This is an alternate universe story that involves most of the cast of OTH, focusing primarily on Brooke and Lucas and their families. The adults play a large role in the story, as well.
There are some fairly adult themes in this story and it will be quite dark in places, so if you are a younger reader, you might want to avoid certain chapters.
The story prologue takes place when the teens are about 15ish. Chapter 1 will start at the beginning of the school year, when the kids are 16. I've incorporated most of the background from the show into the series, but I've moved the Keith/Luke car wreck a year up, so it happened when Luke was a freshmen.
New couples are forming, old couples are breaking up, and there's a lot of really dysfunctional love that will unfold. Thanks for reading.
A Season in Purgatory
The door to the café closed with a finality that seemed to foreshadow the mood of the room's occupants. Karen squared her shoulders and turned to face Keith. They had such a long history between them that it made tonight all that much harder for her. They'd been friends for most of their lives, and he'd been her rock throughout most of Lucas' life, helping her with babysitting and diapers when she had no time between three jobs and even less money.
They'd been best friends and more. But the car wreck had destroyed the trust she had in his judgment, and that had eventually taken its toll on their relationship. Karen wanted to try to salvage what was left of their friendship.
"Keith, I know things have been strained, but it's just not working out," she finished, taking his less than stunned reaction in stride. Of course, he'd been aware that things were not going well. She sat down next to him at the counter, beside him even if she wasn't going to be with him anymore. It was sure to alter her life in many ways. Though independent, Karen had come to rely on Keith for some many little things.
Keith nodded at her words, realizing that this was for the best. Maybe things would have worked out if he'd not been drinking that faithful night, risking Luke's life along with his own. But their problems were deeper than just one crisis of faith. "You're right, Kar. We tried everything we could to make it work out between us, and that's just not happening," he calmly stated, not surprised they'd reached this point. Keith wanted to express some of his feelings about ending the relationship, such as the sadness that they couldn't be more than friends along with the frustrations he found with her refusal to commit to their relationship. He ran his hands nervously across his jeans, not sure why, for the first time he could remember, that he was afraid to be blunt with Karen.
The service door in the kitchen slowly opened, as Lucas quietly walked in the back room of the café. He'd been playing basketball and was all sweaty and gross smelling. He always tried to avoid the dining areas when he reeked, out of respect for his mom and her customers. Even though it was after closing, he still followed his habit of entering through the back.
He could hear voices in the front, as he paused to grab a glass of water and poke through the food that was left over from the day's specials. Hearing Keith's voice, he smiled and made his way toward the front room of the business. Coming to the café to eat and hang out with his mom and uncle was one of his favorite parts of the day. They were an unusual family, but a family nonetheless.
He stopped, hearing the voices grow angry and consequently rising in volume. Luke paused outside the door to the main room, leaning in to hear what Keith and his mom were fighting over this time. He loved Keith like a father, and he wanted him to be with his mom. But it seemed like they fought on a regular basis lately, especially about that stupid accident that had taken place months ago. Luke had insisted he was fine, and he was. His mother still carried a lot of anger about the drinks Keith consumed before driving. But Lucas felt that Keith deserved some credit for his quick reaction and the way he got Lucas to the E.R. that night. The doctors had repeatedly said that those quick actions had saved Luke's life. He leaned into the door, hearing more of their argument.
"I guess we waited for so long to get together that we had unreasonable expectations about how hard it would be to have a relationship. But Karen, I don't want to wait another 15 years to get married. I eventually want to have a family and my time is running out," he explained.
"And I don't want to bring anymore kids into this world only to have another broken family," she confessed, knowing that it was different for her. She had Luke, while Keith had yet to have any kids. And though Keith considered Luke more than a nephew, he still wanted to experience being a full time father.
Karen listened to Keith's words of regret, realizing that this was a mutual breakup. Her apprehension lessened somewhat at the idea that while they were both hurting, they'd both agreed it was time to end their relationship. She tuned back into what he was saying and frowned at the words she caught at the end of his "we can still be friends" speech.
"What did you just say?" she quickly asked, wanting to clarify what she thought she'd heard, before going ballistic.
Keith frowned in confusion. "I was just saying that it was never going to work out between us, especially since you've always had unresolved feelings for Dan."
Karen's eyes widened in anger at that statement and she jumped away from the counter to stand in front of him. "You of all people know how much I hate Dan. Why would you ever suggest that I have feelings for him?" she shouted, not caring at all about maintaining a calm façade.
"Please, Karen. How many men have you dated since he left you? Two, including me? You've never let any man get close to you because you're still in love with my brother," Keith replied, trying to remain calm. He wasn't trying to upset her, but rather to get her to see the elephant in the room. And why she'd never find love again until she either dealt with her past or at least acknowledged her feelings.
Lucas nearly dropped his glass at Keith's accusations. He'd always wondered why his mother rarely dated, but he'd never thought it had anything to do with the bastard that gave him half his DNA. And that's all Dan Scott was to Lucas, a biological sperm donor who reveled in making Luke's life miserable. Lucas loved Keith, but his uncle was totally wrong on this point, he thought.
"Maybe the reason I don't date is because I've spent the past 15 years working my ass off to support my son. And when I've not been working, I've spent time being his mother and father. I don't have time to date anyone, let alone pine for a man who couldn't be bothered to support his own child," she retorted, still furious at Keith's accusation. She stalked across the room, seeking space to calm down, as well as refuge from Keith's accusations. The only thing that Karen hated more than town gossip about her "broken heart" from Dan Scott were the rumors about her fatherless son. Luke had a father, unfortunately, Dan couldn't be bothered to have a relationship with the boy.
Keith walked over to where she stood and reached out, gently taking her Karen's hand. "I'm not saying this to upset you, Kar. I've seen the way you look at Dan when we run into him and the distant look you get when we reminisce about high school. If you can't find happiness with me, then at least don't rule out the only guy you ever loved."
Yanking her hand away, she turned her back on him and walked toward the kitchen. She stopped short of the door, pausing only long enough to emphatically hiss, "Get out, Keith." She pulled open the door to the kitchen, intent on closing up and going home to her son. Keith looked over her shoulder and saw Lucas standing there, with a look of confusion and anger on his face.
Brooke Davis sneaked up the stairs and down the silent, ornate hallway to the relative shelter of her bedroom. She could hear the sounds of the party filtering its way up to her room, but she blocked that out as she gently swung the open bottle of Champagne back and forth as she entered her room. Turning on a lamp in the corner of her room, she slowly sank onto her frilly pink comforter, holding the chilled bottle close to her chest.
After five months of dating, her mother had married her latest boy toy that night with 100 of their "closest" friends in attendance. John Jacob Herrington III was a good catch as her mother had callously told Brooke earlier that day. She sighed and looked over at the picture of her dad that she kept beside her bed. He was off in Charleston; happily shacking up with the trollop of a secretary he'd left her mom for last year. The same secretary who was barely five years older than his daughter. Her daddy meant well, but things were so tense when she visited the new couple that they'd both found it easier to just not follow through with the court's visitation order.
But he was a good daddy, she mused. He always made sure that he sent her mom overly generous support payments each month. And he usually remembered to send Brooke greeting cards every other month with a huge check "just for her" inside. She lowered her eyes away from the picture. At least her daddy supported her shopping habit even if he didn't support her.
She lifted the heavy magnum of Champagne to her lips and swallowed. She'd been quietly sneaking glasses of the stuff all night, but that sweet feeling of a light headed buzz had eluded her. Brooke had left the party out of pure disgust, hating any occasion where she was forced to spend time in the same room with "Trey" as her mom called her new husband. There was just something about the way her stepfather looked at her that sent shivers down Brooke's spine, and not in the tingly way most guys' stares gave her.
She continued sipping straight from the bottle, lost in thoughts of the past few months. Brooke had tried to explain to Peyton why Trey's suggestive looks and hugs creeped her out. But Peyton wrote it off as parental affection. After all, her daddy always hugged her and kissed her on the check. Her best friend was sure that Brooke's stepfather was just affectionate, which explained why he regularly pulled her into his lap when she went to his office to ask for her allowance. And the time he'd copped a feel through her shirt was just an accident, Peyton assured her. She sighed, actually thinking she was losing it. Brooke wasn't sure of a lot of things, but this guy definitely set off every warning signal she'd ever known.
Brooke finished off the bottle of booze and carelessly dropped it beside her on the plush pink carpet. Someone would eventually clean the room and dispose of the bottles. It's not like her mom cared what she did anyway. That level of interest in her daughter would require more than her limited attention span could process. Besides, her mom had begun handing over everything related to her daughter to her new man, even months before they were officially married. Trey now handed out her allowance and signed her detention slips and everything else in between. There was clearly a shift of power and control there that Brooke hated.
Hearing a sound at her door, she looked up to see John Jacob Herrington IV leering at her from the doorway. J.J., as everyone called him, was her new stepfather's original son. Or at least the son from his first marriage. It was kind of hard to keep track of whose kids were whose, she mused.
J.J was normally the type of guy that turned Brooke on. He was 17 and attended boarding school at Phillips Exeter in New Hampshire. Brooke loved his dark preppy looks, not too unlike Nathan's, and his tendencies to show off his worldly demeanor. And he too was disgusted and cynical with their parents' emotional distance and casual marriages.
He moved across the room and sat down next to her on the bed, kicking the empty bottle as he did so. "Brookie, you started without me," he grinned, a look that didn't quite soften the angular features of his face. Brooke giggled, partially from her buzz, and partially from the uncomfortable feeling he gave her. Like father, like son, she thought. She hated that nickname, Brookie. Both the III and the IV called her that, which she had truly grown to despise the past few months. It's not like they had made firm plans to ditch the party together.
Running a hand down her slight body, J.J. smiled at her dazed condition. "You look hot in that dress," he complimented her, noting how the pink formal accented her developing bust line and small waist. "You're what, 16 now?" he questioned, his warm breath betraying all the scotch he'd consumed at the wedding party, which still raged on from the floor below.
"I'll be 16 in seven months," Brooke corrected him, moving her leg to avoid his roving hand. They'd only met four times before the wedding, but she'd gotten the vibe that he was interested in her early on. Usually, she enjoyed fooling around, especially the feeling of power she got from turning guys on. From her first experimental kisses with her friend Nate, to her latest flirtations with the seniors at school, Brooke liked the closeness that being with guys gave her. But J.J was a different story, though. Like his father, his advances tended to overwhelm her. And the look in his eyes was nothing short of predatory.
He continued running his hands over her body, as his words created a mental assault against her dazed mind. "You look much older, you know? I mean, even the girls my age don't have bodies like yours, Brookie," he whispered in her ear even as he leaned her back into the pile of pink pillows, trapping her body with his much larger frame. She closed her eyes, partially to block out the sight of his body and partially because the room was spinning in a pink blur. She tried to block out his words. She knew she had a good body, guys told her that all the time. Even her stepfather occasionally told her that she looked hot. Brooke was beginning to panic, and tried shoving his body off hers. She just didn't feel right about this. She had always imagined her first time being more romantic, more…meaningful.
J.J. responded by cutting off her protests by kissing her deeply. His hands simultaneously shoved the straps of her dress off shoulders even as he worked the hemline up toward her waist. "Brookie, there are two types of girls in this world. Cold fish like your mom and mine, and girls who know how to make a guy happy," he muttered as he unbuckled his pants. "We both know what kind of girl you are," he muttered, taking advantaged of Brooke's stunned and silent response to climb back on top of her.
Her last thought as he took possession of her body, as she stared at the walls, the floor, the ceiling (at any place but him), was that she suddenly hated pink. After he finished and left her room with a casual, "see ya later, Brookie," she vowed she'd get rid of everything in the room, especially the bed. It was the last time a guy had wielded the power to make her sob. And it was the last night she ever slept in a room without a locked door.
Dan walked around the kitchen, warming up a late dinner for him and his son. Nathan watched as his dad moved mechanically about, lacking his usually grace. His face wrinkled up in concern, as his dad placed the now unfrozen lasagna on the table between them.
"You're really starting to cook good," Nathan joked, poking the half-baked food on his plate.
Dan wearily smiled at his son's attempt to lighten the mood. But given what day it was, Nathan had to know his humor would fall flat. "I know it's been rough, Nate. I'm surprised you managed to put on any weight at all with my dismal attempts at cooking." He'd put so much time in at work lately that they'd not been eating together enough. It was an old complaint that had always been leveled at him. He tended toward overachieving, whether it was business or basketball. Sighing, Dan realized he needed to be home more, needed to make more of an attempt to be the father that Nate needed.
Dan looked over at his son, noticing that his weight was finally catching up to his height. For a while, Nathan was looking lankier and skinner than his bro…Dan immediately stopped that train of thought. His subconscious seemed intent on beating him senseless tonight, assaulting him with every possible memory from the past. He took in his son's blue eyes and dark hair, as they made small talk about practice and school. Nathan had definitely inherited Dan's physical features, even as he'd gotten his personality from his mother. Those thoughts sent Dan's thoughts reeling once more, as so many thoughts did lately.
Playing with the food on his plate, Dan recalled another life where he got great home cooked meals from both his mom and his girlfriend. He'd never had to do anything more than walk into a kitchen to get food. Now he had to shop for food and try to plan meals. He'd grown a healthy respect for single parents over the last few years. And while he probably sucked at being a father, he did try to make up for it, by being his son's biggest supporter.
He shoved his mostly uneaten dinner away and looked up at Nate. "I plan on going to visit in the morning. If you want to go with me, I'll write you a note for school," Dan offered, not caring whether Nathan missed a few classes or not. There were more important things to do in life than sitting in a classroom.
Nathan's eyes widened at the sadness in his dad's voice. For as long as he could remember, Dan had been the tower of strength in his life. To see him….old and defeated caused Nathan some apprehension. "Sure, Dad. You know I always go with you." These visits always tended to depress both his father and he, but it was the least that Nathan could do.
Nodding, Dan pushed away from the table. "I'm going to head on up to bed. Tell Peyton I said hello, if she comes over." Nathan watched as Dan ambled out of the room, lost in thoughts of another time.
Dan slid his jacket off and unbuttoned his shirt, attempting to relax his tense frame. He sat down in a plaid wing chair, fighting off the urge to climb into bed and forget about life for a while. His eyes moved around the room, before settling on an old family picture. He walked over and picked the frame off the desk, staring at the happy images in front of him. He fondly recalled the day the picture was taken. It was the week that Nate had started school. He remembered that day as if it were yesterday, as he and Deb had held his hands and walked him into his classroom. Nate had put on a brave face, but Dan could feel an occasional tremor of fear from his son's hand.
Dan had been nervous, too. Tree Hill was a small town with only so many first grade classrooms. He'd spent the entire morning fearing that he'd run into Karen and her son. Dan knew that some day he'd have to tell Nathan about Lucas, but he didn't want it to be the first day of school. Miraculously, Karen was nowhere to be found that morning. He and Deb had nervously left their son and then shared a celebratory breakfast together, happy that they'd managed to survive leaving their son for the first time.
That day seemed like another lifetime ago, he thought, absently tracing Deb's features on the photo. He set the picture back down and moved back to his chair. He'd loved two women in his life, and both relationships had turned out to be disasters in their own way. He knew that he should have treated both Karen and Deb better when he was with them. But he'd always been focused on the future. First it was getting a scholarship and then later it was making sure that his business was a success. Success, either in basketball or at the dealership, was the way to provide for his family. Or so he'd thought at the time.
Maybe karma was finally kicking in. Maybe Dan was facing the retribution for the way he'd treated Karen and their son. Their son… he thought, recalling the boy he rarely saw and knew even less about. Last week Dan had actually run into Keith at the grocery store and stopped to talk to his older brother for a minute. He'd picked up on the weird looks Keith kept giving him, but he hadn't realized why his brother was so nervous until he'd turn to look down the aisle and had seen a lanky blond boy browsing the cereal selection.
He'd immediately nodded at Keith in silent agreement, and said a swift good-bye to his brother. It was obvious that Keith didn't want Lucas around him anymore than Karen did. Dan had almost hesitated, taking in the image of his son standing there in all his healthy glory. The last time Dan had seen him, he'd been carrying the boy into the emergency room, trying to staunch the flow of blood from his body. Lucas had survived the accident that night, as had Keith. And it was an unspoken agreement among the three adults that they'd never tell the boy who had pulled him from the wreckage, effectively saving his young life.
Not that it mattered, Dan realized. He'd made a decision years ago and now they all had to live with the consequences, even if the guilt silently ate at him. It was for the best, he realized, despite his wife's pleas to the contrary. Despite the contents of her last letter to him.
Standing up, Dan physically shook his head, trying to dislodge the thoughts that weighed him down. He quickly changed into some sweats and headed downstairs. Maybe a run would clear his mind. Or his guilt. Or at least exhaust him enough that he'd stop thinking for at least one night.