A/N: Written for the 1sentence challenge on LiveJournal, using theme set Alpha. These are all bits of larger headcanon I've got. Numbers 25 & 26 and 44 & 45 are related; the rest are stand-alone.
Warnings include mentions of sex, an instance of character death, and language.
"All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on." - Henry Ellis
It's some measure of comfort to kiss a face that looks like Sam's and touch a body that looks like Sam's and run his hands through hair that looks like Sam's but it's not enough and he's not sure it ever will be.
The first time Brad really kisses her - as Melanie and not as Sam - she thinks that, just maybe, they might actually make this work.
It takes Brad months to hold her hand, not because he's shy (because God, that would be ridiculous, all things considered) but because her hands are manicured and soft and perfect and not calloused and rough like her twin's.
He reaches out and touches her face in the dark and calls her Sam in a broken voice; she pretends she's still asleep because if he knew she heard him it would only hurt him more.
Sometimes in the middle of the night she feels like she's trapped underground, like she's suffocating, and she has to slip out before he wakes up.
"You know, only tourists use umbrellas," she tells him, snatching it away and pulling it shut; by the time they get out of the rain they're soaked through, but there's no lack of things to do while their clothes dry.
Brad starts bringing her fudge and it's so unlike Freddie that it hits her, really hits her, that he isn't.
He cracks a lame joke and she laughs, a high, girly sound (nothing like Sam's) that makes him feel like someone's just poured liquid warmth into his ribcage, and for the first time Melanie, not Sam, is the one making him happy.
"I'm not coming tonight;" her voice comes through his PearPhone, weary and quiet, and he knows she can't see him but all he can do is nod.
Their voices sound different in the day, made brighter and more false, and it takes some getting used to.
"Melanie, Melanie, Melanie, Melanie, Melanie," over and over, trying to imprint the difference in his mind.
Stifled gasps and surprised sighs and the rustle of sheets, fingertips skimming across skin and raking through hair and providing sight in the dark.
There's an accident on his way to visit her one night and she blames herself for months, for years; she knew they were never meant to heal this way.
It helps them lose themselves, helps them forget for a moment and so they keep going back.
There's sadness and desperation and lust and loneliness in every brush of his fingers along her bare hip, every imprint of a fingernail made when she clings to him too tightly, every point where skin comes into contact with skin.
It's not fair, she knows, to keep Brad here in this destructive pattern of theirs, but she's too weak and selfish to face this by herself.
They hide their tears from each other, keeping things impersonal in the midst of an intensely personal falling apart.
Everything always happens quickly, because pauses and silences must be filled and they don't trust themselves to fill them.
Sam is like gale-force winds: destructive and wild, while Melanie is a breeze: sometimes pleasant, sometimes chilling; Brad finds it easier to predict a hurricane.
There's the feeling of a weight lifting when she realizes that she may never love Brad like she loves Freddie but she wants to be with him anyway.
Melanie confesses to him quietly one night that she's afraid they're not living.
She sees Brad in a Skybucks years later, sitting across from a pretty redhead, and decides that maybe she doesn't need any espresso today.
Sam and Freddie share a kiss and Brad and Melanie clutch each other's hands as tightly as they can, the faint pain a lifeline.
Brad finds out one day that Melanie won't eat yellow or orange gummi bears, and somehow that random snippet of information makes him feel closer to her than two months of hooking up has.
Melanie stands, bouquet in hands, watching Freddie walk toward her; she barely has time to flash a smile at him (which goes unnoticed) before he steps past her and joins Sam in front of Father McGirthy.
Across from her Brad catches her gaze and they stay, eyes locked on each other, as Sam Puckett becomes Sam Benson and the two of them lose something for good.
She's trying to be brave, but Brad can see that eighteen years of being Sam Puckett's twin sister has not desensitized Melanie to horror movies.
She wonders what must be wrong with them, to be so emotionally fucked-up that they can't move on like normal people.
A tune, low and quiet, floats into the room with the smell of pancakes, and he smiles when he realizes that Melanie stayed this time.
"I wish that I loved you;" it's said simply, honestly, and she slips her hand into his and rests her head on his shoulder and makes the same wish.
They never go back to Seattle.
"Just… don't, Brad, don't try to make this anything that it's not."
Brad wants a title, a label, anything for what they are, because he feels without it she could disappear and he'd be left with less than nothing, just fragments of memories of a girl (MelanieSamMelanie) he never got to love.
It hits Melanie suddenly, with percussive force, that Brad hasn't accidentally called her Sam in a month.
Sam doesn't know what to say when Melanie breaks down and tells her everything - about Freddie, about Brad - but she holds her like she did when their dad left and Melanie understands.
They go to the farmer's market one day, and they hold hands most of the time and Brad buys her lunch and a caramel apple; it's not until Melanie is falling asleep that night that she realizes that might have been their first date.
"Oh, this, this is the newest edition of Cutting Room Flow, see, with this one it's a lot easier to…" and he goes on and on and she closes her eyes and lets the words wash over her.
It's not an easy task for either of them, so they turn shopping for Sam and Freddie's wedding presents into a day trip up to Canada; the distraction works too well because they return home without the gifts.
After everything, Melanie thinks, it's silly to smile over a kiss on the cheek.
Melanie is all pink and innocence and sometimes Brad kind of hates her for it.
Love is supposed to be about completion, about filling in the missing pieces, and even though they can't quite fit into each other's missing pieces the act of trying turns into a sort of love.
Often - too often - the line between Melanie and Sam is almost impossible to see.
They book a trip to London, set to leave the day after Sam and Freddie's wedding; it's a release and a celebration, a letting go and a holding on.
There's a knock at the door and he opens it to find Melanie, hands clasped behind her back, rocking uncertainly on her heels, with a shy smile and a "maybe we could try again?" on her lips.
She never knocks on his door.
It's warm outside and around them their friends charge the atmosphere with laughter; only Brad and Melanie can feel the ice between them, treacherous and impassable.
She's a little like the moon: not intense and burning and life-giving but soft and bright and a force in her own right, and when she finally leaves it's amazing how it devastates him.
Brad talks about Sam and Melanie talks about Freddie as they sit on the cold Seattle beach and watch the daylight fade, and it's hard and painful and sometimes they speak in such quiet fragile voices the waves swallow their words, but when the last rays of sunlight finally disappear Brad stands up and helps Melanie to her feet and gives her his jacket and she knows they're going to be okay someday.
The first thing to come off is always the hair tie, always, her hair falling like a cascade over her shoulders, and she knows why but she ignores it; he's not the only one at fault here after all.
Nothing stays a secret forever, and when it all comes out, the fucking and the lying and the jealousy, it devastates everyone's world, like a second ice age, like a sun going supernova.