DISCLAIMER: Don't own em, which sucks for me. But for Mark Schwann and Co who do, it's the farthest thing from suckage.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: There's a severe lack of Brooke/Peyton fic out there for some reason that's completely unfathomable to me. Lack of fic, makes one want to write apparently. So here's my attempt, hopefully it's not half bad. Thanks to Nikki, Rachel, Heather and Gaby for being inspirations in the B/P fic world. This is going to be swapping out from different point of views, the first installment starting with Brooke. I find I can get inside the characters head a bit better by writing in first person.
SPOILERS: Pretty much anything is fair game, but particularly the season 2 finale and the entire Brooke/Lucas/Peyton triangle drama.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

By Casandra


Part One

I sat slumped in one of the hard plastic chairs that lined the windows of the semi deserted terminal of the New Brunswick airport. I really am not a fan of flying, something completely illogical about a couple hundred tons of steel soaring high above the clouds at thirty thousand feet. Just makes me nervous. Peyton teased me about my anxiety when we had to fly down to Texas for cheer camp two summers ago. I could crisscross the country a dozen times on a jumbo jet and still be scared to step on the plane each and every time. And this stupid delay is not helping at all, it's just giving me time to sit and worry that much longer. I already gave the gate attendant a piece of my irritated mind, so aside from actually storming up to the air traffic control tower and demanding that they somehow clear up the rain clouds, there really isn't a whole lot I can do but sit here. And to make matters worse, I'm already starting to miss Tree Hill, and I haven't even left yet.


I whip my head around to the unmistakable voice of my best friend. She's rushing towards me, weaving her way around the few people milling about the walkways past the metal detectors. How she got passed those grumpy security guards I have no idea. I stand up to meet her halfway, finally taking notice of the duffel bag slung over her shoulder.

"So you want to come with?" I'm half joking, although we had discussed her coming out to California with me for a few weeks, just to have a break from all the drama that seems to surround Tree Hill like a vacuumed sealed bag.

She shakes her head, tossing her blonde curls around her shoulder before sending me one of those amazing half smiles of hers. And not for the first time lately I'm left wondering why I've noticed how gorgeous her grin is.

"Don't I wish." There's something in her voice as she says that, something that wasn't there a few hours ago when we said goodbye for the summer. I try to take a closer look, but she's guarding herself, she's already thrown up the wall that makes itself so well known when she's trying to avoid opening up to me.

"So you're here why then?" I laugh a little to try and lighten the rapidly declining mood, even though all I want is to know why Peyton seems so distant.

She reaches forward, the strap of the duffel bag sliding off her shoulder in the process, dropping lightly to the tiled floor of the terminal.

"You forgot your last bag. I dropped by Lucas' house after I gave Deb the keys to Tric, I thought I might be able to see you off after all." She drops unceremoniously into one of the plastic chairs, obviously a little out of breath from her apparent rush here. "I went home after all I found was Lucas sitting on his bed pouting." She gives me a curious look, I'm sure wondering what happened between Broody and me after she left. Before I have a chance to explain anything, she raises her hand to halt me. "I can just imagine, really Brooke."

I cock an eyebrow at that. "You think so?"

She grins back at me knowingly. "Let me guess, you love him, he still loves you, but it's too little, too late and you left anyway, crushing his fragile heart and ego. And you probably cried the entire cab ride here too, didn't you?"

I blink a few times, once again stunned at just how well Peyton knows me. After all this time you'd think I'd be used to her being able to pretty much read me like a book, but it still surprises me. I only hope I can claim to know her just as well. My fish out of water impersonation apparently is good enough to send her into a giggle fit, something that brooding, pouty P Sawyer doesn't do often enough. I can't help be feel a small sense of accomplishment in getting her to lighten up, as inadvertent as it was.

She calms down long enough to finish the story that somehow got interrupted mid point. "Anyway, I got home and I found this sitting outside my closet. It's your overnight bag that you keep at my place, I thought you might need it for the summer." I can hear the sadness creeping back into her tone. And once again I'm reminded that we're going to be separated for over three months.

"Now boarding, flight 210 direct service to Los Angeles International, now calling first class ticket holders and economy rows 1 through 8, please report to Gate 23."

I roll my eyes a bit, of course after waiting all this time for the damn rain to clear, they finally start boarding when I really don't want them to. Peyton stands up and ushers me towards the growing line of California bound Carolinians. I once again cock my eyebrow at her.

"Oh come on Brooke, I was with you when you opened up the arrangements from your parents. Besides, there's no way you'd step on a plane with anything other than a first class ticket."

I stick my tongue out at her, laughing a bit. Peyton takes the shoulder strap of the bag and slips it around my neck, releasing it slowly so that I don't sag under the relatively light weight of it. I look towards the rapidly receding line of people in front of me, suddenly feeling panicked, as if this will be the last time I'll see Peyton. It's an irrational thought, I realize that as soon as the feeling sinks in, but I can't seem to push it away. I pull her into a crushing hug, tucking my head onto her shoulder, not wanting to let go for anything, especially not for a summer with my parents.

Peyton laughs a little, but I can hear her trying to stifle the tears hiding right under the surface. "Come on Brooke, I thought we already did this."

I just hold on tighter. "We did, so what?"

I can feel her tighten her arms around me too. "I know." She barely whispers, her warm breath softly tickling my ear.

"Don't forget, no turning off the web cam. I wanna be able to see you whenever I want." I tease, still not releasing the hug, even though I can hear the businessman behind me starting to huff in annoyance.

"Kinky bitch." Peyton finally pulls away, smirking at me devilishly. I can't believe how much I'm going to miss her.

"Miss, your ticket please." The stewardess looks less than pleased with me, but I honestly could care less. I reach into the back pocket of my low riders and haphazardly pull the crumpled boarding pass out and thrust it towards the increasingly annoyed woman.

I turn back towards Peyton who's watching me with obvious amusement, completely used to my little temper tantrums after being my best friend for ten years. I reach up and instead of pulling her back into a hug like I'm sure she expected, I gently lean in and place a kiss on her porcelain cheek. She turns a bit towards me though in the process, and I end up brushing her lips for a split second instead. I certainly didn't expect the jolt of………..something, when our lips touched, however briefly it was.


Oh that lady is going to get a Jimmy Choo up her ass if she tries to herd me one more time. Pulling away I look into Peyton's eyes, wondering if she felt anything at all like I did. From the dazed expression flitting across her hazel orbs I imagine she did. But I can't think about that right now, not with three months apart looming over us. I'm sure whatever that was will go away in no time.

"I love you P Sawyer." I smile, winking at her as I turn and proceed down the jet way, flashing a dirty look at the pushy American Airlines lady as I pass her.

I must have looked like a complete idiot, standing there rooted to the same spot long after Brooke's plane had taken off into the darkening night sky. I wasn't so out of it that the curious looks and baffled stares went unnoticed, which is probably more of a curse than a blessing. I could have always pleaded some type of temporary loss of consciousness or something, that would at least explain the fantasy like goodbye I just shared with my best friend. Or well not 'just', more like an hour ago.

Shit! A whole hour!?

I shake the daydream induced cobwebs away and bolt for the nearest exit, praying that my car is still where I left it.

Double parked in front of the terminal.

Thankfully it is, although the big ticket hanging off the left windshield wiper is sure to be anything but cheap. I jump in, without opening the door, something I don't think I've ever done before, even though I've had the convertible since I turned sixteen. I can't imagine why I did it either, considering that Brooke just left for more than three months. Never mind the little visit from the nut job I got right before heading out to the airport. But I don't want to think about Ellie or whatever her real name is right now. I don't want anything to bring my mood down.

Curiously enough, I have a slightly euphoric feeling rising up in me. And I refuse to pay any attention whatsoever to the inadvertent kiss Brooke and I shared. Because it has absolutely nothing to do with my current state of mind.

None whatsoever.


Speeding down the coast headed back towards Tree Hill I realize I'm coming up on Wrightsville Beach. Instead of continuing on to home I pull into the parking lot, expecting it to be empty. I'm not sure if I'm really that surprised to see Luke's car parked right next to the dunes. I debate for a moment whether I want to stay, really not wanting to let his sure to be sour mood bring down my unusually good one. I finally let my conscience get the best of me and shut off my engine, quietly getting out and traipsing down the beach towards his lone silhouette near the water's edge.

As I approach him those deep brown eyes reach up to meet my own, radiating his pain outward across the beach. I realize that he feels Brooke's absence maybe just as much as I do. I try not to let that little devil that sometimes takes up residence on my shoulder whisper in my ear that my parting with Brooke was infinitely better than his.

I smile half heartedly as I take a seat in the cooling sand next to him, fixing my gaze out at the crashing waves on the shoreline. "Looks like it's just you and me this summer."

Luke turns towards me, returning a sad smile, before pulling me in for a hug. I'm a bit hesitant at first, not used to such close contact with him after all these months we've seemingly been avoiding one on one interaction with each other. I guess it was a safeguard on my part, no sense in tempting fate that I'd let myself lose my head once again and betray the person that means the most to me for a second time. Not that I'm really attracted to Lucas anymore, but no sense in taking chances I figured.

I'm shocked to feel my shoulder becoming damp, the realization that Lucas is crying hitting me like one of the waves breaking on the surf. Sure, I haven't known him all that long, but I've never seen him cry.

Pout, sure. Brood, all the time.

But never have I known him to break down the way he seems to be doing in my arms. It's really disconcerting. And if I'm being completely honest with myself, a tad on the creepy side too.

God, he really must love her.

A shiver creeps down my spine and for a moment I wonder if the May breeze is really that cool. The thought of Brooke and Lucas together can't be that unnerving to me. I mean, why would it be? I'm not in denial about my feelings for Luke. He's a good guy and I do still care about him, but the teenage angst filled make out days of ours are long gone, and I really don't have a desire to ever have a repeat. I'm completely sure of that.

I've lost track of how long we've been sitting here together, in fact I'm not even sure Lucas is still awake. So much for not schlepping anything else this summer. I better not have to drag his heavy ass back to his car to sleep it off.

"This is even worse for you." I guess that answers the is he or isn't he conscious question.

"What makes you say that?" I mean he's the one supposedly in love with Brooke after all.

Lucas sits up a bit from his prone position in the sand, resting on his elbows and giving me that all knowing half smirk that I've grown to loathe. "Come on Peyt--"

"Don't call me Peyt." I interrupt him, already having a bad feeling where this might be going.

He gives me a condescending look before continuing. "Stop trying to bullshit me Peyton, I was there, I remember what it was like."

I give him a blank stare, still refusing to acknowledge the path this conversation is suddenly turning down.

Seeing that I'm not about to give him anything to work with, Luke exhales a frustrated sigh, running a hand through his virtually nonexistent hair. "You do realize it yourself don't you? I mean you're not still in denial after all this time, right?"

Denial about what? I'm really not. At least I don't think so.

Apparently seeing the perplexed look I'm sure is washing itself over my face, Lucas lets out a humorless laugh, shaking his head and sitting completely up, crossing his legs Indian style and facing me now. "Apparently you are. Deeply in denial." He looks out towards the black ocean, searching for what I have no idea.

Suddenly I find myself extremely curious as to what he thinks he's so clued in on that I'm not. It is MY life after all, not his. "Just what is it that you think I'm in denial about?"

It takes him forever to pull his gaze away from the darkness of the water. But when he finally does, meeting my increasingly impatient stare, I'm a bit frightened by what I see. He's as earnest as I've ever seen him and yet he looks almost angry at me.

"You're scared of your mind, that's why you can't admit it, even to yourself."

"Of what?!" Yes please Mr. Wannabe Psych Major, enlighten the clueless blonde here.

"The fact we're both in love with the same woman."

I honestly have no idea why my parents insisted that I come stay with them for the entire summer, considering they're not even here! What's the point of being three thousand miles from everything I consider home for a mother and father who can't even pick their own daughter up from the airport. Never mind even be home when I get here. This is certainly shaping up to be one crappy summer already.

I pick up one of my lighter suitcases from the foyer floor and start to half carry half drag it up the two flights of stairs to where I assume the bedrooms to be. After a few near tumbles back down to the tiled entranceway I manage to find my room, thanks to the note from my mother taped to the closed door.


Your father and I are so sorry we missed your homecoming. One of his important clients invited us to an overnight golf invitational in Santa Barbara. I'm sure you understand. We're both looking forward to having you here with us from now on, we've missed you terribly. I've had Candy (our new maid, you'll love her!) place fresh linens on your bed, so you should be all set. The refrigerator is stocked as well, so make yourself some dinner. We'll be back on Sunday night.


Mom and Dad

I'm not so sure I like the sound of her 'from now on' bit in there. This is nothing more than a temporary situation. If they think I'm going to stay here past August then my parents have another thing coming. There's no way I'm missing out on senior year with Peyton back in Tree Hill. I'd take a cue from Nathan's playbook and become emancipated before that would happen.

The thought of Peyton reminds me that I'm still carrying my duffel bag on my shoulder, and even though it's rather light, the lugging of all my suitcases is starting to really wear on me. It's only 11pm and I'm already zonked. Of course if I wasn't as tired as I am it would have dawned on me that it's really 2am my time. Something tells me I'm going to be waking up Peyton in the middle of the night for a while until I get the hang of the time difference.

I throw the duffel on the bed, unzipping it to root around for a clean set of pj's, feeling far too exhausted to make even an attempt at unpacking tonight. My hand comes into contact with something hard and unfamiliar instead. I wrap my fingers around what feels to be a leather bound book of some kind, pulling it clear of the bag and bringing it under my nightstand lamp for a better look.

'The Scattered Tangents of Peyton Sawyer'

Peyton has a journal? How did I not know that? And how in the world did it end up in my overnight bag of all places. I run my fingers over the stenciled inscription, a bemused smile forming over my lips. That's my best friend, overdramatic as always. I'm extremely tempted to call Peyton and ask how I managed to drag her journal three thousand miles across the country. But that inner devil of mine, the one that seemed to have gone into hibernation lately, is making a sudden reappearance. The temptation to open up the leather encased window into Peyton's soul is awfully strong.

I'm debating about it, which is even enough to make me feel guilty. And yet ironically enough, the guilt isn't convincing me to not open it. Ethically speaking I really should just put it back in my bag where I found it, bury it under everything and return it to Peyton when I get back to Tree Hill. That's what the new Brooke would do. Miss Class President would take the high road.

The old Brooke, well she would dive right in. Reading the journal, hoping to find something in the vein of one of those trashy $5.95 romance novels you find in the magazine aisle of the supermarket.

Apparently right now I'm a convoluted mix of the two, because I can't decide one way or the other. I really don't want to invade Peyton's privacy, the little that she usually does have from me. But on the flip side of the coin, there's always been a small little part of her heart that I've never seen. It's the place that's closed off even from me. I honestly don't know if she's shown anyone that part of her. And I have to admit, it does hurt sometimes. She's my best friend, the one person I count on the most in my life. She knows me inside and out, I've never hidden anything from her. And yet there's a piece of her I haven't been able to touch. And there's something telling me that if I open her journal I'll finally be able to understand why.

My fingertips are dancing along the tops of the pages, as if I'm hoping I can somehow feel what's inside without having to open it.

Apparently I'm not supposed to though, at least not right this minute. Or so says my cell phone, the shrill ring making itself known from where I tossed it onto my bed. I manage to grab it before the obnoxious ring tone fades out. I really need to download something else other than Peyton's little idea of a joke. Thinking we could relive our adolescence by having matching Spice Girls ring tones in honor of the concert we went to in Charlotte when we were 10.

Shaking my head fondly at the massive dorks we made of ourselves that night, I quickly glance at the caller ID. Speak of the devil. Apparently my best friend is clairvoyant, at least when it comes to me doing something decidedly naughty.

"Gone less than six hours and you already can't live without me." I sass in greeting.

"Brooke, I thought you had ID on your cell. It's me, not Lucas." Ohh, sarcasm in full throttle, I wonder who she spent her night with. Actually it really doesn't take a genius to figure it out after that little remark.

"And it's apparent his mood rubbed off on you."

Peyton sighs in defeat. "I can never win with you, can I?"

Actually, she's usually the one with the sharper wit, I'm always having to concede defeat with a pointedly stuck out tongue in her general direction. I'm wondering if I should be worried about her now. "You know how I love being on top P. Sawyer."

Now that got a laugh out of her. Although I can feel that something's not quite right. It's not really anything in her tone of voice. It's more like intuition. Which is very odd considering I'm all the way across the country from her.

"Actually I've never had that particular pleasure Brooke."

Well now! It seems a three thousand mile separation is enough to embolden my dear bestest friend. Apparently I'm the one rubbing off, not Lucas. I'm so proud! And if I'm being completely honest with myself, slightly turned on too. Flirty Peyton is apparently a force to be reckoned with.

"Care to change that little oversight then?"

I really don't know what's wrong with me. Sure, flirting comes as natural to me as taking in a lungful of oxygen. But while Peyton and I have teased each other, we've never been overtly sexual about it. Of course I have gotten a bit territorial every once in a while. I wonder if it's ever bothered her. Probably not, I'm pretty sure she assumes I'm just kidding. Which I usually am, to a degree at least. But I found myself facing a massive case of green eyed monster syndrome when she was hanging around with Anna. I knew no good would come of it, seeing DYKE plastered across her locker was enough to convince me I had been right the entire time. But I suppose I need to take some responsibility for that fiasco myself. Felix somehow realized I wasn't just putting on my intense dislike of Anna for no reason. I still can't figure out how he knew, because other than my relationship with Peyton, he was entirely off the mark with all the other facets of my life.

As I'm pondering that disturbing tidbit I'm reminded of my innocuous little comment, Peyton's silence starting to worry me. I think I can literally hear her trying to form a comeback.

"And if I said I did?"

That was the last thing I expected though. "Ok, conversation heading to the gutter."

"You started it!" Ah very mature PS.

"And since when have you ever let me get away with anything?"

"What?" I can hear the indignation in her voice, it's adorable! "Are you serious, I always cave to you!"

I scoff at that. "Right, when exactly has this 'always' occurred, because I certainly don't remember it."

"Let's see, maybe the time we were on Hatteras Island with your father's boat and you just conveniently decided that liquoring him up was the only way to check out the bonfire on Avon Beach." Ok, she may have me there. But that's only one time. "God, the sight of your father upchucking all his internal organs is something that I still have nightmares about!"

"Oh come on, now you're just being overdramatic. It wasn't that bad." It wasn't ALL his insides really, just maybe an intestine or so. Fine, so maybe it was pretty bad. But I was smart enough to not watch, I don't know why in the world she did.

"How would you know, you were halfway to shore while I was trying to keep him from falling overboard!" Well I guess that explains why she remembers it so vividly. Eww, gross. My poor Peyton.

"Well I saw a cute guy, what'd you want me to do?"

"Apparently let your father drown."

"Cute PS, real cute. So that's one. One does not preclude 'always'."

"Trust me Brooke, we go through my whole list and the sun will be rising on your side of the country before we're done."

"So we're keeping score now, is that it?" I really wish I could see her face, she gets all red in the ears when I tease her, it's beyond cute. And with that thought I can't help but wonder why I've never realized how often I find myself thinking that particular way about Peyton. Huh, that's an interesting little thought.

Peyton plays innocent. "What, you mean you haven't been?"

Oh, she's gonna get it for that one. "Nope, I know you're my bitch, so what's the point?"

That one got a genuine laugh out of her. "Is that right?"

"Yep, and you wouldn't be laughing if you didn't already know it was true."

Somewhere along the line though, all crude analogies aside, Peyton has become 'mine' somehow. It explains the intense jealousy I felt when she was spending her time with someone other than me, even though I was entirely preoccupied with Felix. All teasing aside, this conversation is starting to become just a little too real for me. I'm not sure I want to deal with all of these new thoughts right now. Maybe I can just blame it on the jet lag, but something tells me that this is more of the possibly life changing variety.

"Ok, so what were we talking about again?"

Oh, just the fact I might be having a sexual identity epiphany. Nothing much really. I can't exactly tell her that though. "Who knows, you're the one that called me, remember?"

"Oh right." There's an awkward pause, the light mood suddenly evaporating.

"Not that I'm complaining mind you, but was there a specific reason I had to hear 'Wannabe' after a six hour plane ride next to some hairy guy who must have been eating at one of Emeril's restaurants right before he stepped on the plane."

Peyton chuckles. "Well at least you knew he wasn't a vampire."

"Someone's been watching Buffy reruns again." I tease, but I can tell she's avoiding answering my question. I'm reminded of my sense that something was wrong with her before we got into our little Flirt Fiesta. "So really Peyton, what's up? I get the feeling you needed to talk."

"What makes you think that?" I can literally feel the nervous energy coming through the phone line.


She sighs a bit. "I really shouldn't have called you about it, I mean you're already dealing with enough of your own crap right now, what with moving to the other side of the country and all. You don't need this right now."

She's rambling. Peyton never rambles. This is bad. "Peyton, come on, would you just tell me."

"I should let you go, I mean you're probably exhausted from the plane ride. And I bet you didn't even shower yet to get the garlic boy smell off---"

"Peyton!" Yep, this has to be really bad.

"My mother showed up on my doorstep tonight."

"What?!" Ok, that can't be possible.

I was with Peyton when her mother died. I held her hand during the funeral, I rode my bike to the grocery store three different times because she had run out of tissues, she was crying so much. I sat there next to her on the couch in her grandmother's den during the wake, watching as one by one people I had never seen before paid their respects and gave her and Papa Peyton their condolences. I remember Mr. Farrell, our elementary school principal coming up to us at the end of juniors cheerleading practice. All the other girls had been picked up, but Peyton's mom was running late, so I stayed outside on the bench with her to wait. I heard him tell her that there had been an accident, I can still remember the feeling of her shoulders shaking under my arm wrapped around them as she tried to understand what he was telling her. Her mother is gone, it's been one of Peyton's defining characteristics as she's gotten older. That day changed her life forever.

Peyton lets out a shaky breath. "Yeah, I kinda had less of a shocked reaction and more of a slamming the door in her face one."

"Wait, you saw her?!"

"Not her, not my Mom. Someone else."

My parents really have THE worst timing. I can hear it in her voice, the last place I should be is away from her right now. "Ok, I'm completely lost. What's going on Peyton?"

"You remember the article that was being written about Tric?"

I smile a bit, unseen to her of course. The article wasn't being written about Tric, it was about her. A seventeen year old club promoter who landed one of the biggest alternative acts in the country right now. I was so proud of her, even if I did hate the fact that the reporter had the same annoying sense of timing that my parents apparently have.

But that's besides the point right now. "Yeah, what does that have to do with any of this?"

"That woman doing the story, she showed up at my door tonight, claiming to be my mother. She said that her real name is Elizabeth."

"Wait, like your middle name?"

"One in the same, she told me that's where it comes from."

Oh God, I really need to be in Tree Hill right now. Poor Peyton. "So what did you do?"

"What was I supposed to do? Believe her?" No, but something in my gut is telling me that this isn't so cut and dry. And from what I'm hearing in Peyton's voice, she's not so convinced of this woman's fallacy either.

"But you do don't you, at least in some way."

There's a long silence, and just as I'm beginning to wonder if I've upset her I hear a morose soft laugh. "I think we've been together too long, it's disturbing how well you know me."

"I'd like to think it's more comforting than disturbing really." I say lightheartedly, trying to raise the mood up a bit.

"It is. Thanks Brooke." She sighs again, and with a glance at my watch I can understand why. It's just after midnight here so she must be exhausted. Especially after the day she apparently had. And for the hundredth time just today I find myself cursing my parents and their incessant need to have me out here with them.

"Why don't you get some sleep girlie, I'll give you a call in the morning to check up on you."

"Brooke, it IS morning."

I roll my eyes. "Go to bed Peyton!"

"Oh you know I love it when you get all bossy."

Well apparently she's feeling better, we've slid right back into the gutter. And wow, I think I can feel my cheeks warming a bit. That little brat made me blush! "Goodnight Peyton."

"What, no comeback?" She chuckles a bit in apparent victory.

"No, jetlag gives me a get out of jail free card for the night."

"Fine, but now I can't say I never win anymore." There's a bit of hesitancy in her voice before she continues. "Thanks Brooke, for everything."

The sincerity in her voice gives me goose bumps. "Anything Peyton, you know that." Now it's my turn to hesitate. "I love you, that means I'm always gonna be here for you."

"I know, and I love you for it."

We say our goodbyes with me promising to call her in the afternoon to give her the rundown of sunny SoCal so far. Of course that's not the real reason, but I think it makes both of us worry a little less if we act as if the situation isn't really happening, at least for the sake of a good night's sleep.

After a nice hot shower I slip into a pair of silk boxer shorts and an old tank top I used to wear for cheerleading practice. As I reach up to turn the lamp on my nightstand off I'm reminded of Peyton's journal, sitting neatly on the wooden surface beside me. I had completely forgotten about it, the conversation having spun in an entirely different direction. I couldn't exactly bring up a potential invasion of her privacy while she was all upset about her Faux!Ma. Running my fingertips along the worn leather I decide that it's best to forget about it for the time being. After all, I have three months out here to waste.

I swear, I must be in some alternate reality or something. This day has just been completely insane, in almost all the bad kind of ways. I glance down at my cell phone lying haphazardly where I threw it at the foot of my bed. I'm still trying to wrap my head around the conversation I just had with Brooke. I actually hadn't intended on dropping my new load of stress onto her while she's so far away. But she just knows me too damn well. I'm sure she could hear it in my voice. The same way I know something was up with her too. I got the distinct feeling that I was interrupting something. And an even bigger feeling that it wasn't something of the good variety. She was about to do something old Brooke-like, I could just tell. Which has my curiosity more than peaked.

I know it wasn't something with a guy, because she's never been that fast of a mover, let alone this new remarkably virtuous side she's been showing these last few months. Besides the fact that she's completely hung up on Lucas.

The thought of our favorite Scott brother reminds me of the incredibly awkward conversation I've been trying desperately to ignore actually even happened.


"You're scared out of your mind, that's why you can't admit it, even to yourself."

"Of what?!"

"The fact we're both in love with the same woman."

I scoffed at him, desperately trying to hide the blush that I could feel rapidly rising in my cheeks. "You don't know what in the world you're talking about Luke."

"Don't I?" Oh how I hate that all knowing tone he loves to use when he's so damn sure he's right about something.

I could feel my temper starting to flare, really not wanting to talk about this right now, especially after how Brooke and I left things. Besides the fact he's the last person on the world I should be talking about this with. Not that there's really anything to talk about anyway.

"Listen, I don't care what you THINK you know, but you're the last person that could possibly understand my relationship with Brooke." I hate sounding so bitchy, but he's hitting way too close here.

"Actually Peyton, besides the two of you, I'm probably the most qualified here. What did Brooke call it, the Bermuda Triangle of Drama?" He calmly replies, the daggers I'm shooting him not seeming to phase him in the least.

"Wait, how did you know that?" I remember where we were when she said that, and Lucas was nowhere in the vicinity.

"Can we focus here? Not the point. The point is that I know just what you two mean to each other. If you remember, you repeatedly chose her over me, even when I was pushing non-stop just because I wanted you so much." He lowers his head a bit for the first time since he began his little lecture, and I swear I can see the beginnings of a blush creeping up his cheeks.

"Yeah, and I STILL hurt her." I can feel the guilt clawing its way back up to the surface again. Brooke may have forgiven me, but I doubt I'll ever grant myself that same gift.

"We're human Peyton, no matter how good our intentions are, it's inevitable that someone gets hurt when it comes to being in love." I can feel his hand gently kneading my shoulder, and it's oddly comforting for a moment.

The moment doesn't last long though, I'm annoyed all over again at his arrogance. "What makes you think I was ever in love with you?"

Again with that all knowing smirk, my mood has taken a complete nosedive into the sand I'm sitting on. "I never said that. You're in love, you have been for a long while now. Just not with me." I'm about to open my mouth to spit back a protest, but he beats me to it. "And not with Jake either." That's enough to make me snap my mouth shut.

Luke props himself up on his knees so that he's facing me, making me give him my undivided attention, as unwilling as I am to do so. "You've got to stop this. You're always miserable, and it doesn't have to be that way. Just let yourself be happy, let yourself feel what you're so scared of feeling. And everything else will fall into place."

I'm silent for a long time, the moist salty taste over my top lip the only indication that I even heard what he said. I know that he's right, I do. But I'm not ready to admit it. If I let myself feel everything he's encouraging me to, I'll never be able to shut it off again. And my friendship with Brooke will be blown to bits, and this is not something that we can recover from, I know that deep in my soul. I get it wrong, and we're all done, no more do-overs or second chances, I lose her forever.

Lucas reaches up and wipes away a silver tear tracking its way down my cheekbone. "Peyton, trust me, tell her. It will make everything so much better."

I can't deal with this now. I need to come to terms with all of this, and I can't do that with Lucas looking at me so earnestly. If I take his advice, I run the chance of breaking both of our hearts. And with that thought I realize that Brooke really holds all our fates in her hands. And she probably has no clue.

"You can't know that Luke." I stand up, briefly wiping off the knees of my jeans, and head back up the beach to the parking lot, leaving Lucas sitting there gazing after me.

**End Flashback**

So I'm trying to figure out where that leaves me. I honestly don't have a clue. I'm really trying to suppress the feeling of resentfulness that is rising up in me towards Lucas. He couldn't just let it alone, could he? Then again, I'm the idiot who, against my better judgment, stopped at the beach to begin with. So I guess I only have myself to blame. Maybe if I pretend it never happened, all of this will go away. Brooke's in California for the foreseeable future, and as much as I miss her already, the time apart might give me some perspective. Or maybe these feelings will go away entirely.

Gah, I need some sleep, everything will be clearer in the morning, that's usually how it works, right? And maybe, if I'm lucky, I'll wake up and this whole day will have all been a dream. I won't have some nut job impersonating my mother.

And I won't be in love with my best friend.

Less than 24 hours here and I'm already counting the minutes until I get back on the plane for Tree Hill. Sure, it's beyond gorgeous out here, the sun is shining, the view from my parents beach house is something I would have killed for a year ago. And the eye candy that seems to populate the sandy shore down below our deck, at any one time, is enough to send my entire cheerleading squad into a massive squeal attack.

And here I am, wanting to go home already. There really must be something wrong with me. I'm getting to the point where I'm missing the old me a bit. This new, rather boring side to my personality is starting to give me some pause.

I raise my sunglasses to rest on my head, leaning down to feel in my shore bag for the already familiar leather stenciling. I'm sitting in what most normal people would consider paradise, relaxing on a nice cozy beach, and all I can think about is Peyton's journal.

"I've been debating for ten minutes whether I should come over or not, but you look upset, so my conscious got the best of me."

I look up, shielding my eyes from the brilliant California sunshine, to find someone I wondered if I'd ever see again. None other than Jake Jagielski.

"Jake!" I jump up out of my chair, wrapping my arms around his strong neck for a hug. "What are you doing here?"

He pulls away from the embrace and gestures for me to retake my seat, as he parks himself down on the towel beside me. I take a moment to get a good look at him, his hair longer now, shaggier like when he first left Tree Hill. I'm also beginning to see what Peyton was so attracted to. With his shirt off he's a downright fox. Nice toned pecs, and biceps to match, with a nice even tan all over. I pause in my perusal at that, realizing that he must have been out here a decent amount of time to get a bronzing that deep. He certainly didn't get it in prison.

"So what brings you to LA?" I noticed he avoided my earlier question about his reasons for being here.

I'll let it slide, for the moment at least. "My parents moved out here and insisted I join them."

He looks surprised, and slightly worried too. Wonder what that's about?

"Wow! So you left Tree Hill? For good?"

I shake my head. "Not if I can help it. I want to finish up my senior year back home, then we'll see where I land for college." I've actually given it quite a lot of thought. My grades, surprisingly enough, are decent, and the fact that I'm student body president looks fantastic on college applications. Before all of the crap rained down on my life in regards to my parents and their lackluster job of managing finances I was determined to get out of Tree Hill. Some place like New York, maybe even London or Paris.

Peyton and I had talked about both of us going off to Paris, renting a great little apartment overlooking the Arc de Triomphe or the Eiffel Tower, the lights from the city creating a brilliant glow over our terrace. We could sit out there at night, sipping a great bottle of red wine, enjoying the atmosphere of the famed City of Lights, and catching each other up on the day we each had. Hers at the Sorbonne, finally having her chance to study art the way she's always wanted to. And me still trying to figure out what my major should be at the American University of Paris. We would be having the time of our lives, and we'd be together, that was the most important thing.

Somewhere along the way though we lost sight of that. I went boy crazy and we just seemed to stop talking about it. I wonder if Peyton even remembers the great plans we had? I know she still wants to go to art school, but the question remains, where? With her dad taking jobs closer to home instead of halfway around the world, she might not want to go too far away from Tree Hill. Me, I'm still looking forward to that Parisian experience, but not by myself.

I realize I've gotten lost in my thoughts, Jake's curious expression giving me a heads up to that little fact. "So just how did you land in LA of all places? Is Nikki here?" Because he better not just be living it up as a beach bum when my best friend wasted buckets of tears on him.

He looks uncomfortable, and makes a quick glance towards the shore. I can't help but follow his line of sight, wondering why he won't meet my gaze. I don't have to wonder long though, because as I squint to see more clearly I'm given an unfortunately perfect view of his daughter. In the arms of her mother.

I can feel the anger start building in the pit of my stomach, lathering up to the surface to really give it to him. But before I get the chance he makes an attempt at explaining.

"Brooke, I know how it looks, trust me, I do." Apparently the rage I'm feeling is showing itself quite well. He continues so I can't have a chance to rip him a new one. "I found them out here last week, and I tried to get Jenny away from her, but she had the cops ready to drag me off to jail again. So I figured the best chance I have of ever getting my daughter back is to play nice with Nikki. At least for now."

I roll my eyes in annoyance. "So you're playing the Stepford husband in the hopes that Nikki's psycho quotient will just disappear?" The idea that he's with her, like in the biblical sense, is just churning the pit of anger in my stomach all the more.

He at least has the decency to look ashamed. "What do you want me to do Brooke? She has my daughter. If I ever want her back I have to play Nikki's game."

I can't help but hit him where I know it will hurt. "And what about Peyton." Bull's-eye.

Jake looks around for a moment in a mild state of panic. "She's not here with you is she?"

There's a part of me that wants to tell him yes, just to freak him out that much more. But I'm too mad for even that. "Why would she be?"

He stops his eyes from cris-crossing the shoreline and behind us, refocusing his attention on me. "I think the better question is, why wouldn't she be. You guys didn't have another falling out did you?"

I shake my head incredulously. "Of course not. That's your area of expertise, not mine." God, I don't know why I'm jumping down his throat so much. Sure, I feel a primal urge to protect my best friend, which includes giving hell to the guy that broke her heart. But this feels like something more.

Jake smirks at me a bit, although there's no malice in it that I can tell. "So I'll ask again, why isn't she here with you? I mean if you're still as attached at the hip as when I left I never would have guessed you could go three months without each other."

"And what is THAT supposed to mean?" I'm really not liking where this is headed. I glance down almost subconsciously to the journal not so hidden anymore and the top of my bag.

Unfortunately Jake's gaze follows mine. "Ah, so she finally gave it to you?"

I try and play coy, but Jake is the last person that would let me get away with that. "What?"

He rolls his eyes good-naturedly. "Her journal."

"How did you know she kept a journal? I didn't even know." And there is no way in this world that he knew something about Peyton that I didn't.

"I found it in her nightstand one night when I was looking for the spare pacifier that she kept for Jenny."

I cut him off. "And you just decided to read it?"

He smirks at me again. "Didn't you?"

I glare at him, although secretly I'm slightly proud of myself that I had enough restraint to keep it closed so far. Granted I was a couple seconds away from blowing all that out to the ocean fifty feet away from us. But I didn't. The reason, sitting beside me, so not the point.

Before I can bite off a smartass retort, he continues. "Actually, I can tell just by the way you're reacting that you haven't."

"Peyton didn't give it to me." I see the confusion pass across his eyes. "I found it at the bottom of my overnight bag. I don't think she has any idea I have it." The confusion turns into mild panic it would seem. "Why, do you know what's in it?"

There's a long silence, and all I can think of is that he's either trying to come up with a decent lie, or he's contemplating telling me the truth. I'm not sure which I'd prefer at this point. I look down at the journal again, waiting for him to make up his mind, wondering what in the world could possibly be in there that's making him so obviously uncomfortable.

As I'm contemplating that rather unnerving thought I see his hand snake into the top of my bag and carefully pull out the leather encased book. He gently places it into my lap and stands up, replacing his sunglasses over his eyes in the process.

"Read it Brooke, from beginning to end."

I shake my head. "Does Peyton know you've read it?"

He gives me a sad smile. "No. That should really tell you something about our relationship I guess. I never told her I saw it."

I glare at him again, for what I'm feeling must be the tenth time. "Nice Jake. I'll be sure to mention that to Peyton when I tell her I bumped into you." I expected to see the panic return, but instead he looks eerily calm. I must be losing my touch.

"It won't matter after you read it. You'll finally understand. Maybe both of you will."

Enough of this cryptic bullshit. "Understand what?!"

He turns his back to me and starts walking away, but I hear his parting words, and it sends a chill straight through my body, making the hair on my arms stand up in some kind of strange anticipation.


Part 2

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