Summary: On the surface Adrien is a mild-mannered reporter for a gay magazine, but scratch just below it and he's a bubbling cauldron of lust for Angel, the clueless lead singer of Hazardous Toys. Other members include Li, the adorable guitarist, Jordan, the enigmatic drummer and bassist Diem ... that dick. MM
Playing with Hazardous Toys
For weeks I had shamelessly groveled to my editor to get this assignment. Christ, I even fetched his coffee and picked up his dry cleaning for him! If he had given this assignment to anyone else, I would have been justified in shooting him. Not fatally, of course, just a little light maiming amongst co-workers. But, luckily for me - 'cause even if it is just a little light maiming, I couldn't take any prison sentence no matter how short - Max, my editor, gave me the assignment.
What assignment, you ask? Hold on, hold on I'll get to it. First things first, I write for a gay-themed magazine called Stepping Out. Yeah, the name makes even me cringe which is why I either mumble it when I'm forced to say it or simply hand out my card. It makes us sound like a bunch of fifty year old musical theater fags singing and dancing about our glorious coming-out experience. I've repeatedly lobbied that we need to change the name, update our image, broaden our audience beyond the aforementioned fifty year old musical theater fags, but that sound argument has fallen on deaf ears.
Prior to my current assignment, the most exciting thing I had written was, "Embracing the 'Gay' in Bengay: How to Spice Up Your Love Life While Relieving Your Joints." Basically, it was a step-by-step guide for using Bengay like an erotic message lotion. So yeah, maybe now you can understand one of the reasons why I was so desperate for this assignment.
And I wasn't the only one, either. All four of the under thirty writers at the magazine fought for this assignment. Nathan spent a weekend working in Max's garden. Carlos gave Max's car a tune-up in the parking lot. Kenny even blew Max in the office supplies closet. After I heard that I feared it was all over, but apparently my coffee and dry cleaning fetching skills are far superior to Kenny's blow-jobs.
What is this assignment that has you all atwitter, you ask? The assignment is to follow the up-and-coming band, Hazardous Toys, on their U.S. summer tour. We're profiling them because they're good and well, the lead singer is gay. It's rumored that other band members might be less than straight as well, but I'm only concerned with the singer.
Speaking of which, his name is Angel and damn is he angelic! He has shoulder-flirting curly blond hair, which under stage lights looks like a hazy halo, and cloudless blue eyes. His fair skin is flawless and his cheeks seem perpetually rosy as though he's just been jogging in thirty-five degree weather. Did I mention his dimples? Oh! they're so adorable that I could just die of an overdose of cuteness. And his nose! Oh, don't even get me started on his nose! It's like a- What's that? Other members of the band, you ask? Uh, yeah there are three other people in Hazardous Toys, but none as perfect as (sigh) Angel.
Okay, so other members. Other members, other members . . . well there's Jordan who plays drums. Eh, I guess I would describe him as boy-next-door cute. Y'know totally harmless and basically attractive. He has brown hair, if that helps.
Uh, then there's Cornelius - yuck I know, Cornelius. He hates it too, which is why he goes by Li. Yeah, so he's Japanese-American which is funny 'cause in some ways Li is a better name for him than Cornelius. Or maybe if he was of Chinese descent . . . . Oh wait, I'm being stupid 'cause then that means my name would have to be Sven or Lars or something equally Nordic-y. So yeah, we're all Americans let's have American names. Anyway! Back to Li, he has swaths of dyed red hair, like blood red not 'I'm a natural red-head' red mixed in with his au natural black that he wears in the artful emo way. Y'know, most of his hair draped over one eye so he doesn't have to see so much of the cruel, cruel world. And he's short-ish and chubby-ish and he plays guitar . . . so yeah, that's Li.
I bet I haven't told you about the two perfect little golden arches - no! I'm not talking about McDonald's get your head out of the fridge and pay attention! - that float heavenly over Angel's eyes. Eyebrows! I'm talking about his beautiful eyebrows dammit! What? No, I haven't forgotten about the final member. Jeez, have some patience.
Heavenly voice from on high, drums, guitar - what are we missing? That's right, bass. The bass player is Diem. Weird name, almost as bad as Cornelius and I have no idea how to pronounce it. Is it supposed to be Di-em as in carpe diem or all run together monosyllabically like deem. Yeah, no clue. I'll just have to listen to what other people call him. Other than the fact that he's tall and his eyes are super freaky, there's not much else to say about Diem.
Angel on the other hand could have thousands of sonnets written about him and still there would be more to write about his beauty. (sigh) Angel . . . .
So here I am eleven o'clock in the morning standing in front of the less-than reputable looking venue they're playing tonight, wearing my best ass jeans and sexy, yet coolly irreverent t-shirt, feeling nauseous - so glad I skipped breakfast - and excited to meet Angel. And, yeah, the others too.
After banging on the solid steel door for like five minutes some jackass finally flung it open only to bark, "What?!"
So I flashed my pearly whites and my press badge at him and he gestured me inside. I'm so 's hope my butt-ah-aryness continues when I meet Angel (sigh) Angel.
Frick! Why is it so cold in here? Who knew a practically empty steel building in the middle of a New York City spring could be so cold? Cold and reeking of stale cigarettes, old beer and that indefinable something caught between a gym locker room and a landfill.
Tall, dark and grumpy led me past all the emptiness of an abandoned club and into the back where he pointed and grunted at a black door with a pink circle painted on it.
My garrulous guide left and I paused, taking a couple deep breaths before stepping forward and opening the door standing between me and Angel.
While I was vaguely, peripherally aware of others in the room, all I saw was Angel. He was standing in the middle of the room holding a water bottle and looking delectable in grungy jeans, a ratty white t-shirt and a brown scarf. I walked trance-like over to him. Upon reaching him I just stood there dumbly and sighed, "Angel."
What ensued was, I imagine, an awkward silence lasting over a minute. I don't know, I was too zoned out on Angel.
He laughed and ran his free hand through his hair, "Hi. I'm guessing you're the reporter from Stepping Out and not some freaky stalker who wandered back here."
Still unconscious of a world outside of Angel, I was staring at his deliciously mussed hair and imagining scenarios where he would let me run my hands through his hair. Maybe I could offer to wash his hair? Nah, that's a little too psychopath stalker scary. Or maybe I could say that I need to run my fingers through his hair in order to be able to accurately describe it for our readers? Eh, I'll come up with something . . . .
"I think he's both," drolled a voice to my right.
That snapped me out of my Angel-induced high. I swung my head around towards the voice and met the tar black eyes of Diem. Already unsettled, his freaky eyes unsettled me further, but I managed a glare before turning and beaming at Angel.
I laughed a little both at myself, I'm such an idiot, and to relieve the tension, "He's right, actually. I've been really excited to meet you," I paused and turned to the remaining three, "all of you actually."
Diem scoffed, but I persevered. "So yes, I'm Adrien, the reporter from SteppingOut," I mumbled the title and ran it all together, "and I can't wait to go on tour with you guys." I gave Angel one last smile and then moved away from him.
I need to overcome my obvious blunder and get the whole band to like me, or at least, open up to me. I turned to Li, since he was the closest, lounging in a dusty tan-colored barco lounger and drinking orange soda.
"Li," I began earnestly looking down at him, "your guitar work in 'Walk a Mile' was amazing. Why, I would almost call it Hendrix-esque." I smiled, Li smiled. Diem chuckled to himself.
Li glanced shyly up at me with his one visible eye, slurped his soda and murmured, "Thanks."
One down, two to go. Jordan was next just to the right of Li on one side of a heavily stained, once white couch. I bet if you had sex on that couch with a dirty street whore it would be a toss up as to which one gave you crabs - hmm, the couch or the crack whore? Hard to say. The only people who should buy white couches are wealthy wanna-be artists not the owners of a filthy music club. Okay! momentarily distracted by the diseased couch, but now I'm back to Jordan.
Oh, his eyes are green, I never noticed that before and look, he has a nice smile too. Neighbor boy moves up in the hotness standings. Well, really he can't surpass Angel so he's frozen in the number two position. What are the hotness standings, you ask? Okay, it goes from hottest to well . . . not-so-hottest: Angel - duh, Jordan, Li and Diem.
Diem would be higher on the hotness list if it weren't for his eyes. Seriously, his eyes are kinda scary, disconcerting at the very least. It's like he has no iris, it's like all pupil. They'reso dark that you can't even discern where the, I assume, iris ends and pupil begins. His freaky eyes wouldn't be so frightening if either his complexion or hair was darker, but as it is, he's deathly pale and he bleaches his hair. Ugh. He looks like some scary other worldly alien.
Okay, back to Jordan! No, really this time. Jordan looked through me as though I was a television stuck on prepaid programming about carpet cleaning machines. In shorter words, totally disinterested and bored.
"Hey, Jordan, I'm really excited to meet you 'cause I used to play drums in my high school marching band. Did you play in your high school band? We went all over the state, I mean all over! Poughkeepsie? They can Pough-keep-it! Haha-haha. One year we even got to play in the Thanksgiving Day Parade! And of course it was freezing and our band leader wouldn't let us wear gloves 'cause they 'disconnect you from your instrument' - he was a total tyrant." Oh my god I am babbling like an insane asylum escapee who thinks he's being all coy, but c'mon he's still wearing the damn straight jacket! "So, haha yeah, from one drummer to another I'm totally psyched to meet you." Psyched?! Who even says that anymore? This jackass, apparently. And end embarrassing monologue with a strained smile - there! done. Oh god, my butt-ah-aryness has melted in the hot sun of my embarrassment.
I glanced over at Angel to gauge his reaction to my bout of diarrhea of the mouth. He's smiling softly to himself while looking blankly at the floor . . . that's . . . good, right?
I slide my eyes and my feet, surprisingly my whole body comes along for the ride, across the floor towards Diem. He is shrouded all in black and splayed out across the rest of the probably crabs-infested couch. What to say, what to say . . . my mind has blanked and I can't remember what I was going to say to him. And of course no one has said his name so I have no idea what to call him. Frick!
"What, no trite platitudes for me?" Diem smirks up at me.
It pisses me off, that he's kind of right. I mean, I did come up with these "trite platitudes" or as I like to think of them, "compliments" prior to meeting Hazardous Toys as a way to ingratiate myself with the band. But platitudes, my ass! I worked on those for at least an hour!
I smiled thinly at him,"Die-um, I think your choice of a C.F. Martin bass is a good one."
That ugly business done, I turned quickly back to Angel. Unfortunately, someone else had other plans.
"You have no idea what wonders it does to my self-esteem that some starry-eyed nobody from a shitty little fag rag approves of my bass choice. Why, I feel like a new man!"
What a complete and total asshole! His asshole-ishness is so thorough that it requires redundancy.
I turned briefly back to Diem and sneered, "Glad to be of service."
All in all, I'm pleased with that response. I mean I don't want to completely alienate any member of the band before I even get a chance to start the interview, but I also can't let someone get away clean with being an asshole.
Diem remained quiet. I moved back over to Angel who seemed completely absorbed in trying to cleanly tear the water bottle wrapper from the bottle.
Begin at the beginning I always say, "So!" I began brightly, "How did you guys decide to form a band?"
I glanced around the room at all of their bored faces . . . well, all but one, Diem just looked annoyed. Huh, not getting a lot of takers for that question maybe I should ask something else and come back to that one.
"Do you know anything about us?" Diem sneered from his end of the couch. "Did you do any research before you got here? Or was it all moaning over a picture of Angel while you whack off?" Diem then slouched even farther into the couch, loosely fisted his right hand near his crotch, closed his eyes and threw his head back and then began moaning, "Oh, Oh Angel . . . Oh Angel . . . An-gel!"
I have to admit it was pretty hot . . . but only because he had his eyes closed . . . and because he was miming a sex act. So yeah, anybody would think that was sexy, too bad it was at my expense.
"Thanks for that, I needed a good laugh."
"I don't see you laughing," Diem challenged back.
"Your ego is obviously so delicate that I didn't want to risk traumatizing you. I wouldn't want you to be unable to perform tonight."
"Oh, I never have any problem performing; care to see?"
"No thanks, let's save it for when I need a really good laugh."
I was spared any further sparring with Diem by the entrance of a goofy, gangly tall guy with orange dreads. "Hey, everyone we're ready for sound check when you are."
Li looked up from his all-consuming soda bottle and launched an actual smile at the new guy. Dread guy lit up too and came and sat on Li's lap. It looked like he was crushing Li, since all you could see of Li was the bottoms of his legs, his arms wrapped around dread guy's waist and some of his tortured hair, but I guess he was happy. Huh, it seems that Li likes to "taste the rainbow" too.
Diem spoke up, "Yeah, let's do the sound check now guys. It'll give Adele here time to come up with some questions."
"My name is Adrien."
"Sure it is, Abby."
Arghhh. They all filed out and after a couple calming breaths, I followed.
I've never been to a sound check before so I don't know if what I witnessed was normal or not. It pretty much consisted of them standing around playing their instruments half-assed for a couple minutes. Then they played a couple songs, the theme from Gilligan's Island and Green Acres where Angel played the part of Eva Gabor and Diem sang Eddie Albert's part.
Dread guy came up to me during sound check and just about talked my ear off.
He was all smiles with an outstretched hand. I shook it and soon learned that my part in this conversation would be limited to non-verbal cues; mostly a lot of head nodding and smiling.
"Hi, I'm Brandon, Li's boyfriend. And you must be Adrien, the reporter. Yeah, I'm sort of the roadie, basically I just help out wherever. I know what you're thinking, 'how can these guys afford staff?'"
Actually, I was thinking about how outlandishly sexy Angel looks on the stage with his guitar slung loose and forgotten about his torso while he leans on and clutches the microphone. The soft stage lights playing over his body.
"Well, they can't really, but I can't afford to be without Li. And hey isn't that what trust funds are for?" He paused long enough to whack me on the back in a friendly gesture. No doubt the hand-shaped bruise I have forming there disagrees. So I just nod my head like I understand about trust funds and dogging my boyfriend around the country like a big over grown puppy.
"I just don't trust his fans, they're totally rabid."
Why would Angel's fans worry Li's boyfriend? This hippie giraffe better not be interested in Angel too.
Brandon shook his head, "He's too sexy for his own good. I don't blame Li, of course I don't, I blame the ravenous slut-fans who are not content with the beautiful gift of his music, they want his body too. No! That's my body! Well, technically it's not, but Li told me it kinda is and hey, my body is his too. Oh! and I just wanted to warn you - we're not into any of that kinky ménage á trois stuff - so don't go getting any ideas." He clapped a hand on my shoulder and looked at me earnestly, "I'm sorry dude, we're just not into that."
I started to automatically say, "Don't worry about it," but it was swallowed by Brandon's continuous chatter.
"I'm only saying 'cause I know you write for one of those gay magazines and your editor sent everyone a copy of your last article," Brandon screwed up his face in disgust, "something about kinky old people sex . . . so yeah, no hard feelings, but we're not into sharing our salamanders, if you know what I mean."
Holy crap! I can't believe Max did that to me. He sent these guys my "Embracing the 'Gay' in Bengay" article. He might as well have just faxed a memo saying, "this guy is a total douche, treat him with the respect you would used enema fluid." Thanks, Max.
I grabbed Li after the sound check and asked if I could do a preliminary interview with him. He agreed and we went down an empty hallway for some privacy.
"I'm gonna ask you some basic questions, Li just to get a better idea of who you are. Okay?"
Li nodded his head.
"Do you mind if I record this?"
Li shook his head. Hopefully he'll use his big boy words during the interview.
Me: How did you get started playing guitar?
Li: Um, my parents started me playing the violin at age five. I was okay, but not the prodigy that they had hoped for . . . and I didn't really like the violin. When I was fifteen I started playing the guitar on the side. I kept playing the violin for my parent's sake, though, and I was in orchestra throughout high school.
Me: Do you still play the violin?
Li: I prefer not to.
Me: So you guys all met in high school, right?
Me: But you're the youngest, right?
Li: Yeah. I met Jordan when I was a freshman and he was a sophomore. We had the same Biology class together.
Me: Uh-huh and when did you meet Angel and Diem?
Li: It's pronounced 'deem.'
Me: Oh, haha, yeah, thanks. I didn't know. So, you met Angel and Deem, when?
Li: They were . . . or they . . . really kept to themselves in high school. My sophomore year Diem put up flyers around the school for a guitar player and drummer and Jordan and I were the only ones who showed up.
Me: So it was a really rigorous recruitment process, huh?
Li: (smiles and sips from his soda)
I didn't want to do Diem next, I was planning on working up to him, but he was waiting outside the little hallway I was interviewing Li in and insisted on going next.
Diem: So we meet again. Come up with lots of exciting questions for me?
Me: Yeah, tons . . . . Uh, what did you have for breakfast this morning?
Diem: (burps and kind of savors it) Mmm, cold pizza.
Me: What made you start playing bass?
Diem: My hands.
Me: . . . Why did you start playing bass?
Diem: I wanted to.
Me: You're giving me a lot to work with here.
Diem: (smiles) Thanks, you too.
Me: So, what made you and Angel want to form a band?
Diem: I was wondering how long it would take for you to mention Angel. (Grabs his pocket watch) Just over a minute, not too bad.
Me: Are you going to answer the question?
Diem: Music, we like it.
I was hoping to save Angel for last, but Diem basically forced him to do the interview claiming, "Abby is just desperate to spend some time with you." That is so thoughtful of him!
Angel slumped down on the floor next to me. Angel. I tried to discreetly scoot a little closer to him while also sniffing the air for his scent. Yep, I'm a multi-tasker.
"So . . . do you mind if I record this?"
Staring at his hands he mumbled, "No."
Me: Have you always wanted to be a musician?
Angel: Not really . . . I used to want to be a gardener or a, a landscaper, but Diem suggested we start a band and wanted me to be the singer. (shrugs his shoulders)
Me: You must like the outdoors if you wanted to be a gardener.
Angel: Yeah, I always have, it's so peaceful.
Me: I completely agree. I wish I had a green thumb, but any plant I bring into my apartment is condemned.
Angel: (turns and looks at me in horror) Don't you water them?
Me: Uh, yeah, when I remember. But enough about me, when did you learn to play guitar?
Angel: (starts bouncing his right hand on his bent right knee while staring at the wall in front of him) A couple years ago. Li actually taught me. I can't play really well, but I wanted to be able to play something while I'm standing up there in front of everyone.
Me: Oh, so you get a little stage fright?
Angel: A little.
Unfortunately, I don't feel that my interview with (sigh) Angel is a solid basis for a loving and lasting relationship, but then again stranger things have happened . . . right?
After my disappointing Angel interview I sought out Jordan, just to finish everyone off. I found him laying face down on the couch. Ew, he is just begging to get oral herpes. I walked silently up to him to determine his wakefulness. Suddenly he turned his head towards me and cracked open an eye.
"Eh, whaddaya want?"
"I've briefly interviewed everyone else, so I was wondering if I could ask you a couple questions too."
"Am I going to have to hear stories about marching band or band camp?"
"Haha, no. Uh, sorry about that. I guess I was just excited."
Jordan levered himself up into a sitting position, "Shoot," he said.
"Care if I record this?"
Me: It must be nice to have a built-in friend like Li in the band with you, yeah?
Jordan: Well, we're all friends, but yeah, I have known Li the longest.
Me: Uh-huh. What made you and Li try out for the band that Angel and Diem were starting?
Jordan: We were bored and dared each other to do it.
Me: So a real love of music then.
Me: When did you start playing the drums?
Jordan: My dad got me a drum kit when I was ten. I think it was mostly to piss my mom off more than anything since they had just gotten a divorce, but eh I liked it.
Me: Yeah, I know how that can be, my parents are divorced too.
Jordan: Goody. Something else we have in common. Were we separated at birth?
I know I shouldn't be starting another story, but in my defense this started out as a oneshot that got out of hand. It'll probably have about five chapters total, so it's a little ficlet. If anyone has any suggestions for a punchier or snappier summary, I like 'em angry, please let me know.
Thanks to xanthofile for betaing!