Title: Return to Oz
Warnings: Language, tragedy, character death
Summary: After an overdose claims the estranged love of his life, Edge returns to the home he once shared with Jeff Hardy to say his final goodbyes.
A/N: I decided to post this anyway while many EdgeHeads are too depressed to read fic. Maybe it'll slip under the radar. I wouldn't be surprised if I received a backlash for this fic. It's kinda brutal, and I don't expect everyone (anyone) to read it or enjoy it. This scenario has been knocking around in my head for many, many months, and the day after Victory Road it spilled into my notebook. I've been putting off typing it down, but since losing Edge in the ring forever I've felt nothing but heartache and cannot force anything with any measure of joviality. I'm hoping this will be a catharsis for me.
If you've read anything of my other works, you know that I love Jeff and Matt Hardy, even though I don't always agree with their decisions. They've both broken my heart in many ways, and maybe this is an attempt to work out some of those demons in me. I continue to love and support the Hardys, always, and I hope they find their ways and live long lives of joy.
Adam's numb fingers pushed aside the police tape that criss-crossed the front door. He stared at the knob for a moment before turning it. He hadn't seen this door in years, though he often wished for the day he'd push it open once again and enter the house... but he never wished it would be like this.
He stepped over the threshold and memories rushed at him from every room. The familiar scent of Jeff enveloped him and brought tears to his eyes, but he held them back. He wandered through the house with slow, halting steps, letting his mind lose itself in the memories, some sweet, some bitter. Here was the kitchen, Jeff's domain, since he refused to allow Adam to cook. Adam would put moves on him while he made dinner and Jeff would tell him not now, he was busy. After a few moments Adam would come up behind him, draping his arms over Jeff's shoulders and shoving his face into Jeff's line of vision, asking "Are you busy?" Jeff would laugh and push him away, calling him a dick.
In the dining room Adam remembered the last birthday party he had here. The place had been decked out for Halloween, but Jeff always made sure Adam had his day, too. That was the year Jeff stumbled bringing out the cake, dropping it to the floor.
Adam crossed back into the living room and ran his hand along the back of the sofa. The sofa where they would cuddle and kiss in front of the television. Where Adam would sit with his hands in his hair, waiting for Jeff to come home or call. Where he finally sat Jeff down and told him he couldn't do this anymore. The following two years without Jeff seemed an eternity, but standing here the memory was close enough to reach out and touch.
He trudged up the stairs to the master bedroom, what he'd once called his bedroom. Their bedroom. Once inside his eyes flicked to the bathroom, the place of countless sessions of shower sex, of holding Jeff's hair as he puked. He wrenched his eyes away, seeing his favorite chair by the window where he would sit and read or do crosswords, Jeff hanging out with his sketchpad or notebook on the bed. The bed.
The bed was the most painful blow. It was where Shannon had found him. The bed where Jeff and Adam had held each other, talked for endless hours, made love, was now forever tainted. Every memory in that bed Adam could revisit would call to mind the image of Jeff's lifeless body. He hadn't seen it, but he'd heard the details, couldn't help but imagine...
Fuck you, Adam thought. Why did you have to drag yourself here? Why couldn't you just keel over in the fucking living room? Adam's breath hitched in his chest and he pushed his hair back. He scolded himself for thinking that way, but it didn't do much good. He was still pissed as hell.
The sheets had been stripped, but Adam could still see the reddish-brown stain left by the bloody foam that had poured from Jeff's mouth and nose. Adam sat down and touched the stain with trembling fingers. Fucker. Selfish asshole. Why? Why hadn't Adam been good enough to quit for? He laid in the spot Jeff had sprawled in, where he'd convulsed and died all alone. He looked at the stain that was so close to his own mouth.
"I always hoped," he told the stain, his voice breaking. "Every time you fucked up, I hoped you'd hit bottom and you would get help, come back to me. I never stopped loving you, Jeff. I wish I'd told you more." Would it have made a difference if he had? Maybe he should have stayed, tried harder. But he'd done everything he could, why couldn't he be enough? The dam broke and Adam cried, his tears leaving their own stain on the mattress to mingle with all that was left of Jeff Hardy.
Adam didn't know how long he laid there and sobbed. Eventually his tears slowed and he stared ahead with glassy eyes, feeling empty and drained. He'd seen what he needed to see. He needed to go before he was missed. He pushed himself up and sat on the edge of the bed, running his hand through his hair and over his mouth. Then two things on the nightstand caught his eye.
The picture frame had been turned face-down, but Adam recognized it. Despite the pain in his chest and the rising bile in his throat, he reached out and picked it up. His own smiling face looked at him from behind the glass. His image sat on the sofa, arms around Jeff's waist and head on his shoulder. Jeff's precious lips were buried in his hair. Adam's breath came faster as he gazed down at the photo, his knuckles turning white. They'd been happy. They could still have been happy. Now he'd never hold that waist again, feel that lithe body snuggled up to his. He'd never feel those tattooed fingers with their painted nails on his skin, touching him as only Jeff knew how. He'd never bury his face in the soft hair that smelled of fresh dye and smoke. Never catch those glittering eyes looking at him with mischief in their depths. Never touch his beautiful face or hear his voice drawl words of love into his ear.
Adam screamed and threw the picture across the room, hearing the glass shatter and paying it no mind. "Goddammit," he moaned into his hands. He took a deep breath, then raised his head to look at the other thing on the nightstand. He thought he knew what was inside the little box. He opened the box and groaned when he saw the titanium and platinum ring he'd given Jeff. The last time he'd seen Jeff in person he'd been winging this ring at his head.
"I love you, Jeff. I'll always love you, but I can't watch you do this to yourself anymore. I can't watch you do this to us."
"I don't need rehab," Jeff insisted. "I can get it under control myself."
"You call this under control?" Adam cried, dragging Jeff off the couch and to the mirror to make him look. Trying to make him see his pale, haggard face, his too-wide eyes, his shaking hands. "Do you even remember what you did last night? I can't do this, Jeff. I won't cover for you anymore, make your excuses, hide your fucking drugs. I'm done pretending everything is okay when every day I'm dying a little more." He turned Jeff by his shoulders to look in his eyes. "Please, baby. I miss my Jeffy. I need you to be well. If you don't get help I... I have to leave."
Jeff's face turned stormy. "Fine!" he screamed in Adam's face, shoving him away. "Get the fuck out! I don't need you." Adam felt his world crumble as Jeff twisted the ring off his finger. "And take this with you!"
Adam flinched and the ring hit his shoulder, bouncing off and landing on the carpet. "Keep it. As a reminder to call me when you want to go to rehab." Adam walked out the door.
Adam hadn't been back to the house since. Jay had come to get his stuff while Jeff was out. It wasn't the last time he'd spoken to Jeff, though. Adam got phone calls at all hours. Sometimes Jeff would scream and swear at him, sometimes he would cry and plead for Adam to come back. Sometimes he was even sober. Adam always asked him if he was calling to get help and Jeff crushed his hopes every time. After Jeff said no, Adam told him he loved him, and to call back when he was ready, then hang up the phone. The calls came less and less frequently, until finally they stopped altogether, but still Adam had never lost hope. Not until now.
Adam took the ring out of the box and slipped it onto his finger. He didn't think he had any tears left, but it turned out he was wrong. He put his hands over his face, the ring weighing heavy and cold against his skin.
"You didn't go to the funeral."
Adam jerked his head up to see Matt standing in the doorway, still in his dark suit and tie. "I couldn't," he told Matt, his shoulders slumping.
"It was your fault," Matt hissed. "He got ten times worse after you abandoned him."
Adam felt his body flush. "I didn't abandon him! I just refused to let him keep breaking my heart."
"Yeah? How's your heart feeling now?" Matt was sneering at him, and something inside Adam broke. He rushed at Matt and shoved him against the wall, hitting his head against a sconce and stunning him.
"FUCK YOU!" Adam screamed. "If you and that pathetic company you work for had cut him off, maybe he would have gotten help. You're supposed to be his big brother, protect him, not pretend he was fine. Not get high with him, you stupid fuck!" He saw Matt wince. Good. He got in Matt's face and glared right into his dark eyes. "I did everything, gave everything, and nothing helped. I had to save one of us, and I couldn't save him. And apparently I wasn't worth him saving himself. Maybe together, you and I woulda been."
Adam pulled at his hair. He had to get out. He had to walk away before he beat the hell out of his former friend. He turned and left the bedroom.
"How fucking dare you!" Matt sobbed behind him. "How dare you come in here after you left him and blame me?" He was still shouting when Adam slammed the front door behind him for the last time. His couldn't hold his rage when he breathed in the crisp, clean air and exhaled, and was left feeling broken and defeated.
Adam got into the car, where Jay was waiting in the driver's seat. Matt must have come through the back door, or Jay would have followed him.
"Are you okay?" Jay asked him.
"No. He's really gone, Jay. I don't understand."
"Me neither, buddy." He put a comforting hand on Adam's. "Hey, isn't that the ring you gave him?"
"Yeah," Adam said, gazing at it. The metal had warmed now, but its weight would still take a little getting used to. "It was on the nightstand, like he looked at it a lot. What if he was on the verge of calling me?" He looked up at his best friend with red, watery eyes. Jay tucked a golden lock behind Adam's ear.
"Don't, Adam. The 'what ifs' will just drive you crazy."
"I abandoned him. Left him to this," he told Jay, chewing on his nail. "Did I do the right thing?"
Adam asked him this often. Jay had thought about it almost as much as Adam had over the years, and had always come to the same conclusion. "Yeah. You did. Let's get you home. We'll have pizza and ice cream, huh?"
Adam wiped his cheeks as Jay started the car and drove away. He gazed in the mirror at the house that had held so much laughter and tears for him. The house that used to be his haven, full of joy and pleasure and Jeff's unique beauty. Now the structure was just a cold, dark shell, a coffin for his shattered hopes. He leaned his temple against the window and closed his eyes until they got to the highway.
Last note: the title refers to the movie where Dorothy revisits her once beloved and magical Oz to find it barren and in ruin. It also refers to the Scissor Sisters song, which refers to the movie and is pretty much about the effects drugs. When I heard it I thought it fit rather well.