TITLE: The only one

AUTHOR: faith_in_Faith

E-MAIL: faith_in_Faith@hotmail.com

DISCLAIMER: Don't own, just play.

RATING: PG

SPOILERS: Up to and including season four.

AUTHORS NOTE: I know Fred didn't die in his heart attack, but in this one he did because it worked better that way : ) THANKS again to wine_into_water for the support and help and THANKS Jenny for correcting this for me! This is NOT a happy story, just so you know... PLEASE R&R

THE ONLY ONE

I wake up by some sounds from the kitchen. I can hear him talk to Charlie with that soft, comforting voice he always uses nowadays. It's kind of weird to hear it because I can't remember him using it before mom died - not even once. Back then his voice was either annoyed, impatient or just a bit rough - just like him, that's all changed now. He's not acting like he used to, but I guess none of us are.

I don't know if I even like him. I used to hate him. Dad always said that he was a jerk. A good for nothing son of a bitch, who always interfered in our life - even destroyed it. I used to think so too. Now I'm not so sure anymore - after all he was the only one who showed any interest in taking care of us when mom died. The social services didn't want him to take us, actually, they still don't. I know he's putting up a hell of a fight to keep us. I'm not sure I want him to win. I mean, he's probably better than a foster home - but then again - I'm not sure if I even like him... Charlie adores him though. I guess that's a good thing.

"Emily!"

I hear him call my name but I don't answer. I don't want him to know that I'm awake. I don't want to get up today. I've dreaded this day for a week now, ever since he told me.

"Emily!"

He calls my name again. I still don't answer. I hear his footsteps coming closer to my room, and I close my eyes hard, hoping to fool him, to make him think I'm still asleep. Then maybe he will go away and this day will never happen.

He stops in the doorway for a second, watching me, I guess. Then he walks up to my bed and sits down on the edge.

"Em," he says softly, carefully shaking my shoulder.

"Come on, Em, open your eyes. I know you're awake." . There's a very small hint of annoyance in his voice. It's very small, but still it's there.

"Please, Em." His voice is back to soft and comforting again.

I open my eyes and look at him. He really looks like crap. He's done that all the time since mom died. I guess he really misses her a lot. His face is pale, and there are big black circles around his eyes. I wonder if he has slept anything at all. I doubt it, because I know he hardly sleeps at all since the night she got shot. I wonder if he blames himself, I think he does - after all - he wasn't even there to protect her. He was working with that anticrime thing. I know mom didn't like that he did that. I guess he knows that too. So yeah, he probably blames himself.

"Hi," he says, giving me a weary smile.

It doesn't reach his eyes. It never does anymore. They're bloodshot, and I wonder if he cries over her. If he does, he never shows it to anyone. I didn't even see him cry at the funeral.

"Hi," I whisper back.

"It's time to get up."

"I don't want to get up. I don't want to go to school today," I answer quietly, and feel tears forming in my eyes.

A look of confusion crosses his face. It isn't easy for him to take care of us, I realise that. He doesn't know a thing about children, but he really tries as hard as he can. I'll have to admit that much. I wonder why, after all he would be better off without us, and still he was the only one who wanted to have us...

"Why?" he asks, confusion still on his face. Then something hits him and he says in a very worried voice, "Don't you feel well?"

I consider for a moment to say that I don't, because then I have to stay at home, and then he has to stay with me, because he wouldn't want to leave me alone. I don't though. I don't want to lie to him. It wouldn't be fair. He would just worry about whether there is something seriously wrong with me, and he doesn't deserve that. I don't dislike him that much. I decide to tell him the truth. "I'm OK, but I'm scared."

Again confusion crosses his face. "About what?" he asks gently.

"Because you're going back to work today. I don't want you to." I can hear that I sound like a little spoiled child - not like I'm fourteen.

He sighs heavily, and says in an apologizing voice, "I'm sorry Em. I really am, but I can't afford to stay at home any longer."

He tries to smile, but he fails. "My mother isn't such a bad person I promise, and I'll do my best to get home as early as I can, OK?"

"What if you don't come home?" I whisper, "What if someone shoots you?" and with that I start to cry.

"Oh, Em!" he says gently, and looks fondly at me. "It won't happen, I promise."

"You can't promise that!" I answer between sobs.

"Yes I can," he replies as he puts his hand on my arm.

He doesn't try to hug me. I think he thinks that I won't let him if he tries. He knows that I hated him before all this happened, and he probably thinks I still do, and why wouldn't he think that? After all - I don't even know myself.

"How? How can you promise that? Mom got killed. How can you be so sure it won't happen to you?" I cry so hard now that I can hardly talk.

He hesitates for a moment, and then he pulls me to his chest. When he feels that I'm not pulling away, he holds me tighter as he whispers in my ear with his soft, comforting voice, "Because I'll be at desk duty."

I pull away from him and stare at him in confusion. "Why?" is all I manage to get out.

"Because that's the only way for me to make sure I'll always be there for you guys, and the only way for me to have a chance to keep you." He smiles his weary smile, and I smile back for the first time since mom died.

"But you always told mom that you hated paperwork." I look at him, trying to read his face, but he looks down at his hands.

"Well, things change," he answers sadly.

I reach out and touch his hand "Thanks," I say.

He looks at me, and squeezes my hand. "I'll try my best to take care of you two, I promise," he replies firmly, and looks at me seriously.

I just nod, and we sit in silence for a while, then he says, "I'll try for a sergeant's degree later on."

"I can help you study, if you want to," I offer quietly.

We look at each other, then he smiles, and this time it reaches his eyes. It makes me feel happy. I think mom would have been proud of me now.

"I'd like that, thanks. Now come on, we're gonna be late." He pushes himself off the bed and leaves the room.

I know now that Dad was wrong. He's a great guy. I guess mom knew that all the time, and that's the reason why she put up with him all those years. I'm sure now; I like him - after all - he was the only one who wanted to have us...