Archives for the Date August 9th, 2022 2022-08-09 21:50:52


Little Bit Better Than I Used To Be

Catch up: Chapter 1 (Starry Eyes) || Chapter 2 (Save Our Souls) || Chapter 3 (Dancing On Glass) || Chapter 4 (Merry-Go-Round) || Backstage (1) || Backstage (2) || Chapter 5 (Danger) || Backstage (3) || Chapter 6A (Love Walked In) || Chapter 6B (Without You) || Backstage (4) || Chapter 7 (Stick To Your Guns) || Chapter 8 (Time For Change) || Backstage (5) || Chapter 9 (Take Me To The Top) || Backstage (6) || Chapter 10 (Home Sweet Home) || Backstage (7) |I| Also posted at AO3


Chapter 11A: Nightrain

I’m on the night train, bottoms up
I’m on the night train, fill my cup
I’m on the night train, ready to crash and burn
I never learn
I’m on the night train, I love that stuff
I’m on the night train, and I can never get enough…

Soundtrack: “Nightrain,” Guns N’ Roses, 1987 [click here to listen]

~~Summer 1990~~

Carefully Claire Fraser folded her legs, settling into the corner of the deep couch, stroking her daughter’s cheek as she nursed.


Claire glanced up at her sister-in-law Jenny, then back down at Brianna.

A soft clink as Jenny set a glass of ice water on the table at Claire’s elbow. “Much better. For both of us.”

“Yeah. I remember when my kids were that small, on the tours in ’84 and ’85 and ’87. I so loved being with Ian and going to the gigs, but it meant a cranky mama and an even crankier baby after a few hours apart.” Jenny kicked off her Keds and curled up on the other side of the couch. Watched the lights of LA shimmer in the hot summer night. “This is a killer room.”

Claire smiled. “Jamie wanted to make sure we had plenty of space.”

Jenny snorted. “A five-room suite, when I know well enough that the three of you cram into the one bedroom?”

Brianna’s eyes began to droop. Claire shifted her in the crook of her elbow, free hand caressing her daughter’s tiny legs and feet. “We’re not used to all of the space. You’ve seen our house – we don’t like anything too big. But Jamie’s treating our trip here like a vacation. Five sold-out shows at the Forum is enough to celebrate.”

“Not to mention an appearance on Leno.”

Claire smiled. “That was interesting.”

Jenny raised an eyebrow skeptically. “What was more interesting – the awkwardness when Julia Roberts thought Print was Guns N Roses? Or the awkwardness when that chick threw her bra on stage during the song?”

“Ha. Both, I guess. She didn’t get the memo that Print’s guitarist is very married to the woman he wrote that song about.”

Jenny took a long sip of water. “The girls used to go after Ian too, you know.”

“Still do,” Claire smiled.

Jenny shrugged. “I used to let it bother me. But I can’t – and I don’t anymore. I know just how much Ian loves me, and loves our family. I laugh it off, because I know he’s coming home to me every night. I hope it doesn’t bother you, Claire…”

Jamie’s laugh as he nestled with Claire in their backyard at home in North Carolina, watching their dog Rollo chasing fireflies.

Jamie’s eyes, focused and intense, as they quietly made love that morning, snug beneath the comforter of the absurdly large hotel bed, Brianna quietly sleeping in her crib by the door. How his breath stuttered when she traced the tattoos over his heart – her name, and Bree’s name, still new and raw on his skin.

Jamie at the Forum earlier tonight, fully in command before tens of thousands of fans, slamming the chords on his guitar as he played the songs he’d written for her at The Ridge. His smile as he glanced over to her, standing side stage and cheering. The taste of sweat and joy on his lips as he crashed into her waiting arms after the set, kissing her and kissing her and kissing her in the dark, the crowd roaring for an encore.

“It doesn’t bother me, Jenny. It never has.”

“I’d understand if it did, Claire…”

She shook her head. “I’m that sure of him. His love for me, and for Brianna, and our life together. And his dedication to sobriety. That’s what I remembered when I saw that tramp in the front row lift her tank top over and over again for most of the show tonight.”

“Well, you know that Angus is into that kind of thing. Poor man just keeps chasing the pretty faces.”

Bree finished, and gently Claire lifted her onto her shoulder, patting her tiny back. “He’ll be lucky if he only walks away with a broken heart, and not a case of the clap. I had to write him several prescriptions last year for – ”

“Don’t tell me!” Jenny laughed. “I get the picture.”

Claire kissed Brianna’s forehead. “I’m glad the afterparty is just up on the roof. Jamie’s exhausted. He’d never say it, of course. But I know.”

“Yeah. The final shows are the hardest.”

“And especially with a three-month-old…I don’t care that she’s a good baby. It’s exhausting.”

“I can’t wait to have Ian home. It’s been nice to come out here, and leave the kids with his parents for a few days. But I – ”

Thunderous pounding at the door.


Jenny’s eyes went wide. “It’s Ian.”

More pounding “Claire! Open up! Now!”

Jenny ran across the living room and pulled open the door – revealing her husband, panting, sweat staining the neck of his Print World Tour ’88 t-shirt.

“Claire. You need to come with me. It’s Jamie.”

Claire didn’t remember slipping on her shoes or handing Brianna to Jenny, but somehow she was at the door. Ian was already running down the hall, toward the elevators.

“What’s going on?” She must have run after him, because suddenly they were in the elevator car, heading toward the penthouse.

“It’s those assholes from Poppy. I knew we shouldn’t have asked them to be our openers, even though they’re a great local band. FUCK!” Ian screamed, slamming the wall with an open fist. “I can’t believe those clowns thought they were being funny.”

“Ian – Ian, tell me what happened.” Her voice was shaking. “Is Jamie OK?”

Ian turned to face her as the elevator slowed. She saw the tears forming in his eyes.

“No, Claire. He’s not OK.”

The doors opened – and within a second, Claire knew.

A potted palm lay on its side at the elevator landing. Around the corner – from the pool deck – sounds of splashes and smashing glass.

And shouts.

Jamie’s voice.

Or, a stranger speaking in Jamie’s voice.


She had never heard Jamie’s voice like that.


It was him – but it wasn’t him.

She ran around the corner.

Jamie stood – shirtless – on the pool deck, fists raised, no more than a foot away from Jayce Red, the lead singer of Poppy, who sported a black eye and freshly torn shirt.

Several pieces of deck furniture bobbed in the pool. The front row girl from the concert that night sat on the steps in the shallow end, crying softly.

Up against the deck rail – with LA glowing behind them – Print drummer Angus Mhor was pounding Poppy guitarist Scott Sars in the stomach. A couple Print roadies were pushing a pile of food and smashed crockery into one corner of the deck. Poppy’s drummer and bassist – twins Tim and Tom Zim – huddled behind a pile of deck chairs.

What the hell had happened?

“I won’t hit anyone who’s high!” Jayce screamed at Jamie. “It wouldn’t be a fair fight!”

Jamie darted closer, fists still raised. “I’m not high, you motherfucker. I’ve been sober for three years.”

Jayce raised his hands. “Look, I already apologized to your bassist. It was a fucked up thing that Tim and Tom did, OK? They call you the fucking Energizer Bunny, so they wanted to see how you’d be on speed. Now we all fucking know, OK? Can we just calm the fuck down?”

“This is me calm, Jayce Red, or whatever the fuck your real name is. At least I have the balls to use my own name!”

Jayce looked across the deck, and his eyes lit up in recognition.

“Hey man, your bassist and wife are here. Just go with them, OK? I’m sorry for what those idiots did.”

“You’ll pay for all the damage,” Ian shouted. “Come on, Jamie. Settle down. Let’s get you into bed.”

“That’s right, you better the fuck pay!” Jamie screamed.

From the moment they’d met, Claire had idly wondered what Jamie would be like with substances churning through his body. One part of her always thought that he’d be more reckless. Another part always thought that he’d be a mean bastard.

Never would she have expected her worst dreams to come true.

She had to bring him back to himself – to her…


He froze. Saw Claire there, across the deck, for the first time. Still wearing the black scoop-neck top from the gig, the one he loved so much.

He dropped his fists. Sank to his knees.

She watched all the energy evaporate from his body.

And he tipped headfirst into the pool.

In medical school she had learned about adrenaline rushes. How they – briefly – infused people with superhuman strength, and provided an intense clarity of focus. Purely to help you survive.

Jamie had always loved how much smaller she was than him. How easy it was to tuck her into his side, or pick her up and throw her, giggling, onto their bed.

Now she dove into the pool headfirst. Found him splayed on the bottom of the deep end. Pushed and pulled him up to the surface, gasping. Toward the waiting arms of Angus and Ian and Jamie’s guitar tech Arch. Watched his long legs disappear up through the surface.

Only then she realized her lungs had started filling with water.

Her vision blurred and darkened. The last thing she felt was four strong arms hooking her elbows and pulling her toward the surface.

(to be continued…) 2022-08-09 13:55:00


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