This takes place after "The Jean Genie."

Maybe it was a dream on my part; the kind where nothing ever happens the way reality tells you it should. Or maybe it just happened so fast that it merely appeared to be something I only conjured up in my imagination. God only knows that I tried to stop the madness. But it only spread like some unidentified infectious disease, taking hold and catching fire until everything was consumed. For goodness sake, Alice had the looking glass--Dorothy had a pair of red ruby slippers and a tornado. All I had was a run-down apartment turned studio and an ink pen with either paper, post-it notes, or even napkins-- depending upon the situation-- as well as a tendency to write lonesome songs about my very confusing, albeit very active love life. I mean tell me, hah, did I actually just kiss 'butt-kicking' Vincent Spiedermen. Wow, I don't even surprise myself anymore!

But looking now into Spied's eyes as the rain trickled chillingly down the sides of my face, I came to an amazing realization—I actually felt my heart grow bigger. How ridiculous did that just sound, I know? But really, after loving Shay, who literally tore my heart into shreds, and then trying to pick up the pieces by allowing myself to believe that I might actually love Jamie as more than the best friend I have always known him to be, I find it encouraging that I can actually still feel such an electric charge course through my body after such a small but intimate lip lock.

"Yo, Jude." Spied said softly as I felt myself slowly shaken out of my thoughts to find him smiling at me before playfully tugging on a strand of my hair.

"Earth to Jude. Although I am highly giddy that my kiss can turn you into such a beautific puddle of mouth-opening awe, something tells me the only thing we're going to be doing for each other if we don't get out of this rain soon is wiping each other's runny noses and taking turns reading the display window on my handy digital thermometer." Spiederman said jokingly as he slowly turned me toward his car. Leave it to Spied to make a person feel incredibly comfortable around him even after sharing a moment that would forever alter our relationship. Somehow, it only made him seem more endearing. Okay…stop right there, Jude Harrison! Ugh! Endearing, wow that is not a word I would normally use to describe Spiederman (laugh out loud). Where did that description come from? Maybe I do need that handy digital thermometer (grin). I let my hand rest on Spiederman's arm as he slid into the driver's seat, and he wrapped his fingers around mine as he drove one-handed out into the street. I think we both just needed a moment to process the crossroads we had just come to in our relationship, so Spied drove in silence for a while and I settled comfortably into my thoughts until I realized dazedly that he had pulled into my driveway. I looked at him then and smiled before saying,

"I think this is a good thing." He smiled back and leaned over once again to kiss me gently on the lips. His skin was cool from the rain and the contact felt good against my warm skin.

"Me too, Blondie. Now, go dry off and have wildly dirty dreams about me." He said as he gently shoved me from the car. I laughed loudly at his quip and placed my hand with mock dramatization against my heart, "Bestow my bleeding heart! How shall I ever endure the night?" I cried mournfully until I saw the mischievous twinkle in Spied's eyes as he cocked one eyebrow knowingly. I quickly placed my hand against the car door and slammed it shut as I yelled into his open window. "Don't you dare say anything. I mean it…Don't answer that question. Not one word. I have a feeling I don't want to know." I laughed as I turned and ran into the house. Wow, how things have changed for me lately.

I heard Sadie singing loudly (and rather off-key) as I passed by her cracked bedroom door, and I stopped and listened with a fond, amused grin.

"Please, Sadie," I moaned. "You'll have all the cats in the neighborhood serenading each other by morning if you don't stop that racket." I groaned again as I pushed the door to her room open while chuckling with amusement at my own joke. Sadie rolled her eyes and grinned.

"Wait until you see me on stage." Sadie quipped as she took a bow and brushed past me on her way out of the room. "Yeah, I'll be the one on the front row with my hands over my ears." I said teasingly as I glanced back into her room in sudden thought.

"Hey, Sades! Where's Tommy? I thought you two would go out together tonight after the charity gig." I asked as Sadie stopped suddenly in her tracks and glanced over her shoulder with an almost guilty expression on her face.

"I decided I would let him stew for a little while. I went out with Portia instead. You know, they say that absence makes the heart grow fonder." Sadie shrugged and continued down the hall. Something tugged at my heart as I thought about Tommy looking for Sadie only to find that he had been stood up. I could understand why she had done it. Tommy had been acting really distant lately almost to the point it was becoming obnoxiously annoying. But I was afraid that Sadie was only hurting herself by trying to show Tommy that she could be distant too. "Stop it, Jude." I berated myself quietly. "You are not in a position to even pretend you know Tommy well enough to know that." Tommy was an enigma—that's the only way to describe it. We have a love-hate relationship at times that clicks really well. Who knows why? I am certainly not one to question the fates about it. We are two polar opposites, but sometimes I find that I can read him better than anyone else. Maybe it's because, despite our age difference, we are both trying to find our way in a world of chaos constantly afraid of rejection—he as a producer and I as a performer. But, in the end, who knows. I gave up trying to figure out our relationship a long time ago. I think we are at that point now where, hey, we know there is an attraction there but neither of us wants to cross that boundary. And, believe it or not, I think I have finally found a person I can truly care about in Spiederman. Who knows? Thoughts started plaguing me as I climbed into bed—thoughts that probably shouldn't. I glanced out the window at the full moon silhouetted beyond the curtains. A full moon—hmm…weird things happen on a full moon.

The next few days were like a blur for me. SME and I were putting together some really great music, and I was becoming really excited about the outcome. When all is said and done, I actually discovered that I enjoyed working with SME in a way I never thought I would. Until Tommy, I had never shared my music, either writing or singing, with anyone. It had always been about me and only me. Now, I was part of a group and really enjoying it. Somehow it made me and my music better. It was like working with the brothers I never had. Only one thing about that bothered me—my relationship with Spiederman. Spiederman did things for me that no one else could. Sparks flew when we were in a room together. Music sounded better when we worked together. But even though I loved, yes loved, Spied in a deeply profound way—if you count having constant pillow fights and laughing fits that ended in soulful stares and heated kisses profound—something nudged at my conscience. All in all, he made me happy. I smiled and laughed constantly when I was with him. But something was off kilter about our connection. It lacked the depth that my relationship with Tommy had always held. I think part of the anger Tommy and I shared with each other was because of the fire that constantly brewed at the surface under our skin. My only fear is that one day we won't be able to contain the fire. Scarier even than that, who will those flames end up burning? Oh, if only a person could shut off their own thoughts. I needed time to just be by myself for a while so I took my guitar and headed for the place I knew I could be alone--an overhang that overlooked the city. It was chilly, and I shivered in my T-shirt as I sat down on a bench and strummed absent-mindedly at my guitar. Sometimes, my best lyrics came when I wasn't even trying.

I look into the eyes of the world and what do I see

But the eyes of the world looking back at me.

I see the chaos reflected back in its stare

Enraptured in its mindless never ending moments

Standing there, I wonder why I care

Why my heart breaks at its numbing suspense.

I won't go down that road again,

There is sadness there I say

Too many regrets down the paths I have been,

Give me the strength to walk away.

Hummmmmmmmmmmm mmmmmmmmm. Strumming silently, I hummed the last bars as the wind blew through my hair like icy fingers tugging away at my soul. Meaningful lyrics. I just hoped I could remember them without having brought anything to write them down with. A noise behind me startled me, and I felt the guitar slip from my hands as I sat up with a start. A hand reached out and caught the straps of my guitar as I turned to find myself looking into the ocean blue depths of Tommy Q's eyes.

"Woe, Harrison. What would you do without my lightening speed reflexes?" Tom said lightly as he gently pushed me over so he could sit down. I glanced over my shoulder to see Tom's Viper parked behind us and then glanced back expectantly at Tom himself.

"What are you doing here, Quincy? Aren't you needed at the studio?" I asked bemused at how even in seeking solitude, I always seemed to manage to attract Tom's presence. I have barely known him even a year, and I can barely remember what life was like before that first day at G Major Studio. Tom shrugged.

"Jude, have you even looked to see what time it is?" He said with a twinkle in his eyes. He knows how I get when I'm lost in thought or in my music. I looked at my watch then and swore, loudly at that. Tommy cocked a brow and chuckled under his breath.

"Besides I could ask you the same question, Jude. I haven't seen you write without SME in a while. By the way, that song sounds great. I guess I haven't taken the time to notice how your music has grown." Tommy said quietly. I shivered suddenly as if I abruptly felt the cold for the first time. Tommy must have noticed because he slipped his jacket off his shoulders and held it out to me, but I just shook my head and stood up quickly.

"I really appreciate the gesture Tom, but the time quip just reminded me that I am seriously late. I was supposed to meet Spied thirty minutes ago. Catch you later, maybe? I asked regretfully. I actually missed just sitting down and chatting with Tommy, and I found I didn't want to leave. Tom nodded, and I smiled at him.

"Could I give you a ride?" Tom asked. I laughed as I pointed to the old car Spied, my dad, and I were trying desperately to restore.

"Actually, I think we have finally managed to restore my car enough I can at least get around in it. Although if it makes you feel better to follow to make sure I don't lose some major automotive components, feel free Quincy." I said on a laugh. Tom glanced behind him, grinned, and then shuddered dramatically.

"No, I'm headed to meet with Sadie. Besides, I don't want you near my Viper with that thing. You drive worse than a kid in bumper cars at the Fair." I hrrrmphed at him in mock anger as we both walked toward our separate vehicles.

"Later Quincy." I said as I closed my car door.

"You too Harrison." I heard Tommy say before the sound of my sick engine came warbling to life drowning out anything else. It was great laughing with Tommy again. Too great.

A few weeks later….

"I am a woman of mystery awaiting for my James Bond savior of a man to sweep me off my feet, place a rose between my pearly white teeth, and tango with me out the door into a muggy night surrounded my flowers…."

Okay, Okay, Okay…So my daydreams are much much better than the screeching coming from the stage as Sadie dances her way to the ending of the opening night of her musicale. I winced at the irony of it, but I was really proud of her for trying something not normally what I would consider her realm of talents. You certainly won't see me wearing the latest fashion dress, speaking French, and dawdling around with sorority girls or with the local debate team so "All Hail to the almighty Sades!" A brush of air swept against my arm as Little Tommy Q finally swept into the empty seat behind me. (Pout) Here's to hoping my James Bond would come flying in, although a leather jacket on Tom Quincy certainly looked better than any tuxedo had ever looked on the international man of mystery. "Did I miss much…." Tommy asked about the same time everyone around him clapped and applauded as the show ended. I quirked my eyebrow up at him as Kwest stood up and shouted out encouragement to Sadie. As we walked back stage, I leaned toward Tommy and whispered, "nice knowing you dead man," before patting him on the shoulder. I was just about to say something else when we suddenly came face to face with a beaming Sadie. She talked hurriedly in her excitement and we congratulated her one at a time as Tommy tried to compliment her awkwardly on her looks. "Save it, Quincy, your seat was empty all night." Sadie said as I magically made appear Sadie's favorite flowers and handed them to her rather stoically. "I told him it wasn't worth being late for." I said as Sadie gasped and hugged Tommy happily. "I can't believe you remembered!" She gushed. "Me neither." Tommy mumbled before mouthing "Thank you," to me behind Sadie's back. "Your welcome." I said quietly as I watched the two of them hug each other--Sadie beaming and Tommy smiling in relief. And for the first time, I actually found myself smiling at the scene when months before it would have been painful to watch. Maybe it was because I had learned that I had clearly developed feelings for Spiederman that I was still trying to explore or maybe it was because I was now at that point in my life that I was realizing that loving someone sometimes meant that seeing them happy was enough to make you happy too. Deep huh? I might have deep, troublesome issues with Math but I am discovering that the subject of Philosophy may have distinctive possibilities in my future. Note to self: remember to explore that thought more later.

The group was moving toward the exit, and I followed while only slightly listening as they planned a dinner out on the town. It was nights like these that I realized how much I missed my own friends—or at least the friends we had been in the past. Instead of listening to Sadie ramble, I could be sitting next to Kat making fun of whatever goofy movie (probably sub-titled) that Jamie would have picked out for us to watch. Jamie would be railing about the infinite positive points the movie had as if he were some critic exploring the deep realms of movie-making symbolism. And at some point, we would all end up laughing hysterically on the floor after vegging on whatever junk I could dig up out of the kitchen before getting out my guitar and strumming it thoughtfully with Kat and Jamie critiquing in the background. The melancholy must have shown on my face because I felt a hand on my shoulder and the pressure of fingers squeezing it reassuringly before tugging me slightly to the side. I guess at some point during the walk to the parking lot, Tommy had sidled to the back of the group to walk beside me. "Hey Jude, you feeling okay tonight?" Tom asked as he lifted my chin up with his finger to look into my eyes. I shook my head slightly in order to dislodge his finger and smiled up at him nonchalantly. "I'm fine, just had a moment of Déjà vu' that's all." I answered quietly. Tommy shrugged his shoulder slightly and continued to walk a moment before hesitantly asking. "Why did you help me back there with Sadie, Jude?" I stopped and looked at him with probably the most honest expression I had ever used. "Because I wanted to see you and Sadie happy." A car door slammed as Kwest and Portia climbed into Kwest's car and shut the doors behind them. I looked back at Sadie who was waiting on Tommy, congratulated her one more time, and climbed into Kwest's car so he could drive me home. No way was I going to get stuck riding in between Sadie and Tommy in the Viper. I glanced out the window to see Tommy still looking in my general direction before he shook his head slightly as if trying to clear it before taking a hold of Sadie's waist and moving toward his car. Oh, The enigma of Tom Quincy's mind. I can actually imagine two Tom's dueling inside his brain, holding up two swords and yelling "En Garde!"

Later that night…

Returning home is normally not that big a deal for me…Okay that was a lie. I can see my nose growing longer than Pinocchio's as I speak. I can't even count the number of times I have walked in on some sort of drama in the Harrison household—mostly having to do with a particular couch and a tango of the horizontal type. Would describe, really I would, but I have blocked those moments from my memory for therapeutical reasons. Seriously, I have no desire to find myself lying on a couch while a skinny, twisted woman with beady eyes stares unremittingly at me over an ugly pair of horn-rimmed glasses giving me an occasional sympathetic "uh huh" or "hmmm" before spewing whiny psycho babble from her pinched mouth. To me, that would be as irritating as a buzzing fly--so irritating in fact that I can visually see myself wishing quite emphatically for a damn fly swap. Hmmm, I wonder if therapists actually listen during those long monotonous sessions? Wouldn't it be interesting to shake things up a bit. Oh, how I would love to see my imaginary therapist grimace when I began to tell her that sure I had 'visitors' in my room at night. What did she think of encounters with little green men, or even better, the mad hatter and the tin man? If only I had a heart. Okay, enough about that. I was still standing dumb-founded as I stared in open mouthed wonder at my mother's newest, huh, mid-life crisis decision, maybe, when I heard the door behind me open and close ceremoniously. Laughter filled the room as I heard Tommy and Sadie making their way towards the back of the house where I now stood gaping like a drooling dog. I knew when I heard a sudden shriek that Sadie had just noticed mom's new acquisition. Turning toward Tommy who had stumbled (I mean really stumbled) next to me, I mumbled,

"Pinch me, Quincy, or at least tell me I am not the only one having the strangest dream in Harrison history. No, wait. Going to close my eyes now." Closes eyes, Opens Eyes. "Okay, nope, still there. Now pinch me." Sadie's Shrieking had only grown louder if you can imagine that and my mother's excitement was giving me a headache. "Okay, never mind, Tom. There is no way that Sadie's shrieking is part of a dream. The real thing just can't be replicated. I so have to call Spiederman. He'll pop over in a heart beat if he thinks he can get a glimpse of me in a bikini." I said hurriedly as I rushed back into the back door of the house, glancing only once more behind me at the hot tub (yes hot tub) sitting stoically at the back of the Harrison residence. Oh yeah!

Tom Quincy at the Studio with Kwest

Tommy leaned over the soundboard listening to some lyrics that he had been working on with Mason when he felt air brush past him through the open door. Glancing behind him, he noticed Kwest coming into the room with two steaming cups of java. "Oh there is a God" Quincy thought as he lifted his hand to signal that he was almost done. After piddling with a few more mix ideas, he set his headphones aside and lifted the steaming brew to his lips almost reverently. Kwest nodded thoughtfully.

"It looked like you might need a break." Kwest said knowingly. "You've seemed really distracted lately. Is there something on your mind, Tom?" Tommy looked up at Kwest with a shuttered expression on his face almost as if he had a flashing neon sign pinned to his face that read: Warning: Watch where you're going.

" You know since Darius took over, we've all had extra pressure put on us, Kwest. I'm just a little stressed." Tommy stated matter-of-factly. Kwest sighed loudly.

"Come on, Tom! I've known you a long time. I have seen you a)stressed, b)angry, c)depressed, d)happy, and e)all of the above. No, I don't think that stress is your only problem. What I see written all over your face is confusion." Kwest said almost irritably. "Seriously, just come out and say what's really bothering you, Tom. It would make things better for all of us." Tommy looked at Kwest a moment almost angrily before his expression softened. With a weary sigh, he sat down on a chair near the soundboard. Kwest sat down next to him.

"Don't even say it, Kwest." Quincy warned. "She's just part of the problem. I am still not sure how to deal with that right now. And then there's the studio. Ever since Darius took the reins, I have very little control as a producer. I feel stifled—suffocated. Jude is my anchor right now even if she seems to believe it is the other way around. Believe me, I know the ramifications of that, but the blinding jealousy when I saw Jude with Spied…well, you'd think I would know to leave well enough alone by now." Kwest just shrugged and said,

"I think your biggest problem is the fact that you are dating Sadie, but are in love with someone else." The sound of breaking glass broke through Tommy and Kwest's reverie. "What the…" Tommy started as the door suddenly swung open to reveal a very pale, very angry Sadie Harrison.

"OUT WITH IT, TOM! Come on, Quincy, I am giving you the chance to explain!" Sadie shrieked as she walked stiffly into the room. Tommy hesitated. He wasn't sure what Sadie had heard and he wasn't about to stick his foot into his mouth. Kwest coughed suddenly and tilted his head toward the door. Tom looked up to see Jude standing with her brows scrunched together in confusion.

"What's going on here?" Jude asked as Kwest suddenly swept past Tommy and grabbed Jude by the arm."

"I think we should go, Jude." Kwest said quietly as Sadie railed behind him.

"I mean, were you going to tell me you were cheating on me? Who is she, Tom?" Sadie asked the last question almost in a whisper. Tom looked behind Sadie's shoulder to see Jude watching them as she and Kwest walked away. He looked back at Sadie then and said quietly,

"Just calm down Sades. I can honestly say that I am not cheating on you. Kwest and I were just discussing something completely random that could certainly be misconstrued. Don't make a bad situation out of nothing." Believe it or not, Tommy was actually being honest. He was not cheating on her, but he could tell from the look in her eyes that something had clicked in her brain and she was assuming the worst.

"Give it up, Quincy! I can't believe I was so stupid. You've been so distracted lately—always late. The classic signals." Sadie slapped the palm of her hand against her forehead. "God, I'm an idiot." She raved as she turned and fled the room.

"Sadie! Sadie…Come on, Sadie!" Tom yelled before grabbing his jacket off the back of his chair and running out the door behind her.

Returning to Jude

I looked at Kwest as he led me from the room with an intent expression—Too intent. Just from the way I was staring at him with my eyes dilated and nostrils flaring, Kwest had to know he was in a for a serious Q&A session. Obviously he took the hint because he shook his head and pointed to the studio door.

"Don't, Jude. This is one occasion where even I know the explanation should not come from me. You want answers, then talk to Tom." Kwest said with a shake of his head. I stared at him harder, but the warning look that came into his eyes ensured that I was not going to get any further answers from him. Sadie's voice kept reverberating through my head as I left the studio behind "When were you going to tell me you were cheating on me, Tom." Wow, that was not what I was expecting to hear. Sadie and Tom had an unusual relationship where they spent more time making out or fighting than actually talking, but that was still not a question I had ever expected to come from Sadie's mouth. Could Tom really be cheating on her? "Don't Jude." I warned myself. This was no time to make assumptions. I respected Tom enough to want to know what was going on before I made judgment. Or at least that is what I kept telling myself until I made it home only to encounter a very heart broken Sadie. She entered the house not far behind me with her cheeks tear-stained and covered in dark streaks from the mascara she had applied so carefully earlier in the day. I reached for her when I saw her, but she just waved her hand angrily and began kicking the couch in frustration.

"What's wrong with me, Jude. Why do I let him do this to me?" Sadie raved as she finally collapsed from lack of energy into a heap on the living room floor. I shook my head slightly and hunched down next to her on the floor.

"I may be the younger sister, but broken hearts have become my specialty lately, Sadie. One thing I do know about them is this: Don't let yourself fall apart until you are sure you have something to fall apart about." I said as Sadie shot me a look that said, "come on, Jude."

"Jude, he cheated on me." Sadie said matter-of-factly as she leaned back against the wall exhaling loudly as she did. I only stared at her a moment before I took her face in my hands and forced her to look directly into my eyes.

"Are you sure, Sadie? I mean, really sure?" I asked her firmly. I could tell by the look that came into her eyes that there was no convincing her otherwise. I did not envy Tom at that moment in the least.

"Jude, I heard Kwest tell him he thought Tommy's biggest problem was he was dating me but was in love with someone else. How would you take that? And look at how distracted he's been lately, how late he's been to everything. How much more certain can you get?" Sadie said harshly. I only shrugged and looked away. I had to admit that sounded pretty bad even to me. A banging on the door suddenly intruded the silence that had fallen between us, and we both looked at each other and then at the door before Sadie suddenly shot up and ran out the back. Another knock sounded and another then,

"Sadie, come on, open up Sadie. I really think we should talk." Tommy yelled wearily through the heavy wood. I glanced over my shoulder through the open back door before turning toward the locked front door with a heavy sigh. The sound of the lock clicking open never sounded louder than it did at that moment. I think things just sound more audible when you know that whatever is about to happen is going to be life changing. Note to self: should probably write down philosophical thoughts, could make much money someday. Just look at Dr. Phil. Hmmm….. The door creaked as it opened. Had it ever creaked before? Weird how I never noticed. Tommy was standing there with one hand gripping the door jam while his head was tilted forward facing the ground. He looked up then with a look that seemed more tired than desperate. He didn't seemed surprised that I was the one facing him now instead of Sadie. He just nodded slightly and brushed past me.

"Jude…." He started slowly, but before he could finish I held up my hand and pointed to the back.

"She went out the back, Tom" I said quickly. He hesitated for a moment before turning and rushing out the door. I heard them fighting before I even made it out the back. Standing next to the hot tub, the reflection of the water shimmering over their features almost made the moment seem surreal. Sadie was a great debater. Almost anything Tom could say, I knew she could turn it around. But surprisingly, less than a minute into the argument, Sadie did the most unusual thing. She began to weep—not cry—weep. Lord, I was tired of pain. Okay, before I go on, I should reveal that I am not a very rational person—ruled as I am mostly by passion instead of common sense. Without a single thought in my little bottle blond head, I marched over to the pair and did the most amazing thing. I pushed Tom Quincy into the hot tub, looked at him and said,

"I thought you were different." Before I marched off into the night. Okay, at the back of my mind, I knew that was a childish move on my part. Their problems were none of my business, but screw rationality. Ugh, what is wrong with me? I heard someone behind me, and I didn't even have to turn around to know who it was.

"I didn't cheat on her, Jude." Tom said softly from behind my shoulder. I walked to a tree nearby, turned around, and leaned back against the trunk. Shouldn't he be back at the house trying to convince Sadie of that? But, then again, she had probably run off on him after I shoved him in the hot tub.

"I know that, Tom. I know you didn't cheat on her, but have you been leading her on. I mean, do you really love her or is the only thing between you two attraction because, although it may not seem that way sometimes, she is my sister and there has been enough pain in my family lately." I said firmly. Tom just stared at me a moment before running his hands through his damp hair.

"I don't think that…oh, damn Jude, I don't know. I'm not even sure if Sadie knows. She has had a crush on me since my Boyz Attack days. Sometimes I wonder if what she really finds attractive about me is my past. It isn't about me leading her on. I think we have both been leading each other on. But, Jude, what's going on between Sades and I is…well it's between us." Tommy said while I stood basically twiddling my thumbs in aggravation.

"I know that, Tom. No, I should have known that. I am not even sure why I reacted like I did. God, we really need to get out of each other's lives don't we?" I said with a laugh. I glanced up to see Tom smiling too so I figured everything was okay between us.

"Jude, I think I changed things for us when I kissed you on your sixteenth birthday. I wasn't trying to change anything, but…" Tommy began but I walked up to him and placed a finger hurriedly against his lips.

"Don't Quincy. I'm not stopping you from saying anything because I want you to stop, but because I don't think your ready to say anything." I said as it suddenly hit me that maybe after all of this time hoping he would say something about our kiss that maybe I wasn't ready to hear it yet. Tommy's eyes widened in shocked amusement as he obviously came to the same conclusion.

"Jude Harrison afraid? I don't believe it." He said softly as he drew nearer to me in the dark. Both of us jumped when a loud hrumppph filled the air behind us, and I winced at the loud 'clearing of throat' intervention mostly because I knew who was behind it. With trepidation, I slowly glanced behind Tom's shoulder to see Spied leaning against a tree with a very unreadable expression on his face.

"Um, Jude, I think we need to talk." Spied said as I glanced from his face to Tommy's. Tom stared intently into my eyes conveying without even speaking that he would fix this problem with Spied and I if I wanted him to, but I slowly shook my head and walked around him to meet up with Spied. Spied's eyes scared me. They were too unreadable and, unlike Tommy, Spied had always been fairly readable to me. We walked in silence for a moment until I couldn't stand the quiet any longer.

"You said you wanted to talk, Spied." I said before tugging on his arm in an attempt to make him stop walking. Spied and I matched in fire and passion so I knew from personal experience that neither one of us got angry. We stewed. Spied looked down at me and shrugged.

"For the first time, Jude, I think I am at a loss for words or even jokes." Spied said quietly. I looked at him before punching him playfully on the arm.

"Spied out of jokes. I think we should call the hospital about this." I said with a chuckle. Spied didn't laugh along with me.

"Cut it out, Jude. What was that back there? I mean, be honest with me. I love you, Jude. But there has always been a piece of you that you seem to hold back from me. Is Tommy the reason why? Do you love him? Because I sure as hell didn't know anything about you having kissed Tommy before. For the sake of the band, you need to tell me now before I fall for you enough that I won't be able to walk away without a fight. I love you and your music. I don't want to lose our music so please tell me if we have a future together or whether the only thing we're going to be sharing is our guitars." Spied asked defiantly as I stood stupefied next to him. Most of those questions I wasn't even ready to answer for myself much less for anyone else. I shook my head sadly only because I knew it was wrong to lead him on.

"I love you too, Spied. I just don't know how much. I won't lie and say that I don't have feelings for Tommy because I do. I don't even know why. The two of us will probably never explore the depths of those feeling enough to know ourselves. But what I do know is this: whatever I do feel for him has managed to interfere in any relationship I've had since I met him so maybe it is better if we just go back to being Jude and SME until I can figure it out myself huh?" I said as tears rolled down my cheeks. I don't like to cry, but my heart was breaking not for me but for Spied. Spied's eyes shone with unshed tears. But he hugged me anyway and kissed me on the cheek. I think neither one of us were willing to lose our friendship. He was being the bigger man about it and it thoroughly impressed me. We just held each other for a moment before he finally pulled back from me, searching my face with shiny eyes.

"Don't expect me to wait for you, Jude. "He said softly. I watched as he turned and started to walk away.

"I don't." I said in a whisper as his retreating figure took a piece of my heart along with it. I knew I loved him, but deep down I also knew I was being unfair to him and I wasn't willing to do that either. A rustle of leaves behind me caused me to glance back to see Tommy standing there with a knowing expression in his eyes, but upon eye contact, we both turned and walked in opposite directions. A lot had happened to us both tonight and I don't think either of us was ready to face up to it yet. Once back in my room, I grabbed my guitar and sat in a corner strumming a tune that was beginning to hold a lot of meaning for me.

I look into the eyes of the world and what do I see

But the eyes of the world looking back at me.

I see the chaos reflected back in its stare

Enraptured in its mindless never ending moments

Standing there, I wonder why I care

Why my heart breaks at its numbing suspense.

I won't go down that road again,

There is sadness there I say

Too many regrets down the paths I have been,

Give me the strength to walk away

Too many questions, so many questions,

Way too much unease

I need answers, give me some answers,

Bring me my reprieve

Unwritten verse in an written story, oh fear

Not knowing what's around the bend

Not knowing what draws near

I'm not afraid of the story, but how it will end.

I won't go down that road again,

There is sadness there I say

Too many regrets down the paths I have been,

Give me the strength to walk away

My heart grows daily, bursting at the seams.

There is greatness in the people I have known

Wonder in the part they've played in my dreams.

Oh, how, with them, I have grown.

Where do we go from here?

I won't let myself be afraid.

Shadows may draw near

But with struggle greatness is made.

Too many questions, so many questions,

Way too much unease

I need answers, give me some answers,

Bring me my reprieve

I looked into the eyes of the world and what did I see.

But the eyes of the world looking back at me.

And with the last stroke of the guitar, the tears ran hot--streaming with a vengeance down my face as if they couldn't seem to come fast enough. It was a beautiful song, and I was proud of it. Note to self: Cry more often, it leaves you feeling new—like a snake shedding its skin.

The next day

It was about time for me to record in the studio again, and I was looking forward to showing, even Darius, the new song I had come up with. The song had become a piece of myself during the writing so it was like handing a piece of my heart over when I played it for someone else. The first thing I saw when I walked through the door was a very tired Tommy sitting on the couch in the studio with his head thrown backwards looking at the ceiling. Boy, he sure was being productive at six o' clock in the morning (laugh). I walked over and sat down next to him. Although he never flinched, I knew he knew who was there with him. Neither one of us said anything. For once we both just needed comfort from our closest friend without any baggage along with it so I just sat next to him and placed my hand over his. We needed that connection. We needed a moment to let, not our hearts bond, but our souls. His fingers entwined with mine and he turned his head slightly to look at me.

"You okay, Harrison?" He asked in a whisper.

"Yeah, you Quincy?" I asked as he nodded slightly. That is all we said—all we needed to say. I could feel the pad of his thumb massaging the back of my hand, and I smiled at the intimacy of such a small gesture. I saw the door open out of the corner of my eye so I pulled my hand from Tommy's and stood up with a flourish. Darius rushed into the room talking with Liam while holding a cell phone in one hand. You could tell he was having two conversations at once. At least we can say that Darius can multi-task. He looked up and noticed me standing there. Within moments, he was standing in front of me, snapping his cell phone shut, and telling Liam to set up Studio 1.

"Where's SME, Jude? I hope you have something for me today. The studio is only yours for a couple of hours." Darius said irritably as he looked around for the Spiederman Mind Explosion. I took a breath and waited for the rampage.

"SME and I have been spinning some great music together. I think we almost have enough for an album, but the song I want to record today is all acoustic. I guess you could say that I would like the first track to be a return to my Instant Star roots." I said with a shrug. Darius looked at me with narrowed eyes, but he knew that I was capable of good songs so I was betting, okay hoping, that he would give this one a chance.

"Make it good, Harrison." Darius said firmly before answering the cell phone that had begun ringing in his hand. He waved me off then so I turned to Tommy.

"Boy, the tension in these studios almost seems thick enough to slice with a knife." I said while shaking my head wearily. Tommy suddenly looked even more tired than before.

"You have no idea. Come on, Harrison. Let's get to work." Tommy said as he lifted himself off the couch and headed for Studio 1. I didn't have time to wonder about what might be bothering Tommy, but I made a note to ask him later.

Entering Studio 1, I saw Kwest speaking quietly with Tommy. He glanced at me and smiled before motioning to the microphone behind the sound proof glass.

"You ready, girl." Kwest asked with a smile. I smiled back at him and nodded.

"When you two are." I answered quickly as I took a seat on the stool behind the glass. With my guitar sitting lazily across my lap, I waited for my signal from the sound room all the while glancing periodically at Tommy trying to ascertain if he was actually doing okay. He must have noticed because he smiled reassuringly at me, probably longer than he should before giving me the thumbs up sign telling me to go ahead. I started strumming the guitar, getting into the music before I finally opened my mouth to sing,

I look into the eyes of the world and what do I see

But the eyes of the world looking back at me.

I see the chaos reflected back in its stare

Enraptured in its mindless never ending moments

Standing there, I wonder why I care

Why my heart breaks at its numbing suspense.

I won't go down that road again,

There is sadness there I say

Too many regrets down the paths I have been,

Give me the strength to walk away

Too many questions, so many questions,

Way too much unease

I need answers, give me some answers,

Bring me my reprieve

Unwritten verse in an written story, oh fear

Not knowing what's around the bend

Not knowing what draws near

I'm not afraid of the story, but how it will end.

I won't go down that road again,

There is sadness there I say

Too many regrets down the paths I have been,

Give me the strength to walk away

My heart grows daily, bursting at the seams.

There is greatness in the people I have known

Wonder in the part they've played in my dreams.

Oh, how, with them, I have grown.

Where do we go from here?

I won't let myself be afraid.

Shadows may draw near

But with struggle greatness is made.

Too many questions, so many questions,

Way too much unease

I need answers, give me some answers,

Bring me my reprieve

I looked into the eyes of the world and what did I see.

But the eyes of the world looking back at me.

I let the song fade softly at the end, congratulating myself on the way I managed to end it since I had had problems with the ending chords the night before. The studio was deathly quiet. I was afraid to look up to see what the guys thought about the lyrics, but the quiet lasted so long, I finally glanced up to see if they were still in the sound room. Kwest and Tommy were standing there gaping at me. I couldn't figure out why so I just mouthed "what" to them before setting my guitar aside.

"Is that a wrap, guys? Do I need to do it again?" I asked nervously awaiting some sort of response. Kwest shook himself and reached for the intercom button.

"No, that was great Jude. Come on back in here." He said quickly glancing back at Tommy as I made my way back into the other room.

"Where did that come from?" Kwest asked Tommy as I entered the room. Both turned and faced me while I just stood there shrugging my shoulders like an idiot.

"Well…." I said softly. Tommy grinned suddenly and clapped his hands quickly together."

"That was amazing, Jude. As raw as the first time we saw you on Instant Star, but different—more…more something. It wasn't about broken hearts or raw pain. It was just about you and utterly revealing. I think people will identify with it and love it. Of course, we'll have to do some mixing and you and I can work a little on the chords, but I am really excited about this song." Tommy said in awe. Kwest was nodding behind him in agreement and I just felt..well…giddy. I laughed in relief and nodded at the two.

"Great! Do you think we need to play the rough draft for Darius. We're going to need more studio time if we're going to work more on the chords. " I said quickly. Tommy nodded.

"I'll take it to him. I don't think even Darius will want to get rid of this song. Give me about thirty minutes, Jude, and we can work on it some more." Tom said as he slipped the CD into a protective cover. I nodded at him as he walked out the door leaving Kwest and I alone. Kwest patted the stool next to him and I sat down to wait.

"That really was amazing, Jude. The song was about confusion. Who doesn't have that in their lives." Kwest said quietly. I glanced at Kwest when he said that almost as if seeing him for the first time. He was fiddling with the soundboard and I couldn't help but wonder what Kwest could be confused about.

Tommy and Darius is Darius's office

Tommy stormed through Darius's office door with a wide grin on his face. Darius was sitting at his desk reading a document when he heard Tommy march in and he looked up in irritation.

"Don't you know how to knock, Quincy?" He said as he laid the document aside. Tom only looked at him with a smile.

"I think this new track is worth a little spontaneity. Jude's newest song is great. And I've heard some of the stuff that SME and she have been working on. I think we might have a hit on our hands. And before you disagree with me, just listen to it first." Tommy said with a voice full of pride. Darius only raised his brows with skepticism as he watched Tom slip the CD into the player and punched 'play.' Jude's haunting melody filled the room, creating a mix of ballad with the punk rock style everyone had grown to love about her. The song was hard and soft all at the same time. It was painful and joyful to listen to. It really was amazing. Darius tried not to look impressed, but he failed to completely pull it off and Tommy knew he had caught him off guard.

"What did I tell you, Darius?" Tommy said in triumph. Darius only hrrruumphed and then turned to Tommy with a grin.

"I like it, and you say that her other stuff with SME's just as good?" Darius asked slowly. Tommy gazed at Darius thoughtfully before answering.

"I do, I seriously do. Why, where are you going with that statement, D?" Darius paced across the room and back before coming to stand in front of Tommy.

"Because I think that Jude might be ready to record her sophomore album so it may be time we brought her back into the studio." Darius said when sudden thought seemed to inspire him and he turned to look back at Tommy once more.

"I've given a lot of thought to sending you to L.A. to produce. Have you?" Darius asked while pretending to sort papers on his desk. He could see Tom fidgeting out of the corner of his eye.

"I don't think I want the transfer, Darius. I have a lot, I mean a lot of expectations for Jude's new album. I believe in her. And I've made too many acquaintances here to want to leave now." Tommy stated in a low tone. Darius nodded as if he were bored with the whole thing.

"So be it, Quincy. Go tell Jude about the album and be in the studio first thing to begin. Make sure she brings SME this time." Tom inclined his head in the affirmative before turning to walk out the door missing the grin that plastered Darius's face. He would use any tactic to keep his best producer with him, and this time, considering the potential in Jude's new song, it may be a lucrative tactic. Tommy felt like skipping back to the studio, but he held himself back as he walked in to find Jude and Kwest laughing over some joke Jude had made. Jude had grown so much in the past year. He might tell himself that she was off limits because she was too young for him, but the truth was, he had stopped seeing her as an age a long time ago. She was Jude now to him. Jude looked up as he walked in and inclined her eyebrows in question. He nodded and grinned.

"Be at the studio with SME first thing in the morning. It's time we start working on your sophomore album." Tom said with a smile. Jude shrieked in excitement. The happiness that radiated off her reminded him of what she was like before the Darius take over. Jude jumped down off the stool she was sitting on and made her way to the studio door.

"I guess I have a lot to do before tomorrow then." Jude said with a wink and then she was gone. The room almost turned cold without her in it as if a candle had been extinguished. Kwest seemed to notice it too, but they both ignored it and turned back to the soundboard. They had a song to mix.

Jude walks toward home while texting furiously on her cell phone

The phone was going to be busy tonight. I had to contact the boys of SME and still get enough done to be ready for the start of my new album. Things finally felt like they were falling back into place. I had just received a message back from Spied saying we'll B There!" when I knocked smack dab into someone's chest. Looking up I saw Jamie's glassless face staring down at me. He smiled warmly and raised his brows.

"Mind keeping me from ending up with a concussion, Jude?" He asked on a laugh. "What's the hurry, Jude?" I looked him over quietly. It felt like I never saw him anymore although I know that wasn't true. I smiled back at him and replied,

"We start recording my sophomore album tomorrow—finally. I am excited to finally get started. I have some splendid ideas. Where are you off to? Got time to maybe catch a bite?" I asked surprising myself as much as Jamie by the invitation. He shrugged nonchalantly.

"Sure, why not?" He said quickly and we both started walking toward the café he, Kat, and I used to frequent often almost as if it were second nature. And really, if you thought about it, it was.

"We haven't done a lot together lately have we, Jamie? I miss that." I said as we reached the café' and took a seat at one of the tables. A waitress came around and took our orders before Jamie finally got around to answering.

"I have to admit things have been different. But it hasn't been all bad. Believe it or not, I have you to thank for my job at G Major—at least indirectly. And I've missed you too, Jude" Jamie said honestly. I smiled at him before tapping him lightly on the nose.

"Actually, you got that job all on your own Andrews. It's that wonderful ability of yours to spot new talent. Speaking of, how is your newest acquisition, Patsy, doing?" I asked teasingly. I knew that he and Patsy had gotten awful close—intimately close if what Kat and I had seen one day when walking into my new SME Studio was correct. Jamie's face turned red, and I laughed as he choked on a sip of water.

"Things are going…umm…pretty good there." Jamie said on another choke, and I laughed harder. I really had missed Jamie lately. We talked a while about everything—basically just filling each other in on everything that we had missed in each other's lives recently. He took my hand in his then and, startled by the gesture, I froze in place.

"How are you, Jude? I heard about Spied. Do you really think Tommy will ever come around?" He asked seriously becoming once again the Jamie I knew best—the best friend who delved deeply into my life trying to make everything better. I smiled at him happily as I squeezed his fingers in reassurance.

"I didn't break up with Spied because of Tommy. Not completely. I do have feelings for Tommy that I am still trying to figure out, but I think I actually just need to be on my own for a while. I have a new album to work on; I would love to, I don't know, have our friendship work again too. All in all, I feel like things are returning to, at least, a semblance of normalcy." I said quickly. Jamie nodded and grinned.

"Well, you can count me in. I've missed our friendship too. Maybe we can do something together again soon?" Jamie stated as he stood up and placed a roll of bills on the table. I stood up with him and then walked over to give him a huge hug and kiss on the cheek.

"Keep in touch, Andrews." I said as I started to walk back towards my house.

"You too, Harrison." Jamie said with a grin as he headed off in the opposite direction. I walked with a huge grin on my face that kept getting bigger until I found myself chuckling quietly. Note to self: Always keep your closest friends closer.

A few days later

Getting back into the rhythm of things back at the studio was actually therapeutical for me. It was nice to be getting back to some sort of routine again. Jamie and I were talking almost every other night, Spied and I still clicked when it came to our music although I won't lie and say there was no awkwardness between us, and Sadie was starting to realize what her life was capable of becoming without Tommy in it. She had taken the break up hard though and was determined to make it just as hard on Tommy to begin with. But with some consolation and firm advice (and a little confrontation), mostly from Portia and I, she was beginning to branch out and make waves for herself away from music and Tommy. The album was going great and the songs were going to be, according to several critics, instant hits. I was ecstatic. My seventeenth birthday was coming up, and I was really hoping to have the album almost finished by then. My family had plans to take me out to dinner along with a few extra faces—Tommy, Spied, Jamie, Portia, and Kwest. I had firmly announced that mom and dad were not allowed to bring along Don or Yvette, not because I had a so much a problem with them, but because arguments tended to arise when they were around and I had no intention of having anyone argue on that day. The big one seven—wow, somehow I felt like I had grown a millenium older than that during the last year. Note to self: Don't let myself become an old hag.

Tommy in downtown Toronto

Tommy fidgeted outside the store only for a moment before he took a deep breath and marched in. He had been thinking about Jude a lot lately and, with her birthday coming up, he had been giving himself headaches over what he should do for her. Gestures counted more than gifts to Jude so with a lot of thought, he had finally come up with an idea he hoped would make her happy.