Starting Over, Chapter Two

by scarlet (superscar)

It felt like hours before she emerged from the bathroom. Lucas had already taken off, but Nathan had to wait for her, though he hadn't a clue what he would say.

He met her eyes when the door opened and Haley sighed and approached him reluctantly.

"I take it you'll be finding a new maid service to take over your office cleaning?" she asked.

"What? No! I hired you for a reason, unless you want to back out."

"No, I definitely need the job."

"This isn't your scene?" Nathan asked hopefully.

"Well, I wouldn't come for entertainment," she eyed him pointedly.


Haley was beginning to see that familiar glimmer of pity in his eyes and she hated it. Hated herself for bringing it on. Things had been so perfect between them, so comfortable, just that afternoon and now this! God! Nothing could ever go right for her.

"Haley..." his voice was so soft it was almost like he wanted to cry for her and she couldn't take it.

"I'm up soon," she gestured toward the pole, "Kind of a going away present to the regulars," Haley slid a finger up Nathan's arm and he yanked it back from her, "Gonna stay to see what I've got?" she asked suggestively, sliding into the seat next to him.

"Uhhh," Nathan cleared his throat, "...that's not really, appropriate, considering."

He looked uncomfortable, like he wanted to hide and Haley felt a surge of triumph. Anything but the goddamn pity, like he won the fucking lottery and walked around feeling sorry for those less fortunate. The last thing she wanted was people feeling sorry for her. Especially Nathan Scott, who could have been her friend if this hadn't happened.

"Would you still want me to come in on Monday?" she slid into his lap and trapped him up against the bar.


He didn't sound like he felt sorry for her anymore. Haley smiled.

There was a reason that he was here, he wanted to say...something or other, but he couldn't seem to recall what that was as Haley slowly slid off his lap and slipped back stage.

A drink. That's what he needed. Maybe a few.

Haley waited backstage for her last dance. Ever. She wanted to jump around and hug someone but the only person she could really get away with that with was Howie, the bouncer, but he wasn't working that night. Couldn't take "saying goodbye." Sap.

Not even Nathan's presence could kill this for her, but God, she hoped he went home. The thought of him seeing her like...that. Fuck. Like she needed to show him how much of a whore she'd become. It was pretty damn obvious already what with climbing all over him.

But she was changing, in the morning, she'd be different. Surely, even Nathan would be able to see that on Monday morning. The Haley from when he first knew her could re-emerge and they could put this whole business behind them.

If he left right now, it could happen.

"James, you're up!"

The music turned on and Haley shook out her muscles in preparation. One last time, that's what she promised. Needed, in fact, as a buffer in case things didn't work out at her new job or her landlord decided to raise the rent.

She stepped through the curtains and the regulars went wild. They knew it was her last night and they were here to stick as many dollars down her g-string as they had and Haley was willing to accept their going away present.

Every step and gyration had been perfected in Haley's years, dancing around a pole for large groups of lecherous men. The sexier the move, the more she used it. If a boob jiggle got her a dollar closer to what she really wanted, that's what she did.

And that night was the culmination, probably the wildest dance of her career and she winked at the men that threw money at her, mentally adding the totals.

Haley gave every man her 'Fuck me' gaze and drew her hands all over her own body. They couldn't touch her, the bouncers would stop them and it gave her power. Never again would some lusting pervert get into her head, her heart or her bed. She was reclaiming her life and all of the motherfucking scumbags watching could go home to their wives or jerk off in the bath room, she wasn't theirs.

And she never had been.

Haley Fucking James was born to be a lady and starting that next morning, she would get to be.

When her time ended and the lights came back on, she didn't notice the applause, but felt weight slip from her shoulders as she looked around.

Nathan was gone.

The cheerful rays of sunshine pounded mercilessly down onto Nathan's hung over head. Just being conscious wasn't working for him so early in the... He cracked an eye open to look at his watch. Afternoon. He tried to think of the quickest way to put himself out of his misery and settled on digging deeper under the covers to hide from the pain.

It wasn't particularly successful.

"My covers," came a grumpy voice next to him and he jumped.

God. This was just what he needed after a night of...fuck... "Haley?"

Red hair poured over the covers and he groaned. This couldn't be happening.

"Hey, last night...God," Nathan gave up on conversation, he could handle later, after he finally threw up and the world was back on its axis.

"Sleep," his bed mate sat up, grabbed her pillow and scooted to the far end of her King Sized bed, bringing the covers with her and leaving his eyes mercilessly unguarded.

"C'mon, Rachel," he whined. "God, you're a bitch in the morning."

"So?" She kicked him off the bed.

"How was you weekend?" Lucas asked as Nathan walked into the office Monday morning.

Nathan flipped him off and wandered to his office to find Haley...on the floor, paper literally piled all over her. "What the fuck?"

"I, just...grabbed too many...face planted," she blushed.

Well, that sounded interesting. "Care to demonstrate?" he asked.

"You saw how it ended, I don't think I could survive a second round, thank you very much."

"I'm always missing out on the best crap," Nathan sighed.

"Oh, just wait," Haley promised, "I give myself an hour before the files attack me again. We have a hate hate relationship."

"Everyone who knows them feels that way, I think."

"Shhh!" Haley put her finger to her lips and whispered, "They'll hear you. Get out – save yourself!"

How was it possible that the woman warning him of violence at the hands of his paperwork could possibly be the same woman who climbed on his lap at the strip bar just a couple days before. No. That had to have been a dream, it was the only possible explanation that made any sense.

It was too weird.

"So how was your weekend?"

Haley stiffened at his question. He hadn't even put any real thought into asking and their eyes met uncomfortably, in a way too personal moment for both of them.

"Fine," she shrugged.

It was the start of a magnificent conversation, he was positive.

"Mine sucked," he offered.

"Oh?" Haley seemed to appreciate his effort to focus the conversation back on himself, "What happened?"

He hadn't actually considered that at this point he would have to actually what, exactly, had made it suck such massive dick, which was probably why she'd gone with a generic 'Fine' just to avoid exactly this.

"Oh, umm, you know...stuff."

"Right," she went back to filing and Nathan felt weirdly bad for shutting her out, as though she had the right to know the details of his personal life.

"You ever have a relationship that wouldn't end? Isn't that a song?" he asked.

"No, it's the song that wouldn't end. It goes on and on know, it might be better if we just cut that off right here. I've lost friendships this way," she grimaced.

"So you've never been a relationship that kept just, popping back up?"

"No. Relationships are consensual. They can't pop up unless you want them too. People can, though. So which is it?"

"Okay, here's the thing," he started to explain, "No, you'll be on her side, keep filing," he changed his mind.

It was the first time since she'd known him that Nathan Scott had been quite so, well, spastic, for lack of a better word. Haley couldn't help but wonder if it had anything to do with the incident that weekend. But he hadn't said anything and one of the other girls swore he'd left before she danced, so was he really that traumatized by the whole thing?

"Why would I be on her side?"

"Girls always bind together on 'Men are assholes' issues like this," he shrugged it off.

"So you admit to being an asshole?" she asked.

"See! I knew you'd take her side!"

The man was crazy. "I clearly need to have more details or I'll never be able to gage how much of an ass you're truly being here."

"Fine! Okay, so there's this girl, Rachel. We were engaged during college."

"Whoa-" Haley's eyebrows shot up, "That's a serious relationship to be discussing over filing. I feel like we should at least have coffee or something. Damn."

Nathan raised his hand, complete with coffee cup, "There's more in the break room if you're interested."

"Maybe in a bit. Continue."

"I have to finish up an e-mail here, just a second," he typed for a few seconds and clicked the mouse.

She shoved one file closed and started on a new one.

"Right, so anyway me and Rachel were engaged our Sophomore year of college."

"Rachel and I," The correction came to her lips automatically.

Nathan smiled and started over, "Rachel and I started dating the end of our freshman year of college and got engaged the next year. It happened way too fast and both of us knew it. We broke up pretty quickly after the engagement. But we still...saw each other, throughout the rest of college and stuff, off and on."

It wasn't surprising that Nathan had gotten engaged so young...or that he freaked out and broke it off. As well as she could recall, he wasn't a whole lot different in high school. "Friends with benefits?" Haley asked. She saw those kinds of relationships all the time in her previous line of work. For the most part, not the girl's idea, but there were exceptions.

"Yeah, right. Rachel would kill me. She always liked being the one that I kept coming back to, I think, but after college, we ended things and she basically said that the next time it happened, that was it, she wasn't interested in a once in awhile thing, that we'd have to get serious again."

"So what did you do?"

"Avoided her like hell," Nathan admitted and Haley found his response amusing. He really was the typical guy. And so very open about it too.

"So what's the problem?"

"Alcohol. I woke up at her place this weekend."

"I assume there were...activities?" Haley tried to put it politely.

"Wouldn't know, can't remember," Nathan winced, as though he already knew what she would think of that. And he was right.

Haley smiled, "You win."

"On her side?" Nathan sighed, "See? I knew it."

"So when's the wedding? Can I be the flower girl?" Haley loved the look on his face. The idea of commitment clearly terrified him and she didn't blame him.

"We didn't talk yet, I sort of bailed."

"Ohhh," Haley tried to think of something nice to say, but came up blank, "Well, that's probably a pretty clear message, if that makes you feel better."

"Slightly," Nathan admitted.

"Hey, Nate," Lucas burst through the door, "Where did you put those papers I gave you?"

"You give me papers every 5 minutes, which ones?" Nathan looked around his desk. "These?" he handed them back to his brother.

"Yeah, thanks, Dan's freaking out, needed them last week, blah blah," Lucas turned back to the door, "Oh hi!" he noticed Haley for the first time, "I don't think we met properly, I'm Lucas Scott."

And Lucas bugged him for flirting with the assistants, Nathan rolled his eyes as Lucas took her hand and didn't seem particularly inclined to let go of it.

"Haley James," she smiled.

God, if Haley was the type to fall for his brother's way too pretty face, he had seriously misjudged her. But then, hadn't that been what started all her troubles in the first place?

"Nice to meet you," Lucas backed toward the door and flipped through the papers like some sort of fidgeting monkey. Freak. "Whoa. Nate, you never signed these."

"Well, yeah, I haven't read them either."

"It's for the Make a Wish thing we're sponsoring," Lucas offered.

Anything that involved sick kids made Nathan queasy and that was the last thing he needed to deal with. "Do I have to sign it right this second? When are they doing the spot?"

Lucas checked his watch, "Ten Minutes."

There was no way he could read all that crap in ten minutes and have any idea what it meant. "You read this, right?"

"For the most part," Lucas shrugged, "Bring that with you when you come down, I have to get some other crap together."

"You suck," Nathan picked up a pen and started to skim the page as Lucas left the room.

The phone rang and Haley picked it up, which, being that it was her second day, sort of impressed Nathan. She might be the best assistant ever.

"Nathan Scott's Office, Haley speaking," her eyebrows rose as she listened to the person on the other end, "Please hold for Mr. Scott," she covered the mouthpiece. "It's Rachel."

"Shit," Nathan shook his head, "Tell her I'll call her back."

"Mmmm... No," she placed the receiver in his hand.

"God, you're the worst assistant ever," he grumbled.

"You'll thank me one day," she assured him and slid the papers over to him, "Sign."

Nathan did as he was told, dreading whatever came out of Rachel's mouth first. He'd be lucky if she let him go before lunch.

"Go to the meeting, tell me what I miss, okay?"

Haley looked startled, "Umm, yeah," she grabbed a legal pad off his desk, "No problem."

"Thanks," Nathan took a cleansing breath, "Hey Rach, you still there?"

She was.

Haley finally found her way to the conference room as a few people settled into their chairs. She quickly slipped in to the chair next to Lucas, since he was the only person she'd actually met.

He didn't seem overly surprised to see her, "Got held up?"

"Stuck on the phone," she explained, "Wanted me to keep track of what happened."

"We're still waiting for a couple people, it's fine," Lucas shrugged, "Nathan hardly ever makes it to meetings anyway."

"Sorry to keep everyone waiting," a deep voice resonated through the room. Dan Scott, Nathan's father. She'd seen pictures. "And this, of course, is our guest of honor," he gestured to the young man standing next to him and Haley turned for the first time and her mind went all but blank.

Haley didn't need to listen to Dan's introduction. She was pretty sure she'd know Chris Keller anywhere.