Title: Passion Leaves a Trace
Pairing/Characters: kind of OOC-ish BJLP (that was alphabetic order).
Summary: "The days draw closer together, leaving no gaps, no spaces to hide into. The days draw closer together, and the sun sets too easy." AU after 6.04.
Rating: T that can become M at some point.
Disclaimer: Like I would want to touch that now?
Notes: This is unbeta'd and English isn't my native, so my apologies for any mistakes. I give no warnings except for the rating above, so you read at your own risk. Hard to believe that I started writing this pre-season 5. Obviously, the idea was slightly adjusted to suit the canon plot development, but I think it was good for the story. For those of you who enjoyed my previous multi-chaptered story, this is angst. Humor will be rare and far between in the nearest chapter (maybe later). Mark threw Brooke into a very dark place and then proceeded to ignore his own SL, and I felt cheated out of many intense scenes with Sophia. This is me trying to compensate. R&R, because this is not something I feel extremely secure about and I need your opinions.

Prologue. Little Girl Blue

I closed my eyes and closed myself
And closed my world and never opened up to anything
That could get me along…


This isn't a decision she's proud of.

Standing in swirling torrents pooling around her, ruining her Dior pumps, Brooke hopes Carrie Bradshaw, Holly Golightly and all the people at Hallmark die slow and painful deaths. There is nothing remotely romantic about soaking in the rain on Upper East Side. Her body is cold, wet and numb, but her mind's whirring with synapses crackling like burning tumbleweed.

She bargained with the devil herself and she hasn't yet decided if she lost. Yes, Brooke lost the company she gave at least five years of her life to, yet she gained a four hundred seventy eight million dollars, and yes, she even thought that it in bold italic, and she's not sure the company is even what she's always wanted. One thing she knows for sure is that regardless of her attack being organized by Victoria or not, she does not, and never did, have a mother. It cuts through her veins like a knife, and she's seeping her last hopes for parental love out on the pavement and into the dirty pools of rain at her feet.

One thing she knows, this is not a rational decision. It's been a while, and they say never go back, not to the past. Brooke can't help it, as much as she can't help what she's doing now. She's pondering all night sitting in a diner, a glam and fancy one which is an oxymoron in itself but the only thing Manhattan can offer, wondering about it over coffee and cutting through choices and chocolate chip pancakes, but there's nothing much left to think of. She's done. Decided.

Brooke also figures out the Tree Hill time, so it's about five in the morning when she dials, praying Manitu and whatever gods can bestow luck on her that she gets voice mail, knowing she'll break the moment she hears the first sigh, the first question.

"Hey Nate, it's Brooke. I decided I'll let you be really mad. And I decided I'll deal with this alone. Because you're wrong, we're not really alike. You turned away from a family, Nate, you kept your wife and your kid out, and you nearly lost them. And I don't have that much to lose. Peyton still has the spare key to the house, do with it what you will. It might sound a little overdramatic, hell, I know it is, but I'm entitled to a little melodrama. And a good suntan. So I'll probably catch the next plane to Hawaii or wherever sells beach and long drinks. Give my love to Jamie, I'll be calling and writing him as much as I can. Oh, and tell Deb that it's OK now."

Calling Nathan is logical and calculated. Barring his recent comfort speech, he's least emotionally attached. He's also the one most likely to roll with it. Besides, he produced the one person she feels she betrays. Peyton and Lucas and Haley and Mouth and everybody else are settled enough and distant enough and hurt her enough, but with the little guy, there's just no leverage.

This is not a coherent decision – running scared rarely is – but it's the only one she can make. She hasn't been selfish in years, if ever, and she wants this one thing, just this once, for herself. A room to breathe, time to think, darkness to curl and weep, anesthetics to get by. It's literal but figurative, and she makes so little sense to herself, even, that she knows.

It might not be the most selfless, understandable or good decision, but it's the right one.

And the irony is, of all the things to follow her, it has to be rain.