A/N: Hiya! Just a few pesky managerial items before the main event:
Summary: The other kind of bandslash! One number carved into an Old Navy bathroom stall, one miserable, Music-Filled Educational Summer at band camp, and two teenage boys to string it all together. Mix and allow mayhem to ensue.
Warning: I am a humble amateur "slash" writer, and this is, for all it's worth, essentially a rough draft. Forgive the lack of any characterization to speak of, bland descriptions, stereotypes, rambling plotlines, questionable dialogue, excessive use of similes and metaphors, passive voice, clichés, random changes in tone and pace, being generally late… and so on, and so forth, and the like, and the rest, ad nauseam.
And also beware, if you mind them: Language. Band camp. Eventual man-on-man goodness. If you're here at all, I'm sure it's nothing you can't handle. (
Caution: Don't try this at home. I really can't guarantee you'll get a Daniel if you fish the numbers on an actual bathroom stall. (Also, I also don't own Old Navy and am using their store brand without their permission! Sorry!)
Chapter 1: A Number Once Dialed
I stared at my cell phone and leaned against the wall. Slowly, my heart settled back into my chest.
I'd almost called. And probably would have gone through with it if the ringing on the other end hadn't slapped me out of my depressed mania with a heart attack. Jesus, was I out of my mind?
Sure, I was going to be attending the camp from hell. Sure I'd just lost my girlfriend (it hadn't worked out after all), and sure I'd been slowly going mad since school ended. But that was no reason to go around attempting suicide.
Well, it wasn't really suicide exactly. That was overreacting. It was more like potential suicide. It birthed the potential of suicide, as it were, and to be honest that had been roughly the idea when I'd seen the number on the bathroom stall at Old Navy. Out. Of. My. Fucking. Mind.
Okay, the internal thought processing hadn't been the clearest, I admit. It had gone somewhere along the lines of, Well, it could be a serial killer/stalker that might put me out of my misery, but at the very least it would be someone to talk to. Someone who might just listen for one second. Someone who wasn't a family member or a friend or a counselor on the other side of a hot-line, who was fucking paid to be empathetic. The very idea of a hot-line made me cringe. So I called the Old Navy number instead.
And then the ringing. And then the click as whoever the hell's number it was picked up the phone. My common sense had come rushing back in a painful wave that left me tense and short of breath. My thumb had moved from relaxed to canceling the call in 2.4 seconds. Now it was over and, for better or for worse, I was actually feeling al little better. But not a lot. I could have probably gotten the same amount of feel-better from a quart of ice-cream.
I licked my lips and carefully placed the phone back in my pocket. I'd learned my lesson, yadda yadda yadda. Time to get back to reality and humanity and all those other unreasonable –ity's.
I hadn't taken three steps when it rang.
My first thought was, This could be a problem. Actually, my first thought was, Shit. Then, a thousand reasons flashed through my mind that would explain why it wouldn't be the whoever from the bathroom stall. It was probably just my mom calling to check and see if I was alright—more realistically, to make sure her son hadn't fled the country. That's what parents do when they're away on vacation and their child is expected at band camp when they get back. They call home. All the time. Parents are famous for it, in fact.
It was probably nothing. Probably.
Every time I got close to the phone, my hand retracted into my mouth, where the nails were bitten nervously. What were the chances that the other person had caller ID? Damn!
Hand completely out of my control, I reached for the phone and put it to my ear.
"Hello?" I said.
"Hi," said a lovely female voice on the other end. Definitely not Mom. "Um, who is this?"
"Who is this?" Not Mom, but not exactly the voice I would expect of a men's restroom vandalizer, either. At the very least, something more girly.
"Oh." She sounded embarrassed. "I was just wondering if you— Daniel, get off!— if you just called my number?"
"Uh…" A sheen of sweat formed on my palms. It was getting hard to grip the phone. "Um, yeah, I might have," I said cautiously. There was a sound like static on the other end. "Wrong number, I guess. Sorry about that."
"Sure it was." The person scoffed. It was not, however, the same voice. This one was male. "And you're a pretty bad liar. I can tell and I'm not even looking at you."
I blinked. The bottom fell out of my stomach. I know that's a cliché, but it's exactly what it felt like.
"O-kay," I said. "Um." The female voice snarled in a muffled, unhappy way somewhere in the background.
"For crying out loud Daniel! Give it back! It was a mistake! Jeez, why do you have to be such a—"
I never got to find out what Daniel was (unfortunately, because it was promising to be something colorful and with lots of equally colorful adjectives). The person cleared his throat. "That's my sister Joanne," he confided in me. "Just ignore her. She can be a little emotional."
"Okay." Would they call again if I hung up? The girl Joanne probably wouldn't, but the other one— Daniel by name, if the frustrated screams were anything to go by—I wasn't too sure about. He sounded dangerous in a sly sort of way.
"So," said Daniel, sounding like an excited little boy, "you got the number off the stall, didn't you? I mean, that's you, right?"
I felt my face flush. "Excuse me?"
"Can I take that as a yes?"
"And why would you do that?"
"Well, because you obviously know what stall I'm talking about, so..."
I slammed my hand down on the counter. "How the hell do you get me knowing what you're talking about from Excuse Me?"
I was ignored. "Wasn't that at an Old Navy?"
"At the mall, yeah, right across from the food court you bastard!"
I didn't really say that. Desperately wanted to, because there was something about the guy that I found instantly irritating, but I bit down on my lip. When I didn't say anything at all, he laughed.
"Did you buy anything?"
"No," I growled. "I haven't bought anything at Old Navy since elementary school."
"So... wait, you were just there to use the bathroom?"
I sighed. Please let me sound like I'm about to throw up. "No."
He sounded confused. "So are you one of those people who skim public restrooms picking up numbers? I'm sorry, I'm a little new at this, I was just wondering."
"No, I don't!" Now I knew why his sister had been screaming. If I'd been related to him, he would've died young. "I dialed the wrong number and I don't know what the hell you're talking about."
"Yeah?" Daniel said pleasantly. "Okay, why not? It's just that when people really do dial a wrong number, they usually just hang up when I tell them where this number's been. What's your name?"
I shook my head, trying to figure it out. "What?" This couldn't be happening. This wasn't the way normal people acted in real life.
"I said," said Daniel slowly, "wha—"
I hung up.
I was a little paranoid around my cell for the rest of the day. And the day after that. But on the third day, after still no call back from Bathroom Number, I fell into the frame of mind that it would just be some little thing to laugh at when I looked back on it. For whatever reason, I was kind of over my depression. Having the shit scared out of you and having someone to yell at will help breeze by that sort of thing. When the phone rang on the third day, I answered it in a semi-happy mood without even a chance to put up my defenses.
"Hey, Mister Hang Up," said a cheerful voice. "And here I was afraid I had written down your number wrong."
I sat up from the couch and turned off the TV. "Um, who is this?"
"This is your friend on the other end of the bathroom number." Daniel yawned casually. "And I didn't quite catch your name the last time we chatted. I think the line got disconnected or something."
"If by disconnected you mean I hit the disconnect button, yes."
"Oh," he said, and then there was a pause. "Hey, I didn't catch your name last time—"
I pulled the phone away and hung up. I stared at it until it rang again. I put it to my ear and said nothing.
Daniel was laughing. "Okay, if you're going to keep doing that—"
I hung up again. It hadn't rung once before it was up to my ear again.
"Do you know what the word tenacious means?" I said.
"Guess," said Daniel. "And I'm going to go out on a limb here and say I think I may be better at it than you are. So, uh. In case you haven't figured it out, I've got your number. Literally."
"Are you threatening me, you stalker?"
"No, of course not! I just want to talk. I mean, nobody else has called from the stall number and you don't seem like you're a serial killer, and I'm sorry if you were just expecting it to be some hooker's number and are really disappointed, but why not? And I'm not a stalker. But it is a convenient way of exchanging phone numbers, don't you think?"
"One: you're a freak, and two: how did you get my number?"
"Well, duh— waitwaitpleasedonthangup. It's a pain having to keep hitting redial."
"Boo-fucking-hoo. Well?" I switched the cell to my other ear and used the free hand to flip through a magazine on the couch. I noticed my fingers weren't so twitchy as they had been after the first call.
"I guess I asked for that," said Daniel. "But you're the one that called me, remember?"
"I didn't call you," I said. "It was a wrong number, and now you're stalking me. Fag," I added for good measure. That's what tough scary guys said when they wanted to intimidate people, right?
Daniel wasn't buying it. "Oh, like you're not enjoying it? Ha-fucking-ha."
The obvious mock made my lip curl. "What's that mean?"
"Well…you would've called the police if you were really worried."
"How the hell do you know I haven't?"
I hadn't been expecting that, and it took a minute too long to think of a comeback. I could have said something about them tapping the line while we talked, but no. I fell over on the couch and buried my face in a pillow. After a few seconds, I turned my face back to the side and put the phone back to my ear.
"Still there?" said Daniel.
I sighed. "Yeah."
"Will you tell me your name?"
"What do you think?"
"I'll tell you mine."
I didn't bother to mention that I already knew it. "If I hang up will you leave me alone? For serious?"
"My name is Daniel," he offered.
"In that case, leave me alone Daniel."
"Will you tell me yours now? You don't have to tell me your last name or anything."
"Besides the fact that you're stalking me? And this whole thing is about eleven different kinds of messed up? I don't know you, I don't want to know you, and I want you to stop calling me. I suppose next you'll want to know my social security number!"
"Look, you know more about me than I know about you," he said sensibly. "If I was stalking you, would you know? I mean, really know?"
"I don't know. I guess. I don't know! What kind of question is that?" I sat back on my heels and sank into the couch. "You're just trying to confuse me."
"Trust me. You'd know. I'd be, what, sending you weird emails and breathing really heavy on the phone without actually talking, right? And you definitely wouldn't know my name, because I wouldn't have told you, and I wouldn't be asking for yours. I'd just tap your calls and wait for your boyfriend to call you or something—"
"Hey!" I jumped off the couch.
"What?" He sounded so innocent.
"What do you mean what?"
"I meant what," he said. "And I ask again: what?"
I gave a dry laugh. "I don't have a boyfriend," I said, in a dangerously dry tone.
There was a pause. "Uh. Oh, I don't know. How about…" I made a swift hand gesture. As if he were there in person and I was talking to him. "Because men are pigs?"
He laughed. "No way."
"Yes, no way. Try more along the lines of because you're being an idiot and get a life."
Daniel snorted. "Anyway, I'm not doing any of those things to you. Thus, I am not a stalker. Happy?"
"No," I said. "I'm not. Your logic sucks. Hang up the phone right now, and burn whatever you wrote my number down on."
He sighed. "You know, you really shouldn't end sentences with prepositions. Talk to you later."
And he hung up. He hung up on me.
That really bugged me for some reason.
I didn't want to do it, but I found myself carrying my cell around more than usual. It would be with me in the bathroom when I brushed my teeth and spiked my hair, or by my side at the bookcase as I looked up the definition of prepositions. He called a few more times, and we talked about absolutely nothing, the majority of the conversations limited to me complaining about him calling in the first place, but I still tensed every time it rang, and felt like an psychologically conditioned idiot sheep when it usually turned out to be my mom.
I lay in the middle of the floor, underneath the ceiling fan, when she got home the day before I left for band camp. "Hi," I called out.
She sighed as she stepped over me with an armful of groceries. "Why don't you get outside and do something? You look bored to tears. Are you all packed for the music academy?"
I closed my eyes to hide an eye-roll. She hates eye-rolls. "Yes." Yes, I'm all packed for stupid should've-stopped-doing-this-when-I-was-ten band camp.
"Well, I mean it just seems strange to get all made-up and not go anywhere," she said, talking about going outside and doing something, not band camp. My mother had a strange habit of jumping around different topics while she talked. I think she thought she was being more time-efficient when she had seven conversations going at the same time instead of just one.
"So if I stay around the house don't punk myself out?" I asked.
"Well," she said. She sighed in an adorably motherly way. That sigh usually came before the uncomfortable Could You Try To Be A Little More Normal—For Me? speech. "Maybe just not as much. Maybe a little less neon hair color?" she said. For the most part I didn't even hear that part anymore. It was just, maybe not as much/more of insert whatever here, or some variation on that theme. It could be anything from too many piercings to not inviting my ex over enough, back when she wasn't an ex.
I could trace my mother's movements even with my eyes closed by her heels clicking on the linoleum. "I like blue as much as the next person, but… in your hair? That can't be healthy for it. Or maybe it's not the color… maybe it's the style I don't care for." I heard her give a little snort and stomp a foot on the kitchen floor. "Shoot."
"What?" I asked obediently.
"I forgot to get something at the store. Do you mind if I just pop out and get it?"
Pop out generally equated to a few hours, usually time spent deciding what to get exactly. Heaven help her if there were more than two choices available and if there were three I'd probably never see her face again. "No, go ahead."
"Well, I know it's your last night home, that's all…" my mother said, as she went out the door.
I sighed and flung out my arms to my sides, enjoyed the slow breeze from the ceiling fan. I didn't even flinch when my cell rang, and I put it to my ear feeling practically zen-like. The pre-band camp calm.
And I didn't check to see who was calling. I pretty much knew anyway. "Yeah?"
"Hey," Daniel said. "What's up?"
"Eh." I rolled to my feet and went to the couch. That was becoming the place I went whenever he called.
"Wow, that bad?" he asked. "Are you winning?"
"I don't know. I've kind of been entertaining this idea that you're on a war front somewhere, fighting body snatchers or something of equal top-secret government importance."
My eyes stared out at nothing for a complete three seconds. "Yeah. Yeah, I'm winning," I said, sighing. "Killed a bunch of aliens and a couple unicorns, it was pretty, uh… thrilling. And top-secret. And so you know too much and that pretty much means I have to kill you now."
"And you still sound bored," he said, dumbfounded. "I guess it's all just part of the job, huh?"
I curled into a ball with my chin resting on my knees. Daniel's voice faded out of my immediate attention as I caught sight of a small framed family photo Mom insisted on keeping in the living room. A younger me stared back from between the arms of my parents, almost mocking me with his fresh-scrubbed face, reddish brown hair, sickeningly open smile. The days before piercings or hair dye or having a fucking clue.
"So," said Daniel. The connection fuzzed from static. He paused. "You know I'm kidding, don't you? I don't actually think you're a government trained fantastic creature terminator. You know that right?"
It took a second to process that. "Um. Yes. Yes, I know."
"So what are you doing? You got quiet for a while. Not even a snarky remark."
"Because I'm not actually listening," I said. More frowning than glaring, almost embarrassed, I reached out and set the photograph down on its face. "Were you actually under the impression I've been paying attention to you the last few days?"
"Sometimes," he said, laughing. "I mean, you must because your answers are always at least somewhat decipherable. Or do you have a fairy in your ear feeding you all your witty comebacks? I think you just pretend you're not listening. You're actually fascinated and intrigued."
"Then I'm pretending I pretended I didn't hear that. Or... something." I relaxed and let gravity roll me onto my side, into a half-assed fetal. The phone stayed mashed to my ear by the couch. Late sunset light went right over the back of the couch, leaving me untouched. I sighed. "What time is it where you are? Seriously, it's like night here. Do you live in Australia or something, is that why you're impervious to circadian cycles?"
"What does that have to do with being in Australia?"
If you really want to know what the black hole conversation time between where I narrate is like, it pretty much goes on like this, it really does. That's why I don't write out the entire week's worth of phone conversations. You'd die where you sat if I did.
I sighed. "I'm in the U.S. right now, and you always seem to call at the weirdest times. I just thought that might point to you being in some strange alternate dimension where things like sleep don't apply at two in the morning."
"...like Australia?" he asked slowly.
I rolled over and stared at the ceiling. I blinked. "Don't… look, you know, don't be a smart-ass, alright? All I meant by the Australia comment was you're obviously in some obscure time zone compared to me so it makes you seem like you're staying up at all hours."
"You're staying up at all hours, too," he pointed out.
"That's different. Where are you?"
"Right behind you."
Don't look, I commanded myself. Don't look! But I felt a shiver on my neck and so, feeling foolish, peeked over the back of the couch.
He chuckled. Now that I listened, he did sound kind of tired. "Did you look?"
"Uh-huh, that's what I thought. Well, it wouldn't have done any good anyway because I move like a shadow and you wouldn't have seen me anyway."
Taking a last look around, I slide back into the couch. "Right."
"Why do you want to know where I live, just out of curiosity? Now who's the stalker?"
"You're a moron."
"Seriously, do I sound Australian? Or like I really want to pay severe long distance charges even if it is to bask in your exquisite conversational presence?"
Was it weird by then I was actually starting to get used to him saying shit like that? "I guess not." I mean it was almost kind of flattering, but still.
He laughed. "So, what do you like to do for fun?"
I laughed. I actually laughed, like, really laughed. I held the phone away from my face to shield him from it, but didn't get a handle on myself until after tears were gathering at the corners of my eyes. I sighed and put the phone back to my ear. "What gave you the impression something like that even exists in my life?"
"Really? Fun? You don't have fun?"
"Are you in the northern or southern hemisphere?"
"What does that have to do with fun? North."
"So wherever the hell you are, it's summer, right? Are you following this?"
"In case you don't know, where I am it's been a beautiful summer week and I just spent the whole fucking thing indoors being your whatever personal psychological wall to talk to and you want to know what I do for fun? Tell you what—probably as much as you, and by that I mean not much."
I sat through an unusual quiet spell from the other side, which is to say there was silence at all. "Interesting. Tell me about your relationship with you mother."
Ever gotten whiplash from a sentence? "No one likes a fucking smart-aleck," I muttered.
"Is that why you spend all day inside alone talking to a stranger you hardly know?"
I sat up to stare at the wall in surprise, and heard him sniff. The silence on my end must have embarrassed him, because he said, "Sorry. I didn't mean that to be as mean as it turned out. I just thought, since you've been listening to me so much, maybe we could trade places for a few minutes. Tell me about your relationship with your mother."
"Okay, no," I said. I sighed and sat back again. "We are not talking about my mother. She's actually really boring. She likes metallic shoes and things with fake crocodile skin on them. Those are her passions."
"Really? Mine too." I frowned and held the phone away from me. I stared at it. Daniel finally noticed the possible double meaning. "I mean they're my mother's passions, too. Or at least they used to be. I've seen pictures, and Dad hints at it sometimes to tease her and she gets embarrassed."
"As she should. Crocodile handbags are skanky." Oh my god you're talking on the phone with a guy about handbags. Hang. Up. Now.
Daniel said, "So does this mean you do or don't want to talk about your mother? I'm getting mixed messages."
I heard the familiar sounds behind the front door signaling my mother's return. "Hey, not my problem."
I still heard his faint, "Bye" from the phone before I turned it off.
Mom came in and I smiled and sat on the couch and stared at a blank TV until it was time to eat dinner. I didn't have much of an appetite.I'd be off to the most horribly jolly place on earth in the morning. Music Academy, i.e. band camp. It would probably be best if I left my cell at home, but I'd end up bringing it anyway. Still, somehow I felt like I'd be getting away from the sudden mess I'd gotten myself into. Getting away from the house would be a perfect way to get away from this stupid phone stalker.
A/N: Except he's so very not getting away.
Anyway, thanks for reading! I know there was a lot of just… talking, but I would still love to hear from you, as always!