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In the Beginning

Chapter Text

Reb completed his walk around the outside of the studio building to the entrance on the other side. Despite the inside door, he'd chosen to exit and go all the way around, and he wasn't sure if that was means of stalling, or means of trying to dispel nerves that were buzzing in his stomach.

He opened the exterior door, going through the mud room and found the inside door to the studio space closed. Probably because recording and mixing hours were in progress. Hesitantly, he reached up and knocked on the door.

It swung open in less than two seconds as if inside, they'd known Reb was there. Not unbelievable -Reb had given a rough time estimate.

It was Alice Cooper who had opened the door. He looked at Reb and smiled ever so slightly.

"Hey, Reb -come on in. You're right on time. Actually, you're a bit early. I'll take you over just in case he's waiting 'till the last minute and not in the lounge yet."

Reb had no idea for sure what he was getting himself into.

For the past couple of months, he'd been doing session work with Fiona Flanagan. Another session he'd managed to score, as it seemed he bounced from one to the next ever since graduating from Berklee.

Fiona and her lineup for the session were sharing the studio space with Alice Cooper in the building divided in two with identical facilities on either side. That had been pretty surreal for Reb from the beginning -knowing a well known, major touring band was on the other side of the wall. The kind of band Reb hoped to one day be in as opposed to recording an album in the studio with some group, then finding another to repeat the process with.

Reb would have considered going solo or forming a full band of his own, but there were a few complications to that. One, he didn't really have the natural ability to lead. And two -the one that hindered him in a lot of other was too -he couldn't write a song of his own no matter how hard he tried. His ideas were fleeting. He could come up with riffs by the dozen, and it seemed each one was like a bitter one-night stand sneaking out before he could get their numbers, because more often than not, they faded from his mind and into oblivion before he could even try to work the, into something.

He'd been trying more and more lately, coming up with even more ideas than usual, and as always, they were riffs designed to break his heart before they could even form the outline of a song.

And then about a week ago, he'd lost his temper and gone on a rant about it in the studio on the phone to a friend about having lost a bunch of good riffs again. Also saying that if he just had some way to remember them, or could figure out some trick to get them to come together, stay together, and most importantly stay with him, he'd have no problem playing on his own and wouldn't need to be stuck in session work.

Fiona and her studio manager and producer had been just through the doorway, and they had heard every word.

Reb had never felt so close to having a heart attack in his life when they came into the room as soon as he got off the phone. If it wasn't out of fear, it was pure embarrassment. He had apologized profusely and given every assurance that he was happy to be contributing to this current project, despite neither of the two being so mad as they were confused and concerned.

Fiona had even been laughing at Reb's frantic reaction when he saw them appear in the doorway. His face had gone completely pale with a deer-in-the-headlights look, then he'd blushed red and started gasping for air in a panic. By the end, both Fiona and her manager were laughing, as well as assuring Reb that it was okay and all was forgiven, albeit suggesting he might want to check his temper in the case that not every session manager was so calm.

But while Fiona had only gotten a laugh at Reb's expense -and his immense embarrassment -her manager had gotten an idea having to do with their next-door neighbor. A big idea to help Reb with his dilemma.

He'd decided to ask Alice about it. That was with the thought that he'd have somebody in his current lineup who could give Reb some advice, as Alice was known to look for and recruit band members that were adept in composing and with extra creative and strategic ability.

It seemed like a long shot to Reb for their manager to have asked -even if Alice was known to be pretty supportive, what was somebody stuck doing session work to him?

But oddly enough, Alice had returned the call the same day, and his answer had been a pretty generous 'yes' -already recommending one of his personnel.

Some young gun rocker about his age -slightly older -with a classical influence by the name of Kip Winger.

With Reb being completely caught off guard and torn as to whether he felt like accepting or not, Alice had invited Reb over to his side of the studio to talk to him and answer any questions Reb had about it after his band had gone home from recording early for the day, being way ahead of schedule. That was yesterday.

Reb had gone through the inside door in the middle of the hall dividing the two sides of that floor of the studio building. It hadn't taken him long to find Alice -who without his infamous corpse paint and fake blood didn't look so scary as he did just an ordinary guy. Reb could actually see Alice being the mentor figure type that he was sometimes noted to be. He'd welcomed Reb inside their room designated as the lounge to talk, inviting him to sit down and make himself at home.

"This is where I send the guys when we don't need them in the mixing room or in the recording areas. That way they can get up to trouble as they please without making too much noise and having it get on the tracks, or getting in the way of equipment," Alice had joked. "We have another room like this that's smaller more for the purpose of sitting away from the area to work out ideas -and you'll probably spend more time in there -but if you come over, you're welcome to hang out in this room too."

Reb had responded to this with a meek smile and a thanks before asking about Kip and what to expect from him.

"Kip? He's my current bass player. That's his main focus, but he's had experience and is familiar with guitar and piano too. You don't have to worry, he can work with more melodic lines. He's really good at composing and arranging too -probably strongest in that department I've had with me in a while. And problem-solving. Another advantage for you especially is that you might have heard Fiona mention she has a few more contributors coming in on what you're working on toward the end -and he's one of them, so even if we finish our album early, he'll still be here in this building until we go on tour -which won't be until you all are scheduled to finish. Some of my others will be out of the studio until we go on tour."

So far, so good.

"What's he like, personality wise?" Reb had asked. Sometimes that could change everything for him.

"Kip's not a typical guy -he can be a bit eccentric, but I wouldn't call him hard to get along with. He's got a sense of humor, and he does sometimes joke around and get silly, but he's serious when it's appropriate. He usually doesn't have problems in the temper department -I can't say the same about everyone else I have with me, but Kip is pretty level headed," Alice assured. "And not only is he a good problem solver, but he's really eager to get in and make things work out. When I say that, I'll warn that sometimes Kip can get a little overly gung-ho and enthusiastic at first when it comes to fixing things, and that does mean that he gets shot down at first when things usually end up more difficult. But he is very determined to finish anything he starts, so even if it gets frustrating, he will stick with you as long as you agree to keep working with him. He likes a challenge -he won't quit -and that's probably the most important thing for you."

Reb had thought for a minute then, becoming a little less comfortable.

"Has he been told?"

"Yeah, I told him -I wouldn't tell you about him if I hadn't asked him first," Alice reassured. "He says he's more than happy to help out if you're up to it, and says all you have to do is just come on over whenever you've decided and you're ready."

At least it seemed that Kip sounded willing. Other than knowing Kip wasn't likely to leave him hanging high and dry; however, Reb wasn't entirely sure what Alice meant by all he'd said with Kip's enthusiasm. Kip had a calm temperament, but how was he when he was "shot down", and was he overbearing with his enthusiasm?

Reb had made the mistake of calling home that night, deciding to talk to his father about it. He'd thought that maybe talking it out with somebody would help him process out what he was thinking. Instead, it made him feel pressured to agree whether he really wanted to or not.

"You know, Reb, if you want to make it in the music industry and you're still having these ridiculous problems you keep saying you'll fix and you never do, I think you'd better agree to an offer to help. Turning somebody down when they're willing to help you in an opportunity that convenient? You'd better get your head out of your ass!"

So, with that, Reb had called Alice the next day to say he was in, despite his nervousness. And now, a day later, he was being led through the studio back to the same lounge he'd sat in and talked with Alice, only this time, Kip was present.

"Oh, he's in there," declared Alice as they walked down the hall. "I hear him talking to -I think it sounds like Paul in there with him." He stopped as he and Reb reached the doorway into the lounge from the hall.

Reb peered around the doorframe and took in Kip's appearance.

He was of average height with an athletic build and he held a stance that suggested confidence. More confidence than average, and in the way that felt intimidating to Reb, who found himself lacking confidence more often than he cared to admit. As he conversed with the other person on the room, Kip leaned against the wall, legs crossed casually at the ankles, one hand resting on his hip, the other out in front of him ever so slightly, motioning to convey whatever it was he was talking about. His low set, downward slanting eyebrows clashing with his baby faced features gave him an impish look. The look of somebody who had a mind of their own and wasn't afraid of getting into trouble. Possibly, he appeared a bit full of himself too.

Reb still wasn't quite sure whether he was up to this or not.

"Well, you need to go inside and let him know you're here," Alice prompted.

I guess I can always stop working with him if I decide I really can't, figured Reb.

Timidly stepping over the threshold into the room and a few paces in, Reb stopped again, hanging back waiting for Kip's reaction. He felt relieved to see Alice take a step into the room too.

Kip looked over and seemed to light up in recognition. He lightly pushed himself himself off the wall, prancing into a normal standing position. Then he held up a finger in the "wait" signal, indicating he was on the way, and held up his speaking hand to the other guy, who had a mass of dark, curly hair and sharper features.

"...You know what? Hold that thought, Paul. I've got something I'm doing for an hour or so, but I'll catch you later before I leave for the night, so you can tell more then. Or if you leave before me I might be able to call you tonight. Whatever works out..." Kip dismissed himself, and the other -whom Reb assumed to be named Paul -left the room to go back to the recording area of Alice's side of the studio.

Then Kip turned toward Reb, taking a few steps forward.

Reb spoke timidly, nearly stuttering.

"...Kip?"

"That's me. Reb Beach?"

"Yeah, uh-"

Alice had followed Reb further and was behind him. He shook his head.

"You all beat me to it. Yes, Kip, this is Reb."

"Nice to meet you," said Kip flatly, to Reb's confusion. He almost sounded pestered rather than pleased with how monotonous and low his voice was.

"Reb, this is Kip -like I said he doesn't have much time today, but you all can at least break the ice and talk about what you want to do face-to-face. Might want to tell each other your schedules so you can figure out when might be the best time to meet up day to day," Alice suggested.

"Are you alright with doing that today, and then whatever else you decide in any extra time we have?" asked Kip, putting his hands back on his hips and tilting his head questioningly.

Reb could feel Kip's eyes burning into him as he tried to read through him, but as for Kip himself, he wasn't sure what to make of him aside from what he'd seen when he was talking with Paul. Very confident -maybe too much. Reb began to worry if Kip would be understanding of how different he was in that way.

He took a tiny fraction of a step back toward Alice, looking down at his hands, which he held together in front of himself, shoulders hunched slightly forward with them. Occasionally he gently picked at the skin around his fingernails on one hand with the other in his nervous fidget.

"I guess that sounds alright," Reb spoke quietly.

"You only guess? You want a minute to think about it more?" asked Kip.

This time, Reb at least heard what could have been playful there with the hint of a short laugh under it, but Kip's emphasis on "only guess" sounded almost biting too -somewhat critical. Not good enough. He couldn't make heads or tails of that either.

He nodded wordlessly, still not looking up or making further eye contact.

Kip backed up some and waited, continuing to look over Reb and assess his own initial thoughts.

To Kip, Reb's timid approach -hanging back and staying within a pace of Alice -almost resembled that of a bashful golden retriever. One that had been beaten a time too many, and consequently tread fearfully around new people and stuck closely by the side of anyone vaguely familiar who so far had appeared safe. But also one that would become inseparably loyal to anyone well known and trusted.

It appeared Reb wasn't warmed up to Alice either, not knowing him but so well and standing nervously even by him. But he had encountered him before and trusted him as somebody who was "safe" by his choice to stay closer to him. Kip, being completely unfamiliar to Reb, wasn't one to be trusted yet.

Something told him it would be at least a few days before Reb would trust him enough to sit down, plug in, and really get into assessing his mentioned troubles with composing hands-on. Hopefully, it wouldn't be too difficult or long getting started.

"Not really sure where to start," Reb finally said.

You know, I've been told what you were seeking help with," started Kip, sounding skeptical. "But what's I've noticed is things can get distorted when it's passed on person to person, so if you feel alright with it, how about you tell me for yourself as a start? That way I know for sure."

Despite being far from comfortable telling Kip, Reb decided to be honest -if brutally honest. If Kip wanted to know where he stood, he might as well know everything about it. Maybe it would even prevent Kip from overlooking the whole case in his extreme confidence that Reb lacked. It seemed unlikely though. Kip seemed pretty full of himself just by the way he'd asked that question in that he was prepared for anything.

"Well, honestly, I was hoping to figure it out for myself, and I'm pretty sure that given the chance, I could," said Reb semi-bitterly. "But since I mentioned it next door, somebody took it upon themselves to request help for me, and they said I should see you. Since you'd already been told, I guess I might as well whether I need it or not. And, somebody in my family may or may not have made it an order."

Kip remained stoic and with a confident stance. The slight rise of his eyebrows and voice pitch was the only sign that he was taken aback by Reb's words.

"I'm not going to force it on you if you don't want to. If you say you can figure it out on your own, I'll take your word for it. But if you are willing to try some things with me, I can try to help you get there. Maybe faster than you could alone. Are you in or not?"

Reb groaned inwardly. A bit cocky as he'd thought. He'd hit a nerve, and Kip had retaliated by hitting one of his too. His chest was beginning to tighten with anxiety anticipating how difficult it could possibly become if Kip was like that all the time.

"Sure."

Not like I have much of a choice anyways when everyone's expecting me to go for it.

"Alright, cool. So, what's the problem?" asked Kip, returning to a more relaxed state and seeming more eager again.

"It's not so much a full fledged problem, just a small weakness."

"You can correct me if this is wrong, but from the broad topic of what I've heard, it has to do with coming up with riffs?"

Reb shook his head. "Oh, I have no problem coming up with riffs. I like to think of that being my strongest point. Give me a guitar now, and I could easily give you ten."

"Alright, that's fine -I'll believe that too, but I'll let you have that chance later out of curiosity if you want," said Kip, backing off. "I guess things did get mixed up passing it along for sure then. So you can come up with a lot of riffs -getting them isn't the problem. Is it variation? Putting them together?"

"I put riffs together with every session when others have come up with them without a problem. I know how to put riffs together," Reb insisted. "I could put more of mine together if I didn't lose track of them."

"So basically, you come up with the riffs and then forget them all before you can do anything with them?"

Reb sucked in air through his teeth and held up a hand, shaking it side to side. Kip had hit the nail on the head, but that didn't make it any easier to be reminded of what he'd just been nagged about for the hundredth time the other morning.

"Kind of. I remember some of them, but a lot less than I lose, and sometimes-"

Whether it was the sheer volume -which seemed louder than normal, or being nervous and therefore jumpier than usual, Reb's train of thought shattered when the blasting, high pitched bell of a phone ringing echoed down the hall. His sentence cut off, and turned around flinching.

"I'll get it; you stay here," Alice said sternly. He started to step out in the hall, then stopped as the ringing cut off before it could fully unleash its second eardrum assault. "Or, Kane can get it for us, since he's already got it."

"Alice, that's the studio space next door," called Kane Roberts down the hall. "Change of plans, they say they're gonna need Reb back over there in fifteen, and quote-on-quote, 'that's an order, not a request'."

Reb gulped, feeling dread building up internally.

If that's not for me to record on the next track early, I wonder what the heck I did to piss off someone over there this time...?

"Well, I guess you won't be staying here much longer today after all, Reb," Alice said matter-of-factly. "But when you have time throughout the week -and you can talk to Kip about when would be best -you're welcome to come in and out of our side of the studio facilities as you please."

"Okay, thank you," said Reb, becoming more disconcerted. Not only was he nervous, but rapidly getting different directions as to where he was going and what he was doing was starting to overwhelm him.

Another voice came down the hall.

"Alice? I'm can't remember what was the final track you decided on -a little help in here?"

Alice closed his eyes in a way that said 'oh, not again,' and turned on his heels toward the door.

"I am in the mixing room if either of you need me." With those words, he sauntered out of the room.

Kip took charge immediately -Reb couldn't tell if it was just for time's sake or if Kip could sense his confusion. He hoped it was the former -that Kip could see right through him was kind of embarrassing.

"You can tell me more later. Let's just decide when we can get back together, because you have to get out of here, and we're about to finish this one song track, so it's back and forth making final edits to it and trying to fish out which take did we decide on for final -I'm new along with a bunch of us, so Alice kind of puts it as we're not all settled into a system yet."

Reb nodded. "Is there any time that's more likely to be open here for you?"

"I usually record in the morning," Kip started. "Like between 9:00 and noon. It varies. But right now, I have all my tracks recorded, and it's dependent on seeing what everyone else does and going back and making edits and elaborating to better fit their changes, so right now it's all over the place and in the afternoon more often -especially this week. But I have to get out of here by 5:00 to get to work, so that's the end of the day here. When do you have times that are open? -Maybe I can figure out with Alice so that he'll give me a more consistent window that I'm free."

"I'm usually recording between 2:00 and 5:00, but not today apparently, since I'm getting called over before 12:30," Reb sighed.

"So I'm thinking I'll ask Alice to shift to the afternoon -which where we are in the process -like I said, it's not as hard to do, and that'll be more consistent between us. I get here at 9:30 at the latest every day, so I guess later in the morning would work best."

Reb nodded briskly. "Maybe sometime between 10:30 and 11:00 o'clock? No earlier than 10:00, preferably -I'm not always the fastest getting out on the road in the morning.

He noticed Kip gave a subtle, forceful exhale like he wanted to laugh and was holding it in.

"I'll be lenient depending on the day and say 10:30, but no later than 11:00 unless something comes up. Because if Alice wants me to get back in earlier, we probably need at least an hour to get anywhere, and he could call me into the studio depending on what happens as early as noon if I ask for the morning clear."

"I guess that's alright," said Reb, shrugging. "Still unclear, but I'll shoot for that time tomorrow."

"It's not set in stone." Kip looked up at the wall clock. "That'll work initially, and if we come up with something better, we can change that -but I think for now you'd better get over next door."

Reb looked over to the clock too. Five minutes out of fifteen left to get back down the hall to the other side of the studio. He nodded, then turned to the door.

"Well, see ya," said Kip.

Reb was already making a mad dash down the hall, wondering how things were going to turn out.

He arrived the next day at 10:45 to find out. He wasn't able to tell if not getting there at 10:30 had been more the result of dragging his feet leaving home due to nerves, or getting stuck at twice the number of traffic lights he usually got caught by.

Kip was waiting for him in the lounge when he came in. To Reb's relief, Kip didn't dig about him being slightly late -and he had gotten there before the late limit of 11:00 -but simply welcomed Reb into the space and got straight back to where they'd left off as soon as Reb was settled in.

"Something tells me you're still not entirely sure about this, so if you want to go slow, that works," offered Kip. "Seems we're already starting off slow with yesterday -I'm hoping we won't get interrupted today, but we'll see."

Reb shrugged as he sat down in one of the chairs at the table in the lounge. "Fine with me."

"We do have to do something productive, at least continuing what we talked about the other day to figure out how to work through this efficiently. But maybe we should start with something else, because I could be wrong, but I get the feeling it's a sensitive topic."

Reb felt his cheeks grow hot. It was embarrassing to only have it confirmed that Kip was aware that he wasn't feeling self-conscious about his so-called problems, and whether Kip was trying to or not, Reb felt his way of considering it was rubbing it in his face. And he didn't like to think of it as a sensitive topic. It wasn't that he couldn't work with riffs and produce them.

"Maybe it is, or maybe it's just frustrating," he said. "I don't know."

"How 'bout you tell me about yourself first, and then we can get back to that? Musical background and such -and maybe that'll shine some light on how things work for you too?"

"I have done a number of things -that I can say," started Reb, trying to appear confident where he could thoroughly back himself up.

Kip shifted to sit up more. "Too many to list off? Tell me one thing -or maybe two or three -that's more significant than everything else. What have you done that you really feel was important to you?

"Musical College was a big one."

"That's nice," remarked Kip rather flatly, almost as though he wasn't very interested in hearing it. "Which one did you go to?"

"Berklee," said Reb proudly. This was something he didn't mind talking about at all. He looked up to the ceiling nostalgically.

"Managed to be considered the top student several times across a few semesters the time I was there. I had a lot of professors rooting for me too, and telling me that I'd go far and that they hadn't seen anyone like me in a while. Now I'm just trying to figure out when will I actually go as far as they said. The sessions are fun, but I'm in for something bigger than that, like getting into a touring band."

"Congratulations on that," said Kip. Reb noticed he still seemed rather disinterested by his barely changing expression and voice pitch.

"What do you have going for you?" asked Reb. "What was your most important thing?"

Kip looked up in thought.

"I guess I have a bunch of things scattered about too. I did start with piano when I was six -which I think really gave me a broad-spectrum view of the musical range and how things spread out, then switched to focus on bass when I was seven. Lot of years of lessons -which taught me how to read music and the main level of music theory, and I did that for years on end -always made time for it and I really pushed to focus on the theory and composing side that I could get out of it. Looking for the patterns, how chords connect to each other and such."

"So if you have all these composing skills and know the upper level of music theory, how'd you get that?" asked Reb.

"Anything I didn't get out of those lessons was all self-trained," said Kip. "Sometimes it was a matter of looking at chord progressions and structures I hadn't been taught and trying to figure out what is was and why they worked. I went after a few private composition lessons and asked a lot of questions -nothing wrong with being that kid if you're at least getting answers for a good reason. I spent a lot of time in the library too -looking things up when I could and seeing what they had on music theory reference. Sometimes it's just as good to look it up on your own accord and study it for yourself. Even better if you're passionate about it, because you'll be motivated to look further. I think that's how I really knew in time what was right for me and where I should go musically. At least in my case, I feel like it was better than going through a whole bunch of courses for what I could figure out on my own."

Reb squinted, feeling more like rolling his eyes on the inside and resisting it. Was Kip trying to imply that he was better because he had figured out most of the theory on his own, or that he'd self-trained?

"Did you ever consider it?"

"Maybe at a point -and mainly because everyone was saying how great it is to have credentials and all that stuff. And those have meaning, but you know -just because you don't have the credentials for it doesn't mean you aren't solid in ability. I could have done it, but I don't need it," said Kip. "I think I did pretty good ending up with Alice, and by the sounds of it, I'll be going with him on tour too -which is another thing that's more important to me."

There it was again -even stronger. Kip was coming off as stuck-up now.

"Well I think it was worth it, and I know by what I did there that I'm more than prepared now," Reb said sharply.

Kip shrugged. "To each there own. Maybe it was right for you -probably was if nothing else for the sake of positive feedback." He decided to change the subject, noticing that Reb's tone was getting heated. "Getting into what you described yesterday, do you remember any strategies they might have told you there you think would help you? We can start there and build off if you like using what you got from Berklee. Sounds like that's where you'd be most comfortable starting."

Reb sighed deeply to calm himself and change topics too, not sure if he really felt like going any further today with Kip.

"The one thing that has worked on occasion and for some of it is just playing it repetitively as soon as possible. But you know how I said I tend to come up with a whole bunch of riffs at once -so I can't just repetitively play one without losing the others, and playing them all at once sometimes means I lose the ones I get to last. And if I'm not at home or with the guitar with me at that split second, they're all mixed together or forgotten by the time I get to it. Maybe I'll remember a small part of one riff out of four I came up with."

"Ouch." Kip's tone was joking, but the traces of a cringe showed in his eyes. "How many riffs do you think you forget in a regular time span?"

Reb looked at Kip critically. "Why is that relevant?"

"I'm trying to get a better idea of what it's like for you so I can understand where to go with this better. You don't have to tell me if that's sensitive to you, but I'm saying-"

"I don't know," Reb groaned. "If I came up with fifty riffs in a week, I'd forget roughly -I'd say forty to forty-five of them. And I'd be damned to figure out what to do with the other five in a week, and then they'd fade away too. If I had some of the riffs I had forgotten right away in every case, I know I could have pieced some of them together and they'd have been perfect."

Kip held up a finger in a way that suggested he had a lightbulb weakly flickering on inside him.

"I'll start by suggesting the easiest possibility -if you haven't tried it before. With the ones you remember parts of, have you ever tried just chord-scatting and playing at random around what you have and seeing if the rest comes back to you?"

Reb nodded. "Sometimes I get bits and pieces, but they're still never exactly the same. More often than not I just throw it away at that point, because I know the original one was the best I had. I don't want the altered one that's been crammed back together out of order -I want the one I had."

Kip stayed silent for a second again, thinking.

"I'm trying to think of the best way to go through with suggestions -what order to try in, and what might work for you sooner to make this easy as possible for both of us."

For someone so confident in himself and stuck up, he seems to be stalling a lot, thought Reb darkly.

Kip perked up, sitting up straight in his seat so that he subtly bounced as he settled. "Maybe if-!"

At that moment, Paul stuck his head in the doorway.

"Hey, Kip? Ken is recording drum lines, and Alice says we need you in the recording section of the studio as soon as possible."

"Does it have to be right now?" asked Kip, sounding only slightly exasperated, and still with the most emotion in his voice Reb had heard all day. It was as close to a whine as it seemed possible for his flat tone to form -which fit with the look of dismay that replaced the one of excitement on his face. However, Kip flinched as soon as he said it and continued hastily.

"I'm sorry, Paul, I'm not arguing if it does. If it does, I'm on my way. But if it can wait -even half an hour to make it to 11:30 would be helpful -because I'm working with-"

"Hold on a second, I can ask, because it wasn't the schedule we planned on -but I think the reason Alice asked for you, Kip, is because Ken knew you wanted to change your line on the bridge, and if that's going to make him have to adjust the drum line, he needs to know what you're doing before he records so he doesn't -"

"Just go," said Reb bluntly. "It's more important to you than this, and I probably have things to do too next door anyway."

"Are you sure? Because Paul said he can ask, and there's a chance-"

"It's fine; I'm leaving now. Go." Reb got up and picked up his guitar bag, exiting the room briskly.

Kip shrugged and got up, looking puzzled before turning to Paul.

"I guess I can do it now then, Paul. I'm sorry about that."

"Everything alright? He sounded a little snide there."

"Well, Reb's pretty reserved, so I figured I'd try to get him to come out of his shell by having him talk about what he's done," Kip started, shaking off his confusion with Reb's exit.

"Anything interesting?" asked Paul, looking over curiously.

Kip looked troubled.

"I could be imagining it -he might be vain about the recognition he got in school -which is understandable, but I can't tell if he's letting it affect his willingness to actually accept what he's here for. He's very defensive any time you say something suggesting he's having trouble with something and quick to say it's not as bad as you make it sound and he can do whatever. I wasn't trying to down talk him or anything -who knows what he thought. Looks like he's got a good-sized ego in him. Or maybe he's upset with something else -but I don't know what I ever did to him between twenty minutes yesterday and barely fifteen today."

"I guess if he shows up tomorrow or the next day, it's not anything serious to worry about," suggested Paul. "He might now be so much upset with you as he is with everyone else. You mentioned that yesterday that he felt kind of forced -and that could just be coming out on you. Not that that's fair, but it can happen."

"I don't plan to get too worried about it. If he does get defensive, then I guess I'll kind of work around it and deal with it based on what he decides to do." Kip shook his head. "It's affecting him in the end, so if he wants to go a certain way, I'll go along with it. I'm not getting into a fight with him over it -it's not worth the trouble and drama to do that."

"That's no fun either," agreed Paul. "Well, recording is fun, so now you have more time to focus on that today, and then time will tell."

"Taking it day by day. He's not going to be in tomorrow based on their schedule next door, but maybe the day after will be better when he comes back in."

Next door, Reb was only hoping the same thing as Kip.