Status: co-write!

In the Company

Bad Headaches and A Fresh Start

My first day back at work was brutal, to say the very least. Still nursing a mean headache and an incredibly stuffy nose I was in my office, swamped by work that had been sitting there since I’d fallen ill and been taken home by the guys. Brayden and I had hardly spoken since the mini blowout that we’d had, and I found it hard to even be in the same room. It hurt, knowing what I was doing and how it was affecting him, but I didn’t know what else to do.

That all led me to being here by myself on a Saturday morning, looking terrible – in leggings and a sweater dress with a hoodie over it that could be slipped off when someone came by – and had a pile of papers strewn across my desk, some even migrating to Rose’s.

It was about eleven o’clock when there were a few pounding footsteps coming down the hall. I knew enough to know that it had to be the guys – nobody else ran in the building – and when the door flung open I wasn’t surprised to see Claude and Max standing there.

“Hey Ry, we’re so sorry to bother you ma chere, but we need your help,” Max immediately explained. I nodded, standing up and wrapping my hoodie closer around me to help fight off the chills I still had.

“Sure, what’s wrong?” I asked, and saw the hesitation and glance they shared.

“It’s Brayden,” Claude quietly told me, and I felt my throat tighten up ever so slightly at the mention of him.


“We went out to the bar last night and he got completely destroyed… and I don’t think he stopped drinking when he came back to the hotel,” Max continued. I winced, thinking back to his last bout while he’d been in New York and under our care.

“Oh dear… is he asleep or…?”

“No, but we can’t talk to him, he’s just a total mess. And I know you two are having a bit of a rough time but we don’t know what else to do. Rose tried to get him to talk a few times before she had to leave with Pat because he managed to pull a stitch loose in his thumb,” Claude finished, and after a moment I nodded.

“Okay, just uh… let me clean up first,” I sighed. Claude and Max pitched in, helping me organize everything into a neat pile of folders that I dropped into my drawer before getting my purse and phone and following them out.

They paused outside the door, and after a moment I knocked softly, getting no response whatsoever. Max quickly put his keycard in the door and opened it, but neither man followed me into the hotel room. I slipped inside, and soon saw Brayden curled up on his bed. I swallowed hard, took a deep breath, and tried to prepare myself for this.

“H-hey… how are you?” he hardly responded when I spoke, and then I realized I basically whispered it.

“Bray?” I asked a little louder, and this time he turned his head, before his brow furrowed and he turned back to face the wall.

“What? Why are you here?”

“Because Claude and Max are worried about you… I’m worried about you,” I managed to get the words out, and moments later saw his shoulders begin to shake.

“Don’t say it if you don’t mean it,” his voice was harsh, and he sounded nearly on the verge of tears.

“I do mean it Bray – I wouldn’t have said it otherwise,” I assured him, walking over to the bed and sitting on the side, leaving plenty of space between the two of us.

“I get it Ry; I’m your job. I’m some messed up kid you have to look after and make sure I don’t get into shit, you don’t have to pretend I’m anything else to spare my feelings,” he grumbled.

“Where the hell did you get that idea Bray? You guys have been Rose and I’s friends for most of the summer… it’s hasn’t been just the job since the first day or two,” I explained, and saw him shudder slightly as he exhaled.

“Because that’s what you wanted, right? Just professional, just sort of friends… that basically deems me the messed up kid you don’t want anything to do with after the job’s done!” he burst, his voice cracking slightly at the end.

“Bray that’s not true, I—”

“But it is, Ry. You let Taylor be close and everything that you pushed me away for. I’m not good enough and I know it and I get it, okay? You don’t have to keep trying to spare my feelings!”

“Jesus Christ Brayden I’m not trying to spare your goddamn feelings!” I snapped at him, grabbing his shoulder and forcing him to look at me while I spoke. “You mean a lot to me, okay? And that scares the living daylight out of me, all right? Everybody I seem to care about leaves me in the dust and hurts me, and I didn’t want you to be on that list, so I told you I wanted us to stay just friends, to leave it at that. Taylor and I are nothing like that; he’s like my brother. My big-little brother, and you have no idea how much it hurt the other day when you got all bitchy about Taylor having come over for lunch. If you’re gonna keep acting like that I especially don’t want you that close, because it’s going to kill me knowing you’d be like that around me when I’ve seen you otherwise,” I was fighting some tears off by the end of my little spiel, and immediately felt a bit ridiculous for all the things I’d just come clean about.

“Ry, Ry I never meant to—”

“Yeah, nobody ever means to hurt anyone else,” I scoffed, rolling my eyes and shying away from the hand he reached out toward my shoulder.

“I mean it Ry, I just… after somebody leaves you for someone else it’s hard to feel good enough, like it wasn’t somehow your fault, and… and knowing that you’d turn to Taylor over me hurt… I didn’t know what to do—”

“I didn’t turn to Taylor over you – he came over because I was bored out of my tree and he didn’t want to go to the same place you did,” I cut him off, my temper starting to get the best of me a little bit.

“But I didn’t see it that way Ry, you have to understand that! I saw the girl I liked going to somebody else, okay! That once again I wasn’t good enough and I was getting left behind for somebody that I knew and was good friends with!” he shot back, and flared my temper a little more.

“So what, you think I’d just do something like that? That’s pretty rough Brayden. And I do understand what it’s like to never be good enough – I got dumped for somebody else because she didn’t want a career or her own life, she just wanted to sit at home and play house and be a mom. You think that didn’t hurt? Like it wasn’t a slap to my face when he’d spent so long telling me that she was nothing to him? That they’d broke up a long time ago and that it was over and done and water under the bridge? So don’t you try to tell me I don’t understand Brayden, when you have no idea,” I snarled, standing up and nearly turning to head for the door, afraid of bursting into tears in front of him.

“Ry wait! I didn’t mean it like that!” his hand gripped my arm, and gently pulled to stop me from leaving.

“Well then how did you mean it Bray?”

“I thought that you’d told me you didn’t want anything more with me because maybe you wanted him instead. And it killed me because the reason you gave me was that I’d be leaving at the end of the summer, which he’d be doing too. And Taylor would have been going a lot farther away than I would… I just… I didn’t think about the two of you being anything else because he’s Taylor Hall and all that… it was never a bad thought about you. I just thought you’d maybe came to the realization that he could give you more and you’d gave me the story about the distance to let me down easy… the thought killed me Ry. That you’d want somebody else without giving me so much as a chance,” he insisted, and swallowed hard before fisting away the slight dampness that was on his cheeks. I hadn’t realized I was crying too until he reached out to wipe the tears from my cheeks.

“Really?” the question slipped past my lips before I could think about it, and he nodded.

“Yeah, why wouldn’t it be the truth? I really like you Ry and… and it’s scary for me because of what happened… but I want to fix it all. I don’t want to feel like the only way to get away from everything is going to the bar and doing shit like this… especially when I know you don’t like this, hell I don’t like this,” he explained, and gathered me into his arms, pulling me closer and basically resting my head against his chest in the way he held me.

“I just get worried that something will happen to you Bray,” I mumbled, my face heating up at the fact he knew I didn’t like him going to the bar and binging to try and get away from the problems that picked away at him.

“I know, I know, and it’s your job,” he told me, the statement cutting through me like a knife. After all that it came back to my goddamn job?

“Not your job-job, I mean as friends, as whatever we are… the same way I wanted to be able to be there for you,” he whispered, and leaned in. This time he didn’t pause and hesitate the way he had before, instead pressing his lips to my own almost a little forcefully, as if he was afraid that I’d change my mind and push him away if given the chance.

“Okay,” I nodded, and finally let myself wrap my arms around him. I could smell the alcohol that was still on him, but tried to ignore the slightly burning scent that reached my nostrils.

“Thank you so much Ry, and I’m so sorry… Rose snapped at me after that, and, and she mentioned your ex. She didn’t tell me the story or anything, but enough to let me know I’d been a total ass. I was avoiding you because I was ashamed of what I did and how I acted… I didn’t know how to apologize,” he whispered, his lips against my temple.

“I thought you were still mad at me,” I admitted, and he shook his head.

“No, not at all,” another soft kiss, but this time I could taste the alcohol still on his lips.

“Okay, into the shower with you; I can smell the whiskey,” I told him, and with a sheepish expression he nodded, slowly getting up.

“Are… uh…”

“I’ll be with Claude and Max, and then you’re coming to the office with me while I finish playing catch up,” I informed him, and saw the small smile begin to tug at his lips.

“Sounds good to me,” he told me, and quickly grabbed a towel before heading into the bathroom. With that I exhaled, feeling my face turn the color of my hair before I let myself out of the hotel room, phone in hand texting Claude for their whereabouts and an update on Pat’s hand.
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Hey guys!

Sorry for taking so long to get this chapter out - things have been pretty crazy, including a move and a new job - and I apologize for taking this much time!! Hopefully you guys like it! Let us know what you think!

- Hayley