DISCLAIMER: Gee, still not mine, but looking to buy, who's with me? I got $80 and some autographed Farscape cards.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Just playing with the inevitable `How will Mom and Mike react' scenario. I thought I'd tackle Mom first. Let me know what you think. My muse is now a certifiable speed freak.
SERIES/SEQUEL: Follows the story Strange Road to Salvation.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
By Aeryn Sun
Section 7: Dad
PUTTING THE `FUN' IN DYSFUNCTIONAL
Mike was sitting in the kitchen when Brooke walked in with a worried expression on her face. He had been waiting for her, and Sam and Jane actually. They had all asked to talk to him about something, something apparently very big. Brooke spared him a wary smile and stood there chewing on her thumb, a habit she hadn't resorted to in years. Now Mike knew something big was up.
"What's the matter, honey? You look really spooked."
Brooke shrugged and walked to the fridge and got out a bottle of water, which she preceded to turn over in her hands. Another nervous habit. "I'd rather wait for Jane and Sam, Dad," she whispered. She sounded frightened.
Mike was confused. He always felt that he and Brooke had a wonderful open relationship where they could talk to each other. But lately it seemed like she was pulling away from him and he had no idea why. (Is it drugs? Could she be pregnant? Is she eating?) He mulled over the possibilities in his mind until Sam and Jane walked in the room looking equally cautious. Now he was getting nevous.
"Mike," Jane started after the girls just looked at her and said nothing. "The girls and I need to talk to you about something."
Mike put down his bagel and gave them his attention. "OK, shoot. What's going on with my favorite ladies today? You're all wound up like spring toys ready to pop so, spill it."
Brooke took a deep breath. "Dad, you'd love me, no matter what, right?"
Mike frowned. "Of course I would? What kind of question is that? You're my first little girl, nothing can change how I feel about you, Brooke," he told her confused by the question.
"And you care about Sam, right? You could never hate her no matter what she did right?"
"What's going on here?" Mike directed the question at Jane, his anxiety level raising a few notches.
"Just answer her, Mike. It's important," Jane told him quietly.
"Yes, I care about Sam like she was another daughter. I tried to adopt her but she wouldn't let me, remember? And I respected that decision. Will someone please tell me what is going on here?"
"Dad, I don't know how to tell you this but, Sam and I, that is to say, uhm.we're gay," Brooke stuttered out finally.
Mike blinked at her for a few minutes in shock. "Gay? As in really really happy or as in homosexual, Brooke?"
"Both, actually," Brooke said with a nervous laugh. "But mostly the latter."
"I don't understand, Brooke. You dated Josh and there was Harrison and..."
"And they were mistakes, Dad. I didn't want to face that but they were. I'm gay." There, she said it and the world didn't end.
"But you're a cheerleader," Mike argued. (Argh)
"Being straight is not a prerequisite for making the squad, although Mary Cherry might change that soon." Brooke huffed annoyed. (Especially if she ever finds out about Nicole)
Mary Cherry had taken the news rather well, after she got over her whole Christian, incest was a sin and that Brooke and Sam had a first class set of front row tickets on the express train to Hell rant. Sam had not so subtly reminded her that not only was she so inbred that she had webbed toes and hands but that her father was a gay drag queen. That took the wind right out of the girls' blustery sails and she then suggested that they `bond' over the thing, which sent Brooke and Sam running for the nearest exit post haste. But this whole But-You're-A-Cheerleader-Syndrome was really starting to bug Brooke.
"Are you sure this isn't a phase or something, Brooke? All teenagers question their sexuality from time to time."
"Trust me Dad, I went over that for a while. This is no phase, it's the real deal."
Mike was silent for a few minutes and Brooke glanced at Sam nervously. Sam shrugged back.
"Honey," Mike said finally, "you're just lonely."
Brooke rolled her eyes. She'd been waiting for this, expecting it.
"You've had some bad experiences with guys and now you're confused. Trust me, the right guy will come along eventually and things will clear right up." Mike smiled, apparently happy with his deduction. Sam sent her mother a desperate glance.
"Mike," Jane started.
"Dad," Brooke broke in at the same time, standing closer to Sam now, needing her support. "I don't think you're following the conversation." The smile faded from Mike's face and his expression turned cold.
"There is nothing wrong with you, Brooke," he said simply.
Brooke felt her anger level rise at that statement. "I never said there was, Dad," she shot back angrily. "I said I was gay, not wrong. The two are not mutually exclusive, you know."
"Brooke, calm down," Sam finally spoke up.
Mike turned to her with a deadly glare. "You stay out of this," he growled at her. "This is family business."
Right about then all Hell broke loose in the McQueen kitchen. Jane and Brooke saw the look of utter hurt and rejection that Sam was unable to mask from her features. And then they watched every wall and defense she ever had go right back up stronger then ever and her normally kind and friendly brown eyes turn dull and cold. They both knew that Mike had just hit a particularly sore spot with Sam.
"You're right, Mike. I was never a part of this family and I never had any right thinking that I was," she answered in the same cold voice Mike had used. "But this IS my business." Instead of leaving the room, Sam continued to stare down Mike who was unmoved. Brooke and Jane moved to stand between the two. There was a dangerous level of tension between the two.
"Stop it both of you!" Jane ordered. "You're both out of line. Mike, you're upset over Brooke's news and taking it out on Sam and Sam, you're hurt and saying things you don't mean. Now everyone just calm down."
Brooke layed a supportive hand on Sam's shoulder and was surprised to find the other girl shaking. "Calm down, Sammy," she whispered for only Sam to hear. "He didn't mean it." Sam looked into the loving eyes of her girlfriend and felt some of her anger dissipate.
Mike was still shooting daggers at her however. He if caught any of that little exchange, he wasn't letting on. "When did you discover this, Brooke? When did you `decide' you were gay?" he asked contemptously.
Brooke sighed. (This is not going well) "I didn't `decide' anything. It just sort of developed. I started developing feelings for someone, a woman, and they kept getting stronger and we kept getting closer. And I realized that the reason my relationships with men never went anywhere was because they did nothing for me, but she does."
"That's disgusting," Mike spat.
"Oh, please," Sam rolled her eyes, unable to stop herself from commenting.
Mike ignored her. "So who, Brooke? Who have you decided to throw your entire future, your entire life away for, huh? Just because you have no idea what it is you really want?"
Brooke couldn't believe the words coming out of her father's mouth. It was like talking to a stranger. She looked at Sam for reassurance and Sam nodded. Taking strength from Sam and mustering the last of her own courage, Brooke looked her father in the eye and told him the name of the woman who had stolen her heart and soul.
"Sam," she said simply. "I love, am in love with Sam."
Mike jumped up from his seat with a murderous glint in his eye. The only things between him and Sam were Jane and Brooke. And both women were afraid to think what would happen if he got his hands on Sam. Suddenly Sam's fear of wood chippers didn't seem so foolish. "So this is your fault?" he accused dramatically.
Sam glared right back at him. "My fault? Are you some sort of nutcase, Mike?" she asked in all seriousness.
"You did this to my little girl, didn't you? With your `ways'?"
Sam couldn't even begin to fathom what the Hell he was talking about. (Did he and Mary Cherry go to the same class or something, because at least from her it was funny)
"Mike, being gay isn't like a light switch you wake up one morning and decided to flip to the `on' position. You either are or you aren't. I didn't `do' anything to Brooke other than love her. She loves me of her own free will. I didn't ask her to." Sam spoke calmly, not wanting to make the situation worse no matter how hurt or angry she was. It wouldn't help anything and could possibly lead to Brooke getting the bad end of things. She watched as Mike turned an alarming shade of red.
"Get out of my house," he ordered a stunned Sam. She blinked back the sudden tears, unwilling to give him the satisfaction.
"If she goes, Dad, so do I," Brooke announced firmly. She grabbed Sam's hand tightly in her own. Mike saw this and ground his teeth together. His color started to shift to purple.
"So do Mac and I," Jane added. Mike turned his attention to Jane.
"You knew about this?" she nodded. "How long? Why didn't you tell me?"
"Not long and because I was afraid of this. Mike, you need to calm down. These two really and truly love each other,"
Mike shook his head. "This isn't love, this is sick! I want you both out of my sight," he told Sam and Brooke. Sam moved with Brooke closer to Jane and Mike moved out towards her. They met in the middle of the kitchen. "You've corrupted my baby girl," he snarled.
"I did no such thing, Mike," Sam responded, oddly calm. "I love your daughter. Either accept that or don't. I don't care. But get over your narrow minded, Christian right wing militia, hatred and ignorance before you lose your daughter forever." To the absolute shock of everyone in the room, Mike raised his hand to hit Sam who flinched and waited for the blow to come.
"Daddy no!" Booke called out as Mike's hand was raised in the air above Sam's head. He swung his arm down and stopped mere inches away from Sam's face as Brooke moved to intercept.
"Get out of my house," he repeated in a low, hushed voice. "All of you." He turned and stomped out of the kitchen leaving the three women in stunned silence.
Jane spoke first. "Sam? Are you alright?"
Sam nodded. "I'm fine, Mom," she said, absolutely shocked by the way things played out. She looked over at Brooke who was still staring at the direction her father had gone in. She turned to her mother. "Can you give us a second?"
Jane nodded. "I'll go get Mac ready and meet you at the car. We'll stay at a hotel until he calms down," Jane walked over and put a hand on Brooke's shoulder. "He'll calm down, Brooke, you'll see. This is just a shock. Give him some time." Brooke just nodded a without saying anything and Jane wasn't sure she understood the words.
Sam spared her mother a glance. "Just go, Mom, I'll take care of her," Jane nodded and left the room.
Sam wrapped her arms around the still silent Brooke. "You OK?"
Brooke shook her head. "He was going to hurt you," she said in a voice barely her own. "He's never hit me, no matter what I did, but he was ready to hit you." She turned to Sam and Sam could see the tears in Brooke's eyes. She reached up and caught them as they fell.
"But he didn't Brooke, he stopped himself," Sam reminded her even though her heart was just now returning to its normal rhythm after the incident. She thought Mike was going to hit her too, and she was again thankful they didn't own a woodchipper.
"That wasn't my father," Brooke whispered in disbelief.
Sam sighed. "That was a man faced with a harsh reality he didn't want to face, Brooke. Unfortunately it happens everyday. But Mike's a nice guy, when he's not being totally insane like just now, he'll come around, you'll see," Sam tried to reassure her even though she wasn't so sure herself.
Brooke sniffed and leaned into Sam. "We'd better go pack, huh?"
Sam nodded reluctantly. "Another glorious stay at your local Motel 6 for the McPherson's. At least we have you and Mac to keep us company this time. Trust me, after Mike's stuck in the Palace for a few days by himself with no daughter, fiancée, baby, or stepdaughter to drive him crazy, he'll be begging us to come home, homosexuality issues aside."
Brooke looked up at her dubiously. "God I hope you're right," she sighed holding Sam tighter, needing her strength.
(So do I Princess, so do I)
WHAT WOULD YOU DO FOR A KLONDIKE BAR?
Sam was partially right. A week later, Mike did ask Jane and Brooke to come home but he had no interest in Sam whatsoever. To him, the young brunette simply ceased to exist. He subscribed to the `If you ignore it it doesn't exist' school of thought. Sam shrugged it off but both Jane and Brooke knew that Sam was deeply hurt by it. They told Mike that they would not return to the Palace without her and he reluctantly acquiesced but firmly stated that he did not at anytime want to see or hear from Sam. Which was fine with her since the feeling was entirely mutual.
Mike was also watching poor Brooke like a hawk. She was never at anytime allowed to be in Sam's company alone. The locks were gone from their bedroom doors as well as the bathroom door. Because of Mike's aversion to Sam, Jane had to chaperone the two girls when they were home together. The three of them joked that he probably wouldn't be happy to know that she let them kiss and cuddle when they were together but it wasn't like they were going to tell him. Mike didn't let them talk about the situation either. Whenever Jane or Brooke tried to appoach him about the subject, he let them know on no uncertain terms whose house they were in and where the door was. And dinners were and awkward situation, filled with tense silences and stilted conversations. It reminded Brooke and Sam of how things were when their families first moved in together. It would have been funny, if it wasn't so damn sad.
So Sam was a non-entity. But you can only be invisible for so long until the cosmic forces of the universe get bored and decide to make you visible to the one person who hates you the most. And as such, Sam and Mike accidentally found themselves home alone together one afternoon when Jane was at work and Brooke was still at school.
"I hate my life," Sam grumbled as she walked in the door, home early because the cold she was fighting finally won. Loaded down with books, she collapsed on the couch and sneezed violently. She laid her head on the back of the couch and promptly fell asleep. Mike walked into the livingroom a half-hour later and stopped short.
"What are you doing home from school early? Or don't you go to school anymore?" he asked angrily. Sam woke up groggily, the cold making her foggy and stared at him for a second.
"'M sick, Mike. Nurse sent me home, k?" she responded as she tried to stand up but her legs were wobbly and she ungracefully flopped back down to the couch. Mike was untouched.
"Sure, whatever. I've been meaning to talk to you, Samantha," Sam arched an eyebrow. Mike never called her 'Samantha' and he had barely given her the time of day in two weeks and now he wanted to talk to her. (This can't be good)
"Sure," Sam answered weakly, really not feeling well. (Trust him to pick a time when I feel like crap to get into a rumble with me)
"What do you get out of this?" he asked, his anger and outrage showing in his voice. Sam's confusion and shock showed on her face.
"What are you talking about?" Sam asked, trying desperately to keep up with the conversation.
"Playing with my daughter's affections like this. What do you get out of it?" Sam stared at him in absolute mute shock. Mike continued. "Is this some sort of twisted plan on your part to finally destroy things between your mother and I? Because I have to tell you, it's working pretty damn well, you've got her believing that whatever you feel for Brooke is genuine. Let's face facts, Sam, the only person you care about is yourself. So, tell me, what do you get out of this?" Sam was still unable to form a pertinent response, whether it was from the fever she was running or disbelief at the words she was hearing she didn't know. Thinking he had hit the nail on the head, Mike laughed and kept going on his little diatribe.
"See, you can't even answer me. You're preying on Brooke because she's vulnerable right now. Harrison and Josh left her emotionally vulnerable and you're taking advantage because you're sexually ambiguous not to mention highly ambitious and willing to screw over anyone you have to to get what you want." By now anger had propelled Sam to her feet and she slapped Mike hard across the face. Her face was contorted in barely controlled rage.
"You ignorant, narrow-minded, homophobic, bigoted asshole! I swear all you're missing is a white sheet! You have no idea what you're talking about! How someone like you could have raised someone as loving and gentle as Brooke boggles the mind. I am not using Brooke, I love her. If that's too much for you to handle, well, then tough. I'm sick and tired of walking on eggshells because you've got some sort of issues with your sexuality."
"Don't use that tone with me, young lady," Mike warned.
Sam flashed a feral smile. "Don't talk to me like you're my father, M-I-K-E," she enunciated the name annoyingly slow. The room was beginning to spin and she knew she had to get up to bed before the cold and fever knocked her off her feet and Mike threw her out the door while she was unconscious.
"I'm not going to let you rip this family apart," Mike warned while wagging his finger at her. If he wasn't so fuzzy, Sam figured he'd look funny.
"I'm not the one doing it, Mike," Sam said tiredly. "You are." She grabbed her stuff and headed towards the stairs.
"Where do you think you're going? We're not finished here, young lady! Don't walk away from me when I'm talking to you," Sam stopped and turned around for a minute at the bottom of the stairs.
"Mike, I'm genuinely sick and need to rest. Whether you believe me or not, I could care less. And we are finished because we're not talking, you're ranting, raving, spewing homophobic hatred and ignorance and not listening to a word I say. When you're ready to listen to reason, or at least calm down and remember that you're the adult here, come talk to me again. Until then, leave me alone, please."
Finished dealing with Mike for the time being and feeling worse with every passing second, Sam climbed over the stairs and barely made it to her bed before she collapsed, physically and emotionally exhausted. She quickly fell into a feverish sleep and longed for Brooke to hurry home.
FEVERDREAMS, NIGHTMARES, AND ARGUMENTS
"Sam, come on, you have to eat something," Brooke coaxed the sick girl. Sam groaned and turned away. Eating was definitely something she never wanted to do again. It wasn't a cold, it was the unholy flu.
"Go 'way, Brooke, 'for you get sick, too," Sam protested. Brooke smiled at the concern but was unswayed. She was worried when Sam wasn't at lunch earlier and even more worried when Lily said she's gone home sick. Sam wasn't known for going home sick or missing much school at all, in fact. If you're not there, you might miss a juicy tidbit of journalistic information. So Brooke had gone home after lunch to check on her, found her father absolutely livid and then worried he'd actually done Sam in when she discovered that the two of them had had an altercation. He'd bellowed something about 'getting Sam the Hell out of his house if he had to get a court order to do it' and stomped off again and Brooke went to find Sam.
Sam was dead asleep on top of her covers fully clothed and bathed in sweat. She'd caught the awful flu that was presently decimating most of Kennedy High. Thankfully, Brooke had been smart enough to get a flu shot, but not Sam, not I-never-get-the-flu Sam. (This'll teach her) Brooke thought sadly as she put a cold compress on Sam's flushed forehead and tried again to get her to eat some chicken soup.
"Eat some soup, Sammy," Brooke whispered. Sam shook her head.
"Why? So I can throw it back up again? No thanks," she retorted with a sigh. She hated being sick, but she loved having Brooke take care of her. (Guilty pleasure, bad Sammy) Sam scolded herself weakly. She loved being in Brooke's arms and being sick gave her a reason that wouldn't make Mike freak too bad.
"Come on, Sammy, for me?" Brooke begged. Sam's eyes opened fractionally and she frowned.
"Cheater," she accused. Brooke smiled. She knew that would work even if it was a dirty trick. Sam managed to choke down a few mouthfuls of lukewarm soup before shaking her head for Brooke to stop.
"OK, enough for now, I get the point," Brooke assured her. Sam settled back into Brooke's embrace while Brooke stroked her damp hair away from her face. "I heard you and Dad had a meeting of the minds earlier." She watched Sam's nose wrinkle in distaste.
"It was one sided. I was armed, he wasn't," Sam whispered tiredly. She snuggled deeper into Brooke's arms needing to feel better anyway she could. Brooke always made her feel better, emotionally and physically. Brooke giggled slightly at Sam's comment.
"There was a time I would have been insulted by that comment but I'm sure he wasn't. He didn't hurt you, did he?" she asked, honestly afraid that without her or Jane was referee, Mike had hit Sam. She felt Sam shake her head.
"No," Sam yawned. "I hit him. Sorry." Brooke sighed.
"He probably deserved it. What did he say?"
"'M tired, Brooke. Don' wanna talk about it right now. Can I get some sleep instead?" Sam asked, sounding just as tired as she said she was. Brooke mentally kicked herself for interrogating the ill girl and hugged the quaking form in her arms.
"Of course, Sammy. Sleep, I'll keep you safe," she whispered. She felt rather than saw Sam smile.
"You always do, Princess."
They were both woken later by a pair of angry voices carrying down the hall. Brooke looked down at Sam who looked back with red rimmed, sick but awake eyes.
"Mom and Mike," she pointed out sadly. Brooke nodded. They sat silently and listened.
"She can't stay here, Jane. This is my house and she isn't welcome here!"
"How can you say that? She's my daughter! If she isn't welcome here than neither am I! Neither is Mac!"
"You're my fiancee, I love you and Mac is my daughter, same as Brooke is. Sam means nothing to me!" Brooke held Sam closer to her as an ever so small sob slipped past Sam's lips and she buried her face in Brooke's chest.
"Jane, don't you see what she's doing? She doesn't care for Brooke like she says she does. She's just using her to break us up. She's been trying to break us up since day one. She can't stand the thought of you being with anyone other than Joe. This is the only way she has left to stop you from moving on with your own life."
"That's a lie and you know it! Sam wants nothing more than for me to be happy and she knows that being with you makes me happy. Or at least it used to until you started acting this way!"
"Is the fact that Sam is gay and involved with Brooke making you happy?" There was a pause before Jane answered.
"At first, no. But then I talked to her, and Brooke, Mike. And I saw the love between them. They're happy together, Mike and that makes me happy. Damnit, that's enough."
"How the Hell do we explain this to MacKenzie when she's old enough to understand?"
"Good question," Sam whispered. Brooke 'shushed' her.
"We cross that bridge when we get to it. Besides, she'll grow up with it as an everyday thing, it won't strike her as abnormal. Mike, you have to stop blaming Sam for this, it isn't anyone's fault."
"That's where you're wrong. It IS Sam's fault. I'm losing you, I'm losing Brooke and it's all Sam's fault. This isn't normal, Jane and I won't accept it as such. Somehow Sam has played on Brooke's confusion and vulnerability and after she gets what she wants, she'll leave Brooke, broken and destroyed on the side of the road and move on to someone new. I won't stand by and watch her destroy my daughter."
"God, I never knew you thought so little of Sam."
"I always liked Sam but I questioned her ethics. You remember how far she was willing to go to get a story, what she'd do to hurt Brooke? How can you stand there and tell me that this is the same girl professing her undying love for Brooke when a year ago she was tearing her apart in the school paper every chance she got?"
"That was different, Mike. There's a thin line between love and hate."
"That's a weak excuse, Jane."
"It's the truth."
"Your truth. My truth is that this is not a topic open for discussion. Either they knock it off or Sam leaves, am I making myself clear?"
"I'm serious, Jane."
"How is telling them to 'knock it off' any better than the pranks they used to play to break us up?"
"We're finished with this conversation."
Sam and Brooke heard Mike walk down the hall and a door slam somewhere else in the house. A few seconds later, there was a soft knock on their door.
"Come in," Brooke called softly. Jane walked in, tears still evident on her face. She gave the two a weak smile.
"How you feeling sweety?" she asked Sam as she sat on the bed and felt Sam's forehead. She was worried at how hot Sam felt. Sam spared her a weak smile.
"Like I'm heading to the gallows in the morning," Sam responded. Jane sighed.
"I take it you two overheard?" Both girls nodded. "We'll find a way through this, I promise."
"We know," Brooke answered. Sam yawned and closed her eyes, snuggling close to Brooke and letting the flu take her away from the cold reality she didn't feel like dealing with at the moment. Brooke and Jane exchanged concerned and wary glances over her sick form.
"I promise," Jane repeated.
Another pair of angry voices, these two closer and even more rage filled awakened Sam the next morning.
"You will get dressed for school, young lady, and THAT is final!" Sam scooted up further in the bed to listen better.
"Someone has to stay home with her Dad," Brooke's voice carried to Sam's ears sounding at once furious and at the same time concerned. Sam sighed. Now it was Brooke and Mike's turn to rip into each other over her.
"She's a big girl, Brooke, she can take care of herself!" Mike bellowed.
"She's got a temperature of 103!" Brooke screamed. "She spent most of last night delerious and vomiting," Sam winced at the fuzzy memory of Brooke holding back her hair and rubbing her back. Truth to tell, she still felt like crap. "At one point she thought she was Mighty Mouse!" (Oh, great, now I'm never going to live that one down)
"Jane can stay with her, you have to go to school."
"Mom would but she has an important business meeting and you know it!" Brooke responded. "I have to stay with Sam, unless you want to," she asked sarcastically.
"Don't use that tone with me young lady," Mike warned. Sam yawned and rolled her eyes. (Mike really needs new material)
"Well? Are you? Because if not, I am. Sam is in no shape to take care of herself. And THAT is final, Dad," Brooke said in a tone that Sam knew meant that no matter what Mike said or did she wouldn't be changing her mind.
"Who are you because you sure aren't my daughter?" Mike asked angrily. Sam blinked back the tears that sprang to her eyes and she knew that Brooke was probably doing the same thing outside the door.
"I AM still your daughter, you just have no interest in who that really is anymore because I don't fit the mold you want me to. And I'm not going to apologize for that either. Live with it or get out of my way," the door swung open and a highly upset Brooke stormed into the room, slamming it behind her. Sam jumped. Brooke saw that she was awake and the anger drained away from her expression.
"How you feeling, sweetie?" she asked as she put her hand on Sam's forehead. Sam sighed.
"Like shit," Sam whispered, her voice gone and weariness beginning to overtake her. Brooke frowned.
"You're still awfully warm. Come on, back to sleep with you," she said as she tucked Sam back in and crawled in beside her. Sam instictively curled up beside Brooke and Brooke wrapped her arms around the sick girl. "Sleep, Sammy, you'll feel better later."
"Promise?" Sam asked just above a whisper, eyes shut and all ready half asleep. Brooke smiled and placed a kiss in Sam's sweat dampened hair.
LEAVING ON A JET PLANE
Eight days later Sam finally felt almost human again. Unfortunately that was about the best thing she could say about herself. She was packed and ready to go. Jane appeared in her door, disapproving look on her face.
"Are you absolutely sure about this?" Sam sighed. If her mother asked her that one more time...
"For the four millionth time, no, I'm not, but it has to be done," she turned to face her mother. "He said it, not me. I can't stay here, Mom. You and Brooke stand to lose everything if I do. I won't let that happen."
"At least wait until Brooke gets home from practice," Jane begged. Sam shook her head.
"If I do that I'll never leave. No, Mom, I gotta go now while she's not here. I know it's cowardly but I have to." She walked over and hugged her mother. "Please stick to our agreement. Don't tell her where I went and don't call unless it's an emergency. I'll call every few days to check on you and Brooke and you can fill me in, OK?" Jane nodded.
"I don't like it, but all right. You're going to be hurting her, you know," Sam nodded sadly and a few tears slipped down her cheeks.
"I know. But losing Mike will hurt more. I know what it's like to lose your Dad and I won't let Brooke go through that if I can stop it. Have you noticed them lately? They're tearing each other apart. They make any fight Brooke and I ever had look like spitball fights in comparison. It's awful and they're going to damage their relationship beyond repair if it keeps up. I won't let that happen," she looked up at her mother, her brown eyes pleading. "Please help her understand."
"I'll do my best, honey. Honest."
"Thanks, Mom. And try to fix things with Mike, yourself. He's a nice guy, in there somewhere. I won't be ground zero for this nuclear family." She headed down the stairs to the car. Jane stopped her at the door.
"If it means anything to you, honey, you're father would be proud of the way you stood up for yourself and I think he'd be fine with you and Brooke as long as you were happy." A genuine smile lit up Sam's face for the first time since telling Mike about her and Brooke's relationship.
"You know it does mean something, Mom. And somehow, I know he would be OK," finally she was starting to understand the message Joe had given her while she was in a coma. `Pain is temporary, love is forever.' It didn't make this decision any easier though.
"You'll call when you get there?" Jane asked as she hugged Sam again. She hated the idea of saying good-bye to Sam. Somehow the whole situation struck her as wrong, Sam shouldn't be leaving, running away. She should be staying and fighting for Brooke. But things were getting worse and not better with Mike and she could see Sam's point. Sometimes the best thing to do is to step away and give people some room.
"Of course," Sam answered. She fixed her mother with an intense stare. "You will take care of her right? Don't let her do anything stupid. I'm doing this so that you both can fix things with Mike, OK? But I'm worried that she's going to think I'm abandoning her like her mother did. Please make sure she knows that isn't the case," Sam begged. Jane nodded.
"I'll try but you know you can avoid the whole thing if you just stay." Sam sighed and frowned.
"Please just stop that, I feel bad enough all ready. My mind is made up. I'm going. Mike isn't going to calm down as long as I'm here. He's bound and determined to blame me for this whole thing, so remove me from the equation and maybe you and Brooke can find some resolutions."
"All right," Jane conceeded. "Well, you'd better get going if you want to miss the worse traffic and be gone before Brooke gets home." Sam nodded.
"I love you, Mom. And I'l come home soon, I promise. Take care of yourself and Mac and especially Brooke for me," she said with a sad smile. Jane smiled through her tears as Sam climbed in her car.
"I will, honey, and take care of yourself." Sam waved and pulled out of the driveway. (Well,) Jane thought (This will either make them, or break them)
Brooke bounded up the stairs after practice excited to see Sam who was finally feeling better after a bad bout with the flu. She entered Sam's room to find it empty. Not just lacking in an occupant, but devoid of many of Sam's belongings; her Cds, laptop, school stuff, her dressers were cleaned off and, upon inspection, her closets were nearly empty. Dread and fear filled Brooke at the thought that her father had finally thrown Sam out of the house when a small envelope taped to Sam's vanity with her name written on it caught her eye.
She opened the envelope carefully and started reading. And heard her entire world crash down around her feet.
First and foremost, I love you more than anything or anyone on this Earth. Please know this. There isn't a part of me that doesn't love you. I never thought it possible to love someone, need someone as much as I do you. It scares me sometimes, but I would never trade it for anything. And I would never hurt you. I'd die before I'd let that happen or let anyone else do it either. I think I proved that with Nicole. But even having said all that, this is something I have to do. I can't sit by and watch you and your father destroy yourselves.
I loved my dad a lot, still do and not a day goes by that I don't wish he was still here to talk to, laugh with, sit with or just be with. I envy the relationship you and Mike have and I refuse to be what destroys it. I'm not willing to give up on us either but there has to be some sort of middle ground.
It's obvious that with me around, Mike's not going to be willing to talk to you or Mom about this insane situation we've found ourselves in. Don't you find it highly ironic that we wasted all that time trying to find ways to break them apart when all we had to do was face how we really felt for each other and it would have done it for us? Not funny, I know, but still.
I care about Mike, and I know my Mom really loves him so I will not be the reason she loses him. And I need to think about little Mac too. You and I both grew up in single parent households and I won't make her suffer through that if I can prevent it.
So here's my warped Sam McPherson logic: if I give Mike some time and space, maybe you and he can talk this out without me as an added distraction. He needs to get this straight (no pun intended). Whether you love me or not, Brooke, you've accepted the fact that you're gay, that won't change. Make him start with accepting that. Accepting me is secondary. Your relationship with your Dad is important and I won't let you lose it because of me.
Listen to him, give him a chance to air his concerns and fears, however bigoted and homophobic they may be. He is entitled to them. Deep down, he still loves you and nothing will change that, not even me. He just needs time, Brooke. We just need to be willing to give it to him.
I am in no way abandoning you. Just the opposite. I will be with you every step of the way, I just think it'd be easier for all concerned if I step away for a while and let you and your dad get reaquainted. Don't ask Mom where I went, she won't tell you. I asked her not to so that you and Mike can have the time you need, but I will be calling to check on you often.
Please don't be mad at me for doing this. This decision wasn't easy but it's the only solution I could find that didn't involve a straight jacket for Mike, ending Mom and Mike's engagement or destroying your relationship with your Dad completely. Maybe I'm being selfish, cowardly even, running away like this. I don't know anymore. All I do know is that I love you with all my heart and soul. And I will come home to you.
Until then, take care, Princess. Remember that I love you.
Your Love Forever,
Brooke could see where the ink was smudged from where Sam's tears had fallen as she had written the letter. And now her own tears added to the smudges. She was angry, hurt, scared, and deeply touched all at the same time.
"Are you all right?" Jane asked from the doorway where she'd been silently observing the girl. Brooke turned around, eyes streaming rivers of tears and Jane walked over to wrap the girl in a hug.
"Shhhh, it'll be all right, you'll see," she soothed the sobbing girl.
"She's gone," Brooke mourned. "My Sammy left me." Jane rubbed the girls' back.
"It'll work out, Brooke, you'll see," only thing was, Jane had no idea how.
YOU ARE THE WEAKEST LINK-GOOD BYE
"Why'd she do it, Jane?" Brooke asked mournfully as she leaned her head against Jane's shoulder as they sat on Sam's bed a few nights later. Things were indeed calmer in the Palace without Sam around, Mike was acting more like himself, but Brooke wasn't and Jane was becoming worried. But Mike didn't seem to notice. True to her word, Jane was keeping a very close eye on her daughter's true love. She held the distraught girl closer and tried to put words to Sam's reasoning, reasoning even she didn't fully understand.
"She wanted to spare you, Brooke. She hates seeing you in pain," Jane began. Brooke shook her head.
"But being away from her causes me pain, doesn't she see that? God, I feel like I'm dying," she bewailed as fresh tears began to flow. Brooke thought after this long she'd be out of tears but they never seemed to stop. Jane sighed and silently cursed her daughter's decision to leave.
"She was doing what she thought was the right thing. Whether we agree or not isn't the point, her heart was in the right place. I know it's hard to understand, Hell, I'm her mother and I don't understand how her mind works but it was tearing her apart to watch what this was doing to you and Mike. You know Sam, if there something she could do to stop it, she'd do it and to Hell with personal cost."
"But it's not fair! Why can't I have both? Why can't Dad just accept things as they are and move on?" Brooke demanded angrily.
"Because you're his little girl, Brooke. It's very difficult to be faced with something like this," Jane explained patiently.
"But you've worked through it, haven't you? Sam and me, I mean? You don't think any less of us now, do you?" Brooke asked fearfully. Jane smiled gently and shook her head.
"Not at all. But I have a few advantages Mike doesn't. First off, I'm a woman, we tend to look at things differently anyway. Somehow, you've managed to offend his manhood, although I have no idea how. Secondly, I saw what was going on between you two so I had an idea even if I did try to ignore it at first. Sure, I was a little disturbed, but once I got past the glaringly obvious, I saw the genuine, deep love between the two of you. Mike hasn't been able to see that because he's unwilling to see that."
"Why? I don't see what Sam and I have as wrong. I just don't. How can love be wrong?"
"It's not, honey. I think Mike feels that he's failed somewhere with raising you. He has a blonde, blue-eyed, cheerleading, homecoming queen daughter, the perfect recipe for All-American and you turn around and tell him you're gay. And in love with your soon-to-be-stepsister. His entire world was suddenly turned on its axis and he didn't know how to handle it. So he reacted the only way available to him, badly."
"Oh," Brooke said as Jane's words sunk in. "But that doesn't explain why he blamed Sammy. I'm gay with or without her." Jane sighed.
"No, it doesn't explain it," barely restrained resentment colored her voice. "But it was easier to blame the lesser known of the two of you than his own baby girl."
"That's not fair. We're in this together," she paused and hung her head. "I really thought he was going to hurt her," she finished softly.
"So did I," the image of Mike raising his hand to strike Sam still vividly fresh in Jane's mind. Normally Jane knew such behavior was beyond Mike, he would never harm her, Sam, Brooke, or Mac. But the news of Brooke's and Sam's relationship just pushed him to a place beyond his control. That and the fact that he had stopped short of actually hitting her were the only reasons Jane hadn't left him on the spot. There was no way in Hell she'd stay with an abusive man, not for herself, Sam, Mac or Brooke.
But Mike wasn't by nature abusive. Everyone has a breaking point and they'd simply hit his like a watermelon hitting a brick wall at 200mph. Jane had been expecting a bad reaction, she just hadn't been expecting one THAT bad. Mike was a mild-mannered, go-with-the-flow kind of guy, it was one of the things that had attracted Jane to him in the first place. And yet here he was doing his best right wing, Christian coalitian, homophobic, not-in-my-family imitation and he was pretty damn convincing. And it baffled Jane how he could have reacted so badly.
He had turned on Sam like a pitbull on a ketcup covered cat and it had scared her. In Mike's eyes, the whole situation was some sort of plot on Sam's part to tear the family apart. That somehow, Sam had twisted Brooke's sweet sisterly affections into something perverted and was just using the girl to justify her own sick cause. But Jane knew differently. If only Mike would listen to reason.
"I've never seen my Dad act that way, Mom," Brooke sighed as she wrapped Sam's blanket around herself tighter, drinking in the smell of Sam. Jane shook her head.
"That was an extreme, Brooke. We all know he never would have hurt her."
"I know, it doesn't make it any less scary, though," Brooke pointed out. Jane shook her head.
"No, it doesn't," she agreed. "Are you coming down to dinner?" Brooke shrugged.
"No, not hungry." Jane gave her a disapproving look.
"Brooke, you have to eat," she started. Brooke huffed angrily at her.
"I am, don't start that with me. I just don't want to eat with HIM, all right? Everytime I try to talk to him he acts like nothing's wrong and Sam never existed. He's not meeting me halfway, here Jane and I can't be expected to do all the work. I'm trying but he has to try too."
"All right, calm down. I'll try to talk to him tonight, see if I can get through to him myself. In the meantime, grab a snack, please. Sam asked me to keep an eye on you so I am. Plus I care about you as well. Don't do this, Brooke, it won't help." Brooke glared at her and pulled away.
"Whatever, enjoy dinner," she snapped as she crawled down into Sam's bed. Jane sighed and left the room.
Two weeks later, Jane couldn't stand it anymore and picked up the phone. Enough was enough. It was picked up on the third ring.
"Brahm residence, Sam speaking, whatcha want? Because we ain't buying," Sam answered in typical Sam fashion.
"Sam, it's Mom," Jane said hastily into the phone.
"What's wrong, Mom?" Sam asked, instantly picking up on the bad vibes coming through her mother's voice. "What's wrong with Brooke?"
"She's at it again, Sam. You need to come home before she's too far gone this time."
GHOSTS AND CAMELS
Brooke sat on Sam's bed in the dark, knees drawn up to her chest crying. It was a familiar pattern. She had spent most of her time in a similar fashion in the three weeks Sam had been gone. No one, not Nicole, her father or Jane, Mary Cherry, Sugar, Josh or Lily had been able to coax the poor girl out of her self-imposed coccoon.
She had gotten somehow impossibly thinner; refusing-absolutely, catagorically to eat unless forced and would not go back to the Eating Disorder Clinic. She'd refused that too, verbally, physically, loudly and viciously. Mike had never seen such behavior from his daughter before, she no longer acted or looked like the little girl he raised.
Her natural grace was gone, replaced by movements that were forced, awkward and stiff. The friendly, easy going girl had disappeared and in her place was a rude, brooding emotionless machine that never smiled. Her normally glowing complexion was now waxy pale with deep circles under her eyes and shadows accentuated her already highlighted cheekbones. Her once luxurious blonde hair was now only a pale yellow with none of the lift or vitality it once had. And what was worse than all of that, were her eyes. It is said that the eyes are the windows to the soul but anyone looking into the formally brilliant, intellegent, sparkling hazel eyes of Brooke McQueen would see only one thing- Brooke McQueen's soul no longer resided within. It had left the same day Sam McPherson did.
So she showed no outward signs of reacting when she heard a car door slam followed by the opening and closing of the front door.
(Jane must be home from work early)
She ignored the way the hair on the back of her neck stood on end.
(Must be a storm rolling in)
She listened to the hurried footfalls on the stairs but chalked it up to imagination. It wasn't until the door nearly flew off its hinges that she realized that the sound was real.
There stood the storm in question, Sam, in a pair of jeans and a baggy t-shirt, her hair a few inches shorter and looking thinner herself. But there she stood in the flesh. And anyone who saw her would be able to describe her with one word: furious. Her normally brown eyes were almost red with fury and her entire body shook from barely surpressed emotion.
"Sam?" Brooke squeaked, her voice catching on the one note. Sam focused on her with an almost feral intensity. Any urge Brooke had to leap over and hold the girl in the doorway was effectively crushed by the look on Sam's face. She had never seen the journalist so upset, upset with her before. And given their less than happy history, that was saying a lot.
"What the Hell game are you playing at, McQueen?" Sam asked, her badly missed voice coming out more as a growl. Brooke shrugged mutely, unable to keep Sam's heated gaze and curled up into a tighter ball.
"Do you know what it's like to get a phone call from Mom telling me that you're slowly killing yourself? Jesus, Brooke," Sam spat angrily before she could stop herself. Brooke hid her head behind her arms and started to cry harder.
Sam sighed to herself. (Gee, Sam, nice job. Make her feel worse, why don't you? This is so not going well) She hadn't meant to yell but she's been so scared about what Brooke was doing to herself after she spoke to her mother on the phone the day before. And then she saw how Brooke actually looked. She reminded Sam of a Humane Society puppy, lost, malnourished and about to be put down when all it really needed was love. And she had done this to Brooke. She silently cursed herself for her cowardly behavior, then Mike for setting them up like dominos to fall over. She took a deep breath to calm herself and cautiously approached the bed.
"Brooke?" she whispered in a calmer voice. No response. "Brooke, please look at me." Still, Brooke didn't respond. "I'm sorry I yelled like that. I didn't mean to, I'm just worried." This won her a long sniffle from the emaciated cheerleader. Sam sat on the edge of the bed. "Look, I can leave and come back in if you want but all I really wanted was to say `Hi'."
Brooke lifted her head and fixed her tear-filled, bloodshot eyes on Sam. With a thin trembling hand, she reached out and poked Sam in the shoulder.
"Real?" she hiccuped. Sam smiled.
"As a heart attack, babe," at which point Brooke launched herself into Sam's embrace and sobbed uncontrollably. "Shhh.take it easy before you hurt yourself," Sam soothed. Brooke just held on for all she was worth. Sam could feel nearly every bone in Brooke's body through both their clothes and it scared her.
"God, Brooke, you're so thin. Why do you do this to yourself?" she asked as her own tears raced down her face. Brooke tried to pull away but Sam held on tight.
"No, don't pull away from me. I didn't come all the way home to have you pull away from me and shut me out."
"Why did you come home?" Brooke asked as she settled into Sam's arms and played with the damp collar of Sam's t-shirt.
"Mom called and said you weren't eating. She figured since no one else could get through to you, she'd better call in the big gun, me. So I came back. Now stop evading the question, why do you do this to yourself? God knows you were thin enough already. Actually, you could have stood to gain a little, Skinny Minnie," Sam joked lightly. Brooke shrugged.
"I don't know. I just haven't been hungry. Food tastes funny lately," she answered lamely.
"Look, you have four jobs, responsibilities to stay alive in this life: eat, sleep, breathe, and love me. They're not hard, although I know that last one can be at times." This got her a small smile from Brooke. "But why do you do this to yourself and more importantly, why do you do this to me?" Sam finished as new tears slipped down her face and her voice faded away. Brooke frowned in confusion.
"'Do this to you'? This isn't about you," she argued hotly. Sam sighed.
"In a way, yes it is. You're seeking to control something, anything because you feel like you're out of control. Mike went totally ballistic when he found out about us and for once in your life you didn't get your own way. There was nothing you could do to stop the downward spiral we somehow found ourselves on. Then you saw how it was threatening to destroy his and Mom's relationship and neither of us wanted that but nothing we did helped that either. And then I took away the one safe and secure thing you had left, me. I didn't realize it at the time, I was only trying to make things better. But you were drowning and I took away your life preserver. I am so sorry."
"That's still all me," Brooke pointed out.
"Until you factor in the fact that whether it was conscious or not, you knew that if you pulled this anorexia thing, someone would eventually call me and I'd come running like a dog when you yank its chain."
"This isn't an `anorexia thing', Sam. It's a disease, like cancer, AIDS, or alcoholism. And you have a pretty poor opinion of yourself if you think of yourself as a dog on a chain," Brooke hissed. Sam shrugged.
"If the analogy fits." she trailed off at the glare she got from her irate girlfriend. "And I know it's a disease, Brooke. I was in no way belittling it, or you. But you did this, on some level, to get back at your dad for his Puritan reaction to us and to get back at me for leaving you. And that hurts," Sam said, her voice showing exactly how much.
If Brooke didn't feel bad enough already, that comment just about finished her off. She hadn't meant to hurt Sam, really, she had just hurt so badly herself that she was acting out the only way she really knew how. And, yes, the vindictive, meanspirited part of her knew how much starving herself would hurt her father and she wanted nothing more than to make him suffer as much as she was suffering.
It was also the only real way she had of expressing the deep emotional pain she was in. Crying wasn't doing it; it only made her tired and her eyes raw. Screaming was a waste of energy and while she toyed with the idea of cutting, her vanity, such as it was, wouldn't let her take the chance of accidentily scarring herself. So she reverted back to form, her one vice and disorder, anorexia.
"I never meant to hurt you, Sammy," she sobbed, clinging to Sam desperately. Sam kissed the top of her head and smoothed her hair down.
"I know that, Brooke. I know. I'm here now and this is going to stop," Sam said confidently. She brought Brooke's face up for a kiss full of longing, regret, love and promise. Instantly Brooke began to feel better. Sam got up off the bed and smoothed her shirt.
"OK, McQueen, here's the deal. Take a shower, because, as much as I love you, you smell like an unwashed camel in the Sahara at high noon in the middle of August," Brooke scrunched her nose at the imagery and then sniffed her shirt.
(Ew, she's right!)
"Then," Sam continued with a smile as she watched Brooke's actions. "By the time you're done, I'll have your bags packed and we can get the Hell out of Dodge City."
Brooke was now pressed up against the headboard again, her eyes full of anger and betrayal. Sam frowned at her confused.
"What?" Brooke's eyes narrowed and turned to ice.
"I am not going back to the Clinic and not even YOU can make me," she growled in a barely recognizable voice. Sam looked at her, surprised at the amount of venom that was just spewed in her direction. Brooke sounded like a cat whose tail was caught in the door. Sam sighed.
"I know that, Brooke," she said softly. "And as much as I wish you would go, I'll never make you do something you don't want to." Brooke visibly relaxed. Sam leaned over the bed putting her arms down to support her weight and making it so she was nose to nose with Brooke.
"No, I know you won't go to the Clinic. But you can't stay here and fade away. I won't allow it. So you and me, love, are going on a road trip." Brooke's eyes got wide.
"What about my Dad?" Sam rolled her eyes and huffed.
"The Nazi?" Sam grinned. Brooke nodded. Sam kissed the end of her nose making her giggle. "I cleared this with Mom. She'll deflect him, run interference and any other sports reference I don't know or care to understand." Brooke pulled her into another fierce hug.
"I missed you so much. Don't ever leave me again, Sammy," she begged. Sam hugged her back.
"I missed you too, Brooke. And I promise I won't ever leave again. Ever. Nothing short of death will ever make me leave your side again."
"Don't talk about things like that," Brooke asked. "What are we going to do about school?"
"You and me are officially on sabbatical. Mom's gonna deal with it. Now stop worrying so much and go scrub up."
YOU CAN SLEEP WHILE I DRIVE
Brooke emerged from the shower feeling refreshed and alive again for the first time in three weeks. She found that Sam had finished packing as was sitting patiently in the bed with a distant look on her face. She walked over and ran her hands through Sam's shorter locks.
"Why'd you cut it, Sammy?" Sam purred at the scalp massage.
"For a change, I guess. It's only three inches and it'll grow back. You know, new scenery, new look. Don't worry, I hate it too." Brooke smiled wryly.
"I don't hate it, I think it makes you look elfish," Sam arched an eyebrow. "As much as I love your hair long, I like it this way too." Sam smiled back and her eyes finally focused in the present. Brooke wondered where her mind had actually been.
"Ready to go, Brooke?" Brooke nodded
"As long as you've packed my stuff. Where we headed?" Sam shook her head.
"Uh-uh, it's a surprise. You'll find out when we get there, trust me," Brooke leaned in and kissed her.
"Always," she promised.
Brooke fell asleep not long after they left the Palace and Sam was glad. She wasn't really up to conversation, or more accurately explainations. The past three weeks without Brooke had without a doubt been the worst of her young life. She'd made a horrible mistake in leaving, she knew that now. She needed no other proof than to look at the frail form curled up into a small ball in the passenger seat next to her. She's just been so sure that it was the right thing to do and now the guilt and doubt were gnawing at her like insistant persistant hunger pains. (Cute analogy, Sam. You are just SO damn witty. I hate myself) She sighed and turned the radio on low for company and to try and drown out her own thoughts.
(Under a blackened sky
Far beyond the glaring streetlights
Sleeping on empty dreams
The vultures lie in wait
You lay down beside me then
You were with me every waking hour
So close I could feel your breath
When all we wanted was the dream
To have and to hold that precious little thing
Like every generation yields
A newborn hope unjaded by their years
Pressed up against the glass
Found myself wanting sympathy
But to be consumed again
Oh I know would be the death of me
And there is a love that's inherently given
The kind of blindness often to appease
In the light of forbidden joy
Oh I know I won't receive it
When all we wanted was the dream
To have and to hold that precious little thing
Like every generation yields
A newborn hope unjaded by their years
You know if I leave you now
It doesn't mean that I love you any less
It's just the state that I'm in
I can't be good to anyone else like this
When all we wanted was the dream
To have and to hold that precious little thing
Like every generation yields
A newborn hope unjaded by their years)
The words somehow struck Sam as appropriate in some ironic and sardonic sort of way. That was her and Brooke, trying to avoid the vultures and yet trying to hold on to the precious thing that they had, their dream of themselves. And yet it was taken away by Mike and then she had left Brooke. It just seemed to her that she was doing more harm than good being home. (How did Brooke interpret my leaving? Did she feel abandoned? Unloved? That was never my intention. Why can't I ever seem to do anything right? I seem to destroy everything I touch. Reverse Midas touch, everything I come into contact with turns to dust)
"Sam?" Brooke's groggy voice filtered over to her, breaking her from her thoughts. Sam glanced over as Brooke unfolded herself and stretched as much as she could in the cramped seat.
"Did I wake you with the radio, love?" Sam whispered. Brooke shook her head.
"No. I didn't mean to fall asleep on you," Brooke yawned. Sam smiled and shrugged.
"Sometimes sleep is best," she said plainly as she watched for her exit. Brooke watched her closely in confusion. She wasn't sure but it seemed to her that Sam was shutting her out. Sam saw her staring and frowned. "What?"
"What's wrong?" Brooke asked seriously and to the point. Sam's frown deepened.
"Nothing's wrong, Brooke. I'm concentrating on driving," Sam responded a little shortly. Brooke wasn't buying that but decided not to push it any further right now. There'd be plenty of time for talking when they got to whereever it was they were going. Speaking of which.
"So, do I get any hints on where we're going?" Brooke asked lightly. Sam seemed to relax at the change of subject and smiled a bit.
"Nope. But I will tell you that it's exactly what we need to heal. Both of us," she said firmly and confidently. Brooke nodded.
"All right, I believe you. How was San Francisco?" Brooke asked as she came fully awake. Sam sighed. This is what she was hoping to avoid. She really wasn't in a talkative mood but knew she had to say something or Brooke would know she had something on her mind.
"It was OK," she answered with a shrug. "It sucked because you weren't with me though," she stated honestly. And it had. All the cool things she had seen or the places she'd been to didn't mean a thing because the blonde who had her heart wasn't there to share it with her.
"I missed you," Brooke repeated her earlier sentiment. Sam nodded.
"Dad's gonna flip when he finds me gone," Brooke reminded her with a devilish grin. Sam echoed the grin.
"Yup," she agreed. She hated the idea of leaving her mother to deal with that particular mess but they both agreed that this was their only option for helping Brooke. And whatever it took, Sam was willing to do.
"Sammy, it's beautiful," Brooke breathed when she got out of the car and looked around. And it was. Sam had taken them far off the beaten path to a wood cabin on a crystal clear blue lake far into the woods. All around them were trees and water and wildlife. No cars, cellphones, traffic or other distractions. It was life, pure and simple. Sam got out of the car and smiled.
"Yes, it is. The cabin used to belong to my Dad but Mom and I sold it to a friend after he died. He's letting me borrow it for a while," she explained as she got their bags out of the trunk. "The cabin is fully stocked and has all the amenities of home except a phone or TV. But we do get a radio station and cell reception out here if we need to call home or they need us."
"And Mom knows we're here?" Brooke asked as she went to help Sam with the bags. Sam nodded.
"Yup. I threw the idea at her and she cleared it with Bill, the guy who owns the cabin now. Anyway, let's get the bags inside and I'll show you around."
They set up their stuff inside and again Brooke was awestruck by the simple beauty of the cabin. Two stories and made completely out of logs, it had a kitchen, dining room, a livingroom and bathroom downstairs and three bedrooms upstairs. There was a screened in porch overlooking the lake downstairs as well with a perfect view of the sky.
"This was always my favorite room," Sam said as she joined Brooke on the porch. "I used to grab my sleeping bag and lay out on the floor and stare up at the stars until I fell asleep." Brooke wrapped her arms around Sam's waist and was surprised when she felt Sam stiffen slightly. (What is going on with you, Sammy?) Sam tilted her head to look at her.
"Come on, I'll show you outside."
"We can go swimming, fishing, canoeing, anything you want," Sam continued their tour with Brooke holding firmly onto her hand. "And about a half mile that way," she pointed to her right, "is a stream that my Dad used to take me to all the time. We'd fish and talk, just hang out, you know?" Brooke nodded.
"Does it look like the place from your coma?" she asked. They both had stronger memories of that visit now. Sam shrugged.
"Yes and no. I suppose it does but it was distorted by a child's view, you know?"
"We'll have to walk over and see what it looks like now," Brooke suggested. Sam shook her head.
"We will when you're a little stronger," she said softly. Brooke pulled away.
"I'm not made of glass, you know," she said hotly. Sam sighed and looked away.
"I know, Brooke. But you're not healthy either," she answered quietly. Brooke felt her anger rise at Sam's subded answer.
"Neither are you!" she screamed at Sam. Sam picked her head up to look at her. "Or did you think I wouldn't notice? God, Sam, I may have starved my body but you seemed to have starved your soul! You won't let me near you without flinching! What's wrong?" She was crying now but Sam just shook her head.
"Nothing," she shrugged. She really didn't want to get into this now. "I just want you to get well, Brooke." Sam turned to walk back to the cabin but Brooke reached out and grabbed her arm in a deceptively strong grip.
"Don't turn away from me, Sam! Talk to me, let me in those walls you've built back up, please," she begged. Sam just blinked at her blankly. "Please don't close me out, Sammy." Sam reached up and cupped the side of Brooke's face with her free hand.
"Never. But this is about getting you well again, not me. Besides, I'm fine," Brooke opened her mouth to protest but Sam moved her hand to cover it. "Don't. I said I'm fine, so let it go. Come on, let's go inside and get a bite to eat." Brooke stayed rooted to the spot. Sam tugged on her arm.
"Please, Brooke, for me?" Brooke glared at her for a few minutes before Sam gave up with a sigh. "Fine, suit yourself. Stay out here while I cook dinner. And yes, I did learn to cook while I was away. I promise not to poison you," she joked weakly. She walked back to the cabin slowly, leaving Brooke on the grass outside. "I'll call you when it's ready."
Brooke watched her go in silence wondering what exactly was going on. She was so happy to see Sam again but Sam was so distant, so closed off it was like the time spent apart had changed her. And that scared Brooke, she wanted her Sammy to be as before. But she knew the reason they were here was to get back to that place between them. And one of the ways that she could do that was to eat. Sam was obviously worried about her and the only way to alieviate that worry was to eat and get better and as much as the thought of eating repulsed her, she knew it was the only way through to Sam. So she followed Sam into the cabin a few minutes later determined to get through to her strangely distant love.
THUNDER AND CONFESSIONS
Thunder woke Brooke a week later. She rolled over to grab Sam in comfort but found the bed beside her empty. Momentary fear that her nightmare of losing Sam had come true flashed through her at the same time a flash of lightening illuminated a silhouette in the window. Silently rolling out of bed, Brooke padded over to the still form in the window and wrapped her arms around Sam from behind. To her relief, Sam didn't pull away but settled in her arms.
"Not sleeping again?" she asked her insomniac girlfriend. Sam shook her head. It seemed to Brooke that Sam never slept anymore or when she did she woke in a cold sweat with a barely contained scream on the tip of her tongue begging to be released. It broke Brooke's heart and she didn't know what to do to help. She was getting better but Sam wasn't and Sam wouldn't let her help.
"Go back to sleep, Brooke," Sam said softly. "I was just watching the storm." Thunder punctuated Sam's words and Brooke couldn't help but think about how the storm seemed to match what was going on with Sam herself. It wasn't raining yet but there was thunder and lightening; Sam was calm but Brooke knew inside she was being torn up by something. Eventually, both storms were going to break and Brooke could only hope that all floodgates held.
"Talk to me, please, Sammy," Brooke asked gently. She heard Sam sigh. "I'm losing you and I don't understand why." Sam turned around in Brooke's arms and looked at her. Another flash of lightening lit up the room and Brooke could see that Sam had been crying before she had woken up. She reached up and wiped away the tears and watched as Sam's eyes closed and new tears leaked out.
"How are you losing me?" Sam croaked in confusion. "I don't understand, I'm right here with you." Her eyes opened again and Brooke could see how lost Sam was. Brooke felt her own tears beginning to well up.
"You're here but you're pushing me away, you won't let me close to you. Since you got back, you've taken really good care of me but you won't let me do the same for you. Look at me, Sam, don't I look better all ready?" Sam nodded. She had to admit although it had only been a week; Brooke no longer looked like she was at death's door.
"Dad really screwed us up. You left and I retreated into anorexia Hell, but after you left, what did you do?" Sam shrugged. "I bet I know. You shut yourself off so that you couldn't be hurt again. It's what you did after your Dad died. It took me so long to get through those walls to you. And now you don't know how to let me close again." Sam tried to push Brooke away but she wasn't able to escape the cheerleader's grasp.
"See? You're doing it again because you know I'm right."
"Stop it, Brooke," Sam hissed as she struggled in Brooke's arms. But Brooke was as relentless as the rain that was beginning to pound on the shingled roof.
"No, you know what else? You haven't called me 'Princess' once since you came home. That's your special name for me. It made me feel special, like I was yours. You haven't made love to me since we got here. Don't you feel that way for me anymore, Sammy? Don't you still love me?" Brooke's voice cracked as she asked her greatest fear. Sam's eyes got wide in shock and hurt. "Cuz I still love you despite my father and his insanity. Despite your leaving me," she added with a whisper and she hung her head. A small sob escaped Sam's lips before she could stop it. Brooke looked to see Sam shaking her head violently.
"I still love you, oh God help me, I still love you," Sam cried desperately. "You are my Princess but I can't do this anymore, Brooke, I'm not strong enough. I don't have the answers I thought I did. I thought going to San Francisco was the right thing to do and Jesus I nearly killed you!" This time she succeeded in pulling away from Brooke and backed away like a wounded and frightened animal.
"I nearly killed you," she repeated in a hiss, her eyes darting around the room. "Because I thought I was right. I thought I had the answers. My foolish pride and arrogance almost damned you! I won't let it happen again. I won't let you close enough for it to happen again. I love you too much. I won't cost you your Dad, I won't cost my Mom her marriage or Mac her father, and I sure as Hell won't cost you your life!" Brooke stared at her incredulously.
"That makes absolutely no sense," Brooke said irritated. "You love me too much to let me get close to you?" Sam nodded. "You stupid ass!" Sam jumped in surprise. "You didn't have all the answers so you're going to give up on everything? On me? You were wrong, is that it?" Sam nodded. "Welcome to the fucking human race, Samantha McPherson! You can't be right all the time, you stupid ass!" Sam just stared at her in shock and confusion.
"And it wasn't the wrong answer," Brooke continued a little calmer. "You wanted to give Dad a little space to figure this out. OK, I understand that. What was wrong was leaving without saying good-bye to me. THAT was wrong." Sam bowed her head.
"I'm sorry," she choked through her tears. Brooke crossed the space between them and gathered the crying girl into her arms.
"I know you are but shutting me out now is the wrong answer. I need you now more than ever. And you need me whether you want to admit it or not," Brooke told her softly.
"I do need you, so much," Sam admitted as she grabbed the cheerleader in a desperate embrace. Brooke's heart felt a thousand times lighter at hearing this.
"Then let me in, Sam. Whether or not Dad learns to accept us, I don't care anymore all I care about is having you by my side. I love you Samantha McPherson. And to Hell with everything else." Sam sniffled and looked at her blonde girlfriend.
"You don't hate me for leaving?" she asked fearfully. Brooke sighed, finally understanding Sam's behavior. The thought that Brooke must hate her for leaving like her mother had must have been tearing Sam up inside. Brooke shook her head.
"Of course not, I just told you that I love you," Brooke reassured her lovingly.
"I love you too, Princess," Sam breathed with a sigh of relief. Brooke brushed Sam's hair out of her face and tugged her towards the bed.
"Think maybe you can sleep now?" Sam looked doubtfully at the bed.
"I don't sleep much anymore," she admitted. Brooke cocked her head to the side in confusion and worry.
"Why?" she asked with a frown. Sam shrugged and looked away.
"I dunno," Sam lied and Brooke saw right though it.
"Liar," Brooke accused. Sam sighed.
"Fine, nightmares. I still have some nightmares, OK, happy?" she asked angrily. Brooke's frowned deepened.
"Why would I be happy that you're having nightmares?"
"That's not what I meant, Princess. I meant are you happy that I admitted it?" Sam clarified.
"Oh. In that case, yes. Very. But unhappy that you're having nightmares at all. Tell you what, you lay down and I'll watch over you in case of nightmares." Sam rolled her eyes.
"Oooh, my own living dreamcatcher, huh? Brooke, how about we just go to sleep?" Brooke shrugged.
"OK, but if you have a nightmare, you wake me and tell me, OK?" Sam nodded.
"OK," she relented letting Brooke lead her to the bed and laying down next to her. She curled up close to Brooke, against her chest, taking the comfort being offered and let her eyes drift shut despite her fear of her nightmares. Brooke could feel Sam shaking.
"It's OK, Sam," she whispered. "Sleep."
"I'm scared," Sam admitted. Brooke held her tighter.
"I'm here and I love you, Sammy. Nothing can hurt you," Brooke soothed. She listened as Sam's breathing became deep and even and she knew the girl had fallen asleep. It wasn't long after that she too drifted off.
A COMPASS ALWAYS POINTS NORTH
Sam looked over at Brooke sunning herself on the dock a few days later and smiled. (Damn that girl is sexy) she thought to herself, her smile widening. (And all mine too. What did I ever do right to deserve her?)
"Enjoying the sun, Princess?" Sam asked as she walked over to Brooke's lawnchair. Brooke opened one eye and squinted at her jeans and t-shirt clad lover who was also wearing a backpack.
"Yup. Aren't you hot, Sammy?" Brooke asked. She was in a bathing suit sunning herself while Sam looked ready for farm work. Sam shook her head.
"Nah," Sam answered. "I'm going on a hike, wanna come?" Brooke's eyes got wide and she all but sprung from her chair.
"Give me a sec to change and I'll be right with you," she dashed for the cabin, knowing where Sam was hiking to. They'd put it off until they both felt better and Brooke was ecstatic that Sam finally felt like hiking to the stream. She pulled on a pair of sweats over her suit and a tee and sneakers and ran out the door to where Sam waited smiling.
"Ready to go, Princess?" she extended her hand which Brooke gladly took.
"When you are," she answered. Sam pulled her in for a passionate kiss and then started walking. They walked in compatable silence for a while before Sam started talking.
"Used to be when my Dad took me on this hike, he'd tell me stories about these woods," she started, her eyes glancing around her in remembrance. Brooke watched Sam as she went through her memories of her father, knowing how precious the memories were to Sam and honored that Sam was sharing them with her.
"He'd tell me stories about Indians, oops, excuse me, Native Americans," Sam grinned at her. "And bears and cougars. I don't know if he made them up or what but I just loved to hear his voice. It just sort of echoed above the trees and whirled all around us until we were the only two people on the planet."
"Like yours is now," Brooke whispered as she pulled up close to Sam. Sam laughed slightly and held on tighter to Brooke's hand.
"Yeah, I guess so. Anyway, I could just listen to him for hours. He'd tell me stories about when he was little and about what it was like before I was born. And then he'd tell me about the things that we were going to do when I got old enough," her voice took on a sad tone for a moment and Brooke's heart broke for her and what she had lost.
"It made the walk seem shorter. You know how long walks seemed when you were little? You just wanted to GET there, but not with my Dad. Not when he was telling one of his stories. It always seemed that we got there too soon."
"Mom never went with you?" Sam shook her head.
"No, she called it `our time', Dad and me. She'd stay at the cabin and cook or something and let us have the afternoon."
"That was really sweet of her," Sam nodded. They crested a small hill and Brooke realized that they were there. (Seems Sam has the same talent her father did)
Below them was the field that she had seen when God had let her visit Sam during her coma. And it was even more beautiful in real life than it had been in the limbo of Sam's coma. There was a lush green field through the middle of which ran a small stream with a small wooden bridge.
"Wow, Sam, I don't think you distorted it at all," Brooke breathed. When Sam didn't answer her, she tore her eyes away from the gorgeous view to check on her brunette girlfriend and found her crying silently.
"What's wrong Sam?" Brooke asked suddenly worried. Sam turned to her and gave her a brilliant smile despite her tears.
"Nothing. Absolutely nothing," she answered her smile never wavering. "I just haven't been back since Dad died. I never wanted to. It's just like I remembered it." Brooke realized the tears were tears of pure joy and hugged Sam tightly.
"Come on, let's go down to the water," Brooke tugged on Sam's arm and pulled her down the hill. They got to the water's edge and looked at their reflection. For half a second, Sam swore she saw her father smiling back at her. She looked around in surprise getting Brooke's attention.
"What, Sammy? What is it?" Sam looked around another second with a confused frown but then shook her head and smiled.
"Nothing, just a memory, I guess," she shrugged. Brooke looked around.
"Too bad we didn't bring a blanket or something. This'd be a great place for a picnic," she sighed. Sam looked at her and arched an eyebrow.
"Now, what kind of girlfriend would be if I didn't think of everything?" she teased as she slipped the backpack off. She opened it and pulled out a small blanket, which she set out on the ground with a flourish. Brooke smiled.
"My, my, aren't you the clever one?" she asked. Sam laughed.
"Wait, that's not all," she reached back into the bag and pulled out several tupperware packets of food. "Lunch, milady?" she bowed. Brooke bowed back and sat down as Sam set out the food and plates. Set out before her was a modest lunch of chicken breast sandwiches, potato salad, corn chips and a couple of sodas with fruit salad for dessert. Brooke smiled to herself, for all of her anorexia problems, for Sam she was willing to try and get through it.
"Have I told you lately how much I love your cooking?" Brooke asked in all seriousness after they finished eating. Sam blushed. "No, really, when did you learn?"
"Well, it was out of necessity, actually. Brian and Jess Brahm aren't exactly homebodies so it was either learn to cook or starve to death," Sam instantly winced at her choice of words. Brooke reached over and covered her hand with her own.
"It's OK, I understand what you meant," she said with an understanding smile. "That explains why you resembled a stick figure when you busted in like gangbusters that day." Sam's jaw dropped open and Brooke grinned. "Oh, like I'm not gonna notice that you lost a few pounds. I happen to like where your curves are, thank you." Sam blushed again. "You're so cute when you blush."
"Only when I blush?" Sam retorted with a smirk. Brooke snorted at her.
"OK, all the time, I admit it. You're beautiful, Sam," she whispered seriously. Sam leaned across the blanket and kissed her.
"So are you, Brooke. I love you so much," Sam breathed almost as a prayer making Brooke shiver. She grasped Sam's face in her hands and stared into Sam's chocolate eyes with were looking back at her full of love and devotion.
"I love you too, Sam," she answered. She kissed her way along Sam's jawline and heard Sam sigh in contentment. As they lay back on the blanet together, hands beginning to explore, Sam pulled Brooke's face back up to look her in the eye again.
"Are you sure about this, Brooke?" she asked, voice full of love and concern. Brooke smiled and placed a gentle kiss on Sam's lips.
"If you are," she answered back. The searing kiss that ignited every nerve ending in her body she got in response erased any doubt in Brooke's mind.
MEANWHILE BACK AT THE RANCH
"You're going to lose them both, you know," Jane snapped at Mike over her plate of pasta. Mike glared back at her.
"I told you I didn't want to have this discussion. If you won't tell me where my own daughter is, then we aren't going to have this discussion," he answered in the same peevish tone. This was life at the Palace without Brooke and Sam. Meet Mr. and Mrs. Bitch-A-Lot. Mike and Jane could barely stand to be in the same room together let alone talk. It was a sorry statement concerning their engagement and Jane was seriously wondering who the Hell it was she was engaged to and why. She set her fork down with a slam and looked back at Mike.
"Tough. You stand to lose more than Brooke and Sam if you keep this up. As much as I love you, I can't stand the way you're behaving," she admitted angrily. Mike huffed at her.
"I'm behaving? You're the one promoting this depraved behavior between our daughters!" Jane rolled her eyes.
"You can't help who you fall in love with, Mike. Jesus, look at us," she pointed out.
"What the Hell does that mean?"
"Do you rememeber how the girls reacted to our announcement about our relationship?" Mike nodded. "They acted like we did it just to spite them and get at them for something. Sound familiar?" Mike turned red.
"But we're in love! How can you call what they have love, Jane?"
"How can you presume to know how they feel?" her voice was beginning to rise and in the back of her mind she wondered if the neighbors were enjoying the show.
"If you remember, Jane, those two HATED each other and now they profess to LOVE each other. I don't see it. I won't accept it!" Mike continued.
"Why? Because they're girls? Because if that's it I think you need to fast forward and join the rest of us in the 21st century, Mike. Homosexuality is no longer in the closet. It isn't something whispered about, hidden or something that happens to someone else's family member. It could be anyone and it isn't something to be ashamed about anymore. Damn it, the stigma attached is being chipped away little by little every day. Those two girls were brave and honest by coming forward and telling you when they could have just snuck around behind your back forever. God knows you're thick enough that you probably never would have noticed!" Mike stood up, sending his chair flying.
"I'm not you Jane," he said lowly. "I can't just be OK with this." Jane rubbed her eyes.
"I'm not asking you to fly a rainbow flag outside the house and march in the God Damn parade Mike. I'm asking you to take a look at your daughter, Mike. A good look and see what your reaction is doing to her. She stopped eating again and we both know that this time, if Sam can't get through to her, we're going to lose her." Mike picked up his chair and sat back down heavily. Jane lowered her voice and spoke softer.
"She loves you, Mike, your opinion means a lot to her. You're the only parent she's had for most of her life and you turned on her and made her feel dirty, ashamed, evil. And you made her feel that by loving Sam she had failed you. Brooke is a very proud young lady who hates to fail." Mike buried his head in his hands as Jane's words struck home.
"She's gay, Jane," he whispered. Jane nodded her head.
"Yes, she is. And she's still the same little girl you raised, that hasn't changed. The only thing that has is that she loves Sam." He shook his head at her.
"How can you be all right with that?" Jane gave him a half smile.
"Have you ever looked at the two of them? I mean really looked at them when they're together and not trying to hide it from someone?" Mike shook his head. Jane's smile grew. "It's beautiful, Mike. Honestly, you'd cry if you could see the love between them. I know that sounds corny but it's true. It flows from every pore of their bodies and it's pure and divine to witness. I've never seen anything like it before. How can I begrudge something that's obviously so right for them?"
"But.but." whatever argument Mike had was lost to him. "I'm going to lose her either way, aren't I?" Jane nodded.
"If you don't get your head out of your ass, yes. And me and Mac too because I'm not raising her in an intolerant atmosphere. It comes right down to this, Mike: don't make me chose between you and Sam. Because you'll lose, every time."
REALITY BITES. SO BITE BACK
"We have to go home soon, you know," Sam lamented as she chewed on a blade of grass and stared up at the dimming sky. Brooke lifted her head from where it had been resting on Sam's shoulder and frowned.
"You sure know how to kill a Kodak moment," she complained before putting her head back down. Sam stroked the blonde's hair gently.
"I'm sorry, it's just we can't stay here forever. As much as I wish we could, we can't. Reality awaits our return," Sam pointed out. Brooke sighed and buried her face in Sam's shoulder.
"I prefer this reality. You and me and this place. This is us, our place now, Sammy," she said happily. Sam giggled.
"As much as I love being here with you and making love to you out here, I think eventually other hikers might stumble upon us and that would be, oh, what's the word.embarrassing?" Brooke laughed at what the look on said hikers faces might be.
"So?" she challenged. "Let's buy the cabin from Bill and move out here and never deal with my dad again," she suggested. Sam shook her head.
"Again, tempting. But I think we've learned that running away is the wrong answer. Besides, I think we run the risk of becoming little female versions of the Unibomber or something if we do that. Not healthy. Besides, we're not the ones with the problem. Mike and Harrison and Carmen are. If they can't deal, let them leave, I'm through running." Brooke looked up into Sam's face and saw that she meant it.
"Seriously?" she asked, just to be sure. Sam nodded.
"Yes, as long as I have you, Princess, nothing else matters. Everyone and everything can go to Hell in a handbasket for all I care. Just be mine, Brooke, that's all I ask," Sam said her eyes open and vulnerable. Brooke blinked away the sudden tears that welled up at Sam's words.
"Forever, Sammy, without question," she vowed. Sam shifted so she could look Brooke in the eye but so that Brooke was still leaning on her. A little uncomfortable, but who cares?
"Forever yours, Princess," she said earnestly. "Whether or not anyone accepts us. We'll simply move around until we find somewhere that does." Brooke's eyes lit up.
"You mean it?"
"Of course, I would never lie to you when it's this important, love," Sam smiled. Brooke's brow furrowed.
"Uhm, when would you lie to me?" she asked. (Saw that one coming) Sam laughed to herself.
"I wouldn't," she half-lied. Brooke frowned at her.
"That, that was a lie," Brooke challenged playfully. Sam rolled her eyes.
"OK, you know that pink and blue shirt you had?" Brooke nodded. "I'm the one that shrunk it in the wash, not Mom. OK? That was a lie." Brooke reached out and smacked her.
"I liked that shirt," she complained.
"Hey, I liked you in that shirt. It accentuated all the right things," Sam answered winning herself another swat. "Sorry, geez, that was a compliment, y'know." Brooke smiled and leaned in to lick at Sam's neck. Sam sighed happily.
"Don't so that, we have to head back to the cabin before it gets too dark," Sam warned breathlessly.
"What's the matter, Sammy? `Fraid of getting lost?" Brooke asked huskily as she continued, moving lower. Sam moaned.
"I'm not the one who's going to be complaining when it's too dark to see where we're going and we hear something behind us," Sam pointed out although she really was past the point of caring. She felt Brooke smile against her skin.
"Don't worry, I have my Big Bad Sammy to protect me," Brooke purred.
"Uh-huh, remember that when we're being eaten by wolves," Sam whispered.
"The only wolf I'm interested in's name is Sam."
WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND
Mike and Jane were waiting for them when they walked in the door. Sam felt like she was walking in front of the firing squad, all she needed was a blindfold and a cigarette. Brooke tightened her hold on Sam's hand as their parents greeted them.
"Sam, Brooke, how was your trip?" Jane asked, relieved and pleasantly surprised at how healthy Brooke looked even if Sam did still look a little tired around the edges. She figured no one else would really notice beside maybe Brooke but Jane was her mother after all and mothers notice these things. Brooke gave a dazzling smile, a smile not seen in a very long time and answered.
"Terrific, Mom. That cabin is beautiful. It's too bad you and Sammy sold it because it'd be a great place to visit from time to time," she beamed. Jane smiled back.
"Well, Bill probably wouldn't mind renting it out to us every once in a while," Jane suggested. She loved the way Brooke's eyes lit up at the thought. (Nice job, Sam) Jane thought.
"Hi, Dad," Brooke said, a little more subdued. Mike nodded.
"Welcome home, Pumpkin," he said quietly. "Sam," he nodded at her.
"Hi, Mike," Sam said slightly confused that Mike even acknowledged her as she and Brooke hugged her mother hello. Brooke took the welcome from Mike as positive and hugged him as well.
"You look good, Brooke," Mike commented. Brooke frowned for a second but it faded as quickly as it appeared.
"Sam took really good care of me, Dad. She's become a pretty good cook," she explained. Jane arched an eyebrow at Sam. Sam shrugged.
"Mom, Brian and Jess aren't great cooks," she pointed out. Jane nodded.
"I see. Well, it's still great to see you both looking so good," Jane repeated Mike's comment. Both Sam and Brooke rolled their eyes.
"Did we miss anything good?" Sam asked to change the subject.
"Not really. Lily, Josh and Nicole have asked about you and you'll be surprised to hear so have Harrison and Carmen," Jane informed them. Their eyes got wide.
"No way!" Sam exclaimed.
"Nu-uh," Brooke said at the same time. Jane laughed.
"Apparently absence does make the heart grow fonder. They feel really bad about they way they acted and want a chance to talk to you." Sam shot a look at Brooke.
"Think we should make them sweat it out a while longer?" she asked. Brooke nodded.
"Oh, definitely," she agreed. Mike cleared his throat and everyone looked at him.
"I want to get a few things straight," Sam had to surpress the ironic giggle that threatened to make itself known at his choice of words. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw both Brooke and Jane trying, unsuccessfully to hide smirks. It didn't help her to swallow the giggle and Mike glared at her.
"Jane and I had a very long talk and I don't want to lose either of you. I care for you both but I am not OK with this relationship," he started. When he saw all three mouths open to protest, he raised a hand to stop them. He was dimly and guiltily aware that at least one of them flinched at the action. "I just want to say that while I'm not OK with it, I won't try to put a stop to it either. But there are rules while you live in this house. This is MY house. You will live by MY rules. I don't want to see it, or hear it, understood?" Two heads, one blonde, one brunette nodded.
"Now that doesn't mean that you can't hold hands or that sort of thing. I am not an ogre, contrary to my past behavior. I'm just asking that you not flaunt it in my face."
"Basically don't singe your eyebrows by flaming?" Sam asked trying to lighten the mood. Brooke elbowed her in the ribs. Mike frowned at her for a second before actually smiling.
"Yes, Sam, please don't set fire to the household furnishings," he attempted to joke. Everyone smiled. "Welcome home."
Sam and Brooke returned to school the following Monday to a slew of questions from Lily, Josh, and Nicole. They couldn't believe that Mike had welcomed them home.
"It was bizzare but I guess Mom got through to him," Sam said as they stood at the lockers.
"You look good, B," Nic commented. "Although if you ever pull that stunt again, Spam is going to find herself a sudden widow," she warned. Brooke looked suitably chagrined.
"Ah, the little lunchen meat without her Brooke, the horror," Sam sighed dramatically while putting a hand to her forehead and pretending to faint. Nic glared at her good-naturedly.
"Hi, Brooke, Hi Sam," Carmen said as she reached the locker. Five sets of eyes, two blue, two brown, one hazel stared back at her silently. "Whoa, tough crowd," she laughed nervously. Complete silence. "OK, would it help if I got down on my knees and begged forgiveness?"
"Gee, I don't know, Carm, why don't you give it a try and we'll let you know?" Nicole bit out. "And while you're down there, why don't you try licking the scum off their shoes too since that's right about at the same level you are? Actually, that's an insult to the scum." Brooke put her hand on Nicole's shoulder to pull her back. It was like having your own rabid Versace clad pitbull whose teeth were lined with sharp one-liners.
"Easy, Nic, let's hear her out," Brooke suggested getting raised eyebrows from everyone including her girlfriend. "We owe her that much."
"Uhm, Brooke, we don't OWE her anything," Sam argued. "She went all militant on US, remember?" Brooke sighed.
"And I was wrong, Sam. Very wrong. I was just surprised is all," Carmen tried to explain.
"It's been weeks, Carmen. What made you come around now? April Tuna finally driving you mad?" Sam asked sarcastically. Carmen shook her head.
"No, I just realized that I missed you guys. I was wrong to act the way that I did. I was only thinking about everyone else and not about the two of you and I'm really sorry. And after you left I realized that I could really lose you both over this if I didn't snap out of it." Carmen sighed. "I have nothing else to say except that I'm sorry." Brooke looked at Sam who shrugged.
"It's not much, but it's a start," Brooke admitted.
"And we're not just going to forgive you overnight, Carm. You hurt us pretty bad. But, I guess we can try," Sam paused and scanned the hallway. "Where's Harrison? Mom said he'd called too."
"Hiding somewhere. He's avoiding you because he's afraid you'll lynch him on sight." Sam snickered.
"Smart boy," she sneered. Brooke pinched her lightly. "Ow!" Brooke turned to Carmen.
"Tell him that if he feels the same way you do to come and see us. We'll give him the same deal. He just has to ask first." Sam stared at her incredulously.
"Speak for yourself, Princess. He said some pretty mean stuff and I'm not sure after that that I want him as a friend," she said bitterly. Brooke sighed. She knew Sam had been hurt by Harrison's words but was disappointed that she wouldn't let it go.
"You forgave her for turning you into a hood ornament," Brooke countered, pointing at Nicole who paled and rolled her eyes. Sam gave her a sympathetic look. "Why can't you forgive Harrison for what was essentially a normal reaction for him?" Sam shrugged.
"Argh, fine, alright, if he comes and gives an appropriate apology, I'll THINK about it, OK?" Sam huffed. Brooke smiled, knowing that she won. Sam glared at the smile.
"Thank you Sammy," she hugged Sam quickly so that no one outside their group of friends would see.
"Yeah, sure whatever," Sam mumbled. "Can we like go to class and like, do the learning thing now?" she asked impatiently. Everyone smiled.
"Spam, you are sooooo whipped," Nicole quipped.
A LITTLE FALL OF RAIN
Mike watched as Sam entered the kitchen, nodded a hello and went about making herself a snack. He was unsure how to act around her, he had no idea what to say. There was no denying anymore that what she and Brooke had was real and not a passing fling, a plot, experimentation or phase, no matter how much he might wish otherwise. It was genuine, sincere, deep and passionate and came from somewhere deep within their souls. And it scared him.
He had seen the changes in his daughter without Sam when Sam left to give him space to deal with the situation. A gesture he still thought of as mature and left him with a new respect for the brunette reporter, despite his initial over-the-top reaction to the whole situation. In spite of all he had said and done, including raising his hand to her, Sam was still willing to give him what he needed to adjust to the news. She had acted like a responsible mature adult and he had acted like a first class ass.
But he had seen how Brooke had retreated into herself without Sam as her anchor. She had begun to starve herself again as a way to regain control over her life, control he had ripped away from her. Brooke had struggled her entire life with her self-image, why Mike didn't know since she was everyone's ideal of perfection, but Brooke was never happy or comfortable in her own skin. Unknown to Mike, Sam made Brooke comfortable and happy with herself inside and out and he threatened to take that safety away from her.
So she got thinner and sicker and he was powerless to help or stop her. And finally he understood how she felt. While he was initially upset with Jane for calling Sam and then letting the two teenage girls take off on a road trip, he knew that Brooke's only hope for salvation this time lay with Sam.
He saw the girl who bounded in the door, hand in hand with Sam a week earlier, refreshed, rejuvenated and reborn after her little vacation. He knew Brooke's renewed health and strength was due to Sam. He had been so afraid that he was really going to lose her to the anorexia this time. That this time there would be no rescue for her. She would waste away to nothing, growing sicker, thinner with each passing day until she slipped through his fingers and her poor broken heart ceased to beat completely. He was aware that a lot of the blame should that have happened would have rested squarely on his shoulders.
But the girl who came through that door was not the broken shadow of a girl who had been haunting the house in weeks past. No, this girl absolutely glowed with positive energy. The spark was back along with her natural grace, color and personality, plus, much to everyone's immense relief, Sam had managed to put a few pounds back onto Brooke's tall and lanky frame. Apparently Sam had picked up some cooking skills while visiting San Francisco.
He watched as Sam finished making her pb&j (nothing beats the basics) and decided that if nothing else, he at least owed her a thank you for saving Brooke's life-again.
"Sam?" he said softly, causing her to jump in mild surprise. He'd barely spoken to her since she and Brooke returned home. While he was no longer rude or malicious, he wasn't exactly open either.
"Yeah?" she responded warily looking from Mike to the door as if judging whether or not she could beat him to it. It made him sad to know that he now evoked such a reaction from a girl he really did think of as another daughter.
"Could you.would you mind sitting down with me for a while? I'd like to talk to you," he fumbled but finally managed to ask. Sam looked at him strangely for a minute but then shrugged.
"If you're about to go at me with both barrels, Mike, I gotta tell you, I'm too tired to deal with it," she said sadly. Mike took a good look at her and saw that she indeed looked more tired than usual lately. She looked beaten, defeated even. Now he was confused. She had Brooke, her mother's blessing, even Harrison and Carmen were coming around, he wasn't demanding her head on a platter and yet she still looked like she'd lost her best friend.
"What's wrong, Sam? Why are you tired?" he asked genuinely concerned. She gave him an annoyed look but saw that he was serious in his concern and then sighed as she sat down.
"Look, between my nightmares and Brooke's, coming home to either find her or my Mom in tears over this whole thing, dealing with school, you and my own crap, I haven't had time to catch my breath, OK?" she snapped, frustrated. Mike nodded in understanding. He hadn't made it easy for her that was for sure. And she was trying so hard to take care of Brooke and Jane it was easy to see why she'd be getting run down. Unknown to both of them, Brooke had come downstairs to get a bottle of water and was standing outside the room out of sight listening.
"You take care of them but who takes care of Sam?" Sam stared at him in angry shock. Her eyes narrowed.
"I take care of myself, Mike. Brooke and Mom do what they can but when it comes down to it, Sam McPherson takes care of Sam McPherson."
"Lonely way to be," Mike pointed out.
"Worked great after Dad died," Sam shot back.
"You took great care of Brooke," Mike added gently. Sam's eyes softened.
"I love her, Mike. I know that bothers you but I'm done apologizing for something I have nothing to feel sorry for. I wasn't going to stand by and watch her disappear. Besides, she took care of me when I needed it after the accident."
"Because she loves you," Mike said, not as a question but as a fact. Sam stared at him speechless. "I still don't like it, Sam,it's not right." He saw the spark of anger flash across Sam's brown eyes and held up his hand to ward off the oncoming outburst. "Please, hear me out."
"But I love my daughter. And believe it or not, I care for you too. I may not like it or think that it's right but I have realized a few things. 1) This isn't going away or going to change no matter how much I rant or rave or wish otherwise. What I see between you and Brooke is what I hope people see between Jane and I. Pure, unadulterated love. 2) My daughter is gay and you didn't make her that way. This is no twisted plot on your part to tear this family apart. I accused you of destroying this family when I was the guilty party, Sam. I see that now. 3) If I don't learn to accept or at least overlook this, I will lose Brooke, Jane and Mac. And you, Sam. Everything. Because of petty ignorance and prejudice. I'll be alone with no one to blame but myself." Sam nodded.
"Harsh realizations, aren't they?" she asked seriously.
"You gave me the space and chance to make them, Sam. Thank you. And you saved my baby girl from destroying herself. I owe you for that. Again thank you."
"I love her, Mike, more than you can imagine. It killed me to leave her like that," a few tears fell down Sam cheeks as she spoke and were unknowingly mirrored on Brooke's who sat on the floor outside the kitchen door, still listening.
"Why did you, if it hurt so much?"
"I couldn't let her lose you because of me. Do you know what it's like to know that the two people you love most in the world are losing everything because they love you back?" Mike shook his head guiltily. "Yeah, well it sucks big time."
"How long have you loved Brooke?" Mike asked, wanting and needing to understand Sam's feelings for Brooke. Sam looked at him for a minute but seemed to understand where the question was coming from. And she was glad that he was willing to ask, it meant that he was beginning to travel the road to accepting it.
"A long time. Before the accident, I know that much. I don't know when my feelings went from hostile to passionate exactly. I just know that I can't see my life without her anymore," she said honestly.
"Is that why you pushed her out of the way of the car?" Sam shook her head with a smile.
"I love that question," she said dryly. "Yes and no. Yes because I would never be able to see harm come to Brooke if it were in my power to prevent it. If it meant giving my life to save hers, OK fine. I'd die happy in the knowledge that Brooke would wake up to face another day. And no, because no one deserves to get hit with an expensive luxury vehicle, or any car for that matter. Hell, I probably would have done the same thing for anyone, even Nicole."
"Even knowing the pain you'd go through?" Mike asked, slightly confused.
"Eh, pain is temporary, love is forever," Sam said with a wide smile, repeating her father's message. She looked at Mike seriously and the smile faded.
"Do you understand what your daughter means to me?" Mike sighed.
"I think I'm beginning to." Sam thought a minute and seemed to come to a decision before speaking again.
"I'm going to tell you something, something I haven't even admitted to Brooke but it stays between the two of us, understand?" she asked rigorously. Mike nodded and outside the door, Brooke shifted so that she could hear better.
"I never told her this because I don't want her to get upset. She still gets upset talking about the accident but maybe it'll help you understand. Maybe I just need to tell someone this, I don't know. Maybe if I get it off my chest I can finally get a good nights sleep, who knows? But Brooke once asked me what I remembered about that night and I told her just bits and pieces. That was a lie, Mike. You know how they say that a bad trauma will cause the brain to forget the worst of it?" Mike nodded. "Yeah, well, I musta taken a particuarly hard bump to that section of my grey matter because I remember everything. Crystal."
"I can tell you how cold that asphalt was on my back, Mike. I already couldn't feel much below my waist. But there were three rocks digging into my back as I lay there bleeding in Brooke's arms. My head hurt like a son of a bitch and I felt like I was drowning, I couldn't breathe. I was cold, scared, hurt and I was sure I was about to die. And then she was there, Mike. My own beautiful golden angel, Brooke, holding me and keeping me safe. Once I knew she was OK I could let go. I never thought she'd feel the same for me as I did for her but the fact that she was right there for me as I lay dying made me feel less afraid. And my pain faded when she smiled at me." She was crying as she spoke, her voice cracking in places and Mike was a wreck as Sam relived that awful night in front of him. She was letting down her walls for him to see and he was honored to witness her this vulnerable.
"I was content to die right there, Mike, because I had done what I set out to do and she was alive, breathing and safe. I thought I saw my Dad on that street, calling out for me to join him. I heard him and then I heard Brooke speaking to me in that beautiful voice of hers and as much as I missed my Dad, I had to listen to Brooke. She sounded so sad. I had to hold on if only for her. I opened my eyes and saw her and everything else faded away and my entire world consisted of only her."
"Jesus, Sammy," Brooke sobbed quietly outside the room although no one heard her.
"When they put me in that ambulance, I tried so hard to hold on to her because I knew I was losing the fight. I knew I was either going to die or at least slip into unconsciousness and I wanted the last thing I saw, my last thought not to be of my pain or the accident, but to be of Brooke. And do you know what the last thing I saw was?" Mike shook his head as he wiped away some of his tears. Sam smiled.
"I saw her smile at me. That warm `everything will be all right' smile that just lights up her face and warms you from within. And I believed her, Mike. And I came home from my coma to that, never expecting things to work out the way they did. Never dreaming that they would, but they did. And you know what? I wouldn't trade any of it. Not a rock, a stitch, a twinge when the weather turns, a scar, a nightmare, or any of it. No regrets, nothing. It was all worth it."
It was several minutes before Mike could form a response to Sam's confession. He sat there crying for a while and Sam just waited knowing that at last he was coming to terms with the truth whether he liked it or not.
"And you never told her this?" he finally managed to ask, his voice raspy from tears. He remembered that night all too well when the doctor outlined Sam's injuries. Knowing that the girl remembered and lived with every ache and pain and had never said a word was emotionally traumatizing to him and also made him look at her in a new light. There was a strength to Sam that Mike would never understand or could ever hope to emulate. Sam shook her head.
"I don't want to hurt her. She feels enough pain over the whole thing for both of us as it is. Do you think we'll ever both get over it, Mike?" Sam asked, sounding very much like a lost child. Mike shrugged.
"I can't say, Sam. I'd like to hope so. Scars fade and eventually so do memories." Sam nodded, satisfied with the answer.
"So, are we better?" she asked, using her hand to indicate herself and him. Mike gave her a small smile.
"I can't wave a magic wand and suddenly be OK with this whole thing, Sam, I don't work that way. But you and Brooke were right in the first place, we should have sat down and talked this out. I was wrong to have acted the way I did. Maybe with time I can learn to accept it."
"Time is something we have lots of," Sam told him happily.
"And I never would have hit you," Mike looked away ashamed. Sam reached out and put her hand over his.
"I know, heat of the moment. I shouldn't have slapped you either. Draw?"
"Draw," Mike agreed, glad to be let off the hook by Sam but still feeling guilty. "Have I ever told you what an amazing individual you are?" Sam gave him a lopsided smile.
"Not for a very long time," she said honestly.
"Well you are. Most people would have hated me for my reaction to you and Brooke, the way I acted, the fact that I tried to hit you."
"Mike, if I can forgive Nic for running me over, I can forgive anyone."
"Still, Sam, thank you."
"It's a start."
ONE LAST NIGHTMARE
"Why didn't you ever tell me you remembered everything about that night?" Brooke demanded quietly as she entered the kitchen after her father left. Sam choked on her Pepsi and turned an unsightly shade of red as she tried to get the carbonation out of her lungs.
"Jesus," she gasped, "will you people please stop ambushing me with things like that when I have food in my mouth? One of these times I'm gonna choke to death," she complained. "Then where would you be without my unique brand of sparkling company?" Brooke walked closer, a dangerous and hurt look in her eyes. Sam looked away, unable to keep her gaze.
"Why didn't you tell me?" she repeated, almost in Sam's face now. Sam shrugged wordlessly. "I heard you talking to Dad so I know the whole thing." Sam brought her head up to meet Brooke's and was saddened by the tears she saw there.
"I'm sorry," she mumbled. Brooke cupped both sides of Sam's face.
"You could have told me, Sammy. That's a lot of baggage to carry all by yourself," she whispered. Tears ran down Sam's face as she looked away again. She shrugged, unable to answer Brooke for a minute.
"I got it," she responded lamely as she sniffled. Brooke sighed.
"Who takes care of Sammy?" Brooke asked, paraphrasing her father's earlier question. Sam met her eyes for a second and then looked away again.
"You do," Sam whispered.
"All this time and you didn't tell me you remembered all that," Brooke pointed out softly as she wiped away Sam's tears with her thumbs.
"Didn't want to upset you. Besides, I got it," she repeated a little stronger. Brooke sighed again. (Damn the girl and her stubborn streak) Brooke knew what this was. It was one more Sam McPherson wall built to protect the girl from letting anyone too close to her emotions and while Brooke herself was inside those walls as opposed to outside now, this was the one wall she didn't even know existed. But she knew if they were going to move on, she was going to have to get through it. (Just gotta push a little harder)
"So much pain." Brooke started only to have Sam pull away like she'd been burned. She looked at Brooke, her eyes begging just as much as her voice.
"Brooke, please," her voice cracked. "Don't." Brooke pulled Sam back to her. She wasn't letting her escape this.
"Let me in Sam," Brooke asked. Sam shook her head vehemently.
"Please don't. I can't. I've got this. I'm OK," she rambled desperately although her eyes told Brooke differently. They told Brooke how lost, lonely and hurt Sam really was and it broke Brooke's heart. Not that Sam wouldn't share but that Sam had been carrying this burden for so long and that she had never noticed.
"Sam, you've been walking around with this for months, joking about it and laughing it away. You hold me when I cry about it, you soothe my fears when the nightmares wake me screaming and tell me to let it go but what about you? Who takes care of Sammy?" she again repeated. Sam tried to shake her head but Brooke held it firmly in place.
"Brooke, don't...please," Brooke could see Sam's resolve fracturing as the tears began to fall faster. She was starting to shake in Brooke's arms and her breath was coming in jagged gasps.
"Let it go, Sam," Brooke whispered. Sam shook her head, succeeding this time and tried to blink away the tears, unsuccessfully.
"If I do, I might never stop," she whispered back desperately. Brooke leaned in closer and kissed her lightly.
"That's OK, I'll be here. I'll take care of you, Sammy. I promise." That was all Sam needed as she leaned into Brooke's arms and began to cry in earnest. "That's it, Sammy, let it all go. I'll be right here." Sam collapsed to her knees as sobs, pent up since the accident, racked her small body and Brooke cradled her long after the girl had fallen into an exhausted fitful sleep on the kitchen floor.
"Maybe now the nightmares are finally over," Brooke whispered to the slumbering form as she pressed a kiss to Sam's temple and drifted of to sleep as well.
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