A/N: Wow, it has been a long time since I updated, and I'm very sorry for that. I had hellish exams and grad, some personal stuff, and a lack of inspiration, but it's back! This story has been in the works for a year now, and it's had its ups and downs, and now we're coming toward the end, so I'm determined to finish it. I'm not sure exactly how many chapters are left, but I suspect it'll end at 35. Your support and feedback throughout has been fantastic; I'm not sure I would have managed to get even this chapter out if you hadn't constantly asked for it. :)
Sinfonietta: a small symphony
Peyton marched into her fiancé's – she was still getting used to the word – office and placed her hand against his laptop, effectively shutting it closed.
Lucas eyed her amusedly, sliding his chair back from his desk and reaching out to her, gently grasping her wrist as he pulled her body close to his, letting her settle onto his lap. "What's wrong, babe?"
"I want to elope," she told him firmly with the widest green eyes she could manage. When that didn't seem to work, she softened her expression and went for a coy smile instead. "Please?"
He smirked sweetly at her. "Oh my God," he murmured.
"What?" Peyton whispered, finding that she was expecting a compliment.
"Are you actually regretting forcing Brooke to stop planning our wedding?"
"No! Well…yes. Maybe. I don't know." She sighed. "This whole big, elaborate wedding thing…it's not me, it's her. Let's just…let's go to City Hall!" she suggested brightly.
"Peyt," he sighed, giving her the gentlest chiding look she'd ever seen.
"Luke," she sighed, mimicking him lightly as she toyed with the collar of his shirt.
"We can't elope. Both of our daughters would be incredibly disappointed. If we don't have a proper, serious wedding with guests, Brooke will lose it. Haley and Nathan – okay, just Haley," he conceded, "will never forgive us, especially since we've already asked them to stand up there with us. And you…what about you?"
"What about me?" she asked quietly.
"I want to give this to you," he told her solemnly, his eyes locked with hers. "Your first wedding, to Jake…you were so young, and taking care of Jenny, and you didn't do anything to really celebrate it. I want you to have that dream wedding. It doesn't have to be all princesses and fairytales because I know that's not you, babe, but…you are absolutely everything to me. Let me give you your dream come true."
Peyton's lips curled up into a reluctantly smiled before she kissed him languorously. "It's just…what if my dream is City Hall?" she tried.
"Or what if your dream is getting married in the same spot your parents did with our closest family and friends around us, looking incredibly beautiful and pretty damn sexy in whatever dress you choose, instead of just these jeans and your sweater."
"I'm pretty sure the sexy part is your dream," she teased him, "And you love these jeans, Luke."
"Peyton," he said softly.
She sighed, resting her forehead against his. "You really want to do all of that for me?"
"I owe you, baby girl," Lucas told her huskily.
Shaking her head, she objected, "No. You and me, we're even. We both made mistakes. It's been hard on everyone. From now on…we're moving forward."
He nodded, smiling at her. "I just want to make you happy. Is that allowed?"
"How is it…that you know what's going to make me happy even before I do?"
"Because you're you," he joked, his smile widening into a grin so gorgeous she wanted to kiss it away. "And happiness has never been your forte."
Her jaw dropped and she smacked his arm half-heartedly. "Luke!"
He shrugged innocently, still grinning back at her. "Think you'll let me change that?" he asked her quietly.
Peyton nodded, unable to keep from smiling back. "You already have."
"Breathe," Haley lectured her friend laughingly as Peyton slouched in her chair and buried her face in her hands. "This doesn't have to be a big deal."
"How did you get married twice?" Peyton demanded as she straightened up, staring sadly at the slew of papers on the table in front of them. "And more importantly, why?"
Haley rested her hand over Peyton's and met her gaze. "Because I love Nathan," she said calmly, "the same way you love Luke. And we wanted our friends and family to celebrate that love with us, the same way, deep down, Peyton Sawyer, you know that you do, too."
She sighed again. "I'm happy, Haley," she pouted.
The shorter woman burst out laughing. "That's a good thing, honey."
"Exactly. For the first time in a long time I'm so happy with the way things are going in every single aspect of my life, and I don't want anything to ruin that, especially not all this wedding stress."
"This day," Haley told her firmly, gesturing to the slew of papers, "is going to be one of the best of your whole life. I promise."
"Speaking of stress…"
Both women turned to where Jenny was seated five feet away, impatiently looking at her mentor while she tapped her foot nervously against the floor. Her guitar was resting on her lap, a well-handled piece of paper in her hands.
"I'm kind of feeling some of that right now," she added dryly.
Haley, switching into her mentoring role, grimaced sympathetically and sat up straighter. "Sorry, hon. But you're doing so well. I wouldn't be worried."
"My showcase is tonight."
"We know," Peyton imitated her tone of voice gently. "But you're going to be amazing."
Jenny met her eyes, conveying for a moment through her gaze how nervous she really was. Peyton's breath caught in her throat and her smile softened into something more understanding.
"Is it because Jordan will be watching?" Haley asked, a sly note in her voice.
"No," Jenny said instantly, her cheeks turning faintly pink. "Well, maybe a little. But…" She trailed off, throwing another look in Peyton's direction.
"You're going to be wonderful, baby," she said softly.
"Yeah…" the younger blonde muttered, noncommittal, before she pulled up a smile and her eyes lit up a bit more. "At least, I will be if you stop hogging my mentor three hours before the showcase."
Peyton was already on her feet, heading out the door. "She's my wedding planner," she teased back, pausing to kiss the top of Jenny's head.
"Hey, now, you've gotta pay me for that job!" Haley called after her. "If you wanted someone to do all that you should've kept Brooke around."
She stopped in the doorway, turning around to shoot Haley a look that was searching for honesty. "Do you think…do you think she'll come back? Brooke," she clarified. "For the wedding."
Haley nodded, meeting her gaze and smirking a little bit as Jenny let out an exasperated sigh. "I know she will."
"But I didn't…for her…"
She shook her head, her smirk softening into a sweet smile. "It's different. You and Luke. It's different."
"Different good," Jenny interjected forcefully before Peyton could ask and draw out the conversation any longer.
Her mother held up her hands as if in surrender. "I can see when I'm not wanted. Thank you. Both of you." With one last wink, she headed out the door with all her things, on her way an appointment with a florist.
When Peyton came home, her mind still full of potential wedding problems, she was greeted by the sight of Lucas bustling around the kitchen looking very Mr. Mom, Mira sitting in a nearby chair with a sketchpad on her lap and some crayons on her head. She was relieved to see that dinner was taken care of; she was exhausted.
Setting her things down, Peyton leaned against the counter, tilting her head to the side slightly. "You're an angel," she breathed out gratefully when he caught sight of her and smiled. She loved that automatic smile of his, loved being someone who could trigger that joy.
"Nah, I don't think so," he shrugged, wiping his hands on a dishtowel. "You are." He wrapped his arms around her waist, tugging her close. "You look a whole lot like the answer to my prayers," he teased, his lips brushing hers.
Peyton smiled back, almost shyly, and was about to sink into the kiss when a voice interrupted, causing her to pull away a bit.
"It's one thing to be all lovey-dovey-cute around me, another entirely to be corny," Jenny sighed as she breezed by, her tone equal parts irritation and affection. She was trying to fasten a necklace around her neck as she rushed through the house, clearly looking for something.
Peyton laughed as she watched her go, resting her head against Lucas' shoulder. "She's panicking," she said mutedly.
"Understandable." He kissed her temple and she let herself cuddle into him for a moment. "Will she eat with us?"
"No; she's got to get their early." She lifted her head to look him in the eye. "At least, that's what she says…I think she might be getting pizza with that boy."
"The boy from the car crash?" he asked dangerously.
She shot him an amused look. "It wasn't his fault. She's young, Luke, let her have a little fun."
"Fun? Do you remember what kind of fun we used to have?" He wiggled his eyebrows and shook his head. "She's lucky to have such a cool mom." They both watched as Jenny ran back through the kitchen, texting furiously on her cell phone but pausing to tickle Miranda, who giggled a little. Lucas sighed. "She's so grown up. I've missed…so much."
"You'll make up for it. I know it," Peyton promised him, leaning in and pressing her lips to his. "So," she said when they pulled apart, her tone less serious, "is this what it's like when your husband's a writer? You come home to dinner on the table everyday?"
He grinned at her. "Say that again."
"Peyton!" Miranda called brightly, standing up on the chair she'd been sitting in and holding out a colourful piece of paper. "Come look at my drawing!"
"Sit back down, sweetie, you'll fall," Lucas told her.
Peyton smiled, kissing his cheek. "Husband," she repeated softly, as per his request, before crossing the kitchen to admire her almost-stepdaughter's artwork. "Wow, baby," she said appreciatively, pulling Miranda into her arms. "This is beautiful. Front-and-centre on the fridge kind of material, don't you think, Luke?"
Before he could reply, Jenny came flying into the kitchen right again. "I have to go!" she cried frantically.
"Okay!" Peyton held out a hand in a stop gesture. "Let me look at you for a second." Jenny was dressed up in a casual way, one of her oldest necklaces around her neck, and it struck Peyton in that moment that Lucas was right, Jenny really was growing up. "You look amazing, babe, and you're going to be amazing."
"I know," Jenny answered cheekily, then cracked a nervous grin. "No, I don't."
Peyton curved the arm she was still holding out, gesturing for Jenny to come to her and join the hug. "You will," she whispered, pressing a kiss to her daughter's cheek. "I know it. You want me to drive you there? We can roll down the windows and yell, get some of that anxiety out," she enticed.
"I wanna come!" Mira cried excitedly.
Jenny laughed. "Thanks, Mom, but Jordan's picking me up."
Lucas scowled, turning around. "Car-crash boy is driving you there?" Peyton smirked, and then laughed, unable to hold in her amusement. "What?" he asked her, looking mildly insulted.
"Honey…" She bit her lip to contain her smile. "It's just, doesn't that remind you of an old nickname of your own…rake boy?"
His eyes widened and Jenny sighed, more to herself than at any of them. "I really have to go, then you two can get back to your flirting."
Lucas winked at Peyton before directing all his attention to Jenny and smiling. "Good luck, Jen."
"Thanks," she smiled back.
"Alright, get out of here," Peyton sighed, pulling Jenny and Mira into another joint hug. "Go kill it, baby girl," she said fondly, waving as Jenny hurried out the door. "We'll see you there." She exhaled and turned her attention back to Miranda. "You wanna pick some magnets and we'll put this up where it belongs?" she asked, gesturing to the drawing.
As she laughed with Miranda, helping her hang her masterpiece and gently setting her down, shooing her off to face her hands, Peyton was conscious of Lucas in the background, draining the pasta and setting out cutlery, and she was struck by how very normal and familial the last few moments of her life had been.
And by how very much she'd loved it.
"Babe," Lucas said softly, leaning toward his fiancée. "This is Jenny's showcase, not yours. I think you're more nervous than she could ever be."
She turned to him and he kissed her worried smile.
"She'll be fine," he promised, resting his hand on her knee. Nathan was sitting on his other side, Sebastian on his lap, followed by Noah and Nick, who were engrossed in some portable video game, and Jamie, who actually seemed pretty happy to be there. Haley was backstage, with the other mentors of the programme, and Mira had chosen to sit not next to her father, or in between Lucas and Peyton but simply next to Peyton. As Brooke Davis' daughter, they all knew it was better to just give her what she wanted, especially if it was that simple and sweet.
"I know she will. I just don't know if she knows she will," Peyton retorted, shooting him a playful glare.
"You're such a good mom," he said huskily, admiration clear in his eyes, pressing his lips against her neck. She sighed, tilting her head slightly.
"You're not distracting me," she told him firmly, even though they were both very aware that he was.
"Hey, with the PDA, over there!" Nathan exclaimed. "My kids are here!"
"Your kids have seen worse," Lucas informed him without turning around to look at his brother. "And that was totally your fault."
Peyton whacked Lucas' knee with her program as his hand slipping into her hair, tangling in her curls. "It's starting," she hissed.
Chris Keller strode on stage, beaming down at the crowd, and Peyton caught the mildly irritated look that Nathan and Lucas exchanged as the musician said, "You know, when Chris Keller started CMC, he never thought…"
Nearly two hours after Chris' ridiculously long, relatively humourous, and slightly self-absorbed, half-hour-long introduction speech, Jenny took to the stage, looking very pretty and mostly self-confident as she perched on a stool, holding her guitar. Peyton felt her heart swell as she caught her daughter's eye momentarily, and Lucas gave her knee a squeeze. She rested her hand on top of his.
"So, um, I've been working with Haley James Scott this summer," Jenny said, allowing a brief moment of silence for Nathan to cheer and the appreciative applause that followed, "And she has taught me a lot. Not just about music," she added with a private smile. "I guess what I've learned most about this summer is…is history, and the power of history, especially with somebody you love. Because love's…" She made a face, afraid to sound too cliché. "Because love is the very most powerful thing. It's everlasting, even if you say it's over, or someone tells you it's over or that it just can't be…love transcends," she finished with a shrug and another one of those private smiles.
Peyton and Lucas exchanged a look, her eyes shining as they meet his, because it was obvious they were at least part of what Jenny was referring to, and also because it was even more obvious that what she just said was a Haley word, courtesy of her aunt-slash-mentor, always a tutor at heart.
"So, you wanna hear about that?" Jenny asked, flashing her father's grin with her mother's edgy sweetness in her voice as her fingers danced along the strings of her guitar.
And then she started singing, and there was complete, stunned silence.
Peyton couldn't find her fast enough afterward, slipping through the crowds and backstage with Lucas' hand in hers. She needed to cry, or scream, or really, just hug her daughter, because –
"Jenny!" She let go of Lucas to engulf the fourteen-year-old in a hug, kissing her forehead. Jenny was glowing with success, her cheeks pink and her eyes bright.
"You think I did good?" she asked, bouncing up onto the balls of her feet excitedly.
"So good. Way, way better than good," Peyton laughed, even as a tear spilled onto her cheek. "Baby girl –" She got stuck there, her throat closing over.
"Your dad would be very, very proud of you," Lucas said lowly, with infinite kindness, voicing the words that Peyton couldn't quite get out.
Jenny's eyes filled, too, even as she grinned brightly. She pulled out of her mother's embrace to hug Lucas instead, and Peyton felt like her heart might explode.
"Where're you bringing me?" she giggled, her laugh breathy in the late-night air. They'd celebrated, with hugs and tears and a lot of ice cream, and Nathan and Haley had taken Miranda home with them for the night. Jenny was out celebrating with Jordan and the other campers, her curfew extended for the night. Lucas and Peyton were left on their own, and he'd covered her eyes, using a tie as a blindfold, in the parking lot outside Tric, driving her to a "secret location".
"C'mere," he said instead of replying, taking her hands and guiding her as she stepped out of the car.
"Luke," she laughed as she tripped; he caught her quickly. She lifted her hand, tugging the blindfold down. "We're at…the river court?" she asked quietly. It was lit softly, tinier lights sparkling across the river.
She flicked his tie at his chest. "How many times did you drive around town into tricking me into thinking we were going somewhere further?"
"I'll never tell," he shrugged, his hands tucked in his pockets. He looked so endearing in that moment that she couldn't help but take a step forward and kiss him, looping his tie around his neck again.
"Why are we here?" she asked softly.
"Because I want to marry you here."
"Here?" Her eyes widened. "At the river court?"
"Yeah." His eyes searched her face, his hands settling lightly on her arms. "What do you think?"
"Luke, all this wedding planning…" She sighed, looking around; she could feel herself giving in. "It would be kind of perfect, if we…we got those little strings of lights…and…"
"And all that history," he said softly, teasingly, continuing to quote Jenny's lyrics: "converging on the spot that marked the beginning of it all."
"It was a big deal. Us. Here. We were here," she replied mutedly, staring down at the tarmac under their feet before glancing up at him again.
"When I said I'd be seeing you, all those years ago," Lucas agreed, gently pulling her closer to him, wrapping his arms around her waist while hers slipped around her neck. "And when I did see you again, right here, when I found out you were back." His nose brushed against hers before their lips met. "We are here. Marry me here, Peyt. We began here, every time. So let's begin our life together here."
Biting her lip lightly she whispered, "It could be so beautiful. With the lights – but casual, nothing too extravagant. Mira can be the flower girl, Nick and Noah can carry rings…And this place, for us, it really is perfect…"
"Am I hearing…a yes?"
She looked back at him, their eyes colliding, blue and green. "I love you, Lucas Scott," she sighed, knowing they were words neither of them would ever tire of. "So yes, a thousand times yes," she laughed sweetly, her hand falling against his neck as she kissed him fiercely, yet another new beginning.