[identity profile] lindt.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] thedirtyverse
May 2, 2003.

Fabian was in hell.

Well, not literally. Fabian was really climbing the stairs to his mother's relatively new flat for maybe the fourth time ever, at most, trying not to think about what he was about to say. About what he had to say to her, because who else was he going to say it to, and how was he going to hide it?

He didn't have anyone else to confide in. They may have been slightly estranged since his father's passing, but his mother had always been his rock. They were close. He relied on her, even when she kept secrets from him -- it was always to protect him from bad news, Fabian understood that.

But this was bad news he wanted to protect her from. And he couldn't.

As far as he was concerned, this was hell. Nineteen years old and learning health care administration and trying to actually administrate while learning to administrate, and not wanting to leave the grounds of Nightingale that much, he was overwhelmed. Which was why most of his friends -- and more than friends -- were at the hospital.

This time he'd overstepped.

This time he'd overstepped too far and had no idea what he was supposed to do about it.

But should he be telling her?

Did his mother need to hear this? Yes. Could he tell her this? Maybe. Would she know what to do? Maybe. Would she make him feel better, even if she had no idea?


Instead of just walking in, Fabian rang the bell.

Alice was home because Alice was tired. Alice was tired and drinking tea. She had a headache but it was slowly sliding down her neck and into her back, and she could sit on a heating pad if it got even worse.

When the bell rang, she didn't respond for a second or two. Instead, she sipped her tea and acted as though she hadn't heard it, but a second or two passed and finally she unfolded her legs and stood up. (She only bothered to set her tea down when she realized she might need two hands to get the visitor to leave.)

The last person she expected to find was her son. If anything, she assumed it was a parcel for work or her brother or someone selling nonsense that she had already purchased just to get the company to leave her alone. Certainly not Fabian. He had a key!

"Sweetheart! Did you forget your key?"

"I," Fabian started, looking guilty already. He looked a bit ashen from earlier that day, in fact, when he'd had to listen to conversations he didn't know how to handle. Why hadn't he just walked in? Why did he ring the bell? Where was his key?

"Wanted to talk about something serious but was afraid to come in and I figured there was a chance you weren't home and it would therefore have given me a chance to wait if you decided not to answer the door," he eventually admitted in one breath.

Something serious. Alice had a lot of that over the past year and tired as she was, she still managed to be prepared for more. It was good news that gave her heart attacks and caused her to drop hot tea on her feet.

Alice didn't even think of stepping back to let him inside, though on any other day she certainly would have. "What is it, Fabian?" she asked, steady but concerned.

Fabian blurted, "I'm pregnant."

Wait, no. That wasn't quite right, that was the result of what happens when you just want to get it over with – "I mean ... I mean I got someone pregnant, not that I'm – I'm not pregnant, just –" He balled his fists, frustrated, tears welling again because this was just too much.

At first, Alice's eyes went wide and she prepared to laugh. It had to be a joke, after all.

But when he corrected himself, Alice turned white. There wasn't much color on her cheeks as it was, but the patches that her tea had warmed quickly disappeared.


Maybe he was still joking.

"You got someone pregnant?"

Swallowing, he said, "Yep. It. Gets worse. I hate myself."

Alice frowned. "Fabian, don't--what do you mean, it gets worse? Who is it? I didn't know you had a girlfriend."

"I don't!" He ran his fingers through his hair, quick and rough, just to get some frustration out. "Can I – can I come in because I don't want to pace angrily where other people can see me."

Despite being tense and angry what Fabian really sounded by the end of that sentence was scared and pathetic.

Alice nodded dumbly and stepped forward to wrap her arm around his back, coaxing him in and keeping him close as she shut the door. "Calm down, sweetheart. No one can see you."

This was happening so quickly that what he was saying to her barely made sense. How could he have got someone pregnant? He was too young!

"Okay. Okay okay okay –" Fabian had already snapped twice, but talking about it was just scaring him more. He kept his wings in – he wasn't his father – and controlled the desire to break every window in the building. He'd already broken plates at home. He'd already ripped out some hair.

"This is a giant disaster and I – I don't even – it was just supposed to be a fling –"

"Fabian!" Alice shrilled, not letting go of him but not coddling him, either. Her patience had grown very weak and she was too tired to do this today, or any day at all. "Who is it!"

His reply came in a very small voice: "Varice Senec. A fashion model. She's, um, she's an inpatient."

Alice's stomach seized.

Stepping away, she looked up at her son. He surely hadn't said that--surely he hadn't slept with a patient. He wouldn't do that to her. Or to his bastard father's reputation. He was too smart--he had to be too smart to do something like that!

"You had an affair with a patient?"

Feeling a wave of nausea, Alice took another step back and looked away from him, jaw clenched. She didn't know whether to scream or throw him into the street.

Weakly, Fabian tried to defend himself the best he could. Unfortunately, there was no defense, just the truth.

"She's quite lucid and admitted herself and it was her idea, and -- and -- and I have no idea what I was thinking."

"That doesn't change the fact that you slept with a patient! You can't do things like that! Oh, Christ, what are they going to do with her? What are you going to do? You have to worry about custody! I'm not going to be a surrogate to your child!"

"I would never ask you to!" Fabian couldn't help the outburst, voice raised and slightly shrill – but he caught himself, and softened. Of course his mother was angry; he shouldn't have expected anyone else. She had every right to know, of course, but he couldn't expect her to be anything less than upset or angry. "I would never. I just needed to tell you because I don't know what to do and I'm – scared – and I do like her, I care about her, I – don't know."

Alice dug her fingers into her temples. "What don't you know?" Did he want to marry her? Was he worried about how to parent? How she would parent?

"Anything! I have no idea what to do. Her family will probably want her to have an abortion and she'll probably agree and they'll probably try it and then what do I do?"

How was he supposed to explain that? Fabian was pretty certain it wasn't going to work too well.

Rubbing his back again, Alice looked helplessly out the window. "I don't know. I don't think--nothing would happen. You don't need to say anything. Nothing will happen. And then you have to talk to her family about custody. They might want it."

"What happens when the world hears that some embryo – fetus, I think – no – I don't remember – manages to utterly withstand an abortion attempt? The media might be all over me and –" There were the tears. Not sobs, but simple tears and occasional choked swallows. "I do care about her. We're friends. She's usually easy to understand and relatively together. I wouldn't have gotten that close if she weren't and I don't want her to suffer any ..."

Alice shook her head and rose up on her toes to give him a hug. He was going to make her start crying--she hated it when he cried. From the day he was born until now, his crying meant that she soon followed. No amount of anger could stop her from trying to comfort her baby. And no amount of additional height could stop her, either.

"Don't. No one is going to ask questions like that, because it's a silly thing to ask, don't you think? No one would believe it. And who says they'll abort? What if she wants to keep it? What if you both want to keep it? If she's lucid and healthy--even if what you did was unbelievably stupid!"

"She's sometimes lucid and healthy," Fabian conceded, sighing. "I've seen her not. I – don't know what I want. I want, I do want children. I'm just – I didn't think this soon – it was an accident!"

"I know. But you have no choice, Fabian! You slept with someone and this is what happened, and because of what you are, you are out of luck!"

Maybe it hadn't fully hit her yet. Of all the ways her family could come apart, this was one of the last she expected. But it did figure that they wouldn't be allowed to heal quietly as two.

"Which, of course, now I have to explain to her because her baby's going to be one too," he mumbled, drooping.

How was he supposed to do that? How was he supposed to do any of this? He was supposed to be in university! His fucking father. It was all his fault. Of course it was.

"I'll help you--and the baby doesn't need to know for a long time. Why would you even worry about that right now? One step at a time!"

The next step would be cursing Robert's name until it was useless. She hoped he was watching this.

"I'm worrying about everything at once so I've got it done!" Fabian blurted, again, and then broke down.

Then he was sobbing, and clinging to Alice as he'd done for most of his life, whenever anything got bad, shoulders shaking. He didn't know what to do and he didn't know what to say and he didn't want to upset her and he didn't want any of this and yet tiny little pieces of him wanted that baby to be his, this little person that was half his, and he was afraid to say that, too.

Alice had only slight practice comforting a boy who was now a young man, about to be a father (a father--he was still her little baby!), and several inches taller and wider. But she tried, anyway, because she couldn't let him go, and nothing would make her let him go. If he cried, she had to hold him until he stopped.

And hold him she did. She didn't hush him because he needed to cry. All she did was listen and bite back her own tears.

"Let's not stand here in the doorway," she whispered. "Come on. Lie down."

Sofa, Fabian thought, nodding. Sofa, sofa, sofa, sofa's safe – and he found the sofa, and sat down on it, and then collapsed, and kept crying.

"I'm so sorry, Mum," he managed.

"Don't," Alice said, sitting down and putting a pillow in her lap so Fabian could adopt her as a mattress. "Don't apologize. Everything is going to be fine. You think I'm going to let you do this on your own? I'll be here. You know I'm here, don't you?"

His mother's lap made an excellent headrest, Fabian decided, as he curled up next to (and onto) her and exhaled slowly.

"I know. I know," he repeated, softer - still scared but at least calmer just by being near her.

Alice gently stroked her fingers through his hair. "Then I'm going to be here for you now. And always after."

"Do you even want grandchildren?" Just to get that out in the open: another fear of Fabian's. His mother might not want more family after his father's departure. Maybe she just wanted to be alone. And the last thing he wanted was a child she didn't want.

"Fabian!" Alice couldn't believe he had said such a thing. She hoped she hadn't caused him to think that.

"I'm just stunned, is all. I will spoil that child like I spoiled you."

He couldn't help but chuckle through the tears and teased, "You better. Or even more."

"I think that would make you jealous," Alice told him, seizing on this, albeit slight, lift in his mood. "I'm sure you'll spoil the baby more than I ever could."

"I couldn't be jealous of my own child!"

His own child.

His own child.

Fabian started sobbing again.

"Fabian, Fabian, sweetheart--"

Alice couldn't gather him up in her lap any longer, couldn't rock him to sleep, and for the first time since he got too big for both, she felt distressed by it.

"Remember when you were little," she began, swallowing hard enough to interrupt her own story, "and something bad would happen, or you would have a scary dream, and I would sit with you and hold you? Remember what I would say? As long as you're in my arms, everything is going to be okay."

Through his sudden and thoroughly unexpected tears (he'd gotten that over with, hadn't he? Hadn't he?) Fabian nodded. She'd always been there for him and always would be. It was okay. His mother was there with him –

"Now what," he didn't quite ask, didn't quite state, didn't quite demand, just sort of produced as the only words he could find.

"Well," Alice began, though she quickly realized she didn't have an answer. "We wait. And you talk to the young lady's family. And we make sure she gets proper care. And you borrow some of my parenting books."

First parenting books, then talking to obstetricians, then shopping and baby-proofing his home; Fabian found himself suddenly thrust into the world of an adult a lot more than he had been when he simply became the director of a hospital chain. An unborn baby, when it came to size, was a lot smaller than the hospital chain, but a lot more urgent and a lot more real. Even if he couldn't see it or feel it yet.

And at least he cared about Varice.

Fabian sat up slightly, resting his head on his mother's shoulder. "You still have some?"

Alice smiled and kissed Fabian's temple as she wrapped her arm around his shoulder. "I have everything of yours. They're all in boxes now, but I could rifle through the storage in the townhouse."

It hadn't been that long ago since her son was young. Now she was facing his impending fatherhood with a carefully measured level of cynicism. It would sink in soon and when it did she would scream at her, what? Dead boyfriend? How could she go through this alone? And why was Fabian, like Alice, forced to do this without both parents?

"And if I have a son," and wasn't that a terrifying thing to say as a real thing instead of a future hypothetical, "he can have all my old things and be a mini Fabian."

Maybe, Fabian hated thinking and thought anyway, a grandchild would coax his father back again. Sometimes people came back, right?

He didn't share those thoughts.

"Oh, just what I need. Another Fabian," she teased, lightly tickling his stomach. "You're bad enough for my poor, frazzled mummy nerves."

"I'm bad enough for my nerves. I'm having a child. I'm going to screw up. I am. I'm going to screw up my kid and it'll be just as unfortunate as its mother and and and I need a drink, can I have a drink, do you have any booze?"

Alice sighed and patted his back. "As a matter of fact, I have not a drop of booze in the entire flat," she said. "But I would prefer you to be sober whilst under my watch."

"That's no fun." He could tease a little without crying again, right? Turns out, the answer was yes – but barely, and Fabian resisted the urge to ask why his mother kept no alcohol. Maybe, he determined, it was because she was in her early sixties and he was nineteen. That would almost make too much sense.

"I'm your mother. Being fun isn't one of my priorities."

But she smiled, and gently brushed some of the tears from his face. "I could go buy you something, if you like, as long as you stay sober. Or I could make us supper and you could stay."

"Or you could even do both," Fabian postulated, hopeful. "Possibly while being fun."

Alice ruffled his hair and wrapped both of her arms around him. Truthfully she was a bit too physically exhausted to go running around for anything, but she couldn't excuse herself when her son needed her. It wouldn't have been like her, and she didn't want to seem any different.

"All right, all right. I'll try to be fun. You're going to stay here and not make a mess of my flat before I come back, right?"

"I will sit here unmoving."

He probably would, plus or minus a few tears.

"Do you promise? Because I only just cleaned."

"I swear on my soul. However much of it counts."

"I think you owe it to yourself to behave," Alice said, sliding out from beside him and rearranging the pillow. "What do you want me to get?"

"Pizza." No. Not quite. Fabian rephrased: "Things to make your pizza."

"All right. I'll see what I can do," Alice said, grabbing her sweater off of another chair. "I'll be back in a flash, but my phone is on if you need me."

"Okay." It was a quiet response, followed by a quiet nod; Fabian would manage while she was away. He could manage here easily. This was his mother's home, and he didn't have to cry anymore.

That didn't mean he didn't, nestling his face into a pillow and waiting until she'd gone and came back again to really move on.


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