I don't own it, just like I don't own "You Belong With Me" by Taylor Swift.

Alright, it may seem off base from my typical music choices, but I've got a soft spot for Taylor Swift. She may be a country girl, but like most teenage girls; her lyrics speak true to life. And her voice is killer.

AUish. Some background info: Peyton and Brooke aren't friends (makes me sad too). Brooke and Rachel are best friends. Peyton's an actual loner – no cheerleading, no popularity. She's best friends with Lucas and the Rivercourt people – Haley included. Everyone has the same back-story with minor differences. Anything else should be explained.

This is over the course of their entire senior year – August/September till May/June.

Just a one-shot. It ended up being incredibly long and I didn't intend for it, but I found I liked writing the LP friendship LOL. Sorry, if it's too long. I feel bad about it, but I just couldn't cut it off.


You're on the phone with your girlfriend, she's upset
She's going off about something that you said
Cause she doesn't get your humor like I do

Peyton sits on the bed and sighs in annoyance as she aimlessly flips through the channels. Tonight is movie, but her best friend seems to have forgotten that. She whips out her cell and quickly texts Haley; begging the girl to come over. A second later she gets a response – For the millionth time, no! I need to baby-sit my brat little brother. Peyton huffs and tosses her phone to the side.

She throws herself against the comforter of the bed and strains her ears. She can faintly hear the voice in the next room. It's muffled by the wall that separates them, but she can always make out the gentle yet strong tone he uses. It makes her smile.

They've known each other for years. Thirteen to be exact. According to his mother it stretches farther then that, but the first time they ever really remember coming into contact was when they were 4. At the playground, in the sandbox. Some boy was stepping on her mounds of sand, but before she could cry or tell her mother, the boy in the hall swooped in and saved the day.

They've been inseparable ever since.

She wants to yell out to him, but he's on the phone and that would be rude. So instead, she gets off the bed and walks over to his desk. His computer is open, but that wouldn't have mattered – she knows his password. Quickly, her eyes scan his iTunes and she's pleased at a majority of the music he's downloaded. She's teaching him well.

He walks swiftly into the room, but stops in his tracks. Peyton let's out a chuckle at the utter confusion etched into his features as he stares at the empty bed. At the sound of her mirth Lucas turns and a look of relief takes over. Did he really think she'd leave? She would never just leave – not without telling him so. They both have a complex about people leaving. Besides, he's too important to her.

He's the boy she married in front of all their stuffed animals. He's the first boy she ever kissed. He's the person who taught her how to tie her shoes. He's her best friend. He's Lucas Scott.

And she's in love with him.

It's terribly cliché and a total Dawson – Joey creepfest. But it's true. She's so hopelessly in love with that blonde, brooding boy that it's actually pathetic. Their eyes lock, blue meeting green and she feels her heart pound in her ears. He smiles softly and any anger she felt melts away. He holds up his pointer finger; a silent promise that he'll only be another minute.

So far, she's gotten five of those.

She thinks that in a different world, maybe one where she was popular and gorgeous, they'd have a chance. But that shouldn't matter, he should want her anyway; sometimes she thinks he does. He'll look at her for a little too long or glance down at her legs. She hears him mutter another apology and then he uses the word baby. Yeah, they could have had a chance.

But, he's Rachel Gatina's boyfriend.

They're two months into their senior year and nobody would have guessed it would last this long. She's rude and prissy and popular. She's got red hair and big boobs and Peyton guesses that's where most guys keep their attention, now that includes Lucas.

She always thought he was interested in more then someone's outer appearance, but apparently he's like every other teenage guy. He's not; he argues that she's just misunderstood. Haley doesn't appreciate that answer in the least.

But Peyton sits back and nods her head when she should and interjects when he's searching for some backup. She may hate the redhead, but she loves the blonde. And you can't help who you love. She groans as she returns to the bed – that was cheesy even in her head.

"I'm so sorry", Lucas says as he walks into the room; his closed cell phone in his hand.

Peyton shrugs, as if she hasn't been sitting here counting the minutes – 42 of them – since he picked up his cell phone and greeted his red headed girlfriend. He plops down onto his bed and she waits a minute before lying down beside him.

They've been having movie night since she was old enough to walk alone; although most of the time Lucas met her halfway anyway. It just seems that since he and Rachel have become official, it's wrong. He should have movie night with her and he should spend all his time with her.

But she's thrilled he doesn't think those things.

"What happened?" she asks because she always does. He shakes his head and rests his weight on his elbow.

"It was nothing", he mumbles while picking at his comforter. Peyton scoffs.

"Luke, come on; what's wrong?" he heaves a giant sigh and she knows he's being overdramatic. Sometimes she forgets who the girl in their friendship is. When he runs his hand through his short blonde hair and his shirt rides up – exposing his abs – she's perfectly reminded of their gender roles.

"I made a joke and Rach didn't appreciate", he admits. Part of her hates the fact that he has a nickname for the girl that's her sworn enemy. But it's only a small part, and she never lets it grow.

"Well, what was it?" It's like pulling teeth with him. And it makes her anger for Rachel grow. That girl is so unlike Lucas in so many ways – she can't even laugh at his humor.

"She asked what I was doing and I mentioned a movie with you", Peyton groans –strike one – "Then I told her Haley might be coming over", she groans louder – strike two – "And then she started getting mad, she asked if all we were going to do was watch a movie and I may have said that we were going to participate in a threesome during the credits."

Strike three.

"Lucas!" she screeches as she smacks his shoulder hard. He grimaces and rubs the red spot, but a small smirk shines through. "No, this is not the time for that stupid half smile! Why would you say that?"

"I was angry and it's funny", he insists. Peyton shakes her head.

"That's so completely unfunny. It's the exact opposite of funny! It's like if I laughed when Rocket died", she says in reference to the golden retriever Lucas had as a child. His mirth halts and he points a finger at her.

"That's not funny!"

"Neither was your pathetic attempt at a joke!" she cries. "Lucas, she hates me."

He rolls his blue eyes. "She doesn't hate you", he mutters. She's so dramatic sometimes. Peyton huffs. He's clearly never seen her death glares in the hallway.

"Luc –"

"Look, I will deal with her tomorrow", he says softly. "Right now I want to spend time with my best friend", he says as he starts to move from the bed. Peyton makes a noise and mumbles;

"Better get in all the time we can before she makes you cut me out."

He stops his movements and turns to the curly blonde that he's cared about for more then half his life. She still doesn't get it.

"Peyton, I would never cut you out of my life. I couldn't ever do that."

And when she doesn't think it's possible, she falls even more in love.

I'm in my room it's a typical Tuesday night
I'm listening to the kind of music she doesn't like
And she'll never know your story like I do

She puts the needle on her newest record and lets the music fill her red bedroom. She lies on the bed and waits for her second half to enter the room. She hopes she isn't waiting in vain. She knows that tonight was some big party at Nathan's beach house, but Lucas had told her he'd still come by and they would continue their Tuesday tradition.

She plays her newest record for them and he brings over two copies of his current favorite book.

They've been doing it since forever – well since they could read – and as she glances at the clock, she hopes he doesn't disappoint. It's already 1 in the morning. She closes her eyes and groans at how pathetic she is. Pining for her best friend when he has a girlfriend.

Lucas stops before entering her bedroom and takes a deep breath. He didn't drink that much, but considering he still hardly ever drinks, a little is a lot. He shakes his head and quickly smells his breath. He's good to go.

But he stops when he sees her on the bed.

He can hear the music in the distance, but right now all that exists is Peyton Sawyer. All blonde curls and venom, as Keith used to brand her. She raises her hand and rubs it over her face. He's momentarily mesmerized by that thin strip of creamy flesh that appears because of her actions.

He's a guy after all and she's not exactly terrible looking. She's actually gorgeous, although Peyton would probably kill him for calling her that. The girl can't take a compliment to save her life. She's got blonde curly hair and legs that never seem to end. And that smooth strip of her stomach still calls out to his eyes.

"Lucas", she calls out and he snaps from his trance. He sticks his hands in his pockets and smiles sheepishly. She rolls her eyes and pats the empty spot beside her – his spot. He gets comfortable and stares up at the same ceiling he's looked at since he was 8.

They once put those glow in the dark star stickers on the white paint, back then they glowed for hours and hours and they two blondes would point out random shapes they made and the way they almost seemed to twinkle. Those stars don't glow anymore and Lucas thinks it's reflects their lives. They've changed, not necessarily for worse, but they've simply grown up; the stars simply faded away.

"I'm sorry", he whispers when he catches sight of the time. Peyton shrugs and Lucas sighs. He lets the melody fill his ears once more and has to smile. This type of music would never be played at a party. He doubts Rachel even knows half the bands he likes. He's glad he's got Peyton to balance him out.

"How was it?" she asks even though she doesn't care. She's never wanted to be part of the pretty and popular crowd. The elite, as Haley often mocks them. She's never known why Lucas is so intent on fitting in.

Actually, she does.

He's always wanted to be good enough. To prove that he's just as good as the son Dan abandoned him for. And Peyton's always supported that. That's why when the opportunity to try out for The Raven's came up last year; Peyton practically pushed him into that gym. And he was great, and he quickly became part of the starting five.

He also became a popular kid.

She tells herself that it doesn't matter because he always comes back. He's always willing to hang out at the Rivercourt with the guys or read while Peyton draws. He and Haley still discuss literary quotes and he's always available to help his mom with a shift at the café.

But it's the little things that matter.

He doesn't sit with them at lunch anymore. He walks around the campus with his other teammates and tilts his chin in everyone's direction instead of simply saying 'hello'. He sports a letterman's jacket that gets draped over Rachel's shoulders when she whines that she's cold.

He leads a double life.

And she's just glad she gets to be a part of one of them.

"It was alright", he says without any emotion. Peyton quirks her eyebrow. Alright? He smells of alcohol and cigarettes. She's sure he's either buzzed or drunk and she's sure his mother will kick his ass if he goes home like this.

"Let's just go to bed, okay?" she says in her most cheerful voice, but it still makes Lucas frown.

"We're not gonna read?" Peyton stares at him in confusion.

"Lucas can you even see straight right now?" his eyes turn cold and he glares at her.

"I'm not that drunk! Don't judge me!"

"I wasn't judging", she says with a gasp.

"Yes you were! You had your judgmental eyes. Usually they're green with specs of gold, but when you're secretly judging someone they turn a forest green and your gold specs disappear", he rattles off.

She doesn't know whether to be pissed or thrilled that he knows this information. She also feels guilty because she really hadn't meant to pass any judgment. She knows he's insecure and fragile and afraid to fail. And she's the only person to know that.

Sure, the town gossips about the bastard blonde son that plays alongside the brother he never knew, but they only ever see the teamwork it takes to win. They don't hear the stories from the locker room. And they don't know about the smart comments Dan makes. They have no idea that Nathan and Lucas barley talk outside of the games and parties they attend. Once again, she's the only one to know that.

"I'm sorry, I'm just tired", she whispers. "Let's sleep", he nods at the look on her face and he makes himself comfortable atop the blankets. She watches as he drifts into a slumber. He's so different in so many ways that sometimes she doesn't recognize the boy she grew up with. This new boy drinks and has sex and has a gym full of people cheer for him when he makes a basket.

Some time during the night, his hand finds hers in his sleep. Peyton smiles because for that moment, he's her Lucas again.

But she wears short skirts, I wear t-shirts
She's cheer captain and I'm on the bleachers
Dreaming about the day when you wake up and find
That what you're looking for has been here the whole time

"Why are we here?" Haley groans as she glances at all the people in the stands with her. Peyton simply rolls her eyes. She's been whining for the last 10 minutes; she forgot how persistent Haley could be.

"Because Haley, Lucas is our friend and we should support him", Peyton says while craning her neck to look at the boys in blue and white as they warm up. The petite brunette beside her huffs in annoyance.

"And you're in love with him", she says simply. Peyton's head whips around to glare at Haley. It's so sudden that she's sure her blonde friend gets whiplash.

"Say it a little louder Haley. I don't think the mascot heard you", she hisses as she points to the giant raven dancing around on the sidelines. "Besides, that is so not –"

"Don't deny it girly, I've been around you and Lucas for over a decade. I can sense these things", Haley says while pointing a finger and Peyton groans. She didn't really think she was that transparent.

"Whatever", she mumbles. "I just figured it'd be nice to finally come to a game since Lucas has been on the team for so long", she says grumpily.

From the court Lucas sinks a free throw and turns to the stands. Peyton had promised him she and Haley would come by. They're already ahead in the long list of high school leaders and that just means they're even closer to that State Championship title. Lucas really wants Peyton to see him in action. Sure, she's always at the Rivercourt, but that's different.

He catches that blonde hair from the corner of his eye and a smile grows. He knows she doesn't like these popularity vortex's; her words exactly, but he's glad she cares enough to come. He's about to smile brightly and wave to her, but his acknowledgement is cut off. Rachel throws herself into his arms and for the moment, he's completely distracted.

"Don't bother showering tonight", she whispers throatily. Lucas groans in anticipation and the redhead smirks. "I'll be cheering for you", she whispers and kisses him hard on the mouth.

Peyton makes a noise of disgust. "God, I hate her", she grumbles. Haley agrees, but not for the sake of Peyton, she hates the redhead too. Not because she's in love with Lucas because that would just be a tragic love triangle that would never end well.

Plus, it'd be no competition. Peyton would have him. Hands down.

She hates Rachel because she's slowly morphing Lucas into the kind of guy she thinks he should be. Haley can deal with the popularity and she gets that he has to go to the parties and sit with them at lunch, but some other things she can't handle. Rachel Gatina is poison. And Lucas is in complete denial about it.

"Peyton, why don't you just tell him?" Haley asks in exasperation. The blonde ignores her until Haley asks again, and again.

"Because what would I say? Hey, I know we've been best friends forever, but I want more?" she says as she turns her head to look at Haley. Her friend stares at her and nods, that's kind of exactly what she should say.

"Peyton –"

"The games starting, let's just talk about this later, okay?" she asks softly as the gym lights dim and the Ravens are announced one-by-one.

The entire game seems like a flurry of running and cheering and that ever present sound of the ball swishing through the net. Peyton cheers when Lucas makes a shot and she boos with the crowd when he gets fouled. Right before he takes his first foul shot he glances into the crowd and catches Peyton's eye.

She grins in encouragement.

He smiles back, that boyish smile that she loves and focuses his attention onto the orange ball in his hands. The second he looks away Rachel glares at her, but it's not enough to take away from the pride that Peyton feels as Lucas sinks both shots with little effort. Before he runs to the other end of the court he winks at his blonde best friend.

They have to end up together, Peyton thinks.

Isn't that what happens?

The final buzzer sounds and the crowd roars. The Ravens won, 65 to 42. Peyton's in complete awe of the grace and agility that this game carries. The boys, who weigh close to 200 pounds and shove food down their throats like they're going to jail, seem to fly from one end to another.

"Congratulations!" Haley says with a smile as Lucas runs over to them. He smiles bashfully and moves to hug her, but she steps back. "No way, dude. You're pretty sweaty", the blonde boy chuckles and turns to Peyton.

"You were amazing!" she gushes and ignores Haley's eye roll. Lucas's smile widens and she sees the blush that rises to his cheeks. Before she can step back – not that she would – he pulls her into his arms. "Ew, Luke!" she screams.

"You love it", he smirks as he pulls her back to arms length. She rolls her eyes and hopes that her blush isn't as noticeable as his previous one. "So listen, since we won", and then he pauses for dramatic effect. "Nathan's having a party . . ."

"No", Peyton says simply. The last thing she wants to do is stand in a house filled with the pretty and the popular. "Absolutely not", she says more adamantly once he pouts.

"Come on", he whines. "Hales?" he asks as he turns to her. He knows that if Haley comes Peyton will. And he really wants Peyton to get a glimpse of his world.

"Sorry", she says with a fake smile. "I have to wash my hair", she says as she pulls on a brown strand. Peyton snickers which causes Lucas to focus his attention on her.

"Please come, Peyton. If you hate it you can leave", he promises and then he pulls out the big guns.

"Don't you dare give me the puppy dog eyes! I taught you the puppy dog eyes!" she bellows. His blue eyes seem to become even more doe like and he pouts his lips – those perfect lips.

"Damnit", she grumbles. Lucas shouts in excitement. "But I have to bring Haley home", Peyton says as she locks eyes with the girl. She knows the ride back to her place won't be quiet.

"That's fine, I have to shower anyway", he rushes out – quickly stopping to think of Rachel – as he grabs Haley's bag. The girl always comes prepared. Sure enough, there's a pad of paper and an array of pens. He gives her a look before scribbling down the address to Nathan's beach house.

"I'll see you later", he says with a grin before leaning forward and placing a kiss to her cheek. It leaves Peyton in a daze. Lucas ruffles Haley's hair as he passes her on his way to the locker room.

Once he's gone Peyton shakes her head and notices Haley's look. "Don't say anything", she warns through clenched teeth. She's too focused on the night she has ahead of her to really think about the laugh that leaves Haley's throat.

What the Hell is she supposed to wear to this thing?

If you could see that I'm the one who understands you
Been here all along so why can't you see, you belong with me
You belong with me

The second she walks into Nathan's she wishes she were somewhere else. Loud rap music and drunken, horny teenagers. This is totally not her element. To make it even worse, Lucas is nowhere to be seen.

She sighs and begins to turn around until someone stops her. "Hey!" she turns her head and meets a pair of blue eyes that she knows all too well.

But they don't belong to Lucas.

"Nathan Scott", she says in disbelief. He smirks an identical smirk and it sends a chill up her spine. She doesn't know if it's unwanted or not.

"Peyton Sawyer", he says as he looks her up and down. She fidgets under his gaze; he's such a pig. And it's totally making her regret her choice of a denim skirt. His eyes linger a little too long on her tanned limbs. "Leaving so soon?" he asks once his eyes find her face again.

She shrugs. "I honestly only came because Luke asked me", he chuckles and nods his head.

"He's around, but probably with Rae", Peyton nods. Of course he is! "Look, why don't you stay and I'm sure once Lucas comes up for air he'll look for you", he jokes, but Peyton doesn't crack a smile. He coughs uncomfortably.

"Where's the keg?" she asks. She isn't exactly a drinker, but right now she could use something to forget this night. Nathan points to the corner of the room and tells her that he'll be checking in.

Peyton simply nods and smiles a smile that lets him know she doesn't care what he does. He likes that she's so feisty. The curly haired blonde walks to the keg and grabs herself a plastic cup. As she fills the classic red cup she looks out the large sliding glass door and frowns.

There's Lucas with Rachel on his lap. Hands are everywhere and she can see their mingled breaths in the cool winter air. The second she fills her cup she downs it and fills it again.

She leaves the keg leans against the wall in a hallway near the bathroom. Everyone's looking at her because they know she's the girl with two dead moms and because she's Lucas's best friend. That seems to be her permanent definition.

"So we meet again", that smooth, confident voice fills her ears. She turns around with a smile on her features. She doesn't know if it's because it's Nathan Scott. Or because she's had five cups of beer (and three shots) in the 45 minutes she's been here. Maybe it's because she's tired of jumping into random conversations with people just so she isn't labeled the girl who drank alone all night.

But, she thinks she smiles because a part of her – a small, seemingly insignificant part – wants Lucas to see her talking to his estranged brother.

Regardless of the cause, that smile stays in place and she even takes a step over to him. "Nathan Scott", she says, much the same as she did when she first saw him tonight. He raises his eyebrow and clearly knows she's had more to drink then her frame can handle.

"Are you drunk?" he asks in amusement. She shrugs her shoulders because she totally is, but she doesn't want to be that girl. "Nice Sawyer", he says in appreciation.

"I do what I can", she quips. He folds his arms over his broad chest and Peyton crosses her legs so that her right ankle is touching her left. Nathan stares at her legs the entire time. She feels a blush rise to her cheeks and when she starts to bite her lip she shakes her head.

Is she flirting with Nathan Scott?

She can't be. He's a pig and a womanizer and egotistical and he's always been an ass to Lucas, plus he . . . looks so damn good with his backwards hat. She shakes her head again. She needs to stop drinking.

"Like what you see?" he asks with a knowing expression. She hopes she doesn't blush because she rolls her eyes and scoffs.

"Please", she snorts. Nathan raises both his eyebrows; daring her to keep going against him. "Besides, aren't you with Cheery over there?" she mumbles as she tilts her chin past his shoulder.

He grimaces before turning his head slightly. She's in a group of people with a smile on her red lips and a laugh in her throat, but Nathan knows the look in her eyes. Brooke Davis is daring him to make a move.

"Brooke and I are kind of . . . between relationships right now", he says as smoothly as he can. Peyton lets out a noise and nods her head;

"And I get to be the girl you bide your time with until she takes you back?"

Nathan grins. "Finally, a girl that gets it!" and he throws his hands in the air. To his surprise – and Peyton's – the blonde girl chuckles. She also takes a step closer.

"You're smooth", she whispers. He smirks and leans his head down a little. Peyton can smell the minty gum on his breath and she becomes entranced by it. It doesn't last long because a second later she's being lifted off the ground and tossed over a shoulder.

Her red cup hits the ground and from her upside down state of vision she can see Nathan simply stare as she's carried through the living room and out the door. The steps they go down cause her stomach to churn and she has to close her eyes. The second her feet hit the ground she punches his shoulder.

"Seriously!" she screams. Lucas stares at her with a disbelieving glare. She's mad that he rescued her from that buffoon? Nathan was all over her and Peyton doesn't know any better.

"Peyton, he was all –"

"NO! Lucas, you had no right to do that!" she screams into the night. His mouth drops and takes a step closer to her.

"No right?! Peyton, I have every right to stop you from doing something stupid!" he counters. Peyton snorts; her drunken haze pretty much dissolved.

"How come you don't stop yourself from your own stupid decisions", she sneers as she points to his visible hickey. Lucas freezes and for a split second feels as if he's done something wrong.

"Rachel is my girlfriend!" he barks back after his hesitation. Peyton rolls her eyes and swallows back the bile in her throat. She knows! For the love of God, she knows!

"Lucas, I wasn't going to have sex with him!" she screams. "We were talking!"

"Nathan doesn't talk with girls, Peyton!" he yells. She stops in her tracks and stares at him incredulously. Did he think she was going to sleep with Nathan?

"Lucas, just because Nathan has a reputation doesn't mean I'm going to feed into it", she folds her arms around her body in a protective manner and whispers; "I can't believe you."

His anger fades as he stares at the broken blonde that stands a foot away from him. The complete hurt that flashed in her green eyes tore down into his soul. They stay in the silence because he knows that if he tries to reconcile it she'll shut him down even more.

"Come on", he whispers. "I'll take you home" and he fishes through his pockets for his keys.

"You're not driving", she says harshly. "You've been drinking", she points out. "I'll walk", she mumbles before turning on her heels and taking a step.

He doesn't miss a beat. He falls into step behind her without her saying a word to him about it. "I'd rather you didn't walk me", she says without looking back at him.

"Oh, I'm not walking you", he argues. "I'm just going home", he says while sticking his hands into his pockets. She doesn't say anything loud enough for him to hear, but he swears she curses.

He watches as she wobbles and staggers and nearly falls down. It takes everything he has in him to not rush forward and take her into his arms. It's his complex with Peyton. He always needs to protect her; he's been doing it since he was four.

And tonight, after opening the sliding glass door and spotting Peyton across the room, he felt something shift inside of him. Like she was meant to be there, with him. Lucas shakes his head, she wasn't with him. But when he saw his younger, half brother leaning into her, all he saw was red.

He ignored Rachel's arms wrapped around his waist and marched over to the blonde and brunette. He threw her over his shoulder and stormed out of the house. He only now realizes that he didn't tell anyone he was leaving. And that that probably wasn't the best method of getting her out of the house.

He turns the corner to Peyton's room just in time to see her pull her shirt over her head – leaving her in a tank tip and her skirt – and crawl into bed. Apparently the alcohol's caught up with her. She plops her head onto the pillow and lets out a groan.

He gets a trash bin and a wet washcloth for her forehead before lying down beside her. Peyton groans again at the movement and tilts her head to look at Lucas. They never fight, not like they did outside of Nathan's house and it makes her unsettled.

"Everything's gonna be alright, right?" she asks in a soft, terrified voice. Lucas looks down at her and cups her cheek with his large hand. He can't really make a promise, but he can't ever tell her 'no'.

"Yeah", he says softly. "Yeah, it is", he promises and brushes his thumb across the apple of her cheek. She lets out a breath and rolls over; burrowing into her pillow and blankets. Lucas stays awake and watches her.

He makes a silent promise to make sure everything is alright.

Walking the streets with you and your worn out jeans
I can't help thinking this is how it ought to be
Laughing on a park bench, thinking to myself
Hey, isn't this easy?

They have their typical Sunday morning together.

It's a bit warmer now that springs approaching, but they both still wear sweatshirts as they walk down the street, away from Karen's café. They're laughing about something totally stupid, but Peyton wouldn't have it any other way.

"Alright", she says as she tries to catch her breath. "Best birthday ever?" she asks with a kinked brow. They may be best friends, but she still learns something new about him almost every day.

Lucas waits a minute before smiling. "When I was twelve", he begins. "My mom and Keith surprised me with tickets to the Duke – Carolina game", he says as he holds out his hands. Peyton rolls her eyes and chuckles.

"Of course it involves basketball", she teases. Lucas mocks and playfully pushes her.

"You remember, I wasn't around the whole weekend. It totally sucked for you", he teases. Peyton sticks her tongue out at him in jest, but it really did suck. Haley had her tonsils taken out and she didn't really have many other people to hang out with.

"So anyway, we drove up and made a weekend out of it and it was cool because it was the first time we were a real family", he says softly and Peyton walks a little closer to him. Just the warmth of her body heat gives him comfort.

"I'd give anything to have that back", he admits with a small smile. Peyton looks up at him and he lets out a breath. "What about you?"

She blinks for a second and then easily says; "My eighth birthday. My mom was still alive; it's the last time we were a real family. I'd give anything to have that back."

Lucas remembers that birthday well. It was in the backyard of the Sawyer home and his mother was helping Anna set up the chips and other party type foods while Keith and Larry manned the grills and sipped the beers both Karen and Anna allowed them to have at the children's party.

They played pin the tail on the donkey and hot potato and because it was so close to summer they had a water balloon fight. The cake was brought out and they sang to the bright eyed Peyton Sawyer; he's still got that picture of her smile somewhere in his room. It was the last time he ever saw that smile.

Anna Sawyer died four months later.

"You know", he ventures softly. "I know things haven't been easy and you've been dealt a pretty unfair hand, but not everyone's gonna leave you", he whispers bravely.

"Luke", she whines and then blushes. He shakes his head.

"I mean it, contrary to what's written on your bedroom wall, people don't always leave", he says pointedly. "My mom, Haley, Mouth and Skills, the guys", he lists off.

Peyton rolls her eyes and shakes her head. He's totally embarrassing her right now. "And the last time I checked . . . I'm still here", he says as he throws his arm around her.

She leans into his embrace and lets out a breath. It sucks that he's her best friend sometimes. All she wants to do is kiss him senseless for all the sweet words he says. She was nervous that after their blowout that night at Nathan's beach house things would be tense, but it wasn't like that at all. If anything they've been closer.

"Hey Luke, if you want to go hang out with Rachel –"

"Nope", he says easily. "Today is our day. Unless you have other plans", he says jokingly. She laughs and punches his shoulder. "Ow, you know, you kind of hurt when you do that."

"Skills has been teaching me some things", he makes a face at the thought of her possibly needing to know when to use the moves Skills would teach her. "Seriously though Luke, she's your girlfriend", Peyton mumbles.

Lucas nods. "I know and I'll see her tomorrow at school and at practice after that. Plus, with the Sparkle Classic coming up Brooke's being a total Nazi", he says with a laugh. Peyton chuckles too, but cringes on the inside. She's sure that ever since that one party she attended the brunette's been plotting her death. Brooke and Nathan recently got back together.

"If you say so", she says brightly and wraps her arm around his waist. Lucas looks down at her and smiles. He starts to say something, but gets cut off by a loud squeal.


They both turn and smile at the small girl whose running, full force, towards Lucas. Peyton knows he'll take her into his arms and shoot her into the air before holding her closer. When he does just that she feels her heart swell. He'll be so great with kids.

The little girl is his next door neighbor's daughter. Annabel Harper absolutely adores the blonde boy that currently holds her safely. Peyton smiles at her mother before flicking her eyes to little Annabel and Lucas. He's taking softly to her and the little girl giggles loudly.

"Your girlfriend's pretty", the Annabel says shyly. It makes Peyton's heart burst for several reason. Begrudgingly, she opens her mouth and says;

"Oh, we're not –"

"She is, isn't she?" Lucas says as he cuts her off. He doesn't take his eyes off the four year old brunette in his arms and Peyton's thankful. If he did, he'd see the fan-girl like look in her eyes and that would be awkward.

He makes it so damn easy to be in love with him.

And you've got a smile that could light up this whole town
I haven't seen it in awhile, since she brought you down
You say you're fine, I know you better than that
Hey whatchu' doing with a girl like that?

"I don't know Hales", Peyton says with a laugh in her throat. "I think Mouth totally has the hots for you", Haley chucks a pillow at the blonde on the bed and both girls giggle loudly.

Peyton loves Lucas and she loves being his best friend, but she enjoys girl time. She gets to be silly and eat a carton of ice cream and watch movies like Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club. And she gets to talk about boys.

"Please", Haley says in exasperation. "I'm far from someone he should have the hots for", she mumbles before sticking a spoon full of mint chocolate chip into her mouth. Peyton frowns.

"Haley, you're a total babe. I don't call you foxy for no reason", she says playfully, but there's a seriousness in her voice. The brunette rolls her eyes and waves her hand at her.

Lucas watches from the doorway as the girls laugh and tease. It makes him smile. There are so many different sides to Peyton Sawyer and he's glad he gets to see them all. He doesn't want to interrupt so he turns on his heels, but he steps on a dead spot of the hallway.

"Luke?" Peyton questions. Lucas cringes, damn her creaky wooden floor. "What are you doing here?" she's pretty sure he had plans with Rachel tonight. He looks back at her and shrugs.

"I just wanted to check in with you", he says lightly as he walks into the room. Haley raises her eyebrows. "I don't wanna interrupt girls' night", he says while moving back to the door.

"Lucas", Peyton says in admonishment. "Come back here and tell us what's wrong", she orders as she pats a spot on the bed. He walks over to the bed and takes a hesitant seat, but shakes his head.

"Nothing's wrong", when Haley snots he shoots her a look. "Really, nothing's the matter."

"Then why are you here?" Haley asks the obvious question. Peyton simply sits back and watches the exchange. Haley's always been better at getting things out of Lucas and she isn't afraid to be straight forward. Peyton's the one who picks up the pieces.

Lucas sighs, clearly not wanting to drag this out any longer. "Rachel and I had plans, but she canceled last minute. She's being so hot and cold again lately", he mumbles. Haley rolls her eyes.

"Why are you even with her?" she asks in exasperation. Peyton's mouth drops and she sends the petite girl a glare. To both their surprises Lucas doesn't get angry and he doesn't look to Peyton for support.

"Cause sometimes it's good and sometimes there's nobody else", he whispers with a shrug. "It's better then being alone."

"Lucas, you're not alone", Peyton says with a gasp. He opens his mouth, but she cuts him off. "No, you're never alone. Someone is always here for you", she promises. She vividly remembers him telling her the same thing a few weeks ago.

Lucas rests his head on her shoulder and Peyton rests her head atop his. Haley looks on with a smile. She can't wait for the day when these two finally get it together and she can gloat about knowing from the beginning.

Lucas pats her thigh and sighs. "Alright, so I've had my fill of girl time", he says with a laugh. "What movies are we watching?"

Haley grins and holds them up. "We've got Pretty in Pink and Dirty Dancing", Lucas groans at both options.

"Oh come on", Peyton says with a laugh. "I have a picture of you dressed as Mr. Swayze from this very movie", she teases.

"Okay, one – we were seven, and two – our mother's thought it would be cute to have us be a set . . . Baby", he mocks. He remembers her wearing a pink dress while he dressed in all black.

"Alright, whatever", she says as a blush rises to her cheeks. He laughs loudly and Peyton smiles too. It's good to see him be carefree. It's like whenever he's with Rachel or some of the other popular kids he holds back who he really is.

"So, Dirty Dancing it is?" Haley questions once the laughter dies down. Peyton nods and grabs her carton of ice cream before scooting back and getting comfortable on her bed. Lucas sits beside her and grabs her spoon.

"Hey!" she squeals. He takes a big spoonful of her ice cream he shrugs. "That's my ice cream!"

"Mine now", he says through a mouthful of the cold treat. Peyton pouts heavily before Lucas lets out a sigh. He puts some ice cream onto the spoon and feeds her carefully. Peyton hum in contentment. Haley lies on the other side of Lucas and sneaks glances at them the entire night.

She really wonders how much longer it'll be until they get together.

She wears high heels, I wear sneakers
She's cheer captain and I'm on the bleachers
Dreaming about the day when you wake up and find
That what you're looking for has been here the whole time

"I need a favor", Lucas says as he sits beside Brooke at lunch was afternoon. The brunette looks over at him with a raised brow. "I know the Sparkle Classic is soon . . ."

Brooke groans. "Don't remind me. I still feel totally unprepared for it", she whines. That's when Lucas smiles.

"Right and I know that Theresa's got mono which means she's out of commission for the next few weeks –"

"Lucas, are you trying to force me into depression? Because it's totally working", she snaps as she pulls at a strand of her brown hair. This is her last year to show that whore Claire Young just what she's made of.

"So, I want you to ask Peyton to join the team", he says with a sheepish – and he hopes charming – smile. Brooke's mouth drops. Isn't that the girl that Nathan almost hooked up with?

Sure enough when she follows Lucas's pointed finger she sees the curly haired blonde. Her brown eyes turn back to Lucas and she shakes her head fiercely. "There's no way I'm asking her", she says as she waves her hands in front of her.

"Brooke", he groans.

"No way, Lucas . . . she's not exactly cheerleader material", Brooke says softly. She knows the girl has been through some hardships and so she understands the less then peppy mood.

"Her mom was a cheerleader and although she'd never admit it", he stops to smirk. "She's always wanted to follow in those footsteps. It would help her feel closer to her."

"Lucas . . . why can't you ask Rachel to ask her. She's the captain", Brooke whines. She's starting to cave. She really needs another person for the team. Lucas laughs.

"You know if I went to Rachel with this would cause a huge fight", he points out because it's the absolute truth.

"Luke –"

"Don't deny it, it's true", he cuts her off. "Look, could you please just talk to her about it", he begs as his cell goes off. A text from Rachel – I'm waiting in your backseat. "Okay, I've gotta meet Rach –"

"Ahh", Brooke says as she covers her ears. "I don't want to hear about your sexual meetings!" she squeals. Lucas chuckles and ruffles her hair before leaving the table. Brooke eyes Peyton from across the quad and groans. Damn him for being so damn charming and damn her for being so damn desperate.

She stands and makes her way over.

When a shadow covers the drawing Peyton's working on she looks up and does her best to not seem surprised. What does Brooke Davis want with her?

"Hey Peyton", the brunette says cheerily. The blonde smiles – barely – and waits for Brooke to continue. "I was wondering if I could talk to you for a second", there's a beat of silence and "Alone", she says softly as she meets the glares of the other people at the table.

Oh God, Peyton thinks, this is how Brooke's going to kill me.

"Su – sure", she stutters over her words before standing. She sends a look to the others at the table – Haley, Skills, Mouth, and Junk – and then follows Brooke to a shaded area of the quad.

"So, I don't know if you've heard, but Theresa's got mono –"

"That's what happens when you get with the entire football team in a week", Peyton quips before stopping to think about it. She's just badmouthed one of Brooke's fellow cheerleaders. But to her surprise, the brunette laughs.

"It could have been from the lacrosse team the week before", she counters and Peyton lets out a low laugh. Maybe all cheerleaders aren't the same. "So listen, since she's out of commission . . . we need someone to hop on for the Classic –"

"Isn't that in like a day?" Peyton asks dumbly. When Brooke nods Peyton makes a noise. "So, what are you going to do?"

"I'm hoping you'd help me with that", the brunette says hesitantly. Peyton raises a brow and Brooke continues. "Lucas said you might be interested and I'm kind of hoping the same thing", she admits.

Peyton stares at her incredulously. "I don't think so", she whispers. The last thing she ever saw herself doing was joining the cheerleading team. Not to mention having Brooke Davis ask her.

"Look, I know it's not your thing, but I'm kind of desperate here", she pleads.

"Aren't you co-captain? Shouldn't this be Rachel's job?" Peyton asks as she folds her arms over herself. Brooke nods and tucks a strand of hair behind her ear.

"Yes, but she's a bit preoccupied with Lucas at the moment", she grumbles and it becomes clear to Peyton that the girl is a bit annoyed with their antics as well. And Peyton's sure her eyes flash over with pain at the mention of Lucas and Rachel.

"He was going to ask you himself, but –"

"But it would have caused a huge fight", Peyton fills in. Brooke drops her mouth in shock – although she isn't.

"No it wouldn't –"

"Brooke, don't deny it, it's the truth", the blonde says easily. At this point in the year it's no secret that Rachel Gatina doesn't like Peyton Sawyer. Brooke smiles and it's filled with awe.

"You know, Lucas said the same thing", she says while tilting her head to the side. Peyton lifts half her shoulder in a small shrug.

"We're best friends", her mumbled voice fills Brooke's ears and she smirks. If that's her story. "I don't want to cause any trouble with her and –"

"It won't cause trouble", Brooke quickly promises. "She just wants to come in first place. And honestly it'll be easier for everyone involved. Lucas won't hear her complain about losing and the rest of our team doesn't have to work so hard."

"Brooke –"

"Come on, you can just join for the competition and then things go back to normal", she assures the blonde. Peyton looks across the quad and caves. Lucas is walking hand in hand with the very redhead that will hate her for this.

But that's kind of her motivation for it all.

"I'll do it."

And just like that Peyton Sawyer becomes a Tree Hill Raven's Cheerleader.

If you could see that I'm the one who understands you
Been here all along so why can't you see?
You belong with me

Standing by and waiting at your backdoor
All this time how could you not know
Baby, you belong with me
You belong with me

By the time the cd player is turned off all the girls are ready to collapse. Some grad their towels and other grab their water bottles. Peyton pulls her t-shirt away from her body and fans herself, hoping to steady her heartbeat.

"Okay girls, ten minute break, then we're back to practice!" Rachel calls out before leaving the room. Everyone knows where she's going and she's sure the boys will be pissed.

"God, can't she leave Lucas alone for ten minutes!" a blonde, who she's learned is Bevin, asks in exasperation. Peyton bites back her smile.

"No, because apparently even the guys want to sleep with him", Brooke says next as she pulls her hair into a pony tail. Peyton sits beside her and offers the brunette her bottle.

Over the last few days they've sort of developed a friendship. They talk about random things and they actually have a few things in common. Missing parents, a big house to themselves, the feeling of always being alone.

"So, are you nervous about tomorrow?" Bevin asks Peyton.

The blonde shrugs. "This doesn't really mean a lot to me, but I know it means a lot to you guys so I don't wanna mess that up", she replies honestly.

"You know, you're really cool, Peyton", Bevin says with a smile. The blonde smirks, but before she can respond a voice cuts through the auditorium.

"Please, don't feed her ego!"

"Haley James!" Peyton says as she stands and runs to hug her friend.

Haley hugs her back and brings her over to a few of the girls. After introductions are made and Haley lets Peyton take a few bites out of the cheeseburger she smuggled in and they laugh and talk about boys. It's totally girly and when Bevin makes a comment about Skills Peyton and Haley laugh loudly; promising to hook them up. It's nice to expand her horizons. Then the brunettes gone – mostly because Rachel comes back into the room.

"Alright ladies, one more time from the top!"

The next morning they all wake up sore and exhausted and they all want to kill Rachel Gatina. As Peyton leaves the room she puts her sunglasses over her eyes and ties the blue ribbon in her pulled back curls.

"Lookin' good Sawyer", a voice calls out from behind her. She turns to see the smirk of Nathan Scott. He's got his slacks on and a nice button down shirt, but his tie is undone.

"Lookin' sloppy Scott", she teases as she points to his tie. He shrugs carelessly and she rolls her eyes. "Does Brooke know how to do a tie?" Nathan laughs.

"Brooke's lucky she can tie her own shoes. She was completely pampered as a kid", Peyton huffs a huge breath of air. She grabs onto the two ends of the tie and knots them together easily.

"And where did you learn to tie a tie?" he asks as she fixes it perfectly.

"My dad taught me before he left for a summer. Apparently, it's something all girls need to know how to do", she says with a shrug. They walk down the hall and make it to the elevator.

"How was practice last night?" he asks.

The only thing Peyton can do is groan from the hours of sweat and pain she endured the other night. She steals a sideways glance at Nathan. It's crazy to believe that months ago they weren't even friends and now she's sharing an elevator with him while discussing the beating she took at cheerleading practice the other night.

Life has totally changed.

"Good luck", he says as they part ways once they hit the auditorium. He finds Brooke and the two embrace before kissing briefly, she smiles at the sight. Peyton heads for the stairs, but feels her arm get tugged on before she can even make it up one maroon colored incline.

"Lucas", she says in shock.

They haven't spoken at all during this trip, the obvious reason being the redhead. He looks good though. In his beige slacks and a blue button down; his tie hangs loosely around his neck and she itches to reach out and fix it. He smiles at her bashfully and it makes her smiles too.

"I just wanted to say congratulations and good luck", he seems to whisper. It lets her know Rachel is in a 15 foot radius. She hates that he does this and doesn't think she knows. She nods and begins to walk away again, but Lucas pulls her into his arms.

Apparently he doesn't care about his crazy girlfriend.

He pushes her to an arms length and she grins. "Thanks", she says before being dragged off by Brooke.

Lucas watches her go with a smile on his lips. He can hear them vaguely in the distance and the nicknames they have for each other excites him. Maybe Peyton will like this world.

"You ready for this, P. Sawyer?" she asks as she tilts her head; her somewhat curly hair falls to one side. Peyton smiles and responds.

"I sure as Hell hope so, B. Davis", the nicknames are a new thing, but both girls love them. Neither can explain it, but it feels like they've known each other for years. They're total opposites, but they balance each other out.

They're called to the stage and Peyton smiles and waves at Haley and Mouth and Skills. Rachel takes the front spot and it makes all the girls roll their eyes. Hopefully she can remember the five minute routine for all five minutes.

The music starts and Lucas watches as the girls move on stage. The crowd cheers and Rachel shakes her hips seductively, but he finds himself drifting to watch Peyton. The ribbon in her hair bounces around and her skirt flies in different directions and she's smiling. She's actually smiling.

When the crowd gasps he looks just in time to see Rachel and another cheerleader on the floor. After 10 seconds of tense stillness Rachel flees the stage and leaves the girls in a bind about what to do.

And then he sees Peyton jump to the front.

She busts out her typical white girl moves. The running man, air guitar and the worm. Lucas can't believe his eyes. She's doing the worm on stage. Not only that, but she's gotten all the other girls into it. Brooke starts the robot and then Bevin forms a kick line. It isn't long before the entire team – and Mouth, Haley, and Skills take to the stage.

They don't win, but they spend the night laughing and talking about the 7 minutes they all spent together on stage. At one point Lucas gives Peyton a look that makes her have to turn the other way.

After that night, she also becomes a permanent cheerleader.

Oh, I remember you driving to my house in the middle of the night
I'm the one who makes you laugh when you know you're 'bout to cry
And I know your favorite songs and you tell me 'bout your dreams
Think I know where you belong, think I know it's with me

When he walks into her room late one night she doesn't have to ask what he's doing here. She knows.

Of course she knows.

But, she's given him his space just like he gives her on the warped anniversary. His Uncle Keith was a great man and he was Lucas's father in every way that mattered.

And he passed away last year.

It was a car accident – those seem to haunt the two blondes – that took Keith away from the world. He was on his way to get Karen from the airport. She was coming home from a cooking school in Florence. When a drunk driver ran a red light and slammed into the passenger side. The old jeep flipped several times because of the impact and Keith was killed instantly. The bright side, the doctors said, was that he didn't feel anything. Lucas was haunted with the fact that Keith had seen everything.

"I miss him", Lucas whispers as he sits on her bed. Peyton looks up at him from her place on the pillow and nods. A day doesn't go by without her thinking of him. It must be magnified for Lucas.

"Does it ever get any easier?" he asks in a childlike murmur. Peyton shrugs.

"Every person's different", she doesn't want to tell him one thing and then have him experience another. Plus, every person really is different.

"I know Peyt, but I could really use an answer", and then he smiles.

It's not a huge grin and it comes and goes quickly, but she's still recovering from the shortened version of her name. Peyt. He only uses it once in a while. Mostly because she told him once, a while ago, that she didn't like it.

She secretly loves it.

So that's why, with the tingle of that nickname matching the shudder of that smile, she caves.

"It'll always be there. That knowledge that they aren't around is always with you. But after a while, it stops hurting when you think about them. That heartache starts to fade and it's not so crushing to", she says and then shrugs as if it's not a big deal.

Lucas stares at her pensively and then he lies down beside her. She's so strong that sometimes he forgets she's the same age as him. At seventeen she's already lost an adoptive mother and a birth mother. Peyton can feel the warmth of his body radiate in her direction and she hopes he can't hear her heart pound.

"I should have been there", he says with a hoarse voice. Peyton turns onto her side and looks at him incredulously. "I should have gone with him to get her . . . God! I should have just gone like I told him I would!" he says in frustration. After his outburst Peyton remains silent. There's nothing she can say to that.

She's the reason he wasn't in that car.

Her father had picked up a lot more business the summer going into their junior year. He was away a lot more often and that meant Peyton was alone more often – except for the time she had with Lucas. But even that was minimal – Rachel was working her way into the picture.

Larry had promised that he would be home for her last two years of high school, but that didn't happen. The day after he left was the day Karen came home. It was raining and Peyton had never been a fan of storms. Lucas knew this. He called Peyton without having to think it over and offered to stop by. She insisted it wasn't necessary because she knew Karen was coming back and that they would all want to spend some time together. He wouldn't hear it; especially when thunder roared and she squealed. After he hung up however, he looked at Keith guiltily, but the older man simply smiled.

Peyton always thought he wanted them together.

Lucas turns on his side after Peyton's silence looms. Unbeknownst to her, tears are in her eyes and he instantly realizes his mistake.

"Peyton, I didn't mean anything by it", he mutters. Peyton nods, not trusting her own voice. That's when Lucas puts his hand on her cheek and moves himself closer to her. "I mean it", he whispers into her ear. "I miss Keith everyday, but I'd never want to leave you. I'd miss you too much", he says with a soft, caring voice. She looks up at him from beneath her long lashes and smiles cheekily.

"What exactly would you miss?" he chuckles heartily and lies flat on his back. She misses the warmth that his hand provided.

"I don't know", he answers honestly. He'd just miss her, but she'd never accept that as an answer.

"Oh come on", she pries. "There has to be something . . ." when he remains silent she guesses. "My shining personality?"

His burst of laughter shocks her.

"What!" she cries indignantly. He tilts his head and gives her a look as if to say – Are you really asking this.

"You're not exactly the cheeriest person", her mouth drops and she whacks his shoulder, which only causes more laughter.

"I'm cheery", she insists.

"Peyton, on Halloween when we were 12 you dressed as the Angel of Death", he says with laughter still in his throat.

She wants to get mad. Really, she does, but his laughter is so sweet and he looks so handsome with his dimples showing that she simply can't be mad.

"Whatever", she grumbles. He smirks at the pout she wears.

"Oh come on", he reaches out and pulls her close to him. Her head rests right above his heart and he breathes in her comforting scent – vanilla with a hint of lavender. "I'm only teasing", he says with a sweet voice.

"Yeah, you're hysterical", she mumbles against his body. Shivers travel up his spine, but he doesn't know why. She rests her weight against him and he can't help but you notice that she molds against him in all the right ways. He almost makes note of another thing.

They lay like that in the silence of her room like they have so many times before. It's comfortable. They don't need to talk or listen to music – although they enjoy both – to fill the gaps because it's peaceful.

"Do you have a plan?" Peyton asks suddenly. He furrows his brows and as if she can see him she clarifies, "Like a five year plan. What you'll be doing? Where you'll live? Who you'll be with", she adds the last part quietly.

He waits a minute and then shrugs. "I never really thought about it, but I guess I'll be playing professional ball. I'll be living in tree Hill, but I'll have a house in Los Angeles, maybe in New York", he says with a cheeky smile.

"And Rachel Gatina is who you'll be with?" she asks playfully – she hopes. Lucas chuckles and then groans; much to Peyton's surprise. "What? The great Rachel Gatina isn't part of your five year plan?" she teases further.

He shrugs. "I never really thought about it", he admits. "I always knew basketball, Tree Hill, family, you", he says simply.

"Me?" she asks in shock. He meets her eyes and nods.

"Yeah, you'll always be in my life."

Peyton's heart flutters.

"You're my best friend."

And then her heart crashes and burns.

Before she can respond, not that she has anything to say to that, he glances at the clock and lets out a breath. It's been an hour and he feels like a whole new person. "How do you do it?"

"Do what?" She asks sullenly. He pulls her a little closer and Peyton lets her arm wrap around his body.

"Make me forget about being sad", he says in awe. Like she has superpowers.

"It's a gift", she says seriously before they both burst into laughter. "I just don't like seeing you so upset", she whispers.

"It's a two way street, Blondie", he murmurs before kissing the top of her golden curls. "I love you."

She waits with baited breath – though she knows it won't come – for him to continue with, I'm in love with you, I've always been in love with you, but I've been too afraid to say anything.

The silence is deafening.

She thinks that maybe this is her chance. Her moment to make every dream she's ever dreamt come true. Her shot at laying it all out there. She opens her mouth, but those words don't spill from her mouth;

"I love you too", she whispers.

And she does. She just loves him too much to risk losing him.

Can't you see that I'm the one who understands
Been here all along, so why can't you see?
You belong with me


Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. There are three types of cardiomyopathy: "hypertrophic", "dilated" and "restrictive". The main feature of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is an excessive thickening of the heart muscle. Thickening is seen in the ventricular septal measurement, and in weight. Heart muscle may also thicken in normal individuals as a result of high blood pressure or prolonged athletic training. Furthermore, there is a fine line between and athletic heart and a heart with HCM.

Peyton can remember every word Karen reiterated to her. Apparently Lucas's 'basic doctor's appointment' a week ago was a lot bigger then he led on. He's got a heart condition, one he inherited from Dan of all people. It was a 50/50 shot between him and Nathan and like most times in his life, Nathan came out on top.

Because of his heart condition basketball isn't an option anymore. He can only play for 15 minute intervals and there isn't a spot for a player of that type in the NBA or the college leagues. Peyton's just glad he got to play in and win the State Championship before he found any of this out.

When she hears that all too familiar swish of the net she smiles. After checking his house and the cemetery she should have known he'd be here. She watches for a minute as he dribbles and then the ball sails through the net with ease.

"Nice shot", she calls out with a smile on her lips. Lucas whirls around and smiles softly when he sees her. She always knows where to find him and it's always at the best possible times.

Lucas tilts his head, "Where are you going? And why are you dressed like that?" he asks as he eyes her in her cheerleading uniform. Peyton chuckles and places her hands on her hips.

"Nathan's press conference is tonight, he's accepting Duke's offer, a few of the cheerleaders have to be there", she says with a shrug. "I figured Rachel would have told you."

Lucas rubs the back of his neck and Peyton feels herself worry. He only does that when he's nervous or has something to tell her. "We kind of broke up", he admits sheepishly.

Her mouth drops and she takes three giant steps over to him. "Luke, I'm so sorry. Why didn't you say anything sooner?" she asks frantically. He shrugs.

"I just came out here and tried to clear my mind. Don't worry, it wasn't for more then fifteen minutes at a time", he says before she can interject. Peyton smiles, but it quickly fades.

"What happened?" she feels the need to ask. They were always hot and cold and they were always on again and off again, but something about the look in Lucas's eyes let her know this was it.

It was final.

"She doesn't want to be tied down to a guy who's got a heart condition", he quotes bitterly. Peyton's heart breaks for him.

Lucas Scott has a heart the size of the moon – flawed or not – and it wasn't fair for her to throw that in his face. This was just another reason, the ultimate reason, for her to hate Rachel Gatina.

"I'm so sorry, Luke", she whispers as she throws her arms around him. Lucas hugs her back and takes in that familiar smell – it calms him. "I'm sure she's kicking herself for it", Peyton says as they break apart.

Lucas snorts. "No really, I mean . . . picture a future moment in time. It's like the best day ever, all your dreams come true and I'm sure you'll want her standing next to you. She'll realize that too."

Lucas shakes his head and lets the ball fall to the floor. "I doubt that. Bevin told Skills she saw Rachel at the mall with Vegas", that thought makes Peyton cringe.

She hasn't been a cheerleader for too long and so she doesn't know the players as well as the other girls, but from what she can gather about Vegas, well it isn't much. The kid is a total meathead. But he doesn't have a heart condition and he has a chance at going pro. Which means he'll be making a ton of money.

"Well, if it makes you feel any better it's a complete downgrade", she says with a smile. Lucas chuckles, but before he can say anything, her cell phone goes off. Peyton smiles warily.

"That's my alarm. The conference is starting soon", she whispers. Lucas nods in complete understanding. "I can stay", she offers. "They definitely don't need little old me there", Lucas shakes his head. She's got obligations to attend to; he'd never hold them against her.

"Go! Wear your cheer smile and stand straight. I'll be watching", he says playfully. She hesitates, but Lucas gives her a look silently saying everything he doesn't speak. He'll call her if he needs her. He appreciates her concern. He'll be fine.

"Okay", she says softly and taps his chest once before walking off the familiar blacktop. For some reason, Lucas watches her leave and feels an ache in his chest. He doesn't want her to leave him right now. His blue eyes cloud over as they watch the sway of her hips and the length of her legs from the pleated blue skirt.

"Nice legs!" he yells out randomly. Peyton stops and looks at him with a confused expression. "You asked me once, a while ago, what I'd miss about you", recognition fills her green eyes as she remember the night he walked into her room with tears in his eyes.

"I'd miss your legs", he says in case she didn't fully understand what he was getting at. "They're kind of chickeny", he teases which leads to her playfully giving him the finger. "But from far away they're pretty amazing."

She waits a minute before saying anything. He's just broken up with his girlfriend of nearly a year. He's in emotional turmoil and doesn't know what he's saying. Right?

"I'm not sure that's a compliment", she yells back, a hint of her southern accent makes an appearance and it makes Lucas smirk.

He looks her over once more and that smirk turns into a grin. "Oh it is, trust me!" Peyton shakes her head and lets out a noise.

"I'm leaving now!" she calls back and does just that. Lucas keeps his eyes on her legs.

Because he wasn't kidding. They're pretty amazing.

Standing by and waiting at your backdoor
All this time how could you not know
Baby, you belong with me
You belong with me

Graduation is a day that all seniors look forward to, Lucas included. He smiles and laughs as he looks around his mother's crowed café. All his friends and their family is here and it feels like it should be. All of them together again. Even Larry made it home and Lucas couldn't have been happier to see the pure joy in Peyton's eyes when she saw her father earlier today.

With his thoughts on the curly blonde he looks around, but frowns. She's nowhere to be seen. He loosens his tie and undoes the first button; the summer air has already hit this small town hard and it makes his dress clothes unbearable, but he knows his mother would kill him for changing.

He slowly backs out of the room and heads for the small staircase in the kitchen. This is something he and Peyton used to do when they were kids. He'd sneak them into his mother's café after hours and they'd sit on the roof. Sometimes they'd talk and other times they'd stare at the stars; hoping for a shooting one to make a wish and see it come true.

When he opens the large metal door he smirks. There she is, standing near the ledge with her arms folded as she watches the small town bustle down below. He cups his hands around his mouth and yells out;

"Don't jump! It's only the beginning of the end!"

Before she turns to face him she rolls her eyes. She knew he'd never let that go. She had said it one night a few days before graduation and he had chuckled then. Apparently, she could never live down her broodiness.

Now they're both heading to UNC in the fall. He'll study literature and she'll double major in art and business. They already have their classes worked out so that they can see each other as often as possible and the even have a few core classes together. It should be a good first semester.

When she looks at him, he can feel his breath catch and his heart stop. She's wearing a white sundress and her long curls are delicately pinned back. Her makeup is minimal, but brings out her green eyes. She looks absolutely gorgeous.

He doesn't know what makes it change, but suddenly everything does.

She's no longer the girl he fake married when they were 6. She's more then the first girl he ever kissed. She stops being the girl he taught how to tie her shoes. She isn't just his best friend. She's Peyton Sawyer.

And he's in love with her.

He walks purposely towards her and Peyton just eyes him in confusion. When he's about a foot away he grabs her hand and brings her closer to him.

"It's you", he whispers. She looks at him with even more confusion on her features and she must think he's speaking another language. "That night at the Rivercourt, you said I wanted Rachel next to me", he mumbles. She's still totally confused and it's really angering him.

"I love you", he blurts out. Peyton smiles, but it's bittersweet. He looks so good in his white dress shirt and black slacks, with a slim black tie to match.

"I love you too", she responds automatically. She's used to his friendly declarations by now. To her shock Lucas shakes his head fiercely.

"No, I – this may be out of line and I could be making a huge mistake, but I love you", he pauses and Peyton can feel her heart pound out of her chest. She's pretty sure she waited for the next words her entire life. "I'm in love with you."

She doesn't yell. She isn't even frustrated. She simply pulls on the collar of his shirt and looks into his eyes. When their lips meet it's like nothing they've ever experienced before. He pulls her closer and she clings to him. Neither wants to let this moment end.

They break apart and take giant gasps of air before she smiles brightly. Their foreheads rest together and they both take the moment to breathe it all in. They're best friends and they already know everything there is to know about the other person, but as friends.

Now they'll learn about each other as lovers and partners. They'll learn about each other in every possible way they can. He licks his lips and she whispers;

"Took you long enough."

You belong with me
Have you ever thought; just maybe, you belong with me?

You belong with me

Let me know what you think!

AN: I also wanted to throw out there that Hilarie Burton has a blog for her production company. This may not be news to some of you – and yet maybe it is – but the blog isn't what I wanted to discuss. There were rumors that were flying about her not coming back for next season, well she addresses them in a video and I swear it breaks my heart. She's probably the most genuine and graceful person I've never met LOL. She's a total rockstar. I just wanted you all to know and maybe take a look at it.

My basic point is that I think she's the kind of woman girls should aspire to be. I know I do.