Chapter 3 - Part 2

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Casper looked even more out of place in the grungy bar than the lot of them did, a bit because of his matching black from head to toe, but more because his short stature and smooth jaw line made him look like he was barely out of junior high rather than nearing legal drinking age. Also, the boy's commitment to resembling a corpse probably did him even less favors in their current company than Desi's heart shaped sunglasses, but he certainly didn't care.

Besides, it's a good look.

When Ashley turned to film with her phone, Casper followed his gaze to the stage as well, and Desi met it with a nod of teasing acknowledgement. Casper's taut, straight-lipped expression snapped like an old guitar string, curling into an almost-smile before he suppressed it with an eye roll.

In his distraction, Desi stumbled on the cords he was playing a little, but managed to recover with his first line of lyrics. He knew he wasn't the best singer out there. There were highly trained professional vocalists, and then there were natural born talents with unique qualities to their tenors. Desi was definitely neither. His skills were mediocre and his voice was nothing special, but he wasn't tone deaf, and he'd seen a surprising improvement in his vocal range since the previous year with just the bare minimum of practice.

He also wasn't a writer, and there were definitely creative mind other there that could string his thoughts and feelings into much prettier words than he could manage, but what Desi lacked in skill and eloquence, he made up for in showmanship. After all, where else was it perfectly acceptable to be a show off besides the stage?

Desi used the ridiculous shades to his advantage, closing his eyes as Ashley suggested and visualized himself on a real stage, ahead of a properly excited crowd. In front of his fictional fans, it was easy to let loose, but the carefree attitude that was easily captured during goof off sessions in Nic's garage never truly captivated the rest of the band now that they had spectators.

Nic and Wyatt remained nervous and stiff, and after three songs and a failed attempt at taking a request, Desi decided to cut the trauma short with a closing cover. They'd have time to work on the stage fright issue another day. After all, this was just a practice run.

Finishing with a dew of sweat on his brow from trying to carry the rest of his band, Desi received in response little more than a polite golf clap from the 'audience', if he could even call it that. Ashley immediately hooted and hollered loud enough for everyone, and she even got Casper offering supportive applause, but the rest of the bar might as well have been crickets.

Nic groaned, removing his bass with an exasperated sigh. "Let's never fucking do that again."

"I want to go die in a hole..." Wyatt offered a mirrored sentiment while rising from his drums, but Desi brushed them both off with a scoff and a shake of his head.

"Quit being dramatic, it wasn't that bad. Start unplugging shit, I'll be right back." After all, he hadn't given their ghost friend a proper welcome yet.

Desi hopped down from the stage and crossed the bar toward Ashley and Casper, watching the two of them from afar. Casper's face had went back to straight and deadpan, but his dark eyes were trained on Ashley as she talked. Her expression was also serious, a line appearing between her brows that Desi recognized as only showing up when she was having trouble saying something. She was also using her hands a lot as she talked, a nervous habit.

Maybe she was taking advantage of the opportunity and apologizing? Desi found a hopeful smile tugging at his lips with the idea. Even if Casper didn't want to accept it, it would be good for Ashley to allow herself to be a little vulnerable like that. He hung back ever so slightly, mostly to give her a few more seconds to finish the thought she was clearly half way through, but also to see if he couldn't eavesdrop a little.

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