A/N: This has been a long time coming

So when she goes, she just goes, and there isn't anything that anyone can do about it.

Lucas likes to think it was a nice death, as far as deaths go. Her breathing had been even and unlabored, and her fingers had curled slightly around his. There had been no epic conversation, no parting vows of eternal love or remembrance. She'd made sure of that.

Lucas doesn't really have much experience with this kind of thing outside of that time Brooke forced him to watch 'Sweet November' with her, so he really isn't sure what to say when the time comes.

He knows he loves her though, so he tells her so.

"I know," she smiles with colorless lips. "I want to tell you that I forgive you."

"I know," he says.


"Haley's a mess."

"She'll be okay. She'll have Nathan, and the baby, and all that to worry about. She'll stop thinking about it after awhile."

"I won't."

"You will," she says. "So will Peyton, and everyone else. As much as I wish I could be here for the rest of your life, I can't, and I don't want you to make me."

"What do you mean?" he asks.

"I mean," she says softly, "I don't want you to carry me around with you forever, Luke. It's not fair to anyone. I don't want you to make me hold you back."

"I have to," he says shakily, and after a pause. "I can't just forget about you."

"Then don't," she says, a little smile on her lips. "Just don't remember me as your long lost soul mate that you can't live without. Remember me as that girl you had fun with in high school for awhile."

"You're more than that, and you know it," he winces.

"Yeah," she sighs, "I know."

She smiles.

He smiles back, cracked.

She turns her head to side, and sighs softly.

At the graveside, Peyton's hand finds his, but he shrugs her off. Maybe someday, but not today... not while he's standing by this freshly turned mound of earth. Her watery eyes find his, and she smiles slightly. He's glad she understands.

He reckons the ceremony goes about as well as can be expected. A lot of people come, but he doesn't recognize any of their faces. Maybe it's because none of them are the one he wants to see.

Peyton is hysterical, and has to be led from the sanctuary by her father. Lucas tries to believe that it's grief, and not guilt, causing her emotional outburst. He eventually decides maybe it's a little bit of both, and that it's okay. God knows he feels the same way.

Haley and Nathan keep to the background throughout the proceedings, taking turns holding their baby boy. Haley cries in her own, quiet way, but Nathan remains stoic. His tightly clenched jaw tells another story, though, and when Haley rubs his back, he just stares forward.

There seems to be a common consensus on the fact that knowing something is coming doesn't make it any less shocking when it actually arrives.

Lucas had meant to say a few words, but when his time comes, he finds himself just shaking his head. He generally has a tendency towards verbosity but this time, he just doesn't know what to say.

He purposefully ignores the other speakers, even his own mother's shaky words. What can they say that could possibly make any impact? They can acknowledge the pain, but they'll never share it. His grief is his own: a living, breathing grief that beats right along with his heart.

He tries to remember what Brooke had told him after Keith's funeral, searching his mind for her words with a sort of fanaticism. Already she's fading from his memory. He's guessing it wasn't anything too profound. She wasn't really that kind of girl. Still, it might have helped.

It probably wouldn't have.

He remembers some things. He remembers the taste of green tea, and the fact that he actually did sort of feel better afterwards. He remembers her face after the Sparkle competition, and the way she had tossed her head back. He remembers the feeling of her hair on his face and her body under his fingers the day she had relinquished herself to him for the last time.

He remembers that she was a good person. She was a good person, and she had a good life, and she usually did the right thing. She loved him, and tried to do things to make him happy. What more could he have asked for?

What more could any of them have asked for?