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ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

The Afterlife


Brooke stared at herself in the mirror.

She needed more eyeliner.

She looked down at her watch.

It had taken her forever to get her foundation right, the skin tone had to be just so, the way it was applied had to be equal and smooth.

She didn't want to think about how long the eyeliner would take to get right.

But it had to be. Right. Today especially. She couldn't leave the house looking a mess, couldn't let people see her flawed. Not today.

"Brooke?" There was a slight knocking on the bathroom door.

That was unnecessary, she thought. The door was a quarter open anyway, anyone could come in.

"Are you ready?" Jane's head appeared.

Brooke stared hard at herself, never looking away.

"I need five more minutes." She said, her tone as even and neutral as her foundations application.

She was being optimistic of course. Five minutes was nothing to how long it would take her to get it right.

Jane nodded. "Of course. I'll tell the car to wait."

"It's here already?" Brooke looked up for the first time, surprised.

"Yes, but they can wait." Jane moved to reassure her.

"No." Brooke said firmly, standing up. "I'll be right down." She couldn't leave everyone waiting. They'd think it was unorganised. She couldn't be late. You can't be late for a funeral.

Sam leaned forward a tiny bit to try and catch a glimpse of Brooke. They were both sitting in the front row of the church, Sam a few people down from the blonde. Something Sam wasn't thrilled about.

She'd tried her best to get next to the blonde, but this wasn't a situation where she wanted to create a scene. She couldn't even see Brooke properly.

Leaning back frustrated, Sam looked up to the front and immediately felt a pang in her chest. God, it hurt. Mike's picture was in the centre, his coffin to the side.

His coffin.

Sam looked away. How could this be happening? He was still a young man by any standards, nearing his fiftieth birthday, living a healthy lifestyle. It didn't make sense.

A heart attack had killed Sam's step-father a week earlier. He had been at home Thursday evening and mentioned not feeling well. An early night was all he'd needed, he'd said as he walked up the stairs after kissing his wife and Sam goodnight. The crash from above the sitting room 20 minutes later alerted the two women below that something was wrong. Mike had been on the floor in agony, clutching his chest. Sam had called 911 as Jane tried desperately to help her husband. He'd passed out before the ambulance got there. He never regained consciousness.

Brooke had been out, cheerleading practice or something. She met them at the hospital, Jane finally managing to reach her on her cell. Mike was already gone. Jane was sitting in a stunned silence in a family room they had been moved to when Brooke was shown in. Sam would never forget the look on her face, the hopeful inquisitive scan of their faces before her shoulders fell slightly, a frown coming to mar that beautiful face. Sam had told her, quietly, watching as her eyes clouded over. Brooke hadn't cried. As far as Sam knew, she still hadn't.

Sam leaned forward again, she just wanted to see if Brooke was ok. Her damn uncle was still in the way, his burley chest totally blocking Brooke from her view. Her fingers were suddenly squeezed and she looked over to her other side, her mother giving her a small smile.

"Are you ok Mom?" Sam asked knowing it was a ridiculous question, but having to ask it anyway.

"It's ok Sam. It'll be over soon." Jane reassured, mistaken Sam's fidgeting behaviour for uncomfortable emotion.

Sam simply squeezed her mother's fingers back, wishing again that she could see Brooke.

It was late that night that Sam finally got her wish. Everyone had come back to the Palace after the funeral. There had been some food, some drinks, many a story of something Mike had said or done was passed around. The atmosphere was unlike anything Sam had ever felt, the fact that Mike was a young man with a new wife and a new lease of life at the root of the outpouring of grief. He hadn't lived his full life, he hadn't had the chance. Every story told was just a reminder that there would be no more.

Brooke hadn't shared any tales, simply stood back and given a small smile when spoken to, a minimal response, allowed herself to be hugged as people had gradually begun to leave. And now they were all gone. Jane had just excused herself, retiring to her bedroom, no doubt to cry on her own Sam had guessed.

Brooke was clearing away plates in the kitchen, loading them into the dishwasher.

"You don't have to do that." Sam said, coming up behind her.

"I know that." Brooke said, not stopping.

"You shouldn't be doing that." Sam rephrased, reaching out to take the plate from Brooke's hand.

Brooke moved away, putting the plate down on the side anyway. Sam watched her, clenching her teeth together with the effort it took not to reach out and try to take her hands again.

"Is Jane ok?" Brooke asked, looking around at Sam suddenly.

"She...yeah." Sam shook her head. "I think she just wants to be alone."

"This must be so hard for her." Brooke murmured. "Losing two husbands. It's just not fair."

Sam blinked. "Brooke." She said, simply not knowing what else to say.

"Do you want a drink?" Brooke asked, quickly changing the subject and moving over to the drinks cabinet.

"I really want something...something that burns on the way down." Brooke fingered a bottle of whiskey, half drunk already by the people who had recently left.

"I don't think that's a good idea." Sam watched her.

"If a girl can't drink at her father's funeral then I don't know when she can." Brooke remarked, though she put the bottle down.

"I'm sorry Brooke." Sam said, never meaning anything more in her life.

Brooke nodded.

"I'm going back to school on Monday." She changed the subject again. "I imagine everyone will be sorry."

"I can help." Sam walked towards her, just wanting to be near.

"I don't need you to." Brooke shook her head.

"What do you need?" Sam asked, hoping she didn't sound as desperate as she felt.

"Why didn't we work Sam?" Brooke looked up at her, a small frown on her forehead. "I've been thinking it over and I can't remember why and when exactly we stopped working."

This was totally unexpected. They'd never spoken of their brief relationship almost a year earlier. It was a few months after they'd all moved in together, all that tension that lay between the two of them had manifested in ways neither of them could have expected, a particularly fiery argument one evening ending in Sam shoving Brooke against the fridge to get her out of her way. Brooke had responded by grabbing Sam's arms, ready to shove back, anything to stop the brunette from her goal of getting past her. Typical teenage winning mentality. Neither could remember who had kissed who first, the intensity the only thing burned into their minds.

It had carried on like that for a few weeks, complete and mortal enemies at school, arguments carried out at home and then equally passionate making up afterwards, always stopping on the borderline between kissing and unclothed kissing. After a few months they actually skipped the arguments, being genuinely nice to each other as soon as they were at home, being less nasty at school. Maybe that's why it hurt all the more when a massive argument between the two of them and all of their associated friends became personal, they both thought they had moved beyond that and neither was willing to admit how much it hurt to see that they hadn't. They stopped rushing home to be with each other, they actively avoided each other at home and at school. Jibes were once again passed freely and the animosity between them actually got stronger than before, underlined with a personal hurt that only the two of them knew.

They never acknowledged it. Never spoke of it. And no one else had ever known about it. And today of all days it had come back up. Sam didn't know whether to be surprised or not.

"Do you remember?" Brooke asked, looking directly at Sam.

"Of course I remember." Sam said ardently.

"What happened?" Brooke asked again, looking genuinely confused.

"We..." Sam paused, rubbing a hand over her face. "We didn't know what we were doing."

"Didn't we?" Brooke looked at her hard.

"Why are you asking me this? Why now?" Sam looked away, suddenly wishing she'd just said yes to the drink.

"My dad." Brooke stopped. She took another breath before continuing. "I used to think about what would happen if he'd ever walked in on us. Him or Jane. It seemed like the worst thing in the world." She admitted.

Sam stayed quiet, though the words hurt her. She didn't know why.

"And now I think...I think that it wouldn't have been so terrible." Brooke said softly.

"Why?" Sam whispered.

"It was the only time I was ever...happy." Brooke smiled. "He would have liked to know that."

Sam's heart was literally pounding within her chest, she could feel it reverberating through her body.

"Weren't you happy?" Brooke asked her, her eyes imploring the truth.

"Yes." Sam answered honestly, swallowing hard.

"I think we were stupid to let that go." Brooke admitted. "And for what? Status? Stature? Social standing?" She laughed harshly. "My father died thinking that his daughter was the most ungrateful, fucked up, emotionally inept let down he'd ever known." She moved quickly to pick up the discarded plate.

"And he never gave up on me. He never once let me see what he so obviously thought, he never once let me feel like I was on my own. He stood by me and I knew that he always would. And I used that." Brooke near enough threw the plate into the dishwasher, starting to clear up quickly, angrily as she spoke.

"He looked after me when I was sick, he visited me every day when I was put into hospital, never once telling me how I'd made him feel by destroying myself needlessly. He died never knowing that I had, at some point, been happy. That my teenage angst had been overridden and I knew that I was worth more. That I could have been more." Brooke slammed the dishwasher shut.

"And I just want to be able to tell him that." She finished, her voice breaking.

Sam was there in an instant, catching Brooke before the first tear had left her eyes, scooping her up almost, as her arms tightened around the blonde pulling her close.

"It's ok." She soothed. "It's ok Brooke. He knew. Of course he knew how brilliant you are, how much potential you have. How kind and beautiful and sweet you are. He brought you up Brooke, he knew exactly who you are, and he was so proud of you." Sam promised, holding the blonde tighter as she sobbed. Huge great sobs that threatened to break her, tear her apart.

A few minutes later she pushed herself away from Sam, moved back and rubbed at her face, drying it on her sleeves. She looked up at Sam finally, finding the brunette looking at her in a way she'd never seen before.

Brooke lent forward, capturing Sam's mouth quickly. Her hand moved up to Sam's face, pulling her into her as she kissed her hard.

Sam didn't resist, she kissed Brooke back, wincing as she felt Brooke's intensity bruising her mouth. But she would not pull away, would not deny Brooke what Sam herself wanted.

"Come upstairs with me." Brooke demanded, turning and leading the way, pulling Sam after her by her hand.

Sam followed, she let herself be pulled up the stairs and into Brooke's room, watching as the blonde quickly locked the door behind them and kicked off her heels. And then she was on Sam again, kissing her with a force that belied the small size of her. Her hands raked up and down Sam's sides, pulling Sam's shirt free, un-tucking it and pushing it up while simultaneously trying to push her skirt down.

"Get on the bed." Brooke pulled back from Sam's mouth to issue the order, her voice sounding foreign.

Sam did as she was told, moving slowly onto the bed, sitting on it with her legs over the edge, facing Brooke.

Brooke pushed her backwards forcefully, making her lie down as her feet remained on the floor. And then she was on top of her, a leg either side of Sam's waist as Brooke once again dominated her mouth. The blonde's fingers furiously worked on the buttons of Sam's shirt, succeeding in opening them, pushing the material off of Sam's shoulders, letting her fingertips have free reign of the skin beneath.

Sam pulled away, her breathing ragged now. "Brooke." She half gasped, resisting the attempts of the blonde to pull their mouths back together.

"Brooke, wait." She begged.

"I can't." Brooke murmured against Sam's skin, already moving down Sam's neck, biting her collarbone hard.

"Brooke." Sam lifted Brooke's face back to hers with her hands. She let Brooke reclaim her mouth this time, let her kiss her as she tried to slow her down, sucked on her bottom lip, held her tongue against hers as she fought to calm the woman the only way she could.

It worked. Brooke's kiss became less enraged, it slowed until she was merely breathing against Sam's mouth, the fight suddenly drained from her body.

"It's ok Brooke." Sam whispered against her lips. "It's going to be ok."

The taste of salt was Sam's answer, the silent tears flowing from Brooke's eyes was response enough as gently Sam laid Brooke down and came to lay next to her, arms around her as she softly rocked her, stopping only when her breathing pattern took on that of sleep.

Brooke was already awake when Sam's eyes fluttered open and took in her surroundings. The blonde was still in her arms, Sam's shirt was still hanging off of her shoulders, and they were still together.

"My lips are sore." Brooke said quietly, although it filled the room and seemed like a service announcement.

"I expect mine will be a little more puffy today." Sam acknowledged, looking over at Brooke carefully.

"I'm sorry. If I hurt you." Brooke said sincerely.

"It's ok." Sam made a slight shrugging notion.

"No Sam, I'm sorry if I've ever hurt you." Brooke clarified, still looking up at her ceiling. There used to be a picture of some model with his shirt off up there, much to her dad's distaste. She'd taken it down the night after she and Sam had first kissed.

"You're the most important person in my life." She said, as if realising it for the first time herself.

"You make me happy." Sam said suddenly, not able to not say it anymore. "You did for those few months and you still do now. A smile from you, a look. It can get me through a day." Sam pushed herself up onto her elbow to look down at Brooke fully.

"I used to think of a way to win you back every day. And I never did any of them. I was scared." She admitted.

"So was I." Brooke replied, holding Sam's stare.

"I'm not anymore. I don't care what happens Brooke, what anyone says or does or thinks about it. You make me happy, and I'm not...I can't ignore that anymore."

"Sam." Brooke breathed her name, her fingertips coming to rest lightly on the brunette's waist.

"I just need to know that it's what you want too." Sam said softly, her stomach tightening under Brooke's caress, her nerves coming back.

"It's all I want." Brooke replied simply.

They gazed at each other for a long moment, neither wanting to move or knowing any other words to say. There was no need for any.

The End

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