A/N: This is set when Frieda's dad died and stemmed from something my boss said to me at work today...
Frieda Petrenko was tired after a long and unpleasant day. She had heard her father had died, a man whom she had loved very much. She was walking out of the hospital, distracted by her phone, when she walked straight into Henrik Hanssen. She looked up with no fear and said, "Sorry," before proceeding to walk away.
"Dr. Petrenko," Hanssen called her back. When she turned and returned to speak with him he told her, "I am very sorry to hear about your father." He looked her straight in the face as he said it, wondering how she would react. She was much like him in that she tried to keep everyone out with biting remarks and sarcasm. She looked at him in surprise, having always figured him as the private and lonely type.
"So am I," she finally sighed. "He was kind man. Mr. Levy gave me unlimited compassionate leave so I can go home for the funeral," she explained to him. It was unnerving to see him so…sympathetic.
"I don't think you ought to be working anyway," he said gently. "I know how you feel, having lost both my parents before even leaving school." This took Frieda by surprise, that he had shared some of his past with her. She knew it was not normal practice by any means for him to talk about what had happened during his childhood. "When my mother died, I was nine years old. I almost set the house on fire trying to make some toast. Then, when I was sixteen, my father died. I found out on the day of an examination and failed it, even though I hated the man," he added slightly resentfully.
"I do not believe that you hated your father, Mr. Hanssen. Not all of you, at least," said Frieda kindly. She gauged his reaction and figured it was better to explain herself before he glared at her any more. "You say you screwed up exam, yes?"
"Yes, I failed my Trigonometry examination," he confirmed. Where was the young doctor headed with this? Was she proving a point or just trying to annoy him in her strange way? But the look on her face told him that she was seriously trying to make him see something. "I made a mess of it because the man who had verbally, emotionally and sometimes physically abused me for seven years had died," he told her, his voice hard and cold. He was becoming increasingly annoyed with her, telling him he had loved the man who had made his life a living hell every time he went home. It did not surprise him that this young woman did not back down from him like so many others would have. She was not shy and she was definitely not scared of Hanssen.
"The fact that you fail your exam tells me some part of you loved him," she explained to him. "He may have treated you badly, but you would not have screwed up if you were not bothered that he was dead. You do not become distracted by things you do not give a damn about." Hanssen studied Frieda for a second, wondering where all her insightfulness came from. She was very young and willing to make a joke and she was sarcastic and sometimes mean, yet there was a part of her that held the wisdom of a much older woman. She placed a hand on his chest briefly, patting it while she told him, "You cannot pick family. You can choose to hate them, but you cannot choose not to love them."
"Is there really a difference, Dr. Petrenko?" he asked quietly. He was struggling to understand her logic in that statement. Was she saying that he could hate his father if he wanted, but there was always going to be that part of him that, despite the unpleasant nature of the man, was always going to love him? He had always thought that you could either hate someone or love them. No in between measure.
"Yes, Mr. Hanssen, big difference. That tiny piece of you loved him. Does not matter if you wanted to or not. Even if the bigger part of you hated him, that little bit inside loved him," she smiled. She knew she had made him re-evaluate his convictions over the matter. "Good night, Mr. Hanssen," she called back as she left for her car.
Hanssen watched as she walked away, realising that she was much wiser and deeper than she let on. She had even made him see something he had been ignoring for years. Wasn't it strange how a woman many years younger than him was more mature than him about it? How she could see what he failed to, all those years ago? He walked back inside with a new admiration for Frieda Petrenko. Beneath the sarcasm and the bitterness lay a heart of gold and a wisdom that he had not expected from her. Maybe there was hope for them after all.
Hope it was alright!