happy d-day it’s a national holiday so i stayed up all night to write y’all a fic and had to go to a 12.5 hour work shift on no sleep so fucking. appreciate this
2000+ words, studoc because this is my house. d-day gives me lots of emotions
When Stuart walks into the living room at 4am for a glass of water, the last thing he is expecting to see is Murdoc digging through a chewed-up cardboard box of old cassettes as if his life depends on it.
“What’re you doing,” he asks bluntly, and it’s a testament to how many things he’s had to put up with over the years that this is phrased like a statement rather than an actual question, and that there’s no real surprise behind his words anymore. Stu’s been through the wringer, okay. You don’t get spirited off to a parallel space dimension and force-fed an entire fridge by an anthropomorphic slice of pizza without losing a bit of astonishment for everyday things like this.
Murdoc looks up, startled, for a second, then plunges his arms back into the box and starts rummaging around loudly again. “Found some old VHS tapes in the back of the garage,” he says, then stops for a second and yanks one out with much more vigor than is strictly needed and a loud clatter. He barks out a victorious laugh and shoves the box off to the side, kicking the tapes he’s already scattered across the floor out of his way and kneeling down in front of the television set. “C’mere, come look at this.”
“‘S 4am, Muds,” Stuart protests, but he shuffles over and plops himself down on the battered couch anyway. “What is it?”
Murdoc has somehow managed to coax the TV set into accepting the VHS tape and is fiddling with the knobs at the bottom of the screen. “Y’know how we got Noodle that video recorder that first Christmas we had her?”
Stu hums in agreement and wraps a throw blanket around himself. He can’t remember much about something back that far, but there’s a faint memory of Noodle tearing open a box and shrieking with delight as she ran around shoving a chunky, early-2000s camcorder in everyone’s faces. “Those her tapes?”
“No, they’re my amateur pornos.” The screen flickers to life and Murdoc settles back on his haunches before looking at him and grinning, illuminated by weak blue light. “Only joshing, I keep those on DVD.”
“Y’know, it says a lot about you that I can’t tell if you’re really joking or not about that.”
“Fuck off, not like I’d let you see ‘em anyway,” Murdoc says, then adds with a leer, “Least, not when you’ve got the real thing right here.” He makes his way back to the couch and settles into the other side, shoving his cold feet under Stuart’s legs and dragging more than half of the blanket over himself.
Stu makes a noise of protest. “Oi, that’s my blanket, get your own.”
“What’s yours is mine, love,” Murdoc says, and Stuart promptly shoves his heel into his crotch. “Argh, for the love of—”
They kick each other for a few seconds before Murdoc relinquishes part of the blanket back, pressing himself closer to Stu so that they can both fit underneath. “Look, you’re missing the whole fucking thing, pay attention.”
“You started it,” Stu mumbles, but leans back, satisfied. On screen, a practice session, probably from the band’s first few months, has already started. The scene isn’t centered in the slightest; half of it is obscured by an amplifier sitting in the way, and every few seconds the camera jolts as a tiny Noodle picks it up and moves it to a new position. She’s obviously sitting on the floor, trying to set it up so that the camera records them as they practice. Finally she manages to set it at an angle where it’s tilted up at the band, and runs out from behind to take her place next to a much younger Stuart, who has his hand down his trousers and is scratching himself, oblivious to the presence of the camera right at his feet.
“Nice,” Murdoc cackles from beside him, and scoots away as Stu aims another kick at him under the blanket. “Absolutely lovely. No, really, look at you, Dents. Satan, what a catch. Twenty years later, and nothing much has changed, eh?”
On the television, Murdoc steps forward into the shot, shoots a furtive glance at Noodle and Stuart, faced away from him, and sticks his hand down his jeans to scratch himself as well.
“Oh, nice,” Stuart parrots back at his own Murdoc, who is looking much more sour now. “Twenty years later and not much has changed, ‘s that what you said, yeah?”
“Will you just — shut up. Not like anybody noticed.”
“Muds, get your hands out your damn pants,” Russel says from somewhere off to the side of the camera. “You touch our instruments with those, nasty-ass—”
Stuart’s snickering and Murdoc’s groan almost drowns out the faltering voice of the Stuart onscreen. The sound is a little bit tinny, but pretty decent for a tape that’s just spent two decades in a moldering cardboard box. “Hey, uh, what song’re we doin’ again, because, uh, I know we just said, but I wanna make sure I’m singing the right one—”
“It’s Re-Hash, idiot, just like it’s been for the past four times.” Although Murdoc’s voice is the same as ever, Stuart notes, the years have had an unmistakable effect on his looks. The bassist plucking at his strings on the television has a much rounder face and tanner skin than the one sitting next to him now, and the red contact that used to be omnipresent in his left eye has long since been discarded. The bags under his eyes are much less pronounced, as well, making him look soft, round and baby-faced in comparison to his current, more angular appearance, although Stuart doesn’t think he’s any less handsome.
Murdoc notices him sizing him up out of the corner of his eye (how he does it, Stuart doesn’t know, since he has no pupils to show where his gaze is lying.) “What?”
“Nothing. Y’look different, that’s all.”
“Twenty years can do that to a person. You’re no spring chicken yourself, mate.”
“No, I know, but I didn’t mean it like bad-different. Just, different-different. You look less like a baby, ‘s what I’m saying. More like a — a velociraptor, or somethin’.“
“Pointy, y’know.” Stuart motions helplessly. “And green.”
Murdoc’s voice is dry. “Pointy and green. What a compliment, 2D, thank you. Really, I appreciate it.”
“Look, I dunno, it’s 4am, Muds, ‘m tired.” Stuart sighs and wraps himself tighter, leaning his head against Murdoc’s shoulder. “Can’t we watch this tomorrow?”
“Hush up,” he says with no real vitriol, and threads his fingers through Stuart’s hair. “I just wanna see this part.”
The light pours off the screen in shades of cyan, casting long shadows across the living room that jump erratically with the occasional roll of static. Stuart likes to watch it, likes the blue darkness that pools in the corners of the room, settles in the folds of his blanket, collects under the fringe near Murdoc’s eyes. He thinks it’s like being swept under a wing, or sleeping in a blanket fort right up against a window, cool and safe, free but protected. Maybe it’s a little bit like what moonlight must feel like, or maybe moonshadows. Something intangible. Something that blankets your heart.
“D’you ever think about what it would have been like if it didn’t happen?”
Murdoc’s voice is low and musing, less of a question than a thought opened to the air. He’s still looking at the screen, and if Stuart hadn’t been paying attention, he might have thought he didn’t say anything at all.
“If I didn’t happen, I mean. To you.”
It’s a question that Stuart’s asked himself periodically over the past twenty years. Sometimes more often, sometimes few and far between. There have been many times that he has looked in the mirror and not recognized himself — he remembers that sometimes, when they were recording the self-titled, or even Demon Days, he would wake up and stumble into the bathroom and start screaming because he had forgotten what had happened to him and he didn’t recognize the black eyed, toothless face that stared back. There have been many times that he has looked at pictures of himself from the past and not recognized himself either — they had all gone to Crawley to visit his mother and the headless Cyborg for his last birthday, and when his mother had brought out the old photo albums Stuart had not for the life of him been able to pick himself out of a group of his school friends. At times he has thought about this question and squashed down the thoughts that roiled up deep inside of him because all the what-ifs and could-haves made him want to vomit. At times he has looked around him, looked at Murdoc, and thought that he would not have wanted it any way else.
Of course he thinks about what it would have been like. Of course. He’s only human, after all.
Onscreen, Noodle interrupts a muffled argument that had broken out between them all with rapid Japanese and launches into the beginning, jangling riffs of Re-Hash. Murdoc’s eyes have still not left the screen, but the question still drifts in the air.
“I think,” says Stuart, “that if you hadn’t happened to me, then everything would be different. But not bad-different. Just. Different-different, right? And maybe — maybe there’s other worlds out there where you didn’t happen t’me, and maybe there’s some where you happened too much. Maybe there’s infinite worlds out there, and everything and everyone that’s happened to me, or you, or anyone, did or didn’t happen, in all the different combinations possible.”
He’s singing now, on the television, and it’s strange to hear his voice coming from the Stuart that he is and the Stuart that he was simultaneously. Re-Hash rolls over them, humming in the background like static:
It’s a sweet sensation over the dub
Oh, what a situation that don’t wanna stop
It’s the drugstore soul boy over the dub
With the sweetest inspiration, we don’t wanna stop
“The point is,” he continues, and the light is stretched across Murdoc’s face now as he looks down at him, piercing and straight on, curving electric down his cheek, stark against his dark eyes, “that I do think about it. It’s something that happened, and not something anyone can ignore. And sometimes I’m happy about it, ‘n sometimes I’m sad, and mostly I don’t know. But I can’t change it, and you can’t change it, ‘cause this is our reality, right? All we can do is make peace with it, really. ‘S different-different, and for me, at least, I think that’s okay.”
It is very quiet, the barest hint of music floating out towards them from the video. Then Murdoc nods, and gently presses his lips to Stuart’s temple.
“Guess you’ve changed over the past twenty years too, Stu.” The pad of Murdoc’s thumb brushes Stuart’s cheek, and Stuart lets his head fall to press against Murdoc’s chest, feeling his heart beat as the TV plays, and thinks that, just maybe, Murdoc had to happen to him, like someone out there’s writing their lives out like a story, like no matter what, it couldn’t ever have been any other way. Maybe that makes them soulmates, he supposes. Just a little bit.
He can hear his own voice singing in tandem with Noodle’s, and Russel’s, and Murdoc’s on the television. He’s always liked Re-Hash, because it was the first song they ever wrote and performed together as a band, and because it’s the only song where they all sing together as one, his own voice pressing them forward, Russel steady underneath, Murdoc rumbling low at the bottom, and Noodle skating over the top. Stuart leans back into the couch, facing the television again, watching himself crowded around a battered microphone with Noodle and Murdoc, Russel at his drumset in the back. He reaches up to the hand cupping his cheek, twining his fingers into it, and he squeezes gently, and softly, tentatively, Murdoc squeezes back.
The darkness crouches in the corners like a lingering embrace, the light spilling bright across the two of them together in comforting blues, and in that moment, everything that has ever happened is meant to be.