The Next Best Thing - 14

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Rock n' Roll Doggie ALL ACCESS
Mar 5, 2004
Leather Heaven
This is a fan fic, with absolutely no basis in truth. (Other than the glowing descriptions of the Dublin lads.) :wink:


The late day sun was absolutely perfect by the time they passed through the garden gate and stepped onto the sand, Raye leading the charge. But that's when she realized there was a problem; the little area she’d discovered in the dunes was going to make for some great portraits but its positioning would put Leo and Paul facing the sun and until about 5pm, that meant they'd be squinting unless they wore sunglasses. Raye knew she’d never capture the father and son intimacy she wanted for these shots if she couldn't even see her subjects' eyes but she felt that, ultimately, it was their decision to make so she stopped and turned to offer them their choice of locales. Unfortunately, she failed to signal before stopping and, instead of addressing Leo, she caught a face-full of Adam's chest as he walked right into her.

Finding herself flat on her back in the sand with a startled Adam looking down on her instead of standing face to face with Leo and Paul took a second for Raye to compute. Before she could form a single word, though, Adam was on his knees by her side apologizing as the others gathered round.

"Are you alright? I'm so sorry. Your camera's not damaged, is it? You haven't broken any bones or sprained anything have you? I am so sorry. Can you catch your breath?"

Raye thought she saw Edge and Bono exchange a quick, curious look between them as Adam fussed over her, but she couldn't be certain. Her head was a bit fuzzy at the moment, probably from bumping it on the sand when she fell. How many more times can I crack my skull this weekend before I cause permanent brain damage, she wondered silently. Sitting up, Raye was about to answer that she and her camera were fine when Paul stepped forward. She expected him to stoop down and ask if she was okay or even offer his hand to help her up, but instead he approached Adam. Something about the expression on Paul's face seemed strange to her. Irritation, maybe? There was no reason for that – she was to blame for the incident. Concern, then? That didn't make any sense, either - Raye was the one who'd been knocked off her feet, not Adam.

Regardless, Paul now stood by Adam's side with a hand gently but firmly placed on Adam's shoulder. When Paul squeezed slightly, Adam finally switched his attention from Raye to the man at his side, as if just noticing him for the first time all day.

"Can you catch your breath?" Paul asked him with a gentle smile. "You're fussin' over her as if you were her nursemaid." The guys all had a friendly chuckle at Adam's expense and Raye was positive that she caught him blushing every so slightly as he sheepishly looked from Paul to her, then back to Paul again before answering.

"Um, yes, I'm fine. Guess I did overreact a bit." Standing upright and extending his hand to her now, Adam finally seemed himself again. "Here, Raye - let me take your camera."

It was more a demand than a request, as Adam didn’t allow Raye time to reply and simply lifted the camera’s neck strap over her head and handed her camera to Edge, his hands gently grazing her neck as he did so. Bono and Leo were kind enough to pick up the other equipment that Adam had originally been carrying and were now standing attentively, simply waiting their marching orders. If Raye's thoughts had been blurry before, they were absolutely crystal clear now, although terribly inappropriate. It'd been completely innocent of course, but the brush of Adam's hands across her neck had sent electricity through her again. Trying to focus on why she was on the beach, all she could manage at the moment were mental flashes of she and Adam rolling about in the private spot she'd found in the dunes, clothes being ripped off in absolute abandon, their bodies a tangle of entwined limbs.

"…have to be more careful, my dear. Raye, are you sure you're alright?" Paul was on her left side now and looking a bit worried.

Oh shit, she cursed to herself. They've been talking to me while I was busy strumming Adam's rhythm section in the dunes! Raye quickly came back to reality and managed to blame her momentary lapse on a foggy head.

"Uh…yeah, yeah - I, I'm good now; just knocked myself silly for a little second. I seem to be making a habit of that lately. I feel fine now, though, if you'll just let me up." She attempted to get to her feet on her own, but the guys wouldn't have it and voiced their disapproval heartily.

"Oh no you don't, missy", Paul told her. "Give me your left arm and Adam your right. We'll lift you up slowly and make sure you don't lose your balance."

Knowing she was outnumbered and in no position to argue, Raye simply followed Paul's instructions without argument. Truth was, she appreciated the help because she wasn't sure how steady she'd be when she got to her feet. Paul and Adam had her back upright in no time and after a moment or two to make sure her equilibrium was back on track, Raye was able to move about on her own. She and Adam exchanged apologies for the mishap and she was finally able to explain her opinions on the location choices available to Leo and Paul at the moment.

They both agreed with Raye that sunglasses weren't really going to work for the type of portraits they wanted and that a spot where the sun would be at their backs was the best choice for the few pictures that could be taken with the daylight they had left. A short trek up the beach brought them all to the pilings that shouldered Silver Gulls Pier and the boulders that had been positioned beneath it, as well as on either side - "The Rocks". While Raye, Leo and Paul studied the site for where the best shots, the safest seating and easiest access could be found, her newly acquired 'staff' of Adam, Edge and Bono each had a different setup task that they were responsible for seeing to. Raye was again overcome with jaw-dropping amazement at what her life looked like at the moment.

I'm on a beach, setting up shots that will become part of a custom piece – and for which I'll be handsomely paid - and I have assistants. But not just any assistants, oh no; I have 3 members of U2 setting up my equipment. I'm not even sure that I'm still in the same plane of existence that I was two days ago! Raye shook her head slightly and returned her attention to Leo. He'd found a spot where he and Paul could be easily seated and Raye knew no matter how good it looked on film, sitting on rocks was never particularly comfortable, so she hurriedly climbed back down to the sand and went over to see how the shot would line up. A quick glance over her camera stand and the flash unit revealed that her ‘crew’ wasn't completely hopeless and after only a minor adjustment or two, she was looking through her camera lens, ready to start. A few directions regarding the placement of hands or the tilt of a chin and her shutter was in motion.

Single close-ups, double close-ups, horizontal frames, vertical frames, even a panoramic shot; Raye had gone through two rolls of 24 exposure film before she'd even taken a breath, it seemed. And it was clear to anyone who could see her: this was what lit the fire in her soul. Behind the camera - calling out directions to her models, wildly waving her left hand about as she spoke, her right index finger and thumb constantly working the exposure button and manual film advance - she made the camera seem as natural a part of herself as an arm or a leg. Bono, Edge and Adam all noticed and discussed it in a fair amount of detail amongst themselves, although the conversation may as well have been shared in Dublin for all the attention it got from Raye. She was a machine behind the camera and short of them bursting into flames in front of her lens, they would simply cease to exist until the film supply was exhausted. Or at least until she paused to load the next roll, which is what she needed from Edge for at the moment.

“Could you find a black and white roll and bring it to me, please?” she asked him. Turning back to Leo and Paul, she called out, “Are you two still OK up there? I know those rocks are hard the backside.”

“We’re fine,” Leo replied back to her, “but are we going to have enough light to take another roll?”

“Probably not,” was Raye’s answer to him. “But I wanted to try a few black and white shots as the shadows increase just to see what kind of effect we might get.”

It was Paul that spoke up this time. “Fine by us,” he told her. “You’re the expert.”

“Thank you,” she replied. Raye felt the praise was undeserved and she wanted to tell Paul she was a long way from being an ‘expert’, but she let the comment go without any further reply. Adam’s earlier observation about her not taking compliments well had not gone unheeded and she really wanted to try a new approach to compliments – especially since he wasn’t the first person she’d ever heard it from.
Edge had found the film Raye wanted and was dutifully standing by her side. “There was a 36 exposure and a 10. I didn’t know which one you’d prefer, so I grabbed both.” He held out each hand for her to choose from and looked at her expectantly. For a moment, Raye could just imagine him as a child, anxious to help Mum or Dad with a task and eagerly anticipating their praise for the fine job he’d done. The thought brought a smile to her and she chuckled softly.

“What?” he asked with a creased brow and slightly tilted head. It was about the most endearing thing Raye could remember seeing since she didn’t know when and she had to fight the urge to wrap the man up in a huge bear hug.

“Oh, nothing really,” she told him. “Just the way you offered the film to me. It made me think what you must have been like as a little boy, helping your dad with things – that’s all. And the ten exposures will be just fine,” she said as she took the roll from him. “We don’t have enough light to finish 36 shots.”

“Actually,” Edge said, “I never really did much ‘helping’ as a wee fellow. It was my older brother, Dick, who Dad always relied on. I was never much use to him until Dick left for uni and had moved into his own flat.”

“Oh,” Raye blurted out, her eyes wide. “I didn’t know that would be a touchy subject – I’m so sorry!” She quickly turned her attention to loading the camera with the new roll of film so she could give the roll that’d just been taken to Edge and he could return to his spot by the pilings with Adam and Bono. But he just gently laughed and patted her back as he accepted the spent roll from her.

“No need to apologize, dear; there’s no harm. We get along brilliantly, it’s just never been a secret in my family that Dad got along better with my brother. They’re so alike, the two of them, and it was hard on my father when he didn’t have his best mate at home anymore; that’s all. If it makes you feel any better, you were right, though - I always wanted to know that I’d pleased Mum and Dad.” He winked at her and gave a thumb’s up to show his feelings hadn’t been bruised.

“Thank, God,” Raye sighed as she got the camera ready for the last shots of the day. “I was afraid I’d put my foot in my mouth and dredged up some horrible childhood memories for you or something.”

“Nothing of the sort,” he assured her again and turned to walk away. When he’d covered a yard or so, Raye called to him over the sound of the waves.

“By the way, Dave,” she smiled and paused to let the sound of his given name take effect as he looked back at her, “you’ve done a great job today. Thanks for your help.” He responded with a big grin & a bow before yelling back “Thank you” and returning to Adam and Bono. Raye could see from their expressions that Edge would have some explaining to do while she finished up with Leo and Paul. Turning back to them she could see that they, too, seemed to be curious about the exchange that had just taken place between herself and Edge.

“Just a little encouragement to my staff for a job well done,” she told them. “Are you two ready to tie this thing up yet?”

“Yes, Ms. DeMille,” Paul joked. “We’re ready for our close-ups!”

Raye laughed at the reference and told them, “Well let’s get this done, OK? Leo, I need you to move a little to your right… that’s good. And Paul, you’ve dropped your chin again. Back up just a bit. OK, that’s good; now turn your head back toward your dad slowly. That’s perfect – hold it right there!”

Raye captured another four frames before deciding it was probably getting way too dark to get much else that would be useful. She called Leo and Paul down from their perches and as they made their descent, she began the process of breaking down the equipment and removing the camera from the tripod. She was about to call the guys over to help her get everything back into the carrying cases, when she looked over beneath the pier where they appeared to be engaged in a very lively conversation. Playful punches to a shoulder or two, some pointing and lots of guffaws kept them from knowing they were being watched. The lamps on the pier above had already been lit and some of their light was streaming down through the wooden slats of the pier’s floor. Raye wasn’t sure if the pictures would develop or not, but she felt the silhouettes she could see might make for some interesting ‘mood shots’ – photographs where a subject’s face was partially of fully obscured, but their body language told the story. So as Lionel and Paul made their way over to her, Raye finished up the roll of film on Adam, Bono and Edge.

“Looks as though your staff have already quit for the evening,” Leo observed with a smile. “Are you taking those pictures as evidence?”

“No,” Raye told him. “I’m just experimenting, really. I’m not sure the lighting’s going to be enough for these to turn out, I just liked the way they looked together and wanted to see what I might get.”

“I’m sure they’ll be very interesting – you’re obviously quite good behind the camera.” It was Paul again with the compliments. Raye remembered her resolution to do better at accepting them and carefully plotted out her response before speaking aloud.

“I appreciate your confidence, Paul. As someone who’s seen lots of photographers at work, it means a lot to me.”

“Well, I knew you were the right person for the job when I saw you back in August,” Leo said to Raye, with a nod. “I’m just glad you’re beginning to believe me. Now let’s get all these bits and pieces packed up and get some dinner, shall we? I believe Joy is grilling some salmon for us and it should be almost ready by the time we get back and clean up.”

It occurred just then to Raye that she was really famished and that grilled salmon sounded divine.
Deciding where everything belonged in her case and who should carry which piece of equipment, she began preparing for the return to the beach house. Adam, Bono and Edge had noticed that the photo shoot was over and joined the others to carry their fair share. When Raye was certain that everything was accounted for, they began their walk back to the beach house.

The first stars of the evening were just making themselves seen, the last of the day’s sunlight was relocating to the West Coast, and the wind off the ocean had relaxed to a gentle breeze. No one spoke as they walked along, everyone apparently lost in their own thoughts. Raye considered making a comment on what a beautiful evening it was, but the moment was so serene and peaceful that she decided there was no need to spoil it by stating the obvious out loud.

Instead, she resolved to do her best to soak in every moment of the day – her earlier walk with Edge and Adam; her short but meaningful chat with Bono in the den; how great it’d felt to be behind the camera again; and finally, just the fact that she’d somehow managed to find herself strolling along the beach with her current company. It’d been a long time since Raye’d felt that she wasn’t destined to go through life sacrificing her wants to conform to what everyone else thought was best for her, and it was liberating to think that she may have stumbled back on to the path of her true calling – photography.

I may need to do some serious soul searching about what job I really want, she decided silently. Maybe take a look at my finances; see if I could really afford to quit working for Jimmy and go freelance. The sheer thought of such a drastic change brought chills to Raye’s spine, but it also set a fire in her gut that she hadn’t felt in years. Beginning a long list of pros and cons about the decision she was contemplating kept Raye fully occupied until, before she realized it, they had all passed through the gate back onto Lionel’s property. As they neared the house, Lionel broke the evening’s silence by commenting on the goings on at the home next door, which earlier in the day had seemed occupied by only the two young ladies that Raye had waved to. Music, lights and at least 12 young men and women were now out on the deck, enjoying their holiday weekend.
“Making the most of their leisure time, wouldn’t you say?” commented Leo. Raye found herself rather amused by his laid back attitude towards the party. Most folks certainly wouldn’t be pleased to find a bunch of 20-somethings partying right next door to them; Leo almost sounded melancholy at not being in their midst.

“Hi, Mr. Arrington – hope you had a nice Thanksgiving! Just give me a call if we get too loud!” One of the ladies from earlier in the afternoon was standing along the deck railing now, waving at Lionel.

“And a Happy Thanksgiving to you, Amber. I’ll give you a ring if the noise becomes a problem, but I’m sure that won’t be necessary – Mrs. Gaither didn’t go to her daughter’s this year and you know she’s not afraid to ring your father’s cell if you wake her up.” Lionel turned to the group & whispered an explanation. “Mrs. Gaither lives on the other side of young Amber… no tolerance for tomfoolery at all, but she’ll turn a blind eye unless things get loud enough to wake her up. If that happens, she’ll call Amber’s parents in Vail without hesitation, regardless of the hour - which is powerful motivation for Amber and her friends to keep the noise down.” A playful wink and he returned his attention to the neighbors.

“Yeah, I’ve already warned everyone about the ‘noise ordinance’,” Amber was saying, with obvious exasperation. “But that won’t be a problem, I promise. I see you have guests, too, so I’ll let you go. Enjoy the rest of your evening!” With that, she raised her beer bottle in their direction and waved to them all. Raye worried for a moment that Bono and the guys might be recognized, but fortunately the youngsters were more interested in their beer and music at the moment.

“Good night, Amber – be safe!” Lionel waved back before turning to address his company. “If we’re all ready, I believe Joy should have dinner nearly finished. Shall I tell her everyone will be ready to be seated in 20 minutes?” Everyone agreed that was reasonable as they climbed to the landing of Leo’s back deck and stepped inside the great room. “Raye, dear”, he asked her, “what shall we do with your equipment?”

“If it won’t be in the way, I suppose it would be best to leave it here,” she answered. “I’d like to go back down to the beach in the morning for some shots in the dunes and it would certainly be easier to pick up everything from here rather than drag it up and down the stairs. Would you mind that?” She was certain that whatever her request, Lionel would grant it, but it be rude to just assume. Leo did precisely as Raye expected though, and was more than happy to have her set her things to the side of the seating area where they wouldn’t be in harm’s way.

Just as everyone was separating to prepare for dinner, Raye had a sudden burst of inspiration and settled on the solution to a problem that had been plaguing her half the day. Checking her watch to make sure she had time for a small project before dinner, she quickly asked Leo about the availability of a printer in his office. As she expected, he had a very capable laser printer that he put completely at her disposal.

“Thank you so much,” she explained as she headed for the front door. “I’m going to run out to my truck for a second and I’ll be right back. I need to grab my flash drive from my laptop bag and spend about 10 minutes with your printer.” She stood in the foyer with a hand on the front door handle, the picture of anxious excitement. Lionel was definitely intrigued by the sudden mysteriousness, but rather than question her about what she was doing, he simply smiled and uttered a slightly bewildered, “OK” in reply.

“Don’t worry,” she told him as she went out the door into the evening. “I’ll probably be back down for dinner before you. And I’ll explain all this later!” With a sly grin she was gone, leaving Lionel to stare at the inside of his own front door for a moment before shrugging his shoulders and heading upstairs to wash up before dinner.

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