Author's Note: 'I want to go home' was my favorite book as a kid. I've always wished there was more to the story. I submitted this story as a crossover a few years ago, but I decided to rework it as a pure 'I want to go home' story.
Mike Webster sighed as he felt the faint buzzing of his cell phone; he ignored it. He really couldn't deal with Vicki's drama now. He was having his own problems - it was his first day at the University of Washington, and he was going to have to deal with a roommate, classes, and all sorts of other potential hazards. Mike hardly had the energy to help Vicki wade through the parade of guys who were interested in her. He put a hand through his hair, and headed to his dorm, shouldering a small box filled with books. This box would be the first of many he had to carry up the four flights of stairs to his dorm. He grimaced; he felt utterly out of place. As he negotiated the stairs, Mike collided with another student.
"Watch where you're going." A voice interrupted Mike's inner dialog. The boy clad in a dirty tee shirt and ripped jeans eyed Mike. "You could hurt someone."
"Rudy?" Mike jumped, recognizing the boy he hadn't seen in nine years. "How…are you here? Why are you here? Is it really you?"
"It's entirely possible that I'm someone else. But, let's pretend for the moment that yes my name is Rudy, and that I arrived here for the purpose of attending lectures, and taking notes in composition books."
"Oh yes well." Mike frowned, and set down his box, which had started to dig into the skin of his hands. "Do you remember me?"
"Of course I remember you." Rudy remained expressionless. "I'm not suffering from Alzheimer's or amnesia, at least not yet."
"Well." Mike finally smiled. "This is sort of a coincidence, don't you think?"
"No." Rudy's expression was as deadpan as ever.
"What do you mean no?"
"I mean it's hardly a coincidence. Your high school webpage had you listed as going to UW this fall, and I had a few choices - so in short, here I am."
"You looked at my high school website?" Mike felt shock seep through him. Mike had moved to Washington State during middle school, and being away from Canada for so long he had almost forgotten about that summer at Camp Algonquin Island - almost. It seemed incredible that Rudy not only remembered, but also had bothered to track him down.
"Apparently, I did. You always were a little slow Webster."
"Are you … are you staying in this dorm?"
"That would be a smart guess."
"Fourth floor, room 13. You know I think the number 13 must have a special affinity for me, it seems to crop up everywhere."
Mike wasn't sure whether he should laugh or cry, so he decided, against all better judgment to laugh. College was definitely going to be interesting with Rudy Miller as his roommate. When they entered the room, Rudy plopped down on the twin sized bed that was closest to the one small port-hole sized window, plugged headphones into his iphone and promptly fell asleep, or so it seemed. Mike stared at him, wondering if it would be appropriate to ask for Rudy's help carrying up his things, but then thought better of it. It took Mike almost four hours to finish unloading his meager possessions and organizing his side of their small room. The room still looked like a bleak dorm room, but there really wasn't much more he could do. He sat down on his bed and pulled out the large 'Welcome to UW' folder and a much slimmer folder titled 'Welcome to Weinstein Hall'.
There was still a full week until classes started, so Mike decided to start by perusing the information about his new home - the dorm. A slick sheet of paper slipped out of the folder with events listed, and Mike notices that there was a meet and greet with the R.A. and dorm residents in the first floor lounge scheduled in five minutes.
"Rudy, wake up." Mike shook the sleeping boy.
Rudy raised an eyebrow. "Is the building on fire already?"
"Um no. There is a meet and greet scheduled in a few minutes downstairs."
Rudy sighed. "Is there some pressing reason why I need to attend?"
"Well, no - no pressing reason. But, don't you want to find out what our R.A. has to say?"
"So quickly you forget. Of course, I have no interest in this R.A. character. I have much more important things to do."
"Precisely." Rudy closed his eyes.
Mike sighed, and walked down to the meet and greet alone. Awkwardly, he sat down on a ratty couch between two large guys who looked like linebackers. There were ten other guys in the room, and they all had that preppy/jock look that caused girls to come running, a look that had so eluded Mike throughout his high school career.
"Hello, everyone!" A tall lanky boy with stringy hair and thick glasses stood up. "My name is Kevin Clark and I am Weinstein's first floor R.A.. The other R.A.s will be filtering in throughout the week. I assume most of you early birds are here for pledge week, official activities start tomorrow afternoon. Kappa Delta has put together a folder of Fraternity activities, for those interested."
Mike groaned inwardly. Another folder, and classes haven't even started yet.
Kevin handed out a stack of the folders, and reluctantly Mike slipped the folder into his book bag. He did not want to join a frat, but his father had made it quite clear that if Mike didn't pledge a fraternity, preferably his father's old frat, the Pi-Epsilons, that Mike would have to come up with his tuition money on his own. Mike glanced through the list of activities, and groaned inwardly. Most of them were centered on recreational sports. Could this get worse?
Kevin seemed to enjoy the sound of his own voice, and continued to talk for almost an hour about college life. The other guys were chatting amongst themselves, mostly about the different fraternities, but no one seemed even remotely interested in talking to Mike. Mike hoped that it would get easier once other students started arriving, students who weren't so keen on the Greek life. But, then again, in a few weeks he would likely be in the unfortunate position of explaining to his father that the Pi-Epsilons had rejected him. What a nightmare.
Kevin finished by inviting them all on a campus tour for the following morning, before the frat activities started, and reminding them that they could register for classes online. Mike had registered months ago, but he figured he should remind Rudy when he returned to their room.
Mike opened the door quietly, trying not to disturb his roommate, but instead of finding the boy sleeping, he found him dressed in a well-tailored business suit, while putting a liberal amount of gel into his hair.
"Uh, what's going on?" Mike asked.
"Webster, my boy. We've got a case. I suggest you change into something a little more professional."
"Didn't I mention that we are going to be private detectives?"
"No." Mike paused, clenching his jaw. "You didn't say anything about that."
"Hmmm. I could have sworn I mentioned it. Ah well, no harm done. I can give you something to wear, if you don't have something more - formal."
"Yeah, look Rudy, I can't be a private detective. And why would you have to look 'formal' to be a private detective."
"Yes you can. If you are worried about it interfering with classes, we still have a week before they start. And Webster, we should try not to overlook the importance of appearances."
Mike groaned. "I have to pledge a fraternity this week."
"Oh, Webster, you can't be serious."
"Unfortunately, I'm very serious." Mike sighed.
Rudy turned to look at Mike and raised an eyebrow. "Webster, we are going to have to work on your priorities. However, I'm a reasonable man. How about we postpone my dream of being a private detective until spring break, and in the mean time I'll help you make it into a fraternity."
"You don't want to be in a fraternity. Do you even want to be in school?" Mike asked.
"No. But my parents said that I had a choice. I could go to college or I could go to college."
Mike sighed. "I'll take your help."
"Smart man. Your chances of surviving pledge week without my help are dismal. When is the first event?"
"There's a party tonight."
"It looks like you'll need a suit after all." Rudy smiled, and pulled out a well-pressed three-piece suit from his small closet.
"Um, Rudy, I don't think anyone else is going to be dressed like this. This is a fraternity party; we're not walking down the red carpet in Hollywood."
"Perhaps not. But, we want to stand out, don't we?"
"No." Mike groaned.