Sound of Her Voice
Epilogue: I'm Gonna Love You Forever
Lucas Scott awoke with an unusual sense of lethargy, hours later than his normal seven a.m. wake-up call. Deciding not to disrupt such a good thing as a chance to be lazy he lounged back in the bed for a few moments, stretching his arms above his head as he reveled in the sensation of cool sheets sliding against the bare skin of his torso. Amber light from the mid-morning sun streamed in through the windows, bathing him in gentle warmth that did nothing to dismiss his languid feeling, added to by the tepid air that was wafting in through the open window.
Something about the soft breeze stirred him as he arched his back with an audible cracking sound. He gave a low grunt as he was relieved of the kinks in his sore muscles. He sat up on the edge of the bed, scrubbing a hand through his disheveled hair as he inhaled deeply, taking in the rich, earthen scent of summer.
He rose to his feet, rearranged his bedclothes so that they showed some semblance of order and padded down the hall to the bathroom. He showered, the fierce spray of the skin-scalding water enough to further dismiss the hazy fog lingering from sleep. Afterwards, he moved through his morning routine. He shaved, hesitating for a moment at his closet before pulling out a blue button-down he knew Peyton liked on him, and finally stood before the mirror on his vanity, attacking his mess of hair with a comb.
As he worked at the disobedient mane his eyes caught sight of the pictures tucked into the side of the mirror, and he could not help himself as his lips quirked into a small smile. One photograph was Peyton, Michael and him, on an afternoon from that infamous summer. Peyton had been beautiful as ever in a leaf-green sundress, rays of sunlight dancing among the golden curls tumbling around her shoulders. Michael had been next to her on Lucas's knee, brown eyes staring uncomprehendingly at the camera but smiling good-naturedly all the same. He himself had been beside them both, white t-shirt clean and crisp against skin that had tanned to a golden-brown from long hours under the summer sun, his arms around Peyton as she leaned into him.
The photograph directly beneath it was of himself and Peyton, the two of them smiling brightly, arms around each other's shoulders as they leaned haphazardly against one another. This had been taken on the evening of Peyton's seventeenth birthday, Lucas's gift, a thick volume of abstract paintings tucked under her arm, and he knew the rare vinyl he had gotten her was resting somewhere nearby. He had been nervous about the presents, despite all he had knew about Peyton's interests, but she was delighted. The brilliant smile and kiss on the cheek he received afterward were more than enough compensation for his indecision and apprehension.
She still made him jumpy and nervous; still made him ache for the simplest contact, something he had missed desperately, among so many other things, in the three years since she had left for Los Angeles. Peyton Sawyer had thrown his world upside down and inside out, and he would be blatantly lying if he said he did not love every moment of it.
He shook his head, still unable and unwilling to dismiss the smile on his face, and he gave the comb a final swipe through his hair, straightened his collar, and headed down the hall. Coming into the kitchen, he found his mother and Keith Michael already awake. Karen greeted him pleasantly, but his brother glared at him irritably. Taken aback by the sudden animosity, Lucas arched an eyebrow. "What?"
"Why'd you sleep so late? You took forever, and I wanna see Peyton!!"
Lucas's eyes met those of his mother and Karen gave him a smile. "He's been up since five."
Hearing the piece of news, Lucas couldn't help his own smile. He sat down, quietly chuckling, much to Michael's indignation as the boy crossed his arms across his chest, pouting at his brother. "Sorry, little man. Peyton's flight doesn't come in until noon." He checked his watch, "It's only nine." Watching his brother's crestfallen expression, Lucas compromised, "Tell you what. We'll have breakfast and then we'll go to the florist. You wanted to get her flowers, didn't you?"
Michael's eyes lit back up and Lucas knew it was a job well-done on his big brother scale.
And standing at the airport three hours later, nervously shuffling his feet with a bouquet of lilies in his hand, Lucas watched the woman he loved walking toward them, beautiful as ever with a delighted smile to greet them both. Having only seen each other a total of twelve times over the last three years, his apprehension was understandable, he supposed.
But when she dropped her bag, wrapping her arms around his neck to pull his mouth down to hers, whispering between kisses how much she loved, how much she had missed him, Lucas realized he had absolutely nothing to worry about.
The love of his life had finally come back to him.
The move was permanent. Her decision to leave LA had been long-time coming, wanting to first gather the knowledge and experience in the music industry she would need to forge her way out on her own. And back in Tree Hill, she would be starting her own label.
He wasn't sure who was more excited. Himself, Peyton, or his little brother. It didn't matter, really.
Peyton was home.
Michael looked up from where he had been coloring at the kitchen table, casting a curious look in Peyton's direction. Said blonde was at the counter, making sandwiches for lunch. She tilted her head toward the pitcher of lemonade on the table beside him. "It's gotta be hot in that garage. Would you mind taking your brother a glass?"
Michael grinned up at her, setting down his crayons and hopping out of his chair. "Sure. But can I have-"
"Turkey and Swiss," she finished for him, smiling softly, "Just a couple dabs of mustard and no crust. I remember, honey." She ruffled his hair, poured the lemonade from the heavy pitcher from him. "And it's may I, not can I." She kissed his head and sent him off.
The Comet had broken down. Again. Lucas had to wonder why they didn't just get rid of the bloody thing- then he remembered just how many memories it held for the two of them, not to mention the fact Peyton considered the Comet her baby. She would kill him for even thinking about harming her precious car.
"Bloody piece of shit!"
Lucas's sudden exclamation, followed by a string of dirty curses that would have turned any old-time sailor's head filled the garage. A head of messy chestnut hair peered out from behind the doorway, inquisitive brown eyes widening the slightest bit more with each oath that left Lucas's mouth, each more colorful than the last. Michael listened to his brother with rapt attention. "Wow," he whispered in awe.
At the sound of the quiet voice, Lucas's speech stopped abruptly, his head lifting in surprise. A pained yelp escaped him as his crown smacked into the hood of the car he was working on.
Michael blinked up at the older. Lucas grinned good-naturedly, sheepishly rubbing the back of his head. "Eh heh. Hey, Mikey. Sorry about that. Didn't see you there."
Michael stared at his brother with a puzzled expression.
If Michael ever decided to repeat to his mother or honorary sister any of the colorful words he had heard, Lucas knew his fate was to be condemned to a lot of pain (more metaphorical and mental than physical, though just as torturing). Imagining all punishments that his wonderful girlfriend would inflict on him for corrupting her precious Keith Michael was not a pleasant thought.
"Er, listen kiddo. Let's not tell Mom or Peyton about any of those words I said, okay?"
Michael smirked. "Peyton would get mad at you, wouldn't she?"
"Exactly. Peyton can be a little scary when she's mad."
Michael frowned. "Peyton's not scary."
"The innocence of youth," Lucas mumbled to himself.
Before Lucas could answer further, Michael shook his head. "Alright, Luke. I won't tell Peyton."
Lucas breathed a sigh of relief, his body relaxing as he leaned against the car. "Thanks a lot, kiddo. You've saved my life."
Setting Lucas's glass aside, the five-year-old shrugged, already crossing the room to retrieve the small stool Lucas kept in the corner. With the extra height, he stood beside his brother, leaning over the open hood of the car to study the inner workings below. "What's wrong with it?"
Lucas scratched his head, huffing as he turned his attention back to the motor. "Dunno. Something with the carburator, I think."
His young face intense with concentration, Michael leaned over further in an attempt to gain a closer look. "Luke?"
"I won't tell Peyton if you teach me how this thing works."
"Deal, little man."
Later that afternoon, as Peyton cleaned up Michael's coloring materials and looked down to admire his work, she couldn't help but smile at the picture of the two figures bent over the open hood of what was clearly her car, working together.
Looks like both her favorite boys took after their father more than they realized.
Exclamations rang through the air as Michael and Jamie Scott caught sight of each other from across the park, the cousins eagerly running to get to the other. Hugs, laughter and excited chatter ensued as Nathan leisurely strolled up to the bench Peyton was sitting on, giving her a warm smile as he seated himself beside her. "Hey, Sawyer."
"What's up, Nate?" she leaned over to hug him.
"Nothing much. The monster's just a step away from putting himself in a sugar coma. Hales practically kicked me out the door so I could let him run it off."
Peyton laughed as she looked over at the playing boys, noticing three-year-old Jamie was nearly running circles around his older cousin. "So I here you and Haley are planning to make this one a permanent stay."
"Yep," Nathan smiled, "I hear the same thing about you."
"That's good, Sawyer. Really good. Luke's really been missing you."
"He's not the only one…speaking of missing…" she turned her head, "Michael, come here, baby, and say hi to Nathan."
Michael obeyed, giving Jamie his hand as both boys trekked back to the adults, Michael releasing the younger so he could give his eldest cousin a greeting squeeze. "Hiya, Nate!! I missed you."
"Missed you too, buddy." Nathan ruffled his hair. "You been playing much b-ball lately?"
"Yep," Michael plopped himself down beside the dark-haired man, "Lucas plays with me all the time."
"Ice cream! Special delivery!"
A grinning Lucas appeared before them, two ice cream cones in hand. His smile turned into an inquisitive look at the sight of Nathan, shrugging it off as he handed the other two their desserts- chocolate for Peyton, strawberry for Michael. Michael immediately dug into his, happily piping up beneath mouthfuls, "Thank you, Lukey!!"
Lucas blinked at the nickname, narrowing his eyes in Peyton's direction. She stared back at him, the very picture of innocence. "Don't look at me. I had nothing to do with it."
Michael looked up at the woman beside him. "But Peyton, you said he'd like it if I called him Lukey."
Peyton winced and Lucas's dark look became a glare. "Sawyer," he growled, "You've got to the count of three."
Her eyes widened. "You wouldn't."
Realizing he was serious, Peyton thrust her cone into a bewildered Nathan's hand. "Hold that." With that, she leapt to her feet.
They took off.
Peyton bolted from him, quick with her long legs and light weight. But Lucas was a natural runner, quickly gaining on her as they raced across the grass. She pulled a sharp turn to the right, throwing him off balance. He cursed under his breath as he faltered against the wet grass, catching himself as he slid to one knee. He regained his footing, scowling at the smirking Peyton standing a few feet away, hands on her hips as she watched him amusedly. "Ready to give up, Scott?"
"Not even close, Sawyer. We'll see how quick you can get away on those chicken legs of yours."
And once more, away they went.
With time, they came to one of the center fountains, finally at a stalemate as they circled around and around, neither willing to give in. As he neared, she pulled a turnabout, looking to take off in the opposite direction. He cut her off, however, and see his chance, he pounced. Peyton squealed with surprise as he caught her around the waist, hefting her over his shoulder.
She protested loudly, pounding on his back as he trucked back across the park. Her irritation only rose as she felt him shaking with laughter and she retaliated by biting down hard on his back. He grunted with the brief pain, reaching up to chidingly slap her thigh. "Behave," he told her sternly.
She sputtered with indignation. "Are you serious?! I cannot believe you, you ass. Put me down, Neanderthal."
"As you wish, Princess."
Caught off guard by his sudden acquiescence, she craned up her neck to look at him suspiciously- no small feat when she was hanging over the shoulder of a 6'1'' man- panicking as she realized they were dangerously close to the shore of the duck pond. "Lucas Scott, don't you dare!"
She just knew he was grinning. "Whatever do you mean?"
"You throw me in that water and I'll never talk to you again."
He shrugged. "My life would be a hell of a lot quieter."
New game plan, then. "If you get me the least bit wet, I swear to God I'll make it so you'll never have any more children."
Lucas froze and she suddenly realized her slip of tongue. "More children? What do you mean?"
Peyton flushed, glad he couldn't see her embarrassment. "I…"
Gently, he lowered her to her feet, placing his hands on her shoulders to steady her. Shaking off the sudden sense of vertigo, she forced herself to meet his eyes. "Peyton, what did you mean?"
"I…" she was mortified to realize she was still blushing, "When he was a baby, I'd sometimes forget, and I kinda thought of Michael as ours. It's stupid, I know, but it's just a feeling I got sometimes."
He smiled. "It's not stupid," he leaned down, rubbing his nose against hers in a tender Eskimo kiss, much like she had done countless times when Michael was younger, "Want to hear a secret? Sometimes I pretended Michael was ours too. That he was our baby."
She regarded him shyly, nervously biting her lip. "Do you want that? Our baby?"
"More than anything." He hesitated, looking equally as shy, "I know this isn't the most romantic of settings, but there's something I've wanted to ask you since you left."
Her heart began to race. "Yeah?"
He leaned his forehead against her. "I love you, Peyton. More than I could ever say. Will you marry me?"
There was only one reply she could really give him. "Absolutely." She kissed, smiling softly, "I'm gonna love you forever, Lucas Scott. I'd love nothing more than to marry you."
He let out a breath of relief. "Good."
She arched an eyebrow. "Good?"
"Amazing. Spectacular. Mind-blowing. Fantastic. Perfect. And…I'm running out of adjectives."
She wrapped her arms around his neck, pulling his head down to her. "Who needs words?" she whispered coyly, before pressing her lips to his.
Final Author's Note: And that's the end, ladies and gentlemen. I could, in theory, keep going, but I've honestly run out of plotlines. This wasn't meant to be very long to start with, but it just kinda evolved with the response I got. Besides that…I've got Running to Stand Still and Lullaby to work on now. Just let me say, dear readers, thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed it. And thank you for all those wonderful reviews. I love you guys for those. Truly.
Thank you again. Until next time,