Chapter 1

Nathan stared out at the dingy basketball court that he'd spent the past four years playing on. It had been like a dream to have Whitey as a couch again, and to have his brother at his side, even if only as another couch. But, four years had come and gone, and with them had come more change than Nathan had ever before experienced.

The first few months of basketball on this court had been like they'd always been for Nathan, more important than almost anything else. But as time wore on, Nathan grew and changed, and so did his dream of playing basketball.

He had different dreams now; they were centered on his son and his friends and family. Around finding the right career, and maybe, if he was lucky, find another women he thought he could spend his life with.

Both times that Nathan Scott had professed his undying love for Haley James; he'd never in a million years dreamed that their marriage would fall apart. And both times, it had.

They'd been divorced for two and half years now. At first it was hard, almost unbearable, to be alone. But it had been the right choice. Things had changed after high school. Things came into play that they'd never considered as young kids in love. Money, school, work, parenting and life were all factors that neither had been prepared for.

After 2 years of giving everything they had to make it work, they'd made the joint decision to separate and eventually divorce. They'd remained friends and rarely disagreed on the parenting of their young son, for whose custody they shared.

But Haley had decided to pursue her musical career again in the wake of their split, and took to traveling more and more. She was an excellent mother, and Nathan knew his son was in fabulous hands with her, but it was gut wrenching for him to only see his son one week out of every month.

Right now, it was the last day of that week. He smiled as his four year old dribbled the ball down the old court, losing control of it every now and than, and chasing it down in a fit of giggles.

"Daddy! Look at me!" He laughed, raising the ball above his head and attempting to shoot it.

"I see, bud. Come here, let me help." He jogged towards his boy and lifted him up high in the air, so that he could sink a basket.

"He's definitely a Scott!" a voice said behind them.

"That's our last name Aunt Rachel! I am a Stott." James grinned proudly.

Nathan laughed. "You mean, Scott."

"That's what I said! Stott." James said, frustrated.

"That's right Jamie, I heard you." Rachel said, winking at the boy.

Nathan lifted James off of his shoulders and sighed.

"We should probably head outside, bud. Mom'll be here any minute." He said, grabbing James' bags off of the bleachers.

"Say goodbye to Aunt Rachel."

James ran full speed at her, almost knocking her over as her wrapped his tiny arms around her legs in a tight hug.

"Bye, Rachel. I'll miss you." James said, smiling up at her.

"Bye, Jamie. We'll see you again in no time. Be good for your mom." Rachel said, pushing his dark hair off of his forehead and kissing it.

Nathan grabbed James' hand and led him towards the door. He turned back to face Rachel.

"You just going to wait in here?" He asked and she nodded, taking a seat on the bleachers.

"Don't want Haley getting the wrong idea," she said, flashing him a grin.

Nathan rolled his eyes, taking his son outside to meet his mother.

Rachel pulled into the parking lot outside of Nathan's apartment and turned off her car. They sat in silence for a long time before she finally spoke.

"I know how hard today is, Nate. But he'll be back in a few weeks. They'll fly by, I promise." She said, putting her hand on his shoulder.

He nodded, staring out the window of the car, making no motion to get out.

"Are you going to come up?" He asked, finally turning to face her.

"It makes sense, I mean, the dinner party is in a few hours."

Rachel groaned.

"Okay first of all, tell me again why you are meeting with these corporate douche bags? You are SO not the black tie kind of guy, Nathan. And second of all, how on Earth did I get roped into going with you?" Rachel questioned, narrowing her eyes at him.

"Well, to answer question number one, this job pays. I need the money, Rach. I'm not going to play pro ball, that's apparent, and I can't live in this place forever." He said, gesturing towards the small apartment in front of him.

"Plus, I'd love to have money to travel. Maybe see James more."

She nodded, understanding.

"And two, the invite said, 'Nathan Scott and Guest.' I need the moral support and it's not like I have an abundance of female friends." He reasoned, giving her a toothy grin.

"I mean, I'd totally take Peyton, but you know how Lucas gets when I pretend I'm dating his wife."

Rachel rolled her eyes, getting out of the car and grabbing her black dress and heels from the backseat.

"Yeah, yeah. Well, at least tell me it's an open bar." She said, giving him a pointed look as she followed him upstairs to his apartment.

"Trust me, it's an open bar." He called over his shoulder as he unlocked the door.

"Do you really think I'd invite you if it wasn't?" He teased, sticking his tongue out at her.

"Shut up! I'm an excellent date! Your future bosses are going to love me. Heh, for all you know, they might just hire me instead of you!" She smirked, following him inside.

"Riiiight. Because bartending at Oliver's is considered excellent work experience these days." He jabbed, flopping down on the couch.

"Ouch. I'm wounded. I guess somebody doesn't want free drinks anymore…" She threatened, sitting down in Nathan's lazy boy, and inspecting her nails.

Nathan laughed.

"You know I'm kidding, Rach. I've been working on cars with Luke for weeks trying to pay the bills. It's nothing glamorous, trust me."

"I know, I just, it's not like I enjoy working there, Nathan." She said, twisting her dark hair around her finger.

"Don't get me wrong, it was fun the first year or so after high school, but getting groped by drunk old men is so not my thing."

"Really? When did that change?" He teased.

"I'm going to kill you!" She growled, lunging towards him.

He dodged her and ran around the couch, laughing as she chased him.

"Come on, Rachel, quit chasing me! I'll have to tell your boyfriends down at the bar!" He laughed, jumping over his counter to get away from her.

"Oh, you think you are just SO funny, don't you?" She hissed, staring at him from the other side of the counter, anticipating his next move.

Nathan faked right and went left.

But Rachel had anticipated this. After all, he'd done it the past four years on the basketball court, and she and Peyton had rarely missed a game.

She tackled him to the ground, sitting on his stomach and holding his wrists down above his head.

"You… take… that… back…" She panted as she struggled to hold him down.

Nathan was laughing so hard he could barely breathe.

"I'm… sorry-,"

She started to loosen her grip a little.

"- I never knew you were so kinky!" He laughed, wiggling his eyebrows at her.

She raised her arm to smack him and he caught it, flipping her over and tickling her.

"You love old men… and you love our kinky tickling matches… just admit it!" He laughed as he continued to tickle her sides, sitting on top of her.

She was laughing and squirming beneath him, trying hard not to give in like she always did.

"Nathan, stop!" she whined, smacking him in the chest as she continued to squirm away from him.

"EHHHH! I'm sorry, that's not the phrase we're looking for!" He smirked, continuing to tickle her relentlessly.

"FINE! Nathan Scott is the sexiest man alive!" She yelled, rolling away from him and gasping for breathe as he finally let her go.

He leaned back against the counter, laughing at her and enjoying his victory.

"I'm going to go jump in the shower, try not to miss me too much." He chuckled, smacking her stomach as he got up.

She glared at him from the floor.

"Is it me, or do you suddenly feel like we're not in Kansas anymore?" She whispered, clutching Nathan's arm fearfully as they hovered in the doorway staring in at all the finely dressed, bourgeoisies in front of them.

Nathan swallowed hard, and than began a nervous ramble.

"There are… so many tables, how do we know which one's ours? I don't know how I'm supposed to find Mr. Larsen, I've only met him once and it was brief. I mean sure, we talked on the phone, but I'm not a good voice judge I-,"

"Nathan! Can it." She interrupted, dragging him towards the nearby coat closet.

"What we need is a game plan." She reasoned, sticking her head out the door and getting a lay of the land.

"Okay, got it." She said, patting his shoulder and starting off towards the main room.

"Hey, hey, hey! Where are you going, what's the plan? You said you had it!" He hissed through clenched teeth, looking around nervously.

"Yeah, I have mine. It's long, rectangular about 30 feet from where we're standing, and it's about to help me forget where I am." She said happily, staring at the bar across the room.

"Well, that doesn't really help ME, Rach!" He bit back, loosening his collar as he started to sweat.

She rolled her eyes.

"Oh, calm down. Here's what you need to do; see that table over there in the center of the room?" She asked quietly, gesturing to it with her eyes.

"Yeah, yeah I see it." He said nodding.

"Good. It's got five guys old enough to be our grandparents. That's clearly where you need to be. You said Mr. Larsen was retiring in a year? Well-,"

She paused to watch one of the older gentlemen cough loudly and wheeze as he tried to regain his breathe.

"-I'd say those guys could retire any minute now." Rachel whispered, her face expressing mild disgust.

"Just head over there and start talking. Act like you're talking to Larsen. Throw his name out there a few times, and I'm sure he'll recognize you and be the first to respond."

"Okay… What if he doesn't? What if he's in the bathroom? Or worse! What if that's not even his table?" Nathan asked, panicked again.

"Well, than you can meet me at the bar and I'll order you something strong." She said, patting him on the back before making her way across the room to the bar.

Nathan plastered a fake smile on his face and grabbed a flute of champagne off of a moving tray and swallowed it down.

"Here goes nothing…" He muttered, making his way towards the aforementioned table.

Admittedly, walking up to a table full of strangers and spontaneously starting a conversation with them had been one of the most terrifying moments of Nathan's adult life. But, Rachel had been right, and in minutes he was seated at the table going over his credentials with Mr. Larsen.

"Well, son, for someone who spent the majority of his young life focusing on athletics, your college marks are not unimpressive! Plus, your grandfather put in a good word for you. You'll have to come golfing with us…"

Nathan found it hard to pay attention to Mr. Larsen as he rambled on about the ins and outs of advertising and golfing with Royal Scott. Glancing over his future boss's shoulder, Nathan had to bite his lip hard to keep from laughing when he caught site of Rachel.

Sipping on what must have been her third Long Island Iced-T, Rachel was currently being talking up by a very large red-faced man, who seemed to think she was enjoying their conversation as much as he was.

Every so often, when the man turned to grab a handful of nuts from the communal bowl, Rachel would roll her eyes dramatically and look around the room, as if planning her escape.

"-So really son, I don't see any reason why you can't just break in your desk next week!" Mr. Larsen exclaimed, with a smile.

"Really sir? That's fantastic! I won't let you down, I really need this job." Nathan admitted, shaking the older man's hand.

"It's nothing, son. Now, sit back and enjoy the party! Food should be out in a minute." Mr. Larsen said, turning to face a man sitting to his left.

Nathan took this opportunity to excuse himself, and head towards the bar. He could tell the red-faced man was about to go in for the kill and ask for Rachel's number. She on the other hand, had started on her fourth drink and seemed much more fascinated by her straw than the sweating creature in front of her.

"Hun, I got the job! Isn't that fantastic?" Nathan called out, swooping Rachel into an overdramatic hug.

"This is really going to help us pay off those wedding bills!" he grinned cheesily, kissing the corner of Rachel's mouth.

"I'm sorry, this is your wife? I didn't see a ring…" The large man stated suspiciously, looking down at Rachel's left hand.

"Hun!" Nathan chastised, placing his hands on his hips in a jovial manner. "Did you forget to put your rings back on after your shower? You always do that!" Nathan chuckled, pulling a confused Rachel into his chest.

"She's just always doing that!" He repeated to the man, laughing as if it was just the funniest thing he'd ever heard of.

The man continued to give them a wary look, as if waiting for the tipsy girl he'd spent half the night with to suddenly announce that she didn't know this so called "husband," and only wanted him.

Finally, he took the hint and slunk off in a huff. Abruptly, Nathan let go of Rachel and ordered himself a vodka tonic.

"You're welcome." He smirked, sipping his drink.

Rachel, who had flopped back down onto her barstool and grabbed her drink, gave him a withering stare.

"Took you slong enough! I've been sending you signals for HOURS." She exaggerated, her speech slightly slurred.

Nathan chuckled. "Hours, huh? Well, in the past hour, while you've been getting yourself nice and hammered, I've been getting myself a shiny new job." He said with a proud smile, realizing she'd probably taken his earlier admission as part of the act.

"What! Thasgreat, Nathan!" She yelped, going in for a hug and stumbling a little.

Nathan steadied her with his arm and ordered himself another drink. "Guess I better catch up, huh? No more work tonight." He grinned, grabbing his drink and paying the bartender.

"Come on, let's get some food in you, boozy." He joked, leading her towards their table.

"No, no, nooo! The best part was when you assed Mr. Larsen to dance!" Nathan slurred, cracking up.

"What WAS that?" He cried, trying to catch his breath.

Rachel tilted her head back and laughed out loud.

"It was a good song! Besides, it's not like my DATE was going to dance with me." She pouted, slurring her words together.

"Thas because your date was trying his hardest not to look as shitted as he really was." Nathan said, over enunciating.

Rachel smiled happily when the cab pulled up outside Nathan's apartment.

"Ta da! Home sweet home!" She grinned, spreading her arms wide and almost smacking Nathan in the face with the heels she held in her left hand.

Nathan paid the cab driver and stumbled towards the stairs after Rachel.

Rachel rested the back of her head against the wall, closing her eyes and smiling drunkenly as Nathan fiddled with his keys.

"I like night time." She said, thoughtfully, her eyes still close.

Nathan smiled triumphantly as he unlocked the door and than turned his attention to Rachel.

"Why's that?" He asked, leaning against the doorframe, waiting for her to move.

"Everything's more peaceful." She whispered, opening her eyes slightly and looking at him.

He nodded.

"Come on in, Rach. You can't drive home like this." He said softly, grabbing onto her arm when she stumbled.

He moved backwards through his apartment, attempting to guide her towards the couch; but in his own drunkenness, stumbled into his kitchen counter, causing her body to crash clumsily into his chest.

They laughed, quietly.

"Sorry…" He whispered, his voice husky and smelling of vodka. His mouth inches from hers.

"S'okay…" She murmured, her hand gripping the fabric of his dress shirt in an effort to stay standing.

He inched his mouth closer to hers, intoxicated by her scent. A mixture of vanilla, coconut and liquor that only grew stronger the closer he got.

"What're you doing?" she questioned, her voice so quiet that he wouldn't have heard her if his face hadn't been inches from hers.

He didn't answer though, instead choosing to press his lips against hers in a chaste kiss, cupping her head with his right hand, and holding the small of her back with his left.

Caught off guard, it took her a few seconds to respond before her lips parted, giving way to his tongue.

Their movements were frantic and clumsy as Nathan struggled to undo his tie and walk Rachel backwards into his bedroom, without ever breaking their kiss.

Sitting down on the edge of his bed, she struggled to regulate her breathing as he lifted his dress shirt over his head, exposing his bare chest. Slipping his fingers under the straps of her dress, he slowly pushed them down her arms, guiding her to a standing position and letting the black material fall to the floor.

His eyelids were hooded and his vision foggy as he stared at Rachel. Even in his drunken haze, he knew this was different. He'd never seen Rachel like this before, practically naked in front of him.

He felt something against his chest, and looked down to see Rachel tracing the scar from his accident with her fingertips. Her eyes gazed at it intently, curiously.

"It's old." He whispered, placing his hands on her hips, and pushing her gently backwards.

"Doesn't hurt anymore…"

She nodded, looking back up at him, her eyes glazed over.

She fumbled for his belt buckle and was able to unfasten it with only minor difficulty, tossing it to the side before she unzipped his pants.

He kicked them off furiously, and their movements became frenzied again in their quest to expose more skin. He peppered kisses down her collar bone, whilst unsnapping her bra and slipping it off.

She moaned as he traced one of her nipples with his tongue, his hand slipping between her legs and sliding off her black lacy thong.

His arousal pressed hard against her thigh through his boxers and she fumbled for the waistband, pushing them down off of his hips.

He moved his finger inside of her, feeling her hips buck against his hand and hearing her whimpers in his ear, pleading for more.

"Are you sure, Rach?" He slurred, wanting confirmation more than anything.

She nodded, her breath hitching in her throat as she moaned in pleasure.

He shuddered, not sure how much longer he could hold out. He grappled for his side drawer, searching aimlessly in the dark until he fond what he was looking for. Tearing the wrapper open with his teeth, he slid the condom over his hard cock. In the dark room he caught her gaze before he buried himself inside of her.

Nathan squeezed his eyes shut tight, rubbing his forehead in an effort to calm the merciless pounding in his skull. 'How much had he had to drink?' He thought, rolling over clumsily, to shut off his alarm. His heart stopped when he felt something – someone - soft and warm lying next to him.

Nathan swallowed, keeping his eyes closed. 'What happened last night? Banquet with Rachel, new job, drinks with Rachel, cab ride home with Rachel… Rachel?' Nathan cautiously opened his eyes and confirmed his suspicions.

Sleeping next to him, naked, with a mess of dark unruly hair splayed across his pillow, was Rachel.

'Crap.'

Nathan carefully inched away from her, holding his breathe and praying that she wouldn't wake up.

Stumbling into his clothes, still a little drunk from the night before, Nathan searched for his car keys. He had to get out of there. He couldn't face her, - this.

Rachel was one of his best friends. They didn't do this. They didn't have sex.

Fuck.

He couldn't just leave her. He clutched his thick hair with his fingers and squeezed his eyes shut, trying to think.

Finally he opted for a note.

Grabbing a sheet of computer paper and a pen, he jotted down a few words and left it on the pillow where he'd been minutes before.

Went out. Help yourself to whatever.

-Nate

He took one last look at her sleeping form and left her there, in his own apartment.

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