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San Francisco
13th April 2009, afternoon


Stretched out across the bench, squinting the sun out of his eyes, Jimmy Dreja, aka Dredge, continued to gnaw at the toothpick in his mouth, watching the bar intensely, trying to decide if he was going to go in there or not. Back in the day, he wouldn't touch a club like the Fault Line for nothing. He was happy playing gigs in bars that no one ever heard of, playing for a couple of bucks here and there, where he was allowed to get totally wasted on free booze by the time he crawled in between some groupie's spread legs.

The day the Pulse hit, Jimmy had been with some girl named Star, who had a tattoo on her pussy saying something supposedly witty like 'Insert Here'. After spending a week with her getting strung out on booze and drugs, she had given him a lift from El Paso and it didn't take long before he was screwing her to keep from paying gas. He had meant to play a couple of gigs with an old friend, Barry Summerfield, who needed a fill in guitarist. Jimmy was sick of El Paso and had decided a change of scenery would be good for awhile.

Who knew the fucking aliens were going to land?

Looking out the window that morning, Jimmy had seen the world going to shit and the only thing he and Star could think to do was to get back into bed and finish off the meth she had bought and go out tripping. Not a bad way to go. And strangely enough, he expected that they'd be hauled away if the stories he vaguely remembered were correct. Except the Visitors never came and eventually both he and Star sobered up because they couldn't get a fix anywhere else.

A month and a half later and he was clean. Pissed off but clean and stuck in the city. He tried tracking down Barry only to find out that the neighbourhood his friend lived in was gone. The buildings were there but Barry and everyone who lived there were swept up into the belly of those ships, he guessed. Aside from a drunken mother in El Paso he didn't give two shits about, Jimmy had no one else in the world. Even Star decided to skip. She was heading up north, trying to find her folks. She had even asked him to come with her.

"See you on the dark side of the moon, babe," he said, bidding her goodbye.

She told him he could keep the apartment, shit hole that it was, and she was gone. That was three weeks ago. He hadn't heard from her since.

Then civilization started to return to San Francisco in little pieces and he heard that a couple of clubs were opening down in the Marina district. There were even a few bands playing gigs. Seemed the alien overlords wanted to make San Francisco look status quo. Who was he to argue, yeah? So he answered the ad in the newspaper when one finally appeared, seeking out a guitarist/bassist for a band he actually recognized as being good. The Benders had been building a solid rep, would probably be the next fucking Pearl Jam if not for the Visitors. They were back and they needed a second set of strings.

Unfortunately their main venue belonged to a guy named Guy Fucking La Rue, as queer as you could find them. The place was a 'nite club', the kind of joint that served cocktails instead of real drinks and the kind of place Jimmy would never be caught dead otherwise. However, the world had changed and he needed drinking money. It would do for now.

Shit.

Realising he had inadvertently come to a decision, Jimmy spat the toothpick on the grass and stood up from the bench. He stood 6'1 in his ripped and faded jeans with a black t-shirt stretched across his chest. A young man of twenty-six with a perennial five o'clock shadow and a scowl on his face. Running his fingers through his dark hair, he picked up his guitar case and started toward the 'nite club', his boots crunching against the gravel.

Time to go see a fag about a job, he guessed.

*
"No, no, no." Noah Greer shook his head as he sat at the grand piano. "Take it again from the top."

Mick Fisher stretched his neck left and right before rolling his shoulders to loosen them up a bit. "One, two, three..." A twirl of drumsticks later and he was laying the beat again with hi-hat and snare drum.

Letting the intro on the piano play out, Stevie, born Mia Stevens, tapped her foot, her right hand poised over the twelve strings of her guitar.

This was a new song. They were running open auditions this week but since today, a Monday, was rather slow, the band was writing and rehearsing in between every poor soul who dared come in and have a go.

Jimmy walked into the place and winced.

It was as bad as it looked without a cockroach scurrying in the corner or a cigarette butt crushed against the pock marked floor. It just looked so fucking clean. He walked in through the front door and paused at the bar to take a look around when his eyes drifted to the stage. Someone was singing and she was good. The song had a nice beat to it, could use another set of strings and a bit more polish but it was raw, heady and too damn good for a place like this.

It was afternoon so the place was still empty with its decidedly up market look. Trendy was the word that best suited it. Not his type of establishment for sure but then again, these days the establishments were few on the ground. You took what you could get. His gaze drifted to the stage where the band, presumably the Benders, were in rehearsal. A girl was singing and Jimmy's baser instincts kicked in as he smelled blood in the water. When it came to sex, drugs and rock and roll, sex just flew straight to the finish line ahead of all the others.

Guitar in hand, he drifted forward, observing her with interest and waiting until she was done before he spoke, not wishing to interrupt.

"You guys still looking for another guitar?" he asked, eyes fixed on the girl.

Lost in the moment, Stevie hadn't noticed the guy until he had moved closer. A cursory check told her he didn't look like a Visitor and past that, her attention had moved back to the music and the lyrics the band were trying to weave together. The piece was still crude, unfinished.

Ending on a nod from Noah, Stevie turned to face front again and check out the man before her more closely. With shaggy hair that invited a hand to play in it, his hazel eyes and brimming cheekiness pulled at the old Stevie. But only briefly.

"A bassist mostly," she answered, throwing a glance to Mick and Noah.

"Come on up and play us something," she invited him after the obligatory introductions.

"Sure," Jimmy answered, setting down the guitar case on an empty table and opening it to produce the most prized possession he owned, a Fender P bass, bought on the money he had gotten for the car the old man had left Jimmy after he died.

Joining the group on stage, he took up position and started playing, adding his sound to theirs as they belted out a couple of songs, some he knew and some he didn't but was able to follow on tune alone. The girl, called Stevie, had a great voice, kind of distinct in an Alanis Morrisette kind of way before she went mainstream. He kept up with them and had to admit the Benders was as good as he had heard, even if their new venue sucked ass.

As they all stopped playing on an unspoken cue and put their instruments down, the band exchanged a look.

"Wanna beer?" Mick asked Jimmy, pushing away from the drum kit and grabbing a towel to wipe his face and neck.

"Kill for one," Jimmy answered, pleased with how the set played together had gone.

Noah had moved from the piano to a guitar some time back and went to close the lid on the grand, Guy La Rue's recent and proud acquisition - amongst others.

"Yeah, come." He clasped Jimmy's shoulder, having immediately clicked with the other musician. "This is really not our usual surroundings," he commented. "But it pays and you get free booze... up to a point."

Stevie had already jumped over the bar and was busy getting four cold ones out.

"I hear ya." He swept his gaze around the establishment. "A bit too classy for my liking but I guess these days, good gigs and venues are hard to come by. I suppose we should be grateful we're playing somewhere."

Still, he had a good feeling about this because their rapport was good and that bonding was what elevated a band from being just good to fucking awesome.

"It was either that or playing outside," Stevie quipped, handing him a beer. "Besides, I reckon the clientele of the Fault Line has changed a bit recently." The band certainly hadn't had to play to a bunch of stuck up yuppies... just fucking Visitors on some nights.

"So where are you from?" Noah asked, twisting the cap off his bottle.

"El Paso." Jimmy took the bottle from her, brushing his gaze over her just long enough for her to know that he was taking notice, before looking in Noah's direction. "Came over here to play with an old friend, who lost his guitar player for a couple of gigs and woke up to the fucking aliens landing." He took a swig of the beer and relished the fact that it was cold.

Mick's face automatically darkened at that. "Your friend alright?"

Looking at her beer, Stevie downed about half in one go before she came back up for air. It still didn't feel enough and she bent down to check Guy's special shelf, looking for the nice tequila. She didn't know if it would ever become any easier. But the last week had been hard. Playing their repertoire without Cage and Davey and now looking for a replacement... hell, it wasn't like these guys could ever be replaced.

"Nah." Jimmy shook his head. "He's gone." He let out a breath and said a silent toast for Barry, remembering when the two of them had gotten drunk down in Cancun, after playing up and down the coast for a summer. He'd been a good guy and Jimmy tried not to think about what his ultimate fate might be. He took another deep swig.

"Sorry to hear that," Mick said. What else could he say?

Noah shifted from one foot to the other, regretting the fact the conversation had gone that way because of him. "Yeah, sorry, man."

"It's the way it is." Jimmy shrugged, not about to get all weepy about shit he couldn't change. He wasn't the only one to have lost someone. They probably all had stories like that.

"Shots?" Stevie reappeared, four shots glasses and a bottle of tequila in hand. She placed her loot down and turned to find the salt and some lemon. She was feeling Jimmy's gaze on her every once in a while and, for some reason, it only made her think about a certain priest. Yes. That was how fucked up she had become.

"Never say no to shots," he said, offering her a little smile. He wondered what she was like in the sack, wondered if she'd mind if he tried to get her there. Reminding himself that this could fuck up a perfectly good band relationship, Jimmy reminded himself to behave.

"Lemon's in the fridge," Mick pointed out helpfully. He stood up and reached for the recessed counter on the inner side of the circular bar and pulled back with a knife and a small cutting board.

Jimmy waited until she came back. "So how many times a night are you playing here?" he asked. He refrained from saying 'we'. He hadn't been given the word yet. Right now, he was just shooting the shit with them.

Stevie popped back around having found the fruit in the bar fridge and threw two to Mick, who proceeded to cut them in wedges. After pouring the shots, she licked a spot of skin on the back of her hand and covered it with salt before she nudged the shaker to Jimmy.

Jimmy took the thing, giving her a little wink before he did the same. Up close, he liked the look of her even more.

"Depends," Noah replied. "We've only been here a week so I think La Rue - that's the owner of the place - is still feeling us out. He's got other bands coming in too." He took a drink of his beer. "But so far, the understanding is two or three sets a night, three or four nights a week. Depends heavily on the crowd."

The whole laidback, nothing official nature of their deal worked for the band because it wasn't like they had anything else to do really, while they waited to hear back from their contact who was supposed to help them north.

"There aren't that many places to play in Frisco these days." Jimmy shrugged. "I guess that's the best you can hope for, for awhile. This kind of place will probably bring in all kinds, seeing as there really isn't much else around."

"It's actually not as bad as it looks," Noah let out with a smirk. Guy was a good man and the hours were what a band should expect when working the pub circuit.

"So, Dredge..." Mick looked to Stevie and Noah before settling his gaze on the younger man. "You interested?"

They had met three today and while they would most likely meet more tomorrow and the day after, they didn't see what Jimmy Dreja might lack that someone else might have. Besides, their playing together had been easy, almost seamless. The Benders weren't looking for more than that.

"Hell yeah." Jimmy grinned, giving Stevie a look because that was one more reason he had to stick around before he licked his hand where he had sprinkled salt, slammed down the shot of tequila and then bit into the lemon wedge. "I'm interested."

With smiles, the other three musicians did the same in sync before Stevie poured them a refill, the tequila splashing the smooth surface of the bar.

"To Dredge and the music," Mick said, lifting the shot glass.

"To music," Jimmy joined them in the toast, thinking that this was as comfortable as he had been in a while with anyone. It was good to get back to what he knew, even if it was in a place like this. And of course, there was Stevie. Fucking bonus.

Stevie smiled, taking a moment to check out this Jimmy 'Dredge' Dreja a little more as she and Noah lifted their shot for the toast. He was hot. Right up her alley, in fact. She sensed Mick expected her to put on the moves but even she as thought that, she realised that while she felt a definite pull for the guy, her usual flirty self just wasn't showing up.

It was odd but she knew exactly why.

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