Guilty Until Proven Innocent
In the gym of Tree Hill High, a crowd was just beginning to form to watch the much anticipated home victory. The Ravens were playing against the Tigers, a team far beneath their level of skill, a team they'd never lost against. The game wasn't to start for another thirty minutes, but spectators, consisting mostly of students from both schools and parents and friends of the team members, were already getting into their preferred seats, while most of the players were on the court doing routine warm ups, including Tree Hill's newest recruit, Lucas Scott.
Basketball was nothing new to Lucas. He'd been playing his whole life – at the Rivercourt, with his friends. He was finding it much different to play on an organized team. He was comfortable at the Rivercourt, relaxed with his friends. When he played there, he was good. Damn good.
For that reason his Uncle Keith had encouraged him to try out for the school team. He believed in Lucas's talent and didn't want him to hide from it any longer. It took much convincing and prodding on his uncle's part before Luke finally agreed. It wasn't that Luke didn't want to play on the team, or that he hadn't countless times thought about what it would be like. No, that wasn't it at all. There was only one thing that kept him from ever trying out. His half brother, Nathan Scott.
Nathan was the star player and leading scorer on the team and he and Lucas harbored resentment toward one another since they were ten years old, ever since they'd discovered they shared the same father. They hadn't been best friends or anything before that – Nathan was always cocky and admired by all, even as a child, whereas Lucas was reserved and kept to his own small group of friends, none of whom were part of the popular clique, but only once they learned of their shared paternity did the boys actually come to despise each other, both for different, yet similar reasons. Lucas, because Dan Scott had left his pregnant mother in order to chase his dream of college basketball, yet married Nathan's mom, whom he'd met in college a month later, and also gotten pregnant a few months after that. Nathan, because, well, because Lucas existed. He didn't like the idea of his father having another son whom he may eventually have to share his father's attention and love with. Nathan liked being the only son and worked hard to make his father proud, a feat he was just beginning to realize was near impossible. So, needless to say, both boys' bitterness toward the other stemmed from none other than that famous green-eyed monster. Jealousy.
But it wasn't until Lucas joined the team that they finally couldn't ignore each other any longer.
Lucas, however, no matter how much he tried, couldn't deny, at least to himself, nor to his mother, that his very reason for being reluctant to join the team was also one of the reasons he'd decided to go for it. No matter how jealous or resentful he was of Nathan's life, a part of him had always secretly yearned to get to know his half brother and maybe become friends. Well, it was a secret wish until his mother had guessed it and questioned him about it. She always could read him like a book.Flashback
"Why, Lucas? Why do want to join the team so badly?" Karen Roe asked, praying this was all just a practical joke.
"Because, Ma. I want to know if I'm good enough" Lucas replied honestly.
"Lucas," she tried to reason, "you already know you're good…"
"Yeah, at the Rivercourt when it's just for fun…"
"It's meant to be fun, Lucas. It's a game."
"I know that, Ma," he responded, desperate for her to understand. "But it's a whole new level of play. I want to try it."
"You've played on a team before."
"In junior leagues, not on a high school varsity team."
"There's a lot more pressure…"
"I know. I really want this," he said quietly. "Can't you understand?"
Karen sighed deeply. "I'm trying."
"Look, I know it brings back bad memories for you because of my father, but you don't even have to go to the games if you don't want to."
"Why is this so important to you?" she asked once again.
"I told you…"
"Yes, you came up with some very logical reasons and I'm sure they're partly true, but I have a feeling there's another, bigger reason you want to join."
Lucas sighed. There was no point denying it. She'd see right through him anyway. "Nathan's on the team."
"That's what I thought. And you want to, what? Prove you're better than him?"
"No!" Lucas denied vehemently. "Of course not. There's no way I could ever be better than him."
"Don't sell yourself short, Lucas Eugene Scott," his mother warned.
"I'm not. But I've seen him play, Ma. No one can touch him. He's practically Status Quo for the NBA and he's only a junior in high school," he told her awestruck.
Karen chuckled at the absurdity of her son's comment.
"I'm serious," he told her.
"Ok. So you want to play ball with him, not to show him up? Then why?"
"He's my brother, Ma," he replied wistfully.
"Yes, but I thought the two of you hated…disliked each other," Karen pointed out.
Lucas nodded solemnly. "Yeah. Everybody thinks that, but like Uncle Keith said…"
"Keith?" she interrupted, wondering what he had to do with this.
"Don't be mad at him, ok? He asked me how two people who've never spoken to each other could hate each other. And he's right. Nathan and I don't know each other at all."
"And you would like to get to know him?"
"I'd like to try. He's my little brother, after all."
Karen laughed. "He's younger by three months."
Lucas smiled at her. "Yeah, it's still younger," he argued good-naturedly. "Look, if it's too weird for you, I won't join. Ok?"
"No. If this is something you feel strongly about, then you should do it," Karen told him forcefully.
"Are you sure?" He didn't want to make things difficult for her.
"Yes. You should be able to play ball and try to develop a relationship with your brother."
Lucas pulled his mother into a hug, ever thankful for her understanding. "Thanks, Ma. I love you."
"I love you too, my boy," she reciprocated the embrace.
After a few moments, Karen pulled back slightly to look at her son. She didn't want to hurt him but she had to know he was aware that things might not go exactly as he hoped.
"You know," she began carefully, "just joining the team doesn't guarantee you a relationship with Nathan."
He nodded. Of course he knew that. "I know, but meeting on common ground, both playing a game we love, together, it could open the door, you know?"
Karen smiled proudly at her son. His maturity and open heart always amazed her. He was a great kid who saw an opportunity to get acquainted with his half brother and he jumped on it. It never even occurred to her before that day that he might want that, but she understood it. And who was she to stop him? "Well, I remember you always did want a little brother."End of Flashback
Since joining the team two weeks ago and enduring his brother's animosity – the rude comments, the hazing, and everything else, Lucas's hope of developing any sort of relationship with him had vanished. Nathan had made his feelings clear – he wanted no part of Lucas. He wanted him off the team. And he was doing all he could to make him quit, resorting to less than fair methods. Minus one or two of them, the players backed Nathan whole heartedly in his quest to torture and torment Lucas into quitting – from pulling minor pranks such as stealing his clothes while he showered or breaking into his locker and soaking his uniform, to more serious crimes like slashing his tires, snatching him as a group and driving off to the middle of nowhere only to dump him into a mud filled ditch, to their latest transgression of trashing the Rivercourt. It had taken Lucas and his friends all of Saturday and Sunday to clean and repair the damage that had taken Nathan and his followers only a few minutes to accomplish.
Lucas was beyond angry with his brother's immature tactics, but Nathan threatened a continuance of such if he didn't quit the team. At first Lucas had been completely intimidated and nearly ready to do just what Nathan demanded, especially since his first two games he'd played horribly in both, but when those guys dared to destroy his sanctuary, the place he'd grown up playing ball at, it had unleashed in him a fury and a quiet, stubborn will to remain on the team. He'd decided then and there that they could do whatever they wanted but they would lose. He was not going to give them, namely Nathan, the satisfaction of driving him off the team.
His newfound determination, however, didn't silence his fears or stop the butterflies in his stomach as he prepared to play his third game of the season. His first two he'd played like someone who'd never held a basketball in his life. He didn't know why. It certainly wasn't like him and he hoped to get his game back tonight. He looked over to his mother, who was standing with Keith and Coach Durham. She hadn't come to the first two games, but had decided since that she was being selfish by showing no interest in her son's chosen sport. Lucas wanted to play basketball and she'd support him by being there. He hoped her presence would improve his game tonight. He smiled at her briefly before returning to his warm ups.
"How's he doing, Whitey?" Karen inquired cautiously.
The old coach took off his cap and rubbed his bald head. "Honestly, he's having a hard time." He turned to Keith who stood to Karen's left. "I'm starting to wonder if it wasn't a mistake to recruit him"
"Whitey, you watched him at the Rivercourt," Keith contradicted. "You saw what he can do."
"That's true, but he's not doing that in here. I'm not sure he's ready for this level at all."
"He's just nervous," Karen rushed to her son's defense. "His teammates are giving him a hard time."
Whitey nodded in agreement. "Yes, one in particular."
"Nathan," both Karen and Keith said simultaneously.
"Nathan," Whitey confirmed. "If he'd stop the rest of them would too."
Karen shook her head. "I don't understand why they have to make things so difficult for him. Can't they see he's a great player and he'll only benefit the team?"
"Not yet, Karen," Whitey said regretfully. "Like I said, Lucas hasn't shown in here what I saw that day at the Rivercourt. His nerves have got the best of him, I'm afraid."
"Understandably so under the circumstances," Keith replied with disgust.
Whitey nodded. "It's certainly an unfortunate situation."
"Unfortunate?" Keith asked condescendingly. "The whole team's railroading him, Whitey, and Nathan controlling the wheel. That kid's as heartless as his father."
Whitey's expression turned sour at Keith's words. "That kid is as much your nephew as Lucas is. Now I know what he's doing isn't right and I'm doing my best to put a stop to it, but the boy is just as much a victim of Dan Scott as the three of you. Probably more."
"How do you figure?" Karen questioned disbelievingly.
"Because he's stuck with him. He can't get out," Whitey answered. "And he doesn't know any better to want to. At least not yet."
Karen glanced over at the court, wondering which boy was Nathan. She'd heard a lot about him from Lucas lately but she'd never seen him. She didn't have to wonder long as suddenly Whitey shouted out Nathan's name. She turned to the direction the coach was looking and saw a dark haired, very handsome young man just entering the gym. Her breath caught in her throat. He looked just like his father in his teenage years. Walking next to him, holding his hand was a beautiful girl with curly blond hair. This must be Peyton Sawyer. Karen had heard about her too. She was her son's long time crush, and she was dating Nathan.
When it seemed Nathan either hadn't heard his coach or was ignoring him, Whitey called him over again. This time Nathan glanced over and acknowledged him with a nod, indicating he'd be right over. He bent and kissed his girlfriend. When he seemed more inclined to keep doing that, Whitey called him a third time much more sternly. They watched Nathan give the girl one more quick peck before she made her way to the cheering squad, as he headed toward them.
The young man came to a stand still to the left side of Karen, directly facing his coach. It was quite unnerving for Karen to have this particular boy standing right beside her. Dan's other son. His chosen son. The boy who'd made her son's life a living hell for the past two weeks. He certainly was a good-looking kid; dark hair, piercing blue eyes, and there was an air of confidence that just seemed to radiate from him. Just like his father. She noticed he stood slightly taller than Lucas though he was three months younger, and he was a bit bulkier too, not fat by any means, but not stick thin as Lucas was.
Keith inspected the boy too. Sure he'd seen him over the years at the few family gatherings he'd bothered to attend, but he doubted the two had ever shared more than ten words Nathan's entire life. He wasn't sure if Nathan even recognized him.
Nathan did, but mostly from pictures his grandparents had hanging on the wall. However, he held little regard or interest in the uncle that his father referred to as Boozy. Deciding his uncle, or the unknown woman beside him weren't even worth acknowledging, Nathan chose to ignore them and address his trainer. "What's up, Coach?"
Coach Durham gave him a hard stare. "When I tell you to come here, I expect you to listen right away, not whenever you finally decide to take your tongue out of Blondie's throat," Whitey berated the boy.
Nathan's eyebrows rose slightly. "I didn't. I just…"
"And what the hell did I tell you before about arriving to the games on time?" the older man interrupted, knowing Nathan was about to claim the kiss was in no way inappropriate.
Nathan glanced at the clock. "Coach, the game doesn't start for another twenty minutes," he replied defensively.
"Thirty minutes, Scott!" Whitey's voice thundered. "No later than thirty minutes before the game starts is when you're supposed to be here. You know this!"
"Ok, ok, chill. Jeez."
Karen and Keith exchanged glances, a little surprised by the kid's tone. It wasn't downright rude, but it bordered on disrespectful.
"Don't give me that famous attitude," Whitey immediately addressed. "You know the rules."
Nathan sighed. "Ok, I'm sorry," he replied in a much softer tone. "I'll go suit up right now."
"Hold on," Whitey said as Nathan turned to head toward the locker room.
Nathan stopped and turned around to face his coach once more. He just stared at him questioningly, waiting for whatever else the man had to say.
"I'm not playing you tonight," Whitey told him.
Nathan frowned, instantly irritated. "What? Why? So I was a lousy ten minutes late, what's the big deal?"
"It is a big deal, but it's not the reason I'm not putting you in."
Now Nathan was just confused. "Why then? I didn't skip any classes," he stated, having learned his lesson the hard way not to skip during game days. "And I left Lucas alone all day," he added, remembering the coach threatening to refrain him from games if he didn't stop hounding the kid.
"I know that, Son. It's actually not because of anything you did or didn't do," Whitey reassured him.
Nathan stared expectantly for an explanation.
"There's a UNC scout here tonight. He's here for West," he stated simply, as though it explained everything.
"Ok," Nathan started, uncertainty in his tone. Damien West, a senior, would no doubt be pumped that scouts were taking notice but Nathan didn't understand this reasoning for keeping him out of the game. The guy was one of the five starters already, just like Nathan. "That's cool for Damien and all, but what does that have to do with me?"
"Everything. Because you're too damned talented for your own good. Or for West's good in this case. How's anybody supposed to impress a scout with you on the court?"
Nathan shook his head in disbelief. "Damien's an awesome player, Coach."
"No argument there. But he doesn't have half your talent. If you're on the court the scout will be watching you instead of him," Whitey explained.
Nathan sighed again. He was happy for Damien getting a shot at being recruited to his chosen university, but he was disappointed too. He didn't want to sit the game out. He loved playing. It's the reason he'd gone to every one of his boring classes and refrained from offending Lucas all day. Today was the day he was supposed to beat his father's scoring average. Last year he'd held high average for the season, and so far this year he held it as well, but as of yet he hadn't been able to overtake his dad's all time Tree Hill average of 28 points per game. He was sitting at 25 right now, but he always scored well over 30 when they played the Tigers. That would bring his average up.
But he didn't want to blow it for Damien either. He knew Coach Durham was right. Damien was a great player, but Nathan was better. Still he wanted to play. "I can play like crap," he suggested, half joking, half serious. "I'll just pretend I'm Lucas," he added with a smirk.
Karen was furious. She was about to say something but Keith silently gestured for her not to. Nothing would embarrass Luke more than for his mommy to come to his defense against his biggest tormentor.
Whitey, however, didn't hold back. He was growing tired of Nathan's attitude toward Lucas. "What did I tell you about that?" he warned, for what seemed like the thousandth time in two weeks.
"What? He didn't hear me," Nathan replied, as though that made all the difference. Coach Durham had told him to stop hassling Lucas; he hadn't said he couldn't talk about him.
Whitey gave him a stern look, knowing Nathan knew full well what he'd meant. "That doesn't make it ok, Nathan!"
"Coach, relax, it was just a joke."
Nathan just shrugged it off. "Ok, whatever. So, who's going in for me anyway?"
Now Whitey did smile. "Your brother."