Strange Road to Salvation
By Aeryn Sun


Part Two


"When you told Eric you could `handle' me, I had no idea you meant literally," Sam joked as Brooke set her on the workout mat a few days later. Brooke rolled her eyes.

"Very funny, McPherson. How's the knee?" she asked referring to the newly free from its brace left knee. Sam flexed the knee experiementally and shrugged.

"Peachy, I guess. You know when I first woke up from the coma, I thought I resembled a mummy there were so many bandages and casts on me. It's nice to start getting some of them taken off." Brooke smiled as she started Sam's exercises.

"Yeah, you looked like one for a while there too," Brooke agreed. Sam returned the smile and began the routine.

"Did you ever think we'd end up here? In a situation like this, I mean?" Brooke frowned.

"I never thought Nicole would ever try to kill me, no."

"I meant like this, working together to help the other. The situation itself is kind of extreme. I never thought Nic was insane enough to try and kill you either, even if I did think she was off her rocker most of the time. I just meant did you ever think we'd get along this well?"

"Oh. Well, I always thought that we didn't have to be enemies, Sam. It never seemed like something we wanted. Was it?" Sam shrugged.

"I don't know anymore if it was what I wanted to do or what was expected of me because it was a part I played for so long. You?" Brooke nodded.

"Same here. It's the same as being popular. Everyone expects a certain something, behavior from you whether it's the true you or not. I never hated you, Sam, not really. I always thought that we could be friends, or at least get along. Something just always got in our way. Whether it was Nicole, pride, expectations or our own mistakes, there was always something."

"Ouch," Sam interrupted breaking Brooke's train of thought. "Leg cramp."

"OK, take it easy, stretch it out," Brooke advised as Sam stretched the offending limb out and attempted to scratch around the cast on the other foot.

"This is ridiculous, you know. One leg in a cast, one newly free from a brace, an arm in a brace and stuck in a wheelchair. I feel like Timmy from South Park."

"Maybe, but you're much cuter with a larger vocabulary," Brooke reassured her. Sam clutched her arms to her chest in a `Timmy' imitation.

"Sam-my," she uttered to finish her `Timmy' imitation. (A/N: if you've never seen Timmy on South Park, sorry, but it's a funny visual). Brooke burst out laughing.

"Stop, you're too funny," she wheezed after she finished laughing. "Back to work if you want to be able to use a cane by the time school starts. Unless you want to run people over in the halls." Sam seemed to think this over.

"Can I run over Emory Dick and April Tuna first?" Brooke wagged her finger at her.

"Not nice, Samantha. What did they ever do to you?" Sam arched an eyebrow.

"Want a list?"

"What ever happened to the nice, sweet, Sam McPherson who I used to know?" Brooke asked mockingly.

"Which Sam McPherson did you know? I was never nice or sweet to you, remember? Evil and harpy-like would be a better description." Brooke nodded.

"OK, this is true."

"I'm still a charmer though," Sam added with a wry grin. Brooke rolled her eyes again.

"Be still my beating heart," she said sarcastically. Sam shook her head to chase the cobwebs suddenly clouding her brain. Things with Brooke were just getting too weird. (Must be the head injury or meds) she reasoned. (Kinda fun though, might as well go with it)

"Oh, you're just saying that to flatter me," she teased.

"No, I'm just trying to make you feel better. You really are a harpy," Brooke shot back with a smile. Sam stuck out her bottom lip and made it quiver in an imitation of being hurt. "Oh, no you don't, point those little `Bambi, who just saw the hunter shoot his Momma eyes' away from me. That's not fair," Brooke whined as Sam continued. Sam sniffed.

"Saaaammmm," Brooke whined again. God she hated it when Sam did that with her eyes, she looked so sweet and loveable with those big brown eyes of hers that it took every ounce of composure not to kiss her right there and then. Of course the giggle fit Sam suddenly burst into kind of killed that urge too.

"Gotcha," Sam wheezed between giggles.

"You're evil, you know that, right?"

"I try," Sam smirked.

"Stop trying so hard, I think it's a natural talent," Brooke taunted. Sam raspberried in her direction.

"I pout in your general direction," Sam said haughtily. Brooke scrunched her nose.

"I am so not impressed. Back to work, McPherson. Hupt two!"

"Oh, I love it when you get so aggressive," Sam teased, watching a deep crimson blush creep over Brooke's features and wondering how such a simple comment could cause it. Brooke seemed to choke on her own saliva for a second before responding.

"Do you want me to add an extra set of reps to your routine today or are you trying to piss me off for fun?" Brooke asked, hiding her sudden discomfort at Sam's teasing behind misplaced anger. Sam's shoulders slumped.

"I'm sorry, I was just kidding with you. I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable," Brooke looked suitably calmer at this. "Look, in case I didn't say it already, thank you for being such a help, Brooke. I never would have gotten this far without you." Brooke smiled her anger and discomfort forgotten.

"You are very welcome, Sam. It's the least I could do after you leaped in front of Nicole's car like that. I never figured you for a closet superhero," she joked.

(Oh, I'm in the closet all right, but not as a superhero) Sam thought to herself with a small smile.

"Have you been to see Nic since the accident?" she asked, surprising Brooke.

"Once, while you were still in a coma," she admitted. At Sam's interested look she continued. "I wanted her to see the damage she'd done so I took some pictures of you and brought them to her." Sam looked aptly horrified.

"Ew, morbid much?" she thought a minute. "Still got the pictures?" Brookke frowned at her.

"Yeah, some copies. Why?"

"I wanna see them," Sam explained.

"Ew, Sam. Now who's being morbid?"

"Hey, I was in a coma, I had no idea what was going on, what I looked like, that sort of thing. I'm kinda curious to know. Curiosity and all that, you know." Brooke stood up.

"Curiosity killed the cat, Sam," she said as she walked over to her backpack. Sam smiled mischievously.

"But satisfaction brought her back," she pointed out as Brooke returned with a small stack of color photos.

"I'll warn you, you didn't exactly look your best," she handed the pictures to Sam and watched as Sam flipped through them. The color drained from Sam's face and was replaced with a sick greenish color. Brooke was instantly alarmed.

"You OK, Sam?" Sam nodded.

"Yeah, it just makes it so real. Right there in vivid technicolor, you know?" she looked up to meet Brooke's hazel eyes. "And you sat with me each day?" Brooke nodded. "How could you put up with that? I mean, I look dead, worse than dead, I look like someone forgot to tell me I was dead." She handed the pictures back to Brooke unable to look at them anymore. Brooke put them away. She sat back down next to Sam and gave her a quick hug.

"How could I not sit with you after what you did? I couldn't abandon you, Sam. I won't abandon you, ever." Sam shrugged.

"Well, I'm sorry you went through all that, Brooke," Brooke opened her mouth to argue but Sam cut her off. "So what did Satan have to say for herself? Was she sorry she didn't finish the job? You know how she hates to leave things half done."

"Actually, she tried to apologize for the whole thing. She even managed to squeeze out a few crocodile tears on your behalf," Brooke told her. Sam took a minute to digest this tidbit of information.

"Maybe she is genuinely sorry for what she did?" she offered. Brooke regarded her like she was an alien just come to Earth.

"What? Are you crazy? Nicole Julian has no concept of the meaning of the word `sorry' or the ramifications of what she did." Sam shrugged.

"Whatever. Maybe she does, maybe she doesn't but you can't just dismiss her Brooke. Look at us, we did for a long time and we're nothing like what the other thought we were. Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you can find true redemption. And sometimes you find forgiveness and redemption in the strangest places." Brooke almost fainted as God's words came back at her out of Sam's unknowing mouth.

"Are you suggesting we forgive Nicole for this?" Sam raised an eyebrow and chucked.

"Hell, no, but I am saying that we not automatically discount her attempt at apology. She might be genuine. Stranger things have happened. Just look, Josh and Lily got married and Mary Cherry has a twin. You never know what could happen. The world is a crazy, mixed up place and I gave up trying to figure out what was going to happen next a while ago."

"OK, I see your point. Still, she'd better get what's coming to her," Brooke argued. Sam agreed.

"Everyone does in some way or another," she said as she stretched her legs.

"And you deserved this how?" Brooke asked a little hotly. Sam looked at her confused at the anger behind the question. A sly smile crossed her face, she figured the best way to disarm a Brooke bomb was through humor.

"Unpure, libidinous thoughts?" Brooke laughed outloud although a blush returned to her cheeks.

"Must have been pretty bad to warrant being run over by a luxury vehicle." Sam smiled cryptically.

"Yup." (If only you knew, beautiful)


"Josh, Harrison and Sugar built the wheelchair ramp up the front door, although from the way Carmen and Lily tell the story, Larry, Moe and Curly would have been a more accurate description," Brooke told Sam as she pushed the chair up the ramp to the door. Sam laughed.

"I'd have paid good money to see that, you know," she said after the door opened and Brooke wheeled her in.

"I bet," Brooke said. "Well, here we are at last, home again, home again, jiggity jig."

"Getting all sentimental on me, are you, McQueen?" Sam teased.

"Don't you wish," Brooke scoffed.

"SURPRISE!" Josh, Lily, Harrison, Carmen, Mike, Jane, Sugar, and Mary Cherry all yelled as they leapt out from various hiding places. Had she not all ready been sitting, Sam probably would have fallen over from fright.

"Jesus! Trying to scare me back into a coma or what, people? God," she gasped trying to restart her heart.

"Drama Queen," Brooke teased as Sam stuck out her tongue. Unable to resist the chance to tease, Brooke leaned over in Sam's ear. "Don't stick your tongue out unless you intend to use it." Sam just stared at her dumbfounded as everyone came over to welcome her home, unaware of the little exchange. The two of them had been playfully teasing each other more and more as Brooke had gotten more involved with Sam's rehab but never before had a comment been that open and blatently suggestive.

"Huh?" Sam managed to utter as Carmen hugged her. She looked at Brooke who smiled innocently, shrugged and went to get herself a drink of soda. She didn't know what possessed her to say that, she just did. (Besides, it was worth it to see the look on Sam's face) When she came back into the room, Sam was still looking at her like she'd sprouted a third eye in the middle of her forehead and Brooke almost laughed outloud. (If a little comment like that is going to rattle her that badly, I wonder how far I can actually push it until she gets mad?)

The party went well and everyone had a good time but eventually they all went home and Mike and Jane went up to bed leaving Brooke and Sam alone to clean up the mess, (which somehow struck Sam as wrong, but, oh well).

"Enjoy your little `Welcome Home' party, Sam?" Brooke asked as she pushed Sam's chair into the kitchen. Sam nodded.

"Yeah, you sure know how to keep a secret, Brooke," Sam said as she dropped a few plates in the sink.

"You'd be surprised the secrets I can keep, Sammy," Brooke responded cryptically with a smirk hidden behind Sam's head. Sam jumped slightly at the tone of Brooke's voice and the use, yet again, of the name `Sammy'. There was definitely something going on with the cheerleader, Sam was sure of it now. She just wasn't sure exactly what. (OK, two can play this game)

"Really? Like what?" Sam asked in an innocent voice as she wheeled herself around to face Brooke who looked around as she thought.

"Now, Sam, if I told you, it wouldn't be a secret anymore now would it?" she teased as she walked a few feet away.

"I guess not. Well, I suppose if you don't wanna share," Sam pouted. Brooke thought she looked awfully cute when she pouted, even though it wasn't going to work this time.

"Don't stick your lip out at me like that, it's not going to help. I'm immune to that particular charm now. I'm still not going to tell."

"Fine, be like that, brat," Sam raspberried her and wheeled away towards the living room. "Do you want another piece of cake?"

"Nah, I'm trying to watch my girlish figure," Brooke called from the kitchen. A devilish smile graced Sam's face as she joined Brooke in the kitchen.

"Me too. Watching your girlish figure, I mean," Sam almost burst out laughing at the stupified look on Brooke's face. Her jaw dropped open and her eyes were as big as dinner plates from Sam's point of view. "Earth to Brooke? You're gonna catch flies if you don't shut your mouth soon. Not the most attractive look for you, by the way. Did I say something to disturb you?" Sam's voice was laced with saccarine and false concern. She batted her eyelashes at the blonde. Brooke blinked at her a few times. She hadn't been expecting Sam to fight back, but if she was going to, all the more fun it would be.

"No, no, not at all. Just momentarily surprised is all. So, you spend time watching my girlish figure?" she baited waiting for Sam to grab on to the hook. She wagged her hind end at the brunette for good measure.

"I've recently suffered a head injury and had brain surgery so I'm not in my right mind at times. Did I say I did? Silly me. I meant that I need to watch mine. Sitting in this chair is making my ass fat," Sam answered, evading the line and trying not to stare at the rear end being wagged at eye level. Brooke could almost hear the sound of a fishing pole snapping back. She decided to try again.

"Your ass is just fine," as she said it she felt the blush crawl up her neck to her ears and prayed Sam didn't see it. But Sam did and thought it was endearingly cute.

"Really?" Sam asked. "I rather thought it resembled two pigs dancing under a tarp." Brooke laughed outloud at the imagery evoked by Sam's words. She tried to stifle the laugh with her hand to no effect.

"I assure you," she said when she finished laughing, "there is nothing wrong with your posterior. As a matter of fact, it is positively the most lovely posterior I have seen in quite a long time. Trust me on this because I get to see it up close and personal everyday."

"OK, conversation taking an awkward turn," Sam said with a nervous laugh as she now blushed as well. "Although I appreciate the compliment. And stop looking at my ass." They both started to laugh at the last comment and then finished cleaning up the dishes in silence. As Sam started to wheel towards her temporary room, Brooke walked up and hugged her from behind.

"I'm glad you're all right, Sam. And I'm glad you're finally home," she said seriously. Sam hugged her back.

"Me too, Brooke. I'm glad we're both all right. That was way too close," Sam said quietly, understanding Brooke's sudden change in mood. Brooke put her chin on Sam's shoulder and looked at the other girls' profile.

"I know, Sammy, I know. I see it everytime I close my eyes," Sam leaned her head into Brooke's and sighed.

"So do I. But we can't let her win, Brooke. We just can't," Sam whispered almost desperately. As much as she knew Nicole would most likely walk away, (wonderful choice of words, Sam, how witty) she also knew if they continued to let the experience eat at them as she was sure it was, ultimately, Nicole would win. And she just couldn't let that happen.

"I know. It's just so hard," Brooke agreed. She felt Sam nod against her. "Time for bed?" She saw Sam smirk out of the corner of her eye.

"Why, Ms. McQueen, is that an offer?" Brooke picked up her head in surprise. (Sam 2, Brooke 0)

"Why, Ms. McPherson, was that a `yes'?" Brooke countered after a moments thought.

"Uhm…" Sam sputtered. (Sam 2, Brooke 1)

"Eloquent as always," Brooke teased. Sam stuck out her tongue as her only defense. "What did I tell you earlier?" Brooke warned. (Sam 2, Brooke 2. It's a tie game folks. Next point could be the game winner)

"Maybe I plan to use it. Ever think of that?" Sam teased back, semi-serious as she gauged Brooke's reaction. Brooke felt her stomach drop and her head spin. (Sam 3, Brooke 2, game, set, match. Today's winner is Sam McPherson, but we have some lovely parting gifts for the runner up) There was no way she was pushing their little game any further tonight. Or any time soon.

"And on that incredibly incestuous note, I bid you good-night," Brooke said as she retreated from the game that she herself started. Sam shrugged.

"Suit yourself. I'll call Mom to help me get ready for bed," she said dejectedly as she headed to her room. Brooke nearly kicked herself as she realized that Sam must have thought she'd gone too far with the joke and that Brooke didn't want to help her anymore.

"Hey, I'll still help if you want me too. If that's all right? I was just playing with ya," Brooke tried to explain quickly. Sam turned to her with a hopeful smile.

"I was just playing too. Besides, you're the one who always helps me. You don't make me feel like an invalid. I know Mom means well but I always feel like I should be drooling and incoherhent or something."

"You mean that isn't normal for you?"

"Oh, ha ha. Your impressive cheerleader wit never ceases to amaze me. Ha ha," Sam scoffed.

"You asked for that one, Sam," Brooke told her as they headed for Sam's room. Sam nodded.

"Yeah, I suppose I did. You didn't have to take advantage though," Sam argued. Unable to resist the opening, Brooke smiled.

"I would never take advantage, unless you wanted me to," she quipped. Unseen by her, Sam smiled widely.

"Hook, line, and sinker," Sam whispered to herself.


"Sam! No, please, no!" Her own scream as well as a gentle hand stroking the sweat soaked hair away from her face awakened Brooke a little over a week later.

0"Nightmare?" Sam asked quietly from where she lay sprawled on the floor beside Brooke. Brooke stared at her for a few seconds trying to figure out exactly how Sam had managed to get herself from her bed to the floor. True, Sam had some strength in her legs but she had no where near enough to get herself up and out of bed and onto the floor. At least not without a heaping helping of embarrassment and resembling a drunken sailor.

The comforter and sheets were still somewhat tangled around Sam's ankles on the floor. She was in such a hurry to get to Brooke after the girl cried out that she hadn't paid much attention to freeing herself from the blankets. The desperation in Brooke's voice had made it a secondary concern, Brooke being her primary. Brooke scrubbed her face with her hand.

"Yeah," she admitted reluctantly. She was nervous now that Sam had caught her sleeping on the floor of her temporary room. She never meant for Sam to catch her. Sam regarded her carefully for a minute.

"Been having a lot of them lately," she said more as a statement of fact than as a question. Brooke frowned in confusion causing a soft smile to spread across Sam's face.

"I know you've been sleeping in here every night since I came home," Sam told her. "You come in after you think I've fallen asleep and leave before you think I'm awake. Pretty sneaky." Brooke hung her head in shame.

"I'm sorry," she said guiltily.

"What for? Caring? Don't be. It'd work too if I was sleeping any. I wouldn't have noticed. But since my nocturnal activities involve more counting of ceiling tiles and reviewing of my multiplication tables than actual sleeping, I know that you're there. I hear you tossing and turning. Sometimes you whimper," Sam continued very softly, her voice almost cracking. "And it kills me to hear you in pain. But for whatever reason, you felt that you needed to be here and I didn't want to bother you. Tonight was the first time you screamed though."

"Again, I'm sorry," Brooke said as she started to stand up. Sam looked at her with unreadable eyes.

"Where are you going? I didn't mean that you had to leave," she trailed off sadly. Truthfully, she felt better knowing Brooke was there somewhere nearby. It was kind of like knowing Brooke was standing guard during her coma; she felt safe, secure, and loved. Maybe it wasn't Brooke's intention but it was the end result. She didn't want Brooke to feel that she wasn't welcome anymore.

"I'll stay if you want me to, but we have to get you back into that bed," Brooke informed her.

"Can't we just stay here on the floor for a little while longer?"

"I guess so," Brooke said as untangled the sheets from Sam's legs and wrapped them around the two of them as they sat on the floor. "So why aren't you sleeping, Sam?" Sam shrugged.

"Same reasons as you, I guess. Nightmares. And my back kinda hurts although I'm sure the floor hasn't been doing wonders for yours."

"Why don't you tell the doctor that your back hurts or that you can't sleep? I'm sure he'd give you something," Sam shook her head.

"I hate taking meds, Brooke. They make my brain all fuzzy. I'd rather be in a little pain and have a clear mind than feel nothing and have the brain capacity of a carp." Brooke sighed.

"Suit yourself. I don't know why I bother. You're pig-headed, stubborn, obstinate, not to mention inflexible."

"Yes, and you're cranky, cantankerous and ill-tempered when you don't get any sleep."

"Are not."

"Are too."

"Are not."

"Are too."

"Well, we're maturing nicely, don't you think?" They both laughed.

"I think that counts as a relapse, don't you?" Sam asked. Brooke nodded.

"Yeah, definitely. But you're still a stubborn ass."

"And proud, thank-you. I try so hard to maintain a high level of stubborn ass-ness. Enough with this though. Spill, McQueen. Your nightmare, what's it about?"

"Sam, I don't really want to talk about it."

"Come on, you might feel better if you tell me," Sam coaxed. She had a pretty good idea what the nightmare had been about but decided to try and tease Brooke to lighten her mood. "Dreaming about Mary Cherry and B. Ho conspiring to usurp your throne as Queen of Kennedy High? I hear that between the two of them they have half a brain. Or was it a naughty sex dream about Harrison?" At seeing how wide Brooke's eyes suddenly got, Sam pushed it even further.

"It was! It was a naughty sex dream! Was it Harrison? Josh? No wait! Sugar?" Sam burst into hysterics as Brooke continued to gape at her in a rather shocked fashion.

"Better yet, was it `Lil' Lily? Carmen? Oh, wait, wait, wait, MARY CHERRY?" By now Sam was howling with laughter and Brooke still couldn't remember that English was her native language.

(No, my late night fantasies and waking dreams involve a certain ravishing, brown eyed, brown haired vixen with whom I share a bathroom) Brooke said to herself with a rather impish smile.

"Sam, that last one is enough to `give' me nightmares for a month, thank you very much," she complained when she remembered how to speak. "And no, it wasn't a sex dream."

"Kinda figured since you yelled out my name," Sam pointed out sounding kind of rejected. Brooke shrugged more to hide her embarrassment than anything else at the secret knowledge that she had indeed called out Sam's name during some of her more enjoyable and vivid dreams. She was so centered on hiding her own embarrassment that she missed the undercurrent of disappointment in Sam's voice.

"I was dreaming about the accident." Brooke admitted.

"Kinda figured that too."

"I mean, can we still call it an `accident'? She was deliberately trying to hit me."

"She was aiming for you but hit me instead, so I think it still qualifies as an `accident'. In the strictest sense, of course. Tell me vat you zee ezacktly," Sam said in a hideously bad German accent. Brooke laughed.

"OK, Dr. Freud, you asked for it. I see the car coming at me and I can see Nic's face. I'm not sure if I even saw her face that night. But I see it now and she's got this insane, maniacal smile on her face that just sends chills down my spine," she shuddered at the memory and Sam moved closer to hug her in support. At least that's why she told herself she was doing it.

"The car gets almost to me and I close my eyes because I know it's going to hurt and I'm probably about to die but all of a sudden, there you are, knocking me out of the way."

"That's me, Super Sam. Sounds pretty accurate so far."

"Yeah, it is. And then I see, I see your eyes, Sam, like I saw them that night." Sam frowned.

"My eyes? What about them?"

"After you pushed me out of the way, there was this instant when I saw your eyes just before Nic hit you. You looked at me and I don't know Sam, I've never seen that look from you before."

"Sheer abject terror?" Sam said helpfully. Brooke shook her head.

"No, it looked like you were apologizing. Why, Sam? Why would you feel the need to apologize for what you were doing? What do you remember?" Sam shrugged.

"Not much. Everything you've said up until the car hit me. Then I remember bits and pieces mostly. Mostly you telling me to hold on and that I'd be all right. I do know that I didn't think I'd survive being hit. Maybe that's why I looked at you the way I did."

"Maybe," Brooke agreed although she wasn't completely convinced. There was something about that look that was going to haunt her for a very long time.

"Anything else? Is there more to the dream?"

"Yeah. I mean, everything else is the same in the dream as it actually was. Except in the dream when the doctor comes out to tell us your condition, he tells us you're dead instead," Brooke started to cry so Sam tightened her grip.

"And that's when you cried out?" Brooke shook her head.

"No, after everyone leaves the waiting room, it's just me and then the door opens and you walk in. Totally unharmed and I think that it's all a huge mix up and you're OK. You start to speak and you yell at me and tell me how it's my fault that you're dead and if I'd been a good person it never would have happened…" Brooke's tears got the better of her and she couldn't continue. Not that Sam needed or wanted to hear anymore. She was crying too; for the pain and guilt that Brooke was carrying around with her despite the reassurances that it wasn't her fault.

"Hey, easy there," Sam said soothingly. "I'm still here, still alive and I don't blame you. I've told you that. What happened is no one's fault except Nicole's and Jose Cuervo. OK? Try and get that through to the brain I know is hiding under all that Clairol blonde hair you've got on top of your head."

"Hey," Brooke scowled good-naturedly, "I do not dye my hair."

"Sure, whatever, I believe you," Sam said looking at how the moonlight streaming in lit up Brooke's face and glistened off the tear tracks. Not thinking, she reached up and gently brushed away the tears. She saw Brooke close her eyes and suddenly realized what she was doing.

"I…I'm sorry," she said hastily as she snatched her hand away like she'd been burned. "I shouldn't have…"

"It's OK, Sam," Brooke reassured her with a small, gentle smile. Sam felt the coil of worry that had settled in her stomach a moment ago, relax a little. (Boundries, Sam, boundries. Gotta watch those boundries)

"Anyway," Brooke broke into Sam's thoughts. "We should really try to get some sleep."

"I guess." Brooke unravelled the blankets from around them and remade the bed.

"How did you manage this by the way? Just for curiosity's sake."

"I couldn't just lay there and listen to you yell like that. You sounded like you were being tortured, although from what you've told me, that seems like a fairly accurate description. I've got a lot of upper body strength now, thanks to therapy and the `chair so I just pulled myself down and over."

"I'm surprised you didn't land flat on your face," Brooke said as she laced her arms around Sam's waist from behind and lifted. She was quite a bit stronger now too, thanks to helping with Sam's physical therapy.

"Ha, funny thing that. I did. Thankfully you were still asleep. Not a pretty picture, let me tell you," Sam confessed sheepishly. Brooke laughed.

"As long as you're OK."

"I'm fine," Sam answered as they finally made it over to the bed using what strength she did have in her legs. Not that she was going to let Brooke know but the journey from the floor to the bed sent waves of agony shooting up her spine to the base of her skull. She just lay there panting and waited for the pain to pass. (Suddenly, drugs are looking so much better)

"Ug…Slim Fast, Sam. It's called Slim Fast," Brooke kidded after they collapsed on the bed.

"Ha ha, very funny. I told you my ass was getting fat," Sam answered as Brooke propped herself up on her elbow and looked down at Sam.

"And as I said before, there is nothing wrong with your ass."

"You know, in some circles, this would be considered flirting," Sam pointed out playfully.

"In some circles," Brooke repeated. "But I'm tired tonight. And we never travel in the same circles." She moved to get up off the bed. Sam grabbed her hand.

"You're welcome to stay if you want to," she said quickly, willing her blood not to rush to her cheeks. Brooke jumped a little but didn't pull away.

"Are you sure?"

"Look, you obviously sneak in here for a reason. If it makes you feel better to watch me sleep, or pretend to sleep, than stay." Brooke nodded and started for the floor. "The bed is much more comfortable than the floor, trust me. And I don't bite, unless you're into that sort of thing, Brooke," she added with a very devilish smirk.

"Flirting again. Shame on you," Brooke scolded, sliding into the bed nonetheless.

"So why do you feel the need to come into my room every night, not that I mind the company, because I don't. I'd just like to know if it's me or if you've got a fetish for watching young brunettes that we need to know about. For safety's sake, of course."

"No, no fetishes," (none I'm willing to tell you about right now) "I guess…I guess I just got used to sleeping in the same room as you at the hospital. Hearing you breathe, your heartbeat. I guess I missed it."

"Oh," was all Sam could think of to say. Of all the answers she'd been expecting, she hadn't been expecting one so, sweet.

"Yeah, I missed it while you were staying at rehab. I didn't sleep very well. I never planned for you to find out and hoped I'd get over it before you did. I didn't want to freak you out."

"No freaking out here. I told you I didn't mind and I meant it," Sam reminded her as she absently played with a lock of blonde hair. "It's actually very sweet." Brooke shifted slightly so that she was facing Sam.

"What are we doing?" Sam shrugged and looked around the room, anywhere but at Brooke herself.

"Trying to fall asleep?" she asked even though she knew that wasn't what Brooke meant by the question.

"That's not what I mean," Brooke said with a hint of annoyance in her voice. Sam turned and looked at her finally.

"I know," she sighed. "And I don't know. But I'm tired right now. Why don't we try to get some sleep?"

"OK," Brooke agreed not really wanting to figure out what was going on between them right now either. "Night Sam."

"Good night, Brooke," Sam echoed a moment later. They both fell asleep a few minutes later and for the first time in a long time, bad dreams plagued neither girl.


When she awoke to sunlight streaming on her face, Brooke was immediately aware of two things: 1) the bed really was much more comfortable than the floor ever was and 2) somewhere during the night the line between sharing the bed, blankets and body heat had been crossed over into cuddling. With Sam. She was pressed up very close to Sam, with her nose buried in Sam's hair because Sam's head was resting on her shoulder. Brooke jolted to full awakeness with this realization and threw herself back away from Sam's form, therefore throwing herself unceremoniously off the bed onto the floor. She landed on her butt with a 'whoomp'.

"That sounded painful," Sam's sleepy voice called out from the bed. Brooke heard the blankets ruffle and soon Sam's sleep filled face appeared over the edge of the bed. "You OK?" Brooke nodded. "Cool. Switch to decaf, OK?"

"Uhm, good morning," Brooke finally managed to utter from her vantagepoint on the floor. Sam cocked her head to the side and smiled.

"Good morning. Do I really look that frightening this early in the morning or was it something else?"

"Uhm...neither?" Brooke asked, desperately looking for a way out of what could possibly be a very awkward situation. (Not that that was a bad way to wake up. I could soooo get used to that. She's so soft and…ARGH. Right. Keep dreaming McQueen)

"You really aren't a morning person, are you?" Sam joked, giving her a way out. If Sam was aware of how they had been situated before Brooke's mad dash to escape, she wasn't letting on. And for that, Brooke was infinitely thankful.

Sam, however, was acutely aware of where they'd ended up during the night. She'd woken up shortly before Brooke had and lacking the physical capability to remove herself without waking Brooke, simply lay there and waited until Brooke woke up on her own. Not that she really minded the hardship. The blonde looked so sweet and innocent during slumber that Sam wouldn't have traded it for anything. Plus she figured it would be her only chance to watch Brooke that up close and unguarded.

"I am a morning person, usually. I was just disoriented is all," Brooke defended herself. Sam shrugged.

"OK, still I would like to recommend the decaf," Sam said as she pushed herself into a sitting position. "There are easier and safer ways to exit a bed. Standing for instance. I won't be demonstrating anytime soon but, I'm sure you're familiar with the concept." Brooke smiled and got up off the floor.

"Vaguely familiar, yes. Hungry?" Sam nodded.

"I could eat," she answered. (Think good, clean, pure thoughts, Sam. Why is it everything I say has a double meaning lately?) Brooke brought the wheelchair over to the bed and Sam glared at it. "I hate that thing," she said, more to get her mind away from the drain it seemed to circle all too often of late than to express her true feeling towards the object.

"Just think, eventually it'll be a lawn ornament," Brooke suggested cheekily.

"Kinda tacky, don't you think?"

"Nah, I think it makes a statement."

"Oh, yeah? Like what? `Beware speeding Jaguars'?"

"Not funny," Brooke scolded as she helped Sam into the offending object.

"OK, `Friends don't let friends get mowed down by expensive luxury cars'?" Brooke moaned.

"Forget I said anything," she sighed.

"Sorry, it's just, you can either laugh or cry about the situation. I hate crying so I chose to laugh. So sue me."

"How much ya got?" Brooke challenged, desperate to get away from the morose direction Sam was taking their conversation.

"My car, which is virtually useless to me right now, a half written bio paper that I need to pass that class in order to be a senior in the fall, a laptop and 52.36 in my banking account. Why, got a hot date and need my car and money tonight?"

"Only if you count a good friend, a rented DVD of `Sweet November' and lots and lots of junk food a hot date," Brooke informed her.

"Really? Who's coming over?" Sam asked. Brooke rolled her eyes and smacked Sam on the shoulder lightly.

"Very funny, I meant you, stupid."

"Oh," Sam said, genuinely confused. "I thought Josh and Lily or maybe Mary Cherry were coming over," she explained as they entered the kitchen. "Although I would question the use of `good friend' and `Mary Cherry' in the same sentence." Brooke walked in front of Sam to look at her.

"You're serious, aren't you?" Sam nodded. "No, I meant you. Why, did you have plans?"

"Wallowing in self-pity was looking pretty promising, followed by a quick bout of, `Oh God, why me?' but your plan sounds like more fun," Sam joked. "You know you don't have to spend all your free time with me, don't you? I'm not exacty the queen of fun here."

"Sam," Brooke started softly, "I want to spend my time with you."

"OK, I just don't want you to feel obligated or anything to spend your time with me. You've got friends and I know you haven't seen a lot of them lately," Sam's voice was very quiet, like she was saying good-bye to a good friend she was never going to see again. Brooke frowned.

"Sam, my best friend tried to run me over. I'm apparently a bad judge of character when it comes to chosing friends, a point you tried to make clear fairly often a while ago. Besides, I like spending my time with you." Sam looked up.

"Really?" she asked hopefully.

"True if you'd asked me a year ago to write a list of the people I would most like to spend my time with you would have been no where on it but now, you are very near, if not on, the top of said list."

"You're just saying that to get my laptop, car and 52.36," Sam accused playfully.

"Actually I wanted the half written bio paper, but I'll take the 52.36 nonetheless," Brooke laughed. Sam stuck out her tongue and as she saw Brooke open her mouth to comment, curled it up to touch the end of her nose. Brooke's mouth shut with an audible snap. Hordes of x-rated images concerning that tongue flooded Brooke's mind and sent her into sensory overload.

"Uh-huh, I thought not," Sam commented saucily as Mike and Jane walked into the kitchen.

"Good morning girls, sleep well?" Mike asked as he opened the paper. He missed the blush that spread across his daughter's face and the barely hidden smirk on Sam's.

"Soundly," Sam said calmly.

"Yup," Brooke managed at the same time although her voice was slightly higher pitched than normal. She coughed to clear her throat and smiled pleasantly (she hoped) at Jane. "Morning Mom," she greeted in a voice much more like her own. Jane looked at the two girls a moment and then nodded.

"Morning you two. You weren't arguing were you?" she was answered by two heads, one brunette and one blonde shaking vigorously.

"Nope," one said.

"Nu-uh," the other responded. Sam crooked her finger for Brooke to lean in closer.

"Don't ever play poker, Brooke," she whispered with a sly smile. "You'll lose."

"What do you two have planned for today?" Mike asked around the local page.

"Well, Sam's got therapy at 11," Brooke started.

"Blech," Sam interjected as she put bread in the toaster.

"Yes, thank you for that riviting editorial Debbie Matoanopolous," Brooke said sarcastically. Sam's eyebrows rose. (You wanna play that way? )Her expression seemed to ask. Brooke smiled at her sweetly.

"After that I thought we'd go shopping for school clothes," Brooke finished, to the undying horror of Sam. (Shopping with Brooke? Argh!)

"Now there's a frightening thought, Brooke. I refuse play Teresa doll to your Barbie," Sam complained. Images of Brooke trying to tress her in the newest Donna Karen and Versace fashions were suddenly filling her head. Not that she didn't like those clothes, she just like her own style. She thought Brooke had impecable taste but wasn't sure if it suited her.

"You're not Teresa, Sam. Lily would be a Teresa, you're more of a Midge or Skipper," Sam glared at her murderously. "Oh, hit a nerve did I? Come on, Sam, we both need new clothes for school."

"I know, I know but it's never been one of my things, clothes shopping, I mean."

"She's telling the truth, Brooke. Sam hates trying on clothes in stores," Jane explained.

"Not to mention certain logistical problems," Sam pointed out while motioning to the wheelchair. Brooke rolled her eyes.

"A minor problem, Sam. Please, it's not like I haven't seen you without any clothes on," Brooke heard the words and realized how they sounded. "No wait, getting dressed," she heard Sam's head connect with the countertop hard and looked up to see her banging it repeatedly. Mike looked up from his paper confused and Jane looked just plain disturbed.

"That came out wrong. Sam, stop that before you hurt yourself. I just meant that I've been helping you get dressed since you woke up from the coma and oh, never mind I have no reason to explain myself to the three of you. It was a totally innocent comment. Dirty minds people, dirty minds, shame on you." Sam was still banging her head.

"Sam," Jane scolded. "Stop that please. Brooke's right, I was just startled. Mike?"

"What? I was just wondering if you read the paper. It says they cut a deal with Nicole and she's getting a walk," he said holding out the paper for them to see.

"What?" Brooke nearly screamed. "Why didn't anyone call us?" she grabbed the paper away from Mike roughly and started to read outloud. "`Nicole Julian, 17 was released from juvenile detention yesterday after her lawyer successfully argued that her actions on the night of the accident that nearly killed Samantha McPherson, 16, were the result of a previously undiagnosed mental condition.'"

"'Miss Julian suffers from Bi-Polar disorder and had been drinking on the night in question. The alcohol had effected her judgement when she alledgedly tried to hit Brooke McQueen, 16, with her Jaguar. McPherson is McQueen's stepsister and shoved McQueen out of the way of the vehicle and was hit instead. Julian is required, under the terms of the release to: undergo an alcohol-drug treatment program, serve 1700 hours of community service in a local hospital, have her license revoked for 18 months and seek psychiatric treatment. Both the McQueen's and McPherson's were unavailable for comment at the time of printing but the Julian's were reportedly happy with the courts decision.'"

"That's," Jane started and stopped, speechless.

"Typical Nicole Julian," Sam finished apparently undisturbed by the news. "I wonder how much that cost the Julian family?"

"I can't believe this. It's not fair," Brooke seethed. Sam could all but see the steam coming from Brooke's ears.

"I hate to say it, but I did tell you so," Sam said with a non-commital shrug as she grabbed a glass and the orange juice. Jane gaped at her daughter.

"Aren't you the least bit angry?" Sam turned and took a deep breath. She hadn't wanted to get into this but if they wanted the truth they'd sure as Hell get it."No, frankly. I wasn't going to say anything but what the Hell? You want to know what I am? I am so far beyond angry that it doesn't even appear on the same map as angry." She set down the glass with a bang and turned to the other three people in the room. They could see the rage behind her eyes.

"This just goes to prove every single point I've ever made about the rich and powerful having to answer to another set of rules than the rest of the normal people. If I did what Nicole did, I would be looking at hard time but because of who she is, and who I am, that's not the case. Hell, even if she had hit Brooke she would have gotten a stiffer sentence. Because she's `Brooke McQueen'. But I'm just plain old `Sam McPherson', nothing big, no one important so who gives a shit, right? It's like Robert Downy Jr., the rules just don't apply. Am I angry? No, I am enraged to the point that I can only see red and I just want to rip her head off. Happy?" Sam demanded. Forgetting her toast and orange juice, Sam wheeled herself out of the kitchen and back to her room.

Mike, Jane and Brooke just sat in silence after Sam's little tirade. None of them had been expecting such an explosion from Sam but they knew they should have seen it coming.

"Brooke," Jane started but Brooke was already heading in Sam's direction.

"All ready on it," Brooke called back.

She found that Sam had somehow yet again managed to get to the floor of her room and was curled into a ball crying. The wheelchair was lying on its side a few feet away.

"Sammy that can't be good for your back," Brooke said as she curled up next to her.

"So?" Sam hiccuped. "Who cares anyway?" Brooke wrapped an arm around the crying girl.

"I do," she told her quietly. "How do you keep getting down here?"

"I fell this time. Very ungraceful of me, you'd have found it humorous," Sam answered bitterly. Brooke sighed.

"Do you really think that little of me that you think I'd laugh at you after all this time?"

"I guess not," Sam responded honestly. "I forget sometimes how different you are."

"Than Nicole?"

"Than anybody. Than how I thought you were. Sorry."

"It's OK, I forget how different you are too. Sam, what you said in there, you're right and this is unfair but you are important. You are more than `plain old Sam McPherson'. It's totally wrong that Nic's walking away with a slap on the wrist and I agree with your reasoning and I'm as pissed as Hell but, please, don't be so upset. It's not you, it's the sucky system. Even you have to admit that. You complain about how unfair the system is all the time. Truthfully even if she had hit me chances are her family has enough money and power that she still would have gotten away with it. We both knew it even if I didn't want to see it."

"When did things get so screwy?" Sam asked as she wiped her face. Brooke reached up and covered Sam's hand with her own, holding it and looking into Sam's eyes. They were full of hurt and fear and Brooke wanted nothing more than to hold Sam and kiss it all away. But she knew she couldn't. So she stroked the side of Sam's face with her hand instead and watched, slightly bewildered as Sam's eyes closed and her body relaxed into the gentle touch.

"Sometime after birth, I think," Brooke suggested. Sam nodded, eyes still closed and still leaning into the warm hand on her face. She felt safe with Brooke there and hoped the girl didn't leave anytime soon. It seemed the only time she felt safe anymore was when Brooke was nearby, it was like the blonde was her unknowing security blanket. Sam giggled a little at the thought causing Brooke to frown.

"What's so funny?" Sam shook her head.

"Nothing, just the look on Mom's face when you said you saw me with no clothes on," she lied. "She looked like she swallowed a porcupine." Brooke joined her in laughing.

"Yeah, what did you tell me about poker? Your banging your head on the counter only made me look guiltier, you know." Sam laughed outright at this.

"You should have seen your face! `I don't need to explain myself to you'. It was priceless!" Brooke blushed although she had no idea why.

"Gee, thanks for the support. Someone had to help you get dressed all this time and Mom hasn't always been here. Who'd they think was helping?"

"Smurfs. Anyway, speaking of which, do you really want to go shopping later?" Sam asked, changing subjects and sitting up.

"Yes, if you do. We really do need new clothes."

"I guess so, but please don't try and dress me like a mini you." Brooke shuddered.

"Oh, scary thought," Brooke admitted. "No, you can pick your own clothes. There's being sisterly and then there's being scary. There's the line." She helped Sam off the floor again. "You've got to stop doing this, Sam. The hardwood floor is no place for a lady."

"I'll be sure to tell one that when I see one," Sam joked, earning herself a pinch on the arm.

"Har har. There, all set?"

"Yup, getting to be a real Xena, I am."

"Ug, does that make me Gabrielle?" Brooke asked. They simply stared at each other for a second and let that analogy sink in.

"Nevermind," they said in unison. Brooke pushed Sam back to the kitchen where Jane and Mike waited worriedly.

"Are you all right, honey?" Jane asked. Sam shrugged.

"Honestly? No, I'm not. I want out of this chair and I want to beat Nicole over the head with it. But barring that, yeah, I'm fine. Sorry about the little manic episode a few minutes ago, I'm gonna blame it on my pain meds. Or I would if I was still taking them."

"Don't worry about it, Sam," Mike assured her. "It was totally understandable. We would have been more worried if you didn't react to the news. By the way, Carmen and Harrison have already called about the article. They're not happy either."

"I'd imagine not," Brooke added as she poured a glass of juice for Sam and handed it to her. "This is not going to go over well." Sam sighed.

"Well, there's nothing we can do about it now, so let's just move on," three sets of eyes stared at her in shock. "What?" Brooke put her hand on Sam's forehead to check for a fever.

"You feel all right to me, how do you feel?"

"Knock it off, Princess, I'm fine. I said we can't do anything right now. Give me time, I'll think of something," she said with a devilish smile. Brooke knew that look. Sam was going to get Nicole the one way she knew how. In the school paper and it wasn't going to be pretty. Brooke returned the smile with just as much malice.

"Let me know if you need any help, Sam." Jane and Mike exchanged a look of `Uh-oh' but wisely said nothing. School was set to start in a few weeks and things would play out then.

"Well, we have some good news, sort of, girls," Mike interjected. Brooke and Sam looked up expectantly. "Jane and I are going on a short business trip to Utah for a few days, if you two think you can handle things here yourselves."

"But only if you think you'll be all right," Jane reiterated. Sam rolled her eyes.

"Mom, I'm not an invalid and Brooke takes good care of me. Go, have fun, and don't worry about us. Are you taking Mac?" Jane nodded.

"Yes, we figure taking care of you is enough responsibility for one person," she joked. Sam stuck out her tongue and frowned.

"Very funny, Mom," Sam snorted. Truthfully she was a little nervous about being alone with Brooke. Some sort of line was crossed last night and she knew there was no going back now. There was something brewing between her and Brooke and it scared her. Her feelings for Brooke were getting stronger and harder to hide and it wasn't helping that the signals she was getting from Brooke were telling her that her belief that Brooke was straight might have been incorrect.

(Wouldn't that just be a kick in the pants?) Sam asked herself. (Isn't there a provision in the Glamazon contract that says `Thou shall be straight?' or something of the same?)

"I thought it was, Sam," Brooke teased lightly. "You're one Hell of a handful when you wanna be."

"Great, now I'm getting flack from my Mom and my stepsister. Anything you wanna add, Mike?" Sam asked sarcastically, pretending to be offended. Mike raised his hands in surrender.

"Not on your life. I'll stay out of the line of fire, thank you," he laughed.

"Chicken," Brooke criticized lightly. "When do you leave?"

"Later this afternoon. We'll be gone about a week, so behave yourselves. No wild parties, no bloodshed between the two of you, although that seems unlikely now. Have we mentioned how proud we are that the two of you are getting along so well?" Mike asked. Both girls shook their heads.

"Well we are," Jane added. "You've both matured a lot in a very short period of time. We're just sorry that it took something like Nicole and the accident for you to put your differences aside." Sam sighed.

"Look, can we just forget about Nicole and her little attempt at thinning the population, please? It's bad enough I'm reminded of it every second of the day. I'd really like to try and move on here."

"OK, Sammy, I'm sorry," Jane said, shrugging her confusion at Brooke and Mike.

"Self-pity monster alert," Brooke spoke up. Sam glared at her. "Well, it's true. Go ahead and say it Sam, `woe is me'." Sam raised an eyebrow and deepened the glare.

"Nah, you did it for me," she sighed again and her expression softened. "OK, banishing the pity beast. Sorry, that whole Nic thing really bothers me. But go on your trip and have a good time. I'm sure Brooke won't kill me while you're gone. Well, as long as I don't eat her cooking…"


"Hee hee, gotcha." Jane hugged Sam as she went to finish packing.

"Don't forget your therapy appointment at 11,Sam," she turned to Brooke. "Keep an eye on one another and don't let her slack off just because we're not here." Brooke held up three fingers.

"Scouts honor," she promised. Sam gaffawed.


"You were never a Girl Scout," she harassed after Mike and Jane left the room. Brooke looked back at her indignant.

"Was too. I was a Brownie and then a Girl Scout. I even made Junior Leader before I left. Why? Jealous?" Sam stuck out her chin and shook her hed in defiance.

"No," she answered simply.

"What's the matter, Sam? Weren't you a Girl Scout?"

"I was a Brownie…for a while," Sam hedged. Brooke grinned. (This was going to be good>

"What did you do?" she asked. Sam flushed red and looked at the floor.

"Well, I don't like to be laughed at, you know that, right?" Brooke nodded.

"I know that fact very intimately," she pointed out.

"Yeah, well," Sam continued. "There was this boy, Boy Scout actually, who made fun of my beanie. You know, the little brown thingie you wear on your head?"

"I remember it."

"Well, he took it off my head and threw it in the boys bathroom when we were six. Didn't stop me from going after it, though. And beating the crud out of him afterward." Brooke burst out laughing at the image of an indignant Sam McPherson going into the boy's bathroom at six years old to retrieve her Brownie beanie. "They threw me out of Scouts for that."

"Well, he deserved to get beat up," Brooke laughed when Sam finished her story. Sam shrugged as she laughed too.

"Yeah, well, to hear Harrison tell the story, he says I overreacted and didn't beat him up too bad." Brooke started laughing again.

"Oh, God, I think I remember that! He was mortified that he was beaten up by a girl! That was you! I told him then that he deserved it." Sam smiled.

"Thank you," she responded. She looked at the clock. "We'd better get a move on if we're going to make it to the rehab center on time."

"All right, off to the showers with you, Sam," Brooke ordered sternly. "There will be no slacking off because the parentals are out of town."

"My, my. So demanding. If you wanted to see me in the buff, just ask, Brooke. No need to get bossy," Sam tsked making Brooke drop the dish in her hand which thankfully didn't break. She stared at Sam incredulously. Sam shrugged.


"Comments like that could seriously lead to trouble," Brooke said in all seriousness while turning away from Sam. Sam contemplated this for a minute.

"What if I'm looking for trouble?" she challenged back. Brooke honestly had no response.

"Suit yourself, Sam," was all she managed.

"Thanks, I think I will."

"Sam," Brooke started her tone warning. She turned around but Sam had already wheeled away to the bathroom. Brooke sighed. Things were getting more and more complicated faster than she could keep up. And Sam wasn't helping any.

(What the Hell is going on between us? Her comments lately have been more than friendly flirting, they've bordered on the outright suggestive. Could Sam have feelings for me like I do for her? She was pressed up pretty close to me this morning and she leaned into my hand when I wiped away her tears. And she wiped away mine last night. This is more than just friendship or sisterly bonding going on, I know it. But, what if I'm reading more into it than it actually is?)

Brooke's head swimmed with thoughts that she couldn't straighten out. There was no doubt in her mind now that she desperately loved Sam, from the tips of her toes to the top of her head, every once of her being was consumed by her feelings for Sam. She wanted nothing more than to tell Sam how she felt but fear of rejection and losing the close relationship they now had stopped her. She figured if she was wrong and Sam was just playing and didn't feel the same way, that Sam would be insulted by Brooke's feelings and revert to the vindictive hurtful ways they used to act towards each other. And Brooke knew that that would destroy her.

(I'm finally getting to know her, beyond the walls, barriers and façade that Sam created to protect her emotions after her dad died. Maybe what I see as feelings for me is just how she really is, her real emotions that she doesn't let anyone see and not anything more than that. And if I tell her that I love her and she doesn't feel the same, I might lose everything)

A few errant tears slipped down Brooke's face into the sink as she tried to sort out her thoughts. Anyway she tried, she couldn't get the answer she wanted, wouldn't let herself have the answer she wanted. Pushing away from the sink, she went to get dressed and start her day, another day quietly pining for whom and what she knew she could never have.


After returning from rehab, Sam toweled herself off after a quick shower and carefully went about getting dressed without assistance. She idly wondered if hitting Brooke over the head with a large rainbow colored object would be too obvious. (Maybe make her listen to Melissa Etheridge all day? Nah, she's a cheerleader; she still wouldn't get the point)

She sat on her bed and thought about her rather brazen declaration that she was looking for trouble. (God, I'll be lucky if SHE doesn't run me over with her car now. What was I thinking? Brooke doesn't see me an anything other than a friend, a sister-to-be despite whatever friendly flirting we do. She's just practicing with me until the next bronze Adonis comes along to take her away from me) she lamented. (Although, she had a pretty strong grip on me when I woke up this morning) she remembered. (And if I keep thinking along these lines, I'm going to need another shower, a COLD one)

She was in the middle of fastening her bra when the door opened and in walked Brooke.

"Hey, Sam, have you seen my hairbrush?" Brooke stopped short as Sam sat there with her bra in one hand and a shocked look on her face. Brooke blushed. She had helped Sam dress but usually Sam wore a sports bra and Brooke had never actually seen her, ah, naked. Sam let out a small yelp.

"Knock much, Brooke?" she asked, embarrassed. Her voice was quiet. Brooke brought one hand up to her eyes to shield them and Sam rolled her eyes.

"I am so sorry," Brooke started. Sam sighed. She was embarrassed, yes, but what was done was done.

"Whatever. You wanna shut the door before you give Mike and Mom a show and REALLY make them wonder about that comment you made at breakfast this morning?" Brooke still didn't budge. Sam glanced down at her chest. There was still some scarring but she didn't think it was that bad. She frowned. "What? Am I that ugly?" she asked, hurt and insult creeping into her voice.

Brooke dropped her hand and to her disappointment and elation (Is that possible?) Sam still hadn't covered herself. Sam's face bore a look of confusion mixed with hurt and a little fear. Brooke shook her head as she shut the door.

"No, Sam," she answered, amazed at how normal her voice sounded given how shakey she actually felt inside. She was seriously contemplating another cold shower. "You're not ugly. Far from it. You look fine. Better than fine actually. I was just surprised, is all. And embarrassed, for you." Sam shrugged both in relief and confusion at Brooke's statements. (I really wish I could figure her out. She confuses the Hell out of me sometimes. So she doesn't think my breasts are ugly, that's a plus)

"Well, you've seen them now, can't change that. I got tired of the sports bra and since we're going shopping for clothes I thought I'd go for a real bra for a change," she explained as she resumed trying to fasten the blasted thing. Again she cursed the man who invented the medieval contraption. Seeing that she wasn't going to be able to do it alone with a cast still on one arm, Brooke walked over and offered her help.

"May I?" Sam nodded and Brooke willed her hands not to shake. All too quickly for Brooke's satisfaction, the deed was done and she stepped away. "All set, Sammy. Next time, I'll knock."

"Like I said, you've seen them now so what's the point in false modesty?" Sam asked nonchalantly as she pulled a shirt on over her head. Brooke stared at her surprised at the girl's calm demeanor. If someone had just walked in on her half dressed she probably would have freaked. But then, Sam was acting kind of left of center lately. If Sam were still taking her meds she'd blame it on that but she wasn't and that left Brooke with no other options. (Probably the only chance I'll get to see her like that anyway. Should enjoy it while I can) Brooke told herself> Sam smoothed down her hair and pointed to the vanity table.

"Your hairbrush is where you left it this morning, over there," Brooke followed Sam's hand and saw her brush on the vanity. She picked it up and ran it through her hair as Sam watched. (Well, it wasn't a rainbow flag but it'll do. Probably the only way I'll get to show Brooke my assets, so that was fun) Sam laughed to herself. Brooke put down the brush and turned back to Sam.

"Ready to go charge up a storm?" Brooke asked. Sam smirked.

"Lead the way."


"Seriously, Brooke, I don't think he meant any harm," Sam tried, unsuccessfully to calm her incredibly irate shopping partner. Brooke's face was bright red with rage and she was breathing heavily through her nose. Sam thought she resembled a bull about to charge a Matador.

"That's not the point, Sam," she bit back through barely surpressed rage. Her shoulders shook and she had a white-knuckle grip on the handles of Sam's wheelchair.

"I know, but he was just trying to be, what's the word, chivalrous?" Sam offered. Brooke wasn't calmed.

"He was being ignorant. Just because you're in a wheelchair doesn't mean you're an invalid, retarded, or incapable of understanding what people are saying or doing around you!" Brooke ranted. Sam surpressed a giggle. Brooke was so cute when she was being indignant.

"He had no way of knowing I wasn't any of the above, Brooke. Come on, there was a time you would have killed to have a guy that drop dead gorgeous hit on you! Just because he thought I was your mentally handicapped sister doesn't mean he's an insensitive prick," she was openly laughing now.

The incident started simply enough. They had just come from one of the many stores on the strip, loaded with bags when this blonde haired, blue eyed, poster boy for Body Works bumped into Sam's chair. He was, to put it mildly, the bronze Adonis Sam had been thinking about losing Brooke to earlier. Well tone, tanned and sculpted to perfection. He, Milo, had apologized profusely to Brooke while totally ignoring Sam. While Brooke fussed over Sam and whether she was all right, Milo had tried everything he could to get Brooke's name, number, anything but she had steadfastly ignored him.

Until she insisted he apologize to Sam for bumping into her. Milo was confused having assumed that Sam was mentally deficient and didn't know anything had happened. But he apologized, however half-heartedly and then offered to push Sam's chair to give Brooke's `little bitty arms a rest'. Sam never heard such language come from Brooke and wished she had a tape recorder to have the spectacle on record for a souvenir. Needless to say, Milo went running under threat of bodily harm.

Brooke let out a frustrated sigh. (Maybe at one time I would have jumped at the chance, Sam. But not now. He wasn't you and all I'm interested in now is you) She turned her now calmer eyes to the mirth filled ones of her shopping companion and scowled.

"You find this funny?" Sam shook her head.

"Kinda, but only in the sense that I never figured you for jumping to my defense like that," her smirk deepened, as did her eye color in the bright California sushine. "It was kinda sexy." Brooke's eyes widened and she wanted to act appalled but she couldn't stop the answering smirk from spreading across her own face.

"Yeah, well don't get used to it, McPherson. Jump to your own defense next time," she instructed. Sam looked momentarily crestfallen.

"Just as soon as I'm capable of jumping anywhere, I will," she responded coolly. Brooke mentally kicked herself for her comment. Although Sam's hot and cold running moods were starting to tire her out.

"Sam, I didn't mean," Sam interrupted her.

"So, where to next, oh, mighty God of the Shop-o-holics?" Brooke sighed. (There we go again. Manic-depressive Sam. Scary)

"Let's just go along the boardwalk until something catches our eye," she suggested. Sam nodded. Still feeling guilty over the `jumping' comment, she impulsively leaned down and placed a light kiss to Sam's right temple. "I really am sorry for that comment, you know."

Recovering from the momentary shock of the featherlight kiss and the tingles it sent throughout her body, Sam nodded and sighed.

"I know. You know, since you not so politely informed him that I was not your sister, Milo probably figures that we're together. You know, as in TOGETHER, TOGETHER," she pointed out playfully, needing to draw attention away from how close they were getting. Brooke laughed.

"Probably," she agreed.

(I wish)

(I wish)


"Why did you do it, Sam?" Brooke asked suddenly the next day. Sam looked up from her lunch in totally confusion. She was beginning to need a score card to keep up with Brooke.

"Huh?" Sam asked articulately. Brooke sighed and stared at her untouched food, turning a lettuce leaf over with her fork. The question had been haunting her and she needed an answer.

"Why did you do it? Why did you push me out of the way?" Brooke's voice was very quiet and barely carried over to where Sam sat across the table. Sam put her sandwich down and repeated herself.

"Again, `huh'? What kind of question is that and where is this coming from? Does left field know you stole its question? And eat something will you? Don't think I didn't notice that you skipped breakfast. Mom and Mike left us in charge of one another, I watch you, you watch me, now eat. Or I'll force you to watch Pokemon 2000 again." Brooke picked at her salad for a few minutes more before asking again.

"I don't get it, Sam. I mean, I thank God everyday that you did it. I know it's selfish, but I do. I'm glad I'm alive and I know that the only reason I am right now is because of you. Because you were willing to sacrifice so much for me. I just don't understand why and I need to." Sam sighed and gave up trying to finish her lunch for the time being. Brooke was in one of her moods again and it was pointless to try and do anything else until it passed.

"Why do you need to? Don't you think you're worth the sacrifice? Which, by the way, is way too strong a word," she countered. She couldn't believe that Brooke didn't think her life was worth saving, which was the impression Sam was getting.

(I'd sacrifice myself a thousand times for you, Brooke. I wish you knew and understood that)

"I need to know, Sam. You saw that car heading towards me and you acted without thinking about your own safety. It was a sacrifice. You could have and nearly were killed. I don't understand. Given our relationship, our history it doesn't make sense." Sam leaned across the table and put her hand on Brooke's. They both tried to ignore the jolt of energy that ran from their hands through their arms and then throughout their entire bodies. Since Sam's `looking for trouble' comment, the bra and Milo incidents the day before, they were both treading lightly, afraid of crossing some invisible line.

"The word history alludes to the past, as in over and done with. Whatever our relationship was, as rivals or enemies or whatever, it had changed. Our families had come together whether we liked it or not and as much as I like the thought of having the bathroom to myself, I would never, read: EVER, wish any harm to come to you."

"Is that why?" Brooke asked sounding like a very frightened child in the middle of a thunderstorm.

"Brooke, everything happened so fast that I had no chance to think about why. I just saw the car and reacted. There is no why. I couldn't let you get hit. I didn't think about the consequences." A few tears ran silently down Brooke's face. "I'm sorry if that's hard to live with, Brooke. I never thought about what it must be like for you. I should have."

(Or I could tell you the truth and tell you I love you and would gladly die in your place if that's what it took to keep you safe. No, I think my answer is enough)

"Me? Sam, if it hadn't been for you I'd be dead. That's all there is to it," Brooke said simply through her tears. Sam shook her head.

"But you're not and neither am I. But what I meant was I didn't think about what it was like for you to live with seeing that. I know you have the nightmares and I'm sorry," she apologized as she realized that while she had the physical scars, they both shared the emotional ones. Brooke looked away.

"Don't apologize for saving my life, Sam. I'm just so sorry that you had to chose between your life and mine. It never should have happened," Brooke responded looking at the floor. It wasn't a memory she liked to think about but it was one she relived every day and dreamed each night.

"You're right, it shouldn't have. But thanks to Nicole it did. But Brooke, what I don't understand is why you don't seem to think your life was worth saving. It was, it still is. I don't regret, for a single instant the choice I made. Sure I could have done without the pain and crap that went with it but given the choice between that or a life without you in it, cut off my legs and cut out my tongue and call me a happy person. At least we'd both still be alive."

"Sam," Brooke sighed still not looking up.

"Hey, look at me," Sam commanded gently. Brooke looked up slowly. "Still here, Brooke and I'm not going anywhere anytime soon. Chair notwithstanding and I still wouldn't go anywhere if I weren't literally a fifth wheel. Or in this case two very large ones."

"Why do you do that?" Brooke asked slightly annoyed.

"Oh, more questions. What?"

"Joke. When things get serious you joke. Why do you do that?"

"Because I suck at emotional exchanges?" Sam asked, only half-kidding.

"Fair enough," Brooke agreed. "So, we have no reason why you shoved me out of the way, just that you reacted. And I have no way of ever repaying you for that." Sam shook her head.

"You don't have to, Brooke. I didn't do it because I wanted something in return. I had no ulterior motive. I told you, I had no time to think about what I was doing, I just reacted. Besides, you've been more to me, done more for me than I could have ever asked you to since then. You have been right there, through it all, good and bad, holding my hand and telling me it was going to be all right. You never left me and I can never pay you back for that."

"Consider us even then?" (Although, Sam, I can never truly repay you for all you've given me)

"You bet! Now, can we finish lunch because I'm still hungry," Sam begged, reaching for her sandwich again.

"You and your stomach! Now I know where Mac gets her appetite from," Brooke joked.

"I'll have you know I am a growing girl," Sam informed her haughtily.

"God, into what?" Brooke asked fearfully. Sam arched an eyebrow and frowned.

"Oh, keep it up and we'll see who gets to pick out what movie we watch tonight, missy," Brooke's eyes widened.

"Oh, no, please, anything but that. Please don't make me watch Coyote Ugly, AGAIN!"

"Hey, it's better than The Skulls."

"Hey, I liked that movie!" Brooke argued.

"You just like to watch Paul Walker," Sam countered. Brooke shrugged. "Can I ask you a question now, Brooke?" Sam asked suddenly serious. Brooke nodded. "What's with the calling me `Sammy'? I don't mind it, really. It's just something usually reserved for a parent or someone really close to me to call me." Brooke looked away hurt.

"And you don't think I'm close to you," she said more as a statement than as a question. (Oh, that stung) Brooke thought.

"I didn't mean it like that. I meant close to me emotionally. I know I'm not the most emotionally available person Brooke, and when you call me Sammy it sounds so sweet, so intimate. I don't know, I just wanted to know why you call me that sometimes," she looked away, embarrassed.

"Because I do feel close to you Sammy. Emotionally. How can I not after everything that's happened? You're my hero, Sammy. Without you, I'd be a footnote on the memorial page of the yearbook. You're my best friend, my antithesis, my stepsister, my rival, my savior and my saint all in one package. I'm sorry if that sounds a little corny but it's how I feel. When I call you Sammy it's my way of keeping you closer than anyone else because I know it's a name reserved for those closest to you. But I'll stop if it bothers you." Sam wiped away the tears that had fallen down her face as she listened to Brooke's explaination. That girl never ceased to surprise or touch her like no other. Everyday her love for her grew deeper.

"Please don't stop. I like hearing it from you, really, Brooke. Especially if that's why you do it. I just wanted to know why is all," she looked back up at Brooke and Brooke knew that she meant it.

"OK, Sammy. Pass the dressing, please," Sam complied and they ate in compatible silence.

Part 3

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