Peyton awoke, sated, satisfied and happy. Until she rolled over to her side and noticed the space next to her, in the bed, was empty. She thought at first Lucas might have made his way to the bathroom or the kitchen, until she realized the stark truth – he was gone.
It was early morning, around 6 a.m. on a Sunday. Peyton tried to tell herself he might have had an early practice or needed to do some work in his office. She told herself that well into the afternoon. Then she began to worry. What if Lucas had gone out to run and errand and gotten into an accident? The fear of losing another man she loved washed over her. Because, yes, she truly believed she was in love with Lucas Scott, even if they had only known each other a few months.
Peyton called his cell and he didn't answer. She texted him and asked him to please call her, she was worried. Around 6 p.m. she got a text from Lucas.
"Very busy. Sorry to leave like I did. Talk soon."
She read the text and her heart fell. It was cold and indifferent and not a good combination from a man you just had sex with.
Lucas avoided Peyton's calls all day until he sent her the text. It was impersonal and almost downright cold. But it was the way he felt inside – empty and cold. He had been on top of the world when he woke up Saturday morning – excited he and Peyton were going to take their relationship public.
Even after the debacle in the diner, Lucas still felt they would be okay, that Peyton just needed some time. And when he had shown up at her door and she had pulled him inside her home, and kissed him, he felt like they could have it all. Until she said his name.
He shouldn't be jealous. He shouldn't feel the way he did. But he couldn't help it. He loved Peyton and he wanted her to love him, not the face he wore, the face of her dead husband. Whispering her husband's name had really thrown him and made him feel like pursuing something with her wasn't worth it.
Lucas felt like a heel. He knew he should just man up and take her call. Bring it out in the open, but he didn't. Instead he let his cell phone ring, let his voicemail pick up and then sent that text. Yes, he was an ass. But he was an ass trying to protect his heart. Maybe that made him a coward, maybe that made him weak, but for now it made him a man that didn't have to live with a ghost.
Late Sunday evening, Lucas was pacing in the living room of his small townhouse. He shouldn't have treated Peyton that way, not after everything she had been through. He scooped up his keys, on the side table by the door, and walked out. He had to see her. He couldn't leave it like this, not when he was leaving on Monday for a six-week recruiting trip.
Peyton had been in a daze all day, trying to think over and over in her mind what would have driven Lucas away. She couldn't think of anything, they seemed to be connecting and getting past their issues.
She was sitting on her couch, mindlessly flipping through television stations, when there was a knock on the door. She looked down at her appearance -baggy sweats, a yellow shirt with a hole at the bottom near the hem, and big white socks was her attire of the day and who ever was at the door could deal with it.
It was Lucas at the door. She was excited and shocked to see him standing in her doorway.
"You are making a habit of just showing up at my door," Peyton proclaimed. She tried to keep the air light between them, when all she wanted to know was what the hell was going on with him.
"It seems that way," he was back to shuffling his feet again. "Can I come in?"
Peyton shook her head and opened the door wider to allow him access. He walked into the living room and stood by the couch.
"Sit down," Peyton said, swinging her hand in the direction of the couch.
"No, I am fine." Lucas stuffed his hands in his pocket.
Peyton walked up to him and stared him in the eyes. She loved his deep blue eyes, they told so much about him. Today, they were cloudy and hard to read. "What's wrong Lucas?" There, she said it. She got it out there.
"I don't know," he said and stepped back from her. If she touched him, Lucas wasn't sure what he would do.
"Lucas?" It was a question, but Peyton was also calling him out.
"It's Liam, okay," he all but shouted his dead brother's name. "Just when I think maybe we could have something he is there."
Peyton was stunned by his declaration. "Lucas, of course Liam will always be here. He was my husband, your brother."
"I know, and I know I am sounding like an ass," Lucas began to pace. "But you said his name." The last sentence squeaked out of him, full of frustration and pain.
"Lucas, what are you talking about?" Peyton walked near him again and placed her hand on his arm.
"Last night, after we…." He couldn't say made love, he couldn't say had sex.
"You mean, after.." Peyton couldn't say it either.
"You were asleep," Lucas said. "I was watching you sleep and you had this amazing smile on your face, and I don't know, I felt so awesome knowing I had made you happy and then you said his name."
"Oh, honey," she stroked Lucas' arm. "I think that was when I was dreaming. I know it doesn't made sense, but I was kind of letting Liam go. And in my dream, I believe he was telling me it was okay to be with you."
Could it be that easy? Could it, Lucas thought?
"I don't know, Peyton." Lucas stepped from her touch again. "What if I always feel like this?" He rubbed his hands over his face. "Like I can never measure up."
"Come here," she took Lucas' hand and brought him to the couch. He sat down and she sat next to him.
"I loved Liam with my whole heart," she placed her hand over her chest. "But he wasn't perfect. None of us are. Sure, it is easy to make them see so after they are dead."
Lucas shook his head, listening to her.
"I want to tell you something," Peyton took Lucas' hand in hers. "I haven't told anyone this, okay?" She was telling him she was sharing something with Lucas, trusting him with part of herself no one knew.
"Okay," he drawled.
"Liam and I were in a huge fight when the accident happened," Peyton breathed in and let it out. Lucas could see it was hard for her to admit that, but also as if it was lightening her load to tell it.
And then she told Lucas what really happened the last day Liam was alive.
Peyton and Liam had wanted to start a family even before they had set a wedding date. With the engagement ringer on her finger and a tentative wedding date set, they threw away all precaution and began working on their family. Both came from fractured families and they wanted to fill their house with children.
They didn't worry that Peyton didn't conceive after the first couple of months but when that drug on, both became concerned. Peyton saw a doctor and eventually Liam did as well. The news wasn't good. Peyton was told it would be almost impossible for her to conceive due to some long-named condition and to add insult injury, Liam was told he had a low sperm count, so that was two strikes against them already.
Peyton took the news hard, but Liam took it harder, but soon Peyton tried to come to terms with it, Liam would not. Peyton had told him they could adopt, they could help a child in need, give him or her a good life. Liam stood firm, saying he only wanted to raise a child that was his. It pained Peyton to hear him say that, making her feel like she couldn't give the man she loved the one thing he longed for, never thinking that his problems were part of the equations.
"We were arguing pretty heavily about it right before the accident," Peyton raised her hand to wipe a tear from her face. "And he had turned to me, so upset, and didn't see the car coming straight at us."
Peyton," Lucas whispered. He collected her in his arms and held her close. She began to cry harder and he reached out and stroked her head. "Shhh," he whispered.
"I am damaged," she said into Lucas' shoulder. "Maybe you should just give up on me." Peyton lifted her head and looked at Lucas. "I am your brother's widow and I can't even give you a child."
"Hey," Lucas said. He placed his hands on her shoulder. "Peyton, I care about you." Lucas rubbed his hands up and down her arm. "I think I love you," he amazed himself for admitting. He leaned down and brushed his lips to hers.
"Lucas," she said his name brushing her nose across his cheek. "I love you too."
"I'm sorry for being an ass today," he said rubbing the knuckle of his right index finger across his cheek. "I would never hurt you on purpose."
"But," Peyton began…
"What," Lucas chuckled a bit. "If a little matter of you being the widow of my dead twin brother isn't going to stop me from loving and being with you, do you think not having a kid with you will?"
Peyton shrugged her shoulders.
"Peyton," He put his finger under her chin and lifted her chin so he could look her in the eyes. "Would I love to have babies with you? Hell yes." Lucas lifted up the side of his mouth in a half grin. "But it isn't a deal breaker, okay?
Peyton shook her head yes that she understood.
"Besides, I think we are jumping the gun here," Lucas said trying to lighten the mood. "Who says I want to have sex with you again, anway?"
"Well, that can go both ways," Peyton giggled. "And to think, I was going to give it up to you tonight."
"Oh, come on," Lucas said leaning back on the couch and pulling Peyton with him. "Can't you tell when a guy is joking?"
"Is it really okay? Are you okay?" Peyton said returning the topic to more serious matters.
"I am okay, you are okay." Lucas kissed the top of her head. "We are perfect."
"Good," Peyton said nestling into his embrace.
"I just hate we wasted a whole Sunday and I have to go out of town tomorrow," Lucas admitted.
"I will be here when you get back," Peyton told him.
"I like the sound of that," Lucas said getting up from the couch and taking Peyton with him. "Right now, why don't you come in the bedroom and give me my going away present."
"Now, I like the sound of that," Peyton said as he drug her down the hall.