A/N: Another 2 or 3 parter. Born from my love of John Mayer and New York City.

Pretty self-explanatory. Lucas and Peyton never got together in senior year. All else is the same.


| I never liked this apple much
It always seemed too big to touch |

It's a Thursday afternoon when she calls him from Savannah, telling him it's over and she has nothing and no one and she needs to move, but she doesn't know where to go.

Naturally, he tells her she has him and she can come to New York and live with him until she's back on her feet.

She tells him no, and it's crazy, and there's no way she'd survive in that city. He tells her she's crazy, and she's stronger than she's ever given herself credit for, and he'll take care of her.

Just like you always do, she says.

They both left home right after graduation. She went back to Savannah to be with the man she loved and take classes at the arts school there. She had an inexpensive, but very symbolic, ring on her left hand, and she was so close to the family she'd always wanted, and Lucas was happy for her. He kissed her cheek before she got into her car to drive out of their little home town, and he told her to be happy.

She'd called him an hour later to tell him she'd just heard Gino Vanelli on the radio, and he laughed and asked why she was telling him that, and she just said that he was always her person to share silly things with.

They spoke nearly every day from that point.

Lucas, still single after his split from Brooke, got into every college he'd applied to. UNC, Duke, Brown, and Columbia. He could have gone anywhere. Nathan and Haley were off to Stanford, and he couldn't see himself staying instate without any of his 'people'. Peyton was gone, Brooke was in L.A. His mother and sister were the only people left, and when he told his mom he'd stay in North Carolina to be near them, she looked at him like he was crazy and told him he'd do nothing of the sort.

And New York called to him. Bright lights and commotion and people and life that he didn't have in his little town. He loved Tree Hill, he did, but something about New York just made sense to him. Getting lost in a crowd and feeling anonymous and finding inspiration in the every day.

"What am I gonna do in New York, Luke?" she asks. He can hear the tears in her voice, and he really hates that he can't just reach out and wipe them away.

"Yeah, it's really too bad there are no galleries or artists in New York," Lucas says sarcastically. She lets out an odd sound that he's sure she intends as a laugh, and he smiles out the window of his quiet apartment. "Come on. It'll be fun. We can be roomies!"

"Don't ever say that again," she warns, and he laughs again.

"Come on. Pack your things and catch a flight," he pleads.

She wonders if she can really do that very thing. She loved New York the one time she went there. She thinks it'll be even better if she lives there with one of her best friends. She can't stay in Savannah, and she doesn't know if she'd want to if she could.

She glances down at the thin band with the small diamond that's sat on her ring finger for over two years - a promise from a man who just, out of the blue, said he couldn't do it anymore - and she thinks that it's time for a fresh start.


"OK?" he asks excitedly. He's far too happy, he realizes, given that she's really, really not. Her entire world probably feels like it's crashing at her feet, but he won't let her do that alone, and he'll remind her that there's always something left. There's always something to hang onto.

"I'll go to Tree Hill and fly from there," she says softly. She's crying again as she looks at her packed bags and a few photos of her, Jake, and Jenny that she'll never see again. "I'll call you when I know more. I mean...if you're sure it's OK."

"Of course, I'm sure," he insists. "Are you sure you're OK?"

"I think so," she says, laughing quietly.

"Hey," he says encouragingly. "It'll all work out."

"You promise?" she asks, wiping at her cheeks.

"I promise."

She believes him. She really does.

When she hangs up the phone, she gathers her things; all she has are bags of clothes, since her boxes of records are already in the car. She walks to the door and takes one look around the apartment she's lived in with a man she thought she'd always love, and she closes her eyes.

It's time for a new beginning, and she knows it now. She slips that ring off her finger and sets it on the table by the door.

She doesn't really miss it when it's gone.

| I can't remember how I found
My way before she came around |

She flies into New York on a Monday night.

She spent the weekend in Tree Hill with her father, trying to be strong, but both of them knowing she really didn't have to be.

She sat in the café with Karen supplying her a never-ending supply of french fries and sweet tea, and little Lily Scott sitting on her knee. Peyton called Lucas from her cell and let his little sister babble into the phone in that adorable way toddlers do.

Peyton and Karen went back to that familiar little home, and Karen moved around her kitchen, fixing a pitcher of lemon ice water to battle the early fall heat.

Karen assured the younger woman that just because you really want someone to be the love of your life, that doesn't mean they really are. When she said trust me, Peyton knew exactly what that meant. Dan wasn't the one for Karen just like maybe Jake isn't the one for Peyton.

She doesn't know who is, but or the first time, the idea of having to search for that man isn't quite so scary.

Lucas picks her up from the airport.

He actually picks her up.

He lifts her off the ground and wraps her in an embrace that draws stares and has Peyton giggling, and she swats his chest when he sets her back on her feet.

They've seen each other a handful of times since their high school graduation. Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, and a couple times when they scheduled summer visits at the same time.

She takes a moment to look at him as they stand at the baggage carousel waiting for her luggage to come around. He's not the most patient man, so his hands are clasped atop his head in a way that only she knows is a sign of his displeasure at waiting. His hair is short, and he hasn't shaved, and the black tee shirt he wears is simple, but somehow he makes it look anything but.

She doesn't know when Lucas Scott became a man, but she realizes she missed it. She missed that transformation, and she wonders if he feels the same way about her.

She knows she's not the same girl he knew in high school. Sure, they still know each other, but physically speaking, she's just as different as he is. Her hips are a little wider, and her style is completely different, but still somehow her. Her hair is longer and wavy now, instead of just curly. She wears subtle makeup and she smiles a little more.

They're growing up.

"Seriously?" Lucas groans in frustration. "You'd think that an airport would, I don't know, be able to unload bags with some level of expertise."

"Calm down," Peyton laughs.

"I just want to show you the city!" he tells her. "I can't wait for you to see everything."

"Well, there's no massive rush," she reminds him, and he smiles. "But if we see any vacant apartments, feel free to drop me off."

"Hey," he says, furrowing his brow at her. "You know you can stay with me as long as you need to."

She nods her head as she yawns, and he chuckles and drapes his arm around her shoulder. She's never been a great traveler. Unless she's driving, she gets restless and antsy, or she takes something to make her sleep. It's nearly 11:30, and she just wants a warm bed and her pajamas. She knows Lucas is excited, but she knows that their sightseeing will have to wait until tomorrow.

"Finally," Lucas says dramatically, reaching for Peyton's large suitcase. He steps back towards her and she wraps her arm around his torso as they head for the exit. "Welcome to New York, Peyton Sawyer."

She closes her eyes and smiles, and somehow, she already feels more at home here than she ever did in Georgia.

They get into a cab, and she resists the urge to rest her head on his shoulder and fall asleep. There are things to see and lights to watch, and she doesn't want to miss any of it. This cab ride is one she'll remember for a long time, she's sure, and she doesn't want to spend it sleeping.

She gets overwhelmed as they weave through the streets of Manhattan. It's after midnight, and the streets are alive with people. It's a Monday! she thinks. Who are these people who can live these lives? Do they not work? They're silly questions, but she asks them to herself nonetheless.

Lucas squeezes her hand when she takes a deep breath, and he knows instinctively that it's hitting her that this is where she lives now. It's all a lot to process, so he'll help her however he can.

They get to his apartment, and it's certainly not at all what she thought it'd be. It's not exactly as he described it either, and when she turns and looks at him, he smiles sheepishly and shrugs one shoulder. He explains that Andy - his mother's ex-boyfriend - owns the place, and Lucas stays there, rent free, so long as Andy can stay when he's in town.

It's a three bedroom place with a fireplace and exposed brick walls in the living room. The furniture is modern, and there are touches of Lucas' things throughout the space. Photographs and artwork and a shelf full of books she knows are his.

It dawns on her that the reason he's so insistent that she can stay, is because she doesn't really need to leave.

"You are a very misleading boy, Lucas Scott," she teases. He just laughs and leads her to 'her' bedroom.

It's the smaller of the three, not that she cares, and it's just down the hall from Lucas'. The furniture is tasteful, and she's got a view of the city lights from her window, and she doesn't really need anything more than that. Lucas explains that he's in the master bedroom with the ensuite bathroom, but there's a full bathroom just across the hall from her room that'll be all hers.

He gives her a short tour, which concludes right back at her bedroom door, and she throws her arms around him as he tells her to call for him if she needs anything.

"Thank you," she whispers. He runs his hands up and down her back and just smiles. She thinks she needs to thank him.

"Sure," he says with a shrug of his shoulder.

When he wakes up the following morning, he's surprised to smell something delicious coming from the kitchen.

He steps out of his bedroom and passes by what is now Peyton's room, and he sees that her bed is made and the room is tidy. He stands in the doorway of the kitchen and watches her. She's got her iPod plugged into her ears, and he can hear the faint and tinny strains of an old Police song. She's got a cup of coffee in her hand and a spatula in the other as she flips pancakes on the stove.

He's going to like having a roommate.

| I tell everyone
I smile just because
I've got a city love
I found it in Lydia
And I can't remember life before her name |

She settles in quickly. She finds a full time job at a little gallery about ten blocks from their apartment, and she works while Lucas is at school. She wears business clothes and carries a briefcase, and Lucas jokes that she's suddenly a 35-year-old working woman. Three weeks into her new job, she sells her first high-ticket piece; a New York artist's work who the buyer insists he wants more of.

She comes home with a wide smile on her face and a sense of validation. Lucas congratulates her over dinner before he locks himself in his bedroom to study, and Peyton settles herself on the sofa to call her best friend, then Lucas' best friend, and she spends the evening excitedly rehashing the excitement of the day to anyone who will listen.

When they've each got free time, Lucas and Peyton are inseparable. He takes her to all his favourite places. Coffee shops, book stores, pizza parlours, hot dog vendors. They go to a Mets game and sit in the nosebleeds and eat popcorn and sip overpriced beer. He introduces her to a few of his close friends, but they both agree that these new people have nothing on the people they've known forever.

They're sitting together in Central Park one Sunday afternoon, just as the weather turns cool enough to need a sweater. Peyton is laying on her back reading Catch-22 for the third time in her life - the second on Lucas' advice - and he's laying with his head resting on her stomach as he pours over The Grass Harp by Capote for one of his classes.

"Hey Luke?"

"Hmm?" he answers distractedly as he makes a mark in the margin of his book.

"Do you think I'm a southern girl?" she asks.

He sits up as he laughs, then looks down at her.

His breath catches in his throat a little bit.

She's beautiful.

He's always known it. He's probably known it more than anyone. But she's different, and this moment, right now, he feels like he's seeing her - really seeing her - for the first time in years. She's got on just a black sweater and a pair of dark jeans, and her hair is down and splayed on the grass. Her hand clutching one of his favourite novels doesn't hurt, either. Her eyes are hidden by a pair of aviator sunglasses, and he kind of hates that he can't stare at those shades of green right now.

"Where is this coming from?" he asks once he's shaken himself from that moment.

"I'm just curious," she says nonchalantly. "I mean, I'm from North Carolina, I lived in Savannah...but...I dunno. New York just makes sense for me."

"You look happy," he says after a beat of silence, though his response doesn't really answer her question. Maybe it does, though.

It's that moment that he notices the thin tan line on her ring finger, and he regrets saying something like that, given that she's still mourning the demise of a relationship she'd thought would last forever.

"I kind of am happy," she says quietly.

"Kind of?"

"I have my best bud!" she says playfully, swatting him with the book in her hand. "I have Central Park in fall and a mocha from that coffee shop I love."

"I'm really glad you're here, Peyt.," he says, sincerity in his tone, and a hint of a smile on his face. She just smiles back and nods her head. She doesn't really know what else to say.

She runs her fingers through his hair absentmindedly once he's laying against her again, and for a reason he can't explain, he wonders if she was ever in love with him.

| She keeps a toothbrush at my place
As if I had the extra space
She steals my clothes to wear to work
I know, her hairs are on my shirts

She's forced to call in sick one Tuesday morning, and Lucas refuses to go to school. He stays home to take care of her, and he feels absolutely helpless when he stands outside her bathroom and hears her repeatedly getting sick.

He makes her peppermint tea and dry toast, and he runs to the pharmacy for anything he can find to settle her stomach. He picks up some arrowroot cookies - just like his mom always used to give him when he was feeling ill - and, for good measure, grabs a couple magazines for her.

She's curled up on the sofa sleeping when he returns to the apartment. The colour is back in her cheeks, and she looks fine to him. He presses his hand to her forehead, and she doesn't have a fever.

His mind starts to race, and he wonders why hers isn't.

She's been exhausted lately, and he can testify to her mood swings. Last night, they went to Brooklyn because she was craving Italian from a little restaurant they went to when she first moved. And now morning sickness.

He sits at his desk in his bedroom, restlessly bouncing his knee up and down, until he hears her walking around again. He scares her when she's in the kitchen, pouring a glass of water and he appears, seemingly out of nowhere.

"God!" she shrieks. "You jackass!"

"Sorry," he says apologetically. "Sorry. I was just...how are you feeling."

"I'm OK, actually," she says, as though it surprises her, too.

She moves back to the sofa and reaches for the remote, aimlessly flipping through channels as he stands there, staring at her.

"What?" she asks, unable to hide her annoyance.

He has no idea how to ask what he needs to ask.

"Are you...are you really OK?" he inquires skeptically. He takes the seat next to her on the couch and she looks at him in confusion. "Because...there could be an explanation for how you've been feeling."

"What are you...?"

"Is there a chance you could be...? That you might be...pregnant?" he asks delicately.

The look on her face, and the fact that she stops breathing for a moment, tells him that there definitely is a chance.

She's been in New York just a little over a month, and it's been that same amount of time since she last saw Jake. Probably another week before that since they slept together. There certainly hasn't been anyone since then, and she doesn't know much about pregnancy symptoms, but she's assuming this would be the time they'd present if, in fact, she was pregnant.

"I'm...I can't...no," she stutters as the tears fill her eyes. She's clearly in denial.

She's only 20 years old, and sure, she may have thought she was ready for family and kids, but she realizes now that she's really, really not.

"Hey," Lucas says softly, gathering her in his arms. "It's OK."

"No," she sobs. "It's not."

"Yeah, it is," Lucas insists. He pulls away and places his hands on her cheeks. "It'll be OK."

She nods her head, but they both know she doesn't really believe him.

And perhaps what Lucas feels most out of anything, is the overwhelming...disappointment that she may have a child with another man. He doesn't know where it's coming from, or why he's feeling it, but it's there. He quickly pushes it aside, however, and goes back into Save Peyton Mode. He offers to head back to that pharmacy for a test, and he tells her to stay put and try to stay calm.

"Luke," she says softly as he makes her lay down again and covers her over with the blanket again. "Tell me again."

He doesn't really need to ask what she wants him to say.

"It'll be OK." He kneels next to the sofa and kisses her temple, and she smiles at him as widely as she can, which isn't saying much.

The entire walk to the pharmacy, he's thinking this is all insane. He's buying a pregnancy test for a girl he's never slept with, who's been his friend for years, who's just broken up with the man who would be the father of that baby. He wonders, briefly, if it was selfish of him to ask her to come to New York.

But she's been happy. She has been. He's almost certain she wouldn't think he was being selfish, so he stops thinking it, too.

He, for some reason, takes her into his bedroom to take the test, and he waits at the edge of the bed with a timer in his hands. She steps out of the bathroom and starts pacing. He tries to get her to sit, but she says that she can't, and he doesn't push her.

"You know Jake and I never talked about kids?" she asks, and Lucas can tell she's just realizing it for the first time. "Not once. God, we were together almost like...three years...and we never talked about it. And Jenny was...I mean, I love her, but...How could we have ever thought we'd be ready for marriage if we didn't even talk about that? Kids, you know?"


"So now I'm just thinking...God, Luke, if I'm pregnant...I mean, Jake...he told me he didn't want to see me again," she says worriedly. Her tears have dried, but Lucas doesn't know what to make of that. "I'd have a baby with no father, and...I don't know how to do that."

He's about to tell her that he's there for her - and for her baby - in whatever ways they need him, forever, but the timer chimes in his hands, and Peyton nearly jumps out of her skin.

"Breathe, Peyton," he instructs her, and she nods her head and does as she's told.

He stands and watches as she walks back into the bathroom. He can see her pick up the test, but her back is to him and he has no idea what's going on. It's pretty much killing him not to know.

She rushes back into the room and throws her arms around him, and he doesn't know what that means either, but he hugs her back anyway.

"Negative," she whispers.

He doesn't know what to say, so he doesn't say anything.

She pulls away from him after what might be five minutes, and she looks into his eyes, and there's a brief moment where he thinks she's going to kiss him, but she doesn't. He thinks that's for the best.

She takes his hand and then lays down on his bed, and she doesn't need to tell him to stay for him to understand that's what she wants him to do.

He keeps his distance, and she's a little thankful for that. She's still sorting things out in her head, and for now, just laying with him, both of them on their backs and their hands joined between them, is soothing her in a big way.

He brings her dinner in his bed, and she lays there looking through her gallery's updated catalogue as he does school work that evening. They listen to music and he reads her passages from the things he's working on. She shows him paintings she loves, and blushes when he catches her humming along with the songs that are playing.

They share a bed for the first time in years that night, and when Lucas wakes up the following morning, he's alone.

He steps into the kitchen and sees Peyton pouring coffee into her travel mug. She's got her hair pulled up, and a black business suit on. He notices she's wearing one of his shirts, tucked into her skirt. It's a light green button down that somehow looks like a million dollars with her blazer over top.

The heels she's wearing certainly don't hurt, either.

"Hi," he says softly. He catches his reflection in the glass of the cupboard and sees how messy his hair is, and immediately rakes his fingers through it.

"Nice mane," she jokes, and he rolls his eyes. "Listen, I'm probably going to be late tonight, but..." She stops talking when she sees that he's staring at her. "What?"

"You look good in my shirt," he tells her, a bit of a smirk on his lips as he reaches for a bowl for his morning cereal.

"Is it OK?" His smile only grows. It's more than OK, if you ask him. She raises an eyebrow and elaborates. "I mean that I'm wearing it."

"Yeah, yeah," he answers quickly. "It's fine." He watches her reach for her keys and sling her bag over her shoulder, and he's a little unnerved that she's acting like yesterday never happened. "You sure you're alright?"

"I'm great," she answers honestly. "See you tonight!"

She was up in the night, laying next to Lucas as his palm lay flat on her stomach, and she realized that even if she had been pregnant, she would have been alright. She has her father, and Karen, and she'd be OK.

And she has Lucas.

Sure, they've only been living together a month, but she kind of gets the feeling that there is no breaking the bond they have. They are best friends, and best friends stick by each other.

And she kind of likes the way his shirt smells, too.

| I tell everyone
I smile just because
I've got a city love
I found it in Lydia
And I can't remember life before |

It's almost six months after she moved to New York that Peyton starts feeling like she needs to get out on her own. She loves living with Lucas and having that companionship and that friendship, but she feels like he's holding her up, and she needs to stand on her own. It's big and scary, and she's never really done that before, but she wants to try.

One Wednesday night, Lucas brings home dinner from their favourite Thai restaurant, and a few DVDs, and he announces that it's movie night. She won't argue with that.

It surprises her, though it really, really shouldn't, how good they are to each other. She'll listen to him vent for hours about his school work and his professors, and he'll let her cry on her shoulder when a deal falls through or she just has a rough day.

He sits next to her on the sofa and they eat out of cardboard containers. Lucas never really could get used to using chopsticks, and he glares at how gracefully she eats as he stabs at pieces of chicken with his fork. She steals bites from him and he scowls, but she just rolls her eyes and offers bites of her own food, and all is forgiven.

"Want a beer?" she asks as she walks past him and into the kitchen.

"Sure." He watches her reach for the bottle opener from the top of the fridge, and her tee shirt rides up as she stands on her toes. It's February, and he's not sure why she's wearing a little pair of shorts, but he can't really complain about it.

He blushes when she catches him staring.

And her heart races when she catches him staring.

She hands him his drink and curls back up on the sofa beneath the blanket, and she looks out the window just in time to see the snow start to fall.

She really loves New York.

And it hits her in that moment that she doesn't want to live anywhere but where she is. She loves this apartment, and her bedroom, and the exposed brick, as silly as that is. She adores the doorman who always makes jokes with her, and she's thankful it's so close to work - especially in the winter months.

And maybe she doesn't want to live anywhere that Lucas isn't. He's not holding her up, he's holding her hand. Usually metaphorically, but sometimes literally, too, and she doesn't want to let go of any of that.

She thinks that she only likes this city so much because she gets to share it with him.

"What are you thinking about, Blondie?" Lucas asks when he notices that she's gazing out the window.


"Considering that's a biological impossibility, I'll ask again," he says, and she rolls her eyes and laughs at him. He's such a dork. "What's going on in that head of yours?"

"Just thinking...I like it here with you," she says softly. He smiles and lets out a breathy laugh, and he takes a sip of his beer as she drapes her legs over his lap like she always does.

"I like it here with you, too," he says. His hand rests on her calf and he hits play on the movie they've got queued up.

They watch Casablanca together - they've watched it together at least five time since they've known each other. Peyton mouths her favourite lines, and Lucas finds himself watching her more than he watches the screen. She can feel his eyes on her, but she doesn't look over at him or ask him what he's staring for. She kind of likes the attention. She doesn't know why.

He closes his eyes and momentarily, he pictures the two of them in another place and time. She's in a beautiful blue dress with pin-curls in her hair, and he's in a white tuxedo with a red rose on the lapel. They walk in the brisk night air, and he drapes his jacket over her shoulders as she smiles coyly. He walks her to her door, and she tells him to kiss her before he can even ask.

"I remember every detail. The Germans wore gray. You wore blue." Her voice is soft and somehow nostalgic as she recites the words from memory. She lets out a breath and shakes her head as Lucas opens his eyes and looks over at her. "That's my favourite line in this entire movie."

"Yeah?" he asks quietly. "Why?"

All he can think is that in his very vivid imagination, she was wearing blue, too.

"True love," she answers. "Amid the chaos, he remembers what she wore. He knew he loved her, even then. God, that's just...so beautiful." She wipes at a tear he didn't see fall and looks over at him. "Don't you think so?"

He does now.

"Yeah," he whispers, his thumb moving idly in small circles on her leg.

He remembers the first day they ever spoke.

He remembers every detail.

Maybe he's always loved her.

| The day
She called up and came to me
Covered in rain
And dinnertime shadowing
And as her clothes spun, we spooned
And I knew I was through
When I said "I love you" |

By mid-March, all the snow had melted, and by April, the rain came. It wasn't a constant, but it was unpredictable, and Peyton always seemed to leave home without her umbrella every time it poured.

This frantic Friday, she managed to forget her keys and phone, too. How, she doesn't know.

She fishes a quarter out of the bottom of her purse, and rushes through the pouring rain to the closest payphone. She dials Lucas' number. For some reason, it's that moment that she realizes that his is the only number she knows by heart. The rest are just stored in her phone. She knows his.

212- 555-8154.

"Pick up, pick up, pick up," she pleads out loud as she listens to the ringing in her ear. She's drenched to the bone already, and she's really not looking forward to the other eight blocks she has to walk in her three inch heels in this stupid weather.


"Luke!" she cries.

"Good to hear from you, too, buddy," he teases. "Where the hell are you right now? It's loud."

"Shut up and let me talk!" she says with a laugh. "I forgot my keys. Please tell me you're home."

"I'm home," he promises.

"OK!" she shouts. "I'm on my way!"

"Be careful," he insists, just as he always does.

She smiles. She loves that he looks out for her.

"I'll see you in a bit," she says.

She hangs up the phone and starts walking through the rain towards their apartment, and somewhere during the third block, she realizes that maybe the rain isn't so bad. She slows down a little; lets the drops hit her face. There aren't many people out walking, but every bus she sees is packed full. She's glad she chose to walk.

She's not glad she's wearing a white shirt under her blazer. That's not very appropriate at all. She wraps her arms around herself as she walks, and she's only a couple blocks from her place when a random guy starts walking with her. She can tell - well, she thinks - he's harmless. He's in an expensive suit and he's talking about the weather, and before he turns left down the next street they come to, he asks if he can have her number.

She tells him she has a boyfriend.

He smiles and nods his head, and tells her to have a good evening and get home safe.

The remainder of her walk home, she wonders why she just did that. She doesn't have a boyfriend, clearly. She has a Lucas. She has a boy she's known since she was 16 who she shares an apartment with.


But, he's her Lucas. He's the boy she's known since she was 16 who she once loved. Who saves her every time she needs it. Who she occasionally shares a bed with when they fall asleep in their clothes after spending an evening in one of their rooms. Whose chest she wakes up laying on, and who never makes her apologize for unconsciously clinging to him.

A boy who's almost always waiting for her at home. A boy she loves coming home to.

She's standing outside the door to their apartment when she realizes...

Maybe he's a boy she loves.

She's still lost in thought when she taps on the door. She hears Lucas jogging through the apartment before he swings the door open.

"Whoa," he mutters, eyes shining mischievously as he quickly looks her up and down. "My very own wet tee shirt contest. Delivered right to my door."

"Shut up, perv," she says, brushing past him and into the warmth before he can see the blush on her cheeks. "God, it's so disgusting out."

She takes off her blazer and drapes it over one of the chairs in the kitchen, and Lucas is absolutely lost when he sees her standing there, her white button down shirt drenched, her skirt sticking to her hips and legs, her heels still on. He notices the lace of the white bra she wears, at he takes a deep breath as discreetly as he can.

She runs her hands through her hair, and he doesn't know if he should thank God, or curse the fact that he has such a hot best friend.

He's gonna go with thanking God.

"What?" she asks, unnerved as she sees the look on his face.

"Nothing! Just...I'm sure there are a lot of guys in this city hoping for this very thing to happen to them," he says with a smirk, crossing his arms over his chest.

"Stop it!" she cries as she laughs. She starts down the hallway before turning to him and speaking words they'll both remember. "I'm not sure that's a compliment."

"Oh, it is. Trust me," he says in a low voice. She rolls her eyes and shakes her head, and he just laughs.

She closes her eyes once she's behind her closed door, and she's absolutely terrified. Now she feels things. Well, now she realizes that she feels things, and now she has to live with a boy she's pretty sure she's always loved in some way, shape, or form. And it can't be awkward.

Life sucks. It's official.

She finds one of his button downs in her drawer, and she smiles as she unbuttons her own shirt and hangs it to dry on the back of her door. She shimmies out of her skirt and removes her wet underthings. She pulls on a pair of boy cut underwear, her black cotton sleep shorts, and Lucas' navy blue shirt. She pulls her hair hair up haphazardly in a pile on top of her head, and makes sure she doesn't have makeup running down her face.

She hates that she's putting so much effort into looking like she hasn't put in any effort.

She steps back into the hallway and walks back into the kitchen, and she sees that Lucas has had a pizza delivered and is opening a bottle of wine.

It's no different than any other night, really.

But it is. It is.

"Here," he says, handing her a glass of red.


She reaches for two plates and dishes out some pizza, and it's then that she notices that the fireplace is on, and there are a few candles in the room.

It's also that moment that she realizes that her stomach is filled with butterflies.

She thinks this is stupid. This is ridiculous! When she left for work that morning, everything was fine. It was the same as everything had been since that September when she moved to New York. Then, it was like someone flipped a switch and now she's got to deal with being his friend, his roommate, and somehow the girl who's in love with him.

"In case the power goes out," he says when he notices her looking around the room. "Probably will."

Great, she thinks. Lucas, darkness, candles, wine.


"So how was your day?" he asks when she doesn't say anything.

She sits on the floor in front of the coffee table, resting her back against the sofa, and he sits next to her. They have a kitchen table, but they rarely use it, instead choosing to sit like this and watch television or listen to music and talk as they eat their dinner.

Tonight, there's only the sound of the fierce rain hitting the windows to accompany them.

"Fantastic," she says, unsure of whether he'll sense the sarcasm. "I forgot my phone and my keys, I had to deal with that pretentious ass James Hinds when he came in, I had to skip lunch because Tara called in sick and there was no one else to cover..."

"So...good, then," he says sympathetically.

"And then I walked home in the pouring rain and..."

She stops short before she tells him about the man she 'met'.

"And what?" he asks curiously after taking a sip of wine.

"Nothing," she says, shaking her head and smiling. "Doesn't matter anymore. I'm home, and I have wine and pizza."

"And me," he adds, smirking.

He clinks the rim of his glass against hers, and watches her raise her hand after she takes a sip, subtly wiping away a drop of the liquid from her top lip with her index finger. He notices that thin little tan line that was on her finger is long gone, and he wonders if maybe the love she had for the man who gave her the ring is long gone, too.

"And you," she says softly.

She's just about to say something more when the power switches off, and the room goes a little darker. Lucas chuckles a little and looks over at her with a smug grin, as though telling her she should thank him for being prepared.

"Fun fact," she says, turning to him. "I kind of hate thunderstorms."

"You think I don't remember that?" he asks quietly. "Come on. It'll be fun! We'll just camp out."

"Camp out in our three bedroom New York apartment?" she says teasingly.

"See? You just proved my point." His eyes shine and he smiles, and it's all she can do not to lean over and kiss him. "Nothing to be afraid of here."

"I guess." She looks away because she has to. She's always known he's an attractive man, but this is just ridiculous. His jeans and white tee shirt are the perfect...just the perfect everything.

"Hey," he says, wrapping his arm around her shoulder and pulling her close to him. "You're with me."

They both know what he's not saying. He's not saying, You're with me, and I'm not going to let anything happen to you.

But that's exactly what he means.

They finish their dinner and Peyton makes a little nest of cushions and blankets in front of the fireplace, and Lucas just chuckles at her when he sees the little space she's created. He can't say that laying in front of the fireplace with her is a horrible way to spend his evening.

"My mom used to do this during storms," she explains. She's never told him that, and she almost can't believe it. He sits down and leans back on his elbows as she hits play on her iPod. She's got the little dock and a full battery, and she thinks that might last a while. A little music would be perfect right now.


"The three of us would sit in front of the fireplace and I remember feeling like...like nothing bad could happen because I was sitting between my mom and dad," she says softly, smiling at the memory. He grins at her; he's always loved to hear stories from her childhood. "Kinda feels safe to do it with you, too."

He's sure she can hear his heart, it's beating so hard.

She lays back against the pillows as a singer/songwriter he can't place starts filling the room with a beautiful melody. The shirt she's wearing gapes a little and he can see the curve of her breast through the little space between the buttons, and he's certain that shirt will never look the same. He kind of doesn't want it back.

That doesn't necessarily mean he wants her to keep wearing it, though.

God, he needs to stop thinking of her that way.

But then she rolls onto her side and smiles up at him, and he's needlessly reminded that she's the most beautiful creature he's ever seen.

He can also tell that she's thinking of something and she's not sure if she wants to tell him what it is.

"What?" he asks nervously.

"How come you haven't dated anyone since I moved here?" she asks.

He lays back on the pillows and he wonders if he should just be honest. He's pretty much been hopelessly in love with her since the first day he saw her in just her towel walking from her bathroom to her bedroom. Actually, probably before then, too.

"School and stuff," he says with a shrug.

"Come on," she scoffs. They both know she's caught him in his lie. "I'm serious."

"I dunno. I had school work and...and you," he says softly.

He lays back against the pillows so she's looking down at him, and the look of confusion on her face is one he used to see all the time in their younger days. She squints a little bit, and tilts her head just slightly. There's a little crease just above the bridge of her nose, and she almost looks like she's smiling.

"What does that mean, Luke?" she asks.

"It means...It means you're here, so why would I want anyone else?" He looks over at her and that look is gone, but a new, completely unreadable one is there.

She can't believe he's saying this. She can't believe it because it's exactly what she wants to hear. This incredible man is laying in front of her and telling her he wants only her. Throw in the fact that she's in love with him - definitely in love with him - and it's pretty much the perfect situation.

"You haven't dated anyone either," he points out when she doesn't say anything.

When he sees the smile spread on her lips, he knows, somehow, that she feels the same way he does.

She's never looked more beautiful than she does right now, all wet hair and unruly curls. Wearing his shirt and only a little makeup. He notices she's got on the simple silver necklace he gave her for Christmas, and he smirks to himself.

"I had...a break up, and a move, and a pregnancy scare, and work," she lists off, and they both laugh. "And you."

"What does that mean?" he asks. She rolls her eyes. He's going to make her spell it out.

"I didn't want anyone else," she says softly.

"Do you...do you want me?" He takes her hand in his and intertwines their fingers as he waits for his answer.

"I think I always did," she admits for the first time.

His eyes meet hers, and they're both so nervous it's almost unbearable. They're too old for this. They're too old for butterflies and timid glances and fireside confessions of hidden feelings. They're too old for modest hand holding and hushed tones and feeling flushed at even the slightest glimpse of bare skin.

But, as Peyton realizes very quickly, you're never too old for butterflies.

"I love you," he whispers.

She doesn't say it back.

She swallows the lump in her throat and leans over, kissing him like she now realizes she's wanted to do for a long time.

And he thinks he's been waiting for that kiss since he was seven years old and watching her create a pile of leaves on the playground of the elementary school in their hometown. Or maybe since he was a stupid 17-year-old and he blew what he thought was his one chance with her.

He knows he's been waiting for it for months.

She pulls her hand away from his, and she runs her fingers through his hair as he pulls her closer to him.

He has the overwhelming feeling that there's a really, really big thing happening, and he feels like if he doesn't savour every second, he's going to miss it.

| Friday evening, we've been drinking
2 AM, I swear that I might propose
But we close the tabSplit a cab
And call each other up when we get home
Falling asleep to the sound of sirens |

The somehow manage to finish their bottle of wine between kisses, and they lay on their makeshift little bed in front of the fireplace well into the evening. They both know they'll be dead tired the next day, but neither really cares. She's pretty sure it's worth it, and he's pretty sure he wants this night to last forever.

"Tell me a story," she says, resting her cheek on his chest and trailing her fingertips down his side.

He has to take a deep breath to keep himself from sweeping her up and taking her to his bedroom.

"What kind of story?" he asks, bringing his hand up and wrapping his fingers around hers. That he can even do that so freely makes him smile.

"Something sweet."

"Something sweet, huh?" She nods her head, and he kisses the top of her hair. She's just so damn adorable. "You know the first time we talked?"


"I could have just fixed your car on the side of the road," he admits, and she pulls away and looks at him with wide eyes and her jaw dropped. "I could have just put more fluid in the rad and you would have been fine."

"Why didn't you?" she asks in confusion.

"I wanted to see you again," he says, shrugging his shoulder as though it's the simplest thing in the world.

"Because I was so nice to you?" she asks with a raised eyebrow. "You remember that day?"

"I remember every detail," he says softly. "I had on a red tee shirt, and you wore that brown leather jacket."

She knows he's well aware that using her favourite line from her favourite movie and applying it to their relationship will get him exactly what he wants.

So that's what she gives him.

She leans up and places her palm on his cheek, and they smile at each other as their eyes meet.

"God, I love you," she breathes out, her lips just inches away from his.

He closes the distance and kisses her before she can kiss him, and he really doesn't care that it's late. He doesn't care that the music has long-since stopped and most of the candles have burnt down completely. All that's left lighting the room is the fire burning next to them, and this evening could only get more perfect if one thing happened.

He starts unbuttoning her - well, his - shirt, and she doesn't stop him. She mumbles insanely seductive things in his ear as she kisses along his jaw line. His hands skim up her back beneath the shirt, and she tells him to just take it off her already.

Could she get any more perfect? If he were a less rational man, he'd ask her to marry him, right then and there.

He obliges her, and discards the fabric somewhere in the room, then moves so he's on top of her. He brushes a stray curl from her face and closes his eyes for a moment.

"You're...this is..." he tries. She rests her hand on his cheek again and he looks down at her. The smile she gives him melts his heart. "I do love you. So much."

She leans up and speaks into his ear, clutching his lower back and brushing against him in all the best places.

"Prove it."

It's probably close to 4:00 a.m. when they finally fall asleep. She's out before he is, and he strokes her arm with his fingertips and listens to sirens outside on the street. He thinks he might be holding everything he's ever wanted.

The sun is shining when she steps outside the next morning to go to work. The pavement is bone dry, and the sky is as blue as she's ever seen it.

Symbolic, she thinks.

| From the Battery
To the gallery
It's the kind of thing you only see
In scented, glossy magazines |

Summer comes quickly, and they spend every Saturday strolling the city with coffee from their favourite little shop. Peyton steals nibbles of Lucas' biscotti from his hand, and he'd love to tell her to stop, but he just can't. He'll give her anything she wants.

She basically moved into his room after that first night together, and they've been inseparable since. The smile on Andy's face when he came in one day and saw them cuddled up on the sofa reading together had them all laughing. He told them it was about time, and Peyton blushed, and Lucas agreed.

Nathan and Haley visited with Jamie for a week, and Nathan and Peyton spent a day just the two of them - well, three, Jamie included - while Haley and Lucas spent the day together. Nathan insisted that he saw it coming a mile away; that he knew as soon as he heard that she was living with Lucas that the two of them would get together. Haley basically said the same thing.

They were happy. They are happy.

Peyton lays on the grass in Battery Park with her sunglasses on, using her shirt as a pillow. Lucas is beside her, and he can barely take his eyes off her as she lays there in her denim shorts and bikini top.

"You're pretty hot," he muses boyishly, and she lets out a spirited laugh.

"Thank you, Luke," she says, shaking her head. She opens her eyes and sees him laying there in just his jeans, his tee shirt discarded on the grass next to him.

He's kind of hot, too. He never fails to remind her of that pretty much every chance he gets. Even better is that he doesn't even know when he's doing it.

"I like this park," she says after a while.

He's trying to read, and she knows he hates that she constantly interrupts him, but she figures that reading at home is one thing. If he wants privacy, he shouldn't take her to a public place and make her lay there in complete silence.

"Grass and trees and stuff. Pretty much all I look for in a park," he says sarcastically.

"Shut up. It's nice," she insists.


She looks over and sees that he's really not paying attention to her at all. He's holding his book in both hands, shielding his eyes from the sun as he reads.

But he still looks damn sexy in his aviators.

She plucks the book from his hands and closes it, putting it on the far side of her body where he can't reach it so easily. She props herself up on one elbow and looks at him. His eyes fall to her chest and the minimal black fabric covering her, and he's thankful he has on sunglasses so she doesn't notice. He doesn't think she'd mind, but still.

"You just lost my place," he points out, his tone just a little angry.

She's a page folder. All her books have little dog ears. He hates that. He has bookmarks. A lot of them. He's offered for her to use them, but she doesn't. However, that she didn't even crease his page before closing his book kind of bugs him, too.

"And just how many times have you read that book?" she challenges.

"Not the point."

"You're ignoring me," she says, pouting just enough to be cute.

"When'd you get so needy?" he asks teasingly.

"Right about the time I got this boyfriend who pretty much caters to me," she states, a smile playing on her lips.

"Yeah? You should introduce me to him sometime."

"I should. Maybe he could teach you a thing or two about how to treat a girl," she says, rolling onto her back again.

He's on top of her within seconds, and growling in her ear, reminding her that he definitely knows how to treat a girl. She can't really argue.

"Luke," she almost whines, trying to push him away.

"What?" he asks, brushing his nose against hers.

"We're in a public park," she reminds him. "Control yourself."

"Stop being sexy," he retorts.

He rolls back to his own place after grabbing his book from beside her. He opens the book and searches for his page, and makes a big show of getting ready to read again; clearing his throat and extending his arms before bringing the book closer to him again.

They lay there another five minutes before his every move starts grabbing her attention. The muscles of his arm move each time he turns the page, and he nibbles the inside of his bottom lip, just as he's always done when he's reading. A secret smile comes to his lips every once in a while. The thin layer of sweat on his torso isn't helping either.

"How long do you think it'd take us to get home if we left right now?" she asks, seemingly out of the blue.

"Don't know," he says absently.

"Because..." she leans over and runs her fingers through his hair before resting her hand on his chest and speaking softly. "I need you."

It's scary how fast he's on his feet.

She smiles when she notices that he's dog-eared his page before dropping his book in her bag and taking her hand.

They walk back to their place, stopping to kiss when they feel like it, and grabbing fresh fruit from a market. They bump into someone Peyton knows through a friend at the gallery, and only she sees that Lucas' jaw is clenched and he's holding her hand a little tighter, as though that'll make her finish her conversation quicker. He buys her white lilies a few blocks from their place, and she tells him she loves him when he places the bouquet in her hands.

"It's disgusting how happy we are," he chuckles when he sees an older woman staring and smiling in their direction.

"Kinda, yeah," she says with a laugh. "I like it, though."

"Me too." He kisses her temple and places his hand on the small of her back. "It's about time we got some happy."

She wants to make fun of him for using such a cheesy line, but she really can't.

She's never felt like this, and she thinks it's OK to be a little cheesy every now and again.

| And I can't remember life before her name |

As soon as he's got the door unlocked and they're inside, he pulls her against him and kisses her.

52 minutes. It took them 52 minutes to get home from that park, and those may have been the longest 52 minutes of his entire life.

"So...amazing," he speaks between kisses as he pushes her towards the bedroom.

"I should put those flowers in water," she protests, honestly trying to get away from him.

"Shut up," he says, and Peyton giggles. He pulls her tee shirt over her head and unties the string of her bikini top as he kisses the side of her neck. He drops the garment on the floor before they fall onto his bed, and he braces his weight on his arms.

"You don't know what you do to me," she says seriously, running her hands up and down his back.

"I love you," he whispers before he kisses her.

He starts unbuttoning her shorts, settling himself atop her again once he's pulled the denim down her legs. He tries to kiss her again, but she places her palm over his mouth, and he pulls away slightly, looking at her in confusion.

"Say it again," she requests.

He smiles and closes his eyes. He loves it when she does this.

"I love you." He brushes his lips against hers, and he feels her let out a sigh once they've parted. "I love you."

"You're my favourite boyfriend," she teases, and he chuckles and drops his head to her shoulder. "Lucas." His eyes meet hers again and they both smile. "I love you."

He honestly can't remember a time when he didn't want to hear those words.