~ Stanford University Campus, CA
"Just walk in, Addie." I muttered to myself, rolling back my shoulders. "It's just a fraternity party. Just walk in."
"You sound more optimistic than I have in the entire twenty minutes I've been standing here." A guy next to me sighed, grimacing at the building in front of me. I glanced at him. Was he a frat spy? "Everybody says college is fun, Lee, you've got nothing to worry about, Lee. And yet here I am, feeling like the awkward model on her period at a white Victoria's Secret underwear show."
... Alrighty then, so probably not a fraternity spy. I didn't know of anybody else who was my age, comfortably male and straight that could say "period" without wincing.
It was apparently an impressive party trick. I guess Tasha had done me a favour, by coming back that fateful day in middle school and scowling – "Yes, I have to fucking bleed every month, Addie, you want a picture?".
Obviously, that had been in the days when we weren't close.
"I don't like frat parties." The guy next to me mumbled, grimacing. He was in a suit, like me. Well, at least I didn't feel like the only loser. "When I was a kid, I used to get all gassy and have nosebleeds when I got nervous, it wasn't pretty."
I didn't say anything. There wasn't really much any person could say to that.
Gassy Guy looked at me from the corner of his eye. I know, because I was doing the same thing.
"This is the part where you introduce yourself." He said slowly.
"Most of the time I don't bother, people squeal too much and start correcting me on my surname." I shrugged, trying not to feel like a pretentious asshole for saying that out loud. Too late!
Gassy Guy raised his eyebrows and blinked.
"People correct you on your own surname?" He blanched. "Well, that must suck. You're like... The Neville Longbottom of Stanford."
I turned to him properly for the first time, shooting him a weird look. Same, impressive-looking suit as I had, same type of skinny tie, same kind of carefully messy hair... Only I'd had Tasha yelling instructions at me over FaceTime, so I didn't know where this guy got his information from.
"No, I'm the Adam Parker that everybody assumes is Adam Malloy." I admit, it came off a bit defensive. I didn't know if this guy was playing or not! The other day, a similar thing happened while I was at the urinals, alright? I had reason to be paranoid. Turns out the guy thought we could bond over a joke and slip me a tape to send to him, without ruining his sports-star image. "Who're you?"
"Really?" Gassy Guy blinked. "That guy? Huh, I thought you'd be taller." He paused, while I wondered what planet he hailed from. "I'm Leighton Stewart-Brown."
"... Nope, not ringing any bells." Should it, though? I mean, not that I knew any crap about people and stuff like that. I just about knew who Chloe's friends were, and I got away with grunting drabble rather than remembering actual names the majority of the time (cool, I know). "And Leighton? Seriously?"
"My parents were cruel." Leighton shrugged. "But people call me Lee. Don't spread around the full name?"
"Sure." I shrugged, which seemed to be a pivotal action to our conversation. We shook hands. I decided Lee wasn't awful. "People who use the correct surname get to call me Addie."
Lee stopped mid-shake.
"As in, Chloe Fontane's Adi-kins?" Lee asked slowly, watching as I turned red. "Oh, dude. I do know who you are."
"Well then, you can identify my body when I get forcibly drunk into oblivion and destroy my liver on the beer pong table." I sighed, shoving my hands back into my pockets and looking back up at the rager in front of us. "So, Lee. Feel like mentally preparing yourself to call my ambulance?"
Lee sighed gustily.
"Well, who doesn't want to be that one guy who calls the ambulance to a frat party?" He asked happily. Okay. So Lee was clearly crazy and his name had clearly brought him mental trauma, but he was... Pretty cool. "Let's go and become inaugurated into the brotherhood of intoxicated assholes!"
So we started walking up the pathway and honestly? I couldn't have made up a better description myself.
~ Rome, Italy
"Honey, I'm home!"
"I am not going to let you ruin my first day, Dale!" I yelled, pulling my hair messily from my face and looking for my fuzzy socks. Oh my God, college was amazing, alright? There had been so many people and classes and pretty pictures and clever people and my internship hours officially started this week and my life was awesome. "How was soul-searching with Tristan? Got any STI's to share with the hotel maids?"
"You don't see me for how many weeks and that's your opening statement?" Dale snorted, sounding close – and there it was, the sound of him in my bedroom. Did he have no awareness of the term "privacy"? Creeper. I kept looking for my fuzzy socks. "Wow, Tasha. That stings."
"Yeah, well, not having to see your ugly fa- damn it!"
Because just as I stood up straight, giving up on the fuzzy socks, Dale twisted me by the hips to face him so abruptly, I almost collided into his face.
Wow. Okay. So clearly, being on vacation with Tristan had gone well. He was looking very... Refreshed.
"Personal space, asshole!" I yelled, a few seconds later than usual, but whatever. I shoved him away, alright?! "God! I see the good effects of travelling haven't rubbed off on you-"
"Tasha, plenty rubbed off on me, don't worry." Dale winked, making me pretend to vomit. He was so crude. Why did he have to be so crude? "And anyway, don't you forcibly babysit Tristan? Why aren't you worrying about him and what he was rubbing up against?"
I rolled my eyes.
"Because Tristan is too emotionally damaged or whatever right now." I said, using my duh voice. "Didn't you notice it on vacation?"
"Oh, no, of course not." He said sarcastically, plopping himself down on my bed. Sure, Dale, make yourself at home! "I mean, he was fine, until he started going batshit because he thought he'd lost that new necklace or noose, or whatever else it was around his neck."
Now, although I usually blocked Dale out, some of what I would allow to slip through the cracks so I'd know when to nod at the right time, rather than have him rugby tackle me for attention, like he had before (don't even). But that? That got my attention.
"What necklace?" I frowned. Tristan didn't wear a necklace. In fact, I'd never really seen him wear any kind of jewellery. Will had all of those beaded hipster bracelets and Blake had apparently become recently accustomed to wearing a black, stud earring, but Tristan just about wore his purity ring (of which there was nothing pure about) nowadays, let alone anything else. In fact, Tristan had always said that jewellery on guys meant that they were sissy's.
"I don't know anything about it." Dale shrugged. "It's just this small silver chain he wears around his neck now, with something that looks like a ring attached to it. He went apeshit when he thought he'd lost it, I've never seen him so mad."
Honestly, I stopped listening at the word "ring". That explained it. The media would go crazy if Tristan lost his ring, even if Blake had a sexy bombshell like Mia for a girlfriend and Will was married and clearly having too much sex to cope with.
"So, you want to go into the city centre to eat tonight?" Dale offered, looking at me... Well, weirdly, in all honestly. "My treat."
I snorted. Yeah, right, Dale never did anything just to be nice.
"What's the catch?"
"Nothing, you cynical prune." Dale sniffed, leaning up on his elbows. I made a conceited effort to not look at his biceps. "Natasha! I'm serious! Get dressed, we're going out to eat tonight!"
"I'd rather order in." I shrugged, heading out into the other room. I heard Dale follow me. "Anyway, aren't you scraping the barrel, hanging out with me?" I asked, raising an eyebrow at him as he stood in front of me.
"No." Dale frowned. "You should feel good, I can bear your company for a few extra hours."
I rolled my eyes.
"Dale, that isn't exactly making me enthusiastic." I told him, slapping his arm with a nearby magazine and collapsing onto the couch. "Now, either get out of my face or shut up, there's an article in here about metabolism that I need to actually try and understand."
~ Manhattan, New York City, NY
"Alright, see you at your exhibition tonight, honey." I said, giving Seth a kiss on my way out. He gave me a quick hug, his backpack already in hand, with Zoë waiting at the door. "I promise, I won't be late!"
"Make sure." Seth nodded seriously, already tottering out of the door. "And don't forget the camera, so we can send pictures to Tristan!"
I nodded, waving him off... And then letting out a frustrated groan as soon as the door closed.
Tristan. I'd totally forgotten about Tristan.
I would have had to admit to Seth that Tristan and I weren't talking, if Natasha wasn't keeping such close tabs on him. Apparently, he'd gone on vacation with that guy who lived in Rome with Natasha – Dale something. Not that Tristan contacted me to let me know, or anything.
In fact, Tristan hadn't spoken to me since Will's wedding, which had been a few months back now. Natasha and Adam had started college now and Seth was starting school.
Tommy was still missing...
No, Roxanne. Breathe easy. I mean, they know Tommy was alright, didn't they? It was just that the rescue was taking longer than expected. And the fact he was even alive was more than I ever could have asked for. Sarah and I would never give up hope that he was okay, but we'd almost had to. Even Granddaddy (oh yeah, no more Nathaniel, something else Tristan had missed) had been worried that I was holding on too much.
Speaking of Granddaddy...
"Hello?" I answered my cell, already rushing upstairs to find my shoes. No rest for the wicked, or whatever that damned expression was. "Sorry, I was just seeing Seth off to school, I won't see him until the art exhibit tonight."
"Ah, yes, your grandmother and I will be attending." Granddaddy told me happily. "Is Tristan joining us?"
"I haven't spoken to him." I mumbled. I wasn't lying. "Anyway, apparently he has a performance scheduled for this afternoon, so I doubt it."
"The X Factor, or something." I tried to act as if it were no big deal, but I'm pretty sure the way my voice cracked gave it away. "It's a first look at the newest single that he wrote, so..." There was an awkward silence, mainly thanks to me. But I mean, seriously! Acting like this was no big deal was difficult.
Alright, I know what you're thinking – why should I care? Especially when I'm waiting for Tommy to come? Well, it was pretty simple – Tristan was avoiding my calls.
And we needed to talk.
I mean, how much more time did he need? Weeks had passed since the wedding! He'd given me a courtesy call when CNN had released the news that Tommy and Benjy were alive and a rescue team was being dispatched as soon as possible, but that hadn't even lasted more than a minute, before I'd heard loud noise in the background and Tristan had hastily made an excuse to go. I mean, I wasn't expecting hours' worth of conversation – but I didn't expect to be blown off for some random ass boys' vacation, either!
It had nothing to do with my feelings, alright? Tristan wasn't being around for Adam and Natasha and Seth enough. That was it. I mean, sure, Adam hated him and still refused to talk to me... And Natasha and him were constantly in contact... But – what about Seth?! It had nothing to do with my feelings! Even if Blake kept loudly telling Mia while I was on the phone, that my ego was just bruised.
Asshole. I'd preferred it when him and Tristan weren't talking.
"I'd suppose we'd better try and catch an airing of it and wish him luck, then." Granddaddy told me, snapping me out of my mental rant. "I'm outside. Are you ready?"
"Yes, just give me a second." I muttered, finally finding my other heel and slipping it on. "I'm coming."
If Granddaddy noticed that I hadn't commented about talking to Tristan, he didn't mention it.
A Few Hours Later
~ Los Angeles, CA
Lights shone out from behind a curly-haired silhouette onstage, a funky reggae beat beginning to play.
"Ooh, oh oh, ooh ooh, ooh ooh..."
The drums kicked in and the lights burst on as the crowd roared, Tristan Malloy centre stage. He wore skinny black jeans, black Converses and a black buttoned waistcoat with a white shirt underneath, the sleeves rolled to his elbows. His dark, curling quiff of hair fell slightly over his chocolate brown eyes as he held onto the mic stand before him, no instruments in his way for a chance, the light highlighting the new tattoo on his left forearm, reading Mercy, underlined with the infinity sign underneath.
The women of the audience screamed at the sight.
"You and I go hard, at each other, like we're going to war... You and I go rough, we keep throwing things and slamming the doors... You and I get so damn dysfunctional we stop keeping score, you and I get sick, yeah I know that we can't do this no more..."
Even if the media speculation towards the preview of the song hadn't been enough, it was clear that the newest Malloy song, written solely by Tristan Malloy himself, came from some real meaning.
A small, disbelieving smile appeared on Tristan's face as he continued.
"But baby there you go again, there you go again, making me love you." More screaming, as Blake Malloy joined in the chorus. "Yeah, I stopped using my head, using my head let it all go... Got you stuck on my body, on my body, like a tattoo -" Tristan laughed away from the microphone for a moment, seeing his audience scream shrilly at the ink on his arm. "- and now I'm feeling stupid, feeling stupid, crawling back to you."
The lights dimmed slightly and the music began to slow.
"So I cross my heart and I hope to die..." Tristan sang seriously, tapping his foot to the beat. "That I'll only stay with you one more night..."
The music picked up again and a fire seemed to light in Tristan's eyes.
"And I know I said it a million times, but I'll only stay with you one more night." Memories flooded through Tristan's mind, on the only subject that could truly hold all of his attention anymore. "Trying to tell you no, but my body keeps on telling you yes – trying to tell you stop, but your lipstick got me so out of breath..." The small smirk of remembrance brought the crowd to mass hysteria. "I'll be waking up in the morning probably hating myself and I'll be waking up, feeling satisfied but guilty as Hell...
But baby there you go again, there you go again, making me love you; and I've stopped using my head, using my head, let it all go..." Tristan almost shrugged alongside of the lyrics, almost oblivious to the audience watching him with such dire interest. It was just him and the lyrics. The way it had always been. The way it always would be. "Got you stuck on my body, on my body, like a tattoo and now I'm feeling stupid, feeling stupid, crawling back to you..."
Tristan and Blake continued to the chorus, Will hacking away expertly at the drum kit behind them. It was truly only the three of them – the Malloy brothers onstage, back against all odds.
The music dimmed as did the lights, the crowd growing hushed in anticipation as Tristan's eyes closed and he began to croon, the sounds of hysterical cries being audible from the audience.
"Baby, there you go again, there you go again, making me love you; I've stopped using my head, using my head, let it all go; got you stuck on my body, on my body, like a tattoo... Yeah... Yeah... So I cross my heart and I hope to die!"
The music swelled one final time and as Blake took the main vocals, Tristan's voice reached the impossible heights that the Malloy fans had been returning for the return of since he'd broken up, famously, with Roxanne Parker.
"That I'll only stay with you one more night... And I know I've said in a million times-"
"Oh, I've said it a billion times." Tristan sang, winking at a member of the audience with a laugh.
"But I'll only stay with you one more night..."
And then the lights cut out. The show was over.
I am finally back!
Full credits to Maroon 5 for the song One More Night, featured in this prologue (I'm dubbing it the titular song of the story).
I'm so glad to be back! I have a much better feeling about this story, now that it's being written the way it should have been. Also, a big thank you to those of you who've chosen to stick around. Thank you for your patience towards me :)
Let me know what you think! I'm too excited to say much else!
PS. Thank you to BurritoDude, as always, and the rest of you for your support on my new stories, When Superpowers Fail You and A Pirate's Life For Me. You all rock! x