Title: Comedy of Errors (Or, How The Window Brought Them Together)
Rating: PG-13 (language)
Disclaimer: Don't own 'em!
Pairing: Peyton/Brooke
Genre: Drama, Comedy, Romance
Spoilers: Um, up to 4x16, "You Call It Madness But I Call It Love"
Teaser: Brooke panics, Peyton is scared and a window is stuck...


Peyton was leaving, and Brooke was floundering beneath the weight of what it meant.

Slamming her car door shut, nearly tripping and falling onto her face when her foot caught on the curb, the brunette strode with increasing purposefulness towards the front door. Her legs didn't want to, however, leaving her to keep slowing, despite her best attempts not to.

Brooke didn't like when her nerves went against her, didn't appreciate it.

They were her nerves, damn it, and were supposed to do what she said.

Making her way to the door, swiping a hand across the dark fabric of her slacks, she raised her hand, hesitated, and then forced herself to knock, sharp noises that seemed to match her negative mood. When there was silence, she gritted her teeth, and knocked harder, glaring at the door as if it was all the door's fault.

It wasn't but, hey, she needed something to blame.

Half a year of these half-hearted attempts at starting a conversation when she ran into her, only to be brushed past as if she was nothing. She had called, once or twice, and she had tried to e-mail, in some faint and painful hope of being answered.

Peyton wasn't supposed to not care about her.

Brooke had gritted her teeth at the feel of that void where Peyton had been, and finally gone quiet.

Peyton was there, in town, and even as ugly as things were, things had been ugly before, and things would be fine if she was just patient. She'd wake up one day, and they'd friends again, and Peyton would be there, wicked grin and fragile heart right beside her, trusting her with both.

Brooke had been patient, sure that things would work out— because she wanted them to.

Peyton was leaving.

Peyton was not supposed to leave, not allowed to leave.

"Peyton, open the goddamn door!"


Peyton, box in front of her half-packed with CDs, went completely still, frowning for a moment before she reached out and turned down the radio beside her bed, bewildered. But there was nothing, no hint of anything, and she reached out again, ready to turn it back up.

"Peyton, open the goddamn door!"

She nearly jumped out of her skin, thrown by the high-pitched and enraged quality behind the shriek, sounding not unlike nails on a chalkboard. Climbing out of the bed was difficult, and she had to catch a handful of shiny plastic cases before they went crashing down to the floor. "Peyton, open the door or I will break it down!"

Yeah, right, and kill herself trying...

Grinding her teeth, stumbling over a box, she finally made it the window, yanking it open and peering out, seeing nothing for a heartbeat before Brooke was suddenly there, with a major case of bed head and wearing her shirt inside out. And barefoot, oddly enough.

"Open the door!" she yelled, gesturing furiously, and Peyton could just stare, wide-eyed, not quite sure at what she was seeing and not at all sure of what to make of it. There was something faintly dangerous about the look on Brooke's face, something that spoke of a loss of sanity on certain fundamental levels. "Open the door!" she repeated, and slammed a bare foot down on the grass.

What did the grass ever do to her, anyway?

Peyton gave the brunette the hardest look she could manage, shook her head since she couldn't quite trust her voice and slammed the window closed. Yanking the curtains shut, she strode back to her bed and dropped back down, turning the volume high as it could go.

Just a few more days, and the insanity of Brooke Davis would be over.

It was between tracks, and while searching for Jagged Little Pill that she finally picked up on the sudden clatter of an object striking the window. Wasn't egg, though— sounded like something small but heavy, and painful to be struck with. "Jesus," she hissed, and strode back over, hearing a barrage of the pebbles clatter against the glass.

They stopped when she yanked open the curtains, revealing Brooke with that same deranged look on her face, and with a long sigh, she pulled her window open again, leaning out enough to settle a dark look on the pissed young woman below her.

"I thought your thing was eggs?"

"Open the door!"

"Don't want to," Peyton bit out, heart doing an odd little dance move in her chest, not quite sure of how to deal with that determined and slightly terrifying look on the face of someone she had cared about more than words could say.

Still did, when she could stop hurting long enough to feel it.

"We need to talk, open the door!"


"You're going to regret this!" Brooke yelled, stabbing up at her with one finger. "You can't ignore me anymore! I'm not going to put up with this! You can't treat me like this!" Peyton's jaw dropped slightly, dazed by the audacity of it all, holding onto the windowsill so she wouldn't fall out and kill herself in shock.

And then, with one last lethal look, Brooke Davis spun and strode away, long legs carrying her quickly out of sight and down the street. When Peyton managed to look out, there was no sign of her and she swallowed, hands trembling with a mix of heady relief and sharp hurt.

Good, though, in the long run... just a few days left before she could get away.

She slammed the window shut so hard it rattled, sure it was finished now, that Brooke was done.

Yes, it was good, she assured herself as she pressed palms against her face, struggling to get her breathing steady again, shaking with too many too strong emotions. Brooke was too sharp, cut her too deeply when she cut her, and as long as she was around her, she'd want to cling to that because even if it hurt it was Brooke.

She was so tired of that hurt, though.

So deep in thought was she that it took her several minutes to completely hear the clattering below. Swearing raggedly, turning, she went still again, brows wrinkling when the clattering continued but no sign of pebbles passed on the other side of the glass.

What the fuck—

She shrieked, her hands flying up in surprise when a palm slapped against the glass with one last crash. A moment later, Brooke's scarily determined gaze was there, looking slightly terrified but ridiculously steady as she gripped the outside ledge, glaring in at Peyton. "Oh, my God..."

"Open the door!"

Tripping her way over to the window, horrified, Peyton shook her head furiously, gesturing desperately. "Get down!" she half-shrieked, scrabbling at the catch on the window, trying to unlock it. "You're going to fall and die, you idiot!"

"Then let me in!"

"I'm trying!" Growling, she grabbed the metal and yanked with all the force she possessed, sure it would work— all she did was break her nail, tugging a shriek of startled pain out of her. "Ow!" she yelped, sucking on her abused thumb as she slammed her other palm against the lock. "Fucker!"

"Oh, my God, are you okay?" Brooke barked, sounding frighteningly possessive, and before Peyton had even answered, she had slammed her own hand against the window, looking very much like she wanted to kill it by the most painful means possible.

It occurred to Peyton, sucking on her thumb and staring through the glass at Brooke, how surreal the situation had quickly become— Brooke on a rusty old ladder outside her window, attacking said window for breaking Peyton's nail while Peyton was trying to open said window to drag Brooke in before something horrible happened.

Surreal, and completely insane.

Not just insane, but the Brooke Davis kind of insane.

"Get down!" she ordered, pointing furiously downwards but Brooke shook her head like a stubborn child, jaw set and eyes narrowed. The sudden vision of the other girl setting up stake out there, surviving on Twinkies and rain water made her close her eyes and groan, pressing fingers against her temples. "Brooke, please get down—"

"Just open the window!"

"I can't!" the blonde growled, and smacked the glass angrily, scowling. "Look, just climb down, and I'll let you in, okay?" Brooke just stared back, gnawing a lip, and Peyton sighed again, more tiredly, shoulders slumping. "You need help getting down, don't you?"

Brooke nodded, looking properly chastised and, with a weary noise, the blonde gestured heatedly at the sill, pathetically grateful when the other girl obeyed the silent order, grabbing onto it with a white-knuckled grip. "And don't fall on me when I get out there," she added darkly, fleeing her bedroom and diving downstairs, unlocking the front door and stepping out to stare up at the lovely insanity that was Brooke.

"This is insane," she muttered, shaking her head tiredly and reaching out to steady the ladder, allowing her friend— her former friend to climb down one shaky step at a time. When bare feet finally settled on the ground, Peyton allowed herself to breathe again, scratching her neck. "Go away."

"We need to talk."

"I don't have anything to say to you—"

"You can't leave," Brooke blurted out in a ragged voice and she gave a groan of frustration. "You can't go," Brooke repeated in a higher voice, looking faintly desperate, lunging forward a step and flapping a hand in panic. "We have to talk and we have to be friends again, and we have to die together with too many cats!"

Peyton stared, cocking one eyebrow, waiting for the punch line.

Looking bewildered, Brooke gave a hapless shrug, as if what she had said made any kind of kooky sense.

"How do you—" Brooke stared, looking overly innocent, and Peyton swore a bit more, cursing Lucas. "He told you?" She knew the answer already, didn't need it, and added his name to the list of people she needed to kill on the way out of town.

He knew too much to be allowed to live, yes.

But, wait—

How much had he actually told her?

She snuck a peek at the brunette, taking her in, and decided that while Lucas had been an ass and told her that she was leaving, he hadn't been a bigger ass and told her—

Told her about that other thing.


The silence was awkward—but strangely honest.

A weird contrast, Lucas decided, as he studied the way his fingers drummed awkwardly against his denim-clad legs. This really wasn't what he had expected, not in the least, when he'd set up the evening, and in no way or form had he ever imagined learning something like this.

But then—

Very cautiously, he flicked a glance at Peyton, and while he couldn't see her face, buried in her palms, there was a feeling in the way she huddled there that she was about to splinter into a thousand pieces of extremely stressed young woman.

It wasn't nice imagery, no.

"Are you sure?" he finally asked, feeling very sure of the fact that even if she wasn't sure, it was true. He had thought about it a few times, how touchy and feely they were, how often they spent cuddling up like, well... "Did I make you gay?" he worriedly asked, not quite sure what else to say.

The look she gave him, a glance through her fingers, was answer enough and he grimaced, setting a hand on her shoulder, not quite sure what else to do. She just looked so... depressed about everything, and he had seen her pretty depressed over the years. "Sorry, that was stupid," he finally murmured, and she nodded furiously, pressing a palm against her eyes weakly.

"What are you going to do about it?"

She gave him a rather teary look, and he heaved a massive but accepting sigh, coming to some decision as he reached out and smoothed his palm down messy blonde hair in what he hoped was a comforting move. "It'll all be fine, really," he finally offered, knowing it was a rather useless comment but hoping it helped anyway.

Peyton had already cried enough in her life.


Brooke, bare foot and looking only slightly saner than she had outside, trudged with stiff-legged grace into Peyton's home, slowing and stilling to glare hatefully at the stack of boxed heaped against the wall by the door. "I can't believe you," she muttered, hands braced on her hips and then stepping forward to kick the bottom box childishly. "This isn't funny."

"It doesn't have anything to do with you," Peyton snapped dryly, stepping forward and catching Brooke's arm, pulling her back when she went to give the boxes another kick, harder than before. "Stop that!" she hissed, pushing Brooke back when another kick was fired off. "Stop doing that!"

"No, I intend to trash your stuff so you can't leave—"


She must have realized have close Peyton was to grabbing her and shaking her, because with a final look of violent hate at the boxes, she shifted one hip forward and crossed her arms over her chest, looking extremely irritated. "I can't believe you're doing this to me."

"It has nothing to do with you," Peyton gritted out slowly, working very hard to keep her voice steady as she turned away from Brooke to check that her possessions were still alive. And to keep from staring at Brooke... Brooke, looking like she cared about her, like she wanted things to be the way they had been before.

"You don't have to leave, okay?"


"Come on—"

"What did Lucas tell you anyway?" Peyton asked, voice impressively calm as she smoothed too-still fingers across the brown tape that ran across the top, checking it even though it was fine. "That I was weepy or something, or did he just decide to butt in like an ass?"

"He called me up this morning, and it took me a half an hour to figure out what he was trying to say," the brunette muttered darkly, balancing on one foot as she picked at the toes on the other. "And then he just said that you were leaving, and said something about trying to fix something, and then he hung up on me."

"That's all he said?" she asked, feeling a bit woozy with relief, and glanced over her shoulder again, finding Brooke now working at her other foot, dusting off the dirt. "I mean, that's everything he said?" and Brooke gave a nod, settling back on both feet and looking a bit calmer than before, as if she was sure that she was going to win this argument.

Except, this wasn't even an argument.

Peyton needed to leave before she broke, and did something extremely stupid.

She'd been confused for so long she hadn't even realized she had been confused in the first place and Brooke was standing over there and it felt like it had for years, before, just the two of them against the world in all their dorky but loving glory.


It almost felt like Brooke wanted things to be the same as they had been before, except she didn't want that anymore, not really. She knew that what she wanted was more than before, but it wasn't at the same time, which only confused her even more.


She jerked, blinked, shook her head and rubbed at her eyes to clear her suddenly blurry vision. "What?" she mumbled, swallowing down the lump in her throat and forcing herself to look at Brooke, take her in despite the sharp pain it brought out.

"You don't want to leave," the brunette blurted out in a slightly high-pitched-with-giddiness voice. "I can see it on your face, I know, you don't want to leave!" When Peyton shook her head and forced a completely insincere grin, Brooke just brushed right past it, darting forward to set her palms on bare arms, shaking her slightly. "You're acting crazy, blondie!"

Brooke had no idea, none, how crazy she was feeling at the moment.

"This really isn't any of your business," Peyton snapped, twisting out of Brooke's hold quickly, arms burning where warm palms had touched. "We're not friends anymore, remember?" When she got nothing but a dirty look in response, she added hastily, "Just because we had a few bonding moments— I mean, it doesn't change anything, okay?"

"That doesn't mean I want you to leave."

Brooke wasn't supposed to say that, and she hadn't expected it even though a tiny part of her had desperately been praying she would, that she'd say it and mean it and not ever regret it. Brooke's eyes were steady, and almost too bright, and she recognized the glint of determination for what it was.

"I have everything set up already," she sputtered helplessly, shaken by that look, by that sudden change in the way Brooke stood, something exciting and terrifying, all at the same time. "And you have nothing to say about this, you really don't, because contrary to your popular opinion, the world does not revolve around you."




Yes, but times like these called for such measures, and Peyton had reached the edge of her sanity over the last few months. She'd been aware of it building, tightening, smothering her with the weight of it, but she hadn't expected it to come down on her like this, ripping her apart like this, leaving her drowning in the feel of it.

Brooke would know, and, oh god, if she hated her for it— if she ran from it—

If she freaked, and left, for good...

"You're shaking."

"No, I'm not." She wrapped her arms around herself, clamping her hands on her elbows and gritting her teeth, but it didn't work. Her emotion was biting her back for her mistreatment if it, smacking her in the face when she needed it to quiet the most. "I'm fine."

"You don't want to leave."

No, I don't, never, but I have to because it can't be anything other you and me at each other's throats and I can't do that anymore, because it hurts too much, I can't do it anymore— "I know what's best for me, not you," she gritted, fighting down a touch of guilt lacing her, catching her breath at the way Brooke's eyes darkened in response at the tone. "You do't know anything about me, not anymore."

"You're freaked about something—"

And Peyton's control snapped, backlash catching her breath as she surged forward and caught Brooke's arms and for a second, for a heartbeat, emotion threatened to get the better of her—

Sanity won, and she caught her control a second before she did something really stupid.

She shoved Brooke out the front door, heart warring against her body but her body won, finally managing to get the other girl out of the house, and slamming the door with a violet noise in her throat, a hitch of a sound. "Go away," she yelled, throat clogged with the now-familiar feel of panic. "You don't have any say in my life."

She said the words, choked them out, but her palms slid against the wood of the door, seeking smooth skin and dark hair, and she pressed an ear against the door, waiting for what she wanted to hear but was too terrified to ask for. "Peyton...?"

Brooke's voice sounded off, sounded odd and heavy with something and she closed her eyes against it, shaking, breathing harshly through her mouth since her nose was all blocked up suddenly. "Peyton, did you..." Abrupt silence on the other side of the door and she shuddered, feeling suddenly sick with relief when she heard Brooke flee, and then the sound of a car door slamming.

Peyton fled to her packing, half-blind, and counted down the hours until she was free of this.


The shriek had made her heart stop.

She'd heard it, high-pitched and frightened, as Peyton vanished from sight down the stairs, a blur of blonde hair and white cloth, taking Brooke's heart with her. The psycho had followed her down, helped by gravity and the brunette that had thrown herself at him, blinded by the sudden surge of emotion, catching the barrister before she went down with him. She'd stumbled down past him heartbeats later, half-tripping her way to Peyton's side, finding her groaning but, oh, god, alive!

Even now, hours later and calm on the outside, her heart still hadn't completely recovered and she sat awkwardly in the hard plastic hospital chair, staring down at her single broken nail. She had broken it sometime between getting caught by that psycho and winding up here, trying to keep Peyton's hand in her own as they pushed and pulled the blonde towards an examination room, worried that she had been injured beyond bruises and a few cuts.

Lucas had gone pushing past her the next second, rushing to his girlfriend's side in a way that made the brunette's heart stutter with a fragile kind of jealously. She'd stood there rather dumbly for a few minutes before a nurse had managed to lead her away, trying to check her over for any major injuries of her own. Her finger hurt, and their dresses were ruined, and her head hurt and Lucas was holding Peyton's hand like he had a right to and Brooke was almost sick with it all.

Tired, too, really tired and really sore and hungry, if she could ever stop feeling like she was going to puke.

"Peyton wants to see you."

And it just had to be Lucas, of all people, who had to invite her into her best friend's room?

No, not best friends, not anymore, Peyton was still mad at her—

She moved past him, smoothing palms rather weakly down her dress, feeling nervous as she moved more quickly towards Peyton's room, stepping in and quickly closing the door behind her, not caring if she smacked her ex in the face. "You look like shit," she finally managed, giddy at the sight of Peyton, bruised but, god, alive, and it was almost devastating, the kind of relief she felt at it—

"Thanks," Peyton sighed, and Brooke nodded dumbly, wanting to move closer but not wanting to at the same time. "My dress is trashed," the blonde murmured, and it looked like she was more heartbroken about that than anything else. It propelled her forward, almost tripping over her feet as she wrapped arms desperately around the blonde, closing her eyes with a tiny noise of relief when she felt palms finally settle on her back. "Peyton—"

Peyton pushed her back, smiling strangely as she levered Brooke away and back off the bed, shaking her head slightly. "I'm sore," she laughed nervously, and smiled again, that weird little curve of her lips that made Brooke's heart flutter nervously in her chest. "Hug me in a few days, okay?"

"I will—"

"You look okay," Peyton blurted out, swiping a mess of blonde from her eyes, sitting stiffly before Brooke and still smiling oddly. "I mean, you broke your nail and you messed up your hair, but you look okay." Brooke nodded, shifting from foot to foot, feeling suddenly confused by the look in Peyton's eyes, something void of anything other than friendly worry. "I… I mean, yeah, I'm okay, but—"

"I'm tired."

Brooke blinked, knowing she probably looked like an idiot but helpless to do anything else in response, standing there and gaping at the bruised young woman before her. "Peyton—" It came out as a squawk and she tried again, only to snap her mouth shut when the door opened and a nurse popped in, looking annoyed. "Ms. Sawyer needs her sleep."

And then Lucas slipped in, looking nervous.

"Sorry, she—" He threw another nervous glance at the nurse, squirming when the woman flicked him a sharp stare back. "She kept staring at me, so I let her in, sorry." Brooke opened her mouth, intending to shoo the woman off but Peyton was already nodding in agreement, gifting Brooke with a jerky little smile. "I'm tired, you should go—"


"Lucas can drive you home, okay?"


"I'll call you," Peyton snapped, and Brooke swallowed, suddenly weak with hope that she would. "Okay," she finally managed, nodding, giving in, exhausted, too tired to fight right now. "Okay, but— you will call, right?" and Peyton nodded, sliding down and allowing the nurse to help her settle down. "Sure, we'll talk soon."

Peyton never called her back, and Brooke, still exhausted despite the months that passed by, waited.


Peyton was, at times, like that pair of shoes that you could always depend on.

No matter what kind of horrible things happened or no matter what happened to your other shoes, as long as you had that pair, you'd be fine. They were reliable, and worn in a wonderful way, and they would never give out on you, not when you really, truly needed them. They were there, and they would always be there. Peyton was like the sling backs that she'd had for the last three years, always there when she looked for them.

Peyton had brought her that pair—she'd snuck off in the mall with a wicked grin and a twiddle of fingers and a few minutes later when Brooke had turned around, there had been the shoes. Lime-green, bright as could be, they had matched her favorite bikini at the time, not to mention several of her shirts and bags, and still went along just right with her favorite clothes.

Peyton was those sling backs, damn it.

It was a ridiculous image, and Brooke knew it, but there it was.

Hiding in her car, unwilling to get out and rejoin the world, Brooke Davis huddled, shaking, a raw kind of panic devouring whatever sense of foundation she had at the moment. Peyton was leaving, and she wasn't supposed to, and she wasn't even supposed to want to leave, not if it meant leaving her behind. She wasn't just panicked, though; she was confused, arms still burning where palms had slid against her skin.

Brooke felt suddenly hysterical from it, and Peyton was running away, and it wasn't fair.

Throat clogged with emotion, she twisted the keys in the ignition, turning the engine and pulling away from the curb where she had finally been forced to stop, unable to see for her tears. She took a rather messy turn, nearly hitting a mailbox, before she got the car right, heading back towards Peyton's.

Damn it, she wanted her friend back, even if Peyton didn't want anything else.


Peyton had thought about it, over the months, when it had happened, and no matter how hard she wracked her brain and dug into her heart, she couldn't figure out when it had happened. It should have come on her like fireworks or a train wreck or something that she wouldn't be able to miss, right?

Instead, it was like Brooke was just her arm or her leg, this part of her that had always been there but she'd never really realized was there until she'd lost it, found it missing. Now, sitting here and smoothing trembling hands across the wheel, she tried to figure out why Brooke wasn't there.

She knew, but it still felt wrong that she wasn't.

If she had been in her right mind, she would have heard the quick footsteps, and then the sudden noise of the passenger door being yanked open before Brooke's settled a downright wicked grin on the dazed-looking and wide-eyed blonde.

"We'll have to stop by Starbucks on the way out of town," Brooke announced dramatically, dropping into the passenger seat and bending into the backseat to set two massive duffle bags down. "I mean, I was able to drag my sorry corpse out of bed, but without coffee?"

Peyton stared, not quite sure what else to do, as Brooke opened her purse and pulled out a glasses case, snapping it open to display a brand new pair to the blonde. "Kind of cheap, but they'll work. Besides, you'll be driving the first, what, ten hours or so?"

"Uh— huh— what—"

"Close your mouth, blondie, you're catching flies." Peyton obeyed, not quite sure what else to do, and continued to stare, dazed but suddenly feeling... Hell, it had been forever since she had actually felt hopeful, hadn't it?

"Brooke?" she finally managed to choke out, her voice sounding slightly off, hoarse and high-pitched at the same time. Brooke didn't seem to find anything off about this sudden appearance, and Peyton snapped as loudly as she could, "Hey, ditzy!"


"What are you doing?"

Brooke, flipping her way through Peyton's CD case— and, hey, where'd she get that, anyway?—looked up from her search, looking at her friend as if she had grown an extra head. "I'm looking through the CDs, trying to find something worth driving to." She paused, frowned. "Oh, and I refuse to listen to this," she added, tapping one disc intently.



"What are you doing here?"

"Making sure you don't do anything stupid," she muttered, giving Peyton a look out of the corner of her eye. "I mean, you drive off and you get yourself lost and..." She stopped, and she swallowed and Peyton looked closer, realizing with an odd flutter that Brooke didn't look like she had slept.

She had done up her make-up but Peyton had years of knowing her under her belt; she looked closer, seeing the faint shadows beneath her eyes despite the impressive work done with cover-up. "Brooke?" she asked cautiously, and the brunette glanced up, an odd and unsteady glance that did funny things to her sense of control.

"I need to come with you, to keep you from doing anything stupid—"

"I'm a big girl—"

"Yeah, but you're my girl," Brooke laughed, and it sounded slightly deranged, shaky, as she flipped the CD holder closed and shoved a disc into Peyton's hand. "Like I said, you'll get lost or get kidnapped by another crazy Internet stalker guy, and who'll be there to beat his ass and save yours?"


"Peyton, do as I say!" and the tone was slightly desperate, and slightly familiar because of it. Peyton knew that tone, and she sat back, shaken, finally shooting a wary glance at Brooke. "You want to go with me?" she asked in as calm a tone she could, meaning more than that but not yet able to put those things into words.

"Well, I didn't stutter."


Brooke Davis knew, quite well, how insane this all was.

She'd driven back to Peyton's and parked outside the house for a good five hours, shaking and sweating and whimpering once or twice. She'd gotten out of her car once, and then went running back to it, swinging out of Peyton's driveway and away, trying to get control over herself.

McDonalds late at night, a cheap coffee at Dunkin Donuts just before it closed, and through it all, she proceeded to drive around dumbly, blankly, trying to make sense of things she had been avoiding for five months. She knew she wanted Peyton back, wanted her back at her side where she had been for such a long time that she had forgotten what it had been like without her there.

That, though, was all she was sure about.

How she wanted Peyton back at her side, she still wasn't sure.

The last months had been rather hellish, and she'd held out because she'd been so sure that Peyton would reach out to her again, would decide that they needed to give it all another go. That day, months before, she'd done what she was supposed to do, waited in the waiting room, waited for Peyton to want her back.

But if she was honest, she had known what Peyton had been doing, had recognized the frightened look in the blonde's gaze for what it really was. The fear had exhausted her, worn her down, left her shaken beneath the weight of it, the panic of losing Peyton in a way that neither of them could come back from and she'd been less than impressive in how she had handled the hurt that had followed.

So she had waited, and now Peyton was running away, and now she had a scary shadow of a reason why blooming in her head and in that place where Peyton was in her heart. It was such a big place, but so scary despite how long it had been there, and, really, who wanted something so scary?

Well, damn it, she did...

Brooke didn't know what she wanted to do with her life, but she was sure that she wanted Peyton there, one way or another, because she didn't quite feel like this girl names "Brooke" anymore when Peyton wasn't at her side. And if Peyton was leaving, running away, wasn't she the one who was supposed to run after?

Or, at the least, run right at her side?

Was she supposed to want to run after like this, a shaky but unyielding ache to follow wherever it was that Peyton was leading them? She didn't know, wasn't sure of anything anymore, but she felt that, and it had solidified as she had sat in her car, tears drying into a steely resolve she had almost forgotten about since Lucas had become such a heavy weight in her life, dragging her connection to Peyton down.

And now Peyton was staring at her, looking terrifyingly knowing—

"Are we going to go or not?" she whispered raggedly, and watched, shoulders tight, as Peyton licked her lips and stared hard at her, eyes impossibly deep. "Peyton—" She didn't finish, but didn't have to, Peyton nodding slowly and smiling strangely, looking lighter than she had in a long time as she shoved her keys in the ignition. "What are we going to listen to?"


"I'm not listening to her."

"You love her."

"I only put up with her because you like her, but we're not listening to her in my car."

And something had changed, shifted, balance altering in some way that left them both tense and calm at the same time, staring out the windshield as Peyton headed for the highway, assured that, despite everything, Brooke would always be around to shove depressing Indie music down her throat. It was refreshing, and while it wasn't perfect, there was an anchor, suddenly, a foundation that hadn't been there before.

Peyton headed for the highway, Brooke at her side.


January 21, 2008