A/N: This is it. The end of the story. Thank you all so, so much for reading, and for your wonderful reviews. I hope you enjoy the ending.
Between wedding plans, Lucas working on his novel, Peyton helping Deb and Karen book bands and manage Tric, and getting settled in the house, the next month was incredibly busy.
Peyton and Brooke spent every free second together, going over details for the wedding that was taking place in November. Brooke insisted she wanted a fall wedding, and Jake was willing to give her whatever she wanted. Lucas would laugh every time Peyton came home from a dress fitting or a day of shopping for cakes or flowers or place cards. She'd flop down on the couch next to him and swear up and down she was never getting married.
The smile on her face as she'd cuddle up with him told him that she wasn't serious.
Lucas stepped through the door of the house one day and heard Peyton talking angrily into the phone. He'd left before she was awake, and he was really hoping her current mood had little or nothing to do with the fact that he hadn't told her where he was going or when he'd be back.
"No! I said one set...Yes, it's a Saturday, but we've got two bands...No, it's not a double booking!...Well I'm sorry you feel that way, but I think you need to remember that you're amateurs. Consider the fact that the audience crosses over. You could build your fanbase!"
Lucas stepped gingerly towards the kitchen, hoping to slip past her unseen. She turned when the floorboards creaked, and he offered a sheepish smile. She raised her hand to rest against her forehead and turned back around.
Dammit. He was pretty sure she wasn't pleased with him.
"Well, I need to know by this Thursday, so if you're going to back out, call me by then. If not, you're on at 10:00," she said before hanging up the phone. She let out a frustrated noise and set the phone down harshly on the counter as she stepped into the kitchen.
"Where were you? Why are you wearing a tie?" Her tone was more curious than angry, and he let out a soft sigh of relief.
"I had a meeting."
"A meeting you didn't tell me about. Interesting," she mumbled.
"I didn't want to wake you," he insisted.
"Well, was it last minute, or just a big secret?" she asked. He almost smiled. She was so cute when she was mad.
"I didn't want to tell you until...Well, until I had something to tell," he said. He took her hand and they sat at the table in the kitchen. "I met with the athletic department at the high school."
"I interviewed for the head coaching job," he told her. His voice was quiet, like he was sorry he hadn't told her sooner.
"Lucas!" she cried. OK. So she was happy again. "Well? What'd they say!?"
"They asked how Nathan was," he said seriously, and she looked at him sympathetically. "They also said that I can start in September."
"Luke!" She leaned over and wrapped her arms tightly around him, and he just laughed as she wound up sitting on his lap. "You got a job!?"
"Yeah, I did," he said, just before she kissed him.
"That's amazing. Even if you lied to me about it," she said, raising her brow.
"I didn't lie," he said. "I...omitted details."
"And you know? You shouldn't really talk," he said, his tone warning. "Because I'm pretty sure you didn't tell me that Deb offered to invest in the gallery that I didn't even know you wanted to open."
"Oh. Right. That," she said softly, nibbling her bottom lip in what she hoped was a cute way.
And it was. Of course it was.
"How come you didn't say anything?" he asked gently. "You know I support you."
"That's why," she said, making him look at her in confusion. "Luke, you're...you're so good to me. You think I can do anything. I just...I needed a business opinion to tell me the idea wasn't crazy. If I could really do it."
"You can," he insisted, kissing her softly. "Right? Why else would Deb offer the money?"
"Yeah. I'm just...weighing some options," she said.
"What does that mean?"
"It means...God, Luke, I have like, a half a body of work. I'd either need to find other artists, or bust my ass and get some more paintings done. Maybe both."
"So you'll do both," he said with a smirk. "Peyton, you know you can do this. I'll help you however you need me to."
"Because you'll have so much time between being a published author and a head coach?" she asked, raising her brow at him. He blushed and bowed his head. "I'll talk with Deb."
"You were going to anyway, weren't you?" he asked.
"Yeah. But...it's good to know you're with me on this."
"With you on everything, babe," he said slyly, and she kissed him again. He moaned when she shifted in his lap so she was facing him.
Yeah, they loved having their own house.
She'd just undone his tie and was starting to work the buttons of his shirt when the phone rang.
"Leave it," Lucas insisted, kissing her neck. She had no intentions of answering. Not when he was unbuttoning her shorts and had his other hand buried in her hair.
He'd dipped his hand down between them, making Peyton whisper his name, when the answering machine picked up, and Brooke's voice flowed through the house.
"Peyton? Peyton if you're there, pick up. Whatever you're doing, drop it and answer the phone...Dammit, you're not there. OK. Well, they double booked the reception hall." Peyton pulled away from Lucas and looked at him apologetically as Brooke kept talking. He sighed and closed his eyes, but nodded to her, granting permission to take the call.
Peyton picked up the phone and started talking as she buttoned her shorts again, and Lucas wrote a message for her on the little chalkboard they had tacked up next to the back kitchen door.
I'm not finished with you yet.
She winked at him when she read it, and he kissed her forehead before starting towards the stairs.
He really, really wished Brooke had better timing.
Nathan was working out on the River Court, shirtless, as always. Peyton was actually starting to wonder if the guy ever wore a shirt between the months of June and September. She drove up and saw him there after receiving a text from him, telling her that if she didn't give him a little one on one friend time, he was going to be really pissed. She just shook her head, grabbed her keys, and told Lucas she'd be back in a bit. She had a date with his brother. It had become a running joke between the two couples.
"Hey," she called out as she stepped out of her car. Nathan walked towards her, but she held her hand out. "Don't even think of touching me when you're so disgusting."
"Disgusting!? They call this work, darlin'," he said with a smirk, gesturing to his glistening torso.
"Surprised you haven't started charging admission at this place. People'd pay to watch you play with yourself," she said, and they both started laughing hysterically. "Stop laughing! I so didn't mean it like that!"
"You have got one dirty mind, Sawyer," he said once his laughter died down. He grabbed his towel off the bleachers and wiped his forehead and chest before taking the ball and driving towards the basket again. "So what's up?"
"You're the one who threatened me. What's up with you?"
"You know what's kind of cute?" she said with a chuckle. "You and Lucas make the same face when you're trying to lie."
"I just have a little news to share," he said, unable to hide his smile.
"How'd you know that!?" he asked with wide eyes. He'd been so excited to tell her! Haley was with Lucas at the same time, telling him the news.
"Just a guess. Are you serious? Is she? Am I gonna be an aunt?!"
"Well, if you marry Luke, you will be," he said with a laugh. He was pretty sure that 'if' should have been a 'when', but he didn't say as much. "Yeah. She is. 7 weeks."
"Congratulations, Nate," she said sincerely, rushing forward and throwing her arms around him. "Ugh. You're so gross."
"Worth it?" he asked knowingly.
"Absolutely. Daddy to be. Again." He smiled widely, and she just shook her head. Then her complexion paled. "Oh, God. Brooke's going to have a fit! Haley's dress is going to need to be redesigned!"
"Well...too bad for Brooke," Nathan laughed. "And there was something else I - we, me and Haley - wanted to ask you."
"Well, Jamie...I mean, we never really picked a Godmother for him, since Haley doesn't really trust any of her sisters, and we weren't too close to any girls when he was born," he said. Peyton started tearing up a little, knowing where that conversation was headed. "So, we were wondering...Since Luke's his Godfather, and you're so good with him. Jamie, not Luke. Well, you're good with Luke, too, but...Whatever." She laughed a little at his rambling, and he smiled at her. "We'd like for you to be Jamie's Godmother, is basically what I'm getting at. Which I'm pretty sure you figured out already, since you're bawling like a girl."
"I am a girl," she said tearfully. "Of course, Nathan. I'd be honoured."
"Yeah? Because you don't have to say yes," he said, and she swatted his arm as she wiped her tears. He'd known she'd say yes, of course. "And it's all just symbolic anyway."
"Shut up! Don't downplay it. I'm...I'm a mentor to your son," she said, semi-teasingly. She wouldn't take the job lightly, and he and Haley must have known that.
"Which basically means that you'll spoil the hell out of him and let him listen to the music Haley won't let him hear," Nathan said, and Peyton shrugged innocently. "Which is basically what you do now, so...You're all set."
"Come on. Put your shirt on and buy me lunch," she said, laughing as he followed her to her car.
"I give you good news, and I'm buying lunch?" he asked incredulously.
"Dude, I'm unemployed and you make millions of dollars a year. You're buying me a damn lunch."
He couldn't argue. He wanted to. She'd found a space for her gallery, and she was close to opening. He, Lucas, and Jake had been called in to paint the place while the girls had shopped for furniture and...whatever the hell else they'd bought to go in there. She was still a couple weeks away from being open, but Nathan was pretty proud of her for following her passion. He knew how good that felt.
When Peyton got home from her afternoon with Nathan, Lucas just smiled at her. It was clear Haley had told him about everything.
"They're having a baby," she said in awe as she settled into his arms.
"Kind of amazing."
"I love babies," she said softly.
"Yeah?" he asked, as though he had no clue. He kind of didn't. He knew she was great with kids. He didn't know she loved babies. He was kind of happy to hear it.
"Yeah. I do," she whispered. "Sorry. I'm probably freaking you out. I'm just...kind of emotional with all this baby and Godmother stuff."
"You're not freaking me out." He kissed her forehead and she smiled. "You still amaze me sometimes, you know that?"
"Well, I should hope so," she laughed. "It's not like we've known each other 25 years."
She pulled away from him as he chuckled and shook his head.
"I just mean that...Well, I mean what I just said. I don't think that's going to change. Even in 25 years," he said. She kissed him quickly, then stood from the sofa.
"OK, you big softie. We have to go to Wilmington to sample wines for the wedding."
"Because I have to go, and you're my boyfriend, which means that you have to go," she said, grabbing the front of his tee shirt and pulling him closer once he'd stood.
"Which means that I'm not tasting anything, and I'm your designated driver," he stated incredulously.
"That's what I love about you, Luke. You catch on so fast." She patted his cheek a couple times, and he just laughed at her as she turned away and disappeared into the kitchen.
As he waited for her to return, all he could think was that the girl he met at the beginning of the school year probably would have run through the door and never turned back if things like babies and 25 year commitments were alluded to.
She wasn't that girl anymore. She was his girl now, and his girl knew she was loved enough that all those big ideas actually sounded pretty good.
Peyton walked up to the house one Friday evening after working late at the gallery. The assistant she'd had to hire after an insanely busy first month had called in sick that day, which left Peyton having to conduct meetings with buyers, answer phones, and handle any walk ins. She had stayed late to finish up paperwork on a couple sales, and all she wanted to do was sit on the sofa with a glass of wine in her hand while Lucas made dinner. He didn't know he was supposed to yet, but he'd find out soon enough.
When she walked in the house to see Lucas, Lily, and buttons sitting on the sofa, and Lucas with a Dr. Seuss book in his hands, she realized her night would be very different than she'd expected.
But she wasn't complaining. Not one bit.
"Hey, Lil!" Peyton said, kicking off her heels and dropping her purse. "What are you doing?"
"Lukey's reading about a turtle."
"Yertle? That's one of my favourites," Peyton said, and Lucas shot her a wink. That was why he was reading it in the first place. "Where's your mom?"
"She had a d-a-t-e," Lucas said, raising his eyebrow. Peyton's jaw dropped, and he could tell she was dying for the gossip. How come they were just hearing about this date now?
"Oh really?" she asked, using a goofy voice that made Lily laugh.
"Mhmm." Lucas found his place in the book again, and Lily peeked over to look at the pictures. "Dinner's on the stove for you when you're ready. We already ate. Someone's tummy was rumbling." He pointed to Lily and the girl just giggled again.
Peyton noticed Lily's little overnight bag sitting on the bottom step, and she looked back to Lucas.
"This is a sleep over d-a-t-e?" she asked with wide eyes.
"Peyton," he groaned. "That's my mom you're talking about."
"She's a woman! She has needs."
She just laughed as she walked into the kitchen.
She was midway through her meal when Lucas set Lily up with a movie and went to talk to his girlfriend for a few minutes. She was sitting at the table with the latest issue of B. Davis magazine in front of her, flipping through the pages as she finished her dinner.
"So what do we know about this man?" she asked, searching for any news she could get. Lucas was about to ask her how her day went, but it was clear she didn't want to tell him.
"A lot, actually. They used to date. His name is Andy. Great guy," he explained. "I guess he came into the café a couple weeks ago and they've been talking again. She didn't tell us because she didn't know what was really going on."
"That's so sweet that he never got over her," Peyton said softly. "Your mom's a catch, Luke."
"OK. Stop talking about her like she's a girlfriend," Lucas laughed. "There are things a son doesn't want to know."
"Your mom kind of is my friend." He smiled and she shrugged one shoulder. "I want her to be happy."
"Me too, babe," he said. He stood from his place and kissed the top of her head before reaching for a juice box and a bottle of water from the refrigerator. "I have to get back to Snow White. I can never keep the dwarfs straight."
"Grumpy, Sleepy, Doc, Dopey, Bashful, Sneezy, Happy," she recited quickly. He just stared at her, then turned to go back to the living room, leaving her laughing at the table.
She went upstairs and changed into a comfortable pair of pajamas, pulled her hair into a ponytail, and washed her face. She quickly returned an email to Brooke about something - not surprisingly - wedding-related, then she walked back downstairs. She took her place on the sofa so that Lily was between the two adults, and the three of them sat as close together as they could as they watched Snow White tuck the dwarfs into their beds.
Lucas watched as Peyton draped her arm around the little girl that sat between them, occasionally stroking Lily's hair or giggling at something on the screen. He wasn't really paying attention to the movie at all. He was, after all, a grown man; watching a Disney movie wasn't his preferred activity for a Friday night.
And with his incredible girlfriend sitting so close to him, he really couldn't concentrate on anything other than her.
"Lukey! " Lily reprimanded. "You have to watch. This is the best part!"
"I'm watching," he chuckled.
"No. You were looking at Peyton," Lily rebutted. "Peyton isn't a princess."
Peyton just laughed and ruffled Lily's hair, and Lucas reached for the blonde's hand, bringing it to his lips.
"She's my princess," he said softly.
Peyton really shouldn't have loved that cliché as much as she did. Her man had all the right words.
That night after they tucked Lily into bed, she kissed him on the sofa and told him she loved that he was such a romantic.
"No, Brooke. I am not indulging you," Peyton said adamantly, shaking her head. "I'm not feeding into your craziness."
"It's not crazy! You're Jake's best friend. It's not unheard of for the groom's best friend to go to the bachelor party," Brooke rationalized. Except even she had to know that it wasn't rational at all.
"It is unheard of when the groom's best friend is a girl! There's no way I am going."
"Don't you want to keep an eye on Lucas?"
"Don't try that. There is no reason for Lucas to be looking anywhere else, thank you very much," Peyton said with a raised eyebrow. "And you're not crazy enough to think you need anyone to keep an eye on Jake, either. I mean, all this wedding stuff might have you a little off your rocker, but come on."
Brooke huffed and crossed her arms and turned her back to Peyton, just like she used to do when they were kids and Peyton would do something to make the brunette mad, like paint her toenails black or something.
"We aren't best friends any more until you, Miss Maid Of Honour, can find a way to ensure that my husband-to-be doesn't get an inappropriate lap dance from some skanky stripper!"
Haley walked into the house just in time to hear 'skanky stripper', and she stopped in her tracks, shaking her head quickly, as though that would help her comprehend just what kind of a conversation she walked in on.
"Brooke wants me to crash the bachelor party to make sure Jake behaves," Peyton explained quickly.
"So just have the bachelorette on the same night, and then she can't do anything about it," Haley said, shrugging her shoulder as she tossed a piece of melon into her mouth. Haley always had a way of explaining things that made them sound like the simplest, best, most obvious ideas in the world.
"Brilliant. That's what we're doing," Peyton insisted. Brooke just pouted more. "I'll talk to Lucas. He's not a big drinker anyway."
"And besides, as the best man, Luke's sole job is to make sure the groom gets to the ceremony. Even if that means pulling him out of a strip club or handcuffing him so he can't jump out of the car on the way to the church," Haley said with a laugh.
"You're not helping," Brooke said, her eyes narrowed. But there was a little smile on her lips.
"You're being ridiculous!" Haley cried. "Seriously. If Jake wanted to hook up with 'skanky strippers', he probably would have done so before he proposed."
"Not helping!" Brooke shouted, throwing her hands up.
"OK. Bridezilla needs something to calm her nerves," Peyton said softly, pulling a face at Haley.
Lucas later that day - begged shamelessly by Brooke - promised that he'd ensure that Jake behaved himself. When she turned her back, he shot Peyton and Haley a look as if to ask if Brooke had lost her mind. They both nodded.
The parties took place on the same night, two weeks before the wedding. The guys went mellow. They didn't even go to a strip club or anything crazy. They went to a pub in Wilmington and drank beer and had a few shots, and they talked about...well, whatever they wanted to talk about. Nathan and Haley, and Lucas and Peyton were staying overnight with Brooke and Jake, and the guys were a little surprised - and maybe a little scared - when they got home before the girls.
When Peyton crawled into bed with Lucas around 3:30 in the morning, he woke up and looked over at her. It was clear she'd had a couple too many. Her face was flushed and she had that little grin on her face that she always got after a few drinks.
"Hi," she said softly. "You're home early."
"No," he laughed. "You're home late."
"I don't want to know what you guys did."
"We just drank beer and talked," he admitted, as though it surprised him, too. "What'd you do."
"Oh," she said. She wouldn't meet his eyes and he got suspicious.
"What? Tell me."
"Well, Haley and I kind of thought...you know, since Brooke was all worried about the whole stripper thing..."
"Peyton Sawyer," he said with an amused smirk when her voice trailed. "What did you do?"
"We maybe went to a strip club and took lessons," she said, scrunching her nose adorably as she waited for his response.
It was clear he was speechless. He cleared his throat when she started laughing softly.
"We thought it'd be funny for Brooke to learn. And it was. So funny."
"And...how'd that go?" he asked. He really didn't know what to say about all that.
"She pouted because I was better than her," she said, settling into his side.
She could only laugh when he muttered a curse word and took a deep breath, and when he told her that she had better show him her moves, she made him a promise so sexy that he was wondering if they could just leave and drive home without telling anyone.
The ceremony went perfectly. Peyton and Haley, and Lucas and Nathan stood on either side of their friends, and watched as Brooke teared up saying her vows. Peyton teared up a little bit, too. The rings were exchanged, the first kiss had everyone clapping, and then they were filing out of the church.
The weather held out - sunny skies and just a little bit of a breeze - for photographs, and then it was on to the ballroom at one of the city's nicest hotels for the reception. Dinner was served and toasts were made that had everyone either laughing or crying - sometimes both - and then the Champagne was brought out.
Lucas took Peyton's hand and led her to the dance floor, her chocolate brown satin dress flowing down to her knees, and her loose curls flawlessly falling around her face. Lucas knew that no one was supposed to look more beautiful to the bride, and though he'd never tell Brooke, Peyton certainly did. To him, anyway.
They took their place on the floor next to the newlywed couple, and they began swaying to the music.
"Remember the first time we danced together?" Lucas asked with a smirk.
"Yes," Peyton grumbled. "It was because of these two that time, as well."
"Quit complaining," Jake interjected, smiling as Peyton glared at him. "I like to think I was the mastermind behind your whole relationship."
"Not quite," Lucas laughed before turning back to Peyton. "I think Lily takes that title."
"Yeah, she does," Peyton said softly.
In her mind, she was thinking how a year had gone by so quickly. And how that year had been the happiest one of her life.
She pressed a gentle kiss to his lips just as she saw the flash of a camera go off, and she smiled to herself. That day was certainly going to produce a ton of photos of the two of them together.
"Hey, Peyton?" Lucas asked quietly.
"Hmm?" She pulled away a little bit to look into his eyes, and she saw them sparkling back at her. She didn't know what he was about to say to her, but she kind of liked the way his eyes looked in that moment, whatever it was.
"You think we'll ever get married?" he inquired, a shadow of a smirk on his lips.
"I dunno," she said, unable to hide her grin. "Maybe if I find the right guy..."
"Come on," he laughed. "I'm serious."
"Most guys just propose if they want to know," she pointed out with a raised brow.
"Are you saying you'd say yes if I asked?"
She knew he wouldn't - Brooke would kill him if he did - but she half expected him to drop to one knee right then and there.
"You know the answer to that, Lucas," she all but whispered, looking away from him. He tilted her chin up with his index finger and looked at her pleadingly. "Of course I'd say yes."
"OK," he whispered, kissing her forehead. "I'll keep that in mind."
"Yeah?" she asked timidly, holding him a little tighter. He just smiled and nodded his head gently as his eyes met hers.