Pairing: Brooke and vaguely LP.
Summary: "Her smile, it might just be lipstick".
Disclaimer: I don't own OTH and I don't think I even want to anymore.
Notes: This is unbeta'd and English isn't my native, so my apologies for any mistakes. The promised sequel is still in the works, sorry.
Lucas is gone, and Tree Hill sinks into a heat wave.
Brooke doesn't really believe the two are related but she wishes he'd hurry and come home, before the town tears itself apart from the miserable heat.
It's not because she misses him, or feels as if they're worlds apart instead of just three-hour flight. He doesn't belong to her; she has no right to her feelings of possession. She's just the girl to go to, his Lassie. The girl who fetched him things he needed, like Peyton.
But giving him to Peyton hurts more when he's not there to catch her, hold her up, to save her.
Or so it feels to her right now.
Lucas promised to call, to be there for when Angie's not there, but the first two days go by and the phone does not ring. And, well, Lucas made a lot of promises and never seemed to manage keeping any of them.
She's just a fool who falls for it every time.
Not that she's waiting for the phone to ring. She's got things to do, new sketches to draw, shooting practices to attend, crying herself to sleep, declaring a war on her mother, trying to make every inch of her body hurt less. There is no time to worry about what Lucas is doing with Peyton or why he hasn't called.
She knows why, she just doesn't like the answer very much.
She hopes that the others, especially Haley, appreciate Lucas taking the time out of his busy pining and brooding schedule to marry Peyton. She hopes he's tied up in Peyt's knots again. She hopes he knows what's important, hopes he doesn't remember what the past is, their past is.
She knows Haley is happy. She rings Lindsay, because that's what Haley does. She forgets Lucas' ex-girlfriends the moment the relationship is over. Doesn't mean she wasn't a true friend there for a while. Doesn't mean Brooke was hurt senior year, after she moved out of the apartment to let Naley consummate their resurrected marriage. She smiles in the phone.
Her smile, it might just be lipstick.
On the third day of the Golden Couple's absence, the temperature is a hundred and two degrees. Brooke's scars and bruises and heart don't seem to heal at all.
She goes out with Deb and empties two boxes of bullets, because her head aches with the need to see justice. Not poetic, she doesn't believe in poetry anymore.
The grit in her teeth is all that's left of the night's memory when they're done and gone to the funeral, and she wiggles her toes against the dust that settles in a fine layer over her sweat dampened skin. She knows she'll still have nightmares tonight.
Haley and Nathan cry in the aftermath of Q's wake, and it sounds distant to her, as though she's hearing it through a tin cup.
Shadow of the valley of death, indeed.
On the fourth day of The Absence, the temperature climbs to a hundred and six degrees. Brooke gathers her hair into a knot at the top of her head and jogs to the Rivercourt.
The air is stifling, not cool like she's thought it'd be from the river breeze, but she finds it comforting to be in his space, his world, if not his presence.
When she's done jogging she's wet with sweat, but the drawing on the concrete is freezing cold, and arranged neatly for her heart to break that tiny bit more. This is what his world has come to.
She thinks she'd like to watch him play here sometime, when he's not aware of her presence.
She's not sure he plays here anymore.
On the fifth day of The Absence, the temperature is one hundred and eight degrees. Brooke stares at the phone with her fingers pressed against her temples, and debates whether she should call him.
Things are the way they are.
On the sixth day, the temperature is one hundred and nine. The sun reflects off the windows of the Karen's Café/Cloths Over Bros, scorching on her skin.
She stands in the meager shadow of a plant she doesn't know the name of, and wonders about the desert between Tree Hill and Nevada. If there was a cool, shadowed place to meet in the middle of all that distance, where she can touch his hand, ask how he is.
She doesn't dream about him at night. He used to save her, if in her dreams. From it all. And that night, he doesn't. The heat stays even when the sun goes, and she can't sleep to dream.
On the seventh day she doesn't bother to check the temperature. Her period doesn't start and it's to early to panic. But isn't that just her life? She goes to the basketball practice out of misguided habit.
To be pregnant through something she still didn't name even in her own mind is true to her luck. She doesn't want to know why it happened to her.
Her lipstick smile is burning on that scratch like acid.
Pain explodes across her temple and she slumps to the grimy gym's floor as the basketball bounces away from her body. She pulls herself into a sitting position, waving away Nate's and Skillz' concerned looks, steadying her voice to tell them she is fine. They nod and return their attention to the team.
She sighs with relief, feeling the pressure in her head lessen slowly, painfully.
She takes herself home where she settles herself on her couch with a cool glass of water and a bottle of aspirin.
She's not sure if she'll be all right anymore, and through the pounding in her head she replies she'll be fine, she's not gonna cry. There is no way to tell any one of her friends that her pain has more to do with the distance between Tree Hill and Las Vegas than with the ache in her bruised and broken and violated body.
Silence can beat like a hammer, merciless and unending.
Her house does not have central a/c so all she can do is bring her fan out and set it on the highest setting. She lies on her couch feeling the heat suffuse every cell of her body. It makes her head pound harder and her throat scratchy with thirst.
She longs for the coolness of fall, for the autumn wind to sweep across her body like the touch of someone's hand. She's not sure somebody will ever touch her like that again, and she's not sure she'll ever let anyone to.
She drifts off to sleep and the heat follows her there, too. So does ache.
She stands in the middle of the sun, stands facing a Lucas she cannot touch, cannot reach. Guess some dreams stick to the truth. He tells her, in the distance between them, that he isn't hers, never was, and he is leaving, going back to the life he never wanted to leave, and she will have to be brave and live in Tree Hill without him or her best friend. She'll have to raise a child she's pregnant with all on her own.
She feels the tears trace a scalding path down her bruised face, hot enough to burn.
She could reach for him; grab fistfuls of his shirt and tell him with her eyes if not her words how much she needs him.
She never did.
Instead she watches as the distance grows between them and the sun burns and burns her. In her grief, she thinks it would be a good thing to burn up, to not feel the pain squeezing her body, her heart, to free Lucas in all ways.
To free herself from the ache that never ended, from the pictures of the two people she loves the most not loving her back like she wants them to, from the memories of the hard smelly body hammering her into her other dream's floor that stay with her long after she wakes up, or does she even ever wake up…
But even as she watches Lucas walk away, she knows that she's not going anywhere.
With or without him, she probably always will.
There is painful peace in the assertion, and she feels the approval of something bigger than herself, like puffs of cooling air that feel like caresses on her cheeks, her brow.
She comes back to herself and opens her eyes.
The first thing she sees is Luke's concerned face hovering over her.
"Hey," she whispers through a cracked throat, her tongue like cotton. Her limbs are weighted with wet heat, and she feels like her yoga pants and t-shirt are suffocating her in cotton and spandex.
"Hey," he greets her as though no time has passed. "We knocked but you didn't answer. Peyton had to use her key."
"When did you…" She tries to get up but finds she's too weak to do it, though the ache in her head is gone. Lucas grabs her arm, hand cupping her elbow, and pulls her to a sitting position. His skin feels as cold as the snow in Aspen, and her flesh nearly hisses at the contact. Her newfound instinct is stronger then all of her old ones and she flinches and jumps away from touch, from his touch. "When did you get back?"
"About five minutes ago?" He scrutinizes her, his face lined with worry. "How long have you been sleeping? Haley told me you took a hard fall a couple of days back; you look pretty bad." He used to think she was pretty, period. Or not, pretty was followed by girl and sounded like my girl instead of a compliment.
She's not sure he meant it.
Brooke, however, still does. Still is.
He gets up and walks away, a long figure with a shining ring on his finger, heading for her kitchen. She watches him with something like wonder.
He's really in her house, the time he was gone already fading like a memory.
She gives that breathing thing another try then.
And she's not really surprised that it doesn't work.
She gets up on legs like noodles and reaches over the back of her bed, tugging on the latch of her windows until they give.
Cool air rushes in at her and she closes her eyes in bliss, feeling as though God's blessed rain has found her in the middle of a desert.
The heat wave has broken and Tree Hill sighs in relief.
She turns and watches as Lucas comes back with a pack of ice in his hand.
He gazes at her with something like longing, though it can't be.
"We missed you, Brooke, we wished you'd be there at the wedding," he says in the quiet between them. As if picking up a phone and asking her to come never occurred to either of them. As if her heart can shatter even more.
Apparently, it can.
The cool air swirls around her.
Even the weather in Tree Hill is pro-Leyton.