Title: California Dreamin'
Disclaimer: None of these characters belong to me, they belong to Paramount. Don't sue me - I might cry.
Distribution: I'm keeping my fic on here for now. E-mail me if you have any requests.
Setting: California, Season 8
Summary: Carmine struggles.
California was a dump.
He moved here because of Shirley. Because Milwaukee had no promise. No romances after his one and only steady girl left, no talent prospects after Mr. DeFazio and the Pizza Bowl were gone, no reason to feel like he belonged anymore when his only sense of support had completely left him for the west coast.
Mr. DeFazio had left for California with Edna on a whim once she got an itch to move and almost left Frank after an ugly fight one winter night. She was sick of how dull he and their neighborhood was and threatened to leave him if he didn't change his ways. He got so scared after being left behind after Josephine's death that he offered to practically move the stars and moon for her. Moving two timezones away seemed a bit more feasible.
Laverne missed him the most. She realized that the whole reason that Shirley and their group of friends felt like family was because her Pop was so close by. For as friendly Laverne could be with strangers and how quickly she made friends, nothing compared with the deep bond she felt for her one and only relative within such close proximity.
Shirley left with Laverne because without her support, she felt like she had nothing left. Her father was a wanderer who she hadn't seen in years. Her mother now lived in California, several hours away from where Frank and Edna settled. She didn't really have a desire to visit her, but this move made it easier for her if she ever decided to. She had no reason to stay behind for Carmine. She and Carmine had an agreement - she was allowed to date other guys, and he was allowed to date ugly women. Carmine was so much more advanced in his relationships than Shirley was. She was saving herself. Whether it was for Carmine, she didn't know. She hoped it would be, but she also knew that it didn't matter if it was him, as long as whoever it was put a ring on her finger and made a promise to the Lord under the roof of a great big chapel first. Carmine always felt discouraged by this. He always knew that no matter how much he loved her, it didn't matter. It didn't matter unless there was a shiny ring on her finger and dozens of witnesses to his scripted vows.
California changed everything.
Once he moved, he realized that neither of the girls were as careful with themselves as they had been in Milwaukee. Shirley was still a virgin, but had tried pot and dated a recently divorced man. Laverne tried more than pot and dated an actual married man. Shirley was still somewhat cautious, Laverne wasn't.
That's how Carmine and Laverne first got involved.
It was after a long night at Cowboy Bill's - Shirley went for a stroll with a 40-year-old man that she just met on the boardwalk. Laverne and Carmine were left alone at Mr. DeFazio's restaurant two hours after they closed, and four drinks after their limit. They kissed and danced and went a bit farther than they should have. Once a week after that, they guiltily pushed the limit yet again.
Fast forward one and a half months later. Shirley just married the man she went to the boardwalk with - Dr. Walter Meeney. Carmine was upset and relieved. Upset because he lost the one thing he held onto and cherished since high school, relieved because he didn't have to hold onto that burden and could kiss Laverne goodnight each evening.
He loved Laverne to death; like a sister, a best friend, a girlfriend. But what was California? A holding cell for embarrassment and adultery? Since he first moved here, he felt like a joke. A talentless embarrassment good enough for Laverne and maybe Broadway, but too horrible for singing telegrams and television.
He tossed and turned every night for two weeks. Sure, Laverne said she loved him, but wasn't she as desperate as he was? She couldn't hold a job, but she had her father and a slew of other men she could depend on for small talk and pleasure. He had her. Her and a memory of Shirley and being something he could be proud of. He fought with her for the past month. Neither of them were happy. They lost the one thing they truly had in common - a love for Shirley. It made him nauseous when he thought about it. Two people who had known each other for almost two decades, drawn together by the same woman who left them both. The woman whose absence caused them to fall into bed together and admit everything they never knew they felt about each other for years and years and years. She left, and here they were, stuck with the sludge of what she left behind.
Carmine packed for New York. He could audition out there - they still looked for talent. California looked for fake tans and expensive cars. He could find new friends in New York. Friends who were poor like he was, who worked hard to feel good about themselves. A woman who didn't know his history and how much he once loved a girl named Shirley Feeney and soon after, her roommate. A woman who didn't know he was so capable of betrayal.
He took a cab to LAX airport. He had a trash bag of clothing and a jacket on his back - the blue silken jacket that had "The Big Ragoo" scrawled across the back. The letters were beginning to harden and fade to the point where he knew if he shoved in into his bags, they would have cracked and separated from the slippery material. He thought about what brought him here and how he might feel once of the burden of not having to please or depend on anyone left his shoulders.
He was five minutes from the airport and he froze up.
He thought of Laverne. How she was the only one left of their gang besides him who was without a confidant; without a predictable future. Shirley left with Walter, Lenny ran off to be with a sweet hippie girl he met, and Squiggy with an oddball who was the hippie girl's friend. Laverne met plenty of men at bars and at work, but never seemed satisfied. Her time with Carmine was the happiest she had been lately.
Without him, what might she become? He pictured himself many nights on the verge of giving up. Crying himself to sleep, contemplating an easier life ahead of him - a life where he drank and danced and met beautiful women each night and forgot everything each morning. He might have been able to agree to a life like that for himself, but never Laverne.
He left her a note that morning and knew what her reaction might be. He saw how her reaction to Shirley leaving was. He began to imagine that this might be worse. He was the only one left behind other than her Pop. In a rare, pouring Los Angeles rain, he transferred buses. He headed back to Burbank.
He thought about the fights they'd had recently. Fights that kept ending with them tumbling into bed with each other afterward since they were the only source of comfort each other had left. He'd yelled things at her that he didn't mean last week that he spent the rest of the night disproving. Things that tumbled out of his mouth at the same time her tears tumbled out of her eyes; words and tears that he tried to swallow up and erase. She was the one person left who he would never hurt.
He reached the rough, white stucco of Laurel Vista and paused to catch his breath before ringing her doorbell. He squared his shoulders and at the sight of his red-rimmed eyes, she let out a deep sigh. "You came back," she said.
California might be a promise-less dump, but Laverne isn't.