Author's Note: Of course, it all belongs to Stephenie Meyer...
UPDATE: I've been asked to share the song info for my chapter titles at the beginning of each chapter (in case you want to listen while reading) so I'm adding it in. Any other songs mentioned will go into the endnotes. BTW, you guys all ROCK! Thanks for being the most kickass readers ever!
Nirvana - "Smells Like Teen Spirit"
Chapter 1 - Smells Like Teen Spirit
There are two things in this world that matter to me. One is the guitar resting against the side of my bed and the other is picking up that guitar and playing it. Everything else just doesn't measure up.
I've been playing for years, the addiction of it becoming like air in my lungs. Without it I'd probably just keel over and die. Although, to be fair, I probably have to give some credit to my brother, Emmett, and his extreme lack of talent. For some reason our parents are fixated on having musical children, and having Emmett come along first probably made their resolve that much stronger. It didn't come naturally so they were always trying to force it on him – first with the piano lessons and then with the guitar under the Christmas tree when he was only eight. With all the stuff we got each year, I remember this moment specifically as the one in which I learned a new emotion: envy.
I wanted nothing more than to touch that guitar, to hear what it sounded like. A sentiment I immediately regretted once Emmett decided he'd try to play. I'd had no experience actually playing music of any kind, but I could tell what bad music was. And if bad music was a business, Emmett would be CEO. But the silver lining came when he finally came to this realization and cast the instrument aside for sports, particularly full contact.
Thankfully he didn't notice when I swiped the guitar from beneath his bed (chalk it up to brotherly competition), and I fell in love. I was seven and knew as my fingers gently strummed each string for the first time that this was something I could be good at, maybe even great. It just felt right.
And for the last ten years I spent every free moment with Opal (yeah, I'm one of those guys): running my hands along her long slender neck, teasing each string with a calloused finger, using her to elicit the kind of sounds that take my breath away. I use her to express my inner most thoughts, fears, desires…
We formed our band the summer before junior year, when Jasper finally became determined to find something better to do on hot damp nights than sweat. I really didn't even plan on being involved at first, but my sister used power of manipulation, something she's become notorious for, to change my mind.
"Why do you only play by yourself? Going through an emo phase?"
"Get lost." I so don't need this tonight. I knew her too well – the slanted expression she wore across her tiny face could only mean she wanted something. And not immediately knowing what it was scared me - it couldn't be good, not a chance. I sighed: "Just tell me what you want, Alice, and then I'll say 'no' and you can leave."
I started to finger a Pearl Jam medley waiting for her to come out with it already. "Today, maybe?" She knows me better than anyone and my impatience grows fastest with her for that very reason.
"I thought I could play with you tonight, maybe." I practically choked on the laughter that exploded from my chest.
"Don't you play the effing flute or something?" I wasn't specifically against playing with others, but this wasn't what I had in mind.
"That was for marching band only and you know it, asshole." Her face radiated fake anger – it was a tactic she used often, particularly for its effectiveness. "I know I'm not up to your incredibly unrealistic expectations, but I'm practically as good at piano as you are and you freaking know it."
And she was right; she's good, but not as good as I am. Honestly, she just lacked the compulsion I had to practice. I loved it; every second was like taking one little step closer to nirvana. Ah…I slipped into one of their songs without even realizing it.
"Why the sudden interest? Let me guess –"A small hand flew across my mouth preventing me from finishing the sentence. Which, of course means my prediction was correct; she was doing this for a boy. Why God ever thought to give me a twin sister I'll never know – she's more trouble than she's worth about 90% of the time. Ok, that's a lie, maybe 89% of the time.
Her hand relaxed from my taught lips, curled into a smirk, to rest along Opal's side. She knows I fucking hate when she leaves fingerprints all over my stuff. I eyed her sharply until she removed her hand and used her eyes to plead with me again. "Jasper Hale is forming a band. He's looking for whoever's around, but I heard him tell Rosalie he wanted experience." The concept did pique my interest. I had never really desired to be in a band, especially with the drama it always seemed to cause. Just ask Mötley Crüe, the Sex Pistols, the Beatles…But, Jasper and I were practically friends and he never mentioned the whole band thing to me, which pissed me the fuck off honestly. He was a decent bass player, and we had even gotten together to play once in a while – so why not just ask me to join his stupid band?
My lips stayed firmly pressed together processing everything until Alice used her power of persuasion to push me over the edge: "I'd do it for you, you know." Fuck you, Alice Cullen. I'm a sucker for that one every time.
I worked with her for a few hours that night, genuinely providing guidance and critique as necessary. By the end I was actually proud of her and how determined she was to do her best. I guess we have that in common.
Later in the week I even took her over to Jasper's for his scheduled auditions. The town of Forks is microscopic by normal standards so we all pretty much knew everyone in town. It was partially for my own amusement that I volunteered to drive, curious who would be turning up.
What I did not anticipate was who would be sitting at the drum kit when we pulled in front of the garage. I looked over at Alice, her smile gently fading into incredulity, just then her eyes slanted in my direction. We must have had one of those mind-reading twin moments because we stepped out of my silver Volvo simultaneously, staring at the thick hands wrapped around the suddenly-fragile-looking drumsticks.
"You've got to be fucking kidding me." I wasn't sure I had said it out loud until Alice shot me a look in my peripheral vision.
"Um…" she hesitated, "Emmett, why are you here? I mean, what are you doing?" She paused again, not knowing really what the correct question was. "You don't play the drums."
"Au contraire," his voice was confident despite my absolute certainty he wasn't entirely sure what the phrase meant, "I believe I may have been born to play the drums." He banged on a few in succession before slamming a drumstick into the cymbal causing the two of us, Jasper Hale, and the handful of maybe-musically-inclined teenagers from town to cringe.
Honestly, it wasn't as bad as I had expected – it was just LOUD. Alice and I looked at Jasper cautiously, not sure what to make of the whole thing. Emmett could sense our doubt in his abilities and jumped in: "Coach Phillips doesn't trust my ankle since that horrible sprain last year. He pretty much told me I'll be holding down the bench all season. I mean, what the fuck? How do I let out aggression if I don't hit people?"
Of course, the answer was black, shiny, and there right in front of us. He struck the cymbal again for emphasis.
Jasper walked around the equipment, carefully avoiding the cables winding all over the place (a true musician would be doing it unconsciously). "Hey," his hand punched my shoulder as he stood beside me. "Only one drummer showed up." I didn't really bother responding. I mean, if Jasper had said "no" Emmett probably would have went ballistic and Jasper's garage full of brand new equipment would have suffered. And that's a tragedy I just couldn't bear.
"Hi Jasper." Her voice seemed even smaller than normal. I knew this as 'nervous Alice.' "The garage looks great. It's about time someone around here started doing something productive with his afternoons." I was hoping this wasn't some kind of dig at me and my lack of social life lately. Ok, ever. I realized my thoughts were paranoid, bordering on self-absorbed – the mindset of a musician for sure.
"Oh, hey Alice." He smiled at her, a little too wide in my opinion. That protective brotherly thing seemed to kick in when I least expected it.
"I thought I'd come down and audition – you know in case you were looking for someone to play keyboards or something." Her eyes darted around the garage looking for a set of keyboards, or even a piano. And it didn't take a psychic, or even a mind reading twin to see her deflate once she realized neither was present.
Jasper's hand rubbed the back of his neck in an attempt to buy himself a few extra seconds before having to respond to her. "I'm really sorry Alice – but I don't think we're going to be that kind of band. I'm really sorry." I bordered on hating him – I mean I alone knew how hard she'd worked and how much she seemed to want this, but his apology was genuine and I really couldn't fault him that.
She walked over to sit on his amp, something I'd never have allowed at home although Jasper didn't seem to mind. He actually turned away from her to face me: "You here for the audition too?"
"Don't you have enough Cullens fishing for a spot in the band?" I chuckled at the thought of us traveling around from gig to gig in a multicolored bus like the Partridge Family. "Thanks, but no thanks."
"Well these scrubs better be good then." He spoke beneath his breath so the four guys shooting the shit with Emmett wouldn't catch on. Apparently they were all vying to play guitar – this could get interesting.
Ironically the first two auditions, random faces I seemed to know from school, both played "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown." I can't even remember the last time I'd heard that song, but damn – hear it twice in a row and you spend the rest of your day humming it, especially the part about being "meaner than a junkyard dog."
Rick Shetler, an irritating junior with a reputation for taking advantage of freshman girls, brought a vintage Gibson, which I thought was pretty sweet – until we realized it was all about image with him. He probably walked around with the beautiful instrument slung across his back, wearing dark jeans and band shirts, trying to broadcast to the world his rock star persona. The only problem is, at some point you have to shit or get off the pot. And for all his efforts, Rick's attempt at "Welcome to the Jungle" pretty much sounded like Emmett back on the day his guitar first showed up. It was punishment for the ears, although, to give the man some credit, he looked somewhat cool doing it. My guess is a lot of practicing in front of the mirror…
While Jasper told the first two he'd call and let them know, he was more upfront with Rick: "Uh, thanks, Rick. You can go now."
Alice smiled as she watched Jasper take the reins. I had known she thought he was "cute" for a few years – especially when Alice and one of her bubbly, giggling friends would be going on and on about every single fucking boy at school during a sleepover. Not that I was listening. But the look in her eyes, maybe it was the twin connection or something, I knew it was more than that. I shook my head trying to erase the thought and turned my attention to Tyler Crowly ready to play, despite asking to borrow Jasper's guitar. I saw that as having two strikes against him already, but Jasper always was more tolerant than I am.
However, I am a man who can admit when I'm wrong. And once Tyler started to play, I was most definitely wrong. The man could play. His version of "Purple Haze" wouldn't have passed for the real thing, but impressed me. And I'm not easily impressed. With this realization I felt a tightness in my chest – what could you even call this feeling? My mind started racing and I think an anxiety attack was beginning to set in as I saw Jasper rise to shake Tyler's hand – well fuck, there they go. They've got themselves a band.
So what did I care? Not one thing in my life changed besides the odd mental image of Emmett as a drummer – and trust me, I use the term loosely. But even realizing that my life would stay exactly the same didn't ease that tight feeling working its way from my chest up into my throat. I was starting to freak myself out – what the fuck was going on? I walked out into the street, leaning my back against the passenger side of my car. Taking deep breaths in the still night I tried to calm myself down when the sound of a voice startled me.
"Whoa, what happened to you?" Jasper was never delicate with anything on his mind.
"Nothing… I don't know." I almost wish I smoked so I could take a long, deep drag and let it out slowly just for an excuse to stay silent. When I worked up the nerve to make eye contact I could tell he wasn't buying it. There was almost a hint of annoyance in his expression that made me totally lose it –
"What the fuck, Jasper? I mean Crowley was decent and all, but come on." I didn't expect to sound as furious as I did, but the tightness started to dissipate so I continued, "Why didn't you fucking ask me? Instead you put up flyers and set up this embarrassment of an audition." I knew I was glaring, but didn't care.
"Cullen, you're ridiculous. You know if I had asked you you would have laughed in my face."
"Yeah, probably." It was true; I couldn't put up too much of a fight.
"What if I ask you now? You saying you'd do it?"
I had to think that one through, but just as my mental wheels started to turn what was left of that tight feeling climbed up my throat, forcing my head into a sideways nod. I guess thinking it over wasn't an option.
Thankfully Jasper wasn't the kind to make a big deal out of things. He stuck out his hand and I casually shook it, knocking my shoulder into him to display an enthusiasm I didn't know I'd had until that minute. Apparently something deep inside liked the idea of being in a band.
Crowley was gone by the time I went back into the garage to see Emmett trying to twirl a drumstick between his fingers, Jasper adjusting his amp, and Alice sitting on the beat up futon with a shit eating grin on her face. "What?"
"Nothing." Although her "nothing" couldn't have sounded more like something.
I took a deep breath, so not in the mood for games. Looking back at her caused her to break down into hysterics. Before I could question her she gripped Jasper's arm to steady herself, "See Jasper, I told you. The only way to get him was to bruise his ego." Fuck you Alice, fuck you.
Jasper didn't move a muscle, looking over his shoulder towards me with a half smile. God I hate that they were both in on something to manipulate me. And I hate worse that it fucking worked. I'm so goddamn predictable.
"Alice, for someone so tiny you're pretty horrible at times." I left it at that. I was starting to get into the idea of a band, and going off on a tirade would make it that much harder to come crawling back. Plus I had seen the local "talent" and forming my own band was out of the question.
"Fuck you all." There I'd said it, we can move on.
"What'd I do?" Emmett must have transitioned back into reality. Apparently he hadn't been in on their plan, but apologizing wasn't really my style.
"I owed you that one from yesterday, fucker." He seemed to accept that.
I quickly went out to my car to get Opal and plugged her into the spare amp. "Alright, let's go then." Technically it was Jasper's band, but technically I didn't care. I started up with "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and the three of us played until it started to sound like we were actually playing the same song.
Alice was furiously writing in a lined notebook, glancing back and forth between each of us and the white pages.
Jasper watched what she did while he played, it was so fucking obvious. "What are you doing over there?"
Her face lit up, just a bit. If I'd had blinked I would have missed it. "Writing a few notes. You guys seriously need a stylist." None of us answered her; Emmett and I knew from experience it was best to just let her carry on. Challenge her and beware the wrath of Alice – trust me, so not worth it.
I played a few chords and made us do the song again – practice makes perfect and I expect perfection.
Before going home that night we spent a good two hours debating band names at Alice's insistence. She was concerned that she couldn't work on logos and/or bumper stickers until we had decided on something. Emmett kept suggesting the stupidest shit – his best idea thus far being "Aggressive Bastards." Jasper and Alice made several, but they just weren't right. I was starting to get attached to my suggestion: "Shadow Brigade." But Jasper said it made him think of Batman and submitted a big, fat veto.
"Don't give me trouble, Hale. That was a good suggestion you just shot down. Speaking of which, you ever, ever pull a stunt like tonight's on me again and what follows will take a tragic turn."
Everyone paused for more than a moment.
"Cullen, you're a fucking genius."
It didn't matter what I thought about the name since Alice ran out of the garage at warp speed, probably already home making the first Tragic Turn t-shirt.
Other Songs Mentioned:
Jim Croce - "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown"
Jimi Hendrix - "Purple Haze"
Author's Note: Thanks for reading the intro to my first fan fiction in a long, long time. Stick with it and I promise to make it worth your while.