Braelyn got to sleep late on the morning of New Year’s Eve. She didn’t have to be to Times Square until 5, so she savored her lie in with Mikey, enjoying not having to get out of her warm bed until she and Mikey went to go scavenge for food. They found Riley on the couch watching some fake documentary about mermaids.
“Good morning. Want to make me pancakes?” Riley asked.
Braelyn laughed. “I guess that could be arranged, but it is almost noon.”
“I know. But I’m craving pancakes.”
“You got it, babe.” Braelyn started to get out the supplies and Mikey went to join Riley in front of the television.
“Oh. Gerard stopped by earlier,” Riley announced.
“Really?” Mikey asked.
“Ya. He said he came by just to check in. He said he thought you two might be worried about him. He wanted me to tell you that he’s fine. He said he had some stuff to do today, so he’ll see us later at the show. He said he’d try to make it before you went on so he could wish you luck.” The last part she said looking at Braelyn.
“You keep saying ‘he said.’ How did he look?” Mikey asked. Braelyn could hear the worried note in his voice.
Riley, having no idea about the slight drinking problem Gerard tended to develop under stress, replied, “He looked fine. Maybe a little like he stayed up all night watching television, but he seemed well enough.”
“Like he was hung over?” Braelyn asked, trying to get to Mikey’s point.
“I don’t think so. He didn’t have that whole ‘I hate the sun and I need to drink four gallons of water to feel normal again’ look. Why?”
“No reason,” Mikey and Braelyn answered together. First, the less people that knew about Gerard’s sometime problem, the less chance it would be leaked to the wrong person. Second, for all her awesome-ness, Riley was still a seventeen year old kid who was living on her own. She didn’t need the added stress of Gerard’s issues.
“You guys are acting weird...” Riley was suspicious.
“Pancakes are ready!” Braelyn said brightly, hoping to divert the conversation. And, of course, it worked. Riley hopped up on a barstool and dug in while Mikey and Braelyn shared a look of relief.
Later, Mikey was lying on the bed watching tv and Braelyn was sitting on it’s edge braiding her hair elaborately. “Sometimes I forget how young she is.”
“Riley?” Mikey asked. Braelyn nodded. “It’s because she’s so damn smart.”
“I never really thought about it, but, Mikey, what if she’s lonely?”
“Lonely? She’s with us all the time...”
“Ya, but we’re super couple-y. And when everyone’s together, let’s face it, we’re old. I don’t think she has any friends her age.”
“That’s sweet. But maybe we should save this problem for a day when you’re not performing for millions of people on television. Ya?”
“Do you think I’m taking too much on?” She asked looking at him disbelievingly.
“Not at all,” Mikey amended, quickly. “I’m sure you can accomplish anything you put your mind to. What I was saying was that Riley has been looking forward to this day since she got here. I don’t think she’d appreciate it if you pull her away from doing her job that she loves to go meet a bunch of kids that she doesn’t even know.”
“Point taken. A thought for another time then.”
Before they all knew it, it was time for them to head to the gig. They got there at five. Braeyln was one of the last performers to go on that evening. She’d be playing ‘Carry On’ at 11:34PM Eastern Standard Time, and then she’d be interviewed directly after that. She had a sound check and run through at 5:30. Once back inside, it took a full half an hour sitting next to Mikey with his arm around her for Braelyn to feel warm again. They were starting to eat the food that catering had supplied when Frankie and Chelsea showed up. The green room that ABC provided Braelyn was small, but comfortable, and it would fit all her friends. Even Quinn’s date. Braelyn was almost as apprehensive about this mystery person and Gerard’s potential reaction as she was about being on television.
Despite her conversation with Mikey earlier, Braelyn brought up the topic of Riley’s lack of age appropriate friends. Riley had insisted that she was not lonely and that she loved having older friends, as expected. But Chelsea had sided with Braelyn. They would have to find Riley some people to hang out with who weren’t so ‘old.’ Riley just laughed them off.
As this conversation was wrapping up, Quinn walked in with her date. Braelyn (and everyone else in the room) was shocked. He was much younger than Quinn. Red headed and good looking, he was taller than even Mikey.
“Hi everyone!” Quinn chirped.
Everyone chimed in with greetings,
“I’d like you guys to meet someone who is super important to me.” She tugged the young man forward by the arm. “This is my kid brother, Trip.”
“Ooooooooooh.” Braelyn’s sound of understanding came out of her mouth before she could stop it.
Quinn giggled a bit. “Did you really think I had a date?”
“You are a pretty girl,” Chelsea said.
Quinn fluttered her eyelashes. “Why, thank you. Anyway, everyone, this is Trip. Trip this is everyone.”
Introductions were made. Quinn was forced to sit between Braelyn and Chelsea for mandatory gossip time, Mikey and Frankie took in Trip and managed to keep a conversation going with him, all the while, Riley flitted in and out of the room doing her job.
“Honestly,” Quinn said quietly when Riley was gone. “I wanted to introduce Trip to Riley. He’s a good kid, but a little lost when it comes to what he wants to do with his life. Riley’s so confident and so happy with her job, I thought it might help him to see another young person with a specific vision for their future.”
“And,” Chelsea interjected, “We were just talking about how Riley needs friends her own age.”
“No meddling, you three.” Mikey leaned over their couch and kissed Braelyn’s cheek. Trip was still in conversation with Frankie.
“Yes, Mikey,” the girls chorused.
The girls kept their word that evening, but the glances Trip was giving Riley almost every time she walked into the room and her shy smiles at him had nobody fooled. They wouldn’t need much meddling. And Trip was a nice kid. A freshman at St. John’s, undecided major, he was enjoying college and managing a decent GPA.
Around ten thirty, Braelyn started to get ready. She dressed herself, but sat patiently in a hair and makeup chair as someone applied her eyeliner and lipstick. Benji was then on hand to construct Braelyn’s hairstyle which was complicated because she insisted on wearing the hat Elaine had made her. Benji insisted that she couldn’t just pull the hat on over her glossy curls like she would do normal, but it had to be pinned on, so it looked more casual. A fashion statement rather than a device to keep Braelyn’s ears from freezing.
Once that was completed, Braelyn kept her chair, now warming up.
Then Gerard walked in. He came over and kissed her on the cheek. He said with a smile, “No nerves tonight. Alright?”
“You wish,” Braelyn retorted. Her voice was a bit shaky, but she grinned back at him.
Gerard greeted the others in the room except for Mikey, Quinn, and Trip who were deep in conversation. Gerard pulled a chair over to Braelyn, talking to her to keep her calm. He finally asked, “Is that the guy?”
This was the distraction that Braelyn needed. She smirked. “Her little brother, Trip.” In a whisper, she added, “She brought him for Riley.”
The light that showed from Gerard’s eyes as soon as she said the word brother was unmistakable. Softly, with awe in his voice, he said, “Gamechanger.”
“Only if you’re very lucky,” Braelyn replied.
Just than Riley popped in. “It’s time, Braelyn!”
Benji helped her into her coat and gave her hair a once over as her friends came to wish her good luck. Mikey was last, giving her a kiss. She held his hand and in her other, her guitar as they all walked outside. It was frigid, but the adrenaline was pumping for Braelyn. She kissed Mikey’s cheek once more before bounding on stage.
Gerard cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted “Give ‘em hell, kid!”
She looked over her shoulder at them and grinned, giving them a thumbs up. She played her song well and was adorable and funny in her interview. She came off the stage to a joyous welcome from all her friends. When Mikey drew her into his embrace, he noticed she was shivering. He laughed and made the move to go back inside with everyone following. It was ten minutes to midnight.
Braelyn’s hands were still frozen once they got inside. “That’s the worse thing about having to actually play. No gloves.”
The others laughed. Mikey took her hands in his and rubbed some warmth back into them. Then someone from the station came in with a tray of champagne flutes and everyone took them, Riley and Topher now joining them. They all crowded around the window to watch the ball drop. Mikey had an arm around Braelyn. Frankie and Chelsea were holding hands. Not surprisingly, Trip and Riley had found their way next to each other. They weren’t paying attention to the time or the activities around them, but, instead, talking and making each other laugh. Topher had produced his wife from somewhere and they were sitting in a chair, Topher’s tiny wife in his lap. Which left Gerard and Quinn awkwardly standing at the back of their group of friends. Gerard couldn’t have planned in better himself.
“Hey,” he said, a slight smile on his face.
“Hi...” Quinn did not seem enthused.
Gerard looked down at the ground. “I just wanted to say-”
Their group begin counting down, “Ten. Nine.”
Gerard said again, leaning toward Quinn so she could hear him, “I just wanted to say that I was stupid, and I’m sorry.”
Quinn stood stock still, not responding.
“I was an ass,” he continued.
“Ya, you were,” Quinn responded.
“I know. And I fucked everything up.”
Quinn was looking at him now, a look that was half incredulous and half hopeful on her face.
“I was scared. I’m sorry.”
“Two. One! HAPPY NEW YEAR!”
All the people around them were sharing a New Year’s kiss. Even Trip leaned down and gave Riley a very chaste smooch. Without even thinking about it, Quinn leaned forward and kissed Gerard.
He responded. Of course, he did. This was going wayyyyyy better than expected. When she pulled away after a few moments, he fought the desire to grab her and pull her back to him. Instead, he looked at her. Oddly, there were tears in her eyes.
She blinked them away, rapidly, then tossed her hair. “I have to go.” She turned on her heel and marched over to Trip. “Hey, love, time to go home. It’s going to take us forever.”
“Ok, sis,” Trip responded. “One second.” He proceeded to trade phones with Riley and they typed each other’s numbers into their phones. He hugged her briefly. “It was nice to meet you.”
“You, too.” Riley was grinning like an idiot.
Quinn then took Trip around to say goodbye to the others and then they were out of the room in two minutes flat.
“That was a quick escape...” Braelyn said, looking suspiciously at Gerard.
“Hey. Don’t look at me. She’s the one who kissed me.”
“What?!” was the general reaction of the room.
Gerard just grinned sheepishly and held up his hands.
A/N: SO so so. Whatchya think? Thanks Izzy and Taylor for reviewing. I forgot how awesome it is when someone enjoys your work. So I hope you like this one too! Go review! Yay! Hearts, Corri