A/N: This is me revisiting my old story, Leap of Faith, which is the sequel to Fields of Gold. However, this story stands alone, and I think the quality is a lot better than FoG., so it would probably be better if you don't read FoG because I find that old story a little embarrassing.

The summary is a little vague, so I'll tell you what this story is NOT about so you don't waste your time. It's not set in high school. There are no popularity games or any sort of group mentality social rivalry. There are no bets, no stepbrother/sister relationships, no "guy and girl hate each other but find out they're in love", no "rich and popular arrogant jock notices quiet but timid unpopular nerd" or any sort of variation of those.

Just a warning as well - this story will be fairly long (In its current state, it is around 100+ pages already, and I expect it will be much, much longer than that). If you like long stories, I hope you stick around and let me know what you think. I appreciate any comments, whether complimentary or not. In fact, I prefer criticism.

This will be the only Author's Note you will see in the entire thing. All responses to reviews will be done via replies. So I would appreciate it if you ask any questions that you're logged in if you expect a reply!

Thank you for reading!

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Rated T to M for swearing, some sexual content, and general college debauchery that may not be appropriate for all readers. The rating will be changed to M if it gets that far.

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i)

"What do you mean we have a new drummer?" She stared at the man in disbelief. Edward Armstrong, known as 'Ace', sat sprawled on a couch, eating cheetos. They were in his apartment that had the typical appearance of a college male residence. Clothes were scattered everywhere, a coat here, a shirt there. The coffee table was covered with books, food, and miscellaneous items. A pair of runners peeked out underneath a stack of phonebooks. DVDs and video games were tossed beside that, along with a Nintendo game system balancing haphazardly on the edge of a crate.

"You heard me," He stood up then, brushing crumbs off his hands, the orange staining the carpet. It was a wonder she could even see the carpet at all, but he had cleared a spot there a minute ago so they were able to walk around without stepping on things.

Hope Chrya found herself standing as well, following him to the kitchen. She leaned against the doorframe and watched him as he bustled around the small space, banging cupboard doors shut and taking out a coke from the fridge. Ace tossed one to her, which she caught and almost dropped, the can slippery in her hands. The two cans were opened with a hiss and a sigh as the gas escaped.

The coke was nice and fizzy against her tongue, and she stared at him expectantly while he downed his drink. Ace was dressed in his uniform for work at some café. He wore the buttoned white shirt with the logo on it tucked neatly into his navy blue slacks. The first time she saw him in the uniform she had laughed her head off. It just wasn't Ace, that's all. He was more likely to wear torn shirts and jeans that needed mending. He could sleep in his clothes and wear them the next day. He didn't bother to do his hair though, and it was what it always looked like, messy.

"Why didn't you tell me?" She finally asked.

"Because Neal thought you would freak out," He replied too simply for her liking. The can was tossed into the sink with a loud clank.

"Damn right I'm freaking out," She said, "Why should I pick up a stranger from the airport?"

"Because nobody else can, Neal has classes at school, and I have work. You don't have any classes tonight." He sounded so calm. It made Hope feel a little silly, like she was exaggerating the problem. She shook the thought away. He was not going to guilt trip her into something like this.

"It's five thirty, Neal's out of school."

"No, it's Monday, he has night classes, remember?"

Ace was right. Hope cursed both of them mentally.

"I don't like you making assumptions," She said, "We're a band. I'm not married to either of you, and you have no right to boss me around."

She knew that when Wendy left the band, she would be outnumbered by the Armstrong brothers. The band was called Leap of Faith, and they've been playing together for a few years. She had thought that after they lost a drummer, they would have plenty of time to audition and find a new one…with her input. It was just like the two of them to spring something like this on her. She scowled.

"Spoken like true, mature, college woman," He grinned. Hope resisted the urge to raise her middle finger, to avoid proving his point.

"Of all the male, chauvinistic things to-" The doorbell interrupted her.

"Did you forget something?" She pointed to her left arm with her right, the white cast heavy in the sling, "I can't drive like this."

"That's probably the driver," Ace slapped a hat on. It had the symbol of the Colorado Avalanches on it - they were his favourite hockey team. He grabbed his coat that was over the counter, and shrugged it on.

"You have everything planned, don't you," Hope said accusingly. He only threw her another grin and brushed by her to go to the door.

He opened the door to reveal…Cameron, his second youngest brother. She knew by then that she detested the Armstrongs. All of them. Every single member of that stupid family.

"Please, Hope, you can strangle us after you get back," Ace was getting desperate, "I can't leave the guy alone at the airport, I want somebody from the band to be there. If I don't leave soon, I'm going to be late for work."

She hated to see someone stranded somewhere because she was mad. The look on his face told her that he knew he had her. He gave her a grateful look as he hurried out the door, with a nod of greeting to Cameron.

"I'll kill you later!" She yelled to his retreating back as he walked out the door.

"Yeah, yeah," The door was slammed.

She was left alone with the middle Armstrong. She had grown up with that family in the small, coastal college town of Davenport. Their parents were close friends; her mom even dated his dad in high school. They were always just a block away, the three boys ready for anything that she wanted to do. All of the Armstrongs had solid, chestnut coloured hair, and lighter brown eyes speckled with gold. The youngest, Neal, was still in high school. He was a junior, and was on the accelerated program to finish school this year. Ace was in his second year of university, majoring in engineering. Cameron was in first-year university, getting a general science degree, with no idea what the plan was for his future. She knew them like they were her own brothers. And sometimes they assumed she would do things for them just because of that.

She wasn't on the best terms with the brother that was standing in front of her. He was the one she had a 'history' with. The old wounds still festered within her, and the ache was as real as the one she had in her arm.

"Let's get this over with," She mumbled, grabbing her keys and setting her coke down on the first flat surface she could find.

"Hope…" He said behind her, a tone of pleading in his voice.

"It was blackmail, ok?" She snapped, "I don't ever want to see your face again." She knew, without looking at him, that he was frowning. They had shared a lot in their eighteen years of being friends. They shared each other's secrets, whispered about hidden treasures and played near the ocean. She remembered him when he was a cyclone on two legs, running around all over the place with sunburnt legs sticking out of red swimming trunks. The older version of him sighed, and followed her when she headed out the door.

Outside, the weather was typical of January in the area. The lightest snow had settled over the roads, sprinkled like icing sugar. It was foggy, the mist straggling the treetops. Even if they were near the ocean, the weather still turned bad at times, and they were far enough north that the conditions were irregular. Davenport was located on the side of what could be called a mountain, and half sprawled across forest, where the weather turned as it will. She hugged herself, shivering a bit at the wind, and Cameron took the keys from her hand, walking over to the other side to unlock the door.

The wind blew at his brown hair. He always wore his hair the longest out of the brothers. The wind tugged at her sleeves, touched her face insistently, stealing her warmth. If this scene happened several months ago, Cameron would have walked her to the car with his arm around her, sharing some of his warmth. But that was back in October, when the first leaves fell. Winter had always been a cruel season.

In December she had punished herself by giving up her music for a long, endless month. Sitting in the familiar interior of her car, a trustworthy Honda Accord, she felt mad that she had been relegated to the front side seat because of her arm. She wished she could sit at the keyboard now, wrap her hand around the music, and make it whole and undeniably hers. It was something that nobody else could take from her. Unlike this stranger yet not quite a stranger to the left.

The drive to the airport takes an hour and a half, more depending on traffic. She knew that they were probably going to be here for a good two hours. It might be another one of the other brother's plans to get them together. It wasn't beneath them to pull a stunt like this for one of their siblings. She didn't even want to know the answer.

Halfway there, Hope reached over to turn on the radio, and the voice of Frank Sinatra replaced the quiet. She cradled her arm to her body, and watched the landscape speed by. He broke through the barrier first.

"You can't be like this forever," When he spoke, his voice was so quiet that it was almost impossible to hear him over the music. Just as well.

She wanted to ignore him, but that was childish. How many times had she told herself to grow up? She wasn't in high school anymore. She had to take things seriously, she had to broaden her horizons. She had to put old grudges behind her and forget about past mistakes.

"You have no idea how long I can last," The words didn't come out right. She laughed, and even to her ears it sounded bitter.

"I said I was sorry, ok?" He turned the car a bit more forceful than needed.

"Sorry isn't enough." There was enough ice in her voice to frost the windows.

"What do you want me to do, Hope?" he was getting frustrated, and he swerved into the next lane. Hope gripped the side of the car with her free hand. She didn't really have an answer to that question, so she let it hang over them as the city welcomed them with open arms and ushered them into the waiting crowd.

Horns honked and drivers screamed at each other. The city was her second home. She spent time here at the shops, the music scene, the streets upon streets that were easy to get lost in. The city never disappointed anyone. When they slid into a seemingly never-ending line of traffic, Cameron turned to her again. She allowed herself to stare back impassively.

It hurt to look at him. It always did now. The initial anger had been a good shield for her injured pride. She had the rage burning, a slow heat inside of her that warmed her thoughts. That had faded at the event that broke her arm and took Wendy away. She missed the anger, it was better than the feelings that replaced it.

Watching him, she knew him. Simply, for what he was and what he could become. His hair was soft, softer than the colour of it looked. He smelled like Old Spice and that dryer scent because of his clothes. His kisses were insistent and gentle all at once. He was the odd one out of the Armstrongs, the brother that never fit in wherever he was. He was the only one who was tone deaf in a musical family. And, most importantly, he was the most beautiful person in her life for two years.

She turned away to avoid the images that crowded in to her mind. It was too late for them.

"Why won't you listen to me?" He had an edge to his voice, enough to cut herself on.

"Because what happened shouldn't have happened in the first place. I trusted you, Cam," And that was the most important part. She trusted him when she shouldn't have, and he broke that trust when she least expected it.

He gave up then, and turned back to his driving when the light changed. They spent the next half an hour in silence, except for the radio. The airport parking lot was thick with cars, it took a while before they found a parking space. The cement shone with a slight sheen from the lightly falling rain. Snow was grey in the city, and not white, like it was in Davenport. The sky rained a lot more than releasing white flakes, something to do with altitude. It was a grey city, befitting her mood at the moment. Cars sped past them, too fast in the tight space between the other vehicles. An airplane roared overhead, announcing its descent.

The long-term parking lot at the international airport offered buses to go to the terminals in the airport. They stood waiting at a bus shelter, and one pulled up almost immediately. She warmed her hands in the pockets of her coat, and noticed out of the corner of her eye that Cameron was also cold.

Serves him right, she told herself, but couldn't muster up enough pleasure at the thought of him freezing to death. They squeezed into a small seat on the bus and Hope made herself as small as possible, pressing against the cold metal wall. She could not have him touch her. She must not.

Damn you, Ace, she scowled as the bus pulled up to the terminal.