New story by yours truly! And yeah, the romance tag on it will make sense, eventually. For now though, enjoy a fairly long journey with this lot. Rated for language, drug use, and a touch of violence. If I want to write super sexy stuff, I'll post it separately.

Most everyone enters their teen years without even a guess at their future. They wander aimlessly, learning how the world works throughout childhood, only to be lost when Piaget's stages leave them. At that point, they seek solace in the world around them, disappearing into their parents' plans and the popular music of the day. Zo disappeared into a dark grey room with a dartboard on the wall, leaving only to grab food and shower. This was what summer after that first year of high school was about. No responsibility, no effort, no reason to be anything but staid.

Still, the darkened room with the strains of Apocalyptica in the air punctuated by the occasional thump of a dart was all Zo wanted. The month until September would be far too short, cutting away the peace and bliss of never being expected to do anything beyond the occasional music lesson. "Zo! Zo, I'm coming in!"

Almost expected to do nothing, the teen amended, jeans whispering along the bed as the newcomer burst through the door. "Knock first," the grunt came out, as the bubbly brunette came flying through the door. Wide eyed and a year younger, Anne wasn't the type to respect personal boundaries or requests. By not pretending to be asleep or dead, Zo was already signed up for whatever was coming next.

"I did!" the protest came in the high pitch of every fourteen year old trying to defend themselves in the history of the world. Weak, but somehow too cute to matter. "But anyways, Spinelli's in having a Battle of the Bands tonight."

Zo shrugged. It didn't really matter that Spinelli's was a local dive bar. Clearly, they were going whether or not they could get in. Still, a little struggle never hurt. "Juvenile bullshit."

"Drew and Sari and Emma are going and you have to come with me," the flood of words spewed along, followed by the tugging on Zo's short sleeves, tugging towards the door. "Say yes, please. It'll be fun!"

Baggy band shirt trembling in her hand to match her lip, Anne looked every bit the pretty little angel everyone put her up to in her own red dress. If only they had to deal with her on a daily basis. Blind fools. Fighting was futile though, battered black boots in the closet being handed over eagerly. "Whatever," Zo managed. It was as close to a fight as either of them would allow.

Half an hour later, entering the dim light of the bar with the giggling freshmen, Zo wondered at the possibilities of this qualifying for cruel and unusual punishment in the Geneva Convention. Chances were it wouldn't, but a bar filled with noisy teenage excitement and the regular drunks really ought to.

Still, it was too late to back out of the mass of people, dragged along by Anne as she spotted her friends. Zo watched the hoodie sleeve head across the room before feeling like they were heading there. Crowds left a sort of distance from reality, a place in which Zo was simply an observer, even when it simply wasn't true. It was as though someone else had taken over the lithe body crossing the floor as the brunette girl leapt into a similarly cheerful trio, all of whom shook her off with a laugh.

Immediately divulging the day's gossip, the lone male immediately leaned down to murmur and point out the people in the crowd. Clearly the type who was very important to the daily social going ons of town. Not that Zo would know any of the players- spending two months lying on a bed throwing darts at a wall left a huge gap in knowledge of the outside world.

As the tallest, blondest of the pack joined in, Zo continued to stand there awkwardly, lifting a hand in greeting to the only member of the group that didn't seem fascinated in who had apparently started dating whom in the past six hours.

Eye level with Zo, Sariah had the delicate features and poise most girls spent their teen years trying to perfect. With a mother who'd worked for a design firm her whole life, the auburn haired girl had been trained from birth to pull it off, oblivious to the fact most others weren't subjected to the same runway training. Even wearing identical outfits of a band sweater and jeans, Zo felt horribly under dressed.

"It's strange to see you here," the always graceful lilt of Sari's voice nearly bellowed over the sound of the first band's set up, "Is there a particular band you want to see?"

Head shaking, Zo shrugged off the idea. A high school level Battle of the Bands was usually full of the same dull characters. "Anne dragged me," the conversation continued, half shouted as the amateur sound check began, "What about you?"

Smiling angelically at the comment- Sariah never smirked somehow, even if she meant to- she gestured at the band. "Someone from my guitar lessons insisted I come for some reason. He's in the first band."

He, was it? Zo would put money on it being yet another one of Sari's fanboys, fawning over the oblivious girl. If it got any worse, there would probably be a market for neon signs declaring their intentions. Not that this guy would get anywhere as he nearly flew onto the stage, growling into the microphone the band name- Full Metal Jacket, that was clever- and proceeded to assail their ears with an out of tune guitar.

It continued on that way, the night's MC- some washed up twenty year old rock star wannabe, from the looks of it- calling out the names of the bands, all of whom made Zo want to punch something. Like their instruments. Even with a specific genre- metal, naturally- put into place, none of the bands seemed to have agreed amongst themselves how they ought to sound. It was fine really, as no-one seemed to notice. What exactly was the point of such a contest, if everyone there was more interested in grabbing a beer, or simply catching up with their friends? Did the bar get some sort of subsidy for it?

Nearly missing the blissful break from poorly tuned instruments and lyrics about death, destruction and churches- Zo had grasped those themes in the music- the crowd drew attention as the poor sod running the show made it back to the front. Was it over now? Could they pound back one last Red Bull and go somewhere else? Anywhere else?

Clearly not, as the red eyed man grabbed the microphone. At least someone ad the bright idea of popping out back for a quick toke, Zo figured, eyes shifting over the curious crowd of youthful bodies. "Thanks for that, KarKassDeth" he roared into the microphone, laughing as the particularly greasy group descended into the ground, "And last up is Solunbrud!"

Great, another band. Zo was ready to headbutt a concrete wall until it was time to go. Only Anne, keeping their arms linked, kept that dream from becoming a reality. Agreeing to come should never have happened. Even if it meant barricading the door for the rest of the summer, it would be better than whatever growling, spitting nonsense was about to ensue. Frowning, Zo braced for the same oh so spooky introduction.

The usual build up never came. From over the top of the crowd's conversations and screaming simply came the pounding of a drum and a bassline, the song being launched into as though, instead of a fairly distracted audience of teenagers, a proper crowd had shown up specifically to see them. Most of the group looked nervous, uncomfortable with the limelight. As the vocalist took to the stage though, anyone could see the change in the stage's aura. Dark eyes glinting under a mass of red hair- the only colour noticeable after the previous group's generous use of the smoke machine- he strode to the centre of the stage and began belting out about the only meaningful song all night.

Zo was transfixed. Moving was a terrible idea, even if it meant a better view. Screaming was worse. At that moment it seemed any motion would disrupt the single moment of clarity. So stock still, Zo stared at the stage, hoodie shoved down for the first time all night through the entire set. Only when the music stopped and the band was getting ready to leave did time seem to exist again, even as the redhead on stage knelt down near excited new fans- mostly female, unsurprisingly- introducing himself over the sound system with a blunt sense of superiority.

"I'm Rex, you'll want to remember that," he said easily, taking the piece of paper one of the girls handed him with an amused grin. Glancing back to the rest of the band, already half off the stage, he stood, tagging on three last words as he strode off to the side. "And we're Solunbrud!"

Most everyone enters their teen years without even a guess at their future. Almost as many leave them with the same clueless air. They wandered aimlessly through, seeking existential information in drugs, work, goals set before them by the rest of the world. Zo was not one of these lost souls. At fifteen years old, staring up at the stage, two things at once had become remarkably clear. One: the stage was calling and two, perhaps more importantly: whatever Zo decided to answer with was going to rock the foundations of the world.

Anne clearly hadn't felt the same profound, earth-shattering call in music, chattering away as the crowd began to split up, off to vote or continue their conversations elsewhere. "See, one day of 'juvenile bullshit' wasn't so bad, was it? That last band performed really good too. I mean, the guys a few before them were way hotter, but their music kind of just, y'know? Especially their singer. He was too cool."

Rex. The way he'd announced it, it was a wonder Anne couldn't remember it. Amazing she wasn't blonde to match her personality. Still, Zo would have to agree. He was, as she'd put it, too cool.

"Anne," came the complete change of subject, "you like singing."

"Maybe?" the chocolate hair trembled as the girl shrugged, "like, if the song's good, I love it."

Zo nodded. After a moment, the dark haired girl realized that brisk nod was all there seemed to be to say about the matter. They'd known each other long enough that interrogating Zo never crossed her mind in the same way protesting never crossed Zo's. If there was more to be said, it would be done later.

Shoving the inquiry to the back of her mind, Anne tapped her finger to her lips as the master of ceremonies returned to the stage. "Do you think that cute drummer would want my number?"

Taking the glare tossed in her direction as encouragement, the girl grinned cheekily. "You're right, he totally would. I'm smoking hot today."

"You're fourteen," came the bewildered response.

"Minor detail," she tossed it off with a giggle and wave, finally relinquishing the taller figure's arm and turning, "I'll be back in a second."

Left alone, Zo wandered towards the ballot boxes, passing blindly through the crowd. It wasn't the type of crowd anyone would call out in for a teen like Zo, mind too filled with ideas to take anything in. Even the route through the crowd involved more of others weaving out of the way rather than Zo's own motions. A perfectly fine way to travel, if a single hulking figure hadn't been doing much of the same.

Smashing headlong into the figure, Zo tumbled backwards, legs unable to right themselves after cluing into the motion. Perfect. After being subjected to everything tonight, now it was going to be topped off with a pratfall? The fall never came though, as the other person involved in the collision threw out an arm to protect against the danger.

"Sorry," came the ruffled, embarrassed response from Zo, dusting off the hoodie before looking up. Meeting the eyes underneath the waves of red hair, a panic began to form. Of course, it would be the inspiration of the day that would act as a brake. As though slamming into someone wasn't awkward enough as it was. Turning to flee back towards Anne, Zo almost flew backwards again as Rex's grip tightened.

"Hey, do you mind? Just a second," came the same voice as before, deep and powerful. Now though, there was a clear hint of nerves embedded within the otherwise confident facade.

Arms crossed over the name printed on the shirt, Zo eyed him uncomfortably. "What?"

"Do you think we'll last?" He asked, Letting go of Zo in order to run his hands through his hair, "I know we're going to win-"

"Cocky," Zo interjected. True, to be sure, but rather brazen to say.

"Yeah, but do you think we can make it much further?" Distracted momentarily, he grinned and waved at a couple as the strode past. Turning back, continued wringing his hands, "Just a personal opinion."

Just a personal opinion, was it? "No," Zo managed after a moment, "You're too cocky for them. But you should stay in the music business."

"Because I'm so damn good?" he asked, a false grin whipping across his otherwise strained face.

"No," the correction came quickly, Zo's chin defiantly high, "So I can curbstomp you with my own band."

"Fair enough," ruffling the tangled mop of hair that resided on the younger teen's head, he tossed back his head with a grin. A real one this time, it seemed. "I'll see you around then kiddo."

"It's Zo," came the soft reply to his retreating back.

Continuing to stand there quietly, Zo was quickly escorted out the door by a quartet of excited freshmen, tugged away by Anne back out into the night sky. Quickly shut out by the discussion about Sarah who was such a bitch and something about an older guy named Thomas who'd been suspended after an industrial accident, there was little that needed to be said. By the time they'd reached Zo's street, there was still no information about Rex. Not even his age, or where he was from. It was like a black void had opened up when it came to the redhead.

Still, that hardly stopped Anne from immediately changing the subject once it was just the two of them again. "So why do you care if I like singing? You never did before." The hurt was clear in the second part of the sentence, but what was there to respond with? I know, but suddenly it might be useful? That didn't seem quite the way to go about asking for a favour.

Instead Zo ignored it, passing the hidden accusation in order to get to the point. "I'm going to start a band," came the blunt decision.

"And you want me to sing in it? What are you going to do, play cello?" A perfectly reasonable question. How many vocalists could a band get away with?

Shaking still tangled hair, Zo looked out at the dark sky, "I'm going to sing as well," came the clarification, "But don't worry, I have a plan.