Title – A Shoulder To Cry On
Rating – PG-13
Summary – After confronting the murderer of her father, Fran is in need of some support.
A/N – Spoilers for "The Gambling Game", Season 5. (For Julieo as thanks -x- ).
A Shoulder To Cry On
Fran Belding was sitting at the back of the Chief's van, her eyes cast down to the floor. She didn't react when Ed Brown appeared at the door, she didn't even look up to acknowledge his presence.
After a few moments hesitation, Ed climbing in as well, taking a seat opposite her. Leaning forward, he held his hands together, trying to appear less anxious than he was. But as he sat, Fran moved back slightly and didn't look at him.
Ed had no illusions that this would be a straightforward conversation; it never seemed to be straightforward when it came to death. But he felt he had to try and iron out the bad feeling between them, preferably before the Chief asked her to join the team.
And the Chief would ask. Ed would have bet his last dollar on it. The Chief missed Eve, he missed female companionship and had taken a great liking to Fran, even though it was tough to tell sometimes.
They sat in silence for a minute, Fran seemingly unaffected by Ed's presence.
'I've come to make peace,' he said at last.
Her gaze flicked up. He could sense the hostility she felt for him bubbling under the surface. Their "evening out" undercover at the casino had been one of the least pleasant evenings out he'd had in a long time.
'I don't think now is a very good time,' said Fran.
'I understand,' he replied. 'I just want to show you some support. If you needed it, if you wanted it.'
Her eyes narrowed.
'So what happened to "if you ever need help, don't call me!"?' asked Fran.
'Maybe this is more important than my bruised ego,' he said lightly.
Fran gave a little snort and looked away.
'I just wanted to let you know that I understand.'
Ed realised he'd said something wrong the moment the words left his mouth. But more than that, she was looking for something, or someone to take her anger out on.
She glared at him, some of the fire and anger she'd shown earlier returning.
'And just what would you know about it?' she asked, lifting her head up high. 'How would you know what it feels like for someone you love to be murdered! It's not the same as dying in your sleep, or an accident. It's…'
'It's so much harder,' he murmured.
'Oh, and how would you know?' she asked. 'When love lasts until the next girl comes along!'
'Is it so hard to believe that I've been in love?' he replied, sounding a touch more irritable than he intended.
'Don't think I haven't heard of your reputation!' said Fran. 'It's one of the first courses you get in the women's department! Avoid Seduction 101!'
Ed scowled and forced himself to remember why he was here. She was just lashing out at a convenient target, and it wasn't like he didn't know what they all said about him behind his back.
But it stung that Fran thought he'd take advantage of the situation like that. He'd never been anything but clear with any of them: A few evenings out, a little fun. That was all.
'I've never led anyone on,' he said, leaning back and crossing his arms.
She looked at him, the start of a cruel smile on her face.
'That's not what I've heard!'
Ed pursed his lips, stopping himself from answering back. This was not the way he had intended to make peace with Fran! Perhaps this was a bad idea after all. He stared at her, reminding himself that she had lost her father, and that the Chief was going to ask her to join the team. He didn't want to fight with her, especially not about this!
'Never mind,' he said at last.
But Fran leaned forward, her eyes bright.
'No! Don't stop! Amaze me!' she said, her tone heavy with sarcasm. 'When have you ever been in love?'
'Fran this is not a good idea.'
'Come on! Tell me!'
'I had a fiancée,' Ed began, a sinking sensation inside him..
'Poor woman!' said Fran, 'Did she see sense and call it off?'
The next words were out before he could stop them.
For the first time, Fran's face faltered and Ed cursed his lack of control. He hadn't intended to speak of it. He didn't want to talk about it, especially not tonight, and especially not to Francis Belding! This was the last thing she needed to be burdened with tonight.
But she was looking at him with that intensely curious look on her face.
'What happened?' The question had somehow become a demand, and against his better judgement, Ed felt compelled to tell her the truth.
'Anne was murdered.'
Fran reached out to touch his arm, but stopped herself just before. Her hand withdrew slowly, and she looked away.
'I'm sorry,' she murmured. 'I didn't mean…'
'There's no need to be sorry,' he said. 'You didn't know. It's not exactly a secret, but…'
'But it's not something you want people to know about.'
Ed shook his head, avoiding her gaze.
'No. It has nothing to do with anyone else. It's been finished with for a long time. There's nothing left to say about it. I shouldn't have mentioned it. I'm sorry.'
'How?' she asked.
Ed drew a deep breath, pursing his lips. He didn't want to think about it, not now, surrounded by death and mourning. It was in the past and there was nothing he could do about it. Talking about her wasn't going to help.
'Please tell me,' she asked gently. 'Please.'
How was he supposed to say no?
'She was working at the hospital,' he said stiffly. 'There was some trouble and she tried to step in to help another staff member who was being attacked. She was killed instead. That night I…' he'd spoken of it a number of times before, Tom Dayton had been back in the psychiatric ward for well over a year, but he found the details almost impossible to say, but impossible not to say as well. For some reason, he felt Fran deserved to understand. 'I was a Patrolman, we were on duty, and we responded to a call just like it was any other. I was the first officer at the scene.'
She made a soft choking noise, holding her hand over her mouth. The tears that had been there earlier were back, making her eyes shine in the dim light.
'What happened to the killer? Did you find him?'
'The Chief… he found him.'
'I should have known,' she said with a small half-laugh. 'He just doesn't give up.'
Ed nodded as her laugher ended in a slight sob.
'And afterwards he had me on the carpet for hounding witnesses,' Ed told her. 'I almost got a reprimand.'
'You? A reprimand?'
Ed nodded once more, a sheepish look on his face.
'I would have been in deep trouble with my boss if the Chief hadn't helped me out of it.'
Fran nodded, and Ed reached out and gently took her hand. She made no move to stop him.
'I know how you wanted justice,' he said. 'I know how you hated the people who you thought were trying to keep you from getting it. I do understand.'
She nodded, the tears gleaming in her eyes.
Very carefully, Ed leaned across and kissed her full on the lips, not hard, not passionate, but with a warm deliberateness. Then he slid an arm round her waist and pulled her close as she began to cry, releasing the tension that had built up since her father's death, letting all the painful emotion out one and for all, unrestrained.
He held her, not moving his hands, smelling her perfume, the fragrance of her hair and the warmth of another person, feeling her hold him just as tightly as if she was afraid to let go. And he let himself think about Anne, and everything they'd missed out on, how their lives might have been if she'd lived.
Slowly, the shaking and sobbing subsided, and Fran pushed herself away reluctantly.
'I've made your jacket wet,' she said with a final sniff.
They smiled at each other then Fran scrambled in her bag for a handkerchief. Ed waited, a tiny little part of his own sorrow fading away.
'Why… why did you follow me in here?' she asked, drying her eyes. 'Why did you do that? Wouldn't it just have been easier to let it go?'
Ed shook his head slowly.
'We need to make peace, if you're going to work for the Chief,' he said.
'The Chief? Work for the Chief? Me?'
Her innocent surprise made him smile.
'He's going to ask you to stay on and join the team. I didn't want you to think that…' Ed frowned, realising that he was about to sound very self-centred, 'I didn't want you to think you couldn't consider it, because of me.'
Fran's expression changed to one of amused surprise.
'Because of you?'
'The last snake in the Garden of Eden seemed to be preferable to spending time with me,' he reminded her.
'I think you'll be good for the team,' he said. 'I think you'll fit in and I didn't want our earlier… disagreement to spoil the opportunity for you. Working for the Chief is quite a job.'
Her smile made him smile back at her. She squeezed his hand.
'Thank you, Ed,' she said. 'And thank you for being my shoulder to cry on. If I can ever do the same for you.'
'Working for the Chief, you'll never know when I might take you up on that offer,' he said. There was movement outside, the sound of the wheelchair rumbling forward. 'I think it's time to go.'
He gave her hand one last squeeze before Ironside loomed into view.
'Carl's sorting everything out,' he said, glancing between Ed and Fran with a confrontational expression. 'So let's get out of here. If you two have quite finished, we still have work to do!'
Ed glanced at Fran and winked. His bet was a dead cert!
As he stood, he leaned towards her and whispered: