'Arrrgh, that is it!' Haley James growled to herself as she wriggled unsuccessfully out of the sleeping bag, that moments before she could have sworn had tried to mummify her.

'Hey chirpy, you wanna keep it down?'

Haley glared over at the mummified form of her boyfriend of a grand total of one month, Nathan Scott.

'How about I take you down, permanently!'

Nathan's head appeared above the sleeping bag, and he squinted at her, a smile across his face, 'hah, I'd like that James, I really would.'

Haley tried to keep a stern look on her face but she couldn't. Her mouth turned up into a smile, 'anyone ever tell you, you have a dirty mind Scott?'

Nathan pulled himself into a sitting position, 'well what do you expect James? Here we are, a group of teenagers, alone in the woods, just the two of us in a tent, the moonlight shining across your face..'

Haley giggled and flung her pillow at him, 'you're such a dork.'

'But you love me right?'

Haley let her eyes slowly sweep over his muscular arms and his naked chest. His muscles rippled gloriously but it was to his face she always returned. His beautiful sleep-mussed hair was scruffily endearing, his lips looked made to be kissed, and his eyes were staring at her in that way he had of making her go weak at the knees.

'Yeah I love you.' She said quietly.

Nathan's eyes, so expressive became serious, and he smiled at her.

'So what are you doing up?' He raised an eyebrow suggestively, 'were you going to take advantage of me?'

Haley narrowed her eyes, 'you wish mister, actually it's not you but some other insect keeping me awake.'

Nathan winced and placed a theatrical hand over his heart, 'that hurt James, that really hurt.'

Haley ignored him, 'damn crickets, how do you sleep through that?'

Nathan's eyes lost their warmth for a second, 'I'm up every day at 6 to train with my dad, and I'm up every night till 11 pressing weights with him, believe me, when I eventually roll into bed, I don't have trouble sleeping.'

Haley shook her head slightly, feeling Nathan's pain and once again thinking what a total ass his father was. How he had produced such brilliant guys as Lucas and Nathan was beyond her comprehension. She felt the strong desire to both kill Dan Scott and comfort her boyfriend sweep over her all at once. She moved over to Nathan's side and hugged him to her gently.

'I wish I could make things better for you Nate..' She whispered softly.

Nathan let her hold him for a second and then his reflex defence mechanism was up again and he wriggled out of her arms, 'So I'm up now, what are we going to do? slaughter the crickets?'

Haley watched him for a second, typical Nathan, avoiding the subject, he had become extremely good at the whole ignoring the issue of his father. Or that's what he hoped people believed anyway. Haley saw through that, she noticed every time Dan Scott made Nathan feel worthless, Nathan would try and act the same, but she could tell. His eyes would be dark with pain and self-loathing, and Haley felt like killing Dan every time she saw the hurt in Nathan's eyes.

Dan didn't deserve Nathan in his life, and Nathan certainly didn't deserve to have such a jackass for a father. Before Nathan, Haley never knew she could feel such animalistic qualities towards another human being. But whenever she saw the change in Nathan after one of his many altercations with the 'great' Dan Scott, the slump in his shoulders, the weakened state of his soul, she wanted to tear his hair out with her bare hands.

Nathan was her weakness, and she his. And nothing, not basketball, not Dan Scott, not even Lucas was going to hurt him anymore. Haley promised herself that. She cared about him too damn much. His vulnerability, and sweetness had attracted her to him, but it was his heart, his soul, his whole essence that made her love him.

Pretending she hadn't noticed his deliberate change of subject, Haley stood up slowly, and yanked Nathan's hand, hauling him to his feet, 'come on, we're going for a walk.'

Nathan was so tall, he had to duck in order to get out the tent, Haley giggled as Nathan grumbled about the annoyances of being tall.

As they stepped out of the tent, they squinted as their eyes adjusted to the darkness.

'Nate? What time is it?' Haley asked him, a frown on her face as she looked around.

Nathan fumbled with his designer digital watch, 'uh..3.30..' he told her, 'why?'

Haley looked up at him, curious, 'if it's 3.30 in the morning, then where is everyone?'

Nathan looked around him for the first time and noticed the other two tents alongside his and Haleys' were unzipped.

'Luke?' Nathan shouted, 'Peyton?'

Haley followed suit, 'Tim? Brooke?'

An uneasy silence met their calls, Haley and Nathan looked at one another, confused and more than a little worried, just where the hell was everyone?



Lucas Scott raised his eyebrows as he stared across the campfire at Brooke, 'uhhuh, I'm not answering that one.'

Brooke's sly grin turned naughtier, 'So you're saying you two have?'

Lucas turned slightly red and looked down at his girlfriend Peyton who lay snuggled in his arms.

She gave Brooke a look that clearly said, 'you're my best friend but don't push it.'

Brooke shut up and began talking to Tim who sat next to her, ogling her like a sad puppy.

Luke sighed slightly relieved, he and Peyton shared a knowing look. They had been dating for over a month and neither had wanted to rush into anything physical. Well that wasn't strictly true, at first Peyton had wanted only the physical, but once she'd realised how deep her feelings were for Luke, she too had wanted to wait for them to be together.

They had got together after Peyton had been drugged at a College party, Luke had kicked the door down and dragged her out of there, her very own knight in shining armour. Of course they'd weathered their fair share of storms along the way, first with Nathan, then with Brooke, but now they were finally exactly where they both wanted to be, together.

Luke slowly pulled a strand of hair away from Peyton's face. He frowned, 'do you think we should have woken Nate and Hales?'

Peyton grinned, 'no Luke, leave them, they were having some together time, they'll be fine.'

Lucas nodded slightly and Peyton grinned, it was amazing how things had begun to work out for them all.

After Haley had professed how much she cared for Nathan 2 months before, Lucas had begun to accept the two together.

And then a miracle had occurred, Nathan and Lucas had started talking, slowly but surely and then wham all of a sudden they were shooting hoops together, double-teaming the opposing teams on the court and actually becoming, not just friends, brothers.

Of course Dan Scott did not like this, and it seemed as much as Peyton hated to think about it, that Nathan was getting the full wrath of his father's fury.

What was really surprising was the way Lucas had stepped up to the big brother mantle, he had begun not only to care about Nathan, but to become pretty protective of him too, especially where Dan was concerned, no Nathan was actually pretty wary of talking about Dan's abuse around Lucas, fearful his brother might lash out at their father.

That was what this trip was meant to be about, the gang enjoying some bonding time and removing Nathan and Lucas from the pressure cooker that their lives were becoming before one or both of them exploded.

It had been Brooke's idea, surprisingly, for once it seemed to be a good one.

A sudden shout had Peyton's head snapping up.

'Luke? Peyton?'



Luke's head snapped up immediately, his brotherly instincts in overdrive.

'Nate?'

A rustling of leaves sounded and then Nathan and Haley appeared infront of them. Lucas noticed Nathan's arm protectively around Haley's waist and he smiled slightly. At first the union between Haley and Nathan had disturbed him, he had hated Nathan then and he didn't want him anywhere near his best friend, but now he was glad to see two people he cared about so happy together.

What surprised him was when once he had worried that Nathan would hurt Haley, after getting to know his brother, he worried that it might be the other way around.

He adored Haley, but Nathan was an extremely vulnerable person, Lucas could see his insecurities now, maybe because he had just taken the time to get to know the real Nathan, or maybe quite simply because they had the same blood running through their veins.

He didn't want either of them hurt, but he found himself warning Haley not to hurt Nathan which was something he'd never thought would happen.

'What are you guys doing over here at 3.30 in the morning?' Nathan asked, snapping Luke out of his thoughts.

Brooke smiled at him, 'because Nathan sweetie...' she began, not missing the way Haley pulled Nathan closer as Brooke flung out the term, '...we wanted to bond and we didn't want to ruin your little love-fest.'

Haley and Nathan shared a knowing look, they cared deeply about each other but they hadn't had sex yet. Haley was the virgin but surprisingly it had been Nathan who'd wanted to wait. He had shown Haley how much he cared about her that night. He wanted them to wait till it was perfect.

'So...' Brooke began, mischievous glint in her eye, 'up for a game of the old truth or dare?'

Nathan and Haley sat down beside Peyton and Lucas.

Haley frowned, 'nuhuh Brooke, not after last time.'

Brooke smirked, 'hey we've all moved on since then. Besides Haley why are you so worried? Do you have something to hide?'

'Brooke..' Nathan butt in, '...leave it.'

Lucas nodded, 'yeah, this never ends well.'

Brooke shook her head, 'oh come on guys lighten up.'

When no-one said anything, she took another swig of the whisky in the flask Tim had brought and let the liquid burn down her throat.

'Right Lucas you're up...'

Luke shook his head, irritated as everyone looked at him.

'Truth or dare?'

Lucas knew which one he'd take any day, 'dare', he muttered still unsure why he was going along with this.

Brooke grinned, 'Ok....Lucas..' she murmered, thinking, then her eyes landed on Haley. 'I dare you to kiss Haley.'

A tense silence filled the air.

Peyton looked at Lucas, who looked at Haley, who looked at Nathan, who stared at Lucas.

Then Lucas looked at Nathan. He swallowed, and slowly got to his feet.

Nathan's eyes glittered dangerously, he finally felt close to his brother, but if Lucas thought he was going to kiss Haley then Nathan didn't think he could control the anger that was beginning to bubble inside him.

Haley was shocked, she knew if Luke went through with this dare it would damage his relationship with his brother and maybe even her relationship with Nathan too. She felt Nathan grip her hand painfully hard. She couldn't let this happen.

Peyton felt like she'd been sucker-punched, Lucas would not kiss Haley, right infront of her and Nathan, he just wouldn't. She squeezed her eyes shut.

Lucas moved closer to Haley, bent his head towards hers,

Lower,

Lower,

Lower,

And then he kissed her, right there in front of everyone,

On the cheek.

Then he calmly walked back to his seat, smirking.

Brooke's mouth dropped, 'hey you didn't do the dare!'

Lucas narrowed his eyes at her, 'yes I did, I kissed her didn't I?'

Brooke frowned, annoyed. Peyton and Nathan let out sighs of relief, Haley felt Nathan's hand loosen its grip and tried to control her pounding heart.

Tim laughed at everyone's reactions, 'good one Lucas', he muttered.

Brooke pouted, she was pretty drunk anyway and she felt out of the loop, Haley had got Nathan, Peyton had Lucas, and there was no more Scott flesh to go around, well except for their father, and even Brooke knew a train wreck when she saw one, and Dan Scott was one hell of a train wreck.

She frowned slightly as she thought of something, 'Hey Nate?'

He looked up at her, eyes wary, 'yeah?'

Brooke raised an eyebrow, 'truth or dare?'

Nathan felt his heart plummet, he knew it was stupid, but he hated these silly games, hated the effect it had on people, someone always got hurt. Fearful that Brooke would hurt Haley by daring him to kiss her or Peyton, Nathan raised resigned eyes to Brooke's.

'Truth.'

Brooke smiled evilly, she knew Nathan would pick truth.

'Nathan....' she began, speaking in to the flask to give her voice an echoing effect, '...you remember last year when you were going out with Peyton, and you came to school one day with broken ribs?'

Nathan paled to an awful off white colour, as he listened in horror, no she wouldn't, Brooke wouldn't bring that up.

'Everyone joked that Peyton was a boyfriend beater, well,what I want to know Nathan....' She said voice low and dramatic, '....is what really happened to you?'

Nathan froze.

Peyton looked at Brooke in disgust, she knew the truth, the others looked confused, 'Brooke shut up!'

'No Peyton, I want to know....' Brooke shouted back.

Tim chimed in, staring at Nathan, 'yeah I want to know too man, I was always curious about that.'

Nathan couldn't look at them, he couldn't look at anyone, 'I..uh.I....'

He swallowed hard, 'I....I can't do this. I need some space.'

In seconds he was on his feet, and striding away from them into the waiting woods.

'NATHAN!' Haley and Lucas shouted in unison rising to their feet.

Peyton stood too, 'hey..' she said softly, gripping Luke's arm and calling to Haley to prevent them going after him. 'Give him some space ok, then we'll go get him, he just needs a little time alone.'

'What the hell was that about?' Luke shouted, 'and what do you know about it Peyton?'

Peyton looked away guiltily.

Haley rounded on Brooke, 'you evil, conniving little tart! Why the hell do you have to hurt everyone around you?'

Brooke stood, swaying slightly feeling a little ashamed, 'I wasn't trying to hurt anyone, I just wanted to know what happened.'

Haley shook her head, 'what the hell did you do Brooke, what the hell did you just do?'



Nathan took off as fast as he could, he pushed his way through undergrowth after undergrowth, and finally pressed his back up against the tree, a lone tear falling from his eye.

He couldn't tell them what had happened, he'd tried to block it out, but it hurt too much to remember.

Nathan slowly slumped to the ground, the silence around him was peaceful, the trees towered over him, their branches hung low, ominously like long fingers.

Nathan slowly felt a little uneasy. He shouldn't have come this far alone, a rustling sound like a footstep to his right, had him jumping to his feet.

Assuming it was one of the others probably Haley or Luke or even Peyton, he looked towards the sound, 'you don't have to come after me ok? I'm fine..'

He broke off as a hand reached out and encircled his throat.

'AHHHH!' Nathan shouted in shock and fear, as the hand tightened around his neck.

With the instincts he had been born with and fast reflexes Nathan spun and tried to kick at his assailant. He was just getting the upper hand when he spun to face the person. He was horrified when he saw the moonlight glint off a knife.

Nathan stared into the mad eyes of his assailant, because the eyes were all of the person he could see, a balaclava concealed the face, and a black jumper, jeans, and gloves were all Nathan saw before he was stunned by a large blow to the head.

Seeing stars, Nathan grabbed the only weapon he could, a branch from the ground and he swung it at his assailant with all the force he could muster. It seemed to injure the person, and they ran away into the woods.

Nathan got to his feet slowly completely disorientated and shocked at what had just happened, he put a hand to his pounding head and staggered almost drunkenly back the way he thought he had came.

He was less than a few feet away from the end of the woods when his vision really began to get dark, and he collapsed into the bottomless oblivion and onto the forest ground.

Next chapter,

Nathan's injury is cause for concern.

The kids are frightened about the mystery assailant.

And the parents become worried for their kids' safety.