Walking Tall

By Beej

(NOTE: the ending of the chapter didn't come with the doc, so Beej resent it and the now-added section is below the red line)

 

Part 3

Terry was up and pacing as soon as the wheels touched down on the runway and Henry had to pull him away from the door to stop him from opening it before the jet finally pulled up in front of the Exec-Jet hangar.

"You're really worried, aren't you, darling."

"Yeah, Jeannie. Until I can see her for myself. You know what Pen's like, a sprained wrist would be shattered bones the way she would tell it."

Thomas came in from the cockpit and opened up the door in the cabin, jumping down the steps to help with the small amount of baggage in the hold. They were quickly taken into the reception area of the hangar and were processed by the customs and immigration officers waiting for them. They all hugged the crew, who would hang around until Terry let them know how long he expected to be in the country. If it was too long, he would send them back home.

As they walked through the doors they saw Michael waiting for them by his car. He rushed forward and hugged Henry first, then Jean, followed with a kiss and finally he engulfed Terry in a bear hug that almost took his breath away.

"Oh, God, Terry. Thanks so much for coming up. Penny is inconsolable right now. She won't listen to me or her father. I'm hoping that she will listen to you."

"Well, there's always a first time," Terry replied, winking at Michael.

That broke the tension and the ride into the city was a relatively happy one. They were staying at Terry's warehouse apartment and Michael was soon pulling up in the underground car park.

Jean happily allowed Henry to give her a grand tour of the place while Terry ordered a food delivery. He made tea for himself and Michael while they waited for the food to arrive.

"How is she really, Michael?"

"I think you need to see her for yourself tomorrow, Terry. You can make up your own mind then."

Terry stood silently for a minute, took a deep breath and nodded. Just then the security phone rang.  It was the Chinese meal he'd ordered. They were all soon enjoying their food around the kitchen table.

Michael refused a bed for the night, saying he had already arranged a room in a nearby hotel. Arranging to join them for breakfast the following day he said his goodnight's and left the Thorne's alone.

 

"What a beautiful house," Jean said, looking out of the rear passenger window as Michael pulled up outside the country estate belonging to Terry's ex mother-in-law.

"Yes, Abigail loves it here," Michael replied.

"What about the general?" Terry asked.

"No comment," Michael laughed in reply.

Terry grinned before speaking, "Is he here?"

"No, you're safe. He's up in London."

"Lucky, lucky, lucky," Henry muttered.

The front door opened and Penny rushed out. Terry just about managed to get out of the car before he was engulfed in her embrace.

"Hi, Pen. How ya going, Luv?"

"Oh, Terry. Thank goodness you're here."

"Terry? Things must be bad," Terry said, stroking her hair.

She let him go and stepped away from him, an embarrassed smile on her face. She turned and hugged Henry, then kissed Jean in welcome.

"Where is she, Pen?"

"Let's get you settled in and then I'll take you to her."

Michael showed them to their rooms and waited for them to dump their cases before taking them back down to the ground floor.

"It's a big place but once you've had a wander round you'll be able to find everything. I expect Penny's in the 'drawing room'."

Penny stood up as they entered the room and walked towards them. "Are the rooms all right? There are plenty to chose from so we can swap you around if you want."

"The rooms are fine, Pen, no worries. Where's your mum?"

"I think she's in the conservatory, Terry. I'll take you."

"Would you mind if I go see her on my own for a bit?"

Penny frowned for a second and then smiled as she took Terry to the entrance of the grand conservatory. He walked in and looked around, smiling at the orange and lemon trees that were all in full fruit. He eventually saw Pen's mother tending to a nectarine, trained to a fan along the back wall. He cleared his throat.

"G'Day, Abs."

Abigail Wetherby stopped what she was doing and turned towards the voice. Her face lit up with a radiant smile and she rushed towards Terry. They hugged and kissed each other and she pushed him back to arm's length to look up into his face.

"Terry Thorne, you are still the most handsome man I know."

"Strewth, Abs. Is that any way for a lady to speak to her ex son-in-law?"

"Only if it's the truth, darling. This is a lovely surprise. Penny told me Henry was coming up to visit but she didn't say he was dragging his old dad along for the ride. Now, tell me how you're doing. I see you've thrown your crutches away."

Terry led her to some rattan furniture and waited until she sat down to join her.

"I'm dong good, Abs. The walking cast is due for the chop any time now. I've been swimming a lot but the other therapy is a bitch."

"Tell me you're here long enough to make use of our pool, darling. You must keep up with the programme to get your foot back up to scratch. I'm so glad you and Henry weren't hurt more than you were. I don't think Penny would have been able to cope if anything happened to you two."

Terry smiled, looking hard at Abigail. She looked the picture of health but he knew looks could be deceiving.

"Abs, we're here for as long as you need us to be. Pen called me in a state. She told me...Abs, she told me that you're dying."

"Oh, Terry...you know what a drama queen she is. Yes, I have cancer. She switched off as soon as she heard the 'C' word and didn't listen to the prognosis. I'm having treatment and the doctors are totally confident that I'm going to be fine. I feel awful that she's dragged you half way around the world for no reason."

"Hey, I'd go to the moon and back to see you, Abs. You're my favourite mother-in-law."

Abigail smiled and reached over to kiss Terry's cheek. "Now, I take it my grandson is close by."

"Yep, he's waiting for me to have a private moment with you. I've also brought someone else along."

"Oh, do tell...I hope it's a woman."

Terry laughed, "Has Henry spoken to you about Jean?"

"Jean...let me think. Isn't she your personal assistant?"

"She's more than that, Abs. For some unknown reason she's agreed to be my wife."

"Sensible girl," Abigail smiled. "So bring them out of hiding so that I can met her and say hello to Henry."

**************** (new added from here on down)

"I like Penny's mum, darling," Jean said as she snuggled up with Terry in the large, comfortable bed.

"Yeah, she's one of a kind, Luv. She has to be to have put up with his nibs for all these years."

"Maybe she loves him, Terry,"

"Or she could be playing the dutiful officer's wife."

"You're such a cynic, Thorne," Jean laughed, throwing a playful punch at Terry's arm.

 

Henry was watching his dad doing laps up and down the pool, timing him as usual. Although Terry had told him he'd never had a strong leg kick, he could see how the exercise was helping the damaged ankle and foot a great deal.
He turned on hearing a soft footfall behind him, smiling when he saw his grandmother. He kissed her on the cheek and turned back to the pool.

"Good morning, darling. How's Flipper doing this morning?"

Henry laughed, "Morning, Gran. Uncle Dean calls Dad Flipper as well. He's doing okay. I'm thinking of calling him to stop soon though.  He's been in there a long time already."

Terry turned at the deep end and made his way back down the pool. As he took a breath he noticed someone standing next to Henry. As he reached the end of the pool he stood and shook the water from his hair and rubbed his eyes.

"Good morning, water baby," Abigail called.

"G'Day, Abs. How are you this morning?"

"Never better, Terry. I slept like a hibernating bear. Now, come on out of there before you turn into a prune."

Henry threw him a hand towel to dry his hair and face then stood by the steps with a larger towel. As he slowly climbed out of the water, Abigail saw for the first time all the myriad scars he had collected over the years and frowned. The poor man had suffered a lot of pain in his life. As he turned towards her, though, her face lit up with a smile.

"Get yourself dried off and dressed, darling. I need to get to the kitchen to make sure your darling Jean doesn't feel the need to help with the breakfast."

"You'd better run then, Abs. She hates being waited on and will have her sleeves rolled up helping with brekkie before you know it."

Henry helped him over to where he'd left his clothes and walking cast and a few minutes later they were entering the large kitchen to join the other around the beautiful oak table for a full cooked breakfast.


Their meal over, Penny turned to Terry. "I thought Michael and I could take you on a tour of the estate and surrounding countryside. It's beautiful here."

"Would you mind if I stayed here, Pen? I think I overdid it in the pool this morning. I'm sure Jeannie and Henry would love the grand tour, though. I can stay here and veg out with your mum."

"That's a wonderful idea," Abigail agreed. "Do you mind me stealing your intended, Jean?"

"He's all yours, Abigail. Henry and I will enjoy the tour and tell him what he's missed when we all get back."

Terry and Abigail had a wonderful time together, catching up on how their lives had been and catching up on old times. She gave him a mini version of the 'grand tour' around the estate, worrying that he would tire himself out walking too far. When they got back, she excused herself for a quick nap and told Terry to get back in the pool as she'd noticed his limp getting worse.
 

Terry was happy in the water.  He could swim laps on auto-pilot and just relax. He made the turn at the shallow end and noticed movement in his peripheral vision. Swimming down to the deep end, he turned once again and headed back to the shallow end. He touched the wall and stood up, wiping the water from his eyes. Turning round, he found himself face to face with his ex father-in-law, Brigadier General Neville Wetherby. Both men just stood looking at each other. Terry was determined he wasn't going to be the one to break the silence. The general shuffled his feet and cleared his throat, remembering that the last time the two had met, Terry and his team had just rescued him from his kidnapping hell.

"Major."

"General."

"I heard about the accident.  I…I'm glad that you are all right."

"That's big of you, General."

"Damn it, Thorne. I'm trying here. Would you like a hand getting out of the pool?"
 

Terry thought he would just hop up the steps on his own but something in the general's face told him that the older man really did want to help.

"Cheers, General. I won't say no."

Wetherby held out his hand and, after a slight pause, Terry took it and allowed the general to help him. Wetherby looked at Terry's torso, noting all the scars, knowing some of them came from after his kidnapping. He helped Terry across to the seating and handed him a towel.

As Terry dried off and got into his t-shirt and sweats, the general tried to work out what to say to the younger man.

"Thorne…"

"How about trying Terry, just this once."

"Um…very well…Terry, I can't thank you enough for dropping everything to fly up here."

Terry tapped the walking cast he had just strapped on and looked at Wetherby. "I wasn't actually doing too much, General."

"Still, it's a long trip for you to make on a phone call."

"Pen and Abs needed us. Nothing was going to stop us making the trip."

"Penny just went to pieces when Gail and I told her. Nothing we could say would calm her down. Before we knew it she said she was calling you. We thought she was going to ask you to send Henry up to be with his Gran."

"Mate, she was in a right state. All I managed to get out of her was that Abs was dying. I arranged the flight right away."

"You were lucky to get seats at short notice."

Terry grinned, "One of the perks of being a successful businessman…I used the company jet. So, we're here for as long as you need us to be."

"Has Gail told you much?"

"She said that the prognosis is excellent and that Pen heard cancer and could only see the grim reaper."

"Yes, we've caught it at a very early stage and all the doctors are smiling, which I'm told is a very good sign. Gail told me that Penny calmed down once you arrived and talked to her. After all these years, she still listens to you…Terry. If you tell her something, she knows it's the truth. She believed you over the specialist at the hospital. She was convinced they were telling her that her mother would be fine just to calm her down."

Both men stood and walked out of the pool house, across the courtyard and on to the terrace, sitting down on two steamer chairs. Terry grinned, telling the general that he may need some help to get up later. The general reached across to a low table and handed Terry a tall glass of cold, freshly squeezed orange juice and they drank in a comfortable silence. Terry was pleasantly surprised at Wetherby's relaxed demeanour and was saddened that he couldn't have been more like it when he and Pen were still married. He wasn't going to bring up the past, though.

"Terry, I want to thank you again for getting me out."

"No worries, General. It's what I do."

"But you were hurt, badly."

"They would have found a way to get to Dino in any event, so the outcome may well have been the same. You were a handy way of getting me involved and if I were involved, Dino would be as well. They had thought it out…almost. They didn't have a plan B and went to pieces when we extracted you. It's over and done with now and everyone is okay, apart from the kidnappers."

"I never heard how it ended. Could you tell me?"

After they ambushed us on the road, they took off when they heard the sirens. I'd called the emergency services before going to the man we thought was hurt. Turns out they headed towards a police traffic stop, thought they'd been made, crashed the car trying to get away. No survivors."

Both men turned when they head footsteps. Abigail came out onto the terrace to join them.

"Ah, my two favourite men together and talking quite civilly for a change." She winked at Terry while her husband blustered. "It makes me happy to see that you two have called a truce and being happy is good for me, so keep it up."
 

They looked at each other and the general grinned sheepishly at his former son-in-law.

"We should have talked years ago. I'm sorry, Terry. I blame that stick Gail says is firmly up my arse."

Terry almost choked on his juice and Abigail roared with the most unladylike laughter. That's how the gang found them when they got back from their day out. Penny was amazed and didn't know what to say but Michael, Henry and Jean just looked at each other and joined in the laughter.

 

"I think it's about time, Luv. We've done all we can here, Pen has calmed down and actually listened to the doctors. Abs is doing well on the treatment and the old man…the old man has turned into an okay human being…our job is done."
 

Jean smiled and hugged her man then turned around in the room, making sure they had packed everything.

"We'll stay at the flat in London for a couple of days, so don't worry.  If we've left anything Pen can get it up to us before we fly home."

"I've loved our time here, Terry. I just wish it hadn't been so much worry on the trip up. I hope that we get to visit again."

"I'm sure we will, Jeannie."

Michael helped take the bags down to the front door and watched Terry pick up his walking cast.

"Can you dump this for me, Michael? I've had it with this bloody thing."

"It will be my pleasure, Terry. It's good to see you walking tall again."

"Yeah, this trip seems to have been good for everyone."

They were soon on their way back to London, looking forward to the trip home to continue on with their busy lives down under.

 

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