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Category Archives: Inertia Stand

Bloody Drumsticks

The ratt-tatt-tatt of a machine gun was loud in the small apartment. Blood and guts splattered across the television screen. Mike swore, ducking to the side in his favorite chair narrowly dodging another zombie. One that looked surprisingly like Dragon. With the twist of his wrist and a twitch of his finger, he drew a pistol and blew Dragon-zombie’s head clean off its shoulders.

“Call him.” Crandall paced through Mike’s peripheral vision. Mike ignored him, tapping the game controller to reload as the next wave of zombies appeared from down the block.

“I’m not calling. Give him time to work.”

“We left there two hours ago.”

“In the middle of the night.”

“So?”

Mike sighed. He did not want to argue. It wouldn’t get either one of them anywhere but annoyed. Instead, he said nothing, opening fire on the next wave of zombies closing in on his position.

He heard Crandall snort, a too familiar sound that told Mike he wouldn’t be giving in so easily. When Crandall stepped back into his peripheral view – this time close enough to the television screen to interfere with Mike’s game with no warning – Mike decided it would be best to postpone his own distraction until Crank settled down. He hit pause, set the controller on the arm of the chair, and frowned up at his lover. He loved Crandall with every bit of his being, but sometimes – like tonight – he could be a huge pain in the ass. They both knew it, and they both knew that wasn’t going to change anytime soon. Still, the love was there, for both of them. It gave Mike patience.

“How about some music?” Mike sat still. If he couldn’t divert Crandall, he’d play on and do his best to ignore the man’s demands. “We could work on that new song.”

“You trying to get us kicked out of this shit hole?”

Mike closed his eyes and resisted another sigh of frustration. When he opened them he said, “Acoustic.”

Crandall crossed his arms tighter over his chest. He looked like he was trying to break his own ribs in a bear hug. Before he could object, Mike tried again. “Chris will do what he said he would do. So we can either pass the time with something enjoyable or we can argue about it. Do you really want to fight, Crank? Because it’s not going to get you an answer any sooner.”

Crandall’s scowl drifted into confusion momentarily, and then shifted into resignation. He dropped his arms to his sides and rolled his head around, loosening tense muscles. “It’s not a new song,” he said. “LP recorded it years ago, and we can’t do it acoustic tonight. I want the piano version. Just you on the piano, and me singing. You’ll sing Shinoda’s part.”

“I…” Mike tried to remember the song. My December. He couldn’t recall the lyrics, and while Crandall might’ve played the piano arrangement for him as some point, Mike was blanking on the tune. “I don’t sing.”

“Bullshit. I’ve heard you.”

“Not on stage.” He wasn’t sure why he was objecting. Mike liked to sing, but he liked creating music much more. He loved the power behind his drum set, and he enjoyed writing the rest of the music with Crandall. Crandall had always been the singer and had always written their lyrics – when they bothered to use their own songs. Just as often, Crandall picked out songs to cover. This was a first – asking Mike to not only play something besides his drums on stage, but to also lend his voice to the performance. He wished he could remember how much Linkin Park’s co-lead contributed to that particular song.

“Shit, Mike, you won’t have a lot of lines. Try it before you tell me off.”

Mike did sigh this time. “I’m not telling you off. I’m telling you—”

“That you’re chicken shit?”

With a laugh, Mike shook his head. “Alright. If it gets your mind off being a pain in the ass, I’ll work on this song tonight. We can decide whether it’s worthy of performance later.”

“It is.”

“I’m sure it is. I’m just not so certain that it will be after changing my role in all of this.”

He wasn’t sure Crandall heard his last objection. Crank had already walked out of the room, probably to grab his keyboard and sheet music. Just another one of his lovable quirks – when most people would’ve said “I’ll just grab my gear” before leaving, Crandall simply walked out of the room, knowing damn well if Mike thought about it, he’d know exactly where Crandall was going and why. So why announce it?

Yep, lovable. Or at least quirky.

Mike chuckled, smiling fondly as he got up to shut off his game. He’d sing tonight. For Crandall. But singing and playing the piano on stage? Well, maybe after Crandall pried bloody drumsticks out of Mike’s cold, dead hands.

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Do What?

Crandall belted out the last few words and ended on a long note that left him breathless. As he closed his lips he threw his head and arms back, basking in the adrenaline of the performance. There was no audience, but he didn’t need their applause. He only needed to sing with every ounce of his existence. He’d done exactly that. As always. As he needed each performance to be. Perfect. Beautiful. Like his soul flew above everything else, soaring on the high notes and drifting around the lows.

“Alright,” Jon said, interrupting Crandall’s peaceful conclusion. “I have shit to do. We good?”

Crandall snorted and rolled his eyes, but did so with his back still to the group. Jon had almost cancelled, so he should be – according to Mike – grateful that they got any time at all to practice tonight. He’d needed this. The songs buoyed him in a way he couldn’t understand and never tried to explain. It would do. He’d prefer to keep going, but he’d had plenty to hold him over. For now.

“Yeah, okay.” Crandall paced to a cheap glass ashtray sitting on Jon’s amp. He picked up a roach and took a long toke.

“When’s the next show?” Jon ducked as he lifted the strap of his guitar over his head. He bent over to settle the guitar in its protective case.

“Undetermined.” Crandall exhaled a long stream of smoke and handed the roach to Jon.

“Friday,” Mike said. “We’re invited to Blood Moon, if you’re all in.”

“No,” Crandall said.

“Sure,” Jon said at the same time.

“Why not?” Beryl rounded on Crandall, trapping him against Jon’s amp.

“Fuck off.” Crandall side-stepped his bassist and strode across the room.

“You’re outvoted.” Beryl could be a stubborn bitch sometimes.

Crandall turned around and pointed a finger at her. “I’m not going there, so plan an instrumental set.”

“Stop,” Jon said stepping between them. “Crandall, what’s wrong with Blood Moon.”

Crandall opened his mouth, but his promises prevented the words he wanted to voice. Fuck. Stupid secrets. He closed his mouth, glared at Beryl, and then shifted his angry gaze to Mike. “They owner is a fucking asshole.”

Mike shrugged as Jon glanced toward him. “He can be, but he pays well.”

“It’s a set,” Jon said, “and one of the better ones we’ve been to over the past couple of years.”

“It’s a damn good place.” Beryl shrugged out of the strap and set her bass against a speaker. “Don’t do this because you’re pissed at me.”

“It has nothing to do with you. Don’t be so fucking stuck up.”

Mike stepped out from behind his set, and Crandall tensed. Mike liked to play referee, and Mike wanted to play the gig. Crandall glared at him, locking in with his hardest stare. “Crank,” Mike said softly. He looked away, and then looked back. “It’ll be fine. It’ll be fun.”

Crandall continued to stare through Mike, but Mike wasn’t deterred. “I’m in,” Mike said softly.

“Fuck.” Crandall could feel the tiny muscles in his jaw twitching as he ground his molars together.

“So, we’re good?”

“No, we’re not good.” Crandall looked away. He hadn’t told Mike about Nica’s visit. “I’m not going back there.”

Mike sighed, had the nerve to look sad and frustrated.

“Nica stopped by while we were at the Crane. She insisted we play Friday night.”

“And?” Beryl didn’t get it. She wouldn’t. Even if he tried to explain it to her, which he had no interest in doing.

“C’mon, man, you don’t have to talk to the owners. We’ll show up, play our set, and then take off. You can avoid everyone else before and after.”

“Sure, it’ll happen that way.” Crandall snatched the joint from Jon and plopped down on a metal folding chair to take a drag.

“So, confirm?” Beryl pushed.

“We’ll figure it out,” Mike said. “Okay?” He met Crandall’s glare and nodded.

Crandall stared over his right shoulder. He shrugged, and then nodded once, curt and shallow. For Mike, yes. If it wasn’t so important to Mike, he’d avoid the place with every last ounce of willpower left his in body.

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2014 in Inertia Stand, music

 

Singin’ Linkin

Mike closed the guitar case and then sat on the sofa beside Crandall. They swapped giggle weed back and forth for several silent minutes, and when they finished, Crandall pushed up from the sofa and wandered down the hall to his bedroom. He returned with his keyboard.

“What are you up to?” Mike grinned. He felt good, fuzzy, and starting to crave junk food. Watching Crandall move kept Mike from heading for the kitchen.

Crandall answered by shoving sheet music between them.

“Linkin Park?” Mike glanced up from the papers.

“Yep.” Once Crandall set up the keyboard, he took the music back and set it on the rack of the machine. Without saying another word, he started to play My December. Sotto voce, he said, “You get the lyrics in parentheses,” and then he began to sing.

Mike loved the sound of Crandall’s voice. Turned sideways on the sofa, he leaned his shoulder against the back cushion, his entire focus on Crandall – his voice, his mouth, his expression, lost in the passion of singing. Mike could be there or not, and Crandall would put as much emotion into his practice as he could on stage.

Crandall held a long note, glanced at Mike, and then rolled his eyes. He stopped playing and waved a hand in front of Mike’s face. “Are you on this planet? You missed your line, asshat.”

“I like it,” Mike said. “Slower than the original, but Crank, this is piano music.”

“No shit.” Crandall pushed the keyboard stand aside. He stood and headed for the kitchen as he spoke. “There’s an old piano in storage at Blood Moon.” When he returned to the living room, Crandall had a hand in a bag of ruffled potato chips. Tucked under his elbow, he carried a container of horseradish bacon sour cream dip. “Just you, me, and the piano. Do you think you can learn the music?” He jutted his chin in the direction of the keyboard before setting the snack on the coffee table. As he peeled off the safety seal on the dip, Mike slid over into Crandall’s seat and picked up the sheet music.

“Yeah, I can handle this.” He looked up. “What about Beryl and Jon?”

“They get a break before the last song.” Crandall dropped down beside Mike. “It’ll be fucking awesome. You have a decent voice. We’ll bring the crowd down, nice and mellow, and then crank it up for the last song.” He cocked his head, a chip raised in front of his mouth. “Or…two songs.” He shrugged. “One or two. I’m undecided. What do you think?”

“I think Beryl will throw a fit.”

“Already told her.”

Mike raised an eyebrow. Crandall continued to eat, ignorant of his reaction.

“What, exactly, did you tell her?” Mike asked. He grabbed a handful of chips, and then dunked one in the dip.

“I told her she owed me for dinner on short notice, and I was taking it in a set change.”

“That worked?”

“I didn’t tell her what the change was. Her bad for not asking.”

Mike laughed, and then continued eating. Once his handful was gone, he said, “She’s going to object when she finds out.”

“It’ll be too late then.” Crandall’s matter of fact deliver didn’t faze Mike any more. “She’ll throw a fit, and I’ll remind her that she fucking agreed. Done, and fucking done.”

With a shake of his head, Mike reached for his beer and said, “It’s never that easy when you spring shit on her like that.”

“Don’t worry about it. You worry about your vocals cue, and learning the music.”

“Yeah, yeah, I got that, man.”

“Uh-huh, right. You blew it just now.” Crandall didn’t look as doubtful as he sounded.

Mike grinned. “I couldn’t help it. You’re too damn sexy when you’re singing.”

Crandall sighed. “It’s a wonder you can keep a beat at all if you’re that easily distracted.”

“Yeah, I know.” He leaned closer to Crandall, his lips near Crandall’s ear. “I look forward to a duet with you,” he said, each word causing his mouth to brush over the sensitive ridges of Crandall’s ear.

Crandall pushed him back. “How about now?”

Mike frowned. “You want to practice now?”

Crandall shook his head. “No, I want to sing a duet.” He snorted a short laugh. “You always call it singing, during sex.”

Mike’s frown turned into a grin, and he snaked an arm around Crandall’s waist. “I love the way you sing in bed.” He nuzzled Crandall’s neck, inhaling deeply. Crandall tilted his head away, and Mike took the invitation, nipping lightly as he tugged Crandall closer. Crandall groaned, and Mike whispered, “Sing for me, just like that.”

 

 
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Posted by on March 11, 2012 in Flirtations, Giggle Weed, Inertia Stand, music

 

Return to the Music

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.”

“No shit.”

“So?”

“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.”

 
 

Bad Temper

Crandall stopped dead in his tracks as if the slam of the door locked his muscles in place. It wasn’t the noise that froze him, however; it was the vampire sprawled lazily on the cheap green sofa of the dressing room. With his golden curls, unnaturally blue eyes, and a chiseled never-aging face, the vampire appeared to fit in with the musicians that flocked to the club while the power he exuded belied those youthful, carefree looks.

“Go away, Max,” Crandall said. He spat out the words. His body trembled with the attempt to resist the unease Max inspired by simply being in the same room. Crandall relied on the dressing room for sanctuary from the crowd. Panic darkened the edges of his vision, but not enough to hide the immortal grinning at him.

“What’s up?” Jon asked from the edge of the cloud closing in on Crandall. “You’ve met Max already?”

“Let me buy you that drink.”

Crandall gritted his teeth and turned to glare at Angelo. The vampire nodded at him as he put an arm around Jon’s shoulders. Angelo steered the musician toward the door, but Jon hesitated as they passed Crandall.

“Are you okay?” Jon asked.

Crandall pushed his tongue against the back of his teeth and drew in a deep breath through his nose. It did little to control the anxiety, but gave him enough of a pause to answer his friend. “Yeah, go get your drink. That bastard doesn’t give them away often.” His gaze darted between Angelo and Jon, and when Jon didn’t move to leave, Crandall added, “Max and I have business to discuss. Get out of here. It’ll be fucking boring.”

Jon clapped his shoulder and then left with the man he only knew as the owner of Blood Moon. As Jon left with a vampire, Crandall heard Mike’s voice behind him as he spoke briefly to Jon. Crandall remained still, his gaze focused on the remaining vampire, a Fang with strength that seemed to fill and overflow the room. A small quieted part of his mind questioned how Mike could be near the Immortale without feeling that oozing, murky molasses of their inner power. Cloying and vile, the air in the room hung heavily with the poison of Max’s presence.

“Hey, Crank,” Mike said, “good show.” Mike brushed a hand down Crandall’s spine. His touch evaporated the tension and budding panic in Crandall’s body and mind.

“Yeah,” Crank whispered. He sucked in another quick breath and smiled at Mike. “Thanks. I’d like this place if we could get rid of the fucking Fangs.”

With Mike’s fingers dancing along his back, Crandall’s thoughts turned toward what he’d like to do to blow off post-gig steam. He didn’t care what Max wanted, even if it meant getting rid of the mess called Judas. All he wanted was Mike, still sweaty, skin warmed with the workout of performing.

And then Max had to go and ruin the peace and carnal thoughts. One second he lounged on the sofa, arms spread wide across its back, and the next he stood beside them, a fang-bearing and none too friendly grin on his eternal face.

“Close the door,” Max said.

The words were quiet, but the weight of his authority nearly had Crandall turning to obey the order. Instead, Crandall wrapped his fingers around the head of the stake he wore on his belt whenever they performed at the club.

“Fuck you,” Crandall said. He jumped at the sound of the door closing behind him. As he spun around, Nica smiled, but her expression seemed subdued.

“Nicoletta has informed me of your ultimatum.”

Crandall spun back around to glare at Max. The vampire continued, either ignoring or unbothered by Crandall’s petulant mood.

“Normally, I’d tell you to stop making pointless demands, but your request intrigues me.” Max paused and opened an inviting arm. Nica’s smile returned, back to its normal brightness as she stepped into Max’s arm. He pulled her to his side, his tall, solid frame making her look even smaller than usual.

“Nicoletta is under my personal protection.” Max no longer smiled, but his stern expression more than made up for not showing his fangs behind a casual smile. “This means, if you’re stupid enough to cause her any harm, even Judas’s obsession with this prophecy will not protect you.”

“Max has a very bad temper,” Nica said solemnly. She slipped an arm around his waist and leaned her head against his chest, looking all the while like a smug child seeking protection from a bully in her father’s shadow.

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Up Next: After the Show

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Posted by on November 14, 2011 in Immortale, Inertia Stand, Nica, Relationships

 

Almost Agreement

Not until a month later, did Mike and Crandall figure out why the vampire dropped in on their training session. Inertia Stand had been invited to play at Blood Moon again, and Angelo had learned to extend the invitation to Crandall, to avoid argument about whether or not they’d play. Mike objected in the privacy of their apartment, and again at the Dancing Crane, but the rest of the band loved the club, and Beryl took great joy in reminding them that she dated a member of the house band, so nothing bad would happen to any of them… unless she got angry and Chaos wanted to avenge her honor, or some other such foolishness.

Crandall glowered at her as she primped in front of the cracked, unframed mirror leaning against a wall on a barely stable shelf. Once again, she threw around comments about her vampire boyfriend that she never suspected was, in fact, a real vampire, instead of just playing one on stage.

“Don’t threaten me, Beryl,” Crandall said. “That guy might be a bus, but if he starts shit with me, he’ll be hurting.” He fingered the stake at his hip as he spoke, a decoration he only wore for Blood Moon shows. Not that she cared one way or another.

Beryl laughed, loud. “You?” She chuckled and narrowed her painted eyes at him. “You think you can kick Chaos’s ass just because you play at kickboxing with Mike?” She shook her head and rolled her eyes. “Come up with a better one.”

“For someone getting laid regularly, you sure are a fucking bitch.”

“Okay, enough,” Mike said shooting up from his seat. He grabbed Crandall’s arm and dragged him toward the dressing room door. “We need to talk,” he said in low, growly syllables. “Privately.”

Crandall stumbled after him willingly, but only after throwing a pissed-off glare at Beryl’s back.

As soon as Mike shut the dressing room door Crandall demanded an explanation. “What the fuck, Mike? Since when are you our referee?”

With a shrug, Mike released Crandall’s arm, but his fingers lingered, tracing up Crandall’s biceps, as his gaze darted around the empty hallway, ensuring they were alone. As alone as they could get anyway; he knew Jackson stood guard just on the other side of the open doorway at the end of the hall. Jackson knew, of course, as did several of the other vampires, thanks to their first gig with Blood Moon. “Since I wanted to do this,” Mike said. He lifted the hand to Crandall’s chin, tapping it up as he leaned in to brush a light, warm kiss over his lips. He hummed a happy little sound and smiled.

“Good job, asshat,” Crandall whispered. The corner of his lips twitched up into a smirk. “You’re reinforcing the fighting.”

Mike chuckled and kissed Crandall again before letting his hand drop to his side. He straightened and cast a quick glance around. “You’re probably right, but it’s not like you two ever stop anyway.”

“Tell Beryl and Jon about us.”

The two men stared at each other for several seconds. Mike broke first, his gaze shifting first to the closed dressing room door, and then back over his shoulder to the still empty hallway.

“You know I can’t do that,” he said. His shoulders rolled forward and his gaze drifted toward the floor. He wanted to be as uncaring as Crandall about such things. He wished he could shrug off negative opinions as easily as Crandall called him an asshat for just about anything. But he couldn’t. He’d thought about it long and hard, and well before he kissed Crandall that first night. He simply couldn’t be “out and proud”, even though Crandall certainly didn’t embody that term either despite his loathing of secrets.

“They’re going to figure it out. When I don’t spend time with anyone else, they’re going to wonder. I might hate B, but she’s not going to fucking blab.”

“You don’t hate, Beryl.”

“Not the fucking point.”

“I didn’t want to tell Dragon.”

“Or Ash?”

Mike nodded. “Or Ash. This is private, Crank.” The flatness of his voice set a burn in his stomach. He wanted to and, at the same time, knew he couldn’t ever move forward with that need.

“You knew all along about Ash, but couldn’t trust him with your secret. That’s fucking lame, Mike. A big, fucking, lame ass, dumb attitude.”

“Trouble in paradise?” a soft but chipper voice asked.

Mike spun around, his posture stiff and defensive. Crandall stepped in front of him, between Mike and the diminutive, redhead. “Fuck off,” Crandall said.

Nica pouted. “Is that any way to treat a fan?”

“I don’t like groupies.” Crandall crossed his arms over his chest and stared ferociously at the wall beyond the vampire.

She waved, dismissing his anger. “Max would like to speak with you after the show.” She paused and took a breath, her gaze wandering from Crandall to Mike and back to Crandall, as if she had all the time in the world, and from what they knew about vampires, she probably did. “That means,” she said, “Don’t take off after your set, or you’ll tick him off.”

“What’s he want?”

“I don’t know. I’m not important enough to be a part of whatever has his panties in a knot.” She held a hand up, studying her manicure with practiced indifference. “So can I tell him you’ll be here?”

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Up Next: An Unlikely Ally

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Posted by on October 9, 2011 in Flirtations, Identity, Inertia Stand, Secrets

 

Alive On Stage

With a crash of cymbals, the song ended. Crandall prowled across the stage, Mike watching him — one side to the other and back again — while the crowd cheered with cat calls and screams. Like a panther stalking through the jungle, proud and confidant, Crandall worked the crowd with nothing more than a sweaty sway of his body and an amused expression somewhere between exhaustion and elation.

Mike dropped his chin to his chest, loose tendrils of hair falling around his face and hiding his smile. Crandall was a different person on stage. His strength, the power of his voice, he could play the rock star as easily as he could shoot out stinging insults when cornered into being social against his will. More recently, Mike noticed that same strut showing in bed. Not the pacing on the stage, of course, but the confidence and the knowledge that he held the audience in the palm of his hands. Not that Mike objected to being wrapped around Crandall’s little finger – not one bit. He’d never been anything but dominant in his one night stands before Crandall, but with his long-time crush eager to get him naked on a nightly basis, Mike contently gave up control and enjoyed every moment of surrender to Crandall’s demands.

His eyes drifted shut, but after a brief respite, they snapped open and he shot to his feet. To cover his reaction, Mike stretched, lifting his arms over his head and then stretching from one side to the other. As he did, he focused on Crandall, listening to him as he scanned the crowd for a reaction. He silently wished him to move on to the next song, but knew his singer well enough to recognize his warped concept of working the crowd.

“The vampires are still here,” Crandall said. The crowd cheered. Crandall patted the stake holstered at his hip. “I’m ready for one or two, but did you know there are more than thirty of them in this room?” As Crandall turned at the end of the stage, he glanced at Mike and grinned wickedly. He winked before turning back towards the audience, the microphone lifted to his lips. “You like those blood-sucking Fangs, don’t you?”

Beryl stepped into his path as he continued to talk about vampires, from staking them, to how they must use a fuck-ton of cologne to hide the dead, decaying smell of their pathetic existence. If he hadn’t been worried about Crandall pushing some beast over the edge, Mike might’ve laughed at a couple of his jokes.

“Get on with it,” Beryl said when Crandall stopped short to avoid running into her.

“Beryl Peale!” Crandall waved at her and stepped back to center stage. The crowd erupted on cue and, after a flashing dirty look at Crandall promising pain later, Beryl turned to face the audience and played a quick, violent riff across her four-strings.

Drifting closer to the drum set, Crandall grinned at Mike, his back to the audience. “Back off on the vampire stuff, Crank,” Mike said. He hadn’t noticed any of them chomping at the bit, but he didn’t want to risk pushing them to that point. Not here. Not tonight.

“Don’t worry. With Beryl fucking one, we have extra protection.”

Mike scowled. “What does that mean?”

“Get fucking on with it.” Beryl pushed Crandall as she stepped up next to him. “We’re paid to play, not harass the crowd.”

“Yes, ma’am, my dear fucking pain in the ass.” Crandall bowed at the waist and then flipped her his middle finger. He spun around. Into the microphone, he shouted, “Are you ready for some more?”

The crowd cheered and Crandall slung an arm around Jon. The guitarist looked as surprised as Mike at the contact, but he leaned into Crandall and started the intro on his guitar. Even on stage, that was unusual for Crandall, so much that Mike nearly missed his cue staring at his singer, still hanging off of Jon.

The rest of the set passed with no troubles and a lot of support from the crowd, both vampire and human. Mike held his breath at one point when Crandall stood on the edge of the stage singing and reaching out to the crowd. He grabbed the hand of the little redheaded vampire that had invited herself backstage before the show. Mike winced, but Crandall quickly pulled back and put stage between him and the crowd, not missing a word of the song. He didn’t know what she wanted, but Mike knew enough to distrust that pretty face and sweet, not quite innocent smile.

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Up Next: Headliners

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Posted by on February 6, 2011 in Crandall, Inertia Stand, Mike