Well, This Happened

Author: Janine
Genre: Popular
Pairing: Brooke/Sam
Rating: NC-17
Summary: The real world pokes its head into the girls love bubble, and nothings going to be the same again.
Disclaimers: I don't own any of these characters, I'm just borrowing them for a short period of time.

Part One

It was Monday. Brooke hated Mondays. She firmly believed that Mondays were a horrible way to spend one seventh of your life. Then, to top it all off, it was gym class. Brooke was beginning to hate gym class. Sighing dramatically, she yanked her top over her head and sat down, reaching into her gym bag. As she yanked--and yank she did--her tank top out, another shirt, a red one, came out with it. It was Sam's. Jane had caught Brooke just as she was going out the door and shoved--alright gently handed--the shirt to her, asking her if she would be able to give it to Sam. Brooke sighed again. The shirt smelled like jasmine, just like Sam, and it was red, Sam loved red.

Pulling her own shirt over her head, Brooke looked up and across the room. Sam was standing on the other side of the locker room, talking to Carmen and gesturing emphatically. From the way Sam was gesturing at Carmen's top half, Brooke guessed she was trying to bum a shirt off the girl seeing as she was standing there half dressed. Half dressed, Brooke thought to herself longingly. Half dressed was a good look on Sam she decided. Letting out a frustrated sigh, the cheerleader picked up the red shirt that had been lying next to her and balled it up. Then, taking one last look at Sam, she drew her arm back and threw the balled up piece of cloth in Sam's direction hitting her with it squarely on the head.

The locker room went quiet as the cottony red ball arched across the room; everyone was following its path from point A to point B waiting for the super bitch fight they were sure was going to occur after it reached its destination. The animosity between Brooke McQueen and Sam McPherson was legendary--they were like Superman and Lex Luther, Xena and Callisto, Pinky and the Brain--and now Brooke had just shot a projectile at her nemesis. Chaos was sure to ensue and they were all eagerly awaiting it, after all Brooke and Sam had practically turned hostility into an art form. They were poetry in motion really.

Sam slowly reached up and peeled the shirt from over her head, then equally slowly she turned around and looked in the direction the t-shirt bomb had came from. What she found was Brooke staring directly at her, eliminating all other possible options. The blonde was the guilty party and seemed to want Sam to know it. This confused Sam, however, as she looked at the expression on Brooke's face the ball-of-bitch that had been building up in her as the shirt whacked her upside the head drained away with comprehension.

"What was that?" Sam asked calmly. She felt that she had to address the situation verbally, seeing as the entire locker room was watching them, and she got a slight kick out of the fact that her unruffled reaction seemed to leave everyone else in the room confused and slightly dazed.

"Your mom gave it to me…to give to you…which I did," Brooke mumbled, then looked away. Her eyes had been locked on Sam's chest as she spoke and she knew that she couldn't keep that up for much longer before somebody noticed.

"Did she tell you to hurl it at me?" Sam asked, trying to contain a smile. She knew what this was all about now that she had seen the way Brooke was looking at her.

"No, I came up with that myself," Brooke muttered before bending down to tie her shoes, effectively ignoring Sam for the rest of the allotted change time.

Bouncing on her feet lightly Sam took the shirt that now rested in her hands and pulled it over her head. Once she got it on, she rolled her shoulder around and bent her neck from side to side before clapping her hands together energetically.

"Are you okay?" Carm asked, looking at Sam oddly. She had been acting like a sugared up eight year-old for the past couple of days, it was all very bizarre. That worried Carmen because the last time Sam had acted this bizarrely was when she had gotten together with Brooke and Carm wasn't sure if she could handle another surprise of that magnitude.

"Yeah," Sam responded, bounding some more. "I'm just ready to go, you know, burn some energy," she went on. "It's all good."

Carm nodded in response, but somehow she got the impression that was NOT indeed all good.

---

'Spandex, it's a privilege not a right,' Sam thought to herself as she bounced on her feet a little, "and she is certainly privileged," she continued as she stared at Brooke. She broke her gaze momentarily when the teacher began to speak, but just as quickly her eyes returned to their previous task, which consisted completely of staring at Brooke's ass with an almost scholarly interest. She bounded some more. Then rubbed her hands together. Then bounded some more.

"Ouch, Carm!" Sam whispered harshly in response to her friend knocking her on the arm.

"McPherson, Ferrara…make mouths shut now!" the teacher called from in front of them. Sam and Carm both smiled politely and nodded.

"You were staring," Carm whispered softly, trying to minimize all mouth action.

"Was not," Sam responded, however even as the words left her mouth her eyes were back on Brooke and she was definitely staring.

Carmen knocked her again.

"Ferrara! Nobody beats anyone up around here without my explicit permission. Understand?" the teacher asked darkly.

"Yes ma'am," Carmen responded before shooting Sam a nasty look. Sam was the one suddenly stricken with a severe case of 'dirty-old-man' disease and she was the one that got yelled at. She just couldn't see how that worked out on the karmic cycle. On top of that the look had absolutely no effect on Sam since she had immediately returned to her previous activities the moment the teacher had spoken. Carm sighed, it was going to be a long day.

Part Two

"Sam?" Harrison asked, snapping his fingers in front of the girl's face.

"Yeah, yeah," Sam said, returning to the real world. She had been staring at Brooke from across the lunchroom for the better part of fifteen minutes, only stopping momentarily to pick up the container of salt she had knocked over when Brooke flipped her hair, which consequently turned Sam into a pile of boneless mush that in turn flopped around and knocked the salt shaker over. "I heard you," she went on even though she had no idea what he was talking about.

"So, it's a deal then. Next time you go on one of your anti-Brooke campaigns, I get a front row seat and backstage pass?" he asked, confirming what he had said earlier.

"Anti-Brooke? Since when are you anti-Brooke?" Sam asked. Now that Brooke had been mentioned Harrison had her full attention. Unfortunately for him it seem there was no more anti-Brooke in Sam, if he was going to anti he would have to anti-himself.

"He's mad at her," Lily responded, trying to smother a smile as she mentally recalled the display she had witnessed earlier.

"Why?"

"He was talking to her today between first and second period and halfway through the conversation she snapped at him," Carmen started excitedly.

"Then he bitched back at her! Then after a minute of that…" Lily continued.

"Brooke ended up calling him J.C. and asked where Justin and Lance were," Carm finished trying unsuccessfully not to laugh out loud.

"Ha! Ha, ha. That's really funny," Harrison remarked dryly as he shot the two of them deadly looks. When he noticed the small smile on Sam's face he observed her keenly for a moment before speaking. "What did you do to her?" he asked accusingly.

"Me? Do? To her?" Sam asked incredulously.

"Yeah, you've been acting like the energizer bunny for the past couple of days while she's descended into the deep pits of Hades to emerge Princess Bitch-a-lot, sister and right hand to Satan," he replied accusingly.

"Listen, I haven't done anything to her," Sam responded more soberly. "Maybe YOU just need to brush up on your social skills a bit," she continued somewhat antagonistically. It was one thing for her to have previously made Brooke's life a virtual hell on earth, but nobody else had better try it or she'd be forced to non-violently kick one hundred percent of their ass.

Part Three

Sam regarded her friends carefully, bouncing on her feet a little, but mostly watching her friends carefully. After lunch Lily and Carm had made a big production of ditching Harrison and then tracking her and staring her down like prison wardens. The last time she had seen that particular look on their faces she had spilled just about all of the beans she had, and she wasn't particularly looking forward to spilling anymore. She quite felt like holding onto her beans this time around.

"What?" she asked finally. They had to get this over with sooner or later and she and her beans preferred that it be sooner.

"Is everything alright?" Lily asked softly as she watched Sam keenly.

"Yes," Sam replied, drawing the word out as long as humanly possible before bouncing on her feet some more and blinking rapidly.

Carm and Lily exchanged a look that did not go unnoticed by the prisoner.

"How's Brooke?" Carm asked, her voice had that lilt to it that people usually reserved for small children and animals. Sam didn't appreciate it.

"She's fine too," Sam responded, preparing to bounce some more. However, once she got onto the tips of her toes Carm reached and grabbed her shoulders pushing her back down to the ground.

"Stop that," Carm admonished. "Please, please stop that," she went on, her voice holding a pleading tone to it.

"Stop what?" Sam asked, struggling to bounce under Carmen's grasp.

"That!" Carm said pointing to Sam's feet. "That psychotic bouncing. Up and down, up and down, side to side, up and down. Please, please stop!"

"Okay," Sam responded softly, looking at Carm like she had two heads. "I'll stop, you just take a deep a breath. Look, no more bouncing," she went on, smiling reassuringly. She couldn't believe that she was the one they were doing an intervention on when Carm was so obviously very, very tense.

"The thing is," Lily started after Carm nodded, indicating that she should continue the interrogation while she gathered her wits, "that for the past week you've been acting increasingly like a speed freak and Brooke seems to be acting according to the gospel of St. Bastard or something…so, we were kind of wondering if…you know…you two were having problems…or something."

"We're fine," Sam responded. But even as she spoke a shadow of something crossed her face.

"No, no we don't think that you are. Something is definitely wrong," Carm responded having come back to herself. "You know we're going to badger you until you tell us, take the easy road for once Sam, you might even like it."

"Brooke and I are fine. There is no trouble in paradise," Sam responded. They simply stared at her and she got the distinct impression that they wanted more. "It's just that…well, paradise has gotten a few new inhabitants since we spoke last and one of them, of the Dad variety, fractured his ankle and doesn't leave the house. Ever," she went on, her tone darkening and her brows scrunching together in consternation. "Ever," she added again just for good measure. "He's just there, all the time, like a lawn gnome or dust mites or something."

There was a long moment of silence then the exclamation of "Ohmygod!" by Carm, which was followed my many mini 'ohmygods' until she forced herself to calm down when passersby started to look at her. "You're not getting any," she whispered, pointing at Sam knowingly. "That's why you've been…and she's been…Ohmygod," she continued in a hushed tone.

"It's not funny," Sam whispered menacingly as she shot Carm a look that would have made Medusa run away with her tail between her legs. And it wasn't funny, it was a terrible situation, absolutely abominable. The situation made her very, very sad, and very, very hyper, and it made Brooke very, very cranky.

"I beg to differ," was Carmen's response as she doubled over. To Carm, this was priceless, absolutely priceless. Sam was always authoritative, so imposing, that to see her dissolve into a restless pile of nerves was absolutely priceless.

"Sam's right," Lily stated after Carm spoke. "Sexual frustration can be incapacitating, and routinely forces people to do things they wouldn't do under normal circumstances. In fact that's how the women of Sparta ended the Peloponnesian war."

"What? They wouldn't sleep with each other because they were afraid their parents would catch them?" Carm asked dissolving into another giggle spree, and just when she had started to get herself under control, damn!

"This is just great," Sam responded moodily as she bounced on her feet unconsciously, sending Carm off into another set of laughter. "Just know that I hate you intensely at the moment," Sam continued before starting down the hall.

Carm and Lily went after her.

"Come on Sam," Carm whispered once they had caught up. "I'm not getting any either," she continued starting to laugh again. "Besides you'll always have gym class, and spandex and cold, cold showers."

"You're evil," was all Sam said in response, before bouncing on her feet again, an absolutely despondent look coming over her face.

"We've gotta get this girl outside for a while," Carm said turning to Lily. She actually felt bad once she saw the look on Sam's face. She looked like one of the puppy dogs on those humane shelter commercials. It was pathetic in a rather compelling way. She wanted to help.

"The cheerleaders are practicing," Lily responded absently.

"Let's go," Sam responded instantaneously making a U-turn and heading for the stadium. Once again Carmen and Lily exchanged amused looks and quickened their steps to catch up with their rapidly retreating friend.

Part Four

Brooke ran a hand through her wet hair, a slight shiver running through her body. That shower had certainly been cold. Wrapping the towel more securely around herself, she walked over to her vanity mirror and leaned over, placing her hands on the top of it and stared at her own reflection studiously. 'Brooke,' she thought to herself, 'you have got to pull yourself together.' These were some very true thoughts, thoughts that she carefully took into consideration, strenuously believed, and just couldn't seem to follow through on for the life of her.

Sam crept down the hall stealthily towards Brooke's bedroom, carefully opening the door and sneaking in. Turning around with a pleased smile on her face she observed Brooke observing herself in the mirror before walking over to her. Wrapping her arms around Brooke's waist, Sam then rested her chin on the blonde's shoulder and stared forward into the mirror.

"Are you trying to tell your fortune?" the brunette asked, smiling.

"Not exactly," Brooke replied, dipping her head down so that she was looking at the table surface. "I was talking to myself."

"You might want to keep that on the down low...or at least blame it on your hand so that people don't think you're crazy," Sam responded lightly, before adding in a more serious tone, "What were you consulting yourself about?"

"I've got this problem you see," Brooke started, looking up into the mirror once more, her eyes locking with Sam's in the reflection surface. "I've got this really sexy girlfriend, I mean hot…hotter than Angelina Jolie in the Arizona desert in August at high noon," Brooke continued. "But that's not my problem…actually I'm quite pleased with that." Sam smiled. "My problem is that I have this condition…"

"Condition?" Sam asked knowingly, her eyes hooding slightly as she listened to the now low timbre of Brooke's voice.

"Yeah. My hands, they seem to have a mind of their own…they do things that I don't remember telling them to do," Brooke responded as one of her hands reached back and started to make it's way up Sam's thigh.

"What kind of things," Sam asked softly, she was momentarily distracted by Brooke's problematic hands and the very pleasant effects they were having on her.

"All kinds of things," Brooke responded with a dramatic sigh. "I don't know what to do. I just can't help myself."

"Sometimes," Sam began, "the best way to beat temptation is to yield to it," she continued before brushing Brooke's hair aside and licking her neck sensuously. Brooke groaned and turned around in the circle of Sam's arms, leaning forward but not quite bringing their lips together.

"We can't do this," Brooke whispered, her mouth hovering dangerously close to Sam's. However, she didn't sound terribly convinced, even to her own ears. In truth, she sounded acutely desperate to do it.

"Carpe Deum, Brooke," Sam whispered back. "Seize me," she continued before closing the distance between them and bringing their lips together in a heated embrace. Brooke, unable to help her response, drew her arms around Sam bringing them closer together as the kiss deepened.

"Sam," Brooke practically moaned as she pulled away. "They're just downstairs."

"They're busy," Sam responded distractedly as she leaned in to take Brooke's lips once more. "Some conference call from Tokyo." Certainly the situation wasn't ideal, but Sam had given up quixotic ideas such as flowers, and candles, and Marvin Gaye days ago. Desperate times called for desperate measures and Tokyo would do.

"What about your mom?" Brooke asked, allowing Sam to draw her into her.

"She's sitting in on it," Sam responded, pleased to see Brooke start to relax. "I heard them talking."

Brooke smiled, "You mean you eavesdropped."

"Essentially," Sam answered with a matching grin. "But aren't you glad that I did?"

"Extremely," Brooke responded before bringing their lips together once again.

The first contact was like heaven, both of them having felt as if it had been months, years, or even decades since they had last been free to touch each other unreservedly. Since their parents had come back, it had all been quick kisses here and there, brief moments snatched for themselves in dark corners...a covert operation, a hot/cold war as it were.

On those days, after dinner at pre-arranged times, Sam would sneak into a mostly deserted area of the house, to be joined by Brooke a few minutes later where all they could do was fan the fire that was burning them up inside instead of extinguishing it. And, even though it actually made their situation worse, made them long for each other's company with a greater intensity than before they had met, they continued to do it. Because the idea of being even further removed from each other than they already were was unthinkable to them. To each other they were life giving, a galvanizing impetus, simply a daily necessity for the continued existence of the unique species categorized as Sam and Brooke. So those stolen moments, those clandestine meetings were cherished and dreaded at the same time, for when it was time to part--and they always had to part--the world was a little bit colder than before, and Sam a little more hyper and Brooke a little more ornery.

"It feels like forever since I've gotten to hold you," Brooke whispered softly when they briefly separated. "To touch you," she continued almost reverently.

"Forever is far too long," was Sam's response, to which Brooke smiled. Sam then turned her attention to Brooke's neck as one of her hands parted Brooke's towel and leisurely made its way underneath, tickling Brooke's skin along the way. As Sam's hand began to explore Brooke's hidden treasures the only thing that was keeping the towel attached to Brooke's body was the intimate proximity of their bodies; and as Sam's hand trailed up Brooke's torso to cup her breast, Brooke just couldn't seem to find it within herself to care.

"Brooke?" a voice called from outside the door freezing the two girls in their positions. They were only spurred into motion when they saw the knob begin to turn and heard the door start to creak open.

Sam removed her hands from Brooke's body and stumbled backwards until there was an acceptable distance between the two of them, leaving Brooke to clutch her towel to her body desperately as Jane McPherson walked into the hormone filled bedroom, completely oblivious to the activities which had been going on previous to her arrival and the distress that the occupants of the room were now in.

Spotting Brooke first, she gasped, "I didn't know you were in here," a slight blush coming to her face to match Brooke's own flushed complexion. "I thought you were in the shower, although I guess you were…I just wanted to return this," she went on, extending her hand to reveal a book Brooke had leant her.

"Oh, it's alright, you know…the more the merrier," Brooke responded in what she hoped was a blasé tone, although she shifted her weight, uncomfortably aware of the fact that she could still feel Sam's hands on her and her body was still reacting like nothing had changed from a few moments before, even though everything had changed. She clung to the towel that now hung precariously on her body more fervently. "Are you finished already?" she went on, more for the sake of distracting herself more than anything else as another shiver ran through her body.

Jane was about to respond to the inquiry when a movement off to the side caught her eye. Recalling Brooke's comment about 'the more the merrier' she was suddenly dying to know and terrified to find out who could possibly have been in Brooke's room after she showered. Turning her head slightly, she spotted her daughter standing off to the side, and was relieved but somewhat confused to see it.

"Sam?" she asked in a tone that was mildly surprised but nothing really more than that.

"I thought she was in the shower," was Sam's somewhat odd response considering the tone her mother had employed. The brunette sounded more like she was giving testimony than answering a simple greeting.

"What?" Jane asked, not quite following her daughter's train of thought.

"I came to get my bio text," Sam responded, pointing the book lying on the bed, having spotted it a moment before. Sam knew enough about biology to know that both she and Brooke were in bad shape at the moment, and watching Brooke shift and shudder, the flush previously on her skin not going anywhere, Sam knew too that she had to get herself and her mother out of there. "To do homework," she added after that, really for no discernable reason other than she didn't want to be thinking about Brooke's body at the moment.

"I see," Jane responded, returning her attention to Brooke who was fiddling with her towel trying to tie it again. "The…" she started to say to the cheerleader but was cut off by Sam coming up behind her and nudging her. "What are you doing?" Jane asked in regards to the mini body check Sam had just given her. She had seen baby elephants engaged in this type of behavior on the Discovery Channel before, but it wasn't really as cute coming from her own child.

"We should go," Sam said gravely. "She's like naked," she continued looking at Brooke quickly before turning away. "We shouldn't be here when she's almost naked," Sam went on nudging her mother towards the door. "In America we don't like nudity, that's why it's only on late night TV and pay per view. We should definitely go." And with that both of the McPherson's were outside and room and Sam quickly turned around and shut the door, her anxiety level lowering considerably once Brooke was out of sight, and out of reach.

"You didn't take your book," Jane pointed out once they were in the hallway.

"What book?" Sam asked distractedly.

"Your textbook," Jane said, watching her daughter. Sam had been acting oddly lately, and she was beginning to get suspicious although she didn't know what she beginning to get suspicious about. She was, however, certain that she was suspicious of something.

"Oh, yeah," Sam replied. "I guess I already got my biology lesson for today," she continued, looking back at the door, then smiling uncomfortably when she realized what she had said and who she had said it to.

"You're a strange child," Jane responded, shaking her head.

"I prefer the term eccentric," Sam related. Jane smiled and drew her arm around Sam's neck, dragging her down the hall. This meant quality time. Sam sighed. It was the perfect end to the perfect night. "I thought you had a conference call to Tokyo," Sam commented a moment later unable to resist. She should have had at least two hours and she was a bit bitter that things didn't work out that way.

"Oh, that got postponed to tomorrow night…after Mike gets his cast off," Jane replied.

"Figures," Sam muttered darkly.

"What?"

"Nothing."

Part Five

Nicole Julian leaned against one of the lockers opposite the Novak, idly looking at her perfectly coiffed nails in between scanning the hallways. She knew that most people thought of her as cold, unfeeling, and devastatingly beautiful, and too be sure she was all of those things, but too many people confused her indifference to her surroundings with an inability to understand them. This was a very big mistake, one those unfortunates usually paid for dearly. Lately, this underrated power of observation that Nicole was gifted with had been turned towards her best friend, Brooke.

She had first noticed a change in Brooke shortly after her father and the McPherson woman had gone away on vacation, and after the night Brooke had told her Sam was cooking dinner for her. For the few days following that night, Brooke had been very tense, and that apprehension increased considerably whenever Sam entered a room. But unease wasn't the only thing Nicole had noticed during those days, almost more interesting had been the fact that even though Brooke was quietly hostile--as is her way--towards Sam, she had been oddly captivated by her, staring almost constantly at her and speculating out loud what the brunette could have been thinking about. This had originally drawn Nicole's attention because she could have cared less what was going through Spam's infantile little mind, but then maintained her interest because she was certain Brooke shouldn't have given a flying fuck what Sam was thinking either and she wanted to know why Brooke had suddenly taken an interest in the goings on of that particular cranium.

And then, after days of mounting hostility and just when the friction between the two of them seemed to be reaching its pinnacle, nothing happened. At least not of the explosive, earth-shattering variety that Nicole was rather fond of. The very next day, not only were things no longer stressed between the two, but they seemed to be friendly terms. There was a politeness to their interactions after that, and, Nicole had noticed with some confusion, a kind of coyness on Brooke's part. As for Sam, gone was the perpetually furrowed brow whenever she came into contact with them, and gone were her constant pissing and moaning about them and her even more exasperating silent accusations. There seemed to have been a kind of peace formed between the two of them, and Nicole didn't understand or like it.

And then came the cancelled gatherings. Almost every night of the subsequent week Brooke had cancelled the plans she had previously made with them. She had cited everything from homework, to exhaustion, but Nicole knew those weren't the real reasons she was canceling. She had always had homework and had always been busy, but had never cancelled on them. To be doing it so frequently then, was highly suspicious. She had no concrete proof, of course, but she was certain that it wasn't a whatever that was causing Brooke to cancel, but a someone and she was certain that someone was Sam.

Her, 'it has to be Sam' theory was momentarily thrown when Brooke had suddenly shown up at her house one night sporting a hicky and rumpled clothing she was unaware she was sporting. Nicole had then been forced to modify her theory slightly, coming to the conclusion that Brooke had begun to secretly date someone--of course she could have merely been fucking someone, but Nicole knew that wasn't Brook's style--and Sam must know about it which was why they had changed from enemies to 'frienemies'. Brooke was just protecting her interests.

That theory had suited Nicole rather well until the last week or so when she began to notice something else. Brooke and Sam weren't simply looking at each other - they were looking at each other. Nicole noticed Brooke's eyes follow Sam's figure down the hallway much longer than was necessary on many occasions, not merely tracking her but raking her eyes over her with an expression--momentary as it always was--of hunger. In addition she noticed Sam gazing at Brooke across from the other side of rooms--it didn't really matter which room as long as they were in it together--with a look that Nicole was forced to describe as 'longing'.

This new information caused another revamping of her theory, or more accurately a combining of her previous ones. She hadn't really been wrong those other times, she just hadn't seen the big picture--which she was confident she now did. Brooke's sudden change did have to do with Sam. Brooke was seeing somebody new and Sam did know about it, because Sam was the person Brooke was seeing. This was now known to her, and it was time for Brooke to explain herself.

Buffing her nails one last time, Nicole waited for Brooke to reach her before pushing off of the locker and grabbing the other girl's hand pulling her towards the Novak.

Part Six

"Out! Out! Get out. Do I look like I care? Don't ever wear those shoes in my presence again, thank you. Out! Do I even need to say it? Goodbye," Nicole said as she herded all the occupants of the washroom out of it in record time.

Following the last of the flock to the door, Nicole slammed it shut knocking the last of the girls out and locked the door.

"Much better," she exclaimed twirling around dramatically to face Brooke.

"What going on, Nic?" Brooke asked wearily. She had seen this look on Nicole's face before and wasn't really impressed with the end results when she had.

"It occurs to me that we really haven't had the time to just sit down and talk lately," Nicole started, stopping momentarily to observe her reflection in the mirror before turning to face Brooke once again. "And I really think that we need to talk. Wait, scratch that…YOU need to talk."

"You're gonna have to be more specific," Brooke responded, folding her arms across her chest defensively.

"Okay," Nicole said her posture tightening and her eyes narrowing a bit. "When were you going to tell me about you and Lois Lane?"

"Lois Lane?" Brooke asked, feigning ignorance even though she knew exactly who Nicole was talking about.

"Don't fuck with me Brookie, you know who I'm talking about. Spam. Now spill," Nicole responded, moving closer to Brooke, invading her personal space.

"What about Sam?" Brooke asked with a slight sigh. She should have seen this coming.

"Just tell me one thing, have you gotten in her pants yet?" Nicole asked, circling around Brooke like a shark around injured prey.

"What are you talking about?" Brooke asked, keeping her gaze forward. She had tried to follow Nicole's movements for a while, but the way the girl was moving was just making her dizzy. She had to stay calm here, focused. She couldn't really tell where Nicole was on this and she wanted to try and feel her out a bit more before admitting anything. Nicole was a force of nature, and like most natural occurrences she could and gladly would leave devastation in her path. Brooke had seen it before and she knew she would see it again, and she was absolutely certain that she didn't want to be one of the objects of Nicole's ferocity.

"I'll admit, it took me longer than it should have," Nicole started slowly, coming to a stop in front of Brooke. "But it did come to me. I've noticed…how you've changed…and I know why," she practically purred. "I've seen you looking at her…the only other time I've seen such raw lust displayed so openly on a human face was during the Sax's 5th Avenue labour day sale in '97," she continued, now so close to Brooke they were almost touching. "You could as well just hump her leg…it's obvious she's got your digits and that you've got hers," she concluded, backing up a bit to examine her handy work.

"Nic…" Brooke started, but she was cut off by the shorter blonde's raised hand.

"I know Brookie…just give it up," Nicole said, lowering her hand.

Brooke lowered her eyes from Nicole's and ran a hand through her hair anxiously. When she looked back up the answer was written all over her face and Nicole turned away from her. Brooke sighed and rubbed at her eyes, waiting patiently for her friend's reaction to her admission.

"You've made things very difficult," Nicole said slowly and softly as she returned her gaze to Brooke's. "Do you know what this could mean?" she asked in a more dangerous tone.

"Of course I know what it could mean," Brooke shot back at her. "Do you think I haven't thought about this, that I haven't lost sleep over this…I know, Nic…it's a cataclysmic inconvenience," Brooke went on, shaking her head. "But I--"

"Couldn't keep your pants on?" Nicole suggested. Brooke looked over at her sharply. Nicole found the reaction very intriguing. "If you were into girls, we could have found you someone who hasn't made our lives a living hell and who isn't soon going to be your SISTER!" she went on with increasing verve.

"What do you mean 'found me someone'?" Brooke asked, distracted from the bigger picture momentarily.

"I know people, and you're good looking," Nicole responded absently. "Some people actually decide they're not going to fuck everyone they know up the ass for a roll in the hay," she continued.

"It's not like that," Brooke replied. "And as hard as it might be for you to believe, this isn't about you."

"But it is," Nicole said, looking at Brooke intently. "Because whether or not we want it, I'm your goddamn Rizzo." There was a hostility in her voice when she said this that Brooke couldn't help but pick up on. She opened her mouth as if she was going to say something, but then quickly shut it again. She found herself quite at a loss for words. This conversation wasn't going how she would have wished it, but it wasn't going as badly as it could have. She was relatively certain by this point that Nicole was going to back her up, all she had to do was not piss the girl off anymore and ride out the wave.

"Are you in love with her?" Nicole asked finally, breaking the silence brought on by Brooke's non-answer. Brooke merely caught her eye in response then looked away. "That's just fan-freaking-tastic," Nicole muttered to herself. Brooke said nothing. "This can't get out," Nicole said coming to stand in front of Brooke.

"I don't want this to get out," Brooke responded honestly. "I don't to be the real life version of 'But I'm a cheerleader'…I…I just want to be with her," she finished softly. This answer seemed to please Nicole, at least on the surface.

"That's good," Nicole responded, her voice somewhat distant. "If you can control yourself enough not to look at her with those dopey 'fuck-me-eyes' anymore, things might just work out," and with that she turned away from Brooke and headed for the door, unlocking and walking out with a smile before the other girl had a chance to respond or see her expression.

Part Seven

"No, I'm serious," Brooke exclaimed excitedly. "She has a sense of humor, she just doesn't know it yet!"

"Yesterday you referred to her as the most fabulously boring person ever to be noticed for being so utterly and completely unnoticeable," Sam responded dubiously. "I remember because I said that your verbiage was excessive and you stuck your tongue out at me and referred to me as Murphy-freaking-Brown for the rest of the night."

"Oh that," Brooke responded. "That was cute though. Wasn't it?"

"No," Sam responded, pouting a bit. "You're going to do it again aren't you?"

Brooke smiled at that. "Possibly," she responded. "At least until you start to think it's cute."

"Why do you suddenly think she got a sense of humor?" Sam asked, changing the subject.

"I was in English, and I was talking to Random Guy," Sam smiled at that but said nothing, " so Miss Collins called on Claire to go to the front. So, she goes up there and starts to read her composition which is obviously the most unbelievably boring thing I'd ever heard--including the last Presidential debates--until she gets to this one part where she stops mid-sentence and declares 'Hey! I'm a poet and I didn't even know it!'" Brooke went on. "I don't care if it was Claire that said it, that was just funny."

"I'm a poet and I didn't even know it?" Sam asked trying to contain her smile.

"I'm a poet and I didn't even know it," Brooke confirmed.

"Ohmygod," Sam exclaimed before dissolving into a fit of laugher. Brooke wrapped her arms tighter around the trembling girl in her arms and rested her chin on Sam's shoulder.

"I told you," she whispered smugly.

"I told you," Sam repeated mockingly, twisting her head around so that she was looking at Brooke. "I could think of better things for you to be doing with your lips."

"Why Samantha McPherson," Brooke responded with a faux southern drawl. "Are you propositioning me…again?"

"Me? You're the one who brought me to make-out-point in Archie's jalopy," Sam replied.

"Hey, this isn't just any old jalopy, it's like the jalopy's bad-ass cousin from New York. It's at least got 30 per cent more 'jal' and 70 per cent more 'lopy'," Brooke responded. "And, might I add, it was not easy to procure this fabulous machine, but I did it for you," she continued before dipping her head down and gently nipping at Sam's neck.

Sam rolled her head back, giving Brooke more access to her neck, sighing contentedly. "You're very, very good to me," Sam said softly as Brooke's tongue tickled her skin. "Are you going to have your way with me now?"

"No," Brooke responded, removing her lips from Sam temporarily. "I didn't bring you up here to have my way with you, I brought you up here to have you all to myself," she went on, intertwining her fingers with Sam's. "I've just missed you."

"I've missed you," Sam replied sincerely. "Also, I'd like to note that I would turn around if I could but can't so I won't."

"I've got you," Brooke responded, hugging her.

"I know," the brunette said softly. "I know."

"I didn't realize how much I had gotten used to touching you until I couldn't anymore," Brooke said a moment later. "I think it caused a minor mental situation."

"Tell me about it. Cagney and Lacy cornered me a few days ago. Apparently, I've been acting like a speed freak and…" Sam trailed off before she got into their description of Brooke.

"And," Brooke prompted.

"It's not pretty," Sam warned her.

"I figured as much," Brooke replied. "Lay it on me."

"You were crowned Princess Bitch-a-lot, sister and right hand to Satan," Sam related.

"Ouch," Brooke commented. "Carm?"

"Harrison," Sam replied.

"Figures," Brooke responded knowingly. "I should apologize, shouldn't I?"

"It's what Britney or Christina would do," Sam answered with a smile before tilting her head back and bringing her lips and Brooke's together.

Once they separated, Brooke sighed softly and rested her head on Sam's shoulder, unconsciously tightening the hold she had on the brunette. They sat in silence like that for a moment before Sam couldn't take it anymore. Brooke had been acting like this all night, most of the time she fine but then she would get very quiet and hug Sam to her almost as if she thought the brunette were going to float away. It was starting to worry Sam.

"What's wrong?" Sam asked quietly, placing her hands over top Brooke's stroking them lightly as she waited for Brooke's answer.

"She knows. Nicole, she knows about us," Brooke related hurriedly, before she could lose her courage; the only part of her body to move at all being her lips. Sam's eyes widened at the revelation. She knew that Brooke had been hesitant to tell her friend, and knowing Nicole Sam knew exactly why she had been hesitant. Nicole Julian was the reason for the saying 'keep your friends close and your enemies closer'.

"What happened?" Sam asked, instinctively knowing that Brooke hadn't been the one to inform Nicole of the situation.

"She just…saw it I guess. You know what she's like, she got suspicious and started collecting clues. I think I'm going to have to face the fact that I stare at you far too much…I thought I was being stealthy but apparently not," Brooke answered dejectedly.

"How'd she react?" Sam questioned gently. From the way Brooke was acting she almost feared the answer.

"Alright, I suppose," Brooke said finally, raising her head from its resting-place. "She was forward, as expected. Abrasive, as expected. And insulting, once again as expected, but she seemed to be okay with it." Sam was less than comforted by this answer.

"What does that mean? She didn't outright threaten you?" the brunette asked.

"Basically," Brooke responded, sighing again and replacing her head. "I've just got a bad feeling about it."

"Why?"

"She was too nice, Sam," Brooke mumbled in response. "It was like Nicole-lite, like she was warming up or something. I don't know," she finished, shaking her head.

Sam squeezed Brooke's hand reassuringly. "We'll just have to wait and see, there's nothing else we can do," she said, still holding onto Brooke. "Complex mess of complications," she continued, feeling Brooke smile against the skin of her neck.

"Complex mess of complications," Brooke repeated as her hands began to make their way under Sam's shirt and her lips attached to the brunette's neck.

"I want to see you," Sam mumbled softly as she began to struggle in Brooke's arms. She had tried to turn around once before, but she was only playing then. Now she was serious and nothing was going to stop her.

Placing her hands on Sam's waist, Brooke loosened her hold on Sam, helping the other girl turn around so that they were face to face. However, it soon became clear to them that they wouldn't be able to stay in that position very long, so Brooke reached back pressing the release button on the seat, folding it down then shifted her position so that she was lying on her back, one of her legs braced on the floor and the other resting on the seat with Sam in between.

Sam slid her hands up Brooke's thighs until they came to rest on the brunette's hips. Once she had reached her intended destination, she then slowly traced her finger along the seam of Brooke's pants until she reached the button which she quickly popped open with a smile. Once that was taken care of, Sam grasped the tip of Brooke's zipper and slowly slid it down before beginning to drag her hands up Brooke's abdomen once again, this time taking the hem of her shirt with her.

Having dragged the shirt half way up Brooke's chest, Sam left it where it was and shifted her position so that she was lying instead of sitting in between Brooke's leg and lowered her mouth to the smooth skin of Brooke's stomach. She then traced her teeth on a downwards path along the smooth expanse of skin until she reached the waist band of Brooke's panties, which she sensuously dipped her tongue under before licking a path up towards Brooke's navel. Brooke arched up into Sam's mouth as the brunette continued to tease her in the most delicious of ways, an almost guttural moan escaping from her lips.

"I know," Sam began, her hands slipping underneath Brooke and around to her back, "that you said you weren't going to have your way with me," she continued as she deftly unclasped the blonde's bra. "But I," she went on, bringing her hand back to the front of Brooke's body, "made no such promise." And with that she slid up Brooke's body heatedly pressing their lips together as her hand slipped under Brooke's now unclasped bra to massage the tender mound of flesh underneath.

Brooke bucked up into Sam's busy hands, groaning into the kiss as her own hands began to roam over Sam's body frantically.

Sam broke the contact between their lips momentarily as she freed Brooke from the confines of her shirt, despite the blonde's muttered pleas of disapproval at the loss of contact between them. Then once that was done, Sam once again returned her lips to Brooke's hungrily as both of their hands began to roam once more.

Brooke's body quivered upon hearing the sound torn from Sam as the blonde worked her leg in between the brunette's, and she gasped ecstatically when she felt Sam press down against her and nip at her neck desperately. Brooke's body then began to tremble violently as she felt Sam slide down on her thigh until the brunette's groin was resting snugly against her hips and her hand slipped under the waistband of Brooke's panties towards the center of her molten hot desire.

As Sam slowly entered her, Brooke's eyes fluttered shut and her lips parted sensuously, a low, sexy moan escaping from deep within her throat as Sam began to move within her. As Brooke's hips rose to meet Sam's questing fingers she could feel the brunette grinding against her hip bone urgently as she sucked on her bottom lip and her breath came in shallow pants.

Brooke reached up, desperately bringing her hand to the side of Sam's face, and ran her thumb across her lips tenderly before leaning up and crushing their lips together as Sam entered her one last time and Brooke tensed, moaning her release into Sam's mouth as her body began and shake intensely.

A moment later, Brooke felt Sam stiffen as well; lovingly holding onto the girl as her body quaked and her breathing hitched before her eyes fluttered shut and she collapsed on top of the cheerleader, where they stayed together as their breathing calmed and their hearts slowed back to their normal paces.

Once she felt that she once again had control of her faculties, Brooke raised her hand to Sam's forehead--which was nestled against her shoulder--and brushed back a few arrant strands of dark hair before pressing her lips to Sam's temple softly.

"I hope you know," Brooke began softly as she ran her hand along Sam's back soothingly, "that Sugar Daddy is never going to let me borrow his truck again," she finished gravely.

There was a moment of silence after Brooke spoke that was then interrupted as Sam began to laugh burying her face even deeper into Brooke's neck and hugging the blonde towards her.

Part Eight

Josh followed Nicole reluctantly to a fairly empty area of the school--one that became completely empty after Nicole worked her unique brand of magic. The blonde had sought him out after his last class and essentially ordered him to follow her, and, like all people who knew her, he listened to her because, quite frankly he was afraid. It was a manly fear to be certain, but it was fear nonetheless.

"What's up?" he asked somewhat reluctantly. He was certain that whatever she was about to say would end up causing some sort of problem in the near future.

"It's about Brooke," Nicole started timidly which immediately put him on the defensive. "I'm worried about her," the blonde continued, looking up at Josh through her eye lashes coyly.

After their talk in the Novak, Nicole had given some very serious thought to the situation at hand. Brooke was her friend and really loyal, like a puppy, when it came down it, because Brooke was essentially a good person. Certainly she could be manipulated into doing things that went against her instincts, but for the most part she was concerned with others' feelings and didn't want to hurt other people so that she herself could benefit. This contrast in Brooke was the reason she was the queen-bee. She could be nasty when she needed to be, but was also essentially likeable. Add to that the fact that she was unquestionably beautiful and it all equaled immense popularity. This had served Nicole well over the years, but it was now time to question the order of operation.

While Nicole herself had benefited greatly from Brooke's popularity by being her best friend, she had also worked extremely hard to get where she was. She had gone from being worse than a nobody to the girl everybody wanted to be or at least feared. She liked the upgrade, and she wasn't willing to give it up for the sake of Brooke's libido. However, she did feel some sort of obligation to her sister in arms which is why she wasn't content to simply break ties with Brooke and destroy her. She was going to offer the head cheerleader a chance to redeem herself. If Brooke accepted it, then so be it, however, if she denied the opportunity that was so graciously being offered her Nicole wouldn't hesitate to take her down and step over the corpse to take the crown.

"She seems fine to me…a little tense, but other than that," Josh responded, trailing off. However, despite his answer he wondered if something really was going on with Brooke. Since they had broken up, they hadn't spoken as much as they used to, and especially lately Brooke had been keeping to herself.

"I don't think that she's handled your break-up well at all," Nicole related with a touch of sadness. "I think it's really messed her up."

"She's the one that broke-up with me," Josh responded somewhat dismally. It was still a sore spot for him.

"I know," Nicole said soothingly, "but I think she just did it because she was confused, and now she doesn't know what to do. Sometimes I don't even recognize her anymore. It's like she's made a complete 180. Especially now that…" she trailed off, removing her eyes from Josh's and off to the side.

"Now that what?" Josh asked curiously. He hadn't noticed that big a change in Brooke, in fact she had seemed quite happy.

"It's just…it's as if she's decided that if she couldn't have you she was going to give up on men altogether," Nicole said, forcing a note of alarm into her voice.

"Give up men?"

"I know, crazy but true," Nicole replied. "I…I don't know if I should say it…it's just sooo…oh I don't know," she said, dragging him along. She was enjoying this.

"You can tell me, you know I love her," Josh said pleadingly. He just had to know what was wrong with her. Even if they weren't going out anymore, they were still friends, at least he thought they were.

"Do you remember, how about a month ago Brooke was acting very anxious?" Nicole asked as her mind raced trying to figure out how exactly she wanted to drop the bomb.

"Yeah," Josh responded simply.

"Well, you know she and Sam were alone in the house at that time," Nicole continued. Josh simply nodded his agreement. Brooke had talked to him about how she was dreading being alone with Sam. "Well, I think that she may have turned to Sam for comfort, you know tried to bond with her," Nicole went on. "But I think Sam comforted her too much."

"I'm not following you," Josh replied. If Brooke and Sam were getting along--which they seemed to be doing--that was a good thing, or at least he thought it was.

"They became engaged," Nicole started carefully. "Romantically. Sam comforted Brooke in her bed," she went on gravely.

"What!" Josh exclaimed. "That's insane. Brooke's not…gay," he said, his voice dropping secretively as he said that last word. "She wouldn't…not with Sam of all people!"

"But she did and she is. That's why I came to you. She doesn't know what she's doing Josh. She just wanted somebody to love her after you broke up. But," Nicole said almost giddy to finally be getting to the climax of her operation. "If you go to her now, and ask her to take you back, I know you can help her. This…aberration with Sam, if it goes on much longer people will find out. Can you imagine what would happen? With Brooke so vulnerable? Hell, Spam is probably going to write an editorial about it! We can't let this ruin her, Josh, you have to help straighten her out again," Nicole finished dramatically.

"I don't know…I…this is all so," Josh started, his mind reeling with everything Nicole had just told him.

"Josh," she said. "There's no time for this."

"I'll try," he said finally, straightening up.

"No Josh, don't try…DO," Nicole said, her voice hardening a bit now that she knew she had him. "You have to fix her, or else things aren't going to be pleasant for anyone."

"What are you saying?" Josh asked, seeing the Nicole he knew and feared starting to rear her head again.

"Brooke won't be the only one to go down if this gets out, I can't allow that to happen. Think about it, if everyone finds out that Brooke's diddling her step-sister what will that say about you? If our homecoming queen and head cheerleader is a lipstick lesbian, what does that mean about our homecoming king and star quarterback?"

"I'm not…" Josh started, but Nicole interrupted him.

"I know that but they don't. Do you think that anybody thinks that Brooke is? You used to date her, what do you think people are going to think? And then there's the Glamazons; we'll all be linked by association like it was some sort of gay sewing circle. Do you want to go down like that?" Nicole asked, getting right up in his face.

"No," was his only response.

"Then win her back and do it soon," Nicole responded, and with that she walked away, leaving a dumbfounded Josh staring into space.

Part Nine

It only took Josh a couple of minutes to locate Brooke before practice started. The Glamazons were practicing, so he knew that she had to be around. He wasn't prepared for the sight that greeted him however, although he supposed that he should have been given his chat with Nicole. Brooke was dressed in her uniform and was standing off to the side of the bleachers with Sam. Brooke had her head tilted away from him, but he could tell that she was laughing, and Sam had her hand up by her face obviously laughing as well. They were standing closer to each other than was necessary, or even really acceptable in some circles--a particularly noteworthy event considering that they didn't used to be able to occupy the same room. It became painfully clear to him that Nicole was on the right track about the two of them, and he immediately headed over.

"Hey," Brooke said, spotting him coming towards them. She was still smiling, and Josh couldn't help but think that she didn't look like someone who was an emotional wreck. Still he had his mission, when coach called a play you executed it even if you did have doubts.

"Hey," he replied with a smile of his own. "Sam," he said turning to the brunette. She in turn offered him a little smile and a salute. "I just need to borrow her a minute," he continued gesturing towards Brooke before resting his hand on her back and pushing her away. Doing such he missed Sam's raised eyebrow and Brooke's amused shrug.

"You know, I am capable of walking on my own," Brooke commented once they were a safe distance away.

"Sorry," Josh commented distractedly. He was eyeing Sam, who had taken out a notebook and was writing something in it, his mind involuntarily going back to Nicole's comment about Sam writing an article on Brooke. He frowned.

"Is everything alright?" Brooke asked, looking at the boy carefully. Even though things hadn't worked out between them, she still cared deeply for him and was disturbed by the idea that something might be wrong with him.

"No," he said, his voice wavering a bit. "Things are just…I mean I know that we're not…anymore…but I really need to talk to you."

"You know I'm here for you," Brooke responded sincerely.

"Yeah," Josh responded, although he sounded less than convinced. "I can't talk about it here though…could you come by later?" he asked gazing at Brooke with puppy dog eyes.

Brooke observed him for a minute. He had been so despondent after she had broken up with him, and really had never bounced back to his previous self, and for that she felt terribly guilty.

"Of course," she responded, happy to see him smile.

"Great," he responded. "I'll see you later then," and with that he headed off towards the field and Brooke walked back over to where Sam was waiting for her.

Part Ten

"I swear to god I thought it was tofu," Carmen exclaimed pleadingly.

"It was chicken!" Lily shot back. "I'm a vegetarian."

"I know, I know…which was why I was happy when I thought it was tofu," Carm responded. "The menu said tofu, it looked like tofu…it tasted like chicken, but so does everything!"

"Hello ladies," Harrison said, walking up to his bickering friends unknowingly saving Carmen's hide.

"You're awfully chipper this afternoon," Lily commented.

"That's because it's been a very good day," Harrison responded, smiling broadly.

"Who is she?" Carm asked knowingly.

"I think you know," Harrison replied.

"Oh no," Carm and Lily replied together.

"Thanks for the encouragement," Harrison responded, frowning slightly. "I'll have you know that this very afternoon Brooke tracked me down and apologized for what happened, not only bestowing upon me a dazzling smile but also a hug," Harrison said quite pleased with himself.

"You know that we're here for you, and that we'd encourage you in an obtainable venture, but Brooke? You've been after her since third grade…you've got to face the facts, it's never going to happen," Carmen told him as gently as possible.

"Come on, have a little faith," Harrison responded. "The stars are all in alignment right now. Brooke and I have never gotten along better, we're both single, and I've been working out," he continued. "It's as close to destiny as I'm gonna get."

"So close and yet so far," Lily muttered under her breath before addressing him directly. "She's not as single as you might think. The cards are still stacked against you," she said ignoring the look Carm shot her.

"What are you talking about?" Harrison asked, he hadn't heard about Brooke hooking up with anyone after Josh.

"There's a prospect," Carm responded cryptically. "She's off the market."

"How do you two know about this and I don't?" he asked suspiciously.

"We kind of stumbled across the information, but we've been sworn to secrecy," Carm responded. "We've only said this much because we didn't want to see you get hurt."

"Who?" Harrison asked desperate to know who had beaten him to the punch.

"We've crossed our hearts and hoped to die," Lily responded. "We can't say."

After that, Harrison proceeded to badger them for a few more minutes but they wouldn't budge from their position.

"You know what? This blows!" he responded. "I'll find out myself," and with that he stormed off down the hall.

"Oh boy," Carm muttered once he was gone. "This isn't going to be pretty."

"Definitely not," Lily confirmed.

Part Eleven

"I didn't think that it would be so cold out," Josh commented as he spotted Brooke rubbing her hands together. Once Brooke had arrived he had suggested they take a walk around the golf course adjacent to his house since he really didn't want to have a run in with his parents. "Here," he continued stopping and reaching over for her hands pulling them into his and rubbing them briskly. "We could go back if you want."

"It's okay," Brooke responded lightly. "I like it out here."

"Yeah me too," he said, letting go of her hands and turning back around.

"I remember," Brooke responded, dropping her head slightly as they began to walk again. "How are things with your mother?" she questioned finally, assuming that his family problems were the reason he had asked her to meet him.

Josh rubbed his neck uncomfortably and scrunched his face up at the question. "It's…not good," he said slowly. "He just doesn't get her…or me…it's like he's still in the days of black and white TV." He paused there, working up the courage to continue. "I think…maybe that's why it was so hard for me when we broke up…because I thought we had what they didn't, I thought we got each other," he went on slyly, checking on Brooke's reaction.

"I think that we did…that we do," Brooke responded slowly, carefully. "But relationships aren't that simple," she continued.

"I know," Josh replied just as carefully. "That's why people have to work at them, which is why a lot of them don't work out," he continued, keeping his gaze on the grass beneath his feet. "I've just been thinking about this a lot, and I was thinking that we could work on ours, we both have strong work ethics in regards to everything else so why not this," he continued finally looking up at her.

"Josh…" Brooke started, he knew what she was going to say and interrupted her.

"Just hear me out," he stated, though there was a somewhat pleading tone to his voice. "We're both still not seeing anyone," he continued even though they both knew it was a lie, "and I'm not saying that we have to jump back in right away, just that we were good together, and think that we could be again. I miss you, and I think that we could be like romantic friends or something like that anyway until it was just romantic again, you know?"

"You know I care about you so much," Brooke said, ceasing to walk. "But…" Once again Josh knew where this was going, at least in regards to him. She was going to tell him that they should stay friends, he needed to pre-empt that, so he did the thing that he thought would make the most sense, he closed the distance between them and kissed her.

Brooke was stunned at the first touch of Josh's lips to hers, she truly hadn't seen that one coming. After a moment however, she realized what was going on, and that when she hadn't pulled away, Josh had started to deepen the kiss. And as they stood there together, Josh's lips pressed against hers all she could think about was how she felt absolutely nothing, how although Josh was many things and a great guy he wasn't Sam, and he would never be able to make her feel how Sam made her feel, and she wrenched her lips away from his.

"Don't do that again," Brooke said in a low, warning tone once they had separated.

Josh was quiet for a moment, looking down at his shoes once more. Despite Brooke's words, he was comforted by what he assumed to be her positive response to the kiss. For the first time since talking to Nicole, he began to believe fully that Brooke was just with Sam because he wasn't around. Why else would she have let him kiss her for as long as she did? He decided to play the cards that he held in his hand, to let Brooke know that it was okay, and that he'd take her back despite what she'd done with Sam.

"We should be with people that we love, not just with anyone who's around or who'll give us what we temporarily need," Josh said quietly a moment later.

"What?" Brooke asked, beyond confused by his response.

"I know that you're seeing someone," he continued, ignoring her question, "that you were lonely after we broke up, but you shouldn't let pride ruin you or blind you to what's happening around you."

"If I'm seeing someone," Brooke started carefully, still not sure what to make of Josh's cryptic speak, "it's a decision I made. Not out of loneliness, not out of pride, and not out of fear, but because I wanted to," she continued firmly, confident at least in the statement of her own feelings.

"Because you wanted to," Josh repeated, mostly for his own benefit, but Brooke picked up on it.

"Because I wanted to," Brooke repeated confidently. She didn't want to hurt Josh, but she didn't want to give him false hope either. She couldn't have him walking around thinking that there was a chance for them.

"But Nicole…" Josh started to say, looking up at Brooke with shining eyes, he trailed off however, not sure if wanted to continue.

"But Nicole what?" Brooke asked with a strong sense of foreboding. "Please Josh," she asked when she saw him hesitate.

"Nicole said that reason you were with her was because you missed me," Josh responded, not able to keep all of the hurt and accusation hidden. "She said that you were upset…and Sam comforted you 'too well'," he went on.

"She told you? About Sam?" Brooke asked, slightly stunned.

"She said I needed to straighten you back out or there would be unpleasantness, she said it was for your own good, that Sam was taking advantage of you. She never said that…it was your decision. I didn't know that you wanted…" he trailed off and turned his head away from her, the pain that he was in so clearly written over his face and in his voice.

Brooke stood by watching him helplessly, she was torn up inside seeing him like that. Finally, she crossed the few steps separating them and reached out to him, drawing him into a hug. She had never wanted to hurt him, and she had loved him, did love him in a way. She just wasn't in love with him, and not for the first time she was overcome with guilt for it. She should have loved him, they were perfect for each other, everyone had said so. But it didn't work out that way, and not for the first time she wondered why.

Finally, Josh pulled himself together and moved away from Brooke. "You're not going to take me back are you?" he asked even though it was clear from his tone that he already knew the answer.

"No," she replied as gently as she could while rejecting him once more. "I can't," she said, deciding to leave it at that feeling that to tell him she loved Sam would be rubbing salt into an open wound.

"Nicole," Josh said, straightening his shoulders. "She'll take you down if you stay with Sam," he continued. "She says it'll ruin all of us, not just you. I got the distinct impression that after me the only game plan was seek and destroy."

Brooke listened to his words and knew with certainty that he was telling the truth. It only confirmed what she secretly feared and the feeling that had been rattling her ever since her encounter with Nicole in the Novak. Still, even though she shouldn't have been surprised as this was classic Nicole Julian, she couldn't help feeling extremely hurt and betrayed. She felt tears come to her eyes and turned her head away from Josh trying to blink them out as she wrestled with her emotions.

"Et tu, Josh?" she asked finally, a tear running down her cheek even as she turned to face him. "What do you say?"

"I say," Josh started softly. "That I wish you could have loved me half as much as I love you. I say, I wish that Nicole had never come to me and told me what she knew. I say that even though it's tearing me up inside, if you're happy, then I'll do what I can though I have no idea what that could be. And finally, I say that the past ten hours have really, really blown," he concluded.

Brooke reached out a hand and placed her on his face when he had finished. "Thank you," she said softly, her voice cracking with emotion. He shrugged stoically simply observing her for a moment.

"She'll do it you know," he said finally. "She'll do it in front of the whole school gleefully."

"I know," Brooke said, dropping her gaze and her hand. "She's been waiting for this, to usurp the crown. She wants to be Sandra Dee and I've given her just what she needs," Brooke responded, finally seeing the reason behind the hostility in Nicole's voice when she had referred to herself as Brooke's Rizzo. Nicole had risen through the ranks like a superstar, but once she got to a certain point there was nowhere for her to go because Brooke was standing in front of her, and as long as Brooke was there, Nicole would always be number two, and second place was never good enough for Nicole Julian, she was a gold medallist--even if she had to lie, cheat and steal to get to the podium.

"What are you going to do?" Josh asked curiously.

"I don't know yet," Brooke replied honestly. "How does one go about thwarting an evil genius?" she asked before chuckling darkly. "It's funny, I don't know how to defend my position because I've never had to. Nicole's always been there in the trenches flinging mud at anyone who came near, snapping at their heels for me. Only now she's flinging it at me, and I think that she's out of my league," Brooke finished wearily, dejectedly.

They stood in silence for a moment after that, each of them considering what a victory for Nicole would entail and shuddering at the thought of such a bleak future. "I've gotta try though," Brooke said finally. "But I'll need your help." Josh simply nodded his agreement. "I need to buy some time," she said in response to his nod. "Just tell her that you think that her plan's working and I'll take care of the rest," she continued, although she really had no idea what on earth she was going to or could do.

Part Twelve

It was just past nine by the time Brooke made it back home, the walk between her house and Josh's having passed by in a blur. Her mind was spinning with everything that had happened in not only the past few weeks or days, but the past few hours. Everything that had happened came clashing together in her mind painfully, making her head pound and her heart contract agonizingly every time she took a breath. She felt like everything was falling apart right before her eyes, and she couldn't help the fact that her mind kept wondering back to times before, times when things were if not simple then at least easier. She wondered what had possessed her to think that she could get away with coloring outside lines, that thinking outside of the box would bring anything but trouble, misery and destruction. Everything she knew was on the verge of collapse, her whole life was hanging on the edge of some precipice she had seen herself approaching but disregarded until it was too late. Now all of the players were on the stage and all the cards had been laid out and all eyes were on her. And, she discovered, at this critical moment, she suddenly found that the only thing she was sure of was that she wasn't sure of anything anymore. In fact, the only thing that seemed to be going at all her way was that by the time she got home everyone had just finished eating dinner, which meant she would be spared the agony of having to sit through it on this particular night.

Making a little wave to three people gathered in the kitchen, she then made a bee-line for the stairs offering no other acknowledgment of their presence. Once she had reached the landing, she made a movement to her left towards her door, then stopped. Although she had initially ignored it, almost the moment after she had passed the kitchen she had become aware that someone had started after her. She knew who it was, and that it probably would have been easier for her to just continue on into her room, but she just couldn't, so once she stopped she slowly turned around and waited for Sam to catch up with her.

"Is everything alright?" Sam asked, watching the blonde carefully.

"I'm just tired," Brooke responded, evading the question and Sam's eyes by looking at the wall just beyond her. "I'll see you in the morning," she continued a moment later, seizing the opportunity presented by Sam's momentary silence. With that she started to turn around and head towards her room, but something stopped her before she had actually begun to move again and compelled her to turn back towards Sam. Closing the small distance between them, Brooke placed her hand on Sam's cheek then leaned in pressing her lips to the brunette's drawing her into a brief, confused kiss, that was desperate, and sad, and longing all at once. Then pulling away from the other girl, Brooke immediately turned around and made her exit.

Sam watched Brooke's retreating figure worriedly, her eyes trailing the other girl all the way into her room. On a normal day this type of desolate, anti-social behavior would have worried the brunette, but considering the fact that Brooke had already been tense because of Nicole's reaction to them, and the fact that she had just come back from a long midnight stroll with her ex-boyfriend, Sam was beyond worried. Sighing, the brunette ran a hand through her hair restlessly, then headed for her own room, deciding that the entire situation sucked to high heaven.

Part Thirteen

Sam sat sullenly at the lunch table, listening to the others talk with only half an ear. Her attention was mostly focused on moodily rolling an apple from one hand to the other and observing Brooke from across the room. The blonde had been distant that morning, just like the night before; the only interest she showed in Sam being the extensive lengths she had gone to to avoid the brunette. It had changed the bad feeling she'd had the previous night into a nauseous feeling in the morning that had steadily gotten worse throughout the day, and was reaching its climax now that she observed Brooke sitting beside Josh--her proximity not at all congruent with their 'ex' status--smiling at Josh, and generally--in her opinion--just fawning over him. She felt like she was going to be sick.

"Well, you were right about Brooke," Harrison said, addressing Lily and Carmen but drawing Sam's attention to him as well, probably for the first time since they had sat down to eat. "She's off the market again," he went on, oblivious to the wide-eyed look Sam was sending at him. "You," he said, finally turning to the gaping brunette but not registering her expression, "could have told me. How could you have kept quiet about this?"

Sam simply stared at him blankly in response. Harrison looked at her oddly, but upon receiving only silence her. continued to address the other occupants of the table.

"I don't know why I'm surprised," he went on, "it's like they were destined to be together, it's just so perfect," he continued, shaking his head.

"They are?" Carmen and Lily asked in unison, both perfectly surprised by how well Harrison was taking the news considering how he had reacted during the whole situation with his mother.

"Brooke and Josh? Come on, it's like Ken and Barbie! We all should have known they'd get back together," he responded.

"Brooke and Josh," Carmen repeated, genuinely confused. "What are you talking about?" She had expected Sam to pipe up sometime during the conversation, but upon looking at the other girl she wasn't even sure that the conversation was registering with her.

"You can give it up now," Harrison said, wondering why they would still be trying to keep it a secret. In fact, he still hadn't figured out why they were keeping Brooke's secrets at all, but that was besides the point at the moment. "I was returning Josh's putter today and I heard him and Nicole talking. Apparently he and Brooke went on a romantic moonlight stroll last night and she totally gave into him on the golf course. Josh mentioned tongue, but I don't think there's any need to get into that," he continued. "Isn't that just so movie of the week?"

"Sam," Lily asked softly, noticing the other girls eyes squeeze shut, a single tear emerging from underneath and running down her face. The only response she got however, was as Sam stumbled up and out of her chair -- knocking it over in the process which drew looks from around the room, including the popular table--and staggered out of the room.

Carmen and Lily immediately turned to look at Brooke, who seemed to follow Sam's progress, a haunted look momentarily passing across her face, but she diverted her attention once again. It soon became clear to Carmen that Brooke was not going to get up and go after Sam, like she had somewhat idealistically assumed she would, so she herself stood up and made her way out of the room and after her friend.

"What was that about?" Harrison asked Lily in an utterly confused tone.

"I don't know, but I know it's not good," was Lily's soft reply.

Part Fourteen
------------------

Brooke unceremoniously dropped her bag in the hallway once she got home and headed into the kitchen. Her day had been utter crap, and if she were in a movie she would have darkly stated that she needed a drink. Upon entering the kitchen and finding it already occupied, she almost turned right around but she had been spotted and was addressed before she could make her exit.

"Brooke?" Jane asked, resting the paper she had been reading on the table top. Brooke pasted a smile across her face and walked over to the table sitting opposite Jane as she mumbled some greeting to the older woman.

"I know I'm old and unhip and that it's no longer cool for kids today to talk to adults about how their days went, but, I was wondering if something happened at school today?" she asked tentatively.

"Why would think that?" Brooke asked, forcing a note of curiosity into her voice.

"Sam came home during lunch with Carmen. She looked very shaken up…I think she had been crying, and now she's barricaded herself up in her room. The only evidence I've got that she's till alive up there is that she started playing Patsy Cline on a continuous loop after Carmen left," Jane related worriedly.

"I don't…I mean I haven't really seen her all day," Brooke responded haltingly, a cold wave passing through her body.

"I know it's asking a lot, but she won't talk to me, and I know that the two of you have become friends…and I was wondering if you'd try," Jane replied.

"It's not that…I mean it's not a lot to ask…I just don't think that she wants to talk to me," Brooke said softly, guiltily, however Jane interpreted the tone as modesty and pressed on.

"I'm just really very worried about her," she went on, shaking her head despondently. "The last time she played Patsy Cline was after her…" Jane trailed off there momentarily, but Brooke instinctively knew what the end of the sentence was: "was after her father died," was what Jane had been about to say. "If you could just check on her…" Jane continued a second later.

"I…I'll see what I can do," Brooke responded, then hastily got up making her exit.

Part Fifteen
----------------

Brooke ran an unsteady hand through her hair, tugging at it nervously. She had messed up, she had screwed up really badly and now she was dreading what had to be done to at least try and make it better. She had been so concerned with her own thoughts and fears, so introverted after speaking with Josh that she didn't realize what it would look like to Sam. She had known that if Nicole was going to hold off on her campaign of terror, she would have to make it look like she really had begun to take Josh back, that she had to play the part of soon-to-be girlfriend to him, only Sam didn't know she was playing a part. 'She didn't know because you didn't tell her', the little voice at the back of Brooke's head whispered to her. Brooke shook her head. That had been a minor major oversight. But as she paced the hallway outside Sam's door, she knew that she wasn't being perfectly honest with herself. She had wanted the best of both worlds. Pretending to be back together with Josh was a dishonest way for her to try and figure out if she could take him back, if she could take the road most traveled and be marginally happy in breeder land without jeopardizing what she had with Sam while doing it. She had wanted the best of both worlds and it had blown up in her face, big time.

Gathering her courage, she raised her hand and knocked at the door. There was no reply, which didn't really surprise her. She opened her mouth as if to call out, but suddenly closed it thinking better of the situation. If Sam knew that it was her outside the door she might shove a dresser or something in front of the door before Brooke could get a chance to talk to her. Instead she decided that it would be best if she just let herself in. The lock on Sam's door was old and slightly defective if you knew it's weak points which Brooke did.

Heading into her room she grabbed a hair pin from off of her dresser then made her way back to Sam's door. After a moment of fiddling with the lock she heard the door click open and pushed her way inside.

The room was dark, and upon entering the only sound that Brooke could detect was the mournful sounds of Patsy Cline. As Brooke scanned the room for Sam, the words coming from the radio flittered into her brain making her heart heavy with guilt for what she had done.

\\Crazy
Crazy for feeling so lonely
I'm crazy
Crazy for feeling so blue

I knew
You'd love me as long as you wanted
And then someday
You'd leave me for somebody new

Worry
Why do I let myself worry
Wond'rin'
What in the world did I do

Crazy
For thinking that my love could hold you
I'm crazy for tryin'
Crazy for cryin'
And I'm crazy
For lovin' you
/

Finally Brooke spotted Sam sitting in the corner of the room between her bed and the wall next to Sir Hugglesworth: The Most Cuddliest Bear In The Whole Wide World--or so a five year old Sam McPherson had deemed him many years ago. As Brooke approached the brunette she could feel Sam's eyes on her, watching her with a brutal intensity that she felt she absolutely deserved.

"Sam," she said softly, her voice splintering near the end. At the sound of her voice she saw Sam's eyes close almost painfully, a tear streaking down her face as she hugged her knees closer to her body. As Brooke watched her she felt her own eyes begin to tear not for the first time that day, and she knelt down, instinctively reaching out to brush the tears from Sam's cheek.

The moment her fingers made contact with Sam's skin, Sam flinched away from her touch, turning her head, before bringing her own hand up a moment later to bat Brooke's hand away. "Don't touch me," she whispered harshly, her voice breaking with every syllable she uttered. Until that day, Sam had always thought the saying 'dying of a broken heart' was a flight of fanciful imagination, but as she sat there shaking into her own arms, she understood the sentiment of the colloquial most intimately. The way she felt, she could as well have been dying.

"Please," Brooke responded, letting her hand drop. "Let me explain."

"I hate you with the white hot intensity of a thousand suns," Sam replied acerbically as she tried to turn away from Brooke. "I hope you choke on a pom-pom."

"Please, Sam," Brooke responded desperately, "just let me talk to you." She could see Sam still shaking and it took all of her self-control not to reach out and try to comfort her again, knowing that it would only would it make things worse.

"Please?" Sam asked incredulously. "Listen, I can only please one person a day. Today is not your day. Tomorrow's not looking too good for you either," she continued. The tears were coming less frequently now, and she was beginning to come back to herself enough to know that she was really, really pissed off. "Did you mean any of it?" Sam asked a moment later, a note of vulnerability creeping into her voice despite her wishes. But then she figured that it shouldn't have surprised her. She had never really been able to hide her emotions from Brooke, so why should it be any different now that it was pain she was feeling instead of love. "Or was it just part of some sadistic plan to fuck me for those editorials? Literally, and figuratively," she continued in an accusatory tone.

Brooke's eyes closed agonizingly as she listened to Sam's words. "Whatever you heard, whatever you're thinking right now…that I did, I didn't do…I haven't done, and I absolutely positively do not want to do. This has all been one epic case of 'telephone' gone bad," Brooke said, slowly moving a bit closer to Sam. "I meant everything I've said to you, I mean everything I've said to you," Brooke continued. "I love you…you're my heart."

"Harrison heard Josh talking to Nicole…about what you and he did last night," Sam responded, refusing to meet Brooke's eyes. "If that's what you do with your heart than I don't want it."

"I didn't do anything with Josh last night," Brooke stated. "The only thing that being with him did was testify to the fact that nobody makes me feel the way you do. That I love you more than I have words to express it," Brooke continued, moving again so that she was kneeling directly in front of Sam. "You're the one. You're the only one, and I need you," she finished, leaning forward and gently bringing their lips together.

When they separated Brooke could feel Sam's body begin to shake against hers and could feel the wetness of Sam's tears against her cheek as they once again began to stream down her face. Before she could react to that, however, she felt Sam begin to push against her violently as she muttered obscenities at her, but Brooke wouldn't let go this time. Instead she grappled with Sam's hands until she managed to get a good hold on the girl then drew her into the circle of her arms, where Sam continued to struggle for a moment before relaxing into the circle of Brooke's arms crying out her heartache onto the shoulder of Brooke's shirt.

Part Sixteen
----------------

Brooke gazed out the window, the events of the last half hour playing through her mind over and over again torturously, like a broken record. She could still feel the warmth of Sam's body against her, trying to repel her, hating her with every breath and every tear. She could still feel Sam's heartache through her slightly damp collar, breaking her heart again as she fingered the wet material. She raised her fingers to her lips and traced them gently, they were still slightly bruised. Moments after she had stopped struggling Sam had raised her head, tears still streaming down her face, and kissed Brooke with an almost savage intensity, as if she were testing the blonde and punishing her at the same time. As their lips crashed together painfully Brooke had tightened the hold she had on Sam, taking her punishment gracefully, even gratefully, softly stroking Sam's cheek as she kissed her, for even in that package Brooke realized what the kiss was, salvation. Sam was going to forgive her, and finally she could breathe again.

Now, Brooke stood in front of the window trying to find an answer, no, trying to work up the courage to give the answers to Sam that she knew she had to. The questions Sam asked, teary eyed and pale, needed to be answered, the issues addressed. Brooke knew this, she just dreaded it. She had just gotten Sam back and now she had to tell her everything that could push her away again.Now, Brooke stood in front of the window trying to find an answer, no, trying to work up the courage to give the answers to Sam that she knew she had to. The questions Sam asked, teary eyed and pale, needed to be answered, the issues addressed. Brooke knew this, she just dreaded it. She had just gotten Sam back and now she had to tell her everything that could push her away again.

"I don't know," Brooke said finally, running her hand through her hair again as she remained looking out the window. "I just got scared," she continued turning around to face Sam plaintively. "I've spent my entire life living inside the box. No, living inside the box inside the box. You don't become popular by being different, you find out what the model is and then you shape yourself to it…and once you get there, you're comfortable, and all you have to do is tow the line to stay in."

"And you worked hard to get there?" Sam asked although it was really more of a statement. "And Nicole threatened to take it away?" she asked in the same tone, her eyes flittering away from Brooke's.

"You don't understand," was Brooke's reply. Sam already knew the answers to the questions she asked so there was no need to address them directly. "It's all that I knew in life and all that I'd ever needed to know. I'm popular Sam, it's what I do…it's what I am," she continued. Sam looked away from her and flopped down onto the bed. "It's all I've ever been…for better or for worse."

"So why are you here?" the brunette asked finally. Her voice was a bit more cutting than she had intended, but she couldn't really help the antagonistic feelings that had been brought up by Brooke's little sermon. Everything the blonde had just said were reasons why Sam had denied what she had felt for her in the first place. When the plebeians mixed with the patricians disaster always resulted. Brooke was royalty that had consorted with the peasant stock and was now threatened with being disinherited. This was a proposition that Sam had never seen end well, inevitably social friction always tore the lovers apart and Sam was dreading that that was what was happening to them. Rubbing at her eyes she wasn't sure who she was more angry at, herself for falling for Brooke, or Brooke for being Brooke.

Brooke sighed heavily before responding. "All popularity has gotten me is an eating disorder, an inferiority complex, chronic indecisiveness--because we can only be independent thinkers if everyone else is--a clan of psychotic backstabbers for friends, and at times a kind of bipolar personality that really is beginning to worry me," Brooke responded, crossing over to where Sam was sitting and kneeling down on the floor in front of her. "That's option A. Option B, starts with an 'S', ends with an 'M' and has an 'A' in the middle, which in the circle that is me spells unimaginable happiness," she continued, resting her head in Sam's lap tentatively, then relaxing once the overture wasn't rejected. "Now, you'll have to excuse me because I am blonde and a cheerleader…but eventually it became clear to me that there really wasn't a choice at all."

Sam trailed her fingers through Brooke's hair as she spoke, before trailing her hands along Brooke's jaw line and under her chin tilting her head up so that Sam could look into her eyes. From that position, she bent her head down and fleetingly pressed their lips together, her body flooding with relief. She could've told herself over and over again that Brooke was no good for her and she was no good for Brooke, but she had tried that earlier on and now knew for a fact that it just didn't do any good. Even though their relationship was riddled with problems the size of planetoids they were in love, and that meant that nothing else really mattered, which sometimes meant that they were going to be fucked up the ass with a chainsaw every now and then, but mostly meant that they were happy.

"So now what?" she asked looking down at Brooke once they separated. Her eyes were searching the blonde's, looking for clues as to where she really was, what she was feeling under their fuzzy pink feelings for each other. "We headline?"

"I would prefer not to," Brooke responded, her eyes traveling the contours of the ceiling. Despite her declarations she was still trying to deal with the entire situation. She just didn't know if she was strong enough to endure the whispers and the looks, she just couldn't fathom what it would be like not to be admired.

"I know you don't want to go from pin-up to poster girl," Sam responded knowingly, "it just sounds like Nicole's taken that option away," she observed more soberly. "I only see three options: we can be outted…as it were, we can be out," she said, placing emphasis on that one, "or we can be over," she finished softly.

Brooke looked over that Sam intensely after she finished speaking, watching her for a moment. "That's not an option," she said softly in response to Sam's last statement. "And the other two don't necessarily need to be either," she continued thoughtfully.

Sam watched Brooke carefully, there were so many emotions floating across her features that the brunette couldn't keep track of them. She would have asked what Brooke was thinking, but she wasn't really confident that the blonde had any more of an idea what was going through her head than Sam did. "What do you mean?" she asked, deciding to concentrate on the small picture of the moment.

"I want to talk to her, maybe convince her not to do this," Brooke said softly. "I know you all think she's some evil demon spawn, but there's more to her than nice hair and biting one liners, I've seen it. If I can get at that part of her, the part that's been my friend then…" Brooke trailed off, knowing the rest of the sentence would come to Sam intuitively.

"And if not?" Sam asked gently. She could tell that it was a painful subject for Brooke, that the cheerleader wanted to believe that her friend wouldn't sell her out, but she also heard a kind of dubious tone in Brooke's voice, as if she wasn't completely confident that she could convince Nicole herself.

"If not, then it comes down to this: It's all about being popular, Nicole thinks that if this gets out I'll be dethroned and she can take over as Princess of Candyland, and she's probably right," Brooke started thoughtfully, pushing her more sentimental feelings to the side. "But as much as Nicole knows my secret I know hers," she continued a somewhat haunted look taking over her features. "So, it becomes a matter of whose secret is more scandalous, and whether or not she's willing to let hers out to out us," she concluded.

"I see you didn't go all of those years without picking something up from her," Sam responded softly as she ran her fingers through Brooke's hair soothingly. "What did she do? Steal money from a homeless shelter?" Whatever it was would have to be huge, since gayness was a pretty big deal.

Brooke beckoned Sam to lean down, then whispered something in her ear.

"Ohmygod!" Sam exclaimed, her lips curving into a smile, then her brows scrunching together before being followed by a look of revulsion but also fascination. "Are you serious?"

"Perfectly," Brooke responded, slightly amused by the expressions on Sam's face. She must have looked the exact same way when she found out. It was an oddly fascinating tale, even though you kind of felt bad for being intrigued by it.

"That'll do it," Sam replied sobering up a bit. "That'll definitely do it."

"Yeah," Brooke agreed, resting her head against Sam's thigh wearily. "I just hope it doesn't have to come down to that."

"She means a lot to you, doesn't she?" Sam asked, running her hand under Brooke's chin and tilting her head up so that they were looking at each other. Brooke merely lowered her eyes, confirming Sam's question silently. "Sometimes," Sam said a moment later, "we don't always get what we want…but if we try, sometimes we just might find we'll get what we need."

Brooke was silent for a minute than smiled. "And sometimes, we can't get no sa-tis-faction," she replied, breaking out into a full-fledged grin. Nothing cheered her up more than words of wisdom from the Rolling Stones, actually ice cream did, but this was good too.

Sam looked down at her for a moment after than, a soft smile playing across her features as she watched Brooke seem marginally happy for the first time in days. When the blonde finished laughing, she meet Sam's eyes and the watched each other for a while in a comfortable silence. Sam's eyes were drawn to Brooke's lips after a moment, they were slightly red and puffy, and she reached out and traced them lightly with thumb. She had done that to her she remembered sadly. Sam let in finger fall after a moment and leaned down bringing their lips together softly, lovingly as if trying to erase the damage she had done earlier.

Part Seventeen
--------------------

Sam rubbed at her finger nervously as she scanned the hallway, left and right, left and right. After Brooke had left her room the afternoon before, Sam had sat down and considered, at length, the reality of their situation for the first time since she was swept of her feet. She realized that the social implications in regards to her were pretty negligible, as a part of the school newspaper she only ranked just above the audiovisual club in terms of nerdiness, and was about par with the drama club as far as what people expected from her socially. Basically, the reputation she did have wasn't likely to suffer at the hands of any public exposure of her relationship with Brooke. And, with the recent developments in the whole Nicole situation Sam was fairly certain that that public exposure--which wouldn't really hurt her socially--would indeed come about. That being the case, there was only one thing that she really needed to take care of, Harrison. Whatever was going to happen with Nicole, whether good or bad, was going to happen soon, of that Sam was sure, that meant that she had to find Harrison and tell him what was going on before he could hear it from someone else.

Honestly, she wasn't really looking forward to it, which was why she had put it off for so long. Harrison's infatuation with Brooke was no secret, the fact that he was still infatuated with her was no secret, and when he found out that Sam was sleeping with her, he was most likely not going to react well to the situation. Sam's relationship with Brooke wasn't a betrayal of Harrison because there was nothing between him and cheerleader to betray, but Sam knew that he wouldn't see it that way. Still, he was going to find out sooner or later, and it was better that it come from her no matter how he reacted to the news.

So there she was, scanning the hallway for her friend so that she could smash his heart into a million pieces.

"Hey," Sam greeted, sidling up to Harrison as he made is way down the hall.

"Where'd you come from?"

"Around the corner. I was stalking you," Sam responded.

"I get that a lot," Harrison replied, nodding along. "What's up?"

"No idle chit chat with you huh?" Sam asked, rubbing the back of her neck. "Truthfully, I need to talk to you," she continued, drawing up her courage, lord knew she would need it.

"Sounds serious," Harrison commented, observing her keenly. She was nervous, very nervous, that worried him because Sam wasn't easily unnerved.

"It is," Sam confirmed, she could feel her stomach tightening up and had to pause for a moment to concentrate on breathing. She was suddenly very glad that Carmen and Lily had saved her the trouble of having to go through this with them, it was nerve racking as hell, and she hadn't even gotten to the juicy innards yet. "I don't want to talk about it here…are you free later?"

"I think my schedules clean, when and where?" he asked, intensely curious what she could possibly have to say to him.

"My house…no…yeah…um…no…wait, yeah," Sam responded haltingly. "Yeah, my house, around three, nobody should be home then," she finished.

"Alright, it's a date," responded checking his watch. "Gotta jet, one more late and they toss me in the dungeon," he continued, speeding up and making his way down the hall.

"In civilized society we call it detention," Sam called after him before turning around and letting out a deep sigh, that was spectacularly disappointing. She didn't even want to think about what kind of reserves she was going to have call up to make it through the actual conversation.

Part Eighteen
---------------

"Do you want something to drink? I could get you something to drink? We have cold drinks…there's…"

"It's okay, I'm good," Harrison said, holding up his hand effectively cutting off Sam's manic speech.

"Are you hungry? I could get you something to eat…"

"Really, Sam, I'm fine. Take it easy, you look like you're about to rupture something," he said, starting to get concerned about why she wanted to talk to him. This wasn't at all in character--not counting her recent bouts of weirdness.

"Sorry. I'm just a bit stressed. I'm tense, I mean my back's all knotted…it's not pleasant," she replied, rubbing at the back of her neck anxiously once again.

"Yeah, I caught on to that whole anxiety thing," he responded softly. "Why don't you just tell me what's on your mind, and maybe we'll both feel better, because quite frankly you're kind freaking me out here."

"Right," Sam said, sitting down on the couch then immediately standing back up again. "I don't know if you've noticed, but lately I've been rather…"

"Crazy?"

"Not the word I would've gone with, but essentially," Sam responded, frowning slightly. "Well it's kind of because I've got this thing."

"Thing?" Harrison asked only vaguely following her. "What like a growth? Oh my god is it a brain tumor?" He had heard that brain tumors often caused odd behavior in people due to the way they pressed on the brain.

"No! No. I don't have a tumor or a growth, by thing I meant that I have got this…relationship," Sam said, slightly unnerved by his exclamation.

"Relationship? Ohhh, get down with your bad-self," he responded, making sound cheap porno sounds and doing a little dance.

"Right, the only thing is it's not that simple," she went on, running a hand through her hair. "It's not…a conventional relationship."

"Why, is he like shorter than you?" Harrison asked. It pained Sam to no end that he asked the question with the utmost sincerity. If he had at least been meeting her half way it would have all been okay, but no, he had choose today to lose his brain.

"No! I mean…he's a she," Sam blurted out. That was necessary, if she didn't just say it was never going to get said.

"A girl?" Harrison asked, staring at her unblinkingly. "You're dating a girl?…in a gay way?"

"That's kind of how it works," Sam confirmed.

"Is anybody in this town still straight?" he asked, throwing his hands up in the air dramatically. "At least you caught it young," he continued, turning back around so that he was facing Sam.

"That's true," Sam responded more for the sake of saying something than anything else.

"You know what this is fantastic, I can't believe it. YOU, can get a girlfriend and I can't," he went on. "Where's the justice in that? She's probably gorgeous too, isn't she? She's hot right?"

"I…" Sam started, caught off guard by his reaction, "yeah."

"I thought as much, that would complete the circle," Harrison responded, shaking his head dejectedly. There was no justice in the world, he was sure of that now. "If she models for Victoria's secret I'm moving to a deserted island and dedicating my life to the study of exotic birds and fauna," he went on, pacing the room. "Do I know her?" he asked, finally stopping. Truthfully, he was kind of intrigued. Like almost all guys he found the thought of two girls together extremely exciting, even if one of them was his friend. Actually, that just made it better.

"Yes," Sam responded somewhat hesitantly.

"Well, are you going to tell me, or are we playing twenty-questions?" he asked, looking at her expectantly.

"Yeah, that was kind of the point of asking you here," Sam responded, stalling for time.

"Okay, then. Who?" he was intensely curious as to who it could be, and her hesitation was driving him nuts.

Sam paused, her ears were ringing and she was fairly certain that she was shaking. This was the moment of truth and she felt like she was going to pass out. "Brooke." She knew that she opened her mouth and that she had spoken, but she couldn't remember hearing the word actually come out of her mouth. If it wasn't for the instantaneous reaction on Harrison's mouth, she might have thought that she hadn't really said it at all.

"What?" he practically chocked out. He felt like his heart had stopped beating, the second Brooke's name came out of Sam's mouth it was like a complete suspension of his existence.

"Brooke," Sam repeated, her voice was stronger this time, it was almost as if the mention of her lover's name had infused her with some badly needed backbone. "I'm seeing Brooke."

"Brooke McQueen?" Harrison asked dumbly. His head was pounding, and his vision was blurring. She couldn't have meant Brooke McQueen. It was L.A. Brooke's were all over the place, over run only by Stephanie's and Jennifer's. Sam had to be talking about some mysterious Brooke, she just had to be.

"Brooke McQueen," Sam confirmed, watching him sadly. She had never wanted to hurt him, but she had no choice in the matter, her heart had made her decision for her and there was no turning back.

"Why?" he asked finally, flopping down onto the couch. His voice wavering with an emotion Sam couldn't readily identify.

"Why?" the brunette asked, confused by the question.

"Why her? Why of all the tens of thousands of teenagers in L.A., of the thousands of students at our school, why out of all of those people did you have to pick the one girl I've wanted since I before I even knew what wanting was?" he asked, his voice raising, his hands clutching at the couch desperately. Sam thought that she could see tears in his eyes, she took a step back.

"I didn't pick her," Sam responded softly. "It wasn't premeditated, I didn't even know what was happening until it happened and by then it was too late. I had fallen…and I didn't want to get up."

Harrison didn't respond to her verbally, he merely looked up and over at her with shimmering eyes, piercing her with his pain. And she felt it as acutely as if it were her own, in fact only a day before it had been her own and she knew how he felt, she more than knew how he felt, and it tore her up because she knew it was hell. He was mourning the loss of a love he never had, like she had been mourning the loss of a love she had barely tasted. Of the two she wasn't sure what was worse, because if it had been true, that Brooke had gone back to Josh, at least the brunette could say that she had loved Brooke and been loved in return and that was something real, something tangible. Harrison, he only had a phantom of love, a love Sam knew to be the sun, and the moon and whole world.

"Sam, you're not gonna believe this…okay, okay, I'm in line at the Pottery Barn…" Brooke started saying, coming in the door, emoting before she had even made it all the way inside. "Yeah, I know, don't ask me why. So I'm in line at the Pottery Barn and guess who…" the blonde paused as she came to the threshold of the living room and saw the picture inside. "Oh," Brooke commented softly as her eyes darted around the room and she considered the fastest way to get the hell out of there.

However, just as she was about to make her move and pray for the best Sam turned her head to look at her, and the moment she saw the expression on her girlfriend's face she knew that she had told Harrison about the two of them. And, considering the silence that hovered around the room, and the morose looks on their faces, she knew that it hadn't been roses and sunshine. Actually the fact that it had gone horribly wrong seemed to fit in beautifully with recent events, it comforted her in a sad kind of way.

She immediately made her way over to Sam who looked like she was at her breaking point. "Are you okay?" Brooke asked softly as she placed her hand on Sam's shoulder rubbing it tenderly with her finger. She was aware of Harrison's eyes on them, but she was only one person and as such could only deal with one of them at a time. Harrison was just going to have to wait his turn.

Sam simply nodded her head, her posture straightening and her eyes clearing at the feel of Brooke's touch.

Once Brooke was certain that Sam was indeed okay, she turned her head so that she was looking at Harrison. He was watching them with one of the most disparaged expressions she had ever seen. She had seen the same look on Josh's face at the golf course a few nights before and it had broken her heart then. It still did.

"Harrison," she started. She knew how he felt about her, she had known for a very long time that he was attracted to her, she would have had to be unbelievably slow not to have realized, and because of that she was sure that he was finding it particularly difficult to accept that she was with Sam. Especially, considering that Brooke had always assumed that his feelings towards Sam were a bit more than friendly--even if he didn't admit it. Now, he had lost both of them, to each other. She decided that that proposition had to suck real hard. "I know…" she continued stopping only when he stood up and held up his hand to her.

"Don't…just don't," he said, shaking his head. There was nothing she could say to him that could make the situation any better. "Congratulations…or whatever, I'm not quite sure what the etiquette for a situation like this is so you'll have to excuse any faux pas on my part."

"Harrison," Sam tried, finally finding her voice. She didn't want it to be like this.

"No," he said, waving his hand still watching them intently. After Brooke had walked over to Sam, he had noticed his friend move towards her, into her, almost unconsciously. When Brooke had first walked over there had been a small space between them, but that had disappeared imperceptibly, leaving Sam literally in Brooke's arms, where for the first time all day she actually seemed relaxed. "I mean it. Congratulations. Really." Even though at first he had held out hope that Sam's declaration was some badly conceived joke, watching the two of them he could see the closeness. He also considered everything that had happened recently and had to admit that the two of them being involved with each other explained it all, especially Sam's reaction in the cafeteria the day before.

"Just one question," he said, looking at Brooke suspiciously.

"Long story short, it was a misunderstanding," Brooke responded, knowing where he was heading with his question.

With that, he nodded then turned around and made his way out of the living room, then into the hallway and finally to the door for some much needed fresh air before he completely lost it. Sam and Brooke, Brooke and Sam, he shook his head as he kicked a rock along the sidewalk. Raising a hand to his head he began to tug at his hair restlessly, realizing with an agonizing clarity that he had lost both of them. What made it worse was that he didn't even realize he had wanted Sam until she was out of his grasp. Brooke was always out of his league, but Sam, if he had realized sooner, if he had managed to stop fixating on Brooke for just one second, he might have been able to have had something with her. Now they were both gone, gone into each other's arms. He covered his face with his hands, this was the worst day of his life.

Part Nineteen
-----------------

Harrison sat down in front of the computer and rested his hands on the desk, pinching the bridge of his nose with his right hand. He was suppose to edit the article Sam and he had worked on last week and add captions to the pictures so that it could be ready to print in the following week's paper but he just couldn't seem to do it. Every time he looked at the article it reminded him of Sam, and every time he thought of Sam he thought of her and Brooke, and every time he thought of her and Brooke he became unbelievably pissed off and it gave him a headache. When he had left their house a few days before he had fully intended to be okay with their relationship, but he found that intentions were easy to hold and hard to achieve.

The thing that really got him was that he could see as plain as day that they were in love with each other. He had started watching them with an almost psychotic interest since he had found out, and that tenderness that he had observed that day at the house coated their every interaction with each other. They reeked of love and the stench was driving him insane.

He was interrupted from his musing only by the sound of a familiar voice coming from behind him.

"I've given this a lot of consideration and I've decided that your lack of response to me means one of two things. Either all of the phones in your house spontaneously combusted severing all of your contacts to the natural world, or you're doing a very good job of avoiding me," Sam said steadily as she walked into the room closing the door behind her. Harrison had been avoiding her ever since she had told him about her and Brooke, and while she was hoping that he would work out whatever he had to work out on his own, it became clear to her that she had to talk to him. He was one of her best friends and she couldn't just leave things the way they were. She had to at least try.

"One of those is a winner," Harrison responded, removing his hand from his face but not turning around.

"Can we talk?" Sam asked, pulling up a chair beside him and sitting down.

"Isn't that what we're doing?" he asked dismissively.

"Actually I've probably talked more to your mother in the past week than you," Sam replied.

"I suppose you two would have a lot to talk about," Harrison responded. "Maybe she could give you some pointers," he continued, finally turning around to face Sam. His voice was low, his lips set in a hard line and his eyes accusing.

Sam blinked at him, mildly surprised by the hostility in his voice. She wasn't expecting a walk in the park, but she wasn't expecting an outright attack either. She wasn't sure who should be more insulted, her or his mother. However, since she was the only one of the two present in the room she decided that she had to represent.

"That was low," she responded softly, turning away from his accusing eyes. "I know that you're having a hard time with this, I just thought that after playing together since we were in jumpers, we might be able to have a civil conversation."

"Shouldn't you be at the pep rally ogling the cheerleaders?" Harrison responded after a moment, turning back around so that he was facing the computer screen once again.

Sam considered him for a moment silently. She could feel her eyes beginning to burn and blinked back the tears that were forming in her eyes. She wasn't going to let him see what he was doing was her.

"I don't need to be at the pep rally," Sam began in a soft voice, "I can see all or anything of Brooke whenever I want to," she continued in a haughty tone, reacting to his treatment of her, trying to goad him on.

"How positively Greco-Roman of you," Harrison shot back. "Your parents must be so proud."

Sam ran her hand through he hair, nervously tugging at the strands anxiously as she watched Harrison stare aimlessly at the computer screen in front of him.

"Please don't be like this," she said finally. "I never meant to hurt you, neither of us did. What happened between Brooke and I, it took us by surprise just as much as anyone else. I mean it's me, Sam, falling for Brooke was the equivalent of Lily going to a Texas barbeque. I didn't want to, I just couldn't help it," she continued with a somewhat pleading tone in her voice. She wanted him to understand what was going on, because she knew with the way he was feeling only complete honesty about the situation could abate it. "And I do love her. Can you understand that?"

"Good for you. You love her and she loves you. That's the way to do it, believe me things work best that way. But just because you're walking in some flowery country paradise of bliss, doesn't mean I'm going to get on the train and join you," Harrison said, turning around to face her once again. "You said you can't help how you feel…well neither can I. I don't like it, I don't want you to be with her, and I can't accept that you're with her and be peppy and excited about. Can you understand that?"

"So what? You're saying that we can't be friends anymore? That the fact that I'm with Brooke now negates our entire friendship? Because if that's what you're saying than no, I can't understand that. The world's full of nasty, ignorant people, I know that. I just never thought that you were one of them," Sam responded, the tears she had been holding back escaping from the confines of her eyes and streaking down her cheeks.

Harrison watched her for a moment, tracking the progress of the tears falling from her eyes. He felt himself being torn in two different directions. There was the part that saw probably his best friend in the world crying because of him, that wanted to reach out and wipe her tears away and hug her telling her that he would work it out and that things would be okay; fighting against the part of him that saw the girl-who-stole-the-girl-he had-been-in love-with who was at the same time the girl-he-could-have-seen-himself-falling-in love-with stolen by the girl-he-had-always-wanted-to-be-in love-with him.

In the end, he found that the pain of what could have been outweighed the rightness of what should be, and he clinched his jaw and turned away from her. He guessed that was what he was saying.

Sam watched him for a moment, then stood up quietly and walked out of the room. Apparently that's what he was saying.

---

Sam flung the blankets off of her body and dark out into the dark room. She couldn't sleep. Every time she tried to fade away into unconsciousness, her mind would drift back to the confrontation she'd had with Harrison in the afternoon and any chance she'd had of falling asleep would immediately disappear. She was so tied up in knots that she could barely lay still. Unconsciously she turned her head toward Brooke's room. The blonde had been gone all evening on a company yachting trek with Mike's company, which meant that Sam had been deprived of her presence since then. She wasn't even sure if they had gotten back yet. Checking her clock she saw that it was just past three and decided that she would go and check. She didn't know what she was going to say or do, only that she at least needed to be around Brooke. The blonde just had an uncanny ability to cheer her up.

Leaving the doors between her room, the bathroom and Brooke's room open, Sam slipped into the blonde's room. Brooke was indeed in her room, lying on her bed with her hair splayed out across the pillow, the top of her emerald silk pajamas just visible above the top of her blanket. Sam watched her for a moment, a gentle smile playing across her lips, before she approached the bed and lifted up the edge of the blanket, slipping in beside Brooke.

Brooke became hazily aware of the feel of a head resting on her chest and an arm draping around her waist, and lazily she cracked open one sleepy eye. What she saw was a mess of brown hair resting just above her left breast and a pale arm strewn across her stomach. Turning her head to the side slightly she placed her lips against Sam's forehead kissing her softly. She couldn't see it, but somehow she was absolutely certain that the brunette smiled before burying her head into Brooke's chest even more.

"I can't sleep," Sam mumbled a moment later as Brooke played idly with her hair, while sporadically placing butterfly kisses all over Sam's face.

"Is the boogie man under your bed again, because Dad said he had taken care of that," Brooke responded. Her voice was low with sleep, but that couldn't hide the gently teasing tone that it carried.

"Unfortunately not this time," Sam responded, her voice barely a whisper but even at that audibly sad.

"What happened?" Brooke asked, shifting her position so that she was now lying on her side facing Sam. She had been on the verge of falling asleep again, but the tone of Sam's face woke her up immediately.

"It's nothing," Sam said, lowering her head, effectively breaking eye contact with Brooke. Brooke watched her for a moment, it was clear as crystal to her that whatever was going on was most definitely not nothing.

"It's not nothing," Brooke responded softly, reaching out and placing her hand on Sam's cheek. "It's got you upset and that makes it most definitely something."

Sam didn't respond verbally, instead she chose to close the distance that had formed between them when Brook turned to face her and draw the blonde towards her once again. Brooke wrapped her arms around Sam and held her to her, bringing Sam with her as she lay back down on her back. They stayed in that silence for a long time, Brooke tenderly stroking Sam's back as the brunette hugged her, so long in fact that Brooke began to think that Sam had fallen asleep. But, after ten minutes or so the journalist whispered, "I saw Harrison today."

"What happened?" Brooke asked, already knowing that it would be some variation of 'I got bitch slapped like a two dollar whore in Harlem', from the way Sam had been acting.

"This is going to sound fairly schoolyard," Sam started, "but he basically told me that we couldn't be friends anymore." Despite the sardonic tone that she used, Brooke could hear the pain behind her words and shifted again so that she was facing Sam. Leaning forward, she brought their lips together softly, then placed her lips next to Sam's ear hugging her.

"He just needs some time," Brooke responded benevolently. However, as the words left her mouth she was thinking that what Harrison really needed was a nice hard slap upside the head, and that she was just woman to deliver it. Truthfully, she had expected more from him, not to mention the fact that with Nicole still on the warpath she didn't really want anyone else raining on their parade. "Try to get some sleep," Brooke continued a moment later settling Sam against her, "maybe things will look different when the sun comes up," she went on resolving to talk to Harrison first thing in the morning.

"Optimism is an attractive characteristic," Sam mumbled into Brooke's nightshirt.

"Don't I know it. I'm just full of attractive characteristics. In fact I'm fairly certain that if I only had a little humility I'd be perfect," Brooke responded grinning down at Sam. The brunette looked up at her with a stern expression but couldn't keep it up for long soon dissolving into wearing a stupid grin herself. She thought that she might finally be able to get some sleep.

---

Brooke placed her arm on Josh's shoulder and told him that she would catch up with him in a moment. They were on their way to English class, but Brooke had spotted Harrison just down the hall and made up her mind to talk to him then, so that he would have enough time to beg and grovel for Sam's forgiveness later on in the day. So, having sent Josh on his way, Brooked stalked over to Harrison who was leaning against his locker talking to Emory Dick, and said, "Can we talk?"

"I'm busy, but if you leave your name and number I'll get back to you as soon as possible," Harrison responded without even turning around to face the blonde cheerleader standing beside him.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean for that to sound like a request," Brooke responded flatly. "We're going to talk. Now."

Harrison simply crossed his arms and stared at her.

"Emory, don't you have an elsewhere to be?" Brooke asked pointedly. "Because now would be a good time to disappear there," she continued when the small blond boy hesitated to move.

"Don't talk to him like that," Harrison responded, stepping in front of Brooke's face.

"Like you have any right to be giving me etiquette lessons," Brooke responded, stepping right back up in his.

"What's that suppose to mean?" Harrison asked hotly. Neither one of them noticed Emory sneak away.

"Just that you could out bitch me any day of the week," Brooke responded. "Sam could testify to that."

Harrison stared at her for a moment, then turned around and started to walk down the hall.

"Doesn't it get hard? You know, running away without a spine?" Brooke asked, following him down the hall. At that he stopped walking and turned around, his manly pride wounded by her words.

"Fine, you wanna talk, let's talk," Harrison said, opening the door to the janitor's closet and waving Brooke inside.

"I don't want you to talk," Brooke said as he closed the door behind them, "I want to talk and I want you to listen. If you want to act like a self-important asshole that's fine with me as long as you're the only one your stupidity hurts. Yesterday, it hurt Sam, which makes it no longer alright with me. I know how you feel, despite the protests I can see ready to spring to your lips, I can comprehend what's going through that pea brain of yours, and to tell you the truth I really don't give a shit. I don't want to get to the root of your issues, and I'm not here to give reassurance to your manly, heterosexual charms. I'm here to tell you what's what. I love Sam, she loves me, and it's going to take a lot more than someone acting pissy to break us up. That means that you have one of two choices, you can yank the stick out of your ass and remain friends with someone who you probably don't deserve, or you can firmly grasp said stick and fuck yourself with it by pushing her away. To most people this would be a no brainer, but to be perfectly honest you haven't been impressing me with your intellectual prowess lately."

"Are you finished?" Harrison asked, crossing his arms and giving Brooke the stink-eye. He couldn't really do anymore than that in response to her speech since she had been indignant enough for both of them, thus taking the wind right out of his sails. Also that fact that she was right played a little part in it.

"Yeah, I'm done," Brooke, responded rather pleased with herself. She was feeling very commanding today, and decided that she was going to go have her bitch fight with Nicole after this.

"Good, so am I," he replied, opening the door and walking out, a ghost of a shadow haunting his face as he made his way down the hall and out of sight.

Part Twenty
------------------

Nicole took a seat on the plush, maroon loveseat in the Novak, rubbing her thumb and forefinger together deviously, while watching Brooke out the corner of her eyes. Something seemed different with the other girl, she had lost that glow she had had for the last month or so and Nicole began to wonder if Josh had seriously won her back. Truthfully, she had made the offer not really thinking it would work, if Brooke was smitten enough with Spam to have actually endangered her social standing by sleeping with her, Nicole had doubted that she would just dump her like yesterday's news. Either way, she was intensely interested to hear what Brooke now had to say.

"I think," Brooke began, pacing the length of the room restlessly, "that we're beyond small talk regarding this particular matter," she continued, wanting to get straight to business. She doubted it would be pleasant whether it took them an hour or a minute to get down to it, and frankly her heart couldn't handle an hour.

"What particular matter would this particular matter be?" Nicole asked, smiling sweetly at the other girl. She wondered what had taken Brooke so long, after the scene in the cafeteria she had expected to have a little chat with Brooke, however the blonde disappeared for the rest of day.

"My relationship with Sam," Brooke responded, meeting Nicole's gaze.

"I was under the impression that that had passed," Nicole responded.

"It hasn't," Brooke responded, meeting Nicole's gaze with a steely one of her own. "I could say more, but I don't think it's necessary. The reason I asked you to come here is because I know what you're planning to do."

"Planning to do? What ever are you talking about?" Nicole drawled lazily. She was at least pleased to hear that she hadn't wasted the years she had spent under Brooke, over that period of time she had learned to read the other girl like a children's novel. Brooke, so nice, so bloody predictable.

"I'm talking about you outing us," Brooke responded simply. She wasn't going to play these word games with Nicole, she didn't have the time or the inclination. The brutal honesty of the statement caused Nicole to stop inspecting her fingernails and look over at the girl standing in front of her. So Brooke could still surprise her every now and then, that didn't mean anything.

"Outing is such a harsh word," Nicole responded carefully. "I prefer to think of it as spreading the good news. What ever happened to singing it from the mountain tops, Brooke?"

"You can think of it however you 'prefer' to, it doesn't change what it is," Brooke responded solemnly. "Please Nic, don't do this."

"You're the one that did the doing, Brookie," Nicole responded. "You knew what it would mean and you fucked her anyway. I hope it was good, Brooke, cause you'll be suffering from the consequences of that indulgence for a while. Basically, you're screwed."

"It doesn't have to be this way," Brooke said, a pleading tone entering her voice. "You're supposed to be my friend…my best friend, I never thought you'd stab me the moment I turned my back to you."

"Never turn your back to anyone Brooke, especially not to someone like me," Nicole responded, her tone darkening. "I'm no good. People have been telling you that for years. But you never believed them, did you? Even when you saw me rip through people without breaking a sweat. That's what I loved about you Brookie, your unwavering faith. But a cheetah can't hide her spots forever, and now you're finally having to connect the dots. You were convenient, now you're a liability. On the African plains when a lion becomes weak the others leave them to die, then rip them shreds…so the strong can survive. You're reign is over…your most stunning defeat by your own tongue," Nicole finished as she circled Brooke. She was like a vulture circling her pray in the hot desert sun, taking little nibbles at it before died.

"Nicole…"

"What? You think I don't mean it?" Nicole asked, her voice raising slightly. "I'm tired of being your lap dog. Someone would have torn you apart years ago if it wasn't for me. Christ, Mary Cherry has got more balls than you do. That girl would kill, literally, for what you've got, and you piss and moan it away. Well, you're on your own this time, you've engineered your own defeat. This time it's all on you, because the only thing I've got on my side is the truth. And if that's what you're scared of, then you've got bigger problems then me."

Brooke simply stared at the girl once she finished speaking, her head was pounding and she found herself falling into a nearby chair. Under the hostility, and the snide-ness and the Darwinian logic, Nicole had a point. There was a bigger issue there than the betrayal of confidence that Brooke had been focusing on. This wasn't an issue of Nicole merely threatening to tell her secret, it was a case of her being ashamed of her secret. Nicole was right, the truth was that Brooke was dating Sam, that they loved each other and that Brooke was absolutely terrified of the population at large finding out about it. The only thing that gave Nicole power in this situation was their fear, her fear.

Intellectually, Brooke had always known that was underlying principle behind it all; that being involved with Sam would have a slew of after effects that wouldn't be nearly as pleasurable as the fact that they were together. And sitting there in the washroom of her school with Nicole staring down at her like some predator from the safari, Brooke was painfully aware of all of the reasons she wanted to keep the relationship a secret, and alternately of all the reasons she felt terribly ashamed for feeling ashamed of what she and Sam had together.

Nicole was right, Brooke did have bigger problems than her, and Brooke had no idea what to do about them.

"I love her," Brooke breathed out wretchedly as she squeezed her eyes shut, trying to hold in the tears threatening to fall. "Why can't that be enough?" She wasn't sure who she was talking to, herself of Nicole.

"Because it's not," Nicole answered softly. The malevolence so prevalent in her previous sermon had dissipated as a result of Brooke's collapse and uttered declarations. Despite herself, Nicole was moved by the display. She could see Brooke tearing herself apart, digging into herself and bleeding. It was oddly compelling, seeing her fall apart like that, seeing her disassemble right before her own eyes.

"I don't know what to do," Brooke continued, as the tears she had tried so valiantly to hold escaped from their prison and cascaded down her cheeks. "I love her so much I almost can't remember what it was like before we were together…but being with her is killing everything that I know. Sometimes, it hurts so much and I get so scared that I can't breath…but I can't stop feeling how I feel. Even though it's ruining me, I can't stop loving her," she concluded, looking up at Nicole with luminescent, tear filled eyes.

Nicole watched Brooke disassemble even further after that, could see her crumbling in front of her eyes until all that she could make out of the girl was a mass of quivering, wet flesh. She turned away. This was the opportunity that she had been waiting for. Yes, Brooke had been a friend to her, the best friend that she had ever had, but that was in the past and it was time to look forward. She had to look forward. However, even as these thoughts ran through her head the blonde turned back around to observe Brooke's figure, small and cowering. She felt her eyes begin to well with the sting of unshed tears and she averted her eyes once more.

Struggling with herself for a moment, Nicole finally turned back to face Brooke. She stood there watching her for a moment more, then crossed the short distance between them and wrapped her arms around Brooke who almost immediately turned into her shoulder and began to cry in earnest. Nicole held the shuddering body in her arms and sighed deeply to herself. There was a reason Brooke McQueen was the most popular girl in school, and it wasn't because she accessorized well, and was tall and blonde--although those things didn't hurt. It was because there was a fine line between being admired and incurring people's hate, it was a line that Brooke walked masterfully without even knowing it. To put it succinctly, the girl was a sympathetic character despite her obvious privilege. It wasn't a matter of having to love her, or even like her, as much as the fact that you couldn't quite hate her, and that was enough.

"Thank you," Nicole heard Brooke whisper as she finally pulled herself together and began to separate herself from her friend.

"Yeah, well, I've always had a soft spot for blondes…that's why I became one," Nicole responded, standing up and offering her hand to Brooke. "We have to get you cleaned up cause, to borrow a phrase from Mary Cherry, you look like you look like ten miles of bad road."

Brooke grasped her hand, but regarded the other girl somewhat dubiously.

"I let you cry on Pashmina, don't even think about looking at me like that," Nicole responded grumpily.

"It's good to have you back," Brooke replied, smiling slightly. Nicole rolled her eyes in response but a small smile appeared on her face too. A little--and she stressed the little part--of her was glad to be back too.

Part Twenty-One

-------------------

Jane shifted the laundry basket she was carrying, shifting the weight of it so that it rested on her hip freeing up one of her hands. Opening the door, she quickly pushed her way inside and flipped the light on. Looking around the room, she shook her head, the place was an absolute mess. Of all of her daughter's wonderful qualities, keeping an orderly room was not one of them.

Shifting the basket once again, she made her way over to Sam's bed unceremoniously dropping the laundry basket onto the mattress. She then spun around and surveyed the room once again. As long as she was there it couldn't hurt to tidy the place up a bit, she thought to herself, her eyes focusing on the natural disaster that for at least two days out of the month served as Sam's desk.

Making her way over to the offending object, she sighed deeply, wondering where to begin. Taking another step forward, she failed to notice a book lying on the floor in front of her and tripped over it, knocking into the desk which sent a myriad of papers and books plummeting to the ground. Regaining her balance she looked at the damage she had done, an ironic smile crossing her face. At least now she knew where to begin.

Bending down she began to pick up the scattered objects, placing them into drawers or onto the bookshelf in an orderly fashion, then she turned her attention to the rest of the desk doing the same with the objects resting on it. Finishing up with that she took a step back to survey her handy work, and pleased with the results was about to turn around when she noticed one book partially hidden under the desk.

Reaching out for it she noticed something sticking out of its side, but paid no attention to whatever it was until it fell out of the book as she picked it up. It had fallen so that the back of it was facing up, so all that she could tell immediately was that it was a pamphlet of some kind. Shrugging her shoulders she reached down and picked it up, opening the cover of the book to replace it when she caught sight of the front of it. What she saw almost made her drop it again.

"Same sex equals safe sex, a guide to safe sexual relations for the other ten per cent," Jane read out loud. She could read the words, individually she understood them, but she just couldn't seem to wrap her mind around what she was seeing.

Placing the book down on top of the desk with a shaky hand, Jane opened up the pamphlet. It was certainly a guide, she thought to herself as she flipped through the pages. A sensitive, yet informative guide for teenagers engaged in homosexual relationships. She closed the pamphlet and placed it in the book lying it back on the ground where she had spotted it lying only moments before, then she took a step back from the desk.

The primary question that kept running through her mind was 'why did Sam have a pamphlet that was basically a manual for gay relationships?' It was a question that she could only come up with a few answers to, two of which she found particularly startling. The first option, the one she favored although honestly didn't believe, was that it was research for an article Sam was writing. Sam was a budding journalist, it was possible, but the way in which she found it went against her daughter's modus operandi regarding her work. Despite the state that her room was often in, Jane had noticed that Sam kept meticulous notes on whatever she was writing about at a given time, titled file folders which held various articles and notes on the subject for one. This wasn't like that at all. Not once had Jane seen Sam just shove something she was working on into a book and leave it on the floor.

This then brought her to her next option, which surprised but didn't quite alarm her. That was that Sam was curious about same sex relationships. Teenagers were often curious, that was their job after all, to learn. She was curious and she had sought out information, that was a very responsible, very Sam thing to do, Jane thought to herself. This option was very plausible, and to Jane much, much, much more acceptable than option number three, which was that Sam was already engaged in a gay relationship and wanted to know how to go about hitting a homerun. This thought distressed Jane greatly. Her baby was too young to be engaging in acts not even the Kama Sutra explored. Plus, she didn't even want to consider who the girl was that had deflowered her daughter. No, she wasn't going to consider that at the moment, she couldn't consider that a moment. What she had to do was sit down. Yes, she was going to go sit down and then once she calmed down she was going to consider things rationally.

What she did however was make her way down stairs and fix herself a rum and coke.

Part Twenty-Two

------------------

Brooke practically skipped into the house, her body fused with vim and vigor. She was a happy girl, she could as well have been in a musical comedy for all of the saccharine that streaming out of her every pore. In other words, she was having a good afternoon. Hearing a movement in the living room, Brooke placed her prize behind her back and carefully moved forward to see who it was.

"Hey," Brooke greeted spotting Jane. If she had been in anything other than the completely euphoric mood she was in, she would have noticed that the older woman looked a little pale, and slightly dazed, but she was in the completely euphoric mood she was in and she didn't notice that the older woman was a little pale and dazed. "Is Sam home?" she asked, trying not to sound totally like a kid at a candy factory.

"She's upstairs," Jane responded, shaking herself out of the stupor she had been in ever since she had left her daughters bedroom. "You're in a good mood," she commented noticing Brooke's sudden animation. It surprised her, because for the last couple of days both she and Sam had been moping around like they were straight out of an after school special.

"Yeah," Brooke agreed, leaving it at that. Somehow she didn't think that declaring that she had come to terms with the social implications of the love she felt for Jane's daughter, would go over well so she decided that a simple 'yeah' would do the trick. "Later," she continued a moment later as she began to maneuver herself so that Jane couldn't see what was behind her back. She then quickly made her way to and up the stairs, just barely hearing Jane's comment that she was heading out to the grocery store as she continued her ascent.

Sam's door was slightly ajar when Brooke reached it; this she took as a sign from God to continue so she did so without reservation. Once in the room, she spotted Sam typing diligently away at her computer. Two months ago this sight would have terrified Brooke to the very marrow of her bones, since the brunette had had an uncanny way of focusing a great majority of her work on Brooke--the reason why Brooke now knew and it turned her frown upside down--but now the blonde just found the display terrible cute. Closing the door behind her silently, Brooke snuck up behind Sam, bent down and wrapped one of her arms around the girl so that all that stood between them was the back of the chair.

"I saw you," Sam stated. But Brooke had felt her jump momentarily at the first touch of her arm and knew better.

"Of course you did," the blonde responded with an indulgent smile that she was probably lucky Sam couldn't see. "Pour vous," Brooke continued a second later, unfurling the arm which had remained behind her back, presenting Sam with a single red rose.

At that sight of the rose Sam turned around to look into Brooke's smiling face. "Thank you," she breathed.

"You're welcome," Brooke said, raising herself a little so that she could bring her lips to Sam's.

"You're in a good mood," Sam commented once they separated. She could feel the energy coming off of Brooke in waves. It was actually quite intoxicating and, not for the first time by any means, Sam wished that they had the house to themselves once again. She really, really wished that they had the house to themselves. Really. Really.

"So I keep hearing," Brooke responded, standing up and moving to lean against the corner of Sam's desk. "I talked to Nicole today."

"I take it things went well," Sam replied, surprised but pleased. Maybe Brooke hadn't been projecting when she said that Nicole actually had a heart buried somewhere in the deep Siberian mineshaft she called a heart.

"Eventually," Brooke said, half sighing dramatically. "I only had to have a nervous breakdown, before things started to go really well."

"What?"

"I think I'd been really tense for the past couple of days, I have a tendency to bottle up emotions, and today I basically caved in like Rosie O'Donnell at a Hostess sale. Nicole…picked up the pieces," Brooke related in a steady tone, though her face revealed some of the emotions that she must have gone through during their confrontation.

"So she not going to tell?" Sam asked just to clear things up.

"I don't think so," Brooke responded. She was quiet for a moment after that, then she smiled. "But that's not the issue. The truth is somewhere after the begging, and towards the end of the breakdown I realized that I don't care if she tells…and that feels pretty excellent," she continued, before pausing once more. "Unless you care, because I can threaten her if you want."

Sam smiled at the last part because she was sure that Brooke would do it. She was finally beginning to realize that as much as she was powerless when it came to Brooke, Brooke was powerless when it came to her. She found it oddly comforting. "That's sweet, but not necessary. I'm sleeping with the head cheerleader, I've already gotten my props."

Brooke smiled then swooped in kissing Sam's cheek before moving so that she kneeling beside Sam's chair.

"What are you doing later?" the cheerleader asked. "Nothing? Good," she continued before Sam had a chance to respond. "I was hoping you'd say that."

"Let me guess? You have an idea," Sam replied, looking down at Brooke curiously. "It better not involve the removal of clothes and a tub of jello."

"That was just a suggestion," Brooke responded although she leered at Sam suggestively anyway. "Actually," she continued, ignoring the look Sam shot her, "I have reservations."

"Reservations about what?" Sam asked.

"Reservations at a restaurant," Brooke clarified.

"A restaurant?" Sam asked.

"A restaurant," Brooke confirmed.

Sam looked at her blankly, and Brooke smiled again standing up and pulling out Sam's chair. Once Sam's legs were free of the desk she then sat down on the brunette's lap and draped her arm around the back of the chair. Sam looked at her with a bemused expression but didn't still didn't say anything.

"This is me," Brooke started, "asking you to accompany me to dinner tonight. Dinner at a restaurant, one with menus and waiters, and cheesy elevator music and those cute little dessert trolleys."

"A date?" Sam asked, looking up at Brooke.

"Yeah, an honest to God date," Brooke responded. "I think it's about time, don't you?" she asked, smiling.

"And here I thought all this time I had been seeing the cheapest woman in the world," Sam replied with a smirk.

"Yeah, well, mamma hit the jackpot and who better to spend it on than her bitch," Brooke responded, leaning in and rubbing her nose against Sam's, effectively diffusing any scathing response the brunette could have come up with.

"Were you born this charming, or is this the result of tireless hours of practice?" Sam asked sarcastically though a beautiful smile was gracing her equally beautiful lips.

"I'm all natural baby," Brooke responded, bringing their lips together playfully.

"Tell that to Clairol," Sam replied, a wicked grin spreading across her face.

"I don't know what you're talking about," Brooke stated, drawing her head back slightly so that she could see Sam's face.

"I've seen the bottles," Sam responded, the smile never having left her face.

"That's…it's just to lighten it," Brooke stammered.

"I love you anyway," Sam replied.

"That's very big of you," Brooke commented.

"I know. That's why I'm fabulous," Sam agreed.

"Shut up and gimme some sugar," Brooke responded, smiling as she leaned in. Sam smiled back and brought her head forward bringing their lips together in a deep, passionate kiss. "Come on," Brooke said softly when they separated, taking Sam's hand into her own.

"Where?" Sam asked, allowing Brooke to lead her nevertheless.

"To the door," Brooke responded, walking them over to said object which she locked upon their arrival. "Then to the bed," she continued once again leading Sam by the hand to the object in question.

"My mom," Sam started.

"Your mom's gone grocery shopping," Brooke responded with a wide smile as she lifted the laundry basket resting on the bed to the floor. "We have the house all to ourselves."

"I wish I had a million dollars," Sam whispered as a smile covered her face.

"What?" Brooke asked quizzically, drawing Sam towards her all the same.

"When you first came in, I wished that we had the house all to ourselves again," Sam responded, placing her hands on Brooke's hips. "Since that wish came true, I just thought that I'd cover my bases," she continued as her hands found their way under Brooke's shirt.

"That's my girl," Brooke responded before leaning forward and pressing her lips Sam's. As she did this, Sam slipped her hands underneath Brooke's shirt, massaging the soft skin there as she leaned into Brooke and felt her body begin to hum. After minutes, or hours, or a life time--Sam wasn't sure which and really didn't care--Brooke pulled away from her minutely, only mere centimeters separating them and looked at Sam with wide open eyes. Her cheeks slightly flushed, and her lips slightly parted she stood there, offering herself to Sam.

Sam immediately began to push the material of Brooke's shirt up but with an almost painful slowness, her eyes taking in every inch of skin as it was revealed, worshipping not just the body but the girl in front of her. Pulling the shirt over Brooke's head, Sam let it fall to the floor absently as she leaned in and attached her lips to Brooke's neck, licking and kissing her skin sensuously but hungrily. Leaving a wet trail in her wake, Sam made her way over to Brooke's shoulder, nipping at the skin as her hands made there way behind Brooke's back and unhooked her bra.

Stepping back, Sam then raised her hands to Brooke's shoulder and freed the blonde from the confines of her bra before renewing the contact between them, just into time to hear Brooke gasp slightly and feel the tremble that ran through her body. Ducking her head down Sam placed her lips over Brooke's heart kissing her, then trailed her way in between the valley of the cheerleaders breasts and down her stomach to the waist band of her pants. With her head now level with Brooke's waist Sam ran her hands up Brooke's legs bringing them to the waist band of her pants and unhooked them, slowly drawing the zipper down, then peeling the parasuco's off of the blonde's body.

Standing up and taking a step back once Brooke was free of the garment, Sam gazed at Brooke, who was standing perfectly still allowing the inspection without the slightest sign of protest.

"How can you do that?" Brooke asked softly as Sam watched her, a note of wonder creeping into her voice.

"What?" Sam asked, drawing her eyes to Brooke's.

"Look at me like you've never seen me before," Brooke responded.

"Because every time I see you it is like the first time," Sam replied as reverently as Brooke had posed the question, a gentle smile crossing her lips as she raised her hands to her own body and began to disrobe. Brooke reached out for her, but Sam stepped back shaking her head, that gentle smile she had gradually turning impish. Brooke returned to her former position, settling herself to the idea that this was now Sam's show. Actually, as the brunette began to left her shirt up teasingly and caressed her own abdomen sexily, Brooke had to admit that she really couldn't find anything wrong with that. Teasing Brooke with her excruciatingly slow movements Sam revealed herself inch by inch, never letting Brooke touch her until she was completely undressed.

"Oh god," Brooke breathed out desperately when Sam finally freed her from her prison and allowed their skin to meet for the first time. Pressing herself firmly against the brunette Brooke brought their lips together, her hands roaming over Sam's body frantically, as Sam moaned and arched into her.

Somehow, neither one of them actually certain how it actually happened, they ended up on the bed, Brooke smiling and leaning over Sam. The brunette responded to their new position by pulling Brooke's mouth down to hers, forcing the blonde to drape her body over Sam's completely, so that almost every part of them was in contact.

Breaking the contact between their lips almost regretfully, Brooke dropped her head down and began to shower kisses along Sam's neck, trailing her lips across her collar bone and then downwards, encircling Sam's right breast with sweet kisses. Sam arched up into Brooke's mouth, crying out into the still of the room, her sounds of passion exciting Brooke even further as the blonde captured Sam's nipple in her eager mouth. As Brooke's lips concentrated on Sam's chest, her hands once again began to explore the brunette's body, another moan escaping the confines of Sam's lips as Brooke's fingers danced along her torso causing waves of pleasure to roll over Sam, her head turning to the side as she bit down on her lips hotly.

Slowly, adoringly Brooke kissed her way down Sam's body, as her hands rose to take over where her lips had left off. Sam's breath caught in her throat, and her eyes closed, a decidedly erotic sound making it's way from deep within her which brought an answering whimper from Brooke.

Now, dragging her hand down, Brooke let her hand intimately explore the smooth, soft flesh before removing her lips from Sam's abdomen and looking up at Sam's face; her eyes were closed and her bottom lip snared between her teeth erotically. Brooke watched her with something close to awe. Her hand stopped it's movements, and she stayed in the position she was in watching Sam, silently wishing that she would open her eyes. And when those brown orbs did flutter open Brooke was captured by their vibrancy, her breath hitching with look of raw passion clouding them, directed at her. Not taking her eyes off of Sam's Brooke shifted her position slightly, moving further down on the bed, then lowered her lips the flesh of Sam's inner thighs, licking and kissing the skin she found there passionately.

Sensations were running rampant throughout Sam's body, wonderful, exhilarating feelings that seemed to engulf her completely as Brooke kissed her way up Sam's legs. When the blonde finally reached her intended destination, her tongue slipped out and dipped between the folds of Sam's sex with an indolence that was almost unbearable yet maddeningly exciting at the same time. Sam's eyes once again closed at the touch of Brooke's mouth to the center of her being, despite the fact that she was desperately willing them to stay open, and her hands grasped at her sheets, her fingers retracting into fists as she grabbed handfuls of sheet and her body undulated.

Prying her eyes open with an almost superhuman force, Sam's eyes held the blue of Brooke's for a moment before she felt the blonde's mouth close around the bud of her pleasure and her fingers slipped inside of her, moving in and out of her attentively as Brooke lips and tongue caressed the nucleus of her pleasure. Sam's body rose and fell vigorously, as her right hand clutched at the sheets beside her and her left hand held Brooke firmly in place, as if there was any place else the blonde would rather have been. Brooke reveled in Sam's death grip as she felt the body beneath hers tense, Sam's body rising one last time before the physical and emotional pleasure she was feeling finally cumulated into one mind-blowing orgasm that washed over her like a tidal wave, her body shaking and shivering as she moaned Brooke's name over and over again.

Sam reached out blindly, drawing Brooke upwards needing to feel every inch of the cheerleader against her. Raising herself up, Brooke planted small kisses along Sam's body as the brunette's body came under control. Raising her face above Sam's, Brooke simply gazed at her until she felt Sam's hand come to rest on her cheek and caught those magnificent eyes watching her. Having already learned that words often failed her at moments like this, Brooke simply leaned down and brought her lips to Sam's once more, trying to pour everything that she felt for her into it, trying to make her kiss the embodiment of her love.

Breaking from the kiss, Sam stroked the side of Brooke's face gently, her fingers following a pattern only she could detect on the warm skin of the blonde's face. "What are you thinking?" Sam asked, truly having no idea what the cheerleader was thinking. She had discovered that after they made love Brooke's mind usually wandered to strange yet wondrous places.

Brooke turned her head to side and could just see over the edge of the bed to the laundry basket lying on the floor. "I think that we should do this load," Brooke responded decisively. Sam rolled her eyes and tilted her head up to the ceiling, her body trembling with barely restrained laughter.

Part Twenty-Three

----------------------

Brooke carefully exited her room, checking to see if the hallway was clear before making her way out into the hall and over to Sam's room. Checking the knob, she found the door open and slipped inside noiselessly. Sam was standing in front of her mirror, her back turned to Brooke, and the blonde leaned against the door she had just closed with a smile and observed the other girl with a soft smile on her face. Sam was dressed semi-casually--as Brooke had suggested so they won't draw too much attention when leaving the house--and standing there watching her brush her hair Brooke was certain that if she wasn't already entirely in love with Sam, she would have fallen for her watching her there in the pale light and peace of the moment.

"In civilized society it's considered customary to knock before entering someone's private space," Sam drawled lazily, not for a moment stopping her actions.

Brooke smiled wider and made her way over to her girlfriend. "If someone had been ready on time, this barbarous act would need not have been commented," she responded, stopping slightly behind Sam, meeting the brunette's gaze in the mirror. "You're gorgeous," Brooke continued a second later.

Sam smiled a wicked, sexy smile and turned around so that she could see Brooke completely. "I suppose," she replied in an almost whisper, "that it takes one to know one," she went on, raking her eyes over Brooke, who--she noticed in a naughty kind of way--was turning a bit red.

"Don't look at me like that," Brooke warned, feeling herself begin to react to the positively lecherous look on Sam's face. "We're already late."

Sam put up her hands in the universal sign of peace, although she still looked rather amused and a little bit lecherous. "I'm ready."

"Is everything set?" Brooke asked before gallantly taking Sam's hand into hers and kissing it softly.

"The elder," Sam said started, smiling over a Brooke, "thinks that I'm off to the movies with Carm and Lily, and that it's very sweet of you to drop me off," she continued deciding to omit the part about her mothers almost dictatorial questions about her plans for the evening.

"Chanel boutique for me," Brooke responded. "After you my dear," she continued, crossing over to the door and spryly opening it.

Part Twenty-Four

--------------------------

Cynthia Gale rolled her eyes then turned to smile at her mother warmly as she made puking sound effects in her head. Ah, family dinners, what heinous torture they were. She couldn't believe that she was missing lady's night at "The Mirror" AND the Chanel boutique so that she could share spaghetti and garlic bread with her parents and her bratty younger brother--or as she liked to refer to him "the accident". Considering, not for the first time, setting off her own beeper, she lazily rolled her head to the side. 'Well, that's interesting," she thought to herself as she gazed at a table off to the corner of the restaurant. 'What the hell is that,' she continued to think as she straightened up and focused more intently on the table.

She thought that she saw Sam McPherson and Brooke McQueen sitting there. Unless, they had somehow been miraculously cloned, she was sure that she saw Sam McPherson and Brooke McQueen. They were sitting, together, at a table for two. Cynthia was confused.

Sam and Brooke hated each other. Everyone knew that. There were certain universal truths in the world, Cynthia thought to herself: Not counting Pamela Lee, Celine Dion was Canada's biggest shame, kid's who played Dungeons and Dragons would end up thirty-year old virgins, you didn't where a swim-suit in L.A. unless you had a suitable tan to go along with it, and Sam and Brooke were bitter enemies. She had been in the cafeteria that fateful day of the most destructive food-fight in Kennedy High's history. She had seen its propagators, the darkly beautiful Sam and the sunshine perfect Brooke glare at each other with the white hot intensity of a sun before they began flinging food at each other that afternoon, she had read the scathing newspaper articles, and seen the grown-up version of red rover played in the hallways. She had witnessed first hand the unpleasantness that was Brooke and Sam's relationship, and the fact that she now saw them sitting down to what looked like a civil dinner with each other just didn't compute.

She turned to face her mother with a glassy expression. "What?"

"I said, isn't that Jane McPherson's daughter?" her mother repeated, looking over at the table Cynthia herself had just been studying.

"Well, the brunette is Sam McPherson so I think it's a definite possibility," Cynthia responded dryly, causing her mother to frown.

"Why are you like that?" her mother asked in response.

"Like what?" Cynthia responded tiredly.

"Don't use that tone with me," her mother replied.

"What tone?"

"You know what tone."

"If I knew what I tone, I wouldn't have asked what tone."

"Don't get fresh with me young lady!"

"Oh Lord," Cynthia groaned, immediately regretting it. It was going to be a long night.

---

Brooke observed Sam thoughtfully, studying her face in the pale orange glow of the candlelight, watching the way the shadowed shifted and swayed across her features, making the face the Brooke had studied so intently and so lovingly mysterious and familiar to her all at once. She thought that she would never get tired of looking at that face, that it would always be a wonder to her.

"What?" Brooke asked, snapping herself out of the daze she'd been in.

"I asked if you noticed anything strange about the way my mom was acting today?" Sam repeated with a smile. The truth was Brooke wasn't the only one with a wandering mind. Sam had been in a somewhat dreamlike state since they had left the house, she couldn't quite seem to wrap her mind around the idea that they were actually out on a date, a real date. She felt like she should have been anxious, or jumpy or something, but it all just seemed so natural. It was like they had done it a million times before. But, Sam thought to herself, even though her entire relationship with Brooke had been a series of new experiences, it had never really felt that alien, it was more like they were just getting comfortable.

"N…" Brooke started to respond, but she stopped and crinkled her brows together in thought. "Maybe," she responded, thinking about how she had found Jane that afternoon for the first time. "She seemed a little out of it when I came home, but I wouldn't say strange exactly. Why?"

"I don't know, either I'm more of a hermit than I thought or something's going on with her, because when I told her I was going out tonight her eyes practically bugged out of her head and she stumbled all over her words until I mentioned Carm and Lily," Sam responded with a rather perplexed look on her face. "It was like I had told her I was going on a crack run, or enrolling in Mme. Butterfly's school for education of young wenches."

"Well," Brooke responded slowly. "You are an attractive young woman, maybe she really is worried about your virtue. It's a big, bad, good-looking city out there."

"Very funny."

"I'm serious. Kind of," Brooke responded, smiling. "She's just being a mom."

"I know, I just don't like it that's all," Sam responded with a pout, still remembering with horror the lecture they had gotten after Jane had found condoms in their washroom. "Remember the condom speech? Ugh," she continued dramatically, making a horrified face. "I can NOT go through that again."

"There is a bright side," Brooke related in an upbeat tone.

"What's that?"

"I won't have to sit through the speech this time," Brooke responded, laughing heartily until she caught the look in Sam's eyes, then she stopped, immediately. "Seriously though," she added, sniffing and straightening up, "I don't think we have anything to worry about. I'm probably the last person she'd look at, so really it's all good."

"That's true enough," Sam responded. "It'll just make things more difficult if she starts playing Jane McPherson: Middle Aged Detective. She watched 'Murder She Wrote' too much for me to be completely comfortable."

Brooke was silent for a moment, then said "Sam," in a very grave tone, her eyes never leaving the brunette's for a moment. "Let's not talk about your mother. I mean no offense to her…but, truthfully … she's a buzz kill." And it was true. Sam regarded Brooke for a moment then smiled, acknowledging that she really didn't want to talk about her mother either.

"Tell me something about you that I don't know?" Brooke asked a moment later, looking at Sam softly but intensely. Sometimes she would look at Sam and think that for all the things she knew about the girl, for instance that her ear lobes were particularly sensitive or that she really did like Shania Twain, she really knew nothing at all.

"It'll take some of the mystery out of the relationship," Sam warned somewhat uncomfortably. It wasn't easy for her to let her defenses down, she had spent so many of her prime years building them up after all. "Mystery is sexy isn't it?" she asked, but she already knew she would answer. Brooke did that to her, and truthfully she was glad she did.

"I don't want mystery, I want you," Brooke responded honestly. She wasn't going to force Sam to tell her anything, she was sure she would find out everything she needed to know about Sam in time, it was just that she didn't want to wait. With everything that had happened between them over the past few days, she just wanted something that would bring them closer together.

"When I was eight, I wanted to be a ballerina," Sam responded, dipping her head down slightly, looking at Brooke through her eyelashes. She had never told anyone but her mother this. "I had the heart…but I didn't have the feet," she continued with a touch of wistfulness to her voice. "To this day I can't listen to Abba without getting a little misty," she practically groaned.

"Why Abba?" Brooke asked slightly perplexed. She was with Sam up until she mentioned the Swedes. Besides, she decided that it was better to focus on that part of the statement and not mention how absolutely adorable she thought it was that Sam wanted to be a dancer. The mental picture she was getting of a little Sam in a too-too was almost too much for her.

"I know it's not spelled the same, but I was young, and not yet hooked on phonics," Sam responded. "The acronym for the American Ballet Association is ABA," she continued, "or Abba, as I liked to think of it. This, and the fact that Abba sang Dancing Queen, just did it for me."

Brooke nodded somewhat solemnly, deciding to part with some information herself. After all, she too had had a childhood, and like most peoples it was rather embarrassing, despite her fathers contention that it wasn't embarrassing but precious. "I always wanted to be She-Ra," Brooke revealed. "I even had a plastic sword … but Dad took it away when I kept poking myself with it. However, I still have the tiara."

Sam smiled and looked over at Brooke fondly, her eyes sparkling in the candlelight. She-Ra, oh lord. "That explains so much," she whispered, meeting Brooke's gaze. "You were a slow child weren't you?"

"A slow child with heart," Brooke informed her with a smile of her own. "And just for the record, I like your feet."

Part Twenty-Five

-----------------------

Brooke looked across the hallway to where Sam was standing, then looked away again. She then shuffled her feet and pretended to be listening to what Mary Cherry was saying before looking over at Sam once more then looking away again. She shuffled her feet some more, only stopping when Nicole whacked her on the arm and shot her a deadly glare.

"Either go over there or stop staring at her, people are going to think you paint clowns or something," the shorter blonde whispered harshly. God, how she hated young love. It reduced otherwise normal people into simpering, annoying idiots. It's like when the heart got filled up the brain fell out or something.

"I just…I was…yeah okay," Brooke responded, shifting her gaze between Nicole and Sam once more before finally beginning to make her way across the hall hesitantly, looking back at Nicole for moral support but only seeing a disillusioned head shake. It actually gave her the motivation that she needed.

Having completed her trek across the hall, Brooke stopped beside Lily and smiled at the occupants of the circle, which is to say Carmen and Lily. They smiled back at her. Brooke smiled back at them and nodded her head. They smiled back at her. Brooke turned her head and smiled at Sam.

"Will you excuse us for a second," Sam said to the other two brunettes. They nodded and Sam motioned from Brooke to follow her down the hallway a little bit.

"Hey," Brooke said still smiling once they were away from the other two.

"Hey," Sam responded, both amused and confused by Brooke's behavior.

"So uh, gym was pretty boring today huh?" Brooke asked.

"You mean the finer points of field hockey just didn't do it for you?" Sam asked, unconsciously rubbing at her shoulder where she had been hit with a stick.

"Are you okay? That looked like it hurt?" Brooke asked, concentrating on Sam's shoulder. "I would have checked on you, but I feared for my life if I left the penalty box." Sam smirked.

"I feared for your life when you got sent to the penalty box," she responded, remembering the look of pure rage that had engulfed teachers face. "What did you say to her anyway?"

"I don't remember," Brooke responded, shaking her head and rubbing at the back of her neck. "I wish I knew though, so that I could never, ever say it again."

They were silent for a moment after that, Brooke's eyes drifting around again, only settling on Sam for brief moments before skittering away once again.

"Are you okay?" Sam asked finally. She hadn't seen Brooke this jittery in a while.

"Yeah, I mean…did ummm," Brooke started, her eyes flittering around there immediate vicinity before settling on Sam once again, "I just…I was wondering if you, you know, like had fun last night?" she asked, looking at Sam once more before her eyes started to roam nervously once more.

"It was the best date I've ever been on," Sam responded, her heart swelling as she smiled at the blonde reassuringly. Brooke was nervous about how their date had gone. Considering that they had already made love, broken up, gotten back together and declared their love for each other, Sam found it both ludicrous and unbelievably charming that Brooke would be nervous about how dinner had gone.

"It's the only date you've been on," Brooke pointed out reasonably, still looking at her shoes.

"Yes, and I'd say I'm off to an excellent start," Sam responded, dipping her head down trying to get Brooke to look up again. When she did look up Sam smiled at her tenderly and for the first time since Brooke had come over to her she seemed to relax. Sam shook her head, god how she loved this girl.

---

"I'm telling you Jennifer 'call me love' Hewitt had a boob job," Cynthia stated with absolute certainty. "Have you seen 'I Know What you Did Last Summer'? Don't even try to tell me those things real. She could use them as floatation devices if she was ever in a plane crash," she continued as she and her entourage--as she liked to think of them--made their way to their lockers.

"But she seems so natural," Susan protested. She liked 'call me love' Hewitt. She thought that she had spunk, and real talent.

"Yeah, natural like SMG's hair colour," Cynthia responded derisively as she opened up her locker and began to unload her books. Looking up, her eyes caught on a scene and stopped what she was doing to observe it. "Okay, look at that," she said, gesturing towards Brooke and Sam who were standing off to the end of the hallway talking to themselves. "Does somebody want to tell me what the fuck is up with that?" she asked looking around at the group around her.

"Yeah, that is kind of weird," Megan agreed, observing the scene. "I thought they like hated each other or something."

"Yeah, don't they like hate each other or something," Regan agreed. "They like hate each other."

"They can't hate each other too much," Cynthia replied, looking at them with narrowed eyes. "I saw them having dinner together last night."

"Their parents probably want them to be like friends or something. Think about how they act at school and imagine what they must be like at home," Susan suggested.

"They were there alone," Cynthia responded, "And they seemed to be getting along just fine."

"Sam hasn't written any damaging articles about the popular's in a long time," Megan observed keenly. "Maybe they don't hate each other anymore. Maybe they're like friends now."

"Thank you for that insightful commentary," Cynthia muttered under her breath. She was certain that she had already covered that and with much more flare and wit than Megan. "I'd kill to find out what happened though. Blood feuds just don't end over night."

"Romeo and Juliet ended their blood feud by falling in love," Regan commented in a dreamy tone. Cynthia rolled her eyes.

"Yeah, I can just see Brooke climbing up to Sam's window declaring that she is the sun and Sam the moon," she responded, which resulted in a good laugh for all.

---

Harrison observed Brooke and Sam from his position just down the hall from them. He had joined Carmen and Lily shortly after Sam had pulled Brooke away, and had immediately taken up spying on them. When Brooke had began to talk, she had looked nervous, fidgeting with her hands and looking about her anxiously, but she had calmed down soon after she began to speak to Sam and they were now speaking with each other comfortably. Every once in a while he would see one them make a motion with her hand, or one of them turn to the side trying to smother a laugh, and more than once in a while he would see one of them look at the other in brief, intimate glances.

"Don't even think about going over there and starting something," Carmen warned him, drawing Harrison out of his trance. "They've been suffocated for the past week and they don't need you going over there with outstretched hands."

Harrison looked over at her with a slightly surprised look on his face. Her was surprised by the barely veiled hostility in her voice. She wasn't making a comment, she was issuing a warning. He was not to go and upset them or else. He sighed, then focused on Carmen for the first time since his muttered 'hello'.

"I know," he mumbled contritely. Suddenly he was a four-year-old who had been caught with freshly baked chocolate cake all over his face. "I know I was wrong," he continued, shifting his position uncomfortably. He had spent the previous night looking through old photo albums, looking at old photos of him trying to launch Sam off of the teeter totter, and Brooke using him as a life sized Barbie doll to try out her five year old hair styles etcetera, etcetera. And as he looked through the photos he was reminded what a big portion of his life they both held, but Sam especially.

As Brooke's words played through his head, he knew that she was right, and that acting the way he was acting would only hurt him. Because, Sam had Brooke and Brooke had Sam, and if he went on playing his asshole games, it was clear that he would have no one, especially since Carmen had just made it very clear that she was onboard with Sam and Brooke, and where Carmen went Lily went. He supposed that it would take time for him to actually become okay with the situation, that this feeling for them wouldn't just disappear over night, but he realized that he better start acting a friend instead of non-ex-boyfriend or else he wouldn't have a chance to make it up to them.

"I'm going over there," he announced a moment later, looking between Carm and Lily. "But I swear I go in peace," he continued. They looked at him dubiously, but said nothing. It was his right to wrong, and his wrong to make even worse if he should so choose.

Brooke was the first to spot his approach, which wasn't really surprising considering that she was facing him, and she watched it inquisitively. Sam turned around shortly after Brooke spotted him, no doubt wondering what had caught her girlfriend's attention, and she then watched him too, her body tensing perceptively and her lips thinning into a set line.

"Can I talk to you?" he asked once he reached them. Sam shrugged. "In private?" he asked, clarifying. Sam hesitated. "I'd rather not grovel in the hallway," he said in response to her non-answer. Brooke smiled knowingly, and nudged Sam, who then glared at her but agreed to go off with him nonetheless.

Part Twenty-Six : "Poor Jane!"

---------------------------------------

Jane walked by Sam's room, the door was open and as she passed by her eye caught a hold of the poster on the back wall and she stopped to take a good look at it. The poster was of Shania Twain, she of midriff greatness, and looking at the poster seriously for the first time Jane suddenly realized that Shania wasn't really wearing a whole lot of anything. In fact, from Shania's expression she decided that the songs-tress wasn't so much taking a picture as she was making love to the camera. Jane began to realize that this poster was promising sex; Shania was promising sex to the owner of the poster, which in this case would be her daughter. Jane turned away from the poster and resumed her course down stairs with a new and intense dislike of Shania Twain and her lyrics about feeling women.

As Jane entered the dining room she observed Brooke strut into the living room, apparently just back from practice since she was still in her uniform, where Sam was working. Momentarily sidetracked, she watched as they greeted each other warmly--which really wasn't so extraordinary as it had become their custom. Sam put down her pencil and made some comment to Brooke that Jane couldn't hear, but which she assumed was funny since it made Brooke smile. Truthfully, it wasn't the friendly banter that interested Jane so much as it was Sam's reaction to Brooke. From the moment the blonde entered the room, Sam had focused her undivided attention on her and this is what kept Jane watching them from her secret position, even though she felt ashamed of herself for spying.

They continued to speak for a minute before Brooke plucked something out of her bag and walked over to the stereo system. As she did this, Jane watched Sam watching Brooke. The brunette's eyes drew over the blonde's body, positively raking over her partially clad form, a wicked sort of smile tugging at her lips. Jane had seen that look before on countless people's faces. She had seen it in bars, and offices, and stores and anywhere where people were. She knew what lay behind that look; she knew what that look was. It was passion.

Jane was broken out of her reverie by the sound of pulsing music--apparently that's what Brooke had been doing in front of the stereo while Sam ogled her. Concentrating on the scene in front of her once again, she saw Brooke swaying to the beat casually, the movement almost seeming unconscious, although Jane had no way of telling if it actually was unconscious or just the style of the day. Still sashaying, in a way that Jane couldn't characterize as asexual--even though she desperately wanted to--Brooke made her way over to Sam, and flopped down on the couch beside her. From that position she slid over so that she was practically sitting in Sam's lap and flipped through the pages of the notebook Sam had been writing in, making some comment that caused Sam to reach out and slap her gently, to which Brooke merely smiled and continued with her page flipping.

As Jane watched, she could see that Brooke was talking, but she doubted that her daughter had any more of an idea what the blonde was saying than she herself did. In the intimate position that they were in, it seemed to Jane as if Sam was concentrating mostly on not leaning into the cheerleader. She could see Sam's body sometimes rock towards Brooke as the blonde spoke, then move away again, as if she were afraid of getting too close.

This was all too much for her and Jane leaned back against the wall and closed her eyes, breathing deeply. Things were starting to make sense to her now, in a completely surrealistic way that was. The girls newfound friendship, suddenly beginning to become understandable. Jane was now reasonably certain that Sam was subtly--maybe even unconsciously--trying to court the blonde. She figured that when Sam realized she was attracted to Brooke--a fact that was now painfully clear to Jane--she must have begun to act differently around her, the origins of her hostility having been recognized. This probably led them to spend quality time together, as they did have the house all to themselves when she and Mike were away, and unknowingly Brooke must have been going along with it, oblivious to Sam's real feelings for her.

Jane resisted to urge to bang her head against the wall, knowing that it would draw some unwanted attention to herself, and that it would stop a brain that was barely functioning from functioning at all--and quite frankly she needed in brain in working order. She needed to figure out what she was going to do about the situation, the problem was there just weren't any books on how to deal with situations like the one she was dealing with. How did one go about talking to their daughter about said daughter's ogling of her soon to be stepsister? And, once one did manage to have the talk how did one then make sure that said ogling stopped? These were questions Jane just didn't have the answers to. These were questions Jane was beginning to fear she would never find the answers to. She loved her daughter, and would support her she just wondered to anyone who was listening why on earth Sam had to become infatuated with Brooke of all people. Dear, sweet, oblivious Brooke, Jane thought to herself with a sigh. How was she supposed to handle this?

Jane continued to consider this for a few more moments, then decided that she found the entire situation terribly perplexing and that she needed to lie down. The Cowardly Parent, she thought to herself as she walked up the stairs. Too bad she wasn't in Oz.

It was actually a good thing that Jane left to go lay down when she did, because if she had stayed any longer she would have seen Sam playfully start to move her hand underneath Brooke's skirt, and she would have seen Brooke only have heartedly slap it before giving in totally to Sam's roaming hands, and this would have given her a whole new set of problems to worry about.

Part Twenty-Seven

------------------------

Brooke tussled her hair and pursed her lips looking into the mirror again. Spinning around dramatically, she tried several different poses, all determined to discover whether or not her pants made her ass look big. After that she entered into a whole new series of poses designed to determine whether or not her hips looked big, her chest looked flat and her calves looked bovine-ish. Finally, once she was satisfied that everything looked in proportion, she tussled her hair some more.

"How do I look?" Brooke asked, finally spinning around to look at the other occupant of the room.

"Gwyneth herself would be envious of your radiance tonight," Nicole replied with a wicked grin. "Very nice. How about me?" she asked, spinning around so that Brooke could get a good look at the magnificence that was her.

"Very Charlize Theron a la Oscars double nines, sexy and stylish. Two thumbs up," Brooke responded, smiling.

Turning back to the mirror, Brooke smoothed out her shirt and looked at herself contemplatively again. There was something slightly narcissistic about the amount of time she had spent in front of the mirror that night, but she couldn't help it. "You think Sam'll like it?" she asked Nicole meditatively as she turned her head to the side.

"She has eyes right?" Nicole responded, watching Brooke begin to primp and preen again with a touch of amazement. Not for the first time she considered the oddity that was Brooke and Sam's relationship. She just didn't understand what Brooke saw in Sam and her adventures in open-mouthed journalism. She wasn't blind, she could see that Sam was an attractive young woman, after a beer or two Nicole was even fairly certain that she could do Sam if the girl managed to not open her big, fat mouth. But loosened inhibitions didn't explain Brooke and Sam. As much chagrin as it caused her, Nicole had to admit that Brooke seemed to be in love with Sam, and Sam seemed to be in love with her too. She had to acknowledge that they genuinely liked each other as people and had a mutual respect for each other. The only way that she could comprehend that was to repeat to herself, "the universe is a strange and wonderful place", so that's what she did.

Nicole was interrupted from her thoughts when she sensed Brooke move behind her.

"I'm glad you're coming," Brooke stated simply. She was now certain that nothing short of death--or boarding school if their parents were to find out what they were up to--would separate her from Sam again, and that being the case she decided that she had to start trying to merge their worlds together. It was easier for her to enter Sam's world as Carmen already liked her, Lily was fairly indifferent to her, and Harrison, well she wasn't really sure about him anymore but he wasn't openly hostile. It was going to be a little bit tougher for Sam she was sure, which was why she had asked Nicole to join them on their excursion. After herself, Nicole was the big cheese as far as the social order went and she knew that if she could get Nicole to at least tolerate Sam's presence the rest of the flock would fall into order because they wouldn't want to rock the boat. It was the how to get Nicole and Sam getting along part worried Brooke, but this was a start.

"Please, it's lady's night," Nicole responded, swishing around to face Brooke. The truth was Nicole was a firm believer that in today's world of broken homes and nuclear families, one's friends became their family. That being the case, Brooke was her family, and as such certain considerations had to be made though she loathed to do it. Despite her momentary lapse into supreme bitchiness, Brooke really was the most important person in life--sad as it was. So, if it meant that she had to be civil towards Spam, she would do it, grudgingly. Plus, it really was lady's night.

"We should go," Brooke said, glancing at her clock. "We're late."

"I'm not the one that spent two hours getting dressed for someone who's already seen me naked," Nicole responded, swishing out the door fabulously--as always.

"Shut up," Brooke responded, pouting a bit as they made their way down the stairs.

Jane and Mike were in the living room and came out to greet the girls as they descended. They too were dressed for a night on the town. Brooke frowned, she hadn't known they were going anywhere. If she had known they were going somewhere she wouldn't have been going anywhere!

"Looking good Big Mac," Nicole commented, patting Mr. McQueen on the shoulder and winking at him. Brooke sighed and shook her head, it really disturbed her when Nicole did this. Flirting was one thing, flirting with her father was another thing. It was just, well gross.

"You look nice," Brooke commented, turning to face Jane who seemed slightly amused by Mike's discomfort. She needed to distract herself, Nicole was telling Mike how 'strapping' he looked, which meant that she was moments away from hyperventilating and passing out. This had to be avoided at all costs.

"Thank you, you don't look too shabby yourself," Jane responded, smiling. She was actually glad that the girls were spending some time apart. Not that she wasn't one for family togetherness, she just wasn't really big on too much family togetherness. And, she figured the less time they spent together, the faster Sam's infatuation with Brooke would pass. This having separate plans thing pleased her immensely.

"Oh, this old thing," Brooke replied, ignoring the look Nicole sent her.

After another moment of exchanging pleasantries Brooke began to herd Nicole out the door. "Have fun," she called back to the parental units as she headed out the door, "and don't wait up." With that the blondes vanished from their world.

"Freedom," Brooke purred as she slipped into the plush leather of Nicole's car.

"Even better, 'Sirens'," Nicole responded as she started the car up.

"Where did you hear about this place anyway?" Brooke asked. Nicole merely smiled and pulled out of the driveway. Yeah, tonight was definitely going to be fun.

---

Sam ran her hands over her shirt--not that there was much shirt to run her hands over--and exhaled sending strands of her hair flying about her face. Taking another look in the mirror she observed herself for a moment before deciding that this was as good as it was going to get. Turning around she observed the other occupants of the room who were finishing up themselves.

"Ladies," Sam said, drawing their attention to her. "Do I have my skank on or what?"

"Two words: Fab Bu," Carm responded before letting out a little whistle.

"Are you sure I look trashy enough?" Sam asked, looking herself up and down. "After all, we are going to a club downtown, and eleven is when the ho parade begins." Truthfully, she didn't really care about proper club wardrobe, she just wanted to look delectable. She wanted to look hot, dead sexy and all that good stuff. She wanted to drive Brooke crazy.

"Let me put it this way," Lily responded, running a hand threw her hair tousling it a little. "I'd do you," she continued receiving grins from both Carm and Sam. She smirked to herself amused by the fact that they didn't know she was only half joking.

"Any glaring fashion faux paus?" Sam asked, thinking that the outfit was coordinated as far as she could tell. "With the fashion Nazi coming with us, I can't be clashing," she continued.

"You're clash free, not that it matters since Brooke would probably think you looked delicious in a burlap sack," Carmen responded. And it was true. The fact was that she wanted a boyfriend just like Brooke. "That girl's got it bad for you," she continued, enjoying the flush that came to Sam's face. Deciding, however, to give her a break, she then asked, "Moving on, question. Why is Satan…I mean Nicole coming anyway?"

Sam smirked. "I think Brooke wants us to bond. Or you know at least stop her from referring to me as Spam and me from referring to her as Smug Bitch," she answered, shaking her head. She had really gotten attached to calling Nicole Smug Bitch too, it rolled of the tongue with the greatest of ease, conveying everything Sam felt for the girl in one neat little package. It was as close to perfection as anything had ever come and she was going to have to give it up.

"Yeah, and next week we can solve the problem of world hunger," Lily commented sarcastically. Then again, she had never thought that Brooke and Sam would learn to get along.

"Don't forget overpopulation, and the destruction of the Amazon," Carmen added. "We can tackle those after we all start getting along with Mary Cherry," she continued. "Right Lil' Lily?" she asked, smiling at her friend winningly.

"Shut up," Lily responded, pouting. "I wasn't tryin' to kiss her!" she continued defensively. "And who the hell is Joe anyway?"

"Well have to discuss that later," Carmen responded taking a look out the window. "The cavalry has arrived…and it got a new paint job."

Part Twenty-Eight

-----------------------

"You, Ms. McPherson, look absolutely edible," Brooke, purred, sliding up behind Sam as they made their way towards the entrance of the club. Sam smiled, that's just the look she was going for. Yah, for her.

"That's Ms. Sanford of 142 Lakeshore Blvd., and thank you," Sam responded, flashing Brooke a grin as the blonde linked their arms together. "And you Ms…."

"Seaberg, Gretchen Seaberg. 22 years of age from West Hollywood," Brooke filled in helpfully though she made a face when she announced where her donor I.D. had come from. Of all places it had to West Hollywood. She couldn't help it, as much as she tried she remained an area code snob.

"Are like butta," Sam continued, running her eyes over Brooke's body appreciatively. Brooke smiled, that's just the effect she had been trying to produce. Yah, for her.

"Yo, Harly and Quinn," Nicole called drawing the girls' attention to her. "This way."

Nicole then led them around the side of the building, where she then left them for a moment to go over and talk to a bouncer that was watching the alley entrance. She spoke to him for a minute then walked back over to where she had left the others standing.

"Welcome to paradise," she said, rejoining them and gesturing for them to follow her through the now open door. "The drinks are expensive, and the bartenders are rude, but the ho train is in full effect and everybody's got their hooch on, so enjoy. And remember…you don't know me," she finished as they entered the main room.

"Ho-Ly," Sam breathed out as her eyes swept across the main part of the club.

"This is great," Brooke responded, looking around with the same look of awe that Sam had on her face. The place was unbelievable.

"I didn't think places like this existed off of celluloid," Carmen breathed out as she took in the sight in front of her. She didn't know what she had gotten herself into, but she liked it.

"This isn't a Tupperware party ladies. Mingle, mingle," Nicole said before sweeping out into the crowd dramatically where she was soon swallowed up.

The club itself reminded Sam of something out of a Greek myth, or Queer as Folk. In the center of the room was a fountain with water flowing into it from an artificially created fall off to the side. The room was covered in gold and pink and green sea-foam. They could as well have been in Cleopatra's palace, or at the very least her bathhouse. All around them were the sounds of pulsing techno music and gyrating scantily clad bodies. Girls and guys, guys and guys, girls and girls, everyone was with everyone and nobody seemed to give a good goddamn. The place was utterly trampy, it was tacky as hell, was a virtual eyesore of indecency. Sam smiled she liked it, it had character.

She was broken out of her revere when she felt Brooke wrap her arms around her waist place her lips right next to her ear while whispering "dance floor, now. I've wanted to get my hands on you sine you walked out of the house…and I do believe that I'm going to get the chance" she said, surveying the crowd with a smile of her own.

Part Twenty-Nine

-----------------------

"Just, let it go." Mike said softly. Jane had been trying to tell him something for the better part of ten minutes, and he still had no idea what she was talking about. He had noticed that she had seemed preoccupied for the past week or so, but he had assumed that it had to do with the wedding preparations. Now he wasn't so sure.

"It started with this pamphlet I found," Jane said, finally just putting it out there. She needed to talk to Mike about this as it would eventually effect him too. She had put off talking to him about it because all she had was circumstantial evidence. All she still had was circumstantial evidence, but it was good circumstantial evidence she had come to realize. She was also, she realized, looking for a bit of encouragement. She had meant to talk to Sam about it, but the few times the opportunity had arisen she hadn't had the heart to bring it up directly or even indirectly.

"Pamphlet?"

"In Sam's bedroom," Jane answered pensively. "I swear I was just tidying up a bit…I'm not one of 'those' moms," she went on. She had had one of those moms and she swore she wouldn't be one of the mom/amateur detective mothers who slipped into their children's room after they went of to school looking for naughty bits to hold over their heads.

"What was it about?" Mike asked, wondering what could possibly have upset Jane so much. Pamphlets were harmless weren't they? Mostly about healthy eating and study tips, surely that hadn't agitated her. He wished he would find a pamphlet!

"Same sex relationships. A romantic guide for the other ten per cent," Jane related shifting her position once again, her voice lowering unconsciously. When she realized what she'd done, she straightened up a little. Damn, social conditioning!

"Huh?" Mike questioned elegantly as always.

"I know," Jane responded, shaking her head helplessly. "It was basically a gay guide."

"Sam's?" Mike asked a moment later, forcing himself to calm down. Jane was already worked up enough, he didn't need to go adding to her anxiety. He really hadn't expected her to say that. Then again, he considered, it wasn't the type of thing that people went around expecting.

"Yeah," Jane answered lowering her gaze to the tabletop. "It's most definitely Sam's."

"Maybe," Mike started carefully, "she's just curious. Teens these days are curious, and it's even kind of trendy, what with Ally McBeal doing it and Jon Voight's daughter and all," he continued.

---

Brooke's hand ran down Sam's torso slowly, her fingers dancing across Sam's shirt then wrapping tightly around her waist as she drew them closer together. Sam melted into the body behind her, grinding against Brooke as the blonde lowered her face to Sam's neck and smiled against the slick skin there.

"Come on," Brooke whispered playfully into Sam's ear. "You can do it, put your back into it," she continued, pushing her hips against Sam's ass erotically.

Sam grinned and lifted her left hand up looping it around Brooke's neck, tangling her fingers in the blonde hair for a moment before turning herself around so that they were facing each other. Brooke's lips parted sexily, a small gasp coming out of her mouth as she took in Sam's wicked grin and her hotly disheveled appearance. Her brown locks were slightly tussled and there was a thin sheen of sweat glistening all over her body. She had a flustered, yet excited energy surrounding her, and Brooke found herself unconsciously leaning forward. To put it as succinctly as possible, Brooke wanted some of that.

Sam pulled back teasingly. "What was that about putting my back in to it?" she asked, dancing out of Brooke's reach.

"Nothing," the blonde responded immediately. "I liked where your back was, I don't know what I was thinking," she continued, pulling a willingly Sam back against her.

"Will you look at them," Carmen commented, leaning against the bar and shaking her head. After being accosted by some drunken men (and one woman) shortly after arriving she had made her way over to the bar thinking that the experience would be much more enjoyable with a few drinks in her. Unfortunately she found out that she was melancholy drunk, and after briefly sampling the available male inhabitants of the club, she had resigned herself to watching Brooke and Sam heat up the dance floor moodily.

"And us without our fire-hose," Lily responded with a smirk after spotting their friends on the dance floor. Having just returned from doing some networking Lily hadn't had the opportunity to observe what the lovebirds had been up to. However, getting her first look at them she could see why half the club had their eyes trained on them.

"I want that," Carmen stated longingly after a moment, watching as Sam turned to smile lovingly at Brooke. They were just so goddamn cute together. Always looking at each other with those dopey, Bambi eyes, smiling at each other intimately, and exchanging tender touches. If it weren't so genuinely touching seeing them together it would have pissed Carmen off.

"I'm afraid they're already taken," Lily commented though she admitted that she wanted that too. Though, she had to admit that everybody probably wanted love, and that the kind Brooke and Sam seemed to have was of the best variety.

"I didn't mean with either of them," Carmen responded, turning to glare at Lily.

"Then why are you standing here talking to me?" Lily asked with an impish grin. "The club is your oyster. Brooke and Sam are certainly making the most of the experience, and let's not even mention Nicole," Lily went on, turning to look at the shorthaired blonde, who was encircled by smarmy dancing men, nonetheless. "I say we find ourselves some muffins and get if not everlasting love than at least a few free drinks."

Carmen turned to look at Brooke and Sam once more. They were now draped around each other like expensive silk. Carmen sighed. "Alright…but I feel like I've just been sold the cheaper chicken."

---

"I don't think it's a phase," Jane responded honestly, holding his gaze. She appreciated what he was trying to do, but she had been there and done that, and she was fairly certain that her daughter was more than just curious, or trendy.

"I won't lie and say that I even considered this possibility, but…well, we should be supportive. I mean…with how things are, if she is, this is probably hard for her," Mike said haltingly. He believed that his suggestion was not only the mature thing to do but the right thing. He had heard that it was very confusing and difficult for teens especially with an alternative sexuality, and despite the tension that had existed between them when the McPherson women first moved in, he had come to care a great deal about Sam. Plus, that was a teen pregnancy they wouldn't have to worry about. He always liked to look at the glass as half-full.

"Of course," Jane responded. Nothing short of death would ever force her away from her daughter, she was not going to condemn her child for who she was, it just took a little getting used to. As liberal as she liked to consider herself to be, this really knocked the wind out of her. "It's just been on my mind a lot since I found the pamphlet," she continued, deciding to omit her speculations about Sam's feelings for Brooke until she had more concrete evidence. That information would just make things more complicated and that probably wasn't necessary since it was just a little unrequited crush.

"I'm sure it'll all work out," Mike responded, squeezing Jane's hand and smiling reassuringly.

---------------------------------------

Interlude: "Before Night Falls"

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Brooke gasped as Sam slid her hands under her shirt, moaning as the brunette began to vigorously explore the rapidly heating flesh she found there. Brooke raised her hands up to Sam's face holding her steady as she rained desperate kiss after desperate kiss all over Sam's face. They had been living in a world that consisted of sexual frustration, sexual frustration, and sexual frustration, and after their outing the previous night at the club the stewing pot had boiled over.

Responding to the urgency in Brooke's movements Sam pushed forward into the other girl causing Brooke to step back again and again until her legs bumped against the edge of her bed sending her and Sam tumbling down onto the pliant mattress and soon to be discarded covers.

"Thank the lord for annual check-ups," Brooke mumbled as she turned them over so that she was straddling Sam's waist. "With honorable mention going to the never-ending waiting line," she continued, pulling her top over her head, impatiently throwing it somewhere behind her.

Sam smiled up at her, then brought her hands up to Brooke's face bringing the blonde's head down until their lips crashed together. Sam continued to ravage her lips as Brooke shifted her position so that she was draped over the brunette's body, groaning into Sam's mouth as the journalist slipped her thigh between Brooke's legs. Pressing down on the newly offered surface, Brooke whimpered drawing her mouth away from Sam's, burying her face in the other girls neck, licking and nipping at the skin she found there as she rocked against Sam's leg with an almost primal urgency.

"Somebody's…" Sam started to say.

"If you say horny, I'll kill you," Brooke muttered into the brunette's ear. She managed to cease her actions as she began to speak, but some involuntary shudders still ran through her body as she tried to get her breathing under control.

"I was going to say eager," Sam responded, smiling. "We've got hours," she continued in a voice that was considerably huskier than usual.

"That's easy for you to say. I know what you were doing during that marathon shower you took this morning," Brooke responded, raising her head and looking down at Sam with a crooked smile on her face. As her gaze traveled down to rest on one of Sam's hands, one could even describe the expression on her face as a leer, if one were so inclined.

Sam stared at her for a moment, opening her mouth as if to protest Brooke's allusion, but her lips soon curved up into a playful grin, a flush traveling over her body, covering her skin. "Okay, so there was that," she responded slyly, watching with hooded eyes as Brooke's sky blue eyes turned a stormy gray upon hearing the admission. "Since you're so interested … in my personal grooming routine," Sam continued teasingly, "I could give you a demonstration." Sam offered, watching Brooke carefully, reveling in her reactions. This statement was accompanied by the blonde sucking in a deep breath and shuddering slightly. Sam took this to mean that Brooke wanted her to proceed with her tutorial and wasted no time trailing her hands up Brooke's thighs until they came to rest on the blonde's waist. From there she pushed softly shifting their bodies so that they were both lying on their sides, face to face. In this position she leaned forward bringing their lips together while simultaneously running her fingers across Brooke's stomach, her nails scrapping across the pale skin until she reached the waistband of Brooke's pants. Sliding her body up slightly, Sam then slipped her hand down the front of Brooke's pants. Brooke moaned and moved forward into Sam's hand wantonly.

And they were lost.

Sam ran her fingers through the silky softness of Brooke's hair. The blonde's head was resting on her shoulder, and Sam could feel the warmth of her breath warming the skin just above where the textbooks said her heart lay. "I had the strangest dream last night," she said into the stillness of the room. She felt Brooke shift against, her body 'saying continue, please, I'm on eggshells' as it rubbed against Sam's. "It was dark out, and you and I were laying in the whitest sand you've ever seen. There were tiny pink speckles in it, but it didn't take away from the effect, in fact they just made it all the more amazing. Your head was resting on my shoulder, like it is now, and I was looking up at the stars."

"That doesn't sound strange," Brooke said softly. "It sounds idyllic." There was a wistful quality to her voice, as if she had transported herself into the dream as Sam spoke, and was herself laying on the tropical beach in the brunette's arms.

"It was…until I saw something shoot across the sky," Sam responded. She could feel Brooke tracing her finger across her stomach, lightly drawing imaginary shapes on her skin. It was something Sam had come to expect from the blonde, a post-coital ritual of sorts, and it always made her heart skip a beat. "Soon after that I saw another streak, and then another and another. Then, the sky was filled with these blazing orange streaks. All around us it was raining these fiery orbs. We got scared and stood up, where we watched those fist sized balls of fire crashing down into the ocean. We started looking for a place to run, to hide, but there was no place to go. We were on an empty island, just us, a palm tree and the sand. We were so scared, but when we saw that there was no place to go, we just kind of stood there together, watching. And soon we noticed that none of the rocks were landing on the island, like it was a sacred place." Brooke stopped her motions, now drawing her arms around Sam, hugging the brunette to her body soothingly. "I moved closer to you and you and you wrapped your arms around me and the shower started to slow. Soon after that it stopped completely, and all around us was calm again. We laid back down; the only change from the beginning of the dream was the air. It was balmy."

"I could listen to you forever," Brooke said a moment later. "I would, gladly."

"That's good," Sam responded, looking down at the blonde head covering her chest, her tone droll yet gentle. "I have a lot to say."

"Really?" Brooke asked, freeing one of her hands to trail down Sam's body slowly, coming to rest on her knee where she fingered the scar she had discovered weeks -- or was is months? -- ago . "Tell me how you got this?"

Sam tilted her head back, her eyes roaming the ceiling, deep in thought. "My bike," she said finally, having tracked down the memory and gripped it firmly. "I had gotten Harrison to steal his Dad's double head screwdriver and take the training wheels off of it. I got on the newly bipedal instrument immediately, and for about five seconds everything was going off without a hitch. It was beautiful. I turned around to gloat; this turned out to be my downfall," Sam intoned gravely. "I lost control of the bike and toppled over. Sam fall down go boom. I must have cut my knee on some part of the bike, maybe on something on the sidewalk, I was never really sure what did it."

"I want to know the history of your body, every scar, every scratch, every crevice from head to toe," Brooke related when Sam finished speaking.

Sam turned around in the circle of Brooke's arms. She leaned forward and kissed her, as she thought 'I want to swim in your arteries and veins'. Brooke brought her hand up to the back of Sam's head pressing their lips more closely together, 'I want to inhabit your heart' her lips seemed to say. She wanted to be a part of the history of Sam's body.

Sam's hand trailed up Brooke's side, "I want to know all of you," she breathed out softly, her hands no longer tracing but caressing the skin underneath them.

Brooke gasped, and smiled into Sam's mouth. "Harlot! You want to go again, don't you?" she asked smirking. In response, Sam merely yanked the rumbled bed sheet over their heads and allowed the two most dexterous parts of her body to do her talking for her.

Part Thirty

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There are certain rules that govern human existence, one of which is that the only thing that moves faster than the speed of light in the natural universe is the speed of gossip, which is directly proportional to the scandalousness of the information to be gabbed about and spread around like syphilis in a 19th century burlesque house. The more damaging the information, the juicer, the sexier, the better. The place where this phenomenon was first documented and studied were high schools, for nowhere else on the planet--besides Hollywood--could you find a population of people more willing and with more free time to spread and create this gossip gleefully. Days after Sam, Brooke and their respective associates partied in a mightily hearty fashion at 'Sirens', anyone who was interested in this verbal wonder would have done well to visit the hallways of Kennedy High, for they were simply abuzz with hearsay that simply had to be passed along, ripped apart and spread to the masses for general consumption. Simply put it had been a very good weekend for the rumor mill and this was a Monday morning that was humming away.

Discussion Number 1:

"They were sooo Elizabeth Berkley and Gina Gershon from Show Girls!"

"No!"

"Yes! I saw it with my own eyes."

"What the fuck were you doing there anyway man!"

"Gay cousin Andrew and his partner took me. Free beer man. Anyway, I swear to god at one point Brooke had her hand up Sam's shirt! You should have come … I know I did later that night."

"That's sick man. So it was really hot?"

Discussion Number 2:

"How trendy. I expected more from Sam really."

Discussion Number 3:

"I heard there was so much sexual tension you wouldn't have been able to cut threw it with a Bob Vila chainsaw."

"You're so full of shit."

"I don't think so. I'm telling you I heard that they were positively ancient Greek about it. Everybody's saying so."

Discussion Number 4:

"Sleepovers at that house must be like the best in the whole wide world!"

Discussion Number 5:

"I don't know if that home needs improvement, but I'd sure like to be a fly on its wall."

"You don't seriously believe that shit, do you? Come on. Brooke's not gay…Sam maybe, but not Brooke. Whoever started this should have tried to make it at least a little bit believable. Like the Richard Gere gerbil story. Now that was juicy."

Discussion Number 6:

"I'm so serious, I half expected them to break it down on the floor. Hands were in naughty, naughty places."

"And how do you know about this? Were you there or something?"

"Uh…no."

"I can't believe you went to 'Sirens', that place is a tackily decorated STD."

"Yeah…well, you're ugly."

Discussion Number 7:

"I knew it. Yes I did. I so knew it."

Discussion Number 8:

"Ohmygod, I saw something like this on the Internet!"

"You do know that they're not actually sisters, don't you?"

Discussion Number 9:

"I knew it, I knew it. You can't have that much hate without there being something underneath."

"Does that mean that you're actually secretly in love with Bio Glass?"

Discussion Number 10:

"That's hot man. It makes me something else that starts with an 'h'." High fives are exchanged.

"Tell me about it. Rob said they were grinding it down hardcore man. He said they were like getting freaky man."

"We gotta start going to 'Sirens' dude."

"Definitely man, definitely."

Discussion Number 11:

"Is this a new trend? I hope we don't all have to start doing it. First Drew Barrymore, then Angelina Jolie, now this. I don't understand. Does it make you skinnier?"

"I'm not doing it. I don't care if it is popular. I think it's gross!"

"But does it make you skinnier? I'm just not into this Xena Warrior Princess shit, you know?"

"I don't know. Do you think it works if you just read Maxim? I can do that, but I'd actually read it for the articles."

"Did you see the one with Love, she was talking about this avocado mixture…"

Discussion Number 12:

"Gay? Like in an Elton John way?"

Discussion Number 13:

"I told you Brooke checked me out one time in the shower that time."

"Why would Brooke be checking you out if she has Sam?"

"Hello? Have you not been paying attention? She's gay...ish, I'm gay, maybe she was looking for some nookie."

"Once again I repeat, why would she be checking you out when she's got the sexiest, most delicious woman in the Western hemisphere at home?"

"Oh god, not your Sam fixation again. You sound like one of those thirteen year olds obsessed with the stars of the WB."

Discussion Number 14:

"What were you doing there?"

"I was checking out the guys…what do you think I was doing there. Hot Sapphic action you moron!"

"Somehow I get the feeling you really were checking out the guys."

Discussion Number 15:

"Did you say there was a video? I want the video dude."

Discussion Number 16:

"Brooke? Who cares about Brooke? What does this mean about Josh? Be still my throbbing loins!"

"He is in the musical."

"I know. Why do you think I joined?"

"Because you secretly want to be La Barbara."

"Secretly, please…"

Discussion Number 17:

"This is my greatest fantasy come true. Finally some grrlfriends that actually look like the ones on T.V."

Thus, we have the gossipmongers in their natural habitat. Fascinating.

Part Thirty-One

---------------------

Brooke moved her spoon around her cereal bowl restlessly as she stared at the soggy flakes contemplatively. She looked over at Sam who seemed to be about as interested in finishing her breakfast as she herself was and wondered if Sam was thinking about the same thing she was thinking about. As she thought about this she noticed Sam look over at her.

"Have you been getting the feeling lately that you're…." Brooke started to say.

"Being watched? Yes. I thought it was just me," Sam finished for her, agreeing with the sentiment. She had felt like she was constantly being watched for a couple days, and had thought that she was being paranoid but now she wasn't so sure. "What about when you walk into a room? Does everything…" she continued.

"Suddenly go quiet? Yes, totally," Brooke responded excitedly. So she wasn't going insane, it was just everyone else.

"Are you finding it as annoying as I am?" Sam asked, making a face. She was beginning to feel like the chief suspect in a murder case. Everyone was eyeing her suspiciously but not saying anything directly to her, like they expected her to pull out a knife and slice them with it or something. It was highly irritating.

"At least as much. It's driving me insane," Brooke related, tugging at her ear. She was used to people looking at her, but this was different. It was like they were judging her, or at least studying her. She felt like one of those single-celled organisms that they learned about in biology class. She decided that she didn't like being under a microscope.

"I'm a reporter, I should investigate," Sam said decisively. Now that she knew she wasn't making it up she wanted to know what was going on so that she could make it stop. Immediately.

"For once, I'm all for it," Brooke responded. "Ouch!" the cheerleader declared a moment later after Sam slapped her slightly on the shoulder.

"Behave," Sam instructed with a mock sternness. "I have something for you."

"Is it another punch? Cause if it is I don't want it," Brooke replied petulantly though she looked over at Sam expectantly.

Sam leaned over and kissed her on the cheek lightly.

"Is that okay?" Sam asked, watching as Brooke's frown turned upside down.

"That's very okay," the blonde responded about to make an offering of her own when Jane walked into the kitchen.

As Jane looked at them, she once again got the distinct impression that she was interrupting something. There was just something in their demeanor when they were together that both charmed and alarmed her. "You've still got a few minutes," she said absently as she noticed them both start to stand up.

Brooke looked down into her bowl, which now basically only contained a pile of brown mush and turned to face Jane. "That's okay," she responded. And with that she began to migrate towards the door.

"Brooke," Sam said, halting her progress. The cheerleader and her mother both turned to look at her. "Are you forgetting something?" Brooke looked at her quizzically.

Forgetting something? Surely Sam didn't want a goodbye kiss. Her mother was standing right there, plus, they were going in the same car.

Seeing the utterly confused look on the blonde's face, Sam held up her school bag, then pointedly looked at Brooke's empty hands. "Oh," Brooke said suddenly. "Oh," she repeated. "I'll go get that."

As Brooke headed out of the room, Sam leaned against the doorway, rolled her eyes up towards the ceiling, and boredly starting making clicking sounds with her mouth, which eventually ran together forming a little song. This seemed to amuse her, because she smiled and then started to do it more intently, bobbing her head along to the beat.

"What are you doing?" Jane asked more to try and make her stop than anything else.

"Just working on my music," Sam responded, grinning at her mother, before turning to stare lazily into the kitchen.

"Are you alright?" Jane asked. The question was more than a brilliant bridge into a conversation that Jane had been wanting to have with her, she was truly concerned. For the past five days or so, Sam had been relatively easy going, but before that her moods had been all over the place. Jane now believed she knew the cause of Sam's earlier depression, but she still wanted to hear what her daughter had to say.

"Yeah," Sam responded turning to face her mother once again. She had that look on her face again. That look Sam had come to dread. It was an inquisitive and sad look, and she had noticed her mother looking at her with it for a while. This look made her nervous, it wasn't a good look on Jane. "Why?" Sam asked, a touch of suspicion clear in her voice.

"I'm a mother, we have to ask sometimes to feel like we're doing our jobs," Jane responded, hearing Brooke at the top of the stairs. "And at the risk of turning the conversation into a cheesy but informative social studies video, I want you to know that if anything is bothering you … or if you're confused about something or just want to talk I'm here for you."

"I know," Sam responded, avoiding her mother's eyes. She wished that that was true, she had always been close to her mother, and especially so after her father's death, but what was up with her was NOT something that you talked to your mother about. "I've always known," she continued with a smile small, unable to say anything else yet wanting to comfort her mother somewhat.

Jane nodded, then turned her head to watch Brooke's approach. The blonde held up her bag proudly with a smile. "Remember when we were at grandma's and the dog brought the bird it had killed to the dinner table dropping it on the floor proudly?" Sam asked as she to looked at Brooke and shook her head. "This reminds me of that…only the dog had something to be proud of." Jane turned to look at Sam, and couldn't help but laugh.

"What?" Brooke asked, reaching them. The McPherson's just chuckled while trying to act like they weren't. "Come on...what?" Brooke said, her voice verging on whining. Sam and Jane stopped for a moment and looked over at her, then just when Brooke thought they were finally going to stop, they started all over again. Brooke could tell this was just going to be one fabulous bitch of a day.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Part Thirty-Two : "Sam and Brooke's No Good, Very Bad Day"

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Sam sighed and adjusted her bag, she could feel her heart rate increasing and knew that her palms were sweating, she could feel them all watching her. Dozens of pairs of eyes trained on her, thinking she didn't know what. It was like the walls themselves were watching her. Tilting her head to the side, her gaze caught Jason Burgess's roving eyes. Almost immediately a dirty smile appeared on his face and he licked his lips and winked at her. Sam immediately turned away and continued down the hall, a completely disgusted frown marring her features. She was still freaked and now she felt like she needed a shower. This was just the perfect day! She sighed to herself, things were getting ridiculous, it was ten times as bad as it had been the day before, now people weren't even pretending like they weren't talking about her, they would openly point! She sighed again, that was just rude. She wondered if Brooke was getting the same thing.

As she entered the cafeteria there was once again a wave of people that turned to look and look and look at her. Catching Brooke's eyes she saw a bewildered expression that matched her own. Sam quickly made her way over to where her friends were sitting and sat down, resting her arm on the table obscuring the side of her face from any watchers. Once safely tucked away she noticed that Harrison was sitting with them, it was the first time since she had told him about her and Brooke. Of course they had talked the day after her date with Brooke, and he had apologized for his behavior and said that things would change, however this was the first time she had actually noticed the change he promised. For the first time that day Sam's mood approached something resembling happiness. Maybe everything would be all right.

"Please tell me that you all noticed those children of the corn stares," Sam said looking at each of them beseechingly. In response the three other people at the table exchanged conspiratorial looks with each other and shifted in their chairs uncomfortably. Sam got a sinking feeling upon witnessing this. "What's going on?" she asked somewhat apprehensively.

"You seriously haven't heard?" Harrison asked somewhat dubiously. Sam was usually on top of these things. He was hoping that she had heard because he didn't want to be the one to break it to her. Honestly he wasn't sure, if push came to shove, that he could break it to her. Hell, he didn't even want to break it to himself!

"No," Sam responded in a distressed tone. He wasn't meeting her eyes. This was a bad sign. Whatever was going on was big, it was big and it was about her and she didn't even know what it was, she thought to herself working herself into a big 'ol panic. "I can't hear anything because when I approach people cease with the talking."

The three of them exchanged another set of looks.

"Everyone's talking about you," Carm finally said, her voice only a whisper.

"Yeah, I figured that much out on my own," Sam responded somewhat bitchily. Having the entire population of the school ogling her for days on end had really started to fry her nerves. "What are they talking about?"

"When I said you, I didn't mean you singularly, more like you as in you and Brooke, you," Carmen replied in a rush, refusing to meet Sam's gaze. "The general consensus is that you two are doing the horizontal mamba … and that lots of people wouldn't mind watching that particular dance."

Sam stared at Carm for a minute, the only motion in her body being her chest rising and falling at regular intervals. She continued to stare like this for quite some time before emitting a sound from the back of her throat that could only be described as the most pitiful whimper ever in creation before she dropped her head to the table and began whimpering some more.

"Look at the bright side, at least you won't be sent to an all girls school … or boot-camp," Lily commented. She immediately received a slap on the shoulder from Carmen and the stink-eye from Harrison. Sam merely moaned again and trashed her head about. This was officially a no good, very bad day.

---

Brooke observed everyone at the table dubiously, but she paid special attention to Mary Cherry. They were all acting bizarrely, but Brooke was finding Mary Cherry's repeated inquiries as to whether or not she wanted to squeeze her ripe, juicy melons particularly off-putting. Sugar Daddy was an interesting shade of red and despite her repeated attempts he didn't seem to be able to look her in the eye. Besides that Josh was shifting and shimmying in his chair like someone had poured itching powder down his pants, Popita was wearing plaid for some reason, and there was a general feeling of tension at the table. She got the distinct impression that there was a secret everyone was in on but her.

"Will somebody please tell me what the hell is going on here?" Brooke requested. Immediately Mary Cherry raised her hand in the air and began to bounce in her seat. Seeing that the southerner was the only volunteer – which made her worry even more -- Brooke told her to go ahead.

Once Brooke had given her the okay, Mary Cherry took a moment to compose herself then launched into her oratory with an amazing verve. "It is nah commin knowledge," she started dramatically, "that you Brooke McQueen, home-coming queen and mah personal model for all that it means to be blonde and beautiful -- next ta the goddess Gywneth of course -- have," she paused here with positively theatrical timing, "tasted of the forbidden fruit," she intoned gravely, before breaking out into a wide grin. "That is ta say that like the great Tallulah Bankhead, you have vigorously embraced the love that dare not speak its name." She then leaned back in her chair proudly and folded her arms.

Brooke was silent for a moment, then she turned to face Nicole. "So they know about Sam?" she asked her friend. The shorthaired blonde simply nodded. Brooke nodded back at her then said, "Well, in that case there's only one thing to do."

Upon hearing this Nicole's face immediately brightened. This was going to be very interesting, when Brooke got her bitch on, she could go with the best of them. Nicole had known that the school wide discovery of her relationship with Spam had been on Brooke's mind since she had confronted Nicole in the Novak weeks ago, however Nicole didn't know that was how the Brooke planned on dealing with the inevitable spread of the information. After their heartrending meeting it had became clear to Nicole that Brooke had had a change of heart regarding how she viewed her own relationship, now Nicole was just intensely curious to see how this newfound pride played itself out in a more public arena. In other words she was waiting on eggshells to see if Brooke was going to be all, 'we're here, we're queer', or if she was going to employ the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy. Only time would tell, and that time was upon them.

Brooke allowed her gaze to float around the cafeteria for a moment, taking in all of the looks that were still being sent her way. She bit her bottom lip and let out a soft sigh. Catching the eye of a girl at a table off to her right Brooke stood up. She had had enough of this; it was time to end things one way or another. This was war, and in war there were always causalities. This girl, this unfortunate soul, was to be the first. Too bad so sad, c'est la vie.

"You. Capri pants and fuchsia scarf," she said, addressing the girl. "First of all, no," she said looking at the outfit and making a face and shaking her finger chastisingly. "Secondly, and this is the important part so pay attention now…what are you looking at?" Capri pants and fuchsia scarf merely blinked at Brooke in a stunned silence.

---

"What's going on?" Carm asked looking over at Brooke who seemed to be harassing Kristen Sheridan. Carm didn't think that the outfit worked particularly well either, but that was no reason to single her out.

"I sense a kaboom," Sam stated pushing her chair back. "A big kaboom," she added, returning her full attention to the scene being played out in front of them.

---

When Capri pants and fuchsia scarf neglected to reply, Brooke turned her attention to a girl off to her left who she had noticed looking at her earlier. "And you. Pleather and not quite DKNY," Brooke continued, addressing the girl with a raised eyebrow that was both questioning and disapproving. "Care to share what's so interesting?" Pleather and not quite DKNY apparently did not care to share because she simply gaped at Brooke like a hungry fish. Brooke sighed; this was getting her nowhere. These people were suppose to respond to her, not just sit there like they had the IQ of a box of hair. She was going to have to be more direct.

Turning away from the gaping figure in front of her, Brooke looked over to the side towards where Sam was. She spotted the brunette right away as she was now standing up watching Brooke with a curious expression. Brooke stared at her for a second, then began to walk over to her. She could see Sam, and feel the whole cafeteria, watching her every move and it felt like hours before she actually made it over to the brunette. When she reached Sam, she stopped just in front of her and greeted her with a small lopsided smile. Sam gave her a nervous smile back, and it was all Brooke could do not to erupt into a full-fledged smile. Sam was so cute sometimes.

"Journey's end," Brooke whispered, stepping so close to Sam that there was hardly any space between them.

"And lovers meet," Sam whispered back in a barely audible voice, still watching Brooke intensely.

"Do you know what I'm going to do?" Brooke asked stopping in that intimate position, still watching Sam.

"Yes," Sam breathed out in a tone just as quiet as Brooke's. As she spoke her lips twitched slightly, and Brooke knew that she was trying to contain a smirk. That was what she wanted to hear, what she wanted to see. They had to be in this together. Then without further comment Brooke, in one grand sweeping motion, brought her hand up to Sam's face and leaned in, bringing their lips together, in a brief but thorough kiss.

Up until their lips met they had both been painfully aware of the eyes on them, but afterwards, though they could both feel everyone gaping at them, it wasn't quite as painful anymore, like a distant hum, an abstract annoyance. Brooke had kissed Sam in front of the entire cafeteria, Sam had let her, and now there it was.

Separating herself from Sam, Brooke turned to survey the stupefied crowd once more. Silence greeted her and she knew that she was still ringmaster, at least for the moment. This was good. If anyone had been up to responding to her she didn't think she'd be able to handle it at the moment, because despite her composed appearance she was a nervous wreck.

"Are you happy now?" she asked, addressing anyone and everyone. "Is that what you wanted to see?" she continued, her voice a little tired. She should have been an actress. "Can we all go back to lunch now or is there something else I can do for you? Anybody need a kidney? A liver? A stick of juicy fruit maybe?" She paused there, waiting to see if anyone would indeed say something. She didn't think anyone would and she was right. "No? Good," she stated. "Carry on, carry on," she continued, waving her hand dismissively at them and turning back around to face Sam.

With that she whispered, "Just sit back down, and don't look at any of them. It'll be alright," then she herself turned around and headed back to her table not taking her eyes off of Nicole's smirking face until she reached it and sat down. There she slumped imperceptivity and her hands shook faintly, but nobody was watching her anymore. Brooke then surveyed the table, taking in their surprised (Josh, Sugar Daddy and Popita) and amused (Nicole and Mary Cherry) expressions. Her face fell, oh god what had she done?

As Sam sat back down, a mildly dazed look covering her features, Carm leaned over and whispered, "that was excellent," to which Sam smiled, then started to laugh, and soon they were all laughing, the same nervous, relieved, terrified, amused laugh. There is was, they all realized. Spread out like a two dollar buffet for everyone's consumption. Eat up, eat up, it's on us, Sam thought to herself, pausing a split second after the thought ran through her head. When she fully realized the implications of what they had just done she stopped, everything. She was no longer laughing. Oh god, she thought, what have we done?

Part Thirty-Three

---------------------

Sam breezed into the house barely seeing. She felt light-headed, the ground under her feet felt like it was shifting, the air around her shimmering. She hardly felt stable and half expected to tip over at any given minute. There was no sound, and everything seemed warmer for some reason, blurry and intrusive.

"Why are you home so early?" Jane asked, sticking her head out of kitchen when she heard the door open.

"Half day," Sam heard herself say. She was impressed, apparently lying came naturally to her.

"Where's Brooke?" Jane asked curiously.

"I don't know, she doesn't exactly leave me photocopies of her daybook," Sam responded in a rather biting tone. Her head hurt, she wanted to go lay down, she wanted to strip down and run through the woods -- if there were any woods in L.A. that was.

"Sam," Jane stated. Her voice was reproachful and a little bit hurt. She was getting a little tired of daughter's mood swings. One day she's says she fine, the next she's hiding in her room or biting people's heads off.

"I'm sorry. Okay?" Sam said. But she didn't sound the least bit sorry, and things were obviously not okay. Jane didn't respond to abrasive offering, instead simply looking at Sam inquisitively. Seeing this look on her mother's face--a look she had become annoyingly used to--Sam sighed and rolled her eyes muttering, "I'll be upstairs."

Sam squeezed her eyes shut, holding them tightly together as she paced the length of floor. She shook her head from side to side, groaning pathetically as the scene from the cafeteria played itself in her head over and over again, mocking her, teasing her. She pinched the bridge of her nose and continued to pace, she was certain that she was muttering something, but if her life depended on it she wouldn't have been able to say what. For the past hour the entire world seemed to have been muted, everything had lost its luster, she was walking in a land of murky water colours.

She barely registered the door opening.

"Your mom said you were up…" Brooke started in a hurry, breezing into the room, pausing only when she saw Sam apparently trying to make a hole in her carpet. "Here," she finished softly, her eyes never leaving Sam's form as she locked the door with her right hand.

Almost immediately she crossed the small distance separating them. Coming up behind Sam, she wrapped her arms around her in what she hoped was a comforting gesture stopping, at least for the moment, Sam's insane cycle of pacing.

"I'm sorry," Brooke said in a small voice, head dipped down. "I thought…I mean we had talked about…"

Sam shook her head. "I just never actually thought…" she started, trailing off, shaking her head some more. She had thought that they were just talking out of their asses when they had come up with this particular contingency plan. When coming up with a plan, particular or not, most people talked out of their asses.

"Neither did I," Brooke responded truthfully. "I…at the time it just seemed like the thing to do," she tried to explain lamely. The truth was it had just seemed like the right thing, the only thing, to do at the time. She just couldn't explain the thought process, or processes, that had brought her to that conclusion now. Hindsight was bitch and it had just up and slapped her.

Sam didn't respond verbally, in fact Brooke couldn't even be sure that the brunette had heard her. Instead, Sam merely leaned back, snuggling into Brooke's willing arms even further.

"What are you thinking?" Brooke asked finally. She had to talk, if for no other reason than maintaining her own sanity. She did not want anymore silence, silence was no longer a friend of hers.

"Everything. Nothing. I don't know. I'm all jumbled," Sam responded haltingly. She stumbled over her words, raising her voice at the end of them, making them sound like questions. It was like they didn't quite feel right coming out of her mouth, as if they didn't quite roll off the tongue like they used to.

Brooke was quiet for a moment, then said, "I shouldn't have…I don't know what I was thinking. Mary Cherry was all…"

"Don't," Sam said, interrupting, her tone was laced with tender authority. "I'm not blaming you. I knew, I agreed. I'm just…dealing now," she continued, trying to soothe Brooke whose breathing had increased anxiously.

"I don't know what to do," Brooke admitted softly.

"I don't think there's anything to do," Sam responded. There were certain things where you simply had to admit to a loss of control. These things were put into motion, then they had to be left alone, to work themselves out. There was no way they could master this now, maybe there was never a way that they could, it was too big.

"What do you think is going to happen?" Brooke asked in a small voice. It was a tone that Sam had rarely heard from the blonde, and the times she had heard it she wished she hadn't. It hurt her to hear Brooke in pain, confused and lost. She wanted to wash it away, but how?

Sam paused, considering Brooke's question carefully although she was already fairly certain that she had no idea. "People are going to react. Either one way or another," was what she settled on, shrugging her shoulders somewhat feebly.

"I think that's a safe prediction," Brooke agreed with a small smile. The smile didn't remain on her face for long however; it was soon followed by the scrunching together of eyebrows and a sigh. "I'm a nervous wreck," she breathed out.

"Is that why you came home?" Sam asked, turning her head slightly so that she could make out some of Brooke's face.

"Is that why you came home?" Brooke asked back in a tone teasing.

"I asked first," Sam responded in a like tone.

"Yeah," Brooke said, letting out yet another sigh. "After I went and sat back down it was like everything went dark. I had to concentrate to make sure I was still breathing. I was barely functioning, I…I couldn't take another class or…"

"Walking through the hallways," Sam added.

"The looks. I got enough of them on the way out," Brooke agreed, shaking her head a bit, as if trying to dislodge the memory.

"We're fucked. You know this right?" Sam asked, turning around in the circle of Brooke's arms so that they were facing each other. Brooke smirked.

"We were fucked the moment I kissed three months ago. It was just a matter of time." She had predicted, even back then, all those months ago, as they lay together and she traced her hands over Sam's body, exploring her recently discovered landscape, her new altar. She had said it would be a complex mess of complications, and it had indeed turned out that way.

"Don't you think you're overestimating the power of your charms?" Sam responded quirking an eyebrow at Brooke playfully. The truth was she knew that Brooke was right, they had been lost from the very beginning, the rest of the players in this production were only just now catching up to them.

"Maybe…maybe not," Brooke responded non-committally, but the smile on her face told another story.

They stood there in silence together for a moment, each lost in their own thoughts.

"Is mom pissed?" Sam asked finally, a slightly worried expression coming over her face as she recalled her behavior when she had first come in the house.

"She's … worried," Brooke responded thoughtfully, diplomatically. Jane had not been pleased, that had been very clear to the blonde when she arrived at the house.

"She's been perpetually worried lately," Sam commented drawing away from Brooke minutely, moving into herself a little more. She was drawn back to the conversation she'd had with her mother that morning. It was funny, it hardly seemed like it had been only a matter of hours ago that they had spoken. It seemed like so long ago, a distant memory, already being glazed over in her mind. Sam realized that there was a reason her mother had been asking those questions, telling her those things. Things hadn't been right, they had been chaotic and confused, and Jane had picked up on it. She was right to be concerned.

"We've been acting like crazy people on and off, today being an on day," Brooke started carefully. "She has to have sensed that something is up," Brooke responded in a reasonable but subdued tone. The subject of their parents was one they tried not to think about too much, and when it was brought up it was always grudgingly, surface conversation. She knew that she didn't want to really think about what it would mean when they found out, and she knew that Sam felt the same way. It was so much easier to believe that they could keep it to themselves until some unspecified time in the future when it would be alright to let them know. So much easier, but wrong. Still, it was a nice thought.

"They're going to find out about this too…sooner or later," Sam said as if reading Brooke's mind.

"I know." Brooke pouted as she said this, a small frown marring her features.

"No matter how careful we are…" Sam continued, trailing off, as she got lost in her thoughts. "I can't help the way I look at you. Carmen says she's amazed they haven't figured it out yet," she continued. "She says I have bedroom eyes."

Brooke was quiet for a moment, as she thought about what Sam had just said, knowing it was perfectly true. Carmen and Lily had learned the truth through observing them, and so had Nicole. It was all just an issue of time. They spent more time around their friends, were more relaxed with them. But it had been months now, and they both knew that Jane, if not Mike too, had been watching them, and that like their friends they would piece it together too. "They don't want to figure it out," Brooke responded finally.

"Lucky for us," Sam replied, but she didn't sound too convinced.

"Lucky, yeah…but for how long?" Brooke added, biting her bottom lip, her eyes roving around the room fretfully.

Sam nodded her head but said nothing. She didn't want to think about that at the moment. She couldn't think about it. She only had enough reserves to deal with one catastrophe at a time and their parents' eventual discovery of their relationship was not the one she was going to preoccupy herself with at the moment. It was something that was to happen at some future date, and that meant that in the present it could be ignored. What couldn't be ignored were the ramifications of their lunchtime production.

"I don't want to go to school tomorrow," Sam said finally, breaking the silence that had come over the room.

"Neither do I," Brooke responded with a little laugh before her face turned serious again. It was funny in a sad way.

"Let's walk in together?" Sam asked. She didn't want to go, that was true, but it was inevitable; they would have to go back sooner or later.

"I'd have it no other way," Brooke responded, taking Sam's hand into hers.

"I love you," Sam breathed out, stepping closer to Brooke once again, wrapping her arms around the blonde's slender waist.

"You're my heart," Brooke whispered back, hugging Sam closer.

-----------------------

Part Thirty-Four

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Brooke stopped walking as she sensed Sam freeze up behind her. Turning around she saw the brunette staring at the double doors leading into Kennedy High with a look of terror on her face. 'She looks like I feel', Brooke thought to herself as she backtracked so that she was standing beside Sam once again. Looking at the doors herself she knew exactly what Sam was thinking, and that thinking it wasn't going to do them any good. They had spent yesterday evening freaking themselves out, and it would do them no good to start again.

"Are you ready?" the blonde asked, looking over at her girlfriend. She wanted to get this over with. What was done was done, and the sooner they found out whether or not they had become total social rejects, the sooner she would be able to fill out her transfer papers and go where she had always wanted to, Beverly Hills High.

Sam looked over at her and smirked. "Does it really matter?" she asked, her body relaxing somewhat.

"I really don't think that it does," Brooke responded with a similar expression. They had to go in sooner or later. "Come on, let's get this over with," she said, reaching over and taking Sam's hand into hers. "What's your first class?" Brooke asked, trying to distract both Sam and herself as they pushed through the doors.

"English," Sam responded, looking around them with what she hoped were inconspicuous glances. She felt a bit funny, it didn't really feel like anyone was watching them. She had developed a kind of sixth sense for it over the past couple of days, and she wasn't detecting the curious stares.

"I'll walk you," Brooke responded decisively.

"You're a good girlfriend," Sam responded, smiling over at her.

"That's what I keep saying," Brooke replied somewhat distractedly as she squeezed Sam's hand reassuringly. Something was different today; people weren't paying as much attention to them as they had been previously. Brooke had expected more staring, maybe some pointed comments, but there were only a few sideways glances and low murmurs.

They walked the rest of the way to Sam's classroom in relative silence, drawing strength from each other's presence while staving off their paranoia. When they arrived in front of the room there were still a few minutes before the bell rang, so they joined the small crowd of students that were lounging by the doorway waiting to be let in. There were about four singles hanging about and one couple off to their left. Everyone turned to look at them when they approached, but then they soon turned back to whatever it was they had been doing before the brunette and blonde arrived.

Sam quirked an eyebrow at Brooke, and the cheerleader shrugged with a somewhat confused expression on her face. This was unexpected.

"It's like nobody cares," Brooke whispered into Sam's ear a moment later. To be sure they were receiving a few veiled looks from the people around them, and passersby, but for the most part the looks were just curious, nothing more. The thought brought a smile to her face and she could feel laughter building up inside of her. Impetuously, she leaned over and kissed Sam on the cheek, pulling back just before the laughter that was bubbling in her stomach boiled over. "We were just gossip," she said softly as she began to laugh, in fact it was really more of a giggle. They had just been the latest gossip, nobody really gave a good god damn, it was just something to talk about. Nicole's threats, her own apprehension, it didn't really mean anything. They were hardly the first gay couple at the school; hell they even had an openly gay teacher. In the larger scheme of things, nobody really cared that she was sleeping with Sam other than as a conversation piece, or leverage, or gossip. There would come a time today, or the next day, or the next day, where someone would say something derogatory about them, that was as inevitable as death and taxes, as the world was filled with assholes, and their relationship was easy to attack. But on a whole, they were just one more couple walking down the hallway. With everything they had put themselves through, it was looking as if nobody really gave a flying fuck.

Brooke leaned against the wall as she laughed. That was hilarious, in fact it was so funny that it almost made her want to cry.

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Part Thirty-Five : "Why Mary Cherry, Why?"

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Brooke led Nicole, Popita and Mary Cherry into the backyard of the house. Jane had suggested some alterations to their uniforms that the Glamazons had unanimously decided absolutely had to be done, so the four of them were to be Mrs. McPherson's guinea pigs. When they arrived, Jane was talking with her dad on the porch so Brooke decided to show them the new reflecting pond they had just had landscaped into the backyard. It was absolutely killer, and they were the first people on the street to have one. Nicole was going to flip.

When Sam finished with the bird feeder her eyes immediately began to scan for the yard for her girlfriend. Spotting Brooke she began to make her way over, her eyes drifting uncomfortably to the deck where her mom and Mr. McQueen had been lounging, her brows drawing together in confusion as she noticed that Mary Cherry seemed to be talking to them. Stopping beside Brooke, she placed her hand on her shoulder to draw her attention.

"Why is Mary Cherry talking to mom and your dad?" she asked softly.

"What?" Brooke asked. "She's right," however as she said this Brooke looked around her immediate vicinity and noticed that Mary Cherry was indeed not with the four other girls. Turning her head towards the deck, her eyes widened. "Oh god no," she gasped, spotting Mary Cherry gesturing wildly to the parental units.

---

"Mr. McQueen, almost Mrs. McQueen," Mary Cherry began. "I would jus' like ta take this opportunity ta say that I'm very impressed with your liberal open-mindedness. I think that it's absolutely fabulous that your'll so accepting of Brookie and Sam's so highly controversial union. Back home, if the aged P's wah eva' to find out that their daughters were engaged in sexual congress right under their very roof, heads would rollll! People like you are the reason why I love L.A. so very, very much! Thank you," Mary Cherry concluded, grinning.

---

As the last syllable left Brooke's mouth, Mary Cherry began walk away from the parental units and towards the four girls. Likewise, Mike and Jane turned their heads so that they were facing the girls, and even from the distance they were at Brooke and Sam could detect the looks of surprise and confusion covering their faces. They weren't so much looking at them as they were gaping. Sam felt her hand drop from Brooke's shoulder although she wasn't conscious of doing it; everyone in the yard had seemed to freeze in position, still like stone as the implications of what had just occurred came to them, ramming into a certain brunette and blonde like a runaway freight train.

Then almost as soon as it happened, it ended with older ones turning away and walking inside the house, leaving the yard to the teenagers.

Part Thirty-Six

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This chapter has been brought to you by the conditions Confusion and Denial … "Bet You Can't Suffer A Nervous Breakdown From Just One!"

And now a few words from our sponsors….

Confusion; Mental perturbation or agitation such as prevents the full command of the faculties; embarrassment, perplexity, fluttered condition.

Denial; Refusal to acknowledge a person or thing as having a certain character or certain claims; a disowning, disavowal.

Now, back to our feature presentation….

Mike turned around and closed the screen door leading into the house, his movements very slow and very precise. He stayed facing the door for a moment, taking a deep breath then turned around to face his fiancé who was standing just across from him with her hands folded across her chest her eyes peering behind him and out the glass of the door. Crossing the few steps between them Mike placed his hand on the small of her back, leading her into the study, away from prying eyes.

"She said…" Mike began trailing off.

"Yeah," Jane agreed nodding her head, although she wasn't quite certain why.

"Brooke's not…" he replied once again leaving the sentence hanging.

"I didn't think Sam was, but…" Jane responded contemplatively.

"Not that there's anything wrong with that," they both injected a moment later, before nodding at each other in acknowledgment of the other's statement.

"A golfing buddy of mine is, you know," Mike said finally.

"I have a sorority sister who is too," Jane added. She wasn't quite sure if it was a relevant piece of information, and if it was why it was, but it seemed like a good thing to add at the time, so that's what she did.

Mike nodded along but didn't say anything for a moment.

"Wouldn't we have known?" he asked finally. He sounded more hopeful than convinced however.

"Maybe, I mean…maybe," Jane responded.

"Nobody guessed about Liberace," Mike observed thoughtfully.

"And Lily Tomlin. That one threw me," Jane added, shifting her weight. "Then again I never would have guessed about Ellen," she continued.

"There would have been signs," Mike stated, but really it sounded more like a question. He knew that with Sam, Jane had found the pamphlet but Brooke? Where were the signs? The preparation? The heart attack prevention measures?

"Ellen never really talked about her personal life in her routines," Jane responded. "Hers was always more situational comedy. Like that bit about why people put arrows at the bottom of pages, like they would forget to check the other side or something."

"I meant about Brooke," Mike injected, scowling at her.

"Oh. Sorry," Jane responded, shaking her head a little bit. She felt lightheaded, like on a hot day in Fresno.

"Wait. Brooke's got a copy of that movie 'Bound'," Mike blurted out. His mind automatically drifting to consider the uncanny physical resemblance between Sam and Gina Gershon. He wondered if that had done it.

"Sam was fascinated with the book 'The Edible Woman' until she found out what it was actually about," Jane related in a similar tone.

"Brooke has every Madonna album ever produced," Mike said, running a hand through his hair and tugging at it gently.

"Oh god," Jane muttered under her breath. She was finally able begin comprehending what Mary Cherry had told them, what seemed like eons ago, and she really wished she hadn't been.

"But…Brooke's a cheerleader!" Mike exclaimed looking over at Jane hopefully. Brooke couldn't be…with Sam, because Brooke wasn't gay, he reasoned to himself.

"Think about how they've been acting since we got back," Jane continued, not even aware that he had spoken, so busy was she trying to put the clues together. "Oh god, think about how we found them when we got back! And when I went to return Brooke's book, and…I need to sit down," she finished, plopping into a nearby chair.

"What are we going to do?" Mike asked with a dazed look on his face as he leaned against the desk wearily.

"We have to talk to them. If something is going on then we need to know what, and if nothing is going on then we need to know that too," Jane replied thoughtfully. "But for the moment, the name Jack Daniel's comes to mind." She paused. "At least for you."

Part Thirty- Seven

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As soon as Mary Cherry approached their location Sam lunged at her, grabbing her shirt. "Mary Cherry, what did you say to them!" the brunette asked, shaking the southerner slightly.

"Oh mah gawd," Mary Cherry exclaimed in a panicky voice. "She's rumplin' my Versace!"

"Come on, Sam," Brooke said softly, placing a reassuring, but restraining hand on Sam's shoulder, rubbing it gently trying to soothe the irate brunette as she released Mary Cherry from her clutches. It was the mature thing to do, Brooke kept telling herself. Losing their tempers wasn't going to do anybody any good. Still, a little part of her wanted to have at Mary Cherry just like Sam had done. "We have to handle this responsibly," Brooke went on once Sam had let go and was engaged in taking some deep, calming breaths. "Mary Cherry," Brooke continued in a tone that oozed of barely restrained hostility, "you're going to tell me exactly what you said to our parents," Brooke went on, but she could feel herself slipping, and when Mary Cherry grinned that insane grin at her she lost it. "You're going to tell me or else I'll gas and burn your new Donna Karen," she exclaimed reaching for the girl herself only to be restrained by Sam.

"Where's the love, Brookie?" Mary Cherry asked somewhat petulantly. However, as she observed the tender embrace that Brooke had settled into in Sam's arms after the brunette had restrained the blonde from trying to maim her, Mary Cherry felt better. "Oh yeah," she drawled knowingly, as she grinned and ogled them suggestively.

This time both of them jumped at her and the only way Mary Cherry was able to save herself was by hiding behind Popita, using her as a type of human shield.

"I merely congratulated the Aged P's on accepting you controversial union with such grace and dignity," Mary Cherry revealed, suddenly concerned for her very safety. And she thought that love was supposed to make the heart grow fonder, it had just made those two homicidal.

There was a moment of silence following Mary Cherry's declaration. Then Sam turned to face Brooke, who was staring at the southerner in a wide eyed, open-mouthed stupor, and grabbed onto her shoulders, shaking her to get her attention.

"They know. We're dead. They're gonna murder us. We'll probably learn where Jimmy Hoffa is. We're dead," Sam rambled off.

"This is a lovely day, but not lovely enough to die. How far is it to Mexico?" Brooke asked no one in particular. Were her ears bleeding? She felt like her ears were bleeding.

"Oh no," Sam exclaimed, drawing Brooke's attention to her in the same way people's attention is drawn to car crashes.

"What?" Brooke asked softly, quite afraid of what the answer would be.

"Look, they're going for the liquor cabinet," Sam said, pointing to the window.

"We're going down," Brooke stated, her eyes shutting as she sighed deeply.

"Isn't that what got ya in trouble in the first place?" Mary Cherry asked, smiling from behind Popita, cowering slightly as Sam lounged at her again. Nicole merely watched the festivities with highly amused smile on her face. You couldn't buy this sort of entertainment.

"Run Poppy run," Mary Cherry exclaimed as Sam clawed at her. "We are no longer welcome at this bath house of fun!" she continued, grabbing Popita by the hand and dragging her towards the nearest exit.

Part Thirty-Eight

----------------------------

Brooke and Sam marched silently towards the house having been summoned by their parents moments after Mary Cherry, Popita and a reluctant Nicole, made their escape. Sam was certain that if she listened very carefully she could hear a dirge being carried through the air towards them.

Upon entering the house they were then instructed to go into the living room and sit down where they would wait patiently to be joined by their parents. This was related to them in no uncertain terms, and they complied like well-trained border collies in the plains of Alberta.

Finally, after leaving the girls to sit in a tortured silence the parental units entered the room, directing the girls to sit on the couch side by side, where they then took up residence beside their particular child.

"So we had an interesting little chat with Mary Cherry," Jane began calmly. She felt like she was dying inside.

"Interesting," Mike confirmed. This was ridiculous. Brooke wasn't even gay.

Brooke and Sam, who had decided that staring at their feet was a brilliant course of action the moment their parents walked into the room, decided that that was still an appropriate course of action and continued to do so effectively not responding to their parents comments.

"Do you have any idea what we might have chatted about?" Jane asked when it became clear that neither girl was going to say anything. This inquiry too was met by silence. "Sam?"

"Dolce and Gabbana?" Sam responded in a quiet and somewhat pained tone.

"Do you want to guess again?" Jane asked, not terribly impressed with her daughter's answer.

"I would prefer not to," Sam responded honestly, her eyes still firmly planted on her feet.

Once again the room was covered in silence.

"Mary Cherry indicated…that is to say from her impression…that you, Brooke and you…Sam…are…which is to say…involved…as it were," Mike said, stumbling over his words. He wasn't quite sure how one went about telling one's own daughter and the daughter of one's fiancé that one had heard that one's said daughter and soon to be step-daughter were engaged in sexual congress.

"In a romantic sense…to phrase it, well, as a phrase," Jane added, trying to clarify what Mike had begun and only partially succeeding.

In response to their question Brooke blinked and twitched her nose while Sam sniffled and tugged at her ear lobe.

"Do either of you have anything to say?" Mike asked finally, at a loss for what else to do. They certainly weren't making this easy.

There was a momentary silence after he posed the question then Sam responded with, "The Bronx Zoo has a pair of male chimps who've formed a life bond and who forage and swing together, gathering food in preparation for disaster -- because they don't know they're in a zoo. They're monkeys after all. It's apparently quite moving. I've also heard they have a tap show."

This was met by the parents simultaneous and understandable exclamation of, "What!"

This was in turn met by Brooke, who after inserting her thumb into her mouth and biting down on it, mumbled, "I'm not pregnant, which I think in any situation…except for you know in cases of planned parenthood, is a good thing. Especially for a teenager…and especially-especially for one who cheerleads…or hikes, or swims, or something…you know?"

After that last bout of incomprehensibility Jane and Mike looked around their daughters at each other completely and utterly confused. Mike figured that what had just transpired was at least partially his fault for only demanding an answer, not one that made sense. It became clear to him that they were going to get nowhere with the discussion if they continued to beat around the block, and looking at Jane he could see that she had reached the same conclusion, so after a silent battle of the wills, Mike addressed the girls once more.

"Obviously there's only…we're just going to have to be straight forward here." He paused here to take a deep breath, then, "Are the two of you involved with each other romantically? Called dating in some circles."

The girls turned to look at each other communicating silently. They seemed to agree that the parents knew, and that the best course of action was to just be honest.

Brooke opened her mouth as if to respond, then closed it just as quickly, her eyes returning to the floor. She remained quiet like that for a moment before she took a deep breath and looked up again, this time when she opened her mouth the word, "yes," escaped, although it was barely audible.

"Yes?" Jane asked dumbly. Truthfully, she hadn't really expected either of them to admit it. She had expected to be able to go on believing that Mary Cherry was just a crack baby. She was wrong.

Sam pinched the bridge of her nose; she felt a migraine coming on. Sucking in a deep breath, she turned to her mother and said, "yes," in a breathy voice that was just barely audible. It was audible however, and was met with a steely silence.

"Since?" Mike asked, taking in a deep breath, and trying to curb the hysteria that was rapidly building up inside of him.

It was Brooke who answered this time; her gaze once again focused intently on her shoes. "While you were in Hawaii we…gained closeness," she related in a highly uncomfortable voice, shifting in her seat jostling her already discombobulated father.

Jane took in a deep, shuddering breath, then raised her hand to her head as her shoulders shook slightly. She was not prepared to deal with this. Sam and Brooke, despite what she had seen, she had never thought, never would have thought, couldn't have beared to think about it. But there it was.

"That's…a while," she finally said in a hushed tone, her voice cracking as she spoke. She raised her hand to her face again brushing a stray strand of hair behind her ear, trying to psych herself up for her next question. "Have you…" she paused her taking another deep breath, at least oxygen deprivation wouldn't be a problem for her, "been intimate?" she finally asked. Once the question was out of her mouth, she realized that the answer was bound to disappoint her however it went. If it was yes, then it was yes, if it was no, then it was a yet.

"Mom!" Sam squeaked, jumping up off the couch. She was seriously distressed. "You don't…you can't…boundaries…" she muttered, calming down and bit and sitting back down when her mother motioned for her to do so. "You just don't…" she continued lamely, looking at the cactus plant in the corner of the room like it was her new best friend.

"Brooke?" Mike asked anxiously, seriously unnerved by Sam's reaction. What the hell was that?

Brooke looked at him, blinking rapidly. "I … we … what?" was all she was able to get out before she dissolved into merely opening and closing her mouth, while occasionally scrunching up her brow in a look of intense consternation.

Mike and Jane turned and looked at each other. They could see it in each other's eyes. They were human, and they had been kids, and they both knew without a doubt that what their daughters lack of an answer meant was 'yes,' yes they had. They had, but they couldn't make themselves say it.

"We have to go," Mike responded finally. "Talk. We have to go talk," he continued haltingly, looking over at Jane, who didn't seem to be faring much better than he himself was.

"Yes, talk," Jane responded slowly, her mind slowly clearing a little. "Until…until," Jane continued lamely, "Sam will be staying with me in the guest room," she continued, lucid enough to realize that this was a necessary course of action.

"Mom!" Sam exclaimed, her proclivity towards indignation momentarily overwhelming her common sense.

"Don't," Jane said, turning to her warningly. "You don't even want to hear what my response would be," she continued in a low voice. Sam was quiet after that, thankful to still be alive.

"I get to stay in my room right?" Brooke asked. Mike responded by shooting her gaze of arctic temperature, and like Sam she too was quiet again.

After that was decided, Mike and Jane stood up, and headed out of the room, leaving the two quiet girls sitting on the couch. They both followed their parents progress, sighing deeply and leaning back against the back of the couch once they had exited the room.

"You know that this has only just begun," Brooke commented, her eyes closing. She felt like she was going to cry it was so depressing. The lying had been going so very, very well for them. Grey skies were finally starting to clear up, and now this.

"I have to move in with my mom," Sam responded, still harping on her mother's last declaration.

"They're gonna be watching us like hawks," Brooke pointed out, pouting.

"I have to move in with my mom," Sam responded. She seemed to be having difficulties moving past this particular particular.

"School's going to be the fun part," Brooke replied.

"This is so sad," Sam breathed out, turning to look at Brooke.

"I'm going to kill Mary Cherry," the cheerleader declared a moment later. Sam was right, this was very sad and Mary Cherry was to blame. Well, certainly, she and Sam played a little part in it, but it was much easier to blame Mary Cherry.

"I'll be your alibi," Sam responded.

"Acceptable," Brooke responded. They were young, and pretty, they could beat any criminal charges couldn't they?

"What now?" Sam asked, looking at Brooke searching for answers.

"I was planning on being silent and morose for a while. You could be brooding and introspective?" Brooke suggested at a complete loss as to what else to do.

"Sounds good," Sam responded.

And there was quiet in the room once again.

----------------------------------------

Thirty-Nine : "Broke-down Palace"

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"She always has to push it," Jane said agitatedly as she paced the span of their bedroom restlessly. "The easy road, no not my Sam," she continued, shaking her head. "You know, I was really becoming okay with the whole Sam is gay thing. I was being very mom of the new millennium about it. I bought an Alice Walker book!" Jane exclaimed excitedly. "I think I could have come around to the whole Brooke is gay thing too. We do live in L.A. after all. But, this gay together ... this, this, this, being gay together. No. I'm sorry. I don't think it's too much to ask that they be gay with other people...other celibate people!"

"They said they didn't...you know, do it," Mike responded, clinging to the last shred of hope he had. Jane had had far more time to prepare for the gay in general than he did, and he most definitely wasn't ready to approach the gay together. How could both of them be gay? Seriously, what were the odds? He tried to calculate them, and they were about on par with the odds of the Florida Marlins winning the World Series. This was a mathematical improbability, he was sure of it.

"I know," Jane, said dismally. "That just means it's 90 likely they have! I mean, that's what I told my mom, and I SO had," she continued, spinning about to face her fiancé. Her soon to be husband. The man she had asked to adopt her daughter. Sam's soon to be father. She placed her hands on her head and took a deep shuddering breath. God, they were practically sisters. Sure, they weren't related by blood, and it wasn't illegal in 49 states or anything -- as far as she knew -- but still. Jane was officially overwhelmed.

"What are we going to do?" Mike asked. Of the two of them Jane seemed to have a better handle on the situation and he was willing to leave things to her discretion if it meant that he didn't have to think about it at the moment.

Jane stared at him for a moment, then dramatically threw her hands up in the air in the universal 'I duh nuh' gesture.

"Do you think they'll stop if we tell them too?" Mike asked hopefully. Jane shot him a look that could peel paint and he was quiet again.

---

"What are you doing?" Sam asked, watching Brooke leaf through something in the kitchen. They had sat for a while, but upon hearing a thump upstairs, they decided that it would be better to be in an upright position so that they could run away, or leap over high furniture in a single bound, if need be.

"How do you feel about snow?" Brooke asked, trailing her finger down the piece of paper studiously.

"It's alright I suppose. Why?" Sam asked suspiciously as she walked over to Brooke.

"We could move to Ontario and get hitched. If we did that not only could they not do anything about it, we'd be able to legally drink in a few years, AND we'd get free medical care … I think, they're socialist right?" Brooke responded turning to observe Sam's reaction. The brunette merely stared at her. "It was just a suggestion," Brooke mumbled, putting the bus schedule away. "It could have worked," she responded when Sam continued to merely stare at her. Sam just stared at her some more. "Okay, maybe not, but at least I'm trying here."

"That's true," Sam responded thoughtfully. She should try and come up with something too. Unfortunately the only thing she could think of was, "They're also very tolerant in Sweden."

"Why are the cold countries so much more progressive?" Brooke asked thoughtfully as she idly leaned against the kitchen counter. Sam shrugged. Brooke shrugged back. They were too busy wondering where their parents were going to bury their bodies to consider such things at the moment.

---

"Well, we've already established that Sam is moving into the guest bedroom," Jane said, trying to force her brain to work. "That conjoined bathroom is like a modern day underground railroad of debauchery," she continued somewhat bitterly as she frowned.

"We could also get cameras and an intercom system, and then yell at them over the loud speakers if we saw any inappropriate touching," Mike suggested, his mind filling with design specs instead of images of his daughter engaged in debauchery with Gina Gershon, Jr.

"Scar them for life so that they'll never be able to have a healthy relationship! Why didn't I think of that," Jane responded sarcastically, making it perfectly clear to everyone where Sam got it from. "What about boarding school?"

"They're mostly all girls," Mike responded. They looked at each other and crossed that one off the list. They were going to be at this for a while.

-----------------------------------------------------

Part Forty : "The End of The Affair"

--------------------------------------------

The silence in the room was deafening. Sam was aware of every whir, and thump, and tick in the house as she went about unloading her essentials into the guestroom. Her mother was on the other side of the room fixing the other bed. They had been in there for almost fifteen minutes and hadn't spoken a word to each other. The most contact they had had was Jane looking up at her when she entered the room and then pointing towards where Sam could deposit her things. Sam stopped what she was doing and looked across the room at her mother's back. Since the family chat in the afternoon, things in the house had been kind of surreal. The elders had spent most of their time upstairs discussing god knows what about the situation, and she and Brooke had kind of wandered around the downstairs in a stupefied haze. It was like they had been living in a bubble for the past three hours. Looking at her mom, and hearing only stony silence, Sam knew the bubble had burst. They were all now painfully aware of the reality of the situation.

"Mom," Sam said, unable to take the silence anymore. Jane turned to look at her, her face unreadable. She was pale and the muscles in her face were tightly drawn. "Where should I put my socks?" Sam asked, off-put by the unhinged look on her mother's face. She had planned on saying something meaningful, and significant, but she panicked.

"In the sock drawer, Sam," Jane responded tiredly. Sam nodded vigorously, the sock drawer, of course, and turned towards the sock drawer. Well, she thought to herself, that went well. Picking up her socks, she began to fold them. Suddenly folding her socks was of the utmost importance. With the attention she was paying to folding her socks, one would have thought those socks could one day be the cure for cancer.

Jane watched Sam folding those socks, studied her intensely, her stomach clenching and unclenching painfully as the reality of their situation clubbed her over the head in a psychotic circle. "Do you have everything you need?" Jane asked finally. Talking tended to distract her, and she was getting very tired of thinking.

"Yeah," Sam responded, hesitantly halting her sock folding. "Everything I need is here," she continued, fiddling with the sock she held in her hand nervously. She was lying of course, there were many things that she needed that weren't there. One being her spine, but the most significant being Brooke.

Jane nodded, her eyes drifting to the little table that Sam had set up to put her personal effects on. There were a few pictures of herself with Carmen, Lily and Harrison, the ever present picture of her father, and another one that hadn't been part of her set up before. It was of a little girl, and was resting against a flower vase. Jane stared at it for a moment in confusion until she realized that the little girl in the picture was Brooke. She remembered seeing the same photograph in an album Mike had shown her one time. It was in the She-Ra section. Still looking at the picture, she realized that the rose in the vase holding the picture up also must have come from Brooke. She turned her attention back to making the bed, something about the familiarity -- or if she was perfectly honest with herself, the tenderness -- of the display forcing her to look away.

"Are we going to talk about this?" Sam blurted out moments after her mother turned from studying the picture. There was a confrontational edge to her voice, an irritation that she hadn't meant to project, but there it was. And it was honest, she realized, it was there because that's how she felt. She had seen her mother looking at the picture of Brooke, she had seen the emotions float across her features, and she had seen her deny the meaning of the picture by turning away. The truth was that she didn't know what was going through their heads, she didn't know if they thought that she and Brooke were just in it for the sex or what. She didn't know because they hadn't talked about it. She was in love with Brooke, and if she was going to go down, she wanted that to be known at least. She wanted them to know that it was more than just fucking, it was love.

Jane turned around once again, meeting her daughter's eyes. There was a strength in them, an assertiveness that she hadn't seen only moments before. "To tell you the truth Sam, I don't even know where to begin," Jane responded finally. Her voice was heavy, like her body felt. It was an effort for her to remain standing, the weariness she felt seeping into bones, into her marrow.

"Just ask," Sam replied in a softer tone, watching her mother carefully. She wasn't really sure what she was watching for, or if she would recognize it when she saw it, only that watching her seemed to be a good idea.

Jane was silent for a while after Sam spoke. She had brought her hand up to her face and was tugging on her ear viciously. She sat down on the bed, then stood back up, then sat down on the bed again, all the while tugging on her ear and closing and opening her eyes. Sam could practically feel the tension rolling off of her. She got the distinct impression that the calm was gone, and the storm had arrived.

"What were you thinking!" Jane asked finally, standing up once more. Her voice was loud, a yell even, her tone critical, and confused and horrified. "Are you stupid! Is that it? Did I drop you at some point during your childhood and forget about it? What were you thinking!" she continued almost manically.

"I wasn't," Sam stuttered. She had expected something like that but at the same time she hadn't been prepared for it. She could count the number of times she had heard her mother raise her voice to her on one hand without doubling. As a result she had never gotten quite used to it. This time was different from those other few times however, this time there was something more to it, though what that more was Sam couldn't quite identify. "I mean…it just…I couldn't help it, it just happened," she continued still off-kilter.

"It just happened," Jane muttered under her breath incredulously, a darkly amused look coming over her face, a homicidal hilarity coating her tone. "What? She bent down to tie her shoe and you fell into her?" she continued, her voice raising sharply once more. "Spontaneous combustion just happens, sleeping with your step-sister doesn't just happen! Lying to me, and sneaking around behind my back doesn't just happen!"

The hostility in her mother's voice was enough to snap Sam out of the momentary daze she had gone into, and stepping forward she responded to her mother with as much passion as she had been spoken to with.

"But it does," Sam started. "That's exactly what happened. It was spontaneous combustion. I'm sorry I lied, and that we sneaked around, but I don't think that you can pretend to be shocked that we did. I mean, I liked MY room," Sam went on still not able to move past the repossession of her room. It came down to the fact that she had to say her peace, whether she said it now or later, it wasn't going to be easy, and it wasn't going to be fun, but it had to be done. The damage had been done, and honesty was now the only way to control it.

"You might not want to hear this, in fact I'm certain that you don't and that you won't believe me anyway … but I love her. Sincerely, fully. That's what just happened. It's like she set a fire inside of my heart," she continued, her voice cracking. Her tone had gotten softer as she spoke, more reverent and resonant. "I mean, come on. Do you really think that I would have chosen Brooke of all people if I had had a choice? Brooke who I've hated with a passion so intense it has no name since I came out of the womb?" Her voice was as incredulous as her mother's had been earlier when she asked this. She knew that both her mom and Mr. McQueen had been very aware of their previous hatred of each other, and thought that a reminder would help. "Come on mom! We didn't do this to screw you over. We didn't do this to be trendy, or to rebel against 'the man'," Sam went on. "We just couldn't not. We just didn't have a choice...I just love her more than I can express in words, and, well, this happened," she finished, flinging her hands up in the air with a flourish.

Jane sat back down on the bed, with what Sam would characterize as a pout on her face. There she sat, brooding and ruminating, and contemplating for a few moments before looking back over at her daughter.

"What am I…are we supposed to do about this, huh?" Jane asked finally. There was a note of helplessness and desperation in her voice. Like she was actually looking for suggestions.

"Nothing," Sam responded. As long as her mom was asking her opinion she could as well give it. "Short of sending one of us to another country. I'm in love with her, and I can't stop that any more than I could stop breathing," she continued, blinking back tears.

Jane observed her daughter thoughtfully for a moment, watching as she tried to retain control over her emotions, considering for a time what had happened. Her eyes drifted back over the picture and the flower, a reflective expression coming over her face. She continued to look at it for a moment more, then stood up and sighed before saying, "Finish folding your socks."

With that she stood up and walked out of the room leaving Sam to her thoughts, and her tears.

Part Forty-One

------------------

Brooke tore her attention away from the hallway where she swore she could hear voices. She knew that Sam and Jane were fixing up the guestroom, she had been banned from helping, but her father had helped carry some of the heavier things across the hall. When he had finished about twenty minutes before, he had come to her room to talk to her.

"It's been a dry heat really. For me I think that's almost worse then when the humidity's really high," Brooke stated philosophically, turning back to face her father. They had been talking about the weather since Mike had joined her. Brooke was familiar with this type of conversation, they always talked about the weather when Mike wanted to talk to her about something but didn't know how to. When he had noticed her rapidly losing weight and not eating, they had discussed that feeling you get before it rains, and when they talked about her mother leaving, hurricane season had come up.

"Dry heat has always been the worst for me too," Mike responded. "There's just been no wind lately. When there's a nice breeze it can make up for the heat, but without it, well things just aren't that pleasant," he continued with a shake of his head.

"I heard a cold front is moving in from the north," Brooke commented. "That should cool things down a bit," she went on, hoping that things didn't get too cold. Despite the heat the cheerleading uniform didn't really provide much protection, and the last thing that Brooke wanted was to get a cold. That would just be like lemon juice in an open wound.

"Let's just hope it doesn't get too cold," Mike replied to that. "When it got really cold in March last year, I was never able to get used to it, ruined my whole week. This California climate's ruined me," he continued. Brooke nodded but didn't say anything.

They sat in silence, only turning momentarily when they heard raised voices from across the hall once again. Brooke looked out into the hallway longingly. Frankly, she wished that she and her dad could just duke it out like it sounded like the McPherson women were doing. McQueens, she had come to realize, didn't talk about problems, they let them fester, and grow, and then when they couldn't be ignored any longer, they had awkward conversations, where they beat around the bush until they were too exhausted to actually talk about what was wrong. However, Brooke no longer felt like discussing the latest news from the weather network, in fact it disturbed her that she had watched the weather network before coming up to her room because she knew what was going to happen. She wanted to talk to her father, she wanted him to yell at her, and emote and express his feelings. For once she wanted to have a normal fight.

"How come we can't do that?" Brooke asked finally waving her hand at the door. She sounded irritated, and she was.

"What?" Mike asked.

"Yell at each other," Brooke responded as if it was the most reasonable thing in the world. "That's what people do. The teen does something the parent doesn't like, the parent calls them on it, the teen makes some sort of smart-ass remark, and then comes the yelling," she continued gaining steam. "That's normal. This, contemplation of the weather is not healthy. I mean, don't you have anything to say? I mean, I'm dating your fiancés daughter…doesn't that just make you want to yell like you care about something?" she finished in an agitated voice.

Mike shifted uncomfortably in his seat. Of course he wanted to say something, he had a myriad of thoughts, comments and questions about the situation, he just didn't know how to go about voicing things. People in his family avoided confrontation, it was how they had managed to appear to be a happy family for generations. You didn't confront things, you ignored them and hoped they went away.

"I don't know what to say, Brooke," he responded finally, standing up and beginning to pace the room. "I mean," he threw his hands up in the air and shook his head at her. "I don't know what to say, Brooke," he repeated helplessly.

Brooke sighed and looked at the floor. The cycle continued.

"I kissed her first," Brooke said finally.

"What?" Mike asked turning to face her.

"It started out as a bet, I had to kiss her to win it," Brooke went on, ignoring his question. "I thought it would be easy, and it was," her voice was soft, almost awed, "I just never thought...it was like everything went into Techni-Color. But it was Sam, and I tried to tell myself that I was having a mental situation, but it didn't feel like a mental situation. The only thing that felt wrong was denying it. And before I knew it, before I could even consider it and talk myself out of it, I had gone from hating her loving her. I love her, I need her," she continued her a rush, the words pouring out of her mouth without thought without hesitation. When she finished speaking she looked up meeting her father's eyes. Now all she had to do was wait and see what he was going to do with the information she had just given him.

"You don't know what you need. You won't know what you need until you're forty and you don't have it," Mike responded dismissively, somewhat unhinged by the flow of words and thoughts Brooke had just unleashed upon him.

"I need her," Brooke repeated, standing up and walking over to where he father was. "I love her," she continued somewhat confrontationally.

"No, you don't," he responded. His voice was still calm, but Brooke could tell that he was cracking under the pressure. A little bit more, and they would actually be having a conversation.

"Yes, I do," she said forcefully. "She's the first and last thing I think about every day," she continued, not backing down. "I've never felt the way I do when I'm with her."

"In all your extensive experience, right?" Mike commented sarcastically as he turned to face her. "How do you know what you want? What you need?" he asked dubiously. "You used to kiss your Scott Baio poster every night and every morning, I suppose he's your soulmate too! Come on, Brooke, you're not even old enough to remember who shot J.R.!" he continued.

"Age ain't nothin' but a number," Brooke responded, channeling Aaliyah for a moment. "We're older than Romeo and Juliet, nobody said they weren't old enough to be in love, to know what love was and that it was each other," she continued passionately.

"Why do people keep using that play as an example?" Mike asked irritably. "They died. It was a damn TRAGEDY!"

"But this doesn't have to be," Brooke said, pointing the doorway. "We don't have to be. The situation sucks, I get that, but IT IS the situation. Whether you believe it or not Sam and I are in love with each other, it's not rational, it's not convenient, and yeah, it's a little bit awkward but that's how it is!" Brooke yelled at him. "I'm telling you right now that after all we've been through, nothing short of death or expatriation is going to break us up!"

"Oh yeah?" Mike asked at a loss for what else to say. The truth was that the situation was harder for him to grasp because he could tell that there was a genuine depth of emotion between the two girls. If it had just been about sex, or about rebellion, or about fashion, he could have dealt with it, he could have put his foot down and demanded that a stop be put to whatever was going on. But now, there was Brooke taking about love, talking about commitment, and expatriation.

"Yeah," Brooke responded, somewhat confused by her father's schoolyard response but stepping up to the challenge nonetheless.

"Well…you're grounded!" Mike shot back immediately. "So there." Brooke gaped at him absolutely stunned. She couldn't believe what she was hearing. Was she talking to her father or her six-year-old cousin Russ?

"You can't do that! Grounding out of antagonism is strictly forbidden!" Brooke finally responded angrily. She could feel tears stinging her eyes and impatiently brought her hand up to her face to rub them away.

After Brooke spoke, Mike observed her intently for a moment. Her eyes were misty as she rubbed at them, but she wasn't outright crying. Her body was trembling slightly, but her voice was strong. Her tone was commanding, but her eyes pleading. She was terrified and was trying not to show it. It was what she was terrified of that caused him to pause. She knew that he wasn't going to kick her out of the house, that much had to be clear to her already. She knew there was no danger of physical violence. So what could she possibly have been so scared of? After a few moments thought, what seemed like a lifetime of contemplation, he was able to come up with only one answer, that Brooke was afraid that she would lose Sam.

"I know I'm not old enough to drink, or vote, but can't you understand that that doesn't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world of ours," Brooke went on when he didn't say anything. "You love Jane. I love Sam. It's the same thing," she continued in a rush. "There's a certain symmetry to that, isn't there?"

Mike was distracted from responding, by the sound of footsteps in the hallway. Turning his head to the side he saw Jane exit the guest bedroom. She looked around for a moment then spotted him looking out into the hallway from Brooke's room. She motioned him out into the hallway, and after muttering something to Brooke that sounded like, "we'll talk later," he followed Jane out into the hallway, closing Brooke's door behind him.

Brooke slumped down into her chair as soon as the door closed and sighed. "That went well," she commented to herself, before chuckling morosely and turning to look out the window. It looked like rain. She was right, there was a cold front coming.

Part Forty-Two

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Sam rubbed at her eyes wearily, letting out a tired sigh. She didn't even need to look at herself to know that she had heavy bags under her eyes, and that she probably looked as bad as she felt. To call the previous night hell, would have been an understatement of epic proportions. Hell never looked so good. The entire evening had been marked by an oppressive, terse silence. Anxiousness pervaded their every movement, indeed, by the end of the night it seemed to Sam as if the furniture was becoming uncomfortable as well. And, when she arrived in the room she was to share with her mother -- for who knew how long -- things only got worse. They hardly spoke to each other, and when they did it was cumbersome and ungainly, as if they had been stranded on a desert island for years and had become unaccustomed to conversing with human beings -- halting, and stuttering and stumbling about. There had been an ease, a flow to their relationship with each other, Jane treating Sam with a respect and comfort that Sam had always appreciated and considered to be quite rare. That harmony which had characterized their relationship with each other had been disrupted now, polarized, until Sam hardly recognized it. When she got up in the night to go to the washroom and was questioned by her mother like it was the Spanish Inquisition, she realized what had changed. The trust Jane had always had in her was gone, that intrinsic belief that she knew who her daughter was, shattered. Sam felt like a stranger to Jane, and she was beginning to feel like a stranger to herself.

"We have to form a unified front." Sam blinked and turned her head to the side. It was Brooke. She had almost forgotten that the blonde was standing there.

"It's breakfast, not the invasion of Normandy," Sam responded. If she had worn glasses she would have taken that opportunity to take them off and clean them, staring into the translucent surface thoughtfully.

"This is not just breakfast. Certainly it's breakfast, but it's not JUST breakfast. This is the breakfast to end all breakfasts," Brooke responded tensely. Sam looked over at her thoughtfully. The blonde was paler than usual, her features tightly drawn, her lips forming a thin line. She looked older and, Sam thought, distinguished. Angst was a look Brooke wore well, wore with dignity Sam decided. Still, she would have washed every trace of it away without the slightest hesitation, if she could have.

"Maybe we should come up with a secret handshake, or buy matching decoder rings," Sam responded a moment later. Uniforms and secret rituals always made people seem more impressive than they actually were. Brooke glanced over at her but didn't respond to her verbally. Instead she took her bottom lip between her teeth, biting down softly and stared out the window with slightly hooded eyes.

"Your mom likes eggs benedict," the blonde said a moment later her voice curling as she spoke the last part making the whole sentence sound like a question.

"Yeah," Sam responded nodding her head. "And your dad likes grits," she added a moment later. They had prepared both of those dishes earlier on, with an impressive swiftness. Was it a bribe? A peace offering? A prostitution? They didn't know, they only knew that at the time, in the silence, in the dark of the early morning, it seemed like a good thing to do.

"It won't make a difference will it?" Brooke asked, releasing her lip and turning to face Sam.

"No," Sam responded. "I don't expect that it will."

"I think," Brooke began, then stopped. She was quiet for a moment, looking down at her feet, her lip back between her teeth being gnawed at once again. "I think," she said, starting once again, apparently having regained her train of thought, "that I had convinced myself that things would be different when they found out. You know, like one of those dream sequences in soap operas where everyone smiles and hugs, and rose petals fall from above, and a rainbow appears even though there isn't a cloud in the sky." She sounded damaged, like a ten-year-old who had just been told that there was no Santa Claus. Sounding terribly trite even to herself Sam thought, we're not in Kansas anymore.

"That's why I live mostly in my mind," is what the brunette said out-loud however. She had wanted to say something comforting, something that would make it all go away, something that could give Brooke her rainbow, but there wasn't anything she could say that could do that. This was the reality of the situation, and they had spent perhaps their entire relationship ignoring it.

Brooke was about to respond when the clicking of shoes on the tile of the floor brought her attention to the doorway. Sam followed her gaze and they both watched as their parents entered the kitchen. Their faces were as still as stone. Brooke opened her mouth to speak, she had pre-planned what she was going to say to them when they entered the kitchen, it was witty and charming, the perfect icebreaker or hostility disarmer. It was supposed to make them laugh easily, and then stop and think about the banality of the situation, the utter ridiculousness of it, and bring them to a new understanding, the rising sun shining brightly through the kitchen window warming them all. The reality was that almost as soon as she opened her mouth she closed it again and bit her lip once more, not emoting a word or a sound.

They took their seats.

Mike pinched the bridge of his nose, and sighed deeply. Jane rubbed her bottom lip with her thumb mutely, her eyes focused on her plate. Sam sat with her fork poised over her plate, the utensil shuddering minutely because of the trembling of her hand. Brooke sat still, except for her hands, which took off and replaced the ring she wore on her right hand repeatedly, her skin chaffing slightly under the assault.

The clock ticked noisily in the background. They still had thirty minutes before they could politely remove themselves from each other's company.

Part Forty-Three

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Nicole looked to her side, observing Brooke out of the corner of her eye. She and the taller blonde had been stalking through the hallways for almost fifteen minutes, but they had ended up nowhere. Brooke was walking, but Nicole was certain that she didn't have any idea where she was going, and she was pretty sure that she didn't give a good god damn about it either. She was walking because she needed to move, because if she stayed still, she would be forced to think and if she was forced to think, she might just have a mental breakdown.

"Everything's falling apart," Brooke mumbled softly as they passed their lockers for the third time. Thoughts of her rapidly deteriorating family environment were haunting her, silences and reproachful looks running through her brain over and over again, taunting her.

"You didn't need to be a close acquaintance of Dionne Warwick to predict that," Nicole responded. Brooke looked off into the distance moodily only regaining her focus when she heard her name being called from somewhere just in front of her.

"Hey, Brooke," Randy Dunn called from his position against his locker door. "Ellen called she wants her shtick back!" he continued, smiling at his own wit.

"Hey, Randy, Rick James called he wants his hair-cut back!" Brooke responded in a clipped tone. She wasn't in the mood to trade barbs with some insecure asshole at the moment.

"Dyke," Randy shot back. He liked his hair, and it was all he could think of.

"Was that you or your baby dick talking? I couldn't hear over the shrill cries of overcompensation," Brooke replied dryly, a small but suitably malicious smile working its way across her face as the people in the hallway around them chuckled at her comment.

"Bitch," Randy spat at her. How did she know?

"Don't talk about your mamma that way," Brooke responded, continuing down the hall effectively ending the conversation the undisputed winner. She hated to have a battle of the wits with someone so poorly armed, but a girl had to do what a girl had to do. The truth was she felt slightly better after ripping him a new asshole. As they continued to walk down the hall she wondered if Nicole had been onto something all these years.

---

Sam rubbed at her eyes tiredly for what seemed like the billionth time that morning. "You don't understand. I got up to go to the washroom and it was like the Salem witch hunts."

"Can you really blame her? She's got to be paranoid. You and Brooke have been sneaking around with amazing proficiency for almost two months," Carmen responded.

"All I wanted was some water," Sam replied, pouting. "Besides I'm not an idiot, like I was really going to sneak into her the room the night they found out!" she continued indignantly. "I'm rather fond of this little thing called life."

"Despite the suspicion you've got it pretty good," Lily commented. "From what you said, it sounded like they handled everything exceptionally well."

"I know," Sam admitted grudgingly. "It's just that now everything's so tense. Breakfast was a nightmare, I was afraid to pass her the milk. And Mr. McQueen, you should have seen how he was looking at me. Suddenly I could identify most excruciatingly with the saying 'if looks could kill.'"

"Well, you are banging his daughter. Parents, especially fathers tend to get upset when people bang their daughters. In fact daughter banging is…" Carmen responded not quite able to hide her smile.

"Can you pretend like this isn't a supreme source of amusement?" Sam asked, interrupting her friend's diatribe irritably. Most of the time she dealt with Carmen's teasing well, she knew that the girl meant well, but there was a time and place for it and this wasn't it. "On the outside this might seem funny, but inside it's really, really sad," she continued wretchedly. "Did I tell you they're making us go to a family therapist!"

"That doesn't sound like such a bad idea," Carmen commented objectively. "You know, as long as you get to hit each other with multi-coloured 'take that bitch' padded bats," she continued making a whacking action with her arm.

"Yeah, those aren't so bad," Sam admitted before frowning again.

Part Forty-Four

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Mike closed the study door with a shake of his head. He couldn't believe he had forgotten to fax those papers to the office in Singapore. Then again considering the stress he had been under for the past few days, he realized that it was only bound to happen. He was just glad that he remembered in time to send them. As he headed to the stairs he heard Brooke's voice, and stopped his movements. Turning around, he looked into the kitchen, spotting two figures silhouetted in the moonlight. Blending into the shadows, he watched the scene unfolding in front of him.

---

Brooke watched Sam with hooded eyes as she rested her weight on the kitchen table. "You look miserable," she commented finally. With the way everything had been since their parents found out, they hadn't had much time to spend together, even to talk, and now that they had stumbled across some alone time, Brooke wasn't going to waste it brooding in the dark.

"So do you," Sam responded, her lips twitching, but not able to form a smile. Her eyes didn't even try, maintaining that haunted look throughout her statement.

"That's because I am," Brooke responded with a weary half smile of her own. Her voice sounded distant, even to her, and she wondered if she looked as worn-out as she felt. The past few days seemed to have sucked everything out of her. Her reserves were depleted, and she knew it was beginning to show. She wanted to stay strong for Sam, but she could feel herself crumbling too.

"I guess it goes without saying that I am too," Sam responded, lowering her gaze to the floor, where it remained for a long moment. When she finally looked up, she sniffed and Brooke could see her trying to blink back tears. She raised her eyes to ceiling and breathed out, "God, I hate this. I feel like something's breaking inside of me," she continued a tear escaping the prison of her eyelashes and trailing down her face.

Brooke pushed herself off the table when she saw this and crossed the short distance over to Sam, regarding her helplessly for a moment before reaching out her hand and placing it on Sam's cheek, stroking the soft skin gently with her thumb. "Please," Brooke said in almost pleading tone. "Don't cry. I don't think I could take it if you cried," she continued, resting her forehead against Sam's. "It'll be okay," she said, she could still feel tiny shivers running through the brunette's body. She took her free hand and joined their fingers together. "We shall overcome," she went on somewhat desperately.

It paid off however, since she heard Sam chuckle softly, and whisper, "thanks Mrs. Tubman," before she buried her head in Brooke's neck, drawing the blonde into a hug.

After a moment, once she was sure that Sam was no longer crying, Brooke stepped back slightly so that she could see the entirety of Sam's face. She raised her hand to Sam's cheek once again, stroking it as she had before, a contemplative look on her face.

"I'm going to tell you something," she began a moment later, her voice low, but intense. "And no matter what happens I want you to remember this. I love you," she said stressing each of the three words. "Before you, I was walking in shadows, you showed me the sun. And, he can ground me, or send me off to England where I'll start referring to underwear as knickers, but it won't change the fact that I love you. I want you to remember that, to know that you're my heart," she concluded. Her voice had cracked a few times as she spoke, and she knew that she too know bore the telltale signs of fallen tears.

"Don't talk like that," Sam responded immediately. "Like it's already over. It can't be over. I need you," she continued, another tear running down her face as she stepped into Brooke once more where she was enveloped into an almost desperate hug.

Finally, pulling herself together, Brooke turned her head to the side and placed a soft kiss on the side of Sam's forehead. "It'll be alright," she said softly. Her tone was supposed to be reassuring, but in it Sam could hear that Brooke was just as lost as her, just as confused and heartbroken, and scared. She didn't know that things would be alright, she just hoped they would. She tightened the hold she had on the cheerleader.

---

Mike slipped away after this, heading towards the stairs making very certain that they wouldn't see him. He made his way up the stairs on unsteady legs, quite shaken by what he had witnessed. Until he saw them there, interacting with each other so tenderly, he had truly thought that their relationship was just some kind of teen fling, but the agony in their voices couldn't be denied. The broken heartedness in Brooke's voice and Sam's tears had been evidence enough to force him to reconsider his thoughts on the situation. He realized that they sincerely meant something to each other, and although he wasn't sure how, he knew that that changed things.

Part Forty-Five

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Mike watched Brooke head out the door, Sam had exited the house just before her and from his position in the hallway he could see the brunette getting into the back of Nicole's convertible. Brooke was soon out the door too, shutting it behind her with a soft click. He noted sadly that the fluidity of movement Brooke seemed to have been possessed with since she came out of the womb was absent then, and had been absent for a long time, since they had found out about the girls' relationship he admitted. Her shoulders seemed to now have a perpetual slump to them, and her feet dragged along the ground as if she couldn't spare the energy to lift them up properly anymore. There was an ungainliness to her movements, like the metronome inside of her, which had previously guided her motions, had been unceremoniously smashed into tiny little bits leaving her shaken and unsure. It broke his heart to see this shriveled up, broken down version of his daughter roaming around.

Jane walked up behind him, placing her hand on his shoulder. He had been staring at the closed door for over a minute.

"Come sit down," she said softly, guiding him towards the dining room.

"They're miserable," he said as he slumped down into the chair Jane had guided him to. She moved around the table and sat opposite him.

"I know," she said. Whatever it was the girls were feeling inside showed through every movement they made, every word they spoke and even more through every word they left unspoken. Despondency was draped around them, greeting you every time you looked at their faces. They were like shells of their former selves, hollowed out waiting for a time when they could come back into themselves without fear of having their hearts ripped again.

Jane blew out a tired breath, ruffling her hair as she thought about it. Every morning they woke up at the same time they always had, they put on the same clothes they had put on countless numbers of times before, applied the same makeup to the same places as they always had, and they ate the same breakfasts they always did. Yet, despite the sameness of their routine, despite performing the same activities that had always left them fresh and vibrant and shimmering with youth and promise, they now looked haggard, fruitless. Jane assumed that a large part of that came from the fact that they, or at least Sam, wasn't sleeping, just tossing and turning or wandering around the room like a ghost. It gave them the looks of those abused puppies in humane shelter commercials. There was a constant cloud over them, a gaping darkness sucking at them and those that surrounded them. They had come to embody misery, dejection and melancholy. They did not wear tragedy masks, they didn't need to, their actual faces were doing quite well on their own.

"They were talking in the kitchen a few nights ago," Mike revealed. "I listened," this was said in a softer, almost apologetic tone. He sounded guilty and Jane knew how he felt, they were guilty of the same thing, partners in life and crime. "I don't know what to think. They sounded so sincere. No artifice, no theatrics, just raw emotions, for no one's consumption but their own…or so they thought."

"What did you hear?" Jane asked, leaning forward slightly, resting her elbows on the table.

"Gentleness, concern, comfort, declarations of undying love, begging, fear. I heard a truth I could have blissfully ignored," he responded thoughtfully, his voice sounding far away. "I hesitate to call it love because of some antiquated notions I can't quite seem to get out of my head, but I do believe that…that they care deeply about each other."

"I asked Sam," Jane said a moment after Mike finished speaking, "what I was supposed to do about this," she continued folding and unfolding her hands. "She told me nothing…short of sending one of them to another country."

"That night, Brooke said not even that would be enough," Mike interjected, scratching his chin.

"I don't know about you…but I believe them," Jane responded, the last part of her comment coming out in a half laugh, half moan. The ludicrousness of the situation, the utter improbability of a condition like this one developing, momentarily overwhelming her. If she weren't so completely depressed by the circumstances she would have found it terribly amusing.

"Me too," Mike responded, a dark bark of laughter following the admission. He shook his head and scratched his chin again.

"What are we going to do?" Jane asked, rubbing the corner of her left eye. How many times had they asked each other this question? How many times had they wrung their hands, and shaken their heads trying to answer this one little question? If she had been keeping count, she would have lost track of it a long time ago.

"What can we do?" Mike asked haltingly, giving the question the feel of a semi-formed idea that reached maturity as it was spoken out loud. He had had an epiphany. What could they do? Nothing, nothing, and nothing.

Jane stared at him for a moment an irreverent smile appearing on her face briefly before she spoke. "Regulate," she answered finally. "Things have been done that can't be reversed. What we have to do is … manage," she said, choosing the word carefully, "the resulting situation. I'm not sending my baby anywhere which leaves…"

"Regulation," Mike supplied closing his eyes. "Oh lord," he muttered, shaking his head. "I'll go get some paper and a pen," all the ingredients needed for a royal decree, "you start thinking about what our … policy, should be," he continued, standing up and moving towards the door as Jane shot him a look. Why'd he get to be the paper gatherer? "Oh, and number ten or so should be that Brooke has to get rid of that 'Pull Up To My Bumper' poster," he continued ignoring the look Jane was shooting at him.

"The Brady's never had to go through this," Jane muttered as she thought about criteria for supervising the girls' relationship, and became utterly depressed by her hypotheticals.

"I don't know," Mike said as he started out the door. "I always wondered about Greg and Marsha."

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Epilogue

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All of the lights were out in the palace (otherwise known as the McQueen/McPherson residence), the only illumination in the whole house coming from the living room where the television cast off a soft glow about the room. In the softly lit living room there was a gathering. It was a small gathering, but a gathering nonetheless, informal, the coming together of friends (or at the very least frienemies). The two plush leather couches in the room were occupied by a shorthaired blonde girl with harlot red lipstick, and a long-haired blonde girl with a fashionable but not very politically correct fondness for fur. They were stretched out on the couches like reigning monarchs, or lounging goddesses. The only other seat in the room, a leather lounge chair, was occupied by a short haired brunette (who was surprising spry as the others found out in the foot race for the open chair) which meant that the other occupants of the room where relegated to the floor.

A blonde with hair that hung just below her shoulder sat with her back propped up against the couch the shorthaired golden goddess was currently occupying. Her legs were stretched out in front of her, positioned closely together so that they formed a pillow for the head of the luscious, long-haired brunette who was lying by her. The two of them, who occasionally bestowed each other with tender glances and whispered words, were the picture of domestic bliss.

Another brunette girl sat cross-legged off to the left of the goddess and picture of domestic bliss. She was sitting close to the fur-wearer, but not too close. She seemed uneasy and kept sending anxious looks behind her to the fur-wearer, who would then grin at her in a highly unsettling manner.

Next to the spry brunette in the chair sat a handsome young man with dark hair and soulful eyes. He sat leaned up against the side of the chair and could occasionally be seen casting longing though resigned looks to the picture of domestic bliss.

To anyone observing the scene from the outside it would have seemed like a quaint little scene indeed. Imbued with sugar and spice and nostalgia and all of those good things. It would have seemed like quite a charming little scene. But things always look different from the outside.

Inside:

"What are you doing?" Harrison asked peevishly, turning to glare at Nicole, even though he could barely make out her figure in the dark of the room. "Stop that!" He demanded when she didn't cease her actions immediately. She was fast-forwarding through the parts of the movie she deemed too boring to sit through, and he had had enough of it. They had missed every part of the movie where Brad Pitt wasn't on screen. "Give me the remote!" He demanded.

"Make me," Nicole responded, elevating a cocky eyebrow at him. A challenge. Nicole Julian didn't take orders. If you wanted something she had, you had to take it.

"Give it!" Harrison demanded again. Oh, how he hated this girl. He hated her even more than he hated Mary Cherry -- and that was a considerable statement considering that Mary Cherry, despite having known him for almost a year, referred to him as Joe for some insane reason.

"Since you obviously haven't figured this out yet, let me explain it to you in simpler terms. You're the Jimmy Olsen in this equation. That means that you sit there and be grateful that I'm letting you bask in my radiance," Nicole responded unfazed. The silly boy thought that yelling would intimidate her. Laughable, pitiful.

"GIVE ME THE REMOTE YOU SOULLESS HARPY!" Harrison yelled at her in response. Just once he wanted to be Superman; he was tired of being Jimmy Olsen. Jimmy Olsen never got the girl.

"Shouldn't you be obsessing over some girl that would rather date your mother?" Nicole asked tauntingly, smiling wickedly at him as the words left her mouth. She was so bad. She was utterly delicious.

"Hey!" Harrison, Brooke and Sam all exclaimed at once. This only made Nicole's smile widen. Yah, for her, that was a three for one, very rare indeed.

"I've got the perfect solution," Brooke said, reaching up from her position on the floor and yanking the remote out of Nicole's hand – a move that becomes particularly impressive when it is noted that she barely jostled Sam's head as she ripped the remote away from her friend. "Both of you, don't speak," she continued, pressing the rewind button. The movie was called "A River Runs Through It" and Brooke had yet to spot the river. All they had seen was shirtless Brad Pitt – not that that was a bad thing at all, Brooke just felt that they were selling themselves short by looking at nothing but naked man flesh.

"I--"

"No! Don't speak," Brooke exclaimed again holding up her hand and wiggling her finger, effectively cutting off Nicole's response.

"Can I please get the end of the couch?" Carmen asked Mary Cherry. Mary Cherry's response was to simply stare at her, and rather apathetically at that. "My ass has gone numb," Carmen explained, trying to appeal to Mary Cherry's heart, when she received no response from the other girl. This was her mistake, for Mary Cherry had a heart condition…she doesn't have one.

"Let me think about that fer a minute," Mary Cherry responded, tilting her head up to the ceiling thoughtfully. "After conversing with mah lord and savoir Jesus Christ, I'm afraid I have ta reply in the negatory," the blonde continued a moment later.

"Why?" Carmen asked.

"He don't want yer fat ass crinkling this gorgeous buckskin couch any more than I do," Mary Cherry responded plainly. "We're agreed that it'd be a terrible tragedy." With that out of the way, she promptly yawned and turned away from the gaping brunette.

"Brooke," Carmen called out indignantly.

Brooke turned her attention from Sam – who had interrupted her feuding with Nicole to protest the harsh treatment her head was receiving – and looked over to where Carmen and Mary Cherry were situated. She winced; this wasn't likely to be pleasant.

"Children please," Brooke said, though she was looking directly at Mary Cherry as she spoke. "Didn't anybody teach you how to play with others? Sharing is the first step in forming if not a lasting, then at least a non-combative relationship."

"She started it," Carmen and Mary Cherry responded simultaneously pointing at each other. Brooke sighed. This was a mistake; she never should have gathered this group of people together in a combined space. It was one of the pitfalls of being a dreamer. She was hopelessly optimistic. Sometimes it paid off, other times it slapped her upside the head.

"I'll go," Mary Cherry said a second later, "if I can share with Lil' Lily," she continued, grinning at the alarmed-looking brunette across the room.

"No," Lily said. "No way," she continued, getting more agitated. "No," she went on her voice taking on a horrified quality.

Brooke looked down at a grinning Sam who mouthed to her, 'I told you so,' then continued to chuckle. Brooke watched her highly amused girlfriend with a scowl. How could a loved one take so much joy in her pain? Turning her attention from Sam momentarily, Brooke looked up in time to hear Lily yell, "Why does everything have to come back to your ass!" at Carmen who yelled back, "What kind of vegetarian hogs a LEATHER couch? Newsflash, that comfy piece of furniture ain't made out of Tofu!"

Looking down Brooke saw Sam watching her, a gentle smile playing across her lips, and she shrugged her shoulders and leaned back against the couch happily. Sam lifted her head up at this and rearranged her position so that she was sitting beside Brooke and rested her head on the blonde's shoulder as the cheerleader wrapped her arm around the brunette's waist while whispering in her ear, "I guess it's true what they say about good intentions".

"What's that sound?" Jane asked as they entered the house. Most of the lights were off, but they seen a faint light coming from the living room. This was the first night she and Mike had gone out since learning about the girls' relationship. After having laid down the ground rules–which they had an absolute aneurysm coming up with–they had finally realized that sooner or later they were going to have to leave Brooke and Sam alone together at some point. So the night before they had grandly announced that they had theatre tickets and that the girls would have the house to themselves. However, in a thoughtful gesture–perhaps having spotted the cold sweat they had entered while making the announcement–the girls had responded by asking if it was okay if they had a few people over. Mike and Jane nodded vigorously in agreement to this, warmed by the girls' sensitivity and delicacy, believing that the offer was an olive branch signaling that the girls realized what an unusual and confusing situation they were all in. But that's what they thought. The truth was–and it was a truth that they didn't particularly need to know–that Brooke and Sam had made this grand gesture knowing that, even though they had been living like nuns for weeks, they would not be able to have intimate relations knowing that their parents knew they were having intimate relations. They simply wouldn't have been able to perform, as it were, under those circumstances. They were psychologically blocked. This made acting mature and philanthropic much, much easier for them.

"It sounds like grunting," Mike responded, scowling.

Slowly they made their way towards the living room, glancing inside somewhat hesitantly. The noise they had heard was indeed grunting and looking at the occupants of the room they now knew the source of it. Mary Cherry had Carmen in a headlock, and because of this Carmen was grunting trying to free her cranium from Mary Cherry's tyrannical grasps. In response Mary Cherry grinned and was singing a song that sounded like "Baby-back, Baby-back, Baby-back riiiiiibs." Whatever that meant.

On the other side of the room Lily was sitting in the recliner like a centurion. She was holding the fire-poker in a death grip, her eyes trained on Mary Cherry. Every once in a while she would make a poking gesture, as if to tell the occupants of the room that she wasn't just holding the poker, she knew how to use it, before focusing on Mary Cherry once again with an almost homicidal intensity.

Nicole and Harrison were off by themselves, circling the coffee like a pair of rabid dogs. From his vantage point, Mike was ninety percent sure that Nicole had her teeth bared and that Harrison was foaming at the mouth slightly. In the center of the coffee table lay the remote, and every couple of seconds one of them would reach for it only to have their hand clawed at by the other. They would then draw the wounded appendage back towards their bodies and growl before beginning to circle the table once more. Mike was almost certain he had seen this before on the Discovery Channel, only it had been with baby Pandas.

And finally Brooke and Sam were by themselves sitting on the floor in front of the larger of the two leather couches. Sam was sitting in between Brooke's legs with her knees drawn up serving as a sort of desk for a notepad that Brooke was pointing and gesturing at emphatically.

Mike and Jane turned to look at each other. What the…

"See, it's clever." The parents turned when they heard Brooke's voice. They had been frozen in position by the utter strangeness of the scene they walked in on, and they were now unable to remove themselves. They were fascinated, and Mike thought that the little bit they had seen was much better than 'The Vagina Monologues' and he wasn't even paying to watch this.

"There's nothing there," Sam said, looking at the notebook Brooke had been pointing to before. Her voice was calm and soothing, as if speaking to a small child.

"That's it exactly. That's the point," Brooke exclaimed happily, glad that Sam finally seemed to have caught on. "That's why it's significant," she continued, dramatically resting her case.

"It doesn't mean anything," Sam insisted. Jane thought that she saw Sam smirk as she said this, but she couldn't be sure.

"But it does," Brooke responded petulantly. "It's a very significant statement. Without you, my life would be a font of nothing. That's a very significant statement," she repeated at a loss for what else to say. "And clever," she added at the last minute.

Sam responded to this by gently taking the unused pen out of Brooke's hand and patting the appendage patronizingly before beginning to write something in the notebook. Brooke watched all of this with a pout on her face, her head hanging in a mopey, hang doggish way, but she said nothing. She was certain that in the end she would be vindicated and it would be proved that 'font of nothing' was indeed brilliant.

"I like this better," Sam said finally as she pointed to the piece of paper.

"Life without you would be like a broken pencil," Brooke read aloud with an incredulous expression on her face. "The fuck?" she asked, looking over at Sam. Mike scowled some more when he heard this, his baby sure had grown up fast.

"A broken pencil is completely pointless. It's got this one purpose on earth and it can no longer fulfill it. It's an object without a function, it represents a life without meaning," Sam responded helpfully in a rather scholarly tone.

"That's the exact same thing as a font of nothing!" Brooke exclaimed in an agitated tone. Sam turned to look back at her girlfriend. Her face was red; she was all flustered. Brooke looked at her blinking, her lips quivering slightly. She looked like a puppy that'd had their favorite chew toy taken away. Sam was immediately contrite.

"I was just rompin'," Sam responded gently. She was helpless to resist Brooke when she was all flustered and doe eyed and utterly precious. Iced tea: a dollar fifty-nine. Lava Lamp: sixty-four dollars. Bonsai tree that dies three days later: fifty-dollars. Brooke all flustered and precious, priceless. "A font of nothing is brilliant," she continued, taking Brooke's hand into hers.

"That's what I thought," Brooke responded somewhat pacified by Sam's change of heart. Sometimes she thought that the brunette tried to get her all flustered on purpose. "Look, now I'm all agitated," she continued, dropping her head down to rest on Sam's shoulder.

"Poor baby," Sam responded, placing a kiss on the top of Brooke's head.

"Poor baby," Brooke mumbled piteously into Sam's shoulder. However, despite her tone there was a smile on her face and she pressed a brief kiss to the side of Sam's neck

"Mamma knows child, mamma knows," Sam responded, shifting slightly so that she could see Brooke's face.

"Font of nothing," Brooke mumbled. Sam observed her for a second with a smile on her face. Life without her certainly would have been a font of nothing. Wiping such depressing thoughts from her head she leaned forward and brought their lips together kissing Brooke chastely on the lips.

When they broke apart Brooke sent Sam a big goofy smile, and Sam smiled back at her with the same sappy-ass expression. After the cavity inducing moment, Brooke then, still grinning, playfully walked her fingers up Sam's side. "Brooke, no. No. Brooke!" Sam said pleadingly, but it was no use, the blonde started tickling her anyway. Soon Sam was reduced to a wiggling pile of flesh in Brooke's arms alternately laughing and pouting while the blonde hugged and prodded her happy as a lark.

At this Mike and Jane managed to tear themselves away from the scene in front of them and continued down the hallway to the stairs. They were quiet as they made their way up the stairs and across the landing to their bedroom, each occupying their own vista of contemplation, though they were considering the same subject. As they passed the guest bedroom – now Sam's permanent residence, a fate the brunette had come to grudgingly accept – she shook her head. She supposed that all things considered the new arrangement in the house was working out adequately. However, lord knew dinner parties were going to be a bitch!

"That was…" Mike said trailing off, shrugging his shoulders helplessly.

"Yep," Jane agreed smiling. "But if you think things are crazy now," she continued, sitting down on the bed and taking off her stockings, "you just wait until they find out I'm pregnant."

The End

Phew Well thanks for taking that ride with me! I hope you enjoyed the story :D Comments are always welcome and greatly appreciated.