"Shit. Shit. Shit." Nathan muttered to himself. His dark hair was plastered with water and stuck to his scalp as he leaned over his knees in a crouched position against the bathroom tub.
He realized that he had promised Haley that he wouldn't regret what they did earlier that day. But he couldn't help it. It was easy to be confident about his intentions a few hours ago, but she shouldn't have believed his words. He had been satisfyingly tired, and still carrying the glow of finally having sex again, and with Haley, too. Could he really be held responsible for any words or promises that left his mouth after that? He was happy that it happened, sure, but that was mostly due to the fact that he would never be able to bring himself to cheat on Haley, and that meant that he seriously was going out of his mind from lack of sex. And it wasn't as if he didn't love Haley, he did. But now Haley would really expect a commitment. Not that he didn't want a commitment. Ugh. Nathan didn't know what the hell he wanted. That reason was why the brunette had told himself to keep away from Haley. He didn't want to screw with her mind. He had been thinking with his dick lately and that was not smart.
Standing up again, he turned on the tap and splashed more water on his face. What was the next step? How could he decide what to do when he didn't even know what it was he wanted to happen? Nathan forced himself to take a breath. There were facts he did know. He didn't want to turn into the pathetic ass wipe of a sap that he had been just before Haley left him in the first place. He didn't want to put himself in a position that would allow him to be crushed if Haley were to leave him again. And he really, really didn't want Haley to be with any other guy in the whole stupid planet. He knew that if Haley could be the most famous singer in the world, and be romantically involved with any guy who would take her further than Nathan ever could, or if Haley could linger in Tree Hill, working small jobs, and being content to be his wife until the day they both died… If he were completely honest with himself, if there were only two choices for him to choose, and Haley would never be made aware of his decision, he would pick the latter. Nathan hated himself for that. But he was a selfish prick. He always was, and he always would be, despite what change people may have seen in him.
He loved Haley more than life, and wanted her happiness, but he personally thought it was bullshit when people went around saying that they'd rather give up their love if it would be the better path for their lover. Maybe he didn't love Haley enough. Or maybe all those saps that said they'd leave a relationship for the greater good of the individual simply didn't love their partners enough to really fight for their relationship. Maybe it was selfish. There was a time where Haley went above everything, and she probably was still that important, but really, all humans look after themselves. Nate would give up his life for Haley, but then he'd already established that she was more important to him than life. He would sacrifice everything for her, everything expect being with her. Does that even make sense? It was the truth, as best as he could articulate it.
"That's a friendly telephone greeting. Hey, how are you?"
"You've thought about it."
"And I shouldn't get any hopes up, because we're never having sex again."
"Stop trying to guess what I'm saying!"
"Even though it was called hot sweaty make-up sex for a reason."
"Haley! It wasn't make-up sex. It was 'Nathan is a horny bastard who's been without sex for months and, like any guy, lost use of his brain when you sat on my lap' sex! And it's not happening. Because it can't."
"You liked it, I liked it, we're married, and you don't want an annulment… So where in all of this led you to the conclusion that we must never sleep together again?"
"I trust Brooke more than I trust you, that's why."
"Brooke's a trustworthy person, if you were trying to insult her-"
"Can we just start over? From the beginning? I can't deal with trying to treat you like my wife; I can't deal with the marriage thing right now. So let's keep it light, and take the pressure off."
"A friends with benefits thing, you mean?"
"No, a dating thing."
"You want to date me?"
"I don't have to trust you to date you."
"No, but you kind of have to not be married to me."
"Haley. I'm serious."
"I'll go out with you. On the terms that we're exclusive."
"How else would we be? I think it's confirmed that jealousy runs strong with us and any attempt at Brooke's non-exclusive thing would be absolutely insane."
"Then we can still have sex, right?"
"I've turned you into a nymphomaniac."
"Shut up. You're my one and only, which is more than I can say for you, Man-Whore."
"What happened to your sucking up to me?"
"I got sick of it."
"Good, so did I. I've got to go now."
"Bye." He hung up at her good-bye and slipped his cell back into his pocket. Nathan had finally done something to move them forward. Even though it technically moved them backward. But he refused to dwell on it anymore. Taking a sip of beer, Nathan lay down on his bed and decided to sleep it all off.
"He wants to date me." Haley declared to her best friend as she plopped down on his bed fifteen minutes after she got off the phone with Nathan.
"Chris Keller?" Lucas frowned.
"What? Ew, no! Nathan."
"You realize you've done the dating thing, and then the marrying thing, already, right?"
"He wants to have another go."
"That's amazing, Hales." The blonde smiled.
"Yeah, so now you can do me a favour and stop walking around like you're going to attack him."
"I don't do that…"
"Sure you don't. But really, thanks, Luke. I probably wouldn't have made it this far without you." Haley grinned. "By the way, what happened with Brooke and Peyton at the mall?"
Lucas groaned. "Don't even ask. It was horrible. Brooke started yelling and jabbed a lot at Peyton, and then when I defended her all hell broke loose. Brooke doesn't want to talk to me or Peyton right now."
"Actually, I don't really want to talk to her that much right now, either. She's allowed to sleep around with any guy she wants and I'm not allowed to have female friends? I mean, seriously. She even started accusing me of getting too close with you."
"Forgetting the whole Wife part in Tutor Wife, did she? I'm sorry about all that. What are you going to do?"
"I don't know. I'm just so tired of the drama." Haley sighed sympathetically and took Lucas's hand, pulling him to the bed so she could hug him.
"Things will turn out, Luke. I know it."
"I really missed you these past few months when we've been too preoccupied with our love lives than with each other." Lucas sighed. "I'm not going to forsake my friendships anymore. If I've learned anything from Brooke, it's that I can't push away everything else when I'm in a relationship."
"I'm glad that no matter how much we drifted last year, we're still best friends."
"Me too. And we always will be, no matter what happens. You know me the best out of anyone I know, and there isn't anyone else, blood relatives not withstanding, who I care about more."
"Can I ask you something? Who do you really want right now, relationship-wise?"
"I don't think I can say anything about that any more."
She studied his expression and posture for a moment and said, "Luke, just know that whoever it is you end up with, you won't be crucified for it this time around, at least not by me. You've spent so long trying to make everyone else happy, I want you to just do what you want this time. Push out every other doubt, fear, and thought except for what's in your heart. Trust it and indulge in it, before time runs out and circumstances change. I've learned that sitting around waiting for the right time, waiting for a sign or for the other person to relent first- it doesn't work. You've got to take that step, once you realize what it is you want, you have to go for it. So even if it doesn't turn out, you won't be left wondering what more you could have done to make it happen."
Lucas just smiled. He stood up, glanced at the door, and told his friend, "You're right, Hales. Listen. I'm going to go out for a bit, okay?"
Haley nodded and walked with him out the door. "I'll see you later. No matter what you choose, I'll be with you, so really, don't be afraid to go for what you really want."
"Thanks." He said over his shoulder as he strode away.
All this time, there had been a growing feeling in his mind and heart that he was doing something wrong. What ifs plagued his thoughts. It had taken him a while to figure out firmly what he really wanted, but it had taken him far longer to actually decide what to do now that his heart was made up. He didn't want to hurt anyone, but seeing Haley's love life patched up gave him hope that his could be too.
His footsteps carried him to the woman who had never left his thoughts for the past year. The one he fought for, and fought for, but never seemed to win.
"What do you want?" she crossed her arms.
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry for hurting you before, and I'm sorry if I'm hurting you now. I care about you so much, and I wish I didn't screw up so much. But don't doubt my feelings for you, because I never lied when I said I loved you."
Brooke softened and took his hand. "I've been a bit moody lately, I shouldn't have pushed you away like I did. I just want to be with you." She leaned closer to him, but Lucas took a step back. She frowned in confusion.
This wasn't a mistake. Yes it was… "Brooke, I care about you. But I can't play games anymore. And since you were so intent on seeing other people, maybe you were right. We're better off with other people."
"You're not going to fight for me?"
"I've fought, Brooke. I've done as much as I could. But I've realized that this isn't right. I'm sorry." He kissed her cheek and tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear. "Take care of yourself. I still want to be your friend-"
"My friend? After everything that's happened, that's not possible." Her voice was cold, but he didn't miss the sadness she was covering.
"Bye." She whispered.
Now for the more terrifying of the two things he was going to do that day. Lucas arrived at the doorstep of a house he knew so well and for the first time, hesitated in entering. He knocked twice on the door, and in a moment it was being opened.
"Lucas, since when do you knock?" Peyton raised her eyebrows.
"I thought today deserved special circumstances."
"What are you going on about?"
Lucas stepped into the house and closed the door behind him. He tried to calm his nerves, but a large part of him was shouting at him that this was a very big mistake. He had long since learned to ignore those thoughts- they hadn't been leading him to a great direction so far.
"I can't do this anymore, Peyt. I've been lying to myself, pretending for so long that I was happy, that things were fine. But they aren't. I've been fighting for the wrong cause. I want to be with you."
"We've been through this-"
"Brooke and I are completely finished. I told her already that I just couldn't do it anymore. Did you know that every day since the day you walked in on Brooke and I at my house and you told me that you wanted to be with me, every day since then I've been wondering what could have been. I hated Brooke for a while, hated that I hadn't waited just one more day, hated that it wasn't you I was with. The only reason I stayed with her was because she had me first- it would've been wrong to leave her when my first choice cleared up. I wouldn't treat her like that. I cared about her. But if you had agreed to be with me first, I never would have thought twice about Brooke. All this time, I've been trying to be with her again, yet a part of me was hoping it wouldn't work out, so then I could be free to be with you again. Through your thing with Jake, I wished that I could make you as happy as he did. My heart wasn't in it with Brooke, that's why we didn't work out. I was lying. She's a great person, but she just isn't you."
"I love you, Peyton. I have since the day I met you and I've never stopped, not for a day, not for a second. When it comes down to it, you're the one who makes me feel most comfortable, most happy. You're the one who completes me. I know that it's been a long time, and I know you've moved on and loved someone else, but-"
"I love you too." Peyton interrupted quietly and wrapped her arms around him.
And just like that, the doubts left his mind, and he knew this was right.
"This is insane." Nathan stated. He had been conned into agreeing to a double date with his half-brother and ex-girlfriend. "We're the most dysfunctional group of people there are."
"Love isn't supposed to be sane." Haley grinned and burrowed her head against his shoulder.
"We're happy. That's all that matters." Peyton added, taking a bite of the bagel in front of her. "You know, when are you just going to swallow your male ego and just admit that you want to be Haley's whipped dog, Nate?"
"Why did I agree to come to this?" Nathan rolled his eyes.
"Because, secretly you love how screwed up we are. It's what makes us human." His brother said. "I think that if there's something to be learned from this is that nothing is impossible. A few weeks back, none of us would believe that we could all be here together in the relationships we're in now."
"We should totally live in a house together one day." Haley beamed.
"Yeah when we're all happily married?" Peyton sarcastically responded.
"Don't knock the fairy tale fantasy, look where it's gotten us so far." Haley pointed out.
"Don't freak out the new couple, Hales, not everyone gets as serious as fast as we did." Nathan laughed.
"Whatever happens later, I'm glad we're all here now, like this, on good terms with each other. That's probably not going to last long." Luke smiled.
"I don't think we can take another dose of drama in this town."
"We've lasted this long, why not, Tutor husband?"
"We can weather anything, as long as we don't let go of each other."
"To never letting go." Haley raised her cup.
"You're such a cheese ball." Nathan smirked. She elbowed him in the ribs and looked pointedly at his cup. He sighed and indulged her by lifting his cup to hers. Lucas and Peyton snorted and mimicked the motion.
"Never letting go."
Four friends, so different
They've shared pain and joy
Tossed around like fools by fate
And maybe love doesn't conquer all
And maybe time does change all things
But what matters now
Is that they have each other
Love is worth the fight
The repercussions, sure to be swift
Are worth it
Naley & Leyton
Bound by the moment
Leaving imprints in hearts
Time can't take away everything
And nothing is impossible
At least not in One Tree Hill
Where love is never simple
Choices are never easy
Where friends fight and enemies aren't clear
And just when things get calm
Something, somewhere shakes it up
It's agiven, it's a fact.
But for the moment,
None of that matters
A/N: Sorry for the delay. Heh, yeah I couldn't leave it at a sad ending, I'm a sucker for happy ones. This may feel rushed, but I just wanted to get it done. Thanks to all you who reviewed, it was really appreciated.