A/N: Wow, it's been a while since I've posted anything! Totally don't know why I wrote this, I just felt like it. Warnings: Angst, Roger's foul mouth, sick!Roger. Not my best, but, like I said, I felt like writing.
Title credit to 'Jesus of Suburbia' by Green Day.
There is only one picture of my father holding me. I'm sure he must have held me more than once – surely he had to – but someone only captured it one time. It was taken in my kitchen – no, not my kitchen, my mother's kitchen – and he is standing by the fridge. I'm about one and a half, give or take a few months. He's got an arm around my middle, and is holding me like that, with my legs dangling, kicking them out in the way small children do. One of my hands rests on his forearm (perhaps for support? That looks like a pretty painful way to be held); the other hand is reaching for something, or maybe waving. My father is smiling this strange half-smile that I'm so familiar with (I see it on my own face all the time), while my chubby, baby face is lit up, smiling an almost toothless smile.
I found it in a box a few weeks ago. The box hadn't been opened, not ever, and my mother had sent it to me years ago, right after I moved out. It was only when Mimi and I were cleaning out the closet that it was opened. It was filled with miscellaneous shit from my childhood that apparently my mother thought I should have – I'm sure there's even more crap like it back in Scarsdale. At the very bottom of the box was that picture. Mimi was the one who found it – all she did was exclaim over how adorable I was, so blond (my hair was even lighter then – it was like golden-white fluff on top of my head) and tiny and "cute". And I guess I was cute, in that general babyish way. I was honestly surprised she didn't mention how much I look like my father – in the picture, he would have been about twenty-one, and we could be twins, despite the fact I'm almost twenty-five now. Same hair. Same eyes. Same nose. Same smile. Same bone structure. Fucking identical.
I hid that picture when she finally put it aside – it's in my guitar case, where everything I can't seem to get rid of (along with everything I need –cigarettes and songs written on scraps of napkins, for example) always ends up. I was so close to burning it – I had my lighter out, ready to toss the picture out on the fire escape and watch it curl up and turn black and burn, but at the last second I dropped it into my guitar case and slammed the lid shut. I don't know why, so don't ask.
Maybe it was a sign, discovering that picture. Because a month and a half later, my father called.
"Speaaaaaaaaaaaak . . ." Beep.
"Hullo? Uh, I hope I've got the right number. Roger? Roger Davis? Um . . . it's your dad. Your mom gave me your number. I want to talk to you. Please call."
He went on to give the location of the hospital where he was staying, even going so far as to give me the room number. This is the nearest I've been to him in thirteen years – he's in Manhattan, perilously close to me. Fuck.
He didn't tell me why he's in the hospital, or how long he'll be there. Like I care.
But if I didn't care, would I be here, staring up at this giant hospital like some sort of total idiot? It's hot as hell today, and for some reason, I'm shaking. People are staring at me, clearly wondering if I need help. Thankfully, no one speaks to me.
This is the same hospital Angel was at, I realize. The déjà vu makes me feel faintly nauseated. Or maybe that's nerves. Or maybe my own insanity taking physical form. Who the hell knows.
I force my legs to move, and I walk inside. The place is cold and has that smell of hospitals, and something cool and nervous grips me. This is bullshit, why am I here, god-damn it?
Because I need to talk to him. I should, shouldn't I?
God. I hate him. I do.
I find his room with relative ease, except for the fact that every time I pass an open doorway, I keep expecting to look inside and see Angel, hear her call out, "Roger, honey! Hi!", but obviously I don't, because Angel is gone. Dead and buried.
He's in room 667. (They missed it by one number, I see.) The door is slightly open, and when I reach out to push it open, my heart gives this funny skip, and I'm so nervous. God-damn it. I blame Mimi and Mark for this. They're the ones who convinced me to come in the first place. I should have never told them that he called.
I take a small step inside, and I look at him, and God, I'm going to be sick. He's thin and his skin is noticeably yellowed and his hair is a graying blond, like mine would end up being if I made it to his age (he's what, forty-five? Jesus.). He's asleep, and one monitor beeps steadily, measuring either his breaths or his heart rate, I'm not sure.
I can't stand it any longer. There's an open door to one side of the entranceway, and I dart in, finding it to be a small bathroom. I throw up, shaking, eyes closed. When I'm done, I wipe my mouth with tissue, flush the toilet, wash my hands, rinse my mouth with tap water. There's a mirror, and I inspect myself. Thin, tired, faintly flushed. I must be getting sick - I'm not weak enough to vomit at the sight of my father. Oh, thank you, AIDS. How wonderful.
I step out of the bathroom, and a hoarse voice stops me from leaving.
"Who's that?" my father asks throatily from his bed. I turn automatically, and he blinks. It must be like seeing a ghost of himself, seeing me. I must look quite a bit different from when he last saw me, though – I was only twelve. I'm a foot taller, quite a bit broader, and when I speak, my voice is much deeper than that of a twelve-year-old's, just barely beginning to crack back then. Instinctive hate grips me, and I have to fight the urge to grab something and fling it.
"Roger?" he queries, squinting at me.
I nod jerkily. "Yeah." My voice is raspy and rough, much like his.
There's a slight pause. "Was that you in the bathroom?"
I nod again, staring at him. His skin is yellow, and he's hooked up to more machines than I thought he was upon first glance. I wonder again what's wrong with him, but I don't ask, not yet. I'm still trying to stomp the urge to throw something.
He asks, "You sick?"
I remember, then, that he doesn't know. I wonder if I look like an AIDS patient. Do I exude 'former junkie'?
I merely reply, "A bit."
He looks at me for a few minutes, and I look at him. He finally says, "Thanks for coming. I was expecting a call, but I guess this is good, too."
So you didn't want me to see you. Or maybe you didn't want to see me. You shouldn't have called, Dad. I don't say this. I ask, "What's wrong with you?"
He replies, "Cancer."
I ask, without thinking, "What kind?"
That explains the yellowness. "Still drinking?" I ask, my voice rough but still mostly under control.
He shakes his head and replies, "I stopped about seven years ago."
"Are you dying?" I ask curtly.
"Me, too." I didn't mean to say that. Fuck.
He looks startled. "Why?"
Now that I've started it, I've gotta finish it. "AIDS."
He stares at me. "You've got AIDS?"
Fuck, fuck, fuck. I should never have come here. I –
"Yes. So does my wife." My voice is cold now, frozen, close to cracking into a thousand pieces. I wonder if he hears it.
"You're married?" he asks. This seems to surprise him more than even the AIDS bombshell did.
I nod curtly. Mimi and I got married two weeks ago, so technically I'm a newlywed. A sick newlywed whose wife is at home and in bed with a fever, but still.
"Got any kids?" he asks.
I shake my head. If only. Mimi wants one so badly. She's desperate. I guess I want one, too. If we weren't sick –
But how can I even think about that, standing here in the presence of my father? If there's some sort of paternal instinct, it doesn't run strong in the Davis genes.
This is so fucking surreal. I can't believe I'm standing here, talking to my dying father. I thought I'd never see him again, or if I did, I'd yell at him, give him hell, make him hate himself as much as I hate him. I haven't raised my voice yet, but in the back of my head, I'm raging. He left you, the stupid fuck, he's not worth it, why are you here, let him die alone, he left, he left.
"Why did you want to talk to me?" I ask numbly. That raging voice in the back of my head is getting more powerful, and I can feel my cheeks heating with an angry blush, or maybe it's fever, and this room is suddenly hotter than it was a few minutes ago.
He pauses, rubs his eyes tiredly. There's an IV taped to the back of his hand.
He finally speaks. "I wanted to, uh, apologize."
"For what?" I ask. "For ditching me and Mom? For being a shitty dad?"
"Both." He's looking dead at me. How dare he.
My voice is trembling now; I can't control it any longer, it seems. "It doesn't work like this, Dad. I'm not going to run in here and forgive you just because you're dying now. You don't get that, okay? Not from me."
He opens his mouth to speak, but I cut him off.
"Maybe this – no, maybe we could have been better. Maybe if you hadn't been drunk all the time, or maybe if you hadn't left. Or maybe if you'd come back. Why didn't you come back?" I ask. I'm so angry. So angry. Bitterness is blood, metallic on the tongue and scarlet on the hands and so dirty, tainted with a disease that can't be cured.
His words are quiet, contrary to my angry, shaking ones. "You didn't need me. Neither did your mother. And by the time I'd stopped drinking, you were too old to want me, and you definitely didn't need me then."
My stomach hurts, God, it hurts. "I did need you."
He looks away. "I'm sorry."
I'm so much like him. No, no, no. "Wait, no, you're right. I didn't need you. I needed a dad. And you weren't one."
I turn away, head for the door, my steps unsteady.
"Roger," he calls after me, voice straining. "I'm sorry."
I turn, spare him one last glance, my dying father. "You and me both." And then I'm gone, slamming the door behind me, stumbling down that white hallway, fleeing my father and the ever-present scent of death here. I manage to escape the latter, but the former just won't fall behind me.
A week later, it's Mimi who tells me.
"The hospital called."
I open my eyes, looking at her. She's lying by me in our bed, absently playing with the edge of the sheet. "Yeah?" I ask, sliding my arm around her waist.
She pauses for just a second, then says, "Your dad died this morning."
I don't say anything for a long time. Bitterness really is blood, because it seems for a second that all mine has stopped moving, leaving me frozen and still. How poetic I am.
She shifts so that she can put an arm around me in return. "I'm sorry, baby," she says, when I don't say anything.
"Don't be," I finally whisper. "I don't care." But I do, I do care – why?
She gives me this weird look, like she understands, but at the same time like she doesn't. She kisses me, very lightly, and says, "I love you."
"Love you, too," I reply automatically. Would a normal son cry if his father died? I think he would. But I'm not a normal son, and my dad wasn't a normal dad. Maybe he wasn't really a dad at all. At the same time, though, I can't help but think that maybe I should cry. Maybe I will, sometime, someday, when I can. I can't cry now, though. Not now.
Thank God I didn't burn that picture.
A/N: Ahh, angsty!Roger and his angsty!Dad. Reviews are love. -smiley face-