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III.

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Haley stared into the coffee mug with a sense of resignation, picturing the next few months. She’d asked the doctors if there was anything she could do. They had tried to make it seem like there was, but she had gotten the drift—there really wasn’t. She could help him through physical therapy, but how much could she really do

A hand on her shoulder startled her out of her thoughts. Lucas. He joined her on a stool at the kitchen counter. “You really should get some sleep,” he told her. “I can keep Jamie busy tomorrow.” 

“I slept at the hospital. I’m fine.” She ignored the look Lucas gave her at that one—she knew what he would say. She most certainly was not fine. Deflecting, she asked, “Jamie’s asleep?” 

“Yeah, he passed out about fifteen minutes ago.” 

“Was he upset Nathan didn’t say anything? Did he seem okay?” 

It manifested in different ways for each of them, but she and Nathan had the same desire in all of this—to protect Jamie. Nathan hadn’t wanted Jamie to see him at the hospital, and Haley didn’t want him to see Nathan so closed off. 

“Maybe he was a little upset, but he was still talking, still seemed happy. For now, I wouldn’t worry.” 

Haley nodded, taking a sip of the coffee. She waited for Lucas to say it. “How is he?” 

“Angry.” She ran her fingers through her hair. “He still wants to think this isn’t happening. He’s still adjusting. Not to say that I’m not, but you know it’ll be harder on him. And I think of Deb and how she handled things, and it just… scares me.” She scrubbed her face with her hands. “Am I crazy?” 

“No, you’re not. You’re being realistic about it. That’s how you’ve always been.” 

“How did you do it?” Haley asked, finally looking up at him. “How did you deal with giving it up?” 

Sometimes, when she thought back on their senior year, she wondered if she’d paid enough attention to him during that time. She’d been so consumed by other worries—Keith’s death and Karen and Lucas’ grief, her vow renewal, and then the possibility and, later, reality of her pregnancy—that Lucas giving up basketball had been the last thing on her mind. 

“Coaching helped, eventually. Whitey kept me busy. Nothing else might ever really compare to it for him. But I think he’ll come out of it okay. He won’t do to Jamie what Dan did to him—push Jamie to do what he can’t.” 

“I would never think he would do that,” Haley admitted. “I don’t want to think he can. I want to have faith in him… I do have faith in him. I know he can get past this. I just don’t know if he knows it yet. I kind of snapped on him before… I was just upset that he ignored Jamie and I said something I probably shouldn’t have. I’m hoping he’ll come through this. I’m hoping we’ll come through this.” 

She’d said more than she meant to, but that was the thing when it came to Lucas—she never felt the need to hold back or spare him the details. He was pretty much her brother—with all of hers so much older than her, they’d never been around to the extent that Lucas had, and she was always truly grateful for his presence in her life. She felt that gratitude again when he reached out and put his hand on hers. After all these years, he didn’t need to vocalize the reassurance. She gave him a weak smile in response. 

As she kept sipping at her coffee, he spoke again. “Lindsey said she’d come out for the weekend, help out around here if you need her to.” 

“Thank her for me. I’m sure Jamie will like to see her.” 

“Did you call your family?” 

“I talked to my mom and dad, and I told Vivian when she called a few days ago. She said she’d tell Quinn and maybe Taylor, if she can get a hold of her, and I’m sure it’ll trickle down to the rest of them eventually. I called Brooke and Peyton, too.” 

There was an Alanis Morissette lyric she’d associated with Lucas in the past few years: “Soon I’ll grow up and I won’t even flinch at your name.” And she had to give him credit—Peyton’s name no longer made him have a visible reaction. She knew he still thought of her—she’d been such a big part of his life that it was inevitable. He’d been trying to forget their relationship, trying to move on, but Haley knew there’d always be something there. 

“Either of them coming out?” 

“No, Brooke’s in the middle of rolling out some new designs and Peyton said her boss is horrible about giving time off. They sent their love, though.” She raked her hands through her hair. 

“Are you sure you don’t want me to call my mom? You know she’d come out here.” 

“No, no. She’s halfway across the world. I can deal with this; it’s just… tough. Thank you, though.” She gave him another smile, this one more genuine. “You’ve been such a huge help lately, with Jamie and everything else… I wouldn’t be holding up if it wasn’t for you.” 

“And this wouldn’t have happened if I’d gotten him to walk away that night. I owe it to you guys to be here, Hales.” 

“Luke… you can’t be blaming yourself for this. It’s not your fault.” She said this despite being perfectly content to keep blaming herself. 

“You can’t tell me there’s not things we could have done differently. This didn’t have to happen.” 

“Of course it didn’t. And I’m not saying I haven’t spent the last few days thinking about if I’d stayed, or if he’d come with me. But we can’t do this, Luke. We can’t dwell on the past. We just… we just have to be here for him.” 

She was trying to get back that strength she normally had in a crisis, because she knew she’d sure as hell need it. Whatever pain she was going through, whatever regrets she had, she just had to deal with them, to shut them away and be there for her husband. In sickness and in health. Those were the vows. They’d been there for each other through injuries before, through the dark times and the pain. This was nothing they hadn’t gotten through before. At least, that was what she tried to tell herself. 

“Do you need me to stay here? Lindsey and me can take Jamie for a few days, even. Give you a break. Might be tough for you to try and handle both of them.” 

“I’m a mom, Lucas. I’ve been ‘handling the both of them’ for four years now,” she said, with a slight grin at the memories. “Makes me think of your mom with you and Keith.” 

Lucas smiled some, remembering. Just as he no longer reacted to Peyton’s name, it no longer seemed to pain him to think of Keith. For the first few months after Dan had gone to prison, none of them had mentioned Keith, not wanting to reopen the still-fresh wound caused by learning what Dan had done. It had just made Lucas angry, and Nathan had refused to mention it at all, not wanting to bring up the man they’d claimed was dead to their son. Dan had taken Keith from them in more than one way. 

“She used to hate it when we came in from playing basketball together. We’d be sweaty and gross and she would tell me that next time, she’d make me do the laundry. But I’d always find her smiling when she did it.” 

“Sounds like Karen to me.” Haley drained the last of her coffee. “I hope I can be half as good a mom to Jamie as she was to you.” 

“Am I even hearing you right now? You’re a great mom, Hales. And you’ll keep being great. You’re already working so hard to keep things normal for Jamie. I’ll be here to help, and Nathan will get back to himself soon. You just gotta give him time. That was how it was for me. It took a while for me to adjust, but I did. He’ll work through it.” 

“Well, if I know Nathan, I know he doesn’t let anything stop him. I’m sure he’ll be raring to walk before the doctors give their approval.” She got up to put the coffee mug in the sink. “It’s getting late; you should get home.” 

“And I meant it when I said you should sleep.” He pointed a finger at her as he got up, gathering up his jacket and keys. “If not, I’m just going to have to sedate you.” 

“I’d like to see you try.” She laughed, then realized it was the first time she’d done that in the past week or so. It felt foreign and strange already. As he was about to leave, she called after him. “Lucas?” 

“Yeah?” 

She walked up to him quickly, hugging him tightly, knowing she didn’t need to say it. 

He touched his chin to the top of her head briefly, touching her cheek as he pulled away. “You’re welcome, Hales. You’re welcome.”

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