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Refraction

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Curt had promised to find him some sort of job, but he hasn't yet, and Arthur hasn't pressed him. It's been too much fun - the shows, the after-parties, the nights spent shagging and drinking in hotels, or licking tiny pills off Curt's tongue and laughing about it.

It's Jack Fairy who has tried teaching Arthur a thing or two. Arthur can hardly believe he's meeting people like this – Curt Wild, Jack Fairy, Mandy Slade.  (Curt had gone to say goodbye to her in London just before heading back to Europe. She'd wavered between theatrical despair and real bitterness, and had hardly acknowledged Arthur standing a few paces behind Curt in her hotel room. But then, he hadn't expected much acknowledgement...)

It's still incredible to him that Curt has taken him with on tour and that Jack has been all right with that. Jack is a genius, a real one, and rarely thinks about anything except his music – yet there he is, trying to look out for Arthur when things get awkward or when Arthur realizes that he might just be in over his head.

Arthur always does his best to help Jack out, in return. It's hard though, some days. Just this morning Jack had asked him to run some errands down at tonight's venue. Arthur had been getting restless as he tends to when Curt disappears on him; he had first jumped at the distraction, only to be waylaid by the guys in Curt's band.

"Arthur," Steve, the drummer, says, beckoning him. "Were you with Curt last night? No one's seen him, but he said we'd try some new material..."

"Sorry," Arthur says. "I didn't even see him since yesterday."

Steve shrugs. Chris glares down at his bass, and Arthur can just feel the tension in the room. It's only been a few weeks since Curt and Arthur had started – whatever this is, but Arthur's caught on that things aren't right with Curt's current lineup. He's learned that Curt doesn't always keep his promises, either.

"I'm sorry," Arthur says again.

"Whatever," Chris says, sullenly, waving Arthur out of the room.

Arthur takes a cautious step into the hallway. He smiles when he sees Curt making his dramatic and convenient entrance. Then his smile fades. Curt is so fucked up he can barely walk, and he seems not to recognize Arthur at all. Arthur hurries to his side

"Hey," he says.

Curt turns to him.

"Arthur," he slurs.

"It's great that you're here; the guys in the band were looking for you…"

Curt laughs and mutters something incoherent. Across the room Arthur sees Chris's frown deepen. Steve just shakes his head.

"What did you take?" Chris snarls. The violence of his tone startles Arthur. But then, Curt had said once that he and Chris used to be good friends back in Michigan. They'd done plenty of drugs together too, back then. No wonder Chris's newfound sobriety was such a sore spot between them.

"Take it easy," Steve says.

Curt doesn't hear them. He tugs at Arthur's arm.

"I – I gotta sit down," he manages.

He staggers to a chair by the door and sprawls on it, half-pulling Arthur into his lap. Arthur kneels in front of him. He imagines Steve or Chris scoffing behind his back and flushes.

Curt reaches for a cigarette. But his hands are shaking so badly that he can't light it; instead he burns his finger on the lighter and lets it clatter to the floor. He laughs, as if this is the biggest fucking joke he has ever seen. Arthur stifles a sigh. He can hear the guys muttering behind him, but his focus is on Curt now. He picks the lighter up and lights the cigarette for Curt.

"Here," he says, taking another cigarette for himself and lighting that one, too.

"All right, Arthur," Steve says, taking a step toward him and Curt. "Thanks, but you should probably get out of here."

Arthur starts to get up, but Curt catches his wrist, drags him down and kisses him sloppily.

"Don't you go anywhere," he slurs. "You're so good to me. And so hot…"

Arthur tries to smile as he shrugs Curt's hand away.

"Look, I'll just be outside," he says, though he knows this won't be much of a rehearsal.

Curt's hand is back on Arthur's wrist, insistent, and stronger than Arthur expected.

"Aw come on, Brian," Curt whines.

Arthur winces. He looks at Curt's face, searching. Curt's eyes are glassy, unfocused, and his smile is vacant; this might be the worst shape Arthur has seen him in. He doesn't mean anything…

"Fuck it," Chris mutters. "He doesn't even know who he's talking to. What the hell's the point?"

And he storms past Steve, past Curt and Arthur, out of the room. Arthur can just picture the fight that'll come later, when Curt's sober enough to learn what happened. For now, though, he is still insensible.

Steve takes a step forward. His eyes meet Arthur's; he shrugs. Arthur just bites his lip.

"I'll – talk to him before he quits for good," Steve murmurs, sounding as helpless as Arthur feels. Arthur grips Curt's hand as the other man hurries from the room, leaving them alone again.