Author's Note: Yes, this is a real update. But, before anyone gets too excited, it sucks. Like, really really badly. And I'm sorry, because this is kind of an important chapter, I guess, and I had been excited to write it, so I don't know why I struggled so hard with it. Anyway, I apologize for making everyone wait so long, and I'm sorry that my big return is this crap, but, nothing I can do about it now.


"How much longer until you're free?"

It had turned into an extremely slow night at the Café and Haley was just counting down the minutes until closing. Brooke and Peyton had come in for dinner, obviously not remembering that it was Jake's night to work as well. After they got over the initial awkwardness that was Peyton and Jake being in the same room, Haley agreed to serve them, since they were sitting in Jake's section. To make the evening even more uncomfortable, Taylor had come in to see her as well, which almost caused a catfight between her and Brooke. By the time the dinner rush was over, she was exhausted from playing the go between and was glad when things finally started to slow down.

"Half an hour," Haley told her sister, wiping down the last table for the fifth time that night. She held the phone between her ear and shoulder and carefully stacked the chair on top of the table. "But Nathan's always late, so probably like forty minutes, but I'll be off the clock at eleven."

"Remind me again why I'm letting that asshole pick you up?"

"Because I didn't ask your permission," Haley suggested, rolling her eyes. Yet another thing that Brooke and Taylor had in common; a strong dislike for Nathan. She really didn't understand why those two didn't get along. "I told you already, he wants to be friends, I wouldn't mind that, so, we're gonna try to be friends."

"You two will never be friends," Taylor laughed at her, pulling her long blonde hair into a loose ponytail. "Honestly, Hay, if I had a dollar for everytime an ex-boyfriend said he wanted to still be friends with me I…"

"Wouldn't need an excuse to be unemployed?"

"… Would be rich, as the saying goes." Haley rolled her eyes and finished stacking the chairs at table six as she listened to her sister babble.

"No offense, Tay," she began. "But what Nathan and I had is much more complex than anything you've ever had with a guy."

"All the more reason that this is never going to work," the blonde retorted, stepping around the mess she had already created in her room and flopping down on her bed. "Nathan is obvious still in love with you, Hellie, and you're obviously still in love with him."

"So?" Ever since she and Nathan had broken up, there was never a time that Haley had denied her feelings for him. Of course she still loved him; feelings like that didn't just go away, no matter what that boy did. It sucked for her, and made this whole situation harder, but there it was.

"So, obviously one thing is going to lead to another…"

"Unlike you," Haley cut her off, knowing exactly where the older girl was going with this. "I can control my hormones."

"I'm not talking about hormones, Hay," Taylor corrected her gently. "It's the heart you've gotta worry about."

Haley stopped her movements at her sister's words and closed her eyes. That was exactly what she didn't need to be hearing right now. She knew she wasn't going to jump all over Nathan, she had always been able to control herself before, but she was so afraid that all her will would just melt away if he said a few sweet words and shot her that smile of his. Sometimes it was so easy to forget about all the horrible things he had done to her when they were around each other. She was sure part of that was because she was trying so hard to forget them.


"I have to go, Taylor," Haley told her softly, her mind still clouded from her thoughts. "I can't … I'll see you at home."


"Bye." She pulled her cell away from her ear and flipped it shut, placing it on the tabletop. She stood there for a few moments, before shaking her head, refusing to get caught up in that line of thought again.

She needed to keep herself busy, she silently decided. She always ruined things when she over thought them. The idea of being with Nathan right now was ridiculous. It was simple as that. There was no way she would ever let herself go there again, whether she got caught up in the moment and kissed him or not, that wouldn't change the fact that they couldn't be together.

"Stop," she told herself when she realized that she had started thinking about it anyway. She let out a sigh and moved to the next table to finish getting everything ready for closing. There was still at least twenty five minutes until she could lock the doors, but she had closed the Café enough times to know that nobody ever came in after ten.

She was able to go a whole ten minutes without thinking about Nathan, until her cell phone rang once again. She thought about not answering it, figuring that it was probably just Taylor phoning back to apologize or harass her some more, but walked over to get it anyway, just encase it was Nathan.


"What's cracking my favorite white girl?" Haley couldn't stop the silly ass grin from coming to her face at the greeting.

"What's up, Skills?" she laughed, taking her phone with her as she went back over to finish stacking the last table.

"Just finishing a game of pick up down at the Rivercourt," he answered, tossing Fergie the ball back. "You working tonight?"

"Just waiting to close," she told her, finally down with the tables. She smiled at a job well done and shuffled over to the counter and sat down at one of the stools, slowly spinning it around. "Why, are you gonna come mooch some free food?"

"No, we'll pay," he immediately defends and he can practically see her smirking on the other end. He lets out a laugh. "If we have to."

"You're such a brat," she laughs with him, bringing the spinning stool to a stop so she can lean forward on the counter to make sure she had turned off the coffee machines.

"But you love me," he reminds her confidently, motioning to Fergie and Junk that they should start heading home.

"I do," she confirmed without hesitation. "Which is why I'll let you guys have the stuff we didn't sell today." She rolled her eyes when she heard him cheer. "But you guys better hurry up and get here cause Nathan is walking me home, so I'm not staying late for the likes of you."

"Homeboy definitely wouldn't wait around for my black ass," Skills agreed, choosing not to question his best friend about why her ex-boyfriend was picking her up.

"I think I'm the only one in the world that would," Haley teased, deciding to let his comment go. She knew that Nathan didn't exactly like Skills and she also knew that Skills was aware of that. There was no point in getting into an argument about it.

"And that's why I love you," he replied, pushing Junk when he started making kissy faces at him. "Alright, girl, we'll be there pretty soon. I expect to the food to be ready and waiting for us."

"At this point, you'll be lucky if I haven't spit in it."

"That's cold." Haley laughed and told him to hurry up one more time before shutting her phone. She was about to check to make sure she hadn't missed any calls when the bell above the door signaled that someone had entered.

"Amazing, you're early for once," she teases as she spins around, only to come face to face with a man that was most definitely not Nathan. She jumped slightly in surprised before smiling sheepishly at the guy and standing up. "Sorry about that, I thought you were someone else."

"It's no problem."

"So, how can I help you?"


"You have no idea what you're talking about, dawg," Skills denied as the three guys rounded the corner to the street they were looking for. "Hales is my best friend, you know that."

"Not by choice," Junk teased, grabbing the ball from Fergie.

"Yeah, are you saying you wouldn't hit that if she asked?"

"You can stop talking about Haley like that," Skills warned them, stealing the ball away from Junk roughly. Fergie and Junk shared a look and burst out laughing at the way their friend was acting. It was so obvious to them that Skills had a thing for Haley; they just didn't understand why he wouldn't admit it.

"Chill, man, we're just kidding," Junk assured him, letting out a puff of air when he caught the ball Skills has thrown at him.

"Yeah, you know Hales is like a little sister to us," Fergie reminded him. Skills nodded and gave up, deciding it was best to just let it go. They continued walking down the street and it wasn't until they were just outside of the Café that they noticed that the lights were off inside. "What the…"

"Yo, I thought you said Haley would wait for us?"

"She would," Skills mumbled, moving away from them and stepping towards the window. He knew she said that Nathan was coming to pick her up, but she would have made him wait for them, no matter how much he didn't want to. Fergie and Junk caught up with him and they all leaned against the window to try to see if they could see through the reflective glass.

"Shit, is that her on the ground?" The moment the words were out of Junk's mouth, the three of them raced for the door.

"Fuck, why is it locked?"

"Move, move," Fergie instructed him, pushing his friends out of the way. He shielded his eyes and kicked in the glass, immediately reaching in and unlocking the door. The boys didn't waste any time and quickly filed into the Café.

"Hales," Skills called, running over to her as Junk flipped on the lights, making it much easier for them to see. Skills felt his heart leap to his throat when he saw Haley's shaking form on the floor. He rushed over to her and knelt by her side, softly calling her name, but she didn't seem to hear him. He gently reached forward to touch her face, cupping her chin to get her to look up at him. "Shit."

"What?" Fergie asked from behind him, trying to get a look. He wasn't as close with Haley as Skills was, but he still considered her a good friend, and he was really starting to get worried. Skills leaned to the side a little and Fergie's eyes widened when he saw Haley's bruised eyes, cut lip and tearstained face. "Shit," he agreed.

"Baby girl, what happened?" The only answer Skills got was a slight whimper from Haley. She shook her head and leaned towards him, and he took her in his arms immediately. He tried his best to stop her shaking, but it just wouldn't cease.

"This place was jacked," Junk informed them from behind the counter. He looked down at the empty cash register before pushing it closed.

"Don't just stand there, call the cops!" Skills shouted at Fergie, who quickly caught the cell phone that was thrown at him. Haley jumped at his loud voice and started shaking harder. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry. It's okay," he assured her, pulling her back into a hug.

Fergie watched them from across the Café, a lump forming in his throat as he waited for someone to answer. He wasn't much of a fighter, but there was nothing he wanted more than to go find the bastard that did this to Haley, the girl that they had always considered to be a little sister, ever since the first day Lucas brought her down to the Rivercourt.

His eyes traveled to Junk, who was still standing behind the counter and he wasn't surprised to see a similar look on his face. All of the guys just loved Haley to death, and the thought that something like this had happened to her, it killed them. They weren't exactly the most popular guys in school, or the smartest, and Haley, a girl that was both of those things, didn't even think twice about being friends with them. A girl like that, she didn't deserve this.

"It's okay, now, Hales," Skills whispered over and over, rocking her tiny frame back and forth in his arms. He shut his eyes tightly and kissed the top of her head, rubbing his hands up and down her back to try to soothe her. "We're here, nothing's going to happen to you, I promise."

"Cops are on the way."

"Thanks, man." Fergie nodded and knelt down in front of his friends, handing the phone back to Skills. He slowly reached out towards Haley, not wanting to scare her. When he saw that she didn't seemed freaked out, he grabbed her hand and give it a reassuring squeeze.

"You're okay now, Hales," he told her. He knew Skills has been telling her that, but he didn't imagine that she believed it just quite yet. She bit her lip and nodded her head slightly in acknowledgement and buried herself against Skills.


"What the…" Karen mumbled as the ringing of her phone woke her. It took her a moment to realize what the incessant noise was before she rolled over and answered the phone before it could wake up her son. "Hello?"

"Is this Karen Roe?" came the unfamiliar voice on the other end. Karen rubbed her eyes and tried to wake herself up.

"Yes, this is she," she answered. "How can I help you."

"This is Officer Kenwood," he began, and Karen immediately shot up at his words. She knew her son was tucked away safely in his bedroom, and that gave her some comfort, but she just knew there was something wrong. She still had one more kid she couldn't account for.


"There was a break in at your Café tonight," he informed her, looking over at the poor girl that had been working alone at the time. The guys that found her, her friends apparently, where hovering around her to make sure that she was okay.

"Oh my God," Karen gasped, her hand coming to her mouth. It took a moment to process the information before Karen remembered that Haley was closing by herself that night. "Haley, is she…"

"Miss James is fine," he assured her, smiling when he heard her sigh in relief. "Some young men by the names of Antoine Taylor, Marcus Ferguson and Anthony Stevens found her."

"Oh thank God," she sighed, holding a hand to her chest to get her heart to stop beating so quickly. She pulled the covers off and grabbed for the nearest clothes to slip on. "I'm heading down there right now. I should be there in five minutes."

"Okay, ma'am." Karen tossed the phone onto her bed as she pulled a random shirt over her head and moved towards the door. She moved quietly but quickly through the house, careful not to wake Lucas.


Just as promised, five minutes later Karen's car pulled up to the curb outside her Café and she immediately ran towards Haley, who was sitting in the back of an ambulance getting her face cleaned up.

"Haley," she called as she rushed over her. Haley couldn't help but laugh a little as the woman came barreling towards her. She quickly suggest to the paramedic that he might want to get out of the way before Karen reached them.

"Karen, it's okay, you…" Haley tried to tell her, but her words were cut off when Karen wrapped her arms around in her a bone-crushing hug. She was suddenly very grateful that she had been able to convince the officer not to call Taylor because she would have been even worse.

"Oh, baby," Karen mumbled against Haley's shoulder. "I'm so sorry this happened to you and I'm so glad that you're okay, and…"

"Karen." If Karen heard her at all she didn't show any sign of it. Haley struggled to get out of her hold, but it was useless. "Karen, I can't breathe."

"Oh," she squeaked, pulling away from Haley. She held the young girl's face in her hands to get a good look at the damage. She had a cut lip, a black eye forming and a bandage on her forehead. "Oh, sweetie," she sighed, brushing some of Haley's hair out of her face. Skills could tell this should be a private moment and motioned to Fergie and Junk that they should leave them alone.

"You okay, man?" Junk asked Skills as they walked away from the crying women. They couldn't leave just yet encase they needed to answer any more questions. The cops had already questioned all of them, including Haley about what had happened, before they called Karen to tell her about the break in.

"I'm okay," he assured them, watching as Karen kissed Haley's injured forehead. He bit his lip and the three of them sat down on the curb outside the Café until they were needed for something. "It's just … that was way too close."

"She's okay," Fergie reminded him. Skills smiled sadly and nodded, folding his arms on his knees and resting his head on them. It had been one hell of a long night. Junk gave him a hearty pat on the back in an attempt to make him feel better before him and Fergie decided it would be best just to stay silent.


"Okay, that's all for now, Miss James," the officer told her, closing his note pad and sliding it into his back pocket. "Here's my card," he told her, handing her a card with all of his contact information on it. "If you remember anything, please call me."

"I will," Haley promised him, her voice quiet and shy. Karen smiled warmly at the man and shook his hand.

"Thank you." The man nodded and went on his way, leaving the girls alone. "You okay, sweetie?" Haley put on the best smile she could muster and nodded her head, looking up at her with glisten eyes. Karen's heart broke at Haley's attempt to look brave. Karen smiled sadly at her and kissed her temple. "I love you."

"I know you do."

"And I'm so sorry that this happened…"

"It's not your fault, Karen," Haley told her, stopping the older woman before she could go any further. "I booked this shift, you didn't ask me to do it or anything. It could have just as easily happened any other night."

"I know, I just hate that you got hurt," Karen told her, her eyes watering at the thought. She was just thankful that all Haley could was a little bit of cuts and bruises since the whole thing could have been a whole lot worse. "I never should have let you start working so late by yourself. It's not safe."

"Nathan was supposed to be there," Haley reminded her. She immediately closed her eyes at the realization. She didn't blame Nathan, he was just running late as usual and there's no way he could have known this was going to happen, but she knew that he was going to blame himself. She also knew that Brooke and Taylor and a lot of other people were probably going to blame him. "It's nobody's fault, except for maybe that guy's, but…"

"I'm just glad that nothing serious happened," Karen cut her off before she could get into a ramble. "Okay, I think you should get going. You're not needed here anymore, and I think you could use some sleep."

"I really don't want to face Taylor tonight," Haley sighed, knowing her older was going to freak the hell out when she heard about what happened. She just didn't have the energy to deal with that tonight.

"You can always come back to my house," Karen suggested, running her fingers through Haley's hair affectionately. "They want me to stick around for a bit, so you'll have to wait, but…"

"It's okay, Skills already told me I could stay at his house tonight."

"I don't think that's such a good idea, Hales," Karen told her softly, knowing how sensitive the girl got about the subject of her relationship with Skills. Karen had known both teens since they were toddles and watched their friendship evolve into what it was today, and she knew how blurry the line seemed to be with them.

"Why not?"

"You and Nathan…"

"There is no me and Nathan," Haley told her, trying her best to hide her regret and bitterness at that fact. "And you know what? Nathan's not even here, for whatever reason. So, if I want to go home with one of my best friends, who also happens to be the guy that was there for me tonight, I'm going to."

"Okay, okay, calm down," Karen replied, holding her hands up in defense. "I was just making sure." Haley dropped her eyes and sighed, nodding her head.

"I know, I'm sorry." She grabbed Karen's hand and she helped her get down from the ambulance. "I've just had a rough night, if you couldn't tell." Karen laughed and told her it was fine.

"Come here, baby." Haley practically threw herself into Karen's arms at the invitation and held on for dear life. After Skills and Fergie were able to calm her down when they first came in, she had been pretty successful at keeping her emotions under control, but the moment Karen called her baby, something inside of her just broke and her was sobbing against her surrogate mother.

Haley hadn't let herself think of the whole ordeal too much, or think about what could have happened if she hadn't of been so lucky. She'll never forget the ice-cold panic that ran through her the moment the man pulled out his gun and pointed it at her. The first thing she thought of, after she got over the initial 'Holy shit' reaction was that she wished Nathan were there to protect her.

And it wasn't because she knew that he was supposed to be there, or that she hoped he'd make it just in time to save her. It was because Nathan had promised to always protect her, and when she needed help, he was still the first person she thought to call. It seemed that her head had accepted their break up, but she didn't think her heart had yet.


"Thanks," Haley spoke softly, sitting down on the edge of his bed and gulping down the Advil and water. Skills didn't like in a very big house, and with his parents and little sister, there was no spare room for Haley to sleep in.

"Are you sure you don't want me to sleep on the couch?" Skills asked, pulling his sweaty jersey off. He grabbed a clean pair of boxers and a wife beater to change into, while tossing an oversized football jersey and basketball shorts in Haley's direction.

"Don't be silly," she told him, catching the clothes. "I wouldn't want to put you out. It's no big deal, we've shared a bed before, you know?" He nodded and headed towards the bathroom.

"I'm just gonna take a quick shower," he told her. "I still smell from basketball earlier and I don't think you wanna sleep next to that." She laughed and waited for him to disappear before changing into the clothes he had given her to sleep in.

After she had changed and was ready for bed, she grabbed Skills' cell phone off his nightstand and searched through his phonebook, hoping he had Brooke's number. Brooke was on speed dial on her phone and she didn't think she'd be able to remember the number when her brain was working overtime to check up with the night's events. The man had smashed her cell phone against the wall of the Café the moment he saw it in her hand, so she was praying he had her number stored.

She smiled when she saw 'Tigger' appear on the screen, and she remembered the day she had programmed it into her best friend's phone. She pressed the call button and paced around the room while she waited for Brooke to answer.

"Hello?" came Brooke's surprising groggy greeting. It wasn't until she checked her watch that she realized it was two in the morning. Two in the morning and she still hadn't heard from Nathan. Though, there was always a change that he had tried to call her cell to explain why he was late or in this case, not coming at all.

"Hey, Tigger," Haley whispered, not wanting to disturb her too much. "Sorry to wake you up at this hour."

"Hales?" The brunette groaned as she rolled over to untangle herself from the sheets and sit up. She glanced at her alarm clock and moaned again. "It's two in the morning, Tutor Girl."

"I know, I'm sorry, but I need a favor." Haley hated to bother Brooke, but she really didn't want to deal with Taylor tonight. She knew her sister would be worried if she woke up and she wasn't there. She didn't want to call her sister herself because she knew that Taylor would be able to tell there was something wrong immediately, not to mention that fact that she probably wouldn't be to happy with the idea that she was spending the night at Skills' house.

"You wake me up at two in the morning and you're gonna ask for a favor?" Brooke teased, not really mad at her best friend. She knew it had to be important if she was calling her at this hour. "It better be good."

"I need you to call Taylor," she answered, bracing herself for Brooke's answer. She wasn't surprised to hear Brooke laughing on the other end. She really should have called Peyton.

"You're kidding, right?" Brooke asked even though she knew she wasn't. She could practically see the guilty look on Haley's face and sighed. Haley knew she hated Taylor and she'd never ask unless it was important. "Why?"

"I need you to tell her that I'm staying at your house tonight."

"But you're not."

"I know that, obviously," Haley sighed.

"You're not with Nathan, are you?" Brooke asked, remembering that the boy was supposed to be picking her up from the Café that night. "Cause I thought you were over that whole thing."

"I'm with Skills," she told her, even though she knew Brooke would take it completely the wrong way. "I'm staying at his house tonight."

"You move fast, James," Brooke teased, a mischievous grin coming to her face. As much as she wanted Haley and Skills to get together, even if just so she knew Haley wouldn't get back together with Nathan, she knew that wasn't what this phone call was about.

"It's not like that," Haley insisted.

"I know," Brooke laughed. "But seriously, why are you staying there? And why can't you call your slutty sister yourself?" Haley sighed, but decided it was best to leave that comment alone.

"Because if I call, she'll be able to tell that something's wrong."

"Something's wrong?" Brooke asked, any trace of teasing leaving her voice. She quickly leaned over and turned on the lamp on her nightstand, closing her eyes for a second as the bright light flooded the room. "What's going on?"

"Brooke, it was nothing…"

"No, I won't call unless you tell me what's going on," Brooke told her, leaving no room for argument. Knowing Haley, she could have two broken legs and she'd still try to tell Brooke that it was nothing.

"You have to promise not to freak out, okay?"

"I promise," she agreed immediately, obviously not meaning it. Haley knew she was lying, but it didn't seem like she had any choice. Brooke was going to find out the next day anyway, so there was no point in prolonging it.

"The Café got held up while I was waiting for Nathan," Haley explained quickly, waiting for Brooke's blow up. "Some guy came in with a gun and stole all the money."

"What!" Brooke exclaimed, wide awake now. A million different scenarios ran through her head as she played the scene out in her mind. "Oh my God, are you okay?"

"For the most part," Haley assured her, picking up a framed picture from the desk. She studied it for a moment before smiling; remembering that day like it was yesterday. "Just a couple bumps and bruises."

"Define 'a couple bumps and bruises'," Brooke instructed her, again not trusting the other girl's definition of okay. She wouldn't put it back Haley to be lying to her right now just to get her to do what she wants. She rolled her eyes when she heard Haley sigh on the other end.

"I have a cut lip, a black eye and I few stitches on my forehead," Haley told her, not believing that she was actually having the conversation over the phone. "I'm fine, really. Skills, Fergie and Junk found me like five minutes after the guy left."

"And where was Nathan?" Brooke asked, her voice tight to make sure that Haley knew that she was blaming him for this whole mess. She knew she was being irrational, but that didn't matter when it came to Nathan and how he continued to hurt Haley.

"Cut it out, Brooke," Haley warned her. "It happened before closing, so even if he did show up when he was supposed, which he didn't, it still would have been after the guy left, so it's a moot point."

"Come on, Hales…"

"No, I'm not getting into this with you," Haley sighed, heading back over to the bed with the picture in hand. "Are you going to call Taylor and cover for me, or what?"

"You know I will," Brooke said with a matching sigh. It was times like this that she wished Haley didn't have her so whipped. "Okay, I'll call now."

"Thank you, Tigger."

"It's never a problem, Hales, you know that," Brooke assured her, even though she wasn't particularly happen to be calling Taylor, and she knew that the blonde would be just as happy to be hearing from her as well. "So I'm telling her that you're staying over at my house, but not saying anything about what happened?"

"Yeah," Haley nodded even though she knew Brooke couldn't see her. "I just don't have the energy to deal with her overprotectiveness tonight."

"Well, I hope you're ready to deal with my overprotectiveness tomorrow, cause I'm picking you up first thing in the morning."

"Brooke," Haley groaned, cursing herself for not seeing that one coming. "At least let me have breakfast here. I haven't been over here in forever, it'll be nice."

"Nice," Brooke finally relented. "But I'm still picking you up. So tell Skills I'll be there bright and early to drive you guys to school."

"He'll be so thrilled he won't have to take the bus for once," Haley teased when she heard the shower turn off.

"Make sure he knows he shouldn't get used to it," Brooke warned her. "He's my competition."


"To be your best best friend." Haley shook her head and couldn't help but laugh, she really should have known.

"You're crazy," Haley told her, crawling further onto the bed and resting against the headboard. "But I love you anyway."

"You know I love you too, Tutor Girl." It wasn't that she didn't believe Haley, but she needed to make sure. "And you're sure you're alright?"

"I promise," Haley whispered, glad to know that the cheerleader was so worried about her when she really didn't need to be. "You'll see for yourself in the morning." She glanced up and smiled at Skills as he came back into the room, freshly washed and dressed like he was ready for bed. "Look, I've gotta go, Brookie, but thanks again for calling Taylor. You have no idea how much it means to me."

"And you have no idea how glad I am that you're okay." The girls smiled on their own ends and said their goodbyes, hanging up their phones.

"That better not have been long distance," Skills warned her as he set his alarm clock on the nightstand before getting into his side of the bed.

"Just Brooke," Haley informed him, slipping under the covers. Skills followed her lead and noticed the picture she was still holding in her hand. He leaned over and silently took the picture from her hands and smiled when he saw what picture it was.

"That day was off the hook," he remembered, laughing at the picture of him, Haley, Lucas, Fergie, Junk, Mouth and Jimmy standing in the middle of the Rivercourt on the last day of summer before their Freshman year.

"Please, we were all scared shitless to start high school," she reminded him, taking the picture from his hands and placing it on the table beside her, turning off the lamp as well. The two old friends laid on their backs in the dark, both staring blankly at the ceiling. "How would have thought we'd end up here, huh?"

"I think we did pretty well," Skills spoke softly, turning his head to gage her reaction. "We're all still best friends, except maybe Mouth and Edwards, but it's not like we don't still hang out with them sometimes. And we've got even more friends now, too. We lasted pretty nicely."

"High school's not over yet," Haley reminded him, her voice wavering slightly as she thought about how hard the coming year was going to be, and how many difficult decisions she was going to be forced to make. "But I guess if I could survive this summer, I can survive anything, right?"

"And you've got me with you now," Skills promised her, leaning over and kissing her gently on the forehead. "And I'll make sure you're okay." Haley smiled at him with watery eyes and patted him affectionately on the cheek, leaning in and giving him a chaste kiss on the lips.

"Goodnight, Antoine," she whispered, falling back against her pillow and closing her eyes. She smiled when she heard Skills groan behind her.

"You and my Mama are the only ones that get away with calling me that."


"Calm the fuck down, I'm coming," Taylor yelled as she slowly made her way down the stairs of her dark house. She flipped on the hallway light so she wouldn't fall on her ass, and regretted that idea immediately when she almost lost all use of her eyes. The loud banging continued, forcing her to pick up the pace. By the time she got to the door, she was beyond pissed. She quickly unlocked it and whipped the door open, scowling at the boy on the other side.

"Hey," he told her sheepishly when he saw her. He had completely forgotten that the old James sister was back home.

"What do you want, Nathan?" Taylor didn't want anything to do with the youngest Scott on a normal day, and she certainly had no patience for him at 3 o'clock in the morning.

"I need to talk to Haley," he insisted, trying to take a step into the house. The blonde blocked his advances and held her ground. "Please, I need to explain to her…"

"She's not here," she cut him off, not interested in his excuses at all. Brooke had told her that Nathan never did show up at the Café, forcing Haley to call Brooke for a ride. "She's sleeping over at Brooke's house since someone didn't remember the plans they had made."

"Just let me explain…" he tried desperately, knowing that if Taylor hated him even more than she already did that he'd have an even lesser shot at winning Haley back.

"There's nothing to explain, you ditched her."


"Goodnight, Nathan," she told him tightly, closing the door in his face and locking it afterwards. He watched through the blurry glass of the front door as her retreating figure flicked off the lights and headed upstairs.

"Fuck," he cursed, closing his eyes and rested his forehead against the cool glass in defeat.

He was back at square one.


I know, I know, you're pissed, but guess what? I told you it sucked and I do promise that this is all going to lead somewhere. For all of you guys that thought Haley was going to stay single while she and Nathan tried to work this whole thing out, too bad. But remember, that doesn't mean that she'll be dating Skills. And I do promise to give Nathan's explanation for not showing up in the next chapter.Anyway, wow, lots of scene changes. Let me know what you guys think, but no flames. I have a weird obsession with Skills and Haley, maybe cause they remind me of Veronica and Wallace.

Anyway, review, review, review.