Crutchie remembered being a young man...
A boy who still believed in dreams and fairy tales.... who was still foolish enough to think they could ever come true,
He remembered smiling endlessly back then...
Remembered staring out into the distance, taking in the colorful scenery all around him. After all these years, it was funny how he could still sort of feel it you know? The glow of the shining sun, the colors of the leaves, the song of the chirping birds, and the beauty of the nature and wildlife all around him. It was a far cry from the city life he was used to living, but that didn't mean he was complaining.
Suddenly he felt a nice cool breeze blow through his face. Closing his eyes, he began to inhale the fresh air with deep breaths.
He continued this action for another minute or so before he opened his eyes once again and turned his attention towards a large and sturdy tree that stood right in front of him, his eyes analyzing intently its roots, its trunks, its branches, its figure...
"Watcha lookin' at Crutch?" a voice interrupted his meditation. Startled, he'd spun his head towards the source of the noise and came face to face with a man with dark wavy hair on his side. Smiling at him. Crutchie couldn't help but grin even wider then.
He didn't need to be a genius to recognize his best friend, the leader of the newsboy's strike, and his beloved brother figure Jack Kelly.
"Nothin'" Crutchie replied to the question "I'se just thinkin'"
"Thinkin' about what?"
"Thinkin' about how it must be good ta be a tree. Ya know? They'se don't gotta go hoppin' around all the time. Nah. All they'se gotta do is stick ta one nice place like this and that's where they'se gonna be, forevah, all tall and strong."
At Crutchie's words, Jack's eyes began to betray a look of sadness on them. But as quickly as it showed up, it suddenly disappeared.
"Look when we's get ta Santa Fe" Jack spoke, though it sounded like he was reassuring himself as much as he was trying to reassure Crutchie "We ain't gonna be hoppin' aroun' no more! I'se gonna build us a big house outta a tree like tha'! Where you and me'se can both gonna stay forevah."
"Ya will!" his eyes suddenly widened.
"I promise" Jack said, making a grand gesture with his hands "gonna be the biggest house yous' ever see out west"
Crutchie tried faking a frown at Jack's declarations "Nah thank ya Jack" he tried his best to seem uninterested, even shaking his head in the process "you'se just gonna build a big house for nothin'. I mean ya heard the ol' lady, the fortun' tellah, guys like me ain't meant to live long."
"That ol' lady" Jack scoffed "well she tol' me I'se gonna live as long as a tree like this ovah here, maybe aroun' a hundred!" Jack gestured towards the tree, his smile growing wider "I'll give it ta ya Crutch. All give ya all the lives I have so that ya could go and live."
He tried to resist it, tried to be practical, but Jack's words could never fail to give him hope...
"Is there anythin' ya wouldn't give me?" Crutchie blurted out loud.
"Nothin' Crutch, absolutely nothin. I'll die ta give ya everythin'! After the strike and the mess I did at ya, I say it only faih"
It was kind of unbelievable for both of them how suddenly dark their conversation turned, after that, they just simply looked into each others eyes. Crutchie's light blue meeting Jack's deep emerald.
Before they knew it, the pair found themselves bursting out in laughter.
They probably did it for a good two minutes.
Then they stopped, and together, continued to stare at the tree and smile.
Dreaming of the future that would await them in Santa Fe....
They never did get to Santa Fe now did they?
In an ironic twist of fate, it had been Jack who had died before they could even leave the state of New York, and it had been him left almost immortal.
The circumstances that led him to this were long and complicated, full of heartache and betrayal.
It wasn't exactly something he wanted to discuss.
But one thing was clear and that was that the experience had left him with a deep-seated grudge, a grudge that could not be quelled.
A grudge that left him stuck here, stuck in between the realm of the living and the dead.
Forced to run a hotel for the dead, to care for the spirits of the departed. To help them heal and see them move on into their next stages of existence... to the afterlife one could say...
Yet he'd still be stuck here... not until he could let go of his grudges, allowing himself to move on and be healed, as the spirits in his care were as well.
Yet thousands of years passed by and still he remained this way.
Thousands of years passed by, yet they were nothing to his vengeful heart.
His grudge merely grew and grew, and bitter he became.
Crutchie... Charlie now.... had begun to think he'd always be this way and had accepted his fate without care.
Now, all he was going to do was await for the reincarnations of those who had forsaken him to show up, so he could repay them in kind, by making their lives living hell. Okay sure, that was against the rules set for him, and it could quite possibly cost him his soul. But did he care, no, he did not care at all.
At least he didn't... till Andrew had arrived.
Andrew his new general manager, the only position for a human in his hotel.
Now Andrew wasn't meant to be any different to all the previous general managers he'd had. He would be in his service, maybe down the line retire, he would give him his just dues, then he'd live, he'd die, maybe go directly to the afterlife or take a rest stop at his hotel beforehand. The end. Repeat with new manager.
But Andrew had surprised him with his loyalty, with his kindness, with his selflessness....
He didn't think he'd ever meet a human being like him again... not since... no, he wasn't going to think about him. Not now...
It was long story, probably worth a series, but point is, Andrew had made him loosen up a bit. Even made him open up about his past... about everything.
Soon, Charlie was beginning to think he was regaining a bit of what he used to be.
Flash-forward to now... earlier that day Andrew had met the mother he'd never had. It seemed like she'd died a long time now. Yet just like what Andrew's father had said, even in death, she did not care for him at all. To her, he was just another faceless stranger rather than her biological son.
Andrew had stormed off, and when he hadn't returned, Charlie began to worry. After a while, Charlie rushed to the Hotel to see if he was there. Unfortunately not.
"How did you not know that ghost was his mother?" Charlie reprimanded one of his staff "I thought you knew everything about him?"
"Well I never said I knew everything about him" his staff replied meekly.
"Oh I'm sorry, so you suggested him to be a son-in-law to Jeremy Plummer of all people without considering the thoughts of his family whatsoever?"
"I just assumed they weren't close..."
"Why you.." just then footsteps could be heard approaching towards them. Charlie turned to see that it was Andrew making his way over towards them.
"A-Andy?" Charlie spoke softly "are you alright?"
"I'm fine" Andrew replied "can we go to the balcony? There's something I'd like to discuss with you."
The balcony was a beautiful place, Andrew would argue it was probably the best place in the hotel. The view of New York City was incredible, technically it was just an illusion, hence the eternal night, but it was simply breathtaking to watch. But he had priorities to get to, for instance Charlie... he needed to know. It would be the right call.
"Hey listen" he heard Charlie speak at his side "about your mother-"
"Charlie it's fine really, she left me when I was young. I never got to know her. I mean it was a shock to know she died.. but look" Andrew sighed "look, I don't want to sound cruel.. but I just.. to be honest.. I don't really care.. at least.. it's not impacting me in such a big way you'd think it would."
Andrew turned to his side so that his eyes could meet Charlie's. This time it was Charlie who was sighing "I had her quietly transferred to the hotel. If you want to say goodbye. I'll have you send her off into the afterlife."
"Thanks" Andrew answered softly "but I'm not here for her, I'm here for you."
Andrew could see Charlie's eyes widen at that moment, both confusion and shock in his eyes "Me?"
"Yes you" Andrew replied "you know how I seem to keep sending you connections from you past for some reason. Like you know with Race and Katherine?"
Charlie nodded in response.
"Well when I left earlier, I headed over to Tony's pizza place. Well let's just say I met someone there. Another person from your past. I think someone you would probably want to meet again."
Andrew smiled faintly "You'll see."
Outside the steps of the police station, Charlie and Andrew stood there, not moving. They simply stared at the figure of a man, who was busy chatting away with someone, most likely his colleague. Judging from the looks on their faces, whatever they were talking about, a case or something. It was probably serious.
The man had dark wavy hair and tan skin. Exactly like a man Charlie knew all too well..
Andrew had filled him in before arriving. Apparently this was Jack now, reborn as a cop named Francis Sullivan. It wasn't that hard to tell, even if Andrew had not filled him in, Francis and Jack practically looked the same.
Still Charlie couldn't believe this was actually happening. He hadn't expected to see Jack again. Never planned on it.
Honestly it was like a dream, everything felt so surreal.
Heh, it was kind of funny, Charlie thought in his mind. How even in his next lives, Jack still managed to retain his good looks. Jack had been right all along when he claimed that even in the end, his beauty would never fade.
Yet that didn't mean there wasn't any notable differences between Jack and Francis as well...
“It’s funny you know” Charlie mused, Charlie’s gaze not once ever breaking from the familiar face of Francis Sullivan "In my time, he was like a master thief and a bit of scammer, and now… well just look at him he’s a cop. I-It's kinda ironic really”
Andrew could see tears were already beginning to form on Charlie’s pale face. Slowly dripping into the concrete floor.
“J-jack” Charlie called out, struggling to speak amidst his sobs.
He knew deep down Jack would never hear him, that he would never even recognize him.
But he couldn’t help it, he couldn't help the words that escaped from his lips, he just needed to say it... to let it all go.
In a way, Andrew had known Charlie had to. That's why he'd brought him to this place. It was a step to moving on, a step towards Charlie being happy again. Heaven knows, how much he wanted Charlie to be happy again. To be like that kid who'd dreamed of Santa Fe. The kid he would literally see in his dreams from time to time.
“J-Jack I'm sorry... for e-everything..." Charlie sniffled "I-I r-really am! b-but I'm glad ya know, to see you like this... it’s such a relief. I'm very happy to see you again, but most of all I'm happy to see you're finally living a good life once more.”
Despite everything, his tears, his sobs. Charlie wiped them all away and broke into a big smile. Not a sarcastic one, like the ones he usually made. Nor even a fake one.
No, this time it was a genuine and beautiful smile.
"Do you want to go over there and talk to him?" Andrew offered, but Charlie simply shook his head and refused "No."
"You two were close."
"We were" Charlie spoke sadly.
"W-will you be okay?" Andrew asked anxiously.
"No" Charlie spoke, still smiling "I don't think I can ever be okay. It's just sad. To think, I'm just a nobody to him."
"Looks like I brought you a connection from your past" Andrew spoke breathlessly "again."
Charlie turned towards him and sighed as well "Hey Andrew" he began "Thank you" he then looked back towards Francis, smiling once again "Thanks to you I got to see Jack once again... even if it's just for one last time and even if... it's not exactly him."
Just then the unexpected happened, Francis had looked towards their direction, and for a minute Andrew could have sworn that in Francis' eyes, it seemed like he recognized Charlie. How could that be possible? Andrew thought. Weren't they invisible or something? And wouldn't Charlie just be another memory from a past he did not remember? or perhaps Jack didn’t see a thing at all. Perhaps all he saw was nothing but darkness and an empty precinct parking lot. Perhaps all Francis was experiencing was just a side effect of reincarnation, a feeling of familiarity. That would make sense.
Yet still, one couldn't deny how special this was.
That against all odds, his eyes were meeting Charlie’s.
Suddenly, it was like they were back there again.
Standing in front of that old tree and smiling.
Dreaming of a new life together.
Of going out west to Santa Fe.
Of building a big house.
To stay rooted there... forever.
But this time Jack wasn’t smiling…. This time he stood there fixated at Charlie. His expression a look of shock and sadness and terror or a little something in between.
Like Charlie was some painful memory he desperately wanted to forget.
Like Charlie was some buried guilt that he could no longer remember.
"Come on let's head back to the hotel" Charlie ordered, his voice back to the boss tone, though this time much calmer "The moon's full tonight, looks like there might be a lot of guests coming our way." Immediately after he spoke this, he turned and headed back in the direction they had come from. Andrew sighed, and stared back at Francis Sullivan one more time before following behind Charlie's footsteps.
"Hey Francis, Francis" Francis' workmate waved at his partner with a pencil. Immediately, Francis snapped back from his trance and looked directly at his partner.
"Sorry, I-I just- I felt something" he spoke, glancing back at the place where Charlie and Andrew had been.
"Er..." his partner stared at him then the empty area blankly "ugh... okay?"
"Never mind" Francis declared, shaking away the thoughts and feelings he was having, he turned his attention back on his partner "Now... any updates on the double homicide case?"