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Doubt whom you will, but never yourself. -Christine Bovee

"Oh my god," Sascha groaned as Breaker Street trailed backstage after their first concert. "That was awful."

Rory blinked in mild surprise. Apparently their young keyboardist had expected a better reception. "The crowd wasn't all that bad, lass."

Her eyebrows arched in incredulity. "Are you kidding me? They were so god-awfully bored! And the hecklers--"

Kreske hooted with laughter, still spinning his drumsticks through his fingers. "That? That wasn't heckling, Sascha sweet. That was just a few catcalls."

Sascha did not look appeased. Slipping an arm around her slim shoulders, Junie gave the band's youngest member a hug before dropping into a chair in the dressing area. "You weren't there for our first club gigs, Sasch. Believe me, compared to some of those crowds, this was a love fest."

"She speaks truth," Nil intoned, taking a seat of his own and setting his bass guitar beside him. "Tonight we had no howlers, no gropers, no one throwing things or threatening to get on stage and show us how it's done …"

Dave winced as he tugged off his boots. "Remember when poor Morrie lost it at that one idiot who kept messing with his boards for laughs?"

"Oh yeah." Kreske's brow furrowed. "Was that the same night they unplugged our amps and tried to carry them out front? I'm pretty sure it was the same bar."

Rory chuckled, running his fingers through brown hair turned sable-sleek by his perspiration. "They didn't pull that stunt until a couple of weeks later."

Sascha looked from band-mate to band-mate, eyes widening with each tale. "It was that bad? And you can joke about it?"

Junie shrugged and gave her roommate a smile that was half a smirk. "You either laugh about it or scream about it, hon. Granted, laughing's easier years later."

"Sascha, come here a moment." Rory lowered his long frame to one of the couches and patted the seat beside him. When she joined him, he gave her a hug much like Junie had. "Tonight was not a failure, a chara. Tonight was normal. We had a huge audience, all of whom were here to see Sweet Christmas. CD release and national TV spot or no, only a few of them had even heard of us before tonight. Naturally we have to work harder to catch their attention."

"Easy for you to say," Sascha grumbled. "You look just as buzzed as you'd get after one of our club sessions."

"I don't doubt it." God knows I feel it. "Do the math, Sasch. There were 3000 people in that audience tonight. Even if only ten percent of them paid attention, we still reached 300 people. Or thirty at even one percent, and you know we've played to crowds that small before."

"I guess." Slumping against his side, she looked up at him, full lips twisting with the careless cynicism of a twenty-something convinced she already knew it all. "Do you ever doubt, Rory?"

"Not where music is concerned." This wouldn't do. He needed her convinced. He needed her to believe. "And neither should you. You're not doubting the audience; you're doubting yourself, and needlessly."

Two pairs of dark-coffee eyes met and fixed on each other. "In truth, the numbers don't matter. That audience, any audience will always have at least one person focused on us and our music. Whether you can see them or not, concentrate on them, play at your utmost for them. Do that and wait for the word to spread, and they'll all be cheering soon enough."

Sascha exhaled slowly through her nose. "If you say so, leader-man." Sardonic still, but as she stood Rory saw her shoulders lift and her jaw firm. Defiance? Determination? Watching her help Dave pour the champagne Robin had sent them to celebrate their first night on tour, he smiled. Maybe it was some of both.

Nil took Sascha's place next to him. "Think you got through to her?" he asked, too softly to be heard by the rest of the band. Kreske was threatening to spray Junie with one of the bottles, and the other three were making return threats, egging him on and bemoaning the waste of perfectly good bubbly in turn.

"I think so," Rory replied, equally sotto voce. "At least well enough to carry her through our next few venues."

"Hmm." Nil's lips parted to add something, but a chuckle came out instead as Junie executed a deft reverse, catching Kreske with the remainder of the spray. Sascha and Dave sensibly ducked behind the nearest furniture, taking full glasses with them.

"So, auld boy." Nil interrupted Rory's own chuckles. "You've always had the magic touch for reading a crowd …"

Rory took care not to twitch at the word "magic".

"… how many hearts and minds would you say we connected with out there?"

He took some time to consider, aided by the fact that Dave brought over glasses of champagne for him and sparkling cider for Nil. After murmuring thanks and taking a sip, he leaned his head back and directed a satisfied smile at the ceiling. "I'd guess it was more than ten percent."

Rory could do better than guess, of course. If the emotional energy crackling through his nervous system was anything to go by, at least one-fifth of their audience had listened enthralled, even if the remaining four-fifths had intimidated them into giving only tepid applause. Six hundred people minimum, more than their largest club gig, but maybe half the size of the crowd they'd electrified in Times Square. Both his mind and body well recalled the potent cocktail of feeling and reaction he'd picked up from that performance.

But as he'd told Sascha, the numbers didn't matter tonight. Breaker Street would hold even larger audiences spellbound before long. He didn't doubt that for a moment.

Muse: Rory MacEibhir / Rory Stone
Fandom: The Grey Horse by R.A. MacAvoy
Word count: 973


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June 2011

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