Yeah, I don't know. I guess my season two DVDs were making me feel a little angsty.

Today's Actions, Tomorrow's Regrets

She chooses now to come clean.

Haley James has always had the world's worst timing. In kindergarten, she had ruined the Christmas pageant by stumbling in long after her cue. She came across her sister Quinn's proposal from her long-time boyfriend. She's accidentally walked in on everything from Taylor's sexcapades to Lucas in the shower.

Becoming Haley James-Scott hasn't done anything to change this.

The Wreckers are in town, playing at Tric. Peyton's been achieving the unimaginable ever since she started working at the club, and that's the only explanation as to what Michelle Branch is doing in Tree Hill, North Carolina. There really is no explanation as to what's come over Haley lately. There's a whirlwind full of music and opportunity, and it's swept her up. All she can do is pinch herself to see if it's real.

The only thing she's ever experienced that's come even close is when she got married.

But this is totally different than that. Haley's pinched herself frequently, and both Nathan and music notes are still here. Yet one is flourishing while the other is suffering. After she got married, all she could feel was this warm giddy feeling, gushing forward every time she let it. After she became involved in the musical world, she can feel her heart and her soul crooning, more tenderly than ever before, but all she can see is the slight frown constantly tugging at her husband's handsome face.

Nathan Scott is so handsome that she would wake up in the mornings and wonder if she was just fantasizing about a movie star. His arm, wonderfully masculine without being freakishly muscular, would wind it's way around her waist, and she would breath him in deeply, relishing the fact that this was no fantasy—this was her reality. And it was the most magical one she could ever craft for herself.

But in this fairy tale, the damsel in distress had a beautiful singing voice, and along comes a dark knight who can give her everything she ever dreamed of—if only she'd leave behind her prince. This fairy tale is not where she wants to live. Haley James-Scott wants to live in a world where school is not relevant, where her husband is a national basketball star, and she can sing her heart out to an audience of millions every night.

Tonight she has an opportunity to make at least a little bit of that dream come true. Michelle Branch wants her to come on tour with her, and her heart hasn't soared that way in a long time.

But Chris Keller wants her to come too. And that's where the lines begin to blur.

Haley James… Scott… James-Scott… whoever she is. She can feel the edges of the counter pressing into her thighs as she presses her golden brown curls against his taut chest. She holds him close, having the ominous feeling that whether she wins or loses, it'll be the last time for a long time that she holds him this way. Still, the excitement brimming in her honey brown eyes. Visions of strobe lights and fog machines and guitars and fans danced in her mind, almost clearly enough to blur out the boy in front of her, the boy she's vowed to love forever.


He asks her what's wrong. She doesn't even note how strange it is that he takes a hug from his wife as a signal that something's up. She's too excited to notice his apprehension, too nervous to notice his nervousness. That's how it's been lately, Haley a little too caught up in Haley, a little too thrilled with her newfound music career to notice the most important relationship in her life fraying at the seams.

"Um… Michelle Branch really likes my voice," she began, her throat dry, her speech awkward. "She thinks I could be a singer…a real one." She's nervous, nearly as nervous as she was during her first performance at Tric, and for some reason, she feels like she's got just as much to prove. But she sees the proud smile flit across his face, leaving a lasting glow. God, she loves him so much that she can barely stand it, and his smile is too beautiful for words. Somehow, she feels like they can make it through this.

"Chris said that she wants me on tour," she continues, eager to see the smile stretch. It always amazed her how deeply he could feel, once he let someone in. He valued her accomplishments more dearly than he did his own. But she knew then that she'd made a wrong move as his smile vanished, his face clouding slightly. Still, she presses on. "I'm so far ahead in classes, and I'd be back in time for finals—"

"So says the great Chris." There's a hard, mocking edge to the voice that had always been so tender with her before. He nods, but certainly not in approval. Ever since formal, he had been sharpening. His hackles had been raised; meanwhile he had never even held them around her before. They fought so often now, both openly admitting that they had to "fight" for their marriage, but there seemed to be so many obstacles lately. Chris, and music, and Taylor. Ironic, that all of those things were because of her.

"No! This isn't about him, Nathan," she expelled all in one breath, eager to reassure him. Was it wrong for her to love the jealousy within him? Yes, probably. But Haley couldn't help the little bubbles of happiness that would form within her whenever she saw his demeanor cloud over with envy, still marveling that someone as amazing as him could be so protective of someone like her. She didn't deserve him, but damn it, she would keep him any way she could. His expression barely changed at her words.

"This is about… opportunity. I have, my entire life, been the reliable one and the dependable one and I've always done exactly what's expected of me," she was beginning to get worked up now. If she went fast enough, Haley could almost convince herself that this was all going to work out.

"—Until we got married," he cut in sagely, a thoroughly unimpressed look upon his face. He knew this argument. He had heard it before. He had used it before. Maybe not exactly, but details were unimportant. It was a reasoning to break free, and God knows he had had enough emancipation in the past few months.

"Exactly," she said, relieved, because he seemed to be understanding. How that was possible, she wasn't sure, because even she didn't understand. But since their marriage, he seemed to know her much better than she knew herself. The tiny part of her heart, the selfish part, wondered if he knew Haley James, or just Haley Scott. The larger part didn't care. It loved him too much to care. "And I finally did something for me… something I wanted… and the world didn't end. And I have that chance again."

"If you leave me," Nathan cut in, eyebrows raised. He knew that Haley hated pink, but he didn't know that her favorite color was that of his eyes. They were so perfectly blue that they were almost painful to look into, and yet she never could look anywhere else, darkening and lightening with his moods. Now they were dark, hurt seeping in where devotion was usually resident.

"This is not the end for us," she insisted, trying to share her brainwaves with him. How could he not see this for the amazing thing it was? This was not the end of them! Oh, hell no! They were Nathan and Haley. Naley. There would never be an end for them. "This is my shot to find out if I'm good enough to have a life in music, or if nights at Tric are all I'm ever going to get."

Surely he could understand this. She could almost see him softening. He would understand that playing high school basketball would never be the same as the NBA, just like playing Tric would never be the same as going on tour. He would know that she would take it either way, for love of the music, but she would have to reach as far as she could, or else live the rest of her life in wonder.

"And this has nothing to do with Chris?"

"No. Absolutely not," she stated firmly, shaking her head. Her hair moved slightly at the action, and she could see his eyes follow the strands for only the briefest of moments before snapping his gaze back to her. She had always loved that he could see right through her, deep down into her soul, but right now, she hoped she was cloudy. Maybe, just maybe, then he wouldn't call her on how selfish she was.

"Then why haven't you asked me to come with you?" Nathan asked softly, and it wouldn't have had a different effect if he had smacked her. Haley James-Scott has been struck speechless, which anyone who's ever known her can attest to, is a rare occurrence. She honestly doesn't know why she hadn't asked him to come, and now she feels like a moron. A selfish, stupid—

"Did you kiss him?" he whispered, his voice breaking. Her constant internal stream of self-deprecation ceased, too shocked to continue. Should she be angry that he was asking her this? Upset that he hadn't believed her when he asked her the first time? Instead of forcing any emotions that she didn't feel at the moment, she decided to just be honest.

She chooses now to come clean.

"Yes," she whispers, after the longest pause that's ever existed between the two of them. He flinches away from her, barely perceptibly, but she notices. And it stings. The hurt seeps into his eyes, more forcefully than before, until it seems to drown out the love usually present. His eyes darken to the most royal of blues, the darkest shade she had ever seen them, but Haley knows that she doesn't like this color. She hates it, maybe even more than she hates pink. This is the color of pain, of true hurt, and she's the cause of it.

"I'm sorry. You have to believe me," she whispers, stopping for a second before continuing in her desperate plea for his continuing love. Yet she has to ask herself, why the hell should he believe her? There's been nothing but tensions and lies between them for weeks, and now she's falling back onto a trust she's done all she could to destroy. "That's not what this is about, Nathan—"

Maybe she was right after all. He didn't have to love her, and he sure as hell didn't have to trust her, and maybe in this moment, he decided that he didn't do either. There was something determined about him now. Determined to be cold, to be angry, to be something other than in pain. There was something reckless and desperate evident in him… it was kind of hot. Her heart swelled happily at how far he seemed to be willing to go to keep her with him. Didn't he realize that she would never leave him? Not really. She never could. She had loathed him at the beginning, but he had grown on her, to the point where she could barely breathe without him. Nathan Scott had forced his way into every sector of her body, every portion of her heart. Even the smallest, most selfish part, cried out for him when he was away. But this wasn't what she wanted. Not this tension, this anger, these tears. She hadn't wanted any of this for them, and she knew that it was all her fault.

"Haley, listen. If you wanna go, you should go," he stepped back. She smiled slightly at his words. She knew he would understand. Nathan was the man of her dreams, the most perfect husband she could ever ask for. She leaned forward to hug him, her arms preparing to wrap around his neck, but he stepped out of her reach, and she had the sinking feeling that this wasn't over. "If you do… we're done."

She could feel a giant hand come down and squeeze her, expelling the air from her body. He was gone, the apartment door slamming before her gasp was through.

An emotion from her childhood welled up within her, forcing its way through the sadness and the pain. Rebellion. With hands off parents like Jimmy and Lydia James, there was never much for Haley to fight against. Instead, she fought her reputation as the "perfect child" in miniscule ways, wanting to defy everyone's expectations, but not wanting to disappoint anyone at the same time. Now she could feel it again, the urge to fight back. Nathan had given her an ultimatum. Well, she would show him. Yes, she was being stupid and childish, and she would most certainly regret this in the morning, but he was being cold and controlling and he didn't own her. And so she packed a bag.

Haley could hear Taylor tutting away in the corner, doing nothing to stop her but glare disapprovingly. This only fueled her. Now she could use this as a "fuck you!" message to Taylor too. She didn't need anyone's approval. She didn't need them at all. No matter what the little voice in her head said. Regardless of the fact that she could almost feel her heart tearing itself to shreds as she packed away photographs of Nathan.

Without so much as a goodbye, she slides the crackerjack bracelet that's come to mean more than her wedding ring off her thin wrist. She's out the door as it hits the table.

Tonight, she runs off defiance and dreams.

She'll certainly regret this in the morning.