A/N: I'm sure that this storyline has been done countless times, different variations. But I wanted to try it out because it was actually my first idea ever for an OTH fic, so here it is. It may seem ridiculous that I'm starting something else, but I'm going to try my hardest to dedicate equal amounts of time to each of my stories.
The title and the chapter titles for this story come from the song of the same name by Stereophonics - the soundtrack to one of the best L/P moments ever. Let me know if you'd like to read more!
01. I've Been Down - Part I
Peyton dropped her purse on the floor, locked her door, and made her way to her couch. She collapsed there, resting her head on a cushion. Her apartment was small and unimpressive – working in the mailroom at a major record label didn't exactly provide her with an amazing paycheck.
But that was okay. Despite her meager pay and her fairly crappy job, she'd been happy.
Or maybe that was a lie. Every time she talked to Haley, she got an ache in the pit of her stomach that she couldn't shake for hours afterward. Haley and Nathan just seemed so happy. Nathan was on his way to playing big time basketball, Haley was acing college classes, and they had a baby boy that they adored so deeply that there weren't any words for it.
She hadn't talked to Brooke in quite a while. They were still the best of friends, but time and distance had taken their toll, and every time she spoke to Brooke the young designer had new plans and new friends and new celebrities she was apparently dating. Brooke sounded lonely sometimes, but at least she had something to show for her loneliness.
All Peyton had to show for her loneliness was the asshole in room thirteen on the fourth floor who could never choose what kind of sandwich he wanted, where he wanted it from, or what time he wanted to eat, a boss who let her sit in on meetings if he caught sight of her on a day her shirt was low cut or her skirt was short…and letters and e-mails from the boy she loved.
She missed her friends – they were, for all intents and purposes, her family. Sometimes she missed Lucas so much her heart hurt. But her friends were moving on and achieving success, no matter how many roadblocks they encountered. Peyton needed to do the same thing before she could come to peace with herself and settle down.
So far, she was failing miserably.
Just hours ago, she'd flown into Lucas' arms, the warmth of his embrace. He'd kissed her and tried to tell her that she was better than all of this – she loved him for assuring her of that fact, but she needed to find her own proof.
When he showed up to surprise her, she'd expected it to be the ideal weekend. A blip of happiness on the monotony of her life, here in this city that so many people dreamed of. The reality was rough.
She made him a mix. Lucas was good with words; he sent her e-mails and letters scrawled quickly when he had the time, and they made her blush and cry and laugh and miss him that much more. She didn't have the same talent with language; she had to let her music speak for her.
The newest band her label – rather, the label she worked for – was planning on signing was amazing, and something about the music touched her. She could remember the day, the moment she'd heard those songs for the first time, and her first thought had been of Luke.
She felt a renewed sense of hope as she arranged the songs in the order that would create the best effect and flow easily. These songs really spoke to her love for him, and she hoped he'd be able to hear that. She wrote Songs to Make You Think of Me on the disc before she placed it in a case, and she had a feeling that those songs, just because of the way they seemed to voice everything she couldn't, would remain important to them forever. She could hear them playing softly on repeat as Lucas laid her down on his bed, kissing that one spot on his neck that he knew could drive her crazy. There was one song that she couldn't help but think she could even walk down the aisle to. Another, she could almost picture herself singing to her baby, their baby, sitting on the porch under the stars on a quiet night in their hometown.
To Peyton, those moments were part of her future. She was nineteen. She had yet to change the world in any way. Moving in together, marriage, children…that seemed like a perfectly logical sequence of events, and she wanted that…just not yet.
The fact that Lucas had gotten the two of them a hotel room did not set off any alarm bells in her head. Lucas was a romantic; he did sweet things like that, things to make her feel special. It never occurred to her, when she walked into that room hours after she promised him she'd be there, that she would see her boyfriend sprawled out across the bed, sound asleep…and a jewellery box sitting on the floor just below his hand.
She had panicked at the sight of it. She was nineteen. She had proposed to a boy once already, a year before. As much as she had loved Jake, the best thing he had ever done for her was to send her away. She was sure that she would have been happy, settling into life with Jake and his adorable little girl, but she knew that she would have had regrets, and that sooner or later those regrets would have served as the death sentence for her relationship.
Lucas Scott was the love of her life; she didn't doubt that fact for one moment. She had found her soul mate. But she hadn't yet done everything that she wanted to. She hadn't yet done anything that she wanted to. She was still a teenager, and she had yet to find herself. Part of her belonged with Lucas, but the other part of her was lost and still unsure.
She loved Luke, but she couldn't marry him, not yet. As she sat in the chair in the corner, staring down at that little box, she kept thinking about how much she loved him. More than she could ever express. And then she would think that maybe they could get married. Loving him as much as she did, it certainly wasn't an unappealing option.
But then she would remember that this was different. Had she married Jake, she would have had her regrets, and that would have torn them apart. Losing him would have been heartbreaking, but not the end of the world. He wasn't the man she was meant to spend the rest of her life with.
Lucas was. He was her forever, and she refused to do this. If she married him too soon, they would eventually come to resent each other…and she couldn't live with that. Losing Jake would've broken her, but losing Lucas would destroy her.
She had a speech prepared, just as he probably did. She would explain all of this to him rationally, promise him that she loved him, and tell him that he should just wait one more year, and then she wouldn't hesitate to say yes, not for a second.
But when he woke up, looking lost as he blinked, his eyes frantically searching for the ring, she forgot everything she meant to say and the way she meant to say it. All she could think was that she loved him.
She tried not to let him speak, because she knew that if he did, she'd be a goner. He forged on anyway, and when he said as long as I have you, nothing else matters, "yes" was on the tip of her tongue. So she moved away from him, stood up, and attempted to be mature and logical. Her prepared arguments tumbled out of her mouth in a panicked mess as she tried to explain to them that she needed more time, that it would be best for both of them, that in another year this would be a perfect moment.
It didn't work that easily. He wanted her close to him, with him for good, and her arguments just weren't working. She'd hurt him, and she could see it in his eyes as he incredulously commented you're saying no. She wasn't saying no, she really wasn't, but he wouldn't see it any other way.
And when he wouldn't listen to her, pulled away from her, closed himself off in a way she recognized all too well – she'd done it countless times herself – her panic reached a whole new level as she realized everything she'd said to keep him was backfiring on her, and she was losing him anyway.
When she pleaded with him, asking him to forget this moment and remember how much he loved her, he shook his head and basically told her that this was goodbye.
That just seemed so ridiculous to her. They loved one another. They were meant to be, they'd been through so much to get there. So she shook her head and cuddled into him, whispering about dreams and love. She fell asleep easily; it was late, and it had never been hard for her to fall asleep tucked into the security of Lucas' arms.
She woke up and he was gone, leaving nothing but the CD she'd taken so much time in preparing for him, the CD she wanted him to listen to in order to understand just how much she both loved and missed him.
She had regrets, alright. She regretted that she'd put the possibility of regrets over the one person she loved more than anything else in the world. He'd broken up with her without saying a world, abandoned their future by walking out that door.
The day had been hard for her. She'd wandered out of the hotel in the same clothes she'd been wearing for twenty-four hours. She'd been conflicted. She hadn't wanted to leave the room where Lucas Scott had last loved her. But she also wanted to get the hell away from the place where he had stopped.
Work had taken its toll. The ass of a man in 4-13 changed his lunch order no fewer than five times, and she'd had to run out twice to retrieve his specific sandwich and coffee choices. Every time he snapped at her she wanted to burst into tears, thinking about the fact that she could be on a plane wrapped up in Lucas' arms at this very moment. She worked three hours overtime when her job was threatened, and at the end of the day she collapsed in a ball in the mailroom, breathing hard to keep from crying as she stared at the spot where Lucas had lifted her off the ground and kissed her so perfectly the day before.
At home, she felt like she'd lost everything. Curled up on her cheap couch in her ugly apartment, tears pricked at her eyes yet again, and for the first time she actually allowed them to fall. She thought about calling him, but didn't know what to say. She had thought that her future with Lucas was guaranteed, and she hated herself for having been that stupid.
Hugging her pillow, she cried hard, unable to catch her breath. She hadn't sobbed so much since her both of her mothers' deaths, and maybe that was stupid, but she would never have another mother, just like she'd never have another guy she loved the way she loved Lucas. She'd ended up with two moms that she loved with all her heart, but she knew that she'd never have another Luke.
She fell asleep mid-sob on her couch, curled up vulnerably in her small apartment. She woke up screaming once, unsure of what she'd dreamed. She chugged a glass of water and managed to drift off into another restless slumber.
Businesslike knocking on her door woke her up again at five in the morning. She fully intended to ignore it, but whoever stood on the other side of her door refused to let up. As Peyton stood, frowning, to go answer it, she realized that she'd been wearing the same clothes for two days. Too bad for the person at the door. She couldn't have cared less about her personal appearance. She didn't have anyone to look good for.
She opened the door to find Brooke staring back at her, tears shining in her pretty brown eyes.
"Brooke?" she rasped out in confusion, her throat thick with the remnants of tears.
"Oh, honey," Brooke, who was dressed to the nines but clearly sad, said right before she wrapped Peyton up in a bone-crushing hug.
Peyton didn't understand what was happening. Had Lucas called Brooke, asked her to check up on her? Had he called Peyton's best friend to whine about their breakup, prompting Brooke to seek her out?
"I'm glad to see you, B. Davis," Peyton sighed into Brooke's shoulder. "But…why are you here? Shouldn't you be in New York right now, making millions?"
Brooke waved her hand dismissively. "Screw the company. Oh, Peyt…" She shook her head, the tears in her eyes reflecting the soft morning light that had filtered through Peyton's thin curtains.
Peyton squinted at her in confusion. "I don't understand. Did Lucas call you?"
Brooke looked alarmed, as though she was worried that Peyton might be losing her mind. "Lucas? What do you mean?"
Peyton frowned deeply. "Did Lucas call you and tell you that we broke up?" she asked directly, not able to understand why that seemed to puzzle Brooke. Maybe it was just too early in the morning for any of this.
The brunette's jaw dropped and a fresh batch of tears filled her eyes. "Oh, babe," she whispered, bringing one of her hands to her mouth. She placed her other hand on Peyton's back and led her to the couch that had served as Peyton's bed for the previous night.
"What's going on?" Peyton asked, bewildered and heartbroken.
"Take a breath, okay?" Brooke requested shakily. She took both of Peyton's hands in her own and squeezed supportively. "I guess…Haley didn't call you. Lucas…was in an accident, honey. It's bad. Really bad."