Summary: Fred and Lex haven’t seen Catalina since she dropped out of high school without telling anyone why. When they run into her by mere accident at an airport, a lot of unsolved mysteries emerge.
Dedication: Thanks to Emma. If you hadn’t forced me to buy Now 50 three years ago, I never would’ve listened to Stuck In The Middle With You yesterday. The ending is dedicated to Sam, because she inspired me to write it.
Disclaimer: Lex O’Leary and Jeff Delricci belong to NYgoldfish54. Fred and Catalina belong to me. I can be humble enough to share Jack with NYgoldfish54. I’ll be very surprised if you find anyone else but those five mentioned in this story.
Chapter 7. Solution
“It’s not my child!” Jeff claimed, still not budging. “Wouldn’t I know if that were the case?”
“Not if she never told you,” I pointed out, trying to talk as softly as I could.
“If he’s born in July, he’s most likely Fred’s kid!” Jeff exclaimed.
Fred opened his mouth, probably to say something obvious, or something daft. Neither of it suited the situation very well, so I just shook my head at him. “You could at least talk to her,” I suggested. “Even if Jack’s not yours, you would still get to talk to her. You’ve wanted that for so long, Jeff.”
“I don’t care. The kid is not mine, and I don’t want to talk to her!”
“We can go visit her, or just go there and… stalk her, so you can see her. You don’t have to talk to her,” Fred advised.
The three of us were at Jeff’s place, trying to get him to stop sulking. He had been keeping to himself for a few days after the secret was revealed to him. Finally I got sick of it and decided to go see him, and it was only fair that Fred came to help out too.
“What good would that do?” Jeff growled.
One thing that almost always work on Jeff when he’s really upset and his brain don’t respond to logic is reversed psychology. “Yeah? I guess you don’t want to tell her off for leaving either, or for hiding from you and keeping you from seeing your own child? Maybe you don’t want her to know how upset you’ve been, or maybe you don’t want her to know how she should’ve told you about Jack?”
Jeff chewed on his lower lip for a while. “Of course I do!” he suddenly exclaimed. “I should go there and yell at her for being so irresponsible. Who is she to think she can decide everything?”
“That’s the spirit,” I smiled. “Let’s go at once.”
“It was your idea, Delricci! Let’s go now!”
“Since when’s it my idea?” Jeff asked Fred, who shrugged. I don’t think Fred understood at all what just happened. Well, I had time to fill him in on it on the way, but I’m not sure his brain registered all of it anyway.
So here we are now – again – at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Jeff is sneaking around, hiding behind every pole possible, just so he can catch a glimpse of Catalina. It’s very entertaining to watch him. Fred promised to go buy me some food, and he’s been gone for a while.
Catalina doesn’t seem to be working today, so I have feeling we have to stay overnight. This is bad, because we have an important gig tomorrow night, although, this is a lot more intriguing than that. All I really need now is some popcorn.
I watch as Jeff disappears around the corner, and I’m just about to get up and follow him when Fred bumps down in the seat next to me, handing me a cup of hot chocolate. “No coffee?” I joke.
“Like I’d show my face there again,” Fred snorts. “Seen the kid yet?”
“No, but we’ve lost Jeff,” I replied, sipping on the beverage. “Do I get a cookie to this?”
“I’ve already eaten it. It was chocolate, you wouldn’t have liked it anyway,” he says, winking at me.
“Let’s get better seats,” I roll my eyes. “I bet there’s a much better view on the second floor.”
“Is there a second floor?” Fred wonders, looking around.
“Uh-huh. Come on,” I command, grabbing his hand to keep track of him. We both hurry up the stairs, I hurry more than he does because I’m just dying to know what’s going to happen.
We have to walk around the whole second floor until we’re right above Starbucks. Fred leans against the railing, gazing down to see if he can spot Jeff. “I don’t think Catalina’s here today,” he sighs. “Wouldn’t she be serving people if she was?”
“I guess. You’re probably right,” I say, feeling defeated. “Maybe this was a bad idea? What if the letter wasn’t telling the truth?”
“That would be a shame.”
I slip my hand into Fred’s again, squeezing it softly. He smiles at me, and is just about to say something when I notice Jeff making his way through the crowd down below. “Oh, there he is! I hope Catalina is there too!”
Fred pulls me into his embrace, putting his arms around me. “Look for her.”
We both wait until Jeff has reached the Starbuck’s counter. He exchanges a few words with the waitress and takes off in the opposite direction. “What’s he doing?” I exclaim. “That’s the wrong way!”
“Maybe he’s going back to look for us?” Fred suggested. “Should we go back?”
Suddenly Catalina comes in through the doors on the right. “Oh, we have to yell for Jeff to come back!” I say excitedly. “Fred, call him!”
They both completely miss each other, despite the fact that they are meeting when Catalina passes him on the left. “This makes me nervous,” Fred complains. “Yell for him to go back, Lex.”
I’m considering it, but don’t have to do anything, because Jeff turns around by himself. Catalina has already arrived at the food court, but stops when she hears Jeff call her name.
“I wonder where Jack is,” Fred mumbles in my ear.
I smile to myself. “Miss him, huh?”
“Nah, just curious.”
We both lean closer to hear better. Jeff stops right in front of Catalina. “Hi.”
“Hi, Jeff. What are you doing here?”
“Word’s out, you have something that might belong to me,” he answers, but doesn’t sound bitter at all. “Is it true?”
Catalina looks around. “Where are they?”
“Is it true?”
“Jeff…” she begins, but is cut off by a piercing shriek. They both look over their shoulders to see who it is, and suddenly Jack comes bolting from out of nowhere. He takes a leap at Jeff, throwing his arms around him. “Uh…”
“Hi, Jack,” Jeff says, like that’s all he’s ever done.
“Dad!” the boy squeaks happily. Catalina shakes her head and seems embarrassed.
“I’m sorry, Jeff, he usually doesn’t…”
“It’s okay. He seems to recognize me. Weird, huh?”
“Yeah, very strange,” Catalina mumbles. “Maybe we should talk…”
“I already know,” Jeff explains knowingly without taking his eyes off the child.
“You’re extremely mad at me, aren’t you?”
Jeff looks away from Jack for a second, meeting her gaze. “Actually… No. Well, a bit. Some. Okay, I’m mad. Very angry… But you know what?”
“What?” she asks nervously. Both Fred and I wait for his reply, but he doesn’t say anything for a moment or two. It feels like an eternity. Jeff seems to be doubtful about how to handle the situation. For once, I’m not sure what he’ll do.
Fred’s grip around my waist tightens. I want the two of them to work this out so badly, for Jeff’s sake.
Ultimately, Jeff puts down Jack on the bench next to them. Then he slips his arms around Catalina, and kisses her passionately. I’m relieved. For a second there, I thought he wasn’t going to forgive her.
It takes a few seconds before Catalina puts her arms around his neck and answers the kiss. I can hear Jack giggle from somewhere. Fred leans closer to me, kissing my neck and I smile happily.
Jeff pulls away first, without removing his arms around Catalina. He brushes away some hair from her face. “But you know what?” he repeats the question.
“It really doesn’t matter that much at all.”