This is it guys, last chapter of Coming Home! It's been a joy writing this story and I'm sad to see it end but I'm also so happy that I was able to tell and received positive feedback about it. A special thanks goes out to everyone who has reviewed at all, I can't thank you guys enough for keeping me inspired. Check out my profile t read the description of the next story I'm working on Dirty Little Secret. I hope y'all enjoy the epilogue and let me know what you think!
"Are we there yet?" Brooke's whine echoed through the previously silent car.
Jake sighed in annoyance; it was getting hard to concentrate on driving with Brooke's constant questioning. "No Brooke, for the millionth time we aren't there yet. We probably have at least another six or seven hours to go."
"Well, how am I supposed to know? It's dark out and I can't see the signs on the road!"
"Maybe because you asked the same question ten minutes ago," Peyton drawled from the passenger seat.
Brooke shrugged unabashedly and Lucas wrapped an arm around her. "Why don't you try to get some sleep to pass the time?"
The brunette nodded and cuddled into her boyfriend's chest as best she could with her seat belt restraining her. "I still don't understand why we couldn't just fly to California. That would have been so much better than driving in this cramped van for two days."
"The drive is part of the adventure, Brooke," Lucas reminded with a soft laugh. "Plus it's way cheaper this way, and since we're all broke college students, cheaper is better,"
"Speak for yourself, Broody. The one thing my parents are good for is sending me money every couple of weeks." Her boyfriend nodded knowingly and began rubbing her back lightly.
"Go to sleep. Maybe by the time you wake, we'll be in Wasatch." With those few words Brooke happily obliged and almost immediately fell into a peaceful slumber.
Jake sighed thankfully and locked eyes with Lucas in the rear view mirror. "Thanks, Luke. I was almost about to kill her."
"No problem," he smiled. "How much longer until I have to drive?"
Jake looked at the clock. "About half an hour or so."
"Alright, I'm going to try and get some sleep for now too. Just wake me up when it's my turn."
"Sure thing, Luke," Jake replied and the blonde boy became silent as he too dozed off. The car fell silent again and each awake occupant was lost in their thoughts.
Nathan absent mindedly began running his hands through Haley's long honey tresses in the darkness. After being in his current position with Haley cuddled up next to him for a few hours, every part of his body seemed to be numb. He and Haley hadn't been participating in the group's conversation very much today, but instead focusing more on each other. He knew that Haley was getting kind of anxious about arriving in Wasatch. This trip would be her first time back in her hometown since her parents' deaths exactly one year ago.
Last year when Jake announced his plans to move to Tree Hill permanently, Haley's plan to visit him for Christmas fell apart and she never had any other reason to go back to California. When she came to him last month, upset about the rapid approaching anniversary of Jimmy and Lydia's accident and being unable to go visit their graves, he immediately jumped into planning a group surprise trip for her.
It had been a pretty fun two day drive with their best friends so far, but each of them couldn't wait to arrive in Wasatch so they could get away from each other for a little while.
Nathan kissed Haley's forehead lovingly and she flashed a kind smile up at him. He returned the smile and leaned his head down further and captured her lips with his. The kiss was slow and gentle, but full of love.
"Okay, I don't care how long Nathan and I have been roommates, I still don't want to see or hear you two making out," Jake broke them apart with his disgusted tone.
"Shut up, Jakey. Would you rather see or hear us having sex?" Haley retorted with a sinister smile.
"Haaaales," Jake whined in an even more grossed out tone. "I try to block out all the memories I have of hearing you guys through walls in our apartment in Tree Hill and even at Duke!"
"Don't feel bad, babe. Sometimes when I'm in our dorm I have to remind them that I'm in the bed right across the room. They've always been disgustingly affectionate," Peyton added.
Haley stuck her tongue out at her two friends in the front seats. She smiled thinking about their living arrangements at Duke. Jake and Nathan had both received basketball scholarships and Haley and Peyton decided to follow their respective boyfriends and go to Duke as well. It was a no brainer that Haley and Peyton would room together. Nathan and Jake had been living with each other back in Tree Hill since Jake's parents bought him a small apartment and Nathan decided it was time to get out of Keith and Karen's hair. Jake graciously invited Nathan to move in with him and they had been getting along better than ever since. So, when it was time to pick who they wanted to dorm with at Duke they had no problem selecting each other.
It was ideal having two couple and two available dorms to go to, most of the time they ended up having one couple in one of the dorms and the other in the other dorm.
"You alright, baby?" Nathan whispered in Haley's ear when she had zoned out from the conversation.
"Yeah, I'm just kind of nervous to go to their graves. It's going to be hard."
"I know you said you wanted to go alone originally, but are you sure you still want that? I can come if you'd like."
"Yeah, I think it'd be easier for me if you were there."
"I'll be right beside you then," he vowed and gently squeezed the arm he had wrapped around her waist. "Go to sleep, baby. You sound exhausted."
"I will if you do, you sound exhausted too, Nathan."
"I promise I'll get some sleep, too," Nathan chuckled and leaned his head against the side of Haley's. They both closed their eyes and waited for slumber to come in the silent car.
"Hales, wake up. We're finally here," Nathan whispered into his girl friend's ear some hours later. He watched as Haley's eyes fluttered open and she took in her surroundings outside the van. A large smile broke out on her face when she saw Jake's familiar neighbourhood.
"I can't believe I'm finally here again," she said softly and climbed out of the car, past the still slumbering Brooke.
When she planted her feet on the hard driveway she saw that Jake, Lucas, and Peyton were beginning to unload the vehicle. "Are you gonna wake your girl friend up, Luke? Apparently she sleeps like a dead person."
"I figured I'd give her a few more minutes, she tends to get really grumpy if she doesn't get enough sleep."
"I heard that!" Brooke yelled from inside the car and stepped out of it, glaring at Lucas. The rest of the group laughed and the all began carrying their luggage into Jake's house.
"Wow, when Haley said you were rich, I didn't think you were this rich," Peyton said as she and the rest of the Tree Hill natives took in the lavishly decorated mansion.
"Yeah, I guess I don't really think about it that often," Jake shrugged uncomfortably; he hated it when people pointed out his wealth. "Hales, you know where your room is so you can show Nathan to it. Brooke and Lucas if you follow them, the room you can stay in is across the hall and Peyton I'll take you to our room on the opposite side of the house."
Jake smiled at them all and the group split up to head to their rooms. Haley led Nathan, Brooke, and Lucas down the long halls until they finally made it to two doors directly opposite each other. "Seriously, how loaded is Jake?" Brooke asked in awe. "I mean, I thought my parents were rich, but my house doesn't even compare to this."
"His dad is a big shot business tycoon. Jake doesn't really like to talk about his parent's money though because it caused a lot of painful memories for him when we were kids," Haley explained and she pointed to the door Brooke and Lucas were standing in front of. "That is your room, it has a king size bed and bathroom, so you should be all set."
"Thanks for showing us to it, Hales."
"Yeah, no problem," she said and opened her own bedroom door and Nathan walked in behind her. When she saw Brooke and Lucas enter their own room she shut the door behind her. "So, I guess we should unpack then?"
"Or we could see your parents now and unpack later," Nathan suggested.
"Are you saying that because you're a nice guy or because you hate unpacking your stuff?"
"A little bit of both, I think," he said honestly. "So what do you say?"
"Yeah, I think that sounds like a good idea."
Nathan smiled at her and held out his hand and she laced their fingers together. "How far away is the cemetery?"
"It's only like a fifteen minute walk, so there's really no point in driving. I'll just text Jake and let him know where we're going."
"Sounds good," Nathan said and allowed her to lead them back down the halls they had just come from and out the front door of the house. "From what I've seen of Wasatch, it seems like a nice little town."
"It is. It reminds me a lot of Tree Hill. I love the small town feeling. I'll have to give you the grand tour later."
"Nathan smiled lovingly at her. "I'd like that. What is there to see on the Wasatch grand tour?"
"Well," Haley began and linked their arms together. "First stop is the cemetery, we're both gonna love that. There's a couple small restaurants and stuff that we liked to hang out at, Jake's house, and the high school. There's really not that much to see, but I am excited for you to meet my old friends."
"I'm excited to meet them too. It'll give me the chance to find even more about what you were like before I met you. Jake gets annoyed when I ask now; he says it's creepy how much I want to know about your life."
Haley chuckled softly and peered up at him. "It may be just tad creepy. You know you could always just ask me if you're curious about something?"
"I know that, but you aren't going to tell me embarrassing stories about your childhood, I need to ask your friends for stuff like that!" he teased and Haley rolled her eyes playfully.
"Why do you want to know stuff like that about so badly? We've been dating for almost a year now, my past is irrelevant!"
Nathan clicked his tongue. "That's where you're wrong, Haley James. I love you and I want to know every single, little thing there is to possibly know about you."
"Fine," Haley huffed. "Question my friends about all my embarrassing little secrets, just promise you'll still love me after they tell you all the dirt they have."
Nathan smirked and he tried to hold back his laugh. "These stories must really be something if you're making me promise such a thing."
"They aren't that bad. You know how much of a klutz I am, my childhood embarrassment probably won't come as a surprise to you," Haley shrugged and took in a sharp breath when the gates to the cemetery came into view.
Nathan unhooked their arms before wrapping his around her waist tightly and offered a reassuring squeeze. The couple walked through the tall, wrought iron gates and up a narrow dirt pathway. When Haley saw her parent's graves clearly come into view she halted. Nathan looked at her curiously and found her staring straight ahead. He immediately understood what she was looking at kissed her temple gently. "You can do this," he whispered into her ear and she offered him a timid smile.
"I think I need to do it alone actually. I love you for coming this far with me though," she told him and Nathan nodded his head with a smile.
"I'll wait right here for you."
Haley didn't respond and once again faced the two graves placed twenty feet away from her. She walked slowly and carefully along the path until she was standing right in front of them. They both said the same thing and she knew exactly what it was, but the blonde girl read the very bottom phrase anyway.
'The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.'
When Karen and Keith asked for her help picking a quote to put on her parent's graves this one stuck out to her. It didn't really relate to the death itself, but everyone who knew Lydia and Jimmy James knew they loved to laugh and joke around. The quote was one that truly reflected their daily attitude and behaviours. Haley laughed softly remembering some of the many times where her parents' humour surfaced at inappropriate times. She sighed at the memories flooding her mind and opened her mouth to speak.
"Hi Mom, Daddy. I'm sorry I haven't come to visit sooner, the thought of coming here was always too much for me to handle," she started and dropped to her knees. "I miss you both more and more every day, but moving to Tree Hill might've been the best thing that ever happened to me. I got to connect with Aunt Karen, Uncle Keith, and Lucas. I also made new friends that I just know are going to be with me for the rest of my life. The person that made Tree Hill special for me though, is my boyfriend Nathan. Remember how you guys were always teasing me and saying I needed to date to loosen up? Well, I finally did it!" Haley laughed and sniffled to try to keep her composure.
"You would both love Nathan as much as I do. We've only been dating for about a year now, but he's the love of my life. He makes me so happy and I can't imagine what my life would be like without him anymore. I just wish you were here to see how amazingly he treats me," she felt the built up tears slowly begin to roll over and slide carefully down her cheeks. She tried to regain any ounce of composure she could but found herself unable to calm down. She spoke quietly one last time before breaking down completely. "I miss you so much."
Nathan saw his girlfriend hunched over with her body shaking violently. He immediately rushed forward and made it to her side in record time. Her broken form collapsed into his arms as soon as he was beside her and Nathan helplessly rubbed her back and tried everything he could think of to help her calm down. After about ten minutes her sobs subsided into small sniffles every now and then and Nathan tipped her chin so she was looking directly at him.
"Are you okay?" he asked worriedly and she forced a smile onto her face.
"I'll be okay, it was just overwhelming being here and talking to them and remembering everything about them. I feel better though, almost like a weight has been lifted off me now that I have a little more closure."
"Good, I'm glad this helped you. Now what do you say to walking back to Jake's and spending some quality time together and with our friends?"
"I say that sounds perfect," Haley smiled and allowed Nathan to help her onto her feet. The couple walked silently hand in hand back to Jake's mansion, both lost in thought about the events that occurred in the cemetery.
A few hours later, five friends were all seated around a table on Jake's patio. Jake walked out onto the deck with his cell phone in hand and a mischievous smile on his face. "I just got off the phone with Mouth. I told him I'm in town visiting my parents and want to hang out. He's bringing Skills, Junk, and Fergie with him."
"Why didn't you just tell this Mouth person the truth?" Brooke asked confused.
"I wanted to surprise them. They haven't seen Haley in a year; it's more fun this way. Especially since Junk will probably cry when he sees her."
Haley scoffed and shook her head. "He's not going to cry, Jake."
"Oh yes he will! You didn't see him after you moved to Tree Hill, I seriously thought he was going to pack up and move there too."
"Were you and Junk really close, Hales?" Nathan asked with a hint of jealousy which caused Haley to smirk.
"No, not extremely. Jake's just delusional."
"Anyone with half a brain could see that Junk was pretty much in love with Haley since we were kids, except Haley apparently."
Nathan's jaw clenched and Haley ran her fingers through his raven black hair soothingly. She leant over and whispered in his ear so only he could hear. "Don't worry babe, you're the only guy for me."
Nathan smirked in satisfaction, causing Lucas and Jake's faces to twist in disgust. "I really don't want to know what you just said to him to make that God damn smirk to be so big," Lucas said and Jake nodded fervently in agreement.
A knock sounded on the wooden gate at the side of Jake's house caused the group to all turn their head's. "Yo Jake man! Unlock the gate!"
Jake smiled and stood from his seat. He walked over to where the gate was in the fence and unlocked it. He smiled at his old friends and bumped fists with each of them. When they rounded the corner, four strangers and a familiar blonde came into view. The four boys walking with Jake all stopped in their tracks and broad smiles broke out onto their faces.
"Is that little Haley James?"
Haley stood up instantly and met her old friends halfway. She hugged each of them tightly and allowed them to pick her up and spin her around. The last guy she hugged was a pale brunette. "I've missed you, Junk," she said happily and the friendly boy hugged her just a bit longer then her other friends did.
"I've missed you too, Hales," he replied emotionally and Haley fought to hold back her laugh, maybe Jake was right about his little crush.
When Junk put her back on her feet, Haley noticed that Nathan and the rest of her friends had joined them. She couldn't help but roll her eyes when Nathan placed a protective arm around her waist and pulled her to him. The two groups introduced themselves and then Jake addressed the guys. "Who wants to play some ball?" he asked, gesturing to the court behind him.
All the boys quickly agreed and started over to his home basketball court. Haley, Peyton, and Brooke groaned in annoyance. Basketball was hands down one of the most boring things to watch for them. Nathan heard their protests and slowed so he was walking in step with them. "Cheer me on for a little while in this game and I'll give you the surprise I have for you earlier than I planned."
"You have a surprise for me?" Haley asked excitedly and Nathan smiled at her.
"I do and I promise after we play for a little while, you and I can go for a walk and I'll give it to you. Deal?"
"Deal," Haley smiled and kissed him softly.
"Our boyfriends suck, P. Sawyer. Why does Haley always get to be the one treated like a princess and given presents?" Brooke whined from next to the happy couple.
"Guys like me are a special breed, Brooke. Lucas and Jake are chumps compared to me," Nathan joked and kissed Haley again before running to join the guys already on the court.
"Decided to stop making out with my best friend and join us, Scott?" Jake teased the boy.
Nathan smiled and shrugged. He really couldn't help it if his girlfriend was irresistible. "Just shut up and let's pick teams."
Jake chuckled and did as he was told. They started the game a few minutes later with Haley, Peyton, Brooke, and Mouth watching from the sidelines. Haley couldn't wipe the smile off her face in anticipation of what was sure to be a great surprise.
"Nathan, where are we going? You haven't even been in town for twenty four hours, there's no way you could know where anything is."
Nathan shrugged. "It's a surprise. I saw it on the way to the cemetery and I knew it would be perfect."
"Perfect for what?" Haley asked, her voice laced with confusion.
"You'll just have to wait and see."
"Come on, Nathan! I just want my surprise," the blonde pouted which caused laughter to bubble up Nathan's throat.
When the park he had seen earlier came into view he smiled even wider. It was even more romantic at night than it had been during the day, with a jazz band playing quietly. He grabbed her hand and ran across the street with her and as they came closer to the park he smiled at her.
"Dance with me."
"Of course," Haley smiled and wrapped her arms loosely around his neck when they joined a crowd of a few other dancing couples. "Is this my surprise?"
Nathan scoffed and looked at her disbelievingly. "Come on, Hales, you know my surprises are better than just dancing in a park."
"It is pretty perfect though, your surprise may not even be able to top this."
"Oh, I'm willing to bet that it will," he smirked.
"Well then why don't you test that theory and give it to me!"
"Did anyone ever tell you that you're a little impatient, Haley James?"
"Many times, they also tell me it works to my advantage."
"That it does," Nathan smiled and he stopped swaying. "Alright, let's keep walking and I'll give you your surprise."
Haley clapped giddily and allowed Nathan to guide her along the winding asphalt path in the park surrounded by trees and flowers. Haley furrowed her brow when Nathan suddenly stopped after walking for a minute. He turned to her with a loving smile on her face. "I love you, Haley."
"I love you, too," she said softly and stoked his cheek.
"From the first moment we met on the Rivercourt, I knew there was something special about you. It didn't take long for me to realize I was in love with you and wanted to spend the rest of my life with you. You're my family, Hales," Nathan said seriously. He paused his speech and moved so he was bent down on his left knee.
Haley gasped sharply when she watched Nathan get down on his knee. He was digging in his pants pocket and smiled as he pulled out a small box. He opened it to reveal the most beautiful diamond ring she had ever seen. It had a gold band with a large white diamond set in the middle with two smaller ones on either side of it. She put her free hand to her gaping mouth and locked eyes with Nathan.
"Haley James, will you make me the happiest man on the planet and marry me?"
A single tear rolled down Haley's cheek as she nodded over and over. "Yes!"
Nathan smiled wide and he slid the ring onto Haley's left hand. He stood up quickly and hugged her tightly, picking her up and spinning her in the process. "I love you, and this doesn't mean we have to get married or start planning right away, I just want the promise of it being in the future for us. I can't wait to be your husband but we can take as much time as we need to plan and everything-"
Haley cut off her fiancé's speech when she fused her mouth with his. The kiss was full of passion and excitement and when they pulled away the couple smiled shyly at each other. "You were rambling, and I love you too, Nathan. I can't wait to be your wife and I agree that we should take our time with planning since school is the number one priority right now."
"So was that surprise everything you imagined it would be?" he asked as they started heading back to Jake's house.
"It's so much better, baby!"
"I'm glad. I can't wait to start my life with you, Hales."
Haley squeezed his hand in agreement and the couple let a happy silence envelope them. Nathan and Haley's long life together was just getting started and they couldn't wait to see what life had in store for them.