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“Oh my God, are you serious? You’ve got to be kidding me. Oh my God,” JJ threw her head back and covered her face. “No, no, no…you're insane. Morgan, are you hearing this?”

“Huh?” he looked up from the fridge. Grabbing two Cokes, he tossed one in JJ’s direction and came back into the living room.

“This boy,” she pointed at Will who was sitting next to her on the couch. “Thinks that Metallica is a better band than Pantera. He actually said that out of his mouth.”

“What?” Derek looked at him funny. “I don't know, I like you Orleans, but you're way off base.”

“That’s what I'm saying.” JJ nodded. “They are so overrated.”

“I have to admit, they might have the best bassist in metal.” Morgan said. “But that’s it.”

“Jason Newsted does kick all ass, but that’s it. Will, I don’t get it.”

“I stand by it.” Will replied. “The Black album…”

“Is crap compared to Vulgar Display of Power.” Morgan finished the sentence.

“Thank you.” JJ gave Morgan a high five. “This is what I'm saying. Please, if you're gonna defend Metallica, do not use the Black album. That’s like saying Def Leppard rocks because of Adrenalize. It’s just all kinds of wrong.”

“You gotta say Master of Puppets.” Morgan said. “Or …And Justice for All.”

“Well those are good albums too.” Will said.

“Too late.” JJ shook her head. “You lost your argument.”

“How did I do that?”

“Cuz.” She answered vaguely.

“You just don’t like to lose.” He gingerly took the Coke can from her and drank some. Then he handed it back.

“Nope, and since I didn’t this time, I'm still OK.”

“You two sharing a soda makes him your boyfriend.” Morgan said smirking.

“Bite me, Morgan.”

“Hey now, language.” Jason said, coming down the hall.

It was a hot summer day and the apartment was a bit stifling though every window was open and all the fans were running. He went to the fridge and poured himself a glass of cold iced tea.

“My bad.” JJ replied.

“Hey Gideon, best band ever.” Morgan said.

“I've never really thought about it.”

“Seriously?” JJ asked.

“I'm serious.”

“Well think about it now, thirty seconds.” Morgan started doing the music like Final Jeopardy and Jason smirked.

“I tend to be a solo performer kinda guy.” Jason replied.

“OK, best solo performer ever.” JJ said. “Don’t say anyone cheesy.”

“I don't know guys; um…I like Hendrix a lot. You can just hear the passion in his guitar. I listen to so many different kinds of music in so many genres that the question is too difficult to really answer.”

“At least Hendrix isn’t cheesy.” JJ said. “Will thinks Metallica is better than Pantera, can you believe that.”

“I've heard of Metallica.” Jason said, sipping his tea as he leaned on the counter. “The other band…”

“Oh c'mon, Gideon.” JJ covered her face again. “Pantera…Dimebag Darrell…we’ve had this discussion.”

“Oh right. OK, I actually kinda like that song Walk. Its aggressive but it strikes something in me.”

“Exactly.” She nodded. She poked Will’s arm. “See? What about you Morgan, I know you agree with the Pantera thing but what’s your favorite band?”

“Public Enemy.” Morgan said. “Then The Who.”

“I like The Who.” Will said.

“Hmm, maybe you're not too bad Orleans. Pete Townsend can still shred it and Keith Moon is the best drummer who ever lived.”

“He’s not as good as Tommy Lee.” JJ said. “I mean, I'm not a huge Crue fan or anything but…”

“Stop.” Morgan held up his hand. “You're already wrong, no need to go on.”

She licked her tongue at him and Morgan laughed.

“My dad doesn’t let me listen to rap music.” Will said. “He thinks it’s too violent.”

“Metal is just as violent.” Jason replied. “I don’t particular like any of it but it seems no matter what I do somehow they still get their hands on it.”

“Its just another musical expression.” Morgan said. “It’s a positive outlet for aggression…they're not killing anyone.”

“No, they just sing about it.” Jason said.

“I grew up in the hood man. I know how bad it can be.”

“I grew up in the hood too.” Will said.

“Yeah, little red riding hood maybe.” JJ replied snickering.

“Hey New Orleans can be tough.” Will replied. “Dad moved us cuz it was getting really bad.”

“Well I wouldn’t exactly call DC the promised land.” Morgan said.

“He got the job offer here. Cops need crime or they don’t have work.”

“You know when rock and roll first came out they called it race music.” Morgan told them.

“What the hell does that mean?” JJ asked. “Um…oops.”

“Mmm hmm.” Gideon gave a little smile.

“Well back in the day the brothers were singing what we refer to today as rock and roll. Dudes like Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, and Little Richard. And white folks were shaking in their shoes cuz all the kids were dancing together, black and white, and they thought it would lead to all kinds of mingling.”

“Like what?” JJ asked.

“Well let me put it this way…my parents met at a James Brown show.” Morgan said.

“Ohhh.” She snickered.

“What up yo!” Lindsay said when she and Emily walked into the apartment.

“Best band ever, Lindsay?” Morgan asked.

“The Smiths.”

“OK, lets pretend The Smiths never existed.” He said.

“Perish the thought.” Emily said. She was standing close to Jason. They weren't doing anything but when everyone turned around he did lean closer to her. She let her hand slide up his arm.

“C'mon, play along.” JJ said. “Best band ever, not counting The Smiths.”

“It’s a toss up between Queen and The Psychedelic Furs.” Emily said.

“Blondie.” Lindsay said. She sat down in the chair across from where JJ was sitting on the couch. “When I was a squirt, I used to wear this crazy blonde wig my mom had and I used to run around the house singing The Tide is High.”

“Seriously?” Morgan asked.

“Yeah.” Lindsay nodded. “I was adorable.”

“I bet.” He grinned.

Lindsay smiled, throwing a pillow at him.

“I'm just glad The Smiths do exist.” Emily said. “They got me through some really dark times. Morrissey saved my life more times than I can count.”

“That was Elton John for me actually.” Lindsay said. “I used to listen to him all the time in Phoenix and just try to remember life before it all went to hell. Yeah, I know he’s soft rock but for real, he kept me sane.”

“That was Pantera for me after my parents died.” JJ said. “They knew what I was going through, all my feelings were right there on display. Megadeth too.”

“What do you mean music saved your life?” Will asked.

“I can't believe I even hang out with this kid.” She pretended to smother him with a pillow.

“Just school him, JJ.” Morgan said. “He’s still young enough to learn. Do you even have a favorite song, Will?”

“No.” he shook his head.

“School him fast.” Lindsay said. “He’s slipping away before your very eyes.”

“C'mon,” she took his hand, leading him to her bedroom. “Let’s go listen to some music.”

“Door open!” Jason called after them.

“Yes sir.” She called back.

“If she gets to make out and I don’t, life is just totally unfair.” Emily mumbled.

Lindsay smirked and Morgan laughed. Jason just looked at her.

“Please don’t talk about JJ making out.” he said. “My hair is already turning gray…did you notice?”

“I don’t see a single strand.” She ran her fingers through the black curls.

Jason gripped his cup so he wouldn’t drop it on the floor. With the other hand, he took gentle hold of her hand and pulled it away.

“Thank you, Vidal Sassoon.” He said in a playful tone.

“You're welcome.”

“I'm gonna head down to the park.” Morgan said, jumping up from the chair.

“For what?” Jason asked.

“Cuz its nice out and some of the guys might be out playing football. It’s hotter than Hades in here, if I'm gonna be sweating I may as well have fun doing it. Might be some cute girls out sunbathing or something.”

“Be careful.”

“I will, I promise.”

“I’ll walk with you, Morgan…I'm headed home.”

“Already?” Emily asked.

“Yeah.” she nodded. “My dad’s been complaining that he hardly sees my face. I think I’ll go home and we’ll cook together or something. A little daddy-daughter time should bring a smile to his face.”

“I bet.” Emily smiled. Lindsay came into the kitchen, which wasn’t far from the living room. She kissed her best friend’s cheek. “Call me later.”

“You betcha. C'mon Superman, lets blow.”

“Can I pretend you're my girlfriend when we’re walking?” Morgan asked, grabbing his football.

“No.” Lindsay shook her head but smiled.

“Oh well, no harm in asking.”

“No harm at all. People will probably think so anyway; we’re walking side by side.”

“I like that.” Morgan grinned. “Later guys.”

“Bye.” Emily and Jason said in unison as they left. When the door closed, Emily looked at him.

“What?” he asked.

“Can I have my hello kiss now?”

“How bad to you want it?” he could hardly get it out without grinning. He could hardly believe he asked it.

“Get over here, you.” Emily pulled him to her by his belt loops and kissed his lips.

Jason wrapped his arms around her and pulled her closer. He loved holding her; didn’t mind if the kids saw their displays of affection. It was good for them to see a healthy, functioning relationship. Yeah, they were just teenagers and they could get cranky, mad, or even foolish, but so could grownups.

“Jason?” Emily relished being in his arms.

“Hmm?”

“Do we have a song?”

“Of course we have a song.”

“Well don’t say it that way.” She pulled away some to look at him. “How would I know? You’ve never even told me what it is. I had no idea.”

As Long as it Matters by the Gin Blossoms.” He replied.

“How long has that been our song?” Emily asked. “Is that why you held me so close when it played at prom?”

“I requested it at prom. It’s been our song for me since I heard it on the radio the afternoon we went to see CeCe Hillenbrand for the first time. I probably knew before that how special you were but it was hearing that song and talking with you in that moment that I knew I had to do everything to keep you close to me.”

“Oh my God, that’s the sweetest thing I've ever heard.”

“Well, I love you.” he kissed her nose.

“I love you too.”

“Are you two making out out there?” JJ hollered from her room. “Cuz if you are, stop it…we’re coming out.”

“We’re not making out, Jennifer.” Jason replied. “And use your inside voice.”

“OK.” She and Will came back out in the living room and turned on the TV. “The boy is kinda hopeless. We’re gonna watch some videos…he needs all the help he can get.”

“Alright.” Jason nodded. He looked at Emily. “You wanna go to my room and…talk.”

She slipped her fingers between his. “Absolutely.”

“JJ, we’re going to my room.”

“Gotcha.” She watched them walk down the hall. “Door open!” she called after them laughing.

***