NINJA 2/4

Sep. 4th, 2009 06:23 pm
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*


NOVEMBER


*


NINJA alert
Guess who’s coming to dinner? Mark your calendars, ladies and gents, for NINJA’s first ever live performance, Thanksgiving night at CarPort. Watch me rock my tambourine.

- billiam @ emc


*


Kevin doesn’t remember exactly how he ended up in woodshop – something to do with conflicting schedules, since he’d originally signed up for graphic arts - but he loves it. It’s hands down his favorite class, and he’s actually awesome at it, which is an unexpected bonus.

“That’s kind of ambitious,” The Jerry says, looking over his shoulder.

Kevin spreads his hands out to flatten the curling edges of his blueprint. “Only two more tiers than my last one,” he says. “I like a challenge.”

The Jerry grunts, then moves over to the workstation next to Kevin’s. The Jerry’s a huge bear of a guy, thick neck, barrel chest, with ice blonde hair that’s parted down the middle, falling past his ears. He’s like a Nordic god, Kevin thinks, a Viking, only without the beard. He’s a defensive tackle for the varsity football team, and for some reason he seems to like Kevin. Or have some sort of elevated tolerance for him, at least, and he’s always visibly impressed by Kevin’s birdhouses. As he should be, since Kevin’s birdhouses rock.

Besides The Jerry, Kevin has woodshop with a slew of sophomores and Smith, who’s completely hopeless. Mainly, Mr. Samberg doesn’t let him near any of the heavy machinery. Or even a hammer, since last time it slipped out of his hands and nearly hit Mr. Samberg in the face. Smith spends most of the period varnishing left-over bookshelves or TV stands and texting on his cell.

Mr. Samberg, on the other hand, spends most of the class beat-boxing and making up songs about how awesome wood is.

So woodshop would obviously be Kevin’s favorite class even if he didn’t happen to be great with his hands.

The best is that they have the class last period, so Kevin can stay late if he wants to. He usually does, since Brendon and Joe both have show choir – seriously, Kevin doesn’t understand Joe’s popularity at all. They wear sparkly vests and top hats, it’s ridiculous.

When the bell rings, Kevin has all the measurements he needs and he starts over towards the stacks of wood instead of following everyone else out the door. The Jerry ruffles his hair as he lumbers past.

“So.”

Kevin glances up to see Smith leaning against his work table. “Yeah?” he asks warily. He actually agrees with Miranda about Smith, but Smith is still pretty intimidating. His expression’s almost always stuck on a disgruntled default, which kind of cancels out the whimsical nature of all the sparkly t-shirts he likes to wear. But then Smith smiles at him and Kevin blinks, poleaxed, because that’s a heck of a grin. Kevin’s willing to bet it’s even more potent than Kennerty’s. Maybe even Gerard’s, too.

“Brendon,” Smith says, and Kevin finds himself grinning back.

“First of all,” Kevin says, “you should probably stop hanging out with Lacey.”

*


The problem with having Smith join them for lunch is that they can’t talk about NINJA or any other bands or shows or anything, really, and so the first few days are kind of strained.

Finally, Bill snaps and says, “If all of you don’t stop being incredibly boring, I’m going to go sit with Mike and Michael Guy.”

Patrick tugs his hat down over his eyes and sinks lower in his seat.

Brendon darts his gaze shiftily around the table. “Uh.”

“You realize I’m not actually stupid,” Smith says absently. And then, “My best friend is Ryan Ross.”

“Uh,” Brendon says again. He grabs hold of Kevin’s arm and digs his fingers in.

“For the record,” Smith says, looking up, blue eyes actually twinkling, Kevin thinks – Brendon squeaks a little in Kevin’s ear, startled - “he’s not a robot.”

Bill gives Smith a speculative look. “We’d explain everything, of course, but then we’d have to kill you.”

Smith nods, grinning. “Understood.”

Patrick makes disgruntled noises and scowls at Bill and says, “Seriously? This is how we’re playing it?”

Bill shrugs, bites into his sandwich, and gives Patrick a mangled, “Sure.”

Miranda sighs and says, “Well, whatever, we need to talk about tonight and how much Kill All Your Friends is going to rock.”

Kevin watches in fascination as Patrick’s face gets this dark shade of red that’s almost purple. His fingers are white-knuckled on his soda can. “I’m blaming you if Wentz finds out,” he says. “I can play all of your instruments, remember, I do not need you.”

Smith very nicely pretends that he’s not listening to their every word. Kevin notices the big grin Brendon flashes Smith and ducks his head to hide a smile.

*


KILL ALL YOUR FRIENDS @ CARPORT
While we still morn the untimely demise of Virgil, there’s no denying that Kill All Your Friends has that little something extra – namely, one Bob motherfucking Bryar. On point and strong-armed, ten times cleaner than anything Pelissier could have churned out - Trick totally has a new crush [one day I’m going to kill all of you – trick].

Skeptics of their fairytale theme – Billiam, for one – were eating their words by the end of the night. Kill All Your Friends brought just the right level of gore and despair, the right amount of the fantastical – remnants of the light-hearted Unicorns of Destiny, you can bet K2 was grinning all the way through both sets. But it was, unsurprisingly, the distinct lack of Mikey that left a strange taste in our mouths. Technically, Cortez is a fine fit, but the entire dynamic is different; just something we’ll all have to get used to.

Toro rocked harder than ever, though – with even more awesome rock-god thighs - and Gerard still tackles the whole show with arms, legs and mouth wide open. Kill All Your Friends is not Virgil part 2 - don’t show up expecting the simple hard rockin’ of Amber and Fall Home - but be prepared to have your face blown off.

Close friend of the band and former Virgil member Frank Iero of Pocket Thief was seen skulking around backstage in between sets, proving once and for all that while Virgil might have disbanded, Frank and Gerard’s rumored smackdown holds little to no truth. When broached with a Virgil reunion, Gerard wouldn’t rule it out, but made sure to note how dedicated Iero is to his current band – bittersweet news for fans of both.

KILL ALL YOUR FRIENDS @ CARPORT: NOVEMBER 12TH 10:30PM
set list:
+ Movement Of The Dead
+ Slander
+ Undertow
+ Let Left Alone
+ Paths of Twilight
+ Tuesday’s Gone
+ Singled Wolves
+ Rising
+ Aimless Heart
+ Fixed On Three Stars
+ Numberless

- rand @ emc


*


The buzz around NINJA is kind of surreal. It’s always been weird, but now with the announcement of their upcoming, actual in-person show, talk of NINJA has tripled, and Kevin’s starting to panic a little. Not only about the performance, but about the fact that a good portion of their audience will probably be from Randolph.

Patrick has a strange look on his face when he takes the seat across from Kevin. He dumps out his lunch and says, “Ashlee held me hostage for fifteen minutes in Chemistry while she rambled about how much Rand rocks.”

“Hell, yeah,” Miranda says.

“Then she made me play marry, fuck or kill.”

Kevin now recognizes the strange look as trauma.

Patrick stares at his apple.

Bill says, “Well,” and, “Inquiring minds, Patrick,” and taps his fingers on the table, grinning.

The tops of Patrick’s cheeks turn pink. He mutters something under his breath, and Bill jostles his elbow.

“What was that?”

Patrick narrows his eyes at him. “Kevin, Miranda, and You.”

“You don’t mean that,” Bill says airily.

Miranda says, “Sweet,” then, “Hey, wait, you’d marry Kevin?”

“I don’t want to talk about this,” Patrick says, hunching low in his seat.

Kevin rubs his palm over his nape and ducks his head, then kicks a foot up against Patrick’s.

Patrick flashes him a tiny smile from under the brim of his hat.

*


“I thought we were ninjas, not cat burglars,” Miranda says, fingering her honest-to-goodness ski mask.

Kevin isn’t really sure he’ll be able to play his bass with a full face mask on.

“I’m going to sweat,” Brendon says, frowning.

“You’re going to sweat anyway,” Bill says. He’s got skin-tight black jeans and a black turtleneck on, which actually isn’t too different from his normal clothes. His mask is folded back across his skull and he strikes a pose with his tambourine.

“I’m going to pass out,” Brendon says. “I’m gonna lay down on stage and die in this. I need to perform in, like, scraps of clothing, with maybe a misting fan attached to my mic stand.”

Patrick grabs the knit mask out of Brendon’s hands and tosses it aside. “We’re not wearing ski masks,” he says. He’s got his brow furrowed and a mutinous twist to his mouth, and Kevin knows they’re definitely not wearing ski masks, because Patrick can be stubborn. When he digs his heels in he usually gets what he wants.

“We could—half-masks,” Brendon says. “Like superheroes, guys.”

“I’m really enjoying this debate on what we should wear,” Miranda says, flipping her hair over her shoulder and fiddling with her amp, “but maybe we should concentrate on the fact that we’ve never performed live before? I’m kind of worried about how Brendon isn’t actually an octopus, no matter how many limbs it seems like he has – what are we doing about the piano?”

“I know the guitar parts on Lefty Persuasion,” Bill says. “And there’s no reason why everything has to sound exactly the same, you know. We can improvise. Also.” He curls a finger over his upper lip, tilts his head back. “I’m going to wear a mustache.”

“Please don’t,” Patrick says.

“Too late. It’s decided,” Bill says. “I’m going to make Kevin wear one, too.”

Kevin blinks. “Uh.” He’s pretty sure he doesn’t want to wear a fake mustache, but Bill’s sort of hard to say no to.

Miranda strums a chord and messes with her pedal. “Kevin’s not wearing a mustache,” she says.

“Are you volunteering to be my mustache buddy then?” Bill asks Miranda, grinning. He saunters over and hooks an arm around her shoulders. “They’ll tickle when we kiss, like whiskers on kittens.”

Miranda elbows him in the side; Bill half-stumbles away from her with an oof, mouth still curved up in amusement.

“So if anyone’s interested,” Miranda says pointedly, “I’m going to play Weak In The Knees now.”

*


Out of all his friends, Kevin is closest to Miranda. He’s known her since kindergarten; they used to play in each other’s sandboxes, Miranda once made Joe eat a ladybug. He’s gotten the chicken pox from her, she was his very first kiss, and she’s the only one who knows about his completely inadvisable crush on Bill in the ninth grade. It’s really no good to ever have a crush on Bill – he’s flighty and mostly-straight and carries around a picture of Isabella Rossellini in his wallet, which makes him unexpectedly classy as well.

“There’s something up with you,” Miranda says, banging her locker shut.

Kevin straightens up from his slouch along the wall. “Well, yeah,” he says. He’s been steadily getting more and more freaked out about their Thanksgiving show.

“No.” She eyes him up and down, presses a finger onto her lower lip. “No, it’s more—you’re acting like that time, freshman year—”

“Don’t. Oh, please don’t.” Kevin grabs her arms and looks deep into her eyes and says, “That is something we never speak of.”

Miranda fists his shirt and leans in and says, voice low, “You’ve got a crush.” She’s grinning, right up in his face, like she’s exactly right, never mind the fact that she is.

Kevin has no idea how Miranda knows that, though, because it’s not like he runs into Carden very often, and he never stares at him at lunch and he never brings him up and he absolutely, positively never flushes when Bill talks about him. Really.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Kevin says. He bites his lip and tries to look earnest.

Miranda has crinkles at the corners of her eyes, which means she’s completely delighted, happy, and in the mood to gossip. “I think you should call him.”

“I don’t—” He pauses, snaps his mouth shut, cocks his head, then says, “What?”

“He’s hot, he likes you, he’s fun,” Miranda says.

Kevin isn’t going to deny Carden’s hot, but he’s getting the feeling that maybe they aren’t thinking about the same guy here. “Um.”

“Zac’s pretty perfect for you, actually, and if you’re too much of a pussy to call him yourself, I’m going to tell Brendon to text Corbin your number and have Zac call you.”

“Zac,” Kevin says. “Zac Efron.” He feels like he needs to clarify this, not because he’s especially surprised by Miranda’s claim, but because he could use the time to switch gears. Zac, not Carden. This makes sense.

“Yes.” She’s got a stop-being-deliberately-dense look in her eyes, but it’s tempered with her you’re-so-cute-when-you’re-befuddled smile.

Kevin shrugs a little. “Okay.”

*


Kevin doesn’t really date. It’s not like he thinks his parents would mind – although there’d be rules and curfews and they’d all have to meet him and it’d be a nightmare - but he’s kind of got enough of a social life without adding dating into the mix. Even if his social life is largely a secret. He’s busy. And it’d be hard to have a boyfriend who he couldn’t see for most of the weekend. It’d be like leading an even more double life than he already does.

With Zac it’s a little different, since Zac can hang out with them during shows, even their own.

Kevin is quietly freaking out, because Patrick is loudly freaking out, and he figures they don’t need two of them hyperventilating into a paper bag fifteen minutes before they’re set to go on.

“This is the worst fucking idea you’ve ever had,” Patrick snarls at Bill. He’s pale and sweaty, gasping a little, his eye-mask pushed up under his hat, hands fisted on his thighs. He’s a curled-over heap on the floor in the hallway leading to the back of the tiny CarPort stage.

Bill doesn’t look very offended; he just pats Patrick on the head and says, “Breathe, my friend. In through your nose, out through your mouth.”

Kevin clutches the arm of his bass with white-knuckled fingers and follows Bill’s coaching, too.

Zac swings a friendly arm over Kevin’s shoulders and says, “You’re going to be totally awesome, guys,” grinning widely, hair flopping over his forehead.

Kevin relaxes into his side and Zac presses an enthusiastic kiss to his temple. Kevin has to admit this dating thing is pretty cool. Zac has, like, zero angst attached to him – he’s simple, like a puppy.

“Thanks,” Kevin says, low, so only Zac catches it.

Zac hip-checks him lightly. “Dude, crazy awesome, no worries. And even if you suck, you’ll have me, Corbin and Vanessa down front cheering for you, anyway. And Lucas, for what it’s worth.”

“I’m worth everything,” Lucas says, bouncing up behind them. “What’s going on? Panic attacks? Has anyone thrown up yet?”

“Alright, alright,” Bill says, clapping his hands. “Everyone who’s not NINJA, shoo. Band meeting, before Trick passes out.”

“I’m not going to pass out,” Patrick says, but his voice is weak and muffled by his arms.

Bill says, “That’s right, keep up those positive thoughts.”

“Good luck,” Zac whispers in Kevin’s ear, then slides away, tugging Lucas with him back down the hallway.

Brendon huddles close to Kevin’s side, vibrating. “I have never been so excited in my entire life, Kev,” he says.

Miranda catches Kevin’s eye over Brendon’s head. She grins, giving him a thumbs up. She’s wearing a billowy black shirt over black tights, but she’s bedazzled her half-mask with pink rhinestones. It matches the bandana Bill’s tied and knotted around his left thigh, just above his knee. They’re the only ones who bothered with color – Kevin has on dark navy jeans, but he doesn’t think anyone can tell.

They can’t hear anything from where they are. The club’s packed, Heartsore had been awesome, riling up the crowd, but right now there’s only the echo of their breathing bouncing off the thin linoleum tiles, and the occasional whimper from Patrick.

“We’re doing this,” Brendon says.

There are grooves in Kevin’s fingers from where he’s gripping his bass, soft, but calloused underbellies digging into the strings. It’s enough pain to ground him; he releases the strings backwards, the positioning a direct reverse of the beginning of In Front And Heavy. This is it. There’s no going back, even if one of the kids singing along in twenty minutes recognizes the curve of Miranda’s mouth, the timbre of Brendon’s voice, the strawberry blonde curl of Patrick’s hair under his knit cap; Bill’s splayed, spidery legs, Kevin’s wrists, fingers – the white band of skin that isn’t hidden by a thin band of silver.

We are your losers, your loud weirdoes, your science stars, your shy, retiring band geeks, Kevin thinks, and sets off for the stage.

*


It’s harder for Kevin to sneak out of his house than to sneak back in. So he maybe gets a little careless; the house is usually dead quiet, and everyone in his family is a heavy sleeper. He says goodnight to Bill as they split paths to their respective houses after Brendon drops them off, then practically trips over Nick’s feet on the front porch. He’d stopped using the tree outside his bedroom to come back home nearly two months ago. Clearly, this was a bad decision.

“Uh.”

Nick purses his lips and looks up at him curiously. He’s sprawled in the low-light of three AM, sky spangled with stars and a full moon, pajama pants hitched high – his pale, bony ankles are showing above his slippers. There’s a blanket wrapped around his shoulders.

“Hey, Nick,” Kevin says, shifting awkwardly, holding his case up defensively against his stomach. Nick is twelve, but he has this thing where he occasionally makes Kevin feel five years younger than he is.

“I’m starting to think Joe’s an idiot,” Nick says. “You just missed him, by the way. He thinks you guys were awesome.”

Kevin doesn’t exactly know how to respond to that. He goes for a pretty dumb, “What?”

Nick rocks up onto his feet, grabs hold of Kevin’s wrist. “Bill is not all that discreet, is what I’m saying.”

Kevin knows this. Bill has been their neighbor for ten years – it’s probably the only reason they’re friends, considering the fact that Bill is so much cooler than him – and the entire Jonas family knows Bill doesn’t have a discreet or subtle bone in his body, with little to no shame. “Um.”

“You’re in a band. It’s, like, all Bill talks about when he doesn’t think anyone is listening,” Nick says. “It wasn’t all that hard to figure out it was NINJA.”

“Right,” Kevin says. He guesses it’s not worth denying it at this point - and he also thinks Nick’s probably known for a while, and hasn’t let it slip to their parents yet. He’s feeling marginally safe. “And you haven’t told Joe?”

Nick shrugs. “It’s kind of funny watching him hero-worship you, man. You’re his favorite. I can’t wait ‘til he figures it out.”

“Yeah,” Kevin says. There’s a little part of him that wants to tell Joe himself – Joe thinks he’s so lame, right, and maybe he is, but Kevin just rocked his ass off in a tiny, packed club, Kevin is living his dream, Kevin is secretly awesome. Joe’s going to be so jealous.

*


DECEMBER


*


Patrick and Kevin are both in jazz band. Jazz band is only marginally better than regular band, mostly because they don’t practice every day, and they don’t have to march. They’re both, basically, only in jazz band because of their parents.

Kevin repeats his new mantra, I am secretly awesome, in his head as he fits together the pieces of his oboe. He wishes he had a cooler instrument – Patrick gets to play tenor sax. It’s 1980s cool, but it’s still better than the oboe.

In third grade, back when they’d had to choose their instruments of social destruction, oboe had been a funny enough word to get him into this mess. At least he has the bass – secretly awesome, he thinks – to save him.

The Randolph High jazz band normally has two shows a year – in the spring, for Band-o-Rama, and their Winter Wonderland concert, right before the holidays.

“We are so going to rock Sleigh Ride this year, dudes,” Kent says, cleaning out his spit valve.

Patrick grimaces. Kevin gets it; Sleigh Ride’s a staple piece, they could probably all play it in their sleep – Kent’s a freshman, though, and Kevin’s pretty sure he’s just excited to do the horse bit at the end.

“Aw, hell,” Lindsey says. She points at the chalkboard across the room with her cello bow. “They changed the concert to the eighteenth.”

“No way,” Kent says, “that’s bullshit, man, we’ll miss NINJA.”

The hair on the back of Kevin’s neck prickles. He always gets a weird chill when people bring up NINJA around him. It’s only been a week and a half since Thanksgiving, but so far almost everyone seems oblivious to the fact that the entirety of NINJA sits at the table in the lunchroom that’s cradled between the theater enthusiasts and that loner who allegedly eats his own snot.

Pete Wentz has figured it out.

Patrick has expressly forbidden anyone to say anything, but Wentz has totally figured it out; he’s worn his TRICK NINJA shirt almost every day, and there’s epic winking going on, so he’s either figured it out or he’s developed an unfortunate facial tic.

“Wait,” Patrick says. He tips his hat back a little and widens his eyes at Kevin.

Stupid jazz band. This is maybe going to be a problem.

*


“This is tricky business,” Bill says, trying to balance one of Patrick’s drumsticks in between his nose and upper lip. “I predict wacky hijinks.”

Bill’s basement has become NINJA Central. Well, it was always NINJA Central, but now there are boxes of merch everywhere, since Bill’s decided they can turn a profit this way, instead of just having a Café Press account. They all chipped in for capital, and Bill’s dad invested, although everyone knows Bill’s dad isn’t going to ask for any money back. He’s one of their biggest supporters. Which is a good thing, considering he could just take five steps across their side yard and spill all to Kevin’s parents.

“How wacky are we talking?” Miranda asks.

“Speedy, inconvenient costume changes in the back of the Purple Beast,” Bill says. “Pete Wentz.”

“I don’t know if Pete Wentz can actually be called a wacky hijink all by himself,” Brendon says.

The drumstick falls to the thin rug with a clatter, and Bill arches an eyebrow. “I’m fond of Pete, you know, but he’s definitely a wacky hijink all by his lonesome. Let us not forget the spaghetti sandwich incident of ’07.”

“He’s the only one who came out of that food fight unscathed,” Miranda says.

Wentz had walked out of the cafeteria with zero mess on him, smiling toothily. Kevin had smelled like rotten tomatoes for the rest of the day and the entire student body had looked like they’d somehow miraculously survived some sort of chainsaw massacre; rumor has it Wentz fired the first shot, but he hadn’t even gotten a single drop of sauce on him.

Bill nods. “Exactly my point.”

“Look,” Patrick says huffily. “Look, we need to stop talking about Pete Wentz and, I don’t know, maybe figure out how to play two shows at the same exact time.”

“Magic,” Brendon says, and does some jazz hands.

Kevin would laugh, except Patrick cuts him a warning glare – Wentz really has him on edge, though Kevin doesn’t blame him; he’s seen Wentz’s blog. They’re just lucky Wentz has only stepped up his campaign to marry Patrick and raise Canadian babies on a miniature pony farm in New Hampshire, and that he hasn’t mentioned NINJA yet. “They’re not exactly at the same time,” Kevin says instead.

“Half hour overlap,” Patrick says, “they might as well be.”

“We’ll just have to push back NINJA,” Miranda says. “We’ll go on a little late, I can’t see that being a problem.”

“Speedy! Wacky! Costume changes!” Bill says, arms waving.

Sometimes Bill’s just as much of a cartoon character as Brendon. Kevin figures that’ll probably at least be good on stage.

*


As much as Kevin loves woodshop, Fridays and buzz saws don’t always mix, particularly when he’s had a late night. He’s yawning his way through a blueprint – a gingerbread cottage birdhouse, complete with little wooden gumdrops on the eaves; it’s going to be awesome – when The Jerry thumps a fist on his table.

“Twofer Love, right? Heartsore,” he says.

“Um. What?”

The Jerry shrugs. “You were humming.”

“Oh. Oh, yeah. Twofer Love.” Crap. Crap, crap, crap, Kevin thinks, he was humming Heartsore?

“Dude, their show last night rocked.” The Jerry swipes some hair out of his eyes, looks over at him curiously. “Were you there?”

Kevin grimaces. He’s pretty sure he should say no. He says, “Yeah,” and kind of wants to smash his hand with a hammer, but—yeah. There’s a part of him that wants to maintain some cool in The Jerry’s eyes, maybe foster it outside of woodshop. Being secretly awesome has limited appeal, and The Jerry seems to genuinely like him. Patrick is going to kick his ass when he finds out.

But The Jerry just says, “Cool,” and turns back to his own project.

Kevin’s fingers tap out the rhythm of Kansas City over the little lines that sketch out the cross-thatched, graham cracker roof.

*


GLITTER GIRLS AND HEARTSORE @ BOOTSTRAP TEN
This much sugar should maybe breed disdain – instead, Greta (of Pocket Thief) and VickyT (of Heartsore) pack you so full of sweet, you don’t even realize the roof of your mouth’s sliced open and stinging until hours later, when their lyrics hit you right where it hurts.

On the surface, it’s sugary pop. Take their words at face value and you’ve got love and puppies and rainbows. But clever twists, like in Rock’ell and Unicorn Moon, in Time Love After - deaf ears and cracked plaster sunshine - and Hug; the upbeat tempo and major chords trick you into thinking this is something simple, when underneath it all VickyT and Greta have got some mysterious bitterness going on.

Glitter Girls isn’t so much a stretch for them, then – Pocket Thief’s hard, dark themes, paired with Heartsore’s hip-hop, party, dance vibe. Though McCoy would probably argue the simplicity of that description; Heartsore is, and definitely always has been, McCoy’s baby.

While Glitter Girls warmed the crowd up, Heartsore lit a fire. Edging up on the harder side of pop-rock, mainly due to the skillful hand of Joe Trohman on lead guitar, Heartsore had everyone singing along, sampling from such fine classics as Superstition, Another Night in Bangkok, and Little River Band’s Reminiscing - plus a straight-up cover of Whitney Houston’s How Will I Know.

Pulling double duty didn’t seem to slow VickyT down, her energy never flagging, and Greta stepped up to the mic during Heartsore’s set for the hook in Seven Years Bad Luck – McCoy, alternately, came out and remixed the chorus for Glitter Girls’ Jelly Donut Boy. Two great tastes that taste great together.

GLITTER GIRLS AND HEARTSORE @ BOOTSTRAP TEN: DECEMBER 10TH 9:30 PM
Glitter Girls set list:
+ Time Love After
+ The Word
+ Ten Around
+ Hug
+ Rock’ell
+ Magnetize
+ Jelly Donut Boy
+ Peppermint
+ Unicorn Moon

Heartsore set list:
+ Another Night
+ Twofer Love
+ Knock Me Out
+ Kansas City
+ The Cheese Told Me To Write This Song (possibly not the correct title, but Joe kind of mumbles, and I could have sworn there’s a bit about muenster and pepper jack in this)
+ How Will I Know
+ Seven Years Bad Luck
+ Nothing Wrong With Afternoons
+ It’s Simple
+ Lock Your Doors, We Make No Promises

same bat channel,
- trick @ emc


*


When Lacey corners Kevin in the downstairs boys’ bathroom, Kevin realizes that Lacey hasn’t really bothered him since he’d accidentally punched him back in October. He’s made some long-distance faces at him, but he hasn’t been nearly so threatening as usual.

Of course, Kevin doesn’t usually use the downstairs boys’ bathroom, because Lacey’s often found slacking off in there, so Kevin isn’t exactly sure what kind of brain fart he had that made him decide to walk in right then, but he’s seriously regretting it.

“Hey, Jonas,” Lacey says, lips curled up maliciously, eyes narrowed.

They’re a good distance apart, but Kevin feels like he’s being pressed up against the grimy tile, anyway; there’s a weight on his chest, and he’s finding it hard to breathe. He’s not afraid, exactly, but it’s like his face remembers how much it hurt to have a fist jammed into it, and his body’s trying hard to avoid a repeat.

“Lacey,” Kevin says. He nods a little. He has outward calm in spades, only his insides are squirming. He really hopes his eyes don’t reflect his panic.

Lacey advances with a smirk, but Kevin doesn’t give him an inch – he holds his ground, right next to the line of urinals, sinks angled to his left, and then Lacey flattens his palm on Kevin’s chest and shoves him backwards.

It isn’t a very strong shove, but Kevin’s footing had been nervous to begin with, there’s a constant, mysterious, disgusting wetness on the bathroom floor, and he’s got old sneakers on, rubber soles worn traction-less – there’s a slow motion dawning of embarrassment and horror as he stumbles, and the last thing he registers, before the back of his head connects with a burst of pain on the porcelain rim of a sink, is Lacey’s wide, surprised eyes.

*


Kevin slowly regains consciousness, the harsh fluorescent light swimming into his vision, spotted by pulsing specks of black, and the first thing he notices is that Lacey’s propped up across from him, nursing a bloody nose.

The second thing he notices is Carden.

Carden is hunched down beside him and cradling the back of Kevin’s head with one hand – down low, right above his nape – frowning, and Kevin would be so totally mortified if his skull didn’t feel like it was in two separate halves.

“Ow,” Kevin says, slightly nauseous.

Carden says, “Yeah,” and uses his other hand to probe lightly through his curls, until a fresh spark of pain makes Kevin wince. “Nurse, Jonas. Let’s go.”

“What about me?” Lacey whines, voice clogged and nasally, fingers pressed up against his nostrils. “You fucking sucker-punched me, asshole.”

Carden ignores him and levers Kevin up onto his feet, arms around his back to keep him steady. He watches Kevin carefully, like he’s waiting for Kevin to black out again, like he doesn’t trust Kevin’s balance.

Kevin’s dizzy, but he’s ninety-five percent certain he’s not going to pitch over. He’s hyperaware of Carden’s hands on him, though, and it sucks, because Zac’s awesome and fun, but he doesn’t make Kevin feel this way – hot and short of breath and awkward. “I’m okay,” he says thickly.

Carden snorts.

“Seriously, I’m fine,” Kevin says. He just wants Carden to let go of him. There’s this weird tingling, tightening of his skin where Carden’s fingers are grazing, just under the hem of his t-shirt, and a puddle of guilt warms in his stomach – he shouldn’t like Carden manhandling him this much, or at least he shouldn’t like it more than the idea of Zac doing the same thing.

“Well, you’re not bleeding,” Carden says, but it doesn’t sound like an agreement.

I’m bleeding,” Lacey says.

“Shut the fuck up,” Carden says, but his words aren’t heated, he’s mostly just focused on Kevin.

Kevin drops his gaze to his shoes, face hot.

Dumbly, he lets Carden steer him out of the bathroom and into the hall; he doesn’t know how long he was out, or when Carden found them, but the hallway’s packed. He’d gotten a hall pass from Lit and his books are still in room 103, and he squishes up against the wall when Michael Guy and Siska jostle close to Carden.

Carden has a hold of his wrist, though, and he elbows Michael Guy out of the way. He says, “Fuck off, Chiz,” and Michael Guy eyes Kevin up and down and says, “You look green, are you gonna throw up?”

Kevin swallows and would shake his head if he didn’t think that would actually make him throw up.

“I fucking hope not,” Carden says for him.

If he threw up all over Carden, this would officially be the worst day of his entire life.

When he spots Brendon in the crowd, he almost passes out in relief. Brendon bounces over, grinning until he gets close enough to see Carden’s fingers shackling his wrist, and probably the gray cast to Kevin’s face.

“What happened to you, dude?” Brendon asks.

Kevin lurches into his side, arm wrapping around Brendon’s shoulders, and he’s not even a little disappointed that Carden’s grip suddenly slips easily off. “Can you take me to the nurse, Bren?”

Brendon darts his gaze back and forth, between Kevin and Carden, but then he shrugs and says, “Sure.”

*


The speedy, inconvenient costume changes actually ends up being kind of fun. Besides getting Patrick’s elbow jabbed into his still-tender head wound, that is.

The biggest problem, of course, is Kevin’s hair.

“This isn’t going to work,” Kevin says.

“What isn’t?” Brendon says, looking at him through the rearview mirror.

Patrick smacks the back of his head and shouts, “Eyes on the road, eyes on the road!” as they nearly side-swipe a Honda coupe by drifting lanes.

Kevin holds up the bottle of curl relaxant Miranda had gotten for him. “This hair stuff,” he says. His head’s dripping with it and it smells really bad and there’s no way this is going to work.

“Oh, wait, wait,” Brendon says, “check my bag, I brought you a present.”

“I’m not wearing a fake mustache,” Kevin says, but he obediently starts digging through Brendon’s messenger bag. His fingers catch on something soft under Brendon’s books, and he pulls out—a stretchy, black headband with WAKE UP written in white across the front, and NINJA around the back. “You want me to wear our own merch?” He’s not exactly sure how this’ll help with his limp, greasy curls, either.

“Exclusive, dude, just for you, ‘cause you totally seem like a headband guy, right? I made Bill a bandana for his Carpe Ninja song, too.”

Kevin kind of gets it. Maybe. He’d written most of Wake Up by himself, with a little help from Patrick, back when they weren’t even really a band yet. He doesn’t understand why Brendon thinks he’s a headband guy, though. “Uh. Thanks?”

“You’ll look like a sweaty rock star,” Brendon says, nodding. “No one’ll recognize your hair.”

Kevin tugs on the sweatband, pulls it down so it flattens the hair on top of his head, wet curls licking up around the bottom, curving over his neck and temples.

Next to him, Patrick isn’t making any sounds at all, but Kevin’s pretty sure he’s laughing at him.

“Shut up,” Kevin says.

“No, right, you’re definitely a headband guy,” Patrick says, grinning. He’s completely dressed and ready, half-mask dangling around his neck, a black newsboy cap on his head.

Kevin rolls his eyes, but he manages to finish changing, tugging on his boots – his really awesome dark brown leather boots, with square toes and wedge heels and fancy tooling down the sides - just as Brendon screeches into the back parking lot of The Cell.

Bill’s hanging out the backdoor, mask askew. He waves at them. “There’s approximately one million people in the audience,” he says when they stumble out of the minivan. “One million and one, if you count Zac.”

“The Cell fits two hundred max,” Patrick says.

Bill swings an arm around his shoulder and pulls him up against his side. “They’re all chanting for you, Trick, particularly this lad in the front with funny hair and too many tattoos. Pete something or other?”

Patrick punches him in the gut. “You’re not funny.”

“He’s got a Marry Me, Trick sign, it’s tragic and hilarious.”

“He does not,” Patrick says, horrified.

Bill hums a few bars of I Wish I Were A (Trick Ninja) while Patrick ducks his head, cheeks flaming.

Brendon bumps a shoulder into Kevin’s and says, “Hey, so, don’t we have a show to do?”

*


Kevin almost has a heart attack when he spots Carden in the crowd. His fingers fumble for a split-second and then Bill arches a concerned eyebrow at him, but everyone goes on, and everyone ignores it when he skips his next set of background vocals because his throat’s dried up – Carden’s staring at him.

Kevin is extremely conscious of the fact that he’s wearing a sweatband around his head, and that his eyes are stinging a little from the relaxant dripping down his face. He takes a deep breath and turns towards Patrick, giving the rest of the club his profile.

Patrick’s singing, tipping his face up towards the mic that’s set up by his kit. His eyes are half-closed and he’s completely oblivious to everything but the music. He’s not letting Wentz - who doesn’t have a sign, Bill was lying, but is still up front and center, arms in the air - distract or embarrass him.

Kevin’s heart stops rattling around erratically in his ribcage, slows down until it echoes the bass line and Kevin can breathe again.

He sees Zac when he swings back around. Zac, completely insane, trying to dance with Lucas and Vanessa but really just jumping up and down, waving his arms and grinning up at Kevin.

Kevin really likes Zac, he’s kind of awesome, but when Kevin closes his eyes, sings, “Go lucky charming, walk home with me,” underneath Patrick, it’s like he can still feel the weight and heat of Carden’s gaze, curious and interested, and he can still pinpoint exactly where he is in the room.

*


“I’m pathetic,” Kevin says.

Brendon’s squished into his side, head on his shoulder. “No, you’re not.”

“For serious,” Kevin says. He slumps down and shifts so his head tips into Brendon’s, rocks his forehead across Brendon’s temple. They’re sitting on the stoop out the backdoor, and Kevin doesn’t know what Brendon thinks they’re doing, but Kevin is definitely hiding. Pathetic.

The air’s cold, almost biting, and his sweaty stage clothes aren’t helping. He shivers, and Brendon presses even closer, threads an arm through his, grabs his knees and tugs their bent legs together. Brendon doesn’t ask him what’s wrong, which is a good thing, since Kevin has absolutely no clue.

Kevin breathes heavily and watches his breath condense into smoke and disappear.

And then the door clangs open behind them and Zac says, “Oh hey, there you are, what the fuck, it’s fucking freezing, you guys are crazy.” He moves in front of Kevin, grinning down at him, hands tucked up into his armpits. “Come on, dudes, inside.”

Kevin bobs his head and climbs to his feet, pulling Brendon with him. “All right, yeah, let’s go.”

*


Right around Christmas, Joe starts looking at him funny, and Kevin breaks down after about two days of it and finally says, “So you figured it out.” He doesn’t elaborate, because he doesn’t want to spill any info just in case Joe hasn’t figured out what Kevin thinks he’s figured out. Maybe he realized Kevin has a massive and embarrassing crush on Carden.

Kevin really hopes that isn’t what he’s figured out, though.

Joe nods very slowly. He says, “I have two Wake Up NINJA shirts.”

“I know.” Kevin had thought it was really funny too, when Joe had excitedly displayed his purchases for him to see two weeks ago. Really, really funny, in a that’s-so-freaking-weird kind of way.

“I can’t believe—how did you manage to hide this?” Joe asks.

Kevin shrugs. It wasn’t all that hard, really. There really isn’t any reason for anyone to suspect – no one would look at him and think, hey, maybe this loser’s in NINJA. If they bothered to look at him at all.

Joe suddenly grins; this wide, almost manic smile. “This is awesome,” he says. “I mean—”

“You can’t tell anyone,” Kevin says. “Dad’ll kill me if he knows I’ve been sneaking out. No one can know about this, Joe.”

Joe rolls his eyes. “What’s the point of being in an awesome band if you can’t tell anyone?” he asks.

Kevin ducks his head and rubs the back of his neck. “It’s not like I’m doing this to be popular or anything.” Sometimes he thinks it would be nice for people at school to know or whatever, but he’s really not—he’s doing this because it’s fun, and because he’s good at it.

Joe punches him in the arm. “You’re seriously an idiot, man.”

“Shut up,” Kevin says, but he’s smiling.

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