"I love you!" Peyton blurted and instantly regretted the words as soon as they flew from her lips. She pressed her hands to her mouth in shock, swallowing the sob that bubbled up.

Lucas just stared at her with a mix of incredulity and disbelief. Brooke was right! He had dismissed her claims that Peyton was in love with him from the get go. His surprisingly violent reaction to her claims gave him pause for only a moment. Peyton had never been in love with him. What they had, had been….Lucas shook his head. It had been confusing, frustrating, and amazing from start to finish. But it had not been love.

Lucas stared at this woman who had become his friend, companion, and confidant over the course of a year. He still found it amazing that they could remain so close despite their passionate beginnings. On the same lines he found it amazing that they had never slept together. It was like something always came in the way, like they were never meant to be.

Brooke has nestled into his heart before he could fully make things right with Peyton after the Jenna debacle. He became so caught up with trying to make things right with Brooke that he lost sight of Peyton and then she was there again and they were as close as ever. He toyed with the title of Buddy and found that Peyton, though their camaraderie couldn't be denied, did not fit in that place reserved for friends you drank with and told dirty jokes to, although they'd done both. She was so much more than that and far more attractive than any of his actual buddies.

Peyton was a very close friend that would always remain in his "what if" category. Truth be told, he hadn't thought of her that way much that year at all. There were moments when he was alone at night, in the quiet of his room and subconscious she would creep up, with hands running down his chest and lips so utterly soft and supple. He only gave into those thoughts for a moment and in his dreams.

Now, his friend, Brooke's best friend was laying this on him? On prom night. Brooke had refused his pleading invite and had taken Mouth instead, much to the smaller boy's chagrin. He in turn asked Peyton. It had taken a rose at her door, two 80's punk rock LP's and a hell of a lot of begging to get her there. He was starting to regret the idea now. They should've just gone out for pizza and played gin instead.

They were standing on the beach in a tux and gown for crying out loud. He shook his head in disbelief and realized that she was saying something.

"I'm sorry Lucas, oh god. Please just forget I said anything. I didn't mean-I mean it-I'm sorry-" Peyton was inching away from him and Lucas, despite the warning bells going off in his head, his heart reached out for his crying friend. His 'buddy.'

He grasped her hand and stepped closer to her when his tug was met with resistance. The idea was to hug her….it really was.

Lucas found himself staring into Peyton's eyes and he just had to know. Brooke seemed to think it was still there and Peyton…well hell Peyton loved him. He'd spent so long trying to convince Brooke that he was the guy for her that he hadn't stopped to think. What if she wasn't the girl for him? Suddenly nothing made sense. He wasn't sure about any of it so he opened Pandora's box. He paused for only a second long enough for Peyton to shake her head and whisper his name,

"Luke, this is dangerous." But he had to know.

He pressed his lips to hers and it was just as he'd remembered in his dreams. Her lips were soft and supple and tasted of fruit punch and the salt of her tears. His alarm bells had gone on full alert and at that point he knew he should pull away, but the warmth of her mouth was like coming home to a fire and afghan after a winter storm. His tongue nestled between her lips, stroking her tongue and tasting her mouth like it was a sweet and decadent dessert. Peyton whimpered and Lucas was lost. His hands which had been caressing her face moved so that he could encircled her body with his arms. He held her to him tightly his hands splaying out low on her back. And then he came back to himself.

WHAT was he DOING?! He pulled away with a jerk and blinked at her for a few moments as though awakening from a dream. Peyton began to cry silently feeling cold in the aftermath of the maelstrom that was their passion.

"Peyton," he began only to stop realizing her name came out choked and filled with emotion. "What the hell-"

He looked around quickly and was relieved to find that Brooke wasn't there as she usually was when he royally screwed up with Peyton.

"We can't DO this again. I won't do this to her again! You may have fucked things up with Jake, but I am not making Brooke pay for it again!" No sooner had the hateful words left his mouth, that Peyton with all her might, slapped him hard across the face and fell to her knees sobbing.

Lucas looked down at Peyton with eyes wide, wishing harder than he'd ever wished before that he could take those words back.

"Oh my god Peyton," he whispered.

"How can you SAY that to me! How can YOU say that to ME!" Peyton cried looking up at him with hurt and betrayal in her eyes.

"Peyton, I am so sorry." Lucas fell to his knees in front of her. "I didn't mean it. I didn't. God I'm sorry."

"You kissed me Luke. YOU kissed ME. That was your tongue in my mouth looking for gold, not the other way around. God I am so WEAK," she cried. And it was true. She was never able to pull away when she should have when Lucas put his hands on her, his mouth on her.

"No Peyton, I'm weak. I'm sorry that-I'm sorry!" His hands grasped air, as Peyton stood up.

"You don't have the right to say that to me." She sobbed stepping away from him as his fingers tried to hold onto her. "You don't."

She ran away, leaving him with his horrible words echoing in his ears.

"DAMMIT!" He cried punching the sand. He rocked on his knees and looked up at the sky. "You proud of me Keith?" He asked in a broken voice.

"Lucas?" Lucas swung around to find his best friend standing two feet away from him, with both eyebrows raised. Uh oh.

"Haley. What are you doing here?"

"Um, watching my best friend pummel sand," she replied and paused weighing her next words. "and repeating past mistakes."

Lucas sighed. "You saw that?"

"You're lucky I was the only one who did. Luke, what are you doing? Brooke is not even fifty feet away and you're making out with Peyton?"

"I was not making out with Peyton," Lucas bit, annoyed at the tone she was taking with him. This was embarrassing. Haley was not just his best friend, but she and Brooke had become quite close as well. He wondered…

"No I won't tell Brooke," Haley said reading the questioning look on his face. "But I hate you putting me in this situation again."

"Maybe if you weren't so snoopy, Hales."

"That's not funny Lucas, seriously."

"I know, I know. She told me she loved me Haley."

"Lucas I understand that you are a gentleman but you don't kiss every girl who proclaims their love for you," Haley said only half kidding. Her best friend was gentlemanly to a fault. He was the one who would lay down in the mud for a lady to step on if he didn't have a jacket. This characteristic made her wonder in the beginning when Lucas began to pursue Brooke in earnest.

"It's not just any girl Hales. It's Peyton." He looked at her, willing her to see the heaviness of it. This was no random girl. This was the girl he'd offered his whole soul and heart to, only to have her step on it.

"It's Peyton," he repeated. "I didn't plan this, I just I had to know if the feelings were still there. I had to-"

"Scratch an itch?"

"Fine if you want to say it like that, yeah."

"And? Was it what you'd thought it would be?"

"I'm as surprised as you are Haley. I didn't even realize, until I kissed her again in that moment…." Lucas shook his head. Why are you lying, he asked himself. "I saw it coming. And it felt even better than I thought it would and it hurt as much too."

"And Brooke?"

Lucas looked at her and shook his head. "I don't know, Hales. It all got so damn complicated. It might not matter anyway. After what I said to Peyton after that kiss, I don't think she'll ever speak to me again."

"Yeah, I saw her slap you. What did you say to her?" Haley asked forcefully.

Lucas shook his head and looked at his friend, who's capacity for compassion always astounded him. "It was unforgivable, Haley."

"Then why'd you say it?"

There was the two billion dollar question. Why did he say what he said to Peyton and why had he discounted Brooke's claims so forcefully? It all became abundantly clear as all things seem to after you've gone and fucked it all up. He turned to Haley and whispered,

"I'm in love with her too Haley."

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