For Jace, the ritual had always been quite simple. He banged the drums, he impressed anybody listening and then they gave him free weed. It was a ritual he had perfected over the course of many years playing the double bass pedal for student death metal bands. He could still remember the day not long ago, when Paul had asked for his help to do something different. As the policing major brought the joint to his lips and took a long inhale, he remembered how little he typically liked different.
"Jace man, you should drum for us," one of his generic companions began once again. Somehow he had found himself sitting on the kitchen floor alongside the strangest band he had ever seen. First there was the guitarist, who was attempting to engage him in conversation. He was tall, well muscled and an Indian. Then there was the bassist, who had supplied the drugs. He was short, shockingly thin and Mexican. The last addition was also the only female. She was their singer, a seventeen year old Asian who was currently unconscious against the over door. She might have been comatose but none of them knew. Nobody particularly cared. Neither did Jace particularly care what any of their names were.
"We're looking for a guy," the guitarist claimed, pulling Jace's eyes away from the nubile Asian, "and you rock man. You were reverberating around the house. What do you say dude?"
With a hint of completely feigned sadness, Jace shook his head. He took one last inhale of the joint before he passed it back to the bassist and began to explain:
"I'm not in it for fame or for money. Disbelief doesn't offer much of that. I'm in it because of my best friend. When that kid from some stupid little town in Yorkshire finally decided what he wanted to do with his life, he offered me a part in it. How could I say no? I've known him since he was two feet high. Gotten him out of a fair few fights too. Nobody gives my bass lip. That's how it all started you know, him switching between guitar and bass so we could play Muse songs. Wouldn't believe it now would you? We were like that for a while, until he adopted the kid from his music lectures."
"And you never get bored?" the bassist interjected. "They're holding you back, that Adam kid especially. Did you hear him mess up that E major? I mean, what's so great about Disbelief?"
"Haven't met Ed yet then?" Jace allowed himself a chuckle at how quickly their faces dropped. "We found him under a tree after lectures one day. Just sat on the grass playing along to some tune he had in his head. Creepiest thing we ever saw, until we heard what he was playing. The man's a god."
"I heard he only speaks over the sounds of Ronnie James Dio," the Indian guitarist announced.
"I heard his dad went mental and killed all the rest of his family," the Mexican bassist countered.
"Is it true that when he plays Petrucci solos his eyes glow silver?" the guitarist questioned, bringing Jace back into the conversation.
"Only at full moon when his fangs are out," Jace answered with a broad smile. Thankfully it seemed that they caught the joke. This sort of thing seemed to follow Ed wherever he went.
Looking down into his glass of vodka, Jace found it sadly lacking and resolved to fix that as soon as possible. He had grown tired of his company anyway. He moved from his seated position and settled unsteadily back on his feet. Quickly this brought him to the conclusion that he was not nearly drunk enough.
"Well gentlemen, it's been fun," the drummer proclaimed to his companions, "but I'm going to find my band mates. See you later."
They waved to him briefly before returning to their conversation. In parties like these people came and went. Everybody had gotten used to just going with the flow of things.
Jace wandered only briefly before he encountered the rest of his band in the living room. They were gathered around a small coffee table, with only a few additions. The stick thin, dark haired beauty on Adam's arm was Veronica. She was always around the kid. Typically whenever she wasn't, she was applying or re-applying copious amounts of make-up. She was very much obsessed with her own beauty.
Beside Paul was Ally. She was a habitually confusing female, constantly flitting in and out of Paul's life. Still, if the rumours were true, their dear bassist might finally get what he's wanted so desperately for the last five years. He couldn't have her virginity though - that was long gone.
"What are we drinking?" the drummer queried, announcing himself. The deep tone of his voice must have identified him because Paul answered without turning back.
"Absinthe!" was the response. The subtle slur and exaggerated volume was enough indication that Paul had consumed a colossal quantity of alcohol. Nevertheless, Jace was not about to turn down Absinthe, so he stepped into the circle and raised his empty glass.
Slowly and carefully, Paul poured each of them a measure of the bottled green liquid. Then, almost in unison, the group drained their glasses. Adam began coughing, with Veronica following quickly. Ally released only a controlled sigh. Ed made neither sound nor motion. The only evidence that he had actually consumed the drink was the empty glass that he placed upon the table.
"That's not the worst part about Absinthe kid," Jace pointed out to Adam, once the coughing subsided.
"What is then?" Adam asked breathlessly. He was looking more than a little frightened.
"It's a catalyst drink. As that burning sensation comes up your throat, it's going to triple the strength of every drink you've had so far."
"It's awesome," Ally added. "I think I'm going to get going guys. Paul, walk me out?" The smile on her face was enough to make the young singer walk into hell itself.
She gave Jace and Ed quick hugs. Hugging Adam had been prohibited by the introduction of Veronica, who was an increasingly jealous and domineering woman. Instead, Paul's little crush simple waved to them and took Paul's hand to drag him from the room.
Outside, there were stairs leading down to the second entrance to the basement. It meant that every sound from downstairs was drifting out into the street. All the stars were out and the crescent moon was shining down on them. If not for the dreadful noises drifting up the stairs, it might have been quite idyllic. Certainly romantic scenarios were playing through the haze of alcohol in Paul's mind.
In contrast, the brunette seemed quite sober. This fact seemed to disappoint her immensely. She huddled beneath her sky blue jacket against the chill air - her skirt left her exposed enough to make it useless.
"So when are you playing next?" Ally asked.
"First set of five in the union on the fourth," Paul responded. Ally sighed.
"My eyes are up here honey," she stated with a giggle. Immediately, he drew his eyes up to hers and became uncomfortably aware that he had been staring at her legs since they had come outside.
"Like them do you?" she asked with a coy smile. Now that the student bassist was looking into her eyes however, Paul wasn't sure which he preferred. He wondered briefly how to answer and settled on something that, in his drunken state, sounded very intelligent to him:
"You have goosebumps."
Ally laughed at him.
"Yes dear I do. You don't seem to realise how cold it is out here. Even the slugs are getting frostbite."
His attempt to sound intelligent failing him, Paul decided on a new tactic. This time he would tell her just how attractive she was in the most charming way the alcohol would allow:
"I really want to have sex with you."
Ally laughed at him again, considerably harder this time.
"You're drunk," she said once she had finally calmed down, "but you're sweet."
The short brunette's eyes widened slightly at something behind her and a wicked smile overtook her lips.
"Seany's behind you," she announced, moving in closer and gazing up into his eyes. "As long as we're really close he'll think we're kissing."
She was very close to him now. So much so that Paul could feel her breath on his neck and smell the smell of her hair.
"He looks so mad," Ally continued. "Thanks Paul, I own you one."
He looked down as she looked up and they simply gazed at each other. Then he leaned forward to capture her lips in his.
Before he could however, something hard and fast slammed into the side of his head.