Title: A Day Like Today
Author: Michele Cross
Summary: Freya drops to check on Brendan after a bad day.
A Day like Today.
He shuffled up the stairs that led to his apartment. Some days he wished there was someone waiting to welcome him home. To rush to the door and welcome him when he crawled home on a day like today.
If wishes were horses then beggars would ride. The comment popped to the front of his mind. He had heard that once as a child and, as with all things, filed it away should he need it one day.
He closed the door behind him and flicked on the lights. Shrugging painfully out of his coat, he crossed the hallway to hang it on the door. He needed a bath -- a boiling hot, lobster-making bath -- but he knew that if he climbed into his tub he would never be able to get out. He did not think Freya, Harper, or his landlord would be pleased to find his water-shrivelled body come the morning. It would have to be a shower.
He made his way slowly, painfully over to the bathroom and to the shower. At least this one was a walk-in one and not climb-in as his previous one had been. He just did not think that he could cope with that at the moment. His back could not cope with that, to be more honest.
It took what felt to be an eternity to get his sweatshirt removed. The pulled muscles in his back protested his every move. When he had finally finished he was sweating with pain and panting. He could see the snow swirling down in the darkness outside the window.
When he could think clearly, again, he opened his eyes and sat on the toilet seat. This was going to be the killer. This was going to hurt worse than even his back.
He had to get his jeans off -- jeans that were ruined completely, jeans that were the nurses' delight at the hospital, much to Freya's amusement. He did not want to think what she was laughing at.
As the jeans came free, they took the tops of the cuts and lacerations with them. He hissed in pain and threw them to the floor, letting them lie where they fell.
Slowly, as if he was an old man and not a mid-thirty something, he stood and shuffled to the shower stall and entered.
He could only sigh in relief as the scalding water hit aching muscles. How could the day have gone so wrong? It had started out perfectly. Started out with such promise. When was it he really had the chance to go to work in jeans? Today had been that day. No suit, no tie, just jeans and sweat shirt, and all because they were undercover, trying to look inconspicuous. Freya looked good in jeans, but then Freya looked good in everything.
What he had not expected was Terri Merryweather's eyes to light up at then sight of him. She had fairly drooled at him, which was incredibly embarrassing.
The weather had turned from being cold to snowing while they waited for the contact to arrive. It had not helped that he had been late and panicking, thinking he was being followed, which of course he was.
The meeting had taken place, all had been filmed, and going well when it went to hell in a hand-basket. What had set the other man off they would never know and certainly now could never ask, seeing as he had blown himself and the other man to smithereens.
Freya and Brendan had been close enough to catch the blast. Brendan could see what was happening before it had even started and he had thrown himself over Freya to keep her from harm. His own back, legs and sides had taken the brunt of the shock blast. Freya had been shocked but unharmed -- not shocked enough not to rip into him for his stunt... until she had realised that he had been hurt and then she was then calling for help. Ignoring the fact that he had said he was alright, she had called in that there was a man down. He had to ruefully admit he was doing far too good a job of training her!
By the time he could speak, he had been surrounded by the others. Harper was talking urgently to Kunzel and Patel to find out what had gone wrong. Once finished with them, he had told Brendan gently to get himself checked out and they would talk later.
That had been slotted in for Monday. Now he had the weekend to get through -- a weekend of pain and worry, as he expected to fully take the blame for what had happened and either be sacked outright or be sent back to the FBI. Why he somehow managed to constantly to mess up he did not know, but he did. Maybe he should resign and just have done with it. That would put everyone out of there misery.
God he hurt. Hurt more than he would have thought possible. The doctor had given him some pain meds to bring home but had warned him that he had to eat before he took them. That was a pain in more sense than one, as he really did not think he could go about getting food cooked, not even a sandwich. Perhaps when he had dried and rested, he would feel more like it.
The water going cold brought him out of his thoughts and he turned it off and thanked providence he had placed the towels on the towel rail to heat. They were warm and welcome.
By the time he was dry all he had the strength to do was shuffle to the bed and crawl under the warm covers. He was asleep in seconds.
Freya stepped out of the warmth of her car. She had been driving home from the office but had decided that she had needed to be sure that Brendan really was alright. She had been furious when he had landed on her, furious that he had so little self preservation and had been in the middle of telling him that when she realised that he was too still, too quiet... Brendan Dean should be up and demanding to know what it was that had gone wrong and wanting answers and not lying still over her as he was. It was then that she had realised that she was lying in a puddle of something warm and wet, something that seemed to be growing.
"Brendan?" When she had gotten no answer, she had panicked. She could not even 'hear' him and that was what alarmed her even more.
Harper had thankfully arrived and taken over then, calling the paramedics and talking with the others to find out what had happened. Then he had joined them. The Paramedics already had Brendan in the back of the ambulance, out of the cold, and he was sort of answering their questions with the dazed air of someone who had no real idea where he was.
She had heard and felt the uncertainty and fear that filled him when Harper had told him he would speak to him on Monday about the day's happenings. One day she would find the person who had put the conviction into Brendan Dean that he was a worthless screw up who could do no right, and the day she did they would regret it for the rest of their lives.
The only one who thought that he was a screw up was Brendan Dean himself. She had come quickly to realise that he was in fact incredibly vital to this branch of the NSA. It simply would not be the same without him. They had to make Brendan see that, and one day they would.
She had been surprised that the hospital had released him to go home alone. That was why she had decided that she needed to see him, to see with her own two eyes that he was alright.
The light was on in the hallway and she knocked gently. When there was no answer, she pulled out the key that he had given her so that she could get in if the need ever arose. (He, after all, had hers.) The apartment was in silence, the living area, den and kitchen in darkness. She followed the corridor around to where it led to the bathroom and bedroom.
The bedroom was in darkness and a light shone from the bathroom. Sitting alone and forlorn on the tiled floor were the jeans that Brendan had decided to wear to work that morning. They were ruined and it said a lot for how Brendan must have been feeling that they were left where he had dropped them.
Brendan was normally meticulous in his habit; he hated mess. With him, everything had a place and each place was kept neat. His kitchen was one of the best stocked that she had ever seen; his bathroom, almost sterile.
So to see the jeans as she did spoke volumes to her. She reached out with her mind to sense him. If he were in the bathroom, the last thing she wanted was to embarrass him. All she got in return was comfort and warmth. She smiled. The thoughts were coming from the bedroom.
She entered, bending to pick up the jeans. They really were quite ruined, which was such a shame as he had looked incredible in them, and with the black sweatshirt... Well she wasn't the only one to think that. Perhaps she could sneak them out and replace them for him...
There was fresh blood drying on the floor, she realised with a flash of fear. A towel lay forgotten on the toilet seat. She checked the shower in case, even though she knew it was empty. She placed the dirty, bloodstained towel in the laundry basket. Turning out the light she made for the bedroom. She just needed to see him, just needed to see that he was alright...
She quietly opened the door and entered. The light from the hallway was enough for her to see in with. Not that there was that much to see, just a Brendan sized lump under the duvet. As she watched with a fond smile, he turned his head and nuzzled into the pillow. His normally wild hair was even more so than usual and stuck out at all angles in stark relief against the white of his pillows.
She moved in to sit beside him on the bed. She had never known anyone like him before, so good at what he did and so sure while he was doing it, only to doubt himself so much -- a workaholic in the true sense of the word. Never had she met another that could work for so long and so concentrated without a thought for him self. All he cared about was making sure everyone else was safe.
She should know that about him now. Should realise this if push came to shove he would take the hit for any of them, willingly as well. She could not loose him now, could not bear to think that a day may come that he would not be beside her pushing her to improve herself while doubting himself totally.
"I would miss you if you let that happen." She kept her voice soft so that it would not wake him. "I would hurt so much if you were not here to speak with me, to keep me from being hurt, to watch me when others are, but not as attentively. What would I be without you, Brendan Dean? What would I do? Without you by my side, I am just some telepath to use. With you, I am Freya. Freya who needs to be teased. Freya who needs to be told she is worth pushing out of the way of danger. But if you ever, ever do that again we are having words, Mr. Dean." She was smiling at the end of it.
"'kay, if ya say so." The voice was muffled by the pillow and made her jump.
"Brendan? Are you awake?" She had thought he was asleep after all.
Brendan Dean tried to turn over so that he could face her and froze when the pain hit him big time.
She felt it before he did, unfortunately. "Brendan?" She reached for him to help him, worry filling her.
"Be ok. Give second." His eyes were closed.
"Ok. What can I get you? Some water? Pain meds?" She could see the bottle sitting on his bedside cabinet.
"Can't, have'ta eat." He sounded breathless now as well. He managed to move slowly onto his side, the covers falling away to show his battered chest and side.
"You haven't eaten?" She frowned at him.
"Too tired to cook," he admitted tiredly.
"I'll sort you something out. They should have made sure someone was with you." She was not happy. She would certainly be speaking to Director Jon Harper about the care Brendan had received at the hospital. To send him home alone and in pain without someone to care for him was to her eyes negligent to say the least.
"I was ok, just a little sore then." Brendan had finally managed to make it onto his back and he saw the wince that she gave at the bruises and lacerations that littered his body. He carefully kept to himself the observation that she really was, or should be, glad to not have to see his back. It was the last thing that she needed to know.
"And now?" She arched her eye at him.
He flushed, the heat on his face giving him back a little colour. "Painful"
"I know. What would you like to eat and I'll make it for you," she promised him. He would be taking the analgesia though.
"Just some soup, something warm." He tried to sit up, wincing, and she paused in the doorway.
"Where are you going?" She could not believe that she would be stubborn enough to try to get out of bed, not in the amount of pain it was obvious that he was in.
"To help you." It was obvious to him.
"I don't think so, Brendan." She crossed her arms, amused at him now.
"Why? I need to move." He was more than aware that he was stiff and staying in bed would only make that worse. Besides, there was work that he needed to do before seeing Harper on Monday…
"Ok, don't say that I didn't try to warn you." Her laughter made him pause as he tried to move.
"Warn me about what?" He paused uncertainly, realising that there had to be something wrong.
"The fact that if you move another inch you will be completely naked…" Her laughter floated through the door as he grabbed the covers and pulled them up to cover himself totally.
By the time she returned with piping hot chicken soup and toast he had managed to change into loose pants and a sweat shirt that looked to be a least two sizes too big on his thin frame. He did not look happy and she paused.
"Brendan?" She watched him worriedly.
"That was not nice thing to do." He looked at her with hazel puppy dog eyes, and she had to wonder how he did that.
"No, I'm sorry, it wasn't. But do you really think you would have been happy if I had let you get up?" She watched him closely. He looked pale and pain lines creased his face once more.
"Not happy," he sighed. Just the small movements he had made had brought home just how much pain he was in. He was just glad that Freya was alright and uninjured.
Freya winced at how much pain he was in. "You need to eat and take those pain meds."
"I know." He let her arrange the tray and hand him the spoon.
"What did the doctor say?" She could only smile at the smile he gave at the welcome warmth the food gave him.
"Hum?" He looked up and blinked at her, the old familiar look as memory swam to the surface. "Bruises, contusions. Couple of pulled muscles…" Cracked ribs, bump to the head… did he say MILD concussion?
Freya hid her face and smile with the thoughts that floated to his mind. "Not much then?"
"Funny, Freya, very funny." He wagged the spoon at her. "He said I would be sore." He shrugged that off. He had been hurt far worse than this in the past and without a doubt would be again in the future. It was the nature of the beast, the way that the land laid in this universe. You worked for police/home security/specialist agency and you ran the risk of being the one in the firing line. You either learnt to deal with it or you left before the self-doubt sorted the problem out for you.
"There is pain and there is pain, Brendan. Stop being brave. I know it hurts, it has to; you took the force of the blast. It would be a miracle that it did not hurt." Freya was frowning at him.
"I wasn't thinking at the time," was the sheepish reply.
She could feel the truth in that. All he had cared about at the time was keeping Freya McAllister from being hurt. He had acted on pure instinct. Nothing more and nothing less.
"Well try harder to think next time! I don't think that my heart can take much more of this if you don't." The fear was lying just below the surface of her calm exterior. When he had been so still she had really thought the worst. For a few interminably long moments she had thought he had been killed by the force of the blast.
"I'm sorry." It was soft and hesitant. "I didn't mean to…" He waved the spoon in a circle.
"Brendan?" She could see that he felt awkward and unsure. It was coming off him in waves. "What's wrong?"
He would not meet her eyes, unsure of what to say.
"Show me?" It was said with such caring that he did look up at that.
"It's ok. I just need to think about how to tell you." There was that uncertain, shy but utterly gorgeous half smile that she loved so much to see and which made her heart thump wildly.
"Ok, I can wait. It's not as if I am going anywhere or have anything planned, just home and getting some supper, maybe a few TV shows to relax with before bed." Freya told him easily.
"Oh, good." How to put that he felt awkward because he had not had anyone to care for him in such a long time that he no longer knew how to react when someone did do that for him? It just felt odd.
"Brendan, with you everything is odd," she teased him gently. "I do understand, though, what you are trying to say and I am sorry that there is nothing I can do to help you over this feeling. All I can and will do is make sure that you do get to the point where you are comfortable with it. That's what friends do for the other."
"Thank you." He blinked at that. It was handy, after all to have a partner who could read your mind -- unsettling at times, yes but very handy.
"You know that you are welcome, Brendan, you would do it for me." It was the simple truth and she watched as he finished the soup and toast. "Feeling better?"
"Not hungry anymore," he admitted.
"Good so you can take two of these and try to get some sleep. Do you want me to stay?" She loathed the thought that he would be on his own feeling this bad.
Brendan took the tablets and washed them down with the water that she had brought for just that purpose.
"Thanks again, I'll be fine. A good nights sleep and I'll be good." He smiled at her.
"Do you want me to go now?" If he wanted her to stay, she would for however long it took.
"Stay a while. I want to ask you something." Brendan was watching her seriously.
"If it's work related that would be, no, I will not answer you." She knew all too well what he was like about his work, committed did not even begin to cover it.
"I just wanted to know why he had the bomb already primed. He must have known, must have realised what was happening." Brendan had that far away look in his eyes that told her he was reviewing all the points of the case. He really did have the most amazing mind for that.
"I knew he was incredibly nervous. It did not seem to me that he expected to have to use the bomb. He just wanted to come prepared in the off chance." Freya could not be totally certain of that though.
"So why a bomb? I would have expected a gun or knife and I would never have thought he had the courage to blow himself to pieces." Brendan was reviewing the last taped meeting between their mole and the human trafficker.
"I know that is the puzzling part. It was as if he was not planning it at all and the bomb just happened. It is unusual," Freya admitted.
"The last time Pettigrew spoke with Lansing he said that he was worried about being followed, about getting caught. He said that he could not go back to prison, to that little cell. I should have realised then, but Pettigrew laughed it off and Lansing seemed to agree with it." Brendan felt so frustrated. How could he have missed such a big obvious clue? It was large enough to hit him on the nose and yet he had missed it big time.
"How could you have known it was more than a joke? I didn't, and I have been right with you every step of the way." Freya was frowning at him once again. It could be just as frustrating for her when he blamed himself like this.
"You were not in charge of the case. A good agent and leader picks up on these things." He would not be placated. Perhaps he would go to Harper on Monday with his resignation typed and ready to hand over. It would stop them from having to do the dirty work of sacking him. He could, after all, walk out with his head held high rather than in shame…
"If you do that I will never forgive you, nor will I speak with you again. Ever." Freya was deadly serious about this. She would not let Brendan Dean do this not when she knew that there was nothing that he could do about another's selfish self-sacrifice.
His lips twitched at that, as he vied for laughing and hurting or holding it in and laughing. In the end he decided on a mixture of both.
"If I am leaving of course you won't see or speak to me," Brendan pointed out gently.
"You know perfectly well what I was trying to say!" She pouted at him and then became serious. "You wouldn't leave because if you did I would have to hurt you, you know that, right?"
"Why would you have to hurt me?" The analgesics were beginning to do their job and he relaxed back against the headboard.
"Because you would have hurt me. He isn't worth it, Brendan. No one could have foreseen what was going to happen. I'm the mind reader not you. Even Harper said that he had no idea he was going to set a bomb off. It really was just unlucky that it did happen." Freya really was worried about him. He took things so much to heart, put so much onto shoulders that were innocent and yet were being worn down by guilt. One day the dam would break and it would all come spilling out. She just hoped that she was wrong about that one.
"I know, deep inside I know. It's just that Pettigrew has a young family…" Brendan shrugged closing his eyes. He was glad that he was not going to have to be the one to tell his wife that her husband had been killed. He hated that part of his career.
"He should have thought about that when he became involved in all this." She would not have sympathy for a man who lived under a threat of his own making. He was an adult and he should have known better than to get involved with the slave trade.
"His wife gave birth to their first child last week. He was trying to get enough money to buy her a crib." Brendan's voice was soft and she almost missed what he had said.
"Oh, sorry, I didn't know." She felt badly now. She had not known that and she did not know how Brendan did either, although she should have realised that he would have. He was after all the case leader. It also said more about the man before her now, even as his eyes were drooping wearily against his cheeks. Brendan would have made it his point to know these things.
"I never said anything, so why should you?" He had thought nothing very much about it, to be honest, just filed the information away as he normally did.
"True, I guess. He must have said something, maybe moved in such away as for it to be thought of as threatening." Freya was trying to think herself now.
When there was no answer she looked up to find Brendan slipping to his right side drunkenly. Something she had never seen, either. He never really drank and certainly not in vast quantities.
"Let's get you comfortable and I will leave you to sleep." She did as she said and helped him to lie down. His sigh of relief was palpable. "Sleep well, Brendan it will all work out. I promise you. No one blames you." She soothed.
I do. I blame me. Should'a known. Should have realised. He was almost asleep, but still the self-castigation continued.
"Shush, sleep. Worry is for later." Freya told him.
I know. Night. Then there was nothing as he succumbed to the sweet oblivion that had beckoned.
Freya watched silently for a while. The she stood and carried the dirty dishes to the kitchen. It was the work of minutes to clear the detritus from her cooking. The one thing she could not do well was cook.
Once she had finished and had put the dishes away, she went to peak at him once more. He was sleeping comfortably.
"Good night, Brendan, sleep well. I will be back tomorrow and we can talk properly about this. We can't loose you. I won't let you do this. So sleep, feel better, and I will see you later."
As she closed the bedroom door she made for the entrance. She had a man to go and see. Someone who should know what Brendan was thinking. She knew he did not blame her partner, but he needed to be aware of the small problem.
She closed the door behind her with a small smile as she caught sleepy thoughts and then vanished silently into the falling snow. Sleep sounded good. It had after all been a busy emotional day.
She was smiling slightly as she made for her car. It was not often that she was the one to worry, but Brendan brought that out in her. Yet she would not change him for the world, other than to give him more confidence in himself.
Yes, after a day like today had been, life felt good. It could so easily have had a different outcome. They had tomorrow once again and, for the present, that was all that she needed.