The band had performed mostly their own stuff along with their four or five covers. That was the opposite of most bands, who played mostly covers and not much of their own stuff. They were currently in the middle of a cover of Puddle of Mudd's "Control." The K, the lead singer, was belting out "I need to feel you, you need to feel me!" His voice was loud and gravelly. His fingers flew over the strings of the lead guitar, playing like his life depended on it. Big Luke, the bass player, was thumping his guitar, throwing in intricate rhythms not in the original song. Willis, the drummer, kept perfect time, his arms blurs as they moved from cymbals to drums and back. He was the one she noticed first.
Ashley had gone to the concert with some girl friends of hers, thinking it would be good to get out for a night. Finals were coming up and the stress was building. She thought that one night out, rocking out hard, would be good for her. Her friend's were all ogling over The K. He was the leader of the group. He was five foot ten, had shaggy hair and a stubbly little goatee. All the girls loved him. Ashley thought he was good looking enough, but there was something about the drummer that caught her eye.
Big Luke, on the other hand, was the groupie magnet. Six foot two, probably two hundred ten pounds, by her guess. A small Mohawk ran down the middle of his head, every couple of strands a different color. For some reason, the groupies flocked to him. Of course The K didn't had a couple, but he was in a serious relationship, so he kept groupies to a minimum.
They finished the song and The K took the mic. "Ladies and gentlemen, we are Energy Overdrive. Have you had a good time tonight?" The crowd, Ashley included, screamed and hollered. "All right! We have time for one more tune, then our time's up!" The crowd booed, wanting to hear more of Energy Overdrive. They had been the best band on the ticket so far. The noise grew quiet as the band rearranged themselves. Willis came out from behind his drum set; The K was switching their guitars for acoustic versions. Big Luke came back from the side curtain carrying three stools. The K and Big Luke took the end stools, Willis taking the middle.
Willis was by no means a big guy. Five foot eight, maybe a hundred and fifty pounds, he had glasses and a full goatee and mustache. His hair was slicked back from the sweat he produced while playing drums. He wore a plain white tank top despite the fact his arms weren't large. 'They ARE quite well defined, though' Ashley thought to herself, pushing her way to the front. Baggy blue jean shorts and old school Converse Chuck Taylors completed his outfit. He did NOT look like he should be in a rock band. If you cleaned him up and put him in some decent clothes, he might look like a young businessman.
Willis took the mic from the stand, looking over at The K. The K smiled and nodded at him and mouthed the words, "Go for it, dude." Willis took a deep breath and spoke for the first time all night, not counting backing vocals. "Hi...um, hi." He said, obviously nervous. "As you all know, a couple of days from now is the anniversary of the death of Stevie Ray Vaughn." A cheer and some applause went up at the mention of the music legend. "In tribute to one of the greatest guitarists of all time, not to mention someone we consider a major influence, we'd like to play one of his songs. I'm the guy who's usually back there pretending to play the drums, but K here said that I should sing the song. He's in charge, so here goes nothing."
The K started in on acoustic, followed shortly by Big Luke on his acoustic bass. The hall went eerily quiet, the crowd not knowing what to make of the change in styles. The K had his eyes closed, having played the song so many times that it was habit by now. Big Luke was not only playing the strings of his bass, he was thumping a quiet rhythm on the side. Willis smiled at everyone and took a deep breath. To say his voice was surprising would have been an understatement. It was loud and clear, not gruff like The K's.
You'd better leave,
You'd better leave my little girl alone
The crowd gave a slight cheer at the tune. Willis smiled with his eyes closed, starting the next line.
You better leave
You'd better leave my little girl alone
Willis opened his eyes, having mastered his nervousness at being in front for a change. He looked around the room, trying to look in everyone's eyes.
Lord, before I get evil man
And I go and do something wrong.
His eyes swept the front row. Ashley could have sworn that he looked at her a second longer than everyone else, but it was hard to tell.
You call my house just yesterday
I picked up the extension and
I heard every word you say
Ashley swayed to the music, the tune working into her mind. She watched as Willis rocked back and forth slightly, tapping a pattern on his thigh with one hand, the other holding the mic. He smiled at everyone, still looking around the room. Ashley found herself wanting him to look at her again.
Why don't you just go?
Man and leave my little girl alone.
Lord before I get evil man
And I go and do something wrong
The K stood up from his stool, his fingers indistinct lines as he played his solo. Big Luke also stood up, plucking out the bass line with no problems. Big Luke was playing for the girls now. A cluster of them was at his side of the stage. He kneeled down in front of them, showing off his dexterity.
Willis had remained on his stool, content to let the other two have the attention. The K was attracting the wannabe guitar players. Even players from the other bands were watching him, envious of his obvious talent. Willis watched The K momentarily and then returned his eyes to the crowd. That's when he noticed her.
The crowd had parted around her, almost as if Moses was nearby. One half was the guys were watching The K, the other half the girls watching Big Luke. This one girl in particular, was watching him. And he wasn't even doing anything. The K looked over at him, wordlessly asking for more playing time. Willis smiled and nodded, willing to let himself merely look at this girl with the flashing green eyes.
K went into a solo that he had worked out some time ago, with Big Luke merely playing along at this point. The girls were impressed and that was all he cared about. K was grinding some pretty intense sounds out of his acoustic. Willis grinned, having heard this solo before. K had once played almost twenty minutes on this one. How he could do that and not have his fingers all bloody and raw was beyond Willis.
Willis looked back at the girl in the front row. She was smiling at him. He smiled back, an honest smile for once, not one aimed at the "drummer groupies." She certainly didn't look like a groupie. She didn't look like a complete whore, for one thing. She had...an innocent thing about her. He found that very appealing. He got up from his stool and made his way to the front of the stage. He began shaking hands and slapping palms as people congratulated him. He got to the green-eyed girl and noticed she also had light red hair. 'Oh man,' he thought to himself. 'An angel in disguise.'
He held his hand out to her and she took it and wrapped her fingers around his. He held on a couple of seconds longer than necessary, but he didn't mind. He turned and looked at The K, who nodded back. The nod meant another couple of bars and they could finish the song. Willis reluctantly took his hand back, smiling at her again. As The K started back into the song, he seamlessly merged his voice with the guitar.
You call my house
All hours of the night
Let me tell you mister,
That's a sure, sure way to start a fight.
Willis was now singing to her. Oh, sure, his voice reached everyone else, but he was looking only at her. He felt like she was looking into him with those eyes. She was still swaying to the music. He watched her, enjoying her form with his eyes.
Why don't you just go on?
Man and leave my little girl alone
Lord before I get evil man
And I go
And do something
They paused, just like they planned. They like to do that, feeling that it increased the anticipation. And couple of beats was all, but it made all the difference in the world.
He held it out, his voice going up and down, getting louder and softer. The K and Big Luke were simply jamming at this point. Thirty seconds later, they let the song end. The applause was overwhelming to Ashley. She clapped louder and harder than she ever thought she would for a local band.
The three stood up, smiles covering their faces from ear to ear. Willis grabbed the arms closest to him and raised them over his head. The crowd got even louder, if that was possible. They hugged on stage, throwing picks into the audience. Willis went back to his drum set and grabbed a pair of his spare drumsticks. He walked up to the front of the stage and handed them to the green-eyed girl. Her eyes got big as saucers and she smiled at him and said "Thank you!" He couldn't hear her of course, but he got the message.
They relinquished the stage, letting the MC take over, thanking everyone for coming and hoping they had a good time. K and Big Luke grabbed their guitars and headed for their dressing room. This was the one thing Willis was jealous of. He had five drums, four cymbals, sticks, pedals and everything else to take care of. It was habit by now, though. He wasn't even really thinking as he packed everything up. His sure hands packed everything quickly and efficiently. K and Luke came back to help him load everything into Luke's van.
Once everything was loaded, Luke and K, along with K's girlfriend, came back in and grabbed their stuff out of the dressing room. "Good show, dude. That last song was awesome." The K was smiling at Willis, obviously really jacked because the show went so well. "We're all gonna grab some chow. You want to come along?"
Willis shrugged. "Nah, go ahead. I'm just gonna hang out for a bit, grab a shower and then walk home. Thanks, though. Practice tomorrow or no?" That was Willis, always the one to remember the commitments.
"No way, dude. After tonight, I think we can take a couple days off." Willis nodded in response, understanding the reasoning. "Monday, though. For sure. I need to work on some new solos." They all laughed, knowing K probably had twenty or so "homemade" solos in his head already.
"Monday, then. You guys have a good night." The high fived each other and the guitarist and the bassist walked out, pulling the door shut behind them. Once the door was shut, Willis felt himself start to shake, the adrenaline leaving his system. He needed to get some sugar into his system or he was going to crash hard. He grabbed some change from his bag and went in search of a vending machine.
Ashley was with her girlfriends after the concert, clutching the drum sticks possessively. "I can't believe he gave those to you, Ash." One of her friends said. "Yeah," another agreed. "Maybe he wanted to see you backstage." They laughed at her as the blush crept up her face.
"No," she replied. "I'm sure he gives them away to someone after each show. Like the guitar picks."
"Well, we're all ready to head home. Great concert, though. You coming, Ash?" She had to ask because Ashley was notorious for walking home. There were enough police and everything after a concert like this that it wouldn't be a problem for her to walk the six blocks home.
"You guys go ahead. I'm feeling kinda hungry. I'm gonna see if I can find something to eat." Of course, she would probably just find a vending machine and grab a candy bar.
"Okay. Knock yourself out. We'll see you later." The group of girls walked out, leaving Ashley to hold her new drumsticks, looking at the stage. She felt a rumble in her stomach and stopped a janitor if there was a vending machine nearby. He gave her the directions and she thanked him and walked off.
"Stupid machine!" Willis was rocking the machine, hitting it with his palms and giving it evil glares. It had taken his money and his candy bar was hanging on by the end of the wrapper. "Christ on a crutch! God. I wonder if there's a hammer around here anywhere, he asked, wondering if a vending machine could be threatened. He was taken completely by surprise when a voice from his left asked, "Need some help?"
He turned and his jaw dropped when he saw the green eyed girl. She still had his drumsticks in her hand. "No. Yes. Well, this stupid thing won't give me my candy bar."
She walked up next to him and looked. "You like those, too" she asked. He nodded.
"Yeah and I'd like one now, but this devil machine won't give me one.
She slid up close next to him and put her money in the machine. She pushed the buttons for that candy bar and two of them fell out. She bent over and retrieved them. "See? Piece of cake." She unwrapped hers and grinned as she took a big bite. "I'm Ashley, by the way." She started to put out her hand and then remembered that she was still holding his...HER drumsticks. She tucked them into her back pocket and put her hand out.
"Willis. Um. Actually, just call me Will. Willis is just a thing for the band. Nice to meet you. And thanks for your help with the candy bar." He held onto her hand, smiling at her. After a few seconds, he started. "Oh. Sorry about your hand." He let it drop, taking a bite of his candy bar to cover his embarrassment. "Mm. Good candy bar."
She smiled back at him. "Yeah, it is. So, if you don't mind me asking, I thought all the bands were gone. What are you still doing here?"
"Well, a friend's dad owns the place. He lets me stay as long as I want. That's real nice of him, since I don't like going home straight after a show. Too worked up, you know. And, with my low blood sugar thing, it's good to be able to get candy like this and not worry about something happening on the way home."
"Oh. That makes sense. Low blood sugar? Yeah. Something bad could happen on the way home. And we wouldn't want that, would we?"
"No," he chuckled. "'We' wouldn't. Look, I was heading back to the dressing room. You wanna come along?" He saw her eyes get real big. "Wait. That's not what I meant. Really. Oh, God. I can't believe I just said that. Look. Never mind. Let's pretend I didn't say that."
"Whoa there, Tiger. You wanna try that again?" She laughed at him, watching him trying to cover for himself. She knew that wasn't what he meant, or at least she thought she knew.
Will took a deep breath and closed his eyes. "What I meant, was: I would like some company and was wondering if you would like to keep me company, in a non-sexual way, of course." He was covering his eyes with his hands, trying to keep himself from saying something else stupid.
"Of course," she said. "Will, I would like to keep you company. Now. Take your hands off your eyes and show me to the dressing room."
He grinned sheepishly. After thinking for about half a second, he decided to be bold and take her hand. He was relieved when she didn't protest. "This way." He led her back through the hallways to the dressing room that Energy Overdrive had been given. He breathed on the cheap plastic star that was on the door and wiped it with the bottom of his shirt. "Yep. This is where you get to the big time. A plastic sheriff star on the door." He grinned as she laughed. He turned the doorknob and pushed, the door sticking slightly as it opened.
Ashley took in the dressing room with one look. There were five chairs and a small table. That was it. There was a curtain on the wall at the back of the room. "Boy. You 'big stars' sure get the royal treatment, don't you?" He laughed at her remark and went to his backpack.
"I got something here that will impress you. Two bottles of...water." He held up two bottles of spring water and offered her one. She took it with a chuckle.
"Is this your idea of wining and dining? If it is, it leaves a lot to be desired." He laughed again, shaking his head.
"No. If I were wining and dining you, I'd be taking you somewhere fancy, like McDonald's or something. Us rock stars are just swimming in the dough." She laughed at him this time, finding a chair to sit on. "Careful," he said. "That chair is kinda wobbly. We make K's girlfriend sit there since she's like four foot two and weighs twelve pounds." She rocked back and forth, the chair making squeaking noises. She stopped suddenly, her blush moving up her face again. "Yeah," he said. "That's how me and Luke think it got that way. K and his girlfriend, I mean."
Ashley looked at the chair she sat on, wrinkled up her nose and stood up. "Anything else about the furniture I should know?" She eyed each chair, trying to find some hidden flaw with them.
"Nah. Oh. Don't lean on the table. It wobbles back and forth, too." She nodded in understanding. She picked another chair, this one more comfortable. She rocked on it experimentally, but it made no sounds.
"So. What does a rock star like you do after a show? I mean, in all honesty, I figured all three of you would be fighting off the groupies with a stick." She looked at him out of the corner of her eye, trying to make it look like she was looking at the wall. She grinned a little as he looked at her.
"Please. Groupies? That's Luke's thing. I swear that the guy must have more sex than me K put together. And K's got a girlfriend that he swears jumps him every night. That's saying something." Will went back to his bag, rearranging clothes, digging out the plastic bag that held his soap and shampoo.
"Well, that takes care of K and Luke, but what about you? I mean, girls always want the drummer, so..." Will chuckled, not looking up.
"No, they want the bass player. That's why Luke's dick is going to fall off before he's 25. Diseases and all."
Will stood up and pulled off his tank top. Ashley took a chance to look at his body while his eyes were obscured, looking away as he got the shirt over his head. 'Good Lord,' she thought to herself. 'Either drumming is really good for you or he works out.' She felt a slight warmth spreading through her body. The half naked man in front of her was turning her on.
Will sat back down and untied his shoes and threw them into a corner, followed by his socks, which he had put into a plastic bag. "You do NOT want to smell those," he said to her. "Chemicals weapons inspectors have been coming around looking for those." She laughed, causing him to smile.
Will grabbed at each side of his neck, massaging the muscles. He groaned and rolled his head backwards. "Are you all right?" He nodded with his eyes closed.
"We practiced a new song a couple of days ago and my shoulders still haven't gotten the hang of it yet. We played it tonight about half way through the set and I thought my arms were going to fall off."
Ashley got up and walked around behind him, moving his hands. "Here. Let me do it." He sighed and murmured his thanks. Ashley dug in, squeezing hard, afraid she would hurt him. "So. Which song does this to your shoulders?"
"'Party Till You Puke' by Andrew W. K. I mean, it's a good song, but it's killer on the shoulders. Arms are swinging the entire time and it's fast. If I had another week to practice, I'd probably be okay by now, but no. Luke wanted to play the song tonight and K said it would be cool." He shrugged, bunching the muscles in his neck, then letting them fall. "This is great, Ashley. Thanks a lot."
"Sure. Anything else need it?" 'Aside from me,' she thought to herself. 'Oh. Bad Ashley.' She was sure he could tell she was blushing.
He thought for a second and said "Yeah. Right here. Where the shoulders meet the chest. They're starting to tighten up."
"Okay." She moved around in front of him, putting her thumbs into the spot he had indicated. "Here?" He nodded again, so she began squeezing, which was awkward from where she was standing. She hunched down, but that hurt her back. "Okay. This is not working. I need to be lower."