FANDOM/PAIRING: Almost Famous, multiple pairings
DISCLAIMER: Not mine, not making money.
SUMMARY: Over the years, all their lonely lives.
Notes: For nothing_hip, February 2013, song "Ho Hey" by the Lumineers. A lot of this genre of music makes me think of some of the really good stuff that came out of the late sixties and early seventies, and I watched Almost Famous last weekend and thought, man, the Lumineers would have fit right in. Or their song would have. Hence, this.
She is dancing next to him as they stand in the shadows behind the stage. If it could be called dancing. Her arms are stretched high above her head, her hips sway and occasionally brush his. Her eyes are closed and she's mouthing the words.
"You belong with me, you're my sweet...."
He follows her lead and closes his eyes. Maybe she's singing to him.
It is 1973, and then 2013, and time really has no meaning anymore. Rock and roll is dead and rock and roll is alive, man, alive! It's over and then it wasn't, and now they're here again, together like they never left.
But if William opens his eyes, and Penny isn't there, well. He'd rather stand and sway and have the dream, thanks.
The guys did a reunion tour in 2001, a big deal in the mid-Atlantic states and some of the midwest. They were putting out their first album together in nearly twenty years, and it was okay. A cover or two, some retreads of their early stuff ("Feverdog" was track 4, and Jeff was surprised to find he still had it). They opened for newer, bigger bands in the big cities, and headlined in smaller venues.
They were older. Ed was the only one who still wore his hair long. Larry was balding. Russell...well, he wasn't going to age well, everything he did and all. Jeff was distinctly grey on the edges.
Mostly people just wondered who they were. DJs and newspaper people would interview them and say "Stillwater," murmuring the word. "Yeah, they were great. Real music, you know, the kind that sticks with you. Russell Hammond, right?"
And Jeff would nod and say yeah, and whoever was doing the interview would start talking about Russell's solo albums and how his career really took off in the early eighties and when they remembered Jeff was sitting there it was "it is just so nice that Russell's bringing the band back together."
Jeff would sigh, every time. "Yup, that's pretty much what happened."
(It was Ed's idea, at a party Jeff gave. He and Larry and Ed sat around Jeff's pool, drinking Coors and remembering far better times, and Ed said, "Why don't we do an album again?" Russell agreed later. Jeff called William, had him give Russell a hint.)
Leslie left him in 1982. For good. She never walked through the door again.
"Get sober," she said, not yelling. That's how he knew it was over. "Just go get clean. And don't call me, okay? It'll be better this way."
He'd been trying to leave her for ten years, and now she finally walked out the door on her own.
He did get sober, for awhile. But then it was 1984 and he had a third album out. He got a phone call, on the road, he was in Topeka or Tallahassee or Tulsa. "Hey, Russell. It's William. William Miller."
They talked for awhile. William was doing a piece for GQ, and he wanted to talk about Russell's music, what it meant, where it was going.
"It's shit, you know."
"I know." William was always pragmatic. "But they don't know it yet."
And the conversation took a turn, as it always did when they talked on occasion. "You seen her lately?"
William sighed, and Russell could hear him pour a drink. "No. You?"
Russell hadn't seen Penny since 1973.
"I have a song for her. Tell her...if you see her. We can get together, the three of us. It'll be great."
She went to Morocco.
And came back two years later, pregnant. She showed up on William's doorstep, fully expecting a lecture from his mother and pity from him. She got neither. Just a hug, and a place to sleep.
When the baby came, she gave it up. She stayed with them a little while longer, and then one night wrote a note. She was walking to the dining room to leave it under the fruit bowl when she saw Elaine sitting at the table.
Penny shrugged. "I can't stay."
Penny's eyes swelled with tears. "No, I'm done with that. All of that."
Elaine nodded and sat back in her chair. "He loves you, you know that."
"Yes," Elaine corrected. "He does. And you love him, it's as plain as daylight. Are you going to break his heart? For what?"
Penny held out the note. "For me. I can't stay."
Elaine took the paper and nodded. "Okay. You're not my daughter, I can't stop you. But remember, he would do anything for you."
Penny turned to walk out the door and as she opened it, she looked back at Elaine and tried to smile. "I know. But I can't say the same."
"I don't know where I went wrong, but I can write a song...."
William shouts in Russell's ear. "These guys are pretty good."
Russell nods and shouts back. "Yeah. Maybe rock isn't so dead after all?"
William shakes his head. "This isn't rock. But it's good."
Ed died in 2011. Car crash.
At the funeral, Russell tells Jeff about his idea.
"We do something simple. Like the old Paul Simon stuff, quiet and real. I already have two songs I want you to hear, maybe we could do them together."
Russell's last solo album came out in 1994, and the big reunion album never broke the Top 100 in Billboard. Jeff's doing okay, but he knows Larry struggles, and Russell, well, he says he's been sober. For awhile, anyway.
So Jeff nods. "Let's talk in a couple days. Get past this first."
They open for an upstart folk-rock band two years later.
Penny comes out of retirement for it. She holds William's hand and they sing along to each of the six songs in the set. Jeff's voice is rougher, older, but oh, it's good like he never was when he was young.
When the set is over and the stage is reset for the headliners, Russell comes and finds them.
And Penny sings along to the big song of the night, arms in the air, hips swaying, eyes closed.
"I'd be standing on Canal and Bowery...she'd be standing next to me."
"Promise you'll write?"
"That's not really an answer."
"I'm not sure what you want to hear. This is something I need to do. You can't follow me. You said you couldn't."
"Don't be gone forever. I'm not sure I'd still be here if you are gone too long."
A long look, a smile, a sigh and a shrug of the shoulders. "I would never expect you to wait for me."