A/N: Quite a long oneshot that had me up into the wee hours of the morning. Love this song (Want To by Sugarland), and I was listening to it yesterday and this whole thing kind of just...wrote itself.

Background: Slightly AU. Lucas and Peyton are best friends. It's the summer before senior year. Lucas didn't kiss Brooke before she left for the summer and isn't interested in her. Nathan and Haley are together with no issues, but Haley is on tour and Nathan is at basketball camp. Nathan was never mad at Lucas at the end of the school year. (Wow...that's quite a bit different than the show!)

----

| I've packed a cooler and a change of clothes
Let's jump and see how far it goes |

Three weeks into the summer, and it was already the best one of his life. It maybe shouldn't have been, since no one else was really around. But he had Peyton. Other people had basketball boot camp, and country-wide tours and trips to Palm Springs.

He had Peyton.

He'd help in the café when he was needed, but he had an empty house and an empty schedule, and absolutely no reason not to do whatever he wanted. He couldn't deny that what he wanted was to spend every free minute with the blonde girl who'd consumed his every thought for years.

They'd spent nearly every day so far together. She'd draw while he read, or she'd listen to music while he shot around at the River Court. They'd watch movies at night, or walk the beach with their shoes in their hands. They'd fall asleep in each others' beds and wake up tangled in each other, no matter what position they fell asleep in.

They were near inseparable, but neither was complaining, and neither tired of the others' company.

All she had told him when she called that day was that he should come prepared.

And he had no clue what that meant.

So he made a few sandwiches and tossed some drinks and snacks into a little cooler, and he tossed a change of clothes, a towel, and his swim shorts into his backpack.

That was the thing about Peyton. She'd make requests like that, and a few times she asked him to do something, he'd been caught off guard. She'd take him to the batting cage, or to a fancy restaurant, and she'd never tell him where they were going.

He was convinced that even she didn't know.

So they'd eat prime rib by candle light in their jeans and tee shirts, or they'd drive to the state line for no reason with nothing but $20 between the two of them. But they'd always have fun, and he'd always thank her, and she'd always tell him that she didn't need his thanks.

For some reason, in the summer she was all spontaneity and intensity. She made him let go of his worries. Any time he'd question why they were doing what they were doing, she'd remind him that they were young, and taking chances was what they were supposed to be doing.

So he slung his bag over his shoulder, and grabbed his things, and met her in the driveway when she honked her horn twice in succession like she always did.

| You got my heart and your daddy's boat
We got all night to make it float |

"You want to tell me where we're going?" he asked after driving for a while.

She knew how anxious he'd get every time she called him and gave him cryptic instructions. She found it adorable that he'd always complain and beg for information, but he'd never, not once, say no to going somewhere with her.

She loved that he trusted her that much. And she also kind of loved watching him squirm beside her in the passenger seat.

"Patience, my friend," she said, for what felt like the thousandth time in her life.

He never noticed the way her tone changed when she said that word beginning with the letter 'f'. Friend. It hurt her heart every time she had to remind herself, and him, that he was only her friend.

They hadn't started out that way, not really. Stolen kisses and secret glances, and hands held under tables before they really realized the toll those simple things would take on the both of them.

It was too much, or not enough, for their young hearts, and one day they just stopped.

They didn't really talk about it - neither knew what to say - and they just said that it was for the best, and they both tried to believe that, because they had each convinced themselves that was really what the other thought.

She pulled her old car into the parking lot at the docks, and laughed at the confused, and perhaps worried, expression on his face.

"OK, Blondie, what are you up to?" he asked as he grabbed all their things.

It was then that he noticed the red bikini tied at the back of her neck beneath her tank top, and the happy smile on her face, and the way her long legs looked as she jumped up and down a little bit, excitedly.

She jingled a shiny new set of keys in her hand, and that didn't do anything to answer his question or set his mind at ease.

But she looked far too sexy for him to find the words to ask again what was going on.

"My dad got a new boat, for some reason," she explained as they walked down the dock. "He said I should enjoy the day."

"And you want to enjoy it with me?" he asked with a smirk, already knowing the answer.

She turned to look at him, and she rolled her eyes, but she was smiling, so he just draped his arm around her shoulder as they walked, her flip flops making noise and his heart beating in his chest when the wind blew the scent of her coconut shampoo his way.

They got to the new, stark white boat, and he raised an eyebrow as she stepped aboard. She placed her hands on her hips like she always did when she was growing impatient with him.

"You know how to drive this thing?" he asked seriously.

"Stop worrying," she insisted, extending her hand to him. "Come on, Luke. My dad showed me years ago, and he took me out on this boat yesterday." She saw that he wasn't yet convinced. "Don't you trust me?"

Of course, he did.

And looking like that, he'd let her take him wherever she wanted to go.

| We could sit on the shore, we could just be friends
Or we could jump in |

He watched her as the wind blew her hair while she steered the boat over calm waters. They'd both pulled off their shirts, and he pretended, for a moment, that she was his girlfriend, and they were sharing a summer day together. He realized quickly that it was a little creepy for him to do so, so he stopped.

He could remember that day, the day they decided to stop kissing, and stop feeling things, and just...stop. He hadn't wanted to. He still didn't want to. He felt things for her that he had no business feeling, and she made it so damn easy to fall for her.

She was amazing, and he still wanted to kiss her, and he never thought it was a good idea to stop kissing her. Every single day they spent together had him feeling like just maybe they were both just too stubborn and stupid to make things really work between them.

But they had worked so hard to build their friendship, and that meant the world to him, and he didn't want that to get lost in the space between nothing and everything.

So he bit his tongue, and each time he saw her like this - fearless and beautiful, and absolutely oblivious to how he saw her - he tried to ignore it all.

She cut the engine and dropped the anchor, and he smiled at her as she unzipped her shorts and let them fall to the floor.

"It's so nice out," she mused as she lay down on the bow of the boat to soak up some sun.

"It's definitely hot," he said, only himself aware of the double meaning, and lay down next to her.

They lay for a while, eyes closed and sunglasses on, laughing and talking about music, and teasing each other about silly little things like the haircut he'd just gotten and hated, or the amount of money she'd spent when she dragged him shopping a few days earlier.

But then she stood up and claimed that it was too hot, and before he could say anything, she was diving over the side of the boat. All he could do was shake his head, because he should have seen that coming.

"Get in here!" she shouted once she'd resurfaced.

He watched her push the hair back up off her forehead, and he realized, again, for the thousandth time, that this girl was going to get him in trouble.

He saw her smile, almost as though she could pinpoint the moment she realized he was going to jump in.

Once he'd come up for air, he started splashing her, and she squealed in protest and splashed him back. You never would have guessed they were just months away from being 'adults' with the way they were acting.

He wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her closer to him, and she instinctively wrapped her legs around him as her hands found the back of his neck. The way he was kicking to keep them afloat created a little friction between them to add to the palpable tension that came with the position they found themselves in.

Or maybe the position they willingly put themselves in.

She looked into his eyes for a few moments too long, then placed her hands on his chest and pushed herself away from him to swim back to the boat.

He knew, and he thought that maybe she knew, too, that if she'd stayed in his arms any longer, he surely would have kissed her.

But then she shouted to him again, and she made a snide and sarcastic remark that had her laughing at them both, and she effectively reminded him that they were only friends.

| Whole world could change in a minute
Just one kiss could stop this spinning |

They were at the River Court, and he was playing maybe just a little bit too hard for her liking, considering he had a heart condition. When she mentioned it, he rolled his eyes dramatically and told her he'd be fine, and that he'd taken his medication, but that he'd slow down a little just to make her happy.

What she didn't say, what she couldn't tell him, was that the thought of losing him was just too much. It had taken her a long time to find a friend like him, and she couldn't lose him to anything.

That's why she kept all her feelings to herself.

Another hour later, with her scowling at him from the bleachers every time he drove to the net, and mother nature decided to help her out.

The rain came down in sheets out of nowhere, making Lucas curse and Peyton laugh.

"Not funny!" he shouted at her, peeling his soaking wet tee shirt away from his torso.

"It is too!" she yelled back between giggles. "The universe is so on my side!"

She walked over to him and grabbed the ball, rolling it towards her parked car. Before he could ask what was going through that head of hers, she took his hands in hers and tilted her head back, letting the big drops of rain fall on her face.

And he watched in wonder as the beautiful creature before him made the best of the bad weather.

She moved further away from him and dropped his hands and began spinning around a little bit, taunting him both with words, and the way her light summer clothes were clinging to her frame. Her short skirt and flowing tank top had looked cute earlier, but now she was downright sexy.

"I'm not dancing with you, crazy girl," he shouted over the sound of the raindrops. He put his hands on his hips and shook his head at her when she looked at him with a pout on her face.

"Please, Luke!" she begged. "It's liberating!"

"No!"

"Lucas!"

She stuck out her bottom lip as far as it would go, and she looked absolutely ridiculous, but still gorgeous at the same time. She laughed at herself when she realized how childish she was being, and started moving again when she looked away from him.

And he couldn't resist her. He'd never been able to.

He strode over to her and hooked one arm around her waist, placing the other between her shoulder blades, and he dipped her before she even knew what was happening.

She gazed up at him with a smile before he pulled her back up so she was standing in front of him, and the way her hand had caressed his forearm made goose bumps form. Her other hand was on his shoulder, and her hair was sticking to her face as she smiled at him.

He raised his hand to brush her wet locks away from her cheeks, and then their eyes met and he heard her breath catch in her throat.

Before he could stop himself, he'd pressed his lips to hers, right there in the rain.

It was simple. A timid, chaste kiss that, if she didn't know any better, could have been seen as innocent.

But she knew better.

She pulled away from him as gently as she could and walked to her car, climbing into the drivers' seat and leaving him standing on the middle of the court, feeling like he'd just taken a leap, and fallen flat on his face.

| We could think it through
But I don't want to, if you don't want to |

He hadn't planned, it, of course. She just looked so beautiful, and the way she was looking at him, and the way her hands were positioned on his skin, made him think that just maybe she wanted him to kiss her.

He walked to the car and jumped into the passenger seat, and for a moment, he was distracted to the music coming from the radio and the sound of the rain on the rag top.

"Sorry," he whispered.

But he wasn't, really.

"Don't," she said, shaking her head.

"Peyton, we should talk," he suggested delicately, turning his body on an angle to face her.

"I don't want to," she insisted before turning to him. "Do you?"

He took a deep breath and then looked out the front window of the car so she wouldn't see that he was lying when he said the word he didn't want to say, but he thought she wanted to hear.

"No."

| We could keep things just the same
Leave here the way we came, with nothing to lose
But I don't want to, if you don't want to |

After that, it was as though the kiss never happened. They didn't talk about it, each convinced the other didn't want to. They still met up every day, and talked on the phone when they weren't hanging out. To anyone in the town who saw them together, it looked as though they were in a relationship.

To each of them, it was painfully obvious that they weren't.

The one weekend her father was supposed to come home all summer, he had to call and cancel. Lucas heard Peyton's tears over the phone when she called him to cancel their own plans for the day, but he wouldn't let her sit alone in her room. She was upset, and she was doing what she'd always done when she was upset. She was pushing him away.

So he let himself into her house with the key she'd given him, and he made his way up the stairs to her bedroom and stood in the doorway, looking at her as she lay on her side with her back to him.

She heard the front door close, and she knew exactly who it was before he even said a word. The reason she called him, she was now aware, was because she knew he'd come over and lay down with her, and tell her that he was there for her, even when no one else was. She'd come to realize that she didn't need him to say those words for her for them to be true.

He kicked off his shoes and laid down next to her, pulled her back to his chest, and her hand fell atop his as it rested on her stomach.

It wasn't tense, or awkward, though maybe it should have been. It was comfort, and security, and it was all just easy between them.

"Thank you," she said softly after a few minutes.

He just let his thumb graze hers where they lay one over the other, and he nuzzled himself a little closer to her, and said, "always."

They lay like that for an hour, her hair tickling his cheek, and his breathing relaxing her and soothing her.

"You want to go do something?" he offered politely, thinking she might want to get out of her bedroom.

"No," she whispered. "Do you?"

"No."

He didn't want to let her out of his arms, and he'd let her stay there as long as she wanted to.

| I got your ring around my neck |

"Where'd you get this ring?" he asked, picking up the simple silver band off her dresser.

"Um...Charlotte, I think?" she said absently as she searched through her record collection for something or another. "Some little shop somewhere."

"I like it," he said with a smile, setting it back down.

"Take it," she insisted with a shrug of her shoulders.

"What?" he asked, tilting his head to one side.

"It's yours," she said, smirking as she made her way to him.

She stood behind him and unclasped the silver necklace he always wore, and picked the ring up off the dresser, slipping it onto the chain and fastening it again.

"There," she whispered, moving to stand in front of him as he toyed with the silver that now sat against his chest.

He didn't question why she gave it to him, or why her hands had lingered a little bit on the back of his neck after fastening his chain. He didn't ask himself why his heart was racing or his face felt hot.

He just held the ring between his index finger and his thumb, and knew that he wouldn't take it off.

She didn't know why she wanted him to have it, or why he'd accepted it, but she really liked the way it looked on him. She liked that he had a piece of her on him, and wondered if maybe that was the way it was supposed to be.

She wondered if maybe someday he'd wear her ring on his left hand, and not just on a chain around his neck.

She wondered if maybe he was thinking the same thing.

| And a couple of nights I don't regret |

He had a run-in with his father, much like one he'd had earlier in the summer. He was basically told that his entire existence was a mistake that never should have happened, and that any relationship Nathan and Lucas shared was purely coincidental and had nothing to do with the fact that they were related by blood. Dan pushed every button Lucas had, and it took everything in the younger man to keep himself from throwing punches.

He stormed into Peyton's room without warning late that night after that conversation, and she was almost scared of the look on his face. She'd never seen him look so hurt, and it hurt her, somehow. The reason for that wasn't a mystery to her. She was falling for him - or had fallen for him - and their hearts were connected, even if he didn't know it.

"I fucking hate this town sometimes," he spat angrily as he flopped down on his back on her bed.

"Luke..." she said shaking her head from her place at her desk.

"I hate that I have to deal with this, and that no one fucking gets it," he continued without letting her speak. "Like, does he think I want to be near him? He makes it sound like it's my fault that I'm alive!"

"Lucas..."

"And everyone looks at me like I'm some sort of charity case," he said, his anger only growing. "Dan Scott's reject son with the horrible life, and..."

"Lucas Scott!" Peyton shouted, standing from her place and putting her hand on her hip. "Can you please, please shut up?"

"Are you kidding me?" he asked hotly, sitting up so he was facing her. "I thought that maybe you'd understand this, Peyt, but I guess you're just like everyone else!"

She reeled back as though she'd been slapped. That wasn't what she meant at all, and it killed her that he thought that.

They didn't argue. They had a few disagreements that had been resolved within minutes, and they'd 'hug it out', as Lucas said. Every time, they'd laugh at how silly they'd been. But this was different. This wasn't them arguing over where to order dinner from or which car to take to the beach.

He saw her bite the inside of her bottom lip, just like she always did when she was trying to keep herself from crying, and he realized, very quickly, that he was a jerk.

"I was going to say that I do understand, and remind you that your life isn't horrible," she said, doing her best to keep her emotions in check. "But now I'm not going to say it!"

"But you just did," he joked, trying to coax a smile. She let out a huff and looked skyward. "Peyton, I'm sorry. I just...had a really shitty day."

"Well, don't take it out on me," she warned.

"I'm sorry," he said again, shamefully, as he lay back on the bed again.

"Talk to me," she insisted, sitting next to him.

"I don't want to dump this on you."

"Shut up and talk to me," she said sternly.

"Oxymoron," he pointed out with a smug smirk, making her roll her eyes. She'd take the abuse if it made him smile like that. "He said - again - he didn't want me to be born, and that I'm a bad spot on his otherwise shining public persona."

"Was he drunk?" Peyton muttered, making him smile again, despite the fact that he was so obviously upset.

"He said some really, really..." His voice trailed and cracked, and she knew he was about to cry, and that just about broke her heart. He'd never cried in front of her before.

She reached for his hand and held it tightly in both of hers, encouraging him to tell her everything.

"He said really terrible things about my mom," he said softly.

She watched the tear dance at the corner of his eye before it fell, and he made no move to wipe it away.

She knew this boy was different from all the rest, and that simple little drop of water convinced her of that again. He wasn't crying over the hateful things Dan had said about him, he was upset over what was said about his mother. And that made a tear fall from Peyton's eye, too.

So she curled up alongside him, still clutching his one hand while his other arm draped around her and pulled her closer to him. She didn't say anything comforting; their relationship didn't need that. She just let him hold her, because she knew that it would make him feel better somehow. Truthfully, it made her feel better too.

"Can I stay?" he asked after a few moments.

She didn't say anything then, either. She just nodded her head so it bumped his chin, and she got a little more comfortable next to him.

After all the times he had been there for her when she needed him, he finally needed her.

So she would be there.

They shed their clothes after the sun went down, and tucked beneath the cool sheets for the night. She had put on a little satin tank top and a pair of shorts, and he was in his boxers, and they'd assumed the same position they were in earlier, with her laying against his side and her hand on his chest.

He kissed the top of her head for absolutely no reason other than it felt right to do so.

He didn't apologize that time.

She didn't need him to.

| You got a dream of a degree
And a shirt that smells like me
Yeah we both got dreams, we could chase alone
Or we could make our own |

"Have you thought about college at all?" he asked, setting his book in his lap as they both sat on his bed.

He had his back against the headboard and his legs stretched out in front of him, and they were listening to Clapton as he read and she painted her toenails.

"Not really," she said with a shrug, not bothering to look up at him.

She was wearing the little denim shorts that stopped his damn heart every time he saw her wearing them, and one of his Tar Heels tee shirts that she'd stolen early in the summer. He wouldn't make any attempts to hide his smile every time he saw her with it on, sleeves rolled up and tied at the side to show a sliver of her now-tanned stomach.

She gave it back to him every couple of weeks, only to steal it again days later. When he asked her why she always snuck it in with his dirty laundry and made him wash it, she'd shrugged her shoulder coyly and told him that she liked how it always smelled like him after leaving it at his house for a few days. He would have made fun of her if he didn't love that she'd actually admitted that out loud to him. He couldn't ever admit to her that he loved those few days when he had it and it smelled like her...

"Have you?" she asked, screwing the cap back on her nail polish bottle and wiggling her now bright red toes at him, making him chuckle.

"I used to have it all mapped out, you know?" he said with a fond smile. "Somehow get a basketball scholarship to some school, hopefully UNC..."

"Of course," she said with a smile.

"Of course," he confirmed. "And that'd be that. Figure the rest out later, you know? But now..."

"Right," she said softly when his voice trailed as they both thought of his HCM. "What was your backup plan?"

"I dunno," he said honestly. "I like books."

"Really?" she said deadpan. "I hadn't noticed that about you."

"OK, smart ass," he laughed, shaking his head at her. "I meant that I like literature. I could look into that."

"I think you'd be great at it," she insisted genuinely. "You could be an author."

"Except I haven't written anything," he said, averting her gaze in hopes that she wouldn't catch onto that lie.

"You think I don't know you?" she said, shaking her head. "Luke, you're glued to your laptop when you're not with me."

"You know everything!" he cried playfully, and she just shrugged her shoulders innocently. "What about you?"

"I don't know," she answered honestly. "I really haven't thought about it much."

"But you have to have some idea," he pressed on, despite his better judgement.

After everything they'd been through, and all he knew about her, he should have known not to pressure her into telling him anything.

"What are you, my dad?" she asked in frustration. "I said I haven't thought about it!"

"Whoa," he said with a furrowed brow, holding up his hands in surrender. "It's just...most kids our age have at least some idea."

"Well, I don't," she said softly, looking down and smoothing out an invisible wrinkle in his bed spread. "I guess I like art."

"Really? I hadn't noticed that about you," he mimicked, making her glare at him.

"Ha, ha," she said sarcastically. "Maybe like, art, or music. Or business or something."

"See. Now you've thought about it," he said with a smirk before finding his place in his book again.

She watched as his lips bent upward, just that little bit like they always did when he was reading, and she wondered how, even when she didn't want to do something, he could somehow make it sound like the best idea in the world. He'd barely said two words about her going to college - hadn't pressured her about it more than he had to - but he'd set her mind in motion on the topic.

She'd just barely woken up the next morning, and he was parking himself on her bed. She was groggy and totally out of sorts, with her messy curls shooting out in all directions and no makeup on. His heart raced a little bit as he smiled down at her. She always looked extra sexy in the morning, though he'd never be able to tell her that.

"Don't hate me," he warned seriously.

"You know, Nathan used to come in here and say the same thing. All the time," she teased, her voice thick with sleep.

And yes, that was sexy, too.

"Well, we are brothers," he laughed. "But I didn't hook up with a random cheerleader or anything, so..."

"Shut up," she said with a giggle as she swatted his thigh. "What?"

"I maybe went on the UNC website and checked out the art and business programs," he said tentatively, wincing as he waited for her response, which he had convinced himself would be less than kind.

"Why UNC?" she asked simply, sitting up in her bed and letting the sheets fall to her waist. She noticed a few printed pages in his hands, and took them from him to leaf through.

"Because...I dunno...I just thought it'd be kind of cool for us to go to the same school," he said with a shrug of his shoulders. "It'd be awesome if we could do the college thing together."

"What aren't you telling me?" she asked with a raised eyebrow. She knew him well, and she knew there was more to it than what he'd just said.

"I just can't even...I don't want to think about not being in the same place as you," he admitted, smirking just enough to make her smile.

She thought that maybe he knew that those were exactly the kind of words she loved to hear.

"So you want to take me away with you," she said teasingly, laughing when he rolled his eyes. "Seriously, I didn't know you felt like that."

"Like I want my best friend around?"

She thought that maybe he didn't know that those were exactly kind of words broke her heart every time.

She didn't need reminders that they were only friends, and yet he kept on giving them to her.

| Whole world could change in a minute
Just one kiss could stop this spinning |

He never knocked when he entered her house, and she never asked him to, and it usually wasn't a problem between the two of them.

The summer was coming to a close, and they'd be starting their senior year, and he was worried that everything would change once they were back in classes and around everyone else. He didn't want anyone to come between them, though he knew it was a little crazy - and a lot selfish - for him to think it.

But when he stepped into her bedroom one evening, she must not have heard him come into the house, because she was in only her bra and a very, very skimpy pair of underwear. He wasn't even sure they really classified as underwear, there was so little fabric.

Not that he was really complaining.

"Lucas!" she shrieked, reaching for a blanket off her bed to cover herself.

He spun around so his back was to her, and his heart was racing faster than any strenuous activity ever made it do.

"I'm so sorry!" he said urgently. "I was...I wasn't quiet, and you're...Wow. I can't...Sorry."

"Did you just say that I'm 'wow'?" she asked, and he could hear her smiling.

"I'm sorry," he repeated again. "And yes, I might have just said that you are 'wow'."

She let out a laugh and he turned around, assuming that she'd have put something on.

He was wrong.

She had the blanket loosely clutched to her chest, but she wasn't making much of an effort to make sure that the curve of her hips or the sides of her breasts were covered. He found himself doing his best not to stare, which wasn't really saying much.

"I'm sor..."

"Stop apologizing," she insisted with a smirk.

"I just...didn't expect to come in here and see...you," he said, looking her up and down again. He didn't even try to hide it. She kind of liked it.

"Come here," she said softly.

He wanted to. Lord, he wanted to. But he was skeptical.

"Lucas, come here," she repeated.

The way she said his name, soft and sweet, with just a little bit of a southern drawl, coupled with the command that came after it, and he had to remind himself not to run to her.

Once he was standing in front of her, she reached for his hand with her free one, and placed it on her mostly bare hip. He could feel the thin material of her underwear beneath his palm, and he was already doing his best to keep his hormones in check. He got the impression, however, that he really didn't need to.

"Peyton," he whispered, "what are you...? What are we...?"

His thumb moved seemingly on its own, rubbing small circles on her bare skin.

"Shh."

She took another step towards him, dropping the blanket in the process, and placed one hand on his chest and one on the back of his neck. She noticed how shallow his breathing was already, and how he was looking at her like he was totally terrified to touch her any more than he was already touching her.

But then she leaned forward and pressed her lips to his, and both his hands gripped her waist, pulling her even closer to him. It wasn't unlike the last kiss they shared, over a month ago at the River Court. It was just lip to lip, but he definitely wanted it to be more. A lot more.

She pulled away from him a little bit, and he saw the seductive smile she was giving him before his eyes wandered to the amount of amazing tanned skin she was letting him see. She tugged at the bottom of his tee shirt, and he smirked at her before raising his arms so she could pull it over his head.

Her eyes fell to the ring, hanging on the chain around his neck, and she smiled even wider as she took the shiny metal between her fingers. She always forgot he was wearing it, since it was always tucked under his shirt, but any time they'd go to the beach, or the River Court, and he'd tug off his tee shirt, she'd smile when she caught sight of that ring.

She used the chain to gently pull him closer to her, and he smiled again before kissing her.

This kiss was more. It was more certain, and their tongues met, and moans were let out, and hands wandered. When they parted, he rest his forehead against hers as they both tried to steady their breathing.

"Peyton..."

"Lucas," she said quietly, looking at his lips instead of his eyes.

| We could think it through
But I don't want to, if you don't want to
We could keep things just the same |

She had only said his name, and he was ready to give her whatever she wanted. It wasn't just his name, that time. It was a plea and a promise. Reassurance and need. Two syllables thick with want and desire and pent up passion. His own name had never sounded more amazing to him.

He kissed her again and hooked his arm around her waist. He spun her around so her back was to the bed, and he laid her down gently. He tried to pull away from her, just a little bit, to admire that amazing body, but her hand found the chain on his neck again and they both smirked as she pulled him back towards her.

"Oh, that is going to come in handy," she muttered against his lips, making him chuckle.

Her hands were running up and down his back while he kissed her neck and slid his hand beneath the cotton of her bra.

And then her phone rang.

He pulled away from her, as though to let her answer it, but she held him as tightly as she could.

The sound of the phone had brought him back to reality. The reality where she was his best friend, and she only wanted the temporary release of being with him, and he was sure that's all it would ever be. Summer hormones and heat and the illusion that it was all a good idea and they'd be OK if they went through with it.

"You should get it," he said seriously.

And from that simple statement, she knew that he was saying far more than anyone else would think. He wasn't just telling her to answer the phone, he was telling her that they should stop what they were doing.

Both of those things were the last things she wanted to do.

She suddenly felt self-conscious in what she was wearing, and she wanted to cry, thinking that he only wanted her for sex, and he'd needed the interruption to remember that they were friends. Friends first, always, as he'd once told her.

But she didn't want to just be his friend, and she was mad at him for not realizing that. She grabbed his tee shirt from where it had landed on the bed, and tugged it over her head before standing and reaching for her cell.

"Hello?...Hey Nathan," she answered, all the while looking at Lucas as he sat with his chin in his hands. "No, I don't know what's going on with Luke...I'd talk to him, but I don't think he wants to tell me what he's feeling...You're back tomorrow, right?...Yeah, we'll hang out...OK...See you soon."

She hung up the phone and tossed it onto he bedside table, and turned away from him, avoiding his eyes. She was embarrassed and nervous, and she didn't want to talk about what happened.

The way she'd spoken on the phone, he knew, was more for him than it was for his brother. It was textbook passive aggressive, and she was almost begging him to tell her what he really wanted. And he couldn't help but feel that the last part was her way of telling him that she was thankful to have someone other than him to hang out with.

"Peyton..."

"Hang on," she said, walking to the bathroom and kicking the door closed.

She emerged moments later in a pair of sleep shorts and a tank top, and she held out his tee shirt for him to take.

"Here," she said curtly.

"Peyt."

"Take it, OK?" she said, almost desperately.

She was doing her best not to cry again. She couldn't let him see her cry over him. The one boy she wanted, didn't want her, and she needed him out of her room as soon as she could get him to leave.

"I thought we were gonna watch a movie," he said lamely as he pulled the tee shirt from her hands and started putting it on.

"I don't want to."

"I'm sorry," he said softly.

"Don't," she said, just as she had the last time they kissed. "I'll see you tomorrow."

"Will you?" he asked, needing confirmation that everything hadn't just changed between them.

"Breakfast at the café, right?" she said with a weak smile.

He nodded his head and took a deep breath before stepping into the hallway.

There was so much more he wanted to say, and definitely more he wanted to do, but it was clear that she didn't want to hear what he had to say. He wouldn't push it. She was going to act like nothing ever happened, he just knew it, and so he'd do his best to do the same thing.

But he could still feel her lips against his, and taste the strawberry lip gloss she'd been wearing since she'd bought it on his advice at the start of the summer, and he was cursing his brother for calling her at the worst possible time.

He walked home wishing that he really didn't have to be walking home.

| Leave here the way we came, with nothing to lose
But I don't want to, if you don't want to |

When Nathan returned from his summer away, he knew right away that there was something going on between Lucas and Peyton that neither of them were telling him about. He saw the way they looked at each other when they thought no one was looking, and the awkward way they spoke to each other, and he still somehow felt like the third wheel when he was with them.

When Peyton called him to see if he wanted to meet up with her at the beach, he thought two things. One, why was she hanging out with him instead of Lucas? And two, that he could finally try to get some information out of her about what he'd missed while he was gone. Something had happened, and he fully intended on finding out what it was.

"So," he said after a while, "You and Lucas admitting that you love each other yet?"

"What?!" she cried. "What are you talking about!?"

"Don't do that," he insisted, ignoring the 16 year old girl across the beach who was eyeing him.

He had his shirt tucked into the back of his board shorts, and Peyton was wearing a black bikini top with her denim shorts, and he was acutely aware of the stares they were drawing from the people their age on the beach. The previous summer it was the same story, only everyone knew they were dating, so the looks were more discreet.

"How is it that you can read me better than he can?" she asked quietly.

He draped his arm around her shoulder as he chuckled, and pulled her into his side while they walked. He knew her question and what it had implied was absolutely absurd. He suspected she knew it, too, deep down.

"You ever think about...I dunno...talking to him?" Nathan suggested.

"No!" she said seriously, almost laughing at how absurd that sounded to her. "No, I'm not going to have the awkward, best friend, Joey-Dawson, teenaged angst, 'I love you but you don't love me', conversation with him."

"OK, I don't know what the hell you just said," Nathan laughed, making her do the same. "But I know you and Luke, and I know you two idiots are like, the last people to realize that you are into each other. So why don't you stop breaking hearts, and just...give yours to each other."

"Wow," she muttered. "That was lame."

"But true," he said with a smirk. "What have you got to lose? I mean, if you don't say anything, you're going to be a miserable bitch all year, and really? I just don't want to deal with that."

"Oh, I'll be a miserable bitch to you no matter what," she said with a raised brow.

"No doubt," he mumbled. Her jaw dropped and she swatted his bare chest as he laughed.

"But what if he doesn't want...me?" she asked timidly.

"First of all, he does," Nathan said seriously, sitting himself down on the sand, and speaking again when she was sitting next to him. "Second of all...I don't have a second of all, so I'll just say it again. He does."

She let out a breath and tipped her head back, and she turned to him to say thank you, but he just shook his head, letting her know that she didn't need to say it.

Maybe Nathan was right. Maybe she didn't have anything to lose.

Maybe she had everything to gain.

| Never waste another day
Wonderin' what you threw away
Holdin' me, holdin' you
I don't want to, if you don't want to |

Peyton went straight from Nathan's beach house to Lucas' house. Her conversation with the dark haired Scott had convinced her to pursue her feelings.

She was still in just her bikini top and shorts when she burst through the door to his bedroom to see him laying on his bed. She hadn't intended to slam the door, but the adrenaline that was rushing through her made her shut it a little too forcefully.

They had hardly spoken in the three days since they got carried away in her bedroom. They'd had their scheduled breakfast and hung out with Nathan and Haley for the first time in ages, since they were both back in town again. Beyond that, she was avoiding him, and he was avoiding her, and it was driving her crazy. She felt like she was losing him, and it took feeling like she was losing him to realize that she just...couldn't.

"We need to talk," she said seriously, placing a hand on her hip. She saw him look her up and down and became very aware of what she was - or wasn't - wearing.

"Peyton..."

"Lucas, no. When I say that we need to talk, I mean that I need to talk and you need to shut up and listen to me," she clarified, pointing at him at the appropriate time.

He opened his mouth to talk again, but she wouldn't let him.

"Are you just going to ignore me forever?" she asked. "And yeah, OK, maybe I was ignoring you a little bit, too, but...God, Luke! I basically stripped off my clothes and made it pretty clear that you could do whatever you wanted to me, and..."

"Oh God! This is so not a conversation I should be hearing!" Haley cried from the other doorway.

So that's why Lucas was trying to interrupt her. Peyton closed her eyes, even more mortified than she'd been upon showing up, and when she opened them, Lucas was wincing and looking at her apologetically.

"I'm gonna...go...find...Nathan," Haley said nervously, making her way to the door.

"At the beach house," Peyton offered, making Haley smile weakly.

Once Haley was outside and the door was closed behind her, both Lucas and Peyton burst into laughter.

"Why didn't you tell me!?" she asked, flopping down on the bed and covering her face with her hands.

"I tried!" he reminded her. "You got all 'scary Peyton' on me and wouldn't let me get a word in."

"I'm sorry."

"For yelling at me? Or for reminding me that I'm stupid?" he asked, avoiding her eyes.

"Huh? Stupid?" she asked obliviously.

"What kind of idiot walks away from a naked Peyton?" he inquired softly.

"I'm being serious, Lucas, I want to talk about this," she said, turning on her side to look at him.

He saw the tie of her bikini top, and his previous comment had already made his mind race, and he was wondering if he could just tug that little string and see her the way he wanted to see her. Apparently, he wasn't very discreet about it.

"It's double knotted," she pointed out with a smirk, making him laugh as his cheeks turned pink. "But good to know where your head's at."

If she only knew that his head had been there all summer long. He knew the mechanics of all her bikinis, having studied them all in the time they'd spent together at the beach.

"I just...got scared," he admitted softly, focusing on their conversation rather than just the thought of her as he'd seen her a few days before.

"Of what?" she asked. It didn't take a genius to realize that other boys didn't admit those kinds of things. Lucas was different, and he seemed to remind her of that every time she lost sight of it.

"Of us," he said, as though it was the most obvious answer he could give. "I think about it all the time. You and me."

"Me too," she whispered, smiling softly at him.

"And...God, the other day..."

"We got caught up," she offered. She was aware that it sounded like she was downplaying what had happened, but she needed him to say that it meant more to him than just sex.

"Whatever!" he scoffed. "You practically attacked me."

"Shut up!" she cried, swatting his chest. "You're the one who walked in on a girl when she was changing."

"How does that not happen more often?" he mused, knitting his brow in curiosity.

He had a point, she realized. The amount of times he'd walked into her house over the summer, and before then, and he'd only caught her changing once. They both chuckled when they realized that he was right.

"We shouldn't be able to joke like this, should we?" she asked after a moment.

"Maybe...Maybe joking like this is exactly why we work," he suggested. "Maybe we're the same, and that's why we can get over the awkwardness so fast."

"Awkwardness? Is that a word?"

"OK, are you just joking now to prove a point?" he asked with a smirk.

She rolled onto her back again and closed her eyes, and it was all he could do not to move himself so he was on top of her, and somehow work that double knot loose before she could ask questions. She let out a sigh and clasped her hands over her stomach. He reached out and placed his hand over hers, moving a little closer to her as he lay on his side.

"I didn't know if you'd regret it," he admitted softly. "I didn't want to...and then have you say it was nothing."

"It wouldn't have been nothing," she insisted, turning her head to look at him. "It's never nothing with us."

| We could keep things just the same
Leave here the way we came, with nothing to lose
But I don't want to, but you don't want to |

He gave her one of those lopsided smiles that made her heart race, and she closed her eyes slowly.

He knew, that moment, that they were stuck in that space between nothing and everything, the very place he'd so tried to avoid.

"What now?" she asked quietly. She was terrified of what his answer would be; fearing that it wouldn't be the one she wanted to hear.

"We either just...be friends," he offered. "Or we stop pretending that there isn't something more here."

He smirked at her, and she knew, then, that Nathan and Haley had totally set them up. The couple had obviously hatched a plan to make the two blondes come to their senses, and she had to admit, she kind of loved them for it.

"Well...what do you want to do?" she asked. She knew what she wanted, and she suspected he knew what that was.

"I want to do whatever you want to do," he said simply, shrugging his shoulder. "What do you want?"

She sighed again, realizing that this was the moment she'd never forget. The moment she told him how she really felt, and the moment she found out that he either felt the same, or didn't. And she was pretty sure that he did.

So as she contemplated her answer, she knew there was only one simple truth she could say.

"I want you."

He smiled at her and pulled her into his arms, and he realized, as soon as he'd done that, that he should have just kissed her. But the beautiful thing about their relationship was that it really was based on their friendship. He knew she loved his hugs, and he knew that he didn't need to kiss her to prove that he wanted her, too.

But, he was a man, and his fingers went to work on the knot at the back of her neck while she was curled into his embrace, and she could only laugh.

She pulled away from him just a little bit, and she saw the boyish grin he was wearing, and that made it all the more easy to love him. When she leaned forward to kiss him, she feathered her fingers through the hair at the back of his neck, and he took a deep breath. He loved it when she did that.

He loved her.

"Lucas," she said before he could even kiss her.

"Hmm?" he asked, nuzzling her nose and brushing his lips against hers enough to make her shiver, but not to be a proper kiss.

"I love you."

"Yes!" he said excitedly.

It took her only a moment to realize that his enthusiasm was over unfastening the knot of her bathing suit, and it took him only a moment to realize that she'd actually really just said those words.

He closed his eyes in almost embarrassment, and she raised her eyebrow at him as she smirked. When he opened his eyes again, he was met with her perfect green ones, Her curls falling loosely around her face, and that adorable little smile.

"I love you, too," he said with a smile, making her laugh.

"Yes!"

"Shut up," he muttered against her lips.

| I want you |

She was laying in his arms in her bed a few days after their confession and conversation. She woke up with his bare chest beneath her cheek and the sunlight pouring through the windows, and it hit her that school was starting the next day. She really didn't want to give up these mornings with him.

He was already awake, and when she looked up at him, she gave him a groggy smile as she stretched.

"Why weren't we doing this all summer long?" he asked, more to himself than to her.

"I don't know," she answered. "But let's not stop, OK?"

He let out a breathy laugh and kissed the top of her head. That sounded just about perfect to him.

"We have to meet Nathan and Haley at the beach soon," he reminded her, making her groan. "What?"

"I just want to lay in bed with my boyfriend all day," she admitted softly.

That statement had him wondering where his phone was so he could call and cancel all their plans. She'd never called him her boyfriend before.

He took a deep breath and brought her face up to his to kiss her, but he pulled away before they got carried away, as they'd been known to do in the couple days prior.

"Purple bikini," he said in a low voice.

"Why purple?" she asked with a furrowed brow, unabashedly checking him out as he stood from the bed in just his boxers.

"I love that one," he said with a shrug as he padded to the bathroom.

"Like you'd complain if I wore a different one!" she called through the door as she laughed.

She was just pulling on her black summer dress over her bathing suit when he stepped out of the bathroom in his black board shorts and no shirt. She saw that ring hanging around his neck, and she smiled at him as he walked towards her.

She slipped the tip of her index finger through the silver band as he placed his hands on her hips, and he locked eyes with her before he spoke.

"I'm gonna give you a ring someday," he promised quietly, making her let out a quick breath.

"Yeah?" she asked coyly.

"I love you."

It was the best answer he could give her to the question she'd asked.

And when he kissed her, she realized that she didn't need to question him at all.

-Fin-