Six Feet Under fan fiction

Genre: gen, characer study, angst
Characters: Ruth, Federico
Rating: G (K)
Word Count: around 800
Notes: Takes place sometime during 2003. Spoilers for Federico's plotline.

"Federico, I need to talk to you." Ruth plants herself in the doorway. She's never stepped across that boundary, not without good reason, and she isn't about to start now. It's a bit late for that, she thinks.

Federico looks from the--corpse--on the table, to her, and back again. Then he strips off this gloves, lets them fall inside-out into the waste bin. "Uh, sure, Mrs. F. Anything you need."

She isn't sure--she isn't sure whether this is proper; in fact, she's fairly sure it isn't. But she needs to speak, and Federico is as good an audience as any. Possibly better, because at least if this goes poorly, they don't need to see each other on a daily basis.

(And this is not the right mentality to pursue, she knows, but she can't stop.)

"You have a spouse, and two little boys, yes?"

There's an iron shriek as stool feet carve paths into the tile.

"Shit, I'm sorry." And he realizes what he's said; then, softer, "I'm sorry."

It is a very good thing they don't need to see each other every day, Ruth decides.

Deep breath, one that fills the room with its wetness and its sadness. (--Something Claire would say, Ruth decides. She must be listening to her daughter too much. See, she does listen, whatever Claire might say, she does.) Finally, Federico speaks. "Uh, yes. Yes. I have two sons. And--

"And a--a wife. Yes."

"So you know what having a family is like."

Federico looks down at his hands, which twist like jellyfish at the strange, strange restaurant Nikolai had taken her to, once. Vaguely, she recalls that she'd called them cherubim hands, or something to that effect. My, that must have seemed so odd! "Yeah, I guess. I know what it's supposed to be like. ...What it sometimes is, instead."

There's a sterility to his answers that mirrors the cold, fluorescent room, like some piece of them is left outside this door, wanders her house as it waits, collects in her corners and cupboards until the day is done and the dead are buried. Something kept back. Ruth doesn't like it. She doesn't like it until she realizes that is exactly what she is like, every day, in her own home. "Like what? --If you don't mind my asking."

Federico bites the outside of his lip; he does mind her asking.

Then maybe it wouldn't hurt to--to... what was it that therapist-counselor person called it? 'Begin an exercise in transference'?

"Has anyone ever told you... that you were too codependent?"

Federico looks back at his handiwork, sprawled across the table. "In so many words." His pitch is parabolic; it's a strange thing to realize, but it's a strange room, and a strange house. Ruth accepts these things.

And she doesn't know why she tells him these things, but the sterility of--everything--is stifling, and Ruth needs to change something. About herself. About everything. About the world. Was it still codependence if she took the entire world under her wing? It's like an explosion: "I betrayed my marriage, I was unfaithful to my husband, and now people tell me that I'm too overbearing, too 'codependent'! And now my husband is dead! He's been dead for nearly two years, and what am I supposed to do about that?" A breath. Federico edges against the far wall, avoids eye contact.

"...Though I suppose... I fancied that--that idiot hairdresser because at least he responded."

Federico responds, too. "Um, you know... Mrs. F. You might be surprised at how awkward this conversation is for me."

Ruth is slightly offended, though she isn't quite sure why. But if secrets are not the answer, and neither is openness, then what is she going to do? "Did Vanessa sleep with another man? --or, or woman?" (See, she listens to her children.)

"No!" Federico looks absolutely stricken. This is exactly why she keeps to herself! Every time she inquires, people look at her like she's some curious talking shrub. "No."

"Oh... Well. I'm glad we had this talk." Ruth steps back from the threshold, into the river-green light of the stairwell.

"Sure, Mrs. F..." Federico mumbles. He stares down at the corpse; he looks lost, or confused. Like he's forgotten what he's doing.

"What's her name?" Ruth asks.

"Sophia," he says, says it like it's the last thing in the world he will ever say. Then, "Wait. Waitwaitwait. I'm sorry; what?"

Ruth bows her head, smiles miserably. What was going on? She hated this feeling; Claire always told her she acted so clueless all the time, and this was it. This was exactly that! "The... deceased. The body. What's her name?"

"Oh." 'Oh' with a mouth like a perfect circle. Federico flashes a glance at her file. "Martha. Martha Klipsbringer, seventy-seven. Peanut allergy; asphyxiation."

As-phyx-iation. "I see. Thank you, Federico. I hope"--and she really doesn't know what she hopes--"I hope you have a wonderful life." The moment she utters it, she wonders if it sounded all too funereal. With the way Federico looks at her as she backs out of the doorway and hurries up the stairs, she imagines so.

Just breathe, Ruth Just--

Let everyone breathe.

25-26 June 2009