Save The Last One

Disclaimer: Don't own anything.

Rating: T (bordering on M, but not really unfortunately)

Spoiler: episode tag to 6.23.

Pairing: Julian/Brooke

A/N: It was begging to be written. I love Julian more and more, but I give him mad props for stepping up to Victoria and warning her. He did what other people in Brooke's life fail to do. He protected our favorite character and I love him for it.

***

"Only love, only love can leave such a mark
But only love, only love can heal such a scar…"

-U2

***

He's lying on top of the covers in his hotel room, staring at the ceiling, and willing himself to close his eyes when there's a knock on the door.

At first he thinks he's imagined it, but when the sound persists, he slides off the bed and walks over to the front door.

He doesn't expect to see her standing on the other side, still looking as beautiful and immaculate in her shimmering dress and pulled up hair do as she did a few hours ago at the wedding.

She smiles at him demurely and asks in that raspy and unintentionally sexy voice of hers if she can come in.

He merely nods and steps aside, catching a whiff of her perfume as she sidles passed him into the dark room.

"How'd you find me?" He asks, closing the door behind her and leaning against it, his arms crossed over his chest in a defensive position.

"There's really only one decent hotel in Tree Hill, Julian. It wasn't hard." She admits, running her fingers down the puffy skirt of her dress, trying to keep her hands busy, while he watches her.

"Oh okay, so is there a particular reason you're here?"

He doesn't mean to sound so cold, and he's not particularly angry with her either, he's honestly just tired.

When he accepted Lucas' wedding invitation, he came up with a plan to protect his heart. If he brought a date, Brooke would either not care or get jealous, but either way, there'd be a façade for him to hide behind.

He just never anticipated that the feisty brunette would retaliate and he'd be the one nursing a bruised cheek.

"I came, because you stopped by the store and met my mother. I was just making sure she didn't put a hex on you."

Julian smirks, "Trust me, I can handle myself. I've had my own experiences with disappointing and controlling parents."

"It's not like that," Brooke counters, but the reply is weak. She's cracking under pressure and he seems to know all about it.

"It's exactly like that." He suggests, pushing off the door and meeting her in the middle of the room, where she stands unsurely, looking at him as if she wants to say forbidden things.

But she stays quiet, twisting the rings on her fingers, looking as lost as she's ever been.

Peyton's words from earlier echo in his mind and Julian realizes that if he has any chance of ever getting through to her, he can't fight against her tough exterior, he has to melt it.

So he lays a hand on her bare shoulder, ignoring the shiver he gets from touching her, and gestures towards the bed,

"Sit down with me."

Brooke nods, still silent as they sink down on the hard mattress. Julian's hand drops to her arm and then to her wrist and when his fingers thread gently through hers, she doesn't protest.

"I know you said something to her." She states confidently, transfixed by their intertwined hands.

"How do you know?" Julian asks, secretly pleased that his conversation with Victoria left an impression on the older woman.

"Because, she actually looked surprised for once and that's a difficult expression for her to maintain, considering how much Botox she's had."

Julian chuckles in spite of himself and the laughter rubs off, because pretty soon, Brooke is snickering besides him, her hand unconsciously squeezing his.

He feels like maybe he's cracking her façade, maybe just a little, and it feels damn good.

"So did she tell you what we talked about?"

"You're going to make me guess?" She cocks an eyebrow at him, casting a glance at him that reminds him of the spitfire he met months ago, just one that's a little frayed at the edges.

"No, but I do think it would be fun, considering I scared the infamous Victoria Davis, simply by telling her that she might lose you for good eventually if she doesn't play nice."

"You said that?" Brooke exclaims, pulling away from him, leaving Julian cold and momentarily regretting ever bringing anything up.

Touching her just felt so good and not that he's not; he wants it again more than anything.

"I only spoke the truth."

"Which is?" She jerks around to face him and her dress shifts, clouding his mind.

He has the greatest urge to roll his eyes, but he refrains, remaining gentle as he runs his fingers across her cheekbone,

"That you're this incredibly talented and goodhearted person whom your mother is terrified will upstage her, so she tries to put you down and trust me-…"

"Trust you?" Brooke interrupts, standing up. Her raspy voices rises an octave and she looks at him with these incredibly hurtful hazel eyes that twist his heart.

He should let her finish, but that would go against his instinct,

"Yeah, Brooke" Julian says, standing up right besides her, "trust me, because I know how it feels to have a constant force in your life pushing you down whenever you think you succeeded."

She's quiet for a moment and he takes a step closer to her, teasing her with his presence, seducing her with his proximity.

Brooke takes a deep breath to clear her head, but it seems impossible to rid herself of Julian's influence. He stands so tall, warm, and comforting that all she wants to do is fall into his arms and forget about all the shit that's happened.

However, it's impossible, because the little voice in her head that sounds remarkably like her mother's, keeps him at bay.

And it angers her, because as much as he might be right about Victoria, he left her once before and has lost any right to give advice on her parental ties.

"It doesn't really matter anymore." She says quietly, looking anywhere but at his eyes, which penetrate through her tough exterior.

"And why is that, huh?" Julian steps even closer and his arm loops around her waist, drawing her against him, feeling her heat.

It threatens to destroy any self control he might have, but Julian soldiers on.

He is determined to coax honesty and a heartfelt response from her, as well as renewed trust; but, not through yelling or accusations, instead through gentle touches and quiet perseverance.

Both of which he doubts Brooke has ever battled against.

"It doesn't matter anymore, because you left."

She knows exactly what to say to spark retaliation, but he refuses to succumb to her methods.

"I asked you to come with me and you refused." Julian points out. His hand is now tracing her bare shoulder blades and he smiles as the skin breaks out in goose bumps.

He doesn't mean to seduce her, but he has to touch her when she's so close by.

She's too damn intoxicating to him, addictive even, and when she looks at him with those beautifully vulnerable hazel eyes, it's physically painful to resist her.

"Because I had to, Julian, not because I wanted to." She says through gritted teeth, but Julian lets out a snort that makes her anger even more discernible.

"Are you sure about that? Because I think you subconsciously shut down any chance for us, because that's what you do. You pushed me away just like you pushed away Lucas and Chase."

The second he says it, Julian knows he fucked up.

Brooke pushes off of him, her eyes narrowing as she points a finger at him accusingly,

"Don't you dare assume you know anything about my past fucking relationships. You know nothing about me."

At this point, he should probably apologize and get back into her good graces, but he's on a roll and he's not fucking stopping.

"That's the thing, Brooke. I do know you and not because you're so easy to read or so predictable, but because you and I come from similar backgrounds. We both had rich, neglecting parents, who still somehow manage to screw with our lives even when we made something of ourselves, and I really don't know much about your past relationships, except that you did push those people away, which you're trying to do with me, but I won't fucking let you. I'm not going to."

He wasn't prepared to make this speech. His plan of action had not included some huge declaration of love, because he isn't eloquent like Lucas or romantic like Chase.

He is just Julian Baker, fuck up extraordinaire according to his father, and desperately in love with a fierce girl who makes him do crazy things like make insanely cheesy speeches.

He is almost afraid to meet her eye, but when he does, she takes him by surprise yet again, because her eyes are glazed over with tears and she's standing in front of him with shoulders hunched and a bewildered expression.

"Why won't you just let me go, Julian?"

Brooke sounds defeated. Even though just hours ago she told him she missed him, now it seems like she'd rather drive him away than admit how she truly feels and it frightens him that he knows her so well.

It occurs to him that it's probably because they really are one in the same and despite his best self control, the overwhelming realization propels him forward until his lips fall in sync with hers, sinking into the kiss effortlessly, as if hers are the only lips he's meant to kiss.

He pulls away momentarily, to find Brooke flushed and gaping at him again, and he smiles as he runs his thumb over her cheek.

"I can't let you go, because I'm in love with you and I know if you weren't, you'd be out that door and calling me a pervert faster than I could say your name."

Brooke smiles shyly, chuckling at his comment and shivering as he runs his hands down her bare arms, leaving a heated trail on her skin.

But the moment is too important, too crucial to them, for Brooke to lose herself in the man in front of her and she frowns again, because she isn't sure what he expects from her.

"What do you want me to say, Julian?" She asks softly, looking up at him through hooded lashes.

"Tell me I'm wrong." He whispers against her lips, "tell me I'm wrong and I'll leave you alone."

"I can't." Brooke replies, shutting her eyes as she trembles against Julian's touch.

"Why not?"

"Because I-…" Her voice nervously trails off, but when Julian meets her eye and smiles gently at her, a warm feeling Brooke can't quite discern spreads through her entire body and she pushes herself against him with more confidence.

"I love you."

This phrase that gets tossed around so meaninglessly these days and holds little value to most people suddenly means the world to Julian and he wraps his arms around her tighter, pulling her smaller body against his.

"That's all you ever had to say, beautiful." He murmurs against her cheek and Brooke can't handle the tension anymore.

It's as if with one overdue confession, the tight rope they have been walking has snapped and when she crushes her lips against Julian's, and tugs his button down out of his pants, Brooke has never felt more liberated.

Julian gladly reciprocates, boldly pushing her towards the bed as she rids him of his shirt and tangling his fingers in her hair, pulls out pins and ribbons so it cascades freely down her back.

He loses himself in her scent as her nimble hands familiarize themselves with his body, running over the plains of his chest and slithering down to rest on his belt buckle.

They tumble onto the bed in a mess of laughter and kisses. Julian runs his hands up her bare legs, kissing the side of her neck as she moans into his mouth, sending spindles of heat down to where her hand teases his happy trail.

Brooke expertly undoes his belt and unzips his pants, causing him to suck in an anticipatory breath as she skims the front of his boxers, smiling against his lips as she feels all of him against her.

Julian pulls back then, his hand toying with the zipper of her dress, as he admires the slightly flushed pale skin of her cleavage.

Brooke is looking at him through hooded eyes, chest heaving and hands teasingly running across the elastic band of his boxers, so he can't help himself.

"You're so sexy." He murmurs before lifting her up against him and unzipping the dress, until there are so little barriers left between them that his stomach tightens in that delicious way it always does when Brooke is naked underneath him.

When Julian removes her bra and gently slides on top of her, bare skin making contact for the first time in months, both let out a collective sigh of ecstasy and Brooke knows right then that there was no reason to hesitate.

She is right in telling Julian she loves him, because this feeling of him cradling and loving her body like it's the most precious thing in the world is indescribable.

"I missed you so much." Brooke whispers against his skin, before pulling down his boxers.

When his gentle, brown eyes trail over her naked form with love and desire, she wraps her legs around him, arching up to tell him what she wants.

She's never been a patient person, and when Julian relents, settling himself between her thighs and running his hand over her rib cage to her breast, Brooke thinks that she's never experienced a love so intense.

No one else can make her feel this way with just a simple touch.

All of the sudden, she has to let him know this.

Julian needs to know that her past relationships, her past loves, can never compare to this, because it's so much more than this between them.

So she breaks their kiss, searching out his warm chocolate gaze through the darkness,

"What's wrong?" He murmurs uncertainly, afraid that she's changed her mind.

His nose scrunches adorably and Brooke runs her fingers across his cheek, smiling up at him,

"Nothing is wrong. I just wanted to correct you on something you said earlier."

"Okay," Julian nods, pushing himself off of her, but Brooke resists, keeping him in place as she says,

"You brought up these past relationships and compared them to yourself, but you have to understand something I only just now realized. What I used to think was love is nothing compared to what you make me feel. I am in love with you like I never have been before and I just thought that you should know."

She's suddenly insecure; afraid she's revealed too much too soon, but when Julian leans down and kisses her again, pressing his flesh intimately against hers, it feels like more than anything she ever felt before.

Julian pulls her underneath the cover, cradling her body as he kisses down her stomach, making Brooke shiver with anticipation and desire.

He holds her tightly as he peppers the flesh between her thighs with kisses, teasing her with tiny flicks of his tongue and scrapes of his teeth, making her moan his name incoherently as her fingers thread through his short, brown hair.

Her peak approaches quickly, but Julian doesn't relent in his movements until he feels the first tremors of Brooke's orgasm ripple through her and her body shake violently against him.

The whole time he thinks only of one thing.

How much he's missed this; this closeness between them, this intimacy that always sent shivers down his spine and melted him from the inside.

He wants this with her now more than ever and although this doesn't seem like the most appropriate time to tell her that he's willing to Tree Hill for her, her phone rings from the purse on the nightstand.

Through the euphoria she's feeling, Brooke tries to ignore the ringtone, but it dawns on her who the caller is, her blood runs cold and she freezes her movements, hastily moving off the bed, scrambling to reach her cell phone.

"Brooke, are you okay?" Julian asks worriedly, seeing the color drain from her face as she searches for her phone.

Brooke doesn't reply. Instead, she finds his hand under the covers and squeezes it tightly, because the ringtone is reserved for Lucas and they agreed that he would call her tonight only if something were to go wrong.

Julian doesn't know this, but Brooke doesn't have time to explain when she picks up and finds her worst fears have come true.

She only catches bits and pieces of Lucas' broken explanation, but his defeated voice is enough to send her into a tailspin. She hangs up with him and pulls her underwear on with shaking hands.

She doesn't look at Julian, but the rustling of sheets lets her know that he's getting dressed as well.

Her mind is in disarray.

A part of her is still recovering from the amazing turnaround Julian and her have had, but a bigger part of her aches with worry, fear, and guilt that while she was enjoying herself, her best friend was and still is fighting for her life.

The thought makes her shake even more, tears clouding her vision, and the frustration from being unable to zip up her dress gets the best of her, until she collapses on the bed, pale all over and in disbelief of the news she's received.

Julian kneels down besides her, holding her hands in his, trying to calm her down.

"Brooke, darling, did you drive here?" He asks, taking charge.

She merely nods her head, unable to form a coherent sentence. A vision of Peyton in her wedding dress, smiling as she says her vows runs through her head, paralyzing her completely.

In the midst of it all, Julian doesn't skip a beat. He realizes now more than ever that he needs to be there for her and prove to Brooke that she doesn't need to be alone in this.

He reaches behind her and zips up her dress, before slipping on her heels for her, and pulling her up against him.

It terrifies Julian that she's so catatonic, so when Brooke wraps her arms around him, he pours everything he has into their embrace.

For some reason he knows that through all of the trials and tribulations in her life thus far, there's never been someone to hold her up through it all and now that he's promised to love her, he will gladly embrace that role and be her rock from here on out.

With the thought in mind, he takes her hand tightly in his and guides her outside to the parking lot, locating her BMW, and helping her in the passenger seat.

They don't talk the whole time, except for Brooke giving him directions to the hospital. Julian admires her for remaining so composed and strong through an ordeal that must be tearing her up inside.

He never truly had real friends like she does, and he's always been a bit envious of the tight knit family the five of them formed; however, now as he sees the worry etched on Brooke's face, he doesn't covet what she has.

They pull up to the hospital and Julian quickly runs around to Brooke's side, unfastening her seatbelt and helping her from the car. When he takes her hand and sets her down on the ground, she finally looks up at him and gives him a soft smile,

"Thank you."

And Julian is pretty sure she doesn't mean just for helping her from the car and he pulls her into a brief hug, before walking to the Emergency Room entrance, not really sure of what is behind those doors, but pretty certain of his love for the woman walking besides him.

***

She holds the four day old baby in her arms and marvels at the delicate but distinct features forming on the infant girl's face that already remind Brooke of Sawyer's parents.

The tiny blond bundle is slumbering peacefully in her arms and Brooke sways slightly, hearing the other babies in the room wailing.

"You're already my favorite." Brooke lightly caresses her namesake's cheek and closes her eyes.

The last couple of days have been a blur, but through it all, one face stands out.

Julian.

Now that P. Sawyer is okay, Brooke lets herself smile as she thinks about the strong man who has stood besides her through this and hasn't left her side once.

His devotion and adoration leaves Brooke feeling elated but also perplexed.

She's had a string of failed relationships and as much as she doesn't want to add Julian to that list, for both their sakes, she worries.

The baby stirs and she diverts her attention to the bundle of warmth in her arms, for a second all other fears dissipate as the baby opens her eyes and stares at Brooke.

"Hi Sawyer Brooke, how are you baby?"

"I'm sure she's doing great." A voice from behind her says and Brooke turns around when she feels Julian come up behind her, his warmth and smile provide other welcome distractions from her ambivalent thoughts.

"You bet she is. Her mommy's a trooper and everything is going to be fine." Brooke coos and Julian can't look away.

He's never been a man of clichés, but fuck if he doesn't picture what Brooke and his kids would look like nestled in their mother's arms.

Julian has never thought about children until now and he can blame it on the recent turn of events or the fact that everyone in his goddamn town is obsessed with procreating.

Yet he knows deep down that the reason for all this is the brunette beauty standing in front of him, oblivious to everything as she protects and loves who Julian thinks is the luckiest baby girl in the whole world.

Sawyer starts to fuss a bit and Brooke hands her off to the maternity nurse, who promises to take the infant to her mother's room to get fed.

Julian takes the opportunity to pull Brooke aside, asking her if they can talk.

They walk out into the quad in front of the hospital and sit down on a deserted bench.

The soft breeze plays with her hair and Julian tucks a loose strand behind her ear.

Brooke leans into his touch unconsciously, sinking into his waiting embrace until he's holding her against him, running his fingers across the exposed skin of her midriff in an intimate way that makes Brooke catch a breath.

Their proximity reminds her of what they started four days ago and as she plays with his collar, she feels heat spread through her veins,

"What's on your mind?" She says in her raspy voice and Julian almost forgets what he wanted to talk about.

"How are you holding up?" He asks.

Brooke gives him a megawatt smile, "I couldn't be happier that Peyton is okay. Their baby is so gorgeous." She muses and her grin falters just a little bit.

He isn't sure what dampers her mood, but he knows he wants to be the one to pull her out of it.

So he makes a split second decision.

"I want to move to Tree Hill."

He says and when Brooke looks at him with wide eyes, Julian can't deny the surge of elation that shoots through him.

"Really?" She asks, in disbelief.

Julian nods mutely, still unable to form a coherent sentence after seeing Brooke in this new light.

She looks so happy, like a kid on Christmas morning, and knowing he made her feel this way instills in him a new confidence he's never had in past relationships.

"You're, you're actually serious?" Brooke manages to choke out and Julian nods again.

Brooke giggles this time, wrapping her arms around his neck, "Say something, you goof." She adds but he shakes his head.

He's not a man of many words like Lucas Scott, nor is he romantic like Chase Adams, but he is Julian Baker and he's the one Brooke chose to be with. So he leans down and brushes his lips against hers, letting her know everything he's thinking and feeling in that kiss.

When he pulls back, he finds Brooke looking at him knowingly.

He says all he needs to in that embrace and she comprehends it perfectly.

Julian reasons that perhaps they never needed words to understand each other after all...

***