Summary: After a confusing end of a hockey game, Fred has a talk with Kate, regarding broken hearts, public humiliation, lasting frienships, and how they really feel about each other.
Dedication: None this time.
Disclaimer: Fred’s mine, Kate’s mine, Daniel’s mine - Lex is mentioned and she belongs to nygoldfish54.
Fred pulled off his helmet, the euphoria after the win quickly fading away, sweat dripping down on his jersey. The exhaustion he’d felt only a minute ago, a result of the strenuous hockey game he just finished playing, was rapidly subsiding, now replaced by the much too familiar feeling of utter confusion. Although, Fred doubted he’d ever been quite as flustered as he was at this moment – which said a lot about his current state of mind.
Still hearing his teammates’ cheerful voices from the ice, where they were way too occupied with celebrating their secured spot for the regionals to notice him slipping away, Fred followed Kate through the hallway toward the locker rooms. She wasn’t looking at him, but he knew that she was aware of his following her.
“Kate, what was that about?” he finally asked, before she could escape into the girls’ locker room. She had only come to the game to watch him play, and had no other reason for heading to the locker room other than to hide out. As soon as he spoke, she stopped abruptly in the middle of the hallway.
For a while, neither of them said anything. Fred wasn’t sure what to do, and was only waiting for Kate to speak up – though he suspected she was expecting the same of him. She paced back and forth, from wall to wall, her head held low and her arms placed behind her back, nervously fiddling with the bracelet around her left wrist. “I don’t know,” she muttered suddenly, still pacing. “I don’t know what came over me. Are you very mad at me?”
Fred looked surprised. He couldn’t understand what he had to be angry about. “Eh, no. Why would you think that, Kate?”
“Because… I don’t know,” she repeated, running a hand through her bright red, curly, messy hair. She seemed to be as flustered as he was feeling, and was avoiding his eyes at all costs. “Thought that maybe… that maybe you wouldn’t wanna see me more.”
“What?” he laughed shortly. “Why?” It sounded so ridiculous. He’d known Kate since the first day he’d started at the school and couldn’t imagine that they’d ever stop being friends, especially not over something as absurd as this.
Kate continued to stalk around in circles – Fred was starting to get dizzy only by watching her. It was weird to see her like this; Kate was rarely distressed over anything. He also realized that it was strange to see her dressed in something other than her cheerleading outfit – Kate was usually at the games cheering him on, convinced that it would bring the team more luck if she had her outfit on. Sometimes she even managed to talk some of her fellow friends in the squad into joining her.
Today, however, she was only there as a spectator, dressed in jeans and a matching denim blazer. She hadn’t been her usual perky self all week; Fred had been too busy with his extra hockey practices to have time to talk to her, but he had still been worried that something was wrong. It had been important for the team to focus on the match; to qualify for regionals was the only thing that had mattered – in theory at least.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered throatily. “I’ve ruined everything.”
Fred didn’t understand. “What have you ruined?” he asked, hoping she wouldn’t reply with ‘everything’.
“This. You and I. Our friendship. I just…” she ranted with an upset voice. “I’ve wrecked everything, just like I always do when it comes to blokes!” She kicked the garbage can next to bench by the wall opposite Fred; making it fall over with a loud clatter. “Dammit. Ouch.”
Fred jumped at her sudden outburst, now more worried than ever. Kate had never behaved like this before, ever. “Kate, please,” he begged, stepping forward to block her way. “Tell me what you mean.”
“I’m so sorry,” she mumbled quietly, staring down at her shoes. “I didn’t mean to make a mess.”
“You haven’t,” he assured her forcefully. “I’m just confused. Why did you-?”
“I can’t even have a platonic friendship with my best mate anymore,” she exclaimed angrily, pushing him out of the way so she could proceed with her pacing. “I should’ve known it’d end like this. And everyone saw it; stared at me like I was crazy. God, they’re gonna talk about me on Monday and… Why did I have to do this? In front of the entire school? They’re all gonna think they were right about you and me and… They’re not.”
“I don’t get it,” Fred said, again following her with his eyes. “What about you and me?”
Kate shoved her hands into the pockets of her jeans, throwing a quick, bemused glance at him. Her eyes were filled with tears, but Fred wasn’t sure if they were tears of sadness, anger or frustration, so he didn’t comment on it. “Oh, come off it. You know they all think we’re in love or something; that we’re secretly having a crush on each other just because we’re friends.”
“But… That makes no sense,” he pointed out flatly. “I’m… I don’t understand that.”
Kate shrugged awkwardly, looking away. “Nevermind. You know how they are. A boy and a girl can’t hang out together without being attracted to each other, apparently. If they’re all expecting us to start dating soon, they’ll see how wrong they are eventually.”
Fred didn’t say anything. He was always being questioned by somebody whether or not he was dating Kate, and his other friends loved to tease him about it, but even though he’d said no numerous times, people still asked about it. He definitely couldn’t see why Kate and he could be anything more than friends. He’d never considered dating her and had never had romantic feelings for her at all – he decided that now wasn’t the time to point that out to Kate, though. “Kate?”
She traced her lips with her fingers, staring blankly ahead, into the wall. “I was just thinking that maybe you wanted me to. You were just standing there and… it was all I could think of to do. I’m sorry.”
“I was standing there because I was exhausted from the game,” he clarified gently, stepping closer. “Still am, actually.”
Kate turned her head up. He was usually quite a bit taller than her, even without wearing his skates, so she had to crane her neck back even more now. “It was a good game.”
“Yeah, it was,” he concurred. “Still doesn’t explain why you thought it necessary to do that to me.”
Kate put a hand over her mouth, whimpering quietly. “It was stupid.”
“No, but you could explain it.”
“I already told you,” she clarified gravely. “I thought you wanted me to.”
“You’re my friend,” he stated practically. “Why would I wanna-?”
“You don’t feel like that for me?” she asked defiantly.
Fred realized that nothing he said would be a good enough answer. “You know that I like you, Kate.”
“But you don’t want to be with me? That’s alright,” she said, once again pacing back and forth. “You can tell me the truth.”
“Kate? Do you feel like that for me?” he replied bluntly. Kate had never shown that she was the least bit interested in dating him; he’d hoped she would tell him if she was, as she was never one to keep it to herself when she fancied someone. Maybe he’d read it wrong? He was kind of dense when it came to picking up on when someone liked him.
Kate observed him uncertainly, he gaze flickering and her fingers tapping a rhythm against the fabric of her jeans. “I’m confused, Fred.”
He rolled his eyes. “What do you think I am? Enlightened?”
Kate frowned worriedly. “I’ve destroyed it, haven’t I?”
“Destroyed what?” he exclaimed, annoyed with her for not explaining anything to him. “Don’t be so cryptic! Stop acting like such a… such a girl and just tell me what it is!”
“I thought that maybe I should kiss you because I like you, and I wasn’t sure how I like you since we’ve never really talked about it!” she yelled back, then calming down slightly. “I just… we get along so well and you’re always nice to me and… maybe I hoped that it could be worth it. You’re a great guy, and I just wanted to know why I’m not with you when I could be. I’m always dating such losers and they never treat me right and they always turn out to be jerks. And then there are you… You’re a perfectly nice guy and I… I would like to be with someone like you.”
“We’re mates. Mates don’t hook up,” Fred decided firmly, refraining from pointing out that if she wanted to be with a nice guy, she probably shouldn’t be dating the guys with the bad reputations. “You know I don’t do that.”
“I know,” she sighed resignedly. “It would’ve made things easier, though, if I could just date you instead of searching for love in the wrong places. And you wouldn’t have to be alone, either. You wouldn’t have to feel bad because you don’t have someone to be with.”
“I’m not feeling too bad,” he said simply.
“But you have a broken heart,” Kate said.
“No, I don’t,” he replied earnestly.
“But you’re in love with someone you can’t have; who doesn’t notice you,” Kate went on persistently. Fred looked away from her. “How is that different than having a broken heart?”
“I don’t know,” he muttered. “It gives you no right to just come up to me and kiss me just because you feel like it, though.”
Kate sighed woefully, this time sending him a sympathetic look that he definitely hadn’t asked for. “I’m just tired of never being able to find someone who likes me for who I am. You don’t just see me as some ditzy cheerleader with a nice body; you like me because of who I am. I’m tired of blokes asking me out, expecting me to be someone I'm not, thinking I’m easy because I’m popular and…” Kate didn’t finish her thought, obviously very upset and distressed by what people thought of her. “I’m tired of being misunderstood like that. That’s why I thought you and I… I know that it’s your soft spot; you’re just like me.”
“No, I’m not,” Fred said instantly, anger flaring up inside him. “I wouldn’t settle with you only because I can’t make it work with someone else.”
Kate seemed hurt by his words but managed to shake it off, probably hoping he hadn’t noticed. Fred made a mental note to remember to apologize for his words later. “Wouldn’t it be good, though?” Kate asked quietly. “We always have so much fun together, and we always have something to talk about, and there’s no one I… trust more than you, Fred. It would put an end to all the failed relationships and pointless dating and…” She drew a deep breath of resignation. “At least I’d always have someone, you know.”
“I know,” he mumbled, mostly to himself. “But it’s no good.”
“Because… because it wouldn’t be right, just to be together because we can’t be with the ones we want to be with.”
“I don’t have anyone I want to be with, other than you,” Kate said simply, shrugging. “I keep getting dumped, and I keep getting bored, so what’s the point with it, anyway? Why can’t I just be happy?”
Fred had to laugh. “Kate, please. You’re the most happy, jubilant, cheerful person at all times.”
“That’s true,” she said thoughtfully, sitting down on the bench, chewing on her lower lip. Fred sat down next to her, still looking at her attentively. “I’m just lonely sometimes, I guess.”
Fred reached out and took her hand in his. “I know. Me too. I mean, I can’t say that it’s easy to watch some other guy kissing the girl I like. There’s nothing I’d rather have than to be with her, but you know, I’m sure I can wait until I get the chance…” He trailed off, not sure if he’d ever really get the chance he was hoping for. “It’s still better than being with you; I think we both deserve better than that.”
Kate nodded without looking at him. “I know how much you like her. I wish someone would like me as much as you like her,” she mumbled sadly. “If she knew that-”
“I couldn’t do that,” Fred interrupted her. “And you promised you wouldn’t tell her.”
“I did. I won’t,” Kate said. “I kinda wish this could all be easier.”
“It’s alright,” Fred smiled. “I’m not too unhappy. Sure, this unrequited love sucks, but I’m still not too bad.”
“It’s only unrequited because she doesn’t know you’re in love with her,” Kate pointed out.
Fred dug his elbow gently in her ribs, making her giggle. “Hey, I don’t give you annoying love advice, do I?”
“No, but that’s because you never date,” she teased, smiling, and then straightened up, her face serious. “Fred, I’m glad you’re my friend. You’re sort of ruining my theory about all guys being complete and utter scum, you know.”
“I’m sorry,” he grinned, amused.
“Yeah, you should be. That theory was really accurate until just now,” she muttered with fake annoyance. “But… I was afraid I’d screwed it all up.”
“Yeah, you said that. I still don’t understand why you’d think that,” he said, shaking his head. “You only made me confused.”
Kate frowned concernedly. “I thought that maybe things would get weird between us now. I'm not very good at keeping the guys I have in my life. I was hoping I’d do better with you, with our friendship. I can’t afford to lose that, you know. It’d kill me. I regretted kissing you so much from the moment I realized what I’d done. I didn’t think you’d be such a good sport about it. I thought that you’d be annoyed and angry and-”
“God, you think too much,” he complained, rolling his eyes.
“Between the two of us, someone’s gotta think,” Kate smiled. “But… thank you for not making such a big deal out of it. I’m not sure what kind of reaction I was expecting, but you really… I guess I was most scared that you wouldn’t care.”
“Wouldn’t care?” he asked, surprised. “Why? You think I’d just let you slip away after kissing me in front of all our friends?”
Kate wrinkled her nose. “Did you have to emphasis ‘all’? I’m perfectly aware that I made a fool out of myself in front of hundreds of people.”
“Why couldn’t you just have waited until I’d stepped off the ice?” he replied with a laugh. “What was the point-?”
“Alright, I admit it, it was a mistake!” she hollered to drown out his voice. “I made a mistake, alright? Can you just let me finish telling you what a nice guy you are, huh?”
“Please, go on.”
“Well, now you ruined the moment,” she complained, shoving at him with her hand. “You made me shy.”
“Shy?” he laughed. “When the hell have you ever been shy?”
Kate snickered. “I don’t know. It’s harder than you think. But in all seriousness – don’t interrupt me! – not all guys would have done what you did. I’m glad our friendship means that much to you; more than to be ruined by some stupid kiss that didn’t mean anything.”
“Of course it does,” he said gently. “You’re my best friend. If snogging you would ruin all that; what kind of a friendship would it be? I would never have let you get away with it and I do care when you’re upset. I know you are. You should tell me why.”
Kate nodded, sighing. “Alright. You’re a good kisser, though. You wanna go get some ice cream?”
“Yeah, that sounds nice,” he smiled. “You’ll let me change out of my hockey gear first, I hope?”
“Maybe,” she grinned.
“Whatever,” he rolled his eyes. “Let’s meet up front in twenty minutes.”
Kate got up from the bench and put her hands into the pockets of her jeans, looking serious. “Uh, let’s meet in the parking lot instead, okay?”
Fred smirked, unable to hold back his laughter. “Afraid you’ll get teased?”
“Not so much, no,” Kate said proudly. “But you know…”
“Yes, I do know,” he said. “I know that Daniel is going to taunt you relentlessly for this for all eternity and then some.”
“Oh,” she mumbled, blushing. “You think he’ll know?”
“Well, he may be boycotting all social events, but I’m quite sure he’ll hear about this,” Fred laughed. “And you’re worried that no one likes you as much as I like Lex when Daniel is around?”
“Hey!” she objected. “That’s not funny.”
“I’m serious. You wanted to date a friend, right? Granted, Daniel is kind of a jerk, but he wouldn’t treat you badly, and you two are much more suited for each other than you and I are. You two have always been crazy at and about each other. If there’s someone you should be hooking up with, it’s him.”
“Eww, no!” Kate shouted, slapping her hand at his arm. “Don’t even joke about that!”
“In all seriousness-”
“Stop it! I’m not listening.”
“-you know I’m right, you just don’t wanna admit it.”
Kate began to stomp off, but stopped dead after only a few steps. “That’s not true.”
“Okay,” he yielded simply, knowing he was right anyway. “But it’s not really my fault that he’ll tease you for something you did.”
“And I guess if Lex thinks that something’s up between you and me, it’ll all be your fault?”
Fred stared at her. “Eh, no. That would still be your fault.”
“You really should tell her,” Kate started, as Fred got up and joined her on the way to the locker room. “Maybe if she knows, she’ll stop dating that-”
“Kate, just forget it. If it’s meant to be, it’ll happen,” he said determinedly. “I’m not sure you kissing me helped its progress much, though.”
“It’s alright.” Fred stopped outside the locker room door. “Whatever it is that’s wrong with you, you know it’ll be alright.”
“I guess so.”
“Go get Daniel, and meet me by the car, alright?”
“Daniel?!” Kate exclaimed dissatisfiedly.
“Just do it, Kate.”
Kate began backing towards the front doors while talking to him. “I’m sure that if I asked Lex if she wanted to come along, she wouldn’t mind.”
“Kate, she’s off celebrating this with her boyfriend,” Fred pointed out.
“Well… maybe I could write her a letter and explain-” she suggested fervently.
“Just shut up and go.”
“-I mean, what’ve you got to lose? I won’t rest ‘til I know you’re happy, Fred. You’ll have her; it's just a matter of time! Just talk to her, be friendly; it won’t hurt you a bit! Before you know it, you’ll be the happiest guy on campus! You’ll win her over with your charm and… Eh, maybe not so much with your charm than with other stuff… Oh, we’ll figure something out, Fred! She’ll come around. It’s meant to be! She’ll start noticing you and then she’ll fall for you and… And didn’t I date her boyfriend once?”
Listening to Kate yammering on as she usually did, Fred neglected to point out to her that she was about to back right into the glass doors behind her.