I Will Keep the Bad Things From You

A/N: So here is the last chapter. I always intended this fic to be fairly short, but I have to say I'm kind-of glad its over. And before you start reading, I just want to thank everyone who reviewed, because in a way, this fic means more to me than Soon Enough. Yes, it has less traffic, but I'm just glad to be telling the story of post 3x16 the way Mark didn't. Also, I want to give a big shout-out to Lynn, who I could have never done this without, and who is always there to help me with my writing, and who always believes in me.

Anyway, farewell!

IIIIIIIIIIIIIII

Chapter 5

You're Still the One

When I first saw you, I saw love.

And the first time you touched me, I felt love.

And after all this time, you're still the one I love

- Shania Twain

It's been 3 weeks. 3 long weeks. 3 weeks, and Brooke doesn't even know when each day begins and ends. When moonlight fades into daylight, when the sun rises and when it sets. When she sleeps, when she wakes.

It's March. Rainy, cold, dreary. She stands at the corner, looking down the street on which no cars appear. After all, it's 8am on a Sunday morning, and most people are sleeping in, or perhaps just getting home from the night before.

She doesn't sleep much anymore, but she's also realized that she doesn't need it. She's started to play games with herself at night, seeing how long she can lie awake for, and how few hours of sleep she can get and still be functional in the morning. Brooke wonders whether Lucas has realized it, but she guesses probably not. Somehow, he sleeps. He isn't afraid of the night, a phobia she has recently developed. She doesn't like the darkness. She doesn't like closing her eyes, and not knowing for sure whether she'll ever open them again.

She turns when the front door slams. Lucas trudges out, looking like a little boy, rubbing his eyes and yawning. He's actually changed his sweats from the ones he wore to bed, and he had let Brooke bring a shaver to his unruly locks, so his hair has been cropped short – just the way she likes it.

"Why are we running again?" he asks her, whining a bit.

Brooke just laughs and shakes her head, ponytail swinging from side to side. "Exercise. Endorphins. It makes you feel good."

"I know something else that can make me feel good," he says, kinking an eyebrow and sidling up to her, wrapping his arms around her waist.

She giggles and pushes him away playfully. "Not gonna' work. C'mon, I'll race you."

They run. For a while the only sound is their feet hitting the pavement, and their heavy and unsteady breathing. But then, Lucas speaks.

"How've you been?"

The question seems so odd, formal, and out of the blue, that Brooke is taken aback at first. And then she realizes it's quite a legitimate question. Despite the fact that she's spent a good ¾ of the past three weeks with her boyfriend, they haven't really talked. And as soon as he speaks, Brooke realizes she's missed him.

Looks like we made it

Look how far we've come my baby

We mighta took the long way

We knew we'd get there someday

She shrugs her shoulders and they pick up the pace a little, the noise of their soles on the concrete gaining volume. "Good. Fine, I guess."

She steals a glance over at Lucas and spots a flash of concern on his face. "How was school on Friday?"

Right. Friday. It had been the first day school was back since the shooting…

"Hey," Haley's voice is soft and tired as she approaches the brunette at her locker, laying a hand on Brooke's shoulder.

"Hi tutorwife," Brooke responds, relishing in the hug Haley administers to her. "How have you two been?" she looks up to Nathan, who's standing a few feet behind Haley.

"I was gonna' ask you the same question. We haven't seen you in a while."

"I know." Brooke sighs. "I've just, been with Lucas."

Nathan nods. He understands. "Speaking of, where is Luke?"

The dimpled 17-year old sags. "I thought he was going to come – he told me he was yesterday. But today he wouldn't get out of bed – he just said he would come Monday."

Haley gives Brooke a reassuring squeeze on the shoulder. "It's going to take time."

Time. It's going to take time. That's all anyone says to her anymore, and Brooke just wants to scream that she knows. She isn't impatient or eager to move past this all, and she of all people knows that this is going to take time. She's pretty sure it's them that don't.

"Yeah. Listen, I gotta' go. Guidance counselor." Waving the slip of paper in the air is her only explanation, as Brooke turns to go, and disappears around the corner in the hallway, leaving Nathan and Haley behind, as the bell signifying the start of the period rings.

IIIIIIIII

"I hope this doesn't feel too forced, Ms. Davis," says Mrs. Evans, the young guidance counselor, as she offers Brooke the chair on the opposite side of the desk.

Brooke sits down awkwardly, placing her bag on the floor, and choosing to stare at a chipped portion of the desk.

"It's just, we decided that we should check in with all the students when they returned to school, just to see how everyone is emotionally."

"That seems reasonable." She doesn't mean to sound as monotone as she does, but she realizes that Ms. Evans probably takes it that way, because the guidance counselor clears her throat and looks down at the papers on her desk.

"So, you're currently in a relationship with Keith Scott's nephew?"

Brooke just nods, not wanting to know how the administration knows this.

"How have the events of three weeks ago affected you? It must be difficult keeping a relationship afloat in light of the circumstances."

Brooke shrugs. "It's not so bad."

Ms. Evans probably assumed she'd get a more bubbly Brooke Davis. Brooke Davis, Student Body President and captain of the Raven's cheerleaders. Not Brooke Davis, mourning girlfriend of Lucas Scott, nephew of the deceased. But if she was in any way surprised by this unusual version of Brooke, she didn't let it show – simply moved on to the next question.

"What emotions are preoccupying your mind these days?"

Brooke contemplates the question and decides to give an honest answer. "I'm exhausted," she says, looking up. "Tired and cranky, and I can't sleep. Sad, anxious, depressed, lonely, confused, incoherent and dazed. Currently, I feel all of that."

Her voice cracks on the last syllable and she breaks eye contact with the counselor. Out of habit, Brooke reaches a hand up to fidget with the necklace dangling against her skin.

"Where's the necklace from?" It's clearly the only question Ms. Evans can think of right now, and this time, Brooke smiles sadly.

"Lucas gave it to me for our anniversary last month."

"How long have you two been together?" Ms. Evans asks softly.

"Almost six months."

She's just another student. Another student that this temporary crisis counselor they brought in has to evaluate. And Brooke realizes, that as Ms. Evans scribbles away on her page of notes, despite everything thought to the contrary (that this calm and toned down existence is just a phase), that this Brooke Davis is here to stay.

They said, "I bet they'll never make it"

But just look at us holding on

We're still together still going strong

IIIIIIIII

She lies, instead of forcing to tell the truth. "School was fine. I missed you, though," she adds as an afterthought.

They run some more, and Brooke's forgotten how long it's been, and how far they've gone. It starts to rain, but they don't stop, simply splash through the puddles and run faster, like little kids attempting to dodge bullets.

Apparently they've run in a loop, because some how they're back at Lucas' house. The rain is coming down harder now, and Brooke aims for the house, but looks back after a few seconds when she realizes that Lucas isn't with her.

He's standing on the corner, looking somewhat put out. Worried, Brooke moves over to him, and gently touches him across the shoulder.

"You okay?"

He nods. "It's just, I haven't really thought about him much, Keith. I mean, I've remembered him, and I've realized that he's gone, but I haven't really thought of him."

She's confused, but she doesn't show it. Instead, she takes his hand, and they sit down, right there on the curb, feet in the gutter. They are both silent for a but, and then Brooke lies her head on his shoulder.

"Talk to me, Luke," she whispers with a sigh.

When he finally speaks, it's in a strangled voice that just kills her. "I just, haven't thought of him presently. Like, where he is now." He turns to her, lost, broken, confused. Searching for answers. "Where do I put him, Brooke?"

She breathes in deeply. In that moment her lack of faith in any superior being doesn't matter. The fact that she believes Keith to be gone, just, gone, an idea that scares her to no extent, doesn't matter. All she sees are blue eyes, blonde hair, and a lost soul. A beat, and then Brooke lays a hand over Lucas' heart.

"Put him everywhere."

You're still the one

You're still the one I run to

The one that I belong to

You're the one I want for life

IIIIIIIII

He follows her through his side door, into his bedroom, and they both trail water across the floor, but neither of them care. They had sat on the corner for 15 minutes, just talking, working through their different emotions, and in those 15 minutes, he had laughed and cried, both more than once.

Brooke pulls off her sweater, planning to shower. She's laughing about something, but Lucas can't remember what. He just realizes that he's missed her smile, and her laugh. Her dimples, the way her eyes light up when she's happy.

She disappears into the bathroom, and he already misses her. Aches for her. Pulling his shirt over his head, he follows.

He catches Brooke right before she steps into the tub. She's stripped down to just her sports bra and sweats, and her hair is wet and tangled, hanging down well past her shoulders. She's got rosy cheeks and tired circles under her eyes, but he's never wanted her more.

Lucas grabs a hold of her arm, and as she turns, he meets her in a soft kiss. She seems pleasantly surprised, and abandons her efforts to turn on the stream of water, instead reciprocating, pushing her lips harder against his.

He backs her up against the cool tile of the bathroom wall, and their tongues meet in a mess of warmth and wetness. He savors the crevices of her mouth, remembers how much he loves the softness of her lips.

When they break apart after a few minutes, he lays his forehead against hers. "God I missed you," he whispers against her skin, in a way that makes her ache and crave for him, and his fingers dance to the bottom edges of her sports bra.

Brooke hesitates briefly, but then seems to come to a decision. Lifting her arms over her head, she gives him permission to pull the material off her body. Throwing the bra to the floor, he leans in and kisses her once more, spanning her waist with his fingers and pressing his bare chest flush up against hers.

She sighs against his lips and runs her fingers through his short hair. Lucas, in one fell swoop, lifts her into the air, and her legs immediately and subconsciously wrap around his waist. With the greatest of ease, he moves into the bedroom, and gently lies her down across his bed, tenderly moving on top of her as her lips extend upwards to meet his.

Seconds pass. Maybe minutes. Lucas has lost track of time, and the only thing in the world to him is the girl lying beneath him. But finally, he pulls away, and presses his fingers against her swollen lips, his eyes narrowing with a kind of sadness.

Brooke props herself up on her elbows and meets his gaze, completely comfortable at sitting topless in front of him. "What is it?"

Lucas supports himself with his own elbows, and reaches out to run a hand through her hair. "Nothing, it's just, sometimes it hurts how much I love you."

Cheesy? Yes. But honest nonetheless, and Brooke's eyes fill with tears.

"I just, I – I can't lose you. You have to know that."

It's something he's reiterated to her more than once over the past few weeks, but she doesn't realize until now how serious he is.

"You aren't going to lose me," she responds firmly.

"But, I am never going to let anything happen to you, okay?" He seems so young and pure there, and Brooke's heart breaks at his words.

"Luke, you can't save me from everything," she says softly.

"I can try," he says, laying one, two, three kisses across her eyes, cheeks, nose and face. And then he's kissing her everywhere, down her neck, through the valley between her breasts, past her navel. It's lips and skin against lips and skin, whimpers and sighs, the sound of clothing being peeled off of wet bodies. It's her hand slamming against the headboard as he finally enters her and she bites her lip with a long suppressed moan. It's the feel of each other's presence so wholeheartedly, and the soft simplicity as they both arrive and tumble over the edge amongst quiet sighs and kisses.

You're still the one

You're still the one that I love

The only one I dream of

You're still the one I kiss good night

IIIIIIIIII

It's a whole different world out here, yet Brooke feels less detached than when they were still in Tree Hill. Because now she's surrounded by people trying to live in the present, and not dwell in the past. She's surrounded by friends, friends who would give up almost anything for her. She even has Rachel, who Brooke has learned to thank and appreciate for this weekend.

But most of all, she has Lucas.

Something has changed between the two of them. Haley is the first to notice it, but when she mentions it to Nathan and Peyton, they both agree. Brooke and Lucas aren't quite the same couple they used to be.

Sure they are still the horndogs they were before the shooting, dancing so ridiculously suggestively at the Sunkist club night that Haley had to pull them apart, and forgetting to lock doors, resulting in a very disgusted Nathan walking in on them in a compromising position Saturday afternoon. But they've calmed down. The young, angsty, hyperactive love between the two of them seems to have faded into something much quieter, and more beautiful.

Ain't nothin' better

We beat the odds together

I'm glad we didn't listen

Look at what we would be missin'

They will be at breakfast, Brooke eating her cheerios and Lucas munching on oatmeal, and they won't even be talking to each other, but Peyton will walk by and notice their hands intertwined under the table. Or during a ridiculous conversation one night about who has been caught having sex where, a quick glance will pass between Brooke and Lucas. A memory that they choose to not blurt out loud, because it's between the two of them. It's sacred.

They disappear after dinner on Sunday night, and it's understood amongst the friends to not ask where they're going. To just let them be.

They make their way out to the back porch, and Lucas pulls Brooke, along with a blanket, down on top of him on the porch swing. The stars are out, and the setting is the epitome of romantic, so romantic that neither of them want to go back inside.

They kiss for awhile, just because they enjoy the taste of each other, and Lucas traces patterns on her shoulder underneath the blanket. When they finally pull away, they just lie there, enjoying each other's presence, until Lucas speaks up.

"You see that star?" he asks, pointing up into the sky.

Brooke giggles. "Broody, there are like a million stars."

"Try a trillion," he murmurs into her skin. "But just pretend that I'm pointing to a specific one, okay? Do you see it?"

He can feel her smiling as she nods. "I see it."

"How would you feel if I told you that star was called Pretty Girl?"

Brooke giggles again and pushes his hand away. "Stop it, Luke."

To prove himself, he reaches into the pocket of his jeans and pulls out a slip of paper. It's faded yes, and wrinkled, and not nearly as beautifully decorated as he had hoped, but there it is. A certificate for a star called "Pretty Girl," with exact telescopic coordinates.

She's silent for a minute as she takes the certificate from him, and by the way they're sitting, he can't see her facial expression. But then she turns to him, her eyes full of tears, and he realizes the gesture may not have been as cheesy as he thought.

"Luke…"

"Wait." He isn't finished. Pulling her up off the swing, he leads her over to the porch steps, so they're standing in the direct moonlight. Then, with a preparing sigh, he reaches into his pocket once more and pulls out a small box.

A look of shock registers on her face, but before she can say anything, Lucas opens the box, revealing a white gold banded ring with a star-cut diamond.

"This isn't an engagement ring, Brooke. It's a promise ring. This past month you have given yourself so selflessly to helping me find my way back to who I am, and not once have you given up on me. I realized a while ago, that when my dreams come true, I want you standing next to me. It's you. And so," he takes the ring out of the box and, with tears streaming down her face she extends her hand and he slips it on to her finger. "I promise that I will protect you forever. I will love you forever. And not if, but when the day comes that I ask you to be my wife, and you say yes, that will be the day all my dreams come true. It's you."

She's crying for real now, and amidst a choked "I love you," she leans up and presses her lips against his. And even without the ring, or the star, or even the promise, she knows that she will love him forever. Because he's the one.

I'm so glad we made it

Look how far we've come my baby