Author's Note: So, I don't know what to think about this. To be honest, I kind of, sort of like it. And usually, after writing a one-shot - or any story, really - I don't like it that much. But I really had fun writing this, and I tried to write it differently then I've ever written anything before, so I hope thateveryone that reads enjoys and reviews. Thanks.

Spoilers: Seasons one, two, and three. Well, season three up until a little past Lucas's HCM revelation.

Credits: The title of this story is from 'The Tide That Left and Never Came Back' by The Veils, and so are the lyrics at the beginning.

The Tide That Left

And though my memory's fading
It's still you that I find
If only you could stay and,
Not leave me behind

The tide that left and never came back
Is on my mind tonight
'Cause it's a small town
And it misses you my love

He holds the card in his hands. Rotates it around a couple times. The paper is lacy. It's like some stupid baby shower invitation, or maybe a debutante ball. The font the words are written in is the perfect amount of fancy. He wishes that the ink had smeared all over.

He looks up at Haley, and frowns. "Why would you even give this to me?"

"She asked me to. Said it'd be better this way." Haley shrugs, and the large, happy diamond ring on her finger glints in the sunlight. And Lucas wishes she'd just go away.

"Tell her to live a good, happy life with her doctor." He falls back onto his bed, drowning in an ocean of self-pity.

She sticks a hand on her hip. "You're not even going to consider going?"

"Nope."

For a moment, Haley looks as if she'll either try to convince him to go, or slap him upside the head. She does neither. Stares for a moment before leaving.

"See you, Hales." He whispers softly. But he knows that he's lost the right to call her 'Hales', and that she doesn't see him as a friend anymore. She doesn't see him as an anything anymore.

-

He drives past the café. Tries to play it off like he's just in the neighborhood. And he strains his eyes to look in through the windows, because he knows she's there.

Of course she is. Discussing her wedding plans.

The word wedding comes out bitter when he says it. The harder he tries to sound carefree, the worse it actually sounds on his lips.

She hasn't changed at all, even though she's twenty-four now, and a little broken, and a little fixed. Her hair's a little shorter than it used to be. But even through the windows, her eyes are still that same hazel color, and she's still as bright as the sun in so many unexplainable ways.

Sometimes, he tells himself that he watches her to make sure she's okay. But really, it's because he can't imagine his life without her. And even if she doesn't know he's still there, he is.

And really, that's all that matters.

-

Weeks pass, and the date nears. He finds himself looking through every book he owns and scribbling out the name 'Brandon' or 'Holloway' whenever he comes across it.

When he becomes absolutely desperate, he googles Brandon Holloway and comes up with nothing. He even looks through the 'online guide of molesters (know who's living in your neighborhood)' and can't even find a Brandon.

He gets numerous amount of calls. Mostly from his mother. She usually asks if he's okay. She knows how tough this marriage must be on him. Sometimes, even Nathan sneaks a call, when he's sure Haley isn't home. Those are Lucas's favorite. He asks about little Hilary, Nathan and Haley's daughter, who'll be two in a few months. And every time, after he hangs up, he regrets everything he's ever done, and briefly considers killing himself, until he realizes he's too lazy and tired, and he doesn't even own a gun (and that's really the only way he'd ever want to kill himself).

He visits Keith's grave with a twelve pack of beer, and drinks it all, pretending that Keith's there with him, swallowing some of it for him. And then, when he's so wasted he can barely walk, he laughs and jokes with his uncle about how they both screwed up with the only women that ever meant anything to them. He imagines Keith laughing along with him, wishing he hadn't gone back into that school to save the life of some kid he didn't even know.

He watches old The O.C. episodes (He picked up seasons one through six on DVD the other day) because he knows that The O.C. is Brooke's favorite show. And that she cried the day she found out it had been cancelled, but not as hard as she'd cried the day Marissa had died, and had cried every day for a week, until she'd finally had a little funeral for Marissa, and made everyone say something about the beautiful girl that hadn't even really existed. As he watches, he imagines holding Brooke in his arms. And he tries to see how she could possibly find Seth Cohen relatively attractive, and fails miserably. Whenever someone makes a joke about Ryan's brooding, he has brutal flashbacks of the days when Brooke was his Cheery, and he was her Broody.

He stares at the only picture he's ever seen of Brooke and Brandon (What the fuck? Both their names start with BR. They're practically brother and sister, he thinks every time he hears their names together) and he muses about how much taller he is than Brandon, who can't be any more then five' eleven. He tries to look past her eyes and smile. He tries to see if she's really happy, or if it's all an act. But she is only a picture, and even if she really is in love, he knows he'll never let himself believe it.

-

Three more days until the woman he loves marries another man, and things could not be worse.

He remembers the day he ruined his own life. He remembers asking for space, and he remembers the hurt look in her eyes. He remembers, months later, watching as she went off to some big-shot college, and he was left behind.

He remembers not talking to Haley, and rarely Nathan. He remembers going off to college himself, and not caring about it all. He remembers writing papers on sadness and grief, when the assignment was to write about the happiest moments of your life.

He remembers the day he heard that Brooke was returning, and she was dating some rich guy, Brandon Holloway. He remembers hearing that Brandon was the sweetest, most charitable, handsome male you'd ever meet. He remembers wishing Brooke would just become a lesbian, because men were already jealous of women, and this would be no surprise.

But most importantly, he remembers the day Brooke approached him, offering their old relationship back to him, and in an attempt to stay the hero (you know, give her the "life she deserves" and all that bullshit), he turned her down. Back to her boyfriend. Back to her life.

-

He ponders the entire last night before her marriage. He figures that she invited him, so that means she wants him there, right? He convinces himself that she wants him there so that he can object when the priest asks if anyone objects, and he can sweep her off her feet, and they can live happily ever after. But deep inside, he knows it's because she's Brooke, and despite every hurtful thing he's ever done to her, she's the most kind and forgiving person he's ever met.

And the next day, he searches his entire tiny apartment until he finds the one suit he owns, and slips it on, surprised at how well it still fits (The last he wore it was to Haley and Nathan's second wedding).

He drives to the church, and he waits in his car hours ahead of time, and he sips from a flask, and wishes that this were some cheesy, romantic comedy where he and Brooke would end up happily ever after, and Brandon would have been cheating on her the whole time.

He barely manages to force himself out of the car, and into the church. He slides stealthily past all the workers, and sneaks off to where he knows Brooke is. Sure enough, as he pushes open the door, he sees her up close for the first time in years.

She's standing in front of a tri-fold mirror, looking frightened and completely unsure of herself. And she looks at him through the mirror, and her eyes widen the slightest bit.

Lucas says, "You look beautiful."

She smiles faintly, and is afraid to turn around. She wonders if by the time she's faced him, he'll have disappeared.

He's speechless, but he wants to kiss her. And in his fantasy, he does. And she kisses him back. And somehow, they live happily ever after.

"Are you staying for the wedding?"

He nods slowly.

She thinks about how tough it will be to tell a man she doesn't love that she does while the man she actually loves sits and watches. For the briefest of moments, she imagines how she'd be if the situation were the opposite, and comes to the conclusion that it would be the worst punishment anyone could ever experience.

And he's silent. And so is she. And she tries not to blink, because she wants him to stand there forever. He shifts uncomfortably, and watches as her makeup covered eyes fill up with tears.

"I wish it.." She begins, but he stops her.

And he says, "Please don't. I have HCM, and if you finish that sentence, I'm afraid I may have a heart attack right here, and die right before your eyes."

Haley walks in and sees Lucas. She's holding little Hilary in her arms; the flower girl. Lucas has never before seen his niece, and he can't help but want to kiss her. Her soft curls are blonde - not like Haley or Nathan's - and her eyes are a deep shade of his brother's blue, but have his sister-in-law's depth and shape.

And he's already near tears, because of the tragedy that is his love life, but seeing Hilary makes him want to take back all and every one of his mistakes. Because he knows he'll never see this little girl grow up, and he'll never teach her how to do things Nathan and Haley won't. He won't be the cool uncle that gives her advice on what to do with her love life, or with a friend. He won't be 'Hot Uncle Luke' to her friends, and he won't ever help his brother scope out her future boyfriends, and give them the 'I got a shotgun and a shovel, and there ain't no one that's going to miss you' speech.

And he sighs. And he runs his fingers through his niece's hair, and he kisses her on the cheek. He smiles at Haley, and looks back at Brooke, who's now controlling her tears.

And he waves the smallest of waves.

-

Brooke walks down the aisle, tears streaming down her face. The two hundred plus people in the church think it's because she's so happy to have found the love of her life, but really, her tears are of sadness, and pain, and she thinks of her lost love the entire trip down the aisle.

Brandon lifts her veil, and she closes her eyes, trying to imagine that it's Lucas instead.

Lucas tries not to cry as he watches the only woman he's ever really loved give herself away to a man that'll never be him.

Their eyes meet. And they both know. It should have been him up there. He should have been the one she was saying 'I do' too.

And Brandon kisses her, and she kisses back, but opens her eyes and stares at Lucas the entire time. And Lucas stays for the reception for only a short period of time, because the sight of Brooke and Brandon feeding each other cake makes him want to rip off his own arm and throw it at someone.

And he goes home and turns on the TV. And he sticks in the episode of The O.C. where Marissa dies, because to him, this is just as sad of a moment as that is. And he cries and cries as Ryan holds the only girl he's ever loved in his arms, and realizes he's just done the same thing with the only girl he's ever loved. Even if it's just in a metaphorical sense.