Strange Road to Salvation
By Aeryn Sun


Part Two


After dinner they sat down in the living room with a few movies and snack foods.

"What are we watching tonight, Brooke?" Sam asked as she settled into a more comfortable position on the couch. Brooke popped the DVD in the player and started to head to the armchair when she saw the disappointed look on Sam's face. Changing her mind, she sat at Sam's feet and pulled them into her lap and massaged the uncasted foot.

"Feels nice," Sam purred. "Movie?" Brooke smiled.

"I thought we'd start with the ultimate edition unrated American Pie and then go with Save the Last Dance."

"Sounds good," Sam responded as she surrendered to Brooke's ministrations. Even if she could never have Brooke as anything more than a good friend and stepsister, she was going to enjoy every close moment she got to share with her.

Brooke was watching the contented expressions pass over Sam's face. She knew how Sam's foot sometimes hurt from supporting her entire weight in therapy sessions and was more than happy to alleviate some of that tension and discomfort. Even if she could never have Sam as anything more than a good friend and stepsister, she was going to enjoy every close moment she got to share with her.

"Hey Sam?" Brooke called down the couch as they watched the kid from American Pie hump the apple pie and giggled.

"Yeah?" Sam answered, lifting her head.

"Did I tell you I saw God?" Sam lifted a brow.

"In a slice of apple pie?" Brooke pinched Sam's toes. "Ow!"

"No, you nutball, while you were in a coma." Sam sat up further while still keeping her legs in Brooke's lap.

"Nope, I missed that story. Did he have anything deep and meaningful to say?"

"She told me to keep talking to you, believe in you," Brooke started.

"God's a she, huh? I knew it," Sam laughed. "Probably got a wicked sense of humor too." Brooke smiled.

"Oh, yeah. Do you think I'm crazy?" Sam gave her a wry smile.

"Not anymore than usual, no." Brooke swatted her on the foot. "Look, you say you saw and spoke to God, I believe you. Hell, I swear I saw my Dad and spoke to you while I was in a coma. And we both know that was impossible." Brooke sat up further on the couch leaning towards Sam, a serious look on her face.

"Why is that impossible, Sammy?"

"I saw those photos of me, Brooke, I was more dead than alive. Dad is dead, and you are alive. I couldn't have talked to the two of you at the same time," Sam explained logically.

"Sam, I spoke to your Dad," Sam glared at her incredulously. "I'm not picking a fight, hear me out. I fell asleep at your bedside and woke up and God was there. I talked to her but she couldn't tell me whether or not you were going to make it. But she did let me talk to you. That's when I met Joe. He brought me to you."

"You're making this up," Sam snapped. Brooke sighed.

"No, I'm not. I can tell you how soft and gentle his voice was, how it had a slight lilt to it when he spoke," she watched Sam's eyes get wide and slightly watery. "You were in a field near a stream, dangling your feet in and watching scenes from your life pass by," she continued.

"Missed out in a career in hockey or roller derby," Sam whispered in disbelief. She looked up into Brooke's eyes. "I thought I imagined it. How is it possible? What does it mean?" Brooke moved so that she was hugging the now crying girl and shrugged.

"I dunno, really. But it was real, Sammy. I was really there."

"Well, that just complicates matters, doesn't it?" Sam sniffed. Brooke frowned.

"How so?"

"I was all ready to pawn you off as certifiably insane, and now it looks like we both are," Sam joked. Brooke shook her head and laughed.

"Ain't it the truth?" she let Sam lean her head on her shoulder to watch the rest of the movie and was surprised to find her asleep by the end. Brooke watched the other girl sleep peacefully for a long time before drifting off herself.

(Night, Sammy. Whether or not God was right about there ever being anything more between us, I'll never trade your friendship and trust for anything in the world)


"We need to talk, and I mean really talk," Sam said quietly. Brooke eyed the brunette sitting calmly in the wheelchair a few feet away. There was a look in Sam's eyes that both scared Brooke and excited her. Those deep chocolate eyes were looking at her with intense interest and curiosity and something else not readibly discernible by Brooke. Unable to keep the intense gaze, Brooke looked away as she responded.

"About what?" She heard Sam sigh.

"Fine, you wanna do this the hard way, suit yourself. Do you remember…? Why do people ask that? Of course you do. Anyway, prom night, after Harrison gave us his choice and you got up and walked away, I followed you." Brooke nodded.

"I remember. God help me, I wish I could forget what happened next," Brooke whispered. Sam wheeled herself a little closer.

"I don't want to talk about that. A least not right now. No, before Nicole's own twisted version of DeathRace version 2001, when we were talking in the lobby. You said that it `wasn't what you wanted'."

"OK, I remember that too. So? You said the same thing. You said it `wasn't what you wanted either'. So what?" Brooke asked defensively. She was starting to get worried about where Sam was taking this conversation because she wasn't sure she was ready to tell Sam the truth about her feelings yet. Sure, things between the two of them had been getting, interesting, lately, but she wasn't sure if she was ready for the truth to come out, for that door to be opened, so to speak. She was kind of comfortable in the closet even if was apparently getting crowded in there.

"So what did you mean? What `did'you want? How did you want it to play out? Did you want Harrison?" Sam asked gently. She didn't want to upset Brooke but some part of her needed to know what those words had meant. They echoed in her head late at night and haunted her sleep. To Sam, they seemed to hint that Brooke had wanted a different kind of result than Harrison picking either of them and for her own sanity, she needed to know if there was any chance that Brooke felt the same way for her that she did for Brooke. All evidence lately was pointing directly to `Hell Yes' and she couldn't stand the thought of another day passing and not knowing the truth. And after Brooke told her that she had indeed visited Sam in her coma, Sam had remembered her parting words. Brooke's gentle, `I love you' had echoed in her mind all night.

"God, Sam, I don't know," Brooke let her fear answer for her. She looked at the earnest eyes of her companion and turned the conversation around. "What did you mean, Sam? You said the same thing so, what did you really want?"

Sam looked away from the strangely frightened hazel eyes and thought for a minute. (Do I just say it? Do I just jump off the bridge and hope the rope holds? Will she hate me? Be repulsed by me? After all this, will I lose her friendship? Do I take the chance that I'm reading the signals correctly?) It took Sam a few more minutes to realize that whatever the consequences, the truth was more important to her now. The chair underneath her reminded her of the frailty of life and how close she came to losing her own.

"If I answer that question honestly, Brooke, everything changes. I won't be able to take it back," Sam said, her voice hushed. Brooke's heart flipped in her chest and she felt a jolt of adrenaline flush through her at Sam's statement. It took her a minute to realize she was starting to hyperventilate.

"Sam, if I understand you correctly, everything did just change," Brooke said after she got her breathing back under control. Sam looked up at her in surprise. "Tell me, Sam. Please just tell me what you really wanted. I promise to listen." Sam took a deep shuttering breath before starting to speak. She had to do this, there was no holding back anymore.

"I didn't want Harrison. I didn't want him to pick me and hurt you. I just wanted to keep him as a friend if it would keep you from getting your feelings hurt but more than that I wanted," she paused. "I wanted…God, Brooke, haven't you noticed what's been going on between us lately or is it just me?"

"I've noticed something," Brooke conceeded. (Boy, have I.)

"Well, what do you suppose it is? There's a line between flirting and joking around and something else and I think we've wandered into `something else'."

"Does that bother you?" Brooke asked nervously. Sam shook her head.

"Not really, I guess. If there's really something to it."

"Then finish your original thought, Sammy," Brooke suggested. Sam looked at her confused. "What Sam? What did you want?" Brooke prompted, leaning closer. Sam looked down, away, back at Brooke and then at her hands.

"You," Sam whispered as a single tear made its way down her face and she lowered her face. A sob of relief and joy almost escaped Brooke as she heard that one word. She put her hand over her mouth to prevent it and Sam thought it meant she was horrified. (Oh God, I was wrong! I've lost everything! How could I have been so stupid?)

More tears suddenly appeared and Brooke watched as the usually strong and invulnerable veneer she associated with Sam suddenly disintergrated before her eyes. The thought that Brooke hated her did what the accident and the subsequent inability to walk or speak hadn't; it totally destroyed Sam McPherson. And it scared Brooke to watch it happen right before her eyes.

"Oh God," Sam whimpered as she started to cry harder, "don't hate me. I'm sorry. I'll never say anything about it again." Sam collapsed into herself and pushed away with her chair in an attempt to escape. Brooke lept off the couch and enveloped the suddenly vulnerable girl in a tight hug.

"Oh, Sam, Sammy I don't hate you. I could never hate someone I love so much," she told her honestly. Sam pulled away and looked at her.

"What? You love me? As in a sisterly way, right?" She sniffed. Brooke smiled.

"Only if this is `Deliverance' country and I don't hear any dueling banjos," she joked. "Seriously, Sam, I said what I said that night for the same reason. I didn't want Harrison and I didn't want to hurt you. All I wanted was you. I wanted to dance with you, talk to you," Brooke leaned in closer to the now calmer girl, "kiss you," she continued as she brushed her lips across Sam's. "Those lips," Brooke murmered as she lingered close to Sam's face. She watched the corner of Sam's mouth quirk up in the way only Sam's mouth could.

"And, what about my lips?" Sam asked, repeating her part from the playful conversation they'd had in her hospital room a few months earlier.

"Sinful," Brooke told Sam her original thought as she pressed her own lips against Sam's again. She felt Sam relax into her and increase the pressure of the kiss. Any lingering doubt Brooke had about Sam's feelings vanished as Sam ran a hand through her hair, drawing her closer.

"Whoa," Sam breathed after they broke apart and she could breathe again. She felt like her heart was going to explode inside her chest it was beating so fast. She was surprised Brooke couldn't hear it.

"'Whoa' is an understatement. Gee, if I had known you were such a good kisser, Sam, I'd have done that a long time ago," Brooke said with a laugh. Sam smiled slyly.

"Oh really? I'm a good kisser, huh? I was thinking I could use some more practice," Sam hinted as she leaned in again. Brooke grinned.

"Here, let me help you with that." They kissed again and again until lack of oxygen made them dizzy. They broke apart with silly grins on their faces.

"You know, this explains so much," Sam laughed, her voice husky and thick. Brooke was tracing Sam's lips with her fingers.

"Like what?" Brooke asked, still staring at the lips she obsessed about for so long and wanted so badly to kiss again.

"Why our relationship was always the way it was," Sam said in between kisses.

"Ummm hummm," Brooke answered. Reallly, she was listening. Sam smiled.

"Attention span of a sand mite and libido of a horny rabbit on crank, that's my Brooke," Brooke nuzzled her nose into Sam's neck.

"I like the sound of `your Brooke'," Brooke whispered as a few tears fell. Sam wiped them away with a frown on her face.

"What's with these, Princess?" she asked gently. Brooke looked up into Sam's eyes.

"I'm afraid that this is a dream and my alarm clock is about to go off. You'll be in the next room and I'll still be pining away for you but never able to reach out to you like I yearn to," she explained as more tears fell. Tears dripped down Sam's face too. "God, Sammy, if you only knew how much I need you, the way my body craves you." Sam lifted Brooke's face to meet hers in a passionate kiss.

"I think I do know, Brooke. And you are my Brooke, now and forever. This is no dream, no illusion, or trick being played upon you or me by some celestial being for the enjoyment of the cosmic masses. You don't ever have to fear losing me, Brooke. My heart is and always has been, always will be yours and no one else's. Nothing will ever change that," Sam confessed, setting off a new onslaught of tears, these happy ones, down Brooke's face.

"Thank you, Sam, that was beautiful," she sobbed. Sam held her closer.

"So are you, Brooke," Sam told her softly. Brooke pulled away slightly and looked up at her.

"You were saying? About our relationship?"

"Oh! Yeah, our relationship has always been push and pull, give and take, poke and prod, fire and ice, oil and water…"

"I get the point, Sammy, move on to your point please," Brooke joked. Sam rolled her eyes.

"I'm trying to say that we've always seemed to be pulling at each other, trying to get something from the other that we didn't understand. I certainly never would have seen this coming." Brooke nodded her agreement.

"Me neither, especially since I thought you were straight," Sam arched an eyebrow.

"This coming from Miss Homecoming Queen, Head Cheerleader, I Used to Date the Quarterback girl. Yeah, like anyone could have seen this one coming."

"Speaking of which, how do we tell Mom and Dad?" Brooke asked. Sam winced.

"And she throws the bucket of cold water on my raging hormones. No hanky panky for Brookie-poo tonight," Brooke pouted. "Hey, your fault for mentioning Mike and Mom. Seriously? I haven't a clue, I could barely tell you for God's sake. How about we just enjoy it for a while and figure it out later?" Brooke nodded.

"Works for me. So, no hanky panky?" she pouted some more. Sam shook her head.

"'Fraid not. But heavy petting is OK, lots of heavy petting."


San knocked nervously on the door. She didn't really understand why she was here, she just was. The door opened to reveal a rather stuffy looking butler, a gentleman in his sixties. He glanced down at her for a moment before recognition set in.

"Ms. McPherson, I presume?" he asked. (People actually talk like that?) She nodded.

"Yeah, is Satan, I mean Nicole home?" the butler rolled his eyes.

"Satan was a much more accurate description," he said dryly in a British accent. Sam tried unsuccessfully to hide a smile. "But yes, I'll get her for you."

Sam waited outside the handicapped inaccessible door until Nicole poked her surprised head out the door. She glanced at Sam in shock and then stepped out the door and shut it behind her.

"To what do I owe the somewhat dubious honor?" Nic asked nervously, although she tried to hide the discomfort in disinterest. Her eyes suddenly widened. "You don't have a gun, do you?" Sam laughed, actually laughed at this.

"Not this time, but it's something to keep in mind for next time. No, I wanted to talk to you."

"Oh," Nicole said as she sat down on the step next to Sam, which surprised Sam, Nicole sitting down on the dirty step. Shrugging it off, Sam continued.

"I'm alive, no thanks to you and your questionable driving skills," she started. She noticed Nicole was staring at the ground.

"I'm glad," Nic said softly. Sam stared at her in shock.

"What?" Nicole looked up at her and Sam was floored to see tears in Nic's eyes.

"Jesus, Sam, I never set out to hurt anyone. I was drunk and angry. I would never hurt Brooke, never in a million years. And I'm sorry for what I did. As much as I might resent you, I wouldn't want to hurt you either. I am not a cold-blooded killer. I really wish people would stop making me out to be," she whispered hotly as tears fell unchecked to the ground beneath her.

"Who are you and what have you done with the real Nicole Julian?" Sam asked getting a watery smile from the girl beside her.

"That's just it, Sam. I AM the real Nicole Julian. The girl you go to high school with, that's just an act, a cover so that no one can get to me, hurt me. I don't let anyone close to me so I can never get hurt." Sam was seeing Nic in a whole new light. And what was frightening was the fact that they were eerily similar.


"Because when I get hurt, I lash out, Sam. God, look at you. Isn't that proof enough? I nearly killed you and Brooke because I didn't get my own way and I got my feelings hurt. But it also made me see that if I keep living this way, not feeling, I'm going to hurt those around me. I really am sorry for everything. And if there was anything I could do to make this up to you and Brooke, I would."

"How did you get away with it?" Sam asked. Nicole shrugged.

"Wasn't my idea, but my family wanted to save face. They pulled a lot of strings and called in some favors. Whatever, I was ready to take my punishment but my family took that from me. I'm sorry for that too." Sam shrugged. God, help her, she actually believed and sympathized with Nicole Julian. And worse, actually liked the real person sitting there next to her.

"I have a few ideas how you might be able to help me and Brooke, eventually," Nicole's eyes lit up at this. "You might not like it but, it'll be a while before I call in the marker, OK?" Nic nodded. "But first, got any plans for the day after tomorrow?"


Standing in the kitchen with Mike and Jane, Brooke silently lamented the absence of her favorite kissing toy, Sam. Of course, since Mike and Jane had returned from Utah a few days earlier, the snogging sessions and heavy petting meetings were much more discreet and quiet but, still highly enjoyable and high on Brooke's list of favorite things to do. And now that it was her birthday, there was really only one thing she really wanted to do. Not that she was going to tell her father and Jane that.

"Happy Birthday, Brooke," Jane beamed as she hugged her stepdaughter. There was no doubt in her mind that she loved Brooke as her own, especially after all that the girl had done for Sam. Jane knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that without Brooke by her side, Sam never would have come as far as she had after the accident. She was beyond happy that the two girls had gotten past their differences and were there for one another when it really counted.

"Thanks, Mom," Brooke smiled back, totally comfortable now with calling Jane Mom. She was truly the closest thing she'd ever had and Brooke was now beyond happy that her father had found Jane, even if it had caused loads of trouble to start. The end result was more than worth the strife. "I just wish Sam was here," she lamented outloud the absence of the girl who had come to mean so much to her. More than she was going to admit to Jane, of course. (At least not yet) she thought Jane and Mike smiled.

"She'll be here soon, sweetheart," Mike told his daughter. Like Jane, he was happy that Brooke and Sam got along as well as they did now. Unlike Jane, he was unaware that there was something more going on between the two girls. Jane had noticed things were a little different between Sam and Brooke. She wasn't sure how she felt about that, given the facts that:

1) they were both girls,

2) it would make things awkward for the family,

3) it wasn't an easy lifestyle choice for anyone and she didn't want them to face a lifetime of stereotypes and hardships if it wasn't `just a phase' and,

4) how would Mike react? (Probably not well)

But for now, she was just going to keep an eye on them, make sure things didn't get out of hand and (gasp) trust them. If she felt things went too far, then they'd have to lay down some ground rules and take it from there. But Jane wasn't a fool, although Brooke and Sam might disagree at times (they're teens, it happens), she knew they weren't kids anymore and shouldn't be treated as such. Plus, a little voice in her head kept telling her she was imagining things and she was more than happy to listen to it. (Denial, I can do denial)

"Excuse me," a voice spoke up from the doorway. The three looked up in shock to see Nicole standing there looking scared. Brooke tried hard to swallow the rage that flowed up at the very sight of her former friend. Mike put his hand on her shoulder in support.

"Nicole? How did you get in?" Jane asked, a little curtly. She had been confused when Sam had sat the family down a few days ago and explained that she forgave Nicole for her actions because Nic wasn't in control and was genuinely sorry. She understood why Sam had forgiven Nicole but a day didn't go by that she didn't curse the short blonde. And the same time, a day didn't pass without her being in awe of her daughter and the strength it must have took for Sam to have been the one to extend the olive branch to Nicole. (Sometimes that girl amazes me) Jane thought. Nicole shifted nervously on her feet.

"Uhm, Sam let me in. She wants to show you something in the living room," she said quietly. Nicole was very scared to be in the house full of the family she had nearly destroyed with her foolish actions but Sam had been insistant and for the life of her, Nic couldn't refuse. So here she stood, looking at her former friend who stared at her with contempt and anger, both of which she knew she deserved.

"How did you get here?" Mike asked, knowing Nicole didn't have a driver's license anymore. This won him a wry smile from the former ice queen.

"Cab. Sam called me to pick her up at rehab and bring her here. She didn't really say why she wanted me here but, I couldn't say no." Brooke broke away from her father and walked towards Nicole.

"Thanks, Nicole. Let's go see what her surprise is," she managed to say in a somewhat civil tone. She knew Sam wanted everyone to forgive Nicole, or at least not hate the girl but Brooke couldn't chase the images from that night from her mind. She walked passed Nicole into the living room and nearly fainted. There in the living room was Sam holding a giant teddy bear with a huge red bow in her arms. And she was standing.

"Oh my God, Sam!" Jane gasped from the doorway when she entered the room behind Brooke. Mike grabbed her to steady the swaying woman. Sam smirked.

"Gee, you all look like you've never seen me stand before," she said calmly. She turned to Brooke. "Do you like your bithday present?" Brooke grinned knowing that Sam didn't mean the teddy bear. She was almost afraid to move; that this was a dream and when she woke Sam would still be in that chair. She didn't even realize she was crying until Sam frowned.

"Aw, don't cry. You're supposed to be happy, silly," Sam admonished her as she set the bear down. Still moving rather stiffly, Sam took a tentative step towards Brooke, testing the strength of her legs. After assuring herself that they were indeed going to hold her, she took another and closed the short distance between them. Everyone watched in silence as Sam reached Brooke and wiped away the tears with a lopsided grin on her face. Finally, Brooke spoke.

"How, Sammy? When?"

"I've been working on it, when you haven't been with me at rehab, as a surprise. We all knew I'd walk again, it was just a matter of when," Sam told her. Brooke enveloped her in a tight hug and was quickly joined by Jane and Mike. Nicole stood a few feet away watching awkwardly.

"I know that doctors said you would Sam but this is amazing," Mike said in awe. Sam just beamed at him.

"I wanted to be able to do this by Brooke's birthday. Don't go throwing a big bruhah just yet. I'm not up to any marathons or anything. Standing and a couple of steps are the extent of my abilities right now. We'll save the 26k run until next week."

"Oh, Sam this is fantastic," Jane cried, tears flowing down her cheeks. Sam sighed.

"You're supposed to be happy, Mom. Why is everyone crying?" she sked with a laugh. Even Nicole (yes, Nicole) and Mike had tears in their eyes. "You all keep this up and we'll have to rent an ark."

"This is just amazing and the best birthday gift I could have gotten, Sam. Thank you," Brooke whispered seriously. Sam nodded.

"I aim to please. Hey, Nic?" Nicole looked up in surprise.

"Yeah?" Sam smiled at her. It still shocked Nicole that of all people, Sam McPherson forgave her for what she'd done. She was the one that had nearly killed Sam, had taken away her voice for a while and put her in that infernal chair and yet, Sam forgave her and asked the gang to give the poor girl a break. No one had spoken to or given the time of day to Nicole since the accident and Nicole knew the only reason she wasn't up the creek sans paddle was Sam McPherson.

"Can you bring my chair over? I don't wanna overdo it," Sam asked politely. Nicole nodded and wheeled the chair over and helped Brooke get Sam into it. Brooke looked at Nicole and Nic saw some of the animosity drain away.

"Thanks, Nic. I bet you're all wondering why I called her, huh?" Sam asked. Four pairs of eyes stared at her and waited. "OK, look, I wanted to be able to stand on my own and walk a little by Brooke's birthday because I thought it would be a really cool present and I'm a little low on cash. But I invited Nicole here for another reason. I've asked everyone to if not forgive her at least not to hate her for what she did. And to some extent everyone has tried but the scars, both physical and mental remain. But everyone only considers our wounds. My wounds and Brooke's. What this family went through, what our friends went through. I'm not sure anyone has given any real thought to Nicole's wounds."

"I believe her when she says she's sorry. No one, not even Nicole Julian, could fake the look on her face when she says it. She is truly sorry. And her sentence for what she did, the rehab she went through was part of her healing process, same as my rehab is for me. We see how she is now, after therapy and I don't think there's one of us who could say she's the same person she once was. But for all the therapy and community service, I think you needed to see me stand and walk as much as my family did, Nic. I invited you here to share this to help you heal." Tears flowed freely down Nicole's face as she listened to Sam's heartfelt words and she realized that Sam really didn't hate her for what she did.

"Th…thank you, Sam," she stuttered as sobs of relief, pent up since the moment she confessed to Officer Bennett threatened to make themselves present. Sam held her arms open.

"It's OK to cry, Nicole. You were hurt too but now we can all start to heal. I will walk again and all of us will have our lives back." Nicole collapsed into Sam's waiting arms, not caring that she had an audience and cried. Mike turned to Brooke and Jane.

"That is one amazing young lady," he whispered quietly, for their ears only. They nodded in agreement. "And I never thought I'd see the day when I'd think of Nicole as human." Again they nodded.


"The gang'll be here soon," Jane said as she pushed Sam into the kitchen. Nicole nodded. She could take a hint.

"Thank you all, for everything. Really, you have no idea what it means to me. I'll head out now. Thanks again," she said as she headed towards the door. Brooke watched for a minute before turning to her parents. Both Mike and Jane shrugged, the decision was up to her. She looked at Sam. Sam smiled. (Whatever you decide,) her eyes told Brooke, (I'll back you up.) Brooke smiled back and turned to the retreating figure.

"Hey, Nic," Nicole turned around. "You're welcome." Thinking Brooke meant it in the `Thank you'-`You're welcome' sort of way she just nodded and turned back to the door. Brooke sighed at her own vagueness and tried again.

"No, Nic, I mean you're welcome to stay for the party." This made Nicole spin around so fast all those watching thought she resembled one of those tops that you pull the string to spin. Her eyes were wide in astonishment.

"Wha…?" she muttered unable to speak. Sam burst out laughing.

"Mark it on you calenders, boys and girls! Nicole Julian is speechless!" Brooke swatted her on the shoulder.

"Hush, Sam. I said you can stay for the party if you want to Nicole." Nicole shook her head.

"I…I can't Brooke. I mean, thanks. It means a lot, really. But I haven't got a gift. I mean I do, just not with me, I was gonna mail it. And the whole gang is gonna be here and they might not like it and…" Brooke waved her off.

"Tough. It's my party and if I want you here…" Sam snickered and started humming `It's My Party' which won her another swat. "I swear Sam you are getting incorrigible."

"Sorry," Sam apologized, not at all regretful. Brooke rolled her eyes.

"Anyway, I don't think things will ever be as they were. This doesn't mean I completely forgive you or that our slate has been wiped clean. You did try to run me down with your 37 thousand dollar vehicle."

"At least she has expensive taste," Sam broke in, trying to keep the mood light.

"Sam," Brooke warned.

"Sorry," she mumbled this time managing to sound apologetic.

"You hit Sam and nearly killed her. That is nearly unforgivable but if Sam can find it in her heart to try, I can to. She's making an effort to include you in her life and recovery so that you can recover in your own way. I can't turn you away when I can see the genuine effort you're making to change. I think I'm beginning to see this person in you that Sam does. The human person who made a mistake and not the monster who was trying to hurt someone. So stay and let Sam and I deal with it if someone has a problem with it. It's the only way that the others are going to see it too." Nicole was crying again.

"Christ, I haven't cried this much since I was little and the two of you have me weeping like frigging Susan Lucci on Emmy night," she joked. She sniffed. "I'll stay if it's OK with your parents and if I can go home to change out of these tear soaked clothes and get your gift." Mike and Jane smiled.

"It's fine with us. It's really Brooke's decision and if she wants you here then, you stay," Jane said. Mike nodded.

"Then it's agreed. We'll all deal with any awkwardness if it arises and make this a super birthday. But first, let me run you home real quick, OK?"


"What is she doing here?" Harrison growled. Sam bit back a laugh that threatened to escape her as Harrison stepped in front of her wheelchair as if to protect her. Although it did give her a good view of his butt, she would just rather it was Brooke's.

"I invited her," Brooke's voice informed him and the rest of the partygoers from the doorway. Her tone let everyone know that there would be no further argument about it. Nicole looked back at Sam as if to ask if she was sure she wanted to go through this. Sam smiled and shrugged.

"Don't worry about it, Nic, you wouldn't be here if the birthday girl didn't want you to be," she said rather pointedly, also letting the group know she was in on the decision to let Nicole stay. Mike and Jane entered the room at that point and asked for everyone's attention.

"OK, Nicole is here because Sam brought her over to the house earlier and Brooke invited her to stay for the party. We all realize that this might cause some awkwardness among you, all we ask is that you let it go for this one night. If we can welcome Nicole into our home after what happened, I think you can accept her for this one night and treat her with the same respect as she has shown us since coming through that door." He was answered with nods and a few OK's but no one was overly enthusiastic, not that they expected them to be. The mood seemed to settle for a second before Sam spoke up.

"Who wants to go pop wheelie's in the driveway with me?"

"Oh, Harrison, it's beautiful," Brooke gushed as she unwrapped the gold heart shaped locket, about the size of a quarter. The rest of the group started to catcall and make fun of him. Harrison blushed.

"Don't get ahead of me, guys. Open it Brooke," He asked while trying not to turn ten shades of red. He knew he lost his chances both with Brooke and Sam, where he didn't know but he was just happy they were both alive. He still had nightmare of that night. Brooke opened the locket to find a picture of herself, Harrison and Sam. She looked at Harrison in surprise.

"After what happened," he shot a not so surreptitious glare at Nicole who pretended not to notice. "I realized that we almost threw away a lot more than we realized. Our friendships should mean more than who wants who and whatever. And then we almost lost Sam. I realized that you guys are two of the best friends I've ever had and I wanted you to know that. I thought that this way you could have a reminder that I hold both of you in a special place in my heart. And you can have the all of us close to yours." He sat down embarrassed by his heartfelt confession and the strange looks he was getting. Brooke was crying, actually, everyone was crying.

"Harrison, that's so sweet," Sam whispered in awe. Brooke walked over to Harrison and kissed him softly on the cheek.

"Thank you, Harrison, that means so much," she told him. He blushed several shades deeper.

"Joe, Ah awl-ways knew you was an ole saw-fty at heart!" Mary Cherry exclaimed as she grabbed the suddenly frightened young man in an impressive bear hug. "An' such a romantic!"

"Mary Cherry, let Harrison go, he needs oxygen," Carmen instructed from a few seats away as everyone laughed. "My turn, Brooke." Brooke picked up the box from Carmen and gave it a light shake. "No cheating, Brooke. Open." Brooke peeled away the wrapping. Inside was a copy of the shooting script from the movie `Shakespeare in Love', signed by Gwynth herself. Brooke stared at it in awe.

"Carmen, how?" she stammered as she continued to stare at it. Carmen smiled rather smugly.

"Ebay. I found a copy of it on Ebay and bid on it. I thought it would be perfect. Not as touching as Harrison's but pretty darn cool in it's own right." Everyone agreed.

"Wow, Carmen, thanks!" Brooke gave Carmen a huge hug. Lily and Josh handed Brooke the next box.

"We don't have a lot of money but we managed to get you this," Lily explained as Brooke pulled out a black soft leather jacket from inside the box.

"Lily told me you saw it one of the times she got you to leave Sam's side at the hospital," Josh told her. "She said it was one of the first things that seemed to make you smile since the accident, you said it was beautiful. We thought you'd like it."

"You shouldn't have. It was expensive," Josh waved her off.

"Don't worry about it. We're both working, it's no big deal we just hope you like it," he said. Brooke hugged them both.

"Besides, after everything, Josh's Mom decided to help us out a little bit, not too much. The jacket is from her as much as us."

"I love it, thank you both so much. Say `thank you' to her for me."

"Brookie?" Mary Cherry stepped forward, all excited about her gift. This was the best way she had to cement her new status as Brooke's new `Best Friend for Life'.

"Yes, Mary Cherry?" Brooke was almost afraid to ask. She knew, she just knew Mary Cherry had done something outrageous and wasn't sure if she was up to handling it. Mary Cherry held out her hand.

"Here," she said simply. Brooke frowned and took Mary Cherry's hand. When she opened her hand, there was a set of keys in it.

"Mary Cherry, what?" Mary Cherry beamed.

"Now, sugah, Ah know Ah ain't awl-ways the brightest bulb in the bunch, but Ah know how hard this musta bin on y'all, wit' Sammy bein' in th' `chair an' all. So, this ve-hick-al is fully e-quiped wit' the latest, state-o'-th'-art facilities for th' physically impaired, m'okay?" Brooke shook her head.


"What she's trying to say is," Sugar Daddy broke in. "That the keys go to a handicap accessible van that belongs to you as long as Sam needs it." When everyone turned to look at him he shrugged. "She asked me for help getting the `perfect gift'. I knew that getting Sam back and forth to school and rehab was tough, yo, so I thought that a van that was yours would be really cool."

"Thanks, Sugar," Sam spoke up. "You too, Mary Cherry."

"Yes, that was very thoughtful of you, Mary Cherry," Brooke told her. Mary Cherry's eyes lit up like Christmas tree lights.

"An' that's not th' best part, y'all. When Lil' Sammy's walkin' under her own steam, y'all cin trade in the van fer whatever ya like! Cuz Ah know nuthin's gunna stop Sammy from walkin' agin'." Mary Cherry said with conviction.

"Here here!" Mike said as everyone joined in. Nicole walked over to both Brooke and Sam and handed a small box to Brooke.

"It seems silly, I owe the two of you more than I can ever repay and not just because of what I did. I can never fix that, I know that. I can't change what I did. If there was any way I could, trust me I would. But, besides that, Brooke you were always the only real friend I ever had and I betrayed you in the worst way. Not just with my actions that night but with almost everything I ever did. I'm not going to stand here and say I'm a new woman because we all know it's a lie. But I am a better one, thanks to you. I can never have your friendship back but," Nicole lost her train of thought and simply gave up with a sigh.

"Sam, you gave me part of my soul back and I thought I lost that entirely long ago. Thanks." Brooke listened in stunned silence and when she was done opened the box. It was empty. Nicole looked at her.

"Don't freak out that I've had a relapse or something, OK. It's supposed to be symbolic of the fact that no gift would ever be enough to show you what you mean to me as a friend. So instead of buying you a gift, I did something else. Two somethings, actually."

"OK, Nic, spill," Sam said, her curiousity killing her. Nicole flashed a rare, genuine smile.

"I dipped into the trust fund that Nana left me and used it for something important. Not that Prada and Gucci aren't important but anyway, Brooke, for you, I made a donation in your name to the Eating Disorder Clinic. It's a replenishing donation so on your birthday every year, the donation will be made again. That place will never go out of business unless there is no one left to help."

"The other gift is for Sam. It's a grant for any Kennedy High School Senior graduating and pursuing an education in journalism. It's called the Sam McPherson Merit award and goes towards deferring the rising costs of higher education. And if you are still interested when we graduate, I think you'll be the first one to qualify, Sam."

"At least it's not the Sam McPherson Memorial Grant," Sam laughed. Brooke smacked her lightly upside the head.

"Ew, Sam, not funny," Brooke complained. Sam mumbled something about it being wrong to smack a former coma patient upside the head but everyone wisely ignored her. Brooke looked at Nicole as if seeing her for the first time. She still looked the same and Brooke had no doubt that the claws were still there but, like Nicole said, finally there was a hint of a soul behind the brilliant blue eyes that looked back at her. Brooke was absolutely stunned by the thoughtfulness behind the gifts. It was so unlike the Nicole she once knew. Of course, Brooke never thought the Nicole she knew would try to run her over with her Jaguar either.

"Thanks, Nicole, I really don't know what to say," Brooke told her honestly.

"Thanks is more than enough. Letting me stay for the party was more than I could have hoped for."

"Wow, Nicole, this new you is kinda nice," Carmen said from her side of the table. Nicole shrugged.

"Yeah? Don't get used to it. Like I said, I'm not a new person, I'm still the Queen Bitch, I've just temporarily been declawed. I'm sure I'll recover by the time school starts. Any of you breathe a word of this and I'll skin you alive," she warned although there was a hint of mirth behind the formally callous blue eyes.

"There's the Nic we all know and loathe," Sam pointed out with a smile.

"Got that right, Spam," Nicole told her.

"I know, Satan," Sam countered for good measure although the exchange lacked most of the venom usually associated with their exchanges.

"Just getting warmed up," Nicole explained to the confused faces in the room. Sam burst out laughing which signaled to everyone else that she and Nic were indeed joking around. Although no one really had any doubts that once school got into full swing that things would revert to the way they once were.

"I need a soda," Sam announced as she stood up from her chair and walked the very short distance to the fridge. The room was filled with several gasps of surprise and one near faint (Carmen) when she did so. After shutting the refridgerator door, Sam turned to face her stunned friends.

"What?" she asked, shrugging theatrically.


"SPAM MCPHERSON, I'M GOING TO KILL YOU! AND THIS TIME I'LL FINISH THE JOB!" the bellow echoed down the halls of Kennedy High school two months into the school year. Sam turned in the direction of the voice, leaning slightly on her cane as she did so, to see the shorthaired blonde coming barrelling towards her like a cannonball shot out of a cannon. Any and all persons in the hall were wise to get out of the enraged Nicole Julian's way and many sent up a prayer for the soul of Sam McPherson. After all, the last time an angry Nicole and Sam had met up, Sam had nearly died. But Sam just watched her approach, knowing why the shorter girl was upset, and enjoying every second of it.

When Nic reached her, her blue eyes on fire with fury, she latched on to Sam's arm none too lightly and dragged her to the Novack across the hall. Sam let herself be led away without protest, much to the confusion of their observers. But they chalked it up to her remaining injuries. The last thing she saw as the door swung shut was the panic-stricken face of her love, Brooke McQueen, as she rounded the corner of the hall towards the commotion.

Brooke threw open the door to find Sam sitting on the couch calmly while Nicole kicked the doors of ths stalls open to ensure that they were alone. That done, she turned her attention back to the bane of her existance. Her eyes were still angry, but not rage filled.

"My family is going to be so pissed," Nicole said with a chuckle, the anger draining out of her eyes completely. Brooke let out the breath she didn't know she was holding. Sam laughed.

"Yes, well, I'll never reveal my sources so they'll never know it was you who gave me that info on how you walked away scott-free because they paid off the judge and all." Brooke shook her head.

"God, you two, you scared the Hell out of me," she announced slightly annoyed. "I thought Nic was really going to kill you this time." Both Nicole and Sam laughed.

"Nah, no luxury cars in the vicinity," Sam joked. Nic winced. "Geez, Nic, sorry." Nicole sighed.

"Don't worry about it, we all cope in our own ways. But, Brooke, we have to keep up appearances. Can't let anyone think I actually have a heart now can we?"

"I guess not, but you two qualify for Oscars. I heard you all the way down the next hall," Sam bowed.

"I'd like to thank the Academy," she started. Nicole rolled her eyes and gagged.

"As if, Spam. On a serious note, those pants don't match that shirt and you just blew my family out of the water." Sam looked at her outfit and shrugged. There was the Nicole she knew.

"Couldn't have done it without you," Sam responded honestly. Nicole nodded.

"Yeah, well, someone has to pay for what I did. Why not make it me and my entire family? I like it, Sam, I never knew you had such an inner bitch," she said approvingly. Sam smiled.

"I try," Sam answered.

"Well, I think I've spent enough time `chewing you out' for the article. Can't spend too much time with you or people will get suspicious. Later," Nicole said as she left the Novack and off to torture some some unsuspecting soul. (Oh, look, there's April Tuna. Perfect target) Nicole homed in like a great white on a seal drenched beach. Sam and Brooke watched her go. Brooke walked over and locked the Novack door behind her, which won her an arched eyebrow from Sam.

"Alone at last," Brooke purred. Sam giggled.

"Why, Ms. McQueen, have you been entertaining impure thoughts about me again?" Brooke sighed.

"Only since you left my room this morning. No wait, since you left my shower this morning," she corrected herself as she kissed Sam deeply. She felt Sam smile through the kiss.

"Naughty, naughty. You know, they have names for people like you?"


"Nymphomaniacal was actually where I was going with that thought," Sam teased. Brooke huffed indignantly.

"It takes two, Sammy," she breathed. She felt the answering vibration of laughter in Sam's frame.

"Don't I know it," Sam admitted. Brooke brushed some hair away from Sam's face.

"Did I tell you today how much I love you?" Sam shook her head.

"Not since, let's see," she paused for dramatic effect. "There was your bedroom and then the shower and when I got out of the car this morning. That's about it," she informed Brooke very seriously. Brooke gave her a dazzling smile.

"I love you Sammy." Sam returned the smile.

"I love you too, Brooke." There was a knock on the door and they realized that this was going to have to wait until they got home later. Brooke helped Sam up off the couch and handed her her cane and then kissed her again before she unlocked the door. Carmen opened the door looking very confused.

"Why was the door locked?" she asked. Brooke and Sam shrugged.

"Satan musta locked it on her way out. She flew outta her so fast on that broomstick of hers that frankly I'm surprised no one else is in a coma," Sam commented coolly. Carmen arched an eyebrow but went with it.

"What are you two up to tonight? Lily and Josh have off so we thought we'd all get together and hang, you know?"

"Actually," Brooke broke in, "Sam and I have to watch Mac while Mom and Mike are gone and we can't leave. And we can't have anyone over because Mac's a little under the weather." Sam looked at her. It was a half-lie. They had to watch Mac but she was healthy as a horse. Carmen looked disappointed but recovered.

"Oh, OK, another time then. See you later," she called as she went into the Novack and Sam and Brooke left. Sam turned to Brooke with a sly smile.

"Very nice lie, Princess," she complimented. Brooke grinned.

"I have very distinct plans for us tonight and trust me, I do NOT want company." She enjoyed the blush that suddenly covered Sam's face. The rest of the school day passed much too slowly for the both of them.

The End



Author's Notes: Now, you must ask yourself, how does an author write a missing scene for their own story? Simple, I was an idiot and left it out the first time despite the fact that it was half written before most of the other stuff and shoved in the back of my notebook. Shame on me. It takes place after the partygoers go home and Brooke goes to bed. And you'll be happy to know, this one is short.



Brooke yawned and pulled down the sheets on her bed. After all her birthday had gone amazingly well. No one had killed Nicole, not for lack of trying, mind you. There was a slight incident involving Harrison and a sharp kitchen instrument while she was cutting the cake, but aside from that, no blood was shed. And watching Carmen nearly faint when Sam had calmly walked over to get a soda from the fridge had been highly humourous.

(Oh, Sam) Brooke sighed silently. With their parents home, their hot and heavy relationship was slightly more subdued and quiet and she found herself desperately missing the opportunity to hold and caress the other girl late at night. But given Jane's habit of checking on Sam every once in a while, it led to incredibly awkward and embarrassing situations. Already they had to explain themselves a few times with excuses such as nightmares and force of habit and Brooke wasn't sure Jane was buying it anymore.

(There's only so many times that the old I-had-a-nightmare-about-the-accident-and-Brooke-came-running excuse is going to work) she lamented ruefully. She smiled at the last time Jane came in and found them curled up together in Sam's bed. They had yet to go any further than heavy petting, VERY heavy petting, but how Jane could misconstrue the way they were laying there as anything less than what it actually was was beyond Brooke.

(Especially since Sam had fallen asleep with her hand up my shirt) she thought with a laugh. She grabbed the excessively large teddy bear Sam had given her earlier and climbed into bed.

"Well, you're a poor and overly furry substitute for my Sammy-bear {apologies to the originator of the nickname}, but you'll have to do," she sighed as she hugged it closer. She was about to drift asleep when her hand brushed against something that crinkled. Shaking the sleep from her brain, she sat up, turned on the light and took a closer look at the bear. Under the bright red ribbon around its neck was a neatly folded piece of paper she had missed earlier.

(What the Heck?) she shrugged as she pulled it out. On the front, in Sam's distinctive scrawl was Brooke's name. Fully awake now and wondering what Sam could have possibly written to her, Brooke carefully unfolded the treasure.

It took a few minutes for her eyes to adjust to the light and to focus on the words but as she read, they filled with tears and it took several tries to read the entire piece all the way through. When she was finished she sat there stunned beyond words, unable to move. She replayed the beautiful, sincere and loving prose over and over in her mind as she clutched the paper to her chest.

What You Are to Me
By: Samantha McPherson

The oceans are just water,
Moisture at my feet.
The mountains are just dirt
Where the ground and sky meet.

Thunder is just a sound
A symphony to my ears.
Tears are just a relief
And release from my fears.

But it's all a drop of water,
A pebble in my shoe.
Small, insignificant and petty
When compared to my love for you.

You are the sun in my sky,
My North, South, East, and West.
You are what makes my world turn
And my heart beat within my chest.

You make my life worth living
You help me face each day.
Without you in my life
My soul would wither away.

You are my passion,
My spirit, my soul, my fire.
And without ever saying a word
You fulfill every desire.

So even without the moon
To chase the sun across the sky
Even without a tear in Heaven
Left for me to cry
I would find a way to tell you
I would find a way to let you know
That there is nothing
In Heaven or Hell
That will ever make me let you go

The simple words are I love you
Body, Soul, Heart, and Mind
Nothing will ever change that
Until the end of time.

I love you Brooke
Happy Birthday



A sob escaped Brooke, as the depth of Sam's love for her was layed out before her in plain black and white. Sam was always good with the written word but she sometimes lacked in the spoken. Brooke never doubted how Sam really felt; she never had reason to even if the words were hard for Sam to sometimes say. But here, on this piece of college ruled paper and with the magic of a black ballpoint pen, Sam had erased any future doubt or fear Brooke may have ever suffered from. This little white sheet of paper contained a piece of Sam McPherson's soul, and Brooke was never going to let it go.

She got up and walked on unsteady legs through their shared bathroom into Sam's room. There, sprawled out asleep was Sam, oblivious to the emotional wreck Brooke now was. She was on her side, her back to Brooke with one arm up over her head and her covers half on and half off. Brooke stood in the doorway watching her for a few long minutes crying quietly. All the gifts in the world, all the money in the universe couldn't hold a candle to the little piece of parchment in her hand.

Gathering her composure and desperately needing to talk to and hear Sam's voice, Brooke walked over to the sleeping girl and sat on the bed. Sam didn't stir. Sometimes Brooke swore a freight train could go throught the house and Sam would sleep though it. She reached over and gently shook the slumbering form.

"Sam," she whispered, her voice still thick with unshed tears. "Sammy, wake up." Sam mumbled something incoherent and, Brooke guessed, vaguely rude but not personal and went back to sleep. Brooke sighed.

"Sam, wake up," she said louder this time, but still gently. Sam rolled over but didn't open her eyes.

"Don' wan' go skoo, Ma," Sam whined with a frown and still not awake. Brooke thought she was adorable half asleep and incoherant. But then, she always thought Sam was adorable.

"Sam," Brooke kissed her lightly on the lips, making Sam's eyes snap open.

"OK, not Mom," Sam said, almost fully awake. She blinked at Brooke's tear streaked face confused and worried. "What's wrong? Nightmare again?" Brooke smiled and shook her head.

"No, definitely not a nightmare. This," she said as she held up the paper. Sam stared at it a minute before recognition dawned on her still fuzzy with sleep brain and she blushed.

"Found that, did ya?" Brooke nodded.

"Yes, just as I fell asleep. It's very beautiful. Thank you," Sam looked away embarrassed.

"I'm glad you like it," she whispered. Brooke leaned in and gave her a more impassioned kiss.

"I more than `liked' it, Sammy," she explained when they parted. "I loved it. Did you really mean it? Is that how you really feel?" Sam stared at her incredulously.

"Of course it is," she said enthusiastically. "I wouldn't have written it otherwise. How could you think I didn't mean it?" Sam sounded hurt, which wasn't Brooke's intention.

"Whoa, back up the truck a minute," Brooke hastily tried to explain herself. "I didn't mean that I didn't believe you, Sam. I do, oh God, I hope you love me that much."

"I do," Sam said emphatically cutting Brooke off. Brooke kissed her again.

"I know. I was just saying that seeing it written down like that made it so tangible, so real. These words come directly from your soul, Sam. And that is special." Sam blushed.

"I wanted you to know how I felt. And I'm a writer so; I wrote it down for you. I'm really glad you like it." Sam wrapped her arms around Brooke and sighed a deep sigh of relief.

What was that for?" Brooke asked as she relaxed into Sam's embrace. She felt Sam chuckle.

"I, uh, thought you found it earlier and hated it. You never said anything about it so I figured you were waiting to tell me how horrible and corny it was when we were alone. I'm REALLY relieved." Now Brooke laughed.

"That's why you arranged it so we were never in the room alone at anytime all night, isn't it?" she felt Sam nod.

"I really didn't need the blow to my ego about my writing tonight, Brooke," she laughed although Brooke could hear the truth behind the statement.

"Sam, anything that comes from the heart could never be horrible or corny. As long as it's sincere, someone's bound to like it."

"I don't care about someone, love, just as long as you did," Sam admitted. Brooke smiled.

"Well, feel free to write me poetry anytime you like. I'm sure I'll love it," she proclaimed. Sam scoffed.

"I'll remember that at Christmas when you have your heart set on a Gucci handbag and I'm low on cash, Princess," she chided. "You heading back to your room soon?" she asked a hint of disappointment creeping into her voice. Brooke shook her head.

"Nah, thought I'd stay here awhile," Brooke answered as she cuddled further into Sam's arms and under the blankets. Sam made no attempt to stop her.

"What about Mom?"

"I locked the doors, she'll have to knock first. Besides, it's my birthday and I'll sleep where I want to." Sam hugged her closer and kissed her ear.

"Happy birthday, Brooke. I'm glad you like your present," Sam whispered as she settled in to go to sleep.

"You're the best present I could have asked for, Sam. Honest."

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