DISCLAIMER: These characters belong to Ryan Murphy and the WB. No infringement is intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: A huge thank you to my beta readers: Redlance and Carpesomediem. You guys are awesome! For those of you who like 'behind the scenes' kind of stuff: this fic was started over a month before it was posted. I wrote an entire fic ('Kiss Me I'm Irish') and three drabbles in the time since I started it. The genesis of this was a comment Sam made in the drabble 'Red Herrings' and a crack she makes to Mary Cherry in 'P is for Pillow'. The premise in my head was simple, yet daunting: sit Sam down in a chair and see what's going on inside of her. I didn't have a title, but always being a fan of 'Queen', I decided to borrow one from them. This is probably not an accurate representation of how therapy actually works. This is more like 'Hollywood' therapy, where things have to get accomplished and revelations have to be made in the half-hour or hour or however long until the show ends. So keep that in mind if it seems unrealistic.
CONTINUITY: This is in my Bram!verse and is next after 'P is for Pillow Talk'.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Under Pressure
By Quatorz


Part I

Sam smelled it halfway down the steps, the delicious aroma wafting up from the kitchen. Her reporter's mind classified the source like a scientist: from the species 'take out food', the genus 'Chinese', the phylum 'Beef and Broccoli'.

Mmm. She jumped the last few stairs, landing with a thud!

"Someone smells Chinese food," her mother smiled.

Sam scanned the containers for some evidence that her favorite dish- General Tso's Chicken-was represented. Just the thought of it had her mouth watering like a Pavlovian dog.

That was one of Brooke's favorites too. She looked up the stairs. "Hey, S--"

Shit! She almost yelled 'Hey, sweetheart' in front of everyone. Her mind raced to cover. "...slowpoke! Mike got Chinese food!"

"Coming!" she heard from upstairs, and then muffled thumps as Brooke raced downstairs too.

In a few moments they were all digging into the containers. A new Chinese restaurant had opened a few minutes away and they had decided to give it a try. Mike-in his infinite wisdom-bought a sampling of their favorites instead of something specific for each of them.

It never failed that as soon as the food arrived she looked enviously at something her Mom or Brooke got and wanted that instead.

Of course, whenever that happened to Brooke, she always ended up with Sam's dinner. How come the reverse was never true? Well, she was going to put a stop to that. The next time--

Who was she kidding? She would totally cave like she always did. What was it they said on Star Trek: resistance is futile...?

No shit, she chuckled to herself.

Mike nodded approvingly. "Not bad," he offered, and the table chimed in to agree. A new Chinese restaurant was always regarded with trepidation.

Sam always looked to the décor as an indication of quality, but had learned otherwise with the 'Peking II'-a restaurant that had opened last year. The atmosphere was elegant and serene, but when she bit into her food the meat was nasty and fatty and--

Ugh. She didn't want to think about it.

Like the short lived 'Peking II', this new restaurant was decorated in the architectural style of a traditional Chinese building. The entrance to the parking lot was flanked by golden lions.

Classy, but Sam felt that there should be some restrictions on that. Like: a restaurant shouldn't just be able to buy golden lions-they should have to earn them. There should be some kind of governing body of Chinese restaurants, and based upon how well they did on their inspection, then they could talk lions.

Think about it: if they pulled up to a new Chinese restaurant called the 'Jade Dragon', but the gate to the parking lot was flanked by two garden gnomes, they'd know to just keep on driving. It was simple, really.

Sam thought about voicing her logic to the group when Brooke addressed a more important issue.

"Is there any General Tso's?" she asked, peering into the containers.

"Actually, I thought they didn't have it at first--" He smiled at the horrified looks on their faces, and handed the container to his daughter. "They had Governor Tso's Chicken instead."

"Well," Sam offered, "good to see he's finally gotten that promotion."

Brooke laughed aloud and beamed that smile her way. Sam loved to hear her laugh, but had come to realize that she wasn't nearly as funny as Brooke would lead her to believe. Brooke was in love, and thought all of Sam's dumb joked were funny.

It was nice being in love, she decided.

Her mother just rolled her eyes. "That's as bad as your father's jokes," she smiled.

Sam grinned at Mike, and it wasn't until their eyes met that she realized that Mom had been talking about Joseph McPherson.

She averted her gaze quickly, awkwardly. She didn't understand why she'd instinctively glanced at Mike when her mother said that.

Mike wasn't her father. She liked the guy-and she could say that with sincerity now. In the past year she had let go of the petty hang-ups she'd had in the early days of cohabitation. She knew that Mike wasn't trying to replace her father. Ironically, once she realized that she had allowed him to fulfill that role more and more.

But Joseph McPherson was her father-not Mike McQueen.

She felt a tap on her leg, and looked around the table. Her girlfriend was staring at her, and silently annunciated 'Are you okay?'

Sam smiled and nodded. She risked a wink at the blonde. Brooke's smile widened, and she looked down at her food, blushing.

Jeez, I hope Inspector Jane didn't see that, she thought to herself. She stole a quick glance in her mother's direction. Good: she was engaged in conversation with Mike. Whew.

There was only so much her mother could ignore before the overwhelming evidence forced her to reopen the case. The last thing she'd expected a couple of weeks ago was for her Mom to sit the two of them down and say she had suspicions about her and Brooke's relationship.

She had seen enough that Sam knew their options were limited, and had almost copped to the whole thing.

But she decided to tell her Mom that she was gay. She gambled that if her mother could attribute enough of their strange behavior to that, she would ignore the other evidence she had accumulated. Sam bargained that her mother didn't actually want to hear that she and Brooke were together, and if she gave her an 'out' she would take it.

It worked. Thankfully, she hadn't been obnoxious either. Parents loved projects-and the last thing Sam wanted was to become 'Jane's Gay Daughter'. She was afraid she'd start sporting a 'Proud Parent of a Lesbian' bumper sticker, or wanting to go to a support group for gay teens or something.

She wondered if her Mom had told Mike.

Interesting question. She should tell Mike everything, being that they were getting married and had a child together. But she probably viewed this as something that wasn't her right to say anything about-waiting for Sam to mention it.

That had to be it. Mike hadn't acted any different in the days since she'd told her mother-and he wasn't that good of an actor. There would have been some indication: an uncomfortably long stare, if nothing else.

She would have to tell him. Maybe an opportunity would present itself this evening?

Uh, no, she decided. No family drama tonight. She wasn't in the mood, deciding to just enjoy her Chinese food.

"Mike," Jane addressed her fiancé, and Sam could tell by the tone that she was about to give Mike bad news, "we've got to have those warped floorboards replaced. I almost tripped over it today while I was carrying Mackenzie."

"Is that what that is?" Sam asked. The dishwasher had flooded a couple of weeks ago. She didn't think anything of it at the time, and just helped Jane clean up the mess. But they had to get a plumber out and everything. "I slammed my pinky toe into that the other night," Sam informed them.

"So that's why you were swearing up a storm?" Jane frowned.

"It wasn't my fault, Mom," she protested. "That hurt like a jaguar on prom night."

There was the metallic 'clink' of a fork dropped on someone's dish, and then a silence so loud it was deafening.

Ohmigod. Sam replayed those four words over in her head-hoping there'd been some mistake. Or-maybe-the gland in her head that keeps her from saying REALLY STUPID FUCKING THINGS hadn't chosen that exact moment to get a cup of coffee-and those words had never actually made it past her mouth.

But she knew they had: because silences weren't normally deafening. Usually they were just-you know-silent. This one came with an annoying buzzing just behind her eardrums.

Sweet Jesus. She didn't know who to apologize to first. Her cheeks were on fire: she was blushing terribly. "Mike--" she began, but then turned to address her girlfriend first.

The look on Brooke's face was heart rending: shock, and then a sad resignation as she looked down at her plate. "Brooke, I'm so, so sorry. I--"

Everything she wanted to say was stuck in her throat (yeah, now the gland works). She wanted-needed-to tell Brooke how much she loved her, and how the accident was tied for the worst moment of her entire life, and how she would never make light of it.

And yet she had. Why? What could possess her to say something like that?

"Mike, I'm--" she tried again. "That night was-I still have nightmares about it. I don't know why I..." Her voice trailed off.

"That's the second time you've made a remark about that, Sam," her mother pointed out.

"Third," Sam confessed-staring at her dinner. She couldn't look at any of them anymore. She didn't know if she ever could again. "I-I said something to Mary Cherry last week.

"I'm sorry." That was to Brooke again.

Her jaw was trembling. She bit her lower lip to stop it, but something hot and wet streaked down her face. It seemed so important to tell Brooke that she loved her-to remind her-but she couldn't. Not in front of Mike and her Mom. And that felt like a vise squeezing her heart.

"Sam," her mother demanded, "why would you say something like that?"

"I-I don't know," she answered truthfully. And then the levee broke, and she buried her face in her hands as she cried.

If she had the strength she would have gotten up and ran from the room. She didn't want them to see her like this, and she certainly didn't want their pity. She didn't deserve that.

And she was afraid that her stupid remark had cost her the thing that meant most to her in the entire world. Because-deep down-she knew she didn't really deserve that either.

Sam did what Sam did best: retreated-into her room, and into herself.

Her breakdown at the table caught the family as off guard as it did her. Her mother had called her name, and Sam could hear the concern in her voice.

She didn't want her mother's compassion. It was enough to propel her into action, and she sprang out of her chair and up to her room.

It was the coward's way out-as usual. But that was her in a nutshell: her modus operandi. When the going got tough...

Sam McPherson got the hell out of there. You could take that to the bank.

A knock at the door. "Sam," her mother called. "Can I come in?"

Why? What was there to talk about? And-besides-who knew what bile was going to spew forth from her mouth next. Sam put her chin on her knees and decided to watch the movie in her mind instead. It was one of her favorites: happy memories starring a certain blonde cheerleader. Eventually her mother would go away.


That voice she couldn't ignore. "It's open," she capitulated immediately. Just watch me fold, she chuckled to herself ruefully, Sam McPherson and her impression of a cheap lawn chair.

Brooke smiled at her as she entered the room, and she melted. God, she would do anything for this girl.

Brooke turned to Jane, and the two exchanged glances. Jane took her cue, telling them: "I'll be downstairs if you need me."

Suddenly able to view their relationship from an outsider's perspective, she marveled at how her mother had allowed Brooke to replace her-to become the person who took care of Sam. No wonder she'd had suspicions about their relationship.

Was her mother downstairs thinking the same thing?

She searched herself, and found she didn't care. Let them find out. If Brooke still loved her after what she'd said, the repercussions of their parents finding out would be a small price to pay.

Brooke locked the door, and came to her without hesitation. She crouched on the floor and wrapped her arms around Sam. The warmth of the blonde's body, of her breath, permeated to her very soul.

But she didn't deserve Brooke's love. Part of her wanted to push the blonde away-to punish herself further for what she'd said. To make the agony go on. But she couldn't. She needed this on a molecular level.

Resistance is futile, she reminded herself.

"Are you okay?" the blonde asked.

"How can you ask me that?" Sam sputtered. "After I--"

"Shh!" Brooke held tight as she struggled to free herself. Finally she relented.

"I was afraid you'd hate me," Sam confided.

"Hate you?" Brooke repeated in disbelief. "Sammy, I love you. I could never hate you."

"But what I said--"

"You didn't mean to say it," Brooke rationalized. "Sam, I know how you felt that night. I can remember your voice. It frightens me-even now-when I think about it."

Brooke's eyes went distant for a moment. "I couldn't imagine witnessing that happening to you." A shudder ran through the blonde's frame. Brooke turned to her. "You're still having the nightmares?"

Sam nodded, finding something interesting to look at on the floor. "Not all the time, but yeah," she answered. "It's worse when I sleep alone."

Brooke's arms tightened around her, and this time she sank into them-allowing them to banish the ghosts of that night. At least temporarily.

"I just don't know why I would say that," she admitted.

Brooke chuckled. "Sadly, Sammy, I don't think that's the worst thing you've ever said to me."

Sam sputtered a laugh through her tears, but her good humor evaporated. "That's true-because I remember the worst thing I ever said to you," she said.

"Sammy," Brooke stroked her face gently, trying to coax her out of her maudlin thoughts. But it was no use.

"I said--" Sam began, barely able to repeat it. The knowledge that she said these words to the person she loved-knowing now that she had wounded that person to her very core. It was appalling, and was more ammunition for the funk of self-loathing she waded in. "I said your mother must have been glad to leave you," she recalled. "I'm so sorry for that," she apologized again.

"I know," Brooke assured her. "And I should apologize too: I think I hit you if I remember right."

Oh, Sam remembered all right. That was the moment when she realized that cheerleading built muscle. "Don't apologize. I deserved it after what I said-especially now, knowing what that must have done to you."

"I don't blame you for that, Sammy," Brooke said. "Really, I don't!" she insisted, protesting Sam's skeptical raised eyebrow. "We weren't 'us' then-we were two kids reacting-badly-to our parents getting together. We were hurting and turned our wrath on each other because we didn't dare rock the boat with the one parent we had left."

Huh, Sam thought to herself. That was a pretty astute observation. "You're pretty smart."

Brooke took her hand. "Sam," she began, "I want you to do something for me."

Sam looked down at their clasped hands, and tried her best to smile for the person who met the most to her in the entire world. "Anything."

"Miss McPherson?" the receptionist addressed her. "The Doctor will see you now." Sam smiled sweetly. The woman's overly soothing voice bordered on the condescending, and irritated the hell out of her.

Sam stood up, and proceeded through the interior door. Note to self: Sam mused, no unconditional favors for Brooke.

"Hello, Sam," Dr. Halley greeted her. Sam took the offered hand. "Thank you for coming."

"Um, thank you for seeing me," she replied after a brief pause. For several moments the retort 'Only because Brooke made me' jumped up and down with its hand raised in the air-begging to be selected.

She decided on diplomacy, reasoning that her mouth had gotten her into enough trouble already.

Sam looked around the room curiously, and a chuckle escaped Dr. Halley.

"Everyone does that," the woman smiled. "Looks for the couch," she answered question implied by Sam's raised eyebrows.

"Most therapists I know just have chairs," she said, gesturing to the one across from her. "Have a seat."

Sam sat across from Dr. Halley, and folded her arms across her chest. She saw the Doctor's eyes take in her form, analyzing her. She remembered reading about 'defensive postures', and-with a frown-sat up with her hands folded and her elbows on her knees.

"Relax, Sam," the Doctor said. "You're not being judged."

Yeah, right, Sam thought to herself.

"So, Sam," Dr. Halley perused a manila folder in front of her, "would you like to talk about why you're here?"

Not really. "I guess," she ventured instead. "I made a sarcastic comment about something--"

"The accident involving your step-sister."

"We're not step-sisters," Sam was quick to point out.

The Doctor accepted this with a quirked eyebrow of her own. "I treated Brooke after the accident. Did she tell you that?"

Sam nodded. "She said you were very helpful. That's why I'm here.

"She's been trying to get me to come for ages," Sam added as an afterthought.

"You don't like therapy-or therapists-do you, Miss McPherson?"

The woman's demeanor wasn't challenging, but curious. Sam did her best to answer honestly. "I don't like having to rely on somebody else to fix me," she said as bluntly as she could. "I should be able to do it myself."

She paused, expecting the Doctor to chime in, but instead the woman waited for her to continue. "It's just become so commonplace these days to vent your problems to strangers-a therapist, Jerry Springer-and to blame everyone but the person in the mirror. I think it's replaced baseball as the national pastime."

The Doctor grinned at that one.

"I said those things about the accident," Sam declared. "No one made me do it: not my mother, not Mike, and certainly not Brooke. It was all me."

"But why did you say it?"

Sam was quiet for a moment. "I don't know."

"Sam," Dr. Halley began, "I'm not here to 'fix' you. I don't know why you said those things to Brooke either."

Sam looked up at her, and her surprise must have shown on her face. Dr. Halley smiled. "No," she grinned. "I don't have the answer. My job is to facilitate the conversation that will help you find the answer.

"You are going to fix you," she explained. "I'm just here to help-and to occasionally hand you proper tool.

"How does that sound?" she asked.

"Good," Sam admitted with a nod. Maybe this wouldn't be so bad after all.

Dr. Halley shuffled through the file. "You and Brooke have had some considerable animosity over the years, haven't you?"

Sam grinned. "Most of that's behind us."

"Then why did you blanch at calling her your step-sister? I think that underneath the surface, maybe some of that tension is still there."

Oh geez, Sam thought to herself. She debated what to do. She had promised Brooke that she would make an honest effort at the session today, and they would get nowhere if...

"Doc," Sam began, "You always see Doctor-Patient Confidentiality on TV and in the movies. Is that real?"

"Absolutely, Sam," Dr. Halley assured her.

Sam wanted more. "So Mom or Mike aren't going to get a summary of what we talked about today?"

"No. Nothing of the sort. And neither will Brooke, in case you're worried about that.

"I wasn't," Sam replied. "I plan to tell Brooke everything." She continued, ignoring the Doctor's curious expression over her statement: "So I have your word, then?" Sam entreated. "Complete confidence?"

"Absolutely, Sam. You're free to say whatever you like."

"There's something you need to know," she disclosed. "Otherwise we'll never get anywhere-and I promised Brooke I was really going to try and make this worthwhile."

"What is it?"

She took a deep breath. "Brooke and I are dating. We're in love." She looked up to gauge the Doctor's reaction.

It was subtle: a twitching of the muscle around the eye, but other than that no visible reaction. Dr. Halley was probably a decent card player.

"I thought you were gay."

"I am," Sam confirmed.

"Does Brooke know that you feel this way--"

Sam shook her head. "It's not a one-sided thing, Doc. I always thought it would be-believe me-but it's not. Brooke's gay too, and we're in love."

Dr. Halley let out a breath. "Is it serious-and not just experimentation?"

"Yes," Sam answered.

"For both of you?" the Doctor prodded.

It was Sam's insecurities who spoke up first-who took this delicious nugget offered up by the good doctor and ran amok with it. But then Sam remembered Brooke's words: 'Forever', and how afraid the blonde had been to even voice them.

Their relationship meant everything to Brooke. Sam knew that. "I bought a ring," Sam informed the nosy Doctor, "and I plan on spending the rest of my life with her."

The Doctor reached behind her, and punched a button on the speakerphone on her desk. "Beatrice," she said, "cancel my two-thirty."

Brooke paced outside in the waiting room. She knew Jane's and her father's eyes were following her back and forth progress like a ball at the U.S. Open. She also knew that she was acting less like a concerned step-sister and more like an insanely needy girlfriend with stalker-ish tendencies.

No comments from the peanut gallery, she threatened her subconscious.

"Brooke," Jane broached, "are you okay?"

Brooke stopped, and addressed the woman who'd become her mother. "I'm just worried about Sammy," she divulged. And she made a decision in that moment: she was going to act exactly how she felt. Sam was her significant other, and she was having some sort of issue. No matter how many issues there were-and despite claims she may have made to the contrary-she was not cancelling her subscription.

If Dad and Jane inferred anything about their relationship because of how she was acting, so be it. She'd just watched her Sammy have a breakdown at the dinner table and it had scared the hell out of her. There was no way she could put on the casually disinterested persona now.

If they asked her, she would just tell them-and let the chips fall where they may.

Hell, they were at the therapist's office. Maybe now would be the ideal time to tell them. They could just book the whole afternoon.

Brooke tapped her chin thoughtfully and considered...

"I think the accident affected her more than she realizes," her father spoke up. "She was there for you in a way I never would have guessed-knowing the two of you," he interjected. "Its like she put her life on hold since that happened."

"Her life's not on hold, Dad," Brooke countered. "We're going to USC in the fall."

"But she was going to Northwestern," he pointed out. "Brooke, maybe she feels guilty because she was there and thinks she should have done something-like survivor's guilt. I think she feels that she owes you."

He thought for a moment. "She has to get on with her life-which will help you get on with yours."

"My life is fine," she argued. Wonderful, she wanted to say.

"Brooke, when's the last time you went out on a date?" he asked.

The other night, she thought to herself, when Sam and I went out to the movies.

"And I'm not talking about when you and Sam go to the movies," Mike frowned. "I mean a date that involves kissing."

Brooke could feel her cheeks getting red. Their date had involved kissing-as well as--

"Ahem." Was it warm in here?

Thankfully her father didn't seem to notice her trip down memory lane. But what was that look on Jane's face?

"Dad," Brooke frowned, "you know I don't like to talk about that stuff in front of you guys." She hoped that would be a good way of covering.

"You know," Mike snapped his fingers, "Paul at the office has a son going to USC this fall. I think Sam would really like him. How about I..."

Good God, Brooke lamented. Now her father was going to try and fix up her girlfriend. Could this day get any more stressful? She didn't want Sam going on a date with some dweeb-even a faux date-just to satisfy her father.

"Dad, Sam doesn't want to go out with some guy. She's--" she stammered.

"She's what?" he asked.

Brooke looked to Jane for support. She didn't know if she should tell her father that Sam was gay. She didn't think Sam would be upset-especially under the circumstances-but...

"Sam is gay, Mike," Jane informed her husband.

Brooke could see the wheels spinning in his head, running through all the possible definitions for the term. No, Dad, she wanted to say. Not 'really happy' gay. Gay gay.

"Really? Oh my God...!"

Just wait: if you're shocked now... Brooke thought to herself. His reaction boded well for her own revelation.

"I never would have--" he looked between Jane and Brooke. "Sam?" he asked again. "Our Sam?" Brooke nodded in confirmation.

"Huh..." he commented.

"Well," he regrouped. "There is this cute brunette that works at the coffee shop near the office. I overheard her saying she'd broken up with her girlfriend last week. Maybe..."

Make it stop. Brooke pressed her fingers to her temples.


Part II

Sam had recounted most of the details of her and Brooke's relationship, and had ended on the events that led her mother to suspect that something was going on between them.

"That explains why Brooke never mentioned your relationship when she was seeing me."

Sam nodded. "We didn't start going out until Christmas."

"That was sweet of you to set up that dinner for New Year's," Dr. Halley smiled.

"Thanks," Sam grinned bashfully. She still didn't feel comfortable talking about that sort of thing, but as before: every person who knew made their relationship that much more real.

"So why is it you that think you don't deserve Brooke?"

Sam was taken aback. "This isn't about Brooke," she asserted.

Dr. Halley weighed her response-her head tilted back and forth on her shoulders. "And it may not be. But this is clearly an issue with you. Why not address it while we're here?

"Why do you think you're not good enough for Brooke?" Dr. Halley inquired.

"It's not that I--" Sam began, and then changed tack. "Have you seen her?

"Yes, she is a very beautiful girl," Dr. Halley agreed. "Stunning, really," she added. "But, Sam, yours is a different look than hers, but you're just as striking in your own right."

Sam rolled her eyes at the compliment, but smiled just the same. "I know I'm not unattractive, it's just that..." Sam's struggled to articulate her thoughts. "Brooke is Aphrodite," she finally blurted out. "It doesn't matter how good looking you are, when you walk into a bar with Aphrodite, you are automatically Aphrodite's ugly friend."

Dr. Halley smirked. "Interesting metaphor," she quipped. "I'll bet Brooke thinks you're pretty."

"She does," Sam grinned at the floor. "Or at least she says she does."

"That's exactly what I'm talking about. Why would you say that? Do you not believe her?"

"I do," Sam replied. "I-It's just--" her words failed her.

"Just what, Sam?" Dr. Halley prodded.

"Why is she gay?" Sam asked. "I mean, if you would have told me a year ago that Brooke McQueen was gay, I would have told ya you were crazy." She remembered her surroundings. "No offense," she added.

Dr. Halley took the comment in stride.

"It just doesn't seem like Brooke is gay," Sam continued.

Dr. Halley ventured cautiously. "So the two of you haven't..."

"No," Sam replied-the apples of her cheeks burning. "We have. We do."

"And is Brooke an active participant?"

"She's an animal," Sam chuckled. "She jokingly refers to it as 'molesting' me, but it's not that far from the truth." Not that she minded.

"So she initiates sexual contact?" the Doctor inquired.

"Oh yeah," Sam confirmed. "At home, in the Novak...

"That's the bathroom at school," she clarified upon seeing the Doctor's puzzled look. The woman's eyebrows hiked up to her hairline and Sam wondered if she'd volunteered too much.

"She sounds gay to me," Dr. Halley concluded.

"But why?" Sam argued. She ran her hands through her hair. "I mean: I'm gay. If Brooke and I ever broke up-God, and it scares me to even say that-I know I would still date girls-once I drank like a fish and cried for three straight years, I mean," she amended.

"Her and I watched this porno once--

"Long story," she disclaimed in lieu of an explanation, "and I was definitely turned on by the women. They started kissing and making out in one scene, and I don't know if it was because I was watching it with Brooke or what, but I--"

She cleared her throat. "I know I'm gay. But Brooke, I mean, she could have anyone-male or female--"

"Why you...?"

It knocked the wind out of her, hearing her most private fear voiced out loud. "Yeah," she said, feeling the prickling in her eyes and hearing the tremor in her own voice, "why me?"

She looked down at her folded hands

"Because she loves you?" Dr. Halley offered.

"She does," Sam nodded. It was true. Sam didn't doubt that.

"And that makes you happy, doesn't it?"

"Happier than I've ever been," Sam confessed.

Dr. Halley scrutinized her. "Don't you deserve to be happy?"

Sam was silent for a moment. "I keep waiting for it to all go to hell."

"Why do you think it will?"

"Doesn't it always?" Sam challenged.

Dr. Halley let that one settle for a moment. "I don't know," she shrugged. "It seems that way sometimes, doesn't it?"

"Yeah," Sam nodded. She got up and looked out the window at the buildings in the distance. "Everything's going great-the story of your life, just like you always planned. And then bam! It all goes wrong-and it happens so fast your head spins. And you realize that there are no happy endings."

Sam felt a drop of salty liquid crawl slowly down her cheek. "It amazes me sometimes: that your whole life can change-it can be totally upside down from what you thought it would be-and you don't even know it.

"For those few hours, my life was absolutely normal," Sam continued. "They're like limbo now-and I remember them so vividly. I was worried about my algebra test--

"Fucking algebra!" Sam sniffed, wiping at her eyes. Her laugh was devoid of mirth. "There was a time where I thought my biggest worry was going to be a goddamn algebra test," she shook her head at herself-at her naïveté.

"We're not talking about Brooke anymore, are we?"

Sam was silent, and steeled herself for what was to come. She didn't talk about this with anyone-even Brooke. "My Mom came and got me out of school early that day. I-I never did take that test..."

It was so hard-even now-to even rewind to that day in her head. "Dad was sick. Real sick. We found out that night it was cancer."

Sam fought the aching just behind her eyes. If she lost it now, here, she was afraid she would break into so many pieces there just wouldn't be enough to put back together. "Fuck..."

She slammed her hand on the glass window.

"How long has it been?" Dr. Halley asked.

"Five years," Sam supplied. "Jesus, it's been five fucking years..." Suddenly she wanted to see Brooke. She thought about asking Dr. Halley to ask her in. But no. That was stupid. That was too much like help, and Sam McPherson didn't ask for help.

"What am I doing here?" she suddenly asked out loud. "This is getting nowhere." She turned on the Doctor. "Dredging this up again isn't going to help anything."

"How do you know?"

"I know! And my Dad dying isn't the issue. I've been there-I've seen the 'grief counselors'." Air quotes revealed her opinion of their efforts.

"I take it they didn't help much?"

"MY DAD DIED!" she bellowed. "What the fuck could they do?"

No reply. "Huh? What the fuck could they do?" Sam asked again. "With all their stupid words and platitudes--

"Oh, and if I had to hear that idiotic 'Footprints in the Sand' poem one more GODDAMN TIME!!" She grabbed fistfuls of her hair, and her bitter laugh was more like a bark. "I couldn't believe Aunt Maggie read that at the funeral! I wanted to fuckin' puke!"

She rounded on Dr. Halley. "And people kept asking me: 'is there anything I can do for you Sam'?" she mocked them in a sing song voice. "Yeah: bring my father back! Make him not be dead! How's that?

"Do that or shut the fuck up!" she bellowed, "because there's nothing else to do!"

She got up and paced the room, leaving scorch marks behind her. "You know, I hated Brooke when we first met-hated her," she confided, "but she never treated my any differently because of what happened. I liked her for that.

"Other people were all 'kid gloves' around me. But not her. No, she couldn't stand me, and wasn't afraid to tell me.

"On a regular basis," she chuckled, smiling sincerely for the first time in what felt like ages. "I hated her because I was so fucking in love with her.

"God, when Nicole hit her," Sam recalled, "I didn't know if she was alive or dead. I honestly don't know how she survived that, seeing it. And I just kept thinking: 'Not her too. Not her too.'

"I know this sounds melodramatic," Sam warned, "all 'teen angst' and shit, but I don't think I would have made it if she died." Sam stared out the window, and remembered how it felt that night to watch Brooke's life seep out of her onto the blacktop. She exhaled, and heard the tremor in her breathing.

"Being with her makes it seem like everything's okay-and that's what scares me," Sam confessed. "She even came out to see me one time at my Father's grave," Sam reminisced, "and it made it hurt less. I got the feeling that he was happy for me."

"I'm sure he is, Sam," Dr. Halley assured her.

"I--" Sam stammered. This was the hardest part. "I feel like I'm losing him again."

Dr. Halley again waited for her to continue. "Mom is marrying Mike. They've become a family. We've become a family.

"I looked at him the other day. Mom was talking about Dad, and I looked up at Mike without thinking."

"Do you know why?"

Sam nodded, the tears blurring her view of the window. "It's my fault."

"Why, Sam?"

Sam sniffed. "I don't know what I'd choose," she divulged. She squeezed her eyes shut tight, and the tears fell freely. She thought this was supposed to make her feel better?

"Choose? Choose what, Sam?"

"I always fantasized that I could get my Dad back somehow:" she said, "a genie would grant me a wish, or maybe they'd invent time travel and I could go back and detect it earlier...

"And then one day I realized that if I did that I wouldn't have Brooke," she revealed. "Yeah, I might know her, but I certainly wouldn't be with her. Mom and Mike would have never met on that cruise, we wouldn't have moved to The Palace, Mac wouldn't be here, and Brooke would despise me-just like she always did.

"And for a split second, I didn't know what my choice would be..."

She fought back the tears, because that wasn't the worst of it. She'd come this far: she might as well lay it all out for the world to see. "No," she retched from inside of her-her voice sounding as hollow as she felt, "that's not true. I did know what my choice would be." She put her face in her hands, not daring to see the look of condemnation in the Doctor's eyes. "Jesus!"

"And I'm so afraid I'm going to lose Brooke-as punishment for that. And I deserve it! Because what kind of daughter am I?"

"Sam," Dr. Halley attempted to halt the spiral.

"No!" she screamed. "It's true! It doesn't last-nothing ever lasts! There are no happy endings!

"My dad's ending sucked, and--" her voice cracked as hysteria threatened to overwhelm her, "what's his epithet?

"His own daughter forgot him!" she answered her own question, pleading the prosecution's case against herself. "And if she had the chance to bring him back she wouldn't-because she's happier without him!

"I told him I'd never forget him!" she wailed, the hypocrisy of her actions like a mirror to her soul. "I sat there as he died and told him I'd love him forever!"

"FUCK!" her shrill cry echoed through the office. She clawed at her face as she sat there. Memories flooded her without warning, moments that at the time seemed insignificant: visiting her father at the paper, or going out for ice cream or hot dogs-or something stupid that had been so great simply because he'd been there with her.

In her mind's eye she could see him smiling at her. God, what would he say to her now: knowing how she turned out?

"Sam?" the Doctor's voice reached out to her, pleading.

In the memories he was still smiling. Sam sat there, wanting him to see the real her-the failure she had turned out to be.

But he was still smiling, like he always did...

"Listen to me," Dr. Halley commanded, "you didn't choose for your father to die. You would never make that choice."

Sam shook her head. She knew what the doctor was going to say: something no doubt aimed at making her feel better. Fat chance.

"You didn't choose a new family over him, Sam. That's the path your life took-after you lost him so quickly, and so unfairly."

Sam looked up. No one ever called it unfair. And why? Damn right it was unfair. He was her Dad. She loved him more than anything in the world.

"He would want you to move on-to be happy."

"He wouldn't want me to forget him!"

"You haven't forgotten him."

"I have!"

"No, Sam," Dr. Halley countered, "you haven't. How could you?

Dr. Halley smiled. "You're Dad loved you-loves you still," she added. "And he knows you loved him.

"He's gone. He knows that you have to move on to be happy-even if that means having a new family. Especially if it means having a new family. He doesn't want you to hurt, Sam."

Sam felt the tears coming again, and she didn't fight it. She lowered her head and cried like she did at the dinner table. But it was better this time: with the tears went the pain and the poison.

"Can I get you anything, Sam?"

She debated with herself for a moment. To hell with it. "Can you get Brooke?" she pleaded.

Dr. Halley leaned over to the desk phone. "Beatrice, can you ask Brooke to come in--"

The door burst open so fast the change in atmospheric pressure ruffled the papers on the desk. The blonde surveyed the scene in a flash, and shut the door behind her. She went immediately to Sam and cradled the brunette in her arms.

"It's all right, Sammy," she said. "I've got you." Brooke pressed her lips to Sam's hair, and then remembered they had company.

"Um," she began, "there's something I need to tell you, Dr. Halley. Sam and I are--"

"I told her," a muffled voice called out from her chest.

"Good," Brooke said, and squeezed the brunette tighter.

After a few moments the tears subsided, and Sam sat up. She took Brooke's hand because it made her feel better, and because she could. "Apparently I have some issues," Sam revealed.

Brooke, to her credit, stayed silent-merely raising an eyebrow.

Sam couldn't help but smile. "Ha-ha," she said.

"I didn't say anything!" Brooke protested.

"You didn't have to," Sam chuckled.

"Sam, we both know I'm the crazy one," Brooke insisted.

"Shall I book you for next week, Brooke?" Dr. Halley quipped.

"No," Brooke grinned, "I've made peace with crazy."

"I don't have to do this again next week, do I?" Sam lamented. "I don't think I can take it."

"I would like to see you again," Dr. Halley replied. "But it can be when you feel up to it."

Sam nodded, and turned to her girlfriend. "One of the things I discovered is that I worry that you're not really gay."

Brooke arched an eyebrow. "Do I have to rip your pants off right here and prove how gay I am?"

"Brooke!" Sam admonished, turning beat red. Did she delight in doing that?

She did, didn't she?

"She seems pretty gay to me, Sam," Dr. Halley opined with a laugh.

"See?" the blonde affirmed, "and that's from a professional."

Sam smirked, amazed at the changes in her girlfriend over the last year-from the Brooke McQueen who was so afraid of being different in even the slightest way.

"Are you really okay?" Brooke asked. "I could hear you yelling," the blonde frowned. "Mom and Dad had to restrain me."

Sam chuckled.

"Yeaaahhh," Brooke acknowledged, "if Mom was wondering before...

"Oh, and my Dad wants to set you up with some brunette at the coffee shop near the office," she added.

"Is she cute?" Sam grinned.

"Oh, do I have to rip your pants off in front of Mom and Dad to prove how gay we are? There will be no Starbucks ho's in your future, Miss McPherson. You're mine!"

Sam smiled. She wouldn't have it any other way. "Let's go home," Sam said. The word had taken on new meaning-but it was all right. It was good.

The Doctor was right: her Dad would have wanted it this way. He loved her-he would want her life to go on.

He'd even told her that, now that she thought back. She was just too distraught to hear it at the time.

They walked hand and hand to the door. Sam stopped, and looked at their joined hands before entering the waiting room.

"We could just tell them now," Brooke suggested. She nodded toward Dr. Halley: "Book the whole afternoon...?"

Sam said nothing. She felt extremely fragile right now, and didn't want to let go off her lifeline. But she wasn't ready to face the parentals.

She had to will her fingers to let go of Brooke's.

"Soon," the blonde reassured her. "Soon-and I'll never let go."

It was enough-enough to give her the strength to walk through that door.

Sam's homecoming was cautiously optimistic. They greeted her at the waiting room with tentative hugs: speaking in hushed tones and cradling her gingerly like a Faberge Egg.

The ride home was quiet. The curiosity was plainly visible in Mike and her mother's eyes, but they didn't broach the subject. Sam decided to make a game of it, and see how long they could go without cracking and question her. She took the fact that she found this so amusing as a good sign that she was getting better.

It didn't hurt that Brooke-gauging the direction of her father's eyes in the rear view mirror-reached over to hold her hand.

She needed that, and could admit that to herself now. Once the blonde had said 'I love you' she had been irrevocably altered. Her DNA had rewired itself to include a dependence upon this other person-and it scared the hell out of her.

She remembered how sad she'd been the day they told Harrison about the two of them. Because she realized then and there that-while she didn't want to lose his friendship-she could live without him if she had too.

At the time she'd attributed that to being in the relationship with Brooke. And while that was certainly part of it, it wasn't the whole truth. She shut herself off when her Dad died. Sure, she was able to produce a passable imitation of her old self-and eventually her friends came to recognize the 'Sam' that they all knew and loved.

But it was a façade. She had never allowed herself to really need any of them-or anyone else for that matter-ever again. It was just safer that way-until a certain blonde cheerleader shattered all of her carefully constructed barriers.

So there she sat, vulnerable for the first time since she'd lost her father. She'd allowed herself to need somebody again-and apparently that frightened the hell out of her.

I guess I've had another breakthrough, Sam thought to herself, Wouldn't Doctor Halley be pleased?

Sam looked down at the hand enfolding hers. It was so scary: depending on another person-to open herself up like that. Could she trust this...?

A gentle squeeze brought her eyes up to meet hazel ones studying her. She couldn't help but grin at the smile in those eyes.

And then the blonde's lips were moving-silently annunciated three words:

I've got you, she said, and those hazel eyes shone like the sun itself.

The last of her defenses fell. 'Forever' was now in the hand encircling her own. She made a decision then and there to surrender her heart and soul to this girl-only to realize that she'd done so ages ago.

But it was all right: she wasn't afraid anymore.

She believed in happy endings again.

The End

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