January 28, 2010: So... I finally went and saw the musical "Hair" this past Sunday. And... and new obsession was born. The entire Claude/Berger/Sheila dynamic absolutely fascinates me -- though I confess, the Claude/Berger dynamic fascinates me more. ^_~ And for goodness sake, it's canon! *beams* So, you have Sheila in love with Berger and Claude is in love with them both. However... Berger, while he also loves Sheila and Claude both, cares not when Sheila skips town for weeks on end... yet is absolutely frantic when Claude disappears for three days. Also, I remember thinking as I was watching the show, "They make such a big deal out of how much Sheila loves Berger and Claude loves Sheila... yet whenever Berger and Claude have a free moment or a song together, they're either rolling around on the floor with each other or groping each other at center stage. Hmmm..." ^_~ I shit you not, it is true. I've been dying to see fic for this musical ever since the first scene that Berger and Claude were both in. H_H
Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a lot of fic for this fandom. O_O Fortunately, what I've been finding has been phenomenally good, but still... there isn't much to find. *sigh* So, I figured that I would give the plotbunny gnawing on my ankle a chance to grow... and it did. It grew teeth, found 5 other bunnies and, in true hippie style, started a bunny orgy in the corner of my kitchen. O_o;;;
General warnings? This fic is AU. The one thing I didn't like about the musical was what happened to Claude at the end. ((And here is Warning #1: **There are spoilers in this fic if you don't know what happened!**)) Oh, don't get me wrong. I understand why it happened, storywise. I even see that it sort of had to happen. However, that doesn't mean I had to like it. Then, extending from that, I wondered what would have happened to Berger? He's already shown that he has a tendency to go into mindblown-panic-mode when Claude disappears... so what if Claude really was gone? *eg* Yes... yes, I'm mean. Warning #2? Obviously... slash content. ^_^ And really why are you reading Hair fanfic if you don't like slash? ^_~
Where Do I Go?
It was hard to believe how difficult it had gotten just to live his life. He woke up in the morning. He showered. He got dressed. He made himself breakfast. He went to work. After work, he came home, watched the news, made himself dinner. Sometimes he visited his parents, more often than not, he didnt. Sometimes he went out with a girl... more often then not, he didnt. He had no passion in his life and no passion for his life. Something was missing, something huge... he just wished he knew what.
That night he was at his parents' house, along with whatever girl he was currently dating. It should have worried him that he could barely remember her name, but like with so many things, he just couldn't raise the energy to even care about that. A small hand resting on his arm brought him back to the conversation. The hand was accompanied by a voice: sweet, high, pleasant... boring, "Sweetheart, I asked if you would like some more potatoes."
He could feel his father's frown of disapproval radiating from across the table at his distraction. He just wished he could bring himself to care... Dredging up the girl's name from somewhere in his subconscious, he finally answered, "Thank you, Allison, but I'm not very hungry."
A gentle frown was her only answer. She didn't disagree with him much, didn't even get angry when he'd upset her. There was no challenge in her, no spark. She was exactly the kind of girl his father had always wanted for him -- sweet, considerate, pretty and pliant. They'd marry, have 2.5 children, a dog and a house with a white picket fence. It was everything that his parents dreamed of for their son, but the very thought of living that life almost caused him to hyperventilate in panic. He didn't know why he couldn't be satisfied with the thought of a home, a loving wife and children. All he could think was that it had something to do with that part of him that was missing. He didn't know much, but he did know this... whatever it was, he wanted it back. No... he needed it back.
Rising from his seat at the table and earning another round of frowns from everyone there, he said shortly, "I'm going out for a smoke," and fled the dining room with its antique wood furniture and its carefully applied wall decorations as quickly as he was able.
When he got outside, he leaned his head over the porch railing, taking in large gulps of the evening air. It had been like this for as long as he could remember, this feeling that he was trapped in his father's dreams for him. He didn't think it had always been that way. He'd had dreams of his own, once... desires of his own. He'd had his own life, he hadn't just been a pale extension of his father, but it had been so difficult when he'd come back from the war. He'd lost too much of himself in that living nightmare, that hell on Earth. He'd lost his passion, he'd lost his strength, he'd lost much of his will to live. He didn't remember much of it when awake, thank G-d, but he remembered enough in his nightmares that he didn't need to.
That wasn't even the biggest tragedy. No... what the war had taken from him wasn't just his passion and his strength. The war had taken from him something more important than that... his memory. He remembered some of his early life, flashes here and there, but the war and most of everything else, they were gone. They were gone as though they never were and all of his zest for life, all of his desire for something better than this day-to-day drudgery... they'd gone with them.
Bringing himself back upright, he stared up at the first stars of the evening, just beginning to shine as the sun set below the horizon. He looked out over the vastness of the prairie and wondered why he wished the emptiness filled with the enormity of a city's skyscrapers, why he knew in his gut that he had once lain out in a great park with the grass his only bed and those same stars his only blanket, why he could almost feel the ghostly touch of another's head resting on his chest as they stared up into the darkness and dreamed impossible dreams... why those tingling touches of half-formed memory left him feeling more empty than before.
A quiet step on the porch behind him had him whirling about, a vague sense of his earlier panic coming back to roost. The one who'd left the house to come get him caught her breath at the wild look on his face, a hand fluttering over her heart as she saw recognition take the place of that soul-striking fear. She shook her head as she moved that hand to rest on his shoulder, "You father and I have only ever wanted the best for you. You know that, don't you?"
Releasing the breath he'd been holding, he turned away from his mother, "I do know that. I'm grateful for everything you've done for me, really I am. I just..."
Her hand gently traced over his shoulder and down his back. He could hear the tears threatening in her voice when she next spoke, "You're unhappy here. You've been unhappy ever since we left New York."
That last sentence tugged at his ears and he turned to regard his mother with a frown, "When did we ever live in New York?"
As though realizing she'd said something she shouldn't, his mother turned away. That little piece of information, however... it had opened the door a crack and he wasn't going to let this go without a fight. Taking her shoulders in a gentle grip, he turned his mother to face him, "Mother... when did we live in New York?"
She paled a little at the repeated question and just shook her head. Feeling the small flame that the words "New York" had sparked within him threatening to gutter and go out, he all but shook her in his renewed sense of panic, "Mother! Please... When did we live in New York? You have to tell me..."
Hearing that note of pain in her son's voice finally broke her down. She looked away from him as she spoke, "Your father didn't want you to know. He thought if we moved you away that you would get better, that you'd never remember all that nonsense from before the war... that we'd have a chance to start over, a chance to do better by you. He was only thinking of what was best for you!"
His hands dropped from her shoulders to wrap around himself as he tried to fight off the sudden chill her words had evoked. Here it was -- the answer to his constant questions. He'd always known something was missing. He'd always known that he felt no connection to the life his parents had always told him he'd led, but he'd never suspected this reason behind it. He'd never lived it. All these years, trying desperately to remember events that had never happened, places he'd never been, people he'd never met... Body shaking with the force of the first full emotions he'd felt in thirteen years, he felt like he was coming apart at the seams.
As though she'd realized what she'd done -- too late, of course -- his mother stepped closer to him and wrapped her arms around him, "Baby... it's all right. Just forget about it. Come back inside. Allison made a chocolate cake for dessert and I bought some fresh strawberries. Come inside, have dessert. Just... just come back."
It sounded so easy... so seductively easy. Just come inside. Have some cake and strawberries and everything will be all right. Let me kiss it and make it better. No. No, it wasn't that simple, couldn't be that simple... not ever again. The magnitude of the lies that had made up his life to this point overwhelmed him. Before he'd even realized what he was doing, he'd pushed his mother away and run down the steps and across the lawn to the driveway. He gunned the engine to his run-down little compact, and he could only barely hear her voice screaming after him over the roar of the engine as he pulled out of the driveway and sped off down the road... "Claude, come back!!"
His apartment was as dark as the night outside it when he finally returned home. Staring up into his desolately empty windows, he couldn't bring himself to walk up the stairs. Finally, gripping his keys tightly enough in his hand to leave a mark, he walked around the back of the building, down towards the lake. Once he was out of sight of the old complex, he let himself fold down into the soft prairie grass. Laying back, he stared up at the moon. It was bright tonight, nearly full. The soft light washed over him, along with a sense of peace. There was something about this -- about laying out in the grass, staring up at the sky -- that felt so familiar it made his heart ache. Still, though... something was missing. Someone else should be here with him. He shouldn't be alone.
Curling up on his side, arms wrapped tightly around his stomach, he again tried to dredge up something, anything, that might lead him to some answers. There was nothing. No memories rose to the surface, no faces, no names. There was nothing -- just a few childhood memories that could have happened anywhere, and the thirteen years he'd lived in Kansas.
Rolling back to look up at the moon, he breathed out the words, "New York..." hoping against hope that they might further edge open the door that they had opened. Unfortunately, while they'd been the key that helped him unlock the door, they weren't strong enough words to do more than they'd already done. The answers, though... the answers he needed were there, in those words, in that place. Mind firming with sudden resolve, Claude realized what he would have to do to find the answers he sought. He would have to go back.
Two days later, without even a word to his parents or a goodbye to his girlfriend, Claude Bukowski packed a bag and boarded a plane: destination... New York City.
He wasn't sure what he'd expected when he got to New York, but as he stepped off the plane into the terminal of the airport, there was no sudden epiphany, no lightning-strike of memory to greet him. It was disheartening, to say the least. Momentarily he wavered, wondering what he was doing here, so far from everything he knew. He felt a sudden urge to turn around and get back on the plane and go home, but that wasn't home, had never been home. This, here, New York... this was home. If only he could remember...
When the cab driver dropped him off in the heart of the city, with a pitiful look in his eyes for the poor country bumpkin he was sure would get mugged within a block of leaving the cab, Claude began -- again -- to doubt his plans. He'd heard a hundred stories about the evils of cities, this one in particular. He'd heard even more stories about what happened to Midwesterners that came to those cities and were robbed of all their money and half their possessions. Strapping some steel to his spine, he reminded himself that he wasn't really a Midwesterner, that he was a New Yorker, born and raised... that he belonged here, even if he didn't remember.
Hitching his duffel bag higher up on his shoulder, he began to walk. He walked up Broadway, gawked at the lights in Times Square, eyed the many theatres with barely concealed envy. He skirted the edge of Central Park, remembering more stories and unsure about the safety of going into it. In the end, he reinforced the steel at his backbone and went in. He walked aimlessly for what felt like hours, lost in the beauty of the Park in bloom. And then... he saw it. Around a bend in the path and through a break in the trees, was his clearing. He'd seen it a thousand times in dreams. He knew this part of the Park, knew every inch of it, every blade of grass, every tree and flower. He'd spent countless nights out here, staring up at the moon and stars and dreaming of a better tomorrow. A piece of the jigsaw puzzle that was his heart settled softly into place. He was on the right track.
He stayed there for hours, watching the people go by, listening to the wind shiver through the trees. As it brushed against him, he could almost feel the phantom sensation of hair brushing against his shoulders with its passing. It brought with it another piece to the puzzle -- he just wished he knew where this one fit. Eventually, the wind acquired a bite and turned chill. Seeing the sun beginning its slow descent into the horizon, Claude rose from where he'd settled down against a tree all those hours ago. No matter that he had spent night after night sleeping here fifteen years ago, he was sure that it wouldn't be safe to do so now. He needed to find shelter for the night.
Leaving the Park, he again started to walk. There were hotels here, certainly, but he was almost ashamed to realize that he couldnt afford any of them. He'd withdrawn all of the money from his accounts before coming here, but if he spent it on staying in any of these places, he'd run through it in less than a month. Not for the first time since arriving in New York, despair again came knocking. This city... it was so big and he was so small in it. He didn't know anyone, he only barely recognized anything and he was just beginning to realize how large and impossible a task this would be without anyone to help him. Refusing to give in to his rising panic, Claude began to walk back towards Times Square -- at least there would be more people there and he might find someone to point him towards a less expensive place to stay.
By the time he reached the Square, nighttime had lain its full blanket over the city. Unlike at home -- not home, never home -- you couldn't see the stars very well. The city itself was too bright... and Times Square was the brightest place of all. The lit up billboards which had been so beautiful at first glance were awe-inspiring now, with the night as a backdrop. He couldn't help it -- he had to stop and stare.
That was when the young man approached him. Lithe and seeming almost to float with each step, his hair a wild and unruly mop of blond curls, Claude thought at first that he must be an apparition. He was proved real enough, however, when he came to rest beside him and draped an arm over his shoulders, smile warm and brown eyes open and welcoming, "Hey, man! You look a little lost. First time in the City?"
For just a moment, a memory flashed by him -- someone, face a blur, draping an arm over him in just such a manner and asking him the same question, warm welcome and honest affection in his dark eyes... It was gone again before he could catch hold of it. Seeing the young man gently smiling as he waited for an answer, he started to nod, then shook his head.
The other man laughed in response, "So was that a 'No' or a 'Yes', dude?"
Caught in his own uncertainty, Claude could only blush, "I... I think I've been here before, but I don't really remember much about that time. I've only just arrived."
Tossing a smile over his shoulder to someone behind them, the young man said, "What do you think?"
Another boy stepped out of the shadows of the building and came up on his other side to drape an arm around his shoulders, as well. This one had shoulder length, straight brown hair tied into a ponytail at the nape of his neck. His green eyes were earnest as he spoke, "It seems wrong to be giving advice to someone older than us, but really... you shouldn't walk around here gawping like that. Someone's gonna take advantage." Again there was a flash of memory, this time of that same someone and himself bracketing a pair of gawking tourists and offering their services as tour guides... for the price of a meal, of course. He felt a flush of embarrassment at having the tables so thoroughly turned on him.
The blond on his right frowned at the brunette, "Zack... be nice. He's new and anyone with half a brain could see that he's scared. He needs some help, man."
Zack merely shrugged his shoulders, "Whatever, dude. I say let him learn the hard way." He dropped his arm from Claude's shoulders and shoved his hands into his pockets, "You wanna spend your night babysitting tourists that's your business, but it's not exactly my scene. 'Sides, I got homework to do and my mom'll have conniptions if I'm home after curfew again."
The blond sighed and shook his head, "You know, Zack, one of these days, you're going to need some help and karma is going to look down at you and laugh its ass off, then leave you bleeding in the street."
At that last comment, Zack made a face, "Jeez, Claude. You talk more and more like your mom every day. No wonder you get beat up at school."
As the blond leapt at his friend and started not-so-mock fighting with him, Claude jumped out of the way, mind numb with shock. What were the odds that the first person who tried to help him in this city would share his name? When the fight finally ended with Zack stalking away into the darkness, the blond turned back to find himself being stared at. He halted his movements, then immediately looked down at himself, "What? He didn't rip anything, did he? If he did, I'll kill him."
Claude shook his head, "No... you look fine. It's just..." He paused in his babbling, then started to laugh. As the younger man started to take on the look one does when abruptly realizing that the person they're with is crazy, Claude got himself under control. Holding out his hand, he offered the other a genuine smile, "I never introduced myself. My name is Claude."
For a moment, the younger man's mouth dropped open, then it pulled up into a wide grin, "No shit, for real?" At Claude's nod, he also started to laugh, "Well, isn't that a kick in the pants. My mom must be on to something with all her karmic meditation crap." He took Claude's hand in a firm grip and shook it, "Only Zack and my mom really call me by my given name, though, and he's known me since we were kids. Most of my friends call me Cloud -- as in 'always has his head in the...'"
Claude frowned, "And the implied insult doesn't bother you?"
The younger man offered Claude a sheepish grin and a shrug, "Nah, not really. I mean, it's kinda true. And it's unique. Besides, my friends don't mean anything by it, anyway. We all have silly nicknames like that." At Claude's disbelieving look, he smiled, "Really. I have a friend who's called Rain and another whose nickname is Tulip."
Claude's eyebrows climbed, "Tulip?"
Cloud laughed, "Well, she says likes it better than Petunia, anyway. Personally I think the whole thing came about because we're all secretly sorry we missed out on the hippie era."
Claude just smiled, feeling something within himself relax at this conversation. It was odd, to feel so comfortable lost in the city that was once his home, talking to a boy he'd never met and yet who shared his name... but he did. For the first time in more years than he could count, he didn't feel like he had a lead weight sitting on his chest, cutting off his air. Finally, the younger man slanted a look at him out of the corner of his eyes, "Being serious, though... do you have a place to stay tonight? You still seem kinda lost and I'm a little afraid to let you wander off alone. I don't wanna read in the paper tomorrow that you got mugged and killed. I'd never forgive myself."
Claude opened his mouth to let the boy off the hook when he realized that it was nearly 9 o'clock and he did not actually have a place to stay. Seeming to realize the predicament that the older man was in, Cloud shook his head, "That's what I thought." Narrowing his eyes, he said, "You're not a psychotic killer or rapist or anything are you?"
Eyes wide, Claude shook his head. The younger man stared him down a while longer, then nodded to himself, "Well, I'm not as good at reading people as my mom, but you seem innocuous enough. I'm gonna take you home to meet her and we'll see if she can think of something to do with you."
More relieved than he cared to admit, and hoping he wasn't making a dreadful mistake, Claude just thanked the young man and followed him meekly back to his mother's apartment. Once they'd climbed the stairs to the fourth-floor walk-up, Cloud unlocked the door, then called out, "Hope you don't mind, mom, but I brought home a random tourist from Times Square!"
A female voice called back from the kitchen, "Claude Michael Ryan, what have I told you about that?" A woman with hair just as blond, curly and wild as Cloud's popped around the corner and opened her mouth to deliver what would, no doubt, have been a blistering lecture... and froze, her mouth still dropped open.
Cloud, clearly waiting for the promised lecture, also froze. When none was forthcoming and he got a better look at his mother standing shock-still, halfway through the kitchen doorway, he raised an eyebrow, "Mom? Something wrong?"
The woman finally edged the rest of the way into the living room, eyes wide and mouth still open. She wore a white peasant blouse and long flowing broom skirt that wouldn't have been out of place on the hippies of a decade ago, yet somehow managed to look natural and current on her. One hand rose to her mouth and her eyes started to shine with unshed tears. She choked on a little cry, then violently shook her head. Low under her breath, she muttered, "No, it's impossible. Just impossible. Pull yourself together." When she looked up again, she offered her unexpected guest a bright smile and an outstretched hand, "I apologize for my rude behavior. It's just that my son seems to think we run a bed-and-breakfast here and no matter how many times I try to tell him that it isn't true, he never seems to listen."
Offering her a sheepish grin, Claude took her hand and shook it, "If it's an imposition..."
Shaking her head, she said, "Nonsense! I'm not going to turn someone away when they're on my doorstep and besides, it's far too late to find you somewhere else to stay. We have a pull-out couch and some leftovers from dinner if you're hungry."
"I do appreciate that, ma'am. Thank you," he responded.
Having started to turn back towards the kitchen, she immediately turned back, "Oh goodness. Don't call me 'ma'am' -- you'll make me feel old. My name is Jeanie."
Jeanie... the name reverberated down the corridors of his mind even more strongly than the words 'New York' had done. There was a Jeanie in his past somewhere... he just knew it. Pushing the thought to the back of his mind, he extended his hand again, "Claude Bukowski. It's a pleasure to meet you."
No one could have said which Claude was more shocked when the woman took his hand, blinked twice... and promptly fainted.
Claude carried the woman to the couch while her son ran to the kitchen to wet a towel for her head. By the time he came back, Claude had her settled. He took the towel from the younger man and draped it across her forehead. Sharing a perplexed look, they settled in to wait. Ten minutes later, Jeanie's eyes blinked open. She put a hand to her head, eyes blurry and confused. When they landed on Claude, she bolted upright, mouth again dropping open in shock. Claude made as though to rise from the couch but froze when the woman grabbed his face in both hands. Her voice was more than a touch hysterical when she spoke, "I dreamed this, didn't I? Dreamed you? You can not have said what I think you said!"
When Claude opened his mouth to respond, she ran right over him, "Tell me your name."
There was not yet a son born who could ever deny a command spoken in that tone of voice and Claude was no exception. A little afraid of what her response would be, he repeated himself, "Claude Bukowski."
At that response, her hands tightened against his cheeks before releasing him to cover her mouth as she exploded in hysterical giggles. Raising his eyes to meet those of the woman's son, he silently begged for an explanation. The boy shrugged, unable to give him one. When she'd finally calmed down again, she shook her head, "It still isn't possible. Coincidence... just a coincidence."
Finally catching on to what was going on, Claude took the woman's hands in his own, "Jeanie... I hate to ask a question which may just upset you more... but... do you know me?"
Another choked sob was her initial response, "Do I know you? I don't know... I thought... How could there be two 'Claude Bukowski's in this world? But he'd be about your age and you look and sound just like him..."
Gentling his hold, he asked, "Look and sound just like who, Jeanie?"
Her face lit with a melancholy smile, "A dear friend." Eyes taking on a sad cast, she looked away, "The one after whom I named my son. But... he died. He was drafted almost... my gosh... almost 16 years ago. He went to Viet Nam... and he died."
Claude jerked himself off the couch, shaking with the force of the emotions running through him at the woman's words. Could the answers really be this close? Could Fate really have been this kind after all these years of crushing him under her heel? He heard Jeanie rise from the couch behind him but still shuddered when her hand came to rest on his shoulder. Her voice was soft and gentle, an encyclopedia of questions in the one word she spoke, "Claude?"
His voice was hoarse, choked, when he spoke. The words didn't want to come, but he forced them, "I was drafted, too -- in 1967. I was in Viet Nam for almost two and a half years. I spent one of those years as a prisoner of war." He turned at her quiet gasp of horror, taking her small hands gently in his, "By the time they got me back, I had amnesia. I have a few memories from my childhood, but other than that, my entire life before 1970 is a blank. My mother happened to let slip that we'd once lived in New York, so I came here chasing those lost memories." His grip tightened on her hands, eyes almost feverish in their intensity, "So I'm going to ask you again, Jeanie Ryan... Do you know me?"
Time seemed to freeze around them as that question hung in the air. Jeanie's eyes met his, pinning him in place as she searched for an answer for both their sakes. Finally, after a moment that lasted an eternity, she let out a sound that was halfway between a laugh and a sob, "Claude Hooper Bukowski... yes. I know you. I would know you blindfolded and struck deaf." Placing a hand on either side of his face, she planted a gentle kiss on his lips, "Welcome home."
*sheepish grin* Oh please, don't complain. I was originally going to stop this part with Jeanie fainting, but I decided I wasn't that cruel. *eg* ^_~
And for those of you who play video games... O_o;;; No, I did not actually plan the Cloud/Zack thing. It just sort of happened and, believe it or not, I didn't catch it until my third read-through. -.-;;; By then, I was attached to the names and didn't want to change them, so... they stand. ^_^ Enjoy.
Coming soon: Claude regains more of himself with each passing day spent in Jeanie's company and as he does... he realizes that something vital is still missing. Or is it someone?
Questions, comments, canteloupe?