Love, Save the Empty

chapter six.

Brian awakes the next morning to loud, constant knocking that makes him feel a flash of deja vu. The golden head of a young, small Audrey Pierce is resting on his chest. His neck hurts to move from the odd angle he fell asleep in, and it makes him realize that yesterday wasn't a dream. This little girl, the one in his arms, had really shown up on his door step yesterday morning, claiming (and farther proving) to be his daughter from an old flame that still burned in a dark back corner of his heart.

The knocking, which becomes louder and is followed by a rush of words telling him to get up, only continues to rouse Brian from his sleep before he sits up and shifts Audrey from his chest and onto the couch cushions so he can answer the door. Standing on the other side is a ruffled looking Val, her hair in neat curls that are pinned back from her eyes, and a comfortable pair of shoes on her feet.

"You know you have a key, right?" he grumbles under his breath, stepping out of the way for her to enter his beach home.

"Matt has the key. He's at home sleeping off his hangover," Val says curtly before shoving past the guitarist and going into the living room. There, she can't help the coo that leaves her lips as she watches Audrey sleeping. She then turns back to Brian, her eyes zoning in on the ring he still has pierced through his nose. "What did I tell you about the hoop? Put the fucking stud in."

Brian chuckles and rubs a hand over his sleep-filled eyes. "There's still two weeks until the wedding, Val. I have plenty of time to change it out."

"Hmph," she says, folding her arms over her chest before walking over to the sleeping Audrey. Kneeling beside the couch, Val places a hand softly on Audrey's shoulder and speaks with a gentle voice. "Audi, sweetie, you need to wake up. We have to go dress shopping for you," Val says, coaxing the nine year old from her slumber. Bright hazel eyes flutter open before she looks sleepily at the dark auburn haired woman in front of her. "Hey, morning, sleepy head," Val says with a giggle, causing Brian to roll his eyes.

With the stress of the wedding, Val has been nothing but a pain in his ass. But once all this blows over and she's off to Hawaii or France or fucking Alaska (wherever Matt finally decides to take them), she'll get her panties out of the bunch they're in and cool off.

"Ten more minutes," Audrey replies sleepily, wrapping her arms around Val's neck and snuggling into her warm chest. Val lets out a small sound of awing before wrapping her arms around the nine year old and picking her up.

"I'm gonna take you to your room so you can change, okay, sweetie?" Val says, looking over at Brian and gives the older man a slight smile. "Then we'll go out a meet the girls for breakfast."

The man of the beach home sighs and falls back onto the couch, hearing the springs squeak under his muscle of weight as he closes his eyes and lets his mind wrap around everything. He can hear Val upstairs with Audrey, the two moving around the guest room to change the little girl. Twenty minutes later, Val walks downstairs with Audrey in hand, a sleepy look still in her eyes as she rubs at them and yawns softly.

Audrey has been changed from her swim suit and shorts, and into a light violet t shirt with a pair of ballerina shoes on the front, and a short ruffly dark purple skirt. Val has a pair of matching purple sandals in her hand. She hands them over once Audrey sits on the couch beside Brian and slowly starts to clasp the sandals around her feet.

"We'll meet you up at the mall for lunch, kay, Bry?" Val says, looking him straight in the sleepy eye. He knows she's left no room for question.

"Sure, mama bear, whatever you say," he chuckles, getting a giggle out of Audrey too. He nudges her in the ribs lightly with his elbow, and she nudges him back.

"I'll see you at lunch," Audrey mumbles sleepily before reaching up to kiss his stubbled cheek. His heart flutters and swells. Brian chews on the inside of his cheek, not saying a word as he watches Val lead Audrey from his home and they disappear behind the closed door. Brian sits there, contemplating everything that has happened within the last twenty-fours and settles on the idea of going for a run down the shoreline before coming back for a nice hot shower before his lunch 'date' with the girls.

***


Leana and Lacey gush loudly at the golden hair, hazel eyed angel in front of them, her hair naturally curled, falling passed her shoulders as she holds a doll in her arms.

"She's so adorable!" Leana squeals, reaching out to huge the girl to her chest. Audrey's eyes widen as the air is knocked from her lungs. "You're going to be the cutest little flower girl that California has ever seen!"

"Well first we have to find a dress," Val says, smirking as she watches the two women gush over the little nine year old.

"Does 'Chelle know?" Lacey asks Val, her voice low as Leana continues to coo and hug the girl to her. Val shakes her head.

"Bry is going to tell her when she gets back from New York." Lacey nods, looking over as Leana starts to squeeze Audrey again.

"Okay, okay, Lele. That's enough. We need her for the wedding, stop crushing her," Lacey says with a giggle, getting an amused smirk from Val in return.

"But I can't help it! She's just so cute! No way Gates could have helped make this little angel. I just wanna dip her in chocolate and eat her up!"

"Your ass is already fat enough," Gena mumbles, a smirk on her lips as the other girls laugh loudly at the remark. Leana purses her lips, glaring at the blonde.

"No one asked you, Paulhus."

"Actually," Audrey says, finally putting in her two cents. "I would like to not be eaten. I've never been to a wedding before."

Leana looks at the little girl with an incredulous look before gushing and pulling her tight against her chest again. "You are just too cute!"

After Val and Lacey were able to save Audrey from being devoured by Leana, the four females trekked through the mall, looking for the prefect flower girl dress for Audrey. Gena had left due to being called in to work - one of the girls was quitting due to finding some other place to work at. All of them made sure to keep their hair up and sunglasses on their faces, not wanting to be recognized and bombarded by fans. There was already enough going on online, and Val didn't know if she could take anymore of the lack of privacy she was getting lately when it came to her wedding.

Stopping in the many children clothing stores, Val just couldn't find anything acceptable for her wedding. Nothing they say matched the teal, brown, gold, or feathers. All of the girls, except Audrey of course, were growing annoyed with it being almost time to meet up with the guys, and still no dress had been found.

"I'm ready to give up," Val murmured, sitting down on a bench while Leana and Lacey ran off to get a bottle of water. Audrey hadn't spoken much the whole morning, still growing used to the antics of the older women. "I can't find anything that I like, or that fits you," she says, continuing her rant as she looks over to the young girl. Audrey looks up from her lap, her bright hazel eyes looking around the stores that surround them before her eyes fall on one shop that they hadn't gone into.

"What about that one?" Audrey asks, pointing at the shop that has a few beach and sun dress on display. Val frowns as she looks at the store before down at Audrey.

"I don't know, Audi. You think we're going to find anything in there?"

Audrey shrugged before standing from the bench and walked into the shop, Val stepping right behind her. Like hell she was going to let Audrey out of her sight for even a second. Brian would have all of their asses if something happened to her. Not to mention Nina - oh dear lord. Nina would go on a nation wide rampage if something happened to someone she cared about, not to mention her own daughter.

Val follows closely behind Audrey, her eyes falling over the many articles of clothing and accessories that fill the shop. It would have not been on Val's check-it-out list if not for Audrey's curiosity.

"Welcome to Corissa's Lobby!" a woman says, popping up from behind a rack of shirts. Val jumps, letting out a small scream as Audrey looks at the woman with wide eyes. "I'm Corissa. Anything I can help you find?"

"No, thank you," Val lets out, her voice a little breathy. "We're just looking-"

"Actually, yes," Audrey interrupts, stepping up to the oddly dressed woman. "We're looking for a dress. Can you help us?"

The woman, Corissa as she introduced herself to be, grins and taps her chin. "Let me guess. Flower girl?" she asks, and Audrey nods. "Teal or champagne, with feathers and beads?" Audrey grins, and Val just stares with her jaw slack. How did the woman know that?

"Careful Miss DiBenedetto. You keep your mouth open any longer and something might crawl in there to die," Corissa jokes at the woman before swerving around racks, looking whatever she has in mind. After a few swerves, she grabs at a dark teal dress and then goes over to the many racks and shelves that line the walls. Before either can blink, Corissa is standing back in front of them, the perfect dress for Audrey in hand along with matching gold sandals and a cute feather headband that matches Val's bouquet.

"This is gorgeous!" Val says, holding the dress close to her face to look at the detailed threading at the bottom hem. "How much are you asking for it?" She asks, whipping out her credit card to pay the woman. Corissa chuckles and shakes her head, pushing the card away.

"For a fellow eccentric soul, I can put no price on it. It is yours to have, here," Corissa says, gently placing the items into the girls' arms before swerving away, going on to another part of the store.

"What just happened?" Val said, being sure to clutch the dress to her chest. Like hell she was giving it up.

Audrey shrugged. "I think she's psychic," she mumbled to the older woman before turning around and walking out of the store. Just as they did, Lacey and Leana showed up, sporting a familiar Jimmy and Johnny in their arms.

"C'mon, girls! The rest of the guys are waiting for us in the food court!" Leana says energetically, causing Jimmy to bounce with her before the two love birds skipped down the main hall of the mall. Audrey watched with keen eyes.

"Are they always like this?" She asks, looking up at Val and the couple that are attached at the hip. The three chuckle and nod.

"Usually worse," Johnny says, causing Audrey's eyes to grow wide.

The walk to the food court was short, and Val had made sure to put Audrey's dress, shoes, and headband into one of the many shopping bags. The large table that had been dubbed for the small get-together was round, letting everyone get a good view of everyone. Val sat beside Matt, kissing him softly before pulling up a chair for Audrey. Brian sat on the other side of Matt, starting up a conversation with Jimmy almost immediately.

Lunch was quick and filled with plenty of conversation. Two by two, the couples began to disperse, Johnny and Lacey being the first, with Val and Matt being the last. This left Brian awkwardly alone with the nine year old girl that was his daughter.

"Want some ice cream?" Brian asks suddenly, standing without even getting an answer from Audrey. "I'll go get us some ice cream, okay? What do you want, chocolate?"

Audrey shakes her head quick and sternly. "No chocolate! I'm allergic."

Brian raises a brow up to his hairline. "Allergic to chocolate? You're missing out, Audi," he jokes with her, but understands. "Okay, no chocolate. How's bubblegum?"

"Delicious!" she says with a grin before he nods.

"Okay, bubblegum it is. Stay right here. Don't talk to anyone and if someone makes you feel uncomfortable, yell for me, okay?" he says sternly, squatting to get at her eye level. Audrey nods and clutches her doll to her chest. "Good. I'll be right back."

Audrey watches as Brian walks off, going to the other side of the food court to a nearby ice cream stand.

Brian stands in line, pushing his sunglasses up to rest on the brim of his fedora. His eyes are simple dark brown, not lined in black like usual, as he looks around, stepping forward when someone is done in the line. With just two people left in front of him, Brian is suddenly bombarded by a pair of giggles and a tap on the shoulder. Turning, he looks down at the two teenage girls sporting a familiar shirt.

"Are you Syn Gates?" the tall blonde one asks, batting her eyelashes at him. He can't help the grin that pulls at his lips.

"And if I am?" he asks, his voice obviously being recognized as they squeal and gush to each other. Watching fans react to meeting him was always his favorite part of meeting them.

"Oh my god, can we, like, have your autograph?" the brunette asks, staring with wide gray eyes. The blonde nods and they start to fall over each other.

"Oh wait! My brother is going to flip a shit if he finds out we met you without him here!" The blonde says. "He's out in the parking lot in his car. Come with us to meet him!"

Brian frowns, looking from the girls and back to Audrey. She's sitting silently at the table, playing with her Bridgett doll. "Let me get this real quick and give it to my... my niece, okay?" he says, gesturing to the man patiently waiting for Brian to step up. The girls nod and step back, clinging to the other as they gush. Quickly ordering and paying for a three scoop cup of bubblegum ice cream, Brian rushes over to Audrey. She smiles once seeing him.

"Here ya go, Audi," he tells her, letting her bite into it before speaking again. "I've got to go to the bathroom real quick, okay? Remember, don't talk to strangers and if someone makes you uncomfortable go find a police officer. I'll be back before you know it." He kisses her hair and then rushes off before the two teenagers can get much from the moment. Brian grins as he comes up to them. "So, where's this brother of yours?"

***


Audrey sits at the table in the middle of the mall food court, looking around as she waits for Brian to come back from the bathroom. She finished her ice cream well over half an hour ago, and there was still no sight of her father. Clutching Bridgett close to her when someone brushes past her too closely, she whimpers softly. Her mother always kept Audrey within arm's reach, no matter what.

When a strange man starts to come her way after watching her for a good ten minutes, Audrey jumps from her chair and rushes away, into the crowds of the mall.

"Brian?" Audrey calls out, looking for a familiar fedora hat and messy black hair. "Brian?" she calls out again, before being knocked off her feet and sprawling on the ground. Her wrist hurts, and she is forced to watch as Bridgett is stepped all over.

The tears she feels falling down her cheeks make her feel yucky in the stomach. "Daddy..." she whimpers softly, grabbing at the slightly crushed Bridgett and curling into a ball.

"Oh sweetie, are you okay?" a soft voice asks. Audrey looks up and at the woman, a kind looking female in a police officer's uniform. "Are you lost?" she asks, and Audrey nods before wrapping her arms around the woman's neck, continuing to cry softly.

"C'mon. Let's get you cleaned up and find your parents. They must be worried sick..." the officer says, carrying Audrey to the security booth.

Riding along the familiar road of Huntington Beach's main street, Brian hums happily along to the song My Girl. Glancing into the rearview mirror to see the back seat, he finds it empty. Looking over into the passenger seat, it is also empty, save for a small pink bag in the shape of a flower and a bright yellow sweater. He turns back to the road, continuing to hum the song before he slams on breaks, stopping in the middle of traffic.

"Audrey!"
♠ ♠ ♠
uhh ohh... not good.

Sorry for taking so long to update again. Things have been hectic. I start school again in a week.
However, once I get to 30 comments in all (which is like, six more) I'll update again! We all want to know what happens then, right?

(I sure as hell do.)

xoxo. aquarius. <3