Hi guys! I've been crazy busy with finals and papers to hand in for my courses, but now things have quieted down a little and next week I'm actually going on vacation with my family! I knew I owed to all of you to update before I got away for a few days- so here you go! I want to give a huge thanks to CaseyJr, BDavisRules and DANI OTH for the encouraging messages they have sent me- which definitely speeded up the pace of my writing for this update! Thanks to everyone else who has been reviewing and reading this story! You all are simply great! ;-)

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the OTH characters.

Last Time

"No, Nate- you don't understand…" Lucas said, getting worked up at the realization that this might be a clue to what was really going on. As his heart-rate went up, Nathan looked at the heart-monitor with concern.

"Luke- maybe I don't know what you mean, but you need to calm down…" he instructed, unwilling to let his brother stress himself with his fragile heart. Lucas, however, just couldn't clear his thoughts with the new-found realization that hit him.

"I can't- this is too big… I need to talk to Bob. I want to talk to him right now, before Brooke gets back…"

Chapter 43

"Nathan said that you asked to see me…" Lucas raised his eyes from the hospital sheet his body was covered with to look at the kind officer who had been dedicating so much of his time and efforts to protect his loved ones in the past few weeks.

"Thanks for coming, Bob… Please sit down" Lucas greeted him with an appreciating smile and gestured towards the chair by his bed. With the way he had been running around between the three houses in which the threat letters had been found- Bob gratefully accepted the offer to get off his aching feet for a while.

"Are you about to make my day and tell me that you saw the person who broke into Brooke's house?" Bob questioned, half jokingly yet half seriously. He had tried speaking to Brooke about what happened in her house before he and Nathan managed to get there, yet she had been so upset and wired up that he had given up rather quickly. Therefore, he was still waiting to hear whether she and Lucas had any valuable insights to share with him regarding the messages that were directed to her.

"I don't know, man" Lucas replied cautiously, not wanting Bob to get his hopes up if it would turn out that he was wrong about this, "but I want you to do a background check on someone, if that's possible" he asked, causing Bob's eyes to light up as he nodded eagerly.

"Of course. Just say the name" Bob replied, yet Lucas had one more thing to ask first.

"Look… I would appreciate it if you don't discuss this with Brooke for the time being. She's been under an unhealthy amount of stress lately, and I just don't want her worrying about this, unless you find some confirmation" Lucas explained the reason for him request, and Bob nodded with agreement.

"That's understandable…" he said, going along with Lucas' terms "I won't say a word to her unless it becomes necessary" he promised, gaining a grateful nod from Lucas, "Now what-" he began to ask, yet was cut short once the door to Lucas' hospital room suddenly opened and Brooke appeared in the doorway, holding onto a brown paper bag.

"Hey boyfriend, I brought you some-" she began greeting him, yet stopped midsentence when she noticed that Bob was also in the room. Lucas took in the way her delicate, forced smile was replaced with an apprehensive expression, which allowed the tension she was trying to suppress to grow even more evident. Noticing the nervous way that her dainty fingers were crumpling the paper bag in her hands, Lucas sighed sadly, as he hated seeing her looking so edgy and insecure.

"What have you got there, babe?" he asked, gesturing towards the bag and plastering a smile on his face in an attempt to help her lighten up.

Brooke, however, only absentmindedly mumbled "Muffins", yet remained looking detached and distant, and just kept staring at Bob unsurely.

"Well- come here, baby girl… Muffins would be great right now…" he beckoned her, trying to encourage her to come to him so he could at least offer her some comfort physically, yet Brooke just alternated her gaze between Bob and him and suspiciously questioned.

"What's going on?" she inquired, her gaze finally locking on Lucas, yet her feet remaining rooted to their spot by the doorway.

"Nothing, pretty girl" Lucas tried to assured her, "I don't want you to worry about a thing, alright?" he tried to soothe her, yet his words only caused her to kink an eyebrow with doubt.

"Lucas- tell me what you two were talking about" she said, sounding so serious that Lucas knew she meant business. There was an awkward silence until Bob spoke up.

"Fine…" Bob said, causing Lucas to frown, as Bob had promised to keep Brooke out of their conversation, and furthermore- still didn't even know what he had wanted to tell him. Nevertheless, Bob continued talking and said- "I was just about to discuss with Lucas the security measures that the police has decided to arrange for all of you, considering the new developments in your case…" he said, causing Lucas to quietly let out a relieved breath, as he learned that Bob intended to keep his word to him. However, when he averted his gaze to Brooke and noticed her trembling slightly in her spot and appearing to be extremely tense, his relief turned to concern once again. When she just stood there, blinking and looking so heartbreakingly vulnerable, Lucas peeled the sheet off of his body and swung his legs to the side of the bed, preparing to get up on his feet and walk over to his girlfriend.

"Lucas!" only then did Brooke finally snap out of her inner thoughts and rush over to him, "Luke- what are you doing? You need to stay in bed, broody…" she worriedly said, helping him settle back into a relaxed sitting position on his bed and caringly covering his body with the hospital blanket.

"I just wanted you by my side…" Lucas smiled at her, explaining his actions and chuckling slightly at the scolding expression Brooke was giving him, "Just sit with me and I promise to behave, alright?" he teasingly said, pulling her to his side when she finally obliged. He gently glided his fingers up and down Brooke's tensed up arms in an attempt to get her to relax and kissed her forehead, only remembering that Bob was in the room when he cleared his throat and began to speak.

"Well, due to the fact that we have our crime scene investigators working on the wall and broken window in your house- I'm afraid that you won't be able to sleep at home tonight and possibly not for a few more nights, Brooke" Bob began explaining, and only then Lucas realized that he hadn't just come up with a lie to hide what they were about to talk about, but that he was actually speaking truthfully. Subconsciously squeezing Brooke closer to his side, he focused his attention on Bob, now interested in knowing what he had to say, yet Brooke responded before Bob could continue.

"That's not a problem, Bob. I intended to stay here with Luke tonight anyway…" Brooke shrugged and said, placing her gentle hand on Lucas' leg in a caring, subconscious gesture. The way her small fingers trembled, however, caused Lucas to frown and shake his head.

"I want you to get some rest tonight, pretty girl… This has been a tough day for you and I doubt that you'll be comfortable here" he rationally said, yet Brooke adamantly shook her head.

"It doesn't matter, Luke- I'm staying with you" she insisted, averting her gaze over to Lucas and making his heart break when he noticed the tears pooling in her eyes, "I am not leaving you here… I won't leave you alone when… after what-" she rambled until her voice cracked, causing Lucas to cup her cheek and still her upset movements.

"Hey… Calm down, pretty girl… I will be perfectly fine here. I will probably just fall asleep and be out for the night" he truthfully said, as his body still felt rather weak from all the stress he had been through that day, "and I want you to get a good night's sleep tonight too, O.K.?" he tried to reason with her, stroking his fingers over her cheek to wipe away a stray tear, "Why don't you spend the night at Nathan and Haley's?" he suggested, knowing that his brother would be much more capable of keeping an eye on her that night, due to his own current physical weakness.

"I can't… I don't want their family to be in danger because of me…" Brooke shared her honest fear, and this time it was Bob's turn to speak up.

"Sweetie- no one will be in danger. In fact- it will be for the best if you go over to Nathan's house, because that's where I will be tonight with my partner and a few more fellow officers" he revealed, momentarily silencing the upset brunette before him. Using this rare moment of silence, Bob added "And you don't need to worry about Lucas either- we will have a few officers hanging around right outside his door, in addition to hospital's security guards, who have been instructed to keep an extra eye on things. I assure you that my entire team will work hard tonight to ensure that everyone close to you is safe" he vowed, helping Lucas relax- as he knew that Bob was also talking about his mother's family, yet Brooke still didn't seem to be appeased.

"But-" she began to protest, yet Lucas quickly cut her off.

"Babe, I would feel much more relaxed if I knew that you were over at Nathan and Haley's tonight" he truthfully told her. Watching the mixture of emotions filling her face due to his words, he took her hands in his palms and gave them a soft squeeze, "Please, pretty girl, do this for me…" he asked, finally causing Brooke to nod reluctantly. The last thing she wanted to do was to leave Lucas alone, yet she realized that arguing with him will only stress him out once again.

"I just feel like I should stay with you and take care of you tonight, Luke…" she had already given in to Lucas' request, yet she just couldn't help but voice out her feelings one last time.

Lucas, however, just gave her a teasing smile and replied, "Well then, get some rest tonight, so I can have you take care of me next week- when I'm on bed rest…" he kinked an eyebrow and joked, finally putting a smile on Brooke's face due to the obvious innuendo behind his words.

"Who's the tease now, huh?" she tried to lighten up by questioning him, and just received a playful shrug from her tired boyfriend.

"I intend to hold you to that, so be prepared…" Lucas warned jokingly, causing Brooke to giggle slightly and then to start running her hands through his hair when she noticed his evident state of fatigue.

"Promise me that you won't get yourself worked up and that you will call me if you need anything at all" she softly requested, kissing him on top of his head when he obediently nodded.

"Hey Brooke…" he called out to her seconds later, when she began retreating from his room, causing her to whirl and look at him expectantly, "There are two things I kind of need right now…" he said, the sincere way he was looking at her making her rush back to his side.

"What is it, Luke? Are you uncomfortable? Are you in pain?" she began to stress, until Lucas could no longer keep a straight face and grinned teasingly at her.

"No, I'm fine… I just need my muffins and a kiss from my girl…" he replied, causing Brooke to shake her head at him but to feel extremely relieved that he was just playing with her and that nothing was wrong with him.

"That was mean, mister…" she informed him, but nonetheless- walked over to the table by the room's entrance and grabbed the bag of muffins she had previously left there. Coming back to him, she handed him the bag and then leaned down to give him a gentle, loving kiss.

When they broke apart and Brooke still remained close to him, stroking his cheek with her delicate fingers, Lucas looked at her face. Although she was trying to be composed with all her might, he could see the fragility and tension in her eyes. Therefore, trying to get her to lighten up, he jokingly said, "Well- I think I'm all better now…" causing both Brooke and Bob to laugh.

"Get some rest, boyfriend- you're starting to talk nonsense…" Brooke replied with a wink, leaning down to give him one last peck before heading out of his room for the night.

Knowing that he could not let Brooke leave on her own, Bob realized that he wouldn't have time to properly finish the conversation he had with Lucas. He therefore leaned down to give Lucas a man to man hug, using their physical closeness to whisper into his ear, "So, what's this person's name?" he questioned, eager to check out whatever information Lucas could share with him.

Quietly, so that Brooke wouldn't hear a thing from her position by the door, Lucas replied, "The name is Phillip Smith. He works at a tabloid and had once bothered Brooke when she was staying at Nathan's house. He was waiting on Brooke's porch when we got there this afternoon… I have a feeling there was more to it then a reporter sent to cover a story…"

It was midnight, but Brooke couldn't sleep. She laid on the bed in Nathan and Haley's guest bedroom and stared at the ceiling, consumed in her thoughts, due to how quiet and lonely it was in the dark room. She worried about Lucas, about leaving him alone and about his fragile heart. She worried about Nathan, Haley and Jamie- who were now forced into the nightmare she had been living in for the past few weeks. She worried about Karen, Lily and Andy- who had just returned to Tree Hill, only to receive such an unpleasant welcoming. Finally- she worried about herself, about how long this was going to go on, about how far the person after her was really intending to take this…

Feeling like she was drowning in her concerns, Brooke took a deep breath and rose to her feet, quietly making her way downstairs. She pitter-pattered over to the kitchen, grabbing a water bottle out of the refrigerator and greedily drinking the cool liquid, in the hopes that it will help in slowing down her racing heart-rate. Just as she paused to take a deep breath and thought that she had managed to calm down somewhat, a manly hand suddenly touched her shoulder, causing her to gasp and whirl around in panic.

"It's just me, Brooke" Nathan quickly soothed in a hushed tone, yet Brooke's heart was already wildly thumping in her chest again.

"You scared the hell out of me, Nate…" she mumbled, holding onto her chest with a trembling hand as Nathan squeezed her shoulder apologetically.

"Sorry…" he quietly said, moving his hand to rub her back as she took deep breaths, calming herself down "It's been a tough day, huh?" he stated, not only sharing his compassion towards her, but also expressing his own feelings about the events they had all gone through since returning to Tree Hill.

Nodding as she took another shaky sip from the water bottle she was holding, Brooke could only lean into Nathan's larger frame and quietly take comfort in his brotherly, protective presence. They stood there without making a sound for several more moments before Brooke suddenly broke the silence by saying, "I couldn't sleep…"

Although her statement was somewhat random and failed to tell Nathan anything he didn't already know- as they were obviously both still awake, he found himself nodding and agreeing, "I know… Neither could I…" as he realized that Brooke was not only telling him that she hadn't been able to give into sleep. He understood that what she really meant was to tell him that her mind was reeling with thoughts about Lucas, the threat letters, her attacks and the potential dangers that seemed to be lurking ahead, yet that she couldn't find it in her to actually explain it all. He understood, because that's exactly how he felt.

"I'm sorry, Nate" he heard her whispering shamefully, expressing the fact that she felt responsible for the stressful day they had undergone.

Shaking his head vigorously, he demanded, "Don't be. It's not your fault, Brooke" yet despite the conviction in his voice, she just buried her eyes in the ground and remained completely silent. "Hey… I mean it" Nathan forcefully insisted, yet the absentminded way that Brooke was nodding her head did little to convince him that he was getting through to her. Still, seeing as he didn't plan on arguing with her in the middle of the night, Nathan just pulled Brooke into a brotherly hug and gently promised her, "It's gonna be O.K.".

Nodding against his chest, Brooke grew silent once more. She didn't know whether Nathan was right, but something about his conviction and confidence managed to soothe her a little, at least for the time being. They just stood there quietly for a few minutes, listening to the muffled sounds of the cops talking to one another from outside the front door, when Nathan finally broke the silence.

"So, what happens with your fashion show now, Brooke? Are you still going to hold it as planned?" he questioned, wanting to know where her head was at. He didn't want to see her giving up on it, as he knew how important it was for her, but on the other hand- he knew he couldn't blame her if she felt like she just couldn't go through with it at the moment.

Shrugging, Brooke quietly replied, "George called me today. He wants us to use the fact that the fashion critics are still buzzing about yesterday's press conference to our advantage. He said that we could postpone it by a few days, but he still wants it to take place two weeks from now" she revealed, playing with the water bottle in her hands and clarifying to Nathan how nervous she felt about taking that step.

"Are you gonna be up to that?" he worriedly questioned, looking down at Brooke in concern and frowning when she simply shrugged.

"I can't keep running forever, I guess" she said, sounding more like she was trying to convince herself than anything else, "And this is important for the company…" she told him, yet was unable to help herself and almost immediately added, "I just…"

"You just what, Brooke?" Nathan encouraged her to continue speaking when her voice trailed off uncertainly.

"I just want to create a stress-free environment for Luke for the next few days and to focus on him- and not on flying over to New-York next week…" Brooke explained, causing Nathan to nod understandingly, as he thought her words over. It didn't take too long before he came up with a suggestion.

"How about you do the fashion show here, in Tree Hill?" he advised, causing Brooke to raise her eyes and look at him skeptically, "Think about it… It will be much more special than yet another New-York fashion show, and you could show the whole world where your home and the home of Clothes over Bros' really is… Plus- this way you would be able to spend as much time as you want with Lucas, even when you'll be busy preparing for the show…" he pointed out, causing Brooke's eyes to light up.

"You know what- that might actually work… I'll just have to run that by George tomorrow, but that's a really good idea, Nate!" she complimented, causing Nathan to playfully give her a cocky grin.

"They don't call me a mastermind for nothing…" he joked, causing Brooke to laugh a little.

"Now- who exactly called you that?" she teasingly questioned, giggling when Nathan nudged her playfully. Once the two of them quieted down, Nathan glanced over at her and realized that even though she seemed much more relaxed, there was still something that appeared to be bothering Brooke.

"What's going on, Brooke?" he asked in a straightforward manner, truly wanting to know what else was bothering his dear friend.

Sighing, Brooke could only honestly reply, "I'm just scared… I don't want this person to win, but what if it is Victoria or someone else who doesn't want me to run the company? What if holding this fashion show will push this person's buttons and only make things worse…" she expressed her fears, feeling ashamed for being so weak, but unable to keep her feelings bottled up after seeing such explicit threats directed to her and to her dear ones, "I won't be able to live with myself if someone will get hurt because of this…" she said, shuddering at the mere thought.

"You can't live in fear, babe" Nathan softly told her, rubbing his hand up and down her back once again when she nodded in agreement, "and we will all make sure you won't have a reason to…" he protectively added, causing tears of gratitude to prick in Brooke's eyes due to the genuine care he had for her, "With the amount of cops following your every move- this person would be a complete fool to try anything again…" he comfortingly told her, putting a soft smile back on her face.

"Thank you, Nate…" she nodded, feeling like the luckiest girl in the world to have a wonderful friend like Nathan, who cared about her so much.

"You don't have to thank me, Brooke- you're a part of my family, so making sure that you are safe and feeling secure matters to me" he said, and now Brooke's eyes were pooling with even more tears, as his words made her realize just how fierce their friendship truly was, yet at the same time- they also made her think about Lucas, Nathan's real family member, whose wellbeing concerned her so much at that moment.

"Hey- you're not supposed to be crying over the fact that I think of you as family… I thought that you already knew that you wouldn't get rid of me so easily…" Nathan teased, nudging Brooke's side slightly in an attempt to get her to smile, as her tears would always break his heart.

"I'm sorry…" she croaked, uselessly wiping her eyes and trying to compose herself, yet unable to keep up with her tears, which just kept on rolling down her cheeks despite her attempts, "It's just been a stressful day, and clearly I haven't been dealing with it as well as I would have liked to…" she rambled in embarrassment, in between sniffles.

"You're only human, Brooke…" Nathan kindly reminded her, clarifying to her that nobody was judging her for being affected by the threat letters she received and by Lucas' hospitalization. When she just bit onto her lower lip, desperately trying to get a grip over her emotions, Nathan pulled her back into his arms and held her, trying to give her the strength and support she needed.

"I just feel like I should be able to be as strong for Lucas as he has been for me throughout everything so far…" Brooke replied, explaining why her emotional state currently made her feel like a failure.

Nathan, however, simply replied, "You can be there for Lucas tomorrow, Brooke, but tonight- just let it all out… Tonight just let it all go, so tomorrow you'll be able to be strong for Lucas…"

And that's exactly what Brooke did…

On the next morning, Brooke indeed felt like she regained most of her inner strength. She couldn't exactly say she had gotten a long, good night's sleep, but the long midnight talk she had with Nathan did indeed make her feel much better and enabled her to at least sneak in several hours of decent sleep afterwards. When she woke up in the morning, feeling somewhat refreshed, a dozen ideas about how she could make homecoming more pleasant and relaxing for Lucas entered her mind. She had been slightly dismayed to learn from Bob that the police investigators had yet to finish working on the crime scene that her house had turned into, yet she forced herself to stay positive and to focus on the fact that Lucas would be coming home today, even if home wouldn't currently mean her house. When Karen called and insisted that 'home' would be her house for the next few days, as she also wanted to take care of her son while he was on bed rest, Brooke was actually happy to oblige. After spending so long away from the older brunette, whose motherly presence gave her such a strong sense of family and belonging, Brooke was eager to be around her as much as she could. She therefore gratefully thanked Nathan and Haley for their hospitality and then hurriedly left their house, her head already buzzing with thoughts on what surprises she should prepare for her boyfriend in order to make it more comfortable for him while he was recuperating.

Approximately an hour later, Brooke arrived at Karen's house, causing the older woman to laugh in amusement as she took in the sight of her entering the house with a handful of bags. After apologizing for the mess, Brooke began spreading her surprises throughout the house and afterwards joined Karen in the kitchen, proudly explaining to her boyfriend's mother that she had decided to bake an apple pie for her son. Forcing herself to keep a straight face and hide her amusement, as she could clearly remember Brooke's lack of cooking skills, Karen only gently offered to give Brooke a helping hand, yet didn't press the matter when Brooke politely declined. Instead of making Brooke feel like she was being supervised, Karen decided to simply cook a few treats of her own, so they could have some backup, just in case…

An hour later, when both women were finished and surprisingly- an edible-looking pie was cooling off on the kitchen table, it was time for Karen and Brooke to head over to the hospital. Eager to see her boyfriend and to pamper him with all of the treats she had gotten for him, Brooke was practically bouncing down the hospital halls on the way to Lucas' room, much to Karen's amusement.

"Good morning, boyfriend!" she excitedly greeted Lucas, giving him an extra-joyful smile, as she wanted to lift his spirits up and make up for the previous day, during which she had been too much of a mess to truly take care of him properly.

"Well- good morning, cheery!" Lucas genuinely smiled back at Brooke, truly glad to see that she appeared to be doing much better this morning "You seem very… cheery this morning" he made his observation known, chuckling when Brooke skipped up to him and gave him a sweet, gentle kiss.

"I'm just glad you get to come home today, where I can personally make sure that you will get all better" she replied with a wink, causing Lucas to shake his head in entertainment.

"I'm sure you will…" Lucas said, jokingly faking a skeptic expression, and causing Brooke to playfully swat at his arm.

"Hey! Be nice, mister! I spent the better part of this morning baking you a pie!" she announced proudly, narrowing her eyes at Lucas when he feigned a look of horror.

"So you're saying that if I won't be nice- you'll force me to eat it?" he teased her, laughing out loud when Brooke just huffed and dramatically turned her back to him.

"Now, now Lucas- be nice!" Karen made her presence known as she jokingly warned her son with a smile.

Grinning back at his mother and giving her a nod of acknowledgment, Lucas turned his attention back to his girlfriend and placed his hands on her hips, gently squeezing her. "I'm just kidding, pretty girl" he apologized, kissing her shoulder and pulling her closer to him when she pretended to shrug him off, "I can't wait to taste that pie of yours…" he added in an attempt to appease her, finally getting her to turn to him and give him a dimpled smile.

"You're gonna love it!" she excitedly babbled, giggling slightly when Lucas nodded and pulled her in for a loving kiss. To be honest, knowing that Brooke had put in that effort for him was enough to make him love that pie she had made, regardless of what it would taste like, and Lucas swore to himself that even if that pie was anything like what Brooke had been capable of making back in high school- he would still tell her that it was great. He swore to himself that he would make Brooke feel good about whatever it was she had managed to make, for her thought and effort were what really counted.

An hour later, after he had been discharged and driven to his home by his mother, Lucas didn't even think that this task would be as difficult as he feared. Upon entering the house and seeing a reasonable looking pie resting on the kitchen table, his eyes widened in surprise and pride for how far his pretty girl must have come since she had been a teenager. As Brooke led him throughout the house, however, attentively hovering over him as she tried to make sure that he was comfortable and enabled him to find the many little gifts she had thoughtfully prepared for him- Lucas realized that his baby was still the same crazy, big-hearted girl she had been when he had fallen in love with her as a teenager. Just like in high school, she had "pimped his house" as a surprise for his safe homecoming from the hospital, yet this time- he was going to make sure she knew how much he appreciated her. This time, he was going to cherish the flowers, special tea bags, 'get well soon' balloon, soothing massage lotions and every other present Brooke had bought him, just like he was going to cherish the pretty girl who had been so considerate and kind to prepare all of them for him.

"You're the best girlfriend ever, Brooke Davis…" Lucas sincerely told her, giving her a tired smile as she helped him into bed and neatly tucked him under his covers.

"Only the best for my man…" Brooke replied with a wink, bending down to kiss his lips sweetly and then gently running her fingers through his hair as she questioned, "Do you want to take a nap now or would you like me to get you something to eat?"

Grinning at her weakly, yet mischievously at the same time, Lucas replied, "I want a piece of that delicious looking pie…" he said out of pure desire to see her happy. His plan proved to be successful when Brooke's face lit up happily before she practically raced out of the room with the promise of returning to his side shortly.

Several minutes later, when Brooke emerged back in the room, holding onto a plate with a piece of pie and a steaming cup of tea, Lucas couldn't help but grin at the happy dimpled smile plastered all over her face. Patting the space next to him, he quietly beckoned her over with a "come here, pretty girl", to which she happily obliged. She carefully handed him the plate and placed the drink she had prepared for him by his bedside, watching him closely as he carved his fork into the pie and prepared it so he could take the bite into his mouth.

Lucas didn't even taste the tart when Brooke's nerves got the better of her, causing her to let out an anxious "Well?"

Chuckling, Lucas was about to ascertain her that the pie was wonderful when its flavor suddenly registered to his taste buds. Its very strange flavor… He was fighting the urge to make a face at the odd taste in his mouth, as he didn't want to hurt his sensitive girlfriend's feelings, yet with the way she was staring at him, he doubted she would buy his attempts to ascertain her that the pastry she had made was fine when it was actually rather… salty. Still, trying his best to bring back the fading smile to Brooke's face, Lucas forced himself to smile and let out a rather unconvincing "Yum…"

Immediately realizing that something was wrong due to the way Lucas' face practically turned green before her eyes, Brooke's face blanched in horror, "It's no good, is it?" she began to realize, and despite the way Lucas shook his head in dismissal, she worriedly questioned, "How bad is it?" not even waiting for an answer before she grabbed the fork from Lucas' hand and took a bite of the pie herself, nearly choking once she realized what it tasted like.

"Oh my god…" she exclaimed in disgust, coughing and rushing to the bathroom to rinse her mouth, making it very hard for Lucas to refrain from bursting out laughing. He realized that if he would keep his mouth full, laughing would be more difficult and therefore he grabbed the cup of tea Brooke had brought him, taking a sip, yet almost immediately coughing when the supposedly-sweet drink created a salty trail through his esophagus. That was when he realized what was wrong with Brooke's cake- she had mistaken his salt container for sugar. It was also then that he could no longer hold his laughter in and he let out choked chuckles, which mixed with his coughs.

"Luke, are you O.K.?" Brooke almost immediately emerged from the bathroom- looking at him in concern as he struggled to catch his breath.

"You… put… salt… in the… cake and… tea…" Lucas struggled to inform her, unable to stop his coughs and laughs even when Brooke blushed in embarrassment and narrowed her eyes at him, wordlessly demanding that he would stop laughing at her.

"What's going on in here?" when Karen poked her head into the room, Brooke's face only became more flushed, which caused Lucas to only laugh harder at how adorable she looked.

"I put salt in the cake…" Brooke shamefully admitted, causing Karen to bit onto her lip in order to keep her own laughter at bay. Noticing this, Brooke defeatedly added, "And all of you are making fun of me, when all I tried to do was make something that will be good for Luke's heart…" she pouted, sounding so childish and disappointed that Karen immediately felt the need to encourage her.

"Oh Brooke…" she laughed, "Laughter is the best medicine for the heart, so you did help greatly…" Karen offered words of support, waiting until the dimpled smile once again graced Brooke's face until she teased her, "And besides- I baked a 'Plan B' just in case- so we still have some dessert if Lucas wants some…"

"That sounds great, Ma" Lucas jokingly winked at her, chuckling when Brooke groaned in shame and buried her face in her hands while Karen went over to the kitchen, to fetch him some edible sweets…

Looking down at his huddled-over girlfriend, Lucas couldn't help but smile at her adoringly and gently gather her into his arms. Kissing her on top of her head, he honestly told her, "I'm really proud of you for trying, babe". When she just grumbled into his chest in response, Lucas chuckled and added, "And I really appreciate everything you prepared for me" he honestly told her, finally getting her to peak up at him.

"I'm sorry your mom had to make a "Plan B" in order for you to eat something fit for human consumption…" Brooke mumbled awkwardly, causing Lucas to burst out laughing at the unusual way she had decided to word her sentence.

"Oh crazy girl…" he fondly shook his head at her, "The only "Plan B" I've ever needed is a "Plan Brooke Davis"..." Lucas wittily remarked, finally putting a content smirk on his girlfriend's face and causing her to gently attach her lips to his for a soft, caring kiss. His mother was right- laughter was the best thing for his heart, and with Brooke Davis around- he was sure to get well soon, for laughter and happiness were all there was in store for them from now on. Or so he hoped…

AN: So, there it is... Lucas is suspicious of Phillip the reporter, but is he right about his suspicions? My lips are sealed! All I will say is that things will become much clearer really soon!

I would love it if you would share your thoughts about this chapter! :-)