The long, repetitive buzz was starting to get to him, but it usually did whenever his phone began to ring. He tried to open his eyes, but the pillow that he had buried his head in made it a little more difficult for him. He planted his hands down on to the bed and tried to push himself up, but his efforts were in vain. It took only a moment for him to give up on trying. Instead, he let his hands scramble through the scattered and sweaty covers, feeling around in the attempt to find the cause of his annoyance. He found his mobile quickly enough and, rolling onto his back, brought it up so that he could see who was trying to contact him. Typically, it was at this point that whoever it was stopped calling. Paul sighed a sigh of disappointment and dropped his phone back onto the bed. Turning back onto his face and ignoring wherever the little device might have landed, he abandoned any grip on reality and tried desperately to get back into the dream world that he had created in his mind. In there, all was well and extremely comfortable.
The light provided Paul's next cause for annoyance. It was slipping through the cracks of the curtains, leading straight towards his face as though it was intentionally trying to wake him up. Paul didn't want to wake up, in fact, he had absolutely no interest in living in the real world. Unfortunately, another buzz was beginning to sound near his left arm. He groaned much louder than he had even expected to do. Paul had very intentionally put his phone onto silent mode, which was essential to his ability to ignore everybody, but it did insist on vibrating both loudly and stupidly strongly. It was impossible to ignore, and with the light from the window causing him no end of annoyance, he reached back and grabbed hold of it so that he could see who it was.
To his surprise, it was a call from an old phone of Ally's. He frowned at the backlight bursting through his eyeballs, considered his options briefly, then accepted the call.
His sign on was quite simple. "Hello," he tried to force out through his dry throat.
For a little while, there was no answer. The other end of the line remained completely silent but for a few small noises of movement. Then, a furiously unhappy sounding Ally managed to push out a few words. "Why do you hate me all of a sudden?" she asked. He could actually hear the tears in her voice. It forced him to sit bolt upright so that he could pay attention. "I keep trying to talk to you to help you out, and I need help too sometimes. What can I do if you don't answer? All of my friends are through you."
"What's happened?" Paul asked, forcing his throat to clear a moment later. He tried his best not to focus on his own drama, despite the sudden rush of nausea that washed over him as soon as he lifted his head. "Are you alright? Where are you?"
"I'm at Indy's, where you're supposed to be," Ally all but shouted at him. "Your friends are all here to try and sort things out for you and you're probably in your room, locked away when everybody is doing everything they can for you. We all have issues Paul. Jace and Adam are still tense around each other, but they've managed to get over it, or at least put it to one side. I've got Sean begging me when he's high and threatening me when he's drunk and I don't know what to do. I've always been there for you, and after all of the crap that you put me through over Matthew Cooper I would think that you might feel that you owe me something. We've known each other for years and I need your help."
Ally had always been remarkably good at instilling both panic and guilt into his soul. Today was no exception. He actually managed to force himself to stand up for the first time in far too long. His legs felt far too weak.
"All you ever had to do was to tell me about this," Paul told her quickly. "Just tell me what's going on and I'll sort it out. There's a lot going on is all, and I don't know what people are thinking, but I just need some time for me. If you need me then I'm still going to be there."
A moment later, something went very wrong. There was a sound of something striking something else before the phone connection went dead. The endless and continuous tone that followed confused Paul, but that was nothing to how much it upset him. Ally, obviously upset, had either ended the conversation or, as was also quite possible, dropped her phone into the toilet.
"Ally's been a while," Jace said before he slipped another sip of whiskey down his throat. "As long as she hasn't slipped out of the other door. Veronica, care to go and check for us, just in case?"
Adam turned to look at his girlfriend, expecting at least some sort of snide remark, but none was given. "I'm on it," Veronica announced, with an enthusiastic mini-salute. She moved quickly off and away from the sofa and wandered off towards the bathroom over on the other side of the bar. Of course, Adam made sure to watch her arse as she left, which was both typical and perfectly enjoyable.
"What's going on with her?" asked Jace with a raised eyebrow aimed in Adam's direction. "I'm used to at least having a bit of a fight back from her. She didn't even say anything about me making demands and being bossy."
"I do recall," announced Adam, eager to quieten Jace before he really got into his stride. "I won't try and deny it; she did used to be more bitchy than I ever actually admitted. And she definitely didn't like you. She's been changing things lately though, and it's getting more and more obvious as the days go on. You like it?"
Jace considered this idea for a few moments, pausing even from his drink to do so. "I guess I quite like it," he replied, both slowly and thoughtfully. "I don't know; I haven't exactly been focussing on your girlfriend, have I? She's your property."
"Property?" inquired Adam with a tight little laugh. The idea of referring to Veronica as property was most definitely not one that he had ever considered. People weren't property.
"Well, I guess it's not politically correct to say something like that, but you know what I'm like," announced Jace carefully. "I don't exactly think about fitting in to the world, do I? The world's not exactly made for anybody in particular, why bother?"
"Wow, how very prophetic," came a dry, female voice from beside them. Both of them turned quickly to see a short, blonde woman who wore smart little glasses and an expression of extreme distaste. "Then again, I may say prophetic, but I actually mean something completely different. Pathetic, that's it. You can forgive me, I'm sure, since it does sound the same and all."
"Julia," Jace said by way of a greeting. Somehow, his words managed to convey a quite incredible sense of both dislike and distaste without saying anything other than that one word. Adam, with a confused frown, looked over Jace, but the drummer did not return his look.
Before he could actually connect, Julia talked directly to him. "Well aren't you a nervous looking little thing?" she asked Adam, though he felt quite sure that it was a rhetorical question. "Do you always look so worried about everything?"
Adam opened his mouth in the attempt to say something in return, but nothing even slightly helpful sprang to mind, so he paused, his mouth still slightly open, to consider where he was trying to go with this. The woman, Julia apparently, continued to watch him with an amused smile. She was laughing at him.
The moment was thankfully destroyed completely upon the return of Veronica. "So we have a serious problem," she stated in a sense of panic while waving her hands frantically to try and illustrate the situation. "I don't want to worry anybody, but not only is Ally gone, but I could see bits of her mobile all over the floor and there was a serious dent in one of the...who are you?"
The quite sudden change in tact came upon the realisation that not only was Julia present, but that she was looking over Adam with a quite intrigued look.
Julia's reaction was quite simple. "I'm Julia Barratt," she informed Veronica. "I work for Fire Brand Records, earning more money than anybody could possibly require, even when they've decided to buy love. I've been sent down here as a delegate of Matthew Cooper because he thinks I should probably give a little explanation of what's going on and how I might have helped f--k Paul up."
"You've f--ked Paul up now?" Jace asked sharply.
"What happened with Ally?" Adam asked at almost exactly the same time.
This made Jace change tact. He stood up quickly and began to dig in his pockets for his mobile phone.
Unfortunately, Veronica shot down that idea. "There's no point trying that when there were bits of her phone scattered all over the place. I guess she must have gotten pissed off and thrown it at a wall or something."
"She's not that sort of girl; I've known her for years," Jace stated succinctly. Veronica's gaze froze into an angry glare straight away, which caused Jace to take a deep breath when he saw it and verbally retreat. "You're right though. If her phone was in pieces then there's no point in calling her. Where would she be though?"
"Who knew she was here?" Julia interjected.
"What's that got to do with anything?" asked Veronica angrily, literally snapping at the other female who had attached herself to their group.
"I would say that it might be important," came the reply. "Surely it's worth considering all of the possible options beforehand, correct? Then we can start working things out."
"This isn't a math problem to be sorted out with eager filing," Jace told Julia. "We have to do something though. If she isn't here anymore then she'll definitely have left through the other door. We need to at least go and check that out. Come on guys, all of you."