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    C James
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Let the Music Play - 10. Tequila

Chapter 10: Tequila

 

 

Coming down was the part he hated most... Seeing the ground rushing up always sent icy fingers of fear racing up his spine. He was just glad it was behind him, at least until the next time he had to fly.

Clearing customs had been a breeze, thought Dimitri. With the jet-lagging engineer in tow, he’d picked up the Range Rover he’d left in long-term parking after his prior visit, and been out of the airport within an hour. Heading west, skirting Brisbane as he made his way inland from the coastal airport, he was feeling the jet-lag himself and was glad of the fact that he’d traveled the road before.

 

 

 

With their lips edging ever closer, hesitating for only a moment before erasing the distance between them, Brandon felt Chase’s reassuring warm breath against his cheek. A touch, a warmth, a bare tickle which they both felt, their lips brushing ever so briefly as Helen came barging through the door.

“Time to get ready, both of you,” she blurted, pointedly ignoring what she’d seen. As the two reluctantly drew apart, she saw the frustration on their upturned faces. Neither made a move to stand so she said, “Just dress in shorts and a t-shirt, we’ll let their wardrobe people worry about the rest when they get here. We’ve only got about twenty minutes.”

Brandon drew his knees up as he willed his pressing problem to subside. “I just need to comb my hair and throw on a t-shirt? That’s it?”

“Put some shoes on too.” Helen leaned forward, staring at their bare chests, “No need to shave down, you’re both fine. Jon, on the other hand, has a few tufts of hair on his chest which have simply got to go. Could you two do me a favor and keep Eric out of the way while I make Jon shave? I remember the last photo shoot... Drag him in here and hogtie him if you have to.”

As abruptly as she’d appeared, Helen dashed from the room. Brandon turned towards Chase, arching an eyebrow to ask, “What happened last time?”

“Eric made a nuisance of himself while Helen was making Jon shave his chest; cracking jokes and generally irritating them both. Helen nearly killed him; it’s not smart to mess with her when she’s wound up.”

Finally able to stand without embarrassment, Brandon hauled Chase up to join him, their hands remaining together for a long moment before Brandon broke the spell by saying, “I’ll run back to my room, throw on a T and some shoes, and drag Eric back here...”

As he entered Jon’s suite he passed Jon and Helen in time to overhear Jon arguing about having to shave. Emerging from his room a moment later, pulling his shirt on, Brandon passed a dejected Jon outside the bathroom, as Eric entered the suite. Breezing past Helen, Eric made a beeline for the bathroom door with a wicked glint in his eye.

Noticing Helen’s rapid change of color, Brandon hooked Eric by the arm and said, “Hey man, I need to talk to you.”

With a shrug, Eric turned to follow Brandon, saying as they passed through his suite, “Helen told you to get me out of there, huh?”

Nodding, Brandon said, “Yeah, but I need to talk to you anyway.” Once they had joined Chase in his suite, Brandon asked them both, “What’s going to happen today?”

Eric replied, “If it’s like the ones in the past, they’ll do the interview first, then the photo shoot. They might have some follow-up questions after the shoot. Helen approves all the questions beforehand, and often answers them too, so the interview is usually painless.”

A little ahead of schedule, the interviewer arrived at the suites. Helen ushered everyone over to take seats around a table, though she herself stood by, hovering with an air of projected authority as the attractive young woman glanced at the four members of Instinct, smiling sweetly as she crossed her legs and turned on her tape recorder.

Brandon had time to relax as the interviewer asked a few questions of the brothers about Lump’s departure, how they’d discovered Brandon, and how they felt about working with him. She then asked about the incident with Gabe, which Helen made a point of answering herself. All too soon, she turned her attention to Brandon, smiling sweetly, batting her lashes, as she asked, “Tell me a little about yourself. Is there anyone in your life right now? Any prospects?”

Rocked back by the unexpected topic, Brandon made certain he didn’t glance at Chase as he replied, “I’ve been far too busy to even think about anything like that. We’ve been working on songs and rehearsing near non-stop since I joined.”

The interview resumed a less awkward course, though Helen jumped in from time to time. The interviewer was careful that she didn’t appear to mind; it was just standard procedure after all, and her main task was to get a good feel for the guys, to better craft the puff piece she’d finish writing that evening.

A swarm of makeup artists descended upon the suites as the interview wound down. Setting up their gear, they took all four of the band members at once, and Brandon discovered why his friends had groaned in dismay at the prospect; sitting in a chair having people fussing over you and dabbing things on your skin was a far from pleasant experience.

Catching sight of himself in the mirror as they finished up, Brandon was relieved to see that they’d done comparatively little damage; he could barely detect the makeup.

Helen had been busy, breezing through each of the guys’ closets in turn, accompanied by two photographers. The results found their way to the arms of another gaggle of assistants, as Brandon idly wondered just why, exactly, a photo shoot required so many people.

Herding everyone ahead of her, Helen kept checking her watch. Upon reaching the elevators, she waited impatiently as the assortment of people filled the arriving cars one by one. “Remember, it’s the Concord Banquet Room, just turn right as you exit in the lobby,” she said, far more times than necessary, before squeezing into the third elevator to arrive, along with the last of the assistants.

Arriving in the banquet room with Chase by his side, Brandon glanced around the huge empty room, noticing a stage at the far end where colored backdrops and an assortment of photography gear had been erected. A smiling brown-haired woman greeted them from the stage, “Hi, I’m Beth, and we’re ready to get started. I’m thinking jeans and T’s to start off with.”

Helen guided the four members of Instinct over to the table where the clothes were laid out. Beth joined them, and after much pointing and nodding, Helen handed each member a set of jeans and T’s, and Beth added, “Just change behind the backdrops.”

As they changed, Jon remarked, “They seem to be in a hurry.”

No sooner had they emerged from behind the screens than Beth was maneuvering them against the blue backdrop, explaining, “This is a blue-screen shoot so I can edit in backgrounds later.”

Standing facing the confusing array of umbrella lights, box lights, key lights, and diffusers, Brandon watched the photographer adjusting various controls before approaching, camera in hand. Surprised that she wasn’t using a tripod as he’d expected, Brandon relaxed a little as she talked, laughed, and joked with them through the first group shots. The photographer, for her part, kept up a constant banter, having learned from long experience that a happy, relaxed, engaged subject was to be preferred.

Beth guided the guys through a number of poses, before ordering a change into tank tops. Changing on stage, they pulled on the tanks, each a different color, and were photographed, mainly separately in a number of poses, including with a huge fan blasting into their faces.

Helen tapped her watch, “The hotel is closing the pool area to guests but just for half an hour. We need to be there in three minutes.”

The photographer directed two assistants to bring along some large silver reflectors that looked very much like car-windshield sunshades as she gathered up her camera, lens cases, a large tripod-mounted flash array, and its accompanying power pack.

Moments after arriving at the pool, the photographer huddled with Helen before asking the guys to strip to their jeans and climb into the pool.

The shoot went faster than Brandon would have expected, with the photographer politely barking orders, directing them this way and that, clicking away like mad even when they weren’t posed.

Ordering the three brothers out of the water, the photographer snapped a series of solo shots of Brandon, standing around in the water, wearing a pair of sunglasses she’d tossed him. He couldn’t make much sense of it; why would anyone wear jeans in the pool?

Directing him to climb out, she took a few standing shots, before directing him to a small patio table. Having him lean back against it, hair slicked back and sunglasses on, the photographer made minute adjustments to Brandon’s poses, having him angle his head a fraction of an inch this way or that as she continued snapping off dozens of photos. She spat out a series of commands, “Angle your shoulders a little more... tense your abs... lean back a few degrees more... look serious... smile... frown...” the string of commands continued for what seemed to Brandon to be a very long time, interrupted only with assistants squirting him with mist from spray bottles.

When she was finally done, Brandon remarked, “Wow, you really concentrated on that last set. Hope it turns out okay.”

Glancing up from her preview screen, the photographer said with a smile, “I sure hope so; these have to be just right. They’re for the...” she paused a moment as she noticed Helen, standing behind Brandon, drawing a finger across her throat. Catching the meaning and suppressing a chuckle, the photographer continued, “filler in the back of the article. Nothing to worry about.”

Brandon never noticed Jon’s sudden change of color, as Jon turned his back, struggling to suppress a laugh until he caught Helen’s withering glare.

Making certain he was out of Brandon’s earshot, Jon stood close beside Helen and asked softly, “Now the shoot is over, why can’t we tell him?”

“He’d just worry about it. Besides, I have an idea. Leave it to me; he’ll find out Friday.”

Released at last from the photo-shoot, Brandon changed into dry shorts and stood around, watching his band mates take their turns at the solo shots, and wondering why none of them had to go through the routine on the table, thus getting done a little faster than he had.

During Eric’s turn at the solo shots, Brandon stood beside the strobe assembly. With his considerable knowledge of electronics – the same knowledge that had enabled him to land the job as a roadie-tech – Brandon was intrigued by the device; specifically, the sharp electronic hum from the charging capacitors that caught his attention as it rose in pitch after each firing of the xenon tubes.

Chase’s turn came last, and Brandon, having been the subject of a few candid shots from the photographer seconds before, joined Eric in gathering up their respective piles of clothes, asking “Did that go okay?”

Eric, turning to head into the hotel, replied casually, “Yeah, I think we’ve got it covered,” as he studiously avoided making eye contact with Helen.

Brandon, hoisting his clothes in his arms, exchanged a soft smile with Chase before following Eric inside. Jon took note and asked his brother a few moments later, after the shoot was over, “I saw that look. Things going the way you want, little bro?”

Chase grinned, “I think so. We were about to kiss when Helen,” Chase turned to give her a pout, “charged in. I haven’t had a chance to talk to him since, but I think it’s real. I’m hoping he picks up where we left off the next time we’re alone.”

“I’m hoping he picks up where we left off the next time we’re alone,” Brandon said, at the end of his own recount to Eric while they waited for the others to catch up at the elevator.

Back in Eric’s suite, the four members of Instinct turned to face Helen as she coughed for their attention. “On Friday, we have an opportunity to do two things; do some good, have some fun, and get some good publicity,” without missing a beat, she added, “And the first person who points out that’s three things gets hit, got it?”

“What do you have in mind?” asked Jon with evident interest.

“I’ve been pushing Jerry to get involved with things so he’s not sitting home alone wallowing in guilt. As it happens, he used to be quite active in charity circles, so I got him to agree to host a fundraiser tomorrow. It’s for a charity that gives Thanksgiving dinners to needy children all across the country; a very good cause.”

The three brothers, having been involved with similar functions before, nodded their approval. Brandon, making a wrong assumption, asked, “How much would we be giving?” as he hoped the amount would not exceed his remaining funds.

Helen smiled as she replied, “That’s not really why you four are invited, though I’m sure a donation would be appreciated. It’s a celebrity event; donors are often attracted by the prospect of mingling with celebrities for a party. That’s what you four will be doing; you’ll be amongst the celebrity guests. This, as I said, would be a very positive thing. It will also help Jerry.”

Eric jumped into the discussion to say, “I dunno, that’s asking a lot. Instead of being stuck in here working, we’d have to take a night off and go out and have some fun...”

With a chuckle, Jon added, “Yeah, the change of pace alone would be good. Count me in.”

The others nodded their agreement, as Helen paused for a moment before obscuring the coming surprise with an offhand mention, “I’ll get some clothes ordered up. I already have all your measurements on file...”

Brandon leaped on the sudden opportunity, “I’d like to pay for whatever we need, and yours too. I haven’t had a chance to do anything for you, Jon, or Eric yet, and I’d like to­–”

Cutting off the objections of the other three, Helen surprised them all by agreeing, “I can see you won’t let this rest, so very well. You will, however, be happy to learn that it won’t be too expensive – we’re renting. The clothes will be here Friday afternoon.”

Strolling down the tired, cluttered street in Asunción, Paraguay, under the Lapacho trees which offered some infrequent shade from the tropical sun, The Scar was in a good mood despite his long drive west from Iguazu.

Inquiries, floated through various contacts he’d done business with before, had panned out as well as he’d hoped. Enjoying the scenery of Paraguay’s capital, he looked askance at the electrical wires spinning their messy webs against the raucous advertising signs above, and vowed that he’d improve the aesthetics. It would, after all, be his own capital soon enough.

Amazing, really, he thought to himself, that for a few of the billions he’d soon have, spread in large chunks to selected senior military officers, he’d have himself a country and absolute power to go along with it. What more could any man want?

With his business done and nothing to concern himself with until the following morning, The Scar’s mind turned towards a little personal relief. Spying a señorita standing outside of a seedy bar, her excess makeup and alluring stance making her purpose all too plain, The Scar approached her, in broken Spanish negotiating a price for her services for the evening. Taking her by the arm, looking forward to tearing her clothes off, he idly wondered why any man would want a permanent relationship, when he could merely purchase a lady’s services for the night. Much more economical his way, of that much he was sure.

Friday afternoon found Instinct ironing out the last few rough spots in their newly-written songs, including two that Brandon had sketched out before joining. Racing to beat the ticking clock, spending many long hours with their ears ringing to the pounding beat of driving, distorted guitars blasting out of their souped-up tube amps, they’d finally been satisfied enough to concentrate entirely on the actual recording sessions, laying down the remaining tracks for the album, often separately for later remixing.

Late that afternoon, while Brandon was alone in the booth recording vocals, Eric and Jon cornered Chase. “Okay, little bro, spill it; what’s up between you and Brandon? You’ve been making eyes at each other since the photo shoot, and we know you almost kissed, so what gives?” Eric asked.

“I don’t know. He hasn’t said anything or made any moves, but it’s different now; I can see it in his eyes, he’s not hiding his feelings anymore. We’ve been working so hard ever since, we just haven't been alone. I wish Helen hadn’t walked in on us when she did; just a few seconds more and things would have been a lot different now.”

Patting his brother on the back, Jon said in a consoling voice, “Things will be hectic for the next few days and Brandon’s driving himself hard. Just be patient, little bro, he’s not going anywhere.”

After laying down another sequence of tracks for the new album, the guys returned to their suites to meet Helen. She was a few minutes late, showing up with four suit-bags on her arm and a sly grin plastered across her face. Consulting the small tags she’d attached, she handed each of the guys a bag, ordering them all, “Go get changed.”

His suspicions aroused, Jon unzipped his bag to look inside. “Peter Pan? Helen...” he gasped, looking up to meet her wicked smile.

With a big grin, Eric announced that he was a pirate. Chase peeked in at his own costume, grinning as he zipped the bag shut, though not mentioning what he would be. Brandon began to open his own bag, until Helen told him, “You’re going as Zorro.”

Shooing her charges off to their rooms to change, she retired to the bathroom to slip into her own costume.

 

 

 

Alone in his room, Brandon stripped to his briefs before opening the costume bag. There, he found the usual accouterments; black pants, a narrow black mask, a prop sword, a black leather belt, and the signature black cape. A glance at the pants caused him to do a double-take, rolling his eyes as he withdrew them from the bag.

While shoehorning himself into the excruciatingly tight leather pants, he wondered if Jon’s Peter Pan costume could be any worse. Scrambling to his closet, he found a pair of black shoes and socks from his Rodeo Drive shopping trip that would go well with the outfit, and after pulling them on, he reached for the sword and belt.

Realizing that he’s need to loosen the skin-tight leather pants to tuck in the billowy white shirt that normally accompanied the costume, he searched in the bag. To his surprise, he couldn’t find it. Assuming that the costumer had made a mistake, he hoped that one of the guys had a long-sleeved white shirt that he could borrow.

Gathering up the rest of his costume, he returned to Eric’s suite, chucking as he saw Helen. “I don’t suppose a Fairy Godmother can just wave her magic wand and make the rest of my costume appear? The shirt is missing.”

Adjusting her tiara, Helen replied sweetly, “There’s nothing missing hon; that’s all of it.”

“You want me to go to a high-society shindig shirtless?” Brandon gasped.

“It’s a costume party, hon, and you’ll look great. Remember, the front man is supposed to make a splash, and this will help, now finish getting your costume on.”

Threading on the sword belt, Brandon muttered, “Are you sure you got the pants tight enough? Any tighter and I’d turn blue.”

Helen helped Brandon into his cape, then slid the mask over his head as she replied, “Don’t complain. Wait until you see what Jon and Chase are wearing. Chase will like his, but Jon is probably going to bitch at me all night.”

With a laugh, Brandon asked, “Peter Pan. You did that to him on purpose, didn’t you?”

“You’re getting to know my tricks, hon.”

“So am I,” grumbled Jon as he entered the room, tugging at the clinging green tights, “I’ll get you for this, I hope you know that?”

“But you look so nice, Jon. And it’s a good thing you had to shave your chest; it wasn’t easy rustling up a top that showed that much skin,” Helen replied with a snicker, as Eric, dressed as a pirate replete with an eye patch, his billowing white shirt unbuttoned to his navel, bounded into the room, waving a prop scimitar.

A motion to his left caught Brandon’s eye, and he turned to see Chase standing in the doorway, looking very pleased with himself. Brandon felt his jaw drop open and didn’t care, as he got an eyeful of Chase.

Stopping in front of Brandon, Chase spun through a full turn before asking, “What do you think?”

Brandon stared for a few moments at Chase’s costume; a cloth headband with a single feather, a few streaks of paint on his cheeks, a feather necklace draped over his bare, tan chest, and a band of leather high on each of his arms. It wasn’t the leather moccasins on Chase’s feet that caught Brandon’s eye the most; it was the snug leather loincloth of the Indian Brave costume.

“Wow.” Brandon gasped, fighting the urge to whistle, unable to take his eyes off Chase.

“Wow yourself, you look... hot,” replied Chase with the slightest of blushes.

Chase turned towards Helen, asking, “Do I look okay? Do I need any more paint?”

Helen, fighting the urge to chuckle, replied, “A few diagonal streaks on your chest would really set it off. Don’t try and do it yourself though, they need to be straight and positioned to highlight your muscles. Get Brandon to do it.”

His face lighting up in a coy grin, Chase handed Brandon the jar of red-ochre paint, and stood still, hands at his sides. He was both relieved and delighted to see Brandon look at the paint, and then at his intended canvas with a shy and happy grin at the prospect.

Dipping his index finger into the paint, Brandon reached out to trace a line of pigment down each of Chase’s pecs, going far slower than he needed to, taking his time to enjoy the feel of Chase’s warm skin.

Suddenly very glad of the tight leather pants, Brandon’s breath quickened as he added a set of horizontal stripes along each side of Chase’s abs, frantically trying to think of an excuse to add a few more.

Brandon, his task regrettably complete, looked into Chase’s happy eyes, meeting an inner smile that matched his own. Neither felt the need to speak, nor any awkwardness over the silence.

With a snap of her fingers and a theatrical wave of her wand, Helen announced, “Our carriage awaits!” The spell broken, Brandon dashed away to wash the paint off his finger.

On the ride down in the elevator, Jon noticed Brandon and Chase exchanging furtive glances, and struggled to avoid rolling his eyes as he resolved to do something about that situation.

In the Lobby, Brandon couldn’t help but grin at Chase as he strode out in front, not the least bit concerned to be strolling through a busy hotel lobby wearing a loincloth. Günter greeted them at the hotel door, ushering everyone into the waiting white limousine.

As Günter edged the huge limo into the seething, nightmarish traffic, Helen said to Brandon, “You haven’t met my partner Barbra yet. She’s meeting us there and you’ll like her, but she’s not as blunt as me so she might seem a little shy at first.”

“Helen, no one could ever be as blunt as you,” Eric opined with a smirk.

With a laugh, she replied, “You can stuff it, or next time you’ll be dressed as Tinkerbelle.” Helen’s demeanor shifted to a more serious mode as she got down to business, “I want you four to have fun tonight, but nothing too wild,” she glanced pointedly at Eric before continuing to address all four, “Just mingle, have fun, and relax. Try to be friendly; the guests are donating a minimum of five thousand to be there, so be nice to ‘em. Remember, this is for a very good cause and it’s important to Jerry.”

After two hours of battling the traffic, an exhausted Günter wheeled the limo into a circular driveway in the Pacific Palisades. The large, ornate house sparkled with lights, with even the landscaping decked out in illuminations. As Günter opened the door for his passengers, Helen hung back to say, “Come on in with us and enjoy yourself. It’s a costume party and you came as a chauffeur.” She held out her arm, which he took with a gentlemanly flourish, as the four members of Instinct looked back and smiled.

Arriving in the foyer, Jerry, dressed as an eighteenth-century sailor, greeted them, “Thank you so much for coming. The guests have just started to arrive and we’re expecting nearly a hundred people. This is going to make a lot of children very happy this Thanksgiving.”

Glancing around, Brandon noticed that the home was even larger inside than out. “This is a beautiful home, Jerry.”

“It’s my home here in Los Angeles, but I probably spend more time in Idaho.”

Jon agreed with a nod, “I’ve been there with Dad, once. It’s not too far from where we grew up. I like your spread; it’s got a real western feel.”

Rolling his eyes, Jerry answered with a chuckle, “Being gay and having a ranch was fine until that damn gay-cowboy movie came out. Now I get to hear all the same stale jokes over and over again. Makes me glad I’m still in the closet to so many people.”

Jerry escorted his guests to the main room, where servers hovered around banquet tables. Brandon was glad of the mask he wore; it prevented anyone seeing his eyes bug out; every dish and tray appeared to be made of gleaming silver, except for the cutlery which shone with the aura of gold. The somber airs of a costumed string quartet in a distant corner filled the room with a surreal sense of wonder.

As Jerry returned to the foyer to greet some arriving guests, Brandon glanced around the great room, noticing the crystal chandeliers shining high above, their sparkle matched by that of the shining marble of the floor and walls, accented by the carefully arranged vases and art. Also catching his eye were the famous profiles on a few of the guests; television personalities mainly, but a few he recognized from the movies. Feeling decidedly out of place, and not a little underdressed, he edged closer to Chase, not even realizing that he had done so, or that his friend’s close proximity lessened his unease.

Hearing a familiar voice, Helen excused herself and made a beeline for the foyer. Greeting Barbra with a hug, and admiring the dominatrix outfit, complete with a whip, that her partner had chosen to wear, Helen asked, “Did you get them?”

Barbra patted her purse, “Hot off the proofing press, for the magazine at least. The tabloid is already on the stands so I just bought a copy. When is the unveiling?”

Guiding Barbara to the main room, Helen replied, “As soon as most of the guests have arrived. Hold the poster back though; I promised that to Chase. You’ve got a camera, right?”

Sticking close by Chase’s side, Brandon made the rounds; greeting guests, shaking hands, and signing autographs. Several remarked that they’d seen him in the tabloids, and Brandon made a mental note to track down a copy. He needn’t have bothered. Once most of the guest had arrived, Helen rounded up her charges, introduced Brandon to Barbra, and mentioned casually, “Barbra has a proof copy of Rolling Stone. It should hit the stands tomorrow.”

Suppressing a grin, Barbra reached into her purse, withdrawing the magazine and being careful to keep it folded over to hide the cover. She handed it to a surprised Brandon as Eric began to snicker. Wondering what was going on, Brandon unfolded the magazine, to find himself filling the cover, shirtless and in wet jeans, leaning back against a table.

The three brothers began to crack up as Brandon looked around in astonishment, only to be dazzled by the flash from Barbra’s camera as he asked, “This is a gag, right?”

Helen shook her head, “No, hon; that’s real. Congratulations, cover boy.”

Fixing a laughing Eric in his glare as the truth dawned, Brandon asked, “You knew. That’s why you made all those remarks about me being undercover, or covered.”

“Yeah, but we all knew, dude. After your big coming out nabbing Gabe, we knew the magazine would want you on the cover. You’re news, man; you’re famous.”

Glancing again at his own image on the cover, Brandon muttered, “Why didn’t you tell me?”

Patting him on the back, Helen answered for them all, “We didn’t want you to be nervous. Peace of mind, hon, peace of mind. Well, that, and we all wanted to see your face when you found out. Now that was priceless, and I hope the picture comes out.”

Skimming through the magazine, Brandon found the article, which was far from the small sidebar he’d expected. Instead, it filled several pages, replete with photographs of the band, singly and together. One particularly hot shot of Chase lounging by the pool caught his eye, and he wondered how he could get a copy of his own. Looking up, he found Barbra thrusting a newspaper at him, taking it in his hands to find more pictures of himself, the ones taken by the paparazzi, along with a story declaring him a hero. “All I did was catch Gabe, it was no big deal,” he mumbled.

“News is what they make it,” snickered Helen, “This worked out great; I couldn’t have planned it better. Don’t do it again, but you gave yourself, and us, a great launch. You’re probably the first musician to make the cover before your first big performance.

Barbra snapped a few photos of the group, having them stand together as she pointedly ignored Jon’s complaint about his costume.

Moving back onto the meet-and-greet circuit, with Chase by his side, Brandon never noticed that he stood just a little taller as his feelings of being out of place ebbed further away. He was finally beginning to loosen up, tossing his cape back to expose more of his chest, reveling in the attention, especially from Chase, when a commotion to his right shattered his relaxed mood. Running over, he joined Helen in helping Barbra back to her feet.

Staggering as her left leg buckled, Barbra leaned on Brandon as she grumbled, “I tripped over my damn whip.”

Scooping her up in his arms, Brandon carried her to a nearby loveseat, laying her gently on the gaudy velour as Helen checked her fast-swelling ankle. A quick conference, along with a cursory exam from a guest who was also a doctor, resulted in the conclusion that Barbra had a sprained ankle. Helen paced around for a few moments before hauling Brandon aside to say, “I want to take her home but I don’t want to leave you four here alone. I’ve already had to shoo Jon and Eric away from the booze a few times. If I go, will you promise to phone me if anything happens, or anyone gets out of line even the slightest bit?”

“We’ll be fine, just go, and if Günter can give us a ride back to the hotel, we’ll be okay.”

“Of course Günter will stay with you. I’ll drive Barbra home in her car. Just... be careful. Those three can get way out of hand when they start drinking, especially Eric.”

Helen pulled Günter aside for a private chat as Brandon returned to the three waiting brothers. “I’m glad Barbra’s okay, but Helen won’t be happy leaving. She watches us like a hawk,” Jon said, while casting a lazy eye towards the bar.

Jerry ambled over, drink in hand, asking Brandon to come meet some important guests. Chase tagged along, proud of Brandon’s newfound confidence, watching as he smoothly greeted a man dressed as a Roman Senator, accompanied by three girls dressed as Vestal Virgins. The girl’s costumes, Chase decided as two of the girls latched onto Brandon, were ironic to say the least.

Brandon began to feel uncomfortable again as the two girls, the Roman Senator’s daughter and her close friend proceeded to treat him like a piece of prime beef, including more than a few overly intimate touches. Catching sight of Chase who was standing a few yards away with the third Vestal Virgin and looking less than pleased, Brandon mouthed a single word, “help.”

With a smile, Chase rushed to his friend’s rescue, but Jerry got there first. “Now, now, girls, don’t maul the poor guy. He’s got to circulate; this is for charity, after all.”

One of the two girls crooned sweetly at Jerry, “That’s the way I see it too. For charity...” turning to bat her long lashes in Brandon’s direction, she added, “And my name is Charity.”

Jerry led the two displeased girls away, giving Brandon a wink over his shoulder, as Chase chuckled, “Get used to that; fans can be really aggressive.”

Returning from his errand of mercy, Jerry apologized, “I’m sorry about that, but it’s par for the course. I had a hunch about you two after seeing you together,” he said, smiling at Brandon and Chase, “You two make a good couple, though I assume you keep that quiet. I’ll try and keep the ladies at bay, but given the way you two are dressed it won’t be easy.”

 
 

 

 

Tiring of the continual meet-and-greet, Jon and Eric made their way to the bar, only to find the bartender unwilling to serve them. Jon began to pace, fuming that he’d been cut off. He was twenty-one, wasn’t he? Old enough to drink if he damn well felt like it. Pulling Eric aside, he whispered, “Distract and scoot, just like we did at the last party.”

Jon asked the busy bartender for a soda, letting it slip through his fingers as it was handed to him. The bartender, stooping to clean up the remains of the broken glass, distracted by Jon’s vociferous apologies, never noticed Eric edging around the end of the bar.

 

 

 
 

Spying a commotion over by the bar, Jerry, ever the busy host, dashed away, leaving Brandon and Chase alone amidst the crowd of guests. Screwing up his nerve, Brandon asked, “Does it bother you that he thinks we’re a couple?”

Turning to lock eyes with Brandon, Chase smiled, “It doesn’t bother me at all. Not one bit.” They looked deep into each other’s eyes, both at last beginning to perceive the depth of the other’s feelings. The moment was only broken when Chase noticed a flicker of glass, his eyes opening wide in horror as he gasped, “I just saw a bottle of tequila in Eric’s hand; he was hiding it under his cloak. Dude, this is not good.”

Brandon turned to see Eric, followed by Jon, strolling out of the room. Trying to follow, he found his way blocked by a throng of guests, so he turned to ask Chase, “I guess they’re going to do some drinking? Helen mentioned she’d tried to keep them away from the bar.”

Rolling his eyes, Chase replied, “Dude, you don’t understand. Those two drinking is bad enough, but Eric goes nuts on tequila. This is gonna be trouble, I guarantee it.”

Soon enough, Eric and Jon re-appeared, looking quite pleased with themselves. One look at the glint in Eric’s eyes as they approached convinced Brandon that Chase was not exaggerating.

“Guys, um,” Chase began.

“Relax, we’re just having a little fun. Loosen up, bro,” Jon said, from close enough that Brandon could smell the tequila on his breath.

Eric and Jon resumed their meet-and-greet duties, concentrating mainly on the younger female guests, leaving Brandon and Chase to mingle with the rest, a partition of responsibility that all four of the band members found ideal.

After slipping away for the third time that night to take another chug from the hidden tequila bottle, Eric wheezed as the fiery liquid burned his throat, returned the bottle to its hiding place underneath the bathroom sink, and made his way back to the main room. As he entered, he noticed one of the Vestal Virgins sending an admiring glance in his direction from the far side of the banquet tables. He returned it with a wink and a lopsided smile, opening his shirt just a little more, grinning as she held eye contact. The hunt was on...

 

 

Brandon and Chase found themselves bored nearly to death in a long conversation with an airline pilot as the party wound down, until a crash behind them made everyone jump. Turning towards the sound, Chase groaned as he saw Eric, waving his prop scimitar, leaping from table to table, having succeeded in knocking one serving tray to the floor. Eric leapt down, landing in a crouch on the marble floor, grinning wickedly at his giggling quarry.

An apoplectic Jerry rushed to the scene, but Jon, though drunk, realized Eric had gone a little too far and grabbed his brother first.

“Are you completely insane? How dare you act this way at my fundraiser,” growled Jerry, his face coloring with anger as he glared at Eric.

“Sorry, he’s just had a little too much to drink,” answered Jon.

With an understanding nod, Jerry immediately resumed his prior friendly demeanor, “Well, I suppose that can happen. Please, have fun, but try not to cause any more scenes.”

As soon as Jerry was out of earshot, Eric, slurring slightly, grumbled, “I’ll show him a scene.”

Jon restrained his brother. “Come on bro, save it for later. Lay off the tequila until we’re back at the hotel.”

Handing Eric off to Brandon and Chase, Jon said, “Keep him here, I’m going to go move the bottle so he can’t find it.”

Fuming, Eric complained at his departing brother’s back, “Can’t I have any fun? Ever?”

Jon soon returned and joined in keeping Eric corralled until he’d sobered up a little. Eric soon became a more normal version of himself, as Jon pulled Brandon aside to say, “I should have stopped him, or made him take something else... Eric gets like this on tequila. I talked to Jerry and after I’d explained, he traded me a bottle of scotch for the tequila. That should be okay, Eric just gets drunk on scotch, not psycho like he does on tequila. But Jerry was adamant; no more booze for Eric until after we leave.”

Returning an admiring glance from another Vestal Virgin, not the first of the evening from that direction, Eric said, “I’m okay now, you can let me go.”

Later, while launching a second feeding-frenzy raid on the desert table along with Eric, Jon glanced across the room at Chase and Brandon. “What is it with those two? Why hasn’t anything happened yet?”

“My guess is they haven’t been alone. We’ve been working our asses off laying down tracks for the album, and when we’re not working, all four of us are together. Think about Chase, too; we’ve lived a really isolated life for a couple of years now. He doesn’t get out at all; I don’t think he knows what to do. He keeps waiting for Brandon to make a move, and Brandon’s waiting for the same thing from Chase.”

“Somebody just needs too...” a sly smile began to grow on Jon’s face as he gave voice to an idea, “Hey Eric, wanna get laid tonight?”

 

   

© 2007 C James

feedback.gifPlease let me know what you think; good, bad, or indifferent.

Please give me feedback, and please don’t be shy if you want to criticize! The feedback thread for this story is in my Forum. Please stop by and say "Hi!"

 

 

Many thanks to my editor EMoe for editing and for his support, encouragement, beta reading, and suggestions.

Thanks also to Shadowgod, for beta reading, support and advice, and for putting up with me.

A big "thank you" to to Bondwriter for final Zeta-reading and advice, and to Captain Rick for Beta-reading and advice.

To Graeme; thank you for your wonderful idea; and your wise council and input at a very critical stage.

Any remaining errors are mine alone.

© 2007 C James
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Chapter Comments

You know, you never think about how hard these these bands have it. Especially young kids in bands. They can't drink, they can't get too much sun, they have to uphold their image, etc. It sounds like a lot of work. And that's not even including the long hours in the studio and writing the songs. You listen to a CD or the radio and you never think of the long, long hours that went into putting that song/CD out.

 

And CJ, I should have done this in the last chapter, but I must commend you: you know so much about plutonium and uranium and explosives, etc., I'm really impressed! :)

 

Ok, on to chapter eleven. I'm assuming they'll be two more chapters uploaded at 11:36 this morning? lol

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If Chase and Brandon ever move into a room together, I can imagine the decor. Poster of Chase from Drumbeat magazine and the poster of Brandon as the cover of the Rolling Stone. 
 

Now off to sing to myself...

Rolling Stone

Rolling Stone

Now I’m the cover of the Rolling Stone. 
 

 

m

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