Chapter One

Ashes and Wine

Don't know what to do anymore
I've lost the only love worth fighting for
I'll drown in my tear storming sea
That would show you, that would make you hurt like me
All the same
I don't want mudslinging games
It's such a shame
To let you walk away
Is there a chance?
A fragment of light at the end of the tunnel?
A reason to fight?
Is there a chance you may change your mind?
Or are we ashes and wine?

Ashes and Wine, A Fine Frenzy

"I do."

She used to imagine him say those words. She had the image down, from the sound of his voice to the look in his eyes, and now Lucas Scott was playing out this particularly fantasy for everyone to see.

Unfortunately, he was looking at the wrong girl. And Peyton Sawyer had gravely underestimated the hurt those two little words would bring.

She wasn't sure what she had expected. She had made the decision to attend the wedding, fully aware of what she would have to witness, and in spite of what Skills thought, she had never once imagined doing something stupid to stop him, thus turning the entire scene into something from a lame movie; but the sting of hearing Lucas say "I do" to another woman seemed to drain some tiny ounce of hope she hadn't even realized she was hanging onto.

Something broke inside Peyton at that moment, and suddenly she was unaware of Brooke's hand reassuringly rubbing her shoulder, unaware of the minister reading Lindsey the same vows, unaware of the tears clinging to her eyelashes and threatening to fall; she was only aware that if she actually had to sit and watch the minister pronounce Lindsey and Lucas husband, she would break down completely.

Without giving it another thought, Peyton rose to her feet and hurried up the aisle, out of the church, just as the tears began to fall.

LPLPLPLPLPLP

From his place at the front of the church, Lucas heard the slight murmur that moved through the church in the middle of Lindsey's vows. He pulled his eyes from his bride's and glanced toward the pews, just in time to see Peyton's retreating form, moving as fast as she could down the aisle without actually running.

His throat tightened painfully and he felt a familiar stab of pain in his chest. He hated hurting Peyton, even though he had managed to do so a lot lately.

He couldn't manage to tear his eyes away from Peyton as recent memories flooded back to him.

Because I should have said yes.

No, don't marry her, Luke!

Look me in the eye and tell me that kiss did not feel exactly the same as it felt three years ago.

I love you, Lucas. And I think I have since the first moment we locked eyes.

If what you want is for me to let go, I'm gonna do it.

Be happy, Luke. I want that with all my heart.

The doors burst open and Peyton left the church, and panic began to choke Lucas. In that moment, he wanted to take it back, say he changed his mind, call a do over.

"I do." There was something forced in Lindsey's voice; she had to have noticed him looking away from her. Still, she said it, and suddenly Nathan was passing him a ring.

Lucas' hands were shaking as he put the ring onto Lindsey's finger, right next to the engagement ring (Peyton's engagement ring) already there, and he had to fight a wave of nausea.

As Lindsey slid a ring on his own finger, Lucas caught Haley's eye. There was something unreadable in her expression.

You can't marry Lindsey.

He plastered a smile on his face.

"I now pronounce you husband and wife."

I did not realize that by saying I wasn't ready it would mean that we would never be together again.

"You may kiss the bride."

He smiled. He took Lindsey in his arms and he kissed her. He put his arm around her as they walked down the aisle amid cheers and music. He hugged and shook hands and accepted congratulations. He smiled some more.

And, at first opportunity, he walked unsteadily into the men's room and vomited.

LPLPLPLPLP

Brooke did not hang around after the wedding. She was among the first out of the church, and she hurried across the street where she found Peyton sitting her car, silently sobbing.

Wordlessly, Brooke opened the driver's side door and motioned for Peyton to slide over, which she did.

Once they were a safe distance away from the church, Brooke began, "Peyton…"

Swallowing hard, Peyton shook her head and choked out, "Not now."

"Okay."

Silence reigned for a moment, then Brooke added, "You know people are coming over, though?"

"Yeah."

Brooke was beginning to regret her offer of using her backyard as the setting of Lucas and Lindsey's reception. They'd been hard pressed to find a decent location on such short notice (no one had owned up to any particular reason for the haste, but Brooke suspected Lucas had rushed it), and Brooke's new house came with an expansive backyard, so she had offered.

Looking at Peyton now, however, Brooke could see it hadn't been the best idea.

LPLPLPLPLPLP

"Lucas! Lucas Scott!"

Lucas ran a trembling hand over his face and took a moment to make sure his voice would be steady. "Jesus, Haley, this is the men's room!"

She banged her fist a few more times on the door of his bathroom stall just in case Lucas hadn't understood her urgency. "I don't care. Open up."

He gave in, standing from his half crouched position inside the cramped stall and opened the door. The look of annoyance on his best friend's face gave way to one of helplessness as she took in his appearance. "Oh, Luke…"

He pushed past her toward the sinks, splashing water on his face, which was soaked in cold sweat. "I made a mistake, Hales.", he whispered hoarsely.

"No, you didn't!"

He let out a humorless laugh. "You told me yesterday I was making a mistake!"

Haley put a hand on her best friends back. "And you told me I was wrong. You said you loved Lindsey, and you said you were sure. "

They were quiet for a moment, and Lucas asked quietly, "Is she okay?"

Haley raised an eyebrow. "Which one are you asking about?'

After a moment of contemplation, Lucas decided to be honest. "Peyton."

Haley sighed. "I don't know. Brooke went after her. I came after you."

Lucas nodded, and after a pause asked, only because it seemed expected now, "And Lindsey?'

"She's fine. She got swept up with some of her New York friends. She's happy." Haley was quiet for a moment and then gave in to her frustration. "God, Lucas, why do this now?! Why realize-"

"I know." His voice was ragged, exhausted. He finally turned away from the mirror to face Haley, his features twisted in an anguished expression, a sheen of tears shining in his blue eyes. "Hales, I don't know what I'm going to do…"

Haley stared at her best friend for a moment before stepping forward and wrapping her arms around him. They stayed like that for a few minutes, Lucas giving in to the tears and Haley letting him cry. Finally, though, she stepped back and placed a hand on each of Lucas' shoulders, and said, "Right now you are going to wash your face and pull yourself together. You are going to go outside and find your wife and then you are going to go to Brooke's for the reception."

When Lucas didn't respond, Haley pulled his face up to look her in the eye and spoke firmly, "Hey…do you love Lindsey?"

Lucas swallowed. "I – yes, but-"

"No! Luke, you're married. This has to stop, you know it does."

Lucas nodded mutely. He didn't explain that, although he did love Lindsey, he was (who was he kidding, had always been) in love with Peyton. He didn't explain that for love to work, you had to give your whole heart to a person…and there was a part of his that he'd left with Peyton Sawyer, and he had no way of getting it back.

LPLPLPLPLPLP

Peyton retreated into her bedroom on the second floor, closing the door, a safe distance from the celebration that would be occurring outside. She closed the curtains, cut off the lights, and collapsed onto her bed.

Then, she cried.

She had told Lucas she wanted him to be happy, and she really did. But it hurt so damn much to watch him continue the life she'd planned for with someone else. To watch him look at Lindsey the way he used to look at her.

To acknowledge the fact that Lucas Scott did not love her anymore, and that they, Lucas and Peyton, the ultimate couple, the epic love story…they would never be together again.

LPLPLPLPLPLP

Lucas had been at the reception for almost an hour before he allowed himself to ask. He had followed Haley's advice and cleaned himself up a bit, forced a smile on his face and found Lindsey. He had danced his first dance with her as a married couple, and followed with several more. He had danced with his mother and Lindsey's. He had posed for pictures. He had smiled and laughed his way through what was supposed to be the happiest day of his life.

He found Brooke, laughingly "dancing" with Jamie, and asked in an undertone, "Where's Peyton?"

Brooke studied him closely before answering, "She's inside."

"I have to talk to her."

"I really don't think this is a good time-"

He shook his head. "I have to make sure she's okay." He started off, but Brooke seized hold of his arm.

"Hold on." She bent down to smile at Jamie. "Hey, buddy, why don't you go ask your mom to dance?"

"Okay!" Jamie hurried off, and Brooke promptly steered Lucas to the side, away from the crowd.

"Okay, Luke, I know you did not just say you want to make sure Peyton is alright. Is there really any chance you believe she is? You saw her walk out…" Brooke sighed. "God, Lucas, she is so completely in love with you…and you got married today. How do you think she is?" She glanced to the crowd, where Lindsey had been pulled into a conga line. "Go be with your wife, okay?"

Lucas watched Brooke walk away and he sighed heavily. He knew she was right, and Haley was right. He was married. He couldn't take that back, and he couldn't keep messing with Peyton's mind. But he couldn't help himself. When it came to Peyton Sawyer, his logic and reason were not involved in decision making. It was why he had kissed her the night he proposed to Lindsey, and now it was the reason that he abandoned his own wedding reception to enter the house and head upstairs to find Peyton.

He opened the door and saw her, still in her dress, lying on her bed. She was facing away from him, so he knocked lightly on the open doorway.

"Brooke, I told you, I don't want to talk now." Just the sound of her voice made Lucas' heart go limp. It was thick and hoarse, as though she'd been crying a long time, but there was something else, too: every syllable reverberated with a raw pain, and knowing he was responsible nearly broke him.

"Hey."

She froze, then turned suddenly to stare at him. Her face was streaked with glittering tear tracks, her eyes bloodshot and anguished.

"God, Peyt-" he instinctively took a step toward her.

"Don't!" She recoiled from his touch and pulled herself up slightly. "Go away, Lucas, I can't do this now."

He defied this, instead moving to sit on the edge of the bed.

Her voice breaking, Peyton tearfully insisted, "Please, Luke, please just go…"

"I can't do that." He paused. "Peyton, I'm sorry."

She closed her eyes and whispered. "For what?"

"All sorts of things."

She opened her eyes to stare at him. She had made the same apology, years and years ago, shortly following the first time she had made a mistake in their relationship, the first time she'd run scared.

She had done it again, three years ago, and look where it had gotten her.

She couldn't stop it anymore. She began to cry again, hard, shuddering sobs. Lucas moved closer, wrapping his arms around her, pulling her into the safest place she knew.

However, just as soon as he tightened his grip around her, he let go abruptly and drew back. "God, Peyt, I'm sorry….I just…I'm-"

"You're married", she finished in a strangled voice. "Damn it, Lucas…" She turned her back to him, her right hand pressed against her mouth to stifle the sobs that wouldn't stop.

There was a heavy, burdened silence hanging over them for a few moments, and the Lucas stood up. "I should go…"

Peyton listened to his footsteps as they neared the door, and before she could stop herself she burst out, "Why did you even come up here?!"

Lucas stopped, his palms pressed against the door. He drew a slow, calming, searching for words he could say that answered the question honestly. He could no longer tell her he loved her. He couldn't say that he made a mistake getting married.

His voice was low as he slowly answered, "I just…I just wanted you to know…it's never going to be like it was with us." He paused, but was met with only silence. "I just…I don't want you to think that I've forgotten. Or that I've replaced…" Lucas let his voice trail off, sure he wasn't articulating his feelings very well. "I don't know."

Hot tears were streaming rapidly down her face, and Peyton was sure she wouldn't be able to speak if she tried, which was no big deal, because there wasn't much to say in response to that statement. What was she supposed to say? That it wasn't enough? That nothing he could say her now would be enough to fix her?

Lucas waited, but was met with only silence. Finally, he stepped out. "Bye, Peyton."

LPLPLPLPLP

"Hey, hubby." Lindsey wrapped her arms around his waist. "I've been looking for you. Where you been?"

"Nowhere." He murmured, leaning in to kiss her. This was his new wife; he was supposed to kiss her.

Lindsey drew back slightly. "Luke. Everything okay?"

"Fine. More than fine. Everything is perfect." He groaned inwardly. He had always been able to say the right thing, to tell the perfect lie.

"Lucas, I'm not stupid, okay? I saw you today, when Peyton got up and walked out. I saw the look on your face." She lowered her voice. "Tell me what you're thinking."

"Look, I'm sorry. I was just worried about Peyton." At the look that crossed Lindsey's face, he hurriedly added, "It's not a big deal, okay? I just know she's hurting." He readied himself for more lies. "And it's not like it's my fault, but I just…I feel bad for her."

Lindsey seemed to consider this, then leaned forward and kissed him. "Okay."

"Okay?"

"Yeah. I know how you are, Luke. You have a good heart, and she's your friend. It's okay you were worried."

Ignoring a stab of guilt, Lucas smiled at her. "Thanks."

Slipping her hand into his, Lindsey returned the smile. "Let's dance."