A/N: Oneshot that's pretty self-explanatory. I don't know where it came from, but I wrote it and had to post.

----

The doctor told him it was a rare situation that he'd never seen before, but that didn't put Lucas' mind at ease at all.

All he knew was that she was gone.

He should have cried. He should have fallen apart. He should have been cursing the universe and pounding his fists.

But since he heard the words, "I'm sorry", he'd been staring into space. Haley appeared at his side, worried when she saw the doctor approach him, and she heard the news, and she let out a sob and quickly covered her mouth with her hand.

She listened as the doctor explained that they were lucky to have saved the baby, but Lucas didn't hear anything.

He walked away from his best friend and she knew better than to follow him. She didn't think she could have if she'd tried. Nathan and Brooke rounded the corner just in time to see Lucas disappear through the doors at the end of the hall, and they knew something was wrong. Not only was Haley in tears, but it should have been the happiest day of Lucas' life, and he'd just left without a word.

Brooke's bottom lip began to tremble, and Haley took her into her arms, but she knew it wouldn't bring enough comfort. She tried to explain the situation, but it was a struggle, because she really felt there was no explanation.

Lucas was in the parking lot when it hit him. He fell to the ground, stricken by an onslaught of grief and anger and just raw, unbearable pain. And there, on his knees next to his car, he felt everything shift. Everything changed.

He'd never truly known a world without her. He'd never existed without her. Even when they weren't together, he knew where she was and how she was.

But she died. She was gone, and he was stuck on a planet and in a life that he didn't know how to live without her.

----

It was a Tuesday when she was buried, and Lucas was stoic, but everyone could see he was breaking. He stood next to her crying father, and among their crying friends, but he stared straight ahead and he couldn't breakdown. He couldn't. He wouldn't let himself.

Haley wanted to hold his hand and talk to him, but he had his mother next to him, and so she stood there, letting tears fall in waves. Brooke was on one side and clutching Haley's hand as Julian stood behind her with a hand on her shoulder; it was almost forgotten in the shuffle that he'd loved that blonde girl, too.

Haley needed her husband, and her son, and she needed to be held by the man who'd promised to always protect her. He couldn't protect her from this, but she knew he'd try, and she needed to know he was still there. She felt a tear fall from his cheek onto her hair, and it just kept hitting her more and more how devastated they all were.

And yet still, the only one not crying was Lucas. He didn't shake hands or accept condolences. He didn't attend the gathering afterward. He went home to his room, and he lay on his bed, and he did his crying there, like he'd done since she left.

The next three days, he didn't change his clothes or shower or leave his bed for anything other than to use the washroom. He barely ate and he didn't sleep. The first night he woke up and reached out for her, he had to relive the moment he was told she was gone, and it was just easier not to sleep, than to wake up to such a harsh realization.

His doors were locked from the inside and even the people who had sets of keys couldn't get in. Haley frantically knocked, and Nathan tried. Karen spoke through the door and tried to explain that she knew exactly what he was going through.

He knew, in his heart, that she did. Of course she did. But no one knew Peyton like he did, and he was afraid of going out into the world without her; scared that everything would look different and worse and just less, and he couldn't face it.

----

He saw his son only once, that first night he was born. He'd driven to the hospital in the middle of the night, and tearfully pleaded with the nurses to let him see his baby. It was a small town and they knew what had happened, and they would have let him through no matter what. He was just so broken. When he saw one of the nurses wiping her cheek, he wondered if anyone would ever look at him normally again. Would he always get those sympathetic stares?

The baby was sleeping in that big room with all those other babies. He watched his son's little chest breathe in and out, and he saw that the baby was still unnamed. The placard on his bassinet read only Baby Scott, and Lucas' already fragile heart broke a little more. She wouldn't want that.

They'd decided on a name months ago, but when he thought about it again, he knew that he couldn't not have a piece of her namesake there. Not now. And so when he saw the nurse, he told her he had a name, and she smiled a genuine smile that made him feel like a real father for the first time.

Charles Nathan Sawyer Scott.

But it hurt too much after that night, and he was grieving for the mother of that tiny little person, and he just couldn't take care of their baby and himself. Thoughts of how excited she'd been to spend those first few months just the three of them didn't help.

They'd never be three.

----

Haley had gone to the hospital every day. The mother in her needed to look at that baby boy and watch over him. She'd spoken with Karen, and they each agreed that they couldn't leave that little boy in the hospital any longer. Lucas was still locked in his house, and while they tried to understand that, they needed him to see that there was something that was both bigger and smaller than him.

Brooke had overheard Haley and Karen speaking, and she'd stormed out of the house.

She'd been near inconsolable. She and Larry had spent an entire day, sitting together at that stop light in the middle of town. They barely spoke. They just held hands and cried, and no one in the town had to ask why.

She tapped on Lucas' door like only she could, and she was more than a little surprised when he actually opened it. He didn't say a word. He just unlocked the door and pulled it open enough to let her know she could come in, and then he went back to his bed.

He knew she would understand. Brooke, of all people, would get it. She was the only other person who knew Peyton almost as well as he did, and she'd lost her just as quickly as he had. They'd forever be bonded by this loss above anything else they'd been through.

"He needs to get out of that hospital," she said softly, sitting on the edge of the bed.

Their eyes didn't meet. She didn't apologize for his loss. She didn't tell him everything would be OK. She didn't baby him. She didn't do any of the things that people had been doing for her in the days prior. He was thankful.

"I can't," he whispered, feeling the tears ready to fall. He looked up at her just in time for their eyes to lock, and it was the first time in days that he felt like anyone was on his side.

She just nodded her head. She understood it, even if she didn't agree with it.

"I will," she insisted. She watched him for a moment as he seemingly thought it over, and then it was his turn to nod.

"OK."

Tears fell from both their eyes, and he took her hand in his, and they sat like that for at least an hour, crying over the girl they both loved in very different ways.

----

Karen and Haley could only shake their heads at the selflessness of Brooke Davis when she told them she'd be watching over Charles until Lucas was ready. They didn't know how she could do it, and insisted they wouldn't have been able to.

But she took that little baby home, and she placed him in the crib in the room that used to belong to his mother, and she hovered over him like it was her sole job to do so.

He was a beautiful baby. Blonde hair and blue eyes like his father, but the rest is all Peyton; her nose and her lips and the shape of his face. He didn't fuss much, and Brooke was almost thankful that he wasn't old enough to understand any of this. But then she thought of him growing up without his mother, and she had to change his onesie because her tears had soaked through it as she rocked him back and forth.

The first night the baby was there, Julian didn't say much. He just watched Brooke from his place on the sofa in the house they shared. She was pacing back and forth and mumbling things in a sweet voice. He didn't know what to say, so he didn't say anything.

"Are you...are you OK with this?" she asked, bouncing the tiny baby in her arms gently, though he was asleep. She needed the action more than he did.

"What?" Julian asked in shock as he stood from his place.

"I mean...he's...he's a part of her, and you loved her, and...I said I'd take care of him before even talking to you," she said, unable to stop the tears from falling.

"Him being a part of her is exactly why I'm OK with this," he said sadly, feeling a lump form in his own throat. "And yes, I loved her, but I love you. And you need him as much as he needs you."

She just nodded and ran her hand over that tiny baby's belly as she held him as close to her body as she could. Julian watched with a heavy heart as the woman he loved dealt with the greatest loss of her life. She'd lost her best friend, her sister, and he knew there was nothing he could do to help her through it, other than just be there.

So he would be there.

Her eyes locked with his once more and fresh tears were falling, so he pulled her against him as gently as he could, keeping in mind the little person she was cradling.

"I just want her back," she sobbed. "I just want her back."

-----

Another four days, and they started to get worried. Lucas had turned to scotch in the evenings - thankfully only the evenings - and was still only leaving his house when he had to.

They'd all seen Charles, and they'd all acknowledged, without really speaking it, that the boy's father was breaking, but still should have been there. It should have been his house, and his nursery that Peyton had decorated with the perfect little blue patterns on the walls. He should have been the one noting his son's weight gain and getting to know his personality. But he hadn't so much as stopped in, and save for a few voicemails Brooke had left with friendly assurances that the baby was doing fine, he knew nothing.

Nathan had had enough. As a father, he couldn't see how Lucas could do what he was doing, especially after what had happened to him as a child. He wouldn't explain it like that, because he knew that wasn't what his brother needed. But someone needed to get through to him, and being gentle wasn't working.

He stepped into the house, surprised to see Lucas sitting at the kitchen table, nursing a glass of water. On any other day, it would have seemed normal. But this time, the house was eerily quiet, and Lucas was wearing jeans and a tee shirt instead of the sweats he'd been wearing for over a week, and Nathan thought that just maybe he was starting to heal.

"You need to see Charlie," Nathan said before either had said another word.

He'd already bestowed upon his nephew the nickname he'd discussed with his sister-in-law. When she'd first told him of the name - a secret only between them, since she hadn't told anyone else - he'd told her he'd be calling that kid Charlie, and she had laughed and said that his uncle Nathan could call him anything he liked.

Lucas' heart tightened in his chest at the mention of his son. He wanted to be a father more than anything, but it was all different now. He didn't know if he could do it alone, and he certainly couldn't do it right now.

He just shook his head, and Nathan let out a soft sigh.

"She wouldn't want this," he insisted, running a hand through his dark hair. "She wouldn't want you like this."

"You don't get to say what she would or wouldn't want!" Lucas shouted, locking eyes with his brother.

"Come on, Luke," Nathan pleaded, shaking his head. "She was my best friend, too."

"She didn't die having your baby," Lucas spat.

"No, she didn't," Nathan conceded, though there was anger in his voice. "But that baby needs his father, and you've gotta get past this."

"I don't think I can," Lucas said dejectedly.

"Don't you get it?" Nathan asked in frustration. "He's a part of her. He's what you have left of her, and you're ignoring him because of the pain. I get it, Luke, I do. But he's Peyton's. He's hers."

Lucas had seen his brother cry before, a couple times. Since they'd grown closer, they'd been there for each other and they didn't tend to hide their emotions in times like this.

But the tear that fell from Nathan's eye still caught Lucas by surprise, and it was then that Lucas realized that he wasn't the only one that lost her. He and Brooke and Larry may have felt it just that little bit more, but everyone else had lost someone, too.

But it only lasted a second before he was thinking about how he knew her, and more importantly, how she knew him, and he knew that no one would feel the loss like he was.

He managed to keep it together until his brother left, and then he was crying again, because he missed her and he wanted her, and he knew that baby was his to take care of, but it was just too hard. He knew she'd be mad at him if she saw him acting like that, but he was still mad at her for leaving him, and he just...couldn't.

-----

It was another two days before Lucas found the voicemail on his phone that he hadn't realized was there. It was her, only hours before she went into labour, calling on her way home from the grocery store and telling him she ran into Q's mom, and how she offered her congratulations. He heard her sweet voice saying that she and Charles would be home soon so Daddy could take care of them, and then she said she loved him and hung up.

He realized a few things as he listened to that message on repeat over and over. Other people had felt loss and gotten past it. He had a beautiful son that he'd wanted all his life, and he was a part of her; Charles was the best gift she'd ever given him. He was a daddy.

And he would take care of that little boy.

He wasn't surprised when Julian pulled open the door, but Julian was surprised that Lucas was standing on the other side. The two men exchanged a look that might have been the best and most honest conversation they'd ever had. It was full of understanding and apologies and it felt like a fresh start. Julian knew what Lucas was there for, and he was actually proud of the man for finally realizing what everyone else had been waiting for all along.

"She just put him down," Julian explained, pointing towards the bedroom down the hall.

"Thank you," Lucas said sincerely, and they both knew it was for much more than he could even put into words.

He walked down the hall and stood in the doorway of the bedroom, and he watched as Brooke stood at the side of the crib with her chin in her hand as she stared down at the little baby boy she already loved more than anything. She didn't hear him come in, and when he moved to stand next to her, she was surprised.

She just let out a sigh that might have been a little laugh, and he smiled weakly, and she nodded in acknowledgment of the huge step he'd just taken.

And then he looked down at the slumbering baby in the crib, and she watched as he came face to face with his son for the first time. He teared up again, in turn making her tear up, but for the first time in ages, they were tears of joy.

"He looks like her," he whispered, and Brooke wrapped her arms around his waist.

She'd noticed it, too.

"Yeah," she whispered back.

She picked up the infant and handed him to his father, and Lucas, after minutes of staring at his son, looked up at Brooke. He wanted to speak the right words and thank her, but he didn't know if there really was such a thing as the right words, and if there was, he didn't trust himself to find them. She just smiled and shook her head, because he didn't need to thank her.

----

"Charlie!" Lucas shouts, in an attempt to get the perpetually slow-moving boy out the door.

"Coming!" he calls back, rushing down the hall with a smile on his face.

He's a happy 5-year-old, with a head of unruly curls and blue eyes like his father. He's funny and clever, and he's already reading at a 3rd grade level - something to thank his author daddy for. He gets his way more than he should because he's inherited his mothers' ability to wrap Lucas around his finger.

He's spoiled absolutely rotten. Aunts and uncles and grandma and grandpa give him more than everything he needs or wants, but he doesn't take anything for granted. He's thankful for even the smallest of gifts, and Lucas thinks people might give him so much because the boy has a smile like no other.

And when he hugs you, he holds on as tightly as he can. He gets that from his mother, too.

"So, what do you want to do today?" Lucas asks with a smirk as he pours the last of his coffee down the drain.

The wedding band he's moved to his right hand, but still wears, clinks against the ceramic mug, and he thinks of her again.

He's always thinking of her.

"It's Saturday!" Charlie says, as though it's obvious what they're going to do. Lucas laughs and lifts his son into his arms and kisses the boy's forehead.

It's a routine they haven't missed, not once, since the boy was a newborn. They buckle into the car and go see mommy, and they take turns telling her about their weeks. Charlie's just recently asked for alone time to talk to her, and Lucas wonders how he's inherited so much from her, having never met her. He'd sit at that cemetery for hours if you'd let him.

It's a beautiful summer day, and they'll go to the River Court and meet Nathan, Jamie and Julian - just like every other Saturday - when they're done visiting everyone they need to visit.

Keith is always first, since he's closest to the car, and Charlie smiles obliviously as Lucas kneels in front of the stone. The boy doesn't quite understand just who Keith is yet, but he doesn't complain about anything, and he's content to wait until his dad takes his hand and they walk to the next stone that's engraved with their last name.

They bring flowers every week that they always pick out together, and they sit cross-legged on the grass and tell stories. Ever since he was a baby, Charlie's always, at some point during the visit, placed his palm flat on the stone and closed his eyes for a moment.

It still just about makes Lucas cry every time, because it's not a learned behaviour, it's an innate one, and he doesn't know where it came from.

Lucas takes a few flowers from the bunch, just as he does every Saturday, and he walks to her mother's grave so Charlie can talk to Peyton by himself. Lucas stands back and watches the boy speak, though he can't hear the words.

He gets curious, though, so he walks slowly towards his boy and he hears the tail end of the conversation.

"...me and Daddy are gonna love you forever, Mommy."

And if he's ever needed a sign that she's watching over them, it's moments like that that prove it.

-Fin-