DISCLAIMER: These characters belong to Ryan Murphy and the WB. No infringement is intended.
CONTINUITY: This is the fourth and final chapter of the Christmas series after 'Christmas, 2:33pm', 'Christmas at the Palace', and 'The Afterglow, 11:57pm'.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Many thanks to Redlance for her help during this long process.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

In the Wee Hours
By Quatorz


Sleep eluded Brooke McQueen. She craned her neck to peek at the LED readout of her alarm clock. It had been...three hours since she came to bed. Her cheeks were raw and her eyes were puffy and sore.

There was nothing left of her now-just an empty shell.

Her mind's eye kept dwelling on the last moments of her conversation with Sam. How could she have just stood there and watched Sam fall apart like that?

Even if all she felt toward the girl was friendship-and that she most certainly did-she should have done something-said something-to assuage the poor girl's grief.

But she just stood there.

No, her conscience reminded her. You walked away. You turned your back on her and walked away.

These three hours had not been kind to her tormented soul. Her conscience had peeled away the petty rationalizations and excuses that passed muster during the day and exposed them for what they were. In the wee hours soul searching is mandatory, and over and over she'd been forced to judge the person she'd become against the person she really wanted to be.

And she came up wanting. Brooke had never fashioned herself a coward, but what else could she call it? It was not a pleasant epiphany.

She didn't spend the entire span crying and wallowing in misery. For a time she engaged in fantasy-rapidly becoming her new favorite pastime. When she'd met Sam at her father's grave, she had imagined meeting Mr. McPherson for the first time when arriving to pick Sam up for a date.

Wouldn't it be great if things were different? If she could stop Sam in the cafeteria and ask her for a date without anyone thinking they were strange or different.

Or being able to tell Sam that she looked beautiful and receive that bashful smile in return? Or seeing Sam in the hallway at school wearing her cheerleading jacket, and the surge of pride she'd feel seeing 'Brooke' in monogrammed stitching-and knowing the brunette felt that same pride in declaring to the whole school that she belonged to Brooke, and Brooke to her.

It was simple and innocent this fantasy, and it made her smile.

And she imagined a world where Mr. McPherson had not died-and her beloved Sam was whole and unhurt-and she could meet him for real some Friday night when she picked Sam up for the movies. And he'd scrutinize her-giving her that look that told Brooke in no uncertain terms that he knew they'd miss most of the movie because they'd be making out.

But that was okay, because it was a teenage ritual-because that's what he and Jane had done when they were supposedly going to the movies.

Would he like me? Brooke wondered. She thought back to the argument with Lily earlier that evening: would he think she was good enough for Sam?

Does he? she pondered, looking through the ceiling to the heavens.

What the hell am I doing? she shook her head. She didn't even know if she wanted that.

But it made her wonder: if things were different-if she could date Sam without fear of being stared at or sneered at or being called a dyke, would she?

Yes, she realized with certainty. She enjoyed spending time with Sam-in fact she preferred her company to anyone else's. She practically bounced with excitement every morning knowing she would start her day seeing the brunette, and often thought about her during the day at school.

But did she love her?

That's what it really came down to-that terrifying question that she articulated for the first time today.

But was it really as simple as that? Was just 'loving' someone enough? If she and Sam were together, they would face being ostracized by their friends and maybe even their parents. They would be outcasts.

Was something as fragile as 'love' worth all of that? Love was a currency bandied about these days with no real worth. Marriages vows were forsaken before the champagne went flat and parents--

Her mother had professed to love her and then cast it-cast her-aside as soon as it became inconvenient.

Love was a disposable commodity in the 21st century. Was she to believe that Sam really meant it? That Sam's affection was somehow more genuine-more true than the multitude with their illusions of fidelity and platitudes about forever? That Sam McPherson really, truly loved her...?

She thought back to the look in Sam's eyes while they danced-and the heartbreak in them when they parted. Lily's words echoed through her memory: "...when Sam fell in love-really fell for someone-it would be for forever. That's just how she's wired. That's how her soul works.

"And she's offering that to you," Lily implored her.

Her eyes burned, and she blinked as fresh tears fell. Yes, Sam really did love her.

Summoning her courage, she took the leap. She finally asked herself the question that had been gnawing at the back of her mind for months: did she love Sam?

In her tattered emotional state-drained and defenseless-and ignoring the concerns that had to do with everyone other than the two souls to whom it mattered most-the answer came to her so quickly and powerfully that she gasped aloud in her empty room.

Oh, God! She started to cry in great, hiccoughing sobs, realizing that she had known the answer all along, and lamenting what her fear had almost cost her.

Might have cost her sill.

She wiped at her eyes and sat up, praying that Sam could find it in her heart to forgive her.

Moments later she approached Sam's door, where a quickly recited and answered prayer found it unlocked. She stepped quietly onto the carpet.

"Sam?" she announced herself. She guessed that Sam had probably had as much success at sleep as she had. She was careful not to use her nickname for the girl.

The brunette turned over, and looked over her shoulder at the blonde. "Brooke?" Her throat was raspy, and Brooke's heart broke. She could see the pain in the girl's face. "What are you doing here?"

Brooke approached the bed, afraid of being rejected by the brunette and not being able to say her peace. But Sam could no more resist her on this night than she could on any other night of their lives, and for that Brooke was grateful.

"I had to talk to you," she explained as she sat on the bed. Fresh tears threatened again, and she sniffed to hold them at bay. "I had to ask you--"

She placed her hand on Sam's cheek as her voice broke. The brunette's eyes closed. Brooke could see the conflict in her expression, but she leaned into Brooke's touch. "Ask me what, Brooke?"

Suddenly words failed her. That had always been Sam's specialty anyway. What could she say that could possibly encompass everything she was feeling, everything she wanted to express?

She hoped this would at least come close.

"Will you be my Sam McPherson?" she asked, praying Sam would understand.

She saw hope gleam in Sam's eyes, and the muscles work as she swallowed a lump in her throat. "Is that what you want?" she whispered.

"Yes," Brooke nodded. "You're the one, Sammy: my one and only. You've always been. I--"

"Please, Brooke," Sam pleaded. "Please don't say that unless you mean it. My heart's breaking as it is. I-I couldn't take it if you just up and changed your mind," the brunette confessed.

Her words pierced Brooke's guilty conscience. "I'm so sorry I hurt you, Sammy," she stroked the planes of Sam's face. "I'm sorry that I was afraid of this. I was afraid that you were going to see how I felt before I was ready to tell you.

"You could always see right through me," Brooke acknowledged with a smile. "Right to my soul, Sammy. I think that's why I was always so defensive around you-and why I hurt you tonight." She wiped at errant tears, the memory of the pain in Sam's eyes still fresh in her mind.

"I love you, Samantha McPherson. I'm sorry it took me so long to realize it. I--"

"You love me...?" Sam echoed, astonished.

Brooke nodded, and met Sam's eyes with a shy, tentative expression. "And if you'll have me," she offered herself to the brunette. "I promise to never hurt you again for the rest of our lives," she vowed.

The awe, the look of childlike wonder in Sam's face was heartbreaking to behold.

Overwhelmed, Sam took Brooke's face in her hands and kissed her. Their lips met and all of the need in Sam's drew her deeper in. This was a lifeline to Sam, she realized.

If dancing with Sam had been heaven, then what was better than heaven? Time faltered as those soft lips-God, those lips!-melted against hers. Her heart palpitated in her chest-robbing her of breath, and a whimper escaped her as her hands buried themselves in Sam's hair. She let them explore further, eager to map all of this new terrain. She was dying to know all of Sam-to experience every inch of her, every aspect of being with her.

This is what Cosmo had been talking about: the fireworks, the primal, carnal yearning that scalded her from her lap to her throat. This was--


She started laughing in her amazement, and Sam pulled away from her. The poor girl looked terrified, and Brooke realized how she would feel if someone started laughing when she kissed them.

"I'm sorry, Sammy," she chuckled. "It's just-wow! I--" She stammered over her words. "I've never felt this before!"

Sam grinned hopefully. "Is that a good thing?"

Brooke nodded emphatically. "It's a very good thing," she assured the brunette. "I just wish we'd done this sooner. It would have saved me a whole lot of debate-and us a whole lot of time."

Sam cocked an eyebrow and grinned at her, and Brooke shivered in anticipation. Now that she had admitted her feelings she could finally acknowledge her desire. She marveled at what that saucy grin did to her-what it had always done to her.

With a growl she pounced on Sam, forcing the other girl back onto the bed and pressing their lips together again. Sam's laugh mingled into hers before they let their passion take over.

They kissed and whispered truths of the heart to each other for hours, eventually falling asleep in each other's arms.

Sam sat at the kitchen table with a glass of orange juice in her hands, but was too tired to drink it. She was very aware of the stupid grin plastered all over her face, but for the life of her couldn't make it go away.

She remembered her similar condition at the Christmas party, and couldn't believe everything that had transpired in such a short period of time. Last night she was on cloud nine because the blonde had smiled at her, but was so sure in her heart of hearts that nothing could ever come of it. Now--

She loves me. She still couldn't believe it. She would have worried that it was only a dream if she hadn't awoken a few hours ago with the blonde still wrapped around her.

They'd had a very pleasant evening, but stopped short of actually doing the deed (although she had a feeling that was coming soon. Brooke was extremely...passionate it turned out).

But Sam's favorite part of the night had just been lying there together as the first hint of dawn peeked through her window.

"I guess we should tell Lily she was right," Sam volunteered.

"Let's let her sweat it until school starts," Brooke countered. "She wasn't very nice to me last night."

"Lily was mean to you?" Sam asked protectively.

"Sam, she was being mean for you," Brooke reminded her.

"That doesn't matter," Sam replied indignantly. "Nobody talks to my girlfriend that way."

Brooke smiled. "I'm your girlfriend...?"

"Yeah," Sam broached. "Is that okay?"

"I think I'm the luckiest girl in the world," Brooke nodded, and kissed her again.

God, kissing Brooke was like everything she'd ever imagined and like nothing she'd ever imagined all at the same time. Because her imagination so didn't do it justice. There were just no words to describe how incredible it felt.

And I'm supposed to be a writer, she admonished herself.

She could write entire paragraphs--

No-sonnets! She could write sonnets devoted just to her lips. Shakespeare-Sam was convinced-Shakespeare would have written entire plays about those flawless lips.

And that tongue, Sam smiled dreamily.

"You're in a good mood," her Mom piped up, entering the kitchen. "That was a good Christmas, wasn't it?"

"The best," Sam nodded slyly.

"Whaaat?" Jane asked suspiciously.

"Nothing," Sam dodged the best she could. She thought about taking a drink of her orange juice to hide the big dumb grin, but another thought occurred to her. "Have you seen Brooke?"

"She left about an hour ago-while you were still asleep," Jane informed her.

"Did she say where she was going?"

Jane thought for a moment. "I don't think so. I think she just had some errands to run.

"There she is," Jane interjected, spotting the blonde through the kitchen door.

Sam's heart leapt, but thought that doing a happy dance in front of her mother would be inadvisable.

The door opened, and Brooke walked into the kitchen a minute later carrying several shopping bags. Their eyes met, and Sam could see Brooke's barely suppressed smile. "Morning," Sam managed to say.

"Yes-it is," the blonde replied. She shot Sam the ghost of a wink and turned to Jane. "Morning, Jane. I was talking to Dad. He says the two of you have plans for New Year's?"

Jane waggled her eyebrows. "We do," she grinned. "There's a party for one of your father's clients and then we're getting a hotel room in the city for the night. It'll be a nice romantic evening with just the two of us.

"Don't worry," she amended quickly, "we've got a sitter for Mac. But your father asks that you don't have a party here at the house-and that you be responsible whatever plans you make."

"Oh we will," Brooke assured her. "I don't really feel up to going out for New Years."

She turned to the brunette. "What do you say, Sam? You wanna just stay in this year for New Year's? A nice quiet celebration-just the two of us?"

"You know, I'd like that," Sam considered.

"Well, your father will be relieved," Jane assured Brooke. "He'll be able to relax and enjoy himself."

She looked at her watch. "I've got to go. I have an appointment to get my hair done. I'll see you both later!"

Jane waggled her fingers and disappeared a moment later. "Bye, Mom," Sam called to her retreating form.

Brooke wasted no time. Sam had just deposited her glass in the sink when Brooke pounced on her, tasting the orange juice on the brunette's lips and tongue.

Brooke licked her lower lip appreciatively, and Sam grinned when they came up for air. "Mistletoe," was the blonde's explanation.

Sam arched an eyebrow, and Brooke went weak in the knees. If only someone had told her it could be like this. Now she knew what all the fuss was about!

She'd taken some time this morning to just clear her head and think about everything. Yes, she overanalyzed everything to death, but the first thing she did was to accept the fact that she overanalyzed everything to death and move on from there.

She had a girlfriend. The whole thing still took some getting used to. But she came to the decision that what she felt for Sam was unlike anything she'd felt before in her life. It would be hard-harder, at least-being in a relationship with her than with Harrison or Josh, but whatever they had to go through would be worth it. As long as they had each other.

So it turned out that loving someone was indeed enough. People could glare at her and call her whatever they wanted-because those beautiful brown eyes looked at her just like they were doing now, and she got to kiss the softest, most sensuous lips on the whole damn planet.

She didn't know if she was gay before this, but she was gay for this girl. And now that she had her, her libido wanted to make up for lost time.

"Mistletoe?" Sam questioned, casting a skeptical glance up at the ceiling.

"Around her somewhere, I'm sure," Brooke grinned. She reached into her bag, and produced a pink rose. "I got you this," she offered tentatively.

Sam's face lit up, and Brooke knew instantly she'd made the right decision. She wasn't sure at first. Who gave who flowers when you were both girls? she had wondered. She'd finally said to hell with it, and bought her girlfriend a rose. She'd wanted to buy her a dozen, but thought that might be a little inconspicuous.

"Where'd you go?" Sam asked.

"It's a secret," Brooke grinned.

"A secret, huh?" Sam inquired, peeking into the bags.

"Ah, ah, Miss McPherson," Brooke warned. "You can't look in there. Some of that's a surprise for New Year's Eve-when I plan to do this." She plucked the rose from Sam's hand and tossed it onto the table.

The reporter understood the metaphor immediately: that Brooke had just de-flowered her. The brunette blushed in the most adorable way, and Brooke grinned.

She lifted Sam's chin. "If I can wait that long," she told her, surrendering to her desires and gently brushing her lips against the brunette's. "I love you, Sam McPherson," Brooke told her again-just because she could.

And everything was right with her world.


Epilogue: Brooke's Secret

Brooke had gone to the florist that morning en route to her true destination. She'd bought the rose for Sam and a small bouquet of flowers for another very special someone.

Fifteen minutes later she laid the bouquet in the shadow of a marble headstone.

"Hi," she began-feeling a little nervous. "I wanted to come by and--"

She swallowed the lump in her throat. "Well, I wanted to tell you yesterday, but I wasn't ready to say it yet," she admitted. "Unbelievable the difference a day makes, huh?" she chuckled.

She studied the ground for a minute. "And I wanted to apologize: I said some mean things to her yesterday. She said she forgives me, but I wanted to tell you too.

"That's not going to be a habit," she pledged. "I want you to know that. The days of us trying to kill each other are behind us. Turns out I had some..." she grinned sheepishly. "Some sublimated tension regarding Sam."

She thought about the journey she'd made over the last few months. "I was afraid and confused, and I caused her a lot of heartache because I didn't know what I wanted.

"But I do now," she smiled softly.

"I just came to tell you...that you don't have to worry anymore." she vowed. "You can rest in peace now, Mr. McPherson.

"I'm going to take good care of your daughter."

The End

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