T o g e t h e r ?

A/N:A collection of Peyton/Lucas centred stories.

Disclaimer: One Tree Hill not mine.

Never Going Back

There's something to be said for doomed romance. It's terrifying, gut-wrenching, soul-killing pain, and yet I don't know life without it. It's passion, it's intensity, it's raw emotion at it's most honest.

But whatever the pain it causes or however much joy it brings, there is no future for it. There can never be a future for it. Every single emotion that I feel about him is wrong. I've been crucified for feeling the way I do, and after he chose the easier path I had nothing to do but follow. Things died down and I was 'forgiven' for something I will never be able to truthfully say I didn't want to happen.

Suppression is a practiced art by me. I'm a master of denial; skilled in pretending. This mask that I've worn for so long was broken by only him and only he had the power to make me put it back on once it was down.

What is the truth behind the lies I told myself for all these months? What is the reality behind the smiles I faked to my so-called friends? It isn't hard to figure out. I've always known what the truth was. I'd give up the respect of every person in my life if only I could have him. And I did give them all up once.

He turned from me and professed his undying love for her. But I was first. If there can be no comfort to me, I can cling to the unbeatable fact that I was first. He wanted me before he even noticed her.

He changed his mind. I didn't.

And then I made the same mistake twice. But I don't think it can count as 'twice', considering I've never stopped caring about him in between the time frame of the 'first' and 'second' mistake. There was just a long pause in between in which I did my best to ignore my heart. Why did I ignore my heart?

That reason is also incredibly simple. I ignored what I wanted because I didn't want to hurt my friends. I didn't want to hurt her. All this pain was for her. She's my best friend, after all. We always said no guy would ever get between us. So I did it for her.

Every day I pretended, my resentment towards her grew. We swore to put our friendship over guys but there she was, stealing the only guy I ever really wanted. She could have any guy, she didn't even care much about him back then. But she chose my guy. She expects me to back away like a good friend, but she willfully pretends not to remember that I already backed away time and time again for her sake. I've given her everything I can spare to lose, and a lot of things I can't. Did she do the same for me? Could she extend to me the same courtesy, in the name of friendship? No. Simple as that. I chose her over him because I loved her. She chose him over me because she didn't. I didn't choose her because I loved her more than him… I did it because I felt I owed it to her to swallow my feelings. There was a time where I thought that I could always count on her, that everything must be sacrificed to preserve our bond. But what kind of bond did we really share?

I still want him. I will always want him. There have been other guys who have entered my life, but not one of them has meant more to me than him. I've tried to make myself stop, I've tried to love others, but it's always been him.

I'm sitting in my room now, my knees pulled against my chest. I've been crying again, and my face undoubtedly looks blotchy and red.

This time around, I put her first as I usually do. But this time I realized something that had never occurred to me before… she didn't have me first. She didn't even have him first. Her number one priority was herself.

Everything I wanted was hers and now that she didn't want me any more, I wondered how much of a loss this would be. I spent the better part of our friendship doing all that I could to hold us together and now that I didn't have to do that any more, I felt released. She wasn't who I idealized her to be and she wasn't there for me as best friends are.

Maybe now I can put myself first. It's a feeling I'm not used to.

The only thoughts left to conflict over now are the ones of uncertainty about him. I lost so much for her- I even gave up him. But now that I've realized it's him I need, now that I've chosen him over her for the first time, will he do the same? There is no way of even knowing if he still cares. He did, very much, once upon a time. It kills me to know that I pushed him away for her. It kills me that he may have lost his feelings for me.

No one has chosen me yet. When the time will come, very shortly, for him to choose her, or me, whom will he choose?

So many tears I've spent on him, but I'd give him so many more. There can be no other. If he doesn't choose me, there won't be anything left of me.

I can't stay here in this room. I untangle myself from my bed sheets and stand up. Waiting has done nothing for me, and I want more than anything to tell him how I feel. The fear of rejection is strong in me. If I lose him, I will have no one.

A knock on his door. Softly, because a scared part of me hopes that he isn't home so that I can push off this confrontation another day. No such luck. The door opened up and I almost melt in the welcoming blue eyes of his that greet me. His lips turn up in a smile. I vaguely think of the quote that actions are louder than words, and briefly toy with the idea of forgoing a verbal explanation- throwing my arms around him instead.

Deep down, I'm a sad young girl who desperately wants love. My need for validation eroded so much of my life up to this point, and the prospect of losing his friendship eats down on me.

My mouth opens. He looks at me quizzically. If I say the words I came here to say, there will be no going back. The look of amiability he is giving me now may be a look I never see again for the rest of my life. My chest constricts painfully as I realize that I'm not ready to have him out of my life completely.

I can't meet his eyes and I suddenly feel the urge to cry. In a mad attempt to stop the show of emotion, I bow my head and my shoulders scrunch up. His hand goes to my shoulder as he rubs it in confused comfort. The other hand cups my face and tilts my gaze back to him.

Why am I here? He wants to know. I try to say something, but my mouth seems to have dried up. All that comes out is a strangled dry rasp. My hand flies to my throat in embarrassment and then his hand takes my hand and leads me to his room.

Is everything okay? So full of concern, his forehead is furrowed with worry lines. I reach out and caress his face before I can stop myself and hastily yank it away.

I've already lost her and she was the only reason I kept away from him for so long. But I think his heart isn't with me.

Anything's better than this lonely uncertainty, I tell myself. But I know that's not true. With uncertainty comes hope for the answer I want. If he tells me how he feels and it's not what I want, I can delude myself no longer.

And then he brushes the hair out of my face and I can see that my silence is completely scaring him. I reach for his hand to squeeze, to reassure myself that this can be okay.

Please, tell me what's wrong! He begs me. She hates me now, I tell him. It comes out in a sob and he wraps his arms so securely around me. He tells me that she will come around, he thinks that I'm upset because she's lost to me. I want to make him understand. My eyes land on a framed picture of him with her, he looks so happy. Tears prick my eyes and I croak out that he doesn't understand. I clutch at his arms and cry into his shirt, and he lets me.

Why can't he love me? I want him to love me. I remember the words she told me once, that the pictures he kept of me were just served as a reminder to never screw up again. I was just a mistake to him.

The tears increase and then I can hear his heart beat through his shirt. Its pace is quickening, he's sincerely worried about me. His voice is quietly soothing and my back is being gently rubbed.

If I don't tell him, all will be lost. If he doesn't feel the same way, all will be lost. But I know that if I don't tell him now, I never will get the chance. She'll tell him first and poison him against me. She'll make sure I don't get another chance.

His face is so angelic. I twist around in his arms so that I can meet him in the eye. I have to say something now.

"Lucas?" my voice cracks noticeably and I can't make it stop. He nods for me to continue, but the words 'I love you' die on my lips. I told him that just a few days ago and he didn't feel the same… was that his mask saying that, or was he honest? Instead of my bold statement, I ask, "Do you love Brooke?"

"Yes." He answers without hesitation, slightly puzzled as to why I would ask.

I silently wish that my name was Brooke, silently pretend that I'm the one he's thinking of. That is my answer, isn't it? But then my mind goes to Jake, sweet Jake who loved me so much. I loved him too, but I love Lucas more. It's possible to love two people at the same time, I tell myself.

"And me? Do you love me?" it comes out as a whisper, my courage only goes so far. My eyes are boring into his, begging for an answer.

He frowns and answers with the same certainty, "Of course."

Not like that. Not as friends, I want to clarify. I examine his face and know that I can't harness the strength to ask him a question that could have him retract his statement.

And then I find my arms around him in an almost choking hug, my head is buried in the crook of his neck. I hold on for a long time and he lets me. When I finally pull away, my hands feel through his soft hair one last time. I kiss his hand and then his cheek, very close to his lips. My brain tries to memorize his scent, tries to memorize the feel of his arms around me.

Because when I walk out that door as I will in a few minutes time, I won't be back.