A/N: Chapter 2! At long last. It's been a while coming, but I hope you enjoy. Thank you to the kind reviewer recently who reminded me to get my arse in gear and get more of this out! More updates on other projects to come (she says tentatively...)

When she wakes the next morning, the building is quiet, thank god. Too often, now, the wild parties that take place in the atrium and sometimes the entire ground floor of the building, carry on until the early hours of the morning, making Scaramouche want to scream.

The newer converted Gaga kids embrace the drinking and partying, imagining themselves blending in with the dwindling numbers of older bohemians – those that had been there through the rhapsody. Scaramouche remembers Paul, Bob, Madonna, curled over their glasses of 200 proof like there was nothing else stable in their world, and thinks that probably the newer kids haven't got a clue.

She remembers the morning she woke up and promised herself, never again, and shudders. She's not the type to give advice (doesn't have the experience for it, Meat tells her, but then Scara knows – and knows Meat knows too – that there's probably no one better for it) – still, she doesn't. If the kids want to live that way, it's not the job of the bohemians to tell them what to do.

Still, Scaramouche knows something has changed. The parties downstairs lack the wildness there once was, the crazed looks in the eyes of those living the hardest has vanished, replaced with clear breath in the mornings, and the bone-weariness that was once a distinguishing feature of the habitants of what used to be the Heartbreak Hotel, has vanished.

Scaramouche remembers the first night in the company of bohemians. Remembers their tattered clothes, the grime and dirt in the creases of their wrists and caked on their boots and under their nails; remembers the stories they would tell over firelight, sitting in circles, draped across and against one another, telling stories of a time once worth living, with music and happiness and light…

She thinks of the new lot – nohemians, Meat had called them once, after a few, and laughed herself stupid – and the way they wake every morning and wash their hair, apply fresh nail varnish, and fresh makeup. It's black varnish, sure, and the eye makeup is just as bright as something you might once have seen on Charlotte, or Jovi, but it's one pattern that all of them follow.

She wonders what Pop would have thought of all of this. Wonders whether, if the old man were still with them, he would have some deep and considered wisdom to offer them.

…Or whether, more likely, he'd have told her to have a shot of whiskey, and let it pass.

She is still shaking an hour later: Khashoggi's offered her a blanket, and Meat a glass of Whiskey, and the pair sit on either side of her as she gasps for breath and feels her heart pounding against her ribcage. She closes her eyes, trying to focus on the fact that she has seen Gazz since, knows he wasn't dragged into the crowd kicking and screaming; that Meat had told her that a stage dive would only garner more interest from the crowd –

She feels a shudder pass through her, and takes a gulp from the glass that had been pressed into her hand. A hand squeezes her shoulder.

"Hey, chick," says Meat quietly, sliding down next to her on the bench seat. "What's going on?"

Scaramouche manages a shaky laugh, and looks around her. "Are we in security?" Meat snorted.

"Lighting and tech. But nice try. What was that about?"

Scara studies her feet, letting her hair, damp with sweat, fall across her face. Meat waits. At last, dark brown eyes meet green-gold.

"I just." Scara starts, and then exhales sharply. "Fuck. I was watching him, and he – he-" Meat is still watching her. "He disappeared, Meat. I thought…"

"Well nothing happened, did it?" Says Meat, and Scara looks up in surprise. "What's that meant to mean?"

Meat sighs, and Scara begins to see the exhaustion behind the mask of stage makeup she'd watched Meat paint on earlier. "I just mean – nothing went wrong. We knew it was going to happen-"

"Maybe you did-"

"But," Meat carries on as though Scara hasn't spoken, "Nothing happened. He did the dive, the crows went wild-" (Scara remembers the howls of the crowd, like a pack of wolves closing in) "-and he's fine! Then next thing we knew, you'd run off!"

Scara tries hard not to feel like this is her best friend stabbing her hard in the back, and sucks in a breath as she stands up. "I guess we'd better get back out then" is all she says.

When Meat Loaf finally strolls into the large, draughty room the next morning, it is with last night's makeup smeared around her eyes, and the fumes of vodka lingering on her breath. Scaramouche wrinkles her nose, and eyes Meat with cool scepticism.

"Good night, was it?"

"Fuck you," Meat yawns, taking a seat in one of the fold-away chairs littering the far wall, and resting her feet up on the window ledge, "'cause actually, it was shit. Which you know, cause if it'd been better, I wouldn't be here." She takes a slim case out of her pocket, and begins rolling a cigarette.

"Yeah," Scara nods, absently watching the nimble movement of Meat's fingers, "you'd be in bed with – who is it this week?"

"Fuck you. Again."

The rehearsal goes about as well as could be expected: Galileo is not entirely sober, and getting more animated as time passes, until he is dancing around the microphone and laughing at nothing in particular (Scaramouche, who would have once been thrilled at his excitement, is slightly embarrassed by this – and then feels slightly guilty for feeling slightly embarrassed) – while Meat Loaf is slowly becoming more and more sullen, eventually throwing down the drumsticks and yelling at Paul for stepping on her cues, and storming out. Galileo follows, Paul lights a blunt and gazes blankly out of the bay window, and Scaramouche leaves the room and leans her forehead against the cool plaster wall of the corridor, wondering how the cracks in the band that had once been so wide.

A/N part II: if it's not entirely clear (I'm doing this sans beta, so please do let me know if you notice anything that doesn't fit), the central inserts in each chapter of this fic are telling a past story. So the final section of this, with the rehearsal, takes place on the same morning which Scara wakes up to in the first section of this chapter.