He was strung out when he heard it over the radio. They had been playing one of his favorite songs, but he was too far gone to remember the lyrics let alone the name. The beat was not something to be forgotten, and he could call it up at anytime; simply close his eyes and let it take him over.

It cut off right before his favorite part, breaking news, they said, Brian Slade's been shot. Killed on stage in the middle of a song.

He thought he was dreaming. He let himself fall too far those days and it was hard to tell what was real and what wasn't, and he and Brian, they used to wish for things like that. They used to whisper at night that maybe it would be best if they were to die while they were still young and beautiful and together. Like Romeo and fucking Juliet.

Only they weren't together, and for all of their talk, Curt had never wanted to die.

At least he hadn't until he woke from the haze and realized Brian was really dead. He turned on the TV and there was the story again, reporters were eating it up; all of their eyes were smiling behind their solemn facades because this was the story of the year and they all wanted it first. He was frozen, held there in front of glowing screen.

He turned the TV off and fell back on his bed. He decided he wasn't really awake yet, but then his phone was ringing, and Mandy was crying hysterically asking him if he'd heard. He acted like he hadn't because he didn't understand, couldn't believe it. Guys like Brian Slade weren't supposed to die. Curt Wild was the type to get shot down on stage, because if it was him then no one would care.

He hung up the phone after consoling Mandy with nonsense and saying nothing helpful at all. She was still crying, and he was still hung over. He rested his head in his hands, whispering to himself that it wasn't real. He dialed Brian's number three times, but no one ever answered. Not even Shannon.

Then electric guitar came out through the radio and he snapped. He was crying, screaming, throwing things--letting control slip away like he always did when he didn't know what else to do. He cursed Brian for ever introducing himself, because he hadn't so much saved his life as ruined it, really, in the end.

He broke everything he owned and then fell on the bed, broken like the rest of it and out of tears. He kept telling himself it wasn't real, and he felt so disconnected from it all, so set apart. He hadn't kept in touch with Brian, and he hadn't really cared because some part of him had always thought they would end up on stage together again, in the spotlight, or at the least, in bed.

It didn't seem right that Brian was dead and he wasn't, and he filled up a syringe with a lethal dose. It wouldn't hurt, he'd just fade right away, and it wasn't like he believed anything could hurt him after this. He went so far as to slip the needle beneath his skin, left it there for five minutes, and he was a heartbeat away from pushing down the depressor when he ripped it out instead.

It shattered against the wall and fell beside the shards of an empty shot glass and his broken television screen, and he closed his eyes and wished the world away. He wasn't sure why he couldn't do it, and he was sure if he had he wouldn't make the front page.

Not that he cared. Not that he cared about anything, not anymore.

-----

The next day it was all over the news.

Sorry, folks, but it's just a hoax. Brian Slade: alive and well. It's only his career that was assassinated, after all. Fucking Jerry and his publicity stunts.

Curt didn't read past the headlines. He let the newspaper slip from his fingers, streams of ink staining his fingers as his knees crumbled and he beat the paper to the ground.

He really didn't feel all that different from yesterday.