We Might As Well Be Strangers

A/N: So this is the last chapter of this fic. Thanks to everyone who has stuck with this from the beginning. I have some new one-parters coming up so look for those soon.

Chapter 12

When she first sees him, his hands thrust into his pockets and a weeks worth of stubble dusting his cheeks, she has to strongly resist the urge to wrap her arms around him and bury her face in his neck.

He says he wants to talk in a voice that's completely void of any emotion, and Peyton feels her heart rate quicken in a way that isn't good.

She leads him up to her loft, the silence between them looming heavily as the elevator hums and grinds its way to her floor.

When they step into her loft she drops her keys onto the table near the door and slips the coat from her shoulders then drapes it over the back of her favorite armchair. Goosebumps trail up her arms as soon she's rid of the coat, she likes to keep the loft cold even in the dead of winter because since she was a girl she's preferred to be bundled up under blankets, finding solace in the warmth of a pile of blankets.

"Can I get you something to drink?" She asks, staring at his back as he skims his fingers over her record collection. "Coffee, water, I think there's some soda."

"No, I'm fine." He shakes off the offer, choosing instead to pace in front of her couch running his fingers through closely cropped hair.

"Why are you here Lucas?" She already knows the answer, but she needs him to say it.

He takes a deep breath and plops down onto the sofa. "I want to know everything, why you lied, who we were, everything."

"In that case, I'm going to need a drink." She says quietly before excusing herself to the kitchen. She's suddenly very grateful for the wooden partition that hides the kitchen from the open expanse of the loft, as she slips behind it and rummages through her surprisingly small liquor cabinet and comes out with a bottle of whiskey that Lucas used to love. She pours herself a glass listening as the ice cracks and snaps angrily. She finds a different kind of solace in the warmth the whiskey provides as it slowly makes its way down to her belly.

She slides up onto the counter, her bare feet dangling high above the wooden floors, and rolls the half empty glass in her open palms letting her rings click loudly against the sides. She goes over a script in her head trying to find a way to tell her side of the story without him storming out, she knows that if the situation were reversed she wouldn't be nearly as calm as he appears to be.

She downs the rest of the amber liquid and leaves the empty glass on her kitchen counter before walking back into the living room with a renewed sense of courage, thanks in large part to the double whiskey that is still tingling at the back of her throat.

She sits on the opposite end of the couch, staring intently at her hands as she crosses and uncrosses her fingers. "I never intended for you to find out they way you did, and to be honest you weren't supposed to find out at all. I know that that probably isn't what you wanted to hear but I'm laying it all out for you now. No more lies."

He shakes his head and finally looks her in the eyes. "Okay" he says softly.

"After your accident the doctors told us that there was a small chance that you might get your memory back, two percent is the number they gave us. But if we wanted to put stock in those odds we had to follow certain rules, the most important being that we couldn't attempt to jog your memory. They were afraid that that pressure for you to remember would only further suppress your memories. You had just woken up from a coma with no idea who I was and it destroyed me Lucas, so I agreed to become a stranger to you just to hold onto the hope that someday you might wake up and remember your life, our life. I know I hurt you, but you have to believe me when I say that I thought it was my only choice."

"Why didn't you just tell me the truth, it's been three months. You could have told me the truth."

"When we had to start over again I had to take the chance that you wouldn't fall for me again, but when you fell I fell even harder. It felt right, like the way we should have done it the first time around. We just happened so fast that by the time I could slow down and think about the lie, I was afraid that if I told you the truth that you wouldn't understand. And now here we are, exactly where I didn't want us to be."

"So where does that leave us?" He asks, and she's never been so relieved to hear him say 'we'. She's suddenly hopeful again.

"It's up to you Luke, what happens now. But you have to know that I would never hurt you again. Losing you made me realize that my life is nothing if I don't have someone I love in it. And you are that person Lucas. I love you and I need you." Her gentle voice is pleading desperately with him to forgive her.

When he says that he needs more time she feels defeated, when he stands to leave defeat is replaced with hopelessness. "I'm sorry Peyton." He leans down to kiss the top of her head before slipping quietly out of the door.

After he leaves she paces the loft, wanting desperately to open the door and chase after him. She sees the irony in the fact that this all started because she pushed him away, and now she wants nothing more than to hold onto him and never let go. She takes one last walk to the heavy sliding door of her loft and rests her forehead on the cool metal.

She hears his hurried footsteps before he starts to pound on the door. When she slides open the door he's standing in the hallway looking anxious and out of breath.

"I've been standing out in the hallway for fifteen minutes trying to walk away, but I can't do it Peyton. I don't want to do it." He lunges forward, catching her face in his hands and kisses her until the stubble on his cheeks have turned hers red. When he pulls his lips away, she wraps her slender fingers around his wrists and keeps him close. "How about a fresh start?" He breathes against her skin.

She kisses him again, and she doesn't think about the old Lucas or whether his kiss feels the way it used to. It doesn't matter to her anymore. She has him, and she won't lose him again.

Three months later when he asks her to marry him, she doesn't hesitate with her answer.

fin