A Toast to What We Lost

Disclaimer: Don't own anything.

Rating: T

Spoiler: 5.17.

Summary: He smiled almost shyly, but his eyes were grinning at her with a newfound confidence and slight mischief. It was almost as if he had found the old self he was looking for in her eyes again.

Song: "Days go by (acoustic)" by Dirty Vegas.

A/N: although I'm a hard core Brucas fan, after revisiting Season four I realized that there is a lot to be said about how unfairly the Leyton relationship has been portrayed in season five, especially from Peyton's side. So I decided to try my hand at Leyton again, if only to do them some justice. Enjoy!

TTTTTTT

There was something different about the way she looked tonight, the way she looked every night since she returned home, and he couldn't quite put his finger on it. Something about her now echoed maturity and grace, but he couldn't figure out what it was.

Perhaps it was her lovely blond hair, but it was so reminiscent of high school that it couldn't possibly be it. Or maybe it was her gorgeous emerald gaze, the one that seemed to bore into his soul with every wayward glance or intense stare, but her eyes had always had a special hold on him, so they couldn't be reason for her change either.

If possible, it could have even been her body or her manner of dress, but even now after so many years of being apart, she could still have his body humming in the ugliest or sexiest thing she wore.

So Lucas, though being an established writer, couldn't understand exactly what made his ex girlfriend Peyton Sawyer still so magnetizing to him and yet in this moment appear so far away from him while so beyond her years.

If anything, he should have been looking at himself and trying to figure out what exactly led to him becoming only a faded image of the man he once was. The man who felt worthy enough to get on a plane, fly across the country, and impulsively propose to the love of his life with the ring his dear uncle had bestowed upon his mother before his untimely death.

Lucas longed to be that man again. The one that took chances and risked his heart without knowing the outcome, instead of being the man he was now. The man who suffered such deep hurt when his proposal was rejected that he vowed never to expose his heart like that again. He was now someone who kept his heart tightly concealed, protected from the rest of the world, especially any blonds who wanted to rip it out again.

Ironically, despite his best intentions to protect himself by picking the safe choice, Lucas still managed to get his heart broken, because, despite what many people thought, when Lindsay walked away from him, she broke his heart. She reached in, took a hold of it, and ripped it out all the while basically blaming him and his inability to admit his true feelings as the reason for her leaving.

It left Lucas more broken than he ever thought he'd be. It led him to drown his sorrows in alcohol, displace his anger, curse the day he met either Lindsay or Peyton, and ultimately it made him say things he didn't mean.

That's why he found himself leaning against Peyton's office door, studying her intently as she sat atop the pool table, sketching something angrily while alternating brush strokes. He was carefully studying her, trying to figure out what about her had changed after all these years and prompted him to utter the horrible words that still rang in his ears this morning when he woke up and realized what he'd done.

You are still a whisper on my lips
A feeling at my fingertips
That's pulling at my skin

He'd said he hated her. He actually said it. For a moment, standing there, Lucas had to repeat it to himself yet again, still unable to wrap his mind around the possibility that he'd said he hated Peyton Sawyer.

He had to tell her he never meant it, but in some ways, watching her in her most natural element, expressing her feelings through art, with soft music playing in the background, Lucas wasn't sure he could reverse the damage that those three little words caused the night before.

But he would be damned if he didn't try. If he had any hopes of finding at least a piece of the young, hopeful man he was back when he had proposed to her, he needed to start rectifying the mistakes he made and nothing seemed more important than making the blond girl he had spent years loving understand how much he didn't hate her.

How, in fact, as much as it killed him to admit it, he might still actually have feelings for her.

"Are you just going to stand there or do you have something to say? Although if it will be a reiteration of what you said last night I think I'll pass." She spoke to him without looking up from her sketchbook, continuing with even brush strokes while he stood in silence, not really knowing what to say.

Although the fact that she sensed that he was in the room brought a sense of hope to him. It felt good that she could still feel his presence without him having to announce it.

"Alright, I guess you can shut the door on your way out then." Peyton broke through the silence once more, and stood up from the pool table, her completed drawing in tow.

She didn't know what she was expecting, whether he would leave or he would stay, but she knew she needed to build some distance between them before things got out of hand.

Lucas didn't oblige with her request, instead he stepped further into the room and shut the door behind him, probably not on the side that she would have preferred though.

After a few moments of watching her study the drawing in her hand, it occurred to Lucas that he still hadn't said anything to her and he could tell it was frustrating her to no end. He could see her entire body filling with tension under his gaze and he could only imagine the look of annoyance displayed on her green eyes if he stepped closer.

It was obvious that the waiting game Lucas was playing with himself wasn't something Peyton wanted to be a part of, so she let out an exhaustive breath and said,

"Look, it's been a really long day for me, so if you have nothing to say I'd appreciate it if you'd go and find someone else to stare at."

Lucas wasn't intimidated by her stern voice or strict posture, but as soon as she looked up at him, their eyes connecting, he felt as if he'd suffered whiplash, because despite her strong façade, her green eyes betrayed what she was feeling.

The hurt, confusion, and anger that had built up over the last couple months were now so unabashedly displayed on her face that Lucas had to catch his breath. It dawned on him that even after everything they had been through, he had never, in his entire time of knowing and loving Peyton Sawyer, had ever seen such a raw display of painful emotion, directed and caused by him.

It should have made his next words all the easier to say, but he had a hard time articulating himself, even as he pushed the sounds out,

"I, I just came to say that I don't hate you."

The second he stammered the phrase out, his cheeks reddened and he took a step back. He had replayed all the possibilities of this conversation in his mind, but none could ever predict the awkwardness of this situation, or the childishness.

Peyton almost scoffed, but she didn't. Instead she remained rooted in her place, leaning against her desk with feet tightly crossed and white knuckles gripping the desk behind her.

"Okay, you said it. Can you go now?" she asked and knew she was being harsh, because even as she said it, her eyes were already filling up with tears, trying to find any spot in the room to focus on, but him.

She couldn't look at him again. If she did, all the well built up walls she created over the course of the last twenty-four hours, when the man she loved told her he hated her, would break down and she would most likely end up seeking comfort in someone who, as she saw it now, didn't deserve to be her savior.

Not anymore.

"No." Lucas replied, clutching his fists in his jean pockets. He took a few steps forward but Peyton remained rooted in her place, which he took as a good sign, considering that if he took just a few more small strides, he'd be breathing the same air as her.

He would smell her perfume, no doubt still a mixture of lilac and sandalwood. He would be able to reach out and run his fingers delicately across her collarbone, which he noted was jutting out more prominently against her skin then he remembered it.

He wondered if he was the cause of her slightly gaunt but still beautiful appearance, but he reminded himself that he had no right to worry about her anymore, be concerned for her health or well being, because he had made his choice and he said his "I do".

"Just leave Lucas." Peyton countered his earlier negation; "There's nothing for you here." She murmured, more to convince herself than anything, but Lucas heard her and had to restrain himself from lashing out at her.

You leave me when I'm at my worst
Feeling as if I've been cursed
Bitter cold within

They both knew now that she was lying, and at a moment when Lucas needed her to be honest with him, she was pulling away.

"I think there still might be." He said softly, hoping a book wouldn't be thrown at him, like it was the last time he made a violent accusation.

Peyton's head snapped up at him then, jade eyes narrowing at him, darkening with an unidentified emotion, as Lucas uncertainly made his way towards her, closing the proximity between them.

"I'm sorry Lindsay left you, but you can't come in here and try to find a replacement for her. I'm not going to be that person for you. Ever." Peyton said sternly, despite Lucas's face being inches away from her.

She wanted to be strong, to be able to turn him down, to walk away from him, letting him know how much it hurt when he left her all alone in that hotel room so many years back.

"You think that's what I'm doing Peyton? Trying to replace Lindsay?" Lucas suddenly exclaimed and he had to take a few steps back, before his loud voice ricocheted between them,

"I don't know why you're here, but you need to leave Luke."

They locked eyes then, gazes smoldering and caught in the moment, but his blues were so haunting Peyton had to take a deep breath and give herself a second to absorb his look, because if she didn't she knew her resolve would weaken. She would gather him into her arms, assuring him that he didn't hurt her, that everything would be okay, and god, if he wanted to hear it, she'd even tell him Lindsay would come back to him.

But she couldn't.

Ever since coming home, Peyton had lost a lot of confidence in herself. She quit her job in Los Angeles to come back to Tree Hill in hopes of finding pieces of her former, hopeful, fearless self, but when all she found was the love of her life with an amazing woman and the rest of her friends far more successful than she, Peyton didn't know if it was the right thing for her to do, coming back home.

That is until now.

Now, after successfully launching Red Bedroom Records and making Mia's dreams come true, Peyton had regained the confidence that eluded her for so long, and it would be a shame for her to suddenly revert back to her former insecure self, which she would become if she let Lucas back in.

In her reverie, Peyton didn't see Lucas's demeanor change, how he had suddenly recomposed himself and his eyes weren't as angry as they were moments before.

"I was happy with Lindsay, Peyton. I really was." Lucas sighed, finding himself falling into the swivel chair next to Peyton's desk.

For a moment, Peyton felt almost sorry for him, but she didn't lean in and place a comforting hand on his shoulder, or whisper an apology. She had nothing to feel bad about, except maybe his fiancé leaving, but in a way she had made herself feel so guilty for it ever since his wedding that there was nothing left inside of her to feel remorseful.

She'd repented long enough and it was about time she stopped.

"At least I thought I was, until I saw you on the river court that night." Lucas murmured and Peyton instantly flashbacked to the first time she saw Lucas since their break up.

"You were standing so deep in thought, sad almost and I remember thinking that perhaps I didn't even know you at all. But when you looked up at me, smiled, took a step forward to hug me, I realized that if I didn't keep you at arm's length, things wouldn't be same again."

He wasn't looking at her while he spoke, but Peyton didn't need him to, to know the expression of hurt lurking in his blue eyes. She knew him well enough to know the amount of unimaginable guilt heavy on his heart, if only because she'd carried the same weight on her shoulders ever since they kissed.

"I tried to stay away from you Peyton. I really did, if not physically, then emotionally for sure. I wanted to be your friend, because I didn't want you out of my life, and I tried to set these boundaries for myself, but…"

"But what Luke? Why are you even telling me this? Shouldn't you be trying to get Lindsay back? I doubt she'd like it if she knew you were here talking to me instead of trying to patch things up with her."

"She's seeing someone else."

And suddenly as if the entire world was in disarray before, the universe clicked into place for her, and Peyton realized that in some odd twist of fate, Lucas found himself in the same place she was in just a few months ago, when she found out that the man she loved had apparently moved on.

"I don't know what to do about it." Lucas explained further and Peyton found herself listening intently. All of the sudden, this conversation wasn't about her feelings or the rehashed past between them, but about the hurt Lucas was unfairly experiencing, because the woman he loved had left him and was seeing someone else.

"Luke I'm sorry, I'm sure it's just a rebound, she'll come back to you." Peyton said, but her words sounded oddly artificial and forced. Unfortunately, as much as she could lie to herself, Lucas was a different story.

When he looked at her, she knew she was lying, but it didn't stop the small smile from spreading across his face, "Thank you for trying to be supportive, but I think you misunderstood me."

Peyton raised a confused eyebrow at him and crossed her arms over her chest protectively.

"You see, ever since I found out Lindsay was with someone, I haven't been dealing too well with it. I put my coaching job in jeopardy, I've been drinking way too much, and I've basically neglected everyone around me, but here's the thing. If you ask me why I've been doing all those things, the first words that would come to mind, wouldn't be that Lindsay has moved on. It would be that I regret leaving you in that hotel room that morning. I regret not calling you when I found out about my novel being published, and I most definitely regret trying to cover up my feelings for you all these years by dragging an innocent woman into a doomed relationship."

Days go by and still I think of you
Days when I couldn't live my life without you
Days go by and still I think of you

"Lucas." Peyton forewarned, defenses building up almost as instinctively as tears began clouding her vision.

"No, listen to me." He said, standing up, but not coming closer, afraid that she would burst into a million broken pieces if he even tried approaching her.

"I should have done it when you came back. I should have ended it with Lindsay. I shouldn't have dragged it out for so long, I shouldn't have hurt either one of you, by being selfish, safe and afraid of admitting to myself what the entire world knows by now."

His voice couldn't have been above a whisper at that point, but Peyton would have heard him even if he were miles away.

"Which would be what exactly?" She asked unsurely, afraid of the answer almost as much as she was afraid of what it would imply.

"That I am now and always will be in love with Peyton Sawyer."

She wasn't sure which one of them approached the other, but by the time Peyton registered what was happening, it seemed like the issue of who started it didn't seem as important.

He tasted so familiar yet so foreign at the same time. It was as if the last three years hadn't happened and they were picking up right where they left off. However, there was a new, strange feeling attached to this kiss and Peyton soon realized that no matter how good he tasted, he didn't belong to her anymore.

His lips were meant for someone else, someone who, although had hurt Lucas pretty badly, didn't deserve Peyton swooping in and stealing him away before they had a chance to reconcile.

In that instant, Peyton understood that she couldn't be the other woman in Lucas's life. She knew damn well that he was hurting over Lindsay and she just refused to be his rebound.

So, although it hurt like hell, she pressed her hands against his cheeks and pushed his lips away from hers. The cold air between them felt like a harsh reality check.

Lucas looked hurt, but he didn't pull away completely, still having his arms securely around her waist, not letting go perhaps in a last stitch effort to convince her to stay.

"You know this is wrong Lucas." Peyton whispered, her thumb tracing his lower lip.

"Didn't feel like it." He responded just as quietly, pulling her closer if possible. Peyton gasped then, feeling the slight state of his arousal pressing against her, but she shut her eyes quickly, hoping to alleviate some of the tension by pretending that this moment was just a figment of her imagination.

However, as she opened her eyes again, Lucas was still there, heat pressed up against her, molding perfectly into her form like only a past lover can, and she knew what she had to do.

"I love you Lucas, you know that, but it's not fair to either one of us to keep doing this. It's not going to end up well." She said softly and couldn't contain the stabbing feeling of emptiness as Lucas let go of her waist.

At least he seemed to agree with her.

"I don't understand." He asserted, his voice raising an octave, "I thought you wanted this. I thought you wanted us. Isn't this why you came back?"

Peyton knew he was grasping at straws, but she couldn't let him place the blame on her. She was finally doing the right thing, she was moving on like he'd asked her to months ago and he needed to respect that.

"I brooded over you for months Luke. I thought I had absolutely no purpose in my life, because you weren't in it, but then I found strength inside me to let you go, to make someone's dreams come true, to finally be amazing at something I love." Peyton couldn't look Lucas in the eye as she spoke, but she knew he was listening intently.

She walked around her desk to ensure that a repeat of their kiss wouldn't happen again and spoke once more,

"You know Lindsay said something to me in the library that night of your first game. She asked me where the Peyton from your book was? Where was the noble, graceful person you wrote an entire novel about? And you know I couldn't answer her, because I didn't know where that person went…I still don't know."

Lucas approached the desk, watching as Peyton pressed her palms flat against the surface, hoping to steady her tortured nerves as she continued, "But, I know I won't find that girl by being your rebound. I know you've never been good about waiting for me and in some ways I don't blame you, but that's why we have to end this. We need to breathe our own air Luke, instead of sucking the oxygen out of each other."

For the life of him, Lucas couldn't ignore the irony of the situation. Although they hadn't been together in god knows how long, this break up hurt far worse than the one he suffered two months ago. It seemed like bitter justice that his heart wouldn't accept anyone but Peyton, when she finally had the courage to let him go.

"Is that what you want?" Lucas asked, his voice no higher than a whisper, but his gaze so intense that Peyton had to look away if she wanted to survive this conversation.

It took her a moment to recompose herself, as it was evident that Lucas left the decision up to her. In some ways, it angered her more than it relieved her, because whether she was pining after him or letting him go, it seemed like she'd always come out looking like an asshole, the one who broke his heart, not the other way around.

"I want you to stop making me seem like the bad guy. You and I both know how un fucking healthy this is, so if you are asking if I want you, my answer is yes, but if you're asking if I think we can be together right now, my answer is no."

She said all of this in one breath. One fluid motion, a rip of a band aid, a removal of a scab, and just like that a weight was simultaneously lifted and placed on her shoulders. She had finally said her peace, but she knew when she looked up, she wouldn't like the consequences of her actions.

A long moment of silence stretched between them, in which Peyton didn't know what to do. She didn't want to sound desperate, but she yearned for a reply, any reaction, something that would indicate that she had gotten through to him, but that he also knew how much this was killing her.

"Luke, say something." She pleaded, ready at any second to take all her words back, run to him, and kiss him senseless.

But it was only a distant wish that plummeted as soon as their eyes connected once more. His gaze was still blue, but it wasn't the deep, sensual, dark azure that was reserved for her, instead it was ice blue, so cold it seeped into her bones.

"I guess I got my answer then." Lucas replied sternly and although Peyton reached forward to grab his hand, he pulled back and, without any other words, looks, or heart felt apologizes, Lucas turned around and walked.

And just like that he was gone.

Days when I couldn't live my life without you
Without you
Without you

TTTTTTTTTT

"Hey, you've reached Brooke Davis, I'm probably off doing something…or someone exciting so leave a message. beep"

"Hey Brooke, it's me, this is the second message I'm leaving you, I hope everything is okay with Angie's recovery. You'll probably spend the night at the hospital, but I'll be by later to bring you some essentials. I love you, bye."

Shutting her phone, Peyton rubbed her eyes while exhaling exhaustively. It truly had been a long day for her. Between churning over the events of last night, dealing with a dozen calls from Mia, her tour manager, and sifting through demos, Peyton never welcomed silence like she did at the moment.

Glancing over at the clock on her computer, she realized that two painfully long hours had passed since Lucas left her office. Two agonizing hours ticked by while she sat in complete disbelief over the unraveled events.

She'd spent months trying to cope with the idea of Lucas marrying another woman, and just like that, after so much time of wishing to be in Lindsay's shoes, Peyton actually said no.

She must have been a glutton for punishment, because even when she thought she was doing the right thing, a part of her yearned to reconsider. Her entire heart ached at the sight of Lucas so upset and confused, unable to figure out what step to take next, so lost in his present state that he had actually told her he hated her.

In her worst nightmare, Peyton never imagined what it would feel like when the man she had been in love with for so long, had said those words to her, but now she could say with conviction, that she had that experience and could never wish it upon her worst enemy.

The most awful aspect of it was the blatant lie behind it.

She knew he didn't hate her, but knowing he had the audacity to even utter those words, hurt just as much if not more.

It occurred to her that Lucas never even said he was sorry.

Maybe she was wrong, maybe he did mean what he said, but couldn't handle the guilt of knowing that Peyton was aware of his true feelings towards her so he had to apologize.

Or maybe, she was reading too much into it. She didn't even know why she bothered thinking about him after rejecting him tonight.

Thoughts of Lucas seemed so obsolete now that she destroyed any hope of them being together, now and in the future.

Knowing Lucas, he probably mistook her words to be an ultimatum. He really was an impatient man, it was either now or never for him. Sadly Peyton knew that if they got into anything serious right now, without working out their issues, or letting each other heal properly, Lucas would end up truly hating her: something Peyton couldn't live with.

Feeling the onslaught of a massive migraine, she shut the desk lamp off, and grabbed her purse, intent on going straight to bed when she got home.

As she shut off the main lights and lingered there in the darkness, Peyton silently prayed for all thoughts of Lucas to be locked in the office until she could deal with them tomorrow morning.

She was pretty sure her prayers wouldn't be answered that night.

You are still a whisper on my lips
A feeling at my fingertips
That's pulling at my skin

If anything, as Peyton realized about twenty minutes later, not only would her prayers not be answered, but also she would be dealt a case of bad luck.

It was freezing outside and her trusty car decided to die on her right as she approached a stop sign. She barely had time to pull over before she heard the familiar spurting sounds her Comet would make before the engine stopped working.

The first thing that came to mind was karma, then anger, and then irony. Today had started out crappy and would end so as well, considering she managed to ruin all hope of a future relationship with Luke and had her car give up on her as well.

It wasn't until she got out of the car, intent on walking the rest of the way home although she was in heeled boots that she looked up and had to stop for a second in disbelief.

God, someone up there hated her, Peyton thought as she realized where her car stopped.

She remembered that night as if it happened yesterday.

She was driving carelessly, as she used to do a lot back then, with angry music playing in the background, and her need for a new CD caused her to overlook a blond boy dribbling a basketball across the street.

She almost hit him.

But instead, he pulled his hood back, narrowed his eyes at her, and took hold of her heart forever.

She might not have known it then, but looking back on it in retrospect, not even she could deny that that was the moment that changed it all for her…for them.

The look exchanged between green and blue eyes created a bond that had lasted for well over six years now, despite the distance, third parties, dead mothers, crazy psychos, and murderous dads.

In that moment, Peyton had to stop and question why after everything they had been through, she chose to give up on Lucas, because of an ex fiancé.

She had to remind herself that as devastating as it was to see him leave her after his proposal, it would be even more heartbreaking knowing that they'd been given a second chance and she was the one who ruined it.

Perhaps out of guilt, but mostly out of love Peyton couldn't let herself be the one to break Lucas's heart, even if he had slowly been chipping hers ever since she returned.

She told him months ago that the greatest act of love was sacrifice. Then, she was talking about letting him go so he could be happy with someone else, but now, as she found herself walking in the completely opposite direction from Brooke's beach house, she realized that the second time she'd be sacrificing something for Lucas, it would be her own pride.

Thoughts of his whereabouts and reaction never even entered her mind as she picked up her pace to a slow jog. Every step she took closer to his house somehow spoke out to her that he'd be there. That despite the coldness with which she delivered her rejection to him, he hadn't given up. There was really no way of knowing if Peyton's instincts were right or not, but as she neared her destination, she realized that no matter what happened from then on, she needed to tell Lucas how she truly felt for herself.

For the woman she wanted to be.

For the Peyton he wrote an entire novel about.

TTTTTT

There was something unsettling about the darkness that night. He'd been unable to sleep or write, which left him with no other choice but to lie in bed at such an ungodly hour, thinking of nothing else but his conversation with Peyton.

God he needed a drink.

It had become a routine over the several weeks following the revelation that Lindsay was dating someone. He was suspended from coaching; his novel was still apparently in the editing stage, which left him with plenty of free time, that he spent in random bars drinking his troubles away.

Both his brother and Haley assumed that the news over Lindsay's new boyfriend devastated him, because he wasn't yet over her, which was fair considering he'd pledged his undying love to her, in sickness and in health, till death just a month before. However, it had been his pretty girl, his guiding light, his Brooke Davis who opened up his eyes and made him admit why he was really drowning his sorrows in liquor.

She'd made it through the Peyton and Lucas saga with her head held high and lived to tell about it. She, out of anyone, would be an expert on how to spot Lucas Scott's guilt, which is exactly what she did when he'd called her from the Blue Post a week ago asking to pick him up.

With a sleeping Angie in tow, Brooke got him from the bar and although he was wasted beyond the ability to drive, he kept apologizing profusely for making her come get him when she had a sick baby to watch over.

She wouldn't have any of his apologies, brushing the incident off as nothing; however, she didn't let him off the hook the next morning, when she confronted him about his drinking, which was obviously becoming a problematic habit.

Lucas had a speech prepared, ready to tell her how Lindsay's news was tearing him up inside, but of all the things Brooke was, she was certainly not stupid and saw right through his bullshit.

She told him that despite her belief that he had loved Lindsay at one point, he should stop using their break up as a cover up for what he was really trying to escape. Lucas remembered being completely terrified that he was figured out, particularly because having someone else so close to him say to his face what he'd been hiding for months now, would mean he'd have to stop lying to himself.

He had to face the truth and admit that he wasn't drinking to forget about Lindsay, he was drinking to forget about Peyton.

Brooke was absolutely right when she accused him of trying to escape the feelings that seemed so innate to him that he'd been in a relationship with another woman for two years, before he became conscious of them.

That morning Brooke simply reminded him of his own words, those immortalized in the pages of his first novel.

"Indeed," she smirked, leaning against the counter as if it had been a casual conversation between friends, "you are and always will be in love with P. Sawyer and it's about time you stopped hating yourself for it."

You leave me when I'm at my worst
Feeling as if I've been cursed
Bitter cold within

But despite Brooke's revelation, Lucas didn't stop drinking.

Instead, he kept going until one night Peyton was the one who brought him home and he said something to her that he wished he could take back.

He said he hated her and in some ways he wished he had, but he hated her, because he never could.

He was angry with her, because just her mere presence could still make his heart sting in a familiar way. He was angry with her; because it didn't matter where he was or whom he was with, he would always think of her as the love of his life, the one who should carry his last name, and his ring on her finger.

He was also angry with her, because she said 'someday', effectively crushing all his future hopes and dreams with one word. One rejection, though as he saw it now, he realized that she was right.

Despite his many successes in saving her, in that moment Peyton tried to save him, from making a mistake, marrying too early, finding desperate solace in their union, because he couldn't make his dreams come true.

He was trying to marry her, because he was afraid of failing as an author, which wasn't fair to either one of them, and his pride, his stubborn pride hadn't let him admit that to anyone until a week ago, when Brooke confronted him.

Now it was too late.

Now, all he had to show for his late epiphany was an empty house, a returned ring, and a second rejection from the girl he'd been in love with since he was seventeen.

Lying on his back in his childhood bed, staring at the ceiling while ignoring the hours ticking by, Lucas Scott came to another realization, one that seemed to follow him through every stage of his existence.

Life had a way of making you wish you were never born.

Then as if fate intervened, Lucas turned his head towards his door and had to blind twice to make sure his mind wasn't playing tricks on him so late in the night.

Moonlight was streaming in from the window effectively outlining the silhouette of a person standing outside his door, exposing a profile that he had memorized.

Lucas didn't even react to the soft knock, as he had already flung the door open, ignoring his heart beating violently in his chest.

She came back.

She had changed her mind.

Without thinking, Lucas pulled Peyton into the room and met her lips in an overdue kiss.

Days go by and still I think of you
Days when I couldn't live my life without you
Without you
Without you

TTTTTTT

There were numerous thoughts running through Peyton's mind as Lucas's tongue begged for entrance to her mouth, but they all seemed irrelevant as she felt her shoulders collide with the wall behind her.

Lucas had always been a gentle lover, sometimes, especially in high school, treating her like a porcelain doll; afraid she would break in his arms if he went too fast or too hard. However, nothing was gentle about the kiss he administered as soon as he opened the door.

Unlike the last kiss they shared, three hours before, this one was frantic, passionate, obviously filled with pent up tension, yet in this moment of haziness, even through her growing arousal, her rational side won over and she pressed her hands against his bare torso, breaking the kiss.

Lucas let go, never one to be pushy, but even in the darkness, Peyton could still tell he was hurt. He suddenly stepped back, or tried to, but she grabbed on to his arms, refusing to let him move away from her.

"If you're going to walk out on me, I'd prefer not to continue." He said sternly, though in his voice she could detect a tinge of hope, like he didn't want to believe her walking away was even a possibility at that point.

Peyton sighed heavily, resting her forehead against his shoulder for a second, and felt his body relax into hers once more.

It was then that she realized he was shirtless, in just a pair of drawstring pants, and for some reason he wasn't even trying to hide his arousal from her.

She needed to act quickly if she hoped to save at least some semblance of mind at this late hour.

"My car broke down just a few blocks from here." She began softly, but felt Lucas tense up again.

"Oh, so you thought I'd bail you out again?" He asked, trying to wiggle out of her embrace.

"Let me finish." She pleaded, trying not to sound as desperate as she did in her head.

Lucas didn't say anything, but their eyes locked in the darkness and Peyton knew he would let her talk. The heat between them was almost palpable, the air seemed to sizzle with sparks that had been absent from both their lives since they said good-bye.

It was becoming increasingly undeniable to both parties that whatever conversation they were about to have would only deter, but never eradicate, their inevitable union.

Peyton took his silence as a cue to speak and took her hands off of him, in favor of nervously twisting a bracelet on her wrist.

"I didn't come here so you could save me again. I came here, because I realized that I lied to you earlier." Peyton explained, still nervously fidgeting with her bracelet.

"I lied to you when I said I don't think we should be together now, but Luke you don't understand how hard these last few months have been. We both know I came back for you and it hurt like hell watching you be with another woman, proposing to another woman, saying "I do" to another woman. It was hard not only because everyone expected us to be together or because of your novel. It was hard, because I had no one to blame for your relationship with Lindsay but myself. You might've been the one who began seeing her, but by saying 'someday' to your proposal, I drove you into her arms-…"

"Peyton I-…" Lucas tried to interrupt, but the curly blond would have none of it. If she didn't get this out now, she would regret anything that happened between them from then on.

"No Luke, you have to listen. I've been drowning in guilt ever since I came back. I knew it was my fault you and Lindsay got together, and it was also probably my presence that drove her away, but you see I can't feel guilty anymore.

I can't be held accountable for your actions. Lindsay told me in the library that night that she refused to apologize for her relationship with you and I couldn't agree more. I'm tired of coming out looking like the bitch whenever the topic of us comes up.

I'm tired of being the one who pines after you, while you turn to some one else for comfort. I only said what I said tonight, because I was scared of getting hurt again. I thought you and I couldn't get passed this. That our chance was over, even if we were both single, but then my car broke down."

Peyton took a breath and realized she was pacing. It was a nervous habit she developed back in high school, where every week felt like a new challenge, where one day she walked in on her biological mother dead, while the other was spent running from an obsessive psycho.

Pacing helped to calm her nerves.

"Did the Comet spark an epiphany for you too?" Lucas asked with a humorless smirk. He'd long since broken contact with her and now sat on the edge of his bed, while she paced around him.

If she was anyone else, he would've stopped her by now, but he knew Peyton needed to say whatever it was that was on her mind, and that unfortunately included pacing.

"Do you remember the first time we locked eyes? Like really looked at each other?" she paused and stared at him expectantly.

Suddenly, Lucas felt nervous. What if this was some sort of test he had to pass in order to be with her again? What if he didn't know the right answer? Would she hold it against him?

But then Lucas remembered something Lindsay said to him after he found her in his house packing after the wedding and it all made sense to him. Closing his eyes in exasperation, realizing yet again that the women in his life were all one-step ahead of him, he spoke,

"The night you almost ran me over."

Days go by and still I think of you
Days when I couldn't live my life without you
Days go by and still I think of you

And the smile that graced Peyton's face was suddenly too much for him to handle from so far away. He reached out and grabbed her waist; pulling her in so close he could feel her heart hammering away in her chest.

Peyton sighed against his embrace, almost losing her train of thought.

"God I hate when Lindsay is right." Lucas murmured and Peyton pulled back, looking surprised.

Lucas smiled endearingly, when he realized his words confused his Blondie.

"She said she couldn't marry me, because I was still in love with you. She realized it when she walked to your car outside the church and saw that it was the Comet model."

"I know." Peyton said softly, not resisting the urge to run her fingers through his rich, blond hair. It had been four long and painful months of her resisting that very action.

"You do?"

"Yes, I read the book Lucas, but let me just finish what I was going to say." Peyton suggested and Lucas nodded, not even registering that she had read his unpublished novel without his consent as he eagerly waited to hear her thoughts.

He looked so content then with his chin resting against her abdomen, as if it didn't matter what Peyton was going to say, as long as she never stepped out of his embrace.

To her, it felt like she was finally whole after months, even years of searching for anything to fill the void he vacated when he left her.

"My car broke down in that very spot, where we first met, where I first saw you, really saw you, possibly the moment I unconsciously fell in love with. I realized then that I was wrong when I said we shouldn't be together. We've been through so much Luke. So much that normal people shouldn't go through at such a young age and we survived it all. Together. And if we can make it through that, there is no way we can't make it through this. I just need to know one thing."

"Anything." Lucas breathed out, desperation coloring his every syllable. It was becoming increasingly difficult to ignore their proximity and the longing, which didn't seem to care about any romantic speeches Peyton had planned.

"If we do it this time, it's going to be for keeps. I don't think either of us can handle that much hurt again." Peyton said softly, her heart already churning at the idea of being separated from Lucas again.

This time it was Lucas's turn to speak and he reached out, running his hand down her cheek, reveling momentarily at the softness of her skin beneath his fingertips.

He smiled almost shyly at her, but his eyes were grinning at her with a newfound confidence and slight mischief. It was almost as if he had found the old self he was looking for in her eyes again.

"If I said that I love you, would you hold it against me?" He asked, finding the only words that seemed fitting at the moment.

Peyton felt a blush spread over her cheeks as she remembered the day she told him that. It felt good to be thinking of that day without an onslaught of painful memories, and she replied with the only word that seemed fitting at that moment for her.

"Never."

Days when I couldn't live my life without you
Without you…without you