The streets of LA were amazing at night, only there could you see a mixture of star chasers and worn out has beens uniting in the cold. Sharing cigarettes with each other one minute and throwing punches the next, no one had family when you were all fighting to survive and surviving to fight. Amazing or not, Nikki was done living on those streets. He was done sofa surfing with whoever would sleep with him, sleeping in alleys on the nights no one would bite. He’d lost his job at the liquor store a few months ago and nobody wanted to hire someone who’s only passion was music.
Watching a group of guys leave a brightly lit strip joint one night as he huddled under a dumpster, Nikki couldn’t help but think to himself, Damn, bet those girls never run out of money, I wish I could... Then it hit him, why couldn’t he? Male strippers existed and he wasn’t bad looking. That was the night Nikki decided to sell his body for all it was worth.
Skip a few nights forward and he’d found a number for a small company who specialised in ladies nights. The manager for them had agreed to give him an audition and, as he knocked on the door of the apartment, he swore he saw the curtains twitch and a mass of blonde duck down. The door creaked open, the chain stopping it after a few inches. A short dark haired man stood behind it, he was older than Nikki and looked angry. Nikki considered leaving before this old guy beat his ass until he heard giggling coming from behind the door. He peered behind the man and caught a glimpse of two young men staring at him from a doorway. The blonde was trying to hush the very tall brunette before the older man turned to them.
“You two go wait, I think this is the new kid.”
“Awww, but Mick, he’s pretty.” The brunette whined playfully, flashing Nikki a wink.
“Yeah and I don’t need you dumbasses scaring him off, now scram.” His voice was stern but... Mick... Yeah, Mick smiled as he spoke to them. Nikki was almost jealous, he didn’t remember the last time someone smiled at him like that.
Mick waited till the boys had left before letting Nikki in, pointing at a couch. Nikki sat down, careful to avoid the stains. “Usually I don’t let people meet them until after they get the job but they’re excited today.” Mick explained.
“Why?” Nikki didn’t know why his voice was so quiet but he didn’t like it.
“They have a show tonight, they always get like this on show days.” Nikki couldn’t imagine working alongside people with that much energy, the doubts were flooding his mind now. What if he wasn’t as good at it as the others? What if they didn’t like him? Did they all live together? That wasn’t really a doubt but he found the question bouncing about. The way they had been so close and touchy made him wonder. Would he be a third wheel in this?
“So, what do I do?” Nikki just wanted to stop the quiet. It would’ve been silence if not for the creaking of floorboards, occasional banging, and consistent laughter coming through the walls.
“Well I gotta see if you’ve got any talent so... pick a song.” He gestured to a turntable in the corner with a stack of singles. “You only have to go down to your waist today, but... if you wanna go further, no one’s gonna complain.” Mick sat back in an armchair.
Nikki went over to the stack and flicked through a couple, he couldn’t help but smile at the vast selection of rock here. Picking out one at random, he put it on. The crackle of the needle finding the groove made his stomach churn as he took place in the middle of the room. He’d been to strip clubs before, he just had to copy what he’d seen them do.
The first few notes were deafening to him and he tried to sway his hips in time with the music. As the vocals kicked in, he tried running his hands down himself experimentally. It hadn’t even reached the chorus before Nikki risked looking at Mick. Was he really that bad or was his face just like That? The straight face from his interviewer blew whatever confidence that had been there out the grimy windows. In a panic, he reached for the hem of his shirt, pulling the edges just above his hips. It earned him a smirk and head tilt from Mick which reignited some of his energy. Nikki waited till the second chorus before taking off his shirt and spent the rest of the song running the fabric and his fingers across his pale body.
As the song finished, the final note hung in the air and Mick leaned back again. As his eyes bore into his skin, Nikki began feeling self conscious. “So...?”
“Do you want my honest opinion?” Something told Nikki he was gonna get it anyway so he nodded. “You’re clearly a beginner. My boys have been doing this for months now and it’s going to be obvious you’re not like them.”
Nikki nodded. The idea of sleeping on the streets again made him want to cry but he knew he wouldn’t fit in here anyway. “Tommy was right, you have got the looks just not... everything else.”
“Thanks for your time anyway.” Nikki put his shirt back on, feeling sick. “Do you know any... less experienced companies?”
Mick looked shocked by the question, “You still wanna go into this?”
“I kinda need to.” Nikki shrugged.
Mick watched him thoughtfully. “How much effort are you willing to put into this?”
“As much as I need to. I can’t keep doing this.” Nikki felt a lump in his throat.
“Ok, well, you’re not good enough to perform tonight but I think you could be trained. Let me talk to the boys.” Mick stood up slowly, wincing slightly. “You wait here.”
Mick was gone for a few minutes and there wasn’t a lot for Nikki to look at. Apart from the record collection, the only stuff in the room was empty alcohol cans and bottles and clothes. He took a peek out the window, seeing how close to a lot of the bars in the area they lived, it probably made work easier for them. He grimaced at the stains on the window and ledge but couldn’t help but notice how much cosier this place seemed than anywhere he had lived before. It was filthy but it was safe and fun and they seemed genuinely happy to be here.
Loud chatter from behind him nudged Nikki out of his train of thought. As Mick walked out, the boys followed, pushing and shoving each other playfully. He stopped in front of him and waved them to calm down. “Nikki, this is Tommy and Vince, they’ve agreed to train you for a trial period. If you’re not ready for the stage in two weeks, we’re dropping you.”
Vince’s stares gave away his skepticism whereas Tommy looked like as if Mick had given them a new puppy. “When can you start?” Tommy practically screamed. His enthusiasm took Nikki back a bit and he found himself looking to Mick for help. Nothing.
“Great! We were just gonna rehearse anyway.” Tommy bounced over to him and pulled him in. This was going to be a strange few weeks but Nikki couldn’t risk this going wrong. He couldn’t stay on the streets anymore. He couldn’t keep facing it all alone.