Finally off from school for a couple days, so I had a little time to edit this and get it posted.

Thanks so much to everyone who reviewed last chapter, and throughout this entire story, for that matter. Your feedback was really helpful and I appreciate it more than you could imagine :)

So last chapter. Hope you like it.

"I can't believe this!" Ryan said, bringing his arm down on the painted brick wall of the pub. "I knew he wouldn't show… I knew it."

"Hey, calm down, man…" Sean attempted. "Give him a couple minutes, okay? We don't go on until five."

"It's ten to five now, and we've still gotta set up the rest of the stuff," Brad reminded us, dragging his trombone case over to the stage.

Exasperated, I put my hand up to my forehead and turned to glance desperately around the room. It was dark and crowded. The air was hazily dim and heavy with noise as people tried to speak over the music coming from the ceiling speakers.

My eyes scanned over the room, looking for any sign of our drummer. The bar was surrounded with people, sitting down or leaning against the old, wooden counter. The bartender (Kenny's uncle; the one who got us the gig in the first place) scurried around behind the bar, trying to get everyone's drink order down. All the booth tables in view were taken. People leaned over their meals and drinks in order to be heard by someone sitting just across from them. The place was packed, but Hunter couldn't be seen anywhere.

I turned around just in time to see the owner of the place stomp over, looking slightly more than disgruntled. He impatiently tapped the nearest band-member (it just so happened to be Hutch) on the shoulder. Even though I was less than ten feet away, I couldn't hear their conversation over the clatter and commotion of the room. The manager of the place flailed his arms around, motioning to the stage and its lack of equipment. Hutch, looking rather scared, nodded quickly to show that he understood.

The owner finally walked away, disappearing into the back room. The guys and I all took a few steps in towards Hutch so we could hear him, all the while exchanging questioning glances.

"What'd he say?" Kenny asked. "What's going on?"

Hutch rubbed the back of his neck, looking stressed. "He says we gotta be set up and completely ready to play in fifteen minutes, or else we're out of here; he's getting the next band to go on."

Brad let his head drop backwards against the wall. "This really, really sucks, you guys. We were ready for this, too."

"Yeah, well…" Sean sighed and glanced from me to Ryan. "Should we start packing everything up, or what?"

Ryan shook his head and held up his hands, indicating that he didn't know. "We can't go on without a drummer." He then turned to me. "Nat, you can't get in touch with him? Not at all?"

"His cell phone's off and no one's picking up at his house… I've left about five messages, but…" My voice trailed off as I shrugged helplessly.

"You don't think he forgot about the gig, do you?" Kenny asked, his eyebrow raised.

The guys all mumbled that they supposed it was possible, but I shook my head. Hunter didn't forget. The whole scene by the lake the night before flashed through my mind. I knew exactly why he didn't show.

"No," I said, taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly. "There's no way he forgot."

The guys all fell quiet, wondering what to do. I pulled my jacket back over my shoulders and started heading for the door.

"Where you going, Nat?" Sean asked.

"Outside to get some air. I'm not going far; just out front. Lemme know when you guys figure out what you wanna do."

The cold air hit me the second I pushed open the heavy wooden door. My hands in my pockets, I stared up at the sky as I made my way to the curb. It was dusk; the sun was creeping down below the clouds, shining bright colors through them.

I sat on the edge of the curb with my feet in the road and let my head drop into my hands. I felt horrible.

The guys wanted to do this show more than anything. It was all they had been talking about for weeks; since we first planned the gig. I couldn't help but feel that it was my fault we couldn't go on. If I had just said something to Hunter after he told me, then maybe he would've showed up… But no. The guy spills his emotions out to me. The same guy who doesn't let anyone in on what he's thinking. And the most I can do is turn to him, and say something as lame as, "What?"

Brilliant, Natalie. Just brilliant.

I could feet the cold concrete through my jeans and it sent shivers through my body. I kind of wanted to go back inside, but the noise in there combined with my thoughts was giving me a headache. I decided to just stay out here.

Figuring I'd give it one last shot before giving up completely, I reached into my pocket and pulled out my cell phone. I found Hunter's name in my contacts, scrolled over it, pressed send, and held my breath.

"I am sorry. No one is available to take your call. Please leave a message after th-"

I snapped my phone shut, interrupting the annoying-lady recording, and put it back in my pocket. I then resumed my head-in-hands position and shut my eyes, trying to get rid of the increasingly painful headache.

I didn't pay any heed when a car rolled to a stop along the curb. The tires crunched over the gravel, but the sound barely registered in the back of my mind. A car door shut, and I expected to hear footsteps going up the few concrete stairs to the pub entrance. Instead, though, I saw someone sink down next to me out of the corner of my eye.

Hunter wasn't looking at me. He was staring across the street, his eyes absentmindedly focused on a fire hydrant. His elbows rested on his knees. A look that was half pensive and half confused was etched across his features.

"Hunter!" I stuttered. "You're… You're here!"

He nodded, but, as usual, no words came from his mouth. Hunter kept his gaze straight ahead. His forehead was creased, as if he was in deep thought.
"C'mon!" I said, quickly pushing off from the ground. "C'mon, we've gotta get inside… We gotta get set up, or—"

Hunter wound his fingers around my wrist, lightly pulling me down again. He shook his head from side to side. "No… Not yet, Nat. I have to talk to you first."

"But we don't have time! We can talk after, okay? Soon as the show's over, but right now we gotta go..."

He shook his head again, stopping me from taking a step towards the entrance. Hunter begged me with his brown eyes to just listen to him.

I sighed and, nodding, lowered myself down onto the concrete sidewalk again. He let go of my wrist and started wringing his hands in his lap.

I stayed silent for a few seconds; I let him collect his thoughts. But mostly, I prepared myself for actually saying something this time. I told myself that no matter what came out of Hunter Ashen's mouth, I was going to reply this time. I wasn't going to just let him take off like he had the night before.

Hunter cleared his throat and stared down at his beat-up high tops.

"So, listen… I'm sorry about last night. If I, you know, creeped you out at all or anything," he murmured.

I opened my mouth to reply, but my voice got stuck in my throat. Alright. So I had already broken the promise I made to myself. Luckily, Hunter continued before he could notice my absence of a response.

"What I said… I didn't mean to say it."

I felt my heart sink. It was almost as if all the air in my lungs just deflated. Hunter's words hung in the silence for what seemed like forever. He didn't mean to say it. I swallowed the lump forming in my throat and forced myself to nod.

"But…" He took a deep breath, giving himself one more opportunity to sort through the words before he let them escape. "But even though I didn't mean to say it, I did mean what I said."

My heart picked up again, beating a million times a second. Adrenaline rushed through my body, sending warmth with it right down to the ends of my fingers. I looked to Hunter. My mouth opened and closed as I desperately tried to respond, but the message couldn't make it from my brain to my vocal chords.

Hunter was still staring down at his shoes, and with every passing second, his expression collected more and more hurt. Finally, he nodded. "Okay," he mumbled, almost as if he was accepting the fact that he was giving up.

He started to rise to his feet so he could take off again; exactly the way he had the night before. I had to stop him, but the words refused to form.

Instead I put my hand up to the side of face so quickly it was almost as if I was slapping him. I forced him to turn his head so he was looking at me, and Hunter shot me a, "what-the-hell-did-I-do-to-deserve-that?" look.

In one abrupt movement I had raised myself high enough off the sidewalk in order to reach him and my lips met his. Caught completely off guard, Hunter drew in a sudden breath of air.

Slowly, though, he relaxed into the kiss. His arms went around the small of my back. Without parting, the two of us rose to our feet. I was almost a head shorter than him when we stood, so I rose to the tips of my toes and he tilted his head downwards. My arms fell into place around his neck.

The kiss broke, and he pulled away just enough to look at me. The barrier in Hunter's eyes was gone again. A smile pulled at the edge of his mouth.

I mirrored the expression until the thoughts suddenly snapped back into my head. Then my eyes went wide and I gasped.

"The show! C'mon! We gotta get in there!" I grabbed Hunter's wrist and ran for the door to the pub. He staggered along behind me, trying not to trip over his feet or the stairs.

As I pushed the door open and dashed in, my shoulder hit right into the manager's. He turned around and his eyes went from me to Hunter.

"I'd move my ass, if I were you two. You've got…" He glanced down at the watch on his wrist. "Eight minutes to set up."

With the seven of us running around like complete maniacs, we were able to unload Hunter's drum set, get it inside, set the entire thing up, do a quick sound-check, and take our places on stage in a record time of twelve minutes. So we went four minutes over, but no one's that heartless. The owner shot a few pissed-off glances in our direction, but he let us go on in the end.

The ceiling speakers were shut off, making the room more bearable to listen to. Then the bright stage lights clicked on, blinding myself and the rest of the band from seeing more than three feet in front of the stage. The rest of the restaurant was impossible to see. I could still hear it, though; the clattering of dishes and the buzz of people's voices.

The adrenaline rushed back into my system as I adjusted the strap on my guitar so it fell correctly over my shoulder.

I turned around to look at my band-mates. "Everybody ready?" I asked. Making sure to get a quick nod from all of them, I glanced from Ryan to Kenny to Hutch, then to Brad and Sean, and finally, Hunter. With one more deep breath, I turned to face the microphone again. "Here goes nothing," I murmured to Ryan.

My voice in unison with the sound of Hunter's drum-sticks striking together, I counted off.

"One… Two… One, two, three, four!"


Wooo! Another not-so-one-shot one shot finished. I think I like these more than regular stories. They keep my interest (for the most part) and are easier to write. Plus every time I get another little idea, I can just start writing without having to commit myself to one huge 20-some-odd-chapter story. I'm one of those "it bothers me if I don't finish something" kind of people, you know? I just started another one of these, but it might be a while before I post any of it. I want to get most of it written first.

Anyway. Thanks for reading, and I hope you guys enjoyed this. It was a lot of fun to write, but I'm not too sure about the ending. I'd love to know what everyone thinks of it, so reviews would be great. Thanks again :)