A/N: Just another oneshot that came out of nowhere. I don't own OTH or any of the books mentioned, other than the one completely fictional one...
Lucas Scott lived a simple life, or so he would have you think.
He lived in a small town and coached a high school basketball team. His best friend lived just down the road from him. She was conveniently married to his brother, and their son, Jamie, was more spoiled by his uncle than by anyone else. His mother and his sister still lived in the house he grew up in, about a 10 minute drive from the home he'd purchased for himself.
He was also the author of 4 critically acclaimed best-selling books. His pen name, E. L. Scott allowed him to continue his every day life with a certain amount of anonymity. He relished it. He loved to write, but he also loved being the unassuming small town basketball coach. Only his family and close friends knew the prose that would flow from his mind, and even they were sometimes surprised at the work he would produce.
He lived two separate lives, and he lived them both well.
His first novel, An Unkindness of Ravens, was the mostly true tale of two brothers as they battled their way through high school, with basketball as the backdrop for most of their drama. The two main characters were based on himself and his brother Nathan. Of course, Lucas threw in an almost entirely fabricated love story for 'his' character, just for good measure. His family would joke that basketball was his first love, writing was his second, and his first novel was his third. He was 19 when it was published.
Lucas Scott lived a simple life. He was content. Mostly. Sometimes he just couldn't shake the sense that something was missing.
Peyton Sawyer grew up in Charleston, South Carolina, in a large, lonely house by the ocean. Her father was scarcely around, as his job took him to all corners of the world. She would have complained, but his hefty salary allowed her to have just about anything she wanted, and frankly, she relished the silence of living alone. Her father didn't spoil her like a lot of her friends' parents, but she never went without anything. Since her mother had passed away when Peyton was 8, her father made sure she lived a comfortable life. He wanted to be sure his daughter lived a life his wife would have wanted her to.
Since she was a little girl, Peyton had been told she was a talented artist. As she grew up, she realized it was her passion. It was the one thing in her life that always made sense, and the one thing in her life that she could use to make sense of everything else. She had a room in her house that was devoted to her art supplies. It was her sanctuary. At 16, she started working with oils and water colours, branching out from her usual comic-strip style. At 18, she sold her first piece. At 19, she had a collection displayed in a local gallery. Now, at 26, she was one of the most well-known artists on the east coast.
She was rarely photographed, and even those who followed her work closely knew only a few things about her. When she was introduced to gallery owners and art buyers, they would always comment on how young she was.
She was in New York to display her 'life's work', though she'd complained to her agent that she was too young for her paintings to be assembled into a 'life's work' collection. She'd never loved New York either. It was a far cry from the quaint beach side town she now lived in. She had a small cottage on the ocean where she lived alone and painted nearly every day, between hours spent walking the beach and basking in South Carolina sunshine. In New York, she felt like she was under a microscope, though in her heart she knew that everyone around her was too involved in themselves to notice her. She liked her life of solitude.
Lucas had traveled to New York to pitch his new book to his editor and go over the details of the plot and characters. New York was not his favourite place to be, but he found himself there every few months for meetings with his publisher. He'd grown to tolerate the noise, but was always glad to leave.
He was walking through Manhattan after the final meeting of his trip, thinking how he'd just like to get home and cursing himself for booking his flight for the next day, when he noticed a few familiar paintings in a gallery window. Looking to his watch, he decided he had nowhere else to be, and to walk inside to look around.
The first thing he noticed was not a piece of art, but instead a tall blonde with a mess of curls and a kind smile. When she turned to him, having noticed he'd entered the gallery, he offered a polite smile and a nod.
He made his way slowly around the room, stopping to examine the brush strokes and attention to detail in each piece. He knew as soon as he saw the paintings through the window that they were the work of Peyton Sawyer. He'd closely followed her career and was drawn to her story, though he knew little about her other than she was from South Carolina and was one of the most talked about artists in recent years.
He stood in front of the original painting he'd always loved. A print of the same piece hung across from his desk in his office, so he could look at it while he worked. It was a large canvas, painted realistically with every imaginable shade of blue, with a lone raven soaring just near the top left corner. He'd bought it a year and a half after his first novel came out, and had settled on the print after he'd talked to every gallery he could to see about buying the original. He'd finally learn that the artist refused to sell the piece.
As he stood in front of it, it left him breathless. It was beautiful. There was a bench directly in front of it, so he took a seat and just stared at the painting on the wall.
"Hi." The voice pulled him from his concentration. His head snapped up to meet her face, and he was stricken by how beautiful she was. Her green eyes seemed to know more than they should.
"Hi," he echoed, moving over so she could sit next to him. "You work here?"
"Um...sort of," she said vaguely, trying to hide her nervous smile. She didn't usually talk to just any attractive man she saw, but she just couldn't bring herself not to.
"This is my favourite," he said, gesturing towards the painting in front of them.
"You've been staring at it for 10 minutes," she laughed. "I kind of thought you might like it."
"I actually have a copy of it in my home," he said with a smile.
"Really?" she asked. It wasn't often she heard things like that. She heard people say they wanted to buy her art, but there was something different about him. He seemed to have more invested in it than everyone else.
"Yeah. It's great," he said simply. "It's kind of symbolic."
"It was actually inspired by a book," she said. He turned to meet her eyes. He just fell in love with it even more.
"Is that right?" he asked, interested to hear more.
"Some people believe that ravens guide travelers to their destinations. Others believe that the sight of a solitary raven is considered good luck. While a group of ravens predicts trouble ahead..." she spoke softly, reciting the words from memory.
"And a raven right before battle promises victory," he finished with a smile and a breathy laugh. Those was the opening lines to his book, and she knew them word for word. He couldn't believe that his work had inspired someone else's. He also couldn't believe how unbelievably sexy it was to hear a beautiful women quote his novel to him.
"You know it?" she asked, surprised.
"I um...I kind of wrote it," he said sheepishly. He wasn't the kind to tell strangers that he was an author. Hell, he hardly told anyone. But there was something about this woman that made him want to tell her everything.
"Wait," she said, smiling, and turning her body towards him. "You're E. L. Scott?"
"It's Lucas," he laughed. "But yes."
"You're so young!" she said, surprise in her voice, and a smile on her face.
"Thanks...?" he said.
"How come I've never seen your face before?" she asked.
"When my first book came out, my publishing company didn't want everyone to know how young I was - I was 19 at the time. I actually kind of like being anonymous. It adds to the mystique of my writing." He said the last part wistfully, making her laugh. She understood exactly how he felt.
"Wow," she muttered. She was sitting next to her favourite author. His words had inspired her work in a lot of ways, and he was not at all like she had expected. "When I read that book, I couldn't get the image of a solitary raven out of my head. I just had to put it on the canvas. It's the most natural thing I've ever created."
"You...you're Peyton Sawyer?" he stuttered, dumbfounded. She nodded bashfully.
He sat in disbelief for a few moments. He was in shock. Her work had been such a symbol of his dream, and he was actually meeting her. And she was beautiful.
"I thought you lived in South Carolina," he stated simply.
"I thought you lived in North Carolina," she countered with a grin.
"Fair enough. I can't believe this. I thought you'd be some like...old lady with wrinkled hands who'd seen everything there was to see. No one knows anything about you!" he rambled.
"Says the guy who uses a cryptic pen name and doesn't do book tours," she said with a raised brow. "I kind of like it that way."
"Me too," he said softly.
They sat there for a few moments, just staring at the wall, each thinking of the effect the other's work had on them. He looked back to her and studied the lines of her face. Her olive skin and how her tousled curls fell over her shoulders. The more he looked at her, the more he thought she was the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen.
"You want to grab a cup of coffee?" he asked softly. She turned back to him with a smile that almost stopped his heart.
They walked in silence to a quiet coffee shop around the corner from the gallery. It was furnished with a few leather chairs and some modern-looking wooden tables, and they sat face to face after they'd gotten their coffees.
"So what was the inspiration for An Unkindness of Ravens?" she asked. She was compelled to learn everything about the book she loved, straight from the man who'd written it.
"My life, actually," he said with a chuckle. "I am the Jason from the book and my brother, Nathan, is the Christopher."
"Wait, wait, wait," she interrupted, shaking her head slightly. "Your brother is Nathan Scott? Nathan Scott of the Charlotte Bobcats?"
"That'd be the one, yes," he said with a laugh. "You're a basketball fan?"
"I am," she said proudly. If he wasn't completely smitten with her before, that statement sealed his interest in her. "I used to cheer for my high school team. But I swear if you tell anyone that, I'll hunt you down."
"Got it," he laughed.
"Actually, Skills Taylor is one of my best friends. We went to high school together," she added before taking a long sip of her coffee.
"Really? From the Magic?" She nodded. "Nathan says he's a great guy. They played together at the All Star Game last year." They both laughed. Small world.
"So the book is based on your life?" she inquired.
"Loosely," he explained. "The family situation is all true. Nathan is my half brother and our father was exactly how he was described."
"I'm sorry," she offered, remembering the story and how awful the man had been to both his sons. "Did he really..." She didn't want to finish the sentence, but he knew what she was about to ask. 'Did he really kill his brother?'
"Yeah," Lucas confirmed somberly.
"Wow," she said softly, leaning forward and showing her interest.
"So, is there really an Elizabeth?" she asked.
"No, sadly. But a love triangle is definitely something I'd find myself tangled up in," he laughed. "And I just kind of dreamed up that whole State Championship kiss scenario and the connection Christopher and Elizabeth had."
"So you're one of those," she pointed out cryptically.
"What?" he asked. He furrowed his brow perplexedly.
"A romantic," she clarified.
"You're a romantic, too," he said with narrowed eyes, pointing at her gently.
"Oh, I don't think so," she scoffed.
"Sure you are. You fell in love with the idea of a solitary raven. That's romantic," he said with a smile. She rolled her eyes at him, and she knew he was right.
"You know my middle name is Elizabeth?" she said with a smile.
"Really?" he asked, leaning forward and resting his forearms on the table.
"Yup. So what about this Maya person, then? She sounded like quite a vixen," Peyton said, wiggling her eyebrows suggestively.
"Ah, yes. Maya was based on a girl I dated in high school. Brooke," he explained with nostalgic smile.
He and Brooke had kept in touch as she went on to take over the fashion world. Upon her return to Tree Hill, she became one of his closest friends again. When he'd originally written the book, he asked if she was OK with the love triangle scenario, and she'd laughed and said that their actual relationship had been boring, and it could have used some drama.
"And your brother really married your best friend when they were 17?" she asked skeptically.
"Sure did," he said, taking a sip of his coffee.
"Your life is insane," she laughed.
"It's been a little crazy, yes. Enough about that, though. What about you?" he asked.
"You know, typical tale of a tortured artist. Mom died when I was young, dad is this big important business man, so I was kind of left to my own devices as a teenager. I just kind of turned to art to escape, and somehow got lucky enough to be able to make it my career," she explained with a shrug.
He got the feeling she had absolutely no idea how incredible she was.
"Fell in love at 18 with a boy who had a baby girl and he ended up having to flee the area to get away from his crazy ex. Broke my heart." She wasn't sure why she told him that part, but she felt like she already knew so much about him that it wasn't too much to tell. "Hey, maybe my life is almost as crazy as yours."
"I still think I have you beat there," he said and they shared a laugh. "What about your work? Where does it all come from?"
"It's...It comes from the desire to capture a moment in time. To create something that's going to get a reaction from someone - that means something to someone."
"Wow." It was all he could think to say. She'd just put into words exactly how he felt every time he sat in front of his computer.
"Sometimes I just wonder if it even matters," she said softly.
"I know how that feels," he said, mimicking her tone. "Every once in a while I just feel like...like my work isn't valid. Like somehow my words aren't necessary."
"Your words are beautiful," she said sincerely.
"Thank you," he said with a gentle nod. All the critical acclaim, all the copies sold, all the accolades added together, didn't mean as much to him as that simple phrase from her perfect lips.
The two sat there for hours, just swapping stories and laughing. They both realized that it shouldn't have been as easy or felt as comfortable as it was. Lucas found her interest in his work endearing. She'd begged for information on the book he'd pitched that morning, but he explained that his contract didn't allow him to share information. He'd asked her what she was working on next, and she'd given painfully vague descriptions of a few of her unfinished paintings.
He looked at his watch finally, and noticed that it was 4:30.
"I'm so sorry," he said sincerely. "I've kept you away from the gallery for hours."
"It's OK," she laughed. "As the artist, I'm allowed - expected, even - to take off without warning."
"I'm kind of surprised you aren't bored of me by now," he said quietly, looking down at the empty mug that still occupied his hands.
"Are you kidding? You fascinate me," she said quickly and with conviction, before she could stop herself and amend her words. She noticed him blushing.
"Thank you," he said softly, barely above a whisper.
Her eyes met his smoldering blue ones, and she felt a shiver run up her spine. No man had ever been able to elicit that reaction from her with just a look. Not even Jake, who she'd loved completely, had given her that feeling.
Her phone rang, interrupting their moment, and she saw that it was her agent.
"I have to grab this," she said apologetically. "Excuse me for a moment."
He offered a smile and a nod, and slipped back into his thoughts. She was incredible. He watched her from across the coffee shop as she stood, leaning with her shoulder against a wall. She was stunning. She was intelligent and funny and insightful. She was perfect, he was convinced. He watched her walk back to the table and she started gathering her things.
"I'm sorry. I actually do have to get back," she explained, unable - or unwilling - to hide the disappointment in her voice.
"Alright," Lucas said quietly. He stood and threw the strap of his bag over his shoulder.
Without warning, she walked towards him and placed her palm to his cheek, leaning in and kissing him sweetly. His legs nearly gave out.
"I had a great day with you, E. L. Scott," she said seductively.
"Yeah," he mumbled, still reeling from the sensation of her lips on his. "Likewise, Peyton Sawyer."
She began walking towards the door and he called after her.
"I'm leaving tomorrow." She spun around to look at him once again, though she knew it would just make it harder to leave. "When can I see you again?"
"You'll find me," she said cryptically, smiling and batting her eyes. She disappeared through the door and he was completely at a loss.
He stood for a moment, dumbfounded. What did she mean that he'd find her? He gathered his thoughts, thought it was harder than he'd hoped, and ran out the door and around the corner to the gallery he'd been in just hours before. The door was locked and there was no one inside. He cursed to himself and stood there, rubbing the back of his neck with his right hand.
The entire walk back to his hotel, he couldn't shake the feeling that he'd just let the best thing that had ever happened to him walk out of his life without so much as a word. He kicked himself as he lay on his perfectly made bed. He threw his things into his suitcase in preparation to leave, but he couldn't get the image of her smiling face out of his mind. And he couldn't make the feel of her lips on his subside. Her kiss was still lingering.
Peyton kicked herself as soon as she left the coffee shop. She always did this. She'd done it with Jake way back when, and it had taken a long time for her to stop. She ran. She stopped running when he started chasing her. She'd hated herself for it afterward, thinking about all the time she'd lost by running away from him instead of towards him. She'd just done the same thing. She hated herself for it.
She felt like no one had ever understood her like he had, and she'd only talked to him for a couple hours. She felt like he just....knew. She didn't have to explain or rationalize her feelings. She had started off in the direction of her next meeting when she realized that she'd just done something stupid. She needed to give him her number or her address or at least tell him what town she lived in. She ran frantically back to the coffee shop, only to find that he'd already left.
She spent her entire evening wondering if she'd ever see him again.
Lucas returned to Tree Hill, and his family and friends noticed that something was different about him. He frantically began writing a new novel, and - much to the chagrin of his editor and publishing company - it wasn't the one he'd just pitched to them.
He'd told his brother about the woman he'd met who'd taken a piece of him when she left that coffee shop, and Nathan had a hard time understanding how they could have connected that quickly. Lucas' explanation was that their connection had been cultivated through their art before they'd ever met.
Nathan and Haley stood back and watched as Lucas locked himself in his office for days on end, writing words they weren't yet allowed to read. Sometimes Haley would walk in to bring him food, and he'd be staring at the wall across from him - the painting across from him. She'd never seen him act the way he'd been acting, and it terrified her.
Three months after his initial trip to New York, he handed a finished manuscript to his editor. He sat in her office as she read the words, and the tears flowed from her eyes freely at the story. She claimed that it was the most breathtaking thing he'd ever written.
When he wasn't in meetings, he'd walk to the gallery where he'd met her. He'd sit for hours waiting to see if she was there. He knew the odds were against it, but he needed something to hang onto. He needed to think that fate my have them in the same place at the same time. He asked the manager of the gallery for her information, but the man had refused to divulge any details. Instead he told Lucas what he already knew - that she was a reclusive artist who lived in South Carolina. The man hadn't appreciated when Lucas pointed out that South Carolina was a big state, and pressed for further details.
Once he was finished the process of writing his book, he had free time to search for her. He checked all the records he could find, and found nothing. Not a listed phone number or address. Of course, it made sense - he was sure that if someone tried to find him, they'd have just as hard a time.
One weekend, without warning, he got in his car and drove along the coast to Charleston, stopping in a few small towns along the way on the off chance that he might, by some fluke, run into her.
Peyton had read all the books that Lucas had listed as his favourites. If she'd read them before, she read them again. The Catcher in the Rye. Catch 22. The Great Gatsby. To Kill A Mockingbird. War and Peace. Anna Karenina. She read them all. And when she'd read those, she moved on to other books she could picture in his hands.
Then she painted them.
It was a completely new style that her agent was shocked to see, but intrigued by. She took passages or characters or scenarios from the books and put them on the canvas in a way that was so cryptic that she knew only one other person would understand. She painted for him.
For the first three months, she waited with baited breath for him to call or show up or just...find her somehow. She knew it would be hard. She knew it would be damn near impossible, actually. Yet still, every time her phone rang, she expected to hear his gravelly voice on the other end of the line. When it didn't come, she turned back to her work, trying to capture that feeling on the canvas. She just assumed he didn't want to find her; that he hadn't tried.
In town one day, she was walking past a book store, and saw a display in the window. She knew she'd be buying the book no matter what, but when she read the reviews of the novel, she was even more intrigued.
"The unprecedented and surprising new novel by E. L. Scott is unlike anything he's written. It is honest, heartbreaking, and humbling. In Pursuit of a Moment is the most agonizing love story that you'll ever wish you were a part of." - The New York Times
"Scott's words do not fail him in his latest offering. The tale of longing, hope, passion, need, desire, pain, and just about every other emotion imaginable, grabs at the heart like nothing he's written before. Scott is finding his voice, though we didn't even know he was searching. And it's a beautiful one." - The Toronto Star
"Words will not do justice to In Pursuit of a Moment. It is simply a must-read. If this novel doesn't make you cry, you had better check your pulse." - Rolling Stone
Lucas was in Charlotte to watch a string of Nathan's home games, and the two were walking through the downtown area when something caught his eye. Nathan had grown accustomed to Lucas peering into every art gallery they passed over the last 8 months, so he didn't ask questions. This time, however, the glazed over look on his brother's face raised a red flag.
"What?" he asked, staring at the painting in the window that was drawing Lucas' attention.
"That's hers," Lucas said simply, before walking into the gallery.
Nathan followed just in time to see Lucas get upset at the gallery manager's unwillingness to give him the artist's information. He pleaded for the number of her agent or anyone who he could contact. The manager told him the artist had been in town the week earlier to oversee the installation of her work, but had gone back to her home. Nathan had to pull Lucas by the arm to get him out of the gallery after studying her entire new collection. He knew, somehow, that it was all connected to him.
He wondered how he could be so close to her, and still feel completely empty.
Peyton read his book almost entirely in one sitting, stopping briefly only to eat or take a nap and rest her tired eyes. She had cried. A lot.
The novel followed a man on his search for an artist whose work he'd fallen in love with. He didn't know anything about her, only her name and that her art touched his soul. He didn't know her age, or where she lived, or if she was married. It became an obsession - the man convincing himself that he would never know the perfect moment until the moment he met her.
He never met her.
She was breathless upon finishing the last paragraph. She knew she was the artist and he was the man. Lucas had devoted his time and his craft to creating something for her, just like she had for him.
She opened the book to the dedication page, something she normally didn't care about in the least.
"Your art matters..."
Through the contented sobs that wracked her body, she came to a realization.
It was her turn to chase him.
Reaching for her phone, she dialed a familiar number.
"Skills, it's me," she said frantically.
"You OK?" he asked, sensing the worry in her voice, even though he couldn't see her.
"Yeah. I mean...maybe. Look, I need Nathan Scott's phone number."
"What?" he asked. "You do know he's married, right?"
"Yeah, I know. I need it though," she begged.
"Well look, I'm actually in Charlotte right now. We play the Bobcats tomorrow night," he explained.
"What?!" she asked, louder than she needed to.
"Yo look, if this is some crazy stalker thing, I can't really..."
"No!" she interrupted him. "No, it's not. You think you can get me a ticket to the game?" she asked hurriedly, already running to her bedroom to pack a bag.
"Of course I can. What's goin' on with you?" he asked, the worry returning to his voice.
"I'll explain it all later. I'm getting on the road now. I'll call you," she said before hanging up.
She didn't know what she was doing. For all she knew, Nathan would think she was some crazed woman trying to destroy his family. But she needed to do this.
She was in love with a man she'd only met once before, and this was her only shot at finding her way back to him.
Lucas had finally calmed down by the time he and Nathan had gone to a movie, had dinner, and walked back to Lucas' hotel. Nathan had set him up with a room at the same 5 star hotel where the visiting teams stayed when they were in town. They were about to get onto the elevator when Nathan heard his name called out. It happened a lot, so he wasn't surprised, but he rolled his eyes anyway. He wanted one day of anonymity for a change. He usually had to go back to Tree Hill to get it.
He spun around to see Skills Taylor walking towards him.
"Skills, man! How are you?" Nathan shouted, pulling the man in for a hug. "This is my brother, Luke."
Lucas turned on a dime when he heard the name. Skills. Peyton knew him. His connection to her had been right in front of him all along and he'd been an idiot and hadn't even noticed it. Before he could open his mouth and frantically ask for her information, the man started talking.
"So listen, man, one of my friends called me beggin' for your number. Somethin' you wanna tell me?" Skills half-joked.
"What?" Nathan asked, confused.
"Peyton," Lucas whispered. He just knew.
"Yeah," Skills said, narrowing his eyes in surprise. "What's going on?"
"Wait, you know Peyton?" Nathan asked. He had no idea what the hell was going on.
"Yeah. P. Sawyer's been one of my best friends since we were in grade school. She's like a sister to me," he explained.
"Where is she?" Lucas asked.
"On her way here," Skills said. "What the hell is goin' on?"
"Lucas and Peyton met randomly in New York and there's something weird happening that even I don't understand. This fool's been trying to find her for close to a year," Nathan explained.
"Wait, wait. You're the New York guy?" Skills asked.
"I'm the New York guy," Lucas said, laughing in disbelief. "When's she getting here? Where's she staying? Can I talk to her? I...I need to see her."
"Nate, your boy's losin' it here, man. I've seen Peyton drive some men crazy, but this is something different." Both men laughed.
"Luke, man. She's coming. You can calm down now," Nathan said, clapping his brother on the back.
Their back was to the door, and only Skills saw her walk into the hotel. She'd called him when she was coming into the city and he'd told her to meet him there. A smile broke on his face that both men noticed.
As soon as she walked into the lobby, she recognized him and was frozen in place. Everything about him was the same - his hair, his posture, the way he rubbed the back of his neck.
Lucas noticed Skills' smile and followed his gaze, and his eyes fell on her in what seemed like slow motion. He stared at her for a moment before a smile broke on her lips and he walked to her as calmly as his mind and body and heart would allow.
"Hi," he said softly, still in shock that she was standing in front of him. He placed a hand on her cheek and grazed the shell of her ear with his fingertips.
"Hi," she smiled. "You sure know how to make a girl chase after you."
He chuckled despite the guilt he felt. "I tried to find you. I forgot about Skills."
"Your book is beautiful," she whispered, trying to keep herself from crying.
"So is your work." She looked at him with confusion in her eyes. "I saw it today in a gallery."
She laughed again and looked into his eyes. Yes, she was in love with him.
"You planning on kissing me any time soon?" she teased, grabbing his shirt and pulling him gently towards her.
"I love you," he whispered, so softly that she had to strain to hear him.
"I love you, too." She barely got out the words and his lips were on hers.
They each knew something bigger than either of them was at work. Universal fatalism. Divine intervention. Destiny. Past lives making themselves known in the present. Whatever it was, he knew he wasn't going to let her go, and she knew she wasn't going to let him.
It was the atypical tale of the tortured artist meeting the tortured author, but they each knew that everything they'd gone through separately had brought them together.