I Just Like the Band
named after an obscure lyric from an obscure independent singer/songwriter
AS A GENERAL WARNING: Intentional/unintentional vagueness lie ahead, as does a general misunderstanding of musical theory, non-flamboyant homosexuality, sexual encounters (not graphic), indie music references, other references, confusion as to plotline, etc.
(the above applies to all chapters of this fic.)
NOTE: This is not an endeavor in writing a neat and tidy story with chapters and logical progression from one scene to another. The vignettes/FP chapters are in general chronological order, with some exceptions. Apologies for any confusion this might cause. Feel free to PM me and I will happily explain the timeline.
Now, without further ado, here is the story.
He is the boy with the violin, gray eyes like beacons in the empty dark of the cathedral, quiet voice humming along to the melody, thin body swaying with the beat. He leaves the home one summer day, a violin case strapped to his back, duffel bag in hand. He doesn't know where he's going: he finds a stage somewhere, clambers up on top, and begins to play, because this is the best he can do for himself at this moment, this is all he's good at, this is all he has.
He hears of her death and doesn't respond, detached. The date of the funeral passes him by like a slow city bus heading in the opposite direction. He keeps playing, thinking she'll be able to hear him now, no matter where he is. And if she doesn't, it doesn't matter. He's not really playing for anybody now.
Until the man with the sunglasses discovers him playing the fiddle on the edges of the city. Frey has a family now, a musical family that draws him in like a long-lost brother and son, welcoming him with open arms and open minds. The man, Kyle, smiles in a way that makes Frey want to smile back. Frey sometimes talks about solo careers with him, though it's just a far off speck on the horizon, and not something he is seriously considering.
That night haunts his dreams sometimes, the drunkenness of it all, the emptiness in his stomach after he'd heaved out his dinner and his lunch. He helps Kyle get home, because Kyle is more fucked up than he is, and Kyle, as Frey is laying him out on his king-sized bed, stares at the ceiling and laughs about nothing and everything. "They think I write music," He chuckles bitterly, his eyes glassy like wet marbles. Street lamps from outside cast bars of light on the wall above his bed as Kyle sits up, staring Frey down like it's his fault.
Frey finds his way home alone, back to his crappy apartment on the bad side of town, and in the morning someone calls him, tinny phone-voice bringing him out of his half-dead stupor, saying "found dead in his apartment, the cops think it was suicide, and you were with him last night, right?"
Frey thinks he can never touch a violin again, he hides in the seediest dumps in the world, doesn't go home for days, he misses the funeral, and then he misses the memorial service, but he watches the marathon MTV plays of Chernobyl's concerts and music videos, and in the recent ones, Frey sees himself, arm sawing back and forth through the air, head bent to the side, standing with one leg bent the other straight. He doesn't think anyone knows his name, and he's fine with that for many reasons.
A year or two, who knows, and he can't keep himself out of music, so he goes back, but it's different this time because the sound is lonelier, but that's something that someone likes, because someone hires him to tour with what's-her-face pop sensation, and soon he realizes that he doesn't need a home, he doesn't need to be in a band, he just has to keep playing what people tell him to and he'll be fine. The sounds are now as much a part of him as eating and breathing. He can't give them up no matter how much he hates them sometimes.
They all ask him to stay, to become a permanent member, but everytime they do he's reminded: "they think i write music" repeated over and over like a religious chant, like a futile prayer to what god above, and he says no, I'm thinking of starting my own band even though it's a lie. They don't know, they accept it and don't see it for what it is, just a disguise.
He meets Celia during a show. She recognizes him right away as he sidles up to the bar to order a beer- and not as the violinist of the band that just played- "Frankie?" the forgotten name and part of his life, he turns to see her. They didn't know each other much when they were younger; she was the girl with the perpetually scraped knees and the abundant freckles, he was the boy who lived in the orphanage. They strike some sort of deal: during the weeks he isn't touring with some band-or-other, he stays in her apartment in a sunny city in California. It doesn't take long for him to find out she has a drinking problem, and it doesn't take long for her to realize he doesn't do confrontation very well, and it works. He somehow finds her a job working in a music store on Second Street, where he is friends with the owner, Rob.
Then he gets hired again. They're this new, up-and-coming band named after that one book that was made into a movie starring Jack Nicholson or something or other. Brandon on lead vocals is the one who acts the leader but really isn't. He finds out later that it is LeRoy on drums who wanted to hire him. Marla bass player is familiar but distant, like everytime she opens her eyes she's seeing a completely different world. Charlie on everything else occasionally smiles like someone he knew a long time ago.
He doesn't see it coming until it's too late. The late nights in the tour bus playing cards with LeRoy, arguing about setlists with Brandon, one word conversations with Marla, listening to soft classical music with Charlie...
The end of the tour in New York leads them on a wild goose chase through Central Park, trying to flee rabid fans. He and Charlie are separated from the others, and somehow he wakes up the next morning in someone else's hotel room, naked, and it doesn't take long to realize that it's Charlie's arm thrown haphazardly across his waist, those are Charlie's legs tangled in his, these are Charlie's pants he's wearing as he makes his getaway.
The next day someone unearths a rare recording of Kyle and Frey, playing a demo of a song that was never finished. The musical world goes crazy trying to figure out just who the violin player is, it's just Kyle's voice and that violin, it's beautiful, it's amazing, why has it never been heard before and then someone remembers the gangly kid with the unruly hair, whatwashisnameagain, and someone else finds a rare picture taken of him without his violin. He sees it through a store window on an unfamiliar television screen, and he's staring straight at the camera, hands behind his back, face vulnerable. After that, it's revealed that he was the last one to be seen with Kyle Singer, that he was the last person to speak with Kyle Singer before Kyle Singer killed himself, and Frey tries to go into hiding, only Rob, acting on his long-time crush on Celia, threatens to kill Frey for being a neglectful roommate/best friend after Celia nearly dies of alcohol poisoning one unfortunate night.
He finds his way back to the abandoned apartment he left the morning Kyle was found dead. Everything's exactly the way he left it. It makes him think, for a minute, that he's been sent five years back into the past, but for the layer of dust on everything and the aches and pains that come with growing older and wiser.
Watching the world through a television screen, he finds out three things: the former members of Chernobyl are asking that the whole fiasco be laid to rest; The Acutes, bombarded with questions about their temporary violinist, are taking a three-month hiatus, postponing the release of their latest album; and no one knows where he is.
With nothing to do, he begins to think about these things. He wonders what his life would be like if Kyle hadn't died. He would have never met Charlie, or LeRoy or Marla or Brandon. He would have never met so many different bands and people, he probably wouldn't have been to so many different places across the country. But, if Kyle hadn't died, maybe Frey would be starting his solo career right now, with the helpful guidance of the seasoned veteran Kyle and the rest of Chernobyl to help him through it.
He nurses half empty beer cans and frequents the corner cafe below his apartment, pondering his entire life. Does he really want a solo career? No, he knows the answer to that. No, he doesn't. But did he, back then, green-eyed and naive? What does he want now?
Nestled deep inside a ratty old blanket on his ratty old couch, he mulls over the idea of staying with the Acutes. He's been trying to ignore the feeling that they're home the entire tour long. It's a hard thought to dismiss.
Marla finds him. She knocks on his lonely door in the afternoon of a weekday. She looks like she could punch him, only her eyes start to tear as she asks him about Kyle, about her brother, the man who killed himself without warning, without reason. He doesn't know what to say, but he starts to talk anyway, and it's all about the music they'd made together, the feeling of belonging he'd felt while in Chernobyl, and then again in The Acutes, and Kyle's friendliness, and how Frey wishes he'd stayed with Kyle that night, stayed at least in that apartment, been able to stop him, or something, something, been able to answer him when he'd asked Frey why why and had been able to say "You do write music," because even if Kyle didn't believe him, at least it would have been a contrary opinion, if Kyle couldn't believe in himself, maybe he'd have been comforted by someone else believing in him, and
The next day Frey takes a walk. The walk leads him to Charlie. He doesn't know what to say. So he starts with the beginning, or the middle, or the end, he can't ever remember. And Charlie walks away. But he looks over his shoulder and smiles as he does it, so Frey doesn't know whether it's a good-bye or an invitation.
The anniversary of Kyle's death, and the remaining band members of Chernobyl put on a benefit concert to help out suicide prevention networks and programs. The Acutes are invited, as are other bands. Frey gets an invite from Marla. The concert is ending, is over, when he shows up, on stage, alone with a violin. Introducing himself as "the man who killed Kyle Singer" Frey plays a song written years ago in his memory. The lyrics, abstract and jumbled as they are, sound broken coming from his mouth, and the violin accompaniment sounds like the cry of a lost lover long ago. He ends the song and leans into the microphone.
"I'm sorry Kyle Singer had to die that way. But there's nothing I can do now to change it from ever happening. All we can do is keep on playing, hoping that the people we are trying to reach can hear our music. And that's all. Thank you, everybody, good night."
He stumbles backstage to the sound of the audience's roars. LeRoy claps him on the back, Marla kisses him on the cheek with tears in her eyes, and Brandon gives a tiny nod of acknowledgment. Charlie stares at him from across the room, and Frey attempts a smile at him. He feels it's genuine, and it is.
After the celebration is over and complete, he finds his way into Charlie's arms. Charlie, the musical genius of The Acutes, reminds him so much of the two people he's lost in his life, he almost backs out. But then Frey, without thinking, hugs Charlie, and kisses him because it doesn't matter if Charlie reminds him of Stella or Kyle. The three of them are vastly different people, and he should do well to remember that.
Months later, after the music magazines tire of the buzz around Frey and Kyle, The Acutes go on tour again, and this time, Frey is introduced along with the rest of the band, and when they say The Acutes, they mean BrandonCharlieMarlaLeRoyFrey, and Frey plays his violin.
A/N: Abrupt ending is abrupt.
Wrote this in about thirty minutes, didn't read it over for typos.
This story is something I intended to make longer, fuller, but I think this works for now. Maybe I'll get around to writing the whole thing some other time. You know, when I actually have ambition. No really, there's a lot more to this besides run on sentences and grammatical errors. I swear.
Reviews are appreciated, but constructive criticism is slightly less so. I know what's wrong with this, I just don't care at the moment. Thank you.
EDIT 6/4: Technically it'll be June 5th in three minutes, but eh. Edited, revised (majorly) to fit with the general plotline in the following chapters. BOY THAT TOOK A HECK OF A LONG TIME. (three freaking months)