Romantic, wordy, and a tad goofy.

The Groupie Part 13

"Want to do another one? It's on me," A voice asked. I turned, and it was an attractive man with smooth dark skin, a white shirt, black pants, and glasses. This place was full of cinematic people.

"Thanks." I gave him the best smile I could manage.

"Cheers." I nodded and tipped mine back. This shot burned as it slipped down my throat, and a warm feeling began to spread throughout my body.

The man smiled. "What's your name?"

"Ethan. Thank you for the drink."

He leaned forward, and I had to admit he smelled excellent, and was incredibly handsome. That's what I could do as a sort of revenge, I could flirt, right, throw myself on random, beautiful men? "Want another one?" I looked at him, and found that, no, I couldn't even flirt successfully.

 With one last smile I left the bar. It was rude of me to not even engage in light conversation, I knew, and usually I hated to be rude. But I was feeling very petulant, and the alcohol was moving to my head quickly. If I stayed right there I was going to keep downing them, and I was no heavyweight.

So I was going to dance. I found a spot in the middle of the floor I began to move my body and worked on pretending nothing, no one else, was there.

Song after song rolled over me, and I was lost in it; just drunk enough to feel a touch spacey. Sometimes I would meet the eyes of other dancers or, in the natural flow of the whirl of people and rhythm find myself dancing with someone else or a group. The beat sort of became me; the DJ pumping up the intensity of the music. A couple of times I think people were trying to dance with me, but I would slip away after a while, moving a bit on the dance floor. They seemed to get the hint. One drunk young woman literally threw herself at me at one point, wrapping her arms around my waist, and I humored her for a bit, propping her up before untangling myself and letting her friends drag her away.

At some point I got myself another drink, moving myself dangerously close to drunk.

I'm not sure how long I was in this trance - time seemed to fly by, but I had no idea - but after at least an hour I saw Zane at the edge of the dance floor. He appeared to be looking for something, craning his neck slightly to peer through the crowd.

That something was probably me. Something that might have been joy rose in my gut over the fact he was actually curious where I was, until I caught sight of Charice next to him, talking. I flinched backwards, accidentally hitting the nice couple who was dancing nearby.

"Sorry," I apologized, and they nodded kindly. I fled in the other direction while sticking to the wall, now once again dangerously close to Snowborne's table. A woman stepped out smoothly in front of me, a stunning blond with just a touch of age around her eyes and mouth. She looked familiar somehow.

"You're an excellent dancer, you know that?" she said with a charming smile. There was a slight European accent, I never could have placed from where without help. "Would you dance with me?"

"Um, no, I..."

"But it's my birthday." This was obviously a woman who was used to getting what she asked for. There was no petulance in her voice, just confidence. "Just a couple of songs? There's really no one else worth dancing with. " Behind her was a table, and I could see a group of attractive, well-dressed people smiling at us in amusement. They were painfully fashionable. I sort of wished I could run back to the hotel, climb in my crappy old threads and crawl into bed. Was she - and them - mocking me? But her smile was sincere.

It was another bizarre occurrence on an increasingly bizarre trip, and hell, I was a little drunk. I might as well go with it, I thought.

I nodded. "Sure."

Her friends cheered in what seemed a good-hearted way, and I had to smile. And then I recognized her, and leaned forward, the drinks making me bolder than usual.

"Um... I hope this isn't rude, but aren't you Bridget Fontaine?"

"That would be me. And how would that ever be rude? I like who I am." Her smile was impish. "Who are you?"

"Ethan," I said. I think I was blushing. Bridget was an astoundingly, ethereally beautiful woman; age had treated her very well. She took my arms and let me spin her out.

It was very strange to me that I was introducing myself politely while dancing with a woman who used to be one of the world's best known supermodels. While avoiding my rock singing sorta-lover. In a dance club in London. I sort of didn't even feel like myself. I wasn't comfortable being wrapped in drama.

"A pleasure, Ethan." She indicated she wanted me to dip her, and I did so, causing her to laugh when she came back up. "Do you compete?"

"I stopped in high school - juniors international." I admitted. "You?"

"I was briefly pro, before modeling. But I still take classes." She squeezed my arm before shimmying out of my arms. "The dancing never leaves your blood, does it?"

"I guess not." I found myself matching her grin. Her joy was infectious, and for the first time that evening I stopped thinking about Zane, however briefly.


Dustin, Jarod, and Rick shut up the second Zane and Charice approached the table; Jarod had been going off about Ethan, his disgust at the situation rising in direct proportion to how much he drank. Rick listened with a half-smile, commenting acerbically now and then, and Dustin basically ignored them both.

Rick noted that Zane did not look happy as he sat down, his lips pursed.

"Find him?" Dustin asked in a neutral tone.

"Kid's disappeared!" Charice said cheerfully. "Where did your cousin get off to, Rick?"

"Well, knowing him," he shrugged, "probably doing dirty things to someone in a dark corner, or a bathroom." He was watching Zane carefully as he spoke; the singer's face briefly flared up in something very close to rage before he looked away. Rick wasn't pleased by the reaction; he surprised himself. The fact that Zane could still get so upset confused him, since it was obvious he had no interest in Ethan.

The man doesn't make sense, he thought. No fucking sense whatsoever.

"Speaking of, I'm going to the bathroom," Dustin suddenly said after looking at both Rick and Zane in bemusement. Jarod stood up to let him pass. "I'll tell you if he's in there."

Jarod snorted. "Please don't."

"He'd really be in there, huh?" Charice lifted her eyebrows. "Kind of a wild child? He seemed so sweet and shy."

"Yeah, sweet and shy, my ass." Rick sneered, his annoyance pushing him further. "He's a real problem in our family, a-"

"No he's not," Zane interrupted, voice tightly controlled. "He's nothing like that."

"How would you know, Zane?" Rick shot back. Zane's look was poison.

"Yeah, Zane, how would you know?" Charice lifted her drink, waving it in Rick's general direction. "He IS family."

Zane opened his mouth to retort when suddenly Dustin was standing there again.

"That was a really quick piss," Charice observed.

"Found him," the drummer said, and pointed to the dance floor, to the side from where they were sitting but within view.

They turned and saw Ethan dancing, semi-formally, with a stunning blond in a short, shimmering silver dress. He was smiling, and obviously enjoying himself.

Charice laughed out loud, which ended in an unfortunate smoker's cough. "Shit, Rick! Where did he learn to dance like that?"

Even the guitarist had to admit he was good. He ignored the question. Much of the dance floor and most of the surrounding tables were watching them, as they made a shockingly attractive couple on top of the impressive dance moves.

"Hey, isn't that that supermodel?" Jarod asked. "You know, the one who was in that wet picture, you know, like, 15 years ago?"

"That's real specific," Dustin said wryly, "But I know what you're talking about, the black and white one. Yeah, I think it is."

"When did we enter a fucking candid camera episode of Dancing With the Stars?" Rick rolled his eyes. "Such a gigolo, it's embarrassing."

"It's goddamn sexy, that's what it is," Charice chuckled. "Boy has rhythm...and look at that hip action."

"Yuck," Jarod made a disgusted face, and went back to his drink.

Zane just watched, face blank, before they were all interrupted by the club owner coming by to see how everything was going. Rick noted that Zane wasn't half as smooth as usual.


After dancing Bridget took me back to her table to introduce me to her friends; a group of such comfortable and confident creative talent I was overwhelmed.

There was a graphic designer that I had heard of, an up and coming designer, a model agent, a commercial director looking to get into movies... they were of various ages and they were all very charming, urbane, and stylish. I felt very out of place.

They bought me a couple of more drinks, which I couldn't refuse nor wanted to. Bridget squeezed my knee warmly, and I got as used to their rhythm after a few minutes as I possibly could. They had a very flowing and friendly interaction, full of ,

"Are you a student, Ethan?" Richard, the graphic designer, asked me during a lull in an argument they had been having about 'public' art, whether it counted as vandalism and who should be the judge if it is or not. It had been fascinating.

"Not yet, but starting in the Fall," I admitted. "I'll be going to art school in New York."


"Parsons." I took a sip of my vodka tonic; my head was spinning a bit. The room was spinning a bit.

"Very good school," He said warmly. "I know a couple of people there. Let me jot their names down, you should stop by and see them." He pulled out a card and began writing

"Um, sure, thank you!" I smiled at him. Even through the booze I could tell that wasn't an insignificant favor this near-stranger was doing for me.

We chatted, and the drinking gave me social skills I didn't usually have. Not that I talked much; I was just loquacious for me. They were fascinating, friendly and sarcastic, warm. Bridget, who I now noticed had been drinking quite a bit herself, leaned into to me with a mischievous gleam in her eye.

"Who are you here in London with, Ethan? Your family? Friends?"

I shook my head mutely, not quite sure how to answer that, my crappy dissembling skills even crappier than usual.


I paused at that, tilting my head.

"Boyfriend?" Martin, the director, interjected with a knowing grin.

I half-smiled and held up my hand, giving a rocking gesture of ambivalence. They laughed, and Bridget sighed dramatically.

"Ah, well, you were a bit too young for my planned seduction, in any case." She ruffled my hair, and I blushed madly. "But you are adorable."

"Very adorable," Christina, the model agent agreed in a thoughtful tone of voice; she had been the quietest of the group so far, so I was a bit surprised she spoke up.

"Ethan." I looked up, startled at Zane's voice. He was standing by the table, expression neutral, hands in pockets. The table turned to him, eyeing him speculatively. "We're heading out." He nodded at them as a short greeting.

"Oh. Um, okay. I'll be there in a second." He nodded, and left. I scrambled up, feeling oddly guilty.

"Uh, thank you all so much. Bridget, Happy Birthday! Thank you for dancing with me."

She eyed me thoughtfully. "No, thank you for dancing with an old lady." I smiled at that, she was late 30s at the most, and looked far younger. "Can I have your email, Ethan? I'm in New York now and then, and I would love to see you again, at the least for another dance." I laughed and she winked. Rummaging in her purse she came out with a small pad, and I wrote my information down.

"Bye, Ethan, it was wonderful to meet you," Richard lifted his hand to wave goodbye; it was echoed by the others.

"No, thank you, really." I shook my head to dismiss what I worried was feigned pleasure. They were such dynamic, lovely people. "You saved my night." I was embarrassed the moment it came out of my mouth; man, I must have sounded so pitiful. I was pitiful.

Bridget briefly took hold of my hand and squeezed it with an expression reflected in that of her friends that, when I thought about it with a more sober mind later, was one of sympathy, although not really of pity. "Tell that handsome man of yours to be good to you, Handsome."

If I said anything to that I might burst into tears, so instead I nodded and fled.

The table was empty, except for Zane. He saw me and then looked away, staring at the crowd blankly.

I sat down. The strange ache somewhere around my chest that I was starting to get accustomed to returned. The last drink I had just finished was rushing to my head, and I wasn't really completely seeing straight. "Did everyone already leave?" I asked him in what I hoped was a casual tone of voice.

"No." He shook his head, and finally looked at me. "Charice saw someone she knew that she had to talk to, some DJ, and Jarod and Rick went with her. Dustin finally went to the bathroom. He somehow managed to forget after he saw you dancing." He smiled a bit at that, but I couldn't return it. The smiled dropped. "Did you have fun?" The question could have been rhetorical, it was said in such a neutral tone of voice. His eyes had wandered again.

"Fuck you."

I didn't think he heard me at first. I was looking down at the table, staring, unseeing, at a ring of moisture on the table where a drink must have been. I knew my voice was low. He turned his head, puzzled.


My face twisted; I didn't have the self-control to compose it, to compose my words and control my stupid, churning emotions.

"I...nothing." I couldn't say it again. I instantly felt horrible. But I knew where it came from. It was a "fuck you" that covered a lot - for inviting me, for treating me like I shouldn't be here. After the warmth, the enjoyment of Bridget and her friends... Strangers! And here was the man who invited me, indifferent and bored.  He didn't tell me he had a girlfriend, a girlfriend who would be on the trip. He let me ride in a taxi with someone who despised me, someone who seems to have made it a personal point to make me feel as horrible as possible. Made me pretend I was that same jerk's cousin. He gave me money like I was a whore. And every word he said to me made me feel 2 inches tall, a reminder of how unwelcome I was.

Those two words had expressed what I couldn't hold in anymore. That wall I'd used all day to keep my emotions contained had been dissolved by drinks and the intensity of the evening.

But I couldn't say all that; didn't know how to. And I was glad he hadn't heard me. My guilt ate the flame of near-rage as quickly as it appeared. I'd taken a risk, and failed. He'd flown me to England, for god's sake, and that money didn't have to be insulting - Rick had said Zane was too generous for his own good. Yeah. Indeed.

I buried my palms in my eyes. "Forget it. I'm sorry. I should... just go home tomorrow. As soon as I can, at least. I can pay for it. I should just go. I'm so sorry I came. You were just being polite. I'm so very sorry, Zane." I dropped my hands, looked up, ready for more icy indifference, perhaps even relief.

And then I saw his face.

It was an expression unlike any I had seen before from him. I felt like I was starring at a different man. He looked so startled and... young. The intensity was gone, the self-assurance. His lips were open, his eyes wide. His face was pale.

We stared at each other for god knows how long. I don't know what he saw in my face, but I was paralyzed by his. It wasn't the reaction I had been expecting. It wasn't indifference.

His mouth opened, as if he was going to say something.

"Sorry, boys," Charice walked up, Jarod and Rick not far behind. "I couldn't not say hello to Bernie; I owe him some favors." Rick made an arch expression behind her and tapped his nose, and even I caught the broad suggestion behind her words.

Zane was still watching me, and I couldn't take it anymore. Jumping up I said, "I'm ready to go." Rick narrowed his eyes and looked to his band leader, obviously curious. He was always watching, I now noticed; it added to what an unsettling asshole he was.

"Ethan!" Charice's already huge eyes went wide, and she grinned. "That was amazing... where the hell did you learn to dance like that?"

"Um, I did competitive ballroom dancing for a long time," I said distractedly. "But I quit to concentrate on art. Didn't have time for both." Or the money to stay on the circuit, honestly. I'd replaced the exercise I'd gotten from dancing with the swim team in my last year, but I had missed it.

"It was impressive," Dustin entered the conversation, standing next to me with a small smile. "Made quite a show."

"Thanks." I tried to smile back at him, but his almost sad return smile suggested I failed.

"Well, come on!" Charice linked her arm through mine, and practically dragged me outside. It was humid, air damp, and I wondered if it was going to rain. "You're in my car, handsome. I'm tired of these boys."

I tried not to look horrified, or at Zane. I'd said what I'd said, and I couldn't take it back. Obviously, I'd been a complete thankless bastard, or he wouldn't have looked at me like that. But it was probably the right thing to do... This couldn't continue.

 I'd work on my return flight first thing tomorrow. The hit to my savings was the least I deserved. Charice was babbling something beside me; maybe being with her wasn't a bad thing. She didn't really seem to expect much feedback. Thinking about how much Zane didn't like to talk about himself it might explain how they worked as a couple. I then dismissed concentrating on the fact they were a couple at all, because it hurt.


Sitting in the vehicle with her, I smiled dimly as she chattered on about everything and nothing. She was definitely high, and I barely listened. I ached, my heart ached, but I was also confused. That expression on his face... And then Zane's name tumbled out in ramble. Despite myself I finally turned to her. "What?"

Charice laughed. She leaned her head on my shoulder and I tried not to tense up. God, I was drunk. "You really are. Sort of like Zane, which is what I was saying."

"Really?" I couldn't keep my voice neutral. "How?"

"Quiet. Totally spaced out. But..." She giggled. "You talk sometimes; you're not totally silent."

I wasn't quite sure what that meant, but I couldn't resist. "What do you mean? What was he like?"

"Let's see... met him in middle school..." she rolled her eyes up and squinted, as if accessing information. "Yeah, we were 12, or something. And he didn't talk. At all. Except about music... and even then it was hard to get him going. You know what was funniest, though?" She leaned in conspiratorially.


"The way he looked! He was so skinny, it was hilarious. He was like a scarecrow. Tall and all crazy hair and bones. His mother hated how he dressed; old T-shirts and jeans. He wouldn't wear anything else. He wouldn't stand up straight for his life." I blinked at her. This didn't fit the Zane I saw now at all. "He only talked to me because I dragged him into my band and wouldn't leave him alone all through high school. You wouldn't believe how much he didn't like other people. He was so dark, if I'd left him to his own devices I think he was totally heading towards gothdom. I probably dated him just because he was the most silent boyfriend ever."

"He's not totally silent," I pointed out, drawn in by my curiosity. There was something strange about the way she was talking about him. It was completely void of romance. Had they been together so long?  "Actually, he's, collected, but, he talks, he..."

"You haven't been around him much! How much have you actually heard him talk? I mean, really," She challenged, pleased I'd joined the conversation. Charice was not a woman comfortable with silence, at least not in her current state. Luckily, she didn't leave room for an answer. I wasn't in the right frame of mine to dissemble about how much I HAD heard him talk. I opened my mouth and quickly shut it. She'd sidled up to me, and was almost in my lap, and I was proud of myself that I didn't inch away. Or push her off; the numbing effect of alcohol made it all easier.  "But he went to NYU for school, pretty much the same guy I knew at 12, and came back... well, Snowborne Zane."

She stopped talking, and closed her eyes, and I resisted shaking her. "Snowborne Zane?" I prompted. "What do you mean?"

"Um. It was years before, he was in a different group, but, still, okay, rock band Zane. He dropped out of college, and when he came back to Seattle to see his fam he was all slick. I mean, he stood up straight, brushed his hair, dressed well. Said he was going to only be a musician. Talked sometimes. All confident. It was really weird."

"What happened?"

"No idea. He's just weird." She didn't sound particularly curious, either.

"You didn't... date during college?"

"Date during college?" She laughed. "Oh, I always forget we're 'dating'. No, we didn't." I was thoroughly confused by her emphasis, the fact she always forgot they were 'dating' (I hated that gave me a rush of enjoyment - what did it matter anymore?), and by her verbal picture of Zane. Oddly enough, it didn't sound like she knew who he was now much better than I did, somehow. "You smell good." She purred unexpectedly, but I wasn't sure it was sexual. Charice obviously just said what she felt like saying at any given time.

I wasn't sure if she fell asleep, but I was grateful for the sudden silence. Charice was so very weird. She was made of sharp, sudden edges and verbal turns, and I didn't like them.

And I had to focus, ignore the ache, maybe go to Erica tonight arrange to get me out of here; I wasn't sure Zane even cared enough to go through the effort. Then why had he looked so hurt, a little voice asked? Because I took him by surprise, I reasoned. It didn't matter who Zane was then, it mattered who he was now. And he was someone who didn't want me here. It was embarrassing that I'd have to go back so quickly, but hell, only a few people knew in any case. Some things just failed. This experiment had failed.

I felt something on my cheek, and, lifting my hand, was surprised to find it wet. I had no idea how long I'd been crying.

"We're here, sir," The cab driver said quietly, and Charice lifted her head. I quickly wiped my eyes.

The other two cabs pulled in behind us and practically sprung up and out. Zane came forward to pay the cabbies.

His eyes met mine through the window and his brow furrowed; I looked away, waiting until he had moved back onto the sidewalk before exiting the vehicle myself

"We're not staying here and drinking?" Charice was saying, obviously disappointed. "I would have stayed out if I had known that."

"I'm going for a walk," Rick responded shortly, and I looked at him. His lip was puffy and red, split, as if... he'd been hit? Had Zane hit him?

 Were they always this fractured, or was it truly all my fault?  Rick's face said yes. He was glaring at Zane, who was ignoring him, instead staring at me. Rick muttered something, lit a cigarette and walked in my direction.

As he passed by me he stopped to lean in, blowing a puff of smoke in my face with a snarl. "You're a cancer, kid, you know that?"

"Just fuck off, Rick," I said without rancor or looking at him. "I don't know anything and I don't care what you think."

It was true. At this point he really didn't matter. None of these people mattered.

I waited until he had disappeared around the corner until I spoke to no one in particular. "I'm going to go for a walk also, I think." I headed in the other direction.

Charice said something I didn't hear clearly, and I didn't even bother to ask her to repeat herself or turn my head.

I had no idea where I was heading.

How do emotions turn themselves around so quickly? Was life always so goddamn disappointing? Damn it, I was crying again. A couple of people I passed looked at me, but I was too drunk and depressed to be embarrassed.

It was a good walk, one with no goal. But I sobered up a bit, watched those out and about downtown very late at night as my mind seemed to get stuck on how I ended up here. I went over my time with Zane in Chicago, how I felt so very connected to him, both sexually and personally. Briefly. Deliriously. Yet I felt it was my fault that connection had had disappeared in the morning; I didn't know how to do casual intimacy.

And yet that encounter had sent me spinning into the emotions that allowed me to say yes to coming here. And no one in my life had told me not to, probably because they could tell how deeply and intensely I really wanted to come, how much I wanted Zane.

They had simply wanted the best for me. They had wanted him to be as into me as I was into him. Just like I had.

I had come here open, ready for that connection, or at least to do my damnedest at it despite my nervousness, my fear. I'd been briefly convinced he was into me, at the very least sexually, and I had felt confident, attractive, wanted to the point he was willing to fly me to Europe.

My mood didn't get any better by the time I came back around to the hotel. I wondered what I had done, or if there was anything I could have done, good or bad, to change the situation.  I was heart sick, but it was my own stupid fault; who had asked for my heart, anyways?

Zane hadn't. But I'd wrapped it up all pretty anyways.

I asked at the desk what room Erica was in, and while they said their policy was to not give out room numbers, they called up; there was no answer. It depressed me to find out she wasn't there, but all I could do was wait.

In the elevator I took a deep breath and it came out ragged. Closing my eyes I felt his lips on mine, his fingers on my skin, even that brief moment that morning with his beautiful head of hair between my legs.

Damn it, no crying. It was embarrassing and silly. I wasn't a kid anymore.

I walked into my room, closed the door, turned on the light...

And Zane was sitting on my bed.

His elbows were on his outspread knees leaning forward, and he was looking at me. The posture was casual but the tension in his body, the expression on his face, was not. That strange, studied effect of his. I had a flashback to the first time I met him in The Blow dressing room.  Like then the light was low, only one small table lamp throwing light from next to mirror, bouncing off the planes of his face.

I had no desire for him to be there. I didn't know what he had come to talk about, but I could guess it would cause even more ache.

We stared at each other until I had to look away.

"Ethan-" Zane started.

I interrupted him, my words all coming out in a breathless rush.

"I tried to contact Erica, but she's not in her room; I'll... talk to her first thing tomorrow. I know you're busy. I'll just leave, I don't want to bother you, or be dramatic." He opened his mouth again, so I kept talking to make him shut it.

I really, truly didn't want to hear it. I had no idea what I was doing; maybe I hoped I could talk him out of saying anything at all. "I'm really sorry for being so rude in the club; I'm really grateful you brought me here. Just, I, I..."

Damn it, I wish I was more confrontational. I couldn't seem to get out, 'I don't think you want me here'. Maybe because I just couldn't stand, couldn't handle him finally, firmly confirming that fact. "Rick, Jarod, they're not comfortable with me here, you have Charice, know. I need to leave." I was running out of things to say that didn't seem to have me mentally coming back to the point.

I guess I didn't have it in me to quite talk enough to keep him from talking.

Zane's expression had shifted again, once again that of the man in the club, hurt, and so very young. It didn't make things easier. His brow furrowed.

And then with a grimace he brought his palms up to his forehead; so suddenly it was almost violent. "Damn it! I don't know what I'm doing!" His fingers clenched at his scalp, and I blinked, startled. I'd never heard that tone of voice from him before, that much emotion.

It made me feel horrible and confused. I took a deep breath. "Neither do I. I'm sorry, Zane. I think... I thought you did." I sat down on the bed, around the corner of it from him, our backs perpendicular; my legs didn't feel like they wanted to hold me up anymore. Everything inside me really was just an echoing void.

Yet now saw I should be grateful in a way that he was here; it was better than us not talking about it at all, no matter how painful it was, at least I'd have that. "I just wish... you could have told me that, I guess." I looked down at my hands. "Rick has been really crappy, and... I just wish I knew you had a girlfriend. What you do or what arrangement or whatever, is your business, really. I can't have an opinion there," I was proud of myself for that one, since it was kind of a lie, "but... it would have been easier to handle her, and lying, if you had told me. Or even told me," just say it, damn it, "just, that you wish I hadn't come. That you didn't know what you were doing when you invited me."

I smiled a little bit at myself, and all my stupid expectations. "It would have been easier."

"God damn it," Zane swore behind me, and I wondered what I had done now.

His hand shot out, and grabbed my wrist while moving so he was sitting next to me. I whipped my head around to stare at him, startled by the sudden touch, and found he had twisted his body around and was glaring at me. "That's. Not. What I meant. Ethan..." A hand came up to my face, touching my cheek, his thumb under my chin.

My pulse quickened; what was he doing? What was going ON? "Don't go," he breathed. "I don't know if I can convince you stay now, but, I want you to. Please."

I felt my cheeks flame and was embarrassed and suddenly angry. I was so sick of being so CONFUSED. Jerking my face out of his grasp, I stood up. "How can you want me to?" My hands clenched in frustration. "I can't stay like this. I can't handle being treated like an unwelcome child... I can't handle Rick. I can't handle lying. I can't take you... you..." I closed my eyes, fighting tears. "You don't WANT me, Zane. You don't want to talk to me. You don't want me with you. You don't even seem to really want me to touch you. I don't know you at all. I can't read you, but every time I think I have you just a little bit figured out you turn into something else. Why in hell would I stay? Why are you DOING this to me? Why can't you just tell me you don't want me? Why..." I cut myself off, embarrassed and exhausted from my outburst. "I should just go. I have to go."

I was so emotionally tired, with the alcohol not helping, that I just wanted to curl up and sleep. I needed him out of my room, away with his presence and his beautiful lips and deep, seductive voice.

"Why...? Because I do... I do want you." His hand came out and lightly landed on my stomach. As if in a trance I looked at it, frozen to the spot. He looked up into my eyes, trapping them. "I want you very badly, Ethan. It," He looked away, winced, and took a deep breath before turning back, "scares me how much I want you."

"Then why are you treating me like this if you want me?" I whispered, hating what his saying those words did to me, despite all the evidence to the contrary, all the sucky things that had happened. His touching me was also confusing everything all to hell, "Is this... just how it is?"

His arms wrapped around my waist, slowly, slipping around my torso and pulling me forward. He leaned his hair on my chest, fingers digging into my back. My head fell back and I stared at the ceiling, trying to breathe. His voice was so deadly when he said these words, so beautiful and raw.

"No. I don't know how it is. Before you got here I panicked. I thought this was a very bad idea. I can't..." His grip tightened. "It's hard for me to keep my cool around you somehow. I don't think when you're around." He turned his head, running his lips lightly across the top of my rib cage and I groaned involuntarily. "I don't feel in control."

"That's not what it seems like... You seem to be all cool, all the time." The words came out much more bitter than I meant them to. And yet maybe that was a good thing. Maybe that was honest of me. "I can't... match... your cool. The band's cool. I'm not cool. I'm not cool at all." It was hard for me to talk with him wrapped around me like that. It wasn't fair.

"I don't want you to be like this, 'cool'; it's the last thing I want. You don't want to be like me." He made a noise, a humorless laugh. "I don't know if I can convince you to stay now, but... I have no excuses. I don't know what to do. I don't know why you do this to me."

I was now standing between his legs, pulled close to his body slowly, and I was trapped. In oh so many ways. His chin rested now on my stomach, and his eyes were raw. "I thought ignoring you, I thought... not thinking about you would make it easier, keep me calm, and all it did was agitate me more. I couldn't send you away and yet tried to push you as far as I could. All I can think about is throwing you down," His hands were on my face again, and this time I didn't pull away. "Talking to you, kissing you, fucking you, touching you. Watching you dance with someone else, so beautiful... It drives me crazy how much I want you." His face contorted. "Why do I want you so much, Ethan?"

I lifted my hand to his and put it on top; one of them was trembling, I couldn't tell if it was mine or his.

"I have no idea," I said quietly. "I really don't." If I could tell you, maybe you could tell me; maybe you could explain this horrible ache for someone I barely knew. Someone I knew even less than I thought I did.

This man talking to me was nothing like the one I had seen before, this conflicted young man was not the smooth creature I revered. But, god, he wasn't any less beautiful. The nakedness of his face was killing me, pulling me down.

Seeing this Zane was scary as hell, and I knew, somewhere, exactly why.

"I'm sorry," he pulled me down into him, and his lips met mine; I was slow in responding to his kiss because my face felt numb and yet on fire at the same time, blood and adrenaline and emotions rushing around my body in a confused tangle. Soon I was on my knees, head tilted up to Zane's and his hand buried in my hair. I clutched at his thighs. "I'm sorry, Ethan," He kissed my eyelids gently. "Stay. I'm sorry to treat you like crap, for Jarod and Rick; for lying, for not telling you about Charice." He rested his forehead on mine. "She has nothing to do with us. It will get better, I promise." His fingers were light, running down and tracing the side of my face. "I want to make you happy."

Us. We were an "us?" Happy? Oh, god, I couldn't think anymore.

My chest was rising and falling rapidly; my hands clutched at his shirt at his side and moved around his lean, strong back.

Zane tilted his head to kiss me again, and stopped, his eyes searching mine. "Won't you say anything?" He whispered.

I simply shook my head quickly, silently, and crushed my lips to his, throwing my full weight into him. We went down in a tangle of limbs and there was no more thought.


To Part 14