The heat of the scorching afternoon sun did not stop outside of the windows of Roadkill. Instead, the light pierced through the delicate glass to burn the little hairs on the back of Paul's hand. The window seat had not been the best choice, but of the available options, it was most definitely the preferred compromise. Business was booming to the point where, not long after Paul and Jace had taken their seats, there we no longer any tables available. The staff behind the bar were swamped and barely even able to keep up with the swarming mass that surrounded them, causing the glass collectors to help out as much as they could. Of course, for the sake of balance, this meant that the glasses on each table would stack higher and higher, but Paul and Jace weren't drinking. To brave the challenge that was the bar itself would be to brave the risk of losing the table altogether. Instead, they chose to sit and relax as much as they could when surrounded by the volume and the bodies of the customers.
A Friday would always present a surprisingly easy day for the both of them. Lectures were long, but they were only due for one each that day. Adam having chosen to disappear with the intention of visiting Victoria, Paul and Jace had been left with just the two of them, so they had chosen to have a quiet drink. Sadly, this was not the case. The days of summer had struck full force, offering the student population the chance to literally burn their skin in the hope that, when it had healed, it would be slightly more discoloured than it had been previously. The thoughts of independent study were long since forgotten, leaving those few with money left from the process of the year to spend it all on leisure days and even more leisurely nights.
After his meeting with Cooper, Paul had called his brother as soon as he could, but Ronnie had been as elusive as ever. He barely knew of his touring plans, especially so far from the actual date. Ronnie's experience with Matthew Cooper was limited, but the words 'Fire Brand Records' had seemed quite welcome ones to him. With no guarantees either way, Paul had ended the conversation with their usual brotherly affections. It was no secret for either brother that they were missed. His head as scrambled as it was, Paul had hoped to turn to his band mates for help, but Adam had chosen to see Veronica and, as expected, Ed was impossible to find. Thankfully, he could do a lot worse than Jace.
"Do you remember back in school," he was asking of his old friend. "During seventh year, when we first started, you tried to convince me that you were a werewolf."
For a moment, Jace simply glared at him. Then, his face broke into a wide and welcoming smile. "Yeah," he answered, "I am a werewolf. Never seen me around the full moon, have you?"
"Like I know when the full moon is," Paul responded. "I barely even remember when people's birthdays are, how the hell am I supposed to remember our current position in the lunar cycle? There could be a full moon tonight for all I know."
"Well you have no way of proving it either way then," added Jace. "I could be a werewolf whether you like it or not."
"You did disappear a lot back then, thinking about it," Paul considered. In the early years of high school, Paul and Jace had known each other for a while, but the sudden influx of different people meant that they had both changed quite a lot in that first year. "I didn't know back then what you were doing. For most of it I still don't know, but you sort of learn not to ask with you."
"Well I had my addictions, you know," countered Jace, defensively, but regrettably. "There was always something else I wanted to be doing, wasn't there? You were just this little guy who always used to hang around music classes and stuff. I mean, I know we were good friends in primary school, but bigger friends called once we switched over."
"So I was a nerd and you wanted somebody more fun to hang around with?" Inquired Paul, not pulling any punches. They had spent a long time together overall, but Jace had been something of a back and forth friend for several of those years.
Jace answered with a smirk. "Yeah, pretty much. In fact, that's almost spot on what was going through my head," he pointed out. "It doesn't matter now anyway, does it? I don't think that it's possible to have a better friend than you nowadays. All of my other friends just sort of faded away into obscurity, especially after I decided to join Disbelief. I think Bret was the last one from those old years and he's not going to talk to me now, not after Indy's. I think he just wants us all to die or something, just to get out the way now. Anyway, that's not important. You wanted to talk about something, right?"
Suddenly finding himself put on the spot, Paul faltered for a moment, considering his options. He had decided that he would have to tell the rest of Disbelief something about his dealings with Matthew Cooper, but just how much remained in question. He had gone over the possibilities again and again, trying to work out the best way to make his point without over exposing himself too much.
"After Indy's, I had a call from Matthew Cooper," Paul started hopefully. He saw Jace's eyes narrow suspiciously at the mention of Cooper. The name had been passed around lately, back and forth, but never with any good connotations. The glare that Jace was fixing him with was rather an ugly one, and Paul wasn't sure whether it was aimed at him or at Cooper himself. "Supposedly he's rather annoyed after Rick Ash's little stunt with us, but it brought the Disbelief name to him a little more importantly."
"What do you mean?" Jace asked, sounding as shrewd as he looked. "This Cooper guy has Rick Ash signed. He should be trying to make us look bad so that his guy can look good."
"Yeah, I thought that was weird too," Paul sent back at him. One of the major reasons that he wanted to discuss this was for an extra perspective, allowing him to look at things a little differently than the narrow minded view that a single person typically offered. "It looks to me like he's started trying to promote us, but he doesn't want to sign us still. He had me come in so that we could talk. He's making a web page with footage from the performance."
"How did he get that?" Jace questioned, somewhat angrily. "He wasn't there, was he? Then again, Bret did mention something about having a talent scout from Fire Brand Records there. Maybe there was somebody and we just didn't know about them?"
"I'm not sure," continued Paul. "He asked me to write a few things down about it, but I didn't really know what to put, so I just sort of made it up. I haven't checked out the page yet, but he has some performance dates on there too. He's organised us some shows headlining at Fuse."
Over the course of their conversation, Jace's frown had become more and more pronounced. When he spoke, his opinions echoed the same sentiment. "This all sounds very strange to me. Why the hell is he trying to help us when Adam and Ed pretty much embarrassed his big name days ago. I don't see any reason that he'd actually want to help us, so why is he bothering?"
"I couldn't tell you, he didn't say," said Paul. Cooper's natural talent for mystery always seemed to leave Paul confused, but, then again, everything from Cooper's office to his building always left Paul feeling annoyingly overwhelmed. "Honestly, I don't know what to make of it. If he's trying to promote us then that's going to be one hell of a boost, but then we're only going to be promoting Fire Brand too, surely? Should we play the shows when we're obviously playing to some design of his?"
He had wracked his brain on these questions, but every time that he thought on it he only ended up with fresh questions across his mind. Judging by his friend's face, Jace was going through exactly the same dilemma. "Does that mean they want to sign us, do you think? If so then there really isn't a down side for us, is there? We play the shows, we collect our exposure and then we get on with our lives, right?"
"I guess," conceded Paul. Deep down, he had hoped that it would all go away and, if nothing else, they could just not play the shows and sweep it all under the rug. "Do you think that Adam and Ed would agree with that? I don't want to do anything without everybody agreeing with it. He got our first show in two weeks. It's an hour long set, that's no small amount. We don't have long to be ready for it, we'll need to play a good few covers. I always thought that we were ready to take on anything, but do you have any idea what we're going to be facing here?"
"Yes, it's big, but don't you get overwhelmed by it," answered Jace. Not usually the voice of reason, he seemed rather uncomfortable trying to be the one who calmed the situation. "We'll talk to the guys and we'll sort something out, right? It shouldn't be too much of a challenge, we're just going to have to push practice sessions harder than ever before. It's Fuse, it's worth-"
Abruptly, Jace stopped speaking at the same time that his face dropped. Confused, Paul asked his question with his eyes rather than his lips, but Jace began speaking almost straight away. "They are going to let us back in, aren't they?" He asked, actually looking worried for once. It was a rare sight. "He wouldn't book the place if they were likely to ban me for causing a fight?"
"I have no idea, but I doubt it," Paul answered quickly, though it did nothing to dispel Jace's expression. "He wants to gain some popularity for us, so he wouldn't want to invite us there if we just ended up disagreeing with the management. He's told me that he could smooth things over either way."
A subtle change overcame Jace's face yet again as he looked shrewdly into his friend's eyes. "Yeah," he began, very slowly, as though he was choosing each word very carefully, "I saw him there last time that we played, didn't I? He was talking to you and Ally. Is that when he got your phone number or did he have it beforehand?"
There was a pause in the conversation while Paul hesitated. Determined to answer quickly, he said: "No, I gave it to him when he first tried to sign Ed. Do you remember? I went into the toilets after we played to call him and find out whether or not he wanted to sign all of us or just Ed. He wanted my number just in case things changed."
"And now things have changed," mumbled Jace, likely to himself more than to Paul. "How convenient," he added. "Well I suppose we'd better start preparing, hadn't we? We can't keep Mr. Cooper in suspense."