DISCLAIMER: Popular and its characters are the property of Ryan Murphy. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This started out as an idea for the 'Bottled Water' prompt, but I quickly realised that I wasn't going to be able to contain it to 250 words. I thought maybe six. It spiralled and now it's at 13. Not exactly drabble length.
DEDICATION: For Dave, my straight man-friend soul mate. Who is totes a romantic, and I love that.
FEEDBACK: Love it! Drop me an email; raye_raye2001@yahoo.co.uk
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

By Redlance


Two years ago, things finally hit boiling point. For a year prior to that, I'd been like a bottle of water, holding everything inside until Nicole finally snapped and attempted to force Brooke into become one with the tarmac. It had unscrewed my lid and it wasn't long before Brooke came and pushed me over, and everything spilled out. I told her exactly how I felt, not caring about the consequences. She was silent and distant, and then gracious and kind as she politely turned me down. And I was as stubborn and as passionate as ever when I told her that no matter what, wherever I was, all she needed to do was say the word and I'd come running. That when she decided it was okay to love me, I'd be waiting.

Because she's Brooke McQueen. And you wait forever for her.

The last few months of high school, things were amicable between us, but something had definitely been lost. She'd once again pressed herself against the back wall of the shell she'd been hiding in during the early days of the parental merging and I desperately missed the closeness, but would never say anything. So I suffered in silence, took the smiles that were still offered and returned ones of my own. Never once feeling foolish or stupid for telling her how I felt, but always regretting that it pushed us to opposite sides of the fence again.

And then college rolled around and took us even further away. God, that had been painful. Not that I showed it until I was behind a closed door. I cried so hard when I packed up my stuff. Cried even harder when she packed away hers. I thought about crying when my mom hugged me goodbye at the end of the driveway, and then decided not to when Brooke just offered a farewell wave. But her eyes were red rimmed and sore-looking, and I knew she hadn't gotten away from the situation unscathed. I wanted to hug her. I wanted to pull her into my arms and tell her to just forget I'd ever said anything, but I didn't. I'd meant what I said and telling her to forget it would only diminish my promise.

And I had meant it with every fibre of my being.

So we parted ways. Myself, I hopped on a plane to the University of Missouri and Brooke drove the hour or so it would probably take, thank you LA traffic, to USC. It was three weeks, probably the longest three weeks of my life, before there was any form of contact. I'd resigned myself to not pushing the envelope once we left for school, deciding that the ball wasn't in my court anymore and that if she wanted to be distant, I'd force myself to be okay with that. And if she did want to retain even a modicum of civility and say 'hello' some time, nothing would change for me. My palms would still get sweaty, the butterflies in my stomach would start doing back flips, and my heart would seem to beat hard enough inside my chest to bruise. Any memory of her being distant would fade and I'd just be glad to feel the closeness again. So when I was greeted one morning by a popup window telling me I had three new emails and saw that one of them was from Brooke… I almost cried again.

It hadn't said much. Just a hello and that she wanted to check in on me and make sure I hadn't been lost on the way there. I wondered briefly if maybe that was her way of asking why I hadn't contacted her first, maybe she'd expected me to. But I didn't say anything, instead I replied similarly, asking if she'd been recruited into an on campus cult yet. And I didn't know if picturing her responsive smile to my playful question made me happy or painfully sad.

Life went on. Mine in Missouri, hers in sunny LA, but the emails averaged out at about two or three a week. It was strange, but we almost achieved the level of friendship we'd been at before through them. We joked and talked more than we had during our last few months at the Palace. We went back to talking to each other about things we couldn't talk to anyone else about. It was nice, familiar, but it was different, and I still missed being able to rest a hand on her arm when I was emphasizing something, or wanted to draw her closer so no one would overhear me. I missed when she would do the same.

But she never asked me about my feelings, never outwardly wondered if I was dating anyone or whether or not I still harboured more than friendly feelings towards her. I didn't know if she just didn't want to or didn't even think about it anymore. I never asked her about her love life either, but I know why I didn't.

A year trickled by in the blink of an eye. My journalism kept me occupied a lot of the time, but I made a few friends, even considered dating one of them for a while. Jamie is in the same journalism class as me and she works downtown at the coffee place, which is where we actually spoke for the first time. She asked me how I was, and when I asked her the same she replied with:

"I'm… lazy. But good lazy, not 'I don't want to make your drink' lazy."

Then we caught up in class and hit it off right away, but didn't hang out outside of school for a while. Eventually she invited me out for coffee, and I looked at her blonde hair and blue eyes, and found myself accepting. I knew exactly what I was doing. I mean, don't get me wrong, Jamie is one of the nicest people I've ever met and if the circumstances were any different I wouldn't have even hesitated dating her. If I hadn't been so completely in love with someone else. If Brooke didn't occupy ninety percent of my thoughts. If I hadn't been waiting for her to just say the word, it could have worked out. Maybe Jamie and I would be together now. But we went out for coffee and instead of getting to know each other a little better, she ended up getting to know me really well as I poured my heart out and told her everything.

So now we're best friends instead of girlfriends, and I think it was probably for the best anyway. She's dating a psyche major, but the way she works her over, you'd swear Jamie was the one majoring in it. She can see right through you like you were made of glass. But she's been awesome. If it hadn't been for her, this year would have sucked a whole heck of a lot more.

Brooke made it home for Mac's birthday last month. I felt terrible that I couldn't be there, but exams kept me firmly rooted at Mizzou, as it's affectionately known on campus. But Brooke sent me pictures. As cliché as it sounds, the year I'd gone without seeing her only served to make her look more breathtaking when I finally did. Her hair still flowed just below her shoulders, like some fabled golden blanket everyone was desperate to touch, and her smile still left me without adequate words to describe it. And I knew then, without a shadow of a doubt, that I'd never be over her.

Because she's Brooke McQueen. And you don't just wake up one morning and not love her anymore.

I got Jamie to take a picture of me sitting out front on the main steps so I could return the favour, part of me worrying that after all this time, maybe she'd forgotten what I looked like. Another part of me worrying she wouldn't really care to remember, but I sent the picture anyway. It was five days before I got a reply. I'd spent four of them worrying I'd said something wrong in the email or that seeing me had brought back unpleasantly embarrassing memories for her, and the last trying to convince myself not to be bothered by it. Then her email arrived. And all of my worries vanished.

She started out by apologising for not being brave enough to do this over the phone. Which is such a Brooke thing for her to say. Apologise for not being brave enough, when she's been braver than most people ever get the chance to be. And then if that wasn't confusing enough to begin with, she apologised for being such an idiot. The confusion began to ebb as I continued to read. She wrote how seeing me again, if only in photograph form, made all the suppressed feelings finally force their way out of the shadows. How her first thought had been of how beautiful I was, then how much she missed me. Next she'd registered how her heart was aching, wondered how long it had been hurting, and then she knew. She wrote that she'd been stupid and blind, but she wasn't anymore. She confessed that she'd worried it was too late, that I'd moved on, and then told me that she was sorry if it is. But she wanted me to know anyway, if only so that I know that she has also felt the sting of unrequited love.

And it was the word 'love' that ignited the fuse buried so far beneath the rubble of rejection inside of me, it had never hoped to see a spark. Because it had been the word I'd been waiting for, and the electric rush of pure, untainted joy shot through me, running some kind of circuit, propelling me into motion. Like a bioengineered super-hamster in its Hell's Angels wheel.

I was at a desk being asked my name before I remembered to blink, and in a moment of confused hysteria as I realised I had no idea how I'd gotten there, I just laughed at the question. Only finally composing myself when the woman before me shot the security guard a worried look.

And now I'm sitting in a plane, my bank account weeping because the only seats they'd had left were in first class, my finger fiddling with the top of the unopened bottle of water a flight attendant had handed me shortly after take off, and I'm not nervous. Why aren't I nervous? Why am I thinking about the fact that I hadn't informed any of my professors that I probably won't be in class tomorrow, when I probably should be freaking out about my destination and what I'm going to do or say when I get there? Why isn't my mouth dry? Shouldn't I have gone through three bottles of water by now and currently be standing behind the other four people waiting to use the washroom? I wasn't even sweating. Shouldn't I be sweating? I think somehow, I've been waiting for this for the last two years and now it's here, it's as though that's prepared me in a way. Like studying so hard for finals, when they roll around you walk in there without breaking a sweat, because you know you're going to pass. And it would be fruitless to try and convince anyone that when it came to Brooke, I had anything less than a PhD. I'd studied her with a passion I hadn't even shown my writing, and I hadn't even realised what I was doing for the longest time. But I could have told you what she liked best for breakfast and how long, on average, she liked to spend in the shower every morning, and this was all before I had even the slightest hint that I was falling.

And I'd fallen so hard I was on a plane flying to LAX at twelve-thirty at night and I hadn't even told anyone I was leaving first. I was supposed to meet Jamie before classes tomorrow. I think I even had an exam. Oh well, they'd let me make it up. Both of them, I hope.

"And an early good morning to you ladies and gentlemen. This is your captain speaking. We have about ten minutes until we start making our decent into LAX. I'll be turning on the seatbelt signs then, so this is your last chance for bathroom breaks or to retrieve anything from the overhead compartments. The current time is 12:41am and it's raining pretty good down there, so make sure you have a jacket handy."

He sounds friendly, and any flight with a distinct lack of turbulence makes the pilot a good one in my books. The bleary-eyed elderly woman sitting next to me smiles and unclips her seatbelt to rise.

"You're lucky to be young. When you get to my age you take every bathroom break offered to you." I chuckle at her words and she disappears towards the front of the plane. She's nice, far better than the guy I sat next to on my way down to Missouri. I'm pretty sure he spent the entire flight trying to cop a feel. He kept stealing my armrest and totally fell asleep on me. I was more than tempted to scrawl 'tries to accost young woman on long flights' across his forehead, but couldn't figure out how to make it fit.

The next half an hour disappears behind a veil of clouds and rain, and before I know it, the wheels are bumping against the tarmac of the landing strip and the captain's voice is floating through the speakers again, welcoming us to LAX. I'm still not thirsty, but I grab the bottle of water that has been in my possession for the last four hours and toss it into the green canvas backpack I'd managed to remember to throw some things into before I left. I pull down the small suitcase I'd lifted into the overhead compartment before takeoff and place it onto the floor of the plane for my seat partner. The older woman smiles at me and we exit the plane together, saying friendly goodbyes before going our separate ways.

It's still raining when I step outside, the late hour making it chilly, and I'm drenched and shivering before I manage to find a cab and clamber into the back seat, because I of course didn't remember to bring a jacket along.

"Raining out there, is it?" If I hadn't been in such an euphoric mood, the comment would have, at the very least, made me glare at him. But I just glance at him in the rear-view mirror and smile.

"Cats and dogs." He chuckles and flicks on his meter.

"Where to?" I snap my seatbelt into place, not having been away long enough to forget how LA cabbies drive, and pull my bag to my side.

"USC campus." I chuckle silently as he pulls away from the curb without touching his blinker.

"Whereabouts?" And the chuckle turns into a laugh as I realise that I have no idea where exactly I need to go, and I tell him that. It's not like Brooke and I had ever needed to exchange exact descriptions of where on campus we live.

"You a late admission or something?" He asks, weaving us in and out of the moderate, for this hour anyway, traffic.

"Oh, no. I go to Missouri. I'm actually here to surprise someone."

"Oh ho." His eyes meet mine in the rear-view mirror again and it's not difficult to imagine what's going through his mind. "Lucky boyfriend?" I feel my lips twitch upwards in a smirk and his expression tells me that he won't believe me even if I do tell him no.

"Sort of."

"Not lucky yet, eh?" I just lower my eyes and hope he thinks I'm being bashful. He does, and the conversation fades away, allowing the soothing voice of the late night radio announcer to fill the car.

Neither one of us speaks again until I can see I college grounds.

"So where do you want me to drop you?" I pull my bag onto my lap and look out of the window.

"Do they have an information building? Somewhere I can maybe find out where I'm supposed to go?"

"You bet." He swings the car onto the property and I watch as we pass by the buildings. After a few minutes he stops and turns in his seat to face me. "Last stop." He smiles as I hand him the fare.

"Let's just hope someone's home and they can help me find her." He looks up from the handful of mostly change I'd handed him and cocks an eyebrow.


"Sort of." I reiterate with another smirk and open the door, stepping back out into the rain and throwing a; "Wish me luck!", back in behind me. My hand slides against the cool wetness of the door as I close it, and then I turn and jog towards the information building.

The door is unlocked. Good, someone must be looking out for me tonight. A someone other than the someone who decided to make it rain. There's even someone sitting behind the desk.

"Raining out there, is it?" Okay, now it's getting old.

"Hi, yeah. I um, I need help finding someone." The older woman adjusts her glasses and looks at me. I sense this might be harder than I want it to be.

"Family member?" Oh, god. Not the question I need right now.

"Yes, actually. Well, kind of." I mumble in a rush and then manage to slow my words when she looks at me with one of those 'I'm very busy and important, can you hurry up?' expressions. "She's my stepsister. Brooke McQueen?" She taps something out on the keyboard before her, looking somewhat reluctant to do so, and frowns for a little while.

"Ah, Miss McQueen." She says finally, and my own eyebrows rise expectantly. I'm still not nervous, but now I'm definitely bouncing inwardly. "Sam McPherson?" Her eyes lift as she addresses me and I nod. "Do you have any proof of identification with you?" I resist the urge to sigh and let my bag slid off my shoulder and down my arm to the floor. I unbuckle the strap and lift the flap to retrieve my wallet, and then pull out my drivers license and hand it to her. She stares at it for a few heartbeats longer than is necessary and then finally gives it back along with something she scribbles down onto a piece of paper. "This is Miss McQueen's address. Have yourself a good evening Miss McPherson." And she goes back to tapping. I look down at the address, then around the room I'm in. There's a large glass screen with a map of the campus layout embossed onto it, so I walk towards it in the hopes of making sense of the information I'd been given. After a minute or so of staring, I'm fairly confident I know where Brooke's room is, and I walk back towards the door, my sneakers squeaking against the tiled floor, and out into the night.

I wander around for fifteen minutes before I find the right building, annoyed by the fact that this is nowhere near the first time my confidence has been misplaced. I squelch my way up the front steps and pull open one of the two doors.

The silence hits me like a wet slap to the face. The hallways are empty; there isn't a late night study session in sight. The strap of my bag, wet and heavy, is digging into my shoulder, so I adjust it and then look down at the damp paper in my hand. I think three hundred and fourteen is my new favourite number. I look over the map of the building pasted to one of the walls and then double check to make sure I know exactly where I need to go.

I walk through the hallways, experiencing a kind of tunnel vision as I go, so that the only thing I can see is what's directly in front of me. I feel dreamlike, disconnected from reality. I can't quite believe the night's events. Six hours ago I was sitting down in front of my laptop, not for one second expecting reality was about to explode around me, and now here I am, climbing a flight of stairs to the third floor of Brooke's USC building. Every joyous emotion imaginable bubbling up inside of me, filling me so completely that I'm pretty sure I've had the same idiotic smile on my face since I left my own dorm room.

And I still don't feel nervous. I feel different. Different to the Sam who has been around for the last two years, just existing. Now I feel like I'm living. I can feel a new purpose to my gait, giving back the bounce my step has been missing, and it's in that state, bouncing and grinning, that I pass along Brooke's hallway and finally arrive at her door. The dull gold numbers don't glint or shine, but I see things through new eyes and they smile at me welcomingly.

Then the endorphins clouding my brain drop away like lead stones and suddenly all those things I wasn't feeling earlier are racing through my entire body. Oh god, I think I'm going to faint. All the moisture evaporates from my mouth and I drop my bag to the floor, frantically searching for the bottle of water I'd thrown in there. I'm pretty sure I swallow the entire thing in two chugs while I hoist my bag back onto my shoulder. My heart is beating so fast I can hear it, my palms feel like something struck a water pipe in them, and I feel sick. I have butterflies! Where the hell was all this five hours ago? I should have had the freak out earlier and be in a nice, calm state of mind by now! Am I crazy? What the hell was I thinking flying out here in the middle of the night without telling anyone where I was going? I don't even know if Brooke's home! What am I going to say to her? Panic seizes me, freezing me in the middle of the mercifully deserted corridor. A feeling of utter horror at having no idea what to do stopping my breath in my throat and pinching the back of my eyes. I close them and take a deep breath to try and settle myself, while my brain runs through every other exercise meant to relieve anxiety that I've ever heard or read about. I reach number six before I remember that counting to ten is supposed to help abate anger and is probably about as helpful right now as if I were to start running crazy laps in the hallway, swinging my arms Kermit The Frog style above my head.

I'm being ridiculous. I realise this because the whole situation is pretty ridiculous if you think about it. I just randomly hopped on a plane in the middle of the night to, let's be honest, romance my stepsister. All that's missing is a trailer park and for Brooke to reveal that she's secretly married to my long lost twin brother, and my life will officially have become an episode of Jerry Springer. Or a daytime soap opera, they're both pretty similar.

I readjust the strap of my bag again, bending to place the empty bottle at the side of the door, then stand and tuck my sodden hair behind one ear. Then I hold my breath, lift my hand, try to remember the exact point at which I'd lost my mind, and rap quietly on the door.

I really hope I have the right room.

After at least thirty seconds of me waiting to hear some kind of movement from within and another thirty spent wondering if I'm going to be sleeping outside her door tonight, I shuffle my feet unsurely and then knock a second, slightly louder time. And it takes all of my concentration to keep the squeak that is desperate to vacate my body from leaving my mouth as various sounds of life reach me through the door. I fight against the sudden, desperate need to flee, my hand going back to my hair and tugging it furiously back behind my ear, even thought it hasn't moved. The sound of the doorknob being turned sends my heartbeat soaring to new heights. It's as though it has one of those wind up mechanisms fitted and Brooke is simultaneously winding it up as she turns the handle. My fingers clench convulsively at the damp strap in its grasp as the door creaks open and sleepy, perfectly dishevelled hair framed eyes meet mine before it has even been opened a foot. The windup key has been let go, my heart soars.

"Hi." I'm shocked to hear the sound of my own voice, sure I wasn't going to be able to speak, but the breath I hadn't realised I was still holding abruptly left me and, conveniently, made the universal noise of greeting. Brooke blinks an uncountable number of times, her eyelids moving rapidly as if to force herself to wake up faster.

"Sam?" And the sound of my name leaving her lips, her voice still thick with sleep but threaded with surprise, is without a doubt the single most wonderful thing I've ever heard. Maybe it's because I haven't heard it in so long. Maybe it was always this beautiful and I just needed to be away from it for a while to realise just how beautiful it really is. Absence makes the heart grow fonder right? Out of nowhere, I have the ridiculous, let's not stray from the general mood of the day, urge to laugh.

Because the instant her gaze met mine, all my nervousness fell away.

"You're... here." She says, her eyebrows pulling together ever so slightly in the most adorable expression of confusion I've ever seen. Like she knows exactly what she's seeing but can't decide if it's real or not. And all I can think about doing is pulling her to me and showing her just how real I am.

"Yeah." My voice is breathless, like I ran all the way here. I don't think I could stop looking at her even if I had the desire to try, she's too endearing standing there, groggy in her sleep attire and staring me like I'm some godly apparition. Looking at her now, I can see everything that wasn't there before, that she didn't let show.

"Is it raining outside?" And if it's possible, I think I love her more than ever. I can feel the smile stretching my lips as she looks at me with complete and utter confusion now, and I stare back at her, the passing seconds not making me any less wet. Then suddenly it's like a light goes off. Her hand finally drops from the door handle and her eyes widen as recognition arrives like the sun rising behind them. "Sam!" And my name doesn't leave her lips as a yell, but it isn't a whisper either. "You must be freezing!" Then her warm, soft hand is in my wet, frigid one and she's pulling me into the darkness of her room. I hear her foot make contact with the door and then the door click into place in the frame as she kicks it closed, stopping the outside world from pursuing us. Letting the shadows leak back in.

She doesn't move from her position beside me, doesn't take her hand from mine, and in the slightly moon-illuminated darkness, my eyes take a moment to adjust. Maybe she's still too shocked to remember to turn the light on, maybe she just doesn't want to move. Whatever the reason, I'm for it, because I find that I need a few seconds to compose myself. To take in the room around her before I can actually look at her again. And when I do, I see her standing perfectly dishevelled and unsure in the half light, moonlight trying to catch the shadows on her face, and I realise a few seconds were not enough. That a lifetime wouldn't be enough.

Because she's Brooke McQueen. And you can't look at her without being captivated.

"What are you doing here?" I smile at the question, not sure if she can see me properly yet or not. She sounds genuinely confused, like she didn't expect me to show up at her door in the middle of the night. Weird. I take a step backwards towards the bed and pull her with me, stopping just short of it and letting my bag drop with a wet sound at its foot.

"I got your email." The air leaves her in a sound so expressive, I can almost picture it leaving her as though it were visible. A long, slowly trickling stream of nervous breath. Her fingers twitch in mine, but still she doesn't move her hand.

"Oh." The word speaks volumes. It's low and lilting, dewed with mounting hope and soft with rising happiness. She's like an unsure siren; cautious as she stands atop perilous rocks, risking all as she beckons me with a call that is still undeniable, as unsure as she is.

I feel like I should say something. Something that will define this moment, something that will assure her that she's right in what she's thinking. That I'm here because of her, for her, but the words aren't finding me today. I think I'm too lost for them to find me.

"Why?" I don't think the word could have been whispered with more apprehension, and it's insane to me to think that I'm the reason for this strange show of nerves. That I'm the person she wrote those things about, that she feels those things for. That is standing in front of her right now, not saying anything and just letting her think the worst. Well, tonight hasn't exactly been about how well my brain works.

"Because I made you a promise." The light of confusion glowing in her eyes brightens for a second and then all but goes out as she realises what I'm talking about. Remembers what I said two years ago during a heated argument while we were alone in the kitchen of the Palace. And she doesn't look like she really believes that's all there is to it, thinks there has to be some other reason because it can't be that simple, but it is.

Because she's Brooke McQueen. And once you fall for her you keep falling until you don't even try reaching out for hand holds anymore. Because the breeze feels nice and you've gotten used to the light headed feeling.

"I didn't think..." She shakes her head but doesn't finish, doesn't need to. I know what she was going to say and yeah, if our positions had been reversed, I wouldn't have expected her to hold so closely to a promise made in the heat of the moment like that. Especially when it involved a redeye flight. But Brooke has that kind of effect on me. On people in general. She shouldn't be so shocked.

"I'm uh, pretty good with promises." I glance down at our hands and rub my thumb over her knuckles, smiling as I feel hers twitch. "You know, when it doesn't involve not reading your diary." She laughs and my smile stretches as her body leans away from mine in a shy attempt to escape my teasing, but now that I have her, I find I'm loath to let go.

Instead of pulling her to me, I move our clasped hands slightly to the side and step into her. Her laughter stops immediately and I'm almost too intoxicated by our closeness to notice it, but I do. And the reaction makes my heart leap and then race. I feel her body stiffen, her head wanting to move her body away from me, but her heart keeping her grounded, and I smile again. Because I know exactly what it's like to be in her place; hoping for something to be real, but unsure.

I want to make it real for her, like it is for me.

Her head is tilted slightly to the side as she looks down at me, eyes wide with anticipation. Her nervous breath strokes my cheek as I stretch my neck until my lips reach her ear, my eyes catching her hammering pulse point as I move.

"All you had to do was say the word." Her breath whooshes past my own ear at my reminder, as if its all left her. "I told you I'd be waiting."

"I thought I was too late." Her achingly whispered confession makes me want to wrap my arms around her and never let go. I glance at her from the corner of my eye and see that hers are closed. And I think I love her more in that moment of vulnerability than ever before.

"You could never have been too late." Because from Brooke McQueen, where can you possibly move on to? "There isn't…" I pause to find the right words and my free hand moves of its own accord in the silence, finding her cheek and turning her head until our noses briefly touch. My finger traces her cheek, the outline of her bottom lip, then the length of her neck before it drops back to my side. Her eyes open, and I realise that I needed to see them. Their light guides me to the words I'm looking for. "There's only you." And in possibly the only situation I have even been in with her where I felt like I'm the one in control, that nerves can't find me, she suddenly swoops in and takes the reigns, and my composure, right out of my hands.

She kisses me. And I don't care if it's cliché, but everything stops around us. I can't think, I can't breath, I can't do anything but stand there and die. And I had been doing so well.

It's nothing like I'd imagined, and I have imagined it. I thought fire would race through me, but it feels more like electricity hammering through every nerve in my body, setting each ending alight with a pleasurably sharp spark. Behind closed eyelids, the sparks show me colours I didn't know existed. Her lips are soft against my own and my over excited brain, jumping from thought to thought like a hyper kid who's been force fed pixie stix, reminds me that this is Brooke McQueen, and there's no chance her lips could ever be anything close to cracked.

And the sugar high suddenly begins to wane, allowing my brain to slow to the speed of my stalled surroundings. Allowing me to really realise what's happening.

Brooke McQueen is kissing me. She tastes like inquisitive hesitation, longing and strawberry lip gloss. A fleeting thought of how long that stuff lasts passes through my head, and then my lips quirk imperceptibly as I set myself the challenge of seeing how long it can endure my relentless need to kiss her lips.

Because she's Brooke McQueen, and once you're tugged in her direction, the pull lasts forever.

The thing I have been aching for, dreaming of for the last three years is finally happening. And for an exact total of two and a half seconds I panic. Because how does someone properly deal with being given something they've wanted with every fibre of their being? Then Brooke's hand, shaking and ever so slightly damp, cups my cheek and another spark lights up my answer in neon letters. I do what they tell me to. I kiss her back.

At the first touch of her tongue against mine, the spark turns into an explosion and the heat melts everything inside me. I can't breath. I can't think. I can't even be worried by that, I can only get lost in her. In this still and silent moment, in a dark dorm room in the middle of the night.

There is only Brooke. And as her fingers slide into my hair and she pulls my body closer, as my assuredness finally gives way completely to my anxious need and I cling to her and pour every ounce of pent up passion into our kiss, I don't so much realise something as I do reaffirm it quietly to myself. There's only ever been Brooke. Will only ever be Brooke.

I can promise that.



It's a dull, intrusive vibration against my hip that stirs me. Gently tugging me from the under the blanket of sleep. My eyes, heavy and sore-feeling, only barely manage to blink themselves open. For a second I have no idea where I am. The room is unfamiliar to me without the shadows of the night before, but eventually my groggy brain begins to remember and comprehend, and the smile I'm sure didn't leave me face once last night widens. There's a mass of blonde hair plastered against my chest, tickling the underside of my chin, an arm and a leg thrown over me and a possessive hand gripping my bare shoulder. My heart tingles and swells. I can't imagine anything feeling any better than this.

The same dull vibration goes off again against my hip and it's only the knowledge that it won't stop until I check it that makes me move my hand from its resting place in the middle of her back. With slow and quiet movements, I manage to squeeze my hand into the pocket of my jeans and extract the current bane of my existence.

Apparently, I have one new message. I check the time before I open it. 8:51. I don't even need to read the message to know who it's from. Jamie is one of those people that doesn't use 'text talk'. In fact, she kind of hates it and likes to rant about how it will probably be the downfall of the English language. Her text messages usually get broken up into a least five different ones because of this, but I think she's a happier person for it.

'Where the hell are you?' Of course, just because she doesn't text phonetically doesn't mean she's any more eloquent. I sigh, not at all wanting to move but knowing that if I were any kind of decent friend I probably would have called before I left the state, so the least I can do is call and let her know where I am. Brooke stirs a little as I move, but it's only the soft creasing of her forehead and a quiet groan, then her suddenly free hand finds the pillow I was using and it lulls her back to sleep. Putting my days of being a high school journalist into practise, I quietly tiptoe into the bathroom, after first locating it, and shut the door. I type in Jamie's number and hit the key with the tiny green phone outline on it. I don't think it has time to ring a second time before she picks up.

"I stood outside your dorm room, knocking every five seconds, for ten minutes while everyone who passed me probably thought I was some jilted lover who'd been kicked out after a night of passion I was hoping would turn into something more." Is her exasperated greeting.

"Yeah, I'm not there." I laugh, but it doesn't last long enough to fill the silence that follows my statement. "Are you still-"

"Oh my god. McPherson, did you actually get some action last night?" I think my seriously uncharacteristic girlish giggle gives it away. A genuine, honest to god girlish giggle. "No way, you tramp! Who with? Where are you?" They're loaded questions for such an early hour and I think I might be too tired and giddy to give proper explanations.

"In California." There's a loud clattering noise on the other end of the line, a muffled curse word and then the sound of static's distant cousin. "Did you just drop the phone?"

"Are you kidding me?" And it's definitely too early for the high-pitched squeal with which Jamie delivers the question. "I swear to god if you're messing with me I'm going to kick your door in and kill you." I laugh again, her buoyant excitement making me light-headed.

"I promise. No kidding. I caught a redeye last night."

"I can't believe you didn't tell me you were going!"

"Well I didn't really know myself until I regained coherency and found myself at the airport." I explain, unsure if I could remember all of last night's events even if I tired.

'What happened?!" And I know she's not going to let me go until I at least try to tell her.

"She… emailed me. Brooke, I mean."

"No duh."

"She told me…" And I pause, wondering how to explain exactly what she had told me. "Everything I've been waiting to hear. That she missed me, that she'd been so stupid and blind. She'd gotten the photograph of me and I guess seeing me again triggered something and… she told me she hoped it wasn't too late. So I just flew out here to tell her it wasn't." Jamie emits a noise that's somewhere between a sigh and a squeak and then is silent as she waits for more. I tell her about the rain and the lady who gave me Brooke address and the fun I had finding her room. "She looked so cute and dishevelled and there I was soaking wet." I tell her how Brooke was shocked and somehow still scared that it didn't mean what she thought it meant, and that when I reassured her that there was only her she was suddenly kissing me. "I thought I was going to die. I can't even describe what it felt like…" In danger of turning into a wistful 80-year-old reflecting on her first love, I trail off.

"It's like you're suddenly complete." She finishes my sentence for me, sounding dangerously wistful herself. I smile, because I know she's just as loved up as I am. "And really, really hot. Made you hornier than a mountain goat." And then she adds a bit. I manage to grab the laugh ready to burst out of me and hold it in.

"Shut up!" I hiss, like I'm worried Brooke can hear her.

"Please. Tell me that you aren't at least half naked right now." I glance down at my bare, bra-clad torso, and roll my eyes. "Tramp." She reiterates with a giggle.

"In my defence, it wasn't my idea." Her scoff is loud enough to deafen me. "It wasn't! Brooke said she needed to feel me. To make sure I was real."

"Damn it, Sam. I can't tease you about something that is that sickeningly romantic." I can practically hear her pouting. "So no action?"

"A lady doesn't kiss and tell."

"So no action?" She prompts once more and I roll my eyes again. "So when are you coming home?"

"Never?" I offer with a grin she can't see.

"Oh no. You can't leave me. Plus, you have exams."

"Oh crap. Jamie, could you-"

"Covered. Already got an excuse brewing. I'm thinking a serious case of food poisoning leading to hospitalization. You know, they want to keep you in for at least a week for observation." The way she says it, all worried and unsure, makes me have no trouble believing I'll have 'get well soon' cards waiting for me when I get back.

"I kind of love you right now."

"I know. Now, there's a half naked Brooke lying in a bed in the other room… why are you sitting in a cold bathroom talking to me?" I don't even care how she knows where I'm sitting, the reminder just makes me want to get back to Brooke and not move for the next seven days.

"I have no idea. See you when I get home."

"I want details!!" Her laughter is the last thing I hear before I press the end key. Quietly, I move to the door and open it to sneak back into the room, but I freeze and melt at the same time as I find Brooke's eyes open and on me.

"Who was that?" Her voice is endearingly sleepy, but her eyes are wide as they drift to the phone in my hands. And I don't know how, but I know exactly what she's thinking.

"Jamie. She's a friend back in Missouri. She called because we had a breakfast date that I'm, apparently, not there for." I grin and climb back onto the bed, tossing the cell phone onto the floor beside it so it won't provide further interruptions. "Just wanted to know where I was."

"Oh." Brooke says quietly, finally glancing away from me as I kneel beside her on the bed. "Date?" I reach out, running my fingers through her sleep-tousled hair and bringing her gaze back to me.

"A totally platonic, friend-type date including coffee and bagels and nothing more." She smiles at me and I wonder how she can get more beautiful with each passing second. Then I wonder when I became so damn sappy. Then I grin because I don't care. "I'm all yours."

"Good." She smirks and my heart skips and starts to hammer again. "Get back under the covers, McPherson. I'm not done with you yet."

"Whatever you say, Princess." I slide back under the covers and her warm hand makes my stomach muscles jump as she strokes her hand over it. I sigh happily, watching her watch her fingers as they trail patterns over me. I find myself taking deeper breaths and I can feel my skin starting to hum as her movements inch higher.

Maybe I'll take a turn for the worse in the hospital, because I don't think a week is going to be enough.

The End

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