Disclaimer: All characters belong to their respective owners. This story is for entertainment purposes only.
Author's note: Hmmm... I'm not sure where I wanted to go with this story. I guess I just wanted to write another fic with Clifford and Ricky together. They make such good friends, don't they? Plus, I wanted an excuse to write in Clifford because for some reason, I feel like I've been neglecting him, LOL. Oh, and I couldn't remember if Ricky's little brother was ever mentioned by name in the movie, so he was left nameless.
"With Much Gratitude"
He took a long drag from his cigarette and exhaled the smoke through his nostrils. Leaning back against the brick wall, he dangled the cigarette between his fingers as his thoughts were drowning in a sea of frustration and sadness.
Upon hearing his best friend's voice, he took another drag, this time a much longer one, exhaled, and dropped the cigarette onto the cement ground. His heavy black boot smashed over it, ensuring its quick demise. He looked over and saw the much smaller boy standing there with his arms across his chest, his light colored eyes watching him with concern.
"Is something wrong?" Clifford asked. "How come you ditched class?"
Without answering, Ricky turned and started to walk around the brick wall and away from the school property. Clifford stood there, dumbfounded for a few moments, before he quickly followed him.
"Not this again," Clifford muttered as he soon caught up with Ricky's long strides. He wracked his brain to think of something that would cause the other boy to revert back to his old, callous self. Just when it looked like Ricky was breaking away from his aloof mannerism... "What's the matter? Why aren't you talking to me?"
Ricky abruptly stopped and finally answered with, "Jesus, I can't believe how persistent you are." But there was no maliciousness in his tone-it borderlined more on amusement mixed with irritancy. How could he forget how stubborn Clifford could be at times?
Clifford knew this as well, as he looked up at him and patiently waited for an answer. Inward, he was thankful that whatever was bothering him, he would be allowed to know what was going on. Ricky scratched the back of his shaggy head and motioned for the other to follow him.
"It's his birthday today."
Despair loomed behind Ricky's eyes as he sat next to Clifford on the sidewalk on the other side of town. The mention of his brother at any time sparked such an emotion-but only under the scrutiny of an observer such as Clifford Peache. He learned this from watching the many people who came to the hotel his father managed. People in general were such a curious and unpredictable bunch.
"You know what, Clifford? Ever since he died… ever since the funeral… I'd never once gone back to the cemetery to visit him."
Clifford looked down at the half drunk soda can he held on top of his lap. Earlier they'd stopped by a 7-11: Clifford bought a Pepsi while Ricky settled for a pack of smokes. After they decided on a place to sit down and talk (Ricky routed them to a relatively quiet area of a neighborhood he was familiar with), that was when the troubles were revealed.
"It's like if I go back there and I see his name on that slab of granite, and those years... it'll remind me that he really IS gone."
Ricky hunched forward and cursed softly under his breath. Clifford pressed his thumb against the aluminum can until it made a slight indentation. Ricky was managing another cigarette between his fingers as he stretched out his long legs before him.
"I know he's gone, Cliff-don't think I don't realize it."
Clifford nodded and softly said, "I know you do."
"… but goddamit, nobody should have their name on a tombstone until they've lived a long life."
The cigarette now dangled between Ricky's dried and cracked lips as he tilted his head back and stared helplessly at the dull, gray skies. Clifford looked up, taking notice of the moody atmosphere and how appropriate it was for the topic at hand.
"When do you think you'll go?" Clifford asked as he rolled his head across his shoulders and looked at Ricky. "I mean, when you're ready to go."
"Shit, I dunno. You saw how long it took for me to tell you what really happened to the poor little guy. If I go, I'm gonna have to apologize for what I did. I owe him that much." He chuckled bitterly. "Some birthday present, huh?"
It was an accident, Clifford wanted to say out loud, but refrained from doing so. He remembered how upset and passionate Ricky was with his confession. It was fruitless to remind him that he didn't mean to kill his little brother. They both knew it was an accident; but the pain wouldn't simply go away because the truth was revealed. It may not go away for a very long time-if ever.
Instead, Clifford asked, "Do you want me to go with you? When you're ready?"
Ricky said nothing. Clifford slowly lowered his head and nursed his soda. He noticed it was getting warmer and he quickly downed the rest of its contents. The taste lingered in his mouth and after which, Ricky finally answered his question.
"It's about an hour and a half's drive outside the city. Can you handle it?"
Clifford shrugged indifferently and grinned. "No problem."
Ricky finished the rest of his cigarette and offered him a sad smile in return. Yet Clifford could see gratitude written all over his face.