Do your time to pay the price
For every thing you've done wrong, baby
In your life, you get so high
There's nowhere left to go but down
Don't believe that no one cares
'Cause we're here waiting for you, baby
Do your time
And then come home for good
So don't hide yourself away
Let it shine, let it shine
Don't hide yourself away
Let it shine
If you ever feel in doubt
You have a place in my heart, baby
If I ever feel left out
I know I've got a place in yours
Don't believe that I wouldn't dare
To go and take you right back, baby
Do your time
And then come home for good
-Sloan, Everything You've Done WrongChapter 26: A Side Wins
The next band practice had the whole gang. And it started out very awkwardly indeed. For one thing, Race's first words had been, "I'm busy Sunday morning until two-thirty," which had set Blink off into a whirling spiral of massive destruction. Mush was still calming him down, but at least Blink was trying to hold back, since Race had a perfectly legitimate reason to be gone for awhile. Blink wasn't happy about it, but (with some help from Mush), could deal.
Spot was leering at David and Jack, who were acting very oddly around each other. Dutchy was practically on Cloud Nine, and Itey was whistling to himself, somewhere around Cloud Ten or Eleven.
It was big, diverse wave of emotions all gathered in the garage.
"So this is it," Blink finally said. "Our last rehearsal before our first gig." He sat down on the couch. "It's like losing my virginity again or something."
Something about Blink's couch and virginity... Race glanced over at Spot, caught his eye, and they both started snickering.
"What?" Blink demanded testily, still vaguely annoyed at Race.
"Nooooothing," Spot sang. "We'll tell you later."
"No, I know this is stupid and all, but I feel like... It's really important. We've got a real show tomorrow and even though someone is not making that his priority--"
"Oh for the love of Christ, Blink," Jack snapped. "Leave it alone; it ain't like it was his idea. Deal with it."
David positively beamed at Jack and threw an arm around his shoulder in an odd, not quite brotherly fashion.
"Anyway, what I'm saying is... This is big. It's like... Huge. We're really gonna do it. We're ready." He paused. "Wait, hang on, no we're fucking not. Let's rehearse."
He stood back up.
"Okay," Dutchy said to no one in particular, "I call Blink doesn't get to do any more big emotional speeches. That sucked."
"You think you can do better?" Blink challenged.
"Sure." Dutchy nodded, then cleared his throat and said, "Uhhhh." Blink rolled his eye, but Dutchy continued. "I've, uh, gone through some serious shit lately. And I'd kind of be... Well, dead, probably, if it wasn't for you guys. You saved my life. And it's stupid but I like it way better now that we've got this band really going and I feel like I'm not just some loser sitting around an empty house with my dog and no one who cares. So... Thanks. Let's rock."
It took a moment to absorb that, because it was the most Dutchy had said at any one time in months. And it was heavy stuff. And finally, Itey set down his bass and gave Dutchy a huge hug, and Dutchy hugged him back in a very brotherly way, and blushed a little.
"Dutchy wins," Spot proclaimed. "Yay. Now rehearse or don't complain when you fuck up tomorrow."
"Don't jinx us!" Blink snapped at Spot. Spot grinned.
"I sure did jinx your couch."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Nothing. Play away."
Blink gave Spot a few more suspicious looks as he cleared his throat and gave Itey a snarky stare when he heard the slightly out of tune A string. "Fix th-"
"I am, Pirate Captain Blink Pyscho," Itey snapped. Race laughed.
"Try, bad burn," Blink snapped. "Hurry it up."
"Guys?" Dutchy asked. "Guys, do you think if we work hard enough at this, we could...I dunno, take it anywhere? It's kind of the only thing I'm good at, I'm so failing high school."
"Yes, Dutchy. I'm the next Bon Jovi," Blink snapped. "Practice. Thank you!"
"Jesus, your boy is bitchy today," Dutchy whined at Mush.
"But he's hot," Mush answered cheerfully.
"Thank you, hon. But not right now. And Dutch? Yeah, you don't get to complain to me about failing. At least 'unconscious from crack OD' is a pretty valid excuse. 'Just didn't feel like it' doesn't fly so well with teachers."
"Here, here." Spot raised his beer, because of course the hangers on who were sitting around the garage were drinking. They always did.
"Blinkee..." Mush said disapprovingly. "You need to--"
"Later," Blink whined, more to avoid the lecture than to get the rehearsal started. "So we're opening with Beetlebum since it doesn't entirely suck; let's rehearse that."
"Good call, fearless leader," Dutchy answered.
"Shut up, Dutchy."
"You're just mad 'cause his speech was better."
"Shut up, Davey."
"Don't tell Davey to shut up!"
"Shut up, Jack! Shut up everyone! Aaaaaaugh!"
And the rest of the people in the garage exchanged amused looks. Giving Blink a nervous break down was surprisingly fun.
Sitting in a restaurant later that night, Dutchy couldn't remember the last time he'd been to a real restaurant, not just some fast food place with the guys. It wasn't like they were inclined to eat out much, and since Dutchy didn't really date, and he'd never really done the mother-son bonding thing with his mom, and he wasn't one for going out alone, it had been quite awhile. But he'd remembered to dress nicely.
Jess had noticed. She said she liked his shirt.
He liked her dress. It was green and had silver sparkles that made up little flowers and she looked stunning. And he'd only tripped over the words a little when he'd told her so.
"So, I mean it's an awfully rude question but I've been dying of curiosity. How did you... Get started?"
He blinked. "Get started at what?"
Oh, that. He thought she'd meant playing guitar. That would have been nice... He sighed. "It was stupid. I was... Like, pathetic and single, Bruce had just broken up with me and I was too depressed to do anything and just felt lonely and hated my life and... Yeah."
"Yeah, so finally Jack got sick of me moping around, dragged me to some jock's party and there was this guy who offered to show me a good time. I figured he meant random hook up, and was more than happy to..." He trailed off. "Yeah, anyway. He gave me the first one free and the stuff is really, really hard to stop once you start and..." He shrugged. "It was in December or something. Can't believe it took me so long to totally fuck myself over with it."
"Uh... Yeah, so that's about it. Behind me now. I hope. Things are better now, anyway."
He reached across the table and caught her hand, looked into her eyes. She smiled back at him. Yeah. Things were definitely better now.
Race sat in the back of the car and felt sick. Not because of carsickness, he never got carsick. He just felt kind of like he was going to throw up, if not from the craving, then from nerves. He was popping Skittles like nobody's business, while Izzy drove--his mother hated driving distances--and his mother was in the passenger's seat; Maria had the middle belt in the back and Sophia sat on the other side.
All he could feel was dread in the bottom of his stomach. "Izzy, pull over," he said abruptly.
"What, Tony, I--"
"I'm going to puke."
So she pulled over, he got out of the car, and threw up in the bushes; then wiped his mouth and got back in. "Sorry," he mumbled. "Sorry."
"Tony..." his mother said softly.
"It's fine." He threw on a cheerful but utterly fake smile. "I feel better now, really, just a little carsick."
If only they didn't know that he never got carsick...
Sophia had never snuck out of the house before, and she was kind of amazed by how easy it was when she started.
Then it turned out that really, her sisters knew, and her mother probably did too, but maybe they were cutting her slack just this once because...
Well, they knew what Sophia was like when she was upset. Dramatic, but secretive. High maintenance, but silent.
But right now, in this moment with Itey, where neither one of them had done anything but interlock hands and stare at each other's faces, and hands, and hair...just sitting on the couch in Itey's basement, staring at the other.
She was really glad Itey's basement had it's own door...
Itey smiled a little. "Sophie?"
"Mmm..?" she mumbled.
"I have to...tell you, uh...something."
She nodded her head, leaning her forehead against his. "Yeah?"
But he was silent, and then just said, "Never mind."
Maria turned on the younger card, acting like she was ten instead of almost thirteen. She looked excited and childish and she was almost pretending that her father was off on a trip and they were picking him up from the airport. No one had the heart to tell her to stop dreaming, that it would only make the reality harder to cope with.
Izzy was anal, and harsh, and very much like a mother; while Mrs. Higgins was silent and cooing.
Race just ate at his Skittles, and Sophia stared wordlessly out the window with a blank expression on her face.
He hated what this was doing to the family.
They all knew that too.
Mush's house was nice. For all Blink's was the usual gathering spot, Blink did have to admit that Mush's house was just, well... Classy. And it seemed like Mush's family had almost gotten used to his existence, after it had been…Two months? God, he couldn't believe they'd only been together two months. It felt like a lifetime. But in a good way, like they'd always known each other and just hadn't actually met until David introduced them.
Meeting Mush had been like finding a missing part of himself. It was corny, but it was really how Blink felt. So even though Mush's family was far from thrilled with their relationship, he didn't mind.
They were lounging on a couch in the living room together, trying to relax. But relaxing was hard lately.
But Mush's idea of relaxing Blink was to give him a nice massage, and there was no way they'd be able to be so physical with each other without... Well, getting physical with each other. Not that Blink was complaining.
If only Mush's sister wasn't home...
"Ooooow, you hit a knot, Mush. Not so hard."
"Don't whine," Mush scolded. "I have to press hard; that's how you get knots out."
"You're too strong."
"You like it."
"I really, really do." Blink glanced over his shoulder at Mush, who was smiling at him. And Mush did start to rub a bit more gently. "Mushee?"
"I really love you."
"I love you too."
It wasn't until almost an hour later that Blink realized they'd never said that before. But then... It wasn't like they'd had to say it. It was just one of those unspoken things that they both knew. But still, when Mush whispered it in his ear as he drifted off to the sound of the movie they were watching, it was nice to hear.
"Well, we're here." Izzy pulled into a parking spot. The traffic getting into the city had been awful, and Race still felt like he needed to throw up. But Maria was hyper and giddy. Sophia seemed quiet and depressed. But his mother and Izzy were both worried.
He wondered if they were worried about him.
Mrs. Higgins ushered them all inside the building, which was huge and had three sets of doors, all of which sealed behind them, and two separate metal detectors and weapons checks. This was truly, truly creepy.
It really drove home the fact that Race's dad was in jail, and was going to stay there. Because here they were, visiting him. It all suddenly seemed so frighteningly real that Race...
Well, he wanted to vomit.
But he'd already done that once, and was kind of too intimidated by the whole prison atmosphere to move at all, let alone go find a men's room. But Izzy nudged him forward and he really wished he could cling to her the way Maria was clinging to their mother. But no. He was a seventeen year old, and he had to show the world that he was an adult.
He had to show his father that.
Well, he still had two bags of Skittles left; good thing he'd thought to bring a whole bunch with him.
Despite how well things were going, David had to admit, it was awkward.
Not because of him, or even because of what they had revealed to each other. It was because Jack was over at his house, hanging in the basement with him and Sarah and Les, watching movies, and Jack was just such a horrible actor.
"You're acting weird," Sarah considered. "Like a big idiot. Did you do something wrong?"
David wanted to applaud his sister, really. Instead, he just sunk down off the couch and next to his little brother, who was watching intently. Les idolized Jack.
"Nope," Jack coughed, his voice slightly breaking. "Nothing at all."
"You cheated on me again, didn't you?"
"Uh...no, I actually didn't."
"Then what is it?"
Jack glanced down at David, who was looking at him from the corner of his eye. "I... just, you know. Guy stuff. I'm fine. Great, actually. C'mere, girl." And Jack slipped his arm around Sarah and they cuddled.
Still, David felt Jack's knee pressed against his back all night. In a romantic, straight, completely unaroused fashion.
When Mrs. Higgins came back, she was shaken up, her eyes were red, and she let Race and Izzy sit her down, helping her along the way, holding her hands.
Maria insisted on going next. She was so excited, and yet, Race could tell her eagerness was dying down. She was realizing where she was, what was going on. Still, Maria didn't like being sad. So she simply smiled and turned on her heel and walked bravely down the hall with two police officers at her side, watching her small frame protectively.
Izzy remained harsh, Sophia remained half-dead, Mrs. Higgins was still jittery, and Race was almost done with his last bag of Skittles.
When Maria came back from her visit, clearly a bit shaken and teary, she was still... happy, in a subdued way. She didn't talk about it; no one really had said anything since they'd arrived. But Race sort of understood. She was scared by the sight of her Dad in prison clothes, behind a glass screen where he couldn't touch her; but at the same time, Race was certain that his father had promised Maria that he loved her, and always would, no matter what.
Sophia was much harder to read when she got back. She was still quiet and she looked exhausted, like the conversation had almost taken more out of her than she could give. She put her hand on Race's for just a second, then announced she needed fresh air and was going to go out to the car. Which really meant she wanted to be alone to think, or possibly to call Itey and have him comfort her.
Izzy raised an eyebrow at Race and he shook his head, so she went first. Her conversation was longer and she came back sort of dazed and sort of angry. Race couldn't even begin to guess why. Anger that everything was out of control, anger at their father, anger at the world? It could really be anything.
But there was no putting it off anymore.
So he walked with the two policemen into a creepy, cement walled room with a glass barrier down the middle, sat down at the table in front of the barrier, and faced his father on the other side. There was a speaker that allowed them to hear each other clearly.
It was a good minute and a half before either of them spoke.
"I was surprised to hear you came," Paulo finally said.
"It wasn't my idea."
Paulo nodded a little.
It was so creepy, just seeing him. He was wearing an awful orange prison jumpsuit, and it was the first time Race could ever remember him wearing something not totally tailored to fit. He looked tired, his hair was grayer than Race remembered, and his face was expressionless.
"Let's not beat around the bush, Anthony. Your... lifestyle..." He shook his head. "It's wrong."
"Yeah; well I'm not a huge fan of yours either."
"It's a sin."
"Yeah, I'm pretty sure God said something else, too. Something about 'thou shalt not kill.'"
Paulo looked over at one of the cement walls. Race looked down at his hands. It was a full minute before either of them could speak again.
"But for all I disapprove, you are still my son."
Race's head snapped up. He wasn't sure if he heard correctly. Wasn't sure if he was delirious or still feeling dizzy.
When the comment did register, Race found himself more angry than before.
"Fine time to tell me," Race said in a low voice. "Dad."
Paulo sighed, rubbing his eyes with his fingers, moving onto run his hands through his hair. "Anthony, I can't change what I believe. What you do--"
"Yeah, well, that's not even all of it. Are you telling me everything I did was wrong? Everything was a sin, that's why you always treated me like a--"
"Like a son."
"Like a punching bag."
"I looked out for you, Anthony."
"I never asked you to."
"Christ, if that's your idea of looking out for me, I'm fucking glad you never hit me to teach me a lesson."
"Watch your language, young man."
Race's eyebrows shot up and he was talking without thinking. "Or else what, Dad? I think we're pretty much beyond the point where you can threaten me, what with the glass wall and the armed guards and all!"
He could hear the hysteria in his voice and knew he was in the same place he'd been in when he'd run out of class earlier in the week. Nervous breakdown mode, where anything at all was too much to handle. He stared around the room, sure the guards were going to freak out or intervene, but they just stood silently, looking anywhere but at Race and Paulo. Race had a fleeting, panic thought that they'd been paid off by the Mafia, but when his father began to speak, he forgot about it.
"But I am still your father; I've always insisted on respect from my children."
"But you never gave it to me, not once in my entire life did you ever--"
"It's somehow hard to respect a drug addict trying to run himself and everyone who cares for him into the ground, Anthony."
"Fuck you!" Race yelled. "This was a fucking mistake, I'm not going to sit here and--" He was already standing angrily as he was talking, but his father cut him off. Again. Damn him.
"You can leave now--I certainly can't stop you--but remember that I will always be your father."
Race sat back down. "Some fucking father. I never even had a--a chance. I never in my life had a chance to be normal."
Paulo looked puzzled by the comment. As if it had been the last thing he expected to come out of his son's mouth.
"You know," Race continued, not really caring what he was saying, "it wouldn't be so bad if we were just a family who accepted me because I'm freaking homosexual--"
"You killed people, and that's worse!" Race snapped. "All I got from you was one fucking disaster after another. The house is better off without you, we're better off without you, and we don't goddamned need you!"
Then Paulo Higgins's face fell. A little.
It was enough to throw Race off a bit, but not enough to make him apologize. He just stared on, not saying anything else.
Neither did Paulo, until finally, "So you think I'm a hypocrite."
"You are a hypocrite."
Another silence. If Race hadn't inherited his damn stubborn streak from his father he'd just have left, but now that they were into it and his father couldn't slam him into a wall or pull a gun on him, he was determined to see it through.
Through to what, he had no idea.
"It was... It was never my intention to harm you."
Race snorted. "Yeah, right. Tell me another one, you're a real fuckin' comedian."
"It's the truth, Anthony, you must believe that. I have never in my life lied to you."
Race opened his mouth to respond that his dad was full of shit, then stopped abruptly.
His father had been less than forthcoming when he'd described his position in the Family, but had never truly lied about it. He was exactly as he said, a well respected hitman.
Race thought back, and it was like a slap in the face.
His father withheld information Race simply couldn't have, but he never lied. He even said, straight out, that when he didn't answer questions it was because of his business. No lies.
Race swallowed hard. "So if you don't lie to me, just answer one thing."
His father nodded at him to ask.
"Do you hate me now?"
It took his father a lot longer to answer than he'd have liked.
"No, Anthony. I disagree with you and I don't understand you, but I have never hated you. You're my son."
And really, Race knew what he was supposed to say. He just...couldn't. Years of resentment and anger and almost flat out hatred...
He just couldn't say 'you're my father' after everything that had happened.
Still... it was nice to hear his father say the words he had. Race lost some of his steam, sitting in his seat, staring at his father. Who looked and acted so much like him sometimes, Race would get so frustrated he could just shout and shout.
"'K," Race finally muttered.
Another silence passed between them, but it wasn't as awkward as the other ones were. Just...long, and expectant. Race was supposed to do something.
He wanted to yell some more.
But he couldn't do that either.
Finally, he mumbled, "Yeah, I suppose that's somewhere to start."
His father nodded. "I'm willing to make a start of it, if you are."
"Don't say that unless you mean it," Race answered.
"Dad, I'm in love with Sean. It's not a phase; it's not going to go away. I'm gay, and I always will be. So don't say you're willing to try and fix whatever the hell all of this between us is unless you can accept that."
"So long as you concede the difference between accepting a fact and liking a fact."
Race swallowed hard, and finally nodded. "I wish you could like it."
"I wish you were straight. But you are who you are and I am who I am; and I was wrong on Sunday."
"I was wrong." His father had his hands laced together in front of him. "I wasn't a father that night. I don't know if I've been much of a father to you for a very long time."
Race swallowed, and stared longingly at the door back to his mother and sisters. He wanted out now. He didn't want this confrontation anymore.
"And I apologize."
"Yeah," Race cleared his throat. "Yeah, okay."
"Do you accept my apology?"
"I don't know!" Race insisted. "I don't know anything, I just want to go, okay?"
"The conversation is not over, Anthony," Paulo said. "And it's a conversation that would mean a lot to me if it were finished. Please."
His father was asking him this on a calm, mature level. Like an equal, almost. And that meant a lot, too.
Race buried his head in one hand and mumbled down at the floor, "Okay."
"Okay...?" his father repeated.
Race shrugged a little, not looking up. "I'm not leaving, am I?"
"I appreciate that more than you know. This is... Not the way I had hoped to have this conversation, but perhaps my presence here is for the best. As you said."
Race shook his head. "I didn't mean it like that. I never wanted you to get arrested, or--"
"And yet that's what it took to force me to see clearly."
"So what do you see?"
For once his father was at a loss for words. Race knew how he felt, but wasn't going to let him off the hook. He finally looked up at his father's face and just waited.
It felt like a short eternity passed by before his father said, "I see that my priorities as a father were not what they should have been. And I see that I regret that."
"So you regret things then," Race sighed, his voice sounding old and tired. "Anyone can regret. It's not that hard to do."
"There's more to it then that. If I could take it back--"
"You would. Yeah, people say that too."
"I mean it."
He did, Race knew that, but he wanted to hear more than his father's regrets. He wanted to hear... He didn't know, but there was more to it than his father just saying he would take this back if he could.
"I've been a bad father, Racetrack," he said then. "Is that what you want to hear?"
"That depends on if you mean it or not."
"I never say things I don't mean."
Race shrugged. "Then yeah, that's what I want to hear."
But somehow, it didn't make him feel better. Because what he wanted was... He wanted a good father. But it was too late for that.
He studied his father's reaction, and for a change, Paulo didn't hide behind a blank mask. He was hurt that his son considered him a bad father, and more hurt that his son wanted him to say so aloud. But for both of them, it was time to stop pretending.
"You know I'm gonna... You know, be a witness," Race finally mumbled.
"You know I'm not gonna lie for you."
"I would never ask you to."
Race snorted. "Your lawyers sure would."
"They won't. I would never expect you to lie--I'd like to think I know you at least that well. Your morals are too important to you, Racetrack; I may not always understand them, but I do know that. I also know that's why..." He groped for words. It was almost scary for Race to see his father not have a ready answer for everything. "I also know that is why you hated me; why you turned to drugs. I could never match your moral standards, only tried to force you to adhere to mine."
How the hell could his father be so cruel and distant and assholeish and still know that kind of thing?
"It's not like you were always so bad..." Race muttered quietly, almost not wanting his father to hear anything good that he thought about him. But words came when they wanted, and there was no real way to stop them sometimes. "You know, there were times when it felt like we were a family."
"You lie for me."
"I wouldn't lie for you, I just said," Race snapped. "I mean it, sometimes it was alright."
"Alright is not good enough a family. Isn't that what you were so angry about it?"
"Alright It's better then flat out shit."
"Which is what...your..." Paulo cleared his throat. "Sean." Race sighed. "If you must choose someone, why choose a boy who will never be happy?"
"I know more about Sean's background than you do; I can assure you that he will never be a happy person. I worry that he'll cause you to end up the same."
"Sean's not like that. You don't know him, he's not... He loves me."
"I believe that, and I doubt he would intentionally hurt you. No more than you would hurt him. But it's possible to still hurt--destroy--someone you love."
Race stared at him for a second.
That was the closest his father had come in years to saying he loved his son. And anyone who didn't know Paulo very well would have missed that masked message.
Race wondered how he knew Paulo so well, when all they'd done was hate each other for years.
"I meant what I said," Race mumbled. "When I said that I'm not the way I am to spite you."
"I never did anything just to spite you. Not really."
"I know that, too."
"Really?" Race's voice cracked.
"I know you very well, Racetrack." His father looked as if he was about to crack, too. But Paulo would never do that; he'd had years of pent up emotions inside of him, and if he let go he'd break.
Race didn't mind, though.
Not a lot.
"Thank… thank you," Race said, pushing the words out. "I mean, it... it doesn't make up for everything, but it's… nice to know."
"I said you were my son, and I'm your father, and nothing could change that. If I had died that day Paparelli took you away..." His father gained murderous look. "It would have been worth it. If you were safe."
Then a mask was back on his father's face and Race knew that was the farthest the conversation would go.
Race stared at the slightly cracked, very scuffed cement floor. "Do you...want me to come visit again?"
"It would mean a lot to me."
Race looked up at him. "Would you ever accept Sean as your son-in-law?"
"Have gay marriages been legalized since I've been gone?"
"Don't dodge the question, Dad. We're beyond that now. I thought."
His father took a deep breath. "I can't...I can't change everything I believe in such a short time, Racetrack."
Race's face fell.
But his father wasn't done talking yet.
"But the fact remains that you are my son and you... are gay. And that means part of being your father is trying to understand and trying to change. Just please know it'll take time."
"But someday?" Race asked, his voice almost pleading. And he didn't care if that was pathetic, to desperately want the approval of a man who he hated, a criminal who would likely spend the rest of his life in jail.
His father nodded a tiny bit, really just inclined his head. "You're my son. The most important thing is that you are safe, and happy. I can see that far, at least."
Race smiled, he could feel it. Actually kind of smiled. Not a beam, or even a big toothy grin. Just a small smile. And his father sort of smiled back.
Race leaned back in his chair. "I have a gig tonight."
"Concert...you know, the band?"
Race grinned a little again. "Yeah...it's uh, kind of a big thing. We're excited."
"Gabriel is in the band, correct?"
"Uh?" Race nodded. "Yeah..."
Paulo nodded. There was a silence until Paulo cleared his throat. "You will... do well, I'm sure."
"We're gonna try." He bit his lip. "We kind of rock when we get it right."
"I'd assume so. I have heard you play through the past few years."
"I thought you hated my playing?"
"I may not enjoy your chosen instrument, but that's got nothing to do with how talented you are." He said it with a distinctly fatherly pride.
Race ducked his head a little, oddly embarrassed. "Thanks, Dad."
"It's only the truth."
"Yeah, but it... It means a lot to me now." He bit his lip. "I need to go so we can set up."
His father nodded. "But you will come again?"
Race noted a slight hint of desperation in his father's voice, which was yet another shock. But he was almost getting used to being shocked now.
But then, like Marco had said, Race needed his father's approval; Paulo needed the same from his son.
"Yeah, I'll... I'll come again when I can."
Race hesitantly stood to leave, wishing he could do something. A hug would have just seemed wrong, but somehow this felt like the part where they should have shaken hands. But that was impossible.
However, his father did add, "Racetrack... Tony. You don't need to worry about the Family any more; they won't be bothering you again."
"And they won't be bothering Sean, either; Maurice and I spoke about that. Please give Sean my sincerest apologies."
Race's eyes widened a little bit, and he nodded again.
"Break a leg, Anthony. If that's the correct phrase."
"It's pretty good." Race looked around the room hesitantly. "Uh... Good luck, I... guess."
"I'll see you when you visit."
"Yeah. Uh... G'bye, Dad."
"Good bye, Anthony."
And Race was escorted back out of the room.
"How did it go?" Spot asked softly, his hand at the small of Race's back as they all pitched in to get Race's drumset out of the van. Race glanced at him as he shifted his grip on the snare.
"Not...bad. At all."
"Was he a huge dick?"
"No. Not at all." Race gulped. "He's...not a dick, actually."
An odd silence passed between them as Jack and David walked by carrying the bass drum, Jack whining the whole way.
"He says sorry, by the way."
Spot raised an eyebrow. "What?"
"He says sorry. About the kidnapping and the being beat up and all that shit. He says sorry."
Spot snorted. "Like he meant it."
"He did!" Race snapped. "Yeah, okay, he did."
Spot gave him a weird look. "If you say so."
"Listen." Race lowered his voice to a hiss. "We're both off the hook. Totally."
"No more people listening in or following us around. No one threatening you. Ever."
"Spot, come on. Please... Can't you be happy just for me?"
"Are you happy?"
Race nodded. "He doesn't hate me. He apologized. He's never done that before."
"Great. I'm happy for you, then. Really." Spot grabbed the snare from Race and walked off to towards the club, and Race just kept remembering what his father had said about Spot being an unhappy person...
"Hey, you ok?"
Mush was leaning against the van, looking on with concern. "You seemed kinda dazed when you got to Blink's house."
"I'm okay… Well, going to be okay," Race answered, smiling at Mush. "Still, though. Thanks for asking."
"You're so much less of a dick now, Tony-baby," Mush said, and wrapped his arms around Race in a protective hug. "I love you both ways."
Race grinned and blushed a little. "Thanks."
"Hands off my boy." Blink smacked Race's back. "And hurry up, I wanna scope the competition."
Race flipped him off and Mush stuck his tongue out. "Be nice to Tony, he's had a long morning."
"I'm sorry, Tony, hurry up," Blink nodded his head. "I'm going to explode!" And he kind of grinned crazily.
Mush winced. "Oh dear."
Race patted his back. "Go take care of that, huh? I'm fine."
"I'm more fine than I've been in... Like, awhile."
"Good!" Mush grinned, and hurried after Blink.
Now if only Race could figure out Spot, things would be perfect. So he grabbed the rest of his drum set, which had already largely been disassembled and moved, and headed in after Spot, who was standing inside, waiting.
"So," Race said. "You ok?"
"The guy held a gun to my head--twice--and it's real nice that he's sorry and you believe that and all, but I don't think it's wrong for me to be kind of skeptical."
"I know, but..." Race said weakly.
"Know, nothing," Spot snapped. "Your relationship with your dad is none of my business."
Race stared. "Hey, if you love me so much, then it is!"
Spot snorted. "Don't try and pull that shit. You're being fucking womanly."
"You're the moody one!"
"My point is," Spot broke in, "I don't want to see your dad any more than he wants to see me. Yay, you're happy, that's all that matters."
"What about you?"
"Nothing about me."
"Everything is," Race mumbled, leaning closer to him, but Spot was blocking himself off at the moment.
"No. It's not, okay? And I'm fine that way. So you stay happy and I'm fine."
"Tony, just let it go. It's not a big deal. I'm happy for you." Spot reached for Race's hand. "Really."
"I wish you were happy... Just because you were happy."
"I am. When I'm with you, and you're happy."
Somehow, that seemed a little bit... codependent. But on the other hand, Race realized that the reason he was so upset was because Spot was upset, and wasn't that really the same thing?
He wrapped his arms around Spot, who looked a little uncomfortable, then relaxed into it, and kissed Race gently. "Okay?" Spot asked.
"Good. Now let's go scope the other bands; I hear there's a fuckin' hot guitarist somewhere."
Race rolled his eyes, but smiled and let Spot go. "Spot?"
"Oh for the love of... what?"
"You make me happy, too."
"Damn right I do." Spot smirked.
Spot only smirked like that when he was at least vaguely happy.
And that meant things were actually okay, for the first time in a long time.
With his arm snaked protectively around Spot's waste, they made their way inside, to see that Race's drumset was miserably scattered around the greenroom. Itey and Dutchy were looking at it with guilt, and quickly jumped to different parts of the room, whistling innocently when Race and Spot came in.
Race whimpered, staring at the mess. "What did you guys do to my drumset!"
"Dutchy started it," Itey said before Dutchy could.
"God..." Race sighed. "Nobody touch anything, I'll have it ready to go...Jesus, that tom is in bad enough shape as it IS..."
No one really know what he was saying now, and Blink was so completely insane that they were trying to focus on anything BUT the band and the instruments. Despite the fact they were playing soon.
"Are we going up soon?" Race asked.
"Jack's scoping the others," Dutchy said. "So he should know when we start. We're not first though."
"I wanna see the other drummers," Race said. Dutchy gave him a wink.
"I'm sure they're not even a quarter as good as you."
Itey let out a cough that sounded a lot like 'JESSICA'.
"Way to be a spoil sport," Dutchy pouted.
"Way to be a whore," Itey shot back.
Dutchy grinned. "It's so true."
"Dude, how do you think I was able to support my cocaine habit for four months?"
Itey winced. "Please tell me that's a joke."
"Nah. I used grocery money."
"Then what did you buy groceries with?"
"Then what did you eat?"
"I didn't. No appetite."
"That's not healthy."
"Itey, I was on cocaine. And you're saying that skipping a few meals was unhealthy?"
"Okay, that's enough drug talk!" Jack declared, walking back in to the room, David on his heels. "So yeah, the band doing soundcheck now kind of blows, missed the first one, and the guys on right before you are pretty good. And their singer is hot."
David rolled his eyes. But nodded. And commented, "Anyway, the guy in charge says you get ten minutes between their set and yours to set up and do soundcheck, and to chill in here beforehand. Some other bands might wander in and out."
"Hot singer!" Dutchy flounced over to Jack. "Does she play an instrument?"
"She twiddles at the bass." Jack said.
Itey raised his head. "Any good?"
Jack shrugged. "She should twiddle my--"
"Jaaacckk," David whined.
"Oh, oh, look at that," Mush said. "Davey is jeea--"
Mush was cut off because Race had finally got his drumset all together and ready to go, and proceeded to play a long, extremely enthusiastic drum fill. Everyone kind of shut up and stared at him, partially because it was so loud, and partially because it was so good. He smirked.
"Band meeting, please!" Blink announced, clapping his hands together.
"Who crowned you leader?" Jack asked.
"What do you care, you're not in the band," Blink answered, and stuck out his tongue. Then he looked at Mush, and stuck his tongue out again, in a much dirtier fashion. Mush grinned back at him.
"Hey, that's my thing," Spot muttered, elbowing Mush.
"Yeah, but my boyfriend is hotter than your boyfriend."
Spot snorted and didn't say anything. Mush pouted, and the band gathered up around the drum set.
Blink took a deep breath. "We are extremely lucky to have this, we're good enough to rock, and we will," he said. "And I know we've worked really hard on our set, but I think we can add an extra song to the list."
The three other band members stared. "What?" Itey finally asked.
"I dunno. I just... Everything You've Done Wrong. By Sloan. It just seems…" He trailed off.
Itey cocked his head a little. "I like that song."
"We've never practiced it," Dutchy pointed out.
"Come on, it's a sweet song about... love and forgiveness and... I don't know. It just fits," Itey said. "And I think we all know it well enough to pull it off, if we run through it once or twice before we go on."
Dutchy shrugged, and Blink nodded, and they all turned to Race.
"Fine," Race agreed hesitantly. "If we can go through it now."
Blink nodded, and Itey nodded, and they glanced at Dutchy.
"What the hell?" Dutchy said, shrugging.
Blink shoved him in a kind of brotherly way, and Dutchy shoved back, and Race glanced at Itey and raised his eyebrows.
"They're just lovely," Itey said in a monotone voice, and Race laughed.
"Soooo…" Blink looked at Race. "Are you okay?"
Race blinked. "What?"
"You okay? Are you sure you can do this, like..." Blink turned to Itey. "Iteeeyy..."
"He means are you doing all right? All right enough to play for us, or are we rushing you?"
Race had to smile. It was nice to have friends, real friends. And they were. They really, truly were.
"I'll be fine. Playing, being up there..." Race fingered one of his drumsticks. "You know, there's nothing else I'd rather be doing."
"Except Spot," Blink supplied.
"Exactly." Race patted his back. "Except Spot."
"We kind of expected you to come home in nervous breakdown mode or something," Itey added. "Especially after Sophia called me, she was really upset. So... I mean, if you don't want to--"
"Yes, I'm sure. I don't know what happened with Sophie, she didn't want to talk about it." He didn't even freak out that she told Itey things she didn't tell him. He liked Itey. "But Dad and I talked and it was kinda... Good. I mean, hard and painful and all that shit, but really I feel better than I have in a long time."
"Hey, its the first time in two years I've been at all sure my dad doesn't hate me. That's a pretty good feeling. Especially considering last Sunday." He shrugged. "So I'm okay. Let's rock."
Itey grinned and began to play the riff from "Rock the Casbah" as they waited for Dutchy to finish tuning. Which was taking awhile, because he was kind of distracted and hyper.
So Race threw his drumstick at Dutchy, and grinned, and they got ready to rock.
A few moments into mild practicing, the door burst open and Sophie and Jessica rushed in, together, which caused quite a few male eyes to look up with interest indeed.
Sophia squealed when she saw Itey, and ran over and gave him a long kiss on the mouth. Jess, however, walked very coolly and confidently over to Dutchy, who hadn't noticed because his guitar had gone flat again.
She tapped his shoulder, and when he turned around he stared. "Heeeey," he finally said.
Jess raised her eyebrow.
"You look hot," he said.
"It's true," she tapped his chest. "Good luck."
Jessica grinned playfully. "I should kiss a boy whose guitar is flat?"
"Yeah," Dutchy said, and kissed her, then went back to tuning. She rolled her eyes, and settled back to watch.
"Soooo, uh, we've got... Like, forty minutes to kill." Race sat back on the couch and Spot sat down on top of him. He grinned. "What do you want to do?"
Spot proceeded to kiss Race.
Sophia made a very loud retching noise and Spot flipped her off. So she responded by shoving Itey against a wall and kissing him and everyone else exchanged looks and waited for Race to freak out, but Race was a little too busy with Spot.
Mush and Blink glanced at each other.
"We'll be in the men's room." Mush grabbed Blink's wrist and dragged him out of the room.
Dutchy glanced sheepishly at Jess. She smiled at him, almost shyly, and he took her hand. Then he kissed her, kind of sweetly.
Jack and David exchanged looks and sighed. "You know how much easier life would be if we just..."
"Tell me about it."
Then they shrugged, and grinned, and sat down next to each other against a wall and tried to ignore all of the gratuitous couples around them.
Itey was thumbing the G-string of his bass over and over, and the crowd was so huge that Race was astonished that people actually could hear and watch him do it.
Blink was now pretty much insane as he rushed about back and forth, snapping at Dutchy to stop licking his lips at Jessica back stage. Jessica seemed quite happy with how much Dutchy had come out of his shell, really.
"Blink!" Race poked Blink in the side with his drumstick. "This is the part where you stop acting like a woman!"
"I am not a woman!"
"Are," Itey finished strumming. "Blinkee, this sound off to you?" He strummed a string. Blink considered.
"Damned thing's been going flat all night," Itey mumbled, re-adjusting the string.
Dutchy quickly played a speedy, quick, quiet version of The Lemon Song guitar riff, and grinned at his band members. "And are we ready?"
Blink took a few panicked breaths. "Oh my GOD we're actually going to play and I can't believe this! We're actually on stage and there's an AUDIENCE and we're gonna--"
"Blink, CHILL," Itey interrupted. "We're gonna rock." He frowned and went back to trying to tune.
"What if we SUCK? Aaaaaugh, someone get my mind off it."
"How?" Dutchy demanded. "Dude, still flat."
"I don't know! Do anything! I'm freaking out I need air oh my gooooooooooood."
Race considered, as Blink picked up the water bottle he'd set for himself and took a long drink. Then Race commented, "I lost my virginity on your couch last weekend."
At the same moment that Itey was ready and motioned for the lights to go up.
Blink did not react well.
The first thing any audience ever saw of Money City Maniacs was Ryan Ballatt doing a full on spit take, then jerking around to face the watchers abruptly, looking terrified and totally lost for what to do.
But Race wasn't quite so lost, and from his position at the drumset in the back counted in to Beetlebum. And they'd played the song so many times that Itey and Dutchy kicked in naturally, and there were a few measures before Blink had to sing so he got it under control.
And then God must have smiled at them, because the music meshed.
Race pounded at the drums, feeling it. Really, really feeling it, and loving it more than anything. Knowing he sounded good, that they all sounded good.
Itey was ON bass tonight, letting go of his shell.
Dutchy, god bless him, didn't speed up once. He stayed on time and perfect and marvelous.
Blink was the sexiest bitch in the whole damned room.
And Race played. Knowing things would be just fine. Spot was backstage, watching, and listening, and loving him. He'd be there waiting when Race was done playing. And Race's sisters still loved him. They were there, too, watching. His mother still loved him. She'd be home, waiting, when he got there. And his father was still back in prison...
Still his father.
Race pounded, the light shone, and he loved his father. Despite everything he'd done wrong.
Do your time, and then come home for good.
F: Holy fuck...THE END.
B: Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah. I mean (sniff) no, I'm not crying.
F: I'm kind of crying right now, actually.
B: What can we even say? This story became a borderline obsession for both of us and now it's overrrrrrrrrrr. Waaaaaah.
F: We had all sorts of things we wanted to do with this storyline. Like, all sorts of ways we wanted to go with the story. But it doesn't look like we can go that way
B: There are so many stories left to tell with this characters. Paulo's trial isn't easy on anyone. People go off to college. The band gets a record deal. Everyone grows up. Not to mention the story of how Spot first moved in to Jack's house and how he became the boy we know and love. The characters are always in the back of our minds. And there's nothing we'd like more than to spend another two years spinning those stories. Except real life has a bad habit of disrupting plans.
F: Pretty much, we realized, that we're both at such different points in our lives, and we can't give the story the work it deserves considering where we are and what we're up to.
B: We've both grown up so much while writing this story. I graduated from college and Funkie started it. Our lives are both kind of crazy right now, and we'd like to think that some day when they calm down we can come back to these characters... but who knows what the future holds? For now, we're just proud of the 500+ pages, and 2+ years of work that's gone into this story. And we're grateful that other people have enjoyed it.
F: The Newsies fandom was such a cool part of my high school life, and no one except for fellow Newsies fans can really understand why. EYDW was so amazing to write, and from now on, whenever I watch the movies, a little part of me will be like, "Aawww, Dutchy's on coke."
B: Well, I was in college, but it helped me learn a lot about myself as a writer, which sounds corny, but... hey, I'm corny. Would you look at that?
F: We're both corny. We're both very corny. And we love these characters very much and they love each other very much. In the end, B and I will always have eydw, and so will all of you.
(And as a warning, if you want to read these a couple of years in the future, and low and behold, something has happened to all the websites that host it, save it now on your computer or something. A fic I wanna read by this great writer is gone now, and I'm kicking myself. I'm not sure any of you will wanna read this THAT much, but just in case.)
B: In the mean time... I guess that's about it. There are a few people we need to thank especially: Hilary (even though she disappeared - we miss you, hon), Charlie Bird, and especially The Second Batgirl, our awesome beta reader. Also thanks to everyone who's reviewed this monstrosity, from Hotshot and Rumor (who hit just about every chapter from the beginning... wow) to people who just jumped in recently or for a chapter or two. We really appreciate all of your feedback and are glad you liked what you read.
Thanks from the bottom of our hearts, and, um, stay in touch? Be well? I'm going to get corny again, aren't I... Ah, well.
F: We love you, and so do the EYDW boys and girls.
Celebrated with Chinese food, with cake and champagne for desert.