Author's Note: Wow. Haven't written one of these in a while. In fact, I haven't written any of anything in a while. So I'm apologizing if I'm a little rusty, but I was really feeling like I needed to write something because I've been going crazy! And I've been feeling dumber, too! Ew! So, yes. Here is my newest story. Can't promise I'll offer frequent updates, but I hope you enjoy it anyway.

By the way, I will finish my other stories. Maybe. At some point. I just need to WANT to finish them. Maybe this will be the little push that will shove me to finish them. Or something. We'll see, I guess.

I don't know any of what I'm planning for this. I just know that I'm excited and I'm going to have fun and I hope everyone else does too. This is sort of an introductory chapter I guess, but there will be a few more explaining everything. Just sit back and enjoy.

Spoilers: All you need to know (because the rest will be explained later) is that this is what would have happened if when Dan asked Karen for joint custody of Lucas when he was a baby, Karen agreed. This will be basically entirely AU so forget everything else you know about everyone.

Disclaimer: So obviously, I don't own One Tree Hill. If I did, it wouldn't suck so bad right now.

Chapter One: Debate Exposes Doubt

It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can only do a little. Do what you can. - Sydney Smith

A soft breeze fluttered through the morning air, warm and cool at the same time. The harbor looked serene, with its boats swaying calmly and the ocean's water still pale, waiting for the sun to come out farther and shed some more light.

A teenage boy, tall and blond, ran at a steady pace along the boardwalk, eyes focused in front of him. He breathed in the air, always having loved the smell of the dock by the river, familiar and loving to him it was.

Except for this, he did not allow himself any distractions. He was focused, determined. He had a schedule and a plan and he had to meet both expectations.

He ran through the town and around the nice neighborhoods of it. He ran until he was sure his legs could collapse at any given point, and even then, he ran some more.

By the time he found himself turning onto the familiar street, Tree Hill was waking up. Children loitered in front of their houses and restaurants and businesses alike were beginning to open.

As he approached the house, he tugged off his sweatshirt, tossing it on the ground the instant he entered. He brought his left leg up to his chest, counted silently, and released it, then did the same with the other.

He heard a shuffling sound he could clearly translate as footsteps and he groaned inwardly, stepping further into the house and closing the door.

It wasn't long before he saw his father, tie loosely looped around his neck and the scent of aftershave lingering in the air around him.

"Nice run?" He grinned.

A roll of his eyes, "Same as always, Dad."

Dan Scott fell into step with his son as they walked towards the kitchen, following the scent of breakfast.

"You know, I'm proud of you, Luke. You've really been staying in shape. You don't have to run every morning, but you do, and it's been paying off. You scored more points than you ever have against Charleston last week."

Lucas couldn't help but smile at that. He had done amazingly well during his last basketball game. Better than his father had ever done, even. He was slowly stepping out of the shadow his father had left behind for high school basketball and was successfully building his own name.

As they entered the kitchen, Lucas went straight for the fridge, grabbing a bottled water. He downed it easily.

"I hope you plan on staying for breakfast this morning, Lucas." He turned towards the stove, where his stepmother stood, sprinkling salt and pepper over scrambled eggs.

"Yeah," He smiled sheepishly. "Sorry about yesterday. I was in a hurry."

He'd always liked his stepmother. She did not follow the Cinderella or Mommy Dearest storylines. She was kind and although showed a definite preference to her own son (which was to be expected), she treated him pretty well and always offered to do his laundry or to talk if he had any girl problems. Plus, she put up with his dad, and for that, she should be up for Sainthood.

Dan approached his wife and placed a quick kiss on the cheek. "Will you be here for dinner?" She asked.

"I don't think so." He shook his head.

"Working late again, dad? Mom's going to start thinking you're having an affair." All eyes turned to the kitchen entryway, where Nathan stood.

Dan chuckled. "Enough out of you, kid."

"Defensive, much?"

"Please," Deb smiled. "Like he'd ever cheat on me."

"True." Nathan smiled back at his mother, a bond connecting them in the largest of ways, despite being miniscule and non-important.

Lucas cleared his throat and sat down at the kitchen table. Nathan did the same. Deb set two plates in front of them and ruffled Nathan's hair as she walked past him.

"You need a ride to school?" Lucas grunted as he ate his breakfast.

"Nope. Peyton's giving me one." At this, Lucas looked up at his brother, a frown crossing his features.

"Peyton Sawyer?" Dan asked from behind his newspaper.

"Have you ever met anyone else named Peyton?" Nathan nodded.

"That's one of the cheerleaders, right? The one whose mother died?"

"Dan.." Deb warned.

"What? She did." He shrugged innocently.

Lucas ignored all this, eyes focused only on his brother. "Since when are you and Peyton friends?"

"Since she got put into General Art because she didn't follow the guidelines enough in Studio Art. It sucks because she's really good too. But we sit next to each other. She's cool."

"Are you dating?" Deb prodded, a grin growing on her features.


"Oh come on. If you can't tell your mother about these things, who can you tell?"

"We're not dating." He rolled his eyes.

Lucas smiled a bit, looking back down at his food. He had never been a fan of Deb's food. On the days he spent at the Scott household, he really had to force it down. His mother's cooking was just much better, and most days he was here, it was eating breakfast that made him miss her.

Nathan was up, putting his dish in the sink. "Oh, Lucas. I'm going to need a ride home."

Lucas shook his head, mouth full. "Can't. I've got practice."

"Well, I've got tutoring so we'll be out about the same time." He tugged his backpack on.


"How's that going, Nate?" Dan lowered his newspaper, seeming genuinely interested for once in something other than basketball.

"Uh, fine. My tutor's cool. She's going to get me to stop failing everything so cool." He shrugged.

Dan grimaced. "Maybe she'll get you to use a word other than cool."

"Yeah, that'd be cool." Nathan grinned.

Their father laughed heartily and then checked his watch. "Great. Well, I better go."

"Yeah, me too. Peyton will probably be outside soon." Both dark-haired Scott boys placed a quick kiss on Deb's cheek before exiting.

"So," Deb turned to face him, hands on her hips. "How do you like the eggs? I made them just how you like them."

He forced himself to smile. "Great."


Nathan Scott often wondered what his life would be like if his father had done things differently. He knew it was probably because he sometimes dreamed about it, and it always plucked up his interest. He dreamt of his father having just chosen Deb, and leaving Lucas to Karen. He dreamt of his father choosing to be with Karen, and leaving him and his mother to rot. He dreamt of his father leaving altogether.

When his mother and father had moved to Tree Hill, when he was in mere infancy, his father had asked Karen for joint custody of Lucas, and despite her best instincts and the persistence of his Uncle Keith, she had agreed to it. So since as long as Nathan could remember and even before, Lucas would spend one week with them and one week with his mother.

As a child, they had been very close, so this had really bothered him. "Why do I only get my brother every other week?" He would ask his father, to which his father would reply, "At least you have me every week," and would tickle him until he could no longer breathe.

When Lucas had turned five, he'd received a basketball from his father as a birthday present. He hadn't put the thing down for weeks. Nathan had jealously stared outside the window, liking the way the ball looked as it flew through the air and as it bounced on the cemented ground. Dan had watched as well, the proud father of a future basketball prodigy, it seemed.

And so Dan treated Lucas as if he was the next Michael Jordan. He enrolled Lucas in every sport imaginable, and Nathan too, when he showed an interest. But Lucas was older (even if by only eight months) and bigger and stronger, so when he got more attention in Little League baseball and football and basketball, Nathan grew bored.

When his father would be mad at Lucas for not "striking that kid out" or "shooting that foul shot" he would shrink back even more, opting to play basketball with only himself as his witness at the basketball court by the river. He loved the game; the feeling of the leather ball as it hit his fingertips; the swooshing sound the ball made as it flew through the net; he just didn't love his father's opinion on it.

Of course his father eventually gave up on having him play team sports, and though he claimed to love his sons equally, Nathan was sure if he could, Dan would have it so Nathan stayed with Karen every other week, so that he could have Lucas all to himself every day.

A horn honked loudly, interrupting his thoughts. He looked up from the sidewalk in front of his house and saw Peyton's face through the window of some car he could not name.

Quickly, he jogged to the passenger door and let himself in. "Sorry. I was zoning out."

"I could tell," Peyton grinned. "You didn't look too happy."

He turned to look at her sideways. She was very pretty, with her pale skin and large hazel eyes. He wanted mostly to run his hands through her hair, curly and messy and blonde and beautiful.

He did not like her, though. At least, he didn't think so.

"I was thinking about how much I'm hating our art project," He joked with a smile.

"Liar. But I hate it too." She looked frustrated at the thought of their art class, and it made sense. She was a true artist, and she should be able to have some freedom. However, all of Tree Hill High's art teachers were closed-minded and allowed no room for creativity.

"You're not even doing it!"

"I know, but come on. Who is?" She smiled. She was wearing a 'Dashboard Confessional' shirt, and he made a mental note to look the band up later.

He shook his head. "And you wonder why you're failing.."

She laughed and so did he.


".. I know, guys. It's nearing the end of November, and everyone's excited to have that 5-day Thanksgiving weekend. I get it. But that doesn't give you guys the right to slack off. Come on! Do you really want to make this harder for yourself? Slack off now and suffer later."

Lucas' English teacher, Mrs. Rose, looked less than pleased as she addressed the class. She was usually really cool, which was expected since she was still in her twenties and pretty. Young, pretty teachers were meant to be cool.

"So, here are your tests. Look them over, and I better be getting test corrections. Remember," She began to walk through the aisles, handing back the tests, "you'll get half a point for every two questions you answer correctly. May not seem like a lot, but it will help your grade. Trust me."

A girl in the back Lucas vaguely recognized with auburn hair raised her hand.


"Yeah, uh, what was the highest grade in the class?" There was some snickering around the room. He didn't know her, but since school had started over two months before, he knew that people had made fun of her because she cared about school so much.

"100. Second was a 99."

As Mrs. Rose passed his desk, she left his test face down.

"Now, I know Thanksgiving break is coming up soon but I figured I may as well get us started on our next reading assignment," the usual groans followed her announcement, and she rolled her eyes. "Oh get over it. We'll be reading '1984' by George Orwell, and I have a feeling a lot of you will be surprised to find you like it.."

She was met with numerous blank stares and the teacher couldn't help but laugh as the bell rang.

"Alright, grab the books on the way out. Write your name on the insides and don't forget to sign out which one you got, please. Thanks guys. Now get out."

As Lucas loaded his stuff into his bag, he turned his test over.


Excellent work, Lucas!


Tree Hill loved him.

He had done the right thing. He had made a mistake, and he had fixed it. He had fathered two sons, and taken the responsibility and raised both. So, inevitably, Tree Hill loved him.

He owned one of the largest dealerships in North Carolina, he donated to charities, and his son was the star player of the Tree Hill Ravens. Of course everyone loved him.

Maybe if he'd done things differently, people wouldn't have seen him the way they did. They would have seen the actual mistake; that he'd gotten a girl he loved pregnant and then left her, and had returned married to another pregnant woman and had done what anyone else would have felt forced to.

As he thought this, he sipped his whiskey slowly and spun his wedding ring on the table absentmindedly.

Unintentionally, the ring spun off the table, straight into the trash can.

"How ironic," He thought out loud.


"You're late."

Haley James did not look at all amused. His tutor's arms were crossed over her chest and she was scowling.

"I know, I know. I'm sorry. I had to get you a progress report." Nathan handed it to her without glimpsing at it himself.

She relaxed, smiling slightly. "Well then I guess you're forgiven."

As she opened the card, she swallowed, handing it back to him almost instantly.

"Damn," He winced as he looked it over. "I suck."

"I don't get it! You're too smart to be getting grades like this, Nathan."

He almost asked her why she thought this. After all, she'd known him less than a month and they'd only recently become this comfortable around each other. How did she know how smart he was?

"Well," She sighed. "At least you're doing okay in math. And art. And PE."

"I just suck at everything else. And I still suck at Math. That's barely a C-minus, Hales."

"I know, but it's better than an F. It's okay. You're going to start doing better."

"Oh yeah? What gives you that idea?"

"Well, isn't that obvious?" She grinned, and he noticed how cute her smile was, despite the fact that she didn't wear very much makeup. "Because I'm your tutor."

"Oh right. And you can work miracles?"

"You'd be surprised."


When Lucas pushed open the doors of the Boys' locker room, he saw his brother standing outside, thoughts clearly preoccupied by something.

"Sorry," He said as he approached Nathan. "Whitey made us stay late and run suicides because some guys were slacking off." It was the truth. His legs were still killing him.

"I wasn't waiting long." Nathan shrugged.

As the brothers walked towards Lucas' car, Lucas couldn't help but think of how far apart they'd grown in the years since they'd been little. They had grown up best friends, and now, sixteen, they were practically strangers. Lucas never saw Nathan in his free time. He didn't even know who Nathan hung out with at school or otherwise, either.

It was strange. If this was them years before, they'd have a million things to talk about. Now it was just awkward. Most of the time they were talking they were fighting or just trying to find something to fill the silence with. He didn't like it, but there wasn't much he could do to change it now.

Either way, this was the closest they'd probably ever be. If their father had chosen to live his life any other way, he reasoned, they'd probably be even farther apart than they were now.