A/N: Here's the last chapter. Thanks you all so much for sticking with it!
Three months after that first day the two couples spent together for the first time, they were near inseparable when Nathan wasn't on the road. Lucas and Peyton would head to Charlotte and have dinner with Nathan and Haley at their house there, or if Nathan had a break in his schedule - which was rare - he'd spend time with them in Tree Hill. It was to the point where Peyton and Haley were almost best friends, though neither could replace Brooke or Lucas for the other, and Nathan and Lucas had started referring to each other as 'brother'.
Peyton's club had opened, after a lot of construction, staffing, and decorating headaches. She'd taken it all in stride, and Lucas watched her do it, and she was amazing. She named it The Arts Club, and hung the work of local artists on the walls, and built a stage for live performances. It was an instant success, and she was the only one surprised by that.
Haley continued to teach at Tree Hill High, though it became increasingly harder to be away from Nathan for that amount of time. She was thankful that his team was so close, but it still felt too far away. No one other than Nathan knew that she had applied to some jobs in Charlotte for the following year. She sold her little house, making everyone laugh at her for barely getting settled, then moving again. But she lived at the beach house under Nathan's insistence, and she really hadn't argued it anyway.
Lucas was in the process of editing his first novel, which had come as a surprise to everyone but Peyton. He'd found a publisher in Atlanta who he trusted, and was assigned to a great editor, and the process was going more smoothly than he could have hoped for. He was still coaching, and his team was off to a 4-0 start, which was certainly a nice surprise.
Nathan was named the captain of his team, and was already leading the league in scoring. His team was off to an incredible start as well, and Nathan was drawing comparisons to some of the greatest players to ever play the game. It was widely accepted that he would be the one to lead the Bobcats to a championship, should they ever win one. Haley beamed with pride every time she was in the high school gym and saw his retired number. He was more than a little amazed - along with feeling certain other things - when he came home from a three game road trip and found a little tattoo at the small of her back. Two little numbers that meant the world to the both of them.
Peyton was in her office at the club one Saturday, sorting through the paperwork from the night before, when her phone rang. She saw that it was Haley and answered with a smile.
"Hey, foxy," she chirped happily.
"Hey. Are you busy?" Haley asked quickly.
"Um...not really," Peyton lied. She could sense there was something going on, and didn't want to give Haley a reason not to tell her.
"Can you meet me at my place?" Haley inquired. It almost sounded like she was begging.
"Yeah, of course. I'll be right there," Peyton said. She was already standing and had grabbed her bag and her jacket. Something was going on, and she wasn't about to waste any time finding out what it was.
Nathan had only a short morning practice in Charlotte before heading out to Tree Hill for a day and a half with his wife, and he was surprised to get a call from Lucas, telling him that he was in Charlotte and he wanted to meet up. It was more than just a little odd for Lucas to be there, knowing how much he loved his little town, and even more strange that Peyton wasn't with him.
Nathan got to the coffee shop they'd agreed to meet at, and Lucas laughed at him for wearing a hat and sunglasses, but Nathan just rolled his eyes. They both knew it wasn't the easiest thing for him to just stroll around the city.
They'd all gone out to dinner one time, stupidly, and it was fodder for the press for three days. Once people realized that Haley was his wife, and that he still had a friendship with his ex-fiancé, there was even more speculation around his relationships. But the four of them took it all in stride, and the only person who really cared was Dan, and they all knew that was just because he felt threatened by Lucas and Nathan's newfound relationship.
"So what's going on?" Nathan asked as he waited to order himself a drink.
"I need your help with something," Lucas said cryptically.
"Not so informative," Nathan said with a furrowed brow, turning to his brother.
"Just...come with me," Lucas insisted. "I'll explain everything."
Peyton walked into Nathan and Haley's house without knocking, just like she always did, and just like Haley always did at Peyton and Lucas' place. She stepped through to the living room to find Haley sitting on the sofa, reading a magazine with a glass of water in front of her. Considering how Haley had sounded on the phone, Peyton's mind was put at ease to see her looking so relaxed.
"Hey," Haley said once she saw her friend. "Thanks for coming over."
"Yeah, no problem," Peyton said, dropping her things on the chair before sitting next to Haley on the sofa. "What's going on."
"I just...have something that I need to tell you," Haley said nervously, tucking a leg beneath her as she turned to face Peyton. "Well, something that I need to tell...anyone. I just need to get it out of where it exists in just my head, because maybe it's not real until I say it out loud and..."
"Haley," Peyton said with a laugh, placing her hand on her friend's arm. "What's going on?"
"It's...scary and a big deal," Haley said, and Peyton's eyes went wide, obviously figuring out the news before Haley had really said the words. "I'm pregnant."
Peyton covered her mouth with her hand, and couldn't stop the tears forming in her eyes.
"Congratulations," she managed, though she was very close to being unable to speak.
"What?" Peyton asked in surprise. "Of course! You're having a baby!"
"I just...with everything...didn't know how you'd feel," Haley said nervously.
"I feel like one of my closest friends in the world is going to be a mommy," Peyton said with a smile.
Haley leaned forward and the two women hugged each other tightly.
"I'm scared," Haley admitted quietly.
"Honey, you have nothing to be scared about. This is good news," Peyton said, pulling away to look at her friend with a soft smile. "What does Nathan think?"
"I kind of haven't told him yet?" Haley said, forming the statement like a question as she waited for reaction from her husband's best friend.
All she got was a laugh.
"Well, have you two talked about kids before?" Peyton asked, though she was sure she knew the answer.
"Yeah, once or twice, but there was never a timeline," Haley said seriously. "I just don't want him to...I don't know. I just hope he doesn't think it's too soon or something."
"He won't care," Peyton insisted as she shook her head. "As long as you give him a son who can dunk a basketball."
Haley let out a tearful laugh, knowing that Nathan would definitely love that.
"Haley, he's going to be happy," Peyton said again, just to reassure Haley.
The brunette took a deep breath and closed her eyes and nodded her head. She knew that. She had just needed to hear it from someone else, too.
"And Lucas and I will be awesome Godparents, for the record," she said with a laugh, making Haley let out a loud chuckle. "What!? You can be ours!"
"You two are so going to have like, a whole gaggle of kids," Haley teased. "And somehow, I think Lucas would be just fine if you got a start on that right now."
"Well, let's wait until there's a ring on the finger, OK?" Peyton said, shaking her head.
Haley just smiled at the blonde, recalling her conversation with Lucas from the day before.
"God, nobody better see me doing this, or it'll spark a bunch of rumors that I'm gay," Nathan muttered as they stood at the counter of a jewelry store.
"Dude, seriously," Lucas scoffed.
"Don't you think it's just a little weird that I'm helping my ex-fiancé's new boyfriend pick out an engagement ring?" Nathan asked with a furrowed brow.
"Yes, it definitely is," Lucas agreed, turning to face Nathan. "But you're also helping your brother pick out an engagement ring for the love of his life. So...stop complaining."
Nathan let out a laugh and nodded his head, and turned his attention back to the vast selection of rings in the case before them.
"What do you think?" Lucas asked as they both started at the diamonds, both clearly overwhelmed.
"I don't know, man," Nathan said honestly. "There are a lot of rings in here."
"I want something that feels like her, you know? Like, I don't want a huge solitaire diamond or something," Lucas said without really thinking. He turned to Nathan with an apologetic look, and the Nathan could only laugh. "Sorry."
"Whatever," Nathan said, waving off Lucas' concern. "Just because she accepted my ring doesn't mean it was the right one for her."
They moved on to the next case, and Lucas asked the salesperson to see a few options while Nathan stood, watching Lucas' obvious worry about choosing the perfect ring. He had to smile at how serious Lucas was taking this task. Peyton was Nathan's best friend, and though he didn't need the reminders of how well Lucas treated her, he still liked the confirmation every once in a while. He assumed the same could be said for Lucas and Haley's friendship.
Lucas didn't want to mess around. Peyton was the most important thing in the world to him, and she deserved the perfect ring, and the perfect proposal, and he fully intended to give her both.
"Know what's weird?" Nathan asked after a few minutes. "I've done this way too many times."
"Well, one too many," Lucas corrected. "Unless you were engaged before Peyton."
"No, but I did give her a couple little rings before the engagement ring," Nathan said. "I had to woo her with jewelry more often than I'd like to admit."
"I've seen the collection," Lucas said with a laugh. Peyton had kept all the things Nathan had given her, and Lucas didn't have any problem with that. She didn't wear them, she just had them.
"So does Haley know? That you're buying a ring, I mean," Nathan asked.
"I talked to her yesterday, yeah," Lucas said absently. "That's it."
He pointed to a very simple, very perfect diamond ring, and as soon as Nathan saw it, he clapped his brother on the back and smiled. It was perfect, and they both knew it.
It was a platinum band with a princess cut diamond in the center and two smaller diamonds of the same cut flanking it. It was traditional, but still modern. Classic and beautiful but just a little bit edgy.
That was the ring.
Nathan hadn't seen Haley in five days, and it was killing him. He hated being away from her, and he knew she hated it, too, but there was nothing either of them could do about his schedule, other than make the best of the time they had together.
So he picked up a bouquet of flowers when he got to Tree Hill in the evening, after his day of ring shopping with Lucas. He entered the house to find Haley curled up on the sofa, her hands clutching a tattered paperback, and a blanket draped loosely over her. She looked absolutely beautiful, and he had to smile at the sight of her.
He quickly walked over and knelt next to the sofa and leaned forward to press a kiss to her forehead, and she took a deep breath and closed her book. She had missed those little kisses entirely too much in those five days.
"Hi," she said softly.
"Hi," he echoed. "I missed you."
"I missed you, too," she said softly, smiling at him.
"I got these for you," he said, holding up the flowers.
"They're beautiful," she insisted, sitting up on the sofa so he could take the place next to her.
He didn't, though. He just lifted himself onto the coffee table and took her hands in his, as though he'd just gone too long without holding her hands, and he just needed to do it.
"I have something for you, too," she said. He could tell she was nervous, and that scared him a little bit.
"What?" he asked, unable to stop his voice from wavering.
"Are you really OK with the name James for a boy?" she asked with a smirk. She watched his eyes widen as he clued into what she was saying.
"Are you...? Are you serious?" he asked excitedly. She just nodded, and he moved onto the couch to pull her into his arms when he saw the tears dancing in her eyes.
"Are you happy?" she asked with her face buried in his shoulder.
"You have no idea," he sighed, holding her just a little tighter. "We're having a baby, Haley."
"Yeah," she said as she pulled away from him. "We are."
"I love you so much," he said needlessly. She just smiled before he leaned forward and kissed her. "So much."
"You better," she warned once they'd parted. "This kid's probably going to be six feet tall when he's born."
"Oh, I hope so," he teased, kissing her forehead and pulling her against him again.
"I love you, too," she said softly as she leaned against his chest. "I'm glad you're happy."
"How could I not be?" he asked. She could hear the smile he was wearing, and she closed her eyes for a moment in relief. "I have a beautiful wife who's going to give me a beautiful child. I'm...thrilled."
She let out a sigh and he held her closer, and he realized that his life was absolutely perfect. His career was the last thing he was thinking about, for once in his life, and all he cared about was the woman in his arms, and the child that was growing beneath the palm of his hand when he rest it on her stomach.
Haley placed her hand over Nathan's, and she wondered how, even a year earlier, this man was nearly a stranger. She couldn't even imagine not knowing him now. She got the feeling that was something she'd never have to worry about.
When Lucas stepped into his house, it was eerily quiet.
Since Peyton moved in, there was always music playing, or she was tapping out a rhythm, or cooking something, or she and Haley were talking in the kitchen. Very, very rarely when he came home to her, was the house so silent.
So, of course, he was immediately worried and hastily dropped his jacket on the floor by the door.
But when he stepped into the living room and saw her, fast asleep on the sofa with a cold cup of tea on the table and his favourite book open and resting on her stomach, not only was he relieved, but he was also overcome with love for the woman.
She'd stormed into his life and taken over everything, and he absolutely loved everything about that. The way their relationship developed was completely backwards and strange and unorthodox, but he thought that was just a reflection on the two of them.
They weren't perfect. They argued over stupid things, but their fights were resolved quickly, and she'd be in his arms within minutes of the confrontation. They joked with each other like best friends would, and they were fiercely protective over one another. His explanation was that it took him long enough to finally get her, and he wasn't about to let anything happen to her.
He loved that little look of anger she got in her eye when she noticed another woman looking at him in 'appreciation'. He adored that she rarely held his hand in public, instead choosing to wrap her arm around his waist, or tuck her hand into the back pocket of his jeans if she was feeling extra flirtatious. He loved how her left hand would rest on his shoulder as he drove, and how she'd read all the books in his collection that she hadn't read yet.
He had a big, special, well-thought-out proposal in mind. He was going to take her to the high school gym, where he first really started falling for her, and retell some of his favourite moments with her and tell her why he wanted to marry her.
But watching her then, with her hair splayed on the cushion and her left hand laying so perfectly over the book on her stomach, he realized that none of that was necessary.
He took the box out of his pocket, and took the ring out of the box, and he knelt beside her. He took her hand in his and carefully slid the ring onto her finger. He held her hand while she stirred awake, only letting it go when she tugged it away to wipe her eye.
She noticed immediately that there was something new on her hand.
Her eyes flew up to meet his, and he just smiled at her as she looked from him and back to the ring.
It was a whispered demand, and she hadn't ever heard something so perfect.
She looked back up at him with her chin trembling, and she nodded at him. Her voice wouldn't work since there was a lump stuck in her throat, and when he climbed onto the sofa and on top of her, she could only smile as she let the tears slip from her eyes.
He wove the fingers of his right hand with her left hand, and brushed away her tears with his free one.
"I love you," he insisted seriously.
"I love you, too."
He leaned down to kiss her, and she let out a laugh as soon as their lips met.
"What?" he asked with a smile.
"Best proposal ever," she whispered, making him chuckle.
"Last proposal ever," he warned with a raised brow.
"Yes," she promised. She leaned up to kiss him again, confirming that she was thrilled and didn't want anyone other than him for the rest of her life. "The ring is beautiful."
"You like it?" he asked, releasing her hand so she could look at the ring again.
"It's perfect," she insisted, placing her hand on his cheek and drawing his face to hers to kiss him again. "You're perfect." She kissed him once more. "We're perfect."
If you asked him, just about everything was perfect.
"So how do you think he's doing it?" Haley asked with a giddy smile as she watched Nathan prepare the dinner he promised to make her.
She was perched atop the counter and proving to be the perfect distraction for him. Every time he even looked at her, he wanted to take her in his arms and kiss her. And that's exactly what he did, almost every time.
"All he said was that he had a plan," Nathan said with a smile and a shrug of his shoulders. "He wouldn't tell me anything other than that."
"What does the ring look like?" she asked excitedly. "NO! Don't tell me! I want it to be a surprise."
"Calm down, Haley," he said with a laugh. "You getting all girly and crazy can't be good for the baby."
"Shut up!" she cried, tossing a dish towel at him.
He crossed the kitchen as he laughed, and stood between her knees, placing his hands on her hips.
"You can't say that every time I do something you don't like," she said as she placed her arms around his neck.
"I like everything you do," he insisted before leaning forward to kiss her.
They heard the front door open just as they'd parted, and Nathan turned so he was in the same position, but his back was to Haley so he could see who was visiting them. Haley still had her arms around him, running her hands over his chest as she squeezed his torso with her knees.
"Easy, girl," he mumbled, making her laugh.
Lucas and Peyton walked into the kitchen hand in hand, wearing huge smiles. Nathan and Haley, of course, already knew what those smiles indicated, but they still wanted the confirmation.
"We're engaged!" Peyton cried happily. Lucas had told her that Nathan and Haley were already aware that he was proposing, and she kind of loved that they were all that close.
"We're pregnant!" Haley said, mimicking Peyton's tone.
"You're...what?" Lucas asked with wide eyes.
Haley scrunched her nose as she was known to do, and rest her chin on Nathan's shoulder as her husband nodded his head.
"Haley!" Lucas said happily, walking over to her.
Nathan moved out of the way so Lucas could hug and congratulate his best friend, and Nathan walked over to pull Peyton into his arms and congratulate her, too.
"Your good news always trumps our good news," Lucas pointed out as he held Haley, making them all laugh a little bit.
"It's not better, it's just different," Haley insisted, making him smile and nod his head.
Peyton and Haley then hugged, and Nathan and Lucas shook hands and did that manly hug thing that the girls always made fun of.
"Congrats, big brother," Nathan said sincerely.
"You too," Lucas said with a smile. "Good day for the Scotts."
"And there'll soon be two more of us," Haley said, holding both Peyton's hand and her own stomach.
"Wow," Peyton sighed, unable to keep herself from crying for what felt like the hundredth time that day.
"Stay for dinner!" Nathan insisted, gesturing to the feast he was preparing. "There's plenty. Luke, you want a beer? Or...I have Champagne."
"Champagne!" Peyton said excitedly, making them all laugh. "And ginger ale for the preggo."
Lucas sat back and watched as Nathan popped the cork and filled their glasses, wondering how they were all so blessed to have found these lives. The four of them had no business even being friends, let alone having the relationships they had. His best friend was blissfully happy, he had a great relationship with his brother, he had a beautiful fiancé who he was going to love forever.
He took the Champagne flute that was handed to him, and he raised it in the air.
"To family," Lucas said sincerely, casting glances to every one of the people before him.
"To family," Nathan echoed, kissing Haley's temple as Peyton wrapped her arm around Lucas' waist.
They all clinked their glasses together and took sips of their respective drinks, and then Peyton and Haley started jabbering about the ring, and Nathan and Lucas stepped outside to fire up the grill.
Each of them was thinking that this was their family, and knowing that whatever happened, they'd be alright. If they could get through all they'd been through and still be so close, nothing was going to change that now.
So, months later, Haley would serve as a very pregnant bridesmaid, and Nathan would be Lucas' best man at the small wedding that had most of the attendees in tears.
And when James Lucas Scott was born, Lucas and Peyton were named Godparents to the perfect little boy.
And when Lucas and Peyton announced that they were expecting, Haley cried, and Nathan insisted that if it was a boy, his name had better be in there somewhere.
It was a family. A very strange family, with a bizarre history and a lot of twists and turns.
But it worked.