Author's note: As a highly misanthropic person it always strikes me as hilarious when Brenda and Fritz complain about not spending time together, because they are together basically 24/7. Also, I had a real rough time coming up with what Brenda would do in her free time, so I'm worried this is a little OOC. We know Fritz likes sports and reading, but Brenda only either works or flirts with Fritz. Season 1 she tells Fritz she doesn't go to movies, season 2 her mom makes a crack about her not owning books, and in "Serving the King" we learn she's not into crafts or gardening. I just guessed that two Southern kids might enjoy hating on Toddlers and Tiaras, but tell me if you have a better idea! Also, also, I hate the formatting, but I couldn't make fanfiction process the page breaks correctly, so I apologize if the lines are confusing. I'm terrible at computers.
It always went the same way when Fritz was gone. This time it was only a work thing, and it wasn't even for a full week, so they kept their goodbye at the airport brief, a hug and a kiss, and "I love you's" all around, and that was that. As she drove home Brenda felt a brief pang at his absence, but very quickly began looking forward to her week alone.
She knew she had a reputation for being a "bitch" professionally, not only for her brusque demeanor, but also because she didn't socialize much outside of work. The truth was she was just an introvert. Spending time with most people made her feel like she was wearing a mask, hiding her real self and projecting a kinder, funnier version. It exhausted her, so she avoided situations where that was required, almost to the point of rudeness. Early on when they were just beginning to date, Fritz, for the first time, had stayed over at her place for the entire weekend. As she was saying goodbye to him on Sunday, Brenda was struck with the realization that they had spent a whole weekend together, during which at no point had she hid in the garage or the bathroom on some false pretext, both things she used to regularly do to get a break from her ex-husband. Something about Fritz's quiet, gentle nature made him easy to just sit with, without having to put on a show. That was the first time Brenda realized she couldn't afford to lose him.
But still, there were certain things that Brenda just couldn't do when Fritz was around. Like, watch truly awful reality shows on TLC while simultaneously talking to her brother Jimmy on the phone, eating ice cream from the carton, and painting her nails, the activity Brenda chose to indulge herself in as soon as she got home from LAX.
"Brenda, Brenda, LOOK at what that mother is making her child eat!"
Brenda looked up from her toenails just in time to catch a two-year-old drinking mountain dew. "Oh my lord, it is abuse to let someone ingest that much sugar," she said as she spooned Ben & Jerry's into her mouth.
"Speaking of parental neglect, have you talked to Bobby lately?" Jimmy was the brother Brenda was closest to, and the only one she ever really talked to regularly. After discussing family gossip, and decrying the parenting skills of the reality moms, their conversation turned back to Brenda.
"So you're alone for a whole week. How are you two going to survive this tragic event?" Jimmy's voice had a sarcastic drawl to it.
"What are you talking about?"
"Oh please, you and Fritz are so co-dependent."
"We are not!" Brenda said indignantly.
"You spend all day at work together, then you spend all of your free time together. You carpool all the time. When I came out to visit you last summer you even showered together every morning. I'm amazed you sit in separate chairs to eat dinner. Half the time you're together you spend talking about how you don't spend enough time together. Co-dependent."
"Yeah, because you and Frank are the poster people for healthy relationships."
"I'm just saying, enjoy a week to yourself, and try not to text each other 20 times a day like you did when you visited Atlanta without him last month."
Growing up with three older brothers meant Brenda was generally immune to teasing, but something about what Jimmy said stuck with her even after she had hung up. Co-dependent! Like Jimmy would know, he and Frank are glued to the hip. Then she looked at her phone and saw she had three text messages from Fritz. Ok, maybe Jimmy has a point there...
That first night she actually kind of enjoyed having the bed to herself. Generally Fritz sprawled all over, taking up the entire bed. Usually she liked having his big, warm, comforting body pressed against her while she slept, but it was nice to be able to stretch out in the middle, with plenty of space for her limbs and only the cool sheets resting lightly on her chest. Joel leapt up to curl up on the end of the bed, and Brenda reached for him to cuddle. As soon as her hands made contact with his soft fur Joel bristled and stalked off.
"You are such a daddy's cat," Brenda called reproachfully after him, before settling back down to sleep.
The next morning Brenda awoke to find herself curled up in a tiny ball on her edge of the mattress. I guess old habits die hard, she mused as she got up. She wandered into the bathroom and turned on the radio, seeking out the country station she loved (that Fritz hated). Sure it would have been nice if he were there to wash her back for her, but she found herself enjoying having the hot water to herself, and singing along off key to the music. It was also nice to just dump her breakfast dishes into the sink, without having Fritz there to roll his eyes and complain about her being a slob. "It's not that much harder to put them in the dishwasher, it is just one more step, it'll take you ten seconds and that way I don't have to come home to find a pile of dirty dishes in the way." She knew this speech by heart. She loved Fritz dearly, but there were some things she missed about being single.
On the way home from work Brenda stopped at the Chinese place they loved. She indulged herself in a very un-Fritz activity: demanding spicy mustard repeatedly until they gave her enough packets to last the next four times they got takeout. She ate it in front of the TV in her ugliest/comfiest pajamas, and left the empty cartons on the coffee table.
Later that evening Brenda stretched out in bed again, reveling at the space she had. This time she slept the whole night through in the middle of the mattress.
The next night her good mood began to dissolve. First she couldn't decide what to do for dinner. She was sick of takeout, but it was too much trouble to make a meal for one person. Finally she settled on making a sandwich, but when she went to find a clean plate she realized they were all piled in the sink, and filthy. As she leaned over the sink to wash the dishes she felt a twinge in her neck. It had been bothering her off and on all day, since she had woken up that morning. I guess I slept on it funny, she mused.
It was a cool evening, and as Brenda went to bed she felt uncomfortably cold. She tossed and turned, unable to find a position that suited her. Besides, something was wrong, that she couldn't quite place her finger on. She lay awake until she could stand it no longer, before throwing off her blankets and heading into Fritz's closet. She flipped through his clothes until she found what she was looking for at last, an old ratty sweatshirt Fritz had from college. As she pulled it over her head Brenda inhaled deeply; there it was, that good Fritz smell, like clean clothes and a hint of something masculine and spicy. As she clambered back into bed Brenda felt more relaxed. It wasn't the same as having him home, but being surrounded by his smell and warmth was a good second choice. As she drifted off to sleep, curled up in her tiny ball, Joel leapt up to occupy the space next to her head on the pillow. She smiled at the feel of his rumbling purr.
Fritz was coming back tomorrow, and Brenda had too much to do to feel lonely and adrift the next night. The house was a mess; she had left things piled everywhere, and hadn't bothered to wash or clean anything. Brenda spent the evening running between the vacuum, the dishes, and the washing machine. It took so late in the evening that by the time Brenda dropped into bed, still wrapped in Fritz's sweatshirt, she was asleep almost instantly.
Brenda was waiting impatiently for Fritz in the parking lot at LAX. He told her was going to be out ten minutes ago, and she was restlessly pacing, keeping an eye out for him. Suddenly she saw him as he rounded the corner, and before she could think about it she sprinted forward to jump into his arms.
"Hi honey!" Brenda said as she wrapped her legs around his waist
"Hi hon. I take it you missed me?" Fritz had dropped his bag so he could grip her more firmly. Brenda was suddenly glad she couldn't find better parking; at least there was no one around the deserted lot to witness her acting like a teenager.
"You have no idea. Get in the car and I'll show you."
Fritz didn't really need any other encouragement.
After arriving home (and after Fritz's slightly too enthusiastic marveling at it's cleanliness let Brenda know he had been bracing for a disaster) Fritz told her that more than anything, what he wanted was to shower and unpack. Brenda used this opportunity to make a phone call in their bedroom.
"So, to be clear, you called me to brag that you only really missed your husband three days out of the total five that he was gone, and this will prove to me that you are a highly independent person? Yeah, you've convinced me, I'm just blown away by your fortitude in the face of adversity." Jimmy voice dripped with sarcasm.
"Shut up Jimmy. Oh, I have to go, he just got out of the shower and I want to ask him how his trip was." Brenda heard Jimmy draw breath to speak, and she cut him off with a yell, "STOP! I don't care. Say hi to Frank," and she hung up.
Fritz had appeared in the door to their bedroom wearing a towel, and grinned at her. "Hey honey. I missed you. How was your day?"