A/N: How did Lucas spend his summer after senior year, when Peyton was away? A oneshot following Lucas through the 60 days he was without her.
She's been gone two days.
Just two days, and he already feels like he's losing her. It's silly, and maybe a little paranoid, but he realizes that he's rarely gone two days without seeing her for over a year, and he hates that he has to do it now.
He hates even more that it's only two days out of 60.
He took her to the airport, like any loving boyfriend would do, but she reminded him that he's not just any boyfriend. He's her boyfriend, and she loves him.
He didn't let her go until the last possible second, and he did his best not to tear up, but she didn't, and that almost broke his heart. She was crying and clutching his hand, and so he did the one thing he hadn't wanted to do, and he told her to stay.
She'd said his name in a quiet, pleading tone, and he knew he was making it harder on the both of them, but he had to say it, and he kind of got the feeling she understood that.
He kissed her one last time, and told her he loved her, and held her hand until she had to go through security. She turned to him and smiled and said she'd be seeing him, and she made him laugh. He loved her for that.
But it only made it harder still.
He didn't tell her - he didn't tell anyone - that he watched planes take off for the next hour, wondering which one she might have been on. His heart broke a little more every time he saw another one take to the sky.
Driving home, he realized that their small town felt even smaller without her there, and he thinks that he's not meant to be there without her. He might even go so far as to say that their town isn't meant to be there without her. She breathes life into him and into everything, and it's really damn hard not to be able to stroll into her bedroom and see her. To lay atop the covers as she draws or talks candidly of music. To kiss her when she's not expecting it or run his thumb over that spot just below her ear in that way that always makes her close her eyes and smile.
But she's chasing dreams, and she needs to make her own way, and he can't fault her for that. It's what he's always loved about her - well, one of the things he's always loved about her - that she's fiercely independent, and she won't believe anything until she feels it for herself.
But she's gone now, and it's been two days, and he feels absolutely lost.
He takes to the court to work out his problems, just like he always has. He's always been able to block everything out when he plays, and he can't really explain it any better than that, but his mind just goes blank when the ball is in his hands.
But the last time he was at that court, his jacket was draped over her knees, and she was cheering him on and calling him baby from the sidelines, and he realizes now that she's got her hands in everything about him.
Every memory he's made in the last year, and a lot of years before that, has to do with her, and he almost wants to be mad that the memories are all she's left him with.
But then his phone rings, and their song is the ringtone, and he can't hate her. He could never hate her.
Because he's so damn in love with her.
And as soon as he hears her voice on the other end of the line, he starts thinking a million thoughts. Her tone is excited and happy, but there's an air of sadness that she explains, when asked, is just because she misses him. He knows she's not just saying that, but that she's actually feeling it, too, and he lies when she asks how he is and he says that he's fine. She reminds of him of what she's told him so many times before; that fine really means 'fucked inside, nice exterior'. She makes a joke about his exterior being much, much more than just nice, and he laughs because that's what he's supposed to do.
But she's excited, and she's happy to be out exploring the world, and he's not really sure where that leaves him.
It's been a week and a half, and he's going stir crazy. He's been out and around, and he and Nathan have taken a day trip to the school they'll be attending in the fall, and he's done everything he can to keep himself occupied, but she's always only a thought away - if that far.
He's holding his baby sister, feeding her from a bottle as he rocks her in a chair. His mother wanted a day to herself, and he gladly offered to watch over Lily for a few hours. Haley's called him three times to make sure he's doing alright, and he told her he wasn't going to answer the next time the phone rang. She knew he was bluffing, but didn't test him. She's worried about him more than she wants to let on, because she can remember how she felt the previous summer, when it was Nathan who was gone for two months.
Lily's wiggling in his arms, and he's growing more and more comfortable with babies. He actually kind of loves them. He remembers those days in the hospital, when his beautiful girlfriend was cradling this baby and looking like a complete natural. All he can think is how someday, somewhere down the line, he hopes she'll be holding his baby. Their baby.
He heaves a sigh, and Lily's eyes flutter open when she feels the movement, and her tiny hand rests atop his, and all he can do is smile. She's the one thing that can really make him smile, save for phone calls and emails from that girl across the country.
He meets up with Nathan at the River Court by accident one evening, and they play a game of one on one that neither of them are proud of. They're both terrible, and they laugh as they wonder aloud how they won a state championship only months earlier. Nathan's exhausted from fatherhood, and Lucas doesn't - and can't - play as hard as he used to, and Nathan doesn't bother him about that.
"So how are you, man?" Nathan asks once they're seated on the bleachers.
"Apparently not doing a very good job of hiding my misery," Lucas says with a smirk, though they both know it's the truth. Nathan lets out a chuckle and looks down to his feet. "It's been like, two weeks, and I'm dying here."
"Dry spell, huh?" Nathan jokes, making Lucas laugh and shake his head. "It's definitely weird without her around."
"It's so...Weird doesn't even begin to describe it," Lucas admits. "It's like she's always been here, you know? And...I dunno...things don't feel the same, somehow."
"Well, you have been a borderline stalker since you were like, 13," Nathan adds before grimacing. "I guess it's way too soon for the stalker jokes."
Lucas laughs again despite himself, and they're quiet for a bit. He's kind of glad Nathan isn't all serious, all the time. In the conversations he's had with his mother and Haley, they're all attentive and sympathetic, and sometimes he just needs to laugh. A lot of the time he just needs to laugh.
"It's hard when the person you love, leaves," Nathan says after a while, recalling all those months without Haley and the toll they took on his heart. "But she's coming back, Luke."
"I know that," Lucas says, nodding his head. "I know she is."
"And hey, at least you know she's not making out with Chris Keller," Nathan says, unable to hide his smile as he stands and shoots the ball through the hoop from his spot.
They both laugh, because it's actually pretty funny, and he knows that he doesn't have to worry about it.
Some nights, he drives through town when Karen shoos him out of the house, and he sits at their spot on the beach for a while, or he'll drive out to River Road. None of it's the same without her, but it still makes him feel a little closer to her.
He passes the house she once told him was her favourite in the entire town, and he remembers the day they were walking hand in hand, and he promised her that someday he'd buy that house for them and give her everything she's ever wanted. She'd told him that as long as she had him, she'd have it all, and so he promised her that, too.
She said she'd never leave him, but she has, and he hopes that her words were a lot more than just the things that people say.
He goes to see Whitey part way through the summer - the man had insisted he be 'left alone' until August - and they sit on the porch with the playbook between them, and they talk about coaching and Nathan, and the school they'll both be at come September. Lucas suggests plays he always wanted to try, and Whitey asks why he never brought them up before, and Lucas answers that he was never the coach before. They both chuckle, but the older man is filled with pride over the Scott boy's accomplishments. Both Scott boys, actually.
After they're done the sports talk, they sip sweet tea and chat about the two babies, and Karen, and lost love. The old man tells the young one in that harsh tone that's still somehow so comforting, that his love isn't lost. She's just out in the world for a little bit, trying to find her own way.
Lucas understands that, but sometimes, he really wishes he didn't.
"Thought I would have seen you around sooner," Whitey observes after a few moments of silence.
"Just following orders," Lucas replies with a smirk, making Whitey smile.
"That'd be a first," he mutters, and it's Lucas' turn to laugh.
"I've just kind of been laying low, you know? Helping my mom and doing some writing," Lucas explains.
"And sittin' by the phone," Whitey suggests knowingly. "But I 'spose you have one of those cellular things."
"Yeah," Lucas mumbles, knowing that his cell hasn't actually rung in a couple days, and her emails are always cute, but he misses her voice.
"Now, go on and get off my porch," Whitey demands after a while, and Lucas raises an eyebrow. "Tell your mother I say hi, and kiss that baby girl for me."
"I will. See you soon, Coach," Lucas says, shaking the man's hand as he stands.
"You too, Coach," Whitey says, winking when Lucas laughs and shakes his head.
And maybe she's not lost, but she's not there, and as he's walking home, he tries her cell one more time, and he listens to her outgoing message, but he hangs up without a word. He wonders what she's doing, and if maybe she's thinking of him, too.
That night, he can't sleep, and when he gets up with the baby, Karen just watches him as he rocks his sister in the nursery. They sit in the kitchen and drink chamomile tea, and she reminds him that he waited so long to be with Peyton, and now he has her, he just has to wait a little bit longer.
He kisses his mother's forehead before heading back into his bedroom, and his phone is blinking, letting him know he has a message.
He doesn't know how she read his mind, but all that's spelled out on the screen are the words; 'I was just thinking about you. xxoo'.
He convinces himself - or at least tries to - that one month isn't that long a time, and they're halfway there. She's halfway home. His head hits the pillow, and he dreams of her that night, wearing a green dress and that pretty smile, and when she tells him she loves him, he believes it, because it's true.
He wakes in the morning and realizes that he hasn't heard her say those words for a few days, and when he talks to her that day, he makes her say it twice. She giggles and calls him crazy, but she makes him do it, too.
There's two weeks until she comes home, but he hasn't spoken to her in four days, so he can't find it in him to be happy. He's gotten two emails and a text, and he needs her. He's not insecure, and he doesn't doubt that she wants to talk to him, but he has to wonder if this is easier on her than it is on him. He's pretty much convinced himself of that fact.
He leaves her a voicemail, though he usually tries not to. He tells her that he misses her, though he knows she already knows it, and he tells her that he loves her, though he knows she already knows it.
She calls him back that evening, and he can tell she's exhausted, and he asks if she's sleeping well. He can tell she's lying when she says yes. She mumbles something cute about not being able to sleep so far away from him, and he says for the thousandth time that he hates that she's so far away from him.
But this time, she takes it as an accusation, and it starts a fight that he didn't see coming. He explains that she already knows how he feels, and that it shouldn't come as a surprise that he just wants his girlfriend around. She tells him he's not being supportive and accuses him of being selfish, and her tone makes him believe that's how she really feels.
He tells her it's hard to be in the town that holds their history and not have her there, and she tells him that all Tree Hill is to her, is two dead moms, a psycho stalker, and a bunch of bad memories. He resents that, rightfully, and he tells her so. He can hear her start to break down, and part of him wants to console her, but part of him wants to make her see his side.
His attempts to explain only serve to make her more upset, and then she's yelling into the phone, and he's not saying much. When he does, she tells him he's being patronizing.
She tells him she hates him and she hangs up the phone, and he does his best not to cry.
He's never heard anything worse in his entire life.
He's sitting, wondering if she really meant it, hoping to God she didn't mean it.
It's been five minutes of heartache and pain and uncertainty, and it's five minutes too much. His phone rings, and their song is the ringtone, and her quiet voice on the other end of the line tells him she loves him before he's even said a word.
He tells her he's sorry, and she says she's sorry, and she admits that she hates the distance and she hates that her being away is making him so upset. She says she feels like she's losing him, and he assures her that's not possible. He tells her he'll fight for her every time, and that she has him, and that he doesn't want that to change any time soon.
She asks him what's been going on in their little town lately, and he's about to answer her when she gets another call and has to let him go. She tells him she loves him one more time, and he repeats the words back to her.
And the thing he was worried most about before she even left, he worries even more about now. He worries that he'll lose her to L.A., and that she won't come home to him like she's promised all along.
He's holding onto her with everything he has, and he tells himself again that her promises weren't just words.
Four days before she's due back, he's starting to pack his things to go away to school. He doesn't leave for another week and a half, but he needs something to do, and he and Nathan have decided to drive up the next day and start to move things into the house Deb generously rented for them.
He finds the old box in his closet, and he knows what it holds. He smiles, but he can't bring himself to open it. He's not naive enough to think they're just things, but in a few days, he'll have the girl, and he doesn't need to reminisce right now. He runs his hands over top of the cardboard, grinning at what he knows is inside, and he sets the box aside.
He's folding tee shirts when he hears his mother call to him, and when he steps into the kitchen, there's a little black box sitting in the middle of the table. He looks questioningly between it and his mother, and she tells him to sit.
"You know what this is." She states it like a fact. She knows he won't need to see what's inside, to know what's inside. He just nods his head, but his mind and heart are racing. "You know who this is for."
He closes his eyes for a moment and lets out a breath, and he nods his head again. She closes her hand over his, and he locks eyes with her. Most parents would think she was crazy, giving her blessing to her teenaged son. But she knows her son, and she knows his heart, and she knows what girl has held it all along.
"I'm not telling you to ask her now," she clarifies in a serious tone, and he smirks at her. "But, when the time comes..."
It's open ended, because neither of them knows when that time will be. He's always thought someday, but now that's a reality more than it is just a childish notion. He knows what's written in a tin on the rooftop of the café. Crumpled paper, and faded ink, and his boyish handwriting proclaiming that she'll someday take his name.
Karen stands and picks up her mug, but his voice stops her before she can go check on the baby.
"What do I do with it?" he asks. His voice is small, and his statement lets her know that the box in front of him is now his most prized possession, second only to the girl he'll give it to.
"Put it in the box I saw you gazing at earlier," she says with a knowing smile. He shakes his head at how well she knows him, and she starts off down the hall.
Once she's out of sight, he takes that black box in his hand and opens it slowly. His heart skips a beat, knowing where that ring belongs. It's beautiful, and somehow, if he had to choose a ring for his girl, he'd chose something exactly like the one his uncle chose for Karen. He wonders if that's not the reason he's so taken with her in the first place; she feels like his family.
Maybe he's not ready for marriage yet, or even an engagement, but he will be.
The night before her flight, she calls him.
His heart stops, wondering if she's going to tell him she's not getting on the plane.
It's late, and he's in bed, but he sits up as he listens to her apologize for calling at such an hour. He insists that it's alright and asks if she's OK, and she answers that she's better than she's been in two months, because she's going to see him soon. He breathes a quiet sigh of relief and closes his eyes, and tells her he can't wait to see her.
She says that she's excited and she can't sleep, and he not-so-jokingly tells her that there's a sure-fire way to pass the time, get her into bed, and tire her out. His voice is low and gravelly, and he's sure that on any other night, that line would have worked and she would have replied with something unbelievably sexy.
This time, however, she tells him, in a teasing tone, to save it for their real reunion, and he laughs because he's so damn happy that there's going to be a reunion.
But she asks him what he's wearing, and he raises an eyebrow, because her question doesn't support her previous statement. He doesn't even get the words out when she turns the doorknob and steps into his bedroom.
He's out of bed and has her in his arms so fast that all she can do is laugh a little. The bed is a disaster from his theatrics, but she forgets the sarcastic remark she was going to say when his lips crash onto hers. She's standing in his bedroom, and he's kissing her for the first time in two months, and she feels different but the same, and he loves every single thing about her.
He's about to tell her that, when she kisses him again and walks him back toward the bed. She mumbles something that sounds a little like I missed you so much, and her hands are pushing up the fabric of his tee shirt. He smirks against her lips, and he feels his heart melt when she places her palm over it. It's a meaningful gesture, and he loves her for doing it.
The baby cries down the hall, and they hear his mother's door open, and Peyton jokingly says something about that being the best birth control ever, as he drops his head to her shoulder in frustration.
She sheds her clothes and pulls on his tee shirt, and she tells him just to hold her.
So that's exactly what he does.
He doesn't ask how she's there, but she tells him anyway, and he kisses her shoulder when he hears her say that she just didn't want to wait any longer to be with him. She asks if he's complaining, and he asks her if she's crazy. She laughs and turns in his arms so she's facing him, and they tangle themselves together like they're never going to let go of each other.
That's the night they both realize that they never will.
They wake up early when the baby cries, and she buries her face in his chest as his hand moves idly up and down her arm. She asks if his mother will be mad that she spent the night, and he grins and says he thinks she'll be fine with it. Peyton doesn't know what he's not telling her, but she lets it slide. She's been away for too long, and she doesn't want to spend her morning pressing him for information.
Instead, she lets him in on a secret of her own.
"So, I have a surprise," she states, pulling away from him and sitting up in the bed. The shirt - his shirt - she's wearing gapes a little at the neck, and he can see the curve of her collar bone, and even that little amount of skin makes his eyes go dark.
"What's that?" he asks, trying to be interested in something other than her now-tanned body as she sits so dangerously close to him.
"I talked to the admissions department at Gilmore before I left," she tells him, and he furrows a brow and props himself up on his elbows. "I got my application in, and they said if a spot opened up, they'd let me know."
"And?" he asks excitedly.
"And, I'm thinking I'll major in business," she says, tilting her head as though she's only pondering it now. "Maybe take a couple art history classes..."
He pulls her toward him again and kisses her, because she's giving him really, really great surprises and he has nothing for her but himself.
To her, that's more than enough.
"I guess I just need a place to live," she says softly, looking at him with a cheeky grin.
"With me," he mutters against her lips, and she smiles. She knew he'd say that. "Always with me."
"Always?" she asks coyly.
She kind of likes how that sounds.
"Always," he confirms, tightening his hold on her.
She kisses him before laying her head on his chest again, and she begins tracing her thumb over the ring finger on his left hand. He's not sure if it's as meaningful as he wants it to be, or if it's just a simple action she doesn't even realize she's doing.
Either way, all he can think of is someday.