DISCLAIMER: Alas, I don't own the characters of Popular. They belong to Ryan Murphy, but hopefully he won't mind if I borrow them for a little while.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is my very first Popular fic. Or any kind of fanfic, for that matter. So please let me know what you think! This starts off when Sam and Brooke are freshmen in college. Also, Mike and Jane DID end up getting married, sometime between the end of Season 2 and the start of this story. Thoughts are in [ ]. And memories/flashbacks are in italics.
WARNING: Somehow, this chapter has taken a bit of a darker turn. So, nothing graphic, but this chapter is rated R, for themes of violence.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
One Crazy Night
PART 3 -- Junior Year
Sam tried to enjoy the party, but she just wasn't feeling it. It was loud, it was crowded, the floor was sticky with spilled beer, there were a lot of people that she didn't know, and the music wasn't even that good.
Part of the problem was that she had been up really late the last two nights in a row, trying to finish a 20-page paper for class. Normally, she could write really quickly, but ideas had seemed to evade her for this topic. So she really just wanted to curl up in bed and go to sleep, but Katie had made her promise that she would at least stop by for a little while.
Sam had told Luke that he shouldn't bother coming down to the NYU campus, since she'd be going to bed early. She didn't tell him about the party. The relationship between them had become somewhat strained lately, and she just didn't feel like dealing with him tonight.
[ Was Brooke right? Maybe I am a coward. ]
After their fight, it took about a week for things to get back to normal for Sam and Brooke, but there appeared to be no lasting damage to their friendship. Somehow, though, that conversation about Brooke's break-up with Charlie never happened. Sam hadn't been sure whether or not Brooke still wanted to talk about it, so she just didn't bring it up.
While she waited for Katie to return from the keg, Sam started thinking about whether she had been at the party long enough to constitute "making an appearance." Honestly, watching a bunch of drunken frat boys wasn't exactly her idea of "fun." At that moment, though, Jason came up behind her and draped his arms around her shoulders.
"Hey, Sam! I'm glad you decided to come!"
"Yeah, I'm not staying for long, though...Sorry to be lame, but I'm really tired. It's been a long week."
"Well before you leave, you totally have to come meet Seth! And have you seen Brooke? I saw her earlier, but now I can't find her."
"Wait....Seth, the elusive new boyfriend who's been too busy to meet any of us, because he has drama rehearsal everyday? Awesome, you know we've all been dying to meet the guy you've been raving about! But no, now that I think about it, I haven't seen Brooke at all tonight."
After meeting Seth (and quietly expressing her complete approval to Jason), she was about to leave, when Katie caught her arm.
"You're not leaving, yet, are you? You practically just got here. Besides, you have to come help me!"
[ Ugh. I'm never going to get out of here. ]
"Help you? Katie, what are you talking about?"
"Okay, so you know the cute guy in my English class that I told you about? Well, he's here, but he has a friend with him, so you totally have to come be my 'wingwoman' for the night."
"So I have to go talk with the random friend, to give you an opportunity to talk and flirt with cute English class guy? But I'm already dating someone. Aren't 'wingpeople' supposed to be single?"
"But Luke's not here, so the random friend doesn't have to know that you're not single! It's just a friendly little chat, it doesn't have to mean anything. I know you're tired, but pleeeeeease? Just stay for a little while longer. I've already made some serious eye contact with cute English class guy, now I need you to help me follow through."
Katie smiled hesitantly at Sam, who sighed, and smiled weakly back.
"Fine. But only because I'm such a fantastic friend."
Katie grinned and threw her arms around Sam. "Great! You ARE a fantastic friend, and I'll never forget it! And his name is Ryan, by the way. Please don't call him 'cute English class guy' to his face. And I think the random friend is Mike. Or maybe John."
Forty-five minutes later, and with Katie having successfully exchanged phone numbers with cute English class guy, Sam finally made her way back to her room. She, Katie, Brooke, and Alexis had managed to snag a sweet housing deal for their junior year, living in a four-bedroom suite.
Sam collapsed into bed, glad to have finally earned the right to catch up on some much-needed sleep.
Sam was almost asleep when she heard a light knock at her door. She grumbled tiredly to herself as she went to the door and opened it.
Brooke stood there, looking at the floor, with her arms crossed tightly in front of herself. Her shirt looked slightly torn and was missing a few buttons.
Sam's heart seemed to skip a beat at the sight in front of her. "Brooke? What's wrong? Are you okay? Come in."
Brooke took a step inside the room, but still wouldn't look at Sam. Sam touched Brooke lightly on the arm, trying to get the blonde to look at her. Brooke flinched violently and looked sharply up at Sam, an expression of fear in her eyes.
"Okay, Brooke, you're really starting to scare me, here. Talk to me, hun, what happened?"
"I'm sorry, Sam. I just. I was at this party. I think I briefly saw you there, too. A bunch of us went to hang out in John's room. You know John, right? Charlie's old roommate. But then, bit by bit everyone left, until, before I even realized it was happening, it was just me and Charlie."
Brooke took a deep breath and started pacing around the room, her arms still wrapped protectively around herself. Sam stared at her in horror. She really didn't like where it sounded like this story might be headed.
"We were just talking. You know how I've wanted to stay friends with him. Even though I broke up with him, he was still a nice guy. But then...Oh, Sam. It all happened so quickly."
Brooke finally stopped pacing and turned to face Sam, with tears now spilling down her face. Sam found her hands clenching into tight fists.
[ Oh god, no. That fucking bastard. ]
"What did he do, Brooke? If he hurt you... I swear, I'll fucking kill him." Sam's voice was low and hard, full of pure anger and hatred.
"When we were dating...we never...I never slept with him. I just... It never felt right. So I wouldn't. And then tonight...he was so drunk. He tried to kiss me, but I pushed him away."
Sam was actually surprised to hear that Charlie and Brooke hadn't been having sex when they were dating. She had just assumed that they were; assumed that Brooke simply wasn't as talkative about sex as Sam found herself being. Now, though, it was Sam's turn to start pacing. She had been so exhausted only a few minutes ago, but now she was wide awake. She wanted to hit something.
[ Brooke looks so small. This scared, vulnerable, hurting girl isn't the Brooke that I know. ]
"He got so angry. And he started talking...about how I had used him. How I had strung him along for a while, and then it wasn't even worth it for him in the end, because I wouldn't put out. He always seemed like such a nice guy, Sam. How could I have been so wrong??"
Brooke started crying harder now. Sam stopped pacing and quickly crossed the room, pulling Brooke into her arms. Brooke buried her face into Sam's neck, as Sam gently stroked her hair. Sam felt a tight tension in Brooke's shoulders. And Brooke's arms were still folded in front of her, creating a knot between their bodies.
Sam pulled back slightly, so she could look at Brooke directly. Brooke's eyes were bloodshot, but she managed to control her crying. Sam reached up to Brooke's cheek, wiping away a few stray tears.
"Brooke, this isn't your fault. Don't ever think that. Okay? This isn't your fault. And I really really hate to ask this, but I feel like I need to. Did he....God, I don't even want to say it... Did he rape you?"
Both Sam and Brooke cringed at the question, and Brooke shut her eyes tightly, taking in a big, shaky breath.
"No. Almost, but no."
Brooke opened her eyes again, staring straight into Sam. She chuckled humorlessly as she then looked towards Sam's feet and mumbled, "I managed to get in one well-placed knee to the crotch, and that gave me time to get out of there. I came straight here. I didn't even know if you'd be here. But I didn't want to be alone."
Sam felt only a short bit of relief before she was once again filled with anger. She returned to pacing furiously.
"That son of a bitch! I hate him. I'll kill him. Do you know where is he now, Brooke? I swear to god, I'll fucking kill him! Or maybe I'll just castrate him! Yeah, I like that idea!"
"I don't know where he is. But Sammy? You don't need to kill him right now. Can you...can you just...?"
Sam felt some of the anger leave her as she once again focused on Brooke, and solely Brooke.
"What? What can I do? I'll do anything you want."
"Can you just hold me?"
Sam felt her heart break at how vulnerable and fragile Brooke sounded. She smiled sadly before returning to wrap her arms tightly around the blonde. Brooke clung to her just as tightly.
Sam turned her head to whisper comfortingly into Brooke's ear. "Of course, Princess. For as long as you need. I'm here. You're safe now. I'll never let him hurt you again. I promise."
Sam felt Brooke nod into the crook of her neck. She gently led Brooke over to the bed, only releasing her in order to get out some comfortable pajamas for her to sleep in. Brooke numbly allowed Sam to help her change clothes, and Sam promptly threw the discarded clothes in the trash, knowing that Brooke wouldn't want to wear them ever again.
Finally, Sam helped Brooke into bed, crawling in after her and immediately wrapping her arms protectively around Brooke's waist, spooning into her from behind. Brooke was shivering, even though she said that she wasn't cold. Sam tenderly kissed the back of Brooke's neck, and then simply held her. Eventually, she finally felt Brooke relax somewhat, and fall into an exhausted sleep.
Sam's heart, meanwhile, still hadn't slowed down. She didn't think that she had ever felt this strongly toward her step-sister. It was partly just a straightforward desire to protect Brooke. But there was a hint of something else, too. Something that Sam couldn't quite identify. Slowly, though, exhaustion overtook Sam, as well.
[ I'm glad you came to me, Brooke. I promise that you can always feel safe with me. ]
Brooke lay in bed, thinking about Sam. It had been a week and a half since the incident with Charlie. She hadn't had to see him again since then, and she suspected that the only reason was because of Sam.
Alexis and Katie had both noticed that something was up with Brooke, and rather than lie to them, she had sat them down and told them what happened. Later, when Brooke was commenting to Alexis that she was surprised that she hadn't run into Charlie, yet, since they used to cross paths fairly often on their way to and from classes, Alex had gotten a weird look on her face.
Brooke managed to extract the information that Sam had apparently gone to "have a few words" with Charlie, basically warning him to stay the hell away from Brooke. Brooke was both extremely grateful and touched that Sam would do such a thing. She really didn't want to see Charlie anytime soon.
Sam had become her anchor, once again. Brooke was reminded of the time in high school, after Nicole's near-murderous rampage. Sam had been perfect back then, too. Comforting, but not overbearing. Somehow, Sam knew just how to take Brooke's pain seriously, while simultaneously continuing on with life as usual. Both now and back then, Brooke really appreciated having a sense of normalcy. It was important to know that life went on.
The key difference this time, though, was that Brooke's main problems weren't physical. Other than a few bruises which had faded quickly, there had been nothing to mark the fact that something had changed within Brooke. The scars were there, they just weren't visible.
As Brooke lay in contemplation, the door to her room opened, and a figure, illuminated briefly by the light in the hallway, entered the room quietly and closed the door again.
Brooke calmly turned towards the figure, whom she could just barely see in the darkness, and smiled to herself.
Brooke hesitated outside Sam's room.
[ This is stupid. Why am I being such a coward? Just knock on the door, already. But no, I shouldn't do this. Sam's done enough already. I should just go. ]
Brooke was about to turn around and leave, when the door swung open, and Sam almost walked straight into her.
"Brooke! Wow, I just totally almost ran you over. Shit, bad choice of words. Sorry! Anyway, I was actually just about to come see how you were doing."
"Oh, yeah. I was about to knock. I'm okay. You know. All things considered."
Sam looked expectantly at Brooke, who realized that Sam must be waiting for her explanation as to why she had been about to knock at the door.
"Um, well... Can I come in?"
"Right, yeah, of course. Sorry."
Both girls were a little jittery. It was the first night after the party. But Brooke actually didn't feel as awkward as she thought she might have, considering the fact that she had woken up that morning with her body draped completely over Sam's.
"Well, I was in my room, just now. Lying in bed. But I just couldn't get comfortable. You know? I couldn't relax. And, uh...so...I just thought...I dunno...I wondered...well..."
"You can sleep in here again if you want to, Brooke. I'm about ready for bed, myself."
Brooke looked up at Sam in surprise. "Really? I mean, you wouldn't mind?"
Sam smiled at her shyly. "No, not at all. I actually slept really well last night. And I meant what I said last night. I'm right here, and I'll hold you for as long as you want me to, Brooke. You mean so much to me. I'll do anything I can."
Brooke smiled in relief, her eyes tearing up a bit. "You mean so much to me, too, Sammy. Thank you. For everything."
Knowing that Sam had arrived, Brooke scooted closer to the wall, making room in her bed. Sam wordlessly slipped under the sheets, snuggling up to Brooke.
"Mmmm, you smell good. Goodnight, Princess."
After that second night in Sam's room, Brooke and Sam settled into a nightly routine. Whichever one finished her homework for the night first would send a quick email to the other one, letting her know that she was going to bed. When the second one finished her own work, she would then let herself into the first one's room, and join her in bed.
They always started the night with both girls sleeping on their sides, and Sam spooning into Brooke from behind, one arm draped over Brooke's waist. By the morning, though, Sam was usually on her back, with Brooke part-way on top of her, their arms wrapped around each other. And somehow, it was never awkward, when they woke up like that.
Until recently, Brooke would never have allowed herself to get this close, physically, to Sam. It would have been too agonizing, to share such closeness in a non-romantic way. But now, that un-official rule had been thrown out the window. Because Brooke needed the physical comfort, and Sam seemed willing to give it.
Of course, Luke hadn't been too happy when he heard that Sam didn't plan on spending nights at Columbia for a little while, and that Sam didn't think that he should spend the night at NYU, either. Brooke felt a little guilty about this, but not really. She was only too glad to serve as the reason for there being less Luke around.
[ It's not really a competition, and she is still officially dating him, but for this, I'm really happy that Sam picked me over Luke. ]
With Sam's arms wrapped comfortably around her, Brooke felt complete. Sam's hold was tight, but not suffocating. Snuggling with Sam had quickly become Brooke's new favorite hobby.
She had been gratified to learn that Sam apparently felt similarly, as well.
Brooke was reading an assignment for class, while lying on her bed. She was surprised, when Sam walked in and proceeded to essentially crawl into Brooke's lap to take a nap. When she woke up, Sam explained that she had simply gotten used to sleeping in the same room as Brooke. She apparently didn't sleep as well on her own anymore.
Brooke listened to the gradual steadying of Sam's breathing. She loved listening to and being with Sam like this, with all her guards down.
Brooke's breath hitched, however, as she felt Sam's fingers start to move idly across her stomach. Brooke's shirt had ridden up slightly, leaving her skin bare to Sam's touch. Sam had never done this before. For a moment, Brooke almost forgot to breathe.
"Sam?" Brooke whispered. "Sam, are you awake?"
Sam grunted slightly, but Brooke wasn't sure that Sam was at all conscious of what Brooke had actually said. She doubted that Sam was even truly aware of what her fingers were doing. Brooke had learned that there was a period, just before Sam fell fully asleep, when she was partly awake, but even if you managed to have any kind of conversation with her, she would have no recollection of it the next morning.
Brooke, on the other hand, was VERY aware of Sam's every movement, tracing slow, lazy shapes around Brooke's navel and across her belly.
At first, Brooke tensed up. Then, however, she simply let the feeling of Sam's fingers wash over her, relaxing her. She was slightly embarrassed to feel the beginnings of a deep throbbing between her legs.
Brooke sighed, torn between wanting to pull farther away and wanting to get even closer to Sam, if it were possible.
[ Sam's about 75% of the way to deep sleep, and here I am, getting turned on. Great. ]
Sam was pacing back and forth in her room. She felt like she had been doing that a lot, lately. Luke would probably be there soon, and Sam still hadn't figured out what, exactly, she wanted to say to him.
The idea had been to plan it all out ahead of time. That way, she'd be sure of getting her point across. But she didn't even really know what her point was. Hence, the lack of preparation.
[ The point is, simply sharing a bed and cuddling with Brooke feels better than sleeping with Luke ever does. And that includes both the regular kind of sleeping and the "having sex" kind of sleeping. I don't think Luke would take it too well if I word it quite like that, though. ]
Sometimes, Sam could barely believe that she spent every night snuggled up with Brooke. When she tried to think about it rationally, it just seemed so strange. But there was no denying that it felt right, somehow. Brooke was the one who needed the support, but Sam found herself just as reluctant to change their newly developed sleeping habits.
Sam was pretty sure that they were the only two who knew about the sleeping arrangement. It wasn't like anyone would have any issues with the situation -- Brooke had gone through a traumatic experience, and Sam was there to comfort her.
But still, Sam wanted to keep it a secret, for now. Because it felt like there was more to it than that. Providing comfort was certainly not the only reason that Sam spent every night with her arms wrapped around Brooke. And Sam was just starting to admit to herself what the other reasons might be.
They were definitely surprising, these new feelings, but not completely shocking.
[ Because really, who WOULDN'T enjoy sharing a bed with someone as gorgeous and kind and wonderful as Brooke? ]
Sam frowned as she realized that, in a way, she owed the current situation to Charlie. Was it bad to feel happy about something that only happened because of something horrible?
Charlie. Just the thought of him still made her cringe. Sam hadn't seen him in a while. She had the feeling that, ever since their conversation three weeks ago, he was doing his best to avoid her.
Sam sat on the floor, propped up against a door and reading a book. She looked up as she heard the door to the hallway open. Charlie froze as soon as he saw Sam, sitting outside his room.
"Sam. What...what are you doing here?"
Sam stood up and glared at Charlie. "Well, I'm waiting for you, of course. I thought we should have a little chat," she deadpanned. Charlie didn't say anything, just looked at Sam worriedly. Sam sighed and continued, "Somehow, I doubt that you want to have this conversation while we stand out here in the middle of the hall. So are you going to let me into your room, or not?"
Charlie seemed to snap out of his momentary daze, as he went to unlock the door. "Right. Yeah, sure."
Once inside, Charlie stuffed his hands into his pockets and looked anxiously over towards Sam, who stood by the door with her arms crossed.
"So I'm guessing that Brooke told you about the other night. I don't really know what you and I have to talk about, though. I've been purposely giving Brooke some space, and then, if I can just talk to Brooke, then..."
Sam scoffed. "You want to talk to Brooke? I don't think that's a very good idea."
"I know, I know. I'm sure she doesn't want to see me right now, which is why I haven't approached her yet. But Sam, I just want to apologize. I feel horrible about...about what almost happened. If I could just talk to her..."
Sam felt a return of the overwhelming anger that she had been feeling towards the man who now stood in front of her. Her whole body visibly tensed, as she took a few steps forward, until she stood right in front of Charlie.
Charlie was significantly bigger and taller than Sam, but if anything, it was Charlie who looked intimidated.
"Look. You lost the right to apologize to Brooke. She doesn't want to see you! Period! You're sorry?? Well that's great, but that doesn't change what 'almost' happened. It doesn't change what DID happen! The fact that you didn't succeed at what you set out to do doesn't get you off the hook! So you lost your right to assuage your own guilt by apologizing to Brooke. An apology won't make Brooke feel better. It won't make her feel safer again. It'll only make you feel better, and I don't give a shit how you feel! So just back the fuck off!"
"Please, Sam. I made one mistake...Just let me have five minutes with her...I want to make it right."
Sam looked at Charlie incredulously. Her voice lowered to a harsh whisper. "One mistake?? That's how you see it? Charlie, you tried to RAPE her! That's not just a simple mistake that can get fixed in five minutes!"
Her voice rose in volume again, as she raised her arms to Charlie's chest and shoved him backwards. The action took him by surprise, and he stumbled back a few steps. "So fuck you! If I had my way, you would've been expelled by now for sexual assault! But Brooke doesn't want to go through the mess of pressing charges, and unlike you, I have no desire to force her to do something that she doesn't want to do. So really, you should consider yourself lucky, you asshole!"
Sam shoved Charlie again, and he almost tripped over his own feet, as he tried to get out of her way. He found himself with his back to the wall, and Sam still standing right up in his face.
"Okay, okay, I'm really sorry! I'll stay away from her, okay?"
"That's not good enough. You get to just go on with your life, like nothing happened? That's not good enough! You should hurt too."
But Sam didn't know what would make it good enough. She felt the frustration of everything wash over her. There was nothing she could do that would match the horribleness of what Charlie had done. So, without really thinking, her hand shot out to Charlie's crotch, grabbing hold of his balls and squeezing tightly. She didn't really know what she was doing, but figured that he would already be pretty sensitive because of Brooke's well-placed knee, four nights earlier.
Charlie's eyes widened, as he sunk down a little ways against the wall, but with nowhere to go to get away from Sam's grip.
"Do you know why I'm doing this, Charlie?"
"Um, because I'm an asshole?"
"I'm sorry, that is an incorrect response. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200. I mean, it's certainly true that you're an asshole. But that's not why I'm doing this. I've known a lot of assholes, but I don't go around doing this too often."
"Well that's good to know. But do you think you'll be letting go anytime soon? I'm kind of in a lot of pain, here." Charlie's voice came out just above a strangled whisper.
"That's the whole point, you idiot! But anyway, I'm not doing this because you're an asshole. I'm doing this because Brooke trusted you, and you took advantage of that, and she would never do something like this to you, but you deserve to have something done to you. And this is the best I can do. But remember, you may be in a lot of pain right now, but you generally won't need to worry about it happening again with every girl you meet. Brooke, on the other hand, now has to worry that the next guy who comes along will turn into someone like you. And I just can't get over how much that sucks."
Sam glared deeply at Charlie, who had by now shut his eyes tightly as he bit down on his bottom lip.
[ It's good to see him in pain, but...it's not quite as satisfying as I'd hoped it would be. ]
Finally, she released her grip, letting Charlie sink the rest of the way down to the ground. Sam walked to the door, before turning around one more time.
"Oh, and by the way...I work for the newspaper, as you know. But what you might not realize is that, in such a position, I tend to hear about EVERYTHING that goes on on this campus. And if I hear even the slightest hint that you've done anything less than respectful to another girl...then I assure you that, not only will this entire school find out about what you've done, but I'll see to it that, physically, you're never able to have any children."
And without another word, Sam turned and left the room.
[ If anything were to happen, I'd probably never hear about it, and I'm not even sure what ensuring his lack of progeny would entail, but I think that he's probably sufficiently scared of me to not call my bluff. ]
Sam was pulled from her memories by a knock at her door.
[ Great. I really wish that I hadn't had to have that conversation, and I really don't want to have this one either. ]
Sam sighed, and went to answer the door.
"Hey, Luke. Come on in."
"So...you wanted to talk?" Luke already looked defensive.
"Yeah...Luke, I...I don't even really know where to start. But you have to agree that things aren't exactly going well between us at the moment."
"I agree that you've been pulling away from me. No matter what I do, you keep pulling away!"
Sam bit her lip, looking sadly at Luke. "I know. I haven't been a good girlfriend recently. And I'm sorry about that."
Luke interrupted, "Let me guess...this is the part where you tell me that it's not me, it's you. And then you'll try to ease me out of your life, while asking if we can still be friends." Sam was slightly taken aback by the bitterness in Luke's voice.
"Luke...I don't know what you want me to say."
"Well you are breaking up with me, right? That's why you called me down here for the first time in almost a month? Is this about Brooke? She finally managed to convince you that you should dump me?"
"Brooke? What are you talking about? Brooke has nothing to do with this. I decided on my own that I don't think we should date anymore."
[ Well, it is true that I decided on my own. But it's not true that Brooke had nothing to do with it. ]
"Brooke has everything to do with this! You do know that she's in love with you, right?"
[ Say WHAT now?? ]
"What did you just say?" The conversation had suddenly taken a very unexpected turn. Sam didn't know what to think.
"She's in love with you. I'm surprised you haven't noticed anything before. But the way she looks at you..." Luke trailed off momentarily, not needing to finish the sentence. "So yeah, I'd say that Brooke has everything to do with this. Something happened with her recently, and you've barely left her side since then. She's trying to steal you away."
[ Brooke's in love with me? That can't be right. She's never acted like she's in love with me. Has she? ]
Sam was only half paying attention to Luke at this point. Her mind had started running with the possibility that she had misread Brooke's feelings towards her. Sam already knew that Brooke loved her...but for Brooke to be IN love with her? That was a completely different story.
"Sam! Will you at least look at me, as you end our relationship which lasted for over a year?!"
Sam looked sharply over to Luke, once again focusing on him.
"We dated for over a year. Wow. Somehow I had forgotten that it's been that long." She paused, as a feeling of regret came over her. "I'm a horrible person. I'm so sorry, Luke. I've handled this so badly. I've known for quite a while, now, that we weren't right for each other. But I didn't end it. I couldn't. Because I was a coward. But I have to end it now. And don't blame Brooke about this. The thing that's made Brooke and I closer recently...it's not something that either of us wanted to happen. And if what you say about her is true..."
A small smile spread briefly across Sam's face. Luke noticed it, though.
"If it's true...that still had nothing to do with my choosing to break up with you. I just...I know you probably don't want to hear this, but I see us better as friends than as a couple. I'm really sorry, Luke. I never wanted to hurt you."
Luke looked at Sam sadly. "Well, if I'm honest, then I can't say that I didn't see this coming. But I have to tell you... if I can't date you, then I can't be friends with you, Sam. Not now. I'm sorry, but don't ask that of me. I don't know how Brooke does it. I don't know how she stays just friends with someone she's in love with. Brooke can do it, apparently, but I can't."
Sam's heart ached at Luke's unsaid statement. They had never exchanged the Big Three Words. But Luke was essentially admitting to them now.
"Don't. Please don't pity me."
The two stood staring at each other, not knowing what else to say.
"Well, I guess I should go, then. I'd ask if you thought you might change your mind, but I have a feeling that you won't. Good luck, Sam. Goodbye."
Sam wasn't sure what he meant by that. Wishing her luck seemed like an odd way to end things.
He walked out of the room, leaving Sam to stare silently at the closed door.
[ Wow. That really sucked. ]
Breaking up with Luke was definitely the right decision. Sam knew that. But knowing it didn't make it any easier. Because she did really like Luke. She just didn't like him enough. And she liked someone else more. She thought about what Luke had said about Brooke. The big question was...did he know what he was talking about?
[ This definitely requires some further investigation. ]
Brooke was supposed to be studying. She had an exam coming up, and she should really be studying. She was sitting in the library and had everything she needed -- her textbook, her notes from class, the journal articles the professor had assigned for reading. But the one key thing that she lacked was concentration. Because she was sitting across the table from Sam. And Sam was a major complication in the whole studying process.
It wasn't Sam's mere presence, per se, that was the problem. The problem could be more directly defined as Sam's oral fixation. Brooke watched as Sam tapped her pen on the table, while running her tongue over her lips. She then took the pen and placed it between her teeth, using her tongue to idly move the pen up and down. When Sam took the pen out of her mouth again, to underline something in the article she was reading, she took her bottom lip into her mouth and thoughtfully sucked on it.
Brooke was mesmerized.
[ We've been here for over half an hour, and Sam's tongue has barely stopped moving the whole time. And it seems like she doesn't even realize it! How can I be the only one to notice the amazing things that Sam keeps doing with that tongue? Of course, I can think of a few other amazing things that Sam could be doing... ]
"Earth to McQueen! You there?"
The insistent voice finally broke through Brooke's daze. Sam was now staring at her, an amused expression on her face, with the pen hanging loosely from between her lips.
Brooke turned quickly to her left, where Alexis had apparently been trying to gain her attention. She blushed, noticing that Jason and Katie were looking at her curiously as well.
[ Shit. Just how long has Alexis been trying to get my attention? ]
"Um, yeah. Sorry. What?" Brooke was flustered, but tried not to show it. She kept her eyes focused on Alex, even as she could see Sam smirking out of the corner of her eye.
Alex laughed lightly. "Nice of you to join us, Brooke. You have a nice time over in daydream land? Anyway, I was asking if I could see your book. I forgot to bring mine."
"Yeah, sure. Here." Brooke handed over the book, before turning back to look at the notes that she was supposed to be going over. She saw that Sam and Jason had returned to their work as well. Katie, however, was still looking at her, with a concerned expression on her face. Brooke sighed, gave her a small smile, and tried once again to focus on the work in front of her.
[ I will not look at Sam. I will study for my test. I will not look at Sam. I will study for my test. ]
"You can't keep going like this."
Brooke sighed. She and Katie had been hanging out in her room for a little while, but Brooke had known that Katie wanted to say something. Brooke had been able to avoid this conversation for a day since the study session in the library, but she apparently wasn't going to manage it any longer.
"What do you mean? Everything's fine."
Katie looked at her seriously. "You need to tell her, Brooke."
[ That's a very vague statement, but I guess there's really no point in pretending as if I don't know what she's talking about. ]
Brooke laughed. "Tell her? Yeah, right. I don't think that's a good idea."
"Well why not? The way things are going, you're not giving either of you a chance. First of all, you're not giving Sam a chance to respond. When you first told me about your feelings for Sam, I'll admit that I never thought anything would come of it. But for the last two weeks or so -- since a little before she broke up with Luke, actually -- she's been looking at you differently. I can't quite put my finger on it, but it's different. Now, I'm not so sure that your chances are as low as you seem to think they are."
Brooke turned to Katie with a pained expression on her face. "Don't say that. Please. Don't get my hopes up."
"Well what's the worst that can happen? She says that she's not interested, right? Well at least then you'd know! Wouldn't that be better than what you're going through right now?"
"No, I can't tell her. Because if I don't give her a chance to reject me, then there's always the slightest possibility that something will happen. If I tell her...then I lose all hope, even if it is an irrational hope."
"But Brooke, you can't possibly just sit around waiting for her to come to you! If she turns you down, at least you can then move on," Katie added. "Right now, you're not giving yourself a chance to get over her."
Brooke shifted uneasily in her chair, looking from Katie's sympathetic face to the framed photograph that she kept on her desk. It was one of her and Sam, from senior year of high school. The two of them were sitting on the couch at the Palace, facing each other, talking animatedly and laughing about something that Brooke could no longer remember. Jane had seen them and taken the picture before either of them noticed her. It was one of Brooke's favorite pictures. It wasn't posed or forced. It was real. The joy in each of their eyes was real.
"But...but I don't know if I want to get over her. I mean, a lot of the time it really sucks, feeling this way. But I don't think that I want to get over her. I know it doesn't make sense. I just can't see myself not loving Sam."
Brooke was feeling more and more agitated. She knew that Katie only meant well, but Brooke just wanted her friend to let her deal with this in her own way. Which really meant not dealing with it at all. But Brooke was okay with that.
[ Not dealing with it isn't necessarily a bad thing. Right? ]
Katie broke the momentary silence. "Okay. So let's take a step back. Say, you don't tell her that you're in love with her. That could be unnecessarily intense. I'll give you that. But you could at least tell her that you're bi. And then, if there's any possibility that she feels the same way, she'll be more likely to say something!"
Brooke ran a tense hand through her hair. "No. No, I can't tell her that, either."
"Why not?!" Katie was getting visibly frustrated with Brooke. "Sam totally wouldn't care. You know that she wouldn't. So what's the big deal? She's supposedly your best friend, Brooke. If you can't tell her this, a major part of who you are, then that's a serious problem."
Brooke looked anxiously towards Katie. She knew that she wasn't making it easy for Katie to understand.
[ But how can I make her understand? She's missing a major piece of the story, but I don't know if I can deal with telling her. ]
"Look. I know that I'm not making much sense. And I know that Sam's not homophobic. That's not the issue. But...there's something else. Something that makes it so that I can't tell her."
"Well what is it, Brooke? Please trust me. You can tell me, whatever it is," Katie urged her.
"Okay. But you have to promise that, no matter what, you won't tell Sam that I told you this. She'd kill me, if she found out."
There was a pause, as Katie nodded her agreement, obviously curious as to what Brooke had to say.
[ Sorry, Sam. I know that I said I wouldn't tell anyone. But here goes... ]
"So, this is probably going to sound like a reason that I SHOULD tell her, but it's more complicated than that."
Brooke could already feel herself blushing, in anticipation of what she was about to say. She stood up from her chair, took a deep breath, and started slowly pacing back and forth.
"Something happened, once. Between the two of us. Sam and I were both really drunk. And...well, I honestly don't remember a lot of what happened, but, to get right to the point, we hooked up." Brooke exhaled audibly, somewhat relieved to have finally told someone. "Wow, I haven't talked about this in a long time. And I've never talked about it with anyone other than Sam."
Brooke looked to the wide-eyed, stunned face in front of her. She started to chew nervously on her bottom lip, waiting for some kind of reaction.
Finally, Katie blinked. "Holy shit. You guys hooked up? Like, seriously hooked up?"
"Yeah, it went pretty far."
Whatever Katie had been expecting Brooke's admission to be, this obviously wasn't it. She was silent for another few moments, and then her expression changed from shock to confusion. "Wait, I don't get it. Why does this mean that you can't tell Sam that you're gay?" she asked.
Before Brooke had time to figure out how to answer that question, a look of understanding crossed over Katie's face. "Oh my god. Freshman year. That's why you two were so weird second semester."
"Yeah. It was after Charlie's birthday party, actually, if you remember that night. And that's why I can't tell her. After it happened...everything basically sucked. Sam wouldn't talk to me. Or when she did talk to me, it was only to get into a fight with me. Katie, you saw what it was like... She hated me. She could barely stand the sight of me. And I was miserable. I can't go through that again."
"But Brooke, she was probably just freaked out. You didn't think you were bi at that point, either, did you? So who knows how Sam feels about it now."
"You're right. It's certainly possible that it really wouldn't be a big deal anymore. But it's also possible that it would. And I can't risk that. Even if it means that I have to keep pining away for her...Sam's friendship means too much to me. I won't risk losing her again."
Brooke slumped back into her chair, placing her head dejectedly in her hands.
"Plus," she continued, "Sam was SO adamant about no one finding out. The thought of anyone knowing what had happened between us...Sam was obviously not okay with that thought. And if I tell her I'm bi, then that changes the story of what happened. It goes from a random, drunken event -- a 'really bad idea,' is what I believe she called it -- to seeming like my clumsy attempt at seduction. Which isn't what it was, but that's what it'll seem like. And then Sam will just feel really awkward around me, and I'll feel awkward around her, and I'll still be in love with her, but I won't even have her friendship to rely on. That's not what I want. But living with just her friendship? That, I can handle."
[ Having Sam as a friend will always be better than not having her at all. ]
Sam was on a mission. She had been observing Brooke a lot recently, and one thing that she kept noticing was how infrequently Brooke smiled lately. Sure, she gave plenty of little smiles. But none of those real ones, the kind that showed in her eyes. So, Sam had set out a task for herself.
Operation: Make Brooke Really Smile.
Unfortunately, she wasn't quite sure how to go about it. She really wasn't quite sure how she should act around Brooke, in general. After the whole Charlie mess, the girls had unquestionably grown closer. Sam's emotions towards Brooke were stronger than ever.
[ But now I've had to admit to myself the real reason behind those emotions. Namely, I like Brooke. A lot. And in a not-so-sisterly kind of way. ]
They had tried sleeping apart again. Brooke said that it had been a while, she no longer really thought about Charlie too often, and she felt like she was asking too much of Sam, though Sam tried to convince her otherwise. Still, if Brooke had moved on and wanted to sleep separately, then that was progress, right? Sam decided not to push it, even though she wasn't a big fan of this kind of "progress."
So Sam lay in bed, counting the glow-in-the-dark stars that had been stuck on the ceiling of her room, left behind as a souvenir from a previous resident. She felt like she should be tired, but sleep was proving to be elusive.
She hugged one of her pillows to her chest, but it just wasn't the same. Her body wasn't fooled by her attempt to recreate Brooke's form.
It was Sam's third night in a row without Brooke. And it looked like it would be Sam's third night in a row of less-than-ideal sleep.
Sam's gaze was drawn to the bottom of her door, as a shadow appeared, blocking the light from the hallway. The shadow remained motionless for a few moments, before disappearing again, as Sam heard soft footsteps pad away from her room. She sighed in frustration and closed her eyes. She knew that it was Brooke. That Brooke had thought about coming in, but decided against it.
Sam was startled, then, when her room was suddenly flooded with light. She hadn't heard Brooke return, but there she was, standing awkwardly by the door, which she had quickly closed again behind her.
Sam couldn't help but smile widely, even though she guessed that Brooke couldn't see it.
"I...I couldn't sleep." Brooke's voice was just above a whisper.
"Neither could I," Sam replied softly. "Come join me?" And she lifted up the edge of her comforter, making room for Brooke.
Brooke quietly slid between the sheets, instantly wrapping her arms around the brunette.
"You're welcome here any time, Brooke. I mean it."
Brooke nodded into Sam's neck, releasing a contented sigh.
Now that she had Brooke back between her arms, it didn't take long for Sam to slip into sleep.
So that was the end of their brief attempt to keep to their own rooms at night.
Lying in bed with Brooke, Sam had been forced to confront how much she enjoyed the new, physical aspect to their relationship. How natural it felt to wake up entangled in Brooke's arms. How much she wanted to kiss Brooke.
It wasn't just physical, though. Sure, there was physical attraction. But honestly, Sam was a little scared by how deeply she felt for Brooke. The realization had come so quickly, she hadn't had too much time to get used to the idea. Like the flip of a switch -- one day, Sam was happy being friends; the next day, she wanted more. Sam had no idea what, exactly, had caused this new awareness. But now, there was no looking back. And so many things made more sense -- Junior Prom, her initial dislike of Charlie, her relationship with Luke, all the pointless fighting.
[ I am SO gay. How did I not realize this before?? ]
Once those underlying emotions were admitted, however, Sam didn't know what to do about it. And Luke's assertion that Brooke looked at her in a similarly un-sisterly way only made things more complicated.
Having unrequited feelings for Brooke? Sam could totally see that happening.
[ Because seriously, what are the odds that Brooke McQueen -- head cheerleader, Prom Queen, all-around golden girl -- would have romantic feelings for me? Not too high, I'd imagine. ]
But maybe Brooke did feel the same way. Then Sam should do something about it, right?
[ Yeah, and probably just end up looking like an ass. ]
Still, maybe Operation: Figure Out How Brooke Feels and Operation: Make Brooke Really Smile could be combined. If Brooke really was in love with Sam, then maybe a little flirting would elicit a smile. And even better would be if Sam could avoid looking like an ass in the process.
"Hey, so are you still up for this afternoon?"
Brooke looked at Sam in confusion. They were both lounging around on a Sunday morning, attempting to get some work done. After waking up in Sam's bed, Brooke hadn't yet ventured back to her own room.
"This afternoon? What's going on this afternoon?"
Sam explained, "Well you said you wanted to try out that new restaurant on Bleecker Street, right? I think it's more of a lunch kind of place than dinner."
"Oh, right! I completely forgot about that!"
"What would you ever do without me?" Sam teased.
Brooke smiled -- but still, more like a half-smile -- and replied, "Well, I'd continue eating nothing but bad dining hall food, obviously."
"Then I'm glad that I'm around to remind you every once in a while that there are millions of restaurants in this city."
"Indeed. Shit, but I have to go get ready! It's getting late, already. And I don't know what I'm going to wear, and I need to do my make-up, and..."
Sam grinned, as she saw the opportunity she'd been waiting for.
"No worries...You don't need to put anything on for my sake." She raised one suggestive eyebrow, as she glanced toward Brooke.
Brooke turned sharply to look at Sam with a look of wide-eyed panic. "What?!"
Sam tried her best to maintain an innocent tone as she continued, "Make-up. You don't need to put on any make-up." Sam winked playfully. "You always look absolutely gorgeous, even without it." She finished with a sincere smile.
Brooke just continued to stare at Sam, a blush creeping over her face.
"Oh. Right. Um. Thanks. I'm going to put some on anyway. Make-up. And clothes. 'Kay, gotta go." And with that, she bolted out of the room.
[ Ooookaaaaayyy...maybe flirting isn't such a good plan. Or maybe I just suck at flirting. Either way, I seem to have only managed to freak Brooke out, as opposed to making her smile and confess her undying love for me. So now what? ]
A few days later, Sam saw her next opportunity. As Brooke typed away on her computer, writing an essay, Sam noticed that she was often trying to stretch out the muscles in her shoulders.
Quietly, Sam came up behind Brooke and placed her hands on Brooke's shoulders, lightly squeezing.
"Hey, you alright?"
Brooke jumped at the unexpected contact, but quickly relaxed, leaning back into Sam's touch. "Yeah. I've just been spending way too much time hunched over this damn computer. My back hurts a little bit, is all."
"Well I've been thinking that it's about time for a break, anyway. Why don't you let me give you a massage? Maybe it would help."
Brooke hesitated, but agreed after a few moments' thought.
"Great! Here, go lie down on your bed. It'll work better that way." Sam smiled, but was starting to get nervous at the prospect of touching Brooke.
Once Brooke was settled, Sam went over to the bed as well. She wasn't quite sure where to place herself. She started off kneeling on the bed, to the side of Brooke. She hesitantly brought her hands down to Brooke's upper back, rubbing her shoulder blades.
[ This is nice. The positioning is kind of awkward though. ]
"Uh. Is it okay if I...well, if I, um...I don't know if there's a better way to put this...if I straddle you? I think it'll be more comfortable."
Brooke sounded nervous as she replied, "Um, yeah. Sure."
Sam carefully placed her knees on either side of Brooke's hips, gently lowering herself onto Brooke's lower back. "Is this okay?"
"Yeah, Sam. You're fine."
With that settled, Sam returned to the task at hand. She didn't really know what she was doing. She let her hands wander across Brooke's upper back, applying only light pressure at first, before pushing down a bit harder. She heard Brooke sigh in satisfaction after she would work on a particularly tight knot.
The room was near-silent, as Sam's hands worked out the kinks in Brooke's back and shoulders. Brooke's soft sighs and quiet murmurs let Sam know that she was doing something right, and she started to get more confident, leaning harder into Brooke, really exploring the skin beneath her fingers.
The atmosphere was comfortable, but intimate. Sam marveled at the sensation of Brooke's release of tension. She could literally feel Brooke relax underneath her.
Eventually, though, Sam became aware of the fact that all she could hear was the sound of Brooke's steady breathing, and it had been like that for a little while.
"Brooke?" Sam whispered.
"Brooke, are you awake?"
Sam twisted around so that she could see Brooke's face. The blonde was asleep. Sam smiled at Brooke's contented expression.
[ Angelic. Perfectly angelic. ]
She slowly got up off of Brooke, grabbed the small blanket from the base of Brooke's bed, covered her sleeping step-sister, kissed her lightly on the temple, and quietly left the room.
"Sam, are you actually going to do anything productive, or do you plan on just taking up space?" Brooke laughed lightly, as she eyed the brunette.
Sam, Brooke, and Jason were hanging out in Brooke's room. Jason and Brooke had some assignment that they were going over together. Sam didn't really know what they were doing, exactly. Sam had been working, too, but she had given up on that a little while ago.
Now, she lay sprawled across Brooke's bed, focused intently on the rubik's cube in her hands. Brooke had to reach over her to get a notebook sitting by Sam's left leg.
"Well, Brooke, that depends on your definition of 'productive,'" Sam replied absentmindedly. "Personally, I think that I'm being very productive at the moment."
Jason laughed. "Sam, hun. I hate to break it to you, but I don't really think that lazing around and attempting to figure out a rubik's cube counts as being productive."
"Well, sure, you WOULD say that," Sam scoffed. Her attention remained primarily fixed on the cube, though, even as she carried on the conversation. "Since you're actually doing school work, you get to look down on me and my rubik's cube. But we won't worry about you and your restrictive ideas concerning productivity. So, I've had a pretty difficult week so far. Exam on Tuesday, paper due yesterday, another exam yesterday. Now, I just have a measly fifteen-page chapter to read for tomorrow. Really, that shouldn't be too difficult, but since it's been a rough week, my mind doesn't really give a shit about that chapter right now. So, I'm taking a break, to give myself some relaxation time. But, during my relaxation time, I decided to tackle the rubik's cube, because it is an activity that keeps my mind active and engaged, so I'll be primed and ready to go by the time I work my way back to that chapter that I have to read. So like I said...I happen to think that I'm being VERY productive at the moment!"
Brooke just smiled and shook her head amusedly. Jason, however, looked at Sam in impressed surprise.
"So you had that whole plan worked out when you first came in here?"
"Hell, no. I came in here planning on reading that stupid chapter. But I'm lazy and don't feel like working, and I found the rubik's cube under Brooke's bed five minutes ago. I made up my little productivity explanation about thirty seconds ago."
Fifteen minutes later, Sam was no closer to solving the rubik's cube. She was realizing that her relaxation time wasn't too relaxing.
Frustrated, she idly tossed the rubik's cube across the room. It landed neatly in Brooke's trash can.
Her annoyance at the cube turned into excitement.
"She shoots, she scores!" Sam called out animatedly, raising her arms in triumph. "Screw journalism...I've discovered my true calling in life: professional basketball player!"
Jason started giggling. "So what happened to the idea of a mentally engaging relaxation time?" he asked.
"Eh." Sam shrugged. "I've decided that thinking is overrated."
Sam turned and looked towards Brooke.
And there it was. A full-fledged, teeth-revealing, eye-crinkling smile.
Sam found herself holding her breath for a moment. Brooke's beauty was enough to literally take her breath away.
[ So, flirting didn't work. An intimate massage didn't work. But acting like a goofball works? That's cool. ]
The two of them maintained eye contact, both grinning like idiots. Sam wasn't sure how long they sat there, just staring at each other and smiling.
[ Operation: Make Brooke Really Smile? Complete success! ]
Brooke was walking through the streets of Santa Monica. She wasn't sure where she was going. She was just walking.
Suddenly, Sam was there walking beside her.
[ Where did she come from? ]
"Hi, Brooke!" Sam smiled cheerfully.
"Uh, hey Sammy."
They walked together in companionable silence. Occasionally, Brooke stole small glances toward Sam, trying to figure out why she was there.
"Here, let's go this way." Sam turned abruptly, leading the way down a street that Brooke had somehow never noticed before.
Strangely, the road seemed to narrow, and more and more trees lined the sidewalks. Eventually, the pavement gave way to a dirt path. Brooke had no idea where they were going, but Sam just confidently walked forward.
With Sam walking ahead of her, Brooke couldn't really see what was coming up ahead.
"Sam? Where are we going?"
Sam laughed lightly. "You'll see," was her cryptic answer.
Then, the path started to widen again, and it gradually opened up onto a field of wildflowers. The field ended at a cliff. Walking up to the edge, Brooke saw a river at the bottom, flowing out to the ocean. Another cliff rose from the opposite bank of the river. A lone tree was visible on the other side.
[ Where the hell are we? And how did I not know that this was here?? ]
Brooke turned to look at Sam, who was staring across the expanse between the two cliffs.
"It's beautiful, isn't it?" Sam asked. She then turned to gaze into Brooke's eyes, bearing a wide smile. Brooke just nodded, not moving her eyes from Sam's.
"Well, you ready to go?"
"Go? Go where?" Brooke frowned in confusion. She knew that Sam didn't really make sense a lot of the time, but this was even stranger behavior than usual.
"To the other side, of course." Sam rolled her eyes, as if this were the most obvious thing in the world.
But Brooke was now only more confused. "The other side?" She looked around. "But how do we get there? Is there a bridge somewhere?"
Sam smiled again, laughing. "We don't need a bridge, silly."
Brooke sighed in frustration. "Sam, you're not making any sense. What the hell are you talking about?"
"Well, there is a bridge, if you really want to go that way. It's about fifty miles away from here, though. Personally, I'd rather go as the crow flies."
With that, Sam gave Brooke one last dazzling smile before taking a running start and jumping from the edge of the cliff.
"Sam!" Brooke screamed, panicked. She was astonished to see Sam immediately turn into a bird, and fly easily across the ravine, landing on a branch high in the tree along the edge of the other cliff.
[ Whoa. I didn't know that Sam could do that. ]
Brooke was somewhat surprised by how not-surprised she was that Sam had just turned into a bird. Somehow, it just didn't seem like that big of a deal. Except for the fact that Sam was now on the other side, and Brooke wasn't sure how she would be able to follow her.
"Well, what are you waiting for?"
Brooke shrieked again, this time in surprise. Sam had once again appeared standing beside her.
[ She's really got to stop with the suddenly sneaking up on people! ]
Brooke looked at Sam, her eyes wide. Then she looked across at the tree again. Bird-Sam was still there.
"How...? You flew away."
Sam scoffed. "Brooke, if you're okay with the fact that I turned into a bird and flew away, are you really going to doubt that I can be in two different places at the same time?"
Brooke supposed that that made sense. Or at least, about as little sense as everything else that had been happening.
"Well, okay, I guess. But are you the real Sam? Because if you're the real Sam, then I don't have to worry about getting over to Bird-Sam."
"No, Bird-Sam is Real-Sam. Sorry. I'm just here because you seem to require a little more pushing than Sam anticipated."
"Pushing?? Are you going to push me off the cliff?!?" Brooke was starting to panic again.
"Preferably, no. But no guarantees."
[ Oh god. I'm going to die. Sam's gone insane. Or maybe I've gone insane. And Second-Sam is going to push me off the cliff. And I'm going to die. ]
Brooke warily took a few steps farther away from the edge. Second-Sam just stood calmly, gazing contemplatively at Brooke, who simply stared back at her, unsure of what to do next.
Then, Second-Sam turned to look back at Bird-Sam. "Oh, look. There's Luke," she commented offhandedly.
Brooke followed Second-Sam's gaze. Sure enough, there was Luke, walking up to the tree. Brooke watched as Luke reached the base of the tree and seemed to start talking with Bird-Sam. He then jumped up, grabbed a lower branch, and began to climb up the tree.
"This is SO not fair! LUKE gets to be over there? But Sam dumped Luke! He shouldn't be there! I should! I love her more than he ever did!"
Brooke sharply turned to look anxiously at Second-Sam.
[ Oh shit...I think I just admitted to Sam that I'm in love with her. ]
Second-Sam just sighed. "Don't worry. Even though Real-Sam tells me what to do, she doesn't know what's going on over here, and I'm not allowed to tell her what you say. So your secret's safe with me, Princess." Second-Sam looked disappointed.
Brooke exhaled in relief. But then she remembered about Luke. She looked back to the tree. Luke was getting closer to Bird-Sam's branch. Luckily, he seemed to be moving very slowly.
"So, you deserve to be there more than Luke? Well? What are you going to do about it?"
Brooke turned to look again at Second-Sam. Sam had that tell-tale look in her eyes...she was daring Brooke. Daring Brooke to get to Bird-Sam before Luke did.
[ She doesn't think that I can do it, does she? Well screw what she thinks! ]
Brooke defiantly stared back at Second-Sam. She then turned to face the cliff, took a deep breath, and started to run. As she got to the edge, she looked straight towards Bird-Sam, and took a flying leap into the air.
She could hear Second-Sam cheering excitedly behind her. "Go, Brooke! Go!"
Unfortunately, she didn't immediately turn into a bird. She could feel herself falling. It wasn't too scary though. And somehow, the ground didn't seem to be getting any closer, even as the edge of the cliff got farther and farther away.
Brooke began to hear a loud beeping noise. She couldn't tell where it was coming from, though. She tried to twist around in the air, searching for the source of the noise.
Then, Bird-Sam was there beside her, flying downwards along with Brooke.
Bird-Sam opened her beak, and Brooke was surprised to hear English come out. Bird-Sam didn't sound too happy. "What the hell are you doing, Brooke?? You're supposed to be going up, not down! It's really not that hard! Just follow me," Bird-Sam commanded.
Bird-Sam quickly changed directions, flying back where she came from. Brooke was still slightly distracted by the beeping, but she screwed her eyes tightly shut, trying to will herself into a bird.
When she opened her eyes again, Brooke was shocked.
[ I did it! I'm a bird! ]
She chirped happily, and turned to follow Bird-Sam.
"I'm coming, Sam! I..."
Brooke woke up to see Sam leaning across her to hit the snooze button on the beeping alarm clock. Sam settled back against Brooke's side, mumbling a sleepy "Good morning," when she saw that Brooke was awake.
[ Wow. Such a weird dream! ]
Sam was watching Brooke. Again. She couldn't help it. She didn't know how it was possible that everyone in the room wasn't watching Brooke. Brooke was just so...watch-able.
Specifically, Sam was watching Brooke dance. It was only the third time since the thing with Charlie that Brooke had been convinced to go out to a club. But it seemed like it was the first time that Brooke was actually allowing herself to relax and have some fun.
[ And a relaxed, dancing Brooke is very much a sexy Brooke. ]
Sam knew that Brooke probably hadn't had much, if any, alcohol -- if Brooke found herself in any more unwanted situations, she didn't want her senses or her reactions or her judgment to be dulled -- but unlike Sam, Brooke didn't need any liquid confidence to get her onto the dance floor.
A few guys had come up to Brooke, trying to dance with her, but she easily brushed them off. Alexis and Katie were there too, the three of them dancing in a group, along with Jason and his boyfriend Seth. Sam had been with them, but had recently escaped for a bit, as the urge to reach out and kiss Brooke grew to be too overwhelming.
Their relationship had been feeling even more complicated lately, if that were possible. Sam had attempted a few more bits of subtle flirting, and she had been shocked when Brooke started to actually flirt back. Somehow, Sam had never really expected that Brooke might actually flirt back.
Sam now understood why Brooke had freaked out the first time Sam said anything suggestive. Because now that Brooke was flirting too, Sam was finding it to be absolutely terrifying.
It wasn't anything major. Sam still felt like she sucked at flirting. But Brooke, on the other hand... Brooke was VERY good at flirting. A light touch here, a dazzling smile there. Maybe a small flirtatious comment. That was all it took to make Sam's insides feel like mush. She usually managed to keep it cool on the outside, but she really felt like a nervous wreck.
So now she simply stood at the edge of the room, away from the crowd, allowing herself to watch Brooke's every move. She idly noticed Katie walk away from the group, but she didn't really pay her much attention.
Because her eyes remained on Brooke, Sam didn't see that Katie was headed in her direction.
"Oh my god...now you're doing it too?!"
Sam turned in surprise, finding that Katie was right beside her, staring at her in shock.
"Who, me?" Sam questioned. "Doing what too?"
"Holy shit, this is SO Spring Break déjà vu! The two of you just switched places."
Sam just looked at Katie in confusion, as Katie stared back with a big grin on her face.
[ What the hell is Katie talking about? She's not making any sense. I don't even know what I could possibly say in response to that. ]
Katie continued, "Okay, I'm too not-sober to deal with you and deal with all this craziness right now. But you need to talk to Brooke. Like, seriously. Promise me that you'll talk to Brooke!"
"Huh? Talk to Brooke about what?"
Katie rolled her eyes. "If you don't know, then maybe you're not as smart as I thought you were. Figure it out."
And with that, Katie turned and walked away, still smiling and chuckling to herself.
[ Okay, what was that all about?? Did she catch me watching Brooke? Is that what that was? If so, why was she so happy about it? What does she know that I don't? Did she mean that I'm supposed to tell Brooke how I feel? Does Katie know how I feel about Brooke? Does she know how Brooke feels about me? I'm so confused. ]
Sam turned to look back towards Brooke. The blonde was still dancing, but was now staring right back at Sam. Brooke smiled, before biting down on her lower lip and raising one finger to beckon Sam.
[ Damn, that may just be the sexiest thing, like, ever. ]
It was a classic "come hither" gesture, and Sam really had no choice but to obey.
She walked toward Brooke, neither one breaking eye contact. The closer Sam got, the faster it felt like her heart was beating.
Out of the corner of her eye, she vaguely noticed Katie again, this time grabbing Alex's and Jason's hands, and unceremoniously pulling them off the dance floor. "I'm, um, tired. Yeah. So come keep me company. Let's go...away...over there, somewhere," Katie mumbled hurriedly.
Sam finally stood in front of Brooke, who had turned to curiously watch the exit of their friends, before turning to look back at Sam.
Brooke smirked, but Sam could see a definite nervousness in Brooke's eyes as well. It made her feel better, somehow, knowing that Brooke wasn't quite as calm as she appeared on the surface. That maybe Sam wasn't the only one who was a nervous wreck.
"Well, looks like it's just you and me, Sammy. Wanna dance?"
Sam exhaled audibly, practically breathing out the one-word response, "Yes," as she stepped forward into Brooke's personal space.
It occurred to her that Brooke might have simply meant dancing in the same vicinity, not dancing TOGETHER, but Sam didn't care. She reached out, gingerly placing her right hand on Brooke's hip. She was relieved when Brooke draped her arms around Sam's neck without any hesitation.
[ The last time we danced like this...I woke up the next day, naked and in Brooke's bed. What craziness might tomorrow bring? ]
There was a definite charge in the atmosphere between them. Neither one felt any need to talk, but their eyes stayed focused on each other. The music was fast, but they quickly settled into a rhythm together.
Externally, Sam was doing her absolute best to keep from falling apart. Internally was quite a different matter, though. She was overjoyed. Overwhelmed. Terrified. Turned on. In shock. In love.
[ In love?? Yeah, I think that's what this is. I think I'm in love with Brooke. Holy shit, I'm in love with Brooke. Or at least in the process of falling. ]
When a slower song came on, Sam reluctantly released her hold on Brooke, figuring that their dancing was over. Brooke didn't let go, though. She only wrapped her arms tighter around Sam, keeping her close.
Sam looked at Brooke in happy surprise. Smiling softly, she returned her hands to Brooke's body, wrapping her arms around Brooke's waist. Sam could feel Brooke's body melded perfectly against her own. She closed her eyes, breathing in the scent of Brooke. There were still tons of other people around them, but Sam only felt Brooke. Her head was swimming with the sensation of Brooke.
Suddenly, though, Brooke seemed to stiffen and took a step away from Sam. Sam tried not to look hurt.
[ Great. She's finally come to her senses, and has realized that she doesn't want to be here. I knew this seemed too good to be true. ]
Sam then heard someone behind her, clearing their throat. Sam looked over her shoulder, and saw a very guilty-looking Katie.
[ Wait, so Brooke probably only stepped away because she saw Katie coming. It wasn't because she didn't want to be dancing with me! Yes! ]
"I'm really really really sorry, guys," Katie stammered. "I didn't want to, you know, um, interrupt or anything. But...well, Alexis has had a bit too much to drink. She just puked in the bathroom. So yeah, we're gonna take her home. You don't have to come with us, though. You should totally feel free to stay here and....yeah..." The end of Katie's sentence trailed off.
"Is she okay?" Brooke asked worriedly. "We should probably go with all of you. Seth shouldn't have to deal with this, so Jason gets off the hook too, and you shouldn't have to take care of her on your own. Is that okay, Sam?"
It took a moment for Sam to realize that Brooke was talking to her. She had been too busy trying to get her heart to slow down. "Huh? Oh yeah, that's fine, let's go. Where's Alex? Poor thing, that really sucks."
[ What also really sucks is that I'm no longer dancing with Brooke. ]
The three girls went to rejoin the rest of the group, and then the suitemates split from Seth and Jason, catching a cab back to their dorm.
"Sorry I made everyone leave. I didn't mean to get this drunk. I don't usually get this drunk. Just sorta happened." Alexis was sitting between Sam and Brooke, with Katie in the front seat of the cab.
Sam chuckled. "Hey, don't worry about it. It's happened to the best of us," she replied. "Plus, your speech is remarkably non-slurred, for someone who's trashed. Impressive."
"By the way," Alex continued, looking back and forth between Sam and Brooke, "you two were really hot out there."
"Alexis!" Katie turned around sharply, staring reproachfully at the girl.
"What? It's true! I'm just stating a fact. You can't tell me that they weren't hot out there. Well, you CAN, technically...I just won't believe you if you do."
Sam laughed embarrassedly, hiding her face in her hands. She snuck a look over to Brooke, who was blushing profusely.
[ Fuck. They were all watching us? I didn't even think about that. ]
The cab lapsed once again into silence, as Alexis snuggled contentedly against Brooke.
Back at the dorm, they all easily got Alexis to bed. Katie soon disappeared into her own room as well.
"And then there were two..." Sam commented idly. Now that they were in the glaring light of the hallway, Sam was nervous again. She stuffed her hands in her pockets and rocked back and forth from the balls of her feet to her heels. "You tired?"
"Yeah, kind of. Bed?"
When Sam nodded, Brooke grabbed one of Sam's hands out of her pocket and pulled her down the hall, to her room. She stopped suddenly, and Sam almost crashed into her. Turning around, Brooke added, "I forgot. You need pajamas." She released Sam's hand and gently pushed her towards the opposite end of the suite. "And brush your teeth and whatever. Then come back."
When Sam re-entered Brooke's room, the light was off, and Brooke was already in bed, waiting for her.
Sam slipped between the sheets, lying on her side. Brooke was also on her side, facing Sam. Watching her. Sam draped her arm over Brooke's waist. Her thumb quickly found a small patch of bare skin at the edge of Brooke's shirt. She moved her thumb back and forth, slowly stroking the smooth skin. It took a minute for Sam's eyes to adjust to the darkness, but then she could clearly see Brooke's face. Brooke's eyes were intently searching Sam's.
[ I wonder what she's looking for. ]
She was starting to grow uncomfortable under Brooke's obvious scrutiny. She felt the need to break the growing silence.
"I...I had fun tonight," she whispered, smiling shyly.
And before she could stop herself, Sam leaned forward, bringing her lips to Brooke's.
She kissed Brooke lightly, then pulled back in surprise. She hadn't been planning on doing that. Brooke was looking at her, her eyes wide.
[ Well, she hasn't slapped me, or run away screaming. That's good. ]
Before she could lose her nerve, Sam closed her eyes and leaned back in. As their lips connected, Sam brought her hand up to Brooke's face, cupping her cheek.
While Brooke wasn't reacting badly, though, she wasn't reacting...at all. She hadn't moved a single muscle. Sam was about to pull back again, figuring that it was all a huge mistake, when suddenly, Brooke was kissing her back.
[ Brooke McQueen! Is kissing me! Willingly! Enthusiastically, even! ]
Sam reveled in the feel of Brooke's lips against her own. She deepened the kiss, as Brooke's hand came to rest on her hip, gripping tightly.
Kissing Brooke McQueen was truly an amazing thing. The yielding softness of Brooke's lips was like...like...Sam's brain was too far gone to come up with any coherent similes.
And when Brooke's tongue pushed its way between Sam's lips, Sam couldn't help but moan out loud.
The sound seemed to break into Brooke's haze, though, and she jerked backwards.
"I...I...You..." Brooke blinked rapidly, but was unable to come even close to forming a complete sentence.
Sam was mortified. She had gone from heaven to hell in the span of about ten seconds. She quickly sat up, moving to one end of the bed. Brooke mirrored her actions, moving opposite Sam.
"Oh god. Brooke, I'm so sorry. I shouldn't have...I just had to. I've been holding back. But then tonight...I thought that you wanted it too. But I was obviously wrong. I'm really so sorry."
Brooke's panicked expression softened, as she reached out toward Sam again. Her hand wavered about an inch from Sam's cheek, before being pulled back.
"No, Sam. That's not it. You weren't wrong. I did want this. I DO want it. I've wanted it...well, for a while now." Brooke closed her eyes, visibly trying to pull herself together. "It's just...you remember that crazy night a while ago?"
Sam couldn't help but laugh softly. "Which one? We've had a lot of crazy nights over the years. The night Mac was born? Junior prom? The thing with Charlie?"
"No, no. Not those. The other one. Freshman year.
"Oh. Right. That one."
"Yeah. Back then...I didn't know what I wanted. But the main thing that freaked me out wasn't so much that you were a girl. I think a lot of it was just how quickly everything happened. But it was obvious what you didn't want. For a while, you didn't want anything to do with me. That hurt, Sam. A lot. I can't go through that again. I don't know what I'd do if I woke up tomorrow and looked into your eyes, and I saw that disgust again. So...I really want this. But I don't know if I can."
[ Okay. She doesn't actually hate me. It's going to work out. It has to work out. ]
Sam opened and closed her mouth several times, trying to work out what to say.
"Brooke, I...I understand. But I didn't know what I wanted back then either. I'm not confused anymore, though. I know what I want."
She paused, taking a deep breath. There could be no going back after this. "You, Brooke. You're everything I could possibly want. I wouldn't regret this in the morning. Even now, I don't really regret kissing you. I just can't regret something that felt so right. If you want this too...then don't deny it. This can work. I have to believe that we can make this work."
Brooke had shut her eyes tightly while Sam spoke. One tear escaped from between her eyelids and fell down her cheek. Sam ached, wanting to reach out and brush it away. But she held back, afraid to touch the blonde. Afraid that it would do more harm than good, at this point.
She took in a large breath before opening her eyes. Her voice, quivering, was barely above a whisper as she replied, "I don't know, Sam. I just don't know what to do. I want to believe you. But...I just don't know."
"Look, you don't need to decide right now. Pressuring you into something is the last thing that I want. So let's just go to sleep, and see what happens, okay? I should probably go. Do you want me to go?"
"No. I'm sorry if this is selfish of me, but...please stay. If you stay...if you don't run from me...it'll be the first step in convincing me that you really mean this."
Sam looked directly into Brooke's eyes, internally jumping for joy at this small offering of hope. "I'm not running."
[ I have to make her trust me. I WILL make her trust me. ]
Brooke woke up to the sound of Sam's steady breathing. She rolled over onto her back, and Sam easily moved right along with her, draping herself around Brooke. When she remembered the previous night, Brooke immediately felt and odd combination of elation and panic.
[ Sam kissed me. Oh god. Sam kissed me! And I turned her down. Why did I turn her down?? She was so brave to put herself out there, and I turned her down. I mean, if she changes her mind now...well, if I hadn't turned her down, then at least I would have gotten one night with her that I could actually remember. One night is better than none, right? God, I'm an idiot.]
Brooke felt Sam start to stir and stretch beside her. Sam's arm, lying across Brooke's waist, flexed, briefly squeezing Brooke tighter. Sam sighed, and her eyes fluttered open.
Brooke held her breath, waiting for Sam's initial reaction. Sam just smiled at her sleepily, burrowing in a little tighter against Brooke's body.
"I don't want to get up. Do we have to get up?" Sam mumbled into Brooke's neck.
Brooke exhaled. Sam wasn't going to act weird about it. So Brooke wouldn't have to either. She could relax.
Brooke smiled. "Yes, Sammy. Unfortunately, we do have to get up. You have a WSN meeting in..." Brooke paused to look at the clock. "...an hour and a half. Remember?"
"Bah. Who schedules meetings for Sunday mornings??"
"Um, I'm pretty sure that YOU scheduled it, Sam," Brooke laughed.
"Then I'm an idiot. Remind me not to do that again. Stupid newspaper."
All was still for a few minutes. Brooke wondered if Sam had fallen asleep again.
"Okay, okay, I'm getting up." With great effort, Sam finally sat up in bed, stretching out her arms. Brooke couldn't help but notice that this action made Sam's shirt ride up her torso, exposing some of the smooth skin underneath.
"Well, good morning Princess." Sam leaned over and kissed Brooke on the cheek, before hopping out of bed.
[ Sam is going to test my restraint, isn't she? Because part of me just wants to forget all my worries, drag her back to bed, and smother her with kisses. ]
Still, there was one thing nagging at the back of Brooke's mind.
"How're you feeling today? Do you have a hangover at all?" she asked quietly.
Sam stood still with her back to Brooke, before slowly turning around and looking reassuringly into her eyes. "My head feels fine, Brooke. I don't have a hangover." She paused. "I wasn't drunk last night, so there's no reason that I would have a hangover. Yes, I had a bit to drink. But I wasn't even close to being drunk."
Brooke released the breath that she hadn't quite realized she'd been holding. She smiled and nodded, breaking the slight tension. Brooke hadn't really thought that Sam was drunk. But she needed to be sure that Sam knew what she was doing the previous night. That it hadn't been alcohol that was driving Sam's actions and words.
A few days later, Brooke returned from class and went to go find Sam. Sam's room was unlocked, so she walked in without knocking, finding Sam pacing back and forth and talking quietly to herself.
"Brooke! You're here!" Sam jumped at the sound of the door, turning to stare at her.
"Maybe you should lay off the caffeine a bit, Sam. You're a little jumpy," Brooke teased.
"Right. Actually, it's good that you came by. Because I wanted to talk to you. I lost track of time, so didn't realize you'd be back so soon. I was going to leave a message for you, for when you got back from class, asking you to come over. But now you're back, and I didn't leave you a message, but you're here anyway, so that works, and..."
Brooke interrupted, "Okay, wow, you're really rambling. Might I ask what you wanted to talk to me about?"
"Oh. Um. Yeah. Well, actually, I was wondering...uh...if you....well, if you might like to go out sometime. This weekend. Or whenever."
Brooke just stood there for a moment, blinking in surprise. "Go out? Like, on a date??" The question came out a little squeakier than Brooke would have liked.
"Yeah. On a date." Sam chewed nervously on her lower lip.
"Wow. You're asking me on a date... Wow."
"Um, no offense...but is this really that surprising? I mean, I thought...I thought you understood that I'd like to be more than friends with you. And I dunno...it just seemed like going on a date was kind of the logical place to start."
Now that Brooke had gotten over her initial surprise, she was finding Sam's nervousness to be absolutely adorable. She smiled. "Yeah, sorry. I mean, I'd love to. Going out on a date with you sounds great."
They decided to start casually, simply going out for a cup of coffee, before going to see a movie. It was fun, but Brooke had to admit that it didn't exactly feel like a date. It was just hanging out with Sam, something that she'd been doing for years.
After the third date, though, Brooke and Sam kissed goodnight for the first time. It was then that it started to really feel like dating. Because kissing Sam was definitely NOT something that Brooke had been doing for years. Kissing Sam was something that she wouldn't mind continuing to do for years, though.
At that point, they both agreed that it would be awkward to keep sleeping in the same bed on nights when they went out. They still shared a bed on most nights, and still slept better when they weren't alone. But at the end of a date, it didn't feel right to jump into bed together, even if all they'd be doing was sleeping.
It was somewhat difficult, dating each other while keeping it a secret from their other two suitemates, but somehow they made it work. It helped that Alex spent a lot of her time with Jason, and Katie had recently started dating someone as well. Brooke was pretty sure that his name was Ryan, but for some reason, Sam only ever referred to him as "cute English class guy." Brooke had a feeling that they weren't really fooling Katie, though, but she was nice enough not to bring it up before they were ready to.
"Stupid phone...stupid people calling way too fucking early...stupid everything."
Brooke woke to the sound of her room phone ringing and of Sam mumbling to herself, before reaching across Brooke's body to answer the phone.
"Hello, you have reached Brooke McQueen's room. How may I direct your call?"
Brooke giggled. For someone who had just woken up and had been angrily swearing ten seconds previously, Sam managed to sound remarkably chipper.
Brooke watched as Sam frowned in reaction to whatever the person on the other end had said. Sam, who was still leaning over Brooke, since the phone was plugged in to the wall, looked down at the blonde and smirked playfully. Brooke just waited for whatever Sam would say next.
"What was that? I'm sorry...it's a really bad connection...we're driving through...through a tunnel right now. I can't hear you! Okay, bye!"
And with that, Sam promptly hung up the phone and collapsed back next to Brooke.
Brooke laughed. "Sam, what the hell? Who was that?"
Sam just shrugged. "Not important. I'm sure she'll call back."
Sure enough, Brooke's phone started ringing again. Brooke reached for it this time, but Sam quickly dove across Brooke again, grabbing the phone.
"Hey Satan...Whoa there, calm down, tiger...Whatever, here's Brooke."
Sam handed the phone to Brooke, who shot a playfully glaring look to the brunette, before turning her attention to the phone.
"Nicole? Is that you?"
"Yes, it's me! What the hell is wrong with your step-sister?? She's such a freak of nature!"
"Yeah, I'm really sorry, Nic. Sam was just being annoying on purpose. Don't let her get to you."
[ Of course, I really think that it was pretty hilarious, but I'd never tell that to Nicole. ]
"Anyway," Brooke continued, "What's up? And what's up with how early you're calling?"
"Oh, stop complaining. You're always up early. Wait a second... Have you been awake for very long?"
"Uh, no. Just woke up, actually." This point was emphasized by a large yawn. "Why?"
"You just woke up?" Nicole sounded very suspicious of something, but Brooke wasn't awake enough to figure it out. "Did Spam just wake up too?"
[ What could Nicole possibly be trying to get at? ]
There was a long pause before Nicole continued. "Let's recap, shall we? You're in your room and you just woke up. Spam, who also just woke up, answered the phone when I called. So what the hell is Spam doing in your room right now?"
[ Oh. So that's what Nicole's trying to get at. Shit. ]
"Um...she just....we have, you know, sleepovers every once in a while." Brooke tried her best to sound nonchalant, but this conversation had quickly turned very dangerous. She could practically hear the gears turning in Nicole's head, and it made her very nervous.
"Oh. My. God," Nicole enunciated, shock evident in her voice. "I can't believe this. I must be wrong. You couldn't be, could you??"
This was doing nothing to relieve Brooke's anxiety.
Nic went on, "You're...you're sleeping with her, aren't you?!"
Brooke shot up in bed, breaking out of Sam's loose hold. "WHAT?!? No! No, no, no. I'm not.... That's ridiculous! I can't believe you'd think that!"
"Methinks the lady doth protest too much, Brookie. You are TOTALLY sleeping with her!"
Nicole sounded positively gleeful at this turn of events. Brooke, however, felt sick.
[ This is SO not fair! It isn't even true! I haven't been sleeping with Sam! Not in the way that Nic means, at least. ]
Brooke knew that it sounded like she was lying. But she couldn't help it. Nicole was close enough to the truth, so even though Brooke wasn't actually lying, there was no way that she could sound convincing.
"Ooh! And freshman year, when you were acting all weird that time? It all makes sense, now! You were sleeping with her way back then, weren't you? Ha! I TOLD you I'd figure it out, eventually! It just took me a little while longer than expected. Holy shit, Brooke! I can't believe you've been fucking Spam for three years!"
"I haven't! I really haven't, Nicole. You're taking this way out of proportion!" Brooke turned to glance at Sam, panic filling her face. Sam was looking back worriedly, obviously confused.
"But really, Brooke...of all the people you could have picked to have a hot sapphic fling with, you chose Spam?? 'Cause the whole gay thing isn't really an issue. Hell, it's not even that unexpected. I mean, you were never quite as into Josh as you should have been, considering the fact that he was the ultimate crush of every hetero female at Kennedy. But Spam? I thought you had better taste than that, hun. Eww. Don't you DARE start talking to me about how Spam tastes! I REALLY don't want to know."
Brooke just gaped into the phone. She had absolutely no clue how to respond to that.
"Um...is there...like, an actual reason why you called, Nic? You know, other than to mortify me completely?"
"Whatever. It's SO not important, compared to a revelation of this magnitude. I can't talk with you anymore right now. I need to go process this."
Brooke sat staring straight ahead for several minutes, even after Nicole had hung up. Finally, Sam eased the phone out of Brooke's grasp.
"Nicole is now convinced that we've been having sex," she blurted out to Sam. "For three years."
Sam stared at her in horror. "Oh...that's...that's....just fantastic."
Brooke and Sam had been dating for about a month. Brooke still worried a lot about the relationship. What if it didn't work out and they broke up? Would they be able to stay friends after that? What if Sam got tired of waiting around for her to become totally relaxed, and decided that she wasn't worth it?
Brooke knew that it was pointless to worry about these kinds of things. That, by holding back, she was probably only hurting herself. But she couldn't help it. Sometimes, it felt like Sam, not Brooke, had been the first one to come around to the whole "I'm gay and want to date my step-sister" realization. Sam certainly seemed more comfortable with it. But Brooke had managed to convince herself so completely that Sam would never look at her romantically, that, now that they had crossed that line, Brooke didn't quite know how to deal with it.
Still, the "goodnight kiss" portion of their dates had been getting more and more extended. And Brooke didn't know how much longer she'd be able to put on the brakes. In fact, her own reasoning for putting on the brakes was becoming increasingly unclear.
"Hey, you about ready to head out?" Sam asked, simultaneously knocking on and poking her head around Brooke's door.
"Yeah, sure. Let me just grab my coat."
After an early dinner, Sam was taking Brooke...somewhere. Brooke didn't actually know where they were going, which was somewhat frustrating. But Sam was being stubborn, as usual, and wouldn't tell her what she had planned.
"Explain to me again why you won't tell me where we're going?"
"Because..." Sam sighed. "If I told you, then you'd probably just think it sounded stupid and lame. I actually think that it could be a lot of fun, but if I tell you before we get there, then you'll try to convince me that we should do something else."
Brooke laughed. "Wow, what a glowing endorsement: 'It sounds stupid and lame, but we should go there anyway.'"
"But the whole point is that, while it may SOUND stupid and lame, it actually isn't. At least, I hope it won't be. Come on, just trust me."
Brooke grabbed hold of Sam's hand and brought it to her lips, kissing the knuckles lightly. "Always. I'm sure it'll be great, I'm just not dealing well with the curiosity."
Brooke was surprised when Sam led them to what seemed like some kind of craft store.
[ She's taking me shopping? For crafts? I think this wins the "strangest date ever" prize. ]
In response to Brooke's questioning look, Sam replied, "It's a paint-your-own pottery place. I heard from Jeff, one of the other editors, that he took his girlfriend here once, and she really liked it...so I thought maybe you'd like it too."
Brooke just smiled. "Sounds cute. Let's go."
After picking out their pottery -- a vase for Sam and a coffee mug for Brooke -- they sat down to paint. Brooke didn't really know what she was doing, but was remembering why she had always liked arts and crafts so much at summer camp. She was having fun releasing her inner-child. Surprisingly, Sam was getting really into it. She was picking out a bunch of different stencils, and trying out each color before she used it, making sure it was just right. Then again, maybe it wasn't so surprising. Sam never seemed to do anything with less than 100% effort.
Brooke, on the other hand, was going with more of a trial-and-error approach -- if she didn't like a color, she just painted over it with a darker color. Unfortunately, this approach had let to an interesting mix of colors, which didn't really go too well together. Brooke had been a lot more anal about crafts when she was younger, but she was still enjoying herself now. Plus, being across the table from Sam afforded her a lovely view of her date, who was sitting with knitted brow, intense eyes, and her tongue sticking thoughtfully into her cheek.
[ This date has been a total success, partly just because it's given me a chance to watch Sam when she's all focused and adorable. ]
"Here, I made this for you."
Brooke looked up from her mug. "You made it for me? Aw, but my mug looks like crap. I would have made it prettier if I knew we were going to be exchanging!"
"Hey, don't worry about it," Sam chuckled. "I wasn't planning on exchanging at first, but then it just sort of evolved into this thing that reminded me of you. So anyway, let me explain it to you." Sam held the vase out before her, pointing out the various elements. "This color at the base is the closest I could get to the color of your eyes. The purple at the top is the color of that shirt you got recently that looks really good on you. There's an orange cat, because one of my earliest memories of you is when we were, I don't know, about six, I guess. You were mad at Harrison, because he had stolen your favorite stuffed animal, a tiger. But then I came over to your house the next day, because I had gotten it back for you. I think Harrison told you that he willingly gave it to me, since I was his best friend, but that isn't true, and when he wouldn't give it up right away, I started hitting him until he let me have it."
[ I remember that...little Sammy, to my rescue! ]
Sam went on, "This thing is supposed to be a raspberry, since that's what your shampoo smells like. Then I put in a yellow submarine, because I've heard you singing that song numerous times in the shower at the Palace. And finally, this is a dolphin, because if you were an animal, I think you'd be a dolphin. They're playful, intelligent, social, cute, and really brave when they need to be. Plus, both you and dolphins like to eat fish."
Throughout Sam's explanation, Brooke's smile had been getting bigger and bigger. She couldn't believe how much thought Sam had put into this. At the last sentence, Brooke let out a burst of laughter.
"I love it, Sam! ... I love you." She only hesitated a moment before making the second pronouncement. It was possible that it was too soon to say it, but it was true, and she wanted Sam to know.
At Brooke's words, Sam's grin became just as big as Brooke's. "Really? I love you too. And I'm not just saying that because you said it. I said it because I really mean it."
Brooke glanced around briefly, before leaning across the table and kissing Sam firmly. They had never kissed in public before, but Brooke didn't care at this point.
When she returned to her seat, they both simply sat there, grinning at each other, until Sam exclaimed, "Oh, Brooke...you got paint on your shirt!"
Brooke looked down at herself -- sure enough, there was a splotch of red paint near the bottom of her yellow top. It must have gotten there when she leaned across the table. Brooke just smirked mischievously. "Well, I don't think that I should be the only one covered in paint." And without giving Sam a chance to react, she dipped her finger in blue paint and swiped it down Sam's nose.
Sam squealed and wrinkled up her nose, before getting some green paint on her own finger and wiping it across Brooke's cheek. Within another minute, both girls were covered in at least five different colors and were giggling uncontrollably.
Traipsing to the bathroom to clean themselves up, they shared another few kisses -- and Sam made some goofy comment about "tasting the rainbow." Once rid of all the paint, they then apologized profusely to the owners of the shop for making a bit of a mess (luckily, they managed to get most of the paint on each other, as opposed to everything around them), and returned to their suite. They held hands throughout the entire ride back, simply relishing each other's presence.
Once they made it back to the dorm, Brooke was relieved to find the suite empty. She really didn't want to socialize with anyone else right then. Walking briskly to Brooke's room, they were almost immediately in each other's arms. Brooke felt no nervousness as she eagerly brought her hands to either side of Sam's face and pressed her lips against Sam's. She had discovered that, while Sam's oral fixation used to be torture, it was now very much appreciated.
She allowed her hands to wander up and down Sam's body, touching everywhere she could reach. Sam's hands were busy as well, burying themselves in Brooke's back pockets and squeezing methodically.
[ Sam's hands are on my ass. Oh, god. Sam's hands are on my ass. ]
Brooke found that her thoughts were barely coherent, as she focused on the sensations running through her. She moaned lightly as Sam's tongue reached out to run along Brooke's lower lip. The moan caused Brooke's lips to part slightly, and Sam took advantage of this by gently pushing her tongue into Brooke's mouth. Brooke opened a bit wider, inviting Sam to explore. Her own tongue wrestled playfully with Sam's, fighting for dominance.
After what felt like an hour, but was probably much shorter, Sam finally dragged her mouth away from Brooke's. Neither one made any effort to move their arms, though, as they stared into each other's eyes and attempted to regain their breath.
Sam spoke first, keeping her voice to a low whisper. "Is this...are you...is this okay? I mean, I don't want to push this faster than you're ready to."
In response, Brooke merely lowered her mouth to Sam's neck, fervently kissing and licking the soft flesh that she found there.
Sam groaned and leaned her head backwards, giving Brooke greater access. Sam seemed to very much enjoy the feeling of Brooke's lips on her neck. Which was good, because Brooke was equally pleased with the current situation.
Brooke took in a sharp breath when Sam's hand tentatively reached up to cup Brooke's left breast. But she immediately clamped her mouth back down on the base of Sam's neck, sucking lightly.
Meanwhile, the increasing shakiness in her legs was bringing Brooke's hazy attention to the fact that they were still standing. She brought her lips back up to Sam's, before gently starting to walk forwards, easing Sam back towards the bed in the process.
Sam grunted and fell backwards when the backs of her knees unexpectedly hit the edge of the bed. She maintained her hold on Brooke, though, and pulled the blonde down with her. Brooke remained perched over Sam, resting on her hands and knees, as she gazed into Sam's eyes, searching for any lingering doubts. She found none.
"Is this really happening? I can't believe this is actually happening," Brooke murmured. "I'm not dreaming, am I?"
Sam reached up to stroke Brooke's cheek. "It's really happening. You don't want to be dreaming, right?"
Brooke shuddered at the sexy huskiness in Sam's voice. "God, no."
Sam then placed her hands on Brooke's hips and pulled her downward, so that she was lying completely on top of the brunette. Brooke settled easily between Sam's legs, closing her eyes tightly at the pressure.
She nipped gently at Sam's lips, softly biting down on her lower lip, before sucking it completely into her mouth. She teasingly ran her hands up and down the sides of Sam's torso, just barely grazing her thumb across a bare patch of skin at Sam's waist.
Apparently frustrated with Brooke's light touches, Sam grabbed tightly onto Brooke and deftly switched their positions, with Sam now sitting atop Brooke's hips. From her position, she reached down and grabbed the hem of Brooke's shirt, pulling it upwards and tossing it somewhere behind her. Brooke sat up, bringing her hands to the buttons of Sam's shirt, and somehow managed to undo them, before pushing it back off Sam's shoulders. She then lay back down on the bed, as Sam stared at her in awe. Sam's hands hovered above Brooke's chest for a moment, before coming down firmly to rub at the soft globes. Brooke arched upward, pushing harder into Sam's hands.
Sam then slid down Brooke's body enough to bring her lips to the top of Brooke's breast. She reached under Brooke to undo the clasp of her bra and then reverently removed the item of clothing. Brooke tangled her hands into Sam's thick mane of hair, holding her in place. When Sam's mouth enveloped a stiff nipple between her lips, Brooke couldn't help but moan out loud. She whimpered softly when Sam removed her lips, only to sigh in pleasure when Sam switched to the opposite breast, giving it equal attention. Sam's tongue alternated between flicking across and running circles around the hard nub, and Brooke could only mumble incoherently in response.
When Brooke looked down, she found Sam watching her. Sam released a feral grin, as she started to move farther down Brooke's body. Brooke held her breath when Sam reached the scar that ran down her abdomen, from the surgery four years ago to stop her internal bleeding. It was largely healed, and almost couldn't be seen at first glance, but Brooke couldn't help but feel self-conscious about it. Sam paused for only the briefest moment, before lightly running her finger along it, and kissing it tenderly.
Seeming to understand Brooke's insecurity, Sam locked eyes with Brooke and whispered fervently, "You're so beautiful, Brooke. Nothing could ever change that."
Brooke smiled in relief, running her hand though Sam's hair.
"Is this still okay?" Sam asked. "Do you want to keep going, or...?"
"If you don't keep going, then I might just have to kill you."
Sam chuckled softly, as her hands went to the button on Brooke's pants. In one quick motion, she pushed at Brooke's jeans and panties. Raising her hips, Brooke helped push them down her legs, before kicking them free of her body.
"You too," she muttered. "I want to see you. All of you."
Sam complied, ridding herself of the rest of her clothes. She settled back between Brooke's legs, and Brooke briefly regretted not being able to see Sam more fully, before Sam tentatively brought her hand to the thatch of blonde curls at Brooke's center.
As Sam's fingers began to explore the wetness between her legs, Brooke roughly pulled Sam to her, hungrily devouring Sam's lips.
Her hips jerked upwards as the tip of Sam's finger made contact with her aching clit. "Oh, Sam. Don't stop," she gasped.
Brooke felt Sam entwine her free hand with one of her own, as Sam once again slid down Brooke's body, leaving a wet trail of kisses along the way. She reached Brooke's other main scar, the one that ran up her thigh, and lovingly kissed all along it as well. Brooke, who had been watching Sam, snapped her eyes shut at Sam's first timid lick between her folds. "Oh god! Sam! Fuck..." Brooke's utterings devolved into unintelligible sounds.
"Oh, Brooke. You feel so amazing." Sam pulled back slightly, in order to speak, before returning fully to the task literally in front of her. Sam moaned, and Brooke could actually feel the reverberations throughout her core.
When Sam simultaneously thrust two fingers inside of Brooke and sucked Brooke's clit into her mouth, Brooke exploded, feeling like she had shattered into a million pieces. Her hips shot up off the bed, as Sam clung to her, and then she fell back into a quivering, orgasmic, mess. Sam kept her fingers in place, eagerly licking up all the moisture, before she climbed back up Brooke's shuddering body.
Brooke felt like she had just run a race. She welcomed Sam back between her arms, as she tried to get her breathing under control.
After being given sufficient time to recuperate, Brooke once again kissed Sam firmly. She smiled, completely satisfied, as she looked deeply into Sam's eyes. The love and the lust that she saw there caused another flare of desire to shoot through her.
"Your turn now," Brooke practically growled. She flipped Sam onto her back and kissed her way across Sam's jaw, then down along the side of her neck. She paused to suck at Sam's collarbone. She didn't really know what to do, but the sounds coming from Sam's mouth convinced her that she was more than just alright.
She bent her knee, placing pressure between Sam's legs. Sam whimpered and started to grind against Brooke's thigh. Brooke herself moaned at the feeling of wetness sliding along her leg.
She felt Sam's nails digging into her back, but far from bothering her, it only spurred her to press harder against Sam.
"Fuck. Oh, Brooke. So close. Please..."
Wanting to taste Sam, Brooke nipped one last time at Sam's neck, before heading southward. She stopped to lavish some attention on Sam's breasts, but she could feel and hear Sam's mounting need, so continued on toward her destination.
Brooke gripped Sam's hips, as she leaned down, inhaling Sam's scent. Unable to resist any longer, she plunged her tongue between Sam's soft folds. Though she hadn't been sure what to expect, she immediately knew that she loved Sam's taste. She used the tip of her tongue to run a tight circle around Sam's clit, and that was all it took to push Sam over the edge. Sam grew rigid beneath her, then shook violently as she called out Brooke's name.
Brooke continued licking gently, until Sam pulled her back up. Brooke pushed some stray hair out of Sam's eyes, and leaned down for a tender kiss. She softly caressed Sam's body, happy to simply lie within Sam's arms. She could barely believe it -- she had actually had sex with Sam. She and Sam had made love. And it was the most beautiful she had ever experienced.
"That was...just...amazing. I...I can't even describe...just...amazing," Sam stuttered.
Brooke smirked to herself.
[ For once, sex has left Sam without a million things to say. ]
"I love you, Brooke." Sam gazed at her with tired, but happy, eyes.
"I love you too, Sam. So much."
The girls shared a few more slow kisses, and then cuddled contentedly in each other's arms. Brooke felt her eyelids flutter closed, as she was unable to hold back the exhaustion that suddenly overtook her.
[ It's official: Best. Date. Ever. ]
PART 4 -- Senior Year
Sam felt herself being pulled from sleep. Her dream had been such a nice one, though, that she didn't want to leave it. However, as her mind became more and more alert, Sam was beginning to suspect that her dream was continuing right into real life.
[ I might still be dreaming...but those lips and fingers against my skin feel remarkably real. ]
Sam kept her eyes closed, but smiled and sleepily ran her hand along the familiar form pressed against her body.
Now aware of Sam's consciousness, Brooke grinned into the crook of Sam's neck. "So, I finally managed to wake you up, huh Sammy?" she whispered.
Sam shivered at the silky textures of Brooke's voice, before murmuring in response. Over the previous months, Sam had learned that Brooke was often a bit...feisty when she woke up. And as Brooke often woke up before Sam, it made for some very pleasant mornings.
Still not fully awake, Sam simply sighed contentedly as she felt Brooke shift above her, spreading Sam's thighs and settling between them. Sam arched her head backwards, granting Brooke greater access to her neck. She purred in pleasure as Brooke nipped and licked at her pulse point, becoming more awake with every swipe of Brooke's tongue.
Finally, needing to taste Brooke's lips, Sam reached up to Brooke's face, urging her upwards. Brooke started off gently, but was soon practically attacking Sam's lips, with Sam pushing back just as urgently.
Sam was happy to realize that they were both still naked from the night before, as her hands swept across Brooke's body, memorizing every inch all over again.
[ This is definitely the best way to wake up in the morning. ]
Brooke's mouth was on the move again, making its way across Sam's jaw-line, and then reaching around to Sam's ear. Sam felt warm breath against her skin, before Brooke took Sam's earlobe between her lips.
When Sam finally opened her eyes for the first time that morning, she found Brooke directly above her, staring straight into her. Sam's eyes swept across Brooke's face.
[ I did that. The love and desire in her eyes. Her swollen lips. Her flushed cheeks. I love the fact that she's like that because of me. ]
Brooke's hand reached down between their bodies, her fingers eagerly exploring the increasing wetness at the apex of Sam's thighs. A single look could make Sam wet for Brooke, let alone all the passion in Brooke's impatient touch.
Sam moaned as Brooke brought her lips back to Sam's ear, whispering softly. "You feel so good, Sam. I love the fact that you're like this for me."
Since it happened fairly regularly, Sam was no longer surprised when she found that her own thoughts and Brooke's seemed to match perfectly.
Two lithe fingers slipped effortlessly into Sam, whose hips pushed upwards at the welcome intrusion.
They quickly settled into a slow and steady rhythm, with Sam rocking against Brooke's hand. Occasionally, Brooke's thumb would run over Sam's clit, causing Sam's hips to jerk upwards. Sam held on tightly to Brooke, as her breathing rate escalated along with the pace of Brooke's fingers. She repeatedly brought her lips to Brooke's, barely managing to speak between kisses. "Oh Brooke...don't stop...oh god..."
Brooke didn't respond in words, but uttered a soft growl from deep in her throat as she lowered her head to lightly rake her teeth across the skin of Sam's shoulder. Sam loved the feeling of losing herself in Brooke's touch. Brooke always seemed to know just what to do.
After a moment, Sam tugged Brooke so they were face to face again. She sucked Brooke's lower lip into her mouth and tangled one hand into Brooke's soft hair. The other hand reached to Brooke's tender breast, gently kneading the flesh beneath her fingers as a hard nipple pressed into her palm.
A loud and sudden knocking at Sam's door broke into the haze surrounding the two girls. Brooke yelped quietly as Sam bit down on Brooke's lip in surprise.
Sam's immediate and panicked reaction was to try to get away from Brooke as quickly as possible. Her frantic attempt to extricate herself from the tangle of limbs in her bed didn't go too smoothly, however, and she found herself literally falling out of bed. She reached out to try to grab onto something, anything, to halt her fall, but her grasp only managed to grab hold of the stuffed animal sitting on her nightstand.
"So I'm a dolphin, huh?"
Sam and Brooke were cuddled up together in bed, the morning after their date at the pottery shop, with Sam's hand idly caressing Brooke's bare back. Technically, it was already their second night together, but Sam had decided that the other time, so long ago, didn't count. The previous night was real; that was what she would consider to be the first time that she and Brooke really made love.
"Yep, you're a dolphin. And what would I be, if I were an animal?"
"Hmmmm. What would Sammy be?" Sam watched Brooke's face concentrate in thought, as she traced a finger around the contours of Brooke's features.
"I know!" Brooke turned to face Sam triumphantly. "You'd be a horse!"
Sam arched an eyebrow. "A horse?"
"Sure. I mean, you've got plenty of hair for a long, thick ponytail..." Brooke's hand reached to tangle itself in Sam's hair. "...a big nose..."
"Hey!" Sam commented indignantly.
"Kidding! Your nose is perfect. I love your nose." Sam felt her indignation wash away as Brooke tenderly kissed the tip of her nose. "But seriously. You're wild, and beautiful, and stubborn, and strong, and independent..."
"And I just needed the right person to come along and tame me," Sam interrupted and completed the sentence for Brooke.
Brooke smirked. "Well I don't know that you could ever be truly tamed, Sam, but that's one of the best things about you."
"Okay, so I'm a horse." Sam leaned over to lightly graze her lips against Brooke's. "Just as long as you come along for the ride."
Sam heard Brooke groan in frustration, before giggling at the thump created by Sam's ungraceful tumble out of bed.
"Ow!" Sam grumbled to herself and then called out to whoever was at her door, "Hold on just a minute!" She scrambled to her feet, placing the stuffed horse back in its place next to the oddly-colored coffee mug.
[ Okay, how to make it seem like Brooke isn't here? ]
Sam turned to the bed and found that Brooke had huddled herself beneath Sam's covers. Sam tucked a few stray hairs underneath as well, and then quickly piled clothes and pillows on the bed, so that the lump there looked significantly less Brooke-shaped.
Satisfied with the appearance of the room, Sam went to answer the door.
"Naked! You're naked, Sam!" Brooke whispered urgently from the bed, apparently having peeked out at the last second.
[ Oh, right. Shit. Close call. ]
Sam grabbed a towel from off of the bed and wrapped it tightly around herself. Opening the door, she immediately launched into explanation. "Hey, sorry. I was just getting ready for a shower."
Katie stood there, smirking amusedly. "Ah, nicely done. I was wondering how you were going to explain the five hours it took you to get to the door."
Sam blushed, but resolutely tried to look as if she didn't know what Katie was talking about. "Anyway," Katie continued, "I came to warn you that Alexis called me. She's finishing up at the gym, but needs to borrow something from Brooke later, and wanted to make sure that Brooke was here before she came back to the apartment. Strangely, though, Brooke wasn't answering her cell phone, even though she's always awake by now, and yours wasn't on, so she couldn't check with you. Soooo, you probably have about twenty-ish minutes until she gets here. Just thought that you, and whoever else might be able to hear me at the moment, would like to know about the situation."
Sam couldn't help but smile. "Uh, okay, yeah. Thanks, Katie. I'll let Brooke know...if I happen to see her."
"Yeah, you do that. Well, my work here is done." Katie then stretched to look over Sam's shoulder, which was currently blocking the doorway. "Hi, Brooke," she called into the room.
"Hi, Katie," was the muffled reply from beneath Sam's covers.
Katie burst into giggles, as Sam good-humoredly pushed her back down the hall, before closing the door and sliding back into bed.
"You heard, I take it?" Sam asked Brooke, who had resurfaced from her hiding place.
"Yep, I heard. We should really tell everyone at some point, shouldn't we?"
Sam sighed, snuggling back into Brooke's body. "Yeah, we probably should. But I kind of enjoy just having you all to myself. Plus, I think Katie likes being the only one who really knows about us."
Brooke lay there quietly for a minute, stroking Sam's hair. "I'm not ashamed of you, you know. I'm not ashamed of what we have together. If we were in high school still, I would have cared. But now, I don't care what anyone else thinks. I mean, we're going to graduate from college this year! If, at this point, I was still so preoccupied with what everyone else thought, I'd never be happy."
Sam propped herself up on one elbow so she could see Brooke's face. "I'm not ashamed of you, either, Brooke. You know that, right? I love you, and I don't care who knows it. I'll happily shout it from the rooftops, if you want. In fact, maybe we should start right now. I LOVE BROO--" Sam started to shout, before Brooke clamped her hand down over Sam's mouth.
Laughing, Brooke briefly replaced her hand with her lips. She then pulled back and commented, "We don't have to start right this second, you goof. We have plenty of time. I like having you all to myself too. I just thought I'd bring up the idea."
Sam smiled, moving to kiss Brooke again. It was a simple kiss, but it felt electric to Sam. Because it was Brooke, and everything with Brooke was amazing.
[ I love this woman so much. I don't know what I've done to possibly deserve her. ]
"We'll tell them all soon," Sam promised. "Friends, the family unit, everyone important. But you're right. We do have plenty of time, because I plan on sticking around for quite a while. You're not going to get rid of me easily."
"Oh really? Well that's good. Because I plan on sticking around for...oh, I don't know. How about forever?"
Both girls lay there for a moment, simply staring into each other's eyes and smiling.
"I like the sound of forever."
[ If, after that crazy night freshman year, you had told me that I'd end up feeling like this, I'd have said you were insane, but...forever sounds perfect. ]
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