Finally an update! Sorry its been so long, the new writing has turned out to take more time than I remembered. Anyways, hopefully I'll have another one soonish.

As always, I don't own Instant Star, or any of the characters... just this story, and these songs!

Enjoy! (hopefully)

Chapter 5 – Strangers in the Night

Kwest sighed heavily as he pushed open the back door of G Major, another twelve hour day behind him. As he stepped out the door, he looked up at the dark sky above him. He tried to calculate the time, but the last hints of daylight had already receded past the outlines of the buildings, making it impossible to guess. He walked through the darkened alley toward his car. As he neared it, he noticed a hooded figure leaned up against the back of his Jeep. He slowed his walk, the hair on the back of his neck prickling as he sized up the situation. The hooded figure was leaning casually against the vehicle and was of average height and medium build. Kwest took another step and opened his mouth to tell the person to get away from his car when the man spoke.

"Kwest." He stopped short. Looking closer, he tried to put a face to the voice, knowing who it was yet not believing it. The man looked around for a moment before taking a step away from the jeep, into the streetlight and lowering his hood.

"Tommy." Kwest said. A mixture of relief and confusion. Tommy put his hood back up, walking away from the circle of light. Kwest followed, letting himself be led toward a small park. Sitting down on a bench, Tommy waited for Kwest to catch up. Once Kwest sat, Tommy launched right into conversation, not waiting a moment for Kwest to gather his thoughts.

"I'm looking for Jude." Tommy said. His eyes landed directly on Kwest's, showing the seriousness of his demeanor. Kwest stared back seriously for a moment before his expression shifted into incredulity.

"What in the hell, Tommy?" Kwest said, his head shaking as he said it. "You took off two and a half years ago, without a word to anybody, and now you show up acting all mysterious and asking about Jude?" He stopped, waiting for an answer.

"I just need to talk to Jude."

"And I need answers Tommy." Kwest said, throwing up his hands. "We used to be best friends. Talk to me." Kwest put his hand on Tommy's shoulder, trying to get him to open up a little bit. Tommy shook his hand off, turning away.

"Do you know where she is?" Tommy asked, trying his best to put up a cool exterior. Kwest stared back at him, waiting for Tommy to give in. "Look, I just need to talk to her. It's important."

"Where have you been Tommy?" Kwest asked. "It's been two and a half years. She's moved on, we've all moved on. Jude is married now; you can't just swoop in and shake up her life again. She's not sixteen anymore."

"You think I don't know that?" Tommy said, jumping up and turning around so that he was standing right in front of Kwest. "Why do you think I left? I didn't want to mess up anything for her. I left because of her. I came back because I had to, and I promise you Kwest, I'll only be here as long as it takes to talk to her." Tommy stopped as he realized what he had said. Kwest's face showed a slightly hurt look as he turned away from Tommy. When he looked back, he was calm.

"I understand why you left Tom, but I don't understand why you came back." He was silent for a moment. "She's happy." Tommy sat back down and put his face in his hands. Kwest leaned back, settling in to wait while Tommy processed his thoughts.

"I wish it could stay that way, Kwest." He looked up at his friend with a haunted look. "I wish I didn't have to be here." He said. "I've sat outside her house, her dad's house, and NBR, trying to tell myself that I could let it go, that I could go home, but I can't. I need to see her. Just for a minute." Kwest sighed, looking at Tommy. Finally he sat up.

"She's at G Major." Tommy glanced up quickly with a confused expression. "Don't ask me man; I have no idea what she is doing there. All I know is that she has been locked in the office with Darius for the last four hours." Tommy got up, turning toward the studio. Kwest stopped him by speaking again. "If you go in there, you'll cause a scene. From the hood and the dark bench in an abandoned park, I am guessing you are trying to keep a low profile. You'll ruin it if you barge in now." Tommy sat back down. He looked at Kwest, hoping he would have some idea. "She's got a show tomorrow. I saw it on the books at G Major tonight. Nothing big, just a club that local artists use to try out new things. I can get you in under an assumed name." Tommy nodded.

"I've missed you Kwest."

"Me too Tommy, me too."

Jude was pacing. She hadn't felt this nervous about performing in years. Outside the dressing room, Speid was pacing too, waiting for Jude to unlock the door. He had told the stage hand to stall, not sure how long it would take for Jude to pull herself together. Finally the door opened. Jude stepped out, looking pale, but otherwise ready.

"You look great Jude! Ready?"

"I don't know Speid; maybe we should just do the old stuff. What if they don't like my new songs?" Jude actually looked scared. Speiderman just grinned.

"Nonsense Jude, the new stuff is awesome. Besides, today marks a new day in the life of Jude, and everyone should know. Now let's get out there tear it up!" Jude gave a little smile, took a deep breath and headed down the hall. Coming out from behind the side curtain, she looked out at the audience. They were distracted and noisy, everyone drinking and laughing. It made Jude feel a little better knowing they weren't all staring at her as she sat down at her stool. She adjusted the microphone, the noise finally drawing attention to the stage, quieting the crowd. She glanced over at Spied who had taken the seat next to her. Picking up the acoustic sitting by her stool, she took one last deep breathe and faced the audience.

"Hey everyone, I'm so happy to be here." She paused to allow the applause to die down. "I'm sure you all recognize this handsome man next to me. It seems like a century ago that we were playing together, and I am so lucky he's offered to play with me tonight." Jude smiled at Speid before continuing. "I've got a few new things I've been working on, and I'd love to share them with you. This first one is called How to Write a Song. I hope you like it." With that, Jude strummed a chord on the guitar, easing into the intro for the song. Speid joined in with his guitar.

I'm playing songs for your memory
Is this what I'm reduced to?
Pretending I can take it back
The day I walked away from you

In a dark corner table, near the back of the club, sat Kwest and an incognito Tommy. Despite the dim lighting, Tommy was wearing his sun glasses. He had been preoccupied with trying to make sure that no recognized him, but suddenly he couldn't look away from the blonde on stage, her hair glowing softly under the blue light. He sat listening, taking in her new song, dissecting it.

I'm caught up in this life
Where I'm pretending to exist
But disappearing like you did
Is so hard to resist

Tommy fought his natural inclination to assume the song was about him. It had been a long time since he could claim to be her inspiration. Had she lost someone from her life recently? Was her mom still gallivanting around Europe with her new husband? His curiosity was piqued, and before he could stop himself, the question was out.

"Sounds like she's been abandoned, who left her?" Tommy instantly regretted it, knowing it wasn't his place to ask. He didn't want to know.

Gee, I wonder." Kwest scoffed, looking up at his friend with raised eyebrows. He was just as shocked as Tommy at Jude's melancholy tune, but it didn't take him more than two seconds to figure out what was going on.

"You're wrong Kwest; it's been two and a half years. She didn't suddenly wake up and realize I left. There has to be some other explanation." Tommy's voice held no conviction. He didn't take his eyes off the stage to look at Kwest.

"Whatever you say T." Kwest said, rolling his eyes.

The acoustic is in the corner
And the piano gathers dust
My music starts to fade
As my heart begins to rust

"Why would she miss me now, after all this time?" Tommy asked, challenging Kwest's implication.

"The same reason you would randomly show up after two and a half years. Seems like a pretty big coincidence, by the way." Kwest raised his eyebrow in Tommy's direction. The man was being unnecessarily mysterious. Hard as he tried, Kwest couldn't put the pieces together. How did Tommy know exactly when to show up? How did he know something was wrong with Jude?

"My reasons for being here have nothing to do with me missing her." It was true, sort of. He missed her every day. He'd followed her professional career. He'd taken to reading tabloids on the off chance that he would see her face. But he wasn't here because he missed her. He was here because of Jamie. He was here because he loved her and couldn't stand the thought of her being left in the dark about her cheating husband. You could have just called, sent a letter. Truth was, he'd flown here himself because he needed to see her, to tell her in person. He'd come here because he missed her. Now, for the first time in two and half years, he wondered if she missed him to.

I wish I could remember
How to write a song

Jude let her fingers pull away from the strings as the last note faded off. For a split second, the club seemed too quiet. She felt her cheeks flush, feeling as though she was standing naked in front of the crowd. An unfamiliar terror seized her as she wondered whether the crowd would like her song. Then the applause sounded, and she realized she had been holding her breath. She smiled, her fist genuine smile in weeks.

"You all have no idea how good it feels to be up here, singing again. It feels like it's been centuries." Jude said, standing up and readjusting the microphone. Glancing at Speid, he nodded, bending over to adjust the amplifier slightly. There was a glint in Jude's eye as she switched from her acoustic to her electric guitar. Coming back to the center of the stage, Jude looked back out at the crowd. "As time passes, sometimes we lose sight of who we are. We forget where we've been, and how we got there. Tonight I want to remember. Six years ago I was a rebellious teenager with bright red hair and a guitar. I was stubborn, independent, and a little unpredictable. Tonight I'm channeling my inner redhead."

Tommy raised his eyebrow, glancing at Kwest who just shrugged. "Maybe she's going to do some of her old stuff?" Kwest said. There was a slight pang in Tommy's chest. The old stuff held too much meaning, it made him miss her too much. He glanced back at the stage as Speid started playing. The intro wasn't one that Tommy recognized. It was heavy, both guitars blending together to create an edgy sound. The producer in Tommy could hear the spaces where the drums and the base could be placed. Looking at Kwest from the corner of his eye, he could tell that he was doing the same thing. Both of them stopped keeping time and mentally adding instruments when she opened her mouth.

I'm like that crystal

On the living room floor

I'm done breaking

Before you walk through the door

It's a hollow feeling

Being shattered into shards

We both no reconciliation

Isn't in the cards

So don't tell me that you're sorry

Don't tell me that I'm wrong

Don't tell me that Toronto

Is the place where you belong

Don't ask me to come home

Don't ask me how I know

Don't ask me to forgive you

I'll tell you where to go

Just tell me when

You stopped being honest with me

There's only one word that matters

Wouldn't you agree?

It's a four letter word

One you won't call me anymore

Take your domestic affairs

To someone else's door

And don't tell me that you're sorry

Don't tell me that I'm wrong

Don't tell me the Toronto

Is the place where you belong

Don't ask me to come home

Don't ask me how I know

Don't ask me to forgive you

I'll tell you where to go

I might be broken

But you're standing in the fire

I'm burning all our memories

On a funeral pyre

So don't ask me to come home

Don't ask me how I know

Don't ask me to forgive you

I'll tell you where to go

The crowd exploded in applause as Jude finished her song, but Kwest and Tommy didn't join in. They both sat silently, their mouth open in shock. Kwest turned to Tommy, his eyes narrowing

"Something is seriously wrong. I know you know something, spill it T." Tommy glared back at him, taking note of the accusatory tone. Jude had moved on to a song from her fourth album, caving to the excited chants of the crowd.

"It's not mine to spill Kwest, end of discussion. I don't even know if her performance is even related to my business with her, but I will find out. You said you had a plan to get me face time with her, in private?" Kwest glared. He wasn't sure how he felt about helping Tommy anymore. Not when the man was being so damn mysterious, and Jude was obviously in some sort of distress. Kwest was protective of Jude, like he was with his own sisters. In the years that he had known her, he had learned to read her moods through her songs. She was putting on a good show, but underneath the stage smile and the rock star attitude, she was oscillating between angry and lost. It wasn't a good combination. He needed to get to the bottom of this. The question was whether helping Tommy would lead to answers, or more questions. He sighed.

"Yeah, she's got a dressing room. When she finishes the set, I'll stop Speiderman by the stage to talk, and you go find her. But I'm warning you now Tommy, I want answers. I've let you call the shots thus far, but you aren't the only one who cares about that girl. I want to know what is going on." Tommy nodded almost imperceptibly at Kwest. He knew he wouldn't get out of this without giving Kwest some sort of explanation. He just wasn't sure what to tell him.

The moment Jude stepped off the stage, the feeling of elation that the performance gave her slipped away, and reality crashed back down on her. She pushed herself through the crowd, making her way toward the corridor where her dressing room was. By the time she made it to the door, she was hyperventilating. Panic and dread were squeezing the air out of her body as the realization hit her that there was no going back. She'd taken a stand, and while the crown may have been oblivious to her meaning, her husband wouldn't be. As bad as the pain had been before, it was worse now, it was real.

Jude sat, or rather collapsed, into the chair that faced the dressing room mirror. She gripped the edge of the counter and stared hard at her reflection as she tried to calm her breathing. She clenched her teeth in hopes of warding off the tears that were building behind her eyes. The time for crying was over. This first performance had been about drawing the battle lines. She had quietly launched a war that would be fought through cryptic songs and behind closed doors. Quietly she wondered if it was the best way to fight this war. It didn't matter though; it was the only way she knew how.

Just as her breathing had returned to normal, and her eyes cleared enough to clearly see how white her knuckles were from gripping the counter, there was a knock at the door.

"It's open Speid" Jude called out, loud enough to be heard on the other side of the door. She heard the knob turning and didn't bother to look up as the door opened.

"Jude, we need to talk." Jude's head shot up as the door shut behind her visitor.