Fandom: One Tree Hill
Spoilers: First few episodes of Season 1
Summary: The uncle-nephew relationship Keith and Nathan could have possibly had.
Warnings: For language. And it's very sappy too. You’ve been warned!
Disclaimer: One Tree Hill is a syndicated show belonging to the WB or CW… whatever. It's not mine, none of the characters are mine. I just used them to write a story as my way to vent. Writing keeps me too busy to smoke, and costs less than nicotine patches lol. Completely not for profit.
Nathan Scott looked up from his notes at the angry yelling of his name. He knew who it was even before his eyes landed on the much hated face. Only the *bastard* would dare talk to him like this, and in front of Coach Whitey, on the basketball court no less.
He’d been studying for a test next week in between breaks during the practice… and if he was honest to himself, more because he didn’t want to disappoint Haley than improve his grades. Even the coach was surprised and almost impressed, and decided not to make too much of an issue of it.
But Nathan had no trouble whatsoever closing his books when challenged. He stood up with an equally pissed off expression on his face to match that of his half-brother’s. Lucas looked like he was itching for a fight so… fine… fight’s what he’d get.
Coach Whitey started to interrupt, but then Luke turned and faced off with him directly. He needed say nothing, the expression on his face was so unique, so determined… so pained, that the older man decided to let it be.
Nathan was still in his blue team jersey, shorts and sneakers while Luke had missed the night’s practice so was dressed in a black sweatshirt and faded blue jeans. The whole team stopped and watched the two of them go out. Then curiosity took the better of them and they followed the feuding boys out, including Whitey.
Nathan had no idea why Lucas was looking to kick his ass this time but he still smirked at having successfully pissed off the usually quiet guy this much. Dad would be proud, he vaguely thought.
But he was jealous of how Coach Whitey just let Lucas get away with indiscretions such as distracting his entire team during practice. Hell a practice that Nathan was barely allowed to skip himself.
Outside in the school lawns, Lucas turned around and faced Nathan. He was an inch shorter but his stance was so furious that Nathan felt the urge to take a step back, though his ego wouldn’t allow it. Instead he went on the offensive.
“What’s your problem man?”
Lucas was having trouble keeping his temper under check. The very sight, the very thought of this jerk of a half-brother of his made his blood boil. This guy had caused nothing but trouble for him ever since he’d joined the team. And after last night’s party and the malicious screening of his mom’s prom video, he was barely holding back from killing the guy. He just wanted to never see Nathan ever again.
Or his dad.
Unfortunately this was one wish that wasn't about to come true any time soon. The only reason he was here looking at the much hated face of Nathan Scott was because he’d been asked by his family for a favor. His mom Karen was especially concerned about the video screening at Nathan’s place. She’d been quiet a long time… and then she’d decided she wanted to talk to that asshole! Keith supported her in her decision too.
Lucas did not want them to interfere period. But by showing that damn video in public, Nathan had gotten Karen involved directly. And she was not about to let it go, in fact Lucas had a strong suspicion she was about to use this chance to set Nathan right about all the trouble he’d been causing for Lucas as well.
“Mom this is *my* fight. I can handle him, I don’t want you to have to deal with him.”
“I know honey. But I want to talk to him about that video that’s all. This is totally about me, not you.”
And that was the end of it. Lucas had no choice except to do her bidding. But he decided at least he was going to get some well deserved payback doing it.
“What’s your problem man?”
Nathan threw out. He challenged raising his fists before his chest.
“You wanna piece of me? Lets go.”
Lucas simply smirked at him.
“I don’t but my mom does. Think you can take her?”
Nathan looked bewildered. This was unexpected. He lowered his fists.
“What do you mean?”
“Go change, meet me here in five minutes. You’re coming with me to my place. My mother and Keith want to *talk* to you.”
He gritted on the word ‘talk’. Feeling rather foolish at what he was asking of Nathan. Nathan frowned, wondering if it was a trap or maybe just a trick question. Then he sneered.
“Wow. You ratted on me to your *mom*?!”
Nathan snickered some more, he never told his mom a thing about school. Actually, he realized he didn’t talk much to her at all… unlike Lucas obviously. But then he had no one else.
//He has Keith.//
It was dark already and the school premises were deserted except for the team who’d now gathered around the duo. Some of Nathan’s lackeys had smirks on their faces too. Lucas knew this would happen, but knew he’d be changing the situation in his favor soon enough.
“It’s a simple request from your uncle Keith. You remember him don’t you?”
Nathan wasn’t sure how his dad would want him to react to that question. Dan was not very fond of him after last night’s game, he was painfully aware of that. So he retorted with the first thing that came to his mind and just hoped his dad would approve.
“I have no known relations in the slums asshole. Request denied.”
Lucas narrowed his eyes. He was trying very hard not to lose it completely.
“You have five minutes Nathan.”
Nathan scowled his worst and most cynical.
“Fuck off man. I’m not coming anywhere with you.”
Lucas almost smiled dangerously, Nathan did not like that look in his eyes.
“Either you come on your own or I make you. Choice is yours.”
Nathan was getting pissed off himself.
“Make me then.”
“I was hoping you’d say that.”
And Lucas charged his younger brother.
Weeks of frustration, and if he were honest to himself, years of pain and rage manifested itself into raw physical force and grit as he drove his fists into Nathan’s jaw twice. Then once into his gut that shook up the younger boy’s system through and through. Nathan fought back valiantly, got Lucas painfully in his jaw twice and a shoulder once but was no match for whatever was driving Lucas’ rage that night.
As they wrestled, Lucas rammed his knee into Nathan’s stomach again which sent him flying off the lawn greens and he hit his head on the cemented sidewalk nearby. The impact hurt like hell and light exploded behind his eyes. His moves were uncoordinated after that, and he didn’t stand a chance.
When Nathan tried to get up, Lucas once again overwhelmed him long enough to push him to the ground, flip him over on his stomach and grabbed his wrists behind him. He sat on top of Nathan’s thighs so the younger boy, disoriented as it is, couldn’t get up. The team just stood there and watched. Nathan struggled but in vain, then he screamed at his friends.
“What you gawking at man? Get him off me!”
His sidekicks, shaken out of reverie, were about to head towards him when Whitey yelled out.
Then he looked at Lucas in the eye, and discretely nodded. Which Nathan also saw.
“Wha-? You’re letting him abduct me?! COACH!?!”
“Everybody back to practice. Now!”
Everyone except the Scotts and Whitey reluctantly went back in. Lucas meanwhile had taken out a string of nylon rope from his pockets which he now used to tie Nathan’s wrists up with. Nathan couldn’t help but think back to last week when he and his friends had done the same to Lucas. Only they’d done it four on one. And here Lucas had overpowered him single-handedly! He was humiliated.
Coach Whitey walked closer to the boys on the ground.
”You need any help Scott?”
“No shit old man!”
“I wasn’t talking to you, Nathan.”
Nathan was so shocked he stopped struggling for three seconds. Lucas observed the exchange and shared a slight grin with the coach.
“Thanks. Sorry for missing practice Coach. I’ll make up for it I promise.”
Whitey just nodded. He never expected any respect from the younger Scott so he wasn’t shocked at his rudeness. But Luke’s politeness even in a situation like this never stopped to amaze him.
“You’d better. Say hello to Karen and Keith for me. And tell them, it's about time someone from the family took this brat in hand.”
Lucas didn’t like the *family* reference one bit, but he kept it to himself. Far as he was concerned, this jerk would never be anything but his hated enemy for as long as he lived. He had in the interim taken out another piece of rope and was busy binding Nathan’s legs together. He knew Nathan was strong and unless restrained was very much capable of getting away. With his writhing he was halfway there already.
“Let me go you bastard!”
“You could have done this the easy way man.”
“Ugh fine! I’ll come with you, just untie me alright?”
Nathan was desperate to get free. Lucas just smirked, he was enjoying not being the victim for once. But there was no way the younger boy wouldn’t try to escape he knew that.
“You must really think I’m a moron. You made your choice. Now live with it.”
Nathan kept cursing and yelling but no one paid heed. Luke got up leaving Nathan on the ground, walked towards his truck and opened the backdoor. The younger brother tried to slither away, but Coach Whitey made sure he didn’t get far.
“My dad will make you pay for this.”
Whitey smiled sadly. “It's because of your dad that you’re here tonight son.”
Nathan didn’t get a chance to ponder or ask him what he meant. Suddenly he felt two strong arms grab him and flip him onto his back. Then Lucas pulled him up holding him by his hips and threw him over his left shoulder. Nathan couldn’t believe it. He was a whole inch taller for Gods sake. Lucas couldn’t do this to him!
“What the fuck! Lucas put me down!”
Luke ignored him and his struggles and without effort carried his younger brother to his truck. He held an iron grip around the boy’s thighs so Nathan couldn’t even kick his shorts clad legs in too much protest. He blushed violently and was only glad the team wasn’t there to witness his manhandling. Once there Luke dumped him onto the backseat and locked the doors. Then he got in, nodded to Whitey and drove out. Nathan continued cursing him to the moon and back but Lucas tuned him out. He chose a route that was relatively deserted at the time.
After ten minutes Nathan calmed down somewhat.
“What does your mom want with me?”
“She just wants to talk. You’re not being kidnapped for a fucking ransom.”
Nathan kept working at the knots binding him but they were too sound.
“Well maybe I don’t wanna talk to her.”
“Do I look like I care?”
“She has no right. You have no right…”
“Yeah whatever. Besides it's not just her, Keith also happens to be your uncle whether you accept it or not. And he asked me to get you. So there.”
Nathan shook his head and scoffed.
“You’re enjoying yourself aren’t you?”
“I got better things to do with my time than escort you to the *slums* and back asshole.”
“Did your mother try kidnapping my dad too when he dumped her? I bet she did.”
Lucas slammed down on the break so hard Nathan was flung into the back of the front seat and back. Lucas got out, opened the back door. Then Nathan saw the strip of cloth in his hand and panicked.
“Don’t you fucking…”
He never got to complete. Lucas stuffed the gag in Nathan’s mouth and shoving his head forward tied it behind his head. Nathan moaned his protests and winced his eyes shut in utter helplessness, but Lucas paid him no heed. Then he got back into the driver’s seat and drove.
“Now I’m enjoying myself.”
Lucas reached his house, parked the truck and once again pulled out his half-brother and threw him over his shoulder. The bound boy whimpered ever so quietly, there wasn’t much else he could do. His head wound still ached and he was exhausted having struggled throughout the drive so let himself be carried into the small house but he was also very scared. He didn’t know the people in that house and he didn’t know what other forms of torture they’d planned for him to avenge all the trouble he’d caused for Lucas.
Adolescence wields an intimate linkage with hyperactive imagination, and right then Nathan’s was running totally amok. His torso was taut with anxiety and tension when Lucas knocked and the door opened. The doorway was flooded with light in the otherwise dark night and Nathan felt caught. He couldn’t see who opened the door since his head was hanging behind his tormentor’s back.
“Dear God! Lucas what have you done?!?”
A woman’s voice sounded impossibly panicked. Lucas moved into the light with Nathan and carried him to the living room.
“Nathan, are you alright? How *could* you Luke?”
Once there… wherever there was… Nathan found himself not too gently hurled onto a couch that’d obviously seen better years, but he was grateful for finally being able to view the world rightside up. When his head stopped spinning at last, he noticed there were two people… a man and a woman rushing towards him. The man he soon realized was his uncle Keith and the woman he’d rarely seen before in person was obviously Karen, Lucas’ mom.
Nathan was still squinting in the light as Karen pulled out the gag from his mouth and he gasped. She was untying his feet hurriedly and he realized with mild surprise that she was not happy at the way her son had treated him. His fear abated slightly. Luke just stood aside with his arms crossed, smirking.
“Lucas this is not what I meant and you know that.”
And that’s all Lucas said to explain himself, continuing to smirk with evident satisfaction. She pursed her lips at that and turned back to Nathan. She started to put a hand to the side of his face but reflexively he flinched.
“It's okay… it's okay.”
She looked him straight in the eye, murmuring softly, not condescendingly… and Nathan believed her. When she drew her hand close this time, he held still.
Karen gently pushed the short fringes of his black hair away from a small wound on the side of his forehead. A trickle of dried blood had streaked his face up to his jaw but thankfully the cut wasn’t bleeding any more. Karen looked up at Lucas once more, and this time the older boy shrugged apologetically.
“He wouldn’t agree to come so we fought. Hit his head on the sidewalk.”
Nathan glared at him, then he noticed his so-called uncle Keith walking up to and putting a hand of Lucas’ shoulder, noticing fresh bruises forming on his face too.
“Are you alright?”
The younger boy couldn’t help himself.
“Shouldn’t you be asking *me* that?”
Keith turned to look at Nathan, and amazingly he smiled at him too. Not angry or condescending or hateful or… whatever at all.
“I would have asked you next.”
Nathan saw that Lucas wasn’t smirking anymore. Rather he looked miffed that his mother was fussing over his arch nemesis. Nathan wanted to sneer but controlled himself.
He bent forward a little and she got his hands free. All this while Keith just stood with his hands deep in his pockets studying the boy. Nathan rubbed at his wrists since they had got chaffed a bit.
“Damnit look what you did to his wrists.”
And Karen was still fussing over him! Nathan couldn’t believe it either, and was in fact slightly embarrassed since he’d treated her son exactly the same way not long ago. Keith spoke up.
“I think some payback was rightly due. It's good the boys could get it out of their systems now that the both of them have humiliated each other enough.”
Both the boys muttered same thing at the same time, then glared daggers at each other for stealing each other’s line. Keith rolled his eyes.
“Luke you wanna stay while we speak to Nathan?”
The look in his eyes as he glared at his mom said a thousand words. He didn’t like the idea at all. To the boy it almost sounded like unquestionable betrayal.
“Call me at Haley’s when mister *baby soft skin* here is out of my house.”
Karen wanted to say something but Luke was already on his way out. He didn’t slam the door behind him though as Nathan expected. Vaguely he mused it was something he would have done himself, heck he slammed doors all the time with *and* without reason.
Then he realized he was alone with two completely pissed off adults in the room. At least he knew Lucas… somewhat. These people were practically strangers. Despite their considerate behavior up until this point.
He almost wished Luke had stayed.
The two adults sighed, then turned back to where the teenager sat. He was scowling big time, not happy to be where he was at all.
//A stranger. This guy’s a stranger to me.//
After a few moments of glaring at his uncle Keith he got up.
“Well, it's been fun.”
And he started to walk out the same door he saw Luke exit from. But Keith held him back by his elbow.
“Not so soon.”
“Let go man. I don’t wanna have to fight you too.”
“Yeah and seeing as you did such a great job with my other nephew…”
Nathan shrugged away from his uncle’s hold on him. But there was something in the way this man spoke… a certain authority that could only come by birthright… made him stay. A slight shiver ran down his spine which Karen quickly noticed. She went to close the windows and turn the thermostat up. Keith and Nathan stared each other down.
“Please have a seat Nathan.”
“I don’t want…”
Nathan did what he was told. He crossed his arms and sat in a defensive posture, almost like a sulking child. Which is what he was, Keith reminded himself. With everything he’d done to Lucas, having caused all that trouble… it was easy to give in to the anger and forget that Nathan was still just a young sixteen year old. Probably as insecure and confused about the recent developments in his life as Lucas was.
Keith had not been an uncle to Nathan at all. Years ago, perhaps he was but there was so much tension between the Scott brothers that all family gatherings became intolerable affairs and soon petered out. Deb tried for a long time but eventually was forced to give up. During those long ago interactions with a much younger Nathan, Keith had noticed how controlled he was, by his father, Dan. He wouldn’t be surprised if that treatment had continued into his teen years. But the kid was definitely spoilt… what he did with his own girlfriend’s car was the latest example. And he could be quite cruel, he’d been torturing Lucas constantly ever since he’d joined the team.
Keith had no intentions of trying to re-kindle any uncle-nephew relationship here though. He was here only to support Karen while she spoke to the boy… whatever it was she wanted to talk about.
“You realize I could have all of you arrested for this.”
“Maybe. And with your father’s money and contacts you could possibly put us in jail for the rest of our living years.”
Nathan scowled, he hated it when people used sarcasm on him.
“But I have a feeling when you’re done talking to Karen tonight, you might not want to.”
“Oh yeah? Lemme guess… she wants me to leave Lucas alone. Well she’s late. I got bored of hazing her son weeks ago.”
Keith looked at the boy sharply.
“Lucas discusses his life and his problems with his mom but he comes up with his own solutions Nathan. We advise him sure, but we don’t interfere in his decisions. We don’t try to live his life for him.”
That stung. That was so close to home Nathan wondered if Keith had an idea of how much Dan was controlling Nathan’s life and pressurizing him. He swallowed, determined not to give in so easily though.
//What does he know anyway? He isn’t Lucas’ real dad. Mine *is*.//
The logic however irrational made him feel slightly better. And he sneered.
“Oh-kay then… she is *deeply* saddened and disappointed by my showing her prom video in the party last night, and that I should apologize and hand over the tape to her so she can destroy it. Right?”
Keith didn’t have to say anything, Karen did, as she walked into the living room with three mugs of hot chocolate on a tray in one hand and a medical kit in the other.
“Here, this will warm you up.”
Nathan was about to scowl and say something not so polite again. But when he looked up into the lady’s eyes, something there made him think again. He felt uncannily conscious in her presence. He’d been ridiculing her life, her dreams… only last night. He mutely picked up the mug closest to him and warmed his hands around it. It was a cold night and Lucas had dragged him out in only his jersey and shorts.
He looked around, the house was small and filled with colorful though uncoordinated knickknacks… homely looking place really. Looked… comfy… if just a little cold for his taste. Nathan didn’t voice his surprising assessment of the place. He took a sip, realized the hot chocolate was good too.
Karen’s soft drawl broke through his thoughts.
“I’m going to clean up that cut now, is that okay?”
He blinked. Then discretely nodded hoping she wouldn’t actually see it. His head throbbed but it wasn’t that huge a problem. He could deal with it. But for some reason he didn’t wanna see this woman lose her temper in case he refused.
Karen sat on the table before him and told him to stoop a little. He placed the mug on a side table and bent himself more by the middle, resting his elbows on his knees so his head was at a level lower than Karen’s. The woman wet a washcloth in a small bowl of water on the tray and gently wiped the blood off his face. Nathan didn’t know where to look or what to do. When he unintentionally turned to his right, Karen put her other hand on his cheek and brought his face back into a position where she could access the wound better. And she didn’t let go as she continued to treat the cut with an antiseptic swab.
“I’m not worried about my son Nathan. Lucas can handle himself. He can handle his game, and he can handle your dislike of him by himself just fine.”
She spoke almost as an aside. As if it was the most irrelevant thing to talk about in the world. Nathan just stared at her, as she keenly concentrated on the task at hand. For a moment he caught himself thinking that Lucas’ mom sure was one beautiful woman. Her eyes were so deep and soulful. And at this distance she smelt subtle and sweet, of fresh ground coffee and cinnamon… so very like the scent that always lingered around Haley…
Suddenly panicking Nathan tried to back away again but Karen’s hand on his cheek still wouldn’t let him. He gripped the edge of the couch with his hands on each side fiercely and waited for her to finish. The panic gradually faded away and with it his stirring hormone-laden thoughts died as well.
“You want the tape back?”
He said as she finally pulled away from him after applying a little aloe to his cut to help it close up by itself. She was putting away the stuff in her little box when she looked up and smiled at him.
“No. You can keep it. I’m sure your father would want to reminisce the day he was declared Homecoming King.”
Nathan felt like he should argue somehow, but then she was right wasn’t she.
“What do you want from me then?”
She got up from the table, picked up her own mug and went to sit beside Keith on the opposite side of the table.
She was smiling, he didn’t respond or smile back.
“Your mother visited my café yesterday.”
He could only gawk, not sure what to say.
“You know at first I suspected her of spying on me or something. That maybe your father sent her over to… I don’t know what I was thinking.”
She chuckled as if embarrassed.
“I was just… wary, you know. Not sure what to expect. Someone who until now existed only at the outer periphery of your life… suddenly walks in without warning… and you don’t know what their intentions are.”
“It's probably how you feel right now, don’t you? Nathan?”
He held his tongue, preparing to hurl abuses right back if the lady said anything derogatory about his mom. But what she said was true, so true…
“Your mother seems to be a very nice lady Nathan. She said something that made so much sense, I was thinking about it all day. Wanna know what that was?”
He was curious of course. But he just shrugged as if he couldn’t care less. Keith shook his head in slight exasperation, smiling. He was remembering how the boy used to be when younger. Skinny, shy, so eager to please…
“She said to me – that she understands what’s going on with you and Lucas and Dan. And that there is a lot of history there. But it didn’t have to be our history. Hers and mine.”
//She said what?//
To say Nathan was surprised, would be an understatement. But he still didn’t react.
Karen leaned forward as she spoke next.
“I wanted to say the same thing to you Nathan. Whatever happened between your father and me… it's in the past. It doesn’t have anything to do with you. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for Lucas. That kid got caught between us and has been paying for the mistakes that I and Dan made, all his young life.”
Nathan looked away. He did not want her to know he understood. He did not want to be seen as sympathetic… because he was not! Because that would be… betrayal. To his father.
Karen’s words pulled him out of his restless thoughts.
“But he’s willing to let it all go. He was willing when he joined the team. Willing to move on, live in the present, work toward building his future… and forget the past. That’s all we want Nathan. To move on. Can you… understand that?”
The boy looked down in his cup. Keith and Karen were sitting opposite him. Karen’s words made him feel guilty, and yet somehow he couldn’t bring himself to just… let go. His conflicted feelings made it difficult for him to look them in the eye. He felt… small, trapped, hugely disliked… and dressed in just his shorts, indignantly younger.
“I’m sorry you’ve been caught in the fire Nathan. I’m sorry your father uses you to try and push Lucas out of the team, because Lucas reminds him of his own shortcomings.”
It was shocking to hear her apologize and somehow he felt embarrassed for being… who he was. He looked away, put the mug down on the table with a slight bang, not cold or thirsty anymore. Just… unsettled… confused.
Karen had been angry, so angry with this boy… up until fifteen minutes ago… that’s when a very angry Lucas had hauled him in and she saw his scared face and his trembling body. Nathan looked annoyed and pretty darn inconvenienced of course, but under that superficial demeanor she sensed a boy… just a boy, who found himself surrounded by people he’d been trained to hate. And people who, he thought, hated him back just as much, if not more. She sensed his internal conflicts… saw all sorts of emotions flit across his face that he probably wasn’t even aware of.
Softly she drew him out once more.
The boy looked up at her once then away.
“It doesn’t have to be your history… you can let go.”
There were a thousand things running through Nathan’s head that he wished he could talk out to… to someone. But he couldn’t. Because that would be betrayal… to his father. He couldn’t do that.
So what that father was making his life miserable. So what his own individuality was getting suppressed and killed in that house and no one, not even Deb was around to help him save himself. So what he was just watching himself helplessly as he went from a class three asshole to class two to class one and no one… *no one* cared.
//Dan’s all I have. I can't… can't… betray him.//
“Can I go home now?”
Keith exhaled loudly and stood up.
“I’ll give you a ride. Karen he’s going to need a jacket.”
Karen continued to study the boy before her, crushing a sudden unexplainable urge to not let the boy go… to keep him here with them because he was obviously so… so lost.
Keith’s voice brought her back to reality wherein she knew she had no right whatsoever. Then she got up too, went in and came back with Luke’s gray sweatshirt, the one that said “Keith Scott’s Body Shop” at the back.
While she was gone, Nathan and Keith glared each other down.
//I’m sorry kid. I’m so sorry I wasn’t around.//
//I don’t even know you man. But I… I wish I did.//
Keith drove as Nathan sat by his side staring out the window. He was angry he’d been made to wear his half-brother’s cheap, unbranded, dirty, grease-stained jacket. For some reason he’d decided not to show any disrespect to Karen. But that didn’t mean he couldn’t throw a tantrum for his estranged uncle’s benefit. On their way to his place, he was adamant about not making eye contact or any conversation whatsoever.
“So why *did* you screen that video last night?”
Nathan huffed like this conversation was getting so old, and he didn’t reply.
Keith carried on unperturbed but noting the feedback for future.
“I can understand the rivalry in the game but you’re on the same team now. Is there some other reason for this… animosity?”
“None of your damn business”
But the boy realized he might as well have said an emphatic yes.
“So it's envy then.”
That wasn’t a question, and Nathan got defensive. They were still in the poorer area of town and the boy waved his hand to indicate it.
“Yeah right. Look at this place man. Do you really see something I’m missing?”
Keith was unaffected, he was immune to such jibes about his financial and social status from his brother. He wasn’t surprised in the least to hear the son was speaking his father’s language.
Keith knew his brother’s mentality very well. Seen how he’d raised this only child of his, heaping so much pressure and expectations on the boy he couldn’t think for himself. He wondered if the boy thought at all… of right and wrong, fair and unfair. All the boy probably cared for now was what could make his father proud of him. What would make his father stop riding him. And start loving him.
“Dan wants to live his youth again. Through you Nate.”
“I know you’re *Nathan*. You’re *not* Dan. I know you don’t *want* to be Dan. Someone oughtta tell that to your father kid, and that someone can't be anyone but you.”
“Tell me, if Lucas was just some kid and not your half-brother, but he still played as good as he does now. Would you still hate him so much?”
Nathan thought, actually thought about it. The answer he came up with… would be betrayal to his father.
So he kept it to himself.
He thought he would burst with all these confusing questions and even more confusing answers. He was up to his throat with frustration and desperation… at being stuck in a house with no love while that bastard Lucas got everything in that old shoe-sized shack of his… a mom who *was* around, a father figure who loved him, a best friend like Haley… and… freedom.
Freedom to live his life the way he wished it to.
Some fifteen minutes later they reached the Scott residence, Keith parked some ten yards from the gate, did not drive in. And he sighed.
There was no easier way to do this, there was no way he could describe how bad things had got all those years ago between Dan and him. But there was one thing Keith knew Nathan deserved. Even if the kid might not remember…
“Nathan I… I’m so sorry I haven’t been around for you.”
The dam burst.
“No you’re NOT! You NEVER cared man or you wouldn’t have stopped coming over! You wouldn’t have canceled our Saturday lunches in the park and you wouldn’t have stopped taking me camping in summer!”
“What you thought I didn’t remember? I was six I wasn’t fucking stupid!”
And so embarrassed was he at his outburst, Nathan shoved open the door to get out as fast as possible. Keith grabbed his arm.
“Get away from me!”
Keith only grasped him harder, pulling him inwards and holding the struggling boy by his shoulders. The kid may be younger and stronger but Keith was more determined and… desperate. Nathan refused to look him in the eye, his own suddenly filling up with tears that he tried to hide by turning away again. But his uncle wouldn’t let him.
“Nathan. Nathan! Stop, look at me. Look at me!”
“It's okay… look at me kid.”
The struggles subsided and Nathan just heaved with effort as he slowly looked up into Keith’s face. The boy felt utterly ridiculous having broken down like this in front of… of this *stranger*. Keith stared back at him, then without a word, firmly drew Nathan’s head into his shoulder and held him within his arms. Nathan was still as a statue… not sure how to react.
“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry Nathan.”
Keith rubbed his back down in long strokes. Nathan felt the onslaught of fresh tears and struggled to get away again, but he wasn’t allowed.
“Shhh, it's okay… it's okay…”
Nathan couldn’t for the life of him understand how he managed to get himself in this position… this was a stranger… a practical stranger…
“I failed you… I let you down. I shouldn’t have… oh God… I shouldn’t have let him drive me away from you… I’m so sorry my boy…”
Nathan felt like his heart was breaking into a thousand pieces when he heard Keith’s confession. Keith held his younger nephew a long time, rocking him occasionally to comfort him. Nathan’s hands stopped trying to push him away and clung to the front of his uncle’s jacket instead. He let his tense frame relax against Keith’s yet still feeling thoroughly conflicted inside. Like even this tiny bit of comfort was… was betrayal to his father.
He swallowed hard and made a move to separate.
“I have to go.”
Keith was unwilling to part with him but he couldn’t help it. He was caught in his own whirlwind of guilt and emotions suppressed for years but knew he couldn’t self-indulge right now.
“Can I see you tomorrow?”
Nathan sighed as he reached for his door again. His voice broken, resigned.
Keith ever so gently sadly smiled at him.
“How about lunch?”
“In… the park?”
Nathan just stared, and then couldn’t help but chuckle shortly. His cheeks blotched with wiped off tears and a hint of red blush.
“I’m too old for the park now… uncle Keith.”
// Uncle Keith! //
Keith couldn’t help himself. “Oh Nate.”
He drew his nephew into a tight hug once again and this time the boy came willingly, nor did he protest the use of his childhood nickname. Nathan breathed in the rugged scent of his uncle with a profound sense of relief in his heart. He remembered that smell… felt heady as it mixed with the smell of grease and basketball from the jacket he wore himself.
Amazing how being reminded of Lucas was not bothering him at all.
“This changes nothing between me and Lucas.”
“He’s still in my spot.”
“That he is.”
“And hitting on my girlfriend.”
Keith bowed his head to look into the boy’s face and frowned.
Nathan pouted a bit without intent.
“That’s why I put on that video… last night… they looked too… cozy together.”
Keith sighed in exasperation, shook his head and pushed his nephew’s head back into the crook of his neck. He kept a hand in his hair and caressed him lightly.
“Oh kid… we need to talk.”
“Lots of things. Everything you’ve been doing these past few months. But that’s later… first…”
He pressed a kiss at the top of Nathan’s head and ruffled his hair lovingly.
“We’re building this relationship again. From scratch.”
That was such a mushy sensitive psycho-shit thing to say, Nathan thought to himself… and he smiled.
He liked the sound of it.
Was this betrayal to his father? Maybe it was. Sure it was. But he didn’t care.
“Maybe we could go to the pier?”
“I know a great place.”
** END **