A/N: HELLO! :) I'm very sorry I have not been posting anything all that much, but I've been busy, and just having a really huge writer's block, despite the fact that I do hate that word. But um, here is what some people have asked for, and what I've actually had planned for a while, so I hope that everyone enjoys it just as much as the prequel. This chapter is iffy and not definite; I'm not quite sure that I like it yet, but we'll see. :) So again, I'm sorry for the lack of chapter updates, and I hope you all haven't given up on me! The encouragement from this site is actually a part of what is inspiring me to write. :) Thanks, everyone.

For the first time since Keri DeGiovanni, Alexander Vidal found himself being nervous.

He didn't know why, though; he had done this a million times, and then some. He bounced on the balls of his feet from one foot to the other, trying to shake off the tension that clung to the hem of his shirt. It was heavy and didn't seem to want to release its claws; Alex wasn't too pleased with that, the corners of his lips dipping into a frown.

"What are you all freaking out for, bro?" Nick asked, slapping his best friend on the back so hard that Alex spluttered a cough. Nick rolled his shoulder blades back, stretching, completely lax.

"I don't know," Alex answered honestly, mimicking his friend in an attempt to calm his popcorn nerves. "I don't want to fuck up, I guess." He took another deep breath, the pungent scent of dry dirt and sweat shooting up his nostrils. "I just wish Keri was here."

Keri DeGiovanni was Alex's girlfriend of almost four months, but he had been chasing after her for nearly a year. It had been a difficult task to accomplish, considering the fact that one year ago, she hated him with her entire being, and at many times Alex felt that she wanted to kill him. Now, they were inseparable, like the cliché ending of any fairy tale, but Alex didn't mind. He still liked fairy tales. In fact, his favourite was Cinderella. Keri wasn't attached to Alex's hip at the moment due to the fact that she was at home, attending college. Alex hated that the only reason why she was home was because he hadn't asked her to come on tour early enough, due to their intense quarrel at the end of their senior year, but Keri insisted that she would have gone to college regardless. Alex didn't know which one made him feel any better at all.

Nick rolled his eyes playfully. "You don't need Keri for anything, man," he said, laughing. He paused for a moment, and then seemed to think, retracting his answer. He shrugged and said, "Well, I suppose sex is something, but other than that, definitely not."

Alex shook his head and rolled his eyes; typical Nick-answer. "Why aren't you nervous?"

"Because I'm a man."

"Fuck you."

Nick chuckled, slapping his friend on the back again. Alex grunted and jerked forward, making a face at his friend. "Maybe later," he joked as he headed up the creaky wooden stairs to the stage to get tuned. The group before them was coming down the steps, sweaty and breathing hard, slapping hands with Nick and telling him to 'break a leg.' Nick, of course, told them something along the lines of, "Shit, man, that would hurt," and continued on his way.

Alex knew that he should be up there, too, tuning and whatnot, but he couldn't bring himself to move his feet. He was half-wishing he could just magically appear on the stage, like Houdini. And all would be solved.

"What're you still doing down here?" Patrick asked as he passed Alex, needing to backtrack for a second to meet up with his friend. He gestured to the stage with his thumb. "We're getting ready, you know."

"I know."

"So, what are you doing here?"

"I don't know."

Patrick's face twisted into a look of confusion, his brows in a V and his lips pursed together. "Ah, well, good luck with that, I guess. Just remember to show up. We kind of need you up there, man."

"Yeah, I know."

Patting his friend on the back, Patrick hopped up the same creaky stairs, clacking his drumsticks together, already feeling the urge to slam cymbals and unleash those sick drum solos he had perfected over the summer.

"You should get up there," Kevin said as he passed by Alex, too. Kevin flicked his brown hair from his face and raised an eyebrow. "I'd think that out of all of us, you'd be the most excited, and yet, you're the only one still sulking around out here. What's up?"

A part of the reason why Kevin and Alex were on a more personal basis was because Kevin was Keri's twin brother. Alex had to admit, however, that it was extremely odd to see the eyes of the girl he had fallen in love with in the face of Kevin. Keri and Kevin had similar facial structures: high cheek bones, grey-green eyes, and a sharp nose. But as far as body structure, Kevin towered over his sister, who stood at a measly 5'2".

"I don't know," Alex answered for the third time in five minutes.

"You know, Alex, my sister has seen your show ten thousand times," Kevin said, chuckling. Kevin had grown used to seeing Alex's "Keri-face"; Alex thought about Keri so much that the entire band and their manager knew when she was crossing his mind. "And she said that this was your tour, remember? The band's tour. She'll come on the next one. You can do for two months without being attached at the hip. She'll be waiting for you at home."

Alex's lips curled into the slightest of smiles. "Thanks, bro."

Kevin slapped his hand on Alex's back before hopping up the stairs, dragging his guitar with him. Alex took a deep breath, the scent of sweat and screams filling his lungs until he couldn't take in any more air. And then he released it, his lean frame deflating as he stood up straight and shifted his weight, moving towards the stairs.

"Break a leg," Brandon Carr encouraged as Alex passed him, knocking knuckles with Little Less Obvious's frontman. Brandon Carr was the band's manager; Alex hadn't been too fond of him when they had first met, due to the fact that Brandon had been hitting on Keri, but they were at a point of friendship, considering that Brandon followed them wherever they went and was actually one of the people who helped him get on the tour.

"Thanks," Alex said, nodding as he clutched his guitar, a shrill creak squeaking out from under his shoes as he ducked on stage.

"For a while, we thought you were going to flake out," Nick said, slapping hands with his best friend. "We would have killed you, and fed you to the ligers, you know that."

"I had an inkling," Alex replied, rolling his eyes as he slung on his guitar. He felt his phone vibrating, and his hand flew to his pocket, digging it out from his jeans. He flipped it open with one hand, and his lips grew into a huge grin.

The boys told you me you were being a little girl.
So, grow a pair, get on stage, and kick ass!
Good luck, Alex. I love youx3

The text message was so Keri; Alex could imagine her saying that to him, jokingly, of course. It was the way their relationship worked, and Alex didn't mind. Alex snapped his phone shut and dropped it into his jeans, making his way up to the mic. "What up, homes?" Alex called into the microphone, throwing his fist up in the air. The crowd screamed; Alex was surprised that his band had gotten such a turn out. He definitely hadn't been expecting a lot of people to know him, but then again, AdVanced had signed them, and Brandon was a mean promoter. Word must have gotten around fast and Alex couldn't have been more thankful. "You are all looking very beautiful today, you know, despite the sweat and the red tinge on all of your beautiful faces. Before we start, I would like to thank AdVanced Records, our kick-ass manager, Brandon, and the other bands on tour for letting Little Less Obvious play here today."

The crowd cheered and screamed and waved t-shirts in the air as Kevin began playing a tune on his guitar, Alex stepping back from the microphone for a moment. Alex jumped into the intro, picking out the harmony on his fret board, the notes second nature. They stopped together, suspension building in the spaces between the echo, before Patrick whipped out a drum solo, and the three boys jumped into the air. Their Nikes slammed down onto the stage for the downbeat as Patrick crashed a cymbal. Alex flew across a short solo before stepping up to the microphone again, "I spend my nights alone and my days waiting…"

He almost couldn't hear himself through the response he got from the crowd, his lyrics pulsing and the band's music racing through the chords they had spent hundreds of hours rehearsing. It was a blur, fast moving and numbing, all of it second nature and done without a thought as to whether or not they would miss a note; they didn't. Alex flew through their songs quickly, both originals and covers, watching with alacrity as the lips of every single audience member moved with his, trailed with his own, force feeding him back his own words, his own tune, as he sang into the microphone. They jumped and flailed, kicked, punched, screamed, and crowd-surfed through the band's set. Alex wouldn't have it any other way.

"Before we leave you today, we have one more song," Alex breathed, sweeping his caramel hair out of his face and leaning down to grab his bottled water. He took a long gulp and then splashed the rest on fans in the front, who screamed in response. It was so hot that Alex swore he saw steam float up off their faces. "I wrote it for someone very special to me. Unfortunately, she's not here today, but I hope she hears it from home. Thank you everyone, for being such a great audience. I love this, I love you guys. This is our last song, BB."

It was Alex's favourite song. He had written the song BB as sort of a tribute for his girlfriend, whose nickname was, of course, BB. The nickname had started almost a year ago in the Starbucks that Keri had worked at, the two B's standing for "Bitter Berry." Alex had to admit that it was a lame nickname when it wasn't abbreviated – "bitter" because the way Keri used to look at Alex looked like she had eaten something disgusting, and "berry" because it rhymed with "Keri" – but the name had stuck. He had written the song for her in hopes that she would forgive him, he wrote it as his method of soul-bearing and exposing his flaws, as well as apologizing for the things he had put her through, even if he didn't realize it.

Alex loved singing this song, and knew that the band loved playing it. Keri was a close friend of the other three boys – Nick had been her best friend, Kevin was her twin brother, and Keri and Patrick had shared every class together for six years – so they had worked on it together to make it the best song in their arsenal. It never disappointed.

"Thank you," Alex said into the microphone through the echo. "Come by our tent and buy shit, and enjoy the rest of the tour!"

The crowd screamed as Alex whipped off his guitar, holding up a peace sign as he headed off backstage. His shirt was stuck to his back from the sweat and he was probably sunburned, but he was grinning, nonetheless.

"Can you say 'sick'?" Nick cried, throwing his arms up in the air in a move of victory. "We kicked ass out there! Holy shit!"

The rest of the band laughed in agreement, slapping hands and bumping knuckles in a gesture of congratulations. Alex opened his mouth to say something, but Nick held up his finger. "If you say something about Keri, I swear to God, I will kill myself," Nick said, stretching his eyes as big as he could. The band just laughed, brushing off the sweat from their quickly reddening faces to come together and snigger at their frontman.

"I think we should get to our tent," Patrick suggested, clacking his sticks together in a move of authority as he half skipped, half walked, over to the tent Brandon had set up during their show.

The boys moved with enthusiasm, excited to be selling their name – except Kevin. He lingered towards the back of the group, watching his friends skip towards their wobbly tent. Kevin took a deep breath, closing his eyes gently, as though the slightest bit of force would cause his skin to crack. The rush of playing on stage hadn't been what he had expected; it was definitely a rush. It was brief; perhaps too much so, and within seconds of walking off stage, Kevin was fragmented again.

"You're sulking," said a voice, and Kevin felt a sharp pain as someone slapped his back. Alex flanked his friend, tugging at the hem of his t-shirt in an attempt to pull it off to change as soon as they hit the tent. Kevin didn't even notice that Alex hadn't left with Patrick, Nick, and Brandon. He seemed just as excited as the rest of them.

"Sorry," Kevin said, straightening his shoulders and lifting his head as though doing so would also lift the emotion burden he had carried with him hundreds of miles away from the place he used to like calling home.

Alex made a face, whipping his shirt off his back. "Wasn't looking for an apology. Just want you to be happy, man."


Alex rolled his eyes, sighing as he paused in his step. "We just played a great set. Our first set. You should still be feeling the rush! You were the one telling me to get up there, and now that we're here, you're all sulky? What's up, dude?" Kevin seemed unimpressed by Alex's words and raised an eyebrow. Alex held his hands out, palms facing towards Kevin as though bracing himself for something of epic nature. "Okay, go. Talk. Let it all out. This is my 'emotional side'," Alex said, lifting his hands for a moment to use finger quotes. And then he added, "Your sister digs it." Then Alex put on the sternest face he could manage at the moment with all the adrenaline pumping, which included his eyebrows furrowed in a deep V and his bottom jaw and lip jutted out. Kevin chuckled, shaking his head and rubbing the bridge of his nose. Alex looked more troll-like than concerned.

"Nah, dude, nothing to talk about."

Alex's concerned troll face morphed into an incredulous troll face, which just involved the opening of his mouth in skepticism. "Cut the crap," Alex sighed through his teeth. "Besides like, an hour ago before our show, you've been bleeding black for the past forty seven thousand hours. There's gotta be something you're sad about. You better let it out before it gets worse and you're not going to fuckin' rock out with your cock out on the rest of the tour like how I know you want to."

Kevin laughed. Alex and his way of words. "Uh, well, I don't know," Kevin said, tasting the idea of actually talking to Alexander Vidal like a human being. It was true that Alex had changed a little in the time that he had spent chasing Keri, and in the time that he had actually been with the girl. "I guess I'm still bummed out about Rochelle."

Rochelle Cruz had been Kevin's girlfriend since his freshmen year of high school. It was just recently that she had cut the cord, forcing him to leave her due to her ongoing health crisis. She had considered herself a burden to Kevin and didn't want to fight for her life anymore. She wasn't the girl Kevin had fallen in love with and sometimes, he thought that maybe, she hadn't really forced him to leave her. It didn't ease Kevin's heart.

"Well, duh," Alex said, his eyebrows shooting up. "You dated her for four years."

"I just thought we'd get married or something, you know?" Kevin said, shrugging as the sun crisped his scalp.

"We all did. But shit happens, and people change. You're better off without her anyway, man. If she doesn't see that you cared about her, then fuck it, you don't need that and you deserve better."

"Who are you, and what have you done to Alex?" Kevin laughed, a little impressed with Alex's words. "'People change'? You can tell my sister has been cracking that whip of hers. You're sensitive and giving me pep talks now."

Alex chuckled and rubbed the bridge of his nose in embarrassment. And then he frowned, pretending to be hurt. "Hey, man, I'm sensitive, too."

"So says the guy whose high school past time is one-night-stands with girls whose names he can't remember." Alex opened his mouth to object but Kevin shook his head, cutting him off. "Don't even try and deny it. You can't say that Keri is your favourite past time because you only met her last year. You've been a man whore for three years before that."

Alex laughed. He remembered that. Never able to tie himself down to one girl. Never wanting to. Of course, when he accidentally ended up in bed with Keri DeGiovanni that had all changed. It was one of the stupidest and greatest things mistakes he had ever made. "Okay, okay, you got me there, but you know what I mean." He paused. "Have you even spoken to Keri since we left home?"

It was only now, hearing himself say it out loud, that Alex realized that he hadn't seen Kevin speak to his twin sister at all since they left her house for the airport. Alex had been keeping in contact with Keri everyday, through webcam, phone calls, and texts – even the rest of the band occasionally sat in on a conversation – but Kevin normally kept to himself on his bunk, iPod plugged into his skull.

Kevin seemed uncomfortable, shifting his feet and scratching the back of his head, only to grasp a handful of hot hair. "I'm, uh, trying to separate my self from home for a little bit. 'Cause of, you know, Rochelle and stuff. Sucks to be reminded of her all the time."

"Oh." It was all Alex could say at the moment. He thought, furiously scavenging for words. "Well, you should call her anyway. Keri, I mean. She's your sister. She's got nothing to do with Rochelle, man. Call her up and say hello."

"Nah," Kevin said, shaking his head. "Ker knows I love her and shit, so I don't need to talk to her every second. I'm not saying that Keri is Rochelle, or that they were conspiring against me or something like that, but I don't know, Keri just reminds me of home, and home used to be Rochelle. I can't deal with that." Kevin rotated on his heels, shoved his hands in his pocket, and began sauntering away from Alex and the conversation. Maybe it was better to have just ignored him and kept walking in the first place. Running away never hurt anyone, right?

Alex sighed. "You know, sensitive side or not, you gotta get over this. I know I should be more sensitive to that, but screw it already. If Rochelle didn't value you enough to want to be with you, even when you're the one that's going on a limb to stick it out for her during her sickness and shit, then fuck. It. Move on."

Kevin whirled around, staring at Alex with a flat expression. "Would you move on if Keri were the one in that hospital bed and her heart was failing? Would you even want to think about not being able to be there for her as she sabotaged her life? Would you want to give up on her watch her give up on herself and then maybe one day, just find out that she upped and died?" Kevin studied Alex's expression, watching as his friend winced with every word. Kevin could tell that Alex was actually envisioning these terrible things; his eyes were slightly glassy and he kept his gaze glued to his Nikes as though they were the most interesting thing around, unable to look Kevin in the face. "You love Keri. You love her with your entire being. She's your soul mate, your other half. She may not know it yet, but I know that you want to spend the rest of your life with her. It's hard to have that taken away. It's hard to move on."

After a long pause, Alex finally looked up. "Sorry, man. I didn't really think of it that way."

Kevin just shook his head and shrugged slightly. "Whatever, it's cool. Let's drop this and go to our tent." And with that, Kevin whirled around and made a beeline for where the rest of the boys were yelling at them, telling them to haul ass as the lines for shirts and autographs grew.

Alex sighed, following slowly behind his friend, slightly frustrated with the way Kevin had just spoken to him. He slid into a generic metal chair, his weight causing its hollow legs to dig into the dirt as he crossed his arms over his chest, a little ruffled from that confrontation with Kevin. It was so unlike the other DeGiovanni twin to be so salty. But then again, Alex supposed, losing one's girlfriend of four years did tend to turn one brackish.

Alex glanced around and counted heads; Nick and Brandon's almost identical mop of hair – being that they were related – Patrick's spikes…but Kevin wasn't anywhere in sight. Alex looked left and right, and craned his neck around as though his seated figure could see over the tops of heads of people crowding around their little tent, screaming and asking for autographs and t-shirts. Alex pushed Kevin out of his mind for now; he knew that Kevin was probably too pissed off and crushed at the moment to really think about anything besides Rochelle and home.

"Hey, where's Kevin?" Patrick asked as he handed a girl back their autographed copy of Little Love, the band's first EP.

"I think he said something about calling Keri," Nick answered, tossing a t-shirt at someone who handed him money. Patrick sighed; they really needed to get someone who could sell merchandise for them without flinging things.

Alex perked up when he heard that, and smiled to himself, his mind finally relieved about the fact that maybe Kevin had taken his advice after all.

Elizabeth's back hit the sheets, a thin layer of sweat causing the sheets to stick to her skin. She felt like a blowtorch was scalding the inside of her throat as her chest heaved with her attempt to breathe again. After a while, she swallowed, slightly diminishing the burning. She took slower, deeper breaths, trying to fill her lungs with as much air as she could before she simply stopped breathing.

Breathing. It was the one thing that seemed to escape her the more this went on. Breathing and Casey.

Casey Starter lay besides her, breathing at the same uneven pace. He turned his head to face her, pushing his golden brown hair from his face and grinning. He chuckled and rolled over to face her, pulling her sweaty body into his arms and kissing her forehead. It was a miracle that he could see at all, with all the explosions erupting on the inside of his irises. "Talk about a celebration." Elizabeth could hear the very subtle Australian accent laced between his syllables.

Elizabeth laughed breathlessly. "Talk about a celebration," she repeated, mumbling as she kissed Casey's bottom lip. She rolled out from under his arm and flicked her soaking hair from her face as she caught her breath. That was the thing about breathing; she could always catch her breath, but she could never catch Casey. No matter how much in reach he seemed. He was always inches from her fingertips. She could never get any closer.

Except of course, physically.

Elizabeth's arms shook with the slightest bit of exhaustion as she forced herself upright, swinging her bare legs over the side of the bed. Casey propped himself up on his elbow and frowned as she started to look for her clothes. "Where are you going?"

Elizabeth pulled on her Paul Frank boy shorts, lifted a hand to sweep her burgundy hair out of her face and then searched around for her bra and shirt. She had so many of her clothes in Casey's room that it was hard to remember what she was wearing, and the difference between her dirty and clean shirts. She picked up one of Casey's band shirts and then tossed it at him, the fabric connecting with a dull thwack into Casey's bare chest. When Casey didn't move, Elizabeth laughed and rolled her eyes. "Tom, Rovi, and Declan are coming over in a little while, remember?" It was only half a lie – they boys were coming over – but it was also an excuse not to lie around in bed with him. Right now, it was all Elizabeth wanted to do. But she couldn't.

"Oh," was all Casey said as he turned the shirt right side out. He hesitated a moment looking at the shirt and then glancing back at Elizabeth as she pulled on the shirt she had been wearing today. He placed his shirt on the side, pushing his brown hair from his face. He caught cold sweat in his hand, smearing it on the bed and sitting up. Pants first.

Casey lifted his arms and stretched, rolling his shoulder blades back. His stomach growled and he collapsed back onto the bed, clutching his abdomen. "I think I'm a bit hungry," he said.

She laughed. "Well, get dressed and make some Mac and Cheese or something."

Casey rolled over onto his back, exposing the crescent moons that Elizabeth's nails had indented into his skin. "I'm too lazy," he said into the mattress. He twisted his arm backwards to touch the little red half-moons and turned his head to let out a laugh. "I think you actually cut me this time," he chuckled, feeling a tiny stinging sensation rip through his nerves from touching the indentations.

Elizabeth laughed and rolled her eyes. She lifted a hand and scratched the air mockingly. "It's 'cause I'm fierce. Rawr."

"Mmm, I like fierce."

"Hurry up and get dressed, Casey. I'll make you pancakes or something."

The last word launched Casey out of bed – literally – and he rolled off the mattress onto his hardwood floors with a thud. "I love waffles!" he exclaimed. Casey had already grabbed a pair of boxers and was busily tugging them on, digging on the floors for a pair of jeans.

Elizabeth laughed again and paused for a moment, swinging her legs back onto the bed and crossing them as she spun around so that she was facing Casey. "Can you believe we're doing this?"

"Believe what?" Casey asked, turning to face her, too. She asked this almost everyday. And he answered almost everyday. "That we had sex again? You know, Liz, we've been having sex for almost a year now. One would think you'd start to believe that it's actually happening."

She rolled her eyes and laughed again. "Not that, stupid. That we're going on tour."

"Oh, that," Casey remembered, grinning. "Now that is pretty fantastic. No offense to you."

Elizabeth made a face. "Oh, ha, ha," she retorted with mocking sarcasm. "No, I totally understand though, so no offense taken. I mean, duh, Casey, going on tour is so much better than having sex with your bony ass anyway."

Casey rolled his eyes at Elizabeth's teasing. "Stop having sex with me and then say that again."

Elizabeth shrugged, unfazed. "Okay."

Casey's brows scrunched into the center of his forehead. "No, fuck you, Liz. I wasn't serious."

"I was."

Elizabeth's back was facing him and was pulling on her own skinny jeans, not looking at him at all. For a moment, Casey thought that she was actually planning to keep her word and take all her clothes with her. Casey's room would be unbearably empty without all of Elizabeth's trash in his room. But then her shoulders started to shake violently she turned around, laughter exploding from behind her lips. Casey rolled his eyes. "Bitch."

She stuck her tongue out playfully. Elizabeth picked up the shirt Casey had tossed on the bed and threw it at his chest again. "Get dressed now," she said, standing up. "We're celebrating with the rest of the band the right way."

"That was the right way," said Casey, pointing to the bed. He glanced at the clock and grinned. "I think we have enough time to celebrate the right way again."

"The clean way," Elizabeth clarified, laughing. She finished yanking on her grey skinny jeans, jumping and tugging to get the fabric up her legs. She cocked her head towards the door. "Let's go downstairs."

"Wait," Casey said, clasping his jeans as he hopped over the bed to reach her before her hand closed around the doorknob. Casey pushed her against the door, pressing his body up against hers. She stared up at him curiously, her arms circling his waist on reflex. "One for the road," he said, lowering his face to capture her lips in a kiss.

The thing Elizabeth loved about kissing Casey was that he possibly had the softest lips she had ever kissed. They were always warm, and always moved with hers the right way, the kind of way that would make any girl's leg kick up as she melted from the inside out. She always felt a pang of disappointment when he pulled away. Casey smiled at her, kissing the corner of her lips and then down to her jaw line. "You're the best, Liz," he whispered, finishing with a kiss on her nose. "I can't live without you. Don't forget that, ever."

"And I, without you," Elizabeth responded, kissing his cheek. He lowered his lips and kissed her lips again. "Now can we go downstairs?"

Casey chuckled and pulled back, shoving his hands in his pockets and nodding. "After you, Liz."

Elizabeth pulled the door open and let herself out. She flipped her hair upside down, tying the tangled mess into a bun before skipping down the stairs. Casey followed in suite, just as giddy as she was, his footsteps like thunder against the wood. Casey leapt after her, catching her by the waist and lifting her into the air as she laughed and kicked her legs out playfully. He set her upright by the kitchen doorway and pushed her up to the wall again. His hand slid under the hem of her shirt and he kissed her again.

"I seriously can't get enough," he said between kisses. His lips trailed down to her collarbone, his hand slipping up and tracing across her abdomen, landing on the button of her jeans. He tugged on the waist of her pants gently.

"Maybe you should get yourself an actual girlfriend and you can do this all the time without hindering me," Elizabeth mumbled.

"Why in the world would I want a girlfriend when I have you?" Casey laughed, his lips attaching to her neck and his hands tugging harder on her jeans.

Rolling her eyes as she lifted Casey's hands off her pants, Elizabeth laughed. "Maybe because healthy relationships are good? And besides, I just put these on, loser face, and I don't want to take them off and go through the trouble of putting them on again. And I'm sleeping over tonight, so keep yours in your pants until after the boys leave."

Casey paused for a moment like he had forgotten that Elizabeth was spending the night – again – giving her just that split second of time she needed to push him off her. If Casey was even hoping to get to eat those pancakes she promised, he had better keep his hands off her. Elizabeth slipped around the corner of the doorway and into the kitchen. The pantry doors opened with a loud squeak, the hinges begging for mercy. She glanced around and spotted the Aunt Jemima's instant pancake mix and pulled the bright red box off its place on the shelf.

"I like chocolate chips," she heard Casey say behind her as he followed her into the kitchen.

"I know how you like your pancakes," Elizabeth answered, rolling her eyes.

"Just thought I'd remind you," Casey said, grinning. He practically dove into the dining room seat, the wooden chair scraping across the floor loudly. Elizabeth jumped from the sudden noise and turned to glare at Casey, who was still grinning like a five year old. "Chop, chop, Liz. Quick, like a bunny! I'm hungry."

"Keep ordering me around like that and I'll make sure you are pancake-less for the rest of your life," Elizabeth sang playfully as she dug around in the cabinets. The pans clinked and clanged against each other as she searched for her favourite of Casey's fryers. She had made a deal with him that if he didn't wash this particular pan, then she wouldn't be cooking for him. It had gotten him to do all the dishes now, just in case Elizabeth's favourite pan was amongst the filth. Casey's mother had been thoroughly impressed with her son's new cleaning habits.

"I love you, Liz," said Casey, smiling cutely as though his dimples would erase his previous words. Of course, they did.

"Yeah, yeah, suck it," Elizabeth replied, lifting a bowl from the drying rack and pouring a bit of the pancake mix into it. She skipped over to Casey's refrigerator, her fingers closing over the titanium handle. The door jerked open with a soft hiss and her eyes navigated for where Casey kept the chocolate chips. She found them within a second – right next to the butter – and leaned back to where the bowl was. She estimated about half a cup and poured it in, floating back to where the refrigerator door was still open. Fluidly, she popped the bag of chocolate back into the fridge and spun over to the bowl, pinching it between her fingers and holding it over the tap. With one finger, she pushed the handle up, letting just the right amount of water drip from the faucet.

"I love watching you cook," Casey said admiringly from his place at the dining table. "No one makes pancakes like you."

One of Elizabeth's eyebrows shot up and she made a face. She pulled out a fork and started stirring the pancake mix like she was scrambling eggs. "Well, you could make instant pancakes the same way. You know, with water."

Casey laughed. "Well, it's not the same if I make it. You move with a purpose. I like it. You're not one of those guests that ask where everything is when you want to do me a favour. I mean, fuck, I might as well just do it myself if you're going to ask where everything is. You're past that. You're magical and you know where everything is."

"Only because your house is my second house."

"Either way, I like it."

Elizabeth dropped a slice of butter into the fryer, the yellow food melting as it hissed quietly in the fryer. She poured the pancake mix into the pan, globs of cheap off-white batter plopping pitifully into the pan, forming something that was supposed to look like a circle. Tossing the empty bowl into the sink, Elizabeth swirled over to the rest of the kitchen utensils, unhitching a spatula and then resuming her faithful position at the stove. She was on a mission not to let the pancakes burn.

"Oh, Lizzie, that smells great. I want one, too," called a voice from the living room. The heads of both Elizabeth and Casey whipped towards the door and Casey sighed. His friends never knocked; they always used the back door.

"Too late, Declan, I already tossed the bowl," Elizabeth said as her blonde friend came into the kitchen. Tom and Rovi followed behind, both boys looking ravenous. Elizabeth had a feeling that she was going to be making a dinner for five sometime soon.

Declan's lips curved into a frown. "Well, you owe me, then. Pancakes at the next band meeting!"

"Hey, buy your own pancake mix," Casey joked, flipping his friend off. "Liz only cooks for me."

"Just for that, I'm going to make pancakes for Declan tomorrow," Elizabeth said, sliding the spatula under the bubbling pancake and flipping it. It hissed softly as Elizabeth turned down the heat, planning to let the pastry sit and cook slowly for a while, just to make Casey wait for his food.

"I love you, Liz," Casey said again, grinning.

"Whatever," she replied, keeping her back faced to him. Elizabeth hated when Casey told her that he loved her. She knew that it wasn't a lie; even though Casey was three years older than her, he had literally known her since the day of her birth. He had been in the nursery, watching with fascination at the miracle of babies, with his parents and Elizabeth's dad. Three-year-old Casey had watched her squirm in her pink blankets and wail louder than any of the other newborns in her hospital crib eighteen years ago. Now, Casey was her lullaby. Not in the sense where he sang to her – she was always the one singing to him – but in the sense where he watched her sleep beside him almost every night; she couldn't rest without his presence. He was her safety veil.

So it wasn't a lie when he said he loved her. It was true. He wouldn't be her best friend if he didn't love her. But the context he meant it in wasn't the same way that Elizabeth wanted him to mean it. It was why she hated when he said it. It was a reminder that he would never love her the same way she cared for him.

"So, I call this band meeting to order at—" Rovi looked at the clock, sweeping the black hair that tickled his eyes. "Five fifty-three P.M."

Elizabeth laughed, taking Rovi's routine start as her cue to open. "So Cynical, we are going on tour!"

The four boys whooped loudly, all the excitement from earlier that day ripping back through their veins. Earlier, Elizabeth's band, So Cynical, had been signed by AdVance Records and been scheduled for a tour in the fall with the other big band names, and the other newly signed band, Little Less Obvious. Elizabeth had actually heard some of Little Less Obvious's music from videos on YouTube, and she was ecstatic to be on tour with them, as well as be on tour, period. Instead of starting college in the fall, she was going to be trapped on a bus with four boys for almost two months.

But Elizabeth wouldn't have it any other way.

So Cynical had been together since Elizabeth's freshmen year. She and Casey had been fooling around with a guitar in Casey's living room, and when he had heard her sing something, he had suggested that she front a band. At first, it was just Elizabeth and Casey, performing when school events needed some kind of little entertainment, but in the middle of freshmen year, the duo eventually found Declan, their lead guitar, Tom, their drummer, and Rovi, their rhythm guitar. Because Casey hadn't been as skillful as Declan at playing lead, he had taken up bass for a little. Now, even when Rovi offered to switch, Casey would refuse. Even when the other boys had all graduated – Elizabeth was the youngest – they had all stuck together.

"We have to be at the airport on September sixteenth," Elizabeth said, reiterating the information that the rest of the band had already memorized by heart. Suddenly, Elizabeth realized something. She slammed her fists on the kitchen counter, her head whipping around to face Casey. "Dude, you start your junior year semester on the fifteenth!"

The three boys frowned, but Casey shrugged. "I'm pulling out. Do you think I'd give up touring for school?" Elizabeth frowned, concerned. Casey shrugged again. "Don't worry about it, Liz. I have my Associate's, at least. That's higher than everyone else here." He grinned, shooting Rovi a look. Rovi rolled his eyes. He was the same age as Casey, but decided not to enroll in college. He was working part time at the local clinic, and had another job at a Starbucks right next door to the hospital.

"Didn't you already pay like, another five thousand to go, though?" Elizabeth asked. Then she wondered why she was asking; Casey's family was loaded. Casey's dad owned a tourist company in Australia.

"You know I don't really need the money," Casey laughed. "And maybe I can get it refunded. I don't really care. They can take it as a donation or whatever. I could care less."

"Now that we're done talking about the boring shit," Tom laughed, speaking for the first time that meeting. "Lizzy, please continue."

She smiled and shrugged. "I don't know, man, I don't have anything to say. I'm fucking stoked."

And the meeting was adjourned.