A/N: Thanks for the reviews! Shredforme, I LOVE that you put on Zep. What more could I ask for? And forkandyoghurt, I hate to say it, but I think you'll find this story utterly cliched. At the same time, I'm trying to keep it semi-realistic and, well...that's proving difficult. I hope you keep reading - let me know what you think. Werwolf234 and GunDani - thank you too :D
"It's a beautiful morning, I think I'll go outside for a while, and just smile."
-- Young Rascals, It's A Beautiful Morning
I was wearing a pair of underpants and a bra and there was something lumpy and uncomfortable lodged in beside my left breast. Slowly, with the utmost care not to disturb the sleeping man beside me – is it, oh god, it is, it's Luke Kennicot, or, or, or maybe it's a look-a-li….no, no no, it's the real fucking deal, Lucy, you mad fuck, it's LUKE KENNICOT in YOUR BED – I reached up to tug whatever it was out of my bra. My phone! Oh, of course it was in my bra, that's where I kept everything when I went out, keys and money included. It was winking red. Softly, I cracked it open.
Seven missed calls from Gil.
Oh dear. Oh dear. What the HELL had I done last night? I could smell lemon on my fingers – FUCK YOU, TEQUILA!
I must not move, I told myself. I must not make a noise. I must think very, very hard and remember what happened.
I had gone to the Flies concert. Gil and I then visited Hud's. The band turned up (I found it even harder to believe this in the light of day, despite the proof lying next to me and taking up way more than half the bed). I had….I had….
Luke moved slightly beside me, snuggling his face into the pillow. I took a moment to reflect on how cute that was, and in doing so, I looked at him properly for the first time. Last night I had gazed at him with drunk fan vision, but now, in the morning sunlight, he was different. He had dark stubble on his face that totally hadn't been there the night before. Facial hair is so weird, I thought absently. There was a little scar running over the base of his chin. He was lying on his stomach, shirtless, the blankets all bunched at his lower back.
Oh wow. The quiet member of the band took on a whole new appeal when he was shirtless.
I wanted to follow the lines of his shoulder blades with my finger. He was very muscular. His long hair was blacker than I remembered, and tussled. A stylized, Incan-type bird was tattooed on his upper back.
He was so effing beautiful right then that I wanted to wrap myself around him and meld with his skin.
His eyes were a green so light they were almost translucent.
Crapping hell, he was awake, and looking groggily at the girl who was blatantly checking him out.
I admit that I squawked. Suddenly, reality – which had been hovering in the distance thus far – came rushing back, and I realised where I was, where Luke was, and where our clothes were. Or rather, where our clothes weren't.
My eyes wandered back to his bare torso. I wasn't sure whether I wanted him to be wearing underwear or not.
This line of thought was unhelpful. I should probably say something, I realised. A silky "morning" with a sexy brow-raise would be fine. Nothing came out of my mouth. Okay, it doesn't have to be silky! I thought frantically. Just say something!
"Um," said I.
"What did I drink last night?" Luke's voice was a faint groan.
Luke pulled himself up to a sitting position with a wince. The blankets fell away to reveal that he was still wearing his black jeans. So we mustn't have had sex, I realised, and felt mingled disappointment and relief. He pressed the heel of his palm onto his forehead, rubbed it tightly; sighed.
"Is this your place?" he asked, barely glancing around.
My eyes flickered over the poster-laden walls. "Yeah."
"I remember," he said, "fuck all about last night."
"All I can recall," I replied, starting to smile, "is tequila."
"Tequila? Whose idea was that?"
He cupped his face in his hands and gave a soft laugh.
"Do you want some panadol or something?" I asked. He looked so weary and hungover, and I felt kind of to blame (though I wasn't sure why).
He was sitting cross-legged in the middle of the bed. I clumsily pulled myself up to my knees, tried to take a sheet with me (for coverage), failed at that, and half-wriggled, half-flopped out of the bed. I glanced up at Luke, who was watching me, eyes half-closed, with something like amusement.
I grabbed my nightie off the back of my chair and tugged it on over my undie/bra combo. (I say "nightie", but really it was an ancient grey Cure t-shirt that reached my mid-thighs. Together, Luke and I would have made one fully clothed person.)
"Just a second," I said and hurried out of the room, pulling the door to behind me. I stood still, gulped air.
You've woken up with strange dudes before, I told myself; this is no different.
But this was SO different. This was crazy.
I grabbed some panadol from the bathroom and went to the kitchen to get water. Standing at the sink, I downed a couple of pills. Took a few deep breaths. Giving the packet a hard glare, I took one more. Maybe they could work like proper drugs and get me calm and comfortable. Maybe if I convinced myself they actually were proper drugs, I could get a calm and comfortable placebo effect going.
"That was some real good VALIUM I just took," I hissed to my stomach.
Oh shut up.
I drank another glass of water. I was procrastinating, and I knew it.
I had one more glass of water.
Then, slowly, unwillingly, I headed back towards my bedroom. I sucked air through my teeth, told myself I was being one huge pussy, and then nudged the door open with my elbow.
Luke was standing in the corner, looking closely at something on my wall. He'd put his shirt back on. It was a white, holey Asterix t-shirt – he was effortlessly cool.
"Um, here," I said, and held out the panadol and water. He didn't turn around.
"Did you make this?"
He pointed at the wall. I stepped up behind him and peered over his shoulder.
"Oh," I murmured and felt a blush creep up my neck. "Yeah, I did."
"It's cool." It kinda was. It was a mosaic I'd made one night a few months ago when I couldn't sleep. I'd ripped up hundreds of tiny pieces of black paper and stuck them on the wall to make a big, collaged picture of Dr Seuss' Lorax. Above his moustachioed face read "I SPEAK FOR THE TREES". (For the first time, I saw the stupidity in my spelling out a green message using an obscene amount of paper.)
Luke looked at it for a moment longer, then turned and took the water and panadol out of my hands. "Thanks." He gulped down a few, set down the glass on my dressing table, and looked at me. Those pale green eyes were daunting.
"You're different than you were last night," he said finally.
"I generally look the worse for wear after a night out," I replied slowly.
"No, not that. Last night you were really….confident."
"Well," I laughed awkwardly. "I was pretty munted…." I hesitated. "….and right now, I feel pretty uncomfortable. I mean, you're on my wall." I pointed at the poster above the doorway. "And now you're in my room. And I…I have no idea what actually happened last night."
He leant back against the wardrobe. I sat on the edge of the bed, and we looked at each other.
"You can't remember how we got back here?" Luke asked.
"You can't remember what we did once we got here?"
I flushed. "No!"
"You don't know what happened to the people I was with? Or that friend of yours?"
He laughed. "Neither do I."
Suddenly something dawned on me. "Oh no," I gasped.
"What is it?"
I leapt off the bed and started searching through the pocket of the jeans I'd been wearing the night before, blathering as I went. "If I got so drunk that I blacked out, there's no way I would have remembered –" I paused; was this it? No, that was a stupid bus ticket. I biffed it over my shoulder in disgust. "I wouldn't have remembered," I continued, "to get the band's autographs." There were no other pieces of paper in my pockets. I clenched my fists. I'd missed the opportunity! Oh, alcohol could be such a BASTARD sometimes.
Luke started laughing.
I whipped my head up to stare at him. I mean, obviously I would be still be able to get his signature, but to have had the WHOLE BAND in my grasp and to have let them slip through my fingers…
"Look," he grinned, and nodded towards the jeans that were clamped in my hands. I glanced down at the pale denim. I was about to ask what he meant, when I saw. I choked and looked closer.
The top of the right leg was covered in black scrawl. I had a sudden, vivid, slightly awful flashback of me propping a knee up on a bar stool so that everyone could sign my thigh.
I looked back up at Luke. "Well, at least I know one thing I did last night," I muttered grimly. I held out the jeans in front of me and read through the signatures. A big, capitalised "VAL", a "P. Silver", a scribble that seemed to start with an "L" so was presumably Luke, and, best of all, a big, bold "Adrian Kennicot". But they didn't stop there. There was a "Gil!!! XOXO", a "Cheers from Scott"…and a "Lucy B."
"Why the fuck did I sign my own leg?" I asked aloud, and Luke cracked up. He had a deep, infectious laugh, and I found myself joining in.
"I can't believe I ruined my best pants!"
"I can't believe you signed them yourself!"
My phone rang before I could get hysterical. I wrangled it out from where it lay amongst the sheets and saw that it was Gil.
"Oh crap," I breathed. He was not going to be happy. I had undoubtedly abandoned him last night and he hated that. I tried to make a face at Luke, but he'd come over to pull the pants out of my hands and was still chuckling at them.
So I sighed and answered the phone with as calm a voice as possible . "Hey, Gil."
"Good morning, Lucy." He spoke with scary politeness.
"What's up, man?" I asked nervously.
"Well, good question. Let's see, uuhm, okay, so I've just spent the last five hours wondering if my best friend had been raped and pillaged because at four this morning she disappeared into the night with some fucking musician, and she wasn't answering her phone, and I couldn't get into her apartment building to see if she was home; and so I suppose it would be more appropriate for ME to ask what is UP with YOU." Each word was louder than the last.
"I'm really sorry, Gil," I said quickly. "I mean, I was clearly off my face-"
"Exactly! Why the fuck do you think I was so worried?!" he screeched.
"Well I'm fine! Nothing….happened." I carefully didn't look at Luke as I said this.
"Did you sleep with him?"
A pause. "Um, probably not."
There was silence on the other end, then Gil gave a pained laugh.
"You bitch. Did he stay over?"
I glanced behind me. Luke was lying back on the bed, his arms folded beneath his head, eyes shut. He was but a poor, tired famous man atop my butterfly duvet (SO not my choice – a Christmas gift from my woefully unstyley cousin).
"IS HE STILL THERE!?"
"What's he doing?"
"What are you doing?"
"Obviously I shall need to know everything. Can we please meet up once he leaves?"
"Dude, I think we'll have to."
Gil hung up and my bedroom was silent.
"What are your plans for the day?" asked Luke from the bed.
"I'm not sure. Study?" I snorted. "That won't happen."
"Do you want to go for a walk?"
I goggled at him. "With you?"
"Yeah," he drawled. "With me."
He actually wanted to hang out.
Together with me.
"Where to?" I asked after my mental processing was complete.
I opened my mouth, but he spoke first. "Actually, I meant would you mind walking me to my hotel? I don't know how to get there."
"Oh. I see." I pondered for a moment. "But wouldn't it be easier to catch a taxi? Or call one of the other guys to get you picked up?"
"I don't have a phone or anyone's number." He grimaced. "And honestly, if I get in a car right now, I'll probably be sick. I'd prefer to walk." He lifted up his head and looked at me expectantly.
I sighed. "Do you know the name of your hotel?"
"Uhhh. Yes. Maybe."
"What is it?"
He rubbed his knuckles along his stubbly jaw thoughtfully. "The Vista something."
"Is it just the Vista Hotel?"
"Yeah, that's the one."
And that's how I got roped into walking Luke Kennicot back to his hotel. Not that I minded. (I realise that I keep saying his full name when I want to make a point, which is probably annoying, but I kept forgetting how major this guy was. Every time I started acting like my usual loudmouth self, I thought "THIS IS LUKE KENNICOT YOU'RE TALKING TO", and for a little while it would bring me back to a more appropriate state of awe and embarrassment.)
After I had a brief shower and threw on some clothes, we headed off. As we walked down the stairs inside my apartment building, he asked if he could borrow my aviators.
"So you don't get recognised by the public?" I asked.
"More so because I've got a bad case of photophobia." He was clearly an old hand at the art of being hungover. I asked him what his stance was on the hair of the dog. He said he dug it, so we went back to the apartment and each sculled a beer. He perked up quite quickly after that.
Back down the stairs we went, and this time I said, "You know, nobody apart from Gil is going to believe I met you."
He stopped and looked over at me suspiciously. "Do you want to make evidence or something?"
"Just like, a really quick photo?"
We returned to the apartment. I spent ten minutes digging around for my camera while he had another beer, and then we commenced our photo session. We stood side by side in the lounge and I stuck out my arm, took a shot, and hoped for the best. Somehow it ended up being an artistic shot of my forehead. Luke told me my arms were too short to get us both in, so I handed him the camera. He casually slung an arm around my shoulders - I kept my arms awkwardly at my sides - and snapped a couple of pictures.
He looked at them first and snorted. "Why are you pouting?"
"I always pout in photos. I can't help it, if I smile I look like a loon." I grabbed the camera off him and had a look. "Dude, I look crap in both of these. Can we take one more?" He sighed, took back the camera, grabbed me close with one arm, told me to smile, and took the shot.
"That's a good one," he said and tossed the camera to me.
"I look so stupid!" I cried.
"We're not taking any more."
I huffed quietly, and dropped the camera into my bag. "Okay, fine, we'll go."
For the third time, we left the apartment. Neither of us said anything as we trotted down the stairs. I was musing on how abnormally normal Luke was.
"It's weird," I muttered aloud.
We exited the building and started to walk in the direction of the city centre – and the Vista Hotel.
"You remind me of my brother."
"In what way?"
"You keep teasing me."
He raised his eyebrows. "I do? I have three younger siblings, you know." ("I know," I said under my breath.) "I guess the youth in you brings out the older brother in me. How old are you anyway? 18?"
I scoffed. "I'm 23!"
"You look younger. You have a baby face."
"I don't have a baby face."
"I mean it as a compliment!"
"How is looking like an infant a compliment?!"
"I don't know!"
I gave him an exasperated look. "You ARE like my brother."
At that, Luke laughed.
"Actually," I continued. "On the subject of brothers…" I clasped my hands together behind my back.
"…yes," he said warily.
"What's Adrian like? In person? I mean, judging from my pants, I met him last night, but I recall none of it."
Luke shook his head slightly and gave a soft laugh. "Ahh. Is he your favourite?"
"Oh, I admire you all. But he…he has a voice like Danzig."
"Danzig? You're a Danzig fan?"
"Glenn Danzig is my Dream Man."
"Adrian doesn't look anything like him." I glanced over at Luke's face. His eyes were hidden behind his sunglasses (my sunglasses) and I couldn't read his expression. I wondered if he was thinking what I was thinking – that with his long black hair and solid jaw he himself looked rather like Danzig my Dream Man. Well, he probably wasn't thinking the exact same thing (if he described his jaw as "solid" in his OWN mind, I wanted nothing more to do with him). What's more, Luke was muscular where Adrian was lean; dark where he was light.
"But he sounds like him," I replied. "And that's something special."
"Hey." Luke appeared to want to change the subject. "Uhh," he bit his lip. "Will you be offended if I ask you what your name is again?"
I rolled my eyes. "It's Lucy. You've gone all morning without asking, why bother now?"
"You're doing me a favour by walking me to the hotel. I figured it would be rude to not even know your name."
I didn't reply to that, and so we walked quietly for the next minute or two.
"Hey," he said again. "How long is it to the hotel?"
"Um, it'll probably take us about twenty minutes. Are you feeling up to it?"
"Yeah, I'm okay."
We fell silent again.
"How long are you in New Zealand for?" I asked.
"A week," Luke answered. "It's the last stop on our tour, so we're spending a couple extra days hanging out before we head back to the States."
"We've got a show in Wellington the day after tomorrow, and that's our last. So we'll fuck around a bit before we go back and start working on the next album."
"Oh, my brother lives in Wellington! He'll be at the gig."
"Awesome." A moment's pause. "You know, I like this country."
"Yeah? I love it when foreigners say that."
Another quiet period. It wasn't all that awkward, strangely enough. My mind wasn't scrambling around for possible topics for conversation, and he didn't seem to mind it either. It was a beautiful, sunny day, and I think the weather was enough to make us both feel pretty easy.
Presently, he asked if I was getting hungry.
"I've been craving a chicken burger for like, the last half hour."
"Awesome. If you lead me to a fast food place, I'll shout you."
"Oh, you don't have to shout me…"
"No, Lucy, I want to."
I wasn't going to argue with that.
"And after we'd had BK, I walked him back to his hotel," I shrugged and took a long sip from my thickshake. "Nothing exciting. We had a pretty good conversation though. He was surprisingly easy to get along with." I shrugged.
Gil and I had met in our favourite cafe on K Road later that same, fateful day. The place was half-full; we'd grabbed a table right in the back corner with big squishy chairs, and now we sat facing each other for the Saturday Share (though this week's S.S. was far more dramatic than usual).
"A good conversation, eh?" Gil leaned across the table and waggled his eyebrows. "Did you flirt up a storm?"
"No! It wasn't like that. We just talked about music and touring. It was a...a platonic conversation."
Gil shook his head in irritation. "How could anything be platonic with him? He's gorgeous!"
"Even more of a reason not to flirt. I'm rubbish at it, and besides, he's so out of my league, what'd be the point?"
He heaved a sigh and nodded. "Yeah, that's true." I didn't mind Gil agreeing with me. Brutal honesty was a key facet of our best-friendship. Then he gave a short bark of laughter. "God, but you were singing a different tune last night."
Crapstick. "What are you talking about?"
"When we were all at Hud's, you were flirting like FUCK. It would have been hilarious, if I'd been sober enough to enjoy it."
"No way," I whimpered.
"Yes way. You guys – oh man, it's all coming back to me now – you were both, like, sitting slightly away from us, and you kept touching him on the shoulder. I swear at one point I saw you stroking his arm in little circles."
"That," I groaned, "is so fucking humiliating. I'm glad he can't remember anything that happened either."
"Maybe he just said that to spare your feelings."
"Shut up, Gil!"
"I guess it doesn't really matter anyway," he said. There was sadness in his voice. "You wasted your opportunity to screw him, and we'll never have this chance to be groupies again."
"Oh shut UP, Gil." I sucked loudly at my straw (he really hated when I did that). "Oh," I added shortly, "I did give him my number."
Gil slammed his palms down on the table, causing customers at the surrounding tables to glance up in surprise. "YOU DID WHAT?! OH, that is FANTASTIC! Okay, okay, now, did you just give it to him randomly, or did he ask for it?" His voice made it clear that this was the all-important question.
I made a great show of pursing my lips and staring off into the distance as I attempted to recall the course of events. "Well," I began. "We arrived at the hotel doors. He told me that it had been interesting. I said, yeah, it had been. He said, I hope the photos come out okay. I said, me too. He said-"
"Lucy, I'm going to stop listening to you if you're going to be a douche about this."
"He SAID, why don't you give me your number, I might need advice about what there is to do in this town-"
Gil gave a little cry and pressed his fingers against his mouth.
"-and I wrote it on his hand, and then he was like, well, see ya, and I said, yeah, maybe. And gave him a winning smile."
"You played it that cool?"
"Of course I did."
"I don't believe you."
"I did. He was really…easy to be around."
"Do you think he'll call?"
"Doubt it." Butmoh, how I wished he would.
"You have no belief in men!"
"I know, and I've been proven every time that I'm right in having no belief in men. He only asked me for my number because he felt like he owed me something after I walked him home."
"Maybe he'll feel like he owes you a call…"
"Enough, Gil, I'm not letting you get your…your hooks of hopefulness into me."
Gil assented. "But there's a chance," he mused. "I mean, you were really getting along last night."
"How much do you remember?"
"Everything, darling. Unlike you, I'm not a complete spazz when I'm under the influence."
"Fair point. So, uhm, what DID happen? Don't give me details, that might be too painful, give me…just, just the gist."
He reached across the table and patted my hand. "Don't look so worried. You weren't that bad. You were fun. You were the life of the party."
My face fell. "Oh, dude, whenever you say that about somebody, it means they were a wreck."
"No, you really were fun. You and Luke set yourselves up in a corner and had a massive heart to heart, about – from what I could hear – the origin of the universe, religion, the state of the world, politics, and which decade had the best hairstyles."
"And you said the fifties because of James Dean, and he said the seventies because of Robert Plant, and then you both agreed that it didn't matter, because the crimes of the eighties overshadowed ev-"
"Then he said he didn't know kiwi music, so you dashed off to the jukebox, and the next half hour was spent with teaching all the Americans the words to The Exponents."
Okay, that was slightly funny. But – "Did I dance?"
"Did I dirty dance?"
My jaw hit the tabletop. "WHAT?!"
"It's not as awful as it sounds. Everyone was dancing."
"I DANCED WITH ADRIAN?"
He giggled. "Yeah. It was cute." He scrutinised my quivering red face and rolled his eyes. "Oh come on, you didn't embarrass yourself. Everyone was drunk, everyone was having a good time."
I took a deep breath. "If I started trying to get with Adrian (god, I can't BELIEVE I danced with him)…how did I end up taking Luke home?"
"Yeah, see, I don't actually know. I was talking to Stanley for ages…"
"He seemed the gayest of the bunch…"
"And then when I looked around for you, you'd disappeared. Adrian said that you and Luke had gone outside for a smoke-"
"I don't smoke!"
"I realised that, so I had a look around outside and you two were nowhere to be found. So I went back in and told everyone, and they all fell about with laughter."
"What did Adrian do?"
"He was laughing too."
"I mean, what did he do for the rest of the night?"
"Did he pine after you? Had your dance together opened his eyes to you? Did he get extremely jealous because you'd fucked off with his brother?"
"No, sweetheart, he had a few more drinks, and then suggested they all went back to the hotel to have almost-end-of-tour celebrations with the rest of their crew."
"Did they invite you?"
"Yeah, but I was worried about you getting yourself into shit, so I went to your apartment to try and check on you."
"And you couldn't get in."
"So you freaked out."
"It's okay. I can forgive you – the circumstances were unusual." Gil rubbed his face. He was tired. "I can't really believe it happened. If you'd asked me yesterday morning what I would do if I ran into Halo of Flies at a bar…"
"I know." We both started to laugh. "It was insane!"
"Have you told anyone yet?"
"No, I wanted to get the full story from you first."
"Shall we text everyone now or later?"
"Oh, so now." We cackled and took our phones from our pockets. Just before I could flip mine open, it started to ring. The number was an unfamiliar one.
Gil looked at me questioningly. I shrugged and went to answer it. "Hello?"
"Hi," came a low voice.
I looked at Gil with wide eyes.
"Who is it?" he mouthed.
I gulped, and mouthed back, "It's Luke."
Look on Youtube for The Exponents song "Why Does Love Do This to Me" – it's a kiwi classic, and EVERY SINGLE PERSON knows the words. Also, please, please review - complaints and criticism - even compliments! - will be TOTALLY appreciated. S.