We put some clothes on and sat side by side on Remo’s white leather sectional, drinking the juice. I’d added ice cubes now to freshen it up. Ziggy looked around.
“So this is your home away from home,” he said.
“I guess…? There’s a recording studio on the other side of the swimming pool.”
“Swimming pool?” He looked at the large plate glass window but I hadn’t turned the lights on out there. I went to the doorway to the patio and flipped the switches. The lights under the water and the little ones along the landscaping came on.
“That’s where I recorded that documentary score,” I said, pointing to the outbuilding that was the studio. “The one you heard at the Allston house.”
“Are you working on another one?” He had a very casual tone, but I knew him well enough now I hear it was too casual.
“I am, but that’s not why I came to LA,” I said, looking at the glow of the pool instead of at him. “I came here because you were here.”
I heard his juice mug click against the glass-topped side-table. “And…. it took you two months to figure out what to say to me?”
“I guess.” I felt my cheeks burn a little as I thought again about how I could have paged him sooner. But would I have? “Maybe it’s a Freudian slip or something, but I didn’t remember your pager number until today.”
“What’s special about today?”
“I told you. I signed the papers that make the deal official from our end. Dissolving my interest in the property known as Moondog Three so that BNC is free and clear to do whatever they want with you.” I turned and looked at him. “Are you really having second thoughts?”
He shrugged. “Second thoughts are only going to bring me misery at this point. So, no.” His face was set.
Now that I was feeling sympathetic to him, though, I was having second thoughts myself. Not about what he did for me and the guys, but… “It still feels like a deal with the devil.”
“Maybe they always do,” he said. “I’ll write some cliched songs about it. More likely it’s damned if you do and damned if you don’t.”
Frankly, he looked miserable, which was difficult to look at given that at that moment I was feeling pretty good. It felt uncomfortably unfair.
I sat down next to him. “I know maybe I’m being a hypocrite here, but I really don’t want to see you unhappy.”
“I don’t want to see you unhappy, either.” He took my left hand and turned it back and forth looking at it. There were scars where I’d been burned by Megaton’s illegal pyrotechnics. “Can you live without me?”
I tried to pull my hand away, then, thinking he was–what–asking for permission to leave me?
He held fast. “I mean, shit, Daron, I mean I…”
I recognized that panic. It was usually me who was saying the wrong thing and trying to dig myself out of a hole. “Say what you really mean, Zig.”
He was holding my hand with both of his. He sighed. “I said… on the phone… that there was something you could help me with.”
“Yeah…” I tried not to sound suspicious but I probably failed.
“I mean, I know you’re a free agent now.”
He meant like in sports. Free to sign with any team for the highest amount.
“I know you’ve got a lot going on, too. Soundtracks. Session work.”
I hadn’t actually done any session work in a while, but I was sure I could if I wanted, so I didn’t argue.
I shrugged like it didn’t matter.
“You wrote that song for Sarah,” he said, his tone suddenly accusatory, I guess because I was trying to shrug it off.
Or maybe because he was jealous? “She’s a friend,” I said, and it sounded exactly like it would have if he’d insinuated I was sleeping with her.
“And for all I know Remo Cutler’s going to put you in his back pocket one of these days and we’ll never see you again.”
When he put it that way, yeah, I was a lot busier and had a lot more prospects than a lot of “failed” rock stars. “What’s your point, Ziggy? I’m not going to sit at home crying in my beer? Of course, I’m not.”
He got up and paced restlessly to the window, staring at the lit-up pool and patio.
“What do you want Ziggy?”
He folded his arms like it was cold by the window, though I knew it wasn’t. “I know how this is going to look. I know how it’s going to sound. Please don’t go ballistic.”
“What? What are you going to ask me, Zig? What possible favor could I do for you at this point?” What the hell could he be thinking of asking me to do that he thought I would flip out over?
“You heard the on-air thing today.”
“Yeah.” And it had sounded fine, from what I remembered.
He turned to face me. “I need a guitar player.”
Oh. I had a moment of being stunned, merely because that wasn’t what I was expecting. Then I had a moment of anger and I knew why he’d asked me not to go nuts. But seriously: didn’t we just break up? What was the point of that if we were going to turn right around and, and… And then a second wave of ire swept through me: from Ziggy’s point of view this would be all the advantages of being in a band with me with none of the disadvantages.
Put a simpler way: now he’d be the boss.
I forced myself to be calm, though. I tamped everything down. And then I tried to say something, but what came out was, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
“I told you I know how it sounds, how it looks, but I swear, this wasn’t about you and me.” He made a gesture with his hands like passing dishes back and forth between us. “This wasn’t about creative control or anything. I swear. I wasn’t trying to take the band away from you and I wasn’t trying to grab the reins.”
“But that’s how it turns out.”
“The guy I’ve got now, he’s okay. But he’s not you.”
I was not acquitting myself well, I know. “I’m sure he’s nowhere near as good in bed.”
Ziggy’s eyes flared. “Maybe I should find out.”
“If I don’t take the job, and even if I do, I’m sure you will.”
“I wouldn’t, if you–”
“So now you’ll blackmail me into working for you by threatening to fuck this asshole if I’m not there?”
“You’re the one who brought it up!” Ziggy lost it right there. Lost it.
I hadn’t really meant to push him that far. I hadn’t really meant to do anything in particular, though. I was just arguing because I was hurt and angry. It was kind of startling to realize that Ziggy could be pushed to the point where that’s all he was doing, too, where he could lose sight of his motives and just react.
I understood that blow up we had at the Carlyle Hotel better, then. I took a deep breath. “You said you’d stop. For my sake. Was I an idiot to think when you said that we had more going for us then than.. than… co-workers?”
He made a face like he tasted something really bitter — yeah, my vitriol. “Relationship trumps business, huh? Then maybe I wasn’t an idiot for thinking we had enough going for us that when I fucked up I could expect a little forgiveness and a little support from you.”
“We’ve been over that,” I said. “You would’ve had all the support in the world if you’d called me a few days earlier.”
He stared at the carpet then, literally downcast. “Then you don’t forgive me.”
It was dawning on me for the first time, really, that it was a problem that our work-love relationship was so inextricably tangled. “Is the only way for me to show I forgive you to come work for you?”
He let out a long sigh. “I don’t know. I… I don’t know.”
We looked at each other for a long time, then. I don’t know what was going through Ziggy’s mind but I know I was trying to come up with a way to get us back to some kind of an understanding. Right then, though, I felt like we’d said everything that could be said and where we’d ended up was, to say the least, not on the same page. I was reminded of some times with Jonathan, where we’d both meant well, but we’d ended up miles apart.
“I don’t want to fight,” I said. “I don’t know what else to say.”
Ziggy came and sat next to me again. “I don’t want to fight either.”
“Maybe you should go home.”
He slid a hand onto my shoulder. “Maybe you should rage-fuck me first.”
I opened my mouth to protest but he hurriedly added, “You promised.”
His hand on my neck, behind my ear, felt fever-hot. Other parts of me were heating up in response. How did he know me so well? And was that a good thing? “I was kidding,” I said weakly.
“No, you weren’t,” he whispered, leaning back, pulling me forward…
If fucked him right there on the couch. He wasn’t the first man I’d fucked on that couch, you know? Maybe I lack imagination, but I think this time was a lot like one time between me and Jonathan. Maybe it was just that there was one logical way to avoid having to go into the other room to get the lube. I described what we’d done in the bedroom as hammer-and-tongs sex. I didn’t think it through: this was much more hammers-and-tongsy than that. No condom.
He screamed my name, not when he came, but when I did.
When we were done, I could barely move. I felt completely wrung out. Physically, emotionally, you name it.
“What happens now?” I asked him.
Ziggy snorted, a euphoric smile on his face. “Now, we clean the couch.”
See, we agreed on something.
(Is everyone enjoying the Wattpad re-read? It’s pretty amazing how far Daron has come…! Remember to upvote the chapters there and please comment over there, too! -ctan)