It took Axel longer to get home than he'd hoped. Part of him knew the actual length of time was irrelevant, it had been the walking part that dragged out the unpleasantness of an act he usually partook in for the enjoyment of it. So he grit his teeth through the cold of a Boston night in mid-October and kept walking.
No particular part of him wanted to stop and think about grabbing a taxi because he'd be hard pressed to hand over the money he'd just made tonight just to get himself home when walking was free. He had just enough tonight for Nathan's next two weeks at the recording studio downtown.
So with the money burning an insistent hole in his jacket pocket, Axel let himself into the apartment he shared with his brother Nathan and two of Nathan's band mates, Vincent Grade and Talia Sakavic.
No one was home, he knew that instantly because of the silence. There was no music playing, no voices talking, no video games in the background, and the lights were all off while a chill maintained the stale air of the apartment colder than the temperature outside. He tried to think of where Nathan would be, but it was a good chance that 'Captive Wolves' had a gig tonight and the three fourths of the band who shared his space wouldn't be back until much later into the night.
The silence was unnerving and extremely out of place in the apartment. No one within its walls could handle it for any long stretch of time, Nathan least of all. So the first thing Axel did other than flip the lights on, was head straight for the stereo the collective group had agreed to keep in the living room. The band used it to listen to their own burned discs as well as other locals to see what they were up against, but the CD collection they had overtook every flat surface in the place.
It didn't surprise Axel when he didn't recognize the band the second the sound system was turned on. Even if a lot of the CDs had been his for years, the stereo itself belonged a lot more to the band who often times dominated the living room while Axel nursed his wounds in his and Nathan's bedroom. It was a two bedroom apartment with a kitchen that bled into the living room seamlessly. Axel shared with Nathan while Talia and Vince took the other room. Interestingly enough though, the two weren't dating like Axel had first believed when he'd met the pair. Even if they act like it with their flirting and draping all over each other, Talia was Ace and Vince was... well honestly Axel didn't know what the other man was. He'd never cared to ask because it wasn't his business.
In the hopes of distracting himself from thoughts of Vince's preferences, he grabbed the CD case on top of the stereo and looked at the cover.
'Moonstruck' It was a band Axel had heard of before but he was sure this was the first time he was actually listening to their music. He looked at the track list to find out the name of the song he was listening to and saw it was called 'Trigger Finger'.
Fitting. Was all he could think, because it truly was. The song had a heavy beat with an almost airy guitar that seemed to float above of track, like a violin solo would over an orchestra. Whoever was playing had remarkable talent. Not that the vocals left anything to be desired. The man's voice was rough, a gravel to it that was sexy and soulful at the same time. The man sang about how love was akin to holding a gun to someone's head all the while allowing the person to do the very same, how one had his finger on the trigger and the other shook with the need to put the gun down.
The pain throbbing inside Axel's body subsided as he allowed himself to sink onto the couch with the CD case still in his hands. The music was doing a remarkable job of getting Axel to stop thinking about the pain and start picking apart its sound. He was good at this.
Before Nathan came into his life, Axel had been on his way to majoring in Musical Therapy with a minor in Physical Therapy and maybe Psychology as well, not that he was certain he'd be able to finish both minors, but back then with a scholarship in his pocket and so many possibilities ahead of him he had intended to aim for the stars.
And then Nathan's parents died and a 20 year-old Axel found out his biological mother had had another child only three years after giving him up. Axel had been the only family recently turned 17 year-old Nathan had and so Axel took him in. Dropped out of school and started working.
His and Nathan's relationship wasn't perfect. They acted more like tentative friends than brothers, but Axel had wanted a family all his life, had wished for a brother or a sister every night while he slept at the orphanage surrounded by children who only tolerated each other because they didn't have a choice in the matter.
He hadn't started the fights until Nathan had spoken to him about his band.
Axel remembered it clearly. Two years into their tentative relationship, Axel had found Nathan's guitar in their tiny apartment in small town Mass, and asked if Nathan knew how to play.
The second Axel had heard him, he'd known.
Okay so in terms of guitar, Nathan was no prodigy. It had been his voice that assured Axel of his brother's future.
So Axel waited for Nathan and his friends to graduate before moving them to Boston. It wasn't as big a place as New York so the chances of getting noticed increased. Most talent flooded to New York in waves and so a lot of the most pure and raw skill was overlooked, it was something Axel wouldn't allow to happen to Nathan.
Fighting underground paid for the recording studio and practice space in a friend's storage garage, while working part time in a gas station down the street from their apartment payed for his piece of the rent and his cell phone. Nathan, Vince, and Talia used gig money for equipment costs and their own parts of the rent while each one worked part time somewhere to pay for anything the apartment needed. Whatever the band had left went into the piece of shit van that towed their equipment around gig to gig. The thing was in the shop every other day.
Axel leaned back on the couch and forced his stiff body to relax. Three songs had played while he was lost in his mind and he dismissed the lost opportunity because, had the songs been worth his ear he would have heard them above his thoughts.
Still he decided to pay a bit more attention as the CD continued. The fourth song had a heavier alternative-rock feel, almost garage band style, so he was taken completely by surprise when he heard the cello. It was soft and in the background, something no one would really pick up but would enjoy one way or the other.
Quickly he looked down to see what the name of this song was.
'Collard Predator'. Again, a fitting title seeing as the song was about a man going against his instincts. The wording in the lyrics was almost enough to keep you guessing about what instinct the man was fighting, but Axel could hear it in the words the man wasn't singing.
So the lead singer is gay.
It was a fleeting thought with no consequence, and it was quickly drowned out as the song progressed. Just as the fight in the lyrics was coming to a climax, the cello was joined by a violin, it dragged the rock feel of the song behind it until the whole thing soared into new heights and Axel wasn't sure anymore if it fell in any particular genre. The edgy feel of the classical instruments being used so expertly to enhance an inherently rebellious tension drove shivers down Axel's spine. He loved music that pushed the boundaries of itself and this song did it perfectly.
Axel wanted to meet the man who wrote the score for this music. It had a different feel than the first song had, though the singer was undoubtedly the same. The two tracks were obviously written by different people.
That's when he remembered that he had a cheat sheet in his hands.
Prying the case open, Axel studied the track descriptions and credit listings.
The first song: Trigger Finger had been written by Vocalist Conner O'Connell. Irish then.
Axel quickly went down the line until he came to Track Four: Collared Predator.
Credit for the track was given to Lian O'Connell, Moonstruck's lead guitarist and the vocalist's younger brother.
Axel almost shivered again just reading the man's name. Lian. That had to be short for something right?
The sound of his name startled him so bad he almost let go of the CD case. Snapping his gaze towards the door he spotted Talia before recognizing Nathan and Vince behind her.
"Welcome home." He said trying for a smile. His lip ached and he stopped remembering he'd taken a fist to the face that split his lip during the fight earlier tonight. "How did the show go?"
Talia smiled at him, tired and sleepy but defiantly happy. Axel didn't know if it was because she was Ace, but the rush of a show got to her more deeply than it got to any of her band mates. Axel was always witness to her blissed out state of mind as no one from Captive Wolves ever stayed in the club they performed for a drink. Other than Tony, their guitarist, no one else in the band even drank.
"The show was great." Nathan said with a shrug. His eyes raking over Axel's face, noting but not commenting on the bruises and split lip. They all knew what Axel did for the band. "The best part though was what happened after it."
Axel frowned thinking about all the things rock stars did at clubs. From the drugs and alcohol to the sex. While he knew Nathan had rules for his band mates just as he did for himself, it still didn't stop Axel from worrying about his little brother. No matter how long he'd actually known Nathan, Axel had always wanted family and he didn't want to lose what he'd found to anything.
"What happened after the show?" he asked tentatively.
"We got approached by an agent!" Vince said excitedly. He had an almost puppy like personality that always made Axel smile. He hoped the 19 year old drummer never lost that innocence.
"An agent?" Axel echoed skeptically.
"It wasn't anything special." Nathan cut in, looking unimpressed with Vince's enthusiasm. Axel couldn't always read his brother. Nathan's attitudes seemed to change from one second to the next. "She told us we are being considered as a potential opening act for a band that's touring right now. Their performing in Boston in a couple months and they want their opening acts for each city to be a local band there."
Axel allowed himself a small smile, trying not to pull at his split lip, because really, that was a genius idea. Draw in the locals with a band from their home town while simultaneously giving that local band some notoriety with the fans flocking in from around the country. Axel was impressed.
"What band?" He wondered if he'd get to talk to this band. Their idea for using local talent as an opening band deserved some praise, especially if it would help bring his younger brother closer to the spotlight he deserved.
"Moonstruck." Talia said a little dreamily.
Something surged in Axel's veins that he honestly didn't know what to call it. He'd just been sitting here listening to an album by the band for the first time, and now learning that they were coming to Boston was driving him nearly into a heart attack. What was wrong with him?
"It's not a definite thing yet." Nathan insisted. "The agent said that Conner likes to see the talent himself before he makes the final decision, but it's going to keep us on our toes. We don't know when he might pop up during one of our shows so we have to play like every show is our last." The end of his sentence was geared more towards his band mates than Axel, but it didn't matter. He wasn't even listening anymore.
Axel cut his eyes to the stereo and stood. He went unnoticed as the band members talked about practices and shows and their way-ward guitarist.
Taking the CD from the stereo and replacing it with one of his brother's favorites, Axel tucked Moonstruck's CD back into its case and escaped to his room.
Listening to music always made Axel's fingers itch to play again, but this... Lian's music didn't just bring an itch. Lian O'Connell's music made him ache with the need to pick up an instrument, any instrument.
Axel shut the door to the shared room and made his way to his bed. He reached under it quickly gripping the case with sure fingers before dragged the only instrument he'd kept after college from under his bed. An acoustic guitar his music teacher Ms. Morgan had given him the day he told the woman he was dropping out to care for his brother.
Three years since he'd felt a need like this to play something. Damn him. Whoever Lian O'Connell was.
Cradling the guitar to him, Axel replayed the song in his mind. Collared Predator. The practice of years came back to him as his own skills made a strong and sudden reappearance. His memory had astounded his teaches back in school. Ace Prodigy they'd called him. He had a natural talent for learning any instrument he decided to pick up.
All of it came back to him slowly as he strummed the guitar to tune the instrument. His fingers remembered this feeling like he'd never let it go. It was like fighting, the muscle memory was so deeply ingrained inside his soul that it poured out nearly effortlessly.
Slowly, an acoustic version of 'Collared Predator' echoed the small shared room.
Axel couldn't stop himself from muttering the lyrics, but out of all his talents, singing wasn't one of them. He could keep a tune well enough if he stuck to low tones, but he lost it when he went anywhere near his tenor voice. Axel sung anyways, because music to him was multiple pieces coming together to form a picture. One solid part was beautiful, but a collection of parts was breath taking. So he sang what he could and murmured what he couldn't, all the while taking glances at the cover of the CD he'd taken from the living room.