AN: I know I suck at updating. But I am determined to finish this story! This chapter isn't actually complete, but I somewhat promised to post this weekend... anyways hope you enjoy it. Let me know!

Chapter 24

"Who in the Sam Hell is banging on my door in this weather?" Whitey Durham bellowed as he swung open his front door. A wry smile crept on his round face when he recognized the two culprits. "Well, well, well, if it isn't Bonnie and Clyde, making mischief again."

Surprise and relief overwhelmed Peyton. "Whitey," Her arms flew around the older man, holding onto him for dear life. And for warmth.

Whitey wasn't the type of person who wore his heart on his sleeve but he had a soft spot for Peyton Sawyer. His long arms wrapped around Peyton's petite frame. "Welcome home, Peyton."

Despite being frozen to the core, Peyton managed to smile.

Pulling back from each other, Whitey's stern face returned, "Disappear like that again and I'll hunt you down myself."

Peyton only nodded in response. Though she did miss Whitey while she was away from Tree Hill, she never thought that she would be missed. The apologetic look that had fallen across her face softened Whitey again.

"Go get yourself warmed up by the fireplace." Whitey said with a twinkle in his eye.

As he watched Peyton disappear into the living room, a cold draft made the old man shiver. He wrapped his housecoat tighter around himself and turned his attention back to the open door. Seeing Lucas still standing in the doorway, his scowl reappeared.

"What are you standing there for? Get in here and close the door. You're letting all the heat out."

It was high school all over again. Lucas was an outcast sitting off to the side in the recliner while Whitey and Peyton, the popular kids, sat on the sofa, catching up. But Lucas didn't mind. He was there with Whitey, the man he looked up to and Peyton, the girl he still secretly adored.

"I always knew that you would do well, Peyton." Said Whitey, "But what about that lucky guy in your life?"

The excited glow that Peyton had while she talked about her life away from Tree Hill slowly dimmed. Her arms that flailed as she spoke fell back to her sides as her body sunk into the couch.

Whitey could sense that there were still some unresolved issues between Lucas and Peyton. Neither talked to each other much since they had arrived. It was mainly Peyton and Whitey who conversed while Lucas sat idly by. And when Lucas quietly left the room, shortly after his question, the old gentleman just shook his head.

Stubborn fools.

Peyton listened to Lucas' retreating footsteps and let out a nervous smile after she realized that Whitey was still patiently waiting. When she was sure that he was not within earshot, Peyton scooted closer to Whitey.

Keeping her voice low, Peyton finally admitted, "I don't think that guy's been quite so lucky."

"Michael?" Peyton entered the bedroom of their New York home to find Michael packing for their trip to Tree Hill.

"Hey, Peyton! Just in time." Michael held up a cashmere sweater in one hand and a suit in the other, "Do you and your dad dress up for Christmas dinner or is it more of a casual holiday?"

"'s casual. Michael…"

"You know, I wasn't sure about spending Christmas away from my family, but now, I'm actually excited to see where you grew up. I mean you never really talk about it much and..."

"Michael." Peyton interrupted.

He looked up to find Peyton awkwardly standing by the doorway, fidgeting with a book in her hands.

"What is it, Peyton?"

"Do you remember what you first said to me when we met?"

Michael struggled to remember, "Um...well, I was at the Museum of Modern Art when I saw you. We were looking at some statue and..." he took a moment to remember, but couldn't remember the exact wording, "It was something about destiny and avoiding it. Why do you ask?"

"Well, at the time I was avoiding something. Michael, I never told you this, but you need to know who I was before we met. And why I left Tree Hill."

Lucas wandered down the memory filled hallway. It was a perfect distraction for him. Pictures of Whitey and Camilla were proudly displayed on the first part of the hallway. There were some single black and white photographs of Camilla. Her smile was kind, warm and beautiful. There were also a few pictures of the couple together, capturing their love.

Continuing down the hall, Lucas encountered Whitey's second love: the Ravens. Every team Whitey coached had a special place on the coach's wall. Lucas stopped when he came across his first team photo.

To this day, Lucas could remember his first game in the white, blue and black jersey – not because he had a dismal shooting performance, but because of what happened after the game.

O for six from the field; five unforced turnovers; four personal fouls; needless to say, it was a terrible debut. Lucas sought comfort at the one place that he could call his own; the Rivercourt. Unfortunately – or fortunately - he wasn't the only one looking for the same thing.

"I guess misery really does love company."

Lucas turned around, shocked to find Peyton Sawyer standing there at the edge of his court. After the game he saw her get into Nathan's SUV. The Rivercourt was the last place Lucas thought he would see Peyton and yet, there she was; with him, clearly cheering him up.

"Destiny has a way of finding you."

Lucas jumped back into reality to find a smiling Whitey peering over his shoulder. "I told you that before I let you walk onto to the court for the first time in a Raven's jersey. But you never listened, you stubborn fool. 'Cause if you had, you probably would have played a decent game. Instead you go out there, miss your first pass and nearly knock out that poor cheerleader."

"Yeah, Peyton wasn't too thrilled."

"Nice hands." A feisty Peyton glared.

Lucas confidently shrugged and responded. "Nice legs."

"She always was a wily one." Whitey stated.

"Yeah. She still is."

The older gentleman took an extra second to study Lucas' small smile and his daydreaming eyes. "You still love her, don't you?"

Lucas answered with a quizzical look. Was he that obvious?

"Destiny has a way of finding you, son." Whitey patted Lucas on the shoulder, "You don't force it. You don't fight it. Just let it find you."


"You'd be surprised at how easy life can be if you'd just stop avoiding it."

"So you're saying, Peyton and I are meant to be?"

"Oh no," Whitey let out a deep belly laugh. "I'm not saying that."

"But, you just said-"

"Lucas, destiny can only take you so far, it's up to up to you to make it happen." A yawn escaped Whitey. "Well, I'm beat. Time for this ol'fool to get to bed. Tell Bonnie I said g' night."

"Wait. What are you saying?"

It didn't make sense. None of it did. And the more she tried to explain, the more confusing it got.

"When I left Tree Hill, I was looking for a fresh start . And when I moved out here and met you, I thought I found the happiness that I looking for." she said, reaching for his hands. "Michael, I love you. But..."

Michael flinched when she touched him. Any confession that begins with an 'I love you' and ends with a 'but', never means anything good.

"…before we can plan our wedding and get married, I need to be fair to you and to us."

"Fair? You think this is fair?"

"I know this sounds crazy, but I just – ever since Lucas came back into my life – a part of me…"

"You're just confused." He tried to organize the craziness that he was hearing, "You miss Lucas, that's all."

Michael was always a sensible guy. It was one of qualities Peyton loved about him. So she smiled when he tried to make sense of her mess of a heart.

"I know that you haven't talked to him in a while and I get that you're worried…"

A cloud of guilt washed over her. She wished everything he was saying was true. She wished that the feelings she always had since she first met Lucas had stayed buried, but they came flooding back the second he found her at the gallery. Her guilty conscience tormented her because she knew that she didn't just miss Lucas.

"Michael, I'm sorry, but I think…"

"Think what?"

"I think it's better if I go to Tree Hill alone."

Peyton was sitting alone on the pullout sofa-bed. She sat and watched the crackling fire in front of her, nursing a glass of red wine. Her legs were tucked under her and a blue plaid blanket was wrapped snug around her. She was lost in her thoughts until Lucas interrupted.


Peyton, startled, quickly wiped fallen tears with her free hand. "Hi."

Lucas took a seat at the edge of the bed and gently put his hand on her arm, "Are...are you crying?"

"No." she sniffed.

Liar, he thought as his eyes rolled.

"If I told you that I'm sorry for yelling at you earlier, will you stop crying? Because I am. I'm sorry that I said some things that I didn't mean."

"Yes. No." she answered as tears continued to fall, "God. I hate being such a girl."

"Well, I kinda like the fact that you're a girl." Lucas smirked, "Besides if you weren't, those legs would be such a waste."


"Ow!" Lucas rubbed his tingling arm while he smiled at Peyton whose cheeks were turning red. "Are you blushing?"

"No." Peyton lied. Feeling vulnerable and exposed, Peyton put her glass of wine down on the end table and shifted away from him. She moved to the other side of the bed and laid down, with her back to him.

Suddenly, the bed began to squeak and the bed began to sink behind her. Peyton sat up and stared at him like he had three heads, "What do you think you're doing?"

"Come on. We used to talk like this in your bedroom all the time, remember?"

"Well, yeah, but,"

Lucas rolled onto his side to face her and propped his head up with his arm. "Look, you came home to work things out between us. So consider this as us – being friends, working things out."

She was confused, "Earlier you said we weren't friends and now suddenly we are? What made you change your mind?"

"Maybe I've realized that I can't deny the inevitable."

"The inevitable?" Peyton suddenly began to wonder if Whitey had said something to him in the hallway.

"When you were missing in the storm, I did a lot of thinking. We've been through so much together. It'd be such a waste to throw it all away. And with that said," He sat up, meeting her eyes, "I owe you an apology because the last thing I told you was that we weren't friends; that we weren't anything. And I don't want that for us.

"Peyton, I know what it's like not to have you in my life and I don't want that again. I made my choices and I have to live with it. Not you. So if I have to let you go and settle just being friends again then I will. Just as long as you're happy. It's all that matters."

Lucas' hand reached up to the side of her face, tucking a stray curl behind her ear, "You deserve to be happy, Peyton."

Peyton tried to fight a frown with a smile. Her lips quivered until she couldn't hold it in any longer.

"Hey, what's wrong?" Lucas wrapped his arms around her, comforting her. She accepted his embrace only for a moment. She pushed herself off of him, wiping furiously at her falling tears.

"I don't deserve to be happy."

"Why not?"

"Because…because I've been lying to everyone."

"What are you talking about?"

"I left Michael."

"Ok, I must be dreaming or something here, because this is not making any sense." Michael threw his hands up in defeat. "Peyton, what you had with the guy is a crush. It wasn't love. I love you."

"I know. And I'm sorry."

"No. You can't do this, Peyton." He threatened. "I can't let you do this. If you get on that plane, without me, then we're over."

Peyton knew that this conversation wouldn't go well, but she didn't expect an ultimatum. It stunned her. "Michael, don't do this."

"You think I want to do this? Peyton, you want to go to Tree Hill to see if you still have feelings for the guy and you want me, your fiancée, just to stand off to the side and watch."

"It's not like that."

"No. I don't want to hear it. It's me or him. And if you choose him, don't expect me to stick around and catch you when things don't work out."

He didn't have to ask her who she chose. Her sitting beside him told him. But why?