Jonathan picked up the phone. "Hello?"
"Hey," came a familiar voice. "Wanna get together?"
Jonathan frowned. Get together? Why now? They hadn't spoken in over a year and their last conversation hadn't exactly been a pleasant one. "Uhhh....."
"Come on, Jay," Steve said. "I just want to talk. I've already talked to Neal and he thinks it's a good idea."
Jonathan's eyebrows rose almost to his hairline. He'd talked to Neal? And Neal had agreed?? Whoa. He shrugged. "Sure, why not," he said. If Neal had agreed to it, it couldn't be that bad, right? Besides, it was just Steve. What could happen?
Steve gave Jonathan the address to the coffee shop, then called Neal. "Hey."
"Perry?! What the fuck do you want?"
"I thought we could get together," he said. "Have a cup of coffee. Discuss old times."
"What the fuck? Listen, if you think I'm letting you drag me into..."
"I won't try to drag you anywhere," Steve said with a secret smile. "Promise."
"Dammit, I'm not gonna-"
"Oh, come on," Steve interjected, trying to hide his impatience. "I've already talked to Jonathan and he thinks it would be a good idea."
There was a pause while Neal considered it. Then there was a sigh. "Fine. But I don't want any press or anything."
"Now, Neal. You know me. I'm a very private person. We won't be disturbed. Trust me."
Steve drove the red Ford Escort toward the local high school. Tiny ass car, he thought. Damned if I ever rent a little bubble like this again. The school was out of his way, but he didn't think he'd find anyone suitable at the coffee shop. When he got there he saw the usual group of ditchers - the stupid variety who chose to cut class just outside school property rather than actually go somewhere. One group, two boys and a girl, were right on the school's front lawn. They were sitting underneath a tree, near a patch of large, decorative stones.
Steve stopped the rental in front of the kids and rolled down the window. Their laughter stopped abruptly and they looked at him with suspicion. Steve put on his most charming smile. "You look bored. Shouldn't you be in class?"
"Screw you, old man," one of the boys said. His companions cheered him on.
Steve's smile didn't waver. "If I were avoiding class, I'd find something to do. Get a job or something."
"Go get one, then, and leave us alone," the girl responded.
"Oh, I have one," Steve said, still smiling. The kids were starting to look a little creeped out. "Say... you wanna make a buck?"
The kids shifted from foot to foot, obviously trying to figure out what the deal with the weird old guy was. Steve just sat there, smiling away. My face is gonna freeze like this... Finally, the other boy grabbed one of the stones beside him and approached the car. "What do you want?"
"Get a couple more of those rocks, son," Steve counseled. "You're gonna need 'em."
Neal stalked into the coffee shop and looked around. He caught sight of Jay sitting alone at a table out of sight of the windows. No sign of Perry. He went over to Jay's table and took a seat. "What's up?"
Jay shrugged. "Didn't say. Just said he wanted to talk to us."
He shrugged again. "Why should I be?"
Neal noticed that he hadn't said no. "No reason," he replied. "Guess we'll just wait and see."
Neal fiddled with the sugar and made pyramids out of the cream, never one to sit still for more than a few seconds. Jay made small talk and half way discussed a couple new songs he wanted to try out on Steve. Maybe they would make it to the album, if ever they started to record the damn thing.
Finally, Perry showed up, limping along with the aide of a thick wooden cane. He was dressed in a black suit - trying to be inconspicuous, Neal guessed. Though how he thought that would work with his shiny, ass-length hair flowing freely behind him instead of put into a tasteful ponytail was beyond Neal's comprehension. Bastard. "Hi guys," he said when he reached their table. "Sorry I'm late."
"No problem," Jay said. Neal just glared, not in the mood to be gracious.
"Have you been waiting long?" Perry asked, sitting down.
"Not long," Jay replied.
"What do you want to talk about?" Neal asked.
Perry didn't answer. Instead, he flagged down a waiter and ordered a large cup of black tea. "Guys?" he asked with a playful smile. "Can I buy you a drink?"
Neal rolled his eyes and looked at the waiter. "Coffee," he said curtly. "Black. And make sure it's hot when it gets here."
"Bring me your almond mocha cappuccino, please," Jay said.
"Oh my God, you're such a princess," Neal jeered as the waiter walked away.
"What?" Jay cried indignantly.
"He's right, you know," Perry said. "And it's not every day that the two of us agree on something."
Jay chuckled. "You got that right."
Neal frowned. He was right. They didn't get along. Hadn't for a long time. Neal wanted to know the reason for Perry's sudden show of friendship. "What was it you wanted to talk about?" Neal asked again.
Perry looked up. "Hm?"
"Why did you call us here?!"
Instead of answering, Perry looked down at his watch. "Well, fellas," he said slowly. Then, so slightly that Neal might not have noticed had he not been looking directly at him, Perry cocked his head as if he were listening for something.
Just then there was a crash, followed immediately by the blare of multiple car alarms. Everyone jumped and checked their keys. "Fuck!" Neal shouted.
"Aw, shit," moaned Jay.
"Maybe it's somebody else's," Steve said hopefully. "I mean, everyone's alarm just went off, right?"
"Maybe," Neal said. "But I'm gonna go check."
"I'll come with you," Jay offered.
Neal headed for the door, followed by Jay. Perry trailed behind, hindered by the cane. Neal supposed it might be nicer to wait for him, but he refused to slow down. A few other people had come out on a similar mission, but they all looked pretty relieved. Neal grew discouraged when he saw a group of people standing around where he knew he'd parked his car. "Lemme through." He shoved his way through the crowd until he reached his car. "FUCK!" The windshield had been shattered. There was glass everywhere. Inside the car, he could see what the fuckers had used to fuck up his car. A big white rock was in the driver's seat.
"God damn it!" Jay was scowling at his own car, parked only a couple spaces away from Neal's. His windshield was in a similar state. "Who would DO something like this?"
"Aw, jeez," said Perry, finally having caught up. "Oh, look at that! Guys, I feel awful about this. Really! I had no idea something like this would happen. It's usually such a safe neighborhood!"
Neal turned to him, ready to chew him out for dragging them out here. Before he could start his tirade, Jay said, "It's not your fault. How could you know anything like this would happen?" Neal rolled his eyes. Trust Jay to take the forgiving route.
"I still feel bad about it," Perry said. "I mean, it never would have happened if I hadn't asked you to come."
"No it wouldn't," Neal said in a clearly audible whisper. Jay gave him that you-should-be-ashamed look, but Neal was too pissed to care.
"Listen," Perry continued, ignoring Neal. "The least I could do is pay for the damages. I know a guy who practically specializes in windshield repair. Let's see," he mumbled. "I've got a business card somewhere." He started searching his pockets. He pulled his wallet out and dropped it but continued to pat himself down anyway as if he were still looking for it. Neal saw a girl dart out of the crowd and dive for the wallet. He was about to warn Steve, but figured it would serve him right if she took it. Before the girl could get the wallet, a young man standing next to Perry picked it up. Glaring, the girl snatched the wallet from him. To Neal's surprise, rather than taking off with her prize, she tapped Perry on the shoulder.
Perry looked up, startled, having missed the entire scene. "You dropped this, mister," the girl said.
"Why thank you," Perry said, giving her the brightest of smiles. "What a sweet young lady to help me that way! Here's a reward." He pulled out several bills and gave them to her. She took them and counted them before nodding and walking away. Neal was puzzled by the exchange, but before he could pinpoint why, Perry was talking again. "Damn. It's not in here." He looked up. "Hey Neal, Jay. I don't have the number with me. Why don't we stop at my place and I can call from there?"
"Christ," Neal sighed. This was all turning out to be more trouble than he'd bargained for. "Fine, let's go," he said curtly. "Where are you parked?"
Steve let them into the bubble car - Jay in the passenger seat, Neal in the back - explaining to them that his Mercedes was in the shop. They rode in silence for a few minutes. Then Jay spoke. "So what was it that you wanted to talk to us about?"
Steve shifted in his seat. He hadn't actually thought up anything to tell them. "It wasn't important," he muttered.
"It damn well better have been, after what happened to my car," Neal snapped. "So spill it. What the fuck do you have to say?"
Steve's temper flared. "Nothing," he snapped back. "I just wanted to get you to my house so I could fuck you both up the ass!"
"Whoa-kay," Jay said with a nervous chuckle. "Well, um, Steve, I, uh, I really appreciate you offering to pay for the damage to our cars." He smiled like the idiot he was, obviously trying to break the tension.
Steve forced himself to calm down. He wanted to save his energy for what was to come. "No problem," he said to Jay. Then, to curtail further conversation, he turned the radio on. They went the rest of the way letting the music fill in the silence between them. When they reached the house, Steve got out, retrieved his cane and went into the house. He checked the house carefully to make sure everything was in order, then limped back to the doorway and beckoned to them to come in.
Jay stepped out. "What's wrong?"
"I can't find the number," he said. "I know I have it somewhere, but it might take a few minutes. You two might as well wait inside where it's comfortable." Steve went back inside and waited for them. In a moment, Jay came in and shut the door. "Where's Neal?" Steve asked.
"He said he wanted to wait in the car."
Steve scowled. His patience had just reached an end. "I don't have time for this shit," he said.
Quick as thought, Steve lifted his cane and cracked Jonathan over the head with it. The blonde man fell to the floor with a thud. Steve dragged him to the living room, then stalked out toward the car. Neal had moved to the driver's seat and was playing with the radio. Steve scowled. Not only had Neal been rude about his offer to pay for the damage to the windows (never mind Steve had paid to have it done in the first place), but he'd been an asshole all the way out here and now the bastard was in his seat fucking with his radio stations!
Steve walked quietly to the driver's side and tapped the door with his cane. Neal jumped and looked up. "Jesus, what are you trying to do, give me a heart attack?"
Steve reached over the steering wheel, pulled the keys out of the ignition and put them in his pocket. "Get out," he said.
"What the...?!" Neal looked at him like he was crazy. "No!"
Steve gripped his cane in both hands like a barbell and glared. "Don't make me hurt you," he said softly.
Neal blinked, then hastily rolled up the window. "Fuck that! What the fuck is your problem?"
Steve sighed and shook his head. "I was hoping it wouldn't come to this," he said. "This is a rental." There was enough time for Neal to look confused before Steve slammed the cane against the window.
"Holy shit! What the fuck are you doing?!"
Steve struck the window three more times before it shattered. Neal was scrambling over the gears to reach the other door. Dropping the cane, Steve reached in and yanked him back by his shirt. He clutched at Neal's hair, but his hand slipped. "Goddamn fucking hair grease," he snarled. He grabbed the panicking guitarist by the back of his neck and slammed his head onto the steering wheel. Neal was dazed but not unconscious. Good. It would be easier to make him walk than to have to drag him into the house. He pulled Neal's head closer and whispered in his ear. "Don't fight me."
Steve opened the door and pulled Neal out of the car. He stood shakily and Steve supported him until they got inside. Then Steve shoved him to the floor, turned and went back for his cane. When he came back, Neal had moved. He was on his knees, edging toward the door. Steve backhanded him with the cane, sending him sprawling to the floor. "If you try that again, I'll break your fuckin' nose," he said calmly. Then he walked to the kitchen, fixed two glasses of ice water and returned to Neal. "Thirsty?" Neal looked more frightened than Steve had yet seen him. Perfect. Steve smiled sweetly. "C'mon, Neal. It's not drugged, I promise."
Neal nodded, holding out a shaking hand for the glass. Steve gave it to him. "Th-thanks," Neal said dryly.
Steve watched him drink, waiting until Neal drained the glass completely. Then he laughed. Neal looked at him quizzically and Steve shook his head. "I can't believe you," he said, still smiling.
"What?" Neal asked nervously.
Steve set his own full glass down and walked toward Neal until he was within inches of him. He took Neal's glass, looking pointedly at it before staring down at him in disdain. "After all that, you actually believed me."