Julie’s been lost in her own mind for days and frankly it was freaking Luke out. It was totally out of character for her to be so spacey. She’d been missing band practices and running into things and spending a lot of her time in her room, with the band shut out completely. All of the boys were starting to get worried, ever since they’d gained the power of touch they’d gotten used to group hugs and casual touches. Yet with Julie’s brain who knows where she’d barely looked them in the eye. Reggie tried talking to her yesterday, but it was almost like she couldn’t hear him. At one point, they’d tried to have band practice without her, but Luke was too agitated. He couldn’t sit still. It felt like he’d never gone this long without connecting with her and he didn’t like it.
After talking with the guys, they formed a plan to be on Julie watch. One of them would always be within eye or earshot at all times, so they could figure out what was going on. Luke was on first watch the next morning as Julie went to school. He followed her through the halls, always within hearing distance, but she still didn’t seem to notice him.
Eventually, she walked into an empty music room with a piano. She pulled out her songbook and he watched as he saw her eyes focus for the first time in days. That’s what this was all about? Songwriting? Pain sliced across his chest deep. He loved Julie’s songs, but ever since the three ghost boys had busted into her life, they’d always done it together. It was one of the things he’d held most precious about their relationship.
Part of him felt like he should run away and hide. Clearly, she didn’t want any of them to hear this since she’d been ignoring them for days to come here and make music in secret. It felt like the worst kind of betrayal and despite knowing that he was being a little melodramatic since he’d definitely gone on song binges himself before where he’d shut out the world, he couldn’t help the hurt of knowing that Julie had shut them out. That she’d shut him out.
He didn’t think it could get any worse until he watched Nick walk into the room and join her, guitar in hand. Her face lit up at the sight of him and she greeted him enthusiastically. Luke was sure his undead heart was breaking. She’d shut them all out, so she could make music with him. He had to get out of there, he needed his friends. His brothers. He poofed just as she turned his direction, but he was gone so fast she wasn’t even sure he’d been real.
Julie was eternally grateful to the kindhearted Nick. Even after rejecting him, he was still there supporting her and helping her. Besides Luke, he was the best guitar player she knew and the haunting melody drifting just out of reach needed a guitar. The elusive song had been evading her for days, it coiled around her as if it were part of the air she breathed. It all started when the dreams began to keep her up at night and the song played in the background. She would wake not quite remembering it, only for it to slip by her in a daydream.
The song about the boy in the beanie.
She’d been upfront with Nick from the beginning about who the song was for and why it seemed to escape her so. He’d been patient with her these last couple days as they tried combination after combination trying to nail down the melody. The only thing she’d hidden from him were her lyrics.
The chords and notes may be out of her grasp, but she knew the lyrics as if they were her next breath. How could she not, when she knew their subject as if he was an extension of herself. Her partner, her mind reader and god how she missed him. Everything would be so much easier if she could just be working on this with him. But she knew. She knew that he would want to know everything about it. He’d want to know the words and the why and she just wasn’t ready yet. So until then her lyrics were tucked away in a secret container of her dream box, one that she’d never shown the boys given their pension for snooping.
For a brief second she heard the music. Nick played the combination again and it felt right. They’d finally found it. Now that she could pin the first couple chords it felt like the rest laid itself out in front of her. For the first time in days, she felt her mind ease and she sat down at the piano to begin the work of writing it down.
Luke’s bandmates looked startled when he popped back into the studio so suddenly, but they could see how agitated he was. They watched him quietly as he paced, his body so tense they thought he might snap with his fist clenched down by his side. It was his face though, that really had them tentative it looked as if he might scream or cry or both. The thought of what he might have seen to make him rush back here, to look like that, it made their nonexistent blood run cold.
Reggie took a cautious step forward to attempt to reach out, but Luke waved him off as he explained what he saw. He could feel the venom in his words, the simmering anger that was feeding off his pain. Alex and Reggie knew him well enough to know, that he needed to get it all out. The hurt of finding her like that, the betrayal of seeing her light up at the sight of Nick. The frustration and fear that comes from the feeling that everything that was most important to you was slipping away. Truth was, Alex and Reggie were feeling a little hurt and a little lost too, so when Luke decided he needed some space they let him go without too much of a fight.
Julie had rushed home after school that day, desperate to get back to her boys. Her mind was finally clear after taming the song that had plagued her and the realization of just how much she’d neglected her best friends laid her gut heavy with guilt. She’d been so distracted she’d barely seen them and everything in her needed to reconnect with them once more. To touch them and hold them and ground herself.
When she walked in to find Alex and Reggie sitting on the couch forlornly, she knew her absence had wreaked much more damage than she’d realized. She knelt down in front of these boys that she loved like family and reached out to hold their hands, squeezing tight. At that point they finally looked up at her and for a minute she just looked at them. Really looked at them and she murmured her apologies and reassurances that she was here. That she loved them and missed them.
Reggie gave in first, pulling her onto the couch and enveloping her in a hug. She could feel his sigh of relief as he squeezed just a little bit tighter. Alex looked away bitterly revealing that they knew she’d been writing music with someone else. Worry and pain hit her like a sucker punch to the gut. Luke had been there this morning, had seen her working with Nick.
Oh her poor ghost boy.
She knew she had to tell Alex and Reggie, make them see somehow. So she gently stood and dragged both boys with her to the piano. She pulled a chair up for Reggie so he could be right next to her and sat next to Alex on the bench. Making sure she could maintain contact with both boys she hesitantly lifted her fingers to the piano and played her new song.
She could tell the moment they fit the pieces together. Reggie sat straight up a smile growing on his face and a light twinkling in his eyes. Alex was more subtle, a deep inhale and a small smirk, but he wrapped his arm around her and pulled her close and she knew she was forgiven. After the last remnants of the song died away, she explained that Nick was the only other person who could play guitar nearly as well as Luke, and the song couldn’t be finished without it. At that the boys beamed and pulled her into a group hug.
Luke poofed back into the room. After all, it was time for their typical band practice. He split into a soft smile at the sight of the group hug at the piano, but quickly shifted into a smile that looked normal, but didn’t quite reach his eyes. All of the words, phrases and gestures seemed like any other day, but they could all tell that it was robotic. His heart simply wasn’t in it. Julie attempted to explain that it was a one-time deal, that it wouldn’t happen again. He shrugged it off and brushed her off telling her not to worry that everything was fine.
Of course, everything was not fine. He wouldn’t look her in the eyes and when they played there was no drive, no connection. All of their music sounded fine, but he spent practice ignoring Julie and every attempt she made to grab his attention. She wondered if this was how he felt when they’d played Edge of Great last year. Well, at least he’d given her the perfect plan and from the looks Reggie and Alex were passing between them, they’d probably let her get away with whatever. She threw them a smile and the three of them nodded.
The part of the song where she and Luke harmonized was coming up and she timed it so that just before their cue, Luke was suddenly sharing a mic. He’d been so focused on avoiding her that he was not prepared for her to be so close to him. She kept brushing up against him, inching her way closer to him, crowding him in a way he couldn’t escape from.
The abruptness dropped his mask and finally their eyes met and she could see the anger and the hurt as his face twisted into a scowl before he could regain control. Her heart ached at the pain he was in, but she smiled that at least they had connected somehow, someway. Until he vanished, poofed away in the middle of the song, leaving her stranded and staring into an empty space.
Luke could feel the pain morphing into anger and as much as he didn’t like it, he needed that fuel. He was livid. How dare she. How could she do this to him after spending her morning with Nick. He’d been doing everything he could to keep everything fine, to keep his emotions in check, but she’d had to push him. She had to get so close that it would’ve taken a small lean for his mouth to be on hers. She had to get so close that he could smell her shampoo and feel her fire. Never before had he been angry enough to storm out in the middle of practice, but apparently Julie Molina was enough to drive him crazy.
He needed to get his emotions back under control, he couldn’t keep running out every time Julie got close to him, no matter how much he hurt. Keeping his cool was the name of the game until he could get over these feelings of his.
Thankfully they didn’t have band practice the next day, but it didn’t seem to stop Julie on her quest for, well he didn’t know. She kept giving him small casual touches. Never long enough for him to move away or tell her to stop, just little things like brushing past him a little too close when she walked by. Or letting her fingers briefly meet his.
Every touch warmed him up a little and he had to keep reminding himself of what he’d walked in on. He couldn’t keep falling in love with her when she had chosen Nick. Slowly though he could feel the warmth she was passing on grow and soon it was becoming difficult not to smile at her.
The next day was a band practice day and Julie was back at her efforts to make him connect with her. He just couldn’t though, the anger and hurt was still there swirling under the surface. He couldn’t drown himself in her, drown himself in their connection without remembering that she’d hid music from him so she could play with Nick.
The flash of anger and pain that came with that reminder timed itself perfectly with Julie reinserting herself at his mic. This time though, something in him boiled over and he stopped playing so he could make a snide remark about how if she really felt like she needed to be this close to some guy with a guitar then she should go find Nick. As soon as the words were out of his mouth, he regretted them and he watched his best friends’ eyes go wide as they poofed out to avoid whatever fight was coming.
Somehow though she smiled? before launching into an angry sounding diatribe about how he was being a jerk and for the sake of the band this and the sake of the band that. He could feel his anger running high and before he could stop the words he told her she should go be in a band with Nick if she didn’t like how he was doing things. Her eyes widened a little before she proudly exclaimed That’s it! And grabbed the beanie from off his head and darted away with it.
Before he could give it too much thought, he gave chase, poofing in and out as he tried to catch her to get his beanie back. She was surprisingly good at dodging him, leaping this way and that to stay out of his grasp. Once though she let him get close, where she looked him dead in the eyes and said that it was a one-time thing and that she had absolutely no interest in Nick. Beanies suited her much better.
At that comment she slid the beanie on her head, and he was in shock just for long enough for her to escape out of his clutches again. He resumed his pursuit, but this time he didn’t stop the smile or laughter from bursting out. She darted by him again, determined to make a clever escape, this time though he was ready and soon he’d tackled her to the couch.
He took a brief moment to enjoy the feel of her under him and the mischievous glint in her eyes before snatching his beanie back off her head and readjusting it on his. Yet neither of them moved from their spots. She smiled at him, Another thing beanie boy… and with that she kissed him.
It took only a moment for him to give back as good as she was giving him. He thought nothing had ever tasted as good as her lips. They were so soft and he could’ve sworn that somehow they were made to go against his. He moved his arm so he could wrap around her and pull her closer while her arms went around his neck with her fingers tangling in his hair. If he could just do this forever, he would be the happiest ghost.
Much sooner than they wanted, they broke apart. One of them did need to breathe after all. He pressed his forehead against hers blissfully happy. He let out a small deep laugh and remarked about how she liked beanies. She gave him her biggest grin and specified that really she liked the boy who wore them. Interlacing their fingers, Luke maneuvered Julie into his lap where he alternated between kissing her breathless, something that was quickly becoming his new favorite activity and burying his face in her hair and holding her close.
Eventually their other two bandmates popped back in with a knowing smirk, and Julie blushed happy to be surrounded by her people and know that all was right in her world. Her song long forgotten in the hidden compartment of her dream box.