This is technically the first Bandstand story I wrote but I've only just now polished it up. Enjoy! (I'm hoping more inspiration will come to me soon because I love these characters so, so much.)

Julia leaned against the door of her hotel room while it shut, her head growing foggier each second. She wanted to believe all she felt right now was fatigue from the trip. If not, then maybe the unusual amount of alcohol she consumed within the past few hours. Her heart thumped against her chest, her hands trembling slightly with each pump. This made it difficult to convince herself her feelings were of a common and symptomatic nature. No, what she found herself faced with now was a mighty combination of fear and guilt. Not a year had gone by yet and already she was drawn to another man. What made it worse was knowing it was not a casual attraction. On some level, she felt a connection to Donny she never had with Michael, and ironically, he was the link.

Knowing Michael's fate provided little closure, but closure nonetheless. Having stepped outside herself by this point, she knew what happened had been by no means Donny's intent, but still, something felt wrong about the urge she felt moments ago. She wanted to stay in his arms all night. She wanted to kiss him and tell him it was all right. But was it? How could there be an answer to such a question? Donny wasn't Michael, nor did she expect him or any other man to be. He could not be replaced. The years they shared were years she would forever cherish. Donny knew this, and he would never try to do so. So why did she feel the sickness of betrayal?

If Donny were any other man she might be able to convince herself Michael would want her to move on. He wouldn't want her spending the rest of her life grieving, though, she accepted a part of her always would. Was it better or worse to know Donny and Michael were best friends? On one hand, she thought he would have approved him over a stranger off the street. In his letters, Michael spoke highly of his army buddy. He mentioned from time to time the plans the two of them made for after the war. Julia looked forward to the day she could finally meet this Donny Novitski, she just never imagined it would be under such solemn circumstances. Then there were thoughts of disrespect. Donny knew Michael in a much different light. The two men bonded through an experience she could not imagine even with the help of the vague stories she'd heard from the guys. Was it strange she and Donny have any kind of a relationship without him? At first, it felt right. At first spending time with Donny felt like a gift from God – as though an answer to a prayer. A tiny bit of Michael showed up at her doorstep. Donny held new stories and memories. He brought music back into her life. It felt okay because the war was finished. There was a reason to sing again. Michael would have been angry if she silenced herself for his sake. But now she and Donny were past music. The intensity of what she felt for him on the other side of the door made her feel shame. Perhaps it was learning the truth that brought them to this new level. Now they'd seen each other at their lowest. They shared their bitter and raw emotions without holding back. Where did they go from here?

She looked down at her hands a moment before bringing them up cross her arms. A sudden chill ran through her as she remembered the feeling when she held onto him. So close… It took everything she had to stop from remembering the way it felt. All of a sudden an overwhelming loneliness fell over her. Like a strong wind, the realization nearly toppled her over. It finally occurred to her that no one could help her with these issues. Not Ma, not Donny, not Jimmy, or Johnny, or Nick, or Wayne, or Davy. Michael was the only one who could console her. Even when she traded the blue star for gold a part of her refused to believe he was gone. Part of her, unreasonable as it may be, insisted it had been a mistake. Even when she watched Donny collapse into tears as he told her the plain facts of his death she tried convincing herself the body he spent all night protecting was someone else. Michael heard his cry to get out. Maybe he went missing. He couldn't be gone. He couldn't. Michael wasn't meant to leave this world so young. Even as she grieved she liked to think this. Yet, at the same time, the wiser part of her knew it wasn't so. Could this be why the details became so important to her? Was Donny right all along? Had her life become a movie script in her mind and she was waiting for this miraculous plot twist. However she wanted it to go, the real twist for her was standing in the hallway with Donny. Standing so close to him she could feel his breath against her cheek and neck. Leaving him on the other side of the door left her no choice but to face reality. Michael wasn't lost. Michael was not coming home. No matter how much she wished or pleaded he would not show up to comfort her. Decisions about her future were left up to her. No one could give her permission to move on. Michael had no say. The choice was hers and hers alone.

So where was she to go from here? Should she sneak through the halls to Donny's room, kiss him and not let him go until the sun began to rise over the city, or should she stay away, go on as they were. While there was no denying their emotions after tonight, both were well aware they were emotions they probably shouldn't be having. And so the vicious circle of thoughts started again. There were reasons to cling to Michael and there were reasons to go to Donny. Which were greater? By the time she'd changed into her nightgown, she decided no answer would be made tonight. Her thoughts were too scattered and any decision she made in her current state would be questionable. Besides, what was important right now was winning the contest for the guys. It would mean a lot to herself to win, but she knew just how much more it would mean for all of them. Maybe by then, everything will fall into place…

The End.