Title: More Than He Should
Category: TV Shows » One Tree Hill
Author: And The Moment's Gone
Language: English, Rating: Rated: K+
Genre: General, Angst
Originally Published: 11-14-05, Completed
Chapters: 1, Words: 1,747
Official Disclaimer: All One Tree Hill characters and plots belong to Mark Schwan and the CW. I do not hold stock either the man or the company. Chris Keller, Haley James-Scott, and any other character featured are NOT mine.
He sees more than he should.
Two months on the road with her, confined to an eight by ten bunk he had learned to read her.
At first it had been for his amusement. To see how far he could push her until she snapped; dangle what she had given up in front of her eyes and then offer her lewd descriptions to remind her how lonely it really was at night. All in all it was the best entertainment he could think of at three am on the way to whatever nameless city they were playing next.
He wasn't too sure when it was that he realized the phone calls coming from home - the ones that would make her smile and look for a quiet place to take it - were growing fewer and farther between. She would call them though, once or twice a week. He guessed that only one third of the time someone would actually answer. She never seemed to lose her faith though. New cities meant new souvenirs that he knew she probably wouldn't get to deliver and another message unanswered.
Their first real conversation had been on the way to Tallahassee. She was fiddling with a random guitar and for a second he thought she was actually going to write something. Her notebook was on the table, capped pen beside that. She had another in her hair, but he didn't give that one too much thought. It was his job to push her, not give her styling tips. The way her head was tipped over the instrument made him wonder if the shaking of her shoulders had anything to do with the softness of the melody.
It was the first time he had seen her cry. Not deep, helpless sobs; certainly nothing like he would see on television when he got so bored he'd watch one soap opera or another. It was the tender kind of crying that someone would hide.
He had just sat there.
What else was he supposed to do?
The woman wouldn't let him near her on normal occasion, she would try to slap him if he even suggested that she needed help getting her duffel off of the bus, and now she was three feet in front of him, head bowed, tears flowing down her cheeks as she tried to pretend she was singing along with her melody.
The tears subsided quickly, almost instantaneously when she realized that she had an audience. He had bitten his tongue coming up with all the things that he could have said to her. 'It'll be okay' sounded too hollow, and anything else…too personal. So instead he took the pen out of her hair and the pad of paper from beside her and played around with her lyrics. He asked her about her friends as they worked on the melody. Her parents were going to see the show in Miami, and her sister had finally settled down somewhere in Athens. He didn't ask the questions he wanted to. No sense in it really. If she didn't want to talk about the life - and the man she left behind- then he shouldn't either. Right?
Almost a month into the tour she had had a visitor. Stage manager almost had an aneurism when he found out that they weren't on the list. Then again, she hadn't filled out a list.
The man had shown up right before her set, and apparently had been gone before the end of her first song. It was amazing that he hadn't even wanted to see what she had become. All the things that he had been pushing for, by buying that keyboard and forcing her on stage and the poor idiot couldn't even bring himself to listen to her song.
She was silently devastated as she had come off stage. Her eyes scanned the occupants of the conjoined dressing room. Anyone with a pulse could tell who she was looking for. Anyone with a heart could see hers breaking. She'd been on her cell phone once almost every hour after that, and when he had climbed into his bunk on the tour bus, she was still sitting on the floor in the communal room, somehow not accepting the fact that it wouldn't ring.
That night she had upped their friendship. Sobbing silently, she had woken him up a little after four in the morning. Neither of them were too sure what it was she was doing, but he had pushed his body all the way to the back of the small bed, creating a hole just large enough for her to fit into. He had to laugh now that he thought about it. She had taken all of his covers.
It had become their ritual after that. He wouldn't ask her what was wrong, and she wouldn't offer it to him. They fell into a smooth pattern where she would point out the obvious. She missed home. She couldn't wait to see her friends. The new song they were putting together sounded a little too much like a country song. There was nothing she said to him that he hadn't guessed would come out of her mouth, but at the end of the day, she would make her phone call to whomever it was that was ignoring her that week and then she'd curl up in bed with him.
It was the most frustratingly platonic relationship that he could honestly say he ever had.
But he had grown attached to this girl. The way she would laugh when he sang a lyric wrong, or scrunch up her nose when he'd try to help her pick out what she was going to wear to a show. He was willing to endure the frustration if it meant that she wouldn't cry out in the middle of the night for the one she'd left behind.
He'd come to hate him.
Especially after he'd crashed his uncle's car. Hotshot probably did it on purpose too; found a way to punish her for following her dreams even when he wasn't answering her phone calls or having her friends degrade her by texting how terrible he'd been doing.
They'd gotten the call right after a show. Both were still on their musical high. The second she had laughed her best friend's name he knew that something was wrong. She had gasped in alarm next and then he had to force himself to react when she'd dropped to the floor of the hotel lobby.
He'd ridden in the cab with her to the airport, made sure she'd had enough for a ticket and a number to reach him in case she needed anything, and then less than an hour later he'd gone to pick her up. The only words she'd spoken for the next twelve hours was that he didn't want her. He had told her not to come home.
That just seemed to prove that the man was an idiot.
The annulment papers came next, brought by her father–in–law with a sadistic smile.
Yes, Satan himself had come to show her the consequences of her actions what seemed like forever ago. Without thinking about what he was doing he'd had the ass hole escorted from the arena. She could yell at him later for handling her, at that moment he was more concerned with her mental state.
She'd refused to sleep with him that night, choosing instead to curl up on the makeshift couch and hum to herself as she cried. It was odd how every time he heard Sarah McLachlan now he thought of that night. The next morning however, she was back to her usual self.
She never mentioned himagain after that.
He had been dubbed the Bastardby the rest of the band the morning after.
The next month had been uneventful. Two of her friends had come to visit, signaling the end of the school year. It had been the first time in a long time that she didn't seem to need his presence. It had been the first time that he actually thought that she would be all right. He'd even managed to prove that he wasn't the man that half of Tree Hill thought he was. The look on her best friend's face when he called him on his relationship with her was priceless.
Then they had left.
She had fallen apart again.
And once again he learned that she didn't do the best thinking at one in the morning.
He'd driven her home that weekend. Renting a car and promising the stage manager that he would be back before the bus took off. They'd ridden in relative silence. With the exception of the fact that she kept muttering that this was all his fault, he would have thought he was alone in the car. He'd dropped her off at the Rivercourt. It was where she wanted to be. And after handing her half the cash in his wallet, he'd driven off, knowing that if she needed him, she knew how to reach him. He finished his turn around trip to New York in record time, and was back on the bus before it left for its next stop.
She didn't talk to him again.
He'd heard through a friend that she'd gone back to work at the Café. She wasn't singing anymore. She hadn't even decided if she was going to stay in town. It was up to him. That thought had almost induced projectile vomiting the second he'd heard it. Apparently her husband had rejected her and gone off to some asinine jock camp. Sadly he wasn't too surprised.
He wasn't too sure what had possessed him to write that letter. He'd dabbed some perfume from a sampler onto it and didn't put a return address. For a second he actually thought about not signing his name. Not that hewouldn't know whom it was from halfway through. He'd pled on her behalf. She was suffering, and he would do anything it took to help her.
The phone call had been a surprise.
The offer…not so much.
And against his better judgment, he'd decided to try to intervene on fate's behalf and push them together. She didn't want him. She wanted her husband. Bastard didn't deserve her, but it wasn't about that anymore.
It was about what she needed.
What she needed was her husband.
So he worked with her. He pushed her again just like he had those first few weeks on the tour bus. He became the constant that she could rebel against; the one thing that she could honestly take her anger and frustration out on. Everything she needed to hear, he told her. And never once did he allow her to question his motives when he questioned her love life.
Maybe that was why he was so depressed, sitting in front of his piano after a particularly grueling session with her. His head throbbed as he toyed with the melody that she had begun. He'd heard the door open and then roughly half a minute later he saw the one man in the entire world that he had come to despise more than anything.
"Well. Well." He said as casually as possible. He'd tried to smirk but somehow he wasn't sure it conveyed the right feeling. "What do you say partner?"
From where his 'partner' stood, just to the right of the piano, he could almost feel the tension. A stack of money was dropped in front of him and he looked at it expectantly. "It's half the money for Haley's studio time." The tone sounded dejected, almost as if said girl had worn him down. Almost. "I'll get you the rest next week."
He counted the money. It was what was expected of him. It didn't matter to him one way or another. If Haley wanted the help then he would have found a way to back her studio time on his own. But the man in front of him played just as dirty as he did. And as he was walking away, something clicked. "You ever heard of Robert Johnson, Nate?"
Nathan stopped mid-step; the gears in his head seemed to turn as he tried to recall the name. He'd turned back to the piano, still looking like he wasn't sure why he was still there. "Sure." He said after a second. The cocky tone had come back. "He's forward for the Oregon Ducks."
Of course he would think of that Robert Johnson. Was there anything in Nathan's mind that didn't run on sports? "Heh." He laughed, trying not to sound too mocking. "No." He said finally, pocketing the money. "Robert Johnson was a Blues man back in the 30s." The blank look that had been on Nathan's face since the question was posed still stood. He decided to continue with the lesson anyway. The boy might actually retain some of it. "Story goes; he made a deal with the devil for the gift of music. Kind of like you're doing for Haley."
"So what? You're supposed to be the devil?" Was Nathan Scott mocking him? It seemed like it was too good to be true that he had set himself up like that.
"No man, I'm Robert Johnson." He thought for a minute, seeing some sort of confusion flickering into Nathan's eyes. "You'rethe devil." He informed him quickly.
It looked like it only too a second for the information to be processed. Well at least now someone knew how he felt about the man in front of him. Nathan seemed to consider what the right response was and then he took a step closer to the piano bench. "So how's Haley doing?"
He had to remind himself that this was the man who had given her the damn ultimatum in the first place. "Not well." He responded harshly. "How are you and Haley doing?"
Apparently that wasn't an answer that Nathan had wanted. "Let's get something straight," he started. "I'm here to talk about Haley and her music, not Haley and me."
For a second he wished that he could hand over all of the memories from the past few months. He wished that he could let Nathan see just a sliver of what he did every time he looked at Haley. The girl was hanging on to life - to sanity - by a thread, and all it would take was one word from the dark haired man for that thread to snap. "You still don't get it do you?" His voice was the embodiment of irony as he sat back and stared into the eyes of the man that kept forcing Haley to take two steps back any time she even thought she was gaining ground. "They're the same thing."
He didn't know why that news shocked Nathan.
Because Chris Keller saw more than he should.