The Ghost of A Good Thing
This will be the final chapter to this fic, I've loved working on this but I feel like it's run its course and this is how I had intended to end it all along. I hope you like it. Thank you to everyone who has read and reviewed each chapter.
Seven months had passed since she'd last seen Lucas. She had done her best to keep him out of her mind and move forward. She never expected him to show up on night, unannounced, on her doorstep.
"What are you doing here?" she asked him, the initial shock of seeing him had not yet worn off.
"I was hoping maybe we could talk?" he asked gently. At first glance, she noticed that the cocky bravado he had carried with him months ago had seemed to fade.
"You flew across the country so we could talk. Have you ever heard of a telephone?"
"I knew you wouldn't talk to me if I called, so I figured maybe coming out here would give me a better chance."
"Well, sorry you wasted a trip." She tried to slam the door in his face but he managed to wedge his foot in the door.
"Please Peyton, I know you don't owe me a second chance but there are things I need to say to you and then you'll never have to see me again. I promise."
She stared back at him for a beat and then stepped aside, silently offering entrance. He accepted the offer and stepped into the small house.
"Is your boyfriend going to mind that I'm here?" He asked the question honestly as he took a seat on the couch in the living room.
"Turns out you were right about my boyfriend. I came home and was stupid enough to tell him the truth about what happened. I guess he wasn't okay with his girlfriend screwing someone else, so he packed his bags and left me." When she spoke, her words seemed empty and cold but her face told a different story.
"I'm sorry Peyton, I…"
She cut him off. "Don't Lucas, I don't need your pity. Just tell me why you're here, so you can leave."
"Okay. When you left, after we lost the baby, I held out hope for months that you would come back. I begged your dad to tell me where you were, I just wanted to talk to you and know that you were all right, but he wouldn't tell me anything. And then I got the divorce papers and it was like I snapped. I stared at those papers for three days, and in the process destroyed my apartment and went through three bottles of the strongest liquor I could get my hands on, before I signed them and tried to forget about it all. My drinking just sort of escalated from there and I just never got it back under control."
"So the reason you're here is to place blame for your alcoholism squarely on my shoulders?"
"No, Peyton. I'm here because I have to apologize to you. That day in my apartment, when I stormed out, I didn't go to work. I drove to some bar and drank until I picked a fight with the wrong guy and ended with a beer bottle smashed over my head. And so I found myself in a hospital emergency room still drunk and bleeding all over myself, replaying the last conversation I had with you and wondering when I had become such an asshole. It was like a light bulb turning on in my head, I realized that I didn't want to be a drunk. I called Haley and she drove me to a rehab clinic that night."
"So why are you here now?" Her voice had taken on a softer tone, and she could feel herself warming up to him no matter how much she resisted.
"I've been going to A.A. meetings since I got out of rehab. And there are these steps you're supposed to follow to help stay sober, step eight is making a list of all the people I hurt while drinking." He leaned over and pulled a piece of yellow legal pad paper from the back pocket of his jeans and handed it to her.
Peyton unfolded the paper and looked it over. Scrawled in blue ink was a long list of names, all of which had check marks next to them, all except for hers.
Lucas continued. "I could tell from the look in your eyes that morning that I had hurt you more than I had ever hurt anyone before. I wanted to give you your space before I tried to find you, and now I've found you. Step nine is making amends to all the people I have hurt, and that is supposed to help me get over my need to drink."
"So you're here to apologize so you can feel better about yourself?"
"No, well that's what the book says, but I'm here because I need you to know how sorry I am for the way I treated you the last time we were together. And believe me I know how inadequate the word sorry must be in this situation. But I was different person when I was drinking, and I'm not that guy anymore and I never will be again."
Peyton had sat quietly in the armchair near the couch and listened to what he had said. His words seemed honest and sincere, and she saw that he really meant what he said. But she felt a sense of guilt that continued to gnaw at the back of her mind.
"For the last seven months I've imagined what this day would be like if it ever came, you coming back and begging for my forgiveness. And I swore to myself that if it ever happened that I would turn you away, and still hate you afterwards. But you're here and I don't hate you."
"That's good, right?" He smiled and without thinking reached for her hand, which she let him take.
"What happened isn't just your fault. I'm just as much to blame for what happened between us. I'm the one who ran off and left you. I'm the one that broke your heart, and you would have never taken that first drink if it weren't for me. You were the first boy I ever loved and I threw that away when I took off. I just couldn't deal with the miscarriage and all the guilt."
"What did you have to feel guilty for, losing the baby was not your fault."
"The whole time I was pregnant I thought of the baby as a burden, I resented it for, what I thought was, ruining my life. But it wasn't until the baby was gone that I realized how much I wanted it." She looked up at him, tears welled up in her eyes, and felt relieved that she was finally able to open up about her guilt for the first time.
"You can't blame yourself for feeling that way. We were kids Peyton, we had our entire lives ahead of us and then everything changed. We were going to be parents before we were legally adults, acceptance of that reality was not going to come overnight. But if our baby would have made it full term I know we would have made it work."
Peyton stood from her chair and wiped the tears from her eyes, Lucas followed and wrapped her in a comfortable embrace. The move surprised them both, but what surprised her even more was how natural and familiar it seemed.
"This is good therapy right, talking like this?" When he smiled, it was like he was the eighteen-year-old boy she had never stopped loving and a new more mature man that she had yet to meet.
"I'm sorry Lucas, for everything that has happened between us."
"I am too."
On the surface they had both changed, he had become an angry young man who forgot his pain in the bottom of a liquor bottle and she was the girl who carried the weight of guilt and anger on her shoulders for six years. But deep down they were the same two kids who loved each other years ago and never really stopped.
"What are we doing here Peyton? I didn't come back here to win you back but now that I'm here it's all I can think of. I still love you, you know?"
"Before this can go any farther I think we both need to see someone, a therapist or a counselor. We need to work on our issues, individually and together. Because we can never work unless we both agree to change." Though they had broken the hug, she still clung tightly to his hand.
"What are you saying? That you want to try again?" He looked hopeful for the first time that night.
"I'm saying that I'm willing to try again as long as we take things slow, I don't want us to ruin this again."
"We won't Peyton, we won't ruin this again because I'm not going to let myself give up on us again." She leaned forward and kissed him lightly on the lips. He couldn't help the smile that crept across his face. "So where do we go from here?"
"Do you want to stay for dinner?" she asked.
"Dinner would be good." He smiled and followed her into the kitchen.
Four months later Lucas packed up his apartment in Tree Hill and moved out to Phoenix and into Peyton's small house, they had both decided that a fresh start would mean getting away from the town that reminded them of their past. Another year passed before an impulsive weekend trip to Las Vegas led to them to a small wedding chapel and the decision that they were ready. It had taken them six years to find each other again, but time didn't matter to the two of them. All that mattered was that they were finally together.