Okay, this started as a one-shot that eventually became a full-length tale, which in turn became three separate extended stories! This is the first in the series, written from Nathan's POV. I hope you enjoy it and the others, as well as my Naley world.

The obligatory disclaimer: all creative rights to the One Tree Hill characters belong to their original creator(s)! I'm only using them to play around with my weird ideas.
Also, I denounce ownership of all copyrighted songs and lyrics used in this story.

How strange it seems, with so much gone
Of life and love, to still live on.
—John Greenleaf Whittier, Snow-Bound: A Winter Idyl

Once again, as it is every time I wake up, it takes my mind the briefest time to get things in order. The trouble that trails me in the day mercilessly knocks into me the minute I'm conscious in the night.

I stare at the ceiling, like I always do, absorbing the reality of the life I'm currently living. As hard as I try, I can never discourage the lingering stress that twists through me every moment of day and dark. I can't push it aside or burn it off.

The darkness has become my friend, my comforter, my tormentor, my refuge. In the dark, I'm free to think about her without acting a dreary role in a horrible play. In the dark, I grieve for her without people looking at me with judgment or pity. In the dark, I'm able to disconnect from my living nightmare through insomniac sleep.

She's everywhere. Memories of her and with her invade my sanity. I can't get her out of my head. I honestly can't. In my waking thoughts, in my dreams at my feeble attempt to sleep, when I wake up...Every breath I take she is there.

There are eighty-six thousand and four hundred seconds in a day and I think of her on every single one of them. I'm not kidding. If you have ever had your heart broken, then you know what I'm talking about.

My mind is constantly filled with echoes of her; her smile, her laugh, the crinkles in her eyes when she did, the smell of her hair, the draw of her mouth when I didn't want to go along with something she said, the way her lips tightened when I annoyed her, her loud laugh when something really amused her. I wander the house like a restless man in the middle of the night and wake up with the feeling that something isn't right before that something sinks in.

I'd give my right shooting arm to have her angry at me right now, to hear her yelling at me for forgetting to do something that was important to her, to just see her lips flatten like she's formulating how to rip my head off. I'd give a body part to share a kiss with her, to feel her arms around my neck, to hear her say that she loved me one more time. If it meant having her again, I would readily subject myself to the stiff manipulation of my body on a dance floor for hours on end. I'd give anything to stop feeling as though someone has punched me in the chest, ripped my heart out while I watched them do it, and left a gaping hole where my soul used to be.

I'm so damn broken, so torn apart that it's churning into crazy. I have developed a zombie-like existence, not entirely aware of what I'm doing but doing it. Like on auto-pilot. Some things I never really thought required effort are requiring too much of an effort. Food, for instance. I haven't been eating right and it's reflecting; I look sick, as if I'm in the first stages of fighting some disease there's no name for. I'm no doctor but I may be dehydrated, too. I look like hell, I feel like hell and only one thing is keeping me awake and present right now.

I turn to my side, my agony turning with me, my gaze meeting the shape of the bedside lamp. I hear her voice sweep the room, calling my name. I think I'm losing my mind.

My heart lies with her. My heart died the moment she left me. She, my reason to be. Not basketball, her. Haley James Scott. My wife, my friend, who I buried four weeks ago.