by Hinotori (火鳥)
“OK, guys, time for a break.” Jamie didn’t sound frustrated or annoyed, just enthusiastic with an edge of tiredness.
Ri put his guitar down and stretched, cracking his fingers noisily before attempting to rub feeling back into them. He could hear the other guys doing the same.
Jamie took it one step further, doing full body stretches and reaching down to touch his toes several times. Ri watched him with amusement for a moment before grabbing a very large glass of water and downing it.
“I’m going for a walk,” he said, picking up his bag from the corner of the room. “We’re taking an hour, right?”
Jamie bounced a little on the balls of his feet. “Yep,” he said.
Ri scooped his iPod from the bottom of his bag and put in the earbuds as he left the studio. He scrolled through the list of artists five times before deciding there really wasn’t anything he felt like listening to and just put the entire thing on random.
He walked into a mall, hoping there were no obsessed teenaged girls around who might recognize Reid-of-Chance-of-Rain despite his glasses and tied back hair and street clothes. It had never happened before, but there was always a first time. He loved his band like burning, but their fans… most days they weren’t at a concert, and he wasn’t high on adrenaline and music and the sense of being awesome, he could live without them.
He wandered into a record store without even thinking about it, taking his headphones out so he could listen to the music being piped through the store speakers. It was a small store, with one large section marked “Popular A-Z”, Metallica and Enya and Coldplay all mushed up together, separated from a few smaller shelves of “Classical”. Ri approved. He didn’t like to categorize music into genres.
“Hi,” he said, getting the attention of the guy behind the counter, who was slumped over, scribbling in a notebook. “Do you have a local section?” he asked, cocking his head to the side.
The guy turned, and Ri had to fight back a grin. Guy was hot. “Um,” said the guy. “Not as such, no. This is a local band, though,” he said, pointing at a pile of CDs on the counter.
Ri picked one up and studied the tracklist carefully. Full sentence track names with a slightly surrealist bent, which could be good or bad. “Portable Legacy, huh. Any good?” he asked. The cover image was a stock photo of a gas station, black and white and lonely-looking.
“Well, actually, it’s my band,” said the guy, a little sheepishly. “So naturally we’re fantastic.”
Ri laughed. “I’ll take it,” he said.
The guy’s lips quirked up in mild imitation of a grin.
Ri ripped the CD on his MacBook as soon as he got back to the studio and dumped the entire thing on his iPod. He listened to it all the way through in their next break, and in the one after that trotted back to the music store. “So, hey, this is great,” he said, pointing at the CD and hoping the guy recognized him from the day before.
“Really?” said the guy.
“Yeah!” said Ri. “I loved it. Are you the singer?”
The guy shook his head. “Lead guitar,” he said.
“I’m Riordan,” said Ri. “It’s Irish,” he added, at Irving’s slightly glazed look. There was a reason he’d gone with the much simpler ‘Reid’ for Chance of Rain.
“Irving,” the guy said. “It’s just lame.”
Ri cocked his head to the side. “Good rock star name, though.”
Irving shrugged. “It could go either way,” he said, but he seemed pleased.
When they broke for (extremely late) lunch the next day, Ri found himself wandering back to the record store.
“Hey,” said Ri, casually leaning on the counter.
Irving gave him a small wave.
Ri poked around the store until he found an album he was interested in: some Canadian indie group he’d heard of but never actually listened to.
“So, do you live around here?” asked Irving, as he rang the CD up.
“No, I’m, uh, doing some recording at the studio on Camden.”
“Cool,” said Irving. “What do you play?”
So Irving hadn’t recognized him. In retrospect, he shouldn’t have been surprised. “Oh, um, guitar. I sing a bit, too.”
“Cool,” Irving repeated. “Acoustic? Electric?”
They chatted about guitars for a while. Irving seemed to think Ri was some kind of studio musician. Ri didn’t correct him.
“So, did you really like our album?”
Ri nodded enthusiastically. “Yeah. Yeah, I did. You have some really great arrangements going on.”
“We have a gig on Thursday,” Irving said suddenly. “If you wanted to come.”
Ri grinned. “That would be awesome.”
“Sooo, I’m going out tonight,” said Ri, hesitantly.
His bandmates were spread out over the floor of the apartment Jamie had insisted they all share while recording the album. Adrian was lying on his stomach reading a magazine; Nat was curled up by the stereo with an oversized pair of headphones and probably hadn’t even heard Ri; Jamie was quietly plucking at an acoustic guitar; and TJ was pretending to read a novel while really watching Jamie.
“Anywhere good?” asked Jamie, grinning. He ran his fingers over the strings in a gentle ripple of sound.
“It’s a band,” said Ri, relaxing slightly. “I picked up their CD on Monday.”
“Oh, that’s cool,” said Jamie.
“So were you looking for moral support or just letting us know?” asked Adrian, rolling over onto his back and sitting up.
“Actually I was hoping for fashion advice,” said Ri. “I have no idea what you wear to gigs in bars, guys.”
“What kind of band is it?” asked Adrian.
“Mmm,” said Ri, thoughtfully. “Punk rock, I guess.”
Adrian smirked. “Got any hoodies?”
“Do you think anyone’s likely to recognize you?” asked Jamie, with a worried frown.
“Can any of our fans even get into bars?” wondered Ri.
“I just thought I’d ask,” said Jamie.
Ri did, in fact, own a hoodie, and also a suitably faded pair of black jeans, but he had to borrow a black t-shirt from Nat. He drew the line at letting Adrian put eyeliner on him.
“I’m just trying to emo you up,” said Adrian, with a mock pout.
“They prefer ‘punk rock’,” said Ri, primly.
Jamie burst into giggles.
“Have fun on your night out!” called Nat, as he left. “Remember not to smile too much or they’ll all know your horrible secret!”
Portable Legacy were a little shaky live, but their singer had presence and energy, even trapped behind a bass, and Irving was even hotter bent over a guitar and playing like the world would end if he stopped.
Ri was grabbing a final drink at the bar after their set when Irving found him. “Hey, you came,” he said, with another of those tiny grins.
“Yeah,” said Ri, grinning.
Irving leaned over to wave at somebody behind Ri. “Hey, guys, this is the guy I told you about.”
Ri exchanged handshakes with the other two members of Irving’s band, but completely failed to catch their names. “Great show, guys. I loved it.”
“Awesome,” said the singer. “I think you’re our first fan who heard the CD before seeing us play,” he added, with a thumbs up. “Good work, Irving.”
“Didn’t you have four people on the CD, though?” asked Ri, curiously. “It sounded like you had two guitars, anyway.”
“Yeah, we lost our bassist when he and Irving broke up,” said the drummer, casually. “So Mike had to pick up bass duties.”
Irving’s expression clouded.
“Oh, that sucks,” said Ri.
“Yeah, well,” said Irving, tightly. “These things happen.”
Mike-the-singer gave Irving a clap on the shoulder and walked past him to order something from the bar.
The drummer found himself distracted by a gaggle of girls and gave Irving an absent wave before walking away.
“I’m sorry, I guess it’s kind of a sore point with you,” said Ri.
Irving shook his head. “It’s not that, I’m not… I’m over it, totally. I just wish they didn’t treat it so fucking casually.” He shook his head. “Never date a bandmate, dude.”
“Let me buy you a drink,” said Ri, grinning.
He found himself staring at Irving’s mouth as Irving talked. Part of himself was telling him this was a phenomenally stupid idea, that he had a career to think about and no time for picking up cute guitarists in bands. The other part was pointing out that Irving was good-looking and talented and kind of charmingly grumpy.
They ended up kissing against the wall of the bar, hot and wet and slow. Irving liked to bite at Ri’s lip, pulling it gently between his teeth.
Only visions of headlines that read ‘Chance of Rain guitarist’s gay pickup in bar’ kept him from letting things reach their natural conclusion.
“Hey,” he said, a little hoarse, pulling back and smiling breathlessly. “Hey, I can’t… not tonight. I, uh…”
Irving blinked at him in confusion.
“When’s your lunch break tomorrow?”
Irving’s brow furrowed. It was a few seconds before he seemed to find his voice. “Um, 1:00, but…”
“Maybe we can grab lunch together?” Ri plowed on, feeling kind of stupid.
“Oh,” said Irving. “Oh, right.” He blinked again. “OK. Yeah. That would be good.”
Ri leaned forward to kiss him again, languidly. “Good.”
“So hey, can we take lunch at 1:00 today?” asked Ri, as they shuffled into the studio.
“Oh?” said Jamie. “Do you have plans?”
“I kind of have a date with this guy,” said Ri. He’d told them about being less-than-straight years ago, not long after the band got off the ground.
Jamie’s eyebrows shot up. “From the bar last night?”
“No!” said Ri. “Well, yes, but not exactly. I met him at the record store in the mall, he’s in the band.”
Jamie would never tell any of them to hide a relationship to save their ‘reputation’, and he had their PR people wrapped around his little finger. His forehead creased with a worried frown, nonetheless. “Does he know…?” Jamie made a little wave that encompassed the five of them.
Ri shook his head. “Not yet.”
Jamie gave him a hug. “Good luck.”
Ri ruffled his hair. “Thanks.”
Ri arrived at the record store at 1:05pm. Irving was sitting on a bench just outside, tapping his finger to some kind of internal beat.
“Hey,” said Ri, with a little wave.
“Hi,” said Irving.
“I… I kinda think I should apologize for last night,” said Ri. “I just – I don’t really go in for the casual thing.”
Irving raised startled eyes to meet Ri’s. “No… That’s cool. I mean. If this is you asking me out, this is a yes.”
They bought skeezy food court meals and sat gingerly on unstable chairs to eat. “This is the best first date ever,” said Ri, grinning.
“It’s all class,” said Irving, picking at his fries.
“Let’s just call it a proto-date,” said Ri.
Over the next few days, Ri found out the following:
– Irving had an adorable smile, if you managed to make it happen. He liked puns, although he tried to hide it.
– Irving was a little bit grouchy, but not actually bad-tempered.
– He was a fantastic kisser.
– He hated pop music.
It happened like this: Ri asked Irving about what music he liked other than the obvious, since he’d been trying to bring the conversation around to Chance of Rain.
Irving muttered a bit about punk rock and classic rock and Queen and then said, with absolute conviction, “and I hate pop music.”
Ri felt his stomach drop out. “How do you mean?”
“It’s like… it’s so manufactured, you know?” said Irving, becoming unusually animated. “And the radio stations, the studios, they just decide what will be popular and what won’t be, there isn’t any free will involved. It’s like candy floss, all sugar and no substance.”
Ri nodded, feeling a little dizzy. He was thinking of Jamie, who said that pop music was about having fun and being happy. Making other people have fun and be happy.
He could see that Portable Legacy had limited commercial appeal. They were too inconsistent, no cohesion to their songs, switching styles and moods at will. Ri liked it, liked it a lot, but he didn’t think Graeme would sign them. Too risky, he thought.
“I guess I know what you mean,” he said eventually. “It’s a business. It’s not art.”
“Yeah,” said Irving. “Yeah, exactly.”
When he got back to the apartment, Ri closed the door behind himself and slumped down on the floor.
“Is that you, Ri?” came Jamie’s disembodied voice.
“Yeah,” he called, resting his head on his knees.
There was a silence for a moment, then the sound of footsteps. “Hey,” said Jamie, sitting down next to him. “What’s wrong?”
“It’s this guy I’ve been seeing,” said Ri, getting to his feet and pulling Jamie up with him. “I mean – this is really dumb.” He walked into the lounge and collapsed into a chair. “He hates pop.”
“Oh no,” said Jamie, falling to the floor cross-legged, his eyes shining. “It’s like Romeo and Juliet!”
“You mean, Romeo and Julian,” said Adrian, with a grin.
Jamie turned a worried face towards Ri. “But if he asks you to no longer be a Capulet…”
“I’ll tell him toshove it,” said Ri, flatly. “Honestly, I like him a lot, but you guys are like… ” He groped for words. He wanted to say family, but his own family didn’t understand their gay popstar son and most of their interactions these days felt extremely forced. “You’re my best friends in the world,” he finished, feeling lame.
Jamie hugged him.
Ri’s life was turning into a case of hiding his secret family from his lover. He spent the day in the studio with his band, had lunch, and occasionally dinner as well, with Irving and went back to the apartment with his band. He caught three more Portable Legacy gigs, and ended up staying the night in Irving’s apartment after all of them.
Things got complicated when they finished recording the album and Ri moved back to his own apartment. He told Irving, completely truthfully, that he was done with the studio and probably wouldn’t be able to have lunch together any more, and Irving just shrugged with a ‘that’s life’ expression and invited him to a movie marathon with his band.
When Mike and Andrew left, Irving toed the empty bowl of chips before staggering to his feet and picking up empty bags and bottles to put in the trash.
Ri found Irving’s acoustic guitar behind the sofa and started to tune it quietly.
He was picking out the introduction to “Stairway to Heaven” when Irving threw a sock at him.
Ri grinned at him, and shifted to a Beatles tune, ‘Blackbird’. He sung the words quietly, eyes closed.
“You’ve got a good voice,” said Irving, quietly.
It was kind of a requirement for being in Chance of Rain. Ri opened his eyes and smiled. “Here, you play something, and I’ll sing.” It was nice to just sing for singing’s sake, no worrying about harmonies or hitting exactly the right note or getting the lyrics right.
Irving took the guitar and looked at the ceiling for a moment. “I see your Beatles and raise you a Rolling Stones,” he said, and swung into ‘As Tears Go By’.
They made their way through the 60s to the 90s before Ri yawned mid-‘Walking on the Sun’ and Irving collapsed in a fit of giggles.
“God, what is it, 3am?” said Ri. “We should get some sleep.” Tomorrow was Sunday and he had nothing scheduled. He was looking forward to it.
Irving put the guitar aside and threw an arm over Ri’s shoulders. “I have a better idea,” he said, kissing his neck, “but it also involves the bedroom.”
Ri had a week off before Chance of Rain started preparing to go on tour. This meant a lot of interviews, little acoustic performances for TV spots and radio stations, photo shoots.
The tour was due to start the day the new single came out. He told Irving he had to go away on family business. For two months.
“And he believed you?” said Adrian, incredulously.
Ri felt pretty bad about that, actually. It was just like Adrian to want to rub it in. “What am I supposed to do?”
“You could tell him the truth,” said Jamie.
“He’ll dump me,” said Ri with conviction.
Nat patted him on the shoulder.
“The longer you put it off the harder it is,” said TJ, quietly. “Once you reach the point where you know you should have said something, like, months earlier…”
“You have some kind of horrible secret you’re not telling us, TJ?” said Adrian.
TJ flushed. “No. Not really.”
Jamie gave TJ a hug. “You know you can tell us anything, right?”
“There’s nothing to tell,” said TJ, stepping back. “I swear.”
When Irving called a week later, he sounded almost… perky? “Ri, Ri, guess what?”
“What?” asked Ri, trying not to sound amused.
“We have a gig! Like, an actual concert. Some band had to cancel and they’ve asked us to open for some big pop band.” Irving’s tone drifted from enthusiasm to contempt.
“Wow,” said Ri, slightly worried. “Who?”
“I can’t actually remember. Beyond the Sky, I think.” Ri could practically hear him shrug. “It’s really not our scene, but…”
“But it’s a step up, right?” said Ri, relieved.
“Maybe we’ll actually get some media attention,” said Irving, like he didn’t hold out much hope.
“So when is it?” Ri flipped through his calendar until he found the date, and stared at it in dismay. “Oh. I- I can’t make it.”
<Elegant Tuesday tour starts> said the calendar. “It’s the night I leave,” said Ri, miserably.
“I’m sorry,” said Ri. “God… you have no idea.”
“Hey, it’s okay,” said Irving, quietly. “I mean, you can’t help it, right? It’s just a gig. It’s not a big deal.”
“Yeah,” said Ri.
He spent a lot of time trying to figure out how he got himself into this position, and trying to come up with a way to get himself out of it. His email backlog was horrendous.
He found himself writing angsty love songs that Jamie would never approve of for Chance of Rain, and wished he could give them to Portable Legacy. Except that Irving would probably figure out they were about him, which would be weird.
He caught two more Portable Legacy gigs, bitterly conscious of the fact that he was trying to maximize time with Irving.
“Hey,” said Irving, as they were lying in his bed after a particularly awesome Portable Legacy set. “You’re supposed to be the happy one in this relationship.”
Ri sighed. “I’m sorry. I’ve had a lot on my mind.”
“If it’s about missing the concert, it’s fine, Ri. I mean, I’m going to miss you and all, but you’re coming back, right?”
Ri shook his head. “It’s a little more complicated than that.”
“Your family, right?”
Ri had talked about his family, his blood family, a little bit. “Yeah,” said Ri, hating the lie.
“I have to tell you something,” said Ri, standing in Irving’s doorway, heart beating so hard and fast he was sure Irving had to be hearing it.
Irving put a finger to his lips. “You’re leaving tomorrow. Tell me when you get back.” He grabbed Ri’s hand and pulled him into the apartment.
“No, wait,” said Ri. “I really–”
Irving kissed him. He waited until the tension slipped out of Ri’s shoulders before pulling on his lower lip, biting lightly. Ri let himself be pushed backwards, slowly, until he was leaning against the wall.
Irving licked lightly at the side of his mouth, and then moved around to bite at Ri’s earlobe.
Ri breathed Irving’s name, tangling his hand in Irving’s hair. His spine pressed hard into the wall, and it would have been uncomfortable if he wasn’t so distracted.
Irving sucked hard on Ri’s neck as he undid Ri’s jeans, pressing the buttons open with both hands while still somehow seeming fully focused on Ri’s neck.
Irving eased the jeans off Ri’s hips and palmed his crotch.
“God, Irving,” Ri bit out. He was sure there had been a reason he wasn’t supposed to be doing this, but he just couldn’t think what it was.
Irving slipped a hand under the waistband of Ri’s boxer briefs and Ri stopped thinking altogether.
Ri was late and distracted and not looking where he was going, which is why he didn’t notice he was about to run into somebody until he was lying on the ground.
His heart skipped a beat.
“Irving?” Ri got onto his knees unsteadily. “What are you doing here?”
“What do you mean, what am I doing here?” snapped Irving, more confused than angry. “I’m playing here! What are you doing here?”
But, but… “You said you were opening for Beyond the Sky!”
“Beyond the Sky, Chance of Rain, what’s the difference? You said you were out of town on family business!”
Ri stared at him. Irving’s temper was rapidly coming to the fore. Ri groaned. “Come with me,” he said, pulling Irving up behind him.
“What the hell, Ri?” said Irving, as Ri led him through the maze of backstage corridors. “I mean, you could have just said you got a job here or something.”
Ri shook his head. “Just follow me, okay?”
“Ri, where have you been?” said Jamie, as Ri opened the door to their dressing room.
“So, everyone, I’d like you to meet my boyfriend, Irving,” said Ri, pointedly.
Everyone blinked at him, except for Jamie, who looked very slightly guilty. “I know what you’re thinking, Ri, but that’s not it, it’s just I was listening to the CD, and when Graeme asked… I wasn’t really thinking…”
“Ri, what the hell is going on?” said Irving.
Ri sighed. “Can we have a moment, guys?”
TJ gave him a pat on the shoulder as they filed out.
“This is Chance of Rain’s dressing room,” said Irving.
“Yeah,” said Ri, rubbing the back of his neck.
“You’re… teching for them?” said Irving, in a small voice.
Ri looked away. “I’m… kind of in the band.”
“… you’re in a band.”
“A pop band.”
Ri nodded again.
“A wildly successful boyband.”
This was not the time to point out that they wrote their own music and played their own instruments, thank you very much, so Ri just nodded again.
“And, I dunno, you didn’t think maybe I’d like to know that?”
“I was going to tell you last night!” Ri snapped. “But…”
Irving’s phone rang loudly into the silence. “I have to go,” he said, dully. “I have a gig.”
Jamie bounced on his heels on stage, his hair glowing like a halo under the spotlights. “So, Purple Friday couldn’t make tonight’s show.” The crowd murmured in disappointment. “But I’ve been listening to these guys’ CD on repeat for the last week, and it’s absolutely fantastic, so I’d like to introduce Portable Legacy!”
They’d found a new bassist somewhere, a girl with waist length black hair (and two colored streaks – one blue and one hot pink) and a wardrobe that appeared to consist mainly of black. The setlist had been pared down to their ‘poppiest’ tunes. Irving was bent over the guitar, playing with the kind of fierce focus that Ri knew meant he was just barely keeping his temper.
It was one of the best shows he’d seen.
Ri caught Irving’s arm as Portable Legacy walked off stage. “Irving, I…”
“Not now, Ri.”
“We’re leaving town tonight,” said Ri.
Irving glanced back over his shoulder, but didn’t stop walking. “I know.”
Irving was lying on the bed, staring at the ceiling and most definitely not trying not to think about one Riordan Conlan, apparently better known as Reid Conlan, member #4 of a certain pop group by the name of Chance of Rain. The magazine he’d bought after that night told him that the name was chosen because that was what the weather report said on the day one Jamie Bennet had started a band.
They say that emo is the new boyband, but apparently nobody remembered to tell Chance of Rain.
Chance of Rain is the brainchild of Jamie Bennet, adopted son of renowned music producer Graeme Bennet. In today’s world of angst and angry guitars, Chance of Rain’s blend of catchy pop and light-hearted lyrics, designed to get songs in heads and singles off shelves, sticks out like a sore thumb. But there is something impossibly charming about them regardless – maybe it’s Jamie Bennet’s infectious grin; maybe it’s the intricately complicated vocal harmonies and intertwined guitars of their songs; maybe it’s just good to hear something positive on the radio for a change.
I caught up with Chance of Rain just before they went into the studio to record their latest album ….
He rolled over onto his stomach and buried his face in the pillow. Two months, and it seemed everywhere he went he was still hearing about Chance of Rain.
Ri was probably back in town by now.
The worst thing was, he had one of their stupid, over-hyped, cheerful and all-in-all entirely too catchy songs stuck in his head.
After a while he realized that the thumping he could hear was probably his door.
He rolled off the bed and landed heavily on his knees.
“Yeah?” he said, opening the door, expecting it to be Andrew or Paul.
“Hi,” said the guy on the other side. After a second, Irving identified it as one of the members of Chance of Rain, although he still couldn’t have put a name to the face.
“Hi,” said Irving, warily.
“Come to IKEA with me?”
Irving stared at him for a second. “I’m sorry, what?”
“I’m moving into a bigger apartment,” the guy explained, “one with room for my instruments and a spare room, and I want to go to IKEA to fit out the spare room. And I want you to come with me.”
“Um,” said Irving, because this was seriously weird.
The other guy smiled sunnily at him. “Come on! It’ll be fun!” He bounced slightly on the balls of his feet.
Irving briefly considered shutting the door on him, but if this guy really was one of Ri’s bandmates – except that he didn’t give a fuck about Riordan Conlan, right?
“Please?” said the guy, and it was kind of hard to argue with those eyes.
Irving sighed. “OK, just let me get changed.” He wasn’t experienced with IKEA shopping but even he knew that torn t-shirts and jeans were not the usual attire.
The guy hugged him. Honest to goodness, hugged him, and smiled so brightly that Irving had to look away. “Yay!” said the guy.
Irving stumbled back inside the apartment and retreated to his bedroom to find a neater pair of jeans and a more sedate t-shirt.
“Wow,” said the guy, as Irving walked back into the living area. “You have awesome taste in music.” He was bouncing again, just a little.
“Um,” said Irving. “This is going to sound really rude, but, uh, I don’t actually know which one you are.”
“Which one… oh, oh, of Rain?” the guy laughed suddenly. “Wow, that’s really crazy, Ri must really love that! Usually I’m the only one everyone knows.”
Irving waited patiently.
“I’m Jamie,” said Jamie Bennet, grinning at him. “And just so we’re clear here, you’re Irving, right?”
Irving felt kind of stupid, then defensive at himself because he didn’t care about pop so why should he be expected to recognize the famous (adopted) son of a music producer?
He realized that Jamie was expecting some kind of response, so he swallowed and nodded. “Yeah.”
“Cool!” said Jamie, bouncing on his heels again. “Do you have a car?”
“Awesome, because I caught a taxi here and I don’t have a license.” At Irving’s look, he added, “I’ll pay you for gas if you like.”
“What were you going to do if I’d said no?” asked Irving, shooing Jamie out of his apartment.
Jamie shrugged. “Hire another cab?”
Irving supposed he should just be glad Jamie hadn’t hired a car and driver for the day.
It turned out that Jamie was the sort of person who wasn’t capable of sitting still for more than a minute at a time. He hummed and tapped along to the radio in the car when he wasn’t providing commentary on whatever was out the window or, occasionally, whatever band was singing the current song.
Parking was a nightmare, but they eventually managed to snag one a mere three minutes walk away from the store.
He’d been somewhat hoping that Jamie already knew what he wanted and was just going to the store to pick it up, but no. Jamie wanted to start at the beginning and walk through every section, in order, not taking any of the clearly labeled convenient shortcuts that would make their quest to find the bedrooms section that much shorter.
“Man,” said Jamie, staring at the house display with ‘room for me and my surfboard’ that was a hundred square feet or something ridiculous of the sort. “Can you imagine living like this?” Irving was preparing a biting comment about not everybody being lucky enough to be filthy-rich popstars when Jamie continued. “Wouldn’t it be awesome?” he said, spreading his arms to indicate the entire room and almost taking out a family of four in the process. “Look how neatly everything fits together!”
“Mm,” said Irving. “I think the loft bed would get old pretty quickly.”
Jamie pursed his lips. “Maybe,” he said. “Anyway, I wouldn’t have room for a piano.”
Irving bit his lip trying not to laugh. He would never have admitted it out loud, but Irving was actually enjoying himself.
Eventually, finally, at last, they came to the bedroom displays and Jamie spent a good half hour poring over every option available, frequently asking Irving’s advice. Jamie wanted something that looked nice, but wouldn’t date too badly, but was comfortable and practical and suitable for lounging around on if necessary.
When they walked into the children’s section Jamie’s eyes lit up, and their (large, ugly, yellow plastic) carry bags suddenly acquired an angry-looking green dragon, a number of brightly-colored collapsible baskets, and some crab-shaped chair cushions.
The teenager at the counter recognized Jamie and shyly got him to sign an order form for her. He grinned, tucked the list of bedroom furniture into his pocket and dumped the contents of the ugly yellow bag on the counter. Once he was done, he gathered up his purchases (the cushions in a bag, the dragon hanging around his neck like an insane stole) and ushered Irving back to the car.
“You didn’t order any furniture,” said Irving.
“I didn’t want to give her my address,” said Jamie. “I’ll order it online or by phone later. I just wanted to check out the display room, it’s not the same looking at it on the website.”
Jamie made Irving drive them back to Irving’s apartment.
“You know, I could just take you home,” said Irving.
“I want to talk to you about your boyfriend,” said Jamie, simply.
Ri had called hourly the day after the concert. Over the next few days it dropped to every two hours, then every three.
Irving never picked up, and he deleted all the voicemails unread.
By the end of two weeks he wasn’t mad any more. He told himself the next time Ri called, he would pick up.
Ri didn’t call again.
“The thing is,” said Jamie, curled up on Irving’s sofa with a fresh mug of coffee (Irving had insisted before they began that this conversation involve caffeine), “the thing is, I like Ri. And it’s making him unhappy, this thing between you, so I wanted to talk to you to see if I could fix it.”
Irving felt the bottom drop out of his stomach. “You mean you want us to break up?” he asked, ignoring the fact that he was reasonably certain they were already broken up. Not talking in two months definitely counted as broken up, right?
Jamie blinked at him. “Do you want to break up?”
“No!” said Irving, automatically. Well, damn.
“Well, either you have to officially break up or get back together,” Jamie pointed out. “You can’t keep ignoring him like this.”
“I know,’ said Irving. “I’m not even mad any more. It’s just… I don’t know what I want.”
“Well,” said Jamie. “Let’s start with what you don’t want and work from there.”
“I don’t want to be the gay boyfriend of some rich and famous popstar,” said Irving, promptly. “I mean, if I get famous, I want it to be on my own terms.” He felt kind of lame.
“You don’t have to be that, you know,” said Jamie. “I mean, you and Ri have been together for almost four months now, and none of the magazines have even caught a whiff of it.”
“But how long will that last?” said Irving. “I mean, how do I even know we weren’t being followed by paparazzi all day today?”
Jamie laughed. “We’re not that famous,” he said. “And Graeme keeps a pretty firm hand on the magazines. You were out with me all day and I only had to do one signature. And I’m the famous one.”
He said it like it was no big deal, really, being so famous checkout girls in furniture stores blushed and scuffed their feet and shyly asked for your autograph.
Jamie patted him on the shoulder. “Hey!” he said. “You have Guitar Hero?”
Irving was totally kicking Jamie’s ass when Andrew walked in.
“Dude,” he said, loudly. “Why are you playing Guitar Hero with Jamie Bennet?”
Irving dropped his controller and scrambled for the remote to mute the sound. “Andrew, what the fuck?”
“I knocked,” he said. “Your door was unlocked.” Andrew was staring at Jamie, who was looking a little sheepish when Irving turned back to him.
“So I was pretty surprised to find out that my boyfriend was Reid Conlan from Chance of Rain,” said Irving, with exaggerated casualness.
Andrew looked at Jamie, then back at Irving. “I thought you two broke up.”
“Sort of,” said Irving. “I only found out at the concert. And then he went on tour.”
“We’re back now,” said Jamie. “You should call him.” He got to his feet and brushed invisible dust off his jeans. “I’d better get going,” he said. “Thanks for the IKEA trip.”
“IKEA? What the fuck?” said Andrew.
“I don’t even know, man. He just showed up at my door and forced me to drive him to IKEA.”
“You went to IKEA with Jamie Bennet? Irving, your life.”
“Come on, man, how do you even know who Jamie Bennet is?”
“Well, unlike some people, I don’t live under a rock,” said Andrew. “I didn’t recognize your boyfriend, if that helps.”
It did help, a little. It made him feel a bit less stupid. “Thanks, Andrew.”
Andrew punched him on the shoulder. “What are friends for?”
Signs Irving should have noticed that his boyfriend was hiding something:
– Ri talked about his friends, occasionally, in passing, but Irving never met them.
– They never went back to Ri’s apartment.
– Ri never talked about his job in any detail, but seemed to have plenty of money.
– He was perhaps a little too fond of sunglasses and hats.
– Family business for TWO MONTHS? WTF?
When Irving called, Ri didn’t pick up the phone.
Irving let it ring until the voicemail greeting came up. Irving leaned his forehead against the wall and started talking.
“Your friend Jamie came to see me. You do realize he’s insane, right? No, seriously, he just overtook Sam in my ‘most crazy friends of friends’ rankings. Um. Not that I’m insulting your friend or anything, it’s just… I mean.” Irving sighed, heavily. “I’m sorry. Call me back?”
Irving turned and slowly slid down the wall until he was sitting on the floor. “Fuck.”
His phone rang shrilly into the quiet of his apartment.
“Irving? It’s Riordan. I wasn’t. I mean, I couldn’t find my phone, I wasn’t ignoring you or anything.”
“Hi,” said Irving, quietly. “We need to talk.”
“Yeah. Yeah, we do.” There was silence on the end of the line. “My place?”
Irving drew circles on the carpet with a fingertip. “Ri? I don’t know where you live.”
“I know,” said Ri. “It’s about time you did.”
The address was clearly for an apartment, not a mansion, which Irving found a little surprising. It wasn’t a penthouse either, although it wasn’t a wreck. It was… nice.
Ri met him in the lobby. They kind of stared at each other for the moment before Ri swiped his card to key in his floor on the elevator console.
Irving’s heart was beating so fast he was sure that Ri must be able to hear it.
They didn’t talk until Ri closed the apartment door behind them.
Inside, Ri’s apartment was much like any other bachelor pad Irving had been in. A little untidy, mismatched furniture – although it looked new, not inherited.
Platinum record on the wall. Some framed magazine articles. Geez.
“Jamie really went to see you?” said Ri.
“Yeah,” said Irving, looking away from the walls to catch Ri’s eyes. “We went to IKEA.”
Ri looked good. His hair was longer, a little shaggy around the ears. He was a little thinner, and he looked like he hadn’t slept properly in months, but the overall picture made Irving want to press him up against a wall and lick him.
Maybe it was just because it was Ri.
Ri stared at him for a moment before his lips twitched up into a very amused smile. “So you know how you asked once what Chance of Rain have that other bands don’t? It’s Jamie Bennet.”
Irving did remember that conversation, and seemed to recall he had said some rather impolite things about Chance of Rain at the time. “So you’re saying the music industry is just nepotism?” said Irving, tartly.
Ri gave him a frustrated look. “No, it’s just… he’s Jamie! He’s impossible to say ‘no’ to. It’d be like kicking a puppy.”
Irving nodded slowly. “Well, you’re right, Portable Legacy doesn’t have anybody like that.” He paused. “Also we don’t do soulless sugarpop,” he added, rolling his eyes.
“Hey,” said Ri, but he was grinning. He sat down on the sofa, and indicated that Irving should join him.
Irving sat down on the far end of the sofa and leaned heavily on its arm. “See, the truth is, it’s not the music. It’s the magazines and the screaming fangirls and…”
“It won’t be forever, you know.”
“What?” said Irving, feeling like he’d just been stabbed in the gut.
“The band, idiot.” Ri reached out a long leg and kicked his thigh. “Chance of Rain. How long do you think we have? 2-3 more years before we’re getting too old for the teeny boppers, before something newer and better comes along?”
“Does Jamie know that?” said Irving. In spite of himself, he didn’t want to make Jamie unhappy, and he knew from the magazines that Chance of Rain was, like, Jamie’s dream.
“He’s crazy, not stupid,” said Ri. “We all know it. It’s like… I love the band, my bandmates, they’re my best friends in the entire world. We love what we’re doing, we love music, but it’s just fun. I don’t think any of us want it to be the rest of our lives.”
Irving nodded, slowly. “I don’t… I mean, if we make it… I don’t think I’d ever want to stop.”
“I never felt like that until I met you,” said Ri. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love what I do, I love music, but…” He shrugged.
“I guess we kind of came at it from different directions,” said Irving. No matter how they felt about each other now, Chance of Rain would never be the collaboration between friends that Portably Legacy was.
Ri let out a long, breathy sigh. “Yeah.”
“Ri… why didn’t you tell me?”
Ri was silent for a long time. “I think… I think I’m a bit self-centered, which is kind of a horrible thing to realize about yourself.” He shook his head. “I was just thinking that if I told you you wouldn’t want to see me anymore, not that… that it was something you really should have known before we started. Going out.” He looked away. “I never even thought about what it would be like for you, being my boyfriend.”
“So I gathered,” said Irving, tartly.
“The irony is, if I hadn’t been so busy worrying about you, I might have actually paid attention to the concert lineup.”
Irving’s lips quirked. “I just figured you didn’t think the support acts were worth your notice.”
Ri sighed. “I don’t even know how to start making it up to you.”
Irving took a deep breath, pushing anger aside, reminding himself why he wanted to make this work. Irving pushed himself off the side of the couch and crawled over to lean over Ri, supporting his own weight on his arms. “I know how you can start,” he said, archly.
Ri’s lips shifted into a smile, and he leaned in to meet Irving in the kiss halfway.
They kissed – just kissed – for what seemed like hours. Irving let Ri control it, so it was slow and liquid, just lips and tongues and occasional breaks for air.
“I missed you,” said Irving, softly.
“So, you…” said Ri. Irving could see hope rising in his eyes.
Irving tugged at the bottom of Ri’s shirt until he lifted his arms so that Irving could pull it off.
“I want to try again,” said Irving. He let himself drop slowly until he was kneeling on top of Ri.
Irving undid Ri’s belt, then the top button of his pants, then the fly. “That’s?” he prompted, pulling at the elastic of Ri’s underwear.
“That’s fine with– oh god, Irving.”
Irving had never been particularly fond of his own name, but it sounded good being spoken like that. He hummed around Ri’s cock contentedly.
He pulled back to lick at the tip, circle the head with his tongue. Ri’s hands tangled in his hair. He was just getting into a combined rhythm with his hand and mouth when Ri pulled at his hair roughly, and managed to gasp out something like a request to slow down.
Ri’s eyes were dark as Irving crawled back up to kiss him. “I thought I was supposed to be the one making it up to you,” Ri murmured.
“Well, that’s good too,” said Irving.
Ri liked to take things slowly. Slow kisses, the gentle pressure of Ri’s tongue against his own. Slow licks against his throat, his collarbone, his nipples. Ri didn’t bite, or nip, it was just tongue and lips leaving cool trails down Irving’s chest.
By the time Ri reached Irving’s thighs he was almost desperate to be touched.
The touch of Ri’s tongue at the base of his cock startled him, although he had to have known it was coming.
He gasped for air as Ri licked further up, flicking at around the skin just below the head before shifting forward and swallowing Irving down in one long slide of smooth wet heat.
He wanted to ask Ri to speed up but couldn’t find the words, as Ri slowly pulled back up, lips and tongue working in unison, flicking around the head before slipping down again.
His hands clenched roughly into the sheets – Irving was happy to have sex anywhere, hygiene be damned, but Ri liked the bed – and he gasped Ri’s name roughly.
Ri seemed to catch the hint in Irving’s tone, and pulled away and crawled up the bed to indulge his bizarre fetish for kissing Irving while he came messily over Ri’s hand.
“So were you ever going to tell me?”
“Well, I was trying to tell you the night before the concert, but apparently you decided you’d rather have sex.” Ri raised an eyebrow significantly.
Irving blushed. It seemed his strategy of working through relationship anxiety by giving spectacular blow jobs was not without its flaws. “I’m sorry.”
“Do you forgive me?” said Ri.
“Do you have any other deep, dark secrets?” asked Irving.
“I own a Mariah Carey CD,” said Ri.
“I know,” said Ri.
“I own a Vanilla Ice CD,” said Irving.
Ri grinned at him. “Dude. Weren’t you, like, four when ‘Ice Ice Baby’ came out?”
“Makes it even worse, doesn’t it,” said Irving.
Ri shrugged, and petted Irving lightly. “So I guess I should thank Jamie for this,” he said, thoughtfully.
Irving frowned at the change of subject. “I have another question, actually,” he said, rolling over and poking Ri in the nose. “Why are you dating me and not Jamie?”
“Jamie?” said Ri, eyes widening.
“I’ve seen your photo shoots,” he said, nipping Ri’s lower lip. “The way you guys hang all over each other? I was totally jealous.”
“Jamie’s too much of a businessman to date a bandmate,” said Ri, sounding a little breathless.
Irving frowned. “Yeah, okay,” he said. “I can see that. I’m glad.”
“Anyway, TJ…” Ri stopped. “Never mind.”
Irving rolled onto his back again. “You’re going to have to introduce me to your bandmates sometime.”
“I’d like that,” said Ri. “Except I’m kind of scared that you’ll hate each other.”
“I’ll be nice,” said Irving.
Ri looked at him archly. “Just be yourself,” he advised. “I wouldn’t want you to hurt yourself.”