Meant Something To Me

Summary: (au, NH, NP) "You realize that everything comes back to Peyton Sawyer, in the end." Standalone.

Disclaimer: I do not own One Tree Hill or any of these characters, except for Little Haley. However, the loose plot belongs to the movie "Jersey Girl."

The world stops when Haley dies.

You forget about your newborn daughter, and you just remember Haley, with her sweet smile.

When you find the time to look up and scan the crowd surrounding Haley's casket, you notice a sea of black. Black suits, black dresses, black patent leather shoes, and black high heels, which press into the soft green grass of spring.

At your home, you are sitting on a chair. Your eyes are stung with tears.

"Nathan?"

You look up to see Peyton, with her ringlets framing her face, holding a heavy paper plate of food.

"Hi," you whisper.

She sits down in the empty chair next to you and offers you a grape. You wave it away. "Nathan, I'm so sorry. We all miss her, you know. After I found out, I cried for two days and I wasn't even married to her. I'm so sorry."

Your eyes are glassed over with tears. Everything becomes distorted, and when you blink, tears run down your face and stop at your jaw, where they disintegrate.

"I know," you say. "Thank you."

Nobody else bothers to say anything to you that day, after Peyton did.

You continue to go on with life, because if you don't, thoughts of her come to mind.

About a year after Haley dies, Lucas and Peyton come over to your house on a random Saturday at five in the evening. The day was a sunny one that you spent at the park with little Haley, taking her on all the slides. Then you took her on a walk, in her stroller, around the pond near your home.

You know you're not the best father, but damn it, you do try.

Lucas has a CD with him in his hands, and he puts it in your CD player.

You smile softly when he bends down to the floor, where little Haley is sitting in her carrier. Lucas unbuckles her restraint strap, and cradles her, dancing around your living room. Sunlight streams through the curtains as Peyton holds her hand out.

"We should dance," she suggests.

You get up, and spin her around a few times. The feeling of a hand not Haley's is a new sensation. You collapse onto the sofa after less than thirty seconds.

You talk about the real Haley to little Haley all the time. You gotta remember her forever, Haley, you say, because you're a little piece of her. You take Haley to her mother's grave sometimes, and she sits down in the grass and gurgles a little while you struggle to contain yourself

.Although little Haley hasn't spoken yet, you have a feeling she gets it.

When Haley is three, you get asked out at the park.

"Hey, hot single dad by the slide," the girl says. You have to smile; who wouldn't? You talk for a while, and she introduces herself as Brooke Davis. Then she points to her daughter, Lucy. Brooke gives you a small grin.

When Brooke asks you out for next Tuesday, you are reluctant. You tell you had to check whether Haley had music group on Tuesday, but you will definitely call her back. When you get home, you call Lucas up and ask if you should go out with her.

"Do you like her?"

You shrug, and then clarify with a "maybe. I've only talked to her once."

"I'd do it, Nathan."

So you make a date for next Tuesday. Peyton comes over at seven o'clock to watch Haley. You're wearing khakis and a green polo.

"Looking spiffy!" Peyton says, walking into your house. You are standing in the living room mirror, gelling your hair up, something you haven't done in ages. You generally just leave it after giving it a quick comb.

You blush. "Thanks."

Peyton laughs, pulls at a tuft of your hair and says, "but don't overdo it, man."

You leave at seven-ten to pick Brooke up, after kissing Haley goodbye.

The date is going well. You're proud of yourself.

You are listening to Brooke's story about how Lucy got lost one day at the grocery store and it was this whole crazy deal. "And then Lucy's dad was all on my case about it."

"Does he see Lucy a lot?" you ask.

Brooke shrugs. "When he feels like being a parent, that is. Tim is pretty much a grade A asshole. What about your ex-wife? Did she get half of your house in the settlement?" A smile plays on her face, as she waits for you to answer.

Some would say you brought the other parent subject on purpose, but you swear you didn't mean to.

You say, calmly and steadily, "She died."

"Oh my god, Nathan!" Brooke says. "I'm so sorry. I'm so fucking insensitive!"

"It's fine," you say. "Honestly, it is."

"How, when?"

"In childbirth…something about her heart, how it couldn't take the pressure of labor. They tried to explain it to me, but I don't get it." And you hang your head, taking a deep breath. Then you lift yourself back up. "But enough about that," you say.

You take Brooke out on a few more dates. One time, you have an awkward run in with her ex-husband Tim, who pretty much looked like a grade A asshole Brooke described him as. After your eighth date, you are kissing her on her front porch. You are cupping her face in your hands, pulling her closer.

"Lucy is at her dad's," Brooke says, breaking the kiss. "You want to come in?"

Your mind is telling you "yes" and your heart says "no."

You say yes.

"You're the first guy I've ever really liked," she confesses ten minutes later. She is underneath you, and smiling softly. You don't respond, and start to slide into her. You close your eyes, and somehow, a picture of Haley springs to mind. You jump out of the bed, quickly jumping into your clothes. "Nathan, did I say something wrong?" she begs to know.

"No," you say. "I'm sorry."

As you leave the room, you hear her crying.

You tell everybody that it just didn't work out.

You don't tell them the truth.

Peyton says, "that's okay, Nathan, at least you got out there and tried."

When Haley is ten, you see Brooke at the supermarket. Her hair is longer now, and she is dressing a little more maturely, but it is still her. She is standing in one of the uber-long checkout lines. You take a left down the pop aisle and wait there for twenty minutes until you know Brooke has left.

That evening, you tell Peyton the truth about you and Brooke. Everything. From the first date, to the awkward "my wife died conversation" to the incident in Brooke's bedroom.

After you've confessed everything, Peyton kisses you on your front stoop. You are teetering on the doorsill, watching her shrug her coat on. It's about eleven thirty at night, so your front light is on. You open your lips to say goodbye, and she grabs your by the waist, pulls you closer, and kisses you.

"Peyton?" you ask after she pulls away.

"I've always wanted to do that," she says, and moments later, she pukes into your ferns.

Then she runs away.

The next morning, Lucas calls you.

"What the hell happened with you and Peyton last night?" he asks, in shock. "She came over to my house at midnight, crying, with vomit on her shirt and she said she was over at your house. Anna had to get up and find Peyton from fresh clothes and make the guest bed."

"I fucked up, she fucked up, it was one of those fucked up days."

Lucas sighs. "Whatever you're doing to her, stop it."

"I'm not doing anything! She kissed me!"

Oh boy.

"You kissed her?"

"She kissed me," you insist softly.

Haley walks into the room. She's getting so old now, already in the fifth grade. She has your mp3 player in her hands, rocking out to something. Her pretty white skirt flutters as she twirls around.

"Hey, Dad."

God, Haley looks so much like Haley. You are amazed at the sight.

"Hi, Haley." You say, grinning. She walks into the kitchen, and you continue talking. "Luke, I…"

"Did you pull away?"

"What?"

Lucas clarifies. "When she kissed you, did you pull away?"

You realize that you didn't.

"I have to go, Lucas. Bye."

You hang up the phone.

You end up taking Haley for smoothies for lunch, along with hamburgers. She takes the lid off of her Styrofoam cup, and eats it with a spoon. She has golden brown hair the exact same color as the other Haley, and today, she has it pulled up into a ponytail which swings when she eats her smoothie. Haley has mentioned the fact of getting caramel colored highlights, but you have avoided the subject. Maybe you will let her sometime soon, but for now, you like her hair just the way it is.

"Yeah, Dad?"

You bite the inside of your cheek. "What if I asked Peyton Sawyer out?"

"Peyton?"

"Yeah."

"I like her," Haley eats her hamburger. "She's nice." Haley grins, and a piece of mango is stuck to her top braces. It makes you laugh. "What, Dad?"

You shrug. "You have some food in your braces."

"Again?" Haley whines, and then says: "So, yeah, Dad, you should. I know you loved Mom and all, but you should. Peyton is kind of like my mom anyway. Besides, you two dated in high school, right?"

"Yeah, we did…" you say, and decide to go for it.

You go to Peyton's house after lunch, and she's there, folding her laundry on the sofa.

"Oh, God, Nathan," she says when opening the door. "I'm so sorry about last night!"

"No, it's fine," you insist.

"Do you want to come in?"

"No, I can't. Haley's in the car." You say. "I just came over to tell you that…" you can't get the words out. They stick in your throat. How do you say this? It can't be a lame "let's go out." God, you haven't even thought ahead! "That, I need you, Peyt. And Haley needs you, and I want you."

Peyton darts forward and hugs you. Her screen door slams shut, and she jumps.

You smile and pull her back in, this time for a kiss.

A few months after dating, you're at this moment.

You unzip the back of Peyton's dress and when you run your hand over her arm, you feel her goose bumps. "It's okay," you insist, and a few moments later, you almost start crying when you start to enter her, because for the first time, you don't even picture Haley.

A year later, you're at Haley's gravesite.

Peyton is standing on your left, and Haley is on your right. You're all holding hands. Peyton kneels down and places a bouquet of stargazer lilies on the grave. She gives your hand a little squeeze when you reach down and put your bouquet of roses next to the stargazer lilies. Then Haley lets go of your hand and sets a single black eyed Susan on the marble grave.

Then Haley and Peyton walk away from the grave, and let you have a moment.

You wanted to say something to the grave, but you felt stupid talking out loud to something that wasn't there. So you turned and ran to catch up with your girls.

You are wedded to Peyton now, and you love it.

Sure, you only waited a year to marry her, but you're not one of those guys who likes to wait around. It only took you four months to ask Haley for her hand in marriage, and after all, you realize that everything comes down to Peyton Sawyer, in the end.

You're dancing with Peyton later. She has her head on your shoulder. When you look over to find her father, to wave to him, you see a lone figure standing by the door of the reception hall. Her brown hair is in a twist, and she is wearing a cream colored dress with sandals. You stop breathing for a second when you realize it is Haley.

It is either really her or you're going really insane.

She waves hello and you lift your hand up to wave back.

She smiles at you, and tears rolls down your cheek.

"Good luck," she mouths. You've never been a good lip-reader, but you can tell what she is saying. You use your hand to wipe the tear away.

"Thank you" you mouth. "Always and forever, Haley."

She reaches her hand up and places it over her heart. Then she walks out the door and into the bright sunshine of the day.

Peyton feels a teardrop on your face when she reaches her hand up to touch your cheek.

"Are you crying?" she asks.

You nod. "I'm sorry."

"Thinking 'bout Haley?"

"Yeah, actually I was. But I'm okay now."

"I'm glad, Nathan. I love you."

You whisper back, "I love you too."

The strains of your wedding song end, and a new song starts.

The End