A Leppard Tale

Disclaimer: The members of Def Leppard belong to themselves. Cary Bauer belongs to me. This tale is entirely fictional and should not be taken as anything resembling real life, aside from the fact that Lep did tour in '88 and Steve did have a girlfriend named Lorelei.
It should also be noted that this story hints at sexual relations. The hint is minor, but if this kind of thing bothers you, don't read it. Thank you. =)

Feedback is always welcome at hutch @ jazmer.com.

Def Leppard were in the middle of their 1989 American tour when Steve Clark's girlfriend, Lorelei, called him up in his hotel room in Detroit, Michigan, to tell him she never wanted to see him again. No words of apology or reassurance were given to the shocked and stunned guitarist; Lorelei flatly stated, "I've had it. I don't want to see you anymore," and hung up. Steve, sitting alone on one bed of the room he shared with Phil Collen, numbly let the phone slip from his fingers. Overwhelmed by the impact of it - the suddenness, the cold treachery with which she'd broken apart his heart - Steve let his head fall into his hands, shoulders shaking. When Phil, Steve's closest friend in the band - perhaps even in the world - came into the room to see what was wrong, Steve snapped at him to leave. His tone of voice was such that Phil backed out in a hurry.

Naturally, everyone in the Leppard camp was worried for Steve. From the band to the crew to the top brass, managers Cliff Burnstein and Peter Mensch, word had spread and concerns passed along. Steve's first reaction to the incident was to become sullen and withdrawn, speaking to his bandmates even less than usual. At one point, a few days after the incident, Mensch even rang Steve up to see how the guitarist was faring, but could draw no more than one-syllable responses to any question. Later, when asked how the conversation went, he replied, "It's as though he's in mourning."

Phil approached his fellow guitarist about a week after the phone call from Mensch. They were onstage, having been trucked through the audience minutes earlier, now making last-second preparations for a concert, and Phil wanted to make sure - to reassure himself as much as anything else - that Steve would be all right. The music seemed to be all that had kept him going for the past several days. His behaviour offstage - sitting alone in his room or propping up the bar of whichever hotel they were in - was becoming worrisome. At the moment, Steve was sitting in a chair, a black Les Paul Gibson strapped on. The blond was leaning forward, hands propped on his knees. His head was down; his long blond hair veiled his face. To Phil, he appeared the perfect portrait of sorrow. Though it could merely be fatigue dogging him as well, he rationalized. Still, for anyone who knew Steve as he normally was: slyly witty, charming and an all-around nice guy, this was an agony.

"Steve," Phil called as he stepped up to the chair, pulling up a seat of his own. The other man acknowledged Phil's presence by running a hand up and over his face before raking his wild hair back from his eyes. Phil caught a glimpse of reddened eyes before Steve looked away, and felt a surge of empathy and anger towards anyone who could hurt his best friend like this.

"Are you going to be okay?" Phil asked, his voice low and sincere.

"Yeah," Steve replied, nodding, with a slight catch to his voice. He seemed more than a little embarrassed to be caught in such an emotional state. The only times he wanted to share with Phil should have been good ones. Again, he ran a hand through his hair, partially obscuring his face.

"Steve..." Phil tried to phrase his words carefully. "If you have anything you want to talk about... or if you just want to get away somewhere, have a drink or something... you know you can count on me."

"Thanks," Steve said softly. Blue light shone round his face, lighting the back of his hair like an off-color halo. "Right now... I just want t' be alone."

Phil's voice, when he replied, was lower in pitch, more normal sounding. "Not much chance of that. We have a show to put on in ten minutes. Are you up for it?" He'd been saying that for the past week or so, but he had kept repeating it. If only for his own sake, he felt that he had to keep it up.

Steve nodded and stood, slowly, running his hands down his thighs and then through his hair, stretching backwards. Pre-show tension, that heightened thrill of anticipation, was starting to take hold of band, crew, and audience alike. Through the curtain they could hear something like sixteen thousand voices, all talking to one another, some yelling or laughing, others beginning a "Leppard! Leppard!" chant that faded as quickly as it had begun. Rick Allen was seated in his place of honor, tapping a drumstick absently on his right knee while he checked over his patches one last time. Next to him, Rick Savage - better known as Sav, to keep confusion to a minimum - sat with a near-empty bottle of mineral water, chatting with the drummer. Meanwhile, Joe Elliott, Leppard's charismatic, energetic vocalist, was having a frantic last-minute discussion with one of the roadies. Steve ran a hand through his pale hair again, adjusted his jacket, sighed, and then smiled hopefully. The confusion onstage was perfect, just what he needed. He turned his blue regard on Phil, reassuring him, "I'll be fine."

And when the first wild chords of "Stagefright" rang out, he was. It was like a healing. Steve, for these two hours, was back to normal, back in character, as carefree as ever he was. He was too busy now, striking poses and playing tricks with - and on - Phil, to worry about anything female. The show, like nearly every other on the tour had been so far, went off smashingly, and the band trooped off the stage with the screams of thousands of fans ringing in their ears.

But after the show, Steve holed up again, as he had done after every other show since the fateful call. Joe, ever diplomatic, had decided to honor Steve's request to be alone, and asked Phil to room with Rick for the time being. Phil was reluctant, worried that Steve might do something stupid, but in the end he went along with it.

Later that evening, Sav returned from a trip to the hotel's bar to discover Joe at the table by the window with the phone next to him. A pencil, being tortured to death by slow chewing, hung from his mouth. "What are you doing?" Sav asked, puzzled.

"What would the time be in Sydney?" Joe asked by way of reply.

"Should be in the phone book," the bassist muttered, and found one in a drawer. Together they figured it out, and once that task was accomplished, Sav repeated his question. "What business have you got down there, anyway?"

"I'm looking for an old friend of ours," Joe said. He could have been referring to anything as he bent over the paper, a hand in his still-damp hair, recalling the girl - hell, she must be a woman now - they had known since childhood.

He was looking for, and remembering fondly, a woman named Cary Bauer. She had grown up across the street from Steve, and the two of them had been best friends since they were small children. They'd gone to the same schools, appreciated the same music, enjoyed the same activities. When Steve had started taking guitar lessons, Cary had already been studying the piano for two years. The two of them sometimes tried to jam together, though with a notable lack of success. When Steve found and joined Def Leppard, Cary was quick to become an avid supporter of the band, as well as one of their 'contacts' as she had picked up a job in a local music shop. She was one of the first organizers of 'Rent-A-Crowd', trailing the band to every gig she could make it to in between her classes and work. Though she was relentlessly teased by the band about her particular fondness for Steve, nothing more ever came of their friendship.

Then, in late 1982, an Australian band named Back 40 came through England on their first European tour. During their stay in London, their keyboardist decided to quit the band. Cary found out through her network of acquaintances, managed to grab an audition, and impressed their lead singer and guitarist enough that in twenty-four hours, she was entrenched in learning their entire repertoire. She quit her job and finished out the tour with them, heading back at the end of it to Australia, where she presently lived. Joe knew, however, that she'd kept up with Steve and knew that she just might be the best possible medicine for him right now. He smiled to himself as he dialed the long-distance codes. Maybe now, Cary would finally get the chance she'd always hoped for...

In a little recording studio in the heart of Sydney, Australia, a telephone rang shrilly. Jim Carlie, who was currently in charge of the phones, swooped on it. "Hello," he said in his deep Australian drawl, fully expecting to hear his girlfriend's dulcet tones greeting him. He was, therefore, slightly taken aback by the male British voice on the other end.

"Hello?" A moment's pause, silence filled with long-distance crackling, then, "Hello?" again when Jim didn't immediately answer.

"Can I help you?" Jim finally said, regaining his momentary lapse of reason.

"I need to speak to Cary Bauer, is she there?"

"Yes, can I ask who's calling?" Jim replied, a little disgruntled.

"Joe Elliott. It's important."

"I'll go get her." Jim rolled his eyes as he set the phone down on the desk. What was Joe Elliott calling Cary for? And how the hell did the small-time keyboardist know one of rock's most famous singers?! It was unfathomable, and a mystery he fully intended to uncover.

She came to the phone in a sudden rush. "Joe!" came her voice, excited. "I can't believe it's you! How have you been? How's the tour going?" Her enthusiasm bubbled over the line, spilling into Joe's ears and making him smile warmly.

"Good, it's good. And you?"

They talked for a little while, catching up on each other's lives - she insisted on being informed on the health and well-being of Joe's current flame, Karla, while he got her to chatter a bit about herself and the album Back 40 was currently recording - before Joe settled down to mention Steve. But he never got the chance.

"How's Steve doing?"

"Um... well..." Joe paused before continuing. "Not too good, actually. He's why I called."

"Why, what happened?" She twirled strands of coppery hair around her fingertips.

"Well... ah..." Words were hard to come by, especially when it came to describing the pain of one of his best friends.

"Talk to me, Joe."

Her voice was low and serious. Joe took a deep breath and began as carefully as he could. "Lorelei called him about a week and a half ago. I guess she called things off between them. He's been... he took it hard. He won't talk to anyone really, just holes up in his room. I think he needs your help. It would mean a lot to him, and to us, if you could be here for him."

"Oh, God..." Cary bit her lip. Her mind raced, then resolved itself within seconds. "Tell me where to be. I'll pack my bags tonight."

Three days later, Cary flew up to Dallas to join Leppard, putting Back 40 on hold indefinitely. She'd explained it to the others and they'd agreeably let her go. Lilly, their lead singer, was the most sympathetic. "God knows you talk about him night and day," she'd laughed before practically pushing Cary out the door. So now... She smiled as she stepped off the plane, making her weary way up the corridor and into the airport. Now she was all Steve's.

He was there, waiting for her, so inconspicuous she almost missed him. She had not been looking for someone to meet her, and if she had known it would be Steve, she would have been looking for a mane of pale blond hair and a warm, welcoming pair of blue eyes. But Steve had gone strictly incognito, his hair pulled back under a dark hat, his tall body wrapped in a black overcoat, his bright eyes hidden behind sunglasses. He recognized her slim form as soon as she stepped through the gate, though, and realized how much he'd missed her.

"Cary," he called softly.

Her face whipped around in search of the source of his voice. "Steve!" A delighted smile lit up her face, and she all but ran to greet him with a warm, long-overdue hug. "God, it's good to see you again," she sighed as they stepped apart. Impulsively, she leaned up to kiss his cheek. Now he smiled too, a great warm smile that seemed to encompass everyone within eyeshot.

She hadn't known they were going to send him to pick her up. Joe had told her that he would give a story to the others, say something about how she had some free time and wanted to catch up with her old friends. But she'd automatically assumed that they'd have a driver to meet her, or that some similar arrangement would have been made. Her heart had nearly stopped when she'd seen Steve, and then it had clenched as she'd realized how much she'd missed him.

"So how are you doing?" she asked as they started towards the baggage claim area. But they got no further. A short, dark-haired girl ran up to them from the nearby waiting area, breathless, gasping, "Steve! Steve?"

"Can I help you?" he said politely, although obviously surprised that she'd seen through his disguise.

"Can I - can I have your autograph?" she said, still breathless, huge brown eyes pleading. "My - my name's Lori, I'm here to meet my dad, he's coming in from Florida - I'm going to see you guys tonight with my best friend - I think you're the best, I really do, I--"

"Calm down," Steve said with another grin. The girl's enthusiasm was infectious. As he scrawled on the piece of paper she'd provided, Lori glanced over at Cary, who had taken a step away. "What are you doing here?" the young girl asked suddenly of Steve.

"Finding an old friend," he replied, smile unwavering. Cary had never loved him more. "There you go. Hope you enjoy the show."

"Umm..." The girl, who couldn't have been more than fifteen or sixteen, looked small and unsure for a second; then she stood on her toes to give Steve a quick hug and kiss on the cheek. "Thanks." She was blushing. "I've always wanted to do that. I - I just want you to know that there's someone out here who loves you. Who loves everyone. My best friend Sara loves Sav, could you tell him that for her?"

"Well, I could," he said, "but maybe she'd rather tell him herself, hmmm?"

Before Cary knew what had happened, Steve had taken Lori's name for a backstage pass list, promising the girl four passes for her group. Lori was more than overwhelmed and ecstatic; she gave Steve another impulsive hug before he informed her that they had to get going for soundcheck. With that, he turned towards Cary, offering her his arm in a most gallant fashion. Cary grinned and took it, chuckling to him about his gentlemanly turn of behaviour. As they began to walk off, she heard the girl call out, "Are you two going together or something?"

"I wish!" Cary called back, and that, so she thought, was the end of that...

There was, of course, a wonderful reunion with the others, whom they met in the auditorium where the night's show was to be. Cary received hugs and warm, fond greetings from everyone, even Phil, whom she'd only met a few times. Sav, with whom she'd gone out for a few short weeks, exclaimed that she looked better than ever, and Steve had to agree. They soundchecked, jammed, talked, laughed, and reminisced. It was the best time Cary had had in what seemed like ages. She even took over singing during the soundcheck for Joe, whose voice was getting more and more tour-battered and needed to be preserved. Everyone agreed that her talent definitely lay in the keyboards, to Cary's semi-embarrassment.

All eyes were on her, although she didn't know it. She had never been the kind to willfully attempt to attract male attention, and that was one of the things that made her attractive. Too, it was rarity itself to have a woman in the midst of the crew, working and helping out, contributing a laugh and a smile. Her sense of humor had only become sharper over the years. As well, she was more beautiful than any of the Leps remembered her to be. The years had softened her youthful edges, deepened her bright red hair to a dark auburn, given her curves and confidence and poise. Joe couldn't help but watch her as she walked around, enjoying herself, joking with the crew and sharing a laugh with Sav. He had to forcibly remind himself of Karla at times... and of the fact that Cary was meant for Steve. He didn't know how he knew this, but he knew.

After soundcheck, they went off to an adjoining part of the arena for dinner. During the meal, Cary tentatively broached the subject of staying with them on tour for a few days. They were enthusiastic, all but Steve, who was reluctant at first. The others jumped in to persuade her side, and he finally broke down with a laugh. To save expenses and the problems of booking an additional room, it was decided that Cary stay in Steve's room. "We're both mature adults, aren't we?" she stated quite calmly, to which Steve gave her a lopsided grin and the others broke up in laughter. Following dinner, there was a quick change into show clothes, and then it was to a backstage room to prepare their makeup and mental state for the show. Phil was eyeing Steve in some wonder. It had been a while since his Terror Twin had appeared to be this happy. Cary was just the tonic he needed.

Cary watched the show from a roadie's point of view, letting the infamous Malvin Mortimer show her the ropes. She found it great to see them live again, as she hadn't caught one of their shows since at least 1984. If anything, the show had only improved with time and experience. Steve was nothing less than himself, blond perfection, hair flying in his eyes as he wrangled melodies from his guitar. White lightning, he was, as he streaked across the stage; a goofy smile graced his face when he booted Phil in the rear. He hadn't changed; he was still the most fascinating thing she'd ever seen. She couldn't take her eyes from him, and found often that he was looking back at her. During the two ballads, she gazed intently at his downcast face while he poured out strings of notes from his "nearly legendary Gibson eighteen-string Razor". He seemed to be once more resigned to misery, mouthing the words of the sad songs as if he'd taken them to heart. Cary's own heart rushed out to him. She wanted to love him as no one else ever had. Forever. She was galvanized now, to do whatever it took, to grab her chance before it was gone for good.

After the show, helpless for anything else to do, she started helping to tear down the stage and carry things out. She was strong for her size -years of grappling with elder brothers had made her wiry - and, bemused, the crew did nothing to stop her. It was quite a while before the Leps' road manager found her and asked her what the hell she was doing.

"Helping out," she replied, flicking copper hair back from her face with a smile.

"Not anymore. That's what we hire these goons for. Come on." Giving her no chance to protest, he led her out to the waiting limo, where she stewed for a lonely twenty minutes before the band, showered and changed, joined her.

"Where were you?" Steve inquired as, unobtrusively, he took the seat on her right.

"Helping the road crew tear down the stage," she sighed, "until some jerk dragged me out here to make me wait for you."

"Have that man fired," Joe muttered, and everyone laughed.

"Well, do you mind waiting that much?" Steve asked, with a hint of a grin.

"Only if it's worth it," she smiled back.

"Well?" This from Phil, who was cheerfully listening in on the conversation.

She smiled again, and pinched Phil's cheek. "Of course it is, dearie," she replied, affecting the tones of an elderly lady. While Phil sat back, rubbing his cheek and scowling, and the others laughed at his discomfort, Cary glanced up to find Steve grinning at her. Her humourous mood suddenly evaporated, and she rode out the drive to the hotel in uncomfortable silence.

Cary woke up late the next morning. The night had been long and raucous, a demented party that had ended sometime around three. She wasn't sure she cared to remember all of it, even though she'd probably been the most sober at the end of the night. She opened her eyes and rolled over to see Steve, sitting on the end of his bed. He was dressed in a white robe and big, fuzzy bear-foot slippers. He must have already taken his shower, she noted hazily, because his mane was still wet and clung to his back. His face was damp as well, for that matter, and his eyes were closed. He wore a pained look, from what she could see in the light spilling through the window. She watched him for a moment, coming fully awake, before speaking.

"Good morning."

"Oh, good morning," he said, running a quick hand over his eyes and face. "I didn't know you were up."

"I wasn't, until just now." She watched him start working a brush through his hair, and said, "D'you want some help with that?"

"No, I can get it," he said softly. His voice was thick.

Cary struggled with the desire to reach out to him and the fear that she'd push him too far if she did. The night before, during the show, everything had seemed so clear. Now, it was all muddy. A minute or two of sunlit silence passed. Finally she sighed and spoke again. "Steve, what's wrong?"

"Nothing." She could hear the lie in his voice, see it in the way he wouldn't meet her eyes. Grabbing her robe from the end of her bed, she pulled it on before pushing the bedclothes away and standing up.

"Steve," she said softly, "Joe called me to come here because he said there was something wrong. He thought I could help. And he knew I would, any way I could."

"What'd he say?" Steve inquired quietly.

Cary took a breath before replying. "Basically... that Lorelei called it off."

She heard him mutter "bastard" under his breath, but chose to ignore it. "So, do you want to talk about it?" She was still looking away, facing the door, but at the sound of his pained voice, catching here and there, she turned, sorrow and sympathy in her eyes.

He sat still, his hands in his lap, cradling the hairbrush. "She rang me up about two weeks ago. Said she wanted out of it. Never wanted to see me again. And hung up. Just like that. What was I supposed to do? Three years of whatever the hell we had - gone in five seconds. Everything we'd done, dreamed, all torn to shreds... She never said why. And she sounded happy. Like she was glad to be ruining my life!" The last words came out in the middle of a choked sob. "I felt like I wanted to die," he went on, slower now. "Wanted to crawl into a hole and hide forever. But I had the shows... the music. It kept me going. Only playing... I could forget about everything else. It made me feel whole. And now..." His voice was even softer, and Cary had to move up next to him to hear his words. "Now you're here..."

Tears were streaming down his face. Nothing had ever shaken Cary's soul like this. It never should have happened to this sweet, beautiful man, not to her best friend for twenty years. He didn't deserve this pain, this bare, twisting heartache. Without a second thought, she was sitting next to him, taking him into her arms, trying to soothe him, comfort him, absorb his pain. If there was one person who didn't deserve this hurt, it was him, and she only wished there was more she could do to assuage it. Still he cried against her shoulder while she stroked his bright hair, whispered inanities, and slowly calmed him down.

"Steve," she whispered after some time, "I promise you'll never have to worry about anyone hurting you again. I'll be here for you, I'll help you pick up the pieces and start again. I will, I swear to you." Her fingers combed his hair, brushed away the tears from his face.

"God, Cary," he half-sobbed, trying to get his voice under control and finally succeeding. "You always have been there... haven't you?"

She nodded. "Always." It was her ultimate statement of faith. Perhaps there were those who would condemn her for her continuing love of a man who'd never seen her in more than the light of friendship. But to her it was loyalty, and the knowledge that one never turns one's back on a friend.

He looked up at her then, tears still dampening his face, sparking his eyes. The flesh around his eyes was red and puffy, while his cheeks were tear-streaked and his hair was slowly drying in bunched cords. He was probably the most pitiful sight she'd seen in a long time, but that hardly mattered to her. What she loved about Steve was not physical. It was the essence that made him unique. From where she sat, he was beautiful, a most angelic vision. "You don't know what that means to me," she heard him say softly. It made her chuckle.

"Want to bet?"

"All I've got in my life - all that really matters - is the band, and my parents, and you." His sapphire eyes were shining brighter than ever, their depths clear and full of light. Cary felt as if she'd break into tears herself if he didn't get it under control soon. He caressed her cheek with one strong hand, leaned his forehead against hers, and closed his eyes against the fresh new tears. Good tears.

"You know something?" he said very softly.

"What?" She forced her voice to remain steady. She was positive now that this little scene was nothing more than a lovely dream from which she'd soon be rudely awakened.

"I think I've fallen in love with you, Cary Bauer."

At first the words did not register with her. But what followed awoke her from her disbelieving trance. She felt him kiss her, his lips warm and smooth and sweet, and that was when her eyes overflowed with joyous tears. "Oh, God, Steve," she whispered, "I've waited for this for so damn long. I thought it would never happen..."

"Well, we males do tend to be slow about this sort of thing," he commented with a chuckle.

"Dammit, you didn't have to be that bloody slow!" Then they were smiling at each other again, and Cary's eyes softened as her fingertips traced his face, outlining his features. "I do love you, Steve. I think I always have."

"Well, Cary," he said, "I love you too."

He kissed her again, harder than before, full of intent now. Her response was eager, and together they found their way up onto the bed. When Joe came in later to inform them that the buses were leaving, his surprised eyes were met by the sight of the two of them sprawled beneath the sheets, blissfully naked and content in each others' arms.


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this page last updated on 18 january 2003