"No, I'm not dead," she corrected him. "I'm here, aren't I?"
He swayed, feeling like he was going to faint. Teresa frowned at him in concern. "Are you all right?" she asked him, reaching out and touching his arm.
"You're really here," he said, almost whispering the words, then took a great sobbing gulp of air and threw his arms around her. "Oh, gods
... Teresa! I thought you were dead
! I saw your body!" he exclaimed, hugging her tightly, feeling his eyes fill with tears of relief. (0804
Teresa hugged him back, and then guided the half-hysterical young man back indoors. The level of his distress worried her; he was crying uncontrollably, unable to even speak through his sobs. She frowned in concern. Surely even if he'd thought her dead, this was an overreaction to her reappearance. (0805
dead," she told him, giving him a comforting hug. "Granted it was pretty close at one point... but I was a long time recovering. I'd have contacted you earlier, except for... well, several things, including having to convince certain family members that you were not
involved," she said grimly, jaw setting at the memory of the aggravating amount of argument that
had taken. She'd felt like breaking something over her brother's head more then once before he'd finally backed down.
His crying finally tapered off, and he swiped at his face, trying to wipe it dry on his sleeve. Like a little boy, she thought, repressing a smile.
"Sorry," he croaked out. "It's just such a shock... I've been thinking you were dead for over a year now, and seeing you again, on top of everything since mother died... it was just too much," he said.
"Your mother is dead? Oh, Fred, I'm so sorry to hear that," she said softly. He'd never talked about Pentland very much, even knowing that she knew about his past here, but the little he had said had made it obvious how close a relationship he and his mother had once shared.
He nodded, still obviously fighting to maintain control of his emotions. "A month ago," he said softly. "Jeff came here, to get revenge on me, and... mother had a heart attack that night. They said it was probably from a pre-existing condition, but the shock and stress of what he did certainly didn't help any..." he managed to say, then started crying again.
Teresa put her arms around him, and just held him, mind in turmoil. They'd known about Jeff, of course - it was mainly because of him still being on the loose that her family hadn't allowed her to come to see Fred earlier, once her recovery was complete. They'd learned of his arrest within days of it happening, but no one had thought to mention to her that Fred's mother had died that night; she was going to have to have words with her father and brother about that, if they'd known about it and hadn't told her, she thought grimly.
And poor Fred - no wonder her arrival had been such a shock to him. Her frown deepened as she noted how skinny he was; the bulky sweater he was wearing had fooled her eye, but with her arms around him she could feel how there wasn't even a pinch of extra flesh on his bones. Unshaven, too, though at least he smelled of nothing worse then a recent bath.
He needed looking after, she decided, and guided him to the dining room. "Sit," she told him firmly, and carried the by now cold and congealing TV dinner off to the kitchen. The contents of the fridge unfortunately yielded nothing noticeably better; she heated two fresh trays, and carried them out to the dining room.
He'd calmed down again while she was getting them food. He stared at her as she sat down and picked up her fork. (0806
"It's so hard to believe you're really here," he told you. "I got a glimpse of you right after you'd fallen... right before Max ambushed me," he said bitterly. He looked away. "The way you'd fallen... you didn't look good. And then Max just left
you there...!" he exclaimed, obviously having to suppress anger over Max's actions even a full year afterwards. "He claimed you'd still been breathing when he left, but... I couldn't believe you'd live long enough for help to reach you. Not in the condition you'd been in."
Teresa nodded calmly. Able to remain calm because she had no personal memories of what had happened to her, just coming out of the bedroom, bumping into the stranger she'd later learned was Max, falling backwards... and then nothing, not even dreams, until she'd opened her eyes in a hospital room and learned that months had passed while she lay in a coma. "I almost didn't make it," she told Fred, deciding that it was best to tell him about it now. It might upset him further, but at least then it would be over with, and he could deal with it.
"In a way, I was lucky," she continued. "You see, Max stole something important of my father's. That
set off alarms, and rather then being left undiscovered for hours as I might otherwise have been, there were people at the house in time to save me. Though it came pretty close... I stopped breathing just before the ambulance got there," she said dryly. "And yes, I was in pretty rough shape... apparently they had me in a halo brace for a broken neck for a few weeks, among other things. I slept through all of that; I was in a coma for several months. All the gross physical damage was healed by the time I woke up."
She didn't mention the mental effects, or the more subtle physical damage; even with as few real memories as she'd had of the accident itself - and it had
, after all, been an accident; she still remembered all-too-clearly the look of shocked horror on Max's face as she'd stepped too far backwards and fallen - the recovery once she'd finally woken had been a long and stressful experience. There had been some thankfully minor damage to her brain from the concussion, and lasting damage to bone, muscle, and nerves from the fall itself, on top of which were the debilitating effects of having lain motionless in bed for months... her memories of the weak, helpless body she'd felt trapped in when she'd first re-awoken could still give her nightmares. It had taken months of physical therapy to return her to full health and mobility.
She was glad to see that Fred had eaten all of the food before him; she'd only managed a couple of bites of the tray in front of herself. It was even worse then the hospital food had been.
"I'm so glad to see you alive and well," Fred told her. "Even if it still feels like a dream that I'll be waking up from and cursing any minute now. Though part of me is wondering why
you're here, after everything that happened..." (0807
She smiled at him. "Why do you think
I came here, the minute my parents would let me? I was actually contemplating ignoring their wishes and coming anyway, and then we heard about Jeff's arrest. Though even once they'd agreed to let me come, it took a few weeks to convince everyone that I could do so safely; they were still worried about Andy, too, though to a much lesser degree. Until we finally heard about him
, too," she added, sounding amused.
She smiled, remembering her father's reaction to learning that Andy Taylor was SCIA, and had done such a good job of going undercover that even Todd's organization had never gotten a whiff of anything suspicious about him until he'd disappeared from right under their noses. She knew her father was now doing a very thorough investigation to try and see if they had any moles like that in the Rosmarin-Greer organization. The most annoying part of it being, he'd told her, that even if he didn't find any evidence of one, that didn't mean he didn't have any. "Lack of evidence is not evidence of lack," he'd told her grimly.
Fred was looking at her, biting his lip. She was sure he understood what she'd meant, about her reasons for coming to see him - but he obviously wasn't ready to deal with that just yet. "I'm exhausted," she announced. "A day-long flight followed by a very lengthy taxi ride to get here... I hope you have somewhere I can fall down and sleep for a while. A bed, by preference, though as tired as I am you could drop me in a corner of this room and I'd sleep soundly, I'm sure."
Fred looked relieved at the change of subject. "You'll have to sleep in my mother's room," he told her. "I'll show you where it is."
He led the way upstairs, gesturing towards a door to the right of the top of the stairs. "This is it," he told her. The haunted way he looked at the door, and stepped back from it as she approached it told her louder then words that his mother must have died in this room. She stopped without having opened the door yet, and turned to face him. "Can I have a good-night kiss?" she asked wistfully.
He hesitated, then stepped forward and put his arms around her. The kiss was anything but romantic; just a very quick peck on the cheek, before he retreated across the hallway to a door on the other side. "I'll be in here if you need anything," he told her, then hurried into the room, shutting the door behind him.
She frowned as she turned and went into his mother's bedroom, closing the door quietly behind her. Fred had changed a lot since she'd last seen him; changed by the events of the last year, and obviously not for the better. He'd need time, she decided; time, and looking after, until he recovered his equilibrium.
She was in no hurry; she could wait. (0808