DISCLAIMER: Oops, knew I was forgetting something on my other stories. Not mine, never were. If they were I would not be working in the jewelry section at your local Wal-Mart, bored to tears and I would have found another station to sell it to, even if it meant starting my own. Can you see it now? I'd get Melissa Etheridge and her friends to provide financial backing (if they would) and start a whole new network to save the good shows that WB and the other idiot networks throw out. Leftover TV, a division of Lifetime. :::snicker::::
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I wrote this kinda as another catharsis for myself, before I wrote Forever Alone. Like with that one, if you don't like it, for whatever reason, I won't post anymore of it. Purging my demons for everyone to see, cheaper than therapy.
WARNING: Character assassination ahead. I'm destroying the character of George to meet my own pathetic and warped needs and probably stretching Sam's character a little too. Anyway, touchy subject matter ahead, if physical abuse bothers you, don't read. Fair warning.
THANKS: AND a serious thank you goes out to my beta, Mac! The story is better, thanks to you. You're not a mean bully for making me do a better job, hon.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

By Aeryn Sun


Part 1

Sam opened the front door and prayed that no one was still awake. She really wasn't in the mood to talk to anyone. She just wanted to be left alone. But like most things that evening, nothing was going her way. Her mother was still up sitting on the couch waiting for her when she walked in the door.

"How was your date with George, hon?" Jane asked as Sam slipped in the door. Sam cringed although her mother missed the action in the darkness of the room.

"Fine," she responded trying not to sound distressed. (Let it go Mom) Sam silently begged. Jane stood up and walked over to her daughter, a bright smile on her face.

"What did you do?" Sam rolled her eyes. (I am so not in the mood for this)

"We went to a movie and then hung out, OK?" she sighed. Jane's smiled faded.

"Sam," she started with a sigh. "I just want to know what's going on in your life, that's all. We don't talk as much as we used to anymore." Sam ran a tired hand through her hair.

"I'm sorry, Mom, I'm just tired. Can we talk about this tomorrow? I really just want to get some sleep," she said and Jane could hear the exhaustion in Sam's voice.

"Of course, hon, go to bed. I'll see you in the morning," she gave Sam a hug. Sam winced at the contact between them.

"Night Mom," Sam said as she trudged up the stairs.

When she got to her room she lay down on the bed trying to find a position that didn't hurt but there didn't seem to be a spot on her body that wasn't in pain. Her whole body seemed to throb in time with her heart. Even breathing was painful. She hoped that maybe a shower would ease her discomfort. After grabbing her pj's she headed into the bathroom and as the hot water cascaded over her she tried to figure out exactly when things got so out of control.

She'd been dating George for a while now and at first it had been great. He made her feel special, cherished. At first. And then slowly things had started to change, or rather, George did. He became moody, withdrawn. At first Sam thought it was school pressure getting to him, or maybe the fact that the football team had made the playoffs and George was feeling the stress from that. But it didn't seem to be letting up. More and more it seemed that George would snap at her or yell at the silliest things she'd say. So she tried to be more careful of what she said, not wanting to jeopardize what was still a promising relationship.

Things changed more after she'd missed a playoff game to work on the paper. George had cornered her in the editing office and demanded to know why she wasn't there and wouldn't accept her explaination. He'd shoved her a bit and Sam was shocked by the behavior. So apparently was George, apologizing as soon as he'd realized what he'd done. But it moved on from there with nothing Sam did or said seeming to make things any better. She should have walked away then but she didn't. God knows why because Sam sure as Hell didn't. George would apologize each time and for some unknown reason, even to Sam, she'd forgive him. He'd promise never to do it again and bring her flowers or something equally cheesy and she'd forgive him, and then the pattern would repeat. And Sam hated herself for it.

The first time he'd actually hit her it'd been the result of an offhand remark, a Sam trademark, that George had found particularly upsetting. Sam hadn't meant for it to upset him and couldn't remember at this point exactly what she'd said but she remembered George's reaction too well.

"Why do you do that?" he asked, angry. Sam frowned and looked at George confused.

"Do what?" she asked not understanding. George's fury increased.

"Say things that you know will piss me off," he responded his voice getting louder. Thinking he was kidding, Sam laughed and started to walk away.

"Geeze, George, take a pill and get over it. I was kidding," George reached out and grabbed a hold of her arm roughly. He spun Sam around and without letting go of her arm, punched her in the stomach. Sam doubled over in pain and surprise. George still had hold of her arm.

"I don't like being made fun of, Samantha," he growled and Sam suddenly realized he wasn't kidding. She also found herself afraid and she was never afraid of George before.

"Sor…ry," she coughed out. "Let go, you're hurting me," she asked. George hauled her back up to eye level.

"I'm warning you, don't even think of telling anyone." Sam shook her head and George let go of her before stalking away and leaving her scared and confused in his wake.

While he was careful never to hit her where it would show, she was running out of excuses to wear long sleeves in the California sunshine. She never figured herself for being someone who'd stay with someone who beat her but everytime she tried to break up with him, he'd beg her to stay. It made her feel guilty for wanting to leave. Like she was abandoning him. But what was worse than the physical abuse was the verbal and emotional torment he'd started shortly afterward.

(("If you tell anyone, I'll hurt them and make you watch."

"You're with me because no one else will have you, not even Harrison."

"You're worthless. You're a worthless, ugly, pathetic waste of a human being."

"If I've hurt you it's because you've deserved it."

"No one cares about you, Sam. They put up with you because they have to. All they really care about is Brooke."

"If you leave me I'll go after someone you care about, like Brooke."))

That last one was enough to keep Sam's mouth shut forever. She wasn't letting George anywhere near Brooke while there was still breath in her body. She'd die first. She wasn't sure why she felt that strongly in that direction but she did. She would do anything to keep Brooke safe even if it meant putting up with George's abuse. She reasoned that maybe that was why she kept forgiving George, fear that if he wasn't dating and therefore beating her, he'd do it to Brooke. But the part of her mind that George had managed to turn into a former shadow of itself told her he'd have no reason to beat Brooke, she wouldn't deserve it the same way that Sam herself did.

She stepped out of the shower and wiped the steam off the mirror so that she could take a good look at herself. The sight was familiar but it still turned her stomach. Her upper body was a patchwork of bruises; some faded to yellow and brown while others were fresh, still vivid purples, reds, and blacks. Tonight's addition was below her left breast and was an ugly blackish color. Sam wouldn't be surprised if her ribs were cracked. She'd earned that one the hard way. She'd said `no'.

It was a common enough occurrence in their relationship these days. Sam just didn't feel that way towards George. She was so tied up in knots she didn't know what she felt for him except maybe overwhleming fear battling with the desire to hit him over the head with the nearest solid object and run until she hit the Atlantic Ocean.

But for everytime they had the argument, George never tried to force himself on her and for that Sam was thankful. At least she didn't have to add rapist to the list of George's flaws. Unfortunately she was afraid it was only a matter of time until that line was crossed, however. Everytime she said no, he beat her worse. Tonight she ended up pinned painfully against his kitchen sink while he punched her left ribcage. She'd cried out for him to stop and collapsed to the floor gasping for breath when he did.

(I should just sleep with him so he'll leave me the Hell alone) she thought to her reflection. But she couldn't bring herself to do it; her pride wouldn't let her. Unfortunately it was the same pride that was keeping this secret from everyone along with her fear. She glared at her reflection, hating the person she saw looking back at her.

(Who are you?) she wondered. (Because you're not the same Sam McPherson you used to be. No, she'd never let some guy beat the living shit out of her whenever he felt like it; she'd fight back. You just sit there and take it like a pathetic weakling. I hate you!)

She stared at the razor on the edge of the sink but quickly dismissed the idea. It really wasn't something she wanted Brooke to wake up to. She pulled on her pj's and crawled into bed. Soon though, sobs overtook her. She just wanted it to stop, if only for a minute so that she could catch her breath and figure out what was going on and what she was going to do. But time, cruel as it was, continued. And she kept crying.

Brooke heard the heart breaking sobs and padded over from her room to check on her strangely distant housemate. Sam was growing more and more withdrawn and moody lately, hardly speaking unless spoken to and never making eye contact unless you drew her out. Eye contact was a big Sam McPherson trademark along with that smirk which Brooke had noticed was absent a lot lately. It bothered Brooke to see these changes and she wanted to know what was causing them. She walked into Sam's room and softly knocked on the door. The crying abruptly ceased and Sam lay still.

"Sam? Are you OK?" she asked the figure in the bed.

(Go away Brooke, oh please just go away) Sam silently begged as she tried to control her breathing and said nothing.

"I know you're crying Sam," Brooke said softly. "Please talk to me." Still Sam said nothing and just lay there perfectly still. Brooke sighed.

"If you change your mind, Sammy, you know where I live. I'm here if you need someone to talk to. I want to help," Brooke said gently as she played with the lump she knew to be Sam's foot before leaving. After she was gone, Sam started crying again, this time using her pillow to stifle the sound.

(I wish you could help, Brooke, but I won't drag you into this mess) Sam thought sadly. (It's my mess and you're staying far away from it)

From her room Brooke could still hear Sam crying and it broke her heart.

"Oh, Sam, let me help," she whispered to her empty room. She started to silently cry for whatever pain Sam was in and couldn't share.


Part 2

"Get it in gear McPherson or you'll be making this class up after school!" the gym teacher yelled as Sam tried valiantly to keep up with the rest of the class the next day. Sam sighed as she tried to force her legs to catch up with the class as they ran laps around the track but it was a futile endeavor. The burning in her left side was intense. Everytime she tried to breathe it was like liquid fire was shooting up her side and it made her dizzy. And the jarring from her legs impacting with the ground only served to make it worse. She felt like throwing up.

"You OK?" Brooke, who had dropped back from the rest of the class, asked. Sam shook her head.

"Cramps," she lied. Brooke looked at her doubtfully. Sam's hair was plastered to her face and she was beyond pale. Pasty would be more accurate. They both slowed to a walk. Sam pushed her hair away from her face and looked at her taller companion who was looking at her funny.

"What?" she asked slightly annoyed. Brooke shrugged.

"Nothing, it's just, it's 83 degrees out in the shade and you're in trackpants and a long sleeved t-shirt. We're running around a track in the sunshine. Aren't you hot?" Sam sighed.

"Yeah," she admitted reluctantly. Brooke smiled at her impishly.

"Then why the sudden aversion to anything that shows any skin? You suddenly go Amish on us, Sam?" Brooke joked. "Or join a Nunnery?"

"Ha ha, some of us aren't blessed with bodies from God, Brooke. We don't want to show the universe our flaws," Sam told her. "Spandex is a privilege, not a right."

"That doesn't stop April Tuna from subjecting us to Daisy Dukes and tank tops, Sam," Brooke laughed. "Besides, your body is fine, you have nothing to hide or be ashamed of," Brooke felt herself blush as Sam looked at her strangely. She opened her mouth to call Brooke on the comment but was cut off by a booming voice.

"That's it, McPherson, sit it out for the day. Make it up later in the week if you're feeling that bad. Hit the showers. And unless you want an F to mar your pretty little record too, McQueen, get your ass in gear and join the class, now!" the teacher bellowed. Sam gave Brooke a half-smile.

"Go, before you fail too," she said. Brooke hedged a minute, concerned over Sam. There was something going on with Sam and she really wished she knew what it was. "Go," Sam insisted. Brooke nodded and reluctantly took off after the class. Sam sighed and headed towards the building.

(Almost told her. Damn it, Sam you know what George said he'd do to her if you told, keep your big trap shut and keep her safe) she reminded herself. (Of course, I could just go to the police, if I had a death wish. George will get over whatever is causing this and things will go back the way they were, I just have to give him time)

She showered and dressed before the class returned and also threw up a few times which made her side feel even worse. She sat waiting for the agony to pass when Brooke found her on the floor of the locker room bathroom.

"Jesus, Sam, are you all right?" Brooke asked concerned. Sam tried to glare at the obviously stupid question but she was too tired for the effort and just shook her head. Brooke sat down on the floor next to her.

"What's wrong lately?" Brooke asked gently. Sam sighed heavily and regretted the action when it sent flares of pain up her side.

"Nothing," she responded resting her head against the wall and closing her eyes. She missed the look of utter concern and worry that went across Brooke's face. She knew Sam was lying.

"Come on Sam, you can talk to me," Brooke coaxed. Sam cracked open one eye and glared.

"I don't want to talk about it, OK?" she snapped quietly. Before Brooke could respond, Carmen poked her head in the door.

"Hey, Sam," she said with a grin that faded slightly when she saw both Sam and Brooke on the floor. She shrugged and continued. "George is waiting for you in the hall," she said in a singsong voice before walking away. Brooke watched as both of Sam's eyes snapped open and a look of what could only be described as pure fear crossed Sam's face before she could mask it and her walls slammed back down. Brooke frowned in confusion. Sam looked at Brooke, starting to hyperventilate.

"Brooke, I really don't feel well," she said in near panic. Brooke found the reaction odd. She thought things between Sam and George were going great. (What could make Sam react like that?)

"Do you want me to tell him to take you home?" Sam sat up immediately and then grabbed her side in pain as a sob escaped her.

"Ow!" she whimpered bringing Brooke closer.

"Sam, what is it?" she asked wanting to know what was causing Sam such extreme pain. She reached for Sam's shirt but Sam batted her hands away.

"Catch in my side from running," Sam snarled. She calmed down a bit. "Could you please tell George that I don't feel well and I'm going home. I really don't feel like facing him right now, Brooke," Sam almost begged. Something in Sam's eyes made Brooke feel like she needed to protect Sam from something but she didn't know what.

"OK, sure thing. Wait here and I'll go tell him. Then I'll take you home, OK?" Sam nodded happily and obviously relieved. Brooke stood up and went out to face George.

"Hey Brooke, is Sam coming out?" he asked. Brooke felt an irrational flash of anger at George course through her but pushed it away. She wondered, idly, what caused it.

"No, she's sick and I'm taking her home. She'll call you later," Brooke said not caring if Sam actually called him or not.

"Can she come out here so I can talk to her for a second?" Brooke shook her head.

"She's really sick George, so no. Sorry," Brooke said. George's eyes turned cold.

"Tell her I want to see her. Now," he said flatly. Brooke arched an eyebrow and tilted her head to the left.

"That's nice, I wanted a pony when I was 6. I didn't get it," she said snidely. She didn't quite understand why she was getting so bristled by George's behavior but decided that it was kind of fun to watch George's face contort like that.

"She's sick and in some sort of pain and I'm taking her home. Whether or not she talks to you, I don't care at this point so, go away George," she made a `shoo'ing motion with her hands which only infuriated George further.

"She's MY girlfriend, I want to talk to her and you can't stop me," George declared as he tried to push his way past Brooke. Brooke laughed evilly.

"Wanna bet?" she asked as she shoved back. George looked at her in shock and then laughed.

"You think you could stop me if I wanted to get past you?" he scoffed. Brooke narrowed her eyes and put her hands on her hips.

"Why don't you try and we'll find out. Because the only way you're getting near Sam right now in the mood you're in is to go through me," she all but growled suddenly feeling very protective of her soon-to-be-step sister. She and George stood there staring menacingly at each other for several minutes before George shook his head.

"You're not worth it," he said. "Tell her she'd better call me," he warned. Brooke shrugged.

"If I feel like it," she said nonchalantly as she turned her back on George and walked back into the locker room. She found Sam on a bench waiting anxiously.

"Is he gone?" Sam asked in a whisper. Brooke sat down next to her and put her arm on Sam's shoulder. Sam flinched and pulled away. Brooke removed her arm with a frown. (What is going on with you, Sam?)

"He will be soon. We'll wait a few minutes to be sure. Has he been acting that way a lot lately?" Sam's eyes grew wide.

"Like what?" she asked, afraid that George had hurt Brooke. She visibly searched Brooke for a sign of injury.

"Like a WWF wrestler hopped up on steroids and like God, Lord and master of the universe?" Sam snickered bitterly.

"Sounds like George," she conceded. Brooke frowned again.

"No, Sam, it doesn't. George was sweet and articulate and nice. Whoever I just talked to in the hall was an ass." Sam shrugged.

"People change," Sam said simply. Brooke regarded her strangely for a minute.

"If that's how he's been acting lately, why are you still with him?" Sam hugged her arms to her body and glared at Brooke hotly.

"Brooke, he's not as bad as that seemed, really," she said quietly as she stood up unsteadily. She hoped Brooke didn't suspect anything was wrong, she didn't want her involved. "He's just under a lot of stress and he snaps sometimes is all." Brooke stood up with her, afraid the unsteady girl was going to fall over.

"Sam, he shouldn't be behaving like that, especially to you or to anyone else for that matter," she said patiently. "You deserve 0......better. Something's up with him and I don't like it." Sam shrugged again and tried to hide the wince the action caused her.

"Well, then I guess it's a good thing he's my boyfriend and not yours, huh?"

"Sam, what's going on?" Brooke asked, concerned. Sam rolled her eyes.

"Nothing Brooke, absolutely nothing. Can we go home now or do I need to find another ride?" Brooke shook her head.

"No, Sam. I'm more than happy to take you home. I'm sure he's gone by now. I just wish you'd talk to me," she said gently. Sam gave her a half-smile.

"I would, if there were anything to talk about," she promised. But for some reason, Brooke didn't believe a word Sam said.


Part 3

The ride home was tense with Brooke not wanting to upset Sam any further. The brunette seemed recently to have shrunken down into herself and Brooke hated it. She prefered Sam as she was, opinionated, fiesty, passionate and unwilling to compromise her beliefs just to fit in. The girl sitting in the passenger seat was none of those things. She was quiet, withdrawn, and apathetic. Not at all the Sam McPherson that Brooke was finding herself falling in love with.

Brooke sighed. There was a complication in her life she really didn't need. But what do you do when you find your affections leaning towards your former rival and eventual stepsister? Well, you ignore them at first, of course. And hate yourself for it because it's obviously not normal. And you fear that there's something wrong with you. Then you wonder what you did to piss God off to dump this in your lap. But eventually, Brooke shoved away the hate and fear and accepted her feelings. Mostly because she found she really had no choice because the feelings were getting stronger and not going away. She cared for Sam, more than she probably should. But as long as she didn't let it interfere with her daily life, she was OK. She accepted herself and that was what was important.

But watching what Sam was doing to herself now was really starting to bother her. There was something else going on in Sam's life that she wasn't letting anyone else in on and Brooke was worried. Even if she wasn't presently head-over-heels in love, and she was, with Sam, Brooke would have been concerned with Sam's recent behavior. The other girl was downright depressed and Brooke was getting worried. She knew she had all the pieces she needed to the puzzle but for some reason, her brain could not connect the dots to make a coherent picture. And it was frustrating the Hell out of her.

"Sam," she said tentatively. "Why were you crying last night?" she heard Sam sigh. Not a good sign.

"Why can't you leave things alone?" Sam asked in a bored tone. Brooke hated that tone. She loved the energetic and vibrant way Sam usually spoke. It fueled her own passion.

"Because I'm worried about you," Brooke said honestly.

"Don't be, there's really nothing wrong. You're getting worked up over nothing," was Sam's placid response. A cold chill creeped up Brooke's spine at the emotionless words and her stomach churned. (What the Hell?) she wondered.

"How can you say that?" Brooke asked a little angrily. "There's obviously SOMETHING going on, Sam." Sam turned and looked at her from the passenger seat, neutral expression on her face.

"I say it because it's the truth," she said, voice still flat. "There's nothing going on. Can we just drop it now? I really don't feel like talking." Brooke wasn't letting it go as a new, more frightening thought entered her head. She was afraid to ask the question but needed to know and hoped Sam would give her an honest answer.

"Sammy, you're not, you know, going to do anything drastic, are you?" she asked in a whisper afraid of the answer. Sam let out a short laugh.

"Like I'd give anyone the satisfaction," she scoffed. "I'm not that stupid, Brooke. Thanks for the vote of confidence." Brooke let out the breath she'd unconsciously been holding.

"Sorry, you just don't seem like yourself lately," Brooke said sadly. Sam shrugged.

"Who do I seem like?" Sam asked humorlessly.

"I don't know, Wednesday Addams? Not Sam, that's for sure," Brooke answered.

"Oh well," Sam sighed not really caring. Brooke shook her head slowly, realizing the futility of the conversation. She'd have better luck having a fruitful conversation with the wall or talking to Mary Cherry about cold fusion. Sam wasn't going to open up to her anytime soon. She'd just have to keep a close eye on the depressed journalist and make sure Sam didn't do anything drastic.

There was a hint of an idea tickling at the back of Brooke's brain but for the life of her she could not get it to come forward out of the shadows. All she was succeeding in doing was giving herself a stress headache. There was apparently one vital missing piece she needed to make the picture complete so that she could figure Sam's recent mood changes out. And she was determined to do so. She wanted to help Sam; she needed to help Sam. Before whatever secret Sam was harboring destroyed her.

(Nice one, Sam. Keep it up and you'll be lucky if Brooke doesn't call in an intervention squad) Sam reprimanded herself. She kept replaying the conversation from the car over in her head as she lay in bed. (No wonder Brooke thinks I'm suicidal, I'd think so too given the way I acted)

She'd only told Brooke a half-lie. She'd thought about it, but she wasn't about to give George the satisfaction. Her pride wouldn't let her, to her that was the cowards way out. She'd sit and take her licks but she wasn't about to punch her ticket prematurely just to get away from George. He'd probably get a sick sense of satisfaction from that. If she could do nothing else, she could keep him from having that.

She wanted to tell Brooke what was going on. Out of all the people in her life, Brooke was the one she felt safest with. She was the one that Sam felt she could turn to. She didn't know why she felt that way and wasn't prepared to examine her feelings at this juncture in time; there was too much other shit on her mind. But George had made his threats towards Brooke very vivid and clear. It was like he knew that Brooke held a special place in Sam's heart and that by threatening Brooke's safety he knew he solidified his hold on Sam.

(("You tell Brooke and she'll be the one to suffer."

"If you think I've hurt you, try and imagine what I could do to Brooke."))

And those were the vague threats. His words served to haunt Sam when the truth threatened to spill from the tip of her tongue. If she spoke up, the pain and retribution would come down on Brooke in horrible and unspeakable ways. But what served to hurt Sam even worse emotionally were the other things he said about Brooke. The personal attacks he made about her relationship with Sam.

(("Do you honestly think she cares about you, Sam? She doesn't. You're nothing in her eyes. She has and is everything you're not. That's why the only person who will put up with you is me and without me you'll have no one."

"Brooke doesn't care for you. She's using you to get what she wants out of you. She hates you, Sam. You just don't see it."))

Sam didn't know what happened to the person George once was but the truth of the matter was that he had changed. He was no longer the person she once knew and cared for but she didn't know what to do. She couldn't leave him; he'd made it clear what he'd do if she tried. She couldn't tell, again he'd made his intentions clear there as well.

She sighed, a heavy sigh deep with resignation and sorrow. (When did things get so out of control?) She did want out of her life but death was not the answer. There had to be another solution, she just had yet to find it. She tried again to find a comfortable position and again it eluded her. Her left side was throbbing with each heartbeat and each breath was searing agony. She shifted so there was no weight on that side and that helped some.

(I could just get in the car and drive away) she thought with a sardonic laugh. (But I can't do that to Mom. Or Brooke. Brooke. Why do my thoughts keep coming back to you?)

Her phone rang and she saw George's name on the Caller ID. Knowing it was going to piss him off, she reached over and unplugged the phone. She giggled to herself and then clutched her side when it reminded her of its injury. (He is going to be SO pissed) she giggled internally. (And probably going to whoop my ass into next Sunday) she sighed. (Why do I let him? Brooke's right, I deserve better) she decided. (But then again, there ain't a whole lot I can do about it right now, is there? Not if I want to stay breathing and keep Brooke in one piece) She started to cry. (My life is so messed up)

Brooke stood inside the bathroom listening to Sam cry, again. She had to get to the bottom of whatever this was. It was slowly killing Sam. She didn't want to approach Sam about it again right now though. She was afraid of pushing Sam away for good if she did. It wouldn't serve any purpose to anyone if she pushed Sam further into her shell.

(Heh, shell. Who'd have imagined Sam coccooning herself in a shell to begin with?) Brooke mused. But that was exactly what Sam was doing. Pushing everyone away and collapsing into herself. (Argh, I have to figure this out. I know I'm blonde but I am not stupid. The answer is here, I just have to open my eyes and see it) She hated it when she couldn't figure things out. She loved a good mystery as much as the next person but not when said mystery was causing someone she cared about such pain and despair.

(I swear, Sam, if it's the last thing I do, I will find out what's going on with you. I promise I'm going to help you, even if you don't want my help)


Part 4

"What did you tell her?" George yelled as he pinned Sam against a locker in the empty hallway and punched the locker behind her head. It was after school and everyone had gone home. George had cornered Sam while she was leaving the newspaper office. Sam flinched at both the closeness of the blow and the loud noise in her ear. Her left ear rang at the volume.

"Nothing, I swear," Sam answered frightened. George punched the locker again and Sam jumped.

"Don't lie to me!" he commanded. Sam closed her eyes and turned her head away.

"I'm not," she whimpered as a few tears fell down her face. She was petrified and her heart was hammering painfully in her chest. George roughly grabbed her face and brought it back to look at his own while keeping an eye on the hallway.

"Liar," he hissed. "She wouldn't let me near you yesterday so she must know something," he accused. Sam tried to shake her head but George was holding on too tight.

"I swear, George, I didn't tell her," Sam whispered trying to calm him down. George leaned closer to her ear.

"I warned you what I'd do if you told her, Sammy. Don't make me prove to you that I meant it," he warned. Sam's eyes opened wide in fear and she shuddered.

"Please don't," she begged. He glared directly into her eyes.

"I'll hurt her like I've yet to hurt you. Brooke's a lot more delicate than you are, Sam. I'll bet she'd break a lot easier. I bet she'd scream a lot louder too," he growled lowly. Sam almost threw up on his shoes at the mere thought of harm coming to Brooke.

"Can't you just hear her bones snapping, Sam? The crack of bone against bone? Flesh against flesh? That would just kill you, wouldn't it?"

"Please George, don't," Sam asked as she cried harder. (Oh, God, just leave her alone, please) she silently begged.

"WOULDN'T IT?" he screamed.

"Yes," Sam conceded quietly.

"Can you hear her screaming, Sammy? Screaming for you? Screaming in pain, begging me to stop all because you couldn't keep your big fat mouth shut?" he taunted.

"I didn't tell her anything, George. I won't tell her anything," she promised through her tears. "Please leave her alone."

"You're in no position to ask anything of me," he spat in her face. Sam shook violently out of fear and anxiety.

"I'm sorry," she apologized. George pressed his fist into the bruise on her left side causing her to involuntarily cry out in pain.

"Shut up you wimp," he ordered. "Or I'll do a lot worse than this little bump." Sam bit down on her bottom lip to keep from screaming again. She was starting to see spots in her vision. He took his hand away and she started breathing again although only in short little gasps.

"Why are you doing this?" Sam asked in a wheeze. George looked at her for a second as if weighing his response.

"You're mine, Samantha. You belong to me. Don't ever forget that," he reminded her. She shook her head.

"I won't," she whispered. He punched the locker one last time to drive home his point.

"Good. Don't because I'd hate to have to find a new way to remind you," he warned and then walked away. Sam stood at the locker hyperventilating for several minutes before sliding painfully to the floor in a heap. Suddenly suicide was looking a whole lot better in her eyes.

(I have to keep Brooke safe) Sam thought as she let the coolness of the floortile seep into her cheek and tried to calm down from the massive feeling of panic flooding her body.

It was several minutes, actually closer to half an hour before she managed to push herself into a sitting position. Even then the hallway spun. (Guess I'm not driving home. With my luck, I'll accidently wipe myself out on the way. Solve all my problems without meaning to) Just then, Brooke rounded the corner, fresh from Glamazon practice. She stopped and looked at Sam on the floor in concern.

"Why is it I keep finding you on the floor?" she asked as she approached. Sam shrugged.

"Just lucky, I guess," Sam retorted. "Why is it you keep being the one to find me at my lowest?" Brooke sat down next to her.

"Just lucky, I guess," Brooke answered. "We have to stop meeting like this." Sam laughed slightly as to not jar her side.

"I know. The floor is an unforgiving mistress," she lamented dramatically. Brooke took a good look at Sam and saw that she'd been crying.

"What's wrong? Why were you crying?" Sam sighed and looked away.

"You're awful nosey lately," she snapped. Brooke frowned.

"No I'm not, I'm concerned about a friend, a family member and someone I care about," she said softly. Sam looked at her strangely. "What? I do. Look, we've come a long way, Sam. And like it or not, our parents are going to get married and that makes us family. And I care about you, a lot, Sam." That was as far as Brooke was willing to go on that subject, given that Sam was involved with George and therefore straight. Sam shrugged again.

"I know, and I care about you too, Brooke," Brooke's heart nearly leapt out of her chest with joy at those simple words. "But nothing's wrong. Just normal teenage angst, you know?" Brooke shook her head.

"I wish you wouldn't lie to me," she asked nearly in tears. Sam leaned her head back against the locker behind her.

"I'm not," Sam said with as much conviction as she could muster hoping to sound convincing. George's words kept echoing hrough her head.

"Brooke's a lot more delicate than you are, Sam. I'll bet she'd break a lot easier. I bet she'd scream a lot louder too."

"Can't you just hear her bones snapping, Sam? The crack of bone against bone? Flesh against flesh?"

"Can you hear her screaming, Sammy? Screaming for you? Screaming in pain, begging me to stop all because you couldn't keep your big fat mouth shut?"

A small almost inaudible sob escaped Sam's lips before she could stop it. Brooke looked at her.

"All right, now look me in the face and tell me nothing's wrong," she challenged. Sam shook her head.

"Please just take me home. I don't think I can drive right now," Sam explained. She lurched painfully and unsteadily to her feet. Brooke rose to help her.

"Maybe you should see a doctor, Sam," Brooke suggested as Sam leaned heavily on her.

"No, there's nothing really wrong that a new life couldn't fix," she said tiredly. At Brooke's confused look, Sam sighed. "Just forget it, Brooke. I just want to go home."

"OK, but if this keeps up, Sam, I'm going to tell Mom and Dad," Brooke said. A look of utter terror flashed across Sam's face and she pulled away from Brooke.

"No, no, no, no, no," she ranted suddenly very upset. "Whatever happens you can't not, I repeat, CAN NOT tell them anything. Do you understand me?" Brooke stared at her in shock.

"Sam, I don't even know what's going on but something's obviously eating at you. You're sick, in pain and you won't let anyone in. I can't let it go on if I think you might be in trouble."

"I'm not in any trouble," Sam tried to convince her blonde housemate. "I'd tell you if I were," she lied. Brooke looked at her dubiously.

"No you wouldn't. I've given you plenty of opportunity to and you keep shutting me out," Brooke snapped a little harsher than she meant to and more than a bit hurt at being shut out. Sam ran a hand though her hair in frustration. She was so close to telling Brooke but again George's words bounced around her mind. She shook her head to clear it.

"Look," Sam started a little calmer. "If there is something going on, and I'm not admitting that there is, trust me to straighten it out, Brooke. It's safer that way."

(It's safer that way, Sammy? Now I KNOW something's up)

"Safer, Sam? What's going on?" Brooke asked. Sam groaned at her slip.

"Just…just let it go, Brooke," she said. "Please?" The pleading tone in Sam's voice got to Brooke and despite her better judgment, she nodded.

"OK, Sam, I'll let it go for now. But if it keeps up, I will say something to Mom and Dad, understand?" Sam nodded. "OK, let's go home."


Part 5

Sam walked into the bathroom the next evening, pulling on her pj shirt over her sports bra as she did so. She was so tired and just wanted to sleep. But her injuries made sleep elusive and now she was suffering from George induced nightmares. Nightmares about George hurting Brooke while she was powerless to do anything to stop him. It made her afraid to close her eyes. It was also making it harder to keep her mouth shut despite his threats. Everyone has their breaking point and Sam realized with much dismay that she was fast approaching hers.

Brooke walked into the room and caught a glimpse of a livid purple and black bruise on Sam's back before Sam could cover it.

"Jesus, Sam," she breathed. "What happened?" Sam looked at her for a second in terror and then shrugged.

"I bumped into something," she said lamely and finished covering herself. Brooke frowned.

"Bumped into what? A baby elephant?" Sam glared at her.

"I don't remember, now leave me alone," she snapped. Brooke's frown deepened.

Her mind was working overtime trying to piece this one together. With a gasp that bordered on a hiccup, it connected. Sam's recent behavior, the withdrawn attitude, refusal to touch or make eye contact and the moodiness, the fear at the mere mention of George, the pain in her side, it all suddenly made sense to Brooke. She even heard a loud `clank' in her mind as the pieces slid into place.

"Did George do that?" she asked in a whisper praying that she was wrong. Sam spun around so fast she almost knocked herself over.

"No," Sam spat hastily as she backed away. Brooke closed her eyes in horror. Sam's reaction was all the answer she needed. George had been hurting Sam for who knows how long and Sam hadn't said anything. Brooke was almost physically ill at the realization. She opened her eyes to find Sam's boring into her.

"He doesn't hurt me," Sam hissed. Brooke approached her and was dismayed at how Sam backed away like a frightened cat.

"Take off your shirt, Sam," Brooke ordered softly. She needed to see what George had done for herself. Sam looked shocked and horrified.

"I will not!" Sam declared. "Sexual harrassment is a crime you know!" Brooke rolled her eyes as she took another step forward.

"If he's not hurting you, prove it to me," Brooke said calmly. "Take off your shirt. Prove to me that I'm wrong and I'll leave you alone, I promise." Sam shook her head.

"No," she protested weakly. Brooke was right up to her face now.

"You can't because it's the truth. He does beat you, doesn't he?" Sam shook her head. "Take off your shirt, Sam. Show me." Sam was crying by now and when Brooke reached up to wipe away the tears, Sam flinched like she was going to be hit.

"Aw, Sam, I'd never hurt you," Brooke whispered, her voice cracking. Sam looked at her with terrified eyes. "Either show me that I'm wrong or show me the damage he's done, please," Brooke begged.

"I can't," Sam cried.

"Why?" Brooke asked, confused.

"You won't understand," Sam croaked.

"I can't understand what you don't tell me, Sammy. Start by showing me," Brooke pleaded softly.

"But…" Sam hedged.

"Sam, please," Brooke pleaded desperately. Sam finally nodded and with a sniffle, lifted her shirt over her head and let Brooke see the extent of the injury done. Brooke sucked in an unsteady breath when she saw the harm reaped upon Sam's delicate body.

There were faded yellow and brown bruises everywhere showing that this had been going on for a long time. But worse than that were the fresher bruises. There was hardly a spot on Sam's arms, chest, back, or abdomen that wasn't marked in some way by purple, red or black splotches of various shapes and sizes. The fist size one on Sam's left side drew Brooke's attention first. Being very careful to try not to hurt Sam, she reached out to the bruise and ran her fingers lightly over it. She felt how hot the spot was and how the ribs underneath seemed to give way. Sam sucked in a pained breath.

"Sorry," Brooke apologized.

"S'OK," Sam answered quietly. Brooke walked around Sam inspecting the horrible scene before her. Sam looked like she'd been beaten by a baseball bat, or been trampled by said baby elephant. Brooke couldn't believe George had done this, well, no, actually she could. (But why would anyone want to hurt sweet Sam?) She came around to face Sam again.

"That one," she pointed to the one she'd touched. "How'd you get it?" Sam sighed.

"I said `no' to sex," she admitted simply. A new fear overwhelmed Brooke and choked off her air supply.

"Oh, God, Sam, he didn't…" Brooke trailed off unable to finish the sentence. Sam shook her head.

"No, no he's never gone that far," Sam said quietly. Brooke let out the breath she didn't know she was holding.

"Thank God," she whispered. Sam pulled her shirt back down and sat on the edge of the tub. "Why didn't you say anything?" Brooke asked. Sam sighed and looked at Brooke with the most lost and frightened expression the blonde had ever seen.

"I couldn't," she started. "I can't."

"Sam, you have to. And you have to see a doctor, I think your ribs are broken." Sam shook her head vehemently.

"I can't," she repeated forcefully. "You don't understand." Brooke sat down next to her.

"Then explain it to me," she coaxed soothingly. Sam leaned her head on Brooke's shoulder.

"I want to," Sam hedged.

"Please," Brooke begged.

"But George…"

"Can't hurt you here, Sam. It's just me and you. Please tell me what's going on. Please trust me." She placed a light kiss to the top of Sam's head and Sam finally felt safe for the first time in too long.

"He's been beating me for a while now," she started. Brooke felt the sting of tears in her eyes at that soft admission. "I never said anything because he made threats. Against everyone. Against you," Sam whispered. One last piece of the puzzle fell into place for Brooke.

(That's why Sam wouldn't tell me. George threatened her with me) Now it made sense to Brooke. Sam was trying to protect her. She was deeply touched by the gesture even if the circumstances were disturbing.

"What kind of threats, Sam?" Brooke asked needing to know. Sam lifted her head and looked at Brooke in horror.

"Don't make me repeat them, they make me sick just to think about them," she said pitifully. Brooke's heart broke at the power George had over Sam. And she hated him for it.

"He threatened to hurt me, didn't he?" Sam put her head back on Brooke's shoulder and nodded against her.

"Horribly and repeatedly," Sam said just above a whisper. Brooke shook her head and started plotting ways to extract revenge on George for all he'd done as she soothingly stroked Sam's hair.

"We have to tell someone, Sam," Brooke started. Sam shot up off the tub and promptly fell over. Brooke barely caught her before she hit the ground.

"Ow!" Sam yelled as she grabbed her side. Brooke lifted her shirt and looked at the bruise again.

"We're not telling anyone," Sam growled fiercely. Brooke stared at her in shock.

"Excuse me? Your boyfriend is beating you and making threats and you don't want to tell anyone?" she asked dumbfounded. Sam glared at her.

"Maybe you weren't listening, Brooke. He's THREATENING you, your safety, your life. I can handle whatever he dishes out but if he finds out that I told you, Brooke, he'll come after you," Sam shuddered at the thought. "And I don't know if I can stop him if he does."

"Let me worry about that," Brooke said.

"NO!" Sam exclaimed. "This is MY business, MY mess. I shouldn't have told you," she hissed. Brooke frowned.


"No, please don't tell anyone. Please promise me," Sam begged.

"I can't do that," Brooke said regretfully. Sam started to cry again.

"You asked me to trust you and I did. Don't betray that Brooke, I can handle this." Brooke arched an eyebrow.

"How about a compromise?" Sam looked at her expectantly. "You let me take you to a doctor and I won't tell anyone. Yet." Sam shook her head.

"Doctor's ask too many questions," Sam pointed out.

"We'll figure something out. Either that or I go to Mom and Dad, the police and George," it was a dirty trick and she hated herself for it but she was really worried about the bruise on Sam's side. A little voice in her head kept whispering bad things about internal injuries. Reluctantly, Sam nodded.

"Fine, whatever," Sam snapped. "Just don't let on to George that you know or God knows what he'll do. To us both."

"I'm going to kill him," Brooke warned in a menacing voice. Sam's eyebrows shot up. "You know that, right?"

"I'd pay good money to watch," Sam smiled. "Or help. But stay away from him, please, Brooke. He's not George anymore. He's not in his right mind or something."

"That much is obvious, Sam. Anyone who'd willingly hurt you is not in their right mind. They should be shot and put out of our misery."

"A little drastic, don't you think?" Sam joked weakly.

"Not drastic enough," Brooke growled. Sam giggled slightly.

"Overprotective much?" Sam asked with a lopsided grin. Brooke helped her up.

"I'm not going to answer that under the grounds that I might incriminate myself. Throw some shoes on, we're going to the walk-in clinic," she declared. Sam stared at her for a few seconds trying to decipher that last comment. But she decided she was in too much pain. She followed Brooke to get her shoes and then reluctantly went off to the hospital.


Part 6

"You, young lady, have several broken ribs and a severe hematoma," Dr. Griffiths informed Sam gravely a few hours later. He looked at Brooke. "I don't suppose I'm going to get a straight answer from either of you about how that happened or where the other injuries came from?" Brooke looked at Sam who shook her head. Dr. Griffiths sighed.

"Fine, that's what anonymous free clinics are for but I don't have to like it. OK, here's the deal, you need to take care of those ribs, keep them wrapped and limit your physical activities to eating and breathing. No running, no jumping and no whatever ended you up here in the first place."

"You also have several other badly healed breaks along other ribs that I want this to take care of before you develop long-term problems," he warned.

"Jesus," Brooke swore as Sam dropped her head. Dr. Griffiths realized the blonde had very little clue as to what was going on with her brunette friend. And he doubted their names were actually Laverne and Shirley or that they were over 18 like they stated on the paperwork.

"Shirley," Sam looked up at the doctor's use of her faux name. "You have several hairline fractures that are barely healed along your ribcage and arms. I'm amazed you didn't seek medical help sooner, you must have been in quite a bit of pain." Sam shrugged and sucked in a pained breath. Brooke rolled her eyes at Sam's stubbornness and wondered what the jail term was if she castrated George. In public. With a melon baller.

"I'm going to prescribe some pain medication and some anti-inflammatories and Laverne," Dr. Griffiths smirked at the fake names. "I want you to make sure she takes care of herself. If she doesn't, anyone of those ribs could splinter off and cause internal damage. I'm surprised they didn't already."

"I understand, Dr.," Brooke said confidently. Sam sighed as she realized that Brooke was going to watch over her every second. She wasn't sure she wanted to be the subject of the cheerleaders undivided attention.

"That's about all I can do for you. Bed rest and time is my prescription," Dr. Griffiths concluded.

"Thanks Dr.," Sam mumbled.

"Thank you Dr.," Brooke said as the doctor left the room. She looked at Sam with a serious and concerned look on her face.

"I don't believe you," she sighed. "How bad HAVE you been feeling?" Sam didn't want to answer her honestly but knew that lying at this point would only anger and hurt Brooke.

"Like a train wreck," Sam groaned back in raw honesty. "Or rather, like the train hit me." Brooke sat down next to her shaking her head.

"Why didn't you say anything?" Brooke asked incredulous. Sam rolled her eyes.

"I TOLD you, he was threatening you, everyone else and me! I wasn't going to take a chance on him following through on his threats, Brooke. It's not worth it," Sam said, exasperated that Brooke wasn't following her reasoning.

"But you are worth it, Sam," Brooke argued softly. "No one deserves to be treated this way, but especially you. Why didn't you just leave him?"

"I can't. I tried. That's how I got the bruise on my back. He pinned me down on the floor as I went to leave and pounded on my back," Sam explained. Brooke found herself nauseous at the imagery and started to quietly cry.

"Hey, don't cry, Brooke," Sam tried to get her blonde companion to stop crying by rubbing her back.

"Sam, I just found out that George beats you and that you let him and don't seem to care. It's a horrible image, excuse me if I find it upsetting," Brooke snapped a bit harsher than she intended. Sam drew her hand away and her eyes narrowed.

"I don't LET him do anything," Sam growled defensively. "I put up with what I do to protect the people I care about. To protect you," she reminded Brooke none too politely.

"Let me worry about George, Sam," Brooke told her confidently. Sam visibly began to panic.

"No, George is my problem, Brooke. I'll deal with him," she said standing up and and starting to walk away.

"Like you're dealing with him now?" Brooke challenged. Sam spun around and fixed her with a dirty look.

"I never should have trusted you," she hissed. "I should have known better than to tell you anything." Brooke felt her insides constrict at Sam's angry words.


"No, I should have known that the minute I trusted you with something like this you were going to go running either to Mom or to your little cheerleader friends to make fun of me and the Hell with keeping your word. You have no idea what the words `trust' or `in confidence' mean, do you?"

"Yes, I do," Brooke countered angrily. "I want you to trust me Sam. You can trust me, always. I'll never betray you, ever. But this is dangerous and bigger than either of us can handle. You've tried handling it on your own and look where you ended up, the hospital."

"I'm doing what I have to Brooke," Sam pointed out bitterly. "For everyone."

"Stop it!" Brooke shouted. "I am not more important than you are! God, Sam, do you really think that?" Sam shrugged and winced. The two seemed to be interconnected lately.

"According to George, you are," Sam whispered. Brooke looked at her in surprise.

"And you believed him?"

"Hear something enough and you'll eventually believe it," Sam answered in the same quiet voice. "Besides, I always seem to come in second to you in everything. It's not a hard thing to believe." Brooke shook her head in defeat and despair.

"You're not any less than I am, Sam. We're equals," Brooke said to her. Sam scoffed in disbelief.

"Yeah, right." Brooke glared at her.

"Sam, knock it off, please," Brooke begged. "God, not only did George do a number on your body but he did one on your head too, huh?"

"Whatever," Sam sighed, too tired, physically and emotionally to keep fighting with Brooke. Besides, it wasn't something she really wanted to do.

"Let's go home, Sam," Brooke said, seeing that Sam wasn't in the mood for anymore explainations or arguments at the moment. Sam nodded.

"What are we going to tell the parental units?" Sam asked as they arrived home. Her mother and Mike were away at the moment and not due home for another week but they were bound to wonder why Sam was restricted physically.

"I haven't a clue but for now I won't say anything," Sam gave her a look of extreme thanks and relief. "But we need to figure out a way of handling this."

"Can we figure it out in the morning? The meds are making me tired," Sam yawned. She crawled into bed and was shocked when Brooke crawled in behind her. "Excuse you?" Brooke blinked at her.

"Relax, will you?" Brooke said with a small smile. While yes, at one point she would have had an ulterior motive for this, right now she was doing it out of concern.

"I want to be able to watch over you tonight, so if you don't mind, I'll sleep here," Brooke explained calmly. Sam arched an eyebrow but settled down next to Brooke.

"You know if you were a guy, I'd think you were coming on to me," she joked. Brooke couldn't help but blush.

"Then it's a good thing I'm a girl," she responded trying to keep her voice even. Sam sighed.

"If you say so," Sam whispered as she started to fall asleep. Brooke lifted her head for a second in shock but dismissed the comment as medication and pain induced. She listened as Sam's breathing evened out and thought about the situation they now found themselves in.

(When I get my hands on you, George) she snarled internally, rage burning in her veins (I'm going to make you wish you never came to Kennedy High and certainly wish you'd never laid a hand on my Sam. The mere fact that he hurts her is enough to make me want to kill him) She wondered what the going rate for a hit man was but dismissed the thought as too complicated. (Besides, I want the pleasure of hurting him myself)

Brooke wasn't by nature a violent person and she knew it but this was Sam. And someone was hurting her and Brooke was willing to overlook her own personal convictions to stop harm from coming to Sam. Brooke loved her, there was no doubt in her mind about that. And now that she knew Sam's secret, it was killing her as well. Part of her wished she were still ignorant of the truth.

(Ignorance truly is bliss) she thought ruefully. (But now that I know, I have to find a way to help. I will not let him hurt her anymore) she vowed.


Part 7

Brooke woke up with a most comfortable weight on her chest. It was soft and warm and slightly yielding. She opened her eyes to find Sam sprawled slightly across her, her injured side cradled carefully. She watched the sleeping brunette with open and undisguised fondness. She wondered how during the night they ended up in the position they were in but she wasn't about to disturb it for anything. She actually wished this moment could last forever.

(Guilty sin, bad Brooke, bad Brooke) she scolded herself with absolutely no conviction. She giggled involuntarily causing Sam to shift slightly. Sam buried her head in the crook of Brooke's neck causing Brooke to sigh in contentment. She knew this was the closest she was ever going to get to her dream of loving Sam so she was determined to enjoy every second of it.

"Brooke?" Sam's sleep filled voice floated up to her ears.

"Yes, Sam?" Brooke whispered back.

"This has the potential to be very awkward," Sam said shyly. Brooke smiled although Sam couldn't really see it. She decided to play with Sam a little.

"Why's that?"

"Ah, we appear to be cuddling," Sam pointed out softly.

"Uh-huh," Brooke agreed. Sam still hadn't moved.

"And that doesn't bother you?"

"Does it bother you, Sam?" Sam was silent a few minutes.

"I feel safe," Sam whispered so softly Brooke almost missed it. Almost. She wrapped her arms tighter around Sam, mindful of her bruises, as tears welled up in her eyes at Sam's words.

"You're always safe with me, Sam. Don't ever doubt that," Brooke told her while placing a gentle kiss to the top of Sam's head. She felt the hot sting of Sam's tears on her neck.

"I won't."

"SAM!" George bellowed making Sam nearly leap out of her skin. She put her hand over her heart to make sure it was still beating.

"What?" she snapped back before she could stop herself. She automatically cringed as George reached her. She was in the parking lot next to her car getting ready to head home. She was suddenly regretting letting Brooke go on home ahead of her. (No rescues this time, Sam) George glared dangerously at her as he stood next to her.

"Did you just talk back to me?" Sam shook her head. "I hope not because we both know what happens when you talk back, don't we?" Sam nodded mutely. George smiled and reached for the bruise on her left side. He frowned as he felt the bandage underneath her shirt. Fear and terror shot through Sam like a lightening bolt.

"What's this?" he asked angrily.

"A…a bandage," Sam stuttered. George's eyes narrowed.

"You told," he accused in a low hiss. Sam's eyes got wide and she shook her head.

"No…no I didn't. I bandaged it myself cuz it hurt. I didn't tell, I swear," she lied. George watched her closely.

"You wouldn't lie to me, would you?" Sam shook her head violently.

"Never," she promised knowing that was exactly what she was doing and praying he believed her. George looked around the parking lot to make sure that they were alone. He ran his thumb along the bruise and then pressed down. Sam bit down on a scream.

"Good, because we both know if you DID lie to me, the end result wouldn't be pretty," he reminded her. He took his hand away and took a step back. Sam stood there panting. "Want to go to a movie tonight?" he asked nonchalantly. Sometimes she couldn't believe the way he switched gears so fast.

"I have a lot of homework," she said quickly. A little too quickly. George glared at her. "I do," she insisted. "I have a Chem paper and an article to finish," she explained. With a final nod, George let her off the hook.

"Fine," he said. "But I want to get together this weekend," he told her firmly. Sam nodded.

"Sure, call me," she said.

"Make sure you answer the phone," he warned. He leaned in to kiss her and Sam reluctantly let him. Honestly she'd rather kiss Emory Dick or just about anyone else but George.

"Say `Hi' to Brooke for me," George taunted as he walked away. Sam shivered at the ice in George's voice when he mentioned Brooke's name. She knew that if George found out that Brooke knew about what was going on, he'd hurt her or worse. And she couldn't let that happen. She WOULDN'T let that happen. Sam didn't know how she was going to prevent it, ultimately because like all secrets, this was eventually going to get out. But she was going to keep Brooke safe if it took the last ounce of life in her body to do it.

Brooke was pacing around the house waiting for Sam to get home. The hair on the back of her neck was standing up and she just knew Sam had run into George. She didn't know how she knew but she did. Overwhelming fear and panic were surging through her as visions of George beating Sam, or worse, floated through her mind.

(Stop it, Brooke) she yelled at herself (Panicking isn't going to help. Sam will be home any minute. Oh, please come home safe) Brooke was seriously contemplating telling Sam about her feelings. If only to let Sam know that there was someone who loved her, that George's love was wrong. But she was wary of how Sam would actually react.

(Shock, horror, disgust, disbelief? I'm running out of options. Or she could just think it's a pity thing. Anyway I look at it, the result is bad) she sighed. She loved Sam so much that it was nearly all she could think of. And what George was doing enraged her. (How can he do that to her? How can he even THINK about raising his hand to her? She'd never hurt anyone) She heard the front door slam and found a shaken Sam standing in the doorway.

"Sam?" she approached the spooked girl. Sam blinked at her.

"George says `Hi'," Sam said solemnly, almost like she was delivering a death sentence, which Brooke figured Sam felt she was.

"Aw, Jesus, did he hurt you?" Sam shook her head.

"He pushed on the ribs a little but I'm OK," she responded, looking down and away from Brooke. Brooke lifted Sam's face to meet her own.

"Look at me Sam. Look me in the eyes when you talk to me," Brooke instructed gently. Sam slowly raised her brown eyes to look into Brooke's hazel ones. Brooke was frightened by the empty look she saw there.

"How are the ribs?" Sam shrugged and gasped.

"Sore," she admitted. "I'll survive." Brooke rolled her eyes.

"Stop being obstinate and let me see," Sam pulled up her shirt and Brooke unrolled the bandage. The bruise didn't look any worse but it didn't look any better either. She rewrapped it and sighed.

"Sam, we have to go to the police…" she started.

"No! God, Brooke, do you have a death wish or something?" Sam exclaimed. Brooke frowned.

"Has he actually threatened to kill me?" the thought sent a shiver down her spine. Sam shook her head.

"No, not in so many words but I don't want any harm to come to you," Sam told her.

"What has he said?"

"You really want to know? Are you sick?" Sam asked disgusted.

"Sam, tell me so I know what we're up against," Brooke prompted. Sam sighed. Brooke had a point. She had a right to know what she was up against. She sat down with Brooke on the couch.

"He said horrible things, Brooke. You'll scream my name as he breaks your bones," Sam whispered as tears slipped down her face. Brooke reached out to wipe them away and was heartened by the fact that Sam didn't flinch. "You'll curse me as he causes you unimaginable pain and I'll be there to watch and hear the whole thing," she was sobbing now.

"That won't happen, Sam."

"You're right, it won't! I won't let it!" Sam declared. "And you're not going to go to the police and you're not telling Mom and Mike. I will find another way out just give me more time!"

"Sam, calm down," Brooke asked. Sam took as deep a breath as she could manage and settled down.

"Look, I know things are really screwed up but we can find a way out without involving anyone else, Brooke. I know we can." Brooke shook her head

"How, Sam? How when it's something like this?"

"I don't know, Brooke. But he'll totally flip if he finds out I told you and if it goes any further than you well, I'd rather not think about that," Sam said morosely.

"Sam, there's only so much a person can handle and I think this is out of both our hands," Brooke tried to explain.

"You don't get it," Sam said sadly. "Brooke, whatever's wrong with George, I know he doesn't mean to do this. He's just angry at something. It'll stop eventually. I'll make him stop." Brooke stared at her incredulously.

"Do you hear yourself? Sam, he BEATS you! For no reason that I know of. You're not dating him to provide him with an outlet for his anger and he's not going to change. Once a man hits you there's always the chance he'll do it again," she said heatedly as Sam looked away.

"You know what? I don't feel like having this conversation," Sam snapped. "I'm going to bed." Brooke moved to stop her.

"Sam, I'm sorry. I just don't like to see you in pain," she said gently. Sam face softened slightly.

"I know, Brooke. And I appreciate that, I really do. Just give me time to figure this out."


Part 8

"Where were you? What did I tell you?" George yelled, punctuating each word with a vicious blow to Sam's mid section. It was Monday night and Sam hadn't returned George's phone calls all weekend. She knew it was playing with fire but she couldn't bring herself to pick up that phone. Unfortunately, he'd shown up at the house while she was alone and she'd had no reason not to go out with him. So now she lay curled up in a ball on his bedroom floor desperately trying to protect herself from his latest onslaught and displacing her mind.

(I wonder what Brooke's doing) she thought as George's boot connected again. She hardly felt it this time though. He bent down and roughly hauled her to her feet. Her head rolled back and he had to slap her back to awareness.

"I'm talking to you!" he spat. Sam shook her head and blinked at him. Dimly she became aware of the throbbing throughout her body.

"I hear you," she whispered, her voice raspy from earlier screams.

"Why didn't you call me back?" he demanded to know.

"I was sick," she explained, not entirely a lie. Her ribs had kept her mostly in bed with Brooke waiting on her hand and foot. That in itself was more than enough reason not to call anyone for any reason. The blonde was being so supportive and caring, and dare she think it, loving, that Sam was beginning to feel like her life had some worth again. And spending time with George would only serve to erase that feeling. She didn't want to give it up.

"I'm gonna make you sicker," George growled as he tossed her to the floor.

"George, please," she begged. "I can't take much more." George looked at her, blood staining her face and her complexion pasty. She was broken, body and spirit and he knew it. And he was proud of himself.

"What about Brooke?" he teased. "I wonder how much she could take?" Sam leapt to her feet as best she could and charged George.

"Leave her alone, damn you!" she screamed as she pounded her fists weakly against his chest. George pushed her back to the floor and laughed.

"I knew she was your weak point, Sam. You are so pathetic," he taunted. Sam cursed herself for giving George what he wanted, proof that she cared for Brooke.

"George, she doesn't know. Leave her out of this," she begged in tears. George shook his head.

"Why do you care so much what happens to blondie?"

"She's my friend, my stepsister, or will be. She's not involved with any of this. Why do you want to hurt her?" Sam asked.

"Because I know the pain it will cause you," he answered, pulling her to her feet again and tossing her against the dresser. He walked over and used his body to pin her in place. "You're pathetic and weak, you know that?" Sam nodded and hated herself for it. George slid his hand up Sam's shirt and reached for her breasts. Sam pushed his hand away.

"No," she said firmly. George glared murderously at her.

"No?" he echoed in disbelief. Sam set her eyes on his, confident in this one thing. If he wanted that, he was going to have to take it and he was in for one Hell of a fight.

"No," Sam repeated in the same solid tone, not breaking eye contact. George stared at her for a second.

"After all this you still won't give it up?" he asked, unbelieving. Sam shook her head, eyes never leaving his. "You're unbelievable." Sam arched an eyebrow.

"No," she said again, her voice dipping an octave and letting George know she meant it. He backhanded her with his free hand, catching her by surprise because he never struck her in the face before. Her eyes watered and she saw stars.

"Get out of my face, you frigid bitch," George hissed. Sam stepped unsteadily away and headed for the door. "And not a word, Sam. To anyone or Brooke will pay the consequences."

Brooke picked up her phone on the fourth ring.

"Hullo?" there was a long pause but she knew someone was there, she could hear someone breathing heavily. Her stomach clenched. "Sam?" there was a whimper on the other end of the phone that scared her.

"Where are you? I'll come get you," Brooke said hurrily as she pulled on her shoes and reached for her keys.

"About half a mile from George's. At a phone booth," Sam panted back. The way Sam sounded almost made Brooke sick. "Hurry, please."

Brooke found Sam curled up on the ground behind the phone booth, an absolute wreck. She was bloody and cut and there was a bruise starting to appear on one cheek. Brooke's heart broke while at the same time her rage at George soared to new heights. She gently gathered Sam into her arms.

"Let's get to the hospital, Sam," Brooke said softly.

"No. Home," Sam responded in a grunt. Brooke sighed.

"Sam," Brooke started.

"No," Sam whispered harshly. "Please? You take care of me. Please?" Brooke couldn't resist the pleading tone in Sam's voice and agreed. She gently led Sam to the car and drove her home. She took Sam up to the bathroom and stripped the beaten girl of her outer clothing. Seeing the new injuries first hand, Brooke again wished Sam would let her take her to the hospital.

"Sam, remember what the doctor said about internal injuries," she said as she wiped some blood from Sam's face. "We need to call the police and you need to go back to the hospital." Sam's eyes fluttered open.

"Brooke's a lot more delicate than you are, Sam. I'll bet she'd break a lot easier. I bet she'd scream a lot louder too," Sam repeated George's words, surprising Brooke. She arched an eyebrow and stood back from Sam.

"What?" Sam looked at her and continued.

"Can't you just hear her bones snapping, Sam? The crack of bone against bone? Flesh against flesh?" Brooke gagged and leaned over the toilet. Sam watched disinterested.

"Can you hear her screaming, Sammy? Screaming for you? Screaming in pain, begging me to stop all because you couldn't keep your big fat mouth shut?" Sam kept going, letting Brooke know all the horrible things George had said as Brooke leaned over the toilet.

"Stop, Sam, I get the point," Brooke begged as she rinsed out her mouth with Scope. "You've been living with all that?" Sam nodded and almost fell forward off the tub where she was sitting. Brooke rushed forward to support her.

"That's why I never said anything," Sam confessed weakly. "But I can't take this anymore, Brooke. Make it stop." Brooke stroked the new bruise on Sam's face lightly.

"I'd do anything to stop it, baby," Brooke whispered as she gently kissed the bruise, not caring if she stepped over the line between them. Sam eyed her curiously, a slight frown creasing her forehead. Brooke watched her waiting for a reaction. Sam took a trembling hand and traced Brooke's lips with her fingers.

"My weak point," Sam said cryptically. Brooke closed her eyes as Sam's fingers continued their journey. After a few seconds, she pursed her lips and kissed Sam's fingers. She then opened her eyes and looked directly into Sam's confused ones. Brooke reached up and grasped Sam's hand.

"Let's take care of you," she whispered to Sam who nodded back. As much as she wanted to, Brooke thought now was not the time to open that door all the way. She'd settle for the crack that just suddenly appeared.

"We're going to make it stop, right?" Sam asked for reassurance. Brooke nodded confidently.

"Yes, Sam. Soon. He's never laying another hand on you ever again." Sam took the reassurance as it was offered and closed her eyes as Brooke gently took care of her. When she was finished, she put Sam in bed and quietly spoke to her.

"Sam, we need to call someone. He could kill you if he gets his hands on you again," she argued gently. Sam shook her head from her position beside Brooke in the bed.

"No," she mumbled softly. "I know you mean well, Brooke. Really. But the police won't do anything but take a statement and haul him in for questioning. And even if they do arrest him, his parents will just bail him out." She yawned. "Please don't go to the police. There has to be another way."

"You keep saying that but I don't see one," Brooke sighed. Sam didn't answer having all ready fallen into a fitful slumber. Brooke chewed on her lip and tried to find that 'other way' Sam kept begging for. But try as she might, she couldn't get her mind to come up with anything. Either she was going to have to break her word and go to the police or she was going to have to talk to George herself. She wasn't sure which yet. Still tied up in knots with worry over Sam, Brooke followed Sam into a light sleep.


Part 9

The whimper woke her first, and the strangled scream that followed shortly after brought Brooke to full consciousness. She gently grasped the flailing form in her arms and tried to bring Sam out of the nightmare she was having. Sam was soaked in sweat with fever and Brooke was getting worried.

"Sam, Sammy hon, wake up, you're safe," Brooke soothed as Sam grew more aggitated.

"Leave her alone, George," Sam wailed still caught in the grip of her nightmare. "Please don't hurt Brooke," she begged desperately. Brooke swallowed a sob at the hopelessness in Sam's voice.

"Sam," Brooke said a little louder. "George can't hurt you here, you're safe."

"Brooke?" Sam murmured, her tossing and fighting slowly ceasing. Brooke pressed her lips to Sam's damp temple in comfort.

"Right here, I didn't go anywhere, Sammy," she whispered back as she started to rock Sam slightly. Sam settled down in her arms.

"Sorry," Sam mumbled into Brooke's shirt. She started to shake.

"Don't be," Brooke told her lovingly. "Shhh, it's OK. It's just you and me."

"I woke you," Sam complained. Brooke sighed.

"So? I'd rather you woke me than stay in that nightmare. Wanna talk about it?"

"Not really," Sam answered tiredly.

"Come on, don't shut down on me. I know it was about George," Brooke told her gently.

"He was hurting you and making me watch," Sam sobbed. Brooke had thought as much. Sam shivered violently. Brooke felt her forehead and sighed again.

"Sam, you're sick and need a doctor. I think George might have done internal damage this time," Brooke explained her voice heavy with concern and worry. Sam shook her head.

"Don't care, wanna stay here. I'm safe here," she said pitifully. Brooke tried again.

"I'm not going to let you bleed to death in my arms, Sam. I won't," she said as her voice cracked and tears stung her eyes, the thought of losing Sam almost too much for her to handle.

"Can't lie to the doctor again, Brooke. He won't buy it and if we tell the truth he'll call the cops," Sam countered trying to find a way out of going to the hospital again. Every trip there was another chance they took that George would find out that she told.

"Let him!" Brooke exclaimed making Sam wince. "God, Sam, this has gone far enough. Let the authorities deal with George."

"And after his family bails him out, who do you think he'll make a beeline for, Brooke?" Sam pointed out sourly. "Not the nearest 7-11 for a grape Slurpee. You and me for a little revenge."

"Is that chance worth dying over?" Brooke challenged.

"Ask yourself the same thing, cuz I think that's how far he's willing to go now," Sam yawned. Brooke knew she was willing to take the chance.

"Up, Sam, we're going back to the hospital," she declared. Sam didn't move. "Up, Sam!" Brooke demanded. Sam eyed her carefully and then glared.

"Yes, ma'am," she spat angrily as she saluted sarcastically and rolled painfully out of bed. Brooke mentally smacked herself. Here she was, trying to protect Sam from George and she turns around and starts acting like George.

"I'm sorry, Sam, I'm just really worried about you," she explained. Sam's expression softened.

"I know," Sam conceded. "I'm just scared, Brooke." Brooke walked over and stood directly in front of Sam.

"As long as I'm here, Sam, you have nothing to be afraid of," she said while staring intently into Sam's brown eyes. There was something happening between them, she could feel it now. It was almost like a charge in the air and Brooke could feel it dancing across her skin. More than that Sam could feel it; she didn't fully understand it but she wasn't fighting it either. Sam stared back at her.

"I know," Sam whispered back. Pulled by a force she didn't understand but didn't want to fight, Sam lightly brushed her lips against Brooke's. It felt strangely right and she felt Brooke respond to her. It only lasted a few seconds but it filled Sam with a sense of peace she hadn't felt since the whole mess with George had started. The fear faded and the roaring in her head stopped for those few scant seconds. It was the pause she had been praying for, the port in her storm.

"Thank you," she murmured to Brooke when she pulled away. Brooke nodded silently in pleasant shock. "Let's go to the hospital."

More of Sam's ribs were broken this time and she had an infection in her system from the repeated trauma. They went to a different clinic and used different names (Idgie and Ruth Threadgoode). They gave a lame duck story involving stairs and how not to go down them but the clinic was so busy they could have cared less. They patched her up, gave her some antibiotics and sent her on her merry way.

Brooke watched the sleeping form carefully. (Sam kissed me) she thought happily. (OK, maybe it was a `thank you' kiss but she still kissed me) Brooke wondered exactly what was going on between them. Not that she minded. She loved Sam desperately but never thought that there was the slightest chance that Sam would ever return those feelings. The mere possiblity was almost too much to hope for. And as much as she loved thinking about the possibilities, there was a more important issue at hand.

George. What were they going to do? This last time was it for Brooke. Sam was broken and not just physically. There was very little of the girl's inner spark left and that scared Brooke. Sam was the embodiment of spirit. And to see that aspect of the brunette stolen from her was disheartening. Brooke would do anything to fix it but Sam wouldn't let her call the police or tell their parents.

(I could tell Josh and Sugar and let them take care of George. Or sick Nicole and Mary Cherry on him. Nah, I don't want to get anyone else involved. I need to keep Sam away from George. I think it might be time to let George know I know, see how he deals with that. Sam won't like it but I see no other choice)

(But what is he going to do if I say anything? Will he take it out on her first? I won't be able to stand it if he hurts her again, not to mention the fact that I don't think she can take much more. Oh, Sammy, why didn't you come to me with this sooner?) Brooke wiped away the tears that fell as she thought about the torment that Sam had suffered and never mentioned. If she hadn't walked into the bathroom when she did chances are she still wouldn't know that George was beating Sam. She probably wouldn't have known until he either put Sam in the hospital or killed her.

(God, he could kill her. He nearly has. This mess is SO over our heads. I hate the thought of breaking my word to Sam but I might have to so that this stops)

"Brooke?" Sam called from the bed. Brooke shook her head to clear it and focused on the girl in front of her.

"Yes, hon?" Sam's eyes were drug-induced slits but she still arched an eyebrow at the pet name. She said nothing about it but lifted the edge of the covers.

"Please?" she asked. Brooke hesitated.

"I'm afraid of hurting you," she said honestly.

"You would never," Sam told her quietly. "Even by accident." Brooke still stayed in her seat. Sam pouted. "Please, I sleep better when you're here." Brooke was touched by the comment but she still sighed out of concern for Sam.

"OK, but if I bump into you and it hurts, kick me out of bed, OK?" she crawled in next to Sam.

"OK," Sam yawned as she cuddled close to Brooke. She was asleep in minutes as was Brooke, despite her inner turmoil.


Part 10

"Tell me again why you're doing this?" Sam asked two days later as the camera flashed again. She turned slightly to the left as Brooke directed.

"In case, God forbid, something goes wrong and we need evidence, Sam," Brooke explained patiently, for the fifth time as she took another picture of Sam's bruises. Sam sighed.

"Nothing can go wrong because NO ONE IS GOING TO KNOW, right?" she said more as a statement. Brooke murmured her agreement, which only served to upset Sam.

"OK, you're up to something, I know it! Spill, McQueen," she demanded as she lowered her shirt and crossed her arms. Brooke set down the camera and shook her head.

"I'm not `up' to anything, Sam. I'm just covering all our bases is all," she lied. Sam eyed her suspiciously.

"Why don't I believe you?"

"Believe what you want to, I'm keeping my word. I won't tell Mom and Dad or the police," Brooke said calmly. Sam nodded. She looked around nervously for a minute.

"Look, Brooke, I wanted to talk to you about something else," she started awkwardly. (Oh, no, here it comes. The `I only kissed you as a `thank you', I was feverish' talk. I've been dreading this) Brooke groaned to herself. She'd been waiting for this for two days. Sam frowned for a second and then continued.

"It's about that kiss," she faltered again. Brooke let out a long heavy sigh.

"Don't worry about it, Sam. You were sick and upset. You wanted comfort and I was the only one here, I understand. No harm done," she said evenly as her heart broke. Sam opened her mouth to respond as the phone rang. Brooke leaned over to pick it up.

"'Lo? Hi, Mom. No, we're...fine," she looked pointedly at Sam. "Everything's great," Brooke's voice was strained as she struggled not to tell Jane about George and Sam. "Uh-huh, OK, what? Another week? Can we handle things here?" Sam's eyes got wide. "I don't know…no, nothing's wrong," she said.

(Other than your daughter's boyfriend is beating her to death, that is)

"No, OK, you're staying another week. We'll handle things here, I guess. Yeah, Sam's fine," she lied feeling terrible. "OK, I'll say `hi' for you. See you in a week, love you too. Bye." She hung up the phone.

"We're on our own another week," she told Sam. Sam rolled her eyes.

"I kinda gathered," Sam snorted. "So, now what?"

"Now we gotta find an answer, Sam. But our options are severely limited," Brooke pointed out. Sam nodded.

"I know," Sam agreed. "Could we just move and forget he exists?" Brooke shook her head.

"Too drastic, besides, I like my house. Any other ideas?" Sam sighed.

"Other than something even more drastic, no, I don't," she said in a defeated tone.

"That's not funny, Sam," Brooke complained. Sam shrugged.

"I really wasn't kidding," she responded. Brooke stared at her in mild shock but refrained from commenting knowing that Sam was reaching the end of her rope. But she also knew that Sam wouldn't do that now that she was involved and helping. Together they would find a solution. "Look, if you're done with the photo shoot for today, I'm gonna go take a nap."

"Go ahead, Sam. I have a few errands to run."

Brooke knocked on George's front door and waited. She knew that going to his house wasn't the smartest idea she ever had but she was fast running out of ideas. George answered the door and looked at her in surprise.

"Hey Brooke," he greeted her warily. Brooke looked at him with barely disguised contempt.

"Hey, George, can you come outside a sec?" Brooke asked, unwilling to go inside his house. George nodded and shut the door behind him.

"What's up?"

"George, we need to talk," Brooke said lowly, cutting right to the chase. George turned and fixed her with a bored stare.

"I doubt you and I have anything to talk about," he responded. Brooke glared at him, all the rage she felt burning through her hazel eyes and making him arch an eyebrow.

"I know, George," she growled. His eyes grew round and then narrowed. "And if you EVER lay another hand on her again…"

"You'll what?" he laughed. "Stuff a pom pom down my throat?" he turned away slightly. "Besides, I don't know what you're talking about." Brooke walked around him to face him again.

"I KNOW you beat her," she hissed enraged. He glared at her. "And this is your only warning: it stops now. She is no longer your girlfriend and you are to go no where near her, EVER. Do I make myself clear?"

"Who are you to order me around?" he snarled. Brooke grinned evilly.

"The person who's going to stop you. Let me put it to you this way, George. I've taken pictures of everything you've done to her, and I have copies of her hospital records. I've given them to several people under the strict instructions not to look at them unless something happens to me and/or Sam. I know the shit you've been filling her head with, you sick psycho, and you're not coming near either of us."

"You've got a lot of nerve," he started. Brooke shook her head.

"I'VE GOT NERVE? You beat Sam! Why, George? What did she do to warrant that?"

"It's none of your GodDamn business, it's between me and Sam!" he shouted back.

"It IS my business, she's my stepsister and friend," Brooke countered getting right in George's face, anger filling every cell. George leaned right into her face.

"She's MINE, Brooke," he said lowly in warning. "She needs to learn her place." Brooke looked at him in shock.

"Yours? She belongs to no one, George, least of all an asshole who beats her for no other reason than to make himself feel like a man," she mocked. George raised his hand to hit her but Brooke didn't back down.

"Go ahead, George, I dare you," she challenged quietly. His hand hovered but never connected. "Didn't think so."

"Don't think I won't," George told her. "You mean nothing to me."

"Neither does Sam, apparently," Brooke added.

"Get out of my face," George ordered. Brooke stood in his way.

"Have I made myself clear, George? Go near her and I will go to the police. Anything happens to either of us; so much as a papercut and the people with the evidence will go to the police. Got it or do I need to draw you a diagram?"

"You have no idea what you're dealing with," George warned.

"No, George, you don't," Brooke pointed out sourly. "Leave her alone or you'll answer to me."

"You don't scare me," he said in a low voice. Brooke arched an eyebrow.

"No? I should," she said flatly.

"You're pathetic," George spat.

"You are George. How about picking on someone who'll fight back, you coward. Now leave her alone!" George pushed passed her roughly and walked back into the house.

"Have a nice day, George!" Brooke called after him cheerfully as the door slammed.

"YOU DID WHAT?" Sam exclaimed after Brooke confessed her afternoon activity. She watched all the color drain from Sam's face leaving the bruise standing out in stark contrast.

"I know I promised that I wouldn't, Sam, but we were out of options," Brooke explained calmly watching Sam pace wildly.

"Aw, man, he's gonna kill us both," Sam wailed. "ARE YOU INSANE?" Brooke shook her head.

"I didn't see any other way, Sam," she said. "I told him what would happen if anything happened to either of us so he's not going to do anything. You are officially no longer a couple."

"He's not gonna care about some snapshots or hospital records. God, Brooke, the second he corners either of us it's all over. What were you thinking?"

"I was thinking that I couldn't stand by and watch you slowly die," Brooke spat out harsher than she intended. Sam stopped her pacing. "I care for you too much to stand by and do nothing while he beats you to death, Sam. The next time he takes a shot to your ribs, he might puncture a lung or damage your liver. You could die and I won't let that happen." Sam stared at her.

"Why do you care so much? I'm not worth it," Sam whispered. She was so confused. On one side she had George telling her she was worthless. He treated her like garbage and hurt her. On the other side there was Brooke; who took care of her and who was trying to save her from a dangerous situation. And she wanted to believe Brooke, she really did, but she had spent so long listening to George that she was unsure what to believe anymore.

Sam had always prided herself on her confidence. If there was one thing someone could say about her it was that she was sure of herself. She knew who she was and what she wanted. But as her relationship with George progressed and entered the realm of abusive, she found that she didn't have a clue who she was anymore. She stayed with George and didn't understand why. It didn't fit with how she was raised or what she was familiar with. No one had ever treated her like George did and she had never LET anyone treat her that way. She'd pop them in the nose first. But now she was starting to let him control aspects of her life when it was obvious he didn't really care for her. And until now she had made no effort to stop him. She figured on some level she must have deserved it. So she didn't understand why Brooke would care so much when George didn't.

Brooke shot up out of the armchair.

"Don't you dare spout his lies at me, Samantha," she growled, surprising Sam with the ferocity behind the words. "That was George talking, not you and I don't want to hear it. You are worth it, every bit of the chance I took talking to George." Sam shook her head in disagreement. Brooke lightly grasped her chin and drew their faces together.

"You are, Sam," she told the other girl. "I care for you, Sam. You need to see that George's love is wrong and that there are other loves out there. Loves that don't make you feel worthless and cause you pain." Brooke's heart was thundering in her chest as she came dangerously close to confessing her feelings to Sam who was staring at her with an expression of mixed disbelief and wonder on her face.

"You care for me," Sam repeated, her voice conveying her disbelief.

"Yes, a lot. Why do you find that so hard to believe?" Brooke asked exasperated. Sam frowned.

"Because you're Brooke," Sam responded as if that explained everything.

"And that means?" Brooke prompted her to explain. Sam shook her head as a few tears fell down her face. She stared at Brooke for a few minutes longer before speaking.

"My weak point," Sam whispered. Brooke rolled her eyes.

"You keep saying that but I don't know what it means, Sam," she pointed out. Sam sighed.

"I do," Sam said in the same quiet voice. And finally, she truly did. In all of the mess she was in she had one constant, Brooke. Brooke made her feel safe, loved and her feelings for Brooke, she realized, were more than sisterly. George had seen it, even if Sam hadn't; she loved Brooke with her whole heart. And knowing that filled Sam with a newfound sense of peace.

She looked at Brooke's face as the blonde patiently stood waiting for an explaination and couldn't find the words to make Brooke see. So, she leaned forward across the few inches that separated them and seized Brooke's lips in a lingering and smoldering kiss. Brooke was surprised at first but after her initial shock wore off, she surrendered to Sam's embrace.

(She's kissing me!) Brooke thought ecstatically. (And it's not a `Thank you' kiss, it's a real one) When the kiss ended, Sam rested her forehead against Brooke's shoulder and turned her face towards Brooke's neck. They both wrapped their arms around one another.

"George knows," Sam whispered. Brooke, still giddy from the kiss, didn't follow.

"Knows what?" she murmured, playing with Sam's hair with one hand. She felt Sam take a deep breath, hold it and then sigh.

"This," Sam said as she placed a gentle kiss to Brooke's neck. Then Brooke understood; that was why George had threatened Sam with hurting her. He knew, on some level, that there was something between them, even if they didn't.

"Oh, shit," Brooke swore.


Part 11

"Sam, we need to talk about this," Brooke whispered as she still hung on to Sam as they stood in the livingroom. Her lips still tingled from the kiss they'd shared minutes before and her heart was absolutely singing with joy. Sam had kissed her of her own free will and Brooke couldn't be happier. But she needed to know why Sam had done so and they needed to discuss George.

"I know," Sam whispered back, tightening her hold on the slender blonde for a second before letting go and pulling away. She walked a few feet away and ran a hand through her hair. "Which part?"

"Why did you kiss me?" Brooke asked gently, figuring they could deal with the George problem later. Sam turned around and Brooke saw that she was crying.

"I'm sorry," Sam cried. "I don't know what came over me, please don't hate me. It's just you make me feel so safe and I thought that you felt something and." she trailed off. Brooke took a step closer and enveloped Sam in another hug.

"Sam, I do feel something. More than I should, I think," Brooke confessed. Sam looked up at her with a confused look.

"Huh?" Brooke sighed.

"Sam, I think.God, I don't know if I should say this. Sam, I love you," she breathed. Sam hitched in a breath and stepped away again. Brooke waited for Sam to start screaming in horror but Sam was quiet for several long minutes.

"You love me?" she managed finally, her voice almost lost over the thundering of Brooke's heart in her ears. Brooke nodded.

"I'm in love with you Sam," she said softly. "I have been for a long time."

"Why didn't you say anything?" Sam asked in a small voice.

"I didn't want to lose you as a friend," Brooke said honestly. "And you were with George, I thought you were happy. I'd never want to do anything to upset you, Sam. And I thought that this would." Sam shook her head.

"How could loving me upset me?" she wondered, confused. Brooke reached out and lightly stroked the side of Sam's face. Sam closed her eyes and leaned into Brooke's warm hand.

"Look at us, Sam. We used to hate each other. We're living in the same house because our parents are engaged. We're going to be stepsisters. It's a convoluted mess to start with and that's not even mentioning the fact that we're both girls," Brooke explained.

"I never hated you, Brooke. Really," Sam told her. Brooke smiled.

"I'm glad to hear that, Sammy. But that doesn't change this," she pointed out.

"You love me," Sam repeated, just to make sure. Brooke nodded.

"Yes, Sam. More than you can imagine." Sam frowned.

"Why?" Brooke looked at her like she suddenly sprouted feathers.

"Why not Sam? You're smart and funny, beautiful and sexy," Sam blushed at Brooke's words. "You have this spark within you that just draws me to you and I'm helpless to resist it."

"George says he loves me," Sam said meekly. Brooke cupped both sides of Sam's face and drew their eyes together.

"What George gives you is NOT love, Sam. What I have, what I feel is love," she said and to prove her point, she kissed Sam again. Sam responded to the kiss and wrapped her arms around Brooke's neck. A few minutes later though, Sam collapsed sobbing into Brooke's arms. They both sank to the floor in tears.

"Don't let George's lies get to you, Sam. You are more than he ever gave you credit for," Brooke soothed. Every word that Brooke said chipped away at the damage George had done to Sam and she felt a little better about herself. She settled down in the cheerleader's arms.

"You love me?" she asked for the third time. Brooke smiled.

"Yes, I do. With all my heart and soul, Sam, but I don't expect you to love me back," she said sadly. Sam sighed.

"I think I already do," she whispered. Brooke pulled away slightly to look at the girl in her arms and saw only the naked truth in Sam's eyes. "I think that's why George keeps using you against me. He threatened you from day one and all I was aware of was that I had to keep you safe no matter what the cost to myself, Brooke. You were my primary concern." Brooke wiped away her tears at hearing what Sam was willing to go through to protect her.

"Thank you," Brooke whispered while kissing Sam again. It was a sweet kiss, full of promise. "But what are we going to do about George?" Brooke asked, breaking the spell around them. Sam leaned her head against Brooke's shoulder and sighed.

"I don't know. Now that you told him that you know, we can go to the police, I guess." Brooke smiled.

"That's a good place to start," she agreed.

"I mean, he all ready knows I told you, it can't get much worse since that was his worst fear. Can we wait until tomorrow though, I'm kinda spent tonight," Sam asked. Brooke nodded.

"When you're ready, we'll go," she said. "How about we get ready for bed, huh?" Sam nodded against her.

"Sure," she said. "Wow, Brooke McQueen loves me." Brooke laughed.

"Still trying to wrap your mind around that one, aren't you?"

"Well, aside from the whole `gay' thing, yeah. You could have anyone, Brooke. Everyone likes you or wants to know you and yet you confess to falling for me, the one person you've fought with in someway for most of your life. I'm your opposite, your rival. Your Moriarty to Sherlock, Khan to Kirk, Callisto to Xena."

"Why are you making yourself the villain?" Brooke asked. Sam arched an eyebrow.

"Cuz villains have all the fun? No, seriously, think about it. I was so mean to you for so long, Brooke. Doing what I could to destroy you in the eyes of the population of Kennedy High. Trying to make you look bad when you weren't the guilty party. It's not that far a stretch," Sam explained. Brooke sighed.

"You're not a villain, Sam," Brooke said patiently as she picked them both up off the floor. "I'll find a way to make you see that, I promise. I love you. I choose you." Sam giggled.

"Pikachu, I choose you," she giggled again. Brooke laughed with relief. There was a hint of the Sam she knew, bad humor and all. She looked to see Sam frowning suddenly.

"What Sam? What's wrong?" she asked alarmed. Sam shook her head.

"I just realized, I went from having a psycho boyfriend who beat me and threatened to hurt my family to having a beautiful blonde girlfriend who loves me and who would never hurt me," Sam started.

"And," Brooke urged her to continue.

"It's just that, wow, talk about a 180. I didn't see that one coming," Sam said as her trademark smirk crept up onto her face. Brooke felt her alarm disappear to be replaced with a sense of relief and happiness.

"You called me your girlfriend," Brooke whispered. Sam frowned again.

"You don't wanna be?" Sam sounded crushed. "Too fast? OK, forget it," Sam turned away. Brooke rushed to stop Sam from retreating.

"I DO want to be, Sam. I was just happy," Brooke hastily explained. Sam's face lit up again. She reached up and stroked Brooke's face.

"I'm glad you're in my life, Brooke," she said sincerely. Brooke smiled and kissed the palm of Sam's hand.

"You too, Sammy."


Part 12

Her vision was starting to black out and for that she was somewhat grateful. At least she wouldn't have to watch George finish killing her. The grip he had on her neck was cutting off her air supply and giving her tunnel vision. Sam desperately hoped Brooke was someplace safe, someplace far far away.

They hadn't had the chance to go to the cops yet, school and other pressures had pushed it back but they were going to go that afternoon. But George, who knew Sam's routine far too well, caught her alone in the editing office and attacked her, screaming bloody murder and Sam was positive that her life was over.

"I'm gonna keep squeezing until you're dead and then I'm gonna do the same to your precious Brooke," George growled. Sam tried to kick out at him but her legs felt heavy and wouldn't respond. She was growing tired but the thought of him hurting Brooke was fueling her with extra energy and she kept struggling.

"Although, maybe first, since I never got any from you, I'll have a little fun with her," he threatened. Sam's eyes widened as a little more awareness came back to her. She didn't need to be a rocket scientist to know what he meant by that. This time she managed to kick him in the side.

"Ow! Bitch!" George yelled as he slammed the back of Sam's head into the blackboard behind her. Darkness swarmed into her vision again as she desperately tried to cling to consciousness. She clawed at his hand but he wouldn't let go. She did get in one good swipe at his face that left a few bloody marks across his cheek but he only tightened his grip.

Her lungs were burning and she couldn't remember the last time she took a breath. Her life was ending and she was painfully aware of it. She had a few regrets but was glad of at least two things. Brooke wasn't here to witness it and she had told Brooke of her feelings. At least she could die knowing that Brooke knew how she felt. Just as her vision started to grey out that final time, the door flew open and there stood Brooke.

(No, Brooke, just leave. Please, I don't want you to watch me die)

"Sam?" Brooke's voice sounded very far away and as much as Sam wanted to answer, she couldn't. (Run, Brooke! Run!) She managed to look at the beauty she realized she loved so much one last time, hoping to convey how much she loved her with her eyes and unable to hold on any longer, Sam let go.

(I love you Brooke…good-bye)

Brooke opened the door to the editing office after hearing a commotion from outside the door. Dread and fear filled her and when she saw the scene in front of her, her world came screeching to a halt. There were tables, desks, and chairs scattered everywhere, the room was torn apart. But worse than that was Sam, pinned against the blackboard with George's hand wrapped around her slender throat in a death grip. Sam's face was ashen, almost blue and her lips were a horrid purple color and it was evident that George had beaten her before jacking her up against the wall.

Brooke had seen the way Sam had looked at her when the door had opened. Everything Sam felt for her was written plainly in Sam's brown eyes along with a very sad good-bye. She had just watched the last bit of life drain out of Sam and she was very frightened. She watched as Sam's struggles ceased and her body went limp in George's grasp. George didn't seem to notice Brooke for a moment and only tightened his grip on Sam.

"You asked for that," he spat at the still figure in his hands. He threw her body to the floor and then turned to Brooke. "Your turn." Cold fury filled Brooke as she looked at Sam lying motionless where she landed and served to chase away any fear she might have had at facing George.

"I'm going to kill you," Brooke growled. OK, she didn't know how, but she was positive she was going to inflict some serious bodily harm on George. He charged her before she could move and tackled her to the floor. Brooke felt a few ribs protest the football style attack and realized quickly that George was bigger, stronger and a lot meaner than she was. She rolled out from under him and sprang to her feet.

"I'm going to enjoy making you scream," George taunted as he climbed to his feet. Brooke felt her rage continue to build. "Bet you scream louder than Sam ever did." Images of Sam's injuries, George hurting Sam, Sam in pain, everything flashed through Brooke's mind and fed her rage. She soon found herself pounding on George with a ferocity that surprised even her.

She punched, she kicked, she took a few blows from George that sent her sprawling but she gave as good as she got and it soon became apparent to George that Brooke was not going to back down. She was screaming incoherently and he was starting to get his ass kicked, by a scrawny blonde cheerleader. He was about to either do what he could to knock her out or retreat when she landed a vicious blow to his groin and he collapsed with a high pitched squeal. Brooke continued to kick him for a few seconds before her mind returned to her and she realized he was in no condition to go anywhere.

She turned her attention back to where Sam lay and kneeled next to the prone figure.

"Sam?" she whispered, her throat raw from screaming. In the back of her mind she wondered why no one was attracted to the room by all the noise. She looked over the beaten form in front of her and realized with horror that something was terribly wrong.

"God, no, Sam, don't do this to me," Brooke begged as she realized Sam wasn't breathing. The pulse beneath her fingers was faint and unsteady. She sent up a silent prayer and tipped Sam's head back, pinched her nose and blew two quick breaths into Sam's lungs, willing the girl to come back to her. She tried to ignore the ugly purple tint to Sam's lips as well as the blue color Sam's complexion had taken on.

"Come on, Sam. Come back to me," Brooke begged as she continued doing rescue breathing on Sam. "Don't do this to me, Sam!" she shouted desperately. Finally, Sam let out a horrid cough as her lungs protested the abuse they'd recently suffered. Brooke let out a relieved breath and gently gathered Sam's battered form into her arms.

"That's it, Sam, just breathe," she whispered to the trembling and still coughing girl. Sam clung to her tightly. "You're safe now, just relax." Just then, Josh and Sugar burst into the room.

"What the Hell is going on?" Josh asked as he took in the scene in front of him. George was lying in a heap on the floor, clutching his private parts and whimpering pitifully as Brooke cradled a badly beaten Sam. Brooke looked like she'd been beaten too. Not known for being the brightest bulb in the box but not stupid either, Josh added it up on sight.

"Did George do this to you two?" he asked angrily. Brooke nodded. Both Sugar and Josh turned to George who was still curled up in the fetal position and advanced on him angrily.

"He can wait, Josh," Brooke broke in. "Sam needs an ambulance," she pointed out.

"I'll call one, yo," Sugar said as he pulled out his cellphone. "And the police so they can take this garbage away." He kicked George in the ribs. Josh kneeled down next to Brooke and Sam.

"Is she OK?" he asked. Brooke shook her head.

"She wasn't breathing for a few minutes," she explained as Sam continued to shake violently in her arms. She turned to Sam. "Sammy, can you talk?"

"Hurts," Sam rasped, her voice damaged from George's vicious attack.

"Police and paramedics are on the way," Sugar announced.

"You're hurt," Sam whispered as she looked at Brooke's bloody face. There was a cut on Brooke's forehead and her lip was split. She was pretty sure her face and body were going to match Sam's for bruises come morning.

"I'll live," Brooke assured Sam. "We have to get you checked out though. You gave me one Hell of a scare there for a few minutes. Don't ever do that again."

"I won't," Sam answered as she closed her eyes and placed her head on Brooke's chest. Josh looked at them strangely for a moment but decided against saying anything about it.

"Brooke, what's going on with George?" he asked instead. Brooke sighed.

"Let's get Sam to the hospital and taken care of and when she feels up to it, we'll both fill you in on what's been going on," she promised. Josh nodded.

"He's been acting strange for a while now," Josh said. Brooke shook her head.

"You have no idea," she said bitterly as she hugged Sam a little tighter.


Part 13

Sam sat up in her hospital bed, desperately wishing they'd spring her from this torturous prison. But until her ribs were better healed, she was a guest of County General and she hated it. George had done a number on her that last time, complete with a concussion, internal injuries and damage to her vocal chords. Her voice was raspy, or as Brooke called it sexy, and she was restricted to bed until her injuries were properly healed.

Their parents had been called home and were not happy to hear what had been going on without their knowledge. Livid would be an understatement. And the two month grounding they'd gotten spoke volumes as well. Brooke had helped Sam explain George's threats and why she stayed quiet. Jane was hurt that Sam hadn't shared what was going on in her life. At the same time, she understood that Sam was trying to do what was right in her own way. Still, they were all signed up for extensive counseling.

Sam snickered and then gasped when her ribs shifted. She was involved, romantically, with Brooke McQueen. (Who'd a thunk) she mused with a grin. But Brooke made her feel whole, loved, and content. George had made her feel empty, hated, and worthless. Brooke was her safety, her home.

"What are you grinning about?" the object of Sam's thoughts asked from the doorway. Sam silently thanked the plastic surgeon who had sewn the cuts on Brooke's face. Because of him there would be no scarring. It wasn't because she was vain that she cared, it was because of the overwhelming guilt that Sam felt for being the reason that Brooke was hurt in the first place. If Brooke had been permanently marred because of her, Sam would never have forgiven herself.

"Just thinking about the interesting turns my life has taken lately is all," Sam rasped back past the pain in her throat. Brooke frowned.

"The doctor said you should rest your throat," she reminded Sam as she sat down next to the bed. Sam shrugged.

"I'd rather talk to you," she said as Brooke took hold of her hand. "Did I thank you yet for saving my life?" Brooke nodded with a smile.

"Once or twice," Brooke joked. "And it was nothing, really." Sam sighed.

"Brooke, I was almost dead," Brooke paled at the words. "I wasn't breathing and you took on George by yourself to save me. You breathed life back into me. That definitely is something," Sam argued. "I'd be dead if it weren't for you."

"Please stop saying that, Sammy," Brooke begged as a couple of tears slid down her face and the images from that day splashed across her mind. "I don't like to think about what might have happened if I hadn't shown up."

In her mind it was simple. It was a reoccuring nightmare of Brooke's lately. She would have gone to get Sam later that afternoon and found her dead on the floor when George was done with her. It would have been too late to save her. But something, and even now Brooke was unsure what, had made her pass by that room to check on Sam when she did and she thanked God every minute that she had.

"I miss you," Sam said to change the subject. It was the truth anyway. Being stuck in the hospital she missed Brooke's company and steady presence beside her. While she doubted that they could get away with sharing a bed now that their parents were home, knowing Brooke was in the next room would be reassuring to Sam and make her feel less lonely. Being in the hospital alone was scary to her. Brooke brushed some hair out of Sam's face.

"I miss you too," Brooke answered lovingly. "But I heard a rumor that you might be able to come home soon." Sam's eyes lit up.

"Really?" she asked hopefully. Brooke nodded.

"Yup, as long as there's someone home to watch you. Don't worry, I already volunteered," she informed Sam with a conspiring grin. Sam grinned back. The grin faded a few minutes later.

"What happened to George?" she asked. No one had really told Sam what happened after the police took him away. Brooke sighed.

"He's in a psychiatric facility, Sam," she said sadly. "After he was arrested for assaulting you and me, he attacked the cops and he just flipped his lid. They checked him out for drugs but he tested clean," she sounded disappointed. It would have been nice to be able to pawn off George's behavior change on drug abuse or something but he was clean. He was simply an abuser. Somewhere along the line, something in his mind snapped and his anger got the better of him and he used Sam as an outlet.

"He underwent evaluation and he's got an anger management problem, for starters," Brooke continued.

"Duh," Sam broke in as she shifted positions on the bed. She winced at the pain the simple movement caused her. Brooke looked at her sympathetically.

"Easy does it," she advised. "He's going to stay there until his court date and stuff. Don't worry, his family isn't trying to get him out. Guess they didn't like living with him anymore than the rest of us did."

"That's a relief," Sam breathed. She'd had more than a few nightmares about George coming to finish both her and Brooke off. "So, I hear you kicked the snot out of him?" Brooke blushed.

"Uh, I guess. Apparently he's not the only one who did some mental snapping lately," she said, embarrassed. Sam squeezed her hand.

"Thank you," she said again.

"I couldn't stand there and do nothing," Brooke explained. "You were lying there not moving, God, I thought you were dead."

"Almost," Sam pointed out morosely.

"I know," Brooke shot back hotly. "And I just popped. I wanted him to hurt. I saw everything he did to you, every mark, scratch and bruise in vivid color flash across my mind and I wanted him to pay for it," she hissed in memory and anger. Sam saw she was getting upset again.

"My hero," she joked to break the tension. Brooke looked at her in surprise.

"I'm not a hero, Sam," Brooke argued.

"Not A hero, MY hero," Sam countered softly. She reached out and stroked Brooke's face. "I love you."

"I love you too," Brooke responded. "I almost lost you," she whispered.

"But you didn't," Sam whispered back. "And now, thanks to you, we have our whole lives ahead of us to figure out where we're going." Brooke looked at her with hope in her eyes.

"Our whole lives?" she echoed. Sam nodded.

"Brooke, I almost died. George almost stole my future from me and in those last few seconds I realized how much you mean to me. I love you. Maybe I'm reading more into what you feel for me but right now, I want no one else other than you and I don't think you want anyone else but me. I only see my future with you in it," Sam confessed. Brooke started to cry and Sam thought she'd said something wrong.

(She doesn't really love me, it was only to help me through the George mess. Besides, who'd wanna love me anyway?)

"I'm sorry, I said too much. I'll shut up now," Sam said, withdrawing again.

"No, Sammy," Brooke interrupted her. "I feel the same way. It was just hearing you say it was such a relief and made me so happy," she explained. Sam looked at her doubtfully.

"Sam, I love you, I have for a very long time. I know that thanks to George we're going to have to work on getting you to believe that you're worth it but you really, really are. I want no one else, ever. I just never thought you'd feel the same for me." Sam looked relieved.

"I do," Sam whispered as her voice started to give out. She coughed. "Where do we go from here?" Brooke shrugged.

"I haven't a clue, Sam. First, we get you on your feet again. Then I'm going to devote every minute to proving to you how special you really are," Sam blushed. Brooke leaned over the bed and kissed her.

"Hmm, that's a nice start," Sam murmured happily. Brooke smiled.

"I do have one request," Brooke said. Sam looked at her expectantly. "No more secrets between us, Sammy. Especially something like this last one. You could have been killed." Sam looked away guiltily and nodded.

"No more secrets," she agreed when she looked back at Brooke. "I promise."

"So do I," Brooke echoed her. Sam smirked at her, a hint of the old Sam peeking through.

"So, when do we tell Mom and Mike about us?"

The End

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