Disclaimer: I do not one the characters or the show. They belong to Mark Schwahn and the other people in charge of One Tree Hill.

Notes:I know. I know. I'm sorry! You guys have been great with reading and reviewing. I really appreciate it. I hope this makes up for the wait. There's a lot of Naley in here.

Years from now, Haley would be able to look back on this moment and know, with clarity, why exactly she made up her mind to ignore Nathan Scott. However, in those moments, the clarity was fleeting. Years after first meeting Nathan Scott, she learned not to dwell on the fact that she ignored him.

It was the way he looked at her. It was a quick glance, but in that once glance, she felt naked. She felt vulnerable. Nothing else in his behavior or his demeanor or his words indicated what the one look said to her. For some reason, when he looked at her like he did that first time, she felt like every insecurity and every fear and every failure was laid bare before him. Everything that she was feeling and trying to hide and trying to figure out on her own was out in the open for him. It made her want to cross her arms over her chest and hide. She couldn't, though, with groceries in her arms. So, she settled with turning away from him and ignoring him for the rest of the night.

She knew that it was childish. He was nice and he tried to start a conversation with her, but she was completely unresponsive. She tried not looking at him because she didn't want to see that look on his face again. She did look at him, though. She couldn't help it. He and Lucas were arguing about basketball and the two were really getting into it. She smiled as she watched them. They got along so well. She hadn't even been aware of this part of Lucas's life the last time they had seen each other. She wouldn't have been, of course. They didn't know each other that well.

Their conversation was becoming more animated and the two were getting more and more involved. It was when Lucas said something that made Nathan laugh that Haley looked at him. That was when the butterflies hit. His eyes were a deep, beautiful shade of blue. He was laughing, so there were crinkles at the corners of his eyes and instead of that smirk that he seemed to have plastered on his face, there was a genuine smile. Nathan Scott was a great looking man and that was also what made Haley keep looking away.

"So, what's your story, Haley James?" Nathan asked as they were starting in on dessert.

"There's, um, there's really not much to tell," she stuttered.

"That can't be true," Nathan prodded.

Haley shrugged. "I got started in a small club," she answered, her words coming out quickly as she turned to Peyton. "Peyton, how did you get involved with the club? I'm sure Karen's great to work with."

Nathan sat back in his chair, confused. The entire night had been confusing. It wasn't just that this girl didn't seem interested in him. It was that she seemed to be going out of her way to avoid him.

Peyton and Brooke exchanged a look. They knew that something was going on, but they definitely didn't know what. They were also pretty sure that asking Haley about it wouldn't go over well.

Clearing her throat, Peyton answered, "Karen is great to work with. She's been really supportive about the whole thing."

"Tric was Peyton's idea," Lucas said, his pride evident.

"Well, I was getting frustrated because it was really hard to see great bands. All of the clubs had an age limit. So, I knew Karen had the space and I asked her if I could organize an all ages night. She said yes, and here we are."

"She's not giving herself enough credit," Brooke said. "The whole thing was a huge hit. She started getting bands to appear like Jimmy Eat World and Fall Out Boy and Jack's Mannequin."

"Wow," Haley was impressed.

"So," Brooke continued, "all ages night was a huge hit and because of it, Karen's business skyrocketed. When Peyton and Lucas came back after college, Karen offered her the job of managing the club."

"Is that what you always wanted to do?" Haley asked.

Peyton shrugged. "I actually always kind of dreamed that I would run my own record label. You know, one of those labels that really fosters talent and lets an artist be who they really are and doesn't worry so much about the bottom line. But, those don't really exist."

"Not in my experience," Haley said with a tinge of bitterness. "I think it would be great if a label like that existed."

Julian began to speak, setting his fork on his plate, "The smaller companies always struggle. It's all business instead of art. When I was-," he was cut off.

"So, Haley, are you seeing anyone?" Nathan smirked in her direction and winked. He was vaguely aware of the uncomfortable silence that overtook the table. He looked at Lucas, who had his hand on his forehead, his eyes closed, and his head shaking back and forth.

"You're an idiot, you know that?" Lucas asked rhetorically.

"What? I was trying to get to know her?" Nathan looked over at Brooke, who was glaring at him, her hazel eyes like daggers.

"It's all right," Haley said, trying to put on a polite smile. "It's actually refreshing that someone doesn't know all about my personal life," she said with bitterness.

"I don't really follow a lot of gossip," Nathan excused himself. "That's more Brooke thing."

"Nathan, maybe you should stop talking," Lucas suggested.

"I just got out of a relationship," Haley said, now looking directly at Nathan and hoping that he wouldn't dig too deeply.

Nathan smiled at her and stabbed a bite of his food with his fork. "In that case, we'll have to hang out some time," he said cheerfully.

If she was going through a breakup, then maybe that's why she wasn't falling for him the way girls normally did. He told himself that that must be the reason. Well, he didn't mind being her rebound hookup. He wasn't the relationship type, so one night would be more than enough for him. She was hot and he would love to have a taste of her. She wasn't his usual type, but there was something about her. Now that he knew her relationship status, he was actually feeling more confident. He just didn't realize why his friends and his brother were looking at him like he was the enemy.

Nathan was forced to look at Lucas when he felt his brother's foot collide with his shin. "Ow. What the hell, man?"

Haley only sat and watched as the two brothers were glaring at each other. She hadn't expected Nathan's questions. She meant it when she said she found it refreshing that someone didn't know all about her personal life. It felt good to talk to someone who didn't seem to know anything about her.

What also felt good was that there were people who were standing up for her. Brooke, Peyton, Lucas, and Julian – they were all looking at Nathan like he was crazy. But the way that Nathan and Lucas were glaring at each other, she couldn't help but to be reminded of her own brothers and how they sometimes fought.

She made a point, though, not to respond to Nathan's suggestion. He didn't know her, so he didn't know that it wasn't like her to do what he was suggesting. Any man being so forward with her had always made her uncomfortable. Despite her choice of career, she did not like to have attention drawn to her. It only gave her more reason to ignore Nathan Scott, even though there was something nagging at her to pay attention to him.

The way that she was feeling about Nathan was only making her feel even more ridiculous than she had already been feeling. She had been feeling ridiculous over her paranoia about people wanting to know her private business. She had been feeling ridiculous over not being sure who the hell she was or what she even liked anymore. The last thing that she needed was another reason to be feeling ridiculous.

She realized earlier in the day that she really liked Brooke and Peyton's company. She could see herself becoming friends with them. Friends would be good for her to have, if they would have her as a friend. She had felt confident and calm about having dinner tonight. She knew she was fine with Lucas and Julian seemed wonderful. Now, though, Nathan was making her nervous.

Throughout the rest of evening, Nathan would continue to talk to her and to make comments. Some of them were suggestive. Haley was polite and answered, but she kept her answers short and then turned the conversation to one of their other dinner companions.

Neither Haley nor Nathan noticed that the other four people at the table noticed their odd behavior. Peyton and Brooke were good at keeping the conversation on topics that wouldn't make Haley nervous. They sensed her nervousness around him, but neither could explain it.

By the time the night ended, Haley was grateful for it. She remained mostly quiet for the first few minutes of the drive home. However, glancing at Lucas in the driver's seat, she wanted to talk to him. Things were awkward between her and Nathan, but she didn't want that with everyone else. She didn't want that with Nathan either. If she was going to be friends with everyone else, she would have to work through whatever these confusing issues were with Nathan Scott.

"Thanks again for the keys to your mom's car. I don't want you guys worrying about me needing rides everywhere."

"It's fine, Haley. I meant to give them to you earlier. Sorry about that." He stole a quick look at her before turning his eyes back to the road in front of him. "How are you liking Tree Hill so far?"

Haley realized, with relief, that she didn't have to hesitate to answer. The answer actually came quite easily. "I like it here. It's a really beautiful town. Peyton and Brooke made sure I saw a lot of it today. It's friendly, too."

"Yeah, you get a warm welcome in Tree Hill. That's for sure."

"I really like Brooke and Peyton. You seem really happy with Peyton."

"She's the greatest," Lucas confirmed. "I'm glad you three are getting along. I had a feeling you would."

Haley nodded, though she knew that Lucas couldn't see the gesture. She thought about her earlier realization that she would like these people as friends. Taking a deep breath, and not even realizing that she had done it, she took a chance. "Lucas, do you want to meet me at that book store tomorrow? We could get some coffee and catch up? If you're not busy, I mean."

"No, no. That's the great thing about working from home. It's also the great thing about having writer's block. You can go get coffee with friends."

Haley smiled at how freely Lucas used the word "friend."

"Meet you at eleven?" he asked.

"I'll meet you there."

"You remember how to get there?" he asked as he pulled up to his mother's house.

"I do," she confirmed. They said their goodnights and Haley walked into the house, feeling lighter than she had in ages. Still, as she crawled into bed that night, she couldn't help thinking about Nathan. When she woke up, she didn't remember what she had dreamt of, but she did seem to remember a pair of blue eyes.

Nathan was walking, coffee in hand, by that book store that his brother liked so much. He was so confused about what had happened the night before. What began as a way to avoid having dinner with his mother turned into something else and that something else kept his mind busy the night before.

He knew he was confident, though his brother and their friends liked to say that he was cocky. He simply smirked when they said it. His confidence had been shaken in recent years, but not when it came to girls. He knew, even though he wasn't a basketball star anymore, that he could still get girls to flock to him. Haley James was different.

He hadn't paid much attention to her before. He'd heard a few of her songs in passing and knew that she had a nice voice. Other than that, he didn't pay attention to her. He referred rap and hip hop. Any celebrity gossip he caught came when he heard Brooke talking. He didn't pay attention to anyone's love life. He had better things to do. Haley had just gotten out of a relationship and wasn't looking for one. He wasn't looking for one either. Like he wanted with every girl, one night would be enough.

She was gorgeous and was clearly one of the types that didn't even know it. He usually went for the more obvious girls. They were more willing to just have a good time and let that be it. He'd only been with someone like Haley once or twice before. That was back in college. Back then, he would go back to their dorms with them, sleep with them, and then leave once they were asleep. The ones like Haley, the quiet ones, would approach him within the next few days and would see if he wanted to take them out again. He never did.

He knew he had hurt them, but at the time, he hadn't cared enough. Now, he knew better. Since leaving college, he went for the obvious girls. They knew the deal. He just couldn't forget Haley and he wondered if she would be up for a rebound fling.

The very subject of his ponderings was soon right in front of him, getting out of Karen's car and stepping up to the bookstore. He didn't think about what he was doing.

"Haley! Hey, wait up!" He broke into a slow jog, careful on his knee, but caught up with her quickly. "So, it was great meeting you last night." He looked at her. Her wavy, honey blonde hair was just at her shoulders. She was wearing a light sundress, which didn't really show her body, but still looked great on her. She smiled at him, but the expression was shy. He liked that about her. He noticed that she didn't quite meet his eyes, but he kept trying.

"You too."

"So, listen, I know you just got out of a relationship and probably aren't looking for another one – I'm not either – but I still think you and me could have some fun. You should give me your number."

Haley's mouth opened, but then closed. She felt her cheeks inflame and now she couldn't help but stare at him. His blue eyes were absolutely beautiful and something about the smirk was so appealing.

"Uh… I'm flattered… I guess. But I'm really not looking for anything right now."

Nathan wouldn't be deterred. "Oh, come on. One night, Haley. I'm not looking for anything except a good time for one night. You could probably use a release."

Haley again felt her cheeks inflame, though this time it wasn't because she was self-conscious. This time she was angry. She felt her ears redden as well. At that moment, with perfect clarity, Haley James briefly knew who she was.

"Listen, I don't know who you think I am, or maybe even what you've heard, but that isn't me. I should have told you last night that I wasn't looking for anything . I'm not looking for anything, Nathan. Can you take no for an answer?"

"Not when there's a gorgeous woman involved," he said, trying to be charming.

His continued flirting baffled Haley. She stared at him in shock, not believing his audacity. She took a step back when he took a step forward, trying to close the space between them.

"Are you this arrogant with every woman?" The words were out of her mouth before she could really think about them. His shrug made her even angrier.

"You're wound up a little tight. I think maybe I'm right about you needing a release."

Haley wondered where the nice guy that Brooke and Peyton had told her about was. "You really aren't what I was expecting from what everyone said about you. You know, if I'm going to be hanging out with Lucas, Brooke, Peyton, and Julian, that means you and I are going to be seeing each other from time to time. I'll be civil, but other than that, I think maybe we just shouldn't talk to each other."

Haley was amazed that she managed to think of all of that. The way he was looking at her… The smirk hadn't left his face at all. In fact, he even looked more determined than he had when they started this conversation.

"One night, Haley James. One night."

Haley had had enough and without thinking, she slapped him. Right on the sidewalk in the middle of Tree Hill, she slapped Nathan Scott. She had met him less than twenty-four hours earlier, but he had managed to unnerve her and the insult her.

Nathan brought his hand to his cheek, the flesh stinging from where her hand had slapped him. "What the hell? You should be flattered I'm trying this hard!"

"I told you no!"

"You really do need to loosen up. Not with me, though. Not now. Whatever. Like you said, we'll be polite around everyone else. We just won't talk to each other."

"Fine by me," she replied, turning on her heel and walking into the bookstore. She found Lucas in the back on a plush sofa. She sat next to him, still trying to calm herself after her encounter with Nathan. Worriedly, she looked to see if Lucas could see out the window from where he was sitting. When she realized that he couldn't, she calmed down a bit. He wouldn't have seen her talking with Nathan or her hitting Nathan.

Lucas noticed right away that something was off about Haley. Though they'd only known each other for a few days, he could tell that already.

"Are you all right?" he questioned.

"I'm fine. I'm fine. Just a phone call with my manager," she lied, not liking it one bit. She hoped that Nathan wouldn't mention the incident to Lucas. If he did, well, she would just apologize profusely. She wasn't sorry that she'd slapped Nathan. He had that coming. She was sorry that she had fought with Lucas's brother. The two seemed to get along so well.

Everyone had mentioned what a nice guy Nathan was, but he hadn't shown any of that to Haley. To Haley, he had been brash, arrogant, and insulting.

"So, the other night, you said you hadn't read much Steinbeck."

"No. I've read Of Mice and Men and The Pearl."

"The short ones," Lucas observed. He laughed, though.

"Yes, the short ones. I just never got around to the longer ones."

"I brought you some of mine," he told her, pulling out a stack of books with him. "Some others, too."

They spent the next three hours having coffee and talking about books. Haley couldn't remember the last time she had done this with anyone. When Alex had been in recovery, Haley had brought her some of her favorite books. Haley had hoped that they would cheer her up and that Alex would enjoy them. When Alex had instead turned to music, Haley hadn't minded. Haley encouraged it and helped Alex. But, she hadn't had a friend who she could really get into an in depth discussion with about books.

She realized that she and Lucas had similar tastes, but had read a lot of different things. Both left with a lengthy list of recommendations. When they were leaving, Lucas suggested that they make this a weekly thing. They would sit and talk about books. Haley could hardly think of anything better.

After leaving Lucas, Haley found herself feeling more energized and more peaceful than she had in a long, long time. She felt good. She had done something that she liked and she didn't have Miranda telling her that she needed to be somewhere or that she didn't have time to waste on something so trivial. This was exactly the kind of thing she had come to Tree Hill for. She hoped that when she eventually went back to her life that she would be more assertive about doing things that she liked. That was what this trip was for.

Instead of getting in the car and driving back to Karen's, Haley took a walk. She didn't really pay attention to where she was going; she knew that if she got lost, she could simply ask for directions. She had a tote bag with Lucas's books over her shoulder and just kept talking. She didn't stop until she found herself at the docks. Finding an empty table by the water, she sat down, pulled out one of the books, and began reading. She was still there, several hours later, when Brooke found her.

"Well, well. It looks like Haley James is getting around Tree Hill just fine," Brooke observed. She took a seat opposite Haley at the table.

"Hi, Brooke," Haley said, smiling.

"Whatcha readin'?"

"Oh, East of Eden. Lucas let me borrow it."

Brooke took a look at the book on the table. "Looks like you're enjoying it."

"I am. What are you up to today, Brooke?"

Brooke's face lit up. "Well, I just sketched some awesome designs. Really, some of my best work yet. I'll show them to you later." In the same breath, Brooke said, "I know I said I wasn't going to push you, but I want to talk about Nathan."

For the second time that day, Haley was speechless. During her visit with Lucas, she had been able to keep her mind off of Nathan. She had thought about their encounter a bit as she walked, but was able to forget again once she began reading.

"Wh-wha-what about Nathan?"

Brooke smiled and knew that her suspicions were right. She wasn't going to push Haley. She didn't want it to seem like that. But, she had watched the two of them and could have sworn she had seen something there. She was used to Haley being reserved and a little uncomfortable around them, but she had also been loosening up. It made sense that she might be nervous around Nathan, but Brooke felt like there was something more to it. She had voiced her suspicions to Peyton, but Peyton had been skeptical. Brooke knew she wasn't crazy, though, and the way Haley had just stammered had confirmed that.

"Well, he came on a little strong last night. We've all been telling you what a great guy he is and last night, he kinda did what he could to prove that we were wrong."

"Oh!" Haley tried not to let her relief show. She didn't want Brooke knowing that there was more to it than that.

"The thing is, Nathan used to be a pretty bad guy. He was cocky and went through girls like they were candy. He actually still kind of does that. But, he used to be a bigger jerk. He started changing in high school. Yeah, he's still got his faults. He's a work in progress, Lucas likes to say.

"He's still a really good guy. I know he didn't show you to that last night and I'm sorry about it. We all are."

"Yeah, Lucas apologized for him earlier." That was the one time, at the beginning of her time with Lucas, when she had been forced to think about Nathan.

"How much has he told you about his brother and their history?"

"Not much," Haley admitted.

"He and Lucas used to be at each other's throats. They hated each other. It was all about their father. That's a really complicated story and I'll let Lucas tell you if he wants. Anyway, once they started playing basketball together, it all changed. They had to work together if they wanted to win games. Finally, they realized that they liked each other. They became friends. Nathan actually started to become a much nicer guy. I wasn't that great then, either, but Lucas was a big help. He's good with lost souls.

"Lucas is the one who got Nathan to behave and that's what helped convince the scouts that he was someone they wanted playing for them. Nathan is a great basketball player. He was gonna play in the NBA. That was his dream and he was headed there. He holds the all time leading score record thingy for Tree Hill High. He's good. Really good.

"Well, he was. See, he blew out his knee while he was at Duke. He can't play basketball anymore. But, I give him a lot of credit. He stayed in school and finished. He actually had to work at it. Because he played basketball, he had always been able to coast through school. Now, he actually had to study. Lucas helped with that too.

"That's a lot of information about Nathan. I know. And none of it really tells you why he's such a good guy. The women and the cocky thing, well, we kind of roll our eyes, but Lucas always says that someday, Nathan will find a woman who matters. Lucas thinks it's just his way of dealing with having basketball taken away. Nathan loves that game like crazy.

"I'll just say that, if you need him, Nathan will be there for you. He always comes through in the end and if he cares about you, he'll go to bat for you every single time. So, he may not have made the best impression last night with his comments about having a one night stand with you, but don't judge him based on that. I know he didn't do much to deserve a second chance, but maybe try to give him that."

Haley didn't want to tell Brooke that Nathan had already gotten a second chance. That second chance turned out worse than the first.

"Anyway, enough about Nathan. This Friday, we're all going to Tric. You should come with us."

"Oh, I don't know, Brooke," Haley was hesitant. "Clubs aren't really my thing."

Brooke nodded. "I get that. Although, I think you should give it a chance. It never gets too crazy, the drinks are pretty good, and the company is even better. I mean, it's Peyton's club. If you don't have fun, you can go. I promise."

Haley remembered that she was trying to take chances. Maybe she would like going. Clubs hadn't really been her thing. They never were. Maybe this would be different. Everything else in Tree Hill felt more comfortable, so maybe going to Tric wouldn't be so bad.

"Okay. I'll come," she agreed.

"Oh, this is great news! By the way, Nathan will be there and, honestly, he'll probably hang out with us and then pick up a girl and leave. Just try to remember what I said about him. Anyway, I'll leave you to your book. I just saw you sitting here and thought I'd say hi and that I'd tell you a little bit about Nathan." Brooke stood up, went toward Haley, and leaned down to give the woman a hug, which Haley did return. Brooke left Haley sitting there, her hand over the book she was reading, keeping her place.

Brooke Davis, she was discovering, was a whirlwind. She would be on one topic and then, without a pause, she would move onto something else. While Haley was enjoying the calm of Tree Hill, she couldn't help but love Brooke's attitude. It was feeling a little infectious.

Haley sat at that table for a while longer. She found it peaceful to sit by the water and read. However, after listening to Brooke, Haley couldn't keep her mind on her book. She had also been out much longer than she intended, though she really had nowhere else to be. Not having a plan or not having a schedule was new to Haley. Her life had been done on a schedule for such a long time. Even in high school, Haley arrived at the school promptly at the same time each day.

Then, her record company kept her on a schedule. Miranda was dutiful in keeping her on it, though Haley didn't really need that. If Haley had a schedule, she stuck to it. She had gotten a reputation for being one of the only musicians who was never late for anything.

The past few mornings in Tree Hill, she woke up without an alarm and she woke up without a plan. She woke up knowing that there was nowhere that she was supposed to be and that she wasn't going anywhere unless she wanted to. That was liberating.

Haley had no choice to think about Nathan again, though. Their earlier encounter was still so fresh in her memory. Despite what he had said, she still couldn't believe that she had slapped him. That had been so unlike her. She just had felt the overwhelming need to stand up for herself and to make her feelings known. She thought she had been doing that, but apparently Nathan wasn't getting it. He had to have gotten the message now.

Still, everyone had told her that he was a really good guy. Brooke had just spoken about him at length, trying to explain him to Haley and explain that he was actually a great guy. It seemed important to Brooke that Haley not think badly of Nathan.

What Brooke didn't know was that Nathan had gotten a second chance. That second chance had gone so poorly. Haley had given him the benefit of the doubt the night before. The fact that he didn't know about her personal life had actually been really nice. Had he been nice and just said hello when they met on the street that day, she would have thought that they could have become friends. Instead, he hit on her again. He didn't listen when she said no and he acted like a complete jerk. She had to hit him to get him to back off.

Now, they both seemed to be on the same page. They didn't like each other. Brooke wanted Haley to give Nathan another chance, but she and Nathan had agreed to be cordial to each other when they had to be together. Other than that, they would avoid each other. With one meeting on the sidewalk, Nathan Scott had proven to be the one negative side to being in Tree Hill. That wasn't going to make her go away from Tree Hill. She was determined not to hide from problems anymore. She wouldn't be doing that. She was going to face things head on. If she and Nathan kept their agreement, then things would be just fine.

Still, there was a part of Haley, one that she would prefer to not acknowledge, that realized that Nathan Scott, for a few brief minutes, had managed to make her feel more alive than she had in ages. He had angered her. He had insulted her. But, it was the first time in so long that she could remember that she remembered wanting to fight for something. More than that, she was fighting for herself. She hadn't fought when her music had started to falter and regretted it. She had fought Nathan and it had felt good.

Notes: I hope you liked their first meeting. In my previous two stories, they have kind of liked each other right away. I'm doing something a little different here, so that sort of explains why the writing is taking me a little longer. I hope you'll be patient and I hope you enjoyed that. Thank you for reading and reviewing!