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We'll Beat a Tattoo at Twenty to Two

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It was never meant to be anything serious, the band. Five blokes who met between classes and after lectures, had a couple of pints, then set up in dens or garages or behind the fucking dorms if there was nowhere else. Blazers and ties tossed to the ground, they crashed against their instruments and each other in a blaring, obnoxious, fucking awful cacophony they occasionally referred to as ‘music.’

Paul Cook he fucking well wasn’t. But it wasn’t Seb’s life fucking calling, was it? Just somewhere to take out the stress, the frustration, the fucking fury that took Seb sometimes- when he felt penned in on all sides, schedules and suits and his father and his future, what are you going to do with yourself Sebastian- it used to take a fight to calm him down again, his fist slamming into soft flesh, feeling the crunch of bone, tasting blood in his mouth. Now he had a drum set to whale on instead. The fighting went down, and his father grudgingly approved.

Cost him a fucking fortune in sticks, though. Seb took to carrying an extra set or two, against whenever his currents cracked the rim of the Floor Tom too hard and sent the upper half of one flying. But there was something about it, the drums; the rhythm of it, something no one bothered to fucking notice in the normal course of things, but without it the whole fucking song would fall to shit. Seb liked that. It was- sort of soothing, somehow.

Tommy had a cousin whose girlfriend worked at a pub; one night she managed to get them a gig, last minute, a Wednesday night, but it didn’t fucking matter. The boy caught Seb’s eye from the first, while they were setting up; tucked into the corner in a crisp suit and carefully combed hair, he didn’t look right, surrounded by guys in ratty jeans and hair teased into spikes. Empty shot glasses littered his table, and there was a lit cigarette in one hand. His hands were long and slim, and those fucking eyes. They looked black - and they were watching him. Their eyes met; the boy blinked, long and slow, like a cat, and Seb nearly dropped the bass on his fucking foot.

When the band played, spotlights hid the crowd from view, and Seb could put the boy out of his head, letting the music flow through him and work him up, get him angry. Exam scores and his father’s required classes and disgusted looks, his mother’s friend’s daughters and how they just happened to fucking drop by for tea whenever he went home, and all the sheer, mindnumber awful fucking pointlessness of everything. He broke three sticks before they finished.

And the boy was waiting for him in the alley, another cigarette in his hand, ignoring the sound of someone vomiting behind the dumpster. “It’s the order, isn’t it?” He asked Seb. His fingers spread, covering the space between them. “Everyone playing at lust and anger and anarchy, all that stomping- but you sit in the back, with your half- and quarter-time.” The boy’s head swayed on his neck a little, eyes closing. “Driving with a drumbeat. Like a soldier marching to war.” His voice rose and fell, accent crisp and cultured with just a hint of a lilt.

Seb considered punching the boy. “You wanna tell me who the fuck you are?”

The boy’s eyes opened. “I have a job for you. I pay very well.”

Seb frowned. Who the fuck was this bloke? “I’d have to ask-”

“For you, I said. Not your ragged hangers-on. I’ve my fill of boys and girls begging for chaos; I don’t need more.” He reached a hand toward Seb. “Everyone needs a little order. And isn’t that what you want, Sebastian? I could give you some.”

He should have punched the little bugger. Should have left him there, bleeding, and gone home, and studied and slept and went to class and studied some more. But he took the boy’s hand, let him lead him out of the alley.

Two hours later there was a man dead at his feet, a drumstick shoved most of the way down his throat. The boy told Seb to call him Jim, and his mouth tasted like whiskey and cigarettes and promises.