Red

Summary: Fox and Theresa make a deal to win their respective loves, and then things get complicated.

Pairing: F/T

Rating: PG, maybe PG-13

Housekeeping: Theresa and Julian are divorced but Theresa is still working at Crane industries. Frankly, I don't really know why, and I don't really care. Ethan and Gwen are married, still living at the Crane mansion. Whitney and Chad are together and are still hanging around Harmony, not heading off to LA yet. Theresa knows about Fox's infatuation with Whitney.

Author's Rantings: I'm really sick and tired of Fox and Theresa being paired with people who are so much weaker than them. I see Fox and Theresa as very strong, intelligent, manipulative (and I mean that in the best sense of the word) people and the writers keep pairing them with these high and mighty preachy types. No offense to Whitney and Ethan (well, maybe a little) but they just aren't clever or interesting enough to be with characters like Fox and Theresa. I see them as sort of the Rhett and Scarlett of the show, and Ethan is definitely the Ashley Wilkes character. So maybe the writers will smarten up and put Theresa and Fox together. But until then...there's this.

Chapter One: The Lady in Red

Her life was a sort of fairy tale, in the beginning. She was the poor but beautiful girl, destined to great love. And she found it, by falling in love at first sight with a prince, as fairy tales usually go.

But fairy tales weren't real, as her mother always reminded her, and she had been forced to watch as her perfect little storybook life began to unravel bit by bit. Heroines in fairy tales didn't get drunk and seduced and pregnant. They didn't lose their prince forever and watch him marry another. And they certainly didn't end up as she did– forgotten and unloved.

Theresa Lopez-Fitzgerald forced aside the temporary bout of melancholy and pushed off her bed. Ethan wasn't lost to her forever– not yet. She had to believe that there was still hope for her to win him back, for them to be together.

It frightened her sometimes to think of the lengths she was willing to go to– and had gone to– to have Ethan in her life. There was very little that she would stop short of to have him now. She loved him that desperately.

" Fairy tales are meant to have happy endings," she murmured to herself. " Ethan and I are meant to be together."

With that conviction planted anew in her mind, Theresa moved over to the little mirror-vanity in the corner of her room. It was so strange to be back in her mother's home again, but after everything that had happened with Julian and the custody battle, it felt good to be surrounded by people who loved and cared for her. Plus it came in handy to have such capable babysitters for Little Ethan handy, especially on nights such as this when the Cranes were holding a big birthday bash for Fox.

She could hardly believe that she was going back to the Crane mansion after everything that had happened. As fond as she was of Fox, nothing could have persuaded her to go back to the mansion that night except for the knowledge that Ethan was going to be there.

She had spent hours trying on dresses, meticulously deciding which one she should wear to make the biggest sensation. Everything from the very elegant to the very promiscuous now lined her bedroom floor, and she had finally decided on a simple but stunning red dress. Red had always been her best color, after all.

She took one last look in the mirror, enjoying how the color stood out against her dark hair and made her eyes brighten. Ethan was certain to notice.

Please, she begged him silently, please love me tonight.

***

Fox moodily trudged down the stairs to the celebration of his twenty-third year of life. Big deal. The party was going to be lavish and elaborate, no doubt. Compensation from a family that couldn't find time in their busy and vindictive schedules to love him.

Usually, he wouldn't mind such a meaningless gesture. He was a Crane, after all. But tonight, his mind and heart were burdened by thoughts of Whitney Russell. If she didn't come tonight, he would be devastated. And if she did come, he would probably still be devastated since she would no-doubt spend the entire evening cuddling with her longtime boyfriend, Chad.

Fox had never been in love before, but seeing Whitney had been like...electricity. From the moment he first met her, there had been a current between them. But it wasn't until he saw her singing at the Blue Note that he realized that it was love he was feeling.

As he reached the bottom of the stairs, he was greeted by a general cheer from the crowd below, filled with people who for the most part couldn't care if he was dead or alive.

Ethan was the first to greet him. " Happy birthday, Fox."

Fox did a double-take. Was the high and mighty Ethan actually addressing him in a friendly tone? " Playing nice tonight, big brother?"

Ethan's smile faltered, but only momentarily. " Only for tonight, so you might as well enjoy it."

" Boys, play nice." Ethan's wife Gwen intoned. She was becoming noticeably pregnant now but was still stunning in her dark blue gown which deftly concealed her growing tummy. "Happy birthday, Fox."

" Thanks." Fox watched her as she made her way over to her mother, then turned and gave a roguish smile to his brother. " I think your wife wants me, Ethan."

" Shut up, Fox."

And then Fox was left alone once more. Scores of people that he barely knew were coming up and trying to make small-talk with him, but he didn't have eyes for any of them. He only wanted to speak to one person, and one person alone.

He found her, sitting at one of the tables next to Chad, a vision in lavender. She was exquisite, perfect. He wanted to go over and stun her with his verbosity and wit, but for the first time in his life, he felt speechless.

A small uproar in the crowd caused him to turn his gaze from Whitney momentarily. His eyes fell upon Theresa, who had just entered the house and was wearing a stunning little red number. Even though she was nothing more than a friend to him, he couldn't help but marvel at the stunning picture she made.

" Bet Ethan's kicking himself right about now." Fox muttered under his breath.

Sure enough, Ethan was staring quite blatantly at his old flame despite his obvious efforts not to. Gwen looked none too pleased by this turn of events.

" Atta girl, Theresa," Fox said admiringly. She deserved this moment of glory, even if it didn't result in winning back Ethan.

But he didn't have time to focus on that at the moment. Chad had just left Whitney's side, apparently to get more punch. This was his chance.

He made his way over to her swiftly and offered a disarming smile. " Hey, Whit. Can the birthday boy implore you for a dance?"

Whitney smiled, even more beautiful up close than she had been from a distance. " Of course, Fox. I'd be honored."

She followed him out onto the dance floor and slipped into his arms. Fox was almost overwhelmed by her momentarily. She was so soft, so smooth, and she smelled so good...it wasn't fair for a woman to smell that good.

" Are you cold?" he inquired after a moment, noting that her skin was unusually cool to the touch.

Whitney smiled at this. " No–why?"

" No reason."

For a moment, he wanted to profess his undying love to her, to sweep her off into the sunset, but he knew that wouldn't do. Now wasn't the time. He had to wait for the right moment, or she would be lost to him forever. Patience had never been Fox's strongest virtue, though, and it was killing him to keep silent.

They made small-talk, spoke of insignificant drivel that is only interesting to those listening with their hearts instead of their ears. She was so sweet, so kind, so good. The conversation wasn't exactly a match of wits, but that didn't really matter. All that mattered was that he was here with Whitney, enjoying the moment.

And then the song ended, and the moment was over. Whitney excused herself and he watched as she made her way back to Chad, watched her smile that smile as she approached him, watched her kiss him in greeting. It was nauseating, to say the least.

" Someday," he promised himself, "someday soon."

Someone bumped into him from behind. He turned in time to glimpse Theresa rushing past him, hellbent on getting out of the room. Fox looked behind her to see Ethan and Gwen dancing together, gazing into each other's eyes.

Fox sighed and started after Theresa. For someone so renowned for his kindness and caring, Ethan could be really heartless sometimes.

He found Theresa standing at the back porch, gripping the railing tightly. He approached and placed a hand on her shoulder. " Hey."

" Hello, Fox." Theresa acknowledged him without turning.

Fox had never been good at this whole mushy thing. " Are you okay?" he managed finally.

Theresa finally turned. Her eyes were glittering with tears, but she was bravely holding them back. " I'll be okay."

He motioned to the porch swing. " Want to sit?" Without waiting for her response, he went and sprawled out on the seat.

" You don't have to do this, Fox," Theresa informed him, " I don't want you to miss your birthday celebration."

Fox shrugged. " It's a pointless birthday, anyway. I mean, who really gives a crap about twenty-three?" He motioned for her to join him. " Now, come on, Step-mommy. Don't leave me hanging."

Theresa smiled and obediently joined him. " Technically, I'm not your stepmother anymore, Fox. Julian and I are divorced."

Fox looked at her with mock indignation. " You swore that we'd always be a family. I feel so cheap." She smiled, which made him smile. " You know, we're going to have to come up with a different nickname for you, now that you're no longer by stepmother."

" You could just call me Theresa. Shocking, I know, but I'd make that exception for you."

Fox grinned. " Nah, too common. I'll come up with something later."

They sat in silence for a moment. Fox's mind drifted to Whitney. He wondered what she was doing now, if his name ever crossed through her thoughts even momentarily. Theresa seemed to be lost in her own thoughts, and he could very easily guess what those might be.

" We make a terrific pair, don't we?" Theresa joked bitterly after a moment.

Fox wordlessly reached over and lifted up one of the potted plants, which was hollow underneath. He pulled out a flask of his father's good whiskey. " Need a little spirit?" he inquired.

Theresa looked at him incredulously. " Where did you find that?"

" Father has a hidden stash all over the grounds," Fox informed her. " Mother went on a tangent once and forbade him to drink. Ever since then, he's been prepared. Ever the boy scout, my father."

Theresa hesitated, but only momentarily, then took the flask from him and took a long, heavy swig. Her face twisted up in disgust afterward, but she held it down. Fox smiled at her admiringly. " My kind of woman."

" It must be genetic," Theresa mused. " The Crane men seem to have a knack at getting me drunk."

Fox grinned. " Well, if we're keeping with tradition," he teased, " you and I can always run off to Barbados and get hitched. I have a feeling that we'd have a much better time of it than you and Father ever did." He winked at her suggestively.

Theresa laughed. " Can you imagine the look on Ethan's face? The look on everyone's face?"

" Maybe then Whitney would notice I'm alive," Fox brooded, and took another drink.

They were silent for another long moment. Fox wrapped his arm around Theresa and gave her an encouraging smile. " We'll get through this, Ste– ur, Theresa."

Theresa didn't answer, just grabbed the flask and took another long drink.