There it was at the tip of my fingers
There it was at the tip of my tongue
There you were and I had never been so far
There it was, the whole world wrapped inside my arms
And I let it all slip away
Chapter One: Slip Away
It had been over two years since Brooke even set foot in Tree Hill; two years since she'd crossed the North Carolina boarder and somehow that part of the trip hadn't been the hardest part. She'd thought that the hardest part would be seeing Lucas again; after she'd run away without so much as a word and very little dialog since then. She'd been dreading this day for months; but Bevin had been her friend longer, even, then Peyton had and she couldn't miss her wedding day.
She couldn't turn down Bevin's plea to be her maid-of-honor, not even when she'd tentatively added that Lucas would be the Best Man. The call had come in late, after a long day of classes on top of the internship she had fought hard to win her place at. It was one of those days that made her forget about all that she'd left behind in the United States, where she'd spoken French the entire day and could almost forget that she didn't belong there. She'd agreed because she had to agree, it was when they were five that she and Bevin made the lifelong pledge that they would be each other's maids-of-honor.
Bevin had put her in charge of designing and making the bridesmaid dresses so there was no need to fly back and forth between Paris and Tree Hill. And she'd made it through a week in Tree Hill, through the bridal shower and the bachelorette party and facing Peyton for the first time in four years. She'd made it through the rehearsal dinner, seeing Lucas had been hard but it hadn't been impossible. She'd made it through it all, made it through everything until this exact moment, when she was pretty sure she'd rather let the floor open up and swallow her then to talk to him.
"What are you doing here?" Her eyes search his face. She was amazed that in a year she hasn't forgotten any of the features written there. She'd left the pictures of them together at their apartment, the scrapbooks she'd worked on with his daughter. Everything had stayed behind, because she knew that if she kept that little daily reminder of them, of when they were happy she wouldn't be able to stay away. If she kept them in her little apartment, out in the open she'd be constantly reminded of what she'd given up instead of what she'd gotten in return.
He was not surprised to see her and she realized that of course he wasn't. He had to have been sitting at the ceremony and watched her stand up next to Bevin. Hell, he'd probably assumed she'd be here. Which wasn't fair, she hadn't had any warning. It had never even crossed her mind that he would be there. He didn't belong here. He didn't live in Tree Hill anymore. He hardly knew Bevin and Skills. So why was he here? "Peyton brought me."
His words hurt her more then his presence ever could, they nearly knock the wind out of her and she knows it shows on her face. "Oh." She hated her emotions for betraying her so blatantly with him standing less then a foot away.
He paused, and she couldn't help but think he's doing this purposefully, to hurt her. She knew she'd hurt him when she walked away, but he'd let her go because he loved her. She couldn't blame him for still being angry, how could she expect him to forgive her if she had yet to forgive herself? She watched his face, he'd never been very good at masking his emotions, as he waged some sort of internal war. "It's not like that, I was in town. I didn't know that you would be here, I didn't know about the wedding."
"So you were just here visiting Peyton," Brooke wished that the resentment could stay out of her voice. She wished that him visiting Peyton didn't effect her so much, wishes that she could hide exactly what she was thinking from him. "Well, good for you two," she knew though that her words were useless, he had this uncanny ability to read exactly what she meant behind the words that she'd just spoken. It was an ability she'd treasured before and now she resented. They weren't together. Hell they'd never really been together.
"Brooke," he finally brought himself to look her in the eye and it was Brooke's turn to look away. She couldn't bear to look him in the eye as he attempts to let her down easily.
"Jake, really," Brooke places her hand on his chest to stop him. "You don't have to explain, really. I left. You have every right to hate me."
"I don't hate you Brooke," she wasn't sure if he even realized he was playing with the loose curl tucked behind her ear.
Or the effect it had on her.
More then anything she'd love for him to wrap his arms around her and kiss the last year away, "I should have known you and Peyton would end up together. I don't blame you," Brooke grabbed Jake's hand, pulling it away from gently brushing her neck. She couldn't handle him touching her that way, not when she had to use every ounce of energy to walk away from him again. "I couldn't blame you, you and Peyton have always had your someday, and good for you for taking advantage of it now." She took a deep breath, praying that she could walk away without crying, that she wouldn't draw attention to them. She knew that everyone had questions about what had happened in the nearly three years she'd lived with Jake, but on the same side she knew that none of them felt like they had the place to ask – they were the ones who hadn't spoken to her when she left Luke.
She had to walk away, and she had to do it now. Staying away had been hard but she was beginning to think that it was no where as near as hard as him standing right here in front of her. "I'm going to go – mingle." She hated the word mingle, it carried this completely awkward connotation, it said I'm going to go so I don't have to sit here and carry on this conversation anymore but I don't really have a good excuse. "It was really great seeing you Jake," she paused, half leaning in to kiss him but thinking the better of it at the last moment.
She managed to turn on her heel and walk away, concentrating on moving one heeled foot in front of the other for about ten steps. Before he touched her arm, "Brooke..."
She was facing Jake before her brain even registered her body moving, the tears in her eyes were nearly undetectable but she knew that Jake could sense that they were there. "Please, please, you don't have to say anything. Especially not here, I'm fine."
"Dance with me."
Brooke took a deep breath, her gaze locking onto Jake's for the first time, "Why are you doing this Jake?"
"Brooke," Jake grabbed her hand and began to lead her to the dance floor, "you used to trust me not to hurt you."
"I do," Brooke murmured, and she couldn't tell if it was loud enough to even be audible. Once they reached the dance floor Jake's arms immediately wrapped around her waist, pulling her close. With her cheek pressed against his chest, it was all Brooke could do to stop her tears of regret. With a slow deep breath she breathed in the scent that had had such a calming effect on her for two years. There was something in the mix of Jake's cologne, aftershave and soap that had the ability to calm Brooke down in any situation.
She could remember how his scent had clung to her skin as she boarded the plane. He'd insisted on taking her to the airport to say goodbye. She knew he didn't realize that it was making it harder to run away from them with him standing on the other side of security watching her go. They'd both known that it could have easily been forever, even if she hadn't known about the ring then (Nikki had filled her in on that part later) she'd felt it too.
Wrapped in his embrace now though, she knew that dancing with him was a mistake. It was only going to make walking away from him again so much harder. He was over her now though, and that thought mixed with all of the other cracks the damn she has holding back her tears and allows a single tear to slip from the corner of her eye and onto his shirt.
She'd walked away the first time because she was afraid of getting her heartbroken again. She wanted to protect herself from that pain. Now she knew the mistake in that. It had been her who'd broken her heart that time. And now, now she would have to walk away again because he didn't have the same feelings for her anymore and it would shatter the tiny pieces of her heart that she'd managed to stick back together in the last year. And she was the only one to blame.
There it was the whole world wrapped in my arms
And I let it all slip away
--Rascal Flatts "Words I Couldn't Say"
Authors note: And I'm back. With a brand spanking new story. I got mad that Cathy wouldn't write the one she had planned out months ago so I took it upon myself to make up my own Bake. The story is inspired by a couple country songs that I adore - but the one that's featured in the next chapter is the one that started it all. I know you all have a lot of questions that's the point :p . Thanks go out to tons of people for this chapter, as always to Christina who beta'd it for me despite being a pain in the ass. And Maggie who listened to the plot and read the first chapter despite the fact that she doesn't like Bake. And Ella and Jess who both have encouraged every single step of this. But ultimately this is dedicated to Cathy because without her, and without Timeless there would be none of my obsession with Bake. As for those waiting for He Said Forever to update, well it's coming started the chapter while Christina was betaing! Now go, review!!