just a bittersweet memory
the best you could hope to be
is now just a bittersweet memory
- breaking, anberlin
Beck drops the note in shock. His head spins with thoughts, none of them coherent. He's always known that Jade is very good at running, but this- this is different. This is a low blow.
The words blur in front of him- I had to, Beck, maybe one day you'll understand, but he highly doubts that he ever will. Shock is the dominant emotion. No, not anger, as if he could ever be angry at her. Just shock.
He's not entirely sure what to do.
The note falls from his hands to the ground.
He falls asleep with visions of her dancing behind his chocolate eyes.
In the morning, he wakes to find that it was not all just a dream, and that hurts worse than anything else.
Six years pass. He graduates from high school, moves on, but only just. He still thinks about her sometimes (well, a lot of the time). But he's Beck Oliver now, the famous actor, and he has a reputation, you see. Every week, he has a new girlfriend. This week, her name is Magnolia 'Maggie' Avery, yet another Hollywood starlet. Yet something in her brown, wavy hair and her bad attitude reminds him of her- no, he does not allow himself to think her name, despite the fact that he thinks of her all of the time.
On yet another normal day, he wakes up. When he peers into the mirror, he sees himself. Dark hair, tan skin, chocolate eyes- he's twenty-one now, but he has barely changed from when he was sixteen. He sighs, sets down the brush, and steps out of the bathroom. Tossing his bag over his shoulder, he grabs his keys and walks out the door, almost prepared for yet another day of the same old thing. Frowning, he hails a cab, and repeats the same thing as always: "Avery Studios."
The cabbie nods and speeds off. Beck doesn't even attempt to negotiate a price. Money is no issue.
Yet somehow, it does not feel as special as it did the first few times he had said it.
As always, the cab ride is short but boring. He's almost relieved to get there.
As usual, Maggie Avery is the first one to greet him. Brown hair flowing in the wind, she greets him too warmly. "Beckie! My daddy wants to see you!"
Oh, and did he mention that he's dating his co-star/boss' daughter? Trust him, he would rather not.
Faking a smile, he nods and follows Maggie into the building. Mr. Avery stops yelling at some random producer long enough to give Beck a large, fake smile. "You've decided to show up, then. Get to Stage 15, and make it snappy!"
Rolling his eyes silently, Beck just nods his head and bites his lip so that he does not say anything stupid to jeopardize his career. With Maggie on one arm and his bag on the other, he marches over to the set that he's become so used to. Immediately, he's rushed into a flurry of "Mr. Oliver! Over here!" and "Get into position!"
The day ticks away before his eyes, and he's so relieved when it finally ends. He is tired of commands and pretending to be someone that has a far happier life than he does, someone that's satisfied with life while he is not.
Swiping a coffee off of the staff table, he waves a hand at the crowd of his co-workers. "Oliver out."
"Wait, Beckie," Maggie calls, running over to him to catch him before he leaves. Giving him a quick peck on the lips, she informs him, "You're taking me out for dinner tomorrow night."
"I don't remember agreeing to that," Beck chuckles, his voice a little bit harsher than he intends for it to be.
"Yeah, well, you just did," she informs him, a smirk sliding onto her face.
"And what if I have plans?" he challenges her stubbornly.
"You never have plans," she reminds him with a shrug. "Besides, Daddy wouldn't like it if you had plans instead of spending time with your girlfriend, now would he?" She pulls away from him. "Pick me up at seven tomorrow."
He just bites his cheek and walks away.
He takes another cab home, feeling depressed, tired, and wondering absently why he even tries anymore at all. By the time he gets home, it is raining. In the back of his mind, he wonders if the weather has always corresponded with his moods.
Wet and tired, he stumbles through the lobby to the elevator and rides it up to his penthouse apartment. But when he gets up there, he hears the sound of the television in his apartment that he shares with no one running.
Confused and slightly scared, he turns the key in the door and pushes it open, assuming the standard defense position and hoping that he won't have to defend himself against anyone.
A little girl sits on his soft couch, watching some childish show with people dressed as vegetables. Confused, he asks her, "Are you lost?"
She doesn't turn around. Instead, she simply says, "No."
"Then why are you here?" Beck wonders aloud. He doesn't freak, as some might have, but simply stands there, bewildered.
"My mommy sent me here," she tells him in a chipper voice.
"Who's your mom?" Beck wonders, his heart pounding at a faster beat as he waits for her response.
"You don't know her," she says, changing the channel. "Not really."
"Then why are you here?" he repeats bewilderedly, his patience slipping away.
The girl shrugs, scowling a bit more at him now. She continues to press buttons on the remote, and he's tempted to simply jerk it away from her. "Who are you?"
"Beck Oliver," he tells her, blinking a little and wondering how she could not recognize him. He's famous, isn't he? "TV actor."
"Mommy was right!" The little girl's face morphs back into a smile.
"Who are you?" he demands, crossing his arms.
"I'm Ella Blue Oliver, but most people call me Elly," she informs him with a grin, chockfull of naivety.
"So, what, Clem has a kid now?" he wonders casually, not bothering to comment on her strange name.
"Who's Clem?" she retorts.
He startles a bit at that- she can't be close family if she doesn't know who his sister Clementine Oliver is, can she? "So what, are you some distant cousin or something?" he inquires. But as she turns around and he looks into her blue-green eyes and sees her dark but so familiar face, the truth dawns on him.
He's rendered speechless as she tells him what he's already guessed. "No, you're my daddy."
After a moment of haze, he manages to stammer out, "Your mom—Jade West?"
Ella nods. "Yeah. Mommy says to tell you that she wouldn't do this but she has to record for her new CD this weekend and all of her friends are con- can- they're all out of town."
Suddenly, the weird name makes sense. He interrupts her, his head spinning. "You're my daughter?"
She nods before rummaging through her tiny bag and jerking out a small wallet. Opening it up, she jerks out the first picture that her slightly chubby hands fall upon and pulls it out. "If this is you, then yes."
He finds himself looking at his high-school self, his arm around an almost-smiling (as close as she ever got to smiling) Jade. "My mommy and daddy," she tells him proudly, but he can hear the pain in her voice, and he wonders how Jade could do this. She'd been gone six years, so he'd missed out on five years of his own daughter's life. Five years.
"More proof," he demands, trying not to sound too harsh- after all, the girl is only five.
Biting her lip, she pulls a certificate out of her pocket and hands it over to him. He glances over it, but it's only a second before he sees his name scrawled onto the blank where the father's name is.
"We can do a daddy test if you want," she says innocently, a smile lighting her young face.
"No," he says, looking from the photo- something that only Jade would have- to the certificate to her eyes, shiny jaded blue-green. "No, that won't be necessary."
"Okay," she replies with an angelic smile.
He doesn't want to think about how very cute and like her mother she is, so he decides to keep talking. "Is your mom coming here?" he asks through gritted teeth.
"Yeah, when she comes to pick me up," Ella informs him.
"Make sure she doesn't leave without speaking to me first," Beck bites his lip in anger, not wanting to say anything more than that.
"Are you mad at mommy?" Ella asks innocently, but he sees the hint of euphoria upon her face, and he decides that she is like Jade in that way.
"Yes," he fumes. "Yes, I am."
She just fidgets for a moment. "Can I still stay here, daddy? I am your daughter."
"Of course." He hopes that she does not notice his moment of hesitation.
They stay up until late watching movies on his soft leather couch. As she drifts off, blue-green eyes closed in sleep, all he can think is how screwed up a dad he's going to be- or how screwed up a dad he already is.
"I have to go to work," he announces, shaking his daughter's sleeping form the next morning.
"So?" she mumbles, still half-asleep.
"Do you want me to leave you here?" he asks her, vaguely amused.
She shoots up immediately, and at the sight of her (Jade's) shiny blue-green eyes, he feels a slight pang in his chest. But he helps her up and then helps her to get ready anyway, and then they're off to yet another day at Beck's lovely workplace.
She spends the cab ride there flicking Froot Loops at their bald cabbie's head, and though he responsibly reprimands her, he feels the urge to crack up.
"Mommy would think that it was funny," Ella protests with a sulky glare. "She'd- maybe she'd join in!"
Beck knows that she is right, but he does not let up on his scoldings. Someone has to be the responsible parent, after all.
Once they get there, Beck pays the cabbie the normal amount along with a monstrous tip and pulls the five year old out of the cab. Together, hand-in-hand, they approach the building. Once again, Maggie is the first to run out and greet him. Kissing Beck quickly on the lips, she pulls away and then looks down. "Oh, Beckie, who's this?" she asks, faux sweetness coating her voice.
"Who's you?" Ella retorts rudely, and how much she reminds him of Jade overwhelms him in that moment.
"That's my niece, Ella, but call her Elly," Beck lies quickly, not willing to tell her the truth. "Elly, this is my- my girlfriend, Maggie."
Maggie smiles sweetly, but he can tell that it's fake- Maggie doesn't like children much. As they walk toward the building, Ella whispers, "Liar."
"Don't be so disrespectful," he scolds her. "Little girl, I am your father."
Guilt consumes him anyway.
He spends most of the time trying to get little Ella to behave. For such a cute kid, she is so much like Jade that it isn't even funny. She glares disgustedly at people that she doesn't even know and 'accidentally' kicks one guy in the leg, causing him to spill his punch all over one of the stars of another show.
"Elly," he whispers angrily. "Do you want your mother to hear about this?"
Her face goes from indignant and sullen to terrified in seconds, and it's sort of reassuring to see that she's terrified of her mother, because really, who isn't? "No," she whimpers, biting her lip. "Don't tell Mommy!"
"Stop doing bad things, then," he tells her triumphantly. Leading her to the set, he sits her down with a cup of soda and a couple of cookies.
After a filming of yet another monotonous scene, Maggie pulls him aside. "Look, Beck, what are you going to do with her during our date tonight?"
"Chiz," he whispers under his breath, chuckling at the rush of memories that come with such a simple word. "Uh, I don't know, Maggie, I really don't." He had forgotten all about the date tonight, and suddenly, it seems like a good idea to claim that he has no idea where he could leave her and bring her along on the date. It would surely make the date more entertaining.
"You can't bring her along," Maggie tells him in distaste.
Sighing, he looks from the all-too-snobby Maggie to the down and dirty Ella and smiles slightly. "I'll ensure that she behaves."
So that is how he ends up at some fancy Italian restaurant, across from Maggie but with Ella at his side.
Ella picks at her meal, frowning as she listens to the two of them talk. Then, with no explanation, she picks up a green pea and tosses it so that it curves perfectly and goes right down her shirt.
The little girl bursts into laughter as Maggie runs around, screaming about how she's got a pea down her shirt. Beck bites his lip, determined that he's not going to laugh, oh no, he's not. But Maggie goes berserk over the tiny pea and he's beginning to wonder what he sees in her, not that he would ever tell anyone that.
Everyone in the whole place is staring, much to Beck's dismay- if this gets out to the paparazzi, he'll be dead, as will his reputation. So he grabs Ella with one hand and Maggie with the other and leads both of the completely insane women out of the restaurant.
"What was that?" he hisses through his teeth.
"I threw a pea down her shirt and she freaked," Ella giggles, causing Maggie to stare indignantly at her.
"Beck Oliver, do you hear the way your niece is speaking about me?" Maggie asks, jaw dropping nearly to the floor.
"She gets that from her mother," Beck laughs before frowning when they don't laugh along with him. With a shrug, he continues, "Look, we just all have to get along…"
"No," Maggie declares, crossing her arms stubbornly across her chest. "I cannot go on dates with you if you insist on bringing that girl along. She threw a pea down my shirt."
Ella stuck her tongue out at Maggie, causing Maggie to indignantly storm off, flipping her brown locks over her shoulder. Groaning internally, Beck took hold of Ella's hand. "Guess it's just me and you now, is it not?"
"Can we go out for ice cream?" Ella asks innocently, tugging at her dad's hand. At first, he doesn't want to reward her for being such a brat, but he's having a sudden urge for ice cream and chocolate and man, being around all of these girls has made him go soft.
So he nods and they walk hand-in-hand to the shop, father and daughter, and he can almost pretend that everything is normal.
Except he had no idea he was a father until yesterday, and he hasn't seen his daughter's mother in years, and he's just sort of cut things off with his girlfriend, but not officially.
He doesn't know what to think anymore.
So he perches himself on a stool at the bar and munches on chocolate Oreo ice cream, singing some of his favorite songs quietly and frowning when Ella doesn't chime in.
With that, he realizes how very little he knows about her.
He wonders with a start if Ella likes to sing or to act, if she's ever been in a play, if she plays any sports. He looks at his daughter- his daughter- and wonders what all he's missed out on.
But he doesn't ask. Instead, he just turns to his ice cream, takes another bite, and tries to forget.
"By the way," Ella speaks up at last, "I'm sorry, Daddy. I'm not always the best judge… I once kicked one of Mommy's best friends in the leg. He wrote a song about it."
Beck nearly drops his spoon into his ice cream. "André? André Harris?"
"Yeah, that guy with the funny hair," Ella laughs, spooning another bite of ice cream into her mouth. "We're all right now, but he didn't like me then!"
He stares at her for a moment before shaking his head, unsure of what to say. He hadn't known that Jade and André were still friends.
Then again, he didn't know anything about her anymore.
Maybe Ella was right in what she'd said before. He really didn't know her, not anymore.
Over the course of the next week, it becomes sort of a routine. Wake up in the morning, get dressed, go to work, come home, and sleep. Maggie makes an effort to apologize and Beck forgives her immediately, even if he sees how she glares at Ella sometimes, despite the fact that they get along a little bit better as time goes by.
But on a normal day, everything changes once again.
They go out to dinner, Ella and Maggie and Beck, and end up eating spaghetti. It gets all over the place, even on Maggie's new white blouse, but for once even Maggie shrugs it off. They have a fun time, actually, and as Beck drives home and drops off Maggie, he thinks that maybe this could possibly work out.
Then, he gets home and opens the door to the apartment.
Jade West is sitting on his couch, cutting paper as if there's nothing wrong- as if nothing ever happened between them and it is perfectly normal for her to be there.
He nearly drops his bag in shock.
Ella runs to her. "Mommy!"
Beck stays behind, overwhelmed with even the sight of her. She's just as beautiful as she was ten years ago, yet, she looks different somehow- older, more mature. Her hair is back to its normal shade of brown. Yet somehow, she's still Jade, still the same girl that she was ten years ago.
He doesn't know what to do.
"Hey, babe," she says, scooping up Ella before looking to Beck. "Oh. Beckett. Hello."
He bites his lip at the use of his full name but retorts, "Jadelyn," anyway.
"Right, so I'm just going to take Elly and leave," she says flippantly, obviously having no regard for his feelings or anything of the like. Snapping the gum in her mouth, she says, "Bye."
"Jade," he calls as she tries to leave, then steps in front of her, his body feeling warm as it brushes hers slightly. "You are not doing this again. You're not running."
"You can't tell me what to do," she retorts, but he can see her resolve slipping away.
"She's my daughter too," he informs her with a scowl, glaring at her. "Jade West, you cannot honestly think that you're going to come here, let me see my daughter for a week- only a week- and then disappear without a trace."
Sullenly, Jade bites her lip. She looks from a hopeful Ella to an angry Beck and finally just shrugs, tossing her bag onto his couch. "Fine. What do you want me to do? Tell me what you want from me, Beck Oliver."
"Why?" is all he can say after a few carefully gauged moments. "Why did you leave when you were going to have her? Why didn't you tell me about her, about my daughter? Why did you keep her a secret all these years?"
Finally, he's able to stop speaking, having had the opportunity to ask the questions that have been pressing at his heart all week. Then he asks the question that's been pressing at his heart for years. "Why did you leave me?"
She's silent for a moment as she looks from Ella, their daughter (he still finds it weird to say), back to him. Then finally, she lashes out. "Beckett, I was sixteen and I was pregnant. What did you want me to do? Stay there and endure the embarrassment? Endure everyone's disapproval? I was a stupid, hormonal sixteen-year-old, and I had no choice but to leave in my brain. My father already disapproved of my lifestyle; I would have been thrown out or disowned for sure."
"You could've stayed with me," he tells her sympathetically, finally starting to understand the mystery of Jade's disappearance.
"No, I very well couldn't have, and you know it," she glares at him through unfeeling eyes. "Your parents don't like me. My parents don't like you. My parents don't like me. No one likes the idea of us having a child- a child, Beck! I was sixteen! And I left them, too- my parents, I mean. I haven't gone to see them yet. I'm not looking forward to it."
"I'll go with you," he offers suddenly, not really knowing what he's saying. "I'll go with you to see your parents. This is my fault as much as it is yours."
"I don't need your sympathy-" Jade begins to snarl, but she's cut off by a choking noise.
Little Ella stumbles into the bedroom she's been sleeping in, looking more scared and sad than he's ever seen her. With a frown, he turns back to Jade and tells her, "Look, just stay for a little while? At least until we work out this whole mess, and what we're going to do about Elly."
She stares at him for a second, not knowing what to say, before she finally nods. "I'll stay, but not for you."
Quickly, she walks over to the door, and he watches her in amusement as she halts at the door for a moment. He smirks at her. "Where are you going to go, Jade?"
"I don't have anywhere to go," she informs him with a bit of a scowl. "How do you expect me to stay here with nowhere to go?"
"You can stay with me," he offers after a minute. "I have a few extra bedrooms."
"A few?" she questions, but the corners of her mouth turn up into what is almost a smile and she nods. "All right, then."
His insides rejoice for some unknown reason but he pretends as if there is nothing going on and extends an arm. "May I escort you to your room, young lady?"
After a moment, she takes it with hesitation and just nods. "Go for it, dude."
As he leads her to her room, he can't help but think of how this should be wrong but instead it just feels right.
In the morning, he instinctively wakes her with a hearty, "Mornin', sunshine!" As soon as he says it, he realizes how wrong it is, because Jade isn't his sunshine anymore.
She obviously does not notice, because she rolls over and moans, "Ten more minutes, darling," and it feels just like old times, except it's not the same anymore.
"Jade, you have to get up," he tells her, one hand roughly shaking her.
Then she shoots up, her blue-green eyes connecting with his, and he watches the shock pass through her- as if she had forgotten the events of yesterday as well, or more as if she had forgotten that six years had passed and they now had a daughter. As if she'd forgotten that they weren't high schoolers anymore, so pleasurably in love.
"Beck," she pants for a moment, and at that moment in time, they both forget that they are six years older and supposedly six years wiser. They both start to lean in, and then—
"Mommy, Daddy, hurry up," five-year-old Ella bursts in, not looking entirely pleased with either of them.
They jerk away, staring guiltily at each other before turning to Ella in the same instant. Gritting his teeth, Beck manages a smile. "Are you ready? Because your Mommy needs to get ready, and then we'll be able to go."
As he returns to his room quickly, cursing under his breath at the missed opportunity, he thinks absently of how they sort of remind him of some dysfunctional family. After all, they do have a Mommy, Daddy, and a child.
The mommy and daddy just aren't married, that's all. Not yet.
He curses his stray thoughts and pulls a button-up on, trying not to let the guilt consume him. He's not a bad person, after all; he just has a few conflicting emotions some of the time, and that's completely normal.
The taxi ride there is slightly awkward, but Ella manages to almost diffuse the tension that exists between Jade and Beck with her antics. He can see Jade struggling not to join in, struggling to prove that she is a responsible parent, and the notion is so ridiculous that he almost laughs.
Once they finally get there, the weird familiarity settles in again, creating an almost laughable but comfortable aura around the two of them.
Of course, that's all shattered when Maggie marches up, smiling from ear to ear. But when she sees Jade and how close they are standing and how with Ella, they almost look like a family, all traces of happiness vanish from her face.
"Who's this?" Maggie demands, disappointment the dominant emotion on her face.
"This is my friend, Jade," Beck informs her, but Jade butts in as always.
"I'm his ex-girlfriend, Jade West," Jade tells her, extending a hand with a smirk. "And you are?"
"His current girlfriend," Maggie grits her teeth, shaking Jade's hand roughly. "Pleasure to meet you."
"Isn't it?" Jade's voice is coated once again with faux sweetness.
"I mean this in the politest of ways, but why are you here?" Maggie demands.
Flipping her hair over her shoulder, Jade just gives a quick shrug. "Oh, no reason, really. Just came do reminisce a bit, you know? Get to know some old colleagues."
With that, she struts away, her dark brown hair floating behind her. Maggie turns around, one of her teeth sinking into her bottom lip. "Tell me she's not going to become a permanent fixture around here as well."
"For a bit," Beck admits reluctantly. "I'm sorry, Maggie, I wish there was something that I could do."
Truth is, he doesn't, really.
The days pass by quickly. Though Maggie is not pleased in the least about having both Jade and Ella around the majority of the time, she puts up with them at the very least, though there are incidents involving spills and minor catfights.
But as time passes by, he sees himself becoming more and more detached from Maggie and closer to Jade. It makes him feel as if he's cheating, but he's really not. At the moment, Jade and Beck are only friends.
But their conversations make him feel as if they should be a lot more.
"Do you believe in happiness?" Jade asks him one night, taking a sip of the wine that he's poured for the two of them.
"I believe that happiness is something you make yourself," he tells her after thinking for a moment.
And yes, he thinks as he looks from where Ella lays fast asleep in the bed to Jade, looking radiant as always, maybe he's doing that for himself now.
Too bad there's always the small issue of Maggie hanging over him. And, as much as he wants to break up with her, he feels that he shouldn't.
Oh yes, there's also the small problem of black-listing.
"Bye, Beckie," Maggie calls one day after work, giving him a large kiss on the lips. He pulls away after a second, hating the feeling of discomfort that has settled in ever since Jade's arrival. She left years ago-shouldn't he be over her already? But apparently not, because as she tugs on his arm, sparks shoot through his body. He bites his lip.
"Bye, Maggie," he whispers, feeling sort of bad, but then he walks off with Jade and Ella and the familiarity returns and maybe it's time he sorted out his priorities.
(He was never cut out for being a heartbreaker.)
They spend the night making tacos, which have always been one of Jade's favorite foods. She burns the chili. An amused Ella yells at her, telling her the correct way to do it, and Beck laughs so hard that he nearly falls to the ground.
They end up eating glorified tortilla shells stuffed to the tips with cheese, and they taste pretty good even though he doesn't much care for cheese.
The flavors fill his mouth and as he looks around to where Jade is commanding Ella to eat more and Ella is scowling and crossing her arms, he thinks that this should be his life, that he should be living with Ella and Jade, with a family that is all his and people that he loves.
He decides that he needs to break up with Maggie and soon. He just has to find the right way to do it.
Because all he's doing right now is hurting everyone. Maggie's all right, maybe, but when she finds out the truth- that Ella is Jade and Beck's daughter, not his niece- she'll be hurt as well. And, well, he's not happy, and he can see the constant hurt in Jade's eyes, so maybe it's just better for everyone.
"You know, Elly doesn't even like acting," Jade tells him later that night as they watch movies together on the couch, Ella fast asleep on the other couch.
"Does she like singing?" Beck wonders incoherently.
"No," Jade retorts with a quiet chuckle. "It's sort of funny, isn't it? We didn't expect to have a daughter that didn't even like stage at all."
He looks from Ella's sleeping form back to Jade and raises an eyebrow. "What does she like, then?"
"Sports, beating people up," Jade snickers. "That kind of thing."
"Sports," he muses before turning back to the movie. He has a daughter who likes sports and not stage.
But no matter what, he's still proud of her.
That night, in the middle of the night, he feels a rustle beside him. Confused, he sits up, rubbing his sleepy eyes and looking for the source of the rustling. Finally, his eyes fall upon pale skin and deep eyes. His eyes widen. "Jade?"
"No, I'm some random creeper," she spits impatiently. Then she sighs, her eyes falling from the ceiling to his face and sending chills up his spine. "I… I couldn't sleep," she manages to admit. "Can I stay here, at least for tonight?"
Here, he thinks to himself as the implications sink in- she wants to stay with him in his bedroom for the night while he has a girlfriend. But he's never been one for labels and he loves proving people wrong (that's something most people don't know about him but Jade knows better than anyone), so he just nods and slides to the other side of the bed. "Go ahead, then."
As she curls up beside him in a tiny ball, he hears her whisper, "Good night."
"Good night," he says into the empty night. After a moment, he turns to his other side so that he is facing her, and the urge to hold her like he used to comes over him. Instead, he leans over to her and drops a kiss to the top of her head. She stirs in her sleep, but does not wake up.
The bed feels lonely tonight, despite the fact that it's more occupied than ever.
After lots of tossing and turning, he finally drifts off to sleep. When he awakens (far before he is supposed to), he finds that his arms are wound around Jade's waist and her head is resting on his chest. It feels so right (despite the fact that it's wrong) that he drifts back to sleep, merely tightening his grip around her.
When they wake up, though, it feels like the awkward morning-after. He doesn't look at her; instead, he just hurries to get ready.
Later that morning, he decides that he's going to tell Maggie because it's not fair to her anymore. So he folds up the birth certificate and slips it into his bag for proof because he's fairly sure that she won't believe him. His heart pounds nearly out of his chest, causing Jade to give him a weird look. "The heck is up with you, Beckett?"
"Nothing," Beck manages to stammer, but he could've told her the truth and it wouldn't have mattered- Ella's roars of "Mommy said a bad word!" drown out the noise of the entire street.
They hail a cab and with every mile, Beck's heartbeat accelerates.
Once they get there, Maggie claims his lips in a quick kiss and guilt rushes through him. He just offers her a smile instead, and they walk in hand-in-hand, the birth certificate a deadweight in his bag.
As the day goes on, he almost manages to forget about the impending breakup, that is, until he hears a sharp cry from offstage. Eyes wide, he runs with the rest of the crew to go investigate and he finds Maggie nearly in tears.
Muttering some expletive under his breath, he puts a hand on her shoulder. "Something wrong, Maggie?"
"Don't touch me, Beck Oliver," she hisses, looking up at him through teary eyes. "Or should I say Beckett Oliver. Guess that's just another thing to add to the list of things I don't know about you."
"You know lots about me," he promises, voice steady.
"Except that you and Jade had a baby together," she glares darkly at him. "How could you not tell me?"
"I didn't even know until last week," he tells her, throwing up his hands. "And I was going to tell you today, anyway."
Scowling, she puts her hands on her hip. "You know, Beck Oliver, you're a regular heartbreaker, aren't you? Well, guess what, so am I." With the same scowl still on her face, she takes the necklace he bought her ages ago and tosses it to the ground, causing the sound of breaking glass to echo all over the studio.
Eyes dark, she looks from the destroyed necklace to Beck's startled face. "Have fun with your little girlfriend and your daughter. See if I care."
Then, with that, she takes off running. He looks from the shocked producers and the running Maggie to Jade, and somehow he still feels as if he's made the right decision.
His hand finds Jade's naturally, and it's as if they never stopped.
"Do you want to tell me what happened?" Avery asks him, glaring at him.
"It was before I came here," Beck shrugs. "I don't see why it's important, but my girlfriend and I did what couples do and she got pregnant. Then she ran off without telling me, and a week ago, my five-year-old daughter showed up at my doorstep. What else do you want me to tell you? That I'm sorry? Because I don't regret it, any of it."
"I'm debating whether to fire you or not," his boss tells him nastily.
"Fire me, then," Beck tells him stubbornly. "Fire your lead actor. But I love Ella- Elly- and I love Jade as well, in a different way, obviously. In fact, I'm pretty sure I never stopped loving her. And if it means losing my job for what I love, then so be it. I can find another job."
His eyes widen as he looks at Beck, but he nods anyway. "I'll see you back here tomorrow , then. I'll have made my decision like that."
Respectfully, Beck gives the man a nod and walks out, still feeling heavy but relieved as he exits the building.
"You what?" Jade storms, her fist colliding with the wall. Beck winces.
"He's considering firing me," Beck repeats coolly.
"Just because of me and Elly?" Jade repeats, a scowl taking over her face once again. "You've got to be kidding me."
"I told you that he's not going to fire me, and I think I know him better than you do," Beck responds, gritting his teeth. "This is some crappy publicity stunt of his. He'll tell me that I can stay tomorrow, and everything will be just fine."
The door slamming indicates that Ella has retreated to her room, as she usually does when Jade and Beck fight. Beck stares at her for a moment, and finally, Jade just exhales sharply. "All right, but if he doesn't take you back, I'm coming there to talk to him, all right?"
"That works," he says in a rough tone. "Just don't worry about it, all right?"
But he sees it written plain and simple on her face- she finds it tough not to worry about it. He offers her a quick, reassuring smile. "I'm going to go read books with Elly. Don't break anything."
She just nods back at him and turns back to the wall. Quietly, he slips into Ella's room, smiling at the sleepy child. "Which book do you want to read?"
She hands him one, and he spends the night reading about princesses and unicorns and happily ever afters. Though he's not a little girl and never has been one, he wonders absently if he is ever going to get his happily ever after.
Then he dismisses the thought as quickly as it made its way into his brain.
The next day, he's called straight into his boss' office, just as he had expected. Despite the fact that he had built up a wall of fake confidence for Jade, he's still nervous, and his heart beats faster as he walks into the office.
"You called?" Beck says with a fake smile.
"Yes, sit down, please," the boss replies. "Anyway, Beck Oliver, we have heard both sides of the story and decided that it is in the best interests of everyone… to keep you on the show."
Exhaling audibly, he grins. "You're serious?"
"I am," the boss responds. "You might be working a bit of a tighter schedule, but firing you would ruin the show, as it's already going…downhill, to say the least."
Despite the fact that the boss is insulting the show that he's been playing the main character on for years, Beck feels his body swell with happiness. He grins at his boss. "Just… thanks. Thanks."
"This will make good press for now," his boss grumbles. "Give you a good backstory; attract more attention to our show. But if you let it happen again, the press won't be happy with you, and neither will I."
Beck lets out a low laugh. "I'm fairly sure that it won't happen again."
The boss nods at him and turns back to his newspaper, dismissing a still jovial Beck.
But once he gets home, his good mood vanishes just like that.
Jade is sitting on the counter, a mess of mascara and runny eyeliner. Ella is patting her arm, as if she's trying to comfort her mother, but Jade looks as if her entire world is falling apart and Beck knows just from the look on her face that no arm-patting can fix her now.
"What's wrong?" he whispers, running to her.
"I've screwed everything up, Beck, I really have," Jade hisses, wiping some mascara from under her eyes.
He attempts to hug her, but she pushes him away. Out of dark-rimmed eyes, she tells him stubbornly, "Don't hug me, Beck. I'm a bad person. I screw everyone's lives up, including yours."
"You haven't screwed up my life," he tells her gently for once, wrapping his arms around her torso despite her constant opposing force. "You haven't."
"Yes, I have," she shrieks, pushing him away with all of her might (which is a lot for someone of her stature). "I have. You almost got fired from your job- in fact, you probably did get fired- and Maggie's in the hospital…"
"Hang on, wait," Beck tenses, his eyes darkening. "Maggie's in the hospital?"
"Yes," Jade says sulkily. "She… she got upset and overdosed and… I think she might be all right…"
"What does overdosed mean?" Ella asks innocently from where she sits in the corner.
"We're going to the hospital," Beck hisses, disregarding Ella's question. He grabs one of Jade's hands and one of Ella's. "All of us. I need to… we need to make things right."
The ride there is spent in complete silence, except for the sound of silent tears running down Jade's face that she angrily wipes away and the near-constant tapping of Ella's finger against the window. Once they finally arrive, Beck lets out a silent "thank you" that he hasn't gone insane and jumps out of the car. With Jade and Ella close behind him, he runs into the hospital, feeling the rush of the wind over him and hoping that he won't go insane.
"Where's Magnolia Avery?" he demands at the front desk.
They give him a room number after a moment of identification and all of the standard procedure, and then the three of them take an elevator up to Floor 5. Once they get there, he pushes open the door and runs in.
He sees her there- brown hair strewn over the pillow, looking unhappy- and he frowns. The feeling of romance, the love that he feels for Jade- none of that is there, yet he still cares about her. You can't date someone and not care about them.
Sitting down beside her, he hisses, "The heck do you think you're doing?"
"I was looking for an easy way out," Maggie declares. "Is that so bad?"
"I'll show you an easy way out," Jade threatens dangerously.
Rolling her eyes , Maggie asks angrily, "Why are they here?"
"Because they care," Beck informs her, his hand closing around Jade's unconsciously (and he sort of loves the support, rare from her. "Because we all care, and you can't do this to yourself because of one bad breakup."
"I'll be fine," she promises.
But they stay there all night, and Ella falls asleep on one of the waiting room chairs.
He thinks of it as some sort of repayment- one sleepless night for a broken heart. But maybe the tables still aren't even.
The next day, they return home, all sleepless and cranky. It is raining, as it always does on those days where nothing seems to go right.
"What was the point of that?" Jade gripes.
Tossing his stuff onto the table, Beck looks back at her and raises an eyebrow. "She's my ex-girlfriend and she tried to commit suicide, Jade. Does that not mean anything to you?"
As if to challenge him, she raises her eyebrows and crosses her arms across her chest. "Should it?"
"Yes," he retorts. "Yes, it should. Do you have no emotions, Jade? Can you not think about anyone but yourself?"
The tension is running high, and being the cute little kid that she is, Ella tries to diffuse it with a smile. "What's suicide? Is that a type of ice cream? You could buy me ice cream, you know. I wouldn't mind."
They both crack a half of a smile, but Jade's disappears first. Ignoring Ella once again (and Beck is really starting to feel bad for the poor child), she hisses, "Well, maybe I'm just a bad person, Beckett Oliver. Is that really what you want to hear?"
"I don't know," he mutters quietly, looking down at her black boots before looking up to meet her eyes once again. "I don't know, Jadelyn. You act like I should be all expert and knowledge, and I'm just as clueless about life as you are."
"Clueless? Are you calling me stupid?" she raises her eyebrow once again.
"No! Why do you always have to make things hard?" he shoots back without a second thought.
That seems to hit her hard. She stiffens, her eyes widening, and then steps back. "Well, if I always have to make things hard, maybe I'm just messing up life for both of you. Maybe I've just messed everything up by coming back again, right?"
"Mommy," Ella jumps in once again, "things were happy when you were not here."
Oh, no, Beck thinks, but it's too late. He sees the devastated expression on her face, and he watches through blurred eyes as she bites her lip, the tears already rolling down her face. Turning, she runs out the door, because she's Jade West and she runs better than anyone else he knows.
She can't go far, he knows- she doesn't have anywhere to go- but he doesn't like the idea of her out there in the rain alone. Ella looks up at him with wide eyes. "Is Mommy okay?"
"I don't know, but she's going to be," Beck hisses, grabbing his hoodie and racing out the door, hearing Ella's footsteps echo behind him. He sees her perched on a curb, her head hidden under her arms, and he runs over to her, her name echoing in his footsteps- Jade Jade Jade. He takes a place beside her and looks at her. "You're not a screwup. You're not."
"You heard her," Jade hisses, throwing a rock out into the road. "My own daughter said I am."
"Just shut up, all right?" he retorts, and then his chocolate eyes meet her jaded green-blue eyes and he leans forward and kisses her.
It might be a spontaneous thing, but it's everything he's been missing in the past few years. His hands make their way into her hair, coming down to trail along her soft face and fall further. She smiles against her lips and he can almost taste her salty tears.
"I love you," he whispers, and he doesn't know if it's enough but her fingers twine with his. He takes that as a confirmation that she feels the same.
Then Ella cuts in, taking a seat between the two of them and holding one of their hands in each of hers.
And as they sit there in the rain, all three of them drenched, he looks down at the two most important women in his wife as of this moment, and he thinks that maybe their dysfunctional mess could become a family.
Maybe they still have a lot to work out, but for that moment, it's just them.
And maybe that's enough.
He's not quite so bored with his life anymore.
A/N: THIS FIC WAS ALMOST 7777 WORDS. Okay. Anyway.
Uh. No idea what this is, but.
Credit for the name to two amazing people- Ella-Bethh and BlueEyes444 ;) I changed it to Elly cause she's FIVE, okay.
And uh, please read and review and tell me it's not total crap?
Credit for the title goes to Anberlin- that awkward moment when they also get credit for my tumblr url, uh. ;)
Don't favourite without reviewing, please, and thanks for reading this far! I'm sorry for the cliché plot and general incoherence of this story.