A/N: Thisis a new story I came up with. I'm not sure how long it will be or if it will be a happy Naley or not. But if you like it, I'll continue.

A/N2: Okay, the background is that Nathan and Haley did get married in high school. Dan's not an ass and I've decided to eliminate Deb and have Karen and Dan be married; with Nathan and Lucas as their sons. I'm not sure where Peyton, Brooke, or Jake will play into this story but I'm sure they'll be making their apperances. Uh, anything else that happened in their lives will be included in flashback sequences so you can see what all went wrong.

Oh, this is just a general chapter; it's kinda vague about details and stuff but it'll all come out. So enjoy and drop the love.

However Long the Night, The Dawn Will Break

He was going home. Seven years, three months, one week, six days, nine hours, and twelve minutes. Give or take a few. He hadn't spoken to her since he had quietly left his wedding band on his pillow and slipped out of the comfort of his bed. Their bed. Out of the comfort of her arms. Not a note, not a word and definitely not a goodbye.

Through lawyers, he had filed for an annulment, erasing the whole six months they were wed. It wasn't something he had intended on doing when he had walked away from their tiny apartment, their home, but after three years, it was time to let her go. He didn't offer a why or a reason, just a signature and a broken heart.

He couldn't tell you why he never returned. His reasons for leaving were simple enough. It was simply too much. It wasn't a lack of love or caring on either part, just a need for air. He needed to grow up, become the man he was destined to be and honestly, he wasn't sure if he could do that being her husband.

There wasn't a doubt in his mind when he proposed to her. It was spur of the moment, the way he had blurted it out, but the thought itself weighed heavily on his mind months prior to that. She just quirked up an eyebrow and looked at him thoughtfully before shrugged her shoulders and giving him his answer.

"Sure."

It wasn't romantic or magical but for them it fit. They had know each other their entire lives and the once platonic friendship had grown much more passionate. He could still pinpoint the exact moment he had fallen in love with her. He could even tell you what she was wearing and how she smelled.

He didn't think he could love her more than that but promising forever to her on a sandy beach intensified his love so much for her that it hurt. And it terrified him. Here he was, seventeen, not even a senior and giving his whole world to someone else. His fears subsided and passed but eventually the same stifling feeling he felt when he said 'I do' was returning and he needed out.

While blissful, it was tough. While whole heartedly supporting their life decision, they choose to keep their parents outside of their marriage. The stress of school and jobs and sports bogged down their once care free relationship. And eventually the dates became less and the arguments more.

But he never stopped loving her.

And maybe that was his problem now. After all this time, her eyes and her voice haunted his dreams. He couldn't let her go for the life of him. That was the other problem. It was costly him his life. While he didn't expect her to, he had remained faithful to her, terrified of losing yet another thing that they had shared firstly and together.

Fear. That was the common thread that had driven him in his actions for the past seven years. Once, while in Mexico, he had read that a life lived in fear is a life half lived. He had realized then that he was still running after all these years. Running scared and running stupidly.

He was a coward by any definition of the word. He had let fear and a lack of courage ran rampant through his life. Yes, he was a naïve, scared kid when he had took a vow for life. But he had the courage to go through with it. He had the courage when he asked her to marry him. But he was a coward leaving her in the cover of night.

His father had taught him to face fear head on. There wasn't anything in life to fear that would force us not to confront it eye to eye. The values instilled in him from birth were thrown out the window, right along with all sanity and reason. But as much growing up and living he had done, one thing still lingered from that kid running away from home.

Fear.

The fear of what was to come upon his arrival home. Did he expect a welcome mat and open arms? No, not by any means. He sent a postcard once a month from wherever he was at the moment and that was the only form of communication he had with his parents. He didn't own a phone and lived out of a suitcase.

Disappointment was the other reigning factor in his life. His parents, his brother, his friends, and he dare say his wife were clearly the people he had disappointed most in his life. Not to mention his own burden that he carried on his sleeve like a dingy cufflink. It wasn't at all like he pictured his life would be like.

The image he created in his mind for his life with her was big and beautiful and full of promise. When he crept out of her life so many years ago, he did picture his life pretty dreary and painful but not nearly as bad as what it had turned out to be. Bad food, sleepless nights, and lonely bus rides filled his miserable existence.

It made him wonder what he was so afraid of.

His parents had paid his way through college, not ever knowing where he was, and after four years he sent him his degree in teaching. He only got it for the soul purpose of when he finally did decide to grow up and come home, he would have a career. He had at least thought that far ahead.

Afterwards, he traveled from town to city and to countries, his only income coming from meager and useless jobs that put him in a decent bed and food in his mouth. But it thought him to survive and he experienced more than what he had expected to in the few years he had been away.

And now he was coming home. His mother wrote him once telling him that he could run away however long he wanted to but he would come back. He had left his heart there, a life isn't worth living unless you've got the heart to do it. He had missed his mother and her warm smile that accompanied her open ear and helpful advice.

His father was also sorely missed. Apart from the fact that he had grown up, his father's ailing health was another deciding factor in his return home. It was cancer and it was eating the once strong and surly man to a point of atrophy. And it made him feel extremely guilty.

His brother was his best friend. His fraternal twin, growing up they had been in separable. He was beyond his years in wisdom and soul and he had counseled him many times. Ultimately, it was his words of advice that led him to leave her. He had come to him in desperation, scared out of his mind, and simply his brother had shone the light. He wondered if his brother ever thought his simple words would cause him to leave all together.

Her. The one. Thoughts and dreams of her enveloped his mind constantly. The smallest of things brought back the smallest of memories. And he remembered everything. He didn't know if he had subconsciously choose to remember everything about her to prepare him for the seven years of loneness, but he didn't think he forgot a single thing.

He could still distinctively tell you how she smelt and if he held his eyes closed real tight, he could almost feel her milky skin on his fingertips. He could almost feel her silky hair running through his hand and her smooth lips on his own. Almost, if he focused enough, he could see her standing there in the distance, like a mirage to torture his soul.

She always told him almost doesn't count.

He knew the love she had for him was deep, untouched, and he knew he had hurt her badly. And while she was the most forgiving and compassionate person he knew, she was also a force to be reckoned with. But while fear and disappointment ruled his heart before, a new force rested there now.

Hope.

He looked up from the road to the sign his headlights were now shining brightly on. He was home. His heart, his love, was practically, literally right around the corner.

Welcome to Tree Hill.

The time I would spend with pictures I would not send.

I watched you go from left to right.

I followed you all night across my blinds.

You'll change your mind come Monday and turn your back on me.

You'll take your steps away with hesitance.

Take your steps away from me.

I'm making my peace, making it with distance.

Maybe that's a big mistake.

You know I'm thinking of you.

I miss you.

You'll change your mind come Monday and turn your back on me.

You'll take your steps away with hesitance.

You'll take your steps away from me.

You'll change your mind come Monday and turn your back on me.

Take your steps away with hesitance.

Take your steps away from me.

Life was wacky sometimes. Even while you think you have the best laid plans, the best of intentions, life has a way of working in kinks and curveballs and heartache when you didn't think it would exist there. And she certainly didn't think life was gonna end up like this. She wondered if he would ever come home.

Seven years, three months, one week, six days, nine hours, and twelve minutes. Give or take a few.

She saw him get up that night. Sleepily, she watched him roll over, kiss her on the lips, and walk away. She did nothing to stop him. She assumed he was going to the bathroom. Almost instantly she had fallen back to sleep, knowing that in the morning she would be in his arms. In the lonely light of morning, she almost instantly knew she had assumed wrong.

She could've chosen the harder way. She could've chosen the path to a downward spiral. But as she contemplated her options, an old poem popped into her brain and she knew what she had to do. It had been her mission statement from day one, and while heartache was rushing through her now empty heart, she choose the better option.

The road less traveled.

And it had made all the difference. Of course she mourned, and of course she was hurt. She was angry and worried. She was still in love and still hopeful. No one thought so, but the usual walks in the rain that had frequented her life before were now for the soul purpose of releasing the tears she refused to let anyone else see.

The day the annulment papers came was the biggest dose of reality she could take. Somehow, she thought that a slap in the face, a punch in the gut, would hurt far less than seeing his name sprawled across the appropriate lines. After a day of memories and tears, painfully, but almost freely, she signed her name too.

But all the sad emotions and grief and worry eventually transformed into life. Into moving on. He wasn't coming back and she had to accept that. And while the leaving hurt her a great deal, it was the realization that he wasn't going to return to her that cut her the deepest.

She wondered where she had failed and if she had proven her worth to him. Almost as instantly as the thought had fluttered through her mind, it was shaken off completely. No, she knew he loved her more than anything and more than himself. Clearly, it was something he had to do and eventually the wounds healed and silently she forgave him.

Forgetting him, now that was a completely different struggle all in itself.

In time, she had finished her education and threw herself into her work. Nursing was her true calling, she could tell you that when she was just a little girl. She wasn't just some ordinary nurse; she nursed children with cancer. She had the compassion and the will and while people didn't understand it, they didn't doubt that she was damn good at it either. Now however, she nursed her ailing father in law.

Most people found it strange for her to accept it and move on. But most people didn't realize how much she truly understood him. Friends told her it was okay to cry and family told her to be strong. The common chant was to let go. It was hard telling her heart and her head to get on the same wave length.

Then one day it happened. A new day had come.

She had finally moved on. It was strange, almost foreign to open her heart up to someone new. And while she doubted he had, she hoped that he had done the same. She couldn't live in the past and more so, she refused to. He was a different time, a different life and she was now a different woman. She wasn't the child bride she was years before.

She had remarried. It was sad, happy, and bittersweet all rolled into one event. She almost had to force herself down the aisle and to her new husband. Flashes of their small ceremony on the beach filled her eyes and blurred her vision before she shook them away and continued walking. When her new husband promised her the sun, the moon, and all the stars, the tears cascading down her cheeks weren't purely those of joy.

Now, with two years of marriage behind the young couple, they were embarking on their next step. Children. It guilted her to think so, but she felt wrong now making babies without her first love, her true love. They had discussed it with glee and anticipation, dreaming of names and building a description of the perfect combination of the two of them.

And now, she was doing it with her second husband. Her second choice. Of course she loved him, and cared for him a great deal. She felt that it was a good thing people didn't go around saying 'I'm in love with you' for a greeting or parting for the norm, otherwise she would be lying. She meant when she said that she loved him as just that; love. Quite possibly mixed in with a dose of compassion, respect, and appreciation.

Tonight found her feeling pretty dreary. Her husband slash best buddy was out of town for business and with the rain steadily pouring down outside, she sat at the kitchen counter drinking her third cup of coffee. Running her finger on the rim of the cup, she sighed watching her glitzy wedding band twinkle in the moon light.

It wasn't like the one that she first had worn so proudly. Being seventeen with minimum wage jobs and a new home to support, they couldn't afford the luxuries of a fancy wedding or attire for that matter. They settled on simple matching gold bands which now rested in a small velvet bag in a box she kept deep in her closet; just like the memories she held deep in her heart.

He had contacted her exactly once. She had almost missed it. Rushing in from work with her small arms carrying groceries, she cursed the ringing phone. Exasperated, she had practically thrown the bags on the floor and made a mad dash for the phone and mouthed a breathless greeting only to be met by silence. It almost irritated her a few moments until it occurred to her who it was. That in itself rendered her speechless and before he could hang up she breathed two simple words.

"I know."

She didn't know what she knew when she said it but now she understood. She knew he was sorry, afraid, loving, missing her. It was that phone call that almost made her not walk down the aisle. But she had. She become someone else wife and companion and once she said 'I do' she hadn't regretted it for an instant.

A knocking the door was interrupting her trip down memory lane. It was nearing ten, and she wondered who could possibly be here this late. She grabbed her coffee and padded to the front door. Wrapping her robe tighter around her, she frowned not being able to make out the shadowy figure that was waiting in the dark and cold.

Opening the door slowly, she dropped the mug to the floor and heard it shatter along with her heart. There he was wet, dripping, and shaking from the cold. She looked up, locking her eyes with his own blue ones. Hoping, praying that it wasn't a fabrication of her imagination she hesitantly placed both hands on his chest and started crying realizing that it wasn't.

He was home.

"Nathan."