DISCLAIMER: Popular Characters are not mine. They belong to whomever.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This fic is inspired by the scene in "Fire in the Hole," where Brooke gives Sam advice about George, and then they watch a pornographic movie together. That is about all you need to know. Oh, and in this story, Brooke is still dating Josh, which deviates from canon. Sorry about that.
THANKS: Thirty-seven thousand thanks to JuneBug, for her amazing Beta-ing skills.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Things Left Unsaid
By Green Quarter


Part 3

From WTF.doc

Humiliated again. I took a chance, tried something that I knew had a pretty small chance of success, and I can't believe how disappointed I am. I feel like I want to cry. Asking Brooke to the movies was clearly not a good idea.

She's such a BITCH! And I'm an asshole. But really, why wouldn't she want to sit silently next to me in a darkened theater for two hours? It's not so different from what we do when we are alone. Well, okay, it is, but what's so wrong with me that she didn't want to go? Stop your whining, Sam. Nobody's listening.

I can't believe her. Well, actually I can. I can't believe me. Whatever possessed me to even ask her? Fine. I don't even care. It's just as well. I was neglecting George anyway, and this just proves that this is nothing but a way to pass the time for Brooke. Whatever.

I guess I can't lie to myself anymore. She doesn't like me that way. And I'm sad about it, dammit. I wish I didn't let her have this effect on me. I wonder if she'll still want to fool around? I wonder if my pride will let me fool around with her if she still wants to? No way, I have some dignity. Not a chance. All right, maybe I would. Probably, yes. Oh god. I feel like shit.

This must be a sign. Brooke doesn't want to do something with me that doesn't involve the removal of our clothes, so I should be with the person who does. The one who likes the person I am at all times of the day, not just when we're swapping spit or whatever. It's not all about sex. George is the one who should have my heart, right? He's the guy who wants to hear what I have to say, and values my opinion, and treats me with respect. Brooke doesn't ever want to hear what I have to say.

Let me just spell it out. She's a girl. Yeah, obvious, Sam. I like a girl. Another female. Someone who has the same equipment that I have. And whether Brooke likes me back or not, the stuff we do together is probably freaking her out on some level. But I'm freaked out too! Why am I even trying to rationalize her behavior, to analyze her response to my innocent request to go see some lame movie that looks boring as hell? She said no, that is the bottom line. She just doesn't care. So I won't care either.

But I do. I really want to be with her. I want to spend every minute in her stupid presence. Still.

You are such a fool, Sam.

It wasn't such an innocent request. I did it on purpose. It was kind of a test, and she failed spectacularly. I wanted to see where I stood, and boy did she show me.

After last night I honestly thought that she could have feelings for me. She helped me with the dishes, even though it was my turn, and we went up to my room together. I asked her if she wanted to do homework or anything, but she just closed the door behind us and shook her head. I wanted to make her feel as good as she had made me feel. My palms were sweaty and I was so nervous but somehow I knew what to do and I think she really liked it, from the sounds she was making.

Her body is amazing, at least the top half, the half I got to know pretty well last night. We didn't go all the way, but there was a minute there when I thought we might have. At the time I thought I was ready for her to be my first, but I'm kind of relieved that it didn't happen now that I know where I stand.

I did manage to give Brooke some, um, closure, without really doing much, just like she did for me in the afternoon. She ended up sitting on top of me as I lay on the bed and I was able to reach up and touch her breasts. It felt really natural. I loved the way she responded to me. Afterward, she kind of collapsed on top of me and just rested there for a while. Her head was on my chest, and I held her in my arms, letting her take as much time as she wanted. I certainly wasn't going to tell her to move. She said she liked hearing my heart beat. After a few minutes I realized that she had dozed off, and I didn't know if I should wake her or not. But then she woke up on her own and I could swear that she was really happy to see that it was me she had woken to. God, it was nice. And then I had to ruin it with my stupid ploy for forcing her to give me a sign of her affection. But even if I hadn't pushed it today, it would have happened eventually, and it's better that I know now.

So now what?

Here's what I need to do. I have to think about me, because Brooke certainly isn't. I have to protect myself before I become even more of a mess than I already am. I need to cut her off. Just not be around her. And definitely not let her have her way with me. But how do I do that when we live in the same damn house? And we have that stupid movie tonight. I'll just bail. But maybe that would be sending the message that I give a shit. You do give a shit, nimrod! But she doesn't have to know that.

Right. So I'll just pretend that I am unaffected by it. Sounds good. And George will be there. I can start making it up to him. He's been such a good guy lately, giving me space, letting me have my little crisis. He knows something is up; he's not stupid.

The crisis is over. George is my guy. He deserves better than what I've given him lately. I'm going to be a better girlfriend to him.

And what will I do if she wants to get busy again sometime?

Not going to happen.

Brooke was not happy. She knew the double date was going to be a trial, but she hadn't been prepared for just how shitty this night had the potential of being. She was at the dodecaplex with Josh, and Sam and George, or maybe they should be called SamandGeorge, for the way they stood so close it seemed they might be sharing vital organs. It was like they had one kidney between them. The four of them were making their way through the maze-like velvet rope course set up in front of the ticket counter, along with half of the population of Santa Monica. Brooke had not been aware that so many people were fans of Adam Sandler. Sam had surprised her by displaying a heretofore unknown zeal for Adam Sandler's brand of sophomoric humor, and had been trading lines with George and Josh since getting in the backseat of Josh's car and planting a wet smooch on George's lips, much to Brooke's annoyance.

Brooke had not seen Sam since lunch that day, and imagined that Sam was less than pleased with her. She hadn't meant to make Sam feel bad, but she had been put on the spot and hadn't known what to say. Attempts to find and talk to Sam after school had been unsuccessful, and she was mildly relieved for that, as she wouldn't have known what to say given the opportunity to talk to her anyway. Lately, it wasn't words that she wanted to employ when she was in Sam's presence. Tongue-tied was one way to describe the way she felt around her these days.

Coming to some kind of understanding about what they were doing had become necessary. Until now, Brooke thought that keeping mum was the best way of preserving the status quo, because for one thing, the silence made their clandestine meetings exciting and spontaneous and hot. For another, not talking about it kept their relationship in a kind of unreal no-man's land, where Brooke didn't have to deal with what was happening between herself and Sam. The only thing Brooke knew for certain was that she didn't want to give this up. Her time with Sam had become one of the most important things in her world right now, right up there with eating and sleeping. Brooke found herself thinking of her constantly; when Sam wasn't around, Brooke found herself craving her presence like the Hilton sisters crave the paparazzi.

But Sam asking her to the movies had made reality crash in on her carefully constructed denial. The thing about denial was that both parties had to do the denying in order for it to work. Sam evidently was not in denial anymore. Brooke didn't know what to think about Sam doing this. If Sam wanted to escalate their intimacy, Brooke had absolutely no problem with that. But this seemed to signal a desire to change the relationship on Sam's part, of planting it more firmly in reality, which was a scary proposition. Brooke remembered that her initial reaction to Sam's proposal was elation, quickly followed by apprehension as the implications of what Sam was asking set in. What was Sam asking? Did she just want to hang out at the movies, or was this a DATE, in all caps? It was difficult to tell whether this was a mountain or a molehill. They could talk about it, they should talk about it, because Brooke had no idea what was even going on in Sam's head. She had assumed that Sam still wanted to be with George, a fact clearly evidenced by her amorous behavior tonight. And there was Josh to think about as well.

Sam was upset with her, of that much Brooke was sure. If her reaction in the cafeteria wasn't proof enough, the fact that she hadn't given Brooke a chance to explain spelled it out pretty clearly. But how did she reconcile that with Sam's behavior with George tonight? Sam had shown up at home an hour before Josh and George were to pick them up, had barricaded herself in her room, a frenzy of energetic typing for forty minutes (if fingers could stomp, than that's what Sam's were doing), and had breezed downstairs, dressed and ready for the movies, about three minutes before Josh's car had pulled up

It seemed that Brooke was always listening to Sam type through the walls as she picked out clothes for another boring date. What was she writing anyway? Brooke guessed that Sam would always choose to write over being with her, and that was something that filled her with an inexplicable bleakness. At least things would be made bearable by Sam's presence tonight, Brooke had thought, only Sam was virtually ignoring her.

As she dressed herself earlier this evening, she told herself that it wasn't for Sam that she wore her shortest, tightest skirt, and a blouse that plunged at the neckline, but she knew better. Seeing Sam's reaction to her outfit was supposed to be the highlight of this tedious waste of an evening. She had wanted to see how Sam's deep brown eyes would turn obsidian when she gazed at her, and how her mouth would become a little bit slack, the way it had the night before when she had removed her shirt in Sam's bedroom.

But Sam hadn't even looked at her carefully chosen outfit. She hadn't looked at Brooke at all. She had rebuffed every attempt at civil conversation Brooke had tried, and Brooke was sick of it. If Sam wanted to be an immature brat about this and not acknowledge her, then fine. She would do the same. Right now she couldn't stand the sight of Sam attaching herself to George like she was a lamprey. The only way she could see getting through this evening was to make sure that she and Sam were sitting as far away from each other as possible; then Brooke could just actively ignore her.

She stepped out of line, walking away from the threesome as they laughed uproariously at Sam's imitation of Opera Guy.

"Hey, Brooke, where are you going?" Josh called out to her.

Brooke turned and was somewhat satisfied to see three pairs of eyes appraising her legs. She watched Sam tear her eyes from her body with effort to study a giant poster for the next Tom Cruise vehicle. "I'll wait in line at the concession stand, that way we can save time."

"Good idea," Josh said. "I'll have a large popcorn and a gargantu-coke."

"Do you need help, Brooke?" George asked.

Brooke smiled at him. It was one way to relieve her eyes from the sight of Sam acting like a lovesick baboon with George. She thought that the next thing Sam would do would be to squeeze George's bicep and exclaim how strong he was, or something equally insipid. If she was trying to annoy Brooke, Sam was doing a great job. "Thanks, George, that would be great."

Brooke and George took longer than expected with the snacks, and met Josh and Sam in the crowded theater just as the lights dimmed. Their dates were chatting amiably, sitting a seat apart, and had saved seats for Brooke and George. Brooke quickly realized that she couldn't avoid sitting next to Sam without creating a huge fuss. Reluctantly, she passed by Sam and sat down, handing Josh a bucket that held enough popcorn to feed ten people. When George took his seat, Sam immediately turned to him and began an intimate conversation that did not include Brooke or Josh. Josh didn't notice, chortling away at the stupid commercials that were a prelude to the trailers, which were Brooke's favorite part of the whole movie-going experience.

Brooke sat with her eyes forward, trying not to notice how Sam and George were giggling at some private joke. Then their laughter got louder, and Brooke started to seethe. She sat silently for as long as she could, attempting to enjoy a trailer for a period drama that starred Reese Witherspoon. Honestly, did Reese think she was the new Gwynnie? She wasn't fit to carry Gwyneth's cellphone, and her British accent stank up the joint.

Just then Sam let out a loud snort of laughter that finally pushed Brooke over the edge. "Sam, will you please shut up? I'm trying to watch this," Brooke exploded.

Sam turned to look at her, nonchalant and irredeemably smug. "God, Brooke, it's just a preview, relax." She looked at Brooke evenly, blinking a few times, and Brooke was infuriated even further by the bovine expression Sam wore. Was she even alive in there? Brooke sighed in disgust and faced forward again, and Sam went back to her conversation.

"We are never going out with them again," Brooke hissed, turning to Josh. "They're so annoying."

Josh glanced at her in surprise. "But you said we had to have more couple friends. What's wrong with them? George is great, and I thought you and Sam were getting along," Josh's attention was back on the screen before he finished speaking.

Brooke thought about that for a second. It was true. A while ago she had complained that she and Josh socialized almost exclusively with his friends and her fellow Glamazons. On paper, Sam and George would more than have fit the bill, but with extenuating circumstances being what they were, she vowed never to repeat this nightmare of an evening.

"Never mind," she said miserably, but Josh wasn't paying attention.

Sam was hogging the armrest on her right, and Josh's popcorn was almost like a small child sitting between them on the left, so Brooke sat with her arms crossed over her chest, fuming at her predicament. She was so caught up in her own thoughts that she didn't notice when the opening credits had ended and Adam Sandler began to act like an ass on the screen in front of her. But she did notice when Sam and George stopped talking.

She was afraid to look so she kept her eyes forward, but then she could hear it. The unmistakable sound of two pairs of lips engaged in kissing. To her it was like a rake across a chalkboard. She couldn't believe that Sam would do this to her. Did she have no sense of propriety at all? She glanced at Josh, but he was engrossed in the movie, then she turned to look and got visual confirmation. Sam's face was turned away from her, one hand in her lap, the other on George's chest, and George was copping a feel of Sam's breast right there in front of all of these people. Brooke was disgusted. And pissed off. And incredibly jealous. And despondent that Sam thought so little of her and what they had shared that she would do this with George in front of her.

Should she respond in kind? Should she make Josh put down the popcorn and start making out with him? The thought was distasteful to her. Even though Sam was obviously preoccupied, and had made her choice infinitely clear, Brooke still desired her in the worst way. Seeing proof that George was still Sam's number one even after what they had done together hurt, and she had to do something to remove the pain of it from her mind. Brooke didn't know what it was about Sam that made her stop thinking clearly, and now, once again, she turned her brain off and set it on autopilot.

First, she just turned her head slightly so she could see Sam and George in her peripheral vision and tried to use the power of her mind to get them to stop. She sent all kinds of bad hoodoo their way, silent messages like: George, you have a cramp in your tongue; and Sam, you are just now realizing that George had liver and onions for dinner; and, gingivitis is rare in teens, but it has been known to happen. But nothing worked; they hadn't so much as glanced in her direction.

She lifted the armrest between her and Sam and quickly looked at Josh to see if he had noticed. Satisfied that he was oblivious, she noted that the huge tub of popcorn would shield whatever happened next from his view.

After turning her head and blatantly watching them for several more minutes, Brooke was nearly beside herself. She had to do something immediately to get Sam to notice her, but she didn't want to draw attention either. She moved her knee so that it touched Sam's, but Sam moved away from her. She crossed her legs and rubbed Sam's shin with her foot, but that didn't seem to do anything either. Finally, she took hold of Sam's hand, drawing it onto her lap and gripping hard when Sam tried to pull away. And all the while Sam was still attached by the lips to George.

So now she had Sam's hand. Now what? It lay in hers like a dead salmon, limp and lifeless. Brooke had gotten the only part of Sam's body that wasn't vibrating like a guitar string from the attentions of George. But she knew Sam a little better than she did a month ago, and if there was one thing that got Sam excited, it was the appeal of doing something she had never done before. So Brooke placed Sam's hand on the bare skin of her thigh, and immediately felt an odd combination of serenity and lust when Sam's hand gripped her flesh and slowly slid up her leg and under her skirt.

Brooke quickly looked towards Josh and saw that he was still absorbed in the movie, and then she cast a sidelong glance towards Sam and was slightly perturbed to see that Sam was still kissing George. But an intense heat was emanating from Sam's hand, and Brooke was sure that Sam couldn't keep up her attentions to both her and George. And her stimuli-addled brain was confident that Sam would desist with George and concentrate solely on her.

Oh, yeah, Brooke thought, as she slid a bit lower in her seat and parted her legs to give Sam easier access. Sam was slowly inching her hand towards Brooke's center, her fingers insinuating themselves between her inner thighs, the palm searing her skin on one side, her knuckles teasing on the other. Closing her eyes, Brooke let everything else fall away. There was nothing but Sam's hand. Brooke's whole being became sharply focused on the questing fingertips that were lightly brushing and stroking her now ultra-sensitive skin.

They may have problems communicating in the traditional way, but she and Sam undoubtedly had this electric connection that was stronger than the both of them. And Sam always knew exactly what to do. But it was taking a bit too long in this case. She covered Sam's hand with her own and moved her closer. The side of Sam's hand was now resting snugly against Brooke's crotch, the thin layer of her silk La Perla underwear was all that separated flesh from flesh.

Sam experimentally moved her hand up and down slightly, creating an intense friction that sent Brooke deeper into a haze of arousal. She tried to control her breathing, tried to resist moving her hips impossibly nearer to Sam's hand. Sam's hand. Oh god, she makes me feel so good, Brooke thought, as Sam pivoted her amazing, wondrous hand so that she was cupping her, fingers curled to match the exact curve of her. Sam rested there for a moment before moving just a single digit. Brooke nearly sobbed as Sam slowly rubbed her middle finger over her silk-covered furrow, her minute movements bringing Brooke close to the edge of release. Sam was by no means sure of herself, and she was tentative in her explorations, but Brooke didn't know anything about technique anyway. All that mattered was that Sam was trying to please her in this public place where their secret could easily be exposed. Brooke was thrilled, appalled and totally turned on all at once. Now Sam's thumb had joined this mission of discovery, and it had found the spot that was the apex of sensation. Squeezing her legs together, Brooke trapped Sam's hand as she leaned forward and gripped the seat in front of her with both hands. It was enough to send her toppling over the edge, and she stayed hunched over her chair until the force of her orgasm and its aftershocks had subsided. Sam's hand had somehow removed itself, and Brooke felt as if she had lost a limb when she realized its absence. She didn't know how it was possible that Sam could make her feel so intensely just by the touch of her fingers.

"Are you okay?"

Brooke looked to her left to see Josh gazing at her with concern. She knew she must look like a total weirdo, doubled over in her seat like that, but she didn't answer him, turning instead towards Sam. She had a powerful and immediate need to look at Sam's face, to have her understand how much she had just made Brooke feel.

But as she looked to her right she was doused with the frigid waters of rejection when she saw that Sam was still involved in a heated embrace with George, and the hand that had so recently brought her to the heights of ecstasy was now curled around George's neck. Brooke felt a sharp pain in her chest, and before she knew what she was doing she grabbed Sam by the shoulder, forcing her to turn and meet her gaze. There, by the flickering light of the image projected over their heads, Brooke clearly saw the expression of shame that bathed Sam's features. The bile began to rise in her throat as she felt a matching shame, a nearly incomprehensible feeling after what she had just experienced.

"I think I'm going to be sick," she muttered, standing up and stumbling past Sam and George and out into the aisle, where she practically ran from the theater and away from bitter disappointment.

Sam sat back and expelled a shuddering breath, staring unseeingly at the screen before her. Brooke toying with her once again, she had thought when Brooke began making her advances. Calling Brooke's bluff was all she had intended when her hand was placed on Brooke's thigh, but Sam should have known that stopping once she had begun was impossible. Once the smooth skin of Brooke's thigh was under her fingers, Sam was committed. Fumbling around under Brooke's skirt was fun, of course, but clueless was an apt description of her method. She hadn't known she would have such an effect on Brooke, and was shocked when she felt Brooke coming under her fingers. Having never done that before, she was surprised at how quickly Brooke responded to her touch. Sam remembered the resolutions she had made just a few hours ago and felt guilty and ashamed. Writing things down was one thing, but she was finding that the reality of Brooke would always overpower any intentions to the contrary.

The fact of the matter was that she had been putting on a show for Brooke's benefit, with George her unwitting accomplice. She really wanted George to be the one that got her excited, and had kissed him for what had seemed like hours, trying to work up any hint of feeling for him. It wasn't until Brooke had taken her hand that she felt anything at all, and she had experienced a wanton burst of heat flowing through her when she found herself both kissing George and intimately touching Brooke at the same time. Then she felt guilty that she couldn't work up any emotion for George while she didn't even have to try with Brooke, who could care less. It was all there, just beneath the surface, waiting to be tapped. She must be a glutton for punishment.

"Don't you think you should go see what the matter is?" George whispered, taking her hand to get her attention.

Sam regarded George for a moment, somewhat astounded that he hadn't seen any of what had just transpired between herself and Brooke. No way, she mentally answered him, Brooke was Josh's problem, not hers, even if she was directly responsible. So now she had made Brooke physically ill. Wonderful. Sam glanced at Josh, who was following Brooke's progress out of the theater with a look of concern on his face. Brooke would head straight to the women's restroom, she realized, where Josh would be unable to help. She reluctantly got up and followed Brooke out of the theater.

Pushing the door to the restroom open, Sam saw that the bay of sinks was deserted, except for a mother urging her toddler daughter to hurry so they could get back to the latest Disney cartoon. She wandered over to the rows of stalls and called out, "Brooke?" She bent down and scanned the stalls for a sign of the incredible tanned legs that had nearly caused her eyes to pop out of their sockets when she had beheld Brooke's outfit earlier that evening. She hadn't known that a skirt could be so short. It had made her wince to know that Brooke had dressed herself with Josh in mind.

She finally found Brooke in the third row of stalls, and stood in front of the door, waiting to be acknowledged. "Are you okay?" she tried, when none came.

There was some kind of movement, and then she heard the bolt unlatch and Brooke opened the door. She didn't look like she had been sick, but she did look grim. They stood there assessing each other, Brooke still in the stall, and Sam just outside of it.

"What do you want, Sam?" Brooke asked, her expression unreadable.

"Um, I wanted to see if you were okay?" Sam ventured uncertainly.

"That's not what I mean," Brooke sighed in weariness. "What," she stressed the word, "do you," and pointed at Sam for emphasis, "want?"

Sam immediately grasped the gravity of the question but was totally unprepared for it. "What do you mean, what do I want? What do you want?" She tried throwing the ball back into Brooke's court.

Brooke shook her head. "You have to answer."

I want you, Sam said in her mind, sure that it was the right answer, but not brave enough to say it out loud. She couldn't believe that after all this time, Brooke finally wanted to talk about it. She frantically weighed her options, feeling the pressure of responding correctly. If she told the truth, and it wasn't what Brooke wanted to hear, then they were finished. If she lied, she may be able to continue having some sort of sexual connection with Brooke, but would it be enough to satisfy the longing she had in her heart for a real, honest, romantic, loving relationship with her? If she had just the tiniest idea of how Brooke felt, she could answer. "I don't know what I want. Please. Please tell me what you want," she begged.

Brooke solemnly shook her head again. "There are four of us involved in this, Sam, even though two are not aware. We're like a Greek tragedy waiting to happen."

"So why do I have to be the one to spill first?" Sam cried, frustrated.

"I guess you don't," Brooke replied. "You can plead the fifth, if you want. But let me just ask you, why did you ask me to go to the movies with you?"

Sam was completely thrown by the question. What did it mean? Was it some kind of test? How should she answer? Gazing at Brooke and trying to divine how she should answer the question, she was at an utter loss. Instead of taking her time and answering carefully, Sam felt her frustration bubble over and she spoke venomously without thinking.

"What does it even matter why I asked you? You said no, remember?" She looked up to see hazel eyes regarding her seriously, and was immediately contrite. Even after all of Brooke's shenanigans, she didn't want to do anything to upset their precarious arrangement. "Anyway, I didn't think that George would appreciate Dr. Zhivago," she added lamely, grasping at any excuse not to reveal her true intentions, now sure that they would send Brooke screaming in the other direction.

Brooke's face folded up like a fan, and she nodded, seemingly satisfied with Sam's response. "I don't think we should do this anymore, Sam."

Sam heard the words as if they came from a great distance. She had been damned whatever she did. Swallowing painfully, she tried to pay attention to what Brooke was saying.

"I don't think it's very healthy for us to continue on this path. We are going to be related soon, and we live in the same house, and it really isn't going to lead anywhere anyway," Brooke said calmly, rationally. Each word was like a knife thrown at Sam, mortally wounding her as she stood pinned to the proverbial wall. "Besides, we both have boyfriends, and they would be very hurt if they knew what was going on. We're pretty lucky they didn't notice that last stunt."

Sam couldn't speak. Brooke was ending it. Could she have answered the question any differently to prevent this? She couldn't even remember what the question was. "So that's it? That's all there is to say?" Sam managed to choke out.

Brooke looked at her steadily. "Can you think of anything else?"

Sam's brain had nearly ceased to function. She couldn't contemplate existing without being able to touch Brooke every once in a while, and being touched by her. But it looked like that was no longer even a possibility. Brooke had closed off all the exits, and Sam was trapped in the burning theater, while Brooke laughed at her from outside. "I guess not," she said faintly. "Are you sure?" she then asked, unable to mask the plaintive note that had crept into her voice.

"Sam," Brooke casually leaned against the metal partition and gently said," I'm being kinder to you than I am to myself."

"I have no idea what that means, Brooke." But Sam could hear the finality in the statement, and she surrendered. Then she tried to get a hold of herself before she began bleeding her despair all over the place. "Okay. So, I guess you're okay. I'll just let you go back to whatever you were doing," Sam tried to act like she wasn't totally falling apart. "You don't need me here checking up on you, you're obviously fine." She turned on her heel and left the restroom without another word.

Brooke sank down onto the toilet, pressing her palms to her eyes and willing herself not to cry. The nauseous feeling had subsided, but the look on Sam's face had spoken volumes, and it was that image that had chased her out of the theater and into the restroom. Well that and the fact that Sam could so casually continue macking with George while she was servicing Brooke. And that's how Brooke now thought of it, because Sam couldn't possibly have any real feelings for her.

A few hours ago she hadn't wanted to change things concerning her relationship with Sam, she had been fine fooling around with her in secret. So what had changed? Seeing Sam's obvious preference of another. What had it changed for her? Leaning her shoulder against the industrial sized toilet paper dispenser, Brooke searched herself for an answer.

What were the facts? She liked being with Sam more than just about anybody else, including Josh. Furthermore, the time she spent with Sam had illuminated just how little a connection she actually had with her boyfriend. Combine that with the increasing antagonism and aversion she was feeling toward Josh and it was clear that there was something very wrong with their outwardly perfect relationship.

The truth was that when Sam was around, she filled up something in Brooke. They had a bond, and Brooke didn't think it was only sexual. Without unpacking all of her adjectives, Brooke had come to know Sam as witty and funny, extremely perceptive, creative, clever and kind. If Sam were a guy, she would have been perfect. And there was the rub.

All the qualities that Brooke was looking for in a mate Sam had in abundance. Plus Brooke was already in serious lust with her body. The girl was hot. So what was the problem?

She herself was the problem. Brooke could not admit to herself that she had fallen in love with a girl. But, she realized, just by thinking that she couldn't admit that to herself, wasn't she really admitting it? Semantics, she told herself. She really had no choice in the matter. Love was action. It came to you. She loved Sam. Out of the depths of her frontal lobe came the blazing truth and it made her smile, quite inanely, she would have seen if there had been a mirror anywhere around.

And just as quickly as it appeared, her grin disappeared when she thought of Sam and George together. As evident as their connection was, Brooke was not Sam's priority. Unfortunately, Sam's heart belonged to someone else. But Sam had asked her on a date, right? Well maybe, Brooke still wasn't sure what Sam's intentions were about that. She would find out. An idea came to her suddenly. She'd ask Sam what her intentions had been and if her answer contained any mention of George than Brooke would know that Sam merely thought of her as a friend, with benefits.

She looked down to see Sam's worn tennis shoes just beyond the bathroom stall door and wondered how long she had been there. Engrossed in her thoughts as she was, if Sam had said anything she doubted she would have heard her.

"Are you okay?" she heard a subdued Sam ask.

Brooke wanted to do this now. She felt as if her fate was held in Sam's hands, and she wanted it decided immediately. Standing up determinedly, she unlatched the door and gazed at the girl before her. Even in the unflattering fluorescent light she was gorgeous, Brooke thought. Then she noticed how Sam's lip-gloss looked like it had been chewed off, and her lips looked too red and bruised from their recent overuse, and Brooke felt a pang of jealousy. Turning her face into a neutral mask, she asked, "What do you want Sam?"

"Um, I wanted to see if you were okay?"

I may love her, but she certainly is dense, Brooke thought ruefully. "That's not what I mean. What do you want?"

Brooke saw that Sam had caught her meaning, but was insisting on drawing this out. "What do you mean what do I want? What do you want?"

After some more back and forth, Brooke could see that Sam could dance around the subject all night, so she decided to ask a different way, the blunt way. She came right out and asked why Sam had asked her to the movies, and waited breathlessly for her reply.

"What does it even matter why I asked you? You said no, remember?" Sam said flippantly, noticeably agitated, then she mumbled something Brooke had to strain to hear. "Anyway, I didn't think that George would appreciate Dr. Zhivago."

It was enough. It was out of concern for George that Sam had asked only Brooke to the movies. She ceded any spurious claim she might have had on Sam's affections to George and their hetero relationship, her career as a lesbian over before it had begun. Brooke didn't think she would've even contemplated it for anyone but Sam.

This was better. Both for Sam and for her. She launched into a boilerplate paragraph designed to put an end to this pseudo-relationship between herself and Sam, barely aware of what she was saying. She was being noble, she told herself. Allowing Sam to have a normal acceptable relationship with George was very noble. The babble spewed forth until she thought to shut her mouth, and she tried to be calm in the face of Sam's wide eyes.

"So that's it? That's all there is to say?" Sam asked her.

"Can you think of anything else?" Brooke desperately wanted Sam to say something that would let her take back all the things she said, even though she knew that Sam and George were probably meant to be. She suddenly wondered if maybe she should fight for Sam, why should George get her so easily? But the thought of battling it out over Sam like she was Boardwalk or Park Place, a prime piece of property ripe for the taking, filled her with antipathy. Anyway, Sam was clearly capable of choosing for herself and had made her decision quite plain. She didn't want Brooke. Sam probably looked at what they were doing as a bit of fun, some racy interludes that filled in the time between dates with George, or during, in this case. But it had become so much more than that for Brooke.

"I guess not," Sam replied. "Are you sure?"

What did she mean by that, Brooke wondered. Was she doing the right thing? Yes. This way, things were a lot less complicated and Sam was free to pursue her relationship with George. She loved Sam enough to let her have that, even at the expense of her own happiness. Realizing what she was giving up, the weight of doing the right thing hit her like a ton of bricks and she sagged against the stall partition. Love released runs wild when it's too late, she thought desolately. "Sam, I'm being kinder to you than I am to myself."

"I have no idea what that means, Brooke."

Her noble behavior was obviously lost on Sam. Brooke watched as Sam cast about for something else to say. Awkwardness had already descended over them, their relationship mutating once again. God only knew what the repercussions would be from their brief detour into intimacy. It looked like all Sam wanted to do was get the hell out of the bathroom and away from Brooke. Sam made her excuses and was out of the restroom in a flash, without a doubt going straight back into the arms of George.

Brooke closed the stall door and leaned her forehead against the enameled metal, cooling her fevered skin. She had been in the restroom, what, about five minutes? And she felt as if her life was irrevocably changed. In the short time that had elapsed she had known and lost love. What was that godawful saying about if you love something set it free? She was about to test the theory. Who knows, maybe Sam would come back to her, although she wasn't betting the farm. It was probable that Sam would think of their little liaison as an experimental phase of some sort; maybe remember it fondly in the future, if she remembered it at all. But Brooke knew she would never forget it.

The evening had left her feeling empty. There was a Sam-shaped void in her heart, and she had to begin to learn to live with it.


Part 4

Brooke rushed down the school hallway, still holding the note she was given in homeroom before she had even sat down that said to report immediately to Principal Krupps. She reached the office to find the principal nowhere to be seen, but Sam sitting in one of the chairs in front of his desk. "What are you doing here?" she blurted, surprised.

"I don't know yet. What are you doing here?" Sam responded, just as surprised.

It had been a week since that night at the movies, and an uncomfortable formality had sprung up between them. For the most part, they had avoided being in each other's company, but when it couldn't be helped they were unfailingly polite.

"I don't know either." Brooke sat down in the chair next to Sam's, unconsciously mirroring her posture, which was slumped forward with chin resting in hand. The silence drew out between them. After a few minutes, Brooke said, "Do you know where he is?"


"Oh." Brooke studied Sam out of the corner of her eye. The girl sat calmly next to her, dressed in Brooke's beige short-sleeved sweater with complementing A-line skirt. As weird as it somehow seemed, Sam looked really good in her clothes. She looked down at her own outfit, a faded pair of jeans and a form-fitting long-sleeved t-shirt of Sam's that had a Chinese character emblazoned across the front of it. It was much more casual than what she usually wore to school, but it felt oddly liberating to go against the grain for once.

The night before, for the first time since that night at the movies, Sam had knocked on her door. Brooke ran to the door and opened it, not knowing what to expect, but happy that Sam was seeking her out for any reason. But it wasn't her that Sam wanted; it was her clothes. Sam had asked if she could borrow an outfit for school, explaining that she was bored with everything in her wardrobe. Brooke had thought that Sam's style was inseparable from the girl herself, the funky, boho image she cultivated a fitting expression of her personality. But far be it from her to deny Sam anything. If Sam had asked her, she would have shorn off her hair and given it to her. Brooke had wordlessly gone to her closet and thrown the doors open, and walked toward the door, meaning to leave Sam alone to make her selection. When she had nearly reached the door, she heard Sam thank her, and offer her own closetful of clothes to Brooke in return.

Brooke went directly to Sam's room, standing in the doorway for a minute before moving inside. She hadn't been in this room in over a week. It looked exactly the same, with books and papers piled on most surfaces, and clothes in various states of cleanliness strewn haphazardly about. It was the next best thing to spending time with Sam herself, to be allowed into her sanctuary. Opening the closet door, Brooke could not stop herself from wrapping her arms around a bunch of Sam's clothes and burying her face in the lingering scent that attached itself to them. After a few moments, she realized what she was doing and grabbed the t-shirt, leaving the room quickly, not wanting Sam to find her doing something creepy like sniffing her clothes. What would be next, pawing through her underwear drawer? She met Sam in the hallway and showed her the t-shirt, asking if it was okay to borrow it. Sam nodded and asked permission for the things she had draped over her arm, and Brooke had barely looked at them. She didn't care what Sam took; she could have it all.

God she had missed being with Sam. Looking at her now, in the warm morning sunlight that streamed through Principal Krupps' office windows, she wondered for the nine millionth time if she should have done things differently. Sam had not been home much this past week, and presumably she was spending all her time with George. That was a good thing, right? It was the reason why Brooke had broken things off with Sam, so that she could be with George unimpeded. But the fallout was this frozen existence, this non-friendship, with barely any communication between them anymore. While they hadn't exactly been talking much before, now it was if they didn't even speak the same language. If she had known that her and Sam's relationship would become something one could liken to a Reagan-era missile silo, once potentially explosive but now empty and crumbling from disuse, would she have still done it? Even the catty bickering from their early acquaintance would have been something. She would give anything to have a silly argument about the TV remote with Sam.

"Girls, sorry to leave you unattended," Principal Krupps boomed in his overly cheery voice, as he strode into the office. "Thanks for responding so swiftly to my summons." He smiled broadly at them, not fazed by their lack of response. Brooke and Sam waited to be told the reason for their visit. "We have been very lucky to secure Bill Bixson for an assembly this afternoon," he announced.

Brooke had no idea who that was, and from Sam's blank look, she didn't think Sam knew who he was either.

"Who's that?" Sam asked bluntly.

"Bill Bixson, motivational speaker?" Krupps asked, clearly shocked that they weren't in the know.

"What or whom does he motivate?" Brooke asked.

"The teens of today, Brooke," Principal Krupps exclaimed. "Quite frankly, I'm surprised that two of our foremost students aren't aware of his sterling reputation."

"Motivate teens to do what, exactly?" Brooke doggedly kept to the point.

"Brooke, what don't the youth of today need motivation for? School, play, work, college, peer pressure, you name it, Bixson motivates." The principal sat back and smiled at them.

"Wait. He motivates us to engage in peer pressure?" Brooke asked, confused. She heard a snort of laughter disguised as a cough coming from Sam.

"Principal Krupps, forgive me for being obtuse, but what does this have to do with Brooke and me?" Sam was using her speaking to adults voice.

"I'm glad you asked, Samantha. I would like to do something a little different than the usual "have the motivational speaker speak to his captive audience" kind of thing. I'd like it to be a bit more interactive."

When he didn't continue, Sam prompted him. "What did you have in mind, sir?"

"Well, I thought that Brooke, as befitting a school leader of her unparalleled status, could moderate a discussion between you, our resident rabble-rouser and editorial firebrand, and Mr. Bixson," Principal Krupps declared.

"That may be fine for Brooke and me, but I fail to see how the student body would find it the least bit interactive," Sam replied. Brooke could see that Sam was just short of proclaiming it the stupidest idea in recent memory.

"Oh, they'll all love it. After all, between the two of you, a major portion of the school's population is represented."

Brooke decided it was time to end the interview before Sam asked just which portions of the school's population each of them represented. "That sounds great, Principal Krupps. When is the assembly?"

"Sixth period, just after lunch. Oh, and girls, let's make this a bit more interesting than our last assembly. We got very little response from Mothers Against Drunk Driving and their sobriety tips set to 'Edelweiss.'"

"What the hell, Brooke? I so do not want to do this, and you didn't even give me a chance to object!" Sam exclaimed as Brooke propelled her out of Krupps' office.

"Come on, Sam. You know you can do this in your sleep. You'll be able to score points off this guy without even trying." Brooke reasoned. She was being selfish and she knew it. If she and Sam had to do this together, Sam would not be able to avoid spending at least a little bit of time with Brooke. Here was a chance to begin mending their tattered relationship. Brooke wanted to remain friends with Sam, if she could have nothing else, and she was grateful to have this excuse to talk to Sam.

"Of course I will," Sam huffed, "but it doesn't change the fact that I have tons of homework, a deadline for the paper, and did I mention, tons of homework?"

"School has barely even started, homeroom's not over yet. How can you have tons of homework already?" Brooke was happy to note a suspension of the formality between them and quickly tried to capitalize on it. "So when do you want to work on this? I could get out of English third period, what do you have then?"

"I have a test in trig," Sam said slowly, looking at Brooke suspiciously. "Anyway, we don't need to work on anything together. All you have to do is introduce us, I've got the hard part."

"Well, do you want to talk about it at lunch? Maybe bounce a few ideas off me?" Brooke persisted.

"Possibly. I don't know if I'll have time. Look, I've got to go, see you at lunch, maybe." Sam headed down the hall, leaving a frustrated Brooke in her wake.

From WTF.doc

Right. I should be getting ready for this assembly bullshit thing this afternoon but I'm using precious lunchtime minutes to get some things straight in my head when I could be with Brooke, if I choose to be, which I'm not really sure whether I do or not.

I am so weak. Here I am looking like an idiot in Brooke's clothes, because I couldn't think of anything to say to her when my feet disobeyed direct orders from my brain and acted in collusion with my hand, when I found myself knocking on her door last night. I totally deserved the third degree I got from Lily and Carmen asking why I was wearing this stuff. Carm asked if I had a job interview or something. I just wanted to have some kind of contact with her after a week of this weird non-friendship-non-relationship-barely-even-speaking-to-each-other kind of thing we have happening now.

It didn't seem like she minded me asking to borrow her clothes, which not too long ago would have sent her into either a fit of hysterics or makeover mode, depending on the exact day of the request. But she left the room right after I entered it, like she didn't even care that I was there.

And now this morning she's trying to act like my best friend! "Let's talk at lunch?" What is that? We haven't talked in forever! Not even when we were so close we were breathing each other's carbon dioxide. Why would she want to start now of all times? She has me completely and utterly befuddled. My shirt looks awesome on her though.

I'm trying to get over her, I really am. The last thing I want is for her to see how little I have to show for a week's worth of time away from her. It still hurts like the first day. Does she honestly think I'm able to go back to being just friends with her after only a week? Letting her see how much she still affects me is not on. That would be untenable.

All I really know for sure is that I miss her like hell. Not just the intimate stuff but just being in her presence and really having the chance just to look at her, her beautiful face. God, what she does to me.

It's a good thing I have the newspaper office to hide out in with my trusty laptop, and it's a good thing I have Lily and Carmen and Harrison to hang out with at night and after school, or else I would have been on my knees days ago, begging her to reconsider. And it's a good thing I have George too. Let's not forget him. He's such a good guy. Maybe if we stick it out long enough, I'll be able to forget that he's not Brooke.

But the thing is, he's not Brooke. He will never be Brooke.

Shit, lunch is almost over. I've done nothing to prepare for this assembly that's happening in… five minutes!? But how do I prepare for a conversation with a motivational speaker anyway? I'll just have to wing it I guess.

Brooke sat down at her usual table and scanned the cafeteria for Sam. She absently picked up her apple and started rubbing it on her sleeve as she looked over to where Sam normally sat, but she wasn't there.

"Hey B, is that why you're wearing that ratty t-shirt? Because you didn't want to polish fruit with anything that had a designer label?" Nic's strident voice distracted Brooke from her task.

"I was wondering when you were going to say something. Couldn't hold it in any longer, huh?" Brooke replied easily.

"Well it's a dark day indeed when the school's leading fashionista is seen wearing something that could have been purchased in the back of a comic book," Nic retorted. "And what's up with Spam? Is that your Calvin Klein she's pulled over her huge misshapen head?" What gives her the right? I would sic the cops on her stealing ass and put a stop to that sort of thing pronto."

"She asked me if she could borrow it and I said yes," Brooke said patiently.

"Well that's your tough titty then. I hope it's not returned with oily bohunk George drool all over it," Nic said airily, watching with satisfaction as Brooke's mouth turned downward in an expression of revulsion.

"Nic, that is just gross." Brooke said sourly.

"What's gross?" Josh put his tray down and kissed Brooke on the head before sitting beside her.

"Nothing," Brooke said flatly, flinching slightly at Josh's touch.

"We were just talking about Sam's new look, and how George would appreciate her sudden rise from fashion troll-hood," Nic had found an unexpected vein of discord, and she was intent on mining it.

"Oh, Sam doesn't have to do anything special for George," Josh stated. "He loves her just the way she is. And us guys like it when a girl looks her best all natural and casual, without going through a major ordeal to pretty herself up." Josh picked up his sandwich and took a big oblivious bite, unaware of the silence that now surrounded him.

"I didn't know they were serving foot for lunch," Nic said dryly.

"What?" Josh frowned and looked at his sandwich.

"Because that's what's in your mouth, dumbass!" Nic shouted. "How could you say something like that, when Brooke works so hard to-"

"No Nic, you're the one who started all this, but Josh and I are going to finish it," Brooke said with deadly quiet. "Josh, would you please come with me?" She got up from the table and walked out of the cafeteria without another word, not even checking to see if Josh was behind her, which of course, he was.

"Hey, where have you been? I thought I was going to have to do this by myself," Sam exclaimed when she saw Brooke come into the backstage area of the auditorium, the assembly already a few minutes behind schedule. Then she noticed how pale Brooke looked. "Are you okay?" she asked, suddenly concerned, putting a hand on Brooke's shoulder.

Brooke leaned into Sam and her eyes filled with tears. She was definitely not okay, Sam realized. "Do you want to talk about it?" she asked softly.

"Yes," Brooke said gratefully, looking into Sam's eyes. Then she was distracted, looking past Sam at something. "But not now."

Sam turned to see Principal Krupps being pounded on the back by a balding man in his late forties in what looked like a powder blue satin tuxedo. You've got to be kidding me, she thought to herself. Principal Krupps led the man over to them and Sam bore the brunt of the man's glad handing, allowing Brooke a minute to compose herself.

"You must be Mr.Bixson," Sam began after she had endured her share of backslapping and hand wringing. "Your reputation precedes you, sir."

"Well, I have found that assisting teens to find and follow their bliss in the new millennium is most rewarding, and personal satisfaction leads to professional fulfillment," Bixson pontificated.

Oh Jesus, Sam thought. Did he just say "follow their bliss?"

Just then, Brooke came up beside Sam and thrust her hand out. "Pleased to meet you, Mr. Bixson, I'm Brooke McQueen."

Sam watched Brooke get her share of arm pumping, marveling at how she had pulled herself together. No one would've known that the girl was on the verge of tears only moments before. She wondered what could have happened to make her so upset.

"Well, should we get the show on the road?" Principal Krupps asked, ushering them through the wings and onto the stage, where two podiums were positioned downstage, and three chairs further upstage. Sam and Mr. Bixson sat down while Brooke went directly to one of the podiums.

After the collected students in the auditorium had quieted down, Brooke introduced Bixson first, reading from what looked like a professionally put together bio. Yes, Sam saw that an 8x10 headshot had been stapled to the resume, and she wondered where Brooke had gotten it. After five minutes spent recounting the acclaim, awards, and commendations that highlighted Bixson's career, Brooke said, "And joining Mr. Bixson for our discussion will be Kennedy's own Sam McPherson."

Yep, that's me, totally undistinguished Sam McPherson, Sam sighed to herself.

Brooke sat down and Mr. Bixson jumped up to the podium, launching into what sounded like a well-rehearsed sales pitch, although what he was selling was not entirely clear.

"Students of Kennedy High, I feel your pain," Bixson began. "Your parents don't get you, your teachers don't understand you, your principal is certainly out of touch," he gestured to Mr. Krupps who was standing in the back of the auditorium looking surprised. "But I understand. I know what it's like to be seventeen and lost. It wasn't that long ago that I left the ranks of teendom and joined the boring world of adults," he disclosed with zany grin.

Oh brother, Sam thought, rolling her eyes.

"So thank you," Bixson looked down at his notes, "Brooke McPherson, for that generous introduction. I gather I am to be joined up here by a bona fide member of the teen generation, and that is," he looked down again, "Samantha McQueen."

Sam got up to a smattering of applause, distinctly hearing George yell "Alright Sam!" She stood at the podium and pulled the microphone down from Brooke's level to her own, wincing at the feedback this produced. "That's McPherson," she corrected, although Bixson was already off and running.

"Okay Samantha, why don't you tell me about some of the issues you've been facing as an American teen in the new millennium." Bixson was talking to her, but smiling reassuringly out at the crowd.

"You mean besides the issues that we all face as Americans like a struggling economy, a trumped up war, diffident and cowardly leadership of our nation, and the fact that the CSI franchise seems to be multiplying at an alarming rate?"

"I was referring to any issues that affect you personally," Bixson said.

"I'm not facing any issues that I'm aware of," Sam replied. There wasn't a chance in hell that this charlatan would get her to spill any of her secrets.

"Really?" Bixson's voice was dripping with disbelief. "I find that very hard to believe."

"It's true," Sam responded. "I'm a normal, well-adjusted, standard-issue, typical average teen."

"She is!" Sam heard Lily yell from the audience.

"No issues here," Sam insisted.

"No problems with your parents?"

"No." Not in a while anyway.


"No." Glass didn't count. Everyone had a problem with her/him.




"No." Not that I'd tell you anyway, you shyster.



"Just checking, but nah, you don't seem the type," Bixson looked at her speculatively.

Whoa. Wait. I don't seem the type? Sam didn't have time to really think about that because Bixson continued to pepper her with questions.

"Do you abuse drugs?"


"Uppers? Downers? Speed? Smack? Horse? Peyote? Reefer?"

"No, no, no, no, no, no." Honestly, who called it reefer anymore? And what the hell was peyote?

"How about alcohol?"

"Um, no," Sam didn't "abuse" alcohol; she had an occasional drink every once in a while at a party, but if there were ever a time when she wanted to begin a career as a binge drinker, it was now. She was starting to lose her patience with the third degree. How come she was the one put on trial here?

"What about sex?"

"What about it?" Sam returned impatiently.

"Have you had sex?"

Sam was taken aback. "That is so completely none of your business!"

"Ah ha. She has issues with sex," Bixson told the audience.

"I don't have issues with sex!" Sam protested.

"Then why are you so defensive?" Bixson asked innocently.

"So defen-" Sam looked to the back of the auditorium where Krupps was still standing, not believing that he wasn't putting a stop to this nonsense. Fine, she'd put a stop to it herself. "Listen to me, you small-minded, smarmy, fraudulent, prurient pri-"

"Okay!" The microphone was wrenched away from her as Brooke suddenly appeared beside her at the podium, a reassuring hand on her back. "Principal Krupps wanted for this to be an interactive afternoon with Mr. Bixson, so why should we let Sam here have all the fun? Anyone else feel like discussing their issues, or lack thereof, with him?" Brooke looked around the audience briefly before continuing. "No? Well I guess we're done here."

"Wait! I have an issue."

Sam and Brooke looked out at the sea of faces and saw Josh standing up, an aggrieved look on his face. A murmur of surprise rolled through the audience.

"Oh no," Brooke muttered.

"Yes, young man, what is the problem?" Bixson tried to take back control of the assembly, which was quickly sinking towards chaos.

"My girlfriend just broke up with me for no reason at all," Josh wailed, his voice clearly laced with pain.

"Josh, I don't think this is the time or place to discuss this," Brooke said quietly.

"This is the girlfriend?" Bixson asked.

"Butt out, Bixson!" someone in the audience called.

"Yes, she was my girlfriend until today, until about twenty minutes ago, actually. Then she pulls me into an empty classroom and dumps me for the second time! Why Brooke? Things were going so well." Josh was like an injured bear, bellowing out his anguish.

"Yeah, why Brookie?" Mary Cherry stood up, her usual look of glazed idiocy compounded by confusion. "You two are Kennedy's golden couple. Your being together makes sense, like Brad and Jenny, or three carats in a platinum setting, or rice cakes and celery sticks."

Sam and Brooke looked at the audience and could see the question on all of their faces. The murmurs grew louder and Sam could hear calls of "Why'd you do it?" and "What's up with that, Brooke?" from the more vocal members of the crowd. Then she saw traitorous Nicole consoling Josh, speaking softly to him as she rubbed his forearm in commiseration.

"So, Brooke, why did you break up with, Josh, was it?" Bixson looked out to the audience for confirmation.

Sam yanked the mike back. "Don't answer that, Brooke. You don't owe anyone any explanations. You hear that, Bixson, you Tony Robbins wannabe hack?" Sam was letting her anger get the better of her, but felt it was a more acceptable emotion than the intense flicker of happiness that went through her at the news of Brooke's breakup, followed by a large dose of guilt for feeling glad over its demise.

"Maybe Brooke wants to answer," Bixson pointed out.

One look at Brooke's expression was enough to tell Sam that the last thing Brooke wanted to do was explain herself.

"How in the world do you think it's okay for you to pry into people's personal, private affairs? It's none of your fucking business!" Sam turned to the student body, which was listening to her, open-mouthed. "It's not any of your business! What gives you the right to ask these impertinent as hell questions and make judgments about anybody?" she continued, directing her rant back at the main source of her fury, Bixson. "Especially when you're wearing that ugly ass, moth-eaten, hasn't-been-fashionable-since-the-Nixon-administration suit! Brooke never did anything to you. Why are you picking on her? Why are you treating her like she's a guest on Springer? I'm sure she had very valid reasons for doing what she did. And, I repeat, why does she owe you any explanation? Who the fuck died and made you Oprah?"

Sam could see Principal Krupps striding up the center aisle, finally. It only took her flipping out and uttering a few expletives before he did anything about it. She was so caught up in her tirade that she didn't hear Brooke trying to calm her down, telling her to be quiet or she was going to get in trouble. Sam was too far gone. "I see you Kruppsy! Come and get me. I put the blame for this entirely on you. This was all your brilliant idea," Sam knew she was in deep shit and could only seem to dig herself in deeper.

"Detention, Ms. McPherson! Two weeks," Principal Krupps practically leapt onto the stage and clamped his hand around her upper arm, pulling her towards stage left and the wings.

Sam went docilely, her bravado gone. Why did I rush to her defense like that, Sam wondered, totally perplexed. It's not like anything had changed between her and Brooke. She was still persona-non-grata as far as she knew, although Brooke had been acting weird today. And this was obviously the reason why she was upset. After she and Principal Krupps were offstage, she heard Josh plaintively say, "Please just tell me why, Brooke."

Sam turned around, resisting the arm that tugged at her. From deep in the wings she saw Brooke take a deep breath as she stood at the podium, preparing to answer. "Please Mr. Krupps, can I just hear what she says?"

Krupps nodded his assent, it seemed he was curious too. Sam moved closer, peering out at the stage from behind a tall black velvet curtain.

"Josh, I don't know why you want to hear this in front of the whole school, but I'll try to give you a better explanation than the one I just gave you at lunch." Brooke paused to collect her thoughts. "The only thing I know is that there should be something more. Something better. Something bigger. For you and for me." She paused again, seemingly trying to put her thoughts into words. "Love should be something big, uncontrollable and unwieldy. It should be spilling over and leaking out in big embarrassing puddles all around you. It should be a crazy, breathless sled ride head first down an icy hill with tombstones hidden under the snow. It should be dangerous, inconvenient, messy, inappropriate even. And at the same time comfortable, effortless, unforced and natural. It should make you feel like your heart is breaking one second and then have you laughing with unspeakable pleasure the next. And you would feel like dying if you ever had it within your reach and then were unable to hold onto it."

If a pin were to drop somewhere in the Kennedy High auditorium at that moment, it would have sounded like a thunderclap.

"We didn't have that, Josh," Brooke continued sadly. "Life would be so much easier if we did, but we don't. You know it, or you will know it, when you find the person you're supposed to be racing down the hill with. It's not me, I'm sorry."

"How do you know that, Brooke?" Josh pleaded.

Sam was fiercely hanging onto the curtain like it was a physical representation of Brooke's every word.

"You're just going to have to trust me, Josh. I want this for you, I really do. It'll be so worth it in the end."

"You talk like you've already experienced it, but now we both know it wasn't with me," Josh commented bitterly.

"I might have had a glimpse of it, might've had a chance at it if circumstances were different, if someone else hadn't gotten there first, but no, I've never really experienced it," Brooke said, her words cryptic to everyone except one person, encouraged now beyond words.

Josh just shook his head and walked up the center aisle, clearly defeated. Nicole trailed behind him like a buzzard sniffing a fresh kill.

Sam eased her death grip on the curtain, and could see Brooke puff her cheeks out and expel a breath, maybe in disbelief of what she had revealed to the whole school. The image before her of a dazed Brooke in profile produced an inexplicable lump in her throat.

"So now that everyone in the whole school has complete details of my private life, including Mr. Bixson," Brooke wryly announced to the auditorium, "I think we can stick a fork in this assembly."

Mary Cherry stood up, her mascara flowing down her face along with her tears, and began a slow clap. "Oh, Brookie, that was better than a Mexican soap opera! I love my school assemblies with a heapin' helpin' of escandolo on the side!"

Brooke stood there stunned while the rest of the student body joined Mary Cherry in a slowly building round of applause before filing out of their seats, headed for their next class.

Principal Krupps placed a hand on Sam's shoulder and led her out into the hallway. "Ms. McPherson, I hope you don't have plans this afternoon, your detention begins forthwith."

Sam nearly bounced down the hall, filled with exuberance. "Sure thing, Kruppsy, er, I mean, yes sir, Principal Krupps."

Among the conversations heard as the students drifted off was, "Man, that was so much better than the last one when those ladies sang that weird song."

"Shut up dude! My mom was one of those ladies," came the reply.

"Oops, sorry, man."

Part 5

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