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Author's Chapter Notes:
Just wanted to give a special shout out to Ashie for giving me the inspiration to finally get this chapter finished. I hope you all enjoy the update and I'd really appreciate as much feedback as I could possibly get. I'm moving to Florida soon, so I don't know how quickly I will get the next chapter out, but I will try to darndest to get it out quickly. Let me know what y'all think! Thanks!
Chapter 20:

Brian frowned in frustration as he let his hand slip from the strings of his guitar and reached to grasp hold of a shortened pencil that he had managed to chisel down to nearly nothing. Thinking briefly, he leaned forward and made a few careful marks upon the sheet of paper in front of him and stared at it for a moment. The simple revision fixed the corruption of the chords in his mind and he discarded the pencil once more, positioning his fingers. Brian slowly strummed, listening carefully as the tones echoed against the walls of the small music room. He enjoyed being locked away in the enclosed space where he had the freedom to spend hours with only his music to keep him company. It served well as his refreshment from the outside world. Designing it specifically to be tucked into one of the corners of the den, it was Brian's own private sanctuary and that was something he was thankful for.

He concentrated on each individual note, allowing the rythym and melody to be recorded in his memory for later use. He'd been needing this; craving it. A chance to just sit away by himself without interruptions to actually attempt to process everything had been utterly impossible and near the edge of insanity, Brian had finally snapped. He felt like he was drowning, slipping deeper below a surface that was both mentally and physically exhausting. But Nick had managed to cause a connection to be repaired within his brain and it made Brian realize he was doing himself more harm then good. Not that it made dealing with the situation any easier. He was still faced with the every day struggles that kept him tightly bound. Only now it caused yet another thing to weigh heavily upon his mind.

Pausing to make another marking on the paper, Brian inhaled deeply, his brows creasing. He hummed almost inaudibly as he allowed his fingers to slide over the shiny guitar strings without sound. He had been working on the song for quite sometime and despite the constant effort and dedication he had put forth, it seemed he was progressing nowhere. It was more than frustrating because of the deadline pressing down on him and with the small promotional tour the group would be embarking upon shortly after christmas, it was more important to get the song finely tuned. There was already talk from management and the others of putting him center stage with only his guitar. Brian couldn't deny the dread that such an idea caused to swell. It's not that he had never done it before, but everything was different now and somehow he figured there were hidden reasons behind pushing him center stage in the middle of the limelight.

A slight movement through the window caught his attention out of the corners of his eyes and Brian abruptly looked up, pleased as he watched Leighanne attempt to discreetly slip into the room. But his wife blushed deeply when she realized he was watching her every move intently and she paused just inside the den as if waiting for a signaled persuasion that would beckon her in further. Brian's smile widened as he carefully placed the acoustic guitar on the ground and stood from the wooden stool before walking over to the door and emerging from the music room. "Hey," he greeted softly, lingering just within the doorway. He waited, expecting Leighanne to take the invitation for what it was, but she remained firmly planted. His azure eyes softening, Brian took a step towards his wife in concern. "Leigh-"

"I know you didn't want to be bothered, but you've been down here quite a while and I just wanted to check on you," Leighanne apologized, watching his every move with an air of uncertainty. She remembered his strict requests for privacy when he moved past her hours before, his normally calming features contorted with stress as he disappeared down the stairs leading into the den without leaving room for argument. She had even contemplated following him at the time upon hearing the echoing of the door slamming, but not wanting to risk another strain against their relationship which seemed to have been a regular occurance for several days, Leighanne worked to busy herself with keeping their four year old son entertained, hoping to distract the child's questions of why his father seemed so distant. It broke Leighanne's heart to see the lack of understanding reflecting in Baylee's eyes. "I didn't mean to interrupt."

"You weren't interrupting. I was just finishing up," Brian answered and moved quickly to her side where he reached for her hand and gave it a tender squeeze. He noticed her flinch immediately and he stared in wonder. He hated the intensity brewing between them at that moment and the anxiety reflecting in her eyes. Worst of all, Brian was unsure of how to even read it.

"Well it's just that Baylee was asking when you were going to come back upstairs," Leighanne began to explain once more.

Brian quieted her with a light kiss before pulling her closely to him. "I'm not mad," he murmured, burying his nose into her soft golden locks of hair and inhaling deeply. It was calming enough just to have her in his arms.

"Seems that has become a regular occurance for us lately," Leighanne answered with a small frown. She reached out to brush the back of her hand against the flushed tone of his cheek and hesitated from the warmth she felt radiating against her skin.

"I know and I'm sorry," Brian said, grasping her hand to savor the feeling of her skin against his. Snaking his arms around the small of her back, Brian sighed, burying the elements of depression for the time being and enjoying the actual peace he found in the moment. "Would you like to sit?"

"Of course," Leighanne immediately nodded and moved with him the short distance to the beige leather couch across the den. Sitting, Leighanne watched her husband carefully and couldn't help but notice the glint of exhaustion hidden in his eyes. He seemed so troubled but hardly ever spoke of the bothersome thoughts he kept bottled inside. As much as it concerned her to no end, she chose not to pester him over the matter. Leighanne was relieved enough just to have a moment where they both didn't feel on edge and Brian wasn't ready to fly off the handle with the snap of a finger. It was hard enough watching the changes take place within his demeanor daily and knowing there was absolutely nothing she could do about it. It nawed at her insides because Leighanne could almost feel herself losing her husband little by little. "Sweetheart..."

Brian glanced at her sideways and offered her a tight smile. "Hmmm?"

"Are you ok?"

"I'll be fine."

Leighanne didn't believe him for a second, though she bit back her opinion and smiled just the same. He may not have been exactly willing to speak what was littering his mind, but she was thankful he wasn't avoiding her like normal and would accept what little she could get. Moving closer to his side, she took his hand into hers and locked their fingers in a tight bind. "Did you have any luck with what you are working on?" she inquired.

Brian shrugged. "It wasn't anything important. Just a bit of material the fellas want me to work on for the album."

"Sounds pretty important?"

"I suppose, considering they are determined to have it included on the final cut and they want to have me possibly showcase it during the upcoming tour-"

"This is news to me?" Leighanne interrupted with a pointed stare as she sat back slightly. She noticed Brian wince visibly towards her curt tone and she frowned. "You didn't tell me you guys were planning a tour..."

Leaning forward and pinning the points of his elbows upon his knees, Brian rested his head in his hands and rubbed tenderly at his temples. He'd figured her reaction would be nothing short then what it was, and considering the situation, Brian didn't really blame her. But it was still an uplifting idea that he was hoping she would support, if anything for the sake of the matter. He didn't expect her to be completely thrilled about it. "You never gave me the chance to. Frankly speaking Leigh, you weren't exactly thrilled to have me around when I came home the other day."

"I was upset," Leighanne countered quietly.

Brian frowned. "You had every right to be upset, but you didn't give me a chance to explain. I know I messed up and I'm sorry about that, but-"


"I just have so much on my mind at the moment. And on top of it, I'm having to worry about you, Baylee and the baby. Now, we've got a tour in the works that is supposed to start sometime after christmas. I've got so much on my plate that half the time I can't even think straight. It's driving me insane Leigh. And please, all I need from you right now is for you to tell me it's ok and that you're gonna support this because I don't think I can take another person trying to run my life and tell me what I can and cannot do."


"God Leigh, just please tell me it's gonna be ok."

"But this tour...you really think it's a good idea for you to do?"

Grunting in irritation, Brian rose to his feet and took several steps away. He reached up to run his fingers through his disheveled locks of hair as his brows creased dangerously. "This is exactly what I don't need!" he snapped, turning back around to face his wife's baffled expression. "I've got everyone else from every angle telling me what is good for me and what isn't, telling me what I should do and what I shouldn't. I would at least hope to expect that you, my own wife, wouldn't do the same. I don't expect you to agree with me, but I would certainly hope that you would support me."

"I do support you, more then you realize. But I worry about you even more-"

"Leigh, this may be the last chance I get to do this because I don't know how much longer I am going to be able to do it. I'm not getting any stronger and I'm only going to get weaker. I want to be able to enjoy it while I still can. This is important to me. Can't you understand that?"

Leighanne watched him as he began to pace heatedly in front of her, the frustration building in his stormy eyes sending her nerves over the edge. Tentatively she rose to her feet and approached him, her heart skipping a beat when he jerked away from her out reached show of affection. "Brian," she gasped with a disturbed stare that softened as the seconds passed. She reached out again to brush her hand against his cheek, but he averted his eyes shamefully. "Please...look at me..."

"I can't," Brian whispered.

"Yes you can. You have no reason why you can't."

"I...I'm falling apart," Brian mustered. "I don't know what to do anymore."

"You need to stop trying to take everything on yourself."

"You sound just like Nick. He said the same thing."

"Maybe it's true then?"

"Must be the truth of the century," Brian answered meekly and allowed Leighanne to lead him back over to the plush couch. He sank into the cushions with a slightly distressed sigh and eventually glanced sideways to his wife to find her watching him carefully. "I'm sorry for snapping, but I just...I'm afraid of letting everyone down, especially you, Baylee, and the baby. I have to do this tour. I don't think I'll get another chance if I don't."

"You're stronger then you think and you wouldn't be letting anyone down. Baby, I admire you for your perserverance more then you know."

'I wish I could believe that' Brian thought but he forced a tight smile to grace his face for Leighanne's sake. He was tired of the black cloud that hung over his life constantly and all of the bickering that tainted his sanity, so as a means of distraction he let his eyes travel downward to the sight that was a prominent thought in his mind. He found his hand sliding onto the evident curve of Leighanne's stomach, slowly grinning thoughtfully. That was his baby girl growing inside, the new precious life they had created. His heart fluttered when Leighanne's hand covered his with her own and not even a second later he noticed the obvious movement from within. "Oh! Whoa!" he exclaimed, his eyes wide with an animated surprise.

Leighanne smiled warmly. "She must know it's you," she told him with a small laugh. "Seems like everytime I talk to her about you she starts moving around like crazy, which is exactly what she's been doing since I entered the room and you first spoke."

"No joke?" Brian drawled in amazement and he leaned down, carefully resting his ear against her stomach.

"Baylee was the same way. Everytime we would be in the same room together and you would be talking, he would start kicking around like he was running a marathon," Leighanne reminded him, watching him in awe. "It surprises you that this one would be any different?"

"Well, no..." Brian trailed with an impish grin. "But...whoa, she really is moving around in there!"

"She certainly has your energy already."

"I'd say." He slowly began to rub his hand over her stomach in a circular motion, tuned entirely to the moving response he received from his unborn child inside. It still amazed him to know that there was another life growing just out of sight and he played a major role in creating it. It reminded him of the same joy they had felt when they found out they were having Baylee. Brian smiled up at his wife before offering a tender kiss to the clothed bump. "Hi baby girl. This is your daddy. Can you hear me? I think you can. Mommy says you won't stop kicking her everytime you hear my voice. You be nice to Mommy in there ok? I love you so much my precious baby girl and I can't wait to meet you. I hope I get to meet you..."

"You will get to meet her," Leighanne tried to assure him, running her fingers through his soft dirty blonde golden locks, but neither of them could deny the quake of uncertainty in her voice.

"God willing," Brian mumbled and offered another symbolic kiss before sitting back up. "What are we going to name her?"

"I don't know...have we really thought about it?"

"I don't think so. With everything that has been going on...I don't think there has been much of a chance to. Besides, we just found out that we are having a girl. We're gonna have a baby girl, Leigh! Can you believe it?"

"I know. It's amazing."

"I suppose deciding on a name isn't too important at the moment. There's time for that later, right?"

"Of course."

"I love you," Brian said and brought Leighanne's hand into his own. Trouble brewing in his eyes, he inhaled an unsteady breath and briefly looked away. "Promise you won't stop loving me..."

Leighanne scooted closer to him and cupped the side of his face, forcing him to look at her again. "Brian Thomas, I could never stop loving you," she promised with conviction. "Don't you ever think otherwise. I don't care what happens...we're in this together." Not hesitating for a moment, she pressed her lips to his to deliver a soft kiss that spoke a million words and more.

Staring at Leighanne with an adoration that sent his heart jumping into his throat, Brian pressed into the kiss, tasting the alluring tone of his wife's nature that always caused his mind to go absolutely wild. He eased her back gently against the couch cushions and leaned over her, staring deep into her gorgeous eyes. "I don't know what I would do without you," he told her honestly and offered delicate kisses to her parted lips. Leighanne quivered beneath him and he snaked her arms coyly around his neck before pressing close to her body without putting too much pressure against her protruding stomach. His heart swelled with longing as he covered her mouth with his once more, a nearly silent moan of pleasure bubbling from his throat. "Leigh...I want-"


Brian bolted upright with a tiny grunt from the frustrated scream and ran a hand over his face. "And so the tantrums start..." he joked as a pair of feet pounded down the stairs.

"I'm afraid so," Leighanne laughed lightly. "The joys of parenting huh?"

"You're telling me," Brian replied and turned just in time to watch Baylee bound into the den, his brows furled with a boiling temper. He stormed over to his parents with a pout. "What's up buddy?"

"You pwomise you take me to da park today and fo' ice cweam!" Baylee answered and characteristically placed his hands upon his hips.

"I did, didn't I?"

"Yeah! Take me now!"

Brian cocked an eyebrow towards his son. "You're being awfully demanding-"

"You pwomised!"

"Alright Bay. Go get your shoes on and I'll be up in a minute." When the child had spun on his heels and disappeared from the room, Brian turned back to Leighanne with an apologetic shrug. "Sorry. I forgot all about it and I was really hoping-"

"Duty calls Daddy," Leighanne nudged him with a smirk.

"Tonight then maybe?"


"I'll be looking forward to it then," Brian grinned and placed a quick kiss to his wife's cheek before following Baylee up the stairs.


"Well geez B...has anyone ever told you that pink looks absolutely fabulous on you?"

Pausing in mid task, Brian looked up with a slighted annoyance towards the sarcastic quip and found AJ leaning nonchalantly against the door frame. Brian ignored his humored smirk and motioned him into the room with a small wave of his hand. True to AJ's remark, Brian was indeed surrounded with more things pink then he cared to admit to. It had only taken a short discussion between the women, but Leighanne had eventually decided it would be most fitting to transform Baylee's bedroom into a nursery for the new baby. It would allow the parents to be right across the hall from the little one and Baylee had found no reason to argue after a promise of being moved to the empty guest room at the end of the hall. With more space that left little to desire, Baylee had gladly given up his old room. So while he had taken Baylee to the park that afternoon, Kevin and Nick had insisted on coming over to rearrange the furniture between rooms. Brian was at least thankful for that much and he had even gone so far as to stop by the infant furniture store on the way home to purchase the nursery set up Leighanne had gushed about on the phone. Now, putting it all together was a different story and more of a daunting task then he had anticipated.

AJ cleared his throat and pointed while averting his eyes. "Um, you missed a little bit there..."

Brian narrowed his stare and glanced to his right shoulder, frowning. "I swear, I am up to my ears in frilly pink lacey things," he muttered and flicked the long strand of pastel pink material from his shoulder.

"I suppose Leigh's on a decoration rampage?" AJ chuckled, studying the room. He noticed immediately the peculiar transformations that had already taken place. Absent of all the normal prior furnishings from Baylee's occupancy, the walls had been turned from a dull pale blue to a warming shade of baby's pink and a beautifully constructed white wicker rocking chair took up the furthest corner by the only window in the room. Boxes and bubble wrap littered the carpeted flooring and in the midst of it all, Brian sat clearly frustrated with a power screw driver in one hand, a crib post in the other, and one siding of the crib resting at his knees.

"Could you provide me with anymore of an understatement?" Brian answered, bemused. "She failed to tell me that her and Kristin teamed together a couple of days ago to plan the nursery. And I'll give you one guess as to who she recruited to put the furniture together."

"Can't say I particularly envy you," AJ teased lightly. He winced when Brian threw the screw driver to the floor with a grunt of frustration. "Nope, I don't envy you at all."

"I appreciate your support," Brian frowned.

Ignoring the snide remark, AJ buried his hands in his pants pockets and ambled curiously around the room. "Baylee agreed to the change without a fight?" he questioned and sank into the rocking chair to test the fluidity of its motions.

"Why wouldn't he?" Brian returned. "We moved him to the bigger room down the hall. He was ecstatic. Besides, he's only four."

"Soon to be five next month," AJ pointed out.

"Don't remind me," Brian murmured.

"What? Are you having trouble accepting the fact that your baby boy is growing up?" AJ chuckled.

"Among other things."

"I imagine it makes you feel a Hell of a lot older."

Brian cracked a small grin, shaking his head as he reached for the screw driver once more. "Your time is coming too, you know?"

"What are you trying to get at?"

"That receding hairline you're always complaining about?"

"What's your point?"

"Just saying that you might want to keep an eye on it...you know, just in case."

"This coming from the man whose hair has receded in a shorter amount of time then mine ever has," AJ snorted.

Brian shrugged with a smirk. "Consider it a friendly warning."

Rendered speechless for a moment, AJ clicked his tongue against the roof of his mouth in thought. He watched his friend helplessly attempting to connect the two pieces of the crib but without any luck and after the releasing of a final curse on Brian's part, AJ jumped up from the chair. "You're doing it all wrong," he stated casually and yanked the power tool from Brian's hand.

"And you happen to be more of an expert?" Brian challenged him with a steady glare.

"As a matter of fact I am. Who helped you put together Baylee's crib?"

"That still doesn't tell me how you know what you are doing."

"Like I'm going to tell you that much," AJ answered with a short laugh. "Some things are better left unsaid B."

"Sadly enough, when it comes to you, I believe that."

"...Was that an insult?"

"I don't know... Was it?"

AJ's mouth parted in come back, but instead of saying a word he grunted in response and gave a final jolt to the nail he was inserting into the crib post. Satisfied it was connected securely enough to the siding, he looked at Brian again with raised brows. "You were saying?"

Unphased, Brian stared back at his friend. "Why are you looking at me like that?"

"Don't you have something to say?"

"Like what?"

"A little gratitude might be nice."

Brian smirked and reached for the next piece of cribbing. "I certainly hope you aren't expecting me to grovel at your feet or anything, because if you are, you are living in a dream world."

"Well damn. Seems good help around here goes widly unappreciated these days."

"Would a simple 'thank you' work?"

"I guess I'll take what I can get. Still need help?"

"No, I can handle it-"

"Right. At the rate you're going you'll either not get it put together in time or you'll break it in the process. Then what's the kid supposed to sleep on?"

Brian eyed him with a tight glare. "Is harrassing me the only reason you came over here?"

AJ shrugged with indifference. "No, I'm just trying to cheer you up. You've been moodier then squirrel shit lately."

"Wonderful. Thanks for the comparison Aje. Just what I needed," Brian grumbled and discarded the the cribbing with an irritated sigh. Looking only briefly in AJ's direction, he found himself unable to avoid the frown of disapproval, but he tried to ignore it nonetheless and rose to his feet. "I don't need this. Not right now."

"What's that supposed to mean?" AJ demanded quietly as he followed Brian over to the solitary window.

"Nothing," Brian answered just short of a whisper. He leaned forward and pressed his forehead against the cool glass, closing his eyes to the glare of the setting sun. "I'm sorry. I just have alot going through my mind."

Leaning sideways against the window pane with his arms crossed over his chest, AJ eyed the older man with a weary glance. "There's something you're not telling me," he stated seriously. "What's going on?"

"It's nothing-" Brian began.

"Please don't bullshit with me B. I've known you long enough to know when you aren't saying something and this is one of those times. You hardly tell us anything anymore, so just tell me."

Brian immediately turned away from the window with an adamant shake of his head. "No. Just forget it."

"Jesus Brian, what has gotten into you?"

"I don't want to get into it-"

"This is ridiculous," AJ countered sharply and he approached Brian with the slightest bit of hesitation. "You're too damn stubborn and I'm tired of you moping around all the time. This has to stop-"

Brian's brows furled towards the curt tone ringing in his friend's voice. "You don't have any right to tell me how to live my life," he mustered unevenly, though the conviction in the other man's voice was enough to send an utmost quake of distress racing up his spine. He stared back with just as much severity, keeping his feet firmly planted against the ground. "I'll do whatever I damn well feel like doing. Damnit AJ, you think you know so much about what's going on, but you know absolutely nothing!"

"That's because you refuse to tell us!"

"Fine! You want to know? I'm fucking dying AJ, alright?! My condition is getting worse and now I'm being told I don't have much time. So how the Hell would you feel?! Sue me if I don't feel like jumping around, claiming how fantastic life is because it's not! It fucking sucks!"

AJ recoiled in shock and inhaled deeply. Wordlessly he brushed past his seething friend and headed straight for the open doorway. Pausing momentarily to collect his bearings, AJ finally turned and the frustration had vanished from his face along with the tough exterior he'd thrust forth. His mouth curled downward in a deep frown as he searched Brian's stormful eyes for another explanation, but he was met with the same fear he felt coursing through his body at that very moment. "You're not dead yet, so stop acting like it!" he growled quietly and without another word he disappeared into the hallway.