Viva Las Vegas, Pt. 21 - The Tension
Summary: Sunset Curve Alive AU, Willex, how will they get through?, 2.6k
@trevor-wilson-covington is the bestie who makes these lovely edits, we stan supportive friends
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 15, Part 16, Part 17, Part 18, Part 19, Part 20
Sighing and propping her head up with a fist, Victoria stared at the various things spread out on her desk. Nada tenía sentido. She wished she could drop this case, that the logical side of her could overwhelm the curious one, and continue enjoying what was left of her sabbatical. However, it seemed that the case demanded to resurface like a ghost with unfinished business.
Julie had explained everything Luke told her, and it only layered on the oddity. The Caleb Covington she had met all those months ago was an entirely different person to the boys. Whoever she’d seen was a charitable man creating opportunities for disadvantaged youth; Luke and his friends described him as an extortionist. She had wanted to think they were just being disgruntled kids until she had gone with Julie to pick up Luke from the police station.
Seeing Willie had thrown a curveball. Victoria looked back on when Alex had asked her about opening old cases, and then finding that poster on the pier. It was easy to understand why Alex had been so curious. The reason she’d been on the pier that night was because Julie had mentioned the boys being there and that’s what had prompted her to take Carlos, so it only made sense that they’d both seen the same thing. Now there was a file open in front of her with the kid’s image staring back up, haunting her even more than ever.
Picking up the photo, she sighed.
I need to be sure, she thought to herself.
By looks and name alone, it was easy to believe why Alex had made that conclusion, and it had Victoria already arguing between her head and her gut. It was very possible that somehow, by some miracle, he was right. The alternative to that was...much more complex.
The phone on her desk rang, jolting her out of her thoughts. That was odd, since she technically wasn’t supposed to be in her office. Warily, she picked up the receiver.
“Victoria, it’s Ray,” her brother-in-law’s voice came through the speaker. Of course. “Sorry, I tried calling your house first and figured this was the next place to check.”
“Well, you caught me,” she said, trying to hide her exhaustion behind her chagrin. “Que pasó? You need me to look after Carlos again?”
A sigh came from the other line and immediately a weight settled in Victoria’s chest. She braced herself for some unpleasant news.
“Rose has been off chemotherapy long enough that we can try surgery,” Ray told her solemnly. It was easy to hear how hard he was trying to keep his voice steady. “I’m trying my best to be optimistic, but Julie’s pretty nervous. I don’t blame her; she’s had a lot going on.”
Just then, Victoria wanted to smack herself. This sabbatical was supposed to have been about supporting her sister and her family. While solving a missing person’s case wasn’t a bad thing, she knew she was using the work to distract herself. And she was positive that Ray sounded better than he was really doing.
“How soon is the surgery?” she asked. She hated the lump of uncertainty that was developing in her throat.
“A week from this Thursday,” Ray told her. The uncertainty gripped Victoria tightly and she had to shake her head to release some of the tension.
“Tan pronto,” she exhaled. “I can imagine Julie must be stressed. But what about Carlos?”
“It’s hard to tell. I think he’s putting on a funny act, but it’s been getting me through most days and I don’t think it’s fair to try to...pop the bubble just yet.”
Victoria simply nodded, although he couldn’t see it. Thank goodness for Carlos and his sensibility. He’d gotten part of that from Rose, she knew, and while it brought out mixed emotions, the good ones outweighed the bad.
“You’ve been pretty strong about this so far, Ray,” she said. “Let me take care of a few things for you this week while you spend some time with Rose.”
“I appreciate it, but don’t let me take away any time you have to see your sister as well.”
“I’ll take my opportunities, but you’ve been trying to handle those two on your own too much,” she insisted. “You need this.”
She heard a small sniffle on the other line and couldn’t help the wave of empathy washing over her. It hurt to hear her brother-in-law in so much pain.
“Thank you,” he replied, voice trembling.
“Hey, whatever happens,” Victoria said, feeling tears welling in her own eyes. “We’re going to make it through.”
The rattled sigh on the other end agreed with her. It let whatever she was holding back start leaking out in hot streaks down her face.
“Escuchas. Somos familia, y lo vamos a vencer juntos.”
Ray took in a deep breath but didn’t entirely regain his composure.
“Ya, lo sé Ya sé.”
Alex sat behind his drums, trying his best to tune them. With the mid-November air, he wanted to keep everything in good condition. Since moving all the equipment back into Bobby’s garage, they hadn’t actually come together to practice for nearly a week. He was a little grateful, because once he had finally gotten home from Flynn’s place, the temper his father had served put him in no condition to want to see anyone. He still owed Willie a phone call. Thankfully, he’d had enough foresight to warn Willie that might happen. But after a week of not getting to hash it out on his drums, he needed this.
Luke and Reggie were messing around unplugged on their guitars, all of them waiting for Bobby to arrive on his own property. They had agreed on seven-thirty, but it was at least fifteen minutes after. Whatever Luke was strumming was slower than his usual speed, and he looked distant.
“Luke, everything okay?” Reggie prodded gently, resting his bass in his lap.
Shaking his head, Luke simply continued playing. It was more to say ‘can’t be interrupted’ than to say he wasn’t fine, but Alex picked up on both messages.
“Hey guys,” Bobby said as he finally entered the garage. His eyes were glued to what looked like some kind of letter and he stopped a few meters in, not bothering to grab his guitar.
“Welcome to practice Bobby,” Alex said, laying on the sarcasm because he really couldn’t stand everyone else being so gloomy. He’d been excited to get out of the house, so the last thing he needed was the rest of the guys bogging things down. Still, Bobby didn’t look up.
“Whatcha got there?” Reggie chirped, his tone already out of place for the clouds settling on Bobby’s face. In turn, Reggie’s expression became concerned. For a moment, Bobby simply stood there shaking his head, too angry to speak. The rest of the guys got up and circled around him, each trying to get a proper view at the letter in his hands. Reading the first few lines, Alex shut his eyes and sighed.
“It’s a court summons,” he said. So much for having band practice to release the pressure.
“He can’t do that!” Luke exclaimed.
“Looks like he can,” Bobby said.
Reggie simply pouted as he slumped into the armchair. Alex needed to pace. He hadn’t been sure what Caleb would do with them, since they no longer had to see him at the studio, but this only confirmed how low he would stoop.
“He’s saying we stole his music?” Luke went on angrily. “He took our music and ruined it!” Grabbing a fistful of darts hanging from the board on the wall, he began to thrust them as hard as he could, not bothering to aim at the target.
“I didn’t read the whole thing,” Reggie said. “But what does he want? Money? To send us to jail?”
Alex took in a deep breath to calm his already brittle nerves before listening to Bobby.
“‘Reparations will be negotiated between the prosecutor and the defendants as represented by their attorneys,’” Bobby read.
Breathing deeply wasn’t really doing the trick. Alex wasn’t sure if that was worse than a definite answer. Because of course Caleb would force them to make a deal. There was no end to his tactics, it seemed. Once he had control over someone, he meant to maintain it for as long as he could.
“How are we supposed to agree on anything when that bastard pushed all of us into obeying his every word?” he blurted. “It’s not like we could give him money if that’s what he wanted.”
“Money is the least of our problems,” Luke inserted, chucking a dart at the wall and letting it miss the board by several inches. “The one thing that all of us have is our music. If Caleb does his worst, we might lose every chance of having people hear us play ever again.”
“I don’t wanna do anything else,” Reggie lamented. “I’m nothing without the rest of you.”
“Don’t say that, Reggie,” Bobby responded, a hurt look on his face. All Reggie could do in return was blink in surprise, and Alex snuck a look over at Luke. The tension that had risen fell as quickly as it came; there wasn’t going to be any sudden confessions today, but it was progress.
“Look,” Luke said, leaving the dart board and coming back toward the rest of the guys. He put a hand on Alex’s shoulder and it was calming enough to stop the pacing. “I don’t know how we’re gonna make it out of this as a band, but...we’re always a band.”
Reggie got up from the armchair and joined them, all forming a circle and placing their arms on each other’s shoulders. Alex could feel all of their elevated heartbeats, and his hands were still shaky. At the moment, he wanted nothing more than to thrash on his drums until his entire body was sore. And then maybe he could finally call Willie.
“We always have each other,” Reggie stated, looking around for the reassurance that he was correct. They all nodded and bowed their heads together in a huddle. Closing his eyes, Alex slowly felt his breathing become steady. There was a few minutes of reverent silence, all of them drinking in the intense sense of unity that had come upon them.
Footsteps could be heard from behind and the guys parted to see Julie walking into the garage, Flynn in tow.
“Julie?” Luke said softly, mildly bewildered as he stepped toward her.
“Hey, is this a bad time?” she asked, fidgeting with her hands.
“We just got some pretty bad news,” Bobby said. “So, sorry you had to turn up now.”
“Oh,” Julie fell back a little, prompting Luke to subconsciously lurch forward.
“I mean, what’s new?” Luke joked half-heartedly, barely able to lift the corner of his mouth into a smirk. “It’s good to see you.”
Alex watched Julie’s face return the tenderness as she looked up at him. It made him feel an even greater need to talk to Willie. The sadder look in her eyes worried him, though.
“How about we all sit down?” he suggested. “Looks like you’ve got something on your mind, too.”
“That’s actually just what I came for,” Julie replied, quickly turning back to Flynn, who wordlessly moved toward the couch. “Thanks, Alex.”
“Sorry, it’s all bad news,” Alex’s exhausted voice said on the other line. “Well, not all bad, for Julie’s mom, but still scary.”
Willie was happy to finally hear from him, but it was all so heavy. Now he wished more than ever that he’d had a better sense of warning to talk the guys out of breaking into the studio.
“Alex, it’s not you who has to be sorry,” he said. “I wish none of you ever had to deal with Caleb.”
“Hey, I already told you, this isn’t your fault,” Alex assured. “I promise, if I thought anything was, I would say so.”
“Yeah, but even back in Vegas I wasn’t happy with him. I could’ve said just a little more and then you guys wouldn’t be in this kind of mess.”
Alex chuckled, albeit solemnly, “When I saw Caleb that first time in the studio, all I wanted was to ask him about you. I would’ve worked with him if it meant I found you eventually.”
The warmth that grew in his chest at those words chased out any guilt Willie had been harboring. What would he do without his boyfriend?
“I miss you,” he muttered into the receiver, hoping Alex could hear his smile from the other side.
“Well, I finally have some freedom so I think we can arrange something,” Alex said, his tone clearly conveying a smile back.
A tap on his shoulder notified Willie that Kyle was anxious to finish closing and get home.
“Hey, I gotta get going. But uh...I’m actually free most of this weekend, so show up whenever you want.”
“Don’t give me ideas,” Alex teased.
“Don’t do anything I would,” Willie teased back.
As they said goodbye and he hung up, Willie kept a small smile to himself while he did the last of his duties. He punched out and followed Kyle out the back door, skateboard in hand.
“I will say, you’ve got a weird arrangement with him being the only one who can call,” Kyle commented as he got out keys to unlock his car. “If I could, I’d install a line at your place for you.”
“Thanks, man. You’re cool for letting me use it here,” Willie said.
“Well, it’s nothing. You look happy every time.”
He had to bite his lip to avoid grinning like a goon.
“Alright, get your gay little ass home,” Kyle said. “And be safe!”
Willie headed out with a chuckle, stepping off on his board into the evening. He still seemed to struggle with those guilty feelings, but he tried to remind himself of what Alex said as well as Flynn. They were right. While making it out to LA was hardly something he could credit himself for alone, he’d made it. Caleb didn’t deserve to live in his head. Easier said than done, but at least he knew that and could remember it.
He took a small detour through a park and played around on his board for a little while. At the moment, it was Flynn’s words that reverberated in his mind. You’re just a kid. Skating made him feel like a kid. He was pretty sure he’d used it to remain sane back in Vegas. Even knowing it was while skating that he’d lost his memory, and he’d let himself get lost in the desert, it never bothered him. Willie would skate till he died.
After successfully getting out a few ollies, he rode the rest of the way home. Stopping just before he got to the steps that led down to his room, he picked up his board and lifted the key that hung around his neck to unlock the door. Something was off, though: the door didn’t need to be unlocked. It was already loose. Light came from underneath, but he heard nothing from the inside. Carefully turning the handle, Willie made sure to enter slowly, trying to ignore the pounding in his chest. He would use his board to break over anyone’s head if he had to.
As he came in full view of the room, he froze and balled up his fists. There at his drawing desk, Caleb sat, holding Sheldon in his lap and stroking him. The man simply peered at him, one eyebrow raised in that familiar skeptical glare Willie had grown to hate. No words came to his mind; any ability to fight was immediately frightened away. He was a deer out in the open and the hunter could kill him point blank.