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When William’s faculties were finally recovered enough so he could leave the room where he had passed out, the group who had left him was already coming back, a pack of somewhat Chinese food safely held by them. There was no sign of Victoria. Sisky waved at his friend, pointing gaily at the pack. The singer tried to reciprocate his joy but felt like failing miserably. The way Victoria had stared at him had disturbed him, she seemed really upset by the fact that William had passed out. They hadn’t known each other for a day, yet; how come could she develop such strong, protective feelings towards him?

“Beckett, Earth calling!” Butcher screamed by the singer’s ear. The taller guy raised a hand to cover it, pressing and massaging it, his face contorted in both pain and surprise.

“Damn it, Butcher, you’re a jerk.” Ryland laughed out loud. “Whazzup, Beckett, y’ ‘k? If you’re already standing...”

“And here I thought that Vicky-T would shake him even more”, followed Nate, shaking his head desolately. “I’m so deluded.”

“Oh, no, dude.” Carden got himself in the middle of it, snoopy. “Lil’ Bill here doesn’t mix work and private life. He doesn’t know what he’s missing, but...”

William cleared his throat, making sure to do it loud. He raised an eyebrow before speaking.

“In case you haven’t noticed, I’m still here.”

The others laughed. “Yeah, you are, aren’t you?” Tom clapped a friendly hand on his shoulder. “What do you think of us crashing into Wentz’ office to eat all of this?”

“Conrad, where does all that food go?” Alex’s brow raised really high. “Nobody told you you just had breakfast?”

“And since when is it something that should stop me from having Chinese?”

“You’re lucky your metabolism’s a bit too quick, Tom.” Carden laughed. “Otherwise, we’d be TAI and the rolling stone.”

“Oh well, compared to the four of you, Tom is fat as shit”, tried Ryland, jokingly. Butcher reacted in a single spat. “Fuck you, Blackinton.”

Everybody laughed at it while they moved towards Peter’s office. It was always open and the meeting table was certainly the best to hold a meal, even if it wasn’t its traditional purpose. In fact, FOB’s bassist had already asked them a gazillion times not to eat in his office, but it was as unavoidable as having Butcher splash ketchup on his fried eggs. As a poor way to compensate the transgression, they kept from being messy and made sure the tough oak remained as clean and shiny as when they entered the room whenever they left.

“There’s not enough for everyone”, warned Carden, setting the six little boxes on a blue checkered tablecloth and picking up a dozen pairs of hashi from his own pockets. “We’re giving our little anorexic here a major part of it so lay low.”

He slapped Beckett’s head, which the other took without objections. They had the right to be infuriated with him, afterall he had been irresponsible like a six years old kid. Even so, they had kept him alive. Somehow, it must be something good... or at least so he thought.

“I’ll have the yakisoba!”, screamed Siska, picking up the little box and staring at the other in a mean and maniac way.

William just raised his brows, heading to the bandmate and proffering a hand. Like if hypnotized, the bassist gave the box up onto the singer’s hand, being rewarded with both a smile and a caress on his curly, untamed hair. Somehow, the smaller man seemed to melt down, shrinking into the chair and sliding stupidly till his knees touched the ground. Sisky was always a goof but William could acknowledge the effort behind that particular action. It was a distraction, one that he would gladly welcome and take part in. Therefore, everyone else saw the bassist splay on the floor – except for Beckett, who was opening the box of food and whose stomach rumbled contently in sounding hunger – and also laughed openly when Sisky tried to get up just to hammer his head heavily on the table top.

“This is cruel”, murmured he, massaging the top of his head while his eyes filled with tears. It had probably been an unwanted outcome.

“Oh, little crybaby, do you want uncle Bill to kiss your booboo?”, asked Butcher jokingly, talking like a child.

“In fact, I do.” Sisky turned to face the other, looking hurt. “Wally, I have a booboo.”

He pointed at his own forehead, where a beautiful red mark was forming. Soon it would become a brilliant shade of purple. William just smiled with his lips only while he chewed on a piece of chicken – he couldn’t wait to eat until after the show was over. He swallowed, cleaned his mouth on a napkin and called for the wounded mate, kissing his forehead with honest but theatrical tenderness.

“Wanna sit on my lap?” The question was made by William in a caring voice. “I can give you food, once these monsters won’t but torture my boy.”

“Thank you”, murmured he childishly, giving the others a tongue.

Sisky sat on William’s lap while Carden slapped his own forehead, unbelieving. Beckett was actually playing his part and feeding the poor bassist, while everyone else popped the rest of the boxes open and dove into the food. Despite only Conrad being capable of manifesting the wish for the meal, they all seemed more than willing to share it.

“Well, what do you intend to do today?”, asked Nate, fighting his hashi to make them stab a piece of meat.

“Who the hell knows.” Tom had his mouth full, but he swallowed before going on. “We’re just here ‘cause Wentz ordered us to. No clues about the reasons why.”

“Meeting the new band, you dope.” Carden’s patience was giving in. “Although knowing Pete a little...”

“Hmm, knowing Pete a little, yeah?”, tried Ryland suggestively.

“... I don’t really think he’s called us here just to present us to a new band.” He gave no attention to the interruption. “No offense”, added he politely. “Pretty sure y’all great, Pete knows his shit, but he’s much more practical than this. There’s no reason to summon us up and spend tons of cash just for it. Honestly, I think he could have waited a tad more, like two days, when the tour would be officially over and we’d be heading back to Florida anyway.”

“Why the hell whenever Carden says something everything sounds so fucking obvious?” Butcher frowned deep. “Dude, he’s right, Wentz wouldn’t bring our furry asses all the way down to here for anything less than an urgent contract.”

“Agreed’, said Alex in a sure tone, shaking hashis that held a broccoli; being so skilled, the vegetable barely oscillated in the wooden grip. “Peter is a practical. We should in fact have been presented to the other bands only when a minimum of fifty percent of the album was, if not finished, at least on its way. Even so, he decided it might be ‘interesting’”, and he quoted using his free hand’s fingers, “if we were here today. We are not even recording! He said we should relax till Gay could come back.”

“Which means Pete’s deceiving us.” William’s hand was distractedly laid in Sisky’s thigh, not restraining the other while he helped himself from the box in front of him. “Any ideas of why?”

“Why don’t you ask him so?”

After fighting the owner of that voice in an eye battle for neverending minutes, Beckett couldn’t possibly mistake it ever again. Victoria got into the office, sitting on the table on the corner closer to the door and crossing her legs deliberate and unsexy.

“Oh, yeah, sure, Vicky-T, and how are we supposed to do so?” Nate was obviously not amused by the suggestion. “Something like ‘hey, hi, Wentz, we were just thinking... what the fuck do you truly want from us?’ I dont really think he’d answer us. I mean it.”

“I doubt he wouldn’t”, insisted her sharp and firmly.

“Mates, calm down.” Tom interrupted them before it became an argument. “Peter never held a secret before, he’s like all poker face and shit but he spills, we have but to wait. So shush and relax.” Victoria frowned at him, unagreeable.

“It’s true, Vicky-T”, carried on Sisky solemnly. “If you haven’t noticed it yet, you probably don’t know him as well as Carden here.”

The comment was rewarded with a slap to the back of Siska’s head, from Carden. The bassist choked on the food he had just put inside his mouth. William tapped him vehemently on the back to try and make him stop coughing.

“I in fact think that Peter’s playing this game because he needs all of us”, tried the singer, in a pensive tone.

“And why, in life, death or every Christian hell would he need all of us?”, asked Ryland, skeptical.

“Because it won’t work unless it’s with all of you.”

Wentz’s voice interrupted everyone’s reasoning, making them petrify in their chairs. Only Victoria kept herself at ease, swinging her legs softly while staring at the newcomer.

“Hi, Pete”, saluted her with a wide smile. “Wanna join us?”

“Hello, Vicky-T.” He wasn’t angry, but still there was an unavoidable layer of authority and seriousness in his voice. “How are you?”

“Quite fine, thanks? What about you?”

“Worried as fuck.” He sighed. “And let me tell you, knowing that you’re suspicious of me doesn’t make my life the least bit more bearable, you know...”

“Give us a break, Wentz”, said Butcher, squishing through the remains of content in one of the boxes with his hashi, looking for anything that didn’t look like noodles. “You pick us up from an awesome tour to shut us inside a studio for apparently no reason and you’re all frilly that we’re suspicious of your intent? Come on, dude.”

“Well, perhaps it is too much to ask, but could you put a little more faith in me and trust me for once?”, begged him.

“We can try, although...” Tom raised a brow. “Come on, Wentz, you know us, why don’t you just spit it out and we’ll see what we can make of it?”

“Because you’re gonna kill me if it doesn’t work.” Again he sighed. “It’s not only you into it, mates. There’s plenty of people, like, too many now. Gimme some time, ‘k?”

“Wentz, you got a thousand times”, answered Nate, tapping and drumming with the hashi on the oak table. “Tell us what’s up!”

For a moment, it looked like Peter would spill the truth. It lasted only a second, though, and the next they knew FOB’s bassist was out the door, running away from the bands he had helped to raise. Sighing deep instead of excusing herself, Victoria fled after him. Everyone else stared at each other, confused by the strange apparition and outcome. William was the first to shrug his shoulders and carry on feeding both himself and the still eager Siska on his lap.

“Hey, Bill, you’re really not giving a rat’s ass about what’s going on, are you?”, tried Butcher in a stingy, sarcastic voice.

“Not really”, answered the other, refraining from yawning wide in a way that made his cheeks stretch and eyes flood with tears. “He’ll tell us, eventually. He needs us after all.” He stretched himself and slapped Siska’s thigh in a brief movement, signalizing him to get up so he could do so to and being promptly obeyed. “The only thing I’m all in is crashing down and passing out.”

Seven pairs of eyes faced him, narrow and laser-ed. William laughed and tried to get them back into talking, which worked for about half an hour more before they actually had to part. He was dead tired, willing to go to his hotel and tuck himself in bed, so he’d have to pick up his guitar and bag in one of the spare rooms – where Carden said they’d put them – before heading to the band’s apartment. He was well into the hallway when he heard heels clashing on the floor behind him. Thinking the girl one of Peter’s secretaries, he went closer to the wall to let the person move past him, imagining it could be an important call or meeting. When he stopped moving, the footsteps became lighter, though, and the other person moved just close enough to reach out and touch his shoulder. Frowning, he stared at the girl.

His lips stretched in an uncontrollable smile when he looked at Victoria, wearing a whole other outfit, cheeks flushed for trying to run in high heels. She wore a striped sweater that clung to her curves, black shorts and high-heeled sandals. Her hair was up in a lazy bun and her make-up had been re-done in a heavier but not unnatural way. She was obviously ready for a photoshoot, which made William’s brows to furrow even more at seeing her in front of him.

“Hi, Beckett”, saluted her, taking a deep breath. “Can I borrow you for an instant?”

“Ahm...” The frown deepened. “I don’t know?”

“It’s just that... I could use some company right now.” She blushed slightly. “There’s this thing for a magazine, I completely forgot it was today. I know you barely know me, but you’re experienced in interviews and stuff and I’m...”

“Scared.” She nodded, looking little like the girl from an hour before. “It’s your first?” She nodded again. “And they left you alone?” Victoria shrugged her shoulders once.

“I thought it would be ok, but I’ve never done it all by myself. Usually Gay stays with me, but once he’s sick... at least you’re tons more trustworthy than the other guys. They’re lovely but I’d hardly call them behaved. They could embarrass me without noticing and this is important.”

“I see.” He stopped for a moment and thought out loud. “Are you sure I can go with you?” Again she nodded. “Ok then, let’s go.”

He turned on his heels and went with her, making sure not to take very long strides. Although Victoria wasn’t short, she wasn’t as tall as him. She stopped in front of a door and took a deep, steadying breath before opening it. It was an interview room, decorated like a studio but obviously not cut for recording, with a big couch and a cushioned armchair. Two photographers waited for her, talking with a red-haired woman that stopped on a dime to look at her. She smiled, giving William enough time to recognize Elena Yowerl, one of the most prominent and nice interviewers in the world. She saluted Victoria and William and asked them to sit once again.

“Hello again, then, Victoria”, said her, an European accent popping at the end of her every phrase. “William Beckett, right?” He nodded. “Are you here to hold her hand?”

William laughed, looking at the spot in the couch where their hands had intertwined.

“No, not really, I’m staying in the same hotel and we’re sharing a cab afterwards.” It wasn’t exactly a lie, but it wasn’t the truth either.

“I see... well, let’s get started then.”

Victoria’s hand pressed his for a moment before letting go. The woman started the interview with simple questions to make Victoria ease a little. The photographers were nice enough to wait a little before starting to shoot the candids that would be featured inside the magazine. She then asked about her career, the way it had begun, the way she had been contacted to be a part of Cobra Starship, her opinion on other bands, her role models, her idol. Almost every answer ended up being commented by Beckett, who was sure at the moment Elena finished the recording that he would be featuring on the interview. While the interviewer moved away and the photographers began to move lights and equipment to settle things for the cover and promos, he murmured to Victoria:

“I am sorry for ruining your solo.”

She smiled brightly.

“Oh, Beckett, what did you think I had called you for?”

The answer took him by surprise. Victoria blinked at him before starting to be instructed on the poses to be shot. It became a sassy, spontaneous shoot, a lot less sexy than the clothing might suggest, but tons higher. She did the pictures with grace and poise, with joy and attitude. William laughed sometimes at her faces and poses; after some time, she proffered her arms and pulled him to join her.

“It’s your shoot, girl!” Beckett smiled, shaking his head and trying to go back to where he had just been.

“Come on, you showed up in the interview, do me a favor and shoot some pics with me!”

The photographers didn’t mind, so Victoria dragged William with her and played him a little until he finally gave in and started working with her in front of the camera. They ended up with a bunch of pictures, none of them couple-like: they felt and looked ten times more like friends than anything else; sometimes they could even be mistaken with kids. She was the one to call the photoshoot to a halt, bent with laughter. In the end, she left the room with William, grateful and radiant. He too felt light and warm-spirited. Victoria was a girl who wanted to be someone, but she would do it being nice and decent, which was something he could both relate to and admire. In the end, he realized he actually truly liked her.

They went back to the storage room where William’s guitar and case had stayed, but apparently Siska (he hoped it had been him) had found it better to take them somewhere else, perhaps to the hotel. Victoria calmed his slightly apprehensive self by telling him that there were security cameras everywhere, so even a prank would be unmasked in no time. He nodded and took a cab with her, sharing the cost once their hotel was the same. Unfortunately, as he remembered himself when he got to the hall, Carden had been the one to name the reservation, so it would be impossible for him to get in before the other showed up. After laughing briefly, Victoria invited him to go and stay with her for some time, at least until the guys showed up – when they asked on the desk, a receptionist said that the occupant of the room that would be TAI’s had authorized the luggage to be sent upstairs, but hadn’t yet picked up the key.

Beckett followed her to the floor where she was installed – it was a regular hotel, but Peter was so picky that he had reserved an entire floor to the Decaydance team. TAI, Cobra, Panic! and Gym Class Heroes were all in there, in apartments with two to five rooms. William could honestly say that he wouldn’t be surprised to find out that he would be staying in the hotel too, although he had a house in town. In anyway, he went with Victoria, watching her open the door and invite him in. Cobra had a three-rooms’ apartment, one of which, the smaller, belonged to Victoria. She sat in the bed and untied her sandals, leaving William to close the door to the apartment. He then got into her room, evaluating it. Besides the impersonal, tidy hotel regular decor, some objects lit it up: some books on the bedside table, a chair piled up with coats and dresses, a huge headphone on a stool beside the small wardrobe. Except for it, everything seemed to be untouched.

Victoria kicked her shoes and threw herself on the bed, smiling wide and stretching her sore, tired body. Her sweater went up, showing the black satin shorts, and the singer was quick to turn his head to avoid looking at her. She laughed at it, jumping off the bed. She strode her way to him, asking him to help her with the sweater’s zipper. Taking a deep breath, he unzipped the piece of clothing, watching a spot on the wall while the keytarist undressed and re-dressed. She poked him and looked at him with a smile.

“I’m already dressed, mr. Paranoid.” She laughed again, brief and softly. “Wanna help me disassemble this hairdo?”

William felt slightly uncomfortable about the intimate and mother-ish way in which he was being treated, like a green, young teenager that knew little but, at the same time, as a very dear friend he didn’t think he was for that girl – he knew he had just helped through an interview, but there again, it was plain camaraderie with someone he cared about... wasn’t it? William knew that his faculties were really disable whenever he got too sleepy or else had his sleep-eat routine drastically changed, for his body was always working on the verge, with low fat reserves and almost no sleep storage because of endless nights of playing and partying. Still he thought that, although he had already understood that he liked Victoria, that it wouldn’t be a problem to have her as a friend, the speed in which the borders from being acquaintances to being intimate enough to see him into her room were breached was beyond his comprehension. If that girl had a secret agenda towards him, in that mind state, he’d do nothing but let her have it. If he had not read her wrong (which hardly ever happened, once William had learned to recognize danger far before he was able to conceptualize it), she’d be good to him. He felt it in his guts that the entire experience of being back to Florida would. He couldn’t justify it. He just knew.

With unpracticed but quick fingers, he helped her in the long and thorough task of removing every clip and band that held her hair up, piling everything up on the bedside table. Her hair, now shiny and wavy, cascaded all the way to her shoulders and a little past them. She then lay on her bed again, seeming indescribably content. William couldn’t hold back a smile. She was so weird. Weird as everyone of them, in fact... She belonged to that industry, she had the spontaneity, the vivacity of those who were born to be artists. It was contagious.

“Sit down”, said she, indicating the bed with a wide gesture. Obediently, William did as she bade him. “Are you still sleepy?” Before he could think of restraining himself, Beckett nodded with a swift head movement. She smiled, crawling towards him and facing him as an angel would, as if his redemption was on her hands. He couldn’t doubt it. The closer she became to him, the more he wanted her to be. It was both amazing and annoying, trusting someone so instantly and therefore being incapable of lying or leaving. “So why don’t you lay here and sleep for a bit? This bed is huge; it won’t be an effort to make a guy of your size fit it. Besides, if you faint again, we’re gonna have a discussion that’ll be worse than whatever thing you could ever have with mother, father, girlfriend, neighbor or police officer.”

He couldn’t keep himself from laughing loud. “I should refuse it, Victoria.” He yawned sleepily.

“But you’re too tired and therefore won’t”, completed her, persuasive. “I understand you, it’s ok. Don’t worry.”

“Vicky-T, I’m serious...”

“I know you’re serious, and so am I, dear.” She pulled him close and caressed his hair. “I don’t mind you sleeping here. I don’t fear you in anyway, you’re tired... I want to see you as a friend, William. Spare me the same courtesy, will you?”

“Victoria...”

“That’s my name.” She kissed his forehead, protectively, smoothing down the frowning that had come to happen between his brows. William wished he was strong enough to get up and leave, but Victoria was expertly leading him to drowsiness, to a limbo where the dreams were just a step forward. He felt like giving up, giving in, felt his entire body soften under her sisterly care.

“Why are you doing this?”, asked he in a pasty voice. “You barely know me... Why are you worrying about me?”

“Once you can’t worry on your own, I have to do it for you.” William’s heart faltered, remembering that phrase. Where had he heard it before? “For the last flipping time, lay down, Beckett. I’ll watch your sleep.”

“You don’t even know who I am...” He was mumbling more than murmuring already, snuggling up on the mattress and feeling some bedcovers being wrapped around him.

“I know you even more than you could possibly imagine, pal.” Again she brushed her fingers through his hair.

“Does it even mean something?”

“It will. Now sleep, please, William. I’ll be here when you wake up and we can pick it up where we left off.”

She carried on caressing his hair, cozy and soft and warm while the singer slid into heavier drowsiness, followed by the lethargic loss of movement that would eventually – in a very short time-spam – make him sleep like a baby. He didn’t understand Victoria’s reasons, not a single one of them – would he ever? They had known each other for hours but now, unavoidably and obviously, that thing between them was in fact a friendship.

 

It took at least an hour for everyone else to show up on the hotel. The scene they found in the apartment was a movie-like one: William, soundly asleep like a baby, had nested his face on her shoulder; she had a hand amidst the brown half-curls of the man and seemed quite pleased with the arrangement. Tom looked at Carden and the other guitarist laughed, understanding what remnants of censoring expressed through Conrad’s eyes. So William didn’t mix work and private life, huh?

“Victoria Asher!”

The sudden outburst voiced amidst such silence made everyone inside the bedroom halt and jump, including the ones still asleep. Victoria woke up very swiftly, but William was so drowsy that he actually seemed to be slipping on and off conscious, as if deciding if he should wake up. Rolled up to his ears in a red blanket, a man heighted about 6’4” showed up, his navy blue checkered pajamas peeking from a gap in the blanket-roll and an awkward bright red wool cap covering his head till not much of his face could be seen, but for the reddish eyes, runny nose and pouting lips. His voice was steady and inarguably coarse, probably a remnant of a throat ache. The guy seemed to be pretty unpleased for seeing them both laying there. Vicky-T, recognizing him as soon as her eyes were truly open, stood up very quick, leaving a semi-conscious William more or less waking up behind.

“Saporta, go back to bed.” It was an order, hissed low but clear and audible. The boys – except the sleepy, drowsy, incapable William – exchanged looks. Nate giggled inwardly.

“Du’ wanna”, murmured the tall guy, pouting. “Y’ won’t treat ‘e like this, Vy.”

“I can sleep with you too if I really must.” She sighed deeply. “Let’s go.”

He held the stranger by his arm, willing to push him back to his own room before any damage was made, but William decided to finally get back to reality in that precise moment. “What’s going on in here?”, asked he, rubbing his eyes with his palms.

“There’s a guy stealing your girlfriend, mate”, played Sisky in a suggestive voice.

“Oh. So I slept here.” Victoria confirmed it with a nod and a wide smile.

“You would have slept more and better wasn’t for this dope here waking us up as if the building were on fire.” She signalized to everyone else. “If you came to my room, it means there’s something that must be said. Can we go to this unholy creature’s room so I can tuck him in and make sure he won’t get any worse?”

Nobody discussed anything as she led them out of her room, through a living room and into another room. That one smelled of people, although not of sickness. Sensing it, Nate asked if he could open the windows, to what Victoria nodded vehemently, even though Saporta complained loud about it. She tucked him in and caressed his hair for a bit. William was the last to get into the room, walking like a zombie. The man in bed frowned deep enough to make Beckett’s notorious crease between the brows look like a child’s.

“I don’t think we’ve met...” He let his index finger point, hovering from Carden to William.

“Oh, God.” Victoria seemed to be close to snapping.

“Well, it might be ok for you to have strangers sleeping and feasting in your room, Vicky-T, but I won’t have such absurdity going on beneath my own roof.”

“Right, right, you prima donna.” She pointed to each and every one of TAI’s members. “Carden, Conrad, Sisky, Butcher, Beckett. Guys, this is our worthless lead singer, Saporta.”

“Pleasure”, said the guys in one voice. William found it slightly strange that someone wearing a bright red wool cap would be so conservative as to make people introduce themselves like that, when it was obvious that everyone else knew them, but anyway. Asking for Victoria’s permission in a single glance and receiving it pronto, he slid to the bed, sitting awkwardly in a slump pose.

“Yeah, yeah, right, stop the chatter, kids.” Everyone stared at Ryland for a moment in a sort of confusion - except for William, who was still this close to dozing off, and Saporta, who was staring and frowning at the man that sat a palm away from him in the slightly wider single bed. Ryland carried on, both hands resting on his hips. “Do you want the damn big news or not?!”

“Spit it out, Black”, asked Victoria, suddenly excited. William stared at her in sheer disbelief. How could she do it? He took at least twenty minutes to wake up, after opening his eyes for the first time after any decent sleep.

“Ok, so here's the deal...” Butcher stopped talking, letting the need for the news build.

“What is it? Did your mind crash? Shoot it!” Saporta was not showing much of patience, but there again, as someday it would be clear to them all, he never did.

“Don't you rush me or else I can forget it!” The drummer folded his arms and pouted.

“Butcher, if you don't talk at once, Imma make you forget your teeth all over the floor”, threatened William, brushing his right temple with circling fingers, more than sick of waiting and more than willing to go back to sleep, finally taking part in the discussion.

“Hell yeah!” The sick guy agreed, proffering a hand and seeing Beckett slap it. “I'm not whole but I'm big enough to be of some help.”

“Shut the fuck up, Saporta”, said Ryland, rolling his eyes. “You can barely get up without tripping on your blankets and falling off the bed.”

“D’y wanna bet?”, growled the tall man in bed, his eyes growing narrower in the half-shade the cap provided.

“Better not”, murmured William, shaking his head briefly and holding the other’s fist, which was already starting to show, by the wrist. “If we kill them, Peter for sure won’t tell us what the news were.”

Saporta stared for a moment at his trapped wrist, then relaxed his arm and took a deep breath, exhaling all at once. He nodded and let himself fall back on the mountain of pillows again. His wrist didn’t struggle to leave William’s hand but the other singer let it go when the taller guy eased. His stomach felt a bit fuzzy, a bit sick. There was something very familiar about that guy, he just didn’t know what. It was even worse than with Victoria. The touch of his hands on the sick guy’s skin had produced something like a current, quite like static, but much deeper. Was it possible that he knew the people in Cobra from previous times? Although it certainly hadn’t felt like that with Ryland and the others...

“Okay, so now that the lovey-doves are all good again...” William grabbed a cushion from the floor beside him and threw it at Carden with the most of force his numb-y limbs could have. He hit the guitarist head with a soft thump. “Fuck, Beckett, this is heavy! Ouch!” He massaged his forehead for a moment. “Well, supposing we can be serious now... What happened was that Peter decided to tell us what the heck was going on. That thing about needing us all and so on, so forth.”

“Well, finally!” Victoria’s left brow arched high. “And what was it, Carden?”

“A contract.”

“And Butcher scores once again”, interrupted the drummer, like if he was a winner to some kind of prize.

“Yeah”, continued Michael nonchalantly. “But it’s a contract that convolves the entire Decaydance team, to make the soundtrack for a new movie. We don’t have much about it, except that it is about an in-flight terrorist attack with snakes and vipers of some sort.”

“Bit psycho, isn’t it?” Victoria frowned at it.

“Yes. But it’s a job.” Nate stared at Cobra’s singer, narrowing his eyes at him. Suddenly, that little man looked like the most dangerous creature in the room, and Ryland moved a side step away from him. “So here’s the following: we’re going in-studio in two weeks, to see the sets, get inspired and so on. They’ll pick a theme song and a band, or a bunch of assorted people from a bunch of bands, to perform it. Either case, you’d better show up whole, Saporta, or else we’re having you hanged, comprende?”

“It’s cool, Nate, I’ll be fine.” The sick guy sunk even deeper under the blanket. “But I think I should sleep now. And I think this mate over here should do so too.” He poked the half-asleep William that was holding his head as if in fear of it falling down. TAI’s singer looked up, trying his best to focus at someone.

“If you don’t mind the idea of being fugly down with some wicked sort of flu, you can stay here”, said Victoria, shrugging her shoulders. “I’m leaving to fetch us some food and I’d rather not leave my room unlocked; last time Blackinton flung my panties up the chandelier. I guess Gabe won’t care if you stay. He never does.”

“Thanks for talking about me as if I wasn’t here”, commented Saporta, not really seeming to be anyhow disturbed by it if truth would be told.

“Yeah, share the bed with Saps, Bill”, teased Tom, smiling wide. “We’ll be drinking and hopping around the streets and no one will spare any time to babysit you or carry you to bed.”

“You’re jerks”, sentenced Beckett, rolling his eyes and setting them on Saporta. “Do you mind?”

Gabe shrugged. William took it as a no and crawled under the blankets too. It was a bigger, longer bed, so he fit much better than in Victoria’s. For a moment, it felt weird to be in someone’s bed, and although he could blame it on his sleepiness, it wasn’t the only reason. He could make some effort and head to his own room, even if it was to be alone for some time... The thing was that they’d wake him up in the middle of the afternoon with loud talks and noisy moving, so he’d be on and off sleep for some time – Siska was supposed to share a room with him, for Christ’s sake. Other than this, he was too lazy to move, and what the hell, it was a fine bed. William pulled the blankets up to his ear and snuggled himself into a fetal position. Saporta laughed inwards, shaking his head and shooing everyone out of the room, a little dazed by the fact that the sort-of-unknown singer wouldn’t feel the least bit uncomfortable with sharing his bed – he couldn’t possibly know that he usually shared his bed with someone, be it Sisky or Butcher or both, so it was not strangest in the least. Victoria was the last to leave, making sure to glare at Cobra’s singer in a threatening way and making him giggle once again.

Saporta turned to look at Beckett for a while. He smelled like innocence, which was weird to say the least. He curled under the blankets too, moving a bit closer to the other. He was sick but not dead, and that boy was cute.

“Hey, kid”, murmured him, brushing his lips against the other lad’s ear. He felt him shiver. “How do you crawl into my bed like this, hm? You can’t even say you know me. I might enjoy ravishing boys like you. Have you given it any thought?”

“I have”, replied William, already dozing back to sleep. “But I wanna sleep and Victoria knows you. I trust her enough.”

“Yeah?” He touched Beckett’s earlobe a bit more lasciviously with his lips, nipping briefly at them.

“Yeah.” The shiver ran up and down his spine once again. “Now get some sleep, Saporta. I’ll do so too.”

Saporta giggled once again, embracing William and pushing himself against him just the slightest. Beckett didn’t shove him away or objected anyhow. Rationally, he knew he should, he got hyperaware even when Siska played him, the childish prank that was his way to tease the singer. That embrace, though, that embrace was too cozy to be of any danger. It felt like home. It felt like if we had been waiting for it for a long time and had finally found it. So he let it be, giving in to sleep without a second thought.