A/N: Umm...so everytime I tell myself that I'm on hiatus and I don't need to write anything, then I wind up shooting out an update. This time this oneshot popped out. So y'all should be happy when I say I'm on hiatus (and for the record, I'm still on hiatus)
Anyways, thanks to Ellie for the beta. Review if you don't mind. Those reviews make me happy.
Disclaimer: I don't own OTH. If I did, I'd know Chad and I'd be too busy making moves on him to write fanfiction.
Six billion people.
It's odd really to think about and honestly, Peyton normally doesn't. It's much easier for her just to concentrate on the select few that actually matter to her, but occasionally it hits her that there's so much more to life. It's existential and so much bigger than her and the idea that there might be a person out there who looks or acts or thinks exactly like her, freaks her out. Then, she ponders, after a long day at school, what if there's someone out there who's thinking her exact thoughts at that very moment.
She was so weirded out she jumps out of bed and calls Brooke who mumbled something about her laying off the drugs before promptly hanging up on her. She laughed to herself and realized that Brooke's right. She was going insane. So what if there's more to the world then just the people she's met in Tree Hill? She was happy there. She had a wonderful group of friends (even if her BFF thought she was on drugs), and a father who loved her dearly. And above all, she had Lucas.
Lucas who doted on her constantly.
Lucas whose smile brightened even her crappiest days.
Lucas who didn't mind embracing her weird thoughts.
Lucas who knew what she's thinking without her having to say anything.
Lucas was her soul mate right? They had been through everything together, and it had only made their love stronger. It was the one thing in her life she had never doubted. So she admits it scares her when these thoughts of six billion people start making her question if Lucas is the one.
Because there was never a doubt…well that's not true. There were doubts. There are always doubts in relationships, but they weren't strong doubts because they're in high school. Peyton knew what they had was something that would outlast Brooke and Jake and whoever else decided to throw themselves at them. But then, there's six billion people out there.
Three billion for Lucas. Three billion for Peyton.
Sure, it was unlikely that some septuagenarian from India would be 'the one' who would sweep her away from Lucas, but hell…there was still a very good possibility that someone could possibly do it, right? The odds were 6 billion to one that there was someone better, stronger, more attentive and more loving than Lucas out there.
God. She was going insane.
It's bad enough to be going insane, but it's even worse when you know you are and you can't do a damn thing to stop it. It gets to the point where she feels like she's suffocating in her own room. The same number running through her head as the walls close in and she tries to take deep breaths.
She needs to get out. She needs to fix this and she needs to stop thinking about the "what ifs". But damn it, she's Peyton Sawyer and she's never been good at not worrying.
So she does something that she knows she'll probably regret. She pulls out the emergency credit card her dad gave her, gets on the phone with a travel agency and books the first flight to Madras (she might as well knock the septuagenarian off her list first) after graduation. She starts to pack, but she's only got her shoes in when she gets restless and realizes that she should probably talk to Lucas.
He answers his phone on the first ring, and he doesn't even hesitate when she asks him over. She thought he'd ask why she was out of breath, but then he's Lucas, and he knows her probably better than she knows herself.
When he gets there, she doesn't even give him time to say anything. She plops him down and starts talking. She takes him through everything, from the very beginning despite the fact that she doesn't quite remember when it really started. But she just keeps talking, even when the words don't make sense. She thinks he's got to be bored, or in the least he's probably only absorbed a few words. She's heard herself repeat "six billion" and "larger than life" and "suffocation" quite a few times now.
Through her whole speech filled with arm flailing and bulged eyes and pacing, Lucas just grins at her, swiveling back and forth in her desk chair. When she's done, she kneels in front of him, giving him a watery smile. She places her hands on his knees, tracing small circles there, and she begs for forgiveness because she's gonna leave him and she knows it's stupid because she's the one who's always saying people always leave and here she is---
"Shut up," Lucas says, cutting her off, his grin still in place. He leans forward taking her hands in his and whispers, "Go."
She reaches up and kisses him, and when he laughs while she does it, she remembers why she loves that man.
So she sets out on a wild mission the morning after graduation. She's already planned out the first two weeks of her trip. Madras, Beijing, Tokyo, Melbourne. Then she thinks maybe Europe, but she's not thinking too far ahead. All she knows is that she's going to travel the world and see as many of those six billion people as she can manage. She knows that she probably won't make a dent. At the most, she might crack a couple million faces.
But she feels the need to do this, and she's tired of holding herself back and she's tired of letting her worries control her. Instead, she's doing something about it. Something insane and unpredictable and yet something that just has Peyton Sawyer written all over it.
Brooke has threatened not to speak to her. Haley hasn't stopped shaking her head since she heard and Nathan has told her she's insane more times than she can count. Her father also called asking about the suspicious activity report Visa filed, but when she explained it, he decided he shouldn't have asked. He had missed her graduation, and Peyton was not ashamed that she used that against him as leverage not to cancel the tickets.
Lucas still hasn't yelled at her or convinced her not to go. Nope. Not even when they're standing in the airport, and they announce they're boarding her flight.
"I don't know when I'll be back."
"It may be awhile."
"Months, maybe more."
"It could be a year. I might have to delay my entrance at UNC until next fall."
"Well the world's an awfully big place," he nods, "You're gonna need time if you wanna see it all."
"You gonna miss me?" Peyton asks.
"Everyday," he says, but that smile's still there almost masking the longing, "but hey, you need to do this."
No, I'm insane Lucas. I really don't need to do this. The thought passes through her head, but instead of saying anything she just smiles back at him and wraps her arms around him tightly. He smells like summer and light cologne and tranquility all wrapped into whatever it is that defines Lucas. She breathes deep hoping to keep that scent with her no matter where she goes.
"I love you, Peyton," he says as she lets go of him.
"I love you too," she says, picking up her bag, "And for the record, I'll miss you."
"I know you will."
The minute she touches down at Chennai International Airport, she realizes this wasn't a mistake. She thought she'd regret it all, and she'd want to turn back around as soon as she got there, but instead she's immediately sucked in by everything that's going on around her.
She's got four days in Madras and she wants to make them worth her while. She shops in markets and feels incredibly awkward because hell, she looks out of place being 5'9" with bright blonde hair and she's usually gaping at everything she passes which probably just screams tourist, but hell she's one delighted tourist and that's all that matters.
By day two she's settled in, and she's like a sponge. She absorbs the culture, manages to catch a performance by Kalakshetra trained dancers and eats foods like pongal and valdai. She can't spell or pronounce half the things she's introduced to, but it doesn't make a difference. She sparks up conversation with some of the people who speak English and when a seventy-two year old man introduces her to his wife, she delights in the fact that she can cross him off the list of 3 billion suitors.
When it's time to leave India, she feels severely disappointed, but then that drive kicks in, and she realizes there's so much more to see. So she heads to China, and it's the same thing there. Culture and food and words she doesn't understand, but that she grows to love nonetheless.
Japan is slightly better at keeping her not lost in translation. The lights are bright, brighter than New York, and they're flashing, always flashing. She feels the adrenaline pumping through her because of it. It makes her daring and when she gets introduced to some kids outside her hotel, she doesn't blink when they ask her to come out drinking with them.
She sings "As Long As You Love Me" and "Bye, Bye, Bye" at a karaoke bar that night with her new best friend Miyu and gets so drunk that she wakes up with a tattoo and a hangover so bad that she promises herself she'll never drink in Japan again (which is cheating really seeing as she's leaving that afternoon).
Australia is next and she revels in the fact that it feels more like home than the other places have. She's not homesick, not exactly. She doesn't know how to pinpoint exactly what she's feeling. She just knows that Melbourne reminds her of the U.S. and it makes the ache in her chest and nausea seems so much tamer.
That ends the planned part of her vacation. She decides that she should head to Europe next and she starts with France, because who doesn't want to see Paris? She sees all the popular tourist destinations; the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame. She meets all sorts of interesting people and she even blushes when a photographer spots and offers her a job as a model. Or at least…she thinks that's what he said. Her high school level grasp of French is not the most reliable thing in the world.
After France, it's a week in Rome and one in Lisbon, and finally she realizes that she's running out of places. It's when she settles down in Oslo that she realizes that there's something wrong.
She's walking through Frogner Park, staring at some strange sculpture that looks like two men…well you know…when she notices that the aching that first appeared in Melbourne has only grown stronger. No matter how many people she meets or sees she just can't seem to shake this growing feel of disappointment that lingers in the back of her head.
There's something that's missing in every place she's gone. Every smile seems too subtle and every glance is too fleeting. No one looks at her, they look through her. No one laughs quite as loud. And no one smells…like summer.
And light cologne.
It hits her like a ton of bricks, so profound she almost drops down on her knees in the middle of the park. Everything she misses, everything she's been searching for is in essence, Lucas Scott.
8 countries visited. Three continents. All of that just to realize the only thing worth a damn in this whole world is waiting for her back in Tree Hill.
She books a flight home the next morning. It has a ten-hour overlap in London and while she's there she manages to do a little bit of souvenir shopping. She buys an incredibly fashion forward purse for Brooke, a vintage British pop album for Haley, a beer stein for Nathan. There's an old leather journal that just screams Lucas so she snatches that up as well and spends the little bit of cash she has left on fish and chips, which she finds highly overrated.
The flight feels longer than it should, but that's because she can't sleep like all the other passengers. Instead she listens to hard rock on her ipod and watches the clouds as they roll past the window. She keeps thinking of what she's going to say to Lucas when she sees him. She wonders if he still loves her or if he's moved on. What if he went on a trip of his own and she doesn't get to see him for another four months?
Her stomach tightens as they roll into North Carolina. There's no one here to pick her up, so she hails a taxi. As they drive through Tree Hill, she feels the urge to cry when she looks at all the beauty surrounding her. Her trip has taught her above all to appreciate the little things most people miss, and she feels like an idiot for missing so much already.
When she reaches her house, she collapses on her bed. She plans on calling Lucas, but four months of jetlag and sleeping on motel beds have caught up on her and she's so burned out that she passes out for a good eleven hours. When she wakes up, she showers and dresses and lets out a breath she didn't know she was holding.
She heads to Karen's Café, first. When she arrives, Karen nearly bowls her over when she spots her. She peppers her with questions about her trip and all the things she seen and why she didn't call, and Peyton answers all of them except the last one because she's not sure on the answer to that one. Finally, when she's able to get a word in, Peyton asks where Lucas is. Karen gives her a look that says, "Do you really need to ask?" and Peyton heads to Rivercourt.
He's there, shooting hoops with Skillz. She can only see the back of his head, but God, how she missed that fuzzy blonde head of his. Skillz is the first to spot her and he lets out a whistle.
"And here we thought you dropped off the planet…"
As if knowing exactly whom Skillz was talking about, Lucas darts around and those sparkling blue eyes come face to face with hers. At first, she expects that he's gonna walk away from her or yell or maybe even cry, but there's nothing but then his eyes light up and all the tension drains from Peyton's body.
"Hey guys," she says shyly.
"Hey you," Lucas half whispers. Skillz glances between the two of them and gets the hint.
"Welcome back," he says as he passes her, clapping his hand on her shoulder, "I'll give you two some time to catch up, but I should warn you. Call Brooke. She's going crazy thinking you've been kidnapped by drug lords and sold into an underground prostitution ring."
"Only Brooke," Peyton chuckles, rolling her eyes.
Skillz throws a peace sign over his shoulder as he heads to his car, and both Peyton and Lucas watch him drive away before they focus back on each other. Peyton surveys him. He looks different somehow. It's still the same beautiful blue eyes, tiny nose and soft blonde hair, but there's something so mature and elegant about the way he stands before her that it reinforces the fact that he's no longer in high school.
She's battling the urge to lunge at him and cover him in kisses because that's all she can think of right now.
"You look good," Lucas says finally breaking the silence, and she sees that his eyes have grown a couple shades darker.
Apparently, she wasn't the only one checking the other out.
"Thanks. So do you."
"So how was it?"
"Good," she smiles, like her father taught her to when making small talk, and then she realizes this is Lucas, and he can see through it, so she drops it. "Okay, not so good. I mean the trip was fun, and I met so many amazing people and saw so many beautiful places that I didn't even dream existed and I tasted foods that I won't ever be able to find recipes for. Oh and I got a tattoo and sang late 90's pop music, but in the end…it wasn't enough. I spent four months bouncing from city to city and country to country trying to find something, but in the end I was just looking for someone.
"Six billion people, Lucas, six billion souls. And sometimes all you need is one," she says, "All it took was a trip round the world for me to realize that all I need, all I've ever needed is you."
There's a pregnant pause and then he gives her that same smile he's given her throughout this whole ordeal and then lets out a breath that's a cross between a sigh and an exhausted exhale.
"Took you long enough to figure that one out."
"Well…I had to make sure I could cross the other two billion, nine-hundred ninety-nine million, nine-hundred ninety nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety nine men off the list."
He lets out a hearty laugh as he approaches her.
"You, Peyton Sawyer, are insane," he says wrapping his arms around her, "but you know what? I wouldn't have you any other way."
"You sure you don't hate me for leaving you in Tree Hill for four months without a phone call or a letter?" she mumbles into his shirt. It smells like him. God, she missed that smell.
"Nah," he says shaking his head, "I knew you'd be back."
"How?" she says furrowing her eyebrows. He unwraps her from his arms and places his hands on her shoulders, staring into her eyes like he always does.
"Because you're the one," he shrugs, "And I don't need to go travel the world to know that's the truth."
"Good," Peyton nods, "Because if you think for one second, I'm gonna let you leave me…"
He shuts her up with a bone-melting kiss, and the only word echoing through Peyton's mind is home.
The next summer she takes Lucas and the gang to Madras and she falls even more in love with the place.
Two years after that, she and Lucas go to Tokyo and she gets to hear him sing "Hit Me Baby One More Time."
A few months later, he proposes to her in Norway, ironically and without knowing it, in the same spot where she realized he was the one.
One year later, they honeymoon in London, and Peyton Sawyer spends the rest of her days traveling the world and meeting as many of those six billion people as she possibly can.
Only difference is now she does it with the one person that mattered most.
Six billion people
Six billion souls.
And sometimes, all you need is one.