A/N: Here's a filler chapter, courtesy of a long tedious staff meeting that touched on budgets, the sequester, blah, blah, blah. I got bored and came up with this instead of taking notes. Or paying attention. Your tax dollars at work, my friends. Anyway, Fritz misses his girl.
Fritz woke up suddenly in the middle of the night from a very vivid dream. Once he got his bearings, he flopped back against the pillows with a disappointed and frustrated groan. His heart was pounding and he was sweaty and out of breath. And aroused. He'd dreamed Brenda was there in bed with him and he was making love to her. In his dream, she was wearing an FBI t-shirt of his that he couldn't find and suspected she'd taken to Atlanta with her. He loved how she looking in his clothes. And out of them. And his dream self had gotten her out of them and he had her in his arms and was kissing her and caressing her incredible curves and soft skin. She was moaning under his touch. He was just about to be surrounded by her completely when he woke. He made another noise of frustration and rolled over, grabbing her pillow and hugging it to him.
Fritz was struggling with the separation, and it wasn't just that he missed the sex. Of course he missed that. He and Brenda had been incredibly compatible in that department from the beginning. But it's not like it had been super frequent in the last couple months anyway, other than right before she left. How could it have been? "Hey honey, I know your world has just been blown to hell a few times over, but feel like getting frisky?" Yeah right. But even when they weren't making love, they still touched each other. A lot. Holding hands. His arm wrapped around her shoulders. Her curled up against him in bed or on the couch while he stroked her silky hair. Sharing sweet kisses. He sighed and buried his face in her pillow, trying to catch a hint of her scent that remained there. What he wouldn't give to hold and kiss her right now.
Fritz was a very tactile person - he liked to touch and be touched. And fortunately for him, Brenda was as well, although that would shock the hell out of most who knew her and she tried her best to hide it. He knew from her mother that she'd always been that way, with certain people anyway, ever since she was a baby. Willie Rae had told him what a blessing it was, with 3 little boys who rarely sat still for 2 seconds, to finally have a little one who she could sit with and cuddle. She'd also told him how Clay would come home from work, greet her with a kiss, say hi to the boys, then go get his angel from her crib and hold her, sometimes for hours. Fritz had held his angel for hours at a stretch, too. And he really, really missed that contact. Because even though Brenda could drive him completely crazy, having her in his arms calmed him like nothing else did. And when she nestled into him and whispered that she loved him, giving him her trust and her heart, he felt like the man he'd always hoped he could be.
He sighed again. Sometimes, even after all these years, he still couldn't believe he had her in his life. It hadn't been the easiest road, even without the turmoil of the past year. It had taken a ton of patience and perseverance on his part and a long struggle by Brenda to let go of some of her fears, and the relationship had been rocky at times. Sometimes really rocky. There had been times when he hadn't been sure they were going to make it, even though the alternative was unthinkable for him.
But they had held onto each other, and their relationship had improved over the years they'd been married. She had even begun to make efforts to choose him over her career once in awhile, and even though this came in fits and starts, there had been progress. This was especially true after she finally allowed him to tell her everything she didn't want to hear about his alcoholism. She seemed to be much more mindful of his condition ever since, and he felt less alone with it. His mind transported him back a few months to a particularly dark day and night, which had ended with an unexpected ray of light.
In the middle of the afternoon, Fritz received a phone call from his AA sponsor, Jeff. Haltingly, Jeff told Fritz he'd gotten drunk the night before. Twelve years of sobriety gone. Just like that. The news completely rocked Fritz. His mentor, the one he looked up to in his sobriety, the one who'd made him feel like he could get through the rest of his life without succumbing to booze again, had faltered. He felt sick. If it happened to Jeff, what was stopping it from happening to him, too? Fritz left work early, hoping the comfort of home could help. He prayed he wouldn't feel the pull for a drink. Who would he call now if he did? He had no sponsor until he could find a new one. He collapsed into a chair in the dining room, his mind in a turmoil of dark thoughts. He had no idea how much time had gone by when he heard Brenda's keys in the back door.
"Fritzy, I'm home. I made sure to get the hot mustard from the Chinese place this time." She bustled about, getting out of her coat, grabbing some plates and silverware, and bringing the food into the dining room. "I just got the usual. I tried to call to ask if you wanted anything different, but…" She trailed off as she saw him sitting at the dining room table with his head in his hands. "Fritz?"
He looked up, and his drawn face and red-rimmed eyes alarmed her. She went to his side immediately.
"Fritzy, what's wrong? What's happened?"
"It's Jeff. My sponsor? He, uh, He called to tell me he was drinking last night."
Brenda still didn't understand anywhere close to everything about AA, but she knew this was big. She knew Fritz thought so highly of Jeff, and this had to be killing him. "Oh honey, I'm so sorry." Dinner forgotten, Brenda sat down in her husband's lap and wrapped her arms around him, holding him close. His arms went around her waist and he clung to her, desperate for her comfort. They sat together in silence for a long time until her cell phone rang. She started, but let it ring.
"Aren't you going to get that?" he asked.
He was touched. It was so rare that she put him before the job.
She also failed to move to answer the phone when it rang the second time several minutes later. "That's what voicemail is for," she told him, while she held him even closer to her and rubbed his back. But the third time it rang, the land line rang simultaneously, and he urged her to answer one of them. It was Provenza, alerting her to a case with possible multiple victims. Brenda told him to get on scene, act as incident commander, and update her with what he found. But she made absolutely no move to leave Fritz.
Unfortunately, the next time the phone rang it was Pope. He was livid that Brenda was not yet at the crime scene. She tried to defer but could barely get a word in, and Fritz could clearly hear Pope reaming her out on the other end of the line for not being there, finishing with an irate "That's an order, Chief Johnson!"
Brenda sagged against him, and he knew she was going to have to leave. She told him briefly about the crime, the multiple bodies, the indications of a hate crime, the press converging. She apologized over and over again and he heard the sincerity in her voice and saw it in her eyes. He was disappointed, but by the timing and circumstances, not with her. This wasn't one of those times she was being a micromanager. She couldn't delegate this with the press circling and orders from a superior officer, but knowing she wanted to meant the world to him. And it made him feel better instead of just being upset at her departure. He hugged her as she left, assuring her he would be ok. He'd go to a meeting, and she didn't have to worry. But worry she did. She sent him a couple text messages for him to call her if he needed to and she left a voicemail while he was in the meeting. And instead of staying away until the case was done as she normally would have, she slipped back in in the hour before dawn. She slid into bed next to him and wrapped herself around him. She'd known he needed her, and she gave him everything.
God, he missed her.
He hoped Brenda knew how much he missed her, and he made a mental note to send her some flowers (and chocolate, of course). He wanted to give her a tangible message that he loved her and was thinking of her. And he knew it would brighten her day, many of which he could tell were hard and stressful.
Fritz thought back to their phone call that night. They had had what seemed like a normal conversation, just talking about their days and other random things. But she was hiding something, he was sure of it. She may have been able to fool suspects, but not him. He wished she'd let him in. She talked about her mother some, but none of the other events that had happened. Not a word about the lawsuit, the leak, or Stroh. He really hoped she wasn't locking these things away completely, but he stopped himself from pushing her to discuss them. He knew from experience that pushing her could be counterproductive. It was necessary, at times, but he worried with the physical distance between them that it might be even more counterproductive than normal. So he thought he'd continue to try his new approach, at least for awhile, and not push. She'd been starting to open up a bit more on her own recently, even before she'd left for Atlanta, and he wanted to give her the space to continue to do that. And she seemed to be reaching out to him, even if she wasn't exactly spilling her guts. She was calling earlier and wanting to stay on the line longer, sometimes until she was nearly asleep. He'd be going to Atlanta for a visit soon, and if he felt she was still avoiding what had happened, he could address it then, face-to-face. She wouldn't be able to hang up on him then. She seemed on edge, and if she was already running from things as she seemed to be, he didn't want her to run from him, too. Where would she turn then?
He'd had that same concern, about where she'd run, during the lawsuit. He worried about the what the personal effects and fallout of the lawsuit might be, the strain it might put on their marriage and if it could withstand it. Because when the going got tough, particularly on a personal level, Brenda ran. And she usually ran to bury herself in her work where she felt secure and confident. But the lawsuit, and the related leak, meant work was no longer a safe and secure place for her. He worried about where she would run to in its absence. He had been surprised, relieved, and grateful that she had turned to him. Time and time again, she turned to and relied on him for support, telling him on multiple occasions how much she appreciated his being there. He became her safe place. And while the circumstances were horrible, he was so pleased with the unforeseen outcome. Somehow, instead of the marriage becoming strained, it became stronger. He treasured their new closeness even as it made the separation seem even harder to take.
Fritz sighed for what felt like the hundredth time, and tried reminding himself that Brenda wasn't gone forever and a few weeks apart was really nothing in the grand scheme of things. But he didn't think anything would ease the ache of her absence, no matter how many flowers he sent or how much time they spent on the phone. He couldn't wait until she was in his arms again. Nothing would seem quite right until then.
TBC (hopefully quicker than a month)...