Title: Little White Lies

Summary: Haley's keeping a secret… a big secret. Her best friend Lucas has a half-brother, but she can't tell him. Her solution? Investigate said brother, but falling for him wasn't part of the plan. She'll learn that little white lies can lead to big, big trouble.

Author's Note: So... it took a few months to update again. Sorry 'bout that. This is the final chapter before the epilogue and hopefully it won't be too long before I get around to that. I can't believe I'm almost finished!

Thanks again to everyone who has been reading, reviewing and sending PMs. Dawnie (BabbleBaby), as always, deserves a big thank you for her support and for her suggestions. She really helped me a lot with this update. I also need to thank Miss Kris who was a great sounding board for me. Once again, thanks to Diane (Paradisblue) who was able to beta for me at short notice and provide some good feedback.


Luke sat down on the couch and handed Haley a glass of coke and a bowl of popcorn. She was grinning like the Cheshire Cat and he couldn't wait to hear the rest of her story. Erica Marsh had caused a lot of issues writing what she had about Haley, Nathan and himself and if Karma had kicked her in the ass he wanted to know about it.

"I know I shouldn't feel so good about it, but honestly I'm so happy Erica got what was coming to her. This morning every student received an email with a fake copy of the college paper. Mouth and Brooke did an amazing job of it. It looks just like the usual paper, but every single article is an embarrassing story about Erica and there are even some photos in there I'm sure she won't want everyone seeing."

"Holy shit. I knew you guys wanted payback, but you didn't tell me you were planning anything this big."

"I wasn't. I didn't even know anything about it until Brooke urged me to check my emails this morning. She and Mouth had been working on this for over a month! Those two were ruthless... and damn proud of themselves."

"How the hell did they pull that off… and without getting caught?"

"That's the thing, they did get caught! They broke into Erica's office at the paper last night and hacked into her computer. Apparently Mouth knew she used the same password for everything and they just uploaded their version of the paper and sent it out using Erica's list of student emails. A security guard saw their flashlights and found them just after they'd done it. The two of them had even dressed up in all black with masks, making a total adventure of it all. They went all out… and I mean all out. Brooke had a cat-suit and thigh-high boots on!

"You can't be serious!" Luke spluttered as he choked on a mouthful of coke. The image was part hilarious, part arousing.

"Oh, it's true. Then, Bill, you know, the creepy guard that always patrols the campus at night hauled them into the security office and if Brooke hadn't promised to take him along to Polly's and introduce him to all the girls, he'd have called the Dean in."

"That girl can talk her way out of anything." Luke said with a touch of awe and nostalgia.

"Yeah, she can be pretty amazing." Haley speared him with one of her meaningful looks.

"Way to be subtle, Hales." Luke rolled his eyes at his friend and then said seriously "I screwed up so bad with Brooke. I didn't mean to hurt her the way I did and even though I know I needed to sort things out alone… I could have handled the situation a lot better. I don't think there's any way to fix it now."

"Do you want to?" Haley asked, leaning forward. She'd thought her best friend and roommate made a good couple, but they'd both insisted for so long that it was just a bit of fun. Eventually Brooke showed obvious signs of falling for Luke, and for a while now she'd known that his feelings went a lot deeper than even he had originally realized.

"I miss her… but it's too late now anyway." In an obvious attempt to change the subject and lighten the mood, he picked up a piece of popcorn and threw it at his friend. "So you can stop your oh, so subtle hints any time now."

She scoffed grabbing a handful of popcorn and throwing it back. "Like you've been subtle in any way with regards to me and Nathan in the past month. "

"Well, that's different. You guys are both being stupid and stubborn. You belong together and need to stop avoiding each other. It's not exactly easy living with him and being your best friend when you go to great lengths not to run into each other."

"I'm sorry this is hard on you, Luke, I really am." Haley sighed, placing the bowl on the coffee table. "But I don't know if it's ever going to change. I don't think I can ever just be friends with Nathan again… and us being a couple is not likely. Not when he still doesn't trust me and can't stand to be around me."

"You need to talk it through. I know it was a serious reason that broke you guys up, but not getting back together seems like one big misunderstanding. Just talk to him, Hales. He'll be home from practice soon." Luke looked away guiltily.

"What? You said he had a late practice today! What the hell, Luke?" She exclaimed, jumping from the couch and frantically gathering her belongings. "You can't just expect us to work things out and live happily ever after because it would make things easier on you. It's not going to happen."

In her flustered state Haley hadn't noticed the front door open and Nathan enter the room before standing frozen in the doorway, but Luke did and he decided it was time to take advantage of them finally being in the same room.

'You still love him, Haley, and I know he still loves you. Just talk to him."

"You think I don't know that!" She yelled throwing her hands up in frustration. "Of course I still love him. I love him so much it hurts to breathe sometimes. I don't think I'll ever stop loving him and yes, I know he still loves me… but it doesn't change anything. I learned that the hard way. Talking won't fix anything; it just leads to bad choices and embarrassing moments."

Sighing, she sat back down, the fight leaving her body. She looked back up at her best friend with tears in her eyes.

"I've tried to apologize so many times and I've tried to work things out but he doesn't trust me. He just can't see past my mistake and realize that I love him; that even though I told some lies to begin with, my love for him was the truest thing I've ever known. It was so real, Luke. It still is. I knew I should have kept my distance from him when I got here, but I couldn't stay away! It was like we were constantly being thrown together. First he became my friend and then I fell in love with him so fast I couldn't have stopped it. It hurt to keep my secret from both of you, but I didn't know what else to do. It felt like everything was spiraling out of control and the only thing I knew for sure was that I loved you both and I wanted you two to know each other even if I lost you both in the end. You don't know how much it means to still have you, Luke, but losing him… I feel like a part of me died. I just don't have the strength to fight anymore. If Nathan can somehow learn to trust me again and get past all this, then he needs to make the first move because I can't take the humiliation of being rejected again, Luke. I really can't."

Luke wrapped his arms around Haley and sent his brother a pointed look, knowing that she had just unknowingly given Nathan the answer he needed. Nathan had told him weeks ago that he couldn't trust that what Haley had felt for him was real. Well, how could he doubt it now? She'd just poured her heart out and proven she'd loved him all along. It was up to his brother now.

"I'm sorry." She pulled away and wiped a few errant tears. "I need to stop crying over this… and you need to stop meddling. Just let things be, Luke."

"Okay. Whatever you need, Hales."

"I'm going to get out of here. I can't face seeing Nathan right now."

"Too late." Nathan's voice said softly.

Haley's eyes widened as she turned to face her ex-boyfriend who closed the front door and moved forward to place his gym bag on an empty chair. She didn't know what to say. Her heart was racing with panic. They'd managed to avoid an awkward meeting since the night they'd spent together and he'd just caught her at the worst moment.

"Hi."

"Hi." She searched his face, wondering what he was thinking and how much he'd heard but she should have known Nathan could mask his feelings well. He'd grown up needing to do so to protect himself from his father. They stood there looking at each other for what felt like hours, but must only have been seconds. When Nathan didn't say anything further, she looked away and rushed past him, murmuring a quick goodbye to them both.

Nathan stared at the door long after it had closed behind her. He was so confused. His heart was telling him to run after her, but his feet wouldn't move. How could he be such a coward? He'd spent years hearing his father tell him that he wasn't loveable. That people only ever gave him the time of day because of what he could do for them. He was the star. He was good looking. His family had money. But he wasn't actually loved by anyone. Ever since he'd understood that his father didn't love him and had the power to make him feel so bad about himself, he'd been shying away from any chance of his father hurting him. He held back his own love, knowing that if he didn't give it, Dan couldn't use it against him. But that was Dan. Haley was nothing like his father.

"What are you doing, you moron?!" Luke exclaimed jumping up from the couch. "What more proof do you need that Haley loves you and has loved you from the start? Are you really going to let go of what you guys had out of stubbornness or stupidity… or fear? There's no guarantee your heart won't get broken again, Nathan, but isn't she worth the risk?"

"I… I don't know."

Shaking his head, Luke sighed heavily. "I'm done. If you don't do anything about this now, then you don't deserve to have her. You're my brother, and I love you. That won't change, but she's my best friend and if you're too much of a coward to go after her, then maybe she's better off giving up on you."

~*~

"Hey, roomie. Have a good day?" Brooke called as Haley entered their suite.

"Sure." She replied with all the enthusiasm she could muster, which in her current state wasn't much at all.

Hearing the sadness in Haley's tone, Brooke came out of her bedroom straight away with Mouth following after her. "Nuh-uh. Can't fool me, Hales. What's wrong?"

Haley dropped her bag onto the floor and slumped down onto the sofa. Seeing Mouth, she offered a small smile. "Hey, guys. Done any breaking and entering today?"

"Hardy-har-har," Brooke deadpanned before plopping down next to Haley on the couch and wrapping an arm around her, pulling her into a hug. "What happened?"

Haley struggled out of her friend's grip. "Brooke, if you're going to comfort me like that, make sure you've got some decent clothes on. I haven't enjoyed having my face in anyone's breasts since I was a baby."

"I could sure use some comforting." Mouth joked with a lascivious smile and a poor attempt at a 'come hither' stare that had both girls giggling.

When they'd all stopped laughing, Brooke returned to her previous questioning. "You have your Nathan-depression face on. You missing him today?"

Haley laughed without humor. "I wish. I saw him today. It was harder than not seeing him."

"Wow. It's been over a month... since the night that shall not be mentioned. How did it happen? You've been avoiding that boy like the plague… Oh wait, let me guess. Luke. I knew my meddling skills would rub off on that boy." She stated proudly, and her friends didn't fail to notice that she could now talk about Luke without an edge of anger or pain like she had before. Sometimes there was even a hint of fondness in her tone.

"Of course it was Luke." Haley sighed, then smirked at her friend, "And thanks for pointing out that I can blame this on you."

Brooke stuck out her tongue. "So… how is Luke?"

"He's good. He's been writing a lot. I think now that all this stuff about Dan is behind him, and he and Nathan have started to build a real relationship, he's feeling more settled. He's ready to move forward.

"That's good. I'm glad." Brooke smiled sadly, shaking her head. "I really want him to be happy."

"He misses you."

"Haley. Don't start matchmaking. Getting me and Luke back together won't fix you and Nathan or make you feel better."

She sighed and slumped further into the sofa. "Normally I'd disagree with you… but today I'm wondering if anything will make me feel better ."

"It can't be that bad. What happened?"

"You mean besides humiliating myself again by pouring out my heart to Luke without realizing Nathan was there to hear it?"

Brooke and Mouth both grimaced.

"Oh, and then I ran out of there like a big-fat-scaredy-cat."

"Scaredy-cat? Totally. Fat? Not likely. All this stress has you heading into Posh Spice territory. You're going to eat some of the pizza we've ordered."

"I'm hardly a walking skeleton who can't sing, but I get your point… Mom." Haley chuckled and rolled her eyes, but knew her friend was right. She hadn't been eating properly lately.

"Hey, it's not for your welfare… it's for mine. No way do I want to be the fatty in this friendship." Brooke ducked as a pillow flew at her head. Sitting back up, she grinned widely; glad to see the Haley's feisty side make an appearance. "I wouldn't care, but your boobs are still bigger."

"Oh I don't know - whip your shirts off, girls. I'll be completely impartial, I promise"

This time two pillows flew at the boy's head, knocking him off the sofa. "Perv!"

Mouth gave them his best puppy dog eyes before quickly changing topic. "So… did Nathan say anything today?"

"About my boobs?" Haley quipped, wanting to avoid the subject for as long as possible.

"Hales?" Brooke sighed, both friends eyeing her with concern.

It was that concern that broke her determination to avoid the subject. Haley shook her head, all playfulness disappearing. "I didn't give him a chance to… and I don't know if I'd like what he had to say anyway. I told Luke I couldn't take being humiliated again so I was done fighting. I said it was up to Nathan to come to me now if he could get past all this." Her voice dripped with self-loathing. "I caused this mess. I hurt him and now I give up fighting for him because of my pride? Why would he even want me now?"

"Hey, don't even go there, Tutor-girl. Self-pity is not your color." Brooke said, standing from the sofa. "You obviously didn't mean it… so now you stop being a 'big-fat-scaredy-cat' and avoiding him like you have been the last month. Go and talk to him. Fight for him. It's obviously worth any embarrassment or bruised pride. I know you, Haley James, and you love him enough to keep fighting."

"You're right. I do. I'm going back over there. I need to talk to him."

A knock on the door had Mouth jumping from the couch. "Want to stay for some pizza, first?"

Haley shook her head, standing up and grabbing her bag ready to leave. "No thanks. I need to go over there before I lose my nerve. Wish me luck."

"Luuuck." Brooke yelled. "Mouth, pizza money's on the counter."

"Umm… I think this delivery's for Haley."

"What? I didn't order anything." She said, moving towards the door. She froze as she saw Nathan standing there.

Mouth rushed over to Brooke, grabbing her arm and pulling her out of the suite. "Ok, well we have to go. Have fun. Play nice. Enjoy our pizza. Bye."

"Nathan. Hi." Haley greeted, nervously.

"Hi. Can I come in?" He asked, sounding just as nervous as she was.

"Oh, um sure. What are you doing here?"

"I'm making the next move." He smiled, handing her the gift he'd brought along.

Haley blushed at his words, realizing he'd heard her tell Luke that she wasn't going to fight anymore and that he had to come to her.

"Do you like it?" He asked anxiously, nodding at the vase in her hands that she'd ignored in her effort to pull herself together. She placed it on the bench, taking a good look. It was a glass vase, but rather than containing flowers, it was filled almost to the brim with Skittles. She giggled and quickly placed a couple of candies in her mouth.

"It's perfect. Thank you. You really didn't have to though. You don't owe me anything, Nathan. I was actually just heading back over to see you. I felt so bad for just leaving before."

"It's okay, James." He promised, reaching for her hand.

"No, it's not okay. I can't take anymore misunderstandings so I need to tell you that what I said before about not fighting for you anymore, well I didn't mean it. You mean too much to me to give up on us now because of my stupid pride. I love you, Nathan, and if there's even a chance that you might forgive me and we can be together again, then I'll keep trying. I know it will take time and it'll be hard, but I can wait. I'll wait as long as you need. I promise."

"Well I can't. I can't wait anymore, James. I've wasted enough time holding onto the hurt and anger about it all. I know that none of this was intentional and you never wanted to hurt anyone. I've always known that. It wasn't the problem."

"Okay, well what is it? What can I do?" she asked, placing her other hand around his, holding it tightly. Pleading for him to give her an answer, something she could do to make this all right again.

"You don't have to do anything, baby." He whispered, pulling her into his chest and wrapping his free arm around her. "I was dealing with some doubts about us, about what we had, but they're gone now. I know you're the one for me, James, and I trust in you and in us. I'm sorry it took so long for me to figure it all out. I love you."

They freed their hands so that they were wrapped in each other's arms, holding tightly. Nathan kissed her hair, drowning in the scent of her, the scent he'd missed so much for too long now. The feel of being held by him again, of feeling so loved and protected was intoxicating, but Haley knew she could fall under a false sense of security again. She had to be sure that this was about really getting past their problems and not a need to be close.

Pulling away, she looked up at him, her face serious. "Are you sure, Nathan? There are obviously some major trust issues here and I don't want to make the same mistake we did last time. I can't go through that again."

Nathan winced at the crack in her voice. He hated how things had gone last time they were together. He'd hurt her badly and it was something he was determined never to do again. His hands slid up her arms and shoulders to cradle her face.

"This is different, James. I wasn't ready before. I was still working through my feelings and I was upset. I needed you so badly that night, needed to hold you and feel you and know you loved me. And you did, I felt it, but I couldn't believe it. I know it sounds so lame talking about my crappy relationship with my dad, but I think I had so much trouble believing that you really loved me and that what we had built was real because I'd been brought up to believe that people were always out to get something from me. He always told me how no one actually cared about me. That they were really only after something I could give them or something I could do for them. And most of the time he was right."

"Oh, Nathan." She sighed, stroking his cheek. "I hate that he made you feel that way. He was wrong, you know. You have so much more to offer than your status or your money. There are people out there who like you, for you. You have to start believing that."

"Well… I think, now I do. You've given me that, James. I know that there will still be people out there ready to use me, but because of you, I know that some people just want to be my friend… and lucky for me, you wanted more than that. You love me and just want me to love you back."

"That's all I want, Nathan. It's everything to me."

"Well I do. I love you more than I ever knew I could. You're my world, Haley James… and my life is empty without you."

"I feel the same way." She replied, tears rolling down her cheeks.

"And I want to apologize for what happened at the dorm."

"Oh, you don't have to, Nathan. It was my fault pushing you like I did."

"No. It wasn't your fault. It wasn't a mistake, baby. Maybe we jumped into things too fast, but the two of us making love could never be a mistake. I hate that I hurt you the way I did. Forgive me?"

"Of course. Forgive me?" she asked anxiously, searching his face.

"I forgave you weeks ago. I know you were just trying to do the right thing by too many people. Your heart is too big, Haley James. It's going to get you in trouble sometimes. I can accept that."

Haley grinned widely, throwing her arms around his neck and pulling him down for a kiss. Their first in way too long. It wasn't until they heard a loud banging on the door that they realized they'd zoned out, blocking out the world from their reunion.

"Must be the pizza guy." Haley sighed. "Can't we just pretend we're not here?"

At that moment her stomach grumbled loudly, causing her cheeks to blush a rose red.

Nathan laughed, kissing her quickly. "How about we pay for these pizzas and have a few slices. I know you're hungry… and we may as re-fuel. We'll need all our energy for dessert."

Haley laughed at his smirk, her body tingling at the thought of what he had in mind. No doubt it involved moving into the bedroom.

"Sounds perfect."

"Mmmmm. Brooke and Mouth have awesome taste in pizza." Nathan took the last bite of his slice and sighed contentedly.

Haley reached out to wipe off a smudge of sauce that dripped on his chin and then sucked it off her finger. "Yeah, I love pepperoni with a dash of sexy boyfriend. It's my favorite."

"As good as this pizza is, I'd prefer something a little sweeter." Nathan wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled her across to sit on his lap.

"Well I could grab the skittles..." Haley offered with a teasing grin and started to move away before he pulled her back down to him.

Leaning down to kiss him slowly, Haley sighed against his lips. "Sweet enough for you?"

"Definitely sweet enough." Tucking a stray lock of hair behind Haley's ear, Nathan locked eyes with her. "I would be happy to spend every night like this. You're the best thing to ever happen to me."

"Nothing makes me happier than just being with you, Nathan. I love you so much.

"I love you too, James."