A Cacophony of Converse:

She waited until the last minute, which was typical. Say one thing, do the opposite. She hadn't meant for it to happen, but she was just a little curious. In minutes her friend was on the phone and then over at her place with a questioning stare.

"If you try to make me watch 'Beyond Borders' one more time, I'm going to go bomb an embassy or something." The girl muttered crossly, only because she'd been in the middle of studying her precious Chemistry textbook and absently answering questions from Jeopardy. The girl prided herself in her knowledge, as did her spontaneous friend.

She considered her somewhat nerdy best friend. "Have you heard about the concert?"

A blank stare was cast her way. She should have known.

"We're going. A few friends of mine are playing, and it'll be for…observational purposes...or something." She grinned.

The friend's eyes widened with something akin to horror. "No. I refuse. The last thing you dragged me to was that…that drunken cesspool you called a party, and look how well that turned out. That wasn't 'observing', that was disgusting, and – and no! Don't give me that look! It won't work on me okay? Do you know how many guys grabbed at my body that night? You still owe me!"

She rolled her eyes and sighed, glancing at the mirror before grabbing a stick of eyeliner and lining her eyes rather thickly. "You need to have some confidence, my dear. Besides, no one will even know who we are, and concert boys and girls are somewhat friendlier than inebriated jocks."

She was given an eye roll. "Says you. I don't even know why you're going when you said that your policy from now on was to –"

"This is entirely different."

"How?"

The girl studied her friend with a mischievous twinkle and smirk on her face. "I've changed my mind about observing. This is strictly entertainment, my friend."

A snort of disbelief was thrown her way. "Entertainment for you includes giving less fortunate children handmade gifts and singing karaoke in your bedroom – not going to concert venues filled with emo scenesters and egocentrics attempting to play instruments. What is up with you?"

She shrugged and ignored the question. If she'd taken the time to admit it to herself, it was because a certain intriguing individual, but that was considered forbidden territory, so she ignored that as well. "Haven't you ever wanted to expand your social intellectualism? Broaden your skills at mingling with self-absorbed adolescents?"

"No."

"Good. You should get ready before the bus comes. We don't want to be late."

The friend was clearly in a losing battle. She sighed. So much for her quiet night. With a grudging frown the best friend took a spot near the mirror and grabbed some eyeliner. "Why do concert kids have to wear so much make-up?" she complained, wincing as the tip poked her eye.

"Well, you know what they say about masks," she said, pulling on a pair of black and white striped socks and signature converse shoes. "If they all look the same, who's going to tell them that they don't belong?"

Bravery loved the feeling of quiet that enveloped him as he entered the back doors to Elevator's. It was in that time of anticipation of what was to come that he felt his nerves as they fluttered briefly before he quelled them with a swallow. The rest of the guys were stuck working until just before sound check, so he was the first to arrive. Only the sound man and the headlining band stood in the empty venue.

One of the guys closest to the back entrance was on his cell phone and loud enough to hear most of the conversation as he passed by. "Well I'm sure April meant well… No, I'm not taking her side, I'm just – Brayden – …Yes, a relentlessly long diatribe of whatever it is she's selling right now. What is it? Cooking utensils? Kind of ironic, don't you think?"

Bravery continued towards the back of the room where the manager stood at the cash register writing something down. "Hey, Rod."

The beefy man looked the type not to mess with. Not only did he stand a solid six foot two, he also weighed somewhere over two fifty pounds at least. He was a nice guy if you didn't cross him, and Bravery had seen first hand what happened to those who stirred up trouble. He looked up from his work and nodded a greeting. "Hey, kid. You here for set up?"

"Yeah. I'm gonna load in my gear if that's okay."

He grunted. "Talk to Gwil. Oh and if that sister of yours calls, ask her if she'd be willing to come in early."

Bravery shrugged. "I doubt it; she's working down at that Asian restaurant till six." His sister was somewhat of a workaholic, juggling a few jobs at a time so she could save for design school and rent during the periodic times she left home. She claimed she kept her job at Elevator's so she could meet some hot rockstar and not have to work anymore. So far, she hadn't met anyone rich enough, but then not too many musicians were.

"Alright, now give me some bass drum." The drummer on stage began a steady rhythmic kick that gradually picked up in the monitors and speakers out front. Gwil Ross was one of the best sound techs on the west coast. He'd done sound for some of the finest in the music industry before deciding to settle down for something he liked to call 'a little more laid back'. Wild red curls stuck up all over in different directions, making him look as though he'd stuck his finger into one too many light sockets. He bent over his sound board and like a surgeon carefully tweaked each knob until he seemed satisfied with the overall sound.

"Hey, Gwil!" Bravery called over the heavy bass drum. The man acknowledged him briefly with a slight wave. "Where do you want me to put my gear?"

"Good, give me some snare." He replied while motioning to the right of the stage. Bravery took it as an indication of the location of his gear for now and headed to the dilapidated van waiting out back containing the band's instruments.

Emery stood there spraying Febreeze inside in all directions. "You're van smells like rotting food and boy – and Nicholas. How can you stand it?"

Bravery snatched the Febreeze from her hand before she suffocated herself and the instruments. "I'm used to it, I guess. And Nyx always smells the best out of any of us." Nyx prided himself on wearing only the most enticing cologne so that girls would flock.

She glared and pushed some strands of pink hair out of her face, grabbing a suitcase full of their merchandise. "I know; that's why I hate it." She sighed. "Do me a favor and keep him far away from me tonight."

"I thought you needed to talk to him?" Bravery asked as he hauled out various pieces of Nyx's drum kit from the van.

"Not tonight." She sounded drained and miserable about the whole thing. "Tonight I would like to sit behind a merch booth and stare glumly out into oblivion while making little emo twats happy. That's all."

Bravery shrugged. "Fair enough."

They carried the first load into the venue, propping them beside the stage and heading back to the van for the next one. "What about your guest? When will the almighty Lily be gracing us with her presence?" The bitterness and sarcasm dripped from every word.

"I don't know." He said with a shrug, wishing they'd exchanged numbers so if she decided to cancel he wouldn't look for her all night. Awkwardly he bit his lip. "I…I invited someone else too."

Emery didn't seem surprised or all that curious, too busy pulling out the keyboard and a bag of cords. "Oh yeah. Who?"

He wanted to tell her about the Laundromat Queen, but he'd signed a contract, and a promise was a promise. No one was supposed to know of her unless they needed her help. Emery was the last girl who would ever ask for help, let alone seek someone out. "Um…just a friend. You'll meet them tonight if they show up."

Emery gave a sarcastic grimace. "Well, if they're anything like Lily I'm sure we'll get along just fine and dandy!"

He didn't mention either guest to the angry pink-haired girl anymore lest he lose his head. He only hoped she and Nyx would sort out their issues before Emery became a violent psychopath and went on a rampage.

As soon as the doors opened at nine a small crowd gathered, one that steadily grew larger as nine thirty loomed. Bravery calmed himself by watching the crowd rather than avoid them. He and Hayden stood behind the merch table with an unusually quiet Emery. She'd clammed up just as soon as the rest of the band had arrived and set up for sound check.

"Man, this is probably the biggest crowd we've ever played for – you know that right? I mean – there's gotta be over three hundred people here. We owe your sister so big." Hayden fidgeted nervously. Truth be told, they'd never played for more than a hundred people at a time. This was a huge opportunity.

"Yeah, we…" Bravery's attention shifted to the floor where a flash of familiar white converse shoes marked up in black ink flickered past his eyes. He wouldn't have thought it to be significant except for the legs attached to the shoes sported white and black striped socks. Quickly he nudged Hayden. "Did you see that?"

"See what?"

He blinked, searching for the same shoes and coming up with nothing. "Um…nothing."

What were the chances Clever would ever attend an event that glorified music and the self? Slim to none, came the resounding answer. Hundreds of girls crowded the main dance floor, most of them sporting striped socks and Converse shoes. A sea of reds, greens, blues, whites, blacks, yellows, and some limited editions spread before him – all of them smudged in dirt or new and crisp. None of them, however, had doodled all over them with jiffy marker. If he could just find that one pair –

"There you are. I thought you were going to come and find me after sound check." Sam, Bravery's sister, sidled up to the trio and wrapped her arm around Bravery's shoulders affectionately, jolting him out of his train of thought. She looked similar to her brother, with long dark hair and pale skin, but her eyes were an auburn colour. Dressed in tight black skinny jeans and a red ruffled tank top, she looked much older than her twenty years.

"Sorry. We went to get food." Bravery shrugged apologetically, turning his full attention to his sister.

"No worries. Wait for me after the show, though. I want to introduce you to someone. You're going to love me," she grinned her signature smile that had gotten her away with a great many misdemeanors. "Gwil says you guys are up." Sam gave his shoulders a squeeze, kissing his cheek affectionately before letting go. She wiped the spot immediately after as she was wearing red lipstick. "Don't suck."

He smirked and made his way to where the rest of the band stood waiting near the stage. Nyx tapped his sticks idly against his legs while Dave was in his own conversation with Layne. They were all dressed smartly, with white shirts and black pants completed by matching black suspenders. Most of the shows they had ever played had required no dress code, but Hayden had insisted that they have sort of theme. Of course Nyx had decided to wear a white tank instead of t-shirt, but no one had said anything of it. After all, he was the drummer.

"Have you seen Emery?" Nyx asked before either Bravery or Hayden could speak.

"No."

"Yeah." The two answered at the same time. Hayden glanced at Bravery, seeming to get the message. "She doesn't want to talk to you." He said bluntly.

Nyx stood. "I just want to –"

Hayden held up his hand before Nyx could go find her. "Let's play our set first, then you can yell at each other or whatever."

He ignored the order and took another determined step before Bravery stepped directly in his path, staring at him hard. "Don't start something now that you can't finish. Play the set and figure out what you're going to say before you just ambush her with words."

His words seemed to have more effect. To Bravery, they sounded like something Clever would have said. The drummer paused and nodded with a grim line across his mouth. Bravery patted his shoulder, but felt his mind elsewhere.

"You guys go ahead and tune. I need to check something." He left them and headed towards the front door. Curiosity was getting the best of him. Had either of his guests arrived? If so, why hadn't they sought him out – at least Lily would have; she was a stranger in a crowd of an unfamiliar trend of scenesters. He'd just passed a tight group of kids hyped up on energy drinks when his suspenders snagged and halted his determined steps.

"Oh, I'm sorry! Here," the girl he was stuck to seemed to be unhooking him from her bag. The bag in question was an old green canvas army bag with various pins and buttons, mostly political.

"Nah, my fault. I was in a rush." He glanced around anxiously, tapping his fingers with his thumbs in rhythm with the music being played overhead.

Her head was bent low in concentration, an unusually large black knitted toque covering most of her head and leaving a wall of hair sweeping over her face. He could feel, rather than see, her glancing to his twitchy fingers and heard an amused smile in her voice. "In a rush to find someone?" she inquired.

"Ah, kind of. My band's about to play in two minutes and I need to check something."

"Aha!" he felt the suspender give way and return closer to his body. "Well, break a leg, friend." She spun around and disappeared into the crowd before he could thank her. For a reason unknown to him, he felt as though he'd met her before, but the thought quickly flitted out of his mind as he continued.

Rod stood at the door looking large and intimidating to all who entered or exited the building.

"Hey, Rod, did anyone on our guest list show up tonight?" he ran a hand through his hair and shifted from foot to foot restlessly.

"Everyone but…" he trailed as he searched the list. "Lily."

His heart rate picked a bit, whether from the sound of Nyx fiddling around on his drum kit, or the name left on the list. Time was running short. "Clever. Did a girl named Clever walk through this door?"

The big man glanced once more to the sheet of paper. "Yeah. Why?"

"What did she look like?" he waited intently, listening to his band tune.

Rod looked incredulous. "Brave, do you know how many people are here tonight? I've had to turn people away – this place is packed. She could've been a he for all I know."

Bravery sighed, glancing backwards at the crowd as if by some chance the girl he thought he'd seen would make another appearance. Nothing.

"Better get up there before Gwil gets uppity." Rod nodded to the stage and turned to a couple flashing their stamps to get in.

"Thanks." He made it back to the stage just in time to start the set at exactly nine thirty. For some reason he knew that Lily would not be making an appearance that night, but a certain Laundromat Queen already had.

A/N: Many apologies to those awaiting with clenched fists (and thoughts of murder). This has been a long time coming, but in my defense I've been rather busy as of late. Writer's block hasn't helped any. Sorry it's so short.