A/N: I'm glad you all liked part I. Unfortunately this one isn't from Lucy's POV. This is John. This one is inspired less by the song of the title and a bit more by "Damn Cold Night" by Avril Lavigne. You may want tissues for this part of the story. I've tweaked this a bit. Normally I have Lucy die giving birth to Alan because I'm not big on the avalanche idea. Obviously that doesn't work for this one, so I've changed it. I didn't do either. You'll see what I mean. This one is a bit shorter than part one, but much more emotional. I do have to clarify one thing. I've always imagined the Tracy boys going to a school like mine, where it is so small that freshmen are in High School and anyone is allowed to Prom that wants to go. Just for clarification. Italics are Flashbacks.
Also, thanks so much to Darkhelmentj. You are seriously my hero, girly girl! Without you, this story wouldn't be half as good as it is now.
Ages (and grades to clarify):
Disclaimer: Don't own the characters or either song that inspired this story.
Title: Soon You'll Come Home
"We understand death for the first time when he puts his hand upon one whom we love." -Madame de Stael
December 1, 2055
There are no more tomorrows. Not for her.
I'm running as fast as I can through the rain that is making the sidewalks so slippery. I don't know where I'm running to, I just know that I'm running. Maybe if I run fast enough I can escape it. Like Superman in that really old movie, maybe I'll just run fast enough to turn back time and make it so this never happened.
The voices are following me. A whirl of images and sounds that I can't seem to make sense of. I'm hoping I can wash them away. No such luck. They're everywhere, making it so I can't see where I'm going.
Not that it really matters.
"Boys…I'm afraid…I'm afraid that…" Dad can't say it.
He thinks he needs to tell us. He doesn't want the doctor to do it. He doesn't need to say anything. I could tell from the way he dropped the phone when the hospital called. I could tell by the way the nurses all looked at us with pity in their eyes. I could tell because she wasn't there telling us it would be okay.
"There was a car crash…"
"I want Mommy!" Alan cried.
Don't you understand, Allie? Mommy won't come back. She won't wake up ever again. I don't feel anything.
"When can we see her?" Gordon knows, but he won't say it. He doesn't want it to be true. I don't either.
Thunder crashes in a distance, and from somewhere nearby a car honks at me. They probably had to swerve not to hit me. I find that I don't care. Anything would be better than this. What is 'this' exactly?
I don't know. I don't feel anything. Is that because there is too much for me to feel and I can't process it? Maybe. I don't know.
"Dad, Mom will be okay, won't she?" Virgil asks.
Can't you guys feel it? She's abandoned us. She's abandoned me.
"No, Virgil." Dad is crying now, and I feel sick inside. This isn't happening. "I'm afraid she won't. She was still in the mountains, and in this rain it just took the rescuers too long. Your mother she…she…"
"Dad," Scott reaches out, gently resting a hand on his wrist. "Dad, what's happening?"
"She died en route. She's dead."
There they are, the words I didn't want to hear. Undeniable now that they've been said.
Dad breaks down then, falling to his knees and sobbing. He's calling for her. I can only stare at him. This isn't my father. My father is immovable. He never cries. He can't cry.
And this isn't my family. These sad and frightened boys can't be my brothers. They only know how to laugh and run. They're never afraid of anything.
This isn't happening.
Not to me.
I watch as my brothers who aren't my brothers all begin trying to comfort my father. Trying to comfort each other. No one notices me. It's like I'm not even there, not even to myself.
It is almost like having an out of body experience without actually being able to leave my body. Vaguely, I remember reading once that it's like thinking there's one more stair then there is when climbing to your room at night; I realize that's exactly what it feels like. I do the only thing I can think to do.
My legs fall out from under me and I plummet into a puddle with a splash, my chin colliding hard with the sidewalk. I can't even feel it, but I'm dimly aware of the fact that it should hurt, as blood begins to drip and mingle with the water. The splash doesn't bother me. I'm already too wet and it would be impossible for my clothing to take any more water. I'm sure it's cold, but I don't care. I want to scream. I want to cry. I want to feel something.
I don't do any of these. I just get to my feet and run.
Where am I going? I honestly don't know. I haven't gotten there yet, though. Where I want to go, this wouldn't be happening. Mom wouldn't have been going to pick up our Christmas presents from where they'd been hiding at our Aunt's house.
I watch as Mom starts gathering her things to leave. She grabs her purse, her coat, and her keys before she heads for the door. As she puts her hand on the handle, something inside me freezes.
"Mom," I beg, getting up from my place at the kitchen table where I had been doing Math homework, "don't go. Please."
"John, I have to go. I promised your Aunt I'd be there." She raises an eyebrow at me as I look up toward the front door from the edge of the kitchen. "Why the begging me to stay home act all of the sudden? You haven't done that in years."
"I…I just…" I can't put exactly what I'm feeling into words. "Its so rainy. Something could happen." I finish lamely.
She smiles at me, turning the knob. "I'll be okay, John. I'll be back in an hour, I promise." She steps out, and the door slams.
I should have stopped her. I should have begged, screamed, and cried until she had no choice but to stay. I didn't, and that will haunt me forever.
Water hits my legs as I run through a particularly deep puddle. My lungs are burning, trying desperately to get the oxygen they need. Every muscle in my body is protesting as I try and force them to keep going until I reach it. Lightning flashes over head, and I hear it. I hear her. I knew I would, but it still catches me off guard.
"Don't be afraid, Johnny. The thunder is only Angels having a concert up in Heaven."
"What will you play when you get there, Mommy?"
"Well, I suppose I'll play the piano. They must certainly have pianos in heaven."
"Can I play with you, Mommy?"
She laughs, a sound like silver bells. "Of course you can, Johnny. You can play with me whenever you want."
I don't know if it's rainwater or tears in my eyes, but I don't really care. It isn't like I could see where I was going before. Red, green, and white lights flash in front of me, spelling out "Happy Holidays", and suddenly I become angry. What's so happy about this? Don't they know that nothing will ever be happy again? I pick up speed, trying to out run everything. Out run the truth, out run the memories, and out run the pain.
Everything is a blur as I run toward the springboard, but the minute my hands touch the vault I know I've done something wrong. I didn't get enough height off of it. I try to complete my performance even though I know it will ultimately fail. I almost land on my head, but I put my arm out to cushion the impact. I hear something crack, and pain shoots up my arm as I hit the mat and roll. The pain in my wrist is overwhelming, and I fight against the tears that threaten to spill down my cheeks. I'm almost thirteen, far too old to cry.
As the paramedics start coming toward me, I search the audience desperately. I look toward the seats my parents had reserved at the beginning of the year. I think they've sat in them three times all season. As usual, they're empty.
I don't fight the tears; they spill out of my eyes. The paramedics have almost reached me, but I suddenly don't want them to fix me. The pain gives me something to focus on. Instead, I run. I run to the locker room, grab my duffle bag, and run out of the arena. I don't stop, not even when the coach tries to chase me. I don't stop until I get home, and find it's empty.
My legs collapse beneath me again, and this time they refuse to move. They're shaking, and I find that I cannot stand no matter how badly I want to. I haven't reached where I want to beyet. I haven't gone far enough, but Ican't make myself go farther.
I almost cry, but I catch myself. I won't cry. If I start crying then I know it will catch up. I may not have out run the memories or entirely the pain, but the truth so far hasn't reached me. The moment a tear, even one, escapes my eyes, I know it will be here. Then there will be no hope of ever escaping it.
I look around, trying to figure out exactly where it is I have run to. I'm in a park. Not our park just a few blocks from home, but the park across town. I've collapsed on the bridge that goes across the creek that runs through the middle of it. In summer the creek bed is dry, but now it's nearly spilled over its banks. I lean my head against the soggy wood and look up at the sky. I want my stars, but they aren't there. Nothing I love is here anymore.
The house is empty, and even as I feel disappointed about that I berate myself for believing it would be any different. What was I expecting? My family to just be waiting for me to come tell them my troubles? Of course not. That never happened for me. And, I realize, if it had happened, that would mean one of my other brothers would have no one watching their event. They would look up and suddenly realize no one was there but them. They would feel just as I had.
I couldn't ask them to do that. I wouldn't wish it on any of them. Yet I couldn't wish it on myself.
There were just too many of us for Mom and Dad to look after properly.The conclusion that I can fix this suddenly strikes me- I can run away. No one would miss me anyway; the problem would be solved.
I dash upstairs, all the way up to the top to my room. I shove my duffle bag in the closet and begin looking around, wondering what of mine to take. With a jolt I realize it isn't mine. Even if it was, I couldn't take it. It would remind me too much of home. I let my injured wrist hang limply from my side and reach into my pocket. I pull out $7.36. Not enough to pay for anything in my room, but enough for a sandwich, an apple, and a box of juice. Enough for dinner. I throw off my sweaty uniform and change into more comfortable jeans and a t-shirt. I toss the uniform in my bag, doing my best to ignore the pain in my left wrist caused by moving it.
I'm just about to leave, when I decide some explanation will be needed. I scribble a note addressed to Scott. On my way down I lay it on his pillow, knowing it won't be found until the next morning. I grab my food on the way out the door and start running again. I decide to sleep in the park, since it's already getting dark, and then head to the bus stop tomorrow. By the time anyone even realizes I'm gone, I'll be too far away for them to find me, if they even try.
I wonder if they've missed me at home yet. I wonder if they've even realized I've gone. Probably not. Dad was in real state, and I'm sure no one else was any better. They'll have to get themselves calmed down first before they can see that I'm not even there. I'll have melted by then, but that's okay. If I melt in this icy rain then the truth can never catch up, and therefore cannot be. She wouldn't really be gone. We would go on like we always had, forever.
I had eaten my dinner on a bench, done some stargazing, and was just about to settle down to sleep when I heard her.
"John! John, where are you?"
"Mom?" I whisper in confusion. They couldn't have found the note yet. No one had any reason to go to Scott's room. Had…had they realized I was gone? Had they really missed me? Too late, I realize my childish mistake. Of course my family would miss me! Just because they had missed one event didn't mean they didn't love me. My face suddenly becomes very hot, and I know I can't face her. I can't see the disappointment in her eyes. I look for an escape route, and spot the nearby oak. I start to climb the tree, using my nearly ten years of gymnastics to reach the nearest branch with one hand and my feet. She gets closer and I try and curl up against the foliage. I try to disappear.
I curl up on my side, my back to the wood and my head resting on the place where thousands of feet must have walked. I close my eyes, trying to stop the images. If anything they only increase. A whirl of random memories. Mom laughing as she pushes Alan on the swing; playing hide and seek with Scott and I when we were smaller; all five of us helping her make cookies; Mom and Dad kissing under the mistletoe; her happy face as she introduced me to Alan for the first time; her sitting by my bedside, telling me a story when I was sick; our last telescope night when I'd finally saved enough money to get a professional telescope- Dad had said if I paid half he'd cover the rest- when I showed her the Andromeda Galaxy; her face as she sat on the bench crying when she thought she couldn't find me.
I almost wish I could cry. Maybe then I wouldn't feel like I was suffocating. I can't let it be real, though. If it were to become real I think I would die. I can't imagine a life without her. She is everything to me. Everyone else was always compared to Dad. They were Dad's boys, and even though I know that Dad loves me it isn't the same. They have Dad; I have Mom. That's how it always works.
"She promised to teach me to drive!" I scream at the Christmas lights that are wrapped around a nearby lamppost. "She said we'd start tomorrow so I'd be ready by my birthday! She said that she'd help me start applying for scholarships this year! She was going to help me ask Laurie to Prom in April!" I roll over, letting the raindrops land on my face as I scream up to the sky. "You can't take her! I won't let you! Do you hear me? You can't have her! Give her back! Give her back to me right now!"
The only response is the distant roll of thunder. He's mocking me. He's laughing at my pain.
I curl up on my side again, and force myself to not think of anything. I force myself to just lie there until my body decides it will run again.
I need to get there. I need to get to the happy place. The perfect word from something Mom read me when I was small- smaller than Alan is now- springs into my mind. The place I'm trying to get to has a name. I'm trying to get to Neverland.
I'm determined to lie there until one of three things happens- until my body decides to move, until I find my happy place, or until she comes and gets me.
Of course she'll come get me. She did two years ago, andshe will now. She always will.
I don't know how long I lay here- it might be minutes, it might be hours- but the sound of a car coming up the street brings me out of the void I've pushed myself into. I hear breaks, and the sound of a door slamming echoes along the otherwise silent street. As if from far away I hear someone call my name.
"Mom?" I question, my voice coming out hoarse. I suddenly realize that I can't feel most of my body and that my nose has started to run. I think I'm shivering, but I can't tell. The voice calls again, and the sound of footsteps running along wet sidewalk follows.
"John!" It isn't Mom. It's Scott. He falls to his knees in front of me, and begins trying to force me to sit up. "John, have you been here all this time? I've been looking all over for you! I must have been up and down every street in town. Damn, you're a mess. Don't you ever scare me like that again!"
"Leave me alone," I manage to croak out through my dry lips. My chest still feels like it's trying to fall in on itself, and my throat is starting to hurt.
Scott just looks at me, surprised. "Leave you alone? John, have you completely lost it! It's freezing out here, and you've been gone for hours. You ran from the hospital, we couldn't find you. I had to take the other boys home, I've been looking on my own since 11."
"I don't care," I say, and I don't. Nothing matters anymore. Nothing that happens to me, or to anyone else.
"You've had us worried sick, and you don't care? How can you say that, John! After the hell we've been through tonight…"
"She's gone," I interrupt him in a toneless voice that doesn't sound like my own. "She's gone. Nothing else matters. She's gone and she isn't coming back…" I gasp, the sudden weight of what I've said crashing over me worse than any of the other water I've come across tonight. I moan and then the tears come. Icy tears because there's no warmth left in the world anymore. I shake, tremble, and feel the sobs as their torn from my throat. It really hit me for the first time at that moment. I'd already said it, but until then it hadn't really been real. "Oh God, Scott, she isn't coming back! She's really gone!"
The endless strength of my older brother never stops amazing me. Even if he himself is grieving right that moment, and even though he is furious with me for what I did, he still wraps his arms around me and holds me close. I can feel the heat radiating off his body, even though the December rain is beginning to soak through his clothes as well. He lays his head against mine and gently rubs my arms. "Hush, John, it's okay. It's okay."
"No," I half-sob half-moan into his chest, "no it isn't! Scott, it won't ever be okay again! She's gone! She left me!" I know it's selfish, but I don't care. I am fully aware that she wasn't only mine, but it never seemed that way. It had always seemed as though she were mine and mine only.
He rocks me as I sob uncontrollable and painful sobs. Pain flares up as the salt of my tears hits the cut on my chin. We sit on that bridge, the truth having finally caught up with me just like Scott had, with me sobbing hysterically and Scott silently clutching me to him and running his hand through my hair. Eventually I start to quiet down. Not because I'm any calmer, but because I'm so drained I can't cry like that any more. I sit there, quietly sobbing, with my head on Scott's chest.
"She was supposed to come get me," I whimper. "I was going to stay here until she came to find me."
I hear Scott's breath catch in his chest. He knows, as I do, that she would have come and found me eventually. I find myself reminded of that old Christmas story Dad used to read us to appreciate what we had. It was called "The Little Match Girl", and in the end she'd been saved by and angel. Like I would be by my mother.
"John," Scott whispers into my hair, "don't. Please."
I want to stop, I really do, but I can't. "There was so much we were supposed to do. She said we'd start tomorrow. She told me we'd always have tomorrow to do things! Always! But there won't be any more tomorrows! Never!"
Scott holds me even tighter as I feebly lash out in my anger at the world. "There will be tomorrows, Johnny. There will always be tomorrows."
"No! No there won't! Not without her!" The thought of continuing life without her is too much for me. I try once more to free myself from my older brother's grasp. "I can't, Scott! I can't do it! Not without her!"
"Yes you can!" Scott's yell out does mine, as does his strength. He refuses to let me go. Instead he turns me so that my face is pressed into his chest and my body is facing his instead of sitting sideways on his lap. To my surprise, I can feel his chest hitch in a sob under my head and hot tears land on top of my cold hair. "You can John, and you have to."
"But Scott, I don't want to. It's just too hard."
"None of us want to, John," He says seriously, tilting my head up and forcing me to look at him. I can see his blue eyes are blood shot and red rimmed. In them I can see myself reflected. I look like I'm ten years old, with my eyes wide and even more bloodshot than Scott's. My face is pale, even by my standards, except for the blotchy parts that always come when I cry. "We don't want to, but we have to."
"Why?" I spit back, more bitterly than I intend. I don't blame Scott. I blame myself. I knew it would happen, but I couldn't make her stop. "Why do we have to continue?"
"Because as much as we may have wanted it to, the world didn't end. It doesn't revolve around us." Scott replies, his tone much gentler than mine. "And since it didn't end, we have to continue. She'd want us to continue."
"How do you know?" My voice rises in pitch, and I know I'm dangerously close to hysterics. "How do you know what she'd want? She didn't tell us, and she can't now. She never can."
I try and look away, but Scott holds my head fast. "John, you know I'm right. You know it. You can't run away from this."
I whimper my response, and even I have to strain to hear it. "I'm not the one that ran away." When Scott doesn't reply I say in a slightly stronger voice, "she's the one that left me all alone, Scott!"
"You aren't alone." He uses that same gentle tone he has been, the one he has that makes it impossible to fight with him. "You still have us. Dad, Virgil, Gordon, Alan, and me. You have us, John, and even if you don't see it right now, we love you. I wouldn't be here if I didn't love you, and you know that. We love you. You'll have us. You'll always have us."
"They love you, John, just like I love you. I don't want you to ever forget that. Your father and your brothers all love you very much."
I start to cry again, finally managing to look away. "I won't have you, not always. Someday you'll die and leave me too."
"Johnny, I can't tell you that's not true. Someday, we will all die. I can't deny that. I can, however, tell you that the love we have won't die. Mom's hasn't left. You can feel it. I know you can."
I close my eyes and slowly, slowly, realize I can. Or more specifically, I can feel her love radiating from my brother. I weakly rest my head against Scott's chest again, listening to his reassuring heartbeat. He was real, and somehow that meant the world to me right at that moment. "She'd be so disappointed in me."
"She never could be."
"Nothing you do will ever disappoint me. I will love you always for just being my John. I will not ask any more of you than you can give."
"I don't think I can do this, Scott. It'sso very hard."
"I know, Johnny, but please try. Try for me."
Slowly, I nod. "I can try." I'm still hurting, desperately. I still feel like I'm drowning. But now I have a lifeline at least. It isn't much of one, but it's something. Enough to keep me afloat for now.
Scott helps me to my feet, but I have to lean on him. It's as if every ounce of energy I'd ever had has simple melted away like I wanted to do. I shiver as Scott leads me to his car. He pulls a blanket out from the trunk and wraps me in. By the time we're ready to go I'm shivering uncontrollably, and I'm sure I'm starting to get hypothermia. As Scott begins to drive into the December silence I know we'll be heading back to the hospital. I half-hope I'll be sick for the funeral. I know I won't be able to handle it. If I have to go, I'll have to say good-bye. I can't do that.
I put my forehead, now uncomfortably warm, against the cool glass of the window and watch listlessly as the lights flicker by. I look up toward the still dark sky, trying desperately to find my stars. They're still gone, just like Mom is still gone.