DISCLAIMER: I don't own them, but I certainly wish I did. Damn Ryan Murphy and his unrivaled genius.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is the sixth story in the "Surviving the Holidays" series that take place of the span of a year, from one Halloween to the next. Following Things That Go Bump in the Night, Overstaying Your Welcome, What's So Merry about Christmas?, Out with the Old and In with the New and Cupid's Broken Arrows.
BETA'D: This work was beta'd by the lovely and talented Karen.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Irish Eyes Don't Always Smile
"My dad has been on this electronics kick for the past month. He just bought a new television for the living room. So what do you say? Wanna come over and have a Gwynnie marathon?" Brooke looked at her best friend through the mirror as she combed her fingers through her golden blonde locks. They were almost to her shoulder blades and she frowned, thinking she needed a trim.
Nicole looked up from the latest issue of Vogue she was leafing through and smiled. "I am all over that. I just got the limited edition dvd. You have to see it. They're auctioning off the bed she used during the film and I've already got my accountants on it. It will be occupying my beautiful loft apartment come June, thank you."
Brooke smiled at her in the mirror. She envied that Nicole would soon be free from the constraints of parental guidance and affection. Not that the Julians had what could be considered a loving relationship. Nicole had been talking about moving out since they'd been freshmen at Kennedy. So Brooke wasn't really surprised when Nicole had begun apartment shopping two weeks ago. It seemed a little early, considering Nicole's birthday wasn't until the end of May, but the shorter blonde had simply said that it would take at least a month to find the right place and the rest of the time would be spent getting the place remodeled to bring it up to the style "befitting of royalty."
The taller blonde applied a coat of lip-gloss before turning and facing her friend. "How goes the hunting?"
"Fabulous last week Ramon and I looked at a place in the same building as Gwyneth's personal assistant."
"Ohmygod, are you serious?!"
"Very serious, hun. We're really hoping for this one. Then it's operation 'New BFF.'"
Brooke knew that eventually she and Nic would probably grow apart. College tended to do that to people with even the strongest friendships, but somehow hearing Nic say it really stung and the blonde turned and looked back into her makeup bag.
"Oh, Brookie, you know I'm just kidding. We'll be bffs for life. Who else is going to throw you the most awesome bachelorette party the night before your wedding, complete with all the Backstreet Boys as the strippers?"
Brooke blushed and turned back to her friend. "I can't believe you remember that!" She covered her face to hide her shame and collapsed on the tuffet next Nicole as she dissolved into a fit of giggles.
"And you know, hun, I just might be able to book them. Have you heard their latest album? By the time you get married they'll just be happy to find a job that doesn't involve the words 'would you like to supersize that?'"
Brooke held her side as she and Nicole shared another chuckle.
The door to the Novak swung open and an annoyed brunette walked in. The moment she caught sight of her smiling girlfriend, her scowl gave way to an amused smirk.
"Hey Spam, you know it's okay to shower every morning, don't you? Judging from the stench and the fact that your hair's so greasy you could literally fry french fries in it, I'd say it's been what a week?"
"Satan, it's so nice to know you have such a vested interest in my personal hygiene rituals. What's wrong? Did you run out of villagers to burn or small children to torture?" Sam shot back, crossing her arms over her chest.
"Well it looks like one of us should take some interest in it. After all Brooke is my best friend and she can't be seen with just anyone on her arm. And let's face it, hun, you're one step above 'homeless shelter chic.' I'd be expecting a call from Jerry Lee Lewis himself begging to throw a telethon in your honor."
Brooke jumped up and grabbed the brunette's hands, placing a chaste kiss on her lips, hoping to stop whatever was going to come out of her mouth next. She was sure that it wasn't going to be pleasant. "So this weekend Nic is coming over and we're going to kind of have a Gwyneth marathon on the new TV."
"Perfect. I have a French test to study for and a bunch of articles to look over before the next issue of the Zapruder. So I should be invisible for the weekend, save for the odd meal here and there."
"Awww, I was sort of hoping maybe you'd join us." Brooke playfully batted her eyes and pouted prettily.
Sam sighed. "Sorry, not going to work. I have way too much to do."
"No? Well maybe this will..." The blonde leaned forward and whispered promises of many things to come if the brunette acquiesced to her wishes. She heard Sam's slight whimper and smiled in victory.
"Okay maybe one or two movies couldn't hurt," Sam croaked.
"Wow and just when I thought you two couldn't be anymore nauseating you prove me wrong. I mean Spam is enough to turn anyone's stomach, but actually watching you two practically maul each other right here on the bathroom floor is really making me wish I'd skipped that grape I had for breakfast."
"You know, Satan, if you spent half as much time on chiseling away at that chunk of ice hidden beneath all of that silicon as you do going out of your way to waste your precious acerbic yet somehow pedestrian diatribes on me, maybe they'd actually stay for breakfast the next morning. Jealousy is really a bad color on you."
"Sam " Brooke sighed. There wasn't really anything she could do. She could already see Nicole's blue eyes flashing and could practically hear the seconds ticking before the bomb detonated. The fall out would not be pretty.
"Jealousy would imply that I actually wanted to be anything like you. Now, I'm going to go ahead and assume that you've recently suffered some sort of head trauma because there's no way you could ever believe that I would be jealous of you. The sheer fact that I even tolerate your existence is a testament to the love and devotion I feel for my friendship with Brooke, but make no mistake. To me, you're nothing more than a vile, insignificant never gonnabe, riding on the coattails of your girlfriend's claim to fame. Don't think I don't know that more people read the Zapruder now than they ever did in the two years you've been editor prior to your relationship with Kennedy's own high school royalty. I've got news for you, hun, it's not because the writing is good. So why don't you climb down off your moral soapbox and admit what everyone already knows, you'll never be as good as me." Nicole stood from her position and walked towards the door leaving the other two stunned girls rooted in their spots. "Oh and B, I'll have to take a raincheck on our little girls' weekend. I'm pretty sure if I can manage to get this miscreant into some dark corner with no witnesses it won't be pretty and she is certainly not worth getting blood all over my new Marc Jacobs." With that, she was out of the door before Brooke could call after her.
Instead the blonde turned to her now sullen girlfriend and wrapped her arms around her. The fighting between the brunette and her best friend had reached an all time high and she had no idea how to stop it. Nicole seemed to take every opportunity presented to her to lay into Sam for seemingly no reason at all. "I'm sorry. I don't know what's been up with her lately," she whispered into her girlfriend's ear.
Sam shrugged. "I'm used to it. It's just hard to believe that she's the same person that left that note in my locker."
Sam absentmindedly shoveled handfuls of popcorn into her mouth as she pounded away at the keyboard on her laptop. It had taken her five tries to begin the article she was working on, but it was finally beginning to come together. She just needed two more paragraphs and she'd be done. It always helped to have Poe crooning loudly from her stereo. She started when she felt the opposite side of her bed dip under the slight weight of her blonde girlfriend.
"I knocked, but you were totally in 'the zone,'" Brooke supplied as she sat down.
Sam immediately saved her document and shut the laptop, moving it aside. She reached over and turned the volume on her stereo down. She folded her legs and pulled a pillowing into her lap, waiting for the cheerleader to lie down. When Brooke was settled, Sam began to stroke her hair, making sure to massage her scalp and smiled when she was rewarded for her efforts by a small groan. "What's up, Princess?" she asked, knowing Brooke would never have interrupted her writing unless it was something really important. One of the many subtle changes that had occurred in the month since they'd gotten back together.
Brooke was silent for a moment, gathering her thoughts. "Sam, why do you think Nicole cancelled on me this weekend?"
Sam winced at the question. For some reason, that last confrontation with her nemesis in the school bathroom hadn't rolled off her back as easily as the others. "I think she stated her reasons clearly. I am the very bane of her existence and she'd rather be anywhere else. Not that I'm all that fond of her either, so I'm thinking this is a win-win situation."
"Okay, so you two haven't been getting along lately-"
"Understatement of the century "
Brooke chuckled, swatting playfully at the brunette. "That doesn't explain why she keeps blowing me off. For the past month, every time I've asked her to do something, just the two of us, she's always too busy. And if she does agree, she cancels at the last minute."
"And these are bad things because ?"
"Sam, be nice." Brooke opened her mouth as Sam brought up another handful of popcorn and the brunette obligingly fed a few of the salty kernels to her girlfriend. "I just don't understand her. I mean why would she do something so wonderful to get you and I back together and then act like she's too busy to be my friend?"
Sam shrugged. She'd been wondering the same thing. Ever since Brooke had confronted the shorter blonde the day after Valentine's Day, Nicole had been acting strange. Claiming that she'd left the note and locket in Sam's locker hoping that the journalist would think they were from Brooke and "pull her head out of her ass and see that she and Brooke belonged together." She explained that she hated seeing Brooke so miserable and even though she believed Brooke could do much better than Sam, if Sam was who she loved then she felt it her duty to try and help her out. Only her actions lately hadn't added up to her words.
"I wish I knew what to tell you, but Nicole and I don't even seem to exist on the same planet," Sam replied as she continued to feed the blonde and stroke her hair. "I still don't understand how you could be her friend let alone her best friend."
"Nic's not really like the person she presents to everyone else. Wait; let me rephrase that. She is like the façade she puts on for the masses, but you have to find a way to see past all of that. Plus, she's changed a lot since the accident."
"Ah yes, the accident would this be the one that almost cost you your life?"
"Sam " Brooke used that annoyed tone that Sam always hated.
"I just wish I knew what was going on with her."
"Have you tried asking her?"
Brooke frowned. "Well, no. Actually that's not a bad idea. You're so smart."
"I like to think I'm all learned and stuff."
The blonde chuckled and sat up. "You are very learned and stuff." She placed a quick kiss on the brunette's lips and moved to stand up.
Sam pouted. "That's all the payment I get for using my brilliant mind to help you solve a problem with Satan."
Brooke smiled at her girlfriend's pout. "Well, the problem isn't actually solved, but you did work your brain extra hard to come up with that little idea-"
"Hey!" Sam threw a pillow at the blonde, but Brooke ducked.
"I'm just teasing you. You definitely deserve a better reward." Brooke tangled her fingers in dark locks, bringing their mouths together in a hungry kiss. Tongues dueled for control as Sam rolled the blonde onto her back and began to run her fingers down her body. She cupped Brooke's breast, feeling the instantly hard nipple press against her palm. She gave it a gentle squeeze, causing the blonde to moan into her mouth. She continued to tease her girlfriend until Brooke pushed insistently against her, moving to reverse their positions. Sam groaned as Brooke shoved her down on the mattress, recapturing her lips. She grabbed the hem of Sam's shirt and began pulling it up in the hopes of finally getting to see Sam topless.
"Sam! Brooke! DINNER!!!" Jane's voice cut through the haze like a bucket of cold water.
"Shit!" Brooke muttered hanging her head and trying to calm her breathing. She dipped her head, leaving a lingering kiss on the brunette's lips. "To be continued."
Brooke made her way up the stairs to Nicole's room. Normally she would have waited in the formal sitting room until Nic came down to meet her, but the maid told her to go on up at the request of the younger Julian. As she neared the door, she could hear muffled voices raised in anger. She couldn't make out what was being said, but she could tell that Nicole and her mother were having yet another argument. When they began to scream she knocked on the door loudly, knowing that the two had a history of becoming violent.
Nicole's mother threw open the door, preparing to tear into whichever member of the staff had dared to interrupt. When her cold blue eyes fell upon Brooke, she replaced her snarl with a cool tight smile and looked back at her daughter. "We will discuss this matter later, Nicole." She brushed past the silent blonde, who was still standing at the door, and walked down the hall.
"No we won't, mother. There's nothing to discuss! I'm moving out whether you like it or not!" Nicole pulled Brooke into the room before slamming the door. She walked over to the window, shoulders slumped, and stared unseeingly out of it. Brooke stood in the middle of the room, unsure of what to do.
She walked over to her friend, placing a hand on the shorter blonde's shoulder. "Hey, are you all right?"
Nicole seemed to start at the contact, but turned around, smiling almost sweetly at the taller girl. "I'm fine, hun. It's nothing a little retail therapy won't cure. Are you ready to go?"
Brooke hesitated, but nodded. She followed behind her friend, not sure of how to process what had just happened. She was never really any good when things like that happened. It didn't help that Nicole didn't really open up to people when she was upset, even more so after the accident. Brooke was always at a loss when it came to helping her.
They rode in Nic's car each caught up in their own thoughts. Brooke could feel her friend's piercing blue eyes on her as she stared out of the window. "Okay B, you're not still upset about that little scene are you? I promise, it's nothing. My mother's just a little upset that when I move out, her personal piggy bank will move out too. Since my father left her with nothing. But hey, that's not really my problem. So don't worry your beautifully highlighted little head."
"Well no, I'm not upset. I'm fine. Well it's just " Nicole's question threw her. She was still a little unsure of how to deal with what had happened back at her friend's house, but there was more. There was the real reason she'd practically begged Nicole to go out with her. "We need to talk."
"What's wrong, Brookie? Did Spam leave her mustache bleach on your side of the bathroom again?" The blonde shot her friend a wicked grin, her eyes dancing in mirth.
Brooke sighed. "That's what we need to talk about. Nic, why do you hate Sam?"
Nicole's smile faltered slightly, but didn't leave her face. "Haven't you spent five minutes in her presence, hun? If the bad clothes and rat's nest she calls hair don't do it, the moment she opens her hateful little mouth will."
"Nic, I'm being serious."
"So am I." Nicole spared a glance at her friend, noting Brooke's look of defeat. "Look, it's not that I hate her "she started. Brooke eyed her skeptically. "I don't! I just think you could do way better than some arrogant, pompous, wish she knew it all, second rate journalist who is so far beneath you she's not worthy of the ground you walk on."
Brooke studied the other girl for a moment. "Then why did you do it?"
It was Nicole's turn to sigh. "We've been through this. I couldn't take you moping around. You were skipping practices and bailing on parties. You didn't even care that Cherry Cherry got us appointments at the most exclusive spa in all of California. Action needed to be taken and I stepped up."
"But why? Why if you think Sam is so wrong for me, did you go so far to get us back together?"
"Because even though I hate that the one person in the world that seems to make you truly happy is Spa Sam, I hated seeing you so miserable. Especially when all it would take to change it all was to show Tippy Typewriter the error of her ways."
Brooke nodded, smiling over at her friend. Nicole's methods were always far from conventional, but she was always there for Brooke in a way most people never got to see. Maybe they wouldn't drift apart after high school after all. "Nic, I just have one request." She waited for the blonde to park and kill the engine. "Do you think you could lay off of Sam a little? It hasn't been easy for me to be in the middle of this little war you two seem intent on fighting."
"Oh sure thing, hun. I'll get right on it."
Sam walked out of the journalism room and down the hall towards Brooke's locker. They'd agreed to meet up and ride home together. Brooke's car was in shop, for a change, and the brunette had driven them to school. She was the only one in the hallway save for the janitor. She leaned against the lockers, resting her forehead on the cool metal. She looked down at her cell phone, checking first to see if she'd missed any calls and then the time. Brooke she should be there any minute. The door to the girls' locker room opened, but it wasn't the blonde she'd been hoping to see walking through the door. It was a different blonde, an angry blonde that sauntered up to the locker beside where she was standing and barely spared her a glance.
For the past couple of days, Nicole had been almost civil to Sam and for some reason that just made the journalist even more nervous. Gone was all the vitriol and vicious personal attacks, replaced by icy stares that sometimes made the journalist shiver. There was this anger that lurked just beneath the steel blue eyes of her girlfriend's best friend, and Sam was certain that it wouldn't be long before Nicole went back to being well Nicole.
Sam opened her mouth, hesitant to ask the question. Wait, this is ridiculous. Why should I let Nicole intimidate me? Sam thought. "Did Brooke happen to tell you how long she would be?"
Nicole looked up from the magazine she was reading and gazed at the brunette thoughtfully for a moment. Sam wasn't positive, but she thought she saw a devious smirk dance on the other girl's lips before she cleared her throat. "Actually, Brooke and I decided to head to the mall. So you can run on home like the good little dog that you are. Your master will be home early enough to make sure you get to go for your nightly walk."
The journalist tried not to bristle at the insult. It certainly wasn't the worst thing the shorter blonde had ever said to her. Besides, that didn't sound like Brooke. She would have at least texted Sam. "No offense, Satan, but I don't really consider you a reliable source, I think I'll just stand here and wait."
"Suit yourself, Mucky. I guess if I were a pathetic loser that somehow managed to land the most popular and arguably most beautiful girl at Kennedy aside from myself of course, I'd want to be at her beck and call too."
Sam tried to calm her anger. She was tired of Nicole telling her she wasn't good enough for Brooke. She was even more upset that a small part of her was beginning to truly believe it. "First, I am not at Brooke's beck and call. Second, it's really sad that you call me pathetic when you're the one that's obviously jealous and that makes you pathetic. Must suck that no matter how hard you try you just can't seem to step out of Brooke's shadow. Even being with me hasn't dimmed the light on her reign as queen and it must be killing you inside." Sam smirked when she saw the blonde's eyes flash in anger.
But instead of blowing up at her, Nicole smiled sweetly. "You know, Spam, I must say I'm a little disappointed. We're back to the whole 'I'm jealous of Brooke bit.' Get some better material, hun."
The lack of response actually threw the brunette for a moment. She watched as jocks from various sports began to file out of the boys' locker room and moved towards their lockers. Still there was no sign of Brooke. "Maybe, but I didn't hear you deny it."
At that Nicole actually laughed, drawing the attention of several of the students next to her. "Please hun, there is nothing Brooke McQueen has that I can't get for myself."
"Except the complete adoration of most if not all of the students here at Kennedy. Though from what I've heard from the boys' lacrosse team, you're certainly working long and hard on gaining that aren't you? Tell me Nic, how are your knees doing?"
The jocks were at rapt attention by this point; laughing and encouraging what they hoped would turn into a physical altercation. That made it impossible for Nicole to keep her promise to Brooke. No way could she let Sam get the best of her. "Wow Spam, you seem to be awfully interested in my sex life. Could it be that you're curious on how to actually please your partner? I mean I must be doing something right to keep them coming back for more right? Which is way more than I can say for you, Mucky. But if you're looking for a tutor I might consider it. Lord knows you could use the practice."
Fear and apprehension settled in the bottom of Sam's stomach as Nicole's words began to sink in, but she didn't want to believe it. "Excuse me?"
"You heard me. Now since you're such a good journalist you might want to pull out your little tape recorder and take notes. I would rather be a slut than a frigid little virgin. Remember hun, Brooke's my best friend, so I know all about your sad attempts at seduction. The lack of skill and 'sense of direction.' Judging from your lack of success at actually bedding a girl you've been with for almost three months, I'd say you probably couldn't find a g-spot if you had a map. Haven't you ever wondered why Brooke won't sleep with you? If I were you, I'd waste less time worrying about who is in my bed and focus on who's in yours because as soon as Brooke gets what she wants from you, she's going to move on. She'll realize that you just weren't worth all the hassle she's been putting up with. And I know there are plenty of other girls waiting in line to take your place that will show Brooke exactly what she was missing."
Bile rose in Sam's throat and tears burned her eyes as she heard the snickers all around her. The faces blurred as she looked for a way to escape, and when her eyes locked onto shocked hazel ones, tears began to spill over her cheeks as she rushed past her girlfriend and out to the parking lot. She heard Carmen call after her, heard her friend hurrying to catch up with her, but she didn't stop until she reached her car and collapsed into tears in Carmen's arms.
Brooke watched the two brunettes rush off and turned to go after them, but not before she met Nicole's mirthful gaze with cold angry eyes. "Nic, how could you? You promised me! I guess your word means nothing anymore." With that, she sprinted behind her girlfriend and didn't stop running until she found Sam and Carmen leaning against Sam's car, the journalist sobbing in the other cheerleader's arms. Carmen silently transferred the weeping girl into the blonde's arms and Brooke once again cursed staying behind to help Carmen work on a new part of the routine. She should have known that Nicole would wait until she wasn't around before tearing into Sam again. She'd been stupid to believe that Nic would change. Though for a few days, Brooke believed that the shorter blonde had really meant what she'd promised Brooke days earlier. She'd been so civil to the journalist that Brooke had begun to hope. Nothing had prepared her for the scene that she and Carmen had walked in on.
"Hey, shhh, don't cry. I'm so sorry, Sam. I didn't know she'd say such awful things to you."
Sam pushed against her angrily. "Of course you did! How could you?! How could you tell her those things, Brooke? I I trusted you. How could you?!"
Brooke was taken aback by the sudden burst of anger. "Sam, I didn't. I would never say anything like that."
"Yeah right, you've said it yourself. She's your best friend." Sam yanked open the driver side door and slid into the driver's seat. "Why don't you catch a ride home with your best friend?" She started the engine and threw the car in reverse, drowning out Brooke's pleas and she peeled out of the parking lot.
Brooke stared after her, before hanging her head. She didn't even know where to begin to fix this. She wanted to throttle Nicole, but she'd deal with her later. First she needed to figure out how she was going to get home.
"Hey, need a ride?" Carmen's cheerful face was just what Brooke needed. If anyone could help her, Carmen could. She nodded, walking over to the passenger side and climbing in the car.
Nicole stood at the door to the kitchen, tapping the glass impatiently. Sam sighed before looking up from her physics book and rolling her eyes. She reluctantly stood from the stool she was resting on and walked over to the door.
"Hey Nicole, come on in." Her voice held a false cheerfulness. Her mother looked up at her from her spot in the living room. She tilted her head in confusion and Sam pointed to the book in her hand. Jane nodded in understanding and turned back to the video she and Mac were watching. The toddler clapped her hands and giggled loudly as she watched the four guys on the screen singing.
"Hello Mrs. McQueen," Nicole said, plastering on the phoniest smile that Sam had ever seen. She wondered if parents actually bought it.
Jane looked back at the two girls, clearly startled that Nicole had greeted her. "Hello Nicole, how are you today?"
"I'm fine thanks," the blonde responded, fake smile still firmly in place. "Might I say that is a lovely blouse you're wearing. Is it Calvin?"
The older woman shot her daughter a suspicious look and Sam shrugged, looking away.
"It is. Thank you."
"Anytime," Nicole replied. Sam rolled her eyes and looked at Mac who had turned at the new stranger's voice. She blew a raspberry at the blonde and spoke loud baby gibberish, visibly upset.
"Um Mom, actually we're going to go up to my room and work on the project. With Mac watching the video, it's going to be kind of hard to concentrate." The last place Sam wanted to be was alone with Nicole in her room, but her mother kept shooting her weird looks and the brunette knew she'd hover over them and be all motherly. That was just embarrassing.
Jane reluctantly nodded, turning to focus on her suddenly cranky youngest daughter.
Sam turned and silently led the way to her room, praying that the blonde would just follow without giving her any problems. She let out the breath she'd been holding when she heard the other girl's footsteps behind her own. She opened the door to her room a crack, making sure that nothing embarrassing was in plain view in the slightly messy room. Grateful that she wouldn't have to make a mad dash to clean up her room, she threw open the door, stepping aside to let the shorter blonde in.
"Wow Spam, I'm impressed. From the horror stories I've heard from Brookie, I expected there to be creatures running around in here. Unless, you've locked them away, but is that really fair to do to your own kind?"
Sam gritted her teeth. She wouldn't let Nicole get to her again. She'd promised both Brooke and herself and she intended to keep that promise. She'd formed a plan earlier that afternoon after school, as she'd insisted that her very reluctant girlfriend go shopping with Mary Cherry and Carmen. She was just going to ignore Nicole and work on their project. The faster they got it done the faster she could be far away from the blonde. She looked around her room for their supplies, but couldn't find them. Sighing, she remembered she'd left them in Brooke's bedroom having been distracted by a lengthy makeout session upon her return from the store.
She turned to face the shorter girl, who was still looking around her room with amused interest, and cleared her throat. "I, uh, have to get our supplies from Brooke's room."
"Ooo, another torrid night of sneaking around behind Ma and Pa Kettle's backs?"
Sam rolled her eyes. "Just stay here," she mumbled before walking out of the room.
The journalist slipped into her girlfriend's room taking a calming breath and slumping against the wall. For a moment she regretted insisting that Brooke go out. Then she straightened, berating herself for being such a coward. She wondered if she was becoming hormonally imbalanced. This wasn't like her. She didn't let Nicole get to her. She didn't shrink away from confrontation she welcomed it, lived for it. She certainly never let her opponent see that they had the upper hand. She would go in there and work on the project and remain unscathed by the personal attacks she was sure she would endure for the remainder of the shorter blonde's visit.
When Sam returned to her room, she found the blonde searching her closet. "Do you think we could, oh I don't know, start this project?"
"Relax Mucky, we have plenty of time to work on Glass' demented excuse for entertainment. This is way more important. You do know it's not a crime to wear pastels, right? And what's with all the cargo pants? You take this dyke thing really seriously don't you?"
"You know, Satan, I've been dressing myself since kindergarten and have yet to have any problems. Now if I needed help say, whoring it up for a night, you'd be the first person I called. Since I don't see that happening in the foreseeable future because I'm extremely happy with my girlfriend, who likes me as I am by the way, can we focus on the reason you're here? It's already late afternoon and as I hear it, it's mighty hard to fly a broom late at night."
"Well I'm certainly happy to see that you've taken my advice and enrolled into witty comebacks 101, but you may want to graduate from the course before you try to go up against me, unless you want a repeat of what happened in the hall two days ago. As for Brooke being happy with you as is, well I never thought she had very good taste when it came to picking out 'partners.' After Josh, her choices made me wonder if she was channeling Helen Keller for love advice."
Sam visibly bristled at the mention of the events in the hallway. Deciding against starting another argument, especially since her nerves were still pretty raw when it came to that subject, she flopped down on her bed, removing random objects from the plastic bag and flipping through her notes. She set up all the supplies before looking over at the other girl expectantly. "Are you actually planning on doing any work? If not, you're free to leave. I have no problems taking all the credit for myself."
"Relax Tippy, there's no need to get all after school special," Nicole responded sitting on the opposite side of Sam's bed.
The two worked in awkward silence save for Sam reading the instructions. She was strangely aware of the blonde's proximity and did her best to stay distant. She could tell Nicole was trying to do the same and again Sam wondered how Nicole could have done what she did to bring her and Brooke back together, when it was clear that she loathed Sam with everything she was. Would she do the same for one of her friends? Sam liked to think she would, but she wasn't so sure. It just seemed so out of character for Nicole. As far as Sam could see, the blonde didn't stand to gain anything from the union. So that couldn't be it. Sam hadn't written a scathing article on the blondes in over a year and she didn't have dirt on her arch nemesis, at least nothing concrete anyway. And as far she knew, Brooke hadn't gone to her friend for help. Maybe it was like Nicole said. Maybe she'd done it simply out of loyalty to her friend. Brooke kept saying Nicole had changed a lot since the accident and maybe she had. Sam wondered if she was guilty of letting her biases get in the way of her ability to see both sides.
Nic suddenly standing moving across the room broke through her thoughts. "What are you doing?"
"I'm taking a break. I can only handle being that close to you in small intervals. As it stands I'm probably going to have to burn this outfit when I go home. I'm sure being in your room for this long has caused it to reek of loser."
Sam rolled her eyes and returned to her work as the blonde looked through her bookcase. They had so much to do still and she had other homework to do, leave it to Nicole to waste what little time she had to spare. She ignored the little criticisms the other girl threw in her direction as she pieced together the complicated data for the project. It was when she looked up to find the blonde holding the copy of her father's award winning article that she nearly leaped off the bed. Only there was a look in Nicole's eyes that kept her rooted in her spot.
"You were really close with him weren't you?" The blonde asked, completely throwing the journalist.
The brunette nodded slowly. "Yeah, we were."
"When I was younger, I used to wish my father and I were close, but he was always 'away on business.' Then when I was thirteen, I had my driver take me to his office and I found out just what sort of 'business' that meant."
Sam sat in stunned silence, unable to process this new bit of information and not sure why she'd been privy to it. She couldn't imagine what it must have been like to walk in on something like that. "I'm sorry," she said quietly, not sure of what else to say.
Nicole smiled ruefully, putting article back on the shelf. "Don't be. I'm not." She moved away from shelf and sat back down on the bed. "Let's get this finished. I'm starting to go blind from all the clashing colors in this room."
The journalist nodded, happy that they'd retreated back to neutral territory.
"Oh and Mucky, if you leak any word of what I just said, I'll make sure they can't find the body."
Brooke found Sam asleep among her books and notes, pen still in her hand. She chuckled at the scene walking in and cleaning up the mess before shaking the brunette awake. Brown eyes opened immediately, blinking rapidly in confusion. When she saw that it was Brooke that had woken her, she offered the blonde a sleepy smile.
"Hey yourself," Brooke returned with a smile of her own. She brushed the dark, unruly locks out of Sam's face as she sat next to her. "How'd it go?"
Sam's lips quirked at the question. "Well, there was no bloodshed," she answered as she sat up.
"That bad, huh?" Brooke moved to lie down, bringing Sam with her. She pulled the brunette closer, wrapping her arm around her waist.
"Actually, it wasn't that bad."
Surprise coursed through the blonde. When Glass had announced the project in class, Brooke had known it had the potential to be disastrous, especially given what had happened between the two just days ago. So she'd been reluctant to keep her plans with her friends thinking she should go home and play referee. "No?"
"Nope. How about you? How was shopping?"
"It was great, though Mary Cherry almost got us kicked out of La Perla for trying to shoplift one of the mannequins. I feel like we hit every sale within a thirty-mile radius on foot. Did you miss me?"
"Uh huh," Sam replied in a distracted tone. Brooke worried that maybe she'd fallen asleep again, but as she peered over the brunette's shoulder to see her face, she could see Sam was distracted.
"Hey, is everything okay?"
Sam turned to look at her. "Yeah, everything's fine."
"You just seem distracted."
"Oh," Sam said, looking away thoughtfully. "No everything's fine. I guess I'm just out of it."
"Oh " Brooke laid her head back on the bed, absentmindedly stroking Sam's hipbone.
"Did you know that Nicole walked in on her father cheating on her mother when she was thirteen?"
Brooke frowned, thrown by the sudden question. "What? No, I didn't know that." She lightly grasped her girlfriend's shoulder, turning the brunette to face her. "How did you find that out?"
"She told me."
Brooke sputtered. Of all the ways she'd thought Sam had come across the information, it certainly hadn't crossed her mind that it could have come from the source herself. "She told you?"
"Yeah, it was weird. So unNicolelike, I'm still not sure why she told me."
"Hmm that is weird." Brooke frowned. What was going on with her best friend lately?
"Yeah "Sam said as she stifled a yawn.
The blonde chuckled. She leaned forward and placed a lingering kiss on the journalist's lips before moving to stand.
"Hey, where are you going?" Sam asked, grabbing hold of her hand.
"To my room so you can go to bed."
"No, stay with me tonight. It's been a while since I've fallen asleep in your arms."
Brooke smiled, feeling her heart swell. She moved back to her previous position. Their lips met in a tender but passionate kiss before Sam moved back slightly, laying her head on Brooke's shoulder. "I love you, Brooke."
"I love you, too."
"Thanks to your article and my personal letters to every member on the school board, there will be at least three vegetarian options for lunch beginning next month, and there are even talks about hiring a specialist to come in and teach the staff to make healthier lunches all around." Lily beamed as she stood in front of her locker.
"That's great. Congratulations, Lil." Sam smiled over at her friend. "Looks like you'll be leaving a legacy behind after we graduate."
"It's been four long years, but it was totally worth it." The petite brunette continued stuffing her books in her locker.
"So are we still on for Friday?" Carmen asked.
Lily shut her locker. "Definitely, as much as I love my husband, he has been driving me crazy these last two weeks. We are in dire need of a night apart."
"What about you, Sam? You planning on floating back down to Earth to spend some time with your dear old friends?"
Sam grinned. She had been in a "Brooke haze" for the past few days. "Of course. I always have time for you guys. We've been buds since the sandbox and we will be until we're old and gray."
"Awww, maybe instead of working for the Times you should write cards for Hallmark. Since when did you get so sappy?" Carmen teased.
The journalist shrugged, ducking her head to hide her blush. Truthfully she wasn't sure where that sudden burst of sentiment had come from. "Anyway, have you guys picked a movie?"
"Hey guys, you'll never guess what Emory is doing." Harrison walked up to them, interrupting before the brunette cheerleader could answer.
"He's selling packets of freeze dried food. Seems he's the one that's been spreading the rumor that the culprit behind the string of rat kidnappings from the chemistry lab is the lunch lady."
Everyone looked at Lily. "What? I swear it wasn't me, you guys," the activist insisted, though her eyes danced with mischief.
"Maybe not, but twenty bucks says you know who it was," Carmen replied.
"I'm sure that will go over well with Vera," Sam said sarcastically.
Just then the scrawny senior came running down the halls, stopping when he reached the group. "Harrison, would you mind terribly if I use your gym locker to take cover? That bilious slag, Vera Krupps, is threatening to add me to the 'Meatloaf Surprise.' While it is indeed a tasty treat, I do not wish to become a part of it. So what do you say, man?"
The other three girls chuckled along with Harrison. "Sure man, go for it."
"Thank you. You are a true friend." The sandy-haired boy scrambled off in the direction of the boys' locker room.
Seconds later the irate cafeteria worker stood before them, meat cleaver in hand. "Have you seen Emory?"
Carmen and Lily turned towards the row of lockers to hide their giggles and Sam could see Harrison was about to lose it, so she cleared her throat. "Uh, nope, haven't seen him."
The short woman took a moment and stood up straight, sniffing the air. "He went that way!" She said before taking off in the direction Emory had fled only moments before.
They all watched as the woman disappeared around the corner. "There are definitely some things I won't miss about this place," Carmen said before turning back to her friends. "Harrison, it's a good thing you showed up. We were just going over plans for Friday night. We were wondering if you-"
The question was cut short by a rectangular green piece of cardboard being shoved in the brunette cheerleader's face. "Here ya go, Carm, an invite to Nic's ex-clusive St. Patrick's Day party." Mary Cherry had that excited gleam in her hazel eyes. The one that always made Sam nervous.
Next to her stood Nicole. Sam met the shorter blonde's blue eyes and for a moment she was sure she saw something there that she'd never seen before, until the other girl looked away, handing Lily an orange card. "Sorry hun, you are cordially uninvited. I have a strict no leg hair dress code. I saw those beasts you call your legs last week hun, and I gotta say, you might want to take care of that before some of your furry little friends decide to take up residence."
"From what I hear, you know all about having pests in unwanted places," Lily countered, crumpling the paper in her hand.
"Here ya go, Joe! You're goin as mah date," Mary Cherry said, handing a green card to the taller boy.
Harrison looked down at the card in his hand in confusion. "Uh.."
"And a green one for Spam!" Mary Cherry handed over a green card to the journalist.
"A green one?" Sam looked over at Nicole in surprise.
"Relax Spam, this is simply a goodwill gesture because you're dating Brooke. She insisted that it be public."
"Come on, Nic. Mama promised ta take us shoppin. I need the perfict outfit for Saturday. See ya Saturday, Joe!" As the two blondes walked away, Mary Cherry turned and blew a kiss to the taller boy.
Lily snickered. "At least, you can't complain about not having a date on Saturday nights anymore." Harrison shot her a dirty look before walking away muttering something about his life being ruined.
"Hey babe," Brooke said, walking up to the group. She wrapped her arms around the journalist, giving her a quick hug and a chaste kiss on the lips.
"Hey," Sam returned, a bright smile gracing her lips. She held up her card. "Do you know anything about this?"
"Well, Nicole did tell me she was throwing a party this weekend. I didn't realize there'd be invitations. I just assumed that since it was such short notice she'd do a word of mouth sort of thing." Brooke took the invitation from her girlfriend and studied it.
Sam frowned. "You mean you didn't know about the invitations?"
Brooke looked over at her in confusion. "Uh no "
"You didn't tell her to give me an invitation?"
"What? No, why would I need to do that? She knows I don't go anywhere you can't."
"Then why did she say you did?" Sam asked, not really expecting Brooke to answer.
"Something really weird has been going on with her lately," Carmen added.
"Yeah, weird " Brooke looked down at the card in her hand.
The party was in full swing and it seemed most of Kennedy's populace was in attendance. Nicole had hired her mother's decorator and the place looked great. Sugar Daddy's friend, a local radio station personality, was in attendance and seemed to be quite popular among the guests. He'd brought a bunch of station freebies and it amazed Brooke just what high school girls would do for a radio station t-shirt. Brooke and Sam had been dancing for what seemed like hours. She just couldn't seem to get enough of the brunette's body moving against her own. She pulled the journalist behind her off the floor and to a secluded area she'd spotted from the dance floor.
Pressing Sam's back against the wall, she thrust her fingers into the girl's dark locks and brought their lips together in a hungry kiss. Sam whimpered, letting the blonde part her lips with her tongue. They stayed locked in the heated embrace until some clumsy drunken jock bumped into Brooke.
"Woo! Go McQueen!" He shouted, his breath making Brooke want to empty the contents of her stomach.
"God, Todd why don't you slow down on that crap?" Brooke was angered by the intrusion.
"I'm going to get some punch. We'll continue that later," Sam whispered seductively in the blonde's ear, causing her to shiver. She leaned forward and nipped the delicate lobe, nearly causing the cheerleader's legs to buckle.
Brooke watched Sam disappear into the crowd before turning around and going in search of her best friend. Since she and Sam had first arrived, Nicole had been strangely elusive. She finally found the other blonde standing to the side, staring at her guests.
Nicole started. "Oh hey, B."
"Great party." Brooke looked over at her friend with concern. Nicole seemed distant and a little sad.
The shorter blonde's blue eyes met Brooke's for a moment before turning back to stare at the crowd. "Yep."
"SD's friend is certainly a hit, right?" Brooke looked over at her best friend when she didn't get a response. Whatever Nic was staring at commanded her full attention. It also seemed to be responsible for the wistful, but forlorn look on the blonde's face.
Curiosity got the better of Brooke and she moved closer to her friend. Moving to stand behind the blonde, but careful not to be noticed, she peered over Nicole's right shoulder. Looking straight ahead, her eyes fell upon the laughing form of her girlfriend, joking around with Carmen and Harrison. Sam was absolutely breathtaking. Brooke always thought so, but sometimes when she found herself staring at Sam, unnoticed by the journalist, sheer beauty that was Sam rendered her speechless. She remembered, back before Halloween, that she spent every chance she got watching the brunette, studying her, wanting her. Then it all made sense to her.
"So, you lied to me." It was a statement. Her tone was neither harsh nor accusing.
"Yes, I did."
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