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Roots and Branches

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The sun was just starting to sneak down towards the horizon when Frank heard car tyres on the gravel driveway. He didn't turn around, concentrated instead on the lake before him, the water rippling gently in the evening breeze, the sound of it lapping against the wooden pilings almost hypnotic, definitely soothing. Dimly, he was aware of footsteps coming towards him but he still didn't move, didn't look around him. He knew those footsteps, knew there was no danger - besides, even if there were, by the time he heard footsteps, it would have been too late. 

The footsteps came to a halt beside him and even then, he didn't look up, didn't look around. Instead, all he said was,  "Took you long enough."

He knew there was a smile playing around his lips, could damn sure hear it in his voice and there was a huff of disgust and a creak of wood as Jenny shifted on her feet. "So this is how it is?" She sounded impatient and he could imagine the look on her face, eyebrows drawn down in a frown, brow creased in mingled curiosity and exasperation. He could imagine it so clearly that he couldn't help himself, had to turn his head and look up at her, just to see if he was right. When he found that he was, he smiled, but she didn't smile back. "Seriously. All the effort it took to get you out of the country and you send me a text message with a GPS location that anyone could hack?" She held up her phone in illustration. "You didn't even turn around when you heard me coming... you could have been killed."

At that, Frank raised an eyebrow. "Jenny, if someone wanted me killed, I'd be dead already." She flinched, her free hand clenching and unclenching at her side. "Besides, I knew it was you." Jenny looked down, scuffed her toe against the deck, her lips pressed into a thin line. In the diminishing light, Frank thought he could detect a slight flush on her cheeks but he couldn't be sure. "You want to pull up a bit of dock?" He patted the wood beside him. "Catch up?"

It seemed to take a very long time before she let out a long exhale of breath and then she dropped down beside him. Her eyes roved over the lake, the trees in the distance, the cabin behind them. Her eyes roved everywhere, in fact, except for his face. "I have to hand it to you," she said eventually. "You sure managed to find a remote hidey-hole. I was starting to doubt myself."

He gasped theatrically, all mock shock. "Never." She shot him a glare but second later she was grinning at him and his breath caught in his chest at the sight. 

He looked down, hopes she didn't notice his reaction. If she did, she didn't call him on it. Instead she glanced over towards the cabin and when she looked back at him again, it was with a question in her eyes. "Where are Macey and Cynthia?"

"Safe." It was the only answer that mattered. "Away from here." He added that fact because he sensed from the look on Jenny's face, from the tilt of her head and the drop of her jaw that the only answer that mattered might not be entirely satisfactory to her. 

As it was, even that add on didn't assuage her. "Why are you here?" she asked and her amazement travelled clearly in the evening air. "You were out of this... your family were together... Frank, you fought so hard for so long, why..."

"Because..." He cut across her and he didn't feel one bit guilty for doing it. "The Frank that had fought for them... had wished that he could have his family back... that's not the Frank I am any more." He shook his head, ran his tongue over suddenly dry lips. There were beers in the fridge in the cabin; he should have brought a couple out, as had been his habit for the last couple of nights. A bit of Dutch courage mightn't have gone astray either. "I thought it was... or at least, I thought I could be him again. But the more time I spent with them... the more I knew I was only fooling myself." Her eyes were wide as she stared at him and he took a deep breath before he spoke, feeling like he was about to plunge into waters far more cold and dangerous than those of the lake. "Besides... Cynthia... she wasn't where my heart was any more."

The words hung heavy between them and Jenny sat stock still beside him. She hardly seemed to be breathing until she sucked in a ragged breath, exhaled on a whisper of his name. "You don't..." she began but he did and his hand closed over hers without him thinking about doing it. Her skin was warm to the touch, bringing forth a million memories to his mind and, just maybe, to hers as well because she stopped talking, her throat working furiously. 

"You know," he told her, "that I never would have stopped seeing you if I hadn't had to." His arrest and subsequent incarceration had put paid to any notions he had had that they could be starting something; he'd called a halt to it, telling her that it was better for her, that he didn't want her to put her life on hold while he tried to sort things out. She'd argued against it, called him a stubborn, noble jackass and that had been one of the more polite epithets she'd hurled in his direction. Then there had been Tarrytown and the Sword and after that... well, he hadn't exactly been himself. 

"I told you the truth you know," he continued. If the look of sudden confusion on her face was any indication, he'd lost her. "That day in Mabie's," he added. "The day we broke into the evidence locker. Everything I said there was the truth... I had moments where I knew who I was... what I was doing. Moments where I knew that my time was coming to an end... I could feel the other Frank, always in the background, just waiting... and when Henry's plan came to fruition... I didn't know where that would leave me - this me - but I had a feeling it wouldn't be anywhere good. So I had a choice. On the one hand, I had my ex-wife and daughter, wanting to give me another chance. On the other, I had you."

Jenny's chuckle was harsh, mirthless. "So you chose them." Her lips curled up in a smile and she shook her head, almost like she was impatient with herself. "Which I get. I totally get." She turned her head away from him, not so quickly that he didn't see the flash of pain in her eyes. 

"I knew they'd be ok... after I was gone," he told her quietly, reaching out and laying a hand on her cheek, gently turning her head to face him. "But I couldn't... Jenny, I couldn't start something with you knowing what I knew about myself. You saw me, that day at the tunnels... you remember it better than I do." She squeezed her eyes shut as a shudder coursed through her body that had nothing to do with the breeze and he was once again grateful that he couldn't remember what he'd said and done when he wasn't in control of his own body and voice, even if there was a tiny part of him that wanted to know exactly what he'd said, what he'd done, so that he could properly make amends for it. "Too many people had made you care for them then up and left you... I couldn't be another one." His thumb traced a path along her cheek and when she opened her eyes, he suddenly realised how close he was to her. Close enough that he could feel her breath on his lips, close enough to close the distance and brush his lips over hers. 

He didn't do that though, called on reserves of willpower he didn't think he had. 

"I tried, Jenny," he told her quietly. "These last three months... I tried to be the man they wanted me to be. But all I could think of was you. So I came back. And if you don't feel the same way any more, then I can understand that. But I refuse to give up without a fight. Not any more."

She held his gaze for what seemed like forever, her face an inscrutable mask. When the edges of her lips quirked up in the tiniest of smiles, it still managed to be warmer than the setting sun. "I've missed you," she admitted quietly, looking down at their still joined hands. She turned her fingers over in his, lacing them together and squeezing once. "Abbie's off at Quantico, finishing her training... who knows where Crane's disappeared to... it's been a little lonely around town."

To hear her admit anything of the kind was huge, Frank didn't have to be told that. Just like he didn't have to be told how to respond. "I thought you'd have made tracks yourself by now," he observed, keeping his tone mild. 

Jenny wrinkled her nose, her ponytail swinging from side to side. "I'm kinda liking Sleepy Hollow," she said. "Thinking of putting down some roots of my own there."

"Maybe build another branch of the family tree?" OK, so that was pushing his luck a little bit but it made her laugh so it couldn't have been too bad. 

"Moving a little fast there, Captain," she said. "How about dinner and a movie first?"

Frank's fingers tightened on hers. "Sounds like a plan."