A/N: A little bit different from what usually I tend to write, in the angsty/slightly dark sense. Feedback is a very nice thing for any writer.

----

They got married too young.

They were barely out of high school, and she thought she was pregnant, and before she even took a test, he asked her to marry him and she said yes. She wore his ring and said she loved him and cried at all the right times, and they ignored everyone who said they should wait. When it turned out she wasn't pregnant, they didn't care. They wanted to be together forever, and marriage would assure them that, and it didn't matter that they were 18 and had nowhere (not really) to live and no set career direction. He was going to college, and she was working and taking night classes, and they loved each other enough to know that they'd make it work.

They married in the winter during their Christmas break with all their friends and family around. A small ceremony and a couple rings and a marriage license they'd had for months, and they were husband and wife. And it was perfect.

It was perfect for a few years. A few years when they were rarely alone, living with Nathan, Haley and Jamie. A few years where their schedules were hectic and busy and they stole moments together and made the most of every single second. They didn't take one another for granted, and they cherished one another and they were good to one another. They smiled and kissed and laughed and did all the things they promised one another they'd do. Sickness and health, for worse or for better. They were a couple, and they were married.

When he graduated and she completed her entrepreneurial courses, they moved back to Tree Hill. Living with his mother was never a part of the plan, but they needed to save money, and Karen was generous enough to invite them to stay, and they really couldn't say no. They put their stuff in storage in the attic above the garage at Nathan and Haley's huge new house, and they started saving every cent they could. They didn't need to go out. Peyton was learning (albeit slowly) to cook, and Lucas had a collection of books to keep them entertained. They made their own fun. They'd walk every street in the town when they wanted to get out of the house, or they watched movies with his little sister or their nephew. When they got to feeling adventurous, they'd fill the tank of one of their cars and drive until they found something they wanted to see, then they'd drive home. They lived simply, well within their means, and their bank account grew as a result. Lucas was coaching, and Peyton was managing a few local bands and helping Karen run Tric, and they were starting out okay.

When Lucas heard from a publishing house in New York, he could hardly believe it. That, along with his life with Peyton, was what he'd wanted for years and years. He wanted to be a published novelist, and he was getting the opportunity to do that. Peyton kissed him at the airport gate when he went to meet with the editor and publishers, and he promised he'd call when he landed, and he did, because he'd never broken a promise to her before, and he didn't intend to start.

He spent three days in new York with people catering to his every need and insisting that he was the company's brightest talent, and that they were going to make him rich. They questioned his age when they saw the white gold band on his finger, saying he was too young to be a married man. They were surprised when he said he'd been married for years, and he noticed a flash of something peculiar in the navy blue eyes of his editor, but he didn't question it; chalked it up to her surprise at him being married so young.

He returned home with a cheque in his pocket and a smile on his face and the suggestion that he and Peyton find a house of their own. She said nothing. She just threw her arms around him and held him tightly. He figured she was on board with the idea.

It took them a month to find the perfect house. Between Lucas' work on his novel and Peyton's evening at Tric or other bars watching the bands she worked with, they had limited time to actually search. They knew their price range and they knew what they wanted. They used the same realtor Nathan and Haley used, and they found exactly what they'd been looking for. Two bedrooms, a garage, a beautiful kitchen, and a yard, all in a nice neighbourhood. It's perfect for them, and it was in town, and they closed the deal just before Christmas.

It was funny, they thought, that they moved in on Valentines day, because they'd never really celebrated the occasion. Now they had a really significant anniversary attached to it, so they decided that maybe they'd do something special. They bought a nice bottle of champagne and sat in front of the fireplace with the pizza they'd ordered, and they made love on their mattress sitting on the floor in their bedroom.

Kind of a perfect day, as far as they were concerned.

----

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes...

...Or at least that was the way it was supposed to go.

It was the first of April when Peyton learned she was pregnant. Lucas told her it better not be a prank, and so she produced the results of the doctor's blood test, and he pulled her into his arms and held her tight, and she cried a little bit, just because she was so happy. She wasn't scared of the idea of being a mother, not like she'd been as a teenager. Lucas wasn't panicking (he'd never let on to Peyton, but as an 18-year-old, he'd definitely internally freaked out). This was right. They were married and stable, and though Lucas traveled a little bit, they were together in every sense of the word. They had a routine, and Peyton had started working more during the days as opposed to in the evenings, actively searching for bands and artists.

It was the perfect timing.

She was almost two months along when she miscarried. There was nothing she could have done differently; no determinable cause. Just bad luck, the doctor had said. That didn't make her feel any better. Of course it didn't.

She had her mother-in-law at her side, and her sister-in-law at the other. Her husband was in New York. She couldn't be mad at him. It's not like there's a convenient time to lose a baby. And he was home within a number of hours anyway. Nathan had called him (Peyton knew how horrible that must have been for both men) and Lucas caught the first flight he could, and he didn't explain anything to his editor. He just grabbed his things and went straight for the airport, because nothing was more important than his wife. Nothing was ever more important than his wife. Except maybe (but only maybe) the baby they weren't going to have.

He didn't cry. He didn't shed a tear all the way from his hotel in New York to his front door. He didn't cry when he stepped inside the house and saw Nathan, Jamie and Lily sitting there in the living room. He dropped his things and didn't say a word to his brother, but there was all sorts of sympathy and apology in Nathan's eyes, and Lucas couldn't handle that. He trudged up the stairs to the bedroom, but he had to stop outside the door. He knew she would have heard him come in, and he knew she would have heard him come up the stairs. He didn't think she'd fault him for taking a second to breathe before facing her.

He stepped into the room and vaguely saw his mother and Haley pass him as they walked out into the hall, and then the door was closed and he was alone with his wife, and that was when the tears came. She was crying, and he was crying, and he moved over to sit next to her. He touched her arm, the only spot he could think that wouldn't hurt her, really, and he apologized for not being there, and she told him it wasn't his fault, but they both knew he didn't really believe it. He was her husband and he was supposed to be there for her. He hadn't been, and it was a little out of his control, but that didn't matter. She'd had to go through it without him, and he hated himself for it.

"I was thinking we could name the baby Sawyer," she admitted, her voice hoarse and her eyes full of a new wave of tears. "Either way."

"Peyton..."

He didn't know what else to say. He knew she'd told him for the sole reason that she wanted him to know, and she didn't want him to ever bring up that name as a suggestion for any future children they might have. So he wouldn't. He lay down with her, her hand in his, but not touching any more than that, and they fell asleep after promising to be there for one another.

And they were. To a degree.

They did all the things they were supposed to do. They talked about how they were feeling, and Lucas took care of his wife while she recovered from the trauma. He always felt that she was holding something back; maybe a few things. He didn't mention her mood swings and the changes in her hormones, because he knew she couldn't help it. He held her when she started crying one day over a commercial for fabric softener. When she went back to work, he made sure she didn't overdo it, and he made sure hew as home from practice in time to fix healthy dinners for them.

But they didn't talk about sex or when they might have it (she didn't want to, and he most certainly wouldn't say anything or pressure her). They didn't talk about when they might try for another baby, or even if they would. Any time he tried to broach the subject, she'd say she was tired, or that she didn't know, or that she simply couldn't have the conversation yet. And he understood it. He really did. But after two months of silence on the topic, he couldn't handle it anymore. They rarely held one another, and they kissed even less frequently, and he honestly couldn't remember the last time she'd told him she loved him. And when he told her so, she heard it as the accusation that it wasn't.

That was the first night he spent sleeping on the sofa. It wouldn't be the last.

He started to pull away a little, and she couldn't blame him, but she blamed him. How could he not know how hard she was trying to deal with the loss of their child? How could he not know how difficult that was for her? How could he stay at his office at the school until after 6:00 every night? But she knew that even if he came home, she wouldn't be able to talk to him. She just didn't know what to say. She didn't now how to tell him that she just didn't know how to get past it. And in her defense, she'd never really had to explain her feelings to him before. He'd always just kind of known. That had always been a good thing.

It seemed like a horrible thing now.

----

He came home from work one night, and she was kissing him before he'd even locked the door behind him. He'd almost forgotten how good it felt to have her lips on his and her hands on his skin and her body pressed up against him. It was still light outside, and he was starving, but he wanted her more than anything.

But something didn't add up. He wasn't in a frame of mind to mention it until they were in their bedroom and she was undoing his belt.

"Wait," he said breathlessly. She didn't. "Peyton."

"We've barely spoken all week," she reminded him. "I've...missed you."

He kissed her gently, because he'd so missed doing it, but then he pulled away a little more. He'd missed her too. Of course he had. But this wasn't what they needed to reconnect again. Of course, eventually they'd get there, but it felt like too big a step. "I've missed you too," he said sincerely. "But I can't."

"Isn't this what you want?" she asked. There was a quality to her voice that he didn't like. Something like vulnerability and a need for validation. He so wanted to give that to her. But not this way. "Don't you want to be with me?"

"Peyton, of course," he said, furrowing his brow in a show of how crazy he thought that question was. "Of course."

"So...be with me," she almost pleaded. "I'm right here, and...and this is what you want."

"Listen to me," he said harshly, placing his hand on her cheek. Her eyes looked empty. He'd never been more scared of anything in his life. "I always want you. But not like this. Not now." She closed her eyes, and he caught the tear that fell just before it slid down her skin. "We need to talk."

"I can't," she said, locking eyes with him as she repeated the words that hurt her more than she'd wanted to let on. "I don't know what to say."

"Try, Peyton. Please," he begged. There was a tightness in his throat and his heart ached, because as he sat there looking down on her, he felt like they'd never been further apart.

"Not right now," she said. She turned onto her side so her back was to him, and he had to resist the very strong urge to groan in frustration. "You can go."

He let out a heavy breath, full of all kinds of defeat. "I love you," he said quietly, because it was true and he wanted her to know it.

She said nothing.

----

He was in the final stages of finishing his novel, and that meant a week long trip to New York was planned. He and Peyton had become two ships passing in the night, sharing a bed only when he hadn't done something trivial (breathing too loudly or coming into the room too late) or just plain stupid (suggesting she see a shrink - he should have known she'd hate the idea - or going out with the guys and having too much to drink without letting her know of his plans). He started keeping a pillow and blanket in the hall closet next to the living room. Their second bedroom had become her space, so the sofa was the only option. They spoke only when necessary, and he got the distinct feeling that she wasn't listening 90 per cent of the time.

He hated it. He loved her. This wasn't how he saw their life together going.

"When do you leave?" she asked one morning as they skirted around one another in the kitchen. He was toasting a bagel and she was pouring coffee. He was actually shocked when she poured him a cup.

"Tomorrow afternoon." She nodded and took a sip of her coffee, and she stepped past him to leave the room. He couldn't let her. "Come with me."

Maybe it was crazy. They barely spoke in their own home, but he thought that maybe if they could just get away, even if he had to work some of the time, they could reconnect and talk. Maybe the change of scenery would do them good. Maybe they'd sit in Central Park and laugh like they used to when they'd sit at the River Court and talk about whatever they could think to talk about. He would have been happy to just have one good conversation with her at that point.

"What?" she asked.

"Come with me to New York," he said. He watched her as she seemed to deliberate, cradling her mug in both hands and biting the edge of her lip.

Part of her wanted to say no. She wanted to remind him that she'd offered one way for them to get back on track, and he'd turned her down. So maybe sex wouldn't have been the best way, but it was a way. He'd proverbially slapped her in the face when he'd said no to her suggestion.

But the rest of her wanted her husband back.

"Is that okay?" she asked timidly, looking into her mug. If she'd been looking at him, she would have seen that he was smiling, surprised, and very close to maybe shedding a tear. Call him what you want, but you couldn't say he didn't love her.

"It's fine. It's perfect," he insisted. She smiled at him across the kitchen, and he seriously thought that maybe they'd crossed whatever invisible barrier had been between them.

"Okay." She nodded her head and heard him sigh his relief.

Her own relief lasted only a few days.

He was busy the first couple days of the trip, and he apologized, but Peyton knew that was what they'd gone to the city for in the first place, and she certainly wasn't mad at him for it. She spent the first day in the spa at the hotel, and the second walking through Manhattan and taking in some sights. That night, they went to dinner and had a proper conversation, and when they woke up the next morning, Peyton was pressed against Lucas' side. She blushed and moved away from him, and he kissed her just gently. It had been far too long since they woke up like that together. He liked it. He knew she did too.

But then they attended a cocktail party celebrating the completion of Lucas' novel. Peyton wore a dress she'd had for ages but hadn't had any reason to wear, and Lucas swore up and down that she looked gorgeous. And she believed him. Until she met Lindsey.

He'd never described the woman to Peyton, and she hadn't thought that strange until she saw how pretty this woman was. And even that wasn't so bothersome. There were pretty women everywhere; there was nothing wrong with him working with one. What upset her was how attentive Lucas was to Lindsey. Peyton was at the bar talking to one of the senior partners of the publishing house, and she watched as Lindsey laughed at something Lucas said, then drained her glass. She saw Lucas reach for the empty glass, then quickly get Lindsey another flute of champagne. Peyton had been getting her own drinks all night. Lucas had introduced her to people, then he'd gone off to speak with Lindsey and some other man, and Peyton was left to fend for herself. She didn't want to be mad. This was essentially his job. This was his dream and she didn't want to be upset with him for doing what he had to do to make it come true.

After standing at the bar for a half hour, watching him make another woman laugh, she seriously wondered what part she played in his dream. Lindsey put her hand on Lucas' arm, and then Peyton was heading for the door. Lucas saw her going and quickly followed without excusing himself from Lindsey. He hadn't been trying to ignore his wife, but Lindsey was talking his damn ear off. Every time he'd say something to try to get himself out of the conversation, she'd laugh that laugh (the one he hated) and he'd be sucked into another anecdote.

"Peyton," he called once he was in the street outside the restaurant they were at. He reached out to touch her arm, but she jerked it away. "What is it?"

"Nothing." She tried to hail another cab, and cursed when it passed. "Go back inside."

"I'm not going anywhere. What's wrong?"

She turned to look at him, and she hated that she thought, for just a split second, that he looked absolutely amazing in his suit and tie. "Why didn't you tell me she was that pretty?"

"What?" He actually laughed. He realized a moment too late that it was a stupid thing to do, and she was glaring at him. "Because I don't think she's pretty."

Peyton scoffed. "Really. Quite the conversation you two were having."

"She's my editor, Peyton," he said, shrugging his shoulder. A cab pulled up to the curb, and she was reaching for the door handle, but he grabbed her hand and gestured for the driver to go on to the next fare. "We were talking about the book and stuff."

"And stuff," Peyton said quietly. "You know, you say you want me to talk, but it seems you're having plenty of conversations with this other woman, Lucas."

He reeled back and narrowed his eyes as he tried to comprehend what she was saying. "Are you...Are you implying that I'm...that I'd...with Lindsey?"

"Well, you're not really with me," she said quietly.

"I would never...ever cheat on you," he said, almost harshly. "Ever."

"We haven't...We don't do anything. You hardly kiss me, Lucas. And...when was the last time I made you laugh?" she asked.

"Two hours ago when you were trying to pick between those shoes and the other ones and you said..."

"No," she interrupted. "Not like that."

"What...What do you want, Peyton? Just tell me what you want me to do," he pleaded. "You say we don't talk, but you aren't telling me what you want."

She'd never heard him sound so desperate. He was pleading with her, and though she'd said she wanted that same thing, to talk with him, she was too angry and too upset. And that was the problem. They were always too something. Too tired, or too awake, or too busy. She was too sad, or he was too exhausted from trying so hard. Too much. It was all too much.

"I want to go to the hotel," she said quietly.

"Okay. We'll go back to the hotel." He raised his arm to hail a cab and one arrived immediately, but when he looked back to her, she was shaking her head.

"Alone," she added. "I can't do this right now."

"You never can," he said quietly as she opened the door to the cab.

She said nothing.

She was gone by the time he got to the hotel, and she'd left some things behind in her haste. He was only 15 minutes behind her, but he'd missed her.

He kept missing her.

----

He got home from New York and his things were packed into boxes. She wasn't there. There was only a note with her handwriting that said she'd be home at 6:00, and he should be gone by then. She wasn't even going to fight with him or for him or for them. She wasn't going to have any of the conversations they needed to have. She was giving up.

He knew better than to be there when she got home. That didn't stop him from ignoring her request.

"What the hell is this?" he asked as soon as she stepped through the door.

She knew he was there. His car was in the driveway and a few of the boxes she'd left on the porch were still there.

"You're moving out," she said coldly, brushing past him.

"The hell I am."

"Either you are, or I am. And I'm not. That leaves you," she said. She didn't care that it didn't make sense. She knew he'd get the gist.

"Why are you doing this?" he asked. "You're throwing in the towel on us? We've been married for five years, and you're just...giving up."

"We can't do this. I can't do this, Lucas," she said, unable to keep from crying. "I can't keep...I just can't."

"You haven't tried," he said. "You don't talk. You don't...I mean, you were never an open book, but this is fucking ridiculous."

"Don't curse at me."

He let out a humourless laugh and shook his head. "I would love it if you'd curse at me. You haven't...you don't even seem to feel anything." She set her jaw to keep from crying. The truth was, she was feeling it all. A lot. All at once, it seemed. But he knew her well enough to know when she was on the verge of tears, and he moved towards her. "Please. Talk to me."

"It's too late," she said softly. He had her wrapped tightly in her arms before she could move away, and though she tried to pull herself from his hold, he kept her there, right against his chest, and she started crying. Full on crying like he hadn't seen her do since they lost the baby. "It's too late."

She repeated it over and over again until they both started to believe it. The difference was that he wasn't going to give up, and she already had.

"Please don't do this," he pleaded, his voice hoarse as he tried to keep himself from breaking down. "I don't know how to do this. Be without you."

"And I don't know how to be with you anymore," she said, pulling away and wiping her face hastily.

"I love you."

She said nothing.

----

Their love story came out two weeks before Peyton filed for divorce.

Irreconcilable differences.

He thought that sounded like legal jargon for we didn't work hard enough.

He'd found a condo at the beach and bought it with the advance for a second book. A book that was all about her. A book that he'd stopped writing. He had an empty apartment, a bank account full of money, a career that was a dream come true. But he didn't have his wife. And she was still his wife, as far as he was concerned. Mostly because he refused to sign the papers. Okay, so they'd only arrived that day, but he wasn't going to sign. No way.

So he did what he wanted. Not what she wanted. They hadn't spoken in a month (shocking, that is) and he missed her, and he wanted her, but he had a bottle of scotch instead, and he drank it. He drank it, and he threw those papers into the kitchen sink. It was stupid, and it didn't do anything, but he threw them in there with his dirty dishes. He saw her signature, Peyton Scott, staring back at him in blue ink, and then he was stuffing his feet into his shoes.

His house. Their house. They'd found it together and bought it together. They'd painted it together and lived there together, and he hated that she was in there alone, and he was somewhere else alone. He was sick of it. He wanted his life back. Her back.

She came to the door in her robe and pajamas, and she looked completely surprised. He realized that it was close to two in the morning, and he'd been pounding on the door. He didn't care. He needed to see her.

"Lucas, what the hell is this? Are you...? You're drunk."

"You're asking for a divorce," he said, his speech slurred.

"It shouldn't be a surprise," she told him. "I kicked you out, remember?"

"Kicked me out. You kicked me out," he mumbled. "You kicked me out!"

"Lucas, stop yelling," she hissed. She peered out the door to be sure there were no neighbours being disturbed. "Yes, I kicked you out. Because we don't work anymore. You and I...stopped working."

"You stopped working," he said, swaying a little on his feet. "I love you and you stopped."

"Yes. I stopped."

She closed the door on him, locked it, and flicked off the porch lights. And his legs gave out and he sat down on the steps.

She told him she didn't love him anymore. He honestly couldn't tell whether or not she meant it. That was an indication of how far they'd fallen. They'd completely fallen apart.

----

After a month, she started sending him texts or messages through their friends. Most of the time, it was something to the effect of, "Sign the damn papers."

He wouldn't.

----

She was at Nathan and Haley's house one day when he showed up. Peyton immediately glared at Haley, knowing the brunette was the one who set up the overlapping meetings. She had to be. She knew, through her friends and Karen, that Lucas still wore his ring. It still hit her pretty hard to see it on his hand.

He knew, through his friends and his mom, that she had taken off her rings. It still hit him pretty hard to see only a thin tan line on her hand.

"Hi," he managed.

"Can I talk to you for a second?" she asked.

He tried really hard not to resent her for asking him to do the one thing he'd practically been begging her to do. Well, he didn't have to try so hard. She looked gorgeous, and she wanted to talk to him, and he missed her so damn much that it was impossible for him not to follow her into the living room.

"What's up?" he asked casually.

"You got the papers almost two months ago. Sign them!" she cried.

"No."

"Why not?"

"Because you shouldn't have sent them!" he cried. "You're...I know you still love me."

"No, I don't," she insisted quickly. He'd barely finished his sentence before she spoke.

"Yes, you do." His voice was firm, like he just knew he was right and there was no room for argument. She shook her head and he knew she was about to deny it again, but he grabbed her arms and kissed her before she could say the words. She let out a noise in protest, and she pushed at his chest until he stopped kissing her. "You do."

"No, I don't!" she shouted. She wiped her lips with her hand for emphasis. "Just...sign the papers. I don't want this to get messy."

"It already is!"

Haley appeared in the doorway, and she looked completely uncomfortable and nervous, and Peyton could tell their friend was going to ask them to keep it down.

"Haley, I'm so sorry. I'm...I'm going," Peyton said, throwing one last glare Lucas' way.

"Peyton," he tried.

"Stop," she hissed.

She left without another word. Haley was left looking at Lucas sympathetically, and he just shook his head and tried to ignore the sinking feeling in his heart. "What am I supposed to do, Hales?" he asked dejectedly.

She didn't know what to say. She just walked over and wrapped her arms around him. She'd never seen him look so broken. No one had thought it would come to this. She knew it was killing him to feel so helpless. He needed Peyton.

Everyone seemed to know that but the woman herself.

----

He pulled those papers out from where they were buried in the locked bottom drawer in his desk, and he had a pen in his hand, and he managed an 'L'. That was it. He couldn't write the rest.

She was his wife, and he was her husband, and he didn't care that it had been months and months since they'd had a proper conversation, he wasn't about to give up. He was mad at her for a lot of things. For giving up, for not talking to him, for not telling him she was on the verge of leaving him (or forcing him to leave her). For a whole lot of things.

But the love was still stronger than the anger. He knew that had to count for something.

He saw her in town, and she'd avoid him. They'd get together with their group of friends (only when they were forced to for some occasion) and she'd plaster on a smile only he would know was fake. She'd accept when he brought her a drink at Tric when they'd all gathered there, and she'd smile tensely when they were at Nathan and Haley's for a barbecue and he'd make a reference to happier times.

The truth was, she missed those times too. But missing something or maybe someone doesn't mean that you still love them.

----

He needed a place to go.

He still had a key.

They hadn't divided their assets.

He didn't care that it was late, or that she would most definitely be furious with him. He let himself into the house and kicked off his shoes, and when he passed their closed bedroom door (always theirs, never just hers) he seriously considered heading back downstairs and taking what had become his place on the sofa. But he didn't want to, and he hated that sofa. And he missed her. He missed how cold her feet were at night, and how she'd sigh every time she got uncomfortable and switched positions. He missed the way she'd lay as close to him as she could get when she was feeling particularly restless, and how every once in a while, she'd take his hand in her sleep.

God, he missed her.

He pushed the door open and he had to smile. Not only was she so fucking gorgeous that it was almost hard to believe, but he thought it might mean something that she still slept solely on one side of the bed. Her side.

He kicked off his jeans and pulled his shirt up over his head, then tugged back the sheets and climbed into bed. She stirred a little, then woke completely and took a sharp breath. "What are you doing!?" she asked, clutching the sheet needlessly to her chest. She was wearing a top, and it wasn't like he hadn't seen all of her before anyway.

"Trying to get some sleep. Your yelling doesn't help," he insisted, pulling up the covers and fluffing the pillow. His pillow. Or what would be his pillow if they still shared a bed.

"What are you doing here?" she clarified. He had some nerve, practically breaking in and laying down with her. Okay, so maybe he didn't break in. He still had a key, and she hadn't changed the locks.

"I just painted my place, and I can't stay there with the fumes."

"Nathan and Haley's?" she suggested angrily.

"Jamie has chicken pox, and I've never had them," Lucas explained.

Peyton turned her head quickly to look at him. Her curiosity got the best of her, and her tone softened. "You've never had chicken pox?"

"No. When they came around when I was a kid, I was the only one who didn't pick them up," he said, shrugging his shoulder. He thought the might be having an actual conversation. It had been a long time since they did that.

"You could sleep on the couch," she said coldly. She turned on her side so her back was to him, and he almost groaned. She used to do that all the time when she was mad at him.

"We've shared a bed before," he reminded her. "The couch kills my back."

"You'd know," she mumbled. "Just...don't touch me."

She had no idea why she wasn't kicking him out. Lord knows she had every right to. She'd never, ever admit to it, but she kind of missed the warmth of a body sleeping next to her. It was too late, and she was too tired for an argument, and she knew he was harmless, no matter how much of a pain in the ass he was.

He let out a soft laugh and shook his head. "Love you too, honey."

He could tell she was restless. She couldn't sleep, and he would have felt worse about that, but he couldn't ever seem to get to sleep. Ever. He hated sleeping alone. It got so bad that he was prescribed a 'light sleeping aide' by his doctor. He didn't take them often, because he hated the thought of becoming reliant on them. Her presence next to him was working better than any pill or glass of scotch. But every time she'd move, he'd be wide awake again and wondering why she wouldn't just accept that he was there and close her eyes.

She just couldn't get comfortable. Because she was too comfortable. She hated that the bed was warmer in a wonderful way, and that the sound of his breathing seemed to calm her. She hated that every time he'd pull up the blankets, they'd get a little tighter over her body (and she'd always loved that, and he knew it). Stupid, little things that she hadn't known she'd missed so much were glaringly obvious now. She could tell he was still awake, and she was still awake, and she hated, absolutely hated, that they were just laying there in complete and utter silence. They'd done it for the last few months of their marriage, and she was pretty sure she hated it more now.

"Lucas," she said quietly.

He was sure she was going to ask him to leave. He was almost positive. "Hmm?"

"Don't read anything into this," she warned him. "But..." She sighed and closed her eyes, really coming to terms with what she was about to ask. "But can you come a little closer?"

He was surprised she asked. She was surprised he wasn't holding her in an instant. He actually didn't hold her at all. Tentatively, he closed the space between them, but left it so that their bodies weren't even touching. She'd told him not to touch her, and as much as he wanted to (God, did he want to) he'd respect her wishes. Both wishes.

He literally heard the moment she fell asleep. He followed soon after.

She woke up in bed alone and saw that it was close to 9:30. She hadn't slept that well since... She honestly couldn't remember. Months and months and months. She stretched in bed, happy to have the room to do so. He'd stuck to his end of the bargain and hadn't touched her, and she was thankful. She ignored the momentary pang of sadness that came with knowing he hadn't tried. She didn't want him. She knew she could have, and maybe should have, told him he couldn't stay the night before, but she knew in her heart that if she had been the one looking for a place to stay, he would have opened his home to her. Not that she'd been inside his new place, but she knew where it was.

She reached for her robe and tied it around her waist, then pulled her hair into a ponytail as she walked down the stairs. She smelled food, and she heard noise, and she was instantly angry again. He wasn't still in her house, was he?

"What are you doing?" she asked when she stepped into the kitchen. There was breakfast on a plate on the table, a cup of coffee waiting for her. Lucas was laying on his back beneath the sink. "Lucas."

"You know the disposal was clogged?"

She glanced around again and saw that he'd cleaned the kitchen. She wondered how long he'd been up, and why he wasn't gone. "Yeah. I've been meaning to call someone."

"I'm almost done here," he told her. He flashed her a grin and gestured towards the table. "Made breakfast."

"What are you doing?" she repeated, putting her hands on her hips. Making breakfast, fixing things that were broken. That wasn't his place anymore. "This...what is this?"

"A guy can't be nice to his wife?"

"I don't want to be your wife anymore, Lucas!" she cried. "You can't just come over here and climb into my bed and make me breakfast and...You can't!"

"You didn't kick me out of our bed," he reminded her, standing and wiping his hands on a rag. "And I'm just trying to thank you for being kind enough to allow me to stay in our house."

"So write a note!" she shouted, throwing her hands in the air. "And it isn't our house."

"Yes it is," he insisted.

"It shouldn't be. You need to just...God, Lucas. Just let it go. Us. The whole idea of..."

"No," he said, as though what she was suggesting was the most ridiculous and unreasonable thing she'd ever said to him. "Not gonna happen."

"Luke."

"You let go too quickly," he told her. "I'm holding on for the both of us."

"I don't want..."

"You don't know what you want," he said seriously. "You tell me not to touch you, but you can't sleep without me there."

"You don't know that!" she cried.

But...how did he know that? she wondered.

"And you don't want me in our house, but you haven't asked me to leave," he noted, a smug smirk firmly in place on his lips.

"Why are you doing this?" she asked, sounding completely exhausted. She was. She was sick of the game and having to plead with him to just sign the papers so she could move on.

"Because I love you," he said with conviction. "Contrary to what you might think, I've always loved you."

Truthfully, she never doubted it, not really. His feelings weren't the problem. It was her own.

She took a breath to steady herself for what she was going to say next. Again. "I don't love you anymore, Lucas."

She hadn't said it confidently enough to let him believe that she really meant it. He wondered if she knew that. He walked towards her and cupped her elbow as he delicately kissed her cheek. Then he left.

And she cried in her kitchen, because it hit her for really the first time that they'd broken all their promises.

----

Nathan and Haley traveled out of town for the anniversary of their first wedding. Of course, they didn't go without a lot of teasing from their friends and family for actually having had two weddings, both of them before their 18th birthdays. They weren't going far, just a long weekend in Virginia Beach for a little one-on-one time. They were leaving on Thursday evening, and since Lucas had work and a game on Friday night, it was decided that Jamie would stay with Peyton Thursday and Friday nights, and Lucas would take the boy for Saturday and Sunday. It worked out well for everyone, and Jamie was excited to spend time with both his aunt and his uncle.

Friday rolled around, and Peyton couldn't say no when Jamie asked if they could go to the Ravens game. She knew how much the boy loved the game and that he knew some of the players, and really, she could get through seeing Lucas. They wouldn't even have to speak. And they didn't. She ended up talking to a few people she knew while Jamie said hello to his uncle. She just smiled at Lucas as Jamie ran back to her and tucked his little hand into hers, and then they left. It was always hard to see Lucas with a blonde child. She suspected it was just as hard for him to see her with one.

They were supposed to meet at the River Court on Saturday morning so that the boys could play for a while and Jamie could go home with Lucas. Of course, mother nature intervened. It was pouring down rain and threatening to turn into a full fledged thunderstorm. Needless to say, there was no way Lucas was going to be hanging out at the River Court. He showed up at Peyton's place (though he resented calling it that) and walked right in, just because he could.

"Lucas!" Jamie cried from his place at the table.

"Hey, little man," Lucas said. He nodded towards Peyton where she stood at the stove. He assumed she would have figured that he'd stop in to get Jamie, or that she'd just end up driving him to Lucas'. "What are you doing?"

"Peyton made pancakes."

"Mmm. She makes the best pancakes, doesn't she?" Lucas asked, taking the seat across from Jamie at the table.

"Uh huh. And she put whipped cream on them," Jamie said happily.

"Jamie!" Peyton laughed. "That was supposed to be our secret!"

Lucas just chuckled and motioned across his lips like he was zipping them shut. "Secret's safe with me."

Peyton turned back to the stove so that he wouldn't see her smile. He was actually being kind of...cute. "So what are you going to do today now?"

"I'm not sure. Maybe go catch a movie?" Lucas said. Jamie's eyes lit up and he nodded emphatically as he took a sip of his juice. Lucas was completely shocked when Peyton walked over and set a plate of pancakes in front of him. "Thank you." He looked up at her and she shrugged one shoulder before heading back to the counter.

"Can Peyton come with us?" Jamie asked innocently.

"Oh," Lucas said as he drizzled syrup onto his breakfast. Well, his second breakfast. "Um..."

"We never all do things anymore," Jamie pointed out.

Lucas glanced over at Peyton, and she just shook her head at him as she shot him a pleading look. That look told him that she would go with them, but that he should be on his best behaviour. That look was probably not really necessary, but she gave it anyway. She knew it'd be harmless. Surely, she and Lucas could spend the day in one another's presence without yelling at each other. And what Jamie wanted, Jamie got. He was spoiled by his aunt and uncle to no end. All three of them liked it that way.

Peyton nodded her head and Jamie shot up out of his seat to hug her, then ran up to the spare room to put on the clothes that Peyton had laid out for him.

"I think he got the 'You know you can't say no to me' gene from Nathan," Peyton said, making Lucas laugh.

"It's the eyes," he added. "And Haley's taught him the art of persuasion."

"Good luck to the girl he meets in about 10 years," Peyton joked. "How are the pancakes?"

"Delicious, as usual," he insisted.

Was it him, or were they talking without all the animosity?

"So listen, I was talking to my lawyer, and..."

Apparently not.

Lucas scoffed and shook his head. "Can we not talk about this right now?"

"You never want to talk about it," she said in frustration. The only thing keeping her from raising her voice was the fact that Jamie was in the house.

"Funny. I think I've said those words to you a few times before, Peyton."

"Lucas, it's been..."

"I'm aware of how long it's been," he said. He picked up his empty plate and walked over to set it in the sink. "Can we just...Can we have a day with Jamie without the rest of it?"

She heaved a sigh and rolled her eyes. "Fine."

She breezed past him and called for Jamie, and the boy bounded down the stairs, dressed and ready for the day. They piled into Lucas' car, and the only reason it wasn't tense was because Jamie was there to keep things light. He said funny things and they all seemed to make each other laugh, and at one point, Lucas could tell that Peyton's smile wasn't forced. She looked at him once, and she was grinning and her eyes were sparkling, and for a moment that seemed to linger a while, they weren't in the middle of some kind of divorce or separation or whatever. They were just Lucas and Peyton. And it just reminded him of how much he missed that. He quietly told her so when Jamie was walking ahead of them to get seats in the theater. She didn't deny it. His heart beat so fast he was sure she'd notice.

He walked her to the door when he dropped her off, and she said something tongue in cheek about him treating it like a date. He smirked at her and he would have kissed her forehead or her cheek or something, but she pulled the door open and walked inside before he could gather the courage to do it. The look she gave him just before she closed the door on his face let him know that she was fully aware of what was going through his mind. He wondered if she too was thinking that maybe they weren't so far apart after all.

----

She showed up at his door the night they learned that Haley was pregnant.

She'd debated it for close to an hour. She sat alone in a house that seemed huge and empty and far too quiet. There should have been a man and a baby there, and there wasn't, and she hated it. She couldn't be there without all that any longer, and when she got into her car, she found herself driving to the liquor store, and then parking in the visitor's lot at Lucas' building. It was cold and rainy, and it felt fitting, somehow. She didn't think twice before knocking, but she didn't knock with much confidence. She knew that was the emotions she was dealing with, not the fact that she was willingly throwing herself into an encounter with her ex-husband. Or...whatever he was at that point.

He pulled open the door to see her standing there, her sweater covered in dark little raindrops and her hair dripping wet. She held up a bottle of scotch. He smiled and held up the glass of amber liquid he was already holding. For the first time in a long time, she let out a genuine laugh. He opened the door a little further and she stepped inside, then set down her bag and kicked off her shoes as she glanced around the space. She noticed that it was freshly painted (she'd always wondered if he'd been telling the truth that night). One wall, the one that held the fireplace, was a dark midnight blue, and the others were a light grey. The living area and kitchen were open to one another, and everything matched, and she actually kind of liked it. It wasn't some bachelor pad (she knew he hadn't been treating it as one).

She was so caught up in looking at his apartment that she didn't notice him walking right behind her until he took the bottle from her hand and headed for the kitchen. She smiled as he grabbed a glass from one of the cabinets, then she sat herself down at the kitchen table while he poured.

"It's nice," she said, looking over at him.

He managed a smile, but he still had to ask. "What...um...what are you doing here?"

She closed her eyes and let out a breath. He walked over and sat across from her after setting the glass of scotch in front of her. "You're the only one who knows."

He had a feeling he knew what she was talking about. "How hard it is?" he asked delicately. She just nodded as she chewed her bottom lip. "Yeah."

"I'm happy for them," she said quietly. "But..."

"I know," Lucas whispered. He'd been feeling the same thing since Haley very quietly, very gently told him the news. Peyton didn't have to explain it. "You okay?"

She shrugged her shoulder. "Are you?"

"Sometimes," he said. She barely heard him. She knew he was talking about far more than the reason she came.

Well, the reason she used as an excuse to come. The truth was she hadn't been able to stop thinking about him, and yes, she needed to be around someone who might know what she was going through. More than anything, she found herself curious about his place. She...she missed him. She wouldn't admit it yet, but she missed him. She didn't know when it started. Maybe the night after he slept in her bed (their bed, as she had started thinking of it again) and she'd tossed and turned until she was so exhausted that she was crying. At least she blamed it on the lack of sleep.

They sat there in silence, but it wasn't like the silence they used to exist in before he moved out. This was different. It was like in the beginning when they could just sit together and not have to say a million words or entertain each other. And it was different from before it all fell apart, because this time she had words to say, and she felt she had to say them. 26 minutes passed. 26 minutes of complete quiet, and then Peyton looked at him, his eyes tired and a couple days' worth of stubble on his face.

"I was mad at you. I am mad at you," she admitted, really, for the first time. He was momentarily startled by her voice. Then he was startled by her words. "For not being there when..."

"Peyton," he whispered.

"I know," she said, her teary eyes locking with his across the table. "You couldn't have known, and you had to be in New York, but...I just wish you would have been there."

"And you have no idea how sorry I am for that. How guilty I feel," he said, his own throat tight. They'd never had this conversation. He'd so wanted to. He wouldn't ask her why they were having it now.

She wiped her cheek with the back of her hand. "I know," she said quietly. "And then I met her and...you were with her when I was..."

"Peyton, you can't...I was never..."

"No, I know," she was quick to insist. "I know you didn't do anything with her. You wouldn't. But...I was here...losing our baby...and you were with her, not me."

He'd never honestly looked at it that way before. He'd come home as soon as he could, but it wasn't about that. He'd never considered that her feelings over Lindsey weren't really jealousy. He didn't know what to call that, but he supposed it was just...realism. He wasn't with Peyton during the exact moment when something so significant happened, and then she got to put a face to the person who'd called him away, and she had ill feelings for that person. Lucas hadn't really tried hard enough to comprehend all that. Peyton hadn't tried at all to explain them. For the first time, she realized how wrong she was not to even try.

"I'm...I don't know what to say to that," he said, shaking his head at her.

"You don't have to say anything."

"Yes, I do," he said firmly. "I didn't know you...This is the stuff I wanted you to tell me."

"I didn't know how," she admitted. He was still shaking his head at her. She wanted to be closer to him. "I didn't think you'd understand."

"When have I ever not understood you?" he asked seriously.

She bit her lip, but she was smiling just a little bit. He'd always understood her. From the first moment they spoke, and probably before then too. He'd told her stories about seeing her around school, or out with her friends or Nathan, and she knew that without knowing her at all, he seemed to be able to see through everything. She'd always just assumed that he'd stopped being able to do that somewhere along the way. He hadn't. She was the one who'd stopped believing in him.

"I've been seeing someone."

His eyes flew up to meet hers, and he looked downright irate. "What?"

"No." She started laughing heartily, and he really wished he would have been able to keep himself from smiling as he watched her. "No. I've been seeing a psychiatrist."

"You wouldn't when I suggested it," he pointed out sadly. She could only nod. She had no explanation for that, other than the timing wasn't right and she needed to come to the realization on her own, and she assumed he'd understand that. "I don't blame you for anything, you know that, right?" he asked. She looked surprised that he'd said the words. "I don't."

She looked down into her glass and swirled the ice around so it clinked against the edges of the crystal. "I do."

"Peyton," he choked out. She was breaking his heart. He wondered how many times she'd do that.

"No, not for...not for the baby," she explained. "That was...that wasn't anyone's fault. It was just...the way it went, but...I made it so hard for you. For us."

"That's not your fault either."

"It is," she insisted. "It is, Lucas."

He moved to the chair right next to hers, and he pulled the glass from her hands so he could hold them in his own. "Do not blame yourself for any of this."

"But..."

"No," he said harshly. "It takes two people to make a marriage work, and it takes two people to let it fall apart." He saw the tears welling in her eyes again. "Promise me you won't blame yourself." She nodded her head and avoided eye contact. He tipped her chin up and smirked at her. "Just...don't blame me either."

She laughed at his joke and wiped her eyes again. "I promise." She tucked her hands back into his, and if they hadn't both been looking to the table, they each would have seen the other smile. "Why didn't you sign the papers?" she asked quietly.

He knew it had to mean something that she didn't say, 'why won't you sign the papers?'

"Because I'm still in love with you," he said for what felt like the millionth time. He didn't care how many times he had to say it. It would still be true, and he still wanted her to know that.

He sounded so sure of it, and she knew he was, but it still surprised her. All that time had passed, and all those things were said, and he was still so insistent that he was in love with her and always had been. The thought of it alone made her throat tight. And there was a reason she showed up at his house, and she was starting to think that even if her breakdown was over something completely different, something that didn't so directly involve him, that she probably would have needed him anyway. No one had ever been able to soothe her like he could.

Which led to her renewed realization that no one had ever loved her like he could.

When she leaned over and pressed her lips to his, he was too shocked to kiss her back. He'd thought about it so many times, if and how and when they'd come back together. Now that it was happening, he had no idea what to do with it. She was emotional, and he was the one helping her, and he knew from past experience that she tended to fall just a little bit harder for the people who saved her. Of course, that was always him, so it kind of worked in his favour. He pulled away a little bit and searched her eyes, and she didn't look as sad as she had since they separated. She didn't look confused or hurt. She just looked like she wanted him. They both had to know that she'd had him all along.

Her hands came up to rest on his face as she pulled him back towards her, and she slid forward in her chair. Her knee brushed against the inside of his thigh, and it had been so long since they were together that he seriously thought he was dreaming. Well, that was a really damn good dream. When she stood and took her hand in his again, she was wearing the most seductive little smile he'd ever seen, and he thought his heart was going to explode. Because even if she wouldn't admit it yet, she still loved him, too. They didn't speak and they didn't kiss as they walked to his bedroom. He wove his fingers together with hers, and then as soon as they were inside his room, she pressed herself against him and kissed him again.

He let her lead, and he followed dutifully. He let her initiate everything, fearful that if he started undressing her first or he kissed her a little more feverishly first, then she'd get scared and run. It wouldn't have been the first time. So she took his shirt off before he took hers off. She reached for his belt before he reached for hers. She lay down on the bed before he moved his body to cover hers. And even though she was clearly very aware of what she was doing and knew exactly what she wanted, he still had to question it all.

"Peyton, what..."

"Don't," she said breathlessly. "Just kiss me."

He shook his head. He couldn't believe he was going to say it, but he just couldn't do this, then have her say it meant nothing. "I can't."

Her eyes locked with his and she shifted a little bit beneath him. He playfully glared at her, and the smile she gave him had him rethinking that whole resistance thing. She wanted him to kiss her. She just wanted him. She didn't know when she'd stopped wanting him, or if she ever really had. She'd convinced herself she didn't love him, because she thought that was better and easier than admitting that she'd loved him and it wasn't enough. But it was enough. Of course it was.

"I love you," she said quietly. He looked genuinely surprised and pleased and so content that she didn't want him to say anything, because he'd just stutter, and as cute as that would be, she didn't need him to say a word. "I love you, Lucas. I always did."

He smiled and shook his head and kissed her. "I know," he said, his forehead resting against hers.

She almost cried again. It wasn't just because he loved her that he never went through with the divorce.

It was because he knew she still loved him, too.

----

They took it slow.

Well, no. They really didn't. Their idea of taking it slow was for him not to sell his condo yet. That didn't, of course, mean that he ever slept there or that most of his stuff wasn't back in their house again. She started wearing her her rings again only three weeks later. He'd been wearing his all along. She withdrew her petition for divorce, and they had a whole lot of long overdue conversations.

His heart stopped one day when he came home and found her crying in their bedroom. But the tears were different, and kind of familiar. "Peyton," he said, forcing her to look at him.

"Hi," she said quietly.

"What are you...?"

"I'm pregnant," she said, interrupting him. He'd just kneeled in front of her, and she swore he almost fell over. "Just over three weeks."

He knew what that meant. The first time they were together again, they'd made this baby. He glanced quickly at her stomach, then back to her face. "How's...we used..."

"I know," she said. She smiled at him and shrugged her shoulders. "I guess it was just meant to be." He took her face in his hands and kissed her, and then they were both crying again. He was so happy, and she obviously was, and it was going to be so different this time. "I called a realtor," she told him. He furrowed his brow at her. "You're selling your place. You're moving back in."

He laughed and nodded his head. "I think I already kind of have," he reminded her. "I love you so much."

"So are you...is this good?" she asked. She was smiling. She knew the answer already, she just wanted to hear it.

"This is so...It's very, very good," he said, laughing softly.

The word perfect came to mind.

"How is this happening?" she asked, shaking her head as she smiled. "We were...and now..."

"Doesn't matter," he insisted. "It doesn't matter, Peyton." He placed his hands on her cheeks again and wiped the tears away. "This is the way it's supposed to be."

She said nothing.

For the first time in a really long time, he didn't need her to.

-Fin-