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Last Ride Together

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Dave was sitting in the back of the pickup truck, in the bed, under the cover, huddled against the back of the cab. His efforts, to come to terms with the events of the past half hour racing through his mind, were futile.

They woke me up, and in less than fifteen minutes, I had all my crap thrown into this truck bed with me, and I had a bus ticket in hand. And I was being told that I was being sent back to LA, and I was out of the band...

Dave shook his head and rubbed his eyes, snapping out of his thoughts, swirling with the events of the morning, and trying to get a grasp of them.

Somebody pinch me... This has gotta be a bad dream. I got into some weird trip, and this is what I'm seeing, and I'm gonna wake up back in the house and everything's gonna be just as it was yesterday.

Blinking and pinching himself hard as he could, and finding that it really hurt, Dave huddled further in against the truck's cab, looking out the window at the rain pattering against it.

It wasn't a dream, it was real.

Lars was driving, both hands firmly gripping the steering wheel, looking straight ahead at the road, and as a very rare thing for himself, was pin silent. The tension was so thick that the air in the truck could have suffocated him, and the thoughts of the dirty deed carried out that moment plagued him.

It was really low, I know it was, and he's gonna hate me and the others for this... But he's dangerous when he's defensive. We had to get him when his guard was down and he was hungover -too tired and disoriented to fight back, or it wouldn't have worked. He'd have either gotten violent and either hurt one of us, or himself... And if he didn't get physically violent, one way or another, he'd have put his foot down and stayed. And then we'd have continued to fall apart. He was a good friend, but we just can't live with each other in this situation. It didn't work -and it had to end this way, even though we didn't want it to.

Cliff didn't have much thought to the whole thing, as he hadn't been in the band very long, and wasn't as close to Dave. He felt some guilt over the way they had carried it out, but at the same time, he knew it had to be done. If the trouble Dave was causing in his drunken rampages didn't kill the band, it was surely going to kill Dave if he stayed with them. They were all living a wild, dangerous lifestyle, but Dave's was ten times crazier, and all the more potentially deadly.

James sat, looking out the right passenger side window, clenching his fists down by his sides to conceal how badly his hands were shaking. His back was turned to Cliff and Lars, he slumped forward against the window, and let his hair hang over his face, trying to hide the tears that kept coming one after another, and trying to keep from making one unsteady breath that would give him away.

We grew up under such similar circumstances, of control and misunderstanding, bad family relationships... Dave was the only one who ever understood -he was like my brother, and now I don't know who he-.

A shuddering gasp teeming with heartache burst forward out of James' chest and obliterated his thoughts before he could even feel it coming, let alone stop it. The pain was far too much as he recognized the end of the road of his time with Dave Mustaine as his brother. They had been there for each other, but there was no way they could continue to.

And then Cliff had pulled him off the window and into a loose hug that seemed to say that he was there for James, even if he couldn't make the pain any less at the moment. And James had turned to Cliff, limply hanging on with one arm, the other covering his face as the sobs broke forth and wracked his whole body.

Dave looked up, aware of some odd noise coming through the truck, where the adjoining cab window was open to the covered bed. Taking what was intended to be a quick look through, a shock went through his whole body. James was weeping. He was utterly, undeniably broken down into messy, gasping, choked weeping, and defining the picture of anguish.

And Cliff had his long, lanky arms around James, guiding him in against himself, gently patting the singer on the back, and quietly murmuring inane words of comfort.

"There, there... It's gonna be okay..."

That was Dave's undoing at that moment. Seeing James fall apart was the very thing that removed any last doubt whether the situation playing out was real or not. It made it clear that their time as brothers was over. And yet, James had been the brother who had stabbed him in the back, not the other way around.

And nobody was in the back of the truck for Dave when he bent his head over his knees, drawn up to his chest in the fetal position, and sobbed. Nobody comforted him. Nobody even acknowledged that it hurt for him too, or realized how brutally embarrassing it was for him when he had to sniffle forcefully so that they could hear because gravity and holding the tears back had naturally caused his nose to run, and he didn't have anything remotely useful as a tissue.

Because he was the one on his last ride with the band. Not James. James would still have plenty of rides to come, and the only difference for him would be that Dave wouldn't be there with him.

The last ride was coming to a close, but he had already been cast out by the time it was over.

James had reduced his sobs to hiccups, but he was still a wreck, and when the bus stop came into view, he broke down again.

Cliff didn't need James to verbally say that it was hard for him. Instead, he patted James on the back and tried to comfort him once more. "I know it's hard James, but it's tearing you apart either way... You gotta let it all out and get it over with so you can put it in your past."

From that point on, it was silent until they pulled up.

James was the only one who got out of the truck to help Dave unload his belongings.

I remember when you told me you would never leave me behind... Dave could recall meeting James, how they had become fast friends, and James had promised to never abandon Dave like all the others had. And now, he had broken that promise, along with Dave's trust, and his heart, as here he was, being abandoned again, left in the situation that scared him more than anything else.

Just before Dave turned to leave for the bus station, James stopped and looked him directly in the eyes. He did not say anything, but the pain in his eyes was enough.

I didn't want to cast you out Dave... I really didn't. But I have to, whether I want to or not, for the safety of both of us. And I just hope one day you'll understand and forgive me...

Dave shook his head, trying to push back the blur that wouldn't clear from his vision.

In a shaky voice, he said what would be his last words in person to James, or any of the members of Metallica for a long time.

"I trusted you, as my brother. And you abandoned me."

He stopped, closing his eyes and shaking his head while choking back a sob that caused his whole body to shudder, overcome with the sadness that was slowly beginning to turn into anger and vengeance as the morning's shock and fog wore off, turning the numb hurt into raw, stinging agony.

"I just hope you realize how much damage you've done, and regret it someday."

Then, the flame-haired guitarist picked up his bags, turned his back on James, and walked away, not once looking back. He couldn't look back, because nobody would be there for him.

Nobody but the shell of the man that had once been his brother and had abandoned him when he'd needed him most. And he had to walk away, before the James that was left could leave him behind too, so he wouldn't have to be the one left behind again