You [Can't] Tie My Dreams To This Place
"I saw a picture of you hanging in an empty hallway.
I heard a voice that I knew, and I couldn't walk away.
I took me back to the end of everything.
I tasted all, I tasted all the tears, again."
-Sleepwalker, Adam Lambert
Gregor finds the picture again, years later, when he's packing up his pathetic excuse of a room –they're finally, finally moving into a proper house. He's seventeen now; taller, more filled out, certainly wiser than he had been when he was a child. He's found a way to adjust to the world, in the same way that he had adjusted to his father's disappearance so long ago: he doesn't think about that other place, doesn't think about his friends, nor his enemies. He thinks about school, and his family, and girls, because if he tried to focus his attention to that place, then he's sure he'll go completely insane.
He hasn't thought about the Underland in so long that the sight of the picture is riveting. It looks just how he remembers. He and Luxa, their faces pressed together at the cheek, smiles melancholy and eyes dark with fear and worry. He can't remember the last time he'd gazed at this picture, cupping it in his palm, his eyes following the lines of Luxa's face, scared that if he looked away, it would all fade like some distance dream.
His hand is trembling and his chest is tight –normally, he'd attribute this to the thick, ropey scars that cover most of his torso, but this time he recognizes the feeling as a prelude to tears.
The sobs come from somewhere deep in his chest, shaking his entire body, and he can taste the salty tears on his lips as they cascade down his face. He doesn't know how long he sits on the floor, legs to his chest and face buried in his arms. He only knows that at some point his eyes and sinuses feel painful and swollen, and his temples are throbbing.
When he raises his head, the picture stares up at him from the floor tauntingly. He wants to take it into his hands and tear it in half, or to take a match to it and watch it go up in flames. Instead, he lifts it carefully with two fingers, considering the delicate photograph, before he puts it into his shirts' breast pocket. Some memories are worth holding on to.
There isn't much for Gregor to pack –clothes, a few books, other miscellaneous items. They'd already removed his bed earlier in the day, and dumped it at the curb. He'd had that frame and mattress for so long, there was no point in trying to use it any longer. Besides, Gregor's mother and father had both been working and saving, and there had been plenty of money to buy some new furniture.
Once everything is packed up in boxes, he surveys his room with a critical eye. It's an old storage closet. Everything he owns had been on shoddy shelves and the window sill. The space is cramped despite its emptiness.
He tries to muster up some sort of emotional response to this new change, to leaving this apartment behind. He'd lived here for most of his life. He's not surprised that all he feels is half-hearted resignation. Even before his previous outburst of emotion, he'd been feeling very little resistance to moving. They were all just continuing on with their lives. Leaving this building was simply the last step towards moving on.
The only problem is that, though this building, this apartment, houses memories of a not-so-distant underground world, it's not the only reminder of the Underland. There are the physical aspects, obviously –Gregor's scars, the pale mark on Grace's neck that had never faded entirely, the white hair that encompassed most of his dad's scalp. But there are mental scars, as well, memories that could never be fully forgotten. The friends, the enemies, the wars, the losses, the hopelessness, the deaths. The rager sensation, humming beneath his skin, running through his veins, mocking him, always there, just under the surface, waiting hopefully to take over.
It almost seems useless the try to escape the Underland physically, because it would be a part of them all forever. Except for Boots. She was eight now, and she no longer spoke about "beeg bugs" or flying through dark caverns, or rat claws and fear. Gregor can only hope that she's forgotten entirely. She deserves a normal life. They all do, but she's the most likely to get one.
After everything is out of the apartment and inside of the moving truck, they all take one last look at their former home for the final time as a family. It seems so much smaller than Gregor ever remembers it being.
Lizzie smiles, sad but hopeful. "I'm glad we're moving. I mean, in a way, I'll miss it, but at the same time. . . well, there are a lot of memories," she says significantly. Sometimes he forgets she's twelve –he can't remember having that much tact when he was her age. She's always been smarter than him, though.
"Memories will always be with you, Liz. Even the ones you don't really want, " Gregor replies. "Besides, there will be a lot of newer, better memories from now on. Leaving this place should be first on the list."
"The new house has an upstairs and its' own basement," Boots –Margaret, he corrects himself mentally- exclaims happily. "We all get our own rooms and everything! It's way better than here!"
Lizzie's grin is brighter, now. Happier. "Of course it is. Real houses are always better."
As Grace and Michael watch their children talk about moving, twin expressions of relief appear on their faces. This was okay –no, it was better than okay. Everything was going to be just fine.
Margaret had been correct in her description of the new house. It has a finished basement; a ground-level that houses a kitchen, living room, dining room, a bathroom, and a family room; and an upper-level with four rooms and another bathroom. Compared to their old apartment, it's downright massive.
Rooms had already been chosen previously, and most of the furniture was already inside of the house. At this point, there was mostly just boxes to contend with. The first two hours in the new house consisted of hauling boxes inside. To Gregor, it all seemed to pass in a blur of lifting and climbing, with brief interactions intermingled within. It all felt surreal. He'd never moved before –at least, he didn't have any recollection of moving before, though he vaguely remembered living at his maternal grandparents' for an uncertain amount of time when he was very little.
Even through the menial task of carrying boxes, the picture is burning a hole in his pocket. He's tempted to pull it out and just stare, until the only thing he sees is violet eyes, silvery-blonde hair, translucent skin, and a shiny, golden, forbidden crown. Something cold and painful constricts his chest, and he swallows back unpleasant thoughts and the vaguely nauseous feeling coming from his churning stomach. It wouldn't do to lose his composure.
Instead, he hefts another box, if only to distract himself from dangerous thoughts.
He manages to stay focused for the rest of the night, all through dinner (pizza on the living room floor), until around nine o'clock, when he announces that he's going to bed. It's early, for him, but they all seem to dismiss his eagerness to be alone as exhaustion, as he had done the brunt of the labor earlier.
It's true, he is tired, but what he really wants is time to think. Time to brood. Time to. . . to sort out his mind. His thoughts are going off in a million different directions, and he just wants to figure it all out without anyone catching on to his inner turmoil.
He doesn't bother trying to find pajamas, just strips down to his boxers and collapses down into the new mattress. It's soft, almost too soft, and his body sinks into the plush pillow-top with absolutely no resistance. When he's feeling as comfortable as he possibly can, he steels himself, and picks up the picture lying next to him. He holds it up to his face, staring at the shiny surface.
It's a moment in time captured in a single photograph, really. An outsider might be able to surmise that both the children in the picture are unhappy, that something bad is happening to them. Gregor is not an outsider. He can still remember, clearly, how he felt that day. He was scared that he was going to die, that his entire family had been pulled into a war that should have had little to do with them, that he would never see Luxa again. He had wanted to cry, and curl up in a miserable little ball somewhere far away from everything –had wanted to hold Luxa in his arms until the world just disappeared, had wanted to keep her smiling and happy, for as long as he could.
The tears that prick at his eyes aren't as insistent as the ones from earlier had been, but he lets them fall down his face silently. He wants that day back, that moment –wants to replay it over and over again in his memory. He wants Ares to be alive, wants to Bane to be just a harmless baby, wants his family to be safe, wants Luxa to be happy no matter what it cost him personally. He wants to heartache to vanish, wants to be in the Underland, flying through dark caverns, and feeling more alive than he's ever been. He wants to remember what it's like to just laugh and smile without faking it, wants to remember how to feel without breaking.
He knows that it's impossible to go back to the way things were, so he just closes his eyes and tries to remember what it's like to live.
For some reason, I've been listening to Sleepwalker by Adam Lambert for days, despite the fact that my interest in him pretty much disappeared after his time on American Idol, where he. . . lost?. . .won?. . . I don't even remember.
Title is taken from the song EST by White Lies, because using the title Sleepwalker would be too easy [also it wouldn't really make much sense in relation to the story, and dammit, this stuff is important].
As for the little story, umm. I was in a sort of melancholy-reminiscent mood, and songs about pictures usually remind me of TUC, so I decided to write blindly and hope it didn't turn out like complete crap. There might be some problems with tenses and stuff, because I tend to screw up when I write in third-person present, but overall the content isn't too horrible (probably). To be honest, I'm not even gonna bother proof-reading, because it's 3:30 AM and I'm just too lazy for that kind of thing, anyway. I think this is why I can only write fanfiction. And oneshots, at that. Huh.
Whatever, I'll contemplate my deep-sated laziness when my eyes aren't so burn-y and sleepy.