A/N: I personally loved 6x24. I adored it. That said, I really, really hope that LP are back for the premier of S7, or their departure will make no sense and be completely unbelievable.
This is the scenario that I have thought all along (since the news that Chad and Hilarie weren't coming back) would happen. Just had a hunch, and I think it would totally work. Kind of a future fic that picks up 6x24-ish and follows them from there.
This is the best part of his day. Sometimes he offers to go out on errands just so he can experience it. Coming home to his girls. He'll find Peyton doing the cutest things. Singing to the baby, or just staring at her as she they both lay on a blanket on the floor in the living room. She'll have the baby on her hip as she cooks dinner, or she'll be talking about music and bands that she promises she'll play for Sawyer someday.
He steps through the front door and he sees Peyton on the sofa with their daughter. The baby is in Peyton's arms, and she has her mother's finger clutched securely in her little hand.
Lucas' heart swells in his chest. He feels that every day, and he still can't get used to it.
"Look, baby," Peyton says in the adorable voice reserved only for Sawyer, "Daddy's home."
"Hi," Lucas says, kissing both his girls on their foreheads. "How are you?"
"We're good," Peyton says.
It's so familiar. All of it. Daddy's home, and we're good. It's just like that day 9 months ago when she'd just found out she was pregnant, and he flew home to see her, and they both had tears in their eyes when it hit them that they'd be parents. That they were parents.
"Where were you? You were gone a while," Peyton says, smiling when Sawyer grabs onto one of her mother's curls.
Lucas so hopes that little girl inherits those curls.
"Just got a little sidetracked," he says.
He sits on the sofa next to his wife and pulls his daughter into his arms, and it's an indescribable feeling. He feels it every time he holds her. Like a protector, and a father, and a friend, and a husband. Like a man. Like this is what he was meant to do.
"It's almost nap time, but I think someone was waiting for daddy before she fell asleep," Peyton says, running her hand over Sawyer's blonde hair.
"I'll go put her down," Lucas says. "How are you? You tired?"
"No, I'm OK," Peyton says with a smile. "See, I have this wonderful husband who got up in the night to feed her so I could sleep."
"Nice guy," Lucas laughs. He winks at Peyton as she laughs. "Be right back."
Peyton sits on the sofa and watches as everything she ever wanted heads down the hall towards the nursery. Everyone keeps telling her she's such a great mom - and she's not so bad, if she does say so herself - but watching Lucas as a father is an amazing thing. It's no surprise, really, but it's so heartwarming to see. She falls in love with him a little more every time she sees him laying on the sofa with Sawyer sleeping on his chest, or she hears him through the baby monitor, reciting Shakespeare to their one-month-old.
She's flipping through one of the magazines Brooke dropped off. The brunette insists on passing copies along so Peyton doesn't get restless in the house while she's not working. Lucas steps back into the living room with the baby monitor clipped to his jeans - something Peyton finds inexplicably sexy - and he sits down on the sofa next to her, looking over and laughing at her choice of reading material. She's never been the type to read Cosmo, but in the past month, he's sure she's read every issue of it from the last year.
"What's wrong?" she asks, not even looking up from her page.
It's scary, he thinks, how well she knows him.
"Luke," she says.
That one syllable is a lot of things. It's a warning not to lie to her. It's a plea to tell her what's wrong. It's a promise that she can handle it. It's a reassurance that whatever it is, she'll help him through it; she'll be at his side.
He catches sight of those two rings on her left hand as she closes her magazine and drops it on the coffee table, and he smiles.
"Just been thinking," he says vaguely. "About the future."
"The future?" she asks with a smile. "How far are we talking, here? Like, first bike? First day of school? First boyfriend?"
"Boyfriend?" he asks incredulously. "No."
"Lucas," Peyton laughs.
"No way," he insists, shaking his head. "I know what boys are like. We'll talk about it when she's 19. No! 20."
"That's what my dad said too, and look at me," she says with a raised brow. "Between Nathan and you..."
"Hey. I married you," he reminds her needlessly.
"Eventually," she mutters, and he squints at her, but it's all playful. He kisses her cheek as he wraps his arm around her. "Come on. What's going on?"
"I got a call from my agent," he explains. "He says Putnam & Pratt is hesitant to publish any more of my work."
"What? Why?" she asks worriedly, shifting towards him a bit more.
"Because my last book was a failure," he says, as though it's the most obvious answer in the world.
"Lucas, it was not," she says firmly. "That book is beautiful."
"You're biased," he says with a smirk, and she rolls her eyes. "And besides, you're one of about 50 people who even read it, so..."
"Stop it," she demands. He's a little afraid of her tone. "You are an amazing writer."
"An amazing writer wouldn't get dropped from his publishing company," he says softly, smoothing an invisible wrinkle out of his shirt.
"Hey," she says, placing her hand on his cheek and forcing him to look at her. "I don't care if you never publish another word. You know that."
He closes his eyes and lets himself smile. That was kind of all he wanted to hear. He knew it was true - well, he'd assumed it - but she's still just said exactly the words he needed to stop beating himself up over it.
"Why can't you just send your next manuscript to other publishers?" she asks, shaking her head. "It would be like starting over, but you already have to books to your name."
"That's probably what I'll end up doing," he says. "But in the meantime, I just feel like...I feel like I'm failing, here."
"Luke, what did I just say?"
"No, I don't mean the book," he says, shaking his head. "I mean...I'm your husband, and I'm Sawyer's father, and...It's my job to provide for you."
"You are," she insists earnestly.
"Right now I am, but what about a year from now, or two years from now?" he asks. "The movie money isn't going to last forever."
"We have the label, and The Ravens," she reminds him. "I don't know why you're so worried about his. Mia's album is charting so well, and she's starting a headlining tour, and..."
"That's all your success, Peyton," he tells her. "And it's amazing, and I'm so, so proud of you for it." She smiles and he brushes his thumb over her cheek. "But I need to know that I can take care of you."
"That's all you do, Lucas."
He looks away from her again, and she hates herself for not realizing earlier that he was harbouring this insecurity. He's doing everything he can to keep she and Sawyer safe and happy, and there's nothing more she can ask of him. He'll start coaching again in the fall, and that paycheck will be more than enough, when coupled with the money she makes at the label.
"What's going on with you?" she asks. She knows there's more to it than he's letting on, no matter how huge all he's told her is.
"I got a job offer," he explains.
"What!?" she asks in shock. "When? Where? Doing what?"
He laughs, despite how serious she's being.
"Coaching. I got the call yesterday. It's a college job with benefits and more responsibility. A bigger paycheck and bonuses for wins," he says. Her eyes go wide and she smiles.
"Honey, that's amazing," she says, and he nods his head. "So what's the problem?"
"It's in Greensboro," he says softly, looking into her eyes.
"Oh." She takes his hand in hers and runs her thumb over his wedding band. "So we'll move to Greensboro."
He almost stops breathing. She's the most supportive and amazing wife ever. He springs this on her, and she's on board already. She'll leave her company behind to follow him and his career. She'll leave her - their - friends and family to be with him. She's amazing.
She really is an angel.
"I can't ask you to do that," he insists, shaking his head.
"I didn't hear you ask."
"Peyton, I'm serious," he says, and they both laugh a little bit. "What about the label? What about Brooke and Nathan and Haley. And Jamie. We can't just leave."
"Why not?" she asks, shrugging her shoulder. "Nathan's going to be in Charlotte more and more, Brooke will be traveling back and forth from L.A. Jamie can visit us whenever he wants. Anyone can. God, Lucas, I just want us to be happy."
"I want that, too, Peyton, but..."
"But nothing," she says. "I can run the label from anywhere. You can coach, and I'll work from home with Sawyer."
"How are you taking this so lightly?" he asks in awe.
"I'm not," she insists. "I'm really not. But...it seems like a no brainer, Lucas. You're an amazing coach, and you should take this job if it's what you want to do."
"I do," he says. "I really think I want it."
"But you'll keep writing, right?"
"Of course," he says, as though that's a given.
"Good. Because it would be a shame for you to stop now. You have things to say, Lucas Scott," she says.
Her faith in him is absolutely staggering. He feels as though he's had the wind knocked out of him. She's this incredibly beautiful, generous and selfless woman who's somehow made him the lucky one who gets to be the recipient of all of that. He really doesn't know what he did to deserve it.
"Tree Hill is home," he says rationally.
"It always will be," she insists. "And we'll visit all the time. We can spend summers here, and holidays."
"You're amazing," he whispers after a moment. "Are we really doing this? Are we moving to Greensboro?"
"You tell me, Coach Scott. Are we moving to Greensboro?" she asks with a smile on her face as she holds his hand.
"I think we are," he says softly.
He smiles and leans forward to kiss her, and he tells her that he loves her against her lips. It's one of the only things he knows for certain, and she always reminds him of that when it slips his mind momentarily.
Sawyer starts to cry, and Peyton stands to head to the nursery. She runs her hand through Lucas' hair as she walks past him, and he feels a shiver down to his toes.
He'd been scared of the prospect of leaving Tree Hill at first. He was reluctant to even entertain the job offer that had come the day before, based on that reason alone. Sure, it was home. It is home, and it maybe always will be.
But what he's realized since he and Peyton got engaged, and what's been the only truth he's known since Sawyer was born, is that home is with those two girls. They're his entire world, and if they're with him, anywhere is home. He'd always thought that such a cliché, even going so far as making fun of Nathan for saying it about his own wife and son. But it's so true that he almost feels he owes his brother an apology.
He stands and walks to the nursery, and he stands in the doorway and watches as Peyton rocks Sawyer back to sleep.
Leaving Tree Hill doesn't seem quite so scary anymore.
They look for houses before they tell anyone other than Karen that they're moving. Nathan's preoccupied, and Brooke has been in L.A. since they made their decision. Haley has been busy producing Nick Lachey's songs (which Lucas won't stop teasing her about).
"Take a ride with me, Peyton Sawyer?" he asks as she jumps into the car after stopping in at the bank.
"Don't you mean Peyton Scott?" she asks, leaning over to kiss him.
They hear Sawyer cooing in the back seat, and they laugh. Their daughter is the happiest baby, something Brooke and Haley laugh about, wondering how the broodiest couple in the world ended up with that smiling little girl.
As soon as they're pulling out of town, Peyton takes Lucas' hand in hers, and they each take a deep breath. It's almost like this is a trial run for the real thing; when they really leave. Sure, they'll always come back, but there's something about this town that has always been a little hard to let go of.
"So, three houses we're looking at today?" Lucas asks, turning down the radio a bit. Peyton usually swats his hand away when he does that, but this time, it's for an important conversation.
"Yeah," she says. "All in the same neighbourhood. It's one of the best in the city. Really great schools, and a hospital nearby. The realtor said it's only about a 15 minute drive to the university, so that's good."
"You're being so amazing about all this," he says, shaking his head.
"That surprise you or something?" she asks with a laugh.
"No," he says, raising her hand to kiss her knuckles. "I just like to tell you every time I think it. Now, tell me more about these houses."
"One is a two bedroom. The other two are three bedrooms," she explains.
"It'd be nice to have a spare," he says.
"Or...just in case," she says softly.
"In case what," he asks after a moment of silence. He's almost certain he knows what she's saying, but he needs to hear her say the words.
"In case...I mean, when we have another baby," she says, shrugging one shoulder. She can't even look at him. She knows what his response will be.
"We aren't." His tone is firm and suggests finality, and while she understands why, she doesn't really like it.
"Lucas, how can you rule that out?" she asks gently. "We talked about having two."
"That was before we almost lost you with the first one," he reminds her.
"You didn't lose me."
"I came close enough to know that you're not having another baby," he says, taking his eyes off the road momentarily so she'll see that he's being absolutely serious.
"Peyton, how can you even entertain the thought of leaving her? Leaving me?" he asks desperately. "She's...she's so perfect, and she needs you. I need you. I'm not risking that."
She's quiet, because everything he just said is 100% right and she knows it. Sure, there's no guarantee that her next pregnancy - whenever that may be - would have complications, but it's not worth the risk. She's got a perfect daughter, and a perfect life, and she can't leave that. She can't leave Lucas alone. They've gone through too much to be together for their story not to have a happy ending.
"OK," she says after a few minutes of thinking.
"I'm sorry," he says.
He's not apologizing for being harsh with her. In truth, he would have gotten even more harsh if she hadn't seen his point. He would have shouted at her until she understood.
He's apologizing because due to circumstances out of their control, they can't have the family they always wanted. He's apologizing for something he has no bearing over, and she loves him for that. That's just the kind of man he is.
She squeezes his hand, and when she scoots across the seat and rests her head on his shoulder, he kisses her hair and says that he loves her.
They find a perfect home that day, and they're almost scared of how easy it was to find it. A two story, in their price range, with a huge fenced in backyard and a two car garage. It's got three bedrooms, and a big, bright kitchen. There's a finished basement that is essentially split in two, so Peyton and Lucas can have their own separate offices.
Karen insists that the home in Tree Hill is paid for, and they should keep it so they have a place to stay when they visit or return for summers. She and Andy give them the money for their downpayment, and insist it's not to be payed back. It's their wedding gift, and Peyton cries. Lucas just thanks his mother repeatedly, and she just tells them to be happy.
They're set to take possession in a month.
Now they just have to tell their friends that they're leaving Tree Hill. This is the hard part.
They thought of doing it all at once; getting everyone together and telling them all at the same time. But Peyton says she owes it to Brooke to tell her one on one, and that Lucas owes the same to Haley and his brother. She's right.
She straps Sawyer into the car and has Lucas drop them off at Brooke's place before he goes to Nathan and Haley's. After that, he'll drive to Brooke's, and Peyton and Sawyer will head over to Nathan and Haley's. It's a complex plan, but it's the best one they could think of. This way no one will feel slighted. Everyone will get a proper explanation.
"Hi, aunt Brooke," Peyton says, walking into the house with Sawyer in her carseat.
"Hi, little girl," Brooke says, she smiles at Peyton. "And hi, Sawyer."
"Ha ha," Peyton says dryly as they sit on the sofa. "How's Brooke today?"
"Excellent," Brooke says, clearly distracted by the baby that sits between them on the sofa. "Julian's flying in on Friday, so I only have two days without him."
"OK, you're so in love it's disgusting," Peyton states, shaking her head.
"You really want to talk about how in love people are, P. Scott?" Brooke says pointedly, raising one eyebrow. "Right, Sawyer? Mommy and daddy are so gushy!"
The little girl smiles and giggles, and Brooke and Peyton laugh.
"Gushy?" Peyton asks incredulously.
"You're totally gushy," Brooke insists. "So what's up? You want tea or anything?"
"No," Peyton says softly. "Actually, I need to talk to you about something."
"I need you to know that this is...It's not going to change anything. Well, it's not going to change much," Peyton says.
"What's going on? You're kind of scaring me a little," Brooke says worriedly.
"Lucas got a new coaching job."
"Peyton, that's amazing!" Brooke cries.
"I know," Peyton says. "But, it's in Greensboro. So...we're moving at the end of the month."
"What?" Brooke chokes out.
"We're keeping the house here, and we'll visit all the time. It'll be like we aren't even gone," Peyton says, trying to ignore the tears forming in Brooke's eyes. If those tears fall, then she'll start crying, too.
"Don't say that," Brooke demands. "It won't be the same."
"I know. But...it's not that far, and you can visit whenever you want. The house we bought has a spare bedroom that's got your name written all over it," Peyton says with a smile.
"You bought a house already?"
"How long have you known?" Brooke asks. Those tears fall, and Peyton can't help herself, and she starts tearing to.
"A few weeks," Peyton says. "We wanted to make sure we had everything settled before we told everyone. Only Karen knew."
"What am I supposed to do without you?" Brooke whispers. "We never got to go on a double date."
Peyton laughs. That's what Brooke is worried about. She knows it's just that her best friend has had this bomb dropped on her, and she's saying anything that comes to mind. Peyton kind of loves that about Brooke.
"Honey, that's because it'd be weird," Peyton says, and they both laugh through their tears. "My ex, and your ex, and now we're each with...It's just weird."
"Maybe. Can we do that before you leave, though?" Brooke inquires.
"Sure," Peyton says with a nod. "Now stop crying, please."
"I can't help it. You're my best friend, and we're growing up and moving away and falling in love and having babies," Brooke says. "You promise me on this little girl that you'll spend at least one weekend a month here."
Her tone is deadly serious, and Peyton just nods her head as she starts crying a little harder.
"At least," she promises.
Sawyer starts to whimper, and Peyton lifts the baby into her arms and tries to placate her.
"What a baby," Brooke jokes, wiping her own tears. They laugh again, and Sawyer starts to calm down. "I love you guys. And if this makes you happy, then I'm happy."
"Thank you," Peyton says sincerely. "And we love you, too."
"Give me that baby," Brooke demands, and Peyton laughs and passes Sawyer over. She wipes her tears as she listens to Brooke make promises that she knows the brunette has every intention of keeping.
Lucas takes a deep breath as he pushes open the door to the house. He remembers the last time he told Haley he was moving, and how she took the news. He'd like to think she'll take it better this time, but they're still best friends, and he thinks her reaction might not be that different than it was all those years ago.
"Hey!" Haley calls when she hears the front door open. "Nathan and Jamie are out back playing ball."
"Does he ever stop playing?" Lucas laughs.
"Which one?" Haley asks as Lucas hops up onto the stool at the counter in the kitchen.
"Good point," he says.
"So what's up? You said you wanted to talk?" Haley says, leaning her elbows on the counter and putting her chin in her hands.
"Yeah," he says softly. "I got a job in Greensboro and Peyton and I are moving."
OK, so maybe he could have been a little more delicate. The stunned look on Haley's face is saying that maybe he should have been.
"I got a job in..."
"Yeah, I heard you," she says, shaking her head as if to help her comprehend.
"Hey, at least this time I didn't take you to the cemetery to tell you," he says with a timid smile, hoping that'll make her laugh.
"This is just as scary," she insists, placing her hand in his.
Nathan walks into the house with Jamie following close behind, in his little Bobcats jersey with the number 12 on the back.
"What's going on?" Nathan asks.
"Lucas and Peyton are taking our God daughter and moving to Greensboro!" Haley proclaims.
"Hey, there's a great university team there. Like, one of the best in the state," Nathan says, and Lucas just laughs. Of course, Nathan would think about basketball first. And Lucas finds it hilarious that Nathan has mentioned the very reason why they're moving, without even knowing.
Haley looks at Nathan, then back to Lucas, and she almost smiles.
"Actually, I'm the new head coach there," Lucas explains.
"What? Awesome!" Nathan says excitedly, extending his hand to his brother. "That's great, man."
"Nathan, they're moving," Haley reminds him.
"Greensboro's, what? A few hours away?" Nathan says with a shrug of his shoulders. "He'll have summers off. It's a good thing, Haley."
Lucas smiles widely for two reasons. One, because his brother is so supportive and doesn't judge the decision. Nathan understands Lucas' need to be near the game and be the best at what he does. Coaching a college ball team is how Lucas can do that. And two, because Nathan is so rational and explains things to Haley in a way that helps her understand. It's not that she doesn't get it, it's just hard for her, sometimes, to see past the moment when things like this happens. She wants Lucas and Peyton to stay in Tree Hill, and the thought of them leaving is viewed as a negative, until Nathan explains, in very simple terms, why it's not.
"We aren't selling the house, and we'll visit as often as we can. We'll probably spend our summers here," Lucas explains. "Jamie can come stay on weekends if he wants."
"Yeah?" Jamie asks excitedly. He's been quiet to this point, and Lucas wants to make sure the boy is OK with his aunt and uncle leaving town.
"Sure. Our new house has an extra bedroom," Lucas says, placing his hand on his nephew's shoulder.
"What about me? Can I visit?" Haley asks with a smile.
That's the moment Lucas knows he has her blessing. Nathan recognizes it, too, and he kisses her temple as he stands beside her.
"Absolutely," Lucas says. "You won't even get a chance to miss us."
"Promise?" Haley requests.
"I promise," he says.
Later that day, Lucas tells Brooke that he won't keep anyone away from her, and she makes him - however needlessly - promise to take care of their girls. He does so without hesitation, and when he hugs her, she just hugs him back and tells him to be happy. He tells her to do the same, and he winks at her. He says he has no problem punching Julian again if anyone's heart gets broken, but they both have a pretty good feeling that won't be necessary.
Peyton receives hugs from Nathan and Haley and Jamie. They all tell her that she'd better visit, and of course they know she will. Peyton gets down to business and asks Haley if she'd like a full time job as Vice-President of Red Bedroom Records, and Haley takes the job on the spot after only a smile from Nathan as encouragement. It's perfect for her, and Peyton wouldn't ask if she didn't already know that.
Now they had only a few weeks to pack and to buy furniture for their new house.
Only a few weeks until they left Tree Hill.
The real goodbyes are hard.
They shouldn't be. They're coming back, and they're only moving a few hours away, and they've already got visits scheduled. Julian and Brooke are coming in a couple week's time to help Peyton paint the basement and the porch. Peyton is returning to Tree Hill for a few meetings with Haley and a new artist. It's really not goodbye.
But it's still the end of an era, and there are still tears on the girls' part. Lucas, Nathan, Jamie and Julian watch on as the three women hug, with Sawyer in Peyton's arms. Julian makes a crack about them having to spend the rest of the day consoling their women, and the other men can only laugh because really, it's true.
Their friends and family stand at the curb of the house that Lucas and Peyton still own, and they watch as the couple drives away in that old convertible, that baby girl strapped safely into the back seat, and they feel like a chapter of their lives is coming to a close.
It really is.
Lucas takes Peyton's hand in his, and he kisses her wedding band. He holds her hand the entire drive to Greensboro, and when they pull up to their new house, Peyton pulls Sawyer into her arms and the three of them stand there, Lucas' arm securely around Peyton's shoulder, and look straight ahead at that beautiful brick house.
"It's like our happy ending," Peyton says with a smile, tears shining in her eyes.
"No," Lucas says, shaking his head. "Happy beginning."
God, she loves him. It's moments like this that remind her exactly why.
They've got a half hour until the moving truck shows up, and they spend it sitting on the porch swing, rocking back and forth and listening to the birds in the late summer afternoon. It's all perfect.
Big, tall green trees on their large lot, and a basketball hoop in the driveway. A garden in the back that they both know will probably never really grow much of anything, and this very swing, where they have every intention of spending a lot of time, wasting away hours of time together.
"I love this house," Peyton says softly. Sawyer is asleep in Lucas' arms, and Peyton has her head resting on his shoulder.
"I'm glad," he answers. "I love this."
"Sitting here? The love of your life next to you and your daughter right here? On the porch of your new home before you start an amazing new job?" she asks with a smile. "I know what you mean."
"That about sums it up," he says, kissing her temple. "You realize none of this is possible without you, right?"
"Well, I did carry her for nine months," she jokes.
"I'm serious," he says, and she pulls away from him a little bit. "You are always thinking about what's best for me, and...I can't thank you enough for that."
"I'm your wife, Luke," she tells him softly. "That's my job. And you don't have to thank me for it."
"I'm so glad you're my wife," he says, leaning in to kiss her.
The moving truck pulls up, and the men start unloading items. Peyton insists they do the nursery first so Sawyer will have her own place to stay away from all the commotion.
Sawyer sleeps in her crib - pretty much oblivious that they're even in a different house - that night.
Lucas and Peyton sleep on their mattress on the floor in their bedroom. Their new bed is arriving from the store the next day, and so they pull out a couple sleeping bags, resourcefully zip them together, and spend their first night in their new house sleeping in each others' arms.
When Lucas wakes in the morning and pads down the stairs in his pajamas to the kitchen and sees Peyton with Sawyer on her hip, sipping a cup of coffee as she makes breakfast, Lucas feels like this is the life he's always wanted.
He walks up behind his wife and kisses his girls good morning, and when his daughter smiles and reaches out for him, he pulls her into his arms and moves to the table to sit with her.
"Home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than magician ever spoke, or spirit ever answered to, in the strongest conjuration," he says to the little girl as he looks down at her.
"Who is that?" Peyton asks. Lucas just smiles at her. He kind of loves that she knows it's not just him speaking. She's told him before that he has a different voice that he uses when he's 'quoting dead authors'.
"Dickens," he says.
"That's the first author to be quoted in our home," she says with a smile. "He should be honoured." She walks over and rests her hand on Lucas' shoulder as she sets a cup of coffee on the table. She kneels down and looks at their happy little baby. "Daddy's going to be saying things like that all the time. Get used to it."
Lucas has a meeting with his assistant coaches that day that can't be rescheduled, and by the time he comes home, Peyton has almost the entire kitchen and living room unpacked.
She's left all the furniture assembly to him, though.
She and Sawyer are laying on the sofa, the baby held securely against Peyton's chest, and Lucas almost cries as he stands there and watches them sleep.
This is his life.
Sawyer Scott's first word is daddy.
That's really no surprise. She's been a daddy's girl since the moment she was born, and Peyton can't say she really blames the girl. Lucas Scott is a pretty easy man to get attached to.
She started walking early on, with Lucas claiming that made her a genius, and she must be the smartest baby ever. Of course, Peyton could only laugh, but they were both equally proud of their little girl. She took her first solo steps right there in the living room of their home.
Lucas' first season as head coach went almost unusually well. His team goes 24-11, missing the Division II playoffs by just a game. It was on par with the season prior, and Lucas' team was composed mostly of sophomores. There's a lot of hope for the upcoming year, and quite a few years after that.
He's holding her hand one Saturday after the two of them went grocery shopping, and they're walking up the walkway towards the house. She stops, looks up at him, holds up her arms, and says those two syllables in the most perfect voice he's ever heard.
"Peyton!" he calls, rushing into the house with the little girl in his arms. "Peyt!"
"What?" she asks worriedly, meeting him in the kitchen. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing. I just..."
"You yelled like there was something wrong," she states, putting a hand on her hip.
"No, nothing's wrong," he tells her. "I..."
"Then don't yell like that," she reprimands him.
"Peyton!" he laughs. "Stop talking so I can tell you that our daughter just said her first word!"
"What!?" she shouts, eyes wide and a bright smile on her face. "She said dada, didn't she?"
"No, she said daddy," he says, beaming with fatherly pride.
Peyton rushes over and kisses them both, and she points to Lucas, trying to get Sawyer to say the word again.
"Who's that?" she asks. "Who's this guy?"
She won't say it. She sticks her thumb in her mouth - something Larry insists she inherited from Peyton - and she buries her face in the crook of Lucas' neck. He winks at Peyton and starts towards the stairs.
"Someone needs a nap," he says. Peyton's not sure who he's talking to - he has a tendency to say things like that to Sawyer all the time - so she just heads to the car to bring in the groceries.
When Lucas comes back downstairs, Peyton is in the kitchen - where she spends a lot of her time - and starting on dinner. He walks up behind her and wraps his arms around her waist, whispering something flirty in her ear, as he's known to do.
"What time are Brooke and Julian getting here?" she asks, trying to change the subject.
To everyone's surprise, Lucas and Julian have actually built a fairly strong friendship. They realized the things they differed on didn't really matter any more. It's clear that Julian isn't after Peyton, and Peyton wouldn't care if he was. One serious conversation in Lucas' office at the university, after one of those first games that Brooke and Julian made the trip to attend, and the two men seemed to get on quite nicely.
Brooke and Julian try to get to Lucas and Peyton's for dinner when Julian is in town. Julian loves to drive, and doesn't do it in L.A. He'll hop in Brooke's SUV and drive the few hours to Lucas and Peyton's house without a second thought.
He's only told Lucas and Nathan that he's planning on moving and starting his own production company in Tree Hill.
"4:30," Lucas says softly. "He called when I was in the frozen food aisle."
"You're so Mr. Mom," she laughs, turning in his arms.
"I'm just good to my wife," he corrects. He pulls her a little closer, and she rests her hand on his heart.
"You're alright," she says jokingly, looking away from him.
She's just leaned forward to kiss him when they hear their daughter's little voice come through the baby monitor Lucas has just set on the counter.
Peyton pulls away immediately, and her eyes go wide. Lucas is beaming, and she thinks she sees just a little bit of a smug smile there, too.
"God, I can't believe she's going to be a year old in two weeks," Peyton says whimsically.
"Two weeks till our first anniversary, too," he reminds her.
"Daddy," that voice comes through again.
"OK, now she's just teasing me," Peyton says with a laugh. Lucas kisses her quickly and they walk hand in hand up the stairs to fuss and fawn after their daughter.
Of all the things that have happened in the last year, it's the things that have stayed the same that mean the most. Their move, Lucas' coaching successes, his third novel completed and ready to send out to publishers, Peyton's two new acts signed.
None of that matters more than them being together, healthy, with the perfect daughter and a beautiful home.
A five-year-old Sawyer Scott sits perched on her uncle's arm, curled against his chest when Nathan carries her through the door to Lucas and Peyton's home in Tree Hill. Jamie and his three-year-old brother, Davis (the spitting image of his father), are following close behind. There are tear stains on Sawyer's cheeks, and every so often, she takes a sharp breath to keep from crying again. Nathan's tried to placate her as much as possible.
But she wants her mommy.
They're home for the summer, and both Lucas and Peyton love this time with their whole family and all their friends. Brooke and Julian are in New York for the week so their two-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, can visit her grandmother, so it's just the Scott Clan in Tree Hill for the time being.
"Uh oh," Peyton says, appearing in the hallway. Nathan looks at her apologetically, but they both understand that whatever has happened that has her little girl crying has nothing to do with him. "What's wrong, sweetie?"
"I fell down," Sawyer says softly.
"You fell down?" Peyton asks, pulling her daughter into her own arms. "Let's see. Where does it hurt?"
"Here," Sawyer says, pointing to her knee. Her skin is scraped in that way that tends to happen with kids, and Peyton can remember very well that sting that accompanies a scrape like that.
"Maybe uncle Nathan can go to the bathroom and get your teddy bear Band-Aids and a wet washcloth, and mommy will get you all cleaned up," Peyton says, her tone maternal and soothing as she strokes Sawyer's hair.
"Can you, Nathan?" Sawyer asks, her big blue eyes pleading. It's not like he was going to say no anyway, but those eyes are the reason she always gets her way with him in the first place.
"I'll be right back," he says, heading down the hall.
Lucas and Haley walk through the door after going out for coffee, and Lucas' face immediately turns to one of worry. He's never been able to see Sawyer with tears on her cheeks and not do everything in his power to make her feel better.
"Daddy!" Sawyer cries out.
"What happened?" He walks over to her and kneels in front of the sofa, and she lifts her knee up so he can see her scrape.
"We were playing at the park, and a boy started chasing me, and..."
"What boy?" Lucas asks incredulously. Peyton has to stifle her laugh.
"I don't know," Sawyer answers with a shrug of her shoulders. "I tripped and fell."
"That's a mean boy. That's why you stay away from boys," Lucas says.
Nathan enters the room just in time to overhear that conversation, and he's so glad he has two sons and no daughters.
"Boys are no good," Nathan concurs as he passes the wet cloth to Peyton.
"You're a boy. My daddy is a boy," she argues defiantly, putting her hand on her hip even though she's sitting down. "I know lots of boys."
Lucas cringes. He actually cringes.
She's five-years-old, and he knows that she still thinks most boys have cooties, but he knows he'll have a problem when she's older. She's got her mother's curls, and his blue eyes. She inherited his dimples, and she's brilliant. She's clever and funny. She has a beautiful heart and she likes to take care of everyone around her.
He's dreading the day she comes home and tells him she has a boyfriend.
"Your daddy is the only boy you can trust," Nathan mumbles. Haley swats his arm and glares at him, and he just shrugs his shoulder. He's always been a little extra protective over Sawyer.
Peyton cleans up the wound and places a Band Aid over Sawyer's knee, and the little girl makes everyone kiss it better.
They fire up the barbecue for dinner, and Lucas and Nathan, and the two younger boys stand outside and tend to the flames. Lucas and Nathan nurse bottles of beer, and Jamie and Davis have bottles of root beer, emulating the older men. Jamie, at 11, feels like he's old enough to have a taste of beer, and Nathan obliges, so long as he promises not to tell his mother.
"You think you'll ever move back?" Nathan asks once the kids have run inside for a pre-dinner snack of veggies and dip with the girls.
"I don't know," Lucas answers honestly. "Maybe someday. But the team needs me. I'd be crazy to leave now."
"I guess two D-II championships in a row kind of makes you want to stay," Nathan says with a smile. Lucas chuckles and nods his head.
It's not like Nathan's doing so bad. He led the Bobcats to the conference finals that season.
"We love it out there, you know?" Lucas says, speaking fondly of his adopted home. "Sawyer's got school, and Peyton has a couple local acts. It's just worked out really well."
"I get it. Just curious," Nathan says. Lucas laughs again.
He and Peyton get asked this question once a year or so. It's clear that everyone wants them to move back. They've kept their promise, though, and visited often. They're home every summer and they spend weekends in Tree Hill every so often when his schedule allows. Their friends are always welcome in their home, and they've got a rec-room in the basement now, with a pull out sofa for the kids. Lucas has seriously entertained the thought of adding a small guest cottage in their back yard.
"Daddy!" Sawyer shouts from the door.
"Hi, you," he says, turning to smile at her.
"Mommy said to tell you that she needs to talk to you," she says.
"Why didn't she just come out and talk to me herself?" Lucas asks with a chuckle, handing his beer to Nathan as he starts towards the door.
"I dunno," Sawyer says. "I'm just doing what she tells me."
"Good girl," he says, ushering her back into the house.
He sees Peyton and Haley laughing at the kitchen table with the two boys crunching on carrot and celery sticks. He loves his wife's laugh almost more than anything in the world.
"Come here," she says, still laughing as she stands from her seat.
Lucas throws Haley a questioning glance, and she just shrugs her shoulders. He follows Peyton into their bedroom, and she turns to him as soon as he has the door closed behind them.
"I don't want her to have a boyfriend," she says worriedly.
Clearly, she's been putting on a brave face. The laughter was a cover.
"Honey, she's five," Lucas says softly, doing his best not to be patronizing. He's been worried about the same thing. Pretty much all along, actually.
"But...she's growing so fast, and she's our only baby, and...I don't want her to get big," she tells him. There's a vulnerability in her tone that he loves and hates.
They'd talked about adopting once Sawyer hit two-and-a-half, but after a lot of long conversations and research, they decided that their little girl was enough for them. One of them will bring it up again from time to time, but the answer never changes. They like that they can give their daughter everything in the world that she needs with no difficulty. Her future is secure.
But every now and again, he'll briefly wonder what it'd be like to have a son, or she'll briefly yearn to care for a baby again.
"She's going to get big," he tells her gently. "That's what kids do."
"But look at Jamie! I held him the day he was born and now he's practically driving and carrying a briefcase!"
"Peyton, he's 11 years old," he says, his eyes soft and his tone somehow straddling the line between funny and sweet. He pulls her against his chest and she wraps her arms around him.
"We're getting old," she pouts.
"Practically 30," she mumbles.
"We're successful, secure 28-year-olds with great friends and family and a perfect daughter," he reminds her, and she pulls away and smiles at him a little bit.
"She is kind of perfect," she agrees.
"Yeah," he says, tucking her hair behind her ear. "So unless you want to eat burnt chicken for dinner, I need you to stop freaking out so I can get back to the barbecue."
"OK," she says. He kisses her quickly, tells her he loves her, and starts towards the door.
"Hey, Luke?" she says, placing her hand on his arm as she stands just behind him. "Thank you."
"You don't have to thank me."
They're the same words used every time either of them thanks the other after one of those serious conversations.
"I hate school!" Sawyer shouts, stomping through the door and dropping her bag. She kicks off her shoes and drops her jacket on the floor in the middle of the hallway.
Lucas, walking in behind her, sighs and shakes his head, and begins picking up her things. He knows Peyton will tell him he should have made Sawyer pick up after herself, but with the mood that girl is in, there's no way he's risking her locking herself in her room all night and not speaking to him.
She trudges towards the stairs and heads for her room before even saying hello to her mom.
"What's with her?" Peyton asks with a furrowed brow, walking from the kitchen.
"I don't know," Lucas sighs, hanging up his daughter's jacket. "She wouldn't talk to me. Those are the first words she's said since I picked her up."
"I'll talk to her," Peyton says, smiling at Lucas. She kisses Lucas quickly and tells him to call Julian, who'd called that afternoon about the movie Lucas is penning for him.
As much as Sawyer is a daddy's girl, she loves those heart-to-hearts with her mother. She clings to Lucas most of the time, but she knows that Peyton is always there, no matter what. It's a quiet connection between mother and daughter. They're more alike now that Sawyer is a little older; Peyton understands what it's like to be 13 and in middle school.
Sawyer has what she calls 'mom problems' and 'dad problems'. This is clearly a mom problem.
"Honey?" Peyton says softly, tapping on Sawyer's bedroom door.
"Is dad with you?"
"No, it's just me," Peyton says. Her brow is kinked in curiosity. Sawyer has never asked that question before. She's never not wanted Lucas.
Peyton is worried.
She pushes the door open and sees Sawyer sitting on her bed with her knees pulled up to her chest, clutching a pillow. Peyton smiles at the rips in the knees of Sawyer's jeans, and the indie band tee shirt the girl wears.
"What's wrong?" Peyton asks, sitting at the edge of the bed.
"I got an A+ on a test," Sawyer says with a pout.
"Sawyer, that's amazing!" Peyton says. She really doesn't see what the problem is.
"Mrs. Williams asked me if I cheated," Sawyer says indignantly, squinting in that way her father always has when he's annoyed.
The girl is brilliant, and this isn't the first time something like this has happened. She gets straight A's, and teachers are often weary of her academic successes. But Sawyer has never been this upset about it.
"I'm sorry," Peyton says. "I guess that's just the price you pay for being a bit of a genius."
She smiles. The girl smiles, and Peyton does the same. Sawyer sets the pillow next to her and extends her legs - legs that Lucas is infinitely worried about; they're another thing she's inherited from her mother.
"Then Talia said that I'm just a nerd who studies instead of doing anything fun, and everyone laughed at me," Sawyer explains. "Just because I don't want to hang out with her stupid cheerleader friends at parties and act like an idiot in front of high school boys!"
"First of all, cheerleaders aren't always stupid," Peyton says with a raised brow. Sawyer rolls her eyes and smiles a little bit.
"I know," she says softly. "I just hate it. School is so stupid. I don't even study that much!"
"Don't tell them that," Peyton laughs. "They'll just be even more jealous." Sawyer laughs again. Her dad is always telling her she's naturally gifted. "I know it's hard, baby, but sometimes you just have to ignore it. Those girls just wish that they were as smart as you."
"You have to say that. You're my mom," Sawyer mumbles.
"Trust me. One of these days, those girls are going to realize that partying and chasing boys isn't going to get them anywhere," Peyton promises. "You're already so far ahead of them."
"I guess," she says softly. "I just...sometimes I wish that..."
"What, honey?" Peyton asks encouragingly.
"I wish we lived in Tree Hill," Sawyer finishes.
Peyton's heart wrenches in her chest. She never thought she'd hear those words. Sure, Sawyer loves Tree Hill, and she's never hid that fact, but she's never asked to live there. Peyton wants to give her daughter everything she wants, but she needs to know that this isn't just a fad that'll pass. Lucas has won four Division II titles, and he still loves coaching, but now he's written a screenplay, and he's got this whole other career path he could follow. He's published four novels, and Peyton wonders if the basketball thing is just a perk. She's never asked.
"How come?" Peyton asks rationally.
"Because then I'd have Addy and Sarah and Katy," Sawyer says, listing off the close friends she has in that little town. "And Jamie, Davis, and Elizabeth are all there."
Peyton adores that Sawyer feels like her cousins and Brooke's daughter are her friends, as well as family.
"And I love Tree Hill," Sawyer finishes quietly.
"I do, too," Peyton says with a smile.
"I know daddy's job is here, but...maybe it'd be nice to go to school there."
"Well, listen," Peyton says after a moment of silence, "I think your daddy is a little scared that maybe you're mad at him and that's why you weren't talking to him."
"I'm not mad at him," Sawyer says earnestly. "I can't believe he thinks I'm mad at him."
"When girls don't talk to boys, they automatically think we're mad at them," Peyton says with a smile, and Sawyer laughs. "There's some time before dinner. Why don't you two go shoot around? Prove you aren't mad."
Sawyer nods her head. They both stand from the bed and Peyton walks towards the door while Sawyer reaches for her sweats.
"Yeah?" Peyton answers, turning around.
Peyton just smiles and lets out a quick breath.
"You don't have to thank me," she says. She winks and pulls the door closed behind her, and she smiles all the way down the stairs.
Lucas is just hanging up the phone when Peyton steps back into the kitchen, and she wraps her arms around him as he stands there, looking worried. That hug pretty much tells him that there's nothing wrong.
"She OK?" he asks.
"Yeah," Peyton promises. "But she wants to live in Tree Hill."
"What?" he asks, pulling away from her. "Why?"
"She wants her real friends and family," Peyton states with a shrug.
There's something about the way she says that - quiet, trying to sound nonchalant, and avoiding eye contact - that tells Lucas that maybe Sawyer isn't the only one who wants her real friends and family.
If he's being honest, he's kind of been thinking the same thing recently.
"What do you think?" he asks, locking eyes with her.
"I think...I think maybe we should talk about it," she says seriously. "I mean, it's been 13 years, and...I don't know, Luke."
"OK. Well, we'll talk about," he tells her, smiling when she closes her eyes and lets out a short sigh. "OK?"
"OK," she says with a nod.
Lucas leans down and kisses her, and he rests his hands on her hips, pulling her a little closer.
Neither of them see their daughter appear in the doorway of the kitchen with a basketball pinned to her hip.
"Gross. You two are like, worse than the kids who make out in the halls at school," Sawyer says in disgust. Her parents just smile as they pull apart.
"Why are there kids at your school making out? They're all...kids," Lucas says.
"Daddy, that makes you sound so old," Sawyer points out. Peyton just laughs.
"Sweetie, your daddy didn't make out when he was in middle school. He was too busy reading Chaucer and Steinbeck," Peyton teases, laughing again when Lucas squints at her.
"Oh! I wanted to ask. Is Canterbury Tales too advanced for me?" Sawyer inquires, looking at her dad.
Lucas turns to Peyton with a smug look on his face, and he crosses the room to drape his arm around their daughter's shoulder.
"You're so lucky you're like me," he says, and they both laugh.
Peyton watches from the kitchen window as the two people she loves most in the world battle it out on the court. She finds herself - not for the first time - longing for those days in the summer when she'll sit on the bleachers and watch them play at the River Court.
That's the night that Peyton and Lucas decide that they'll move back to Tree Hill at the end of that school year.
"Remember Halloween last year?" Peyton asks as she and Lucas lay in bed. He's attempting to read some battered novel for the hundredth time, and she's been listening to she and Haley's new artist's record on her iPod.
"Yeah," Lucas says, smiling as he sets his book on his lap. "We were in Tree Hill."
"She was an angel," Peyton says softly.
"With those wings you two took three weeks to make," Lucas says with a laugh.
"Those wings were so pretty," Peyton muses.
"Yes, they were," Lucas agrees. "What's this about?"
"I was just thinking...remember watching her at that party at Tric? Laughing with her friends and hanging out with her cousins."
"Yeah," he says. He knows where this is going.
"She should get to smile like that every day," Peyton insists. "And I know she's a happy kid, but..."
"But maybe she'd be happier in Tree Hill," Lucas finishes. Peyton smiles over at him and moves so she's sitting against him with his arms wrapped around her. "Maybe we'd all be happier in Tree Hill."
"Do you mean that, Luke? Because it's your job, and it's your..."
"It's my girls," he interrupts, as though that's all the explanation he needs to give. "Look, coaching has been...great. And you've been amazing to stand by me for so long."
"I'm your wife," she says simply. He tips her chin up so he can kiss her quickly.
"I miss it, too. The kids and our family," he says. "Sometimes it feels like we're so far away from them all."
She pulls away from him and gives him a smile. It surprises her still, though it probably shouldn't, how they can be on the exact same page 99 per cent of the time. That other one per cent just makes for little arguments and fun make ups.
"Lucas, are we moving back to Tree Hill?" she asks. It's a variation on those words he asked her years ago when they decided to leave that little town in the first place.
"You tell me, Peyton Scott. Are we moving back to Tree Hill?" he asks with a smile.
"I think we are," she whispers.
The next day when they tell Sawyer, she actually cries happy tears. Those tears prompt the same from Peyton, and Lucas takes both his girls in his arms and they all laugh at how similar mother and daughter are sometimes.
Sawyer is the perfect mix of both of her parents, and Lucas and Peyton wouldn't have it any other way.
Sawyer's first real boyfriend is a writer who breaks her heart.
Her second real boyfriend is a basketball player who fixes it.
When Peyton tells Lucas that it's a reversal of her own dating history, he just laughs and kisses her temple.
Lucas dislikes Joshua immediately.
Sure, the boy knows his literature, and can hold his own in a serious conversation on the underlying themes of Swift's body of work. But he's late to pick Sawyer up the first time he's set to meet her parents, and Lucas insists that boy isn't good enough for her.
As soon as he's said the words to his wife as they watch their daughter buckle into the passenger seat of that boy's car, Peyton looks at him with a raised eyebrow that lets him know those words haven't been forgotten. He argues that he was right before, and he's right this time, too.
"What guy is late when he goes to meet someone's parents?" Lucas asks as he paces the living room.
He's been doing it for an hour. Pacing the floor and mumbling things every so often. Sure, he's aware that his daughter has been 'going out' with this Joshua kid for a while, but it was always in a group. Tonight, they're alone together, and Lucas doesn't like it one bit. That's really no surprise.
"Better than almost beating them with a rake," she mumbles.
"What?" he asks, stopping in his tracks.
"Nothing," she says, looking up from her book. "Honey, please sit down."
"I'm just worried. Should I call? Maybe I should call," he insists, reaching for the phone.
"Lucas Scott, if you dial that number, she will never forgive you for it," Peyton says harshly, standing from her seat and taking the phone from her hands.
"She's just a kid, Peyton," he says.
"She's 16," she reminds him. "Remember what we were doing at 16?"
"Exactly why I'm worried!" he proclaims. "We were getting motel rooms in crappy little towns and making out and almost having sex."
"You think we would have had sex that day?" she asks curiously, essentially changing the entire tone of their conversation.
"Oh, you're damn right we would have," he insists.
It's a trick he doesn't realize she's pulled. She's trying to take his mind off where their daughter is and what she's doing. She knows Joshua's mom and dad, and she's clearly not worried. Well, she's not as worried as Lucas is.
"Well...maybe we should take advantage of having the house to ourselves for a few hours," she suggests, wrapping her arms around him.
"Hmm," he mumbles, leaning down to kiss her.
He pulls her closer as they kiss, right there in the middle of their living room. It's crazy, he thinks, that every time he kisses her, he somehow feels all that love she's given him over the years. She starts unbuttoning his shirt, and he pulls away from her sharply.
"Nathan and Haley got married when they were 16," he points out. There's terror in his voice and Peyton tries her hardest not to laugh.
"Sawyer isn't getting married tonight, Lucas," she assures him. She continues working the buttons of his shirt, and their eyes stay locked. He just lets out a quick breath and nods his head, and she kisses him again.
They've just moved to their bedroom and he's laying on top of her when the front door opens and closes. Well, slams, would be more accurate.
They hear their daughter stomping through the house and then they hear another door slam.
"I'll go," Peyton says as Lucas rolls off her.
"You have to," he grumbles.
"You've wanted her home all night," she reminds him.
"I don't want her slamming doors," he says seriously. "If I need to beat that boy..."
"Stop it," she hisses, straightening out her shirt.
She steps out into the hall and taps on Sawyer's door gently. Her heart breaks when she hears her daughter crying.
"Sweetie, you want to talk?" Peyton asks.
"No. Boys are stupid. I should have listened to daddy," she calls through the closed door. Peyton stands there for a moment, knowing that the girl needs to talk, even if she doesn't think she does. "Come in."
"Hi," Peyton says, slipping through the door and closing it behind her. "What happened?"
Sawyer reaches for the stuffed lamb she's had since she was a baby. It was always her favourite.
"Why are boys so mean?" Sawyer asks, more tears slipping down her cheeks.
"They aren't all," Peyton insists, brushing the hair from her daughter's face as the girl lays on her side, clutching that little lamb to her chest.
"How come dad and Nathan are so cool, and all the rest of them are so mean?" she amends. Peyton lets out a soft laugh and Sawyer gives a weak smile.
"Scott boys are special," Peyton says. "What happened?"
"I...I told him I might fall in love with him," Sawyer says softly. "He said 'OK'."
They both laugh a little bit. Sawyer has read An Unkindness of Ravens. She knows what her dad said when her mom spoke similar words.
"I'm sorry," Peyton whispers.
"So I told him that if he doesn't want to love me, too, then maybe we should break up," Sawyer explains.
Peyton smiles a little wider. Her girl is so much stronger than she was at that age.
"Good for you," Peyton says, nodding gently.
"You know the worst part?" Sawyer asks, rolling onto her back. "Dad was right about him."
"Sweetie, I don't think that's the worst part," Peyton says with a chuckle.
"Well...maybe not the worst part," she agrees. "But...he always just knows things. It's annoying."
"Trust me, I know," Peyton says. "You want to talk to him?"
"He'll just say he told me so."
"Sawyer," Peyton says admonishingly, "does that sound like your dad?"
Sawyer rolls her eyes and wipes her cheeks, and she sits up just as there's a knock at the door.
Lucas pushes the door open when he's told to come in, and he's holding a baseball bat.
"Dad, what are you doing?" Sawyer laughs.
"Just tell me where he is, and I'll take care of it," he promises. Both women laugh, and he sets the bat by the door and joins them on the bed, sitting opposite Peyton. "You OK?"
"Don't say OK," Peyton warns her husband, and Sawyer laughs again as she wipes her cheeks.
"What?" Lucas asks.
"Nothing," Sawyer says, looking up at her dad. "You were right."
"I didn't want to be, kiddo," he insists, and she smiles and nods her head.
Peyton adores the attention he gives their daughter. He may have been freaking out earlier, but apparently it was for good reason. He just wants what's best for Sawyer, and he's always been a little better at recognizing it than Peyton likes to admit.
Sawyer meets Ben when she's a senior. He transfers in from a school in South Carolina, and he immediately becomes the Ravens new shooting guard to start the season.
He holds the door open for her when Lucas is picking her up from school one Friday before they head to Nathan and Haley's for family dinner, and when he sees the smile his daughter gives that boy, he thinks there might be a little connection there.
"Who was that?" he asks when she hops in the passenger seat.
"That one who held the door?" he elaborates. She smiles and rolls her eyes. Lucas has always told her that if a guy holds the door for you, you should give him a second look.
"Ben. He's new," she says simply, buckling her seatbelt.
"The ball player Nathan told me about?" he asks as he pulls away from the curb.
After Nathan retired from the NBA, he was offered the vacant coaching job at the high school, which he accepted immediately. Lucas never fails to remind his brother that he had the job first, and Nathan just says that he'll have it longer. It's really not a competition, but they're brothers, so they make it one.
"Yeah," she says, turning to him. "What's with the third degree?"
"Just curious," he says with a smirk.
"Oh my God, you're worse than aunt Brooke!"
"What?" he asks, feigning innocence.
"Stop playing matchmaker," she demands. "Besides, he's a ball player. I'm a bookworm."
"I was a bookworm and your mom was a cheerleader," Lucas reminds her.
She wants to respond, and he can tell. She purses her lips the same way Peyton does when she's wracking her brain and trying to think of the perfect argument.
She stays silent until they get to Nathan and Haley's place. The look she gives him when she gets out of the car tells him that maybe he's planted a bit of a seed.
He may be crazy for suggesting his daughter date someone, but she's 17, and she's mature, and he trusts her. She's always made good choices, and he believes that when it comes time for her to fall in love - really fall in love - she'll find someone worthy.
Her first date with Ben is two months later.
She's built a friendship with him, and while Peyton is oblivious to the conversation between father and daughter that day in the car, she muses that Sawyer and Ben's friendship reminds her of she and Lucas'. He just smiles and says that if so, then both kids are lucky.
Ben comes to the door and shakes Lucas' hand when he picks Sawyer up for that date. He calls Lucas Mr. Scott and says it's nice to meet both he and Peyton. Before Lucas mentions it, Ben says that he knows Sawyer's curfew is 11:30, and that he'll have her home with time to spare.
They watch as Sawyer steps into the boy's sensible hybrid car, and once the door is closed, Lucas takes a seat on the sofa and picks up the book he'd been reading. Peyton stares at him until he looks at her.
"Where's the baseball bat? The pacing? The wondering if you should call her?" Peyton asks with a chuckle, sidling up next to him on the sofa. She drapes her arm around him, and he just smiles at her.
"This one's different," he says simply.
She doesn't ask how he knows that, she just trusts that he does.
Sawyer comes home that night and blushes when her parents ask her how her date went, and Peyton concedes that Lucas may be right.
When Lucas wakes up in the middle of the night about four months later, after he hears a noise in the kitchen, he steps out to see his daughter sitting at the table, a plate of chocolate chip cookies and a glass of milk in front of her.
"Can't sleep?" he asks, regarding her messy curls and her Ravens tee shirt with the number 22 on the back. She refuses to wear Ben's number, instead choosing to honour her dad and the man she calls her grandfather. Lucas loves that girl with everything in him.
"Not really," she says. "Cookie?"
"Have I ever said no to a chocolate chip cookie?" he asks, heading to the fridge for some milk before sitting across from her.
They each dunk their cookies in their milk until the liquid hits their fingertips, and then stuff their entire cookies in their mouths. Both start laughing. They've been doing this since she was old enough to eat cookies.
"What's got you up?" she asks after washing down her cookie with some milk.
"You," he says simply. She squints at him and he chuckles. "I heard you out here. I'm a dad. I had to check on you."
"You know, Jamie and I were talking last weekend when he was home," she says with a smile. "We're both pretty lucky to have such amazing parents."
He just shakes his head at her. He and Peyton have done a pretty good job, if he does say so himself. Their daughter is an amazing young woman.
"We're lucky to have you," he says. "You know that."
He thinks back to that day nearly 18 years ago when he thought he was losing both Sawyer and Peyton, and he has to swallow the lump in his throat. They've come a long way.
"So what's going on that's got you awake?" he asks, reaching for another cookie.
"It's kind of a mom problem," she says, fiddling with the bottom of her tee shirt.
"Girl stuff?" he asks warily.
"Dad!" she hisses.
"What?" he asks with a laugh. "You say mom problem, and I just assume..."
"Don't assume," she laughs. "It's a...a Ben thing."
"I don't know what that means, but I'm scared," he says seriously, clasping his hands on the table in front of him.
"So am I," she whispers.
"Honey, you're not doing a very good job of making me feel better," he warns her.
"No, it's nothing big...well, it is big. It's huge. It's just not...bad. I mean, I hope it's not bad. Oh God, it could be bad..."
"Sawyer," he says, placing his hand over hers. She rambles like Peyton does when she's nervous or rattled.
"I'm...I'm in love with Ben," she says quietly, locking eyes with him.
He smiles. He and Peyton have known it for weeks.
"So what's the problem?" he asks.
"I'm scared," she repeats. "Daddy, what if he doesn't love me back? What if I tell him and he says OK, or Oh?"
He squints at her and shakes his head and she just smirks at him and shrugs one shoulder.
"I see why you think this is a mom problem," he tells her and she laughs. "She'd know what to do if he says Oh."
"He's going to, isn't he?" she asks worriedly. "Oh God, daddy, what do I do now?"
It's hard for him to stay serious and not smile at her when she keeps calling him daddy. He loves that she still does it every once in a while when she's stressed or needing his support.
"I don't think you have anything to worry about," he insists. "I've seen the way he looks at you."
"All dads say that," she mumbles.
"That's because if he didn't look at you that way, I wouldn't let you see him."
"You let me see Josh," she argues.
"I didn't want to. Your mother made me," he says seriously. Sawyer laughs, but they both know he's not joking. "Ben's different."
"I know," she says, smiling as she looks down at the glass in front of her. "What do I say to him?"
"I can't tell you that, sweetie," he says, shaking his head sympathetically. "You just wait until you think it's the right time, and you tell him how you feel."
"That's what you did with mom," she says softly. "At the championship game."
"Yeah. Kind of," he says, smiling fondly at that memory from so long ago.
"Maybe he'll say it first," she says.
"Maybe," he nods. "But if not, don't be afraid to tell him, OK? I promise that it won't be so scary when you do."
"That's what mom would say."
"She's smart," he tells her. Sawyer nods her head and drinks the last of her milk. "You're gonna be OK, kid."
"I'll make sure of it," he promises, standing from his place. He kisses the top of her head and squeezes her shoulder before he clears the plate and glasses from the table.
"Thanks, daddy," she says as she gets up and waits for him to meet her at the doorway.
"You don't have to thank me," he says, and she rolls her eyes. She's heard that phrase hundreds of times in her life. "'Night, Sawyer."
Peyton stirs when he gets back into bed, and she asks if everything is alright. He says everything's just fine, and that he loves her. She murmurs those words back to him right before she falls asleep again.
Sawyer comes home the following Saturday afternoon with a smile on her face. She'd left a few hours prior, claiming she'd be back in time for Saturday night dinner. It's the night Brooke, Julian and Elizabeth come over, or the Scotts go to the Baker house.
"Hey, honey," Peyton says from the living room, where everyone has gathered.
"Hey," she greets, them.
"Where were you?" Brooke asks as Sawyer shrugs off her jacket and hangs it in the hall closet.
"I just hung out at the River Court for a bit," she says, casting a smile towards her dad.
"How was it?" he asks, knowing no one else in the room with think that means anything deeper than what's on the surface. He knows that Ben basically lives at the River Court on Saturdays, and that she must have gone to talk to him.
"It was um...it was kind of perfect, actually," she says. Lucas winks at her when no one else is looking, and she can't hide her smile.
When Sawyer sits down with Peyton later that evening and tells her mom one-on-one what happened that day, Peyton just smiles and rests her hand over her daughter's.
She's so proud of that girl.
That summer, they all gather for Jamie's wedding. He met a woman almost startlingly like his mother when he was away at Stanford, and he fell in love. Three years into their relationship, and they're in Tree Hill to get married and start their life together. She's an elementary school teacher, and he's starting his career as an athletic trainer.
Nathan and Haley couldn't be happier.
Sawyer was valedictorian of her high school class, and got into all the universities she applied to. She had held out hope for just one. Ben was offered a scholarship to play ball at UNC, and the moment he signed his letter of intent, Sawyer knew she'd go to UNC, too. No one asked why or questioned her choice.
Now, as Lucas and Peyton sit in a roomful of their closest friends and family, neither can take their eyes off their daughter. She's in a simple blue dress that Brooke made her wear, not that she'd really complained, dancing with her boyfriend to the slow old Sinatra tune that plays.
"She's gonna marry that boy," Peyton says whimsically, smiling and holding back tears.
"I think so," Lucas agrees as he watches his daughter throw her head back in laughter at something Ben has said.
"You're not freaking out," Peyton states in surprise.
"Look at her," he says, gesturing to where the two kids are dancing. "She's this...beautiful, intelligent, funny, stubborn, loving...perfect young woman." He takes Peyton's hand in his. He's always said Sawyer is just like her, and he knows he's just described both his girls to the letter. "She'll do whatever's right for her."
"You ever wish we could have had another one?" she asks softly.
She's never asked him that question before. He suddenly wonders why.
"No," he answers honestly, shaking his head. "I love that she got so much of both of us. All that time with you and your music, and me and my books."
It's a simple generalization of how they raised their daughter. Pieces of Peyton, and pieces of Lucas. Time with each of them one-on-one, and time with them together. Time on her own when she wanted it. It was exactly what she'd needed to grow up the way she did, and Lucas knows that if they'd had another child - no matter how amazing that would have been - that their relationship with Sawyer wouldn't be the same.
He wouldn't take back a single thing they've done in the last 18 years.
"Do you?" he asks.
"No," she insists without hesitation. "I think it was always meant to be just the three of us."
"Me too," he says. He takes her hand in his and kisses her knuckles. "That girl is going to change the world."
There are tears in Peyton's eyes and she nods her head. That was what she said all those years ago when she was fighting for him to trust her that everything was going to be OK, even when she wasn't really sure of it, herself. She loves that he remembers every detail of all their important moments.
He leans over and kisses her softly, then takes her hand in his and stands from his place, pulling her up with him.
"Dance with me, Peyton Sawyer."
He winks at her when she smiles. He does this every so often. He'll use her maiden name just to force her to correct him.
"Don't you mean Peyton Scott?" she asks coyly.
They both still love the way that sounds.