I'm actually farther than this. But going back and re-reading a few times helps me a lot in my indecisiveness. Kind of like stepping back from a drawing. One of the reasons it's taking so long between chapters. :) But here's the next one.

Ch. 7

Nate and his wife Allie get there the next day. They stay in the second guest room which Logan seems to have set up for them too, a big king sized bed in it instead of the slightly smaller one in Clay's room. Clay suspects Logan loves people more than he lets on. Of course, Logan pretends to be less caring than he really is most of the time anyway.

It's not until afternoon that things get interesting. One of Logan's friends that works at the store next to Buckley's comes over. He's an averaged sized guy at around 5'9", three inches or so under Clay. His black hair is sticking up every which way, looking like he just stepped out of the shower without bothering to do anything to it. His eyes are a light, icy blue.

Logan warned the other three about him, but he still gives everyone a sense of oddity when he walks in. Two feet into the door, his eyes lock on to Clay. His eyes narrow and he tilts his head, making Clay shift into a defensive stance, hands still in his pockets, but ready to be used at any minute.

Logan grins and chuckles at the exchange. "Clay, this is Duce."

Clay raises an eyebrow. "Duce?"

Duce grins. It makes Clay's other eyebrow raise.

Logan chuckles. "He won't tell me his real name."

"No one knows my real name," the raven haired man adds.

"Why won't you tell people you're real name?" Clay asks almost hesitantly.

Duce grins again. "Cause my real name doesn't matter. I'm known as Duce."

Logan slaps him on the back before going to the kitchen. "Make yourself at home, man."

Neither of them move until Logan, Nate, and Allie are out of sight. Then Duce walks forward, stopping right in front of Clay, no sense of personal space in sight. His eyes lock onto Clay's, seemingly searching for something. Then they narrow again. "Logan is right. You do look troubled."

Clay blinks. Great. Another guy like Logan's friend from high school. "Why would you say that?"

"In the pictures Logan has of you and him in his office at the shop, your eyes were always a light brown. They're dark and troubled. And bloodshot from too little sleep." He finally steps back, holding out his hand. "Duce. I'm weird, but most people ignore it in favor of the charm I shamelessly use to my advantage."

Clay laughs a little, shaking his hand. "That sure of yourself?"

"It worked on you," he replies with a grin, walking over to the couch to sit.

Clay frowns at that, blinking a few times in surprise before finally lowering his hand now hanging awkwardly in mid-air. "You kind of creep me out. But not as much as I feel you should."

Duce only chuckles. "You'd be surprised how much I'm told that."

"Actually, I don't think so," Clay replies with a wry grin.

Duce smiles. "You're kind of pretty for working with the police."

Clay snorts. "I am not pretty."

"You kinda are."

He glares. "Am not."

Duce laughs. "You are. But that's okay. You seem manly enough to handle it."

"Are you always this forward?"

"Yes."

"I don't swing that way, sorry."

"Don't worry, me neither. I've got a girl. I just know pretty when I see it. And you, are just on this side of the line." He grins smugly.

"Clay isn't pretty," Allie says, coming to his rescue. "He's gorgeous." Or not.

Clay sighs. "Can we use some manly terms to discuss my looks please?"

"Ugly?" Logan suggests as he sits on the couch.

Clay rolls his eyes. "Sure. That'll work."

"Did my wife just call you gorgeous?" Nate asks, face looking truthfully concerned.

Allie laughs. "You know it's true. But don't worry honey. I love you more." She kisses his cheek as he sits next to her.

Clay shakes his head. "My life is so weird."

"Admit it," Logan grins, "it'd be boring without us."

"It'd be quiet," he answers with his own grin.

Logan glares. "Some friend you are." He points to the front door. "Out. You've overstayed your welcome."

Clay only rolls his eyes, turning on the TV. "You'd never kick me out."

"I would," Nate says.

Clay throws up his hands. "Are all of you against me?"

"I'm not!" Allie calls out, raising her hand.

Clay grins, standing up to grab her hand and pulling her behind him. "Thank you! Now if you guys will excuse us, Allie and I will be running away together…"

"Over my dead body!" Nate calls, chasing after them, following their trail of laughter through the hallway.

"That can be arranged!" Logan calls after him, trying not to laugh at the rare sight of his usually more 'grown up' friends playing like a bunch of teenagers.

"I like your friends," Duce decides, nodding once.

Logan loses it.


"So."

"So?"

"Should we make this official?"

She looks up to me from behind her desk where she's filing papers in the drawer. "Make what official?"

I grin. "Would you like to go out to dinner with me tonight?"

She freezes, looking up at me again, face almost calculating as if she's afraid I'm kidding. When she sees that I'm serious, her mouth slowly spreads into a bright smile. "Yeah. Yeah, I would."

I smile too. "Awesome."

Dinner, a movie, and a walk with Angel later, we both go back to my house. Sometime during the walk we started holding hands, and I only realize we still are when she follows me to the kitchen. I let go, giving angel her food and opening the closet in the hall to hang up my station coat for the weekend.

"Is that a guitar?"

I blink, looking down to see the edge of the case sticking out from under all of the other coats. I turn to her. "Yeah."

"You play?"

I grin, wryly. "I used to."

"Why'd you stop?"

I look down at the guitar case, sighing as I think back to a little over two years ago. "I just didn't feel like playing anymore. I started because of Natalie. She and I played together. When we broke up, I just couldn't play without thinking about her."

"You said it was mutual." There's slight confusion and sympathy in her tone.

I snort in disdain. "I told people that so they wouldn't worry. You know Logan and Nate. I hated her leaving me. But it only took a few weeks to realize I didn't even have that much left in me to want her back. And I realized she wasn't the one for me anyway." I look up at her with a half-smile.

She walks over, looking up at me through her eyelashes like she always does when she wants something. "Will you play for me?"

I knew she'd ask. And I'd already prepared to say, "Yeah. Sure."

We go over to the couch and I pull out my guitar, smiling slightly. "I've never realized how much I've missed this thing." I get comfortable, give her a small embarrassed smile, and start playing. It's been a while since I've played, but soon enough I'm playing my favorite song as if I've never stopped. Eventually, I look to her, moving into another song without stopping the first. "I know you know this one."

She smiles as she hears the first few notes being plucked. "Everyone should know this song. Dust in the Wind is a classic."

I smile back, the smile growing even wider when she starts singing and I learn she has a beautiful voice. I join in and watch her eyes snap to me, her shocked expression moving into amusement as we keep going. I love how our voices match perfectly. I can't sing melody, but I can almost always match one with a harmony. With her, it works flawlessly.

When I stop, I give her a smile. "Looks like we have some more to learn about each other," I tease.

She laughs. "Absolutely." Then she takes the guitar from me, laying it on the empty side of the couch before leaning in to kiss me. "That was beautiful," she murmurs when we separate.

I touch her cheek, looking into her eyes. "You're beautiful."

Her answering smile is radiant.

For the first time since he was with Natalie, he wants to play. As soon as he's over the waking up part, he sits up, trying to figure out where Logan would leave his guitar. He'd prefer to play his own, but it's back at home in that very spot in the closet. He looks over to the closet of the room he's in now. Logan hasn't played it in a while, and he doesn't have any other closets besides bedrooms so why couldn't it be in here?

He smiles when he opens the door to the unused closet to see Logan's guitar case among a few other boxes on the floor. Strategically placed? Possible. Logan has been trying to get him to play again for more than a year. He most likely put it in this room to use as a subtle persuasion. He snorts to himself as he gets it out. Logan will probably think that's why he's playing this morning.

The guitar almost feels foreign to him now. It's been so long since he's played. But all it takes is for him to put his fingers in their places and he immediately starts playing Kansas' Dust in the Wind. His all-time favorite song to play on the guitar. He doesn't even have to think about it. Even though he barely had it learned in this life. In that life, he knew it by heart. So he does now. He still doesn't remember her.

He's halfway through it, humming along softly before he stops and listens to the sounds behind the door as he keeps playing.

"…since Natalie."

"Why do you think he' splaying now?"

A sigh. "I have no idea."

Clay tunes them out. Nate and Logan can wonder all they want. This is between him and her. Always will be.

"Don't hang on, nothing lasts forever but the land and sky. It slips away, and all your money won't another minute buy."

Speak of the devil. He looks over at her, a bright smile just for her on his face. She may not be real, but he can be happy with this for now. He starts singing softly. "Dust in the wind, all we are is dust in the wind."

She smiles brightly back, joining in with him to finish the song.

When he's done, he goes into a simple melody he made up himself a long time ago. No… that night with her. After she had settled into the couch and he had picked the guitar back up. He had made this up for her. He sucks in a breath as the memory continues from the dream he was having this morning. Remembering while awake instead of asleep.

"You're remembering," she murmurs.

The memory stops though. After walking her to his door and going up to bed.

"It's alright. It'll come to you."

He continues messing around on the guitar as he turns to her. "What does this all mean? I don't understand what I'm remembering."

Her eyes sadden. "I know what you know," she answers softly. "I'm sorry I'm not more help. I just don't know what's going on either."

He nods, looking away. His fingers slowly stop playing until one last note rings in the room. Nate and Logan are long gone from behind the door. He sits in the silent room with her, feeling her hand run through the hair at the back of his neck. It's gotten pretty long.

"I like it long." She leans in to kiss his cheek.

He doesn't turn to make it into more. It would be the worst thing to do to himself. Because she's not real. Not in this reality. Only in his dreams.

"I don't like it when you say I'm not real."

"Sorry, but I'm pretty sure it's the truth."

She lets her hand drop away from his neck. "No… it doesn't feel like it."

"Should I…" He blinks, looking over in confusion where she was sitting just a second ago. She's gone. "… try to find you?" he finishes softly.

Maybe he should. Why hasn't he?

"Because," he tells himself bitterly, "you're afraid of what you'll find out. Like you're seeing a ghost or something. And wouldn't that just be crappy." He gets up, putting the guitar away and going to take his shower. Today is going to be one of those days.