Title: Love Comes and Goes
Fandom: Almost Famous
Written for: tiffany rawlins in the Yuletide 2006 Challenge
Thanks to: TommyGirl and Kajivar for the last minute betas!
It's not a conscious decision to take the quaaludes. She's upset by Russell's rejection, by Dick's words, by Leslie's existence. Her friends are gone and she realizes that she has broken every rule she set forth for the Band Aids. Her gaze falls on the bottle of pills that Sapphire left behind and she starts taking them, not really considering the consequences.
She remembers William's words after she's on the plane and it's taxiing to the runway. He loves her and a tiny part of her wants to jump up and beg them to stop the plane and let her off so she can run to him. She knows that he would pull her into his arms and hold on tight. She knows that he would take care of her, just like he did last night.
She also knows that he deserves better. He was innocent until he joined the tour. She has seen and done more than women twice her age. So she watches as he runs through the airport, keeping her in sight, and she presses her hand against the glass, wishing for the first time that she actually felt like a sixteen year old.
The truth is that the only reason she doesn't hang up on Russell is because she's too stunned that he actually called her home to react. By the time she fully realizes that Russell Hammond is on her phone, talking about forgiveness and second chances, an idea is beginning to form.
She grabs her address book and starts flipping through, hoping that William won't end up hating her too. She's pretty sure he's the only person left that she can actually count on, even if she's not planning to take him up on it.
Her mother doesn't understand when she says she needs to go to Morocco, but she gives her the money nonetheless. She's never harbored any delusions about her mother or their relationship. She's always known that her mother never planned to have kids and would rather let her do whatever she wants than have to actually parent her.
Sometimes she is resentful of that.
Morocco isn't what she expected, but it feels good to be there. She feels like she's proving something to William, but more importantly, to herself. She has taken to using her real name again. It gives her an air of mystery and makes her seem more exotic than if she was still going by Penny.
The last thing she expects is to see Stillwater on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine when she stops by her favorite newsstand for a pack of cigarettes (her new bad habit, which, all things considered, is probably healthier than her old bad habits). She shells out three times what she would pay at home, but she has to read the article.
She only makes it six months in Morocco before she gets homesick and buys a plane ticket back to America. She debates returning to San Diego or starting over somewhere new, but ultimately decides that the only person she wants to see is very likely still in San Diego.
For the first time in a long time, she actually looks her age when she stands on the Millers' front porch, waiting for someone to open the door.
It's a bad idea and they both know it. But she also knows that William is right that she needs to face her demons if she's ever going to leave her past in the past and move forward with her life. It kind of intimidates her how he's a year younger in age, but light years ahead of her in maturity.
And, if she's honest, she would admit that she's jealous that he is doing what he loves and she's still drifting, trying to figure out who she is now that she's not Penny Lane anymore.
The music tempts her. She wasn't lying when she told William the night they met that it was about the music. She was just lying about everything else. And it's only because she knows the music backwards and forwards that she knows Russell misses a note when he spots her standing next to William.
He doesn't believe that her name is Lady or that she didn't come there to be with him. She's grateful for William's support and she's surprised to see how much respect everyone has for William in the wake of his article. His brutal honestly apparently knocked Stillwater out of the mediocre category and sent their new album straight to the top of the charts.
Russell begs and pleads with her to join them on the tour, tells her he wrote their current number one single about her and their relationship, which makes her cringe when she recalls the lyrics. She knows he means it to be flattering, but she's not Penny Lane anymore. She's Lady Goodman and she's trying to make a new life for herself.
And now that she has said goodbye to the old one, she thinks she knows where to start.
It takes her two tries and too many hours of studying, but she manages to pass her GED. William encourages her to apply to some local colleges, to take classes and see what interests her. She claims she can't afford it; she has been supporting herself working as a waitress and she makes just enough to get by.
When he hands her the check to cover her first semester's tuition at the school of her choice, she knows the money came from Russell. She recognizes it for what it is - guilt money for the night she almost died, almost killed herself, because he didn't love her. And even though she hates remembering herself that way, she accepts the money, because her mother always told her that no one ever got ahead in this world without accepting help.
They're both in the audience when she walks across the stage to collect her diploma. It took her six years, instead of the typical four, because she had to balance work and school, but she has her degree in photojournalism and William has lined up a paid internship for her with Rolling Stone over the summer. He graduated with his degree two years prior and is one of the most well known names in Rock Journalism. Stillwater is on a hiatus because Jeff and Leslie are expecting their first child and Russell just completed his second stint in rehab. Dick is working on a Greatest Hits album to keep them fresh in the minds of the fickle public.
She pauses to shake hands with the college president and flashes a grin in their direction amid the flashbulbs going off. It's taken a long time, but the three of them have finally settled into a comfortable friendship and she knows she couldn't have achieved what she has if it hadn't been for their support.