A/N: So this is a bit of an AU future fic. Basically, Lucas and Brooke never broke up, and Peyton and Lucas never got together in season 4. Any other details should be pretty obvious. I'm a little nervous about this one...

I was watching NP scenes on Youtube and the one from 4x15 kind of hit me. I wrote the first line of this, and the rest just kind of flowed. And yes, I know I should have been working on the third chapter of Go Ahead And Steal My Heart! I promise I'm working on it now!


She always was a little bit of a masochist.

But this probably takes the cake of all the hell she's put herself through.

It's only hours until he'll stand before her and pledge his love in front of God and everyone. 13 hours and 27...26 minutes, now.

He's got her in his arms, holding her like he used to when it was just the two of them in the darkness of her bedroom. They were 16 or 17 and he'd hold her the very same way he's doing now.

But it was all different.

Sure, his heart is still beating so hard that she can feel it against her own chest, and he still smells the same, and she still feels like she could cry, just from having his arms around her.

The only problem is that he's not hers to hold, and she's not his to hold.

It took coming to town for his wedding to realize that there's always been a part of her that wanted to be his.

They never had much of a chance. They messed up and wronged a perfectly lovely girl, and then it was all downhill from their. Fights and silent treatment and thinking at that age, that it wasn't worth all that.

She called it off and he let her, and she's pretty sure that's the biggest mistake she ever made. Maybe, she thinks, it's the biggest mistake he ever made, too.

He stands here with her now, his blue eyes shining in that way that they only ever really did for her, and she wonders if he knows that what he's about to do in 13 hours and 26...25 minutes, now, is going to impact both of their lives immensely.

He's now marrying that perfectly lovely girl, and he still, in the week since Peyton's been back, hasn't muttered those words. He hasn't called Brooke his fiancé or his bride. He hasn't said he can't wait to marry her or that their wedding will be wonderful.

All Peyton can think is that maybe he just doesn't want to admit that this is his life. It's selfish and cold and completely inappropriate to think it, but she does. She figures that as long as she doesn't say the words out loud, it's not so bad.

She never wanted anyone more than she wanted Lucas, and the sad smile he gives her tells her that maybe he always knew.

"We should go back in," she says softly, though it kills her to do it. She wants to stand with him on that outside patio in the sticky night air in their home town for as long as they can.

But they can't.

"We just got here," he points out with a furrowed brow. She's been dodging him all night, and he's known the reason, but he doesn't want to let her go yet.

He really doesn't need to ask why that is.

"Lucas, I can't..."

"Can't what?" he asks. He weaves his fingers loosely through hers, and smiles smugly when she doesn't pull away like they both know she could if she really wanted to.

"I can't...feel...be here with you, then watch you do it," she says vaguely. He'll know she's talking about the wedding, and she should expect him to say what he says next, but it still makes her mad.

"I watched you do it," he says softy, looking down at their hands.

"This is different," she whispers harshly. He really doesn't get it.

"No it's not, Peyton," he insists.

"Lucas, it's..."

"It is not!" he almost shouts. "I watched you put a ring on another man's hand. I watched you kiss him and dance with him and heard people call you by his last name."

"You have been with her all along!" she says, though there's a lump in her throat.

"You still married someone who wasn't me," he finishes.

"You and I? Lucas, you and I were never...anything," she says, though she knows damn well it's a lie. A big one. The biggest one.

"Is that how you really feel?" he asks quietly.

He knows it's not, but he asks anyway. The look she gives him proves it all. She's sad and breaking, and it's really taking all the self control he has not to just run away with her right now.

"I just...saw how happy you two were. Or, how happy you looked from the outside," he amends. "I want that for me."

"You know what else you saw?" she asks bitterly. "You saw me cry when he left, and you saw my divorce drag on for a year. You saw me fall apart!"

"And who was there to pick you up, Peyton? Me!"

"No one asked you to!"

He just lets out his breath and shakes his head, finally letting go of her hands. He rakes his fingers through his hair in frustration, because the girl still doesn't get it.

"You didn't have to ask," he says softly.

His eyes meet hers again, and she finally lets a tear fall. She hasn't cried once all week. She's sat through dress fittings and last-minute cake samplings. She's assembled party favours and hand-made decorations for the banquet room, and she attended the bachelorette party. Tonight is the rehearsal dinner, and she's kept it together until this very moment, right now, standing alone with him for the first time.

"You need to stop saving me," she whispers.

But he ignores her and reaches up to wipe her tears with the pad of his thumb, and he smiles at her, but she sees that it's killing him to not be able to do more than just that.

"Peyton, how can you ask me to put myself through the same hell you went through?" he asks as he shakes his head.

"Don't you dare make it sound like I'm the one who forced you to propose!" she says desperately. "I didn't write 'Marry Me' in candles on the River Court, OK? I didn't tell you to ask her."

"What was I supposed to do?" he asks angrily. "I wanted what you had. I just didn't realize that what I really wanted was..."

"Don't," she says at a dangerously low level, taking a step back from him. "Don't say that."

That one little step backwards breaks his heart all over again. He's lost her too many times to count. He watched her walk away from his porch that night. He tried with Brooke instead of her during their senior year. When he and Brooke broke up briefly, he ignored the way Peyton looked at him and the things he felt when he was with her. He and Brooke got back together, and stayed together.

And he watched Peyton marry Jake. He took a six and a half hour road trip and stood next to Jake while she teared up and said 'I do'.

"I don't think I can do this," he finally admits.

"Yes, you can," she insists quietly. She reaches up to straighten his tie and smooth out his suit jacket as she speaks. "You're going to wear the tux, and say the words, and you're going to marry Brooke, OK?" She finally meets his eyes again, and she wonders if his pain mirrors her own. "Because you love Brooke."

She kisses him on the cheek and his hand grips her waist, but she walks away without another word.

He can't even call after her, because he knows in his heart that she won't turn around.

And so he puts on the tux, and he stands at the altar, and he does all the things he's supposed to do.

But he's looking at the other girl as he says those two words that seal all their fates. Brooke's head is down as she wipes the tears from her eyes, and Lucas looks straight at Peyton as he says 'I do'.

And she feels her heart breaking in her chest.


After the wedding, well, a year after the wedding, Peyton moves to New York from Savannah at her best friend's request. Well, insistence. Peyton can sell her art anywhere, so she puts her house on the market, and she buys a loft in Brooklyn that Lucas loves, but Brooke almost refuses to step into until it's furnished. Of course, Peyton's taste suits the exposed brick and sliding metal doors perfectly, and the built-in shelves are the perfect size for her ever-expanding record collection.

It doesn't take her long to feel at home there.

Lucas and Brooke live on the upper east side and Brooke runs her company from a large office in the busy metropolis. Lucas writes from his office every day, waiting for his wife to come home and talk his ear off about fabric samples, and fashion shows, and which employees are this close to getting fired.

Their penthouse is a sprawling 4,000 square feet, and when they first moved in, he joked that he was afraid to touch anything. He'd hold his plate up to his chin to keep from dropping crumbs on the hardwood, and he'd only drink liquids in the kitchen. He eventually became more comfortable, but it's been a process.

They summer in the Hamptons, of course, where Lucas runs a summer long basketball camp in the Hamptons for kids who don't need the athletic scholarship his program prepares them for. It's a project he didn't need to start for any reason other than to keep his sanity. He can still lose himself in the game.

He finds himself, more and more, needing to get lost.

He and Peyton, given that they're both artists and have no set schedule, spend at least two days a week together. They'll go to their favourite stores, or they'll lunch together at a little diner halfway between their homes. More often than not, he'll head out to Brooklyn and lay on the sofa in her loft and read her pages of what he's working on while she paints or sketches.

They're just friends again, and Brooke knows there's nothing to be worried about as far as that's concerned.

Only the two blondes know they've never really just been friends.

But he wears a wedding ring, and that is something Peyton doesn't seem to take lightly, so save for a hug here or there, or a kiss on the cheek every so often, their contact is minimal.

Secretly, they both need it to stay that way.

"Peyt!" he calls out when he enters her apartment one day. Both he and Brooke have keys. His is used far more often. "I brought coffee from that place you loved."

"What place?!" she yells back from her bedroom.

"The one with the gold parrot thing in the window!"

"The parrot that creeped you out?!" she giggles through the door.

"If that helps make the distinction, then yes," he says with a laugh.

He sits the sofa waiting for her to come out of her room, and it hits him hard - again - that he's more comfortable in her home sometimes than he is in his own.

His home feels like Brooke. Not the Brooke from high school who would wear clothes off the rack of a store in the mall and her jeans from Levis. His home feels like the Brooke Davis who holds his hand in public and says all the right things and is married to 'the right man' and owns the most popular clothing line in the country.

Peyton's place feels like her. The red bedroom he rarely goes into, and her records on the shelves and the worn leather furniture. The art room with the view of the Brooklyn Bridge and her paintings lining the walls. The kitchen devoid of any real food, and a fridge door full of takeout menus with her favourite items circled in red pen.

She steps out of her room wearing simple jeans and a plain white tee shirt, and he wonders for a moment what the hell she was doing in there.

"Oh!" she says, flopping down beside him and reaching for the paper cup on the table. "This place!"

"Did the parrot not jog your memory?"

"Lucas, I'm a visual person. I remember cup designs," she tells him, and he rolls his eyes. They both know she'd remembered before, but she really likes to bug him sometimes. "What's wrong?"

He smiles because he still really likes that she can tell when his moods are off.

"Um...I shouldn't..."

"Lucas Scott, tell me right now," she demands, turning her body towards his. He knows she means business when she takes that tone.

"Brooke wants to have a baby."

Her heart falls into her stomach, and she wonders for the thousandth time how they're all still friends.

"Wow," she whispers. "How does she expect to raise it when she's traveling half the time and working 13 hour days the rest of the time?"

She doesn't say it with bitterness, she says it with concern. Brooke hasn't mentioned anything about wanting a family, and while Peyton should have known it would happen eventually, she just assumed Brooke would step back and take a figurehead role instead of the insane 'CEO, Head Designer, Spokesperson, and Majority Shareholder' role she has now.

"That's what I said," Lucas says softly.

"You idiot," Peyton laughs. "You can't tell her that! I can, because I'm the objective best friend!"

"I just don't want to raise a child without a mother," he says with a shrug of his shoulders. "I've seen what that does to people."

She raises her eyebrow and tilts her head when she looks at him, and he closes his eyes and winces. He didn't mean it like that, and she knows it, but it's still nice to see that he's remorseful.

"Sorry," he whispers.

"I know," she says, sending him a smile.

"I just...never really pictured it, you know?" he says quietly.


He realizes the next thing he says is going to make him sound like a complete jerk, but if he can't say it to Peyton - the one person he would call his best friend - he's not sure who he could say it to.

"Kids...with Brooke," he says softly.

She knows that Lucas has always wanted kids. She knows that he'll be an amazing father.

She knows he's just told her that he doesn't want Brooke's kids, and that perhaps he wants someone else's entirely. They both know exactly what woman he pictures as the mother of his children, but he won't ever say that aloud, and neither will she.


"I know. I'm a bastard," he says shamefully.

"You've gotta talk to her," Peyton insists. He takes a deep break and sits back on the sofa. "You need to tell her how you're feeling."

"And exactly how do you tell your wife that you don't want to have a baby with her?" he asks disbelievingly, looking over at her.

"I think this is one of those talks you're supposed to have before you get married," she says.

"Don't...don't do that," he says softly, shaking his head.

It's remarkable that they don't talk about his marriage more, but he knows exactly why they don't. Sure, Peyton puts on a brave face - hell, he does too - when they all go out together, but he knows she doesn't want to hear all the details about he and Brooke's relationship, so he usually doesn't bring it up.

Comments like the one she just made just confirm that they shouldn't talk about it at all.

"I'm sorry," she says. She places her hand on his thigh, just above his knee, and even that contact has them both tensing up a bit. They really can't do these kinds of things. She pulls her hand away almost as quickly as she put it there.

"No...It's...you're right," he admits. She is, and he knows it. And he hates that she's so fucking smart all the time.

"Maybe just tell her that you don't think it's the right time," she says with a shrug of her shoulder. "She might understand."

"Maybe you..."

"Lucas Scott, I am not talking to your wife and my best friend about this!"

Just when she thought they might actually get through a serious conversation about his relationship without her feeling like her heart was breaking, he tries to rope her in like that.

"Why do you always say that like it's two different people?" he asks with a furrowed brow.

"Because," she says softly, her eyes meeting his, "sometimes I wish it was."

She's thought about it before. Often. She's wondered if she would be so insistent on keeping her distance from him - physically speaking - if she didn't know his wife. She'd like to think she could, but she knows in her heart of hearts that if not for Brooke, there's no way Peyton Sawyer would be able to stay away from Lucas Scott.

The conversation ends there, but he spends the rest of their afternoon together replaying their entire relationship in his head and wondering where they went so wrong.

He talks to Brooke that evening and they both decide that it's just not the right time, and she kisses him before she heads to bed.

As soon as she's out of the room, he breathes a sigh of relief. And then as soon as he's alone in his study again, he calls Peyton and tells her the news.

She doesn't know why she's so happy to hear it, and she doesn't hide the excitement in her voice when she tells him she's happy for him.

She's happy for her, too.


She doesn't expect to meet someone.

Lucas doesn't her to meet someone, either.

Brooke gives her a ticket to a movie premier, and she happens to bump into the producer of the film while she's tapping her expensive shoes and waiting in the seemingly endless line for the bathroom. He makes a bold suggestion in a voice that puts goose bumps on her arms, and he stands outside the men's room while she does her business.

She thanks him and he flashes her a grin that she's pretty sure is making her heart melt. They're sneaking out the back entrance within minutes. He tells her that he's already seen the movie too many times anyway when she asks if he can really just leave. She catches him eyeing her in her black satin dress and comments on her Christian Louboutins, and she explains that she knows Brooke Davis.

And when he says that he's never even heard of Brooke Davis, she's pretty sure she's never heard a few simple words sound so sweet. She's been waiting for a man who wasn't blinded by her best friend since she was 16 years old.

She's not the kind of girl who goes home with guys after just meeting them, but they drive around in his limo and sip Champagne and talk about music and film and art, and she thinks she's falling for him. She invites him to her apartment, but tells him not to expect anything, and he holds up his hands as he smiles at her.

She sits on her sofa with a cup of coffee in her hands while he searches through her record collection, excitedly reading titles he admires her for having, and requesting to hear songs he hasn't heard in ages. She learns that he's the East Coast Vice-President of his father's L.A.-based production company, and she smiles when he lists off the credits to his name and a few of them are her favourites. She wastes no time telling him she's divorced, and he doesn't seemed fazed by that in the slightest.

They fall asleep together in her bed, and he's the first man to sleep in her bed in that apartment, and she kind of likes the way she wakes up with his chest pressed against her back. He lets out a gruff sound when he wakes up moments later, and he pulls her a little closer when he says good morning.

They have breakfast of Cheerios and coffee at the counter in her kitchen. He sits in his black slacks and white button down from the night before, and she's in her pajama pants and a Van Halen tee shirt that he teases her for.

They meet for dinner that night, and then again two nights after that. When she takes him home again after their second - well, maybe third? - date, they spend the night together, but they don't just sleep.

She'll never forget the look on Lucas' face when he walks in the next day and finds her with Julian's arm around her as they sit on the sofa, listening to music and sipping coffee.

He leaves as quickly as he came.

She doesn't go after him.


It's not that he doesn't like Julian, but Lucas learns in the coming months that he was more attached to Peyton than he let on.

He was more attached to Peyton than he should have been.

Julian moved in with Peyton after dating for six months. Sure, she could have moved to Manhattan to his fancy, expensive condo, but she didn't want to, and he told her that he loved her apartment. What was once a spare room that she turned into a storage closet, Julian takes over as an office. She'll distract him if he works from home. She'll settle herself onto his lap and ask what he's up to, and he'll get very little done. So he still goes to his office building almost every day.

"Hey, babe," Julian calls when he walks through the door. She looks at him and smiles as he tosses his keys into the little bowl on the counter.

"How was your day?"

"Fine," he says, sitting next to her and looking at the paper in front of her. "I still think it's hilarious that you read the newspaper after 5:00 every day."

"Shut up!" she cries indignantly. "The Times is better right before dinner."

"That...makes no sense," he says, shaking his head.

The truth is, Peyton never wanted to pay for a newspaper subscription, so on the days they'd hang out, Lucas would bring the paper from his place and she'd read it when she got the chance. Now that the paper comes every day, she still waits until the end of the day to read it, and she can't really explain that.

"Well...you make no sense," she mumbles, and he just laughs at her and kisses her temple.

He moves to the living room and turns on the television. He's searching through channels for the Yankees game, and she's searching through the Opinions section, and she definitely doesn't expect what he says next.

"You wanna get married?"

He's not even looking at her, and he's 25 feet away, and he's got his shoes up on the coffee table like she always scolds him for doing. They've only been together eight months.

But...she loves him.

She doesn't even think he has a ring, until she turns on her stool and sees a baby blue box resting on his knee. She sees him grinning before he even really looks at her, and she rushes over to him and flies onto the couch next to him, throwing her arms around his neck.

"I'm pretty sure that's a yes, but it'd be nice to hear the word," he says with a laugh as she kisses the hinge of his jaw.

"Yes," she murmurs into his ear.


The night before the wedding, they all go to dinner at the restaurant where Peyton and Julian first went to dinner. Peyton steps out onto the terrace while Brooke and Julian talk about her designing some dresses for one of his movies. Neither of them notices when Lucas gets up to check on Peyton.

"Deja vu," he says as he walks up behind her. She spins around and smiles at him, and he almost loses his breath at how beautiful she is.

"If you tell me not to do it..."

"You never told me not to do it," he interrupts.

"I know," she whispers as he wraps an arm around her shoulder. "In fact, I pushed you into it."

"Hey," he says, pulling away from her. "No you didn't. You just...warmed my feet."

"Is that right?" she laughs. "Well...you're welcome."

But they both know that she did push him into it, and his feet were frozen through, and she probably shouldn't have said the things she said that night three years ago.

"I'm happy for you," he says sincerely.

He is happy for her.

He just knows they'll both always have that unspoken question of 'what if?'.

"Know what's crazy?" she asks as she turns to him.

"That's a long list," he mutters, and she lets out a laugh.

"You and I have been doing this since we were 16," she says softly as she takes his hand in hers. "Stealing moments, saying we're friends, pretending that it doesn't..."

"Bother us?" he finishes. He doesn't need to elaborate, he knows, and she doesn't expect him to. "Who knows. Maybe someday."

It's a completely inappropriate thing for him to say, and it's a completely inappropriate thing for her to smile and nod her head at.

But he does, and she does, and he winks as she pulls her hand from his. She lets out another soft laugh at the state of their relationship, and he kisses her on the cheek before they walk back into the restaurant.

He won't tell her not to marry Julian. He has no reason to, other than it kills him to see her with someone else. He has no right to feel it, and he won't tell her he does.

She and Julian marry in the backyard of Brooke and Lucas' Hamptons home in a small ceremony. 'Small' meaning just Lucas and Brooke, Peyton's father, and Julian's mother and his best friend. His father doesn't even fly in.

Lucas just watches her walk down the aisle in the dress his wife designed for her, and he pretends his heart doesn't break when she says 'I do'.


It's all really great for a while. For a couple years, they're happy together and she feels like this is finally it. This is her happy ending. Julian gives her everything she needs.

Well, almost everything.

She goes to another man for the things she can't get from her husband. Silly things, like answers to the crossword puzzle, and restaurants they've eaten at together and she's forgotten the name of. He's her hand to hold right before she meets with a particularly intimidating buyer. Maybe they aren't all silly things, but she needs Lucas, too, and he's always there for her, and her marriage with Julian doesn't suffer.

The same can't be said for Lucas and Brooke. She throws herself further and further into her work, though she said she wanted to retire by 30. And she could have. Hell, she could have retired at 23. She's been married to her high school sweetheart for over five years, and they still haven't found the right time to have a baby. If Brooke's being honest with herself, she's not really sure there'll ever really be a right time, and that doesn't break her heart like she thought it might.

Lucas spends more time in his study, writing or reading, and generally just being on his own. They keep up appearances and they're still one of New York's golden coupes - a title they now share with the Baker's - and he's the picture of a perfect husband.

But he still talks to Peyton at least once a day, and sees her several times a week. She's still the first to read anything he writes, and he still gets that feeling deep in his chest every time he hears her voice.

And then Julian walks out one night. They're fighting about something she thinks is stupid, but he doesn't, and he gets mad enough to walk out in the middle of the argument. He calls her a selfish bitch, and she calls him a callous bastard, and he leaves. She knows in her heart that he'll come back and that he's just cooling off, and he's probably just having a beer and watching the ball game at a bar near their loft.

But she still calls Lucas.

Brooke is in Paris for the next week and a half, and his house is so quiet that the sound of the phone scares him.

What scares him more is the crying girl on the other end of the line.

He doesn't even need to hear what's wrong, and he's got his shoes on and his keys in his hand as he heads for the front door. His driver has him at her place in record time, and he almost smiles when he sees her wearing one of his old Ravens tee shirts.

But he can't smile, because he's absolutely terrified of what she's going to say.

He holds her hand while she tells him the whole story, and his heart falls when she says that Julian wants to move back to L.A. She explains that he's never mentioned it before, and moving back would mean a pay cut for him, and her needing to re-establish herself as an artist, and it just doesn't make any sense.

And Lucas can't even begin to imagine not having the option of seeing her every day.

She curls into his side a little bit, and he kisses the top of her head as he tells her that it'll all work out, and that Julian will see her side of things.

"I'm sorry," she whispers after a while. "It's late, and I dragged you out here."

"Hey," he says, pulling away from her and offering her a smile, "you didn't drag me anywhere. You know I'll do..."

His voice trails, but they both know he was about to say that he'll do anything for her.

And it hits her in that moment that it's insane that they never got it together.

That thought, along with the statement he didn't have to speak for her to hear, is what makes her lean over and press her lips to his.

He doesn't pull away like he knows he should, and she doesn't stop kissing him like she knows she should. His hand tangles in her hair and hers finds the back of his neck, and they're both thinking that kiss feels the same as it did nearly 15 years ago. Her lips are still soft, and she still nibbles his bottom lip a little bit, and he still moans when her tongue meets his.

She places her palm over his heart and smiles against his lips when she feels how fast it's beating. He pulls away and looks at her in a way that she's sure no one has ever looked at her before. His eyes are dark, but they're shining, and his breathing is ragged, and his thumb moves over her cheekbone as he looks into her eyes.

All she sees in that look is need, and want, and desperation and love. She thinks she sees apology in there as well, but then, she thinks, she sees that every time he looks at her.

He pushes her back on the sofa and her legs are on either side of him, and he's never felt so close to her. He kisses her hard and she presses him into her with her hands on the small of his back, and she squeezes her thighs against his hips.

All he can think is, This is how it's supposed to feel.

His hand slips beneath her shirt and he pushes up the fabric, and just for old time's sake, he moves down her body to press feather-light kisses to her ivory stomach. She laughs as she runs her fingers through his hair, and he smiles right before his lips meet hers again.

She reaches between them and starts undoing his belt, and he groans when she shifts her hips against his.

But then the metal of her ring collides with the metal of his belt buckle, and they're both sobered by a strong dose of reality. She stops moving completely, and he looks down at her with shame in his eyes. She kisses him one last time, then places her hand on his shoulder and pushes him off her gently.

"He could come home," she says breathlessly.

He notices she doesn't say that they can't, or they shouldn't have, or that it was a mistake. She's not yelling at him for taking advantage of her emotional state. She's actually looking at him like she doesn't regret a thing, and like she really wishes they hadn't had to stop.

"Yeah. I should...I'm gonna go," he says, standing from his place. He smirks at her when she eyes his open belt, and he buckles it again as she stands up to walk him to the door.

"I'll call you tomorrow," she says as his hand reaches for the doorknob.

"Yeah," he says with a nod. Then he says something neither of them expects, but they both understand what it implies. "Brooke's gone until next Friday."

She nods her head and then moves closer to him, and he grips her hip when she kisses him one last time.

"I'll call you tomorrow," she repeats softly against his lips.

He smiles, and as he's walking out the door, he doesn't feel the least bit guilty.

Julian comes home at 2:30 in the morning, but they don't speak. She pretends to be asleep, and she can tell that he's had a few too many drinks. He grumbles in frustration when he falls into bed and she doesn't 'wake up'. He doesn't lay a finger on her, and she can't find it in her to care.

He apologizes the following morning over coffee, and he tells her that they probably don't need to move, he just misses home.

She realizes again that home, for her, is wherever Lucas is. It should be where her husband is, but if she can have both men, then she will.

She can, she realizes, when she talks to Lucas and she agrees to go to his place that morning.

She's barely in the door and they've got their arms around each other.

"I missed you," he says, and they both chuckle because it's ridiculous. He shouldn't have missed her. It's only been a matter of hours since they saw each other.

But maybe he's really missed her since they were kids and had a real shot.

She's different with him. She's just a happier version of the 17 year old girl he spent the summer with when they were in high school. She's not like that, not even with Brooke. She's certainly not like that with Julian. It's not that she's pretending to the outside world, she's just...relaxed with Lucas. They don't have secrets, and she doesn't care how her hair looks, and she knows he doesn't care, either.

So when he pulls her shirt over her head and pushes her towards his study, she smiles and tells him she loves the way he touches her. He has no idea what she's trying to do to him, but no one makes him feel like she does, and he's been thinking it since the night before.

They're not going to the bedroom - any of the bedrooms in his sprawling apartment - and they both know exactly why. He lays her down on the sofa in his study, and he pulls off his wedding band, then he slips hers off her finger, too. He reaches over and sets them on the corner of the desk, and she feels lighter somehow. She feels like she's traveled back in time and she can be with Lucas and they can right all their wrongs and take the right turns and be together.

She spends that afternoon making love and walking around his home in his button down shirt, eating ice cream out of the carton and kissing him with vanilla on her tongue. He tells her he's been waiting for this forever, and she whispers that she knows.

Julian dials her cell as she's getting dressed again, and she answers. He asks her what she wants him to bring home for dinner, and Lucas buttons and zips her jeans for her with his arms wrapped around her from behind. She hangs up with her husband and Lucas places her rings in the palm of her hand, and even though she's smiling when she looks up at him, they each know that what they're doing is wrong.

But they'll steal this moment and know that no matter how wrong it is, it's still more right than anything else either of them has done in years.


She's 32 years old, and she's on her second husband, and neither of those men have been Lucas.

So she takes what she can get.

The 'affair', though they don't ever call it that, has been going on for two years, and they've become experts, as shameful as that should make them. They've each got credit cards their spouses don't know about, and they'll steal away to hotel rooms if they need to meet and Brooke and Julian are both in town. The brunettes each travel so much for work that it's easy for Lucas and Peyton to get together. Truthfully, they spend more time with each other than they do with their spouses, and they might care about that if Brooke or Julian seemed to.

It all sounds despicable and out of character, and when Peyton starts crying one day, asking what they're doing and how they can carry on, he tells her he can't be without her. He tells her that maybe they cheat on each other with Brooke and Julian, and she laughs through her tears. They've been saying they love each other pretty much since the beginning, and they each know those words are true.

"I don't have a ton of time," she says as she steps into the room. She takes off her rings and sets them next to his on the table by the bed.

"Me neither," he says.

And this is how they greet each other, more often than not, in situations like this. Both Brooke and Julian are home, and that means the two blondes haven't been able to see each other - well, not this way - in over a week. It's been torture.

They don't say how much they've missed each other, or what they've done since their last meeting. They just set the ground rules for that particular rendezvous. 'No hickies', 'Watch the dress' and 'No scratches' are the usual. They'll shower if they need to, but if there's a prospect they might meet up, neither wears perfume or cologne; too risky.

His lips are on hers before they say anything else, and she's untucking his shirt while his tongue slips into her mouth.

"How's Julian?" he asks with a smirk as he unzips her dress.

"Shut up," she laughs, and he chuckles against her neck.

He lays her down on the bed and pulls the clip from her hair, letting her curls fall around her like a halo. She's laying there in just her bra and a pair of matching lace underwear, and he's still wearing his tee shirt and jeans.

"What are you waiting for?" she asks with a raised brow and a smile on her face.

"Maybe I'll tease you a bit," he growls, despite the fact that she's just told him she can't stay long.

"Don't you dare," she says, narrowing her eyes at him.

But he ignores her and pulls away, sitting back and resting a little of his weight on her thighs with his knees on either side of her.

And he's already teasing her, whether he knows it or not.

He's just staring at her, and she's not uncomfortable beneath his gaze, but she wants to know why his brow is knit the way it always is when he's thinking of something serious.

"What?" she asks.

"I'm just...Nothing," he says, slipping his fingers beneath the waistband of her underwear.

"No," she says, swatting his hand away. "Don't touch me until you talk."

"Not fair," he pouts.

"You're keeping secrets and I don't like it," she insists seriously, and he knows damn well that if she were standing up, she'd cross her arms over her chest.

"Brooke...she told me what you two talked about the other day," he says.

"What?" she asks in confusion. And then it dawns on her and she lets out a sigh. "Babies."

He nods his head and she sits up, creating friction against him and smiling when he groans. She takes his face in her hands and kisses him gently before she speaks again.

"I want a baby, Lucas," she says softly.

"So I've heard," he mumbles, looking down instead of at her.

"Yeah," she says. "So it's going to be really hard to explain when Julian and I don't have one."

"What? What are you talking about?" he asks.

"Lucas," she says, taking his hand in hers, "I don't want a baby with him."

He's pretty sure he knows what she's saying, but he really doesn't want to just assume anything.

"You want...?"

"I want your baby," she whispers, looking into his eyes. "If I can't...If I can't, then I don't want a baby at all."

It's all familiar. This conversation is so similar to the one they had years ago, and it just makes Lucas realize for the thousandth time that he loves Peyton more than anything in the world.

And dammit, he wants her baby, too.

"Oh, we can make a baby," he says gruffly as he pushes her back onto the bed and rests his weight on her.

"Lucas!" she squeals when he nips at the skin just above her breast.

"What?" he asks innocently, bringing his face back up to hers.

"And how would I explain a blue eyed baby?" she asks with a raised brow.

"How do you know he'd have blue eyes?"

"Blue is the dominant gene," she says, shrugging her shoulder, and he just shakes his head.

"And just how do you know that?" he asks with a smile. She seems to know a little bit about everything, and it amazes him sometimes.

"I read the newspaper!" she says indignantly.

He smirks and leans down to kiss her, but he pulls away and looks at her again when her hands push up the cotton of his shirt.

"Leave him."

They've done a lot. They've talked a lot, and said a lot of things, and spoken words they both knew were true.

They've never done this.

He's never asked her to leave her husband, and she's never asked him to leave his wife.

She squirms beneath him and tells him to get off her, and she stands from the bed and moves away from him. And all he can think is that if she's about to yell at him, she had better put on some clothes, or he won't hear a thing. She turns to look at him as he sits at the edge of the bed, and she can only tilt her head and smile at how dark his eyes are.

"You can't just...you can't just say that, and...You really aren't in a position to say that," she says as she starts pacing.

"Just...leave him, and I'll leave her, and we'll be together, Peyton," he says desperately, standing from his place. "Like we're supposed to be."

"We've tried something like this before, Luke," she says, shaking her head at him.

"Yeah, 16 years ago!" he points out. He stands in front of her and places his hands on her hips. "We might have matured a bit since then."

"And there were no rings involved then," she reminds him.

"But...but we can move back to Tree Hill and buy a house at the beach and have our blue eyed babies," he says, almost pouting and speaking softly. "I can write and you can paint and...we can be happy together."

"And that sounds...that sounds beautiful, baby," she says, bringing herself a little closer to him. "But..."

"But nothing, Peyton" he cuts her off. "We can do this."

She was already leaning towards it. Hell, she'd been leaning towards it before he even brought it up. Him using the word 'we' just convinced her that the life he just spelled out is exactly the one she wants. It's the one she's always wanted, and she's a fool for not realizing that sooner.

"You really want to be husband number three?" she asks with a smirk.

"I like to think of it as...the final, best, most awesome husband who's going to love you forever," he says, placing kisses along the column of her neck.

She takes his face in her hands and kisses him with all the emotion she can muster. She loves this man and all his words, and the 12 novels he has to his name don't hold a candle to the things he says when it's just the two of them alone together.

"Leave her," she whispers as they part and he unclasps her bra.

She's just told him, in two words, that she'll leave her husband. He knows she's just said that she'll divorce Julian and move with Lucas back home. Home. God, he loves her.

He lays her down again and she giggles at how fast he's out of his pants. She whispers that she loves him as she runs her fingers through the hair at his temple, and he says the same words back.

She leaves an hour later, and she's all put together again in her Clothes Over Bros black silk dress, and her hair is pinned in place, and she's reapplying her lip gloss as she steps into the hall, throwing a wink to him over her shoulder.

All he can think is that he can't wait to get back to his apartment and talk to Brooke. It's selfish and it makes him a horrible guy.

But it'll give him Peyton.


"Sweetie, be careful!" she shouts, shaking her head. She sits down on the steps of the back porch with a cup of coffee in her hand, and she watches her son race up the steps of the slide and go down head first like she's told him not to do at least a dozen times.

"Still a daredevil, huh?" her husband says, sitting down next to her. "Alright Anna-banana, go play."

The blonde haired little girl kisses her father on the cheek and heads down the steps.

"Hey!" Peyton cries indignantly.

"Sorry mommy!" Anna laughs, rushing back to kiss Peyton quickly before giggling and rushing back towards Thomas.

Lucas places his hand on his wife's thigh as she rests her head against his shoulder and laughs at Anna for sneaking up on her brother. The little girl laughs wildly and Thomas starts chasing her around the yard.

They settled on a house in a little subdivision in Tree Hill instead of at the beach, just so they could have moments exactly like this one. They wanted a porch and a yard with a swing set and tall trees. Peyton's been begging Lucas to build the kids a tee house, but he refuses until they're older.

The twins are three, and full of all kinds of energy. They're both a spitting image of their daddy - blue eyes and all - though Anna inherited those blonde ringlets from her mother. Anna was, of course, named for Peyton's mother, and Thomas is just a good literary name that happened to also mean 'twin' when Lucas and Peyton looked it up. Lucas insisted that Thomas Scott was the name of a dignified man, and Peyton just kissed him and told him it was perfect.

It wasn't necessarily easy. The divorces dragged on and took almost a year, and there were heated arguments between the couples, as tends to happen with 'high profile' divorces, as theirs were dubbed. When Brooke found out that Peyton and Lucas were together - which she thankfully didn't know until well after each couple had filed for separation - she cut all ties with the both of them. Julian had been less than thrilled, but last Peyton had heard, he moved back to L.A. to take over his father's company and had married some actress.

Lucas and Peyton were married almost immediately after their divorces were finalized. They went to city hall with a couple rings and tied the knot then and there. Two weeks later, they were moving into their house in Tree Hill. Another month after that, they learned Peyton was pregnant.

"Oh, so mom said that Lily's coming home for the weekend," Lucas says, recalling his phone call from earlier.

"Ooo, do we get to meet the elusive Martin?" Peyton asks with wide eyes, pulling away to look at Lucas.

"Don't remind me that my little sister has a boyfriend, OK?" Lucas says with a grimace.

"Honey, she's 19," Peyton reminds him, patting his hand with hers before he weaves their fingers together. "Remember how we were at 19?"

"OK, stop," he says, closing his eyes. "You were engaged at that age."

"And you were...well, we all know that Brooke didn't exactly make you a saint," she giggles.

"Hey!" he says. "It's not...OK, whatever."

"Yeah, whatever," she laughs.

They both watch with smiles as the kids rush back towards them, and Peyton sets down her mug just in time for Thomas to fly into her arms.

"Mommy, can we go see grandma soon?" he requests.

"Tomorrow," Peyton insists. "And aunt Lily is coming, right daddy?"

She turns to Lucas and he scowls at her, but it's all playful.

"And grandpa Larry is coming, too?" Anna asks, looking to her father. She uses a little hand to brush the curls from her face, and every time she does that, it melts Lucas' heart a little bit. Peyton does the same thing.

"Yes, honey," he says with a smile. "And aunt Haley and uncle Nathan, and Jamie and Robert."

"Go put on a sweater, OK?" Peyton says, lifting Thomas up and setting him on his feet. "We'll go to the River Court."

The kids squeal and giggle and run inside, and Lucas can only shake his head at the lot of them.

"You're trying to kill me, aren't you?" he asks with a smirk as they stand up. "You know they wear me out every time we go there."

"Now," she admonishes, wrapping her arms around his waist, "why would I want to kill my perfect, handsome, brilliant, very, very sexy husband?"

"Hmm," he mumbles pensively. "Good question."

"Humble, too," she says with a laugh. He's just about to kiss her when he hears the little voice calling out for them.

"Mommy! Let's go!" Thomas calls impatiently. That little boy just loves his basketball.

"OK, mommy," Lucas mutters against her lips. "Let's go."

He steps away from her and pulls open the screen door, but she's frozen in place.

"Hey, Luke?"

He turns around and looks at her questioningly, and she walks towards him and places her hand in his.

"I love you."

He just kisses her forehead as they walk towards the front door where their children are waiting.

"I love you, too."