The Next Best Thing - 28

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Rock n' Roll Doggie ALL ACCESS
Mar 5, 2004
Leather Heaven
Thank God, this chapter is done. :crack: It's nearly done me in - I'm glad it's finished just so I can stop looking at it for a few days. :ohmy: This story's written in the past tense and this chapter switches between the tense that I've been writing in to Raye looking back on a previous day's events... so what is that? Double past tense??? :confused:

Anyway, this is a fan fic & isn't intended to represent any real events. Hope it makes sense... :up:


She couldn’t believe how easy he was to photograph; her camera loved his soulful blue eyes, his shy smile, even his slightly crooked nose. She shot him from eye level, from his left, his right, in profile; she shot him as he stood and she knelt – it didn’t matter. There wasn’t a single unflattering pose in the grouping. And he was such a natural that she hardly had to give a single line of direction while photographing him; most of her statements were simply to compliment his nearly psychic understanding of what she wanted from him.

“Ma’am, you’ll need to be moving along now.”

Looking up from her camera’s viewfinder to the firm hand on her shoulder, she saw that it and the monotone voice which had just addressed her belonged to a muscled beast of a human who seemed to be at least seven feet tall and three feet wide at the shoulders. His khakis, black polo shirt, and mirrored pilot-style sunglasses, coupled with a severe buzz cut and no nonsense communication style emitted a decidedly paramilitary vibe. She half expected him to produce a badge for her, but it never appeared. He just repeated his command with even less patience than before.

“Ma’am, I said you’ll need to be moving along. Now.”

She stood from where she’d been kneeling to face him – or, at least, to face the middle of his chest. On her feet he still towered above her, even though it appeared as though his shoulders had swallowed his neck.

“I don’t understand”, she told him. It wasn’t a completely truthful statement; she understood the words but she couldn’t comprehend their objective. She stood gawking up vacantly at her own reflection in his sunglasses, waiting for him to offer some explanation.

“There’s nothing for you to understand, ma’am”, was his reply. “You’re not authorized to be here and you need to move or I will move you.” She thought she detected the tiniest hint of a sadistic smile as he considered a physical confrontation.

“I’m not authorized?” She was a bit indignant now that she had a grasp on the situation. “Of course I’m ‘authorized’ to be here – I’m his girlfriend!” She turned and pointed in the direction of Adam as she spoke. Planning to watch smugly while Sergeant Meathead was put in his place, she was instead perplexed to find Adam no longer in the olive cargo pants and brown wool sweater that she’d just been photographing him in. Instead, he was wearing a steel grey morning coat with matching striped pants and was being fussed over by several odd-looking women. They all stood on a red carpet that had been cordoned off with black velvet ropes and stretched along the ground as far as the eye could see. Confused, but sure Adam would explain everything as soon as this little misunderstanding was sorted, Raye called out to him.

“Adam? Adam, tell this – gentleman - that I’m authorized. Tell him I’m here with you…tell him I’m your girlfriend!”

Adam looked at her as she spoke but didn’t answer. The three women surrounding him also turned their attention to the vicinity of Raye’s voice before bursting into fits of giggles, intermittently whispering amongst themselves and then pointing meaty fingers. Raye looked back to watch Sergeant Meathead wither in embarrassment as his faux pas was revealed to him. Instead she found herself being snarled at by Grace Jones, who stood before her in a red patent leather ball gown, carrying a bouquet fashioned from curly willow branches and red bromeliads.

Raye shrieked and leapt backwards, losing her balance and falling flat onto her backside. She quickly rolled onto her knees and scampered several feet away while Jones remained in place, cackling loudly at her. Getting back to her feet as quickly as possible, Raye looked wildly from Adam to Jones and back again.

“Adam?” She weakly called, her voice choked with bewilderment. “Please help me – I don’t understand.”

“I’m sorry, love”, he said as his three attendants moved into new positions, two flanking him and one at his back. “I have obligations to keep.” Though he spoke an apology, there was no empathy in his voice. There was no malice either, but that fact did nothing to calm the hysteria that was creeping into Raye’s veins. She needed to know what was happening; they’d just been enjoying an amazing photo shoot – who were these strange people that surrounded them now and why wasn’t he coming to her rescue? Why wouldn’t Adam tell the security guy that she was with him? And what the Hell was Grace Jones doing here, growling and laughing at her like a hyena?

Just then she felt a powerful blow to her chest that threatened to topple her again as Jones strutted past and pushed Raye out of her path. Struggling to regain her breath, Raye watched helplessly as Jones gained speed and, in three-inch black stilettos, broke into a sprint before clearing the velvet rope where Adam was standing with no more effort than it would have taken for her to step over a crack in a sidewalk. Passing by the strangers still hovering near Adam, Jones pulled three willow branches from her bouquet, one at a time, and handed them to the women. She turned once more to snarl at Raye before walking several feet ahead of Adam and coming to a stop with her eyes straight ahead. Looking along the carpeted path for what seemed like the first time, Raye saw that it stretched across the rolling landscape before finally ending in front of a meager gray structure on the horizon.

Raye was suddenly aware of oddly familiar acoustic music and her head twitched about as she tried to determine its source. Her eyes settled on the three strange women who’d been shadowing Adam and now stood in a small cluster behind him, performing U2’s “The First Time” with two of them on guitar while the third kept beat on a set of bongo drums. Everything else around Raye fell away from sight as she focused on the three performers and recognition slapped her in the face. The attendants-slash-performers weren’t woman – they were Bono, Edge and Larry, dressed in drag as they had been for Anton Corbjin’s version of the “One” video.

Utterly disoriented and increasingly anxious, Raye wanted to run to Adam’s arms, where she knew everything would begin to make sense again. Her legs and feet, however, refused to follow any commands she gave them and she began to realize that her purpose was to be an unwilling witness to whatever Kafkaesque scene was about to play out before her. Unable to do anything else, she watched now as Jones began moving forward on the red carpet. Adam’s band mates had stopped singing and the sound of large bells, distant at first but becoming louder with every step Jones took, began to reverberate in Raye’s ears. When Jones had taken approximately five steps, Adam began to slowly follow, his band mates falling in behind him, single file. Their musical instruments had become individual vanilla orchids, clutched in both hands in front of them. And though the entire group had taken no more than ten steps, they were now standing on the threshold of what had previously appeared to be a distant small structure. It now loomed overhead, casting all of them into its gargantuan shadow.

Craning her head to follow the heights of its impossibly tall steeple, Raye knew what she was facing. This wasn’t just any structure, it was a cathedral. And she was viewing a wedding; a twisted, grotesque farce of a wedding. The bells that rang out from somewhere above the clouds, in the top of the steeple, were so loud at this point she could feel their sound waves passing through her body. Their din was unbearable now and she fell to the ground, curling into a fetal position as she covered her ears with her hands, trying to block out the excruciating sound. Cold sweat poured from her brow and she began to hyperventilate as the possibility of being sick to her stomach mounted with each peal that rang out.

The sound wouldn’t quit now; it was everywhere – above her, beside her, underneath her even. Eyes clenched tightly, she wildly swung both arms in front of her, far too incoherent to form a rational thought. Her heart pounded in her throat and she only wanted the horrible echoing in her head to end. Just as she felt a throat-shredding scream began to work its way up from her diaphragm, her right hand connected with something hard but slightly yielding and flopped once or twice, snuffing out the cacophony in her ears. Raye bolted into an upright position and forced open her eyelids.

Gasping for breath as though she’d run a marathon, she frantically surveyed her surroundings, only to find herself looking into her own feral eyes in the mirror across the room. Blinking rapidly, she inhaled sharply as consciousness began to dawn and her panic started to fall away. The awful sound she’d managed to stop had been the buzz of the alarm clock and she was alone but safe, sitting quietly on Lionel’s former wife’s bed. She rubbed both eyes with the heels of her palms before resting her head in her hands as her breathing returned to normal. Two nights had passed since she and Adam had committed themselves to each other. Two nights followed by two mornings of waking up terrified and exhausted by the same bizarre dream.

Raye didn’t need Freud to interpret for her: regardless of all Adam’s assurances, she still believed that he would ultimately regret getting involved with her and would return to his world of celebrities and industry darlings. Truthfully, she’d never been convinced otherwise. After they’d finished their tea in the wee morning hours of Monday and he’d walked her to her room, sending her to bed with a tender goodnight kiss, the second guessing had kept Raye awake for nearly an hour. Had she been out of her mind to confess her feelings to him? Was she being brave or just stupid to throw herself at him with such recklessness? And now that she’d been ‘outted’ to his immediate friends, how much obligation would she have to the entire band – not just Adam – to blend into their world? If it came to that, would she blend at all or just fade into the background?

The thought of her ‘coming out’ brought an unconscious smile to Raye’s face as she reminisced on the previous day’s events. Thanks to the late night with Adam, her anxiety-induced insomnia and the first occurrence of her surreal wedding dream, she’d only gotten a little more than three hours of sleep and had found herself downstairs in the kitchen well ahead of anyone else. Not typically a coffee drinker, Raye’d been unable to locate any other source of caffeine in the refrigerator or pantry and knew that without it, she’d barely be able to stay awake through breakfast, much less the rest of the day. Desperate, she had brewed several cups and was seated at the breakfast table, putting the last of four teaspoons of sugar into her one-third coffee, two-thirds milk concoction when Adam entered the kitchen, trailed en masse by the remainder of the house’s occupants.

Raye had anticipated that her first appearance as Adam’s new love interest in front of Lionel and his guests was going to be awkward, so she’d been relieved when it passed without much fanfare at all. Adam had simply walked across the kitchen, placed a good morning kiss on her forehead and sat down next to her as if he’d been doing so for years, gently patting her leg and giving her a slight, reassuring nod while everyone else greeted her as they normally would. In fact, not once while Lionel had prepared their pancakes and bacon was a single mention made regarding Adam’s and Raye’s new status. It wasn’t until everyone had plates in front of them and a slight lull developed in the conversation that the subject had been raised.

“So…Raye?” Larry casually spoke up, with a forkful of syrup-drenched pancake suspended midway between his plate and his mouth.

Taking this as the signal that the teasing was about to begin and that it would be merciless, she tried to brace herself for the worst as she tentatively replied.


“We all thought you should know”, he continued with a roguish grin, “that we’ve put it to a vote and unanimously decided that we approve you as Adam’s choice of companion.” Stuffing his mouth with pancake slices, he snickered as he chewed.

“Larry”, Adam quietly warned, “that’ll be enough.”

“It’s alright”, Raye reassured Adam. “He didn’t upset me.” She looked across at Larry and sincerely replied, “Thank you. I appreciate your support.”

Raye smiled as she remembered the immediate reaction after she’d spoken to Larry. It was as if she’d given the entire room permission to breathe again; the uneasiness that had settled in the room after Adam scolded him had suddenly dissipated and they’d all had some kind of statement to make about Sunday evening’s outcome. Even Lionel had made sure to catch Raye’s eye as he collected her breakfast dishes, flashing a sly smile and a quick wink while the guys began to shower her with their support.

“Whatever makes Ads happy is what makes us happy. Isn’t that right, guys?” Bono looked around the group as heads bobbed in agreement.

“Absolutely”, Paul chimed in. “And don’t worry about this lot, Raye. You’ll not have any trouble from them. We’re all very happy to see Adam so content; he’s not been that way in a while.”

“It’s true”, Edge said to Raye. Looking over at Adam, he added his own observations of the recent events. “We’ve all seen a difference in you the last few days. Maybe now you’ll have the inspiration to finish those couple of tracks that you’ve been stuck on.”

“Maybe so”, Adam answered as his cheeks turned a bright pink. Raye reached over and took his hand in hers, awestruck by his roundabout admission that she may possibly be, in some small way, contributing to their music. He bashfully shrugged his shoulders and planted a quick kiss on her cheek – which immediately prompted a chorus of “Awww’s” from around the kitchen.

“Oh, shut it – all of you!” Adam playfully ordered.

Taking advantage of a break in the conversation Larry spoke up again as he reached over, delivering several heavy-handed slaps to Edge’s back.

“And just think”, he proposed, “if not for ‘Mother Edge’ here and her meddling ways, we likely wouldn’t have had this happy ending.” He barely got the words out of his mouth before he began to twitch with laughter.

“Lars – enough!”

There had been a brief shocked silence as both Adam’s and Bono’s voices joined from opposite sides of the room to admonish Larry in stereo. At first, they’d all sat looking from one to another like they’d been naughty students, called down by their teacher. However, one by one, they began to choke back muffled giggles until the entire room had eventually erupted into full blown laughter. If the episode had been Raye’s initiation into ‘the club’, then it seemed that she had passed with flying colors.

The remainder of Monday had been no less interesting for Raye. After breakfast, Lionel had offered another day tour of the area to anyone interested. Paul opted to pass, citing business calls that he needed to make and emails that needed answering but Larry, Edge and Bono enthusiastically accepted the offer. To Raye’s surprise, Adam had asked if he could join her while she dropped the film for processing and ran a few other errands.

When she gently questioned whether he’d be bored sitting in her Pathfinder while she ran in and out, he’d shocked her by answering that he didn’t intend to remain in the vehicle the entire time. Nonchalantly leaning in as they’d sat at the breakfast table, he’d told her in a conspiratorial whisper that he could easily move about in public without drawing attention to himself - unlike some other folks that she may know. Thrilled to think that she’d truly have him to herself for the day, Raye had easily been persuaded to bring him along.

After dropping her film by the lab and getting assurance from the owner (who she’d known since her days assisting in the portrait studio) that she could pick up her prints and digitized negatives by close of business, Raye had embarked on a city-wide trek to show Adam some of the area’s highlights. They’d traversed the university campus with its botanical gardens and picturesque Kenan Gazebo, and then meandered their way through a few local beach towns on the way to Fort Fisher, a Confederate stronghold at the end of the Civil War, sandwiched at the very northern tip of the county between the Cape Fear River and the Atlantic Ocean. They traveled the arterial avenues and boulevards of Wilmington while Raye pointed out details of neighborhoods and buildings, whether significant or trivial, as though she were an old hand at giving guided tours. Downtown, they’d park the Pathfinder and stretched their legs along the cobbled streets, historic homes and renovated shops, restaurants and office buildings of “Old Wilmington”. Raye even introduced Adam to authentic southeastern North Carolina barbecue with pulled pork sandwiches, doused in the region’s traditional vinegar sauce and covered in sweet cole slaw. They’d shared their meal al fresco, seated on a bench along the River Walk, a promenade stretching the length of the city’s riverfront that offered spectacular vistas for the three bridges needed to access the city from the west and north, as well as an unobstructed view of the retired USS Battleship North Carolina, docked in her permanent home just across the river.

Walking the familiar streets of downtown, looking at antique stores, gift shops and bars that she’d passed hundreds of times had felt anything but routine with Adam at her side. His hand perpetually wrapped around her own, his eyes bright with curiosity, he’d had peppered the discussion with questions alternating between inquiries about the city and Raye’s experiences within it. Raye was fascinated with the ease at which their dialogue flowed, its symbiotic structure more apparent with each subject. Adam, without question, controlled the conversation as he extracted Raye’s history from her, one detail after another, but he so masterfully interlaced his own specifics along the way that by the time they had started their return to Lionel’s, Raye couldn’t ever remember feeling more at ease with someone. Although their home lives had at first looked vastly different – Adam living in several foreign countries, raised by his parents versus Raye, who never left the States and had been raised by grandparents – their childhood and adolescent experiences weren’t so terribly far removed from each other’s. Even Raye’s nagging self-doubt couldn’t dispute that she and Adam were, at least theoretically, a great match for each other.

The rest of the day and evening had passed long before Raye had been ready for them to end. She had collected her prints and had then spent several anxious minutes quickly scanning over them with Adam as they sat in the Pathfinder, too impatient to wait until they’d returned to Lionel’s. Raye had been pleased with what she seen and was excited to sit down with Paul and Lionel for their opinions. Adam, of course, had been nothing but flattering about every print he’d seen but Raye had discounted the praise due to his increasing bias. Caught up in their discovery of each other, they’d returned to the beach house to find that Joy had already come and gone for the day and that dinner, along with the rest of the house, was already in the dining room waiting for them.

Dinner had been another spectacular meal - roasted rack of lamb with rosemary and thyme, steamed asparagus, and corn soufflé – accompanied by the effortless banter of people who were truly enjoying each other’s company. Raye had entered the conversation occasionally, but for the most part she had preferred to remain silent, basking in Adam’s attention while he’d compared his day of touring to that of his band mates’. It was after Lionel had suggested that Tuesday morning might be a better time for he, Paul and Raye to start looking over her photos and the band had begun to make their plans for the coming day that the conversation had turned to the thing that Raye had managed to push to the back of her mind all day: their return to New York. Obviously wanting to avoid the subject, she’d claimed exhaustion and quickly excused herself, bidding everyone a good night. Declining Adam’s offer to walk her to her room, she’d given him a tight hug just outside the dining room and discreetly conveyed to him as he kissed her goodnight that she just didn’t trust herself not to become emotional in front of everyone as they talked of their departure. She’d assured him that she would be fine and promised they’d have their own discussion about his leaving on Tuesday.

And so Tuesday morning had arrived just as abruptly as Monday – ushered in by the strange dream that was threatening to plague her regularly. Untangling herself from the sheet and comforter, Raye noticed the time and hurried to begin her shower, trying not to dwell on the dream and what it did or didn’t mean. Lionel was, hopefully, the first of many new clients to come and Raye knew if she couldn’t shelve her personal drama now and focus fully on making Lionel and Paul happy with her product that she’d be facing one of two gut wrenching decisions, neither or which she was willing to make: give up Adam or give up her dream to photograph for a living.
YAY! I guess we were both busy tonight! I can't wait ti see what the real world holds for Adam and Raye.
OMG! I was still busy doing some last minute editing when I saw you'd already posted a reply!! :shocked:

Guess I won't have to wait very long for some feedback on this chapter, then, huh? :wink:
Wondered how the dream sequence would read. :) As always, your encouragement is greatly appreciated. :yes:
Your story ias really great! Magnificent chapter :applaud:
I really apreciat the way your describe emotion, mind conflits :up:

I´m wating for more :drool: (hopefullu not for long)
Thanks, blue kite. :hug: I'm on a bit of hiatus right now. I've partially written & rewritten Chapter 29 about 3 times now & but it's just not feeling right for me & I've put it down for a while. Still turning it over in my head all the time, though, so hopefully I'll get my creative spark back soon & can begin posting new work. :reject:
Blue, take all the time you need !!

Love your work.

P.S. I think you catch his lordship (Adam) just right :hyper:
Blue, take all the time you need !!

Love your work.

P.S. I think you catch his lordship (Adam) just right :hyper:

Thank you - I am sincerely honored by your compliment. :hug: As a Bono girl for about 27 years now, writing Adam has been a big stretch for me. I have my reasons for choosing him as the love interest in this story, but I worry constantly that I'm fictionalizing him to the point that he's not recognizable. :reject: Your comments are extremely encouraging. :D
I´m a Bono fan for 27 years too! Recently (about 7 years ago) I added Adam to my list :cute:.

I think you portrait him just the way I imagne him. Sometimes when I read your story I just remember those moments when I saw him outside the shows and his voice and the way he act :applaud:. So believe me you are doing a great job.

P.S. Beside, this I really like your way with words. Its wondeful
I think you got him just right too. Lately I've been rereading U2 at the End of the World. When I first read it, I was kind of an Edge girl. That lasted about 4 months. Then I read it during a Larry phase. Now, that I'm back on the Bono - it is quite an enlightening read. Anyway, it's a nice snapshot of how they were back then. And I think you've done a good job of capturing Adam.

And I know what you mean of writing yourself into a hiatus.
You ladies are the best! :grouphug: I promise that I'm not done with the story - I just can't promise I'll have another chapter ready soon. :shrug:
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