A/N: AU. Rated M to be safe.


He walked into the house and slammed the door, then pulled off his jacket and threw it angrily in the direction of the coat rack. Of course, it landed in a heap on the floor, and he threw it a glare, as if it were the clothing's fault and not his. He rolled his eyes when he heard the strains of an album he'd heard a million times before. He didn't even own it.

His best friend was over, and he didn't know why, only that she hated her roommates and was constantly letting herself into his apartment with the key he'd given her. Okay, she'd threatened him after the third time she'd had to wait outside for him to get home. 'It's dangerous to wait in the hall,' she'd said, and he knew better than to argue that his building had a doorman and a secure entry system. And he liked to pretend that he didn't worry about her, but he did. All the time.

They'd known each other in high school. Sort of. They were part of different groups that didn't really get along. He'd known her name, and she'd known his, but it didn't go much further than that. Their last names start with the same letter, so they had the same guidance counselor, and when it was discovered that they would be attending the same college, they were thrust together. Their counselor insisted that they get to know each other and stick together through those first months of college.

They didn't.

As far as he was concerned, she was the bitchy (but hot) cheerleader. As far as she was concerned, he was the nerdy guy with the 4.0 GPA and stack of books on his lunch table every day (like, did he think he could read them all at once?).

When they ran into one another at a coffee shop towards the end of their first month of school, their opinions of one another quickly changed. She noticed that he was kind of...attractive. He was an athlete, though she'd never known that, and she was an artist, though he'd never known that. He wasn't as geeky as she'd been so quick to assume, and he wasn't the bitch he'd always thought she was. They started spending a little more time hanging out, going to the same parties and meeting up for casual lunches here or there.

That was six years ago.

They'd been inseparable for the last five.

"What are you doing here?" he asked, walking into the kitchen. She was perched on a stool at the counter with a bottle of Southern Comfort (they were each the only person the other knew who drank the stuff) and a glass in front of her. She had some music industry magazine open in front of her, and she didn't answer him. "Peyton."

"Hey." She didn't look up from the article she was reading, and she flicked her wrist dismissively.

He laughed and shook his head. "What are you doing here?" he repeated. It wasn't that he was surprised, of course. He just wanted to know her reasons this time.

"Jocelyn has that Todd guy over, and Breanne is freaking out over her exercise schedule." She looked up then as she realized that he wasn't supposed to be home. "What are you doing here? Weren't you going out with whatsername?"

"Laura, and it's been two months," he said. He had no idea how she could never remember the other girl's name. Maybe because she didn't like her. Never had. "She dumped me."

Peyton let out a bitter laugh and shook her head. Lucas had the worst luck with women. "Fucking bitch."

"You know, you've got a dirty mouth," he said. He was smirking as he poured himself a drink from the bottle in front of her.

He wouldn't admit to it, but she was already making him feel better.

"That's what makes me so popular with the boys," she insisted, her tone sexy and her eyes mischievous.

He didn't really know what that expression on her face meant, only that he was sure he'd never seen her eyes look better to him. Maybe it was because he'd totally thought he'd be getting laid tonight, then he'd gotten dumped instead. His mind was kind of only in one place, and with those eyes turning forest green, he couldn't help but let his thoughts wander.

"Oh really?" he asked, raising his brow. "And when was the last time you even went on a date with a guy?"

"Who said anything about a date?"

He almost choked on his drink.

"You're not that kind of girl," he reminded her.

"You don't know that," she kinked her brow, almost like she was challenging him, and their eyes locked. He narrowed his as though he was trying to figure out if he really knew her at all. He thought he did. Maybe he was wrong. "I'm joking, you idiot."

"I wasn't..."

"You totally thought I was a slut!"

"Well, you say things like that and it makes me question you," he said laughingly.

"I'm not a slut," she insisted firmly.

"I didn't say you were!"

"You thought about it though," she argued. He was getting the impression she really thought that was what he'd been contemplating.

"No, I didn't. I don't see you like that," he said seriously. He needed to placate her. She had that quick temper that he actually adored. He didn't, however, need her going off on him for something he hadn't even considered. "And I just said that you're not that girl."

"I'm not."

"I know!" he cried, throwing his hands up. "God, you're impossible. You're...seriously. You piss me off."

"Screw you!" she shouted. She was smiling as she grabbed the bottle back from him. "I'm just an innocent girl."

Lucas scoffed. "You may not be a slut, but you are not innocent."

He vaguely heard her mumble, "if you only knew," as he walked down the hall towards his bedroom to change.

He had no fucking clue what that meant. He couldn't deny there was a part of him that kind of wanted to find out.

She shook her head as she sat alone in his kitchen. She loved his place. Of course she did. She was friends with the realtor who sold it to him, and she was the one who'd basically decorated the place. The kitchen had dark wood cabinets, granite countertops, alder floors, and stainless steel appliances. The rest of the place was just as nice.

And her three bedroom townhouse was starting to look like a shack by comparison. It didn't help that she lived there with two of the most irritating girls she'd ever met. They'd both been in her program during college, and when they graduated and all decided to stay in town instead of moving, they figured it'd be easier and cheaper to find a place where they could live together. Peyton discovered very quickly that having fun partying or even studying with someone wasn't the same as living with them. It didn't take her very long to realize that she really didn't like those two girls at all.

Luckily, she happened to know someone with a great place she could escape to when she felt the need. Lucas insisted that she was always welcome, and she took advantage of that. They joked that his spare room was really her room, since she'd stayed there so many more times than anyone else.

"So what do you want to do?" Lucas asked, walking back down the hall and pulling his tee shirt on over his head.

He was always doing that. Peyton had to wonder if he had any idea how nice his body was.

And see, they were friends, but there had always been a tension there. Not that thick kind of sexual tension that often is there between friends, but just something. They'd go to the beach and she'd catch him checking her out in her bikini, or she'd watch him play ball with his brother and her cheeks would heat up when she saw him wipe his face with the bottom of his tee shirt. They'd fallen asleep together on more than one occasion, and back when he lived in a one bedroom and she lived in a studio, they'd share a bed. They'd always end up in one another's arms, and there'd be an awkward moment or two in the morning.

But they never acted on it. They were smarter than that.

"Drink SoCo and badmouth Laura?" she suggested, smiling sweetly at him.

"We break up, and now you call her the right name?"

"Shut up and drink, Scott."

She got up to refill her glass with ice from the freezer; he always drank his SoCo neat. When she bent down to get the ice out of the freezer (his was one of those new, high tech fridges with the freezer on the bottom), her jeans gaped at the back and he saw the top of a lacy dark red pair of underwear.

So not innocent.

He needed a subject change. Her underwear should never have been a thought in his head in the first place, even when they were on display and...sexy.

That was the thing with Peyton; she was an enigma. She'd wear business suits to meetings, jeans and tee shirts to work with her artists in the studio, dresses to go out on weekends, and sweats when she worked on her art or whatever. She had a thousand different moods, only about five of which she actually let the outside world see. She was sarcastic and a little cynical, but when she laughed, she laughed with her entire body.

And that body...

She was absolutely fucking gorgeous, and even someone who was nothing more than her best friend could see that.

"She was a bitch," Lucas noted after about 10 minutes of the two of them sitting there next to one another in complete silence, only her music filling the room.

"I know."

"Like...really, she was." His brow was knit, as though he were just realizing it. Maybe he was.

"I know," Peyton laughed.

"She wasn't on time for a date once."


He laughed at the smile Peyton wore - she was obviously thrilled that he saw things her way - and shook his head. "Fucking bitch," he mumbled. Peyton clinked her glass against his and they both took sips of the alcohol. "So here's the next question," he said seriously, turning to her a little bit. "How come I can never see that these girls are wrong for me before I start dating them?"

"Because you don't think with your brain," Peyton insisted. She wasn't joking, he could tell. She had one eyebrow in the air like she was waiting for him to argue.

"I do too."

"No. You don't. You never have. You see a pretty girl and you talk to her, and if she's sweet enough to your face, you convince yourself she's the one." He shook his head, but she started talking before he could. "You date like a girl."

"What?" he laughed. "First you tell me I'm thinking with my dick, then you say that I date like a girl?"

"I didn't say you think with your dick," she rationalized. She loved that they were comfortable enough in their friendship to have this conversation with nary an awkward moment. "I said you don't think with your brain."

"So what do I think with then?" He turned towards her a little more, resting one arm on the back of his chair and one on the counter, clutching his glass.

"Your heart," she answered quietly.

"And that's not what I'm supposed to do?" he asked, raising his brow. She shook her head. "Funny. That's not what I've heard."

"Smart ass," she mumbled, making him laugh. "Do you not think it's a good idea to like...see if the person is worthy of giving your heart before you actually give it?"

"I wasn't in love with her."

"I know that, but...I don't know. Luke, you kind of go all in really fast," she said, shaking her head. She really was worried about him. He kept getting hurt, and she didn't like it.

"So what? I'm supposed to date like you do? Or...actually, that'd be not at all." Her eyes snapped over to meet his, and he immediately regretted the words. "I'm sorry. I'm not trying to be a jerk, but...You're this amazing woman, and you never let anyone see that."

"I don't want to," she said with a shrug of her shoulder. She swirled the ice around in her glass to give herself something to look at. She didn't want to look at him.

"So you want to be alone?" he asked delicately. "When was the last time you went on a date?"

"I'm just waiting for the person that it's just...there with. You know? I don't want to have to try so hard. And I don't want to feel like I have to hide myself until we're far enough into things that I know he can handle me." Lucas was just staring at her; she'd just made all the sense in the world. "I dunno. Maybe my expectations are too high. Maybe that kind of thing doesn't happen."

"I think it does," he said quietly. "I think it's hard to find, though."

"Exactly. Why waste time with the wrong guy before the right one comes along?" she asked.

She was brilliant. He'd never thought of it that way. Of course, he couldn't admit that.

"Oh good. Abstinent Peyton. She won't be bitchy at all," he said, laughing when her jaw dropped and she punched his arm. "I'm sorry. You're right. It won't be much of a change at all."

"Oh, you are on thin ice, Lucas," she said, shaking her head as he grinned and sipped his drink.

They moved on to simpler topics. She was excited about a showcase she had coming up for one of her artists, and he was telling her all about the pages he was working on in his novel. They kind of shared everything. Lucas ignored the fact that the relationship they shared was basically all she'd just explained that she wanted. He had to admit that was all that he wanted to. But they were Lucas and Peyton. Friends and nothing more, and that was the way it was supposed to be. And so it'd stay that way.

Haley would always laugh at their situation. She was Lucas' best friend first (and still was, really) and Peyton was Nathan's girlfriend first. Now Peyton and Lucas were best friends, and Nathan and Haley were married. Only in a small town, they'd say. It was kind of true. Now they were a bit of a foursome, and while Nathan and Haley would ask every so often why the two blondes weren't just together, they liked the way things were.

It was close to midnight and the bottle was about half gone by the time Lucas yawned and stretched his arms over his head like he always did when he decided it was time for bed. Peyton smiled to herself as she waited for him to speak the words.

"I'm gonna get some sleep."

"Okay," she said, taking their glasses and setting them in the dishwasher.

"You staying?" he asked. They both knew he wouldn't let her leave so late at night.


He smiled and waited for her to join him, then they walked down the hall together. He reached over and shoved her gently. She wasn't expecting it, however, so she went stumbling into the wall. "'Night, Peyton."

"You're a jerk." She balled her fist and wailed on his arm, and he laughed as he cowered. "'Night, Luke."

She closed the door to 'her' room behind her and changed into one of the sets of pajamas she kept there (she had a few changes of clothes, too). That night, as she lay down to sleep, she was suddenly acutely aware that Lucas was only a few feet away. She'd always known it, of course. Hell, they'd shared a bed before. Several times.

This time, it wasn't just the knowledge that he was there. There was a voice in the back of her head that, each time she heard it, a shiver ran down her spine. That voice was telling her that he was too far away.

She blamed it on the alcohol, pulled the covers up under her chin and closed her eyes.


They were laying around in his living room one afternoon with a basketball game playing on the television. Peyton was nursing a mug of tea and idly going over some paperwork, though Lucas insisted that on a Saturday, she had no business doing it. He was actually watching the game, and the way she was sitting, practically falling off the sofa, she was slouching so horribly with her feet propped up on the coffee table. Her polished-red toes would tap to the beat of whatever music came from the television.

This was them. They were comfortable. He could sit there and not say anything, and she could do the same. She didn't need to be entertained, and he didn't expect her to really watch basketball (though she sometimes did).

"You ever think about sex?" she asked abruptly, looking over at him.

"Excuse me?" he laughed.

"I don't mean do you ever think about it. I would assume you do."

"You assume I do," he stated doubtfully.

"First of all, you're a guy. Second of all, I can tell when you're thinking about sex, Luke."

"What?!" he all but shouted.

"I can. You kind of blank out, then your eyes go a little extra sparkly," she explained. He could only smirk, because she was totally right. "Then you shake your just head a little bit, and I know you think no one notices."

"Shit, I'm going to have to be extra careful now," he mumbled. "So if you didn't mean..."

"I mean, do you actually ever think of like, the act of sex?" she asked. He furrowed his brow. She wasn't being any clearer. "The whole idea behind it. Like, two people just...mashing their bodies together."

He laughed. Only Peyton would look at it that way. He also knew how sexually frustrated she was, even if she wasn't willing to say it out loud. This was no doubt just something she'd she'd worked out in her mind to make herself feel better.

"I guess," he said, just to appease her.

"It's really like...awkward and kind of messed up if you think about it."

"So don't think about it like that," he said, shrugging his shoulder like it was just that easy. "Those certainly aren't the thoughts I have."

She laughed and reached over to punch his thigh. "Pervert."

"You started this whole conversation."

"To make a point, not to get you fantasizing!" she insisted.

"Whatever," he mumbled.

He went back to watching the game, and she soon abandoned her papers dropping them onto the table. When she came back from the kitchen after grabbing a slice of leftover pizza, she noticed that he was kind of staring off into space, and his eyes were a little extra sparkly. He blushed and rolled his eyes when she started laughing, then leaned over and stole a bit of her pizza right from her hand.

He couldn't say he'd never had a sexual thought about her before. He could say that he'd never been caught doing it before.


Lucas had bad luck with women, but that didn't mean they didn't flock to him. After all, he was well-educated, successful, and quite attractive. Women would be crazy not to want him. Peyton's two roommates, though one was in a relationship (albeit not a serious one) acted like total fools around him, and he loved every second of it. He'd shamelessly flirt with them, and they'd flirt back, and Peyton would roll her eyes at the lot of them.


She'd had a horrible day. A distribution deal for one of her label's artists had fallen through, so she was back to square one, with an angry promoter and a disappointed singer/songwriter, not to mention her own feelings towards her lack of progress. The last thing she needed that evening was to walk into the house after a solid 10 hour work day and hear Breanne and Jocelyn giggling, and Lucas' sitting there telling stories. Stories that were probably pointless. The guy could recite nursery rhymes and those two girls would laugh like morons.

"Hey!" Lucas greeted her when she walked into the house.

Peyton shot him a look that sent a cold chill down his spine, then headed for her bedroom without a word to anyone.

Lucas affectionately called her bedroom 'the dungeon'. It was painted dark red (he now knew she had a pair of underwear the same colour), and the carpet was charcoal grey. Her blinds were black, as was the trim. But it was the biggest room in the place, and she had a separate area set up as an office with her records lining the walls, plus a sitting area. It was a pretty cool space, he had to admit. They'd spent quite a bit of time in there, despite the fact that she'd rather be pretty much anywhere but her own house.

She didn't know why the fact that Lucas was hanging out with her roommates bothered her so much on that particular day. It could have been that she'd just had an awful day and Jocelyn's laughter sounded like some sort of high pitched bird or something. She realized that it was probably because her plan had been ruined. She'd fully intended to change into a pair of jeans and a tee shirt, grab a six pack and a pizza, and head to Lucas' place to sit on his sofa, bitch about her problems, and watch a basketball game. If he was at her place, that plan wasn't going to work out so well.

Lucas entered her room without knocking, because he never knocked. He really didn't expect to see her standing there in just the black pants she'd been wearing when she walked in and a black bra. He'd seen her in a bikini before, so it wasn't really much of a difference.

Only now his heart was racing.

"You okay?" he asked worriedly.

"Fine," she bit out curtly, reaching for a tee shirt. He noticed it was his favourite of hers. That'd help.

"Given the way you looked at me when you came in, I don't believe you."

She reached for her belt and he thought he was going to have to get a drink of water. What the hell was the matter with him?

It's just Peyton. It's just Peyton. It's just Peyton. He repeated it over and over in his head as he watched her fiddle with the zipper in frustration.

"I just had a really shitty day, and nothing's working right, and those two are like, playing fucking house with you upstairs, and why can I not get my pants undone!?"

She took a deep breath and dropped her hands to her sides, that tee shirt still in her grasp.

He knew her well enough to know that if he wanted her to calm down, he'd have to help her, whether she wanted it or not. She usually didn't. Today, he could tell she was tired and cranky and, if he was reading her correctly, on the verge of tears.

And really, he didn't need much of a reason to walk towards her and reach for the front of her pants. For some reason, their eyes locked as he slid the zipper down gently, and she wasn't sure if it was just her, or if time had slowed down. He had one hand on her bare hip and the other dangerously close to a place where she momentarily thought she might need him. But no. She was stressed and looking for something to relieve it, and it wouldn't be Lucas. Not that way.

He pat her hip with his hand and winked at her. "Better?" he asked.

The man in him was itching to look down and see if her underwear was black, too. He knew it had to be. They'd talked about it before; how they both thought there was nothing sexier than matching underthings. For him it was the sight of it, and for her it was the way she felt. 'Put together', she'd said, and like she was keeping a secret.

"Thanks," she mumbled.

She stepped out of her pants and she was left standing before him in a black pair of Brazilian cut underwear with lace detail that matched her bra. What a secret it was. She really was beautiful. If he hadn't thought that it was inappropriate or that she'd bite his head off, he would have told her then and there. But something about calling her sexy (because she so was) when she was half naked in front of him just didn't seem like a good idea.

Maybe because it spelled out trouble?

He had to clear his throat and sit down in one of her the chairs in the room to rid his head of thoughts of just what kind of trouble that might have been.

"So what happened?" he asked.

Ah. Good old neutral ground.

"I don't want to talk about it."

Neutral ground was destroyed again when she laid down on her bed.

All he could see from where he sat was legs and skin and the curve of her breasts and her arms clasped above her head. What the fuck was she trying to do to him? No. What the fuck was wrong with him? He tried to think of something that wasn't her incredible body, then she turned on her side and propped herself up on her elbow. His mind was a haze of lust. He needed to put an end to it.

"You wanna put some clothes on?"

She started laughing and closed her eyes. "Shit. Sorry."

Apologizing for being half-naked in front of him was just about the last thing he needed her to do.

Her getting up and walking towards him in the direction of her closet was absolutely the last thing he needed her to do.

He tried not to stare. He really did.

"You're such a dude," she said, shoving his shoulder as he sat there.

"I'm sorry!" he said quickly as they both started to laugh. "You've never done that before. I'm thinking of writing to Penthouse."

"Fuck off," she laughed, stepping into her jeans. "And trust me, if you anything ever happened between us that warranted writing to Penthouse, the last thing you'd be thinking about would be writing a letter."

She pulled her shirt over her head. He was marginally disappointed that she was wearing clothes. The rest of him was relieved. He leaned forward, putting his elbows on his knees. "And what would I be thinking of?"

She raised her brow and the smirk on her face was probably one of the sexiest little things ever. "Doing it again."

He really shouldn't have been thinking it, but he was hoping she wasn't all talk.

So much for not having any sexual tension between them.

They ended up going to one of their favourite sports bars to grab a couple beers and some food. Though they were together, guys looked at Peyton as though they wanted her to themselves, and girls looked at Lucas as though he were some kind of Greek god. Even when he had wing sauce on his cheek that Peyton was mean enough not to tell him about for a few minutes. She finally started laughing and told him, and he wiped to from his face with the back of his hand as he glared at her.

She had worried that their little conversation and...incident in her bedroom would have made things awkward. She was thankful that it hadn't. She hadn't even been thinking. Of course, he'd just walked in without knocking, and she already had her shirt off. She was angry and...And jealous. She just wanted her best friend all to herself on this particular day. She wanted him to let her bitch and moan about her shitty day for a couple minutes, then tell her to forget about it. That was the way she and Lucas worked; he knew what she needed, and she knew what he needed. Getting half-naked in front of him was never really part of their every day relationship.

And yet, she couldn't deny that she loved the reaction he'd had. Sure, he was a guy and that was how guys acted, but something (something she was trying very hard not to read into) was telling her that there was more to it than that. And she wasn't dumb; she knew she was attractive. Men were drawn to her in the same way that women were drawn to Lucas. Except when they went places together. Then almost everyone just assumed they were a couple.

And yet when Lucas got up to go to the washroom, Peyton noticed someone sit down in his spot. She looked over to see a good-looking brunette with chocolate brown eyes smiling at her.

"Can I get you a drink?" he asked.

Original, she thought. She somehow stopped herself from rolling her eyes.

"I'm good, thanks," she said as politely as she could. She gestured with her half-full glass to the half-full pitcher she and Lucas were sharing.

"You know you're gorgeous?" the guy said.

She wondered how he wasn't getting the message.

Then she wondered why she was sending that message.

She was a single woman, and he was hot. Save for his horrible approach, he hadn't done anything wrong. Why was she resisting even talking to this guy? She had no legitimate reason.

"Thank you," she said, flashing him a smile.

"I'm Cory."

"Peyton," she said.

She shook his outstretched hand, and that was what Lucas saw when he started back from the washroom. He'd seen that guy checking Peyton out. He'd been there since he and Peyton arrived, and Lucas didn't necessarily like the way it looked like he was making crude comments to his buddies. He really didn't like the way the guy's eyes were fixed on Peyton's chest as she took a drink from her glass.

He felt something like jealousy when the guy said something that made Peyton smile.

Maybe it was possessive and inappropriate, but he was going to do something about it.

"Hey," Lucas said, placing his hand at the small of her back and pressing a kiss to her temple.

"Hi," she managed. She looked up at him not only in surprise, but also something like...adoration. They were rarely that affectionate with one another. She knew, however, exactly what he was doing. She found she didn't mind.

"I'm Lucas," he said, locking eyes with the guy. His hand was still on Peyton's back, covering the exposed skin between her jeans and tee shirt that was revealed when she sat at the tall table.

"Nice to meet you," Cory said, trying not to look like he'd just made a fool of himself. "Have a good one."

"You too," Peyton said. Cory vacated Lucas' seat and sulked back over to his table of buddies who were holding in laughter. Lucas took his place again and topped up both their glasses. "What the hell was that?"

He knew he wasn't really in trouble when he saw her grinning and shaking her head. "What?" he asked, feigning innocence.

"What," she mocked him, her voice low. "You're such a jackass."

"I'm the jackass? That guy watches us together and moves in as soon as I get up? Trust me, Peyt., that's not the kind of guy you want."

"And you know what kind of guy I want," she stated doubtfully. He shrugged his shoulder like it wasn't really a big deal. "Okay. Come on. Tell me."

"Not that guy," he insisted, jerking his thumb towards the other table. She crossed her arms, waiting for a real answer. "The kind of guy you want isn't coming up to you in some bar. He's...he's a musician, or an artist. He's creative. He's not talking to his buddies about approaching you. He'll just do it. And he's certainly not the kind of guy to hit on another guy's girl."

"I'm not your girl."

"Pink shirt doesn't know that," Lucas insisted. She knew he was right, she just felt like being argumentative. "In fact, let's add that to the list. He won't wear a pink shirt either." Yeah, she wasn't crazy about that pink shirt. "He'll be ambitious. And...he'll be crazy about you."

He said the last part quietly, and he bowed his head at how sincere he was being. He didn't notice Peyton getting ready to throw her arms around his shoulders. He laughed when he felt her pressed against him, and he raised his brow when she kissed his cheek.

"Just keeping up the act for Cory," she explained.

"His name is Cory?" Lucas asked. Peyton nodded as she sipped her beer. "Of course it is."

"You're such a snob!" she cried, shoving him a little bit. "Not everyone has a sexy name like Lucas."

He raised his brow and turned to her slowly with a grin on his lips. "You think my name is sexy?"

"Shut up."

"No seriously," he said. "Do you?"

"Well...yeah," she said quietly, shrugging her shoulder. He looked ridiculously proud. "It's just...You can kind of...breathe it out, you know?"

He laughed and looked at her like she was crazy. "What the fuck are you talking about?" he asked with a laugh.

She didn't know how to explain it, so she thought she'd just demonstrate it instead. She leaned over, draping her arm over his shoulder and placing her lips right next to his ear, and spoke in the sexiest tone she knew.


He immediately decided she was right. Sexy.

She kind of lingered there for a moment before pulling herself away from him, and she smiled at the stunned look on his face. "See?"

"Uh...yeah. Yeah, I gotcha." He shook his head just slightly (completely giving himself away; she knew what he was thinking about), making her laugh.

They'd hung out thousands of times over the years. Never like this. They'd never honestly flirted. And they were flirting. There was no doubt in his mind that they were flirting. He hadn't realized it until that moment, really, and she probably didn't realize it at all.

He pounded back his beer quickly, and Peyton laughed and looked at him like hew as nuts. "What's the rush?"

"Drink up. Let's get out of here."

He watched in appreciation as she chugged the rest of her beer and reached for the pitcher to fill their glasses again.

It wasn't until he was home and in bed (with her sleeping in the next room over) that he realized that the guy he'd described for her?

It was him.


He'd never loved the idea of her hanging out in seedy clubs on her own to watch undiscovered bands. He usually went with her. He'd say he was interested in the music, or he wanted to hang out with her, or he needed a drink. They were both well aware that he was just looking out for her, but neither of them said the words.

He was standing by the bar and waiting for her to show up. It was very rare that she was late, especially to a show of any kind, but she'd called him and told him that she'd gotten suckered into going to dinner with her boss, so she'd meet him at the club.

Club was a generous term. This place was an absolute dive. It smelled of beer and piss, and the lighting was awful. He was a little afraid to sit down, since the only seating in the place were a bunch of old sofas that looked like they were carrying at least a few diseases. The stage was about 10 square feet at the back of the room where the floorboards were so worn, you could see the concrete below. And they still wanted seven bucks for a beer. He wasn't drinking. Not only was that an absurd price to pay, but he scared to think of what kinds of things would be on the bartender's hands or whatever. Ew.

He watched her walk into the bar. More specifically, he watched everyone else watching her walk into the bar. Her olive green cotton dress, black boots, and leather jacket made her look professional, yet sexy as hell. He couldn't blame the other men for looking at her.

And besides, she was only looking at him.

Since that night a few weeks earlier when he'd seen her nearly naked and they'd had that strange (albeit fun) flirtation, Lucas couldn't stop thinking about her. Not in a pervy way, or like he wanted something more or anything, but just little things. He'd be writing and a song he knew she put on his iTunes would come on. Or he'd be walking through the downtown area and he'd see a restaurant he was sure she'd love. He actually took her to a little used record store he'd found that she didn't know about. It was nothing new, really, since they tended to do things like that for one another, but he realized that maybe that in itself wasn't all that normal. Best friends were allowed to do those things, but he found he was looking for things to share with her. It wasn't just that he'd share, it was that he was actively searching. He'd take time out of his day to look for concert tickets or to find websites that would make her laugh. (That wasn't hard, since they liked most of the same music and they tended to laugh at the same things.)

And now she was smiling and walking towards him, and he was seriously wondering if maybe she was all he'd been looking for.

"I'm sorry," she said quickly. He shook his head and said hello, then she glanced around the dark room. "This place is disgusting."

"I know," he laughed.

"This band better be good," she insisted.

But they weren't. She had no idea why so many people had told her to check them out. They weren't polished, and that was fine, but they were also just...bad. They didn't have a setlist written, so they'd talk to one another between songs and more than once, the lead singer forgot the lyrics to the songs he'd written. The drummer was drunk or high or both or something, and basically, Peyton was just not interested.

She took Lucas' hand after three and a half songs, and pulled him towards the door.

"I'm so sorry you came all the way out here," she said seriously, shaking her head. "What a waste of time."

"All the way? Peyton, my place is 10 blocks from here."

"Good, because these boots are not made for walking," she said with a laugh. She realized she was still holding onto his hand, so she let him go.

He hadn't noticed their hands were still joined until they weren't anymore. He was too busy trying not to notice the boots. Again.

"Oh, so I guess you're taking over my place?" he asked, laughing as she turned around and started walking backwards and smiling at him.

"Is that a problem?" Her brow was raised, and the skirt of her dress was swaying with her hips. Her boots were practically making him follow her.

No, that wasn't a problem.

They stopped for hot chocolate along the way, and Peyton told Lucas all about her day and the dinner she'd had to go to. He told her about the infuriating call he'd had with the editor he hated, and, as Peyton tended to do with any woman in Lucas' life who wasn't she or Haley or his mom or sister, she called Lindsey a bitch. Lucas couldn't argue about this one.

The moment they stepped into Lucas' condo, Peyton bent down to reach for the zipper of her boots. It was all he could do not to reach out and grab her hips and pull her back towards him.

He was losing his goddamn mind. She was his best friend, and all his thoughts included her, a bed, no clothes, and him doing very, very un-friend-like things to her. He couldn't even blame it on the alcohol this time, since neither of them had had anything to drink.

He just had to admit to himself that he was suddenly very, very attracted to his best friend.

"What?" she asked worriedly, straightening up and wiping the back of her dress.

And she was oblivious to how he felt. He wasn't sure if that was the best or the worst thing.

"Nothing. You got it." Oh, she had it alright. He knew she'd just assume there had been something on her clothing.

"This has been the longest day ever," she claimed, walking into the kitchen.

All that time he'd spent making fun of her for walking around his place like it was her own, and now he found that to be the most attractive thing she could do.

"Sounds like it," he said distractedly. She had one foot raised just slightly off the ground as she looked for something in the fridge.

She turned around and noticed the strange look on his face. He'd been acting a little off all night, and something about that just didn't sit right with her. "What's with you? You're acting weird."

"No I'm not," he said defensively. "Just...I guess it's been a long day for me too."

She didn't really buy that answer, but he was acting odd enough that she decided not to press the issue. She'd noticed subtle changes between them in the few weeks since that night at her place and that bar. He'd become more attentive to her, she'd noticed, but she'd also become a little more attentive to him. She couldn't cook to save her life, but she ordered his favourite dinner one night when he'd had to travel to a meeting with his publishing house. She'd had everything ready when he'd gotten home. The smile he gave her - one that told her she'd saved his day - was worth it all. She'd spent all weekend, every weekend, at his place, which wasn't really anything new, but then she'd gone over a couple nights a week, too. He hadn't argued or even mentioned anything about it at all.

She came to the conclusion that maybe he wanted her there as badly as she wanted to be there.

After taking a drink of her water, she peeled off her jacket and draped it over the back of a chair. "Do you mind if I just go to bed?" she asked, biting the corner of her lip and scrunching her nose.

"No, of course not," he insisted. "Pretty rock star Friday night, though."

She laughed, and he had to smile. "I know. How lame are we?"

"It's not us," he reminded her. "It's that shitty band's fault."

"Maybe a little," she admitted. She couldn't stifle a yawn, and Lucas laughed at her. "Goodnight."


He watched her go down the hall, then looked around his empty apartment, and he figured that if she wasn't around to hang out with, he had no business being awake either. He padded to his bedroom and closed the door, happy to have just a little space between them, all while maintaining the comfort of knowing that she was near him.

He'd always been compassionate. He'd always dated girls with the idea that it was going somewhere, just like Peyton had told him nearly two months ago. He thought with his heart. Always. But with Peyton, it was different. It wasn't just that he cared about her, that much was obvious. It was that he couldn't even imagine her being with anyone else. He realized that he'd never really been able to. He hadn't liked any of the guys she'd dated, even going so far as punching one of her exes (the guy had it coming). He didn't want her to be with anyone else. And that discovery led to another.

He didn't want to be with anyone else.

The apartment got colder and colder as the night went on, and when Lucas stepped out of his room to see what the problem was, he noticed that the thermostat wasn't registering. He walked into the hall and it was just as cold, so he figured the heat in the whole building was out. He grabbed a couple extra blankets and went back into his room, secure in the knowledge that Peyton's bedroom had plenty of linens to keep her warm.

Even so, he felt a little rush when his door swung open sometime after 2:00 and she rushed towards his bed and climbed in without asking for permission that they both knew she didn't need.

"So cold," she mumbled. When he reached out and pulled her into his arms, she was pretty thankful for the excuse to lay in bed with him.

"You okay?" he asked quietly, knowing she was still half asleep.

"Mhmm. Now I am."

He lay awake long after she fell back to sleep, wondering if she meant that the way he'd heard it. He heard it to mean that she was okay now that she was in his arms and in his bed.

When he finally fell asleep, it was right after he'd convinced himself that was the only way she could have meant it at all.


When they'd woken up the morning after she crawled into his bed, his hand had snuck beneath her shirt at her side (unintentionally, he swore) and she had her arm draped over his stomach like she didn't want him to go anywhere. So they didn't. They spent that whole day in his bed watching television and playing rock, paper, scissors every time they needed something from the outside the room. He seemed to lose every time, and it really didn't matter; all she would have had to do was ask, and he would have done almost anything she wanted.

After a day and a half, he couldn't take the cold in his apartment anymore. There was really no question where he was going to stay.

He thought it might be a little strange to be in her house without her there, but he found that he actually liked writing in the little sitting area of her big bedroom. He'd listen to albums he didn't own as he worked, and he was oddly comforted by her things surrounding him. The first day he stayed there, she came home from work early and flopped down on her bed dramatically.

She said it nonchalantly, like it was just a random thought, but she told him that she liked having him there when she came home.

He was taking a pre-dinner nap, something he very rarely ever did, but he'd discovered (well, been reminded) that her bed was insanely comfortable. Slightly less so when she wasn't laying next to him, but even so. Her mattress was soft, and her linens were expensive. She had goose down pillows for him to lay his head on. It was a dreary day, and so when he closed the blinds, the room was almost pitch black; perfect for a nap. He was out within minutes.

Peyton walked into her bedroom at 6:15 and laughed softly to herself when she saw Lucas sleeping like a baby. She'd always joke about how easy his life was (though she knew it wasn't necessarily), but napping for no reason on a Wednesday evening was actually pretty funny. But she also couldn't say it was the worst idea he'd ever had. She quietly peeled off the jeans and sweater she'd worn to work that day and pulled on a sweatshirt of his she'd stolen years ago and a pair of cotton shorts. Normally, she'd sleep in flannel pants or sweats, but she found that she stayed a lot warmer in her bed when Lucas was sleeping in it with her.

She thought she'd woken him when she laid down, because he reached over almost immediately and moved so that his chest was to her back and his arm was resting along her side, his hand on her thigh. But he didn't say anything, and his breathing was steady, and she had to wonder what instinct it was that had him doing that. Not that she was complaining. She'd discovered that she loved sharing a bed with him. She adored that no matter how much space was between them when they went to sleep, they'd always wake up in the morning all cuddled up in the middle of the bed. It was starting to get really hard to leave in the mornings when he was laying there half asleep and watching her gather her things.

Right before her eyes closed, she realized that they were acting like a couple.

They were acting like a couple and she was loving every second of it. There was something really not right about that.

Or, there was something very right about that, and she just hadn't given it any thought before.

She had no idea what time it was, but she woke up to a jolt of excitement running through her. Her breath caught in her throat when Lucas' hand slid beneath the fabric of the shirt she wore. What the hell was he doing? Honestly, she didn't really care. It felt good when his lips hit the sensitive skin at the side of her neck. She couldn't even find her voice to say his name. She didn't want to turn and look at him and have him apologize. She didn't want to ignore the way her heart was racing and how this - whatever it was - was making her feel like nothing ever had before.

She didn't want him to stop.

He could tell she was definitely okay with what he was doing. He had no idea why he was doing it, really. When he woke up and found that her body was pressed against his and his hand was already on her skin, he realized that he wanted more. More skin, more touching. Just more.

His hand skimmed over her stomach below her navel, and she swallowed audibly. He smirked to himself and moved his hand a little lower, and it was then that she rolled onto her back, making him groan as she brushed against him. To say he was turned on would be an understatement. Her eyes searched his, but only for a moment. Then she was reaching up to place her hand on the back of his neck and pulling him in for a kiss. They'd never kissed on the lips. Never, not once. Not at a party or on a dare or during some drunken moment.

They hadn't known what they were missing out on.

His lips on hers sent an amazing sensation through her body, and it had very little to do with the fact that his hand was on the bare skin of her breast beneath her sweater. Good Lord, he was good at this. In her head, she knew this was a bad idea. The rest of her was telling her head to shut the hell up and let her enjoy this. She pushed him away just a little bit, then sat up to pull her shirt over her head. She tugged at his, and they both smiled when she took it off him and tossed it somewhere in the room with her own.

He'd honestly thought she'd tell him to stop. Never in a million years had he thought that she'd be kissing him back, running her hands over his bare skin, and letting him see her body (so perfect) like this. It was a risk he'd taken, definitely born from the fact that he'd woken up with his body already clearly aching for her. It wasn't a rational decision, but he couldn't say it was a bad one.

He boldly let his hand slip into her shorts, and she broke their kiss to breathe out his name. This time it was far, far sexier than her little demonstration at the bar. Her eyes were closed and her lips were swollen from kissing him, and she was shirtless. So sexy it was literally starting to hurt him a little. But he was a generous lover, and she knew that from conversations they'd had. It was those same conversations that told him exactly what she liked. He was definitely glad that they'd been able to have those conversations without the tension. It was certainly coming in handy now.

Their eyes locked, and she smiled and shook her head at him, almost like she knew he was going to tease her a little bit, or like she was just as surprised as he was that this was actually happening. He kissed her once gently, then made his way down her body and slid her shorts down her legs. He grinned at her as he caressed the skin of her thighs, then kissed upward from the inside of her knee. She'd complained that her last boyfriend was horrible at this.

She could already tell that Lucas wasn't. Not by a mile.

He realized that he hadn't yet said a word. She'd only said one and it was his name. He found that to be ridiculously hot. This was some kind of random (maybe not-so-random) hookup that apparently they were both more than okay with. Given the way her hands were running through his hair, and how shallow her breathing was, she was pretty thrilled. He worked her to the edge, and she cursed his name and shifted her hips when he stopped abruptly, and he wouldn't have been surprised if she'd hit him. One more plea, followed by his name again, and he had her arching her back and moaning. She had no clue how sexy she was, how badly he wanted her.

Well, maybe she did now.

She'd never given any real amount of thought to Lucas' abilities. If she'd known he could make her feel like that, she would have been the one to initiate all this, and she would have done it sooner. She pulled him towards her so their bodies were aligned and kissed him hungrily, and when she ground her hips against his, he let out a sound so sexy that she seriously thought she might come again before he was even inside her.

But then he was inside her (the first of a few times that night), and it was the best she'd ever had, and she had to wonder when she'd started falling for her best friend. She knew it was long before he ever kissed her.

He was right. She wasn't innocent. He had at least a little to do with that, since he'd started this whole thing, but he certainly wasn't about to complain. She used her legs to torture him, and he wanted to ask her how she knew he loved her legs so much. More than that, she seemed to know absolutely everything he liked, even the things he'd never told her. He was convinced no woman would ever know him that well again, and he knew no woman had ever known him that well before. She arched her back again and angled her hips, and then they were both falling hard and fast, and he was holding her as tightly as he could.

Neither took the time to question it, fearful of the answers they'd get. She was about to suggest they get something to eat, but as soon as she opened her mouth, he kissed her and it was all starting all over again; that feeling in her stomach and the knowledge that she wanted him so damn badly.

He was gone when she woke up in the morning.


He didn't know what made him do it, really. His phone had rung, and it was his building manager telling him that the heat had been fixed. He had a lunch meeting set up for that day, and it was just easier (granted, also more cowardly) to gather his things and slip out before Peyton woke up.

He was very well aware of how much of a jerk that made him.

And yet at the same time, he was completely terrified of the conversation he knew they had to have. They were best friends. He'd always said she was like a sister to him, and he wasn't sure when that changed. Maybe it had never really been true. Nathan had never believed it, and Haley just shook her head. And no girl he ever dated had liked Peyton. He could see now that it was because she was a threat; a legitimate threat, at that. She was gorgeous and funny and she knew him better than anyone. They treated each other like gold, because they each knew the other deserved it.

If that wasn't not love, he didn't know what was.

After his lunch, he tried to call Peyton's cell, but she wasn't answering. When he tried her office line, her assistant told him that she was in a meeting, and he didn't buy it for a second. He'd grounded their whole relationship before it had even taken off. He decided he'd give her space. She'd come to him when she was ready to talk, and he knew her better than to try to force an apology upon her.

Or so he thought.

It was a week before they spoke. He missed her like fucking crazy. He had vivid thoughts about their night together and her skin on his and the way she said his name and how good those legs felt wrapped around his waist. More than anything, he just wanted to hang out with her like they used to. He honestly couldn't remember the last time they went a week without seeing one another (if they ever had), let alone not talking. He knew it was his own fault, but there was an annoying voice in the back of his head that was telling him that maybe she just didn't want to talk to him. Ever. Maybe he'd screwed up too badly, or maybe she didn't want him the way he wanted her, and she just didn't want to break his heart.

It had been a week. A full seven days.

When she burst through the door to his place, he was a little stunned. He had a beer in one hand and had to catch her jacket when she threw it at him angrily.

"You're a fucking jerk," she stated, pointing at him. She expected some kind of argument.

"I know."

She blinked a few times in surprise. "You...you know."

"I know." He said it sincerely, because he'd had seven days to think about how he should have handled the situation, and the only thing he realized in that time was that he was a fucking jerk.

She grabbed the bottle of beer from him and took a long sip, and she didn't give it back to him. The way she saw it, the fact that he knew he was a jerk didn't make him any less of one. "Of all people Lucas. Of all the guys in the world I thought would do that...How could you do that?"


"You just left. You started things. You smiled at me and kissed me. You made me feel like that...like this, and you just left," she repeated.

"I'm sorry," he said quietly, shaking his head. He took a step towards her, but she took a step back. "Just...hear me out."

She laughed bitterly and shook her head as she crossed her arms. She looked up a little bit like she always did when she was trying not to cry, and he hated himself for it. "What reason could you possibly have? You're my best friend, Lucas, and you just...I have never had a guy do that to me before - leave like that - and..."

"Stop!" he cried, walking quickly to where she was standing. "I know."

"You know what? I don't think you do. Or you wouldn't have done it."

"I was...confused, and..."

"Confused," she stated incredulously. "So tell me that." He tried to speak again, a little bit annoyed that she wasn't letting him get a word in. "Don't just fuck me and leave."

He was appalled. Maybe it was because they had always cared for one another, but he had no idea how she didn't know how much he felt for her. "Don't talk like that. Don't be so crude."

"What am I supposed to think, Lucas?"

"I didn't plan it, okay?" he insisted. She crossed her arms again, and he knew damn well that she'd do everything in her power not to believe him. "It's not like I thought, 'Hey, I know. I'll sleep with my best friend'." He took a breath to try to collect his thoughts and make a clear point. "But you were there next to me, and...you're so damn gorgeous, and I just want you."

"Well, there. You had me. You done now?" she asked. She tried to walk away from him, and he couldn't let her go. She clearly didn't understand what he'd said. She hadn't heard it the way he'd meant it.

"No. I want you," he repeated. "Not one time. Not as just a friend. I want you."

Dammit. Why did he have to go and say things like that? The things she wanted to hear? All week, she'd been hoping he'd just call her and tell her that it wasn't a one night stand and he didn't regret it. All week, she'd resisted calling him, because she was almost certain that if she heard his voice, she'd either be far too angry or she'd be far too lenient. She'd ended up being angry, but he was wearing her down. Big time.

"Why didn't you just say that?" she asked quietly. "You could have at least woken me up or something."

"I didn't know what you wanted. I still don't know what you want."

"So you decided to disappear and...be nothing to me?" she asked.

He could have sworn his heart broke at the thought. "I'm nothing to you?" he asked, taking a step backward.

"You hurt me," she admitted for the first time, to herself or anyone else. "And then you didn't talk to me for a week."

"I called you," he said in his defense.

"Twice." Honestly, she'd expected a better effort. "You called me twice. In a week. After...that."

"I didn't want to push you," he said quietly. "I know you, remember?"

"Do you?" she asked. She made it sound like she really wasn't sure if he did. "Because the guy who I thought knew me better than anyone just did the one thing he should realize is a deal breaker."

"Why are you fighting me on this?" He narrowed his eyes and shook his head at her. He didn't understand why she was so determined to let this all get out of hand. Sure, he'd screwed things up, but he was apologizing and being honest. That had to count for something.

"Why are you not just letting it go?" she asked, throwing her arms up in frustration.

She didn't want him to let it go.

"Because I'm in love with you," he said insistently.

That was what she wanted.

Really, he'd just realized it that moment. He wasn't going to let her leave, and he didn't want her ever to. He loved having her around. He'd loved sharing a bed with her. He'd loved being intimate with her. He loved absolutely everything about her, and the thought of 'letting it go' and letting her walk out that door without getting them both on the same page literally hurt his heart. He couldn't handle the thought of her not being in his life. He didn't want to be without her. He had no idea how he hadn't known that since the day they started this friendship.

"What?" she whispered.

"I don't know when it happened, but...I fell in love with you, Peyton," he said. He was a little surprised when she let him take her hands. Maybe she was just took shocked to pull away.

"You...did?" she asked tentatively. He knew he could have said it again, but he really wanted to kiss her, so he did. He felt that he could explain it all that way anyway. Her eyelids stayed closed after. "You did."

He laughed softly as he rest his forehead against hers. "I did."

"You still left," she said quietly.

He had a feeling he wouldn't be off the hook for that one any time soon. "How about I promise I won't do that ever again?"

"And you just assume I want to sleep with you again?" she asked, raising her brow. He merely smiled back at her. She could make all the jokes she wanted, but they both knew that she wouldn't have been as upset as she was if she didn't want to sleep with him again; if she didn't want more with him. "I'm still mad at you."

"Okay," he said. She could tell by the way he was smirking that he was about to say something charming or sexy. "But can you be mad at me while we make this whole thing official?"

She started laughing and threw her head back, and he hooked his arm around her waist to pull her closer. "The I love you didn't make it official?"

"Not until you say it back."

Only she knew that she'd been holding it in from the moment she stepped through his door. "Keep waiting," she mumbled.

He didn't have to wait long. She said it the moment he had all her clothes off and she was laying on his bed.


"It's funny," she said out of nowhere one day when they were making dinner. Well, Lucas was making dinner. Peyton was sitting on the counter and tasting things straight from the post.

They'd been dating 'officially' for a few months. His family was not surprised, and Lucas and Peyton weren't really surprised that they weren't surprised. Nathan and Haley had been subtly trying to get them together for ages, and Karen always quietly sat back and 'observed' the two blondes together. Looking back, even they had to admit that it may have been at least a little obvious. Peyton moved into Lucas' place after dating only a few weeks. Since she already practically lived there before they even got together, it was kind of a no brainer once they finally became a couple. Sharing his place with her on an official basis was just about as perfect as he could have hoped.

She was an absolute disaster in the kitchen, and she left magazines everywhere, but he already knew that much. He adored it. Any time she attempted to cook, she'd manage to dirty every pot and pan in the place. Those magazines actually provided ample reading material for those moments when she'd lock herself in the office (formerly 'her' bedroom) to listen to demos. But they shared the space. She knew when he needed time alone and vice versa. He knew that when she'd come home from a bad day at work, she needed to bitch and complain about it for a few moments, then she'd be fine and could move on. She knew to remind him that he only had a few more chapters to write, then after that, he'd be assigned to a new editor. And she'd call Lindsey a bitch any time Lucas needed to hear it. They both knew she got just as much enjoyment out of that as he did.

"What is?" he asked. He bit into a piece of french bread and looked at her in confusion.

"We were best friends."

He laughed and glanced over at her, her skirt hitting her mid-thigh and her legs crossed at the knee. "Yeah?"

"Then it's like...one day we just weren't anymore," she said, like it was some big, profound thought she'd just stumbled upon.

He walked over to where she sat and leaned in to kiss her. "I wouldn't change it."

"Well," she said dramatically, furrowing her brow. "I'd make you stay after that night."

He could only laugh and shake his head. He leaned forward to kiss her before moving back to the stove.

He was never going to live that down. He figured it was a fair trade, though. He got the girl, and she got to make fun of him every now and again. That was kind of the way it had always been. The way they both wanted it to stay.