A/N: First 'new' thing I've written in a while. Probably not the best writing I've ever done, but I love this song - Between The Lines by Sara Bareilles - and this oneshot kind of just happened.
All you need to know is LP never got together senior year (seems all my stuff is starting that way these days!), but BL broke up anyway.
| Time to tell me the truth
To burden your mouth for what you say
No pieces of paper in the way |
It had always been a certain way with them.
They were nothing, then they were something. Then nothing again. Then something again.
Then they messed it all up.
And then there was friendship. But even their friendship had one of them harbouring secret feelings. He wanted her, or she wanted him, when the other didn't feel the same. They never really got it right.
So they both just thought it was never going to be, and they were both OK with that. Or at least they pretended they were.
And then he wrote a book.
Pages upon pages of words outlining his feelings and his opinions of that girl he'd always had something with.
She was already in L.A., interning for an indie label there when the book came out, and she cried when she read it. She had no idea he thought half the things he thought.
He thought she changed his life.
He'd loved her at one point.
He thought she was graceful and beautiful and intelligent and artistic.
He said she had integrity.
She was humbled.
She started going through all the 'what ifs'. What if they'd just talked about it? What if he'd never started dating Brooke? What if she'd just told him how she felt from the beginning? She noticed, however, that the book was written all in the past tense. He didn't still love her, and maybe she didn't still love him.
But maybe he did. And maybe she did. She almost hoped neither of those things were true.
When she called to talk to him about the book, he told her he was glad she liked it, and she thanked him for writing her that way. He told her he just wrote her.
She wondered if she'd ever heard a better compliment.
Neither of them brought up the love, past or present, and she knew neither of them ever would. It was too messy, and too risky, and there was no point in bringing up old feelings that weren't felt any longer.
So she'd cling to that book as if it were her lifeline. Words he wrote and things he felt.
Things he used to feel that only helped her feel the things she still felt.
There is no past tense on her side of their relationship.
| Cause I can't continue pretending to choose
The opposite sides on which we fall
The loving you laters if at all
No right minds could wrong be this many times |
She wanted to believe no one knew that she felt the way she felt. Hell, she'd only really realized it. Well, that might be a lie, but she'd really only just resolved herself to the fact that that was the way it was. She had feelings for him. It was still strange to think it.
She tried to bury it. He was on the opposite end of the country, doing whatever he was doing - what he'd recount to her in his weekly emails - and she was making her own way and her own life.
She went on dates. A few with the same boy. He was sweet and charming, and just enough like Lucas to be comfortable, but just different enough to be exciting.
But he wasn't Lucas. One kiss. One kiss standing outside the door of her apartment with her keys in her hand and that novel in her bag, and she realized that he wasn't Lucas. He didn't kiss like Lucas, or taste like Lucas, and he didn't hold her face the way Lucas did.
She realized that no matter how hard she tried to pretend that she didn't want Lucas, the fact was that she really didn't want anyone else.
Maybe that would change. Maybe someday she'd meet someone who'd make her feel better than even Lucas ever did. Maybe.
But she'd always thought that someday they'd get it together. She'd always held out a little hope that maybe one day, down the line, when they were each older and wiser and mature enough not to mess it up, they'd be together. Lucas would tell her he wanted her, and she'd smile and fly into his arms, and that would be that.
But it just wasn't happening. Sure, they were still technically young, but they'd met years ago, and nothing had happened to make her think that he was ever going to tell her anything spectacular.
She was folding laundry one day, just as the weather was warming up. She was in just a tee shirt and a pair of cotton shorts, half-dancing, half-walking around her bedroom as she put her clean clothes away. She was listening to the new Gavin DeGraw - something Lucas would surely tease her for, not that she cared (good music is good music) - when she saw his name flash across her caller ID.
"Guess who's coming to L.A.?" he asked immediately after she'd answered.
"Nathan?!" she teased. "Tell him to give me a call!"
"Loser," he grumbled.
"My book tour is stopping in L.A.," he explained. "You'll come, right?"
"Are you kidding me?" she asked excitedly. "Of course, I'll come!"
"Good. I can't wait to see you. God, it's been almost a year," he needlessly reminded her.
"I know. Please tell me you've gotten a haircut since then. Because darlin', the last time I saw you, it was looking pretty rough," she joked, letting her accent come through.
"I cut my hair, like, the day after you left," he told her.
"Oh, so the messy shag was just for me? Good to know," she said, and they both laughed.
"Well listen, I've gotta go. I'm watching Jamie. But I'll email you the details, OK?" he said. She smiled even though he couldn't see it, and nodded her head. "I really miss you, Peyt."
"I miss you, too," she said softly.
"Oh! And you get to meet Lindsey!" he said.
The conversation after that point was a blur. He'd gone from saying he couldn't wait to see her and how much he'd missed her, to saying another girl's name. Who the hell was Lindsey?
And, she thought bitterly after she'd hung up the phone, that he was always casting her aside in favour of other girls.
She cursed herself - and maybe him a little bit - and asked how she never seemed to learn her lesson.
| My memory is cruel
I'm queen of attention to details
Defending intentions if he fails |
She spent the next week wondering if she'd read it wrong. The book, the emails, their history, their conversations. She knew in her heart that she did. She read it wrong. He may have said the words, but they weren't meant the way she was interpreting them.
And she'd been doing so well.
She'd been trying. She'd gone on dates! She'd stopped carrying the book everywhere! She stopped drawing all those significant symbols! No more flaming hearts! But dammit, it just wasn't that easy.
She couldn't stop asking herself who Lindsey was and why he hadn't mentioned her name before. She wanted to call Haley and get the details, but she knew that would give her away. Haley always looked at her as though she knew. The brunette was, after all, the first person Peyton told she loved Lucas, way back when. But Peyton didn't want anyone to know she was still holding onto a sliver of hope - OK, a chunk of hope - that maybe Lucas would come around.
Two days to go. Two days of waiting and wondering and trying to pick the perfect outfit. She'd talked to Brooke, and sent photos from her cell phone of her wardrobe choices. She didn't come right out and say what the summery dress was for, but she suspected Brooke knew. That's the thing about a best friend - you don't have to say things for them to hear them, and you don't have to worry about the ridicule - they just understand.
She settled on a pink dress, on Brooke's advice. Pink. She was never a 'pink' kind of girl. She'd always preferred earthier tones or darker colours or...just not pink. But it showed off her tanned skin and her long legs, and it was cool enough for the crazy heat they were suddenly in.
She was going to straighten her hair, but she didn't for two reasons. One, in the humidity, it wouldn't stay straight for long and it'd be a waste of time. And two, she knew Lucas had always had a bit of a soft spot for the curls. He wouldn't know she'd made the conscious choice, so she thought it a safe one.
And then she asked herself what the fuck she was doing.
What was she expecting? He was in town for only a day. One day. One day and they hadn't seen each other in a year, and he'd be signing books most of that time.
One day, and there was Lindsey. Lindsey who she didn't know, who was probably some beautiful stranger. Lindsey whose name he said with such excitement. Lindsey who it was clear he had feelings for. Well, at least in Peyton's head he did. In Peyton's head, he was planning to propose and spending every waking moment with this Lindsey person.
She realized she was really thinking about it too much, considering all she knew was that name.
Her phone rang just as she was spraying her wrists with perfume, and she rolled her eyes - but smiled - when she saw the name on the screen.
"Hey toots," he said, unable to stifle his laugh. "Sorry. That was lame."
"Not surprising, though," she teased. "What's up?"
Julian was one of the first people Peyton met in L.A. He was subbing on guitar for a band she'd gone to see, and he had immediately hit on her. She turned him down - and kept turning him down - but they built a friendship. He reminded her of Nathan in some ways, of Jake in some ways, and of Lucas in others. It was strange, but that was just how she felt about him. He'd still flirt with her - and she'd flirt back - but nothing further ever happened, and she was OK with that. She just wasn't sure if he was.
"Have you read the Times today?" he asked.
"No. Why?" She went to the front door of her apartment to pick up the paper, only to find that it had been stolen, once again.
"What?" she asked, at a pitch far higher than intended. "What's going on?"
"There's a feature on Lucas and the book," he explained delicately. She'd told him all about her past - well, about most of it, not about the feelings that were still there - and he knew she was going to see Lucas that day.
"So?" she said, shrugging her shoulders. "I'm literally just about to run out the door, Julian."
"I know, but...They called your character cold, heartless, unmoving, and unbelievable," he said, reading from the paper in his hands.
"I'm...what?" she asked, trying not to let herself care. But of course she cared. "Why would you tell me that!?"
"I thought you should know!"
"I can't believe you'd do that right before I go see him!" she cried.
"Hey now. Wait a second," Julian said. "You're worried about him. All this stuff was just said and you're worried about him?"
"It's his novel, Julian." Sure, she was worried about what people thought of her, but she was more invested in how Lucas would take the criticism. "It's his words."
"OK, well..." he said. She could tell he didn't really understand. He could tell she couldn't really explain. "Call me tomorrow, OK?"
"Yeah," she said before hanging up.
She was mad at him. Julian was a good guy, and she knew that. She just expected him to understand a little better.
Then again, she'd never told him she still had feelings for Lucas, so how was he to know she'd be that concerned about her 'old friend'?
| Until now, he told me her name
It sounded familiar in a way
I could have sworn I'd heard him say it ten thousand times
If only I had been listening |
She walked up to the large bookstore, and she could see the line snaking around the block, and her heart filled with pride. His dream had come true. He'd done it. He was an author. He'd completed a novel, and gotten it published, and edited it, and there it was, sitting in the window of the Barnes and Noble in downtown L.A.
She was more than a little surprised when a man in a suit came up to her and asked to see I.D. He explained that he was sent to look for Peyton Sawyer, and she fit the description. He led her past the line and through the store, all the way to the table at the back.
And there he was. She just hadn't expected him to look so damn good. He wore a simple white button down with his jeans, and his hair was cut short and styled messily in a way she knew took him longer than he'd ever admit. His back was to her, and he didn't see her there until the woman he was talking to looked over.
He turned around in what felt like slow motion, and she swore her heart stopped for a moment when those blue eyes met hers.
"Peyton," he said happily, walking towards her.
"Lucas." It came out as a mere whisper because her breath was caught in her throat.
So much for trying to get over him.
"You look...amazing," he said, pulling back and looking her up and down. "You're wearing pink."
"I know," she laughed. "Your hair looks good."
"Glad you approve," he teased, smiling at her. "Come meet people."
She didn't want to meet people. She wanted to steal him and take him to her apartment and listen to music while he read like they used to do. She wanted to order Chinese and lock the door and wear his tee shirt and curl up with him in her bed.
"Peyton, this is Lindsey Strauss," he said, gesturing to the woman he'd been speaking to before Peyton arrived. "Lindsey, this is Peyton Sawyer."
"Nice to meet you," Peyton said politely. She knew no one would know she was lying.
"Likewise," Lindsey said, shaking Peyton's hand.
"Lindsey's my editor," Lucas specified.
Peyton felt a bit of relief hearing that news, but then she caught the glance Lucas and Lindsey gave each other, and her stomach was in knots again. She was sure at least some of her suspicions were true. Whether they wanted to admit it or not, Lindsey was not just Lucas' editor.
"Luke, we better get started," Lindsey said, turning away from Peyton and stepping in front of Lucas.
And Peyton didn't like that possessive move one bit.
In fact, she didn't like Lindsey one bit. Sure, they'd only said two words to each other, but she didn't care. There was something about the girl she didn't like, and Peyton suspected it had a lot to do with the way Lindsey turned up her nose and acted so cold towards her.
They two women made small talk - very small talk - while Lucas signed novels and posed for photos, and those couple hours with the brunette didn't do anything to make Peyton feel any better.
"So, I don't know if you read the newspaper at all," Lindsey said smugly, "but there was a piece on Lucas' book in the Times this morning."
"Yeah, I read it," Peyton lied. She couldn't have Lindsey thinking she didn't read the paper, for some reason. And she had the subscription, one of her neighbours just kept stealing it.
"Oh, well," Lindsey said, smiling sweetly in a way that made Peyton want to smack her. "Don't put too much stock in it. Those reviewers read too far into the story sometimes, you know? They try to get to know the characters beyond what's written."
"What does that mean?" Peyton asked, trying not to sound too defensive. She was afraid she'd failed.
"Oh, nothing. I just meant...well, I hardly know you, so I'm not the best person to talk to about it," Lindsey said with a shrug of her shoulder.
And Peyton was livid. Lindsey was the one who brought it up, and then suddenly she wasn't the person to talk to? She wasn't crazy about the way things were going, that was for sure.
"Actually, you don't know me at all," Peyton corrected, crossing her arms.
"I didn't mean..."
"I know what you meant," Peyton said, cutting her off.
Lucky for both of them, Lucas had just signed the last book of the day and had gotten up from the table. He was walking towards them before Lindsey could say another word, and before Peyton clenched her fist.
"I'm glad I have a short name," Lucas said, and Peyton laughed because she was supposed to. She wondered if he could feel the tension between the two girls.
"Seems like you're pretty popular, Mr. Scott," Peyton said, and Lucas rolled his eyes.
"Linds, could you give us a minute?" he asked politely, and Lindsey smiled and nodded her head before walking away.
And all Peyton heard was 'Linds.' Only the people closest to him got nicknames, and Peyton knew that. Peyt, Lil, Hales, Nate.
And now there was Linds?
She wondered if she would have cared so much had the woman been anyone else. A 40 year old with glasses and bad sweaters, or a man in an expensive suit with a shiny watch and a slick smile.
Anyone but Lindsey.
It didn't matter what her name was, Peyton realized. Brooke, Nikki, Anna, Lindsey. It could have been anything.
It wasn't hers.
The name didn't matter, because it wasn't hers.
"So what do you want to do for the rest of the day? Our flight to Pheonix doesn't leave until 2:00 tomorrow afternoon, so we can do whatever," Lucas said with a smile.
"I dunno," Peyton shrugged. "What do you want to do?"
"Lindsey's been craving sushi all day, so maybe we could grab some for dinner?" Lucas suggested.
Oh. Lindsey was coming.
Her heart broke in her chest. She hadn't seen him in a year, they were together for the first time, and he wanted to bring along the woman Peyton already hated. That wasn't exactly what she'd had in mind.
"Yeah, I...I can't eat sushi right now," she said lamely. "Mercury count and stuff."
He looked at her like she was crazy for a moment, then he seemed to buy it. She wondered if he didn't know her as well as he used to.
"We'll do something else, then," he said.
"No. It's OK. You...go do your thing," she said softly, trying to be enthusiastic, but failing in that as well.
"Peyton, what's going on? How often am I in L.A.? I want to hang out with you," he said worriedly, running his hand up and down her arm.
"Me and Lindsey," she muttered.
"What? You don't like her?" he asked.
"I don't know her," she said. It was the truth. She wished she did know the woman, so the dislike would be legitimate and not just born from jealousy. "Are you...with her?"
"Lucas, just tell me," she said desperately. There was a lump in her throat she wished wasn't there.
"We've gone out a couple times. We're getting closer," Lucas explained delicately. "We're...it's something."
Peyton took a deep breath and toyed with a loose thread on the strap of her bag instead of looking at him. She wondered how stupid he really was, not to understand. Girls don't ask questions like that, in that tone, holding back tears, if they don't have feelings for you.
She wondered how stupid she was, to ever think they'd be anything.
"Peyton," he said softly, reaching for her hand. She pulled it away quickly and held it up to stop him talking.
"I'm...I'm gonna go," she managed, despite how hard she was trying not to cry.
"Peyton," he said, shaking his head. "Please stay."
"I can't," she said honestly. "Lucas, I...I can't."
He watched her walk away, and he didn't know what to do. He wanted to hold her, but it was clear she didn't want him to. Or, she really did want him to hold her, but he couldn't do it the way she wanted.
So he just let her go.
| Leave unsaid unspoken
Eyes wide shut unopened
You and me
Always between the lines
Between the lines |
The entire walk home, she wondered if she should have told him. God, she'd wanted to tell him since she was 16, that she'd had feelings for him. Any time she'd tried, something horrible had happened. Brooke, or a car accident, or a heart attack. She'd tried before, and all these bad omens kept coming up.
She considered them all signs.
She thought maybe not saying anything was better than saying something and having him tell her it wasn't what he wanted. It was easier to be in love alone, than to have him tell her the truth she already knew; he didn't love her, he'd never really loved her.
He tried calling her a few times that night, but she wouldn't answer. She couldn't. He left her a voicemail telling her to call him, but she knew - and he probably did, too - that she wouldn't.
She was worried that she might never be able to talk to him again without her heart breaking. She convinced herself it was all for the best.
She peeled off that pink dress and put on a pair of cotton shorts, and reached for one of Julian's tee shirts he'd left at her place.
Lucas called one more time, around 9:00, and she picked up her phone once it had stopped ringing.
She called her friend. She called Julian.
Suddenly wearing his shirt and smelling his cologne made her smile. The thought of that grin and all those cheeky little things he said was making her smile.
She just wanted to smile. She wanted to be happy, and for the first time in a long time, she could see herself being happy without Lucas Scott.
There had always been something there between Peyton and Lucas. Of course there had. A little something more beneath the surface of their friendship. Buried under playful insults and sarcastic comments, there was an underlying feeling of...something. Innocent flirtation when they were each single, or sidelong glances, or phrases that slipped out that shouldn't have. 'It's always going to be there' and 'You look nice'. 'You know I used to watch you?' and 'Nice legs'.
There was always something.
It was just never enough of anything to be something more.
| I thought I thought I was ready to bleed
That we'd move from the shadows on the wall
And stand in the center of it all |
She started spending more time with Julian. He made her laugh, and she made him flash that grin. He'd take her to movie sets, and she'd take him to concerts and shows. He'd hold her hand in a crowd so they didn't lose one another. He'd stand outside the ladies' room and wait for her. He put a star next to her name so she was number one on his cell. He was kind of taking care of her. She kind of liked it.
They were sitting on her sofa one night, watching Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, with Julian explaining all the best parts, and why they were the best parts, and she felt that feeling she'd been feeling more and more. She felt like she liked him.
She felt like she wanted to kiss him.
"Kiss me," she demanded abruptly.
He turned to her and saw that she wasn't joking, and he didn't say anything before leaning over and pressing his lips to hers. He'd wanted to do that since the first night they'd met. He'd known her over a year, and he'd only kissed two other women in that time, and he'd been waiting for Peyton to want him to kiss her.
So he kissed her. Over and over, until they were in her bedroom together, and in bed together.
And then he kissed her in the morning before standing and going to make coffee. When she wrapped her arms around his bare torso from behind as he stood in her kitchen, he turned in her arms and asked her what it all meant.
He kissed her again when she told him that maybe she wanted them to be together.
He moved in five months later. The lease was up on his apartment, and their relationship was going far better than either of them had thought it would. He had told her he loved her one night at The Roxy. They were watching Carolina Liar, and he had his arm draped around her shoulder, and Julian leaned down, letting his lips graze her ear, and told her that he was in love with her.
She smiled up at him, kissed him, and said those words back against his lips. She wondered if Show Me What I'm Looking For was the most perfect and profound soundtrack for that moment.
Truthfully, she'd hardly though of Lucas since shortly after his book signing. He'd stopped calling, and he'd stopped sending emails, and he'd stopped trying to send messages through Haley and Nathan.
She couldn't find it in her to care.
And now, she had a new love, and a new 'roommate'. She had a new life. She'd just been promoted to an entry-level position, and she was happy. Genuinely happy for the first time in ages. She felt like she had a home in California that she'd never had in Tree Hill.
She really didn't expect it all to come tumbling down.
| Too late, two choices to stay or to leave
Mine was so easy to uncover
He'd already left with the other
So I've learned to listen through silence |
They'd been together nearly two years, and living together a year and a half, and he proposed.
He took her to his parent's Laguna Beach house one summer weekend, and they spent two days lounging by the Infinity pool and drinking expensive wine and making love.
The sun was going down over the ocean, and she'd sent him out for chocolate, and when he returned, he handed her the treat with the ring box sitting atop the wrapper.
"Peyton," he said, taking her hand and squaring his shoulders to her as they stood on the balcony, "I love you. I want you to be my wife, and..."
"Julian, wait," she pleaded with tears in her eyes.
And all she saw was Lucas' face.
It was the worst possible time to realize it. Really, the worst possible time. But she had never fallen out of love with Lucas. Julian didn't deserve only half her heart, and she didn't deserve to be split between two men. She really should have thought of it all before, but the thought of spending her forever with someone other than Lucas broke her heart.
And she hadn't realized that her heart was even still capable of being broken by Lucas.
"I'm sorry," she whispered through her tears. "Julian...I'm sorry."
He didn't say a word. He couldn't. She'd just brought down his entire world, and she felt horrible about it. They packed their bags and threw them in the back seat of her car, but neither said a word.
They drove back to the city in the silence, in the darkness, and he slept on the sofa that night. They didn't talk about it. She didn't explain and he didn't ask her to.
All his things were gone the next day when she got home from work.
And she spent the next two days crying. Crying for herself, and for Julian, and their relationship. Crying for Lucas and the relationship she never had with him.
And crying because she didn't think she'd ever get to have a relationship with him, but she'd never be able to let herself really love anyone else.
She called the one man - other than her father - that she'd been able to count on through anything for the past few years.
"Peyton?" Nathan said after saying hello and hearing nothing from her.
"Hi," she managed.
"What's wrong? Are you OK?" he asked worriedly.
"Julian and I broke up," she said softly, letting out a sob. "He asked me to marry him."
"Whoa," Nathan said softly. "And you said no."
"I couldn't." She assumed he would know what that meant, but she elaborated anyway. "I can't marry him."
"OK," he said reassuringly, in that way that was so very Nathan. "What can I do?"
"I'm thinking of...I don't know," she sighed. "I just...I miss home."
"You miss home? Or you miss...?"
"I miss Tree Hill," she said before he could finish his question with that name that she just couldn't bear to hear. "I miss you guys. I miss home."
"So come visit," he said. She could hear his smile through the phone.
"I don't want to visit," she said softly.
"You want to move?" he asked in surprise. "Peyton, that's great."
"He moved to New York, you know," Nathan said delicately.
"Oh," she breathed out. "When?"
"About eight months ago," he told her. "We wanted to tell you, but...we didn't know if you could..."
"Handle hearing his name?" she asked as a fresh batch of tears started falling. "The thing is, eight months ago, I would have been fine."
"What does that mean?"
"It means...It means that...It doesn't matter," she said.
They both knew she was lying through her teeth. It mattered in a big way. But he wouldn't mention it, and she was thankful for that.
"Well, what can I do to help you get here?" he asked happily. "You know you can stay with us until you have your own place."
She started crying again for a whole new reason. She was going home. To friends who mattered, and bonds that no time or space or distance could ever alter. To a little boy she only really ever watched grow up through photographs. To a town that she maybe never should have left.
"Thank you," she said softly.
"Any time," Nathan said sincerely.
There were a lot of things that weren't spoken in that conversation. A lot of things that didn't need to be spoken. Things like love, and a boy named Lucas, and whatever feelings she had for him. Things like why she couldn't marry a perfectly good man, and why she was running home so soon after that botched proposal.
They both knew the reasons, and so there was no need to say them out loud.
| Leave unsaid unspoken
Eyes wide shut unopened
You and me be
You and me always be |
She spent another two weeks in L.A., closing out her job, and packing her life into boxes. She talked to Nathan or Haley almost every day, arranging her trip and her arrival to Tree Hill. Haley was excited, and Nathan couldn't wait to have the girl he considered to be his best friend home.
She called Julian to let him know that she was moving, and he only made it easier to really let him go. He was hardly even civil enough to say goodbye, and merely asked her to mail him any of his things she found at her place. He told her he'd drop off a box of her things at the front desk of her office, and that was that. On her last day of work, she took that box and went to her apartment for the last time, and she didn't look back once.
She'd decided to drive across the country. It'd take a few days, but she was anxious to do it. She was going to stop in places she always wanted to go, and she was going to take her time and treat it like a vacation. A solo soul-searching endeavor. Just her, and her music, and the road.
She got to Tree Hill on a Tuesday afternoon, and she drove straight to the Scott household. She nearly fell over when Haley hugged her, then she held Jamie for the first time since he was a baby. Nathan wrapped her in an embrace so familiar and so secure that it almost made her cry.
She stayed with them for two weeks, until she bought herself a house. Her father fronted her the money for the down payment, and her mortgage payments were going to be less than what she was paying for rent on her one-bedroom apartment in L.A.
It was a two bedroom house not far from the neighbourhood she grew up in. White shutters and an oak door, and a white picket fence. It wasn't at all the kind of place she'd thought she'd live in, but she loved it. The inside was recently renovated, and the living room was bright and north-facing. The backyard was large and had tall trees within its fences. It was perfect.
Nathan helped her move her old furniture from the garage of the little home her father had moved into, and she finally felt like she had a home.
By the time fall rolled around, she had her little unit of people around her - the Scotts, and Deb, and Brooke every so often when she'd visit - and she was helping run Tric and managing a couple local bands.
Her life was taking shape. She was getting everything she wanted, and she'd just had to come home to get it.
She didn't think Lucas would come home, too.
And she really didn't think that no one would tell her.
She was sitting at the counter in the kitchen of Nathan and Haley's house, sipping a glass of sweet tea with Jamie on one side, Nathan on her other, and Haley standing across from them when the door opened.
"Uncle Lucas!" Jamie shouted excitedly, jumping up off his seat and rushing towards the man walking into the room.
"Jimmy Jam!" Lucas said, pulling the boy into his arms.
He stopped in his tracks when he saw Peyton and the shocked - and maybe angry - look on her face.
He hated that they lost touch. He hated that they'd ended their friendship the way they had without ever really talking about anything. He missed her.
But he was really pissed off that she just cut him out without a second thought.
"Hi," he said softly, nodding at her tensely.
Haley walked forward and wrapped him in a hug while Peyton shot Nathan a glare.
"What the hell?" she whispered as Lucas and Haley talked.
"Sorry." He wasn't. She could tell, and he knew she could tell, and she really hated the setup.
"Why don't you two take a walk?" Haley suggested, taking Jamie from Lucas' arms. Lucas looked at her with an expression only she could read, but she wasn't backing down.
"Go on," Nathan said, looking over at Peyton.
The blonde took a breath and stood from her place, looking at Lucas for the first time in over two years. He looked even better than the last time they saw one another, and she wondered if he might think the same thing about her. She was in just jeans and a Ryan Adams tee shirt. Her hair was pulled into a messy ponytail, and she was wearing only mascara and lip gloss.
She kind of didn't care.
This was her. She sipped sweet tea from a bendy straw with her 'nephew' giggling next to her, and she wore flip flops, and she lived in Tree Hill. This was her life, and this was her, and she didn't know if Lucas fit into that, but if he did - in whatever capacity - he'd have to take it as it was.
She wondered if that was the healthiest thought she'd had in years.
They walked to the door together, then she wrapped her arms around herself as they started down the little walking path that wove through Nathan and Haley's neighbourhood.
"Living here?" she finished. "Yeah. A few months now."
"Wow. That's...that's great," he said with a gentle nod.
"Try not to sound so enthusiastic," she muttered.
"Sorry. It's good you're home. It's just...a bit of a shock, that's all," he said, smiling as best he could, given how uncomfortable he was. "I just moved back."
"You know? For all the gossiping those two do," Peyton said, pointing in the direction of Nathan and Haley's house, "they've certainly kept a lot of big secrets."
He laughed. A genuine laugh and a smile, and she hated that she loved that she could still make him do either of those things.
"Why'd you come back?" he asked.
"It's...complicated," she said vaguely. He gave her a look that let her know he didn't buy it. "I was in a relationship, and it ended, and things just...they didn't seem so great there anymore."
"You were with someone?" he asked.
"Yeah," she said. She wondered why he found that so surprising. "For close to two years."
"Wow. That's...something," he said, for lack of a better word. It wasn't 'that's something', like 'that's something exciting!'. It was 'that's something' like 'I just can't find another word'.
"Yeah, so moving home was kind of a great idea," she said. "What about you?"
"Kind of the same story," he said softly.
"Lindsey," Peyton whispered. She didn't know how she knew that. She just knew.
"Yeah." He knew it was a sore spot. If he had known, two and a half years ago, that he'd end up so detached from both women, that trip to L.A. would have gone completely different.
"What happened?" she asked.
"She wanted to get married, and...I couldn't marry her," he explained. "It's kind of the end of the line when that happens."
She laughed. Loudly. She stopped walking and ran her hands over her face as she laughed and shook her head.
"We should get her and Julian together," she managed through her giggles. He looked at her like she was a lunatic, and she knew she had to give more detail. "He proposed."
"Oh," he said. Then he started laughing. "Wow." She walked over to sit on a bench nearby, and he followed and sat down. "You said no."
It wasn't a question, and he didn't even know why he said it. It was obvious she hadn't said yes - of course she hadn't. He didn't know why that fact made his own heart race a little bit.
"I couldn't marry him," she said with a shrug of her shoulder.
He looked at her and almost smiled.
| I tell myself all the words he surely meant to say
I'll talk until the conversation doesn't stay on |
She was well aware they were the same words he just said about his relationship. She didn't know if that meant anything or not. She thought it might. She thought maybe he had the same thoughts about marrying someone who wasn't her, as she had about marrying someone who wasn't him.
But that was crazy.
They started talking about things a little less intense, and then ventured back to Nathan and Haley's place for dinner.
They all tried to pretend that it was all that easy. One short conversation and things would be back to normal. But they really weren't.
Lucas and Peyton spoke in passing when they met on the street or got together with Nathan, Haley and Jamie. Other than that, they didn't seek each other out. They didn't call each other to hang out. She didn't stop by the River Court when she saw him playing there as she was driving by, and he didn't go to Tric when he saw her car in the parking lot during the day. They merely steered clear of each other.
Until the day she was driving through his neighbourhood to get to her own, and she saw him stopped on the sidewalk, hunched over with his hands on his knees and a grimace on his face.
"Lucas!" she called, getting out of her car and rushing across the street towards him. "You OK?"
"Yeah," he breathed out. "Just...I'm fine."
"You don't look fine," she said, taking in his sweaty appearance. His face was flushed, and his sweater was drenched, and he was breathing heavily. "I'm taking you to the hospital."
"No. I'm fine," he said firmly.
"Lucas, don't be an idiot!" she shouted, slipping her hand into his.
She led him across the street and he slid into the passenger seat of her car, and then he took her hand again. She was a little surprised, but she was OK with it. She was definitely OK with it. Even when his hand was trembling and sweaty and she was terrified for him, she felt better having him next to her.
He took a sharp breath, and she looked over at him worriedly. She passed him the bottle of water sitting on the seat between them, and he took a long drink of it before splashing some water on his face.
Peyton was verging on tears.
She had no idea what was happening, but whatever it was, she didn't like it one bit. He was in pain, and she was driving as quickly as she could in the direction of the hospital. Never had a 12 block drive felt longer.
She pulled up to the emergency room and they got out of the car, and Peyton hooked her arm under Lucas'. He probably didn't really need the help, but she wasn't taking chance with him at that moment.
He was whisked away down the hall, and she saw a nurse and a doctor following close behind, ready to do whatever they needed to do.
Peyton could only hope it wasn't much. She could only hope he was fine and they wouldn't have to do anything drastic.
For the next 40 minutes, she paced the waiting room, trying to call anyone she could get ahold of. Nathan and Haley were out of town and apparently out of cell service. Brooke was in a meeting in New York, and wouldn't have been able to help much anyway. She tried Skills before remembering hew as watching Jamie, and he probably couldn't get to his phone.
She willed herself not to cry. If anything really bad was happening, she'd have learned by now, right? He had to be fine. He had to be.
Peyton wasn't really paying attention. She was thinking about her life. Her life and how it would look without Lucas in it. Even though the two of them weren't even really friends anymore - they weren't really anything anymore - she couldn't imagine him not being around; her not having the option to see him if she wanted. And what she realized was that life is too short to avoid the things you really want.
And what she really wanted was...
"Mrs. Scott?" a woman said, placing her hand on Peyton's shoulder.
Peyton was too lost and caught up in being called that name to correct the doctor.
"He's going to be fine," the doctor said, and Peyton closed her eyes and sighed her relief. "Just low blood sugar that caused a bit of a spell. We've got him in there drinking some juice and eating some food, and he's on an IV. You did the right thing bringing him in, though, what with his heart condition and all."
"Thank you," Peyton said sincerely.
"If you'd like to see him, he's just down the hall to the right."
"Is that...Is that OK?" Peyton asked delicately.
"Of course it is!" the doctor said, as though it was the most absurd notion that Peyton even ask. "Come on, I'll take you."
They walked down the hall together, and all Peyton could think was that she wasn't going to waste any time anymore. She was going to talk to Lucas. Maybe not today, not with the medical emergency and all, but she was going to talk to him about how she felt, and how she'd always felt, and why she was so upset years ago when he visited L.A.
"Mr. Scott? Your wife is here to see you," the doctor said. Peyton blushed and looked to the floor, and Lucas looked at his doctor in confusion.
And then he smiled. She didn't see him, and he wasn't really sure why he was doing it, but he smiled.
Lucas and Peyton were left alone in the room, and she looked at him apologetically.
"Sorry. That was..." She stopped when he just shook his head at her. "How are you?"
"I feel like an idiot," he laughed. "Skip breakfast and take a trip to the emergency room."
"You scared me," she said softly, making her way to the side of the bed. She was surprised when he reached for her hand again. She could really get used to that. "How's the J-ello?"
"Surprisingly edible," he said, making them both laugh.
And it struck him just how much he'd missed that. That camaraderie. The joking and the laugher, and the way she looked at him like he was crazy if he said something she didn't agree with. Maybe he just missed Peyton.
"When can I spring you out of here? I hate hospitals," she said, and he smiled at her again.
"Probably an hour or so. You don't have to stay," he said seriously, shaking his head.
"Shut up," she demanded. And there was that look he loved, letting him know she thought he was crazy. "I'm staying."
"OK," he said softly, nodding his head. He'd be lying if he said he didn't want her to say that very thing.
She drove him home later that day after all his tests were done and he was released. He hugged her in the car, thanked her for staying with him, and told her he'd see her later.
She couldn't help but feel like she wanted more, as she watched him walk up the steps to his house and into his room. She wanted more, and she was sure she may never really get it.
| Wait for me I'm almost ready
When he meant let go |
She really didn't expect him to walk into her house nearly two weeks later with an angry look on his face and a hand on his hip. He didn't knock. He didn't even greet her.
"What happened that day in L.A.?" he asked demandingly. "I...it's been killing me for two and a half years, and...I need to know."
He was an idiot, she realized. Either that, or he already knew, and he just wanted to hear the words from her mouth. She assumed it was the latter.
"Lucas, come on."
"No," he said coldly. "Tell me."
"You're being awfully demanding for a guy who used to say he always knew me," she said bitterly, standing from her place on the sofa and dropping her book - well, his book - on the coffee table. He saw the title and then his eyes met hers.
"I...I need to know, OK?" he asked gently. "I want to know why you blew me off."
"Blew you off!?" she cried. She let out a humourless laugh and shook her head. "I blew you off. Right."
"What does that mean?" he asked, narrowing his eyes at her.
"It means that you were in L.A. for the first time...ever...and you said you wanted to hang out with me, and then you wanted your girlfriend to tag along? Sorry if I didn't exactly want to sign myself up for that!"
"I really don't understand you," he said, shaking his head. "You realize that you're the one who walked away."
"You're missing the point!" she shouted angrily.
"Well, what the hell is the point, then!?"
"The point is I wanted to be with you!" she yelled before she could stop herself. Sure, she could have said that she wanted to be with him meaning just spend time with him. But that wasn't the truth, and she knew they both knew that.
"I...God, you're an idiot," she said softly. "You'd think after all this time, you and I could just...let it go." She sat down on the sofa again and rest her head in her hands. "Well, I could let it go. You never...you were over it years ago."
He just looked at her, and he felt his heart doing funny things in his chest. She thought he was over her. He was never over her. He may not have realized it until it was too late - well, he'd thought it was too late - but he was never over her. The reason he'd been avoiding her was because he thought she wanted him to. He thought she didn't want him around, and truthfully, it hurt a little bit to be around her after everything. The air hadn't been cleared after that trip to L.A., and now that they were talking about it, he realized this was a conversation they should have had ages ago.
"Is that what you think?" he asked quietly. He moved to the sofa and sat down next to her, draping his arm over the back of the couch and turning his body to hers.
"I really haven't seen any proof of the opposite. So yeah, that's what I think," she said as the tears welled in her eyes.
"Then you're an idiot," he said. "How can something be over that never really got started in the first place?"
She looked over at him, and he smirked at her as the tear fell down her cheek.
All those weeks - all those years - of uncertainty and doubt, and there he was telling her everything she'd wanted to hear forever.
So naturally, she didn't believe it.
| Leave unsaid unspoken
Eyes wide shut unopened
You and me
You and me
Always between the lines |
"Don't say that."
"What?" he asked confusedly.
"Don't...you always say things like that, then nothing happens and...Just don't say that," she pleaded, wiping her cheek hastily with the back of her hand.
OK. So he wouldn't say anything.
He leaned over and pressed his lips to hers urgently, letting his hand fall to her thigh, just above the knee. His other hand moved to cradle the back of her head and pull her closer. She let out a sound indicating her surprise when he parted the seam of her lips.
She didn't know how it was possible, but he still somehow kissed the same way he used to, years ago. His lips were still soft, and he still tasted the same - a little bit sweet - and his hands still touched her the same way. It was the same, and different, and a little more grown up, and she wondered if their entire relationship was the same as that kiss.
A little timid but still urgent and passionate. A little sweet, but still just rough enough. A little broken and long overdue, but exactly what they'd both always wanted.
"Luke," she murmured when he rest his forehead against hers.
"Peyton, I'm not over it," he promised, caressing her cheek. "I don't want to be."
"How did we just go from screaming at each other, to this," she asked, and he chuckled.
"That's the fun part," he whispered, as though it were his best kept secret.
He loved that passion. How they can be mad at each other, then happy within minutes. It was always that way between them, and he'd been searching for that with other people since he was a teenager.
He wished he'd realized years ago that she was the only one he'd have that with.
"Why now?" She pulled away from him and looked at him pleadingly. "Why not two years ago? Or four years ago?"
"I don't know," he answered honestly. "I didn't know why I couldn't see myself married to Lindsey, and then that day at the hospital with that doctor...she called you my wife."
"She called me Mrs. Scott," Peyton said, and Lucas closed his eyes and smiled.
"That sounds good, doesn't it?" he asked quietly, and she just nodded her head. "We never really got a chance, did we?"
"No," she sighed, locking eyes with him.
"We should," he said, smiling as he tucked a curl behind her ear.
He was saying all the perfect things, and all she could think of, all of a sudden, were all the reasons they shouldn't.
"I'm scared," she admitted. "We...so much has happened, and all these things keep piling up and we avoid them. I'm worried that...what if it doesn't work?"
"It will," he said firmly. "Peyton, it will."
"How do you know?" she asked. As soon as she'd said the words and saw the smile on his face, she knew what his answer was going to be. "Don't say it."
"You set me up for it, though," he chuckled, and she rolled her eyes. He reached for her hand and placed it over his heart. "Don't you?"
"You're such a dork," she teased.
"I feel it in my heart," he said, and she closed her eyes and shook her head.
"Yeah," she whispered, letting herself smile.
"Let's do this," he said, almost pleadingly. "You and me, OK?"
"OK," she said, leaning in to kiss him softly. "You and me."
He just kissed the knuckles of the hand he had in his, then her lips, then her cheek, and pulled her into his arms.
There were a million more things he could have said. And maybe he should have. But it would have been unnecessary, and he knew that. They'd never really needed all the words. They'd never needed those big declarations and grand gestures.
All those apologies and I love you's and promises of forever and maybe always were still completely understood.
And he still heard all the things she didn't have to say.