Jonathan hauled his Roland D-50 out of the back of his Suburban, glancing over his shoulder the whole time. Then he ran up the driveway to Neal's front door, a difficult task with a keyboard that size, but he'd been working out lately. Sure, it shouldn't have mattered if anyone saw him--he and Neal had been working on a lot of projects lately, so it wasn't like he had no reason to be there. But he didn't want to try explaining anything to anybody, because he was just about the worst liar there ever was.
Neal whipped the door open, letting him in. "You bonehead," he said. "Try not to look too suspicious, huh?"
Jonathan glanced back out the open door. "You can't be too careful. Word'll get around."
"Yeah, get around that you're acting like a nutcase. People have been bitching about a reunion for years, Jon. Just because it's been brought up again and we're hanging out together isn't going to mean shit. Perry's not out there hiding in the bushes." He closed the door, and Jon set the board down in the hallway.
"Still, you know, this feels a little weird. We are doing it behind his back, after all."
"He doesn't notice things right in front of his face, Jon! If we called him right now and said, 'hey, Stephen, come on over, man! We're putting the band back together without you, and we want you to sit in and watch', he still wouldn't get it."
"Shhhh," Jon warned him.
Neal shook his head, giving Jon a look of sympathy. "Ross and Smitty are already out in the studio. Let's get this going."
"I'm telling you, when he finds out..." Jon protested.
Neal stepped back to the door and whipped it open again. "Hey, world! " he shouted. "We're putting Journey back together without Perry! Don't anybody tell him, okay?"
"Goddamnit, Neal!" Jon scolded, retrieving the keyboard and moving away through the house.
Neal laughed, closing the door and following Jon back into the attached home studio. Ross and Smitty were seated at a low pine table off to one side of the addition amidst the various recording and sound equipment drinking coffee from large white cups with matching saucers, ignoring the extra one that had been set out for someone that wasn't coming.
"Neal," Ross said, "quit picking on Jonathan. You might send him to the other side."
Jonathan grumbled to himself in the corner.
"Whatever," Neal said. "Without Steve here for me to jerk around, somebody's gotta take it. Let's figure this out before I get bored with the whole thing. I've been in this damn band since I was eighteeen, and I'd love to know where it's going."
"First we have to get this legal stuff taken care of," Ross said. "Or at least to one side. That's the second biggest hurdle."
"The first being Perry," Jonathan said. "How far do you guys think we'll get before he gets involved?"
"Jon, Perry hasn't been interested in any of this for almost ten years. He doesn't care. He'll go off and do something else, wish us luck, ignore us. The first hurdle is finding someone to replace him. I won't even try and pretend we can find anyone better. They just need to fit."
"But Steve has *some* say," Jonathan insisted. "Doesn't he?"
"We've been all over this," Smitty offered. "Some record exec will inadvertantly pass it by him sooner or later, and he'll shrug it off. Leave it alone, Jon. We're not out to get Steve."
"We're out to get *away* from Steve," Jon sighed.
"Lay off it, Jon," Neal said without any real conviction. "We've got other, more immediate troubles. Like management, where to start..."
"We need to lay out a plan," Ross said. They all nodded, then Jonathan said, "What was that?"
They all listened for a moment. "What?" Neal asked.
"I heard something," Jon said. "Are Dina and the kids here?"
Neal shook his head. "What are you so jumpy about?"
"I know I heard something."
"The ghost of Journey albums past," Ross stage-whispered, then laughed.
"I'm serious," Jon snapped. "I heard someone coming."
"I'll go take a look," Neal said, shaking his head. "Maybe I left a door open somewhere." He walked back through the studio and out of sight. Ross and Smitty immediately looked at Jon.
"Did you call him, Jon?" Ross asked.
Jon shifted uneasily. "No," he said.
"You're the worst liar I've ever seen," Ross said. "What'd you go call him for, you feeb?"
"I didn't say anything!" Jon gushed defensively. "I just called him to say hi, that's all."
"And just casually happened to mention a possible reunion without his input," Smitty accused.
"I did not!"
Neal came rushing back in, closing the door softly, looking harried. "He's here! I left the patio door open and he's in the house!"
"Did he see you?" Smitty asked, hushed.
"I don't think so. But he's wandering around the damned house!"
"Quick!" Ross whispered. "Turn the lights off and hide!"
They scrambled for cover, shoving things aside and ducking behind whatever they could. Then Jon darted out and shut the lights off, tripping on his way back to his hiding place and knocking something heavy and probably expensive over before landing on Neal. "I'm going to kill you," Neal whispered.
"Okay," Jon whispered back. Then they heard conspicuous footsteps headed directly for the closed door, and held their collective breath.
"Helloooo," Steve said. "Anybody home?" Then he knocked on the door, softly, and waited several beats. When he continued to go unanswered, he tried the knob, and Jon made an involuntary squeaking noise. Neal clapped a hand over Jon's mouth just as the door opened, swinging slowly inward. Then Steve stepped into the room, looking around in the dark. "I know you guys are here," he said. "I saw your cars out front."
Steve flipped the lights on, looking around more carefully. There were coffee cups on the table. He picked one up, finding it still warm. "I guess we'd better discuss this," he said, "especially if you guys are going to be shouting things out open doorways. Are you going to act like adults?"
When he still received no answer, he replaced the cup and shrugged. "Okay," he sighed, "you kids have fun." He turned, hitting the light switch again, closing the door behind himself and locking it from the outside before wedging a chair under the knob. Then he left, smiling a little to himself, whistling 'Edge Of The Blade'.
When it was quiet again, Neal said, "Shit."
Ross extracted himself from his hiding place and found the lights, rattling the knob experimentally. "Uh oh. Can't you lock and unlock this from the inside?"
"Get off me, Jon," Neal said, shoving the hapless keyboardist. Wrestling to his feet, he continued, "No. Only from the outside. I didn't want the kids to accidentally lock themselves in here. Shit!"
"I told you!" Jon cried. "I told you I told you!"
"Shut up!" the others echoed at once.