Romantic, wordy, and a tad goofy.

The Groupie Part 11

Rick knocked on Zane's apartment door. Thirty seconds later it swung open to Dustin, standing there and guffawing.

"What the hell's your problem?" The guitarist asked as he slipped into the room. "Someone tell a joke?" Dustin stopped laughing and grinned.

"Yeah, kinda," The bald man closed the door. "Zane said something pretty damn funny, at least."

"What did he…" Before he could finish the question he heard Erica yelling.

"Zane, this is the most singularly ridiculous thing I've ever heard from you!" Rick could tell she was pacing the room, the direction and volume of her voice changing and moving while her heels clicked quickly on the hardwood floors. "Why couldn't you talk to me first? It's… it's… Ridiculous!"

"You said that already," Zane answered dryly.

Rick lifted a blond eyebrow at Dustin, who just shrugged with a snortle. Curious, he moved through the long foyer towards the living room. It was a beautiful, fairly spacious apartment, especially for New York. Zane lived well. It was one of many things he envied him for.

Zane was sitting on his red couch, long legs crossed, the picture of relaxation. The morning sun gave his hair an auburn tint. He was looking to the side, as if bored, cheekbones drawn inward. The signs of tension were subtle, but there.

Jarod was sitting in the loveseat across the way underneath a massive lithograph of a photograph of downtown Tokyo, his face sour and tired. But he always looked tired before 10pm.

Erica was livid, with her face white and drawn and eyes panicked. This wasn't usual; Zane usually could do no wrong in her eyes. She swung her blazing gaze to Rick as he came in to sit next to their singer.

"Rick! Thank god." She waved a hand in Zane's direction. "Talk some sense into him! Please!"

Rick lifted an eyebrow and turned to Zane. "We're breaking up?"

Zane shook his head. "No."

"Canceling the rest of the tour?"


"Becoming Emo heartthrobs? Duets with Kelly Clarkson? Doing our next single with Timbaland? Getting matching Tattoos on our asses?"

Dustin started laughing again, getting a "Shut UP, Dustin!" from Erica, which he ignored.

"You, all of you…AAH!" She couldn't seem to get it out, huffing and throwing her hands in the air, pacing into the next room. Jarod muttered something. Zane's expression didn't change.

Rick was finally getting annoyed. "Will someone please tell me what the fuck is happening here?" He looked at Dustin, who, per usual, just shrugged. He looked at Jarod, who actually looked relieved that someone was paying attention to him.

"Zane asked some random piece of ass to Europe with us!" The words came out of him in a furious jumble. "And not, like, some hot chick piece of ass, which would be, like, cool and shit, but, like, a guy!" His eyes swung to Zane. "I didn't know you were a fucking fag! I thought you had a chick! Doesn't he have a chick?" He was asking Rick now, pleadingly.

Rick wasn't paying attention to him, now gaping at the cause of the controversy, who managed to look like he wasn't even listening to the same conversation. Rick couldn't speak for a second.

Erica flew back into the room. "Who cares if it's a guy or a girl?" She said it as if she was trying to convince herself. "The point is, how are we going to deal with some, some ‘random piece of ass' on tour with us? You're not Motley Crue! And you don't even know him! You've met him twice! Twice! What'll we do if it implodes?! We're too new!"

"Twice?" Rick said. He narrowed his eyes. "Wait… so that kid you were talking to in Chicago after the show, shit, it WAS the dressing room guy! I thought it looked like him… Are you kidding me? You're inviting some groupie stalker with us?"

"He's not a groupie, or a stalker." Zane was starting to show his subtle signs of anger, his eyes darkening and his mouth tightening. "Ethan's just someone who would enjoy going with us. I don't think he'll be a problem." Rick, who watched his lead singer like a hawk, sensed an almost imperceptible hesitation, and he jumped on it, smirking without mirth.

"You haven't even thought about this at all, have you? You're acting as if you've considered this, but I know you… you just felt like it, so you did it. Not usually because you're blinded by lust, though. Being a cold fish." He shook his head. "You can be such a prat, Zane."

Jarod leaned forward. "Don't you think it's fucked up it's a guy, Rick, not a…" Rick just rolled his eyes at him, and Jarod wrinkled up his nose. "Oh, yeah, I forgot, you'll hit that too. Well, what about the fact WE don't all get to bring something along, huh? I want to bring someone!"

Erica, obviously done with the discussion, grabbed her purse and headed towards the front door. "You can bring someone as soon as you start paying for the hotels instead of Zane, Jarod. Before then, not an option." Jarod looked crestfallen. She stopped in the doorway, rigid and frosty. "Zane."

He looked at her, uncrossing his legs but making no perceptible change in attitude. "I'm sorry you're so upset, Erica."

"But you won't change your mind." It was a statement, not a question. Zane just stared at her and then looked away again, as if bored. She sighed and turned away.

"I can't stop you, and, truthfully, you can do anything you like with this band, since you've funded so much. But it's a bad idea, and too early for this kind of rock star BS." She walked towards the exit. "We'll reschedule to talk logistics tomorrow. I'm too pissed to talk right now."

The door slammed.

"This is pretty weird, Zane," Dustin said quietly, now just looking bemused. "But if you think it's going to be okay, whatever."

Zane quirked a smile at him. "Thanks.""

Rick slid down the couch so his head was close to the seat cushions, his long legs splayed out, and lifted one lip at Zane. "He better also be a damn good fuck to justify this, great leader. Because this is going to be a bloody mess."

Zane looked down at him coolly. "You'd like that, wouldn't you?"

Rick snorted and pretended he didn't hear the rhetorical question. "You don't know him at all. And, maybe more to the point, he doesn't know you, or the fact that you're an emotionless motherfucker." He laughed. "And what kind of person says yes to a proposal like that? It's going to be fucked. Completely. But it's too goddamn late, isn't it?"

The singer didn't say anything in reply, just got up from the couch and left the room.


"He's freaking out," Mina said in concern, turning around in her seat to touch my knee. "Ethan, you haven't heard a word either of have said in the last 20 minutes, have you?"

I looked at her, and looked down at her hand. "I'm freaking out." I admitted.

"He's been freaking for 3 damn days, really," Scott said casually, looking at me in the rearview mirror. "This is just a little worse."

"Oh, YOU'RE a great friend, aren't you?" Mina said sarcastically. "Whole fat lotta help."

Scott said something sarcastic in response and I tuned them out; I think they had slept together in the last couple of days, and it'd upped the intensity of their bickering considerably. But I couldn't be sure. I'd stopped paying attention to the little permutations to their insanity, since I had my own stupidity to attend to. And pay for.

The green, flat fields and beat-up houses of the city flew by as we drove to the airport, not giving me much to concentrate on. The crappy roads would now and then cause Scott's car to thump, causing him to swear mightily.

I'd said yes. Right then and there, on Mina's mother's computer, with Scott and Mina looking on in astonishment. I'd done it to stop me from thinking, over thinking, to be exact. "Sure. That'd be really cool, if you're sure it wouldn't be a problem?" Is all I'd written.

And in the morning I had an eticket on British Airways, and an email in his spare, simple writing. "I hope it won't be boring – we have a pretty packed schedule. But I know you wanted to go to Europe. It won't be a problem at all. Look forward to seeing you – Zane."

Of course, by then I'd successfully freaked myself out. I talked myself out of going. And then talked myself back in, mostly by picturing him, and remembering the feel of him, his skin.

It wasn't a logical argument, but it was a powerful one.

Luckily I had a passport already from the time a couple of years before I'd been planning on going and pulled out at the last minute. Not something I liked to think about; I still feel guilty about how it affected someone I had been very close to.

The next few days were cyclical, and, according to Scott, could be broken down as follows:

1. Ethan freaks out and starts saying he's going to pull out of going.

2. Ethan then convinces himself it's a great opportunity and he should go.

3. Ethan changes his mind and decides he's destroying his life by going.

4. Ethan remembers how hot Zane is and decides he's going.

Rinse and repeat.

It was actually my mom that, if not made me confident that what I was doing made sense, (The cycle continued), she at the least made it so I never actually decided to call it off, giving me a some advice that made me feel it was the very least worth doing.

It was almost noon on one of the days she didn't have any dance classes to teach, and I was working the evening shift. It was the day after I'd received the email. She was reading something with a rippling male arm and just a hint of chin on the front, and was curled up on one of our cheap vinyl kitchen chairs in that casual way of hers that made her appear so very young.

We murmured greetings to each other, as we did when we were feeling comfortably subdued, and I cluttered around our small kitchen, ostensibly making myself some coffee but actually trying to get up the guts to tell her. I finally just blurted it out, all in an embarrassed rush.

"You're - what? With who?" She looked up from her book, brow furrowed, as if someone said something to her just as she was waking up and she was having difficulty clearing the sleepy fog from her mind.

"A - friend. A guy I met uh, at a concert.  He's a musician, his band's playing some gigs, in England, then Germany, France. I think." As usual, my lying skills were lacking, and all that came out was the truth.

Her skepticism openly increased at the 'I think'. "How long?"

"Um." Zane hadn't been clear. He'd said I could go back anytime, but suggested two weeks or so.  "2 and a half weeks?" That was a safe duration, I figured.

"Ethan… you're trying to save up for college. How the hell are you going to afford Europe? The dollar is horribly low at the moment!"

"I… I know. I'm thinking of not going. I know it's probably not a good idea." I looked at my shoes. There was silence. "I'm really… thinking of not going. I shouldn't go."

"Maybe you shouldn't." She had a hand to her brow, looking vexed. "Why would you go to Europe with some random-" There was pause.  "oh."

What I might have just done smacked me across the side of the head. Mom wasn't stupid, quite the opposite. Sometimes I think she was so smart she actively turned it off. Almost as if she didn't want to feel too much. I could have said it was a girl, but... my lying skills were sub par. Her eyes looked out our small kitchen window.

"So. He's a lover?"

The term "lover" made me smile, because it sounded old-fashioned to me. But, really, she was right, he was, I guess.  "Yeah, he is."

"And you met him at a concert? A musician? Older? How much?"

"Uh, yeah, about 8 years or so." I shifted. Fleeing was so appealing but this was an important conversation, and I knew I couldn't. It wasn't actually until later that the full impact of the fact I had just come out to her hit me, and that it was inevitable side effect of the conversation. At the time we were both just bumbling through.

"Oh, Ethan." Her head fell forward into her hands, and she groaned. "My love, do you REALLY know what you're in for?" I winced.

This is exactly why I'd avoided this discussion; I knew she wasn't homophobic, she'd had a lot of gay friends in the dancing world. But she was a cynic(on unkind days I'd describe it as "bitter") through and through, and whenever she talked about some of those selfsame friends there was a touch of tragedy to her perception of them. Of course, she'd seen some tragedy, so maybe that was where it came from.

There was another silence while she processed and I braced myself for a long discussion about AIDS, gay-bashing, and other struggles. But instead she just sighed. And smiled at me sideways.

"So my beautiful, sensitive gay artist son is flying off to Europe with a strange older man at the last minute. A rock musician. Oh, god." She chuckled to herself.

Her reaction was worrying me, I was wondering if I'd unhinged her a bit. I sat down across from her. "Mom… I won't go, I shouldn't, you're right, I can't afford it, it's ridiculous."

"No!" That ‘No' was so emphatic I started, and blinked at her, shocked. She'd turned to me with her brown eyes huge, face fierce. "Don't you dare. You have had so little opportunity, and I know you, you wouldn't have said yes to this if you didn't really, really want to. I know better than anyone there's few things you'd rather do more than sit in your room and draw. And you know that worries me." A lean hand covered mine, and squeezed. "You know what you're problem is?"

"Um. Which one?" I tried to smile.

"You're too much like me. Good and bad. Go, sweetie. Life is short."

"You don't think it's a horrible idea?"

"I think it's a TERRIBLE idea. You, loose in Europe, terrifies me. And I have no idea how you're going to afford it. Even if this guy is going to pay for it, you and I are both very proud." She was right, we were. "However," She lifted a finger and a corner of her mouth, "It thrills me, too. So go. Just don't let it effect your future. But you need to live, and maybe this will prepare you a bit for New York. I'm scared for you there, too."

Whether I was relieved or even more stressed was hard to say – something in me had actually kinda hoped that she would talk me out of this insanity, but instead she was pushing me towards it. Crap.

"Thanks, I think, mom." I smiled. "I think it'll be okay."

"Good. And!" I started again. "You leave me all the contact info you have on him, and email me constantly. If anything happens to you I want to be able to hunt the bastard – what's his name?"

"Zane Butler."

"I'll hunt Zane Butler DOWN. You better come back safe, Ethan, or I will make his life HELL." She was so fierce and beautiful I had to laugh, and stood up to kiss her on the forehead.

"You're nuts, mom." She leaned against me, and I put an arm around her and kissed the top of her head. 

"So are you, baby." She gave me one armed squeeze. "God help us."


"So, you'll be okay?" Mina asked with obvious concern.

I gave them a wide, what I hoped was a brave grin.

"You're going to faint any minute now, aren't you?" Scott said suspiciously.

"I look that bad?" I said, worried. Sure, I had 6 hours before I would see Zane, and I was sure that wouldn't improve my looks, but I didn't want to look like crap, I'd put a lot of effort into my clothing, my hair, etc, and the fact I had a completely pitiful wardrobe was called to my attention. Shit, Zane was so much cooler and hotter than me, I was flying off to hang with a near complete stranger(and his band!) for hours and I was so very screwed and please just kill me….

"Ethan. Babe." Mina came up to me, and gave a crushing hug. "If you weren't gay, you are so hot, I'd dump this loser and jump you in a second if you'd let me."

"WTF!" Scott said, angrily, and I wasn't sure he was kidding. Still, I had to laugh, and gave her a hug. He elbowed her out of the way.


"Hey." Even more so than my mom, he was the hard one to say goodbye to. We shuffled our feet.

"You're crazy, man. I'm really proud of you, though. If Zane was a chick, what you're doing would be a dream." He shot Mina a significant look, and she rolled her eyes. "Although I can't believe you're leaving me alone with the scary old biddies." I laughed.. "Write, like, all the time."

"I'll be the internet café king." I promised.

"And don't do anything you're not comfortable doing, okay?" Mina said. She sounded like my mother, who I'd convinced not to cancel a community college dance class to see me off, but had given me so much advice before leaving my head was spinning. Some was uncomfortably sexual in nature.

 A lot of it substance-specific, like a quick guide of how to say no to being offered damn near everything under the sun. The end point seemed to have been that when she was younger she had said 'yes' far too often, and it had led to her eventual dependence on alcohol as a lesser demon. There was an undercurrent of wistful to her words, as if she somehow missed the days before she had to say no to such things. I'd promised I'd be good on that front, but she didn't seem convinced. The woman seemed to think I was a complete innocent.

Was I a complete innocent? How does one tell? Scott and Mina also couldn't seem to stop with the warnings and the comforting. Not a good sign.

 I hugged both Mina and Scott awkwardly one last time, and I moved towards the gate.

"Thanks, guys. You two don't get too weird, okay?" I looked between the two of them significantly.

"Weird!" They said together, and both started muttering angrily at me. Laughing, I waved and headed towards security. Their bickering followed me for a good 100 feet. Without me as a buffer those two were going to have an interesting couple of weeks, I thought bemusedly.

The flight was uneventful, other than the fact it was by far the longest flight I'd ever been on. The food was okay, the movie was funny-ish, and the woman next to me was an older business-person who was pleasantly chatty but didn't seem to mind my minimum feedback.

The plane got dark and everyone seemed to settle in for some sleep, and I dozed for a bit. But the silence gave my mind too much room to roam around. Panic, analyzing what this might be like, etc. The last three days had been manic, I'd been manic.

Now all the mini-discussions I'd had between the mania came back to me, and I chewed it. Lots of advice not to have too many expectations. Advice to relax, have fun. I'd not aired my biggest concern to anyone - that I was new to this emotion stuff, and how I felt about Zane was so knew I had no idea what was what - but I'd hoped I could keep that one under control.

But there was no denying that underneath my panic I was excited, even somewhat ebullient. Why I'd made the decision to go was clear to me, it was because the time I'd spent with Zane in Chicago had made me happy, it'd been an incredible amount of fun.

And as Mina and Scott had pointed out to me, if he didn't like me, he wouldn't have invited me along, would he have? Yes, it might be mainly sexual, but, that was okay, what did I know about him beside sex?

What would the time be like, what would I with myself? Europe! I was going to Europe! England, to be exact!

Finally I fell asleep, a couple of hours before we were meant to land, and I all in all I was feeling pretty okay.

This was going to be good, I knew it. If even my super-cynical mother had hope, so could I.


I exited the plane half-rested and with this fully enthusiastic attitude completely locked and loaded. And most importantly, I couldn't wait to see Zane. Touch Zane. At some point during the plane ride I had to make myself STOP thinking about him, his fingers, his lips, his body, his…. or my poor seatmates would wake to me hiding a raging erection. I did slip off to the bathroom at some point, and before coming, back against the plastic wall and biting my lip so as not to make any noise, I had to fight off laughter about how, even solo, I could see the attraction of the Mile High Club.

After we landed and I stood, twitching in the aisle as we waited to deplane I practically bounced into the terminal, and hurried up just to wait in line at Heathrow's customs and immigration. It was a very, very long line. When I could concentrate I noticed there was incredible people watching, and I wished it wouldn't have been possibly suspicious to be sketching faces in an international airport.  And several times I found myself being counter-watched.

Heart thumping, panic underneath my ribs, my passport was finally stamped and I went towards the security gates.

What had Zane said? 'We arrive a few hours earlier - I'll be there to pick you up'?

But he wasn't there. There was an awful lot of people at the other side of the gate, and there were a lot of signs, none bearing my name. I peered for a while, but feeling foolish as people pushed past me I moved forward and through the crowd.


So I waited at the edge of the crowd for a bit, but not even being sure what I was looking for and feeling that maybe I should go get my suitcase I reluctantly went towards the baggage claim signs.

The airport was more crowded than I could have imagined, so big, and everyone seemed to be in a hurry, so busy. They knew where they were going. Except for the security, of course, who just looked stern and sometimes menacing.

My once-buoyant mood was taking a serious hit. Zane's instructions had been ridiculously vague, over-all. We'd exchanged what, 4 emails each? And they'd gone from somewhat detailed to really short and simple. And this place was chaos, strange accents and languages flying everywhere, it was 7 in the evening on a Monday, and I was one lost, stupid American. For such a massive, famous airport, it wasn't very… clean. But maybe that was inevitable with such amazing human traffic passing through.

I got my baggage, accidentally bumped into or got bumped into several annoyed people, and finally moved towards the doors. Panic was rising.

Calm down… I could afford a ticket back, I'd be fine. Pitiful, but fine. Or, actually, I needed to find internet, maybe get a cheap hotel for the night and see if I could locate him and -

"Ethan?" The voice drifted to me as I was about 50 feet from the baggage claim for my flight, a woman's voice, slightly familiar. Turning, I saw Erica, Snowborne's manager. She was wearing charcoal pants and a short sleeve button up periwinkle shirt. Her brown hair was twisted up at the back of her head, and she wore simple, tasteful silver earrings.

I fought down the disappointment that rose from my stomach, and grasped for the relief that someone had, at the very least, come for me. She came closer, and the relief almost lost its' grip due to the expression on her face. It was tight, and her eyes were almost angry. "Sorry I'm late." Her words were clipped, and she didn't actually sound very sorry. "The band had rehearsal and then an interview, and getting here was hell."

There almost seemed to be an unspoken "and that hell was your fault" at the end of her statement. I gave the best smile I could muster.

"Hi. Um. No worries? I'm… really glad to be here." I'm lame, that's what I am. "Uh, thank you so much for picking me up?" What had I done? She had taken time out of her busy schedule, if the band was busy she must be, just to pick my ass up.

Her expression softened slightly. Very slightly. "Come on." She looked away and strode towards the hotel. " Zane should be at the hotel by the time we get there."

We got into a small, adorable and very clean black cab with an attractive older Indian gentleman who didn't say anything once Erica had told him very shortly to take us to the "Cavendish London". Obviously he picked up on her mood as well.

The drive was very uncomfortable, and my sense of guilt just got worse, to the point after about 10 minutes where I couldn't stay silent. "Erica…"

"What?!" The words were practically spit out, and I was so mortified I couldn't speak anymore.

"Shit." She took a big breath, and let it out as a protracted sigh. "I'm sorry, Ethan. I'm just tense. What?"

"Thank you, seriously, for picking me up. And… for letting me come along. I know… this is weird?" Maybe I should have thought a bit more about how weird it was? How weird was it? "But… I'm really excited, even if it's just for a few days. I completely understand if you'd rather I was here for only a week, or, less. But… thank you?"

Such a dork, I was talking to her like she someone's parent who had let me go out to dinner with the family.

There was silence from her side of the backseat, and because it was getting dark I couldn't see her face clearly. She seemed to be assessing me out of the corner of her eye.

"Goddamn it. Fucking Zane." Why, I wondered? She touched my knee lightly. "It's okay, you don't need to thank me. And it's not your fault it was a pain to get there. I hope you enjoy the trip." Her smile was small, but sincere.

"Me too," I said, and smiled widely back, incredibly relieved she didn't hate me.

You looked at me for a second, and then turned away again, shaking her head. "Fucking, stupid asshole." My smile fell.

 She didn't seem to be talking about me, and I guessed Zane. I tried to ignore the gnawing unease all her cursing of him caused. Zane, god, I could wait to see him. He wanted me here. Concentrate on that.

Instead of trying to converse I just gaped at the city as we drove through it, how it was both familiar but different, Starbucks but the wrong side of the road. So many stylish people. It was like New York, yet very unlike New York. Different architecture. Different mix. Different…. but really damn exciting.

"Don't you dare press your face against the glass, Ethan, or I might just throw up," Erica said, but there was a note of amusement to the statement, which made it less harsh. I just smiled in embarrassment.

We entered what had to be Piccadilly Square, and the twilight was bringing out the Neon, giving it all a surreal quality. To me, at least, it was exceedingly surreal. Throngs of Tourists, teenagers, cars, people, commuters… We turned off it, and down a couple of streets.

The hotel was smaller than the Strafford, and astoundingly modern on the inside. The reception was dimly lit by purple lights from above and behind, and somehow I felt like I was approaching a shrine, passing beautiful modern and abstract statues and paintings.

The design was astounding. I peaked through the hallways leading off through to the lounge, and possibly the restaurant. Working in a large, luxury hotel made me aware that they were places full of unique politics, personalities, and chock full of stories, and I was more than curious what lay below this place's gleaming surfaces.

"It's nice, isn't it?" Erica said as she strode towards the front desk, misreading my head-swiveling. I smiled in response. It was nice she was being consistently civil. Perhaps she didn't hate me.  

Standing back she dealt with the receptionist in hushed tones, and after a while led me to the elevator, where she hit the button for 4. Before the doors opened she handed me a keycard packet that had "304" written on it, and I was confused.

"I'm takingyou to see Zane and the band first, they're hanging on the fourth floor." She explained, and that tight, almost angry tension was back.

But my blood was suddenly roaring into my ears, and I didn't care as much about her unhappiness. Finally! Calm down, Ethan, I told myself, he's probably tired, I mean, don't get your hopes up.

It wasn't only my blood that had my endorphins on the run, it was also my hormones. Touching him, kissing him…

I'd never been so nervous and excited. The last hour or so of discomfort and nervousness disappeared. This was why I was here.

She led me to 403, and knocked.

There was a pause, and the door opened. Wow, I thought, laughing at myself to steady my nerves, does he just get better looking every day?

Zane stood in the doorway, wearing a pair of black tapered pants, sleek black boots, and a light green T-shirt with a shifting grey and blue design. The hair was perfect, his hands were in the back of his pants. It was oddly reminiscent of the first time I had seen him up close, back at The Blow, in his dressing room.

Trying to stay cool, I just gave him a small smile, clamping down on grinning like an idiot. "Hey…"

He smiled back, lips tight. "Hi." His eyes barely met mine before drifting to his manager.

My heart stuttered. I tried to think of something more to say.

"Ethan's here." Erica cut me off, stating the obvious. "How was the radio interview?"

 "It wasn't bad, I think. We've done worse. Rick was pretty witty." He turned to me. "Want to meet the band?"

It sounded like it didn't much matter him whether I met them or not.

"Ah. Okay." I blinked.

"Good night, Ethan." Erica said, and there was a note to her voice I couldn't put my finger on, and she lightly touched my back before disappearing around the corner. Before I could ponder it Zane inclined his head in a way that suggested I should come into the room, but he didn't lead me all the way in. It was a lovely suite, from what I could see. The three other members of Snowborne were there, assessing me where I stood right inside the doorway.

All in all, I felt like a cockroach.

"This is Rick, the guitarist," He nodded to the tall blond man, and god, I'm sure I blushed. He barely nodded at me, and snorted at Zane.

"He's been to our concerts, he knows what it is we do." Rick managed to give my concert-going a rather seedy spin, which I suppose he had a right to. He gave no other greeting than that.

"I guess so." Zane acknowledged. "This is Jarod -" The bassist was laying on the bed, playing a PSP. He grunted, but didn't look up. "And Dustin."

The bald drummer, sitting in the chair at the desk near the window, smiled, and it seemed to be genuine. Man, I felt pitiful; even the smallest kindness made me want to go up and hug the person. "Hey, Ethan," He greeted me, "How was your flight?"

"Uh, not bad. Uneventful." That was all I could say?

"Good." His smile didn't fade. I was grateful. Dustin had a very nice face, first I'd seen in a while.

"I'm going to the bar." Jarod stood up, threw the PSP down on the bed, and brushed past both Zane and I but not before he gave me a dirty look and slammed out the door.

"Better put a stop on that tab, or you know he's gonna drink expensive whiskey on your dime." Rick noted.

Zane smiled a real smile, and shrugged. "I'll give him one night of freedom."

"You're too kind." Rick spoke these words staring straight at me, and their edged double-meaning wasn't lost. I tried to shrink into my shoes. "Except when you book non-smoking hotels for us to stay in, of course. Then you're complete wanker." And then he sat on the second of the two beds, picked up a magazine, and ignored us.

I tried not to shuffle my feet.

"I'll take you to your room," Zane suddenly announced, and turned around, and opened the door for me, led me to the elevator, and to 304.

This all took place in near silence, other than a "You eat yet?" and my dishonest head nod, to which he simply said "okay". Actually, I was starving, but I didn't want him to have to think about me.

It took everything to not stare at him, his face as he studied the elevator walls with obviously feigned fascination. Maybe he was uncomfortable with me in front of others? We didn't know each other, did we? He wasn't… regretting this, was he?

When I got into my lovely room, small but beautiful, with a queen bed, he watched me put my suitcase in the little walk in closet area.

"I'm staying with the guys, in the that room." I nodded. That'd been something I'd wondered about… would we be in the same room, separate? With how new our… acquaintance was, I guess I understood keeping me apart. But even the way he said that was like an explanation, as if an apology, he expected me to

And then we stood there. It was a bit embarrassing, but as disappointed as I was, how lust-driven my coming here wouldn't go away. Just being in the same room with him was making me twitchy. Those arms…

Me, I was skuzzy, probably stunk, totally useless, and a complete freeloader. Shit.

His eyes still wouldn't meet mine. I sat down on the bed. This was excruciating. All my happiness lay dying, but I was here, wasn't I?

 I broke the silence.

"Thank you."

His head snapped up, and he finally looked at me. "What?"

"Thank you for inviting me… it's, uh, I know you don't know me. I could be psychotic. But… this is really cool. This… I'll stay out of your way." Hell, if you just want to sleep with me and forget about me, that's fine, I get it, actually. But I didn't know how to say that. "I don't… want to make anyone uncomfortable."

Zane's brow had furrowed while I spoke. He came forward, and lifted my chin, and leaned down, and kissed me.

It was a pretty simple kiss, but before I knew it I had reached up my arms and put them around his neck, feeling that incredible hair. He tasted wonderful, and I sucked on his lips, elicitng a rumble from him and his hand to slip underneath my hair.

Rising a bit off the bed I pressed my chest to his, running my fingers down his lean back, using my nails.

He pulled me up the rest of the way and I was pressed against him, feeling his hard cock pressed against my leg, which had me doing that grinding thing I couldn't stop when were touching. Our kiss got teasing, biting, I let his tongue chase mine into my mouth and back again, a hand clutching at the small of his back as one of his slipped under my shir-

And without warning he broke the contact of the kiss, and gently but very firmly untangled from me.

"I'm pretty exhausted," Zane said. His voice was a little husky, but other than that, he looked barely perturbed. I blinked at him. "Can we pick this up later?" He gave me a smile, and I saw something of the man I had fooled around with in Chicago. But then it disappeared.

"Uh…" I sat down at the edge of the bed. At that moment, sleeping, no. "Oh..kay?" It wasn't sarcastic, just startled. I didn't know what else to say.

He tood by the door, just barely in my line of sight. "We're getting up pretty early tomorrow..."

"I don't mind," I said hurridly, not wanting to cause any scheduling issues. Or any issues at all.     

"Great." A facial expression that might have been a smile, but barely was.

"Zane, should I..." I was going to ask if I should leave, if something was wrong, if... but, hell, I barely knew him, what was there to ask?

"Good night."

And he was gone.

Gone. Leaving me alone, turned on, and... alone. I fell back on the bed with a thunk.

I don't know if I've ever felt this horrible. Okay, yes, yes I had, but god, to compare this with when my dad left, or my mom hit bottom...

What had I done? Had he changed his mind?

Did he regret having me here?

My stomach rumbled, but I ignored it.

In England, alone, chasing after a beautiful dream that didn't seem to really want me here.

Holy shit, what HAD I done?

Sleep was a hell of a long time coming.


To Part 12