AN: It's over! I feel like singing Frank Sinatra now..."and now we've reached, the final curtain... la la la la! la la la la! la la la la! la la uncertain!" (obviously don't know the words.)

I'm not sure I'm happy about how this turned out, but I rewrote it about a bajillion times and I don't think I can do anything more with it.

Oh well, I'll try and make it up to you with a nice sequel. Here goes...

Chapter Thirty-Eight

The Game's Already Won

Nathan

"Wow, attractive."

I turn around to see Lucas in the door, watching as I struggle to lift a box of heavy stuff. Really heavy stuff.

"Well, you could always help," I snap. Lucas laughs and walks in, taking one side of the box while I take the other. We manage to get downstairs and throw the box in the trunk of my car.

"Is that everything?" Lucas asks. I raise my eyebrows like he's crazy.

"I'm going to college Lucas, not on vacation. Of course there's some more stuff."

Lucas rolls his eyes, but over the next ten minutes the two of us manage to successfully squeeze all of the boxes and luggage in my room into the back of my Land Rover.

"Wow, my little brother is going to college before me," Lucas says with a shrug. I roll my eyes at him.

"A whole twodays before you," I laugh. Lucas starts Princeton in at the start of next month, I start Duke this month.

Lucas laughs with me. It's amazing that we used to hate each others guts. We can actually stand to be in the same room now, it's really quite amazing.

"When are you leaving?" He asks.

"About twelve," I tell him, looking again at the mountain of clothes and junk in the back of my car. This is going to be quite a cramped ride. Lucas checks his watch. It's only ten o'clock.

"How do you feel about a cup of coffee at Karen's?" He asks when he looks back up again. "I'll give Brooke, Peyton and Jake a call, say goodbye properly."

"Sounds good," I tell him. He pulls his cell-phone out of his pocket and starts dialling numbers. I go back into the house, walking into the kitchen.

"Everything's done." I say to my mom and dad. They look at me, my mom's eyes filled with proud tears and my dad giving me a crooked grin. "I'm not setting off until twelve, but I'm going to Karen's for a coffee with everyone, so I'll probably see you again just before I go."

"Okay son," Dad says, draining his coffee. Mom gives me a hug, her eyes still filled with tears. "We're proud of you… just make sure you maintain your basketball commitments," Dad goes on. I roll my eyes and walk back up to my room before he can give me yet another lecture. I don't know whats happening with him and Mom. I know she wants a divorce, but my dad's not going to give it to her easily. So they're living together like Mr and Mrs Happily Married. It kind of sucks.

I reach my bedroom and push open the door again, looking around my nearly empty room. All that's left is some furniture, including my bed and duvet covers. And under those duvet covers is my girlfriend.

Haley James.

"Hey, sleepyhead," I say softly, pulling the duvet cover from her. She groans and grabs it back, but not before I admire her figure in my Tree Hill Ravens basketball Jersey. I laugh at her tiny form, huddled up while she lies face down in my pillows. "Still hung over?" I ask.

She turns around and rubs her eyes with her fists. "What time is it?" she asks.

"Past ten," I reply. Her eyes widen and she goes to jump off the bed, but stops and clutches her head with another groan. I hand her the glass of water and aspirin that I'd left on the bedside table when I was packing our stuff out.

Her parents decided two weeks ago that seeing as how their youngest daughter was going to university – or flying the nest as they had put it – they were going to embrace their lifetime dream of travelling America in an RV, so Haley's been staying with us. Officially she's supposed to be in the guest bedroom, but she keeps sneaking in here, even though we still haven't done that yet, we just lie with each other.

It's strange, with anyone else I'd want to push the sex thing, but with Haley, everything is so perfect, and it doesn't feel like I need to. Besides, she has her beliefs, and I wouldn't want to push her.

"What time are we going?" she asks now, having gulped down the aspirin and water. I push a strand of hair from her face and kiss her forehead.

"Twelve. But we're going to Karen's to have one last drink with everyone."

"Didn't we have 'one last drink' last night?" Haley says with a grimace.

Last night was pretty wild. Because we're the first ones going off to University, Brooke threw a going away party. It was a night of dancing and drinking, in true underage high-school style, with a karaoke and a disco.

I'm sorry to say that I took part in both, doing a drunken version of the YMCA with basketball team, and a duet of Unchained Melody with Lucas. Yeah, I kind of got a little drunk…

But nowhere near as drunk as Haley. She was downing tequila's and vodka all night, in a completely out of character way. I think she's nervous about starting Duke, and she's going to miss her friends. But anyway, long story short, Haley ended up singing three karaoke songs – Sisters off White Christmas with Taylor, who came down to see her off and who is staying at the local Holiday Inn, Wannabe by the Spice Girls with Brooke and Peyton, and Man, I Feel Like a Woman by Shania Twain… solo. And then there was the striptease…

"Oh God," Haley groans, like she's thinking about the same thing as me. "Why didn't you stop me last night?" Haley asks.

I laugh at her. "It was kind of hard to. You were on a roll."

"Oh God," Haley says again. "I can't show my face here ever again…"

"Don't be so dramatic," I tell her. "Besides, you're going to Duke so you won't have to."

Haley bites her lip. "This is true."

"You know, if you don't want to come to Karen's, I'll make an excuse for you," I offer. "But personally, I think you'll regret it if you don't come and say goodbye to your friends. Besides, a cup of coffee would probably be good for you right now."

Haley bites her lip again, and suddenly she reaches forward and kisses me. "Give me five minutes?"


"Here comes stripper number three!" Jake laughs as me, Haley and Lucas walk into Karen's Café. I can't help but laugh, even when Haley throws me a death glare.

Peyton hides her head in her hands and Brooke grins broadly. I'm taking it Jake's told them they were stripper's number one and two. Wow, what a night.

What a view…

We all take a seat, and Brooke reaches over and kisses Lucas deeply on the lips.

"Get a room!" Haley and I shout at the same time. Peyton laughs and Jake throws a napkin at the two of them.

"You're just jealous," Brooke says with a grin.

Haley looks at everyone with slightly unfocused eyes. "You guys are way too chipper. Was I the only one that got drunk to the point of oblivion last night?" she asks.

"Yup!" Brooke tells her.

Peyton laughs, but shakes her head. "I've already had three cups of coffee. When I woke up this morning I felt like a woodpecker was banging away at my head," she tells us.

Rebecca the waitress comes over and takes our orders. Haley pulls her chair closer to mine and rests her head on my shoulder. I put my arm around her.

"Sweet!" Brooke chimes, and Peyton nods her head in agreement. "You tell us to get a room, and you two are the most sickeningly sweet couple at Tree Hill High."

"You're just jealous," Haley deadpans. I laugh and take a look at my friends. This is the last time we're going to be sitting like this… at least, until winter break.

Brooke's studying design at NYU, Peyton's going to Rhode Island School of Design to do art, Jake's going to Brown to study Economics, and Lucas is doing Literature at Princeton.

I'm still not completely sure what exactly I want to major in at Duke, but just the fact that I'm going with Haley is enough. She's doing something nerdy – math-related – and I'm going to be on the basketball team. And we're going to be together… always and forever.

I'll never forget when Haley said that to me after my coma. It was the day I woke up, and the day before everyone from the team started cramping my room up. She said she wanted to be with me, always and forever.

The drinks come – black coffee for Haley and milky coffee for me – and the six of us reminisce about our senior year at Tree Hill High.

The doctor was right, there was no long term damage, and surprisingly nothing was broken. I started Basketball a month and a half after my accident, and in my third game, I was spotted by the Duke talent scout.

Haley wanted to go to Stanford though, and because I wanted to be with her, I asked Whitey if he could get the Stanford scout to watch one of my games. My dad was furious when he found out. He said I was throwing away a fantastic opportunity, and the coach at Duke was one of the best in the country.

Haley surprised me though. She applied to Stanford and Duke, and after a long talk, we decided to pick one of the universities out of a hat – yes, very responsible – and we picked out Duke. I was worried Haley would be disappointed, but she said that as long as she was with me, everything would be fine.

I look down at her now and stroke her auburn hair out of her face. She closes her eyes softly and sighs like a contented cat.

"Feeling better?" I ask. She nods slowly and takes another gulp of black coffee.

"I can't believe we won the championship," Jake says now, and Lucas and I can't stop the grin from covering our faces while Haley and Peyton roll their eyes.

"In our senior year," Lucas adds. "How cool is that?"

"Yeah, good job I came back and saved your asses," I tell them with a cocky grin.

Haley laughs. "My boyfriend ladies and gentlemen, so modest."

I love it when she calls me that – the boyfriend part, not the modest part.

"Hey," Lucas butts in. "Me too. It's no joke having a stab wound in your leg and stomach you know!"

"Oh please," I mutter. "You healed from that way too quick. I was in a coma for a week and a half."

Lucas shrugs. "Guess I'm just stronger than you."

I open my mouth to protest, but Brooke decides it's her turn to speak.

"Okay, forget that,"She says with a cocked eyebrow. "The highlight of senior year was me being elected prom queen."

"For you," Haley mutters with a mock-sour expression. "I had to watch you slow-dance with my boyfriend. Not the best day ever."

I laugh at that. Senior Prom, oh the memories. I still remember how beautiful Haley looked in her sleek black dress, with her hair loose and wavy. The six of us spent the whole night dancing and laughing about stupid stuff that was so random I don't even remember any of it. I also remember that all of the girls wore black, and nearly had a fit when they found out. The six of us – the boys in our black tuxes, and the girls in their co-ordinating black dresses – looked like we were in mourning.

And, I guess we kind of were. I mean, it was the end of our high-school career, the end of our lives together in Tree Hill.

Brooke and I got named Prom Queen and King, with Peyton and Haley as the princesses, and Lucas and Kevin as Princes. I felt like such a dork with that stupid crown on my head.

"Yeah well, imagine how I felt," Lucas is saying now with a mischievous grin on his face. "My brother dancing with my girlfriend and my ex-girlfriend. Boy, did I feel inadequate."

Haley throws her napkin at him and he ducks it, but he doesn't manage to duck Brooke swatting his arm.

"Oh God, and when Rob got in," Peyton says. We shudder at the memory, and my arm tightens around Haley's shoulders.

Rob had escaped the detention facility and tried to go to the Prom. Thankfully he was caught and is still at the facility, hopefully not getting out again anytime soon.

"At least he was gone before he could do any harm," Haley says.

"God, I'm going to miss this," Brooke says, tears swimming in her eyes. "I'm going to miss you two lovebirds, and our crazily random conversations."

"I'll miss you too," Haley says, looking at all of our friends. She looks up at me and smiles. We're not saying it, but we're both thinking it. At least we're together.


"Have you got all of your papers? And the finance stuff, is that in order?" Mom asks as we strap ourselves into the Land Rover, our stuff completely taking over the back seat and the boot.

"Everything's sorted Mom. Don't worry about it," I say. Dad gave us a quick goodbye and then made his way down to the dealership. Of course, he gave me yet another speech on Basketball, but that was to be expected.

"And you'll ring me as soon as you get there?" Mom goes on. I nod.

"We'll ring every other hour throughout the journey," Haley tells her, leaning over my seat. Mom smiles at her and leans in to give her a hug. I sit back on my seat and wait for them to finish.

"Be careful," Mom says. We nod in agreement.

Brooke and Peyton appear at Haley's side and lean in together. "See you at Christmas lovebirds," Brooke says, grabbing hold of mine and Haley's hands. She wipes her hands as she pulls away, and Peyton puts her arm around her friend.

"We'll see you in no time," Haley tells them.

After another ten minutes of goodbyes, Haley and I finally set off.

"Goodbye Tree Hill," she says sadly as we pass the sign saying, 'You are now leaving Tree Hill, NC'

"Hello new life together," I say in a corny, over-the-top voice. Haley laughs at me and leans over, resting her head on my shoulder.

"I love you," she says softly. I pull the car over at the side of the road, and she sits up looking confused. "What are you doing?" she asks.

I don't answer, but instead undo my seat belt and lean into her, giving her a long deep kiss. She undoes her own seatbelt and shifts over so that she's sat on my knee. We carry on kissing, deep, beautiful kisses. Exciting kisses.

She reaches under my top and I feel her hands run along my chest, and I do the same to her, putting my hands up the back of her shirt and unhooking her bra. She starts giggling and I pull away.

"What?" I ask.

She shakes her head and kisses me again. "Nothing, it's just… you're already acting like a horny college kid, and we're not even at Duke yet."

I laugh at her. "I just wanted to get the first make-out session of our new life together out of the way, so there isn't all this awkward sexual tension the whole ride down."

Haley carries on kissing me. "Let's get it out of the way then," she says with a quick smile.

I'm only too happy to oblige.


We spend the whole ride talking about 'our new life' and making plans. For some reason, I keep remembering a memory that's not mine. A red brick house and two little kids.

Weird, huh?

Anyway, I don't know what life is going to throw at us, and I don't know what's around the corner. But I do know this: I love Haley James with all of my heart, and I am going to make her happy for the rest of our lives.

And that's why we stop outside a little town at the edge of NC, with a tiny white chapel in it. We look at each other, not sure what to say – whether we should say anything at all.

"I love you," Haley says again.

I look down at my hands in my lap, and back up at the chapel. "Haley, I love you too… but are you sure about this?"

Haley nods enthusiastically. "I want to be with you for the rest of my life… and we don't have to be at Duke until tomorrow…"

I laugh. "Are you suggesting staying here for the night?"

"We passed a motel a while back," Haley shrugs, like what we're about to do is completely normal.

I look back at the chapel again. "We'd need witnesses…"

Haley turns to a nearly empty small shopping mall behind us. "How much money have you got?"

"We're going to pay someone to be our witnesses?" I ask. Haley opens her mouth to speak, and she looks annoyed. I cut in. "Look, I want this… but we don't have to do it now. We could wait until the whole group is together, have a proper wedding."

Haley kisses me. "You keep saying this is our new life together… so why don't we make it real?"

I'm about to say another million reasons why we shouldn't get married. Not now, not when we're so young… but another reason keeps coming back to me. I love her, she loves me, and we make each other happy.

"Haley," I say, after taking a deep breath. "Will you marry me?"

Haley squeals and throws her arms around me. "Nothing would make me happier."

And that's when our new life together starts. At that very moment, when she agrees to be my wife.

And two hours later, when we're coming out of the chapel, Haley wearing a white cotton shirt and a white gypsy skirt, and me in a shirt and dress trousers, I know this is it.

This is us. Always and Forever.


The End

AN: Well, that's it. Kind of corny there at the end, but I had to get their marriage in somehow. I've already got some ideas for a sequel, and I'll probably start it as soon as my exams are finished at the end of June.

Wow, I feel kind of depressed now. My first finished story on Fanfiction. :Sniff:

What a long strange road it's been (That 70's Show Prom Quote, hee hee)

I hope you guys have enjoyed reading this as much as I've enjoyed writing it.

Much love Conaleigh.