A/N: This ended up far, far longer than I intended. I guess that's what happens when you go without the distraction of the internet for a few days. Inspired by living in rain, and missing snow.


He's a total nerd. He reads too many books, studies too much, doesn't drink or do drugs or do anything normal college kids are supposed to do. His wardrobe consists of jeans and tee shirts and the occasional button down. She's seen him wear a tie only once. If he's not reading or studying, he's writing or playing basketball. He's quiet and broody and probably sensitive. He's not the kind of guy she'd ever pay attention to if she didn't already know who he was.

But he's also totally hot.

She doesn't say anything, because it'd freak out her best friend, who happens to be this other boy's brother.

She and Nathan grew up together in a small town where everyone knew of the story of Dan Scott, but no one knew that Dan actually did help support Lucas. Karen and Keith lived in Charleston, but once a month, like clockwork, a check would arrive in the mail as child support Karen never asked for, but with Lucas' best interests at heart, she couldn't ignore. Once the boys were old enough, their parents decided it would be a good idea for them to get to know one another.

It took a few years for that 'good idea' to fulfill its label. Nathan hated that anyone else get any attention, and Lucas hated that Nathan got every single thing he wanted, most notably, a 'real' dad. But by the time they were basketball stars at two different high schools, they had set aside their differences and bonded over basketball and their mutual animosity towards their father. Lucas was a full year older than Nathan, and the year after his team lost out in the South Carolina state championship game, Nathan won the title in North Carolina. They competed over everything. Absolutely everything. Sometimes that was merely sibling rivalry. Other times, it was like a challenge, like they'd both push each other to be better. They needed it, too, with Dan Scott breathing down their necks and demotivating them. They started leaning on each other and ignoring their father's 'advice'.

The other thing they had in common was they each had a girl as their best friend. Haley went off to Stanford after high school, but Lucas went only as far as UNC. When Lucas became a sophomore, Peyton and Nathan both ended up at Duke, where he plays ball and she studies art and business.

The Scotts almost insisted that Peyton live in the house they were buying for Nathan and Lucas to share. She, ever independent, said she wanted her own space, and she'd only met Lucas once when she was 16, and she didn't really want to live with boys anyway.

But now she sees him almost every second day, and she always wants more.

It's crazy, really, because she doesn't know him very well at all. She talks to him only in passing when he's not locked up in his room studying, or talking to his friends and family on the phone, or reading on the sofa. They're just barely on a first name basis at this point, and it's the middle of October. She thinks he hates her or something, and she hates it. She wants to know him better.

She doesn't say a word. She hides it from Nathan. She knows it's not allowed. It's no more acceptable for her to fall for Lucas than it is for Nathan to fall for Haley or something. Peyton hasn't ever met Haley, but she can assume it'd be the same thing. Both boys are protective over their best friends.

And she and Nathan have been best friends since she can remember. He beat up a boy in the second grade because he ripped one of Peyton's art projects, and that was the only fight she ever approved of him getting in (there were many others she wasn't so supportive of). He told her that day, in his adorable little boy voice, that he was going to protect her no matter what, and she promptly told him that she didn't need protecting. She was wrong, and he never let her down. Her mom died, and he was there. He didn't hold her hand or baby her or anything like that, but he was there. She's never forgotten it. When his own mother was battling an addiction and ended up in the hospital after overdosing, Peyton was there the same way he had been there for her. When she met her birth mother for the first time, it was Nathan sitting at the next table. When he got word about scholarships and college acceptances, it was Peyton he told first, before anyone else. Truthfully, they're more like brother and sister than they were best friends.

She knows Nathan is an attractive guy. She doesn't see him that way, but she understands why others do. And yet right now, as she watches him playing against his brother, she finds her eyes on Lucas, despite the fact that he's being badly beaten.'

Lucas starts walking towards her, and she tells herself it's just a silly crush, a physical attraction, and he sits down next to her on the bleachers of the Duke practice facility. He wipes his forehead with the bottom of his tee shirt, and she cannot believe how nice his body is. She's never seen this much of it before.

She's blushing.

"Hot in here, huh?" he asks, looking over at her.

She'd swear she can feel her face heating up even more. "Yeah."


"Nate says they turn the heat up to get the guys sweating more during practice," Lucas explains after taking a sip of water. "You should take off your sweater."

Her gaze snaps over to meet his. "Excuse me?"

"No. I meant...I just mean since it's so hot," he says quickly.

"I'm okay," she insists. She's really hoping her breathing will return to normal sometime soon.

"You sure?"

"I don't have anything underneath anyway," she says, shrugging her shoulder. She immediately wonders what it is about this boy that turns her into a total girl. She isn't trying to flirt, she just doesn't think properly around him.

She looks over at him just in time to see his cheeks get redder.

"Okay then," he says. She laughs, and he looks to the floor.

The truth is, this isn't the first time he's thought of her without her clothes on. That makes him sound like some kind of pervert, but really, he's just a man. He's a man who sees this gorgeous girl on a regular basis, and he's not blind. He doesn't know her that well at all, because since the first moment he saw her when he was 17 and she was 16, he's wanted to know her, and he knows that if he gets to know her and he likes her, it'll cause fireworks. And not the good kind. (Not only the good kind.)

He knows how protective Nathan is over Peyton, and he admires his brother for it. Lucas does the same thing for Haley. He knows that if Nathan were to come onto Haley or objectify her in any way, Lucas wouldn't be pleased at all. So he keeps his distance, hides away in his room when he knows Peyton's coming over, and generally avoids situations like this one, where her beauty is overwhelming and he can smell her perfume and he made her laugh.

"Dude! Don't tell me you're done," Nathan says as he tosses up a free throw.

"Dude, you know I can't push it," Lucas says, referring to his heart condition.

"Whatever. Excuses," Nathan mumbles.

Peyton shakes her head, and Lucas can't help but stare at her. "Apparently collapsing isn't a good enough reason to stop playing," she says.

"Yeah. Nothing says 'I support my brother' quite like having a heart attack," Lucas jokes.

She laughs softly again and they both watch Nathan drive the lane around multiple invisible opponents. "He understands, you know," she says quietly after a moment. "He hates that you can't play like you want to."

He doesn't know what to say. He knows Nathan would be mad at her for saying something so sentimental, but Lucas knows she isn't making it up or speculating, and that his brother has probably said those very words. He likes that she's told him though. Not only does it make him feel better, but because she somehow knew it would. She could read him well enough to see that he needed to hear it. Or maybe he's reading too much into it.

Either way, he needs to get away from this girl. He mumbles a goodbye, says something to Nathan, and Peyton watches Lucas walk from the gym. She knows she hasn't offended him, but she doesn't understand his sudden departure. She tells herself she doesn't care, and when Nathan heckles her and tells her to join him on the court, she rolls her eyes and smiles and heads to the center of the gym.

She wonders if Nathan has noticed that she feels...something for Lucas. Which leads her to wondering if Lucas knows she feels something for him.


She always waits in the same spot on campus after her class on Wednesday mornings, because she and Nathan have a standing lunch 'date' that neither ever misses. It's cold out, and she's bundled up in her scarf and mittens talking to one of her friends from her business class while she waits. She's already texted Nathan to tell him to hurry up because she's freezing her ass off. And it's not easy to text while wearing mittens. Her friend leaves just before Nathan arrives, and Peyton doesn't know that he even saw the girl.

"Who's that?" he asks, still watching the other girl walk away.

Peyton looks at him and starts shaking her head. "No. No way."

"What?" he asks. His voice is innocent, but his smirk is giving him away.

"I'm not going to let you charm your way into her bed, Nathan," Peyton insists. "You'll just ruin my friendship with her."

"A friendship I didn't even know about after like, almost two months of school," he tells her. Okay, so it's not like she's best friends with the girl or anything. "What's her name?"

Peyton rolls her eyes and lets out a dramatic sigh as they start walking towards the parking lot where his car is. "Her name is Brooke. She's really nice."

"She's hot as hell." He looks over at her. "Introduce me."


"Come on. It's not like I'm gonna..."

"Gonna what?" Peyton asks. "Sleep with her and then never call her again?"

"I might not. I might like her," he says. She scoffs and shakes her head. "Whatever. Friends are off limits now?"

"After Rachel? Yes!" Peyton cries. He rolls his eyes.

Rachel and Peyton were close friends until Nathan and the redhead had a little (a lot) too much to drink one night and one thing led to another. Rachel didn't exactly understand that he was 'letting her down easy' when he told her he wasn't looking for a relationship, and she ended up transferring to a different school for the last semester of senior year.

"Okay, that bitch was crazy."

Oh. Right. Rachel also let herself into Nathan's house and lay waiting in his bed after he told her repeatedly he didn't want anything to do with her. He still, to this day, has no idea how she got into that house.

"That bitch was my friend," Peyton reminds him seriously.

"Whatever," he mumbles. "So you aren't gonna let me date any of the girls you know."

"Not when your idea of dating is two dates at most, then a night of sex," she says.

"That's bullshit," he says as they step into his car. "And I'd let you date my friends."

"You'd threaten your friends into being good to me," she says laughingly. He smiles proudly and shrugs his shoulder.

"The only guy I know even remotely worthy of dating you is my brother." His tone is suddenly serious as he turns the ignition. Her heart races. Is that some kind of approval? "And you're not going to date Lucas." She wants to ask him to elaborate. She wants to know why not, and why it's his business anyway. "Guys aren't allowed to go after their best friend's sisters. So girl friends aren't allowed to go after their best friend's brothers," Nathan says, somehow making it sound like it makes all the sense in the world.

In a display of blind courage, Peyton says, "I could do a lot worse than Lucas."

Nathan turns to her, his jaw set and his eyes narrowed. "Well, you're not doing Lucas."

He tries, at the last second, to make it sound like a joke, but she can tell it isn't one.

She's never, not once in all the years they've known each other, ever hated him. But she does then, for the first time, just for a split second.


Brooke catches up with Peyton before class one day the following week, talking about meeting Nathan Scott. Of course, everyone knows who he is and all the girls want him. Peyton doesn't make a habit of telling people he's her best friend, simply because she knows that every girl she meets will beg her for an in. She learned that lesson in high school when Nathan's stock first started to rise. He didn't exactly need Peyton to be his wingman, and she didn't want the job anyway.

And she's really pissed that Nathan's so blatantly ignoring her request that he not go after Brooke. He's never really been one to follow orders, but of anyone in his life, he generally listens to Peyton the most.

She arrives at his house just after dinner and unlocks the door with a key he gave her, and before she's even got her jacket off, she's yelling.

"Nathan fucking Scott!"

She hears footsteps and her blood boils, thinking about what she's going to say to him to express how mad she is.

"Um...Hi," Lucas says meekly. He can't lie, he's definitely a little scared of her tone and how pissed off she looks. "You okay?"

"Do I look okay?" she asks, unable to hide her annoyance.

Yup. He's pretty sure she hates him.

"Well, he's not here," Lucas says, crossing his arms.

She notices the defensive stance he's taken (Nathan has the same one) and she really can't blame him. She's the one who's burst into his home like a crazy person, yelling for someone who, as it turns out, isn't even there.

"I'm sorry. I don't mean to be such a bitch, I'm just really pissed at him right now," she says quietly, running a hand through her hair. She hates making apologies. That's why she tries to never put herself into a position to make them.

"Do you want to talk about it?" he asks politely. He notices her smile just a little bit. "And...I thought I locked the door."

"I have a key," she says. She toys with the button of her coat as she considers staying here with Lucas until Nathan gets home.

She decides she will wait, and the reason is two fold. One, she wants to spend time with Lucas. Two, she knows that she can convey to Nathan in one look that if he's going to mess with her friend, she can at least pretend (or so it'll seem) to mess with his brother. She kicks off her shoes and hangs up her jacket, and Lucas meets her at the sofa.

"So what'd he do?" he asks knowingly. It doesn't take a genius to know that she's seriously mad at Nathan. After all, his middle name certainly isn't the one she used when she stepped into the house.

She wants to say 'my friend', but she knows she'd be jumping to conclusions. "Nothing," she mumbles. He laughs. She doesn't like that at all. "What?"

"You're a terrible liar."

"Well, I don't really make a habit of it," she sneers. She's being a bitch again. He actually looks amused. "Shit. I'm sorry. I'm just..."

"Mad at Nathan for some unknown reason, and you came over here and started yelling as soon as you got through the door using the key I didn't know you had," Lucas supplies. She bites her lip nervously, and he laughs a little. "You want a drink or something?"

"Does Nathan have beer?" she asks. They both know the answer.

Lucas stands from the sofa and says, "be right back."

She watches him walk out of the room, and she thinks that maybe it's a good thing that Nathan's breaking the rules. Maybe that means she can do it too. She ignores, just for a moment, that all she really knows about Lucas are the things that Nathan has told her. That he's smart and funny and rather introverted. That he likes to read and gives a million per cent in everything he does, and anyone who's ever met him has liked him. He's great with people, especially kids, and he'd do absolutely anything for his family and friends.

Yeah. That's all.

How could she not have a crush on him?

And when he walks back into the room using the bottom of his tee shirt to twist the caps off the bottles. There's that strip of flesh again that she has to consciously put effort into taking her eyes away from. She mumbles a thank you when he hands her the beer, then he sits down, more casually this time, and rests his feet on the coffee table before them.

"So you wanna tell me what's up?" he asks.

"Your brother's a jackass."

He laughs, and she thinks her palms are sweating. "Yup."

She slouches down a little more so she's mimicking the way he's sitting, and he smirks to himself. He remembers from his psychology class last semester that it's a form of flattery and sometimes attraction when someone copies your body language. He wouldn't be surprised if those rules somehow didn't apply to her.

So far, all he knows is that she's stunning, hilarious, understanding and smart. She helped Nathan with his studies all through high school, so he knows she's generous and patient. She's got a temper and she's stubborn, and he'd never, ever want to be on her bad side. But from where he's sitting, all sides are looking pretty good.

Yeah. That's about it.

And he's not supposed to like her?

He doesn't ask her anything more about what she's mad about. He assumes that if she wanted to tell him, she'd tell him. She surprises him by asking about his classes, and her face lights up when he mentions the work he's reading and studying, and she insists it's one of her favourite books. They talk about underlying themes and metaphors, and she points out things he probably never would have noticed. She looks proud of that when he tells her so, and he says that if he writes an essay and scores well, he'll have to thank her. She shrugs her shoulder like it's no big deal that she knows Homer's Odyssey like the back of her hand.

He finds himself watching her lips (however subtly he does it) as she speaks. He wonders what she wears on them, because they're the perfect colour, and they look smooth and soft, and he thinks that he's never wanted to kiss someone so badly. He wishes she wasn't Nathan's best friend.

She's laughing as he takes the empty beer bottle (her second) from her hand, and Nathan walks through the front door. His expression hardens. Peyton's does too.

"What's going on here?" Nathan asks.

"Just hanging out," Lucas says casually. He's clueless to the situation, but his brother knows immediately what's going on. Lucas disappears into the kitchen and Peyton stands from her place.

"I told you not to do anything," she says, putting her hand on her hip.

"So you're here coming onto Lucas? Mature."

"Okay, first of all, we're talking about books and music. It's not like I'm stripping down in front of him," Peyton says. Nathan rolls his eyes, because they both know she isn't - and wasn't - doing anything wrong. "Second of all, what the fuck?"

Nathan actually laughs. That's some argument. "I like her. She's a single girl. I got her number."

"She's my friend."

"Which is why I'm not going to screw around with this one," Nathan insists.

"With this one," Peyton scoffs, shaking her head. "The next one gets the pleasure of all that?" He breaks into a grin at the potential innuendo in her words. "Shut up."

"We're just going to dinner. I'll be good," he tells her seriously.

She wants to believe him. She really does. "I've heard that before, Nathan." He shrugs, but she knows he's being sincere. As sincere as she's ever seen him about a girl who isn't herself or his mother. "Fine. I'll allow it."

Lucas walks back into the room with three more bottles, and Nathan takes one, then clinks the glass against Lucas' and Peyton's. Lucas looks just a little confused about what he's missed and why it feels tense, but he knows it's not his business.

Or so he thought.

"You're still not allowed to fuck my brother," Nathan says casually as he flops down on the sofa and reaches for the remote.

Both Peyton and Lucas spit out the beer they've just taken sips of.


Peyton's dad is away, and Nathan's mom is traveling over Thanksgiving. Karen, always more generous than any one person has any business being, invites them both to stay with her for the holidays, but they politely decline. Nathan has practice and doesn't want to endure the drive twice in two days. And Peyton just can't let herself stay in a strange town where she'll only know Lucas. That just sounds like a terrible idea. Well, it sounds like an amazing idea, but she's trying not to focus on that part.

Even though Nathan and Brooke are sort of dating, however non-commital they both are (neither is seeing anyone else, but only Peyton knows that), Peyton knows just how adamant Nathan is that she not pursue anything with Lucas. Only she also knows just how badly she wants to pursue something with Lucas. And it's still insane, since she really barely knows him, but she gets butterflies every time she's around him, and she wants to kiss him every time he laughs, and the other day, he ran his hand along the middle of her back when she was standing in the kitchen and he had to move around her. She could have sworn he heard her heart beating.

Nathan gets them invited to an exclusive party that's meant for only the seniors staying at school for the weekend. He's a Blue Devil; he can get them into anything they want. They go, laugh, drink a little too much, and insist over and over again that they aren't together, until - as happens a little too often for Nathan's liking - one guy gets too close to Peyton, then Nathan's acting protective, and Peyton says she's ready to leave. He knows she hates it when guys are too forward, and she hates it even more when guys touch her without invitation.

Except Lucas, apparently. Nathan doesn't know that.

They cab back to Nathan's place, and she argues that she'll go home, but he won't let her. He says she's still drunk, and when she asks him where she's supposed to sleep, he tells her there's an empty bedroom she can stay in for the night.

Lucas' room.


"It's fine. He won't care. I'll change his sheets in the morning," Nathan says, like that'll solve all problems and it won't be weird at all.

"It's...weird. I hardly know him," she argues.

"Yes, you do. He's me, but smarter, and less attractive," Nathan jokes. They both laugh, because that's not an accurate description at all. "I'm not letting you leave, and our couch isn't comfortable."

"First of all, you're not the boss of me." She sounds about five years old, but after so many Jack and Coke's, she doesn't care. "Second of all, yeah, I'm not sleeping on the couch."

"You can sleep in my bed if you want. You know I like to cuddle," Nathan says. He wraps her up in a bear hug as she laughs, and when he lets her go and looks at her expectantly, he smiles triumphantly when she rolls her eyes. He knows he's won.

"Fine. I'll sleep in his room. As long as you think it'll be okay," she says.

He swears up and down that it will be, and he hands her a tee shirt to sleep in, and they hug again. They tend to do that a lot, especially when they're drinking. He literally pushes her into Lucas' room and closes the door behind her, as if that'll make her stay there for the night, and she takes a look around. She's only ever seen his room when she was on her way to Nathan's, and it's different from the inside. It's tidy and full of books, and it smells like him. It's crazy, but it doesn't feel like the rest of the house somehow. She changes into the shirt Nathan gave her, and when she lays down in Lucas' bed, she feels more alone than she's ever felt in her life. Now, more than ever, she feels like she should be laying next to someone.

And yet she's asleep within moments, because the scent of his cologne on the sheets soothes her in a surprising way. If she weren't so comfortable, she'd feel like a creep.

Lucas comes home early from his weekend at his mom's because a storm was rolling in and he wanted to get back to school before the rain made it difficult to drive. He walks into the house and drops his bag, and he's completely exhausted from waking up so early to get on the road. He definitely wasn't expecting his mom to wake him up at 4:30 in the morning, but when he complained about it, she just insisted that she was his mother and she was allowed to worry.

He doesn't expect to see a gorgeous girl in his bed when he pushes his bedroom door open. And it's creepy and totally something he shouldn't do, but he stands there for a moment and watches her. He notices she's wearing one of Nathan's tee shirts, and she's completely taken over the bed. She's sprawled out, arms and legs all over the place, and her hair is a complete disaster. But there's a little smile on her face that he thinks might be the most perfect thing he's ever seen.

He's not about to wake her, and he really doesn't care if she sleeps in his bed (he actually kind of loves the idea) so he just pulls the door closed quietly and heads back downstairs to catch an hour or so of sleep on the sofa before Nathan and Peyton wake up.

He can't get her off his mind. He wants to be sleeping next to her. That's really not much of a change, only now she's in his bed looking fucking incredible, and he's on the hard sofa, and that just seems wrong.

He thinks of her so much, so constantly, that he can't get to sleep. What else is she wearing? How long had she been there? Where had they gone the night before? Whose idea was it for her to crash in his bed (so he knows who to thank)? And maybe most importantly, when's she going to wake up?

He hears the newspaper land on the front porch and he knows he's not going to be getting any sleep, so he makes a pot of coffee, grabs the paper, and lays on the sofa in the quiet while he reads the headlines. It's almost a suitable distraction. The coffee tastes good, and there's enough editorial in the Sunday paper to keep him amused. He's in the middle of reading a long opinion piece on health care reform when he hears shuffling coming from upstairs, then footsteps heading towards him.

"Oh," she says in surprise. Fuck. She doesn't know what else to say. She kind of wants to kill Nathan for telling her to sleep in Lucas' room. "Hi."


So apparently she's wearing just a little pair of shorts beneath that tee shirt. Shorts that he can't really even see. He does his best not to stare.

"I'm sorry. Nathan said..."

"Don't worry about it," Lucas insists. She's crazy if she thinks she needs to apologize.

But she's not crazy, he reminds himself, she just doesn't know (can't know) about his annoyingly swelling interest in her. Every time he sees her, he wants her more. Right now, with her looking nervous and tugging at the bottom of the shirt she wears, he really wishes he could act on it. It's not like he's a really forward guy, but he thinks that if there's any one girl he'd ever just grab and kiss, she's that one girl.

She decides she won't let herself be awkward about this. He seems sincere, like he doesn't care about her taking over his room, and she has no reason to be uncomfortable right now. Aside from the fact that she's not wearing proper pants, it's not like this is any different from any other conversation.

The rain starts just as she's about to ask what he's doing home early, and she remembers hearing about the storm. She knows Nathan'll wake up any minute, so she has only a little time alone with Lucas. She shouldn't want any at all, but she's resolved herself to the fact that she wants Lucas. In a whole lot of ways.

"You want some coffee?" he asks, standing from the sofa as she sits. He can't be next to her just yet. He watches as she reaches for a blanket to drape over her legs, and he doesn't know whether to curse or be thankful for it.

"Sure," she says quietly. "Just milk and sugar."

He smiles and winks, and she thinks she's in love. That's really the only thing she can think of to explain her racing heart and sweating palms. Her hands shake when she's around him, and she feels like she's about 14 years old; like he's the senior basketball star and she's the gawky freshman. He reduces her to a pile of nerves and pure girlish thoughts, and the most surprising thing is that she doesn't hate it. She's never felt things quite this way, never to this extent. She wonders if the fact that it's 'forbidden' makes it feel more intense.

But then he steps back into the room and his fingers brush against hers as he hands her the mug of coffee, and she shivers a little and wonders what it'd be like to be in his arms.

"You cold?" he asks worriedly. She doesn't even have a chance to answer him before he grabs another blanket and motions for her to lean forward so he can wrap it around her shoulders.

She thanks him quietly and asks him how his visit with his mom and sister went. He tells her all about it, how Lily is in that stage where she babbles all the time, but rarely about anything of any importance, and yet everyone just listens to her constantly because she's so cute. He grabs his camera and loads his photos onto his laptop, and then Peyton scoots closer to him so she can see better. Their shoulders are pressed together, and Peyton keeps saying how adorable Lily is, and he beams, and the whole side of his body that's touching hers is numb and tingling or something, and it makes him crazy, because she smells like herself and like him from sleeping in his sheets, and he's sure his temperature rises 10 degrees. Her hair falls to one side as she leans against him, tickling his arm in a way he thinks is far too intimate, and when she places her hand on his forearm upon seeing a photo of he and his sister asleep on the sofa, the little girl all curled up on his chest, he looks over at Peyton, studies her profile, and thinks that if ever there was a woman more perfect than this one, he'd never believe it until he saw proof.

Because this woman, this girl sitting next to him with the soft eyes, perfect complexion and a private little smile on her face that he's sure no one else has ever seen, might just be everything he's ever thought he wanted.

He disregards the fact that he can't have her, not ever, and he leans towards her just a little bit more. His lips are only a few inches away from her, and she looks startled, but excited and expectant, and he wonders if she wants him to kiss her as much as he wants to do it. Her eyes dart to his lips she presses hers together to wet them, then they hear a door open upstairs, and she moves away from Lucas quickly and takes a sip of her coffee so she can avoid his eyes and ignore whatever just almost happened and how fast her heart is racing and how much she fucking hates Nathan's timing.

He comes downstairs in full workout gear, and Peyton vaguely hears him asking Lucas about his trip and why he's home and all the things she already knows, then he tells her that he's going to get in a practice, and he'll drive her home. She gets dressed and he's already waiting in the car when she comes back downstairs, and Lucas looks sheepish and adorable, and she doesn't say anything about the almost kiss, and neither does he. She says a simple goodbye, and he nods, and he thinks about her long after she's gone.

He changes his sheets right away, because he knows that if he lays down in them and smells her perfume or her shampoo, it'll be a sleepless night of thinking about her and what he knows they have and how badly he wants her, and he just can't have her.


She's walking with Brooke one day, listening to the girl talk about how into Nathan she is, and how it seems like he's really into her too. Peyton knows he is, and she says so in a way that doesn't put her in the middle and won't get land her in hot water with Nathan. And there's a voice in the back of her head that tells her that this might set some kind of weird precedent; if he can have a relationship with her friend after she told him not to, maybe she can use that to her advantage.

"What about you?" Brooke asks. "I don't think you've even been on a date since I met you."

"Um...yeah. I haven't really," Peyton says. This isn't the first time someone's pointed it out. She's a college freshman, and people seem to think that means she should have a date every weekend.

And maybe she would if not for a stupid crush that she convinced herself she'd get over, but certainly isn't.

"Why? You're hot. Boys love you. What's the deal?" Brooke turns to her, and Peyton shrugs her shoulder. "You have a crush!" Brooke says quietly, like it's obvious, written all over Peyton's face.

"I do not," Peyton says quickly and defensively. "I don't. I just don't feel like dating."

"Well, Nathan says..."

Peyton looks over quickly. "You and Nathan talk about me?"

"Sometimes," Brooke says with a laugh. "You're our mutual friend, and...Oh wow. Who's that?" She gestures subtly to an all-too-familiar man who's walking towards them, his eyes focused on Peyton. She's about to mention that the guy looks like he's definitely attracted to Peyton when the blonde smiles at him.

"Hey Luke," she says sweetly.

Brooke notices a few things, here. She notices that Peyton's playing coy (definitely crushing), that Lucas is Nathan's brother (definitely off-limits, or so Nathan seems to insist), and and that Lucas has eyes solely for the girl standing directly in front of him (again, crushing). It doesn't take a genius to see it, and she thinks Nathan's probably spent the better part of the semester ignoring it and trying to make sure it doesn't happen. She doesn't necessarily think that's fair.

"I'm Brooke." She introduces herself because it's clear Peyton hasn't though of it.

"Nathan's...girlfriend," Lucas says, weary of using the word. Brooke just nods as Lucas wonders why she's never been tot he house, and it's then that he realizes just how serious his brother is about this girl; they haven't slept together. That's a monumental indicator that Nathan's feelings are definitely real. "Nice to meet you."

"You too," Brooke says sweetly. She turns to Peyton, who is gripping her bag so tightly her knuckles are white. "I've gotta run. I have that meeting with that prof."

It's bullshit, and she knows Peyton will know it. She clearly just wants to leave the two of them alone, and Peyton doesn't know if she should be thankful for that, or worried that Brooke will say something to Nathan, but as she's walking away, the brunette throws a knowing wink in Peyton's direction and she thinks she's safe.

"She seems nice," Lucas notes.

"Yeah. She's really cool," Peyton says. There's an awkward moment of silence, then Peyton asks the obvious question. "What are you doing here?"

"I was supposed to meet Nathan, but he cancelled at the last minute," Lucas explains. He doesn't say it, but he was kind of hoping that he'd run into her. He'd thought it was a pipe dream, nearly impossible that her schedule would have her in the same place at the same time.

He thinks it has to mean something that she's standing in front of him right now.

"Oh. Well I'm done for the day," she says as casually as she can. "I mean, if you wanted to grab something to eat or...something."

Her tight jeans and suede boots are making him think of a whole lot of somethings that don't involve them going anywhere public.

But he needs to stop it.

"Um...Yeah. That sounds good," he says.

He smiles at her as they walk together in the direction of his car, and he tells her about his day when she asks, and she does the same. He asks a few questions about Brooke, things that Nathan hasn't offered up, and they both agree that the relationship is far more serious than the guy is letting on. Lucas opens the car door for her, something she was positive he'd do, and she smiles to herself as she waits for him to climb in the driver's seat.

And she thinks she might be on her first date of the year, even if he doesn't know he's on it.

They drive back to Lucas and Nathan's place, then walk together to the little bar nearby that they both know has the cheapest beer and the best french fries and doesn't care about their obviously fake IDs. And he does the cutest things. They're walking and they come upon a puddle, and he stops walking, lets her walk in front of him so she doesn't get her feet wet. It's stupid and probably anyone would do the same thing, but she falls for him a little more. And again when he holds the door open for her, and when he hangs up her jacket for her, and when he pours her the first glass of beer from the pitcher when it arrives. He insists she order first, and he turns the ringer off on his phone so they won't be interrupted.

He's a perfect gentleman, and she knows they're a rare breed.

She wants to keep this one all to herself.

Every song that comes through the speakers, she says she has on vinyl, and he doesn't want to believe her, but he has to because he doesn't think she'd lie, and she certainly wouldn't lie about music. She promises him as much, and he loves the passion she has. It's sexy as hell to see her sitting there with a drink in her hands, stealing glances at the basketball game playing on the television as she mouths the words to a Queen song he hasn't heard in years.

"You know what's crazy?" she asks after two beers. Their plates have been cleared and they've spent the last hour and a half together, talking and laughing.

"What's that?"

"We hardly know each other." She doesn't say, 'but I'm crazy about you', or 'but I want you', or 'but I feel like I've known you forever.' She doesn't say that, but it's all true.

He looks at her across the table, his lips bent into a sexy smirk and his hand holding his glass.

"I know you," he says, and he's certainly confident about it.

There are a whole lot of feelings and butterflies and urges swirling around in her stomach, and maybe it's the beer, but she raises her brow in a way she knows is flirtatious, and maintains her smile and eye contact as she takes a sip of her drink.

And good Lord, he thinks there's no way this night is going to end without him kissing her, Nathan's wishes be damned. This girl is too perfect, and too sexy, and too many of all the things he wants, for him not to have her.

And she thinks that he does know her. It's crazy. They've hardly had a handful of real conversations, but they've been revealing ones. And it's weird, but he's always around at the perfect moments. Just when she's thinking of something she needs to say out loud, or when she's thinking of the crush she has. He swoops in and gives her what she needs, and maybe she'd be crazy to let that go.

They nurse their beer and each tone down the flirting just a little bit, not that it was crazy to begin with. She just knows that if he keeps saying such amazing things in that amazing tone, she's going to do something like lean across the table, grab his shirt in her hands and kiss him. She thinks she might want to do that no matter what.

He suggests they do a shot, just for fun, he says, and she can't say no. She doesn't want their night to end, though they've spent the better part of three hours together. She's buzzing from the alcohol and his company, and she wants more. She wants to hold his hand, and she's pretty sure he'd let her if she tried. He asks the waitress for four shots of Jack, and Peyton's eyes go wide and she looks amused.

"You said a shot," she laughs. He shrugs his shoulder innocently. "Lucas Scott, are you trying to get me drunk?"

"Darlin', you're already drunk," he points out.

They both laugh again and it's then that he realizes that they haven't spoken about the almost kiss at all. He thinks maybe they don't need to talk about it. She doesn't seem to want to. He wonders if it's because she doesn't want a kiss to happen. But she's flirting, and he knows he's not misreading her. He's confused.

The waitress comes and sets the four little glasses on the table, and Lucas reaches for his. Peyton shouts, "wait!" and places her hand on his arm, and he has no idea what's going on, but he sure likes the feel of her hand on his skin. "We have to toast."

"We do?" he asks, smirking at her.

"Yes." She gives one emphatic nod. "To..." she draws out as she thinks. "To having fun without Nathan." He laughs, his eyes shining as he nods in agreement, then clinks his glass against hers and they tip back their shots. Her hand is still on his arm. She doesn't move it and he doesn't want her to. "You do one."

He squints as he thinks (she finds it insanely sexy), then says, "to you getting to know me."

Her jaw drops, but she's still smiling, because he's implying that he knows her but she doesn't know him, and over the course of this evening she's realized that just isn't the case. It's like they innately know each other, and she doesn't know quite why that is, but she's enjoying it too much to mention it.

"I know you," she mumbles, locking eyes with him.

He nods gently, and very quietly, so quietly that she almost doesn't hear him, he says, "I know."

He pays the bill while she's in the washroom, because he knows she'd argue with him about paying if she was there. Sure enough, when she comes back she tilts her head and says the shortened form of his name, and he tells her not to worry about it, and as they're walking from the bar, someone bumps into her, and Lucas rests his hand on her waist as he stands behind her, steadying her.

Something about him catching her when she falls seems metaphorical and fitting and kind of amazing.

Not to mention, the feel of his hand on her, even with layers of clothing between his hand and her skin, excites her in a way she's not entirely familiar with. And just like earlier, when she didn't remove her hand from him (she didn't want to), he doesn't remove his hand from her (he doesn't want to).

They step outside and it's absolutely pouring rain, probably harder than it has since the prior winter, and he laughs when Peyton does. She takes his hand and runs to the side of the building where there's a ledge to stand beneath, but it does very little to actually keep them dry. She pulls him against her accidentally, and he braces himself against the wall with one hand above her shoulder and the other resting next to her right hip. There are raindrops sliding down his face, and she reaches up and delicately wipes them away, her eyes lingering on his lips at the water collected there.

And when she kisses him, she thinks in all those years of catching raindrops as a kid she never tasted any as good as these ones.

He should have expected it, should have known they'd kiss at some point in the evening. He did, to a degree, but he thought he'd be the one initiating it. But no. It's her lips on his, her hands in his hair, and her tongue tracing the seam of his lips, and goddammit, he thinks no woman in history has ever been sexier than this woman, right now.

He shuffles a little closer, his hips aligned with hers, and his hand comes to rest on her cheek before tangling in her wet mess of curly hair. She runs her hand down his back and pulls him close, and he presses himself against her. She doesn't care that this is wrong (because it's right) or that they're outside (it's perfect) or that her boots are getting completely ruined (they're last season anyway). She cares that she can feel this kiss through her whole body, and she's never felt more amazing in her entire life, in any situation, as she does with Lucas' lips on hers and his hand kneading her thigh through her jeans as she wraps her leg around his waist.

She lets out a breath next to his ear when he kisses her neck, and he can't believe how fucking amazing she is. He never could, but it's just taken even further now what with the kissing and the rain and the fact that she so obviously wants this like he does.

She tries not to moan when he arches into her again, and her eyes open when she hears footsteps. It reminds her that they're outside, not five blocks from he and Nathan's house, and she doesn't know where Nathan is, and he frequents this place, and she really, really should not be thinking about Nathan when Lucas brings his lips back to hers.

"Wait," she says breathlessly. He pulls away, both their faces drenched in rain, but still flushed despite the chill. "I'm sorry."

"Sorry?" he states incredulously, his brow furrowed in confusion. He can't form coherent thoughts, and when she lowers her leg, brushing against him, he swallows the groan that threatens to escape.

"He's my best friend, Lucas," she says quietly. He lets out a disappointed sigh, but nods his head. "I...I can't." He moves away from her, stepping directly into the rain, and she's immediately cold, chilled by the fact that she just said what she said and the fact that his body heat isn't warming her anymore. "I'm sorry," she repeats.

He shakes his head quickly. "Don't. Don't apologize. I should have known better."

"I kissed you," she reminds him.

"But we've been drinking, and I..."

"I wanted to." She cuts him off, and when his eyes meet hers, it's not because he's surprised, but because that's what he wanted her to say.

"Me too," he whispers as he stuffs his hands in the pockets of his jeans and looks to the ground. "Come on. I'll walk you home."

"No," she answers quickly. She knows damn well that if he walks her through the rain to her door, she'll just want to kiss him more and there'll be very little stopping her from grabbing him by the collar and pulling him into her apartment. "No. I'll grab a cab."

"Peyton." He shakes his head again, but she manages to smile. She loves that he's so worried about things between them being okay. He hates that she's trying to act like everything between them is okay. Well, it is okay, but he suspects they both know it could be so much more than that.

"Come on. It's like a 20 minute walk. We'll catch pneumonia," she argues. It's lame and stupid, and she would love nothing more than to walk with him, but she can't. She can't risk her friendship with Nathan, and she won't let Lucas risk his relationship with his brother either.

He reaches for his phone and dials the number, and he doesn't give a damn whether she wants him to or not, he pulls her against his chest with his free arm, and he holds her there to keep her at least marginally warmer while he calls for her cab. She doesn't argue or try to move away or do anything other than just wrap her arms around him. Once he's tucked his phone back into his pocket, he runs his hands up and down her back, and he kisses her temple because can't help it; he just needs to do it.

"I'm sor..."

"Don't," he interrupts. He doesn't want her to take it back.

They don't say anything more as they wait for her cab to arrive, and as the car pulls away, he realizes that she wasn't apologizing for the fact that she kissed him.

She was apologizing because she couldn't kiss him again.


She stops going to the house quite so often, and it's for two simple reasons.

One, she's afraid the sexual tension will be palpable and Nathan will notice.

And two, she thinks that if she's ever alone with Lucas, even for a few moments, she won't be able to stop herself from kissing him.

No matter how hard she tries, she can't stop thinking about him. Now that she knows how good his kisses are and how good his hands feel and how amazingly his body fits against hers, she fears she'll never get over it and it'll always be her what if. She wants so badly what she can't have, and it's not fair, and she could talk to Nathan about it, but she's sure he'd just be mad at both she and Lucas, and that's not fair to anyone, but it's the way it is.

She covers it well. Nathan's season is getting more and more intense, and his practices more frequent. She's studying harder and harder, and when she doesn't think she can handle being in the same place as Lucas, she tells Nathan to bring food or snacks to her apartment, and they hang out there, and he doesn't ask questions.

And she, embarrassingly, knows much of Lucas' schedule. It's held up by Duke and UNC magnets on the fridge at the guys' house, along with Nathan's class, practice, and game schedules. She knows that Thursday nights, Nathan doesn't have practice, and Lucas has a study group, so she can be at the house without any of the awkward tension she's sure would be there.


She and Nathan have just ordered a pizza and are sitting on the sofa watching some random NBA game, and Lucas walks into the house. He's not stupid. He knows she's been avoiding him, and he almost wants to thank her for it. There's no way he can be around her and not crave kissing her and touching her.

As soon as he sees her sitting there on the sofa, her hair in a messy bun and a deep purple long sleeved tee shirt on with her jeans, he wants to steal her away and keep her to himself.

"Hey," he says, trying to sound casual. She sends him a nervous smile, and he can see that she's almost pleading with him not to make this worse than it has to be. He knows, because he's probably sending her the same look.

"What's up?" Nathan asks. "We just ordered food."

"Nice," Lucas says as he kicks off his shoes. He runs his hand through his hair; he's had a long day and it's good to be home. Something about coming home to Peyton is both tortuous and calming, and it's a strange combination.

"You okay? You look...weird," Nathan says, regarding his brother wearily.

"Just had a bad day. My study group practically imploded," Lucas explains.

"What happened?" Peyton asks. She's genuinely interested, probably because she thinks about him all the time, and any glimpse into his life she can get, she'll take.

Lucas collapses into an arm chair and rests his feet on the coffee table. "No one really liked each other from the beginning. They all started arguing. I didn't want to get involved, so I left."

"You just left?" Nathan asks with a laugh. Lucas shrugs his shoulder. "Nice."

"What are you guys up to?" Lucas glances at the score on the television as he speaks, because he's afraid that if he doesn't, he'll just stare at Peyton.

Fuck. He needs to do something about this.

"Actually, I was just about to tell Peyton some news," Nathan says. Both blondes look his way with confused expressions on their faces. "I found her a date."

Or Nathan could do something about this.

"What!?" Peyton shouts, turning towards him. "What are you...? What?"

"He's cool. His name's Justin. He's really into music and shit."

Peyton is speechless, and she can tell (it's radiating off him) that Lucas is not at all on board with the idea of her dating someone else. She hopes he can tell that she's not crazy about it either.

"Nathan, you can't just...pimp me out to your friends!" she says irately.

"Relax. I just got his number for you. He's waiting for your call," Nathan says. He's smirking like he's doing her some huge favour.

"Well, he'll keep waiting," she says. "I can't believe you, you know that? You're...this is not okay."

Lucas feels like he should leave the room. But his heart is telling him to stay and listen to the reasons she's inevitably going to have to spell out to Nathan to explain why she doesn't want to go out with this other guy.

"You're a single girl. Too single. You need to meet more people," Nathan says. "This is college, Peyton."

"I don't want to," she says. She's almost pouting. She doesn't care.

"Too bad. Because I actually gave him your number and he's gonna call you tomorrow."

"Nathan!" she gasps. He's got some nerve. She's always known it, but he's never hung her out to dry like this.

"Relax, Peyton. He's a good guy," Nathan argues. "I wouldn't set you up with someone who wasn't." She scowls and shakes her head, and Nathan rolls his eyes. Lucas is trying in vain to focus on the ball game and not the argument. "You haven't gone out with anyone since Jake. Fuck, you haven't even kissed anyone since Jake. It's about time you get some."

She can feel her cheeks flare at the same time her anger does. She's beyond mortified. Mostly because he's wrong, and the guy she has kissed is sitting there looking at her like he wants her to speak up and defend herself or something. But she can't, and they both know that. Lucas wants to kick Nathan's ass a little bit, because he's being far too pushy, and no matter who this Justin guy is, he's not good enough for Peyton. Lucas doesn't even know if he is, but he knows he wants to be, and he knows he'd try to be.

"Are you blushing?" Nathan asks, his voice indicating pure confusion. "You don't blush."

"Maybe I do when you act like a fucking jackass and talk to guys about me behind my back," she says bitterly as she stands from her place. She hears him call her name as she walks into the kitchen, but she doesn't answer, and she doesn't go back to hear whatever excuses or 'reasons' he has.

Lucas watches Nathan turn his attention easily back to the television. Something about that doesn't sit right with Lucas. He knows that Nathan knows the girl, that he probably knows she'll calm down and come back into the room and they'll talk it out, but he hates that Nathan doesn't know her well enough to know that she'd hate even the idea of a blind date. Then he realizes that Nathan does know it, he just also knows that what's best for her is to meet people.

Lucas just doesn't want her to meet anyone.

"Aren't you going to talk to her?" he asks when the silence becomes unbearable.

Nathan shrugs nonchalantly. "She'll be fine," he insists. "She'll just be mad for a few minutes."

"You sure?" After her outburst and sudden departure, Lucas doesn't think it'll blow over that easily.

"If you're so worried, you go. Just be careful. She gets feisty when she's mad." Nathan actually laughs as Lucas gets up out of his chair and heads for the kitchen. Crossing Peyton when she's mad, even if it's not at you, is a metaphorical death wish.

She hears footsteps, and thinking it's Nathan, she turns around with a scowl on her face. But there stands Lucas, his arms crossed over his chest and his blue eyes looking at her like he wants to take away every ill feeling she has, just so she doesn't have to feel it.

"I don't want to talk about it," she says, her tone soft, but conveying the fact that it's not his issue.

Well, the hell it isn't.

He watches her get a beer from the fridge, and they hear the doorbell ring and Nathan paying for their dinner. She doesn't say anything, and she doesn't come within 10 feet of him. God, she'd almost swear she can smell his cologne from across the room. And of course, he's wearing the same shirt he was wearing almost two weeks ago when they spent that amazing evening together. It's too much. It's not enough.

"Are you gonna do it?" he asks quietly. Nathan calls for them to bring plates, and Peyton shakes her head. "I need to know."

"You need to know?" she asks incredulously.

"I...If you want to do it, then fine, I guess, but...just tell me."

He could say that he needs to know if she's just going to let it all go, them, and he'll do the same. He thinks he holds his breath as their eyes meet.

"No," she almost whispers. "I'm not going to."

The way she's looking at him tells him that she's not going on a date, and she's not going to let them go. Her hand trails down from his shoulder to his forearm as she walks past him, and all he can think is that he's falling in love with this girl, and no 'guy code' or 'best friend code' is bigger than that.


Nathan travels to an away game, and all Lucas can think is that he's got the entire place to himself; he could have someone over and not have to worry about things like ridicule or snide comments. Or anger over the fact that the girl he has over is Peyton.

It's been a month since that kiss, or close enough that a month seems like far too long a time to go without kissing her. It's almost Christmas, and he knows she and Nathan are spending a full week in Tree Hill, and Lucas honestly thinks he's going to miss her. Truthfully, he already does.

It's nearly midnight on the first day of three that Nathan is away, and he hears a persistent knocking at the door. It startles him as he lays in his completely quiet bedroom with a book in his hands. He has no idea who'd be coming to his door at this time of night, especially on a school night, but he pulls on a pair of jeans and grabs a tee shirt and heads down the stairs. He flicks on the front porch light before swinging the door open, and he doesn't expect to see Peyton standing there, and a campus security car sitting at the curb.

"Peyton," he says in confusion.

And then she throws her arms around him, buries her face against him, and he can do nothing more than hold her. The security officer sends Lucas a glance, and he nods back at the guy before the car drives away and Lucas pulls Peyton inside. She's shivering, and something tells him that it's not just the cold.

"Peyton," he repeats. He notices that she watches intently as he locks the door. She's still right up against him, and he'd take more time to enjoy that if he wasn't going crazy with worry. "What happened?" She says nothing, and he can feel her tears seeping through his shirt. He places his hands on her shoulders and pushes her away just slightly, and he doesn't say a word, just looks at her pleadingly.

"I'm so sorry. I'm just..."

"Scared," he supplies knowingly. It's not like it's a big secret, but she loves that he seems to understand. He pulls her closer and she closes her eyes and takes a deep breath. "C'mere."

They walk over to the sofa, and she tucks her hands into his before they sit down. She almost sits half on top of him, she's so close, and he honestly thinks he'll freak out if she doesn't start talking.

"I was on campus...Brooke and I watched the game together at the pub, and she left early," she says, though she's still crying, and he's looking at her in a way she feels all the way through her. "I was walking to the bus stop, and there was this guy, and..." Her chin trembles, and he swears his heart breaks. It's an extreme juxtaposition to the fact that his blood is boiling with something akin to rage. "He'd been at the bar, and he wanted to buy me a drink, and I said no. He followed me. He tried to...He..."

"It's okay," Lucas said, pulling her against him again.

She lets him comfort her, and it's a job he does well. He strokes her hair, whispers perfect phrases, letting his lips graze her temple, and runs his hand up and down her back. She's never felt so cared for.

"I...kneed him, and campus security came at the perfect time," she continues, still kind of in awe of that fact. "They asked if I had somewhere to stay, and...I couldn't think of anywhere else."

He can't think of anything to say. She came to him. Not Nathan. Him. Nathan isn't there, and she needed comforting, security, and she came to Lucas because she knew he could give it.

"You smell good," she says after a few moments. Her head is resting against his shoulder, and her hand is on his stomach.

"I do, huh?" he asks, laughing softly. She nods mutely. And he can't help himself. He has to ask the obvious question. "Are you okay?"

She nods again, runs her hand over his stomach a little more until she's pressed as close to his side as she can get, and maybe it's completely cheesy, but she has to tell him the truth.

"You make me okay."

He has no idea what she's trying to do to to his heart.

The house is completely quiet, and she's stopped shaking a little more with each passing second until she's just sitting there, all curled up against him, her breathing finally calm. He keeps running his hand over her shoulder, and she closes her eyes. She almost can't believe she said what she said. She thinks it was stupid and cliché, but she knows he understands what she meant. And she doesn't dare take it back. Not now. Not when she's sitting so comfortably next to him, his body heat perfect against her, and she thinks that maybe Nathan and all his rules can just go to hell.

He can pinpoint the moment she falls asleep, and he opens his mouth, but closes it right away. He can't bring himself to wake her, to stop her from falling into a restorative sleep that'll help her feel better and start getting past what happened to her. He tries not to get angry again at the thought of anyone ever touching her without her consent. He can hardly bear the thought of anyone who isn't him ever touching her at all.

He waits a while. The grip she has on his shirt, her fist balled up and clutching onto him, loosens just slightly, and he doesn't think she'll wake up if he moves. And he could just slip out from where he sits and lay her down on the sofa.

Right. Sure he could.

He gently pulls away just a little bit, then hooks his arm beneath her knees and lifts her up. He doesn't think he's ever held anything so important in his hands. He treads carefully, but confidently up the stairs, and he lays her down on his bed. She stirs just a little bit, and he laughs softly, because he never, ever would have expected the first time they were in his bed together that she'd be sleeping in her clothes.

He slips out of his jeans and into a pair of flannel pajama pants, and when he lays down next to her and switches off the light, she's curled up against him in an instant. She knows he thinks she's still asleep, and she was until he got into bed, and she doesn't say anything as he wraps his arm around her, and she tries not to smile when he kisses her hair and sighs.

She's so in love with him, it's not even funny.


When he wakes up in the morning, she's wearing one of his tee shirts and a pair of his pajama bottoms. He has no idea when she woke up and changed, but it doesn't matter. She's laying on her side with her back to him, and he's got his chest to her back, his hand resting on her thigh and her hand over his. He doesn't know what time it is, and he doesn't much care, because he's not going anywhere until she decides to. If she decides to. He kind of loves the idea of the two of them staying in all day, maybe in his bed.

"Good morning," she says quietly, her voice thick with sleep and hoarse from the tears she shed the night before.


He shifts a little bit against her, pulling her closer so his breath hits her neck exactly where she wants his lips to be. God, she'd just fall apart if he kissed her there. She wonders if he notices that her heart rate has sped up considerably in the last five seconds.

"Thank you."

"For what?" he asks. There's a spot on her neck that's right next to his lips. Her hair is swept aside and the smooth skin is taunting him, and it's torture to not know exactly what she wants; if she wants him to kiss her at all.

"This," she whispers. "Last night. Letting me sleep with you."

He nuzzles against her a little more. "Of course," he says, like it's crazy for her to think that he wouldn't 'let' her sleep with him.

"Lucas, that night at the bar..."

"Peyton," he says. He doesn't want to hear all the reasons why they can't do this, why she'll get dressed and go home and they'll have just another night they'll both remember but never talk about.

She turns to face him, and she's only inches away from him, her legs tangling with his and her hand coming to rest on his side. "I didn't want to stop." He shakes his head, but she doesn't want him to say that she's wrong or that she shouldn't feel the way she does. "I can't help it, Lucas. Wanting you. And I don't care about..."

He kisses her. He can't help that. She's just said exactly what he's been feeling all along, most importantly that she doesn't care. So he kisses her. He's not at all surprised by the fervor with which she kisses him back, because this has been a hell of a long time coming. Since he met her, really. He was enamored by those eyes and that smile and those legs, and he's wanted her ever since.

And when she's laying beneath him, her hands on the bare skin of his back and her lips bending into a smile, he doesn't care about anything other than the fact that he finally has her. Maybe in a lot of ways.


She's wearing just one of his shirts when he wakes up and sees her standing by the window. They've clearly missed their classes, but he can't think of a better reason. She looks so amazing, one hand crossed over her stomach and the other at her lips as she nibbles on her thumb nail. Her hair is a perfect wild mess, and she's got one knee bent.

She looks happy.

"Hi," he says, rolling onto his side towards her.

She smiles, looks at him with the sexiest little smile he's ever seen. "It's snowing."

"Really?" he asks as he throws back the sheets and gets out of bed, walking towards her. He wraps his arms around her from behind and gazes out the window at the blanket of white powder that covers the street. "Wow."

Snow rarely happens, and certainly not like this. The ground is covered in white, parked cars sitting idle that wouldn't normally be there during the day. It's beautiful and calming. There's something romantic, in the literal sense, about their world being covered in layers as they stay warm and wrapped up in one another.

He kisses her neck and her hands rest atop his before he offers her coffee and food and they venture downstairs.

The storm lasts three days. Nathan is delayed getting home. Lucas and Peyton spend the entire time locked up in the house, talking and laughing and making love.

They decide that they need to be together, but maybe Nathan doesn't need to know right away. And when Lucas tells her that they have something really special, she doesn't argue. He bites his tongue, doesn't tell her that he loves her, but she kisses him like she heard the words anyway.


She sneaks into Lucas' bedroom the day before she and Nathan head to Tree Hill. He's laying on his bed, completely unaware that she was coming over. They've spent some time at her place over the two weeks since those amazing three days together. They've stolen moments here and there, and Nathan is clueless. He doesn't notice the extra glow in her cheeks or the fact that she smiles more. Lucas notices and takes credit for it all.

"Hi," she says, closing the door quietly behind her. Nathan is downstairs talking to Brooke on the phone, so Peyton doesn't have a lot of time to sneak away.

"Hey," Lucas says. She walks over and sits down next to him, kisses him quickly, and sets a manila envelope on his stomach. "What's this?"

"Open it after I go," she says. He kinks his brow. "Promise me."

He smirks and presses his lips to hers again. "I promise." She weaves their fingers together, knowing this is the last time they'll talk before she leaves for the week. "Have a good Christmas."

"You too," she almost whispers. "Text me or something, will ya?"

She makes fun of him constantly for hating what she calls 'the art of the text message'. It's not like she's an addict or anything crazy like that, but she'd certainly like to use them to communicate with her secret boyfriend.

He laughs and shakes his head. "I will."

She kisses him one last time, then brushes her nose against his before standing and leaving the room.

So it's not even a lie when Nathan asks where she disappeared to and she tells him that she was just wishing Lucas a Merry Christmas.


She hates how much she misses him. It's insane. They've only been 'together', if you can even call it that, a couple weeks, but she hates that she doesn't even have the option of maybe seeing him. He's in Charleston, and she's in Tree Hill, and text messages are cute, but they're not kisses. He sends her pictures of Lily, as per request, and there's one of he and his sister sitting in a room full of presents, each holding gingerbread cookies. That one comes on Christmas Eve, when Peyton is sitting in the dining room of the Scott household. It's well after dinner, and they're all just talking over coffee, and she holds her phone under the table and smiles.

"What's with you?" Nathan asks, his brow furrowed.

"Nothing," she says casually.

She's surprised that he believes her. She's actually surprised she's gotten away with sneaking around even this long. Nathan is fairly perceptive, especially when it comes to her. He knows her well, and she was sure he'd say something as soon as he came back from that road trip and saw her for the first time. She knows that she's lucky. Between school, practice, games, and his own girlfriend, Nathan is out a lot, which gives Lucas and Peyton more time to be together.

She honestly doesn't know how long she can keep this up, because she does feel guilty for misleading her best friend. All she knows is that either way, she's not breaking up with Lucas. Nathan will learn to like it, or...well, she doesn't know.

He'll have to learn to like it, because she's starting to think that she'll choose Lucas either way.


Nathan and Peyton get home the day after Lucas, and he's a little disappointed, despite knowing that it would be the case, when he learns that Nathan has dropped Peyton off at her place before heading to the house. It's after dinner, and Lucas has been watching a ball game with a cup of tea in his hand as he gets a head start on his reading for the new semester. When Nathan comes downstairs after dropping his stuff in his room, he flops down on the sofa.

"How was the drive?" Lucas asks. They spoke almost every day of the break, so he doesn't need to ask how Nathan's Christmas was.

"Fuck. Peyton convinced me to let her control the radio," Nathan says, shaking his head. "I swear, she changes the station like, every two seconds."

Lucas laughs. He knows she does. The few times they've gone out to dinner, they've literally gone out. They drive to a little diner a few towns over, and they barely hold hands in the car because she's constantly turning the dial.

"She likes music," Lucas says, because it's safe to say it.

"She likes about thirty seconds per song," Nathan says, making them both laugh. "She's been acting weird lately."

Lucas' heart falls. "Weird?"

Nathan looks over at his brother and nods. "Yeah. She's like...happy or something."

Lucas tries not to smile too widely. His heart is racing a mile a minute. "And that's weird?"

"It's weird for this girl to be this happy. If she was a guy, I'd say she was getting laid." Nathan laughs again, like the idea of Peyton seeing someone is just absurd. Certainly she's made it seem like it would be. "Better to see her happy than not, I guess."

"Yeah," Lucas says quietly. He thinks that's a step in the right direction. Maybe if Nathan sees how happy Lucas can make Peyton, that he'll stop at nothing to achieve it, he won't be so quick to insist that nothing happen between the two.

"What about you? Anyone new on your radar?" Nathan asks.

He doesn't know how to answer this question. If he says yes, Nathan's going to ask him a whole bunch of followup questions, and that's just bad news. If he says no, it's not only a lie, but when (not if) he and Peyton come clean to Nathan, he'll know it was a lie. So he decides he's going to try a little bit of both options.

"I dunno. There are a lot of girls around," Lucas says. There. Not a lie, not the truth. Perfectly neutral.

"Brooke knows a lot of girls. And most of them were cheerleaders at some point," Nathan says, sending a sly smile to his brother.

"I think I'm good," Lucas says with a laugh.

"Oh. sorry. I wasn't aware you were opposed to having sex." Lucas' mind immediately, and predictably, goes to Peyton. His brother could not be more wrong. Nathan notices that Lucas' is lost in some thought, and he's a guy, so he knows it must be a dirty one. "See. You need a girl."

He can't say it, and he hates that he can't, but he wants to tell Nathan that he has a girl. An amazing one at that. His phone buzzes on the table next to him, and when he checks the text he's received, his heart races just like it does every time he sees her name.

'Need to see you. Come over.'

Nathan notices Lucas' smile, and when the blonde gets up, setting his mug and his text book on the coffee table, Nathan is even more confused. "What's up?"

"I'm uh...I'm going out for a bit," Lucas says. "Not sure when I'll be back."

Nathan narrows his eyes. That sounds a little too suspicious. "Are you seeing someone?"

"No!" Lucas answers quickly. Nathan's confusion turns into amusement. "No. Not really."

"Booty call," Nathan mumbles as Lucas heads for the stairs.

He wants to defend himself and Peyton. It's so much more than a booty call. But he doesn't. He can't. He simply goes to his room, changes his shirt, and reaches for the gift he got her. He texts her back, saying he'll see her in a bit, and he's sure the smile is glued to his lips. Not even more ridiculous comments from his brother can erase it.

He's a traditional romantic, so as he's on his way to her place, he stops at a florist and runs in just before closing. He pleads with the girl working to let him buy a bouquet of carnations (Peyton once told him that she loves the simple flowers) in hues of red and white, promises he'll use his credit card so the girl doesn't have to cash out again, and with a sigh, she relents. She ties a red ribbon around the stems, and she smiles when he thanks her profusely, and she tells him, "I hope she likes them," and sends him a knowing wink when he blushes.

Peyton answers the door wearing nothing but a tee shirt he left at her place one night, and he takes only a moment to appreciate how she looks (really damn good, for the record) before pushing her inside and playfully scolding her for answering the door like that. She shrugs her shoulders and throws her arms around his neck, kissing him before they've even said a proper hello.

"Hi," she sighs against his lips.

"Hi. These are for you," he says, producing the flowers from behind his back.

Her heart melts; she can't believe he's remembered her favourite flower. She looks at him with complete adoration. "They're beautiful. Thank you."

She honestly can't remember the last time someone gave her flowers. Probably her father for her high school graduation. Before then, though, she doesn't think anyone ever did. She absolutely loves this man. So much that her throat gets tight when he kisses her and tells her how much he missed her. She pulls away, and he unabashedly checks her out when she walks to the kitchen and pulls a vase from one of the cupboards.

"I think you got even more gorgeous since you went away," he murmurs, walking up behind her and wrapping his arms around her waist. She laughs softly and stifles a moan when he kisses her neck.

"What'd Nathan say to you leaving?" she asks, moving away to set the vase of flowers on her kitchen table.

"He called it a booty call." She looks utterly offended, and he rolls his eyes. "Please. You know that's not what this is." She smiles. She so loves those reminders that he's in this just as much as she is. "He was already asking me if I'm dating anyone."


"Mhmm." She wraps her arms around him again, just craving his body against hers, and rests her head against his chest. "And he said you're happy."

"I am," she admits quietly. She notices that there's something in his pocket, and she looks up at him with a kinked brow as she reaches down and runs her hand over his jeans. His eyes darken immediately, and she almost laughs. "What's this?"

"I got you something," he tells her, reaching into his pocket and producing a small rectangular box.

"Luke," she whispers. He's already gotten her flowers, and she didn't even need those, no matter how much she loves them.

"It's not a big deal. And I know it's late, but it took me a while to find," he explains. She studies his face, and she thinks he's adorably nervous, so she gets up on her toes and kisses the apple of his cheek, making him laugh.

He opens the box, and when she sees what's inside, she has to make a conscious effort not to cry. It's a simple necklace, just a plain silver chain with a beautiful little silver snowflake dangling from it.

"Lucas," she says again, shaking her head. "You didn't have to get me anything."

She really can't believe that her secret boyfriend of just barely a month has gotten her such a perfect piece of jewelry.

"Do you like it?" he asks needlessly. It's clear that she does. She nods, and he takes the necklace from the box and fastens it around her neck. The little snow flake sits perfectly just below the hollow of her throat, and she takes the pendant between in her hand.

"I love it," she says. She kisses him again - he's so perfect for her, it's scary - and takes his face in her hands. "Thank you."

It's really the least he can do after he opened that envelope the day she left and found inside a perfect, painstakingly accurate drawing of the two of them together, his arms around her as they look out a window to a world covered in snow.

Snow is definitely their thing. He finds himself wishing for it a lot. But really, he has her no matter what, and he doesn't need a snow day to be with her.

They end up, not surprisingly, in her bedroom. She's laying in his arms, the covers pulled up tight over them to fend off the cold, and when he turns his head to check the time, she moves closer, kisses the line of his jaw, and tells him to stay.

He's not going anywhere.


They all attend Nathan's team's New Year's Eve party, and Lucas can barely keep his jaw off the floor when he sees Peyton in the black strapless knee-length dress she's chosen to wear. She smiles at him coyly when Nathan isn't looking, and he just shakes his head, telling her from ten feet away and without words that she's gorgeous. She sips from her glass of champagne as she talks to Brooke, and she zips the little snowflake charm along the chain of her necklace. Lucas swears she's trying to kill him.

"What are you looking at?" Brooke asks Peyton at one point. They've been talking about their breaks, how Brooke spent her time in New York City shopping and missing Nathan terribly. "And where'd you get that necklace?"

"Oh, um...nothing. And...nowhere," Peyton says. She knows her answer is ridiculously lame, and there's no way anyone in the world, especially Brooke, is going to buy it.

Brooke looks across the room and sees Nathan and Lucas talking to a couple of the other guys on the team, and she puts the pieces together pretty quickly. Ever since that first day Brooke met Lucas and saw the way the two blondes looked at each other, she's wondered when something would happen between them. Taking into account Peyton's demeanor lately and the fact that Nathan says he's been trying to get Lucas to date, but the blonde refuses to? Well, Brooke's surprised she hadn't seen it sooner.

She looks back to Peyton with a dropped jaw and wide eyes.

"Brooke," Peyton says pleadingly.

"You...you and..."

"Brooke, you can't say anything," Peyton whispers. Brooke, it's clear, is either in shock or completely giddy. Maybe a little of both. "Please."

"But...but how are you...when are you going to tell Nathan?" Brooke asks worriedly. She, of all people, knows how protective Nathan is of Peyton. It's clear she doesn't need protecting from Lucas, but she knows Nathan won't be happy. Not in the least.

"I don't know, okay? I just need you to..."

"I won't say anything," Brooke promises.

Peyton sighs in relief and says a thank you, and then Brooke immediately kicks into high gear and hatches a plan so that Peyton can kiss her boyfriend at midnight. All it'll take, she says, is her distracting Nathan, and Peyton and Lucas slipping out of the room together. She makes it sound diabolical and sneaky, and Peyton lets Brooke think that it wasn't already decided that at 11:50, Lucas would slip out of the room and moments later, Peyton would do the same.

But for the time being, Brooke insists that it's crazy that Lucas and Peyton don't get to enjoy their evening together, and she decides to do something about that, too. She loops her arm through Peyton's and they walk over to where the guys are, and Lucas doesn't miss the glance Brooke gives him right before she turns her attention to Nathan.

Lucas knows that she knows. Peyton looks at him apologetically, and he just smiles at her. His eyes glance down to the necklace she's knowingly been teasing him with all night, and she tries not to blush. Since he gave it to her, she's only taken it off to shower. He knows as much.

"You look great," Lucas tells her. He thinks it's neutral enough that Nathan won't care.

"Oh. Thank you," she says. She does her best not to blush. Nathan knows she doesn't blush. Only Lucas can make her do it.

Brooke surveys the blondes, then leans up to whisper something in Nathan's ear that makes him choke on his beer. He takes her hand in his, doesn't even bother excusing himself before he pulls her away, and she throws a wink over her shoulder. Lucas just laughs, and when he looks at Peyton, he notices she looks nervous.

"I'm sorry. I was...She's clearly more perceptive than Nathan," she says, and he just nods and gently touches her elbow.

"It's okay," he says. Truthfully, he thinks it's about time they at least talk about talking to Nathan. They can't keep this a secret forever. He doesn't want to have to hide out anymore. Their relationship means too much to him to not be able to be with her on a legitimate, full time basis.

"Can we leave?" she asks.

"It's barely 10:00."

"I don't care," she insists, shaking her head. "I just want to be with you. We can have our own celebration."

He takes a breath. "That sounds...amazing, baby," he says quietly, turning so he's standing right in front of her. He slipped and called her by that term of endearment, one he rarely ever even uses, but she doesn't seem to care. "But we can't just leave."

"I think she'll have him occupied for a while," Peyton says, just a hint of seduction in her voice. She reaches up and straightens his tie. "We can go to my place and...I can occupy you for a while."

"Fuck," he whispers. He seldom curses, she doesn't think she's ever heard him do it, and she giggles. He sighs and his eyes move to her lips. "Let's go."

Peyton has the presence of mind to text Nathan once they're at her apartment and tell him that she had too much to drink and left early. As Lucas is unzipping Peyton's dress and they walk towards her bedroom, she asks him how he's going to explain his sudden departure. He mumbles against her neck that he doesn't care what Nathan thinks, and then her dress falls to the floor and he lays her on her bed, and she doesn't care about much else either.


Brooke is still sleeping when Nathan wakes up, and he slips out of bed quietly. He expects Lucas to be in the kitchen when he heads downstairs, but his brother is nowhere to be found. When he heads back upstairs to check Lucas' room, he sees that his brother clearly didn't sleep there last night, and he knows, just knows, that Lucas is seeing someone. He left the party early, and the other day, he left pretty quickly after getting that text. There's one way for sure to tell if a guy - especially Lucas - is having regular sex. Check the bedside table for condoms.

He really doesn't expect to open that drawer and see a drawing with Peyton's name in the bottom corner. He doesn't need the signature to know that it's hers; she has a distinctive style, and the people in the picture are clearly people he knows well. Too well. They're the two most important people in his life.

And they've been lying to him.

He's pretty angry when he walks back into his bedroom and grabs clothes from his drawers, and he momentarily forgets about his girlfriend. She wakes up when he slams his dresser drawer, and whens he asks him what's wrong, he says two names, and then she's pleading with him to calm down and tell her what's going on. She plays dumb, because she doesn't need him to know that she knows.

She tries to reason with him and get him to wait a while before confronting anyone, but he tells her that if she's not on his side, then he doesn't want her opinion, and she's frozen in place until she hears the door slam and his car start. She's even more afraid when she can't find her phone to call Peyton with a warning.

This isn't going to go well.


Lucas and Peyton are sitting at her kitchen table, she in a satin nightgown and matching robe, and he in just a pair of jeans he's left at her place for moments like this. They're sipping coffee and eating french toast, and she's just told him she could really get used to waking up to him cooking, when there's a loud pounding at her front door and they look at each other, completely confused.

Lucas, always protective of his girl, pushes her behind him as he places his hand on the doorknob, and when he pulls the door open, he really doesn't expect to see a really pissed off looking Nathan standing there staring him down.

"Nathan..." Lucas starts. Nathan walks into the apartment, and Peyton moves away from Lucas just in time for Nathan to shove him up against the closed door.

"Nathan!" Peyton cries.

"You stay out of this," Nathan tells her seriously before turning his attention back to his brother, who's currently pinned in place with a forearm across his chest. "You've got some fucking nerve."

"Nathan, it's not what you think," Lucas manages, though he's clearly not a fan of being held up against a hard surface.

"Not what I think!?" Nathan roars. "Not like you're fucking sleeping with the one person I told you not to!?"

"Nathan, let him go," Peyton pleads, placing her hand on his arm.

"How could you do this? Huh?" Nathan asks Lucas, shoving him a little more. "She's my best friend. She's...you don't fucking touch her."

"Nathan," Peyton says again. He shrugs off her hand and she can feel the tears forming in her eyes.

"She's not just some girl you can mess around with!"

Lucas pushes Nathan away from him and the brunette stumbles backward. "I'm not!"

"Not what? Not just you fucking around with the one girl I care about more than anything?" Nathan asks.

As much as Peyton loves that he'll go to bat for her and admit things like that, she really hates that he just assumes she and Lucas are merely 'fucking around'. She's about to say something about it. She's literally just opened her mouth when she hears words she certainly doesn't expect.

"I'm in love with her!" Lucas shouts. Nathan and Peyton are both speechless, and it takes everything in him for Lucas not to look at her and say the words solely to her, quiet enough for only her to hear. "I love her, Nathan. I'm in love with her."

Nathan's erratic breathing slows down as he regards his brother. Peyton stands next to her best friend, and Lucas looks over at her, and it's clear she has no idea what to say or how to feel. She doesn't say anything, just walks towards him and hugs him, and he tentatively wraps his arms around her and closes his eyes. He can tell Nathan doesn't know what to do, that he's in shock and probably wondering when this all started and how he didn't see it sooner.

Nathan just shakes his head and moves to the door, and Peyton calls his name before he can leave. "I can't deal with this right now," he says, his back to her.

He leaves without another word, and Peyton isn't sure why she's crying. Her boyfriend loves her, and she loves him, but her best friend is mad at the both of them. She doesn't know what's going to happen, and before she tries to figure out what to do, she has something to take care of.

"I love you," she says, looking at Lucas, who she now realizes didn't once take his eyes off her while Nathan was leaving. He's so relieved to hear her say the words that all he can do is kiss her. It's a pretty fitting response anyway. "What are we going to do?"

"You're going to go talk to your best friend," Lucas says. There's no doubt in his mind that Nathan will calm down and realize that this is a good thing, not a bad thing.

Lucas is certain that no hearts are getting broken here.

"He's really mad," she notes sadly. "I expected him to be, but.."

"Peyton, listen to me." He tilts her chin up with his forefinger, and her eyes are shining with tears. "You and me...this is it." She smiles, can't help it, because he's just got all the right words. "He'll come around."

"You sound sure of that."

"You and I know him better than anyone. He'll see that this is a really, really good thing." She nods her head and he kisses her. "Go talk to him."

She gets dressed and leaves Lucas at her place, and she drives straight to the gym, just knowing that's where he'll be. Sure enough, his car is parked in the lot, and she can hear the ball hitting the hardwood as soon as she steps inside. She watches him for a minute, and it seems he's calmed down at least a little bit. That's no doubt due to the fact that he's playing ball, but it doesn't matter. She just wants to have a rational conversation and explain.

"Are you still hating me, or can we talk?" she asks, walking towards him. He rolls his eyes and sighs, pinning the ball to his hip.

"I don't hate you," he says. He still sound angry, and she raises her brow. "How long?"

"Since...well, officially since December."

"What do you mean, officially?" he asks.

"I mean...I mean I've liked him for a while," she admits quietly. She doesn't think he really needs to know about that night after Thanksgiving when she and Lucas kissed in the rain outside a dingy bar.

But she still smiles, because she likes that foul weather is kind of their thing.

"Liked him?"

"I know you don't understand, and..."

"I understand," he insists, almost scoffing at her implying that he doesn't. "I just don't get why it's him. My brother."

He walks over and sits down on the bleachers, and she follows. "It's not like I can help it."

"Why didn't you say something?" he asks her, his elbows on his knees as he turns and looks at her. She smiles, but shakes her head.

"I tried," she reminds him. "You wonder why we're sneaking around? Every time I mentioned his name, you seemed hell bent on making sure he and I never happened."

"Well that worked out, didn't it?" he mumbles sarcastically.

"Nathan," she laughs. "I never understood why you were so against it."

"Because!" he cries, like the answer should be obvious. "What happens when you break up? I have to schedule my life around you two not seeing each other!"

"When we break up?" she asks incredulously.

He rolls his eyes. "You know what I mean."

"Nathan, I love you for worrying. You've always looked out for me. But...Lucas is good for me."

He sighs again, still trying really hard not to tell her she's acting crazy and this thing with Lucas will never work. But even he knows that it's not a horrible pairing, and even he knows that Peyton wouldn't be in a relationship with anyone unless she was sure it was right. He knows she doesn't ever even date random guys. She certainly wouldn't be with a guy she knew (like say, her best friend's older brother) if she didn't think it would work out. And she has been happy lately.

"Do you love him?"

She smiles, laughs softly and slips her arm through his. She rests her head against his shoulder. "Yeah, I do."

"He's my brother, you know," Nathan states.

"I know," she whispers. "Maybe that's why I like him so much."

"Can't have the real thing, so you go for second best?" he asks teasingly. She knows it means something that he's making jokes. He may not be completely on board with the idea yet, but he can at least accept it.

"Just don't tell him that," she jokes.

He shakes his head and looks over at her. "You're in love with my brother."

She shrugs her shoulders and they laugh together, because it is a little weird. She needs to ask, though, to know how he knows. "How'd you find out?"

"I was looking for condoms and found a drawing instead," he answers evenly.

She's not sure what she's blushing over, but she's blushing nonetheless, and he laughs, because he now realizes that she probably only ever blushes when things are connected to Lucas. "Oh."

She tells him the story of that weekend (leaving out several of the details), what happened that one night and how she went to Lucas for comfort because she trusted him. Nathan actually smiles. He has to admit that he loves the fact that his brother looks out for the girl as much, or maybe more now, as he does himself. He can tell by the way she talks about Lucas and her relationship, that she's serious, and happy, and that she genuinely loves the guy.

How can Nathan be mad at them for that?

But even so, when he sees his brother that night, he doesn't apologize for his actions, because he still feels they were justified. And he still tells Lucas that if Peyton gets hurt...

He doesn't even get to finish the threat, because Lucas is very seriously, very genuinely, telling Nathan that he's not going to hurt her.


When Nathan and Brooke break up, Peyton understands what Nathan was so worried about. Certainly that relationship lasted longer than Peyton originally thought it would, but she still has to be careful when hanging out with Brooke not to mention Nathan's name, and when she's hanging out with Nathan, not to mention Brooke's. That whole 'I don't want to hear about him/her' phase passes quickly, but it's exhausting for Peyton. She doesn't try to get them back together or anything, she knows the reasons for their breakup are good ones, but it's hard for her when she can tell Nathan wants to make comments about Brooke, or vice versa. It wasn't a horrible breakup - no yelling or name calling - but it wasn't exactly amicable either.

And as much as Peyton loves having Brooke as a friend, her loyalty lies with Nathan. It's understandable, and she tries to shelf that when she's with Brooke, but she's come to Nathan's defense more than once when Brooke exaggerates or mumbles things beneath her breath.

And one night, right after the breakup, Nathan and Peyton had a few too many drinks together, and he made her promise that she'd never make him do what he was making her do. She knew that was a promise she could safely make.

She walks into the house after a day of shopping with Brooke, one that she didn't hide from Nathan, and he's sitting on the sofa hunched over some school books. He doesn't greet her, but it's just because he's caught up in his work and for no other reason. So Peyton does the only thing she thinks is suitable.

She hops over the back of the sofa and wraps her arms around him as he leans forward. He laughs and calls her crazy, but she doesn't relent until he brings one hand up to rest on her arms in a pseudo-hug, the best he can do given their current position.

"What's up?" Peyton asks, looking over his shoulder.

"Thoreau," he says, throwing his book onto the table and leaning back. She's still behind him, and he laughs again when she doesn't move. Her knees are on either side of him, and to anyone else, this would probably look like a lot more than it is. It's just the way they are. "This guy's a hack."

"What?" she laughs. "Why do you say that?"

"So lame. Like...dude thinks he's Tony Robbins or something. And I have to write a paper on his merits."

"So say how you feel," she says, shrugging her shoulder.

"You think my prof would be okay with me saying that I hate this guy?" he asks, turning his head to the side a little.

"If you argue it well enough," she insists. "Actually, that's probably a really cool subject. Though Lucas is a Thoreau fan, so don't tell him what you're doing."

"Of course he is," Nathan mumbles. Peyton shoves him a little bit as they both laugh. "He's upstairs."

She kisses his cheek and stands up, and he's shaking his head as she makes her way to the stairs. It still amazes him how happy Lucas makes her. Only now it's not so weird. He's actually pretty proud of the fact that it's his brother who makes her smile so much. And, that same drunken night when he made her promise not to break up with Lucas (something Nathan just doesn't see ever happening), he also said something about really having her as his sister. Right before they fell asleep in his bed (something Lucas just laughed at in the morning when he saw them, a chasm of space between them) Peyton told him she has always been his sister.

When Peyton pushes Lucas' bedroom door open, he's laying on his bed, a book in his hands, wearing only a pair of grey sweatpants slung low on his hips. He lowers his book and smiles at her, and she lays down next to him. He'd heard her come in, heard her laughing with Nathan, and there are few things in the world he's more thankful for than her relationship with Nathan. It is ultimately what brought them together, though they've decided never to say those words to Nathan, because he'll surely get all smug about it.

"Hi," she says quietly.

"Hi." He kisses the top of her head, and she reaches for his hand so she can see the title of the book he's reading. "It's for school." She always makes fun of him for reading his textbooks and the literature he studies in class, then immediately switching over and reading for pleasure. "Good day?"

"Really good day," she says.

She's been having a lot of those lately.


It's pouring rain outside, and just for fun, for nostalgia's sake, Peyton suggests that they go to that little bar and drink cheap beer. This time, she sits a little closer, and he definitely flirts more, and neither of them steal glances at the door to see if Nathan has walked in.

And when they make out at the side of the building, they only stop because it's cold and they're soaking wet, and they want to get to her apartment quickly and continue it. He holds her hands in the cab so that she doesn't touch him.

Her hair is still wet, and he still smells like rain, and they're all wrapped up in sheets, trying to stay warm. Not that they need an excuse to lay so close together.

"Know what'd be crazy?" she muses. He mumbles something, and they both know she's just trying to keep him from falling asleep. He'd call her on it if he had more energy. "If Nathan and Haley..."

"Nuh uhn."

She laughs and looks up at him. "Why?"

"I don't know how I'd feel about my brother dating my best friend," he says. Somehow, she's honestly not sure how he does it, he manages not to laugh.

She laughs hard enough for the both of them.

"Luke," she manages. "Do you realize what you just said?"

He rolls his eyes and pulls her as close as he can get her, then kisses her temple. "Whatever."

"You're Nathan, six months ago," she says, still laughing.

"And look how well that turned out," he says quietly. She stops laughing and nods before pressing a kiss to his bare chest. "I'm not even sick of you."

"Well, thanks," she says sarcastically. "I don't plan on getting sick of you for a while yet."

He chuckles softly. "How long's a while? I feel I should plan accordingly."

"Don't make other plans," she almost whispers.

He almost laughs, because any plans he's made since the beginning of the school year have all revolved around her. They've already talked about her moving into the house when her lease is up, and taking a trip in the summer, along with splitting their time between Tree Hill and Charleston.

And he's thinking further than that, too. A lot further. He has a good feeling she's thinking the same things.

But he'll save that conversation for another rainy day.