A/N: So this is over now…and I seriously shed a little tear when I realized that. My baby is complete and while I'm so proud of myself for finishing it, I have to admit I'm really sad to see it go. However, I really do think I went out with a bang. Seven thousand plus words….yeah that's right. I gave you a nice meaty chapter to end on. So, all I'm asking is that you show you care lol. A little review maybe to tell me what you thought of it. It is, after all, the last time you can give me feedback on this. So please let me know what you think.
I'd like to thank all of you who have reviewed in the past. Reviews really do make my day sometimes especially when I'm just not feeling motivated. So thank you for that. And a special thank you to all the non-LP shippers who read this. You took a chance on it and I hope it didn't make you regret that.
And now on with the story….
Disclaimer: I don't own One Tree Hill. (No mean comments for Mark today).
Chapter Twenty: Karma's a Bitch and a Blessing
Nineteen years later
"You've got to be kidding me," Peyton hissed as she paced the kitchen, her heels clicking on the linoleum floor.
"Calm down, Peyt."
"You're not seriously okay with this, Luke? I mean he's only nineteen."
"And we were nineteen when it happened."
"Yeah, but we were also expecting Elizabeth. Oh my gosh! Do you think she's pregnant? I mean why else would a nineteen year old boy want get married? Or maybe! Ha, ha!" Peyton let out an insane chuckle, "Maybe just maybe she's holding out on sex until marriage like Haley did, and he just wants to tie her down so he can have his way with her. What kind of son have we raised!"
"Or maybe just maybe they're in love," Lucas said plainly.
"Not possible! No one finds their soul mate that young!"
"Umm, hello? You're staring at your soul mate who you happened to meet when you were sixteen."
"We broke the trend."
"What about Nathan and Haley? Or Jake and Nikki?"
"Co incidents," Peyton said waving it off.
"Oh come on!"
"No way, Luke. It doesn't make sense. How old is this girl again?"
"Eighteen," Lucas mumbled.
"Peyton, this is why J.J. didn't want to tell us. You're acting insane."
As soon as the words were out of his mouth, Lucas knew he was going to pay for it. Peyton's mouth dropped open and she stared at him incredulously.
"Are you calling me insane?"
"No," he said putting his hands up, "Definitely not! I'm just saying that you need to think about this rationally." He squared her shoulders. "Our son is not the type to rush into this. So we should just calm down and take it one step at a time."
"Calm down?" she whispered.
Lucas watched as Peyton tried to catch her breath. Finally when she had "calmed down," she looked him square in the eye and slapped him in the arm.
"He takes after you!" she yelled before stomping out of the room.
"Well," Lucas mumbled to himself, "That went well."
"Don't worry, dad, I'll talk to her," Anna said from the doorway.
"How long have you been standing there?"
"Long enough to know mom's about two seconds away from snapping."
"Umm, actually, Annie, she's already snapped," Elizabeth said peaking around the corner as well, before raiding the fridge.
"Touché," Anna said, "I don't understand what the big deal is."
"I know! I mean the Scott boys are known for their young marriages. It'd be a shame for our baby brother to break that tradition."
"Quiet, Lizzie," Lucas mumbled, "You're not helping this." Lucas let out a sigh. "Do either of you know how J.J. met this girl?"
"She's in his Art History class at NYU. He went on and on about how great she was during our last five phone calls. Finally Annie and I stopped calling him. We don't need to know about how 'she's the one' every five seconds. It's quite pathetic."
"Oh yes," Anna said, reminiscing, "I remember those calls. I think Izzy's the only one who still calls him."
"Yeah Marissa was the one who convinced J.J. to call your mother."
"Ha," Elizabeth chuckled, "Wait to go, Izzy! I'll have to call and congratulate her on that one!"
"Hush, Lizzie. What did J.J. say exactly, dad?"
"Basically that he had met a girl and he was madly in love with her and they were engaged. Then he said he'd like us to drive up and meet her and her parents during Thanksgiving break."
"Oh God. What did mom do?"
"She got real silent and hung up and then I told J.J. I'd talk to your mother and that we'd come for Thanksgiving. Then your mother heard that and-"
"Yeah we heard the rest of that conversation."
"Are we invited?" Anna asked.
"Yeah, but I don't think that would be a good-"
"Great! Road trip to New York!" Elizabeth said, "I'll get home and start packing."
"Lizzie, dad clearly doesn't want us to come with," Anna sighed.
"Yeah, but dad think of it this way," Elizabeth patted him on the shoulder, "Mom's probably not going to come with and you don't want to be in New York all by your lonesome. Remember what happened last time."
"Lizzie!" Anna gasped.
"Elizabeth Peyton Scott you will be the death of me," Lucas muttered, though he couldn't keep the smile off his face.
"You know I'm right. Come on Anna-banana! Let's go shopping for some luggage." Elizabeth kissed her father's forehead, "Love you daddy." She quickly skipped out of the room.
"She's nuts," Lucas said watching her go, before a frown settled on his face.
"It'll be okay, dad," Anna said patting his hands across the counter.
"You sure about that, honey?"
"I don't know," Anna shrugged, "Mom can't be that pissed. And at least this time you didn't do anything wrong." They both shared a chuckle.
"Annie! Are you coming?" Elizabeth shouted from the front of the house.
"I'll see you later, dad," she said before she exited the kitchen.
"Peyton," Lucas called as he knocked on the door. He waited for a response. Nothing. He sighed before calling again. When there was still not response he gave up. "I'm opening the door." He reached for the handle, but before he could open it, the door flew open.
"What do you want?" Peyton hissed, her eyes stained with tears, "Are you here to call me insane again?"
"No," he said softly, "I'm here to apologize."
"Peyton, you're not insane. You're just a concerned mother and I get that, but baby, if we don't support him in this we may lose him in the long run. Our kids have to be able to trust us to give them the benefit of the doubt. I mean my mom let me marry you when I was his age, and she really didn't think we were ready."
"But that's just it, Luke," Peyton whispered, "We weren't ready. We didn't love each other and we're not the standard couple that our children should base their decisions on."
"J.J. grew up in a household where both his parents were in love. He wasn't around for all that drama with Brooke. He knows what he's doing."
"And if he's making a big mistake?" Peyton wrapped her arms around Lucas as he drew her into a hug.
"It's his to make," he said kissing her forehead softly.
"I don't like the sound of that," Peyton mumbled into his chest.
"Just come up to New York and meet his fiancé. If you really don't like her, we won't even stay all weekend, okay?"
Peyton let out a deep sigh, "For you I will."
"That's my girl," Lucas said breaking into a grin, "I love you, you know that right?"
"I love you too."
"All set?" Lucas asked as he shut the back hatch on their minivan.
"Yep. Aren't you glad that we didn't trade this thing in just yet?"
"Yeah, Peyt, I just love tooling around in this thing," he said sarcastically.
"I call closest to the door!" Elizabeth yelled as she raced her two sisters to the car.
"Not fair Lizzie! You and Annie always get that seat."
"Well you're the youngest for a reason."
"Sometimes, I forget they're in their twenties the way they act," Lucas muttered as he climbed into the driver's seat.
"I do too," Peyton said, as she joined him in the passenger side, staring out the side window.
"You gonna be all right?" Lucas asked placing his hand over hers.
"Yeah I'll be fine."
"Come here," Lucas said. He placed his hand around the back of her head and brought it across the console where he met her halfway in a sweet and tender kiss.
"Eww! Mom and dad are kissing," Elizabeth whined. Lucas and Peyton finally pulled away.
"Love you, Peyton," Lucas whispered with a wink as he shifted gears.
"You better. I'm doing this for you."
"Wow, this place is nice," Elizabeth said in awe as they drove into the city, the tall buildings towering over them.
"Isn't it nice here?" Lucas breathed, "Nothing like Tree Hill though."
"It moves too fast," Peyton commented.
"Yeah it does."
"I like it. Who would have thought I'd like New York?" Elizabeth said.
"Where are we meeting J.J.?" Anna asked.
"Umm we're supposed to meet at Pearl's Café which if I remember correctly is just up the clock."
"Did Brooke live around here?" Peyton whispered so the girls couldn't hear.
"Yeah. About three blocks north." Lucas watched as his wife drifted off into her own thoughts. Brooke and Peyton hadn't spoken to each other since the day of the vow renewal. It wasn't that there's was a lack of interest. Peyton had lost Brooke's number during the move and Lucas had switched jobs so he wouldn't have to travel at all. That meant he no longer interacted with Brooke's company. Not that that mattered anyway. Lucas heard that Brooke changed companies as well after her marriage. Peyton had taken the loss of friendship well. She never expected her and Brooke to be joined at the hip after the whole triangle of hell, but she had always hoped they'd be able to share yearly talks in the least.
"We're here," Lucas noted, touching Peyton's arm to awaken her from her trance.
"Okay," Peyton said, before turning around to look at her girls, all of them getting ready to lunge out of the van, "Girls! I want you all to be on your best behavior. Remember you're not seven years old anymore."
"Yes, mother," all three echoed with large grins. Lucas and Peyton glanced at each other simultaneously.
"I fear for J.J.'s fiance," Lucas muttered.
"Oh! Speaking of that, what's the girl's name?" Peyton asked checking her make-up.
"Umm," Lucas pondered, "I don't know. Lizzie, what's her name?"
"Hell if I know. Ask Izzy. She talks to Romeo-boy all the time."
"It starts with an S. I think..." Marissa trailed off.
"Great," Anna sighed, "None of us know her name. That'll make a great impression."
"Sandra! No wait...Sophie, maybe? Or was it Summer?"
"Forget it, Marissa" Lucas said opening his door, "We'll just have to cross that bridge when we get there." Peyton mimicked his movements as Lucas waited for her in front of the hood of their car. He watched as the three girls sped by Peyton into the café. Peyton slowly approached him, and he extended a hand to her. She accepted it and intertwined their fingers, swinging their hands slightly. He placed a soft, reassuring kiss on her forehead.
It had been nearly two decades since they had reaffirmed their love for each other. Two decades since they had fallen apart and rebuilt themselves. And both incidents were not forgotten. Lucas and Peyton were still as madly in love as they were during their wedding renewal. Lucas's affection and deep seeded passion had never wavered, and they often joked about how shocking it was that they hadn't added to their family even with Lucas's off the charts sex drive. But, Peyton guessed there was a reason for this. Having four kids was plenty. It was perfect, in fact.
But, life wasn't always perfect. Like all married couples, they fought. The name of "Brooke Davis" would be thrown out for discussion. Old wounds would open and salt would be rubbed into them. And sometimes the pain would feel like too much, but they always survived. Because even when anger and rage blinded them, neither of them could stand to watch the other one suffer. Therefore, one was always there to help the other, no matter how angry they were.
They heard the chime atop the café door go off as they entered. Peyton immediately spotted her son sitting in a booth surrounded by his sisters. His blue-green eyes sparkled with amusement as Elizabeth pinched his cheek.
"His hair grew," Lucas noted. The boy's bright blonde hair was now shaggy, falling into his eyes. J.J. looked up and immediately spotted his parents, a bright smile falling over his face.
The moment their eyes locked, Peyton was taken back to her first encounter with those eyes. She remembered the sense of fear when she realized he had his father's eyes and now looking at them she realized it wasn't really that simple. They were different, darker, more shades of emerald and smoky gray. But he still had the innocence those eyes always held and that's what made it so unbelievable to think he was no longer a baby. That he was going to be getting married. She just wasn't ready to give up her baby boy.
"Hey guys," J.J. said, standing up to greet them, "I'm glad you both came." He hugged them both, all the while keeping his eyes on his mother.
"I had to, didn't I?" Peyton said somewhat bitterly, though she tried to hide it.
"You're gonna love her," J.J. promised.
"What exactly is her name?" Peyton asked as they all settled down at a table.
"Her name is Sawyer."
"Sawyer? Like my maiden name?"
"I think he's taking the Oedipus complex to a whole new level," Elizabeth said in a faux whisper, loud enough for all to hear.
"Shut up, Elizabeth! I'll have you know that Sawyer is nothing like mom."
"Gee thanks," Peyton said sarcastically.
"I just mean that she's much more….cheery."
"Cheery?" Lucas and Peyton said at the same time. "Oh God," Peyton muttered, "I'm gonna need an advil."
"I don't mean that mom's not cheery. I just mean that-"
"J.J., as the oldest and wisest of the Scott children, I'm going to give you a bit of advice. You are digging a hole you cannot dig out of. Stop now."
"Yes ma'am." There wasn't much more time for talking. The chime over the café door rang again and J.J. looked up to find his fiancé walking in. "She's here."
All eyes were on the girl. She was beautiful, the type of girl who just captivated a room over with her presence. She had long brown hair that fell to her waist and bright blue eyes. Her nose was slightly pointed and her complexion slightly tanned. Her smile sparkled as she looked over at her soon to be husband's face.
"J.J!" she proclaimed as she approached their table, her heels clicking with each step.
"Hey baby," J.J. said as he rose to greet her with a quick peck on the lips, "Let me introduce you to the family." Sawyer shyly turned around to face them, tucking her arm in J.J.'s. Peyton couldn't help but smile a little at the girl.
"Sawyer, this is my mother Peyton, my father Lucas and my sisters Elizabeth, Anna and Marissa."
"It's nice to meet you all," Sawyer said politely nodding her head.
"Well aren't you just precious," Elizabeth smirked, "I would have never thought J.J. would bring home a shy one."
"Lizzie," Lucas warned, but it fell on deaf ears.
"It's okay, dad. Sawyer should get used to the fact that I'm very blunt and harsh and very protective of my siblings. Now, sit, Sawyer so I can grill you!" Sawyer looked up hesitantly at J.J. who was grimacing at the thought of having Elizabeth torture his fiancé. Sawyer sighed deeply before taking a seat next to Marissa.
"So Sawyer-," Elizabeth began, but she was cut off.
"How'd you meet my son?" Peyton asked, shooting Elizabeth a look. Sawyer smiled gracefully and launched into the tale of her first day of Art History class. J.J. gave Peyton her the sincerest look of gratitude. Peyton smiled back. She wasn't doing this because she exactly approved of Sawyer. She just couldn't shake the feeling that this girl was more familiar than she had expected.
They were driving now to meet Sawyer's parents. It was just Lucas and Peyton in the car. The girls had decided to take the drive in Sawyer's convertible, the car her dad had given her for her sixteenth birthday. While Sawyer seemed extremely sweet and charming, the thought that she came from money worried Peyton. Lucas and her weren't exactly rich and she didn't know how they'd fit in with this girl's parents. Not that she was looking for approval. She was still dead set that this marriage would never happen.
"You've been awfully quiet," Lucas noted, trying to break the deafening silence which had overcome them.
"Yeah well I'm just thinking…" Peyton trailed off.
"Our son. Sawyer. Sawyer's parents. Whether Jake fixed that leak in the basement."
"Only you would be thinking of Jake at a time like this," Lucas chuckled.
"What is that supposed to mean?" Peyton asked raising an eyebrow.
"Nothing at all, darling. I'm just pointing out that it's odd you're thinking of Jake."
"What? Are you jealous?" Peyton teased, sticking out her tongue.
"Not at all. If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times, I'm worth one hundred Jakes."
"I still think you're a little unnerved by the fact that you don't occupy my thoughts constantly."
"You're right. It wounds me," Lucas said in deadpan.
"So sad…" Peyton laughed. Seeing that she was in a good mood, Lucas took a chance.
"So what do you think of this Sawyer girl?"
"Gosh, every time you say "this Sawyer girl" I think you're talking about me," Peyton said, trying to avoid the subject.
"It is a little odd," Lucas admitted, "But, umm, I think she seems decent enough."
"Wow, are we picking out a puppy or the girl our son is marrying?"
"Sorry, it's just," Lucas sighed, "Did you get the feeling…" He trailed off uncertainly.
"That she was Brooke and J.J. was you," Peyton finished, when she saw Lucas nod she affirmed it, "Yeah I got that feeling."
"I don't mean it in a bad way. It's just-"
"They talked about him being the guy for her. She's so cheery and he's so broody and there opposites that attract. She's the shyer, more put together version of Brooke Penelope Davis and that scares the crap out of me."
"He'll be fine," Lucas said firmly, and Peyton was put off a little by his tone.
"Yeah because you and Brooke turned out so great," Peyton said rolling her eyes somewhat bitterly. Lucas glanced over at her, seeing that distant, brooding look in her eyes. It took him a moment to respond.
"Brooke and I didn't work because I had someone else with a vice grip on my heart. J.J. doesn't have a Peyton, now does he?"
"So if it wasn't for me, you'd be happy and content with Brooke? Don't I feel special?" Peyton muttered.
"I would choose you 101 times out of 100."
"That's physically impossible."
"That's what people said about our love." Peyton couldn't help the grin that creeped onto her face at his words.
"You're so weird sometimes."
"You love me for it and you wouldn't want anyone else."
"Unfortunately," Peyton sighed jokingly.
"So I'm thinking that maybe Anna and I should get a Chihuahua for the apartment. I mean, we have a golden retriever, Betsy and she's just adorable, but I mean seriously, I can't take Betsy out shopping. If we got a smaller dog, I could stick it in my purse like that girl on TV…the one in those old reality shows…London…no wait-"
"Elizabeth Peyton Scott! You are giving me a headache!" Peyton hissed.
"This has been the longest elevator ride of my life," Marissa groaned, hitting her head against the side of the elevator.
"I'm having fun," Elizabeth grinned, "How about you Sawyer? Are you excited to introduce us to your parents? Ooh we never got your last name-"
"Lizzie, even I'm going to punch you and you know how much I love you," Anna said shaking her sister.
"It's not my fault I have severe ADD and Sawyer lives on the 65th floor."
"Yeah well, sis, you're not making this easier for any of us," J.J. said. Elizabeth sighed dramatically and shut her mouth. A few moments passed in silence with Elizabeth rocking back and forth on her heels. It was welcomed, giving everyone a second to collect their thoughts. However, the silence didn't last long.
"Wouldn't it be really awkward if one of us farted right now?" Elizabeth blurted out, luckily before anyone could respond the doors opened for floor 65. Everyone filed out quickly. Elizabeth and Anna scampered off to find the door with Sawyer, J.J. and Marissa close behind. Lucas and Peyton lingered behind them, eventually losing site of the group as they rounded the corner.
Lucas saw his wife's tired eyes and he knew she was slowly reaching her breaking point. She had learned to handle many things in life but this was one thing she wasn't accustomed to. Letting go. Elizabeth, Anna and Marissa all had serious boyfriends at some point and time, but none of them had ever come close to marrying yet. They all still lived and worked in Tree Hill. They all visited almost daily. J.J. had been the bright light in a very dark world for Peyton during the time Lucas had left. Now, she felt that this city was stealing another man from her life, only this one would be permanent.
"Peyton," Lucas whispered as he approached her from behind and wrapped his arms around her. She stopped walking for a moment and leaned her head back against his chest.
"Yeah?" she answered softly.
"I'm not ready for this."
"Neither am I," Lucas admitted.
"Mom! Dad! Quit making out in the hallway and come meet Sawyer's mom!" Elizabeth called from around the corner. Peyton sighed heavily.
"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. Courage to change the things I can-"
"And the wisdom to know the difference," Lucas finished with a small smile.
"We can do this, right?" Peyton asked looking back up at him.
"We can do anything together." Lucas nodded leading her down the hall and around the corner. Both were so wrapped up in their thoughts they didn't really notice the woman standing in the doorway of Sawyer's apartment. They didn't realize who she was until they had stopped right in front of the door.
"Mom, Dad, this is Sawyer's mom, Brooke. Brooke, this is my parents-"
"Lucas and Peyton," Brooke whispered. Time had done wonders to Brooke Davis. Her hair was longer, her smile brighter and her eyes now had a sparkle that she had lost after senior year. She had aged wonderfully and both Peyton and Lucas could now understand why Sawyer looked so achingly familiar to them.
The three adults just stood there, frozen in the doorway. They were all in shock. Their lives had seemingly separated with no hopes of ever fusing back together and yet here they were, in the same place. They hadn't all been in the same room since Nathan and Haley's wedding. They all knew that they should probably play this off as if they had never met for the sake of their kids, but they weren't quick enough for the ever observant, Elizabeth.
"Oh my gosh," Elizabeth said suddenly, her eyes darting back and forth between the three people at the door. "Oh my gosh I get it!" She quickly took out her camera phone and started snapping pictures of the three grown ups frozen in complete shock.
"What the hell are you doing?" Anna asked.
"Getting our photos for this year's Christmas card, Anna. It's going to read 'Our Idiot Brother Gets Engaged to the Daughter of Dad's Ex-Mistress' and then I think we'll put a little picture of the happy couple-" she paused to snap a quick picture of Sawyer and J.J. "Next to it."
"No," Anna said shaking her head, "She can't be. She's sweet and nice. Dad's mistress was a bitch."
"Says who?" Marissa asked.
"Says me! It's what I've told myself every day."
"Wait a second," Marissa reasoned, "They haven't said anything to make us believe that she's Brooke Davis."
"Oh my gosh!" Sawyer blurted out, "How'd you know? Wait a second, mom, is this the guy from high school."
"Ding! Ding! Ding!" Elizabeth said ringing an imaginary bell, "We have a winner."
"Brooke," Peyton said softly, breaking the silence that had settled over them.
"Peyton," Brooke said, adopting the same tone. She glanced over at the man standing next to Peyton. "Lucas."
"Eyes off, lady. Our dad's coming home with us," Elizabeth said jokingly.
"Now's not the time for that," Anna said hitting her sister, "In fact, let's give them a moment. Sawyer, why don't you show us the balcony?"
"Good idea, Annie. I think I need to throw myself off something," Elizabeth smirked, "Lead the way Sawyer." The kids quietly exited the room and an awkward deadly silence overtook the three adults.
"Come in," Brooke said, suddenly realized they were still standing in the doorway.
"About time," Peyton joked and she was happy to see Brooke smile, her tension ebbing away. Lucas, however, Peyton could tell, was still as nervous as ever. She couldn't imagine being in the same room as your wife and you ex-mistress would be something enjoyable. As she had been saying from the beginning, karma was a bitch.
Brooke led Peyton and Lucas into the living room. It was much warmer than the place Lucas remembered Brooke having back when he had visited her. You could tell that children had grown up here.
"Can I get you anything to drink?" Brooke said politely.
"B. Davis, let's just skip the pleasantries okay? Where the hell have you been hiding yourself?" Peyton said a bit miffed at Brooke's nonchalance. Brooke must have picked up on this because she immediately stepped forward and wrapped her arms around the curly blonde.
"I have missed you so much," she said painfully, "But you have to understand that I just couldn't move on without letting go. And then by the time it had settled down I had lost contact with you."
"Okay," Peyton nodded in understanding.
"And you broody," Brooke said glaring in his direction, "You just had to go and switch jobs!"
"Sorry," Lucas said meekly. Brooke just smiled, rolling her eyes. She stepped forward to give him a hug. As soon as their arms met, a tapping on the balcony glass could be heard and both looked over to see Elizabeth shaking her finger at them with a glare.
"Your daughter is quite the character," Brooke said stepping back from Lucas.
"Lizzie is just…well, Lizzie," Peyton said as they settled down on the couches.
"She's the one I met in the tent on your wedding day?"
"Yep. That's her."
"She turned out well. All of your kids did."
"So did your daughter."
"Did you by any chance name her after me?" Peyton smirked.
"Yes," Brooke chuckled, "I was trying to, in the words of Peyton Sawyer square my karma." She airquoted the last three words.
"What a Peyton like move," Lucas muttered.
"He's referring to the fact that we named our second Golden Retriever Davis."
"So you get my first born and I get your second mutt. That seems wrong."
"We didn't exactly have any other kids to name in your honor. And Peyton hated you when we had our son."
"Shut up Lucas. It's not funny," Peyton said as Brooke and Lucas chuckled over the absurdity of it all.
"Did you have any other kids, Brooke besides Sawyer?" Lucas said changing the subject.
"What!" Peyton blurted out.
"Yeah I'm with Peyton on that. You have six kids?"
"Another daughter, May who's sixteen. And then three boys, Adam, Ryan and Aiden. They're thirteen, eleven and seven respectively. And then my youngest Maggie who's five."
"How do you fit all of them into this place? And where are they now?"
"My husband and I don't actually live here. This is the place we come when the kids are away and that sort of answers your second question. The children are in boarding school."
"Boarding school? Like what your parents wanted to do to you and you firmly were against it?"
"Yes, but the difference is the headmaster of their boarding school is their grandfather so my husband and I didn't really have a choice. Besides, the kids love it there and we spend the whole summer together as a family. No work or interruptions."
"Brooke," Peyton started but then seeing the look in Brooke's eye changed her course, "I can't believe you have six kids."
"I can't believe you're still married," Lucas interjected, earning a whack from both Peyton and Brooke.
"Okay, we've seen enough of the balcony," Elizabeth announced as she pranced back into the apartment, "I hope y'all have settled your differences."
"We're fine," Peyton said.
"Ooh good because I have some questions for Ms. Davis."
"Oh dear God, please don't, Lizzie," J.J. begged.
"Hit me with your best shot," Brooke challenged, raising an eyebrow.
"Okay, first of all, are you that lady I met on mom and dad's wedding day? The one who fixed my hair?"
"I thought so. I've been meaning to ask mom about that. Anyways moving on," Elizabeth said, "Do you ever miss Tree Hill?"
"All the time."
"Last question. Was it worth it?"
"Was what worth it?" Brooke asked carefully. The entire room was on the edge of their seat, knowing exactly where Elizabeth was probably going with this question.
"Was breaking my mother's heart so you could screw my dad a couple more times worth it? Or looking back, do you realize what a total whore and hypocrite that made you? And if you're thinking 'wow that's awfully rude of her to ask that' you should have heard the other ways of phrasing it I had in my head."
"Elizabeth Peyton Scott!" Lucas roared, "Show some respect for your elders."
"I'm sorry dad, but I've waited nearly twenty years of my life to confront this woman and now that I've finally gotten my chance you'll have to excuse my lack of manners."
"Lizzie, even I think it was low," Anna whispered.
"Shocking! Anna Scott backs down from a confrontation. You and I both know you're thinking the same thing." Elizabeth moved to exit the apartment, but Brooke stood and grabbed her arm, whipping her around to face her. "What do you want?"
"You asked if I regretted and you didn't get to hear my answer."
"Go on," Elizabeth said, relaxing her stance.
"I don't regret it. Not one second of it."
"You-" Elizabeth began glaring but Brooke cut her off.
"If it hadn't have happened, I would have never gotten to this point in my life. I would have never married my husband. I wouldn't have any of my children. Your mother and father would have been stuck in a loveless marriage. Your brother wouldn't exist. Your uncle Jake would have never married Nikki. The way it happened sucked. I'll admit that, but in the end, I see that I'm happy with where it got all of us. So I'll take the sin and live with it." Elizabeth eyed her curiously before taking a deep breath.
"At least you're honest," she huffed sitting back down next to Anna. "I'm sorry I called you a whore."
"Apology accepted." A tense and deafening silence fell over the group.
"Could this be any more awkward?" J.J. groaned in disbelief. Just then, they heard the front door open and loud voice echoed through the room.
"Brookie Cookie, I'm home!"
"Oh thank God," Sawyer sighed, "Daddy's home."
"Not really great news," Brooke whispered sitting down, "I kinda forgot to mention you were bringing your fiancé over tonight…"
"I know that voice," Lucas said, furrowing his eyebrows.
"Me too," Peyton said.
"Ooh more people we know? Just great!" Elizabeth smirked.
"Hey, do we have company, Brooke? Because there are tons of shoes-" Brooke's husband rambled as he entered the room. He was a tall man, 6 feet and maybe a couple inches to spare. He had bright blue eyes, obviously the same ones he passed on to his daughter, and spiky sandy blonde hair. He gave the group waiting in his living room a charming smile. "Oh. We do have company. And it's the Scotts!"
"Chris Keller! That's the voice," Peyton said slapping her husband's shoulder.
"Wait a second," Lucas said, the wheels of his mind turning, "You married Chris Keller?"
"Wow, you're just as brilliant as I remember," Brooke said, rolling her eyes. She stood up and gave her husband a kiss on the cheek. "Hey baby," she whispered to Chris, "Remember how I told you that Sawyer was going to be bringing her fiancé over sometime soon."
"Don't tell me she's marrying Lucas," Chris said.
"Try Lucas and Peyton's son."
"No way. No how," Chris glared, walking towards the back of the house, he shot a quick look back at Peyton, "No offense, goldilocks."
"Daddy!" Sawyer whined, "Please just give J.J. a chance! You haven't even met him."
"I'll be outside." He ignored Sawyer's pleas completely, walking past them all and out onto the small balcony. When she heard the balcony door shut, Sawyer let out a groan of frustration.
"What is wrong with him? He promised he'd give J.J. a chance."
"That was before he knew who J.J.'s father was," Brooke said as she pinched the bridge of her nose.
"What? What's wrong with my father?" Marissa asked, indignantly.
"Yeah what's wrong with me?" Lucas whined.
"I bet I know," Elizabeth said perking up, her past brooding forgotten "Let's see. Sawyer's about a year younger than J.J. so I'm guessing that Brooke met Sawyer's dad, this Chris fellow, not long after our dad left New York. And from what I recall from mom's secret phone calls with Auntie Haley, I remember that Brooke loved dad and that dad kinda sorta broke her heart when he figured out that he was in love with mom. So Chris probably helped Brooke mend her broken heart and heard all the stories about how much of an ass our father is. So, while Brooke forgave and forgot, Chris didn't. It makes sense really why he'd be afraid that J.J.'s a carbon copy of dad." Elizabeth popped a piece of caramel popcorn in her mouth, "Gosh, this is good. Brooke gets a brownie point for the food."
"Is that true?" Lucas asked turning to Brooke.
"Basically," Brooke sighed, "It wasn't my intention, Lucas. I just-"
"Wait, where did mom go?" Anna asked.
"Goldilocks," Chris nodded as he watched her shut the balcony door behind her.
"Hey Keller," Peyton said with a small smile.
"If you've come to tell me why I should allow my eighteen year old daughter to marry your nineteen year old son you should just go back inside."
"I'm not," Peyton sighed.
"Really?" Chris said taking a swig of his beer.
"Where'd you get the booze?"
"I hide beer out here to help me think."
"You're fighting a losing battle."
"Ha, aren't you clever," Chris said sarcastically.
"I meant by pretending like your opinion matters with Sawyer. She might say she cares but if she's determined to marry my son, she'll do it no matter what."
"How do you know that?"
"She's Brooke Davis's daughter. She's stubborn."
"That's what I'm afraid of. Are we all just our father's sons and mother's daughters? Because if so, then what am I to make of J.J.?"
"Don't hate him because he's Lucas's son. Only hate him if he's not right for your daughter," Peyton said softly, "And besides you're forgetting he's my son too."
Chris was silent.
"So how'd you wind up marrying Chris Keller of all people?" Lucas asked. The kids had decided to take a walk around the block to cool their minds or most likely to keep Sawyer and J.J. from breaking down at how cursed they were. This left Lucas and Brooke alone in the apartment to dwell on the sins of their past. The ones that had made this meeting so painful.
"He's the one who helped me move here after Nathan and Haley's wedding. I called him because he was the only person I knew in New York and I have to say I was shocked that he even considered helping me but he did. Then after awhile we took to hooking up, nothing serious. It was almost like a 'friends with benefits' thing. Besides," Brooke took a second to bite her lip, "I wasn't exactly over you."
"I see," Lucas nodded.
"But yeah when you left, Chris laid it all on the line. He said he was going to leave on tour and that he was wondering if he should bother coming back. He said the only reason he ever really returned to New York was me and that he could just live on the road if he meant nothing to me. He left without an answer and then one day I got the urge to call him. I just knew he was worth it." Brooke took a moment to stare out at the balcony, more specifically at her husband whose profile was outlined in the moonlight. "Sometimes you don't know what's right in front of you until they're gone."
"I know the feeling," Lucas whispered, looking at the curly blonde sitting beside Chris.
"So you two are still together?" Chris asked taking another long sip of his beer.
"Yep," Peyton nodded, "Still together."
"How long you been married?"
"Twenty six years."
"Wow, that's a long time."
"It went by fast."
"He's a good man, isn't he?" Chris said quietly.
"Lucas or J.J.?" Peyton asked.
"Lucas. I know J.J. is a good man. My daughter has always brought home good guys."
"Lucas is a good man," Peyton said firmly, "He's just human. He made mistakes and he paid for them. He still pays for them actually."
"You know, he didn't even directly hurt me like he did to you and Brooke and yet I seem to be the only one who's still holding a grudge against him."
"Well, you never loved him. You loved someone who loved him. That's why Jake still doesn't really trust him."
"I like Jake," Chris said suddenly with a little smirk. Peyton couldn't help but smile. She glanced inside to see that the kids had returned.
"Looks like they're back," she noted.
"Yep," Chris sighed, "Looks like it." He stood up slowly. "I trust you blondie. You're a good person and I have to think you raised a fine son. Plus…if you took Lucas back, there has to be some good in him after all."
Peyton just chuckled as Chris headed back inside. All eyes in the living room snapped up to meet his. He walked with a determined step approaching Lucas first. He took a deep breath before extending his hand to the man. Lucas glanced quickly at Brooke before accepting it. Sawyer and J.J. both let out a breath they didn't know they were holding. Without a word, Chris turned to J.J. and offered him the same hand. J.J. quickly shook it, smiling from ear to ear.
"You love my daughter?" Chris asked quietly.
"Of course sir."
"You better treat her right," Chris said. Brooke squealed in delight running up to her husband and hooking arms with him.
"Oh Chris, thank God!" she said kissing him over and over again on the cheek. "I thought you were gonna make this painful for us."
"Please, Brooke. You and I both know that you would never allow me to get away with that."
"Okay celebration time!" Brooke said cheerily, "I'm gonna go grab some of that champagne in the fridge. You get the glasses. Lucas, go round up your wife from the balcony." Lucas didn't need to be told twice. He had already been edging his way to the balcony.
He quickly slipped outside. His wife, who had been staring out at the buildings with her back to him, didn't even notice his presence until he slipped his arms around her waist and kissed the back of her neck. She chuckled a little.
"That better be you Lucas," she muttered.
"Who else would it be?"
"Keller trying to get even with you."
"Well, it's me," he said turning her around so she could face him, but keeping her close so that her body was still pressed up against his and she had to tilt her head up so she could see him fully.
"Oh thank God," she said in a deadpan, "What are you doing out here anyway?"
"Besides looking at my gorgeous wife?" Lucas teased.
"Yes besides that," Peyton said playing along.
"I was sent to get you for a celebratory toast. Somehow I'm not so sure you'd be on board for that."
"I am," Peyton said slowly, "We have more to celebrate besides Sawyer and J.J. For instance, I finally found Brooke."
"Yeah and that went just incredibly smooth," Lucas said sarcastically, "I personally liked when our daughter called her a whore."
"Yeah okay so it wasn't all rainbows and sunshine. It all worked out in the end."
"When did you become the optimist in this relationship?"
"I don't know," Peyton shrugged, "I know this is gonna sound crazy, but I think tonight, right now, is the most complete I've ever felt in my entire life. My best friend is back in my life. My son is totally in love. My daughter finally got to release that ball of anger she's been holding in for twenty years and most importantly, you and I are standing under one of the most beautiful skies I've ever seen. This is the perfect moment."
"It is, isn't it?" Lucas said, glancing down at his wife who was smiling from ear to ear. "I love to see you smile like that."
"I've never really smiled like this before, have I?"
"No, there's definitely something special and different about this smile," Lucas said before he bent his head down and brushed his lips against hers.
Peyton Sawyer had been smiling for a very long time, but this was the first time she had ever felt entirely complete.