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Max is her baby brother, and she thinks she would probably tear people limb from limb in his defense on the off chance that either of them is ever in a situation where that seems like a proportional and rational response, but it’s really the fact that she’s worried about Tom that drives her to take Julio out to brunch, the first time.

Well, she’s worried about the fact that Tom is worried about Sean, which is mostly similar to being worried about Tom, but not entirely the same, since Tom worrying about Sean is a situation where Sean Van Vleet is a factor, which always complicates things.

Tom worrying doesn’t look like most people worrying, but Danielle really ought to know the signs after this long, and the last thing she wants to do is have to haul him out of the darkroom at the end of the day to find he’s been developing copies of the same pictures over and over again, convinced that there’s something not right about them. It’s a waste of materials, for one thing. For another, she has no interest in wallpapering rooms with the same image, iterated a thousand times over, and there’s not much else she can think of to do with the numberless stacks. So. Tom is worrying, she needs to figure out if he should be, so that at least she’ll know if she’s lying when she says it’ll be alright.

She buys him coffee entirely with the intention of lulling him into a false sense of security, and he smiles at her like he knows exactly what she’s doing before upending two sugar packets into it, clapping his hands together and saying, “Alright, let’s get this interrogation started!”

She’s been intending to do just that, but he startles her into laughter, so the only thing she says is a breathless, “What?”

“Is that not what this is?” he asks, smiling a smile that is not quite a smirk directly at her, like an offensive action. “I’ve been expecting one for weeks, bands that are this codependent always need to go through a little extra vetting, but if I’m wrong and you’re just trying to seduce me, definitely carry on.”

“Seduce you? In your dreams, babe. That’s alright, though. I like you, you can stay.” Danielle is surprised to find that she means it.

__

“He’s just going to leave us,” Sean says. “He’s going to walk out, and he’s going to take our hearts and our Jack Daniels with him.” Sean may be a little drunk.

“You’re thinking of Ryan,” Max says, entirely soberly. “If he does anything, he’ll go off to be a model, and take his face with him.” He mentally replays what he just said and reevaluates his sobriety just a little bit.

Sean looks over at him, face askew and neck at an odd angle, lying on the couch with his head hanging off it, and tells Max, painfully sincerely, “Al was a butterfly who needed to fly free. But I will never trust another drummer.” He gestures vaguely at the bottle of jack which is sitting on the floor next to Tom’s chair, beckoning for it like if he’s just earnest enough, it will fly to him.

Tom follows Sean’s gesture, reaches for the bottle, takes a swig, sets it back on the ground, and grins when Sean flips him off. He says, “I don’t know, man, we kind of need a drummer if we’re going to tour.”

“Fuck you, I said we’d never trust a drummer, not that we’d never play with one,” Sean tells him. “He can play with us all he wants, he’s plenty good, but he isn’t to be trusted.”

“He’s also not a drummer,” Max notes, and then the rest of the sentence catches up to him. “Don’t let him make off with the good silver, you mean?” he asks, “Or the, um, amps? Are we worried he’ll steal the van if we give him the chance?”

“Fuck you as well,” Sean says, “Give me the whiskey and fuck off, I just mean we have to know going into this that he won’t be one of us.”
“He can have our songs, but not our hearts?” Tom asks, and his eyebrow is cocked like he’s just being a dick, but before Sean can respond, he adds, “I know what you mean, I think you’re right. We’re us. He can be, like,” Tom gestures vaguely, “A friend of us.”

Sean nods, flops his head against the couch cushions, closes his eyes and says, “As long as we’re clear on that, nothing should go wrong.”

Max is ready enough for a change of subject that he reaches for his acoustic and starts picking out this idea he’s had in his head. He thinks it works well enough—Sean cocks his head for a second, then dives for a notebook, but Max is certain he hears him mutter something under his breath before he starts chewing on the end of his pen, something about, “Fucking rhythm section.”

Max glances over to make sure Tom caught it, too, and Tom nods at him. They’ll need to be careful, they’ll need to watch out, they’ll need to intervene if Sean tries to start writing songs without drum parts.

__

Tom is a terrible brunch-partner. Danielle loves him to death, but trying to have a pleasant meal with him before noon is like pulling teeth, and Danielle loves brunch. She thinks mimosas are the drink of the gods, more precious than ambrosia, and a whole lot of other things from her classics class from longer ago than she wants to think about just now.

And because Julio has just appeared, as if from nowhere, as brunch-partner extraordinaire, and Danielle has no plans to let him go any time soon, she figures she should give him a heads-up now, so he doesn’t feel betrayed later.

“They’re probably not going to ask you to join for good,” she warns him, and Julio laughs.

“I’m glad,” he tells her, “They’re pretty cool guys, I wouldn’t want to have to figure out how to let them down easy.”

That’s that, that’s good enough for Danielle, she’s done her duty as not-actually-in-the-band member and general, all-around rational human being, and she thinks she may have made a new friend, and that is good enough. She signals to the waitress, “Excuse me? I think we’re ready to order now.