The Groupie

 

The Groupie

Part 16


You can also find my writing on my website, www.noelblue.com, and all critiques and commentaries welcome at noelblue@gmail.com. I always update my Yahoo group first at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/NBstories/files/. And a new experiment - I've started a Facebook group where I'll also update, just search for Noel Blue Stories!(note, truly in beta stage)

Huzzahs to Reed!



My mood was only a little bit tempered by the time I got back to the hotel several hours later. Stupidly, foolishly, I had found that Borders, and had confirmed, via the big banner in the window, that my father was indeed speaking there that night. Well, damn.

I had eyed the pile of pale blue books in the window, "The Understanding". There was the toe of a sneaker peaking from the right side, not a horrible bit of graphic design. Dad liked his covers clean. I remember him telling me that once in an attempt to find something to talk about. Huh. About me, mom had said.

As with anything with my dad, I had to push through a wall of indifference, a fog that kept me from dwelling on him too long.

As soon as I had seen the article about his book tour, I had looked up the dates, and where he had been. I do that. I know I'm a hypocrite - I pretend I don't care about the man, but I am also pretty obsessed with him. He liked London. His last (current, how would I know, I'd never even met her) girlfriend had been British. The New York Times article had mentioned that he would be in the UK for a book tour. I had noticed that. It might have added to the appeal of coming here with Snowborne, at least just a little teensy weensy bit.

Maybe a lot.

I'd started the trip to the bookstore thinking I just wanted to see what they had that maybe my American bookstores didn't, check out the art magazines, stare at the cover and the strange and small novelty that the different sizes could cause. It was as if what made this a foreign country wasn't in the big things - I suppose I could see why there was so much griping that culturally it was all becoming homogenous, all around the world. In obvious ways it was all so similar. But it was the small details where the cultural differences would stand out. The places where the familiar weren't quite the same.

But, anyways, I bought the book, my father's, against my better judgment. I was feeling really good about Zane, good about this trip, and, really, I believed that I could take whatever my father's ego and imagination could throw at me. So Jonathan Foer believes my father is '"without doubt the modern master of the cutting and insightful family portrait". Don Delilo believed it was a "searing portrait of father-son relations - an insidious acknowledgement of the things that pull us apart despite our best efforts." Best Efforts? If this novel did in any way mirror mine and his relationship, I could go on for a pretty long time about his theoretical 'best efforts'. How easy it seemed to be for him to stop attempting to see me regularly after my mother told him to stay the fuck away a couple of years ago in a moment of misguided protective belligerence. Me pointing out to him over the phone she was drunk at the time, and that I needed him more than ever, didn't seem to help. Something like anger burned in my stomach before I pushed it down. I just wanted to read his book. He was a dick, but a good writer. That's all.

I had a hot ... boyfriend? Probably not quite accurate, or even close to accurate, but Okay! I felt, for a bit, that I could keep that idea in my head for a while. A hot boyfriend. I was in England. And my emotions were Teflon. Bring it on, Mr. Mueller, you thoughtless/manipulative prick. I could take it.

****

"And this is a new song we're about to play for you -"

The crowd went crazy; Zane smiled, wide, unforced. Sweat poured down his face, as the venue was insanely hot. No one cared. However, the vibe was amazing.

"- It's from the new movie, '"Jack-in"', ya' might have heard of it. You know, with, Matt Damon, superheroes, that sort of thing." The crowd whooped. "You ready?" Yes, yes they were. They were dialed to 11. I liked my comfy sidelines perch, but at the same time I sort of did wish I was out there with them, soaking in the noise, the elbows in my side, the pure energy of an awesome concert crowd. "GO!"

The gist of the song was something about obsession and fixation and passion - "Where we're going - hell and back - with you wrapped around me -" I couldn't get all of it, of course, his way of growling and then sometimes shouting meant I'd need a few times - but it was a crazy catchy song. Unforgettable melody, pure energy. More so than they usually had. Not in a good or bad way, but different.

I liked it.

So did the crowd, their drunken pogo-ing got even more intense. DAMN I wish I had been out there. I could be dancing, thrashing out there, using up some of this pent up and angry energy. Probably would be kind of a tacky move to go bouncing from the wings of the stage and go flying out there, though. Might not get invited to go back stage to anymore concerts. That thought made me smile at myself ruefully.

"That was a good song," I offered, making my smile as genuine as possible. The sentiment was real, I swear, if not the smile. "It's really catchy."

"You don't think it's really pop-y?" Zane asked.

"Yes," I said automatically, without thinking. His face shuttered. "But that's a good thing! I mean, it's not like your album songs, but it's definitely you, and -"

"Keep digging, brat." Rick said with a small smirk as he brushed by. "You'll probably just keep turning up shit." I shot his back a dirty look that, of course, he didn't see.

"Rick didn't like it that much, thought it would ruin our street cred." Zane explained.

"Sorry, I really did think it was really good."

"Well, we'll see." For a moment Zane looked uptight, but it passed, and he shrugged. "We did it months ago, before the album was even released, but because the movie was delayed Warner has been holding it until now. They just gave us the go ahead to play it, with the movie coming out in two weeks... and we're contractually obligated to pimp it as much as possible."

"That shouldn't be a problem. The crowd loved it." I was proud of how well I was keeping up my end of the conversation - he wouldn't know that I had already had two drinks, and was, basically, using that and him to medicate myself. I'd gotten the phone call with the venue information two hours ago, and had gotten there early... but hadn't wanted to bother him. But, needing distraction, I ordered a drink. A bit later, I got another one. That wasn't much, and I actually had really wanted to drink significantly more, but I didn't want to actually be too trashed when the band was done. But hopefully he wouldn't notice.

A long finger gently touched my chest. "You been drinking?"

Damn it. I thought I was doing a pretty good job of covering it up.

"Just a couple."

He quirked a smile. "So, how would you feel, then, about going out? An old friend wants to drag us on a serious pub crawl, Erica just told us our publicity budget has gone up due to successful record sales, and this looks like it'll be a long one."

I paused.

"But if you don't want to..."

"I'd love to. But, um... Is Charisse going to be there?" If I hadn't been drinking I might not have had the courage to ask that.

"No, she's run off to France to do something or other. Don't like her much, do you?" He narrowed his eyes at me.

Does that bother you? I sorta wanted to ask, "Either her not being here or I not liking her?" But, that was confrontational, and possibly bitchy. And I was the one with him, here, now. Going out with him.

"I'm in."

"Fuck, you're adorable." It came out of nowhere, and it was something of a growl. I flushed, and my body tingled in reaction.

"What?"

He just grinned, and Jared was there asking "SO we going now? I'm ready to blow this place; it's too fucking HOT!"

"Yeah, we're off." Zane answered.

And I was left following them, with something of an erection and my father's words through his book swirling around my head. It was a very strange combo, neurotic and complex. Things I didn't believe I was, and lately felt like I was becoming.

We joined the band; everyone looked a bit knackered, but also pumped up. "Hey, Ethan." Dustin greeted me, and Erica smiled. Oh, bless the nice people. I could ignore sardonic Rick and Jarod's eye-rolling. I gave them a huge smile back. "Hi! Great show." I don't know what it was about my presentation, but even the jerk bassist looked at me blinkingly, like he wasn't quite sure how to react to that.

"Thanks, we've definitely had worse nights." Dustin said with a small smile. Rick just snorted, it would be hard to say at what with him.

"So, we're off?"

"Yeah." We were off, and I was ready, as ready as I was going to be. My unusual level of drink consumption wasn't just because my father was an asshole, it was also because I had visions of tonight going like last night did. Another fifth wheel situation where I was an alien, an interloper, no matter how warm Zane was to me personally. Somehow, I was ready to recognize that his public persona was how he was... but it didn't mean I was comfortable with it. Tonight, I was sure, was going to suck, big time. Donkey balls, to quote Scott.

Watching Dustin put his drum sticks away in his case I saw a flash of a picture, a pretty, smiling young woman. He noticed me checking it out, and paused to give me a chance to see it clearly before zipping it away again. "Girlfriend?" I asked, hoping it wasn't too personal a question.

"Wife." He answered. Touch of sadness.

"Oh." The alcohol in my system made me a little slower on the conversation uptake than I might have been. For some reason, I was a touch speechless. Because, well, I knew they were going to be on the road for two, three months. Wife, huh. "Hard to be away from her?" Oh, god, that wasn't what I meant to ask. The answer was obvious from a nice guy like him.

"Oh, yes. Endlessly hard." He gave that particular, strange little smile of his. "But not much choice, really. This is the craziness I chose. Cab." He was gently calling my attention to the fact the cars were waiting for us. I was such a doofus. Smiling apologetically, I followed him. I was surprised when he continued talking once the cab started moving.

"Been like, six, seven years." I blinked at him. "Me and Amy, we've been together."

"Oh, wow. Been married that whole time?"

"Heh, no, she's not that stupid." He tapped the window glass distractedly, something complicated. How he could do that and talk was amazing. "She put me off until it was solid that I wasn't just another jerk off, fuck-it-all-up musician, ya' know, stuff in the corner of her apartment for 4 years. Not really because she was worried too much about the money, I mean, more than natural." I shook my head to show that's not what I had thought at all. "But, reasonably, it was looking kind of hopeless. I was going to be working in a bike shop and playing in craptastic bands on the weekends. My future was all but sealed for New York failure. Know how many rock and roll drummers there are in NY looking for a band to sweep them off their feet?" He suddenly asked, eyes googly wide and faux intense. "Do you?"

"No?"

"ZILLIONS. But we got that first record deal, Erica somehow finagled a reasonable chunk of change for us, unheard of in this business, and I got some money. And she finally married me." He shrugged. "She's a patient woman."

"And you're a nice guy." I meant it as an explanation for her patience, and it was true. I'd been the kid of a wandering artist, who was now weighing pretty darn heavily on my mind. But that artist hadn't been a nice guy. Charming. Sometimes giving, if only sporadically. But not 'nice'. Dustin was nice from everything I'd seen. Nice to me, at least, and to his complicated bandmates.

"Thanks, Ethan." He gave me a little nod, and that particular grin of his. "So are you."

"Thanks." We spent the rest of the trip was in companionable silence - the conversation had obviously gotten him thinking and I didn't want to interrupt it, having my own pre-club worries.

Those worries meant that by the time we got to the club I was uptight and tense - deja vu as we entered the club. Sure, this club didn't look or seem anything like the last one - this had a seedy feel, albeit a hipster, cool-by-way-of-skuzzy one. The floor was sticky, the clientele haircuts very expensive. But the fact this was all a cover was reflected at the bar - beautifully lit, and the top shelf was in the stratosphere. As was the label costs of many of the patrons.

As we walked in, Zane lightly touched my shoulder, and I turned to him, startled. "And I'm not going to ignore you this time, okay?" His eyes burned into mine.

Damn, I wish I could have kissed him right then. I think he noticed because he paused for a moment, hand still lightly on me, and he was about to lean in, I swear.

Someone jostled us due to our proximity to the door, and the moment was gone. I hope that was regret on his lips as he slipped by.

A bit buoyed by his words, and somehow, miraculously, I instantly started having a surprisingly good time. Drank too much, but.... that made it work, it was a blur, distracting me from the things going through my mind and my angst. I got up to dance, and a bunch of girls got up to join me as they had last night, sweet pretty things. We danced and laughed for several songs, and after they got my name I extracted myself, needing water and some rest.

I made my way to the table where Dustin and Jarod sat with a drink and a water bottle in hand, and I gave them a small smile, not expecting much in return. So it shocked me when Jarod leaned over to me, making Dustin sorta lean back. Rick had left at some point during the time I was dancing, thank god. There was a befuddled, drunk look on the bassist's face. "Dude. How do you do that?"

"Do...what?" I flipped my sweaty bangs out of my face and took what was probably too big a sip of my drink. I should have grabbed some water, would have to correct that in a second. Zane, who was talking to some guy in a suit across the VIP lounge, looked over, and gave me a huge smile. Damn.

"Get all those beautiful girls to dance with you, I mean, wow." His eyes widened, comically, and I had to grin. He was like a hipster frat boy; it was hilarious. His charisma wasn't anything like Rick's or Zane's, but it was there. "They were so hot! So many all at once!" Is this what Scott would be like if he was sorta dumb? My mind boggled.

"Um," because, despite the comedy, he was somewhat serious, I tried to actually give the answer a moment's thought. "I think... because I'm dancing? Girls like to dance; a lot of guys don't dance. So they want to dance with me. And, I guess, I don't seem threatening, after they get to know me."

"Huh, threatening?" He wrinkled his nose. "What do you mean?"

"Uhhh..." Oops.

"Oh. Yeah." And that 'tastes nasty' look dropped down over his face again, and I winced inwardly as he pulled back. "Yeah. I guess you're not threatening, huh?" We both took uncomfortable sips of our drink.

"Also, Jarod, I actually think there's something you're missing, aside from him not being 'threatening'." Dustin said, dryly.

"What?"

"You don't look anything like him. Actually, you're one ugly puppy, buddy." He pet the bassist on the arm mock comfortingly. "If you had his looks, you might get all the girls. And if you didn't dance like a spastic baby. Just an idea." Bless Dustin for his distraction. I mean, I wasn't sure I was really in love with the particular shape of his subject change, but I'd take it if it distracted Jarod from his homophobia.

"Fuck you, Dustin, who're you to speak, you're a goddamn cue ball." Jarod smacked his friend hard on the arm, who muttered something about 'livelihood, man!' in good-natured response. "I think you got married just to not have to fucking deal with the fact no one ever wants to sleep with you. It's bad enough being the damn drummer, I mean, shiiiiiiiit. No one wants to fuck the DRUMMER."

This didn't seem to phase Dustin at all. Actually, he broke into a bizarre defense of the sexiness of being a drummer, which seemed to confuse Jarod as much as it did me, but this seemed to be their give and take. Jarod was interrupting him in a second with another broad joke about his shaved head. There was a comfort to their dialogue that was palpable, and cute.

The moment of my own silence and lack of focus did call attention to what was going on in my own head and allowed me to recognize that the drink wasn't really cooling me down. Water: A necessity, posthaste. I don't think they noticed me go, but I didn't mind. That was the most positive interaction I'd had yet with Jarod, and I'd take it where I could get it.

I got to the bar, got a water, and one of the girls I had been dancing with who was there at the same time bought me a drink, which I couldn't say no to. "You're just so snoggable!" She had squealed, kissing my cheek before flouncing off.

That made me laugh. Maybe I was adorable tonight. Feeling adorable was nice... after seeing the shock on my dad's face as I stood before him, his book in my hand, I hadn't felt so cute at that point.

Oh, I'd wanted to say something pithy, something bitchy, something cutting. I'd not finished the book, as in read all of it... I'd sat in the coffee shop, flipping, reading, skipping the subplot about the narrators affair with a beautiful intern(huh. Wonder how far off from reality that was. Not very, I suspected. What did whomever his current girlfriend was think about that? Because I didn't doubt he also had an age-appropriate girlfriend, someone creative, brilliant, someone he would drive crazy when his basic nature kicked in... he always did.) And, yeah, the kid? It was me. A strange, unhappy, sullen version of me. I came off the page gothier, unhappier, angrier than I knew I was. Or....than I thought I was.

In his eyes, in this paper world, I was the poisoned child of a poisonous woman, miserable, painting my only release. Did he really think I did drugs, or was that just a literary flourish of his, a blatant mirroring of my mother's constant battle with her own addictions?

Interestingly, this other me was also gay. Stupid, my dad wasn't, if still very much an asshole. An asshole who really truly didn't have any idea who the hell I was, or what I was thinking. Or what my relationship with my mother was like, he had only the barest clue. Nor had he any idea what I thought about him. He'd never asked. Instead he'd created his view, latent admiration, anger but childish desire for approval. Yeah. I wasn't 12 anymore, asshole...

So I stood in line waiting for the asshole, feeling like a zombie with a copy of his book in hand, and when I got there I simply stood. He took the book, and looked up at me to ask what I wanted in it... and his eyes widened. And I blinked at him. "Hi."

"Ethan..."

And I bolted. Coward. My father's son. Ha!

So here I was, in a club, trying to drink the encounter away. At the moment, I could handle some alone time, to feel my emotions through the strange kaleidoscope of alcohol.

"Maybe you should lay off those pills, boyo." A scathing voice was near my ear, slicing through my private embarrassment. "You look like an empty-headed zombie."

I started, turning to look at Rick. Sure, I was probably a confrontation coward, but, damn, this guy was a bastard. After all the booze I'd had so far my usual conciliatory tendencies were worn down, and dealing with him was the last thing on my list that night. Maybe if I ignored him he would go away.

"Oh, wait, you always look like a zombie. Sorry."

Obviously I had hoped for too much. His body language didn't say he was in transit - his body language was solid and was blocking any easy escape away from him. He had some things he wanted to say, it seems. "I'm not on any pills.... was just thinking."

"Don't hurt yourself."

What the hell? "Leave me alone, Rick."

"No." He leaned forward, all blond hair and sharp edges. He was wearing tight jeans and two layers in grey and green, complete with a jaunty scarf, and he'd be cute if he wasn't an evil fuck. Truthfully, I was a bit in awe of how he got his hair to do the flippy thing it was doing. The product cost was probably astounding. "If you haven't noticed, Ethan, I don't like you." No shit. There was a drink in his hand - And his breath was heavy on the vodka. There was a good chance he was as drunk as I was. Fantastic. "I don't know why you're here. You might think you're all smart and insightful," Me? Smart? Huh? Oh. yeah, what I'd said earlier. Maybe I should have figured out that would bite me in the ass later. "but you don't understand anything. Especially not Zane, or me."

Obviously, Rick was the type of personality that meant if one hit landed on him it would prompt a million retribution blows later.

"Great. Got it." What else was there to say? I wasn't stupid enough to think I could fight him, and win, not with where my head was at the moment.

He looked at me suspiciously, obviously not pleased at my neutral answer. He was aiming for engagement.

"Do you feel anything, doll? Or are you really so empty?"

"Fuck off."

He shook his head. "God, you really must be a fine piece of ass, for Zane to waste his time on you. His interest obviously has nothing to do with your personality - since you don't have one - or your mind, since you don't appear to use it."

"Why do you CARE?" I finally burst out, exasperated, his insults finally starting to land, and to sting. "What does it matter to you what Zane wants, what he does with me? I'm not really in your way, I'm not getting in your face - you're getting in mine - WHY?"

"You're such a fucking idiot. I don't know why I'm even talking to you. You'll never get it; users never do." He shook his head, that sneer of contempt on his lips, and started to walk away.

"I get it. And you're still fucking delusional." He stopped, and shot me a furious look, but I was done, and he stalked off. All my angers were snowballing, turning and circulating with each other until they were becoming one. The sticky, pasty glue of the booze was doing a beautiful job of putting it all together, binding it in ways it normally wouldn't. The good mood I had going, from Zane's warmth towards me, from dancing, had dissipated. Failed son. User. Bimbo. Fuck. The pounding music - a mix of club, remixed indie music, 'dirty' dance - wasn't fun any longer. It was just strident, piercing.

How long I was against a wall, letting the music turn into a swirl, thinking of everything but nothing, I couldn't rightly tell you. The dance floor got more crowded, the noise level higher. Couple of people tried to talk to me. (I ignored them) Some people knocked into me, stumbling about in some sort of haze. Had to move over at some point for a couple to make out. It was loud, and sloppy sounding. Blah. My vision was blurry. All my drinks, coming home to roost.

Finally, Zane found me.

"Ethan?"

"Zane!" I said, with inadvertently exaggerated pleasure. My emotions were not modulating correctly, it appeared.

He gave me a small smile. "You okay?" Wow, he looked so good. Somehow, he was fresh, not exhausted, like he just put on an amazing concert, and hung out in a club for a couple of hours full of drunk, self-impressed British hipsters with fabulous hair. (It really was impressive hair, I had to give them that. Rick's coif was given a run for it's money.)It took a good bit of willpower not to fling myself at his body and bury my face in his neck and grind my cock against his and, hell, do something dirty to him right there. It was an appealing image, his back arched against the wall, trying to control his facial expression, biting his lips, long fingers curled in my hair, my hands on his lean thighs and upwards upwards...

"I'm fine." I lied, and avoided adding 'I'd really like to be fucking you right about now, you know that?'. "Are we leaving?" That also came out far too hopeful, and he gave me another look.

"That excited, huh?" He tilted his head. "Are you on something?"

"No! Rick asked me that too. Jerk. No." I shook my head. "I just drank too much."

He laughed. "You're ridiculous. Come on." He gave my shoulder a shove, but an affectionate one, and led me out to the doors, where the band was waiting. Rick was giving me the stink eye, of course, and Jarod looked, well, trashed. Significantly more out of it than he did whenever I had left their table. "Leaving time!" He slurred. And I focused on him. Hell, even I could tell he was on something more significant than alcohol. Much more significant. Standing up straight seemed difficult. Dustin, close to his shoulder, was his guide dog, turning him gently towards the door, giving me a small smile beforehand. I remembered the first time I had seen the band, back at home, and Zane having to take care of an 'issue', something Jarod-related. Obviously, this was common behavior for the bassist. Made me feel a bit better for being drunk, really. Until Rick waited a beat, letting everyone go ahead in order to lean in to me and say "Sucking people off in the bathroom, huh? Make some extra money?"

Later, the next day, etc, I thought of all these witty, cutting comebacks... but at the time, all I could do was seethe as he turned away. God, he was a master at choosing his moments.

We hit the air, which felt fantastic, even with the light drizzle that started to cover our faces. I looked around drunkenly for taxis, but the band was already starting to walk down the street. "We're walking." Zane said, by way of explanation. "We'll grab taxis after we get out a bit... some of us need some fresh air." He gave Jarod a significant look.

I wasn't going to complain. It felt great. My brooding and my anger was still there, ever present, but I wasn't of a mind to concentrate on it very successfully. We rambled, passing an impressive selection of drunk partiers. There was some yelling, on one corner there was a fight of a hilarious screeching nature between two girls in very short skirts and makeup I could see sparkle from across the street. On another corner there was a fight a hell of a lot more serious, with bouncers diving in to get the men off their club's doorstep. Cops here and there, girls and boys at places sitting, friends pleading with them to get up. I'd never partied in a place like London before, I was used to the wide open cities of the Midwest. So much going on, everything so close together. It was a weeknight, and it felt like a Saturday, the party was so very on. It was so alive and raucous, I loved it. Although that was probably mostly the booze talking.

It was hard to say if we were heading in a particular linear path... someone must have known where we were going, because everyone seemed confident. Or maybe that's just how successful rockers carried themselves, I didn't know. Jarod would go from quiet to babbling about something (usually woman related) to quiet to babbling again. I asked Dustin how he started as a drummer, to distract myself from the blatant fact I was really drunk, and walking wasn't as easy as it should be. I'd almost wandered in to a couple of people already, since my feet didn't seem to be going in a straight line.

"I like to hit things, but I don't like to hurt things," he said serenely. "So there you are. Drumming seemed a perfect outlet."

"Huh." I furrowed my brows. "That's a unique way to look at it."

"Dustin looks at everything in a unique way." Zane said dryly over his shoulder.

"Makes life that much more interesting." Dustin countered.

"Pills make everything more interesting!" Jarod said cheerfully, and everyone ignored that, except for a snort from Rick.

"We all know how much you like to beat things, Dustin; we all had to sleep in the bus together in the beginning, remember?" the guitarist needled. Dustin didn't seem at all offended.

"I actually think you're confusing me with Jarod, Rick."

"You were the only one who would sleep near him in the back of the bus." Zane conceded. "That can't be easy."

"It wasn't. But we all must martyr ourselves in little ways. It's good for the blood." I had to chuckle, and he gave me one of his sly winks. What made Dustin so funny was his delivery, everything was presented in such a dry, uninflected manner, you never knew quite what was humor and what wasn't. But I think I was getting the hang of it.

"It must be nice to be successful enough to be able to stay in nice hotels," I didn't think I had said anything wrong, until everyone was quiet.

"Yeah, it's nice." Dustin said, but it was said in his 'kind' voice, and I suspected I'd said something wrong. His eyes slid quickly to Zane and back to me, and I noticed the singer looked tight lipped. Shit, what had I said? Rick looked a bit triumphant. There was definitely something there.

"Fries!" The word burst out of Jarod like an explosion. "I want fries!" We stopped, and, lo and behold, we were right next to a little chip shop, with a small crowd of drunk people outside.

Soon we were loaded down with soda and delicious, fantastic British chips, greasy potato bits that, to my drunk mind, were like little bits of heaven. Also, the distraction seems to have returned Zane to good humor - after getting the food he briefly put his hand on my neck, and gave it a squeeze paired with an enigmatic smile. I wanted to melt in that smile.

We walked, they talked a bit about their performance that night, and I was in my haze.

Then we hit Oxford Circus, and there he was. They hadn't changed the posters after his reading that night. And before I knew it, my drink was flying out of my hand, arcing towards his face. Soon his giant, sagely smiling mug was dripping coke, and I didn't feel any better. "God you are such an ASSHOLE." I snarled at him in my head, kicking the stone base of the store angrily. Ow, that sorta hurt.

"Ethan?" Oh. Maybe not so much in my head. The four members of Snowborne were looking at me, puzzled.

I mean, I'd just assaulted a bookstore window display with no really discernable reason. But, briefly, I didn't care. It felt GOOD. Now I wanted to break the window, break it down, rip into the poster while howling like a rabid dog.

But that probably wasn't a good idea.

"Uh.. Ethan?" Zane said again, behind me, hand on my shoulder.

"I'd say it's because he hates that author, but that would suggest he reads." Rick said. Argh.

"Kid's gone POSTAL." Jarod said with glee. He was like Beavis and Butthead in one person.

"You look a lot alike, actually." It was Dustin, who was now behind me. "Same eyes, yeah? Mueller, that your last name?"

"Yeah."

"Dad?"

"Unfortunately. And his book's SHITE." Being in England had rubbed off on me. But I couldn't stop. "It's stupid, and he's a narcissistic fuck, and he doesn't know me. YOU DON'T FUCKING KNOW ME." Oops, there I went again, talking to the poster. They must have thought I was nuts now.

"I didn't know your dad was a writer." Zane said, now at my shoulder. "Dustin's right, you do look like him."

"I fucking hate that." Even to myself I could tell I sounded petulant. "I don't want to be his damn son."

"Can't choose our parents." Dustin said philosophically.

"I've read a couple of his books." Rick, now. I looked at him suspiciously, studying his tone for mockery, but there was none, he did seem to simply be remarking. "he's a pretty good writer."

"Yeah." He was, and for it I hated him even more. I wanted to hate Rick for saying that, but what use was fighting the truth? "But he just steals the lives of others. It's what he does." Leech, my mom would call him, feeding off the energy of the people who adored and loved him before swaining away to his next adventure.

"Won't your dad pay for your tuition, so you wouldn't have to work?" Zane asked. It took me a second to remember we'd talked about my acceptance to Parsons, and my fears about not having enough money.

"I didn't really ask, and my mom won't either. And the fucker would never off himself... he likes people coming to him, likes being the benefactor." There was more to it all, of course, but I was too drunk to explain it; it was a boring story in any case. "I can handle it."

"School?" Rick said quizzically.

"He's going to art school in NY next year." Zane explained. "He's taken this year off to earn money."

"Does he know you're going?" I hated questions coming from this man I loathed. I'd rather his sarcasm, so I could lash out at him, stop feeling so futile and powerless. I was an idiot. Saying something to my father would have been better. Maybe I would have had a chance to talk to him; vent my rage. And I hated this conversation for putting the thought of asking my dad for money in my head again; a thought I'd used great willpower to avoid. I liked the position of knowing that he could never say 'no' and break my heart if I never asked.

"Fuck him. Just... fuck, him."

Zane's hands were on my shoulder, and he steered me away from my benignly beaming father. "Come on. Let's go back."

"'kay."

"Sorry to be basket case," I said to Zane, as we headed off, the two of us now in the back. Wow, my stomach was a churning mess of anger and booze and extreme embarrassment. "That was so damn stupid. Everyone must think I'm psychotic."

Unexpectedly, he laughed, and briefly grabbed the back of my head, fingers in my hair before taking his hand away. My body tingled. "Ethan, we're a rock band. Trust me, our baseline for psychotic is much, much higher than most."

I guess that made sense, didn't it? But it certainly made me feel better.



When we got to the hotel I said good night to Dustin, and even got a - friendly? neutral, at worst - grunt from Jarod. Rick bumped into me, and before I could swear at him (I really was going to do it this time, really), he looked at me. "Daddy issues, huh? That explains so much." And he was gone.

But it was strange. There was less rancor than before, as if, somehow, I was less gutter-trash level to him now, at least. Something had changed in our conversation outside the Borders.

That didn't make it better, however. Actually, it made it worse. These weren't the type of circumstances under which I wanted Rick to start respecting me. (And it hurt my pride enough to admit I still really did want him to like me, blond bastard.)

"Arrgggh!" My snarling wasn't at anything, at anybody, but myself, but I wanted to tear at things, break things. This wasn't a feeling I was used to.

"How are you doing?" Zane asked quietly.

"Fuck!" he raised his eyebrows. "I'm sorry, Zane... maybe I should go back to my room, work this out."

Zane was silent, but shook his head. I was relieved - I didn't want to leave him. I'd better watch it, or I was going to get a hard-on standing in the lobby...

"Come up to my room?" He offered.

Yes, please. My turn to nod. We went to the elevators, Zane gave a blinding smile to the front desk receptionist, a good looking east Indian man, who I swear gave me a knowing look. Man, I was sensitive that night.

We got into his room, and I threw myself down on the bed with a dramatic huff. I was tired of standing, tired of thinking, just generally completely blah.

"Rick didn't help." I said, taking a deep breath. "He's such, such..."

"A dick?" He suggested.

"Yes, but, also..."

"A snob? He's famous for it." So I hadn't read him wrong.

"Yeah! He's a dick AND a fucking snob! Where the hell does he get off... I mean, first he's all calling me a bimbo and a slut, and then he's being a jerk about my dad, but suddenly it's not as bad? I mean, what difference does it make who my father is? It doesn't! He's a shit father anyways!" I took up a pillow and threw it against the wall. "Asshole! 'Understanding,' my ASS!" I wasn't sad any longer, now I was good and angry. I was also dimly aware I had changed the focus of my rant halfway through and my anger wasn't really making much sense at all, and didn't really care.

Zane was grinning.

"What?" I asked pugnaciously.

"You." He turned around on the bed, on his knees, and then stretched his legs out. Making it all seem rather feline. And sexy. Blood rushed all over my body. "You've been fired up all night, emotional.... I've never seen you like this. It's different. You're... worked up." He saw my eyes and where they were on his body, and, languidly, started to slowly undo his shirt as he spoke. "It didn't seem like you, you were always so... calm."

"complacent?" I countered, narrowing my eyes at him. "A pussy?"

"Serene."

"Ha!" I flopped on the bed to one side of him, flinging my arms out and looking at the ceiling. It was, not surprisingly, spinning. "If you knew what was going on in my head, I'd be the least serene person you know." Long fingers on my stomach, and I made a completely out-of-proportion noise of pleasure. He laughed. "You seem much more serene than I do."

He kissed my belly button then, and I buried a hand in his hair. "I keep my madness well ordered. That's not serenity. But I like seeing you like this, seeing you so alive." As his lips murmured up my stomach, fingers danced down my leg, and I squirmed.

"This is really not helping my 'serenity'," A thigh squeeze, and I groaned. "Not even slightly." I started to shift, to try to sit up and start touching him, but he unexpectedly firmly pushed me back down, and used one leg and his arms to keep me pinned. "Wha-"

"You are drunk, Ethan," he said firmly. "And I," he kissed the side of my neck, "am taking advantage of you."

"You are?"

"I am. Total, horrible, possibly sleazy advantage of you. Because you seem sober enough by now to handle it. How do you feel about that?"

"Oh, um, no? Please don't?" I said without any conviction whatsoever, my voice going up in pleasure at the end. "No, um... don't. Oh, fuck..." His tongue was dancing on my clavicle then, and his fingers dancing down my cock from outside my jeans.

I jerked rather violently, and moaned loudly. I was only a little embarrassed, but too turned on to be more embarrassed than that. My hands went out to stroke his arm - the closest appendence to me, and he shook his head. "No... I don't think you get to touch me, tonight."

"What?" Now I was thoroughly confused.

"Rick isn't all bad," He said, his smile widening.

"What do you mean?" It was a strange and confusing subject change, and one, if we were about to have sex, I wasn't very happy about. Zane was confusing the hell out of me.

Which was sorta hot. What the fuck was wrong with me?

He got off the bed, went to his suitcase, and pulled out... two ties. He wrapped one around his wrist, quirked a smile, and his meaning was blatantly clear. It had an authoritative, sexy snap to it, a universal language that needed no translation.

"I think I'd love to tie you up." My eyes widened, and my heart went crazy. "Something he said earlier made me think of this. I think he was trying to be insulting, not give me ideas." My mind was careening all over the place. Being tied up... I'd never even thought about it before. "What do you think? Ever been tied me up before?" He took off his shirt then, and his belt, and began to crawl towards me on the bed, muscles catching the lamp. Damn. He kissed my thigh, and I jerked, the sensation against my sensitive cold skin making me even hornier. "Want to give it a go?"

I was a bit confused. Was this what Zane was into, was this why we hadn't had sex yet?

"Just tell me if you need me to let you go, and I'll do it," He breathed gently in my ear, and the vibrations - as they tended to, with his voice - rumbled down to my erection. I took a deep breath, nodded... but I couldn't even complete that movement as his fingers were undoing my pants, rubbing my scrotum gently, and then further... Suddenly I didn't care if this was why we hadn't had sex yet.

And then my pants were off and I squirmed; somewhere between anticipation and nerves. "Fuck, you're beautiful." He smiled, hands running down my legs, and then back up, dancing on my torso. I groaned. Before I knew it my jeans were gone, on the floor.

Oh, damn, I felt totally vulnerable. It also felt awesome. The drinking was actually helping... worried voices weren't quiet, I was just... anticipating.

His mouth was suddenly where his hands had been, kissing all around. And then one of his hands slipped beneath my ass and up towards my hole, and when he reached the puckered ring I jerked, causing him to laugh. Goddamn ties! My hands itched to grab him so hard, I wanted to bite him, I wanted to...

Hell, I was so hard, I was whimpering. "Fuck me." I pleaded, and then my eyes widened. Where that came from, I wasn't sure... I'd never said it to anyone before. I'd not thought about it. But, suddenly, all these images from gay porn game rushing in and the thought of his cock inside me was something I didn't just want, I NEEDED it.

A finger slipped inside me, another major twitch. Keeping myself from thrashing about was so hard. And I knew, I could feel that I could get out of those ties... but, yet, I didn't want to. Being bound sucked. And in the same way being bound was absolutely awesome. Just like being with Zane was. I squirmed... felt full, his finger moved around slowly, I pushed back at him, wanting his finger further.

"No." Damn him, he was grinning.

"Why not?" I growled at him, and his grin widened.

"Wow, you're sexy when you get aggressive."

I moaned, in pleasure and pain and frustration. "Why does this feel like a game?"

"I like games," he nipped on my ear, removing his finger. I protested, empty now, hating it. He took off his shirt, revealing that sexy, lean chest, and then, slowly ran his still-clothed cock against mine. "I like delaying pleasure." From his suitcase came a small bottle of lube. It looked new... wow, he had been busy today. Wow, he'd been thinking of me...

"Delaying my pleasure, or yours?"

He chuckled. "Both." Twisty. Always twisty. Irresistible twisty bastard. Goddamn that felt so good; his fingers sliding inside me. It was unbelievable. I flexed my hole around him, feeling a bit stretched but so good, weird but GOOD. But I could tell he was still playing, not letting his fingers go as deeply inside me as they could, I wanted them to go deeper, further.

I could see, through his very tight skinny jeans, that he was hard as a rock. Damn, I wanted to touch his cock, take it in my mouth, convince him to fuck me with it. What did that feel like... As his fingers slipped in and out of me my legs slipped up and wrapped around him, pulling him closer. His other hand, which he had also covered with lube, wrapped around my erection.

Everything rushed towards my cock as he masturbated me, slowly at first, as his fingers moved around inside. I arched my back, arms straining against the ties. He leaned forward, kissing the inside of my knee, a wicked gleam in his eyes. He was so beautiful, I thought, before he slipped his fingers out... and slipped in, now three. And harder, deeper, oh, god.

It hurt a bit, that stretching sensation was even more. But I didn't care, because it felt so good, I felt out of control, as his hands moved, dual feelings of ecstasy. My breath was ragged, I was so close, it was unbearable. I could tell he was holding back, was keeping me from -

That's when his fingers hit my prostate, and I yelled, the explosion of sensation was too much. I came, and came, and my mind rolled in the biggest orgasm I'd ever had. His name might have come out in all the shouting I did, I didn't know.

As I floated down, twitching, Zane looked exceedingly pleased with himself. "You liked?"

I stared at him, incredulous he even had to ask, and he laughed. Then I noticed I'd cum all over him, his chest and pants. I started to apologize, and it was his turn to look at me with that incredulous look.

"You can cum on me anytime, Ethan." It was a completely sexy offer.

"And you can come *inside* me any time." I threw back, challengingly, and he raised his eyebrows at me, teasingly, before heading to the bathroom. "HEY!" I pulled at the ties holding my hands, wanting to be free, wanting to touch him, to do something to say thank you. Why did he like DOING this so much? Argh!

"In a second, you can wait." He languidly came back, and leaned down to kiss me, and then went into the bathroom, closing the door behind him and leaving me trying to fume, but unable to fight the sense of post-cuming contentment, sleepy and spent.

When Zane came out - hmmm, had he come himself when he was in there? Why would he feel a need to do that? - he changed out of his jeans, showing me his lean ass, and slipped on a pair of cotton trousers. He then finally came to me and slowly untied the ties. The second I was truly free I grabbed him, pulling him down totally onto the bed.

"Hey!" He protested, but I had his skinny body in a vice grip with mine, and he chuckled as I squeezed him in 'punishment' for leaving me tied up for so long. In truth, I was just enjoying holding him.

We settled in easily, with me nestled against his back, and he leaned over, turning off the light. I started to drift off...

"You know, I actually don't think Rick hates you as much as you think he does." He breathed into the darkness, unexpectedly. I blinked. Rick? I didn't want to think about him, and I wrinkled my nose, fighting back through the last remnants of the alcohol and the contentment pulling me down. I kept somewhat subconsciously twitching my legs against his body, feeling it, astounded at the sensations that had just run up and down every inch. Truthfully, I wanted it again, like I had said earlier, I wanted him to FUCK me, I wanted that sensation but pounding, repeating. Now I was putting myself in the place of the men I'd seen in porn, and I liked the image. I could feel myself getting hard again.. well, except for that bloody alcohol. Or maybe it holding me back was a good thing, because if I was more awake I'd probably just jump on him and demand he fucking fuck the hell out of me, hard, right then, right there, lube and condoms be damned.

"Why do you say that?" I asked sleepily. My head moved onto his chest, and he put his arm around me. I liked that. Staying right where I was became a more appealing proposition.

"It's hard to explain. He just seems to put a lot of effort into you, pissing you off. If he thought you were dirt, he'd treat you like that... below notice. Does that make sense?"

"Not even slightly." Well, maybe it did, a little bit, but I was too tired to pursue it.

His laughter was quiet, and I felt it more than heard it. "No, I suppose it didn't." His voice trailed off at the end, and I wasn't sure if that was because he was falling asleep, or I was. But at that point I was gone.

We must have only gotten a couple of hours of sleep, because, suddenly the phone went off at the side of the bed. There was some 'fuck' and shuffling, I blinked blurrily and watched him reach for it with lost fingers, finally grasping it clumsily and bring it to his ear. "Erica, What the hell?"

I could hear her voice through the phone, if not what she was saying. Zane sat up straighter as she talked, and was obviously now very awake. The urge to trail my finger down his chest was hard to resist.

"Really?" he smiled. "That's great... tomorrow? What time? Your phone? Okay. Yeah, no, don't apologize... glad you called, really. No, we'll tell them in the morning. Thanks, yeah. And there's a message for Ethan?" He'd told me before that all messages would go through her for all of us - it made handling press and wily fans much easier. " Anything wrong? No?" He looked at me, as if to ask if I wanted it now, but I figured it was just family. I shook my head, mouthed, 'tomorrow'. "I'll tell him to ask you about it in the morning. Great."

He hung up, and just stared off into space for a moment, eyes wide. He looked almost... shell-shocked?

"What?" I sat up on my elbows. "What happened?"

"Our new single, 'Let it Rise'... it's huge. In the US." He turned to me. "It's shooting up the charts. Radio stations are getting tons of requests. Clear Channel wants us to do an interview tomorrow. They'll cut it up and send it to all their rock stations. They're accelerating the international release."

"That's amazing!" I sat up all the way, suddenly very awake. "That's bigger than anything you've done, right?"

"Yeah... we've never really had a mainstream hit, I mean, that's okay, but...."

"This is big." I stated the obvious.

"Yeah. Yeah." And he leaned down, and kissed me passionately, engulfingly. Sloppily, for him, but that was still sexy. His excitement was infectious, and I threw my arms around him, and squeezed.

"You guys really do deserve it."

"It's luck, it's really a lot of luck." I was now mostly on top of him, and while he was talking, his hands moved over my hips, my very naked hips, and I pulled the sheets that were still a little wrapped around me and working as a barrier between us.

"Congratulations..." I breathed in the skin right above his cock, , and smoothly took him in my mouth. He might have not let me do anything to him last time so he could be all in-control, but it was time for me to get him back. Revenge for the games he was playing. Damn, it felt good. Damn, I wanted him to fuck me so badly.

"Tha-nnnnnnnnnnnnnn," he groaned, and then there wasn't anything more intelligible.



I slipped back to my own room in the morning - not waking him up, his sleeping ability was awe-inspiring, and called Erica's at around 10, figuring that was a reasonable time. I was impatient to get to an internet cafe and write Mina and Scott about everything that was happening, Snowborne hitting it big, etc. I needed to tell someone everything going on in my head. It was all exciting, and new.

The sexy bits I might not give to Scott, of course, not really sure he was able to handle the down and dirty. Actually, I felt the same about Mina, although maybe in a completely different sense of 'couldn't handle it'.

With time to kill and not wanting to bother anyone out of their sleep I'd spent the time in-between sketching figures and bits of fashion from last night at the concert and the club, Zane, and then wondered at how dirty some of my art was getting.

Maybe this is what happened when you actually had a sex life, huh?

Erica sounded very chipper when I spoke to her... I figured it was "Ethan, you got two phone calls yesterday. One, from a Christina - she said she met you in a club, she'd like to talk to you about an opportunity, I have her number." I scribbled it down as she rattled it off. An... opportunity? Huh.

"The second was from your dad... he wants to talk to you."

"Shit." It just came out, unbidden. I wonder how he'd found me? Oh, probably mom; I knew they kept in the barest of touch when it came to me. If he'd called her, upset that I'd just shown up in front of him and said nothing before disappearing, she's probably given him my contact info. And I'll also probably get yelled at when I talk to her again, probably deservedly. It was a punk move on my part. I still wasn't sure what I was thinking.

"You in trouble?" Erica asked shrewdly.

"Yes... no. Sorta, I guess. I don't see him much."

"Huh. Well, he said it was 'critical' he speak to you." I rolled my eyes. Sure, whatever. Suddenly I thought of my stupid display at Borders last night, the ridiculous throwing of my drink and swearing at a picture of my dad in front of the band. I wondered what they thought of me today? That I was a 'nutter', most likely. The crazy little groupie. Oh, well, I'd deal with that later. Also, I didn't actually care what Rick thought of me, right? So the hell what! Asshole.

If I kept telling myself that...

"Thanks, Erica."

"No problem... Hey, Ethan, did Zane tell you what's going on in the next two days?"

If he did, I was distracted, but I didn't think so. "No."

"Well, today we're doing interviews, but tonight is a meeting and recording session with the label. The boys have to do a couple of things for the soundtrack, record some promos for radio stations. We thought you'd want to join us, it might be interesting."

"Sure, that sounds cool."

"And then tomorrow we leave for the north - big two day festival, we're a main stage act for day two but it's good to be there for day one, that's when a lot of the press happens. Seems to be before the reporters are all too trashed to really pay attention to what's going on." The way she dryly said the last part made me laugh.

"We'll keep you informed, check the desk. Actually..." Her voice trailed off. "You know what we need to get you? An international cell phone, just so you don't feel like you're trapped by the band's ever-changing schedule. I know you don't want to keep having to check in, it's a pain, I'm sure, when you're just trying to enjoy your trip."

"But - " I Was about to protest, not wanting more money spent on me, but she didn't even give me a chance to answer; truthfully, it had sounded like she was talking to herself, not me.

"Don't think about it." She was psychic... I was increasingly impressed with her ability to read a situation, or what was going on in people's head. Or, well, at least in mine. "I'll have it sent to your room and I'll make sure my number's in there."

"Okay."

"Great! Talk to you later, Ethan." And she was gone.

It took me a moment after I hung up to notice I felt... giddy. Her running down what was up and my place in it was exciting, like, I was being informed, I was part of the plans, I was being considered. It was exciting. It made me feel less like a hanger-on, and yet more guilty for being one.

But, no. No, fuck the guilt, right? Zane had told me he wanted me here, I was here. Sure, it might have had something to do with his enjoyment in toying with me sexually, something that still confused and excited me and I know I needed to think about how I felt about this 'sex-delayed' game. Just THINKING about it made me hard, and my breathing shallower, and my face to feel hot. Damn.

Once again, I felt completely, and totally screwed. I was screwed emotionally, what-the-hell-was-I-doing-here? Mentally, sexually. It was exhilarating.

The next day was a day of change, and of madness... Good and bad.

To be continued!