Disclaimer: I only just discovered One Tree Hill, so I can hardly own it or the characters, now, can I?
A/N: First OTH story, but I'm kind of excited about it. I haven't written fanfic in ages, but this had to be done. Have fun!
It was just once a year. If it had been more often, she would have worried about her sanity, but it was just once a year. Completely healthy.
At 24, Peyton Sawyer led a life worth being proud of. Her carrier was going beyond smoothly since she had quit being a huge company's mail girl and started her own small label in LA. Despite the expected troubles at the beginning, she had managed to find a row of talented young people who shared her ideals concerning music and helped her turn Red Bedroom Records into both a solid business and a save haven from pure commercialism. She took her time to work with her musicians, to get to know them and to help them change the world with their music, just as she'd always dreamed.
She still met Brooke whenever she felt like it, going out for drinks and laughs and long talks about each other's lives. Whether she'd go to New York or Brooke would fly over to LA, the physical distance between them had hardly diminished their friendship. Even if they were stuck in their respective cities, technology managed to close the gap easily.
She dated whenever she felt like it and it was okay that it never lasted, because she really didn't feel like getting into an actual relationship. She was perfectly content just having fun.
Every once in a while she'd go back to Tree Hill, meet with Nathan and Haley and Jamie and enjoy the time she spent with them. Seeing Skills or Mouth again was nice, too. Even running into Lucas, which did happen occasionally, was getting increasingly bearable. After the initial awkwardness they had slowly evolved back to being tentative friends. And that was okay.
Except once a year.
That day was only one out of 365. That was what made it acceptable, that it was only one out of 365. That day was as normal as any other.
Lucas Scott had a wonderful life, too. His first novel had hit the bestseller lists in no time and still sold well, even surprising him. He had managed to convince his editor, Lindsey, that especially the 'rough parts' of his writing made the novel a rare monument of truth in the endless sea of fiction (and particularly in romance novels) and though there had been a minimal amount of polishing, 'An Unkindness of Ravens' turned out exactly as he wanted. More importantly, it turned out exactly as it was meant to. As an added bonus, the audience loved it for its sincerity. So he'd gone on book tours for a while until things had started to quiet down, which was okay, too.
Currently, he was working on his second novel, 'The Comet'.
He still had TRIC to worry about, too. Not that there was much to worry about. The club was still as successful as it had been in its best days, back when Karen had still run it. He'd found a manager who took care of finding the best bands and hiring the coolest bar tenders and when he stopped by, he was proud of his mother's work and loved the atmosphere as much as he had before leaving Tree Hill.
And coaching that college basketball team almost made him feel as if he was back on the court.
Occasionally, he would go on a casual date or two and that would be okay, because he didn't really want to start anything serious. He enjoyed being a free man.
He still hung out with Haley and his brother and their son and ran into Mouth or Skills or Brooke, which was fun and as easy as ever. Being in Tree Hill was even good when Peyton was there, too. It had been hard for him, in the beginning, but they were back to being friendly and supportive of each other. Which was okay.
Except on that day.
She knew it was wrong to have that room booked a year in advance, but it was, every year, because she'd booked it the previous time she'd resided there.
She'd be so caught up in emotions that she simply had to make sure she had the option of returning there. It was the money that cost her and the fact that a completely decent room would go to waste that made her come back to it, she told herself. Even though she knew it wasn't.
Peyton would be calm when she checked in at the lobby and even give the receptionist a radiant smile, as she did every year. Then she'd go up the stairs, because taking the elevator would allow her pause to think and open the room with the key whose exact proportions she had already memorized. She'd drop her bag on the bed, take out the picture, the shirt and the book and lay them out before her on the sheets. Then she'd place her bag in the corner of the room and go to sit in the chair facing the bed.
She would stare at it for a while. At the last place where Lucas had held her in his arms for the last time before he left her. At the Polaroid of them together, taken at Honey Grove right before they left the Prom, looking so completely and utterly happy and in love. At that sexy blue shirt of his that she used to sleep in when he wasn't with her and that was buried deeply in her dresser these days. At the book he had written that was one epic love letter to her.
And then she'd close her eyes, smile and whisper:
"Yes. Yes, Lucas, I will marry you. I want everything with you. God, sometimes even I don't understand just how much I love you…"
And then she'd cry.
Because her life was not worth living. He was missing everywhere, in every aspect of it.
The passion she tried to inspire in her musicians was hypocrisy, because she was numb and void of ideals and love and peace. She couldn't talk to him about what those songs inspired in her or just lie there with him feeling at home while the lyrics carried her away.
She had stopped drawing, because she wasn't making any new memorable moments with him and dwelling on the past was just too much for her.
Her conversations with Brooke were a lie, because she never talked about what was truly bothering her. That would just lead to her meddling, which would only hurt her more.
Dating made her feel incredibly lost, because none of those guys were Lucas.
Visiting Nathan, Haley and Jamie was horrible, because she envied them so much it hurt for the life she could have had, too.
And seeing Lucas was the worst. It was unbearable to just be friends. It was torture to watch him be fine without her. It was killing her to not be near him every second of every day, to be able to kiss him whenever she wanted to, to tell him she loved him and hear him say it back, to watch him type and to hear him laugh that goofy laugh of his and to simply feel him breathe.
In those moments, when she would be sobbing in that stupid uncomfortable chair and imagine the happiness they could have shared if she had just said 'yes', she knew.
It was never okay.
Lucas felt stupid for coming here, year after year. It was a stupid thing to do, really, those impromptu decisions to just hop on a plane and fly out to Los Angeles.
Especially because he never could get that room. The receptionist would always smile at him apologetically and say it was already occupied. And he was just too proud to book it in advance.
Once he'd taken a different room, but it hadn't felt the same. Most nights, he simply left the hotel to get gloriously drunk, the ring burning a hole into his pocket.
The ring. He tried telling himself he would have thrown it out into the sea a long time ago if it wasn't Keith's ring. Or sold it. Or given it to someone else. But he knew he was kidding himself.
He kept that ring, albeit buried in his dresser for the rest of the year, because it wasn't just Keith's ring. It was Peyton's ring and he would never feel good again until he saw it glistening on her finger.
(Even though that was over and he would never get her back.)
Because his life sucked without her.
'The Comet' was all about his longing for her, as he realized when he read it over again. The entire time he had worked on 'Ravens' he had hated having to relive their past without her there with him. The book tours had been worse, because he actually had to read passages full of his love for her out loud to thousands of people who didn't know Lucas Scott and Peyton Sawyer would never be together again.
And the worst thing about 'An Unkindness of Ravens' was that he was almost certain she hadn't even bothered to read it.
Hanging out at TRIC was a disaster, because as cool as the bands were his manager had found for the place, it wasn't Peyton announcing them with that look of pure joy and pride in her eyes.
Coaching a basketball team simply made him want to turn around and see her smiling at him reassuringly and then later vent to her about whatever had happened during the game.
Dating left him feeling incredibly lost, because none of those women were Peyton.
Meeting Nathan, Haley and Jamie made him sad, because he should have had that life with her and he didn't. She didn't want it and he had given up the moment he left.
He couldn't talk to Haley or Brooke about his true feelings, because admitting them would make things worse for him. They would never let it go.
Seeing Peyton was-… There were no words to describe how hard it was to pretend to just be a distant friend and to watch her live a good life without him in it and to not tell her he loved her a thousand times a day, just to make her understand he would never leave her and to heal her from her fear of losing him. To not kiss her senseless or to lie on her bed looking at the paintings on the wall and her green eyes and listening to one of her favorite bands and her heartbeat.
That one day, when he, with the ring in his pocket, once again wouldn't get that room, he allowed himself to admit it to himself, loud and clear.
None of this was okay.
Today was one of those days and as Peyton laid out the picture and the shirt and the book on the bed, Lucas asked whether that room was available.
The receptionist said it unfortunately wasn't and Lucas turned on his heel to look for the next best bar. That was when the man behind the counter spoke up.
"May I ask what your name is, Sir?"
Anxious to get the hell out of this place, Lucas swiftly turned back around and asked in a bitter tone:
"What does it matter?"
The receptionist smiled enigmatically.
"I think it does. You see, I believe I might know who you are. I believe your name to be Lucas Scott."
The blonde, already on the verge of leaving for good, paused.
"How did you know that?"
"You see", the receptionist went on, now with an amused spark in his eyes, "year after year you show up here, on this very day and every year you ask for a specific room. And every year, that room has been booked in advance by someone else. The person currently occupying that room only stays here once a year, only on this specific date and only in the very room you ask for. Every year, she leaves a copy of a quite popular book and when we call her, she simply tells us she has a dozen copies. Now, because it is such a popular book – and I despise anything popular – I refused to read it, until I got bored one day. It's a good book. It's about a girl and a boy and a love that will last forever. 'An Unkindness of Ravens.' You may know it as I assume you to be the author."
Lucas knew what the man behind the counter would say now. He knew, because he simply had to say it. It was the only thing that made sense. The only thing that had ever made sense. This stranger would tell him that there still was a chance to make things okay. He would say that Lucas had been wrong all along. And a damn fool for believing this story would ever be over.
"It still wouldn't have fazed me as intriguing, that girl leaving that book every year. It could simply be a silly quirk of a fan. At least, it could be, if the girl's name wasn't Peyton Sawyer."
He stood frozen to the spot.
"I suppose you might want the key to that room, Mr. Scott.", the receptionist now said with twinkling eyes behind his spectacles. He laid the key very visibly on the counter and turned away, pretending to be busy.
"Unfortunately, I am not allowed to help you out there. I suggest you come back another time."
Without second though, Lucas grabbed the key from the countertop and sprinted up the stairs, his heart beating like crazy in his chest.
What it was, he was feeling at this very moment, he would never be able to tell. Not in his third novel about her and him and their eternal love, not on their wedding day, not on the day their daughter was born. That exact feeling would forever remain a mystery to him. But he knew it was a feeling that united the beginning and the end and made their story whole. It was the feeling of a lifetime wrapped into mere seconds. It was Peyton Sawyer and Lucas Scott and a hint of 'finally'.
When he opened the door, she was sitting there in that chair, hardly able to breathe with tears, clinging to his book for dear life.
He quietly closed the door and pulled out the little black box. She didn't even notice him until he had sunken to his knees in front of her.
She wasn't sure what this was. Certainly it had to be a dream, because there was no way Lucas Scott was kneeling before her again, out of breath, with a quiet intensity about him and that look in his eyes.
Her sobs gradually died down just looking at him looking at her. Her grip on his book slackened and there was wonder playing across both their features.
It fell to the floor with a silent 'thud' and before either of them could register what was happening, their lips were clashing and moving and feeling and his hands were waving trough her hair and her arms were wrapped around his neck and they were holding on to one another as if there was no tomorrow.
It took them a few minutes to break apart. Minutes in which her tears of loss and grieve and emptiness had turned to tears of joy and desperation and life and in which he seriously considered dying right now because this was the best moment of his life and it might be over any second.
And then he wasn't so much finding himself asking her to marry him as begging her.
"Please, Peyton, please marry me. Or don't, I don't even care; just don't make me leave you ever again, because I really can't stand spending a single moment without you ever again."
She should know what to answer. After all, she had spent the last years rehearsing for that one answer. Instead, she said this.
"I love you, Lucas Scott, do you know that?"
She picked the little black box up from the floor, where it had fallen at some point, took out the ring and slipped it on her finger. Holding out her hand before her, she critically examined it before stating:
"Just wanted to see if it fits."
To his horror, she took it off and gave it back to him.
"Now you can ask me."
He wanted to smile, he wanted to laugh, he wanted to yell at her for almost giving him a heart attack, but before he could say anything, Peyton had grasped his hand and was looking at him seriously, with those beautiful green eyes of hers.
"Lucas? Don't ever leave me again."
And when he finally asked her to become Peyton Scott and she finally said 'yes', they both knew that he wouldn't and she wouldn't either.
It could be mentioned that their daughter was conceived on that very day in that very room or that the receptionist was the first one to get an invitation to their wedding. That Peyton drew a picture of that day on the wall of their bedroom and that everything Lucas did made sense again, because he could tell her about it. That every year following that one, Lucas and Peyton Scott would return to that room and fall in love with each other all over again.
But I think it's rather obvious.
Now, finally, everything was okay. Even more so, it was better than okay, because it was perfect. And it was better than perfect, because it was real. And they'd both be damned if they ever gave that feeling up again.
A/N: Sorry about the bit with the receptionist. I know it's very clumsily written, but as hard as I worked on it, it wouldn't get better. Also, please forgive me if you think that Peyton is a bit out of character when she tries on the ring. Apart from that, I hope you liked my story. If you didn't, don't flame. Constructive critisism is the word.