Status: co-write!

In the Company

New Twists and Quiet Questions

After hauling Brayden’s ass out of bed – without getting a single peep out of him as to what had caused him to lose it at the bar – the boys decided to go out and do some sight seeing around the city. I’d offered to go with them, but they insisted they’d be fine; Claude even offered to text me every time they went to a new place so I could keep tabs on them. Max insisted I needed to relax, and Taylor agreed, all but shoving money into my hand telling me to go to a spa or do some other kind of ‘girly shit’. That had Patrick, Brayden and the rest of the guys all agreeing, and no amount of protesting kept them from nearly manhandling me inside the closest one and telling the woman at the desk to ‘pamper’ me.

Three hours later my nails were done; feet massaged, back massaged, a facial done, everything else I could possibly imagine, and I was waiting for the boys to come back. Brayden was the only one who was keeping the boys promise of texting me constantly, and when they finally came into view it was all I could do not to laugh.

They were all bogged down with bags, and it looked like they were all from the NHL store – which was just a few blocks away. I could only shake my head and try not to laugh at them as I walked out to meet them.

“Looks like you guys were busy,” I teased, and Claude raised an eyebrow as he looked me over.

“I thought they were supposed to pamper you – you look the same,” I smacked at his arm as the guys all tried not to laugh.

“What a jerk! Look at these claws; don’t mess with me,” I warned him, waving my hands and newly painted nails in front of his face. His eyes widened quite a bit, and Brayden laughed.

“Those things are vicious!” Taylor announced, and Patrick grabbed one hand to look at it. He had sisters, so this wasn’t anything new to him.

“Black? Why black?” he asked, and I had to laugh some more.

“I figured that was the safest color so none of you knuckleheads got upset or jealous,” I shot back, starting to make my way down the street back toward my apartment.

“Hey! My team doesn’t have black on our jerseys!” Taylor whined, and I rolled my eyes.

“Your third jerseys are like all black,” I reminded him, and they all stopped in their tracks, looking at me. I stared back, trying not to smirk at their slightly blank expressions.

“Impressive; you did your research,” Brayden smirked, recovering the quickest and walking over to me, offering his arm for me to take. I tried to keep the pink out of my cheeks, my best friend’s earlier teasing immediately coming to mind. There was something about Brayden that I just couldn’t put my finger on, but his flip-out last night was still fresh in my mind; it seemed so far removed from him now. He was even coming out of his shell a little bit, something I took as a good sign.

“Aww look at you two,” Claude sing-songed from behind us. I rolled my eyes, making Brayden chuckle quietly beside me as we continued on and ignored him.

“So you’re just going to ignore us now?” Patrick whined, scooting up beside me. He bumped his shoulder into mine, making me laugh as Brayden rolled his eyes at the blonde forward.

“No, but I’m going to ignore all of your teasing,” I retorted, and after a moment he nodded.

“Okay, I get it; I’m sorry,” Patrick had really turned a 180 since our conversation about Rose, and it was refreshing to see this side of him. Not the cocky hockey player, but the kid from Buffalo. The hockey player? I wanted him as far away from my best friend as possible; his files told me more than I could have ever wanted to know. But the kid from Buffalo, he’d be good for her, in fact I would go as far as to say I would hope they would get together.

“All right, well we’re gonna go and workout… see you tonight? Movie’s at nine, right?” Max piped up from behind me. I nodded, and waved as the group began to move toward the two cars they’d brought. Brayden hovered beside me though, hesitating about following after them.

“Want some coffee?” I asked, and after jumping slightly he nodded, his cheeks heated up.

We walked the remaining few blocks to my apartment, and he followed me up and inside.
Thankfully the apartment was clean; I’d spent my morning doing that, knowing that the guys would be over to watch a movie tonight. It kept them out of the bar and that way I didn’t have to try and keep anybody in line by myself. It was a hard enough job when I had Rose with me, let alone with just me being here.

“Thanks,” he nodded as soon as there was a coffee cup in his hands. I nodded, pouring myself a cup. I sat down on the other end of the couch, studying him quietly over the top of the cup while I waited for it to cool down enough for me to drink.

“I, uh, got you this. We all figured you two needed some hockey stuff,” he mumbled, picking up and pushing the huge shopping bag at me. I blinked slowly, before raising my eyes to search his face, the blush across his cheeks telling me he was completely serious.

“Why? You guys didn’t need to do this,” I set my cup down and hesitantly took the bag from his hands. I turned to face him, sitting cross-legged as I opened it and pulled an Edmonton Oilers tank top out, followed by a Blackhawks T-shirt. There was some Flyers gear – obviously, because Max, Claude, and Brayden all played for the same team – and the last orange item I pulled out made me gasp.

“I uh, thought it was a little cooler than just getting you a t-shirt or something… Pat got Rose a jersey too, so I figured this was more than fair,” he mumbled, and I felt my own face heat up a little bit.

It was a legitimate jersey; crested and everything, with the large number ten and the name Schenn on the back of it. I felt the thick material in between my fingers and couldn’t believe that he’d gone and done this for me. A t-shirt was one thing, but I wasn’t too naïve to believe that the jersey wasn’t expensive.

“Wow… thanks Bray,” I managed to choke out the words, realizing the pause was far too long.

“I, uh, do you like it? Sorry, I know it’s totally cheesy that it’s my jersey, but…”

“No, no it’s great,” I assured him, sensing he was feeling the tension just as badly as I was. He gave me an awkward smile before relaxing slightly. We sat in silence for a few moments; Brayden fidgeting with his fingers while I continued to go over the jersey.

“Look, I want to apologize too,” he spoke up after a while. I turned to study his profile as he stared out the window. He kept his bright blue eyes trained straight ahead, letting me go over the details of his face that I could see, even if it kept his expression from me.

“For what?”

“For this morning… for last night. I just… some things started piling up and I couldn’t handle them, so I was stupid and started drinking… that’s what got me here in the first place,” he sighed. I couldn’t believe that Brayden was actually opening up to me right now, but I was glad for the opportunity.

“Did you want to talk about it? I mean, you don’t have to, I get it,”

“It’s just… I dated this girl, Julia, back when I was in high school. We were fifteen, I was completely in love with her… and then last year it all fell apart. She dumped me out of nowhere, after like five years. I never even got an explanation… It killed me. I really loved her; I thought she was going to be the one,” my eyes were wide as I tried to understand what he’d gone through.

“Oh my God… Brayden that’s terrible,” were the only words I could get out of my mouth. Not exactly as intelligent as I’d hoped, but I’d take what I could get, I guess.

“Yeah, it was awful. So I went out with Max and thought I’d try drinking it away; hoped maybe I’d forget all about her. Then last night… last night she texted me,” I winced, feeling my temper start to flare up. How could she do that to him?

“You’re kidding, right?”

“No, I’m not. She broke up with Ryan, and she wanted to ‘apologize’ or something to me. It just… I finally thought I was over it all, and I guess I was wrong,” he shrugged, wringing his hands together and finally turning his sky-blue eyes toward me.

“I’m so sorry Brayden,” without thinking I closed the distance between us and wrapped my arms around his shoulders. It took a moment, but he relaxed and leaned into me, likewise putting his arms around me. It took all of seconds for me to melt into him; the soft, hint of what I’m sure was Armani cologne reached my nostrils – just enough to tease my nose, not enough to be overwhelming – and the feeling of his strong arms around me had what I would almost call butterflies in my stomach. Brayden and I had never been this close – linking arms while walking down the street was as close as we’d been – but I couldn’t say I didn’t like the proximity.

He buried his face against my neck, letting out a long, slow breath as I rubbed his back softly, feeling the tension slowly leave the muscles in his shoulders and upper back. The warm breath against my neck nearly made me giggle, and Brayden noticed, pulling away slightly.

“What? I spill my guts to you and you laugh?” he was mostly teasing, but there was a hint of worry in his deep baritone.

“No, your breath was tickling me is all,” I admitted, and another shy smile commandeered his lips.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t notice,”

“It’s fine, honest. Did you, um, want anything to eat?” I asked, and after a moment Brayden nodded.

“Yeah, that’d be good,” he agreed, helping me fold up my new hockey clothes before he followed me into the kitchen where I opened the fridge. My Chinese leftovers were sitting in the fridge, looking tantalizing in the white, Styrofoam takeout container. I eyed it longingly before realizing that wasn’t enough food for both Brayden and I.

“Want to order something in?” I asked, turning around and nearly jumping out of my skin when I realized Brayden was right behind me. Like, almost standing on top of me right behind me.

“Uh, yeah, whatever you want to do is fine with me,” he agreed, and after an awkward attempt at dodging around each other I managed to make my way to my cell phone. I ordered in pizza, and when it arrived we made ourselves comfortable in the living room to watch TV while we ate.

The conversation was light, and almost a little too sparse for my liking. I was used to Rose, and the two of us could talk for hours about nothing. With Brayden sometimes he talked freely, other times it was like pulling teeth to get anything out of him. And even when he was being talkative he was fairly quiet.

I took our plates back into the kitchen, rinsing them off while Brayden flipped through the channels trying to find something to watch. Once the plates were in the dishwasher I made my way back to the living room, making myself comfortable on the couch again. Braden chose some show I’d never heard of before, and we settled in to watch it.

Minutes later found me hiding my face against his chest; the show was incredibly scary and freaky and while Brayden was loving it, I was scared witless. His arm was around me as I tried to make myself as tiny as possible, in the hopes that I could disappear into Brayden and the couch and not have to see or hear the show that was currently on the television.

“It’s okay,” he chuckled during a commercial. I shook my head, not moving my face away from his chest even though I could hear a very safe Best Buy commercial playing in the back ground.

“I’m sorry, want me to change it?”

“No, now I need to know that the thing is going to die, otherwise I won’t sleep for a week,” I explained, and Brayden was silent for about two seconds before he started to laugh.


“I just… that’s how my brother Luke is; he hates scary movies with a passion, but once he starts he has to know how it ends,” he told me, making some of the fear ease up enough for me to chuckle.

“Good to know I’m not alone,” I replied, and finally braved looking up at him. Those huge, blue eyes were intently watching me, and after searching my face he leaned in slightly. My brain couldn’t process what was happening, until Brayden paused for a moment and his tongue wet his lips.

Oh my God, he’s going to kiss me.

The thought bounced through my head before my conscious silenced it, realizing that I really wouldn’t mind if he did. With that I let my eyes close, and could feel his breath against my face, nearly feel his lips on mine when he paused again.

And the gigantic racket at the door told us that the rest of the guys had arrived.

Brayden pulled away in an instant, his eyes wide, like he couldn’t believe what he’d almost done. Both of our breathing was a little shallower than it should have been, before Claude’s bellowing reminded me that I actually needed to answer the door.

“I um, I should get that,” I mumbled, and Brayden nodded, his face bright red before he excused himself to the bathroom quickly.

What the hell just about happened?

Once I had the guys settled in my living room I retreated to the kitchen to make some popcorn and organize some other snack food, knowing they wouldn’t last a whole movie without something to eat. The time also served helpful for me to get my head on straight as far as what had almost happened with Brayden.

It freaked me out a little, to be honest. After losing my parents I didn’t like people to get close… Rose and her family had really been the only exception to that rule. Now Brayden, as well as the rest of the guys, were slowly starting to chip away at the barriers I had protecting myself, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. It was so nice to have people that I could consider my close friends, who I trusted, but the fear of being abandoned again was all too prevalent. I knew they were only here for the summer, and that as soon as the hockey season started up again we’d be left in the dust. It was inevitable, and at times made me want to pull back from the friendships we’d created.

“Ry, you all right?” I jumped and whipped around at the soft, yet deep voice behind me. Brayden stood in the middle of the kitchen, looking unsure of himself, as he seemed to do quite a bit of. His hands were shoved deep into his pockets and his head was hung slightly, but those bright blue eyes were focused on me.

“I, yeah, I’m fine,” I choked out, turning back to the hot-air popper and scooping popcorn out of the bottom bowl into the larger one so it wouldn’t overflow.

“Is this about… look, I’m sorry if I was out of line,” he mumbled, and I swallowed hard as I tried to keep my composure.

“No, it’s uh, it’s fine; yeah,” I tripped over my words, and after a prolonged, awkward silence Brayden moved beside me to help me butter the popcorn.

“Um, are the rest of the guys crashing here?”

“Not that I know of… but knowing Claude he won’t get his lazy ass off my couch,” I managed a bit of a chuckle, that had a tiny smile pulling at Brayden’s full lips.

“I just… can we talk later then? Whenever it can be just us? I… I really like that I can talk to you and you won’t judge me or try to tell me what to do…” his cheeks were starting to heat up, undoubtedly mine were too.

“Uh, sure; of course. That’s what I’m here for,” I meant the words to be encouraging, but the tiny hint of a grin disappeared from Brayden’s face.

“Thanks,” he nodded, taking one of the two large bowls of popcorn and heading back into the kitchen. I let out a quiet groan before grabbing the last bowl and following him in, putting on a smile for the rest of the guys who’d made my living room their home for the evening. Claude pulled me down to the couch to sit between him and Taylor, who immediately tried to sneak an arm around my shoulders while simultaneously grabbing an enormous handful of popcorn out of the bowl. Max started the DVD, and out of the corner of my eye I caught Brayden slumped slightly in his seat, not paying attention to the screen in the slightest. It confused me, because just an hour ago he’d been happier than I’d seen him since he got here, and I wasn’t sure if or how I’d managed to set him off.

After the movie, just as I’d feared, Claude stretched out and declared he wasn’t going anywhere. Taylor was quick to call the second couch, shoving Patrick off of it so he could lay down and spread out. I rolled my eyes, but got them each a pillow and some blankets before saying goodbye to everyone else. Brayden hovered at the door, his blue eyes almost pleading; a silent question I could hardly decipher hidden in their depths.

“Um, some other time?” he finally asked. I nodded, and managed an awkward hug with him before he turned to follow Max and Patrick out of the building and down to their vehicle. I retreated to my room, closing the door before collapsing on my bed. I couldn’t wait for Rose to get home, because I seriously needed her brain to help me figure all of this out.
♠ ♠ ♠
Hi guys! Sorry for the delay on this update!! I hope you guys like it - please let us know what you think!! :D

- Hayley