A/N: Your response to the last chapter absolutely amazed and flattered me all at once!!! A very big thanks for your wonderful reviews. To address the comment made about which line I should have ended the last chapter with, I have to agree with you. I went back and forth on that one for a while but... I'm glad you liked it anyway! Hope everyone continues to enjoy this one... hope you aren't disappointed and thanks again!


Chapter 19 - How Do You Fall In Love

"The sun's already coming up and my flight's in a couple of hours," Brooke said in a voice filled with fatigue. "You should go."

Lucas stared at her watery hazel eyes, red rimmed with unshed tears and a night spent without sleep. She seemed fragile and halfway broken. So unlike the Brooke Davis he first fell in love with. And as that thought flitted across his mind, that was when it hit him. He had done this to her. He pushed and prodded until she had finally broken. But she never assigned blame. Never accused him. Instead she stood with her stubborn chin jutted out, waiting for him to walk out the door once last time.

"Is it crazy that I already miss you? Even though you're only an arm's length away."

"It might as well be a mile," Brooke murmured as she crossed her arms over her chest like a protective shield in front of her heart.

"I never meant to hurt you, Brooke. And I'm sorry because it seems like that's all I ever end up doing," Lucas apologized, wondering if she would have been better off if he just stayed away. If instead he had just gotten his answers from Peyton instead of dredging up the past only hours before Brooke was set to fly out of town.

"No, Luke that's…" she trailed off as her eyes momentarily softened. "It's not all you do. And to be fair, I admit that I didn't always make things easy on us either," Brooke stated, looking up at him remorsefully. "I know this is stupid and… and, well nothing good could ever come from it. But before you go… would you just answer one question?"

"Sure."

His easy acceptance made it even harder to ask.

"Have you ever wondered whether we would have eventually gotten together if Peyton hadn't put the brakes on things that night at Nathan's house?" Brooke asked, considering the night that came after. The hours they spent together talking while Peyton slept off the effects of a date rape drug. "I mean… she wouldn't have gone to the college party with me. You and I wouldn't have talked so you would have never asked me to read that book. But do you think at some point in time… we would have found each other?"

Brooke wasn't sure why his answer mattered. It wouldn't change anything one way or the other. But she still found herself curious, wanting to know how he'd respond.

Maybe because she needed to hear him say it hadn't all been for nothing.

"Yes."

"But why?" Half anxious, half afraid of his answer.

People that are meant to be together always find their way in the end.

He could have said anything or nothing at all. In two years, day by day, month by month… puzzle pieces began to fall into place until he could see more and more of his life's picture. And with each new image, he began to realize something that hardly made sense and sounded completely right at the same time.

"Because I think I was always meant to find you," Lucas said with a faraway expression covering his features. "Only the time somehow got screwed up and you walked into my life before I understood how important you were. And after I messed up… I didn't know how to fix what I had broken," he admitted with raw honesty. "I guess I just hoped that one day our timing would finally been in synch. You'd walk back into my life and I'd finally be able to tell you that I understood. That my head had finally caught up with my heart."

"And now it's too late," she murmured.

She woke up with the fog of dreams still clouding her mind and a strong arm curled around her waist. For a moment, Brooke felt a sense of panic until the night's events slowly came back to her. "Morning pretty girl," Lucas greeted quietly and she turned on her side to face him.

Brooke couldn't find a single trace of sleep in his eyes or in his expression. "How long have you been awake?"

"About a half hour."

Kinking her brow, she asked, "Were you watching me?"

"A little," he admitted, returning her smile with one of his own. "It's been a long time since you and I slept next to each other, both fully clothed," Lucas couldn't help reminding, grinning as he propped himself up on his elbow. Eyes staring into hers with amusement, he watched Brooke's features transform into a sarcastic expression. "Not that I didn't enjoy it," he carefully added. "You fell asleep against my heart and inside my arms. How could I have not enjoyed it?"

This time her smile was bittersweet and Lucas knew something was wrong. "I dreamt about you last night. About us… that night in Tree Hill when you came to my hotel room to talk."

"I've been thinking a lot about that night too," he admitted.

"Can you believe we spent ten hours in that hotel room talking?" Brooke asked, marveling even two years later that there had been enough unsaid words to keep them up until dawn. "Or that there were probably more tears and yelling in that one night than in our entire relationship?" To say it was an emotional rollercoaster would have been a strong understatement. So many truths had been revealed and both realized plenty of old wounds still hadn't completely healed.

"It's not going to be like that again, Brooke. Not this time," Lucas said and gently trailed his fingers along the side of her face. "I love you, pretty girl. And I won't let anything get in the way of that. I promise."

She nodded, attempting a smile. "Well as much as I'd love to stay in bed for the rest of the morning, I have a few meetings I couldn't get out of," Brooke explained, remorsefully. "Your partner in crime should be in her room, though. Maybe she can take you out for breakfast or show you around the city," she added ruefully.

"Sounds like a good idea," Lucas agreed, laughing at her choice of words. "When we came up here to see Haley junior year, she and I didn't really explore the city or anything. It was more along the lines of walking around trying to convince her to come home," he reminded, thinking how long ago it all seemed. "Brooke, before you get up, there's something I need you to know," Lucas added as memory after memory flooded his mind.

"Luke, what is it?" she asked, noting the seriousness that now covered his handsome features. He had gone from sixty to zero in a matter of seconds and Brooke didn't understand why.

"There's a lot I want to make up for and…"

"No," Brooke shook her head and placed her hand over his mouth before he could speak another word. "You said it best last night, Luke. Clean slate. If we're going to make it, then we have to start over. No going back and picking on past mistakes." Her lips brushed gently against his before she reminded. "You once told me about a conversation you had with your mom about Keith. How if you always look for reasons not to be with someone… you'll always find them. Well, I don't want to look."

Eyes narrowed playfully, he leaned over until she was flat on her back with his body pressing hers against the mattress. "Are you sure you can't stay in bed all day?"

Brooked laughed happily and marveled that for the first time in a long time, she was actually happy. "Afraid not. But you said you're here for the next couple of days, right? Until Thursday morning?"

"Right," he agreed. "Then I have to be back in Tree Hill to relieve Skillz and get the team ready for Friday's game."

While Haley agreed to take over his two English classes during his time in New York, Skillz had agreed to look after the team. His afternoon schedule was flexible enough and allowed for time to drive back and forth to Tree Hill for practice. The only problem was that Lucas would definitely have to be back to go over new plays for their upcoming game. It also meant having to leave Brooke after only two and a half days.

"Then I'll do my best to shift some things around in my schedule," Brooke informed and kinked her brow once more. Lucas couldn't help but smile when he saw the endearing gesture. "Otherwise we'll never end up seeing each other. And it's not like you'd want to spend time around the fashion house while…" she said, trailing off suspiciously when she saw the slight twinkle in his eyes. "Okay, what's that look all about."

"Who says I wouldn't want to spend time there with you?" he asked. "I think I'd be great to see where you work. According to Vogue, you're…"

"Wait," Brooke interrupted, mystified. "You read Vogue?"

"I Googled you," Lucas shrugged simply.

"Okay, you get cool points for actually admitting that out loud," Brooke declared and couldn't resist pulling him close for another kiss. When he nuzzled her nose with his, just like he always did when they were together, she felt her heart beat a little faster. "It feels so good to have you here with me," she admitted and held him close when he began to shift away.

"I'm too heavy," he protested. "I don't want to crush you."

"You won't," Brooke assured and continued to hold him tightly. He relaxed but his shoulders were still a little stiff and she realized his mind was somewhere else again.

"You know, when I was a teenager I always believed that the best parts of me came from my mom," Lucas admitted with a faraway look in his eyes. Resting his forearms on the bed, he held his weight while Brooke stared up at him, curious. "I still think that, but… I also know that I wouldn't be who I am today if it wasn't for you. Because whether or not you ever knew it… or I ever said it out loud to anyone… you sit on my shoulder and whisper in my ear throughout the hardest decisions I make." His eyes watered and her hair caught the first tear that fell. "I remember venting to you about Dan and worrying out loud to you about my mom and Keith. Talking about missing Haley while she was on tour… and you sitting there with me for hours after Nate crashed that race car. After Keith was killed."

He relived them all. His life's toughest moments while he voiced a realization he'd never uttered out loud.

"It's easy to stand beside someone when their dreams come true. To join in the happiness they already feel," he mused, thinking of the championship game he played in. The winning shot he made and the girl Brooke nudged him towards as they stood with confetti raining down around them. "But the person who truly loves you is the one beside you, who helps you stand when life does nothing but push and pull you in every direction as it tries to knock you down. The one who can sit in silence because they understand that sometimes there are no words. The one who sees you and thinks only of you even when you give them every reason to look away. To walk away."

He leaned his brow against hers and closed his eyes while water escaped from the tightly shut corners. Brooke could feel him trembling in her arms and held him closer while her heart matched the frantic beats of his own.

"They all expected me to be perfect. To never make mistakes," he whispered. "The hero, the boy with all the answers… the stone wall that never crumbled under the weight of it all. But not you," Lucas said as his lashes slowly rose, revealing his blue eyed gaze to Brooke's hazel depths. "You just wanted me. I just want you."

Trying to hold back her own tears, Brooke nodded solemnly. "I know," she said. "I didn't then, but I know it now. I promise."

"Promise," he murmured and placed his lips on hers, willingly drowning in every emotion her kisses made him feel.

----------

When Haley stepped inside the beach house, she felt her heart clench painfully at the sight she walked in on. Sitting on one couch was Nathan with James, a book spread across both their laps. Together they read Dr. Seuss while the nanny lingered around them, picking up toys and laughing at random sentences. Low slung jeans rested on her hips and a cropped t-shirt revealed several inches of her smooth skin.

Self consciously, Haley glanced down at her own attire. A skirt that skimmed beneath her knees and a cardigan to cover the long sleeved shirt beneath it.

"Hey, Hales," Peyton greeted as she walked out of the kitchen and found her friend standing in the foyer.

"Hey," she returned and wondered if it was silly that she felt relieved to find Peyton there as well. Haley knew she trusted Nathan but she also wasn't blind. It was obvious that Carrie was attracted to her husband, even if she was never too obvious or flirtatious about it. "Are you staying for dinner?" she asked the blonde while Nathan and her son both looked in her direction, each now aware that she was home.

"I just had a sandwich, thanks," Peyton stated and glanced between her friend and the curious looking nanny. She recognized the expression on the other woman's face and had to stop herself from narrowing her eyes. "Come on, Carrie… I'll walk you out," she added instead, eyes darting pointedly at the front door.

Though Haley could say plenty of unfavorable things about Peyton in regards to Brooke and Lucas, one thing the blonde had always done was look out for Nathan. Haley understood that in that instance, her old friend was doing just that.

"Hey, sweetie," she greeted and smiled when James ran towards her for a hug. "How was your day?"

"I guess I'll be going now," Carrie intervened as she glanced between the room's occupants. "Goodnight Mr. Scott. I'll see you tomorrow, James." Smiling a wide grin, she tossed her long strawberry blonde hair over her shoulder and sauntered out of the room. Hips swaying back and forth, she walked passed Haley before stopping, almost as an afterthought. "Goodnight Mrs. Scott," she added and quirked her brow at Peyton when no one else was looking.

A sarcastic gesture that had the blonde rolling her unamused green eyes.

"Night Carrie," they all returned politely.

"We'll see you tomorrow, Peyton."

"Nate, don't forget we're going to therapy an hour earlier tomorrow," Peyton quickly reminded and waited for his acknowledging nod before glancing at Haley. "Night, Hales. See you tomorrow."

While Nathan understood that his arrangement with Peyton wasn't a permanent one, he was enjoying it while it lasted. He could admit to being closer to Lucas than ever but in the back of his mind there would always be a slight hesitation before he revealed certain personal secrets. Something that stemmed from the knowledge that his brother was also Haley's best friend. Whereas Peyton just listened, understanding better than anyone what it felt like to make horrible mistakes that couldn't be taken back. Or so it seemed to Nathan when they talked.

"Thanks, Peyton," he said and waited until the door had closed behind both women before glancing up at his wife. She was undoubtedly tired and seemed a little sad. While she smiled at their son, Nathan saw an uneasiness about her that he didn't quite understand. "Long day?" he queried innocently enough.

"Too long," Haley agreed and barely glanced at her husband before returning all her attention to their four year old. "How would you like to see Lily tonight?" she asked, thinking that she'd much rather drive a few mile to the café for takeout than slave in the kitchen for an hour or more trying to cook dinner. Especially not with all the papers she had to grade and the few hours of sleep she was still running on.

"Can we have hot chocolate too? Please?" he asked, negotiating the same way he'd seen Lily talk to his uncle Luke.

"Only if you wash your hands and get your coat from upstairs," Haley responded and felt a small smile tug up the corners of her lips as James ran out of the room without a backwards glance. "Do you want the usual, or…" she trailed off, noticing that Nathan had been staring.

"Sounds fine," he agreed easily. Guilt in spades, he opened his mouth to say something else. To apologize maybe. Something to let her know that he appreciated all she did while he was laid up with a bum knee. But for reasons unknown to him, Nathan couldn't find the right words. He didn't know how to say he was sorry and couldn't remember the last time he had. "I um… I can go with you. If you want." The offer sounded feeble even to his own ears. Haley obviously heard the uncertainty and frowned before she could catch herself.

"Thanks, but… we'll just be a few minutes."

Sadly, Haley wondered when they forgot how to be married and began just co-existing.