"Robert! Robert wake up!"
"Jesus Christ, Robert, you fucking scared me."
My heart was pounding against my ribs. I sat up and combed my hair back with my fingers. My forehead was sweating. My eyes were tired but darted towards the clock with haste. It was five o'clock in the afternoon. I'd been sleeping since eight that morning. I looked back to Jimmy and tried to catch my breath. Yeah, I had been having nightmares, but the second Jimmy woke me up, they'd vanished completely, leaving me with a sick sense of fear in my gut.
"You scared me," he said again, looking at me with concern. He was already dressed in his white dragon outfit for tonight. I couldn't see his eyes through his aviators, and I felt disconnected as my dream haze still clung to my mind.
"Shit," I said, finally getting a hold of myself. "What happened?"
"I fell asleep after you, then I woke up to you screaming--"
"Fuck, I gotta get ready," I shot, pushing myself out of bed, trying to leave behind the sick feeling that lingered.
Jimmy laughed behind me. "Tough as nails, huh, Percy?"
"Yeah, yeah, help me find my clothes, would you?" What I was wearing was fine, but it was drenched in sweat now. I looked at myself in the mirror and cursed. I looked like shit.
"Here, just wear this." I turned to Jimmy holding up a few things for me. I grabbed them and shut myself in the bathroom. We were on the verge of running late. The show started at seven. We only had two hours to get down there and get our shit together.
"Jimmy!" I called, pulling my clothes off and replacing them with the clean ones. "You got a hairbrush?"
I heard him laugh. "Of course," he said from the other room. "And what- you don't?"
"Just get me one? Please?" I hated running late. It was so bloody hectic, and I could never seem to get everything done and I could never find anything I needed.
"Open up," Jimmy said, knocking on the door. I swung it open, grabbed the hairbrush from his hand with a rushed 'thanks' and pulled it through my hair. I still looked terrible. Whatever. I'd be sweating on stage anyways.
"Let's go," I said. "They're probably waiting for us in the lobby."
"We're gonna get it."
There was a timely bang on the door, and I heard Peter's booming voice. Jimmy and I shared a scared, yet amused glance.
"Plant! Page! Get the fuck out here!"
"Coming dad," Jimmy said sarcastically under his breath. I couldn't help but snicker.
We all pretty much booked it downstairs. Jimmy and I jumped into the limo that was waiting for us. Jonesy and Bonzo were already in the front, so we took the back. Jonesy gave me a knowing look. I guess he thought I looked fine, so he turned back around.
"Okay, let's roll," Bonzo called, then looked at me and Jimmy. "You guys are going to get killed some day," he shot under his breath, motioning his head towards Peter.
"Don't worry about it."
We sped off, each of us routinely excited as we got closer and closer to the hype we knew would be waiting for us. I swear to god, we were a block away from the place we were playing at, and we could already hear people freaking out. We all loved it. People were going fucking nuts for us. It was hardly what I'd expected so long ago as we were started as the horribly unexciting sounding 'New Yardbirds.' But this crazy hard-hit mind-swarm of psycho fans was just what kept us all pumped.
Bonzo rubbed his hands together with a grin.
"I know what you're thinking about," Jimmy mused.
"After party," Jonesy and Bonzo said in unison.
"Damn straight," I said, nodding my head. "It's gonna be a good one."
We had to rush around backstage to get everything together, but we managed with about ten seconds to spare. The crowd was already chanting us on, needing us to come out to feed their starved ears. Waiting for the music to shred their minds open. And that was just our job. Go out, blow some brains open.
And that's what we did. We played for our loyal junkies, their eyes wide, arms up, singing the choruses with huge pupils and Led Zeppelin t-shirts, and in some cases, no shirts. The smell of pot and tobacco and sweat filled the muggy air and the mood for us- the mood for the audience, the security guards, everyone- it was a different fucking world. Nothing existed outside of this room tonight. This was it. And when it was all over, three encores and all, we retired backstage. Bonzo automatically went to the cooler for a beer. Jonesy joined him, taking off his fancy jacket. Jimmy disappeared into the back with some poor girl and his suitcase of surprises. I kicked back with Peter and, sharing a two-six of vodka between us, talked about random shit until everyone was ready to leave, which took a good three hours. By then Bonzo and Jonesy were both glassy-eyed. An abundance of groupies had appeared over the last few hours, and by the time we were all ready to leave, everyone was stumbling around like idiots. We got two limos on the way back like we usually did, since we always seemed to have so many more people on the way back. I was in the same limo as Jimmy. He had two girls hanging off of him. The one from earlier was gone, and, since I was buzzed, the thought of that made me laugh out loud.
"What?" Jimmy smirked, his aviators still on in the dimly-lit limo.
"Nothing," I lied, pursing my lips so I didn't laugh, even though I'd forgot what I had been laughing at to begin with.
"You're fucking nuts," Jimmy said, shaking his head. "Which can only mean one thing."
He took his customary bottle of Jack from one of the groupie's hands, and stuck it out to me. "Drink," he ordered. I had no qualms about that. I took the bottle from him, tried to take the lid off, realised there was no lid, and took a nice long swig.
"Beautiful," Jimmy winked. "That's how it's done."
Jimmy turned to one of the groupies, kissed her, then pushed her onto me. "There you go, Percy. Happy birthday."
"It's not my birthday," I laughed, absently taking note that the girl he'd pushed on me was on the floor in front of me, hands on my fly. I watched Jimmy take another drink, longer than mine, before shaking it off.
I was really fucking drunk now. I couldn't focus on one thing. My mind kept going from Jimmy and whatever he was doing, to the limo blinds over the windows, to the ceiling, to the fact I was half-hard and getting my pants yanked down.
"Jimmy don't look," I blurted.
"Way ahead of you," Jimmy said, shaking his head, laughing at me.
"What are you guys doing back there?" I heard someone call from the front seat.
"Peter's with us?!" I burst, laughing again.
"Yeah, so?" Jimmy challenged. "You'd think you'd be used to this by now, Percy. It's been how long? Six years?"
"I don't fucking know," I said, feeling a hand wrap around me. "Shit," I swore, looking down to what was happening.
"What's up Percy? Feeling guilty?"
"The fact you have a wife," he crowed.
"You know what---"
"We're here!" Peter said from the front.
"That's too bad," Jimmy called back. "Robert here is in the middle of getting a---"
"Oh, get over it Percy." He turned to the blonde beside him and helped her out of the limo, closing the door behind him to let me finish. The shitty thing was, before I could finish, the girl who was giving me a hand job passed out drunk, and I had to calm myself down and call Peter to help me drag her out.
"Peter, I have to go back to my room," I practically yelled, already heading towards the hotel. "Take care of her for me?"
"Yeah, yeah," Peter rolled his eyes, carrying the girl off.
I somehow managed to get back to my hotel room. But first I had to go through the fun that was being in an elevator while smashed. I pressed the wrong button nine times before I decided the up-and-down motions were going to make me sick, and, wondering why I hadn't just done it before, took the three flights of stairs to the third floor of the hotel. Then I went for a nice nauseating stumble down the hall, almost bumped into the cleaning lady's cart, and knocked on two wrong doors before I got the right one. I knocked for five minutes, then searched my pockets and found that I did, in fact, have a key. I fumbled it around in the lock, then swung the door open, closed it behind me, and slid to the floor.
I looked up after I'd caught my breath.
"Wh--" I said confused, blinking at the groupie on Jimmy's bed. "Where's Pagey?" I asked, looking up at her.
"Who?" she slurred.
"Pagey. Jimmy. James. The skinny guy with the guitar."
She looked at me, tilting her head. "You mean Jimmy?" She asked.
"That's what I said."
"He's in the bathroom. He wasn't feeling good."
"Oh." My mind swerved in drunkenness again, and I realised I was lying on the floor. My shoulder had a distant pain to it, and my stomach felt like shit. I needed to get into the bathroom myself. I was close to puking, no doubt about it. I felt a hand on my waist, then another one on the other side. Someone was picking me up.
"Here let me help you to bed," she said behind me, somehow lifting my dead weight.
"Nuhh…" I protested. "Bathroom."
"But Jimmy's in there."
"I. Am going. To hurl."
She helped me to the bathroom. It was quite a mission, those ten feet to the door. I banged my fist against it.
It opened. It hadn't even been closed all the way.
I looked in
And I saw Jimmy sprawled over the floor, a band of thick rubber tied to his upper arm, his head flopped to the side, black hair cutting over it, a syringe clutched in his pale hand.
"Fuck, Jimmy!" I screamed, falling on my knees to the floor beside him. "Jimmy, you shit I can't fucking b----" I choked on my own words, and felt hot tears streaming down my face. "Jimmy---"
His mouth was hanging open, his breathing sounded like he was on his deathbed- it was laboured and I could smell the alcohol every time a breath managed to escape his mouth.
My drunk mind couldn't handle this. I couldn't understand it- I was so sure he had overdosed. It was almost as if I knew it, and the only thing that saved me from completely flipping was his chest rising and falling.
He was so skinny, how come I'd never noticed? I must have. I'd been denying it this whole fucking time. I'd been lying to myself. I'd seen it. Every day I saw the dark circles under his eyes grow darker. He kept wearing those goddamn glasses to hide his eyes. But his pupils had been so small all I could see was green. I'd watched him waste away. I'd heard him sniffing all night, trying to stop his running nose. And then I'd heard the deeper sniffs and the taps on the counter as he lined his fucking heroin up and snorted it. I'd seen the snooters hanging around the house- straws, rolled up paper, whatever. I was so drunk, but this was the honesty I needed. Jimmy was not okay. I knew he's been rough, but now he was shooting up, and it broke my heart. He was my band mate, my friend. How could I have let this happen to him?
The girl beside me had left me alone, and I silently thanked her for it.
I reached out and touched Jimmy's chest, needing to feel his breath, his heartbeat; his life.
"Jimmy…" I whispered, my fingers clutching at him. I swooned in the alcohol, and I found myself down, my arms wrapped around him. I wanted him to be okay. That was all I fucking wanted at that moment. That was it.
Through his chest, I heard a quick breath, and I craned my neck up to look at him. His eyes were opening, dark and watering behind his bangs.
He looked down at me.
"Robert," he managed, voice cracked and hurt. "I'm so sorry."