was in Paris getting settled in her new place and had put Thomas to bed. “Nattie and Sam saw each other today,” Treena said.

'OH MY GOD!" Lou exclaimed.

“Who’s Sam?” I asked, completely lost. Lou and Treena both giggled. Will looked just as confused as me.

“He and Nattie have a thing but not really,” Lou told me, “Treena and I think he’s into her and she him but they won’t do anything about it. I ship them hard.”

“I ship it almost as hard as I ship Lou and Will,” Treena said, “what if she brings him to the wedding Lou?” Treena squealed.

“OH MY GOD WE MUST GET THEM TOGETHER!” Lou exclaimed taking a sip of her wine, “How do we do it?”Will walked over to give Lou a kiss, “Have you met Sam, Will? He apparently observed one of your surgeries Nattie texted me.”

“I haven’t.”

“Apparently that surgery he watched you do was Lou’s last,” Treena said, “How weird!” I remembered Lou’s last surgery because she and Will had talked to me from the hospital in London afterwards as I had been back in Melbourne and I remembered Lou was really out of it still from the meds.

“The one where Marseilles came in from France?” I asked Will thinking of the gentle Frenchman and his obvious concern for Lou that radiated the few times I had met him. Will came back over and lifted Lou from her chair and I almost felt my stone cold heart melt as he hung onto her. As much as I liked to rag on Will for his too-caring personality it was occasionally sweet to watch.

“Yes.”

“I remember being in the hospital after that one,” Lou was saying, “I got one of the nicer rooms that was one of the bigger ones too. I don’t remember exactly, but maybe we saw Sam! I can’t believe he ended up moving to Stortfold!”

“Maybe he’s the reason Nattie won’t leave,” I observed, “To be fair I didn’t think Will was going to leave Stortfold once he met you, Lou.” She laughed.

“I honestly think it’s the other way around.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 58- Sam Marshall

 

The next day I went into work like usual, but today I was determined. By the end of the shift I was going to have asked out Nathania Hanson. I had come across Nat’s friend Louisa Clark’s mobile number after digging a bit on her social media and emailing her asking if I could have her mobile to ask if I should ask Nat out.

Louisa seemed excited when I had shot her a text explaining my motives and suggested I ask Nat today at work for drinks, to keep things open and as commitment free as possible which I agreed was best for now. Louisa shot me her sister Katrina’s number as well in case I couldn’t reach her personally if I had questions.

Nat was drinking coffee when I arrived, sitting down and on her mobile. “Hi,” she said looking up, “Wanna sit?”

“Sure,” I sat by her as the sun shone in through the windows, “Are you free tonight by chance?”

“I’m free every night this week,” she said, “I found covers to take any night shifts with my patients that are in-home.”

“In that case, I was thinking since you drink and eat and so do I maybe we could do it at the same pub tonight?” I hoped that sounded casual, because to my own ears it sounded bloody stupid. Nat smiled and laughed.

“Sure, sounds good. I’m assuming we’re talking about the only pub in town then?”

“That’s the one. When are you off?”

“Early today, I get off at around tea time so I might go for tea with a friend and then I’m all yours. It might surprise you, but I do have other friends besides Lou.”

“She’s your best friend though?”

“Something like that I guess. She and her sister and I are a squad of sorts along with Will’s sister Georgina.”

“Sounds like you guys are like the Spice Girls then.”

“I guess I’m Sporty Spice then. Lou is definitely Posh Spice, Treen is the youngest of us so she gets Baby Spice, Georgie is Scary Spice.”

“What makes her scary?” I wondered.

“Georgina is not a person you want to cross as I’ve heard, so she’s probably the scary one.”

“And Will Traynor must be Beckham then? That’s not a bad thing in my book.”

“Must not be,” She smiled.