All Those Years Ago


Disclaimer: These characters belong to Mark Schwahn and the CW. I own none of them. No copyright infringement intended.

Summary: The story is written in two planes of time, and centers around the lives and relationships of Brooke and Haley. The premise of the story is that: "Sometimes, before you can know what lies ahead, you have to first come to terms with the secrets that bound you in place all those years ago." The story's present time, which is introduced in the prologue, picks up with B/H 5 years after the they would have graduated from High School. The story then flashes back to the characters senior year of HS, filling in the long forgotten memories of their journey... and setting them free.

Spoilers: Unlike in the show, Lucas does not join the Ravens basketball team until the summer before senior year. Therefore, the two opposite worlds of Tree Hill: Brooke-Peyton-Nathan and Haley-Lucas have not collided yet. Will they ever collide? Of course..."People who are meant to be together always find their way...in the end!"

Author's note: This is my first ever fanfic, so reviews are always welcome, and loved!


Prologue: The Time Comes

I wait for the day to break me

I look up to the sky

I look back on my life

I look back on the life that graced me

Gratefully…

It was early in Los Angeles, not even 5 o'clock. The sun was just barely peaking over the horizon as Brooke drove the all too familiar route to work. Today she decided to make a stop; she needed caffeine and she deserved a treat, so Starbucks it was. As she made her way up to the counter, to place her order, she couldn't help but notice how different LA was compared to where she had used to live. Here, other than the lone worker, she was the only person in the store. Back in New York, by this time, there would have already been a line of people waiting, all rushing frantically to get to work on time. She missed that.

It's too early to be up here, she thought, as she grabbed her Grande Mocha Frappachino and yawned.

Way too early, she groaned to herself. Then, noticing the curly haired blonde across the street, who was comically scrambling through her purse, she perked up.

Ah! There are other people out this early. And hey, she's gotta be about my age…right?

Brooke slowly kept walking to her car but she couldn't manage to keep her stare off the girl. As she got closer it became clear to see; the young woman was clearly barefoot, wearing only an oversized men's button down as a makeshift dress. Brooke observed her more intently. The girl was ironically somewhat graceful in her oblivion; she could dangle black high heels in one hand, balance her cell phone between her shoulder and chin as she talked, and still use her free hand to search within the oversized bag she carried. It was quite remarkable. After a few tumultuous moments, though, the woman raised her arm victoriously, keys in hand! It startled Brooke at first, but then she just laughed to herself, knowingly, as she looked away, replaying that image in her head as she drove off. Back on the road again, Brooke turned her radio up, slid the windows down, and got lost in the moment.

I guess it's not too early …if you were out all night…and hadn't yet made it home yet! She thought, remembering the girl again. Where has all the time gone? I used to be the one fishing for keys in my purse, stumbling home half drunk, half naked, half hung-over…taking the dreaded "walk of shame," and now, well…I wish I had that freedom.

That wasn't the case though, for Brooke the way she saw it…she had sold her freedom away a long time ago…to the devil, when she went into business with Victoria. She then felt the vibration of her cell phone between her legs, tearing her attention back to reality. On the screen it read: BITCHTORIA, in bold capital letters, sending a chill down the spine of the lovely brunette. Just seeing that name made her cringe because it forced her back into the moment, reliving last week's conversation with Bitchtoria, oops Victoria, her mother.

"Darling, your days of wild and reckless nights…friends, guys and fun, they're gone, long gone, and they should be… say goodbye to that Brooke, pretend she never existed…I don't know how many more times I can tell you this without taking action…you, we…have far too much to lose!"

She could hear those words in her head so perfectly, over and over…the last part especially. It haunted her. Her mother didn't know the half of what she had already given up, or lost, all those years ago.

By then Brooke had finally made it to Rodeo Drive, where her Clothes Over Bros store was located. She slipped in through the back door, set her keys down and sat alone at her desk. She started sifting through the previous day's mail, as she did every morning, but today there was something holding her back. The internal conflict within her had started to take its toll.

One half of Brooke, her mind, told her that Victoria was right. After all, Victoria had helped to make all of her dreams come true, right…she drove the luxury car she'd always wanted, dined at only the finest restaurants, attended all the hottest celebrity events…she lived in a beautiful, cliff-side penthouse, overlooking the beach, her favorite place in the world. Every piece of clothing she wore was fabulously designed and hand crafted just for her.

It was a dream come true, she thought, I have it all… money, fame…and all compliments of doing what I love: designing clothes…I should be the happiest girl on earth, but am I happy, truly happy? I don't feel like I am…

If she were being honest with herself, the answer would have come easily. Was Brooke Davis truly happy? No, did she do a hell of a good job pretending she was, yes! After years of practice, her heartache and pain were almost undetectable on the surface.

When things did get tough, like they had for Brooke just then, she would always revert to her tried and true coping mechanism: distraction. So, she took a deep breath, picked up the stack of envelopes, and started shuffling through them again, sorting each into the appropriate pile. One piece stood out from the rest of the mostly junk mail she had received. It was an envelope, in a color only she would have guessed to be "Ravens Blue", addressed in calligraphy to Ms. Brooke Penelope Davis. Her inner thoughts got the best of her before she could even attempt to reason with herself.

The color must be a coincidence, she thought to herself. It most certainly couldn't already be…wait let me see one…two…three…four…five, she counted…five years had gone by since she left Tree Hill High? It couldn't be…could it?

The realization that it had in fact been five years since she graduated high school and left Tree Hill struck a chord with the lovely brunette that even she was not ready to face. She quickly returned to opening the envelope and confirmed her suspicion that it was, in fact, an invitation to her 5-year high school reunion.

When you were mine

You were mine

And the times comes

And then it goes

Then it goes away…

In an instant all the pain, all the memories… of the place she once called home, all those years ago, came rushing back to her. She was immediately overcome by her emotions. The scenarios in her head were spinning so wildly; even she herself could just barely follow the train of thought.

Oh gosh Oh shit, Should I go? Maybe they'll all have forgotten, or be so impressed by my success, or maybe just interested in what celebrities I've met, that they won't bring up why I left Tree Hill and never came back?

Then it hit her.

Will he be there? Will Lucas Scott be there? Damn that man! Six whole years had gone by and I still can't get over his damn broody ass! Despicable, I guess that's what you get for falling in love right? That's what the song says at least. Shit…Shit…Shit! Why am I even worrying about going back, I can't go back now, the stores just getting off. But, Nathan and Peyton and Haley…I haven't seen Nathan, or visited Peyton, fuck I haven't even spoken to Haley since, hmmm, almost 2 years now? Damn what an awful friend I've become…

Her thoughts slowly trailed off and she was left sitting at her desk again. At this point, Brooke was a complete and utter mess, nearly catatonic. She couldn't move, couldn't think. She just starred blankly at the invitation in her hand.

Then, her assistant Millicent barged in the front door of the store. Millie was obviously in a rush, expecting that her boss would have been majorly pissed with her if she were to have been late, but she wasn't late and more importantly…today Brooke had bigger concerns. And, even though she would have much rather preferred to crawl up in a ball and keep her issues to herself, she knew that she had to acknowledge Millie somehow. So she looked up, gingerly, her assistant's smile radiating so genuinely back in her direction, it was even harder to fake it than she thought. Still though, through that toothy smile, was the awkward nervousness that Brooke had grown to love and admire in Millie. That's when she knew if she didn't snap out of it fast and put on her famous B. Davis "happy" smile, Millie would know something was wrong and start to worry. Immediately she started to put on a brave face, but a second glance in Millie's direction proved it was already too late.

"Brooke…what's wrong? You like as though you just saw a ghost!" Millie shrieked.

"Oh…ugh. Nothing really. Just got this silly invitation to my old high school's reunion. But, I can't go anyways, you know, with the store and everything. Don't worry about it."

Brooke pleaded, but Millie wasn't buying it.

"Brooke. I know you better than you give me credit, and I know when something's going on that you're not telling me… but whatever it is, I know you'll tell me when you're ready. But hey, I'm here for you, you know that right sweetie? And, if you need me to take care of the store, or anything while you're gone, you don't even need to ask. It's done."

Brooke had forgotten, until then, how much she loved Millie. She was her assistant, sure, but more than that; Millie was her friend, her best friend. It seemed Millie always knew Brooke a little better than even she wanted to admit, or give on to. When it came down to it, Millie was usually right when it came to matters of the heart.

Yes, it was true, Millie tended to over react in stressful situations; she also had a terrible habit of talking and moving very fast, almost too fast at times, when she was nervous. But, at the same time, she had a great heart and was excellent at her job. Brooke couldn't have asked for a better assistant, or friend.

In fact, by then Millie had moved past the cataloging of the new inventory, having already balanced the stores finances, and was on to tidying up the store for opening. Brooke was stunned. Mille was what one might call: a super assistant. In contrast, she, right now, could barely get herself to stand up straight. And still more pitiful; her questionable attempts proved even minuscule tasks, such as body control, exceeded her abilities right now. Brooke was in for trouble. That much was clear.

I don't know what I would do without her, she thought, referring to Millie's exceptional prowess, both in and out of the store, and how grateful she was to have someone like her around.

Then, just as Brooke started to contemplate her next move, Millie turned around to face her, arms on her hips, foot tapping; doing her best impression of Brooke, to appear convincing.

"You're going okay…I mean it, and I don't even want to hear any arguments. You have none!"

"But…" Brooke tried.

"But, nothing…as you can see the store is in perfectly good hands with me and plus…you'll regret it, if you don't…I know you will," Millie reassured her, placing her long pale hand on Brooke's back, pulling her in for a gigantic bear hug.

Brooke didn't say anything back. Instead she just fell right back into her own thoughts.

Maybe Millie's right. Maybe I should go…but do I want to go, to see everyone? I guess it's about time I get back there. Yes… She thought, trying to reassure herself. The time comes when you have to face the past… man up Davis! It's just a simple visit, one weekend, its not like I'm gonna stay there…yea I owe that much to Nathan...and Lucas.

"Oh what the hell…Tree Hill here I come!" She shouted, and they both laughed.

….

On a scale of 1 to 10, how am I going to rank my level of success…let alone, happiness? This is such a load of crap, the sandy blonde thought as she sat filling out her yearly review at work. What is this stupid thing even testing? My emotional capacity? Am I the only one who needs to fill this out? Ugh, do they think this stuff changes every year? Well news flash people it doesn't…I'm stuck! This is just ridiculous, I mean, I never said I was all coo-coo for coco puffs about this damn job anyways…but it pays the bills and it does feel pretty good sometimes knowing I make a difference, I dunno…

Right now, you could say Haley James was in a rut; or at least that would be a nice way of putting it. The once aspiring young musician was now a nurse at the Tree Hill County Hospital. While she loved her job, loved helping people…you know saving people, nursing them back to health, it still didn't make her wonder any less if she'd made the right choice all those years ago. So, it was a constant battle with her these days. One moment she was on top of the world and the next she just wanted to lie in her apartment and watch old reruns of "Felicity".

Today was a "Felicity" day. She couldn't contain or control the internal conflict in her head and surrendered easily to her mind's constant banter.

I once had a promising singing career, she thought, now I'm taking care of people who are practically dead! Maybe I should become a country singer? I'd be perfect…their songs are always depressing!

Technically, Haley's patients were far from dead. Yet, to her they were anything but alive. All of them except for one; a man who ironically, being comatose, seemed to speak to her soul. He and her family alone were what kept her going…what kept her alive.

….

Haley walked up to the front door of her home; she grabbed the mail and headed into the kitchen. It was silent, which reminded her that it was her "special night," alone, no distractions, no taking care of anyone, just free to relax. So, with one hand clutching a diet Pepsi, the other started peeling through the stack of unpaid bills, which had been accumulating over the past month.

Who has time for this? Haley thought. This is MY night! Why am I wasting it with the reality of bills? You don't ever see woman my age paying bills on those CW shows, NO! God forbid they don't always have some knight in shining armor husband, who, never fails…happens to be a professional basketball player or famous author or something equally as absurd! Hell, I work in a hospital and I haven't snagged an eligible doctor yet! What gives? Stupid Grey's Anatomy…making it seem, so easy!

Just as she was about to throw the whole stack back down, she noticed a bright blue envelope sticking out.

Well this obviously isn't a bill. If it is, shame on them for being so creative and tricking me with pretty colored envelopes, she laughed to herself at the thought and opened it.

You are cordially invited to Tree Hill High School's 5-year Reunion

Wow, it's been five years already? I feel like I haven't moved an inch…

Don't try to read the silence

Don't try to live it down

Cuz I learned a thing or two

About patience

And I have found

When you were mine

You were mine

And the times comes

And then it goes

Then it goes away…

She was somewhat right in her conviction. For most of Tree Hill, including Haley, time, real time, had come to a stand still five years back… after the accident. After that, Tree Hill just wasn't the same. Everyone tried to go their separate ways, avoiding the town, as everything reminded them of the tragedy that took place in front of their very eyes. Relationships suffered; friends lost touch; marriages even collapsed.

Over the past few months Haley had actually started to believe the people of this community were on their way and could get back on their feet. It scared her to imagine how the news of this reunion, even more the actual event, could jeopardize it all. Though, before she could think any more of it, the phone rang.

"Hello," she answered. She was still staring at the invitation, paralyzed by it.

"Hey there Hales, what's up? You sound kinda surprised to hear my voice, everything alright?"

Oh it is so like Lucas to assume something is wrong…that pin head of a best friend. She sighed, thinking to herself. How I haven't thrown him to the curb yet, I dunno… But, how could he honestly think I, of all people, would be surprised to hear his voice? In fact now that he brought it up, other than Karen and the occasional call from the hospital, I think Lucas might be the only person that ever calls me!

"Uh No. Luke, it's just…have you gotten the invitation to the reunion yet?"

"I don't think so but I'm not going. No one there besides you is worth seeing again anyway, and we sure don't need a high school reunion to get together, now do we?"

They both laughed.

"Well you're right about that, but I think I might still go? I mean, maybe one of those jocks I tutored back in the day is now a successful, hmmm… anything, ready to sweep me off my feet?"

"Ha! Yea, Haley, keep dreaming on that one."

Haley was a little insulted, but brushed it off and resumed their friendly banter. "Hey, it could happen, you never know! But, I gotta run, my oven is beeping at me."

"You mean your microwave oven?" He teased while chuckling to himself.

"Goodnight, Bighead…"

"Night Hales!"

She set the phone down and headed back into the kitchen. Lucas was right as usual, it had been her microwave beeping, and the frozen dinner she was now eating in front of the television was nothing to get excited over either. Luckily, Haley was not concerned with any of that right now. She had far bigger worries. Haley wouldn't have dared reveal to Lucas the real reason she wanted to go to the reunion. No, that was something she had to do on her own.

As she sank into the couch that night, running different scenarios in her head, she hoped that Brooke Davis would be at the reunion. If she was, Haley promised herself, they were going to get to the bottom of things, once and for all.

The Tree Hill High School Reunion was decked out the way you would expect. Lots of cheesy decorations hung from the walls, tons of cheap food, passed off as delicacies, and spiked punch as the centerpiece. Yes…all the makings of a perfect reunion…

Haley entered the event, as one of the first, prompt as usual. It wasn't in her nature to be late. Looking around there were only a few people she recognized and none were whom she was particularly close with, so she made her way to the refreshments table. The smart one that she was knew, in order for her plan to work, something was needed to settle her nerves.

What better way than pounding down glass after glass of punch spiked with vodka, she thought, filling up her first drink all the way to the top. It was a special occasion…there by, in this particular discretion the rules of proper alcohol consumption did not apply. Right?

Luckily for Haley, Brooke strolled in nearly an hour later, having given her plenty of time to build up alcohol-induced courage. Although she didn't drink often, really ever, after two glasses even Haley had to admit she was feeling a lot gutsier. That third glass sent her over the edge.

I can do this, I can do this, I can do this… she repeated to herself.

Brooke was nervous, too, for different reasons, but regardless she didn't let it show. Being late might have been a character flaw of hers, but looking vulnerable, or anything less than spectacular; that she wouldn't stand for. There was only one thing, well actually, one person that Brooke was entirely vulnerable to. And, tonight she desperately hoped to be able to avoid him.

Brooke and Haley finally exchanged friendly glances toward one another from across the room. It was a small gesture, but it was enough to encourage a fairly intoxicated Haley to approach her.

"Brooke…Hi!" Haley gasped, while she stumbled into Brooke's embrace.

Brooke took a quick step back, steadying Haley enough for her to stand up straight, which at this point appeared to be quite difficult on her old friend's part.

"Well hello, Ms. James. A little to drink tonight?" Brooke teased Haley.

"Well…if I'm being perfectly honest, a little might be an under statement…"

They both burst out into giggles at the irony of the situation. Here they were five years since the two parted ways, and the roles had completely reversed. Haley being drunk was completely unlike her, but it amused Brooke a great deal. After all, they both knew Brooke was the crazy party girl back in the day, so what had changed? Why was a twenty-three year old Haley James acting like a juvenile delinquent?

Brooke was just about to excuse herself from the conversation when Haley stopped her. "Wait, Brooke, there is something important I have to tell you. But, uh…first I need you to answer this one question for me. It's about…uh." Even with the shield of alcohol she found it hard to force the last bit out. It's about…Nathan."

Brooke sighed. She knew the past was sure to be stirred up after this… what would Haley need or want to know about she and Nathan after five years?

"Okay…I, I know this may not be the best place to do this, and its not really my place at all, and I know considering the situation it's well…irrelevant now I guess, but…" Haley was stammering to get the words out.

"Tutor girl, relax… thank god I never struggled in public speaking, because damn you would have been no help…so spit it out already"

"Okay, listen…were you and Nathan, you know…ever, together?"

There… she did it, Haley was amazed…she had actually spoken the dreaded words out loud, the words she had been holding in and onto for years… there was no turning back now, she was sure of that. The girl finally managed to look up at Brooke, who looked equally stunned.

"Haley, do you really wanna go there? It's just, it's been so long and so much has changed, is it really worth it?"

"I have to know Brooke, I wouldn't dare ask otherwise…"

"Well, fine, okay…you win…but can we go somewhere else? I'm warning you…it's sort of a long story…"


****Lyrics in this chapter are from "The Time Comes," by Nina Gordon****