Author's Note:

First: sorry for the delay again.

Second: i had to make minor changes to Chs 5 & 6. Originally Amie and Ben hadn't seen each other in 6 years which my math/time line was wrong and it was supposed to be 7. Opps. So its been 7 years since they've seen each other when they have the run in at The Click in Ch.5 and Ch.6 flashes back 7 years, not 6 in Ch.6. God i hoped i haven't confused you all...though i might still.

Third: No reviews for "Sorrow." that makes me sad, but i deserved it after abandoning you all for so long. Thanks to those who added it to their follow or favorites though. Reviews though are still greatly appreciated!

Okay readers, here is where i think i've screwed up and really will confuse you all. Chapter 6 started what will be a few chapters of flashbacks to fill us in on what has been going on in Amie's life between the time she left home/Ben and when she runs into him again at the Bar SEVEN years later. Chapter 6 "Sorrow" flashes back seven years from the "present" aka the bar run in, to right after she left. Chapter 7 below flashes back four years from the "present", thus also three years after "Sorrow." Thus the odd time title below; i didn't know how to really explain that. But you are all rather intelligent people out there so i'm hoping its me being a paranoid worry wort that has made this Author Note long & obnoxious.

BONUS THOUGH! Chapter 7 is two parts- this main part and then a shorter follow up piece that i wanted in but i liked where i ended this chapter too much to tack in on. It almost directly follows the events of this chapter so also falls into the same 4yrs earlier/3yrs later thing. Sorry!

Okay now i am going to stop and just let you all read. I LOVE this song (i know i say that about all of them, but this is one of the ones i really do love a lot and if you haven't heard it you need to now...or okay, after you finish reading. I will even send it and any of the other music to anyone who wants it. All you have to do is ask!

Thanks for your patience and now on to the show.


Chapter Seven Part 1: Cheers Darlin'

Cheers darlin'
Here's to you and your lover boy
Cheers darlin'
I got years to wait around for you
Cheers darlin'

Cheers darlin'
Here's to you and your lover man
Cheers darlin'
I got a ribbon of green on my guitar
Cheers darlin'
I got a beauty queen to sit not very far from me

I die when he comes around to take you home
I'm too shy I should have kissed you
When we were alone

What am I darlin'?
A whisper in your ear?
A piece of your cake?
What am I darlin?
The boy you can fear?
Or your biggest mistake?

What am I...

- "Cheers Darlin" by Damien Rice

FOUR YEARS EARLIER (THREE YEARS LATER)

She couldn't even appreciate the music.

And she felt like crying.

No. Not crying.

Weeping.

It was her birthday & every time someone wished her a happy one, it took all her will power not to burst into tears.

It was her 21st Birthday and try as she did, she couldn't get out of Collins' plan to celebrate. Her last few birthdays had been low key just as she wanted. She worked, went to school, hid the fact of the day's special meaning from as many people as possible, and really tried to forget the day.

But not this birthday. It was a big one and according to Collins, the most important of her youth; one that should live in infamy, or at the very least lurk in the hazy alcohol deluded memories of the mind. Knowing Amie, he'd plotted and planned well before she did – getting her off work months in advance, clearing the date in every other way imaginable, and the final nail in the celebratory coffin, buying her brother a plan ticket home. Amie had had no choice but to give in.

For the briefest of moments she had allowed herself to be the tiniest bit excited for the day. Then reality set it.

Collins was planning an extravaganza of human endurance; Collins, a man who heard the word no and took it as just another form of yes. First, the schedule of events: They would start the night before her birthday and end sometime the day after. Dinner then to a bar, (that Collins had deemed "her kind of place") where they would ring in midnight and start the day she could legally drink, already on the way to being very drunk. It was a day where not a minute should be wasted ("thus the early start", explained Collins). They would close down the bar and then go for breakfast at a local diner as the sun came up. Amie would be allowed a short nap then a day of pampering from Collins at his favorite spa (one of his many gifts to her, he'd guilted her with) and then cake, presents, and more booze to usher out her birthday. Collins was thrilled with his masterful plan. Amie was exhausted just thinking about it.

Next there was the outfit. It came in a garment bag, a small lock even on the zipper to keep her from seeing it. It hung in her room for days before hand, seemingly taunting her. She knew whatever was inside was going to be spectacular (Collins assured her it would be the best thing she had ever worn). It would be wonderful but it wouldn't be her. She was more the jeans and t-shirt girl then the dress and ridiculously high heels girl. He'd also gotten hold of her hair and what looked like an entire aisle of makeup. By the time he was finished with her she knew she looked amazing – and also nothing like her normal self.

And the piece de resistance – her brother – the one thing that could make it all bearable, was stuck in an airport somewhere between Australia and New York because of bad weather. He'd most likely make it for her actual birth day, but not in enough time to save her from everything else.

Because of all that, she'd slipped away from Collins and company, slightly tipsy from the large amount of alcohol they'd plied her with in such a short amount of time, and squeezed on to the corner stool at the end of the bar.

It was sitting on that stool that he first saw her. Long red hair caught his eye, its waves concealing most of her revealed (thanks to a tasteful but revealing sparkly and short dress) back.

He sidled up next to her and caught the bartender's attention before sneaking a glance at her. After that one glance, he just couldn't help it.

"You know, it's never a good idea to think so hard while drinking. Who is he?" the stranger asked.

"Excuse me?" Amie asked, her alcohol soaked mind understandably operating slower than normal.

"Who is he?" and taking pity on her confused self, he elaborated, "The idiot who either stood you up or broke your heart. Looking like that, it had to be something bad."

"Looking like what?"

"So sad. A pretty girl like you, dressed to take on the night, but your eyes – sad."

She let out a sigh, staring into the glass of water the bartender had placed in front of her earlier "It's not a guy. And I'd call it more musing than thinking."

"Okay."

"It's my birthday," she whispered.

Caught off guard, he gave her a better, longer, and full bodied appraisal. "Nope, you're not old enough to be one of those women who are afraid of aging. So what's so bad about a birthday?"

"It's kind of a long story."

"Don't you know," the stranger countered with a smirk of a smile, "bars are the perfect places to tell tall, dark, handsome strangers your long stories? It's the alcohol mixed with dark lights and the good chance you'll never see the person again. It loosens the tongues…among other things."

"Yeah like legs and morals," she spit out. "Opps. Maybe I'm closer to that loose tongue limit than I thought."

Pushing her water away, he motioned the bartender back over, "but not there yet; couldn't hurt to have a few more."

Two drinks or so later and the words were finally flowing.

"Okay so I get your brother not being her puts a damper on things, and you don't like the dress – though, and I mean this is the nicest way, the cleavage, the back, the legs – it's all wonderful. But still, doesn't explain it enough. Have you seen your eyes? You're sad to your soul."

"How deep and poetic," she laughed.

"Comes with the job."

"Oh god! Are you a shrink? That's not fair."

"No, though I'm slightly insulted that you've been here all night and don't know who I am."

"I've obviously had other things on my mind, so you'll just have to fill me in," she waved off his faux woundedness.

"Nope it's all about you tonight. Stop dodging."

"Fine. It's not really my birthday," she mumbled.

"What? Okay, now I'm just confused."

"No I mean yes, it is my birthday, but technically I wasn't born for another hour or so," she whispered.

"I don't think you need to whisper, it's not like the bouncer will throw you out for being an hour shy," he whispered back, but she still heard the humor, the teasing in his voice.

"It's not that," she said, sounding almost exasperated like he was missing something. "This sadness you see, it's not just tonight. It's last night, and the night before that, and the year before that, and the year before that…My parents died. They're dead. God that never doesn't hurt to say, even four years later. Most days are fine; I take a deep breath and keep going. But birthdays, they're all about family and my mom made birthdays. They were her specialty," she paused to take a long sip from her drink. "I'm really rambling now."

"Tall, Dark, and Handsome stranger says you're allowed. How'd she make birthdays, your mom," he encouraged her to continue.

"You see my brother and I were both born really early in the morning – which is funny because we are so not morning people. Anyway, my mom would wake us up and we'd do something really special just her and the birthday kid at the minute we were born. Like when we were kids, she'd have cupcakes or some special treat waiting for us. The big birthdays were the best. When we each turned 16, she got into the car with us and at 2:36am I turned the key in the ignition and backed out of my driveway for the first time. Drove the car to get ice cream. When my brother turned 18, the two of them bought Lotto tickets at the exact time of 3:52am, playing a bunch of combinations of 3, 5, and 2."

"What did you and your mom do for your 18th?"

"Nothing. They were already dead by then. A few months before it. At 2:36am on my 18th birthday I cried. Cried as my best friend tried to hold me together."

A small silence followed, interrupted only by their drinking. He looked thoughtful as he drank his beer and she still looked sad as she took a long finishing drink from hers. He seemed to want to say something but she was off rambling again with her newly wet tongue.

"So, Tall, Dark, and Handsome, that is why I am sad. Because anyone who knew the importance of 2:36am isn't here tonight, dead, or living. I could pull one of my other friends over and do a shot with them at that minute but what's the point? It won't mean anything to them, but another drink." The last part came out of her mouth angry and hurt.

After a moment, he asked, "Feel better?"

"No," she automatically snapped back, and then took a minute to consider. "Actually yes, yes I do. Marginally. Better enough to go fake smile with my friends until it's time to go. So thanks."

"Glad I can be of service." Whatever he was going to say next was interrupted by some guy squeezing in behind him.

"Oh! There you are. It's time man," said the guy to Tall, Dark, and Handsome. "You can speak to the," his eyes roving over Amie, "very pretty girl later."

Amie hoped her blush masked her disappointment as he picked up his bottle and stood from the stool.

"Duty calls," Tall, Dark and Handsome explained in a put upon sigh, saluting her with his bottle.

"Wait," she said, feeling a bit loose tongued and impulsive after the last beer. "I don't even know your name. I spilled intimate, personal, depressing details to you and I don't even know your name."

Moving closer to her, he licked his lips as if preparing them for use and leaned in close. "That's all part of the fun," he whispered, leaving her to watch as he disappeared back into the crowd.

A short while later Amie wandered away from her friends again, this time trying to get closer to the stage. Their table in the back stopped her from being able to do more than just hear the band that was playing now, and she at least wanted a glimpse of them before they got off stage. They were amazing once she'd actually gotten around to listening to them; the highlight of her evening, aside from the tall, dark and handsome man from before. She had to get closer. Unfortunately that didn't seem possible, and feeling a little claustrophobic from the crushing crowd, she stepped into the deserted hallway by the bathrooms.

A few deep breaths later she felt ready to push her way back through the crowd, but as she reached the door, it was pushed open by none other than Tall, Dark, and Handsome.

"Oh!" she let out in surprise.

He didn't look so surprised to see her. Instead he gently nudged her back against the nearest wall, a finger over her lips cutting off her "What are you…"

"30…20…10…5, 4, 3, 2…"something beeped.

And then he was kissing her.

It wasn't a soft or swift peck on the cheek or lips. No, this was a full on kiss. His hands held her face delicately yet firmly enough to stop her initial attempts at pulling away. It felt too good to fight against him for long though. Lips, tongue, teeth – he was devouring, tasting, igniting that spark of energy that had sizzled between them before.

He pulled back slowly, swallowing her whimper of protest and releasing a husky laugh at its sound. He didn't pull away much, just enough to catch their breaths, their foreheads still touching.

She wanted to ask what the hell he'd though he was doing and yes, part of her also wanted to ask him to please do it again, but her mind didn't seem to be connected to her mouth at the moment. His hands slowly moved down from her cheeks, caressing her neck and then sliding down from her shoulders to connect with her own hands.

How much time had past? Minutes? Hours? She didn't know but all too soon he was pulling away from her again, a satisfied smile on his face and a dazed look in his eyes. With a wink, he started walking back towards the door.

"Wha…wha," she shook her head slightly and finally sputtered out "Where are you going?"

"Back on stage" he replied over his shoulder in a tone that made it sound as if it should have been obvious to her.

Stage? Her mind was too sludge-like to even realize what that meant at the moment and instead she attempted to ask what she had meant to before, "But… what?" Partial success, she'd go with it.

He gave another husky laugh and simply tapped his wrist before disappearing through the doors.

Confused, she looked down at her wrist, suddenly feeling the weight of the large, masculine, and presumably Tall, Dark, and Handsome's watch. It was blinking an alarm, the set time still flashing.

It read 2:36.

...To Be Continued...


Hope you enjoyed it. Go listen to the song, read again, and REVIEW! Please & Thank you.