Author's Note: Okay, so I was going to wait awhile to post this, but I figured 'What the hell?' and decided to just go ahead and post it, so I wouldn't leave you all hanging for too long. I know the fence is pretty split on what should happen, and I'm not going to spoil you guys by stating my opinion here, so I'll explain myself at the end. Enjoy.
"You're not serious, are you?"
Haley watched Nathan's face closely, waiting for him to break out in a grin and tell her that he was just joking around. After almost a minute of staring, she realized that he wasn't playing around; he was actually proposing to her. The guy that had broken her heart more times over the past summer than she even thought possible was really standing in front of her and expecting what, exactly? Did he think she was going to start crying, jump up into his arms and forgiving him for everything that he had done to her? Was he that dense?
"I've never been more serious in my life," Nathan answered, struggling to keep his voice on an even level. He hoped that he seemed cool and confident on the outside because he was a complete wreak on the inside. He glanced down at the ring in his hands before looking back up at her. "I mean it, Haley. I want you to be my wife."
"Your wife?" Haley repeated, all the amusement she was feeling not making its way into her voice. She looked back up into his eyes to make sure she knew exactly what was going on. "You really want to marry me?"
"More than anything," he restated firmly. His palms were beginning to get sweaty and it was cold out. This wasn't how things were supposed to go. In his head, she was overjoyed at the idea and couldn't wait to tie the knot. He gulped past the lump in his throat to speak again. "Will you marry me, Haley?"
Haley's eyes followed his movements as he dropped down to one knee and held up the velvet box so she could still see the ring. He was really going all out for this. She had to admit though; the ring was absolutely beautiful. It wasn't too big or too small and it was in the perfect shape. It looked just like the ring that she had pointed out when they had gone to the mall to pick out Peyton's birthday present earlier that year. When she looked at it more closely, she noticed that it was the same ring and she was flattered that he remembered.
As sweet as it was that he remembered, that wasn't the reason she going to base her decision on. It didn't matter to her what he said from now on, she had already made her decision. Her face remained unreadable as she thought over what Skills had told her. It was all about trust. Could she trust him?
"No," she answered simply in a light voice. As much as it hurt to realize that their relationship really was over, the whole situation was far too funny and ironic for her. She watched his face fall in complete disappointment and that just made her laugh even harder at him.
"No?" Haley laughed harder. The honest shock in his voice was enough to push her over the edge. He really did think that she was going to say yes, didn't he? Oh, God, her sides were starting to hurt. Nathan slowly got to his feet, shutting the lid on the box and shoving it into his pocket. This was not the reaction he was hoping for.
"Oh, God," she breathed, trying to catch her breath. When she had come here, she was expecting him to beg for her forgiveness and plead with her to take her back. Instead, he gets down on one knee and asks for her hand in marriage? It was like a Greek tragedy unfolding in front of her eyes.
"That really wasn't what I expected to happen," he commented, Haley's laughter starting to get on his nerves as his defensive nature kicked in. He really put himself out there in an attempt to show her that he was really sorry for everything that he had done and she just laughed at him. Nobody laughed at Nathan Scott.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," she apologized halfheartedly, trying to cover her mouth in am attempt to stifle her giggles. It took her a few moments and after seeing the pissed off look on his face, she started to calm down. She fanned her face and whipped the tears off her cheeks. "It's just… what were you thinking?"
"Well, I was kinda thinking we could get married," he answered in a defeated tone. He sighed and running a hand through his hair. "Come here." He stepped forward, and laid a hand on Haley's back, leading her over to the empty bench that was just a few feet away. Once they were seated, Nathan took Haley's hands in his and turned her to face him.
"Haley, just let me explain, please." Haley nodded, the amusement from before dying down. "The things that I've done over this past summer, well they didn't just start. I've been cheating on you ever since we first starting going out. I know that isn't going to help my case any, but I feel that I should be honest with you, that you deserve that at least."
"Thank you?" Haley asked, not sure what she was expected to say to that. She had her suspicions about that, wondering if it was just a one-time thing or not. She knew she should probably be pissed at him or hurt or something, but she was all out of tears for him. He had pretty much done all the damage he could do already. She was numb to him now, it seemed.
"And I just wanted to tell you about the whole thing with Peyton." Her eyebrows shot up to her hairline and he realized what they must have sounded like. "No, no, not me and Peyton. She would never do that to you. I was just going to tell you that she didn't like lying to you…"
"Nathan, me and Peyton are cool now," she told him. "You don't have to tell me what happened." Truth was, even though she had already dealt with all of this, she really didn't need to hear anymore. As much as she wanted to deny it, it still hurt.
"But I just wanted to…"
"I don't want you to," she cut him off. She wasn't sure what the purpose for this was. Did he think that he was going to be able to get her to change her mind? Well, that wasn't going to happen. She had made her decision, she thought about it and she was set. Nothing he said, no matter how many times he said he was sorry, she wasn't going to say yes. "I'm not sure what your intentions are, but…"
"I wanted to prove to you how much I love you."
"By proposing to me?" she exclaimed. He looked down as she removed her hands from his grip. "Nathan, that isn't the way it works. You cheated on me, with countless girls, okay? You got Lacy pregnant, almost ruined my relationship with my best friends and nearly got me killed." Before Nathan could interject, she continued. "You can't just make that go away by flashing a commitment and a diamond ring in my face."
"I wanted to show you that I've changed," he explained. He was starting to sound desperate at this point and Haley noticed. "I woke up this past summer and I realized that I need to grow up. I can't keep living my life this way or I'm going to end up like my father. And I don't want that. I want to change, I have changed."
"You really haven't," she told him. It truly amazed her that after everything that had happened, he still didn't get it. She guessed that sometimes guys just never learned. "You're still looking for the quick fix."
"That isn't what this is about," he corrected her. Or was it? Nathan hadn't really ever given it much thought. All he knew was that he wanted Haley back and he was willing to do anything to make that happen.
"Then what is this about, Nathan?"
"It's about showing you that I can make a commitment," he answered. Nathan was starting to get scared. Clearly this wasn't working and he could practically see Haley slipping away from him. "I have changed, and I want to prove that to you."
"Marrying me doesn't prove that." This needed to end. He was starting to look pathetic and she didn't know how much longer she could sit here and talk with him before he got down on his knees and clung to her legs. "Do you think having a ring on your finger is somehow going to magically keep it in your pants? You cheated before and there's nothing to say that you won't cheat again."
"No, Nathan." She sighed and stood up. "My answer is no."
"No," she repeated. She saw the broken look flash across his face and she almost felt sorry for him, almost. "Look, I do forgive you, if that's worth anything." He looked up at her in surprise at the words. After she said no he didn't think he'd ever hear those words again.
"Really?" He had such hope in his voice and it made Haley feel bad that he thought he had a chance. It didn't chance anything at all. She just felt the need to tell him that. She nodded. "Then why won't you marry me?"
"Because marriage is about trust," she answered. "When Brooke told me I died, I realized that life is short. It's cliché as hell, but it's so true. I can't go through my entire life holding this grudge against you. And I'll never be able to move on if I have this hatred towards you." Nathan felt his heart drop to his feet when she said move on. He never really thought about her dating anyone else. "I forgive you, but it's more for me than for you. I have to forgive you to be able to move on, so that's what I'm doing."
"You're moving on?"
"Yeah," she answered quietly. She didn't exactly know where she was moving on to, but she just hoped it was someplace that didn't have drama. She didn't know if she'd be able to handle another heartbreak. She moved in front of him and knelt down, taking his chin in her hands and moving his face up so she was looking at her. "I'm sorry, Nathan. I forgive you, but this can't work. At least not right now."
"But maybe," he started, getting lost in the deep brown eyes that were staring at him. It was driving him crazy having her this close to him, and not being able to have her against him. "Maybe someday?" Haley smiled sadly at him and nodded.
"Maybe someday," she promised. She rubbed his cheeks, wiping away the single tear that had managed to escape. Acting on instinct alone, she leaned forward and kissed him. He was surprised at the contact, but it only took him a minute before he responded.
"Haley," Nathan whispered when they pulled away. Haley closed her eyes, feeling bad that she had done that. She just couldn't say leave without kissing those lips one more time. She shook her head and silenced him.
"I love you, Nathan," she whispered, and he could tell that she was crying. Her voice was wavering and he could taste the salt on his lips. "I will always love you, but I can't trust you." He closed his eyes as her words cut through him. He nodded against her forehead. She brought their lips together on last time before pulling away from him completely. "I'm sorry."
"Me too." She stood up straight and looked down at him, not sure what to do. Just as she was about to reach out again, he looked up at her with watery eyes and she pulled away. She brought that hand to her chest and bit her lip.
"I'll see you at school tomorrow?" He let out a slight laugh, which she thought, came out more as a cry, and nodded. She unclenched her fist and gave him a small wave before slowly spinning on her heels, turning her back and walking away.
Nathan watched her retreating back until she was completely out of view. Letting out a defeated sigh, he got to his feet and walked down the sand to stand at the shoreline. His hand grazed against the velvet of the ring box when he tried to put his hands in his pocket.
He slowly pulled it out and clicked the lid open to reveal the shiny diamond engagement ring. He regretted the action and quickly shut the lid. He wrapped his fingers around it tightly, dropping his hand to his side. His eyes traveled towards the water in front of him and he contemplated just throwing the box in. Throwing away any future he had with Haley.
After a moment, his shoulders slumped as he placed the ring safely back into his pocket. He watched the water for a couple more minutes before he began walking back to his apartment.
"So, you ready for school tomorrow?" Brooke asked, turning her head to look at her blond friend. They were both sprawled out on Brooke bed, lying on their backs and staring up at the ceiling. There was quiet depressing music playing in the background, but neither girl was paying much attention to it.
"So we can hear what ridiculous stories Theresa made up to explain why we're single?" Peyton asked in a sarcastic tone. She hated the fact that Jake lied to her, she hated the fact that she had broken up with him, and she hated the fact that she was feeling this way. The only upside being that she wasn't alone. At least Brooke and Haley were going through the same thing. "I can't wait."
"I don't think she'll need to make anything up this time," Brooke told her, turning her head to star back up at the ceiling. "For once the truth is juicy enough." Just like Peyton, Brooke was feeling lonely, but she had the comfort of knowing that there were no hard feelings between her and Luke, they were just taking a break until everything settled down. They didn't want their relationship to go down in smoke like everyone's around them had.
"Yeah, I guess," Peyton sighed. The girls laid in silence for a few moments, both lost in their thoughts.
"It's been one hell of a summer, huh?" Brooke asked, breaking the silence. Peyton let out a snort in agreement. She could remember the first day of summer as if it were yesterday. Everyone was so happy then, before Nathan went and screwed everything up.
"Tell me about it."
"The golden couple was torn apart by a scandalous affair," Brooke recapped in her best 'previously on…' voice. "The teen parents' romance was rocked when a dark secret was revealed, the young lovers pulled a Ross and Rachel, and the token perverted guy got hitched." Brooke shook her head. "We're like a freaking soap opera."
"You can say that again," Peyton agreed. It was things like this that made the heartache just a little less. Being able to joke around with Brooke helped her forget about the void in her now that she didn't have Jake.
"Just imagine what the school year will bring."
"Oh, God," Peyton groaned, closing her eyes. Before she could smother herself with the pillow, she heard someone come into the room. Without saying anything, Haley crawled up on the bed and lay down in between Brooke and Peyton, starring up at the ceiling too.
"Hey, you," Brooke greeted, glancing at her best friend out of the corner of her eye. She could tell that Haley had been crying, but decided that it would be best to just let it be. Haley would tell them when she was ready. "Where ya been? We tried calling you earlier."
"I went to go see Nathan," she answered simply. Brooke and Peyton were both surprised at the news since they both thought that Haley never wanted to see him again.
"It's over." It felt weird to Haley to say it out loud. She had been repeating it over and over in her head the entire way over there, but saying it just made it so final.
"Wow," Peyton breathed. As mush as she didn't want Haley to take Nathan back, she honestly thought Haley would. She tried to think of what things would be like without them being together. For some reason, no matter what happened or where the group went, she always pictured Nathan and Haley being together. She just couldn't imagine them not being a couple. It just didn't seem right.
"You okay?" Brooke asked softly, her thoughts running along the same lines as Peyton's.
"No." Peyton laid a supportive hand on her leg and Brooke squeezed her hand.
They had all gone through hell this summer and they all ended up short. They all had their hearts broken, but it didn't matter, they couldn't dwell on it forever. Life had to go on. They had to stick together and help each other out, all of them did. Eventually, the pain would lessen and maybe one day they would all be okay again.
Haley believed that. She had to.
"But I will be."
dodges various messy foods That's it. It's done. It's been a wild ride, huh? Okay, I know that a lot of you are mad, but there was no possible way in hell that I was getting them back together. No. Way. In. Hell. Now, let me explain myself:
I cannot believe that there is anyone out there that would want or expect Haley to say yes to that bastard. You guys were reading the same story that I was writing, yes? You read that part where he's been cheating on her for the past two year? Where he got Lacy's pregnant? Where he got Haley's best friends to turn against her? Where he lied to her face about everything that he did? Where he brought a psycho stalker bitch up to a cabin where he was not welcomed, where Haley was, just a week after that had broken up? If so, I still can't believe that you expected anyone in their right mind to have Haley forgive him. That us just not possible.
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that Nathan doesn't deserve a change at forgiveness, everyone deserves a second chance. Or in Nathan's case, a 100th chance. That's what the sequel is for, ladies and gentlemen. Which will be up soon enough, I think. And for those of you who enjoyed the Haley/Skills stuff in the last chapter, there will be more of that in the sequel, so you guys can look forward to that.
Please review, even if you're bitter about the ending. And please, don't compare this to what is going on with Haley on the show, like a couple people have. One, this was written before that craptastic storyline happen. And two, what Haley did on the show, is nothing compared with what Nathan did in my story.
Anyway, I hope that you guys aren't too mad at me, and that you understand. And I really hope that you'll follow me over to the sequel, which is entitled; All Falls Down.