Author's Note: So I definitely should not have begun posting a new story since I have two others that need updates. It's just that in reading all the spoilers, I began to realize how much I truly disliked the route Mark decided to go with concerning all the characters. Not much seems different. The same old story lines and the same kind of triangles. I wanted something different... something that would shake up our characters from the get go and give them a chance to show who they really are deep down inside. So I began something that would contradict everything that was supposed to have occurred in the show between graduation and four years later. These are my lost years. The time between then and now. I'll probably only update once a week but I hope you enjoy.

Disclaimer: I own nothing except my hope for a BL reunion. "Keep Holding On" is a song by Avril Lavigne on her 'The Best Damn Thing' album.

Background: This story takes place after Karen gave birth to Lily. Two important changes, though. 1.) Brooke was never going to spend the summer in California with Peyton. 2.) Brooke never made any comments about how lonely it was to be Lucas Scott's girlfriend.

Summary: "I was wrong about you," Lucas once said. "It's okay... most people are," Brooke responded. Since that day, Lucas learned not to underestimate the tempestuous brunette who continues to show the world, him included, that there is more to her than meets the eye. So when tragedy hits, it's no wonder that she's the one standing beside him, ready and willing to fulfill a promise neither ever forgot. The surprise instead comes in the realization that the love they shared was one that had not altered despite the heartache, hurt and sadness that came with a breakup neither truly wanted.


Chapter One - Keep Holding On

You're not alone

Together we stand

I'll be by your side

You know I'll take your hand

Not even six months had passed and again, Lucas Scott found himself standing in front of a fresh grave. There was a new person beside him and a new name on the headstone, but the sadness inside his heart was the same. And this time, he wasn't sure if he'd get through it in one piece.

"We should get Lily inside now, Luke. It'll be pouring in a few minutes," Peyton Sawyer advised as she slipped her hand in his. Yet her touch, the feel of her skin against his, offered him no comfort. Lucas barely resisted the urge to shrug her away and instead ignored the sound of her voice in his ear. "Luke…. Lucas?!"

"Then go. Take her to the car. Go back to the house… whatever," he said in a voice that had been roughened by tears and disuse. Peyton had no idea how to respond and appeared visibly surprised by the coldness of his words.

"We'll take her," a quiet voice offered.

While his eyes were closed, his best friend reached for Lily's carrier. Lucas didn't see the concerned expression on her face or the look she shared with her husband. Didn't watch them walk away carrying their son and his new sister.

One by one they all left the cemetery until only three remained.

Brooke Davis resisted the urge to step forward and wrap her arms around the grieving boy who had been through too much heartache in such a short time. She had a thousand words on her tongue but her mind screamed that it was no longer her place to say them. He wouldn't need her now like he did after Keith was killed. Now he had Peyton. A girl who was no stranger to death.

"I'm gonna head back to the house too," she said while Peyton briefly glanced in her direction.

Despite her best efforts, it was difficult for Brooke to keep the tears at bay. All morning long, her mind kept flashing back on all her memories of Karen. Like the first time they met at the hospital after Lucas was in a car accident. Remembering the way she babbled on nervously about all the wrong things while Karen looked at her, overwhelmed, nearly brought a smile to Brooke's face.

Then soon after Lucas was released, so much had quickly changed. Everything fell apart, she and Lucas were non-existent and on the worst possible terms. There should have been no reason to know Karen afterwards... but that too changed. Because even with their jaded history between them, Brooke and Lucas finally found their way to friendship and Karen came through where her own mother failed.

Her son asked her to, so Karen gave Brooke a place to stay and then proceeded to ground her for coming home drunk. She cared enough to do it, Lucas had once said.

But most of all Brooke couldn't forget the smile on Karen's face when she first announced her engagement to Keith.

Though while she re-lived all those wonderful memories, the obvious sadness began to mingle with fear.

Brooke was more worried than she could admit that Lucas would keep falling without Karen around to help pull him up. She had been the biggest reason he got through Keith's death. His mother needed him to be strong, so he was. Lucas tried to do and say all the right things and when she needed space, he gave it to her. Now, Brooke wasn't sure what he'd do or how he'd manage to recover from his second broken heart.

"Luke," she said quietly and touched the sleeve of his jacket. His eyes didn't open but she knew he was listening when he tilted his head just a little to hear what she had to say. "Whatever you need, okay?" Brooke said and slowly reached up to wrap her arms around him. "Have faith that it's gonna get better," she whispered in his ear, quietly enough that Peyton didn't hear the words.

Even if she had, her friend wouldn't have understood them.

It wasn't the first time Brooke had asked Lucas to have faith. She'd done it once before only then it had been a request to have faith in his mother. That she would get better despite her grief and anger. That she would heal, no matter how slowly it happened.

When she felt his shoulders sag a little in response, Brooke knew he remembered that night they spent in front of the fire.

"I'll see you back at the house," she added when she slowly released Lucas from her embrace and noticed Peyton staring at her strangely.

Alone, the couple continued to stand in silence, each lost in their own thoughts. "You should go too," Lucas eventually said.

"No, I'm fine. I'd like to stay here with you," Peyton stated while her hand once again found its way to his. Though unlike before, Lucas pulled away and put some distance between them.

"Look, I know you're trying to help but it's not working. Truthfully, its only making me feel worse," he declared roughly. The wounded expression his words placed on Peyton's face only angered him further. "Don't you get it? This isn't about you, Peyton. It's not about how you got through it… this is nothing like what you went through. And I don't need you telling me every few minutes that it's okay or that you understand what I'm feeling. Because you don't understand and it's not okay." Lucas yelled his last words and they echoed all around them. "I don't need this, I just… I don't need you… not here and not now."

Peyton kept telling herself that it was the grief talking. That he wasn't really angry at her. That she shouldn't feel hurt because he didn't mean any of it. But all the silent coaching in the world couldn't make her feel better when his eyes were steely and cold.

"I just want to help."

He nodded and turned to look down at the fresh mound of dirt. "Then go away."

----------

Three hours later and Lucas still hadn't come home. Guests had come and gone, paying their respects to his friends in his absence. The rain had fallen, thunder filled the space and lightening lit the darkening sky. Haley had long since stopped pretending that she wasn't worried. Peyton and even Nathan had also dropped all pretenses that everything was okay.

But while the others sat in the living room with their concerns, Brooke stayed tucked away with Lily.

She didn't have much experience with babies aside from a few afternoons she spent helping Peyton baby-sit Jenny, but Lily was so tiny and smelled so sweet that Brooke could hardly put her down. Instead she held the little girl close and rocked back and forth in an old glider Karen had once used with Lucas.

There, hidden in the new nursery, she was able to block out the sadness. To ignore the fact that in two years, she had been closer to Karen than she was to her own mother. To forget, if only for a moment, that the precious little girl in her arms would now have to grow up without a father and a mother. A cruel twist of fate that had taken away the two most important people to Lucas and Lily Scott.

Though outside the nursery, it wasn't so easy to forget. Three friends openly worried and debated what should be done about Lucas' absence.

"I'm worried about him too, but I think we just need to give him some space," Nathan opined even though it was obvious that he was the only one who believed it.

"You didn't see him out at the cemetery, Nate. The guy out there wasn't Lucas Scott. He was cruel and mean," Peyton explained, shuddering as she remembered all the things he said while they were alone. The way he yelled, the anger in his voice and the heartlessness in his eyes. It was as if the boy she loved no longer existed and that scared Peyton more than she dared to admit.

"I think we need to split up and go look for him," Haley stated while nursing her days old son.

Shaking his head, Nathan had to say, "You just got out of the hospital yesterday, Hales. We have James and Lily here, plus I can pretty much guarantee that right now, Lucas doesn't want to be found." But the girls still disagreed. Haley, because she remembered how Lucas pushed Brooke away after Keith's death. Remembered how he blamed himself. And Peyton because she kept hearing his angry words earlier that day. "Even if we could all split up to look… where would we go? I doubt he's still at the cemetery and aside from the Rivercourt or the café, I can't think of another place he'd go to be alone."

The unfortunate truth was that no one really knew what Lucas did when life got too hard. They all leaned so heavily on him, or got so preoccupied with their own lives, that they forgot to remember he had issues of his own to deal with.

Nathan wasn't sure when or how it happened but somewhere along the line, Lucas became the go to guy. The one who carried everyone's secrets. The one who gave advice and listened any time someone needed to talk.

Since the truth about Dan came out, it was obvious that Lucas' friends and family had done a poor job returning the favor. For them, there were other things to worry about and deal with while Lucas didn't have that luxury. His entire life had changed with his mother's death and for him, there was nothing else to focus on.

"Maybe he went to a bar," Haley suggested with obvious hesitance in her voice. "Does anyone know if he still has that fake ID Brooke made for him last year?" she asked, deciding it wasn't much of a stretch considering he'd done it before. Only then he had been frustrated, rather than angry, and unfortunately, that night also brought Nikki into their lives. "Peyton?"

"I don't know," she admitted, all the while trying not to think the worst.

"You know, I could just be stating the obvious here… but why don't we ask Brooke?" Nathan suggested. "I mean… she was the one closest to him when Keith died. They were together almost constantly," he pointed out. "Maybe there's a place he went to then. Or something he told her that might help us figure out where he is now."

Nodding, Haley agreed. "That's a good idea."

Peyton was ashamed to admit it, but she didn't want to ask Brooke. Mostly because she didn't want to acknowledge that her best friend might know her boyfriend better than she did.

The truth was that Peyton prided herself on being closer to Lucas than anyone. She felt like they had a connection he had never had with anyone else before. Like they were kindred spirits. However, the reality wasn't nearly as sweet for Peyton because there were things that Brooke knew… places, conversations and stories… things that Peyton would never be able to touch.

The connection Brooke had with Lucas was one Peyton couldn't possibly understand no matter how hard she tried.

"Maybe," she reluctantly added. Immediately after came guilt.

It wasn't about the Bermuda triangle from hell. It was about finding and helping Lucas through a difficult time.

"I'll go get her," the blonde volunteered and excused herself from the room.

"All by myself, don't wanna be. All by myself anymore. All by myself, don't wanna live. All by myself anymore," Brooke quietly sang. Her voice was little more than a whisper, nearly lost in the room as she rocked back and forth with the Lily gently cradled against her. "Hard to be sure, sometimes I feel so insecure. And love's so distant and obscure. Remains the cure."

As she stood unnoticed in the doorway for a few moments, Peyton listened to the words and wondered why Brooke chose such a sad song to sing as a lullaby.

"When I was young, I never needed anyone," she continued to sing. "And making love was just for fun. Those days are gone."

When her voice faded into the night, Peyton made her presence known. "She still sleeping?"

"No," Brooke quietly answered. She was calm, serene even. Almost as if she knew Peyton had been standing there the whole time. "She won't sleep. But she doesn't cry either," Brooke admitted. "It's like she knows something's wrong but can't figure out what it is."

Nodding, Peyton wrapped her arms around herself and tried not to feel nostalgic. A year before that had been her sitting with a baby in her lap. She missed Jenny and Jake like crazy, more so ever since Lily had been born. It also didn't help that it had been months since they last talked. Ever since she drove out of their lives and back to Tree Hill with the realization that she was in love with Lucas.

Peyton would never take back what happened, but she wished it had happened differently. She hated that in order to be happy, both Jake and Brooke both had to lose out.

"Luke still isn't back yet and we're trying to figure out where he might have gone," she explained before casually asking, "Any ideas?"

"Sure… but you know as well as well as I do that he doesn't want to be found, Peyton," the brunette stated, further agitating her friend. Mostly because Brooke and Nathan seemed to be on the same page while Peyton wanted to believe they were both wrong. That in actuality, she was the one who knew what Lucas needed.

"You don't know that Brooke. You weren't there… you didn't seem him the way I did," she whispered harshly so as to not disturb the quiet child. "He's sad and more angry than I've ever seen him. At this point it's anyone's guess what he might do which is why we need to find him. Now," Peyton declared, seemingly forgetting that when he lost his uncle, he retreated into himself then too. She had even told him that she understood it because she was the same way though now she just couldn't believe that the same rules applied.

What she also didn't seem to understand was that Brooke had seen him. Maybe not that day but she'd seen his grief before. Knew what it looked and sounded like.

"Maybe if the situation was reversed, you'd want him to find you, but Lucas isn't you," Brooke gently corrected. She was patient and even sympathetic, the exact opposite of her friend. "Trust me… he doesn't want anyone to hug him or tell him that it's all going to be okay because right now there are no words that could possibly make this okay for him," she said, remembering plenty of times when she tried and failed. Not so long ago she had learned the hard way and now only wished to save Lucas the frustration and Peyton the hurt. "He just needs time to accept it on his own. That's all. He just needs time."

Peyton couldn't admit that Lucas had basically said the same thing.

"It's hard and it hurts. The idea of just standing there and doing nothing while he tries to pick up the broken pieces of his heart seems almost impossible. But you have no choice," Brooke continued in a faraway voice. She was re-living it all in her mind. The arguments and the frustration… but most of all she remembered the broken boy who cried in her arms when it all finally sunk in.

Lucas had slept with his arms wrapped so tightly around her because he was scared she'd be gone when he woke up.

"Maybe you were able to do it but I can't. I won't," Peyton lashed out. It hurt to realize that with her experience and all the love she felt for Lucas, she couldn't see passed her own desire to comfort him. More than that, it hurt to realize that Brooke could see passed it. "One way or the other, we'll find him tonight. So are you going to help or…" she trailed off and didn't seem to realize that it was no easier for Brooke than it was for her.

Gently setting Lily inside her crib, Brooke stared down at the sweet child while she spoke. Her voice was soft… quiet and a little tired. "Alright… I'll help you look."

----------

With his mind jumbled with thoughts and his body wracked with conflicting emotions, he sat motionless... unseeing, as one person after another walked in front of him.

Lucas hadn't uttered a single word since leaving the cemetery. There was nothing to say, no one to talk to. There was only a loneliness so profound that he almost felt suffocated by it. By the realization that his parents were all gone and that he'd never again see their faces... hear their voices. Loud arguments or soft smiles, it didn't matter to him. He would give everything he owned just to have another minute. Another glimpse of their faces, another chance to hear the sound of their voices saying his name.

But wishes rarely came true as far as he was concerned and Lucas knew better than to hope for anything more.

That was when he saw her. Not his mother, not a ghost or apparition, but another dark haired woman who had come to mean a great deal to him over the course of two years.

"I didn't think anyone would find me here," Lucas said as Brooke approached. The light behind her was a soft halo, framing her beautiful features with each click of her heels on the sterile white tile. Lucas couldn't help but think she was a contradiction as she stepped closer. A somber expression and conservative black clothes on a fallen angel whose hidden smile could charm the last morsel of food from a starving man. "But somehow, I'm not surprised that you did."

"Well in between the heated arguments and even hotter sex, I listened every now and then," Brooke teased lightly and sat down on the orange plastic chair next to his.

"Good to know," he smiled briefly before it was quickly replaced with a solemn look. Almost as if he suddenly decided that he no longer had the right to smile. "I yelled at Peyton. She was pretty hurt," Lucas quietly admitted before shaking his head.

Brooke was surprised by his candidness considering that they hadn't really talked about his relationship with the other girl. She sensed his desire to talk, to get everything off his chest so she listened despite the awkwardness that still lingered around the topic of Lucas dating Peyton.

"I don't even know why I did it," he shrugged. "Frustration, maybe. Or something close to it, I guess."

Taking his hand in hers, she looked away from their intertwined fingers when she said, "If anyone would understand, it'd be Peyton. She wasn't exactly a peach to be around when she lost her moms… I know she won't hold whatever you said against you," Brooke opined with audible confidence in her voice.

"See, that's the thing," he said, laughing humorlessly. "It doesn't help to know that she's been there before. Or that she understands how much it hurts," Lucas attempted to explain. "Because she thinks that it's the same. That what I'm feeling right now is exactly what she went through with Ellie. And maybe I'm a heartless bastard for saying it… but I can't help but feel that what I'm going through now is so much worse," he admitted, unashamed.

"No," Brooke disagreed, shaking her head. "It doesn't make you heartless, Luke… it makes you human."

Curiously, he met her gaze. A silent question from blue eyes to hazel.

"Peyton didn't have two parents taken away so close together. She had time to grieve each mother and I know you can't compare the instances. Your relationship with Karen was unique because it was your own. Just like your grief is your own," Brooke explained. "I see what you're saying, Luke and without taking anything away from the pain she felt after Anna and Ellie passed away, there is a difference. So you don't have to feel guilty for noticing it."

"What if I told you that I didn't feel guilty?" he asked. "And that not feeling it… is the only thing that I actually feel bad about."

Shrugging, she offered him an uncertain look. "I don't know what I'd say," Brooke answered.

"Well what would you say if I asked how you found me?"

This time Brooke actually smiled. Not her usual bright smile that showed off a pair of dimples but a sweet one. Almost nostalgic. "I'd say that you're feeling lost and when that happens, you search for yourself at the place where everything changed." Brooke lifted her shoulder, a half shrug while she added, "You went to the bar where we had our first date after everything fell apart with you, me and Peyton. The Rivercourt every time you were confused because it was where you came from… what made the most sense and where everything changed after you made that shot over Nathan."

It's not just a court. It's my world. It's where I come from.

"And then the library after the shooting," Brooke quietly added. "Because you wondered how things would've turned out if you hadn't been inside. If it would have changed anything or if it would've ended the same way."

Not for the first time, Lucas was humbled by how she understood what was going on inside him without him ever uttering a word. How she managed to figure out something that he, himself had never put a label on. Then almost instantly after silently asking the question, he realized he shouldn't feel so surprised. Brooke tended to see things that most people over looked. She found telling details where most people just saw an excess of information.

"And..." Looking away, she glanced at the clear glass windows to the pink and blue basinets that lay beyond them. A scrub-clad nurse was wandering between the isles with a clipboard in her hand, looking down at each sleeping child before moving on to the next one. "And," Brooke began again. "This is where it changed again… the last place you saw your mom alive in," she murmured and felt his hand tighten against hers.

"I'm so angry at her," Lucas admitted as silent tears began to fall from his eyes. "For not believing me when I told her about Dan… for not trusting me… for leaving." His blue gaze was now filled with a jumble of emotions. The most prominent one was the anger he spoke of. "How am I supposed to take care of a baby when I feel like I can hardly take care of myself?" he questioned. "How am I supposed to love her when it killed my mom to have her?"

There was so much anguish in his words. A sadness and shame that Brooke had never heard before. Listening to him fall apart again nearly broke the already fragile pieces of her heart.

"Because you changed Karen's life and she loved you more for it," Brooke whispered and wrapped her arms around his trembling form. His hot tears pressed against her skin as he buried his face in the crook of her neck. "It isn't Lily's fault. Even if I don't understand why it happened, I at least know that much. If you're honest with yourself, deep down… you know it too," she said while her own tears began to cloud her vision. "You're going to love her, Luke. I know you will," she assured and ran her fingers through his hair, soothing. Over and over she whispered soft words in his ear, hoping to calm his defeated sobs. "We're going to get through this. I promise you. Just have a little faith."

"What if I don't have any left?" he whispered against her. A question so broken that she couldn't stop the free falling tears from spilling onto his shoulder.

"Then I'll give you all of mine."

----------

Everyone else had already returned to Karen's house by the time Brooke and Lucas showed up. His hand was in hers, Peyton noticed, but as soon as they saw their friends sitting together in the living room, Brooke released him and stepped away. "Luke, thank god," Haley said and stood to wrap her arms around him. "We checked everywhere. Where were you?"

"I just needed some time to think," Lucas replied, avoiding the question.

"Lily finally fell asleep. She's in her room now," Haley informed, knowing better than to push. "I was thinking we might stick around for a little while longer. Maybe heat up some leftover food or… we could watch some TV or talk," she suggested tentatively. As though she expected him to decline or walk away. Or worse if Peyton's earlier story was anything to go by.

"Tomorrow," he assured before saying, "I just need to be on my own tonight."

"Alright," Haley nodded and pulled him into another hug. "Call if you need anything at all. Okay?"

"It's not like we'll get much sleep for the next eighteen years anyway," Nathan added, an attempt to lighten the mood though it had the opposite effect. Instead of laughing, Lucas could only nod as he realized that no sleep for eighteen years now applied to him too. "We'll see you tomorrow, Luke," he said and hugged him briefly.

"Thanks, little brother."

"No problem."

Skillz, Mouth and the other guys from the Rivercourt had all gone by then. After Brooke called, informing the group that she found Lucas, the guys decided to go home since only family members remained. "Give me a call if you need anything for Lily. Diapers, formula… whatever you can think of," Brooke offered, smiling gently when Lucas turned his blue eyes on her.

"Thanks, Brooke. For everything," he said gently. No one looking could have missed the way his eyes momentarily softened as they landed on her. Or the brief look she gave him, acknowledging something unknown to everyone else. In a split second, Peyton felt an irrational, sharp pang of jealousy as Lucas enveloped the brunette in his arms. Initiating a hug with her, while being on the receiving end with everyone else. "Night, pretty girl."

Her eyes involuntarily closed as she heard the endearment for the first time in months.

"I'll see you tomorrow, Brooke," added Peyton once the pair drew apart.

Opening and closing her mouth, Brooke mentally slapped herself for not realizing sooner that Peyton would want to stay with Lucas at the house. Though before she could say anything in response, Lucas intervened. "Honestly, Peyton I don't want any company tonight. I'd rather just be here alone with Lily," he said and because of his words it was Peyton's turn to open and close her mouth like a fish out of water.

She had to say something but felt paralyzed by eyes glancing between her and Lucas. So she stayed behind while one by one, their friends all left until only Peyton remained.

"Lucas..." she trailed off uncertainly.

"I am sorry for yelling at you today," Lucas apologized but when Peyton took a step closer, he took an immediate step back. "Peyton, I appreciate what you're trying to do. I know you want to help but it's like I said this afternoon… the best thing you can do for me right now is to just leave me alone," he explained quietly and felt a twinge of guilt when he saw the hurt reflected on her features.

"So you want me to go away but… but you could talk to Brooke. Is that it?"

"I can't deal with this right now," he muttered under his breath. Words that angered rather than deterred the determined blonde.

"Are you that afraid of getting close to any one person?" Peyton questioned, baffled by the boy standing in front of her. A boy she used to think she knew as well as she knew herself.

"I'm not even close to understanding what you're trying to say," Lucas tiredly replied.

"I'm talking about the way you distance yourself from the girls in your life," Peyton declared. "Wanting me but dating Brooke, for starters. Liking her but sneaking around behind her back. Then dating Anna while pining for someone else... a girl you couldn't have... confiding in her... leaning on her until she became your girlfriend. Then what? Then she stopped being the girl you could turn to and you turned back to me until Brooke was so insecure and hurt by the both of us that she walked away."

Peyton hadn't meant to say it all but once the first words fell from her mouth, she couldn't stop the others from falling.

"After the shooting you penalized her for not being inside the school. For not knowing what you went through and now you're penalizing me because I do know what it's like for you. Now you have me all twisted up inside wondering if it'll continue being a repeat performance of what happened between you and Brooke," she admitted, losing a piece of her pride in the process. "Will you sleep with me but talk to her? Is she going to be the one carrying your secrets while I stand by and watch our relationship fall apart?"

Shaking his head, an expression of disbelief began to form on his features. "I guess you forgot that when I first started dating Brooke, it was after you pushed me away. Or that when you and I started sneaking around, you're the one who started it. The one who came to me, wanting to be together even though you knew that I was already with your best friend," Lucas reminded, laughing humorlessly. "What about the fact that you were the one who leaned on me, not the other way around. You kissed me that day in the library, remember?" he asked needlessly since it was impossible for either to ever forget that fateful day. "I told you that I loved Brooke. That I was in love with her. I didn't sneak around, I wasn't unfaithful... I just wasn't good enough. So don't tell me that I pushed her away because she got too close. Or that anything is the same now as it was then."

Frustrated, Peyton lashed back. "So then why are you even with me? Huh? Why did you say that it was me? That I was the one you wanted standing beside you when all your dreams came true?" she questioned. "If your relationship with her was so much better than anyone else could see, why did you walk away from her on the night of the banquette? Why did you come to my room?" With each question, her voice rose until she was almost yelling. Lily, the sleeping child in the next room, was promptly forgotten as the two teens engaged in a shouting match born of all their frustrations.

Then just as quickly, all the fight left Lucas and his shoulders slumped tiredly. "I don't know," he quietly admitted and stood still as tears formed in the corners of her eyes. "My life has just turned upside down. It isn't about Brooke or what we had together, and it's not about you either. It's about me. For once it has to be about me," Lucas continued watching, unmoved as her tears continued to fall. "I can't worry about hurt feelings and insecurity because there's a little girl in the next room that needs me to be her hero. I can't be yours anymore."

"Screw you," Peyton muttered. "I never asked you to save me. You did that all on your own."

"You asked. Every time you picked up the phone and dialed my number... cried... leaned on me instead of Brooke or Haley... even if you never said the words out loud, you always asked."

Crying, Peyton said, "This isn't you, Lucas." Arms wrapped tightly around herself, she squeezed her eyes shut, blocking out the sight of his disinterested expression. "You're angry and you're sad and... and what's happening here is a nightmare for you. I get that. I understand, I..."

"I can't do this," Lucas said. His words cut through her rationalizations like a knife, halting Peyton's voice as she opened her eyes and looked up at him. He saw fear in her green depths and felt a genuine pang of regret for what he was doing to her. It hadn't been his intention to hurt her, not that it'd make much difference to Peyton when all was said and done. "You're going to Los Angeles next week and I'm going to be here. Our lives are moving in two different directions so maybe we should just follow it... separately."

"Lucas..."

"I want to break up."