Chapter 1: One Step Back
"I knew this would happen,I knew the time would come,I totally knew all along! I was dreading it for so long!"
A very visibly anguished and distressed Parker Dinkleman was in the middle of his bed,fists bawled,feet up the wall beside it,head by the edge of it,almost upside down.The 15-year-old somewhat childish teen was looking up at the ceiling,tears forming on his big,usuallly joyful brown eyes,threatening to fall.
He had been best friends with Josh Redgrove for nearly 10 years by now.Or so he liked to believe.
The 16-year-old in question was in a small spare mattress in the opposite side of Parker's room.Sitting by the wall,looking down,feeling a hundred shades of sorry and guilty.He was in the wrong and he knew what his best friend for all these years was about to say.
He admits he'd genuinely wanted this at some point.But that's not a reality anymore.
It's not what the older teen's actions have been showing these days though.
"We've been drifting apart and I've been trying to save this friendship for years! But I'm clearly the only one who's trying and I'm obviously weighing you down,so...."
"Parker,please,I,like,already apologized and everything,okay? Remember?-"
Josh was getting closer to the bed,he really messed up this time,and he just didn't know how to fix this.Them.
"What I remember is seeing you crying! Because I ruined your day exactly how you said I would! I'll get out of your way,you'll be free from me."
The younger teen was openly sobbing,that was the hardest decision of his life,one he took the liberty of deciding for both of them.
Josh was kneeling on the floor by the bed,hands on the younger's shoulders,trying to get him to look in his eyes,he was on the verge of tears too.
"It's evident what's more important to you here,we just haven't been on the same page for years and you probably regret even meeting me,so I'll finally let you go.We're not friends anymore,Josh,we have no compromise to each other anymore.I'm finally stepping away from ruining your life and your dreams."
Josh held Parker's head to his chest,silent tears falling from his one bright caramel eye into flaming unruly red hair.This hurt way more than he'd ever anticipated.
"That's not what you do,Parker,that's not what I want."
When they finally made eye contact,Parker's melancholy browns bore into his very soul.The nerdy teen is stubborn and determinate.This was over.
"That's not what it looks like,I know you wanted to do this for awhile now but you were afraid of hurting my feelings.Well,I loved you and I still love you,Josh.I just can't pretend you'd remotely feel the same."
Their hands linked above the young cook's chest,their faces upside down to each other but so close,Parker felt like if he moved up an inch,he could kiss those big,full,inviting lips above who also happened to belong to a beautiful slender teen who already brought him so much misery.
Josh was closing the space between them even more,shutting his eyes,intending to kiss the geek's forehead,but got a swift kick to the face in the process instead.
"You've already caused enough damage.I can't let you hurt me even more than you already did."
Josh bolted upright from his uncomfortable seat by a hospital bed in the middle of the night.He had that nightmare again.
It has been 5 days.
Parker Dinkleman,a lovable short teen with round cheeks and a childish wonder that never seemed to go away,was in a coma for 5 days.Hooked up in wires in the town's hospital.
7 days since their last real conversation.A bittersweet farewell that keeps playing over and over in Josh's head even when he's asleep.
Josh Redgrove,a lanky,pale teen who likes to believe his childish days had been gone for years,was probably going insane.
Josh doesn't know exactly how it came to this,it all seemed to have happened so fast.
One day,they were in Parker's room saying their dreaded goodbyes,after the party at the blond's house that wasn't supposed to happen,terrorized by a short vengeful teen who wasn't suppose to be there.
The next,he's here.
It's 3am,Margaret Dinkleman is asleep on the couch,she barely left the boy's side,neither did Josh,really.
She is a short,round,strong woman,a pre-school teacher who was going through that parent-phase where she's just having a hard time believing her baby boy is growing up and letting him go.
She'd come around.Josh knew it.
Brittany visits often,she has been very supportive,Josh shouldn't be surprised by that.
But he is,mostly because she was furious at him,after he told the current status of his friendship with the chubby teen,she had seen the boys have nasty fights before,she knew they were friends way before she ever met Josh at the mall and later on developped feelings for him.She saw them fight but always make up,this time though,it felt crucial,it felt final.If Parker doesn't come back,then that's it.
Brittany was one of the few girls who didn't dismiss Parker's existence completely,she actually seemed to get along with the short redhead well enough (even after his stupid power trip as security guard recently,he DID save Josh that day),if anything,Parker was the one to pretty much get them together.Who knows,Josh could be marrying Ashley 2 right now if it wasn't for him.
When those old versions of him and Parker went back to their 'fixed' future.Who did they marry? How many movies did they do together? Did they remain friends at all?
Did...Old Josh go back only to find out his Parker had died at age 15?
Josh shook his head,frustrated withh everything around him.
Parker had gone through embarassment his whole life,Josh was there first seat in most of them,come oooon,this is ridiculous!
"Come on,Parker,you're stronger than this!" Josh shouted,pounding his fists on the bed.Startling Miss Dinkleman awake in the process.
Josh had cried for the first time in years,the party was ruined,his social life was ruined,hell with social life,his parents were back with Ken,his LIFE was ruined.
Both teens were walking silently to Parker's apartment building a few blocks away.They didn't live too far from each other,but Josh's neighboorhood was clearly more humble compared to Parker's.
They entered the building,went up the elevator to the 5th floor in awkward tense silence,Parker in a normal day would be rambling endlessly about videogames or comic books and superheroes,Josh didn't really find the boy's habit annoying by this point,it was just conforting,endearing...and familiar.
Josh would give everything for their regular,easy dynamic to be in place right now.All he knew was Parker was still upset with him over the whole party thing and had something on his mind.
The cashier can't blame him.
They got to the young cook's place.Parker shouted to his mom that he was home and Josh was sleeping over.She greeted both,kissed each on the forehead goodnight and they went up to Parker's room.
Parker did all their usual sleepover procedures,he got the spare mattress from under his bed,a few clothes which belonged to Josh that were always here in his walk-in closet in cases like this,this IS a very familiar room to Josh,just as much as his own,his is just way smaller and less messy.But this was his second home.
He took it for granted.
Parker had a forced stoic expression on his face the whole time,it was...intriguing to say the least,to see someone he knew so well,who always wore his heart on his sleeve,to be trying so hard to hide his true feelings.
That's just not his Parker.
"Parker,would you please,say what's on your mind already,okay? This silent tretatment is kinda freaking me out,buddy."
Josh said when the shorter teen came back from the bathroom in his orange Star Raiders pajamas.The usually optimistic teen still had a forced reserved but genuinely determined expression on his face,which...could have made the situation comical,but this was anything but.
"This conversation's long overdue."
It was a Saturday,so they had work but no school.
Josh woke up first,actually he barely slept,took a shower,dressed in last night's clothes,took one last glance at the short,round body tangled in a mess of sheets.It belonged to someone he claimed to care deeply about,but somehow....he just keeps proving otherwise.Judging by the redhead's pained expression,the boy didn't have the best of slumbers either.
Josh couldn't help but be impressed,this was a kid Josh SOLD to a demon in exchange for a beefy body at some point and not getting invited to a PARTY is what turned out to be the last straw.
The blond finally had what he thought he wanted.He was finally invited to be one of the most popular,cool kids in Scaunchboro,but right now,it just didn't seem worth it.
He went downstairs,refused Miss Dinkleman's elaborate breakfast and walked home to get his work uniform.
Yes,he was grounded,yes,he could get nowhere near his phone or his dad's car.And he'd go to Military Summer School,if he tried anything funny.
But Josh didn't realize until he had to experience it himself that the worst punishment was having to work with someone all day without being able to exchange a single word with them.
When Parker got to Mr. Meaty 30 or so minutes later,the only words he said to Josh were about his dad's camera that he forgot to give back before.
Yes,the same camera that ended up on Ken and Darryl's hands later,that had an embarassing private video of Parker's that got viral on NetViralTubeFeed.
It was an innocent little video,Josh had seen the young cook do embarassing stuff like this all the time,it wasn't that funny,again,it was just...expected.
Monday at school and at the mall people were all over him,mocking mercilessly.
Come on,people,we've gone through this before! Haven't you learned,like,anything? Go target someone else or something! He had enough!
Looking back,Josh felt even more guilty,he was compliant,contrary to last time when he told those people off for mocking someone who literally did nothing to them to deserve it.
This time,he was distant and silent.
When the accident happened,he wasn't even there.He was at the restaurant's counter talking to Ashley when a panicked Brittany ran to him and told him Parker was running from the overwhelming crowd when he didn't see the car going fast in his direction in the exit of the mall's parking lot.The younger teen hit his head hard on the ground and now everyone was there,emergency was on it's way.
Brittany obviously wasn't willing to hear about how they weren't friends anymore or whatever.It didn't fucking matter,it only made it worse.
Friday afternoom,he wished he had never met Parker.
Friday Night and he wished he could erase all the stupid shit he ever made the shorter teen go through because of him.
Monday evening,Josh's terrified of losing one of the few real friends he's ever had,whose he probably even more feelings for.
5 days later,Parker might never wake up and Josh thinks he's getting sick.
"If you don't come back,I won't ever forgive myself..."
Josh was laying on the bed beside his sleeping ex-friend,careful of the wires,Parker looked unnaturaly pale,lifeless and cold to the touch.
Josh put his warm hand against a cold,pale round cheek."I never told you I loved you.You deserve better anyway."
"I keep having these....weird dreams,you know?"
Josh was in the spare mattress in the corner of the large,overly decorated room (it still very much looked like a little kid's room).But now he was laying down,with an icepack to his forehead.
Parker hadn't spoken a word in the past 1 and half hours,the older teen presumed he had gone to sleep already.
The room was completely dark,but the blond could very much still sense his younger ex-friend now nervously fidgeting in the bed.
"Sometimes....you're in them.And it's like....the worst timing ever because....the last person I wanna see in the world right now is you and even less....looking like that."
Josh stiffled a chuckle.The kid's brilliant,he has found a way to deal with everything life threw their way like he's just collecting the morning paper and yet,good ol' late overdue puberty it's what's getting to him.
Josh already knew the boy was VERY resistant about changing who he is,god knows the blond cashier tried several times to persuade him,the shorter teen just doesn't take criticism well either.He's as stubborn as they come.
So the older teen had given up,he loved Parker just the way he was anyway.He just wishes other people would see it that way.
"I assume I looked good in those then?"
The answer was a Star Raiders pillow heading in his general direction.
Parker didn't know how long he has been roaming through his timeline with a Grim Reaper who clearly doesn't wanto to take him from this world.
Truth? PARKER'S the one who doesn't want to stay.
He's gone through enough humiliation for a lifetime,nobody will ever like him for who he is,whatever was left of his relationship with Josh is over.All he had was his mom and she was getting on his nerves too.
There's nothing for him to go back to.
The robed skeleton entity took one look at the kid's expression beside him and sighed loudly.If he had eyes,he would have rolled them to the back of his skull.He knew the chubby teen's death was very premature the moment he looked at the boy and saw an entire lifetime ahead of him.There are obviously people who are meant to be taken very young,it just wasn't this kid's case.
"Ugh,you kids are all the same....Let's go see the future you'll miss if you give up right now."
"Really??? Woo-hooo! That's super awesome! What are we waiting for?" The teen's instant switch of emotions with that sentence DID amuse the eternal entity,just a little....
They were now looking over a huge auditorium,a Graduation Ceremony,as far as Parker could tell.
A hot but chilly afternoom In Vacouver.
"What are we doing here? Who's graduating?"
"Uncle Jesse! Of course it's you,boy! Look for yourself!"
Parker's ghost floated around the graduates,looking for someone who resembled himself.He looked at the lettering all over the walls,so I did graduate Film School?
The place was full of young adults in their 20's dressed in blue robes and ugly hats.
Ghost!Parker and Future!Parker heard their name on the speakers,the latter got up from his seat and went up the stage to get his certificate.
22-year-old Parker wasn't that different from his current self.He was taller,not as round but still very much sturdy and big-boned.The ghostly teen thought....his 20s self looked really handsome.
The now-tall young adult was back on his chair,big smile plastered on his face,reaching his sparkling brown eyes,Ghost Parker got in front of him,he knew he couldn't talk to or be seen by...himself,but he wanted to know who was beside him,hugging him tight,kissing his cheek,saying they were proud of him.
Future!Parker was holding by the waist,a smaller,slender,paler figure,with a blond fringe over one of their bright caramel brown eyes,full,plump pale lips and-
"Josh???!!! We graduated together!!! Josh and I are still friends and graduated college together! Does that mean he waited for me?"
That was a very much 23-year-old Josh Redgrove,looking up at his Parker with nothing but admiration and pride in his eye.Those were the hardest past 4 years of their lives.And there was more road to go.
Future!Josh took off his partner's graduation cap for a few brief seconds to fix his hair,which was still a big mess of red,but now slightly shorter.
Ghost!Parker wanted to cry.He wasn't sure if they were just friends or had become a thing.All he knew was he was glad they would made up in the future because they looked beautiful together,even in the ugly costumes.
They were teleported to a huge and formal Celebration Party in Hollywood.
Parker Dinkleman and Josh Redgrove's post-apocalyptic Ninja Zombies Movie was a massive hit at the box-office but it had divided most critics,still,a franchise was in the works.
"Wow! Dude! We made our movie! And people totally liked it! I can't believe it!" The ghostly teen kept shaking the eternal entity almost violently.
He spotted himself and Josh fairly easily,28-year-old Josh kept avoiding all cameras and reporters,giving short replies and looking like he wanted to be anywhere but there.
27-year-old Parker couldn't have looked happier if he tried,he was eager to answer and talk to everyone in sight.He knew Josh was happy too,he just had a different way of showing it.
The Grim Reaper noticed the young ghostly teen by his side had yet to realize something important.So he smirked and pointed to the hands in both the adult's fingers,both had expensive looking engagement rings on them.
Teen ghost Parker didn't know,but it was the first thing they bought with that sweet hollywood money.Second was a nicer apartment for themselves and their families back in Canada.
They had been actually thoughtful with how to spend their money.Neither desired to throw big fancy parties with expensive drinks and women.
Ok,Josh thought about it sometimes,but he had a very possessive and strong but loving and caring fiancé,whose he really didn't want to be on the bad side of if he could help it.So staying home,watching Netflix with their dog on his lap it is.
Back to our teen ghost,he noticed the rings and looked slightly disappointed.But still smiled.
He was aware they had invited most of their old friends from Scaunchboro.A washed-up Jesse Lumberpond was playing live music and the teen did see both older and still beautiful Brittany and Leanne in the crowd.
"Oh...so we're doing a Double-Wedding? That's cool."
The Death entity facepalmed and pulled the oblivious teen to some other day ahead.
They were back to a humble part of Scaunchboro,the town's biggest park wasn't in it's best days.Still it was a very familiar place for Parker,who went there everyday as a little kid and still hung out there sometimes,playing RPG with his friends or just loitering.
The place was filled with Halloween-themed wedding decorations,Parker always wondered if they made those,apparently,they do.
"We're at the double wedding? But why here? We're supposed to be rich now,aren't we?" the teen turned ghost was confused.
"I don't get it either,kid.But I heard you were always more about mushy sentimental values than money."
"Then why would I want it to be HERE,even then,why would Josh agree? he and Brittany would want a fancy wedding for sure!"
The supernatural entity wanted to hit this kid's head with a large piano.Yeah,that'd be funny.
29-year-old Parker Dinkleman still managed to look handsome in his black tuxedo t-shirt with a white jacket over it and awakwardly combed red-hair,he was sweaty and nervous,he'd been with the same person for the last almost-14 years and his partner still loved him enough to want to marry him.
Marry him in the very place they first met.This is happening.
Childhood/High school crushes are not supposed to last this long.
Everyone was here.Brittany (holding Jesse Lumberpond's hand,fingers intertwined),Leanne and the Ashleys in the crowd,Gavin was Parker's best man,Wink was Josh's (the brunet man had been free from Carney's hands for 12 years now,he works as both Parker and Josh's assistant and became a close friend).Doug was the one performing the ceremony.He was very proud of his boys' accomplishments.
And somehow he knew this day would come.
30-year-old Josh Redgrove appeared by the aisle,wearing a white tuxedo t-shirt with a black jacket over it,he looked gorgeous but as nervous as Parker,yet still trying to wear an emotional mask over it,like always.
His dad wasn't here,not because he hasn't accepted their relationship,it was just hard at first for the old veteran man to wrap his head around the fact both his sons weren't straight and 'normal' like they were supposed to be.But sooner rather than later he ended accepting them.
Fate had just taken the older man a few years ago.Josh loved him deeply and wished he was here.His older brother Ken,now at 36,who had married Darryl when their dad was still alive,was the one walking Josh down the aisle.
And it finally downed on Ghost!Parker what was really happening and now the boy was crying almost as much as the older version of his mother in the crowd.
Margaret Dinkleman had found love again 10 years ago,in the hands of a strict but caring security guard.The same one who was performing the wedding of her sweet little 5'10 boy today.
"Josh and I...are,like,gonna get married and it's super wicked and awesome...but I don't get it! I just ended our friendship a few days ago because I thought he didn't like me and couldn't stand being around me anymore! He was just afraid of telling me so I did it for him!"
"Oh,child,he'd always loved you.He just used to let peer pressure get the best of him.He learned his own lesson too,you know?"
"Do you have any idea how long we've been out here in your time,boy?"
They looked on,in the middle of the park where two lovebirds,who also happened to be succesful young filmmakers,were kissing timidly but passionately in the very spot they first met,Josh holding the younger's collar,Parker cupping Josh's face,while the crowd cheered.
"Death,I want to go back."
It's been 3 weeks.
Josh was forced back to work and school,but he was just going through the motions,it was all fruitless.
He was just not paying attention to whatever was happening around him anymore,it was all a haze of events.
He had told Brittany the full extent of their last conversation,including how Parker confessed he had feelings for him and Josh....might reciprocate them.
The beautiful dark skinned teen was sad by this,she genuinely loved Josh.But deep down,she knew the boys made sense together,they completed each other and should stop hurting each other already.
She would gladly remain their friend.
Parker's situation has been stable or so he heard.That was good,he supposed,but the boy still showed no signs of waking up.
What will even happen if he does? If he doesn't lose his memory,he obviously will still be mad at Josh and want nothing to do with him,despite confessing his true feelings to the older teen.
The blond was cleaning the restaurant's fridge and suddenly had a determined face on,if- WHEN Parker comes back,he'll spend the rest of his days if necessary,trying to get the young cook back,trying to prove...he still loved the optimistic teen,despite everything that happened between them.
He'd make things right,the boy was worth it,he'd die trying.
Parker opened his eyes,only to immediately shut them again thanks to the blinding lights overhead.
He quickly noticed he was in a hospital bed,wearing a grey hospital gown,he just felt so tired he could barely move.
Flashes of the last events started playing in his mind,the red-haired geek shook his head and groaned,getting the attention of a very tired looking Margaret Dinkleman in the uncomfortable seat beside him.She was the only one here.
"Mom?" Parker said in a weak,husky voice.She started crying and rambling endlessly like he would usually do.He had to get that from someone after all.
She did mention something about Doug,Brittany and Josh hanging by the cafeteria.She rushed out,claiming she'd get them and the doctors.
Josh is here?
"Mom,wait!" The middle-aged woman turned briskly.
"How long have I been out?"
"Almost a month,baby.We missed you so much!"
She ran back to him and hugged the boy quickly but tightly,kissed his cheek,then ran back out the door.
Brittany was still,in vain,trying to convince Josh to eat at least a little bit of the awful hospital food (he's skinny enough already,he can't lose that much weight without officially getting sick) when Margaret flew past them.
"Miss Dinkleman,what's going on? Did something happen to Parker?" Josh spoke,eye concerned observing the tears on the older woman's face.
She stopped in her tracks and hugged both teens to her.
"My baby's back!!! He's alive!!!" She shouted for the world to hear and kept running.
Both teens looked back at each other and didn't waste time running back to Parker's room.
Brittany stopped by the door,smiling sadly for losing Josh,but happy Parker would be okay.
Josh jumped into Parker's arms,unbalancing the weakened young cook.
They both had tears in their eyes.Josh started rambling.
"Parker,I'm so sorry,so so sorry.I made so many mistakes and I almost lost you forever in the process,I'm so sorry,I don't want this to be over,I don't want US to be over,I love you so much-"
Parker had a huge smile on his face,he pulled Josh by the older teen's worn out brown jacket,kissing him on the lips,cutting off his rambling.
The newly-wed couple of accomplished filmmakers were in a rented limousine,heading to the airport for a standard but sure to be enjoyable honeymoon in the Caribbean Islands.
"Hey,Josh.I felt something weird today." started Parker,looking out the window,eating snacks.
"I'm sure we both felt a lot of weird stuff today,Parker.It's our Wedding Day." replied Josh,sitted in his partner's lap,stealing the snacks from him,the blond was beyond used to the redhead's unusual conversation starters.
"No,I don't mean that.I mean...It felt like there was something or someone observing us." Josh just rolled his eye and groaned.
"I swear,man! I could feel it in my bones!" The joyful man insisted.
"Then who do you think it was,huh,babe? A ninja? That'd be old and pretty lame." Josh scoffed.
"I think...it was me." Parker said in a serious tone.
"Oh,sure." Josh replied in a sarcastic manner.
Josh threw a grape in Parker's mouth.He looked up at the younger man he decided long ago to spend the rest of his life with.
Earlier today,while preparing for the ceremony,Josh kept thinking back to the fateful day he decided that.
He just wished Parker didn't have to almost die for him to realize it.
This was supposed to be a very PLATONIC angsty little one-shot,that turned out into this cheesefest two-parter.
AU where instead of Parker realizing he should go back to his life out of nowhere because the episode's running time was almost over,he came back because he saw he was about to accomplish his dreams and marry Josh in the process as a bonus.