The band opened with Navigator the second night of their performance, and the response from the crowd was even better, though it was not as spiritual for Brady as it had been the night before. The Knitting Factory had been sold out due to the popularity of White-Chocolate Antifreeze, and it was the largest group that they had ever played for, but the night before had been an experience that Brady still couldn't put out of his mind.
After the show they had packed up their instruments as quickly as they could and got off of the stage, but they stuck around to watch the rest of the show. Brady had continued his tradition throughout the entire experience, and since they hadn't put their instruments away in the van yet he kept his mouth shut even while Jack, Stacey, and Theo spoke excitedly about the performance.
They knew of course, and didn't bother trying to speak to him as he leaned against the wall and watched the other band perform. The other band was perfectly synchronized, and he loved their sound, even if it was more metal than he was used to. He loved to hear the way the drummer pounded the beat; although the style was completely different from his own, he could tell without a shadow of a doubt that the drummer was playing to the sound of his own heartbeat as much as he did his own.
He felt a hand rest on his shoulder and turned toward Jack who was returning his attention to the show. Jack's eyes met his for a second and communicated volumes. Jack had never been happier in his entire life, and he was coming to meet Brady on his terms to communicate that to him. No words needed to be shared between them, because they both knew that what rested in the other's heart was pure, amazing bliss. Jack wrapped his arm around Brady's shoulder and pulled him close, and then reached down instinctively as Stacey stepped up to his side and laced her fingers with Jack's.
Theo joined them a second later and was the first to speak as the song ended and the singer began announcing that the next one would be their final number for the night. "This was a night to remember forever," he said reverently, "We've come a long way, and hell I didn't believe we would most of the time, but you guys . . ."
Three pairs of eyes turned toward Theo as his voice broke and he choked out the next words, "You're the best friends a guy could ever ask for, and I'm glad I shared this moment with you."
"You and me both," Stacey said as she pulled away from Jack and wrapped Theo in a hug. Jack started to tense and pull away but then at the last moment he held back and relaxed, staring back at both of them.
"I'd hug you both but, at the moment I just want to watch the end of the show," Jack said with a grin. "Gotta size up the competition as we're getting into the big leagues."
"Did Jack just let me hug Theo without getting jealous?" Stacey asked with a broad grin as she pulled away from Theo, wrapping her arm around Theo's back.
"I think he did, Stace," Theo said with a grin, "What do you think he'd do if I kissed you?"
"In your dreams, Theo!" Stacey said with a laugh as she pushed him away and returned to Jack's side. Theo came up to join them and placed a hand on both Jack and Brady's shoulders. "Seriously though, I love you guys. Thanks for making us go this far."
Brady nodded and returned the gesture as he placed a hand on Theo's shoulder and pulled him in for a tight, one-armed hug. Jack hugged him from the other side and said, "I'm glad you came with us, but if you kiss her we're going to have problems."
Theo's resulting laughter was masked by the band starting up again to play their last number, and Theo turned around to watch. They stayed together against the wall until the band finished playing, basking in each other's company and the sound of a band that had already made a name for themselves. As soon as the song was finished they turned back to where their instruments waited on carts that had been provided for them. They walked slowly toward the van, with Stacey and Theo singing the final song as if it were still playing, but Jack and Brady walked in silence.
Once they arrived in the parking lot, Stacey and Theo took care of getting their instruments in first and then climbed into the van while Jack began helping Brady get his drums inside the back. Jack paused for a moment and looked at Brady with a sad expression.
Brady turned toward him and raised a questioning eyebrow, and Jack shook his head and said, "I just kind of wish that Silas had been here for that moment. I think he deserves to hear the song that you wrote about him."
Brady shrugged and leaned against the back of the van as Jack continued, "I know. He needed to find his own path, and that's what Navigator is all about, but man . . . we're going to get famous off of that kid, I can feel it. He deserves to be here for that, not sleeping in the woods or on some bench at the bus stop. Silas should be here, living the dream with his friends."
With a sigh, Brady bent down to pick up his next drum and looked over at Jack impatiently. "You disagree?" Jack asked. Brady nodded and Jack chuckled, "Well, I guess you do know him pretty well. I could be wrong." He shrugged and started walking around toward the driver's side of the van. "I'm going to warm up the van so that we can get out of here. Do you have the rest?"
After Brady nodded, Jack disappeared around the side and Brady put his next drum in the back and then paused again. His thoughts were drawn back to Crow's Lake, where Silas was probably doing exactly what Jack had suggested he was doing; sleeping somewhere out in the middle of nowhere without any protection from the elements. The band was about to begin the next chapter of their lives, he could feel it and so could Jack, and they had abandoned Silas to nothingness when they had the ability to keep him off the streets forever.
He almost cursed but remembered his rule and settled on pounding his fist into the side of the van instead. He was still fuming when he heard a voice behind him say, “Excuse me.” Brady turned around to face the middle-aged man, looking into his inquisitive blue eyes. The man flicked his head to the side, getting the stray black hairs out of his face before extending a hand toward Brady and offering to shake. Brady examined the man before taking his hand, noticing the expensive watch and tailored suit the man was wearing. This was a businessman of some sort, that much was certain, but why a businessman would be talking to Brady was something he didn't understand.
The one problem was that he hadn’t finished putting his drums in the back of the van. He couldn’t speak yet; it would break his code. He took the man’s hand and then whistled twice to get Jack’s attention while the man looked at Brady like he was crazy.
Jack came around the corner of the van just as Brady released the man’s hand. Jack intercepted the handshake and offered the man one of his own, “Hey, I’m Jack Spencer, lead vocals. You’ll have to excuse Brady here; he won’t speak until he’s finished putting his drums away.”
“Pleasure to meet you, Jack,” the man said, smiling pleasantly. “I’m Tim Franco, I’m with Daredevil Records. I heard you play tonight, and I think you’ve got something special.”
Brady busied himself in putting the last of his drums away, wanting to be able to engage in the conversation as Jack said, “Daredevil Records! You produce White-Chocolate Antifreeze, don’t you?”
“That’s right,” Tim replied with a broad grin. “And you can let go of my hand now, Jack. I need it back if we’re going to keep doing business together,” he added with a chuckle.
Jack let his hand go but just laughed along with him, not embarrassed in the slightest. “Sorry,” he said, “I’m just excited. What can we do for you, Tim?”
“What’s going on, Guns?” Stacey asked as she walked around the van and wrapped her arms around Jack from behind. “What’s happening here?”
“Braids, are you ready to go yet?” Theo asked as he stepped around from the other side. Both Theo and Stacey noticed Tim at the same time, who took a step back to be able to regard all of them at the same time.
“Good, you’re all here,” Tim said, smiling wide. “I’d like to offer you a recording deal if you’re interested. We’ll talk about your first album in a little while, but I’d like to produce that last song of yours as a single if I could. What was it called again?”
Brady’s jaw dropped to the floor as Jack answered in surprise, “Navigator? That song is brand new as of yesterday.”
“Sometimes that’s how it works kid,” Tim said, wiggling his eyebrows. “Some songs are an instant hit, and I think that one’s gonna make you famous.”
“What do you think guys?” Jack asked, looking to his band mates for support. Stacey was already nodding enthusiastically, and Theo was too excited to give Jack anything other than a solid thumbs up, which left Brady who was still recovering from the shock of the offer. “Braids?” Jack asked, looking directly at him. “Brady, come on man, you’ve gotta speak up.”
The use of his real name brought him back to reality, and he looked at Jack and nodded before turning to Tim. “The dedication has to be included in the song.”
“The dedication?” Tim asked.
“Yes, to Silas Drake,” Brady clarified. “He’s going to hear that song someday, and it’ll help him find his way home. That’s why I wrote it, and if the dedication isn’t there then there is no deal.”
“That won’t be a problem,” Tim said with a shrug. “Music is the language of emotion. The way I see it, the more emotional the song is the better it sells. You just keep playing it like you did on stage today and I can guarantee you that you’ll be rewarded.”
“So we’re in?” Jack asked, and the other band members were already nodding along. He turned back to Tim and stuck his hand out again, “I promise I won’t keep it this time. We’re in.”
Instead of shaking Jack’s hand, Tim slid a business card out of his pocket and into Jack’s palm before looking up to his eyes. “Come by the studio at nine tomorrow morning, and we’ll make this happen. I can have you playing on non-commercial stations and be selling your song on the net by the end of the week. If we all like what we see we’ll move onto promo CD’s and setting you up to work on your first album.”
“Sounds like heaven to me,” Jack said with a wide grin. “We’ll be there.”
"Excellent," Tim said as he stepped away. "I look forward to meeting with you and getting your career on its way. You all have a lot of talent, and I think we can make the world see it with a little bit of hard work."
He waved and then walked away, disappearing between the cars in the parking lot. Jack turned back to the others with his eyes wide and his grin even wider. "Can you believe it, guys? He asked as he jumped into the air and then rushed forward to hug Stacey. "We've got a recording deal! A real recording deal!"
"And for a song that didn't exist two days ago," Theo said, glancing at Brady. "Man, you really are the soul of this band.""It wasn’t my soul that wrote that song, Theo," Brady said with an embarrassed grin, "It was Drake's. We've got to remember that every time we play. We've got to keep fighting for him, even if we're nowhere near him."
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