Don't own it, just like I don't own "Can I Stay?" by Ray LaMontagne.

LP never got together in season 4, BL broke up anyway. BL also were together pretty much right after he came back in season 2, no Chris Keller or any of the BL drama that was in the beginning of season 3.

I know I've been completely MIA for a very long time and I know I suck. I'm trying to get some inspiration back to finish everything I've got partially typed. This, for example, was one of the one-shots I started a while back.

Enjoy!

( Can I stay here with you 'til the morning?
I am so far from home and I feel a little stoned
)

Lucas closes his laptop with a sigh. He really needs to get these plays done, but he just can't focus right now. He leaves his room and heads to the kitchen to grab a beer before retreating to the living room and turning on a college basketball game. He sighs to himself again.

It's a Friday night and he's home alone.

It's not his fault really. Nathan's got an away game and Haley and Jamie went with him. Brooke's in New York finalizing some deals. Skills is spending time with his family for his mother's birthday and Mouth hosts a radio show at night. Peyton's out on a date.

With that final thought he hears the door to his kitchen open and close and then the refrigerator does the same. The mystery person – though he's fairly certain he knows who it is – walks into the living room and plops onto the couch before handing him a beer, which is perfect timing because he needed another.

They don't say anything for a while, just sit on that brown couch, the only noise is the rowdy yells coming from the excited college students coming through the television speakers. She finally turns off the game and turns to look at him.

"What happened to your date?" he asks as he takes a sip of his beer. Peyton sighs and places her hand on her forehead.

"It was the worst date I've ever been on", she grumbles. Lucas chuckles and she shakes her head. "No, seriously. All he did was talk about himself and what he was interested in and . . ." she trails off and lets out a groan of frustration. "He kept talking about Los Angeles and how great it was there and how it was too quiet here so finally when we were in the car I told him that maybe he should just go back to LA because I'm sure people there could deal with people like him", she says innocently.

Lucas shakes his head and lets out a sigh. She's certainly honest. "So why exactly did you have him drop you off at my house?" he asks in interest and total confusion. Peyton makes a face.

"Because there's no way I wanted him to know where I lived", she says incredulously. "Already has a scorn stalker don't need another one, thank you very much", she says simply before taking a sip of her drink.

Lucas laughs, but he doesn't know how funny her past really is. She smiles softly and then pouts adorably. She sighs and stands and he watches her grab his empty bottles and walk down the hallway. She's wearing a black tank top with a black sweater and perfectly tight jeans that are tucked into his favorite pair of boots of hers.

She's hot and he'd never deny that.

He and Peyton have a history that's been complicated at its worst times and simple at its best. That may not make sense to anyone who isn't the two blondes, but to them it makes all the sense in the world. After the love triangle and sleeping with a stranger who ended up not being so much of a stranger he left town, but moved back shortly. And he came back wanting Brooke and he also came back to Peyton wanting Jake and that was that.

They were friends after that, nothing more and nothing less and it worked. He was in love with Brooke and she was in love with Jake and after the senior year from hell they all graduated. Nathan, Haley and their newborn son were heading off to Duke. Brooke went to New York while Lucas stayed in Tree Hill and helped his mom with Lily; they'd amicably broke things off in the middle of their senior year. And Peyton went even further south to Savannah and the College of Art and Design to be with a man and his baby.

He's so lost in thought that he doesn't hear her come back into the room. This time she's got a glass of wine for herself, but still has another beer for him. "Sometimes I miss Jake", she whispers.

Lucas' eyes widen and he turns to fully face her. This isn't a topic that they breech often, if ever at all. She's been back in Tree Hill for three years and she's only said that other man's name in his presence three times; twice was because he was simply walking into the room during a conversation.

She knows she's caught him off guard and she groans internally. Her eyes travel to her wine glass because she doesn't want to stare at his perplexed expression any longer and she finds her eyes wandering to her bare left hand. Once upon a time a simple gold band sat there that meant the beginning of the rest of their lives together. And then she had a tan line that was the reminder of the life she'd never have. Now she has nothing.

Well that's not true; she has her friends and her dad and Lucas.

"I'm sorry", she mumbles. Lucas shakes his head and places his hand on her knee.

"Don't apologize, if this is something you want to talk about we should", he says simply, but look completely out of his element. She laughs, but it comes out as more of a breathy sigh.

"I just . . . sometimes I think I'll never find a person that makes me feel like I did when we were together and that scares me, but then I think that I'm young so it doesn't really matter", she's babbling to herself and Lucas smiles because he loves when she does this. He also notes that she's right, she's young – they're young – only 23 and they've got years to find the person they're meant to be with. "Don't you ever miss Brooke?" she asks softly.

"No", Lucas answers without any hesitation or uncertainty. "Brooke and I were good while we lasted, but in the end we fell out of love", he shrugs his shoulders and sips his beer and Peyton thinks that's the healthiest thing she's ever heard.

"You're right, ignore me", she sips her wine. "I had about three glasses of wine at dinner –"

"Peyton!" Lucas exclaims; she's a lightweight with wine and being around and unfamiliar guy while being drunk is irresponsible and he instantly worries about what could have happened. Then again, he's always worrying about her.

"He was so boring", she whines. "I needed the alcohol, trust me", she waves her hand in the air and he's pretty positive she's drunk or at least tipsy. "You know what I really miss?" she asks and doesn't wait for an answer and Lucas smirks; she always does that. "The sex", she states.

Lucas chokes on his beer.

Peyton rolls her eyes, "Don't be a prude", she chides. "You're a guy, don't you think of sex like every twenty-seven seconds?"

The blonde man furrows his brows, "Well I don't quite know the logistics", he mumbles as a steady blush fills his cheeks. "But I'm a guy and it does tend to happen."

"Luke, I'm serious", she pouts. He smirks at her annoyance and unconsciously moves his thumb in a pattern over her jean covered calf.

"Peyton Sawyer, did you think you were getting laid tonight?"

She grumbles at how much he's enjoying this, but shakes her head. "I don't sleep with someone on the first date", she assures him and for some reason he takes comfort in that knowledge. "But I figured eventually I'd get some."

He laughs loudly and places his empty bottle on the table so that he can rest that hand on her leg too. He carefully unzips her boots and tugs them off her legs before placing them on the floor. He also quickly does a mental check of the last time she had a serious boyfriend and that was over a year ago. Well with that timeline he understands her frustration.

Then again, it's been a while for him too.

"I'm serious though . . . I miss sex", she seems to say whimsically. "Don't you ever just want to call up an ex and –"

"Booty call them? No", he cuts her off with a chuckle. "Brooke would laugh in my face and Chelsea cheated on me with that kid in her bio class so I wouldn't call her and Emily wasn't really anything to write home about . . ."

She giggles at the way he lists off his ex's and briefly wonders if she makes that list. She may not have been an ex-girlfriend, but she was an ex-something. She shakes her head to clear the crazy thoughts from her mind.

"What about you?" he breaks her out of her trance. "Why don't you call an ex?"

"Well that list includes Nathan, who's married to one of my best friends. Andrew, who wanted a serious commitment after date number two. Tom, who was creepily attached to his mother", she rolls her eyes at her pathetic love-life and then says, "And Jake, who I really consider calling sometimes."

"Peyt", he whispers while shaking his head. She looks up to the ceiling and clears her throat. She's really not trying to make this depressing or all about her. "You're not", he assures her and she's pretty sure she's drunk because she didn't know she said that out loud.

"I just really miss sex", she mumbles. "Two people coming together for what they need. Urges and desires and relief and satisfaction. Why do feelings always have to be involved?"

"They don't, that's what friends with benefits are for", he tells her seriously. Peyton scrunches her nose.

"Aren't we too old for that?"

Lucas doesn't know when this conversation became about him too, but he shakes his head regardless. "We're only twenty-three, Peyton", he's got a laugh in his throat at the expression on her face. "Lots of people, mostly everyone our age, is benefitting."

( Can I stay here with you 'til the morning?
There's nothing I want more than to wake up on your floor
)

She thinks back to her last relationship and that was a while ago. Then she thinks back to Lucas's last relationship and as far as she knows, that was a while ago too. She opens her mouth, but closes it quickly. She can't. He can't. They can't.

They have too much history and things could get awkward. Not if we don't let them, she muses to herself. She places her glass on the table and rests her head on the cushion of the large couch. Things are easy with Lucas and he's known her forever. So maybe it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world if they benefitted from each other.

He stares at her as she stares at him. He takes note of the way her lips have turned red from the wine and how her eyes are extra green because she's had a few drinks. She was wearing his favorite pair of boots and her sweater has fallen off her shoulder taking her tank top with it leaving it bare. Her curls have fallen against her face and frame her skin delicately. He has the sudden urge to kiss her.

So he does.

She lets out a noise of surprise that has him smiling against her lips. The kiss doesn't last more than fifteen seconds and once he pulls away she looks at him like he's just read her mind. Maybe he has.

"Are we really going to do this?" she asks softly, unexpectedly nervous. He nods vehemently.

"God, I hope so", he breathes out. She chuckles lightly and nods her head along with him. "Should we . . . I mean – should we go to the bedroom?"

"Smooth", she grumbles with a roll of her eyes. "Okay, but first . . . should we talk about this?" he raises his brow in questioning. "I don't know, like rules or something? I've never done this!" she points out.

Lucas gnaws on the inside of his lip like he always does when he's thinking. He and Brooke tried the whole non-exclusive thing in high school, but that didn't work because they both wanted more. This thing, whatever he and Peyton are about to do, is just sex. Either way he thinks back to some things Brooke had said (that they didn't stick to).

"Okay, firstly we don't tell anyone", he says and Peyton instantly agrees. Their friends have been trying to get them together for a few years (secretly, behind the other person's back) and they'd simply blow this out of proportion.

"And then –" Peyton cuts him off with a kiss because she really doesn't want to talk anymore. She wants to do what she's wanted to do since he kissed her five minutes ago. She stands from the couch and pulls him up with her.

They make their way to his bedroom and he can't really believe they're doing this. Her tongue slips into his mouth and he buries his hand wrist deep into her curly hair. She pulls him impossible close and starts to unbutton his shirt. She pulls away from his lips long enough to say;

"No getting jealous", Lucas is too focused on getting her shirts off to pay her any attention, but she places her hand under his chin and forces him to meet her eyes. "We're not telling anyone so they're going to continue to fix us up with people. So no acting like we have a claim on the other person", she says seriously.

He nods his head and she pulls her top over her head, leaving her in a red, lacy bra. Lucas' mouth goes dry and he places his hand on her hip pulling her closer to him. She starts undoing his belt and throws it to the side of the room. Her hand slips down his pants and Lucas lets out a loud groan while dropping his head to the juncture of her neck and shoulder.

"Try not to fall in love with me", she says with a breathy laugh; their unspoken third rule.

"I'll try not to", Lucas mumbles between kisses he's placing on her neck while rolling his eyes. She laughs a little louder and crashes her lips to his.

He doesn't know it now, but he's going to break that rule and this is the exact moment he starts to.

Lucas pushes her hand away while he works the button and zipper of her jeans. She bites her bottom lip at the feel of his strong hands pushing the denim down her body. She kicks the clothing off her feet and Lucas steps out of his jeans as they blindly walk to the bed.

Peyton crashes against the mattress and Lucas manages to lie atop her gently; somehow resting just the right amount of weight on her. He kisses her in all the places he knows will drive her wild and Peyton's a little shocked that he remembers them all. She fingers the hair at the nape of his neck and he leaves her skin just long enough to take in a breath. She smirks to herself; for some reason he's always loved that little action.

He relentlessly hits that spot on her neck and she sighs out his name in a way that has him groaning against her skin and that makes her shiver. He kisses his way down her body and she rests her head against his pillow while closing her eyes and letting out a little breath. She was nervous at first, things with Lucas sometimes get complicated (they're notorious for complications), but he seems to get it and she definitely gets it and she doesn't know why she's analyzing things with Lucas's lips and tongue dragging along her inner thigh.

She's instantly thrilled her and Lucas have set up this arrangement. When they were in high school she and Brooke would talk and from what she remembers, Lucas is a very generous man in the bedroom. But she doesn't want that right now.

"No", she barely breathes out. Lucas lifts his eyes to look at her doubtfully. Her green eyes are only half open and feathering his hair delicately. Sure she doesn't want this. He hooks his fingers into the rim of her panties and she takes in a gasping breath as he drags the material down her legs. He rolls his eyes, clearly she doesn't want this.

Peyton's pretty sure she hates that smirk he wears. "I don't need this, Luke. I just need you", she says in exasperation. He tosses her matching red panties (so sexy) past the foot of the bed and aligns his body with hers so that he's causing a delicious friction that has her biting her lip.

She drags her hands down his toned chest and lower stomach letting her fingers dance at the elastic of his boxers. This time Lucas is the one sucking in the breath and Peyton's the one who's smirking. He shakes his head and before she can blink his boxers are gone and he's got a condom in his hand; she puts it on at a snail's pace.

And then they're moving together and kissing all over and this is exactly what they've both needed. It's also exactly what Peyton was talking about; they're moaning and gasping and softly breathing out the other person's name. They create a rhythm and Lucas brings her to the edge a few times without letting her spill over. Finally, she locks her legs tightly around his waist and angles her hips in a way that has Lucas clutching onto his sheets and Peyton grasping at his bicep.

He rolls off of her and stares at the ceiling as they both gather their breaths. Out of the corner of his eye he watches as she rakes her hand through her hair and then stands from the bed. She gathers her things, but he doesn't look at her because for some reason he feels that would be weird.

"How have we never done that?" he asks in amazement. Peyton chuckles as she pulls her tank over her head. "Seriously, that was . . ."

"Yeah", she agrees even though he doesn't say anything. She tosses him his boxers and he smirks before putting them on. She fluffs her hair once more while looking in the mirror and pretends not to notice the way he's staring at her. "Alright well, thanks", she says with a smile.

"Thank you", he mumbles. She raises her hand and waves goodbye before sending him a wink. And then she's gone.

And he's left wondering if either of them knows what they've just started.

( Lay with me in your thinnest dress
Fill my heart with each caress
)

Peyton grabs the two bottles of wine from the passenger seat of her car before getting out and slamming the door behind her. Tonight is girl's night and she's very excited. They spend basically everyday together so maybe she shouldn't be so excited, but tonight is completely free of any man. Nathan's away for the week and Jamie's spending time with Skills and Mouth and Lucas. She stops to think about that blonde man.

Maybe she'll pay him a visit later.

It's been a while since they've started this arrangement and so far things have been good. Actually, they've been great. Peyton feels a blush fill her cheeks as she thinks that. With a shake of her head and a deep breath to calm her racing pulse she knocks on the large door and it takes only a second for Haley to answer.

"Finally!" she says in exasperation and grabs the two bottles of wine. Peyton's left standing outside with a perplexed expression. "Just kidding, hey Peyton", Haley says with a smile as she pulls the blonde into a one armed hug.

"Jeez, you really know how to make a friend feel loved", she mumbles as they walk into the kitchen.

"P. Sawyer!" Brooke cheers. Peyton instantly knows why Haley was so grateful for the wine. "Want a daiquiri?"

The curly blonde grimaces as she shakes her head. A few years ago the fashion designer dated a bartender and even though that relationship didn't last, Brooke's obsession with drink making did. In her own mind, she was the perfect bartender. In reality, she wasn't.

"I'll stick with the wine for now", she mumbles playfully. Brooke scowls and shrugs her shoulders before taking a sip of her drink. To her, it's just fine. "So, what's on the agenda tonight ladies?"

Her two friends look between each other before looking at her. Haley glances back to Brooke and Peyton watches as the two of them have some sort of unspoken battle. It's a little weird and a lot unnerving; she decides to grab herself a wine glass for distraction. Finally Brooke rolls her eyes and takes a deep breath.

"Are you seeing someone?"

Peyton stops pouring her wine and calmly places the bottle onto the countertop. Internally she's freaking out that someone saw her with Lucas, but didn't know it was Lucas. Or they do know its Lucas and they're waiting for her to come clean and this whole thing is a trap. She rolls her eyes and tells herself to stop being so paranoid.

"No, I'm not seeing someone", she says with a scoff after her eye roll. Haley leans forward and frowns slightly.

"Don't lie", she demands with a kinked brow. Brooke nods her head and sips her drink.

"Guys, I'm not lying! I've brought guys I'm dating around you all before, remember?" right now all she wants to do is gulp down her drink, but she knows she needs to keep up appearances so she takes a delicate sip.

"Exactly!" Haley yells unintentionally. "This means it's either really serious or really casual", she points out seriously. Brooke nods her head in agreement.

Peyton sighs and shakes her head, "Guys I'm not seeing anyone new, okay? If I was, I'd tell you", she's sincere enough for the girls to drop it and take sips of their drinks while chatting about other events.

In Peyton's defense, Lucas isn't someone new. She's known him for years . . .

"So how was school today, foxy?" Peyton asks as she slides onto the high stool that's placed at the kitchen counter.

Haley rolls her eyes and lets out a groan, "The kids were great, they're restless because it's almost over, but that's not what called for the impromptu girl's night", she assures them.

Brooke and Peyton exchange a glance and laugh softly before Brooke indulges the married woman's pregnant pause, "Then what is?"

Haley takes in a dramatic breath before mumbling, "Prom."

"Well you're the one who volunteered to chaperon", Brooke mutters from behind her glass and Peyton lets out a soft chuckle before taking a sip of her drink as well.

"I only signed up because I figured it would be cute for Nathan and I to go since our prom sucked so bad", she says in exasperation.

The other girls nod their head; they faced a crazed stalker and Haley was pregnant so it all just sucked for everyone involved.

"And now he has an away game and I can't back out because it'll look bad . . ."

She trails off and looks to her two oldest friends with big brown doe eyes. Brooke immediately shakes her head and Peyton's quick to follow.

"Please!" Haley begs. She folds her hands together and juts out her bottom lip.

"Dibs on watching Jamie!" Brooke shouts suddenly. Peyton's mouth drops and she whirls around.

"No fair! You can't just call dibs!" She mockingly shouts.

"I just did. Besides, he's my godson and as godmother I reserve any and all right to call dibs", Brooke states as if she's just read it from a handbook.

"I did always like you best", Haley says with a smirk as she stares at Peyton.

"No", the curly blonde says firmly. She laughs at her friend's expression. "I don't even work there!" She throws her hands up in the air.

"Semantics", the petite brunette waves her hand in the air. "You'll be my date, and plus Turner knows you. You did graduate from there, remember?" She teases.

Peyton huffs. She's not trying to be difficult, but prom and high school in general was really filled with a lot of painful memories and she just doesn't want to succumb to all that again.

"Come on . . . Lucas and Skills will be there. They want to keep an eye on the basketball players. Make sure they don't get into any trouble or something", Haley mumbles as she sips her wine.

Peyton's interest spikes at the mention of Lucas, though she doesn't let it show. Spending the night around him wouldn't be too horrible. She lets out a breath of air that Haley knows she can interpret as a yes.

She squeals and promises it will be a good time and then raises her glass for a cheer of their friendship. The girl has always been a lightweight. Peyton and Brooke raise their glasses to appease her and while Haley babbles on about something or another Peyton turns to the smirking darker haired brunette.

"You're totally making my prom dress", she scowls.

"Wouldn't have it any other way P. Sawyer", Brooke says with a cheeky grin. Peyton rolls her eyes before finishing off the rest of her wine.

Just a little over a week later she's walking into the gym of Tree Hill High wearing a strapless burgundy dress and her infamous leather jacket. Haley's sporting a dark blue dress with delicate straps and a bow on the back.

"Think the punch is already spiked or am I gonna have to do it?" Peyton seriously asks as she eyes the large bowl.

Haley laughs and shoves her shoulder. "Do you think you could at least pretendlike this isn't the worst thing in the world?" She teases.

"I'll do my best", she says with a roll of her eyes and Haley bumps her hip with Peyton's before walking off to talk to a few teachers and Skills.

Peyton looks around the decorated room and freezes when she sees Lucas making a beeline for her. She places her hand on her hip and eyes him; he looks good with his button up shirt and black slacks.

"Hey you", she says softly, softer than she intended to, as he stands in front of her. Lucas doesn't say anything, just juts his chin in her direction. "What? Do I have something on my face?" she asks as she blindly wipes at her cheeks. Lucas shakes his head.

"No, no. You just . . ." he steps closer and dips his head a little lower, "You look really sexy", and if Peyton's blushing she doesn't care to stop it. That low tone of his has always driven her crazy and he knows it.

"Luke", she whispers and shakes her head. He reaches for her wrist and gently pulls her to the back of the gym.

"Come on, we've got a table in the back", he says needlessly. Peyton glances around the room and smirks at the way the teenage girls look at Lucas. She purposefully maneuvers her wrist so that their hands are locked. The girls all turn their heads and Peyton's smirk widens.

"Are all the cool kids sitting in the back?" Lucas turns his head to playfully roll his eyes at her and then he squeezes her hand.

"You know, you could at least pretend like you're willing to have fun tonight", he tells her seriously as he takes her jacket off and hangs it from the back of her chair. They both take a seat, only after Lucas pulls out her chair like a true gentleman.

"Haley said the same thing", she muses softly. Lucas nods and mumbles something about them begin best friends. "I'm just not really into the whole prom thing", she shrugs her shoulder and drapes his arm across the back of her chair.

"Well, that night may have sucked for everyone, but if it's any consolation, that white dress was still hot, blood and all", he murmurs. Peyton shakes her head and rolls her eyes once more. "Are compliments allowed?"

She looks at him with a gaze that he can't decipher and says, "If you keep saying them like that then absolutely."

He laughs loudly, but before he can say anything else their friends walk over and all take seats at the large table. The night continues on and despite her best efforts, she actually does have a good time. Skills pokes fun at the boys who are trying too hard and Haley comments on the sluttiest dresses of the night. And Peyton spends some time watching the students enjoy their care-free lives.

"Think Haley will mind if I ask you to dance?" Lucas asks once they're alone again. Peyton looks out into the crowd and notices Haley dancing with Skills.

"God, she is a terrible date!" the blonde says in exasperation. "Come on, let's make her jealous", she teases. Lucas takes her hand and together they hit the dance floor.

"Have I commented on how you look tonight?" their hands are locked in the air and his arm is curled around her waist while hers is wrapped around his back. His thumb traces a circle over the silky material of her dress and she swears it burns a whole right through the material.

"Not in the last half hour", she says innocently. Lucas chuckles and meets her eyes.

"You look gorgeous", he almost whispers. Peyton takes in a deep breath – gorgeous is a word he hasn't used before – and lets it out slowly.

"Come over later", she says breathily as her fingers dance across the nape of his neck. Lucas shivers and pulls her a little closer. "Lucas, I'm serious, I won't –"

"Then why wait?" he cuts her off before she ever finishes her sentence. She kinks her brow and locks her fingers a little tighter around his neck. He can't be saying what she thinks he's saying. Can he? "I've always wanted to christen my office."

He is.

Peyton takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly. Sometimes the way he says things . . .

"Lucas we can't just disappear –"

"Why not? We used to go off together all the time . . . we're friends, remember? Besides, if anyone asks I'll tell them I was thinking of painting my office and needed an expert opinion", he shrugs his shoulder easily.

"You've got it all figured out, huh?" he smirks at her and she rolls her eyes with a smile on her lips. "Let's go then."

Lucas practically drags her out of that gym.

And his touch is just as intense on her bare skin as it felt through her dress.

( Between your blissful kisses, whisper )

It's been a while since that night at his house and in that time the two blondes have come together a countless amount of times. It's always the same way, one will call or text the other and once they're both satisfied the other person leaves and that's that. They don't act any different in public and even when they are alone in a group setting things aren't really all that different.

Except for a few inappropriate comments here or there.

He's currently watching her as she stands with his best friend and her best friend. They're sipping margaritas and Peyton's head is tossed back in laughter that he can hear from the other end of the yard. Nathan's home for the weekend and the married couple wanted to get all their friends together in the same place. It's really been an afternoon full of torture for him.

Peyton's wearing a tank top and denim shorts and every so often her bra strap peeks out from beneath the yellow of her shirt and he desperately wants to put it into place. He hasn't had much of a chance to talk to her today, their friends always seem to be in the way, but he's determined to at least say something to her. Haley walks into the house to refill her glass and Jamie squirts Brooke with a water gun which has her chasing after him playfully.

Peyton smirks behind the rim of her glass as Lucas strides over to her with a purpose.

"You had to wear those shorts today?" is the first thing out of his mouth and she chuckles softly.

The good thing is that their friends have yet to question anything. The two blondes often spent time together and would disappear to talk or show the other something that would truly only interest that person. It makes things easier for times like this when they're speaking unabashedly about their times together.

"These old things?" she says innocently. Lucas watches as she smoothes her hand across the faded denim and then delicately caresses her leg. He groans and shakes his head. She knows exactly what she's doing to him right now and its killing him.

"What are you doing later?" he asks with a gruff voice that sends a shiver down her spine. He looks good in his khaki shorts and a simple white tee shirt. It's her favorite look on a man and she's pretty sure he knows that.

"I have to be in the studio for a bit", she says quietly once she finds her voice.

After leaving Savannah she wanted to be as far away from art and oil based paints and canvases as possible. So with a space from Lucas and money fronted by Brooke she started her own recording label. It's not exactly flourishing (she's got one signed artist and the occasional Haley James Scott recording), but it's her other passion and she loves it.

"You're your own boss", he grumbles in frustration. She tilts her head to look at him, clearly enjoying his anguish just a little, and shakes her head. "Fine, meet me in five in the upstairs bedroom", he says before taking a sip of his beer.

"Which one?" Peyton questions with a laugh. Their married friends have a few bedrooms to choose from.

"The one to the front of the house. They're all back here and I don't need them hearing you scream out my name over and over again. Cause I plan on that", his gravelly tone promises and Peyton's ready to get things started right then and there.

"Hey friends, guy and girl", Brooke says with a smile on her lips and her godson in her arms. Peyton sobers up quickly and winks at the boy she considers a nephew. Brooke looks between them quickly and she can tell she's interrupted something. Knowing them it's something lame like a dead author or creepy emo music. "What's the latest gossip?" she asks anyway.

The two blondes look between each other and Peyton's mind scrambles for something to say. They've been caught. That's her only answer at the moment. Brooke's always had a sex sense (most people call it their sixth sense) when it comes to things like this. She looks to Lucas for some kind of help.

But he honestly doesn't care if they're caught and he thinks that might be breaking a rule.

But he doesn't really care about those rules anymore either.

And he knows that's breaking a rule.

Brooke scrunches her face at the silence that greets her and she shakes her head. "You two are so boring", she says with a sigh and Jamie laughs.

"So boring", he chirps. Brooke smiles at the little boy and nods her head in agreement. She gives her two friends one final glance and then walks away without another word.

Peyton lets out a breath she didn't know she was holding.

"That was close", she mumbles while placing her hand on her hip. Lucas moves so he's standing mostly in front of her and says;

"Five minutes", and then he walks into the house leaving Peyton all kinds of flustered.

She doesn't make it five minutes, not even close to it actually. She counts to twenty in her head and then turns her back on everyone while she searches for the man who's about to give her all she needs. She stops in her tracks.

That sounded a lot deeper than she intended it to.

She shakes her head and walks up the stairs. She knows Lucas said the front of the house, but this place is still huge and her head is spinning from the margaritas and all of his comments. She's approaching the bedroom door that she thinks he's behind when a side door opens and a strong arm pulls her in.

"What are you doing?" she whispers with a smirk. His hands fiddle with the hem of her tank top and he looks down into her eyes.

"Bedrooms are too risky. Jamie's always running around –"

"You don't think he's going to run into a closet?" she asks doubtfully. Lucas crashes his lips against hers, breaking apart only to pull her shirt over her head. "Luke . . ." she whispers and he closes his eyes.

He's always loved it when she shortens his name.

"Not a linen closet", he counters. "Nobody's going to be taking a shower any time soon", he skims his hand around her waist and pulls her impossibly close to him. They both make a noise at the friction.

"So why are you still dressed?" she asks with a contagious laugh. Lucas obliges and pulls his shirt over his head. Her hands float down his chest and back up before working across his broad shoulders and down his toned forearms. Everything about him is sexy as hell.

They're so lost in each other and their kissing and their wandering hands that they don't hear a pair of flip flops coming down the hallway opening various doors. They don't hear a raspy voice talking to herself wondering why in the hell her friends have so many unopened doors, it's weird.

"Oh. My. God", she rasps as she pulls the door open and finds her two half-naked blonde friends. She places her hands on her hips and kinks her eyebrow before smirking – all her trademark moves. "No gossip my ass!"

They certainly hear all of that.

( Darling, is this love? )

Peyton's sitting in her office signing off on some paper work, she's got one of her favorite albums on and a cup of tea beside her and this just feels nice. To enjoy the silence for a little while. That enjoyment isn't going to last much longer because she can hear the determined footsteps as they make their way into TRIC.

She places her pen on her desk and waits for the person to fill the doorway. Soon enough, she does. Peyton watches as she closes the door behind her and locks it for good measure. Her visitor turns around and approaches Peyton with a smirk.

"You're not escaping unless you climb out the window", she states, "Although I wouldn't doubt you", she mumbles more to herself. She shakes her head and looks at her best friend. "You've avoided me for a week."

"I have not", the blonde scoffs. "I've been busy." Brooke watches as she shrugs her shoulders as if that's simply it. The brunette takes a seat across from her best friend and gives her a look that will hopefully force her into talking. It doesn't.

"And why are you ignoring Haley?"

Peyton puts down her pen and says, "I'm ignoring Haley because I know you can't keep a secret and therefore most likely told her, so she's probably calling to tell me the same thing you're trying to tell me. And before you ask, I'm ignoring Nathan because he's either going to make fun of me for sleeping with both Scotts or commend me for finally getting some. Neither of those are conversations I want to have", she finishes with a grumble.

"First of all, you cannot fault me for blabbing. This is something huge!" Brooke insists. Peyton rolls her eyes.

"No it's not; people do this kind of stuff all the time. And no judging, by the way. You were a pretty big advocate of it in high school", she says pointedly.

Brooke holds her hands up; "I'm not judging at all, P. Sawyer, it's just that . . . we're older now and well, don't you want to . . ." she trails off before finishing her sentence.

Peyton folds her arms atop her desk and gives Brooke a wary smile, "Fall in love? Get engaged? Have a family?" she lists off all of the things that were on the tip of the brunette's tongue. "I've done all that already, Brooke. I did all of that when I was eighteen and . . . look where it's gotten me", she sighs out.

Brooke's eyes widen and she moves her seat closer, "First of all, you have a lot of wonderful things in your life", she says ardently. "Second of all, this isn't an attack –"

"Really? Because it kind of feels like one."

Brooke shakes her head, "I'm just shocked that's all", she says honestly. "I mean Lucas and I did the whole friends with benefits thing back in the day and well I was surprised he went along with it then . . . I can't even believe he's agreeing to it now", she says in what can only be categorized as sheer disbelief.

Peyton furrows her brows at her friends tone, "What is that supposed to mean?" she asks indignantly.

"No, Peyton, I didn't mean it like that I just – it's Lucas and you", she shrugs her shoulders and continues, "Lucas is going to want more", the curly blonde stares at her as she speaks. Her words have such a conviction behind them that Peyton's nearly ripping her hair out.

"No he's not! Look, Lucas and I only really only want one thing from each other, being friends is an added bonus."

"And Lucas always wants more with you, whether he really even knows it or not", she speaks from experience.

Peyton pinches the bridge of her nose. She cannot believe she's hearing this. Their friends have been adamant about some sort of a relationship starting between the two blondes ever since Peyton moved back to Tree Hill a few years ago. She thought they had finally come to the understanding that she and Lucas were just friends.

Apparently, she was the only one who thought that.

"Brooke . . ." Peyton trails off at a complete loss for words. The blonde takes a breath and tucks some blonde hair behind her ear. "Lucas and I are friends", she says for what seems like the millionth time.

"Okay", Brooke says while taking a breath. "Do you know why I was so scared to be with Lucas when I came back from California? In senior year?" Peyton gives her a blank stare and Brooke continues. "I never told you this, but I found a . . . a box."

"You found a box?" Peyton echoes. "What kind of box? A box filled with knives or murdering objects? Was it filled with freaky sex toys? I'm kind of lost –"

"A box of you", Brooke cuts her off. Peyton furrows her brows and shakes her head, "Of what you guys were and it broke my heart because it didn't matter that you seemed to have no interest in Luke or that he was trying to be with me, what mattered was that it was always there . . ."

It's always gonna be there, isn't it?

Peyton's stopped listening, but she manages to hear bits and pieces of what her best friend is saying. She doesn't blame her for anything. Brooke broke up with Lucas because of her own insecurities. Peyton appreciates Brooke finally telling her these things, but at the same time she hates her for it.

Because now it's making Peyton rethink everything.

"Brooke", Peyton whispers. "I loved Jake", is the only sentence she can breathe out. Brooke nods her head.

"And Lucas loved me", the brunette says positively. "But there was always you and there was always Lucas and that wasn't something that could be helped. It was just always there", Peyton notices the small smile and wonders why it's there.

"Brooke, I don't know what you want me to say", Peyton says with a shrug. Brooke shrugs also.

"I don't want you to say anything. I just want you to be sure you know what you're doing", the phone in her office rings and Brooke grabs her bag from its place on the floor. "I'll let you answer that", she whispers. And then she's walking out of the office and Peyton's counting down the minutes till she knows she can make a clean getaway.

The whole drive over to Lucas' house she's wondering what exactly she's going to say. Will she call this whole thing off? Will she pretend like their friends haven't been harassing her for a week? She pulls into his driveway and fixers her hair before applying some lip gloss.

"It's open!" his voice booms from his kitchen. She opens the door and pokes her head in. Lucas spins around and immediately stops what he's doing. "Hey", he says softly.

"Hi", she mumbles. Her friends aren't the only people she's been avoiding. She hasn't responded to any of Lucas's call or texts or e-mails. And as she stares at him with a dishtowel thrown over his shoulder and a tee shirt that brings out his eyes, she's wondering why in the hell she hasn't.

"What brings you by?" he turns his attention the chicken in a skillet on the stove and Peyton takes a seat at the kitchen table. He's sexy when he cooks.

"I haven't been ignoring you", she promises. "It's been a busy week and with everything, it was just awkward timing", she explains lamely. They're both well aware that she was ignoring him all week, but Lucas doesn't seem fazed. And Peyton thinks that maybe Brooke was wrong.

"It's fine, I was actually pretty busy myself", he says with a shrug. Peyton's brows raise and she places her head in her hand. "I got some really great plays done and I even wrote a few chapters. I baby-sat Jamie and had a date and I've been thinking that I want the guys to start using the gym Whitey made us use senior year –"

"Did you say date?" Peyton blurts out. Lucas turns to look at her and nods. Peyton's mouth makes an O shape and she fakes a smile (they both know it). "Anyone I know?"

He rubs the back of his neck and the curly blonde doesn't like that move one bit. It means he's nervous and he shouldn't be nervous unless it's something he doesn't want to tell her. "Actually, yeah, I went out with Lindsey."

She hates Lindsey. The woman is a mousey brunette who also happens to be Lucas's editor. She's tried to insert herself into their small town life and she's always acted like she knows what those days in his book were like to live through. She's also always had a crush on Lucas.

And she won't say it, but that may be the biggest reason Peyton hates her.

"Well that's nice. I bet she was thrilled", Peyton mumbles and Lucas either doesn't hear her or he pretends not to. "What are you cooking?"

"Just some chicken cutlets and pasta", Lucas says simply. She watches him move around the kitchen and she can feel her pulse start to race. It's always so sexy when a man is in the kitchen and Lucas makes it even sexier.

Lucas smirks to himself when he hears her chair scuff against his floor.

What he didn't tell Peyton was that he went out with Lindsey because he was trying to forget about said blonde. It didn't work because he spent the entire night comparing everything Lindsey didn't do to everything Peyton did do. Right down to their kiss. And he shouldn't feel guilty for kissing another girl, but he does.

But that goes against a rule so he'll keep it to himself.

Peyton runs her hands down his back and then sticks them into the front pockets of his jeans. Lucas takes in a noticeable breath. He's missed her this past week. So much so, that it probably wouldn't take much more than this for him to lose his mind.

"You know, it's been a whole week", she purrs against his back, her breath hitting his neck. In an instant he's turning off all the burners on his stove and spinning around to place his hands on her hips.

"You don't need to remind me", he drops his tone an octave and grips her hips tightly. Peyton bites down on her bottom lip. "Should we take this –?"

He doesn't finish his sentence before she kisses him. Hard on the lips. He moans into her mouth and lifts her off the ground; he loves that she immediately wraps her legs around his waist. Instead of heading into his bedroom he blindly moves to the empty counter beside them.

Peyton takes the lead and pulls his shirt from his body while places kissing on any piece of skin she sees. He throws his head back and she works the button and zipper of his jeans. He breathes out her name the second her hand makes contact with him and she smirks.

She's fully intent on making him forget all about that damn editor.

( Can I stay here with you, 'til the day breaks?
There's something you should know
I ain't got no place to go
)

She's knocking on his door again a few days later. She's got a bottle of wine tucked under her arm and a pizza pie in her free hand. She knows he's home because he doesn't have practice until after school on Wednesday's and he's been holed up in his house a lot lately because he's been on a literary streak of genius. His words.

He answers the door and automatically pulls her into a hug. He isn't surprised at all to see her on his doorstep and he kisses her temple before ushering her into his house. Peyton can hear the news coverage and she almost wants to smile. This is exactly why she came to him, that and other reasons.

"I'm sorry if I'm intruding", she says softly. Lucas takes the wine from her and ventures into the kitchen. He returns with a nearly full glass and a beer for him. "Luke . . ." she whispers.

"I think I'd be insulted if you didn't come to me", he says honestly. Peyton lets herself smile for the first time all day and they both walk over to the couch. She places the pizza on the coffee table and tucks one leg under her as she sits on the couch. Lucas sits so that most of his body is angled in her direction.

"This is just so . . ." she trails off once again as she stares at the images on the television screen. Lucas mimics her actions before letting his gaze wander back to her.

"Surreal?" he offers and Peyton nods.

"Yeah", she breaths out. That's exactly why she came to Lucas. He just gets it. It might have something to do with the fact that he was there that day, trapped with her in that library.

The thing that has the two blondes and their small group of friends so thrown off balance is the exact thing that rocked their worlds five years ago. Today in South Carolina at a well known college, a student opened fire. No definite death or injured toll has been given yet, but from what they understand the numbers are high.

"This shouldn't still be happening", Lucas whispers. Peyton meets his eyes and rests her head on his shoulder. "Kids killing kids, it's not something that's okay."

"I remember seeing Jimmy's face that morning, as he held that gun, and he just looked so scared", she stops to gather a breath, "But this is so methodical. There can't be this kind of evil in the world."

"But there is", he whispers. Peyton curls into him and Lucas finds himself kissing the top of her head. He's also confused. He knows they would do this if they were friends, but they're also friends who sleep together and he feels that this kind of breaks all the rules.

To be honest, he stopped caring about those rules the day after they slept together.

They both listen as the reporter lists off the details of the day. It's been confirmed that there were two shooters, both sophomore boys. The summer courses were coming to an end and so whatever staff and students were on campus were there for finals. The boys broke off in opposite directions and (the man on screen quotes a shooters blog) took care of business. They then met in the gymnasium and shot each other.

Peyton cries as parents speak to the media and images of the survivors, or the lucky ones as they'll now be branded, flash before their eyes. Lucas holds her tighter, hoping to take away whatever pain she's feeling. He doesn't want her to feel even a moment of hurt.

It's then that he thinks he loves her.

That he's in love with her.

But then he hears the reporter mention something about previous shootings and he's completely distracted.

"We all still remember Columbine and Virginia Tech, but today I can guarantee most people were remembering the shooting in Tree Hill, North Carolina a little over five years ago."

Peyton sucks in a breath and Lucas rests his hand on her leg. "That day, while the shooting itself was breaking news, the story that grabbed everyone's attention was the young boy who ran back into that school and came out a few hours later with a fellow classmate and friend. That boy and that act helped everyone keep their faith that there was still some good in the world. Even in a time where everything is so bad and evil."

He continues to speak about the devastating result of that day and the following details that emerged about Dan and that day. But Lucas keeps playing that day over and over in his head and the words this reporter just spoke. And he remembers Peyton's words and her kiss.

If I say I love you right now will you hold it against me?

Maybe he's loved her since that moment.

Peyton looks up at him, all lost in thought and brooding, and she pushes herself forward to press her lips to his. It's a simple kiss and she's pretty sure a non-sexual kiss breaks one of her own rules, but she doesn't really care.

Lucas looks at her with a mixture of confusion and surprise. Peyton smiles and cups his cheek while looking into his eyes. "Thank you", she whispers simply.

He knows what she's thanking him for and it causes his throat to tighten and his eyes to burn. He starts to shake his head, but he knows he can't find words to speak. She's so graceful and beautiful and kind that he doesn't know how he didn't notice his feelings sooner. He kind of hates himself for it.

"I wasn't ready to lose you", he finally responds. Peyton lets out a breath and kisses him once more. He's so perfect with the things he says and he's even more perfect because he means them with his entire soul.

"Thank you for keeping your promise that day", she whispers. She keeps her face close to his, their noses grazing and breaths mingling. It takes Lucas a minute to remember what exactly she's talking about.

Now I may have to get you out of here, okay? But nothing will happen to you. I promise.

He kisses her after that, slowly and passionately. Peyton cups his face and he leans into her; pressing just the right amount of weight against her body. She lets out a noise because she loves the comfort he provides. He only stops kissing her long enough to turn off the television; the background noise of people crying was starting to overwhelm him.

"Can we lay down?" she asks timidly.

Lucas nods his head and he takes her hand as they stand from the couch. He leads her down the hallway and once they're in his bed she curls against him and rests her hand on his heart. Lucas wraps her in his arms and holds her as close to him as he possibly can. It's the first night she sleeps in his bed without sleeping with him. Neither of them speaks once they're in bed, but they both have the same thoughts. Lucas' is hopeful and Peyton's is contemplative.

She told him she loved him that day.

And maybe she's never stopped.

( Can I stay here with you, 'til the day breaks?
How happy it would make me to see your face when I wake
)

"So what kind of attire are we shopping for exactly?" Haley asks as they stroll through the store.

"Wintery stuff?" Peyton supplies. Brooke huffs and pushes around some stuff that's on the racks. She's clearly less than thrilled.

"It's Utah, I feel like you can figure it out", she grumbles. Her two friends share a glance before gently guiding her away from the clothes.

Brooke's movie producer boyfriend has a film at the Sundance Film Festival and was kind enough to invite everyone along for a mini-vacation. Well, they all kind of invited themselves, but Julian never objected so in their minds that's a green light.

"Okay, you need to take a breath", Peyton says seriously. "What's going on, B. Davis?"

She places her hand on her forehead and closes her eyes, "This is just such a huge deal for Julian and I'm nervous for him. It doesn't help that he won't talk about it and that he acts totally calm", she mutters beneath her breath.

Haley raises her brows and makes a sympathetic face, "Before Nathan's games he won't talk about them at all. It used to drive me crazy, but it's his way of clearing out any negative thoughts and it puts less pressure on him."

Brooke lets out a breath. "I know, I'm being crazy. I just can't stop thinking about how this is so important for him and his career. I think I just need a distraction", she says as she lets out a puff of air.

Peyton places a sympathetic hand on her back, "Alright, got anything in mind?" and the second she says it she should know she's setting herself up.

Brooke bats her eyelashes, "Like you and Luke, maybe?" she offers innocently.

Peyton rolls her eyes and starts her walk away from them; they're quickly on her heels. They haven't bothered her about this kind of information and she's been thankful for that, but truthfully, she doesn't really know what to say about her and Lucas. She's confused over everything that happened a few weeks ago with the school shooting in South Carolina.

"Come on, Peyton", Brooke whines as she follows her.

"Yeah, we've been so good", Haley comments. Peyton stops and looks at them both.

"There's nothing to tell", she says in exasperation. "We're friends. We're friends who have sex", she shrugs her shoulders, like it's no big deal at all.

"Right, that's why we want details", Haley states obviously. Peyton chuckles and shakes her head before she starts walking again.

Brooke and Haley share a glance and then fall into step with Peyton. They both lock arms with the blonde. Peyton sighs and throws her head back to look at the ceiling.

"I don't even know what kind of details you guys want!"

"Is it weird?"

"Is he still generous?"

Both girls speak at the same time. Haley makes a face of utter disgust and looks past Peyton to Brooke. "Gross!" she yells.

The brunette shrugs her shoulders and looks at Peyton expectantly. The curly blonde scoffs and shakes her head. There is no way she's actually going to give Brooke the answer she's looking for.

Even if it's a resounding yes.

Brooke watches as a blush fills her friend's cheeks and she squeals. "You're blushing! He totally still is!"

"Can we talk about something that doesn't make me want to vomit?" Haley asks desperately. Brooke sticks her tongue out at their smaller friend and Haley responds by doing the same.

Meanwhile, Peyton's eyes light up. "We could talk about the one thing we all have in common?" she offers easily. Haley raises her brows and Brooke looks equally as confused. "Nathan."

The two girls groan and head off in separate directions while Peyton smiles triumphantly. Nathan and Brooke's sex tape scandal was, well scandalous, and it was a little difficult for everyone to overcome, but now they laugh about it . . . or avoid it completely.

A few days later the group is unpacking their bags while staring out at snow capped mountains. Peyton smiles when she hears Jamie's loud scream of enjoyment. Living in a southern town doesn't exactly provide the best climate for snow. There's a knock on her door and when she turns her head, she smiles.

"Hey stranger", she says with that smile still in place. Lucas grins and places his hands in his pockets. "Our rooms are next to each other . . . coincidence?"

The blonde man chuckles and sits on her bed. "Probably not", he admits, "It's weird now that they know, I feel pressured to have sex all the time", he mumbles.

Peyton rolls her eyes while she tosses a pillow at him, "I'm sure that's just torture for you."

"Uhh yeah", he says obviously. "So torturous . . ." he drags out. She laughs loudly and shakes her head.

"We have to get ready for dinner, but there's plenty of time for that within the next five days", she seems to promise. Lucas teasingly huffs and stalks from the room.

"We could save time and shower together?" he says as he pops his head back in, Peyton shakes her head and Lucas winks before disappearing once again.

The more she thinks about it, the more she wishes she hadn't sent him away. It would save them some time . . . she walks around the side of the bed and heads to the doorway. As she rounds the corner she bumps into Lucas who is casually leaning against the wall.

"I knew you couldn't resist me", he mutters with that smirk that makes Peyton's heart race. She mumbles something that sounds like shut up before tugging at his sleeve and pulling him into her room.

"You're just lucky you're hot", she whispers before kissing him passionately. Lucas wraps his arms around her waist and relishes the feeling her of pressed against him. Not in some pervy way (though that feels nice), he just loves the way she fits perfectly against him and he loves the way she smells and he loves that she takes a deep breath before she opens her eyes after they kiss.

He just loves her.

Now that their friends know, he doesn't understand why they can't consider taking the next step. It's not like they're sneaking around so that obviously isn't the main reason she's keeping this arrangement. The sex is great, but if she really wanted it to end, she would. So maybe she feels it too. The subtle way their relationship has changed. The way he looks at her and the way he's more brazen with his physical contact with her.

"I love you."

Peyton freezes and Lucas refuses to open his eyes. He's just ruined everything. And he hates that him loving her ruins things because it shouldn't. But he supposes it makes sense; him loving her nearly ruined a lifelong friendship in high school.

She doesn't know what to do. She knows that she should push him out of her room and slam the door in his face, but she can't make herself do that. Instead she tightens her grip on him and squeezes her eyes shut.

"Lucas . . ." she whispers pleadingly. He shakes his head and places his hands on her cheeks; forcing her to open her eyes. He mumbles a million different things, but she doesn't really comprehend any of it. "It's fine . . . really. We have to be ready for dinner soon", she removes his hands from her face.

"Peyton don't do this", she shakes her head and kisses his cheek sweetly.

"I'm not doing anything", that's obvious for more than one reason, "I just know that we'll get too behind schedule and you know Brooke's going to be a total Nazi", she lets out a laugh and Lucas does too – solely because he loves that noise.

He nods his head and backs away slowly. "We're okay?"

"Yeah", the curly blonde assures him with a smile.

They make it through their entire time in Utah without acting any different. Though that isn't anything new for them; they're professionals at acting like the perfect friends. If their friends do notice anything they don't comment on it.

The only people who know that nothing will ever be the same are the two blondes who desperately tried to keep things normal all along.

( Lay with me in your thinnest dress
Fill my heart with each caress
Between your blissful kisses, whisper
Darling, is this love?
)

"Hey Peyton!" she hears Lucas's voice fill her house and she closes her eyes. "Sawyer!" he shouts some more. She takes a deep breath before calling out to him; this is not how she wanted him to find out.

Peyton contemplates throwing her suitcase under her bed and not giving any information away at all, but she decides against it. For one, that's a ludacris idea and two, maybe it will be better this way. Easier.

She scoffs to herself; nothing about this will be easy.

Lucas has a speech planned out. She's avoided him for the better part of three days so he's had plenty of time to have this conversation with himself. He always seems to have great points that cannot be argued with. Hopefully the real life conversation goes the same way.

As he rounds the corner he notices a suitcase and instantly knows that this conversation will be nothing like the one he's practiced.

"Going somewhere?" he asks softly. Peyton tucks a curl behind her ear and places her folded jeans into the luggage.

"Um yeah, Los Angeles actually", he nods his head and stuffs his hands into his pockets. "The music scene is in a much higher demand there and James said he'd give me some office space so . . . it really would be dumb not to go. It's got everything", she says like it's the most obvious answer in the world. Like he can't argue with it.

"You once said LA sounded pretentious", he needlessly reminds her. The curly blonde rolls her eyes; she totally knew he was going to say that.

"Lucas, I had just come back from a terrible date", she says with a scoff. "You can't hold something like that over my head."

He stares at her pensively and shakes his head. "How long are you going to hold it over mine?" he asks and she raises a questioning brow. "I told you I loved you and that broke all the rules . . . but you said it was okay", he folds his arms over himself and looks at her;

"It's not okay, is it?"

"Lucas . . ." she sighs out. She says nothing more, but continues to pack her clothing. Lucas stands there for a moment before letting out an angry breath and storming over to her. He rips a tank top out of her hands and tosses it across the room. "Lucas!" she shouts his name this time.

"Answer me! For God's sake, Peyton! For once lets just have an honest conversation", he pleads and demands all at once.

"For once? What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

"Are you kidding?" he asks incredulously. "When's the last time we had an honest conversation about anything?"

She stares at him as if he's just grown three heads. "Well considering we've always has meaningful conversations, I'm going to assume you're talking about what we were doing?" she's angry and he can tell, but he doesn't seem to care. "Why does it always have to get serious with you?" her tone is softer this time and she sounds defeated.

"I didn't plan for it", he promises. "I was okay with having fun and acting like most twenty-something year olds . . . but then that wasn't enough for me –"

"But it was enough for me", even as she says the words, she doesn't think she believes them. This is too far-gone though; her walls are up and she will say anything and everything to escape this.

"I don't believe you", he whispers. Their eyes lock and Lucas takes a step forward, "And in case you haven't noticed, our friends are not like most twenty-something year olds so I blame them", he teases with a smile and Peyton wants to mimic him; she really, really does.

But instead she says; "Well I've done the serious thing before and it didn't get me anywhere."

"I know ending things with Jake hurt you –"

"Yeah it did, but it hurt more the first time around", she whispers truthfully. Lucas furrows his brows and Peyton chuckles humorlessly. Nobody can really be this clueless. "We got pretty serious, pretty fast in high school."

His eyes widen and he reaches for her wrist without giving it a second thought. That was probably the last thing he ever expected to leave her mouth. But it's out there and he needs to address it before the gates close. Too bad he's completely speechless.

Peyton lets out another disdainful laugh and shakes her head. "Forget it, I need to get back to packing."

He's instantly angry. He can't explain it, but he just loses his cool. She tries to remove her wrist from his grasp, but Lucas holds tightly (without hurting her) and pulls her closer. She tilts her head to avoid his eyes. Those blue eyes will surely have her crying in a matter of seconds.

"I'm not the one who ended it then either", he whispers angrily. She meets his eyes, complete shock written across her features. He leans in and places a chaste kiss to her lips before releasing her and turning his back to leave.

She feels the tears prick her eyes and her throat is starting to close. She watches him leave and feels her world slipping away. Maybe this isn't what she needs, maybe she needs Lucas.

Maybe all she's ever needed is Lucas.

"Luke . . ." his name comes out like a request, barely spoken above a whisper.

He doesn't turn around. Doesn't bother to give her one last look. She wants to go to LA; she can go to LA and find whatever it is she needs.

"Goodbye Peyton."

And then he's gone. And Peyton spends the rest of the afternoon crying in her bedroom.

( Can I stay here with you through the nighttime?
I've fallen sad inside and I need a place to hide
Can I stay, here with you through the nighttime?
I'm all alone & blue, won't you take me to your room
)

She's been in LA for two months. Her clientele has skyrocketed and now she's got seven artists on her label; she's scouted them all out herself so they're the real deal. She's made friends and they all share her interest in music and she even talks art with some of them. She laughs and goes out for drinks and lives a life she never imagined she'd have.

But she's never felt more alone in her entire life.

She misses her small southern town and the people that know her so well. Brooke's visited with Julian and she Skype's with the Scott's, but it's not the same. Nothing is the same. She's fulfilling her dreams, but she's so empty. And she hates to think why.

"Peyton, there's a guy here to see you", her secretary says over the intercom. The blonde furrows her brows and she assumes the young girl can tell she's confused because then she says, "He says he's a musician and that you guys spoke at a bar once . . . that's all he'll give me."

Peyton sighs and pinches the bridge of her nose. The annoying thing about being well known in a place like Los Angeles is that everyone's "met" you at some point. There's a very high chance she's never seen this person before, but then again he could have an amazing voice and that would work out well for her.

"Send him in", she says and then focuses on her paperwork so she doesn't seem too eager. If it's one thing she's learned is that they can eat you alive if you seem bright eyed and bushy tailed. She signs her name on a few dotted lines and staples the pages together.

"I just had to see it for myself."

She fumbles with the stapler and it crashes to the floor, but she doesn't bother to pick it up. She lifts her head and meets the brown eyes of a man she once thought she'd spend the rest of her life with. And for the record, he does have an amazing voice.

"Jake", she whispers and instantly hates herself for feeling so breathless around him. Then again they were engaged, so perhaps it's warranted."What are you – why are you . . . hi", she whispers again.

He smiles, that smile that always meant a million things to her, and takes a step further into the large office."I heard through the musical grapevine that you had opened your own label. And I needed to come and check it out."

"Oh, well thanks, I started it in Tree Hill actually. This is an expansion", she finally gathers the papers and stapler from the floor and places them all on her desk. Jake nods his head and takes a seat in the chair across from her.

"Tree Hill, huh?" she meets his eyes and nods. "How long have you been there?"

"It was a little over three years", she mumbles as her throat tightens, "I've been here for a couple of months," she pauses and takes in a deep – gasping breath – her heart feels like it's in her throat. She's got so many questions and she's still confused as to why he's really here.

"How's Lucas?" he asks softly. She furrows her brows and tilts her head in confusion. "Is he here in LA too or back in Tree Hill?"

"Lucas is in Tree Hill . . . and we don't really talk", she admits sullenly. "But Brooke is great and she's practically engaged to this movie producer. Nathan and Haley are doing wonderfully, Jamie is growing like a weed", she spits out all this information about people he hasn't heard about in years.

"That's great", he says enthusiastically, his Jake-like manners always at the forefront. "But, you live in Tree Hill and don't talk to Lucas?" this time he's wearing the confused face.

"Not anymore", she says softly – uncomfortably – and tucks some hair behind her ear. Now she's thinking about Lucas and her heart is aching in a completely different way than it was when Jake walked in. "How's Jenny?"

"She's amazing. She's seven and loves to play Barbie's and dress up, I'm a professional at French braiding now", he pokes fun at himself and Peyton chuckles. "She misses you though", he admits softly.

Peyton's eyes begin to water and she has to take a deep breath before says; "I miss her too. I'm glad she hasn't forgotten about me", she lets herself laugh a little and Jake shakes his head.

"She'll never forget about you. I won't let her."

"Jake . . ."

Jake leans forward in his seat and rests his elbows on his knees, "Peyton, do you . . . do you know why I called off the engagement?" he asks softly.

"Because you hated me?" she mumbles as she stares at her desk. Jake lets out a breath of air that's mixed with a laugh and shakes his head.

"I didn't hate you, Peyton. I loved you . . . more than almost anything in the world; because Jenny always comes first", he teases, though he's serious. Peyton smiles because she loves that little girl just as much as he does.

"Then why?" she finally asks him the question she's wondered for years. "Jake, I wanted to marry you so badly."

"Do you know you talk in your sleep?" he asks calmly.

She says nothing, but she does know. Lucas told her when they spent a summer together before senior year. He's also told numerous times since they were whatever they were. With Lucas on her mind (though that's hardly something new) she finds herself wondering how he is and what he's doing . . .

"Jake, I don't understand what that has to do with anything", she says truthfully. "Okay, so I talk in my sleep? Most people would find that endearing", Lucas always did.

"You said I love you . . ." he whispers and then trails off. Peyton can tell that it's hard for him to speak about this, but she doesn't understand why.

"That's usually a good thing to hear your fiancée say", she points out.

"You said I love you, Lucas."

In an instant she feels like her entire world is different and nothing makes any sense. She shakes her head and closes and opens her mouth a few times before she finally just stares at her desk.

"Peyton?" Jake says softly. She bites back tears and lifts her head to stare at him. He leans back; if looks could kill he would be dead on spot.

"How could you not tell me?" she's angry. She's so incredibly angry with this man that she cannot believe that she ever loved him so much. He's kept this secret for years and it could have . . . it could have changed so much.

"Peyton I loved you so much. I couldn't bear the thought of losing you, especially to another guy"; they both hear what he isn't saying – Especially Lucas.

"But what about after you broke up with me?" she asks angrily. "Why didn't you tell me then?"

He doesn't have an answer and the both know what he would say even if he could find the words. He never would have guessed that she needed to be clued in. It should have been obvious because it was so painfully obvious to everyone else around them.

"It was always there", she whispers aloud to herself. Jake meets her eyes and nods his head with a sad smile. Her anger dissipates and she stares at Jake. The man she was so willing to spend the rest of her life with. Instead of feeling anger over him not telling her, she feels sympathy and appreciation.

Because instead of marrying her, he set her free.

"Thank you", she whispers next. His confusion is obvious, but he smiles at her anyway and stands to leave. Peyton stands also and follows him to the door.

"This is all really great, Peyton", she blushes because she still cannot believe she's actually living her dream life. "But we both know it's not everything, right?"

On impulse, Peyton pulls him in for a bone-crushing hug. At the end of the day, he was a great friend before anything and he's made that apparent again today. He hugs her back, just as tightly and wonders if there will ever be a day that he's completely over Peyton Sawyer. Or if she just holds on to that piece of your heart forever.

"See ya, Peyt", he says softly and gives her that goofy smile that made her laugh during some of her saddest times. She places her hand on his cheek and places a kiss to the other one.

"Tell Jenny I said hi, and that she can call me if she ever needs anything", the little girls father smiles because he's so very glad that her relationship with Jenny doesn't have to change. "That goes for you too, Jagelski." Apparently theirs doesn't either.

He leaves and Peyton closes the door behind him. She rushes to her desk and presses the intercom button. The second she hears her secretary's voice she's telling her to book a plane ticket and to get someone on the phone to take her place for a while. Probably indefinitely.

She's got a boy to win back.

( Lay with me in your thinnest dress
Fill my heart with each caress
between your blissful kisses, whisper
Darling is this love?
)

It's a gorgeous Sunday morning and Lucas is spending it at the Rivercourt. They've had some pretty heavy rainstorms lately and it feels good to get out of the house. The ball swishes as it sails through the net and Lucas smiles.

He shoots the ball and it goes in. He doesn't ask any questions. He doesn't even think about it. That's just the way it is. He shoots the ball again, but misses miserably this time.

Or the way it was.

He shakes his head and wonders if Peyton will ever not be at the forefront of his mind. That moment happened when they were 16 years old and he can still remember it clear as day. The night was cool enough for just a t-shirt and she was in her cheerleading uniform – he chose to ignore the fact that she was probably spending her earlier time with his brother – they exchanged those very words and a few biting quips, but he savored every moment.

But maybe its because he's at such a significant spot.

She's been gone for a while now. A little over two months, but it feels like a lifetime. His friends don't know the exact reason for her sudden departure. All that means is that they don't know that he barred his heart and soul, again, and she turned him down, again.

"God, I'm pathetic", he muses aloud to the empty court. He dribbles the ball and arcs it perfectly into the net. He places his hands on his hips as it bounces onto the grass.

"Nice shot."

He swears his heart stops. He honestly thinks he's having a heart attack until he feels his pulse start to race uncontrollably. Peyton watches as he bows his head and pinches the bridge of his nose before finally turning in her direction.

"So here's the thing", she starts talking as soon as he looks at her. "I was wrong, LA doesn't have everything. It doesn't have Nathan waking me up at six in the morning to go jogging and it doesn't have Jamie begging me to bake chocolate chip cookies with him even though they're always a little too salty. It doesn't have Brooke and Haley demanding that we have a girl's night even though we spend almost every day together –"

"Peyton . . ." he cuts her off in confusion. He cannot believe she's standing here, but at the same time he doesn't know why she's standing here.

"LA doesn't have the man that I love", she says finally. Her eyes are filled with unshed tears and he takes a tentative step closer to her. "Tree Hill does and I think it always has."

He smiles softly – smirks really – and takes another step closer. "I am so terribly in love with you, Lucas Scott and I think I have been for a really long time", she whispers as the salty water makes zigzags down her cheek.

He comes to stand in front of her and rests his forehead against hers. He hasn't said anything other than her name, but the fact that he's this close to her has to be a good thing. If it's some sort of cruel form of payback she will die right here on the tarmac of the Rivercourt. That's not an exaggeration either; she will literally die of a broken heart.

"Nice legs", he whispers.

And then he kisses her.

It's filled with every possible emotion that they could not possibly express with words. She wraps her arms tightly around his neck and he lifts her off of the ground. They both need air desperately, but neither wants to end this perfect moment. They finally break apart and in between panting for air, Lucas peppers kisses across her face.

"I love you, too", he says softly before kissing her lips once more. "This is it, though. You and me. No games, no rules, no pretending."

"You and me", Peyton echoes. He wraps his arms around her waist and she rests her head on his chest.

"This is how it feels, huh?" he mumbles. Peyton doesn't answer, just draws circles over his shirt. "To be in a committed relationship with you."

She giggles softly and places a kiss to his heart. He rests his cheek on the top of her head and breathes in that scent he's missed so damn much. He knows they have a few things to talk about and their will probably be some tears shed, but right now he's content. Peyton must feel the same because her only response is;

"I think this is just what it feels like to be in love."

( Whisper to me, is this love? )

Let me know what you think!