NINJA 4/4

Sep. 4th, 2009 06:10 pm
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*


APRIL


*


I ATE MOE @ THE CELL
Fittingly, think early All-American Rejects, before Ritter turned poet, before Gaylor and Kennerty learned to surf that metaphorical wave – I Ate Moe has that simple flare, brought to the table not only by the lyricism of former AAR guitarist Nick Wheeler, but by whippoorwills and slow-dying mums and Blake Sennett.

If you’ve been to an I Ate Moe show before, you know you’re in for plenty of high school angst, first loves, bent-wing butterflies, and backstabbing best friends. If you’ve never seen them, watch out for Sennett’s smoky baritone. It gets in your brain, makes you whimper like a homeless puppy, crave cheap cigarettes and Jack and Cokes. It’s like alt-country for the bubblegum crowd, emo without the shoe-gazing shuffle [it’s M83 without the long-ass electronica solos – trick]. It’s kind of addicting.

Unfortunately, Faller and Luciani still look like they’re simply filling in holes, despite having joined I Ate Moe over three months ago. Technically fine, they just don’t seem to love what they’re doing; the same heartfelt earnestness portrayed by Sennett, eyes closed and voice burning, isn’t reflected back by anyone but Wheeler and his trusty guitar. It’s only cheese if you think it’s cheese. We’ll give them a little longer to settle in, but it won’t surprise us if Sennett and Wheeler give them the boot – I Ate Moe deserves some dedication.

It helps that Sennett and Wheeler are sweethearts, on and off the stage.

I ATE MOE @ THE CELL: APRIL 9TH 10:00 PM
Set list:
+ Over You
+ Clouds Hanging On
+ Persistent Memory
+ From Center City
+ No Time For Sunshine
+ Leslie
+ Love Is
+ Slow Dance
+ On A Whim
+ Counting Blades of Grass
+ Whistler

shine on, cats and kittens,
- rand @ emc


*


“Nathan asked me to the junior prom,” Miranda says, sitting across from Kevin at their lunch table.

Bill’s head snaps up from where he’s been hunched over his sketchpad, but he doesn’t say anything. Which is weird, because Bill usually has something to say about everything.

“Nathan,” Kevin says. “Nathan Kress?” Nathan’s a little guy with big smiles; Kevin’s always liked him.

Miranda nods. “I said yes.”

Kevin notices the way she’s not looking at Bill. He feels like Miranda’s just put him in the middle of a war zone, but he’s not exactly sure why.

“I don’t know why you’d want to go to our prom and the senior prom,” Brendon says, jamming his straw into his packet of Capri Sun.

Kevin watches Spencer freeze behind Brendon, make a face, and then slip into a seat next to Miranda.

“You’re going to the senior prom?” Spencer says. Carefully. With his eyes focused on unpacking his bag lunch.

Kevin’s starting to feel really uncomfortable with all this tension pinging off of everyone but him. And Patrick, except Patrick hasn’t shown up yet.

Brendon flicks a glance at Spencer and says, “Well, I’m definitely not in a secret band, so I’m pretty sure I’m not going to be playing in a secret band at the senior prom.” He waggles his eyebrows at Kevin. “Check that,” he says. “I’m smooth.”

Spencer bites his lip, corners of his mouth twitching.

Patrick stomps over and drops his tray onto the table with a clatter. He’s got—Kevin’s pretty sure that’s a giant hickey on the side of his neck, and Patrick doesn’t look happy. He says, “I don’t want to talk about it,” and avoids everyone’s eyes. He sounds gruff and angry, but he’s pink in the cheeks.

Because Bill has problems, he says, “Are you aware you have a—”

“Bill,” Patrick says, staring very intently at his sandwich. His hands are white-knuckled around his soda can.

“Did you get attacked by a vacuum?” Bill asks. He reaches out to poke at Patrick’s neck, but Patrick slaps his hand away.

Patrick sighs, though, some of his anger deflating. He sounds more bewildered than anything when he says, “He has a girlfriend.”

“Pete has a friend who is a girl,” Bill says.

Patrick shrugs, shoulders tight.

It’s weird, because Kevin could have sworn Patrick really didn’t like Wentz at all. Kevin’s apparently not very good at reading people, though - Lacey, case in point; he’s still not exactly sure what happened there - so he doesn’t let it bother him.

“You know what I’m excited for that isn’t prom? Band-o-Rama,” Brendon says, waving his hands around. “It’s like Carnival for your ears. Also, corn dogs.”

“You only say that because you’re not in band,” Patrick says. He looks relieved at the change of subject, though, and they all know Band-o-Rama is kind of fun. Better than their winter concert, at least, with the added bonus of games and food.

And it’s gonna be extra cool this year because Patrick convinced Mr. Mayer to let them do a Puppies And Kittens cover.

“Spencer’s gonna win me a goldfish,” Brendon says.

Spencer blinks. “I am?”

“Yes.” Brendon nods. “And we’re going to name it Sam.”

*


The only things of note that happen at Band-o-Rama is that Saporta shows up with Greta and VickyT - there’s a minor stampede to give them hugs and tell them how awesome they are – and Kevin ends up in the tuba closet. He’s starting to see a theme here.

Saporta says, “Pimpin’ ain’t easy,” when he wanders up to Kevin. And then he fingers Kevin’s oboe and makes some vaguely obscene facial expressions. “What’s this fine looking instrument?” he asks.

“An oboe.” Kevin’s oboe is not a fine looking instrument. Saporta’s just crazy. And then Kevin freezes up a little, because Lacey’s strolling towards them.

“Jonas,” Lacey says.

Kevin starts inching backwards, because the last thing he wants to do is talk to Lacey. “I need to, uh, put my oboe away,” he says, and it’s the truth, because he doesn’t want to lug it around for the rest of the night, but he still knows he’s running away. There is no part of Kevin that feels like standing up to Lacey, he doesn’t care how pathetic that makes him.

He should’ve figured Lacey would follow him, though. It seems like a really stupid idea now, getting cornered in the tuba closet.

“Look,” Lacey says, hands up and palms out.

Kevin forces himself not to clutch his oboe case to his chest. His back’s up against a shelf, though, as straight as he can make it, and Lacey’s just inside the door – if Kevin makes a break for it, he can probably get past him with maybe only a fist in the kidney.

Lacey says, “Look,” again, and then, “I’m sorry.” He actually sounds sincere. Not like that time he’d punched him and then Carden’d twisted his arm up behind his back and told him to apologize or else.

Kevin blinks. “Uh. What?”

“I’m sorry for, you know,” he waves a hand, stepping further into the closet, “everything.”

Kevin nods very, very slowly. “Okay.”

“Okay,” Lacey echoes. He’s starting to get a little too close for Kevin’s comfort.

“Right, so.” Kevin tries to sidle past, but Lacey grabs his wrist to stop him, then twists a fist in the front of his shirt, and—and then he’s kissing him, and Kevin wants to know when this happened, and why. He’s not too stunned to struggle, though, and he elbows Lacey in the stomach and jerks away to say, “Oh my god, what?” He swipes at his mouth with the back of his hand.

Lacey’s got wide, dark eyes. He actually looks a little panicky, which is weird, since Lacey’s had no compunction against bullying Kevin before, and this is—well, to Kevin it’s almost worse, but he doesn’t think Lacey should see it that way.

And then Lacey says, “I’m going to, ah, go,” and takes off down the hall.

There was a time not too long ago, Kevin thinks, when his life actually made sense.

*


When Bill calls him up and very carefully pronounces, “Why don’t you come over, Jonas?” Kevin knows he’s drunk. This isn’t so surprising. It’s a Sunday, but it’s a spring break Sunday, and it’s still kind of early, but it’s after dinner – he doesn’t think it’s anything out of the ordinary until Bill meets him at the door, leaning heavily against the knob, eyes half-mast and shadowed and mouth a soft frown.

Bill’s a happy drunk. Bill loves the world when he’s been drinking; he sings songs about rainbows and presses sloppy kisses on foreheads and declares himself an equal opportunity snuggle bunny.

Bill, right now, is morose.

He’s also not alone; there’s laughter and music drifting up from the basement as Bill waves him inside.

Kevin tries not to let it bother him – that Bill has friends over, friends who aren’t Kevin and the rest of NINJA. He knows they’re close, but Bill’s got a year and some on him; he’s got senior friends, people who don’t even know who Kevin is. So Bill can have a party without him, it’s not a big deal. Kevin’s actually not so sure he should take the invite and join them.

Bill grasps his arm and pulls, and all Kevin can think to say is, “I hope you hid the NINJA merch.”

“It’s all cleverly camouflaged, Kev,” Bill says, a finger to the side of his nose, “don’t you worry.”

Bill pushes him ahead of him down the stairs and calls out, “I’ve got a present,” and Kevin feels his face heat.

The basement is smoky. Sweet-smoky, and Kevin’s not really familiar with it, but he suspects it’s weed. Michael Guy and Carden are sprawled on the sofa, and Siska’s on the floor, head propped up on Conrad’s thigh. They’ve got Motor Storm on demo on Bill’s PS3 – no one’s playing, though there’s a controller in Michael Guy’s lap.

Siska waves at him.

Whatever they’ve been smoking is gone now, from what Kevin can see, and he takes a shallow breath before moving further into the room, Bill hanging all over his shoulders. He’s slumped into the back of Kevin’s neck and he snuffles against his nape. It’s just weird. He really hopes Bill isn’t crying on him.

“Stop being a pussy, Bill,” Michael Guy says.

“Fuck off,” Bill says, voice muffled. He sounds really sad and it’s starting to freak Kevin out. Bill’s Together Guy. Nothing ever fazes Bill; this has shattered Kevin’s entire worldview.

“Bill,” Kevin says, kind of softly, “what’s going on?”

Bill straightens and slinks around Kevin. He drops down into the armchair and his jaw’s a hard line as he says, “Kress.”

“Kress,” Kevin echoes. He scratches the side of his neck and tries to ignore Carden. Carden totally has a staring problem – Kevin thinks Carden does it just because it very obviously unnerves him, and Kevin fights off the urge to snap at him. Unfortunately, even being in the same room as Carden makes him jumpy, makes him think about his mouth, and how—how Carden had licked the corner of his lips and called him princess, and somehow managed to not make it sound like an insult at all. Kevin clears his throat.

“Nathan Kress. He’s poaching,” Bill says. “I’ll need accomplices to help hide the body.”

Kevin wrinkles his nose. “Nathan’s all right, though,” he says. If Miranda has to date anyone, Nathan’s probably a safe choice.

Siska laughs, pressing his face into his arm.

“I hate to be redundant,” Bill says haughtily, “but fuck off.”

“Um.” Kevin thinks about retreating back up the stairs, but Bill would probably take that as abandonment and hunt him down and lecture him about loyalty, using Harry Potter references and Gerard Way’s speech at the last Virgil show – he’s done that to Patrick and him before, before they were NINJA and he’d assumed they were way more dedicated to jazz band than they actually are.

Carden snorts, and Bill wags a finger at him. “D’you really want to go there, Carden?” he says.

Carden glares at Bill, and it’s like an invisible weight’s lifted off Kevin’s shoulders; his insides loosen.

Kevin says, “So you like Miranda,” because occasionally he catches on quick, even when Bill’s being cryptic.

“Miranda is my soulmate,” Bill says, nodding solemnly.

“Why don’t you tell her that, then?” Miranda likes Bill, Bill likes Miranda – it seems all pretty straight forward to Kevin, even though Bill’s normally got the attention span of a gnat when it comes to relationships.

“Because he’s a fucking pussy,” Conrad says.

Kevin feels like pinching the bridge of his nose, but he doesn’t. Seriously, why does everyone put him in the middle of these things? The only person Kevin’s ever dated was Zac, and, looking back on it, he’s not sure that even counted.

Anyway,” Bill says, “I need a plan.”

“Stop hooking up with skanks,” Siska says. “That’s a plan.”

Kevin is feeling really out of place. He loves Bill, but not high with all his senior buddies. And Carden’s back to looking at him – looking at him like he wants to take him down with a well-placed bite to his flank. Kevin thinks maybe Siska’s the only one of Bill’s friends who actually likes him.

“Maybe I can talk to Miranda for you?” Kevin says. It’s a desperate ploy to get out of there. He can feel the disapproval roll off Conrad in waves, but Kevin’s pretty sure that’s because Conrad wants into Bill’s pants. He’s not entirely comfortable knowing that, either.

“You, dear Kevin,” Bill says grandly, “are a champion,” and then he’s distracted by Siska howling – Kevin is not even going to ask – and Kevin makes a strategic retreat up the stairs.

He briefly catches Carden’s gaze before he turns, but Carden just sketches him a slightly mocking salute.

*


Kevin doesn’t actually want to talk to Miranda for Bill, but he doesn’t have much of a choice at this point. He’d offered and Bill is one of his best friends, so he has to do something, even if he suspects Bill doesn’t even remember their conversation now.

He says, “So, um.”

Miranda pauses mid-pull on her knee-high boots, sitting on the edge of her bed. She’s got a black mini-dress on, long strands of shiny obsidian beads looped around her neck. “What’s up?”

Kevin tugs on the hem of his Police shirt. “Bill’s jealous,” he says.

Miranda grins and stretches back on the mattress. “I know.”

“You know.” Kevin worries his thumbnail between his teeth, watching her. Finally, he says, “You’re doing this on purpose.”

“Well, not really. I mean, Nathan asked me out and I’d hoped--”

“Bill’s a mess, Miranda,” Kevin says. He knows Bill kind of deserves it, though; Bill gets drunk and latches onto anyone with breasts and then he searches out Miranda and sloppily professes his undying love. They never took him seriously before.

Miranda gets to her feet, shimmies her dress in place and tugs her hair back in a low, messy knot at her nape. “Bill and I are friends.”

“You like Bill,” Kevin says. He didn’t imagine that Valentine’s Day conversation. There’d been pining going on there.

She narrows her eyes. “We pinky swore. We pinky swore, because Bill’s a cartoon character.”

“Yeah, um,” Kevin rubs fingers along the base of his throat, “except I think Bill’s serious about this.” He hates this. He hates getting in between his friends, and it’s none of his business and if this all blows up, everyone’s going to be miserable. He sighs. “Never mind.”

Miranda nods, bites her bottom lip. “Are you wearing that tonight?”

Kevin looks down at his t-shirt and tight black jeans. “Yeah?”

“It’s This Is Thunder, Kev, we at least need to,” she cups his face with warm hands, “glam up your eyes.”

“Oh, no.” Kevin doesn’t like the speculative way she’s looking at him. He never should’ve said something about Bill.

She’s got an evil little grin on her glossy mouth. “Eyeliner. Something shimmery for your skin.”

Darn it. She’s probably going to make him dance with her, too.

*


Kevin absolutely does not want to be at Pete Wentz’s spring break house party. He really doesn’t. He’d rather be home or at Bill’s, writing up a review of last night’s This Is Thunder show. Playing Brendon at Guitar Hero, even though he always loses. Letting Miranda paint his toe nails, even, or mess up his eyes again.

He’s pretty sure Patrick doesn’t want to be there, either. He looks miserable, squished on a couch next to a couple of seniors Kevin recognizes, but he can’t remember their names.

Kevin absently crunches his soda can between his fingers. He’s leaning against the living room wall, trying to blend in, but he doesn’t think he’s very successful. They’ve been there for about an hour - Bill had disappeared soon after they’d arrived, and Brendon, Spencer and Miranda are over in a corner with Trohman and Kitty, laughing. They seem comfortable, at least.

And then Wentz swoops out of nowhere and grabs Patrick’s cup, downing the contents in three big gulps. Patrick stares up at him, and Wentz says, “Rickster, dude, come with me, you need a tour,” and waggles his eyebrows at Kevin - Kevin would find it funny if it didn’t mean he was totally alone, after Wentz drags a strangely unresisting Patrick off, with - Dallon? - Dallon giving him a drunken grin.

“I don’t get you.”

Kevin jumps before he can help it. He slants Carden a glance. “You don’t?” he manages.

Carden shifts, one shoulder leaning against the wall, so he can look right at Kevin. He takes a sip of his beer, and Kevin’s rigid, keeping careful inches away from him.

“This,” Carden says. He lifts a finger off his cup, gestures to the space between them. “I’m picking up some mixed signals.”

Mixed signals? Does he know about Kevin’s stupid crush? Oh, that would suck; he can feel a blush start up from his chest and sweat beading up under his shirt. There’re tremors in his fingers; he keeps them firm around his Coke can.

Carden reaches out with his free hand, and Kevin jerks back, banging his elbow into the wall, and Carden drops his arm, curses under his breath.

“I’m, I don’t—”

“Whatever, Jonas, I can take a fucking hint,” Carden says, and then he straightens up, shakes his head and stalks off.

“Well,” Bill says, popping up in front of him. “That was a lovely little scene. I’d like to say I’m surprised, but the level of social ineptitude exhibited by the both of you right then was all too expected, considering this past year.”

Kevin scowls, because he’s pretty sure Bill just insulted him, but he’s still kind of confused by everything - Carden’s upset with him, that much is apparent.

“I told him to be more straight-forward, but does he listen? Of course not.” Bill sighs and pushes his hair back off his forehead. “Kevin,” Bill says, “Mike likes you.”

“What?” The music’s loud, Kevin’s not entirely sure he heard Bill right.

“Carden? Hot body, crazy eyes?” Bill hooks a thumb over his shoulder in the direction that Carden had disappeared. “He wants to marry you and adopt obscene amounts of Cambodian babies.”

“No.” Kevin shakes his head. Carden thinks he’s a moron.

“You do recall all those times you made out with him, right?” Bill says.

“He—that was after NINJA,” Kevin says. In a dim dark bar, and it was only once, and every other time he’s seen Carden, Carden always looks about ten seconds away from declaring Kevin the biggest waste of space in Randolph High. He scratches in between his eyes. “That wasn’t me.”

Bill looks at him curiously. He curls a finger over his bottom lip, cocks his head. Finally, he says, “We really should work on your self esteem.”

*


THIS IS THUNDER @ THE MANSION
Lambert has some impressive lungs on him, with flamboyant outfits to match. It doesn’t much matter who’s backing him - he’s been in bands before, musicians utterly forgettable in the wake of the force that is Adam Lambert, performer - but there’s no denying the awesome that is This Is Thunder: pocket-sized Allen on lead guitar, the queen of cute, Allison Iraheta [I’d like to squish her and keep her as my very own - billiam], on drums, and Desai, who makes up for being a half-assed bass player by being quirky and lovable onstage.

They’ve only been playing together for the past two months, only been out there performing live for three weeks, but there’s a camaraderie between them that’s refreshing. And while Lambert very well could drown them out, it’s extremely telling that he doesn’t. He even duets a few new tunes with Iraheta - No More Sunshine, Wandering Down - and Allen and Dasai’s vocals are just as sweet harmonizing backup.

We foresee many more This Is Thunder shows to come; it seems like Lambert’s finally settling down with a family of his very own.

THIS IS THUNDER @ THE MANSION: APRIL 22ND 10:00PM
set list:
+ Over and Over
+ Session 5
+ No More Sunshine
+ Except Tomorrow
+ Told You So
+ Chances Are
+ Wandering Down
+ Shake It Up
+ Sometimes
+ Listen Close

- rand @ emc


*


MAY


*


The theme for the 2010 Randolph High Senior prom is the wild wild west.

“Are we talking Will Smith, metal spiders, long-ass boring wild wild west?” Miranda asks, flopping back on top of one of the lunch tables.

Bill switches out paintbrushes, tucking a blue-tipped one behind his ear. “I’m not entirely sure, but I think Pete’s thinking tumbleweed, spurs, six-shooters and brothels. Whether or not the faculty will go for that remains to be seen.”

“Oh, come on. Timberlake’s letting you paint—is that a flying dog?” Miranda tilts her head, purses her lips.

“It’s a luck dragon,” Bill says.

Bill’s almost entirely done his mural. Kevin thinks it’s awesome, but he also thinks Principal Walken’s going to flip out when he sees it. It’s kind of gory, what with all the feasting dinosaurs.

“I’m not wearing a cowboy hat,” Miranda says.

“Noted,” Bill says absently, which is weird, for Bill. Bill should’ve said something about sheriff badges and ten gallons and Patrick’s mouth. Instead, he flicks his brush, splattering red paint over what looks like an ewok.

Miranda makes a face at Kevin.

Maybe Bill’s just really into getting his mural done - he graduates in a few weeks, after all.

*


Wentz shows up at their lunch table right when they’re gathering their trash and declares Patrick his very best boyfriend forever and ever. “Seriously, Pattycakes,” Wentz says, threading his fingers through Patrick’s. “I’ll be, like, your sexy sidekick, it’s gonna be sweet.”

Patrick grumbles and says, “You’re not a sidekick, you’re a frontal kick to the groin,” but he doesn’t shake Wentz off. He’s pink in the cheeks, and for once doesn’t seem furious with the world at large, so that’s nice.

Brendon and Spencer look cozy, too, arms brushing.

And Carden’s ignoring Kevin, which Kevin really hadn’t thought was possible - he didn’t realize before that apparently Carden actually did pay a lot of attention to him at school. The sudden lack of this attention is kind of weirdly disconcerting. He knows Carden’s mad at him for whatever happened at Wentz’s party, but he’s still confused. It’s not like—it’s not like Kevin’s the kind of person that Carden would actually want to hang out with, right?

Kevin sighs and follows everyone out of the lunchroom.

Bill hooks his chin over Kevin’s shoulder and leans into his side. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” Kevin says.

Bill pulls back, stops him just outside of the doors with a hand on his arm and gives him a surprisingly shrewd look. “I’m well aware of what nothing looks like.” He pokes the wrinkle of skin in between Kevin’s eyebrows. “This isn’t nothing.”

Kevin presses his lips together. “Lacey kissed me,” he says, and Bill’s chokes out a laugh.

“Well. That’s kind of hysterical. Does anyone else know about this?”

“No.” Like Kevin’s going to tell anyone; that’s crazy. Anyone other than Bill, at least.

Bill shakes his head. He mutters what sounds like, “Lacey, Mike, half the girls’ rugby team, that Viking Gerald,” under his breath - Kevin’s pretty sure he didn’t hear him exactly right - and then says, louder, “I know you’re shocked, Kevin, but you’ve got this innocent baby lamb aura that seems to attract wolves in fucking droves.”

Kevin blinks. “What?”

“Self-esteem, Jonas, I believe I told you to work on that.” Bill throws an arm over his shoulders. “Come on, I’ll walk you to your sixth period class. I’ll wax poetical about your strong bassist forearms and you can carry all my books.”

*


Brendon is thirty times more hyper than usual when they’re setting up for the prom, and there’s a chance Patrick might kill him if he doesn’t stop fiddling with his drum kit. Patrick’s face’s red and his jaw’s clenched and he doesn’t look all that happy to be wearing a huge black cowboy hat, either.

Bill had passed them out - only Kevin got a white one, and Miranda didn’t get any kind of hat at all.

“We’ve got a half hour before everyone starts showing up,” Bill says, clapping his hands together. “I suggest we use this time to get very, very drunk.”

“Bill,” Patrick says.

Bill flicks the brim of Patrick’s hat. “This is prom,” he says. “I’ve come prepared with a flask, Trick, and Michael Guy’s in charge of spiking the proverbial punch.”

“If you’re drunk on stage, Bill, I will punch you in the throat,” Patrick says.

“Prom’s no fun if you’re not three sheets to the wind,” Bill says. He waggles his flask in the air.

In the throat,” Patrick says tightly. Then, cryptically, “Also? That thing that you wanted me to do? Do you really want me to still do it?”

“You’re a wee dirty fighter,” Bill says, pouting, but he tucks the flask back into his jacket pocket.

*


It’s weird, but Kevin didn’t really expect to see Carden there. His heart flips into his stomach when he spots him by the ballroom doors, and it’s not until Michael Guy and Siska and Conrad stumble laughingly into him that the moths kick up. He realizes he’s relieved; relieved that they seem to have all come stag. Carden, standing arms crossed in a dark gray suit over a worn t-shirt, has a sullen cast to his face.

Kevin can tell when he spots him by the stage, the hitch in his shoulders, and Kevin lifts his hand in a little wave. Carden’s eyes narrow before he turns away.

Kevin frowns. He slips a hand over his face—yep, mask is firmly in place. He’s got his ten-gallon hat on and his dark suit pants. He’s got his Big Texas belt buckle and his fitted vest, and a sheriff’s badge pinned over his breast pocket.

“Huh.”

“What?” Bill asks, bumping their hips together.

“Nothing. Just, uh, Carden’s—” Kevin bites his lower lip. “He looks—” he cuts himself off. What’s he going to say? Carden looks mean? Pissed? Bored? Like he wants to kick Siska’s ass? Like he wants to kick Kevin’s ass?

Bill sighs. He clasps Kevin’s shoulder and shakes him. “You are so dense. You’re incredibly, impossibly dense, I honestly don’t know how you’ve survived sixteen years with all your healthy parts.”

“I’m not—”

Bill gives him a little shove and says, “Go talk to him.”

The room’s steadily getting more crowded, there’s a DJ set up in the corner, already pumping out tunes, and the entire room looks like an upscale saloon or cat house, with lots of heavy brocade and dust - Kevin isn’t sure how Wentz pulled this off.

He settles on going to get a drink, and if he happens to bump into Carden along the way, well. Ashlee catches him first, though, pulls him into a hug and tells him how much she loves his boots and presses a kiss to his jaw. And then he’s talking to Trohman and Marie and by the time he gets to the drinks he’s pretty sure he’s going to have to turn right back around and head for the stage - which is when he gets jostled by a flailing - dancing? - Siska and stumbles into Carden.

Kevin hopes his mask hides his blush. Carden’s got his hands banded around his upper arms, holding him steady, but then he drops them like Kevin’s burning hot and backs up, scowling at him.

Kevin rallies with a, “Oh, hey, thanks,” and a wide grin, stepping into Carden’s space almost involuntarily.

Carden doesn’t move away, but he doesn’t look particularly inviting either, and Kevin’s grin falters.

“Um. Hi?” This is usually the part where Carden gets in his face and calls him sexy. Granted, NINJA hasn’t played yet.

“Yeah, okay, I’m not up for being jerked around tonight, Jonas,” Carden says. He doesn’t look at Kevin when he says it, either.

And Kevin isn’t jerking him around, what does that even mean? “What, wait, I’m not—” Kevin trips over his words, freezes when all of Carden’s actually sink in. “Jonas?”

Carden barks a laugh, but he doesn’t sound amused. “Are you fucking kidding me?”

Kevin winces. He says, “I’m, uh—” but then Brendon’s bouncing over and he rings an arm around Kevin’s neck and says, “Show time, K-bird,” and Kevin’s not sure if he’s relieved or not when Brendon drags him away.

*


Kevin plays on autopilot until Bill hits the back of his head with the flat of his palm and says, “Smile for your public, Jonas,” into his ear.

And then he lets the music ripple through him and he doesn’t forget about Carden, but he can push it back - he can concentrate on Bill and on Brendon and the way Brendon dances during Three Feet Under. He can grin at Miranda, press their shoulders together, share a mic during (Ninja) Lessen. He lets Bill shake his tambourine in his face and drape across his back and mouth Patrick’s part on High And Mighty into the skin of his throat.

Halfway through their second set, right when they’re set to play All But (Ninja), Bill turns to Patrick and gives him a mysterious nod. Patrick salutes him with a drumstick and slips out from behind his kit. He picks up the guitar Brendon uses on Going Back To The Future.

Kevin shoots Miranda a questioning look, but she just shrugs.

Patrick adjusts his hat and strums a chord. It’s all very suspicious.

And then Bill says, “This is for my forever love,” into his mic. “My mustache pal, the NINJA temptress of my dreams.” He takes Miranda’s hand, presses a kiss to the back of it, and Kevin can see Miranda fighting off a smile. “You are,” he starts singing, “my fire.”

Miranda groans and covers her face. That doesn’t stop Bill from singing an acoustic version of I Want It That Way, though.

*


“When I told you to talk to Mike, Kevin, I didn’t mean stand around stammering while Mike glares little pieces off your body.”

Kevin fiddles with his water bottle. “That isn’t what happened,” he protests. It’s kind of what happened, but it’s embarrassing, so he’s totally okay with denying it.

Bill arches an eyebrow. “I have very keen observational skills,” he says. “Also, Saporta saw you. He’s chaperoning for laughs.”

Kevin’s seen him. He’s wearing a fringed vest and a handlebar mustache and he keeps cutting in on couples on the dance floor.

Bill sighs. “I see that I’m going to have to actively intervene now.”

“Please don’t,” Kevin says. He doesn’t want to be humiliated any more than he already has been. Carden’s figured out who he is, and he’s not impressed. “It doesn’t matter. He only liked me when I was—”

“I’m not sure whether I’m more amused or frustrated,” Bill says. He jabs a finger into Kevin’s chest. “There is no was here, Jonas. Suppose for a second that our costumes were fooling anyone.” He leans in close, all teeth. “Mike’s a very close friend of mine. I know you’re overly cautious about this, Kevin, but I never actually felt the need to keep any secrets from him.”

*


Carden finds Kevin outside. He’s on the wall around the hotel garden, heels kicking into the smooth stones. He’s not hiding exactly, but he’s thinking himself down from a mild panic attack - Carden knows. Carden has known all along. He can’t help the butterflies that are tumbling around his insides. It’s weird, and he’s a little terrified that he’s messed everything up because he’s even more dense, really, than Bill accused him of being.

Kevin doesn’t know what to say, either. He never knows what to say around Carden – he doesn’t know why Carden isn’t totally turned off by that. Kevin’s completely bewildered by Carden’s apparent—thing for him. Even more than he is about Lacey, in some ways. Lacey’s a douche. Carden’s as cool as Bill, maybe cooler.

Kevin pulls at his mask, elastic digging into the back of his neck. He blows his hair off his forehead with a half-exasperated breath. Carden’s not looking too hostile, so Bill probably talked to him, and Kevin’s torn between embarrassment and relief.

“You’re fucking strange, kid,” Carden says.

Kevin bobs his head. “Okay.”

Carden tugs on his sleeve until Kevin turns his head, looks over at him. Carden’s smirking. “You realize,” he says, “all you do is straighten your hair and slip on this.” He flicks the mask. “You’re fucked if you think that really changes who you are.”

Kevin flinches. “I know.”

Carden snorts, says, “Seriously, you drive me fucking nuts.” He slides a palm over Kevin’s nape, ducks in and presses their mouths together.

Kevin stops breathing, lips parted.

Carden says, low and amused, “This is where you kiss me, Jonas.”

Kevin shakes the tentativeness out of his limbs, swallows Carden’s chuckle, lips buzzing. He reaches up and grasps the collar of Carden’s jacket and ignores Carden’s grin in favor of slicking his tongue along the curve of it – Kevin is an awesome kisser, he just needs some good motivation.

“Shit,” Carden breathes. “You’re a little dangerous.”

Kevin feels dangerous. It’s pretty cool.

“Bill told me subtle doesn’t work on you,” Carden says.

“I’m kind of dense,” Kevin says. He doesn’t actually mean to say that, but the smile Carden gives him is worth it; genuine, reaching his eyes, happy - which is weird, coming from Carden, but also really awesome.

“Yeah.” Carden nods, curls a fist into Kevin’s vest, tugging him even closer. “So let’s make sure we’re seeing this the same way now.”

Kevin presses his forehead to Carden’s and says, “I think we are. But we might have to make out some more. You know, just to be sure I’ve got the right idea about everything.”

“Secret trysts are frowned upon, lads.”

Kevin jerks away from Carden, looks up at Saporta looming over them.

“Not by me, of course,” Saporta says, twirling one end of his mustache between his fingers, “but it’s my duty to mete out punishments for such unsuitable prom behavior.”

“Fuck off,” Carden says.

Saporta eyes Carden up and down. “Young Mr. Beckett warned me about you.” He points towards the doors. “Back inside.”

Carden scowls but grabs Kevin’s hand, urging him to his feet.

Saporta winks at him when they walk by. And slaps his ass. Kevin manages to hold back a yelp, but only because he’d been expecting it.

*


Kevin’s not even sure of the time when he hops out of the Purple Beast and waves goodbye to Bill. It’s early, and he thinks it’s lighter than it was when they left the after party, but morning isn’t creeping into the horizon yet.

“You look smug.” Nick’s sprawled across the rattan love seat, legs hooked over one arm.

Kevin pauses mid-step. “Um.” He doesn’t feel smug. He feels kind of blissed out; like it’s the end of an amazing night.

Nick grins at him, then shifts on the couch, curling up his legs to make room for Kevin.

Kevin drags himself up the rest of the porch steps and drops down next to Nick with a tired sigh.

“Did you get laid or something?” Nick says, pushing at him with the flat of his bare foot.

Kevin shoves him off and Nick pushes back and they tussle a little, until they’re both slumped back, panting, and Kevin grins up at where the sunlight’s just fanning out from behind Bill’s house, purple light dulling stars.

“Bill goes off to college in the fall,” Nick says. He lets the statement hang, then rolls his head towards Kevin’s and grins at him. “You know Joe’ll be angling for that open spot on NINJA.”

Kevin groans. “No way.”

“He was singing All Night Ninja in the shower earlier, he did Trick’s high parts and everything.” Nick nudges his shoulder. “Send him home past the twenty-four hour, small voices, loud places, in early—”

Kevin claps a hand over Nick’s mouth, feels him finish the verse, laughing, against his palm.

Nick reaches up and tugs him off. “It’s either that or he’ll start noise about the Jonas Family Singers again, Dad’s gonna love it, we can be a praise band!”

“If I tell you about my awesome night, will you shut up?”

Nick mimes locking his mouth and throwing away the key.

*


NINJA @ RANDOLPH HIGH SENIOR PROM
A glorious tribute to prom’s everywhere, and much to the obvious affront of stick-man Trickster, NINJA started out the night with a true classic, the anthem of all hep youths, The Four Season’s December, 1963. I danced my tight, supremely fine ass off, and you can bet Mr. JT was busting his own move in the hotel foyer, as sentinel of the front desk -no teens were getting laid on our watch.

NINJA brought the glory, my pretties. They fought for my honor.

Never underestimate the power of Billiam; the tambourine’s a sassy, temperamental instrument, and there’s none better at harnessing that awesome as the unofficial NINJA frontman. Rand, his forever love, improv’d a scorching guitar solo in the middle of This Is Your (Ninja) Story - granted, I might’ve been blinded by the little number she liked to call a dress, and all those lovely flashes of thigh.

Trick’s the magic man, the puppet master, the sultan of swing, and he even came out from behind his beloved kit to help Billiam woo his lady. Rand had a special gleam in her eyes during the entirety of BSB’s I Want It That Way, like she was gearing up to kick Billiam’s ass later - yes, I agree, he’s one lucky, lucky man.

Everyone’s favorite stage capuchin, Bden - cute as a pony and just as likely to lip your hair - revved up the crowd, not only with NINJA hits, but with timeless classics such as Shout and Mambo #5. And let us not forget the abnormally stoic K2, he of the strong, rock-god thighs - do I smell a heart-clench? Never fear, young ones. I’m a student teacher - I’m pretty sure I’m licensed to take care of this shit.

Oh, what a night.

and when the dawn sky is dark, children, look to the Cobra
- gabriel @ emc


END.





Extended A/N:

While the character of Miranda originally started out as Miranda Cosgrove, she kind of took on OC proportions; plus it made me a little squeamish to hook her up with Bill – even though they’re all around the same age in this, Miranda Cosgrove is actually 16 in real life, and Bill’s, like, way older. Nathan Kress, however, is Miranda Cosgrove’s co-star in iCarly. So you can basically imagine whatever you like about Rand, it could go either way.

Blake Sennett is from Rilo Kiley and his own band, The Elected, AND he was a child star – I Ate Moe is a reference to his show, Salute Your Shorts.

The entirety of Larry Says Hi is the cast of High School Musical.

Selena Gomez, one half of American Swimming Lessons, is Wizards of Waverly Place’s Alex Russo, possibly my favorite character on TV to date. She has grown into her head, and is a pretty, pretty princess.

ZFF – which was, indeed, started by one Gerard Way and his then girlfriend Lyn-Z – actually stands for Zombie Friends Forever, but no one ever uses it anymore. Right now it’s filled with mediocre Disney stars – you know how they try to get all their kids to sing, whether they actually can or not? Yeah, like that. Mitchell Musso and Emily Osment are from Hannah Montana, plus whoever else you want to imagine in there. Gerard is half horrified by what they’ve done to his precious ZFF, but he feels like he needs to be supportive of the young’uns.

Maja IS Puppies And Kittens. Everyone else is unimportant (though Rand probably has little voodoo dolls of all of them; and I did reference Cassadee Pope, that adorable girly from Hey Monday.)

Everyone in This Is Thunder is from American Idol, obviously.

Teachers Samberg and Hader are from SNL, and they are my very favorites. LASER CATS.

I don't know if I mentioned this before, but The Jerry is actually someone I made up and got attached to, so I've reused him a lot. He's super awesome.

I think I touched on everything out of the ordinary, but let me know if you want to know more! I spent way too much time just daydreaming about these bands.
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