A/N: -pokes out head- Uuuuuh, Hi everyone! Boy, got twice as many reviews this time. Gee, now I felt like I let everyone down. :( In case you were wondering, I had some things I had to take care of and I couldn't continue my writing until I did. Probably a good thing 'cause I was stuck anyway. Having limited access to the net and getting sick also put me back a couple more weeks. I hope everyone enjoyed their holiday. For those of you who pitched in quarters, I'm sorry to say that the day after Christmas Kuroneko-sama took off with them. He just came back all wet and filthy but no quarters. There goes my laundry money.

Reviewer Responses!

coldchick: Glad you like! Sorry about not following your fic lately. Been in a rut. :( I hope you enjoy this chapter, and start lookin' for me in your mailbox soon! ;)

hope-is-4ever: A returning reader! Glad you don't mind the long chapters! I just hope you didn't mind waiting so long for an update. I promise to update MUCH quicker next time. If you liked how Vash went full protect mode on Midvalley, just wait until later, hehe.

Tongari010471: Another obsessive fan! Welcome! I too know almost the entire series by heart though I probably need a refresher course, since the last three months have been difficult for me. Long chapters seem to make more sense to me too. I tend to think of them as 'episodes' and yes, they ARE exhausting to write! I'm not gonna let that get me down. I WILL get this sucker done! Hope you enjoy!

Fool of a Rohirrim: Another returning reader! I hope you forgive my lateness and not abandon me.:( Wolfwood and Milly joining the orphanage just seem so natural I just had to do it. I'M NIFTY!!!:) Loved that comment. I hope Kuroneko-sama spent your quarter well.

narutogirl: -is bouncing in her chair- So happy to see you like!!! You know, back when I was thinking up this fic (long time ago I know, sorry) I asked myself over and over 'What would these characters do?' Luckily, I knew a bunch of people in high school who were like them. And I still do. Makes it so much easier. Please enjoy this horribly late chapter!

Rachael: I'm sorry that I didn't update soon enough, and I'd give you back your quarters but Kuroneko-sama took off with them. THAT DARN CAT!!! All well, better late than never. Enjoy!!! :)

Calumongal: HEY! Long time, no see! I'm so glad you're back! Happy to see that you're enjoying my new fic! Now, if only I could get the other one going again. -sigh- It'll happen eventually. You're very observant to catch those little references. There'll be plenty more to come I assure you ;) -pets Calumongal's Kuroneko- You know every time I try to say your name it comes out 'Chamomile'? O.o I always refer to you as 'The Chamomile Girl'. ; Anyways, enjoy!!!

Joshua Glass: -bites loonie- Yep! It's real! Good thing Kuroneko-sama didn't take off with it or I'd be in REAL trouble! It'll definitely last more than four chapters. ;)

Extra note: I used some French at the beginning of this chapter, so if you are fluent or have ANY idea how the French language works please forgive me if I misuse and/or misspell any of the words. I used online translations for this and checked back and forth over and over to get the most accurate translation. I don't know anybody who knows French, so it was the only thing I could do.

Enough of my apologies (I noticed I kept saying sorry). Now, go read while I interrogate Kuroneko-sama about the quarters. -NB-


Senior Augusta

By: Neptune Butterfly

Chapter 1: Tonight on 9/11

Saturday, September 11, 2004, 9:36a.m.

"Are you sleeping? Are you sleeping?

Brother John, Brother John

Morning bells are ringing, Morning bells are ringing

Ding, ding, dong! Ding, ding, dong!"

Becky sat on top of a sleeping Meryl singing over and over one of her favorite songs.

Sunlight fell through the skylights of the attic bedroom in two giant beams. They were put in a few years ago when Meryl's brother Will and his wife Marie were expecting their first child, and she wanted a place where the baby wouldn't wake her. The room was a twelfth birthday present to Meryl. Now, with three couples and three young children taking up every other room in the house, this was the only way for a teenager to have any real privacy.

That didn't stop a certain five-year-old curly brunette from sneaking in when she wasn't supposed to.

Becky was the first in her sleeping party to wake up, and while she waited for her great aunt to cook breakfast, the birthday girl snuck up the stairs to the third floor, picked the dysfunctional lock, and tried to wake up her heavy sleeping aunt.

After several tries singing into Meryl's ear, the little girl screwed up her face in irritation. An idea came to her, and she began to sing.

"Frère Jacques, Frère Jacques,

Dormez vous? Dormez vous?

Sonnez les matines, Sonnez les matines,

Di, din, don! Di, din, don!"

After Becky repeated in French one time, she heard mumbling coming from the covers right under her.

"Juste une minute plus s'il vous plaît?"

The five-year-old giggled, realizing that her aunt was speaking French in her sleep. She decided to keep talking to see what would happen.

"Chronométrer à pour se lever!"

"Partir, part..."

"Lever!"

"No..."

"LEVER!!"

"NO..."

"LEVER!! LEVER!! LEVER!!"

"PARTIR!!!" Meryl's arms shot out from underneath the covers to grab hold of her niece and push her off.

The little brunette giggled uncontrollably and tried to tickle her. "TANTE Laura a dit se LEVER!!!

"NON ELLE NE PAS A VOUS PETIT MARMOT!!!" Covers and pillows were twisted and thrown around as the girls rolled around fighting on the bed. Suddenly, three other little girls jumped on and joined in.

"AUNT LAURA!!! MERYL JUST CALLED ME A LITTLE BRAT!!!"

"YOU'RE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE IN MY ROOM REBECCA!!! GET OUT!!!"

"Make me, MERYLIN!!!"

"DON'T CALL ME THAT!!!"

A knock on the half-opened door caught the girls' attention. Meryl and Becky had each other in a headlock and fell off the bed before they could stop. Becky's friends laughed at them.

Laura couldn't help but smile while the announced that breakfast was almost ready. "Now everybody get your clothes on, so we can have some food." The girls on the bed jumped off and took off down the stairs to the bathroom. "Meryl?"

"Yes?" She struggled with her niece who wouldn't loosen her hold on her head.

"When do have to be at school for band practice?"

"Ummm...CUT IT OUT BECKY!!" Becky reluctantly let go. "About twelve."

"Okay, then you need to ready too." With that, Laura left the two to help the others.

Meryl turned to Becky, who had a huge grin on her face. "What are YOU smiling about?"

"TOLD you she said to get up!"

"No she didn't! Petit marmot..." Meryl mumbled as she got up.

"I'M NOT A LITTLE BRAT!!!"

"I'll have to ask Will to not teach you any more French."

Becky decided she had enough and walked to the door. "Daddy won't listen to you! Too bad!" She shut the door before her aunt's pillow reached it.

-----1:16p.m.

It was another beautiful cloudless day. It wasn't even very hot, which was unusual for September. The only thing anyone had to worry about was wearing enough sunscreen.

Band practice took place in Conrad Stadium across the street from the school campus. Their Patriot Day show featured melodies from all five branches of the military, a special tribute to the veterans at the game. This game was the only one they had on a Saturday until the playoffs.

Meryl was relieved that Michael kept away from her the whole time. Most likely it was because of the nasty looks Wolfwood kept giving him. Vash would only smile threateningly whenever he got within ten feet of her. As for Milly, well, her extremely friendly nature was enough to keep him away.

They were now at the stadium's entrance with the rest of the band all in uniform, with the exception of the shorthaired flute player wearing her cheerleader outfit. Some kept their horns out and played random notes just for fun.

Five yellow school buses and a moving van drove through the parking lot to park along the sidewalk. Everyone with large instruments and those from the pit headed over to the van to load up while the rest looked for the bus they signed up for.

Most of the brass, woodwind, and percussion signed up with their own sections, but a few got stuck with the wrong section when too many signed up on one bus. Wolfwood found his on the list attached to the first bus door, but he did a double check when he realized that most of the names were that of flute and clarinet players.

"What the hell? This wasn't the bus I signed up on!"

Vash looked over his shoulder. "Well, what do ya know! You're with us!" He patted his friend's shoulder.

Wolfwood grumbled.

"What are you so unhappy about? Look who else got moved." The blonde pointed to Milly's name near the bottom of the list. How could he have missed that?

A sly grin crossed Nick's face. "Hmm, I guess this won't be such a bad trip after all!"

"I wouldn't get too cozy. Remember, the banshee's on this bus too."

He didn't have to remind him. As Vash ascended the steps of the bus, Wolfwood pointed his trumpet at his ear and played a high C.

"YAAAH!!!" He stumbled forward smacking his face on a step. A small group behind them cracked up. "WOLFWOOD!!!"

The poor blonde crawled up into the bus sticking a finger in his right ear. His friend snickered at his back.

"You're so mean!"

"Just keep moving you wuss."

They walked to the back of the bus and took the next to last seat on the right side. The bus quickly filled up, since nobody assigned to it needed to load their small instruments into the van. Milly finally came on followed by Meryl who was having trouble with the strap on her flute case.

When they reached the back where the boys were, Milly turned to her friend to see if she needed help.

"I almost got it Milly. Just get a seat."

"Okay." The tall brunette sat down across the isle from Vash and Wolfwood.

Nick saw his chance while the short girl was distracted and slid across to sit beside Milly.

Meryl pulled on the strap to check it. "Good. Fixed." She raised her head and was startled to see her seat taken up by scruffy dark hair and deep blue eyes. "Wolfwood! Why are you in my seat?!"

"Who said this was YOUR seat?"

"I asked Milly to get it for us!"

"No you didn't. You said to get A seat, not THIS seat." He wasn't about to give up a chance to sit with the big girl. Even if it meant making Vash sit with short stuff.

Vash started waving his hands frantically to get Wolfwood to stop provoking her. He ignored him, but Milly didn't. "What is it Mr. Vash? You want something?"

"U-uh-h, no not really!" He laughed nervously. "I just wanted to know if you're okay with her sitting over here."

"Oh sure, it's perfectly alright!" Milly smiled.

"MILLY!"

Wolfwood was smiling too, but it was more of a triumphant sneer. By then, the bus was filled to capacity, and there was no place left to sit. The driver and assistant director came onto the bus, so Meryl quickly sat down beside Vash glaring a warning at Nick to not try anything stupid.

The speakers screeched as the bus driver turned them on.

"Oops, sorry!" The older man turned the volume down and introduced himself. "Good afternoon. My name's Bob, and I will be your driver today."

A few of the students clapped, and one nutty kid near the front yelled, "BOB THE BUS DRIVER, YEAH!!! WOOOOOO!!!" Which earned quite a few laughs.

"Sounds like a toy!" Milly giggled.

"We oughta ask him if he knows Bob the Builder." Wolfwood added.

Bob waved for them to calm down and continued. "I just have a couple of things to mention. First of all, noise level should be kept at a reasonable decibel level. In other words, no yelling or loud organized singing,"

"AWWW MAN!"

The sound of Meryl's hand connecting with the back of Vash's head was followed by more laughter.

The driver tried to not join in, so he could finish. "Second of all, in case of an emergency, make sure you use the back exit or pull the red levers on the windows and push out. DO NOT pull the lever unless there is a REAL emergency. If you do, you'll find yourself hitchhiking home!"

"SURE THING BOB!" More laughing.

"All right Robert, knock it off." The assistant director's voice took over the speaker as the entire bus calmed down to a low murmur and began calling out roll.

"You know Cameron got some Bob the Builder toys for his first birthday last month." Said Meryl.

"Yeah, I remember. Needle Noggin got himself stuck in the tunnel of the little town play set!!!" Wolfwood doubled over to muffle his snickering.

"HEY! I was trying out a new dance move!! It was in the way!!" All three of his friends were now laughing into their hands.

"Mr. Severem, do you have something to say?"

"No! No! Absolutely 'muffin!" The short girl beside him covered his mouth to keep him from babbling on and further embarrassing himself.

-----5:36p.m.

"Are there yet?!" Meryl slid down to the edge of her peeling leather seat.

It had been four hours since they left school, and the scenery outside slowly changed from green hills to bare rock. The heat was stifling, and there was no air conditioner around to cure it. It was so unfair that the football players got cool air and TV on their greyhounds while the band was stuck with grubby yellow dogs. But then, who said life was fair?

She wiped off the sweat from her forehead but felt something oily come off. Meryl looked at her hand. Dammit.

"Uch. I'll need to reapply my makeup. I hate putting on all this gunk. It makes me look like a clown!"

Nick lifted his shades. "At least you're not wearing a wool uniform! I just hope to God they have water when we get there. By the way, you might want to sit up. Your skirt's lookin' awfully short there."

The cheerleader looked down at her skirt and noticed that it was caught on a part of the seat that was coming off. Meryl went red while she straightened herself up. "You're such a perv."

"Hey! I'm not the one flashing the whole bus!"

Meryl's face looked like it was about to burst. "You don't have to say that so loud!"

Milly sat in a daze staring out into nothing. Her hair stuck to her face, which appeared to be drenched. "I hope they have a well or a pond or something we can dunk ourselves in."

"I'm sure they'll have something Angel. They're supposed to feed us too." Wolfwood gently patted her on the back.

The brunette groaned and let herself lean forward resting her head on the seat in front of her. Nick decided to check on Vash who was resting HIS head on top of his own seat nose pointed straight up into the air and drool coming out of his open mouth.

"Hey Needle Noggin! How can you sleep in this damn heat?!"

"That's SOOO gross..." Meryl poked her bus seat buddy in his side.

Vash's lanky figure twitched as he was startled out of his nap. "Huh...uh...Are we there yet?" He asked sleepily.

Wolfwood was watching him behind his sunglasses with a laughing smile while the short girl was giving him a disgusted look.

"What?"

"You were drooling." Said Meryl.

Vash wiped his mouth on his sleeve. "Oh, sorry."

"EWWW, VASH!!"

"What?!! Want me to wipe it on you?!!"

"Yuck, no!!! Keep it to yourself!!--"

Nick looked out the window over Milly's back. "--Hey guys, we're here--AHH!!"

"Oops, sorry!" Milly accidentally smooshed his head against the seat when she quickly sat up.

-----

They got off their buses and were led into the school located beside the stadium. Boxes of sub sandwiches were waiting for them in the gym. The air inside the large room felt ice-cold compared to the suffocating heat outside. After getting their dinner, the band spread out to find floor space to lay down on. Groans of relief echoed through the air.

Vash and his quartet sat against the wall close to one of the gym entrances and laid their hat buckets and instruments down in a row to keep them from getting stepped on. Meryl was the only one who kept hers in its case, since she only needed it for halftime. None of them bothered to get up and throw away their trash but instead laid in a circle, hands behind their heads, eyes fixed on the ceiling.

"Did anyone see the banner hanging in the stadium?" Nick asked after a few of silence.

Milly turned her head to face him. "I did. That must've taken a lot of time to make!"

"Yeah, it must have. I can't believe it's been three years already."

Now Meryl turned her head. "What are you talking about?"

Wolfwood faced her questioning face. "It's 9-ll! What did you think I was talking about?!"

"Sorry! It's just that I never bothered paying much attention to anything related to it after it happened."

"Well, where do you think Patriot Day came from?"

"I always thought of today as Becky's birthday and nothing more! I know it happened but it's just too depressing to think about."

"Over 3,000 people died on that day. That's pretty hard to ignore!"

"I'm not heartless! I just don't think it's a good idea to keep dwelling on something like that! The world can't stop turning for anything you know!"

Milly felt she had to say something before the argument got out of hand. "Meryl's right. It isn't healthy. A lot of times the only thing you can do is just keep living your life. I'm sure that's what those people would've wanted."

Wolfwood gave out a heavy sigh and returned his gaze to the ceiling. "Yeah, you're probably right Big Girl."

Vash never looked their way. He stared up at the light fixtures pretending not to listen. He wished he could forget what happened on that day, but he was there. The whole scene took place in front of his own eyes. Vash was thankful at least that his friends didn't witness it with him. It was bad enough that his own family had been broken apart for being at the right place at the wrong time.

"Hey Vash?"

Wolfwood's voice filtered through his thoughts. "Hm?"

"How's Tessla doing nowadays?"

"Oh, she's okay. She called me yesterday and told me she's able to move on her own now."

"That's wonderful!" Exclaimed Milly.

"So she's still living with Mary and Rowan in New York huh?" Meryl asked.

"Mhm." He wasn't really in the mood to talk about it.

Meryl was hesitant to give him her next question, but curiosity eventually won over. "Will... Tessla be able to come visit during the holidays?"

Wolfwood and Milly gave their undivided attention to the blonde. They too were curious about what the answer will be.

A few seconds passed before their friend responded. "I'm not sure. I don't know if it'll be okay for her to travel or not. We'll just have to wait and see."

"Well," Meryl got up and fixed her skirt, "I guess I'll head for the bathroom." She took a small bag that carried her make up from her case. "Vash, don't forget my flute okay?"

Most of the room jumped as the head drum major blew his whistle just then announcing that the break was over. The whole band once again groaned like wooden boards in an old house.

"Someone needs to tell Sean not to blow that damn thing so loud!" Wolfwood wiggled a finger in the ear that got full blast of it. "C'mon you guys, lets go."

-----7:48p.m.

The football flew through the air at kickoff at 6:30p.m. Both bands had played their school's alma maters just minutes before, right after the singing of the Star Spangled Banner. The initial excitement and anticipation died down after only two minutes into the game. Only the cheerleaders retained their enthusiasm, since it was after all their job to keep yelling the same cheers over and over at the top of their lungs. The first two quarters were rarely interesting and hardly worth watching.

The Avengers kept scoring with almost no contest from the Archangels. Their band just sat there in disgust as the rival band moved their instruments from side to side playing their fight song after every touchdown.

Wolfwood pulled out his miniature magnetic checkerboard after the first two scores and played with his buddy Lee a saxophone player with white-blonde hair who happened to sit in front of him three stands down. They were separated only by the drum section, or the battery, as they're commonly known.

Lee's bright blue eyes and hair often reminded Nick of Knives. But he had a much friendlier smile, and his hair was longer with a part down the middle. Lee was also part of a four-person band with the drum major Sean as its lead singer and was very outgoing.

Brian, another buddy who played the drums, came over to watch them. He too was part of Sean's band. He had a large build, dark brown eyes, and short dark curly hair to match. Brain wasn't shy, but he was very observant and didn't talk unless he had something important to say.

No one bothered to stop them, since the band only bothered to play a random song every ten minutes or so without much spirit just to break the monotony.

Milly retreated into one of her Harry Potter books and didn't even notice when the others got up to play. Vash on the other hand had his eye on the game whooping and shouting along with the rest of the clarinet section and the few others who refused to sit and sulk.

Five minutes before halftime the Archangels had the ball in their possession. But each time they thought they made a touchdown, a flag would go up. The entire visiting side roared with boos, hisses, and insults.

By the third flag the Archangel Band was on its feet stomping the steel stands. One huge guy from the drum section jumped on his stand in frustration knocking Wolfwood's checkerboard off. Lee caught it in his hand in time and quickly closed it before the checker pieces could escape.

"Looks like the games over," said Lee while handing the little case over to Nick.

"Depends on which game you're talkin' about." He took the case threw it into his hat bucket. "Damn, and I was finally winning too."

"I'm not so sure." Wolfwood jumped. It was Milly. "He had a few good moves left."

"Oh c'mon Angel, you didn't have to tell me that! Besides, he might not have known it!"

"Actually..." Lee started to say, "I was about to jump four of your guys."

Wolfwood grumbled, but Milly wouldn't have it. "Now, now! Nobody likes a sore loser!"

"Who said I lost?!!" Nick exclaimed.

The head drum major's voice echoed through the megaphone announcing it was time to file out to the field in full uniform. Everyone buttoned up their jacket and grabbed their hat and plum out of their bucket.

"Battery will come down first, then low brass to high brass, and then woodwinds," Sean shouted as a reminder after he already handed the megaphone back to the band director.

Lee hopped down to his section, and Brian put on his bass drum and headed down the steps. The tubas followed making sure to not hit anyone with their horns then the baritones and mellowphones.

Wolfwood realized something after Milly's section had already passed by and the trombones were now heading for the field. He quickly finished buttoning up and called out, "HEY BIG GIRL!!!"

The brunette turned around at the metal gate that led to the field.

"MAKE SURE YOU DON'T TAKE SUCH BIG STEPS ON THAT BACKWARD SET, OK?!!!"

Milly gave one of her biggest grins so that he could see and waved an arm in the air. "DON'T WORRY MR. WOLFWOOD!!! I'LL BE CAREFUL!!!

"Oh boy..." Nick sighed. He adjusted his hat before stepping out into the isle and began fingering notes on his trumpet.

Meryl came up to the woodwind section after discarding her pom poms near the pile of cheerleader bags by the stands. She tiptoed around buckets and cases looking for Vash. She found him struggling with the buttons on his jacket.

The tall blonde smiled nervously when he noticed the short cheerleader watching him. "Umm...a little help please?"

Meryl tsked and yanked him up onto the steel stand to help with the snaps under his left sleeve. "Why didn't you ask someone before I got over here?!!"

"Because only you have the magic touch--OUCH!!!"

She jabbed him with the last snap. "There!! If you really are having that much trouble keeping them from coming undone, you should get a different jacket."

"But there aren't any left with long enough sleeves!!"

"Then use a safety pin idiot!! So where's my flute?"

"Under there." Vash pointed to a long case under his seat.

Meryl bent down and took the pieces of her flute out of the case while Vash looked around for his hat. The saxophones were now leaving the stands and clarinets would go next. Vash found his hat behind him and bent over to pick it up.

He came back up hat in hand only to lose it again when something poked him hard in the back. "IEEE!!!" The blonde almost lost his balance, but Meryl caught his arm.

It turned out it was her flute that startled him. "I'm so sorry!! I--WATCH OUT NICK!!" She gasped.

The whole band had their eyes on Wolfwood who didn't see it coming until it was too late. The hat bounced off of his head and landed in the percussion section. Most of the band ooooed and gasped and a few could help but burst out laughing.

"SORRY WOLFWOOD!!!" Vash had to yell out over the new wave of boos hitting the stands.

Lee was one of the few laughing his guts out. "NICE SHOT VASH!!!"

Nick pulled his own hat off and rubbed his head. "DAMMIT NEEDLE NOGGIN--!!!"

"--Here you go."

He turned around and saw Eddie from the pit holding Vash's hat out to him.

Eddie was the fourth member of Sean's playing piano, soundboard and percussion and was also Wolfwood's smoking buddy. He wore thick black glasses with rectangular frames over his brown eyes, and his hair was a black gelled mess. Vash always teased him that if the band director ever made the pit wear hats his would never stay on because his head was too slippery.

Eddie gave a wink to his friend, and Wolfwood received the hat with an evil smirk on his face. "Thanks man."

Nick looked up into the stands and focused on a spiky head being pushed into the isle by Meryl. He lifted the hat into the air with his right arm and pulled back. Ready. Aim. FIRE.

"GYAH!!!"

BULLSEYE!!!

Vash's head flopped backward like a rag doll's as he fell into the people behind him.

-----8:02p.m.

One minute to go on the clock and the Archangels were using up their second timeout. The band was lined up on both sides of the field waiting impatiently for halftime. Vash and a few other clarinets were congregating behind the sideline benches near the 50-yard line on the home side while Wolfwood kept a safe distance from him. The blonde didn't look too happy after he gave him back his hat.

Meanwhile the girls were waiting on the visitor's side searching the crowd for familiar faces.

Meryl was looking for one face in particular. "I don't see Doni anywhere."

"Well, it is a big crowd Meryl. It'll be hard to find just one person," Said Milly.

"But she told me which section she'd be sitting in, and that she'd come down to see me before halftime!" Her tone of voice sounded frustrated and worried at the same time.

"And did she?"

"No, she didn't. Her boyfriend Ray was supposed to be here too, and I don't see him either."

"Maybe they got lost...or stuck in traffic or something," The brunette suggested. "It's an awfully long drive here."

Meryl's eyes were still fixed on the crowd. "I would probably buy that if she hadn't done this several times already. Before this summer she never missed a single game or competition I was in without a good explanation. I mean, we haven't been able to hang out or see a movie for the past four months! Haven't you noticed?"

"Yes, but..." Milly paused. She wasn't as close to Dominique as Meryl was and having no valid explanation to ease her friend's fears made her feel a bit helpless. "Well...did...you ever ask her why? She could...be just really busy."

"With what? She doesn't have a job! And anything she was ever involved with at school never took up so much time! I guess I'll have to ask Ray about it. Problem is, I rarely see him."

The visitor's side roared in approval as the Archangels finally scored without any penalties. Both girls turned around to see what they missed.

The announcer in the press box proudly yelled out the name of the maker of the touchdown. "TOUCHDOOOOOOOWWWWWN BY NUMBER 47 BRANDON 'DYNAMITE' NELSOOOOOOON!!!"

Home side was silent. The competition just got tougher.

Their was no time left on the clock, so the players headed to their locker rooms making sure they didn't run over any poor unsuspecting band members desperately looking for their spots.

Nelson made a wide path around them to avoid any accidents, but didn't notice the short cheerleader on the end frantically waving at him. "IT'S ABOUT TIME B. D. N.!!!"

The football player turned his head then his whole body and jogged backwards. "Hey!! It wasn't my fault!! Blame it on Grey 'Nine Lives' over there!! He kept makin' all those suicide dives when he should've gone aro--!!" His buddy cut him off before he could finish and dragged him away.

"Oh, you're always blaming him for your problems!!" Meryl joked. Brandon waved behind him as Grey draped his harm over his shoulders laughing at Meryl's comment.

The band stepped up to the edge of the field in neat lines, their rivals hanging back near the stands waiting for their turn. Sean and the other two drum majors marched in uniform on the fifty to the center and saluted the press box on the home side. A long whistle signaled the battery for a drum tap followed by four short tweets.

As the band stepped onto the field in time with the drum the announcer introduced them. "LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, PLEASE REMAIN IN YOUR SEATS FOR OUR HALFTIME MUSICAL ENTERTAINMENT BY THE AUGUSTA SENIOR HIGH MARCHING BAND. IN CELEBRATION OF PATRIOT DAY, TONIGHT'S SHOW CONSISTS OF 'AMERICA,' 'THE STAR SPANGLED BANNER,' 'STARS AND STRIPES FOREVER,' AND 'ARMED FORCES MEDLEY' IN HONOR OF THOSE WHO SERVED AND DIED FOR OUR COUNTRY. NOW, SIT BACK AND ENJOY AS WE PROUDLY PRESENT AUGUSTA HIGH'S ANGEL ARM BAND!!!

For once, the announcer managed to finish before Sean gave the horns up and counted off. The whole stadium quickly applauded and settled down to watch.

The show started off with 'America'; slow and moving. Many people stood up and took their hats of if they were wearing one. Army veterans were spotted here and there amongst the crowd wearing their uniforms.

The sets were simple and easy to remember, since the show was only for tonight, and there was a lot of standing in place. Most of the woodwinds remained at the back, which was the visitor's side, because they weren't needed as much in the first half of the show. During 'Stars and Stripes' they would have to march forward a couple of sets, stand for a while, then take a few sets to the back again. The 'Medley' would shuffle the woodwinds and brass a couple more times while the drumline remained close to the center of the field shifting only from side to side.

Wolfwood couldn't stop thinking about the final shuffle. And about Milly.

To fit the pattern the band director had in mind some of the mellowphones and baritones would have to move back and a few of the saxes would have to move forward, and it's the set with the biggest steps for those moving back field. Since they had to keep the top part of their bodies and horns pointed at the press box, it made judging the step size a lot harder.

Tall people wouldn't have a hard time with larger steps, but they could overextend and overtake the person behind them if they're not careful. Poor Milly couldn't get the last set right. She was one of the tallest girls in the band. Every time they ever had to take big steps back she'd fall apart.

Their final try in practice earlier this morning was the first time she could do it without hurting anyone. Milly was so proud of her accomplishment that she had total confidence she'd nail it during the performance. That was exactly what Wolfwood was worried about.

Even more people got up for 'Star Spangled Banner.' Even the rival band stood at attention and took their hats off. The flag corps stood still while the American colors fluttered gently off their poles. Both the woodwinds and brass formed multiple arcs across the field and played the entire song in place.

At the start of 'Stars and Stripes' the flags twirled around to the opening then the rest of the band prepared itself for the first shuffle.

Meryl looked around for Lee who was the head of her line during the switch. She did her best to ignore the sax player to her right, the perverted menace known as Midvalley. Thankfully, this would be the only time she would be within his line of sight.

Now at the front, the woodwinds halted and gave their full attention to the music.

Vash fingered the well-practiced notes on his clarinet but kept his attention on the pretty tall redhead on the sidelines standing in front of him. The girl stood in line at attention with the rest of the Augusta drill team. She returned his attention with a beautiful smile and small wave of her gloved hand. 'Man, such pretty green eyes,' thought Vash.

Meryl caught the girl's wave and rolled her own eyes. 'He never gives up.'

Unfortunately she also caught Michael waving at HER.

After he saw that he had the short girl's attention he took his mouth off his mouthpiece. "Make sure you don't trip alright?" He winked then went back to playing.

Meryl blinked. What was he trying to do? It didn't sound like he was up to something, but he didn't sound very concerned either.

"Just worry about yourself hornfreak."

He didn't bother to answer.

It was almost time to move again, and Lee could tell that Vash was going to miss it if he didn't bring his brain back to reality.

"Hey." Lee motioned the clarinet behind the blonde to tap him.

The clarinet was almost a second too late, but he caught the back of Vash's jacket in time. It was enough to snap him out of it.

Vash stumbled a bit, a little put out. The redhead mouthed a goodbye, and the giggling girl beside her began asking questions. 'Well, guess I'll just have to catch her later.'

The stadium rang with hearty applause when 'Stars and Stripes' ended without incident, but Meryl couldn't shake the feeling that something bad was going to happen. She looked over to Milly, standing still as a statue. Meryl didn't think Michael would actually pull anything on her friend. Confidence was practically radiating off of her.

Meryl pushed it to the back of her mind. 'If she does mess up, it won't be any worse than what it has been.'

Sean stood on his platform perfectly still waiting for the announcer. "TO FINISH THEIR PERFORMANCE THIS EVENING, THE ANGEL ARM BAND WILL PLAY THE 'ARMED FORCES MEDLEY' WHICH FEATURES THE MELODIES FROM ALL FIVE BRANCHES OF THE MILITARY: ARMY, NAVY, COAST GUARD, AIR FORCE, AND THE MARINES. WE ASK THAT THE VETERANS STAND WHEN THEY HEAR THE MELODY FOR THEIR BRANCH PLAYED. AND NOW, A MOMENT OF SILENCE."

For almost a minute the whole stadium seemed dead. Only the flags stirred in the evening breeze while the sun set colored the sky with a rainbow. The distant hum of cars on a nearby highway and a whistling train was all that could be heard.

Finally, the band director gave Sean the go ahead, and he lifted his arms to start the count off.

The horns went up, and the 'Medley' began.

Army came first after the opening, and the announcer called it out so everyone would know. Veterans from the Army rose and were applauded.

At the beginning each melody the band would move one set then stand until it was time for the next melody. One of the shuffles was supposed to happen during the third melody, then the last one during the closing.

Milly didn't have far to go on the first one, so she would be even with some of the saxophone players. All she could think about at this point was how she was going to make it on the final set.

Next came the Navy. More veterans stood up and were applauded.

Meryl kept her eyes on the back of Milly's head. Her friend would soon be out of her sight, and she wouldn't be able to see if Milly made it. 'Out of sight, out of mind. Out of sight, out of mind.'

The first shuffle came when they played the Coast Guard melody.

Milly almost missed the step off and tried to overcompensate, but the girl behind her reached out and whispered, "Slow down Milly!"

"Right, right..." And the brunette immediately took smaller steps. Her mellowphone shook a little from the adjustment making her stumble through the rest of the melody.

Veterans of the Air Force had their turn next, and most of the woodwinds moved either to the left or the right making straight lines across the front.

Milly ended up near the back of the next to last line with another mellowphone player behind her. The poor girl had the misfortune of being trampled by Milly several times during practice, and the guy in front got plenty of bumps from running into her horn.

Keeping all this in mind, she prepared herself for the final move. None of the lines would be moving during the last melody, just the arcs of brass in the back turning into lines of their own. 'All I have to do is stay in line,' Milly thought looking to her left.

The Marines came last, and it had the largest group of veterans stand. It wasn't much of a surprise because Augusta was located near one of their bases.

All veterans were asked to stand by the announcer when the last melody finished. The drill team straighten themselves up ready to march.

It was time for the last shuffle.

'Not too big now.' Milly lifted her left foot back to step off.

She took another step, then another, then another, then another.

She was staying with the line.

'Almost there.' Nothing left to play but the long note to the end.

"WAAOOAAAH!!!"

'Weird, I didn't run into hEEIIER!!!' "YIEEE!!" Milly tripped over the girl behind her and tumbled backwards. The clarinet guy in front of her fell back on top of the girls, and the rest of the line proceeded to do the same.

Milly's horn had flipped out of her hand towards the sax player to her left who got out of the way but forgot to warn the guy in front of him. Both lost their balance creating another domino effect.

The screaming momentarily distracted people on either side of the two lines. The back halves of their lines halted, but their front halves didn't notice. Meryl and Vash never realized what happened until it was too late.

Some marchers fell out of their lines and collided with some of the color guard located in between. A couple of flagpoles were knocked out of their hands and landed in the path of other lines moving back.

Meanwhile, the brass were moving their newly formed lines to the front. A short female trumpet player at the head of Wolfwood's line suddenly halted when she saw the horn flying in the air in front of her. Those who were behind her couldn't stop in time, and the whole line fell forward almost into a pile.

One trombone player from their line tripped over his own feet attempting to avoid the pile and fell into the line to the left. He knocked one girl over to the next line causing both of those lines to go down.

More people from other lines to their left turned their heads to the source of the yelling wondering if someone was seriously hurt only to end up on the ground hurt themselves.

From the stands came ooohs and gasps as the crowd watched the entire formation collapse from left to right. The other band was too shocked to say anything or even move.

By the end, the only ones that remained standing were the battery, half of the color guard outside the form, and a few lucky saxes near the middle.


A/N: Don't know for sure if this is the best place to stop, but I just couldn't decide what should happen afterwards. If you want to see what caused the girl to fall you'll just have to tune in next time. This can actually happen, in fact, it DID happen recently to my former high school band, but the reason was because the field was wet. I've never seen it happen to an entire band before, but I know what it's like to be part of the domino effect. It hurts. The Patriot Day show in this chapter is based off of what we did on 9/11 only none of us fell flat on our faces!

This next year will be my last year in band, and I'm hoping to graduate from college next spring (2006). I feel really sad, and at the same time relieved. My kiddy sister will be graduating from high school at the same time. By the way Sis, I hope you're feelin' better! Both of us got sick, and she got the worst of it. :(

P.S. Kuroneko-sama has just informed me that he donated your quarters to the victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami and has been helping out with relief. Kitty has such a big heart! -NB-