A/N: This is a new chapter story that I've got almost entirely written. It won't be a long one; 10-13 chapters at most.
Basically, this is an AU story, based on what could have been, had Lucas never joined the Ravens, and how different everything would have turned out. I think anything else you need to know will be revealed along the way.
It started out innocently enough. A mid-day accidental meeting in a cemetery, of all places. It was cool and cloudy, and it felt like rain, and when those first few drops fell, he was going to leave. But he couldn't. It wasn't that he couldn't leave her there by herself, it was that he didn't want to miss out on a chance to talk to her. And it had always been that way between them, but he'd get scared or nervous or shy. Even now, as a grown man, he felt his hands clamming up a little at just the sight of her. They'd never had a proper conversation - not once - though he'd watched her from afar for so many years. Too many years.
He was surprised she was even in town. He knew she didn't live there anymore, instead choosing to live with her fiancée in Charlotte.
Fiancée. She was engaged. To his brother, though he knew that the other man would never acknowledge that they were, in fact, related.
His phone rang, and his girlfriend's name flashed across the screen, but he hit ignore. The sound of his phone called that beautiful blonde's attention to him, and she offered a small smile from across the grass. He raised his hand to wave, and then the thunder clapped, and they both looked skyward and began to chuckle.
"Think that's a sign?" she called, watching as he tilted his head questioningly.
He stood from his spot and made his way towards her. It wasn't more than 50 feet, but it felt like his legs weren't moving at all. He was more confident than he'd been as a teenager, stealing glances at her in the hallways of their high school, but he was still a little nervous.
"A sign?" he asked as she stood.
"You and me in the same place, thunder strikes," she rattled off. "Can't mean anything good."
"You don't even know me," he said with a smirk.
She knew that smirk. His brother had the same one.
"I know of you," she pointed out. The thunder struck again and she looked skyward before meeting his eyes. "Definitely a sign."
He laughed and shook his head.
"I should go before it starts to pour," he said.
There was something about her that he just didn't want to tear himself away from. Maybe he couldn't. Something about her was just screaming 'don't leave me', and he would have thought he was crazy, but that feeling was just so strong that he couldn't ignore it. She stuffed her hands in her pockets and looked at her feet, but made no move to leave.
"You want to...? I mean, if you're not busy, we could grab a coffee or something," she said quietly.
"Um...yeah," he agreed, nodding slightly. "I mean, if that's not going to cause problems for you."
"Problems?" she asked.
"With Nathan," he specified.
"I know how to handle Nathan. I've been doing it for 6 years," she said with a laugh as they started walking.
They were silent as they headed towards the nearest coffee shop, each of them wondering why now, and why here, and just why. It had been four years since they graduated high school, and he hadn't ever even been aware that she knew who he was. The last time he even saw her was probably two years prior, in the hot summer sun when she was at the beach with Nathan. He suspected they were home from Duke for the summer. He'd walked back the direction he came in order to avoid an awkward encounter. It would have bothered him, but he'd been doing it for as log as he could remember; all his life, really. He was the illegitimate son of the man who became mayor, and his existence was seen as nothing more than an inconvenience for his 'father'. Nathan had been raised to hate him, and so the two steered clear of each other; an impressive feat in such a small town.
"Who were you visiting?" she asked abruptly, turning to look at him.
"My uncle. Keith," he explained.
"Oh. Of course," she said, shaking her head at her inability to remember that detail. But Nathan had never been close to Keith, and she remembered him complaining at even having to go to the funeral. It was one of those moments that had made her wonder what kind of person he was, to question going to a family members' funeral.
"You?" he asked. He wasn't sure how he could tell, but he knew that she was thinking about something heavy.
"My mom. She died when I was little," she said, tucking a curl behind her ear. "Car accident."
"Keith, too," he nodded, though he suspected she already knew that. "I guess when it's your time, it's your time."
"Yeah, I guess," she said absently.
"Peyton, if this is too weird, or whatever, we don't have to...I mean, I won't be insulted," Lucas said hurriedly after another few moments of silence.
"It's not...weird, I mean," she insisted, before realizing that her stuttering did nothing to prove her statement true. The smile he gave her set her at ease, because she knew that he, too, understood that it was a little bit weird. Just a little bit.
They stepped into the small coffee shop, both relieved to find that there weren't many people inside. He asked what she'd like, and he ordered while she chose a table. He set her drink in front of her a few minutes later, as he took a seat across from her.
"Tall decaf mocha, extra foam," he announced with a smile.
"Thanks," she said happily. "What about you?"
"What about me?" he asked, watching as she pointed to his cup. "Just a black coffee. Kind of boring."
"Not boring," she insisted. "Not boring at all, actually."
Their eyes locked, and for a moment they each forgot about their significant others. His girlfriend wasn't in this town somewhere, wondering why he hadn't answered her call, and her fiancée wasn't at the beach house they had just bought - well, he had just bought - knowing that he shouldn't expect her visit to the cemetery to be quick.
"So," they both said at the same time, attempting to break that moment. They each laughed and he gestured for her to go first.
"Who called earlier?" she asked. It was brazen and completely unlike her to be so nosey. If anyone could understand the need to keep things private, it was her. But something in her just wanted to know.
"Oh," he said, just slightly taken aback. "It was my girlfriend."
"Oh!" she said quickly.
"Surprised?" he laughed.
"Oh, no. I didn't mean..."
"It's OK. Trust me, I didn't see it coming either," he laughed, rubbing the back of his neck with his hand as he shook his head.
"So who's the girl?" she asked, taking a sip of her coffee.
"You remember Haley James?" he asked, watching as her eyes went wide.
"Valedictorian, tutor, smartest girl in school, Haley James?"
"The one and only," he confirmed. "She went to Stanford, and I went to UNC, but we just kind of fell into it, you know? Best friends forever and then something changed. We've been together almost two years, I guess."
"That's great," she said with a genuine smile.
"Yeah, it is. She's a teacher and I'm a coach. Both working at Tree Hill High," he said, laughing.
"Funny, how surprising life can be sometimes," she said sincerely.
And he wasn't sure what she meant by that, or why her green eyes locked with his in that moment, but he didn't really care. It was the truest sentence he'd heard in ages, and it was possibly the simplest. It felt philosophical and heavy somehow. He got the feeling that she meant much more than she hoped he'd pick up on
"So, how's Nathan?" he asked quietly.
He always regretted that he never knew his brother. They'd lived completely different lives, and he was fine with that, to a degree. He still wished that he knew the man with whom he shared a blood relation. They'd barely spoken since they turned 9.
"He's good. We're just here until training camp starts," she explained. "Then it's back to Charlotte."
She'd been with Nathan since they were in high school, and she'd followed him to Duke willingly. She loved him. She'd loved him since they were 16 years old and just discovering what that emotion was. He was cocky and arrogant, and she thought she might just hate him most of the time, but he was different with her. They'd have their battles and arguments, but he'd apologize - sincerely, most of the time - and all would be forgiven. And he'd changed a lot as he grew up, eventually turning into the kind of man she'd always known he could be. He proposed right before they graduated from Duke. It was a simple proposal, with a few flowers and a few candles, and her gorgeous boyfriend down on one knee as soon as she'd stepped through the door after class. She'd started crying and thrown her arms around him before even looking at the ring.
"It doesn't surprise me that he's playing pro," Lucas said with a shadow of a smile that he really wished he didn't have to hide. He was proud of his brother, though he knew the man didn't care.
"Yeah," she agreed. "It's all he ever worked for."
"What about you?" he asked.
"What about me?" she inquired with a shrug. "I'm Nathan Scott's girlfriend."
"You're more than that," he insisted under his breath. He hated that she felt that way; no one should feel that.
"You know, I never really understood why he didn't make an effort to get to know you," she said, brushing off his comment, though the blush on her cheeks let him know she heard him.
"Yeah. Me neither," he admitted sadly.
She just looked at him and offered a weak smile, and then explained that she had to get going, and that she might see him around.
She walked away and he sat, completely confused as to what had just happened between them.
It started out innocently enough. She was wandering through the halls of the school she'd be teaching at in a couple weeks' time. Her arms were full and she had a coffee in her hand and her phone to her ear. She was looking down when she crashed into a hard body. Her things fell to the floor, and her coffee splashed on whoever she'd hit.
"I'm so sorry!" she cried, bending down to pick up her things. A hand reached out to help her, and when she looked up and saw the face of the man she'd run into, she just rolled her eyes. "Or maybe not."
"I'm sorry. I wasn't paying attention," he said sincerely.
"I can get this myself. I don't need your help," she said curtly. "What are you even doing here?"
He didn't need to wonder how she knew him. He didn't want to sound conceited, but pretty much everyone in the town knew him. Her animosity, however, he would have liked to call into question.
"They're retiring my jersey. I just came to go over a few things," he explained, handing her a few books as she stood. "Lucky my meeting happened before you branded me with scalding coffee."
His attempted joke didn't amuse her. And actually, she felt a little bad for spilling the liquid on his nice navy blue button down shirt.
"I'm sorry," she repeated, closing her eyes and actually showing her remorse. "I think I have a tee shirt in class room. I mean...if you want."
"I don't think it'll fit me," he said with a smirk.
She knew that smirk. His brother had the same one.
"It's a mens' tee shirt," she said with a laugh. "Come on. I insist."
"It's Haley, right?" he asked as they started walking.
"Wow. Nathan Scott knows my name?" she said sarcastically.
"I remember you," he admitted. "Valedictorian, really smart. Stanford, right?"
She just looked up at him in shock. How did he know that? She was sure that he didn't even know she existed, let alone what her name was or where she went to school. She noticed the grin playing on his lips, and for some reason, it made her let her guard down. Could it be that he'd changed? She knew it was too soon to say, but there was a hint of softness to him that she didn't remember being there when she'd last seen him as a cocky 18 year old.
"I remember more than you'd think," he pointed out.
"Apparently," she muttered.
"Can I help you with anything?" he asked, watching as she struggled to keep her stack of books in her arms.
"I'm fine, thanks," she answered, careful to look straight ahead.
"Let me buy you a soda from the vending machine. It's the least I could do," he insisted, flashing her those blue eyes that she was sure he used to get whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted.
But they worked.
"Alright," she sighed dramatically, making him chuckle as they moved to stand in front of the machine. "Coke, please."
"Yeah, I figured you'd need the caffeine," he said with a smile as he pushed the appropriate buttons. "I mean, since the rest of it is on my shirt."
"I'm really sorry," she said again.
"It's alright," he laughed, handing her her drink.
They were quiet the rest of the way until they stepped into her classroom. She'd never been a fan of Nathan Scott's. He was arrogant and conceited and mean-spirited, and to top it all off, his complete disregard for Lucas' existence infuriated her. She never understood why he couldn't just let the past live in the past and get to know his brother. She knew that Dan Scott had a huge part in that, but certainly when Nathan grew up and began making his own choices, he could have made an effort.
She set down her things before reaching for a bag in the closet. She pulled out the light blue fabric and tossed it to him.
"I can't wear this," he said with a breathy chuckle as he held up the garment.
"What? Why?" she asked hurriedly.
"Because I went to Duke," he explained. "I can't be seen in a Tar Heels shirt. Where did you even get this?"
"It's my boyfriend's," she admitted, immediately regretting saying it. She took the shirt out of his hands and dropped it back into her bag.
"Really?" he asked, surprise etched on his face.
"Is it that inconceivable that I could have a boyfriend?" she asked incredulously, placing a hand on her hip.
"No!" he answered quickly. "No, not at all. Who's the guy?"
"You don't know him," she said curtly, knowing that her statement was true.
"All the more reason to tell me about him," he said with a sly grin.
She let out a sigh and rolled her eyes, then looked at him pointedly.
"His name is Lucas," she said, her tone surprisingly even and steady, considering her current mood and the emotions she was feeling. She looked at him trying to read his reaction, and it was pretty simple. She wasn't sure she'd ever read Nathan Scott so clearly in her life.
When she and Lucas had first kissed, it was a bit of an unexpected and awkward moment. She was crying over some musician who'd broken her heart, and she'd returned to Tree Hill for her reading break, and fallen into Lucas' arms as he consoled her. He told her that she deserved better, and that any man who ended up with her was lucky. He told her she'd find the one who'd hold her heart as carefully as he could, and she'd smiled up at him. That moment, with her cheeks wet with tears and her big brown eyes gazing into his, he realized that he wanted to be that man. She must have felt the same, because she kissed him first. She'd apologized and tried to leave his room, but he grabbed her by the arm before she could go, and they spent the rest of her break together, inseparable. The long distance didn't faze them, and when they both returned to Tree Hill, she moved into the house he'd bought the year before. They were happy, and they both loved that they'd fallen in love with their best friend. Other people search for that kind of thing forever.
"Oh," he said simply, hanging his head.
"Yeah," she sighed. "Look, I actually have a lot to do, here, so..."
"So...?" he said, sitting on the desk across from hers.
A part of him wanted her to tell him to leave. But a bigger part of him wanted to make her smile a genuine smile again. That beautiful smile that had lit up her entire face. And, if he was honest, a part of him wanted her to talk to him about his brother, though he'd never admit that aloud.
"Make yourself comfortable, Mr. Scott," she muttered sarcastically.
He stared at her expectantly and she rolled her eyes before handing him a few paper towels so he could dry his shirt. He took them from her with a smile and began dabbing at his torso.
"So how was Stanford? I haven't been to California in ages," he said, trying to engage her in a conversation.
"It was amazing. Best four years of my life," she admitted as she sat in her own chair and took a sip of her drink.
"So why are you here?" he asked with a raised brow. It was a blunt question, but he had come to learn pretty quickly that she didn't like the subtleties.
"Lucas is here," she shrugged.
"Right," he said softly.
"He's coaching the Ravens now," she informed him. "Pretty impressive for someone who never got a chance to play organized basketball."
He knew, of course, that Lucas was the new coach. He'd heard that through the athletic department, and while he would have liked to be annoyed by that, he actually felt what he assumed was pride.
"Good for him," he said flatly.
"You know, I never really understood your whole Greek tragedy of a relationship," she said bluntly. "Just because your dad's an ass doesn't mean you have to be one, too."
She saw a flash of hurt in his eyes, and she regretted speaking so candidly. She realized she'd just jumped to conclusions about a man she really didn't know, and no matter how much she wanted to ignore it, she knew that wasn't right.
"My dad is an ass," he said before she could apologize. "And I did what he told me to do for a long time."
"Well, don't you think it's time to break that mold?" she asked softly, leaning forward and resting her chin on her hands.
"I have," he insisted. "But I'm sure your boyfriend doesn't want to have anything to do with me. And that's fine."
"Is it?" she asked.
She noticed that he wouldn't say Lucas' name, and she would have called him on that, but there was remorse on his face, and she got the feeling that he really did feel badly about how things had turned out.
Her question, those two simple words, made him rethink everything he'd come to accept. He didn't know how she did it, but looking into those deep brown eyes of hers, he wondered how she'd given him perspective after only speaking with her for 10 minutes.
There was something about her that was somehow making him both comfortable and uncomfortable at the same time.
"Hey, baby," Nathan greeted Peyton as he stepped into their house and saw her sitting on the sofa. "How was your day?"
"Good," she said happily. "It's nice to visit my mom." He smiled and leaned over to kiss her cheek before sitting down next to her. "How was the meeting?"
"It was fine," he said with a shrug.
She knew he hated all these ceremonies and accolades, and that they actually made him pretty uncomfortable, for someone who was so used to being in the spotlight. He'd insisted that playing the game was one thing, but all the extra stuff was totally different. He was comfortable in the game.
"Your mom called. They want to take us to dinner," she said absently, turning her attention back to her book.
"Great," he groaned. "Another night of listening to Dan go on and on about my training schedule."
"Just ignore him, Nate," she insisted seriously, looking back at him. "Your training schedule is insane. I can vouch for that."
"Because I'm always at the gym?" he asked with a furrowed brow.
"No," she said with a smirk. He knew that look. "Because you've got the sexiest body I've ever seen."
"Is that right?"
He leaned over and kissed her before moving so he was perched over her and she was laying beneath him. He heard her mutter something that may have been a protest, but then she giggled and drew his head closer to hers for another kiss. If being with her made them a little late for dinner, he didn't care.
"Hey, Luke," Haley said happily as she stepped into the kitchen of their home.
"Hey, babe," he said, wrapping an arm around her when she moved to stand next to him at the stove. He leaned down to kiss her before turning back to tend to the meal he was preparing.
"Mac and cheese?" she asked with a giddy smile. "I love you!"
"Love you, too," he said with a laugh. "Why don't you go change, and it'll be ready when you come back down."
"How'd I get so lucky?" she asked, moving to stand in front of him and wrapping her arms around his waist as she looked up at him.
"It helps that you're gorgeous," he said, dipping down to kiss her once more. He pulled away, but her hands found the back of his neck and she brought his lips to hers again.
"Can dinner wait?" she asked in a low voice, searching his eyes after they'd parted.
"Definitely," he responded, letting her lead him towards the stairs.
She giggled when she heard him groan as she tugged her shirt over her head and dropped it on the stairs behind her. He stopped worrying about whether he'd left the stove on or not, and saw only her.
A/N: Let me know what you think. Don't hate me for the pairings. It's AU!