When Something Better Comes Along
Summary: In the aftermath of Kenan's party, Tori finds herself needing a shoulder to cry on.
Disclaimer: I still don't own iCarly, Victorious, any of the episodes or any of the characters.
Kenan Thompson's House, Los Angeles, CA
Saturday, 11th June 2011.
"Hey," a soft, male voice called from behind Tori Vega's back. The brunette didn't immediately turn around as, now that her anger had abated, she was hugging herself tightly and allowing the first few tears to finally fall as she came to terms with her now ex-boyfriend's betrayal. The girl had wanted to be alone, which was why she had withdrawn to another room but she wiped her sleeve across her face to dry it, sniffed once before turning round to face the newcomer.
"Hi Freddie," she attempted to put on a smile but failed miserably.
"I just came to see how you were doing," he began before his face fell at the sight of her, "I'm sorry."
The half-Latina bowed her head sadly; the Seattle native quickly closed the distance between her and slipped an arm gently around her. Tori turned to face him and threw her arms around him, crying with abandon now. Freddie wrapped his other arm around her and hugged her gently, patting her back lightly and trying to whisper words of consolation to the distraught teen.
He wasn't sure how much of what he said she actually heard but after a couple of minutes she did begin to settle; the tech genius steered her to one of the couches dotted lavishly around the room and sat down next to her, his right arm still around her. The singer-actress wiped her face with her sleeve again before providing a far more convincing smile to her neighbour.
"Thanks Freddie, this really isn't how I want people to see me though."
"It'll be our little secret," he assured her with a confident grin; she took solace in his presence and leaned gently into his side with her head resting on his shoulder. The two sat there in silence for a few moments before the Angeleno spoke up.
"You don't have to stay with me; I don't want you to miss the rest of the party and miss out on having a good time. Actually I was thinking of just heading home now after… everything." The girl made to stand up so Freddie reluctantly loosed his arm; unbeknown to the other they both regretted the end of the comforting contact.
"Oh ok," he said before restoring his smile. "Walk you to your car?" he offered.
"Oh," she suddenly remembered a tiny but important detail. "I don't actually have a car here; Steven drove us here. I guess I need to wait for a ride."
Inwardly Freddie was thankful that he may be able to spend more time with the attractive girl; from the moment he'd first seen her photograph on her school's website he had been a little smitten. Subconsciously he touched his back as he remembered Carly launching an orange into it when he had the nerve to voice his attraction to her; somewhere deep within him something flared up a little at the thought. Outwardly he pulled a slightly disappointed face at the thought that she was stuck here when she really just wanted to go home and be alone to mope.
"Any of your friends who'd be willing to lend you their car?" he suggested. "Surely someone could swing them by your place later to pick it up?"
"Uh…" she began, trying to think on how best to phrase the fact that none of her friends would trust her with their vehicle, given the calamities that had befallen her when she had been out on the road before. Fortunately for the long-haired brunette she was spared having to answer by the arrival of a blonde girl wearing a predatory grin as she spied Freddie looking, in her opinion, far too happy.
"There you are Benson," Sam Puckett noted. "Oh hey Tori," the delinquent put a little hint of scorn into name-checking her best friend's unwitting love-rival, "why are you talking to a dork?" she smirked, revelling in the irritated look she had generated on the boy's face.
"Sam, have you got anything to say or are you just here to annoy me?" Freddie snapped, drawing a surprised look from his nemesis.
"Just here to bug you, why? Is little Fweddie upset that I'm bothering him when he's embarrassing himself in front of yet another girl?" she teased scathingly.
The irate look on the brunette's face at the mocking that the newcomer was meeting out to the genuinely nice guy who had come to console her was not lost on another new arrival; Tori's sister Trina, wearing her high heels and a short, pink dress had caught the end of the blonde's monologue and also registered how close her sister and Freddie were stood.
"Leave him alone," the younger Vega sister snapped.
"Ooh Freddie, looks like you can get the rebound girl," Sam laughed. One second later she was pushing herself up off the couch, with which her face had suddenly become rather well acquainted, and tapping the end of her nose, surprised to see a red smear on her finger. She then moved her hand to her cheek, which was beginning to throb, before turning murderously on her assailant, a very angry, shorter-haired brunette girl.
"Next time I aim for the side of your nose with my heel rather than just the tip," Trina threatened. "She said to leave them alone and I suggest that you listen."
"You're lucky you've got some girls that you can hide behind, Benson," she spat before storming out of the room, giving her brunette attacker a vicious shove as she did. Trina's back bounced off the frame of the door and she sank to her knees, rubbing it gingerly. Freddie was by her side and on his knees a moment later, helping her up once she had ascertained that no damage had been done.
"Thanks Treen," Tori smiled at her sister once the trio were all back on their feet.
"No problem, what's her deal anyway?" the disgusted older sister wondered aloud.
"She lives to make me miserable," Freddie explained.
"So why do you hang around with her?"
"Carly," he shrugged. "I…" then he stopped to think; it was as if a swirling internal fog was lifting as he contemplated on the mass of feelings that his body contained, "I used to like her," he began slowly after a few seconds of processing in which the sisters' four eyes had all been trained on him, "but after all this I don't know. I guess I really have no reason to put up with them anymore." It seemed such an obvious question, and such a ridiculous thing to do, once he actually thought about it. Why do I spend my life around people who do nothing but make me miserable? "I guess I need to start looking for some new friends once I get back to Seattle," he added in a bright voice. Trina smiled at his realisation though Tori's face flickered briefly as for some reason she was disappointed by the idea of the boy going back to Seattle. With Steven's betrayal still weighing on her heart she pushed away the thought that it could be anything other than that he was nice guy with whom she had clicked a little and, having seen him on iCarly over the years, she'd have liked to get to know him better in person.
"Well if you two are ok then I'm heading back to the party," the older sister declared, "there are some hot senior guys and I'm going to make at least one of them mine by the end of the night."
The two younger teens grinned at one another as she departed. "Want to party it up?" Freddie asked.
"No, I still just want to go home really," Tori admitted.
"Hmm, I could drive you back if anyone does have a car we could borrow, then I can come back here in case Spencer decides it's time for us to leave." Again the dark-haired girl had to hide a little disappointment at the thought of Freddie's cameo appearance in her world coming to such an abrupt end.
"Ok, that would be nice if you could. You could ask Cat," she suggested.
"Cat is…" he prompted.
"Red hair, blue top, very short shorts, crazy head-band with a robot voice."
"Right, and I'm sure there's a story behind that."
"There always is with Cat," the aspiring pop star observed.
"Ok, shall we go and borrow some keys?"
Tori nodded and allowed him to lead the way; he quickly tracked down the exuberant girl. Now that they had finished their impromptu karaoke she had replaced the headband to protect her delicate throat.
The teen pulled out her phone and tapped away rapidly while staring at him; she grinned as she reached the end of her missive.
"Hello, yes, I'm Cat. You're Freddie; you're even cuter in person. Hee Hee," the voice-headband declared.
"Uh, thanks," he replied awkwardly. "Look, Tori wants to go home and I offered to take her. I was wondering if we could borrow your car and I'll be back as soon as I can."
Cat looked from one brown-haired teen to the other before she began tapping away again.
"Sure, I'll get you the key. Tori knows which one is my car." She then dug in her purse for the car keys and handed them to him.
"Thanks Cat," Tori said sincerely, giving her friend a hug. The red haired girl smiled back at her.
"Where are you going?" a feminine voice called curiously as the pair reached the mansion's front door; the two turned to face its owner.
"Tori wants to go home so I'm driving her and bringing Cat's car back," Freddie explained. Carly Shay nodded, albeit she continued to eye the two a little suspiciously.
"Don't be too long," she cautioned, "I think Spencer wants us to leave soon."
It was a lie; she hadn't spoken at all to her older brother about any timeframe for their departure and return to Seattle but she was uncomfortable with the sight of Freddie and Tori together, particularly when she remembered how enthusiastic the boy had been when he clapped eyes on her on a computer screen before they began their journey. Freddie just nodded before turning back towards the door, his left hand guiding his new-found friend and allowing her through the door first. Carly's frown grew further at the sight; she spun on her heel and went in search of the others.
"Ok, which is Cat's car?" Freddie asked.
"That one," Tori pointed it out. "I'm surprised you didn't guess," she laughed at the little, pink car they walked towards.
"I don't know her as well as you," he reminded her, unlocking it and opening the front passenger door for her. Tori was surprised by his gesture but smiled as she got in; the tech producer closed the door behind her, walked around the other side and got behind the wheel, pulling away from the house and asking his passenger for directions.
Vega Residence, Hollywood Hills
They soon navigated the route back to her home in the Hollywood Hills; Tori opened the door and ushered him in. While Freddie happily agreed he pointed out that he did need to get the car back.
"Oh Cat will be there a while yet, and if she gets worried about the car she'll text me. You want a cocoa?"
"Sure," the boy accepted the offer with a shrug; it wasn't like he had anything better to do with his Saturday night than hang with a hot girl who seemed to enjoy his company. He smirked at the thought, thankful that her back was to him so there would be no awkward questions about what was so funny.
"Have a seat," she called, glancing over her shoulder and seeing him stood in the middle of her living area; he followed her recommendation and sat at one end of one of the couches. Having filled and switched on the cocoa maker she made her way over, surprising him and, herself a little, by taking a seat right next to him, close enough that their legs and arms were actually touching. "Thank you," she said sincerely, "I really didn't want to drag you away from the party."
"I don't mind," he insisted, giving her his best boyish grin, "to tell you the truth it's nice to just hang after the chaos of that party."
Their time was curtailed, however, by a sudden insistent knocking on the door. "I'll see who that is," Tori declared in a slightly confused tone. "Oh," she was surprised to see Carly stood outside. "What do you guys want?" she asked, eyeing the RV, with Spencer, Sam and Gibby inside, idling in her driveway.
"We came to get Freddie because we're leaving for Seattle right now," she explained hotly.
"Uh Freddie?" Tori called from the doorway; he sighed and got off the couch, making his way to his new friend's side.
"Yeah?" he asked her, looking into her eyes and ignoring the shorter brunette on the other side of the threshold.
"Carly seems to think it's time you were all leaving," she explained.
"I can speak for myself," the other girl snapped, "and yes, Freddie, Spencer says it is time that we left."
"Well I'd need to return Cat's car first so we can't go right now," he replied calmly. "If you need to go right now then go and I'll figure out some way of getting back," he shrugged lazily.
"What? But… we can't just leave you here," she floundered.
"Then you need to wait for me to be ready – and to return Cat's car." He turned back to his hostess. "Is the cocoa ready?" he asked her with a grin.
"Uh," she glanced over at the kitchen, "probably just about," and the two left Carly stood in the doorway as they headed for the kitchen. The brunette looked around to face her brother and friends, giving them a helpless expression before squaring her jaw determinedly after reading Sam's lips. She spun around again and marched into the house behind the duo while the blonde in the van palmed her forehead and shook her head.
"Freddie!" she called, as authoritatively as she could muster. "We need to go - now."
"I don't remember inviting you into my house," Tori challenged, taking a step forwards towards the shorter girl.
"Well I'm not leaving here without him," the Seattleite girl countered.
"Then you'll be waiting for us to finish our cocoas I guess," her tech producer spoke up, "and for me to get Cat's car back to her," he reminded her. "Thank you," he told Tori as she handed him a cup and he took a sip of the hot liquid. "Mm, good cocoa."
"It's Belgian," she observed.
"Then Belgians make good cocoa," he grinned, eliciting a laugh from her and an impatient huff from the girl they were both ignoring.
"Alright, leave this to mama then," came an annoyed snarl from the doorway as Sam strode purposefully into the house.
"I definitely didn't invite you in – get out," Tori snapped, positioning herself at Freddie's side.
"Are you going to make me?" she demanded.
"Do you think my sister's the only one in our family who knows martial arts?" Tori was really hoping that Sam wouldn't call her bluff; she was pretty clueless when it came to those things, Trina really was the expert between the two of them. However the memory was sufficient to at least set some doubt in the trouble-maker's mind; she took Carly's arm.
"Come on, we'll wait for the nub to be done," she muttered.
"You've got five minutes," Carly snapped, "then we're going."
Tori followed them to the door, closed and locked it behind them. "Peace at last," she noted.
"So you're a martial arts expert as well then?" Freddie was impressed.
"Uh no," she admitted, "but I guess my acting was good enough to fool them," and the two shared a hearty laugh before returning to the couch with their drinks.
"The fact that you look a little like Shelby Marx doesn't hurt either," he noted.
"You think so?" She seemed surprised.
"Yeah, but you're prettier," he slipped out then, embarrassed at the declaration, busied himself in his cocoa; he didn't see the gratified look his companion wore.
Precisely five minutes later Freddie's phone beeped. We're leaving NOW, Carly's message read.
"I guess you'd better go," Tori said sadly.
"I guess so; I can't just stay in LA on my own somewhere, can I?" he lamented, setting his mug down on the table in front of them.
"No, I suppose not. But here are my e-mail and video chat details?" She picked up a sheet of paper and quickly scribbled the appropriate information on it, handing it to him. He folded it in two and tore it in half, taking the blank portion of the sheet and writing his own details on it.
"Yeah, and now you have mine," he handed her the paper with a grin.
"Goodbye Freddie," she returned his smile with interest.
"Goodbye Tori, I'll talk to you soon – and if you ever need someone to talk to, or a shoulder – even a virtual one – to cry on, call me or log on to the chat."
"Thanks Freddie, you too," and the two embraced warmly. He felt in the pocket of his jeans for the keys to the car they had borrowed.
"I guess they'll have to follow me back to Kenan's," he opened the door and saw the RV backing out of the driveway before grinding to a halt as Spencer spotted him; he pointed to the pink car and, when the elder Shay wound down the window, he called, "I'll see you at Kenan's place, I have to give Cat her car back."
The occupants of the van nodded; the brown-haired boy turned back to the LA girl and gave her one more hug before risking a kiss on her cheek, surprised when she happily accepted the little affectionate sign; he didn't see the brunette occupant of the RV's reaction to it, nor did he see the broad smile adorning Tori's face as she went back inside her house. Far from moping for the rest of the night, the girl's spirits had soared beyond her wildest imagination.
AN: Thanks for reading; I hope you enjoyed the start to this little story. PD.