Tomorrow, he thinks to himself, will be the end of it all. The life I've lived so far, everyone I know- it will all be gone tomorrow.
As he hears the others arriving, though, these thoughts begin to melt away. The five of them exchange quiet greetings, and he listens as the sounds of three tuning guitars begin to echo around the room. Just an hour from now the space will be filled with more people like them. They will be surrounded by their families and closest friends, if only for a few short hours.
He hears his brother's quiet, strained voice beside him, asking where does he think she is, and why isn't she here yet, and does he think she's even coming? No sooner does he smile and nod than the questions are answered. She walks through the door and spots them on the stage, giving a small smile before finding her seat. She begins talking to a few of her friends, and he hears the nearly inaudible sigh of relief next to him.
The sound check goes quickly and smoothly, as always. They take the stage and he stands there, looking out over the crowd. He checks the microphone one last time, tapping it lightly to ask for silence in place of their low chatter. The first few chords fill the room with their soft sounds, and he begins to sing. At first there is not much of a response; most of them sit there, smiling at each other, whispering quietly, but not moving. Then one man gathers his courage and crosses the room. This single act encourages them all, and within seconds the floor is filled with couples dancing to their slow music.
All the while she sits far away from them. He knows why. She only wants to dance with one person, and that person is standing about six feet to his left. Eventually someone asks her, and she hesitantly stands to accept the offer. Out of the corner of his eye he can see the forlorn look on his brother's face, because he wants to be the one asking her.
But all of them know they need to be there, to give their friends a few hours of escape from the gloom of their imminent departure. And he knows his brother is willing to sacrifice his last chance to spend time with her, because the music couldn't happen if one of them were missing. But it's a hard sacrifice to make.
He takes a quick, solemn glance back at the younger man, seeing the sad look in his eyes. This only makes him want to protect his little brother more. He's certain he will have to keep the younger man safe, for her. For all of them.
And suddenly it's all over, and the crowd begins to dissipate. Some of them are already on their way to the front lines. He and his friends pack everything up and load it into their cars, planning to meet at the bar since they don't have to leave until morning. He stands there, next to his four closest friends, and takes it all in for one moment before turning to leave. Three of them follow, but his younger brother lingers. He knows it's because of her. She's standing there and jokingly asking why they didn't dance, and he asks with a small laugh if she still wants to even though there's no music.
He smiles and leaves them, knowing his brother will come eventually. He has no choice.
He orders another round of drinks for them, even though he's almost certain they don't need any more alcohol. His suspicions are confirmed when his best friend knocks a drink over and stares at it with wide eyes, bringing laughs from everyone nearby. His own laughter is cut short when he sees his younger brother's face, though; it's obvious he hasn't given any of them a second thought since the dance ended. He's shared a few drinks and jokes with them, but it's all been halfhearted because his mind is a million miles away. And he knows his younger brother is thinking of her.
He places an arm around his shoulders and tries to reassure him, saying they won't be gone forever, the war can't last much longer, and besides, it's not like anything will happen to them. His brother looks at him with that same calm smile he always has, but the worry still remains in his eyes. They gather their other three friends and he talks to them animatedly, making plans about what they'll do when they return. Because this war can't last forever.
They make toasts to everything they can think of, drinking nonstop just for the sake of it. And they will have no regrets about what tomorrow will bring. Tomorrow isn't going to come...not yet. It won't come until they're rested and ready, and as far as they're concerned tonight will last forever.