It’s an offhanded comment that rattles Alexs skin in the way that feels dirty and irritating, like he just wants to scream.
Lots of things want to make him scream about the future, global warming, Donald Trump, the Bachelorette. But this is one he doesn’t know how to deal with. Like many things in his life he supposes.
Reggie has been learning Gen Z internet humor. Just saying it sounds dumb.
Alex is a kid from the 90s so he gets dumb stuff, and he believes its important for every young generation to express themselves in new creative ways, it’s essential to creating that boundary of young and old. Nothing is ever very new, its just catered to a specific type of weird each younger generation produces for themselves. Its very normal in his opinion.
So internet humor, while a bit out of his realm of understanding isn’t that weird to him, he gets the idea of it. But some of those Tiger King memes, memes in general actually, yeeting and himbos is hard to grasp on a normal day. Alex isn’t old, but he’s also not focused on learning any of it.
Reggie however, loves it and Flynn and Julie love teaching it to him. He starts speaking almost a weird second language and Alex just learns to tune it out.
He loves Reggie with a fierce fire of protectiveness because Reggie deserves the world and no one should ever hurt him. But he’s also learnt to just ignore a lot of what comes out of his mouth. Until one day he doesn’t.
They’re in band practice, a very normal routine thing they do. Alex is on the drums, Luke and Reggie by their guitars and Julie is at her piano. There’s a bit of good natured bickering going on, something about fixing guitar strings and then Reggie is explaining the time he fixed his amp in the rain again – and god it’s a wonder Reggie made it as long as he did.
Luke is telling Reggie how lucky he is he can play bass again and Julie has that fond look she gets sometimes when she’s not angry with them.
Alex is exasperated, he turns to Reggie and says,
“Reggie, honestly, how many times, this story. Were you dropped as a baby?”
It’s a joke, like they always are but Reggie just smirks,
“Bold of you to assume I was ever held Alex,”
It’s a joke. Because again, they always are. It’s a stupid, 2020 weird Gen Z kind of joke that usually goes over Alex’s head and he ignores it. But this. If Alex had blood it would run cold and he stares stupidly at Reggie while the other is grinning at him, like he’s proud of himself for making such a joke.
And the rational part of Alex gets it, he really does.
But the part where he knows about Reggies relationship where his parents doesn’t. The part of him that held Reggie when he cried in the studio after a big fight between his parents doesn’t. The part of him where he watched Reggies parents forget about his 14th birthday doesn’t. The part of him that patched a reluctant Reggies hand where there was glass in it and he refused to tell them what happened doesn’t. The part of him that forced Reggie into pillow piles and blankets when he’d come to school sick and his parents hadn’t noticed doesn’t.
The part of him that has the need to fiercely protect his best friend from all the pain that the world has already caused him doesn’t understand it’s a joke.
Reggie doesn’t see these waves of emotions pass over Alexs face, and neither does Julie who snickers at the comment. A quick glance with Luke though lets him know the lead guitarist understands.
“Reggie,” Alex starts, pain lacing his voice, “Okay.” He just settles on.
Within moments he’s poofed from his drum set over to where Reggie is stood and tackles the boy into a massive hug. Reggie is kind, sweet and sometimes very naïve, and he can’t just make jokes about things like that. Self-deprecating humor has is place in the world but god damn it Reggie deserves to be held.
Reggie is confused at first, because one minute he’s making an awesome, very funny joke and the next he’s been tackled by his stupid tall band member.
“Hey!” Reggie says, not sure if he should be grateful for the hug or confused.
“Shut up,” Is all Alex says and he’s wrapped his arms around the smaller boy and shuffling him to the couch where he manhandles Reggie onto it, refusing to lessen his grasp and trapped the boy, almost squishing him.
“Ah, Alex, man,” Reggie says while stuck, “You good?”
“Shut up,” Is all Alex says, burring his face into the smaller boys back and the brunette turns to Julie and Luke, “A little help?”
Luke just sighs and puts his guitar away. They’re not getting any more done right now, he gets it, “Just go with it man,” he says easily and Reggie doesn’t look okay with that response but he leans into the trapped hug and tries to make himself comfortable.
Julie tries to share a look with Luke but he just shakes his head, explaining would be too hard right now. He goes over to the couch to join his bandmates, latching on to Reggies side.
“Um, guys?” Reggie asks, but he’s shushed violently with a hand stuck in his face. He thinks its Lukes.
“Shut up Reginald.” Alex says.
If Alex has to make sure Reggie is hugged for the rest of his un-life, so be it.
It started as a joke, and now Alex can’t stop it. Because he was serious when he said he will spend the rest of his un-life ensuring Reggie is held. Alex is the determined mom friend of the group and he will live up to that statement.
When they wake up in the morning, and Reggie is still in his pajamas and pliant, not fully awake, Alex will pull him into his side. The boy leans into him because he doesn’t know any better and allows the other to maneuver him around.
During band practice when they don’t need drums Alex will sneak up behind Reggie and wrap his arms around his waist. The boy leans into it easily while Alex rests his chin on the boys shoulder.
When they’re watching a show Alex will ensure he pulls Reggie down on his lap, or squish in next to him so he’s being held properly. It’s a bonus that patting the boys hair gently puts him right to sleep.
If Reggie is writing, or talking to Ray in the kitchen, or doing basically anything he can do in Alexs lap or with arms around him Alex will ensure it happens.
Luke helps, he’s not quite as determined as Alex but he gets it. So he pulls in Reggie when necessary and smiles into the boys shoulder, enjoying the way the other smiles or laughs. Even if he thinks it’s a bit much he’s always up for a good cuddle.
For the most part, Reggie doesn’t think much about it. Luke and Alex had long ago conditioned Reggie into band cuddles and the love language of touch. It had taken a while, and there had been an uncomfortable amount of flinching and not knowing what to do with his arms, but he’d gotten used to it. He would never be the first to approach it, or ask for it, but they started to work around each other and understand it was how they worked. Again, they are a family.
So Reggie doesn’t think too much about it when Alex starts to become very affectionate. Holding him and touching him, it’s a normal Alex thing.
When he does start to notice it’s a bit more then usual, he just assumes Alex must be having some kind of moment.
Being dead is hard, he’s been cut off from Willie for a while. Alex must just be lonely, or something and he needs a good cuddle. Reggie can help with that, he’s good at that. He’s not good at starting the cuddle but he can be present when Alex needs him.
So Reggie tries to help Alex in his endeavors, tries to offer the comfort the blonde so clearly needs.
Until Reggie starts to think something else is up. Reggie is not as naïve as people assume he is.
Because, after a few weeks of literally not being allowed to sit on a surface without Alex pulling him in for a cuddle it starts not to make sense, Reggie is officially confused.
He’s confused, because for some reason Alex now seems sad – or upset somehow. Like the cuddles aren’t working, or Reggie isn’t doing it right.
It honestly hurts his head to think about it. He doesn’t understand what he’s done wrong.
Reggie only started to notice something weird was up when he was watching a murder documentary with Carlos. He can’t remember exactly what it was, someone was doing some pretty awful stuff to some other people and the killer was never caught.
He’d started watching with Carlos (should Carlos even be watching this?) and about 20 minutes in Alex and Luke had joined. Alex pushing him into the middle of the couch to make room for them, squishing him into the middle and wrapping him up in arms. Alex had even rested him head on Reggies shoulder, clearly something was wrong with the boy and Reggie would try and offer any support he could.
“Because of the lack of incriminating evidence, some people suggest, that the killer actually up and vanished into thin air, choosing to completely take himself off the planet rather then assimilate into society.” The narrator of the show said.
Reggie snorted, “Mood.”
The irritated sigh is audible where Alex bangs his head on the back of the couch.
“Seriously?” Alex asks, clearly frustrated and Luke snorts.
Reggie thinks he’s asking him, but he doesn’t get it and the blonde is also making a lot of weird eye contact with Luke. The one they do when they’re having a silent conversation. Reggie hates those.
“What?” Reggie asks innocently.
“Ugh, okay,” Is all Alex says and then Alex is physically on top of him, like using his whole body to crush him into the couch in some weird cuddle pile.
“Alex! Dude, can’t breathe,”
“Do you even need to breathe?” Luke asks, ever the most helpful.
“I need to be able to try,” Reggie reasons but Alex stays on top of him.
“Shhh, Reggie,” Alex says and when he realizes Alex just isn’t going to move he accepts his fate. God his friends are weird.
The next day, Reggie manages to avoid Alex all morning (okay, avoid is a strong term but Reggie needs some space to figure out what’s going on, and he can’t think straight whenever Alex has his wrapped up and begins patting his hair. He falls asleep. He’s embarrassed by the use of such an unfair tactic).
He finds Julie and Luke in the kitchen, and corners them before they can leave. Reggie needs answers.
“What’s going on with Alex?” Reggie demands and Julie is put out by his forceful tone.
However the quick panicked look Luke gives him is more then enough to confirm his suspicions that something is up.
“What do you mean?” Luke tries for nonchalant.
“Don’t lie to me Patterson,” Reggie says and Julie has never seen him act this way, clearly Luke has though because he rolls his eyes - the last time Reggie called him Patterson was when Luke was trying to insist he play a show although sick as a damn dog. Reggie can be scary when he wants, Luke didn’t end up playing the show.
“What’s wrong with Alex? Is he lonely or something?” Reggie asks.
Luke shares a quick look with Julie, who when had been informed of the situation by Alex had told him it was probably a bit much and he shouldn’t take Gen Z humor so literally, “What makes you say that?”
“Because, he won’t leave me alone. He’s like attached himself to me,” Reggie splutters out and he knows saying it aloud it sounds sort of ridiculous.
“Right,” Luke says slowly, “So you noticed that?”
“How was I not supposed to notice?” Reggie asks, “Is he okay?”
“Is Alex okay?” Julie asks confused.
“Yes, is Alex okay? He’s like latched himself on to me, he constantly wants a cuddle. What do we do?”
Luke looks up to the celling, like he’s asking a higher power to help him.
“I don’t think anything’s wrong with Alex,” The lead singer says.
“Then what?” Reggie insists.
Julie rolls her eyes when Luke looks to her pleading, “It was something you said the other week Reg. You made a joke, about not being held as a kid. I think it just got to Alex, so he’s been trying to make up for it? I don’t know, I don’t really get it either.” She shrugs helplessly.
And, oh. Reggies face falls as he puts together the pieces. Right. He closes his eyes.
There’s nothing wrong with Alex, he doesn’t need the cuddles.
It’s Reggie. There’s something wrong with Reggie.
Luke stands when he sees Reggies face fall and rests his hands on his shoulders, “No, stop. Whatever your thinking, there’s nothing wrong with you. Alex is being stupid. I can tell him to stop,”
“No,” Reggies eyes shoot open and he panics, is that what he wants? Alex to stop hugging him? “No, its okay.”
He takes a deep breathe and shoves all the negative and horrible thoughts he wants to have about himself down. Because he’s not that 10 year old kid whose parents just ignore him anymore, or the 16 year old kid afraid of his dad. He’s more then that, and Alex was just trying to help.
He was helping, in a really weird way.
So he breathes in and out a few times, the way Alex taught him when they found him having a panic attack in the studio one night, and he tells himself its okay. Alex was being nice, they love him.
Those feelings are still just overwhelming and foreign sometimes, he needs to remind himself it’s okay.
Plus, he knows he can do this himself. He doesn’t want Alex and Luke to have to pull him back, he can do this.
“Okay,” Reggie says, opening his eyes again and looking at Luke.
“Okay?” Luke asks, peering into his eyes comfortingly. Asking a thousand questions while none at all.
Reggie nods and breathes out deeply, “I’m okay. Really, okay.”
Luke nods, because he knows that and he knows Alex does too. Its far deeper than that though.
“We just love you Reg,” Luke shrugs and Reggie laughs.
“You too, you big dumb himbos,” Reggie jokes as Luke pulls him for a hug.
“You know I think you guys are very cool,” Carlos slams the fridge door shut, taking a sip of his juice and eyeing the ghosts down, “But you’re not all bright are you?”
After he talks to Luke and Julie, he goes to the studio to track Alex down.
Alex is reading on the couch, obviously enjoying the silence which Reggie is now going to interrupt.
Reggie struts over to him, plonks himself on the couch and pulls Alex to his side for the cuddle.
“Hey Reg. Whats going on?” Alex asks, confused when Reggie pulls him in. He tries to wiggle his arms out and wrap them around Reggie, because that’s how this goes. But Reggie has made himself into a freight train and refuses to be nudged. The tables have turned.
Alex just chuckles and leans into it. It’s a little awkward because while Alex isn’t usually very assertive in life, his taller and he’s very used to just manoeuvring his bandmates to his will. He moves them around and shuffles them into his cuddle pile, not usually the other way around. But he’ll take it and he settles himself down.
“You’re being dumb,” Is all Reggie supplies him with and Alex’s cheeks go a bit red.
He doesn’t know what Reggie is referring too but it seems like he’s been busted. Julie said it was only a matter of time.
“But its okay,” Reggie continues, “Love you man.”
Alex smirks, because he knew deep down Reggie didn’t have a problem with being manhandled.
“Love you Reg,”