A/N: Part Three. Enjoy!


| And I don't know where you went when you left me but
Says here in the water you must be gone by now
I can tell somehow |

Lucas overhears a conversation between Nathan and Haley one night over summer break when they're visiting, and they're talking about when they're going to see Peyton while they're in town.

He starts listening - OK, eavesdropping - through the closed door of the bedroom they're sleeping in. Peyton's old bedroom.

They don't really say much more of any importance. They don't talk about how she is or where she is or if she's with someone.

The thought of that last thing alone has him clenching his fist and his heart aching in his chest.

He's just gone to the kitchen for some water - Lindsey was thirsty - but he finds himself sitting in the chair by the window and looking out at the city lights and thinking about the girl that he still, every once in a while, thinks might be the love of his life.

It doesn't help that it's just started to rain.

He wonders where she's living. He's thought of going to that gallery a thousand times. He'll be in the area, or stopping in at the book store across the street, and he'll think of going in and seeing if she's working. He's never seen her through the window (though he'd never admit to looking) and he realizes that she may not even work there anymore.

He's thought of calling her even more times. He curses himself for throwing out that letter. He wants to know what she said as her parting words. A lump forms in his throat when he thinks that maybe she had told him she needed time and she'd be back if he wanted her, and that he just had to call and tell her so. Maybe she's only stayed away because he never went after her.

He finds himself wondering more and more often why he never did.

He deleted her number from his phone one night just after she'd left. He'd admittedly had a few too many glasses of scotch, and he thought that he could just delete her and she'd be gone. It's a naive notion, but it made sense in his foggy state.

But for some reason, hers is the only number he knows by heart. The rest are just stored in his phone. He knows hers.


He wonders if she's happy. He knows he could ask anyone. His brother, or his best friend, or Brooke or Julian. But he won't do that, because he won't let them know that he still cares, and he won't give them the option of telling her he was asking.

They all know he still cares, and he knows that. It's just easier to pretend if he never actually says the words.

"Hey," Lindsey says softly, walking into the living room. "I thought you got lost."

He did, he thinks.

He also thinks, only for a split second (though not for the first time), that she doesn't look half as good in his shirts as Peyton always did.

"Sorry," he says, though it's a lie. She can't read him like that blonde girl could, and she won't know he's not sorry at all. "Just looking at the lights."

"Lights?" she asks, running her hand over his shoulder.

Lindsey takes the city for granted in a way Peyton never did - and he's sure she never will. She's lived in New York since she was four, and she just doesn't see things the same way as Peyton does. Maybe it's the blonde's artistic eye, or the fact that she's just got such a deep and genuine soul.

Nathan and Haley met Lindsey for the first time that night. The four of them went to dinner together, and all seemed to get along fine. But Lucas could see a shadow of something in his best friend's eye that looked a lot like disappointment. It was as though Haley was asking him why he was fooling himself and why he'd been with this girl for four months when he might not really be over another one.

"Yeah," he answers. It's not an insightful response, but he knows Peyton would have understood.

He hates that one muffled mention of her name has sent him into a headspin.

He also doesn't tell Lindsey that he's been sitting there for the past 20 minutes, looking out at the city and wondering which building his ex-girlfriend might live in and what she's doing at this exact moment. If maybe she's looking out a rainy window over a city that's felt a hell of a lot colder since they broke up.

"Come to bed," she whispers, kissing his cheek.

He looks at her and gives her a smile that's fake, and he resents her for not calling him on it.

He has to remind himself to breathe when he comes to the harsh realization that no one will ever know him like Peyton did.


He wonders if she lets herself think of him every time it rains, too.

| One hand on the trigger of a telephone
Wonderin' when the call comes |

"Why haven't you called her?" Nathan asks out of the blue.

There's no questioning who he's talking about. Lucas could play dumb, but Nathan would only get pissed off, and Lucas doesn't want to play games.

"Why would I?" Lucas asks coldly. "She left me."

They're at Yankee Stadium, in a private box Nathan's agent arranged for them. The Red Sox are in town, and the atmosphere is crazy.

And Nathan's choosing this moment to bring up Peyton.

But the younger Scott brother isn't impressed with how things have gone. They all thought that the two blondes would work it out and get back together. But Lucas is stubborn, and Peyton won't admit that she still wants him, and now Lucas has this Lindsey person - who, by the way, Nathan isn't really all that crazy about. He may be biased.

Nathan and Haley are off to Cleveland soon, where he'll play for the Cavaliers, the team that drafted him. Part of the reason for this trip to New York was to try to get his idiot brother to come to his senses. It's been far too close to a year since Lucas and Peyton split, and Nathan's had enough of it. Jamie's in Tree Hill with his grandmother for the week, and Nathan has no problem bringing up these topics and dishing out a little tough love.

"You didn't exactly make her want to stay," Nathan mutters.

The look Lucas gives him is an angry one, but Nathan just crosses his arms on his chest and stares his brother down. Lucas may be stubborn, but not more stubborn than Nathan is.

"Let it go, Nate," Lucas warns, taking a sip of his beer.

"No," Nathan insists, turning his body towards Lucas'. "I won't let it go. Because you can't, whether or not you want to admit that."

"It's not about admitting anything. She and I had a relationship, and it was nice while it lasted," Lucas explains. He's disrespecting the importance of his own relationship, he's well aware. "But it didn't last."

"Wow," Nathan says with a smirk. "I almost believed that for like, a half a second."

"Screw you, man," Lucas bites out, squinting at Nathan. "You just think it's...It's easy or something."

"You think mine and Haley's relationship has been easy?" Nathan asks incredulously.

"It's not the same."

"Right." Nathan chuckles and shakes his head. "Because Haley and I actually work through things together, where as you two run from each other and push each other away."

It's the same thing Lucas has thought countless times before. A couple more serious conversations, and maybe they wouldn't have ever split up. They could have had one conversation about children, or he could have said reassuring things that day as they walked through the cold to the pharmacy, instead of staying silent.

Lucas sits down so Nathan won't know that his knees are buckling when he realizes that he's entirely - completely, 100% - to blame for their relationship ending.

"Can you stop talking about her, please?" Lucas says pleadingly.

Sure, he could say it's male pride; him not wanting to relive his rejection.

But it's so much more than that.

It really just hurts so fucking much to think about it at all.

Nathan shakes his head in frustration, but doesn't say another word.

It's not five minutes later when Nathan looks over at his brother, notices the colour has left his face, and knows that he's being consumed by thoughts of the girl he never should have let go.

"Haley's with her today," Nathan says. His tone has changed. His sympathetic, and it's almost as though he's telling his brother that it's OK to think about her and to still want her.

It's almost like he's encouraging Lucas to do so.

Lucas turns to meet Nathan's eyes so fast that Nathan almost wants to smile. Instead, he purses his lips and pats Lucas on the back a couple times.

It's a show of brotherly support, even when it's really hard for Nathan to give it.

| Where you say it's alright
You got your heart right |

Peyton and Haley stroll through Macy's, lost amid labels and brands they'd probably never wear. They share a smile at the large selection of Clothes Over Bros merchandise, and make note of the items they want Brooke to send them for free.

Haley notices that Peyton looks good. She does. She smiles and her hair is shiny and a little shorter - and curlier - than Haley last saw it. The summer dress she wears flows down to her knees, and her skin glows from what Haley knows is hours spent in Battery Park, laying on the grass.

But she looks sad.

Her eyes are a little tired, and they don't sparkle the same way they did when she was with Lucas. That's really no surprise.

And Haley thinks that at least half of those smiles are fake.

"So, why haven't you talked to him?" Haley asks as they browse the shoe department.

"Who?" Peyton asks absently. She's eyeing a pair of black leather stiletto boots that she's almost certain she'll buy if they have her size.

"Who?" Haley asks incredulously. "Lucas."

Peyton stops in her tracks and tenses at the mere mention of his name.

And she hates that she's still so affected by him.

"He hasn't talked to me, either," Peyton points out, flagging down a salesperson and asking for her size.

She's well aware - as she's sure Haley is - that her answer to the simple question was a total dodge. They've never had this conversation. Not once in eight months. She has to wonder why they're having it now.

"Why do you think that is?" Haley mumbles under her breath.

"Excuse me?" Peyton asks, her brow furrowed.

"Well, from the sounds of things, you just...left," Haley says delicately. But no matter how maternal and sweet her tone is, Peyton still hates that statement.

"He didn't leave me a choice," Peyton insists. "He...he didn't want the same things I wanted, and..."

"Peyton, come on," Haley pleads. "Don't make excuses. Especially when they're not believable ones."

"I don't expect you to really understand this, and that's fine," Peyton says sincerely. "But Lucas and I...it just didn't work. And maybe that's OK."

"It's not," Haley says seriously, locking eyes with the blonde.

The salesperson returns with the boots Peyton wants to try, and she turns away and takes a seat in one of the chairs nearby before Haley can see the tears in her eyes.

It's not OK, and for some reason, it took eight months and two words from Haley to convince her of that. She thinks that maybe she and Lucas just didn't really try hard enough. They didn't argue a lot, so that one big fight made her think that everything was falling apart, when really, it was just getting a little tough, and they just needed to work on it a little bit. They'd never had to do that before, so they didn't know how, and she walked away.

That's the moment she realizes that she's entirely - completely, 100% - to blame for their relationship ending.

She tries to pull on one of the boots, but the zipper gets stuck.

And she starts crying. Full on crying, with tears on her cheeks, and sobs escaping periodically.

"Peyton," Haley says softly, appearing at the blonde's side.

"I can't..." she tries. No more words come.

They both know she's not talking about the boots.

She's not crying about the boots, either.

"OK," Haley says maternally, pulling the leather off Peyton's foot and reaching for her hand so she can stand.

Peyton slips her foot back into her flip flop and they head for the nearest exit so Peyton can get some air. Haley buys a bottle of water from the nearest street vendor, and Peyton tries to steady her breathing. Haley doesn't say a word. She doesn't know what to say, and she doesn't know what Peyton would want to hear, so she stays quiet.

"I don't know what just happened," Peyton says. It's a lie, and the look Haley gives her tells her it's a transparent one.

"Yeah. I mean, you'd think a $600 pair of boots would have a functioning zipper," Haley says, smiling weakly and making Peyton laugh.

"Really," Peyton says, chuckling tearfully.

They start walking down the street, carrying the bags that contain their purchases, and debating on going to another store. It's banal small talk that Haley knows Peyton is using to avoid the very serious topic that had her breaking down in the middle of the shoe department at Macy's.

They find themselves at a little coffee shop Peyton insists makes amazing iced cappuccinos, and they sit together by the window, watching the people go by in their summer clothes and sunglasses.

"I'll only ask once," Haley states, catching her friend's attention. "Are you OK?" Peyton goes to speak, but Haley cuts her off. "And I don't just mean after today."

"I was," Peyton insists. "I have been. I've...with work, everything's great, and I have a few really great friends in the city."

"But," Haley says knowingly.

"But...I miss him," she admits for the first time out loud. "God, I...I thought I didn't, and then it was like one day, it just hit me that I still..." She stops herself before she can say that she still loves him, but she knows Haley probably still heard it. "Haley, every time I see a man who looks even remotely close to how he looks, I just...I get this ache in my heart, and I'm this close to calling him."

"So why haven't you?" Haley asks gently.

"Because he wouldn't want me to," Peyton says, looking down at her cup.


Peyton's eyes fly up and she stares at her friend in surprise. She's never, not once in all the years she's known her, heard Haley James Scott mutter a curse word any worse than 'damn'.

"You just swore."

"Because you need someone to tell you how ridiculous you're being," Haley states with a chuckle. "Of course he'd want to hear from you."

"And what would I say?" Peyton asks desperately.

"You'd tell him that you miss him," Haley says firmly, as though there's no room for argument, and no reason for Peyton not to do it.

Peyton has lunch with Nathan and Haley the day before they fly out, and they all pretend they don't notice how empty the chair next to the blonde is.

They all want the same person to be sitting there.

Nathan wraps her into a hug before he and Haley step into a cab, and he holds her tightly, that way that only Nathan can, and he says words that have a big meaning.

"Get your heart right, Sawyer."

The look she gives him lets him know that she understands.

And that she will.

To be honest, she can't really remember why she and Lucas ever broke up in the first place.

| Maybe I'll sleep inside my coat and
Wait on your porch 'till you come back home
Oh, right
I can't find a flight |

It's a month before she even tries to talk to him or see him.

And even then, it's because she's got four people calling, texting, and emailing every day to remind her and harass her about it. She loves her friends; she can't say they're subtle.

She dials his number half-way at least 30 times, but hangs up. Too much time has passed, she thinks, for her to just call him and make small talk over the phone. She doesn't want that. She wants to stand in front of him and see the look on his face - maybe a smile - when she says hello. When she says she misses him.

Because ever since that day with Haley - and admittedly, a lot of days before that - she thinks about him all the time.

She wonders how he's really doing. No one has told her. Well, she hasn't let them. She hasn't asked, and she won't let them go into details they all know she's not really ready to hear. She doesn't know if he's working, or if he's done anything since he graduated in the spring. She doesn't know...anything.

It tears at her heart a little.

She's known almost everything about him since they were 16, and nine months apart have erased all that.

Nine months, she thinks.

She could have his baby right now, had things gone differently that day.

She's grabbing her jacket and her keys and purse before she's even finished that thought. Before she's thought about what their baby would look like, and if that baby was a boy or a girl, and what names they would have picked, and how she would have looked eight months pregnant. Maybe they'd be married.

She jumps into a cab - and she rarely takes cabs, hates paying for them - and gives the address of the apartment building where she used to live. It's just after 9:00 p.m. when she gets there, and she's sad to see there's a new doorman. Jay isn't there any more.

And this new guy is a total jerk.

Well, he's not, but it's really easy for her to think he is.

He's just doing his job, really, and he won't let her upstairs since he doesn't know who she is. He tries Lucas' apartment, but it appears he's out. She says she'll wait, and the doorman gestures to a seat in the car corner of the lobby, tucked away in a little corner.

And she waits.

For an hour and a half. Nervously.

Maybe he won't want to see her, just as she had told Haley. Maybe he's still mad at her. Maybe all they were is all they'll be, and she's fooling herself, trying to hang on.

She sees the door open, and she peeks over when he steps through.

God, he looks good.

Then her heart stops in her chest.

He's with someone new. He's holding the hand of a beautiful woman who wears grey pants and a black jacket and whose hair is pulled up flawlessly.

He doesn't see her, and she doesn't say a word, and once she's sure he's in the elevator, she leaves the building in haste.

And she's really fucking mad at her friends for not telling her.

| We share the sadness
Split screen sadness |

She avoids them all for a week.

She's mad, and they don't know why, and the only person she'll talk to is Jamie, and that's because she knows the four-year-old won't ask questions about the man he's partially named after.

Brooke, sneaky as she is, shows up at the apartment. She's sick of Peyton dodging her calls, and she wants to get to the bottom of it.

As soon as she's through the door after work, Peyton looks over and sees her best friend sitting on the expensive Italian leather sofa. She knows what this visit is about. She'd mentioned to Brooke in passing that she'd stopped by Lucas' place, but hadn't given any more details than that.

"He has a girlfriend."

"I..." Brooke barely gets out that one syllable and Peyton's speaking again.

"He has a girlfriend, and you all pushed me so damn hard to talk to him, and...I really don't like you right now," Peyton says icily.

"I'm sorry," Brooke says quietly. She is sorry. They should have told her.

But Lucas and Peyton are meant to be together, and they seem to be the only two who don't get that. They're the only two who don't see it, and it's killing the rest of them to watch two people who are obviously still carrying around feelings for each other, avoid each other.

"It doesn't matter. It's done," Peyton says.

Brooke can't get a word in before Peyton's down the hall and has the bedroom door closed.

Brooke leaves that same night, but only for a short while.

She has her driver take her to Lucas' apartment, and she bangs on the door harshly until he answers. He's in just a pair of sweats and a Columbia tee shirt, and she notices he's alone.

But the bitch in her - or the best friend in her - has to ask;

"Is Lindsey here?"

"No. Why?" he asks obliviously.

He didn't even know Brooke was in town. He doesn't know why she's storming into his apartment. He really doesn't know why she's so bitterly asking if his girlfriend is around.

"You're an idiot," she states, putting a hand on her hip.

He knows Brooke Davis. He's obviously done something to piss her off. He can't, for the life of him, figure out what it is.

"I'm sorry?" He phrases it like a question, because he has absolutely no idea what he's supposed to be apologizing for.

"She saw you with her," Brooke says.

He closes his eyes, tips his head back, and lets out a sigh.

He'd known it was a possibility. They live in the same city. He knew he'd hear about it if she did see him. She'd tell one of their friends, and they'd tell him. He knew all that.

He didn't think he'd worry about her so much.

He didn't think he'd hope she hadn't see him with someone else.

He didn't think he'd wish he wasn't with someone else.

"When?" It doesn't really matter, but he wants it to, so he asks anyway.

"Last week," she says softly, upon seeing that he's actually affected and maybe a little remorseful. "She came here to talk to you, and I guess she saw you with Lindsey."


"Deja vu," Brooke mutters.

He looks at her with his eyes narrowed, but she just kinks her brow and looks at him pointedly. It's similar to a situation he was in once before, where she was the other girl, and she's not going to let him brush that off.

She wants to remind him that Peyton always wins.

"Now she's mad at all of us, because we didn't tell her. I had to come to New York - right before the launch of my new couture line, by the way - to get her to even talk to me. And even then it was just long enough for her to tell me that she's pissed."

"I didn't tell you not to tell her," he rationalizes. He didn't. That was their choice.

"Yeah, well, we knew it'd hurt her to hear that you were with someone new. Apparently, it doesn't hurt you to be with someone new, but I guess that's not the point," Brooke says bitterly.

"Don't do that," he says, almost angrily. "It's been nine months."

She locks eyes with him at the exact moment he realizes what he's just said.

"Interesting amount of time," she says softly.

He feels a pang of something that feels a lot like guilt. If he hadn't thought about that day enough, now he's got another reason. They could have had a child by now.

It doesn't take him long to realize that's all he ever really wanted anyway.

"What do you want me to do, Brooke?" he asks in frustration. "Wait around for something that may never happen?"

She shakes her head and lets out a bitter laugh.

"Lucas, waiting for her was never something you did. Ever," she reminds him. "If she didn't fall into your arms right when you wanted her to, you moved on to the next best thing. Me, and now Lindsey."

"That's not..."

"It's true," she says harshly, walking back to the door. "So yeah, I want you to wait around." She turns to look at him before she walks out. "And it's certainly never going to happen if you keep sleeping with someone else."

She slams the door behind her, and he stands there in his living room, wondering if all she's just said is true.

He's almost certain it is.

| Two wrongs make it all alright tonight
Two wrongs make it all alright tonight |

"So, what are we drinking to?" Julian asks, sidling up next to her at the bar across the street from her apartment complex.

He thought he might find her here. When he got to the apartment that evening and saw that it was empty, he called Brooke, who explained that she was on her way home, but that he should look for Peyton. The one time Julian had his heart broken, the first place he went was to a bar.

"Jesus," she mutters in frustration. "You're here, too?"

"Not usually the reception I get. You know? There are actually women in the world who aren't repulsed by me?" he says, grinning at her as he signals for another round.

"How nice for you." The bartender pours two glasses of scotch. Julian is well aware this is Lucas' drink.

"I'm serious," he states, raising his glass. "What are we drinking to? I haven't been drunk in a while. I might be a lightweight."

"If I ignore you, will you go away?" she asks, looking forward instead of at him.


"Thought so," she says. She turns to him, and he thinks he's never seen her look so sad. Not even that week she stayed with he and Brooke after the initial split.


"We're drinking to drown the fact that life sucks, love's a joke, I hate my friends, and you're annoying me," she lists off, holding up a finger for each.

"Good thing we're not friends, or you'd hate me too," he jokes. They clink their glasses, and each take a drink before he gets serious. "Brooke's really worried about you."

"Brooke could have avoided all this if she'd just told me the truth," Peyton points out.

"And how would she have done that?" Julian asks indignantly. There's a moment where Peyton almost smiles at his defense of his girlfriend. "You wouldn't let anyone say his name."

"Fuck you," she bites out coldly. "You don't know the half of it."

"Actually, I know all of it," he insists. "And you being a bitch to your best friend isn't going to make you feel better."

"So this is it? Tough love from Julian, and everything goes back to normal?" she asks, glaring at him over the rim of her glass.

"How about you cut your friend some slack," he suggests delicately. "She's not the one who walked away from the love of her life."

"Give it time. It may still happen, yet," she says, plastering on a patronizing smile. He just shakes it head at her and looks into his glass.

"Actually, it won't," he says softly. "Part of the reason I came to New York is because I want to ask Brooke to marry me."

Peyton's head snaps around and she locks eyes with him, and he thinks he might see some tears there.

He doesn't really know what those tears are for, though.


"And since you're the only family she has," he says with a smile, making her do the same, "I wanted to ask your permission for her hand in marriage."

She doesn't say anything. She throws her arms around him and he laughs into her hair.

"I'm so sorry I was just such a bitch to you!" she says with a chuckle. "God, of course."

"I know it's bad timing, given your...situation," he says before she interrupts.

"No," she states firmly. "No. God, Julian." She wipes at her eyes and genuinely smiles at him. "Make her happy. Make you happy. I want that for you."

He nods his head and places his hand over hers as their eyes meet.

"We want that for you, too," he says softly. She just nods her head as another tear falls down her cheek.

She knows her friends just have her best interest at heart, even when their good intentions fail.

She and Julian finish their drinks in silence.

Big things are happening. Her best friend is going to get married - there's no way Brooke will say no - and Peyton's moving on from Lucas.

Maybe she is. Maybe she's just realizing that she never will.

| Two wrongs make it all alright tonight
Two wrongs make it all alright tonight |

Lucas barely sleeps that night.

He wants to talk to Peyton.

He hates that he missed her when she came to see him, and he hates that she saw him with Lindsey.

And he hates that he's started to doubt his relationship with a perfectly wonderful girl, just because his ex apparently paid him a visit. But, if he's being perfectly honest, that doubt was already there, and now he just has a legitimate explanation for it.

It's insane! He doesn't even know what she wanted. Maybe she came for that old Dashboard Confessional shirt she left. Maybe she realized she left her copy of Casablanca in the DVD player, and just wanted to get it back.

He knows it's wrong - especially since she'd told him she'd call - but when Lindsey calls just an hour after Brooke has left, he ignores the shrill sound of his phone. He doesn't check the voicemail she leaves.

Maybe it makes him a complete jerk, but he doesn't really care about what she has to say anyway.

He falls asleep with that old movie playing in the background and tears in his eyes over a girl he stubbornly - and stupidly - has spent almost a year trying to avoid thoughts of.

He dreams of Casablanca again - or something like it. But he's not Rick, and she's not Ilsa. He won't force her to leave, and she won't let him.

He wakes in a cold sweat and realizes that that's the way their story should go. His and Peyton's.

He's an idiot for ever letting her leave.

| "All you need is love" is a lie 'cause
We had a love but we still said goodbye
Now we're tired, battered fighters |

Lindsey isn't thrilled when Lucas tells her he doesn't want to be with her anymore.

He realizes that the way he tells her isn't exactly delicate. He says those exact words, and she tears up and asks where it's all coming from.

But he wonders how naive she is. They'd been together for months, and he never even ventured close to telling her he loved her.

He doesn't need to say Peyton's name for Lindsey to understand that it is about her. When she bitterly accuses him of leading her on, and she spits out Peyton's name with far too much resentment, seeing as the blonde is an innocent party, he sets his jaw and tells her not to talk about Peyton that way.

It's just another moment of many that reminds him that he'll always love that girl.

Lindsey says that she'll assign a new editor to him after the launch of his book, and that she'll only talk to him when necessary until that point.

It takes him three weeks, and a lot of encouragement from Haley, to call Peyton and invite her to the party for his book launch. No one else can make it. Julian is taking Brooke away for the weekend to propose, Nathan's got an away game, and Haley's working and taking care of her son. His mother and sister are traveling with Andy.

If he's being completely honest, all that doesn't bother him.

The thought of Peyton not being there makes him physically ill. He owes it all to her, and he has to thank her.

And he just wants to see her.

He dials her number, but pauses on the last digit. It's hard to hit that last 5. What if she answers? What if she doesn't answer? What the hell is he going to say after so much time? Is he crazy to call her? Maybe he should email. Maybe he should just send her a printed invite, like had sent to everyone else. Maybe he shouldn't have waited until a week before the actual event. Maybe she has plans.

Maybe he should just man up and talk to the girl he loves.

He hits that number 5 with his thumb, and holds his breath as he listens to the irritating ring.

Voicemail. He's almost relieved.

"Peyton. Hi. It's Lucas. I um...I hope things are OK with you. Well, I hope things are great with you. I just...wanted to call and...Well, I wanted to hear your voice." He pauses. He can't believe he just said it. It's true, though. "My book is being launched on Friday. This Friday. I...It'd mean a lot if you would come. If you can. If you want to, I mean. It's at 49 Grove. This trendy place I'm sure you'll hate. But...I'd really love it if you came. I'll um...Maybe I'll see you there."

He's sure he sounded like an absolute fool in that message.

But it's OK, he thinks. He is an absolute fool, and he wants her to know that he's not to proud to make an ass of himself just so he can see her.

Peyton listens to the message when she gets home from dinner with a friend, and she gasps when she hears his voice. She actually sucks in a breath in shock and amazement and...fear, for some reason. He sounds sincere. He sounds like he genuinely wants her there.

She's decided to go before the message is even over.

But she still listens to that message at least a half a dozen times.

She buys a new dress. It's black and satin and tasteful, but it shows off her legs, and she thinks it's just sexy enough to show him what it's missing, but totally appropriate given the event she's going to. He's got a girlfriend, and she shouldn't even go to this party, but she wants to see him.

She wants to let him know how proud she is of him.

Who says she can't look good doing it?

She doesn't tell anyone she's going. Brooke's away, Haley's busy, and she knows they'd all just get their hopes up, and then she'd get her hopes up, and she really doesn't know what to expect from it anyway.

She has to admit, her hopes are already up, and she hates that.

| And it stings when it nobody's fault cause there's
Nothing to blame at the drop of your name
It's only the air you took and the breath you left |

She gets home from work on Friday, and she gets ready as calmly as she can. She slips into that dress, and into a pair of black heels. She does her makeup, and she listens to soothing jazz to calm her nerves.

It's kind of futile. Her hands are shaking, and her breathing is erratic, and she really wishes she had a friend coming with her. She wishes she had Brooke, or Haley, or Nathan, or even Julian to stand next to her and tell her it would all be OK no matter what, and that Lucas is just a boy.

It'd be a lie, but it'd be nice to hear.

She steps out of the cab and onto the sidewalk, and she's so close to getting back in that car, it's not even funny. She has no idea what she's doing. The guy has a girlfriend, for crying out loud!

But she finds herself needing to see him. She needs to. She needs to see him, and hear his laugh, and...

She still needs him, and she hates herself for it.

She walks into the lounge, and an attendant takes her jacket for her, and she smiles weakly. She wonders if everyone can see how nervous she is.

She takes a deep breath and walks to the bar, getting a drink before she looks around the room, admittedly searching for that set of blue eyes she knows so well.

He actually chokes on his drink when he sees her. The rest of the room fades away, and all he sees is her in that amazing dress, with her hair half-up, and her green eyes searching the room.

He feels a shiver run down his spine when they land on him.

She gives him a lopsided smile from 50 feet away, and waves subtly, and he excuses himself from the conversation he really should have been paying attention to. If he's being honest, he really doesn't give a damn about anyone else in the room, and if that means he never publishes another word, then so be it.

He's walking towards her, and her heart races. He looks amazing in his black suit, black shirt and striped tie.

They match. She almost cries.

"Peyton," he says softly. He clears his throat before trying to speak again. "I didn't think...I'm so glad you came."

"I hate this place," she says, and he laughs.

Of all the things she thought she might say when she saw him, she didn't think it'd be an insult to the party being thrown in his honour. But that laugh makes her blood run a little warmer.

"Me too."

"This is...Congratulations," she manages, and he lets out a slow breath and smiles at her. "I'm really proud of you."

"I owe this all to you, Peyton," he says sincerely, looking to the glass in his hands. "So thank you."

"Well, if you want to cut me a royalty cheque, I won't complain," she jokes. He laughs again, and she wants to take him home with her.

"Do you want to sit?" he asks, gesturing to a V.I.P area that's set up. There's a vacant sofa there, and he just wants to sit with her and be near her. He can't really leave his own party and be with her the way he wants to be.

She nods her head and he gestures for her to walk ahead of him. He unabashedly stares at her as she walks. She's even sexier than he remembers, and he's not even sure how that's possible.

They sit in silence for a few minutes. They each sip their drinks and try to think of things to say that are neutral enough for the situation.

She turns her body towards his a little bit, and her knee brushes against his. She smiles coyly as she moves away so they aren't touching, and she tucks her hair behind her ear. Every single little thing she does is absolutely captivating.

"Um...How are you?" he asks. He knows that in asking this question, he runs the risk of hearing that she's with someone new, but when he asked his brother recently, Nathan insisted that she isn't.

"I've been good," she answers honestly. "Work's really busy. I'm curator at the gallery now."

"Peyton, that's amazing!"

"OK, don't say things like that when you're the published author," she teases, and he rolls his eyes.

"I wouldn't be published if not for you," he reminds her with a raised brow. She blushes. He loves that she does.

They're quiet again until he looks at her and their eyes lock. The expression on his face tells her that he's about to say something heavy. It's all she's wanted for a week - OK, almost a year - but now that it's about to happen, she doesn't know what to think. He's with someone, and she thinks she saw that girl at this very party, and yet he's sitting there with her and looking at her like he's about to tell her he loves her.

"I miss you," he admits simply. His hand brushes hers, and he tries to take it in his, but she pulls away from him.

She wants those three words to make everything OK. She wants those three words to lead to three other words.

But they don't make everything OK, and she doesn't think they'll lead to anything, no matter how sincerely he says them.

"Luke, I can't...I can't do this," she whispers, pulling away from him and wiping a tear she didn't realize until that moment had fallen.

"Can't do what?" he asks softly. That tear is breaking his damn heart.

"This - with you - and then go back to...to what we've been like," she says. She stands from her place, and he follows, shaking his head in confusion. "I can't do this when you've got a girlfriend. You're with someone new, and I'm...not, and...I can't."


"Goodbye," she says, kissing his cheek before she turns on her heel.

She disappears into the crowd so fast that he doesn't get a chance to tell her that he broke up with Lindsey.

And he needs to sit down when he realizes she just said the one word she didn't say when they actually broke up.


He rushes outside, but she's nowhere in sight, and he curses out loud and pounds his fist against the valet stand outside the bar.

He keeps letting her walk away from him, and he's the stupidest man in the world for it.

He tries calling her, but she doesn't answer, and he refuses to leave what he needs to say to her on her voicemail. The third time he calls, she's got her phone turned off.

He leaves his own party without word to anyone, and he really doesn't care. He calls Haley and demands that she give him Peyton's address. She wants to know what's going on, but he can't focus long enough to tell her, and he simply says he'll call her later.

He flags down the first cab he sees and rushes to the address he's got written on the palm of his hand, and the doorman won't let him in. It's New York, and that shouldn't bother him, because it's completely natural, but he's pissed off.

Mostly at himself.

She's lived here for he doesn't know how long, and he's never been to see her.

The doorman buzzes her apartment, but there's no answer, and he wonders if maybe she's not home.

He sits on the curb outside her place for close to an hour. 52 minutes. 52 fucking minutes, he thinks. That memory wasn't one he needed to recall at that moment; that day in the park when she told him she needed him. He'd love for her to need him again.

It gets cold, and he really doesn't want to leave, but when he checks his watch and sees that it's almost 11:30, he's sure that she's either inside and just not answering, or she's out for the evening and not coming back.

He doesn't know which of those things is worse.

He's walking back to his place - all 25 blocks, just because he needs to clear his head - and it starts to snow. It's early for the first snowfall of the year, and he's sure the universe is just trying to torture him.

His mind wanders to that day - the last first snow - and how she'd asked him about always.

There's a tear in his eye when he realizes for the umpteenth time that he broke his promise.

| So maybe I'll sleep inside my coat and
Wait on your porch 'til you come back home
Oh, right
I can't find a flight |

He doesn't sleep that night. Not a wink.

He lays on his sofa with the fireplace burning and a few of Peyton's favourite songs playing over and over again, and he tries to work out a plan. The only think that he keeps coming back to is that he needs to talk to her.

That isn't much of a plan.

The only person he knows who'd have a great idea and a way to get Peyton to listen is in Banff or...somewhere...accepting a proposal from the man she loves. He smiles, despite hating that he can't just call Brooke. She's happy. She deserves that.

He thinks that he does, too.

He pulls on a pair of jeans and a sweater just after the sun comes up, and he starts walking. He grabs a coffee at the little shop he loves - the one Peyton used to love, too - just down the street from his place, and he stops in a few stores along the way between his apartment and hers. He's trying to buy time, but he has no idea why.

He buys lilies at a little stand a couple blocks from her place.

He's going to sit there until she comes home, or until she leaves. Until he sees her. He figures she has to come out at some point, and when she does, he'll be there. He won't let her avoid him.

He gets the feeling that maybe she doesn't really want to avoid him, she just thinks she should.

That may be wishful thinking.

There's a different doorman working than the night before, and Lucas smiles, hoping this man will be more cooperative.

He agrees to call up to her apartment - 707, Lucas overhears - and the doorman, Mason, tells her that someone is there to see her. He asks Lucas' name, and Lucas gives it, not knowing whether or not that will help him. She might not want to see him. It hurts to even think it, but it's a very real possibility. He doesn't think he could blame her if that were the case.

Mason hangs up and tells Lucas to go ahead up. Seventh floor, take a right, on the left hand side. He repeats those directions in his head like a mantra.

Longest. Elevator. Ride. Ever.

He thought he was stuck. He really did. Then he realized he was just impatient and anxious, and he stopped pressing the button for her floor every two seconds.

Something about Peyton Sawyer always made him act a fool.

He leans back against the wall across from her door for a moment before he can get his hands to stop shaking. Why is he so damn nervous?

He knocks on the door far softer than he intends to. She's expecting him, and he's afraid she'll slam the door on his face. She won't, he knows. If she didn't want to see him, she would have told the doorman.

She pulls open the door, and she's wearing just a pair of grey sweatpants and a red Cavaliers tee shirt with Nathan's number on the back. He smiles at her, and she smiles at him.

"Come in," she says, stepping aside.

"I...saw these," he says, holding up the little bundle of lilies. "I thought of you."

"You weren't thinking of me when you were on the way to my place at 7:30 in the morning?" she teases.

He loves that she can still joke with him. He has no idea how that's possible.

"Actually, everything I saw this morning reminded me of you," he admits. She tilts her head and a short sigh escapes her lips. But he won't apologize for saying it, and the little smile on her lips tells him that maybe he doesn't need to.

"Thank you," she says, taking the flowers from him and reaching for a vase.

"This place is...amazing." He takes a look around at the furniture and the art on the walls. It feels like her, only somehow more mature than he remembers her being. Then, he thinks, it's been nearly a year.

"It's Brooke's," she tells him, arranging the flowers and setting them on the counter that separates the kitchen and the living room. "I mean, she owns it, and I just stay here."

"I knew she had a place in the city," he explains. He should have known Peyton would live there. Now he knows why he's never been invited to Brooke's place when she's in town.

He hates this small talk. They don't need it. They never did.

"So last night..."

"I'm not with anyone."

They speak at the same time, and he doesn't miss the way she closes her eyes for just a moment, probably in relief. Well, he hopes in relief.

"Sorry," he says nervously. She moves around to the living room and gestures for him to sit on the sofa. She sits in the chair, keeping her distance, and he's not sure if that's good or bad. He wants to be close to her, but he doesn't trust himself not to just reach out and grab her.

"You're not?"

"No," he says softly. "You left before I could explain."

"I'm sorry. I feel like...a total girl," she says, shaking her head. "I totally freaked out, and...I feel stupid."

"Don't," he insists. "I was just glad you showed up at all."

"I still...This is hard," she says, and he can only nod.

"I know." He rests his elbows on his knees and bows his head. "I don't want us to go back to what it's been like either."

"You were with someone else," she says.

"I'm not now," he says needlessly. "And...I really do miss you. I..."

"Lucas, you were with someone else," she repeats. The tone of her voice lets him know that she thinks that's reason enough for her to not even speak to him.

"That's over," he insists, shaking his head.

"But it happened," she says. "Luke, you were with someone for...God, months. And I went on two dates because Brooke forced me to."

"Peyton, I..."

"You tried to move on, and I couldn't, and it...really feels a lot like when we were younger," she says. Somehow, she's managed not to cry. "You always..."

"No," he cuts her off. "This isn't like that. Because I'm not trying to move on either."

"But you did," she points out, shaking her head. She doesn't know why he doesn't understand.

"And I ended it because I couldn't...I can't love anyone but you," he tells her.

She believes him.

Her heart races, and there's a lump in her throat, and it's really hard not to rush over to where he's sitting and just kiss him and tell him that she loves him, too. She wants them to work it out, but it can't all be this easy. It can't be.

Her phone rings on the counter in the kitchen, and she jumps up to get it.

"Hey, Brooke...Yeah? How's Banff?...Well, snow happens when you vacation in the Rockies...What? He did?...Brooke, that's amazing! Congratulations...Yeah, I totally knew...He told you that?...Yeah, it was really cute...Yeah, of course...Call whoever you need to call...I love you, too, Brooke."

"She said yes," Lucas says with a smile.

He's jealous.

He wants them to be the ones excitedly calling people and talking about their engagement.

"Yeah," she says, wiping a tear from her eye. "He asked my permission."

"Really?" he chuckles, standing and walking towards her. "That makes sense. You're her family."

She starts crying a little harder, and she nods her head, and he wastes no time pulling her into his arms. He can't let her cry and not do anything, and he doesn't care about all the things she said before that call came. He's kind of glad Brooke called when she did. He should have known that somehow, Brooke Davis would help him out with all this, even if she had no idea.

She settles against his chest and she lets herself cry against him. She loves that he understands how close she and Brooke are. She loves that he knows when she need him to wrap his arms around her.

She wishes she could have this every day.

"Oh God," she says, pulling away and wiping her eyes. "You have to go."

"What?" he asks in confusion. He can't help himself, and he brushes the tears from her cheeks.

"I'm leaving for Chicago for work. I have to be at the airport in a few hours," she explains.

"Oh. OK," he says with a nod, moving away from her a little more. "I guess I should be happy that you even agreed to talk to me."

She smiles and rolls her eyes, and he lets out a breathy laugh.

"I'm sorry again about last night," she says.

"Don't apologize. It's really OK. I would have...if you were with..." His voice trails because he can't even think the words, let alone say them. "What happens now?"

"I don't know," she answers, shrugging her shoulders.

"Can we...keep in touch, at least?" he asks quietly.

"Maybe," she says, smiling weakly.

He knows what that means. That means that she's not going to be the one contacting him, and if he wants to contact her, he should do it after a week or two, and by a neutral means. An email or a text message. That's not enough for him, but it's better than how things have been.

"OK," he says. "I'll get out of your way. Have a safe trip."

"Thanks." He leans over and presses a lingering kiss to her forehead, and his hand trails lightly from her upper arm to the tips of her fingers until he lets her go.

He's walking to the door and he doesn't see the shiver his touch sends down her spine.

She can't let him leave without saying it.

"Luke," she calls out, and he turns to her, "I miss you, too."

He smiles and lets out a breath of absolute, undisguised relief, and he winks at her before he walks out the door.

She doesn't stop smiling the rest of the day.

She thinks it might not matter that he tried to move on.

It seems he's coming back to her.

| So I'll check the weather wherever you are
Cause I wanna know if you can see the stars tonight
It might be my only right |

Somewhere amid running a multimilion dollar company, Brooke Davis manages to plan a wedding in a month. One month, and she finalizes all the details of the affair. It's taking place at a small winery in the Sonoma Valley, and only her closest friends, and Julian's closest friends and family are invited.

It's all kind of perfect.

Peyton is well aware that Lucas will be there. She'd found out that he'd been asking about her often, wondering how she was and if she might want to see him. Nathan is the one to bring up that information. She pretends she doesn't care. They all know she does. She smiles secretly on the other end of the line when Nathan says that Lucas was asking how her trip to Chicago went.

He doesn't get in touch with her. She didn't exactly expect him to.

Their friends have heard about the party and what happened there, and while they can sort of understand Peyton's position, they really don't understand why she hasn't talked to Lucas.

They don't know about the day after, when Lucas showed up at her apartment and they had an actual conversation.

He thought of calling her or sending an email, but he couldn't bring himself to do it. Anything he thought to say seemed stupid and trivial, and he wouldn't call her just to hear her voice. That doesn't mean he didn't want to. He stopped by the gallery once, but she was in meetings across town all day.

He's been very impatiently waiting for this wedding, since he knows she won't be able to avoid him through four days of pre- and post-wedding activities. There's a cocktail party, then the rehearsal dinner. There's the actual wedding itself, and the brunch the following day.

Brooke has teased him, telling him he's more excited for her wedding than she is.

He first sees Peyton in the lobby of the hotel, but she's mid-conversation with her best friend, and he knows better than to interrupt. Brooke might be understanding, but she's getting married in two days, and there's no way she'll be her normal self until it's all over.

"He was just staring," Brooke states as the elevator they just entered starts to move.

"Who?" Peyton laughs.

"Your boyfriend."

"Brooke, what are you talking about?" Peyton asks, shaking her head.

"Lucas!" Brooke cries, stomping her foot. "You are so slow. He's the only boyfriend you've ever had."

"That's not true!"

"Might as well be. He should have been," Brooke states. Peyton tries to open her mouth to speak, but Brooke starts talking quickly. "No arguing with the bride!"

"Really?" Peyton asks incredulously. "You're going to do that?"

"It's my week."

"Day," Peyton corrects.

"Whatever," Brooke says, waving her hand in the air as they step onto their floor and start walking towards Peyton's hotel room. "You want to give me an honest answer as to why you haven't talked to him yet?"

"I was..."

"No lying to the bride, either," Brooke says seriously.

"He just got out of a relationship," Peyton says, unlocking the door and throwing her purse onto her bed.

"Two months ago!" Brooke states. "And anyway, he was only using her to try to avoid his feelings for you."

"Sounds familiar," the blonde mumbles, before realizing who she's talking to. "I'm sorry. No insulting the bride's past relationships."

"Oh, please," Brooke scoffs. "I actually said basically the same thing."

Peyton catches sight of Brooke's wedding dress as it hangs in her closet - it's in Peyton's room so Julian doesn't see it - and she has an incredibly vivid vision of herself in a white dress, walking down the aisle.

It's no surprise who she's walking towards.

"Come on," Brooke says. "Put on that green dress and get ready for this 'engagement party'. If nothing else, it's an excuse for you and Lucas to get drunk and have slutty wedding sex."


"What!?" Brooke asks innocently as she walks towards the door. "Julian and I are doing the Naley-inspired no-sex-before-the-wedding thing. Someone might as well have slutty wedding sex."

"And how much do you hate Haley for suggesting that little trick?" Peyton asks, just as Brooke places her hand on the doorknob.

"I've seriously though of uninviting her," Brooke says, and both women laugh. "I'll see you down there. Look pretty. Don't pout!"

She's out the door before Peyton can say she's not pouting.

She does as she's told, and she puts on that green dress - one of the few custom pieces that Brooke gave her for this weekend's events - and she does her makeup. She takes a deep breath before she leaves her room, and she just hopes she can get through this night.

She feels him next to her as she's walking the short distance from the hotel to the restaurant on the winery grounds. She can smell his cologne, and she fan literally feel his presence. It puts goosebumps on her arms.

"Aren't you cold?" he asks. She's in just a dress with thin straps, and it's not exactly warm out.

"We're almost there," she says.

His heart stops when she refers to them as a 'we'.


"What?" she asks. She notices he's stopped walking, so she stops and looks at him questioningly.

"There are a lot of stars out here," he says softly.

She looks up, and he looks at her, and he takes in the sight of her neck and collarbone as her face is pointed skyward. He can see the spot on her neck that always made her whisper his name, and he can almost feel her smooth skin on his fingertips from memory alone.

"You look beautiful," he states, seemingly out of nowhere.

She closes her eyes and pretends that she doesn't feel shivers down to her toes, and she smiles at him coyly.

"Thank you."

She starts walking again, and he follows behind her, and they both tense when they see a shooting star. He lets out a breath, and she smiles, though her back is to him.

"Make a wish," she says, turning her head slightly, looking at him over her shoulder.

He wishes for her.

| We share the sadness
(two wrongs make it all alright tonight)
Split screen sadness
(two wrongs make it all alright tonight) |

The night of the rehearsal dinner, Julian's best man flies in from Toronto, where he's been filming a movie.

And he's cute.

Peyton steals a glance at him, and she, for a split second, wishes that there was no Lucas. She could flirt with this boy and play and have fun without worrying that she'd give Lucas the wrong impression. She doesn't want him to think she wants to move on, though clearly, he already did. She doesn't even want to flirt. Not really. She just thinks that if there were no Lucas, it might be kind of fun. His efforts now - though he hasn't made many - might be too little, too late.

Even as she's thinking that, she knows it's a lie.

"OK, Brandon?" Brooke says softly, sidling up next to Peyton before she 'walks down the aisle' to 'practice' for the real thing. Both Brooke and Peyton know that the brunette has been 'practicing' walking down the aisle, using daisies as a bouquet, since she was nine years old.

"What about him?" Peyton asks. Her eyes fall on the tall, dark, definitely handsome man standing next to Julian. She knows what Brooke is saying.

"He's cute!"

"Yesterday, you were telling me to strip down in front of Lucas," Peyton says with a laugh.

"Where are you on that, anyway?" Brooke asks, kinking her brow.

"Stop it."

"I'm just saying. If you wanted to, oh, I don't know, make someone at this wedding jealous, Brandon would be the boy to help you do it," Brooke says.

The music starts, and Brooke pushes Peyton down the aisle before she can argue or say another word.

"Who's that?" Brandon asks Julian.

"Seriously? It's my rehearsal dinner and you're trying to get me to play wingman?" Julian whispers.

"Just asking!"

"Peyton," Julian says. "Brooke's best friend. Off limits."

"What? Why?" Brandon asks quickly.

"Because she's in love with the blonde guy in the second row," Julian states with confidence.

"They're together?"

"Well...no, but it's..." Julian tries, before he's cut off.

"No is no. No boyfriend, fair game," Brandon states, smiling at Peyton as she stands across from Julian.

Julian looks at Lucas just in time to notice that the blonde caught sight of that smile between Brandon and Peyton. He doesn't think this is going to end well. At all.

She's flirting. Maybe. She kind of doesn't remember how to flirt with anyone other than Lucas. It's after dinner, and she's had a couple glasses of wine, and Brandon is a funny guy. He's nice, and while she hasn't been ignoring everyone else all evening, she thinks it's nice to talk to someone who isn't trying so hard to get she and Lucas back together.

But even she thinks that they will.

She suddenly doesn't know why she's talking to someone else when the man she wants to talk to is standing across the room.

Or walking towards her.

"Peyton," Lucas says softly, his eyes boring into hers. "Can I talk to you for a minute?"

She nods her head at him and doesn't give Brandon a second look. She sees Julian smiling in the corner, and he winks at her, and she rolls her eyes. Her friends are giving her more mixed signals than she thought possible.

Lucas drapes his jacket over her bare shoulders as they step outside, and her heart flutters in her chest. He's such a gentleman. He takes care of her, even when she gives him reason not to.

Maybe that's true love.

"What's up?" she asks nonchalantly as they lean against a wood railing on their elbows, facing and look at each other.

"I just figured I had to steal you away from that guy to actually have a conversation with you," he says quietly, disappointment and maybe a little hurt in his tone.


"Sorry," he says, shaking his head. "I'm sorry. I...that wasn't necessary."

"It's OK," she says. She tries to find more words to say, but she can't, so she says nothing.

"Lindsey...It wasn't serious," he states abruptly. "I mean, it was, kind of, but it was...stupid, and...I didn't...It wasn't right."


She understands what he's saying. He's telling her, without telling her, that she's not going to be happy with someone else, and she should just not bother trying. He wants her to learn from his experience and not put herself - or, selfishly, him - through it. They're meant for each other, not anyone else. It doesn't take much to convince her of that - in fact, she'd pretty much already known it.

She also kind of loves that little bit of a jealous streak in him.

"OK?" he asks doubtfully. "That's it?"

"What do you want me to say, Lucas?" she asks quietly. "I'm...this is all really weird. My best friend is getting married, and I, well, we both always thought that I'd get married first." She closes her eyes for a moment when she realizes what she's just said. She kind of doesn't care. She can be honest with Lucas. She's always been able to be honest with him. "And you look...amazing, and I'm trying really hard to keep it together right now."

She thinks he looks amazing. He smiles and looks to the ground bashfully. He feels like a teenager again.

"I...God, Peyton, I really..."

"What?" she asks when his voice trails.

"I really want to kiss you," he admits. He reaches out, and his fingertips dance over the knuckles of her right hand.

"What's stopping you?" She's looking at their hands, and her heart is racing. When he looks up at her, he sees that her face is flushed. Her voice is quiet and coy.

He deduces that she wants him to kiss her.

He leans forward, and with a hand on her hip, he presses his lips to hers for the first time in far too long. His heart feels so full that it might stop in his chest, and when she weaves her fingers through his, he pulls away from her. He feels like he might cry. He really does.

"Don't say anything," she whispers, her eyes still closed.

That kiss felt every bit as good as it always did.

He kisses her again and pulls her a little closer, and she moans when his tongue collides with hers. His thumb moves over her hip like it always used to, and she's almost ready steal him away from this party. But they can't. She can't.

She moves away from him all too quickly, and her hand moves from where it was clutching the collar of his shirt, to brush her fingers over her reddened lips.

"We can't...Lucas, this is..." she says, struggling with her words.

"What?" he asks, resting his forehead against hers. He's afraid that she's going to say there's no chance of them ever getting back together.

"This...whatever it is," she says, letting him tuck her hair behind her ear. "This needs to be slow."

"OK." He kisses her forehead and lets her out of his grip. "I'm OK with slow. I can take slow."

"I'm not...making any promises," she says softly.

She wants to make promises. She wants to tell him that she'll be with him, and she'll move back in, and they'll pick up where they left off. She wants to tell him that someday, their friends will gather for their wedding, and they'll be the happy couple that everyone toasts to.

But she doesn't want to lose him again, and making promises just means that she could.

Slow is easier.

"I understand," he insists. He doesn't, really, but he'll say he does if it means he has anything with her.

He'll take anything with her.

"And I don't want them to know," she adds, pointing to the room where their friends are.

He knows why. They'll make a big deal out of everything, and if the two of them aren't making promises, they certainly don't want to deal with that.

He nods his head, and she kisses his cheek. She shrugs off his jacket and hands it back to him, and she slips back into the room where their friends are.

He stands alone for a few minutes, trying to think of ways to hide his smile so he's not completely transparent.

Peyton sits down next to Julian, and they both laugh as Brooke's jaw drops at something Nathan has said, and she swats his arm.

"Your lipstick's smudged," Julian states before taking a sip of his wine.

"Shut up," Peyton hisses, grabbing a knife to use as a mirror. "It isn't!"

"I know," Julian says, a smug grin on his lips. "But you just went outside with Lucas, and that was the only way I could think of to get you to admit you were kissing."

"Don't say anything," she insists sharply. "I'm serious. Not a word."

"I won't," he says. She can tell he's not lying, but she needs to make sure.

"Promise me on your marriage with my best friend," she challenges, smirking as she raises an eyebrow at him. She holds out her pinky finger, and he laughs and wraps his pinky around hers.

"I promise." She nods her head and takes a deep breath, and reaches for the bottle of white on the table to pour herself a glass. "But if you have slutty wedding sex, please tell Brooke, because she's really hoping someone will."

She almost drops the bottle on the floor.

| I called because
I just need to feel you on the line
Don't hang up this time |

The ceremony is flawless. Peyton, Haley and Brooke cry before the wedding even happens, and Nathan just laughs when he steps into the dressing room to tell them it's almost time.

He's giving Brooke away.

He kisses his wife before she goes out to take her seat with Lucas and Jamie. Nathan hugs Peyton, and the three of them walk to where they need to wait for that music to start.

Peyton catches Lucas' eye as she follows the newlywed couple down the aisle after the vows are said. She's got her arm looped through Brandon's, but it's almost as though he isn't there. All she sees is the blonde man, standing and clapping his hands in his black suit and blue tie. Her dress is navy, and they match again. Her heart melts when he winks at her. She takes a deep breath and keeps walking, but she swears she can feel his eyes on her.

"Hi." His voice is husky as he walks up behind her at the bar. "Scotch, neat," he tells the bartender. She doesn't turn to him, but he can see that her cheeks are pink. "You look...so incredible."

She turns to him and flashes just a hint of a smile as she picks up her martini. She bats her lashes and locks eyes with him, and he's taking a deep breath.

"Thank you."

She walks away and goes back to the table with the newlyweds, and he realizes that this 'taking it slow' thing is just going to always leave him wanting more.

Brooke has asked Lucas and Haley to give speeches, since they're more inclined with words than either Peyton or Brandon. Peyton wasn't offended by that, and Brandon didn't seem to care.

Haley gives a moving - and hilarious - speech about Brooke as a friend and as part of a relationship. She gets serious and says that she can tell they have a love like she's only seen a few times before. She looks between Lucas and Peyton, and it's no secret she's referring to them, too.

As soon as Lucas stands up at his table, Peyton feels her heart start beating a little faster. She takes a sip of water, but it does nothing. Brooke kicks her beneath the table, and the blonde glares at her.

"No getting mad at the bride," Brooke whispers quickly. Peyton shakes her head and somehow keeps herself from laughing.

"I've known Brooke a long time," Lucas starts, smiling fondly. "She has been an...amazing friend. Not only to myself, but to my best friend, and to her best friend, the beautiful woman sitting to her right, and to just about anyone else who's spent any amount of time with her."

Peyton's blushing fiercely, and Brooke can hardly believe he's just said that about Peyton in his speech. She's not upset, she's thrilled. She squeezes Peyton's hand on the table, and they both smile.

"The one thing that only a few people ever really get to see, is that Brooke Davis has an amazing heart. She's generous and kind, and she'll cry any time she sees someone else crying." The crowd laughs, and Brooke already has tears in her eyes. "And then a funny thing happened. She met Julian. And that tendency she had to hide herself and her emotions was gone. She fell in love for, really, the first time. And from what we've seen today, we can all attest that it'll be the last time.

"To the happy couple," he says, raising his glass. "Be good to each other. And Julian, if you're not good to her, you have three Scott men to answer to." Peyton looks over at Nathan and Jamie, both beaming with pride. Everyone in the room knows that threat will never need to be carried out. "To a lifetime of happiness, love, and friendship."

Both Peyton and Brooke wipe tears from their eyes, and they hug when they notice they're both crying. Julian just shakes his head and rubs Brooke's back, his hand skimming over the material of her white dress.

It's 20 minutes later when Peyton sees Lucas walk back to the bar. She downs her drink quickly and walks over to him, gliding seamlessly up behind him and leaning forward to whisper in his hear. He feels her brush against him, and he's absolutely lost.

"Come with me."

There's a shiver traveling down his spine, and he watches her walk to a side door and exit the room. He tries - in futility - to regain his composure and waits a moment to follow her.

He steps outside, and she tugs his arm so he's standing right in front of her as she leans against the building.

"Hi," he says in amusement as one hand falls to her hip and the other braces him against the building, his arm just over her shoulder.

"Shut up," she says. She knows the tone he just used, and she knows he's teasing her. "Kiss me."

"Peyton," he sighs. She's begging him to do something he's wanted to do...Well, something he never wanted to stop doing.

He shakes his head, and her hand grasps his tie, and he doesn't care that everyone will know that they're missing, or that they're together, or that they're probably missing the cutting of the cake. None of that matters at all in comparison to this moment, just the two of them, coming back together.

At least he hopes that's what this moment is.

"Luke," she pleads when he takes too long.

It's not a split second before his lips are on hers. She mewls against his lips, and his hand moves to cradle her head and tangle in her perfect curls. She bends her knee and it brushes against the inside of his thigh, and he lets out a throaty moan. He feels her smile against his lips.

He's missed this entirely too much.

Her hands clutch his back as he parts her lips with his tongue, and she really doesn't care that she said she wanted to take things slow. They've never done slow. When they wanted to get together, they got together. There was no time in between where they talked about things. They went from nothing to everything.

And she wants everything.

Her hand finds the buckle of his belt, and he pulls away from her immediately. Sure, he'd known where this was going - well, he had hopes - but he'd thought they'd carry it on someplace else.

"Peyton, we're outside," he manages as she loosens his tie and kisses his neck.


"God, you're..." His words die on his tongue when she pulls him closer to her, and he groans when his hips align with hers. "You're killing me."

"I need you, Lucas," she breathes out as his hand finds the side of her neck. "Right now."

"Here?" he asks, with her slender fingers working the buttons of his shirt. "What happened to slow?"

"You called me beautiful," she says softly, pulling away from him and looking into his eyes. "To a roomful of people. You brought me lilies, and you came to the gallery." He blushes. He didn't know she knew that. "You...you still love me."

He rests his forehead against hers and closes his eyes. He smiles and lets out a breath, and he laughs when she pecks his lips quickly.

"Always," he says simply.

She nods, and there are tears in her eyes, and he knows that she still loves him, too, even if she can't say the words.

| And I know it was me who called it over but
I still wish you'd fought me 'til your dying day
Don't let me get away |

"I'm sorry," she says.


"I left," she states, as though it should have been obvious what she was talking about.

"I didn't make you stay," he tells her.

They're sharing the blame for everything that happened. They've had close to a year to gain perspective, and while neither wanted it to take that long, they're figuring it all out now. They forgive each other, and they can forgive themselves, and they can somehow cross that bridge and be together again.

"Don't let me go again," she says. Her tone is the slightest bit playful, and she's smiling. When he grips her hips a little tighter, she lets out a quick breath.

"You're not going anywhere," he says, just above a whisper, before he kisses her again.

He pulls away and takes a quick look around, and he takes her hand and leads her to a more secluded spot. He no longer worries that they're outside. There's no one else around, and this darkened little corner - the juncture of two walls of the building - is perfect for them right now.

He presses her against the wall again as he kisses her, and her leg wraps around his waist. He has to pull away and drop his head to her shoulder as he lets out a moan.

"Lucas," she says breathlessly when his ear is right next to her lips. "I love you."

Something changes when she says those words. It's happened once before. Maybe twice before. Either way, it happens, and he notices it, and the look in her eyes lets him know that she notices it, too.

They walk back into the reception a half hour later with flushed faces. Peyton's hair is, thankfully, still in curls, though Brooke - with her keen eye - can see that it's not quite the same as it was earlier. Lucas is straightening his tie, and there's a wrinkle in his jacket.

Brooke and Haley, who've been talking, share a look, then look back to their best friends. There's no questioning what just happened.

Peyton walks over to the girls while Lucas grabs another scotch from the bar and moves over to where Julian and Nathan are talking.

"You totally just had slutty wedding sex," Brooke states with a smile.

"Brooke!" Peyton cries.

"Admit it," Brooke scoffs. "You're all red in the face, he's all out of sorts. You totally did it."

"You're back together," Haley says, as though it's just that obvious.

"Oh my God! You two are the biggest gossips in the world!" Peyton says, reaching for a glass of Champagne.

"That wasn't a no," Haley points out. She turns to Brooke. "Did you hear a no?"

"And look. Nathan's bumping Lucas' fist in that stupid boy way," Brooke states, gesturing towards the men.

"I'm...I can't..." Peyton stutters. "Why is he coming over here?"

Brooke and Haley laugh as they watch Lucas cross the room and extend his hand to the blonde.

"Dance with me."

"You're such a geek," she says with a smile. He winks at her, then smiles at Brooke and Haley, and leads his girl to the dance floor.

His girl. God, that sounds good.

"They all totally know," he says with a chuckle as he watches Nathan and Haley, and Brooke and Julian take to the floor, whispering about the latest development.

"You weren't exactly subtle," she points out. "It's a wedding reception, Luke, not a locker room."

"Maybe if you weren't glowing..."

"You made me glow," she reminds him. He smirks roguishly, and she can hardly control herself. All she wants is more of him. That damn smirk makes her weak in the knees, especially after not seeing it for so long.

"Yeah, I did," he mutters, pulling her closer.

"It shouldn't be this easy," she says as his lips find the shell of her ear.

"You didn't exactly make it difficult," he growls.

That's so not what she meant, but it's kind of true. On at least a few levels.

They dance together, whispering things in each others' ears and laughing, and trying to make each other blush. And succeeding. His hand moves a little lower on her back, and she toys with the fine hair at the back of his neck.

"OK, get out of here," Brooke states.

They hadn't even realized they had an audience.

"Brooke, I'm not leaving your reception," Peyton says softly.

"You're stealing my thunder," Brooke says, and everyone within earshot laughs. "Seriously, we're supposed to be the blissed out couple. Not you."

"Sorry, Brooke," Lucas says. They all know he's not really sorry at all.

"Go. Please. Be happy," Brooke insists. She looks up at her husband and bats her lashes. "Honey, tell them to go."

"Get out," Julian insists gruffly. Nathan laughs and Haley looks at the 'new' couple adoringly.

Lucas whispers something in Peyton's ear - judging by the look she gives him, everyone knows it's something that definitely requires some time alone - then they're breaking apart to congratulate the newlyweds one last time.

They promise to see everyone at breakfast the next day, but no one would be surprised if they skipped it.

She clutches his hand all the way to her room, and once they're inside, she flicks on the light. When she turns around, he's right there behind her, and he pulls her closer. She really missed this. Especially the way he looks at her just before he kisses her.

"I wish we were in New York," she says.

"How come?"

"Because...that's where our whole relationship is," she explains. He smiles and brushes his thumb over the apple of her cheek.

"Maybe we needed to get away from it, though," he rationalizes. "Everything there reminds me of you, and..."

"Like what?" she asks with a smile. She wants to know. She wants to hear it from him, instead of just hoping he thinks of her every time he goes to that pizza place on West 43rd that she found.

"Everything," he whispers. "Flower stands, and the book store down the street. Battery Park and Central Park. God, don't even get me started on rain..."

She cuts him off by kissing him desperately.

That was all she wanted to hear. Rain.

| Cause I can't wait to figure out what's wrong with me
So I can say 'this is the way that I used to be
There's no substitute for time |

It's been three months since that wedding.

Brooke's pregnant.

So is Haley.

Peyton's just happy.

She and Lucas have gone back to the best part of their relationship. They stay over at each other's apartments, and they haven't spent a night apart since about a week after they returned home from California. Peyton doesn't want to be without him, and he won't let her.

They've talked about everything.

The almost pregnancy, and the breakup, and the fact that she broke both their hearts when she walked out the door. But she's fixed them both by coming back. They just needed a little time; a little perspective.

It's all in the past, and now they have the present, and the future.

That ring sits in the back of the bottom drawer of his desk again. Maybe it's not the right time, but he wants to be prepared when the right time comes. He kind of thinks that'll be soon.

"Babe," she calls out when she steps into his place on Friday after work. "Lucas?"

"Hey," he says with a smile, walking down the hall from his office - her old bedroom - where he'd been writing. He kisses her on the cheek as she sets a few bags on the counter. "How was your day?"

"Great. Yours?" she asks.

"I just wrote about you all day," he says. She rolls her eyes. He says the same thing - or something similar - almost every time she asks.

His new novel is his life story. He tells her that she's the biggest part of his life story. She cried the first time he said it, now it just makes her roll her eyes.

But she still swoons.

She starts moving around the kitchen. She became an incredible cook in their time apart, and he can't say he hates the complex dishes she's made for him. She chops vegetables like she belongs on the Food Network, and he just sits at the counter watching her. She drops the ingredients in the saucepan on the stove, and she bites into a slice of raw green pepper.

He doesn't know why he finds that so damn sexy.

"What?" she asks when she notices him staring.


"Don't lie to your girlfriend," she insists. They both smile. She's his girlfriend again.

"I just like watching you, that's all," he says with a shrug. She leans across the counter and kisses him quickly, then hands him a corkscrew and pushes the bottle of wine she bought towards him.

She takes off her blazer and drapes it over the chair next to him as their dinner simmers on the stove, and she's left in just one of his shirts and her black pants. She's always stealing his button downs to wear. He really has no idea how she pulls it off, but those shirts always look amazing.

She wraps her arms around him and kisses the line of his jaw from behind him, and he lets out a throaty moan.

"Move in with me." He says it like a command, and she smiles and closes her eyes. She's kind of been waiting for this. "Again."


"You're here all the time, and I want you to be here all the time," he rationalizes. "And I want all my shirts back."


"You keep stealing them!" he points out. She moves to slide in front of him so she's standing between his knees.

"Brooke saw my collection," she tells him. "She laughed."

"She told me she was going to steal them back for me," he says as she runs her hands up and down his thighs.

"She asked when you and I are going to get married," Peyton says softly, looking down instead of at him.

She's been thinking about it since they got back together. Well, before then, too, but especially since then. They've made some big promises. They've talked about children, and they're on the same page about their future. They know they have one, and it's all going to be together.

She wants it to be official.

"If I didn't know any better, I'd think you're telling me to propose, Peyton," he says, and her eyes meet his.

"What if I am?"

"Then I'd say, hang on and let me grab the ring that's been in my bedroom for three months," he says, and her eyes go wide.

"Are you serious?" she asks, referring to the ring she didn't know he had.

"Are you? You want to get married?" he inquires, taking her hands in his.

This is so ridiculous, she thinks. They're in his kitchen. He's sitting on a stool and she's standing in front of him. He's not on one knee. He doesn't have a ring in his hand. She's the one who brought it up.

It's perfect.

"Yeah," she says, trying to hold back her tears, "I do."

He lets out a breath and closes his eyes as he smiles.

"Say that again," he requests.

"I do," she whispers.

He kisses her and she kisses him back. He buries his hand in her hair, and hers are on either side of his face. It's a desperate kiss; the kind that happens only when big things do.

He rests his forehead against hers and he brushes the tear from her cheek. He honestly doesn't know who just proposed to whom. It was kind of a joint effort, and he thinks that might be the best proposal he's ever heard of.

It's not raining. It's February, and they aren't at either of the parks they frequent. He hasn't brought her lilies. There's no black and white movie playing in the background.

The only thing about this engagement that ties in with all those big, significant themes of their relationship, is the fact that they're in New York. That seems like enough.

He takes her hand and kisses her knuckles, and then he hops down off the stool and leads her towards the bedroom. He takes that familiar ring from the drawer where it sits, and he slides it onto her finger.

Neither says a word.

She just kisses him.