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to live and die in LA (it's the place to be)

Chapter Text

1994

Baby still didn't know what to make of LA. On the surface, it felt just like Atlanta. The weather was warm, the buildings were tall, the food was great and wonderfully diverse, the cost of living could be better but Ella said everywhere in California was like that so he might as well get used to it. There was no going back to Georgia.

Ella was Joe's daughter from a past marriage, grew up her entire life on the west coast listening to Whitney Houston and taking field trips to Alcatraz and the Yosemite. Baby liked her, she was nice to him and took him under her wing like the older sister Joe had hoped she'd be. At thirteen, she had three years over Baby's tender ten and coached him through navigating his way through the City of Angels.

After the mess of Baby stealing Doc's car, he was given an ultimatum (Baby couldn't even spell ultimatum): work for Doc or leave town. Joe more or less made the decision for them when he had a neighbor call his ex wife Maureen and asked if she'd be willing to help him and his foster son start over in California.

And so Baby ended up on the other side of the country sitting in the backseat of Maureen's Camry en route to pick up Joe from work. He was done with school for the week and finished all his homework, so that meant he could come with the older woman. Ella declined the invitation to go with her friends to get Slurpies and walk around.

There was nothing like cruising on a warm day, switching radio stations when both of them weren't in favour of what the DJ chose. Maureen wasn't much of a rock fan, but they both enjoyed soul and Baby was developing a taste for jazz.

They'd both vetoed Achy Breaky Heart--country music was not their thing--and were turning the dial back and forth so many times Baby was sure his foster mom was going to jam it when a song with some enthusiastic trumpet blasts came on. Barely a second passed before Maureen pulled her hand away from the radio with a pleased smile.

Baby pursed his lips and waited for the singer to reel him in.

"I get too hungry, for dinner at eight
I like the theater, but never come late
I never bother, with people I hate
That's why the lady is a tramp"

"Auntie Mo," Baby called, "who's singing?"

Maureen sent a quick incredulous look over her shoulder before turning her focus back on the road.

"That's Ella Fitzgerald, my Ella's namesake."

"Really?"

"Yes, Baby." She said it in that familiar, drawn out, motherly tone his mom would use. One part exasperated, one part disappointed.

"I like the free, fresh wind in my hair
Life without care"

"What made you and Joe name Ella after her?"

"We liked her voice, we didn't like any names from the books, and Joe bet me ten dollars Ella Louise was actually going to be Nathaniel Clark." Maureen angled the rearview mirror just long enough to wink at the brunet. "You can figure out which one of us was ten dollars richer."

"Hate California, it's cold and it's damp
That's why the lady is a tramp"

"I kinda like it!" Baby hollered over the radio.

"I go to Coney, the beach is divine
I go to ballgames, the bleachers are fine
I follow Winchell, and read every line
That's why the lady is a tramp"

He thought it was kind of amazing Ella had a whole artist for herself. Baby had songs "for" him, but not the way Ella Sinclair had Ella Fitzgerald. She had vinyl, cassettes, CDs all filled with "Ella's songs". Judging by the way Baby's feet kicked and twisted around in the air he was a fan of the Queen of Jazz too.

The rest of the drive was more of the same. Jump in the Line. Brighton Rock. My Girl. I Heard It Through The Grapevine. Fly Me to the Moon. A song Baby didn't catch the name of by KISS was playing when they arrived at the post office. Joe was already standing outside, a broad smile made its way onto his face as he approached the car and got in.

Good day? He asked.

Baby leaned forward as much as the seatbelt would allow to give his foster dad a thumbs up.

Okay, Maureen signed back.

Joe turned around to look at Baby and ask him if he did all his homework, did his half of the chores, and whether or not he wanted ice cream before dinner. The youngest in the car made a fist and bobbed it back and forth.

Strawberry ice cream melting against Baby's tongue while hopefully listening to more Ella Fitzgerald didn't sound too bad.