Brady drummed the pencil he held against the pad laying in his lap. The words were coming slowly but surely now that Theo was the one driving and Brady had the chance to put them down on paper. Jack and Stacey were in the back seat entangled in each other's arms and fast asleep. Or at least Jack was. Stacey had a content smile on her face that said she was just enjoying cuddling with her man. He was glad to see them get that time together.
"What are you working on, Braids?" Theo asked, glancing over at the pad before returning his eyes to the road. They were fifty miles from Boise and more than a day early. If what Jack was saying was true about the gig, they had nailed then they'd have an extra night to play. An extra night to play was an extra night to get paid, and all four were psyched about the possibilities. Theo showed it in the way he kept humming one of their best songs as he drove, and Brady had taken advantage of Theo's distraction in the hopes that he wouldn't get asked about the pad.
But it was too late for that now, and he didn't care much for lying. "I've had a few lyrics running through my head all day. I was getting them down on paper while they were fresh and seeing what comes of them."
"Braids, you haven't written a song since you broke up with Gavin," Theo said with some amusement. "Is there some emotional trauma you've had going on that we didn't know about?"
Brady sighed and looked out the passenger window. "Trauma, no. But . . . All right, I'll give. The song is about Drake."
"Really?" Theo asked, laughing nervously. "Dude, why didn't you make a move on him before he left?"
"You immediately think this is about me being attracted to him. Why do you always assume that?" Brady asked, turning back to Theo and glaring. "You always think about sex. Some of us don't, you know."
Theo looked at him incredulously out of the corner of his eye. "Really, Braids? Even I could admit that Drake was attractive, even if sixteen is a bit young for me to be comfortable with. I'm almost twenty, but you're still eighteen so I suppose that isn't all that weird." Realizing he was going off on a tangent, Theo coughed to clear his throat and continued, "Anyway, even though I'm not attracted to dudes . . ." he raised an eyebrow and glanced at Brady as if daring him to challenge that statement, "I can definitely see that Drake was a good-looking guy. Why wouldn't you want to tap that?"
"Because I'm more interested in a man's mind than in his junk," Brady countered. Theo shrugged and returned his eyes to the road. Brady sighed before going on, "I think of Drake not as the attractive boy that you seem to see him as, but instead as the boy who could navigate a map without thinking about it. I see the boy who was surviving on the streets without any problem before we came along, like he was at home there even though he couldn't have been. I see the boy that has a tragic past and an uncertain future, but wherever he's going he somehow knows how to get there. He's a fucking navigator like no one I've ever seen before."
"That is the job we gave him, Braids," Stacey piped up from behind him. He turned back to see her gently stroking Jack's face as she met his eyes and smiled warmly. "I don't think you could choose a better boy to serve as your muse. Drake had it where it counted. He had just the right mix of experience, depth, mystery, and attractiveness. Hell, I'd have crushed on him if he wasn't swinging your way, Braids."
"See, everyone knows," Theo said with a chuckle. "That boy was hot, and you let him get away. Why?"
"He said he needed to leave," Brady offered with a shrug. "Who was I to stop him?"
"I don't know . . ." Stacy said, rolling her eyes, "Only the most grounded person I know and probably the best person for him in the world. You two would have been good together."
"You guys have to quit talking like Brady's never gonna see him again," Jack interjected sleepily. "The kid's a drifter, sure, but he's also got the hots for Braids here too. If it's meant to be, we'll cross paths with him, especially knowing the way things work out for Brady."
Theo shrugged and then reached over and gripped Brady's shoulder, giving it a quick squeeze before returning his hand to the wheel. Stacey mimicked the gesture while Theo said, "Jack's right. I'm sorry, Braids. So much shit works out in your favor, I'm sure this will be no different. Why don't you give us an inside scoop on your lyrics before we get to Boise? Maybe a new song will come out of this?"
"Braids is writing a song?" Jack said excitedly, perking up as his eyes flashed open. "A song for Silas?"
"Yeah, and I think talking with Theo just gave me a title," Brady admitted as he looked back at Jack. "It's called 'The Navigator'."
"I love it already," Stacey said, clapping her hands together in excitement. As Brady looked at the faces of his three friends, he knew the sentiment was shared by all of them. Without any further hesitation, he held the pad up in his hands and began to open up his soul to the people he cared about most in the whole world. He only wished Silas could be there to hear it as well.
"All right, Theo," Jack said as he watched the signs on the side of the road, "You're going to have to get to Ninth Street."
"And how do I do that, oh keeper of the directions that won't tell me where the fuck we're going?" Theo asked testily, looking at the street signs in the fading light as the sun began to set beyond the horizon. "Seriously, why don't you just tell me where we're going so that I can at least be on the lookout for the sign?"
"And ruin the surprise?" Jack asked. "No way, I wouldn . . . turn right, now!" He said reaching through from the backseat to grab at the steering wheel. Brady fended him off so that Theo could turn without Jack's help, and Theo turned onto Ninth Street in Boise.
"You should see it coming up really soon," Jack said, "Look for The Knitting Factory." He said the name in a grandiose way and the others simply looked at him with questioning eyes. He looked between all three of them frantically. "What? You don't mean to tell me that none of you have heard of The Knitting Factory? I know we're from Utah but, come on, it's one of the best concert halls in Boise!"
Brady was already shaking his head before Jack finished his speech. "You didn't know what it was either until you got the gig, I can see it in your eyes. So, you're saying this is the real deal?"
"Holy shit!" Theo exclaimed, drawing Brady's attention forward again. "There are a ton of cars here!"
"Drive around back," Jack said with an enthusiastic grin. "We're the band. They're going to have to treat us proper."
Brady waited eagerly as Theo pulled the car behind the building where they found a small booth with a gate. A burly security guard stood beside the booth. Theo pulled directly up to the gate and the guard stepped up to the driver's side window, waiting as Theo rolled it down.
"Excuse me, can I help you?" The guard asked in a deep bass.
"We're 'Demons of the Crossroads'," Theo announced. The guard looked down at the clipboard in his hands and then up at Theo and asked, "What of it?"
Jack popped his head into the space between the driver's seat and the passenger seat and said, "Sorry, we're supposed to meet a guy named Mikey? I have our credentials right here." He handed a folded piece of paper to Theo who then passed it to the security guard.
The security guard looked the sheet over and then shook his head, "It says you aren't scheduled to play until tomorrow night. You guys are opening for White-Chocolate Antifreeze tomorrow. What are you doing here today?"
Jack put on his best smile and said, "If you look further on, you'll see that Mikey says we can come in today and play if we're here early. He said that Fowl City didn't have an opener but that they'd put one in if we showed up."
The security guard looked toward his coworker sitting in the booth. After a brief hesitation, while they communicated silently, he waved his hand and the arm of the gate swung upward. The guard handed the paper back to Theo and said, "All right. You guys look for Mikey. He'll be right through those doors over there, got it? I'll buzz you in when you get up there."
Theo waved, and they drove into the backlot. As soon as the van was parked the band looked at each other and shared a collective sigh of relief. "So, we're in," Theo said, turning to Jack. "And we're playing with Fowl City and White-Chocolate Antifreeze? How the hell did you manage to keep this a secret? This is huge, man!"
Brady looked at his friends and offered one last word of encouragement before he opened the door to the van and broke the spell of excitement that had come over them. "And to think, you guys were about to throw this all away because you couldn't settle your differences. We're going to go in there and rock their asses off, you got it?"
"I love it when you talk dirty to me, Braids!" Jack said with a cheer of delight. "Let's go show them what we've got!"
Jack led the group inside and Brady brought up the rear, watching them closely. He was beginning to get high off of the energy they were giving off. He had never seen them this animated; this ready to take on the world. He had a good feeling about what was about to come. This was their chance to truly make something of themselves.
Mikey ended up being an easy-going guy who was almost as excited as they were. He'd been desperate to find an opener for Fowl City, and he viewed them as a gift from the music gods. In less than fifteen minutes they were up on the stage, setting up their instruments and getting ready for rehearsal.
As Stacey connected her guitar to the amp, she strummed out a few chords and then began playing a melody that Brady had never heard her play before. It was softer than some of their usual stuff, but there was still an edge to it Brady quickly fell in love with. Brady kept listening as he finished setting his drums up, then glanced over in surprise as Theo joined in on bass.
"What are you guys playing?" Jack asked as he attached his microphone to the stand. Theo shrugged and kept playing since Stacey hadn't stopped yet. Stacey chose not to answer and instead looked up at Brady, smiling as she changed the tune slightly, picking it up and filling it with even more energy, never letting her smile fall from Brady's gaze. "Wait a minute," Jack said with a grin, "Is that . . .?"
Stacey nodded and Jack picked up his microphone, nodding at Brady. "You better finish getting your drums set up, Braids." He winked and turned back to the microphone and addressed a crowd that wasn't yet there. "This next song is dedicated to our friend, Silas Drake. Demons of the Crossroads presents, The Navigator . . ."
Brady shook his head in wonder as Stacey started her melody over again and Jack took the lead, singing the lyrics that Brady had written earlier that day. He nodded along to the sound as he moved faster than he ever had before. He couldn't get his drums set up fast enough to match his eagerness to join in, but when he did, he knew magic was about to happen.
He sat in front of his drums and let his sticks do the talking for him. Although the lyrics reverberated through his mind as Jack sang Silas' song, he didn't trust himself to join in. Tears of joy streamed down his face as he watched his friends breathe life into the legend of Silas Drake. Even if the crowd booed them out of the concert hall, he knew that he would remember the magic of that moment forever.
The show had gone on well enough, and Brady was smiling and basking in the atmosphere as the crowd cheered for them. They had played all their songs—all except for Navigator. Even though they'd played it before the performance, it wasn't in the program and they had limited time.
Mikey stepped out on stage, and Brady was sure that as he stepped up to Jack's microphone that he was going to send them away, but then he bent down and whispered in Jack's ear. Jack listened carefully and began nodding. Mikey patted him on the back and then walked away, and Jack hurried over and talked to Stacey, then Theo, and then lastly, he came to Brady and by that point; he was grinning as wide as anytime that Brady had ever seen him.
"You ready to test out our new song, Braids?" Jack asked with a twinkle in his eye. "Fowl City's not ready yet. They asked if we could do one more song. Navigator's all we got left."
Brady looked at Stacey who shrugged and grinned, and Theo who was already nodding as he went through the notes on his bass. He looked Jack straight in the eye and gave his own nod of assent, and Jack turned around and put the microphone to his lips and said to the crowd, "All right, looks like we've got time for one more!"
The cheer that reached them was enough to almost render Jack speechless, but he collected himself quickly and began speaking again, "This next song is brand new, and goes out to our dear friend, Silas Drake. Wherever you are, brother, we're thinking about you."
Stacey started playing, and Brady picked up the beat. He lost himself to the smooth wood of the drumsticks in his hands, playing the feelings in his heart for the boy in the song. He could see Silas in his mind, walking down the road with Adelaide at his side looking for the next road out of town. His rhythm matched the beating of his heart as Theo joined in on bass and Jack took up the vocals, but Brady didn't need to listen in if he didn't want to; the song was already familiar enough to him, and he could follow along easily.
The rest of the band played with a passion to rival his own. All of their songs had been written from emotional moments, but this one was still fresh in their minds. Brady closed his eyes as he played but he could still see Stacey's face as she leaned into her guitar, her eyes filled with hope as her heart reached across the miles to wherever Silas was. She had always wanted to see Silas find peace and happiness. Brady could still feel Theo's presence as he planted himself firmly, putting all of his focus into his bass as he had focused on protecting Silas during their time together. Theo had seen Silas as a little brother from the first time they met, and he had wanted nothing more than to see Silas succeed. They had joked and teased each other, but no one had a bigger heart for the underdog than Theo did. Brady could still hear Jack's voice, and all the passion that Jack put behind the words as he sang out to the crowd, but he also sang to the night, to the road, and to Silas left behind in a small town in Colorado. Jack was passionate about everything he did, and he also understood the wanderer's soul in a way that no one else could. He had understood Silas, and the song allowed him that chance to express it to the world.
And Brady played to his own understanding. He played to the depth he saw in Silas' eyes. He played to the profound character that he had come to know; the mesmerizing intelligence of a boy who had been thrust into the world on his own and forced to survive. He played, like a man possessed by a demon, possessed by the love he had for Silas.
By the time they had finished playing, the crowd was going crazy, but Brady still didn't open his eyes. He listened, and basked in the feeling of the atmosphere around him. This was another perfect moment, and the tears falling down his cheeks to wet his curly beard were tears of utter bliss. When he finally opened his eyes he found all three of his bandmates staring at him with looks of pure happiness. They all knew it; they had finally found exactly what they'd been looking for.
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