A/N: BLP triangle oneshot. This one's not quite as depressing as the last. Lyrics are from Paramore's I Caught Myself. I'm a little bit mystified as to when I became one of those authors who uses lyrics in nearly everything, but I guess it's a good change.

The storyline begins just after 1x09 and does notnecessarily follow the rest of what happened on the show, though it doesn't really stray much, either. I didn't intend for it to be so long, but that's how it ended up, nineteen pages. A part of me wonders why I felt I needed to write this, but I'll leave you to judge.

And for the record, I love Brooke. Brooke is seasons five and six is all kinds of awesome. BP very nearly saved season five in my eyes. But the BLP triangle is season one is one of my biggest pet peeves related to the show – the triangle was supposed to by LPN and I really wish it had stayed that way. So, Brooke circa season one, in relation to Lucas? Not my favourite. I don't think I've really depicted her in any kind of negative light, but if I have…that's why.

Okay, I'm done babbling now. Feedback is always awesome. ;)

You Got It

down to you

you're pushing and pulling me

down to you

but I don't know what I –

Recovery is a funny thing.

He lies on his back in bed and thinks; this is the conclusion he draws. Recovery works on so many different levels, in so many different ways, and it relies on such a variation of factors that he cannot even begin to list them all. A funny thing, in the strange, not the ha-ha sense.

He feels different. His room looks different. His life is undoubtedly different. And his sense of self is most drastically different.

Physically, for sure, changes have occurred. He's plunged headfirst into the land of sex and lust, drinking and drugs, basketball games with more intense training and higher stakes, tattoos and naked girls in the backseat of his car.

All of this has affected his attention span and dedication to schoolwork as well. Books used to make up a huge component of his world; now his study questions for A Midsummer Night's Dream sit abandoned on his desk, half a sentence written: Nick Bottom acts as a connection between the three worlds presented in the play, albeit an oblivious one, because…

It's unsettling; he feels like he's lost connections with his own body and mind. But his heart is what is most conflicted, most unsure, and it's a kind of confusion he doesn't even know how to deal with.

He mulls over his half brother, their tentative, defensive relationship. Nathan can be a jerk of the highest order, but Lucas can't blame him entirely, considering who he was raised by, the environment he was forced to grow up in.

Yet another mystifying fact rose out of his heart tonight, a surge of panic and the internal yelp of no! when he saw Nathan collapse. He can't deny it anymore, the fact that he cares, though it sometimes seems like it's out of obligation. They're related, by blood, a relationship that can be ignored but never erased.

Nathan will recover. He is already recovering, his body mending itself. And, strange as it still seems to Lucas, Nathan has Haley, who is, on her own, an utterly remarkable support system.

Peyton Sawyer is a different story.

The way she'd looked at him, after showing up all of a sudden, had left him speechless. In those clothes she wore like a protective barrier against the world, curls loose and relaxed and framing her face. Her chin trembled the slightest bit with her nervousness, slender shoulders shrugged with helpless hesitance; her voice was packed with the relief of confession. Lucas found himself getting lost in her green eyes, sparkling with hope and possibility.

She sought him out and did something so hard, making herself vulnerable and baring her soul. She made it clear that she wasn't over him, that maybe she was only realizing how very in to him she was.

And then Brooke had walked out, all smiles and flirty innuendo, giving just as clear a message that he was all the way over it, over her, that he had moved on.

Her eloquence and honesty disappeared as she tripped over her words, talking solely to Brooke, muttering an excuse about getting turned around that means a lot more than it was originally intended to, at least to the two blondes who could barely meet each other's eyes.

"Peyton," he'd said, a desperate word, an attempt at an apology. He wanted to ask her to stay, to understand. He wished she'd said those things to him before. Earlier.

But he couldn't get any more words out, not with Brooke standing there with a suspicious frown making her dimples disappear, and the look in Peyton's eyes told him that she didn't want to hear anything more. She didn't expect anything more; the disappointed look she wore told him as much.

He has come to know her well enough that he knows what a big deal it is for her to put herself out there, to blindly trust someone with an outpouring of emotion. But she'd taken the risk and she'd chosen him. She'd listened to his words. (I want this, y'know? I want to be here. I want everything with you. I want it all. I want us, Peyton.) and decided that he was worth it.

He hated that he'd proved her wrong. She didn't deserve it, it wasn't what he wanted. She meant something to him, maybe even a lot.

Things were awkward and uncomfortable after Peyton let herself out, and Brooke slipped out of the house soon after in her own clothes, awarding him an unusually small smile.

He was left along in his room. Lights off, muscles tense, thoughts dominated by two beautiful girls.

Or maybe just one.

He keeps seeing the soft smile she wore, her admittance keeps echoing through his head, I made a mistake…I want all the same things you want, I do. And I want them with you.

Immediately afterward, in perfect juxtaposition, he sees the wounded look in her eyes, the hurt and the loss.

He doesn't know how she's supposed to recover from that, and he wishes that he'd said more, something, anything.

now when I caught myself

I had to stop myself

from saying something

that I should have never thought

He's been best friends with Haley for almost ten years. Their relationship has never taken a single step past the platonic level, and it's easy. They love each other, they look out for each other, and it's simple. Because of how close they've been – and it feels like it's always been that way – he's never really been quite as stumped by the mysteries of the female mind as he knows some guys, particularly those in his age group, are. He's naturally sensitive and fairly intuitive.

It never even occurred to him that girls could complicate his life in the ways they have. Even Haley, his go-to girl for answers on everything from the correct molecular concentration of seventy-two diluted milliliters of hydrochloric acid to what he should say to which person in an awkward situation, is in over her head.

He's pretty much lost.

Brooke shows up the next morning in low-slung jeans and a clingy sweater, her regular smile back in place, a couple big cups of coffee in hand. She lets herself in his bedroom door and greets, "Hey, Broody, I brought you a pick-me-up."

"Thanks," he replies with a grin, accepting the styrofoam cup she holds out toward him.

Her kiss catches him off guard, and she pulls away before he can even realize that it would probably be a good idea to kiss her back.

She looks nervous as she tucks her hair behind her ear and perches on the edge of his bed. He doesn't like the look in her eyes, so he busies himself with finding his favourite sweater; that way eye contact isn't expected.

"So." She says one single word, then stops. "Last night…that was kinda weird." Her smile is hopeful and encouraging. She just wants to laugh it off.

He obliges because he really doesn't know what other options he has, chuckling, "Yeah," before he pulls the sweater over his head, hiding his face.

"Lucas…what did Peyton want?" She's searching for honesty and she expects it.

He could he honest with her, he could. He could say that she came by to confess that she'd made a mistake by pushing him away, that she has feeling for him, that she wants him the way he wants her. And that's the thing: he stills wants Peyton, too. The words are all on the tip of his tongue, ready to set him free, but he swallows them down before they can escape.

He means something to Brooke, he's a different guy than what she's used to, she's caring more than she's accustomed to. And she's falling for him, he knows that. This is a big deal for her. And he cares about her, he can't break her heart. She's sweet and fun and lighthearted, always bouncing up to him with some kind of wonderful girlfriend-y favour, like the coffee that now sits on his desk.

He picked her. Peyton rejected him and he made up his mind to pretend that it was really Brooke he wanted all along. It's his decision.

"I, uh…" He clears his throat. "I think she just wanted to check on Nathan without checking in with Nathan. She heard what happened. And, uh, she was probably looking for you, too. Things have been hard for her, lately, you know? With the, um…anniversary of her mom's death, and everything."

Brooke narrows her eyes and he thinks that, maybe, he should have left out that last part. "That's it?" she asks quietly.

"That's it," he says, with a painfully fake careless shrug.

"It's just…" She bites her bottom lip. "It's weird. Peyton and I have been friends for a really long time. She's like my sister."

"Yeah?" he murmurs uncomfortably. It's not really a question; he knows that already.

"But lately it seems like…you have been there for her more than I have."

He doesn't know what she means by that so he stays silent.

She blows out her breath. "I feel bad about that. I feel…horrible about that. It's just that…the thing is…" She swallows hard. "Boys have never really been an issue for P. Sawyer and me before."

Her eyes and swimming when she finally looks up at him and he caves. He's caused enough hurt in the past twenty-four hours. "Hey," he says softly, perching on the bed next to her, gently placing his hand on her knee. "It's not an issue, now, either."

Brooke stares deep into his eyes for a moment, and then lets out the breath she's been holding, whispering, "Okay," and placing her hand over his. "Listen, um…I'll see you later, okay? I need to see her; I owe her some girls-only time."

She stands and he moves automatically to do the same. She leans in for a chaste goodbye kiss and grabs her own coffee cup. "Call me later," she says quietly, winking at him before she slips out the door.

now when I caught myself

I had to stop myself

from saying something

that I should have never thought of you

of you

Brooke fully embraces her role as his girlfriend, and becomes a permanent fixture in almost every part of his everyday life. Most mornings she shows up at his door with coffee cups or cinnamon rolls or muffins. She greets him with kisses, sometimes passionate, sometimes chaste, and occasionally a pout and a request that he explain one of the prevalent themes in their English homework. No matter her gesture or words, his reply is always a smile and a husky, fond hey, you.

He's going to be just as good to her as she is to him. He's going to love her in the same ways. He's going to loosen up and have fun with her. This is going to be good.

Those words become somewhat like a mantra at certain points and he has to convince himself of how he should feel.

At other times, it's remarkably easy. She's beautiful, and he's most definitely attracted to her. She's sweet and fun and it's not usually an effort to laugh and grin. It's not that hard to think that he could fall in love with this girl. She balances him out, her playful spirit against his serious, squinty brooding.

She tugs him into an empty classroom or a private corner of the hallway when he least expects it, kisses him so fiercely he groans, leaves him when the bell rings with a proud smile and a kink of her eyebrows. He's left standing alone, head spinning, sexually frustrated, a little bit stunned. She certainly knows how to pull him in.

And when he gets it together, steps back into the hall or out on the courtyard, and he sees her. Sometimes alone, sometimes surrounded by the group of friends that he's well aware don't really know her. Most of the time she's in a leathery jacket, a band tee, or a warm sweater, legs exposed by her short skirts or highlighted by the denim they're encased in.

It doesn't take stolen kisses or wandering hands or hazy eyes to make him incoherent and dazed once more. All he needs to see are the muscles in her calves shifting and flexing as she transfers her weight, a sliver of skin as her shirt slips upward when she lifts her bag, the muted injury and longing in her eyes, and he's falling hard and fast.

Once or twice he overcomes the onslaught of wonderful dizziness and the hesitation, gathers up the nerve to walk toward her, but he always lets it go in the end. Every bit of her body language simply begs him to leave her alone, not to cause her anymore pain than she's already enduring every time she faces the sight of the two of them together or Brooke's stories about what they do and what they've done.

An hour later another bell will sound and his girlfriend will skip over to him. He sees the small smile that she's wearing, the expectant, devious look that lights up her brown orbs, and remembers that he's still supposed to want her.

you got it, you got it

some kind of magic

hypnotic, hypnotic

you're leaving me breathless

He finds himself in Peyton's shoes soon enough. He's not sure if she feels quite like this. It's probably worse, and he hates himself for that fact.

Jealousy is eating him up. Envy and desire are burning at every bit of him.

He knows that Nathan and Haley are impressively happy and together now, but he thinks of all the hours, the days, the years for which Peyton was his younger brother's, and it kills him. He wants that much time with her for himself. He wants that much time with her and more.

Haley's insecure about it, and while he tries to be as supportive and reassuring in his role as best friend, it's hard to hear. It's an awkward subject at the best of times: Haley (who is like his little sister) and sex. But he endures all of that because he loves her, and he wants to help.

Her confessions are long and wordy, filled with pain and worry and an ache for a lost love that is premature, but he listens, because he has to.

"Nathan looks at porn." It spills out of her lips, she blurts it out, one day when they're sitting together at the café, drinking hot chocolate and supposedly studying for a trigonometry test. Both of them have seen a dramatic drop in their grades, lately.

He nearly spits out his mouthful of cocoa, spluttering, "What?"

"Oh, God, this weird," she says instantly, hiding before her thick math book. "God, Luke, just forget I ever said anything."

But of course he doesn't, of course he can't, and he knows that she doesn't really expect him to do what she says. He gently pries the book from her hands, sits up, and listens attentively to her story.

"I can't compete with that," she whispers when she's done, looking at him with the kind of vulnerable eyes he hasn't seen since she fell off her bike and got gravel buried in the cuts on her knees when she was twelve.

"Aw, Hales," he says kindly at once, to make her feel better. He doesn't want to say of course you can because again, that would just make things more awkward. Instead, he decides on, "No one can, Haley. I know that might not be what you want to hear, but…Nathan's an idiot if those are his expectations. He's unbelievably lucky to have to you – for lots of reasons." He considers pointing out that Nathan is kind of a man whore, and that he's had sex with several real life girls, but he realizes that that's going to do absolutely nothing to help the situation.

"Thanks, Luke," she replies with a sigh and a shadow of a sweet smile. "But I…it's not just crazy, supermodel, strangely flexible girls that I have to compete with."

She already knows what he's thinking; it doesn't surprise him. Haley's usually a step ahead of people.

"Nathan cares about you," Lucas says as confidently as he can. Swallowing hard, he adds, "You're who he wants."

Haley winces on his behalf and reaches over to squeeze his hand, letting him know that she's thankful that he's dealing with this conversation for her sake. "But…but then why…" She trails off, looking away and biting her lip.

"Hey," he says softly, squeezing her hand. "Whatever it is, you can tell me. Screw the awkwardness."

Her eyes are watery when she looks back at him. She sighs and says in a very small voice, "But then why did I find pictures of…Peyton…on his computer?"

It's awkward on a whole different level and he realizes why she was so unsure. Her eyes are both pleading with him and sympathetic.

"I…" He doesn't have anything to say to that, and suddenly he really, really hates Nathan.

Haley, good friend that she is, is willing to put aside her own troubles for a moment and deal with his instead. "Luke…you…you and Brooke…I mean, you're happy…right?"

He plasters on the fake smile he's been using more and more lately. "We definitely are. Now let's get back to you and Nathan."

And while Haley looks doubtful, and almost hurt that he's not being truthful…she lets it go.

Thoughts of Nathan and Peyton keep him up that night, tossing and turning. And Nathan isn't even his biggest worry, his biggest threat.

Jake Jagielski, the first basketball player even to be earnestly kind to him, suddenly seems like a menacing enemy.

Peyton was one of the first people to walk up, smile pretty, and be perfectly accepting of the fact that Jake has a six-month-old baby girl. And Lucas just hates the fact that Jake has somehow seen that as a green light.

And moreover, that Peyton has let him.

He's pretty sure that she's not actively pursuing a romantic relationship. She needs a friend. Brooke is busy with him, which means that Peyton and Brooke have been drastically pushed apart by the elephant in the room that's always present when they're together. She's got Haley, to a certain degree, but Lucas is also a factor in that relationship. She has the girls that always seem to be flanking her, fellow cheerleaders, but those aren't honest and real friendships, not the kind she needs.

He watches her with them at basketball practice, needing to assure himself that she really is spending time with Jake only because she needs someone who will let her be a little more vulnerable, more like her true self.

Distraction comes easily, provided by the cheerleading uniform that exposes just enough of her skin to enthrall him. He's been captivated by her legs for longer than he's known her, even when she was just a mysterious, depressed, popular girl he never dreamed of having a chance with. Her hair is pulled up into a ponytail, bouncing against her neck while she moves; her shirt shows off a few inches of tummy skin and his infatuation with her soars as he thinks about what he could have had if only he hadn't opened his mouth that night in the Scott house.

It might be stupid, but he thinks that if he'd just stayed quiet and given in, that things would have gone the right way. That maybe, if their physical connection was as perfect and mind-blowing as he thought it would be, that she wouldn't be able to deny their emotional connection any longer.

Then Brooke walks into the gym and nudges his hip with hers, pulling him out of his trance. He jumps a little, and she giggles, winking suggestively at him as she walks over to her squad.

The smile she gives Peyton doesn't hit one-hundred percent of its happiness capacity, but it comes close. The blonde's smile is the same, heartfelt even though it's tentative. Brooke says something that makes them both giggle and they relax into the familiarity of their friendship in one smooth movement. Their shoulders roll back a bit, loosening up, and there isn't quite as much tension radiating through their muscles.

It's the exact same movement at nearly the exact same time, but he only notices how the skin around Peyton's eyes doesn't seem quite so taut, how her abs lose some of the tightness that made her back so rigidly straight, the way she rocks her weight to rest on her other hip. He feels creepy and he probably looks it, but he is spellbound by absolutely everything she does.

She feels his gaze and her eyes ask him, tired and defeated, to please just stop.

Brooke turns to see what her best friend's looking at and her smile falters.

I hate this, I hate this

you're not the one I believe in

with God as my witness

They win their game that night, and it's smiles and hugs and hands clapping his shoulders. It's happiness, pure and simple, but Lucas has trouble letting it absorb him.

Haley runs over for a quick, tight hug, shooting him a radiant smile and shouting something like "You were awesome!" before she slips through the crowd, seeking Nathan out.

His mother and Keith are there, both wearing smiles of pride. They hug him and offer their congratulations, beaming with the joy of his success.

Out of the corner of his eye, he sees a flash of blonde curls: Peyton, excusing herself from a giggling group of ecstatic cheerleaders and moving toward the bleachers, grabbing her duffel bag, leaving alone.

"Honey?" His mother's voice grabs his attention and he turns back. She looks worried. "Lucas, are you alright? You're pale."

"You must be tired," Keith agrees, and Lucas silently thanks his uncle for providing him with an instant excuse.

"Yeah, I'm just tired, that's all."

"You should be very proud," his mother says softly, certainly.

"Boyfriend, you're a superstar!"

Brooke appears out of nowhere, assaults him by flinging her arms around him in an enthusiastic hug. Her grip is tight even as she pulls away to give him a quick kiss.

Both Karen and Keith look mildly amused. They're still getting used to Brooke. Not just her bubbly personality, but also her constant presence in Lucas' life and the changes that it's brought.

"Thanks," he says with a laugh in his voice and her grin widens even more before she glances away to say hi to his mother and uncle, still clinging to him.

He thinks of how happy this scene must look to an outsider – to Peyton, who's probably almost out of the gym. On instinct, he turns back to the direction he just saw her, and to his surprise, she's still there.

She's still there, and she looks happy, genuinely and almost shyly. She's still there, and she's standing next to Jake Jagielski, having a quiet conversation.

Jake is cradling his little girl in his arms; she coos and reaches toward Peyton. He transfers his daughter into the blonde's arms. Peyton holds her closely, tenderly, looking down into her sweet little face.

Lucas feels sick. He sees now more than ever before what Peyton was looking for and what she found with Jake. They look picture perfect and happy in their own moment, they look like a family. Family, to Lucas, is love and security, and that's what he sees she's been longing for.

He could have given that to her. He would have. He would, still.

He can't take it, anymore, watching them. It tears him apart, to see how when Jake laughs and smiles, Peyton's lips twitch upward as well, mirroring his joy. It's one of the first earnest, unmonitored smiles Lucas has seen her wear in weeks.

On angry impulse, he wrenches himself out of Brooke's arms – not violently, but noticeably, and three faces peer at him curiously.

"Maybe you're right, Mom," he mutters, trying to ignore the smoldering covetousness he feels, the anger bubbling up with him, the frustration at what he's done to his life. "Maybe I am getting sick or something."

now when I caught myself

I had to stop myself

from saying something

that I should have never thought

now when I caught myself

I had to stop myself

from saying something

that I should have never thought of you

of you

He hides away in his house for a couple days. Stupid and cowardly, maybe, but he's ashamed by the mess he's made and he doesn't want to go out there and deal with it.

He's never been a liar. He hates what he's become.

Schoolwork dominates his first day, catching up on everything that he previously neglected. It occupies both his time and his mind; when his mother returns home from the café he dives back into bed and pretends that he's been sleeping all day.

Karen makes him soup and Haley comes over later in the day. She brings him more homework, everything he missed from the day, and sits down in his desk chair, studying him worriedly.

"Can you tell me what's going on?" she requests.

"I screwed up," he sighs, and it's a relief to say.

Haley sighs, sad on his behalf. "Can I help you?" her voice is quiet and her question is eager.

Lucas shakes his head and sighs again. "I don't think I can even help myself," he says with a wry smile.

"You can't hide in here forever, Luke." Haley's refraining from lecturing him, he can tell. He appreciates it.

"I know. I just…if I go out there right now I…"

"What? You what?"

"I'll probably break up with Brooke," he admits slowly, "And I might just end up punching Jake for no reason."

"Oh, Luke," Haley says sympathetically, her tone mournful, as she takes in his forlorn expression.

He buries his face in his hands. "She told me…" He resurfaces and stares at nothing, avoiding his best friend's eyes. "She told me it wasn't what she wanted. That's what she said. So I…I guess I kind of gave up. But if I'd known…"

"I know. Lucas, she was just scared."

"I was scared, too!" he explodes. "I've never been a part of their world, you know that! And she just…she scares me, the way I feel about her, but I…I told her. Did she tell you what I said to her?" he demands roughly. "Before she ran away out of nowhere?"

Haley's tone is even but he detects a bit of disapproval in the way her chin sets when she finishes speaking. "I think she holds whatever you said too close to share anything like that with me."

He nods, calming down almost instantly. "I already hurt her," he says softly. "I don't want to hurt Brooke, too."

"I know, buddy, and I'm proud of you for that," Haley replies gently. "But what about hurting yourself?"

She leaves soon afterward and he doesn't even consider leaving his sanctuary for another two days.

On the third day, he's shack-wacky and restless; he heads out to the river court when it's nearly midnight. His mom is already asleep so he doesn't have to make excuses.

Peyton's parked not far away from the court, sitting in her car, knees pulled to her chest, looking up at the stars. He blinks several times to make sure he's not imagining it.

She notices him but doesn't say a word, just waits for him to approach her car. She sits up straight, feet on the floor, and then opens the door, getting out.

"Don't you have school tomorrow?" His opening comes off as more of an accusation than a greeting.

"You do, too, but I haven't seen you drag your ass there in the past three days," she says, her tone acidic. She sighs, as if frustrated with her own defensiveness, and crosses her arms over her chest. "Brooke's worried."

He huffs. "It's not like I'm on my deathbed or anything."

"No, that's clear," she agrees sarcastically, nodding toward his basketball. "She's worried about the two of you. That she did something wrong. I agreed to talk to you."

He lifts his eyes and blurts, "Why?"

"Because I'm just that masochistic," she sighs, and this time he can't tell if she's being sarcastic or not. "And because I love her."

Definitely not sarcastic, he figures. "Oh," is all he can ay.

Peyton's eyes fill with tears and she blinks them away rapidly. "Listen…can you…can you please just…" She sighs heavily. "You're with her, right? She's who you want. So can you please just be with her, already?"

Lucas frowns. "Why?" he asks sharply, envy getting the best of him. "So you can play house with Jagielski?"

She pulls back as if he's slapped her, staring at him with stunned eyes, lips pressed tightly together. "God, I don't know why I…" she murmurs, staring at the ground and shaking her head. She glances back at him with that familiar look in her eyes, so much hurt it's palpable. "I thought you were so much different than Nathan," she whispers.

"Peyton," he says instantly, contritely. She kicks at his shin to make him take a step back and opens her door, getting back into her car.

He grips the side and leans toward her. "Hey, I'm sorry, I didn't –"

"Forget it," she says roughly, her hands shaking as she places them on the steering wheel. A single tear escapes her eye and tracks down her cheek. "I just, God, Lucas, you meant so much more to me than I ever expected you to, and I was scared, but then I thought it might just be worth it. I thought I could lo –" She stops herself, her grip on the wheel so tight that her knuckles turn white.

"Peyton." His voice is soft as he crouches down next to her Comet, so that they're nearly eye level.

"Just forget it, okay?" she snaps, cheeks blotchy and eyes hazy. "Go back to school, play some basketball, and be Brooke's boyfriend. And just forget it."

Her foot slams into the gas and she's gone, leaving him to topple over onto the asphalt now that he no longer has he car to hang on to, regret stinging more than the road rash on his palms does. He glances to the right, toward the court, and does a double take.

There, painted on the tarmac in Peyton's unmistakable style, is his jersey number, encompassed by a flaming heart. He sighs, glances toward the sky, and curses his own actions for what feels like the infinite time.

you're pushing and pulling me

down to you

but I don't know what I want

no, I don't know what I want

He decides to listen to her. It is, in a sense, the least he can do.

The next day, he goes to school. He hugs Brooke tightly when he sees her. He smiles politely as his teachers say "Glad to see you're feeling better, Lucas!" and look impressed by the load of work he hands over.

Brooke's hand finds his as they walk to class, and then her arm is around his waist. She smiles brightly up at him, standing on her tiptoes to whisper in his ear about everything she plans to do with him once this school day ends.

They find themselves walking toward Peyton and Jake, who are talking and laughing quietly. Part of him expects Peyton to take a step closer to Jake, just to infuriate him, but of course she doesn't.

He's the one who's antagonized this situation, not her.

"Hey, Luke, glad you're back, man," Jake greets him happily, neutrally.

"Thanks, Jake," he replies, hoping that his voice isn't too stiff. "Hey, Peyton."

"Luke," she says in return, lips stretching into a false smile. Her eyes are empty and hurt.

"I'll see you in Bio, right, P. Sawyer?" Brooke asks happily. She grabs Peyton's hand momentarily and squeezes, a silent thank you, her eyes flicking meaningfully in Lucas' direction.

She has no idea.

Peyton nods and Jake, sensing the tension and wishing to protect her, says, "Well, we've got to go, early review for the Geography test," and seconds later, they're gone.

He tries to dedicate himself to Brooke, to choose a goal and stick to it, to convince himself that it'll get better once he gets used to it.

For Brooke, he tells himself. For Peyton. They both want this. And so do you. He lies to himself until he's sure it'll feel like truth.

But it's nearly impossible, because the thing is: none of it should be this hard.

don't know what I want

but I know it's not you

keep pushing and pulling me down

but I know in my heart it's not you

Brooke is nearly giddy as she walks, or really skips, into last period Biology. He's never seen her so happy about a class.

"One more hour," she says, eyeing him seductively before she leaves him with Mouth and goes to sit with Peyton, "and then you are all mine." She grins sweetly and bounces off to take her seat.

The hour passes faster than he'd like. Mouth, his attention entirely consumed by the dissection they're supposed to be doing, doesn't notice that something's wrong.

Lucas allows his friend to take the reigns. He hands over the scalpel and allows himself to partially zone out.

Behind him, Haley is patiently and lovingly walking Nathan through each step of the dissection. Her voice is melodic and slow; Lucas isn't surprised when he hears his half brother yawn.

Brooke is giggling nervously, tentatively prodding at the formaldehyde-soaked body of the dead frog, grimacing and looking to Peyton, expecting a similar reaction.

She doesn't get one. Lucas hears the curly blonde say, "Let's just get this over with."

The rest of their conversation is serious and muted, it gets lost in the words of their classmates and Lucas can only hear snippets beneath Ew, ew, ew; what is that? You use that the other way, idiot. Wait, where's the spleen and where's the liver? What do you mean you lost the heart?! Under the constant babble of the others, he can't make out any of the actual words, but he can see their solemn facial expressions. Peyton's evasive, Brooke is concerned.

The unpleasant sound of one of the lab table stools scraping against the floor catches everyone's attention and they turn to look at Peyton, who is now standing.

"I feel like I'm going to faint," she states. It's a blatant lie, but she's pale enough for the teacher to buy it.

He looks alarmed. "Okay. Well. Yes. Dissections do get to those with weak stomachs, and those prone to fainting spells." Peyton grips the edge of the table and he hurries on, "Miss Davis, will you walk your friend to the nurse's office, please?"

Lucas can't control it. He stands and blurts, "I was just about to ask to go to the washroom. I'll walk with her, it's on the way," he volunteers.

The teacher nods, eyeing Lucas' muscular arms, clearly thinking about what might happen if Peyton actually collapses. "Yes, that might be best."

Brooke looks back and forth between the two of them frantically as Peyton stalks out of the room without waiting for him. Lucas smiles at her and nods toward the clock. She calms down almost instantly and grins back.

The hallway is silent and empty; nowhere to hide. She's leaning back against a row of lockers, arms crossed tightly over her chest.

"You okay?" he asks softly as he approaches her. "I mean…physically," he amends lamely when she shoots him a dirty look.

He leans back next to her, slowly, carefully. "I'm sorry," he continues. "About what I said yesterday night…I'm really sorry. I saw…I saw what you painted on the river court."

She shakes her head and makes a sound that could be a whimper of a laugh. "I told you to forget it. It doesn't mean anything," she whispers dismissively.

He gulps. "It doesn't?"

Her eyes fly over to meet his and he swears that there are honest-to-God sparks shooting up between them. "Of course it does," she says with the easiest, simplest kind of honesty.

But it shouldn't, goes unsaid.

Lucas places his palm flat against the metal surface of the lockers as he moves slowly to stand in front of her, close to her. She braces her outer foot up against the locker as well, so that her knee is bent. Their limbs create walls, encasing them momentarily in their own little world.

He leans in a bit more so that they're breathing the same air. Her hands, her fingertips, land lightly on his chest, grasping the material of his shirt.

"I'm right here," he whispers because he knows it's what she needs to hear. "I'm not leaving."

"You have to understand," she whispers breathlessly. "I don't…I don't like to need people. I'm not…ever since…" Her voice cracks. "I don't mean to be so damn complicated, I just…I didn't think that I would…feel so much, about you. With you." Her cheeks are wet but he doesn't remember seeing any tears escape. "It was more than sex, that night," she chokes out. "And I was too stupid and scared to let myself realize that. And…and now…"

"Shh," he says, effectively cutting her off. It's not too late. And even if it is, he won't let her say it, won't let it be real.

He lets her know with his eyes that he understands as he leans in further still. His nose touches hers but their lips don't meet.

Then she nods, almost imperceptibly, and after that there's no holding back.

It's a different kind of kiss. Their first was full of anger and stifled emotion, the result of a dare, and it was followed by kisses packed with so much unbridled passion that his head couldn't keep up with his heart. This is different, a good kind of different.

It's tender and it's suppressed yearning, weeks of it, coming to the surface. It starts out chaste and almost innocent and it stays that way for a couple minutes, lips moving with one another's. She nips a little bit with her teeth and he chuckles, low in his throat.

One of her hands rests gently against his cheek and that's when she opens her mouth against his; his chuckle morphs abruptly into a growl.

It was, still is, and will always be about more than sex for them, but that doesn't mean he doesn't want her that way. He does, so badly that he briefly wonders what areas of the school are not monitored by security cameras.

She has more self-restraint, or so he thinks when she pushes lightly on his chest before they get too carried away.

He grins fleetingly, heart pounding in his chest. "I know," he murmurs, his lips brushing against hers one last time. He feels the same way. He knows.

The elation in her eyes gives way to sadness much too quickly. "Do you?" she asks seriously.

"What?" His mind is still fuzzy.

"I don't think you do."

"But…we just…didn't you feel…" He can't form a complete sentence.

"You can't know," she insists, pulling her hands back and lowering her leg. "Lucas…where my head and my heart are right now…I can't even imagine doing…that…with anyone else." She glances down, blinks quickly, and then looks him in the eyes again. "I'm fine and I went home. That's what I want you to tell Brooke," she says pointedly as she slips away, words laced with bitterness and anguish.

The bell sounds seconds later, while he's still standing in the exact same position, stunned.

Brooke slips smoothly into the spot where Peyton just stood, as if it's where she's meant to be. "Hey, hero," she greets him affectionately, eyes bright and tone teasing. "I think it's time you got awarded for all your good deeds," she adds suggestively.

And when she kisses him it's different, but not in a good way, not anymore.

now when I caught myself

I had to stop myself

from saying something

that I should have never thought

For the first time in years, he's madly disappointed that his mother isn't home when he gets back from school. Brooke smirks; "Looks like we have the place to ourselves, boyfriend," and he hopes the smile he gives her in return appears genuine.

"You know, I might still be contagious." He offers up his pathetic excuse as she pushes him back on his bed and straddles him.

Brooke ignores that. "Nah, you're not," she insists, leaning down and fusing her lips to his. "Besides, I've missed you so much," she adds, sitting up a little and unbuttoning her shirt.

"Brooke," he sighs, and she stops with her shirt halfway off.

"What's with you?" she laughs, still unaware that anything is wrong. "You weren't nervous the first time we did this," she says, kinking her eyebrows, "So what gives?"

"I just…I still don't feel…one hundred percent…better."

"I'll be gentle," she purrs, bending over and kissing a trail from his shoulder upward his ear. She pulls back abruptly and frowns. "Luke. Relax."

He's got nothing left but the truth.

"I can't," he says.

now when I caught myself

I had to stop myself

from saying something

that I should have never thought of you

She sits up, pulls one leg from off of him that they're side by side, and tugs her shirt back up one of her arms. "Excuse me?" she asks. He's no longer amusing, but annoying and a little insulting.

"I can't," he repeats softly, apologetically, sitting up.

"What do you mean, like you…can't?" she asks, eyebrows sky high, gaze drifting toward his crotch.

"No! No, I mean I just…you and me…"

"What?" she breathes out in shock, and he can see her starting to fall apart already.

"Brooke…I'm sorry. You're beautiful, and you're amazing, and you've been so good to me…" He places his hand tentatively on her thigh; she slaps it off, scrambles off the bed, shaking her head and doing the buttons of his shirt back up before she grabs for her sweater.

"You jerk," she seethes. "You complete asshole." Tears are sparkling in her eyes. "Dammit, God, I didn't want to do this, but you were…you were different. I thought you were different, you're supposed to be different!" She yells, but her last words fade to a whisper.

"Brooke," he tries, reaching out to her, but she stalks out with a disgusted glance, slamming the door.

And it's done. He doesn't feel very good about himself. He feels awful because he knows that she does.

He doesn't know where Brooke will go to seek recovery, but he knows what his destination is.

I knew

I know in my heart it's not you

I know

but now I know what I want

Half an hour later he's letting himself into Peyton Sawyer's house.

It's dark and quiet on the bottom floor; he finds himself wondering if she's even there – he hears no noise from any location. Her car is in the driveway and there's a light on in her bedroom window, though he guesses that doesn't necessarily mean she's home.

He makes his way up the stairs cautiously, softly calling, "Peyton?"

He doesn't get a response.

Lucas makes his way down the hallway toward her room. The door is closed; he taps on it softly and gets no reply.

"Peyton?" he calls, pushing it open and stepping in.

Catching the movement out of the corner of her eye, she whirls around, and for a moment they're stuck in a staring contest.

She obviously just took a shower; her curls are wet and piled atop her head in a messy bun. But what really gives it away is that fact that she's not wearing anything other than a short, deep purple towel wrapped around her body. Her skin is still wet, glistening with water droplets, and he wonders if maybe they should save this conversation for a time when the only thought on his mind isn't wow.

Peyton clutches the towel tighter to her body and whispers, "What are you doing here?"

It takes effort to focus only on her face. "I needed to see you."

Her frown is deep; a drop of water trails down her cheek and tumbles from her chin to the floor, but he doesn't know if it's a tear or not. "Can't you just let this go?"

"I broke it off with Brooke." Like ripping off a Band-Aid, he decides. It's the only way.

Her grip on her towel slackens, her hands loosening with shock. "What? You…what?"

Now that he's gotten started, there's no stopping, and he takes a couple hurried steps toward her, shaking his head and looking her right in the eye. "It's just…it's you, you know? It was wrong of me to think otherwise. To make you and Brooke think otherwise."

She's blushing, not in her cheeks but across her chest, redness spreading along her collarbone and out toward both shoulders.

"Peyton," he says softly, but her gaze remains fixed on the floor for a moment longer.

"It's just…" She looks up at him; her eyes are the deep, dark green of desire, coated by a layer of tears. "It's too much, Lucas. I don't want to do this again. It's too hard and it hurts too bad and there are too many people involved and too many hearts at risk and it's…it's too late. I don't want it to be, but it is, and it's at least half my own fault."

He takes another two steps toward her and asks, his voice low and gravelly, "Do you really mean that?"

Her jaw sets and her expression hardens. "It doesn't matter what I mean."

Lucas shakes his head, remembering her words from earlier. "Of course it does," he says, closing his hand softly over hers, fingers dipping just below her towel. He hears her breath catch in her throat. "I'll be the first person to admit just how fucked up things have gotten, and what a huge role I played in all of it, but you and me…us, that's different," he insists. He looks deep into her eyes and sees nothing but good things staring back at him. "If it's really too late…well, I'll believe it when you mean it." He juts his chin forward, challenging her. "So say it like you mean it, Peyton."

She looks as lost in him as he feels lost in her. "I can't," she hisses, her voice not even a whisper, after a long silence.

He wraps an arm around her waist instantly, tugging her close to him, and captures her lips with his.

I want

I want

Her hand escapes from beneath his and he doesn't even think as his hand slips under the knot that's holding her towel up and kneads her breast. They moan into each other's mouths at the exact same instant. He smirks against her lips and their teeth hit each other's as she smiles as well, suddenly mischievous. He learns why seconds later when her fingers smoothly unbutton and unzip his jeans, pushing them downward. He pulls back, eyes wide, and she shrugs innocently, her towel slipping downward the slightest bit.

"You've got more layers on than I do," she whispers. "Not fair."

Lucas grins wider than he'd known was possible. He kicks off his shoes, steps out of his jeans, and lets her pull his t-shirt over his head without protest.

Then he tackles her – gently – but so suddenly that she gaps and giggles all at once, the sweetest, most girly sound he's ever heard her make. She ends up on her back on her bed, tangled curls dampening the pillow, spread out like a halo, as he kisses her neck.

Her index finger and thumb have closed around her towel again; the knot came undone when he grabbed her and if she lets go it'll fall open. She looks up at him, tilting her head to the side, stars in her eyes. "Are we really going to do this?" she asks breathlessly.

His fingers trace upward, playing along her towel from her hip, gently tracing a path, until they land over hers, gripping the towel as well. "God, yes," he breathes back.

"Not just that," she corrects him seriously. "I mean…are we…are we really…"

Lucas smiles reassuringly at her and repeats, "God, yes."

She moves her hands; one traces across his abs as the other cups his cheek gently. He's left holding her towel covering her, and he knows that she trusts him.

He is literally just about to let go when the phone rings. He groans, burying his face in her neck and letting his body press into hers. She laughs at him at first, but her amusement fades away as she shifts her legs, carefully matching her hips perfectly to his. He can feel her chest heaving under his own as she makes a small, pleased sound, kissing his cheek.

You've reached Peyton Sawyer, her wry voice greets on the answering machine. Congratulations.

"Luke," she whispers longingly, ignoring it.

P. Sawyer. It's Brooke's voice, full of tears, and needless to say, it effectively kills the mood. Peyton's attention is caught by something else and Lucas watches as the emotions in her eyes shift.

P., Lucas…he broke up with me, out of nowhere, and I…She sobs and both blondes wince. I was stupid. I knew he was into you, but then you said you guys weren't…and I…I was stupid, Peyton. He's a jerk, but the thing is, I really thought he wasn't. I know how you feel now, Peyton, I…this really hurts and it just sucks and I…She sighs as she calms down. I don't know where you are, but I really need you. Can you please call? She pauses. P., I really…I don't want to think that you're with him right now, but I…look, please just call me, okay?

There's a moment of silence, realization, and loss before Lucas can look at her again. It takes another few seconds for her to look at him.

"We can't," she whispers, her voice hoarse, and this time she means it. "She's my best friend, Luke."

He knows what she's saying. Enough damage has been done.

He kisses the hollow of her throat as if that might help dissolve the lump there, the sobs waiting to happen, and slowly pulls back, rolling off of her. They stare at the ceiling and not at each other.

oh no

"I should go," he mutters. "You need to go see her."

"Yeah," she whispers back, though neither of them even thinks of moving.

"Are you…are you going to tell her…?" he trails off.

"Nothing," she replies firmly. She sounds a little choked up. "We're going to eat ice cream and watch Titanic and Beaches and talk about what an ass you are, and I'm going to tell her nothing."

He's relieved, and he nods. "I should go," he repeats, and really means it.

Her hand moves, reaching for his, and holds on tight. "Wait," she says. "Just wait."

Lucas strokes her knuckles gently with his thumb as tears roll down her cheeks toward her ears, and he sees her small, sad smile.

He knows that she knows how sorry he is.

I should have never thought

The next day she's walking arm and arm with Brooke at school again, and it makes him happy to see. One relationship salvaged, saved, and made a little stronger. He's glad.

They both give him dirty looks as they pass him, and he knows that they both mean them, at least to a certain degree.

A CD falls to the floor as the stalk off, hair bouncing on their shoulders. He bends, picks it up. He doesn't dare call after them.

Its cover is dark purple, similar to the colour of Peyton's towel the previous night. He reads the list of songs and sees some of his favourites, some he's never heard of, some that scream her name.

He flips it over and reads the title, written artistically and certainly: Someday.

He nods to himself and places it inside his locker delicately.

Someday sounds good. It's open and possible and hopeful, but vague enough to allow time to pass. And that's what he needs, most of all: time.

Both girls made the same point, and a sleepless night has made him realize how right they both were. He's different, and not necessarily in a good way. He needs to find his way back and they need to heal their hearts.

They thought he was a good guy. And in all honesty, so did he.

One day, he'll know himself again and be honest about what he wants, and there won't be any tears or Biology class breakdowns, no midnight fights at the river court, no forgetting which cheerleader he's supposed to be ogling, no sudden trysts interrupted by a brokenhearted phone call.

One day, it'll be him and her, music and laughter and sarcasm, short skirts to tease him and road trips just because, comfortable silences and perfect conversations, kisses that aren't hidden and are allowed to mean all that they feel.

He doesn't know when, exactly, but someday.

Recovery is a funny thing.