Title: Undo Me
Spoilers: As long as you've seen the first season there's nothing to worry about.
Summary: After a mutual break up at the end of their senior year of high school Nathan and Haley lost contact. Six years later will a chance meeting bring them back together? (Slightly AU - No Marriage)
Author's Note: Another one-shot! I feel like I've been trading sleeping for writing lately! This fic was written for the latest challenge on the Dare You To Write community. As I've been neglecting Reflections of Things That Never Were to write this I thought I'd post it here too. For anyone who is reading that story the update is almost written and should be up within the week.
Big Thanks to Lori (Lorilozz) for beta-ing for me!
I put this up yesterday, but for some reason it got deleted. So I'll try again lol
For the purposes of this story please note that the Nathan and Haley never got married in high school. Haley never went on tour, or got pregnant and consequently there was no point-shaving incident.
December 2013"I'll get that." Her breath hitched in her throat when she heard his voice, her body tingled with his presence. The hand she knew as well as her own stretching past her to pay for her coffee only giving her the confirmation she didn't need as to who was stood behind her. She stood aside while he ordered his own drink. Neither said a word, neither needed to. He pushed her lightly by the small of her back across the small cafe to a window table that she was sure hadn't been free of holiday shoppers seconds before. He probably had someone move. It was something that she'd always claimed had infuriated her; his unapologetic belief that he was slightly better than everyone else, that he deserved more. It had never annoyed her half as much as she'd let on – maybe because to her he was better. He did deserve more.
It wasn't until they were seated that she allowed herself to look at him for the first time. He no longer gave off the air of a cocky boy; he was clearly a man now. It surprised her and she wasn't sure why. Despite having spent hours watching video footage of his games through college – much to the chagrin of her roommates who never received an answer when they asked why - in her mind she still pictured his face the way she'd loved it most. Lying next to her in bed sleeping, his eyes flickering behind his eyelids as he dreamed of her, or at least that's what she used to tell herself as she lay studying his strong features. Often reaching out with her fingers tracing them over so much that there were times even now she swore she could feel them on her fingertips.
"How've you been Hales?" He asked, and she shivered despite the warmth of the people filled room and her heavy winter coat. She still wasn't sure this was happening. Maybe she was dreaming? Yeah, that was it. She'd overheated in the toy store when she'd been shouting at the smug stock boy who, although she'd tried not admit to herself, reminded her of him, and she was actually out cold on the sweaty floor of Toys R Us. Her shopping scattered around her. It certainly wouldn't be the first time her subconscious had played this meeting out.
"Still preferring Haley-land to real the world I see?" He joked bringing her out of her thoughts and she felt a deep blush take over her cheeks, she lifted her cup to her lips in an attempt to hide it. He noticed though, his self assured smirk only causing it to deepen still. She tried to recall the last time she'd blushed like this and her mind flashed with images of their younger selves. It wasn't likely, she knew, that it truly was the case that it had been that long, but as had always been the way in his presence she could only think of him.
"I've been good," She answered finally and he nodded in response, a ghost of a smile playing at his lips. "..and from what I read so have you."
"I've been lucky." He answered with a self deprecating shrug that she couldn't help but laugh at.
"You, Nathan Scott, never needed luck. You were too damn stubborn not to achieve whatever you set your mind too."
"You say stubborn, others have more choice words."
"Others don't know you like I do." She spoke the words before she had a chance to think about them. It had been five years since they'd spoken, six since they'd been them. Did she know him now? She'd like to think she knew his core. That she knew the essence of who he was so well that despite the years, and what may of happen to changed him, she still knew what made him, him, the way she knew he still knew what made her, her.
She cursed herself as the words hung between them. Their eyes locked on each other, the air thick with so many unsaid things. Silence had never been uncomfortable for them. She'd never felt quite as at home as when lying in his arms just listening to their breathing settle into a rhythm, not knowing where one ended and the other began. Moments later he nodded softly, so small a movement that if she hadn't been looking she'd of missed it.
"You grew your hair out." She blinked, surprised by the change of topic.
"Um yeah." She fingered a curly tendril that hung down over her breast, almost feeling the need to defend it.
"I always liked it long."
"I remember." She whispered, and it was true, she did. During midterms of their senior year she'd disappeared one afternoon determined to do something for herself, and returned with a good eight inches taken off her hair. The ends which had curled down her back now just hitting her shoulders. He'd hated it at first, and the stubborn side of her personality had reacted badly to his telling her she should have spoken to him about it before getting it cut. She'd spent the rest of the school year maintaining the length. As soon as she got to college she started letting it grow again. Never fully admitting to herself it was for him.
"It looks good." He couldn't stop looking at her, fascinated by the small changes that didn't match the image of her he had burned in his mind. "You look good."
He'd noticed that as soon as he saw her – how good she looked. He noticed it in fact before he'd even known it was her. He'd been waiting casually in line when he'd caught sight of her. The honey blonde curled tresses falling down her back that stopped a few inches shy of the wide belt that nipped in her waist. He'd admired the way her dark jeans hugged tightly to the curves of her legs, and then suddenly he'd felt his stomach in his throat. She'd turned to gaze around her, and all the air rushed from his lungs when he caught sight of her face. Something about her eyes had always taken his breath away.
She smiled a graceful thanks at him as she slipped out of her coat revealing a snug emerald green sweater. He'd always known she was beautiful, but there was something in the way she held herself now that told him she'd finally embraced the fact for herself.
"You don't look so bad yourself," She laughed as his signature smirk tugged at his lips. "But then I don't suppose I have to tell that to the guy voted Number 19 on People Magazine's most beautiful people list."
"Been keeping tabs on me Miss James?" He joked playfully and she rolled her eyes.
"I may Google you from time to time when I'm supposed to studying." She shrugged and smiled, before sending him a pointed look. "Procrastination seems to be a dirty habit I picked up somewhere in high school that I can quite seem to kick."
"I don't know what you're talking about." His eyes twinkled in amusement.
"Uh huh." She cocked an eyebrow in disbelief, his smirk growing.
"I'll happily take credit for all the other dirty habits you picked up during high school though."
"Oh I don't know, Brooke Davis taught me a thing or two."
He coughed his eyes going wide as he choked on the coffee he'd be drinking.
"About drinking, Nathan." She held her eyes wide in feigned innocence. "What were you thinking?"
"Well I heard rumours."
"If we believed all the rumours people spread about me back then; you and I would be married and I'd be passing off Lucas' love child as our own." She pointed out with a playful laugh and he chuckled to himself nodding.
"Lucas tells me you're in grad school." He said after a moment of shared smiles. "Uh, therapy or something?" He scratched at his eyebrow and looked almost bashful as he struggled to remember exactly what he'd been told. She had to bite down on her lower lip to stop the smile that that was threatening to beam across her face at just how thoughtful that was, that he cared enough to be embarrassed that he didn't know. If she'd had any doubt before, she knew now that there was definitely some of the boy she loved within the man sat before her.
"Music therapy." She laughed as he nodded despite the confusion clear in his eyes. "It's basically using music for therapeutic means, it's really amazing what they can do with it. Nathan, there was one girl, she was part of the group I've been looking at for my case study and…"
He watched as she put down her mug, and sat forward, her eyes sparkling with excitement as she talked, her hands gesticulating frantically trying to convey the passion she felt for the subject. He'd seen her get like this before; had gotten lost so many times in the sound of her voice and the expressions on her face, that he'd landed himself in hot water more than once when he'd stopped hearing her words. He smiled as he felt it happening again. He really accepted no fault for it, he was entranced by her, always had been.
"Sorry." She gave him an apologetic grin. "This probably doesn't interest you at all."
"It's interesting." He promised her, at least as much as he'd managed to take in was. "I have to say I always thought you'd teach, hell you got an idiot like me to understand calculus, I figured it was your calling."
"You're not an idiot. You never were." She shook her head, answering with the same determined tone she'd always used when he'd implied as much back then, she'd always hated when he got down on himself. She used to joke that if he kept talking about her boyfriend like that she'd have to kick his ass.
"You always had faith in me, Haley." His voice rang with gratitude as he reached instinctively across the table and brushed a strand of hair behind her ear. She shuddered a little under his touch her eyes falling shut. Such an intimate gesture by someone who ought to be a stranger, but his touch was still so familiar. It still made her feel whole.
"You made it easy." She whispered opening her eyes, his hand still lingering against her cheek. "Besides, someone had to; you never seemed to have a lot in yourself."
Their eyes locked and the air between them sizzled with electricity. The sounds of the loud café seemed to fade as the young couple found themselves regressing to a time when they were each other's world. The confident young graduate student, and the self assured accomplished NBA player ceased to exist as they lost themselves in the feel of his skin against hers. They were simply a girl and a boy, a girl and a boy who could only see each other.
"Excuse me." The moment was broken by a woman stood beside their table calling the young mans attention. His hand retracted from the blondes face as though it burned, and she coughed softly as she became fascinated with her hands that she had folded in her lap, her face burning, her eyes filling with tears for reasons she wasn't sure of. "Sorry to interrupt, but could I get an autograph? My son really thinks you're just the be all and end all."
Reluctantly he turned toward the stranger and exchanged a few words whilst he complied with her request, all the while watching Haley out of the corner of his eye, trying to work out if the discomfort that was radiating from her small body was due to their being interrupted, or because the moment had happened at all.
"Uh, sorry about that." He spoke up once they were alone again, and she was silent for a moment as she breathed deeply, obviously trying to compose herself.
"Everyone want's a piece of you, Scott." She joked, despite the tears glistening in her eyes. "It's fine." She made a dismissive gesture with her hand. "You're quite a big deal these days. I guess stuff like that happens all the time?"
"Now and then." He dismissed and she shook her head.
"Don't do that." Her voice was soft, but stern.
"Do what?" He asked confused.
"Belittle everything you've achieved." She leaned across the table taking his hands and making sure his eyes were locked on hers, titling her head a little as her lips curved into a smile. "This is what you've always wanted, Nathan. Do you know how proud I am of you?"
He'd never been the most of humble of people. He'd worked hard over the years to get where he was now, and usually he didn't have a problem admitting to that, but with her it had always been different. Maybe because she'd seen exactly how hard it got for him at times. How his love for the game had struggled to balance out the pressure he felt from everyone around him. People he'd never expected to hear it from had told him they were proud of his success in recent years, but none quite matched this moment. During the time they were together she'd told him she was proud of him many a time, always with the same sincerity be it landing the game basket, getting a good grade on a test, or walking away from a fight some kid tried to taunt him into. He'd found himself wondering more than once if she knew where he was now, and if she was proud of him. Despite the fact they'd been apart longer than they were ever together her opinion still seemed to matter most.
He looked around them, noticing a few people slyly looking over now and then. As private as their conversation had felt he was suddenly aware that they'd been surrounded by people who knew who he was. He gave her a half smile and an almost inaudible thanks before he tugged his hands from hers. Turning in his seat he watched the people walking past, bundled up in their winter clothes. A young girl and boy walked past wrapped up in each other, a warmth coming over him as he watched as the girl tried to push herself playfully from the boys embrace as he hugged her tighter, he'd lived that moment more than once and was suddenly hit with a fresh wave of memories. "You want to get out of here?"
"What?" She asked shocked eyeing him cautiously, which had him once again chuckling under his breath.
"I'm just suggesting a walk. That woman seems to have blown my cover, and it's been five years Haley. I don't want to say goodbye just yet. C'mon I'll buy some ice cream."
"Ice cream?" She looked out the window and back at him, raising an eyebrow in question. "It's due to snow any second and you want to get ice cream? Are you crazy?"
"Says the girl who made me walk half way across town on a snow day because she had a craving for the ice cream they made at that old style soda shop by the beach, and the snow made it 'too pretty out to take the car'." He watched amused as she first scoffed at his mocking before she rubbed her stomach and licked her lips at the memory
"Oh my god, I'd forgotten all about that place. Man, they had good ice cream." She grinned at him. "Okay now I really want some."
"Great." He stood up, picking up the majority of her shopping bags before shuffling them and holding his hand out to help her out of the chair.
They'd been walking a while, she wasn't sure how long exactly, but she did know that the shops were starting to close, and she'd long since given up on the ice cream cup he'd bought her. She was pretty sure that the air had made it harder now than when the young girl, who'd been so star struck she forgot to charge them, had served it up. They hadn't talked about anything specific, mostly making observations about the things and people around them. The odd memory being triggered and shared.
Walking along next to him, glancing over just to watch him, she felt like she was in a time warp. Back to the beginning of their relationship when she'd been unsure of what the boundaries were. Wanting to touch him but not sure if she was allowed. He caught her watching him and she gave him a shy smile before turning away and focussing on the shop windows.
He watched her, unable to stop the smile that was on his face. It all seemed so surreal to him. He was always sure he'd see Haley James again, but he'd thought he'd be prepared for it. Know it was happening, rather than walking into her in the street. He'd reluctantly let go of her hand after helping her up from her seat, filling both his hands with her bags to stop himself reaching for her in the way he'd grown accustomed to while they walked. The problem with having no real time as just friends meant even after all these years they struggled to relate to each other platonically. "What are you looking at?" He asked as she eyed a baby boutique, ignoring the somersault his stomach made when the idea she might be pregnant flashed into his mind.
"Hmm?" She looked back at him taking a second to process what he said, before pointing out a tiny new born outfit. "Oh, I was wondering if Taylor would like that."
"Taylor's having a baby?" He never figured Haley's elder sister as the maternal type. They'd butted heads a number of times over the time he'd been with Haley. Mainly due to both their protective streaks toward the young girl, but also because of how similar they were. Nathan saw in Taylor what he would of guessed he was bound to become before Haley came along. Lost and selfish, getting affection from meaningless flings and one night stands.
"Yeah, she got married earlier this year; he's a honeymoon baby I think."
"I never thought she'd get married." He shook his head amused.
"Me either, but I guess she found the person that made it all worth it." She grinned before turning back. "I'm going to go in and buy it before they shut."
He watched her walk inside the small boutique, and pondered over what she'd said. His point of view when it came to women and relationships had changed drastically after his time with Haley. Although he couldn't say he hadn't used his status as a basketball star in college, and even now, to his advantage when it came to women now and then, for the most part he'd avoided the pointless hook ups, and although he hadn't had a serious relationship again until his senior year, he had dated a lot. Some girls like her, mostly ones that weren't. He found it was easier that way. The girls he thought were like her always fell short in one area or another, and he unfairly held it against them, wrecking any relationship that they might have had. It was when he'd found himself not holding her differences to Haley against a girl that he knew he'd fallen in love again. It was with a girl who he'd been friends with most of his time at Duke due to her being on the cheer squad, unfortunately she'd not been able to deal with the profile that came along with being a professional player and last he heard had moved back home and married her high school boyfriend.
"You could have come inside." Haley joked when she exited the store to find Nathan exactly where she'd left him. "It was a lot warmer in there."
He just smiled back at her mysteriously and she moved to walk in front of him to throw the uneaten ice cream in the trash. Her heel slipped on the ice and she felt herself falling, only his arm reaching around her stopping her from hitting the ground, the shopping bags in his hand pressing tightly against her.
"..and as you can see my ability to walk has not improved any." She blushed, smiling sheepishly when he laughed along with her. He offered out his elbow to her when she was upright, and she gratefully accepted looping her own around his.
They walked aimlessly in companionable silence for a few moments before he started laughing. "What? What's so funny?"
"I forgot about the tugging."
"The tugging?" She cocked her head to the side in question and he just nodded.
"You're so much smaller than me that it tugs on my arm when we walked like this. I guess I got used to it after a while, so I'd forgotten."
"Oh. I'm sorry, I can..." She started to unhook her arm but he shook his head stopping her.
"Don't. It's nice." He smiled down at her and she bit her lip, resisting the urge to raise on her toes and kiss his lips.
"I miss you." She said before she had the chance to stop herself, immediately turning away from him, regretting it instantly.
"I miss you too." He answered honestly, stood in the middle of the street trying not to take her into his arms and replacing the teeth that were nibbling at her lower lip with his own.
"So much reminds me of you…" Her voice was quiet, her tone vulnerable, and she shivered against his arm.
"Are you cold?" He asked concerned. "I just live around the corner if you want to uh, carry on talking about this?"
"Do you want a drink?" He asked as the door shut behind them and she shook her head no, her bottom limp wedged between her teeth, her eyes wide as she stared up at him. She slipped out of her coat, her heart racing a mile a minute. Ever since the thought had entered her mind she couldn't stop thinking about kissing him, fantasising about it to the point where he'd had to ask her if she was okay she was drifting off so much on the way to his apartment. She watched as he turned and walked across his spacious loft, pulling a bottle of water from the fridge. Before she could give herself a chance to back out of it she followed him, placing her hand on his shoulder. He turned and they stared at each other for a moment both their eyes travelling around the others face, their breathing booming through the silence.
He opened his mouth to ask her if she wanted to talk but before he could form the words she leapt into his arms pressing her lips against his, the bottle of water thumping against the floor as he released it. He wrapped his arms around her and lifted her feet from the ground so her body was pressed tightly against his. Her tongue traced against the seam of his lips and he eagerly opened them for her. She let out a cross between a sob and a moan as she tasted him, feeling like she was coming home, her hands reaching up and tangling in his hair. He couldn't stop the groan that escaped him as her blunt finger nails scraped across his skull and he moved his arms so they were underneath her bottom, guiding her to lift her legs and wrap them around his waist. Breath was beginning to become an issue for both but neither wanted to stop. Too scared that if they did they would over think it, that they wouldn't be here again. He moved them back a little, turning so she was sat on the counter, and he was stood between her legs. They reluctantly pulled apart, foreheads rested together, staring into each others eyes as they panted heavily. She took his hand from where it was resting at her side bracing his weight, and guided it to the hem of her sweater, he complied with her silent request eagerly pulling it over her head and throwing it behind him before pulling his own shirt off.
"You're still so perfect." He mumbled as he watched her breasts heaving against the material of her bra as she breathed deeply.
"Just please kiss me." She begged running her hands up the hard planes of his back trying to guide him back to her. She didn't want to talk. She couldn't think. She just needed to feel him, to taste him. "Kiss me."
Their lips crashed together in a desperate kiss, tongues plundering, teeth clacking as they tried to remember every millimetre of the others mouth. She arched against him as he reached between them cupping her breast, his calloused thumb grazing the nipple that puckered against the silk. She reached around her back unsnapping the clasp and he impatiently removed it from her, throwing it carelessly away from them, and they both groaned in pleasure when his hands made contact with her bare skin. His lips moved across her collarbone and she shivered at the sensation. Blindly she reached between them and tugged at his belt. He hissed as she dipped her hand down past it to stroke him through his boxers. Taking her hands he stilled them and moved them to her side pinning them down next to her with his own. His lips working a path down her chest stopping just shy of the swell of her breast. He looked up at her, her eyes shut, her head thrown back, and he swallowed against the feelings swirling around inside of him. He'd had a lot of sex in his 24 years. A lot of good sex. But even in those weeks after he'd taken her virginity, when she'd been too inhibited to experiment, it had been good in a different way between them. It had been about so much more, and he had to know this time it would be too. He couldn't deny it any longer. "Tell me you love me."
"What?" She blinked through a lust-filled haze, trying to work out if she'd heard him right.
"Tell me you love me." He pleaded with her, his blue eyes dark and desperate, her own filling with tears.
"I love you" She swore despite the voice screaming in her telling her not to. She pulled her hand out from under his and ran it lovingly down the side of his face, "Oh Nathan, I've always loved you. I'll always love you." She promised, knowing it was true. A part of her had always wondered, but after today she knew it was fact, everything had faded away from the moment she'd seen him. She wrapped her arms around his neck, pulling him to her and kissing him softer this time, taking her time to try and show him everything she felt.
He picked her up and carried her into the bedroom, never breaking the kiss as he laid her down gently on the bed and himself on top of her. He broke away from her, brushing her hair from her eyes and smiling down at her before making his way down her body. Placing a kiss on the soft skin of her belly he undid her jeans pulling them off and discarding his own pants before climbing back onto the bed and holding her gaze.
"I love you, too." He promised.
Neither noticed the tear that fell down Haley's cheek when he entered her, both taken aback by how natural it felt.
She awoke with a shiver, squinting into the darkness to try and work out what had woken her. Shivering again she glanced down and realised the only thing protecting her from the chilly December air was a hand laying possessively across her right breast, and a sheet low on her hips. She was half way through moving to pull the sheet up when she realised whose hand it was, and the previous night came flooding back to her. Carefully she picked up his hand and slipped out of the bed. Pulling the comforter that was bundled at the foot of the bed up over him, before she walked into the closet on the opposite side of the room. She couldn't help but smile at what she was greeted with, despite the designer suits that lined one wall it was clear that his tastes hadn't changed much. Basketball gear took up the majority of the large closet and she guessed he must have a housekeeper of some kind from the way it was so organised. Or a girlfriend. The idea came to her as an after thought and she tried to ignore the uncomfortable ache that grew in her stomach, and the reason it was there. Her eye was caught by something toward the back and a bittersweet smile stretched across her lips. Slipping the faded Celtics sweatshirt off the hanger she wrapped it around her naked body the same way she'd done a million times before. She'd worn a lot of his clothes over the years, it was something they'd both enjoyed her doing, but this one was special. She'd pulled it on the morning after they'd first made love and from that moment on it became a favourite for both of them. She'd tried to steal it on more than one occasion, but he'd always taken it back, and no amount of persuasion on her part had made him part with it. She'd wanted to ask him to let her take it to college with her, but she hadn't thought of it until after they'd broken up and she couldn't face seeing him and the feelings that it would stir up. It was worn now, and he couldn't exactly wear it playing for a rival team so she hoped he'd kept it for all those reasons she'd wanted it then. All the happy memories it represented.
Walking out of the closet she moved from the bedroom and back into the main plan of the apartment. She hadn't looked at it properly the night before, being too desperate to think of anything but her need to be with him. She bit her lip to stifle a giggle at the black leather and chrome. It was so male. But the view was beautiful, she thought as she walked over to the floor to ceiling window, there were blinds that covered the length and she was sure he usually kept them down for privacy's sake but she guess she'd distracted him it the night before because the window was completely naked to her eye and the early morning city greeted her with its unnerving stillness. She couldn't help but feel a little taken aback by how comfortable she felt walking around his apartment in just one of his sweatshirts, of course she'd done it before, but that was a different apartment, possibly even a different Nathan, definitely a different her.
She remembered the first time she'd had sex with someone that wasn't him. The morning after she'd returned to her dorm and sobbed; gut wrenching, heartbroken sobs that had her room mate asking if she needed to call a doctor. It wasn't that it hadn't been a good experience, or that she hadn't been ready. She hadn't gone off to college and slept with the first guy she'd met. She'd waited until the end of her sophomore year, with a wonderful boy she'd been seeing for six months, who was careful, and kind, and made her feel cherished. But he wasn't Nathan. Up until it happened she'd never really let herself think of being with anyone but Nathan, at sixteen when she'd given him her virginity she'd never wanted to be with anyone else, she never thought she would. Despite being broken up for two years she'd felt like she was betraying him. Betraying them.
She had always thought when you loved someone they were it, it wasn't possible to love someone else at the same time. She remembered telling Lucas as much when he'd subjected them to round god-knows-what of the Brooke/Lucas/Peyton saga. So when she'd found herself falling in love the summer after her junior year she figured she must of fallen out of love with the raven-haired boy who'd meant everything to her, and just missed it somehow. Despite the affection she'd looked upon him with over the years, when she'd see his name, or Lucas would say something, or she happened to fall upon a game of his when flicking through TV, she'd thought that was just it, fond memories of someone who would always mean the world to her, and she would ever be grateful for the person they'd helped her become. The moment she'd met his eyes yesterday she'd known she was wrong. She'd always love him. She'd always be in love with him.
She felt him watching her before she heard his footsteps against the bare wooden flooring, and she knew she had to tell him before he said anything that would change her mind. Not turning to look at him she took a deep breath to try and ease the lump in her throat and the tears burning at her eyes.
"What?" His voice was still thick with sleep but eyes were alert and full of shock when she finally made herself turn to look at him.
"I'm getting married," Despite her words coming out as barely more than a whisper they seemed to echo in the room, and she took a deep shuddering breath to try and quell the tears that were starting to slip onto her cheeks as she watched him stand before her, his arms limp at his side, his brain clearly working a mile a minute.
"When?" He asked finally, not sure what else to say. He'd been stood watching her from the doorway, trying to work out what last night had meant, for him as much as for her. He'd expected her to say a million things, but he wasn't expecting this.
"Uh," She blinked confused, that wasn't what she thought he'd say, not in any of the scenarios that had run through her head. "February, at home. I thought Lucas would have told you."
"Luke's my brother and I love him, but we don't talk that often. Without you around we didn't exactly becoming drinking buddies." His voice was completely devoid of emotion, and when she looked into his eyes she felt for the first time she had no idea what he was thinking. No idea at all. He glanced down at her hand. "Where's the ring?"
"Huh?" She squeaked out, unsure of what was going on, as she unconsciously fingered the doughy ring of skin on her finger that was slightly lighter than the rest of the skin. Her mind reeling a little from the fact that the brothers she'd helped bring together weren't as close as the elder of the two lead her to believe. "It's uh, there's a stone loose so we thought it was best I didn't wear it to come into the city."
He let out a sardonic laugh that had her brow furrowing in confusion. "He'll regret that now."
"He trusts me." The tears were flowing freely now, she wasn't sure who they were for. Her, Nathan, her fiancée…
"Poor fool." She winced against his words and the look of distain he was watching her with.
"He didn't know I was going to bump into you." She defended and was shocked to see a smirk play on his lips as he walked toward her. She'd seen him look at other people like that before, like they were pieces of dirt he wanted to play with, but not at her. Never at her.
"He knows about me then? Knows about us." She nodded as he reached up inside the sweatshirt and pressed his palm against her tattoo. "Knows about this."
"I think he's made the connection, I uh, never really told him. Just that I got it for someone special, and I don't regret it." He tried to suppress the warmth that flooded through him. He'd wondered over the years if she'd had it removed, or how she'd explained it to people. The fact that she still looked upon it fondly cut through the anger and pain he was experiencing. But then he looked into her eyes, the tears streaming, the pain shining and remembered she was the one who did this. She chose not to tell him she was engaged. She kissed him.
"Why the hell are you crying?" The rage she'd expected to come had finally snapped within him. Stood before her in just black boxers she could see all his muscles tensing.
"You knew you were engaged when you slept with me, Haley. You knew you were engaged when you said you loved me. Why did you do that?"
"Because I do!" She implored walking over and trying to place a hand on his shoulder but he backed away, throwing a look of disgust in her direction.
"What about him? Do you love him?"
She glanced down at the floor and nodded. "Yes, I wouldn't be marrying him if I didn't love him, Nathan."
"Then I lied." He said simply with a shrug walking away. "I don't love you."
"W-what?" Her hand clutched at her chest. Oh god, it hurt.
"You're not who I thought you were Haley. The Haley I knew, the Haley I loved. She wouldn't do this."
She stood in window of his apartment, naked save his sweatshirt, and watched him walk away from her. He didn't spare her a second glance before he turned and walked out of the room leaving her to shiver and sob and feel the knife he'd just lunged into her heart.
She breathed in deeply and swiped at her eyes, not willing to let him have the last word. Not when she had more to say. She walked into his room and stopped, taken aback by the sight she was greeted with.
"Just get dressed and go home, Haley." Nathan didn't even bother to look up from where he sat perched on the edge of the bed, his head in his hands. She could see his whole body was rigid and his voice was ground out from between his teeth.
"No. I want you to listen to me."
He ran his hands through his hair as he looked up, she was stood with her hands on her hips, the sweatshirt rising up a little on her thighs and all he could think about was ripping it off her; not because he wanted her, but because she was tainting it. He'd never look at it the same way. "You know when I woke up this morning and you weren't next to me, I was glad. I didn't know what last night meant and if you weren't here I didn't have to deal with it."
"I wouldn't have just left." She stated letting out a sigh. "Come on you know that."
"How? How do I know that!" He let out an exasperated sigh of his own before shaking his head. "I don't know you anymore."
"You do!" She cried, sitting down on her knee's next to him on the bed. "You do know me."
"No, I don't. The girl I knew.." He trailed off, not sure he could cope with seeing the hurt in her eyes again. "You're just not that girl anymore, Haley."
"You of all people don't get to say that to me!" She snapped back, grabbing his shoulders to get him to look at her. "The reason this happened is because I AM that girl. When it comes to you, I'm always going to be that girl!"
"So you slept with other people when we were together is that what you're.." Before he could finish his malicious jab her hand was fast against his cheek slapping him hard before she climbed off the bed and grabbed her jeans pulling them up over her hips.
"Don't you dare." She kept her back to him. "You can say what you want about last night, but you are not going to taint what we had back then. I'm not going to let you. We both know if you'd been anybody else last night wouldn't have happened. It just proved everything I already knew.."
"What do you mean?" He asked quietly, her slap having brought him down from his fuming state, and she turned taking in the bright red handprint on his face.
"You were right to break up with me back then."
"I didn't break up with you we both decided…"
"We both decided that it was better we had a break for school, to settle in and decide if we could deal with it all and the prospect of a long distance relationship." She parroted, looking fruitlessly around the room for her bra. "Yeah I was there. But what was I supposed to say, I don't care about all the pressure. I don't care if your dad's riding your ass over basketball. I don't care if you'll break under the stress I just want to be with you."
"You said you'd thought about it."
"Yeah, thought about it," She cried bringing her fingers up to massage her temples. She was getting a headache. "Thought about it and knew I could never go through with it."
"So you should have told me that!" He reasoned.
"I tried," She through her hands up in irritation. Memories of wasted nights crying over photographs flooding her mind. "I told you I missed you every time you called, I told you I loved you, I told you nothing mattered as much without you. And you decided we shouldn't talk anymore."
"Because it was hurting you!" He roared standing up from the bed and taking hold of her shoulders, turning her to look at him. "You think I didn't know that every time you hung up you cried. I couldn't do that to you Haley, I couldn't do that to me! I was right about it all being too much, even a friendship with you distracted me from everything. I never wanted to hurt you."
"You hurt me. I hurt you. It doesn't matter anymore, because like I said you were right. Nathan. I love you. I do." She took his chin in her hand turning it so she could look into his eyes when he looked away. "I'm pretty sure I'm always going to love you. But you consume me, and I'm not strong enough for that kind of love. You make me selfish. I just stop thinking around you. Last night, I don't think I thought of Dean once.."
"Your fiancée?" He asked needlessly.
"Yeah, my fiancée, because once I saw you, that was it. I didn't think about Dean and our wedding, or Lucas, or my family and friends and how it would destroy everything if people found out. I could only think of you, of you and me, and what we had.
I made a mistake, but I'm not going to regret it. I wanted it, I wanted you. I guess a part of me's always going to want you. You're the one for me, Nathan Scott. But that's not enough to make it work, and I really don't like the person you make me. I think things through, I'm cautious, that's who I am - the smart one, and you've always had the ability to take that away from me. I love Dean, I love him so much," she saw the hurt in his eyes and gave him a bittersweet tearful smile. "I'm not saying that to hurt you, it just is what it is. But I'm never going to love him the way I love you." She reached up brushing her fingers through his hair. He just proceeded to look down at her, his face unreadable his eyes boring into hers. "But he's safe, and he makes me happy, and I can be the person I want to be around him. He doesn't have the same power over me you do. Being around him doesn't make me do things I don't want to, and maybe I don't know if I'll ever feel as complete with him as I do with you. But you're too big a risk for me. It's too hard. You have this ability to break me, and I can't live through that again. I won't."
His eyes moved from hers, and travelled around her face, his lips a thin line, and she gulped trying to read the situation. Finally he spat out his words bitterly. "I never made you do anything, Haley."
He pushed away from her and sat down on the bed again, shaking his head. She walked over and sat down next to him, biting on her lip to the stifle the reaction when he flinched against her hand when she tried to running it soothingly down his arm. "I didn't mean that you did."
"Then I don't get it." His voice cracked, confusion clear. He'd dreamt of hearing her tell him she loved him. He'd dreamt of seeing her again and that in that moment he'd know whether she was what he wanted, or whether he was clinging to the hope of something that would never have worked. He thought it'd be easy, but he couldn't decide whether to hold her tightly, or push her away.
"I just think I love you too much, I lose myself in you and that terrifies me. Especially now that I know love doesn't have to be like that. Especially now I know how bad it hurts when it goes wrong." She let out a ragged breath. "Can you honestly say if we gave it another shot it'd work? I can't. There are so many things we don't about each other now, never mind the things that didn't work the first time."
"I don't understand how you can love us both." He looked at her for the first time since she'd sat next to him, and she gave him a small smile and a shrug.
"I don't understand it either. But it's true. Have you been in love, Nathan?"
He looked at her like she was crazy and she couldn't stop the laughter that bubbled in her throat. "I mean since me."
"Once." He said looking away from her ashamed.
"Hey, look at me." He looked back up and she smiled. "It's a good thing." She promised. "And did you mean it when you said you loved me last night?" She ran her hand through his hand and down his neck, unable to stop herself touching him. Instinctively knowing her time was running out.
"You know I did."
"So loving her didn't stop you loving me. And loving Dean doesn't…"
He held his hand up to stop her. "Can you please just stop saying his name."
She blinked at him confused.
"I'm pretty sure I understand what you're telling me Haley. I'm not sure if I agree with it, but I can see where you're coming from. But future for us or not I can't deal with him being real to me." She nodded an apology on her lips but he spoke again before she could. "Did you know I thought about proposing to you?"
"What?" Her hands dropped in shock.
"I'd thought about it before, more than once, but for the future, and then one day you rang me, about two months after you moved to California. You said you'd woken up and it was raining, and it made you think of me. It was the first time I could hear you smiling down the phone, you didn't sound like you were going to cry, and I almost just asked you then, because you sounded like the Haley I was missing desperately, then you started talking about classes, and people, things you never spoken to me about since you moved, our conversation had always been stuck in the past, but this time you just sounded happy in the present."
"I remember that day, we talked for hours."
"Yeah….then I realised that I had to just let you go. It was in that moment I knew you'd be happy there. That you could be happy without me."
She nodded silently, if he'd told her that back then it would have broken her. For a long time she didn't think it was possible to be happy without him in her life, didn't think it was possible to even function without him in her life.
"You are, right?" He asked tentatively after she didn't say anything, and she felt her eyes prick with tears again when she smiled widely back.
"That's all I ever wanted for you, Hales. To be happy. Even if I couldn't.."
"You always made me happy, Nathan. Please don't let anything I've said make you doubt that."
He looked over at her, sincerity shining in her eyes and realised for the first time that this really was it. This was there goodbye. He'd never thought about it much, never really let himself, he'd always thought their time would come again.
"This is it, isn't it?"
Haley moved over so she was straddling his lap, and cradled his face between her hands kissing his lips softly. "Are you happy, Nathan? In your life I mean."
"Yeah." He promised running his hand through her hair, his blue eyes looking deeply into her brown.
"Then I think this is it." Despite the tears that filled in her eyes and the crack in her voice her smile continued to beam. She kissed him softly again, the kiss deepened but continued to be light and sensual, savouring. Neither quite ready to let it go.
They rested their foreheads together and she could see the tears in his eyes mirroring her own. Brushing her nose lightly against his she gave him a final kiss before climbing off his lap. Swallowing frantically against the lump in her throat she surveyed the room in search of the rest of her clothes.
"Kitchen." He reminded her with a playful smirk, sniffling a little against the tears.
"Right." She laughed her voice thick, slipping out of the room and into the kitchen to continue getting dressed.
He let a few tears fall freely before he got a hold of himself and followed her out. "Keep it." He told her when she tried to hand him his sweatshirt. "It always looked much better on you than me anyway."
"Thanks." Her bottom lip worked it's way between her teeth and smiled at the familiar habit.
He followed her over to the door and helped her into her coat. "You want me to help you down with these bags."
"That's okay, I've got them." She wrapped her arms around his neck and he hugged her waist tightly, both losing the small bit of composure they'd managed to pull together. She reached up on her toes and placed a light kiss on the side of his jaw. "Keep making me proud okay?" She whispered into his ear her eyes closed trying not to have her tears turn into sobs. "I'm going to keep using you as an excuse to put off studying, so know I'll be watching. Keep being the man I know you are."
He nodded against her shoulder, hugging her a little tighter, inhaling her scent desperate to commit it to memory. "You go have that amazing life I always knew you would. And that idiot ever forgets how lucky he is, just give me a call. I'll be happy to remind him."
She pulled away, but didn't let go, resting back against his arms, and bringing a hand round to trace his features the way she'd done when they were younger. "I love you." She managed despite the rain of tears she'd given up fighting.
"Me too." He swore and hugged her tightly again before letting go. Afraid he'd lose his nerve if he didn't do it now.
"Goodbye Nathan Scott."