Where minute detail left off, a deep and yawning void of uncertainty stretched out bleakly before him.

He blinked at it, so far as he could blink at something he couldn't see. More realistically, he blinked into the sea of faces, screaming before him of adoration and devotion.

Strangers, each and every once of them.

"They don't know what it is they love," Oz had said, not too long ago. "Not just the music; it's more than that."

"Maybe it's me," he'd joked back.

Oz hadn't laughed. "No," he muttered. "It's not you. It's not any of us." His moods had gotten weird since they got signed.

And yeah. So another mystery went unsolved. What did it matter, anyway; they were there, shrieking, and he was there, all too aware of the sweat beading up and sliding down into the small of his back.

So much energy, it took. So much belting volume...and God, the tears. None of that metaphorical shit -- these were real tears, every single time he stepped out on stage and faced that crowd.

So maybe that was it: the aching fear that each time he wouldn't have enough, be enough; and at last the wrenching relief when he was, and everyone went home happy.

And he went home alone. The thrill of a new face each night had...died, somehow. At least three years back, and he'd let exactly four women into his bed since.

Four women, since Oz.

Oz. God, Oz.

Oz made him hate the lead part of being lead singer. He'd get so lost in the singing, so absorbed in it...and then the faintest thought of Oz would flicker into his mind and he'd have to fight not to turn around. To croon straight into the unforgiving metal of guitar strings and icy eyes.

Okay, so Oz's moods had been weird since that night. But that night coincided to the very day the record deal was finalized, and it was just easier to think of it as since the signing. It was all tied together anyway.

Oh, fuck him. Fuck him and his bitter stares all the way to...

Right. Tried that. Not so helpful, after all.

So many many gaping mouths, breathless with excitement. For him, for them all. For something to grasp at, flawless and gleaming above everyone else.

Flawless and royally fucked. All the same, these days.

If he hadn't been so fucking drunk; if the mere notion of being so close to his dream hadn't been so fucking mind- stupid little celebration and seven shots of tequila later, and it all fell through the cracks. Or if the headache hadn't been so bad in the morning; if he had been able to see Oz's perfectly nude body next to him without flares of pain going off...maybe then he would have dealt a bit better.

Maybe. Or maybe he would have been an ass no matter what. Fact was, he had been drunk, and he had had a doozy of a hangover, and when you got right down to it, he had told his best friend it was something they'd both do well to forget about.

Pretend it didn't happen. Worked in theory, except Oz got that coldness to him, and he himself was suddenly having the strangest dreams, and wishing for all the world he could wake up just once more and have Oz be there.

But so much for wishful thinking. And sometimes he wondered if maybe it wasn't even all that bad. Because even if he couldn't fucking talk to Oz anymore, and even if he felt like maybe this would be the time the sea of faces made him too dizzy and he passed out...even if his life had pretty much gone to hell, here he was.

Singing. Being able to sing. Having all these people want to hear him sing. The god damn rush of it all - he'd found, without a doubt, the most perfect sound in the world, consisting of his voice, Oz's bass line, Otto's pounding drums, and the applause.

Hands all over the place, thundering in his ears and making the stage fucking vibrate. And because it was expected, always expected, he finally pulled off his shirt and there was the blast of cool air on torrents of sweat, sending such a chill up his spine he arched backwards, and the screams got louder still.

And somewhere in the back of his mind he wondered, as always, what Oz was thinking, but it was buried for now, in a din of pleas for more.

So the apology three years in the making would have to wait a little longer. At least until the roar died down.

If it ever did.