"Good news, fellers, I found us a venue!" Murdoc burst into the room, enthusiastically waving a notebook and an envelope full of photos. "Camden Brownhouse, fifth of November!"
"What, Bonfire Night? Awww, I was hoping we'd have fireworks," said 2D, sounding disappointed.
Murdoc was in too good a mood for this to irritate him much. "You can play with fireworks any time, dullard! This is important!" He handed over the notebook, showing Russel and 2D the information; time, directions, etc.
"The Camden Brownhouse? I've heard of that place," Russel said, looking up from the notes. "Isn't it kind of a dump?"
"That 'dump' is famous for its live music, fatarse. Every band in the county has to play there at least once, it's a rite of passage."
"Are any of the bands that play there actually any good?"
"Yeah. Us," said Murdoc smugly. "We have a secret weapon, though. Whiffy Smiffy owes me a favour, and I'll be inviting him along."
"Talent scout over at EMI. Best in the business, trust me. He's heard me play before, but never with decent backup – I told you my last few bands were shit. He likes my playing, though. Oi, Noodle!" Noodle looked up from her guitar. "You understand any of that?" Murdoc asked her. Noodle stared blankly. "Con-cert!" Murdoc repeated, loudly and slowly and accompanied by sweeping arm gestures, as if that would help. "Fifth of No-vem-ber!" Noodle continued to stare blankly. Murdoc sighed and jabbed a grimy finger at the Les Paul. "Play that when we tell you to." Noodle got the message and beamed. Murdoc sighed. He'd always loathed children even back when he was one, but Noodle was okay. At least as long as she was sitting still.
"Speaking louder isn't goin' to help her learn faster, Muds," Russel told him.
"Meh. She knows how to use that guitar, that's all that matters. She at least memorised a few song titles? We need to be able to tell her what we're playing next, if nothing else."
"Yep!" 2D said proudly. "We taught 'er. Watch ... Noodle, do 'Ghost Train'!" Noodle immediately strummed out the opening bars of the correct song. "Okay, 'Punk'!" Smoothly, Noodle changed songs without missing a beat.
Russel grinned and patted Noodle's head. "Looks like she's as ready as she'll ever be."
"Excellent!" Murdoc opened the photo envelope. "Oh yeah, and I got the photos of us back from Snappy Snaps – see, here's that really good groupshot, and a few closeups of each of us. I'll send a few off to Smiffy, and we can pick some for making posters."
2D took the pictures of himself, flicked through them, then stopped and blinked worriedly at the last few. "Uh, Murdoc, I don't mean to complain, but ... shouldn't we use pictures of my face?"
"Look, denthead, what's stuffed in those undersized jeans of yours is our key to drawin' the interest of every teenage girl in the country. We gotta use what we've got, okay?"
"I'm not really sure I'm comfortable with that ..."
"Fine, if you don't want these goin' up, I'll chuck 'em." Murdoc removed the offending shots from 2D's hands and surreptitiously tucked them into his pocket for future perusal. Hey, I've accepted the situation, might as well enjoy it.
As he turned away from 2D, Murdoc wasn't sure if he'd seen what he thought he'd seen, but if he had, 2D had given him an odd little glance, hiding under his hair, and blushed slightly pink. Hm. For the sake of the band, Murdoc reminded himself to be cautious, but he made a mental note to keep an eye on Stu. If the band didn't go according to plan, he might at least get a decent consolation prize.
The big day came, and the band parked the rented van outside the Camden Brownhouse. There looked to be a pretty big crowd; Murdoc knew why, unfortunately. He'd become quite a familiar figure at the Brownhouse with various lineups, and crowds had started to gather to see how much worse each successive band could get. Yeah, laugh it up, you fuckers, he thought. Gorillaz are different. By tonight, if all goes well, my luck'll be changed for the better, and the music world will get a much-needed shakeup.
"You said this Smiffy guy was gon' be here, right?" Russel asked, opening the back of the van and hauling out his drums. One of the posters they'd stuck to the side was coming loose, and he rubbed the corner till it stuck back on. "Hope this glue comes off the paint job when we're done," he muttered.
Murdoc took a drag on one of the foul-smelling extra-strong cigs he saved for occasions when he needed even more nicotine than usual. "Yeah, he called me and said he's in. Told me he likes some of my songs and he's keen to hear 'em played properly for once."
Smiffy had in fact said this, even if he'd followed it up by nervously asking "You're not the one who's going to be singing, right?" Murdoc had refrained from calling Smiffy any of the interesting things he'd wanted to call him, forcing himself to remember that he needed to stay on the scout's good side.
"Okay, equipment ... Drumkit and sticks?"
"Check and check." Russel used the sticks to point at the drums.
"Check!" 2D declared happily.
"Hai!" Noodle held the instrument up for inspection, "guitar" having been one of the few English words she'd already picked up.
"Bass, check; amps, check ... and a little extra help from the Dark Lord of Metal," said Murdoc proudly, producing a much-folded photo of Black Sabbath from his wallet. "My lucky photo. Ozzie signed it an' everything."
Russel read the inscription aloud. "'Dear Murdoc: Stop following me! Ozzie.'" He looked back at Murdoc. "So, uh, did you stop?"
"Yes. Stupid restraining orders ... Well, break a leg, fellers," said Murdoc cheerily, slapping Russel and 2D on the back and ruffling Noodle's hair. "And you too, luv."
2D blinked. "Oi, Murdoc, did you just grab my bum?"
"No," said Murdoc, as innocently as he could.
"Yes you did!"
"Oh, yeah, I guess I did. Forgot you're taller than me, I was tryin' to pat your back and missed."
"Oh, that's okay then."
Russel glanced behind 2D and sighed. "Muds, take the 'Kick Me' sign off him."
2D twisted around awkwardly, trying to see his own back, and spotted the sign taped to his bottom. "Hey!"
"Spoilsport," Murdoc muttered, removing the sign and inwardly sniggering.
"There, see? You did it again!" 2D accused him, blushing violently red.
"I did not! The tape got caught on yer jeans!"
Noodle giggled and pointed. "Kekekeke. Shonen-ai?"
Not knowing what the word meant, Russel patted her head and said "Yeah, they're bein' funny, aren't they?" Turning to the arguing men, he snapped "KNOCK IT OFF! Nobody should be grabbin' anyone's butt! We're supposed to be actin' professional here! Geez, and I thought there was only one eight-year-old in this band."
"Fine, fine, whatever ... ya humourless bugger," Murdoc grumbled. "Okay, we've got everything ..."
Something across the street caught his eye. He turned and looked, to see some very familiar figures lurking across the road. They had been watching the band unload the car with some interest, but when they recognised Murdoc they immediately started conversing among themselves and pretended not to have seen him. He returned the favour, hurriedly turning away and pretending not to see them, but kept watching them out of the corner of his eye as they turned and walked off down the road. When they thought he wasn't looking, they looked back, peering curiously at 2D – they must have recognised the blue hair. One of them said something to the others, who all burst out laughing.
It happened so quickly Murdoc, once again, wasn't sure whether or not he'd imagined it, and he didn't dare react in case he had just been seeing things, but he could have sworn that, just before they walked around the corner and out of sight, Billy-Boy had waved and mouthed Good luck!
Huh. That was weird. He was getting one of those unfamiliar feelings again. What was it this time? ... Holy shit. He was happy. Really, genuinely happy. When was the last time he'd felt this good? He couldn't remember. Maybe when 2D had just come out of the coma and reawakened his hope ...
He proudly inspected his bandmates. Russel; bit of a stick-in-the-mud, but his musical talent more than made up for any difficulties in getting along with him or his ghost collection, and at least he'd been understanding about the kidnapping thing. Noodle; annoying, hyperactive, and incomprehensible, but talented as hell and (though he'd never actually say so) a nice kid. And Stuart; stupid, gormless, dozy, weird-looking, irritating, enviable, pitiable, motherfucking beautiful Stuart. He still didn't know whether Stuart really had given him that look earlier, but at that moment he didn't care. The band was together and he knew they'd be a hit. Anything else could wait.
"You okay?" asked Russel. "Your eye's watering a bit."
"Is it? Oh, um, must be having a problem with my, er, contact lens," Murdoc hastily explained.
"No, it's the black eye, not the red one."
"Uh ... the black one is the one with the contact lens." Murdoc wiped his eyes on his hand and changed the subject. "So, sure you've all got everything?" The others nodded. "Remember everything we rehearsed?" Another round of nods. "Ready to go?" More nods. "Okay then!" Murdoc gleefully rubbed his hands together, then picked up El Diablo and stroked it possessively before tucking it under his arm and heading for the door of the pub.
Time for us to make our first big impression. Brace yourself, world, here we come.
(YAY! I actually finished a multichapter fic for once! Hope you liked! Sorry Murdoc didn't get what he wanted out of Stu onscreen, but they're just starting out, he's got plenty of time in the future :) Don't ask where an eight-year-old picked up what shonen-ai is - put it down to Rule of Funny.
Remember when you used to have to get photos developed at the camera shop or the chemists', before digital cameras? And when people were allowed to smoke inside pubs in the UK? Geez, I'm not even twenty-one yet and I feel old just thinking about it ...
While I'm here, allow me to plug a friend's Gorillaz LJ community: "maybeintime". It needs people. Also, the Gorillaz page on TVTropes. The "Wild Mass Guessing" page is especially fun. Anyway, I hope to write more in this fandom in future, and I'll see you all around when I do. Thanks to all my readers, and goodbye for now!)