one tree hill. nathan; peyton. pg 13. 1265 words. at ten, she marks him with ice cream and nick names. sometimes- not often, nathan scott reflects. this is for fiddlings and viennawaits without whom this would have spent another couple of months on my laptop. unbeta’d- all mistakes are my own. (there are many of these since i finished writing it on the bus) title is from ryan star’s song “last train home” which reminds of these two for some inexplicable reason.
At ten, she was tall.
Taller than all the boys, taller than Brooke, than him. Skinny legs, bruised knees and that mess of hair in her eyes.
Once- just once- she beat him at basketball.
Beginner’s luck, she shoots, she scores, she wins and he has to buy her ice cream for a week. They have it on her front porch, she’s studiously licking away at it, his chin is wet and this, he’ll remember is the start of something.
Turns towards him, mouth dry from talking, and tongue pressed to the corner of one lip, wiping away the heat and she calls him “Nate” and no ones ever called him that before, never thought to cut the last inch of his name, never thought to mark him, like that.
Sun sets, she smacks the back of his head and runs inside.
At ten, she marks him with ice cream and nick names. At ten-
He is hers.
Someone summed up their relationship once, fighting and sex. He can’t remember who- Brooke, maybe? It doesn’t matter. It’s sort a general consensus amongst their acquaintances. They say history is written by the victors.
He isn’t sure what this means- isn’t sure he cares. Takes the words to mean whatever he wants, takes history down as the equation of mouths, of twined limbs and the complicated anatomy of heart and heart.
Battlefield stretched out between them, wars never won and no one ever thinks about him and Peyton for long enough to write more than those three words- “fighting and sex”.
In some ways- it makes sense. He’s no romantic, he won’t put it all to paper, won’t print copies of it. What bothers him- sometimes, not often (he’s a married man, happy. The ring takes a turn on his finger.)- the implication that they never came to anything is they never meant anything.
Logic, here, defies him. So they had a couple of rough patches.
Who ever wrote stories about the lovers that were happy?
She marries Lucas.
No one is surprised, least of all him. There’s a big white wedding, the dress falling over the curve of her belly and Nathan isn’t sure how they got here.
At his wedding, she wore red, hair up and he thought, just once, at the altar about how much he’d appreciated the turn of her neck, mouth pressed to it in the back seat of his car with the windows rolled down and some cd of hers rolling in the stereo.
Her wedding, he drank a little the night before and his head still feels light in the morning. She comes down the stairs, all white and bright and “Oh, Nate” and soon, there are coffee mugs propped up on the counter, her palm resting briefly against his cheek.
Once, at sixteen, he made breakfast in bed for her. Made a mess all over the sheets, all over her and she tasted it all against his mouth and touched his cheek and said thank you, anyway.
Then, he’d leaned into the touch. It was one of those rare moments of tenderness and his lips brushed over her wrist and when she’d sighed, he’d felt her breath at his temple and it took the hangover away.
Now, he flinches. Backs away, the clocks read ten past the hour and they both ought to dress, he says.
To be honest, he never really saw it coming.
Harsh words were spoken but it didn’t feel like the end. Not to him, not then. Sharp green eyes and he read “I’m mad at you” not “I’m done with you”.
Read her eyes and not her lips, like he always did and when he walked out, he never thought he wasn’t coming back.
Ten, she wins him, seventeen he loses her and this ought to be the end of the story.
He trades in lies and cheats for happiness, love of a good woman and a wedding ring and really, losing Peyton ought not to matter, at this point.
They’re easier exes than most, share space, share friends and air. Pizza, one night and her fingers ruffle through his brother’s hair and her mouth takes the word “Luke.”
Seventeen, he loses her and accepts it.
The word hits hard, punch to the gut and he flinches, fingers tighten around his drink and the beer goes stale in his mouth.
There was a time- it’s been a while, now- but there was a time when Haley left their marriage and Lucas left their relationship (such as it was) and it occurs to him how simple it might be, how natural because she’s sitting across from him, mouth stretched out in a grin and she swears she’s sketching him. He can’t even remember, really why they ever broke up in the first place. Just because they fought doesn’t mean there was nothing there worth fighting for.
Truth be told, he thought it would be right, fitting and that sooner or later, they’d find their way back to each other. They’ve never needed maps or signs or compasses but Peyton spins her own needles now, takes it all off the table and he looks to her and she doesn’t look back.
He wonders if she ever thought of it at all.
You could call it friendship, he guesses. If you were so inclined.
When her world crashes, or his- the other is always there. Waiting in the wings, never really there but around all the same.
Out on the court, she throws her arms around him and “You’re doing so good, Nate.” The muscles of his wrist flex against her back and she is proud.
The camera cuts him out, through her lens- he is all bright and light and through her lens, he wears wings.
They never held hands together, not once.
She comes home, with his brother. Lucas brushes past him, hand on one shoulder and Haley’s in the kitchen.
Peyton leans against the doorway, hand on her purse and the other pressed to her temples.
“Feeling all right?” his mouth is fumbles over the concern, never quite easy with practice.
She nods- “Take a walk with me.” Her brow is white, faint lines colored in and she sways a little as she walks, Sawyer climbing down her hip and making his way down the corridor. They amble down the steps, down the street and he falls into step with her.
It’s quiet, they’ve never needed much conversation. (Screams, moans, banter- they can’t fall into that anymore.)
She’s weaker than he’s ever seen before, eyes too bright and his hand takes her elbow, steadies her. They stop, half dusk light glowing around the curve of her hair as it sits just before him, quarter of a halo above her.
“Did you ever think we’d be here?”
She doesn’t turn around as she says it, fingers touching her throat. They are here, though, by intention or not. Married, stable. Happy, in some small ways. Settled and no one would ever have thought that of them. They were rash, unpredictable, they were brilliant and they were never supposed to be this suburban.
His hand slips down her forearm, brushes over the light hairs there and their fingers link, tangle. He looks down, watches their rings clink together and catch the dying flame of the sunset.
He never thought it, of course. But they’re here.