A/N: There will be a lot going on in this story. Nothing too insane or anything, but I will try to focus on each of the characters at least a little. That said, the main focus will be on Peyton, Nathan, Lucas and Haley. There will be quite a bit of NP friendship. Endgame couples will be LP and NH. That's about all I know at this point.
Summary: Tree Hill High is divided into very distinct cliques. The jocks and the cheerleaders, and the intellectuals and artists. Peyton and Jake love each other (but maybe not like they're supposed to). Lucas and Brooke love each other (or at least they're supposed to). Haley likes Chris. Chris likes himself. Rachel likes Nathan. Nathan likes sex and basketball, but not much else, or so everyone thinks. That's just the way things are. But it's all about to change. All of it.
The funny thing about high school is that it can somehow be comfortable and uncomfortable at the same time. You feel at home with the friends you've grown up with, but you feel self-conscious and awkward and out of place at times. What doesn't help is that the cliques divide the place completely. They might as well paint a line down the center of the hallway.
Tree Hill High was a basketball school. It had great academic programs and great student resources, but it was a basketball school. If you asked anyone in the town to use one word to describe the school, that one word would be Ravens.
So it was only natural for the star basketball players to rule the school - maybe the entire town - and for their girlfriends to be cheerleaders.
Lucas and Nathan Scott's history was long the scandal of the town. Different mothers, same father, born only months apart. Lucas grew up with his mother, and his uncle as a father figure, while Nathan was raised by his mother and father. One was more humble than anyone would have thought, one was the boy with the silver spoon and just about anything he ever wanted.
Basketball brought them together, and it was the only thing that had the potential to tear them apart. When Lucas was 10, Dan, their father, took an interest. The boy was just starting to play ball, and had already shown that he was a great talent. Dan petitioned for joint custody, but was granted only supervised visitation. Lucas was thrust into a world he knew nothing about. Fancy clothes and a huge house and a brother he knew nothing about. He still lived with his mother full time, but he lived in that big house every second weekend with a man who he was sure that if given the choice, he'd have nothing to do with. As he and Nathan got older, they quickly realized that they weren't each others' enemies, and that if they stuck together, they could handle Dan better.
So they grew closer and they stopped competing with each other, and started competing together. They each joined the Varsity team in their freshman year, and were each unofficially dubbed the princes of Tree Hill High.
More pressure to be perfect as players, more pressure to please their father, more pressure to have the right girlfriends. They were each passing all those tests with flying colours.
The same, however, couldn't be said for Nathan's actual tests. The boy's grades were slipping, and when his coach suggested a tutor, he'd rolled his eyes and scoffed and made a biting remark, but he knew he'd wind up at the tutor center to see what geek he'd be stuck working with.
Brooke was the captain of the cheerleading squad, naturally, and almost as soon as Rachel Gatina transferred to Tree Hill High in the middle of freshman year Brooke found a new best friend. The girls had more in common than they'd even wanted to admit, and soon, they were spending all their time together. Well, all their time together when they weren't with whatever boys they were after at any given moment.
Lucas and Brooke started dating during sophomore year. It started basically out of nowhere, and went from zero to sixty within a matter of a couple weeks. She made him bad, and he made her good, and they met somewhere in the middle. He'd make her do things she'd never done before, like reading books or watching old movies, and she'd make him do things he'd never done before, like have sex in the back seat of her car on some back country road. Neither would complain. She fell in love with him, and he let her.
Nathan preferred not to be tied down to one girl. Rachel preferred not to be tied down to one guy. It was only natural that they hook up occasionally when they each had an itch that needed scratching. They didn't talk about what they were, because they were nothing. Neither one of them had feelings that were getting hurt, and as much as Brooke and Lucas liked to admonish their behaviour, they didn't care what anyone else thought. Rachel didn't care if Nathan went after other girls, and Nathan didn't care if Rachel went after other guys.
It's a strange thing, popularity. It can make you think you have everything, and it can keep up that illusion until someone shows you something that you don't have. Something that you want.
If the jocks were their own group, so were the artists. Kids with talent and humour and personalities visibly on display instead of hidden behind a logo on a jersey or cheer uniform. Music and art, and passion for those things that set them apart from others.
Peyton and Haley grew up just down the street from one another, and had always been friendly. They'd stop to talk if they saw each other around, or they'd walk to school together. They'd talk about music, and occasionally boys, and then they'd go their separate ways. They each considered the other a friend.
Then high school started, and they became inseparable.
Peyton's best friend growing up had been Brooke Davis, but as soon as they stepped foot in that high school, it seemed priorities changed. Brooke was more interested in parties and boys and cheerleading, and Peyton was more interested in art and good grades and flying under the radar for four years until she could start doing things that mattered. They just grew apart, and neither was to blame. Or both were to blame.
Or Jake was to blame.
He was the first boy that Brooke set her sights on, and Peyton was the first girl he set his sights on. Until then, they were still hanging onto their friendship. It wasn't until Jake asked Brooke if she thought Peyton would go out with him that Brooke decided to cut ties. Harsh words were spoken, hurling accusations at each other, and name calling, and it was all just bad. Brooke, to this day, would glare at Peyton in the hallways, and Peyton would roll her eyes at the immaturity, though she knew eye rolling wasn't very mature either.
Jake and Peyton didn't start really dating until the beginning of their sophomore year. She'd wanted to focus on her school work, and he'd respected that. But he waited for her to be ready, and when she was, she thought he'd moved on or wasn't interested in her anymore. Haley knew differently, and pushed the two of them together once and for all.
Chris Keller showed up at Tree Hill High midway through sophomore year, and he and Jake bonded over guitar and music and the girls. Chris wanted to know everything he could about every girl in the school, and Peyton had called him a pig, but laughed at his enthusiasm, knowing that it took a lot more than just enthusiasm to get a girl to date you.
Haley was smitten with Chris immediately. No one but Peyton knew - well, at least Haley didn't know that Peyton had told Jake - and the two girls had countless conversations about him. He was more talented than anyone else they knew, but he was well aware of that fact. He was confident to a fault. Thankfully, they'd broken him of the habit of referring to himself in the third person, but other than that, they hadn't changed him much. They kind of liked him just the way he was, though they'd never actually tell him that.
Haley certainly did. She knew better than to get involved with an egoistical musician, but that didn't mean that she didn't want to get involved with him. She was the top student in their class, and a tutor, and she worked a waitressing job, and she was probably the busiest person any of her friends knew, but she'd still be there for them in a heartbeat if they needed her. They kind of all loved that about her the most.
"Hey!" Peyton called, leaning against the locker next to Haley's.
"Hey girly," Haley greeted. "Ready for this history quiz?"
"Yes, actually," Peyton said with a smirk.
"Really? I thought you had plans with Jake last night."
"I did," Peyton said, shrugging her shoulders. "He sat and read while I studied."
"Lame!" Haley teased. "You should be making out non stop and distracting each other from what you're supposed to be doing!"
"Well, we're kind of past the constant make out phase of our relationship," Peyton informed her friend, almost regrettably, Haley noted.
"Well, it's been over a year, right?" Haley asked, trying to make Peyton feel better. "Maybe you need to...spice things up."
"Dude, shut up!" Peyton cried, swatting Haley's arm as she slammed her locker shut and laughed. "Let's get this test over with."
Haley linked her arm through Peyton's and they started off down the hall together, quizzing each other on dates as last minute preparation for their class.
Nathan watched Peyton leave, taking in the smile on her face. He used to know her better, when they were younger. But when she and Brooke stopped talking, he and Peyton stopped talking. He'd always liked the blonde. She was funny in a biting, sarcastic way, and she always made him laugh. But then she started hanging out with what his group had dubbed the 'losers', and he hadn't talked to her, really, since the beginning of high school.
He saw Brooke at her locker a few down from his, and she smiled when she saw him there.
"What's the deal with you and Peyton?" he asked as he watched the blonde walk down the hall, her legs stemming out beneath her short skirt.
"What deal? There's no deal," Brooke said curtly.
"Well, what happened there? You were like, best friends," Nathan pressed on.
"Nothing happened, Nate. Just leave it," she warned. He held up his hands in surrender. He may not have been a genius, but he knew not to piss of Brooke Davis. "Where's Luke?"
"I don't know. Figured you did," he said with a shrug.
"No. I haven't seen him since last night," she told him as they started walking. "He was trying to study and...let's just say, I didn't want to study."
"You never want to study, Brooke," Nathan pointed out with a laugh.
"Exactly," she said with a smirk. "Anyway, I left him with his books at, like, 9:00."
"Where's Rachel?" he asked.
"Jesus, Nathan. What's with the 20 questions?" she teased, punching his arm playfully. "She's got chem this period. She's probably in the science hall."
"Makes sense," he mumbled.
"Why? Someone need some...attention?" she asked seductively, looking him up and down.
"Unless you're gonna be the girl to give it to me, don't look at me like that," he warned, making her roll her eyes. "Did you do your english paper?"
"Sort of," she said with a shrug. "I rented the movie."
"Me too," he laughed as they started making their way towards their class.
Jake wasn't looking where he was going. He was watching Brooke walk down the hall, and didn't see the person in front of him until they'd bumped into one another and his books fell to the floor. He didn't expect the person he ran into to be none other than Brooke's boyfriend. He hoped his staring wasn't that obvious...
"The Way the Crow Flies," Lucas said, picking up a thick novel and inspecting its cover.
"It's good. Canadian author," Jake said. He'd seen Lucas reading several times in the library, so he knew the guy liked his literature.
"Nice," Lucas said, nodding appreciatively as he handed the book to the brown haired boy. "It's...Jake, right?"
"Yeah, that's right," Jake said, dusting off the cover of his novel.
"Lucas," the blonde said, extending his hand.
"Yeah, I know," Jake laughed as they shook hands. Everyone knew who Lucas Scott was.
"Jake, man! We need to get to study hall! Those bitches are going to steal our table!" Chris called from down the hall, making Jake shake his head.
"And that's Chris," Jake said with a laugh.
"Charming," Lucas teased.
"Not hardly," Jake corrected, making them both chuckle. "See ya."
"Later," Lucas said as they went their separate directions.
He'd seen Jake with Peyton Sawyer, and with Haley. He knew from Brooke, though she hadn't sounded too happy about it, that Peyton and Jake had been dating a long time, though they weren't one of those couples that showed off their relationship. He couldn't remember seeing any PDA, save for hand holding or innocent kisses to the cheek.
Haley worked at his mom's café, so he talked to her pretty regularly. Mostly just trivial small talk, but she'd mention her friends or her plans, and he knew she was Peyton's best friend.
Peyton was one of those girls that was a complete mystery to him. He really couldn't read her at all. One minute she'd be sketching in the library, the next, she was peeling out of the parking lot with Led Zeppelin blaring from her car stereo. He'd see her at the mall with several bags in her hands from boutiques, but she'd be wearing a band tee shirt. He didn't understand her.
He didn't know why he wanted to understand her.
He made it to his first period history class just before the bell, somehow. He'd been up late studying and hadn't exactly been fast-moving that morning. He felt bad for basically ignoring Brooke the night before, but with her hands running up and down his back it had been really hard to concentrate, and he needed - wanted - to do well on the test he had that day.
"Hey, Haley," he greeted, taking the seat behind her that was free.
"Hey, Luke," she replied.
He turned to Peyton as she sat in the desk next to Haley, and he offered her a little smile, but she turned away without smiling back. He wondered why that made his heart race more than an actual smile would. He had to think that it might have something to do with the way that most people - most girls - treated him. It was all cheery smiles and coy eyelash batting. They all knew he had a girlfriend, but they all acted the same way with he and Nathan, no matter what.
They sat through their class, taking their quiz, and when the bell rang, he through his things into his backpack and smiled in accomplishment. He knew he'd aced that one. He knew it.
"What's with the grin?" Haley asked.
"That was easy," he said happily. "I was a little worried."
"It wasn't bad, actually," she agreed, slinging her bag over her shoulder. "Peyton..." She turned to look for the blonde, only to see her already walking out the door. "Okay, I guess I'll see her later."
"She hates me, doesn't she?" Lucas asked as they started towards the door.
"She hates a lot of people," Haley joked, making him laugh. "I'm kidding. I just think...you know, with the whole Brooke thing..."
"Right," he said, nodding his head. But, something about that didn't add up. "Wait, what Brooke thing?"
She looked at him with a furrowed brow, wondering how he didn't know about the girls' past. She knew he'd been dating Brooke for almost a year, and she'd just assumed he would have been let in on the 'drama' that had gone down between the two girls.
"The...Wow. I kind of thought you'd already know the story," she said in confusion as they walked down the hall. The two of them had biology together, so they were going to the same place.
"I didn't really know there was a story," he said with a shrug of his shoulders. "I know they used to be friends, but they drifted apart."
"Best friends, and they were pushed apart," she amended, looking at him with a serious expression.
"What does that mean?"
"It means that...Look, it just happened, and they aren't friends. I think Peyton is probably just trying to keep you both from getting yelled at," Haley explained, perhaps a little too harshly.
"Okat," he muttered, still trying to figure things out on his own, though in the grand scheme it shouldn't have mattered.
After her biology class, Haley made her way to the tutor center, where she spent a few lunch breaks a week helping students who needed it.
She hadn't expected to see Nathan Scott stride through the doorway as she was filing away a few practice quizzes.
"Can you help me?" he asked. She could tell right away that he didn't want to be there. "I'm looking for Haley James." She let out a humorless laugh and gestured to herself with both hands. "Okay. Well, apparently, you're my tutor."
"What?" he asked in confusion.
"No," she repeated, moving past him to grab something off the desk across the room.
He looked back down at the slip his guidance counselor had given him, to see her name there, in black and white. "It says right here..."
"I can find you someone else."
"Why don't you just do it?" he asked.
"Because I don't like you," she stated simply, shrugging her shoulder once and placing a hand on her hip. "You get everything handed to you, and you'll expect the same from me, and I'm not doing it."
"I saw you talking to my brother earlier. He's in the same position that I am," he said indignantly, crossing his arms over his chest. This girl was starting to piss him off with her accusations. He wasn't exactly used to not getting his way.
"Lucas actually studies and goes to class regularly," she pointed out. "I'm pretty sure his GPA is 3.7."
"Come on. I wouldn't be here if I didn't need to be," he pleaded.
"Exactly! If you actually wanted to be here, and had come here willingly, we could talk," she said.
"Haley," he started, softening his tone, "you're the best tutor here, right? Well, I need the best. So...I don't know what I did to piss you off, but if you could just push it aside, I'd appreciate it."
"You'd appreciate it," she stated skeptically, watching him nod. "So I should just do this because you want me to."
"Are you going to make everything I say sound like some manipulative scheme?" he asked angrily. "I just want to keep my grades up so I can play basketball."
Something in the way he said that, with such honesty and eagerness, made her wonder if she really should help him. She didn't really have a good enough reason not to. He'd never hurt her, she just didn't care for him.
She sighed and crossed her arms as she mulled it over, but he knew he had her. He'd convinced people to do more with less effort and so when she sighed, he knew she'd say yes, and he couldn't stop himself from smirking.
"You work around my schedule," she stated firmly. "And no messing around. If you want help, you better take what I offer."
"Okay," he said with a smile. "That's fair."
"Okay. 7:00 tomorrow. At the docks," she said, grabbing her books and tucking them into her bag.
"Why the docks?" he asked with a furrowed brow.
"Because it's better than sitting in here," she explained with a bit of a smile.
"Good point," he conceded. "Okay. I'll see you then."
"See ya," she said walking towards the door.
"Haley," he called after her, forcing her to turn around reluctantly. "Thank you."
She didn't say anything. She just pursed her lips and nodded before slipping into the hallway.
He realized that Haley wasn't going to go easy on him. She wasn't going to be nice and give in to what he wanted just because he wanted it. He was sure she was going to bust his ass and make him work way harder than anyone else would, and he wasn't sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing. All he knew was that he needed the best tutor around, and she was it.
"Haley!" Chris called as she grabbed her books from her locker.
After her run-in with Nathan, she still really couldn't believe that she'd actually agreed to tutor him. He was the most popular guy at their school, and she had to spend time with him. She was sure most people would relish that. She was kind of dreading it.
So she didn't want to think about it anymore. She had Chris calling her name and running - well, sort of running - down the hall towards her.
"Hey," she said with a smile.
"What are you doing tonight?" he asked, draping his arm around her shoulder as they walked down the hall.
"I have to work until 7:00, then...nothing, I guess," she said, shrugging her shoulder. She wished she hadn't done it, because he thought she was telling him to let go of her, and she actually missed his arm around her.
"Well, come to the park after. Jake and I are hanging out," he said before turning to walk back the direction they came from. "Bring your guitar!"
She shook her head, but kept walking, knowing that she'd do as she was told. She wouldn't pass up the opportunity to hang out with Chris, even if Jake was there. Jake was a great 'buffer' and usually, where Jake was, Peyton was. It was Friday night, and the four of them usually spent their Friday nights together anyway.
"What's the deal with that one?" Rachel asked Brooke, gesturing to Haley with her tube of lip gloss.
"What one?" Brooke asked absently.
"Mousey girl who's always with Peyton," Rachel specified as they started walking.
"Haley? She works at Luke's mom's café. I guess she and Peyton are, like, best friends," Brooke answered.
The day was only half over, and she was getting sick of answering questions all day long. First Nathan that morning, then Bevin during class, now Rachel. She hadn't seen Lucas all day, and she was starting to wonder where he was and if he was avoiding her. She knew he had a meeting with Whitey at lunch, but she was hoping to at least bump into him at some point.
"Weird. So Peyton and that Jake guy are dating, and Haley and that Chris guy are dating?" Rachel inquired.
"I don't know!" Brooke snapped. "God. I'm not like, encyclopedia Brooke."
"I was just asking!"
"Everyone's asking me all sorts of stuff today," Brooke explained by way of apology.
"Fine, but don't get all bitchy with me," Rachel warned, only half teasingly. "Do we have algebra right now? Where are we going?"
"Yes, we do. Honestly, I don't know how you're even passing," Brooke said, shaking her head.
"Me neither. I just don't question it," Rachel said, shrugging her shoulders as they entered their class. "Where's Luke?"
"Is that another question?" Brooke teased, taking her seat.
"Is that you saying that you don't know?" Rachel challenged.
"He and Nathan have gym this period," Brooke explained. "I thought you knew where Nathan was at all times so you two could meet up in whatever janitor's closet was halfway between your classes."
"Whatever. Like you and Luke haven't snuck out of class to hook up," Rachel scoffed.
"Actually...we haven't," Brooke said, herself almost surprised at that fact. Why hadn't they, she wondered.
Nathan and Lucas were in the weight room, exempt by their teacher from playing football for fear of injury. The Ravens couldn't afford to lose players, so Whitey oversaw the players while their classmates were outside on the field.
"So Brooke was looking for you today," Nathan observed as they grabbed some water.
"Yeah, I was running late," Lucas explained. "She was over last night."
"What's going on with you two? You're usually attached to each other," Nathan said.
"Nothing's going on with us. God, she doesn't see me for a few hours, and she's telling people that I'm dodging her," Lucas complained, shaking his head.
"Don't get all defensive," Nathan warned. "I'm just saying. She was looking for you."
"I'll talk to her after. We have study hall next period. Movie at our place tonight, right?"
"Yeah. Rachel coming?" Nathan asked.
"Dude, you know that when you ask me that, I know you just want to get laid," Lucas pointed out with a laugh.
"Actually, I would be alright with her not being there tonight," Nathan said, almost skeptically. "That game's getting kind of old."
"Nothing's much of a game with Rachel, Nathan," Lucas said seriously, knowing they both knew it was the truth.
"Exactly," Nathan muttered. "Whatever. Maybe I'll skip it. Work on my game a bit."
"Yeah, because your game needs so much work," Lucas said, shaking his head.
Nathan just shook his head and smirked, and walked back to the equipment to continue his workout. Maybe his game didn't really need a lot of work, but basketball was the only thing to him that guaranteed him a future, and he wasn't going to blow it. And frankly, another movie with Rachel and Brooke talking constantly wasn't exactly how he wanted to spend his Friday night. He'd heard of a party going on at the beach, but he didn't want to be there either.
Him, the ball, and the River Court was sounding just about perfect, and so that was exactly what he intended on doing.
A/N: Okay. This was probably a lot of stuff to take in. This was just setting it all up. Kind of a prologue. Let me know what you think.