"Would you get your feet off of me, Theo?" Stacey yelled, shattering the stillness of the early morning drive. Brady looked up from his seat in the far back and saw Theo reluctantly withdraw his feet from the column that rested between the driver seat and the passenger seat. Stacey was glaring at Theo and Theo just shrugged and bowed his head again to get more sleep. Stacey grumbled and rolled over in the passenger seat as she tried to get more sleep herself.
It was Jack's turn to drive again, though Brady would take his turn behind the wheel as soon as they stopped. It had been nearly twenty-four hours since they had dropped Silas off in Colorado, and through driving nonstop they were just about to cross the border into Wyoming. Brady hadn't expected Drake's leaving to be as hard as it had been, but he had found it difficult to sleep knowing that a friend would be struggling to find a place to sleep.
"Jackie, when are we going to stop for a bite to eat?" Brady asked as his stomach growled. "I'd like to get something before we switch over and I start driving. Keep that in mind will you when you're looking for a place to stop?"
"Braids, you worry too much, have I ever let you down?" Jack asked with a casual laugh.
"Of course. Numerous times," Brady replied without hesitation. Jack's laughter ended abruptly and Brady felt Jack watching him through the rearview mirror. "But don't worry, Jackie, I don't hold it against you. We're like brothers, and we do that."
"So what can I do for you, Braids?" Jack asked.
"All I'm saying is that I'd like to have some real food. I'm sick of eating gas station food," Brady replied with a shrug. "I'd like to have something substantial."
Jack chuckled softly and said, "You've got it, Braids. I won't let you down this time."
"I know you won't, Jack," Brady replied, purposefully using Jack's real name.
Jack didn't miss the reference, though he didn't make any mention of it. Brady knew that Jack would catch the meaning behind it, too. He would know that Brady was bothered by something that he wanted to discuss with Jack in private, and Jack would wait until a time when the two of them could be alone before he pressed the issue. It was their signal, and it had been ever since the fourth grade when they had become friends.
Brady wasn't sure exactly what he wanted to talk about, but he knew his emotions were complicated. He kept thinking about Drake, or Silas … No, Silas would never be his name to Brady. Drake was a much stronger band name, and even though Silas had only been with them for a few weeks he had felt like a member of the band, and he knew that the feeling had been shared by the others.
No one had really talked about what had happened after Silas had walked away. They had simply gotten back into the van and driven off. It had felt the way it always did after a performance. Silas had asked him about that once; the reason why Brady never spoke after a performance until he had put all of his equipment away. He had to let the music settle and come down from the high of performing.
Jack was the front man of the band. He was the singer; Theo played bass, and Stacey was their guitarist. Brady and Jack had been friends since the third grade, best friends since fourth, and they had met both Theo and Stacey in high school. Ironically Theo and Stacey had been dating at the time, though there had been even more drama between them while they were dating than there was now, and that seemed hard to beat.
When they had broken up it had nearly torn the band apart, especially once Jack started dating Stacey, but things were smoothed over quickly with Brady at the center. He had pleaded with all of them to talk it out rather than letting their beautiful partnership fall apart. They had agreed to play one more show, at the local battle of the bands, but had also agreed that if they didn't take first place then the band was done.
Brady had gone to each one of them in private and had told them how much he wanted the band to succeed, and had gotten each one of them to agree individually that they would play their best and really give it a shot. When Brady had gotten on that stage and made eye contact with each of them he had felt so sure of their success that he didn't bother to say anything else. He could see it in their eyes that no matter how much pain they had all caused each other they wanted the band to succeed. He shut his mouth and played his heart out, channeling all of his emotions from the few weeks before into his drumsticks.
It had been bliss. It had been a release like nothing he had ever felt before; better than even sex. He had played harder than he had ever played before, and the other band members had followed his lead. When they were done playing and the crowd was roaring, he looked at Jack, Theo, and Stacey and all three were panting like they had just run a race, and they were looking at each other as companions that had endured some great ordeal together. They knew then that they were inseparable, and all of the things they had been through were nothing compared to what they could accomplish if they stayed together.
That moment was frozen in his memory as strong as anything from his childhood and anything since. He could still see it. The way that Theo was holding his bass like it was his child which had just come out of a sickness, the way the sweat dripped off of Jack's forehead and onto his hand which still held the microphone as he looked back at Brady. The way Stacey was watching the crowd as if the cheering fans were angels, greeting her as if she had finally arrived at the gates of heaven. It was a moment of perfection.
After that night, they had decided that after graduation they would go on tour, and nothing had kept them from that dream. They had been touring for seven months and loving almost every minute of it but Brady had always tried to recapture that moment; he played as hard as he could at every performance, possessed by that perfect memory. And when each performance was finished he would reflect on it, let the memory go quietly as he returned to the present.
He hadn't come across another moment that felt as real until the time that they said goodbye to Silas. That was what was bothering him, and as soon as he realized it he hit his forearm against the side of the van in frustration, hard enough to get Jack's attention. It wasn't enough for Jack to give him any more than a worried glance and Brady was glad for that. He would want to talk about it as soon as they were alone, but not any sooner.
They had picked Silas up after their show in Salt Lake City. Silas had been walking past the small club they had been playing at and had jumped in to help them put their stuff in the van. When they thanked him he asked for a ride. Brady had seen something in him then, but the decision was almost always Jack's. Jack had looked to Brady when Silas had asked, and Brady had nodded to him slightly. The entire exchange had taken less than a second, and though Theo had grumbled about having two more bodies in the van Silas had been added to the crew without a second thought from Jack.
"Brady," Jack said softly, "There's a town coming up in ten miles. Sign says they have an IHOP. Will that do?"
"Yeah," Brady sighed. "That'll do. How about we don't wake up the others and tell them we wanted to let them rest." He asked hopefully.
Jack glanced at Stacey who was snoring softly in her seat. "I don't think that will be a problem. We should be able to get a half an hour or so before Theo notices we're gone."
Brady chuckled softly and looked out the window, watching the scenery go by. He had ten miles to figure the rest of it out. Ten miles to sort through three weeks of late night conversations with the most intriguing boy he had ever met.
"French toast platter with scrambled eggs," the waitress said and Brady nodded, gesturing to the empty space on the table in front of him. The aroma of the cinnamon and egg that entered his nose was one of the finest things he had ever smelled. It was far better than stale taquitos from a gas station, that much was certain. The coffee, although certainly not of much higher quality than that served at a gas station, was almost as welcome as the food. He was going to be driving and he'd rather be as awake as possible before he took the wheel.
"Strawberry crepes, side of sausage," the waitress said as she set the plate down in front of Jack. Jack winked at the waitress who eyed his green Mohawk and laughed nervously before sliding her empty tray under her arm and looking at Brady again. "Could you use a refill on your coffee?" She asked.
"Yes, please," Brady said, and the waitress left to get a pot of coffee. Brady then turned back toward Jack as he picked up a piece of bacon and took a bite. "Jack," he said when he was done chewing. "We need to talk about Drake."
"Silas?" Jack said with a raised eyebrow, "What's to talk about?"
"You can't tell me that all the time he spent with us meant nothing," Brady said, rolling his eyes as he reached for the syrup to add to his French toast. He inhaled the sweet maple scent as he opened the pitcher and then licked his lips.
"Of course not!" Jack replied, clearly offended by the comment as he stopped moving his knife and fork that were cutting the crepe in front of him. "You were there when we said goodbye to him. That was one of the most emotional days we've all spent together."
"Then how come we haven't talked about it since then?" Brady countered as he began slicing into his own meal. "I mean, I know why I haven't, but why have the three of you not mentioned him once?"
"Why don't you tell me why you haven't, and then maybe I can answer that," Jack replied with a self-satisfied smirk before shoving a piece of crepe into his mouth. His face displayed how delicious the food was, or at least how it tasted after weeks of eating complete junk. "I'm sorry, Braids," Jack said with food still in his mouth. "You were right, we should have stopped for real food a long time ago."
Brady smiled as he finished chewing on a piece of toast and then lifted a bit of his scrambled eggs onto his fork before replying, "that aside, it felt like a performance. It felt like the way I do after we play. I couldn't talk about it because I had given so much of my emotion over to Drake while he was with us, and I had to take the time to come down from that high."
"I think I finally know what you're talking about, Brady," Jack said thoughtfully. "I honestly had hoped that Drake would come with us. That boy doesn't deserve to be alone; I thought he liked being with us. I was kind of hurt that he was able to walk away so nonchalant, though… I know he wasn't intending to hurt any of us, and I also know it wasn't easy."
"No, it wasn't," Brady agreed. "You could see it in his eyes when he walked away. He wanted to stay, but something made him want to run. It's sort of like how we can never play the same performance twice."
"How do you figure?" Jack asked before he took a sip of his orange juice. Brady paused to thank the waitress as she arrived and topped off his coffee, and only when she was gone again and he stuffed a forkful of eggs into his mouth did he stop to consider Jack's question.
"We, as musicians, know that no two shows are the same," Brady said slowly. "We live for the thrill of playing in front of a crowd. We live for the feelings we derive from the cheers of people who hear us play and love what we do. But the cheers are different in Salt Lake City than they are in Denver, or in Boise. Music changes with culture, we've learned that and I think it's great."
"And what does that have to do with Silas?" Jack asked.
"He was hurt sometime in his past, I mean, of course he was or he wouldn't be living on the streets, but it was more than that. He was hurt by people close to him, that he thought he could trust. He doesn't know yet that every performance is different," Brady paused and looked up to meet Jack's eyes. "He expected us to hurt him like he was hurt before, and so he had to leave."
Jack nodded slowly before returning his attention to his food. Brady did the same and they ate in silence for several minutes as they each considered what had happened. Brady knew he was right. He had sensed it in Silas early on, at least at a subconscious level. Silas had a lot of pain in him, and he couldn't trust anyone because that pain served as a wall between him and everyone else.
"Brady, I've got to ask you something serious," Jack said as he looked out the window, watching the van that he could see parked just outside. He was looking at Stacey, Brady realized. "Brady, do you have feelings for Silas?"
Brady leaned back and dropped his silverware and stared at Jack with his fingers drumming on the tabletop and his lips pursed in thought. It was an interesting question, and one he hadn't allowed himself to think about. "I don't know," Brady answered with a sigh. "It's possible, but I don't know for sure. He … he interests me, but he's also younger than me."
"Yeah, by a couple years," Jack said dryly. "That's hardly a difference at all. If you really think that's a problem than you don't know him as well as you think you do. That boy's got more maturity in him than I did at his age. Hell, he might have more maturity in him than I do now." Jack laughed and said, "I think you do. He had feelings for you, ya know."
Brady's eyes widened as he looked up at Jack who was grinning at him. "What are you talking about? I know he said he's gay but I don't think …"
"Your problem is that you think too much, Braids," Jack said with a chuckle, "If you stopped thinking for a moment and reached out with your heart, I'd bet that you'd find the truth."
Brady rolled his eyes and reached for his coffee as they heard the door to the van open and close. Theo was stretching on the side of the van and would soon join them inside, though probably not until Stacey woke up too and they talked about how Jack and he were having a private conversation again. Theo nodded at them and Jack waved, and Brady knew that the important information had been conveyed; they had been together long enough for that, and Theo would give them a few minutes before he came in.
"All right, so maybe I do like him. What of it?" Brady asked as he took a drink of his coffee and set it down, staring at Jack as if daring him to make a smart remark.
"I think it's about time you found someone worth loving, Brady," Jack said sincerely, "And that boy, Silas Drake, is probably the best chance you'll ever have because he was totally into you as well. You can't pass that up. If we drive all day and night I think we could find him. He looked like he was going to stay in that town for a while from the way he was eyeing those woods."
"He needs time alone," Brady said, shaking his head. "We can't go back for him yet. Besides, we've got that gig in Boise."
"Braids, if you think we can't get another gig like Boise then you're wrong. You know how we play. We're good, Braids. We're damn good. We can go back …" Jack trailed off as Brady shook his head firmly and leaned forward.
"No," Brady insisted. "You wanted me to get in touch with my heart, and I have. Trust me, Drake needs his time alone. We'll go back for him, but not yet."
"Brady, we know where he is right now. Are you sure you want to give him a chance to get away?" Jack asked with a raised eyebrow.
"What's that old line about if you love them let them go?" Brady asked with a sad smile. "I'm sure. We haven't seen the end of Silas Drake, and when he's ready we'll see him again. We have to trust the music, Jackie, and the performance isn't over yet."
Jack nodded and smiled as he dug into his crepes again. Brady turned toward the window where Theo and Stacey were standing next to the van and watching them. He waved them inside and then turned his attention to his own food as he waited for his friends to arrive. As cool as he was being, his heart was pounding in his chest as he considered how desperately he wanted to drive that van back in the direction of Crow's Lake, Colorado.
Silas needed love in his life, but it wasn't from him that he needed it; at least not yet. The time would come, and Brady would be ready. But for now there was one painful truth that he had to acknowledge and accept. He had to let Silas go.
Author's Note: The band is back. We haven't seen the last of them, but what role are they going to play in Silas' life?
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