Count The Ways

Chapter Eight

"Bryan, I've got something to tell you!"

"Kelsey, calm down." Bryan laughed as his friend bounced about his living room happily, smile lighting up her face and making it positively radiant – even more so than usual. "Why are you so excited?" The scene was reminiscent of when she'd told him of her acceptance into Juilliard. Wow, he thought, that's been almost eight years…

"Okay, well, I don't really know how to build this up, so I'll just come out and say it."

Bryan grinned, amused by her nerves. "Spit it out, Kels."

"Alright, well, Joseph and I are engaged!" she squealed, bringing her left hand from behind her back and showing off the impressive 3-karat diamond now taking up residence on her ring finger.

The air rushed out of Bryan's lungs and his stomach lurched. She might as well have literally stabbed him through the heart. In his opinion, that probably would've hurt much less than what he was feeling then.

Kelsey's smile disappeared as she stared at her suddenly pale best friend. "Bryan, are you okay? You're not looking too well. Bry, babe, are you listening to me?"

"I'm fine, Kelsey," he managed out weakly, throwing in a pained smile – appearing more like a grimace – for good measure. "Don't worry about me."

She frowned, lips pursed. "Are you sure?"

"I'm sure, but just in case, I think I'll just go lie down. Congratulations on the engagement. I'm sorry I don't feel well enough to go out and celebrate with you."

"It's okay. I've got to call the rest of the boys and Kellie to tell them. Roger says his flight from Dallas lands tomorrow around noon and that Tristan is coming back with him on Liam's ticket. I guess, Liam decided to stay in Texas with Drake awhile longer. So, you better be feeling better by tomorrow, because we've all got a lot of catching up to do."

"Yeah, hopefully I'll be better by morning." No chance in Hell.

Kelsey stepped forward and gave him a hug, dropping a quick kiss on his cheek before she pulled away and walked out the door. He hated when she did things like that. It only served in reminding him of the fact that she wasn't his, and now she never would be his.

"I don't know which ones to get: baby blue or sky blue?"

Bryan rolled his eyes. "Is there a noticeable difference? I mean, does it even matter? They're just napkins, Kels."

"This is for my wedding, my dream wedding. Everything has to be absolutely perfect, Bry."

"Whatever, I say baby blue."

She eyed the napkins wearily. "Are you sure?"

"Kelsey," he sighed, "Just pick up the damn napkins."

Kelsey rolled her eyes at Bryan's lack of understanding, sticking the baby blue napkins in their basket before continuing through the wedding store.

"Bry, do you mind coming with me to pick out a cake after we finish here?"

Bryan eyed the girl before him strangely. Why was she asking him to accompany her to so many wedding-related things in place of Joseph? He knew for a fact that her fiancé was in town and not on some business trip.

"Of course I'll go with you, Kels, but what about Joseph?"

"What about him?" she asked, avoiding eye contact.

"Oh, you know, he just so happens to be the man you're all set to marry in three months and the person who should be doing all of this stuff with you. But, I mean, he's obviously no one too important."

"I'd rather not discuss him right now."

Bryan frowned, eyes darkening. "You better tell me what happened now, Kelsey."

She sighed, meeting eyes with her raven-haired friend. He appeared so much younger than twenty-six.

"Just let it go, Bry. People fight. It's really nothing."

"You know," he began, "I would be much more inclined to believe that load of crap you just fed me if your eyes weren't screaming otherwise."

Kelsey chose not to respond to that, instead making her way down the aisle, looking over possible centerpieces. Bryan trailed behind soundlessly, blue eyes burning holes in her back.

"I'd love for you to stop glaring at me," she said dryly.

"And I'd love for you to stop keeping things from me."

She shook her head, resuming her earlier appraisal of centerpieces. Bryan ran a hand through his hair, wishing she would be open with him like before. Ever since Joseph had shown up, she'd begun to hide things from him, and he couldn't quite fathom why.

Forget it, he thought miserably. She's got Joseph to turn to now. That's not going to change, no matter what I do.

Bryan ambled woefully alongside Kelsey, mentally berating himself for not admitting his feelings for her back in high school.

"Why would you even dare say such a thing?" she screamed, wiping angrily at tears that just refused to stay hidden behind quivering eyelids.

"Oh, don't play dumb, Kelsey. You're obviously sleeping with him."

She stared at the man before her through teary eyes, appalled. How could someone who claimed to lover her more than life itself accuse her of doing such terrible things?

Who does he think he is bringing Bryan into this?

"I hate you so much right now, Joseph!" With those words, she grabbed her keys, coat, and phone, setting off on foot for Bryan's. Joseph watched her go silently.

"Who the hell does he think he is?" she grumbled, walking down the street while wiping away a few stray tears.

It was a chilly November night in New York City – no more than three weeks from her wedding to Joseph. Manhattan streets weren't exactly the best place for a young woman to be in the middle of the night – especially all alone – but Kelsey's angered mind wasn't really thinking too rationally at the moment. Luckily, she made it to Bryan's without any problems. She pounded on the door relentlessly, hoping he hadn't already turned in for the night, and as far as she could remember the band had no show scheduled.

"Damn it," she breathed, turning on her heel to leave. It'd been five minutes with no answer. "What to do now?"

Kelsey dragged her feet towards the elevator, fighting back tears. Where would she go? Certainly not back home. Liam lived over ten blocks away and she had no money for a cab. Walking just didn't seem too smart. Crap, he's not even in town.

"Kelsey, is that you?"

Kelsey spun around to see Bryan standing in the doorway of his apartment. His shirt was wrinkled and his eyes were heavy-lidded. Not to mention, his hair was sticking up at odd angles.

"Bry, I'm sorry. I hadn't meant to wake you."

"Don't worry about it. I was mixing some songs on the computer earlier, and I guess I must've dozed off, since I just woke up with my face smashed against the keyboard and computer desk. Not something I'd recommend, either; I've got an absolute beast of a cramp in my neck." He grinned sheepishly at her. However, his grin disappeared upon taking in her distressed appearance. "Kels, what's wrong?"

She looked up at him with those big, sad hazel eyes, and his heart broke at seeing her in such pain.

"Can I come in?" She sounded completely spent.

"Of course."

He opened the door wider and stepped out of the way, allowing her entrance into his quaint living space. Once she was inside, he shut and locked the door, facing her once again.

Before he could ask what was wrong for a second time, Kelsey's arms were wound around his waist as she sobbed against his chest.

"It'll be alright, princess. Everything's going to be alright." He wrapped his arms around her, returning the embrace, speaking softly. "Whatever it is, I'm here for you. You're going to be alright, I promise."

It was all she could do not to blurt out all of her feeling for him right then and there.

Everything we had, everything we had

Everything we had, everything we had

Everything we had, everything we had

Everything we had

Everything We Had - The Academy Is...

A/N: Okay, so, this didn't take as long as most of you probably expected, though it still did take about a month. Only two chapters left of this story, and the next one is the wedding. No, I'm not just going to copy and paste the first chapter as chapter nine, even though I did think of that, but that would be pretty evil of me, and I think readers of this story have suffered enough.

Anyway, I basically forced myself to sit down and write this for the past three days, and it worked. Maybe I'll do that more often, before waiting an entire month... I've got a bad habit of procrastinating.

I like this chapter because it shows some conflict, but it also shows that Bryan can step up and be mature if he feels like it or if the situation calls for it. He's not a kid anymore, contrary to popular belief by those around him. I also like this chapter because it mentions the other boys who stayed behind in Texas. I love these characters so much. An update on what the boys are up to: Liam is still the singer in a band with Bryan and two other guys. Drake is a landscaper with his own company in Dallas. Tristan is a second-string right outfielder with the Houston Astros. Kellie and him split amicably after dating for three years. She's finishing up a medical internship in Fort Worth. Roger is in New York City and has started his own clothing line, which Liam and Bryan are proudly whoring about the city. So, everyone's doing pretty well for themselves. Actually, I guess they're doing very well.

So, please tell me your thoughts. I like hearing them, no lie. I may sound like I'm lying, but I'm not. And I want to know everyone's favorite character. I'd tell you mine, but you can probably all guess. I'll try to get these last two chapters up fairly quickly, and you'll all finally know how it ends.