When they came back in, it was to find the rest of the band, along with Dai and Melody, sitting at a table at the back of the room. As they approached, Dai stood. "Drinks?" he asked, eyes darting between the two women.
"Usual, please," Hazel said, as Dai kissed her on the cheek.
"Scar?" He turned towards her, and she nodded, still feeling too stunned to speak as Hazel slid in where Dai had been sitting. Jade sat on the other side of her, and there was space opposite for Scarlet, meaning she didn't have to sit with her ex.
"Yeah, vodka and coke, if you don't mind."
"Cool. Fancy helping me carry the drinks?"
She turned, following him through the crowd to the bar. She glanced at the table, feeling a blush creep up her neck as she spotted her own barely touched drink next to Sapphire.
She figured having another one on standby wouldn't hurt.
As they waited at the bar, he turned to her. "So, what did you and Hazel talk about?" He seemed almost nervous, shifting slightly where he stood and unable to stand still.
"Just…stuff. She's awesome, Dai."
Instantly, he seemed to relax, a grin stretching across his face. "I knew you'd like her."
"How're the guys?"
"They're good. Andy's less...I don't know. It's hard to pinpoint, he never seemed unhappy or anything but there's like a new energy to him, you know?"
"Yeah. I know."
"Did Hazel tell you about the tour?"
Scarlet nodded, unable to help the grin coming across her face. "I need to run it by the others first."
"You know they'll say yes," Dai said, leaning against the bar as the people in front moved away. Scarlet shuffled in beside him. "I mean, what sort of band would give that up?"
"You're right." She took a deep breath. "I'm really happy for you, Dai."
"They told me about your boyfriend," Dai replied, indicating his head towards where the band were sitting. "Journalist, huh?"
"We always were too similar to really work, weren't we?"
He laughed. "Hell yeah." Gaz turned towards him, and Dai quickly ordered the drinks. "I'm happy for you, too, by the way."
"So now we have the ex niceties out the way…how have you been?"
"Nah, seriously, fine. I mean, yeah, struggling a bit, like, but the band is back together and we got…I don't want to say replacement, but we got someone and he's cool as hell."
Instinct made her reach out, her hand landing on his shoulder and squeezing gently.
"Hazel was brilliant, throughout everything," he said.
"Bet you scared the shit out her though."
"Scared the shit out of everyone, didn't I?"
Scarlet nodded. "I…I really thought, when the news came out…Christ, Dai, I never wanted to lose touch with you. And the others didn't either. Jade…bloody hell, I think she was more upset than I was when we broke up."
He flashed Gaz a quick smile as the bartender placed the drinks down and took the money. Scarlet grabbed hers, sipped at it, and waited as Gaz returned and dropped the coins into Dai's hands.
"Well, the tour will give us a chance to catch up with each other, anyway."
"True." She nodded, following as they made their way back through the crowd. "It sounds fun."
"Sure it does." He glanced at her. "I'm not smoking anymore, by the way."
"I know. Andy said. Good for you, I guess." She shrugged, and they stopped at the edge of the crowd. "It's…weird. You're the one who got me into it."
"I guess I just…didn't need it anymore."
She glanced over his shoulder, smiling when she spotted Nick appearing at the bottom of the stairs. "I'll meet you at the table, yeah?"
He nodded, slid off, and she stepped towards her boyfriend, feeling her steps lighter as she approached him.
"Shit, did I miss the gig?" He slid off his jacket, revealing the dishevelled shirt underneath as he glanced at her, worry in his eyes. She smiled, kissing his cheek with drink in hand.
"Yeah, but don't worry. Look, Dai Lodge is here…"
"No shit! Seriously?"
"Yeah, err, with Hazel East…"
Nick glanced at the table, raising an eyebrow as he stared at them. "Scar, babe, why are they sitting with you guys?"
"Well, we…me and Dai…we…err…okay, Nick, here's the thing. Dai and me used to date. It was a bad idea. But before that we were mates and he was mates with Sapphire and Jade and we haven't really spoken since it ended but basically he told Hazel to check out the band because Shadow are doing a tour thing and they've asked us to join them."
It had all come pouring out in a rush, and she'd managed to stop herself before telling him it was a USA tour. Meekly, she added, "Hazel told me the last part but I haven't had the chance to ask the others yet."
Nick nodded slowly, staring at her as she lifted the drink to her lips and tilted the cup back, drinking almost half of it before he spoke.
She grinned at him. "Really? You don't mind me not telling you about Dai?"
He stepped forward, wrapping an arm around her waist and pulling her close to him, planting a kiss on her lips. She could feel herself almost melting in his arms, closing her eyes as the kiss deepened. He pulled away.
"Doesn't matter, does it?" He smiled easily at her, still holding her close. "Past is past. And clearly he knows how talented you are. So does she, now."
"I love you," she said, half-burying her face in his jacket. He smelled of cigarettes and coffee. "Weren't working too hard, were you?"
"Just had some things to finish. Scar, you know I didn't want to miss your set."
She pulled away, one hand flat against his chest as she looked up at him. "I know. Don't worry. Make it up to me later, yeah?"
"Will do." He planted another kiss on her head. "Drink?"
She held her vodka and coke in front of him. "And got another on the table."
"All right. I'll be there in a minute."
She stepped away from him, made her way back to the table as he headed to the bar. Scarlet slid in beside Sapphire, glad when the others moved up to make room for Nick. Dai's eyes followed Nick as he headed to the bar, before they turned to Scarlet. Hazel was looking at her, too.
"Tell them, then," she said, smiling. Scarlet grinned back, before telling the rest of the band about Hazel's suggestion.
"Oh bloody hell," Jade said, a smile bursting onto her face. "Yes! Seriously, yes!"
"I'm up for it." Sapphire glanced at Hazel. "How long is the tour?"
"Three months. Think you'll be up for it?"
They all nodded. Scarlet looked at Melody. She was looking sullen, staring straight at the crowd. "Excuse me," she said, standing and causing the others to squeeze back to let her through. Rivers' shoulders slumped, he shook his head and stood. Scarlet and Sapphire shifted back again.
"I'm up for it," he muttered, "but I have to talk to her."
They all nodded, watching as he headed for his girlfriend.
Nick came to the table, glancing quickly over his shoulder as Rivers headed into the crowd, before he turned back to the table and slid into the seat beside Scarlet. Before settling down, he half stood, holding a hand out towards Dai.
"You must be the famous Dai Lodge," he said, waiting as Dai shook his hand and gave him a quick nod. "Nick Willows."
Hazel's eyes darted towards him. "As in hard-arsed interviewer Nick Willows?"
"The one and only." He shot her a lopsided grin before throwing his arm around Scarlet's shoulder. "Hazel East, right?"
"Christ have I heard some shit about you," Dai muttered, frowning as he settled back. "Did you really make AM cry?"
Scarlet flinched, half turning her head away to pay attention to the conversation flowing between Sapphire and Jade. She didn't really want to hear the rest, didn't want to listen to how Nick had pushed the pop-punk princess until she had broken down.
In a way, it had almost been comical, but only because so many hated her. She was punk for tweens; all pink and girly, could barely a guitar let alone sing. But the record companies had latched onto her and she had shot up in the charts, mainly thanks to the advertising executives who realised clueless parents would buy anything 'safe', while at the same time wanting to pander to rebellious teens.
And Nick had quizzed her, pushed her, asked her who her influences were and dug deeper and deeper until AM – short for Amelia Mitchell – had just broken down, admitted she hated "All that punk shit" and preferred, instead, proper pop. "I mean, who really gives a fuck about a bunch of middle aged men jumping around in black shirts and red ties? They don't even say anything important!"
"Even when it comes to politics?" Nick had pushed. "They've been around a long time, AM. What about the punk bands of the past?"
As he had told it to Scarlet, her face had gone a bright red.
"What about punks today?" he had said. "Not just those you've mentioned, but the ones in, say Camden. What do you think about them?"
"They scare me."
The interview had never been published, but the rumours had spread quickly across the internet.
AM Admits To Rich Parents.
AM Breaks Down.
AM Pop-Punk Princess Just A Bratty Kid.
It had been cruel, really. Scarlet had read the interview, almost finding it difficult to believe the guy who was so kind to her, so sweet, had made a seventeen year old kid cry, no matter how much she disliked the girl or her music.
And the remarks online had been worse.
The last thing she had heard about AM had been on the girl's eighteenth birthday; the press had caught her stumbling out of a club, holding onto some guy for support. She had staggered, flashed her knickers, and been pulled into a waiting cab.
From the photographs, it was clear the girl hadn't just been drunk, and Scarlet had been left to wonder if her boyfriend had destroyed any hope the girl had of a career, if the drugs she had been doing had been because of Nick.
"I never met her," Hazel said, staring at Nick with a curious look. "What was she like?"
"A self-entitled brat," Nick replied, shrugging. "Just took her down a peg or two."
Scarlet glanced at the couple. Despite the fact that they were still talking, she could feel Sapphire's and Jade's gazes slide, paying as much attention to the other three as she was. She couldn't decipher the look on Dai's face; it was a strange mix of thoughtful and puzzled.
Because it was nice guy Dai, who wouldn't ever dream of pushing someone that far.
Hazel shrugged. "Got to admire your integrity though. Most of them are shit scared of you, Willows."
Nick's grin was lop-sided, almost lazy as he sipped his beer. "Yeah, well, the interviews work. And if they refuse…"
"It makes them look like they got something to hide," Dai muttered, lifting his head slightly. "Still, we've all got a right to privacy, right?"
"You read any of my other interviews?" Nick replied, no sign of defensiveness in his voice. "The ones that weren't, you know, all over the net the day after they were published?"
"The normal ones, he means," Scarlet cut in, laughing for good measure. She slid her hand under the table, squeezing Nick's leg. For some reason, she really wanted Dai to like him. Hazel, too. She didn't want either of them to return to Andy and Wolf, and bitch about her boyfriend.
She guessed too that, on some level, she wanted an easy time on the tour. Being with Dai would be bad enough, but if the people she was with didn't like Nick…
"Sure." Hazel smiled at her. "They're good. Don't get me wrong, I think you're a good journalist. And it's not often we get to be so ruthless this side of things. Not like the newshounds."
Nick nodded. "I don't go for the throat unless I think someone deserves it."
"You can tell." Hazel leant back. "So how did you and Scarlet meet?"
Scarlet felt the tension drain out of her body, and found herself smiling gratefully at Hazel, glad she had changed the subject.
"Nick was reviewing a band we were supporting," Scarlet said, remembering the night, the eagerness the band felt, how happy they were to be playing in the Student Union, one of the biggest venues a band like them could expect to play in the city.
"Yeah. Was outside before the band came on. Scarlet appeared, asked me for a light, and we started talking."
"And he was so smitten, he missed the band," Jade said, laughing as she shook her head. "Scarlet was bouncing around the flat all night."
Dai's eyes landed on Scarlet, and she found herself looking quickly away, glancing at Nick. Not that there was anything in Dai's eyes to look away from. The look there had contained nothing but a happy sense of friendship.
"We all know how you met, of course," she muttered, finding herself inching closer to Nick, immediately feeling more comfortable. They fitted perfectly together, able to sit without any fidgeting.
"Yeah, well, it wasn't as bloody easy as everyone likes to make out." Dai's accent was gaining in strength as he spoke. "Took some effort, I tell you."
"So did she," Nick stated, rolling his eyes as he squeezed Scarlet's shoulder. "Don't let Jade's version fool you. She made me work hard."
"Nothing worth having is ever easy." Dai winked at Hazel, the kind of wink only some people could pull off, and even then it almost had to be done to someone they cared about.
"Aw, look at all the couples in love," Jade drawled, lifting her gaze as Rivers and Melody appeared at the edge of the crowd. "Makes you think we should maybe hook up, right, Sapphire?"
Sapphire laughed. "Aw, babe, I just wish you were my type."
But Jade was only half-listening. Hazel was asking Nick who his favourite person to interview had been, and Dai was listening to the answer, while the three girls had all turned their attentions to Rivers. Melody stood in front of him, glaring at the tall guy, her arms crossed. Rivers was talking rapidly, hands moving fast. One shot up, landing on the top of his head just in front of the first of his four large red spikes. Melody's arms came down as she replied to whatever he had said, shaking her head as she spoke.
Jade let out a groan as Melody whirled around and headed for the exit. Rivers turned and went straight to the bar. Scarlet, Jade and Sapphire scrambled to their feet, Scarlet planting a quick kiss on Nick's cheek as he squeezed back and let them pass, all three muttering apologies.
"Crisis time," Scarlet said, offering an apologetic shrug before the three girls walked quickly across the floor and towards the bar.
Nick sighed, shook his head and drank more of his beer, as Dai and Hazel both turned to him.
"Crisis?" Dai asked.
Nick nodded. "Usually means Rivers and Melody have got into an argument. They'll try to cheer him. Might succeed, too. Depends what it's about. It also means the four of them will be up drinking late, most likely smoking."
Hazel leant forward. "Sounds like it happens a lot."
He nodded, glancing over at the bar where Scarlet was clapping Rivers on the back, ordering more drinks. "Yeah. It does." He took a deep breath, turned back to the other two with a smile. "So, Hazel, you've heard mine, what about yours? Favourite interview, I mean."
"He'd kill me for saying it," she said, laughing. "But it's not Minor Talent." The three continued to talk, although Nick's eyes kept slipping towards the bar, unable to keep his eyes away from Scarlet for too long, unable to help but wish, selfishly, she wasn't so damn loyal to her friends.
A/N: Firstly, thank you so much for reading. Hoping you're liking it so far, and trust me, things will get a bit more exciting once the tour starts. So, what do you think? Thoughts on characters? Like them? Hate them? I'm going to have to start thinking of band names for the others involved in the tour. I am not the best at normal names, let alone band ones. But we'll just have to wait and see what comes out. Anyway, if you have a second, please check out the poll on my profile page. Would really mean a lot. Ta very much.