A/N: This is a oneshot (could be a twoshot, but I haven't decided...I could be persuaded, hint hint) that is kind of sad, in my opinion.
OK, so...Let me give you a little background on what compelled me to write this.
I had a really, really, rough week that included my car getting keyed, my boss jumping down my throat for things that weren't my fault, vacation plans falling through (so long, Vegas), and being sick. Also, to top it all off, my ex-boyfriend told me he misses me. And then when I said it back, he told me that he is seeing someone new. Honestly? Why do guys do that kind of thing!? It's like they're completely clueless about how to talk to women.
So yesterday, I went and bought a bunch of new music (I am like Peyton...go through a rough patch, buy new music.) I heard this country song, Either Way, while sipping whiskey and was up until 3 am writing this. So....yeah. World's longest author's note, but there you have it.
I hope you enjoy and don't simply think I'm insane!
When she met him, he wasn't 'Hollywood'. He was sarcastic and at times a little inappropriate and aggressive in all the best ways. He was simple. He wore tee shirts and jeans, and begrudgingly threw on a blazer when he had to. He was forging his own way, making his own mistakes, and she admired him for that.
He was several completely different people, depending on what situation he was in, but he was the best of all of them when he was with her. He'd let his guard down and be sweet with her. He had a smile that was reserved only for her to see. Any time she said something goofy or scrunched her nose as she spoke, she'd see that smile.
In the beginning, it was modest apartments and eating in, ordering takeout once a week as a 'treat'. It was vintage clothes to save money, and hoarding quarters for the laundromat. Saturdays in the park to people watch instead of paying for cable. 10 dollar wine or cheap beer and laughing together on her sofa.
It surprised her how quickly she fell in love. She'd been guarded with her heart since she could remember, only ever truly showing it to one person. When that had all failed, she made a promise to herself that she'd be more open. She'd give more love and show more of herself to the people who wanted to see her. She tried to be less cynical. She tried to be less jaded. She tried to forget that feeling that she'd always gotten when that other boy would smile at her or be sweet with her.
But she did love this new boy, and he had said it first, and she had always been the one to say it first. She felt a rush from that, mostly because she knew that feeling. She knew what it was like to just need to say it; to express it. She knew that if he had felt like she had when she was in the same situation, that he really and truly loved her. So she said it back, and she meant it.
Then he got more popular. He started making a name for himself in the business, and she started accumulating pretty dresses, all worn only once, so she could stand by his side and sip champagne as he schmoozed with colleagues and industry hot shots.
But they were still the same when he wasn't 'working'. He'd still drink cheap wine and they'd sit in front of a fan during a heat wave, wearing as little as possible. He'd still spend hours with her at her favourite record store, searching for albums they both knew she'd never find.
His father finally took an interest, after a critically acclaimed film gave his son some buzz, and he would be away for weeks at a time, jetting off across the country or to Canada to scout filming locations and meet with costume designers or directors or casting agents. She'd be alone in the apartment they shared, but she'd be proud of him.
His mother loved her. Absolutely adored her, and told her that no one had ever made her son so happy. She shouldn't have been surprised when he got down on one knee and pulled a little black box out of his pocket, revealing his family's heirloom diamond as he said those four words.
She said yes.
The ceremony was small, with only her father and her best friends in attendance. One person, one man, wasn't there. She didn't know then - she still doesn't know - whether that was a good thing or a bad thing. One look at him and she would have run into his arms and insisted he take her away. He wasn't there, but looking into the eyes of his brother - those familiar blue ones - she wondered where he was and how he was and if he ever thought about her. She didn't dare ask; not while wearing white and holding the hand of someone else. She wondered if the ring in the black box he'd held out in front of her was more her than the one that was on her left hand as she stood and pledged her love to another man.
His parents gave them a penthouse as a wedding gift. She'd insisted it was too much, but they'd persisted until she gave in. It was big and filled with stainless steel and granite and impossibly perfect hardwood floors. Floor to ceiling windows (not ideal for someone who had a stalker once upon a time) and a west-facing view. It never felt like home.
His tee shirts were traded for button downs, his jeans and blazers for Armani suits, and his Chuck Taylors long abandoned.
She, too, had to play the part. Her job was frustrating and beginning to feel pointless as she watched her husband pull in more money than they knew what to do with. He somehow convinced her to quit, that they could live off his salary (they could), and that she'd be better off without a bottom-feeding job in the music industry (she wasn't).
It took only a few more black tie events for her to realize that she was becoming one of the vile ones they used to make fun of. A trophy wife. Poised in sleek, expensive dresses and jewels that were gifts she'd never asked for. Sipping whatever drink was dubbed the next hot thing and making small talk with the other wives while the men talked business.
She had nothing to say. She had no job. She had no children. She had a sterile apartment and a few skeletons in the closet that even her husband didn't know.
And then when they'd get home, it was half-hearted 'good nights' and each unable to utter those three words that brought them there in the first place. She wasn't sure when it happened, but somewhere along the way, she stopped expecting anything. She stopped expecting him to go to that record store or buy that old favourite wine or tell her she looked sexy in those jeans with the worn pockets that he'd always loved.
They lived painfully separate lives, and they lived them within the same four walls.
Eventually, she started sleeping in one of their spare bedrooms. He didn't protest. She didn't ask if he minded - she didn't care what he thought, and he didn't care enough about her anymore to mind. She just told him she was going to do it, and it became her room.
And he never said anything about a divorce. She waited for him to do it, but he never once brought it up. They didn't fight any more. They passed each other in the hallway of their home, talking about the next party they needed to attend - must keep up appearances - or what bill needed to be paid or what needed to be picked up from the cleaners.
They just stopped giving a damn about each other. Whether he went or stayed, she wouldn't love him either way. She was numb. She didn't care if he was sleeping with someone else, which he may have been. She just didn't care.
She was walking through her favourite part of town, still her favourite though her designer clothing and manicured nails didn't suggest it. It was all used book stores and tiny coffee shops and vintage clothing stores.
She pushed her sunglasses back up over her hair and stepped out onto the street, her coffee in her hand as she made her way towards, in her opinion, the best book store in the city.
And she saw the posture of a man that made her heart beat out of her chest. Only one man stood like that. Only one man laughed like that. Only one man had those blue eyes, and when they locked with hers from 10 feet away, she wanted to cry.
She wanted to run to him and tell him everything she couldn't tell anyone else. She was miserable. She was lonely. She hated that she hadn't made something of herself. She didn't love her husband. She loved him, even after 8 years.
But she couldn't.
"Lucas," she said softly.
"Peyton," he echoed in the same tone.
He'd left his heart in L.A. when he left that girl in L.A. He didn't know that at the time, but he knew it now. He'd tried to sweep it under the rug. Just another heartbreak. Just another girl. Just another bump in the road. But she wasn't just another girl. She'd never be just another girl.
He just wished he'd realized it sooner.
After he left her, he was a mess. A mess of emotions and pain that he tried to bury beneath work and alcohol and more work. A full year he waited to talk to her again, and hearing that voice on the other end of the line felt like his soul had been returned. He needed that. He needed her. But then a simple kiss on the cheek changed everything.
He moved on. Or so he told himself. He found the right woman. Or so he told himself. He loved her. Or so he told himself.
He fell for her quickly, ignoring all those little signs that it wasn't a love like the one he used to know. She was beautiful and kind and soft spoken. And she loved him. She'd never leave him, and he needed that. He couldn't handle another heartache. He'd never tell her that she'd be his number two, but he knew it. She was willing to give him everything she could, and everything he wanted, and that was enough for him.
Or so he told himself.
She didn't judge him, which was surprising, given her chosen field of work. She knew his past - she'd read his past - and forgave him his shortcomings, though they weren't hers to forgive. She got along with his friends and family, and she was the picture of a perfectly pleasant woman. Pleasant. Unobtrusive. Comfortable.
When he asked her the question, the one he knew she'd been holding her breath waiting for, there was no grandiose speech. No throwback to their most memorable moment or re-telling of a line he'd said to her once before. Four simple words and a ring he'd bought at the last minute on his way home.
She said yes.
A big church wedding completely unlike the one he'd pictured with that beautiful blonde girl, brought guests from all over the country. He'd silently waited and hoped, that day, that the tragic girl with the blonde curls and the amazing heart would show up and make a speech about how he couldn't marry this other woman. But as his bride was coming down the aisle, he threw a glance to that blonde girl's best friend, and she just smiled sadly and shook her head subtly, letting him know that blonde girl wouldn't show. He and Brooke never talked about that look or the wordless conversation between them, but they both knew it would stand out as one of the most significant moments in his life. He had to let her go.
So he pledged to love and honour the woman who stood smiling in front of him, and he was one half of a marriage.
And yet, he still had that other ring tucked away in the attic among the other things he treasured more than anything. Tattered, faded photos and notes he'd read too many times to count. Things he knew his wife could never see, and hid away from her. He knew he was a horrible man for keeping such a secret, but he pushed that all aside. He had to.
It started out incredibly. He'd write at his desk while she worked away in the office she'd set up in their home. They'd make dinner together and chat idly about anything that came up. They were comfortable. They cared about each other. They'd make appearances and laugh with friends and hold hands.
They started going to church every Sunday. It was her suggestion, and he wasn't sure what her motives were. He assumed, by the way she'd stand on the church lawn for an hour after the service, that it was purely social. But she was his wife, so he'd stand beside her and laugh at the appropriate times and shake all the hands that were extended to him.
They'd never been a daring couple. They didn't do anything spontaneous or out of the ordinary. Her idea of a rash decision was planning a 2 day road trip only three weeks ahead of time. Organization came with her job, and she provided him with a stability that had always been lacking in his life. He'd craved it as a boy; that sense of normalcy.
But every once in a while, he wished that she'd suggest something crazy. Jet off somewhere. Do something last minute. Dip into their savings to splurge on something they didn't need, but really wanted. Even something as simple as suggesting they go for a drive in the middle of the night, though he knew that would remind him of the one person he'd fought so hard to forget.
But they stayed together. She'd go on tour with him when necessary, and she'd sit in the stands every game night. He'd congratulate her when she found success with work and when she got promoted to a senior position. He'd don a suit when they traveled to New York to be with her family, and feign interest in the things her pretentious uncles were saying.
He hated every second.
He'd sip scotch while she eyed him from across the room, raising her eyebrow disapprovingly when he'd finished his third drink of the night and that would be that. He'd be forced to sit through another awkward cab ride to another expensive hotel that, despite it's proximity, felt so far from home that it never ceased to shock him. He hated the city. He hated that she made him go there so often. He hated that she loved it.
He wondered how he could be with a woman who craved that 'energy', as she called it, when he was so content in the quiet. The beach at night or the front porch of his house on a summer day. How could she chose bright lights and sirens over his beloved quiet and still be the one for him? He knew the answer, he just chose to ignore it. (She wasn't the one for him. He didn't love her.)
She wanted children. She wanted his children, and he'd never even thought about it. He added that to the list of things they should have talked about before they married. But she was his wife and he was her husband and after 4 years of marriage, they started trying. It wouldn't be that bad, he convinced himself. He loved children, and he longed to be a father. Just not to her children. He would have hated himself for feeling that way, but he just didn't feel anything.
But there were complications and problems, and after months of trying, nothing happened. She became more and more introverted with every test that was performed, and when it was revealed that it was her and not him that was the reason they couldn't conceive, she gave him a look that he can still remember to this day. Disappointment and heartbreak and like her dream had just been torn from her. He consoled her in a way that she wouldn't realize was half-hearted, and his mind wandered to that morning in L.A. all those years ago when he'd seen that same look on his own face.
And he felt relieved. Relieved that his own wife couldn't bare his children. What kind of man did that make him, he wondered? It hurt him to think about it, so he just didn't.
He wasn't sure when it happened, but somewhere along the line, he just stopped caring. He stopped reaching out for her at night, or kissing her temple when he walked into the house at the end of the day. He got the feeling she'd stopped wanting him to. He'd tune out of conversations and get lost in nothing and everything, whatever was going on in his head.
She never threatened to leave, and he resented her for that. He'd feared so much in the beginning that she'd leave him, but he started to crave it. Just go and take her things and leave him be. He didn't love her either way.
He was in L.A. on a rare business trip where she hadn't come with him, wandering through the neighbourhood that he used to know well. It was the first one that he'd been shown when he visited the city for the first time. He could still remember the excitement in those green eyes as she rattled on about books and music and coffee so good it would give you goose bumps. She'd lived in that neighbourhood, and he'd never forget the weekends he spent there with her.
He was standing on the sidewalk talking to the owner of a small shop, a coffee in one hand as he laughed at something the man said. He said his goodbye and his thank you and turned around. He thought he was having a heart attack, the way his heart felt in his chest at that moment. Then he realized it was just love. It had been so long since he felt it that it was completely unfamiliar.
She looked different, but there was no doubting it was her. She pushed her sunglasses up to hold her hair in place, and he saw those green eyes from 10 feet away. She had slender jeans covering her legs, and was wearing heels that almost made his mouth go dry. Her hair was long and nearly straight, and she had a large green bag slung over one arm, and a coffee in her hand.
He wanted to run to her and tell her all his secrets. That he was trapped in a loveless marriage with a woman he was convinced didn't know even the slightest thing about him. That he was afraid he'd never write another word that meant anything. That he loved her, even after 8 years.
But he couldn't.
"Lucas," she said softly.
"Peyton," he echoed in the same tone.
They way her name rolled of his tongue made her want to cry. She had missed that; his gravelly tone and the way his perfect lips parted when he spoke her name.
He sensed there was something different about her immediately. Her eyes were lifeless, save for an emotion he thought he saw swirling, though that might have been wishful thinking. But she was still Peyton. His Peyton.
She made no move to hide the two rings that sat on her hand, and he made no move to hide his. They just stood there staring at each other in complete shock. After a few moments, he walked towards her and pulled her into his arms, because he just couldn't not do it. He would have hated himself if he let her walk away without touching her.
And there, standing in the middle of the sidewalk with people and smog and noise surrounding him, he let out a breath. It was relief. There, with her in his arms, he wasn't sure he'd ever felt more alive, more like himself, in 8 years. And she hadn't felt that safe, that balanced. It was like she knew that just that action could get her through whatever else she needed to get through; the memory of his embrace would help her when she thought she couldn't bare living a lie anymore.
"Hi," she said. Her lips were buried in his shoulder, and the syllable came out only as a whisper, but she thought that might convey all she was trying to say anyway.
"Hi," he said, letting out a breathy chuckle.
He pulled away, but kept his hands on her upper arms as he glanced at her face. She was still amazingly beautiful. Flawless skin and perfect lips and those green eyes he'd had vivid dreams about. Out of habit, though he wasn't sure it could still be called a habit after so much time apart, he reached up and tucked a lock of hair behind her ear.
"I...I don't really know what to say to you," she admitted softly, doing her best to keep her emotions in check. She'd become an expert at pretending, but Lucas was always the one she never had to put an act on for.
"Me neither," he insisted. "It's...It's just really good to see you."
He was sure that was the biggest understatement he'd ever spoken.
"Yeah," she said absently, lost in his features as she gazed at his face. His stubble and his eyes and that upturned nose she'd always loved to nuzzle up against with her own.
"Are you busy? Do you want to go somewhere and talk?" he suggested, just needing to say something.
"Yeah," she said with a smile. "There's a park around the corner."
"I remember," he said, grinning as he moved to her side and they began walking.
Of course he remembered. The first time he'd gone to visit, the two of them had laid on the grass in the sun and fallen asleep together in each others' arms.
Neither of them were lying when they said they weren't sure what to say. She had no idea about anything to do with him, save for the bits and pieces she'd picked up through conversations with Brooke. She knew he was married. She knew he was coaching. She knew he was writing. She'd read all his books, and had them stacked in her room. Her husband didn't notice, because he never stepped foot inside the door to her bedroom.
Lucas knew through his friends and brother that she was married. He knew nothing else. After they'd let it slip that she was someone's wife, he insisted, rather harshly, that he didn't want to hear anything else. They all knew why, but they didn't question it. Brooke had simply nodded, Haley threw him a disappointed look, and Nathan smiled in that way that let his brother know that he understood.
"So," they said at the same time, making them both laugh, and he gestured for her to continue.
"What are you doing here?" she asked bluntly. "I mean, what brings you to L.A."
"Business," he said vaguely as they found a vacant bench and sat down. "I'm meeting with a couple artists about covers for my latest book."
"Wow. How many is this, now? 4?" she asked. She, of course, knew that it was his fourth. She just didn't want to come off as though she'd been keeping such a close eye on him.
"Yeah. Number 4," he muttered with a fake smile. He never found the groove he'd had when he wrote his first novel. Nothing even came close to that, and though everyone told him his work was great, he never felt too connected to it.
"That's great, Luke," she said sincerely. He smiled as he heard her say the shortened form of his name. No one ever said it quite like she did...
"What about you? It's 10:00 on a Wednesday morning. Shouldn't you be at work or something?" he asked, attempting to tease her.
"I um...I don't work," she admitted regretfully. She noticed the look of shock on his face, and knew she had to explain. "Julian...I mean, he makes a lot of money, so you know..."
Her voice trailed because she knew that if there was one person in the world who could see through that explanation, it would be Lucas. Working, for Peyton, had never been about money. He wondered what had happened to that spirit of hers; that stubborn quality that he somehow both loved and hated, depending on the situation. She gave up her dream. He had no idea why.
"Oh," he mumbled. And he'd known she was married, but hearing the man's name made his skin crawl. He sensed, however, that saying it made hers crawl, too.
"It's not so bad," she said, plastering on a fake smile. "I have all sorts of free time to do as I please."
"Kind of like being a writer," he joked, making her laugh slightly.
"How's um...I'm sorry, I don't remember your wife's name," she said softly. Brooke had told her, once upon a time, a few stories about the woman, but she'd blocked them all out. She didn't want to know the details of his marriage, just as she suspected (or maybe just hoped) he wouldn't want to hear the details of hers.
"Lindsey," he offered. "She's fine."
Lie. It was a lie, or maybe not. He didn't really know. Maybe she was fine. If she was anything other, he turned a blind eye or simple ignored it.
"How's everyone at home? I miss everyone," she finally said.
And there was the girl he used to know. A genuine smile. He finally felt like she was saying something truthful.
"Good," he answered with a smile. "Jamie's growing like a bad weed. Nathan and Haley are really great. Brooke's...I'm sure you know how she is."
"Yeah. We talk twice a week pretty religiously," she admitted. "She doesn't visit as much as we'd both like."
"I bet," he said politely.
All he could think was that she was beautiful, but he wondered why she seemed sad. Why was she putting on an act? Why was she wearing Gucci sunglasses and toting a Coach bag? Who made her this way? He hoped it wasn't him, though he had a feeling it was, on some level; that his leaving had something to do with it.
"That's a nice ring," he pointed out, taking her left hand in his as she sipped her coffee with her right.
"It was his great grandmother's. Every man in his family has given it to their wife," she explained. She wanted to tell him that she'd never really loved it, and that she hadn't felt a touch like the one he'd just given her in years.
"Wow," he nodded. He thought back to his own family's heirloom ring, sitting in that box in his attic. He couldn't give it to anyone if he couldn't give it to her.
They were silent for a few minutes, just watching people pass as they drank their respective coffees, enjoying just sitting next to one another, and both wondering how different things would be if she had only said yes or if he had only waited for her.
There was an air of stoicism about him that she wasn't sure she'd ever seen. Of course, he'd always been a private person, displaying emotion only when he needed to. But with her, he'd always been different. He said things and acted a certain way and she didn't know why he wasn't doing that now. But then, she thought, she wasn't acting like the girl he used to know either.
"Peyton," he finally said, breaking the silence as he turned to her. "Are you happy?"
She looked into his eyes and bit her bottom lip as he chin started to quiver, and she shook her head slowly.
He knew the answer before he'd even asked the question, but the sight of her on the verge of tears just about broke his heart.
And his heart had always been hers to break.
He wasted no time pulling her into his arms and cradling her head against him. He mumbled that it'd be OK and asked her not to cry, though he knew those sentiments didn't really mean anything. He didn't know if it'd be OK, and he knew she needed to cry.
"Come on," he said, standing and pulling her up with him. He wiped her tears and answered the questions he could see she was about to ask. "I'm staying not too far from here. We can talk. Really talk."
"OK," she whispered. She pulled her hand from his, immediately worrying, as she'd grown accustomed to, what other people would think if they saw her. She knew that none of her 'friends' would frequent that neighbourhood, but she had to be safe.
He missed the contact, but he knew what she was thinking. She was married to another man, and he was married to another woman, and there was simply no real need for them to join hands, other than they wanted to. And that just wasn't a good enough reason sometimes.
She pulled her sunglasses back down over her eyes and he knew she was hiding. He just didn't know if she was hiding from him, or from everyone else. It didn't really matter, he decided.
As soon as they got to the hotel, and stepped off the elevator and into an empty hallway, he heard her take a sharp breath and he knew she was doing her best to hold it together. He opened the door and moved so she could walk past him and into the room, and as soon as the door was closed, her arms were around him and she was crying against his chest.
"Peyt," he said softly, attempting to get her to open up to him. She laughed. It was weak and barely there, but she laughed.
"I haven't heard that nickname in 8 years," she admitted tearfully, clutching his shirt in her fists as she held him.
"Can you talk to me?" he asked gently after a few moments. He didn't want to move - not even an inch - in case she let him go. He couldn't let her let him go.
"I don't know," she answered truthfully. "I haven't really had a real conversation in a long time."
"What are you talking about?" he asked with a furrowed brow as she pulled away from him slightly.
"I don't even like him," she admitted as her tears started to fall again. "I don't even know if I like me anymore."
"Come here," he said, leading her by the hand to sit on the end of the bed. "Talk to me."
"We just...we were in love, you know?" she started, watching as he nodded. He knew all too well. "But it's just gone now. And I have nothing. I don't work, I don't have real friends. I just...all I have is Brooke and Haley and Nathan, and they're so far away. I have nothing. I just..."
"What?" he asked. His words were caught in his throat. He didn't want her to be like this. If she was with someone else, he wanted her to be happy. She clearly was far from it, and he didn't know if there was anything he could do about it.
"I miss you," she admitted, closing her eyes and shaking her head again.
She wasn't sure what compelled her to say it, but it was more true than anything she'd said in ages. She knew that missing him was connected to everything in her life that she was unhappy with. She knew the resentment she felt towards the man she shared a house with was a result of missing the one sitting next to her now. She knew, somehow, that those words would tell him all of that without her having to give a long, drawn out explanation.
"I miss you, too," he echoed. And he knew those words would tell her that he felt exactly the same way as she did. "Lindsey wants a baby."
"Oh," she said in surprise.
"We can't - she can't - get pregnant," he informed her, looking at her as she digested that information. "I was relieved. Relieved that my own wife couldn't get pregnant."
"It's horrible," he said, shaking his head. "It's not that I don't want a baby..."
"You just can't picture yourself as the father of her children," she finished. He nodded weakly because she understood it. She understood him. "Julian never wanted kids."
"You always did," he said as he watched her.
"Yeah," she admitted in a whisper, letting another tear fall. "God, what happened to us, Lucas? How did we let it get this bad?"
"I don't know," he answered honestly. He was doing his best to keep his own emotions in check. He didn't know if seeing her cry was breaking him, or if it was just admitting aloud that his own life was as miserable as it was. "You need to stop crying."
"What?" she asked confusedly.
"You're killing me with the tears," he replied, with the slightest of smiles, making her let out a laugh.
"I've been holding them in for three years," she said, knowing that was the amount of years that she'd been sleeping in a separate room, barely speaking to the man who'd promised her the world and hadn't followed through. And that made her cry harder.
He stood and went to the bathroom to grab some tissues, and he knelt in front of her and placed his hands on her thighs as he watched her dab beneath her eyes, trying to wipe her tears and keep what was left of her makeup intact.
"What do I have to do to make you happy right now?" he asked, only half teasingly.
"Got a time machine?" she asked with a slight laugh, and he looked down to hide the smile her joke put on his face. His thumb began to move back and forth on her thigh, and that sent down another wave of tears as she remembered all the attention he used to pay to her legs, complements and kisses. Stares and caresses.
"God, I'm such a mess!" she exclaimed after a moment. "I'm so sorry. I haven't seen you in so long, and here I am blubbering and talking to you about how much I hate my life."
"You're not a mess," he said quietly. "You're beautiful."
She hadn't heard that sentiment in so long, and when she looked into his eyes again all she could do was smile. All she saw was him - the boy she used to know - and though she didn't dare ask, she wondered if he still loved her like she still loved him.
"Kiss me," she demanded softly.
"Lucas. Kiss me," she repeated.
He gazed at her for a moment, knowing that what he was about to do was completely wrong. But he loved her, and he missed her, and he'd quelled his feelings for so long. If she was sitting in front of him, broken and beautiful and pleading with him to do what he already wanted to do, then dammit, he was going to kiss her.
He leaned forward and cupped her cheek with his hand. He glanced down at her lips and then his eyes met hers again and he heard her breathing speed up. When his lips met hers, the feeling was indescribable. He didn't know if he'd ever felt more alive than he did with her bottom lip nestled between his, pressed together for the first time in years. He would have pulled away and left it at that, but her hand moved to the back of his neck and he knew she wanted more and he just couldn't deny her what she wanted. It was what he wanted, too.
Soon enough, he was positioned with her knees on either side of him and his hands around her back, holding her like he should have held her 8 years ago; like he was never going to let her go. Tongues met and breathing sped and hearts felt more than they should have. When he pulled away and rested his forehead against hers, he felt overwhelmingly content. He couldn't remember the last time he felt anything even close to that.
"We can't do this, can we?" she asked breathlessly. He chuckled slightly because he didn't know what else to do.
"No, we can't," he confirmed.
They were both still married, and though neither really wanted to be, those vows still meant something to the both of them.
"But we can still want to, right?" she asked with a smile.
"Yeah," he laughed, "we can."
"What should we do?" she asked, watching as he moved away from her and stood, turning his back to her and rubbing the back of his neck.
"Nap?" he suggested with a grin as he faced her again.
That had always been their answer for everything when they were dating. One would say they were bored and the other would suggest a nap. Too cold? Nap. Need comfort? Nap. Want to avoid the real world? Nap.
She smiled and shook her head, and moved back to lay her head on the pillow, and he kicked off his shoes and joined her, holding out his arm so she could curl into his side like she always used to.
No more words were spoken. Neither asked why the other didn't just end their respective marriages. He didn't ask where she lived. She didn't ask if he was missing anything by spending the day with her. They just lay down together until they both fell asleep.
They only slept for two hours, but he felt like he hadn't slept that well in years. He leaned over to look at the clock and she stirred in his arms, and he couldn't resist the urge to kiss her forehead while she stretched.
"Hi," she whispered.
"Hi," he answered, smiling down at her, and making her do the same.
"What are you thinking?" he asked softly, trailing his hand up and down her arm.
She paused for a moment, contemplating her answer, and there was only one she could think of giving.
"I was just thinking how I never want to go home again," she admitted, making him laugh, despite both of them knowing she was telling the truth.
They lay together for a few more minutes, and she pulled away from him, standing and going to the bathroom to fix her hair and makeup. When she went back into the room, he was still laying on the bed, smiling widely when he saw her. That look that she'd seen a thousand times before, telling her without words that he thought she looked beautiful.
"I should go," she announced.
"OK," he said softly, nodding his understanding.
She didn't need to thank him for letting her breakdown, or for kissing her and making her feel something. She didn't need to make promises that she'd keep in touch, or tell him to take care of himself. She just slung her bag over her arm and straightened out her top, smiling back at him one last time before starting towards the door.
"Peyton," he called urgently as he propped himself up on his elbows. She turned to look at him again. "I love you, you know that?"
She smiled widely again and walked back to him. She rested her palm on his cheek and leaned down to press one last chaste kiss to his lips. She kept her eyes closed for a moment after, and felt his hand come up and cover hers.
"I love you, too," she whispered.
And then she was gone.
She didn't know if she'd ever see him again. She wanted to, of course she did, but she wasn't sure she'd gather the courage to leave the life she'd been leading for years. And it didn't matter whether she left or whether she stayed. She was going to love him either way.
He was left laying in a hotel bed. Such a similar scene, only this time it was he who was left behind. He wasn't sure she'd ever come into his life again, or if he'd ever be able to end his marriage. And it didn't matter whether he left or whether he stayed. He was going to love her either way.