Love, Save the Empty

chapter eight.

Following Val's words to the T, Brian made sure his beachside home was smoke-, alcohol-, and porn-free. (Not like he kept the latter anywhere near curious eyes.) On the morning of the third day away from even hearing a word from Val or Audrey, there's a knock on his front door. Pinkly perks up from her spot on the large, cushioned doggy bed placed by the fire place, but does not move to get up. Brian inhales deeply before pushing a hand through his hair.

His home has been completely kid-proof. There are cushions on all sharp, or dull, corners. His guitars are locked away up on shelves that are bolted to the wall. Every door that he doesn't want open has a lock installed that must be opened with a key. And his beer, his beloved beer, has been moved to the incognito-work-bench-turned-alcohol-cooler in the shed. Then his Harley - his baby - has been banished to the garage and tarped. It hurt his man card to do that.

Standing and walking to the front door, he takes a deep breath before opening it and waiting for the harsh words he knows he's going to get.

However, he's entirely surprised by the running force that goes straight for his legs.

"Daddy!" says the sweet voice of one Audrey Pierce, that Brian just now realizes how much he missed.

"Hey sweetie," he mumbles, holding the girl close to him before he looks up at Val. She's got a stern look on her face, but her eyes soften at the sight. "Hey, Val."

"Hey, Brian. How're you doing?" She notices the three day old scruff on his chin and the slight bags under his eyes. Brian chuckles and closes his chocolate brown eyes.

"I've been making this place kid-friendly for the past sixty hours. I've slept enough to be able to keep going. How do you think I'm holding up?"

Val winces slightly and steps into the home. "Sorry about the chewing out I gave you the other day. I was just so worried, and I know Nina would die if anything happened to Audrey so... yeah."

Brian chuckles and shakes his head. "Don't worry about it, Val. I needed to get my ass kicked."

"I know, but," she starts before chewing on her lip, looking at the little girl that has run off to play with a happy looking Pinkly. "You had her for barely twenty-four hours. I had no right to make it sound like you had her for a year."

"Like I said, don't worry, Valary."

Val sighs and nods before looking around the house, pushing her auburn hair behind her ears. "Mind if I take a look around?"

Brian shrugs, going over to the couch to watch Audrey as she plays with Pinkly.

"Not like I can stop you. If you see anything, just tell me. I'll get on it ASAP."

Val is slightly taken back by this, and even notices that he's switched the hoop in his nose to the stud that she had been grilling him about for a food two months now. She starts in the back rooms, where she knows his music room and office is. The doors are locked and need a key to be opened. Next, the bedrooms. Brian and Michelle's has also been kid proofed, and any adult items are out of sight and out of reach. She shudders slightly at the sight once she's found her sister and close friend's sex stash.

Next is Audrey's room, and Val can't help the soft 'awe' that leaves her lips. The plain looking guest room had been transformed into a haven for Audrey. There's a small section of the room that was replaced with wood floor and a body sized mirror with a bar installed on the mirror. Her closet was made to her height, and all her clothes were put away neatly. The bed was a soft purple, Audrey sharing a favorite color with her father, and the walls were a matching lavender that accented the white furniture. Touching the wall, Valary is surprised to find it already dry.

Soon, the kitchen and back yard go through. Val finds the deck fenced and gated, and a mosquito screen wrapping around the area. The outdoor fire pit has also been covered in a thick screen, so that Audrey can't fall into it and scrap any part of her body on the stone.

The kitchen is in tip-top shape, and after the hour and half inspection of the beachside home, Val can't find anything to complain about. She hasn't seen a single cigarette, or lighter, or stashed bottle of beer anywhere.

"Okay," Val says, pulling Audrey and Brian's attention from the television. Audrey has wrapped herself up in Brian's arm, the warmth and sense of security causing her to only shift into a comfortable position, not daring to move. Even if she was hurt that Brian had left her in the mall, Audrey had only just now gotten to know her father and was willing to forgive him for just about anything in order to stay with him. "I'll looked around. It's as tight as Fort Knox," Val jokes, causing Brian and let out a sigh of relief and Audrey to giggle into his chest.

"Yay! That means I get to stay with you, daddy!" she says happily, curling into his chest again. "I missed you..." she tells him, and he hugs her back just as close.

"Missed you too, munchkin."

Val smiles at the sight before letting herself out. Pushing a hand back through her hair, Val leaves the beach home and goes back to her own. Only a week and half now...


Brian fidgets slightly as he stands outside the large brick building. He looks down at a very excited looking Audrey. Val had texted him with the address and demanded he sign Audrey up for classes during the month she was there. He wasn't completely against it, but why couldn't she like something less... feminine? More likely than not, Brian was going to be the only male being within a ten mile radius. He already stood out enough with the baggy jeans, cut off t shirts, full color sleeves and black spiked hair. Now he was going to be stuck in a room with a bunch of soccer moms and girls dancing around in tutus?

"Fuck my life," he murmurs to himself, covering the curse with the sound of a car speeding by.

Audrey pulls him into the building, making Brian surprised before he finds himself at the front desk, a very stern looking woman behind the counter.

"Can I help you?" she asks, looking over the edge of her glasses at Brian and the excitedly, hopping Audrey.

"Uh, yeah," he says, clearing his throat. "I want to sign her up for classes for the month."

She purses her lips before pulling a stickey note from a pad of rainbow colors ones and writes a quick, scratchy note of it. She hands it over. "Walk down this hall," she points curtly to the hall to her right. "Go to the third door on the left and knock twice. You'll need to talk to Sonja about classes." She looks over at Audrey and then to Brian. "Registration was two weeks ago."

With this, she turns away from the two and answers a ringing phone before the first ring can even completely go through.

Brian blinks in surprise before Audrey pulls him down the hall, stopping at the third door and knocking twice, just as she had been told. There's a scuffle behind the door before a few thuds and muffled curses. The door opens, revealing a dark hair, bright green eyed woman. "What?" she asks harshly, pushing her messy hair from her face. She must have just woken up.

"Are you Sonja?" Audrey asks excitedly, gripping onto Brian's hand tight.

The woman raises a brow. "Yeah, who's asking?"

Instantly, Audrey is shoving her hand in Sonja's direction, waiting for it to be shaked. "Hi! I'm Audrey, Audrey Pierce. This is my dad, Brian," Audrey introduces the pair to the dark haired woman. "I wanna sign up for your dance class!"

Sonja looked from the girl to the older man before narrowing her eyes. "Registration was two weeks ago. You're too late." And then the door is slammed into their faces. Audrey jumps back for a moment, and Brian instantly feels bad for the little girl. Audrey whimpers and hugs herself to Brian's leg, burying her face against the denim.

"Hey!" he yells, banging his fist on the door. It's wretched open, a glaring Sonja on the other side, but an equally glaring Brian standing tall. "That's no way to talk to a nine year old. Now get out here and we can talk something out. She wants to come to the dance class, and by hell, she's gonna come to them."

Sonja purses her lips before stepping fully in the door way and instantly going off into a very long, anger filled rant in a different language. Brian can only guess it's European. Suddenly, Audrey is holding out a rainbow lined post-it note to the woman, her face still hiding against Brian's pants leg. She snatches it from her, and reads the scratched note quickly. Immediately, the hard look turns soft and Sonja sighs.

"I should apologize," she mumbles before stepping aside. "Please, come in. Would you like some lemonade?"

Audrey follows Brian into the office, looking around at the mess of files and old dance outfits thrown around the room. "Yes please," she squeaks softly, crawling into Brian's lap once he sits in the large leather chair as Sonja sits in her fuzzy-lime green lounge. She pours the large container of lemonade into a smaller mug and hands it over to Audrey.

"I'm sorry for the way I was acting," Sonja begins, leaning back into her chair. "I've been going through a very bad break up as of right now, and I've lost my love for dance..." Audrey looks at her with wide eyes. How could she possibly lose her love for dancing?

"Still gives you no reason to slam the door in our faces," Brian growls, crossing is arms over his chest.

"Right, and I'm extremely sorry for that also," Sonja says sincerely. "My name is Sonja Mihaylov. I'm from Moscow, originally, but I've lived in the States more most of my life," she begins. "As of three years ago, I am a forced-retired dancer due to my knee being blown out in a show we were doing in France. Before those three years, I had been dancing since I was four."

Brian gives her an expression that reads 'get-on-with-it'. Sonja sighs again, pressing her fingertips together.

"The note you gave me, Miss Audrey," Sonja starts, and Audrey looks over her mug of lemonade at the woman, "was a famous saying in Russian that Miss Natasha has a habit of screaming in my face." Sonja chuckles to herself.

"What did it say?" Audrey asks, scooting up to sit on Brian's knees, her drink forgotten.

"Vrémâ -- lúčšij dóktor," Sonja says fluently, Audrey tilting her head at the odd language. "With time, all wounds heal."

Audrey giggles. "My momma used to tell me that too!"

Sonja smile. "Then your momma is a smart woman, Miss Audrey." Audrey grins and nods.

"So, those lessons?" Brian says, his thin lips pressed together. He's ready to get out of the place - it smells with a mixture of chalk, sweat, and hundreds of perfumes.

"Right!" Sonja says, before drinking her own mug of lemonade. "Sadly, as both Natasha and I stated before, registration was two weeks ago and the classes have already started."

Suddenly, the look of excitement is crushed with just those few words, her hopes vanishing quickly. Brian frowns, looking from the girl in his lap to the woman behind the desk.

"Is it possible that we can work something out? Do I need to pull any strings, or make any large donations or what?" Brian asks, causing Sonja to look at him with a slightly confused expression.

"And just who might you be, mister...?"

"Haner. Brian Haner."

"Yes, Mr. Haner. Who are you to come in here and try to buy out favors? We are a school of dance, not the LA Underground. Our dancers work hard and do not pay their way in."

Brian rolls his eyes at this. Audrey pouts, dropping her chin to her chest as she looks sadly down at the mug of lemonade. Sonja, however, sees the look on Audrey's face and can't help but give in.

"But," she starts, Audrey perking up immediately. "We can work something out. Only if you promise to work extra hard, and if your, dad?" Brian nods. "If your dad agrees to help us with the final fall recital."

"Are you serious?!" Audrey exclaims, causing Sonja to laugh and nod.

"As a heart attack."

"Oh my gosh, this is so awesome! Dad, can you believe it? I get to work with the famous Sonja Mihaylov! Oh this is so awesome, just wait until Val!"

Sonja chuckles softly, leaning back in her chair.

"Well, welcome to Sonja's Schools of Dance. Go change and go to room five. Tell Miss Aleca that 'the pigs fly home tomorrow'." Sonja sends a wink to the girl before Audrey is tearing out of the room, leaving Brian and Sonja alone in Sonja's office.

"She's quite a handful, isn't she?" Sonja comments. Brian smiles fondly as he watches her run down the hall.

"Just like her mother."

There's a moment of silence at the mention of Nina before Sonja speaks again. "Mr. Haner?" Brian looks up, blinking the hazy look from his eyes. "I'm serious about helping with the fall recital."

Brian shrugs. "Sure, I'll do my best. I can't sew ripped costumes, but I guess I can paint and make sets."

Sonja smirks, but covers it with her mug. "That's not exactly what I meant, Mr. Haner..."

Brian follows her green eyes to the rack carrying a large load of men's dance costumes, and Brian can already see where this is going.

"No! I am not doing any twirly, ballerina, shit!"
♠ ♠ ♠
Kind of short, and a bit fillerish, but it gets us ready for the next upcoming chapters! It's been a week now since Audrey showed up. In another chapter or two, Michelle is going to come home and then the wedding! yay!

sorry for any typos. It's 1 am and I still need to take a shower before going to work at 8 am. I start school next Tuesday, the 7th! boo. but it's senior year! so yay for that!

Enjoy. :) And if you wish, I wouldn't mind having some help with making a few friends for Audrey. Send in a short name, age, personality, appearance, etc thingie for me either in a comment or message. I'd appreciate it.

Not sure when I'll update again - Friday more than likely. You've all gotten three updates in two days. I'm spoiling you. :P

xoxo. aquarius.