A/N: "I guess I'll always have feelings for you, Peyton"-To Wish Impossible Things. As a closet Pathaner, I always wanted that quote to pan out in S2 or early S3 while Lucas was off having his lobotomy. But alas it didn't, and therefore I came up with this AU little oneshot taking place five years after graduation.

Another Author's Note is at the end. I suggest you check it out if you're a regular reader of mine.

Disclaimer: I don't own One Tree Hill or the lyrics to Dancing by Elisa.

Nathan Scott was a man who prided himself on one thing above all, and that was the idea of pride. As far as Nathan was concerned, a person wasn't worth anything if they didn't have some sort of dignity. As a young teenager, he had been cocky and almost arrogant. He thought he could do no wrong. Even when a young Haley James had slapped the smirk off his face, he never lost his sense of pride. Even when she left him to go on tour, he never quite could hit rock bottom because he thought, no knew, he was better than her. Even though he took her back, it never damaged his pride by doing so. Because he loved her and he was being merciful for taking her back now. She was the one who had to do the begging in the end. He had fought for their marriage, but not once, had he gotten to the point where he made a complete fool of himself. He had his share of breakdowns, but he refused to let them get the best of him.

When Haley took off the second time leaving him with their three year old son, it didn't sting as much as the first time. It was almost as if he expected it. The awkward pauses that had slipped into their daily conversations, the constant glancing out the window, and the sudden rediscovered interest in playing the guitar, all prepared him for the day when she left the divorce papers on the kitchen counter and walked out the front door. Of course, she had paper clipped a tiny note on top to James expressing her sorrow and her need to be free. And she promised Nathan, she'd always love him, always and forever.

Always and forever.

Bullshit.

But it doesn't bug him as much as it should. Besides the fact that he was expecting it, he also couldn't help feeling relieved. Haley was like a weight dragging him down. He always felt like he was being judged by her. Like he could never be good enough. Haley had made him a better person, sure, but enough was enough. He wasn't going for sainthood or martyrdom. He was pretty sure his brother had those bases covered. The world didn't need another Lucas Scott. Last he heard, Lucas wasn't doing so well either.

He loved Haley. Part of him, a large part, always would. She had given him his son, his pride and joy. But without her, he wasn't dying inside. No, he was dealing with it like a good Scott would. He kept his chin up, smiled and kept going. He focused on James, and when the pain of losing Haley started to seep into his mind, he shook his thoughts and reminded himself it was for the best. He was going to be fine. He had to be. For James's sake.

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He's not used to being the one people call when they need someone to lean on. So when he hears the shrilling ring of his phone at two in the morning he almost trips out of bed to find the phone. Muttering curses under his breath, he answers his heavy breathing making his voice come out more huskily than he intended it to. He hears a small sob on the other end, and immediately, he knows it's Peyton. Crying and Peyton have always gone hand in hand.

"What happened, Sawyer?" he whispers calmly. It takes her awhile to answer, but he hears her muffled whimpers.

"Karma. That's what," she finally manages to croak out.

"I'll be right there."

It takes him twenty minutes to get to her house. He doesn't rush, speeding through red lights or going ten miles over the speed limit. He knows no matter when he gets there, she'll still be crying and his presence won't change that. He enters the house through the front door, not bothering to knock or ring the doorbell. She's reverted back to old habits, keeping the front door unlocked at all times of the day.

He finds her in her bedroom, the one she shares with Lucas and he suddenly realizes that this must be about him. Otherwise, Lucas would be the one here with her. She's curled in the fetal position with her back to him. He can see her clutching her pillow tightly. He doesn't know what to say to announce his presence, but Peyton seems to sense it.

"Nathan?"

"Yeah," he whispers, watching her head peak over her shoulder to face him. Her mascara is running and her eyes are puffy. He doesn't know what to do next so he opts to sit down gently on the edge of the bed and place his hand on her arm.

"Where's James? You didn't leave him at home did you?" The question makes him chuckle a little, despite himself. Since Haley had left, Peyton had always been weary of his parenting skills.

"He's with his grandmother for the night."

"Oh," Peyton says quietly, turning back and clutching her pillow even closer to her chest.

He waits for her to tell him why she called him, but he knows better to really expect anything. He'd probably have to pull teeth to get any sort of real answer from her. So he lets the silence fall over them while he works up the courage to address the issue. Finally, when he thinks he's ready, he strokes her arm a bit, as if warning her of what's coming and asks, "What happened, Peyton?"

"I don't know where to start," Peyton admits weakly.

"Where's Lucas?" Nathan ventures, hoping it will get the ball rolling. All she does is let out a whimper before trying hard to suppress any more.

"I don't know."

"Is this about him?"

"When is it ever not?"

"What did he do?" Nathan says gently. He watches as her eyes become fixed on the flaming heart she's painted on the wall of her bedroom and she lets out a shaky breath.

"I had a terrible day today," she begins, "I overslept so I was late for work again, and my boss yelled at me for a good half hour about how I need to be more responsible. The drawings I've been working on for the next issue were lost in editing so I had to redo them all. Then after lunch, I got a call…"

"My dad's boat went missing again. They're pretty sure it's just another false alarm because the storm cut out the power, but still, it was like, could anything worse go wrong today? I was so depressed that I took off the rest of the day…and I went home." She pauses, and another onslaught of tears rushes over her face.

"He was there, like I expected," she manages to choke out, "He was supposed to be in the office working on his next book, so I went there first, but I didn't see him. So I checked the bedroom."

"Don't say anymore," Nathan says, firmly. He knows where this was going.

"Brooke."

"I know," Nathan says quickly cutting her off, "I know."

He holds her all night, listening to her sobs. He won't sleep, refuses to. He hates people more and more everyday.

---------

He charges into the café a week later, the door making a resounding thud as it slams open and then close. The chime on the top catches Lucas's attention from where he's standing behind the counter. He looks depressed, Nathan notices, and he can't blame him. His brother may be an idiot, but he's smart enough to realize what he's done. Nathan can tell it's haunting him. Still, Lucas's eyebrows are furrowed as his brother comes closer.

Nathan doesn't know what to say. He's got all this pent up rage inside of him just waiting to burst out. He's sick of the Brooke Davis's and the Haley James's and most of all of the Lucas Scott's of the world. The people who pretended to be good friends and good lovers. The people who were supposed to build others up. The liars. So, he figures, in his mind, the best thing he could do was give Lucas a chance to explain himself. He gave Haley one chance, why not give the same to Lucas. But he doesn't trust himself to speak. So, he storms up to where Luke is and just slams his hand down on the counter. He pulls it back and there's Peyton engagement ring, glittering in the overhead lights.

Lucas stares at it as if it's a giant anaconda or a unicorn, something entirely out of place in their setting. His eyes flash with pain and sorrow, and Nathan sees it. He's seen it before. People who truly regret their actions get this look in their eyes that shows their innocence. The type of look that makes the accuser feel guilty for calling their bluff. Nathan hates that look, and it's doing nothing for Lucas's case right now.

"Nathan, I-" Lucas begins, but he's cut off. Nathan cocks back his fist and sends it slamming into Lucas's cheek. Lucas tumbles back. Immediately, men are rising from their seats to try and break up the fight and women are craning their necks to see what's going on. Nathan doesn't strike again. Instead he steps back and eyes his brother, trying his best to keep the shock of having attacked him off his face. Lucas recovers, his hand covering his sore cheek and his eyes bristling with tears both from the physical and emotional pain.

"Keep the ring," Nathan says, his voice shaking with both anger and fear, "She won't be needing it anymore. If you honestly think she's gonna take you back after the shit you pulled, than you got another thing coming to you. Because I'm going to do whatever's in my power to make sure she never has to see your lying, cheating, scumbag face, you understand? And you can tell your hussy bed partner the same goes for her." He pauses taking a deep breath and finally meeting his brother's eyes.

"I didn't mean it," Lucas pleads, "She means everything. I would never do that to her. You're my brother, you know that."

"You know…I always found it unsettling calling you my brother and now I know why. Some people grow out of being an ass and some people grow into it. You're definitely the latter." Nathan turns and heads for the door, pushing it open with all his might. He looks back over his shoulder to see Lucas staring at the ring on the counter.

So much for giving Lucas a chance.

-----------

Sometimes he thinks that she's the only reason he's still here in Tree Hill. She needs him right now and she hates change. She's not leaving Tree Hill. So, he stays because he loves the smile that falls on her face. He loves that the only thing that makes her smile is his son.

He looks around Rivercourt. This was never their place. This place was where Haley and Lucas hung out. This was the place where they met their downfall. But, James loves this place. He begs him to take him there everyday. Peyton usually tags along, and it's become their place.

People who walk on by assume they're a family. They're always telling Nathan his son looks just like his wife. He used to correct them, but then one day, he looked up and he saw James chasing Peyton around the court. James has blonde hair that curls slightly at the end. And in some lights, he's got green eyes. He looks like Peyton.

He's stopped correcting people. He even doesn't care if they assume she's his wife. Because she makes breakfast for them every morning and kisses his cheek before he goes off to work. They sleep in the same bed and hell he can forget that every night she cries herself to sleep in his arms over his worthless brother.

"Daddy, come play!" James calls from the middle of the court. Nathan tucks his hands into his pocket and heads towards them. Today, Peyton and James are doing chalk drawings on the center of the court. Right now James is tracing Peyton's body, the blue chalk edging onto her jeans. He's just finished and he backs away. Peyton pops up carefully, trying not to wipe off any of her outline. She smiles at Nathan.

"It looks like you," Nathan says quietly.

"Ha! Thanks…I think," she tucks a curl behind her ear, "The kid's a natural."

"Daddy, can we trace you?" James says holding up a bright yellow piece of chalk.

"Sure." He lies down a few feet from Peyton's outline.

"Peyton, you trace daddy's head. I got his feets."

"Feet," Peyton corrects, pulling out a yellow piece of chalk.

"That's what I said." James is already working on his tracing. Peyton just chuckles before settling down to Nathan's left. She starts with his fingers, her hand pressing his down gently. The chalk tickles and his fingers flinch every time she gets too close. She notices and presses his hand harder. Finally, the hand is finished and she leads the chalk over his arm and left shoulder. She doesn't look at him when she traces his head.

The sun casts a glow around her as her blonde curls tumble around her face. She's leaning over him tracing the curve of the right side of his neck. He sees her bite her lip in concentration, not wanting to hit him with the chalk. She leans closer trying to start his shoulder before she has to move. He takes in a shaky breath, looking at her.

"You're beautiful," the words just slide of his lips, barely being whispered.

She looks down at him and smiles, the first smile she's shared for anyone besides James. Before she can respond though, she glances up and her eyes suddenly darken considerably.

"I'll be right back." She's gone in a flash. Nathan stands up, despite James's protest that he hadn't finished his legs. He promises him, they'll be time later to finish. He spots Peyton by the tree, but it's not Peyton who he's worried about. It's Lucas.

They haven't seen each other since that day. Nathan has done everything in his power to keep his brother away, but today he caught them both off guard. He's surprised Peyton ran to him instead of away, but he hopes she's giving him a piece of her mind.

But from where he's at it looks like they're not talking, just staring at each other. Lucas and Peyton don't have to talk to communicate though, they never have. He watches as Lucas reaches for her hand, but Peyton flinches, her eyes suddenly fixed on the ground. She whispers something before backing away. Lucas calls after her, but she doesn't turn around, not once. Nathan and Lucas's eyes meet, but neither say a word and Lucas leaves.

------

Two hours later, Nathan finds Peyton right where he expects to find her. Her mother's grave. He dropped James off with Deb for the night, knowing Peyton needed him, his undivided attention and he plans to give that to her.

He thinks as he approaches her of their past. How had they gotten this far? He remembers the simpler times when he was the heartless jock and she was the emo cheerleader. She'd always been a beautiful broken girl whose problems he just couldn't handle. Because like him, she had more pride than she should have. She refused to admit anything was wrong because she wanted to be perfect in everyone's eyes. He felt the same way. They both felt nothing, unless they were fucking in the back seat of her car. It had all been about sex and alcohol and numbing the pain for another day. Avoiding feelings.

Now, they're all grown up and they feel everything. Peyton's just lost her best friend and her soul mate because of lust. Nathan's lost his wife because she's a free spirit and she couldn't bear to take him with her where she went. Now, they cling to a little boy named James who stands for the innocence they've lost. The innocence they both grew out of too soon for their liking. They live through the little boy's smiles and laughter because they know it will never be like that. Never again.

Because some where along the way Nathan and Peyton lost all the pride they had. Now they're just left with fragments. Tiny pieces to a puzzle that they try to string together to get back some of their former selves. Nathan used to think that the only way he could survive was if he was proud, because he was better than everyone else.

All his thoughts about pride came shattering down when he saw her laying on that grave, clutching the grass between her fingers as if she was holding on for dear life. Peyton Sawyer was the closest thing he'd ever seen to perfection. The beautiful mistake, the tragic flaw, the Achilles heel to every man or woman who encountered her. And it was that contradiction inherent in her being that made her perfect. Because perfection isn't being good all the time. It's the ability to be everything at nothing at once.

Peyton Sawyer wasn't proud though, but she was better than him, and he realizes now that he's got nothing to be proud of when he's around her. She's infinitely better than him.

He fell in love with her right then and there. A love stronger than anything he had ever felt for anyone. This wasn't Haley. He wasn't Lucas. This wasn't love that could be summed up simply. This wasn't drama and angst and heartache. This was Nathan and Peyton, finding their way back to each other. How odd that they had changed so much to wind up right where they started? Together.

He sits down next to her and pulls her head into his lap. She looks up at him through teary eyes.

"I told Lucas we're over," she says.

"And?"

"He wants to fight for me, but I told him I don't need him anymore."

"You never needed him," Nathan says firmly.

"Maybe."

"I'll take care of you, Peyton," he promises, knowing she's not ready for a lover right now. She won't be for a long time, but he's got no where to go. The only thing keeping him here is her.

"Yeah?" Peyton asks meekly.

"Always and forever."

"Didn't you already promise your last wife always and forever?" she grins through her tears.

Maybe it's out of spite, but while he strokes the blonde curls in front of him, he makes sure to whisper,

"Always, forever and a day then."

She just nods and he knows she accepts it. Because she knows he's the one person in this God forsaken town that keeps their promises.

So I put my arms around you around you
And I hope that I will do no wrong
My eyes are on you they're on you
And I hope that you won't hurt me

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For those of you who are regular readers of my works, I need to be honest with you. I'm on hiatus for a couple of weeks. That means I don't know when I'll actually force myself to start writing again. Usually I don't let my works go past a month without an update but I make no promises for awhile. College comes first and right now, college is kicking my ass.

Also, if you ship Peter/Claire on Heroes, I have a oneshot posted on my Live Journal (the link is in my profile). Go check it out!