Ghosts of Home By Jo-Jo Disclaimers: Still not mine. Still no infringement intended. Not even a little one. Notes: Will fic. This is a follow up to my other Ghosts stories, which you can find here or at www. bringwilliamhome.com. But please don't let that put you off reading this one... Feedback: A story without feedback is like Mulder without Scully. firstname.lastname@example.org I've fallen asleep on the bed. It's been a big day and I'm tired to my soul, and I've fallen asleep cocooned between the bodies of both my parents. My mom is on one side of me, her hand stroking my hair. She still can't quite believe I'm here. If all her life has been what it's taken to get to just this moment in time, she thinks that it was worth it. All the pain that she had to go through to get to be right here, right now, with me and my dad, she thinks was worth it. Signs along the way, she says. A path that no one can see the end of but which has led all three of us unrelentingly to just where we are now. We're happy now. For the first time in a long time, we are all happy, all three of us sharing the same perfect sense of belonging. My dad is on the other side of me, one arm draped over me and my mother, enfolding both of us in an embrace that we've waited such a long time to share. He's so proud of us. I've never felt so safe in my life. This man loves me and my mom more than anything in the world, and that's an amazing thing to know. Other kids know that their parents love them because they're told so, because they see it everyday in the way that they raise them and protect them. Not me. I know my parents love me because I can feel it every day. For as long as I live I'll know that this love is what helps me get up in the morning, what makes me grow strong, what nurtures me and makes me who I am. It's what I live off. It's what makes me breathe in and out. My dad leans over and kisses me on the forehead, and I murmur slightly in my sleep. It's so warm here, lying between the two of them. I don't ever want to leave. Please don't make me leave again. If I close my eyes and concentrate really hard, maybe I can keep us like this forever. I won't ever wake up, and this time we won't be separated. I start to turn restlessly in my sleep and my mom reaches over to try to sooth me, whispering to me and stroking my face with her fingers. "ssshhhh" she says, "everything's OK. Ssshhh now". But I already know that it's too late. I know with that sickening feeling that I get every time this happens that I'm about to wake up, and that when I do they won't be there anymore. That's the thing about memories. They only give you half of what you want. They can take you back in time to the perfect moment, but at the same time they just remind you that you used to have something that you've since lost. I remember the one night that I spent when I was a baby lying on that bed, being held by both my parents. It was the only time that we had together, just two days before my dad left, and I never got to see him again. I hate waking up from this dream. I hate the way that my mind lies to me like this. I hate the fact that it's all that I have. I was the last person to get off the bus. I waited until everyone else had gotten off and the driver looked back at me expectantly. I wanted to savour the moment. To be able to take a deep breath and step off the bus into the town that was home to my parents and to feel the moment as it happened. I thought that it would hit me like a lightning bolt. As I stepped down off that bus onto the sidewalk I thought the ground would surely cave in under me, that I'd get swallowed alive before I got the chance even to be this close to them again. Of course, there was no lightning bolt. My mom and dad weren't waiting for me with a big banner that said "Welcome home William" and the universe didn't shift on its axis. I stood on that concrete, and in a strange way I found myself in the real world, one where all my dreams where finally going to make it into reality, the world in which it was all really going to happen. Somewhere in this town are my parents. Somewhere in this place they have built a home for themselves and it's time for me to join them. They may not have been there at the station, but they're waiting for me just the same. They've been waiting for me for 10 years. So, I'm standing at the bus station at 6.00 in the morning with my backpack slung over my shoulder, and for the first time in my 2 thousand mile journey I find that I'm lost. I have no idea what to do next. Up till now I had my genetic homing system to take me to where I needed to be, but now I'm so close I realize that I'm just a 10 year old kid who's run away from home. In a strange way that thought fills me with a certain desperate kind of resolution. Ignoring a strange sensation in the pit of my stomach I adjust my backpack and set off to explore my new surroundings, trying to enjoy the lazy, early morning atmosphere. It's a nice town, the one they've chosen. Not too big, but not too small either. There aren't many people up and about yet, and I'm the only person walking along many of the streets. A few of the news stands are starting to open up for business but apart from that I could be all alone in the world. As I wander along the day is starts to lighten, and more people come out onto the streets. Parents are taking their kids to school, people are leaving for work in their cars or are out walking their dogs. A few of them shoot the odd look my way, as if trying to puzzle out what I might be doing here, or who I might belong to. I shove my hands further into my pockets and walk past them briskly. I don't mind them wondering. I'm getting good at blending in. Within one hour I've managed to get my bearings in this town. I've found the school, the cinema, the library and the shopping center. I wonder if that's the school that I'll end up going to now, and if that's the shopping center that my friends and I will hang out at. I try to imagine my life here, but no matter how hard as I try I find that whatever kind of life I come up with is so alien to me that I don't even recognise myself in it. Even the word "home" sounds strange to me now. Lunch is a sandwich bought from a bakery in the shopping center, eaten on a bench outside. I don't have much of an appetite really, but I go through the motions. I can hear my mother's voice in my head, telling me to eat it up, that I'm a growing boy. I guess that's what I'll remember about her now. All the mundane things that she used to say, all the typical "mom" things I always took for granted. There are lots more people around out here now, carrying their shopping bags and hurrying to their cars, getting on with the ordinary business of their lives. People are passing by in front of me in a flurry of activity. It seems that everyone's in a hurry today. As I watch them come and go I allow myself the misery of dwelling on my adoptive parents and imagining what they must be going through right now, when I become aware of a strange sensation in the pit of my stomach. A tightening. A fluttering. I freeze, and my breath catches in my chest. I know what this means. They're close. Desperately I look around me, trying to pick out the faces in the crowd that belong to them. My eyes are moving faster than my brain, flicking over everyone in an instant, taking the scene in, dismissing within a second all the people who are too tall or too short, too old, too young, too dark, too fair. .Standing up, I spin round to look behind me, my lunch dropped on the floor. I can't find them. I step up and stand on the bench, trying see further. There seem to be people everywhere, but I can't pick them out from the crowd. Turning desperately round I see a movement out of the corner of my eye, and my head spins round in time to see a man and a woman walking away from me, his hand on the small of her back, a flash of red hair catching my eye before they disappear around a corner. Jumping off the bench I grab my backpack, my legs barely able to keep up with the rest of my body as I tumble after them. I want to call out, but for some reason my voice has deserted me. I run round the corner into the main street and stop in my tracks when I see them. They're standing by a car while he fumbles with the keys in his pocket. She has her back to me and is holding a brown grocery bag in her hand, and somehow I know that she is smiling up at him as he tries to recover the keys. He's shaking his head and saying something to her, a look of amused annoyance on his face. And then he freezes. Whatever he was saying he just stops in mid sentence, the blood draining from his face. And then slowly, deliberately, he turns and looks at me. Of all the people standing there in that street he turns round at looks right at me. My heart leaps up into my mouth and I can hear it beating like a drum in my ears. He knows me. For a moment I think I'm going to turn round and run away, run away from whatever it is that I've started. I take a step away, but in that moment he tentatively makes a movement towards me, awkward and unsure, his face an unasked question. A question that I've waited 10 years to be able to answer. Yes, I'm here dad. Please come and get me. I've come such a long way and I'm so scared. Please, come and get me now. And then in an instant he's striding towards me, dodging the people in the crowd and swerving out of their way, breaking into a run, his eyes never once leaving mine. He's afraid that if he breaks my gaze I'll disappear right in front of him. So I run too, only not in the opposite direction, but straight into the arms of my father. No, I'm not running. I'm flying. I'm soaring. I'm being pulled with the force of gravity. "William..." With a swiftness that nearly makes me dizzy, he lifts me off the ground and pulls me into his arms with a half choked cry. My is face buried in his neck and his cheek is rough and coarse against mine where I kiss him over and over again, and my voice is muffled against his neck when I finally speak. "Dad," I managed to mumble. "Dad." It's the only word that I can say right now, and it's the first time he's ever heard me call him that. He rocks me from side to side, his hand in my hair, cradling my head, his shoulders shaking as he cries softly into me. "William? You're here. You're really here?" I'm here, dad. I'm here. Just hold me. Don't let go. The other people in the crowd all fade into a blur of noise and colour. It's as if we're stuck in freeze frame while the rest of the world carries on spinning madly around us. And then suddenly she appears behind him. Her face is white and she's shaking her head, staring up at us with amazement. She says my name like a question. I can see her shaking as my dad lowers me to the ground, and I have to cling on to him to stop myself from collapsing on the sidewalk. I can't even see her anymore for the tears that are blurring my eyes, but I take a step towards the place where I know she is and slowly wrap my arms around her waist, my head resting on her chest. Slowly, hesitantly, I feel her arms engulf me and then the soft warmth of kisses on my head. Her tears slowly become louder and she holds on to me so tightly that I feel that I'm going to get lost in her. I squeeze my eyes shut and pray over and over again "please don't let me wake up, please don't let me wake up." I don't know how long we stood like that. Maybe five minutes, maybe ten, maybe an hour. The next thing that I was aware of was my dad's hand on my back, rubbing gently but persistently, wanting me to turn round, to face him. "What happened, William?" he asks. "I don't understand how... are you alright... you're not hurt? Where are your... parents?" I bury my head deeper into my mom's neck and cling to her more tightly. I don't know, dad. I don't know what's going on. I don't understand it at all. He bends down in front of me and lifts my chin up so that I'm looking up at his face. He's crying. "You knew, didn't you?" he asks. "You knew how to find us. You've always known." I nod dumbly up at him, swiping at my tears with the back of my hand. "We've been waiting for you, William," he says, so softly I can barely hear him. "We've been waiting for you for such a long time." Two strong arms lift me up off the ground and carry me silently away. I'm placed gently down in the back seat of a car, and lying quietly in my mom's arms I'm driven wordlessly towards my new home. It takes me hours to get to sleep tonight. I'm exhausted, but sleep is out of the question yet. I can hear my mom and dad talking in the next room, the soft hum of their voices drifting through the open door, soothing and gentle. They still have the same rhythm that they had when I was a baby, the same way of using their voices to complement and challenge each other. They still say each other's names in the same way that they used to, and I can feel the rush of familiarity sweep over me as I lie here listening to them. This is how my parents fit together. They have perfect balance, perfect symmetry. I can't help but wonder where my space is going to be. I finally fall asleep on the bed, cocooned between the bodies of both my parents. My mom is on one side of me, her hand stroking my hair. My dad is on the other side of me, one arm draped over me and my mother, enfolding both of us in his embrace. As he leans over and kisses me on the forehead I murmur something in my sleep, and my mom whispers to me. "Shhh, William. It's alright, sweetheart. .Everything's going to be alright. Everything's going to be fine. Hush now..." I finally drift into unconsciousness, the warmth of my dad's breath on my face and my mom's fingers still stroking my hair. And this time when I wake up it will be the only life that I have left.
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