A/N: I'm back! And yay it's another Leyton story - the second short, mostly fluffy fic I promised ages ago! Seeing as my plan to keep my last story fairly short failed majorly, I'm determined to keep to it on this one so it should only be about 5-6 long-ish chapters and then I'm already planning my next longer fic that I'll let you know about at the end of this one. I'm hoping to keep updates regular but uni is always crazily busy so we'll just have to see...anyway, summary for this story briefly is: Peyton has a bad break-up and promises never to fall in love again but Brooke has other ideas, involving a game of Truth or Dare that end up roping Lucas in to help mend her heart. So, although this first chapter may seem a little angsty, it's actually going to be a relatively happy, fluffy story with some drama thrown in. Also, I've changed Peyton's personality slightly to fit in with what I want to do with this story. Oh, and the bit in italics is a flashback. Have fun :)
The girl runs out into the street, choking on her tears and gasping for air. For anyone who knew her, they probably wouldn't recognise her at this current moment: not only does she look a complete mess, with her hair flying messily all over her face and mascara coating her cheeks, she always keeps her true emotions veiled and she certainly doesn't cry. But right now, there's no one to see her walls crumble and her defences crack, no one to hear the sound of her heart breaking or her muffled sobs or the way she stumbles her way along the pavement blindly when she usually walks around with an air that tells everyone she doesn't give a damn about what they think.
She hates feeling this vulnerable, being overwhelmed by her emotions this way when she usually manages to keep them in check so successfully. And this, she reminds herself, is why she doesn't let anyone get close to her, why she doesn't give her heart to anyone. She curses herself for thinking that this time it could be different, that somehow Fate would give her a break and that for once things might actually go well for her. This is the first time she's ever been in love with anyone and she vows right now, with the streetlights and the moon for witnesses, that she will never let it happen again. She's done. Done with feeling. Done with hurting.
And yet this thought, instead of comforting her as it should with the thought she'll never be able to be hurt again, only serves to remind her of just how alone she is now. It's all too much for her and she collapses onto the curb, holding her head up on her palms and resting her elbows on her knees while her hair screens her broken face from public scrutiny. She cries until she feels so hollow and exhausted that she thinks she might actually crumble away to dust if someone touches her right now or even if the breeze blows a little too strongly.
With numb and shaking fingers, she delves into her pocket and pulls out her phone. She doesn't even have to think about whose number she'll call, she just hits the speed dial button to the one person who's never let her down in her life, the one person that she knows she can truly open up to.
She sits in limbo while the dialling tone sounds down her ear and her body begins to shiver slightly from the night chill, despite the fact it's late August.
Eventually, the person at the other end of the line picks up and she hears a familiar, raspy voice shouting over the noise in the background, 'P. Sawyer! You need to get your skinny ass down to this party right away! It's seriously amazing, I-'
But the girl interrupts her friend, knowing that if she doesn't get this out now there's a strong chance she may hide it from her for ages in the hope that it'll mean it hasn't actually happened.
'He left me, Brooke,' she whispers hoarsely, her voice breaking.
There's a moment of silence, filled with static as the other girl processes what she's said over the racket going on around her, 'Okay, where are you? I'm coming to pick you up.'
And the girl can't help but smile as her words only confirm to her that this is the one person she can always count on, 'I'm on his road, a couple of houses down from his. You won't be able to miss me: I'm the girl who looks like something from The Grudge.'
She hears a weak chuckle in response to her lame joke and she knows that her friend's only laughing to comfort her.
'I'll be there in five, tops, okay? Just hold on,' the comforting voice tells her.
'Thanks, B,' she murmurs, shutting her eyes like it'll shut out the whole world.
'See you soon, P, bye,' her friend replies, ignoring her thanks as they both know that she wouldn't have done anything else and she's always made it clear that she doesn't expect to be thanked for doing something that any best friend should just do naturally anyway.
And so, the girl hunches herself up and wonders if she should try and sort out her face so she looks vaguely decent and doesn't scare the girl who's coming to pick her up. But in the end she decides that she's seen her looking far worse and that she's probably only going to end up crying more later so there's no real point in it.
Two minutes later, a car that's obviously speeding screeches to a halt across the street from the girl and its driver leaves the engine running in the middle of the road and rushes over to her. This girl has long brown hair and large brown eyes, which grow even wider with concern at the sight of her friend.
She wordlessly puts her arm around the other girl and helps her to her feet and over to the car, before saying, 'C'mon, P, let's get you home.'
The two girls now sit in a large bedroom, the walls of which are covered in artwork, though one is taken up entirely by a large collection of vinyl records. To be more correct, the brunette girl, Brooke Davis, sits on the bed while the other girl with wild blonde curls and large green eyes, Peyton Sawyer, is sprawled out over the bed on her stomach, her face turned away from her best friend so she won't be able to see the full extent of her distress. Brooke has her hand placed on Peyton's back and is rubbing it soothingly while her other hand props her up.
Brooke is beginning to truly worry about her closest friend: she's been in this catatonic state for nearly two hours now, not crying, not talking and barely even seeming to be breathing. She's seen her go through a couple of break-ups in the past, before she began dating her now ex-boyfriend, and while she always seemed a little upset, she's never cried over a boy before, she always just manages to brush it off and act like it was nothing while people are watching her. Of course, Brooke knows that when no one else is around, Peyton must have shed her tears over those boys but she never let it show, not even to her. If she hadn't known Peyton for the majority of her life and so considers her more of a sister than a friend, Brooke might have been offended by this and may have taken it to mean that she didn't trust her. But she knows Peyton better than anyone and she understands that she just isn't that kind of person: after losing her mother to a car crash at such a young age and having to be strong for her father, she finds it easier to appear strong even when she's breaking on the inside. It's just her way of coping and Brooke knows better than to push her into telling her anything before she's ready.
But she wishes she would say something now, anything just to show that she's still here, in this room with her and that Brooke isn't just sitting alone with only a ghost for company. Eventually, something changes in the atmosphere and Brooke senses that Peyton is now ready to talk. Even so, she waits a few minutes longer, just allowing her time to collect herself before she spills out her guts to her.
'What happened, Peyt?' Brooke whispers, her husky voice low so as not to shock her after they've spent so long in silence.
'He left me,' comes the blonde girl's reply, mirroring exactly what she told her earlier and Brooke knows it's because she's still in shock.
'Did he say why?' she urges gently, not quite sure when Peyton's breaking point will come and so making sure to tread carefully.
Peyton gives a sad snort, 'He didn't have to in the end.'
Brooke frowns, trying to work out which is the right question that will get her to open up to her properly, in the end she just repeats herself, 'What happened?'
Her relief is obvious when Peyton croakily begins to tell her the evening's events.
Peyton slings her back over her shoulder as she heads out of the gym, the heat from the summer's afternoon bearing down on her already over-heated and tired body. Her body is sweaty thanks to a long cheerleading practice session, courtesy of one Brooke Davis, and her hair is clinging to the back of her neck in a huge clump. She wants nothing more than to just be clean and be snuggled up on a couch with her boyfriend. She told him that she'd be round to his after she'd showered and freshened up.
Opening the door to her car and throwing her stuff onto the passenger's seat, she slips into the driver's seat and turns the key in the ignition. The car whines and chugs loudly in protest, straining to start but then eventually gives up trying altogether. She tries it several times but it keeps failing; eventually, she gives up and decides she'll just call a tow-truck for it tomorrow so it can be fixed while she's in school but for now there's no point in dragging some poor mechanic out here in the heat. She gathers up her stuff again and locks the car before heading off in the direction of her house.
However, she's only walked a few yards when she realises that there's no point in her walking back home, showering and getting changed only to get hot and sweaty again when she's walking to her boyfriend's house later anyway. So, she decides to head straight over to his. For a moment, she considers ringing him to let him know she's going to be early but then she remembers that he'll probably be in the shower after his practice and so wouldn't get her call.
It's a twenty minute walk to his house but she spends it as well as she can, putting her iPod in and blasting out some motivational music to keep her going. In the end, she finds it only takes her fifteen minutes to reach his house because she's walking faster to match the pace of the music. She practically skips up the path at the thought of being able to clean herself soon and lets herself in using the spare key.
She calls out to see if anyone's home but when all she gets is silence in return, she guesses that he hasn't got back from practice yet. Shrugging out of her clothes, she goes into the bathroom and immerses herself under the cascade of water in the shower, scrubbing herself until all traces of sweat and grime have left her body.
Once she figures she's as clean as she could possibly be, she gets out, dries herself and then changes into the clothes she wore to school earlier before she was forced to wear that ridiculously short cheerleader's costume. She sighs, knowing it would have been better if she'd been able to put on a completely fresh outfit but at the same time she's grateful that she at least has a change of clothes or she'd have had to get back into her now sweaty uniform.
She's just gathering up her things and cleaning up after herself when she hears noises coming from down the hall where her boyfriend's bedroom is and she smiles, realising he must have got home from practice in the time she was in the shower. She must have taken longer in there than she'd thought.
She pads softly down to his door and gently pushes it open and sees him with his toned back turned to her. She grins as she sees that he's only wearing a towel around his waist.
'Hey, you,' she calls out to him, pushing the door open fully and entering his room.
He jumps slightly and whips around quickly, one hand pressed to his chest in shock, the other holding onto his towel to stop it from falling down, 'Peyton! I didn't realise you were here, you scared me!'
'Aw, you big baby,' she teases, before explaining, 'my car's dead for the moment so I walked here and showered rather than going back to mine and getting hot again on my way to yours.'
'Well, aren't you logical today?' he laughs.
'Yeah, I know,' she chuckles, joining in, 'the heat must've gone to my brain and made me into an organised person!'
He laughs again and says, 'Look, I was just about to take a shower and seeing as you've already had one, why don't you relax downstairs until I'm done?'
'Sure thing, you don't mind if I-' but she's cut short when she suddenly notices something out of the corner of her eye.
It's a bra, and she knows it's not hers because it's at least a cup-size bigger than she is and in a shade of pink that she doesn't own in any form of clothing. Her eyes then quickly scan the rest of the room and her stomach drops out of her body with a cold, leaden feeling. She hadn't noticed it before because his room's always a mess but now she sees the clothes strewn across the room – his basketball kit but also a girl's clothing. She then turns her attention to the bed with a sick feeling clawing its way up her throat. It's obvious from the way the sheets are all tangled and messed up that more than one person's been in it recently and it doesn't exactly take her long to put two and two together.
'Is there someone here?' she demands, her eyes forming slits.
He just stares at her, not even having the decency to look guilty, knowing that he's been caught out and there's no point in lying to her, 'We didn't think anyone was home…we saw your car in the school parking lot and we thought you were still there.'
'So, while I was in the shower…you two were…?' she leaves the question open, already knowing the answer.
He nods and she has to fight off the urge to punch him because that can wait: right now she needs answers.
'How long has this been going on? She asks, her voice now sounding faint and far away to her.
'A few months,' he shrugs and his apathy feels like he's stabbing her in the stomach repeatedly, making her wonder if he ever had feelings for her in the first place if he can act this nonchalant about the whole thing.
She opens her mouth to ask him something else, or yell at him, she hasn't decided which yet, when a woman's voice comes from his en-suite bathroom to their left, slightly muffled from the sound of the shower.
'What's taking you so long, baby? Aren't you coming in?'
'She's still here?' Peyton is incredulous and struggles to keep her voice at a normal level, because the last thing she needs right now is for whoever is in her boyfriend's shower to hear her and come out, probably not wearing any clothes.
Now, at least, he manages to look sheepish as the rage on Peyton's face mounts to a terrifying level.
'So, what? You were going to send me downstairs and screw her in the shower while I was still here, then send her out the window?' she guesses, her face twisting in disgust.
'Something like that,' he mumbles.
Peyton genuinely feels like she's going to be sick, the room starts to spin and her eyes feel like they're burning. Before she can say anything else, his voice sounds in her ears again.
'Look, Peyt, I'm not just screwing around here with this girl: I love her,' he tells her and the words hit her like a sledgehammer.
She feels like she's going to fall over, or faint, or vomit, or maybe all three but she refuses to cry in front of him because that's the one area in all of this where she refuses to let him win. If she can just pretend like she doesn't care, like he doesn't matter to her like she's done every other time someone's broken up with her, then she can still salvage her dignity. She won't let him have one more thing over her.
However, before she can think clearly enough to form a reply, preferably with a lot of cuss words in, he cuts across her again, 'It's over between us, Peyton. I think you should leave.'
Her eyes snap back to focus on him, all her rage gone and now she just feels overwhelmed from the pain of it all, but she wants to have the last word so she steadies herself and bites back sarcastically, 'Right, because we wouldn't want me getting in the way of your little shower party. Three's a crowd, right?'
And with that, she hitches her bag securely over her shoulder and turns to leave.
'Peyton-' he begins to call after her.
But she doesn't let him finish it, because she knows if he does then she'll just break down right there, 'You really are an asshole, do you know that?'
And then she's gone, walking swiftly and purposefully from his room and out into his hallway where she can finally let her face crumple and her true emotions show.
But just before she's out of earshot, he deals her the final, killer blow: she hears him calling out to that girl in the shower, 'I'm coming in, babe, just had something to take care of.'
Peyton tears out of his house faster than a bullet from a gun, barely even able to breathe she's running so fast but she refuses to cry until she's outside in case he hears her. The front door slams shut behind her and the sound of it releases a tidal wave of emotions that tower up above her and then crash down so that she's drowning in them. And all she can think is that it hurts so much.
'And then, once I could talk again, I called you,' she finishes off, her voice sounding so small and fragile that it doesn't even sound like hers.
Brooke takes a moment to let it all sink in but when she's fully processed it all, she simply pulls Peyton up and into her arms and just holds her. She knows that she can comfort her with words later but that right now all she needs is someone to hold her. And so Peyton clings to her and finally allows herself to cry again, until she's out of tears and has effectively ruined Brooke's designer top but she doesn't say anything about it, she just takes her by the hand and leads her into the bathroom. She cleans Peyton's face of all the streaked makeup and tear stains and helps her to change into her pyjamas.
She walks her back over to the bed and tucks her in, before getting changed out of her party clothes and into her own clothes, as she and Peyton share the house ever since Brooke disowned her parents. Once she's ready, she gets into the double bed with Peyton and smiles as she sees that she's already asleep. She lies her head down on the pillow and the last thing she thinks of before sleep claims her too is how she's going to make that boy pay for hurting her best friend.
Peyton is incredibly thankful that she only has to endure one more week of school to endure before summer vacation starts and she can get away from people's pitying stares and constant questions about what happened. She's one of the fortunate people to be part of the 'popular' crowd but, thanks to her kind and friendly nature, she's generally loved and known by everyone in the school. Usually, Peyton would count this as a blessing, but right now it means that she is constantly surrounded by concerned friends all asking her if she's okay and offering her their support. Of course, she appreciates their love and gestures of friendship but she's hurt and humiliated by what's happened and just wants to forget the whole thing ever happened.
She's sworn Brooke to secrecy over what exactly it was that caused the break-up and her ex sure as hell isn't going to tell anyone his part in the way things ended between them, as it would damage his 'perfect' reputation and so she's managed to make it so that no one really knows what happened. All people know is that they've broken up and that somehow it was his fault, not hers – she's made perfectly clear that she's not going to take the blame for this. As for him, the students at Tree Hill High are generally angry with him for hurting Peyton, who's always been nice to everyone, but most are too afraid of getting beaten up by him and his friends to criticise him too openly. Peyton still does not know the identity of the girl she was dumped for as he's clearly decided to let things die down a little before revealing his new tryst.
Peyton longs for everyone to just forget the whole thing happened so she can begin to pretend that she never made the huge mistake of letting her defences down and allowing herself to be vulnerable. So, when the final day of the year comes, she welcomes it and leaves the celebration party early, retreating to her favourite corner of the library to sketch alone.
She's so engrossed in her drawing that she doesn't even notice the blonde-haired boy sitting at one of the other tables who's supposedly reading a book but the majority of the time, his eyes are glued to her. When she stands up to leave, she still doesn't see him as she's too wrapped up in her own thoughts but he watches her go until the door shuts behind her and cuts her off from his sight. And with that, he sighs and grabs a sheet of paper from beside him and begins to scribble down words that encapsulate her, everything that she is and all that he feels for her.
And he can only close his eyes and hope with all that he has that one day perhaps she'll realise that he's been standing in the wings all along just waiting for her to open up her eyes and notice him.
Summer vacation passes in a blur of heat and empty, work-free days. Brooke and Peyton spend the majority of their time together, seeing as they live with one another. They only part ways when Brooke wants to go to some party, which she always invites Peyton to as well but they both know that she'll just decline, stay at home and curl up in her bed with her sketchpad and vinyl records and try to block out the world around her. Every time this happens, Brooke comes back to find her sprawled out on top of the bed covers, a pencil still in her hand and paper all over the bed. And, every time, she'll clean up for her and carefully rearrange the duvet over her before going to bed herself.
Every now and then, Brooke will suggest hanging out with their other school friends and Peyton will come along and to everyone else she manages to make it look like she's having a good time and enjoying herself. But she can't fool Brooke. They haven't been best friends since they were four for no good reason: they know each other inside out and she can tell that Peyton's only putting on a show. Even when they're alone at home together she can still see that Peyton's holding back the true extent of her hurt and betrayal over the situation. But she hears her crying at night when she thinks Brooke's gone to sleep, and then berating herself for being weak and crying 'over some boy'.
When they return for their senior year, Peyton's still as friendly and welcoming to everyone as she was before but she's more withdrawn and at least once a week, she'll disappear during lunch and only reappear for classes. The change in her doesn't go unnoticed and pretty much everyone is talking about how different she's become and how worried they are about her. Peyton hears all their whispered conversations and sees all their concerned looks and it only serves to drive her further into her shell: she just wants to be left alone.
After a month of this, Brooke has decided enough is enough and she sits her down for a girl talk one evening.
'Peyt, you know I love you more than anyone else in the world right?' Brooke begins, taking hold of Peyton's hand as she sits cross-legged on the couch in front of her.
'Even Julian?' Peyton raises an eyebrow teasingly, smirking when she sees Brooke blush at the name of her crush.
'Yeah, even him, so that means you must know that I'm meaning this in the nicest possible way and that I'm only saying because I care about you so damn much,' she continues, ducking her head to hide her blush, 'P. Sawyer, you have to snap out of this…zombie state you're in right now.'
'Seriously, B, you're comparing me to a zombie?' she snorts.
'Yes!' Brooke retorts sharply, 'What else do you want me to call you? You wander around with this sad, vacant expression on your face and you show so little emotion that you might as well be dead! Peyt, I know you're hurt, believe me, I do, but you can't shut yourself off from everyone who cares about you just to prevent yourself from getting more hurt.'
'I'm not talking about this with you, Brooke,' Peyton mutters coldly but Brooke can just tell that it's because it's too painful for her to speak about.
'Well, then who the hell else are you going to talk about it to, huh? You won't open up to anyone anymore, not even me! I mean, when did that happen? We don't keep stuff from each other, Peyt! That's not who we are!'
'And what if I don't like who I am anymore?' Peyton challenges, jutting out her chin defiantly.
Brooke's expression softens as she hears the grief underlying that statement, 'Peyt, why would you say something like that?'
Peyton avoids looking her in the eye for a while and then murmurs to her hands, 'Because who I am wasn't enough to keep him.'
'Well then screw him,' Brooke interjects, 'who cares what he thinks? The guy's a low-life jerk!'
'Really, Brooke? He's the most popular guy in school, so he's got to have something going for him. And I fell for him in the first place so there has to be some good in him. It's me that's the problem! I wasn't pretty enough or interesting enough, so why should I stay being me?'
'Because you're a million times better a person than he'll ever be,' Brooke counters, hating that boy for the way he's wrecked her best friend, 'you don't need to change anything about yourself; it's him that needs to change!'
And with that Peyton shakes her head and makes a move to stand up but Brooke catches her hand.
'Wait, P, I'm not done yet,' she pleads, and the blonde girl nods her head stiffly before sitting back down, 'I know it's painful and what happened to you was awful but you can't shut your heart off this way.'
'It's for the best, Brooke, everyone I love just ends up leaving me or hurting me anyway, so why should I bother getting close to anyone?' she shrugs in return.
'Because not all guys are jerks like him, and I'm sure there's someone perfect and kind and sweet out there for you, if only you would just let yourself love again,' Brooke half-reasons, half-begs.
Peyton shakes her head stubbornly, 'No, I'm sorry, Brooke, but I'm done with that, with all of it. None of it's true anyway: there is no 'perfect guy' and soulmates are just something made up by desperate women hoping that they won't end up alone.'
Brooke's eyes widen at this, 'Since when did you become so cynical?'
'Since the guy I thought was perfect for me took out my heart and stamped on it,' she laughs bitterly.
'Peyt, you can't let one bad experience rule over you for the rest of your life. Please, just give it a chance again or even just allow the possibility for it in the future. You're going to have to love again at some point: it's what makes us human.'
Peyton lets out a harsh bark of laughter without any humour behind it as she stands, 'Well, I'll become a robot then. I mean it, Brooke, I'm through with it and nothing you can say will change my mind.'
And as she watches her friend leave, Brooke calls out to her, 'You can't run from love, Peyton, it's always going to find you in the end.'
Peyton simply snorts derisively again and trudges upstairs to bed. However, she makes the fatal mistake of leaving Brooke alone with a determined look in her eyes. It can only mean one thing: she's found herself a new mission and she won't give up until she's accomplished it. And so she begins to scheme and plan. Around 1 am, a slow grin spreads across her face as the perfect idea comes to her: Peyton Sawyer isn't going to know what's hit her.
A/N: So...what did you think? Not majorly exciting as far as first chapters go, I know but the plot should get going properly in the next chapter. Anyway, any guesses as to who Peyton's ex-boyfriend is? You'll find out at the end of the next chapter...which also involves the game of Truth or Dare I mentioned before and we get to see more of Lucas. Review please?