DISCLAIMER: These characters belong to Ryan Murphy and the WB. No infringement is intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: A huge thank you to Redlance for the very kind words and keen typo spotting. You're awesome!!
CONTINUITY: This is in my Bram!verse and is next after 'Red Herrings'
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

P is for Pillow Talk
By Quatorz


Part I

Jane zeroed out the ambient noise, and honed in on the weather report from the FM station. The radio warned of an imminent storm front-warm air from the south was on a collision course with a northern cold front.

Meanwhile her step-daughter Brooke-who looked entirely unfazed by the idea of inclement weather-was eating her breakfast and humming to herself. Jane recognized the tune, but couldn't place the--

Wait. Humming to herself?

It was a far cry from the other day when she and Sam said the most horrible things to each other: Brooke had made fun of her daughter's chest, and Sam (Jane still shuddered at the thought) said that Brooke's last date was Nicole's hood ornament.

Jesus. She was worried they'd kill each other if left unsupervised. But things seemed all right now. "So I guess you and Sam made up?" Jane ventured.

Brooke was staring off into space, but she grinned broadly. "Ohhhh yeah," she nodded.

What was that suppose to mean? Brooke was leering like the guy on the Captain Morgan bottle. Jane cocked an eyebrow not unlike her precocious daughter.

Brooke shook her head and focused on Jane once more. "We gotta go," she smiled. She placed her plate in the sink, and kissed Jane on the cheek. "We're gonna be late if Sam doesn't get her butt down here."

"I'm coming, I'm coming," the brunette shuffled into the kitchen. "Is there at least time for me to get breakfast?" She grabbed a box of cereal from the pantry.

"Sam, we're late," Brooke reminded her.

Sam ignored her, and held up the red box displaying a white bearded man sporting a naval dress uniform. "Captain Crunch has been out since before we were born," she mused. "Shouldn't he be, like, Admiral Crunch by now? Did you ever wonder: who did this guy piss off? When did his career aspirations go to hell?"

Jane watched Brooke dissolve into a fit of giggles. "Sammy!" she laughed. Sam grinned-seeming quite pleased with herself-and placed the box back on the shelf. She grabbed an apple from the fruit bowl, added three bananas, and then a quick peck on the cheek for her mother. "Gotta go, Mom. Apparently we're late," she sighed dramatically.

"We are," Brooke assured her as she hopped off the stool. "Today's the big day," she said, and fell into place beside Sam. Just before they slipped through the door, Jane watched her daughter glance up at the blonde, a smirk tugging at the corner of her mouth.

Their gaze met, and Brooke's whole face lit up in a smile. The girl positively beamed, and Jane couldn't remember ever seeing her so happy before.

But Jane only looked for a moment, because it was the look in Sam's eyes that made her pull up short.

What had she just seen in her daughter's eyes?

Mary Cherry saw it first. Others stole a quick glance-unaccustomed to seeing Sam McPherson of all people dressed like that-but Mary Cherry was the one who noticed-and automatically assumed the worst.

"Oh mah Gawd!" the Texan shrieked. "You killed Brookie!!" Now other people were looking.

"That's right, Mary Cherry," Sam agreed. "I killed Brooke. I decided to finish the job Nicole started."

Mary Cherry blanched. Well, it would be more accurate to say that her pale white skin turned even paler white (if that was possible), but it made her red lipstick pop like neon. The effect was not attractive.

Sam chuckled to herself. In all fairness to Mary Cherry, the bar was set pretty high for the standard of female beauty. Brooke McQueen kinda ruined the curve where other girls were involved.

"How can you even joke about that?" Mary Cherry rebuked-and it was a fair question. That casual remark was the second time in as many weeks that she'd made a sarcastic comment about Brooke's accident.

She certainly wasn't over it. In fact, the breakdown she'd had at Harrison's house-caused by a flash flood of memories-made the night of the junior prom fresher than it had ever been, and the nightmares more vivid. She considered it right up there with the day her father died as one of the two worst days of her life.

So why were these smartass remarks about an event that almost shattered her soul frothing from her lips so easily these days?

The journalist didn't have an answer.

"Relax, Mary Cherry," Sam assured. "Your 'Brookie' is fine."

And she's my Brookie you twit, she thought to herself with a sense of satisfaction. Although Brooke would punch her if she called her 'Brookie'.

Mary Cherry pointed to the newest addition to Sam's apparel. "Then how did you get that?" she demanded.

"Here's the Princess now," Sam spat. "Why don't you ask her to explain?"

When Brooke was young, she had once heard about something called 'Mexican Jumping Beans'. She thought she'd seen them in a cartoon: little red and blue beans-driven by some microscopic nuclear reactor inside of them that caused them to move frenetically.

Today she knew exactly how they felt. She was practically vibrating.

Today was the big day: today they would announce their relationship to the entire school.

Even if they we're the only ones who realize it, she smiled.

She closed her locker, and headed for the entrance. Sam had given her a few minutes head start so that she could be there for her arrival.

Brooke's timing was impeccable. She turned the corner just in time to see Sam enter the building.

And her heart stopped. Just for a moment.

She wanted to freeze that moment: her Sam walking into Kennedy wearing her Glamazon jacket. And though she couldn't read it from there, she knew her name was stitched onto the lapel.

Everyone in school would see Sam wearing her cheerleading jacket-and read Brooke's name embroidered there. And in the back of their minds they'd think about how people only wore someone's jacket when they were dating. Oh sure, they'd hear a perfectly rational explanation: the cover story that Brooke had worked out. But maybe some of them-the smart ones-would begin to speculate on the possibility that under all that hostility lay the foundation for something more. And maybe one or two of them would tell their friends-and a rumor might get started.

And maybe when Brooke walked down the hall people would stare at her and whisper and wonder...

And she would act totally oblivious to the gossip-but she would cherish every single whisper, every sideways glance, every scrutinizing look-because each one was one more person who knew.

And she wanted to tell the world.

A shrill "Oh mah Gawd!" pierced her blissful reverie. Jane had mentioned rain in the forecast, hadn't she? Brooke's came in the form of a bleach blonde Texan with latent homicidal tendencies.

Brooke took a moment to get into character. She approached her girlfriend just in time for Sam's introduction. Mary Cherry spun around to face Brooke, but she glared at Sam-just like they practiced.

"Brookie, wah is she wearing your jacket?"

"Because," Brooke explained, "Sam is the most annoying person who ever lived. I happened to spill--"

"Your coffee that you just had to stop for-almost making us late, by the way-and you just had to pour the cream and sugar in while you were driving. And then what happened?" the brunette asked her sarcastically.

"I spilled some on Sam's favorite shirt," Brooke confessed.

"Some?" Sam shouted. "You probably ruined it!"

"So like a third grader you took my jacket as payback!" Brooke accused. "Real mature, McPherson!"

"I don't have anything else to wear today, Brooke!"

Brooke's heart fluttered. The venom with which Sam said her name reminded her of the argument they feigned for Jane's benefit-and the delicious make up sex they discovered afterwards.

Focus, Brooke.

"Eww!" Mary Cherry twitched. "You cannot wear that jacket! Your Spam cooties will be all over it!"

"Well unless you can find something else for me to--" And almost as soon as she said it, Brooke could tell Sam regretted it. Mary Cherry's eyes lit up.

"Y'all are in luck!" the future Manson family candidate gushed, "Lil' Lily is selling T-shirts for the rainforest-or 'peace'-or somethin'. Sam: Ah will buy you one of those shirts mahself so you can give Brooke her jacket back."

A moment's pause while Brooke watched her girlfriend's mind race. Goddamn you, Mary Cherry, Brooke fumed, if you ruin this for me I'll--

"That's typical," Sam addressed her scathingly: "Always getting one of your flunkies to bail you out!" The reporter shook her head in disgust. "Here's the deal, Princess: you'll get your jacket back when you pay to have my shirt dry cleaned. Not replaced, not machine washed with Woolite, dry-cleaned!

"And for your information, I'm going to wear this jacket all day long-and get my Spam cooties all over it-just to spite you!"

Mary Cherry cringed and unknowingly quoted Joseph Conrad. "The horror! The horror!" she kept repeating-for she had seen the heart of darkness.

Brooke narrowed her eyes at the brunette and faced off against her for the umpteenth time, a single thought running like a mantra through her mind:

God, I love this girl!

Jane McPherson's detective pedigree went back to her eighth birthday when she received her first Nancy Drew mystery-the classic hardback editions with the bright yellow spines.

She'd considered it her duty as a Mom to turn her daughter on to the same mystery novels when she was that age, and she took great pride in the fact that her daughter now wanted to be an investigative journalist.

The fact that Kelly hadn't introduced Brooke to either the Nancy Drew or Sweet Valley High books was-in her eyes-absolute proof that the woman was too self-absorbed to be a decent parent. But she kept that opinion to herself.

Unfortunately, Brooke seemed to figure that out on her own...

Jane returned from the store almost too excited for words. She'd found gold at the market. Okay, not literally-but damn close. A magazine at the checkout counter had an excerpt from the brand new Kinsey Millhone novel, 'Q is for Quarry', and an interview with author Sue Grafton.

The new novel wasn't due out until October, but the magazine gave some enticing hints: it was based on a real life murder that took place in the summer of 1969. The woman was never identified, the murderer never found. The police ask Kinsey to assist with this unsolved crime.

Jane couldn't wait. She'd become totally addicted to Sue Grafton's crime thriller alphabet series. She had finished 'P is for Peril' within the first week of its release, and eagerly awaited the next installment.

She tried to get Sam interested in the series, but apparently her daughter had grown out of what she referred to as 'the hackneyed literary wannabes that proliferated the best seller lists'.

Or bonding with her mother, apparently. She loved Sam, but sometimes her daughter could be an a-hole.

Oh well. Teenagers...

She put the magazine down, and took a cleansing breath. Savor it, she told herself. Put away the laundry, and then sit back, relax and read with nothing pending-nothing hanging over your head.

Good idea. She grabbed a basket of the girl's clothes, and headed up to their rooms. She would do Sam's first. Brooke was easy: she had about five things she wore that weren't 'dry clean only'.

Jane, she chastised herself. She wasn't being very nice. Brooke couldn't help it if she liked to dress nicely. She'd just gotten spoiled from having a daughter like Sam. And besides, Brooke was much more likely to just put on a top and jeans these days than she was a year ago. She's loosened up quite a bit since--

Since the accident, she realized. Well now I feel like crap, she thought to herself.

After putting away Sam's clothes she entered Brooke's room-and chuckled at the difference between Brooke's and her daughter's. It was no wonder Sam hated Brooke when they first met. The girl really was perfect: absolutely stunning, great fashion sense, good grades-and she kept her room clean. She was an easy mark for Sam.

But Jane had come to realize-as had Sam, she suspected-that Brooke's striving for perfection wasn't for her own satisfaction. It was to please the people around her-and at the core probably the one person who wasn't around anymore.

Brooke blamed herself for her mother's abandonment, and Jane felt that Brooke's striving to be perfect was so that no one else would leave her. And maybe-just maybe-that shallow wench of a mother might come back to her as well.

Jane shook her head. It kicked her maternal instincts into insanely overprotective mother mode. But she didn't think Brooke minded that so much anymore. In fact, she felt that she'd become the mother that Brooke had always wanted. Always needed.

And if she hadn't, then she would keep trying.

The matter settled, she set the laundry basket on the bed, and grabbed the sheets and pillowcases for Brooke's bed. She picked up one of the pillows and--

What was Sam's pillow doing in here?

She looked closer: it was definitely her daughter's. It had the crown logo from that mattress brand-the ones she bought for herself and for Sam before they moved in-the one that Mike was always trying to swipe...

A memory-on a repeating loop-submitted itself for consideration: a few months back-right around New Year's-Brooke switching pillows on Sam's bed.

Jane figuratively scratched her head:

What the hell is going on...?

Sam glanced over at her girlfriend, and held back a smirk. "Hey," she whispered. "You're supposed to be really annoyed with me, remember? Try not to look so happy."

"It's hard," Brooke grinned. "I am happy," she protested. The reply made Sam all warm and fuzzy inside, but she still gave her the 'look'. They had to stick to the plan. Brooke nodded and rolled her eyes. "Right," she acquiesced, and rearranged her features into a scowl.

Sam chuckled at how familiar that face was when directed at her. Thank God it had been a while. She was surprised all that scowling hadn't given Brooke frown lines.

Of course, Sam knew enough not to even joke about that. She'd hear about that until the end of time if she did-and Brooke would see imaginary frown lines where there were none.

It was amazing that for someone as beautiful and smart as her, she dealt with a lot of insecurities. And-as Sam had come to find out-many of those insecurities now centered around her.

When Brooke had found her acceptance letter to Northwestern-which Sam had applied to before Brooke's accident-the blonde automatically assumed that Sam would be going to Chicago in the fall.

It had rocked the poor girl to the core, and Sam had to assure her (again) that she had no intention of leaving Brooke. Ever.

Which was ludicrous to even consider. I mean, she was dating Brooke-and Brooke was the insecure one? What could possibly possess her to leave Brooke McQueen? That was just...dumb!

Good word usage there, Sam: dumb. Wow: way to flex that vocabulary muscle there, Nellie Bly.

Ridiculous, inconceivable, the aforementioned ludicrous, absurd, preposterous: Sam went through a litany of words that were better choices than 'dumb', but all led to the same conclusion: how in the world could Brooke worry about Sam leaving her?

She blamed Hugh Grant. It was all his fault. He had Elizabeth Hurley waiting for him at home, yet he chose to cheat on her with some skanky whore on Sunset. He ruined it for everyone because if someone would cheat on Elizabeth Hurley, then no one was safe. Elizabeth Hurley was one of the most beautiful women on Earth. Sure, she was no Brooke McQueen, but she was--


Sam realized that her offhand remark was entirely genuine. Elizabeth Hurley was beautiful, but not as beautiful as Brooke. And suddenly she felt uneasy. I'm dating the most beautiful woman on Earth, she reflected. Me, Sam McPherson-I'm dating the prettiest girl on the planet.

How did that happen? What does she see in me...?

"Are you okay?" Brooke asked. Sam looked around, and realized that her epiphany had-literally-stopped her in her tracks. She'd always thought that was just an expression.

"Fine," she smiled. "Don't forget to scowl," she reminded Brooke.

They stepped into Glass' chemistry classroom the same time as Lily-creating a bottleneck at the door.

Lily did a double take: she took in Sam and the name stitched on the jacket then turned an indulgent eye toward Brooke.

"This was your idea?" she guessed.

"Moi?" Brooke replied, but she looked so guilty.

"You guys are just too cute." Lily rolled her eyes. "You know, Sam," she remarked, "if I ever acted this way with a boy you have would never let me live it down."

For all her quick wit, Sam didn't have an answer. Probably because it was true, she admitted to herself.

"You totally would have ridden my ass about it," Lily pressed. "And you know it."

"Riding Sam's ass," Brooke grinned. "Now there's a mental image I can wrap myself around."

"Brooke!" Sam snarled, and she could tell by the burning of her cheeks that she was blushing badly-which amused the blonde to no end.

Lily-who had apparently become accustomed to Brooke's horny sailor routine-just cackled.

"You suck!" was all Sam could come up with-which was just fuel for the fire. Brooke cocked a saucy eyebrow in reply, and Lily's peals of fresh laughter echoed down the hall.

A few moments later they assumed their assigned seats-pairs grouped at each lab table. Sam hated this seating assignment when Glass first announced it but eventually found it very convenient. She got to sit beside Brooke before she'd even admitted to herself that she wanted to sit beside Brooke.

Ms. Glass handed out the lab results from the other day and viewed Sam's jacket with a raised eyebrow.

"Joined the Glamazons, Miss McPherson?" She queried. "Sleeping with the enemy?" she continued.

Cute. Sam thought to herself. Brooke cleared her throat conspicuously beside her. Sam just met Glass' scrutinizing gaze and little half smile. Yeah, Glass had made that remark on purpose. Sam could tell.

"No, Ms. Glass. It's not mine."

"I see that," Glass replied, her eyes reading the name on Sam's chest. "Why are you wearing Miss McQueen's jacket?"

"Because Brooke spilled her coffee on my shirt."

"Well, would you kindly take off the coat in my class?" Glass requested.

"I can't," Sam informed her, "I'm not wearing anything underneath."

The crack of Brooke's pencil echoed very loudly in the quiet classroom. The blonde looked down at the two pieces in her hand, and set them gingerly on the table.

"You're only wearing the coat?" Glass inquired.

"Yes, Ma'am," Sam assured her. "In fact, the clasp of my bra was catching on the buttons, so I had to remove that too."

She could have sworn a whimper escaped her seatmate, and Sam repressed a smirk.

Glass' eyes narrowed. She may have pushed it too far, but was saved by an outburst of wolf whistles and catcalls by the guys in her class.

And was Lily's voice mixed in there too?

"All right, that's enough!" Glass vented her ire on the class. "And thank you for today's TMI moment, Miss McPherson," she addressed Sam. "Please keep the jacket on."

"I will. Thank you, Ms. Glass."

Glass turned to the board and began her lecture. From the back of the room came one last anonymous whistle. Glass turned her evil eye in that direction before continuing.

Sam just smiled. She was honest enough with herself to admit that she enjoyed the attention. It felt good when someone thought you were hot. Although she had a feeling Brooke wasn't too pleased: her fuming girlfriend had broken another pencil.

Jane stared at the excerpt from the new Kinsey Millhone novel without really seeing the words. They sat at the edge of her awareness: she recognized groupings of letters as words, but her mind wasn't weaving the words together to form meaning. It tasted them and then spat them right back out.

No, her thoughts centered around her daughter and the girl that she had come to think of as a daughter. If Brooke figured out Sam's pillow was really comfortable, then perhaps she just stole it from Sam?

But then why switch it at New Year's? Why would it matter to her what side of the bed it was on?

What side of the bed did Brooke sleep on? she wondered.

That didn't really matter, her mind argued. Brooke sleeps alone. It only matters what side of the bed you sleep on when you sleep with someone else-and then what side of the bed you sleep on matters a great deal. But it doesn't-because Brooke sleeps alone.

Brooke does sleep alone, right...?

But if she didn't sleep alone and it did matter what side of the bed she slept on, why would it matter what side of Sam's bed the comfy pillow was on?

The pieces of the puzzle just didn't add up...

Yes they do, her subconscious whispered. You just don't like the picture.

Shut up, she told her mind. She looked at the clock. It was after eleven. That wasn't too early for a glass of wine, was it?

She dared her subconscious to chime in on that. Prudently, it kept silent, and Jane poured herself a tall glass of Merlot.

Then she upgraded to a Grande.

One order of Denial. Hold the fries.


Part II

"Brooke?" Sam called her name-and she could tell it wasn't the first time she'd been addressed.

"Sorry," the blonde smiled. "I spaced out there for a moment. What did you say?"

"I was wondering what was for lunch," Sam replied, scanning the trays in the bustling cafeteria around them. "Are you okay?" she asked.

Brooke nodded.

Sam looked up at her with a smile. "Are you still upset about chemistry?"

"No," Brooke lied. Sam, of course, saw right through her. She didn't even have to say it. "It seemed like you were really enjoying yourself," Brooke pointed out.

"I did," Sam admitted. "But not for the reasons you think."

Okay. How was she going to explain this one?

"It just--" Sam shrugged, "it felt nice to feel attractive."

"Sammy, you're gorgeous," Brooke insisted. "I tell you that all the time."

"I know you do, but you have to," Sam explained. "You love me."

"You think I don't mean it?"

"No, it's not that," the brunette flustered. "You remember that time-about a year or so ago-when you came down the stairs and asked if that moss green sweater you had on and the green in the skirt were too different?"

Brooke thought back. She vaguely remembered. She wasn't sure if the outfit worked together, and wanted a second opinion. "I think so."

"Well you remember how Mike said it looked great, but then you asked Mom and she said the two greens didn't match? It's like that: its not that Mike didn't know, he just has blinders on because you're his daughter and he loves you.

"So that's what I mean. I know you mean it when you say I'm gorgeous-but you're in love. When a stranger says it..." she searched for the right words. "I guess it's nice to get an objective opinion."

"I see," Brooke smiled. She thought back to the time with the shades of green issue, and remembered Sam sitting at the kitchen table silent. "You know, I could have asked you what you thought of the green sweater. I don't know why I didn't. Sorry about that."

But the reporter just shook her head. "I wouldn't have been any help," she chuckled. "I thought you looked perfect."

Brooke was indescribably pleased at Sam's admission. "Even then?" she asked.

Sam grinned bashfully, her cheeks a little pink. "Even then."

Jane made several decisions that afternoon. Some good, some...not so good. She did finish the bottle of wine (bad decision), but decided not to open the Cuervo Gold (good decision). That would have been Steely Dan's fault, anyway, because they played 'Hey Nineteen' on the radio.

She could still hear them crooning about the gold tequila, and hummed along for a few verses.

"Make tonight a wonderful thing..." she warbled along to the tune in her head.

Brooke and Sam weren't even nineteen yet. And yet here they were switching pillows and picking which side of the bed they slept on.

Maybe...maybe they were practicing for when they slept with other people-in the future.

"Yeah," she chortled. "Good one, Jane!" she said out loud. She knew Brooke wasn't a virgin. The blonde hadn't had extensive experience, but she'd been with Josh and-she thought-Harrison.

But she was pretty sure Sam was still a virgin. Well, that she'd never been with a guy.

What are you saying here, Jane? she asked herself. It was like that stupid game that Mike explained to her at the country club where one of the guys would make a circle with his thumb and forefinger and put it in front of his crotch. And you lost if you looked-and the implied joke was that you were gay because you had looked at the area where another man's penis resided.

Guys are so stupid, she thought to herself.

Why had she brought that up again...?

Oh yeah. The metaphor worked: there was a thumb and forefinger circled right on top of Sam and Brooke and Sam's pillow and their sides of the bed and the little smiles and glances and the look in Sam's eyes that morning.

And she didn't want to look, but she couldn't help herself.

Was Sam still a virgin? And if she wasn't, had this milestone been achieved sans penis?

And if the answer was that Sam wasn't a virgin but she hadn't been with a guy, then was...

God, she could hardly say it: was Brooke the one she'd lost her virginity to?


Just thinking it aloud knocked the wind out of her. She eyed the sealed bottle of tequila, and thought of her old friends Steely Dan-briefly considering taking their advice.

Tangentially, she wondered why was it easier to imagine Sam being gay than Brooke. She would think that it would be more of a shock for her that her own daughter--

But Brooke had become a daughter to her as well. And Brooke was so...

Conforming. She never did anything to risk losing her title-and not of homecoming queen. Of perfection: the perfection she strived for to please everyone around her. The idea of Brooke being gay seemed so unthinkable because it meant the girl would have to break free from the mold placed around her.

She would have to stop being 'Malibu Brooke McQueen', and find out who the person inside of her really was. Jane wondered secretly if the girl possessed the strength to do it.

She certainly hoped so. Yeah, but do you want it to be in this way?

She had to talk to them: she had to get to the bottom of this whole 'pillow' mess.

Jane made up her mind to sit at the kitchen table and wait for them. She would do it this afternoon-before she lost her nerve.

Time would tell if that was a good or bad decision. In the meantime, she cracked open another bottle of liquid courage.

They pulled into the driveway, and Brooke reflected on what an awesome day it had been. She rushed around to the other side of the car and took Sam's hand.

The brunette regarded her questioningly, but she simply smiled at her. She just wanted this day to last a few moments longer. "You were saying?" she prompted the brunette.

Sam's eyes darted off as she recalled their conversation. "Oh yeah," she said. "It was really interesting. We started talking about propaganda," and Sam continued to detail what they'd started in history.

Brooke let go of Sam's hand as they approached the back door. "It sounds interesting."

"It was," Sam commented. "And we started talking all about conspiracy theories and how people hear what they want to believe-regardless of whether its--"

"Girls," Jane called from the kitchen. "Is that you?"

"Yep," Sam answered.

"Can I talk to you two for a moment?"

"Sure," Sam replied-and shot a questioning glance at Brooke. Brooke shrugged, but remembered her Dad's birthday was next month. Maybe Jane had some ideas to surprise him.

They entered the kitchen. Jane was sitting there at the table. Brooke took in the open bottle of wine beside her and the empty one by the sink.

Has she been drinking? Brooke wondered. That wasn't like her.

"Why are you wearing Brooke's jacket?" Jane asked.

"Uh," Sam stammered, looking to Brooke for support. Being that she had her shirt on underneath the coat she couldn't really use the excuse they'd been telling people all day. "The A/C was going berserk on my side of the car. I was freezing," Sam lied. "Brooke was nice enough to let me wear her cheerleading jacket."

"Oh," Jane replied. "I used to wear your father's jacket at school."

Uh oh. The hackles stood up on the back of Brooke's neck. God, what was that called: in Harrison's comic books way back when? Oh yeah: 'Spidey Sense'. Brooke's Spidey Sense was sounding alarm bells in her head.

"Mom, have you been drinking?" Sam asked-her voice tinged with disbelief.

"I have," Jane admitted. "You would drink too if you were in my shoes." She gestured to the seat in front of Sam. "Sit down. We need to talk."

Sam took a seat and Brooke ventured to diffuse the situation. "Jane, is everything okay? Can I get you something--"

"This concerns you too, Brooke. And I don't know if I'm okay or not to tell the truth."

Brooke sat down across from her girlfriend-the alarm bells in her head replaced with an air raid siren.

Sam waited for Jane to begin, and Brooke felt a surge of pride: Sammy was so smart. Volunteer nothing, the brunette had told her once. Always wait for the opposition to reveal what they knew. Good advice for a teenager.

"Sam, Brooke," Jane addressed them. Brooke folded her hands and put on what she hoped was a concerned face. "There've been a lot of--" she faltered, apparently losing her footing.

"I've noticed," she began again, "a lot of strange things going on lately."

"Like what, Mom?" Sam asked. And either she was a helluva lot better actress than Brooke gave her credit for (which she wasn't) or she had no idea what Jane was upset about. "Is-is it Mike?" Sam asked gently.

Brooke almost shook her head. Did Sam really not feel that tension?

"No, Sam," Jane countered. "It's you: you and Brooke. There have been a lot of strange things going on between the two of you."

Brooke revised her earlier statement about Sam's acting ability, because her girlfriend's expression gave away nothing. Note to self: don't play poker with Sam.

Heh. Unless it's strip poker.

A mental slap to the forehead brought her back to the conversation.

"Mom, what are you talking about?"

"I'm talking about the looks-and the closeness: neither of you have been on a date in months. I'm talking about your pillow being on Brooke's bed--" And here she turned Brooke's way: "And you switching the comfy pillow on Sam's bed a few months ago.

"I'm talking about how the two of you act together: the giggles and the late night talks in your room-which now I'm wondering if any actual talking occurs; the getting lost in each other's eyes!"

"Mom, that's all conjecture. You--"

"And this isn't court, Sam! I don't need proof beyond the shadow of a doubt. I'm a mother-and a mother knows when something is going on."

Brooke wished desperately that they could ask for a minute to discuss this in private-but that would probably look a little obvious. They should have thought of this beforehand: what to do if questioned by the 'Rentals?

Of course, she hadn't counted on this scenario. When she'd picture it, she always imagined the two of them caught in a tangled nest of bare arms and legs. Not much to deny there.

She realized that part of her actually hoped for that to happen. At least then it would be out in the open.

Sam turned to her, and there was something in her expression. Was Sammy going to...?

Brooke gave her what she hoped was the subtlest of nods.

"Okay, Mom," Sam began. "Something is--" Sam stopped, and took a deep breath. "Mom, I realized a few months ago that I'm--

"That I'm gay," she mustered. She looked into Jane's eyes as she said it, but then looked down at the table again. It was all Brooke could do not to reach across the table and take Sam's hand for support.

Jane absorbed the news quietly, this time waiting for Sam to elaborate. Or she'd had a stroke, her mind suggested. Brooke rolled her eyes at her gallows humor-honed while staring at the ceiling of her hospital room.

"I began to suspect...a while ago," Sam told her. "It was last year-well before Brooke's accident. And I was pretty sure then, but I was going through the motions with Harrison because-well, because I thought that maybe I just hadn't found the right guy, and-I'm ashamed to admit-I was still competing with Brooke.

"I didn't want her to have Harrison because he'd always been my friend." The brunette turned to her. "I'm sorry, Brooke."

"It's okay," she smiled warmly. But not too warmly.

"When Brooke had her accident..." Sam began.

Here it comes, Brooke thought. This was the part where she tells Jane how she felt for Brooke. She felt oddly terrified and elated at the same time.

"When Brooke had her accident, I guess I put all of that on the backburner," Sam told her mother instead. "The only thing that mattered was that she pulled through. And for once I realized that I didn't have to be the center of attention. I was working through how I was feeling, but I certainly wasn't going to create more drama by coming out while Brooke was trying to learn how to walk again. That wouldn't have been fair."

Sam smiled at her. "And it turned out that Brooke would be there for me in a way that I never imagined. I was going kinda crazy around Christmas. I had to tell someone, Mom, and I had no idea what to say to you.

"I told Brooke," Sam grinned. "And she's been so supportive. I've felt...unbelievably better since I told someone, and Brooke has been the best friend I could ever imagine." And it was Sam who reached across the table and took her hand. She gave it a reassuring squeeze.

"I think that's what you've seen between us: that I opened up to someone with what I thought was my deepest and darkest secret-and she accepted me wholeheartedly. I've felt better than I have in a long time."

Sam squeezed her hand again, and turned to Jane.

Waitaminute, Brooke thought to herself. Sam's admission was all well and good, but it wasn't going to explain the mooney eyes or the pillows or the jacket.

But Jane reached across the table, and took both their hands. She addressed her daughter first: "Sam, I'm so glad you told me. I love you. Nothing could ever change that. I don't ever want there to be secrets between us. I'm sorry you had a hard time coming to me, but--"

She turned to Brooke. "I'm grateful she has you for a friend, Brooke. Thank you so much for being there for her."

Brooke returned the smile then glanced over at Sam. She was confused, but then she remembered what Sam had told her about history class: the last thing Jane wanted to hear was that she and Sam were sleeping together (and it was so much more than that-Sam was her one and only-but parents always seemed to fixate on the physical relationship).

So it didn't matter if Sam's explanation didn't answer all of her questions, or tie up all the loose ends, or provide an alibi for all of the evidence. Jane heard exactly what she wanted to hear: a semi-rational explanation that put her fears to rest. Give her the tip, and she'll happily call it an iceberg.

And if Jane had any nagging doubts she'd probably just shake her head and chide herself for being silly.

People believed what they wanted to believe.

She smiled at the brunette. Damn, her Sammy was a smart cookie.

They sat facing each other on Sam's bed, their homework between them. It was nice, but far too distracting to get anything done. Sam fluffed the pillow under her, trying to mold the lumpy mass into something more comfort--

"I'm not getting my pillow back, am I?" she asked the blonde. Brooke simply smiled and closed her textbook. That meant that she wasn't going to get her pillow back, but that Brooke would do her best to make her forget all about it.

So she won either way. The blonde leaned in and kissed her-soft at first, then growing hungry and beckoning her to abandon her senses.

They broke off, and Sam saw spots flashing in her vision.

What were they talking about again...?

"How are you feeling?" the blonde asked.

"Pretty good," Sam waggled her eyebrows.

"No-I mean about today-about telling your Mom."

"Oh," Sam replied. She thought about the question. "I don't know," she shrugged. "Fine, I think. I guess I thought I would feel different after I told her, but I-I still feel like me.

"I'm just gay me," the brunette added. "Officially."

"I like 'gay' you," Brooke smirked.

"I know you do," Sam chuckled.

"And now that it's official let's see if we can get your Gaydar looked at," the blonde suggested. "I don't think it was installed properly."

Sam just shot her a 'look' as the blonde chortled merrily at her own joke. "Ha ha," she replied lamely.

"I thought for a minute there you were going to tell her about us," Brooke commented. "I was excited," she added truthfully.


Brooke nodded. "Yes-and mortified too. I want them to know to have it out in the open-but I'm afraid at the same time."

Sam understood completely. "That was one of the reasons I decided to tell Mom today: to sort of ease her into it," she explained. "I mean, if we told them all at once that I was gay, and you were gay, and that we were gay together...

"That's a lot for anyone to handle-and people do have heart attacks in their forties," she pointed out. Their parents weren't getting any younger.

"Yeah, I hadn't thought of that," her girlfriend agreed. "My Sammy's so smart," she said, and leaned in to kiss her.

Her Sammy, she shook her head in wonder. Never in her wildest dreams...

A knock at the door interrupted them. They pulled apart and her Mom popped her head in the room. "I thought I'd find you here," she said to them. Sam almost commented on her deductive ability when she realized that her Mom was talking to Brooke.

Amazingly, she didn't sound suspicious or sarcastic about it when she said it. And she didn't bat an eye at seeing the two of them lying sideways on Sam's bed. After all, they were fully clothed and had textbooks and notebooks between them. And they were studying-with a little bit of kissing here and there too.

Okay. They were kissing punctuated by brief interludes of studying.

Jane stepped tentatively into the room, a book in her hands. "I wanted to give this to you, to see if you liked it." She handed the book to Brooke. "It's the first in a series of mystery novels I've been reading. I'm totally hooked on them," she smiled.

Sam spied a glance at the cover. Oh God, it was one of Mom's 'alphabet books'.

"A is for Alibi", Brooke read. Jane sat on the bed beside her. "Yeah: the series started with this one. The heroine is named Kinsey Millhone, and she's a private detective. The series is on 'P' now, and 'Q' comes out in October.

"If you like this one, I would be happy to get 'B is for Burgler' for you. That's the next one."

And Sam was two seconds from voicing her opinion on the literary pedigree of the series when a clue smacked her upside the head. And she realized that this really had nothing to do with Sue Grafton or Kinsey Millhone or twenty-six dead people, and everything to do with a mother sharing something special with her daughter.

This was her Mom buying Brooke her first Nancy Drew book-like she'd done for Sam-just a bit belated and adjusted for the age difference. She couldn't be there when Brooke was eight years old and needed a mother-but she wanted to be there now.

"I'd like that," Brooke smiled. "I can't wait to read it." Sam could tell by the tears in Brooke's eyes that if the blonde ever doubted that she had a mother who loved her she didn't anymore.

"Thanks, Mom," Brooke added tentatively, and the two of them embraced. Her Mom wiped at her own eyes, and kissed Brooke on the top of the head. "I'd better let you two get back to your studying", she said, and left them alone again.

Brooke looked over at Sam with watery eyes. She knew when Brooke needed a hug.

"You're Mom's pretty great," Brooke sniffed.

"She's your Mom, too," Sam assured her. She felt Brooke nod and held on a little tighter.

Sam marveled at the changes in her life over the last two years. Before if her Mom had shown that kind of interest in Brooke she would have been insane with jealousy and thrown one of her fits. Now she was unbelievably grateful.

Both of their lives had been shattered by the loss of a parent. Sam was still so stricken with grief when she first met Brooke that she thought hers was the be-all-end-all of teen tragedies.

And it was-because it had happened to her. Everyone's pain is personal. But she'd realized something now that she never could have admitted then: that Brooke's was the more damaging of the two.

Yes, she'd lost the father that she adored-but she never-ever-doubted that he loved her. That love and support laid the foundation for her to be the person that she was.

Brooke had one of the two most important persons in a child's life say: "You're no good. I don't want you anymore."

She couldn't imagine how that felt-what that did to the girl in her arms. And she knew that her Mom could never really undo all the damage, but it went a long way toward healing those wounds.

Brooke seemed in no hurry to be anywhere, so Sam simply held her. Eventually the blonde's breathing fell into an even rhythm and Sam grinned when she realized she'd fallen asleep.

Ah well. She wasn't getting much studying done anyway. So she laid there in bed, with Brooke in her arms, feeling completely content.

With a smile, she wondered what their daughter might look like.

And as Sam drifted off to sleep, she dreamt of their daughter's eighth birthday: peeking around the corner, surreptitiously watching Brooke introduce their little girl to the adventures of a clever young detective who solved exciting and perilous mysteries.

The classic editions with the bright yellow spines: a tradition passed down from mother to daughter.

The End

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