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A very long-delayed Chapter 5 of ILTY--my ff.net readers have been waiting for this one since late October, which is why I'm hoping to get it back on track using the prompts I've found here.

This one is for a challenge over at 5_prompts: the If I Were Challenge, Prompt 09, if I were in pain I know you'd sing me soothing songs. I do not claim any right to the song used herein, Sheryl Crow's "I Shall Believe". It is also for Prompt 10, Hope, at 20_est_relships.


V.

Hope

 As much as she didn’t want to admit it to herself, she still had the tiniest spark of hope in her heart, the hope that Nathan could just snap out of it somehow and go back to being the man—the husband, the father, the brother—she knew he was. She still had the hope that one day he’d wake up and just be fine again.

 Of course, she knew it didn’t work that way. He still had rehab to go through, and beyond that, who even knew if he’d be able to walk again? She tried to put on the optimistic front for him, but God’s honest truth was that she was scared out of her mind that this was it for him.

 The dinner had almost happened. Once she’d gotten home from work, Nathan had seemed like he regretted about the way he’d snapped at her earlier. Giving her the salad had been one thing, but properly apologizing was another. Maybe he couldn’t work up the words, but he could agree to her request and try and put on a brave face, for Jamie’s sake as much as anyone else’s.

 She’d honestly been surprised at how bad he’d seemed to feel, and she almost hated herself for that, the way she could doubt him so easily these days. She didn’t want to, but recently, it was easier and easier to expect that the worst would happen, that he’d lost all hope and didn’t want to recover.

 So it was a bit of a shock when she and Jamie came home to find him cleaned up some. He’d shaved—he’d been neglecting that ever since the hospital—and had somehow scrounged up a polo shirt, something nice, one of the rare non-sports-related outfits in his wardrobe. Maybe it was a little fancier than was necessary for a trip to the casual establishments they usually went to, but he was honestly trying, and it relieved the heaviness in her heart the slightest bit.

 After another hour or two, once she’d had time to unwind and grade some papers, Jamie had gotten dressed and they’d headed out to a small Italian restaurant. Jamie and Nathan were usually more than satisfied with the pizza, whereas Haley’s youthful love for macaroni and cheese had evolved into an appreciation of fettuccine alfredo. They were semi-regulars, and Haley thought the return to routine would be a good thing. If they could do the things they would normally do, maybe it would be like nothing had changed.

 Of course, she should have known it wouldn’t happen. By now, everyone around town had heard about the accident. Teachers and coaches at Tree Hill High had been approaching Haley to offer a steady stream of condolences. Get well cards came in droves.

 But this was the first time Nathan had been out in public since, and she had to bite her lip so she wouldn’t say that maybe this hadn’t been the greatest idea after all, once she caught wind of the looks.

 They’d already ordered and were waiting for their food. Jamie was coloring contentedly on his placemat, and Haley was picking at a breadstick with one hand, as she and Nathan had their fingers twined in a tentative handhold on the table. It was definitely something—she’d reached out to him and he hadn’t pulled away. For a second, as she sat there with his hand firmly in hers, the buttery warmth of the breadstick melting in her mouth, she could almost close her eyes and think of this as one of their many high school dates, before financial woes, marriage, rock tours, and a baby.

 She heard it before she saw it. Being a mom, being a student teacher, being a musician, it meant her hearing was sharper than most people’s. She could hear Jamie calling from her a mile away, she could tell which students were horsing around without turning her back, she could pick out a note that hadn’t been tuned properly on a guitar.

 She could hear people whispering about her husband.

 “Is that him? Nathan Scott? It was all over the news…”

 “That’s him. It’s a damn shame; he was doing so well…”

 “Should we say something, you think?”

 As well-wishing as the women had been, she’d wanted to turn around, snap at them that they weren’t deaf and could hear every word. She’d thought it was only her—prayed the hearing Nathan jokingly called superhuman meant she was the only one who could hear it—but that hope was dashed by the feeling of Nathan’s hand tightening in hers.

 Dammit.

 Pity was something he’d never wanted, and as much as she wanted to stay, wanted them to have the dinner a normal family would, she knew it would kill him even worse than the injury, hearing the sympathetic noises of two busybodies as they watched him eat his dinner. She made quick arrangements with the wait staff to have their food boxed instead, gathered up Jamie and his crayons, picked him up and held him against her hip as they left the restaurant, Nathan wheeling behind them with the food on his lap.

 When they got back to the house, Nathan went into the living room, and Haley sat with Jamie as he ate his pizza, apparently not bothered by their dinner being cut short. When he kept looking in the direction of the living room, Haley gently laid her hand over his. “What’s up, Jimmy-Jam?”

 “Is Daddy okay?” Jamie asked, once he’d swallowed the last bite of his pizza. “Uncle Lucas says he is, but he’s still sad all the time.”

 She still couldn’t think of the right words to explain this to him, and it made her wish for someone to turn to, someone who understood. Normally, she’d call her mother, but Lydia had only been able to offer condolences and vague suggestions on how to deal with the situation. No one she knew could coach her on how to deal with this, how to understand it, so how could she expect her son to understand?

 She stroked her fingers over her son’s, sighing. “Daddy might be sad for a while, baby. He’s having a really hard time. Like you were when Chester was sick a few months ago.” Actually, it was nothing like that, but to her son, that had been one of the overarching crises of his young life, and that’s the only thing she can compare it to that will make him understand. “We just have to be there for him and love him, okay? It’s gonna get better.”

 Jamie nodded, accepting her words without question, something she knew wouldn’t last for much longer, once he got older and found out more about the world. But for now, his mom and dad were the superheroes, the ones with all the answers. She just wished she had more answers to give him.

 Once she’d gotten him bathed and put him to bed, she went down to the living room and found Nathan still on the couch. She perched herself on the coffee table, reaching out and touching his face, making him look at her. “I’m sorry, Nathan. About the restaurant… I didn’t even think of what people would be saying about…”

 “It’s not your fault, Hales.” He gave a sigh of his own, running his fingers back through his hair. He needed a haircut, she noticed. Noticing little details like that had been one of the things she’d let fall by the wayside after the accident. She felt that, since then, they hadn’t truly looked at each other until now.

 Abruptly, she stood, reaching her hand out to him. Maybe he couldn’t stand, but she could help him. “Here. Come on.”

 Nathan gave her an are you kidding? look, shaking his head. “I can’t, Haley.”

 “I know. But I’ll help you.”

 She helped him up, and somehow she managed to half-carry him to the bathroom down the hall. She could have taken him in the wheelchair, but she didn’t want to, had her reasons why not. She wanted to show him she was willing to help, that he could do these things and not have to be helpless.

 When they got to the bathroom, she sat him down on the edge of the bathtub, starting the water and helping him out of his clothes, ignoring him when he asked what she was doing. She stroked her fingers over the scar on his chest, kissing it softly before she got him out of his jeans and boxers, then helped him into the bath as warm water filled the tub.

 “My mom used to do this for me whenever I was sick,” she said as she got the portable showerhead down and turned it on, wetting his hair. “It helped me. And I don’t know if it’ll help you, but I’ve just been thinking, and there’s things I have to try. Things we have to try, if we want to get through this.”

 He nodded, leaning his head back against the edge of the tub as she set the showerhead down and took the shampoo from the side of the tub, working it into his hair. She was pretty sure he’d be objecting to this normally, being bathed like he was a child, but what was important was that he was accepting it now, that she could do some small thing.

After she’d washed his hair, she started on the rest of his body, closing her own eyes after a second and breathing in, fumbling slightly to find the words of a song. She hadn’t really sang since years before, singing lullabies to Jamie—it had been so long, but she wanted to break the silence, even if it wasn’t the horrible silence of the past few weeks. It was a calm silence, a comfortable one, but quiet was still quiet, and she didn’t want that.

Softly, she sang, low and loving, into his ear.

“Come to me now

And lay your hands over me

Even if it’s a lie

Say it will be all right

And I shall believe…"

As she opened her eyes again, he was turning his head to look at her, and she leaned her forehead against his, continuing to sing, her breath warm against his lips, though she didn’t venture a kiss. “Broken in two, and I know you’re onto me—that I only come home when I’m so all alone, but I do believe…”

Years before, the two of them had been sitting in Karen’s Café, Haley practically shaking in the presence of her idol, Sheryl Crow. One song per cup had been the deal, and after Nathan had snapped the picture Haley had needed to convince herself the night was real and not a dream, they’d sat there together, Nathan’s hand resting on her upper thigh as she leaned into his chest, listening to Sheryl singing and each other breathing.

The last song, on Haley’s request, had been “I Shall Believe”, the saddest but most hopeful song she could think of. Together, she and Nathan had danced, slow and steady with barely an inch between them, and it had been the first night Haley could remember that she hadn’t wanted to end. Later that school year, after Lucas and Brooke had begged her to return to Tree Hill, it had been hearing the song on the radio that led her back to Nathan’s doorstep: that I only come home when I’m so all alone.

When she’d finished singing, Nathan opened his mouth to speak, but as she watched his face, she could see the words fail him. He reached up and drew her closer, the water on his skin soaking her shirt, but the kiss he pulled her into instantly made her ignore that. It was the first time they’d kissed since the accident, and it made her want to believe so much: that they could overcome this, that Nathan could come out of this with his strength and dignity still intact, that a marriage that had bent under the weight of so much but stayed unbroken could survive this, too.

There were so many things that kiss made her want to believe in, and she chose to believe in every single one.

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
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haveloved
Mar. 31st, 2011 11:49 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Brittany! I loved how this chapter turned out, so I'm glad you enjoyed! :D
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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