Fault Line, Marina District
23rd April 2009, late evening
Jimmy couldn't believe he lived in a world that had martial fucking law. He was used to playing til the small hours of the morning, usually half drunk by then, bedding some willing groupie who had some good smack to get high off while they fucked. Waking up after midday, throwing up, getting in some rehearsal time before starting the whole thing all over again. It was a good way to live; he'd gotten used to it. He figured he had another ten, fifteen years of this before he ODed or, better yet, his liver exploded in his face and never have to face getting old. It had been a good plan.
Unfortunately, his whole schedule was turned upside down with this whole business of martial law. Everyone had to be indoors by midnight. What the hell was that about? Here, it was almost 11h30 pm and the Fault Line was a tomb, the only cleaners on their way out. He gathered his things, packed his guitar and got ready to head home when he heard someone on the stage. Peering around the corner, he saw Stevie, having no plans to go home and working on a song. She did that a lot, he noticed. Burn the midnight oil to write the song that would never have its day the way good songs were supposed to.
Stepping out, he announced himself.
"Hey," he greeted.
Stevie looked up, silencing the strings with the palm of her hand. "Hey." She checked him out, up and down, liking the way he walked and held himself. "Thought you'd gone for the night..."
"About to." He shrugged, guitar case still in his hand as he approached her. "What about you? Clock's ticking on curfew."
"Yeah." She smirked. "I say let it tick."
She hated the whole damn thing. All these rules thrust upon them while on the surface they were all expected to pretend life was back to normal. It took her back to when she was a kid in LA and she supposed that while it made her stomach squirm with dread and this constant anticipation of the second shoe dropping, it also made her appreciate her parents' work back in the day more. They had loathed the occupation then too.
She looked to Guy's office. "Planning on crashing here," she explained. She reached for her beer and took a swig. "Want some?" she offered him the bottle.
"Sure," he said, coming towards her. He grabbed a chair on the way, putting it down near her and sitting on it back to front, his long legs splayed on either side of the seat and resting the guitar case down next to him before reaching for the bottle. Taking a generous swallow, he handed it back to her. "Tasty," he said and he didn't mean the beer.
Stevie watched him, mouth slightly open, the tip of her tongue playing along the inside of her top teeth. She was sure he was too. Tasty. She broke into a smile, liking how open he was. No fucking around. She took the bottle and drank some more before putting it down again.
"Have a listen..."
Automatically, she quickly checked how tuned her guitar was with a few harmonics and then started playing the first four bars and carried on with what she had so far. Stopping, she picked up her pencil, erased something on the pile of paper she had next to her and scribbled a correction.
It was a nice tune, a mixture of blues and folk. If he had to pick a name for it, he'd call it soulful. The music was soulful. He knew she had a great voice and he knew she had the chords down pat but there was music inside her too and that part was a surprise.
"It's good," he said, genuine in his compliment. "You got any lyrics to go with that?"
Looking up, she met his gaze, assessing if he was truthful or just saying that. She decided on the former. Jimmy No Bullshit is what she would have called him over Dredge but then she hardly knew him. There were signs on his body that he'd been into hard drugs so maybe his nickname came from that.
"Thanks." Looking through her pile of papers, she pulled out a napkin with words written on it. "Tentative."
"Tentative, huh?" he said, amused by the collection of napkins and skimmed through the words. "Kind of depressing, I like that." There was a sadness to the words, a sadness to her actually.
"Yeah..." she said, looking away, one hand going to scratch the back of her head. "A lot of that going around."
She went back to her guitar, but this time she started singing first, opening the song with an a cappella vocal riff. She soon started picking at the strings as she slipped into the first verse. When she reached the chorus, she nodded to Jimmy for him to join in if he wanted, wanting to test a layering of two voices.
He wondered why she was so sad, she wasn't the kind of girl you'd think would have depths. Then again, most people thought the same thing about him, except in his case they'd be right. When she resumed playing, he listened at first, getting a sense of the music before he reached down and removed his guitar from its case and waited for her to invite him. If she wanted.
When she did, it was like a kind of musical flirtation as his own voice joined hers in a duet.
They could have been playing together for years for how easily he just sank into it, his unplugged bass a soft sound he managed to make count without stealing anything from Stevie's six-string acoustic guitar. She got the shivers and the rush she was used to get with the guys when they wrote a track and it all fell together almost effortlessly. And into the second verse she went, another turn at the chorus and ploughed through the break she had planned but had barely written the music for. They improvised, feeding off each other, experimenting with a few things.
Christ, it had been a while since the tunes flowed through him so effortlessly.
Usually he needed to be wasted to get to this level of harmony with the music but the fact that he had managed it sober was something of a revelation. Something about playing together like this seemed so intimate, even more so than if he had her bent over that grand piano. This was like making love with music and it surprised him how much he enjoyed it.
"That was..." Stevie chuckled and shook her head, feeling like she'd just been kissed, and amazingly well. Surprised that he could make her smile so easily, she put her guitar aside and grabbed her beer, taking a sip before handing the bottle to him. She didn't even feel the need to write down anything they'd just done. She knew she'd remember it.
Standing up, she went past him to go get them both another drink. She didn't even bring up the fact she'd just made him late for the damn curfew.
He held the bottle to his lips again as he watched her saunter past, enjoying the swing of her hips as she moved. There was a feline grace to her, as if she had her own rhythm. Like the music she played.
"Pretty fucking good," he said with a smile when he lowered the bottle. Glancing at the clock, he noted the time. "Looks like I'm stuck here all night."
She threw him a glance over her shoulder, for some reason knowing he wasn't broken up about that. She was soon returning with two bottles of beer and a bottle of whiskey. "Yeah, sorry about that," she offered.
"I'll live," he said, taking the bottle she offered, watching her closely. Popping the top of it, he took another swig and looked at her, starting from those amazing green eyes, down to her feet and back again.
"So, we're here all night, together, it seems. You plan on playing all night?" He let her take that anyway she wanted.
His easy, relaxed smile and manner belied how hot and heavy that gaze of his could be. Stevie toyed with the idea. "Playing?"
She found herself attracted to him despite not wanting to. And while she had behaved since meeting him, tonight she wondered why the fuck for. Maybe Jimmy here was exactly what the doctor ordered... to get Daniel Ivanov out of her hair, so to speak.
He'd spoken to her from that first day, she had just decided to ignore it, but with the music, his easy but jagged ways, the more time she spent around him, the more he enticed her. He was tall, strong, a little sense of touch at your own risk came off him, of freedom, no strings, everything the old Stevie went for. But what attracted her the most was probably his openness. There was his invitation, open-ended, and she knew it wouldn't matter if she chose to ignore it.
And the fact they had just managed to play an unfinished song without so much as a word and no prep work. There was or could definitely be a little something there. He saw it; it was just a matter of if she wanted it too.
"We could definitely play all night." She left it ambiguous, be it music or another kind of play, she figured with him both would blur into one. "But chasers first?"
She cracked the bottle of whiskey open and did the same with one of the beers. Downing a healthy swallow of whiskey, she chased it with the beer, only stopping when she got to the last drop.
"The way I like to play." He grinned and took the bottle from her and repeated it, only his healthy swallow of whiskey would put most men to shame and matched her, drop for drop. When he finished, he wiped his lips with the back of his sleeve and said impressed, "So, is that the only song you got? Cause I'm in the mind to jam a bit more."
"Is the damn Pope Catholic?" And just as she said it, she rolled her eyes. Fucking Daniel popping in her head again. "You better plug yourself in." She smirked, picking up her guitar and warmed up with playing an old tune from Heart. Wanting to leave the depressing and haunting song she'd been working on earlier, she figured Crazy On You was as good as any to rock things up a bit.
Getting off the chair, he made his way to the back of the stage where the gear was stored and grabbed his amp. Bringing it back to the chair and his guitar, he hooked the axe up, allowing her to play on her own a bit while he set it up. Once he was ready, he got comfortable again and joined her when he found a good place for him to slip in without disrupting her pace. The song was familiar and he identified it immediately. One of Heart's, he thought, before joining her in another duet, strumming together, fucking with song not flesh.
Barely needing her to lead with a few bars, they moved into another classic and then another before Stevie picked one of the songs the band had been rehearsing with him to play live later in the week. Jimmy just followed easily, with just a look or a nod between them, and even added his own mark to it, already evolving from the last time they had all played it together.
When the song came to an end, Stevie was on a high, feeling a buzz coursed through her. The pair of them were like dancers... or lovers. It was uncanny how they just picked up on each other.
It had been a long time since he had participated in an activity with a girl that didn't involve sex or drugs and even longer since he had actually enjoyed it. Even if it was mostly playing covers, Jimmy had to admit they played well together and seemed almost attune. When the music paused, he lowered his guitar and looked at her, a small smile stealing across his face. "Not bad. You always this much fun at night?"
"Are you?" Stevie returned the question as she held his hazel eyes. 'Here we go again,' would say Mick if he was here. She could hear him clear as day in her head. That made her smile. That and the hot guy before her.
"Never had any complaints," he replied, not about to lie. He broke her gaze when he reached for the bottle of whiskey on the floor next to her chair and took a swig.
She watched him move, the desire to get up to go run her hand along his back, from shoulder to shoulder too damn strong. She opted for another chaser instead. She opened a beer and then thought better of it. "Gotta take a leak," she excused herself, leaving her guitar on her chair. "Maybe we can play one of yours when I get back," she said, turning to look at him some more as she walked backwards for a bit.
While she was gone, he helped himself to Noah's axe and started playing one of his favourite tracks, a classic, older than the one she had chosen to play but it seemed to fit his mood. They had fallen into such a good rapport with their playing, that this seemed to fit. It had been years he had been in a duet with anyone and this wasn't something he played with anyone.
Stevie came back to the sound of a track from Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon album. Surprised to see Jimmy playing one of Noah's guitars, she watched him for a moment before hitting the whiskey and then that second beer. She joined him easily after a serious burp she hid behind her hand, singing back up to his nice, strong voice as she accompanied him on her acoustic guitar.
When she sat across him and started to play, her voice joining his, a smile stole across his face as he sang. Their voices filled the empty night club and in the darkness that surrounded them, with the world the way it was, it seemed that they had found a refuge that hadn't been there before.
They played for another couple of hours if not more, pulling out more old Pink Floyd songs from the woodwork. She gathered Brain Damage was his favourite just by the way he played it and so she let him know her own personal best, Wish You Were Here. Always a nice one to sing with Noah when they fooled around, Jimmy brought to it an interesting edge.
Stevie had long lost track of time or even the desire to know what the hell time it was. The booze had flowed rather freely and she hoped Guy wouldn't mind too much come mid-morning, when he'd come to open his club for the lunch crowd.
Sitting on the edge of the stage, legs dangling and swinging, she eyed Jimmy with a decidedly glassy gaze, trying to figure him out. She recognised some of her tendencies in him and they certainly shared a love and passion for music. She idly wondered why they hadn't met before now.
Time seemed to move so fast that by the time he bothered enough to stop and take stock of it, he realized that they had been doing this for hours. Jimmy had been having such a good time, that he hadn't honestly noticed the time. When they stopped, he noticed her thoughtful stare and lowered the guitar. "What's on your mind, Stevie?" he asked, bemused.
"Nothing." She grinned. "Nothing that makes sense," she clarified. It was just the booze making her mind meander. She hadn't met him before because despite the common saying that the world was a small place, it still was rather big. Still, it seemed they got along on a lot of things. She imagined they would in the sack too.
"What does these days?" He stood up from the chair and took up the space beside her on the stage. Lifting her chin, he leaned down for a tentative kiss, to see what her reaction would be. For some reason, his instincts told him to approach with caution.
Stevie followed his movements from under her eyelashes until he was at her level and close enough to dive into that gaze of his. She breathed him in, her eyes going to his mouth. As he moved in, she didn't pull back, instead she bridged the distance slowly, barely touching her lips to his before canting her head the other way to do the same, like two wild animals approaching each other.
Only when she closed in, did he claim her mouth, gently at first, savouring her taste which was a nice mix of beer, whiskey and Stevie. Intensifying his kisses, his tongue slipped between her teeth to duel wetly with hers, his hand going to her hair, pulling her in closer.
Oh, hell, this felt nice. Her mind automatically wanted to compare him with Daniel and she quashed that notion with a kick to its balls. This was moving on. This was what Daniel wanted her to do. She opened against Jimmy's sexy mouth, her hand feeling up his t-shirt until it fisted the collar in case he'd want to pull back.
Unaware of what she was thinking, Jimmy only knew that he wanted more. She tasted so fucking good and he was on the same high that she was, after their musical foreplay. Stepping in between her legs, one hand circled her waist, pulling her close to him, inviting her to wrap her legs around him, while the other stroked the underside of her thigh.
That got a moan out of her as she moulded herself against his chest, feeling hot and needy all of a sudden, wanting him buried deep and rocking her sorry ass of a world. Her thighs framed his hips as her ankles crossed together behind him.
The moan went straight to his cock and in response he slid his hands solidly under her thighs, pulling them around his waist, wanting to feel her heat around him. Feeling her body pressed against his, Jimmy started to lower her back against the stage, his mouth still hot and demanding over hers.
Kissing him back, giving as much as he was, Stevie sank her hand in his hair while the other pulled at his back, fingers digging in the hard muscle, her heels nudging his ass for him to press closer still. His mouth was damn sinful and his body just seemed to respond to hers in the same synchronicity they had found when singing and playing music together.
Christ, she felt good or was it simply that he actually liked the person he was about to fuck? For Jimmy, that wasn't always a requirement. Continuing to plunder her mouth with hard kisses, he held her back poised over the stage with one hand, while the other was searching to get beneath her t-shirt.
His warm touch made her tremble in need and she bit his bottom lip playfully before she trailed her mouth along his jaw line, nipping at his neck, his scent there going straight to her core. She was instantly wet, her nipples and clit aching to be touched.
"Fuck, you feel good," he groaned, finding his way beneath her t-shirt to feel flesh. His fingers immediately seeking out her breast to fondle and taste.
"Jimmy," Stevie let out with a hiss as her back arched under his palm, thanking God this was a guy who knew what to do, who was kissing her and manhandling her expertly. Feeling his mouth leaving hers, she grinned in anticipation and opened her eyes, looking up to see that cocky, cheeky face of his and she froze.
Her expression froze and suddenly, the memory of that haunting sadness returned again. "What is it?"
Daniel was staring back at her, both wild-eyed and amazed at first, like when they had kissed that first time, and then his expression turned accusatory and betrayed, his blue eyes filling with pain and reproach.
"Aw, fuck," Stevie cursed, covering her face with one arm. "Shit, Jimmy... I can't do this." Her legs peeled off from around his waist and she rolled away before sitting up, her back to him. She took a couple of deep breaths before glancing at him over her shoulder. "I'm sorry. Fuck, I'm sorry." She shook her head slightly.
He should have been pissed and if it had been some piece of tail that had been pushing her tits in his face all night he might not have been so accommodating when asked to stop. He had no patience for a cock tease. However, Stevie wasn't a groupie and he suspected when he heard those lyrics that there was something to it, something to the sadness in her eyes that made you want to hold her until it went away. It occurred to him then that there could have been someone else, maybe he was dead or something. Not surprising with the Visitors back but whatever it was, she didn't push him away to tease. There was real pain in her eyes and Jimmy actually understood how that could keep you distanced even when you didn't wish to be.
"Is he dead? Did the Visitors get him?"
Stevie blinked, shifting slightly so she could look at him. "He... he might as well be."
She looked away, to the front of the deserted club, embarrassed because she'd been on the receiving end of someone who said yes to only mean no later and now she'd just done the same to Jimmy. But it was more than that. She felt hollowed out and near panic at her reaction. What did it mean? She couldn't have Daniel but her feelings for him would prevent her from having anyone else? This was seriously fucked up. She wasn't used to this... used to open up to someone. She'd been careful about that - until the priest.What she still felt for him was almost alien to her. The fact that it remained... that it nagged, forcing her to pay notice... keeping her from enjoy someone else.
"Too bad," Jimmy said, pulling away and adjusting himself, if only to dispel the discomfort for a receding erection. "It would have been fun," he said, turning away, needing a drink after that. Fuck. He was looking forward to fucking her too.
Damn straight, Stevie thought, cursing the day she met Daniel Ivanov.
"So you want to keep playing?" Jimmy asked, shrugging it off because there was no sense getting pissy about it. Didn't change anything and he wasn't sure he wanted to screw someone who would be thinking of someone else at the same time. His standards were piss poor but he still had them. "I think a little Led would be good about now."
"Sure," Stevie said, still shaken and downright annoyed. "But let me get something first." Needing to calm her fucking nerves down, she went and got her bag and pulled out an old metal box of lozenges. Inside, her fingers fiddled through rolling paper, screens, a little pipe (souvenir from Amsterdam) and took one of the already rolled joints she had prepared earlier. "Got a light?" She had one in her bag somewhere but most guys she knew always had a Zippo handy in one pocket or another...
"Yeah," he said, reaching into his pocket and producing one. Smokes would be good right now. Joints even better. He handed it to her, hoping to hell she planned on sharing after denying him a fuck.
"Thanks." She lit the spliff, taking a couple of good puffs and passed it to him, sitting back down as she exhaled the smoke slowly.
Thank, Christ, if he couldn't get laid, this would do just as well. Jimmy took the thing and took a couple of good drags, letting the fumes saturate his brain, giving him that mellowed feeling he'd been craving for weeks.
"Thanks," he said after a moment. "So this guy, what's might as well be?"
"Dead." Stevie met his gaze, wondering if she should even go there with him. She liked him. A lot. It was always a damn bad idea to talk about some other bloke with one you wouldn't mind landing at some point. Not that, by the looks of thing, she would ever be free to do so.
Bringing the joint to her lips, she smoked some more before handing it back to him. She could sense the light buzz tickling at the edge of her mind. She would sure need a lot more to obliterate the damn feeling she felt she was drowning in at the moment.
"So he might as well be dead?" He stared at her, puzzled, and wondered if it was just the buzz taking over. Sucking in another deep puff or two, he handed it back to her after savouring the sensation. "What, turned out to be Mormon or something?" he joked.
Looking down at the smoke drawing arabesques in the air, Stevie grinned. Shit, was her story more common than she thought? By the time her eyes touched back on Jimmy's rather handsome features, she was chuckling. Mormon. Fuck, Mormon, Jesuit, the fucking Pope. Who fucking cared? God had him by the balls and that's what it boiled down to. But the fact Jimmy here had said that instead of a million other things had her stitches, and it wasn't just due to the marijuana.
"Maybe I need to cut you off," he replied as he saw her laugh softly. Thinking what he had said wasn't that funny but hey, humour was subjective, right? Taking the joint from her, he took another drag and hung on to it this time.
It took her a couple of minutes to calm down, at which point she had to wipe tears from the corner of her eyes and her stomach was really cramping. Hell, maybe she should thank him. Not ten minutes ago she'd been ready to cry...
"Hey, don't hog it," she drawled, reaching for the joint.
"You, what's your story?" She eyed him, now sitting on the stage with her, his legs stretched out in front of him while he braced himself back on one hand. The hazel of his eyes were turning greener, a common side-effect of the grass. Shit, it sure as hell would have been fun, she thought, lazily staring at his mouth before looking away. "You're too damn good-looking to be on your own."
"Me?" Jimmy shrugged. "Story of my life isn't all that exciting. Just been kicking around New Jersey, doing the club thing for as long as I can remember. Played with a couple of bands on and off. Did a stint in jail at one point for a little smack possession and then bummed around the country with a couple of guys until I hit El Paso."
Well, that explained the drifter vibe she, Mick and Noah had picked up from him. She smoked some more and handed him the rest. "You play well." And this time she meant music. "What kept you in El Paso? If you don't mind me asking..." It didn't matter really but there was something about him that fascinated her and she'd much rather focus on that than on Daniel. And the way he'd phrased it, it was almost like there had been a showstopper... or it could have only been his last stop before the Visitors showed up again.
"Nothing earth shattering." Jimmy shrugged. "Had a funeral to go to. While I was there I got the call from an old friend I used to play with in Jersey, Barry Summerfield. He needed bass for a couple of gigs and I didn't have anything better to do. I hitched a ride with this girl named Star and we did the cross country thing to San Francisco."
And Stevie knew how that bit had ended, with his mate Barry disappearing, thanks to the Visitors. "Star?" Star was new. Stevie smiled. She liked the sound of that name. "Nice name. She still in town?" She hoped she hadn't had her paws on someone else's man.
"No, she headed up north as soon as she could figure out how to get out of town," Jimmy replied, remembering the day they had woken up to the Visitors' return. They'd been so high they were barely able to realise the world was coming to an end. "Left me her apartment. I hope she made it."
Stevie hoped so too. It was kind of sad he hadn't gone with her and Stevie wondered why but he struck her as the type of guy who didn't hang around long. A bit like herself... though, with the whole business with Daniel, one had to wonder about that now. "You're planning on following her or San Fran is where you want to be?"
"We weren't that close," Jimmy replied, taking a toke on the joint again. "We met, screwed all the way from El Paso, screwed the day the Pulse hit, didn't stop until we were sober. That's our whole relationship." He gave her a wry smile. "It wasn't true love, Stevie, and right here's as good as any place to be."
"Fair enough." She looked at him a moment longer, wondering if he was making fun of her, or maybe just the notion of true love. Stevie didn't believe in all that shit. At least she didn't use to.
She went for the whiskey, taking a mouthful and let the alcohol burn a trail down her throat, ridding her of the aftertaste of the smoke. She wasn't really partial to that liquor. She and the gang much preferred tequila or vodka but they'd had enough teq already - according to Guy - and she wasn't going to touch vodka again with a barge pole for a while.
"Was it true love with your Mormon?" he joked, suspecting it was, just by her reluctance to talk about it.
"Don't know..." She shrugged, letting him carry on with his Mormon idea. She'd never known true love before. "How do you recognise it?"
"It makes you feel like shit." He winked.
"Ah." Stevie smiled. Bingo. "Speaking from experience?"
"Well, there was this girl in Fresno," he replied. "If she had been legal and I had been drunker, we could have had something. As it was, federal laws kept us apart." He took the bottle of whiskey and swigged.
She shook her head, chuckling. "About as fucked up as my situation." She turned to the guitars. "Wanna play that Led Zep?"
"Sure," he said, starting to get off the stage. "Anytime you want to try something better than a Mormon though," he winked at her. "Look me up."
Her eyes on his ass as he jumped off the platform they all called the stage, Stevie replied, "Oh, I'm looking."
Laughing, he picked up the guitar and waited for her to join him.