A/N: Post 3x16 oneshot born from this song that has always screamed LP to me. I finally woke up (in the dead of night, of course...no sleep for me) with this idea to write something around this song that I felt did the music justice. That's important to me.
The song is Not Alone by Patty Griffin. She's one of my absolute favourites.
She was released from the hospital on the same day as the funeral. All she could think about was Lucas, standing there, dressed in black and grieving, and trying to hide everything from everyone. She knew he would be.
She wanted to go, but by the time all the paperwork was done, she knew the service would be over. All she had on was a pair of jeans and a sweater, but she convinced her father to take her by Karen's anyway. They both knew it wasn't about the clothes she was wearing.
She locked eyes with Lucas as soon as she finished her brief conversation with her best friend, and she wondered, for a moment, if he could see through her and know that her words from a few days before were more true than either of them really wanted to admit. He offered her the weakest smile she'd ever seen him wear, and she hobbled off on her crutches to find his mother.
It was the first time she'd seen him since...everything...and she knew, then, that things between them were different. She still hadn't decided if that was a good thing or a bad thing.
She heard her father thanking Lucas, and she pondered the words her dad had said to her in the hospital the day before.
'He'll realize it someday, honey.'
She didn't need to ask why he said it or what he was referring to or how he knew. She'd just taken a deep breath, and he'd kissed her forehead. It was his own fatherly way of telling her not to give up on someone she cared so much about.
She sees him laying in the bed alone tonight
The only thing a touching him is a crack of light
Pieces of her hair are wrapped around and 'round his fingers
And he reaches for her side, for any sign of her that lingers
Her father reluctantly left the following evening for a job he couldn't cancel and she wouldn't ask him to. A friend of the family had driven them both to the docks to say goodbye, then peppered Peyton with questions about the shooting on the ride home. It was all she could do not to break down crying. Not because of her own pain and memories, but because of the toll it was all taking on the blonde boy who'd risked everything to save her.
She'd heard there was a party at the school, thrown by her best friend, but she'd been thankful that she had a couple viable excuses not to go. It seemed too soon and inconsiderate and insensitive and just...wrong. She didn't want to go, and she was glad she didn't have to.
She made her way slowly and carefully up the steps to her room, exhausted and drained from too many thoughts and emotions and a long day.
She hadn't expected to see Lucas laying in her bed, eyes open and hands clasped over his stomach as he stared at the ceiling. He looked peaceful, though she knew he was anything but. She could tell he hadn't slept, and was thinking and feeling far too many things.
She wanted to ask why he was there, or why he wasn't with Brooke, or what he was doing. But she could see all those answers on his face before either of them had said a word.
He was there because it was comfortable, and it was the one place no one would think to look, though maybe they shouldn't have been so naive as to think he wouldn't go to her.
He wasn't with Brooke because she just didn't understand, no matter how hard she'd tried, bless her heart.
He was grieving the only way he knew how. With Peyton.
"Hi," she said softly, her voice barely above a whisper.
"Can I stay with you?" he asked after a few moments, his voice quiet and timid like a child's.
She didn't say anything, she couldn't. Her voice wouldn't work, and she knew it. She wouldn't trust herself to say the right words if she could have spoken anyway. She just nodded her head and maneuvered onto the bed.
He would have helped her, but he was frozen in place. He should have helped her, but the grief was heavy and felt like bricks on his chest. She rolled onto her right side and her back was to him. All she wanted was to look at his face as he lay there next to her, but the still tender wound on her left leg wouldn't allow it.
She was surprised, though maybe she shouldn't have been, when she felt him move a little closer to her. He didn't drape an arm over her, or even touch her at all. He just moved close enough that he could feel her body heat, and she, his.
It was maybe 3:00 am, though neither bothered to check, when she felt him lay a trembling hand on her hip. She knew they'd both been awake the entire time, since she lay down. It had been hours of silence, and she hadn't wanted to ruin that. She wouldn't have known what to say, anyway. She knew grief well, and she wouldn't make him talk until he was ready.
But he lay his hand on her, as though he just needed to feel her - to feel something - to know that just maybe it was somehow going to be OK. Something told him that Peyton would make it OK.
And she says you are not alone
Laying in the light
Put out the fire in your head
And lay with me tonight
"It's hard," he whispered, after he felt her relax beneath his touch. "I feel like I'm alone."
She rolled onto her back, making his hand slide onto her stomach, and she turned her head to look at him. She saw the glimmer of unshed tears in his eyes, and she wondered if she'd ever seen anything so tragic.
"You are not alone," she insisted adamantly, almost harshly, resting her hands overtop of his.
She didn't need to say that she was there and she'd be there. It was implied in those words and that touch, and she saw him close his eyes, trying to blink away the tears. He moved a little closer to her and lay his head right next to hers, and she wasn't surprised when he leaned over and pressed a kiss to her temple. It was sweet and unnecessary, but she wasn't going to say anything about it, because it felt right to be laying with him like that.
"I can't stop reliving that day," he admitted weaving his fingers through hers.
What he hadn't admitted to anyone, was that he was terrified of losing her. He could have lost her. And a world without Peyton would have been near unbearable. He'd lost Keith, and that was too much. To lose them both would have been...he couldn't even fathom. It made him cry to even think it.
Maybe he was there because he knew she'd understand. Maybe she was the only one who felt that day like he had, or because he'd always have her image in his head when he thought about the last time he saw Keith. Maybe he was there because he just needed to know she was safe, that she was alright.
Maybe he was there because he felt something that day, when she said those words and she kissed him. Something changed. Something shifted.
"You have to," she said softly. The truth was, however, that she'd been doing the exact same thing. If Lucas hadn't come for her, maybe he'd still have Keith. It had been eating her alive since she woke up in the hospital and heard the news.
"You just...think of something else," she offered. It sounded simple, but she knew it was far from it.
Think of something else. He felt the pulse of her wrist as her arm lay on top of his, and so he thought of her. She was there, and she was alive, and she was healing him.
So he thought of her.
One of them bullets went straight for the jugular vein
There were people running, a flash of light
Then everything changed
Nothing really matters in the end you know
All the worries sever
Don't be afraid for me my friend, one day we all fall down forever
They woke in the morning and realized it was their first day back to school. He'd mumbled a sleepy thank you for letting him spend the night, and he'd left and gone to his own house for clothes and his school books.
As soon as she stepped into the school, she felt like everything was different. People were looking at her, and she knew that many of them would remember her only as the girl who got shot in the leg her senior year. Art and cheerleading and the boyfriends she chose and the friends she had would mean nothing. All they'd remember was the image of her, limp in Lucas' arms as he carried her to safety.
She saw Nathan and Haley, and stopped to talk for a few minutes. Nathan wrapped her into one of those hugs. He always gave the best hugs. Well, second best, only to his brother. It was the thing she missed most about Nathan, actually, that ability to make her feel comforted and protected just from a hug.
She walked into the main hallway and saw two things that unnerved her. One, the boarded up door, the glass shattered by the bullet they'd extracted from her leg, and two, a small gathering of people standing around candles and notes for the boy who'd shot the gun.
She felt her heart race and her palms sweat as they clutched her crutches. Her chest tightened and she felt like the walls were closing in. She blinked, and she relived that moment when the trigger was pulled, and without a word to either of her friends, she made her way as quickly as she could down the hall and out the doors.
She was standing alone on the grass, her backpack on the ground at her side as she tried to overcome what she was sure had been a panic attack, when she heard the door slam behind her. She turned just in time to see a very angry looking Lucas run his hand over his face.
Their eyes met and they mutually understood that they were the only two people who couldn't just move on from what had happened. He walked to her without a second thought and pulled her into his arms and he let her cry.
Though he didn't know it, she was crying for him, because he looked absolutely broken.
But holding her was helping him, and they probably both knew that.
"Come on," he said, reaching down to grab her bag.
He started walking towards his new car - the one he loved, but wished he didn't have, given the circumstances under which it was bequeathed - and he opened the door and helped her in.
They didn't know that Brooke, Haley and Nathan had watched the entire scene unfold. They didn't know that Brooke's heart was breaking again. They didn't know that Haley and Nathan had had conversations since the shooting, knowing somehow, that that day in the library had bonded those two blondes even more and that they'd always carry that with them.
He drove to her house, and she got out of the car before he could help her, and she let out a laugh at the disapproving look he gave her.
He followed her up the stairs to her room, and they wound up on the bed, and she started crying again, for too many reasons to explain when he asked her.
"I worry about you most," he admitted, stroking her hair away from her face. "My mom and you."
"I'm sorry," she said weakly. "For everything. For Keith and for...everything."
"If you didn't come for me, he wouldn't have...he'd still be...and you'd have him, and Karen would..." she stuttered, only stopping when he placed his index finger over her lips.
"That's not true, and you know it," he insisted almost too harshly. She opened her mouth to protest when he started wiping her cheeks, but he cut her off and spoke in a softer tone. "You know it."
The truth was, she did know it. But she needed to hear that he knew it, too. The last thing she wanted was to lose Lucas because he resented her for his uncle's death or blamed her for that turn of events. She couldn't lose him.
They stayed there, in her room, for the rest of the day, and when it came time to go to sleep, he tugged off his shirt and stepped out of his jeans, and he lay down with her again.
He didn't know where they were - what stage they were at in dealing with the cruel hand life had dealt them - but he knew they were there together.
And you are not alone
Laying in the light
Put out the fire in your head
And lay with me tonight
His mother had locked herself in her room, and she was dealing with it all in solitude, and he couldn't do anything about it. Peyton assured him that she'd get better, and she'd heal, and that was her way.
And Lucas had Peyton.
They skipped school when they felt like it and no one asked questions. Haley or Nathan would drop off their school work at Peyton's house, knowing instinctively that they'd be there.
Neither Nathan or Haley asked questions about the status of the relationship. Lucas was still with Brooke, and they all knew that he wouldn't hurt her like that again.
But really, he wouldn't hurt either girl like that again.
After that first night, he started sleeping on the right side of the bed. It wasn't talked about, he didn't say anything or make a fuss over her injured leg. He just took the right side, and she took the left, and he'd open his arms so she could lay her head on his chest. The steady thumping of his heart against her cheek soothed her, and the smell of her coconut shampoo and the feel of her in his arms soothed him.
It was more intimate than anything either had experienced, but they wouldn't stop. They couldn't stop. Something wouldn't let them.
They finally made it through a full day of school, and she had to see him with Brooke, but she was OK because Peyton saw the smile he put on her best friend's face, and it was a sacrifice she knew she had to make.
Standing in the hallway at their lockers, she watched Lucas and Brooke walking hand in hand, and she quickly turned back to her locker and began rummaging for something she didn't need. Nathan just took her hand and squeezed it knowingly, and when she looked up at him, he saw the tears in her eyes, and she knew that he knew.
They walked together to the last class of the day, a class they shared, and he offered to drive her to physical therapy after school, and she agreed because she'd forgotten to ask Lucas, and even if she had, it would have been too hard.
She returned home that evening after having dinner with Nathan and Haley, thankful for the return to some semblance of normal. She was walking with only a cane instead of crutches, and she felt like maybe she'd be OK.
And then she saw Lucas laying on his side, on his side of the bed, his eyes reddened and the pillow wet. He was wearing that familiar old grey sweatshirt - the one he was wearing the first time she really saw him.
And she knew nothing was OK.
She didn't hesitate to walk around the bed and take her place next to him, watching as he rolled over to look at her.
"Lucas," she said pleadingly, wanting to know what had him upset.
"Everyone's just acting like it's all fine. Like it's all the same," he said, unable to hide the anger in his voice. "But it's not."
"No," she whispered. "It's not."
"I just...I wish I could take that day back," he said, watching the flash of hurt in her eyes. "No! No...not that. God, not that." He reached out and placed his hand on her upper arm to comfort her. He wouldn't take saving her back for anything. "I wish I could have helped Jimmy."
She furrowed her brow and let out a breath, and she wondered if he was the most selfless boy she'd ever known.
"This is not your fault," she said, looking at him imploringly. She knew that's exactly what he was feeling.
"But if I had known..."
"If you had known, nothing," she admonished. "Jimmy was sick, Lucas, OK? That had nothing to do with you. This is not your fault."
He let out a quiet sound that may have been a mixture of a sob and a sigh of relief that she had told him what he needed to hear, and her heart broke for him.
"I'm sorry. You don't need this. You don't need me," he said shamefully, shaking his head and averting her gaze.
"Yes I do," she whispered. "I do need you."
"Not like this," he said, still not looking her in the eyes.
"Yes," she insisted, taking his face in her hands. "However you are."
"Peyt, I'm...I don't..."
"Lucas, you don't have to be anything," she said, feeling the lump forming in her throat.
"How come only you can see that?" he asked, letting a tear slip from his eye. Maybe he didn't know how to stop it. Or maybe he knew he didn't need to.
Somehow, she thought that tear might have been the most beautiful thing she'd ever seen.
"I just see you," she said, letting the smallest of smiles break on her lips.
Another tear fell, and she would have wiped it away, but she couldn't bring herself to do it. He was tragic and gorgeous, and she reminded herself that he wasn't hers to heal. But he'd come to her, and he'd asked her, without asking, to be the one to take care of him. It was a job she'd take seriously, whether someone else wanted it or not.
"Come here," he said, resting his hand on her hip.
She moved a little closer, and he moved a little closer, and then they were as close as they could get, their bodies flush to one another. They just breathed together, somehow in sync, and stared into each others' eyes as they lay there. His thumb traced patterns on her hip, his fingers dangerously close to the back pocket of her jeans, while her hand ran up and down his back.
After a while, they both felt something between them that shouldn't have been there between friends. She noticed the blush on his cheeks and she knew he was embarrassed, but her mind was racing. She wondered if it was her, or simply the contact with another person. Was he feeling things for her like she was feeling for him, or was it simply a physical reaction to their proximity.
"Sorry," he said sheepishly. He saw her smile and blush and she let out a breath intended as a laugh, and he didn't really know what that meant. "I can't help it."
"I know," she said, looking away from him. "It's a guy thing, right?"
"It's a you thing," he said before really thinking, reaching up to brush the hair from her face. Her eyes met his again, and he saw the confusion - or conflict - there. "Sorry."
"We can't. I mean...we can't," she insisted softly.
"But you want to?" he asked timidly, almost as though he didn't believe it.
She just looked at him, and knew that he'd know her answer.
Of course she wanted to.
She loved him.
"Brooke," she said, just like he had said the previous year when they wanted so badly to be together, but couldn't.
And that was that. She didn't ask if he wanted to, though she assumed she already knew the answer. They didn't talk about it any more. They'd made the mistake of getting caught up in one another once before, and it nearly destroyed everything. He didn't apologize again or ask if there was anything else standing in the way, though he assumed he already knew the answer.
So she just closed her eyes, and he closed his eyes, and they went back to sleep in each others' arms like they'd done nearly every night since that day in the library when it was just the two of them.
And the more they helped each other and held each other, the more they were both starting to think that it really was always just the two of them.
The wedding date was June just like any other bride
She loved him like no one before and it was good to be alive
But sometimes that can slip away as fast
As any fingers through your hands
So you let time forgive the past and go and make some other plans
She was at the beach on a Saturday morning, bundled in a sweater he'd left at her house. She was sitting in that familiar spot, with her knees pulled up to her chest, and just listening to the rhythm of the waves and letting herself get lost in the sound.
She hadn't seen him the night before, and it was one of the few times since the shooting that he hadn't stayed at her house. And she had to stop herself from feeling jealous and heartbroken because she assumed, though no one had confirmed it, that he had been with Brooke. She had no right to really feel that way, but she did, and so she'd taken to the beach as she tried to figure out how to live with the harsh reality that the man she needed, wasn't hers.
Ironically, it wasn't until he sat down next to her that she actually stopped thinking about him. He was there, and so she didn't need to let her mind race anymore.
"Brooke and I broke up."
He said it without warning, before either of them had said another word. She just turned to look at him, worried about both him and Brooke, but also reluctantly relieved.
"Today would have been my mom and Keith's wedding day," he admitted quietly as she stared at him.
"Lucas," she whispered, "I'm sorry."
He knew she was sorry for everything, so he sent her a weak smile and wrapped his arm around her shoulder.
"I just...I woke up this morning and realized life is too short," he said seriously as his hand trailed up and down her arm. Her head rest on his shoulder as they sat side by side and stared out at the ocean. "Too short to spend it with the wrong person."
It was a variation on words they'd exchanged before, and when she moved a little bit closer to him, he knew she realized that, too.
"How's your mom?" she asked. She wasn't, he realized, avoiding the implication his previous statement had. She was genuinely concerned about his mother, and he loved her for that.
Yes, he loved her. He'd realized it the night before while trying unsuccessfully to get to sleep without her next to him. He'd been up all night wondering what that meant. Why couldn't he sleep without her? Why was he spending more time with her than his own girlfriend? Why did she understand him better than anyone? Why did he find himself thinking about her in very inappropriate ways?
Because he loved her. He always had.
"She's OK," he said softly, resting his head against hers. "She's sad, but she's OK. How are you?"
She pulled away from him slowly to look at him, wondering why he'd ask that, and why his tone suggested that it was a loaded question. It was as though he was almost daring her to tell him she was fine so he could tell her that he knew she wasn't.
"I'm sad, but I'm OK," she said with a weak smile.
He did the only thing he could think to do; the only thing he wanted to do. He leaned over and pressed his lips to hers. It was almost identical to the last kiss they'd shared, mere weeks earlier. Full of fear and trepidation and more love than either wanted to admit they felt.
"Luke," she whispered, her eyes still closed. "Why did you do that?"
He thought for a moment, wondering how to respond to the question when he was sure they both already knew the answer.
"Life's too short, Peyton," he said softly.
She felt the tear pooling in her eye, and she didn't care whether he saw it or not. They didn't hide anything from each other, and if the weeks prior had taught them anything, it was that they didn't have to hide anything from each other.
She just rest her head against his shoulder again, and she wove her fingers through his, and they sat there on the sand, alone together in a huge and scary world, completely unsure of what the future held.
"What do we do now?" she asked after a while.
"We move on," he said simply, like it was the most obvious answer he could have given. "You're saving me, Peyton."
She let out a breath and let the tears fall, and she let him pull her closer to him as she wrapped her arms around him. She didn't tease him for using those words, because she suspected - knew, even - that they were the truth. And she was filled with a sense of pride and love she hadn't expected, knowing she'd been the one to help him wade through the tragedy.
She didn't mention Brooke, or how they were going to make it work when everything was so complicated. None of that mattered in that moment. All that mattered was their joined hands and hearts, finally allowed to feel what they'd been feeling all along.
He didn't tell her that he loved her because he knew she knew.
You are not alone
Laying in the light
Put out the fire in your head
And lay with me tonight
They hadn't kissed once all day, not since that gentle one he'd surprised her with at the beach. They'd gone to the café and picked up Karen's favourite meal for dinner, and when Peyton stepped into the kitchen of Lucas' home, the older woman pulled her into her arms so quickly that it caught the blonde off guard. Karen hadn't really seen much of the girl since the shooting, and so she tearfully told her that she was glad she was alright. They embraced for a while, both crying and aware that Lucas was watching them.
After they'd sat down at the table to eat, Lucas reached for both womens' hands, and the three of them shared a quiet moment that felt like a promise. It felt like the future. Karen Roe was not blind, and she'd known all along, since her son was 11 and spellbound by those long legs and those blonde curls, that he was someday, undoubtedly, going to fall in love with the girl sitting next to him now.
So they spent the rest of the evening talking to Karen, and Lucas explained that he'd be spending the night out, and she gave him a smile and laughed at the shocked look on Peyton's face. Lucas knew his mother was aware that he'd been spending his nights with Peyton. So he kissed his mother's forehead and took Peyton's hand, and they walked to her car to drive to her empty house.
When they lay down in her bed that night, they were both smiling. She couldn't remember the last time they had both smiled at the same time; not that kind of smile. He reached up and brushed the hair from her face, and she pressed a kiss to his palm, and then they each closed their eyes and drifted to sleep, laying as closely together as they could get, and no longer separated by the guilt.
She woke up with her head laying against his chest, just like she always did. No matter how they'd gone to sleep the night before, they always wound up in that position. And yet, every morning, it still took her a few moments to remember that she wasn't alone in her bed.
The sunlight was streaming through the windows, and it was harsh on her eyes. She buried her face in his chest and then rubbed her eyes with her fist, waking him in the process.
"Mmm. 'Morning," he said, his voice thick with sleep.
"'Morning," she said quietly.
"How are you?" he asked, running his hand up her side, making her shiver slightly when he inadvertently pushed up her tank top and his hand met bare skin.
She knew there was only one answer.
"I'm not sad anymore," she said softly, a smile firmly on her lips.
"Me neither," he said. "Me neither, baby."
When she leaned up, her green eyes sparking and her blonde hair glowing in the sunlight, and she kissed him in a way she hadn't done in so long, he felt like he was finally living again. And when she suggested they just lay in bed for a while longer because she didn't want to be apart from him just yet, he couldn't protest or even chuckle.
He just held her a little closer, and spoke a little softer, and said three words that made her cry the best kind of tears.
You are not alone
Laying in the light
Put out the fire in your head
And lay with me tonight