Okay guys, I know I've been absolutely horrible at updating, but here's the next chapter. There's a Chris/Mel moment, and a Nathan/Haley moment, so I hope you guys like. Things get pretty interesting in here, so do let me know what you think. Love, Wendy.

Ch.13 – Static

Haley smiled to herself, as the memories of yesterday night flashed vividly in her mind. It had been surreal, like they had been back in high school. It had been nice to lose herself in the sweet familiarity of it all. The six of them back together like old times, playing at Tric, singing effortlessly, Nathan. It all strangely fell back into place. But as blissful as it may seem, as perfect as things may be, it only added to her confusion.

For the first time in many nights last night, she hadn't needed the help of any sort of medication to fall asleep. She had come home, showered, laid in bed and peacefully dozed off; this time she dreamt of wind and the beach, the breeze and running hand in hand with Nathan down the shore, the waves gently lapping at their feet. It had been beautiful, and she had woken up with a slight smile on her face. The only thing bothering her in the dream was that she had constantly felt like there had been a dark shadow, a dark image following them closely behind. But every single time she had turned around to look, it had disappeared. Perhaps that meant something.

"Penny for your thoughts?" Mel sat in front of Haley, snapping her fingers lightly in her face. Brooke and Peyton sat on either side of her, both looking expectantly at her. Mel had slept over the previous night after Tric having been too tired to make it back home.

Haley shook herself out of her thoughts, not having even realised that the three of them had entered the room. "Give me a dollar, and I'll reconsider," she joked half-heartedly.

Brooke smiled. "Cheer up, tutor girl. You're not supposed to look like this after you and your Prince Charming dance the night away."

She shrugged. "What am I supposed to look like then?"

Peyton yawned, stretching tiredly. "Like someone who just danced the night away."

Mel gave Peyton a good-natured shove. "You know, you really don't make much sense when you're half-asleep."

"Hey, cut me some slack, I'm the one who was working my butt off, while you, who promised to help," Peyton paused, pointing at Mel. "Were off busy canoodling with that poser!"

"I was not!"

Brooke rolled her eyes. "Ugh. Chris Keller."

"What's the deal with the both of you anyway?" Haley smiled. "He seemed rather into you and you into him."

"Haley," Mel said, narrowing her eyes into little squints. "You are not going change the subject. We were discussing you and Nathan."

Haley glared back for awhile, folding her arms across her chest. "Okay, I really don't know what there is to say."

"Honey, you spent almost the entire night in his arms, you're bound to have something to say!" Brooke nudged her.

"I- " she bit down on her lip. "I enjoyed it, okay?"

Peyton broke out into a big grin. "All right."

"But- But I don't know what to do," she turned to look at each of them in turn. "What am I supposed to do? I mean, he slept with my sister. And they have a child. Even if I lo- even if I can forgive that entirely, I won't be able to forgive myself if I break a family up."

Mel put her hand on Haley's knee, patting it gently. "What if the family's already too broken up to save?"

"It sure looks that way to me," Brooke added, putting an arm around her shoulders. "Maybe sometimes you have to be selfish, Haley." She glanced sideways at Peyton, who nodded. "You have stop thinking about everyone else, and start thinking about you, and what you want, and what you need," she finished. "You have to.

"At least try, Haley. Like your song," Mel added.

"Well, I can't exactly contradict myself, can I?" Haley smiled.

She leaned into Brooke, hugging her, pulling Peyton and Mel into a group hug; words were not needed to convey her thank you's to them. They understood her, and helped her all she needed.

---

Dan stood at the door, not bothering to knock. He waited for his son to look up, acknowledging his presence, and he quickly walked in. "Where were you last night?" his voice was moderate, but with an underlying tension.

Nathan rolled his eyes. "What am I, Dad? In grade school?"

He ignored Nathan's sarcastic remark. "I know you were at the opening of that club. And I know she was there."

"Haley, Dad. Does it aggravate you so much to say her name?" Nathan stood up, looking his father straight in the eye.

"She's not good news, Nathan. You need to steer clear of her."

"I know what I need, and what I don't need, Dad. And what I don't need right now, is you getting on my case every five seconds, okay?"

Dan moved closer to his son, his voice getting louder. "Your first game for the Celtics is less than a week away, son, and you will screw your chance up if you keep on seeing her."

Nathan laughed sardonically under his breath. "I don't screw up, Dad. You already do that enough for the both of us." He moved to leave, but Dan stood in his way.

"You want to throw away everything we've both worked so hard for?"

"We? That's real funny, Dad, because the last time I checked, the Celtics signed me up, not us both," Nathan spat out, his voice edged with impatience. "You gotta stop wanting to live your son's life, because clearly, that's just pathetic," he said, stressing the last word.

"You want to disregard my help? Fine!" Dan said tightly, his eyes flashing with anger. "One day, you'll thank me for helping you build this life. But now, if you don't want to listen to me, and keep on seeing that bitch, you will wreck everything. Mark my words."

"Don't you ever call her that again," Nathan's voice intensified dangerously. "She's my wife. And she deserves more respect than you ever will."

"Your wife?" Dan raised an eyebrow, laughing under his breath. "Because unless old age is taking me over, I remember your wife leaving you. But she left behind a boy, Nathan, a young, stupid, naïve boy. Not a man. That boy had been cheated, but you-," he paused, looking at him. "You are a man, now. One that should be able to see beyond that plain face which you stupidly worship, and see the fraud that she is. She's ruining your life!"

Nathan shook his head. "You leave her out of this," he said, irate, and moved to walk out of the room, his shoulder roughly bumping into Dan's as he left.

Dan turned around, watching his son's retreating back. His fists clenched, the fury raging in his veins. If you won't listen, then maybe she will.

---

Mel walked into her favourite lunch spot, a quaint little café a block away from her office that she loved, the bell on the door tinkling behind her. She chose a booth and sat down, studying the menu. It was quiet, and nobody she knew ever went there. It was just a nice place for her to have lunch, away from the tension of the corporate world, away from the courtroom drama, away from the daily chaos.

"I'll have the chicken cordon bleu, and a cappuccino, please," she ordered her usual favourite.

"Make that two," Chris slid into the booth, opposite her. He grinned at the waitress and handed the menu back to her.

Mel glared at him in disbelief; her jaw dropped. "I could ask you what you were doing here," she finally said. "But I've already asked you that three times in the past four days."

"Well, well," Chris said, rubbing his hands together with glee. "Looks like fate to me, then."

"Or I could just leave," she stared at him pointedly.

He reached out to catch her hand. "Or you could just try to be nice to me for once."

"That's highly impossible," she said tightly, pulling her hand away from him.

"Well, you'll just have to try a little harder, then," he grinned. "Besides, you kinda cheated me on that last date. It wasn't exactly a date-date, it was more of a get-me-away-from-that-loser-date."

She folded her arms across her chest. "So you're not all that stupid!" she said, widening her eyes sarcastically, feigning shock.

"Come on, Mel. Just a simple lunch. Won't take you longer than an hour, tops," he stared into her eyes, the piercing blue once again startling her. "Please?"

She looked at him incredulously, feeling herself slip away in the cool ocean blue. "Chris Keller saying 'please'? That's a first."

"Yeah, yes it is," he grinned. "Better note down the time, date and venue. Moments like this don't happen often."

Mel looked at him, slowly shaking her head. "I must be losing my mind, but I'm actually going to agree with you."

"It's the charm of Chris Keller, trust me," he said, that familiar arrogant glint evident in his eyes. "Besides, a beautiful redhead like you, is just his type."

"God forbid, I feel like there's a third person at this table," she rolled her eyes again, her head tilted upwards. It was going to be one long hour.

---

The doorbell rang, and Haley rushed to answer it. Mel had left earlier in the day for work, and Peyton left about an hour ago to prepare Tric for that night. Brooke was out again, probably conquering the malls in Boston again. Breathlessly, she opened the door. Her eyes travelled upward, and settled on Nathan's face. "Hey," she feebly managed. "I wasn't expecting you."

"I wanted to surprise you," Nathan replied, his voice gentle. "Did I?"

She raised her eyebrows. "Sure did."

He nodded. "Sorry."

Mike looked up, observing the exchange of words between the two grown ups. "Haley!" he finally said, a little on the impatient side.

Haley looked down, looking startled, like she hadn't noticed Mike. "Hey, buddy," she finally said, reaching down to ruffle up his mop of blonde hair affectionately.

Mike smiled up admiringly at her. "Will you come to the park with us, Haley?"

"Please," Nathan chided his son.

"Please?" Mike echoed, clasping his hands together in a pleading motion. "I really miss you."

Haley laughed. "You just saw me yesterday night, Mike."

"Well, I missed you this morning, then," he said, in an explaining tone. Reaching out, he grabbed her hand, and with his other hand, he held Nathan's. "Let's go," he said authoritatively, tugging on both their hands.

Haley exchanged a glance with Nathan, and nodded. "Let's go," she repeated.

She locked the door behind her, and the three of them, hand-in-hand, walked out into the cool evening air. They kept silent for a little while, Mike being engrossed in a brown dog that was just a few metres away from them. Finally, it was Nathan who broke the silence. "So, after last night's song, anyone want you on tour with them yet?" His tone was light and easy, not in the very least bitter.

She stopped immediately in her tracks, turning to look at him.

Nathan stopped, his jaw dropping, mentally kicking himself. "Sorry, Hales. I didn't mean it in that way," he said, his brow creasing. "I mean- your song was so beautiful, so I would have thought someone would have approached you and- " he stopped. "God, I'm sorry. I didn't mean it like it sounded."

Haley shook her head, the initial shock wearing off. She started walking again. "It's okay."

"It's not like I want to you to leave on tour again. I mean, your song was amazing, and I wouldn't be surprised if some music scout spotted you and wanted you to tour, and- oh goddammit," he finished lamely. Nathan wasn't someone who usually stuttered, but today, he felt like he was the biggest idiot to ever walk the face of the earth. I can't do anything right today, he thought angrily to himself.

"Why do you look so uncomfortable, Daddy?" Mike asked, a little skip in his steps.

Nathan sneaked a sideward glance at Haley. "Uhhh, just a little cold," he lied, saying the first thing that came to his mind.

Mike thought for a little while, a little frown crossing his face. He squeezed Nathan's hand tightly. "My hand must be too small to warm you up," he said wisely. "Here, Daddy, you hold Haley's hand; it's bigger," he grinned, pulling Haley's hand to Nathan's. "There, now you'll be all warm."

Haley's eyes widened in shock. "Mike- " she started.

"Don't you want Daddy to be all warm? He may fall sick!" Mike said innocently, his eyes wide.

Nathan quickly nodded, feigning a little cough. He grasped her hand, clutching it tightly, like he never wanted to let go. He pulled on her hand gently, and finally, after what seemed like forever, she nodded. She squeezed his hand back softly, and the three of them started walking again. Nathan in the middle, with his son and wife on either side of him. He looked at her, and smiled. That was the most right thing I said all evening, he thought to himself. At the exact same moment, she looked up at him, and met his gaze, the corners of her mouth turning up slightly, her eyes smiling along with her lips.

Chris forked a piece of his chicken, bringing it to his mouth. "What kind of music do you like?"

"Are you trying to get me to name you?" she sneered, taking a sip of her cappuccino.

He laughed. "Nah, for real. I can't date a girl with bad taste in music."

Mel rolled her eyes. "With you, everything revolves around girls and sex, huh?"

He laughed again, easily, comfortably. "Way of life, cutie. C'mon. Let's talk music."

"Fine," she said exasperatedly, chewing thoughtfully on her food. "First of all, I don't listen to mainstream- "

"Good, I didn't peg you as the boy band listening type. You're just too feisty."

" –and Top 40 stuff. I like a lot of underground rock, rap-rock, punk, indie, urban. Whatever I feel like listening to."

"Interesting. You know, the music you listen to shows your personality," Chris said.

She rolled her eyes again. "Pray do tell, Madame Keller. Look into your crystal ball, and enlighten me. Have the stars aligned yet?" she asked, her voice dripping with sarcasm.

"No, seriously. You're someone who's not normal- "

"Gee, thanks," she muttered."

"–someone who's not your average person. You're diverse, fiery, unique, eclectic. You don't go with the flow, you go against it. And you don't like people telling you what to do." He cocked his head, looking at her.

"Hmmm, funny. You seem to like doing that a lot, actually," she retorted smoothly, when inside she was surprised that he had described her down to a tee. Frowning, she wondered inwardly why it mattered so much to her that he agreed with her choices in music.

He smirked. "Well, what can I say. I'm dominant," he waggled his eyebrows, his voice suggestive. When she looked murderous, he laughed. "Okay, okay. Back to music. You listen to British acts?"

"A little."

"That's where the real music's gonna be coming from, for the next year," he predicted. "Come on, name a good song by a British act."

She frowned, trying to think. "'The Scientist', Coldplay."

"Nice," he nodded, approving. "How 'bout, 'With Or Without You' by U2?"

Mel raised an eyebrow. "Isn't U2 Irish?"

He smirked. "So you do know your music," he said, cockily. "Okay. 'Somewhere Only We Know', Keane."

"Joss Stone. 'Right Kind Of Wrong'," she said quickly, not about wanting to back down.

A grin spread across Chris' face at the name of the song. "Mmm. Gorgeous girl. Franz Ferdinand's pretty good. 'Take Me Out'," he said, a mischievous look on his face.

A crease settled across Mel's forehead. Nothing came to mind. She wrinkled up her nose, making Chris smile at her, unnoticed. "Snow Patrol, 'Make Love To Me Forever'," she said quickly, not realising the title of the song until she had said it.

Chris smirked, self-absorbedly. "I was waiting for you to say that."

She glared at him, at a loss for words. "It's a song, you sick moron." Her eyes flashed, a mixture of embarrassment and annoyance both at herself and at him.

"I know that," he grinned effortlessly. He looked at her, all flushed pink and rosy, her green eyes vivid and intense against her long red curly hair, not knowing what to say. "You're beautiful," he blurted.

Mel stopped, her expression stunned. Then, she shook her head, rolling her eyes. "Right. 'You're Beautiful', by James Blunt, right?"

Chris looked at her, taken aback. "Yeah," he nodded slowly. "Yeah, it was that song by him," he said, covering up.

They went on back and forth until the bill came; neither wanting to back down from the little game-like challenge they had started. They both paid for their separate shares, Mel refusing Chris paying for her. Finally she stood up, getting her bag. "It's pretty late, I gotta get back to work," she paused. "I gave you your date, so you'll stay away from Haley now?" she said judiciously.

He stood up too, and put his hand to her chin, lifting it up slightly so he stared at her straight in her eye. Then, in a quick movement, he leaned in and brushed her cheek with his lips. "Cutie, Haley was never in the equation with you and Chris Keller from the beginning." He smiled, sanctimoniously, and turned around to walk away, leaving her mouth open; her hand moved up to her cheek to touch the place where his lips had grazed her skin, more confused than she had ever been in her life, once again.

Mike ran off to play, his little body like a bundle of energy. He ran towards the slide and started to climb up the steps excitedly, his already-messy blonde hair getting more tousled in the breeze.

"Be careful, Mike," Nathan called after his son, looking a little worried.

Haley smiled at his parental concern. "Relax, it's just a playground."

He turned around to face her. "Yeah, I guess it is," he said, smiling sheepishly. He glanced down, looking at their intertwined hands. "I like this," he said softly.

Haley's gaze followed his. "What?"

"This," he said, nodding. "Being like this. Last night was amazing."

She shrugged, trying to look indifferent, but a little smile creeping across her features. She couldn't help it. "Yeah."

"It's just like before," Nathan said, reaching for her free hand with his other hand. "And it's like the feeling hasn't changed. Not one bit."

She looked up at him, her eyes looking a little scared. "Sure we've changed, Nathan."

"Hales, you haven't. And I haven't. You're still the same Haley James I fell in love with. You're still Haley, you're still my Hales," he said, squeezing both her hands tightly.

She looked down, a strand of hair falling across her face. "I like you calling me that," she said softly.

"And I love calling you that." His smile faded. "Haley, we need to talk and sort things out."

She sighed. This had been what she had been dreading all along. She didn't know if she could. It was painful. Forcing a smile, she pushed all the things, all the pain to the back of her mind. "I need a little more time, Nathan, please." She shook her head. "I have so many things I need to tell you. But I can't, not just yet."

He looked sad, his eyes wounded. "You can trust me."

Haley bit down on her lip, biding for time. Can I trust you? Should I trust you? Don't let yourself go any further than you've already let yourself go, a voice inside her head warned her. "I need time."

Nathan finally nodded, slowly. "I'll try to give you that," he whispered. And then, he leaned down and kissed her gently on her forehead. She closed her eyes, trying to savour the moment, but she couldn't, because there were hot tears threatening to spill over if she opened them.

"So, I'll see you tomorrow?" Nathan asked, reaching out to tuck her hair behind her ear gently.

Haley shuddered, not from the cold, but from his soft caress. She nodded, not knowing what else to say. "Thanks for walking me home."

"I wanted to," he said, shrugging. "See you soon, Haley."

"Bye, Haley," Mike said, waving gaily.

Haley's heart ached, which it did almost every time she saw Mike. "Bye, kiddo."

He looked at her one last time, smiling, and turned around, Mike's hand in his. She watched them walk away wistfully, Nathan touching Mike affectionately at random intervals, and Mike looking up at Nathan, beaming in admiration, both of them laughing with each another.

"He's a good father, isn't he?" A voice said silently from behind her.

Startled, Haley spun around quickly.

Dan stood there, sneering at her. "Ms. James, we need to talk."

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