Ashes

Let's burn it all
Let fire fall
What's done is done
It's in the past

xXx

Nathan not-so-happily-married Scott was sitting in the gazebo outside of his childhood house. The man had been on his way to the river court but he had stopped when he was in the middle of crossing a street to get there- that place was Lucas's refuge. For most of his life, the gazebo was where he would stalk off when things turned too overwhelming and yet after a few years with his once long-lost brother he had let his own habits be replaced by Lucas's.

The river court wasn't his. Besides, it really was Lucas's safe haven and it was obvious that Lucas would needed that safe haven right now anyways…

It had been barely three days after his brother's bride ran out on her own wedding. Everyone he knew was still running around in a state of panicked chaos.

Lucas had essentially buried himself away from civilization; ripping his hair out in confused anguish and dialling Lindsey non-stop.

Haley was in a frenzy as she ran around

-getting Carrie arrested and putting a restraining order on her,

-making sure her son wasn't absolutely scarred from the kidnapping,

-attempting to politely avoid Dan as she was split between appreciation and apprehension for the man,

-contacting Lindsey who had become her best friend in an effort to comfort and understand the wedding situation,

-hovering around Luke's house in case he stopped hiding and needed her.

Of course, this meant that she was much too frazzled to deal with Nathan's apologetic take-me-back talks. Aside from the brief happy reunion they had when Jamie came back, Haley hadn't spoken to Nathan very much.

That was all well and good; Nathan understood that it was a hectic time. What came as a surprise to him was that his frustration at the state of his marriage was reaching a plateau. He was tired of being so concerned about it. Tired of being pushed away, tired of saying sorry, tired of sleeping in Skillz and Mouth's apartment.

Why did his life have to be so dramatic? He had gone through a good sixteen years with relatively little drama (he was always the most popular kid in his grade, he had money, his parents rarely fought; aside from minor tiffs and a general annoyance at his oppressive dad, his life was golden) only to have a lifetime's worth of melodrama hurled at him in the last few years.

He missed the simpler days when he was a jack ass with the bitchy cheerleader girlfriend, a legion of cronies, and an arrogant attitude that went completely unchallenged because he had the looks and talent to back it up.

He missed the simpler days when he would have burst out in hysterical laughter at the thought of Lucas being ditched at the altar, when he would have screwed Carrie and barely bat an eye when the woman he was committed to found out.

He missed the days when he really did think the world was black and white and all that really mattered was that he did and got what he wanted, screw everyone else.

At his core, Nathan had always been worried that he wouldn't be enough. That was a motivating factor in why he was such a huge bastard back in the day and now that Haley seemed to exploit this fear and prove it correct, Nathan was damn exhausted of being the good guy. He wanted to go back to his old mindset. It was safer.

xXx

Peyton always-going-to-be-a Sawyer (at least it seemed that way at this point), was drained. She knew she was being pathetic and ridiculous, but she had the distinct, crushing feeling that her spluttering of hope that had escaped her after Lindsey left Lucas had been viciously killed.

She had gone to his house the evening it happened. She had found him sitting on the floor, staring at the ceiling with a phone in his hands.

Before she could even ask if he was okay, he had shut his eyes and croakily asked her to leave. His tone was forcibly civil. She had said his name, confused, and his jaw had clenched angrily as he repeated his words with a lot more anger- no longer making it a request. She had turned to retreat out the door and he had whispered venomous words to her back- this is what you wanted, wasn't it?

She had stopped cold in her tracks, her blood freezing at the thought of him actually believing that.

Before she could say anything, he looked at her fiercely and grabbed a pile of papers lying nearby.

This is my next novel, he said.

Seizing a lighter from his drawer, he met her eyes with a cold fury she had never seen before and lit the whole thing on fire. Peyton cried out a No! that came too late.

She left because of this, he had said. She thought it was about you. She left because of you.

There was a level of accusation in his voice that wrapped itself around her throat and squeezed, making her breath catch.

She insisted I still wanted you, he murmured. His eyes were trained on the flames. I know why you came. You thought she was right. His voice was metallic. You hoped she was right.

Looking at her again, he didn't react at all to her expression of pure pain. This is what you wanted, wasn't it?

Not like this. She had whispered, her eyes filling with tears. I never wanted this.

Liar, he shook his head.

I wanted you to leave her, Lucas.

There isn't going to be any riding away in the sunset, he had said. I know you came here for that, but it won't happen.

I came to see if you were okay, she said quietly. It had never been about me, Lucas, never.

Her eyes were overflowing with tears she couldn't stop. Whirling around, the girl fled; her choked sobs echoing into the night, her hurt clouding the atmosphere in the room long after she left.

That morning, Peyton had gathered the courage to talk to Lucas again. This time she had found him at the river court, stubble coating his jaw, hair rumpled, eyes haunted.

He glanced at her and her courage wilted away. Grinding her teeth together, she forced herself to stand her ground.

His tone was soft this time; emotion spent: I really need to be alone.

You want to know what I wanted? Peyton asked, trying hard to keep her voice steady. When the priest asked you if you would take her to be yours forever, I wanted you to look at me and look at her and say no, no you couldn't. Instead of I Do, I wanted you to say I Can't.

Yelling internally at her tear ducts to remain dry, she said, I wanted you to realize you wanted me. I didn't simply want you not to get married; I wanted you not to get married because you chose not to.

I know you're in pain, and you won't be able to understand how sorry I am for that, but you don't get to accuse me of wanting this. Of blaming me. You want to know what I wanted? Do you? I wanted you to marry Lindsey if that's what you wanted. The only scenario I wanted where that wedding didn't happen was if you walked away. I wanted you happy.

You want to know why I went to your house that night? I went there to see if you were holding up. I was worried about you. I went there prepared to call Lindsey up and telling her that she had read wrong, that you and me were never ever going to be together again. That I was leaving town and that she really should come back because you needed her and no one else.

If you can't believe that, I'll let you on a trip down memory lane. I did that for you and Brooke, when you claimed she was the only one for you; that you needed her. I did everything in my power to get you back with her, and I would have done that again for you and Lindsey in a heartbeat.

But Brooke wasn't the one for you. You changed your mind in a few weeks.

Maybe Lindsey wasn't the one for you, either.

All I really know for sure after all of this is that you went for Brooke and Lindsey so damn determinedly because you really, really don't want me to be the one for you.

Her resolve was officially cracking, along with her voice. She was going to cry again soon and she absolutely did not want him to see that.

Lucas was looking at her as though he had been slapped and as she walked away, his eyes melted into a pool of regret and concern for her. His head was far too muddled to sort out the mixed up feelings and thoughts circling inside of him, all he knew was that the taste of remorse was growing stronger and stronger.

xXx

Peyton couldn't go back home. Brooke was home and as much as she loved Brooke, she couldn't make her pick up her broken pieces again. She had already soothed her so much, Peyton didn't want to become a burden. She couldn't go to the bridge for that very same reason.

She ended up at the same place she used to run to, once upon a time. The Scott manor's gazebo.

"Nathan." Peyton was startled to see him there. "What are you doing here?"

"This was my gazebo. What are you doing here?" He asked back, equally startled.

Their eyes met, the pain in them equivalent, and they realized they really didn't have to answer the question.

"Lucas blames me for Lindsey leaving." Peyton said matter-of-factly as she slumped next to her friend.

"I'm sure that's not-"

"He as good as told me so."

"Oh." Nathan blinked. "Well Haley's been running around doing things for everyone else in what I think is an attempt to avoid me."

"I'm sure she's not-"

"I got divorce papers in the mail ten minutes ago."

"Oh." Peyton blinked.

"I'm sorry-" they said simultaneously.

Chuckling slightly, Peyton said, "You know, everyone used to say how bad and destructive we were together but we were never as hurt back then when we were together as we are right now from Haley and Lucas."

"That's true." Nathan grinned sardonically. "Maybe we just really suck at relationships in general."

"Haley will take you back, Nathan. You have to believe that."

"Sure. And Lucas will show up at your doorstep tonight with a bouquet of roses and a sappy speech declaring that he wants to ride off into the sunset with you." Nathan snorted.

Peyton winced.

"God, I'm sorry." Nathan instantly said. "I really didn't mean that. You and Lucas have always been meant for each other, he's just-"

"It's okay." Peyton shook her head. "You're right. It's not happening. It's just that Lucas used the same sarcastic phrase." Letting out a hollow laugh, she said, "You know, I thought Lindsey was the only thing keeping him from me. I was so sure. But I was wrong. Maybe he didn't really want her, maybe he did. It doesn't matter. What's important is that he doesn't want me."

"Peyton-"

"It's true." Peyton nodded, her eyes doing that watering up thing again but she hid it well.

"Haley told me she was wrong to try to change me." Nathan said softly. "So I'm gonna take a stab and say that it was never me she wanted, it was the fixed-up version of me she hoped she could turn me into."

Peyton's calm mask broke and her face crumpled.

"Holy crap," Nathan choked out in alarm when he noticed she was crying. He awkwardly patted her back.

"Haven't you ever seen a crying girl before?" Peyton tried to laugh.

"Not a crying you."

"Really? Several months of dating and years of friendship and never?"

"No!"

Laughing for real now, she said, "Don't panic, Nate- I'm not broken or anything."

"You never let me see the vulnerable side, only the mouthy one." Nathan said, "This is uncharted territory for me."

"I'm sorry, life just sucks right now, I shouldn't be putting this on you-"

"No, no it's okay." Nathan's voice became even more alarmed as Peyton stood up to leave. "You definitely don't have to go."

"I don't know what to do anymore, Nathan," Peyton whispered as she covered her face with her hands.

"Hey, hey, come here. None us really do. Everything will be okay." She fell into his shoulder and he tried to believe his own words.

The two sat there for what felt like an infinite amount of time.

The tears were drowning her eyes as Peyton whispered brokenly, "I wish we were sixteen again."

Nathan looked like he was going to argue about how that wasn't true, but Peyton wasn't finished. "I wish we were early sixteen. When I only had one dead mom, one love interest. When the biggest fight I'd get into with my best friend would be over cheerleading practice or music taste." She was sobbing. "It was so much simpler back then."

"Life isn't supposed to be easy. And you don't have it nearly as bad as you could."

"Okay, Nathan, there are times that call for being tough and there are times that I really just need somebody hugging me and telling me my life does suck but it'll be better and I'll get my happy ending." Her voice was resentful and she took her head off his shoulder.

Matching the formation of a fresh fight, the clouds that had been present all day decided now to break into a rainstorm.

"Lucas might have done all that." Nathan shrugged. "But obviously, he's not here with you right now." He stood up to retreat further into the gazebo to avoid the rain, but Peyton grabbed his arm to stop him.

"You're such an ass."

"My wife sent me divorce papers. I'm sorry if I'm being less than sympathetic about the fact that the guy you declined a marriage proposal from is now into another woman two years later."

"You've always been so self-absorbed. Guess that hasn't changed."

"I'll say the same for you." He glared. "And you were the one that wanted to be sixteen again. Looks like you're getting some of your wish right now with this ridiculous argument."

"Well I'm hurting and I'm lonely and everything sucks and you're being so damn insensitive right now it's almost funny!"

"Your make-up is totally ruined."

"Gee, thanks."

"No, I'm just saying. Your make-up is totally ruined, you have that ball-breaker expression on your face that twists everything into a scary mess of anger, and you still manage to look kinda hot." Nathan smirked. "Random observation."

"You are so never going to have sex again with anyone." Peyton rolled her eyes, rubbing her face self-consciously.

"Says the girl who probably hasn't been with anyone since Lucas broke up with you."

For some reason, this triggered a new eruption of tears from Peyton.

"…Oh, fuck." Nathan muttered, once again alarmed. "Don't cry, c'mon." He watched her anxiously and started rambling when it became clear she wasn't stopping. "Look, I'm just being defensive and deflecting the focus on you because it's easier to do that, okay? It's easier to look at the drama circus that is your love life than look at the train wreck that mine is. You're a lot better off than me, you know? You're in so much damn pain because you really do love him. Me, I'm done loving her. And I hate myself so much for wanting to give up."

"I've given up too." Peyton sniffed. "And now I'm cold and I probably look like a drowned rat."

"A drowned malnourished rat. You really have to eat more, Sawyer." Nathan commented, encircling his fingers around her wrist with disapproval.

Peyton shook her head and stood up. She looked at the sky and the raindrops and the total pathetic sphere that was her life. "I'm going to start over." She looked at Nathan. "And you should too."

"…The rain is really making your shirt pretty see-through."

"Trust you to notice," Peyton laughed and looked down at herself.

He stood up to stand beside her, his eyes unreadable.

"Nathan, why are you staring at me like that?"

"You really do look hot right now." His hand found its way to her waist, the touch so light she could barely feel it.

"What are you-?"

"You want to start over right?" His eyes never looked away from hers as he bent down and crushed his lips over hers with a ferocity that he had never used with Haley and that she had never felt with Lucas. They were done with tenderness; the fire had returned to burn through the wreckage and waste of their brokenness to restore a new life, a different life.

Like the birth of new plants after forest fire destruction, this wasn't their first choice. It wasn't a choice at all. It was what instinct did to preserve survival, what their nature did to drag something out of the death of their hopes with other people.

Nathan's hands peeled away the edge of the fabric that was stuck to her skin and his fingers traced up her back; Peyton's hand hooked itself in the belt loop of his jeans, connecting them from the waist down like the way she used to do once upon a time.

"Let's be sixteen again."


AN: I'm anticipating some rather angry reviews from this but I had this huge need to channel all the angst and anger of s5 relationships into a fic before the new episodes start up again. Rest assured, this is never going to happen on the show :P

ETA: Also, yes this is most definitely a chapter fic :). And after the extreme fury I feel as a leyton fangirl after 5.13 you can expect an update fairly soon.