I can go anywhere I want (just not home)
So I saw this gifset and got this angsty idea for a fic that pestered me until I wrote it. Enjoy!
Growing up, Alex knew he was lucky to have the parents and home that he did. He never wanted for food or clothes or attention, his parents lavished him with all three. When he started suffering from anxiety they took him to the doctor to discuss their options, finding him exercises he could do on his own, and were supportive about getting him help at school for when tests and assignments started to trigger him. When he wanted to start learning the drums, they bought him lessons, and then a kit that he could play in their garage. He had good parents, and they always told him how much they loved him.
Sure, he knew they weren’t perfect, they were strict about curfew and he knew they weren’t the most fond of his friends, but they never said anything directly. They insisted on church every Sunday, prayers before every meal, and frequently brought him to religious social gatherings in hopes of him meeting more suitable acquaintances, or perhaps a girl. He went dutifully, because he didn’t have the heart to tell them that his faith was a bit more skewed. He didn’t get why any loving god would let some of the atrocities of the world just happen and not intervene. He didn’t like how some people used faith as a reason to hate certain groups of people when that went directly against the message they were preaching. But he went every week, recited the prayers, sang the hymns, smiled uncomfortably at the girls his parents kept shoving his way.
Then he came out.
He had known he was gay for a while, he always caught himself gazing at boys on the beach, at school, and watching movies. He would rather be the one kissing the action hero instead of the damsel in distress. The band had taken it well, surrounding him in hugs, and then teasing him for his taste in men, even if none of them could deny the hotness of Brad Pitt. All three of them promised to stick up for him, to make sure that no one would touch him. Alex knew he was lucky to have such cool, understanding friends. So he figured his parents, who always told him to be himself, to be honest would be equally supportive.
To say they were not would be an understatement.
His mother started to cry, lamenting that maybe she had done something wrong, that it was somehow her fault he was ‘this way’. His father looked stern, telling him that he was confused, that it was a sickness that Alex just needed to be cured of. That no son of his would be gay, he was going to marry a woman and have a good life, that was that. They called the pastor of their church, the three of them praying for his soul, so many talks and the word sin being thrown around too much for Alex’s taste.
They tried to make him quit the band, as if Luke, Reggie, and Bobby were the reason he was gay. He told them he could stay in the band or he could leave. “Maybe it’s best if you do.” his father had muttered, but his mother pleaded with him to stay, they could still fix this.
The number of suitable girls thrown at him increased, but Alex was always upfront with them; he was gay, happy to be their friends, but he couldn’t be more. Most of them were understanding. Some of them were downright cruel, and it soon got out to the congregation that he was a homosexual. The glares as he walked into the church, those who thought he would infect them all with his queerness. Others watched as if they expected him to burst into flames upon touching consecrated ground. Sermons filled with talks of fire and brimstone for those who engaged in sodomy. Alex scoffed at that, he hadn’t even kissed a boy, let alone going that far!
His parents let him know how much shame that he had brought to them by being gay. How they needed him to take it back. They threw out the idea of a camp that could fix people like him, broken people who thought they were gay. He refused, and started packing a bag before they could force him to go.
“If you leave now, this won’t be your home any more. You will no longer be our son.” his father warned.
“I haven’t been for months.” Alex retorted, lifting his bag onto his shoulder and walked out, heading towards Bobby’s garage. Luke was already living there, so he hoped the Wilson’s wouldn’t mind another teenage runaway on their property. He spared one more glance back, at the house he had called home for seventeen years. His parents weren’t watching him go, and he doubted they would think of him ever again once he left the property.
As a ghost, Alex has no interest in looking up what happened to his parents. They had made their opinion of him very clear twenty five years ago, and he doubts they even spared a glance when they found out he died. There was no way to salvage what had already been broken, even with Julie’s friend magic all but bringing them back to life. He’s stubborn about it, avoiding his old neighbourhood, he has no interest in seeing some new family walk through the familiar halls and rooms he used to inhabit.
Willie confesses that he had all but forgotten his own parents, some side effect of decades of Caleb’s influence. Yet he isn’t sad about it, he just shrugs and accepts it for what it is. Doesn’t try and guilt Alex into looking, or support his decision not to. Just claps him on the shoulder and lets him know he’s here for him. Alex smiles and brings Willie in for a hug. He knows that family, home, it isn’t blood or a certain place. The band is his family, and has been since the nineties. The garage, as loathe as he is to admit it, is his home. Especially now since Julie let them spruce it up to look more like a living space instead of a rehearsal space.
The thing is, even without looking for them, Alex is convinced he can see his parents everywhere. The older couple debating over grapes at the farmers market, the woman offering mom hugs to kids at pride, the scowling man holding signs spewing hate from the other side of the parade. But it’s never them. Alex wonders if he should just get it over with, so at least he’s not left wondering. Then he looks at Willie doing skate tricks in the Molina’s driveway, being cheered on by his bandmates, and he shakes his head. He has everything he needs right here.
Reggie quickly became an expert at sneaking in and out of his house at night. Whenever his parents started screaming at each other, or throwing objects, which was a frequent occurrence, Reggie left. Some nights he just went to the beach by his house for an hour, watching the waves crash on the shore, letting the sound drown out the yelling he could still hear from his vantage point. Or maybe that was just the echoes of it, certain his parents weren’t being that loud, or else the Meyerson’s would have called the cops by now.
Sometimes he went to one of his friend’s houses, knowing the guys would still be awake and let him in. He tended to avoid the Mercer’s house, things were already bad enough for Alex, he didn’t know how much worse it would be if they caught him in Alex’s room at night. Luke was no longer an option since he ran away after some big fight with his mom regarding the band. And Bobby… Well Bobby didn’t do the touchy feely stuff, but he’d still let Reggie in, or let him crash in the garage any time he needed to. But with Luke living there now, Reggie used that as a last option, not wanting to burden Luke with his issues when Luke didn’t even have the option to go home unless he wanted to concede to his mom.
There were days that Reggie wondered about just leaving home, so then he wouldn’t have to listen to the incessant arguing and spewed hatred, but this… this was his home, this was his family. He couldn’t up and leave. His parents never hit him, or screamed at him, they just… didn’t like each other. Luke had said they were always a fight away from a divorce, and Reggie wished they would just have the damn fight so everyone involved could be happier. Surely they knew how messed up it was to stay together when they couldn’t stand one another right?
There were days that Reggie stayed home, just blasting his Walkman to drown it all out. He stayed out of the way, and hoped the fight would end soon. He knew this wasn’t normal, but he also knew getting involved would make it all the worse. He loved his parents, and wished he could make them love each other once more, but that wasn’t possible. At least they still loved him, for that he was thankful. He didn’t know how Alex did it, living in a home where the only thing felt for you was disdain. Was silence and indifference better than this constant warzone? Reggie wasn’t sure, and given a choice between the two, he didn’t think he’d ever be able to make it.
There was another crash from downstairs, accusations flying through the air, and Reggie shuddered in his bed. It was the same theme as always; money troubles, other people, not helping one another. But then, his name got thrown in. About his grades, about the band, about how each of them were at fault for all their disappointment in him. Reggie could feel the tears dripping down his face. He thought… all this time… he wiped furiously at his eyes and grabbed his Walkman once more, letting the music take him away.
But the fighting increased, snatches of bile creating a crescendo even louder than the melodies ringing through his brain. Reggie turned off the music and debated leaving. It was late, but surely he could get to the studio for a few hours of sleep before school the next day. The noise shook the house, all roars and screams. The words all blurred together, indistinguishable but the sentiment remained. Reggie wanted to shout at them to stop, go get counselling, go their separate ways, anything to make it be quiet for one moment.
Then he heard it, the sound of flesh hitting flesh, his mother gasping. Reggie startled up out of bed, running downstairs on instinct, finding his mother clutching her cheek, his father standing over her, steaming, “Go back to bed Reginald.” he said, his voice firm.
Reggie went over and helped his mom up, not even sparing a glance at his father before sitting her down and pressing an ice pack to her face gently. He turned and looked at the man, standing up straight. “That’s enough. Go cool off before someone does something they’ll regret.”
His father began to stalk towards him, but his mother said his name, quietly, and he stopped. His shoulders slumped and then he grumbled, moving towards the door, letting it slam behind him. Reggie fell into the chair, looking at his mother’s watering eyes. “You okay?”
She smiled, then grimaced as her face throbbed. “Nothing you need to worry about. Go back to bed, okay sweetie?”
Reggie wanted to protest, but she urged him on, kissing his forehead before she went up the stairs, the click of her bedroom door as loud as a gunshot in the now silent house. Reggie shook his head and went off to his own room, touching the door to his parent’s room just once as he went, silently wishing he could do more, and hoped this was the last time he ever had to witness this happening.
Reggie sat on the beach, quietly taking in the bike shack, wondering if pyrokinesis was a cool ghost power he could have or not. Of course the bike shack catching on fire wouldn’t bring his house back, wouldn’t make his parents appear, but it might make him feel better. It would erase the feeling that his past, his place in the world had been replaced. Sure his house was never a real refuge, but it was his house, you know? The place he grew up in, the place he called home for so many years, now gone.
His parents… god he had no idea how to find them. Julie had offered to help, but he was slightly terrified about what he would find. Would they still be together? Would they still be alive? How much worse had it gotten for them after he died? If they had finally gotten divorced, could he find both of them? More so, did he really want to? He remembered the violent, turbulent nights before the Orpheum, the fear that he would wake to the two of them having killed one another, sneaking downstairs terrified of what he would find. What new destruction lay in wait for him every morning.
But… What if they were fine now? What if his death fixed everything, made them remember their love? Would that mean it was his fault that they fought constantly? He didn’t want to go down that road. He couldn’t blame himself for his parents' problems, and even if it hurt to think about it, he didn’t want his death to be the solution to them. He gave the bike shack one last glance, and poofed back to Julie’s house.
In the kitchen Reggie can see Ray at the stove, making breakfast, singing off key to one of their songs. He can see Carlos at the table, tapping away at his phone, Julie hasn’t come downstairs yet, and there’s still a spot at the head of the table set for her mom. Reggie aches to join them, be a part of a family again, but he doesn’t want to intrude. The Molina’s had been nice enough to accept them, let them live in the garage, or well, live as much as they could as ghosts. They didn’t need Reggie to interject himself into their lives any more than he already had.
But he still longed, wanting to have that loving parent like Ray who never yelled or threw things, or hit anyone. To have Victoria as the aunt who worried and brought food over so they weren’t always eating spaghetti. To have a brother like Carlos who was so enthusiastic and creative, while still wanting to look out for Julie. Julie, who he loved so much, who didn’t deride his love of country music and Star Wars. Julie who helped paint his nails and do his eyeliner for shows without judgement when he asked about wearing it. Julie who smiled so bright it was like looking at the sun some days.
Reggie knew what he had growing up wasn’t great, and what he had now was what a family should look like. Full of love and support. Sure, he’d always had the guys, but now it felt more real, more sure. He smiled once more as Julie came down the stairs and was about to poof away when she caught sight of him, and urged him to join them for breakfast. And well, Reggie never could say no to eggs and bacon.
Luke crept quietly up the driveway towards his house, careful not to be seen. He couldn’t bear it if he got caught and then forced to go back home before he was ready. In the large front window, he could see his mother, gazing longingly out the window, clutching a picture frame to her chest. Luke could feel his heart lurch at the pain in her eyes. She obviously missed him, and was wondering where he was. It had been three weeks since he ran away, and Luke had yet to regret it. If his parents couldn’t support his dream of being a rock star, then why should he stay? Music thrummed through his veins, and he could feel they were on the cusp of hitting it big.
But Emily Patterson was practical, and she told Luke time and time again that music wasn’t a viable career choice. That he needed a back up, something practical for when he realized his silly dreams were just that-dreams. Luke would scoff, roll his eyes and then toss away the college brochures she hid around his room. All the greats never went to college to study accounting or business, and Luke was no different. He knew that their next big gig would be it, they’d get discovered, and once he had a gold record under his belt he could rub it in his mother’s face how wrong she was.
But that meant little now when he could see her suffering, his father urging her away from the window, and Luke got the feeling he had to do that often. He didn’t want to hurt his parents, he loved them. And he knew they loved him, in their own way, but how much the love was strained due to him wanting to be a musician. They never even tried to understand it, never came to his shows, never encouraged his songs, probably couldn’t even tell you the name of the band they were so desperate for him to quit. Luke went over that last fight in his mind a hundred times, his grades plummeting due to music taking over his life according to his mother. But what did he need school for if he was going to be the next big thing in rock?
He remembers the yelling, the demands that he concentrate on his studies, at least try. He knows he gave back as good as he got, screaming how they didn’t understand him, they didn’t appreciate how talented he and the guys were. How they never tried to even give him a chance, let him attempt this. They claimed they were looking out for him, that they were just worried. But there was nothing to worry about, Luke knew in his gut that he was destined for greatness. It would have been all the sweeter if they were there with him though.
He turned away, giving one more glance at the place he still considered home, and sighed. One day, he would come back, a legend, proving them wrong. He wouldn’t be an ass and tell every reporter how they hadn’t supported him, he wouldn’t make them feel bad in public for never believing he could succeed. But he would go back and show them he could do this, he was made for this. Until then all he could do was keep writing music and hope that his words would make that connection with as many people as possible.
Yet when he got back to Bobby’s garage, all he could see behind his eyelids was the haunted look in his mother’s eyes as she looked for him out the window. Hoping in vain that he would come walking up the drive like he used to every night, smiling big over a successful gig, or a joke that Reggie told. He would walk into the kitchen and talk with his mom over a sandwich and a glass of milk, just catching up. Even if music always made the air thick, his mom still sat there. Maybe waiting to pass judgement, maybe she really had been taking it in, but her faith wouldn’t stretch far enough to see that Luke could make it.
He thought of everything that been said that last night, and more so, what he hadn’t said. Of what he would say to his mother now if he thought she would listen. He takes out his notebook, and begins to write. “First things first…”
Luke wiped at his eyes as he sat on the countertop of his parents house. Because his mom wasn’t admonishing him for sitting there, especially with his shoes on. She wasn’t telling him to sit in a chair, to eat his peas or make sure he got his math homework done. Instead she was sitting there numbly, eyes staring off into the distance as his father got out the cake. Luke took the scene in, there were his parents, still celebrating his birthday, twenty five years after he died. Eating the chocolate cake his mother made for him every year, the one she knew was his favourite. The one he couldn’t eat, because he was dead. And she didn’t even know he was there, essentially haunting them.
That lone blue candle flickered, and Luke couldn’t help himself, he leaned forward and blew it out, wishing desperately that he could interact with his mom one more time. But touching her, his hand went right through. She couldn’t hear his frantically whispered apologies. Couldn’t feel his touch to let her know he was there, that despite being a ghost, he was okay. That he was still here, and he loved her. He wished that he had never run away, that he had found a way to make his mother see his truth, so she wouldn’t have to spend months wondering what happened to him, and then decades mourning him.
He saw his father, relight the candle, the pair of them blowing it out, Luke joining in at the last second. He wondered what they wished for, but knew it had to be that he was there celebrating with them. Turning forty two instead of being perpetually seventeen forever. There with a partner and maybe some kids, all of them happy and together. He wanted so much to turn back time, to give his parents that. He had done this, he had broken their home, over his foolish pride. Sure, they were bound to make it big, but couldn’t he have maybe once glanced at college and maybe convinced them to let him do a music degree? Couldn’t he have tried to at least graduate high school and still played his heart out?
He sat there, until there was nothing but crumbs left on the plates, no words being spoken, but the air heavy with things unsaid. Luke wiped at his eyes, and tried to scream, shout, anything to let his parents know he was there. But nothing. Then he felt the pull of Julie, her music calling out to him, so with one last sad glance, poofed back to his band, trying hard to make it look like he hadn’t been crying.
Later, when she gave his parents Unsaid Emily, he watched as they read his words, singing them quietly, hoping they could hear him, somehow. Hoping that this small gesture, twenty five years too late, did something to alleviate their grief. He’ll spend the rest of his afterlife regretting running out on his mom, but he doesn’t want them to waste what’s left of their lives mourning him. After Julie brings them back, or as much as she can, Luke debates going home, hugging his mom finally. But they’re better now, no longer stuck in a cyclone of sadness, and he wonders how much better or worse he will make that if he reappears, as a semi-alive, semi-ghost son that has no real idea of how long that state will last for.
“Go see them. You’ll hate yourself if you don’t.” Julie urges, even offering to come with him, but he declines. This is one thing he has to do for himself.
So here he is, decades later, walking up the same path, looking in the same window, and taking a huge breath before pressing the doorbell. Plastering a small smile on his face, and hopes the shock isn’t too much for them as the door opens. “Hi Mom.”