A/N: I realize that everyone has written a post-3x16 oneshot, but hey, I wanted my turn. I'm the last person who would ever fall in love with Taylor Swift's music, but I have, and this is yet another oneshot inspired by one of her songs – "Sparks Fly". I spent hours on this, so I'd love to know what you think. :)
As the Lights Go Down
i. the way you move is like a full-on rainstorm
and I'm a house of cards
She has had a powerful hold on him since before she even knew his name. He remembers her in primary school, soft blonde curls tickling her cheeks as she concentrated on colouring in the lines. In middle school, cheerleading on the basketball court, long legs moving fluidly. And later, speeding down small town streets with the saddest eyes, hips moving on the dance floor at some party he was accidentally invited to, fighting with his half-brother in the middle of the courtyard at school, storming off in a fit of rage.
Curls and venom. Long legs and skinny arms.
When she around he was utterly malleable, putty in her hands. He was always hers, long before she even thought about being his.
There were no questions. She needed him; he was hers. Blood dampening the worn-in denim of her jeans, perfectly pale, porcelain cheeks, fear and tears glimmering in her eyes. It all caused him physical pain, something harsh and stabbing in his chest, a chill shooting through the rest of his body.
And when her lips brushed his there were so many things wrong. He had a girlfriend, her best friend. And even though, in that moment, just that once, it was just the two of them and all else could be ignored…even then, so many things were wrong. He was terrified for her. Her lips were much too cold and she had deep, dark circles under here yes. He had to concentrate on getting her out of there, on saving her somehow.
But there was also so much right. Her lips, though chilly, were so familiar it was painful. She didn't pull away quickly; she let herself need him. When she did pull back, it was only for oxygen, and her weary eyes met his for one profound, heart-stopping moment.
When she told him that she loved him, there was no before, no after. It was just the two of them, fitting seamlessly as if they'd always been meant to. It didn't matter what excuses she made or who they claimed to love. She was telling the truth, and it sent his heart flying.
It was that perfect moment. It was like soft summer rain on the warmest day, when you tilt your head back and think that these are the few precious seconds in which it's just never going to get any better.
Her head fell against his shoulder, eyes fluttering shut, and it was the crash of thunder, the dangerous flash of lightning across the once-perfect sky.
ii. you say my name for the first time, baby
and I fall in love in an empty bar
After he breaks up with Brooke he goes to the bar where they had their very first date – not because he wants to reminisce, but because he knows for sure that they'll accept his fake ID.
He drinks whatever they hand him and thinks about the disaster that has become his life. He's oblivious to everything and anyone, to the drunken, dancing couples, to the female bartender whose eyes rake over his body repeatedly, to what he must look like to everyone else – so very jaded. But he notices when she comes in. There's a little more air in the room and the ground rights itself, sitting flat instead of at an angle for the first time in almost two weeks.
She looks beautifully subdued in jeans and black sweater. She tugs it around her body protectively, still limping the slightest bit. Sitting next to him, she sighs. The bartender approaches and she says "No, thanks" without ever looking away from him.
He tries not to think about what she sees as she studies him. When he sets his glass down, she snatches it away, staring at the liquid as it sloshes around. She sets it out of his reach.
All her judgment is held back; her voice is wholly sympathetic as she asks, "Drowning the pain?"
He has to close his eyes at the sound of her voice. It's too comforting, too full of an emotion he can't bear to name. He feels panicked and vulnerable without something to do with his hands, so he balls them into a single fist, squeezing so tightly that his knuckles turn white. "It's not really working," he mutters.
She hesitates as if she wants to touch him but doesn't dare to do so. She takes a deep breath, swirling the glass around and staring at its contents for another long moment. She pushes it even further away. He knows that she's not trying to lecture him even as she says, "You know better than this."
Lucas closes his eyes as if that will turn off his mind, shut down his access to his memory. "I just can't be at home. It's full of…of him. And my mom…" His voice cracks, his throat closing over as he thinks of his mother's explosive, heart-wrenching grief over losing the love of her life.
"Oh, Luke," she breathes, and she can't control herself any longer. She stands up from her stool and closes the distance between them so that her body is pressed gently against his side. Tentatively, as if afraid that she might spook him, she reaches out and places her hand comfortingly over his.
His heart actually aches. He takes a deep, shuddering breath in. He is so full of painful grief and a love that is almost as agonizing that he can barely think. All he can do, after a long moment, is flip his hand over under hers, loosening his muscles and intertwining their fingers.
iii. and you stood there in front of me
just close enough to touch
close enough to hope you couldn't see
what I was thinking of
Peyton's eyes swell with sympathy, tears rising and sticking her lower lashes together, making her eyes even more noticeable than they normally are. She seems to know that this is as close as he's come to a breakdown. Everyone has been hovering around him lately, quietly waiting for him to crack, for his anger to dissolve into sadness, but he hasn't been able to let it happen. Now, with alcohol in his system and the girl he once wanted so bad at his side, he can't control it anymore. His tears spill over and hers follow right after.
Wanting to shield him from prying eyes, to protect him from the world that had done him so much wrong, she slips into the space between his body and the counter of the bar. She doesn't release his hand, simply brings it downward so that both of their hands are resting lightly against one of knees. Her other hand runs down the upper part of his arm soothingly before trailing back up again. He's trembling but he's not sure why.
"Luke," she says again, her voice soft and sweet in a way that most people will never hear it. She looks desperate to take his pain away, the same way he felt when he ran into that library and saw the tears and the blood. Gently, she pulls her hand out of his firm grasp. She tucks his arms under his; their positions make the hug a little awkward but he relishes it. Only after she touches him does he realize how badly he's been craving the contact.
Her cheek presses against his as she holds him. He pulls her a little bit closer and she willingly obliges him, tucking her head against his shoulder. It reminds him distinctly of being in that library, her soft hair against his neck, her shallow breaths echoing in his ear. It's scary and soothing all at once.
He pulls away and her eyes search his, full of apologies. Her hands lift slowly; her fingers look so delicate. She places them gently on his cheeks, her hands cupping his jaw, and studies him as if she can discover the best way to make things better.
He's overcome with the desire to ask her to kiss him. This is too much and it's too hard and he needs to forget. She can make that happen. She's done it before. Only days earlier, she managed to banish all the horrors of the world away by simply pressing her lips to his. He thinks about all the kisses they've shared, many the result of a strange combination of loss and passion, and he marvels at how they can lose themselves that way. When she kisses him or he kisses her all he knows is them.
She could remind him that there's still something to live for.
iv. drop everything now
meet me in the pouring rain
kiss me on the sidewalk
take away the pain
Maybe she can read his mind, or maybe she just knows because their positions have been reached before, but before he knows it her forehead is pressed against his, and she's taking a deep breath. He watches her chest rise and fall, her eyes flutter shut, and he realizes that she's breathing him in, preparing for something.
And then her lips are everywhere.
She kisses his forehead first, then each of his temples, his cheekbones, his nose. He closes his eyes and her lips press against each of his eyelids, lingering there. She peppers kisses all over his cheeks, just under his lips, over the curve of his jaw. His hands rest lightly on her hips and he places his feet flat on the floor so that she can stand between his legs.
"How did you know where to find me?" he murmurs quietly as her lips hit the spot on his jaw closest to his neck. Her hair falls in a curtain on one side of her face, hiding them away. His hands slip just under her sweater, still resting against her hips, savouring the warmth her body radiates.
She shrugs blithely as she straightens up, locking her eyes with his. Her fingers dance in an absentminded pattern against his collarbone. "I know you, Luke," she says quietly. "I know how you are…I'm the same way."
He's glad. He's glad that Brooke didn't call her and Nathan didn't tip her off. He's glad that she's figured out exactly where he is and what he needs because she knows best. She knows him better than anyone ever will, on more levels than most would guess he even has.
Peyton kisses his jaw again, tracing a slow pattern on an upward angle before her lips graze the shell of his ear. There are goosebumps on the skin under his fingertips. "I'm sorry," she gasps out shakily, her heart in her voice.
v. 'cause I see sparks fly
whenever you smile
It takes some time for him to figure out what she's apologizing for. She waits for him. Her head against his shoulder, her breath coming out in sharp gasps, she waits for him to confirm that all the guilt she's harbouring has a strong foundation.
The moment the puzzle pieces fit together in his mind, he feels awful for having to forced her to wait, for not realizing that she is hurting almost as badly as he is, if not in different ways. But here she is, throwing all her energy into his wellbeing. He has accepted it all without considering her.
"You shouldn't be."
She whimpers. "But, Luke –"
"You shouldn't be," he repeats. "I made a choice."
"You shouldn't have," Peyton shoots back stubbornly, straightening up, revealing the tear tracks on her cheeks. "You shouldn't have ever come in, you should have left me there…"
"Then it's my fault," he reasons. "Not yours."
She's appalled, shaking her head vehemently. "You shouldn't have to save me."
There are a million things he could say to her on this particular topic. Keith would have gone into that building no matter what – like Haley has constantly tried to assure him, that was the kind of man his uncle was. Jimmy Edwards was sick and depressed and no one was really at fault. He never would have been able to live with himself if he hadn't run back inside and had instead inadvertently left her to die. He doesn't have to save her, he wants to.
He must take too long to speak because there is a note of hysteria in her voice as she insists, "It wasn't your fault."
All of those reasons are on the tip of his tongue, but his mind is tired and his throat is dry and in truth, he and Peyton have never needed many words. His hands still on her hips, he pulls her close to him, resting his head wearily against her abdomen. Her fingers thread into his hair in a calm, relaxed way. She understands that he knows that and he's grateful that she's willing to go to such lengths to make sure that he does.
"When are you going to get it?" he sighs.
"What?" she whispers.
He lifts his head so that he can look her in the eye. Her hands rest at the nape of his neck as she awaits his words.
"You always save me right back."
And for the first time in a long time, he sees that genuine, beautiful smile of hers.
vi. get me with those green eyes, baby
as the lights go down
something that'll haunt me
when you're not around
She starts crying seconds after she begins smiling and he doesn't blame her. Neither of them are the most emotionally stable people right now, and being with each other is only causing another rush of feelings that they can't bear to sort out. He takes one of her hands in his own and teases her about what wrecks they both are.
His heart soars when she chokes out a laugh through a sob. Her eyes are sparkling with mirth and anguish and absolutely everything in between. He'd be lying if he said that her eyes are his favourite part of her, physically, because her legs win out. But Peyton Sawyer's eyes are most definitely windows to her soul. He can find out a thousand things about how she's feeling and what she's thinking simply by looking at her. It's amazing to be able to look at someone and find all of that.
He hates that there was a brief period of time when he forgot that sensation. He doesn't understand how he let her fade out of his life, how things became all about himself and his jerk of a father and Brooke, because even then, he would bolt upright in the middle of the night with those eyes flashing in his mind. Sarcasm gives way to trust, hostility to love, and he can see right down to the depths of who she is and know that she's his other half.
It's been happening to him for years and years.
He doesn't think it'll ever stop.
And that's why he's always wanted to save her so much that it's become an instinctive, unquestionable obligation. Not to her, but to himself.
vii. 'cause I see sparks fly
whenever you smile
With her, it's this montage of moments, fast-paced, and, he hopes, never-ending. It's that little girl in first grade with a mess of tangled hair and a colouring book in her hands, it's a nine-year-old painted with tragedy as she sat next to a tombstone, it's checking her out in cheerleading skirts, it's like when he was twelve, standing on the roof of a building with Haley, saying it's her; I'm going to marry her, it's tears on her cheeks and the glare of red lights, it's a kiss of pent-up passion, it's I want everything with you, it's calling another boy because he has to make sure someone's there for her, it's that moment right before she might've died that she couldn't hold the truth in anymore.
It's standing in a seedy bar on a school night because they don't care about logarithms and iambic pentameter anymore, it's her lips on his eyelids, it's his fingers on her hipbones, it's her trying to get him to forgive himself, it's the question in her eyes, it's wishing that he hadn't saved her, and it's the knowledge that he had to.
'Cause I feel it in my heart…don't you?
And it's a red truck on a dirt road, the wind playing with her hair, the first smile that she ever gave him that was solely his. It's one of the many moments that he realized that he wanted her in the same way.
viii. so reach out open-handed
and lead me out to that floor
The next smile she gives him is bittersweet, her fingers tracing across his shoulder, gliding down his arm, capturing his hand with ease. She steps out from between his legs, stepping away from him but still holding on. She walks noiselessly and carefully; she was, after all, hit by a bullet only a short time ago. Her lips curve upward and even though she whispers he hears it: "Come dance with me."
Somehow, it is the most unexpected, inappropriate thing to do, and yet the most obvious. It seems strangely natural to allow her to pull him to his feet, to wrap his arms around her, and move to the sound of some mainstream song that neither of them even like.
They barely move. She's got a sore leg and he is, as always, careful with her. She feels so breakable, so easy to lose. People always leave, he thinks, and it breaks his heart to realize that this is the way she's always felt.
He kisses her hair lightly and she sighs, melting into him. He wants to thank her for being there, to tell her how much it means to him, but he's fairly certain she knows.
ix. well, I don't need more paper lanterns
take me down, baby, bring on the movie star
"I'm sorry," she whispers, clutching the material of his shirt in her fist.
"I told you not to…"
"No, Lucas, I mean…I'm sorry I kissed you in the library."
He actually feels compelled to roll his eyes, which is almost a good thing. It's been a while since he's felt sarcastic about anything. "You don't have to be sorry for that, either."
"It just complicated your life even more," she continues as though he hasn't spoken. "It wasn't fair of me." She looks down shyly.
"It's not like it was a romantic moment," he says softly. "It's not like it meant anything."
The look she gives him says it all and no words are required. He's lying. It did. Of course it did.
She blows out her breath and meets hold his gaze hesitantly. She still looks apologetic. "You and me," she whispers lowly, but her voice is clear in his ears. "It's always going to be there."
x. 'cause my heart is beating fast
and you are beautiful
He takes a selfish moment to drink in every bit of her after she says those words – it's like she's given him permission to want her. She bites her lip nervously but she doesn't shrink under his gaze. He's proud of her for that, in a way. He may feel compelled to save her, but she's strong and stubborn and it makes her even more beautiful.
His heart is pounding and bold curiosity that comes from some unknown place spurs his next movement. He keeps one arm wrapped around her and lifts his other slowly until his thumb and his index finger are gently toying with the zipper on her sweater.
She's breathing quickly but she doesn't break eye contact as he gently pulls the zipper downward. He's surprised to find that she's wearing nothing but the top of a red bikini underneath, but then he briefly remembers Brooke mentioning something about swim therapy for Peyton's leg. It's halter-styled, double-knotted around her neck, and gives his perfect access to lay his palm lightly right over her heart.
xi. I could wait patiently
but I really wish you would…
Her hand lies over his chest only an instant later, an automatic response. Her heart thuds fiercely under his palm, reassuring and arousing all at once. Her mouth doesn't move but there's a shy, mischievous smile in her eyes.
"Always," he agrees quietly. "It's always been you."
Her heart jumps in her chest – she knows that he can feel it and a blush rises slowly to her cheek. He feels the heat of the rush of blood under his hand.
"Lucas…" Her soft voice trails off, drowned out by the opening notes of MGMT's Electric Feel. Whatever she means to say, whether she means to agree with him or reprimand him, it doesn't matter anymore. She gets lost in the music, the irresistible urge to dance to the sounds of a Brooklyn-based band that Lucas knows she discovered and loved before everyone else got obsessed.
xii. drop everything now
meet me in the pouring rain
kiss me on the sidewalk
take away the pain
He sees it in her eyes, the craving to let go and stop wallowing in misery. He gives her a look of understanding the she responds to with a half-smirk. She takes a couple steps away from him, taking the hand that rests on her chest and backing up until she meets resistance. Her eyes seem to promise him that this will make things better.
"I asked you to dance with me," she says pointedly, arching her eyebrows, challenging him.
"But your leg –"
"My leg is fine," she insists, cutting him off. "And you don't have the excuse of a gunshot wound. Dance with me."
He shakes his head regretfully. Slow-dancing is one thing. It's slow; he has time to think and to try and figure out what she's thinking. Dancing to the upbeat tune of turn me on with your electric feel… is much quicker, lyrics and wandering hands, her body moving with his. He can overcome his physical desires, but only for so long.
He'll kiss her if he dances with her, and he's not sure if it's the right decision for them both. He's a mess and she's vulnerable and oh, God, she's walking toward him and her fingertips are landing on his chest and he's paying attention to the way her lips move rather than what she's actually saying. He forces himself to concentrate.
"…Luke, I want to help you so badly," she says sincerely, her eyes searching his. "I…I care about you so much and it kills –" She winces at the word. "It just hurts me to see you hurting. Forget with me," she pleads. "Dance with me and let yourself feel something else."
He wants to.
But he can't.
Instead, he kisses her forehead, lips lingering there. She looks so sad and confused that he wants to wrap her up in a hug. He looks at her in a way that seems to make her breathless.
"You are helping me," he promises her.
xiii. 'cause I see sparks fly
whenever you smile
Eleven o'clock on a Thursday night in a bar the name of which he can't even remember, he watches Peyton Sawyer dance in jeans and an unzipped black sweater, enthralled by the way her body syncs with the music and the movement of her hips, and she's looking at him with the most perfect smile playing on her lips.
It's a moment of peace as all his grief fades away and all he sees in her, curls and long limbs and everything he's ever wanted.
And it's the moment when he really knows he's in love with her.
xiv. get me with those green eyes, baby
as the lights go down
They're both reluctant to leave. This bar with its ugly coasters, bad music, and pool tables has become their sanctuary, the place where they've finally, truly found each other. They don't go until they're kicked out, and even then, they move slowly.
She shivers. The night is particularly dark and dreary. The streetlights seem dimmer than usual, but it makes the stars beautifully bright. She tilts her head back as she zips up her sweater and takes in the sky.
Lucas thinks about life and love and belief, constellations and stars and comets out there in the vast blackness that is the universe. He is infinitely grateful all of a sudden, humbled by the never-ending appearance of the sky, impossibly thankful that Peyton Sawyer has returned to him. He takes off his own sweater and wraps it around her shoulders in addition to her own.
She jumps a bit, surprised when his hands gently place the sweater around her. She blinks at him; he can't tell if he eyes are watering or if it's just a reflection from the night sky. She fingers the material of the sleeve of the sweater as if it's the most precious thing in the world. "Thank you," she whispers brokenly.
She's broken on his behalf, he realizes. It's his sweater from Keith's shop.
"You're welcome," he says, only because it's the polite response. He's been wearing that sweater everyday lately, but it doesn't seem wrong for it to be wrapped around her body for warmth instead.
Keith would have wanted him to save her.
Peyton slips her hand into his and gives it a comforting squeeze. She holds his hand like it's the most commonplace thing. It feels so natural and casual yet so meaningful. His heart slams against his ribs as she whispers, "Let's go home."
The way she says it makes it sound like his home and her home should be the same place.
They walk together under the stars, through the quiet streets of their hometown, like they're normal teenagers. They swing their hands in between them as they walk, as though she doesn't have a scar from a bullet on her leg and a scar from two mothers leaving on her heart. Their feet hit the pavement at exactly the time, perfectly synchronized, as though he's not mourning the death of his uncle and as though he's not hopelessly infatuated with her.
She sniffs the air cautiously and he chuckles at her quirkiness. "Whatcha doing?" he asks conversationally, his voice piercing the calmness that has engulfed them.
Peyton flashes him the shadow of a smile. "It's going to rain."
"How do you know?"
"I just do," she insists, admitting, "I love the rain. It's romantic."
"Romantic?" he scoffs.
She shoots him a playful glare and nods. "Don't you think so? Beauty in the breakdown and all of that. I think a thunderstorm is much more meaningful and romantic and intensely beautiful than a sunset or something."
He nods slowly. "You like the imperfection."
"And you don't?"
Lucas look at her long and hard, searching every inch in the darkness. Her green eyes, perfect in their depth but flawed in the tragic vibe they always exude, stare back at him, full of feeling. "No," he says slowly. "I love it."
xv. something that'll haunt me
when you're not around
They walk up the path to her house at a snail's pace. They face each other when, at last, they reach her door, still not letting go of one another's hands.
"I should go in," she whispers, making needless, nervous conversation.
Lucas nods solemnly. "Yeah. You should."
Neither of them move.
She takes a deep breath and attempts a joke: "This is the moment, right? If we were a cliché, you'd kiss me right now, and my dad would open the door and catch us."
He shakes his head slowly because he wants it so badly. The last part of her sentence catches his attention. "Your dad's home?"
Peyton shakes her head negatively. "He left two days ago." Smiling teasingly, she adds, "I was being hypothetical."
He can't engage in banter right now. He just can't; there's too much on the line, too many things swirling around in his head and his heart. "Yeah," he says instead, agreeing with her previous statement. "It is the moment."
"Luke…" She says his name on an exhale, it's a question.
"I don't want to go home tonight." His words tumble out of his mouth, running over each other and mangling his sentence in his rush to get his confession out. "I don't know if I can."
"Stay with me," she says a bit more forcefully.
xvi. 'cause I see sparks fly
"Yeah?" he asks, trying to conceal how hopeful he is.
"Lucas," she sighs. "Luke. Of course. Yes, of course." She slips her hand into her pocket, pulling out her key, but he stops her by covering his hand with hers. "What is it?" she asks worriedly.
He closes his eyes, swallowing hard. This is it. "I need to say something to you."
"You can tell me anything," she says easily.
He sighs. "You said that this feels like the moment. And it does, it really does, and I…Peyton, I need to know if you meant…because I want…I just…you…and me…" He can't get the most crucial part of his sentences out. In the library, did you mean it? I want to kiss you so badly right now. Don't you feel how you and I are meant to be?
Her eyes are shining. She drops her key but doesn't move to pick it up. Because she's Peyton and he's Lucas, she knows what he's trying to say. "I meant it," she whispers, barely breathing.
She laughs as if the question is absolutely ludicrous. "You know the first you ever looked at me?" She shakes her head as if it's not even an important part of the point she's trying to make. She takes a moment to think, she can't seem to find the words. "Ever since that day I almost ran you over, since I kissed you at Nathan's house, since…" She trails off, growing frustrated with herself again. Finally, she simply says, "Lucas, every time it rains I think of you."
xvii. I run my fingers through your hair
and watch the lights go out
She's tired, he can tell, so once they step into her house, the first thing he does is wordlessly pull her to the couch. They lie down together; she's partially on top of him and it feels so good.
She kisses his chest just over his heart and he plays with her unruly curls.
Her house is so quiet. He appreciates it but finds it odd. "Don't you get lonely?" he asks her, twirling a few strands of her hair around his finger.
She shrugs, an awkward move considering the ways her body is pressed against his. "Sometimes, sure." She tilts her chin up so that she can meet his eyes and says softly, "I never want that for you."
Lucas smiles softly. She cares for him in all the right ways. "I'm going to be okay, Peyt."
She nods, pressing her face into his shirt and breathing in. "But let me help you. Please?" she requests, her voice muffled.
He runs his hand down her back lightly, tracing her spine. He's slowly coming to understand that she will heal by helping him, the same way he takes solace in saving her. He nods back, his chin bumping the top of her head, and she smiles against his chest.
"Turn out that lamp and just lie with me," she murmurs as though that can cure them both.
xviii. keep your beautiful eyes on me
gonna strike this match tonight
She drifts off to dreamland tucked into his arms. She's a messy sleeper: her legs kick at his, her eyes move rapidly behind her eyelids, her hands grasp for his, and she's constantly cuddling closer. She talks in her sleep, soft murmurs about the most random things. He catches snippets of heart-stopping conversations, …love you, hold it against me…think of you during thunderstorms… and the sweetest, most innocent sigh of his name.
It's adorable. She's adorable, though he knows she'd absolutely hate it if he ever used that word to describe her.
She hooks one of her legs over his waist as she stirs, and it's not so innocent anymore.
For a while they just stare at each other, the sleepiness fading from those eyes of hers that he loves so much. Haley would tease him about this, and call it eye sex, and insist that it was a Lucas and Peyton thing. He's tried to stop just to put an end to the mockery, but this girl and her eyes and every other bit of her…
She's irresistible and he's totally powerless.
Her voice is low and lazy, gravelly with remnants of slumber, when she finally speaks. "Lucas," she whispers. He'll never get tired of her saying his name. Her eyes never leave his and once again, he finds it hard to concentrate on her words rather than her body. He's not usually like that.
But, as Haley would say, she's Peyton and he's Lucas.
"Are we really going to do this?"
"Do what?" he asks, blinking back at her in utter confusion.
Her smile comes and goes so quickly he can hardly register it. Her eyes are deep, dark emerald green and he is so far gone.
She inhales deeply, exhales slowly, and gnaws on her lower lip. She elaborates: "Lie here and pretend that we both don't want more."
xix. lead me up the staircase
won't you whisper soft and slow?
He wanted to give her everything. Heart and soul. Dozens of roses and poetry inside of envelopes with red, waxy seals that make her feel like the heroine of a Jane Austen novel. Silky sheets and cheesy music at a low volume. He wanted her to be his first, and he wanted to show her that she deserved everything from him and even more.
"This isn't how it's supposed to be."
Her smile is watery and loving. "Such a romantic," she whispers tenderly, burying her face in his shoulder and pressing her lips against his neck. She lets out a breathy laugh. "Luke, I want you so bad right now, and I'm not trying to completely destroy the mood but I need to say that…" She sucks in some air. "Keith raised you so well."
That's the moment that he knows that even if she wasn't his first, there is no other possibility than for her to be his last. He shakes his head in wonderment.
"Sorry," she sighs.
"No, I – no. That's not what I meant. You just…you reinforced that this is not how it's supposed to be. Peyton, you're worth so much more than…"
"You can't…you can't even know how much it means, how good it feels, to hear you say things like that." Her fingers trace over his lips. "But Lucas, the only thing I'm supposed to have…is you."
She's getting his hopes so far up. "You're sure?" he asks huskily, kissing her fingertips as they linger on his lips.
"Hell yes, baby," she responds, her voice nothing more than a passionate whisper. She gazes upward, listening to the steady beating against the roof and the window panes. She grins at him, the first sign of unadulterated joy he's seen from anyone in weeks. "It's pouring out."
Lucas carefully gets up from underneath her. She sits up on the couch, looking at him expectantly. There's a familiar feistiness about her. He offers her both hands and she grins, letting him pull her to her feet.
He pulls her close, tight into his arms, and bends his head so that he can whisper lowly in her ear. It's a slurred, lusty mixture of sweet nothings, literature quotations, and innuendos that has her giggling in the sweetest way. Her giggles give way to gasps as her grip on him slowly tightens and his words drop down about an octave. She pulls away from him, grasping his hand again. She shoots him a wicked grin over her shoulder as she tugs him toward her stairs.
xx. I'd love to hate it
but you make it
like a fireworks show
The only music in her bedroom is the beat of rain against her windows. She lies back on her bed, pulling him with her, and sighs in satisfaction at the feeling of his weight pressing reassuringly against his body.
And then she kisses him.
It's almost like the library kiss, such hesitance and worry and pleading. But then they both remember that they're safe, they're free, and they're allowed to love. From that moment on, they're drowning in each other.
She looks at him with more admiration than he thinks he deserves, eyes flying hungrily over his upper body when she pulls his shirt over his head. And she wants him just as much as she wants him, impatiently unzipping his jeans and pushing at the waistband of his boxers.
He is more careful with her, gentler and slower. She shrugs off her sweater herself, but he takes off her jeans first so that he can kiss her ankles, delicate bones under soft skin, and then find the scar of the bullet wound on her leg. He swallows hard when he sees it, remembering just how close he came to losing her. He kisses the scar carefully, not wanting to hurt her, feeling the burn of tears in his eyes.
Peyton sits up, cupping his chin lightly in her hand and pulling him close to her so that she can kiss him. "I'm here," she promises him. "I'm right here."
It takes work and persistence to get his shaky fingers to untie her bikini top. He's not sure why he's sure nervous. He wasn't trembling this much when he carried her out of a building while she lost more and more blood.
He kisses every inch of her skin he can find. She mewls and moans and arches her back under his hands and his lips, but she doesn't have the patience to savour this. She just wants him.
"Luke," she says, her eyes meeting his. It's somehow take me and let me have you all at once.
She's his other half. They're lost puzzle pieces, meant to fit together and finally finding out. He can tell. He can tell by the way her eyes flutter closed, by the way she says oh, Luke, by the way one of her hands rests perfectly against his hand, fingers splayed. He can tell by the way his body responds to hers, by the way they both hit that moment of untouchable bliss at the exact same second. He can tell by the way she clings to him afterward, her brow glistening, her cheeks flushed, her breathing shallow. He can tell by the way she reads his mind, murmuring words that he understands only the sentiment of just before she fuses her lips to his.
She tucks her body into his side, long legs tangling with his as he presses a kiss to her shoulder.
"If I told you I wanted to do that again…would you hold it against me?"
Her eyes glitter. He can tell that part of her wants to slap him for that, but she can't help but laugh instead. Happy tears roll down her cheeks and he kisses them all away.
"I'm tired," she whispers and his smile softens. He knows that most of her exhaustion, like his, is from the emotional overload of the evening.
He kisses the crown of her head. "Sleep."
Peyton's eyes flicker with mischief for the briefest of moments as she snuggles closer to her. He feels the raised ridge of the stitches on her calf brush against his foot. "Tomorrow," she promises him, half-asleep.
She's his. Today, tomorrow…and every day after.
All he's supposed to have is what, is who, he holds.
xxi. drop everything now
meet me in the pouring rain
kiss me on the sidewalk
take away the pain
He sneaks out of her bed in the middle of the night. It's still raining, there's still lightning in the sky, still thunder booming in the distance, but he feels strangely immune.
He wanders downstairs, slips on his shoes, and heads out into the storm. The rain hits him with full force at first, a force he's not prepared for, but he soon adjusts. He has to struggle to find the beauty of the storm. The rain almost stings as he hits his skin, the whole town is dark, and he's cold.
He walks just for something to do. He thinks it would be completely insane just to stand there and stare at the sky. This makes him feel a little more stable. He walks aimlessly until he finds himself at his own home.
Karen is asleep on the couch, the lamp still on, photograph albums scattered on the coffee table. The sight tugs at his heartstrings. He covers his mother with a blanket and kisses her forehead before turning off the lamp. She stirs, reaching out for his hand. She holds it for a moment, squeezing gently, and he knows that they'll be okay. She will, and he will, too.
He goes into his own room. His mother's been on a cleaning rampage lately and he doesn't want her to crash and burn – he figures he'll do some of the cleaning himself to take the work away from her.
It's too late: she's already attacked his room. It's spotless. Even his basketballs look like they've been dusted. Everything is so clean that he can hardly notice it.
But he does notice one different thing. One thing that is different on a life-changing scale.
It sits right in the middle of his bed, next to note scribbled by his mother. There's a kiss-print in lipstick on the bottom of the paper like there used to be on the notes in his lunchbox in elementary school.
He thinks about how much has changed since he was a little boy stumbling around on the basketball court and eating peanut butter sandwiches, and it occurs to him that he fight have to start moving fast just to keep up with his life.
He checks in on his mother one last time and leaves. He'll be back by the next evening.
It's still raining as he heads back toward Peyton's house around four a.m. He hunches his shoulders to protect himself.
She's waiting for him outside her house, just at the end of the walkway that leads to her door, wearing nothing but his sweatshirt. Her hair is rumpled and matted to her head by the rain and damn, she's beautiful.
"Hey," he whispers. He doesn't know if she can hear him over the pounding of the rain.
It doesn't matter whether she can or not. She just smiles softly, standing on her tiptoes and twining her arms around his neck, kissing him and infusing his body with anticipation for all of the goodness that's going to occur in his life from this point onward.
xxii. 'cause I see sparks fly
whenever you smile
She smirks at him knowingly as they stand close, the occasional raindrop falling between them. She catches one on her tongue and licks her lips in a way he finds enticing.
"Did you find it?" she asks. "Do you feel it?"
He looks at her, at his girl, at his forever, at everything he's ever wanted. He smiles back and says sincerely, "Yeah. I did. I do."
She smiles brightly as lightning flashes overhead.
xxiii. get me with those green eyes, baby
as the lights go down
The power goes out about an hour and a half later. They sit outside on her front step, drinking cold coffee even though it's cross. They're barely shielded by the rain; it still hits their bare toes.
Their bursts of conversation are rare, intimate but not meaningful. Best birthday ever, most embarrassing moment, biggest regret, imaginary friend's name. The sun begins to rise through the misty rain and they spend most of the time watching it happen. He kisses her occasionally because he can.
The rising sun peeks over a cloud, glaring onto the streets of the town, reflecting off the tarmac, and lighting up her eyes. "What'd you dream about?" she asks mutedly, turning toward him.
xxiv. something that'll haunt me
when you're not around
"You," he tells her with a sweet smile. It's the truth, after all.
She tilts her head to the side, scrunching up her nose. "And how often do you do that, Lucas Scott?"
"It's borderline stalker-like," he teases, but he's not lying.
She arches an eyebrow instead of commenting, but he catches the blush seeping into her cheeks.
Blood colouring skin. She's alive. Her heart is beating. Racing when she wants him, calming to a steady rhythm as they sit together now. She's safe, and she's here with him.
He doesn't ever want it any other way.
He clears his throat. "I want to say something."
She chuckles, sipping her coffee and resting her hand gently on his knee. "So say it."
"I don't want to freak you out."
Peyton lifts her eyebrows. "Are you pregnant?"
He sighs, rolling his eyes. "Peyton, really…"
Her eyes soften into the sweetness he's come to know so well. "Okay, baby. I'm serious, I promise."
Taking a deep breath, he reaches into his pocket and pulls something out, keeping it concealed. "Don't get scared."
Peyton shakes her head solemnly. "You could never scare me."
He nods toward his hands. "This was Keith's. Or…my mom's, from Keith." Slowly, he opens his hands, revealing the velvety black box.
"Oh, Lucas," she says breathlessly, lifting her hand to her heart. Her eyes are full of sympathy along with her own grief.
Gently, he places it in her hand. "Open it."
She looks worried as she takes it from him. She sets her coffee down and handles the small box with infinite care. "Are you sure?"
"Positive," he replies firmly.
She cracks open the box tentatively, and he hears the way her breath catches in her throat. "Oh," she practically squeaks. "It's so beautiful…"
Lucas swallows hard. "Try it on."
Her eyes shoot upward to meet his, catching up with his meaning, hastily calculating. "I couldn't," she whispers.
"I want you to."
He expects more resistance from her than he gets. Instead, with shaking hands, she gently removes the ring from the box. He closes his steady hand over her trembling fingers, taking the ring from her hand and holding his palm out. She lays her hand on his.
She's got stars in her eyes. She doesn't watch his face, rather, she looks at her left hand as it lands gently atop his and he carefully slides the ring onto her slender finger, a perfect fit. She stares at it for a moment before finally meeting his eyes. It's only then that she starts breathing again.
He wants forever with her. He can't bear to think of it any other way, but he knows Peyton, so he chooses his words carefully. "It's yours. Not right now, I mean…God, we're seventeen, and we have way too many issues to pull a Naley." She smiles slightly, and, encouraged, he continues: "I just want to know that it's yours. Whenever you're ready, whether it's four or fifteen years from now. It'll always be yours."
"Seventeen is so young to talk about long-term commitment," she murmurs reluctantly, dazzled by the ring on her finger.
"You're the only girl I want. You've always been the person I want to marry. I can't be with someone who doesn't think of me during rainstorms," he teases, grasping at levity in this serious moment.
"Lucas, baby, I know how much this means to you…"
"And that's why I can't imagine giving it to anyone else. Someday, Peyton. That's all I'm saying. All I'm asking."
xxv. 'cause I see sparks fly
whenever you smile
It's an agonizing thirteen seconds that he waits for a reply, one second for each year he's loved her. Her eyes drift from his blue orbs to the ring and back again before her smile slowly begins to form.
She doesn't need to say anything.
He knows. She knows. They've always known.
xxvi. mm, sparks fly
oh, baby, smile
He reaches for the box and opens it so that she can place the ring back inside, but she hesitates, surprising him.
"Maybe…I could wear it…just for today?" She offers up her most adorable smile.
He snaps the box closed and places it to the side. "You can wear it any day you want." He nudges his knee against hers, feeling blissfully playful, and she winces as his calf hits hers.
"How's your leg?" he asks immediately.
"How's your heart?" she retorts, eyebrows up, half-smile in place.
She ignores his silliness. "I love you," she says for the first time since they were in that library, and it's like closure for all that sadness.
He nods. "I'm going to love you forever, you know that?"
Peyton glances down at the ring, absorbing his uncontrollable happiness. He's given her what she's been lacking since her world fell apart eight years before. Love. The possibility of his family. Simple, adolescent, head-over-heels adoration and a devotion that isn't going to fade away. "I figured," she whispers. Her hand cups the back of his neck, pulling him toward her for a kiss.
When she pulls back, he feels the coolness of the metal of the engagement ring's band against his skin. Her eyes reflect one thousand colours and her smile lights her entire face. He wonders why this took so damn long, because the way he feels about her has never changed, and it never will.
She's no longer a dream. She's first-grade tangled curls and seventeen-year-old romance in the rain.
The sun thrusts into the sky way above them, shining down generously through the drizzling rain and casting rainbows in the puddles and in her eyes, ensnaring his heart just a little bit more.