Summary: When Lex is taken away from him and more responsibility is placed upon his shoulder than ever before, Fred decides to make an alliance with Jeff and put their differences aside, just so they can get Lex back again.
Disclaimer: Lex O’Leary and Jeff Delricci belong to NYgoldfish54. Fred belongs to me and never will cease to do. Elle is one of those rare things the two of us share. Oh, yeah, Kate McKinley shows up in this universe - she's also mine.
Chapter 7. The Best Song
It was already dark when they arrived at Lex’s school the following evening. Kate and Fred were lurking in the bushes right under Lex’s window, behind the big school building. There were still coming light from a few other windows and they didn’t dare moving closer until everything had gone dark.
Kate was surprisingly upbeat despite her earlier tantrum; Fred had been worried about her for approximately three hours before she’d started talking to him again. Still, during most of the drive there, Kate had sat in the passenger’s seat, sulking and moping without saying a word, staring out the window, looking depressed. It had made the drive go relatively fast.
Kate and Jeff were also getting along fairly well; Fred had anticipated the opposite. They were talking politely, carefully staying off the subject of their previous spat. Fred hadn’t asked, nor did he care very much, what it had really been about.
Spat or not; Fred thought the two of them were behaving real strange no matter what. Of course, he was far too nervous about seeing Lex than to care about Kate and Jeff’s abnormal ways.
“Seen her yet?” Kate asked quietly, sticking her head up from behind a small bush. Fred pushed her away; hoping her bright red hair wouldn’t be seen from any of the windows. “Stop it!”
“Stay there,” he said impatiently. “You take up too much space.”
“Me? I don’t take up half the space you do!” Kate hissed indignantly. Fred, still watching the window on the third floor in hope of the lights being turned off in the room, opened his mouth to tell her to – not surprisingly – shut up. Instead, there came a sudden sound from the other side of the big backyard; Fred and Kate both ducked to keep out of sight.
It took a while before the sound disappeared – Fred guessed it was some sort of security guard, or possibly a gardener. “Oh, what the bleedin’ hell was that?” Kate complained, getting up from the grass. “Are they after us?”
“There’s not much to be after,” Fred muttered quietly. “We’re like two feet away from the main road.”
Kate growled with annoyance, pushing away some branches from a close by tree so she could make her way through the foliage. Fred followed her until they reached the car that was parked on the other side of the grove. Jeff was leaning against the car, juggling back and forth with Elle’s green turtle. When he saw them approach, he straightened up and put the turtle aside on the hood of the car. “What is it? Anybody see you?”
“We had to hide,” Kate explained, picking leaves out of her hair. “Uh, everything alright here?”
Jeff shrugged, avoiding her eyes. “I guess. Elle’s still asleep.”
“Oh, good,” Kate said swiftly, sneaking off to the other side of the road.
Fred stared after her for a moment, but decided not to comment on their weirdness. “You can go take a look if you want, but I’d guess nothing’ll happen for at least another two hours. We should just stay here and wait,” Fred suggested, shivering at the thought of having to wait when he was already so wound up.
Jeff also sighed, throwing a quick look over at Kate, who was still trying to shake the twigs and various green things out of her messy hair. “I guess you’re right. Hey, look, I think I’ll take a walk around the area and see if I can spot anything, alright?”
“Fine,” Fred said distractedly, already plotting on how to survive the next couple of hours without perishing from anxiety. “Oh, hey, maybe you could ask Kate to tag along?”
Jeff frowned slightly, obviously not too fond of that idea but reluctant to decline directly. “Well,” he spoke slowly. “I can ask her. Sure.”
Fred shook his head tiredly, as Jeff strolled over to Kate. After some convincing, they both disappeared down the road and then into the small path that led up to the school. Fred couldn’t help but silently wish they’d both get caught by the guard.
It had slowly gotten dark. Elle was still sleeping soundly in her car seat, hugging another one of her soft toys tightly in her arms. Fred had taken to replace Jeff’s posture; leaning against the car while not thinking of anything special than hoping that he could see Lex soon.
A rain drop hit his nose, and when he looked up, he realized that the sky had gotten cloudy and dark in only a few minutes time. Although, when he checked his watch, he saw that almost an hour and a half had passed already. Fred looked around. There was still no sign of Jeff and Kate. The area around the school wasn’t that big; Fred doubted they’d gotten lost.
He didn’t have time to figure out what had happened to them, as Elle started twitching and wailing from inside the car. Fred picked her up and was about to bring her with him to go take another look at the school, when Kate showed up, bursting out between the trees, her cheeks flushed. “Sorry,” she announced breathlessly. “We took the wrong path back and totally got lost.”
Fred stared at her. “Okay. Where’s Jeff?” he wanted to know, hoping Kate hadn’t shoved him into a hole in the ground. However, before she could answer, Jeff also dashed out through the heavy leaf work, making an abrupt halt right next to the car.
“Hey,” he mumbled. “We got lost.”
“Kate told me. I was just about to go check on the school. Are the lights out?”
Kate and Jeff stared emotionlessly at him; then turning to glance at each other, which resulted in them both quickly looking down at their shoes. “Uh, we got lost in the other direction,” Kate explained slowly. “Sorry.”
Fred dug out the knapsack he was bringing with him from the backseat. “There is only one direction. I thought-”
“Look, we better go check if she’s there,” Kate cut him off, briskly walking over towards the side of the road. “C’mon.”
Fred shot Jeff a questioning look, but Jeff only shrugged, following Kate over to climb across the ditch. Fred rolled his eyes. None of them said anything more until they’d gotten to the backyard of the school again. “Stay here,” Fred instructed. “I’ll go.”
“No, you should stay here,” Jeff mumbled, staring up at the window where Lex could be found. Lex had placed a red sweatshirt in the window; half of the sleeve was sticking out between the frames, swaying in the wind.
“Why can’t you both go?” Kate tried to meddle.
“It’s safer if only one of us go,” Fred said determinedly. “I want to see Lex.”
“So do I,” Jeff muttered. “You’re not the only one who misses her, you know.”
“I know, but she’ll want to know about Elle-”
“I can tell her,” Jeff said quickly.
“To be fair, you haven’t actually been around enough to be able to tell her much about Elle,” Fred mumbled distractedly, also gazing up at the window.
Kate stepped between them, blocking their view. “You shouldn’t fight. If you don’t get along, chance is big no one is gonna get to see Lex, least of all Elle. Isn’t that what this is all about?” she asked conclusively with her hands on her hips. Jeff and Fred exchanged a bemused look. “You guys, this won’t be fair to anyone. Can’t we draw sticks? It’ll be the closest thing to justice.”
“Fine,” they both growled.
Kate stepped up to Fred, reaching out for Elle. “We girls can go get some cool twigs. You can stay here and be lookouts,” she suggested. She had to tug at Elle a couple of times before Fred freely let go of her. “We’ll be back soon.”
Fred watched them disappear among the trees. Jeff frowned and turned back to the school building. “I have a right to see her just as much as you do.”
“I know that,” Fred said shortly.
“Let’s just… I don’t know… Let’s agree that whoever gets to see her won’t forget about those who didn’t.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Fred asked with a snort. “D’you think I brought you with me just to neglect to let anyone know you’re here?”
“Who brought who?” Jeff said fiercely. “You came to me for help! You wouldn’t even be here if it weren’t for me.”
“I know that,” Fred replied. “And I wouldn’t forget to mention to Lex that you’re here. We both want to see her. And only one of us can go.” Fred pondered for a second. “We probably should’ve thought of this before we came here.”
Jeff nodded slowly. “Umm, yeah, you’re right.”
Fred sighed. “What would be most fair would be to let Elle see her. That’s what I would like most.”
“Yeah.” Jeff tilted his head up to look at the top of the fire ladder, which they would have to climb to get up to the window.
“Kinda risky to bring her, though, unfortunately.”
“Maybe I should stay down here with her,” Fred suggested quietly. “Even if she can’t see Lex, Lex could still see her, even if it’s from a distance.”
Jeff contemplated this for a moment. “You know what? I can stay here. I guess it’s only fair if she can’t see Elle, the least she deserves is to see you.”
“You think she’d rather see me than you?” Fred asked, trying not to sound too hopeful.
“I said the least she deserves,” Jeff grinned, just as Kate came back.
Elle was clutching the two narrow twigs they’d found, discontentedly squealing when Kate tried to remove them from her grip. “Let go, Niblet. We hafta use them now,” Kate explained impatiently.
“It’s okay, McKinley. We’ve come to an agreement,” Jeff said resolutely. “Fred’s going up.”
“What? No! We went through so much trouble to find the best twigs!” Kate complained as Elle tried to leave her arms. “Be still, Niblet.”
“Don’t call her that,” Fred begged. Elle was now reaching out her arms towards him, whining when Kate wouldn’t let her go. “Kate, be nice to her. If she starts crying we’ll have to move.”
“I am nice!” Kate said defiantly. “I would never be mean to Baby!”
Fred helped Elle out of Kate’s embrace. “You’ll have to stay here with Jeff,” he explained to Elle, passing her on to Jeff. “While I go see your mommy.”
Elle stared blankly – as usual – looking slightly put off that Fred had handed her away so immediate. “She’ll be alright here,” Jeff promised. “As long as Kate doesn’t hug her to death, we’ll be fine.”
Kate muttered something under her breath, and the two of them avoided each other’s eyes again.
“Whatever,” Fred mumbled, too occupied with thinking of the upcoming task than to have time to think of Jeff and Kate. He leaned closer to Elle and kissed her on the cheek. “Be right back, sweetheart.”
“What about me?” Kate asked when he’d already started climbing a few steps of the ladder. Fred looked back down on her. “Not gonna kiss my cheek?”
Fred rolled his eyes. “I did it through ESP,” he muttered and continued to climb.
“Oh. Cool,” Kate mumbled from below. She and Jeff backed away from the building so they could hide among the bushes again.
He realized that it was much windier a few feet up from the ground. The cold was biting at his fingers, nearly causing him to lose his hold of the ladder. He had never had much of a problem with heights, but looking down at the ground from so high up was still a bit unsettling. The closer he got to Lex’s window, the less he thought of it, though. When he finally reached the floor she was on, he had to grab on to the gutter, leaning over to be able to knock on Lex’s window.
Fred knew that Lex shared room with five other girls in her year, but he hoped that if he was quiet enough and could catch her attention, she would sneak out of her room and be able to open the window out in the hallway instead. That window was right next to the fire ladder, so it would be easy for him to be able to talk to her without having to go inside.
He could barely reach the bedroom window without having to take his feet off the ladder. Lex had the bed right under the window, and she was still awake, as she was sitting in bed with her arms wrapped around her knees. Fred smiled to himself, before realizing he couldn’t lose himself in thoughts, or he’d plumb to a painful death. He tapped at the glass with his forefinger, as quietly as he could. Lex snapped her head to the side, looking alarmed at first, and then having an expression of utter confusion, before suddenly jumping up from the bed and crawling closer. Fred motioned to her to go to the other window out in the hallway, and Lex got to her feet and disappeared.
Fred managed to haul himself back to the ladder. His fingers were stiff and ached from having to hold on to the gutter with such force, but he couldn’t have cared less. Lex appeared at the other window two seconds later, smiling widely and looking very excited as she tried to open it up. “Hey there,” Fred grinned, as she pushed the window open.
“Fred!” she breathed exuberantly. He sat down across the windowsill, and she climbed up on her knees, throwing her arms around his neck. “What’re you doing here?”
“Came to see you, of course,” he smiled happily. “How’re you doing?”
“I don’t… I don’t believe that you’d… How did you get here?” she stuttered, her eyes wide with affection and curiosity. “I knew you were up to something but… Oh, God, I would’ve… never…” Lex took a deep breath, blinking back a few tears. “I’m so glad to see you.”
“I can’t stay long,” he said, unable to wipe the grin off his face. “We just came to visit you a little.”
Lex raised her eyebrows, suddenly looking worried. “Oh, I hope you don’t get into trouble. Oh, Fred, you know they’ll take Elle from you…” She fell silent. “Did you bring her?” she whispered softly.
Fred nodded. “I did. Don’t worry, though. We won’t get in trouble.”
“Where is she?” Lex mumbled quietly. “Is she alright; is she…”
“Jeff’s watching her,” Fred explained calmly. “They’re down there.” He looked down at the ground, feeling Lex grab on to his arm. He laughed. “I won’t fall, I promise.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” she said hesitantly. “You keep accomplishing the most impossible things sometimes.”
Fred moved over so she could sit next to him. Lex gazed down on the lawn below them. “They’re hiding in the bushes,” Fred said. “Elle’s there, too.”
“I can see them,” Lex whispered throatily. “Jesus, I miss her so much.”
“I wanted to bring her,” Fred sighed. “But it would be stupid. I promised her I’d bring you this, though.” He took off his knapsack and opened it up, while Lex continued to stare down at the ground.
“Yeah. And Kate. We’ve been on the road for three days, now. Elle’s been very patient with us.”
Lex giggled. “Has she?”
“Oh, yes. And I think Kate and Jeff are messing around or something,” Fred shrugged, also leaning out to see if he could spot their hiding place.
“Are they?” Lex asked with a smile.
“Well, I’m not entirely sure, but I bet they’ve hooked up both once and twice. It all looks very suspicious.”
Lex turned back to look at what he had in his bag. “Did you bring me something?” she asked, beaming. “What is it?”
“I sort of wanted to bring you the baby itself,” Fred laughed. “But I had to rethink and bring you the second best instead.”
Lex peaked down into the packing. “You brought me a puppy?” she said curiously.
“Maybe,” he smiled.
“No, what is it?” she wanted to know, persistently pulling at his arm.
“Well, I know you said that you can’t keep anything that your siblings try to smuggle in to you, so I thought I’d give it a go myself. I’m sure you’ll find someplace you can hide these at,” he said gently, placing a small album in her lap.
Lex stared disbelievingly at him before turning the front page. “Oh my God,” she whispered with a gasp. “What…? Fred, I-”
“Now you can look at them anytime you want,” he stated practically with a smile. “And don’t worry about someone finding them and taking them; these are all copies.”
Lex looked through the many pictures of Elle that Fred had gathered in the album. “There must be hundreds of them,” she said excitedly. “So many.”
“They mostly come in order,” Fred said, pointing at the top of the page. “These were taken when she was a couple of days old. I have more at home, still. Couldn’t bring ‘em all.”
“This is unbelievable,” Lex mumbled. “This is amazing. You don’t know how much this means to me.”
“I think I know,” he replied lightly, relieved that he’d made her so happy over something so simple. Lex was looking through page after page, astonished, appearing as though she was about to cry. “Jeff says hello. He wanted to come see you, but we agreed I would go.”
“Oh, I would’ve loved to see him too,” Lex sniffled. “Tell him that I really miss him.”
“Yeah, of course. He’s taking care of Elle. I think he kind of likes her.”
“I’m glad,” Lex smiled, sniffling again. “Oh, God, Fred. I can’t believe you’ve gone through so much trouble for me.”
“T’was no trouble at all,” he assured her. “Elle needed to widen her horizon some.”
Lex looked out the window once more. “It’s almost too dark, but I can see her down there. She looks so big.”
“Well, I feed her every day,” Fred laughed. “Just like the instruction manual says.”
“You’re such a good dad, Fred,” Lex said affectionately, kissing him gently. Fred put his arm around her waist, holding her close. He hadn’t been that close to her in over seven months. Lex traced her fingers over the left side of his face. “I miss you, Fred.”
“God, I miss you too, Lex,” he mumbled. “You look amazing. You’re so beautiful.”
“I am?” she whispered.
“Yeah. You always are. You’ve also lost a lot of weight since I saw you last,” he joked. Lex slapped his arm. “Ouch. Just kidding,” he laughed. “You better be careful, kid. You almost look a little too thin. You better eat more.”
Lex sighed, slumping together against him. “You don’t know how it’s like here, Fred. I don’t really feel like eating. I just want to go home.”
“Oh, Lex,” he whimpered woefully. “You gotta eat something. I haven’t seen you for so long. Last time I saw you, you looked so small, and now you’re even smaller. I don’t like this.”
Lex smiled gravely. “I don’t think I was that small,” she pointed out. “I was still remarkably pregnant, you know.”
Fred laughed shortly. “You looked small.”
Lex shrugged dejectedly. “It’d been a long day.”
“Have I ever thanked you for giving birth to my wonderful daughter?” Fred asked gratefully. “Do you know how much that means to me, every day?”
Lex glanced at him, a tear trickling down her cheek. “I don’t know. Some days I just feel like I made it all worse.”
“You didn’t,” he said forcefully. “Elle’s a great kid, and I love her so much. When I wake up, she’s the first thing I think of, and when I go to bed, she’s the last thing I think of before I fall asleep. And then I think of you lots of time in between.”
Lex watched him with big, blank eyes, reminding Fred of how much Elle looked like her. “Do you ever regret it?”
“Well… Not so much. I guess, if I could do it again, I’d wait a while. But I wouldn’t trade Elle for anything. I rather have her than not, you know. I just wish I could have you, too. You and I always took care of each other, when no one else did. I miss that. I miss you, a lot.”
Lex nodded. “Sometimes I forget what it’s all about. I’ve barely seen Elle at all, so there are times when I can regret it so much, because I don’t even know who she is. It feels unreal that I have a daughter at all, and then I wish I didn’t, because then I wouldn’t be here. Does that make a horrible person?”
“No, not at all,” Fred said determinedly. “It makes me feel sorry for you, for not knowing who Elle is. If you knew her, you wouldn’t feel like that.”
“I love her,” Lex said promptly. “I just… I guess I think too much when I’m here. I feel so much, but there’s no one around to talk to.”
“I know. I feel that too.”
“You’ll tell her, though, right? That I love her? She’s my kid. It just feels so hopeless sometimes. I always thought that when I get a kid, it would be because I wanted one. Not because I happened to get pregnant.”
“It’s not your fault,” Fred mumbled, slipping his fingers through her hair. “It’s really all my fault. But I’m also really glad you didn’t make that abortion. I don’t know what would’ve been best, of course, but Elle means a lot to me. I’m glad you gave me a chance to realize that.”
Lex rested her head against his shoulder. “I guess I don’t regret it too much. Only when I’m depressed and sad, and missing home. But then I call you, and you tell me what’s happening, and you tell me about what Elle’s been up to lately, and it all feels much better. It makes me want to be there, with you.”
“You can blame me if you want, if it’ll make you feel better,” Fred suggested.
“Don’t be ridiculous. You know it’s not your fault,” she said firmly. “If my dad hadn’t taken me away, I’m sure we would’ve found a way to be happy.”
“We would’ve. We are. Aren’t we?”
“We’re trying to, at least,” she smiled.
“That’s all that counts, right?”
“You see? This is what I miss; having you to ask these kinds of questions. You always know the answer to everything.”
Lex laughed amusedly. “Yeah, I miss this.”
“You’ll be eighteen soon,” Fred pointed out, squeezing her hand. “I’ll come and take you away from here. We’ll run away, get married, live happily ever after and all that stuff. We’ll be happy.”
“Promise?” she whispered sadly.
“I swear. You got my word.”
“I don’t want you to go,” Lex mumbled, nudging her head against his neck. “Can’t you stay?”
“You know I would do anything for you.”
“Which you’ve proven once or twice,” she giggled quietly. “But you gotta go, you know.”
“I know. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be. I can stand it three more months, now when I’ve seen you, when you’ve let me see Elle, even if it was only from a far distance. If things get tough, I’ll just think of this moment, right now, right when you promised you’d marry me when I get out.”
“Oh, you better believe I will,” he stated, kissing her forehead. “Nothing could stop me.”
Lex sat up and slipped out of his arms. “You better go now, Fred. I’m really nervous you’ll get caught here. It would be a disaster. Someone could hear you.”
“I’m quiet as a mouse,” he said practically. “I wouldn’t risk it. Unless you want to have sex with me right here, of course. I wouldn’t say no to that.”
Lex laughed. “I’m sure you wouldn’t.”
“I’m kidding,” he pointed out, also laughing.
“Yeah, sure,” she rolled her eyes. “I know you; if I’d said yes, you would be ravishing me against this wall right now, even.”
“Yeah, probably,” he said thoughtfully. “But I would try to be as quiet as possible about it.”
Lex shook her head. “You’re so silly.”
Fred nodded, straightening up and grabbing his knapsack. “I also smuggled in some other stuff for you,” he announced, digging around inside the bag and then handing her a box. “It’s various candy bars and cookies. Maybe you’ll gain some weight if you stuff your face with it.”
Lex looked excited. “Thank you.”
“I also have…” he said slowly, reaching into his back pocket. “…here – some money. Your brother mentioned you don’t have a lot. Hide it from your dad and you’ll be okay.”
“Fred, you don’t have to-” she objected.
“Of course I do. I have enough to go around. Wouldn’t want you to starve or anything. It’s only five hundred bucks. I’ll try to send you more if you need it.”
“Fred, it’s too much. It really is.”
“Nah. I took it out of Elle’s college fund. She’s clever; she’ll get scholarships.”
Lex couldn’t help but laugh. “You’re so impossible.”
“I guess so,” he grinned. “We miss you. Your entire extended family misses you.”
Lex leaned closer. “You are my family, Fred. You know you are.”
“Thanks,” he smiled gratefully.
“Are the others okay?” she asked.
“How’s the band doing?”
“Oh, they’re kinda waiting for you to come back before attempting to actually be a band again.”
“Oh, no,” she sighed. “They shouldn’t have to do that.”
“Yeah, like they could ever make it without you,” Fred snorted. Lex shoved at him. “What? It’s true. They couldn’t.”
“You better not let them hear your opinion on the subject,” she suggested pointedly. “They might disagree.”
“It’s only the truth,” he stated with a nod. “I used to love hearing you sing. I miss it. I try to imagine how you would sing me to sleep when I’ve had a bad day. Elle would love it if you sang her lullabies. I know she would.”
“She would, huh?”
“Oh, yeah,” he said contently, moving over to the left side of the window so he could get over to the ladder again. After finding foothold, he gazed back up at Lex, who was now leaning out through the window to get a last look of him. “I’ll come back for you soon.”
“I know you will,” she smiled. “Fred?”
“Thank you for coming here to see me. It means a lot, that you haven’t forgotten me yet.”
“I could never forget you,” he said simply. “Not for anything in the world. You are the most wonderful girl I’ve ever met. I will never let go of you.”
Lex moved forwards, her face inches from his. “Sing her a lullaby from me.”
“Yeah,” he smiled. “And you?”
“Me?” she asked.
“Yeah. You know how much I love your voice,” he mumbled affectionately. “Before I leave. Sing me a song.” Lex gave him a warm smile, grabbing his collar to pull him closer, kissing him gently. Fred didn’t move at all, hoping it would take forever until she let him go. Her lips were so soft and he wanted her so bad. When she finally pulled away, he stared at her in awe. “I love that song.”
Lex hovered for a moment, before leaning back, reaching for the window frame so she could close it, still wearing a smile on her lips. “I love you,” she whispered.
“I love you.”
“Bye,” she smiled, slowly closing the window and then leaning against the glass to watch him climb down.
“Bye,” he said, not sure if she heard him or not.
She was still standing in the window, looking after him, when his feet hit the ground a few minutes later.