Sorry again it's taken a while, but this time I have a good excuse. I'm in London, looking for a place and a job! So that's enough to make a person suddenly don't have any more free time, right? =D Which reminds me... anyone from London, or near? I don't know many people here! ^^ Anyway, like I said before, the story is on its way to an ending now - finally, I know - so I'm trying to get it done soon so that I can focus on amazing Faberry goodness! My new obsession, so bear with me! lol!

Since the story is almost over, it would be great to know what you're thinking and if I'm missing something or if there's anything I need to work on. This story means a lot to me, and I want it to be the most it can be! Let me know, ok? And thanks for reading!

Chapter 29 – Solid ground

I loved it when I closed my eyes and the last thing I saw was Peyton's face. I loved it because it usually led to dreams of her, so I didn't have to stop seeing her, even in my sleep. I loved waking up and feeling her arms around me and seeing her smiling softly – because she always seemed to wake up only a few minutes before I did.

That day, though, I couldn't really enjoy any of that, because I woke up to the loud thud of what sounded like bricks falling to the floor. Before I could focus my eyes, I heard her voice. "Come on, boss! Rise and shine!" and was instantly met with a soft pillow being throw my way. I couldn't process what was going on, but there was really no need for that when it came to Rachel. She made herself noticed.

"Rachel," I blinked a few times, trying to adjust to the light of day now that she had opened the curtains to keep me from even thinking about going back to sleep, "What… what time is it? How did you get here, and where is…"

Before I could finish the question, I saw Peyton, fully clothed, leaving the bathroom with a toothbrush on her mouth, kicked out by Julie who apparently couldn't wait to go. She smirked at me and headed to Julie's room to resume what she was doing.

"How long have I been sleeping?" I asked, looking around, and finally letting my eyes rest on my friend who stood in front of me.

"Too long," Rachel grinned, "Come on, I thought we had a meeting!"

I raised my eyebrow at her, "We kinda do, but all they said was to take you there to see them when you got here, they didn't even say the time."

"Well, they said 'when I got here', didn't they?"

"Can I just… wake up for a while?" I yawned heavily, more from the surprise of having all these people in my room than actual tiredness. Finally getting up to get some coffee that someone appeared to have picked up for me, I looked at my red haired friend and smiled. "It's good to see you," I gave her a quick hug, "Even when you wake me up like that," I quickly grabbed the pillow she'd thrown and hit her with it, surprising her as I did so. When she looked at me in shock, I smirked.

Just as I did, Peyton came back to the room. "Looks like she didn't let you sleep much longer, huh?" she smiled and made her way across the room, closer to where I was, picking up the coffee and handling it to me. "Coffee, black, little bit of sugar, the way you like it," she pecked my lips quickly and I had to smile.

"You're my angel," I motioned to the coffee and drank almost half of it at once. Julie left the bathroom and Rachel got in.

"Be careful, they're being all cute and nauseating," she whispered to Julie, but loud enough for us to hear.

Julie laughed. "Believe me, I can live with that. It's better than when I…"

"Ok," Peyton interrupted them, and I loved her for it, "Julie, why don't you go to your room and… whatever! We'll go get you before we go out."

She shrugged. "Fine, just don't forget Rachel's in the bathroom…" she grinned and closed the door before we could reply.

And then it was finally a little quiet in the room. "Wow… I feel like a tornado passed by," I smiled and let Peyton wrap her arms around my waist, taking advantage of the proximity to rest my head on her shoulder. "What happened, anyway? Rach was supposed to call me and I'd go get her."

"She did," Peyton said, softly moving to kiss the top of my head, "I was already up and you looked like you were so happy sleeping that I didn't want to wake you. So Julie and I picked her up at the airport."

I moved so that I could look at her. "You didn't have to, really." I took another sip of my coffee. "But thanks. And yes, I was sleeping very happily, dreaming of you until the red haired tornado showed up."

The blonde simply put her hands up. "Well, you were the one who asked her to come, it was certainly not me," and for a moment I worried that she was gonna bring that discussion up again, but I was relieved to notice her tone was playful.

"So… she and Julie?"

"They were like instant best friends, it was the scariest thing ever!" Peyton looked genuinely scared for a second, and then smiled again. "I figured you've been working hard lately, and you deserved some more time sleeping… and some decent coffee too."

"Best girlfriend ever," I whispered before setting the coffee aside and leaning in to kiss her, this time a little more than a peck.

"God, Julie was right", Rachel mumbled, leaving the bathroom and going to get something on her bag, not bothering to even look at us.

"Not jealous, I hope," Peyton grinned, to my surprise.

"Yeah, Brooke wishes!" she shot back, and I noticed, amused, as the expression on Peyton's face changed and she seemed ready to lunge at Rachel.

I got a stronger hold of her, afraid she would keep her promise and actually punch the other girl. "Rach, honey, don't you wanna go change in Julie's room while I change here?" I tried to send her my sweetest smile, but one who also said 'I'm your boss and you're in trouble'.

Never taking the smile off her face, she grabbed a couple of things and left. I sat back in bed, already tired, and Peyton sat right next to me. "She makes it hard not to want to hurt her sometimes," Peyton commented, letting her fingers brush through my still messy hair, but her tone was light hearted.

"Sorry about that," I bit my lower lip, but her expression matched mine in a soft smile.

"She's a lot to take," she started, and I found myself agreeing despite myself, "But she's your friend, and you're amazing for helping her like this." When she noticed the confusion on my face with the sudden change, she laughed, "Don't look at me like that, you were right. We've worried enough, and there's no point in making things harder than they have to be."

"I couldn't agree more."

She clapped her hands, ruining the comfortable silence that had fallen between us, "Now come on, get changed because she's not gonna stop until she's talked to your bosses. Plus, Julie's pretty excited to go to the Victoria's Secret headquarters, too."

"And who said she's going?" I raised my eyebrow and she looked guilty as charged. "Why would you do that?" I whined.

"Because I'm a bit curious, too?" she smiled apologetically, "And I don't think it's fair that Rachel gets to see it and I don't. Come on, relax," she slapped my arm lightly, "Of course we're not going to the actual meeting, we're just gonna be around, we'll stay at the reception." She seemed pleased with herself for finding a solution, and then wrapped an arm around my shoulders, bringing me closer. "And then we can go grab some lunch, and then ditch the other two and have some cheesy romantic walk around Central Park," she kept leaving a trail of kisses from my cheek to my collarbone, making it impossible for me to even form any coherent thought.

X – X – X

"Did you see the size of that office?" Peyton talked excitedly as we left the building.

"I know, and that was what? The secretary's office? Because there seemed to be another door after that one…" Julie completed.

"How would you know? You weren't even there!" Rachel said smugly.

"For your information, I took a peek when they opened the door to call you two in!" Julie replied promptly, causing Peyton to nod approvingly and myself to giggle.

To reunion had been good, but they seemed to be hoping Rachel would be a plus size model, which she was pretty far from. I managed to convince them the plan was clothes for real people, any kind of people, and they got onboard, but announced they would look for a plus size model, too, to complement the campaign, which was a part of my plan all along, so I agreed immediately. Rachel was more than happy to sign the papers and become officially hired by them. My line wouldn't be out for a while, since we were still preparing everything, so they offered her the possibility of working for other collections right away. She was a bit apprehensive at first, but unless she wanted to go back to LA until my clothes were ready, she didn't have a choice.

"Are you sure it's ok?" she asked me for the third time that morning, but the first since we left the building and rejoined the other girls.

"Is what ok? What happened?" I noticed a hint of worry as Peyton asked the question.

"It's nothing, it's just that Rachel's starting right away, modeling for another campaign until mine's ready to be launched," I replied to my girlfriend first, and then turned back to answer the original question, "And yes, it's fine. I mean, of course I would prefer it if you had your debut with my own line, but I get it, really. You can't stay in LA anymore, and you can't possibly stay here for the next weeks without a job, so it's kinda perfect, right? Plus," I smiled as we kept talking, "That way you'll be a total pro by the time you're working for me," I elbowed her upper arm softly, and that seemed to convince her.

"So Rachel!" Peyton addressed the girl, and I knew the banter would start again. I rolled my eyes in anticipation, "Now that you have a job and everything… when are you taking your stuff out of our hotel room and find your own place, huh?" she smiled sweetly, and by then I had given up on those two and just let it go on.

"As soon as your girlfriend tells me to," she grinned back, reaching for my arm to lock hers with, "She is my boss now, after all."

When Peyton gave me the eye of shame, I shrugged. "I give up, you two," I spoke as I set my arm free from Rachel's grasp, "Can make as many smart ass remarks as you want, I won't get in the middle of it!"

I saw as Peyton's jaw dropped. "You're not even defending your girlfriend against her?" she pointed at Rachel as if she was the devil.

"Honey, you were the one who started it this time," I whispered softly so that only she would hear, and she frowned, but quickly softened again when I tangled my arm in hers and turned my head back to shove my tongue at Rachel, a gesture she quickly returned.

"And I'm the fifteen year old," Julie rolled her eyes. "So Brooke, you're going back to Tree Hill now, to set everything up?"

"You know, I have no idea…" I answered truthfully. "I do need to find a place here, but I also need to get all my stuff and see everybody… so much to do!" I whined, resting my head on Peyton's shoulders as we walked. She laughed quietly and leaned her head to the side to touch mine.

"I'm starving, who's up for some lunch right now?" she turned to the other girls, who immediately agreed, and I silently thanked her for changing the subject. I loved the idea of living in New York, but sometimes I found myself wishing this amazing opportunity would have presented itself at least a year from now. At the moment, it was all happening at the same time and there was no slowing anything down, it was scary to think of a way to handle everything at once. "The least you can do is take the rest of the day off," she whispered and I nodded happily.

X – X – X

"Brooke, I was thinking," Rachel spoke with half a chicken wing on her mouth, which earned a grossed out look from the rest of us and a bit of an apprehensive one from me, wondering if her line of thought had anything to do with making Peyton want to punch her in the face again. She resumed eating and continued, "I'm already here, and I'm already staying. So maybe I can… you know, look around, find us a place. Take care of these things so that you and your possessive girlfriend," she emphasized the last words, looking at Peyton with an amused laugh, "can have some more time together before you move." The whole table went silent, all eyes on her as we processed the completely unexpected good gesture coming from the red haired. "What?" she asked indignantly, "I can be nice, you know?" and with that, she took another bite of the food.

I was still trying to recover from that when Peyton spoke. "Wow… thanks," she said, still sounding astonished, and looked back at me with the biggest smile, "What do you think?"

"Is there even anything to think? It would be perfect!" I nearly skipped from my seat to hug Rachel, but decided it would be better to just wrap an arm around her shoulders in a quick side hug. "Thanks, really. Oh, and don't forget to find a big place with a double room for me, because Peyton will be there a lot. And then permanently, I hope." I focused back on my girlfriend, grinning, and gave her a quick kiss. "We could go back to Tree Hill tomorrow. Unless you want to stay for a little longer?"

"I think we'll stay here long enough in the future," she smiled. "Let's go back home."

We both looked at Julie, who was now paying full attention to the conversation. "You'll come with us, too, of course," I said, before she had to ask and, with a small smile, she nodded, but remained quiet.

"I'll call my dad and let him know," the younger girl spoke after a moment of silence, and then got up and left the table with the cell.

Rachel turned to follow Julie with her eyes, and then turned back to us, pointing at the direction she had just gone to. "What's with her?"

"She's… going through some things at home, and doesn't really want to go back."

"Well, she came to the right people, then, didn't she?" Rachel grinned, although there was some bitterness on her voice, "Between the three of us, we're pretty much the club of the broken homes."

Peyton opened her mouth to say something, but only sighed instead. "Can't say it's not true," she finally said, agreeing with Rachel.

When ten minutes had passed and Julie still hadn't come back, I went to check on her, and wasn't surprised to find her sitting on a bench outside, seemingly lost inside her own mind. I sat next to her quietly and she leaned her head to rest it on my shoulder. I brought my hand to her head and brushed through her hair. "You ok?"

Instead of the answer I was expecting, she bit her lips, a bit apprehensive. "My dad told me something… and I don't know how you're gonna feel about it."

"Me? What would your dad say that could change anything for me?"

"Vince…" she started, carefully, "Vince is on his way here."

"Oh! That's… unexpected!" I seriously didn't know what to make of this new piece of information. "And why is he coming here again?"

"Dad told him I was here and he got worried… He actually called me a couple of times last night, but I didn't pick up," she had guilt plastered all over her face now, and I just looked at her with a raised eyebrow. "Don't give me that look, I just… didn't want to talk. Obviously, I didn't think he would come all the way here!" she defended herself. "And you don't even have to see him, really."

"Oh, I have no problem seeing him, he's the one who might not be too thrilled to see me, considering how we left things last time." That will be awkward! After the initial thought, though, I figured it would be a good chance to talk to him and make things ok again between us. Not that we were that close, or talked much, but he was a nice guy and it would feel good to put those things behind us. "When is he getting here anyway?"

"Three hours, give or take."

"And I assume he's calling you once he's here?"

She shrugged. "Probably, I think."

"Ok then, when he does, tell him to meet us, or just you, if he doesn't want to see me and Peyton. But I would actually be happy to talk to him," I smiled and she did the same.

"Thanks," she said truthfully, "I thought you'd freak out or something," her laugh wasn't nervous now, it had an ease to it that I had just realized was missing before.

I didn't want to, but I felt like it would be a good time to talk about the serious things again. "You do know that he's probably coming here to take you back home, right?" the words came out carefully, but with her nod, she showed me she already knew.

"It's ok…" seeing my puzzled look, she explained, "I mean, I would love to stay away from it all, to run from this as much as possible. I would love to hide in Tree Hill or New York and bother you until it didn't hurt anymore."

"But…?" I eyed her intently.

"They're my family, right?" she smiled quietly with a small shrug. "I'll try to talk to them about it when I'm back. About the fights and the yelling and… everything. And hopefully things will get easier."

"And the drugs?"

She shook her head quickly. "It was a stupid thing to do. I know we haven't talked too much, but just being here, away from all that, it helped me a lot. I think I just needed to find some peace again, some solid ground."

I found myself smiling at her words. "Wow, I never thought I'd be someone's solid ground. Things have always been… muddy in my life!" I grinned.

"You're kidding, right?" she chuckled, and then pointed to where Peyton was sitting, "I don't even know her, and even I can tell. You've always been hers."

I looked across the glass door, letting my gaze linger on Peyton as she talked to Rachel. They were both laughing and seemed to be getting along great, which made me wonder for a while if the bickering happened only when I was around, with the sole purpose of annoying me. But even that thought made me smile. "Yeah… she's always been mine, too."