Sound of Her Voice
Chapter One: Midnight Caller
Lucas Scott was awoken from a deep sleep by the sound of crying. The shrill screams resounded through the usual nightly silence enveloping his childhood home, originating from only one likely source. He groaned irritably, rubbing a hand over his face in a tired gesture as he swung his legs to the side of the couch and rose.
He winced as he straightened and stretched his arms, several vertebrae popping as his back arched. He hated sleeping on the couch.
Lucas pulled on his t-shirt with a sigh, and made his way down the hallway toward his mother's bedroom. As he half-walked, half-stumbled, the sound of the crying grew loudly audible, even more so as he cautiously opened the door to Karen's room and peeked inside.
Pallid moonlight spilled in through the window, illuminating the rousing silhouette on the bed, his exhausted mother, and the squirming infant in the cradle nearby. Lucas made his way to the baby's side, watching out of the corner of his eye as Karen sat up, bleary-eyed and disoriented, squinting up at him through the darkness.
"Hey, Mom. Don't worry about it. I got him."
She sighed softly, nestling back against her cocoon of blankets. "You sure?"
Lucas lifted his brother into his arms and instantly, the baby quieted, sniffling against his shoulder. "Yeah, you've been up with him all week. Let me take him."
"Hmm…you're a good boy, Luke."
He chuckled, leaning down to kiss her forehead as he tucked her covers around her shoulders. The baby murmured against his neck, restless, as their mother's breathing evened out into the light, steady rhythm of sleep. Lucas smiled softly, quietly making his way out of the bedroom, padding down the hallway back toward the living room, then to the kitchen.
The baby cradled in one arm, he moved through the familiar motions of preparing a bottle, rocking gently as he hummed softly, losing himself in thought.
His half-brother, his cousin, whatever relationship one would prefer, had come into the world eight months before, a healthy, howling eight pounds, three ounces, and twenty-two inches whom Karen dubbed Keith Michael Scott, Jr. The whole thing, from the moment Keith was killed, to when his mother revealed the baby's existence to him, the months of her pregnancy, and his brother's coming into the world, all worked as an explosive catalyst that brought wave after wave of change to his comfortable world.
It was a poignant melancholy that accompanied Michael's birth, knowing that while the baby was a piece of Keith left in the world, his little brother would never know that man Lucas would have been proud to call his father. He was, in every sense of the word, the only father Lucas had ever wanted to know, to love, to help create the memories he now cherished, to help mold him into the man he was today.
He checked the temperature of the formula mixture against his skin, shifting the squirming infant at his shoulder as he exited the kitchen and returned to the living room, seating himself in on the couch, pressing the bottle to the child's mouth.
He really was the sweetest thing, Lucas had to admit, a thick thatch of rusty brown hair that curled around ears a little too large for his heart-shaped face, doe brown eyes, dimples when he smiled. And he was generally kind to his mother and older brother, a normally sound sleeper who rarely cried throughout the night with the exception of occasions like this one.
He looked a lot like his father, though his features were softened greatly by their mother's influence, delicate for a boy-child, but Lucas had the distinct feeling that by puberty, his little bro would be bearing the same rugged looks that marked all the Scott men.
Lucas smiled lightly as Michael sucked greedily at the bottle, finishing it off with a loud, slurping sound, and Lucas tilted him against his shoulder to burp him.
That one would probably drive Karen crazy. She had always joked with Lucas that there was something so irresistible about Scott boys she could never quite get rid of them, as if she was destined to be surrounded by them her whole life. She was probably right.
Lucas was drawn back from his reflections by the sound of his young brother yawning, nestling close against his shoulder. Lucas gently rubbed his back, mimicking what he had seen his mother do countless times before, murmuring soft, comforting words that relaxed the tiny body in his arms until he heard the slow, easy, rhythmic breathing of sound slumber.
He slumped against the sofa cushions, his jaw unhinging to encompass the large yawn that escaped him, tiredly rubbing his hand over his face. His lids grew heavy, eyes closing of their own accord as he laid back his head.
The thin fog of drowsy sleepiness that held his mind was broken by a sudden noise, the muted reverberation of his cell phone vibrating against the coffee table. Cursing under his breath, he blindly groped around for the offending device, finally feeling it beneath his fingers, and with a muffled groan, he flipped it open, bringing it to his ear.
"Hello?" Even to his own ears, his voice sounded hoarse and thick with sleep.
There was a strange sound of static on the other end of the line, and then nothing but silence, stretching out for several moments until the lack of response grated on his already roughened nerves.
"Hello? Listen, if this is a joke, I'm not in the mood. It's late, in case you haven't noticed."
There was the sound of a muffled sob, and then the small, barely audible whisper of//Luke?//
For that point on, he would have to swear that at that moment, he felt his heart skip several beats at that single utterance of his name, spoken in a voice that haunted his days and nights, his thoughts and his dreams. "Peyton?"
Another sob, a broken, pained sound that pulled at his heartstrings. He swallowed hard, letting his eyes flutter close. "Peyt, sweetheart, is that you?" The endearment rolled off his tongue easy and smooth as silk, the lingering pain in his heart left by her absence in his life steadily growing to a tangible ache the longer he knew she was there.
//Yeah, Luke…it's me//
He sighed, speaking softly as he could while still keeping his voice audible. "What's wrong? You sound like you're crying."
//Do you…// she hesitated, sounding unsure of herself//Do you know what today is?//
His brow furrowing quizzically, he lifted the phone from his ear, squinting down at the glowing screen to check date and time, eyes widening with realization as understanding filled his mind. The anniversary of her mother's death. "Oh, Peyt, I'm sorry. How are you handling things?"
She laughed softly, little humor in the sound, followed by a small sniffle that accompanied it. //Honestly, I'm a mess. I'm sorry, Lucas, I know it was stupid of me to call out of the blue like this. I held it together all day, but then I got home, and I just fell apart. I couldn't handle it anymore, and I couldn't think of whom else to talk to. I'm sorry, I should hang up--//
"No!" he winced as he realized how loud he had spoken, warily watching Michael for signs of rousing, releasing a relieved sigh as the child stayed still. "No, don't worry about it. I've told you before, I'm here for you, Peyton. You know I love being that guy you can talk to."
//…I'm glad…as long as you're sure I'm not being a bother…//
"Not at all. I just have to be a bit quiet."
//Yeah, I was wondering about that. Why are you whispering?//
He chuckled, glancing down the obliviously sleeping infant in his arms. "I have little Mike. He's decided he likes me better than the crib."
//Oh…is it still okay to talk? We won't wake him up?//
"Nah. Like I said, as long as I speak softly, it'll be fine."
//That's good. How is he, by the way? I haven't seen him since mid-winter break. He was so tiny then//
"Well, he's definitely not so tiny anymore. He's healthy as a horse and he's looking more and more like his old man every day."
//That's good to hear. I bet Keith would be so proud of him, the both of you//
He grinned, bashfully rubbing the back of his neck. "Yeah, maybe, maybe not. Of him, I'm certain, not so sure about me."
//C'mon, Luke. You're a good guy, taking off a year to take care of your mom and your brother, sticking it out through the mess last year. That takes guts, and real commitment. I like that about you, Luke."
"Yeah?" he laughed again, raking his hand through his hair, "I'm flattered you think so highly of me."
//You should be, Scott. I don't hold just anyone in such high regard//
"Well, Sawyer, I'll be sure to keep that in mind. But seriously, Peyton, are you alright?"
She sighed. //Yeah…It just helps to talk to someone…especially you, Luke. I have to admit, it's been a while//
"It has been, hasn't it? So…"
"So…its summer break, isn't it? Why haven't you come to visit?"
//I don't know…I've got a lot of work to do…I'm not sure I'll make it home right away…//
"That's too bad. Everybody's coming home for the vacation. Nathan and Haley are flying in next week from Stanford."
There was a pause on the other line, and then she hesitantly questioned him. //…Brooke too…?//
"…Yeah…actually, she's sleeping in the other room. She's staying in my room, so I'm couched for a while."
//Ah. How…how are you guys doing? Still going strong?//
"Yeah, I suppose. It's hard, I guess, having her all the way in New York, but we manage," he paused, "Peyton, do you really want to talk about me and Brooke?"
She exhaled sharply, releasing a long expanse of air, and huffed out a laugh. //No, you're right. I really don't. I dream about it, y'know, things back in Tree Hill. Sometimes I just get so nostalgic that I remember things...high school, my dad, Nathan and Haley and Brooke…you and me…//
He sighed, readjusting Michael's place in his arms. He wondered how it was that his heart could thunder so loudly, so rapidly. "I miss you, Peyt."
//…I miss you too…every day…//
"It's always there…Peyton…it never goes away…"
//I know, but the more we think about it…//
"The more it hurts," he finished for her, his throat tight with emotion.
//Exactly// if he didn't know any better, he would have said he heard the threat of tears once more in her voice. //I should go, Luke. It's getting late//
"Yeah, you're probably right."
"Anytime. I'll be seeing you, Peyton."
He waited until he heard the unmistakable click of her hanging up the phone, and then the dial tone that followed. He turned off the cell, sighing as his head slumped back against the couch pillow, his eyes closing in thought. He did not hear the approaching figure making its way through the house until a slender hand rested against his shoulder.
Lucas nearly jumped from the shock, his eyes flying open to take in the sight of his girlfriend standing behind him. "Brooke?"