So this is the last chapter. I would like to thank everyone who has reviewed and supported this story. I love writing and creating something that others will enjoy. It was a long, angst-y ride, but I feel like I was able to do some great things with this fic. I also know that many of you have been waiting for "I'm You." I plan on posting it next Wednesday, October 20. Again, thank you all for your feedback. I hope you like the final chapter.
Five years later…
Nathan picked up the remote control that was sitting on his desk and pointed it at the TV. He'd been studying the Ravens game tapes all afternoon. The team would be facing off against their rivals Bear Creek tonight. Unfortunately, Bear Creek was having one hell of a good season. It was going to be a tough game. Nathan made a mental note to talk to his players before the school day ended. After watching the tape, Nathan decided to make a change to one of the major plays. He had to make sure that the guys were up for it.
Nathan cringed when he saw the opposition steal the ball out of one of his player's hands. That hadn't been one of their best games.
"He should've passed the ball," said a small voice. "Right, Dad?"
Smiling, Nathan glanced to his left and met the inquisitive blue eyes of his son. "That's right, Jaime. He should've passed it."
"Why didn't he?"
"Sometimes players can get confused or overwhelmed during a game. They don't always know what to do or can make a mistake in the moment."
"Did that ever happen to you?"
"Yes, it did. Sometimes."
Jaime looked back at the TV and mumbled, "I would know to pass."
Nathan's smile widened at his son's confidence. Jaime had definitely gotten that trait from him.
"Do you want to be in locker room when Uncle Lucas and I talk to the guys before the game tonight, or do you want to hang out with Aunt Lindsey and your cousins?" Nathan questioned.
"You and Uncle Lucas," Jaime eagerly replied. "They're all girls!"
He chuckled and ruffled his son's dirty blond hair. "All right then. You can stay with the guys tonight."
"Hey, Dad?" Jaime spoke up after a minute.
With his eyes glued to the screen, Nathan replied, "Yeah?" He wrote down a few notes on his clipboard.
"When is Mama going to come home?"
He tensed slightly. "I don't know, buddy."
"Why did she have to leave?"
"Jaime, we talked about this," Nathan said gently. "Remember?"
"I know," he mumbled in a small voice. "But I miss her."
His words tugged at Nathan's heart, and he reached out to put an arm around his son. "I know, buddy. I do, too."
It was in that moment that Lucas walked into the room, and Nathan was thankful. He didn't want Jaime to dwell on this subject any longer. Today was his day. He should be able to enjoy it.
"Hey," Lucas greeted and placed the bags in his hands down onto the desk. He eyes landed on Jaime, and he did a double take. "Jaime, did you get a haircut?"
Jaime shook his head. "No."
"Is that a new shirt?"
"Did you get taller?"
Jaime put a hand on top of his head to measure. "I don't think so."
"Something is different." Lucas shared a conspiratorial look with Nathan, who'd been smiling the whole time.
Jaime seemed to take a minute to think about it. Then, suddenly, his eyes lit up and a huge grin formed on his face. "Do I look older?"
"That's it. You look older. But why?" Lucas pretended to ponder.
"It's my birthday, Uncle Lucas!" he exclaimed.
"That's right. It is your birthday. How old are you again?"
Jaime held up his hand. "I'm five."
"Five!" he chuckled. "Wow, you're getting old."
"That means I can drive the car pretty soon. Right, Daddy?" Jaime questioned hopefully.
"You've got a few more years to go, Jim Jam." He ruffled his son's hair once more.
Jaime pouted and slumped in his seat.
"Cheer up, kid. When your dad told me you'd be coming to work with us today, I got us some lunch." Lucas held up a bag with colorful cartoon characters printed on it. "I've got chicken nuggets, fries, and a chocolate shake—your favorite."
"Sweet! Thanks, Uncle Lucas." Jaime started to grab for the bag when Nathan halted him.
"Go wash your hands first."
"Do I have to?" Jaime pleaded and broke out his baby seal eyes. He always looked so young an innocent when he did that. It was hard to resist him, which Jaime knew and tried to use to his advantage.
Standing his ground, Nathan replied, "Yes. Now go."
"Okay," Jaime sighed and headed toward the bathroom.
Lucas shook his head. "You are such a dad."
"We're at a school, and it's flu season," Nathan defended. "Like you would let Lacey eat with dirty hands. Lindsey would kick your ass if you let her get sick."
Nathan remembered the day that he had taken Jaime to the park a few months ago. Lucas and Lacey had met them there. Lacey was only a year younger than Jaime. They were cousins and saw each other often for play dates. That particular day, Lacey and Jaime had been playing on the swing set when Lacey fell. She landed on her chin and managed to bite her lip, splitting the skin. Blood was everywhere—all over Lacey's clothes—and she'd been crying nonstop.
Lindsey had really let Lucas have it when they got home. She'd started yelling at him and demanding why he hadn't been watching her more closely. Nathan had quickly mumbled a good-bye and taken Jaime home, thankful for an escape. It hadn't been funny then, but it was something that Nathan busted his brother up about now.
"Don't remind me," Lucas muttered and pulled out his bacon double cheeseburger.
Nathan asked just as Lucas was about to take a bite, "Where's my food?"
"Oh, I got you a salad. You've been looking a little pudgy lately."
"I have not," he retorted. "I could totally bench press you, you lightweight. Now where's my food?"
"Jeez, no need to get all sensitive. I was only kidding." Lucas threw him his bag of food. "What's up with you?"
"Nothing. It's just…" Lucas motioned for him to continue. "Jaime was asking about Haley again. I didn't know what to say." Nathan rubbed his hand over his face. "I suck at this."
"Just tell him."
"I can't. It'll ruin everything." Today was Jaime's birthday. Nathan wanted everything to be perfect for him.
Lucas shrugged. "I don't know what to tell you, then."
Jaime came bolting back into the room, eager to eat his lunch. But not before reaching into the bag and grabbing the toy inside. He shouted out in delight when he saw that he'd gotten a miniature version of an action hero.
As they ate lunch, they watched the rest of the game tape. Every now and then Nathan and Lucas would pause it or rewind to see something again. Jaime would also give his input, saying that the ref made a bad call or that one of the opposing players had made a foul. Every time he opened his mouth it made Nathan and Lucas laugh.
"You're going to be one tough coach someday, Jaime," Lucas told him.
Jaime grinned proudly and glanced at Nathan. "I'm going to be just like my dad."
"That's my boy," Nathan declared. "There's just one thing that's missing?"
"What's that?" Jaime frowned, confused.
Nathan opened the top drawer of his desk and took out a piece of clothing. He passed it to Jaime and watched him unfold it.
"It's a Ravens jersey!" the five-year-old beamed. He stared at it, awestruck. "And it's got your old number, Daddy."
"I know. I figured that you should have it. You know, since you're always helping me with the team and all."
"Before you know it, you'll have a jersey of your own one day, too," Lucas said.
"This is awesome." Jaime stood up on his chair and reached over to hug Nathan. "Thanks, Dad. Can I wear it tonight?"
"Of course you can."
Jaime's smile lit up his whole face. "Cool!"
"Brandon, stay on him," Nathan shouted toward the court. There were only two minutes left on the clock in the fourth quarter, and the game was tied. It seemed like every time the Ravens scored, Bear Creek would, too. Neither team had much of a lead during this game. They were neck-in-neck the entire night.
"Kyle, help him out," Lucas ordered.
"Come on, guys, you can do it! You're Ravens!" another voice cried. Jaime was standing on the bench, clapping his hands and cheering. The rest of the players were following his lead. They all loved Jaime and would always make him feel part of the team.
Nathan wanted to smile. Jaime looked so cute in his mini Ravens Jersey. But Nathan managed to keep a straight face. They had a game to win, and there was no cause for celebration yet. They still had to run the big play that they'd changed earlier. If the boys got it right, they'd surely win.
"Go, Ravens," more familiar voices shouted from the stands. Lindsey was sitting with Lacey a few rows up. Next to her were Peyton, Jake, and Jenny. On the other side were Keith, Lily, Skills, and Tim and his son.
The time ran down on the clock; only seconds remained with Bear Creak now ahead by two points. Nathan signaled his star player Brandon to carry out their play. Brandon nodded back and called the guys in for a quick huddle. Afterward, they got into positions.
Nathan exchanged an anxious look with his brother and glanced at Jaime. They would either make it or break it now. They watched as Brandon dribbled up the court and was double-teamed.
"Go, Brandon," Jaime cheered loudly in the background. "Pass it to, Kyle! You're supposed to pass it to Kyle!"
This caught the attention of one of the defenders. Nathan turned his head to shush Jaime; he was telling them the play. The defender left Jack, who he was guarding, to block Kyle with his other teammate. Brandon made a move as if to pass to Kyle but threw the ball to a wide open Jack behind him at the last second. Jack, with the ball in hand, dribbled the ball a couple of times and jumped up to take his shot from the three-point line. The ball sailed through the air, almost as if in slow motion, and hit the backboard. It precariously spun around the rim before going in.
The entire gym erupted in applause. Nathan bumped fists with Lucas before going to pick up Jaime in a bear hug.
"I shouted that it was Kyle. Just like you told me to, Dad."
"I know. Good work, Jaime. You were great."
"Yo, Jaime," Brandon shouted, approaching them. "You helped us light it up out there." He held up his hand for Jaime to slap. The rest of the team followed suit. They chanted Jaime's name, making the five-year-old glow with pride. Afterward, they began shouting "Ravens" with the rest of the gym.
"Great game," Lindsey said, approaching them with Lacey in her arms. The others were right behind her. Lindsey kissed Lucas and let Lacey do the same on his cheek.
"That was sneaky. Nice work," Jake complimented.
"That was off the hook, fo' schizzle," Tim declared.
"Word," his son, little Nathan, added.
"Just say it was good that they won," Skills mumbled as everyone else tried to hold in their laughter.
"I think we should go out and celebrate. Who's with me?" Lucas proclaimed.
Everyone agreed, except for Nathan. Jaime tugged on his hand. "Please, Daddy, can we go?"
Nathan tried to look stern. "I don't know, Jaime. It's going to be way past your bedtime."
"Please, Daddy. Please?" Jaime begged, breaking out his baby seal eyes for a second time that day.
"It is his birthday," Peyton added, rubbing her swollen belly. Nathan was surprised she'd come to the game. Her due date was drawing closer, and she looked like she was about to go into labor at any minute. It was just last week that Peyton and Jake had told everyone that they were having a boy. Everyone was so happy for them.
"Please, for my birthday."
Nathan took a moment before saying, "Oh, all right. I think just this once couldn't hurt. And it is a Friday."
"Yay!" Jaime jumped up and down
"I have to close up the office and locker room first, though," Nathan informed them.
"We'll save you a seat," Peyton promised.
Everyone else left while Nathan and Jaime stayed behind. Nathan tried not to grin at the way Jaime kept fidgeting. He obviously was eager to join the others. Finally, when the gym and locker room were secure, Nathan and Jaime headed to the SUV.
Minutes later they arrived in front of Karen's Café. The place was completely dark, as there were no lights on inside. Nathan parked the car and stared. "I don't know, Jaime."
"What's the matter?"
"It doesn't look like anyone is there. Maybe they all went home."
"But they promised," he said, his voice already taking on a disappointed tone.
"I don't know. I mean, we could take a look inside but—"
"Can we see, Daddy? Please?"
Nathan shrugged. "Okay. I guess it's worth a shot." He unbuckled his seatbelt and then went in the back to take Jaime out of his carseat. Holding hands, the pair made their way to the front of the café.
Nathan turned the knob of the front door. "It seems to be unlocked."
"I don't know, Daddy," Jaime spoke up, sounding a bit scared. "Maybe we really shouldn't go inside."
"I think it'll be okay. Come here." Nathan picked up Jaime. "You know I'd never let anything bad happen to you, right?"
Jaime nodded and clung to him. "Right."
Nathan kissed his cheek and opened the door. They stepped inside the dark café, with Nathan barely able to see in front of him.
"Daddy—" Jaime began to whisper in a small voice when the lights suddenly came on.
Jaime jumped slightly and gaped in shock at first at the familiar group of people standing before him. Nathan watched as his eyes surveyed the room and all of the balloons and party streamers spread throughout the cafe. A big sign hung over the counter that read "Happy Birthday, Jaime!" Finally, Jaime's eyes landed on a smiling, beautiful brown-haired woman standing in the center of the room.
"Mama!" Jaime exclaimed, and Nathan set him down.
Haley knelt and had her arms outstretched as Jaime ran toward her. She almost fell over, laughing, at the force with which he hugged her. "Hi, baby."
"Daddy said you wouldn't be home until Monday."
"I wanted to surprise you." Haley held him tightly. "I would never miss your birthday. I missed you, James Lucas Scott."
"I missed you, too, Mama."
Haley kissed his cheeks, and he giggled loudly. "That's five kisses and one for good luck, Birthday Boy."
"Once she's done, then I'm next."
Brooke stepped forward to hug Jaime. "How's my favorite godson?"
"I'm your only godson."
She picked him up and squeezed him tight. "Good. That means I can spoil you even more."
As the others took turns wishing Jaime a happy birthday, Nathan made his way over to Haley. "Thank God you're home," he muttered and kissed her.
"Based on all the panicked texts you sent me, I thought you might actually spill the beans and ruin the surprise."
"You have no idea how hard it was lying to him. He used the baby seal eyes twice. It was torture. He kept asking me where you were and if you were coming home. He looked so sad…"
"Well, good job hanging in there, Daddy," she teased and laid a kiss on his cheek.
Haley had had to go to New York to attend a meeting with Brooke and some potential investors. Then they had a couple of events to go to, as well as working on their new clothing lines. Haley had left Monday and wasn't sure if she'd be able to make it back to Tree Hill in time for Jaime's birthday. Knowing that she couldn't miss it, she'd managed to reschedule and move some appointments around. The ecstatic smile that had been on Jaime's face when he first saw her made it all worth it. She always missed him and Nathan so much when she was gone on her business trips. Granted, she only left a few times a year but the old saying was true: there was no place like home.
"Are you sure you don't want me to take him?"
Haley shook her head and stroked Jaime's back. She could feel his slow, even breathing against her neck. He'd fallen asleep as soon as they'd put him in his carseat for the ride home. He and the other kids had been playing and running around all night. "I've got him. I can tuck him in."
"Okay. Meet me down here in five minutes?"
"It's a date." She gave him a flirtatious wink and brought Jaime upstairs. She gently set him down on his bed. As she changed him into his pajamas, she could hear Jaime's bunny Chester moving around in his cage. It was what Haley's parents had given Jaime for his birthday last year. She and Nathan hadn't been too happy about it at first. A pet was a lot of work, and they already had Duke. But Jaime loved Chester and took good care of him. In the end it had worked out.
Haley pulled the covers over Jaime and made sure he was warm and comfortable. She sat down on the bed next to him for a couple of minutes, watching him and stroking his hair. He had the same light-colored locks she had as a child. Haley smiled when Duke came into the room and hopped up on the bed. He always slept at Jaime's feet—like he was protecting him through the night. Haley heard Jaime sigh in his sleep.
Aside from Nathan, Jaime was the best thing that had ever happened to her. She thanked God every day for sending him into their lives. The timing may have been off when Haley had first gotten pregnant with him, but in the end he'd managed to bring her and Nathan closer together. After losing their first baby, Jaime had been their little miracle. Their second chance. There was nothing they wouldn't do for him.
"I love you, Mama," he mumbled sleepily.
Haley leaned down to kiss his forehead. "I love you, too, Jaime. Happy Birthday." She watched him for another minute and went downstairs.
Nathan had lit a fire in the living room and a few candles. He stood up from the couch when she entered the room and held out a glass of wine. Before she could thank him, he'd already leaned in to capture her lips in a passionate kiss. Nathan enveloped her into his arms, and she clung to him. A soft moan escaped as his tongue traced the outline of her mouth and sought out her own.
"Wow," she whispered breathlessly when he finally pulled away.
"I wanted to do that earlier, but we kind of had an audience." He ran his hand through her dark, wavy, and now short, hair.
"Me, too. I missed you."
"I missed you, too. Next time I think Jaime and I should go with you. It's been a while since we've been to the city."
"I think you should come, too." She kissed him once more. "By the way, Solaris and Chris send their best. Chris is actually thinking of coming down here. He wants to create a new sheik clothing line with a southern theme. He thinks Tree Hill will be inspiring."
"Dear God help us," Nathan joked. "You did tell him that we're not living in the deep south, right?"
"I did, honey, but you know that it's like another world to him down here anyway."
"It'll be interesting. I'll give him that."
They took a seat on the couch and cuddled up next to each other. Haley rested her head on his chest with her legs on his lap. She wanted to be as close to him as possible.
"Tonight was fun," she commented, thinking about their friends and family, sitting around and catching up. Having everyone together made Jaime's birthday that much more special.
"You, Karen, my mom, and Brooke did a great job setting up."
"And Julian," Haley added. "It helped to have a tall man around to hang things."
Nathan chuckled as he thought back to earlier. When Haley asked him what was so funny, he answered, "I was just thinking about Julian and Brooke arguing about their wedding."
Haley laughed, too, remembering. Julian wanted a black and pink color scheme while Brooke wanted red and white. Julian wanted peonies flowers, and Brooke wanted exotic white roses. Julian thought a pineapple-orange torte cake would be good, but Brooke wanted red velvet cupcakes. Julian wanted their first song to be "Hopelessly Devoted to You" by Olivia Newton-John, to which Brooke quickly objected, citing that no artist with the word "John" in his or her name would be singing their first song.
"Apparently Julian has an obsession with the movie Grease 2. At least that's what Brooke told me."
"I didn't even know there was a Grease 2," Nathan joked.
"Aside from their creative differences, they're still perfect for each other." Haley was thrilled for Brooke. Julian was a great guy, and she deserved to be happy after all these years. Haley had never seen someone make Brooke light up like she did when Julian was around. And he fit in well with their group of friends. They were planning on having the wedding in Tree Hill.
"Do you remember our wedding?"
"How could I forget?" Their second wedding had been beautiful. They'd gotten married in a church in front of all their friends and family a few months after they'd gotten back together. Haley remembered standing across from Nathan, her heart bursting with love and her soul finally feeling at peace. The reception had been on the grounds in a magnificent white tent. Little purple wild flowers, their flowers, had been everywhere. It was the wedding Haley had always dreamed about. Every detail of that day had been etched into her mind. She would never forget it.
"You were beautiful that day. Like you are every day."
"You're not too hard on the eyes yourself," she said, nudging him.
"Lucas said I was pudgy today."
Nathan sounded annoyed by the way he mumbled it. Haley couldn't help but laugh. "Oh, please. Baby, you are ripped. There isn't an ounce of fat on your body. Trust me, I would know." She ran her finger up and down his chest and laid a few kisses on his neck, moving up to behind his ear and whispering into it, "You are very sexy, Nathan Scott."
He guided her face more toward his. "I love you. You know that?" he mumbled against her lips.
"I love you, too."
When they broke apart, Nathan held up his wine glass. "I think that deserves a toast. To our hot bodies."
"How romantic," Haley muttered wryly with a roll of her eyes.
They both busted out laughing and clinked their wine glasses together. Nathan sipped his drink and frowned when he noticed Haley hadn't done the same.
"You know, traditionally people drink after a toast."
"So why aren't you drinking? It's your favorite kind." Haley bit her lip and looked away, blushing. Nathan knew that something was up instantly. "Hales, what's going on?"
Haley took a deep breath before speaking. On her flight back home, she'd been trying to figure out the best way to tell Nathan her news. "I've decided to give up wine."
"At least for the next nine months," she answered.
Nathan was confused a moment longer. Then her words sunk in. "Oh my God. You're pregnant?"
"Yes, I am," she confirmed.
"Oh my God," Nathan repeated. He was utterly shocked. He hadn't expected it at all. "When did you find out?"
"I took a pregnancy test yesterday, and it was positive. Plus I've been feeling nauseous lately. You know how I can get. "
"That is great, Hales. I mean, not the nauseous part. I meant the pregnancy part," he quickly corrected.
"I know what you meant." He took her face in his hands and kissed her deeply. "So you're happy?"
"Of course I am. I'm thrilled. I love Jaime, and I always told you that I wanted more kids." He watched her intently. "Aside from the nausea, how are you feeling?"
"I feel like I've never been happier. And I feel like I'm yours." She brushed her nose against his and kissed him tenderly. "And it feels good."
His eyes bored into hers. "We've come a long way, haven't we?"
Haley glanced around at the beautiful house they owned. She saw the trophies Nathan had won from his basketball days and now for his coaching. She also had awards and articles framed about Halo, and its tremendous success with the Clothes Over Bro's addition. It had become one of the most popular and highly valued brands in the country. There were also endless pictures of Nathan and Haley, Jaime, and their family and friends. Every object told a story of their life together.
"Yeah, we have."
Nathan held her to him tightly and gazed into her eyes. "You were mine when we were sixteen, and you're mine again now," he declared. He didn't sound harsh or possessive. Just grateful that he'd managed to find his soul mate, not once but twice.
Nathan thought back to their years of separation and what a dark time it had been in his life. In Haley's, too. He'd hoped and prayed to get Haley back, but she had always seemed just out of his reach. And she'd been too scared to come home, dealing with guilt and pain, thinking she'd failed as a wife and mother. It was strange and amazing how life worked itself out and could just fall into place. Nathan and Haley still had hard times since they'd been back together and were sure to face more in the years to come. But what was important was how they supported each other and dealt with life's hurdles as a family. Because as long as they had each other, nothing would tear them apart.