First, find the gift horse
Nate stood outside the place where his brother lived, looking around, waiting for him to answer the door, cold and anxious and apprehensive. He'd taken the rail and a lift from the college campus. The trip seemed even longer that way.
Wyatt didn't know why he was coming. He'd asked, but it was easy to misdirect, so Nate misdirected. He'd said he had problems and wanted his brother's advice. Wyatt seemed to assume the problems were relationship problems, and Nate let him assume it. It was going to be very hard to ask his brother for the kind of help he needed and he would rather not give him time in advance to think about things and make decisions and maybe call someone else to talk about it, someone like their father.
Wyatt unlocked the iron gate door thing with a big Wyatt grin and grabbed him briefly around the shoulders. "Hey, it's good to see you Nate! Come on in out of the cold. Eric didn't come with you?"
They walked into the house while Nate muttered, "No" and Wyatt shrugged it off with a casual comment about winter and holidays and all that. Nate knew he'd have to explain why Eric wasn't here with him when Eric was always here with him but wanted to put that off for at least a couple of minutes.
He'd been here only once before and it was only to drop off a present, and he'd been with his mom, so the place was new to him. It was impressive, some kind of industrial building with struts and iron and steel and a lot of light. Wyatt had some of his gear stored in a corner but that couldn't be all of it. At this point his brother probably had separate storage offsite, or he used the same space his dad's band used.
When they were growing up, the tension between Wyatt and their father had been so bad that sharing space would have been unthinkable. Things changed though, and this seemed like a good change. At any rate, it looked like a great place to live.
Nate sat down and pulled up the chair and looked past his brother at the deck and the pool and the long rise of the hill toward the canyon and one of the two bridges out of the city. Wyatt nodded in the direction of the food and beer. "Have some and tell me what's up."
He wasn't particularly hungry and didn't feel like doing this with a mouth full of fried rice, and definitely not after having a beer or two. He sat still and ran over what he'd rehearsed and started in on it.
"Eric walked out, and I'm burned out on keeping the band going, keeping people showing up and working and doing all the schedules and everything, and now he's gone I can't do it anymore. He did a lot of it. I want..I need to keep playing though, and I thought - well I wondered if you could help me out. If I could join Crux."
Wyatt crossed his arms and looked calm. "Where'd Eric go? You guys have a fight?"
Nate didn't want to talk about Eric. Eric thought it was always about him but it wasn't, it was as much about Eric and this proved it. "Sort of a fight. Not exactly. He wants to do something else so he left."
"I don't know what it's like to be a twin but he probably needs some space." Wyatt wasn't answering his question and that was an undeniably bad sign. "The two of you have been chained together for your whole lives. So he took a break, go do something else yourself. How are the classes going?"
Well shit, a twin sympathy lecture comment. Nate drew a breath and stared at the table. Someone had scratched it right across the whole thing from one side to the other and he almost ran his finger along it. It was mesmerizing. Anything mesmerized him now. He didn't want to press his brother but he'd come here knowing he probably would have to, but he hadn't anticipated the questions about class. If he started talking about not going to class, he'd get another lecture about going to class.
"I don't want to do anything else." That sounded childish. Nate modified it. "I'm not good at anything else. I've tried." Which was only sort of true. "Eric helped with the classwork - I can't organize things, Wy. I can deal with people, I can intimidate people into showing up and working and I can inspire them, I think I can, but all the arranging and paperwork and stuff, I suck at that. The classes aren't going so well."
"Take a break. You've been pushing yourself with the band since you were sixteen. Hang out, go out, do your classwork and quit stressing about the damned band. Play something in one of the cafes on campus if you feel like it but let the rest go. You can pick all that up again later." Wyatt kind of glared at him. "And don't bully Eric into doing your work for you. No shit he walked out."
He felt pathetic. He pushed forward against it since it didn't matter what he felt like as long as he could make this go the way he wanted, and so far he hadn't. He thought he was prepared, but when it came down to it, maybe not. "Well that's the thing, Wyatt. I can't let it go. I'm not asking for a front position or to take somebody else's job but I thought you could find a place for me, that I could play for you, with Crux."
He could tell his brother wasn't happy about it, and he thought maybe Wyatt would tell him he'd think about it if he didn't come right out and agree, but neither of those things happened.
"Look Nate, I would if I could but everything's set and I can't fit you in. I've got a whole tour already scheduled, and it's not a casual thing. You could slide in and jam with us once or twice but I can't redo everything for you. It's not fair to the rest of the guys. No. You can't play with Crux. I get where you're coming from but I don't know what I can do except tell you to try to let it go for a while."
He was stunned. He'd really thought Wyatt would say yes even if it was for some kind of real limited role. Nate shoved away from the table, started to leave, stood almost bewildered in the middle of the room and then walked aimlessly forward. "Okay."
Behind him he heard his brother get up and follow him. "Nate, we'll work something out. I'll help you find something or finish college. You don't have to do it alone."
The whole point was that he'd depended on someone else too much. If he hadn't depended so much on Eric maybe he wouldn't be here begging Wyatt for help.
Wandering over to the sideboard under the tv, Nate looked at the stuff on it because he didn't know what to do and didn't want to leave yet. It was cold outside. The trip back to college was long and there was that damned big empty rental waiting for him, and it was probably cold too. Wyatt sat down on the couch and turned on his tablet and said, "What the hell...you got to be kidding me. Nate, did you know Duff Tyson left Flight? They're leaving tomorrow - did Rob fire him? Looks like he did."
Nate didn't answer. He didn't know anything about Duff getting fired and he didn't care.
There was a candle on the sideboard and some roses just lying there and a photo of Wyatt and his girlfriend Cadence Mitchell. Everybody expected them to get engaged. Nate thought it would probably happen soon unless Wyatt kept putting her off, in which case she'd be smart to cut him loose and move on. She was pretty.
Her father was Heydon, his dad's friend and the bass guitar for the band. Her brothers were protective and her stepmother - was she a stepmother? - was Camilla Lombardo. Maybe the rest of the family would let it go because what else could they do, but Camilla would give Wyatt hell.
Behind him, Wyatt said, "They're replacing him with Shaun Holloway. That's got to be some kind of desperation move on Rob's part. Why would he choose Shaun Holloway?"
Still ignoring him, Wyatt seemed to be talking to himself anyway, Nate looked past the sideboard and up to the photos hanging on the wall above Wyatt's computer.
"Holloway," Wyatt repeated. He didn't look up. "You know him, Nate. Come on, I'm talking to you."
Well it hadn't seemed like Wyatt was talking to him. He hadn't been paying much attention but tried to focus - something about Holloway?
Nate shifted his weight uneasily and a wave of tired embarrassment and anxiety swept through him. Of course he knew Shaun Holloway. He was Dev's father. Dev's mother Stevie Holloway had been one of Dad's old girlfriends, one he was involved with back when Wyatt's mother was still alive, when he was actually still married to Wyatt's mother, before he met Nate's mother. Nate wasn't sure how Wyatt felt about that and wasn't sure how he personally felt about it since their father and Stevie supposedly hooked up again sometime pretty recently. Their family was so fucking complicated and it all led right back to Dad. Careful, he said, "Yeah, he's Dev's father. They used to be in that band Storm Warning, both of them, Dev's mother and father, a long time ago. They haven't done anything in years. Why?"
His brother looked up from the tablet and smiled. "It's okay about Stevie. Don't worry about it. Sit down, I want to throw something at you. Rob just fired Duff Tyson and replaced him with Shaun, and you're right, Shaun hasn't done anything in a long time, and he's Devlin's dad. He can play the bass guitar but nobody is going to turn out to watch him. Duff's gone. Flight's market is going to tank. Sit and listen because I have an idea."
He sat on the end of the couch that wound around the middle of the living room and kept his mouth shut and listened. It was cold in that corner of the room.
Wyatt got comfortable, watching him for a couple of seconds, and started in on it.
"Shaun Holloway's a good bass player. That's great, that's positive, but he's no Duff Tyson. Duff has a fan base even Blade can't match and Rob fires him and replaces him with Shaun Holloway? Why Shaun? Because he could get him on short notice? I've got an idea - this is what I'm thinking - you can do that job. You've got the technical ability and you light up a stage. People will come to see you like they came for Duff, and nobody's going to come to see Shaun Holloway." Wyatt watched him, pausing. "This can work. It'll work for you and it'll work for Rob."
He grew up listening to Wyatt and believing Wyatt so he listened now and thought, okay, it sounded kind of crazy but some of the pieces sort of fit. Shaun Holloway was no Duff Tyson so that was a definite thing. Nate was comfortable that he could play the bass and he knew he could work a crowd, and he knew what he had and how to use it. He could get up there with Blade and Shooter and hold his own.
Except it really was crazy. No getting around it crazy. He didn't know whether to laugh or just be polite and decided on the polite. "Yeah, that's ummm, that's an idea, but you know, that's a big band, Wy. That's Flight. That's a real fucking big band. They're giving Dad trouble big."
"Everyone's fighting for an edge right now." Wyatt glanced down as if he was thinking about what he was going to say. "Dad's got trouble from more than Flight. Rock isn't the most popular genre at the moment and the bands depend on breakout stars as well as the music. Rob just dumped one of Flight's biggest draws. He can't make up for that with Shaun and I'm positive he knows it."
Nate got up and started somewhere, not sure where, like there was a special phone call place in the house, and stopped and stared down at Wy who was determined to get him to believe this was possible and kept talking. "You know the man. You get along, you sort of hung out a couple of times, you even like his dog. What have you got to lose? He'll tell you he's going with Shaun, or he'll tell you to come on over. Try it. Make the call up in the loft if you feel more comfortable doing it alone but you've only got about an hour."
They walked around the couch and across the room and Nate trudged up the first seven steps. He counted them like a weirdo but seven was kind of a lucky number wasn't it? He paused and looked back down at his brother.
Wyatt smiled up at him again. "Go on, you can do it."
He went on all the way up the stairs to the loft and stood there and thought about it again. He had Rob's number. Rob had seen him perform. Rob hung out with him afterward and even talked about jamming with him. When he ran into Rob at the little fair set up by the dog rescue group, Rob gave him his number. That was a sad place. He took Hugs there only one time because it was so grim and made her cry even though she begged to go back. Rob had said he'd help her find the right dog. He had Rob's number. He was afraid to use it.
Come on, he told himself. When he was a little kid and fell down out on the rocks on the beach, his mother knelt next to him and said quietly, gently, You can't lie there and wait to be rescued. You have to rescue yourself. Get up Nate. Get up now.
He punched in the the number and started walking down toward the window. The volcanoes loomed up in the dark all ominous and always bigger than he remembered, every single time he came downtown they stooped down over the city bigger and darker than he remembered them looking. The phone rang, rang again, maybe he wasn't there, maybe he wouldn't answer even if he was there. Nate started to leave a stupid awkward dumb message, got as far as his name when the man picked up. "Hey, Rob? It's Nate. Yeah, I heard and I know. Can we talk for a minute?"