I can't believe I've made you all wait so long – I apologize profusely, and I will try my hardest to get them out quicker. I hope this was worth the wait! But, there isn't much LP – it's just setting up for the rest of the fic, and getting everyone back together.

I must say – your reviews are so lovely and encouraging. Every single person who reviews, thank you so much, it's very much appreciated.


You forced me to become strong
When I just craved being weak
Yeah, yeah
And you think you know
And I would like to think so
But do you know that when you go
I fall apart

Lucas's feet pounded on the pavement with each graceful move he made. For a while after high school, Lucas had given up running; college and family and his novel leaving little time for anything else. Once everything had unraveled between Peyton and himself, he'd taken back to running. It was a euphoric release, where for one hour, he could clear his mind, and nothing else mattered but him and the road.

As Lucas rounded the corner, he hoped Lindsay wasn't at his house this morning. He knew she was due back to Tree Hill some time today; he just wasn't prepared yet to deal with her; not after seeing Peyton last night. When he slowed down to a jog then a walk, he noticed that his back door was slightly opened and groaned to himself. Lindsay must be here.

When he walked in the door he was greeted with the sight of Brooke Penelope Davis in all her glory, sitting back on his bed, legs crossed in front of her, a smirk placed on her face.

"Well, well, if it isn't Brooke Davis: fashion designer extraordinaire? Come here!"

Brooke jumped up at his request and hugged him tightly.

Lucas removed himself from the hug and held her at arms length. Brooke Davis had definitely grown up. "So what is a famous designer like you doing in little 'ol Tree Hill?"

Brooke rolled her eyes and pouted. "Hey, it's my home too, ya know?"

"I did know – I just thought you'd forgotten," he joked.

"I could never forget Tree Hill. And hey – what about you? The famous novelist to the best-selling An Unkindness of Ravens."

Lucas laughed and tipped his head back. "I'd be even more successful and famous if I could come up with a second novel."

"No inspiration?"

"Not so much."

Brooke pursed her lips and mulled over this. "So…" she drawled, "have you seen Peyton yet?"

Lucas didn't miss the fact that after mentioning inspiration, she brought up Peyton. He let it slide, and nodded his head. "I should've known you two came back home together."

"It was time," she remarked simply.

"Yeah, it was. I've missed you both, and I'm glad you're home… this is to stay, right?"

"Well, Peyton's staying, but I haven't decided yet. Right now, I'm just here for my best friend."

Brooke noted the nostalgic look on his face upon mentioning his blonde love, and then when his head shot up at the end of her sentence.

"Here for her? Is something wrong with Peyton?"

Brooke inwardly laughed. This is going to be so easy.

The petite brunette shook her head and walked over to his desk. "Nope, she just wasn't ready to face the hometown alone. Not that I blame her. It's a tough place to come back to." She paused then lifted a photo frame holding a pretty blonde woman wrapped around Lucas. "Who's the hottie?"

Lucas peered over her shoulder at the picture and rolled his eyes. It was a picture of him and Lindsay that Lindsay had left there purposely, feeling insecure about being so far away from him and his inability to fully verbalize a commitment. She was coming in today, so he made sure to have the photo visible and in plain sight.

"That's Lindsay, my… editor."

Brooke kinked an eyebrow. "Editor, eh? Looks awfully cozy for someone who looks over your books."

"Well, we're kind of dating, too." At his 'kind of,' Brooke started to open her mouth and question him, but he saw it coming and beat her to the punch. "It's a long story. Anyways… why did Peyton want to come home?"

Brooke sighed and put the photo back on the desk, this time picture-side down. "Cut the crap, Scott. She told me you two ran into each other last night, and I got the long, unedited version, trust me. You know why she came home."

"Yeah… she said the city life just wasn't for her, and she just felt it was time to come home. I'm just happy she's here."

Brooke was about to tell him she really did come here for him, but then she remembered her discussion with Peyton last night. Before she could stop herself, a plan had formulated and words were spilling out of her mouth. "Well Broody, I wouldn't get too happy if I were you. I don't know what your feelings are toward her now – I mean you're always so wishy washy. But um… Peyton's seeing someone."

Those words were like a blow to his heart. He tried to recover from the information he had just received, and mask his crestfallen face, but Brooke caught it.

Brooke almost felt bad, and softened her tone. "Sorry, Luke. But hey! You're dating this Lindsay right? How long now?"

Lucas cleared his throat and looked at the frame on his desk once more. "Oh yeah, 2 years, a little over that."

Brooke scoffed, and inwardly grew angry. Two years ago, Lucas had gone to see Peyton in L.A. "Okay, well, I promised Peyton I'd be back by now. But it was great seeing you, Broody."

She hugged him again, but his mind was still on Peyton. "Yeah, you too, Brooke. Don't be a stranger."

-----

"You told him what?!" Peyton screamed at her best friend.

As soon as Brooke walked in the door, the lies she had told to Lucas came tumbling out of her mouth and she had confessed the whole conversation to Peyton.

"I'm sorry! I can't help it – I may have grown up, but I'm still Brooke Davis! Meddling is in my blood. Especially when I see two people who are so obviously meant to be together."

"You know, hearing that from you still freaks me out a bit," Peyton admitted.

Brooke slapped Peyton's shoulder lightly. "I really am sorry. But he told me… he's kind of dating his editor. So, the lie just kind of slipped out."

"Yeah, well you're lucky my fist isn't "slipping" onto your face," grumbled the cranky blonde.

Brooke rolled her eyes. "Oh shut up. If it helps… he was totally jealous, I could tell."

Peyton perked up a little at that. "Oh yeah?"

"Hell yes, he could barely speak. He was very upset by your boyfriend status."

Peyton shook her head. "Only you, Brooke Davis. Okay, let's go – it's time to go see the Scott family.

Brooke clapped excitedly and led the way.

-----

Haley crossed one leg over another and settled back on her lounge chair, lying in the sun. It was rare that she had time to herself, but when she did, she relished it.

Currently, Nathan was in the pool with Jamie, watching after his little boy while his wife took some time to herself; after all, she deserved it. She worked hard and took care of their son every day, too. After their near-separation he promised himself that he'd never become a slacker father again, and that he'd always be the best husband and father he could. Most days, he felt he did a great job living up to that.

"Scott family – it looks as if you've done well for yourself. We're gone 4 years, and we come back to this beautiful house?"

At the sound of his former girlfriend's voice, Nathan whipped his head around. Sure enough, there was Peyton Sawyer, all long legs and wild curls, followed by a grown-up looking Brooke Davis. Nathan immediately grabbed Jamie and stepped out of the pool.

Haley jumped out of the lounge chair as soon as Peyton's voice made it's way to her.

"Oh my God!" Haley screamed. She ran to the two girls and pulled them into a giant hug. "What are you guys doing here?"

"We figured that after almost 5 years away, it was time to come home. And for good. Plus, I think I need to get to know my godson," Brooke filled in.

Nathan walked over to the girls with his little boy. He let go of Jamie's hand and pulled Peyton and then Brooke into a hug. "I can't believe you girls are really home."

"You better believe it, cause this time there's no getting rid of us," Peyton cracked sassily.

Jamie stared on in wonder at the two pretty strangers that his parents seemed to know. He walked over to his mother and tugged on her leg. "Momma?"

Haley looked down at her precious boy and scooped him into her arms. "Jamie, I want you to meet momma and daddy's really great friends, Peyton and Brooke."

"Brooke? You're my godmother right?"

Brooke instantly melted and nodded at the little boy. "I sure am. I'm sorry I haven't been around, but now that I'm back, that's all going to change. I want to get to know you."

Jamie's face brightened. "And you're Peyton? You're the girl from Uncle Luke's book?"

Peyton's face flushed red while the other three adults held their breath. "That's me kiddo. I'm so happy to finally meet you; you've grown up to be such a handsome little man." She tweaked the boy's nose and he blushed, then flashed a toothy grin.

"Hey Jimmy-Jam, what do you say we go inside and leave these three to have some girly time together?"

The blonde boy nodded his head and waved over his father's shoulder as he was being carried away. "I will be seeing you two later, you can count on that," remarked the elder Scott boy.

Peyton immediately turned toward Haley. "Okay, I'd be seriously upset if I weren't so impressed that he can read a novel!"

Haley chuckled and threw an arm around Peyton. "What can I say? He is truly Luke's nephew. No, seriously, he can't read novels yet. He's a sharp boy, but not that advanced… at least not yet. After Luke's novel got published, Jamie wanted in on all the fuss, and forced his Uncle Lucas to read to him every night – from his book."

Peyton's heart melted a little at the thought of Lucas with Jamie. She always knew he'd be great with kids. And that was such a Lucas Scott thing to do.

Haley's words interrupted her silent musing. "Honestly, I am so happy to have you two home – Tree Hill hasn't been the same without you both."

"Well it feels good to be home, right P. Sawyer? We've been getting that a lot lately!"

"From who?"

"Lucas," Peyton nearly whispered.

"Ah, so you've run into him already?"

Peyton nodded and rolled her eyes. "Yes, we both have. Very different encounters though. Brooke had a pleasant conversation and I got a nice angry argument."

Haley rubbed the blonde's shoulder sympathetically. "Peyton, Lucas still…"

"Hales, you talking about me?" A voice shouted from the other side of the yard.

The three girls turned to see Lucas striding through the yard over to them, a tall, beautiful woman flanked on his arm.

As Lucas and the woman came to join the three friends, tension swarmed the air, palpable to all, except for Lindsay who hadn't yet been clued in on who the two beautiful women were.

"Lindsay Strauss, I'd like you to meet two old friends," he stressed the word as he looked at Peyton. "This is Brooke Davis, and this is Peyton Sawyer. Girls, this is my girlfriend, Lindsay."

Even Haley looked shocked at the introduction. He rarely ever referred to Lindsay as his girlfriend. She glanced between Peyton and Lucas and immediately knew something had happened.

Lindsay shook their hands and a smile bubbled up on her soft features. "The Peyton and Brooke? Wow, I've read – and edited – a lot about the both of you."

The group shared an awkward laugh and stood in silence. Thankfully, Nathan's voice broke the uncomfortable silence. "Hey guys, if you're hungry, there's some lunch set up in here!"

Everyone started walking that way, save for Peyton and Lucas who lingered behind. Peyton didn't waste any time once Lindsay and the others were out of sight.

"Girlfriend, Lucas? Nice one! You tell me you miss me, you have all these feelings for me, and you can't stop thinking about me, and you have a girlfriend?!" She hissed out, trying to keep her voice low, but finding it increasingly difficult. "And here I was starting to almost believe those things you said."

Lucas's facial features softened and regret bubbled up in his chest. "Peyton, I, did mean what I said last night, you know I did. But, what does it matter? Word is that you're in a relationship, too."

Peyton scoffed and kicked a rock under her foot. "Yeah well, I wasn't the one talking about all of my feelings for you, now was I?"

He laughed bitterly and rubbed his jaw. "Of course not, getting Peyton Sawyer to talk about anything important when it comes to letting your guard down is next to impossible, isn't it Peyt?" He nearly spit his words out, he was so angered.

Peyton was taken aback at his tone, this was not her Lucas Scott. "What happened to you Lucas? You used to tear down walls and open your heart to love. I've never heard you sound so… bitter!"

Lucas swallowed thickly. "You happened to me, Peyton…"

She saw a rant coming and killed it before it could start.

"I'm not doing this again, you now I almost…" She ran a frustrated hand through her hair and turned her back on him. "Never mind. Lucas, let's not do this okay? At one point we had feelings for each other, but we've grown up. Can't we just be friends again? I mean we've both moved on right?" Peyton wanted him to say yes, but the bigger part of her hoped he'd say no.

Lucas said nothing but just stared into her eyes. "We should get inside, they're probably wondering where we are."

Lucas walked away, willing himself not to glance back at her.

And without knowing it, he'd instilled a little spark of hope within Peyton Sawyer.

I'm tired of hiding behind these lying eyes,
I'm tired of this smile that even I don't recognize.
Do you know I cry?
Do you know I die?
Do you know I cry?
Do you know I cry?
And it's not the good kind


To be honest – I'm not 100 sure where I'm taking Lucas's character. I guess I'm just as mixed up as Mark is. I can't even get started on how pissed I am at OTH right now for doing what they're doing to Lucas's character. I'm really bitter at the way Lucas is treating Peyton on the show lately.

Again, sorry for the lack of LP, but it's coming, I swear. This was a set up, but I'm taking this places, I promise. Just trust me. )