Summary: Fred finds that spending his first Christmas alone without Lex is unbearable and plans to do all he can to win her back – with questionable results. Even during the most blessed holidays there are lessons to learn and prizes to pay in the name of love.
Dedication: Written entirely for Kristine as her yearly Christmas fic of 2004.
Disclaimer: Lex, Sammie, Jeff, Matt, Anna, Anthony and Chris along with Suspended Motion itself belong to NYgoldfish54. Fred and his brothers are mine.
Just to get some peace and quiet, I agreed to try to talk to Lex again during the Rockefeller Center hoopla. Sammie suggested lots of unnecessary things for me to do and say – words like nonchalant, self-possessed and cordial were all on the list of things to be. I don’t even understand most of those words. I’m surprised Sammie knows what they mean.
It was cold outside and my mom refused to let me kidnap Sebastian or Alex for the event – honestly I don’t see why she made such a big deal out of it; she’s never exactly been Mom of the Year before. Mac had to be the bratty brother that got to tag along. Unfortunately, he’s not as easy to control as my other brothers are. Mac has a tendency to take off whenever he wants to if he’s bored or just feeling like it.
I hope I was never that bad when I was younger. Sure, I took off a few times as well, but never out of boredom and especially not while doing someone a favor. Lex could drag me along on the most yawn-inducing adventures but I never left her whenever I got bored.
Speaking of Lex; I’m almost positive she’ll dislike the idea of running into me two days in a row. I’m not convinced I know why I’m even going there. It seems like a masochistic thing to do. If things go to hell I will blame it all on Sammie and her whacked out ideas.
Mac voiced his opinions about being forced to go watch a tree when there was no real reason behind it very loudly during dinner. Of course, it was to no interest for anyone but him – Seb spent about fifty-five seconds teasing me about Lex and then went on to eat his spaghetti. Alex couldn’t care less what was going on. As usual, a Popsicle receives more attention than I do in his little universe.
“You’re not allowed to bail on me tonight,” I told Mac sternly. He seemed utterly miserable with his jacket wrapped tightly around himself from the biting wind. It didn’t make much of a difference but at least it kept him from complaining too much. “You’re the reason for going: if you’re not around I have no reason and she’ll think I’m pathetic.”
“But you are,” he growled angrily. “It’s like minus ten degrees and you want to suck up to Lex even though she’s already taken! I mean, I know you’re the lamest idiot in the world and that you want to believe in eternal love and all that crap, but come on!”
That’s the second time someone’s called me lame today. I hope this trend won’t catch on. “Fourteen degrees, Mac. We’re not in Europe anymore. And so what if I’m lame? I would help you out in a second, and do you know why?”
“Because we’re brothers,” he moaned with a grimace. “You always use that excuse. When do I get something back from all the favors I do for you?”
“What do you mean ‘all’ the favors you do? You’ve helped me out maybe five times, while I have to cover up for you to Mom and Dad all the time! I have to tell them you’re staying with one of your friends when you’re really out drinking all night, and then I have to come pick you up because-”
“Alright, alright! I still think I deserve some reward. It is cold and I’m freezing. Look, my jacket isn’t enough to keep the wind away!”
“I’ll buy you a new jacket,” I muttered. “Shut up now.”
“You don’t tell Seb or Alex to shut up,” he whined under his breath. I stopped listening to him and his sniping remarks.
Everything was so much better last year. Lex and I were still together and we spent Christmas at her place – my parents hadn’t moved here yet and I always stayed at Lex’s place. I loved it there. Her mom was nice to me and treated me a thousand times better than my own mother ever did.
We used to go to Rockefeller Center on Christmas Day with her friends and afterwards we went to a restaurant to eat. Last year our reservations got mixed up and we couldn’t go to the restaurant we usually eat at, so we ended up at Pizza Hut instead, but it didn’t matter at all. We had just as much fun there, too. Everything we did together was fun.
Mac is far too young to understand the meaning behind being with the one person you know you belong with – and then losing her. If Mac only had experienced real love once in his life I wouldn’t be so tempted to kick his ass all the time. “Promise to stay close,” I told him when we got to the rink below the big Christmas tree. “Be nice, put on some skates, and do nothing but skate until I tell you not to.”
“You suck,” he complained. “You know, I’m a little short with money.”
“So?” I said distractedly. Last time I checked, we’re never short with money – unless Dad cuts us off, which he’d never do since we’d only end up complaining too much. He hates when we complain. Actually, sometimes I’m sure he hates us too, but mostly he just hates our whining.
“Well, I think you gotta pay the fee for me. And I’m feeling a craving coming on.”
“I won’t buy you any alcohol,” I sighed, looking around for Sammie or any of the others.
“Food! I want something to eat while I jump through your hoops.”
Finally I got him some popcorn, buffalo wings and a Coke to stop him from ruining all my plans. He wouldn’t leave me alone until I’d given him my last $20 but he took off quite quick after that.
Sammie didn’t show up until fifteen minutes later. I was beyond nervous, bored and hyper – waiting and being patient aren’t things I’m very good at. “Hey, there you are,” she announced happily, grabbing my arm. Thanks, telling me where I am is very useful. “Lex is over on the other side of the rink, putting on her skates. I said I was going to buy some snack, but I think she knows I’m up to something. Both Matt and Jeff were looking at me suspiciously. Maybe I’m not so good with keeping secrets after all.”
“That’s okay,” I mumbled absently. “Is he there?”
“Brad? No, I double-checked. He’s supposed to be at home. If he shows up you can kill me.”
“I will,” I promised. “I have to check on Mac first.”
Sammie gazed around over the rink. “He’s down there, hitting on some girl. I thought you’d bring your younger ones. Lex won’t believe that you’re baby-sitting a sixteen year-old.”
“Mom said I couldn’t take them,” I muttered. “Apparently they’re too young to be out late. And I told that brat to behave!”
Sammie went back to her gang and I had to go down to the rink and make sure Mac wouldn’t upset too many people. He didn’t react at all when I called his name so I had to grab his arm and physically drag him along over the ice, away from the girl. “What’s your problem?” he snarled vehemently, trying to pull free. “I’m not doing anything!”
“I told you to behave,” I said. “Getting into fights is not behaving well.”
“What fight? I was just talking to her.”
“Yes, and I’m sure that was highly appreciated by that guy that’s obviously her boyfriend. Can’t you ever stay out of trouble?” I asked angrily. “I always have to save your ass. I asked for one favor-”
“Please, don’t you think I know you’d rather have Alex and Seb here? They’re the only ones who ever listen to you and your hopeless orders! Anyone with half a brain knows how to think for themselves, Fred! Except for you, who thinks that everything about the world is peachy. You’re so naïve!”
“Oh, please,” I objected, but realized he wouldn’t be listening to any of my arguments for or against, so I sighed dejectedly. “I’ll buy you a new stereo if you behave and stop flirting with everyone you meet.”
“Okay,” he agreed victoriously. “Hey, guess what?”
“What?” I said, rolling my eyes.
“Lex’s behind you,” he grinned amusedly, quickly skating away when I let go of his jacket.
Someday I have to kill the little brat. I slowly turned around and for once Mac wasn’t lying. Lex was standing right behind me with a questioning look on her face. “Hey,” I said, trying to sound easy-going.
“Hey. What’re you doing here?”
“Quite a co-incidence, don’t you think?” I shrugged. She was giving me a very doubtful look and I couldn’t keep up my posture. “I came here to get a chance to talk to you. I feel kinda bad for how things turned out yesterday and I just have to tell you that I’m not mad at you or anything. Sammie told me you were going to be here and I forced Mac to come along so I’d have a reason to be here,” I confessed hurriedly.
Lex now seemed mostly tired and bemused. I know that look; it’s right before she starts rubbing her temples and muttering things under her breath – like the time I accidentally dropped her laptop into the floor after she’d finished transferring all the band’s songs to the hard drive. I did buy her a new laptop, though. She wouldn’t even let me go near that one. Apparently I’m not good with computers.
“About yesterday-” she started, moving forwards with her skates clumsily slipping against the ice. She used to fall over all the time before I taught her how to skate properly. She’ll never be a hockey player but at least she doesn’t fall head first as soon as she steps out on the ice.
“I know, I was such an idiot for misinterpreting everything and then you left so I couldn’t talk to you-”
“Fred, please, shut up,” Lex begged, shaking her head. She placed her hands against my shoulders, which completely rendered me speechless just because she was so close. “You’re ranting, and you know I don’t understand a damn thing when you do that. Sammie told me that you were here and I decided to come over to see what you’re up to – obviously you must be up to something other than lecturing your brother. If you’ll hear me out I can explain about last night… everything.”
I nodded, staring into her intense eyes. I miss her so much. “Okay.”
“I didn’t know you’d be there, Fred, I swear to God. If I’d known I’d never…” she said quietly. “I don’t know. Everything’s so complicated right now. I wish things could be simpler, that’s all.”
A sudden sting of guilt struck me; the same old sense of it being all my fault. “I’m sorry. I sh-shouldn’t have come. I was so stupid! I’m sorry.”
“No! No, you weren’t! I’m glad you’re here. I wanted to explain things for you. So you’d understand. I should know by now that things that are obvious to me aren’t always obvious to you.”
That made me feel less stupid, thanks. “I understand that you’re seeing someone else,” I said, trying not to sound bitter. “I accept that. I can’t say that I don’t care, but I’m not holding it against you. You and me are over; I know that.”
“I’m not seeing him. We just went out a couple of times; Sammie and Anna suggested I’d go out with him when he kept showing up at our gigs and I did it so they’d stop talking about it. That’s it.”
“Is he nice to you?” I wanted to know, frowning.
“Yeah, I guess. He’s an ordinary, nice guy that doesn’t mean anything, really. It’s not serious. I probably won’t go out with him again.”
“You don’t have to do that,” I said. “I mean, you don’t have to not go out with him just because of me. If he’s nice to you… I just want him to be nice to you.”
Lex nodded. “He’s a good guy.”
“So…” I mumbled, hoping I could have a normal conversation with her without ruining everything like I always do. “How are things at home? Your dad’s not giving you a hard time, has he?”
“No, he hasn’t been home a lot. And I stay out of his way when he is, just as you always told me to. My mom asks about you sometimes; if everything’s okay with you. You know how she worries,” she said with a shy smile. “The twins miss you; they kept asking why you didn’t come around as often anymore until suddenly they stopped with the questions. I think Robbie told them. I guess they all got used to having you around.”
“You can tell them I’m fine,” I replied. “I miss them, too. Not as much as I miss you, but you know how it is. How are things with the band? You guys doing alright?”
“We’re doing fine,” she said. “We’ve got a pretty good rep now. People are booking us; clubs are booking us – it’s kind of amazing.”
“I’m happy for you,” I said sincerely. “You deserve that. You’re talented; I knew you’d make it.”
“And you?” she asked. “You never came back to school after last summer.”
“I transferred,” I explained hurriedly. “Thought I’d at least do something right; to leave you alone like you requested.”
“I didn’t tell you to leave me alone. I said that we needed some time apart. Just to get some perspective of things. I still loved you. It had nothing to do with you doing things wrong. You’re a good guy, Fred, and you were a really good boyfriend and a good friend. And you were a good ex-boyfriend up until you started stalking me,” she smiled.
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to be stalky. I just wanted to see you. I should probably leave now.”
“Yeah, maybe you should,” she said, with a sudden stern tone in her voice.
I nodded and prepared to leave to go find Mac, but decided to make one more, thoughtless comment. “I only came here to check up on you, you know,” I muttered grumpily. “Not to stalk you.”
“You know, Fred, this is not helping at all. I don’t need you to watch over me; I have friends that I can turn to so you don’t have to act like a big brother. I already have my own brothers for that.”
“I’m just trying to-”
“Don’t, okay. I have enough to worry about. I don’t need you to become one of my problems. I’m doing fine without you.”
“You were the one who said that you still wanted me to be your friend,” I reminded her.
“I know. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have. I don’t think I can handle that right now,” she mumbled. “It feels like we’ve been apart for an eternity, but it’s still too soon for me to have you around. I think you should leave. And I think Mac should leave too.”
“You think I’m doing this just to spite you?”
“I think you’re not getting how difficult it is to have you around me,” she accused.
“It was just as difficult for me to even show up here!” I said loudly. “If Sammie hadn’t persuaded me to come I never would’ve been here in the first place. If your friends are trying to torture me in some new, effective way, please tell them that it’s working really well.”
“They set you up with this other guy so you’ll get over me and then they tell me to go find you so I can see you with this new guy and have my heart broken in several more pieces and then they convince me to come here to talk to you so you can tell me how you can’t wait to be over me. I’d say that classifies as a rather cruel thing to do to me.”
“Sammie didn’t mean anything by it,” Lex said determinedly. “She’s only doing what she thinks is best. They want me to get back together with you so I won’t be sad anymore. I’ll talk to her so she’ll leave you alone.”
I don’t think Sammie would deliberately do something that would hurt Lex or me; I tend to say the first thing that comes to mind when I’m upset – even if it’s hurtful and wrong. “I don’t have a problem with Sammie. I do, however, have plenty of problems with you acting like you’re the only one who’s hurt. You broke up with me.”
“Reasoning with you is just as impossible as it was while we were dating,” she moaned. “You refuse to listen and you refuse to see things my way.”
“Your way? I’m listening. You’re the one who never listens to me. I love you. Why is that so wrong?”
“Because you’re doing it for all the wrong reasons!” she exploded. “You still don’t understand why we aren’t meant to be, why things went wrong between us. You’re just feeling sorry for yourself because I left you. I didn’t leave you to be mean to you, I did it so you’d think things over. But you haven’t done that, have you? You’re just as clueless about our relationship as you were six months ago!”
“You’re right,” I growled. “I don’t have a clue why you broke up with me. I thought it was because we couldn’t solve our problems together; with my problems in school and your problems with the band. I was tired and you were tired and it had nothing to do with us not being meant to be. You’re just using that as an excuse.”
“I should’ve known this was a mistake,” she said.
“You were the one who came over to me.”
“Right now; our entire relationship seems like a big, huge mistake,” she continued. “You haven’t changed a bit. You’re still the miserable guy you were when I first met you. You still drink too much and you still say things you don’t mean when you’re angry. Grow up, Fred.”
For some reason, her words hurt a lot more than she probably meant them to. I do have a bad temper, but I never took it out on her when I was mad. As I said; we rarely fought over anything and the few times we did, I never yelled at her or said cruel things I didn’t mean. She could at least give me credit for that. “First of all; you know I don’t drink as much as I used to anymore and using all that against me isn’t fair when I never did any of that to you. The only reason I’m miserable is because you left me!”
“And you want you to leave again!” she shouted. “I’m tired of this.”
“Fine,” I said. “I hope you realize that you can’t push me away too many times and expect me to come crawling back to you every single time.”
Lex’s eyes filled with tears. “I don’t care. I still want you to go.”
“Is everything alright?” Sammie’s worried voice interrupted us. She grabbed my arm to be able to stop with her skates.
“I was just leaving,” I excused myself, breaking free from her grip. Lex turned her face down without looking at me again. I walked back up the stairs, completely forgetting about telling Mac I was leaving.
Sammie caught up to me when I started walking down the street to where I lived. “Fred, wait.”
“C’mon, please don’t leave. You can work this out,” she said, once more grabbing my arm.
I sniffled quietly and turned to her. “I guess it was meant to fail from the start.”
“What happened? Why did you start fighting?” she asked concernedly. “Fred, I just want to help you. Lex and you deserve to be together.”
“Based on how well we get along?” I said sarcastically, wiping away some tears with my jacket sleeve. “I didn’t handle that too well.”
“You were both upset. Ugly break-up. Bad stuff happens sometimes. Please don’t cry,” she begged. “I’ll think of something to get her back.”
“Tell me again why I’m still listening to you,” I demanded. “All your former plans have failed miserably. Don’t you have a life to tend to yourself? Why ruin mine?”
“Well… Lex… I mean, she might say that she’s okay, but we all know that she’s not feeling very good at all. I admit that setting her up with Brad was a mistake. This my way of making it all better. You should be together. She just needs some convincing. I want you two to be happy again.”
“You’re not mad at me, are you?” she wondered. “I didn’t think you’d start yelling so much. Everybody was staring.”
“I guess I should be lucky that Jeff and the other guys didn’t try to kill me,” I sighed. “I’ve never yelled at her like that before. That was the worst fight we’ve ever had.”
“You’ll be alright. Go home and eat some chocolate. Sometimes that helps. I’ll call you tomorrow.”
“Please don’t,” I snorted.
“I will anyway. Cheer up. Things aren’t over ‘til it’s over,” she promised, turning to go back to the rink, waving at me.
Famous last words before it’s really over, I guess.