There is a really important A/N at the bottom of the page if you have the time to read it. But for now here is the next chapter!

Four years later.

It remained unchanged.

For the most part, at least.

The black tarmac was a little more worn and the paint on the bleachers was peeling away. The rope of the nets grew frailer with each passing day, the helpless victim of the cruel elements. There were a few stray weeds that had grown resiliently through the concrete, but they'd always been there.

And then there were their names, spray painted on the dark ground as a reminder that they were there, in that spot, with all those dreams they had.

Except now, four years down the line, the paint was faded and their presence was being worn away along with all that their existence stood for.

And she was the only one there, as promised. They weren't all friends forever and life certainly hadn't treated her as kindly as it could have, but she remembered what Brooke had said all the same. She'd made it back, finally, with the brunette in tow, but her best friend was tired from the flight and the hotel bed was calling her, leaving the blonde to wonder into the land of symbolism, hope and forgotten dreams all by herself.

Of course she'd made her way to the Rivercourt that was such a major milestone in her life. This had been her beginning in so many ways, their beginning maybe.

L.A. hadn't exactly chewed her up and spit her out. She was good at her job and she was moving up through the ranks of a major label, but somewhere along the way she lost a little of the integrity she'd once been so proud of. She was done with dropping buttons and wearing higher heels and shorter skirts. That wasn't the industry she'd chosen to make a career in, one day she'd just found herself a part of it. So she started trying to challenge the foundations of the company she worked for and found them unshakeable. Her next move was to quit, starting again.

She was back to find herself, and a little of that inspiration that she'd felt all that time ago.

Brushing off her jeans she stood up and looked around the floodlit court once more before receding into the darkness. She just missed the sound of an orange sphere approaching and the sight of a blonde boy, or rather man, stepping into the light.

Walking back to the hotel she'd never expected to feel so at ease in a place that she'd tried to convince herself only contained heartache.

She'd never expected Tree Hill to feel this much like home, at least not after four years of not being there.

When he stepped forward and made his first shot of the evening he couldn't help but feel another presence, one that he'd tried to forget over the past few years. He looked at her gentle cursive seeping into the black ground, staining the very essence of the court. He couldn't find it in himself to think of that as a bad thing.

When he caught the scent of vanilla and lavender on the wind he just shook his head and smiled at the memories and he somewhat cursed himself for thinking of her so fondly after all of this time.

What he didn't really know was why on this night of all nights he was drawn to the court that had always been his lifeline and was forever to be tainted by her, both in reality and in his mind.

He had remembered the unofficial reunion that was supposed to occur at this time too.

Or at least he hadn't forgotten it.

Neither of them ever really would.

Haley James Scott had always had an open door policy. Her house welcomed all friends, old and new. It was the hearth of their group and she gladly took on the matriarchal role, loving and caring for all those who entered into her home.

So when her two old best friends showed up unannounced she just screamed a little and hugged them both so tightly that they complained about bruised ribs, before offering them a glass of homemade lemonade (which Jamie proudly pointed out that he helped with) and beckoning them out to sit in the back yard and talk awhile to catch up on life and all those little things that slipped through the cracks when distance gets in the way.

They talked about Brooke and all her success and Peyton suddenly uprooting her life and searching for a place to replant it. They talked about how all the emailed pictures didn't do the young child who was running about justice and how perfect he was. They talked about how Nathan was trying to rehab after a stupid accident, and how he was doing well and getting looked at by scouts again. They talked about all the dreams Brooke and Haley had succeeded in achieving whilst somehow managing to avoid Peyton's apparent lack of fulfilment. They talked about all of their high school friends and discovered how they'd grown and developed (which in the case of Junk and Fergie wasn't very much). The only topic they managed to expertly steer clear of was that of Lucas and all things pertaining to him.

Peyton wasn't sure whether that was a good or bad thing or whether she even had the right to care any more at all.

As the day wore on the drinks were finished and Haley and Brooke retreated to the kitchen to prepare lunch whilst Peyton rolled around outside with Jamie. Haley remarked that it was probably best that the blonde girl looked after the little boy; they knew what her track record with food was. Peyton gave an indignant face to her friend but Brooke just scoffed and agreed with the singer, saying that she couldn't even make a green salad.

So Peyton huffed and stomped outside petulantly and Jamie followed suit, making his mother and godmother laugh. It wasn't long before screams of joy wafted through the kitchen window and the two brunette women shared a knowing look.

Scott boys all had a thing for Peyton Sawyer, it was official.

It didn't take long for the three girls to heal all of the wounds that had been inflicted over the past few years due to distance and space, as well as the giant elephant that stood somewhere between Haley and Peyton and took the form of a blonde author. Soon they were back to being the 22 year olds that they were, leaving the weight of the world to be shouldered by somebody else for a time.

It all changed at about five, after a day of memories and new beginnings. Following working out with his brother for a day the darker haired Scott entered his home to a hell of a lot of noise and a brunette that wasn't his wife flying at him.

"Nathan!" Brooke shouted as she flung her arms around his neck. He stood there a little too shocked to realize what was going on.

When he locked eyes with his wife to ask for some form of explanation she just shrugged like it was nothing.

Nathan accepted it then and there.

So when a leggy artist entered the room chasing after Jamie it barely registered. It was just another day in the Scott household, and some old friends were there to share it with them.

"Daddy! Aunt Peyton's trying to tickle me!" Jamie explained as he tried to hide behind his father. Nathan just laughed a little and smirked at the blonde girl who was slowly approaching his son. She raised her eyebrow in challenge to both of the boys.

"Jamie." Nathan took hold of his son's shoulders and crouched to his level. "You know I love you right?" The little boy nodded to his father with a perplexed look gracing his features.

"Well…" Nathan lowered his voice to a stage whisper as he continued, whilst Peyton took another step forward, "I'm afraid of Aunt Peyton, so you're on your own with this one."

And with that Nathan let go of his son and Peyton pounced, throwing the young boy over her shoulder and tickling his stomach whilst he screamed in delight. Peyton ran out of the kitchen with Jamie and onto the patio in the back garden whilst the rest of the adults recollected.

"So Jamie loves her?" Nathan stated whilst kissing Haley's forehead. She just nodded and smiled whilst Brooke sighed dramatically.

"It sucks." She declared after a moment's thought, "He's supposed to like me more, I'm his godmother!" Nathan just smiled, remarking how good it was to see her and how it was nice to know fame hadn't made her into a diva.

"Oh honey, she was always a diva." Haley laughed and Brooke merely shrugged, accepting the truth.

The sound of the front door opening and closing again drew their attention away from Brooke's hissy fit.

"Hey Hales, what's for dinner?" Lucas began until he realised that it wasn't just his brother and sister-in-law that stood in the kitchen. An alien person had invaded his little town, or a not-so-alien person had returned home. "Brooke? What are you doing here?" Lucas asked, a detectable hint of excitement filtering through to his tone.

"Well hey Broody!" Brooke bounded towards the next Scott brother and hugged him too, except he wasn't as stiff or shocked as Nathan had been.

Or at least he wasn't until the sound of Peyton's voice filtered into the kitchen.

"Darlin'," she exclaimed with that slow, drawling, magnetic Southern twang of hers, "Don't you dare try to chase me down!"

Lucas didn't really register much after that moment, not even that he stopped breathing. He'd forgotten that if the brunette was back in town then the blonde was sure to be near.

She pushed through the glass doors into the room with Jamie jumping on her back as she did so. She just smiled and let him, releasing a musical, throaty laugh and a quick comment about how much the little boy weighed.

She didn't become conscious of his presence until she stood upright and felt the shift in the atmosphere in the room. She followed Haley's eyes as she gazed between the two blonde adults.

Jamie slid off of Peyton's back when the green eyes of the artist caught his uncle's blue. Suddenly Peyton's arms weren't strong enough to carry the young child and her body was too upright and rigid for him to hold on.

The boy didn't really understand the change in the feeling in the room. It wasn't cold or angry, but instead shocked and still. There was a sense of caution that hung thickly in the air and the essence of confusion was palpable. Nobody knew what to say, what any of it meant, nobody knew where the two blondes stood with each other or whether somebody should do something to interrupt the staring match that was going on between the two.

And nobody knew why that chemistry and heat that the two tortured souls possessed hadn't faded or even disappeared over time.

He hadn't thought this was the situation in which he would next be seeing her. He wanted to be showered and dressed in something other than a polo shirt and some basketball shorts. He didn't want to still be a little red in the face from working out with Nathan and he certainly didn't want to be in a room full of people who knew every inch of their sordid past. He wanted to be in slacks and a shirt, dressed in the way that she'd always said she loved. He wanted to see her at a time where he could boast about how well he was doing without her, at a book launch or engagement party or something that might impress her and make her regretful. He still had some sort of desire to make her see what she was missing.

And it didn't help that she looked radiant, with her tousled hair falling in perfect ringlets and those skinny jeans showing off her long, slim legs, legs that had always been his kryptonite. Her cheeks were pink from playing with Jamie, the very idea of which warmed his soul a little, and he hated that it did.

She certainly hadn't planned on seeing him again like this either. She'd wanted it to be just them; maybe she would call him first or email or just go over to his house. They could be in a situation which wasn't so extremely awkward and she could explain to him why she was back. They could be rational and logical and there wouldn't have to be any raised voices or uncomfortable silences, and if there were then nobody else would be privy to them.

Jamie ran over to his uncle and tugged on his pant leg, trying to get some grasp of a situation he was far too young to even try to comprehend. Slowly Lucas lowered his head and, finally, his eyes to his nephew and smiled rather unconvincingly.

"Hi Luke."

She hadn't even meant for his old nickname to slip out but it was always so organic coming from her. His body froze a little more as he just took a deep breath and started avoiding her gaze.

Haley just smiled and exhaled, unable to think of anything to break the silence with. Brooke walked away from the side of the blonde man and his nephew and went to join Haley whilst Nathan hugged his wife a little tighter. Jamie, seeing the movement towards his mother, left Lucas' side and ran to her as well and she picked him up.

All watched keenly as nothing really happened, the two blondes standing on opposite sides of the room, unable to really say anything to each other or anyone else. It seemed as though hours had passed even though in reality they had been in each other's company for less than a minute.

"I just wanted to make sure Nathan got in alright." Lucas lied suddenly turned away from Peyton and looked towards Haley, making up some lame excuse that nobody believed. His eyes darted once more to Peyton before he turned back to his best friend, "I've got to get home."

And with that he turned and walked out the door, waving a goodbye to the people in the room as he left.

It wasn't until he was outside the front door that he stopped and remembered to take a breath. It wasn't until she heard his car start up that she realised that she too was holding hers.

She didn't know whether to laugh, cry or collapse. She wasn't sure she was entitled to have any of the reactions she wanted to have, so instead she stood up a little straighter and expressed no form of emotion about seeing Lucas again.

"Nathan! Sorry about earlier!" Peyton adopted a false smile that didn't quite reach her eyes fully, "Your little Rugrat was distracting me!" She walked over to her group of friends, ignoring the worried looks Haley and Brooke were giving her and ignoring the past minute or so.

Nathan knew avoidance was Peyton's go to defence mechanism. He also knew she was far more stubborn and volatile than the rest of the people standing in the kitchen, so he elected to not make a scene, no more than had already been made anyway. He just swept one of his closest friends into a sweet hug.

"How've you been, Sawyer?"

It was dark and still. He liked nights like this, the nights that juxtaposed the way he was feeling quite poetically.

To say he had been shocked would have been an understatement. He wasn't just confused; he was in a state of utter turmoil. She was back and looked healthier and happier than he had ever seen her and healthier and happier than he could have ever made her. The years had been kind to her, as had the LA sun seemingly. He hated that he noticed the tan glow of her skin or her sun-kissed blonde hair and casual, yet always alluring, wardrobe. He couldn't believe she'd come back without telling him, yet at the same time what right had he to know? It wasn't as though they'd stayed in contact and after their last encounter he was pretty sure he wasn't her favourite person. And now she just blew back into town and thought it appropriate to knock the wind right out of him. He was totally torn and maybe a bit crazy, but if he had lost the plot a little it was her that had distracted him from the story.

But the stars were out in their hundreds and there was no breeze disturbing the river. The internal tempest inside him raged but the River Court stood still and steady, the nets only moving when he sunk a shot through them and the leaves on the trees making no sound at all.

He heard a car alarm go off somewhere in the distance, breaking the serenity and making him chuckle a little bit.

So maybe one in the morning wasn't the best time to be out and about on his own, playing basketball right next to a river in a place that was renowned for having far too much drama and far too many tragic incidents, but it sure as hell would make a great novel. Maybe he could write a sequel to his original work about the town.

He shook his head as if to rid his brain from the thought. That was another reason he had to escape the confines of his house. He had suddenly been overwhelmed by an urge to write something, anything, if only a poem or a short story. He'd been going through a proverbial drought when it cam to his writing for a while now, but one look at her and he's inspired again. That wasn't the way it was supposed to work. She thought that evasion was her trademark and hers alone, but Lucas had been bearing the weight of the world on his shoulders for a hell of a long time and he seemed to do a mighty fine job of avoiding the fact that his back was starting to ache from it all.

So he dribbled a ball on an old tarmac court that they'd sat by, and laughed by and had one night of not-so-stolen glances on. He ran over the spot where they had their second first kiss and laid down on the bleachers that she had cheered him on from.

It was this position that she found him in. It seemed her nightly walks were always leading her to the old court, to him. She'd always thought of the place as an extension of the blonde boy she'd known, she just didn't realise that she'd had such an attachment to it at the same time.

She sure as hell hadn't expected him to be there. It was late, or early, or whatever you wanted to call it. He should be at home, in his bed, not feeling just as questioning and restless as she was.

He raised his head when he heard women's shoes hitting the tarmac. They took two steps onto the court and then stopped. He sat up and looked at her, she was frozen once again because of him. His blue eyes looked at her questioningly as he cocked his head to the side. She just shrugged and blew out a breath through her pursed lips, as though that was answer enough.

And somehow it was.

"Lucas." She whispered and the still night carried the tender sound towards his ears. He slowly raised himself from the bench and stepped onto the court, facing her, eyes searching for something though he knew not what. She took an apprehensive step forward, not wanting to spook him.

"God, how long has it been?" She said, trying to find something to say to him but not really knowing how to go about initiating a conversation. Just from looking at him she could tell so many things, like he still worked out for starters. His shoulders were tense and she could tell he held a lot of frustration inside of himself, although she didn't know if that was brought on by her or some other factor, she liked to think it was the latter because she could help him solve the latter.

He looked well, he looked proud, he looked like he'd done just fine without her. She didn't blame his hesitant demeanour, the last time they'd seen each other she hadn't exactly been positive towards him. She would be extremely wary of her too.

"Two years." She was shocked by his gruff voice. It was the first she'd heard of it in far too long. She was sure it had subtle differences too, that it had matured with him. He sounded wiser, less bright eyed and bushy tailed and more realistic, whilst still avoiding being cynical or jaded, that was her corner. She only ever heard his voice on the odd radio interview he did or the audiobook of his novel. It sounded good to hear him address her again.

"It's been longer than that." She answered softly and affectionately in reply. She took another step forward, encouraged by the dialogue that they had so far managed.

But instead of opening his arms to her, he stepped back and put the orange ball he was holding between them.

"I have someone." He told her, not meaning for his voice to sound quite so spiteful or contemptuous. He didn't want to gloat at her but he couldn't help himself. She'd left him, not the other way around, and he tried not to feel guilty. Unfortunately his justification only ran skin deep and something a little bit more like shame flooded through his veins. He didn't want her to be hurt.

"I'm…with someone" He clarified more gently, without having been asked. Her mouth fell agape a little, confused as to why he would tell her that.

Well, she knew why he might tell her that but she hadn't expected him to tell her so bluntly.

And she hadn't expected it to hurt so much.

Still, after faltering for a second she readjusted her vision and looked at him again with a soft smile and a small laugh playing on her lips.

"Me too. Going on a year and a half now, actually." She told him in return. She could tell he was shocked and again a tiny chuckle graced her features. She didn't know why she found it so funny that he thought she had returned to Tree Hill for him. She could read him like a book, standing there confused after he tried to warn her of his unavailability. It was like he thought that she saw him and Tree Hill as the same thing, and that with one came the other. He'd forgotten that she'd lived longer without him in her life than in it.

So she laughed at his assumption and at his charming way of being unintentionally egotistical and at the tiny voice in her head that was still crying out in pain at the fact that he was attached.

"Oh." He answered, just to say something and stop the silence setting in. That was what he feared, the silence, not because it would be awkward or uncomfortable but because he was afraid it wouldn't be. He was frightened that he might feel fine just standing there, not saying a word.

Peyton could pick up on his hesitation and all of a sudden she was very much aware that by being at his court at such an ungodly hour, she was encroaching on his time. She couldn't know the myriad of things he had to sort through, but she did know that the River Court was where he did some of his best thinking. She knew that he would come here and play ball because it just made sense to him, even when the world was falling apart. He'd told her himself, he just shoots and the ball goes in, like it's as natural as breathing. For him she knows that that was exactly the case.

"Ok. Well I'm…I'll just…" Peyton smiled nervously and pointed down the river, backing off of the court. Lucas was stuck somewhere between telling her to hurry up and leave and dragging her back and wrapping her into the hug that was so long overdue between the two.

And then, like a sign or omen, the car alarm went off again. At first Lucas thought that the warning bells in his head were sounding awfully realistic, but it only took him a moment to understand that it was the middle of the night, and whilst Tree Hill wasn't known for all of its muggings and attacks, she had had a psycho stalker and in the past five years there had been a murder and she wasn't exactly always prone to good luck.

He couldn't just let her wonder around, looking like that, all skinny arms and tangled mess of hair, in the dark of the night when God knows what could happen to her. They may have had their fair share of heartbreak, but he was too much of a gentleman to let her walk around alone. He would have done it for anyone.

And maybe that was true, but there were very few women he would have escorted back happily, without it having been a chore. He wasn't sure why she fell into the latter category but she did, along with Haley, Brooke, his mom, Lilly.

Oh, and of course his girlfriend.

"Peyt" The shortened form of her name fell into the air and her head whipped around, surprised, pleasantly, by Lucas calling her back and calling her by the nickname she hated when it came from anyone's lips but his.

"Where are you headed?" He asked her, trying not to let too much of anything seep into his voice. He knew she could read every inflection in his voice like a book so he tried to avoid emotion altogether.

"The hotel, downtown. Brooke and I have been staying there." She stopped abruptly, realising he hadn't asked for her life story, just where she was staying. No need to exaggerate or provide a heavily extended and thoroughly rambled answer.

She looked at him with a soft stare, prompting him to speak, but no words were uttered. He just nodded and stepped towards the river, starting to walk down the path, the way that she had come.

Peyton stayed in her spot, studying the man who had once been her boy. She didn't know how he saw the woman who had once been so hopelessly and completely his girl, but she certainly wasn't getting much idea from him. She wondered what had made him so closed, and why he seemed exclusively to direct his coldness towards her. Sure, they weren't necessarily on the best of terms, but at the same time years had passed and they were both adults, and they'd already established they had both moved on from each other.

"You coming?" Lucas asked, turning around impatiently. Peyton raised her eyebrow at his tone.

"Coming where?" She replied sceptically.

"To your hotel." The conversation was short and direct, both of the blondes trying not to say more than was necessary. Words always got them into trouble and it never took very many with them.

"Well, yeah." Peyton replied. "I'm going to my hotel so you can get back to your game."

Lucas laughed derisively, but almost instantly wished he could take it back. He looked at the feisty blonde standing before him and remembered what it was like to have her angry at him. She was one of the most passionate, most frightening people he knew and although he loved that about her, he didn't want to incur her wrath.

Used to love that about her, he corrected himself.

Peyton stood on the edge of the floodlit tarmac, the yellow light from the court permeating her skin, making her glow whilst the silver light of the moon cast half-shadows on Lucas' face.

"Seriously, Peyton?" He asked but she kept her stance steady, eyebrow raised, hip jutting out, and hands on hips. He shook his once again, a little surprised that she hadn't remembered his hero complex that she always used to remind him about. "It's late; you aren't walking back by yourself." He instructed, leaving no room for argument in his voice.

"I walked out here alone, I can walk back alone Lucas. It isn't that tough." Peyton replied in a slightly patronizing tone, with her normal undercurrents of sarcasm seeping through.

"You shouldn't have walked out here alone." Lucas shrugged, like what he was saying was common sense and undeniably correct.

And Peyton realised that she was being a bitch, but she also knew that if she let herself rely on him she wouldn't stop. They would go back to having something unsaid but acknowledged lying between them that had the possibility to ruin everything.

"Lucas, really, I can manage on my own." Peyton protested.

"Listen, I'm not going to let the girl who had a stalker walk around alone in a town that has a bad track record for drama. I get that I may not be your favourite person and you may hate me, but you know you can trust me to not push you into the river. You don't have to even talk to me, or acknowledge me and then, later, we can go back to our perfectly separate existences, but for now, you are not walking home alone Peyton."

Peyton didn't know how to react to half of what Lucas had just told, or dictated to her, so once ore she was stunned into saying nothing, neither agreeing with or denying him.

"Peyton, it's either this or I call Nathan, and we both know how much he likes his sleep, him and Haley both. And if he's up then that might wake Jamie up, and we wouldn't want that. Plus, Nathan can hold a grudge almost as well as you can." Lucas argued and he saw Peyton's hesitance start to fade, her shoulders relaxing slightly.

"Nobody can hold a grudge as well as I can." Peyton mumbled jokingly under her breath softly and Lucas only just caught her words. He laughed quietly and knew he had broken her down. She strode off of the court and began walking alongside the writer and they fell into a steady pace.

They'd walked about five minutes before another word was spoken. The quiet wasn't uncomfortable; in fact it was the complete opposite, which is exactly what prompted the leggy blonde to speak. She couldn't let herself get too secure with him in the silences.

"I don't hate you Luke." His head spun around to meet her green eyes, but he couldn't catch them, she'd directed her gaze at the path that was extending in front of them. "I never hated you." She said as she stopped and looked up through her eyelashes. He too stopped and couldn't help but catch his breath as a light breeze ran its fingers through the curled tendrils of her hair. Her emerald orbs portrayed nothing but honesty as she replied to the offhand remark he'd made earlier when trying to convince her not to walk home alone.

"I know." He replied genuinely.

And he didn't know where his conviction came from. For so long he'd thought that she loathed him for the words he'd finally managed to say to her and the pain that they had caused both of them, but something in him reignited as he looked at her, looking so vulnerable as she rubbed her bare arms and begged him to believe her. In all honesty, she could have said just about anything in that moment and he would not doubt it for a second.

Her eyes lit up briefly before she nodded and continued walking, once more falling into rhythm beside him. A whisper of a smile danced across her pink lips and she laughed to herself, he caught the twinkle in her eyes and the magic that was manifesting itself on her face and he looked at her, perplexed as always.

"What?" He asked, finding it impossible not to smile with her.

"Nothing." She said modestly, but the look she received from Lucas proved that he didn't believe her in the slightest. "No, really, its nothing, I just…." She slowed down and looked at him and he returned her gaze, trying not to let his eyes flicker down to the lip she was biting.

"Its kind of funny, isn't it? And kinda tragic." She laughed and still he looked to her for embellishment of her statement. "I mean, four years ago we were here and we'd thought that we were it for each other. I mean, you wrote a book Lucas, about it all, an incredible, moving book about the way it should have been, and after that night…." Her voice grew quieter and she broke his gaze, unsure of whether to broach the topic of that night with him, but she found a second wind, "Whilst you were asleep, I must have picked up the phone about a million times to call L.A. and cancel the whole internship thing. The only thing that stopped me was that I knew you wouldn't let me pass up an opportunity like it. In the end I went to L.A. because it's what I thought you would have wanted me to do. How screwed up is that? And I was so sure that in however long, we'd find our way back, you know? Like we were meant to be and all that fairytale crap."

"And here we are, four years older, four years wiser, and from the looks of things we're both happy with other people and with our lot, and its just…" Peyton stopped and took a breath, but Lucas just smiled in encouragement. He hadn't been sure where she was going with her diatribe but she was slowly making her way to a point where they could find some sort of platonic, common ground, "I just…I never saw us ending up here, but somehow it doesn't feel wrong that it's where we ended up."

"And of course it's always there, you know? It's our history, of course it's there…"

"But we don't have to be there with it anymore." Lucas offered as Peyton trailed off, and her eyes caught his and she smiled a genuine smile.

"You have an amazing capacity to forgive Lucas Scott." Peyton smiled at him and Lucas beamed back.

"Yeah well, you aren't so bad yourself, Sawyer." Lucas nudged her side and she laughed.

"But after everything….and then two years ago at the book signing when I just…" Peyton mimed an explosion and Lucas laughed under his breath.

"Yeah well, remind me never to get on your bad side again. I don't think I'll ever forget how frightening you are."

"Still having nightmares?" Peyton teased.

"Nathan's still having nightmares and he only heard half the story before he hid under the covers!" Lucas shot back.

"Well you know me. Peyton Sawyer: loner, cheerleader, artist, unemployed and also a despot in her free time."

"Wow, sounds like your life kind of sucks right now." Peyton shot Lucas and indignant face to which he just stuck out his tongue.

"I thought you didn't want to get me angry." Peyton threatened emptily.

"I thought you were tougher skinned than that." Lucas retorted, causing Peyton to take a second to recover, but it was only a moment and she'd be damned if he was going to beat her at the whole 'arguing' thing. Sure he was smart, and witty, and perfectly great at debates but she hadn't lost her magic touch.

"And what about you, Mr High-and-Mighty? I haven't heard any rumblings about Lucas Scott on the literary circuit since, hmm, I don't know, Ravens." Lucas looked at her, feigning shock at Peyton's reply, but finding nothing of his own to send back her way.

"Ouch Peyt! Don't sugar coat it, tell me what you really think!"

"Since when have I ever sugar coated anything. I'm the Queen Bitch, remember?" Peyton smiled and shoved Lucas playfully towards the river. He stumbled, surprised at the jolt from the petite blonde woman standing next to him. When he regained his balance he looked at Peyton with a devilish glimmer in his eyes and she immediately understood his plan.

"Lucas Eugene Scott, don't you dare." Peyton warned before hesitantly breaking out into a run down the sidewalk and away from him.

"Oh, you better run." Lucas called playfully after her, picking up the pace. She weaved her way along the sidewalk of the town she could still navigate blindfolded whilst he followed her, both of them sprinting in their infantile chase. Lucas didn't know how she'd gotten so quick or where she'd received her stamina from, but he was sure as hell having a hard time catching up to her. He smiled when she turned around, running backwards to taunt him as he struggled to catch her, but he used it to his advantage, clutching a little at his chest and taking deep gasps for air whilst slowing down.

It took her a few moments to register that she was running against a man with HCM. Her eyes widened as the realization hit and within a few seconds she was at the blonde man's side, fretting over him.

"Lucas! Shit….Luke, come on, just take…I don't know….take deep breaths….crap, where is my phone? Are you ok? Do I need to dial 911?" She rambled nonsensically, missing the mischevious smirk that tugged on the corners of his lips.

It was only when a small chuckle escaped his mouth she realised the trick he'd played on her.

"You Jackass!!" she exclaimed, hitting his arm.

"Ow!" He exclaimed in return. Instead of leaving it there she just hit his arm again.

"Are you insane? You don't fake a heart attack!! You are absolutely delusional! Seriously Luke? That isn't funny! You had me scared out of my mind."

He smiled more softly at her, letting her take her time to calm down.

"You nearly gave me a heart attack, jackass."

"You've already said that." Lucas pointed out, earning him a clip round the ear.

"You don't get to be mean to me right now. In fact from now on you have to accept that I just win. Everything. You pull a stunt like that and you forfeit the right to beat me in any argument or competition, except maybe the one for the biggest ass."

"Well, I think you'd put up fair competition in the as…"

Peyton silenced him with her finger pressing on his lips and suddenly she made him return to being that little boy scared of being told off by his mother.

"Don't even try it." Peyton instructed through gritted teeth. "You are officially my bitch after that. You're lucky I don't castrate you, but I don't think that'd be fair on your girlfriend."

Lucas merely nodded submissively, and watched as Peyton turned and walked away from him, embarking towards her hotel once more. And he certainly couldn't complain about the sight. She looked incredible from behind as well as from the front, from the way her hair fell across her shoulders and her hips swayed femininely, and her ass wasn't exactly an eye sore despite his earlier comment, and those legs, those legs that just went on forever.

He had to snap himself out of it as she called to him to catch her up whilst making some snide comment about how he was supposed to be walking her home. He just laughed and nodded, apologizing sarcastically for letting her down.

In another five minutes they had reached her hotel and she realized that they'd just had an incredible fifteen minutes, laughing and playing as though no time had past, as though no crap had happened and if it had it was just water under the bridge, as though they were friends like they had once been.

"Thanks Luke, I'm sure you scared off plenty of wannabe-attackers. It's much appreciated." Peyton couldn't help but joke.

"Well if that's the thanks I get…" Lucas began to joke and walk off but turned back around swiftly, pulling Peyton into a hug.

"I'm glad we did this." He whispered into her hair and she nodded back into his shirt. After a time he pulled away reluctantly, knowing that the hug had already lingered a little longer than it should have, given their history. He gave her one last smile before beginning to walk away. "Don't be a stranger, ok?" He asked hopefully.

She nodded her head in affirmation, watching him retreat slowly. "I'll be seeing ya." She said after him and she heard his smile and soft, gruff laughter pierce the air. She was amazed that in one night they had come so far. They were reliving the past without the drama and the hurt and the pain she had always attached to it and it felt good to be reunited again.

She was almost too lost in her own thoughts to hear his reply.

"You better."

A/N Hey guys, sorry this has taken so long! I know it's annoying to wait for updates but I have been so inordinately busy. I am quite literally getting about 4 hours sleep a night. Fun, fun. Anyway, I don't mean to complain so I won't. Just to explain this has jumped 4 years into the future since the last chapter (as they did in the actual show) and there has been a bit of an allusion to a Leyton meeting whilst Peyton was in L.A.

DISCLAIMER: I don't own One Tree Hill…damn

Anyway, I also wanted to write about something that I know may seem out of the blue, but I feel I should share. As I said I am extremely busy and the intervals between posting chapters is just getting longer and longer. I do really enjoy writing and I hope you my efforts too, but I am thinking of taking a hiatus, and I don't know how long it'll be for. I may not take one if I feel as though I'd be letting too many people down, I just think that at the moment my writing time could be used for other things and not many people would be that affected if I stopped writing. I'm not using this as some sort of ploy to get more reviews; I just thought that anyone reading this deserved to know where my head is at. That being said, I will write the next chapter and I really would love to hear your thoughts on the story/chapters etc. Any criticism is welcomed (just nothing too rude).

So I hoped you like it and please REVIEW