All the Bitter Songs
Singing every thought that goes through your head
Greet the morning sky with the evil eye
With a heart full of broken bones
Ives grimaced as he hit a bad chord. He tucked his pick between his teeth as he picked up his pencil and scratched out the notes hastily scribbled on a used envelope. He played the chord progression again, changing to an Eminor. It fit much better and he made the appropriate markings again.
"Wake up," he sang, his voice warbling like a bird's. Nikita had made fun of him the first time he sang one of their songs, but he only knew it was because Nikita wasn't expecting such a tone to come out of the kid. Ives chewed on his lip as he thought back to the day they had their first band practice. It seemed forever ago, ten years give or take. So much had happened since he was a lonely sixteen year old. "Wake up... Dammit, I suck at this."
He stuck the pick in his mouth again as he set his Guild guitar aside and pulled the envelope from the music stand so he could read his crappy handwriting more easily. "Hey, Nikita, what rhymes with bones?" He looked over his shoulder into the kitchen of his apartment. His bandmate and best friend was making himself a sandwich.
"Are you seriously going to rhyme?" Nikita chuckled. He entered the living room, sandwich in hand. "None of the rest of the song rhymes, you moron."
"Keep talking like that and I won't drive you to the airport," Ives muttered under his breath. He tucked his pencil behind his ear and started playing scales. "This song isn't coming."
"Maybe you should stick to writing melodies and guitar arrangements." Nikita plopped down on the couch next to Ives. He chewed his sandwich thoughtfully. "Leave the lyrics to me."
Ives licked his lips, half-amused. "Nik, you wrote three songs about a girl, two without her permission. None of my songs have ever had that track record."
Nikita didn't dignify that with a response. He just leaned back in the couch and enjoyed his sandwich. For all that the man had gone through in the past couple months, Ives was surprised his friend was so chill. Breaking up with his fiance was bad enough, but then having that woman have a nervous breakdown during a show in Boston, and then meeting up with the "one that got away" two days before in Chicago did something to a guy. Ives had his own share of problems, but he didn't want Nikita's problems for the world.
At least Ives was comfortable in his problems. Which, he supposed, wasn't the best way to feel. He scratched at his leg through his jeans as he studied the chords he'd written down on the envelope. He got particularly itchy when he wanted a fix. He had been sober for awhile now, nearly seven months, but every once in a while the urge to shoot up slammed into him so hard he'd curl up in the fetal position and shiver. It wasn't so bad now, but the itchies were getting to him. That meant he was on the verge of a bad emotional withdrawal. He supposed he shouldn't have skipped out on going to the regular support group meetings, but since he was hardly ever in Milwaukee long enough to go consistently, it didn't seem worthwhile.
"You okay there, Ives?"
"I'm fine." He set the guitar in its case. He wasn't going to get anything more done until he distracted himself from his desire to find a needle and some coke. "You ready?"
Nikita brushed the crumbs from his pants and nodded. "Got my stuff loaded in the Jeep. I appreciate this Ives."
"Yeah, well, I guess I owe you a lot more than a ride to the airport." Ives grabbed his keys and followed Nikita out to the street where his Jeep Wrangler was waiting. The drive to the airport was pretty quiet, with Nikita fiddling with the radio trying to find some decent music. Ever since he'd come back from Chicago, the singer was strangely quiet. Ives didn't manage to extract much information about what had happened, except that he'd seen Amy and had shared something. Ives liked Amy well enough, but something about the situation seemed weird to him.
Especially since Nikita was on his way to visit his ex-fiancee in a mental hospital in Boston. That had to do something to a guy. When they reached the airport, Nikita hopped out and grabbed his duffel. He leaned into the window, not caring that Ives was blocking a shuttle bus trying to pull up to the curb. "Stay out of trouble, Ives."
Ives gave him a mock salute. "Aye, aye, sir."
Nikita rolled his eyes. "I'm serious. You know Kale and Eric aren't going to bother after what happened in Colorado. But just know I will beat the shit out of you if you do something stupid, alright?"
Ives wasn't threatened. Nikita couldn't hurt a fly. But that didn't mean he didn't take Nikita's concern to heart. While he'd once considered Kale and Eric his close friends as well as badmates, they'd certainly showed that they weren't putting up with his shit any longer than they had to. Nikita was a lot more patient. It helped that he'd known Nik since he was a kid.
"I'll be good, Mr. Otto. Now go catch your flight. Tell Angel..." Ives trailed off. He'd never had a good relationship with the woman. They'd always rubbed each other the wrong way. "Well, say something that doesn't sound too douchey."
"Then she'll know it didn't come from you."
The shuttle honked, and Nikita jumped back with a wave. Ives rolled up the window, as it was way too cold to keep it rolled down. He waved at his friend and pulled away from the curb to let the shuttle bus in. He drove away, feeling a strange heaviness in his chest. Nikita was only going to be gone for three days, but that seemed way too long. Even after all these months, it was still hard to be alone. Especially when he was in an intense craving. He'd spent more time at Ives' place than his own in the past six months.
A quick glance at his gas gauge told him he needed to fill up his tank. With a grumble at the ever higher gas prices, he pulled off at the first gas station. He jumped out of the truck, shivering inside his down-filled coat, and unscrewed the gas cap. As he inserted the nozzle and started pumping, he looked around the run down station. He saw an ATM tucked under the overhang of the building. He didn't keep cash, at least more than a few dollars. It had been Kale's suggestion when he'd gotten out of rehab and was relying on the other man for help with his money. If Ives had unrestricted access to his funds, he'd spend it all on drugs. He'd nearly gone broke a couple times, whether it was from ill-advised gambling while drunk, or trying to buy the highest quality coke.
He closed his eyes and turned away. The longer he looked at the machine, the more he wanted to pull out his debit card, swipe, and extract dozens of twenties and go find a dealer. And he'd just promised Nikita he'd keep out of trouble.
He tapped his fingers on the handle of the gas nozzle, trying to go over the lyrics of the song he was writing in his head. Anything to distract him from the desire to find that high. And the itching he couldn't scratch beneath his coat's sleeves. Some days were harder than others. It seemed to be worse when the days were cold. It was early January, absolutely freezing in Wisconsin.
A particularly violent shudder ran through his body and he quit pumping the gas. He needed to get home and get distracted as soon as possible. He had swiped his credit card, so he replaced the novel and jumped in the driver's seat. Ives squeezed his eyes shut for a long moment and concentrated on regulating his breathing. Once his heart slowed a bit, he turned on the ignition and sped the entire way back to his apartment.
He and Nikita were both in the process of moving from Milwaukee to Chicago. It made a lot more sense from a business standpoint. It was closer to Kale and Eric, and there were better studios, O'hare, and most of the non-touring shows they played were there anyway. Nikita still also half-lived with his mother and it was about time the guy got his own place. At least that's how Ives thought. He'd been on his own since he was seventeen, so he guess he didn't have much room to talk.
Once Ives reached his apartment, he let himself in with a grumble. "I should get a cat or something. Have something else to worry about."
He shed his jacket and collapsed onto his couch. He was way behind on packing for the move. The only things packed up were his meager kitchen supplies, most of his guitar equipment, and his clothing. They were set to move to Chicago in a week, and Ives wasn't particularly looking forward to it. Moving meant moving furniture. And packing and unpacking. Of course, they were hiring movers, but that didn't make everything super easy. Therefore, Ives avoided helping anyone move his entire life and just his luck, he had to move himself and Nikita.
Finding himself not nearly distracted enough from the desire to scratch the hell out of his arms, and not daring to pick up his guitar when he was in such a mood, Ives pulled his cell phone from his pocket. He stared at the name in his contacts. He didn't have many friends, which was of course his own fault. Nikita was currently a mile up, and Kale and Eric wouldn't exactly be amenable to helping him. It hurt, that his two buddies didn't want to do what it took to help him get clean, but he couldn't exactly blame them. They'd given him every opportunity to shape up, and it took hitting rock bottom and a court order to go to rehab.
It was a miracle he had as many people who cared about him as he did. He didn't want to call his mentor. He didn't like the guy, and felt like a huge loser every time he had a required visit. So he closed his eyes and pressed Send.
She picked up on the third ring.
He let out a puff of breath. So she wasn't going to ignore him. "Hey, Amy. How's it going?"
"Uh, fine. I just got back to St. Louis. Is something wrong?"
"Aw, come on, does something have to be wrong for me to call you?" Ives winced as soon as he finished speaking. He normally had a devil-may-care attitude, but considering how things had gone down the last time the two had spoken...
"The last time you called me out of the blue you conned me into going to the Rocky Mountains. Forgive me if I'm a bit leery."
Ives let out another puff of breath, this time relieved. Her usual snarky tone was quite evident, which meant she wasn't holding his past transgressions against him. Or she was but managed to hide it.
"Distract me," he said.
"Because if I don't get my mind off of how much I want to shove a needle into my arm I'm going to go insane. So just tell me a freaking story or tell me what's going on with that little magazine of yours." Ives laid back until he was stretched out on the couch. He clicked the speaker phone button on his phone and set it on his chest. He closed his eyes.
"I am not talking work when I'm on my nice long vacation. What kind of story should I tell?"
"I don't know, some weird that happened when you were a teenager." Ives tapped his fingers on his thighs. He couldn't stratch. He'd already done that bad enough in the past to draw blood. He didn't want to have to explain that way again, not that he had much occasion to wear short sleeves in January.
"Well, I could tell you about the time I got arrested."
"You got arrested?"
Amy let out a chuckle. "I wasn't always so reserved and obedient, Ives, and I'm offended you think I couldn't raise a little hell after I nearly assaulted Nikita after getting drunk, or stealing all the mini bottles of alcohol out of your hotel room."
Amy continued. "When I was sixteen, my friends and I went to the Homecoming football game because... well, actually, I don't remember why. Just that we didn't actually watch the game and spent most of the time under the bleachers. Darryl was trying to sneak cigarettes and Jeanie Harper stole her dad's flask and was trying to get drunk. Anyway, after the game, Darryl and the rest of us piled into his truck. I guess it was nearly one o'clock because we went to Denny's to eat and ended up staying past the local curfew."
Ives had to smile. Certainly sounded like typical teenage rebellion to him. If only his own brushes with the law had been as innocent as Amy's probably would turn out to be.
"What happened then?" he asked.
Amy cleared her throat. "We got pulled over. Thankfully Darryl hadn't had anything to drink, but Jeanie got in deep shit. The rest of us got arrested because she was drinking while he was driving and it was so much past curfew and all of us were under the age of eighteen. My mom and stepdad both came to the police department to pick me up, and let me tell you it was the worst moment of my life. My brother Teddy lorded it over me for years. Well, I was grounded for two months and the arrest didn't go on my permanent record, but yeesh. Not exactly the most shining moment in Amy Rector's life."
"Wow. That's hilarious."
"I'm glad my teenage anguish is amusing to you, Alan."
"Don't call me that." Ives wrinkled his nose. "It makes me sound like a middle aged plumber."
"It's not my fault your mother gave you that name."
Any sharp retort died on his lips. All itchies were forgotten.
"Did I say something wrong?" Amy asked.
"No. Just. Nevermind." He couldn't seem to get a coherent sentence out, so he decided to switch topics. "So what happened between you and Nik?"
"You mean on New Year's Eve?"
Ives nodded before he remembered she couldn't see him. "Uh, yeah."
"Nothing really. I mean, I had no idea he was going to be at Beetle's when I went there. He kissed me."
"That's something, not nothing, Amy." Ives couldn't help snickering. "So the old boy finally planted one on you." He could practically see the blush rising to poor Amy's cheeks. She was so easy some time.
"Ugh. It's kind of disgusting that you know that much about my love life."
"Comes with the territory, love. Nikita and I are intimately acquainted."
"Now that sounds dirty."
"Was supposed to, obviously. He flew the coop. Went to Boston to go visit Angel."
"He still really cares about her, doesn't he?"
"Yeah. What a mess that guy is in. Still in love with Angel but kind of still in love with you. Kissing you and all that."
"You think he's kind of in love with me?"
"I don't know, I guess so. He hasn't come out and said it. But if not love, then he still cares about you more than he ever admitted to himself. Anyway, I just got back from dropping him off at the airport when I called you. And we're moving to Chicago next week, did he tell you that?"
"Uh, no. When did this decision come about?"
"God, like last month."
Amy sighed heavily. "So he totally knew both times he saw me at Beetle's and didn't tell me."
"I guess the first time he figured you were never going to see him again, and he was too busy sticking his tongue down your throat to tell you the second time."
"He didn't stick his tongue down my throat!"
"Seriously, too easy." Ives laughed at himself. "Of course he didn't. That's reserved for when the relationship gets serious. I mean, if you're Nikita. For me, getting serious is if I see them the next morning."
"Well, I try."
Ives smiled as he realized his cravings seemed to have abated for the time being. He had to remember to call Amy more often. The more indignant she got with him, the less he thought about his own misery. Wouldn't she be glad to hear that? He had to figure out when the best time to tell her would be.
"Thanks for talking with me Amy. You always seemed to get me better than anyone. More than Nikita sometimes."
"Yeah, well, I figured you'd just repeatedly call me if I didn't bow to your whims."
"It's like you know me."
Amy laughed. "I have to go, I have dinner plans with Mary and Trevor and Jayden. And I'm still mad at you for what you said in Colorado."
"I'll make it up to you in spades, sweetheart. Talk to you later."
Amy said goodbye and he hung up the phone. With a smile, he picked up his acoustic and started picking out a melody.
Wake up and stay
broken bones heal faster than broken hearts
Author's Note: Trufax, a family friend is named Alan and is a plumber. AND he was in a band with my dad. YES THIS INFLUENCED MY CHOICE OF IVES'S FIRST NAME.