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It Ain't Country Without Him

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Dani met Brantley when she was just 15, at some high school in Jefferson, Georgia. She was always too shy to talk to him at first but that never stopped her from wanting him. When Brantley turned 18 things changed, he wasn’t just some boy. He was a man, he was all she ever knew she wanted.

He was untouchable to her but that never stopped her, Dani grew closer to Brantley’s mother Becky when she was still in school helping babysit Kolby after school while Becky was at work.

Becky had always been like a mom to Dani since her mom wasn’t always supportive of her decisions.

Dani stayed over at the Gilbert’s house most days during the week since her dad worked in the next town over.

October 17 th , 2003

It was around 8:30 pm on a Thursday night, Kolby was already falling asleep on the couch watching some movie with Dani sleeping on the other couch just as Brantley walked in. He looked to see Kolby on the couch sleeping before nudging him to wake up and go to bed. Kolby slowly got up without turning off the TV. Brantley turned the TV off before moving to wake up Dani but couldn’t bring himself to do it. Her blonde hair was slightly falling over her face. He lightly brushed her hair away from her face before letting himself take a good look at her face.

No makeup, a look of peace spread over her face just before settling herself against the couch some more before Brantley picked her up and taking her to the guest bedroom that was her room even if she never liked saying it was.

It was something Brantley liked about her, something could be her’s and she would never know it. He could be her’s if he just let himself fall for her just a little more. She was only 15 and he wanted her to be his. But he knew that she should get out of that small town and really know what life was like beyond the city limits of Jefferson, Georgia.

Dani was 23 now, no longer living in Georgia. She was sitting on a bus on the way to Nashville to perform at her first concert. She still talked to Becky and Kolby every now and then just to hear what existing or dangerous thing Brantley was doing.

In a few more hours Dani was on stage being introduced to the large crowd in Nashville.

“You ready Danielle?” The stage manager asked.

She nodded before going on stage. She walked out and stood center stage.

“What’s up y’all, My name is Danielle Miller and I am going to sing a little song to you about a very special someone from my hometown.” She said.

“She had a dead-end job at the National Bank

And a deadbeat husband who always drank

So when he didn't come home

She had the gin to thank for the tears in her eyes

So Dixie packed up and said her goodbyes

“She went driving so far away nobody's gonna find her

Flying just fast enough, to leave it all behind her

But she didn't know till she hit the road, deep in her soul

She's got the fire and the fight of a gypsy

Ain't nothing stronger than the heart of Dixie

The heart of Dixie

“It's a funny thing when your world falls down

It's got a way of showing you what you're all about

Now Dixie's got her wheels pointed south

And she ain't never looking back

Nobody knew she was brave like that

“She went driving so far away nobody's gonna find her

Flying just fast enough, to leave it all behind her

But she didn't know till she hit the road, deep in her soul

She's got the fire and the fight of a gypsy

Ain't nothing stronger than the heart of Dixie

The heart of Dixie

“Yeah Dixie woke up to the truth one day

Grabbed her cheap sunglasses and her lipstick case

“And she went driving so far away nobody's gonna find her

Flying just fast enough, to leave it all behind her

But she didn't know till she hit the road, deep in her soul

She's got the fire and the fight of a gypsy

Ain't nothing stronger than the heart of Dixie

The heart of Dixie

“O-o-oh

The heart of Dixie

O-o-oh”

What she didn’t know was who was watching her sing. There he stood in the wings, Brantley Gilbert. Mesmerized by the girl he saw before his eyes, the girl who he saw go through braces and boys to stupid to know what was right in front of them, come to think of it, he was one of them.

And there she stood on the stage singing her little heart out.

“So this next song goes out to this guy… He wasn’t like any of those other country boys. He was bad, he was all man, but he never made the first move.” Danielle said removing her jacket.

“Boy up against the wall, looking so hot and all

Don't you see me at all, standing here looking at you?

Don't you wanna take a chance? come and ask me to dance

All you gotta do is grab my hand, just like a man's supposed to

“Don't you know the game?

Come and ask me my name

Don't make me, baby

“Don't make me make the first move

Make me walk right up to you

Don't make me put my drink down right now

Boy, just come and get me like you want to

Come and whisper something smooth

Tell me, baby

Don't make me

Don't make me make the first move

Even though I want to

“I know you see me at the corner of your eye, don't lie

You know you wanna start a conversation

Why you gotta be so shy? boy, this could be our night

Why you wanna just go and keep me waiting?

“I got the green light from my girls

They all say, "Go get 'em, girl"

Yeah, boy, don't make me

“Don't make me make the first move

Make me walk right up to you

Don't make me put my drink down right now

Boy, just come and get me like you want to

Come and whisper something smooth

Tell me, baby

Don't make me

Don't make me make the first move, 'cause I will

“That's just how much I'm into you, for real

Don't make me make the first move

“I got the green light from my girls

They all say, "Go get 'em, girl"

Yeah, boy, don't make me

“Don't make me make the first move

Make me walk right up to you

Don't make me put my drink down right now

Boy, just come and get me like you want to

Come and whisper something smooth

Tell me, baby

Don't make me

Don't make me make the first move, 'cause I will

That's just how much I'm into you, for real

Don't make me make the first move

Even though I want to

“Don't make me make the first move.” Danielle finished off the song. As Brantley stood there watching he came to think that maybe this song was about someone he knew.

Dani looked to the side of the stage to see him, Brantley Keith Gilbert, the man who held her affections. Blackhat, leather jacket. Dani could feel a flush reach her cheeks just at the sight of Brantley seeing her. Like she was 16 again.

 

June 9t h , 2004

“Happy Birthday Dani.” She head before turning around to see Brantley standing there.

She walked up to him before reaching up to hug him, “I missed you Bran-bear.”

"What did I say about the nicknames Ms. Miller. You know I’m a man now. It ain’t cool to have just any girl come up to me and give me a nickname.” He said trying to act all tough.

“I thought I wasn’t just some girl.” She said with her glasses falling forward from the bridge of her nose.

He pushed her glasses back before saying, “Yeah, you ain’t just my girl.” he let slip out.

Dani could feel the blush creep up, his girl.

Watching her on that stage, she wasn’t his girl no more, she was a woman, just like his mamma had told him.

“She’s going places, she ain’t going to be your girl forever.” He knew that his mamma was right.

Dani was always going to be his, even if he never knew it himself. She loved Brantley too much to just let him go.

Chapter Text

Dani finished her set, giving one final wave to the crowd before walked backstage.

“So should still I call you Dani or is it Ms. Danielle Miller now?” A voice said from behind her.

She closed her eyes taking in his voice before she felt his hands go around her waist to turn her around to look at him. She opened her eyes before turning to see his broad chest. She looked up to see his face, beard growing out, hat on backward.

“I missed you, Brantley.” She said reaching to give him a hug.

“I missed you too, Dani. My girl ain’t little no more.” He said into her hair. She pulled away to look up at him.

“No, but it’s still just Dani to you. That is if I can still call you Bran-bear.” She said pulling away from him to take a look in the mirror on the wall.

“Yeah, you can.” He said just looking at her reflection. “Mamma was right about you.”

“Right about what?” She asked.

“That you have a lot going for you. Much more than just livin’ in some small town in Georgia.” He said moving to sit down on a chair.

“That small town in Georgia is the reason that we are even friends.” She said looking at him. God, he was gorgeous.

“But you were never going to be that girl. Stay at home mom to kids, you wanted so much from what I heard you tell mamma when you were at home.” He said before she looked away from Brantley’s reflection.

“I didn’t know that you heard that. Honestly, Brantley, I didn’t know what I wanted. I guess that one thing I always wanted was a family. I never got to see mine.”

Danielle’s parents split up when she turned 17, she moved in with her dad since her mom couldn’t keep a steady job. Her dad wasn’t around once the divorce papers were signed and sent to be filed. He was always at work so Danielle moved in with Becky and Kolby.

When Dani was younger Becky would always say that Dani was going to marry one of her sons, and Becky always hoped it would be Brantley. Once Brantley left to Nashville, Becky thought she lost Dani, she would go to school, get good grades and take care of Kolby but she never really lived without Brantley in her life.

When Dani turned 19 she made the choice and moved to Nashville, half hoping to find Brantley and finally tell him about her feelings for him but ended up meeting Blake Shelton and ended up working for him until Blake heard her singing Cowboy Take Me Away by The Dixie Chicks.

Since then it’s been a wild ride for Dani, she just wishes that she could have shared all of this with Becky and Kolby. They were her family. Brantley was working on a new record but she didn’t know anything about it.

Dani quickly changed into a pair of cut off jeans and a Lynyrd Skynyrd shirt that she stole from Brantley’s room when he was still living with his mom.

“How’s the record going?” She asked putting her hair up before going to remove her makeup.

He looked at her taking off her makeup. Remembering the first morning he woke up to find her in his bed with him.

 

October 11 th , 2003 (The Devil Don’t Sleep)

It was a Saturday, the night of their school’s homecoming. Dani didn’t go, the guy who was supposed to take her stood her up. Brantley found her crying on his front porch with Dani crying into his mom’s shoulder.

“What happened?” He asked as he got out of his truck. Dani just shook her head before Brantley had her look him. Her eyes were rimmed with red from crying.

“Dani, please baby.” He said looking into her blue eyes.

“Jesse, left me, at my dad’s place and never came to pick me up. I walked here and saw him making out with some girl in the back of his car.” She said before Brantley pulled her into his arms.

“Is that what guys want Brant, some girl who will just give it up.” She said as he felt her tears soaking through his shirt.

“No baby. It’s not.” He said.

“Can you go inside with mamma? I need to take care of something.” He said with every intention to go find that Jesse kid and beat the ever-loving shit out of him for hurting Dani.

“Brant please don’t, just leave it.” She begged holding his hand trying to pull him inside of the house.

It was cute, her 5’4 frame pulling his 6’ foot frame in the house by just her hands.

He gave in and went inside before taking Dani up to his room to sleep away a ruined night. She curled up against him in one of his t-shirts, he looked at her, eyes still puffy and makeup completely smeared.

Every part of him wanted to go find that kid and teach him a lesson. No one hurt his girl. She was beautiful and he felt that she deserved the world. He got up and walked the bathroom and took a small towel and wet it before ringing it out and took it back to his room to get rid of all the makeup on Dani’s face.

“Bran, what are you doing?” She asked squinting her eyes shut.

“Getting rid of all that stuff on your face.” He said running the cloth down her face to get rid of the mascara that ran from her crying.

Once he was done Dani was sleeping, tucked into his bed, wearing his shirt, the sheets around her with her head next to his pillow.

He dropped the towel to the floor and peeled off his shoes, shirt, and jeans before climbing into bed. He moved to hold Dani against him, thinking he would never get the chance any other way.

He pulled the sheets over him before he felt Dani move closer to him. Her head resting against his shoulder before he pulled her closer and then put his arm around her.

Brantley woke up the next morning to see Dani sleeping on him with their legs interlocked and her hand gripping his. He didn’t want to pull away from her but his hand was cramping up from having such a tight grip on Dani. When he pulled away Dani let out a groan and pulled the sheets away from her.

She laid there in his t-shirt and not much else. It drove him crazy.

He looked at her, really looked at her. She was only 15 and couldn’t look more perfect then she did right now. Laying in his bed in one of his shirts, wearing no makeup, and blissfully asleep, looking like the angel he thought she was.

That was the moment he knew that he wanted her and that no matter what happened with them she would always be his.

Dani and Brantley said goodbye right before she got onto her bus and drive to the next stop on her tour.

“Dani!” He called.

“Yeah, Brant.” She said.

“Do you… umm. Want to go to dinner when you get back to Nashville.” He asked taking a huge leap.

She was shocked at his offer. “Yeah sure, I’ll call you.” She said.

“Kay, baby. Make sure to call mamma when you’re in Georgia. Her and Kolby want to come see you.” he said pulling her into one last hug.

“I will Bran-bear. Goodnight.” She said reaching up and kissed Brantley on the cheek.

Brantley stood there in shock of Dani’s action. He watched her walk away and every part of him just wanted to keep her with him.

That night Dani and Brantley both couldn’t sleep. Brantley couldn’t get these lyrics out of his head.

 

"So fall when you're ready baby

Let our kiss count the moments and hearts set the pace

I'll be your love song and I'll love you right off your feet

Until you fall into me"

 

It was like a sick melody. All those thoughts of Dani from when they were younger.

Dani wanted this night to never end. There she sat in her bunk on the tour bus with her pen, pad, and guitar thinking about Brantley but no more than she normally did when she was writing.

 

“Sooner or later they say

That it all gets easier

Take it one tear at a time

And I'll wake up one day

To find some closure

Shining like the sunlight through the blinds

“No matter how much time may pass between us

You’ll never be more than a memory away

“ 'Cause I’ll never forget you

No, I’ll never forget you

“Whisper of the evening rain

On the bedroom window

Like the sky is missing you

The flicker of a candle flame

There’s only one shadow

Oh, but I can still see two

“No matter how much pain I have to go through

It’s better than feeling nothing for you at all

“ 'Cause I’ll never forget you

No, I’ll never forget you

“When I’m sleeping

When I’m dreaming wide awake

I got the feeling

That I’ll never get you out of my mind

“Oh and I’ll never forget you

No, I’ll never forget you (never forget you)

Never forget you, oh, oh

Never forget you”

 

Nothing with Brantley was ever a bad memory. She loved that man, outlaw and all. There was nothing that could break what they had apart. Her tour was only lasting a few more months and halfway through she was going to be in Georgia. Could time pass by any faster?