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Title: Lean On Me
Author: Diane
Pairing: Nathan/Haley
Rating: Teen Rated
Disclaimer: I don't own a thing!
Spoilers/Warnings: Kindly note, this is set sometime between 9.11 and 9.13 and, as such, contains spoilers that have been circulating on various forums about those particular episodes so please don't read it if you don't want to be spoiled.
Summary: The nightmare always felt so real... to the point where she could feel the blood in her veins turning to ice as she collapsed in a heap. Tonight was the sixth time she'd had it in as many days and she was starting to feel like she was going insane.
Author's Notes: A massive thank you goes to the always wonderful Kristen for all of her help and support with this. You're an absolute star! *hugs*




Haley woke with a start, her heart wildly pounding against her ribcage and beads of perspiration dotted across her forehead. Pushing back the covers, she sat up in bed and looked over at Nathan, breathing a long sigh of relief at the sight of him beside her, peacefully asleep and oblivious to her turmoil.

It was almost a month since his rescue and things were beginning to return to some semblance of normal, although it was a slightly different story where Haley was concerned. During the day, she was fine and felt like she was coping but that all seemed to change once night fell. She would suddenly become jumpy and the slightest noise would unnerve her to the point where her imagination would kick into overdrive and she'd have no choice but to climb out of bed to check on the kids and then make sure that all the doors and windows were still locked.

The worst of it, however, was her recurring nightmare which saw her reliving one of the worst moments of her entire life. In it, she was back in that cold, sterile morgue, slowly walking towards the metal table and the lifeless body lying upon it. This time when the sheet was lifted, it wasn't a stranger's face she saw in front of her... it was Nathan's.

The nightmare always felt so real... to the point where she could feel the blood in her veins turning to ice as she collapsed in a heap. Tonight was the sixth time she'd had it in as many days and she was starting to feel like she was going insane.

She didn't want to worry Nathan... not after what he'd just experienced and so whenever she found him watching her, a look of concern etched upon his face, she'd force herself to smile and reassure him that she was okay.

As she continued to gaze at him, Haley's vision became blurry and knowing she was likely to break down at any second, she quickly climbed out of bed, snatching her blue jersey robe before exiting the room. Hurrying down the stairs, she clamped a hand over her mouth to stifle the sob she could feel bubbling up in her throat.

Unlocking and then opening the French doors, she stepped out onto the patio and finally let herself cry. Somehow, she managed to find her way over to the same area she would retreat to when she'd struggled with the aftermath of her mother's passing. Hot tears streamed down her cheeks as she leaned her forehead against the stone pillar and sobbed her heart out.

“Shh, c'mere,” she heard a familiar voice whisper a few minutes later and the feel of his large hand on her shoulder had her spinning around to bury her face in the warmth of his chest; her arms wrapping around his waist and holding on to him for dear life.

“Nathan...” she cried, her fingers gripping the T-shirt he wore as she pulled him in even closer.

“It's okay... everything's going to be okay,” Nathan soothed before pressing his lips to the top of her head. His heart ached as he watched his beautiful, strong wife fall apart in front of him. “Hales—”

“I thought I'd lost you,” she interrupted in a choked whisper, taking a step back so she could see his face through her glassy vision. “I-I've been in love with you since I was sixteen-years-old and the thought of never seeing you again... of never holding you or kissing you... Of you never seeing our children again... I couldn't bear it.”

Tears pricked his own eyes as he listened to her words and framing her heart-shaped face with his hands, Nathan lowered his head and nuzzled his nose against hers. “I know, baby... but I'm back and I'm never going anywhere again. I promise.”

“You don't know that,” Haley replied. “None of us know what the future holds in store for us an—”

“I'm never leaving you or the kids again,” he repeated, his tone firm. Before she could say another word, his mouth was on hers, kissing her with a deep, desperate need. He revelled in the feel of her delicate hands massaging his shoulders before they slowly slid up to cup the back of his neck. Angling his head slightly, he kissed her even harder, slipping his tongue between her lips to tangle wetly with her own. His fingers tightly gripped her hips, pulling her flush against him so that their bodies were tightly pressed together.

“God, Nathan,” Haley murmured in between kisses, “I've missed you so much.”

Tangling his fingers in her blonde curls, he kissed his way across to her ear. “I missed you, too, Hales... More than you'll ever know.”

She shivered at the sensation of his hot breath against her skin which was in stark contrast to the chilly air whipping around them.

He felt her tremble and he drew slightly back from her. “Are you cold?”

Haley shook her head. “No.” Smiling at him, she added, “You're keeping me toasty warm.”

Nathan smirked but it soon turned into a frown when he saw fresh tears fill her eyes. “Baby, what's wrong?”

Raising her hand, she lovingly caressed his cheek, grateful that the bruises which had marred his skin had all faded away now. Touching her thumb to the corner of his mouth, she said, “It's just... I'd begun to think I'd never get to see that smirk of yours again.”

He closed his eyes and swallowed thickly, not wanting to tell her that he too had also started to question whether he was ever going to see her again. He had tried to stay strong and positive but the longer he'd been held captive, the more morbid his thoughts had become.

When Nathan opened his eyes a few moments later, he saw a knowing look in her chocolate brown orbs and realised she had managed to guess what he'd been thinking about. “Haley, I—”

“It's okay,” she told him, “you're home now and that's all that matters.”

He nodded. “Yeah, it is.” Taking her hand in his, he intertwined their fingers and gave them a gentle squeeze. Bringing their joined hands up to his mouth, he pressed a soft kiss onto her knuckles. “Will you do something for me?”

“Of course. What is it?”

He stared intently at her. “That next time you have a nightmare you wake me up and let me comfort you instead of coming out here alone.”

Haley bit into her bottom lip. “Y-you knew?”

“Yes. I figured you'd talk to me about it when you were ready but you haven't yet so I figured it was about time I brought it up.”

Smiling shyly at him, she teased, “You always were impatient.”

Nathan chuckled at that but didn't deny it. “I'm not trying to push you but after what happened... you know, after your mom...” he trailed off. “I'm scared you'll retreat into yourself again and that it'll be because of me.”

“No,” she said, quick to reassure him. “Do not blame yourself for this, okay.” Sucking in a breath, she exhaled it slowly. “I, uh, I've been having nightmares... of when I had to go to the morgue.”

He didn't need her to explain further... he knew exactly where she was going with this and he cursed himself for her having been put into that position. “I'm sor—”

“No, don't you dare apologise, Nathan. This isn't your fault. We just need time to heal and I know we'll get there... together.”

Ducking his head, he rested his forehead against hers and closed his eyes for a brief moment before opening them once more. “You're amazing, you know that?”

Haley's cheeks flushed at his compliment. “You're pretty amazing, too.”

Wanting to lighten the mood further, he retorted, “Well, that goes without saying.” Her laughter was like a soothing balm to his soul and wrapping his arms around her, he enfolded her into his embrace, burying his face in the crook of her neck and breathing in her scent.

“Let's go inside,” she suggested, brushing her fingertips lightly across the nape of his neck.

Reluctantly drawing back from her, he nodded his agreement. As they re-entered the house hand-in-hand, they both felt lighter after their conversation and while they knew it would take time for them to completely recover from all that had happened, individually and as a family, over the last couple of months, the main thing was that they had each other to lean on and they would get through it together.

Fin

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February 2012

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