Title: Champagne From a Paper Cup

Rating: M

Summary: You're not sure if that's the truth or just something you like to tell yourself but it makes you feel a little better to think that you didn't spend all of your time pining over Sam...

Disclaimer: I don't own anything.

You weren't always in love with Sam.

You're not sure if that's the truth or just something you like to tell yourself but it makes you feel a little better to think that you didn't spend all of your time pining over Sam though in actuality it may have always been there, settled snuggly between your ribs until it grew into the heavy, dense thing that currently resides in your chest.

You can't pinpoint exactly when friendly affection turned into something hotter and more concentrated but you can remember when you realized it, sitting shoulder to shoulder on a bean bag while you listened to Sam tell you about how her then boyfriend tried to go down on her and how offended she was by his lack of skill and you couldn't tell what the sudden heat in the back of your neck meant.

And of course, Sam figured it out because you are a terrible liar and Sam is way more observant than she'd ever let on and you were terrified when she pressed the words into the nape of your neck while the two of you were curled together in your bed which had grown way too small for you but it didn't change anything, Sam was still Sam, committing crimes and dodging the police and you were still you, letting her hide at your loft and vouching for her whereabouts when the authorities questioned you but you just did it with your feelings for Sam sitting heavy in your chest like a stone.A stone that didn't budge when the two of you went to separate colleges but only seemed to get bigger, especially when Sam would come visit you for days at a time, out of the blue, like it wasn't the middle of the semester and you didn't have classes or a roommate, you would come home from lecture to find Sam asleep in your bed and that feeling in your chest would get heavier, a little harder to carry around but eased when you slipped in the sheets with her.

But the weight was nearly unbearable when Sam emailed you about a boy named Felix who liked defacing property and chicken wings as much as she did.

You hear about him for almost a year before you finally meet him and Felix is just this beautiful boy who is so obviously in love with Sam and no matter how cool Sam claims to be playing it, you can still see the way she looks at him and the only other person you've ever seen her look at like that is you. It's terrifying.

A handful of months later, maybe even a year, just before graduation, you get a call from Sam who tells you that Felix proposed, got down on one knee and gave her a blue raspberry ring pop…and she said yes. The thing in your chest grows so much that it gets difficult to breathe.

And now you're closed up in this small room, trying to inhale the stale air that reeks of flowers and perfume and figure out how it can hurt this much to loose something you never really had.

You settle your gaze on Sam, standing in front of you, examining herself in the full length mirror and she looks beautiful. The jut of her shoulder blades and the curve of her waist, its all beautiful.

She looks so watch her hands smooth down the shimmering material of her gown, the pristine white a sharp contrast to her tan skin and your hearts pounds like you just ran a marathon, your own fingers twisting in the deep red material of your stare at the line of her neck, all of it exposed and vulnerable because of the way her hair is twisted into an elegant knot, and try to breathe through the tightness in your chest but it feels impossible, it feels like your not getting enough air and any second you'll keel over.

"You doing okay?" Sam looks at you in the reflection mirror, brows furrowed in concern and you see yourself nod, clearing your throat to say something, anything but you can't push any words past the heaviness in your chest save for a brittle smile. "Carly?"

"You look beautiful." You finally manage and Sam rolls her eyes, turning around to face you, shoulders and collarbones naked and lovely.

"You look pretty hot yourself, Shay." Sam murmurs, reaching down to gather the material of her gown so she can move closer to you without falling and you smile faintly at the beat up sneakers that peak at you from beneath her skirt before she releases it, coming to stand right in front of you. "Whats wrong? You're not having second thoughts about being my Maid of Honor are you? Because I'd hate to have to go out there and force Fredward into a strapless dress for the second time in our lives."

"No, of course not." You sniffle weakly and Sam tilts her head curiously, blue eyes clear like marbles. "Its just…"

"Just what?" She murmurs gently and tears are suddenly blurring your vision, hot and unforgiving and you hiccup a breath in an attempt to fight the way your breaking in front of Sam but its useless because the important parts of you are shredding apart suddenly and painfully.

"Sam…" you swallow thickly, tears scorching their way down your cheeks, burning your skin. "Sam, you're getting married."

And there's nothing congratulatory or happy in your words, instead there's only brokenness and grief and your crying because those feelings for her still nest so heavy in your chest but you're loosing god, you're loosing 's arms are slipping over your shoulders shakily but quickly, fingers twisting into your loose hair, drawing you forward so your forehead is pressed to hers and for a long, long moment she just holds you to her while you fall apart, while gut wrenching panic sets in.

"Carls…" she exhales low and soothing and you just try to get a hold of yourself while her lips press to your damp cheeks.

"I'm sorry." You rasp as she kisses your eye lids careful and soft and your heart gives an appreciative throb even as every other important organ in your body feels like its breaking down. "I just…I still need you."

Her lips land on the corner of your mouth and you shudder, hands coming up to curl around Sam's biceps, hanging on tight even though she's moments away from slipping away from you because her lips on your skin feels like electricity. She kisses the tip of your nose, tilting her head to kiss the other side of your mouth and she doesn't seemed surprised at all when you turn into the touch.

Sam inhales sharply against your mouth and for a moment there's sheer panic surging inside of you because this is Sam's wedding day and your kissing her in the tiny room in the back of the chapel while her fiancé and 200 assorted guests wait outside but Sam moves forward carefully so your mouths fit together better and the panic sort of surrenders to the feeling that is all heat and repression slithering around behind your cup the sides of her face, fingers splayed wide as you kiss her back urgently because this could be it, this could be all you get.

You've never been caught in quick sand but you think it feels like this, being swallowed up hole slowly and surely by something you couldn't stop if you tried.

You trace your tongue along her bottom lip and she lets you, exhaling when you dig your nails into the soft skin of her arms helplessly before slowly opening her mouth for you and then your tongue is brushing shyly against hers and it feels like your chest is going to implode.

There's a sudden knock at the door and Sam pulls away from you quickly, face flushing bright red.

"Yeah, what?" Sam calls, voice shaking and dark. "What is it?"

"We're ready for you, Sam." You recognize Melanie's voice and you swallow thickly, painfully.

"Alright, just…uh, just a second." Sam calls and you both listen to the sound of Melanie's heels retreating down the halls.

You need to say something, explain it all because Sam is blinking at you like she doesn't even recognize you but you don't blame her because you don't even feel like yourself at the moment...

"You're weddings starting." you whisper and Sam glances at the door like she hadn't even noticed the first notes of the Wedding March trickling through the wood but then she nods, gathering her skirt in her hands and heading to the door.

You take a breath before following her out.

The wedding goes off without any problems.

You close your eyes when you hear Sam say 'Fuck yeah, I do.' at the alter when the priest dressed like Elvis asks if she takes this man to be her lawfully wedded husband, try not to look at the pink marks left on her arms from your fingernails and you choke your way through a speech at the reception.

At the end of the year you get the opportunity to take a journalism job on the other side of the country, far away from Sam, and you take it.

[ ]

"You don't call anymore." The words are supposed to be a joke but there's only empty mirth that makes you feel nauseous. "Don't you miss me even a little?"

"I miss you lots." You admit, flicking through the television channels absently. "That's why I don't call."

Sam laughs a little at that even though you weren't joking, the sound hollow and echoing in a way that's become very familiar and you can picture Sam sitting cross legged and barefoot in the bathroom while her husband sleeps in the other room. Even imagining the sight makes you swallow down something sharp and painful.

"So where are you this week? Vegas? California? Mexico?" Sam asks and you sink into the stiff, over starched pillows of the hotel bed, flinging the tv remote over the side of the mattress and it hit's the carpet noiselessly.

"New York." you offer, listening to the traffic that never really seems to stop over the hum of the television and Sam's gently breathing. "And I hate it, its smells weird."

"New York, huh? That's crazy chiz." Sam murmurs like its not crazy at all. "Ya know, you could always come home and get a whiff of this delicious, rainy Seattle air."

"I can't." you don't say why and you know you don't need to. "Not yet."

After Sam's wedding, after kissing her, you tried to run away, to give that thing in your chest space and time to erode away to something more acceptable but things without Sam were stark and strange and you couldn't handle it and when you called Sam in the middle of the night a month and a half later, she just sighed your name like she'd been waiting for you all along.

That was six months ago

Sometimes you hate that you need her so much. You hate that she's under your skin and that you can feel her in your bones but you mostly hate the way you feel without her.

And there are times where you think it's a one way street, you know that it should be a one way street because Sam is very much a married woman but its not just you sitting on the phone in the middle of the night, she's on the other end.

"Can you think about it? Because I really miss you, kid." Sam murmurs almost too soft for you to hear and that thing in your chest swells, makes you press your free hand over your eyes.

"I miss you too." You whisper and for a moment you just listen to Sam breathe, even and slow.

"So, I'm going to tell you something and I need you to not freak out." Sam says suddenly and the sound of her voice is enough to make your heart lurch behind your ribs.

"Tell me, I wont freak." You croak hesitantly.

"Carls…I'm knocked up."

You're going to freak.

"What?"

"Ya know, pregnant, Prego, up the duff."

Your heart goes from lurching to not beating at all for a moment and you open your eyes, peering through your fingers and up at the ceiling to make sure your still alive.

"Congratulations." You choke out. "That's-that's great, Sam."

"You're freaking out." Sam observes quietly and you wish that you could just be fucking happy for Sam and her husband instead of having this twisted, ugly feeling squirming inside of you. "I'm sorry."

You dig your fingers into your eyes hard, watch light burst behind your lids and wonder how you and Sam got this way.

[ ]

You get a call in the middle of the night and you expect it to be Sam because you haven't spoken to her for days but its Felix's panicked voice filling your head and you're stumbling out of bed and reaching for your keys before the reality of what's happening sinks in.

It takes you two and a half hours to get to the hospital thanks to traffic and the fact that you're in Washington but not exactly close to Seattle and you spend the entire drive fluctuating between concern and full blown panic and by the time you park your car in the parking lot just after morning, you're ready to puke.

Your sneakers make a completely ridiculous, squeaking sound on the slick floor as you hurry down the corridor and you'd expect there to be nurses or doctors wandering around the maternity ward but its like a ghost town as you round the nurses station.

You look around for a bell or a buzzer or something and when there's none you consider just screaming for help but your chest is way too tight to conjure up that kind of lung power so instead you glance up at the giant board hanging behind the nurses station and find Sam's name and room number.

Because some higher power hates you, you get lost. All of the halls look the same and the arrows that are supposed to help you find your destination are pointing in weird directions and not at all helpful and you almost hurry right past Felix.

He looks like he's just been hit by a train.

He's wearing a thin, gauzy hospital scrubs over his clothes, a mask hanging limp and loose around his neck and the cap to cover his head clenched in his fist. You can't help but noticed how utterly exhausted he looks, eyes heavy and shoulders slumped as you step up beside him where he's peering through a wide window and into a room full of newborns.

"Felix?" You murmur softly, trying not to startle him but he starts anyway, eyes snapping towards you.

"Carly, you came." He exhales, shoulders falling in what may be relief before he turns his gaze back to the window.

"Of course, I would've been here sooner but there was an accident on the freeway and…" Your words trail away because its obvious that he's not listening, his focus firmly on what's on the other side of the glass.

"That's her right there." Felix whispers after a moment, tapping the glass lightly with his empty hand and you follow his gaze to an incubator with this tiny, beautiful person inside. There are wires and tubes in her nose and her little arms and you have to blink away sudden, hot tears at the sight.

"What's her name?" You ask, sniffling a little and Felix smiles faintly, pressing his palm and fingers to the glass.

"Charlotte." he exhales, "But Sam wants to call her Charlie for short. What do you think?"

Felix glances at you quickly and you spare him a watery smile, "I think Charlie is beautiful."

You stand there for a while longer, staring at Sam's daughter while your heart throbs in your chest before Felix speaks again. "I'm sorry for calling in the middle of the night but Sam was asking for you, well more like screaming and making terrifying threats if I didn't make sure you came."

"No, no its okay." You whisper, pushing away from the glass gently. "I'm gonna go see Sam, ya know, before she shanks a nurse or something."

"Been there done that." You watch his reflection as he grins wryly, back still towards you and you nod, heading down the hall.

Thanks to your poor sense of direction and confusing halls it still takes you a few minutes to navigate your way to her room but when you find it, slipping into the dimly lit space, something heavy and painful slips off your shoulders.

"I hear you've been assaulting the nurses." You whisper, pulling the door shut behind yourself and Sam smiles without opening her eyes, tilting her face towards you as you edge your way closer to her bed, eyeing the thin line of her IV.

"Just one and she deserved it." Her voice is hoarse and you wonder if its as painful to use as it is to listen to as you sit down in the chair next to her bed, smiling reflexively as heavy blue eyes find yours. "She asked me for my insurance card."

"That skunk bag." You grin and Sam chuckles before wincing, hand sliding over her stomach tenderly. "How're you feeling?"

"Like I just spent the last three hours in unproductive labor before some guy with a scalpel decided to cut my child out of my uterus."

"So, good then?" You grin and Sam gives you a tired eye roll, turning to watch you as you move closer to her bedside, until your touching her, tracing a circle around the IV in the back of her hand.

"Did you see Charlie?" Sam asks after a while and you blink away from the goose bumps erupting along her arm and up into her tired eyes.

"She's beautiful." You grin and Sam produces a watery laugh that you're not expecting.

"She's small, ya know." Sam swallows hard, two times like she's trying to gather herself but is failing, her voice catching in her throat and you watch the way tears make her blue eyes bright and glassy. "She's so small and came too early. And the doctor…" She trails off with a sob that sounds like it hurts, that makes you think maybe she's been in this room, crying all alone for a while and that thing in your chest shudders hard.

You're moving before you realize it, around the bed until you can climb into the narrow space beside Sam, curving your body around her best you can.

"Sam, Charlie is strong." You whisper near her ear while you slide your arm high across her stomach and her fingers curl around your forearm. "Just like her mom. And of course she came early and with a fight, she wouldn't be your baby if she hadn't."

Sam hiccups a breath as you lean forward to press your mouth to her temple, salty tears warm against your lips.

"Sam, you're a momma." You murmur in awe and Sam sniffles, tips her chin to look at you.

"What if I can't do it? What if I can't take care of her?" She whispers. "I mean, I can barely take care of myself. Just think about the number of times I would've gotten Salmonella poisoning if it weren't for you."

"You're not alone, Sam. Felix is going to be with you and I know he'll make sure you don't give the baby raw chicken."

"You think?" Sam murmurs and you nod, humming softly.

"I do."

That seems to calm Sam a little and you move awkwardly to wipe away the trails of tears on her skin.

"I'm glad you're here, Carls." You watch Sam's eyes flutter shut like her eyelids weigh a ton and you tuck in as close as you can, resting your head on your arm.

"Me too."

You must fall asleep because the next thing you know you're waking up still curled around Sam, her face tucked dangerously close to yours and you realize if you lift your chin you could be kissing her.

You think about it.

But there's a groan and shifting and you swallow down that feeling as you lift your head enough to see Felix slumped over in the bedside chair in what may be the most awkward sleeping position you've ever witnessed and that is enough to make you extract yourself from Sam, easing from beneath the scratchy hospital blanket Felix must've thrown over the two of you.

You're spine screams in protest as you stretch but your body feels warm and familiar like it hasn't since you stopped going to bed with Sam twisted against your back and you want to relish in the feeling but its impossible so you tuck it away in the back of your mind, save it for a long sleepless night.

"You're leaving?"

Sam's soft voice startles you and you smile wearily at her, running your hands through your hair nervously while she watches you with heavy, groggy blue eyes.

"Yeah." You whisper, twisting strands between your fingers. "I've got lots of work stuff to do and I don't want to be in the way…"

"You could stay." Sam interrupts softly, sitting up a bit with a wince. "You wouldn't be in the way and, I mean, can't you do your writing here?"

You want to say yes, you want to be here for Sam but you know its not your place. Your gaze falls on Felix's sleeping form and you know you're only a visitor here, its not your place to stay.

"Sam, I-…" You try but the rooms heavy door is swinging open and a nurse is shuffling in, greeting you warmly before heading over to Sam and you swallow. "I'll call you later tonight, okay? Give Charlie a kiss for me."

Sam doesn't say anything, just drops back against her pillows with a grimace as the nurse flutters around her.

"Stay blonde." You offer and she licks her lips and swallows like she's so tired.

"Stay brune."

[ ]

"You hiding?"

Sam's footsteps are hesitant, like she doesn't want to come all the way down the stairs if you are in fact trying to hide but you glance at her over your shoulder as she gazes down at you warily from the top of the stairs, give her a smile that was probably hers all along.

"Should I be?" you wonder as Sam starts down the stairs, sitting down two above you and to your right but she may as well be right behind you.

"Spencer and Felix are having a dance off so probably, things are getting pretty ugly up there." She mutters and you grin down at your hands in your lap.

"My brother." you laugh ruefully and just imagining the floppy passion Spencer's probably exhibiting upstairs makes you cringe with second hand embarrassment.

"My husband." Sam sighs and there's soft affection mixing with hint of mortification in her voice as the sound washes over you.

There's silence, thick and uncomfortable.

"So, I met your date." There's nonchalance forced between Sam's words and for some reason you smile, its probably the same reason guilt flares in your chest for just a moment. "He seems nice."

"You already hate him." Its not a question and Sam chuckles slowly, shoes scraping against the concrete stairs noisily.

"He was drinking his beer through a straw." Sam points out defensively and you grin at her over your shoulder. "That alone is reason enough to never see him again,"

"That's the only reason?" You ask quietly and the smile falls from Sam's mouth, eyes softening in a way you haven't seen in months and your stomach flutters in response.

"Not really." She says, soft and clear and you stare at her even though it feels like just looking at her is enough to make your chest cave in.

"I didn't know you were coming, that you'd be here." you say as if you're explaining something and Sam tilts her head, eyes sliding away for just a moment like there's something more interesting in this barren stairwell.

"I knew you'd be here, that's why I came." Sam's mouth quirks contritely, eyes finding yours again. "I mean, of course for Spencer's birthday but I really wanted to see you…to see if you got ugly."

You can't help but smirk and Sam beams at you.

"You haven't so good job."

"Thanks." You giggle, girlish and embarrassing.

"You're welcome." Sam sighs and the tension in the stairwell eases a bit, lets you breathe a little easier. "You look good too."

And she does, her body is different, a little softer in some places from the baby but its still beautiful, she's still beautiful. Eyes still bright blue and mouth still mischievous.

You don't know why you expected any different.

"Good for someone who still needs to loose 10 pounds." She mutters and you glance backwards at her.

"Sam, you're beautiful." you say sincerely and Sam tips her head to gaze at you, amusement falling from her face and her hand fluttering down to press against her stomach.

"When you say stuff like that, it feels like my stomach is full of airplanes or something." Sam murmurs gently.

"It's the truth."

"Carly, what is happening with us?" She asks softly and you frown down at your hands where they're twisting together hopelessly while emotion wells up in your throat.

"Something that shouldn't be." You offer with a weak laugh and you hear Sam exhale long and slow.

"That's what I was afraid of." She sighs.

You look back at her again and she's playing with her wedding ring, twisting it around and around and staring at it like it holds all the answers to all of her questions.

"I'm sorry." You blurt and Sam looks at you, confusion making her frown.

"For what?" She asks and you swallow, turn back around and Sam moves, standing to walk down the two steps separating you from her until she's dropping down beside your hip. "Carls?"

"For not being able to control myself. For feeling the way I do about you even after high school, even after college, even after you-you got married and started a family." You utter, pressing your fingers to your eyes hard in a vain attempt to stop the sting of tears. "I kissed you on your wedding day, Sam. What the fuck was I thinking?"

"Carls…"

"I'm so pathetic, I can't even run away from you because I need you so much." You bite out angrily through clenched teeth and you just feel so stupid when you say everything out loud.

"Carly," Sam barks and you don't look at her, choosing instead to pinch the bridge of your nose in hopes of relieving the pressure building in the back of your skull. You jump when you feel Sam's fingers skate up your arm, curling around your wrist and tugging your hand from your face. "Carly, how do you think I feel? Huh? I'm married and I have a baby and I don't want you to run away from me when I should totally be running away from you."

A laugh bursts from your chest, weird and humorless and Sam just nods, running her hands through her hair.

"We're kinda fucked aren't we?"

"Sam, language…" You scold out of habit, sinking against the hard steps "And yeah, we are."

[ ]

You're only back in Seattle for a little over 40 hours before you see Sam but its not on purpose which makes this weird, cosmic joke 100 times worse because you've been trying to fight off the fierce urge to call her, to see her, since your plane landed.

You went into the Thai restaurant intent on getting some Pad Thai and locking yourself in your apartment for the night to sleep off the rest of your jetlag but almost as soon as you walk in you see Sam and her family at a booth.

Your stomach plummets so fast that your head swims and you take a breath to steady yourself while you give the kid at the counter your name.

He tells you it'll be ready in about 5 minutes and you just know its going to be the longest 5 minutes of your life.

You try not to look, you really do but it only lasts about a minute and a half before you're glancing over at them, at Charlie squirming happily in her high chair with a fistful of noodles, at Felix who is talking brightly, his arms gesturing quickly and at Sam who is beaming at him like he's speaking the most fascinating, interesting words.

Something sharp claws at your throat, from the inside out and you glance away and pray for your food to hurry up so you can get out of here.

You feel the exact moment Sam sees you, like electricity dancing across your skin, and when you look over she's watching you over Felix's shoulder while he leans forward a bit to feed her something from his fork in this way that's simultaneously adorable and nauseating.

Suddenly the atmosphere in this little Thai restaurant is too hot and too thick and you're pushing your way outside without a backwards glance.

The cool air is a sharp contrast and you drink it in with deep, cleansing gulps, trying to clear your mind while simultaneously cursing your earlier craving for Thai food. You sit down on the nearby bus bench, covering some insurance salesman's creepily smiling face and try to calm the hectic, tangling feelings in your chest, try to figure out how to stop pining for a married woman.

You're halfway through trying to rationalize a lobotomy when someone drops down beside you, setting a white plastic bag wafting deliciousness between the two of you. You don't even have to look to know its Sam.

"I made the kid at the counter throw in some of those Por Pia spring roll things for making you wait." She murmurs as way of greeting and you glance at her, meeting her gaze. "I know how much you like them."

"Thanks." You smile and Sam just shrugs, grinning back.

"So…fancy meeting you here."

You laugh at that, sitting back against the bench and Sam mimics your position, legs crossing at the ankle.

"I'm not stalking you or anything." You offer, watching cars pass on the streets and Sam shifts beside you, closer then further away. "I didn't know you were going to be here."

"I didn't think you were stalking me." She sighs, pushing her hair out of her face. "And I'm glad we ran into one another here because, like, what're the chances, right? Last time I talked to you, you were no where near here.""I guess you're right." You admit and Sam beams at you, leaning over to bump your shoulder with hers. "And I'm sorry about not telling you I was coming home, I was just so…" You trail off, try to find the right words to make yourself not sound stupid but Sam waves away your words casually.

"Don't worry about it. I know you're busy with your fancy journalism job, traipsing across the country, writing awesome articles." She says and the way she sounds proud makes your insides bubble happily.

"No, I always have time for you Sam." You breathe honestly, reaching over to take Sam's hand in yours and she squeezes your hand tight, smile slipping from her face as she focuses on your entwined hands. "I'm sorry."

"It's okay Carly, I get it." She says carefully, voice low as you brush your thumb over her knuckles and revel in the feeling you get from touching her.

Sam takes a slow, deep breath, squeezing your hand again before bringing it up to her lips and brushing a kiss to your skin where your thumb melds into the curve of your wrist.

Every muscle in your body jumps at the contact, at the way her mouth lingers against your skin and that tenuous thread of self control you've been hanging onto is fraying and coming undone, you can feel it.

"I need you to stop running from me." Sam whispers, brushing the place her lips just were with her free hand.

"I'm scared of you, Sam." You admit. "I'm scared of myself when I'm around you."

[ ]

You never pictured Sam as a mom.

Even after Charlie was born and logistically you knew that Sam was a mother but you never really saw it before now and you can't deny there's something unexpectedly beautiful and natural about Sam with Charlie in her arms.

Charlie is only six months but can already say two words, 'mama' and 'chicken' which she uses interchangeably and you smile as she screams chicken in that adorable way babies have while Sam tucks her against her chest and Charlie automatically drops a chubby, rosy cheek against Sam's shoulder.

Grey eyes, what looks like the only feature she seemed to inherit from her father, gaze at you curiously through a mop of bright blonde ringlets.

"Can you say hi to mommy's friend?" Sam murmurs in this sweet voice you've never ever heard her use before. "Can you say hi to Carly?"

Charlie coos 'chicken' at you before pressing a chubby fist to her pink lips and you bite back an 'aww' at how adorable it all is.

"Sam, she's beautiful." You sigh, shifting against the oversized, ridiculously comfortable cushions of the couch and Sam presses a kiss to the crown of Charlie's head.

"Just like her mama." Sam grins and Charlie coos 'mama' while a slobbery fist reaches jerkily for a curl of Sam's hair, fingers curling tightly around it when she finally gets a hold of it.

"Just like her mama." You nod because you're gazing at Charlie, draped against Sam like the dip of Sam's shoulder was always made for the curve of her little body and you're inclined to agree with Sam.

"So, I'm sorry about today. " Sam murmurs suddenly, hand moving against Charlie's back in gentle circles, her palm noiseless against the soft yellow cotton of Charlie's onsie. "Felix had to go in to work today thanks to his jerk-off of a boss."

It's 11am on a Wednesday and really you should be at work too, putting the finishing touches on the piece that's due at the end of the week but Sam called halfway through your second cup of coffee with a smile in her voice and a suggestion that you play hooky with her for the day.

You couldn't resist.

You never can, not when she calls you in the mornings intent on making both of you guys forget your responsibilities for just a while.

It's sort of your guys' thing now, mid morning rendezvous doing completely immature, inane things like miniature golf or bowling or laser tag and you love it.

It's the highlight of your week because sometimes its nice to have her all to yourself, to be just Carly and Sam without all the responsibility and stuff.

But this morning plans had changed and now your inside Sam's warm, quirky, lived in apartment watching her put her daughter to sleep and you can't think of anywhere else you'd rather be.

You're more than aware that this shouldn't be the case and you should've just insisted more that you guys just reschedule but Sam had whispered that she wanted to see you.

Once again, you couldn't resist, not when her voice sounded the way it did.

"It's fine." You mutter because it is, really.

You watch Charlie's eyes flutter shut, succumbing to sleep with a soft gurgling sound while Sam's fingers keep trailing over her tiny back and you realize how much you like seeing Sam like this, a little bit exhausted and a little bit worn out but soft and maternal in ways you never imagined and it's the surge of jealousy that Felix gets to see Sam like this, everyday that makes you realize more and more that you shouldn't be here.

"I should go." You don't move, you just blurt the words but Sam frowns like your hand is already on the doorknob.

"Why?" She asks, hand pausing on Charlie's back for just a moment.

"Sam, you look really…" You pause but its too late to stop talking now. "You look really beautiful right now and just staring at you is making my stomach feel weird and fluttery so I have to go."

"You have to go home because you think I'm a super hot milf and you wont be able to control yourself ?" Sam says, amusement easing in between her words and you chuckle hopelessly.

"Something…" You sigh in defeat. "Something like that."

Your words manage to wipe the smirk right off of Sam's face.

"Stay a little longer." She says anyway.

[ ]

"Sometimes, I feel like we're not finished."

You peer at Sam through the dark of your apartment, watch her move quietly around your couch to the bookcase where there are smiling pictures of Spencer and his wife, of Freddie and you, of you and Sam while you shut the front door carefully.

Residual sleep is making your brain slow and foggy as you watch Sam move and you shake your head a bit, glance at the glowing numbers above the television that indicate that its just after 2am.

"What do you mean?" You ask stupidly even as you stare at her back, her hair falling soft and bright against her jacket, your heart skipping beats.

She glances at you over her narrow shoulder, mouth unsmiling. "You know what I mean."

Yeah, you do.

You reach back blindly to lock your front door, the deadbolt sliding into place loudly over the sound of you exhaling shakily.

"You found someone better." You murmur softly, reaching out to flip on the lights but you think better of it, let your fingers brush over the light switch but you keep it in the off position and take a few steps towards her, the carpet rough against your bare feet.

"I did."

You can't tell if it's a question or an affirmation as you make your way closer to her, your feet making a sounding like friction on the carpet with each step.

"You did." You sigh, coming to stop behind her and you see her shoulders rise and fall, the leather of her jacket creaking gently.

"I love my husband." She whispers, head falling forward and you wince at the feeling the words cause. "I love my family."

"I know." You croak as she twists around to face you, bangs falling carelessly into her eyes and suddenly she's in your space, too close but you resist the urge to move forward, to move backwards, to just move.

"But I…" She trails off thickly, like the words are trapped inside of her and you do move then, stepping forward carefully, just inside her personal space because that one word, that 'but' makes that thing inside your chest ache. The back of your fingers brush against hers and the simple touch sends a jolt through you that you feel all the way to the bone.

Sam must feel it too because her eyes flit down to your point of contact, her breathing trembling audibly before her fingers tangle with yours, slow and deliberate till your palm to palm and she's pulling you closer and closer.

You kiss her before you can think better of it.

Hard and sloppy and scared because this isn't supposed to happen, the kiss before her wedding was one thing but this is something else, you hadn't thought it possible but something worse.

She kisses you back urgently, hands skimming around your hips and tongue curling past your teeth and of course Sam kisses, really kisses, like this, overwhelming and devastating.

You wonder if she kisses her husband like this.

"Sam…" You sob against her mouth and she swallows the sound, pressing closer until you're stumbling back against the arm of the couch and your hands are coming up to cup her face.

Sam pulls away just enough to breathe, her hands dropping to the gap between your pajama shorts and your tank top and you press your forehead to her temple, watching as she hooks her fingers in the elastic of your shorts, slow and deliberate like if you wanted to, if you were strong enough, you could stop her and keep both of you from plunging down this burning path.

But you don't want to, you're not strong enough and all you can do is try to breathe while you grip the arm of the couch behind you, fingers digging into cotton.

Sam swallows as the jut of your hip is exposed under her touch and her hand is brushing the skin there lightly and your muscles clench helplessly under her tentative touch as her fingers trace up, beneath your tank and across your ribs.

"When I touch you, its like I can't breathe." Sam confesses quietly, eyes wide and shining with something like awe and you literally feel the way your self control crumbles apart.

Your heartbeat is in your ears as you ease away from Sam is nearly deafening as you walk back towards your bedroom and you're scared that Sam wont follow, that halfway down the hall she'll realize what she's doing and what she's risking and go back home to her husband and her baby but you're even more scared when you reach your bed and glance over your shoulder and Sam only hesitates in your doorway for a split second before coming in.

"Come here." You whisper and Sam swallows, you see her throat work before she's closing the space between the two of you and when she's close enough you pull her even closer, pawing at the buttery leather of her jacket and the cotton of her tee shirt until your touching skin.

You manage to push her jacket off of her shoulders before she pushes you back on the mattress, following you down.

It happens quick, too quick, your head is spinning.

Sam's hand fumbling beneath your shorts then between your thighs while she licks thick, wet stripes across your skin. Your body feels too warm, Sam's jeans too rough against the inside of your legs, blood rushing too fast under your skin and everywhere Sam touches feels so fucking good that you're finishing suddenly and so hard against her clumsy fingers and Sam swears against your throat as you groan her name thoughtlessly.

She kisses you then and you try not to bite off her tongue while your muscles tremble and you arch up against her weight helplessly before she pulls back a bit, eyes wide and mesmerized in the darkness and God, you don't think anyone has ever looked at you like she's looking at you right now.

Your eyes flutter as she eases her hand from between your thighs, sticky fingers skimming across your skin for a moment before she's easing away too, moving to lie beside you on your bed that usually feels too big but feels kind of perfect now.

"Are you okay?" She asks softly and you lick your lips, blinking blearily up at the ceiling.

"Yeah." You say even though you're not entirely sure what she's asking but either way it's a lie.

And its almost funny, lying side by side in your disheveled bed, fully clothed but sweaty. Sam still in her boots and your legs unshaved. You think there should be more then just your heavy breathing mixing with Sam's in the darkness, a crash of lightning and a clap of thunder maybe, an earthquake signaling the apocalypse because you and Sam broke and gave in but the aftermath of this, of Sam's hands on you, is decidedly anticlimactic.

It's scary and confusing but it doesn't make you want her any less like you sort of hoped it would. She's not bawling and running away and you're not shoving her out the front door and telling her to go home.

Neither one of you is saying it was a mistake.

Fuck.

Thoughts are filling your head now, things you should've been mulling over before you felt Sam's mouth slick against yours and anxiety and guilt are pushing down on your chest like an anvil and you're ready to panic, can feel it bubbling up until Sam's hand slips across the rumpled sheets and finds yours, her fingers curling tight, tight, tight around yours.

You tell yourself to breathe.

The two of you lie there for hours and you spend heavy minutes slipping between sleep and consciousness, sinking into oblivion before coming to with Sam's fingertips tracing confusing patterns across your palm over and over until the night sky melts away to morning and Sam moves.

You turn on your side and watch her sit up at the side of you bed, the back of her shirt wrinkled and you resist the urge to straighten it as she drops her head forward into her hands.

There's only inches between you right now but it feels like she's on the other side of the world.

Nothing you can say will make this better so you stay quiet and keep your eyes on Sam as she stands slowly, like her bones are a million years old, watch her scoop her jacket from your floor and shrug it on gingerly.

You sit up, tucking your legs against your chest and Sam looks at you, just gazes at you for a moment while your pulse hammers away under your skin.

You're expecting tears, firm words telling you that this will never ever happen again, maybe even a final farewell but Sam just gives you a faint half smile that doesn't reach her tired eyes.

"I'll talk to you later." She whispers instead of saying goodbye and the unexpected relief you feel actually makes you sway.

"Okay." You croak, waving a little bit and when she leaves the bedroom you press your face to your knees and listen to the front door close behind her.

[ ]

You don't have sex every time your together and you can't help but feel as though that makes it just that much worse.

You spend some nights on opposite sides of the couch, television blaring canned laughter between the two of you until whatever tv show you guys are marathoning is over and Sam leaves with a wave and a smile.

Sometimes she begs you to make spaghetti tacos or pie with wide blue eyes and you give in, spend hours in the warm kitchen with music pouring from the stereo and Sam stealing spoonfuls of marinara sauce or cherry filling while you stir your special lemonade that Sam will choke down and pretend to like for you.

Other times, you spend hours and hours talking, running the gauntlet between laughing and crying until your so emotionally exhausted that all you can do is stretch out on the narrow sofa between Sam and the back of the couch , fingers twisting in her hair, listening to her breathe and watching the numbers on the clock change and change until she has to leave.

There are nights when she wont even come inside your apartment and instead you two sit outside on the buildings stoop, your shoulder pressed to Sam's because its cold and you're only wearing a thin jacket over your pajamas and you listen to Sam tell you about Charlie and about Felix until you feel like you know everything about them, like you hadn't spent so long running away from her.

Sam asks about your trips for work, about your writing, about Spencer and your dad and you talk forever, try to remember every detail and every funny anecdote because you know when you run out of words Sam will lean over and hug you too long and too tight before leaving.

When it happens you watch her leave, long strides carrying her away from you and you wonder what it would be like to be Sam's one and only, let yourself imagine what it would feel like compared to the feeling you have now, like your drinking champagne from a paper cup.

But there are the times, when Sam closes the front door behind herself, hand lingering against the wood like she's keeping something on the other side at bay before you move to tangle your fingers with hers and she lets you pull her towards your bedroom.

Times like now.

Sam watches you quietly, lids heavy and eyes dark, as you peel her jeans down and off, revealing soft skin so you're both mostly naked on your bed, clothes in crumpled piles on the floor.

Your hands are shaking, obvious and frustrating, because by now Sam would've stopped you, would've kissed you hard and redirected your brain from the task at hand until you were nothing more than a quivering mass on the sheets but she's letting you roll her underwear down her legs without a word .

And you know what that was, that refusal to let you touch her, one last wall but now she's letting you skim your hands over her thighs, press your mouth to her hip while she watches you with surrender in her eyes.

"Who was she?" She asks softly, suddenly, reaching out to hook a strand of hair behind your ear and you lean into her touch, turn your face to press a kiss to her palm. "The girl that taught you all of this."

You curve your hands around her sides, thumbs brushing over her ribs absently while you think about a woman with a familiarity that only made the ways she wasn't Sam even more striking. "She was a teacher. I met her in Chicago when I was doing that piece on…"

"The Art Institute." Sam murmurs, finishing your sentence and you smile a little as her legs slip up around your waist, tugging until you topple forward slowly, arms bracing on either side of her head. "I knew you were seeing somebody there."

"How?" You breathe, cupping her breast timidly and Sam's teeth sink into her bottom lip for a moment while her nipple tightens against the pads of your fingers.

"You called less." She says softly, "You were too busy nailing the teacher."

"I shouldn't have been calling at all." You point out, hovering over her and Sam leans up to press soft kisses to your neck.

"Was she pretty?" Sam asks against your throat and you press your mouth to her hairline.

"Yeah," You admit. "Were you jealous? When I didn't call?"

"Yeah." Sam nods, whispering the confession against your skin.

"Yeah?" You swallow and Sam nods.

"Yeah." She says sincerely and you lean down to kiss her because you don't know what else to do.

Your mouth moves against Sam's, trying to convey things that you can't find the words for and Sam responds, follows the heat of your mouth until you slip your hand between her damp thighs.

Sam rips her lips from yours with a breathless cry as you press inside her for the first time and your fairly certain that raw, almost obscene sound will haunt you forever.

You feel her hands curl into your hair, fisting the strands while you drop your forehead to hers and watch her eyes flutter as you move inside of her slowly.

You try to make this last, burn the way Sam feels into your brain, burn your touch into Sam's brain, but soon, too soon, Sam's hips are rolling against your touch, hands fumbling down to grasp at your breast.

"Carly." Sam rasps your name, thick and pleading and it makes you give in, give her what she needs even though you wish this could last forever.

Sam's entire body shakes underneath you, muscles pulled tight as her body simultaneously curls into you and pushes you away as she comes apart, undone, and you watch her with wide eyes until she drops back against your pillow, eyes squeezed shut and hairline slick with sweat.

"Fuck, you're gorgeous." You croak thoughtlessly, watching Sam's brow furrow as you drag your fingers across the sweaty skin at her collarbone before leaning down to lick across the same path.

You keep going, drag your tongue down over her breasts then lower across her stomach and you don't even realize that she's crying until her hand curls around the back of your neck and a broken sob reaches the air.

"Sam." You breathe, heart in your throat as tears escape her closed eyes but Sam shakes her head, opening her eyes to gaze down at you. "Do you want…"

"No, don't stop." She exhales shakily, eyes glassy and full of emotions you can't really name but scares something inside of you just the same. "Keep going."

There's desperation that you can practically taste in the air and it sinks into your skin, makes you drop your mouth down, down, down between her legs until she's twisting against the heat of your tongue, hands fisting in the bed sheets and finishing harder than before.

You kiss your way back up Sam's body slowly, savoring her taste, because you may be a little naïve but you're not stupid, this can't last forever, no matter how you feel.

"I'm sorry." Sam swallows as you kiss away salty trails of tears before turning into you to meet your mouth. "Fuck, I'm sorry."

"It's okay." You whisper confused because you're not even sure why she's apologizing as you stretch out on your stomach beside her, watching her blink at the ceiling while your fingers brush over her naked shoulder. "It's okay."

[ ]

"Leave her alone."

You stare at Felix, all neat and bundled up against the snow outside but in the narrow hallway of your building, the smell of alcohol, the smell of courage you assume, is sharp and unmistakable as snow flakes melt against his coat.

"I need you to leave my wife alone."

You heart is pounding hard, like your blood is too thick for your veins and you take a slow breath as your entire world tilts on its axis.

"Felix, Sam and I…" You start helplessly and you're not even sure what you're about to say, admit, apologize for, but Felix shakes his head hard and jarring and your words die in your throat.

"No!" He barks loudly and you swallow, glancing down the hall as old Mr. Kim watches you curiously from his own doorway. "I don't want to know. All I want is for you to leave my wife alone."

And you know what you should do now, lie. You should tell him that nothing is happening, soothe away his fears but you can't.

"I-I don't think I can do that." You croak honestly though you know its not what he wants to hear, its not the words you should be saying. "She means a lot to me."

"She's my wife, Carly!" His voice breaks under the pale hallway lights, the sound heart wrenching and helpless when it reaches the air and you clutch at the wooden door frame to keep your feet against the sudden wave of guilt that drowns you. "She's my fucking wife."

"I know." You whisper and Felix peers at you in disbelief, brow furrowed deeply and hands flexing at his sides.

"Do you?" He spits. "She's mine, Carly. I know you guys have this history that I can never understand but when it comes down to it she chose me, she married me."

His words cut through flesh and bone and you're surprised that your blood isn't all over the walls, the floors, his hands.

"You're destroying my family." Felix breathes but now his voice is pleading. "Please, just let her go."

You don't tell him that you love her, in that way that will last forever because this man standing broken and desperate and so fucking in love, is right.

There's no need to argue because there's nothing to justify, you can't make a case with this man who is trying to save his family, trying to save his family from you.

[ ]

It's the end of the fight.

The battle is over and the only thing left is destruction.

Your bones feel weak and hollow and your muscles feel all stretched out and useless as you sit beside Sam on your couch, thighs touching while you listen to her breathe slow and deep beside you.

Your throat feels raw when you swallow, you notice it more now that your not screaming, crying, pleading, now that there's nothing left to argue about. You swallow again.

"I love you, ya know?" The words leave Sam's mouth dark and raspy and they fill the air easier than before, easier than the first time she said it hours earlier, when it sounded like her vocal chords were scratching and straining and it was painful to say.

"I love you too." You murmur gently, honestly, instead of keeping the words locked in that place in your chest because there's no room for secrets anymore.

There's no reason too, really, when it feels like everything you are, all the important bits and pieces, are strewn out in the open and when you glance at Sam she looks exactly how you feel.

"I don't know…" Sam starts hoarsely, rubbing at her temple and you wonder if her head aches like yours does. "I don't want to be without you."

That thing, that thing in your chest that's always belonged to Sam, shudders hard, breaks into a million pieces and you realize dimly that that thing is your heart.

"You can." you whispers, blinking at the stinging tears filling your eyes again. "You have to."

"Carls." Sam exhales and you shake your head.

"Sam, what do you want more? Me or Charlie and Felix" You ask her the same question you'd asked hours before when all you could do was scream at her because it felt like your body was falling apart from the inside out. "Who do you love more?"

Sam winces and you know its because there's no contest.

You can't compete.

You never expected Sam to leave her family, to give up everything for you and you didn't want her too either. You knew it would end, that it had to but you wanted more time, more Sam, you didn't think about how much it would hurt.

Sam leans over and kisses you, easy pressure and chapped lips and you frown hard as tears spill down your cheeks because you know what its like without Sam and just thinking about it, just thinking about tomorrow is unbearable.

She doesn't leave like she should, like any normal person would because she's Sam and when she leads you out of the living room and into the bathroom, you don't fight.

You don't realize how dry and tight your skin feels, how unlike your own it feels until Sam strips away your gritty clothes and guides you under the hot rush of the shower.

She smoothes her hands over your shoulders, over your hips, like she's erasing herself from your skin and you stop her, curling your hands tenderly around her wrists that are already discolored in the shape of your grip from hours earlier, because you want to wear her on your skin like a badge.

She lets you push her up against the slick tile, lets you kiss her while hot water pounds against your skull and shoulders and all you can think as you touch her breast, the sweet curve of her waist, the heat between her legs, is that this is it.

This is goodbye.

"I'm never gonna let you go." Sam whispers against the shell of your ear. " No matter what."

You tuck her words into that space in your chest that is permanently reserved for Sam and keep it as hope for when your hopeless.

"You have to let go." You manage. "And I'll let go too."

Sam pulls back to gaze at you, blonde hair sticking to her neck and shoulders and it looks like she's crying but its hard to tell.

"You and me, we're not finished." She murmurs softly as you drop your forehead against hers, blinking against the water dripping into your eyes. "We're never going to be finished."

She means it, a finality and a sureness coloring her words and inside you know that she's right, you know no matter how hard you try to stay away from Sam for her own good, for the good of her family, for the good of yourself, neither of you will be able to stay away for long because you and Sam are hopelessly tangled in a way that would take lifetimes to sort out.

You'll let her go with the internal knowledge that this is the end of a chapter in a story that's nowhere near finished.

THE END