The day after their birthday party, the twins were ready to depart. They had found a stylish new apartment close to the movie studio and wanted to get settled in there as soon as possible.
"Aww, Mom!" Fleur pulled her mother into a tight hug. "We're not moving that far away! It's just across town! And you can come over and see us anytime!"
"I know, honey." Evelyn sniffed and wiped at a tear forming in her eye. "It's just that it feels like only yesterday when we brought you two home! Two identical, precious little angels, all wrapped up in pink, constantly crying and--"
"Mom, please," Faye interrupted. Evelyn had been reminiscing like this ever since their age-up. It always ended in embarrassing details for the twins and more tears for their mother.
Rémy might not have been as verbal about it, but Evelyn knew that he too was having a hard time accepting that their little girls were about to leave the nest. It made them both feel terribly old...
"But I caught it for you, Fleur!" Freddie looked at his sister with wide eyes, quietly struggling to keep the rodent in his hands from clawing its way to freedom.
"Uhm... thanks, Fred, I really appreciate the gesture," Fleur bit her lip, frantically looking for an excuse not to touch the rat. "... but I don't think our apartment allows pets!" Phew.
Noticing how tense her poor husband was, Evelyn tried to ease his pain. Their daughters' departure was really taking its toll on him.
But it turned out that it was more than just some tense muscles that ailed him! Rémy was now officially an Elder, which did nothing to improve his mood.
After some birthday congratulations, the girls were off.
Their exciting new life in the city was about to begin!
Rémy and Evelyn would miss their little girls so much.
One day after school, Fred and Charity hiked up into the hills to visit a small park.
Freddie like this much better than the museum - especially with his newfound interest in little critters. They watched with fascination as a small tortoise made its ponderous way toward some shrubs by the water.
"This is so cool!" Freddie enthused.
"The area around this pond is a brilliant ecosystem for all sorts of flora and fauna," Charity explained. "It's one of the last few natural parks in Starlight Shores."
"Aww! Look at its stubby little tail," Fred laughed, gently poking the tortoise, who, in response, scuttled a bit faster to get away from him.
Once the tortoise had finally slipped out of sight, they turned their attention back to the pond itself.
"It's pretty quiet out here, huh?" Freddie observed, rubbing the back of his neck. He really wanted to kiss Charity again, but he wasn't quite sure how to go about it this time.
"You're right. Normally we'd hear a cacophony of frogs right now... they really thrive here. But just last week someone caught most of them and took them away."
Fred was aghast. "Why would they do that?"
"Scientific research. It's the only way they could justify something this atrocious. I think most of them went to our school actually - for science class. Vivisection."
Fred was confused. He had thought Charity liked science and stuff! "Vivi-what?" he asked.
Charity pressed her lips together and took a slow, deep breath before replying, "It means they'll cut them open - while the frogs are still alive. To have a look at the inner workings of their organs."
Fred's mouth gaped.
"That's... that's horrible!" He finally managed.
"It truly is. Animal cruelty, posing as science."
With their flexible work schedules, Evelyn and Rémy often had more time on their hands than they knew what to do with. Consequently it did not take them long to accept the twin's offer of 'coming over anytime'.
"Mom! We didn't expect to see you so soon!" Fleur grinned. "We only just left and you miss us already?"
"You've been gone a full day and a half, sweetheart. But if this is a bad time, your daddy and I can..."
"No, of course not! Please, come upstairs and check out the place!"
"This is nice," Evelyn said as she settled down on the sofa.
Rémy harrumphed. "I still don't see why they couldn't 'have stayed with us. We 'have plenty of space..."
"Honey, they want to stand on their own two feet," Evelyn tried to placate him.
"The walls aren't even painted," Rémy continued. "For a rent this 'high I would 'have expected--"
"I think that's on purpose, honey." Evelyn smiled fondly at her beloved husband. He really had reached the Elder stage now...
Once Fleur had brewed some coffee, the four of them sat and had a lovely chat. The twins were quickly moving up in their careers, as Faye was happy to let her parents know. Evelyn was so proud of them.
In the meantime, at the Gooder Public School...
Another well-aimed whack and he was in! The lock on the science lab's store room was a flimsy one. Breaking it had been much easier than expected.
The scent of various chemicals assaulted Fred's nose when he slipped through the door. And there they were - dozens of adorable little green frogs, in a terrarium that was much to small to hold all of them comfortably, just waiting to be cut open by the science class next period. But Freddie would save them from their fate!
"I'll just get you out of the way," Fred cooed, picking up the snake that eyed the passing swarm of amphibians hungrily.
He watched with glee as the last frog hopped off and disappeared under some bushes. There. Now just back to class and none would be the wiser...
"Dutiel!" A firm voice from behind made Fred freeze in his tracks.
The principal had been furious. When he'd finally stopped yelling at Fred after what seemed like an eternity, it was already late into the afternoon. Fred had missed the school bus, but the principal had assured him that it was no problem at all. He'd arranged for someone to take Fred home. Well, that was nice of him at least.
Waiting for whoever was supposed to take him home got boring pretty quickly, so Fred made himself comfortable on the floor. This toy shark he'd gotten from the claw machine was so awesome!
This was not good.
Just a few blocks down the road, Evelyn and Rémy were still in deep conversation with their two daughters.
"I'll have my P.A. send you some tickets for the premiere, Mom," Fleur promised. "I'm sure you'll love this one - it's about androids from another dimension..."
"Daddy, we're fine! We're adults now," Faye gently admonished her aging father. "You don't need to constantly hold our hands..."
"... and then - spoiler alert - one of them gains sentience and falls in love! But shh! It's still all under wraps--" Fleur was babbling excitedly when Evelyn's ringing phone interrupted her.
"Oh, I'm sorry honey," Evelyn apologized. "I thought I turned the thing silent... but I should probably get that."
"Mrs Dutiel? This is principal Sagar speaking." The voice on the other end of the line sounded flat. "I'm calling to talk about your son Frederic."
Evelyn's face fell.
"Okay then," the police officer said after letting Fred out of the car. "I'll leave the rest to your parents. They're inside, right?"
"Yes, sir," Freddie replied.
"Good. You keep your nose clean now, you hear?" And with that, the police officer was off. He couldn't believe he had to waste his time with trivial things like this - he had a pool party to get to!
Fred walked up the steps to the front door with trepidation, expecting his mother to come running at any second.
"Mom?" he called softly when the expected onslaught did not come. "Dad?"
"Are Mom and Dad here?" Freddie blurted as he stormed through the door.
Francis rolled his eyes. "Why does everyone always barge into my room?"
"Oops, sorry Francis," Freddie apologized. "I forgot. So, are they?"
Francis sighed and picked up his book again. "No. They're at the twins' new place. What did you need from them?"
"Oh, it's nothing..." Freddie could barely believe his luck.
"They were going to cut open the frogs and pull out their STILL BEATING hearts!" Freddie told his friend just a short time later.
"So, basically what Fleur did to me..."
"Oh, come on man, please..." All thought of the trouble Fred had gotten into was already forgotten. Instead, he reveled in retelling the story of his epic rescue mission now. But Todd's sour mood was making it difficult to really savor the glory. "When will you get over her already?"
"When will the sun rise in the west and set in the east?" Todd intoned in response.
"Dude, just grab that controller and join! This game's no fun in single player mode," Fred begged.
Fortunately, Todd complied...
... and the pair became completely immersed in their virtual world.
But the smell of freshly cooked food soon jolted them back to reality.
"Sure, come on, grab a plate. Why not invite all your friends too?" Francis drawled when he saw his little brother approaching.
"Uh... Todd's coming, but I don't know if Larissa has time..." Fred trailed off thoughtfully.
Francis sighed. Being a snippy teen was difficult if there was no one around to appreciate one's sarcasm.
(... darn glitchy ceiling tiles!!)
After finishing his generous portion of goopy carbonara, Fred suddenly remembered the Yellow Chondo Pythoon he'd caught earlier that day.
"Tell me you didn't just pull a snake out of your pocket." Francis sighed, closing his eyes in exasperation.
"Uh, okay..." Fred replied, not quite sure what to say instead. "Her name's Slinky!"
"You know, because she curls up like a slinky," Fred continued cheerily.
Francis sighed once more and began clearing the dishes.
"I hope you enjoyed your meal at Chez Dutiel. Please don't forget to tip the waiter."
Todd was confused. "Huh? Waiter...? But there's no..."
"Oh, I get it! You're being sarcastic, right?"
But even a belly full of warm food could not lift Todd's mood for long.
Fred found his best friend moping in his sisters' old room.
He tried to cheer Todd up by introducing Slinky to him. "Isn't she pretty? She's yellow, just like your headphones!"
"My favorite color is aqua, just so you know," Todd announced. "But even if that thing was the most beautiful shade of aqua, I wouldn't let it get near me, dude!"
"Heeey..." Fred shielded the snake with a protective hand. "She can hear you!"
Todd sighed. "I'm sorry, dude. I'm just not up for much today. I'm gonna head home. See you tomorrow."
A short while later Freddie had resumed the previously interrupted gaming session when his mother walked into his room.
"Hey Mom! I just beat Todd's high score again," Fred enthused happily. "What's up? How's Faye and Fleur's new place?"
Evelyn wasted no time launching into her lecture. "What were you thinking?! -- Were you thinking at all?! They could expel you for this - and they'd be right to do it too!"
"But Mom, I--"
"Don't you 'but Mom' me, young man! I'm not finished with you yet!"
Fred winced and let the second angry reprimand of the day wash over him.
"Why do you insist on behaving like a child?! I wish you could just act your age for once in your life..." Scolding was much more exhausting that Evelyn would have expected - maybe she didn't have enough practice. Not like she wanted to get more practice at that! None of the older children had never misbehaved like this. Why couldn't Freddie be more like them? She was getting tired of hurling accusations at the teen while he remained stoically unresponsive. "What do you have to say for yourself?" she prompted.
Fred stayed silent and shuffled his feet. He did look quite uncomfortable. Was it remorse she saw in his eyes?
Then suddenly Fred jerked and shoved his hand in his pocket.
"Sorry," he mumbled. "She wanted to get out."
There was a long moment of stunned silence, until Evelyn let out a deep sigh.
As she continued, her voice was much softer. "Freddie, you damaged school property. You were brought home by the police. You have committed a crime. This is serious. Do you understand? You broke the law." She enunciated each word of that last sentence very carefully.
"But Mom," Fred whined. "They were going to kill the frogs! In science class they would have cut them open - while they were still alive! Isn't that horrible?!"
Exasperated, Evelyn managed a stiff nod. "Well yes, that's very cruel, but..."
"And isn't animal cruelty against the law too?" Fred made his point.
"Sure, son, but there's a difference..." Evelyn's words trailed off when she heard a chuckle behind her. She turned her head to face her husband.
"'He's got you there, chérie," Rémy grinned. She shot him a glare.
When Rémy's giggling had subsided and Evelyn's attention was back on her son, Freddie's hands were clasped together as he pleaded, "Please Mom, you know I love animals. I just couldn't let them kill all those poor frogs..."
"I understand that, Freddie, but in the end, this was not the way to go about it. You are grounded, and that is the end of it!"
"But Mooom," he whined.
"I'll tell you what," she said, placing a warm hand on his shoulder. "Let's make a deal. I think all you need is a more productive way to spend your time, just like your brothers and sisters do." She smiled genially. "Pick an after school activity. Whichever one you like! And as soon as you're signed up, you won't be grounded anymore."
Fred looked up at her with his best puppy-dog eyes. "Do I have to?"
"Yes, you do."
"Okay, Mom..." Freddie finally gave up. There was no way around this, it seemed.
My little baby boy, Evelyn thought as she followed her husband out of the room. I wish they didn't have to grow up so quickly...
"I think he really got it this time," Evelyn said, leaning back contentedly.
She was very proud of her flash of genius earlier. An after school activity! This might just be the thing... "He'll finally find something worthwhile to spend his time on - I just know it!"
Rémy gave a small grunt of agreement as he fluffed his pillow and sat down onto the bed beside her.
Everything was going to be alright.
Faye and Fleur stayed a tiiiiny bit longer than 24 hours after aging up. I was trying to get some nice shots of their departure during sunset when Rémy's birthday snuck up on me! Of course they couldn't move while he was having a birthday. In fact, it crashed the game. So anyway, the 24 hour rule was broken, but I didn't gain any benefits from it, so I hope it's ok!
I have way too much fun writing the interactions between Fred and Charity - her being such a nerd about everything and him being so clueless :D
Will Freddie ever grow up with this kind of parenting? Will Francis ever stop being sarcastic? And where was Félix during all this? Find out next time...
(Okay, I'll answer that last one for you. Poor Félix was chained to the chemistry lab table, fulfilling his constant wishes of discovering new potions!)