"Those smell delicious," Todd said as he walked into the kitchen, and found Fred serving stuffed omelettes. "Thanks for making breakfast - you didn't have to do that." (0878
Fred nodded. "It's no problem; I like cooking."
After he'd finished serving, he went to the back door and called Teresa, who was exercising out on the terrace, and the three of them sat down for breakfast together.
"These are so good," Teresa said after trying a bite of hers. "What are they stuffed with?"
"Diced ham, red sweet peppers, green onion, and cheddar," Fred said.
"They're awesome. Have you ever thought about becoming a chef?" Teresa asked.
Fred wrinkled his nose. "I like cooking, but not that much... in fact, I bet I'd start to hate it if I was doing it as a career, instead of just for enjoyment."
"What do you like doing?" Todd asked. (0879
Fred frowned in thought as he ate another forkful of omelette. "I'm not sure. I didn't really have any concrete plans for a career before I left Pentland the first time, and then I basically fell into working as a criminal. I did enjoy parts of that... but I'm glad to be be out of it now."
"What parts did you enjoy?" Teresa asked, giving him a speculative look.
Fred grinned. "Well, you already know I enjoyed the dating and seduction part..."
He broke off with a laugh as she threatened him with her fork. "But not any more!" he exclaimed, and grinned at her.
Teresa grinned back, and placidly resumed eating her breakfast.
Fred thought for a while, then continued. "Setting up for a job, when we'd be doing as much research about the target and their defences as we could... that was always interesting. I enjoyed finding stuff out about people, whether it was when I was with them by invitation, or later, finding out things they probably didn't want me to know."
"Is there any part you particularly disliked?" Todd asked.
"Yeah. Not knowing how to defend myself. When things went bad, it was so horribly easy for people like Max and Jeff to take me down. I got into scraps as a kid, what kid doesn't, but... I never learned serious fighting."
Teresa and Todd exchanged a look. "We can help you with that," Todd said. "Knowing how to handle myself in a fight is part of my job, as Jewel's bodyguard. And I taught both Zafiro and Teresa how to defend themselves if necessary, starting when they were kids."
Teresa nodded. "And he gave me heck for forgetting everything he ever taught me, when I walked out my bedroom door and bumped into Max lst year. I'd never imagined needing to use self-defence skills at home; I'd always thought that I would be someplace else when I'd need them. Out late somewhere, or walking in on a bad situation somewhere unexpectedly, that sort of thing. I was so surprised to bump into an intruder, I forgot that I could handle him if I had to - and worse, forgot to maintain awareness of my surroundings."
Todd frowned and nodded. "If you're someplace where you know
there's a chance of something happening, then you're already keeping aware, and at least partially ready to react if something happens. As Teresa learned the hard way, it's when you're not
ready that you most need to remember the skills you have."
"Well, any help you can give me, I'd certainly appreciate," Fred said.
Todd looked at him thoughtfully. "I think the first step would be getting you in proper shape. Oh, you don't need to lose any weight - if anything, you could stand to put on a little more mass - but you need to get into the habit of having a regular full-body workout so your muscles aren't all soft and flabby. Tell you what, how about after you've had a chance to digest breakfast, I coach you through a good workout. Then once you're starting to get into decent physical condition, Teresa and I can start teaching you how to use
Which is how, later that morning, Fred found himself making runs through an obstacle course set up in the yard, while Todd critiqued his performance, and made suggestions for improvement. (0880
Teresa, meanwhile, finished off her own morning workout, and then went swimming, occasionally stopping to paddle in place and watch Fred working out. He was smiling, and laughing at his own clumsiness, and she smiled to see this further evidence that he was recovering from the funk he'd been in back in Pentland. (0881
Once he was thoroughly tired out, Todd finally called a halt to the exercise.
"I want you to run the course every morning," Todd told him. "Until you feel as tired out as you do right now. Keep track of how many laps you do; once you can do 25 before starting to get tired, we'll start you in on some other things. Now go get showered and relax for a while," Todd finished with a smile.
"Right," said Fred, nodded tiredly, and headed back indoors. Todd went and joined Teresa in the pool.
"Well? What do you think?" she asked quietly.
Todd looked thoughtful, then glanced at her. "You're right, he has possibilities," he said neutrally. (0882
Teresa smiled happily. "Good," she said.