Spoilers: Season 1 – only for the Pilot in fact.
Summary: Oneshot for Brian, Lily's husband from when she was taken. Set right after her abduction.
A/N: Betaread by Fanwoman.
He could hear her crying before he'd even unlocked the door, her scream piercing his heart. He'd found her all alone in her crib, squirming uncomfortably, definitely in need of a diaper change. Lily had been nowhere to be found. He'd rushed around, searching the house, ignoring his daughter because he was so afraid he'd find her mother collapsed somewhere. It was the only explanation for why she'd not tend to her daughter; she was such a devoted mother to her, barely straying far for fear of what could happen if she wasn't there for her. Lily adored Heidi. She'd been talking just that morning about taking her for a stroll to the park, but the buggy was half set up, half packed. Bottles and formula were laid out on the kitchen counter as if someone was just about to get everything ready.
But Lily wasn't in the house, wasn't at her cousin’s, or her aunt’s or any of her friends’. After a frantic day of calling round, mixed with the obstacle of caring for Heidi all on his own, he phoned the police to report her missing. They took details. Eventually, they posted up a recent photo, tried to gather information in case there'd been any sightings of her. Nothing came of it. Everyone was supportive, kind words and soft touches, willing to babysit for him and help out with ready cooked meals for him to warm up - humouring him because no one wanted to say what they really thought had happened.
It wasn't right, not having Lily with him, and it wasn't right because he knew what they were all thinking – that she'd abandoned them both. No one really listened when he said what a wonderful mother she was, how much she loved Heidi, that she could never do that to either of them. No one believed him.
Six months later, he didn't know if he believed in her devotion to them anymore, or if it simply didn't matter what was true. Lily was gone, and he was alone, no matter what had happened. He was alone, with a daughter to raise by himself. It was daunting, and it hurt so badly. Every time he looked at Heidi, he couldn't help but remember Lily, wish for her, for both himself and for Heidi. They both deserved better than this miserable life, not knowing where Lily was, if she was alive. If Lily didn't come back...what would he tell his daughter? “Sorry, mommy disappeared”. Not, “Mommy is dead,” or, “Mommy left us,” but, “Mommy is God knows where, and we'll probably never know.”
When he met Carol, he was simply grateful for company, for someone who didn't treat him with pity. She took him seriously, but she didn't go overboard. He felt normal around her; he enjoyed her company. That was when he started to have a life beyond Heidi, again, and beyond the haunting presence of Lily's absence. At first, he turned down Carol's invitations to do something outside of the professional realm, preferring to focus on Heidi as if that was all that mattered in the world. But eventually, he saw he had to do more than wake up, hand her over to her nanny, go to work and come home to an evening with his daughter, because he realised that wasn't living. He endured each day to get to the next, but it was a cycle that grinded him down, with no reprieve.
He took up the offer of babysitting from a relative, and finally accepted a friendly date with Carol to a football game. He didn't like football that much, but Carol loved it. Her nephew was on the team as the up and coming star. She loved to watch him play but just didn’t like going alone. He had to admit, he didn't like being alone all the time, so he'd gone with her. They had corndogs in the stands and cheered the team on until their throats were sore.
He discovered Carol made him laugh, he was actually happy for the first time in months. She made him notice that the world was alive and his life was worth living, too, not just surviving. Heidi deserved a mother, sure, but she also deserved a father who did more than merely care for her. He had to care about himself in order to be what she would need. He needed friends. Heidi needed friends, too, and that wasn't going to happen by magic. It wasn't going to happen at all if all they did was hide away in their house, waiting for Lily to return.
Over a year after that mournful day, he took Heidi to the park along with Carol. They had a picnic in the sun, an afternoon full of smiles, of unrestrained happiness without any guilt. For once, he could forget what should have been and focus on what was, what could be.