DISCLAIMER: Alas, I don't own the characters of Popular. They belong to Ryan Murphy, but hopefully he won't mind if I borrow them for a little while.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This was written as part of the fanfic100 challenge (100 fics/ficlets/drabbles, all centering around Sam and Brooke). It's not exactly one continuous story (no over-arching plot), but it all takes place during the same timeline. Each part is based on a prompt, shown in the following format at the start of each section: "Part X [prompt]: Chapter title". Part 1 is freshman year of high school; parts 2 through 6 take place during sophomore year; parts 7 through 10 take place during junior year. Thanks so much to carpesomediem (Parts 1 and 3), theagonyofblank, and wolfemeister for the beta reads!
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

By mysensitiveside


Part 1 [strangers]: Thoughts About A Girl

Officially, we are strangers. If anyone were to ask Brooke McQueen about Samantha McPherson, the girl probably wouldn't be able to come up with anything. Because she doesn't know who I am. Why would she? (I don't know why anyone would actually ask Brooke about me, but whatever, that's totally not the point.)

I know who she is, though. Everyone knows Brooke McQueen. We're only freshmen but she already might as well be the reigning queen of Kennedy High. But I like to think of her as simply "the blonde bitch."

So, here's what I know about Brooke McQueen. (1) She is dating Josh Ford (I know, quite the surprise, huh? The cheerleader dates the quarterback. Shocking!), and in my personal opinion, they are the most nauseating couple in the history of nauseating couples. (2) Her best friend is Nicole Julian, the type of girl who actually enjoys making other people cry. (3) She is ridiculously superficial and materialistic. I don't have to really know her to know that this is true. God, all you have to do is look at her, and you can just tell. (4) My best friend, Harrison John, is desperately, hopelessly in love with her. That really sucks sometimes.

Oh yeah, and by the way? She also happens to be the most beautiful girl I have ever seen. I kind of hate her for that.

But we have never officially met.

As far as Brooke McQueen is concerned, we are strangers.


Part 2 [enemies]: Mission: Impossible

There were a number of things that every student at Kennedy High School knew for an absolute fact:

- Bio Glass was going to make your life a living hell.

- Nicole Julian should be avoided at all costs.

- You shouldn't eat the mystery meat in the cafeteria, especially not on Thursdays.

- And last but certainly not least, Brooke McQueen and Sam McPherson were bitter enemies, and always would be.

Monday morning

The hallways of Kennedy High

"Hey, she's alive!"

Sam turned and rolled her eyes at the three people approaching her, breathing out a tortured sigh as she grabbed some books from her locker and stuffed them into her bag.

"Yes, Carm, I'm alive."

"Yeah, well we weren't sure if you'd actually make it here today," Harrison commented, stopping to lean on the locker next to Sam's, "or if you and Brooke had killed each other overnight."

"Well, lucky for all of us, I managed to make it through the first night without getting murdered in my sleep. Yesterday was complete and utter hell, though. I can't believe I have to actually live there now! I keep hoping that this is all just a nightmare, and I'll wake up any minute now."

As they hurried to make it to class before the bell rang, Lily asked, "Wait, I haven't seen Brooke yet today... Brooke's still alive too, right Sam?"

Sam rolled her eyes once again. "Yes, I promise that I haven't killed her. Yet. Last I saw her, Brooke was breathing just fine."

The Novak

"I'm serious, Nicole." Brooke was pacing furiously back and forth in front of the sinks. "I know that committing murder wouldn't exactly be good for my reputation, but I'm honestly considering it. I've only had to live with her for one day, and I can already tell that it's going to be a total nightmare."

Nicole sat calmly filing her nails. "Hey, as far as I'm concerned, you should go for it, Brookie. You'd be doing everyone a favor, really. There's no doubt that the world would be a better place without Spam McPherson in it. But will you please sit down? You're making me dizzy."

Just as Brooke took a seat next to Nicole with a frustrated groan, the door to the Novak burst open, revealing Mary Cherry. The newcomer rushed over to Brooke, grabbing hold of Brooke's shoulders and staring at her intently.

With a somewhat frightened expression on her face, Brooke asked warily, "Um, what are you doing, Mary Cherry?"

There was another moment of narrow-eyed scrutiny, before Mary Cherry replied melodramatically, "Ah'm just makin' sure that yer first day of forced co-habitatin' with the evil Spam hasn't made you lose any and all trace of your sanity! But you're in luck, Brooke," she continued seriously, "yer eyes don't have that crazy look in them, so you should be okay."

Brooke turned and lightly hit Nicole on the arm. "Hey, maybe that can be my defense when I get put on trial for Sam's murder! I can plead insanity, because having to live with Sam drove me out of my mind!"

Later that day...

Third period Biology

Sam heard the scrape of the chair next to her, alerting her to Brooke's arrival, but she refused to acknowledge it. She knew that just looking at her blonde nemesis would be enough to worsen her mood, so she thought it would be best to simply keep her eyes elsewhere.

Brooke certainly didn't mind the lack of attention in this case. She simply ignored Sam completely, turning around to chat quietly with Nicole.

She turned to face forward again as Bio Glass strode into the room, her gruff voice rising above the low murmur of chatter. "Well, my little tadpoles, I hear that some congratulations are in order! McBlonde and McBrown have officially merged households, which means that my alphabetical seating plan was even more genius than I originally thought!"

Brooke and Sam each stole a sideways glance towards the other, then frowned and quickly turned away again when they made accidental eye contact.

"Ooh, ooh, Miss Glass, sir!" Mary Cherry was waving her arm wildly in the air.

"Yes, Mary Cherry? What is it?"

Mary Cherry cleared her throat and smiled sweetly. "In honor of this lovely occasion, may I suggest no homework for tonight, so that our dear friends, Brooke and Spam, could spend their extra time engagin' in some sisterly bonding?"

"Ha! Nice try, Mary Cherry, but fat chance. In fact, since I'm a little worried about the mayhem that would be sure to occur if the McSisters spend too much time together, I think I'll give you even more homework than usual."

The entire class groaned in unison, with students split between glaring at Sam and Brooke's table, glaring at Mary Cherry, or slamming their heads down on their own tables.

Monday afternoon

The cafeteria

Sam, Lily, Harrison, and Carmen made their way over to their regular lunch table.

Lily turned to Sam as they sat down. "I can't believe Bio Glass gave us more homework, just to keep you and Brooke from spending time together! That's got to be illegal, or something. She's being prejudiced against...I don't know...step-siblings!"

"Future step-siblings," Sam emphasized. "We're not actually related yet, thank God."

"Well, Glass does have a point, you have to admit," Carmen added. "I mean, I'm no happier than the rest of you about the extra work, but there's no way that Mary Cherry's suggestion of some 'sisterly bonding' would end well."

Sam sighed. "You know, I think I just need a way to vent my frustrations a little bit. It's just so completely unfair, that I can't stand it! I've had to leave my home behind, my own mother has already fallen under Brooke's spell, and I just can never get away from her! Plus, the fact remains that she has faced absolutely no consequences for cheating on the last bio test! She really needs to get taken down a few notches."

"Well, now that you live in such close quarters, maybe you'll get a chance to get some real dirt on her," Harrison suggested.

The table lapsed into silence for a few minutes, as they each picked at the unidentifiable food on their plates.

Suddenly, Sam perked up, a thoughtful grin spreading across her face. "You guys, I might have an idea..."

Meanwhile, at the more fair-haired lunch table...

"Yo, Brooke," Sugar Daddy began as she joined her friends at the table, "you feel like starting another food fight? That day was, seriously, like the best day of school ever!"

Brooke smiled indulgently. "Sorry, Sugar, but I think I've had enough food in my hair to last a lifetime. Besides, if it weren't for that food fight, then maybe my dad and Jane wouldn't have felt the need to force us all into living together. It's like they've turned my home into some doomed-to-fail social experiment: throw two opinionated teenage girls into one house, and see what happens!" Brooke looked over towards Sam, frowning as she saw the girl smile.

"I mean, just look at her!" Brooke could barely keep the disgust out of her voice. "I was perfectly happy before I knew who Sam McPherson was! And now she's invaded my life, ruining everything. What does she want from me?"

Nicole sneered in annoyance. "What she wants, I have no idea. The thought of trying to get inside Spam's head is too disgusting to even contemplate. But what she obviously needs is to get thrown off of that high horse of hers."

The conversation turned to something else, but Brooke wasn't really paying attention. Her eyes narrowed as she watched Sam talking animatedly with her friends. There just had to be a way to take Sam down.

Tuesday afternoon

Glamazon practice

"All right, girls, that's a wrap for today! Great job!" Brooke called out.

"And by 'great job,' Brooke really means that you all look like crap, so you'd better shape up by tomorrow! This squad needs to be perfect! None of you want to be the ugly stain that gets in the way of our glory, now, do you?" Nicole added.

Brooke touched Nicole's arm, asking, "Hey, Nic. Can I talk to you for a minute?"

"Sure, hun. What's on your mind?"

"Well, do you remember what we were talking about yesterday?"

Before Nicole got a chance to reply, it was actually Mary Cherry who spoke, having stuck around even though Brooke hadn't asked her to. "Ooh, you mean when we were talkin' 'bout her majesty, Gwyneth?"

"Um, no. Not that..."

"The latest episode of Dawson's Creek?"

"No, that's not it, either."

"The way that Joe's bit of blue hair kinda sparkles in the sunshine?"

At that last suggestion, both Brooke and Nicole simply stared at Mary Cherry.

"Oops. We didn' actually talk about that one, did we? Heh," Mary Cherry smiled sheepishly.

Finally, Brooke spoke up. "Anyway, what I really meant was when we were talking about Sam, and how I completely despise her, and how we need to do something about it. Well, I was thinking...and I might know the perfect way to knock her off that high horse you mentioned."

Tuesday evening

The McPherson-McQueen household

"So, Brooke. Got any exciting plans for the rest of the week?" Sam approached Brooke carefully, attempting to maintain an air of nonchalance.

Brooke looked up from her book as Sam came and sat next to her on the couch. She frowned at the brunette, suspicious of the seemingly innocent tone. "Why do you want to know?"

Sam sighed. "It's just a simple question, Brooke. I'm trying to make conversation."

"Well, I'm going shopping with Nicole and Mary Cherry on Thursday."

"Really? That's great. Sounds like fun!" Sam mentally smacked herself on the head. She knew that she sounded like an idiot.

In confirmation of that thought, Brooke was now looking at her like she had two heads. "Okay, why are you being so weird? Well, weirder than usual, that is."

"Oh, whatever, never mind," Sam murmured, quickly getting up from her seat and leaving the room. She got the information that she wanted, anyway, so there was no reason to stick around any longer.

Wednesday morning

The Novak

"All right," Brooke began, addressing Nic and Mary Cherry, "the mission is a go for Thursday. Sam said that she's going to be out at a movie with her friends, so we'll have a few hours to work with. We have all the supplies?"

Mary Cherry nodded. "Yep! We've got walkie-talkies, a flashlight, and gloves. Oh, and anti-bacterial lotion."

At Brooke's questioning look, Nicole explained, "Hey, if I have to actually touch anything in Spam's room, I'm going to need to immediately de-contaminate myself."

Brooke shrugged. "Okay, whatever. Just be at my house at 3:30 tomorrow. We'll wait until Sam leaves, and then we'll take action."

Wednesday afternoon

The cafeteria

Sam leaned in over the table and lowered her voice. "Okay, you guys. Brooke's going to be out shopping tomorrow, and we now have an alibi -- she thinks that the four of us are going to the movies tomorrow. So, we just need to figure out how we're going to make sure that Brooke's out of the house when we want her to be."

"There's a window in my house where you can see right into Brooke's bedroom," Harrison commented. The speed at which he gave this information caused the three girls around him to pause and look at him strangely. He blushed, murmuring, "I mean, I think I just happened to possibly notice that, you know, one time."

"Harrison? I really don't want to know how often you've made use of that viewpoint, but it'll be useful now, so I'll just try not to think about it. So, it's settled. I'll make sure Brooke's still planning on going to the mall, and then I'll meet up with the three of you at Harrison's house for the next phase of the plan."

Thursday afternoon

The McPherson-McQueen household

Sam peeked her head around Brooke's door. "Well, have fun shopping, Brooke. And I know it'll be hard, but just try to make sure that you don't spend so much that the entire family has to file for bankruptcy, okay?"

"Ha-ha, very funny, Sam," Brooke responded dryly. "Now, don't you have somewhere else to be? As in, anywhere that's out of my sight?"

Sam just smirked sarcastically and left the room, almost literally running into Nicole and Mary Cherry.

"God, Spam, watch where you're going!" Nicole spat out. "The shoes you just came close to stepping on are worth more than your entire wardrobe, so back off!"

Sam was about to burst into an angry retort, but she remembered that she had more important things to do, so she simply glared at Nicole, and then practically ran over to Harrison's house.

Once Sam was gone, Brooke got up off of her bed and closed the door behind Nicole and Mary Cherry. "Okay, we'll wait for a few minutes to make sure she doesn't come back for anything, and then we'll move over to her room. My dad and Jane are around, though, so we're going to have to stay quiet. No one can know what we're doing."

Harrison's house

Sam arrived at the window Harrison had mentioned to find Lily staring towards Brooke's room through a pair of binoculars, with Harrison and Carmen standing beside her.

"What's going on? Have they left yet?" Sam asked.

"No, they're still in there, talking about something or another," Lily reported. "And hey, Sam, I guess that's your room, huh? Good thing your shades are closed, now that we know that the perverted Harrison over here has this lovely view."

"Hey!" Harrison exclaimed indignantly. "I am not a pervert! I just-"

Harrison was interrupted when Lily smacked him in excitement. "Ooh, they're leaving! Let's go!"

Back at the McPherson-McQueen household...

The three blondes snuck quietly into Sam's room, closing the door behind them right before the front door slowly opened and the four brunettes crept inside and up the stairs, staying out of sight from Mike and Jane.

In Sam's room, the girls immediately started looking around. Mary Cherry took the closet, Brooke got Sam's desk, and Nicole started with Sam's dresser.

"You're sure you don' know where she keeps it, Brookie?" Mary Cherry asked through the walkie-talkie.

"I can hear you perfectly well without these things, Mary Cherry," Brooke replied. "But no, to answer your question, I don't know where it is. I've seen her writing in it, so I know it exists, but I don't know where she keeps it."

Meanwhile, Sam, Lily, Carmen, and Harrison had entered into Brooke's room.

"Okay," Sam began. "I have no idea where it is, so just spread out, I guess. It's got to be in here somewhere."

"Man, this is going to be so great, you guys," Carmen said. "I can't wait to read this thing! We're going to have so much power over them after this. I bet we can even get them to let me on the Glamazons, now!"

Harrison was looking under Brooke's bed as he muttered, "Let's just find it first, and then we can start thinking about bribery, okay?"

Fifteen minutes later, the doors to both rooms opened simultaneously, with Sam and Brooke triumphantly leading the way out of each one.

They both froze when they saw each other, eyes widening in surprise. Sam's gaze was quickly drawn to the object in Brooke's hand. It looked suspiciously like Sam's diary.

Sam tried to hide the book in her own hand behind her back, but she saw that Brooke had already noticed it.

Realizing there wasn't a better way out of this mess, Brooke wordlessly held Sam's diary out in front of her. Sam gazed back at Brooke for another few moments, and then grudgingly held out Brooke's diary as well. The girls quickly reached for and grabbed hold of her own diary, before brushing past each other and into their own rooms, with their respective friends following right behind them.

For now, a truce would have to do.


Part 3 [tension]: 2 + 2 = 5?

Brooke groaned in frustration after Sam started another random fight with her. They'd already had five heated arguments that week, and it was only Tuesday.

"My God, Sam, what is wrong with you?? I swear, sometimes I think you'd try to claim that two plus two was five, if only to disagree with me!"

When Sam realized that she was actually considering the challenge of arguing that bit of math, she finally admitted to herself that she did have a problem. She really needed to find a better way of dealing with the tension that she constantly felt around Brooke.


Part 4 [brown]: I Miss You


Brooke had proof, dammit, and it was right there in the shower. No way could Sam deny the cold, hard, (icky, wet) evidence. Because there was hair left at the bottom of the shower, and it was unmistakably brown.

The first time that Brooke had accused Sam of leaving hair in the drain, it was after Brooke herself had also showered, so the mess of hairs left behind included blonde ones as well as brown. Sam had adamantly argued that maybe Brooke had a few brown hairs of her own, but that was bullshit, and Sam knew it.

From then on, Brooke made a point of checking for evidence before she stepped in the shower. And there it was, about a week after the first incident. Proof!

Brooke barged into Sam's room without knocking, ready to launch into an indignant tirade, but she was momentarily thrown off when she didn't see Sam right away.

Taking a moment to scan the room, Brooke caught sight of the top of Sam's head, that damn brown hair visible just beyond the far end of Sam's bed.

Damn it, what now?

Sam heard her door burst open, heard Brooke start to say something, only to stop after a single syllable. She didn't move from her spot on the floor, though. She really couldn't be bothered with whatever the hell was troubling her blonde housemate this time.

Even when Sam could see Brooke out of the corner of her eye, standing at the edge of her bed and looking at her curiously, she still didn't move at all. She just sat there, staring at the photograph in her hands.

The empty picture frame lay discarded on her bed. Sam liked to actually hold the photograph in her hands, sometimes, as evidenced by its numerous creases and the visible fingerprints covering the face of it. This was the closest Sam could get to actually touching him.

Sam barely noticed when Brooke came and, without a word, sat down next to her on the floor. Part of her really just wanted Brooke to leave, wanted to be left alone, but part of her almost appreciated the company. Almost, mind you. Because even though it was company, it was still Brooke, and Sam refused to appreciate Brooke's presence, if only out of principle.

Still, actively telling the blonde to go away felt like it would take too much effort at the moment, so she remained motionless.

Okay, so apparently now wasn't the greatest time for yelling at Sam. The girl's quiet, melancholy stillness was definitely disconcerting.

Brooke didn't know what to say, and Sam obviously wasn't planning on speaking, so Brooke just observed Sam for a moment. Her almost-stepsister was sitting against the edge of the bed, shoulders slumped, leaning her forearms on her bent knees. Brooke couldn't quite see what it was that Sam was holding tightly in her hands, staring at intently, so she leaned in a little further.

Oh, Sam's dad.

Brooke cleared her throat awkwardly, but Sam still didn't look at her, didn't even flinch.

"Is that..." Brooke started to speak, but she wasn't sure how to finish her question. After another moment of silence, she settled on, "Was it today?"

Sam still didn't say anything for what felt like the longest time. Brooke was about to take the hint and leave, when finally, Sam spoke, quiet enough that Brooke had to lean in a little more to fully hear her. "Yeah. Today is the day that he died."

If she hadn't been afraid that laughter would lead to tears, Sam would have laughed at Brooke's obvious discomfort with the situation. Clearly, Brooke didn't know what to do, but Sam didn't know what to tell her.

"Um, is...is Jane around?" Brooke asked quietly.

Sam sighed. "Mom deals with today very differently than I do. She always, I dunno, goes completely manic or something. I can't deal with her today. I think she's out shopping."

"Oh. Okay. Um. Well what about Harrison, or Lily, or Carmen? Should I call one of them? Do you want them to come over?"

Sam couldn't be sure whether Brooke honestly wanted to help, or whether she was just trying to pass off the situation to someone else. Whatever, it didn't really matter, she supposed.

"No, that's okay. They always try to get me out of the house, but being around too many people just bothers me."

"Right. Well, I'm sure I've bothered you enough, now, too. I'm really sorry, Sam. I...I'll just go."

"Wait..." Brooke had started to stand up, but the word escaped Sam's mouth before she could stop herself. The blonde froze mid-motion, and Sam turned to look at Brooke for the first time since she had walked in, only to quickly look away again. "I mean, you could stay, if you wanted to," Sam mumbled.

Sam didn't know what the hell had possessed her, asking Brooke to stay, but she felt some amount of relief as Brooke sat back down.

Stealing another quick glance towards Brooke, Sam was surprised to see honest caring in Brooke's expression.

"All right," Brooke replied gently.

Brooke still didn't know what to do, but the fact that Sam apparently wanted her to be there made the whole situation easier to deal with, somehow.

Sam was once again staring at the photograph, so Brooke leaned back against Sam's bed, deciding to simply wait Sam out, allowing the brunette to talk if and when she wanted to.

Brooke wasn't sure how long they sat there, in relatively comfortable silence, but she had almost fallen asleep when Sam's soft voice caused her head to jerk forward. "I promised myself that I would never forget him. But what I remember is getting more and more static, you know? I have pictures of him in my mind, but it's like I can't be sure if I'm actually remembering him, or if all I remember is just based on the photographs we have of him."

Taking in a deep breath, Brooke managed to suppress her brief urge to panic. Sam was actually opening up to her, and it was so different from their usual interactions that it almost froze Brooke to the spot. But Sam was trusting her, surprisingly, and Brooke wasn't going to screw it up. No matter what she thought about Sam most of the time, Brooke knew she'd feel horrible if she messed this up.

"Tell me about that one." Brooke nodded towards the object still clutched in Sam's hands.

The barest hint of a smile appeared on Sam's face.

Sam had no idea what made her actually go ahead with Brooke's suggestion, but once she started, the words just kept coming.

"My dad loved camping. He had done it every summer with his family when he was growing up, and so the summer I turned eight, he and my mom decided to take me up to this regional park, about five hours north of here. At first, I was absolutely horrified by the whole thing. I mean, we were in a tent, and there were bugs, and my dad wanted to go fishing."

Sam chuckled slightly, and then paused, momentarily lost in thought. Thankfully, Brooke knew enough not to say anything, though, and just waited patiently for Sam to continue.

"I came around to the idea pretty soon, though. We spent a whole week there, and it was...it was great. Anyway, it was the third day or so, when my dad took me out on the lake in a canoe. I had never been in one before, so I was pretty scared, but I knew he wouldn't let anything bad happen to me. He taught me how to use the paddle, and then we just slowly moved around the lake, with him telling me stories about when he was a kid. And then, this fish swam right by the canoe. It was the closest I had ever seen one in the wild, before, and I got so excited about it that I turned around in my seat to try to watch it, and ended up literally knocking myself right into the lake."

Brooke couldn't help but smile at the image that Sam was presenting. As much as she hated to acknowledge it, she figured that Sam had probably been an adorable little kid.

"He later admitted that I really freaked him out," Sam continued, "but I had a life jacket, and we were actually pretty close to shore at that point, so I decided to just swim the rest of the way back in, and let my dad deal with the canoe. So that's this picture. My mom took it, once the water was only about up to my knees. I was absolutely soaked, head to foot, but I was still so excited about the canoe, and the fish...and my dad was just cracking up behind me. That was the first and only time I went camping."

Sam grew quiet again, and once Brooke was sure that Sam was done talking for now, she commented softly, "Well, this may just be me, but that memory sounds anything but 'static.'"

Brooke smiled hesitantly, gently placing her hand on top of Sam's. The brunette released a short sound, somewhat resembling a strangled laugh, and then suddenly Sam was sobbing.

It happened so quickly, the switch from calm to disconsolate, that Brooke was taken aback. For a moment, all she could do was blink at the sight of Sam's heaving form. But as she felt something tighten in her chest, Brooke reached out and wrapped her arms around Sam.

Sam stiffened at first, before shifting positions, allowing Brooke to pull her closer. Brooke held Sam tightly against her and leaned in to rest her cheek against that soft brown hair.

Later, Sam wouldn't be able to explain what made her break down like that, but for several minutes, she felt like there was absolutely nothing that she could do but cling to Brooke's body and cry. She also wouldn't be able to explain the comfort that she found as Brooke simply cradled her in her arms.

At first, Sam was crying so hard that she could barely even breathe, but once she got a little more control over herself, she started to panic. She hated Brooke, and Brooke hated her, and what the hell was she doing letting the blonde see her when she was so vulnerable? She never liked to let anyone see her like this, let alone Brooke McQueen.

Brooke was startled once again when Sam suddenly started pushing her away, extricating herself from Brooke's embrace and scooting into the corner of her room.

She was still crying somewhat, but she hugged her knees to her chest and lowered her head towards the floor, managing to rasp out, "Please leave."

Sam heard Brooke move closer once again, but she refused to look up. She flinched when Brooke touched her gently on the shoulder.

"Sam, what..." Brooke asked, with nothing but concern in her tone. "What happened? What did I do?"

"Just leave, okay? Leave me alone. Just leave me alone." Brooke's once-comforting presence was now nothing but claustrophobic, and the panic in Sam's voice was obvious.

Sam sat still, her heart beating alarmingly quickly, until she felt Brooke's lips just barely brush across her hair, leaving a soft kiss. "I'm so sorry, Sam," Brooke whispered. "You know where to find me if you want to talk."

Sam waited until she heard the door to her room close behind Brooke before allowing herself to cry once again.


Part 5 [friends]: Coffee Shop Confidential

Brooke (unsuccessfully) tried not to roll her eyes when she heard her name paired with Sam's. Of course, Glass teased them with the thought that the groups for the latest biology project would be completely random, but then proceeded to do nothing more than put them with their lab partners. Fantastic. Brooke had to admit that they had been getting along a lot better, recently, but that didn't mean that she really wanted to spend any more time with Sam than she had to.

At the end of class, Sam turned to Brooke. "Okay, I propose we just get this over with as quickly as possible. Agreed?"


"Great. I have a Zapruder meeting after school, and you probably have Glamazons, so how about we just meet at the public library afterwards, and then we can get a start on research and stuff."

"Sure Sam. Whatever you say." This time, Brooke did manage to not roll her eyes, but just barely. She had found that when it came to things like this, it was best to just let Sam feel like she was in charge. There tended to be less potential for bloodshed, that way.

Later that afternoon, Brooke and Sam sat in the library, surrounded by several stacks of books.

"Sam, this sucks," Brooke whispered. "It feels like we've been sitting here for ages, now, and I think my butt is going numb."

Sam looked up from her notes at Brooke's comment, with one of her trademark smirks crossing her face. "Would Her Highness prefer that I found a perfectly fluffed pillow to ease her royal behind?"

Brooke just scowled. "No, Her Highness would prefer a change of scenery. And before you offer some snarky comment, yes, I am well aware of the fact that I just referred to myself in the third person. Deal with it."

Sam's grin only widened, and though she came really close to teasing Brooke further, if only out of habit, she decided to let it go. "You know, a change of scenery actually sounds good. We shouldn't go home, though. Letting your dad and my mom see us working together would only send the wrong kind of message, since we still need to convince them that the whole family merger thing is really a bad idea."

"Yeah, good thinking. Well, there's a nice coffee shop that I like near here," Brooke suggested.

"Lead the way, Princess."

For the next week, Brooke and Sam spent at least a few hours every afternoon working in the same coffee shop. They ended up just drinking coffee and talking a lot more than actually working on the assignment, but it seemed to make them more productive when they did finally bring out their books and notes. At least, that's what they told themselves.

On Saturday, they took a day off from the project, but Sam decided to return to the café anyway. She really liked the atmosphere of the place, and thought it might be a good spot for her to finish up her latest article, a piece on the new Spanish teacher.

Walking up to the counter, Sam recognized the server as the same guy who had been there whenever she came with Brooke. Sam smiled, but before she got a chance to order, the guy spoke, "Oh hey, you're here! Would you hold on a sec? Your friend left her jacket here."

Sam frowned in confusion. As far as she knew, none of her friends ever came there.

"Wait, whose jacket is it?"

"I dunno her name," he shrugged. "The one you're in here with every day."

Sam laughed. "Who, Brooke? Oh, she's not..." Sam's sentence trailed off, her brows knitting together. She and Brooke weren't friends, were they?

The server was still staring at Sam expectantly. Sam broke off her thought process and continued, "Well, whatever. Thanks, I'll make sure she gets it back."

After trying unsuccessfully to make any progress on her article, Sam gave up and decided to go home, acknowledging that her mind was elsewhere.

Brooke returned from the mall that afternoon, and after dropping off her bags in her room, went to the kitchen for a snack. Sam was already in there, but it didn't look like she was actually doing anything. Brooke grabbed an apple and then sat opposite Sam at the table.

"Hey Sammy, what's up?"

Sam didn't say anything, just stared speculatively at Brooke. Shifting uncomfortably under Sam's focused gaze, Brooke tried again. "Okay, why are you looking at me like that? Do I have something caught in my teeth or something?"

Sam's line of sight shifted slightly, as she replied, "Actually, yeah, you have a tiny piece of something at the corner of your mouth, but that wasn't why I was looking at you." Sam leaned back in her chair and crossed her arms, tilting one head to the side to continue staring at Brooke.

Brooke quickly wiped at her mouth, waiting for Sam to explain why she was being so odd. When no explanation followed, Brooke spoke again. "Okay, then. Why are you looking at me? You're starting to freak me out."

Sam finally seemed to snap out of it, blinking a few times and leaning forward to rest her elbows on the table. "Are we friends? 'Cause it kind of seems like we might be." There was an element of surprise in Sam's voice, like she could hardly believe it herself.

Brooke laughed. "What? We're not..." She paused, thinking about it. "Are we?"

Sam merely raised an eyebrow, offering a sheepish half-smile.

"Wow, we are friends," Brooke continued. "That's weird."

"I know. Very weird. No offense."

Finally, the strangeness of the whole conversation caught up with Brooke and she couldn't help but giggle. One small giggle turned into many more, though, until Sam was laughing too, and neither one was exactly sure what was so funny, but it didn't really matter.

When the laughter died down, Brooke simply smiled at Sam. "So, we're friends. That's interesting." She smirked playfully. "Just don't tell the rest of our friends. I think they'd die from shock."


Part 6 [spirit]: Teen Spirit

Sometimes, Brooke wondered why she was still friends with Nicole. On certain days, for some reason or another, Sam's not-so-affectionate nickname of "Satan" rang especially true, and Brooke would find herself wishing that she had the strength to end their twisted friendship once and for all.

It was one of those days.

Brooke was supposed to be spending the night at Nicole's place, but ever since she found out that Nicole had slept with Josh, Brooke had been less and less willing to put up with Nicole's shit. So, having bailed on the planned shopping trip with Nicole and Mary Cherry, Brooke decided to just go home and relax instead. Mike and Jane were out of town, and Brooke didn't know what Sam was up to, but maybe they could just hang out and watch a movie or something.

Upon entering the house, Brooke was somewhat startled to hear the sound of blaring music coming from upstairs. Curious, she made her way towards the source of the music, ending up right outside Sam's room. She hadn't been able to tell what the song was right away, but as soon as she reached the top of the stairs, there was no mistaking the distinctive melody of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit."

Brooke smiled as, above Kurt Cobain's guttural voice, she could hear Sam's more feminine tone, singing along.

The music was loud enough that Brooke was pretty sure Sam wouldn't be able to hear her knock on the door, but she did so anyway, in case Sam accused her of barging in uninvited. When, as expected, her knocks went unanswered, Brooke slowly pushed the door open and took a step inside the room.

What she hadn't expected, though, was the way that the sight on the other side of the door literally caused Brooke's breath to hitch. Sam was dancing around her room, strumming along on air guitar and belting out the lyrics, with her long, flowing hair spreading out around her head.

Brooke honestly hadn't really thought about it before, but in that moment, it hit her. Sam was beautiful. Absolutely gorgeous.

Brooke was grateful that Sam's eyes were closed, as it gave her the opportunity to simply watch the brunette. It was the first time that Brooke got a chance to see Sam without all those walls that Sam had worked so hard to build.

Now, the adjectives that used to come to mind when Brooke thought about Sam -- stubborn, self-righteous, annoying -- were replaced with new ones -- passionate, strong, free-spirited. It wasn't so much the song itself, but more the way that Sam carried herself.

Brooke smiled to herself, and then quietly backed out of the room, closing the door behind her.

Brooke peered surreptitiously around the corner, watching Sam open her locker. She could tell that Sam noticed the object right away, the curious confusion easily visible on Sam's face, even from a distance.

Brooke watched Sam open the envelope, her puzzled frown deepening as her eyes scanned the note. When she opened the accompanying box, Sam simultaneously blushed and smiled widely. Brooke grinned shyly as Sam looked up and around the hallway, her eyes searching until they landed on her. Sam picked up her backpack and made her way over to Brooke.

Still blushing, Sam asked, "Nirvana, Brooke? You like Nirvana?"

Smirking, Brooke replied, "Well I hate to break it to you, Sammy, but sure, I like some of their stuff. Nirvana isn't only for the dark, angsty, young rebels of the world."

"Anyway, I take it you actually got home earlier than I thought, yesterday? I totally assumed I had the house to myself."

Brooke laughed lightly. "Yeah, I couldn't bring myself to interrupt your wonderful performance, though."

"Well, I don't know if it should count as a performance, since there wasn't supposed to be an audience." Sam mock glared at the smiling blonde, but Brooke could tell that Sam wasn't really upset. "And you really shouldn't have gone through the trouble, but thanks for this," Sam continued, holding up the Nirvana CD.

"My pleasure," Brooke assured Sam. "The song seemed to be skipping a lot, so I thought you could use an upgrade."

"Yeah, too much time jumping around my room like a wanna-be rock star, I guess. I've been listening to the same, old CD for years now, but somehow I was always too lazy to just get a new one, even though my copy is all scratched up. I know, I know... 'Way to be cheap, Sam,' right?" Sam rolled her eyes self-deprecatingly.

"Hey, you said it, not me." Brooke held up her hands innocently.

Sam smiled and continued, "But don't expect a repeat performance anytime soon, or anything. I don't know if I'll be able to listen to that song for a while, without being completely embarrassed, now."

"Oh, don't be, Sam," Brooke hurried to say. "You really have a beautiful voice. You have absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about, I promise."

Brooke found herself hoping that Sam would play the song again soon. She had listened to it a few times in the music store, and found that, with the music flowing in her ears, all she had to do was close her eyes, and she could once again visualize Sam, dancing freely in her room.

The bell suddenly rang, and the girls shared a last smile and separated to go to class.

Brooke turned around again, though, when Sam called out, "Oh, and Brooke?" At Brooke's expectant look, Sam continued, "That's my favorite part too."

Dear Sam,

Well, you're constantly teasing me about the Glamazon choreography, but now I know that you've got some moves of your own! Watch out, though...I like the song, too, so maybe the difference between "Teen Spirit" and "school spirit," isn't quite as big as I'm sure you'd like to believe. Anyway, just thought you might appreciate a newer copy.



p.s. I'm not sure what the hell it means, but this is my favorite part. What's yours?

"And I forget just why I taste
Oh yeah, I guess it makes me smile
I found it hard, it's hard to find
Oh well, whatever, never mind"


Part 7 [family]: Still Here

[A/N: It is now junior year in high school. In terms of canon, Brooke has just decided not to move to San Francisco with her mom. This part might not make much sense if you haven't seen the actual episodes.]

Mike's POV:

I look across the table, smiling. My family was so close to falling apart, again, but Brooke is here, still here. I don't know what Sam did to convince Brooke to stay, but it doesn't matter. My girl came home, and that's all I care about.

There's still this nagging feeling at the back of my mind, though, that our table is incomplete. After Kelly left the first time, we only kept two chairs out. When Jane and Sam moved in, I got two more.

Those two extra chairs are still here. Empty. I haven't wanted to put them away.

Brooke's POV:

I can't believe I almost left this behind. I came so close to falling into this vicious cycle. My mother left her family, and then I grow up to leave mine.

But Kelly isn't really a part of my family anymore. My family is in Santa Monica. Not just Daddy, but Jane and Sam too.

For once, I'm glad that Sam was so stubborn. I'm still kind of surprised that she worked so hard to make sure I stayed. I know she mostly did it for Jane, but the thought that she must actually care about me makes me smile.

Jane's POV:

We try a new restaurant tonight, and though the food isn't very good, Sam is happier than I've seen her in a while. When she explains that Brooke has decided to stay, I feel a surge of happiness. Not just for Mike, but for all of us.

I am proud of Sam. Sure, she definitely had quite a hand in this mess, but she's done everything she could to right her wrongs.

Sam deserves a real family, with not just a mother, but also a father and a sister. I miss Mike and Brooke too, but it's never that simple.

Sam's POV:

It's such a relief that, for once, I managed to not screw everything up. Or at least, not make things worse. With Brooke sticking around, there's still hope that Mom and Mike will get back together. Mom deserves to be happy, and for that matter, so does Mike.

Mike won't ever replace my dad, but I do care about him, and Brooke too. As dysfunctional as we may be, we're all a family now, and Brooke's become a better friend than I ever thought possible.

I'm still kind of shocked to admit it, but I don't want to lose her.


Part 8 [insides]: A Different Kind of Tension


"What do you mean, you're not going to be here? Why not?" Sam had finally gotten up the nerve to talk to George about potential Valentine's Day plans, but now he was telling her that he wasn't even going to be in California? So not fair.

"I'm really sorry, Sam," George replied. "I know it's bad timing, but I have meetings with the football coaches at both University of Texas and Texas A&M. One meeting's on the twelfth and the other one's on the sixteenth, so it would be pretty crazy for me to come back here in between the two."

It made sense. Sam knew that it made sense, but that didn't make it any less frustrating.

"And were you ever planning on telling me all this? That first meeting is only ten days from now, George."

George shrugged sheepishly. "It just slipped my mind, I guess. But I promise to make it up to you when I get back! You will be the most pampered girlfriend at Kennedy!"

Sam sighed. She didn't want to be pampered. She just wanted to spend the most romantic day of the year with her boyfriend, but apparently, that was too much to ask.


"This sucks. I finally have a semi-serious boyfriend on Valentine's Day for the first time ever, and where is he? In Texas! I hate Texas."

Sam and Brooke were supposed to be working on homework, but Sam thought that venting about George sounded like a lot more fun.

"Yeah, it's really weird being single on Valentine's. I'm not even sure when the last time was that I didn't have a date for tomorrow."

Sam turned to look at Brooke and laughed. "God, you don't even realize how conceited that sounds, do you?"

"What?" Brooke asked, a combination of innocence and indignation. "It's true! I don't see how that makes me conceited."

"Never mind." Sam smiled. A year ago, Sam would have used this conversation as more evidence against Brooke's character. Now, she could only find Brooke's obliviousness to the trials and tribulations of the single life oddly endearing.

"You know what?" Brooke's question broke into Sam's thoughts. "We should go out for dinner tomorrow!"

Sam eyed Brooke in confusion. "'We' as in you and me? Or the whole family? Or...?"

"You and me! Dad and Jane already have plans, and so do all of our friends -- Lily and Josh; Mary Cherry somehow conned Harrison into a date; there's no way that Nicole's going to be alone; and Carmen is still working on patching things up with her mom."

"So since I'm the last option available, you might as well hang out with me?" Sam teased.

"No, of course not. You know I like hanging out with you, Sam. And instead of staying home and feeling sorry for ourselves, we should go out! Come on, what do you say?"

Sam shrugged. "Sure, I guess."

"Oh, that won't do." Brooke stared at Sam seriously. "I will not have an apathetic date, even if it's you. Where's the enthusiasm? If we're going to have fun, there will be no 'Sure, I guess.' Now let's try again: Will you be my Valentine, Sam?"

Chuckling, Sam replied, "It would be an honor, Brooke."


"Tell me again how you managed to get a reservation here at the last minute?" Sam asked, as she and Brooke were seated at one of the nicest restaurants in town.

Brooke shrugged. "The guy who takes reservations used to have a huge crush on me in middle school. He squeezed us in, somehow."

Sam smirked. "You and those magical feminine wiles of yours. Seriously, sometime you've got to teach me how to make everyone do what you want."

The evening was proving to be surprisingly comfortable for them both, with everything going smoothly until it was time for dessert. Brooke, entertaining Sam with the stories of all her bad Valentine's Day dates over the years, was in the middle of telling about the year when Josh took her to a hockey game when the waiter showed up.

"Ladies, might I interest you in some coffee or dessert this evening? Our dessert special was prepared for all you couples, tonight-"

He paused, looking concerned as Sam practically choked on the water she was in the process of drinking. Her eyes widened as she took in the romantic atmosphere, the way that her hand and Brooke's were sitting quite close together on the table, the way they'd been talking, and laughing, and smiling all night...

Brooke merely laughed as Sam blurted out, "We're not a couple! We're just, you know, friends. I have a boyfriend. And he's great, but just...not here, and-"

"I think we're going to pass on dessert, tonight," Brooke interrupted, still smiling in amusement. "We do have a movie to catch. Thanks, though."

"You all right, there, Sammy?" Brooke asked, once the waiter had left again.

Sam coughed once more before replying, "Yeah. Yeah, I'm great." She paused. "Why does it not seem to bother you in the slightest that he thought we were dating? I mean, we're supposed to be sisters!" Not that Sam actually thought of Brooke as a sister, but still, it was weird.

Brooke shrugged. "I dunno. It's just not that surprising, I guess, given the circumstances. It's Valentine's Day, it's just the two of us, and we're not that far from West Hollywood, after all. So it's actually pretty logical that this would look like a date."

"Right." It did make sense. And yet, somehow it had never even occurred to Sam that they'd be perceived as anything but friends.

The waiter returned with their bill, apologizing for the misunderstanding. Sam bit back the urge to tell him that George was in Texas but would be back soon.

"Come on, girlfriend. Time for part two of our not-a-date," Brooke teased, taking Sam's hand and pulling them out to the car. Oh, right. Sam kept forgetting about the movie -- the romantic comedy -- they were going to see. Sam got in the car, resolving to ignore the weird feeling, almost like nervous butterflies, she'd had since the waiter's false impression of her relationship with Brooke.

Well, Sam supposed that at least this could serve as an interesting story to add to Brooke's list of Valentine's Day adventures.


"Lily! Are you even listening to me?"

They were hanging out in Lily's room, with Sam talking about her not-a-date with Brooke and her confusion about the waiter's misinterpretation of the situation. She realized that Lily seemed more interested in the magazine in front of her, though, than whatever Sam was saying.

Lily's eyes finally came into focus, but she only waved a vaguely bored hand through the air. "To be honest? Not really, but I got the gist of it a while ago. Someone thought you were dating Brooke, and it made you feel all tingly inside, and why, oh why could that be?"

Sam narrowed her eyes, sensing Lily's sarcasm. "I'm not homophobic, Lily."

Rolling her eyes, Lily yawned. "Never said you were, Sam."

"And wait... 'Tingly?' What's that supposed to mean? I never said anything about feeling 'tingly.'"

"No? That must've just been my interpretation of things, then."

"Okay, now you're just being cryptic on purpose," Sam huffed, crossing her arms in front of her chest.

Lily turned to fully face Sam, more focused on her friend than she'd been all afternoon.

"Think about it, Sammy. You're a bright girl; I know you can figure this one out. Why might it be upsetting for you that someone looked at you and Brooke, and saw a happy couple, instead of two perfectly platonic friends?"

Sam frowned. Lily had obviously already come up with an answer to the question, and while Sam felt like she might be semi-close to cracking Lily's stupid code, nothing was coming to her. Her mind could only draw blanks.

When it became obvious that Sam wasn't going to say anything, Lily continued, "Look, you and Brooke have always had an interesting 'relationship,' or whatever. I mean, there was always so much..." Lily paused, apparently searching for the right word. "Tension between the two of you. And tension like that, I don't think it just goes away. It just, you know, might feel a little different than before. A different kind of tension."

Sam laughed, still not really following Lily's supposed hints. "What, like sexual tension?" she joked.

Lily just stared at her.

"Oh God, you're serious," Sam realized, horrified. "You think I have sexual tension with Brooke? That's... That's ridiculous! I'm with George. I like George!"

Lily shrugged. "I don't deny that you and George seem to work well together. All I'm saying is that you might have felt weird last night because, while you and Brooke aren't a couple, at least part of you wouldn't exactly mind it if you were."

Sam could only blink at Lily in bewilderment. "This conversation is stupid, and you suck as a therapist, just so you know. You were supposed to make me less confused, not more!"

"Sorry, Sam. I'm just telling it like I see it. But hey, you'll have some time away from both Brooke and George to think about things, when you and your mom go to Boston over the three-day weekend to check out colleges."

Sam, who had flopped over onto Lily's bed, suddenly sat upright. "Shit, Boston. Didn't I tell you? With Mom's pregnancy, she doesn't really feel up to traveling much, so we agreed that Brooke would come with me instead. Three days alone with Brooke. Shit!"

Lily's eyes widened. "Well that's interesting. Don't freak out, Sam. Brooke's still your friend, so just act normal, and you can just forget all about this conversation if you want."

Right, like it was that easy.


"Ladies and gentlemen, we will be arriving in Boston shortly. Please fasten your seatbelts, make sure your seatbacks and tray tables are in the upright and locked position, and prepare for landing."

Sam woke up with her mouth open and her head leaning fully on Brooke's shoulder. She immediately sat up, embarrassedly wiping away the saliva at the corner of her mouth as Brooke stretched out her shoulder.

"Shit, I'm sorry," Sam muttered, her voice still groggy with sleep. "Why didn't you shove me off or wake me up?"

Brooke just smiled affectionately and shrugged. "Didn't see a need to, I guess. You looked comfortable. Well, as comfortable as you can get on a plane."

Just then Sam noticed a spot on Brooke's shirt that was darker than the rest. Her eyes widened as her face flushed. "Oh God, I drooled on you. I'm so sorry! Brooke, how could you let me drool on you?"

Brooke looked down at her shoulder and then sighed dramatically. "Seriously Sam, the things you put me through. Free trips to Boston and a little bit of drool on my shirt. I think I'll survive," she deadpanned. "But to make up for it, I guess you'll just have to come shopping with me tomorrow! I've been dying to get to the stores on Newbury Street ever since we started planning this trip!"

Still embarrassed, Sam could only roll her eyes and agree. Between college tours and shopping with Brooke, the next day was shaping up to be a long one.


"Brooke, I swear, my feet are about to fall off," Sam whined. "And then you'll have to stop shopping anyway, because you'll need to take me to the hospital. And how do you plan to explain my lack of feet to the parental units? I don't think they'll be very happy if I come back with no feet."

Brooke just laughed. "Seriously, Sammy, you've got to work on curbing the melodrama."

She apparently took pity on the brunette, though, as she continued, "Okay, our dinner reservation is in about a half hour, which doesn't give us time to go back to the hotel first, but we can just sit and chill for a bit, if you want."

"But it's cold!" Sam knew she was complaining a lot, but couldn't help it. "There's no way that I'm sitting outside on a random bench in the middle of Boston right now."

"Hmmm. Ooh, I know!" Brooke immediately started moving across the street, as Sam followed slowly behind.

"A furniture store?" Sam frowned in confusion as she saw where Brooke was headed.

Brooke turned around and smiled. "Don't you think your weary feet would appreciate the chance to be propped up on a soft mattress?"

Sam's face practically lit up at the prospect, and she smiled gratefully.

Inside the store, she sighed in happiness as she and Brooke sank down onto a large, very comfortable mattress. She closed her eyes, but opened them again when someone nearby cleared his throat. "Excuse me, ladies. I'm sorry, but these mattresses are only out for people seriously considering buying one. They're not simply here for you to sleep on."

Sam sat up and was about to apologize, when Brooke spoke first. "Oh, we are seriously considering buying one." Sam turned to stare at Brooke, becoming quite nervous at the mischievous look in the blonde's eyes. And there were those damn butterflies, again. Sam had been feeling them more and more whenever Brooke was around.

"You see," Brooke continued, sitting up, "We're moving in together for the first time, and we really want the perfect bed for our bedroom. Right, honey?"

Brooke turned to look at her, nonchalantly reaching down to grab hold of Sam's hand.

Sam swallowed. "Um, right. Exactly."

The salesman barely batted an eyelash. "Oh. I apologize, then. Let me know if you have any questions, or if I can help out in any way."

Brooke smiled and lay back down, not letting go of Sam's hand as she tugged Sam down next to her again.

Sam felt like someone was twisting her insides; like someone had just reached into her and squeezed. Because Lily might be right, it seemed. She and Brooke were apparently fake dating, and it was all a pretense, a silly joke, but some part of Sam wanted it to be real.

The realization nearly took her breath away.

Sam sighed. Goddamn waiters, and Lily, and Valentine's Day, and Texas for causing this craziness, and putting all these stupid ideas in her head.

Never mind losing her feet, Sam had a feeling she might be losing her mind.


Part 9 [He]: A Lose-Lose Situation

It was crazy. The whole thing was crazy, and Sam knew it, but she didn't know how to stop it. She didn't even really know how it had started. This stupid contest, fighting for Harrison's affections.

Sam wasn't in love with him. She knew that much. He was sweet, he was funny, he was loyal, and he should have been perfect. Should have been everything she could possibly want in a boyfriend.

She didn't really want to date him, though. She just didn't want Brooke to date him either.

It was a lose-lose situation, really. No matter who Harrison chose, Sam already knew that she wouldn't be happy about it.

This wasn't how it was supposed to work. Sam was supposed to have a girl as a best friend, and then she'd fall in love with the cute boy next door, and the two of them would live happily ever after. Instead, the boy was the best friend, and Sam was falling for the girl down the hall.

Basically, prom was going to suck, and Sam had no clue what to do about it.


Part 10 [too much]: A Night To Forget

Later, Brooke wouldn't be able to remember much. The doctor said it was because of the concussion, and was nothing to worry about. She remembered flashes, though. Things like running from the restaurant. The pounding of her heart. Nicole's maniacal grin from behind the steering wheel. The feel of the cold, hard pavement beneath her cheek.

She wouldn't be able to explain why she had even run in the first place. It had been what they wanted; they forced Harrison to choose. And yet, as soon as the name left his throat, she suddenly knew that she couldn't stand to be in that room anymore. Though she couldn't say for sure, of course, Brooke would guess that she'd have reacted the same way, no matter which name had come out.

The throbbing in Brooke's head was relentless. She opened her eyes with a moan, trying to get her bearings. It was only when she tried to move that she realized that she was lying on the ground, on her back, with long red scrapes covering the right side of her body.

Suddenly, the sounds of everything around her broke through the loud ringing in her head. Now, her head was filled with the fuzzy sounds of people yelling, and someone else nearby, moaning.

Fighting how much it hurt to do so, Brooke turned her head to the side. She blinked, trying to make sense of the sights in front of her.

At first, her unfocused gaze didn't really take anything in. But then the huddled form in front of her finally took shape as something recognizable.


Instantly, it all made sense. Her initial confusion fled in the face of the intense wave of fear that washed over her. "Oh God, no," she murmured, her eyes not leaving Sam's crumpled form.

Her body aching, Brooke crawled over to Sam, whose eyes were closed and who was releasing a long, pain-filled groan. "Sam?" she asked urgently, placing her hands gently onto Sam's shoulders and carefully rolling her over onto her back. "Sam, can you hear me??"

Sam's eyes fluttered open, only to close again tightly after a second. "Brooke?" Sam's voice was so soft, so weak, that Brooke had to lean closer to hear her.

"Oh, Sam. I'm here, Sammy. I'm here. You're okay. You're going to be fine. Oh, Sammy, you're such an idiot!"

Opening her eyes again, it took Sam a moment before her gaze finally focused onto Brooke. "Don't cry, Brooke," she said simply, and then added, "You're bleeding."

Brooke, who had barely even noticed the tears streaming down her face, released a strangled sob at Sam's words.

"Yeah? Well so are you." Brooke kept her gaze on Sam's face, not wanting to take the time to fully examine all that might be wrong with the brunette. It was bad, though. She knew it had to be bad.

"Mmm," Sam agreed. "I'm just going to go to sleep now."

"No! No, Sammy, stay awake," Brooke pleaded. "Stay with me, Sam. Oh, please, Sam, don't leave me. You can't! I love you, Sam. I need you!" Brooke didn't have the energy to think about where her words had come from, or what they really meant. She just knew that Sam needed help, and quickly.

It was all just too much to think about.

"Did someone call 9-1-1?" Brooke twisted around to shout desperately behind her. It was then that her eyes met Harrison's. He stood a few feet away, an unreadable expression on his face. Unable to deal with him for the moment, she turned back to Sam. Her eyes were still open, but just barely. Brooke brought a trembling hand up to Sam's face, trying to wipe away the blood that flowed from a large gash by Sam's left eyebrow, but only succeeding in making a bigger mess.

It was then that Brooke heard the sound of a wailing ambulance approaching. Before she knew it, she was suddenly surrounded by EMTs, who were moving around Sam and talking so quickly that Brooke couldn't fully process what they were saying.

They soon had Sam laid out on a stretcher, though, and then lifted her into the air.

"Sam!" Brooke lurched rapidly to her feet, calling after the retreating stretcher. She swayed a little, though, almost returning directly to the ground as a wave of dizziness crashed over her.

"Whoa, there." An EMT appeared at her elbow, holding her upright. "Let's take a look at you, okay? Looks like you might've hit your head pretty bad."

"No, I have to go with Sam!" Brooke shook her head, hoping to clear the fuzziness in her brain, but only making things significantly worse. Suddenly she leaned away, only managing a few steps before she retched violently in the bushes nearby.

The EMT still kept his hold on the blonde, running a soothing hand over her back. "Look, you can ride in the back of the ambulance with your friend, but you have to let me check things out with you, okay?"

Brooke nodded carefully, wanting only to get Sam back within her sight.

Later, Sam would remember even less. Rather than remembering the actual, physical events, she was left more with the sensations that she had felt. She could remember fear. She could remember adrenaline. And she could remember pain. That was it.

She wouldn't remember the dinner with Harrison at all.

As soon as Brooke stood up from the table and raced from the room, Sam automatically felt like she had no choice but to follow.

The whole evening was proving to be a disaster, just as Sam had known it would be. Harrison had chosen Brooke, though, and while Sam had to admit that it really hurt, she couldn't understand why Brooke had left. This should have been what Brooke wanted!

Wanting to understand, Sam chased after the departing blonde.

"This is not what I wanted," Brooke murmured quietly once they were outside, taking in a big gulp of air.

Again, that made no sense. "This is not what I wanted, Brooke, okay? Just stop!" Sam exclaimed in frustration.

But Brooke didn't stop, and as soon as Sam caught sight of the car roaring around the corner, going way faster than it should, Sam started moving again too. She didn't think, just let her feet carry her towards Brooke, who stood frozen in the middle of the road.

Adrenaline and fear pumped through Sam's body, pushing her forward. Her mind felt abnormally calm, considering the situation; she just knew that she couldn't simply stand by and let Brooke get hurt. She cared about Brooke too much to let that happen.

Brooke didn't appear to notice her approach, though, as her gaze seemed to be stuck on the oncoming car.

Brooke screamed, but at the last second, Sam finally made it to her destination and shoved Brooke out of the way. Knowing that it was too late to save herself as well, Sam tensed her body, right before she felt the immense force of hot metal slam into her side.

Later, Harrison would remember everything.

He wished he could forget it all.

Harrison couldn't believe it. The night had started off so well -- he had not one, but two beautiful women on his arms, two women he cared deeply about, and he had felt like nothing could go wrong.

Boy, had that been a misjudgment.

It was bad enough that they pulled that stunt on him at the last minute, making him choose between the two of them. But to make matters worse, they had both fled as soon as he did so! What the hell was that all about?

Harrison dropped his head down onto the table, sighing in frustration. It was just too much to deal with right then. And of course, to top it all off, he'd been left with the bill for dinner.

He quickly sat up again, though, at the loud sound of screeching tires outside. Hastily throwing some money down on the table, Harrison belatedly followed Brooke and Sam's path out of the restaurant.

Once outside, it took him a moment to make sense of what was in front of him. He saw a car that had smashed into a tree, but his eyes kept moving, searching for any sign of Sam and Brooke.

When he saw the two figures lying on the ground, Harrison felt the color drain from his face, and he thought he might be sick. He recognized those dresses.

The heap that he knew to be Brooke began to move, at least, crawling over to where Sam lay. He found that his feet didn't seem to be working properly, though, and he could only look on in horror, frozen in place.

After a moment, he finally was able to move again, and he hurried down the steps and across the street, his heart pounding painfully in his chest. He stopped when he was close enough to hear Brooke's voice, suffused with fear and panic and pain.

"No! No, Sammy, stay awake. Stay with me, Sam. Oh, please, Sam, don't leave me. You can't! I love you, Sam. I need you!"

Something in Brooke's voice stopped him cold. Harrison had never heard Brooke say anything before with that much emotion behind it.

It was that exact moment that he knew, and the expression in Brooke's face as she turned around, wildly calling for an ambulance, only confirmed it.

They had made him choose between them, but Harrison understood immediately that he had actually lost them both.

To Be Continued

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