Notes: A "missing scene"
set before the movie. Written for Aline in the 2004 Yuletide
Treasure obscure fandom holiday challenge. Massive thanks to Actizera
for beta at a hectic time of year. *g*
New York, 1991 --
This trip was supposed to be their reward. After Joe brought in Ed "Mr.
Rolodex" Festus to manage them, this was gonna be the big payoff. They'd
spent nearly 12 fucking years living out of duffle bags and humping across
North America in whatever bucket of bolts they could tape together to
rattle them from one stale beer gig to the next. After all the no-money
bullshit of third-rate bathroom-echo recording studios, xeroxed flyers
and crappy hand-cranked t-shirts, this was supposed to be it. And
for the first time in his life, Billy was starting to believe.
New fucking York. The big time, their big shot. Big shot, right -- Seymour
Stein, head of Sire records sitting front and center with a whole big-shot
entourage of flunkies and notetakers and wannabes. This was it, all right.
Billy took a satisfied swig of beer and peered out into the dimly lit
club -- a sea of heads, loud already, buzzing with anticipation. The first
two nights here, their shows had been nearly perfect; Billy couldn't remember
them ever sounding so tight. And now, for the last show, Seymour Stein,
the guy who'd signed The Ramones, was here to see them.
Joe's shout brought Billy back to the moment, and he turned to join his
band mates, who were already gathered into their traditional pre-show
psych-circle. Pipe was nearly frothing over with adrenaline; he knew what
was at stake tonight, and for once in his fucked-up life, he looked ready
for the challenge. John... well John always wore the same weird, serene
expression now that he'd been properly diagnosed and medicated. It made
him hard to get a handle on sometimes, but that beat the fuck out of the
raving Bedlam-on-wheels their last tour had turned into when he had his
breakdown. No, if there was a wild card in all this, it was Joe.
Joe "We'll Never Sell Out" Dick, like he was some kinda purist (instead
of what he really was -- what they all really were -- a bunch of peckerheads
who hadn't caught a real break worth selling out for). But hell,
Joe was the one who'd brought Ed Festus on board in the first place, saying
they'd needed a "real manager." He was the one who'd put this all in motion.
And they'd played so well all through this trip so far. Joe had to be
able to taste this, he must want it as badly as Billy did. They'd been
through too much shit together for it to be any different.
The PA system squawked to life as the club owner began to announce them.
A crescendo of noise rising from the crowd drowned out everything until
his voice hoarsely reemerged to shout: "Hard Core Logo! "
"All right, let's give these fuckers a night to remember," Joe said with
a wink just as they took the stage.
They plowed through the beginning of the set with ferocious energy; ripping
through the first four songs with barely a break between for Joe to spit
his usual jokes and insults out at the crowd. Billy was glad for the frantic
pace Joe was driving, it kept his nerves on edge, kept the energy where
it needed to be: poured into the music, controlling the mayhem. That air
of dangerous uncertainty was like the fifth member of the band, the lurching,
rollercoaster, freakshow vibe, always threatening to careen out of control.
Let the crowd wonder -- how drunk were they, how angry were they, how
crazy were they tonight? And yeah, fuck, sometimes it did spill over and
they'd wreck horribly all over the stage; but that wasn't going to happen
now. This time, this trip, they were here to collect a reward.
The closing notes of "China White" rang around them and Joe signaled for
a quick break. As Billy, Pipe, and John all took the opportunity to mop
sweat and gulp down some beer, Joe pulled the mic out of its stand and
walked right up to the very front of the stage, within spitting distance
of Seymour Stein.
"I'd like to dedicate this next song to our fan-tastic new manager,
Mister Ed Festus!" Joe yelled out in that fake-hearty voice of his that
instantly put Billy on edge. But then Joe turned back to the band without
further incident and called for "Something's Gonna Die," and Billy relaxed
and strummed the opening chords. And if Joe was shouting out the words
"something's gonna die tonight," in the chorus with a little extra gusto,
it wasn't anything Billy had never heard him do before. This was a big
night; they were all a little excited. And then Joe ripped the mic from
its stand and strode to the front of the stage again, pacing a tight beat
back and forth in front of Stein's table.
Billy wasn't even aware he was holding his breath until it was too late.
It was one of those surreal moments that seemed to take place in slow
motion (which maybe meant he'd seen too many movies, but whatthefuckever)
-- Joe picking up one Doc Marten'd foot and setting it squarely onto Seymour
Stein's table. From his position behind Joe, Billy couldn't see the expression
on Joe's face, but he sure as hell could see that Stein looked confused
and a little annoyed. Then Joe's other foot landed on the table and Billy
could see Joe fumbling with something in front of him.
The piss was already splashing into Stein's gin and tonic and all over
table, Stein shoving back in disgust and horror, before Billy even fully
registered just what Joe was doing.
"Hey, see if you can sell that, ya corporate weasel!" Joe growled into
the mic, delivering the coup de grace.
Billy had no recollection of how he managed to get off the stage -- it
was like some kind of temporary blackout. The next thing he knew, he was
backstage with Pipe and John, the club owner's yelling about their truncated
gig a distant annoying whine in the background. Joe was nowhere to be
"Where is he?" Billy ground out, struggling to keep his voice under control.
"Uh..." John began in his usual hesitant way, but Billy cut him off with
a waved hand before he had the chance to launch into one of his slow-turtle
rambles. He turned and pointed his cigarette at Pipe instead.
"Where the fuck is he?"
Pipe jabbed towards the ceiling with his finger as he finished swallowing
a massive chug of Jack Daniels. "I think I saw him sneak up to the roof."
He belched, adding after Billy's retreating back: "You fucking kick his
The crisp night air setting off the sparkling downtown New York skyline
just heightened the unreality of the whole thing as Billy reached the
roof. That was supposed to be their fucking oyster out there tonight,
Joe was standing in one corner, leaning back against the tar-spackled
roof-edge, smoking a cigarette, a half-empty bottle of Dewar's between
his feet. He was drunker than Billy had realized earlier, swaying unsteadily.
"Ah, it was never for real, Billy," he said looking up defiantly as Billy
approached. "Festus was just gonna fuck us, and you know it."
Billy took a deep breath, stepping even closer, challenging. "And Seymour
Stein? Was he gonna fuck us too?"
Joe shrugged. "They're all the same. Buncha weasels."
Billy could hear his heart beating in his ears. This couldn't be happening.
"He signs real bands, Joe! Why the fuck would he have bothered to show
up for our gig, huh? Tell me that!"
"Weeee-zel!" Joe bellowed nonsensically towards the sky, exhaling
cigarette smoke and scotch fumes.
Billy shook his head and threw his cigarette down onto the tar, grinding
the butt out with the heel of his boot. He shoved his hands into his jacket
"You know something? You're fucking hopeless. You don't even want a record
deal. You couldn't fucking handle it if we did get an offer."
"You couldn't fucking handle it," Joe mimicked in singsong before
breaking out into a hollow laugh. He leaned his chin out tauntingly. "What'sa
matter, Billy? Are all your big rock star dreams crushed now?"
Billy resisted the urge to punch the smirk off Joe's face. Suddenly he
felt like he was seeing it clearly for the first time -- that was just
what Joe wanted him to do. Throw a punch, start a fight, slug it out like
they'd done so many -- hundreds? -- of times before. Slug it out so there'd
be blood on both their faces. Smear a little of the blame around in the
murky haze of violence, then sleep it off, and stagger up the next day
to start the whole fucking cycle over again.
But not this time.
"I'm done, Joe. You guys can... you can do whatever the fuck you want
after tonight, but I'm done."
"Billy--" Joe started in his I'm-not-finished-with-you-yet voice, but
Billy turned and headed back towards the roof access door, boots crunching
on the glass-strewn tar paper. "Billy," Joe said again, sharper, louder,
but Billy still kept walking. Finally, Joe's voice dropped to his ugliest
snarl, "Come back here, you fucking pussy!"
Billy stopped when he reached the door. He started to pull it open, then
hesitated, head down and shoulders slumped for a long beat of silence.
His chest felt tight, and he wasn't sure he could go on. Not after eighteen
years of friendship, of love and music and fighting and sometimes-fucking,
and drinking and coke, and shitty clubs, and miles of road, and hundreds
of songs, and secondhand clothes, and fast food, and time travel, and
night after night after night after night of staying up looking at glittery
night skies like this one talking about their dreams. But Joe needed them
to stay dreams, and that was never gonna change.
Billy yanked open the door, and went downstairs alone.