Let me get this out now so I can try to not repeat it too many times going forward... Callum is an asshole. And surprisingly - at least to me - by the end of the night I had given him higher marks in my asshole book than Rick. Rick was actually nice at times. A little bit, at least, despite him still being totally Rick.
And Zane was Zane, which equaled unreadable and difficult and maddening.
The party was a strange one. It had the usual post-concert suspects, the roadies, Erica working the room, Jared drunkenly wandering around and trying to score his usual list of desires, hot young things in short skirts, hipster journalists, etc. But there were also some people that stood out a bit; their clothes were nicer, more business, less street casual. A woman journalist who didn't appear as if the music scene was her usual beat, a guy with a radio crew who, from listening to him, did pop culture in general, not just music and bands.
That voice again: Snowborne was breaking out of the indie scene, and it was unlikely they could ever go back. Flutter in my stomach. It was just a small flutter; Charisse disappeared as soon as we entered the room and I got myself a drink and moved to the back, situating myself in a perfect watching spot. As for what I was watching, well - the room at large, but, of course, focusing on Zane.
He was talking to the woman journalist, and then he gracefully handed her off to Rick. Erica came up, whispered in his ear, and then he was chatting amicably with the radio personality.
Charming, distant smile. Perfectly balanced thoughtful pause, a smooth answer that seemed to please his interviewer. The man's professionally pitched voice cut through the din as he asked an idiotic question, "So did you meet Matt Damon, and what was he like? Are you mates?" I couldn't hear Zane's answer, but he looked amused, saying something that had Mr. Radio laughing.
That's what he was, so very smooth. There was nothing hardscrabble about him, nothing rough-edged; it was okay that he wasn't going to be indie any longer, because he was never quite perfectly fit for the indie scene. Too professional. Too talented. Too wide-ranging.
Too - special. Too meant for more.
So.... then what happened to his little indie groupie? The little boy who could only draw and get in the way? I was doing my damndest to stop gnawing at that one - my current bone of choice - when Callum once again inserted himself in my consciousness, and started his upping of the biggest-prick stakes.
He timed it perfectly - as soon as the radio guy moved off with his crew, the slender - almost like a cat - Yar Pep singer stepped through the crowd and was right next to Zane. At that moment Zane had started to look around, and I was hoping that what he was looking for was me. I never did get to find out, however, due to the interloper.
My plastic drink cup crinkled in my hand, and I forced myself to unclench. I turned my body away a bit and backed up even closer to the dark wall and tried to make it so I was staring at the small, animated group around one of the other bands that had played; any other time they would have been fantastic and engrossing people watching, what with their palatable excitement to have had performed at that event and to be part of this gathering.
But it was an illusion, needless to say. I was staring at the man I had very recently fucked, and the conversation he was having with a rumored other... lover? Fuck buddy? Whatever.
Zane's face was impossible to read, especially since he kept turning away from my line of site. But he didn't look upset, I could tell that much. He wasn't dripping loathing; at least he didn't seem to be.
This wasn't good. I should have looked away, I knew that. Especially when Callum put his hand on Zane's arm - and the singer LAUGHED.
Was that little smile and glance out of the corner of his eye from the smaller man for me? I wouldn't be surprised. I hunched back even further, but still watching, still torturing myself....
"What the fuck's wrong, little boy? You cold?" Goddamn, I just couldn't escape these taunting jerks, I really couldn't.
"No." I made myself straighten, tried to look normal. "I'm just thinking about, uh," - what, Ethan, what are you thinking about? Why aren't you a better liar, damn it? " - the concert." Lame.
"You were really good."
This worked, briefly: As I had noticed, Rick liked Rick a lot, and was always up for talking about that particular subject. Snowborne was an entity close enough to himself to distract him.
"Yeah, we were on tonight. I'm already sick of that damn song, though." His mouth moved as he chewed his gum; since he couldn't smoke inside, he always had a stick in there, gnawing along. It wasn't quite as visually cool as smoking, I thought, as it made him seem a bit like a snarky teenager.
I made the mistake of not really responding, my eyes drifting across the room again, and his attention snapped back on me. "So what are you really thinking about?"
I sighed. Why was I always sighing around this man? "Nothing. You know me," I gave a fake, mindless smile, "Nothing going on in my pretty little head, just bimbo-ing along back here. Hee. Hee."
His eyes narrowed. "Fuck you. You're lying. Where's Zane?" He looked around, and saw him where he was now no longer just talking to Callum, but also to a couple of other musicians that had performed. And the other man had moved so... close to him... like they were a unit.... TOGETHER talking to the others...
"What, you're jealous of that little shit?"
Argh!! Goddamn, this sucked. Zane hanging out with an ex-whatever. Getting abused by Rick. Not feeling great about my alcohol any longer, but instead feeling its distinctly depressing downward pull to the depths of self-pity. This sucked, sucked, sucked, and I was getting really sick of it. The sex had been AWESOME. Why couldn't those moments, those flashes of great connection/great times/great chemistry LAST?
"So what the hell if I am?" I took a big slug of my drink, which was now mostly melted ice water, but I didn't care. "It's my problem, isn't it?"
"Well, yeah, but if you're -" I could tell whatever was going to come next was going to be mean, and pointed, and cruel, and I couldn't take it.
"Rick." I looked up, and met his eyes. Bright yet hooded, they added a great deal to his appearance. He was so good-loocking; he'd be so much more good-lucking if he wasn't so damn mean. "I know you find me pathetic, and, well, whatever, you can feel about me however you like. I know I did this to myself, and I probably deserve to be treated like shit. But I can't really take it, and need you to leave me alone." I breathed. "At least tonight, just... leave me alone. Please." And I was drunker than originally suspected, if I was able to put myself in the line of bitchy fire like I just did.
There was a pause, and to my surprise a strangely thoughtful look on Rick's face. I tensed, waiting for the verbal ass-whooping I was sure to receive.
"Impressive." His voice was droll, languidly sardonic. But not cruel. "You've actually grown up a little bit in the last several days, which is surprising." He smacked his gum with a pointed grin. "People who hang out with rock musicians aren't famous for that."
I rolled my eyes. "Uh huh, yeah, right. I'm just turning into a real adult, here."
He ignored me, leaning against the wall, crossing his arms and legs and giving me an up-down that could have meant so many things, but was not clearly any of them. "And on leaving you alone, wellllll.... What fun would that be?" he finished his own sentence, "-not at all."
"So this is really how you treat the people you like?" I countered. "I can't imagine how you are with the people you consider your friends."
That stopped him, and I saw anger flash over his face. "I'm trying to distract you, asshole."
"Yeah. Distract me so you can fuck with me later." But me being me, I'd started to feel guilty for being such a jerk, for thinking the worse of him.
Yeah, but he deserves it, and you know it, whispered my inner voice. Still, I couldn't stop myself from going, "Forget it, I'm sorry."
Rick shrugged. "Maybe you're right, just a little bit. It keeps me entertained. But." He gave his gum a good, hard smack, 'That pretentious fuck always shows up when we're in England, and Zane dismisses him just as quickly. I don't think he'll be getting any when you're around. No fucking competition."
I had to smile. "Only Zane knows that, I guess."
"That's true. But what makes you think he'd win?"
"Well..." I had to think about it. "He's so mean, even his band mates don't like him much. So he has to have something else to offer, right? Or Zane wouldn't hang around him?" I tilted my head at Rick. "Wasn't that your whole theory about me?"
Surprisingly, that got me a smile; he was really cute when he did that. "Maybe, although, with you, fuck toy, it's wasn't really that - “Not sure what prompted it, but he seemed to change his mind about finishing, the smile dropping and cold contempt coming back. "Maybe. Whatever." I let that go; maybe we were venturing back in to the territory where I had accused him of caring more about Zane than he let on, and I don't think that fit the rules of our current ceasefire.
"Yeah." I looked over again, and accidentally caught Zane's eye; fuck, didn't want him to think I was stalking him, couldn't function without him. Had to be cool. With a weak smile I turned away. "Whatever."
I threw my cup in a trash can nearby, and shoved my hands in my pockets. "God, I wish I was back at the room, with my sketchpad. I feel dumb. This is for you guys, I don't really belong here." That last bit was really to me; it wasn't offered for commentary, and I truthfully hadn't even meant to say it out loud.
Rick made a noise, and I looked at him. "What?" He was staring at me with narrowed eyes, and seemed strangely angry. Oh, no, what had I done? We'd actually been getting along okay...
"Piece of work, fuck toy. You're really a piece of work. You know why I come across like an asshole?" He leaned in, eyes bright, attractive yet somewhat fox-like features almost twitching. "Do you?"
Because you are one? No, no, I resisted that, although it was quite hard. I just shook my head.
"Because when I want something, I fucking go out and get it, and when something pisses me off, I express it. Simple as that.
"Now call your bubble ass a taxi." With an almost violent expulsion his well-chewed gum followed my cup in to the trash and he stepped back, boredom back on his face, "Or grow some goddamn balls." and he stalked off, disappearing to the other side of the room.
That wasn't a half-bad idea. Or, to be exact, NEITHER of his suggestions were bad ideas.
But instead I found a chair, and I thought about Zane. His hands,
the feeling of his cock inside me, the fantastic feeling of skin on skin, that full, sexy, awesome sense of being FUCKED, his voice, always, god yes that incredible toe-curling voice above me and around me and....
I could have drifted that way forever, drunk and heading rapidly to a very embarrassing erection, but it was a terror of the last (These were very tight pants I was wearing) that got me up and headed towards Zane. What the hell was I doing? Not completely sure, honestly.
But I think it was a form of taking Rick's advice. Zane gave me a wide smile as I approached, and the performers he was talking to gave me an appraising once over. Callum practically hissed at me - it was like something out of a cartoon - and a hand hovered very close to Zane.
Whether this was conscious or sub-, I don't know, but to my great relief Zane stepped to his left to give me a place to stand next to him... and between him and Callum. It was a nice moment. I slipped in to the group, and wasn't surprised when the shorter singer moved his hands in to his pocket and managed to give me a sharp hit to the ribs with one of his elbows. I winced, but otherwise ignored it.
I mean hell, what was he, 12? Made me feel older than him.
There wasn't much more after that... The musicians talked, there wasn't much from me, Callum got increasingly witchy, to the point that one of the guys Zane was talking to narrowed his eyes at him and said "What the fuck's your problem, mate?" With Callum simply spitting "Nothing." In response.
He obviously finally couldn't take it any longer, and interrupted someone mid-sentence to step forward, basically around me, and put his hand lightly on Zane's arm. "So I'll see you later at the BBC One bash, right?"
"There's another party?" I hadn't meant to say anything, but I couldn't stop myself. I'd hoped that after this we could head back to the hotel, crash - mess around. I didn't want to go to another party, really.
"Yes," Zane looked apologetic now, and somehow I'd gotten to the point where I knew him well enough to basically know what was coming next. "Unfortunately, it's artists and invited only; I tried to get you in, but it wasn't allowed."
"Oh." I wasn't completely sure how to respond to that one. On one hand: Oh, good, no more partying with people out of my stratosphere. I can relax.
On the other, much more disappointing hand: Oh, I was going back alone. But I smiled. "That's alright - I'm pretty beat, honestly."
"Are you?" And Zane let a gleam into his eye at that, and I couldn't help but smile. God, we must have been so fucking obvious, but I didn't really care; i just worried about Zane, and his reputation.
"Well, I'll see you there; maybe we can grab a drink... afterwards." Callum purr-snarled. It was quite a sound; I'd never heard anything like it. It was not a sound I liked.
"I doubt it. I’m not going to make it that long." Zane's voice wasn't cold, it wasn't even dismissive - I wouldn't say there was any overt cruelty there. "It was excellent talking to you, it's been forever." Warm. Genuinely friendly, in that subtle way of Zane's.
But nothing more.
If I was correct about what Callum wanted - and I believe I was, because I wanted the same thing - to him it was most certainly a dismissal. And his face showed it.
"Whatever." He somehow managed to make the word sound so very posh. And then he was gone.
SCORE! Went through my head. Maybe *I* was 12 years old. Or just sort of drunk.
Zane's hand on my arm. "I should have time to drop you off at the hotel - want to share a cab?"
I gave him a big smile, so what if I didn't get to spend the whole night with? At that moment he was MINE, all mine. In my fucking-him way, I'd marked him. It felt good.
It also took all my power not to slip my arm around him as we headed towards the door, and maybe I was crazy, because this wasn't Zane-like behavior - but I couldn't help but think he wanted to do the same.
On the way out I saw Rick not far away, talking to some woman in a flow-y, earth-mother style outfit. I gave him a little smile, a sort of thank you - and just got an eyebrow back.
What did it mean? Who knew? Maybe I was glad that I certainly didn't.
Aren't they just fucking precious? He thought dryly, watching Ethan and Zane leave the party. They're like the cutest little gay couple ever.
The chick he was talking to, a flaky if pretty thing who seemed to want to pseudo-distance herself from her rich daddy's money by proving how very deep she was, prattled on about how even rock music could reach a spiritual, sub-earth level if received correctly in such a way that made it very easy for him to not say a word and still seem engaged. Getting in to her pants appeared as if it was going to be criminally easy. His mind wandered.
He'd thought how they looked like the happiest little gay couple, but he knew that was just him. To anyone else observing them they were just two young guys leaving. Zane was, for the most part, very good at keeping his body language in check and under control. Those who didn't know him wouldn't have suspected much, or have read much into his exit with the younger man.
But Rick did know him, Rick knew him very well.
Some might have lifted an eyebrow at how well that was - He'd observed the lead singer very carefully for the last several years, figuring out what got a response, what made him upset, what was important to him. And no matter how good Zane was at keeping himself contained, he wasn't good enough to fake how he was around Ethan. Something bled through, something looser and happier and disturbingly unaffected. Zane was all 'affect' out and about, at least usually.
And Ethan. He was a strange kid. Rick found himself chewing on his gum with considerable force, feeling like he wanted to just tear it apart with the movement of his jaw.
It wasn't that Rick didn't know what it was he was pissed off about. Agitated about. WORKED UP by.
At this point he interrupted his own thoughts to slip in some completely ridiculous question to keep Lottie, his scintillating conversation partner, engaged. She looked unconvinced, but did continue with her spiel. And it was indeed a spiel; he had to wonder if this was going to wind up with him getting laid, or getting a pitch to join up in her bullshit religion. Usually this wouldn't matter, as it could be a challenge - but tonight it did.
He'd been off his game lately with the ladies that was for sure. And it was really pissing him off. Lottie was fading from his view, he could tell, and he wasn't completely positive he actually *cared* that she was.
It all came back to sex, didn't it? Somehow, Rick had always believed him and Zane would sleep together; in his mind, he'd simply been waiting for the right moment. He'd known Charisse was a front, a beard, from the beginning; the singer wasn't even slightly sexually attracted to her. It amused him that Zane was so concerned about his image that he felt it was necessary, but as his 'girlfriend' came into her own fame with the batshit crazy noise machine she called a band it became a fun fiction for the indie rock media to report on. Two leading lights of the American rock scene, together; wasn't it just too sweet?
So Zane wasn't sleeping with her, he'd figured that out instantly. So then his mind had moved onwards: Where was he getting his kicks? That was what Rick didn't understand for the longest time… he was a guy, and when they'd first met, Zane had been a lot more flirtatious. It wasn't the flirtation of someone asexual - it was the flirtation of someone with a libido.
It had been a memorable day. After his audition in front of Erica and Zane, Rick remembered the singer standing up languidly, hooded eyes, coiled sex appeal. He'd thought 'yeah, this guy has something', and for the first audition that he'd been to actually hoped that he would be accepted. He was sick of garage bands that went nowhere, he was better than all of them; so much better that he'd turned down the many that wanted him. He'd started to give up on the rock and roll future.
Oh, he'd briefly considered the option of pulling together his own group, had even talked to some of his musician friends, but he knew he didn't really have it in him. being a band leader took forward motion, ambition, a good sense of dynamics and creative compatibility. Rick had always found it easier to pull back and let others do the work, ever since he was a kid; back then it'd helped keep him out of the bullying radar of his brothers, and it'd become habit.
But Zane had been different. The guitarist knew they'd be good together. They'd LOOK good together, on a stage, in front of a screaming crowd. Blond and brunette, two different flavors of icy rock, lickable popsicles of attractiveness. Rick didn't want to be in a band with an ugly singer, it wasn't an option. He knew what real music fame entailed, how he was going to get there - or thought he did, at 23.
"You want to be in a band full time?" Zane had asked, after his audition in a small but surprisingly clean studio in LA. It'd given him a sense that there was at least a bit of capital behind the group, and he liked that. Being in a broke-ass band was only sexy for a hot minute, and then it was very annoying.
"It's all I've ever wanted to do." Rick had shrugged, lit up a cigarette. "Nothing else seemed worth doing."
"Well, you're good."
"I know." He was, too. There wasn't much else he'd done as a kid, anything else that he did openly got him mocked. Everything else involved people, who mostly bored him to death. So there he was.
Zane'd smiled at that. "You want to be part of Snowborne? I've already got a drummer."
"Who thought up that name? It sounds like a video game." He'd actually not minded it, but it wouldn't have been his first pick. He liked them more bizarre, personally. Edgier.
"It's not negotiable." Zane wasn't going to ask again, obviously; he just waited, staring at Rick, standing casually.
Rick wasn't stupid. He knew a good opportunity when he heard one; Zane Butler possessed actual singing talent, which was harder to find than you'd think on the rock scene. Solid musicians abound, as did charismatic pretty boys, but singers who had both 'it' and solid pipes were rare. And the bastards were the faces of the whole fucking thing, unfortunately. That's where the leadership
Rick lacked usually sat.
"Yeah. Yeah, I'll be in your bloody band. But," And he'd given his best, no-fail flirtatious grin. "You'd better keep up."
"I don't think that'll be a problem." The return smile was genuine, and damn full of sex. "Call me tomorrow if you don't change your mind." Zane had smiled that quirk of his, slipped him a piece of paper with his phone number on it, and then he'd been gone.
But that flirtation, and a bit more here and there, was all Rick'd ever gotten. He'd known about the screwing around with the lead singer of the Yar Pep the first time they hit the UK, so it'd come to no surprise to him when he'd overheard Ethan and Zane talking about him. Fighting about it? Hard to say, with those two.
So why that child and not him? Rick didn't know. All he was willing to admit to himself was that Ethan's relationship with Zane had gotten to him, and, annoyingly, now Ethan was getting to him, too.
He'd tried every which way to find some proof that this good-
looking little hanger-oner was everything he thought he was, e.g. a user and a leech. Rick had a dim view of humanity, and when pretty little things of any gender started hanging out with a rock band on the rise it was hard to think it was for more than completely selfish reasons. He'd been quite sure it wouldn't take long to be proven right.
And he'd waited the few days, and waited some more, and the little bastard had actually had the temerity to be rather charming. He was so fucking sincere it was painful, he had family issues that Rick had to fight not to sympathize with, and he was actually a ripping good artist. Rick also had to admit he was a sexy bastard, big beautiful lips and eyes, all masculine in a way but still rather pretty. Ass to die for. He would grow up very well, it was obvious - it would only get better when Ethan's round edges sharpened into maturity.
Also, whatever it was that him and Zane were doing together, it was making him sexier, more confident. Rick was paying more and more attention to the kid, and he didn't feel it was his own fault.
And what really made it hard for him to hate Ethan like he used to was fairly simple.
The kid was mad about Zane. Insane about him. The way he watched him, the way he always drew him. The way he looked as if he'd get down on his knees and suck his cock at any moment. (It didn't help that Rick found himself envisioning both sucking Zane's cock and being sucked by Ethan whenever he had that thought) It was impossible to ignore, and it caused rage.
Rick couldn't think of the last time someone had looked at him like that. Not that it mattered, of course, and it wasn't like he hung around people long enough for them to get that sickeningly close to him. Fuck that sappy shit.
Still. Made it hard to hate Ethan. He didn't like the situation, but he didn't believe Ethan was playing Zane. But it all seemed unfair, somehow. Rick didn't want to think further into why, but several aspects of the situation pissed him off. This made him want to do something about it. What that was, he wasn't sure yet. But he would. He always did.
The entry to his opportunity was simple: Zane was uptight about Ethan, and it was for all the wrong reasons. After watching them closely, he had the distinct impression the singer didn't understand what was going on in the head of his own fuck toy. And Zane's own head? Ha. Not a clue. He was blatantly ignoring his own emotions.
“Whatever, Butler,” Rick thought as he popped a new piece of gum, not even noticing when Lottie called him a git and stalked off. No matter how cool the man was, no matter how intelligent in other ways, his understanding of the weakness of others was nothing compared to Rick's.
Rick liked it that way. It made making people do what he wanted them to surprisingly easy.