Author's Note: For those of you who've read some of my stuff before: thanks for coming back. And for those of you who are currently reading one of my "dead-end" fics hoping I'll just update it soon (hint, hint), you're probably wondering what I'm doing writing another fic instead of working on the ones I already have. Well. . .I don't have an answer. Lol! But I will update the others. I haven't given up on any of those just yet. My computer has been out of commission for a long time and it still kind of is. Well, the computer itself is fixed, but now I'm having connection problems (sigh), but I am currently occupying the public library (just for you guys)! Now I just have to get around to typing up all the stuff I wrote!

Disclaimer: You know the drill.

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Part 1: Tyrant

Helga sat at her lunch table, pulling her beautiful blond hair up in a neat pony-tail.

Gym. It always left her tired and sweaty and the teachers never give you enough time for a shower. Damn teachers, she thought as she put her necklace back on.

She didn't wear that bow in her hair anymore, but that wasn't to say that she didn't wear it at all.

She touched the necklace lightly, feeling nostalgic.

Oh, she still wore that bow, but of course she would, though. It was something Arnold had given her. She would cherish it forever.

Helga had stopped wearing it sometime around the seventh grade after a ninth grade girl made fun of her for it. They threw down for a while, punching, kicking, and pulling each other's hair. A typical cat fight, I guess you could say. Whatever it was, Helga was sorry that it was short-lived. A teacher had pulled them apart and dragged them to the principle's office. Helga didn't talk. She wasn't going to bother telling anyone why the bow was so important and why she wouldn't stand for anyone making fun of it or her. She didn't have to and so she didn't.

Now, she wore it as a necklace; the necklace she currently wore.

The day following the fight, Phoebe brought a locket and chain for Helga and helped her neatly wrap the bow around the chain. When it was done, Phoebe sewed the bow in three places: the ends and the middle. She then placed the makeshift necklace around Helga's neck and admired her work.

"This way, no one will make fun of you and you can still wear it without having to worry about it."

The very gesture almost made Helga cry. Phoebe was such a good friend. Helga needed to recognize that more often.

Speaking of Phoebe, the tiny, thin girl walked back to the table with two lunch trays. Helga let out a deep breath just as Phoebe set down a tray in front of her.

"Here you go, Helga," she said cheerfully. A slice of pizza, a carton of fruit punch and a brownie sat on the orange tray.

"Thanks again, Phoebes," Helga replied. "My legs are just so. . ." she didn't need to finish her sentence. Phoebe understood. "I think I might have run a little too fast for that mile run."

Phoebe shook her head, lightly dismissing Helga's explanation with a small wave of her hand. She knew Helga well enough that the gym's mile run was another way for her to let out some steam. It always had a cleansing affect on her, but it also completely drained her, so getting two trays of food was no trouble at all. Not for Phoebe. She was just being a good friend.

"You can have my brownie," Helga offered by way of thanks. "You deserve it for going up there and coming back with one more tray for me."

Phoebe shook her head with a smile, her dark hair swishing over her shoulders as she did so. "No," she answered sweetly.

Out of all the people from elementary school, Phoebe had been the one who looked different on the outside yet remained the same on the inside. Well, she wasn't entirely different. She was still short, still had dark hair and she was still Asian. That would never change. But her hair had grown longer. She still kept it considerably short, but she kept it longer now. Her ends sat just above her shoulders. Her glasses were smaller, they complimented her face more and her almond-shaped eyes. Her height, well, she grew, but she remained shorter than Helga. Helga knew it'd always be that way, though. And Phoebe's beauty was striking. It surprised a lot of people to see how pretty she'd gotten over the years, but Phoebe never seemed to take notice of her good looks and Helga liked that about her. It kept her from being snooty and inconsiderate.

Everyone else had changed too, but not as much as Phoebe's outward appearance. The girls grew up, their faces not changing too much. Others become more beautiful, but that was it. They all looked older, more mature, but that was pretty much it. They all remained the same, pretty much. The guys looked about the same too. The only difference now was that some were hairier than others. Some had facial hair, some did not. Others had become better looking, others did not.

"Don't even worry about it, Helga," Phoebe said, smiling wide and breaking Helga from her own thoughts. "What I really want is to hear your plan for tonight."

Helga's form slinked considerably. Not this again, she thought.

"Look, Phoebe," Helga began, "I thought-"

"You're booked," she interjected. "I did it yesterday. They were happy to have a performer."

Helga looked on with horror. She wanted to do something. Scream. Run. Break something. Anything!

"Why would you-?"

"Hey!" Gerald sat down beside Phoebe and Helga could feel Arnold's presence looming over the table. "So, you going to the Songbird tonight?"

Phoebe nodded excitedly, a little shyly, but excitedly.

Helga could feel Arnold's eyes on her now as Gerald chatted away about him and Phoebe getting close and blah blah blah. "Does that mean you'll be joining us there too, Helga?"

She was going to be doing more than just joining them apparently. She was the entertainment!

She tried her hardest not to make a scene, but it was Arnold! "I have better things to do with my time," she said not even looking at him. She stood up and took her tray with her. She put the slice of pizza in her mouth and took the brownie off the tray before throwing out the rest and placing the tray neatly on the garbage. "Later, losers."

"Helga!" Phoebe called.

"What other things could you have, Helga," Arnold challenged and she couldn't resist no matter how hard she tried.

She turned and shouted, "Better things, football head!" She stared at him wanting so much to just. . .to just have him look at her with softer eyes. The feeling was fleeting. It was all she'd allow. "What gives?!" she exclaimed. "Criminey!"

She whirled around and walked out before he could say more, before she showed anymore than she should.

That kid was getting bolder and bolder and although she found it endearing once. . .yeah, not so much anymore.

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Helga sat back in her chair as Phoebe fixed her wig. I cannot believe you convinced me to sing here tonight, she thought.

"Hold still, okay," Phoebe said as she took a pair of scissors in one hand and parted the wig off to the right. She lifted the scissors and brought it close to Helga's face.

"What are you doing?!" Helga practically jumped out of her seat. She dug her nails in the arms of the chair, ready to spring up and run away.

"Making you someone else," Phoebe said as she put a firm yet gentle hand on Helga's shoulder and then she cut ever-so gently at an angle. Helga watched as the black strands fell to the floor.

Helga turned to look at herself in the mirror. The longest piece of Helga's new-found side-bang ran underneath her right eye. She liked the look. "Not bad, Phoebes."

"Thank you!" To say Phoebe was pleased with herself was an understatement. The girl beamed. The sun could not compete with her shine at the moment. "Now," Phoebe said, "About that necklace."

Helga jumped. Her hand unconsciously touched the soft fabric around her neck, covering up as much of it as possible.

Phoebe frowned. She wasn't so bright now. "People will recognize it right away," she urged.

She had a point, but. . ."But I don't like taking it off." She only ever took it off for gym because the teacher would never stop squawking if she found Helga with it on. People are too stupid to pick up on details anyway, Helga thought. And I'll be on stage.

"On in ten, guys," came Joe's voice, the young owner of the Songbird. It was the new hang out spot for the kids. The guy moved in about four years ago and bought a nice little place just down the street from the preschool. Within a year the place was made up all nice and open to the public. Adults and kids alike came in to enjoy themselves. Adults ate as performers played for them and they'd dance on occasions. Kids, teenagers came by simply for dancing and to hear new music, new talent. Friday night was teen night and that's when all the high school kids came out to watch bands play.

"Put on the turtle neck I told you to bring with you."

Helga stared. She had lost that thing a while back. She didn't know what happened to it. "It's . . .kind of. . . gone."

Phoebe sighed. "I figured it'd be," she said as she went to her bag. "I thought you'd at least have another one." She rummaged through it and then pulled out a black turtle neck. "This familiar?"

Helga nodded. "Pretty convenient, Phoebes."

"You left it at my house that night you ran away from home," she explained. There had been countless nights Helga had run away from home and went to Phoebe's she'd have to be more specific.

Phoebe hesitated. "The last time that. . . Olga came back home."

Ah, yes. How could Helga forget? She fought with Big Bob that night about getting dressed and going out to dinner to celebrate Olga's return, but Helga hadn't been feeling well that day and she said she'd skip, but Big Bob wouldn't have it.

"You're gonna march up there and change into something nice so we can celebrate your sister's return home and we will eat as a family."

Helga snorted. "I don't know where you think we are, Bob, but this isn't a tight-knit family."

His face turned red with anger. "You will march up those stairs and change into something nice!" he repeated, his voice thundering.

Helga stood. She walked to him and gave him a venomous glare and marched up the stairs. When she was in the comfort of her own room, she tore off her shirt and threw it aside. She looked through her draws and pulled out a black turtle neck and pulled it on. She walked back out her door, but not before grabbing her black scarf. She marched back down the stairs and looked at Bob. "I hate you," she said and stormed out of the house. She had forgotten her coat in all her anger.

When she made it to Phoebe's, her cheeks were ablaze despite the cold and as the night progressed, so did her sickness. She ended up vomiting on the shirt and her jeans. Phoebe and her mother had to help her out of her dirty clothes and get her in a bath and then help her change into pajamas.

Helga took in the scent of the shirt as she pulled it over her head. She vaguely hoped no one came in while she was changing shirts. I wouldn't want anyone seeing me in all my glory, she thought sarcastically. Actually, she didn't think she cared one way or another. The shirt smelled better than she last remembered. Phoebe washed it. She looked at herself in the mirror as Phoebe stashed the necklace in the folds of the turtle neck.

"You ready?" Phoebe asked, stepping away to look at her.

Helga's heart raced. "No."

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She didn't even know the drummer or the freaking guitar player!

The pianist was the only one she recognized and everyone else would too even with those goofy sunglasses that made her look like a mosquito and that dumb hat that reminded Helga of those typical college students who wrote "poetry" and "drank coffee". She didn't know why the quotes were so necessary, but they were!

I don't even recognize myself in this get-up!

She took in a deep breath. Calm down, Helga old girl. Just stay calm.

She could hear Joe introducing them from behind the curtain: "This performer has never been here before, but I hope we can give her a warm welcome." The crowd cheered. Oh, my god. "She and her crew have a real treat for us tonight." The crowd cheered again, their excitement only fueling Helga's growing anxiety.

"The name of the group is Dreaming Out Loud," Joe continued, "the name of the girl. . .she won't say. I welcome you, for the first time on stage, Dreaming Out Loud!"

The crowd cheered as the Joe walked off the stage, ready for the band to play and then the lights went out and the crowed didn't know how to react. Their cheering became unsure and soft. The curtains pulled away to reveal a dark stage.

Helga thought now would be a good chance to just get away. What the hell was she suppose to do anyway? She wanted to run and she could feel her feet moving when. . .a single light shown just in time with the piano and Helga froze.

Helga took a deep breath and took in the music. It's okay, it's okay. No one can even see me right now. She watched Phoebe, her fingers moving expertly over the keys, playing with care and ease. Okay, Pataki, Helga thought, closing her eyes. She took another deep breath, opened her mouth and then the lines poured out as a light shown on her. Her words wove and threaded into her first verse.

". . .you know it is all, all aglow. . ."

In just a few seconds the drums started as she sang again.

She sang every word with her eyes closed, letting herself become more and more comfortable with the music and the words.

". . .you know it is all I know. . . all I know, (it's) all I know. . ."

The music stood still for just a few seconds and then it came thundering back as the drum boomed.

". . .from the out, from the out. . .tyrant. . ." Her voice faded a little before repeating the word. ". . . tyrant. . ."

She dove right into another verse, her words working like a thread, tying everything together.

". . .lies for you, that's what they do. . ."

The drum boomed once more and she began again. "And it feels so real from the outside looking in. . ."

By now she was way to into the music to even realize she was giving it all she had. She put every emotion into the song, everything. She sang her heart out.

"Tyraaaant!" She held the note for a bit and then let it ease to a close. The lights flashed, colors flying. "Oh. . ." It was a soft moan.

The music slowed a bit and the lights dimmed. "Oh. . .oh. . ."

For a while the guitar and the piano played as blue light splashed the stage. Helga moved slowly about, moving toward the drummer. Her fingers danced up his arm as he started playing again.

"Oh. . .I'll stay with apathy, I'm blind but I can see. . ." she eased her way toward the guitar player and watched him as he played his guitar. ". . .I'm stained with apathy, I'm blind but I can seeeee. . ." She held the last note as she tilted her head back, the mike in her hand as she held onto the guitar player with her free hand.

"Oooh. . ." she lifted herself up and sang again, looking directly at the guitar player, whose name she did not know. He eyed her as he played. "Don't justify me, don't justify me. . ." she repeated these lyrics, looking at the guitar player without moving.

The piano played lightly again, alone and Helga moved away from the guy playing guitar. The piano calling to her. She moved sensually across the stage. "Ooh. . .ooh. . ."

She took a deep breath and expanded her lungs and her throat opened. Within seconds and explosion of sound erupted from her mouth. Raw emotion seeped into every word. "From the out. . .from the out. . ." The lights raced about, greens, blues, yellows, splashing the stage with color and sequences, stunning the on looking crowd.

The music seemed to round out, coming full circle and it slowly played into the piano's lonesome playing. And Helga soothed the crowd with one last line: "And it feels so real from the outside looking in. . ."

The lights went out and the crowd went still. Helga's trance seemed to break just as the curtains pulled in. She looked to Phoebe who looked back at her in a way Helga had never seen before. She turned toward the band mates she did not know; the drummer, the guitar player. They all looked at her the same way.

After a long pause, the guitar player spoke: "You. . .are one. . .amazing performer."

And then Helga realized what the look in their eyes was. It was astonishment and pure awe.

Joe came in his face expressing every bit of awe and astonishment that reflected in everyone else's expression. "You have to come back," he said. "That was. . .incredible."

The sound of the crowd suddenly came to Helga's ears, startling her . They were whooping and howling, applauding and whistling, wanting more.

Tears began to fall from Helga's eyes. She looked to Phoebe, speechless.

"It was all you," Phoebe said. "All you."

The sudden roar of the crowd could not swallow the silence that fell on the stage as everyone looked at her.

Author's Note #2: Well, that's the first part of three. The next is being typed up and such. It should be out soon enough. Now, I wonder how many of you will notice where the name of Helga's band came from