Sitting cross-legged on the floor, his cherry red guitar with black flames balanced on one thigh, Mike scrawled some notes in a notebook beside his thigh. He tucked the pen behind his ear and strummed the new arrangement. With a noisy sigh of protest and disgust, he set the guitar aside and ripped the page out of the notebook, crumpling it into a ball. Lyrics were not his thing. Crandall, despite his aversion to talking, had a gift for lyrics. He could take Mike’s half-baked ideas and run with them until they were worthy of being screamed out by the fan girls that attended their show just for him. Mike checked his phone. He’d texted Crandall when he realized he’d left The Dancing Crane early, and then again when Ash and Dragon suggested they proceed without him. Crandall hadn’t answered either message.
Mike had flattened out the torn page and resumed his struggle with finding the right words for his music by the time Crank stormed through the door and threw his keys on a stand beside the coat rack. He breezed past Mike. From the kitchen sounds drifted to Mike: the fridge opening and closing, a drawer sliding open and then being slammed shut, and the tink-tink-tink of a bottle cap bouncing across the floor. Crandall appeared in the doorway between the kitchen and the living room, drinking as he walked.
“Where have you been?” Mike asked.
Crandall snorted and glared past Mike. “Beryl caught me on the way to a call. The bitch dragged me out for dinner. What a miserable three hours. I’d rather let Ash knock the shit out of me all afternoon.”
Mike frowned; he couldn’t help it. Even if he didn’t have a constant boner for Crandall, he’d always hated what their bassist did to him. The two of them were hot and cold with their friendship. Some days, Crandall seemed content, but others he returned home ready to spit fire and shit daggers.
“You have to stop, man. What could possibly go right by you two going out now.”
“So it was easier than fighting with her over not going.”
Mike laughed. “When you fight you get a week of the silent treatment. I’d think that would be worth it, but Crank, does she want to… did you…?” His smile had faded with his words. Sure, Crandall had to stay friends with her, keep on her good side, but he had to draw a line somewhere. If she tried to sleep with him…
Shit, Mike frowned at the jealousy over what was likely nothing at all.
“She did offer,” he said. “I resisted telling her I was getting better later tonight.”
Mike’s grin returned, openly leering at Crandall as he walked past to sit on the sofa. Once he sat, Crandall said, “Do you always do that?”
“What?” Mike’s gaze snapped up to meet Crandall’s hard glare.
“Stare at my ass when I’m not looking?”
Busted. He almost denied it. Mike licked his lips and said, “Yes, I do. It’s a fine ass.”
Crandall slid to the edge of his seat and grabbed the papers at his feet. Music was their second favorite distraction, but Mike wasn’t ready to change the subject just yet. He tried to take the notebook, but Crandall held it out of his reach, reading the torn page.
“I don’t feel like writing,” Crandall said tossing the notebook back on the floor. He twisted to open a drawer in the end table and pulled out a small box. “Let’s smoke ourselves silly.”
Mike strummed a few chords, pretending to think on it. He wanted to work on some new songs but he knew – as Crandall must as well – that Mike wouldn’t deny Crandall something so simple as a night of getting stoned. Getting stoned and fucking like dogs. He hugged the guitar to his chest.
“Yeah, sure, but hey, Crank, we should talk about Judas.”
“I trust you. Whatever you guys decided I’ll do.” He rolled a joint between his lips unlit.
“It’s not that easy. When we decide on a strategy you’ll need to know what’s going on. These vampires are tough to get a jump on as it is, and Judas, we haven’t seen him without at least a couple of others. We’ll have to be perfect when we go after him.”
“I’ll give them your number,” Crandall said and flipped his lighter open. “Since you have the plan, you can arrange the play date.”
Mike frowned. He picked up the papers scattered around him and handed them to Crandall in exchange for the joint. “Take another look,” Mike said. “I want to change up our set.”
Crandall hummed chords without singing the words Mike had sketched out. Once Mike took a long toke, Crandall traded the pages for the joint.
“Is it that bad?” Mike set the pages on the coffee table, and then shifted to his knees to put the guitar in its case, using the work to avoid looking at Crandall while he judged Mike’s first attempt at writing music since Crandall ended up in the hospital, a hunter from the bite of a vampire.
“I can work with that. Tomorrow.”
“Fine,” Mike smiled, but his hair hung over his face hiding it from Crandall. He wasn’t as rusty as he’d thought. “Tomorrow will work.”