Title: Rational Appeal
Fandom/Pairing: Popular, S/B
Archiving: This will be at www.realmoftheshadow.com/harper.htm with the rest of my drivel. Kim is kind enough to house it.
Disclaimers: I do not own them. If I owned them, things wouldn’t have stopped with Season Two. I’m not making any money from this, and I hope the creators don’t get overly offended at my hi-jacking of their creations.
Spoilers: Post-“Caged!”, the Season One ep where the boys lock the menstruating girls in the Novak in hopes that they’ll work through their differences. Nicole has just stolen everyone’s secrets, and they are forced to fess up, one by one. Lily’s secret is that she’s questioned her sexuality.
A/N: This is un-beta’d, so please ignore all mistakes. Comments are always welcome, no matter the flavor. I’ll be at email@example.com.
Brooke nearly screamed when she looked up to see Sam lounging in her doorway, arms crossed over her chest and a smirk on her face.
“Jesus!” she hissed, hand flying to her chest. “What’s with the scary stalker pose?”
Ducking her head slightly, Sam stepped into the room, closing the door behind her. “Nothing. I was just thinking…”
Pushing up on her elbows so that she was in a sitting position, drawing her duvet up over her lap, Brooke arched a brow in Sam’s direction. “And did you strain something?”
Ignoring the comment with a roll of the eyes, Sam sighed. “I thought we called a détente. Don’t tell me this afternoon’s live and in person episode of Wild America was for nothing.”
She was referring, of course, to the boys’ less than genius plan to lock the six warring girls into the Novak together. Strangely enough, the revelation of their darkest secrets had actually cooled the fires of their hatred… momentarily. At the very least, they hadn’t instigated a food fight at the post-carnage dinner celebration at ‘Croutons’.
Relaxing slightly, pushing down her immediate impulse to find the most scathing comment possible and deliver it in her most spiteful tone of voice, Brooke instead said, “Okay then, are you going to tell me what you were thinking about?”
Settling gingerly onto the foot of the bed, turning her body slightly so that she was facing Brooke, Sam smiled mischievously, the gesture immediately putting Brooke on edge. “I was thinking about Lily’s secret,” Sam murmured, something in her tone setting off alert klaxon’s in Brooke’s head.
A distinct feeling of being set-up settled over her, but Brooke nonetheless strove for calm as she said, “Yeah, pretty brave of her to own up to it.”
Smile deepening, Sam scooted infinitesimally closer to Brooke, fingers picking absently at the blonde’s duvet. Voice carefully neutral and nonchalant, she said softly, “She wasn’t the only one.”
Heart rate immediately accelerating, Brooke frowned. She didn’t know what had prompted her to make her own little confession of curiosity, but seconds after the words were out, she wished she would have had the wherewithal to hold them in. So, voice slightly challenging, she said, “I was simply offering Lily my support.”
“Oh,” Sam replied, tone full of faux surprise, “so you didn’t actually mean it?”
Face a portrait of consternation, brows drawn together in a frown and jaw set, Brooke gritted out, “That’s not what I meant.”
Smile turning triumphant, Sam said victoriously, “So you did mean it. Need help with the women seeking women personals ads, Brookie? How about ‘All-American classic girl next door seeking the same, cheerleaders a plus’?”
“Only if you let me be your sponsor in Bitches Anonymous,” Brooke said tightly, pulling up the duvet protectively. “Does the notion that I don’t exactly fit into your preconceived stereotype of me upset you, Sam?”
“Not really,” Sam replied dismissively. “Actually, it made me think of Christmas.”
“What, the gift of an expose, handed to you without any work on your part,” Brooke said bitterly. The last thing she needed to be dealing with was a vindictive Sam. With the day’s revelations, she had more than enough on her plate. She’d been far happier thinking that Josh was pining for her, that he was there in the wings waiting if she happened to change her mind. Now, she didn’t think she could ever want him. Not after he’d made out with Sam an hour after leaving her bed, after he’d slept with Nic following their break-up and had started dating Carmen the day after pleading with her, professing his love. She couldn’t have a relationship where she wasn’t the only indecisive basket case. Someone needed to be sane.
Inching even closer, Sam said slyly, “Actually, no. I was thinking about how you told me that I was beautiful. Were you hitting on me, Brooke?” she finished, amusement plain in her tone.
At that, Brooke groaned. She’d given Sam that stupid picture of them with her Dad and Jane, had felt some perverse need to be honest when she’d seen the sheen of distrust in her eyes. That’s what you get for honesty, she thought perversely. A big fat bite in the butt when you least expect it.
“You’re an ass,” the blonde muttered finally, scowling.
Grin insanely wide, Sam taunted, “But a beautiful ass. Wait, have you been checking out my ass too?”
“You need to leave now, go back to delusionland where you so obviously own a condo,” Brooke said bitterly, thoroughly detesting her newly discovered position of object of ridicule. “I can see why Lily wouldn’t want to talk to you about it.”
Sam bit off a gasp, smile disappearing instantly. “That was totally uncalled for.”
“What friend wants their secret to be met with mocking and ridicule, Sam?” Brooke shot back aggressively. “Lily’s obviously a good judge of character, because she knew better than to confide in you.”
Frowning herself now, Sam said defensively, “I wasn’t making fun of you, Brooke.”
“Then you need to put in some work on non-judgmental and supportive, because you’re obviously unable to express those emotions like a normal human.” Sitting back, eyes flashing, Brooke challenged Sam to refute her, to turn it all around so that it was an attack on her. Just like she did all of the time, stealing away everyone else’s emotional crises and sucking them into the black hole of ‘Everything revolves around Sam’ with which she’d surrounded herself.
Back slouching, the pose complimented perfectly by the pout of lush lips, Sam grumped, “I didn’t come in here to fight.”
“No,” Brooke said angrily, “you came in here to make fun of me. You came in here to use what I said against me. It’s so predictably typical Sam McPherson behavior that I can’t believe I wasn’t expecting it. I guess I bought into the whole façade of the supposed détente, which means I must be pretty stupid.”
Exasperated at the turn in the conversation, Sam said earnestly, “I swear to you, Brooke. I didn’t come in here to make fun of you; I didn’t come in here to hold anything over your head. I like it when we’re not fighting. I don’t want to ruin that.”
“Then why did you come in here?” Brooke asked archly, crossing her arms over her chest expectantly. “Did you come to gloat? Is this about Josh?”
“Josh has nothing to do with this,” Sam muttered, then stopped. Straightening her shoulders, she said slowly, “Actually, yes. Josh does have something to do with this.”
Shaking her head in disgust, Brooke nonetheless said, “Then go ahead and brag, or whatever it is you want to do.”
“I don’t want to brag,” Sam said tiredly. Then, voice haltingly slow, she added, “I told you I couldn’t do that to you. I told you that I made him stop because I didn’t want to hurt you.”
Guardedly, Brooke replied, “Yeah, that’s what you said.”
“It was the truth, Brooke. I told Josh to stop because I didn’t want to hurt you. I told Josh to stop because I care about you.”
Slightly stricken that she’d admitted it, Sam swallowed heavily, anxiously awaiting Brooke’s reply.
“Yeah, you care about me. Blah, blah, blah… didn’t want to hurt me,” Brooke said jadedly. “Tell me more. I almost believe you.”
Feeling her frustration grow, Sam scowled. “Who do you think about?” she asked fiercely.
The change in topic left Brooke completely confused. Looking at Sam guardedly, she said slowly, “Not following you here, Sam.”
“You said that you’d thought about it too, that you’d questioned your sexuality. When you thought about it, who did you think about? Surely you had someone in mind, right,” Sam challenged, eyes flashing. “So, who was it?”
“You’ve lost your mind if you think I’m going to tell you anything else,” Brooke replied dryly.
Gathering together what little courage she could find, Sam said brazenly, “Because when I think about it, Brooke, I think about you.”
At the words, Brooke went absolutely still, the only movement visible the rapid rise and fall of her chest. Her lungs burned, seemingly unable to take in enough oxygen to satisfy her, and for a moment she thought she had to have been imagining things, because she could have sworn Sam had said…
“You think about me?” Brooke asked, a hint of wonder in her tone.
Mouth suddenly dry, Sam could only nod. She couldn’t believe she’d actually said it, though it had been her intention the entire time. The curiosity had been overwhelming. Ever since Brooke had intimated that she wasn’t entirely adverse to the idea, she’d had to know if she was adverse to the idea of putting her questioning to a practical test. Because, despite the promising tug of rational thought, her mind had somehow convinced her that Brooke had been leaving open doors in her wake since she’d moved into the McQueen house, and the only problem was that she’d been too scared to walk through one.
She just hadn’t realized that there wasn’t anything on the other side of that door. Just a vast cosmic wasteland through which she was plummeting without the benefit of a safety net, and she wondered suddenly why she’d ever had a notion that idiotic in the first place. There was no way that Brooke McQueen could ever want her, and the only thing she’d discovered by trying to find out was that she was a fool.
“Sam, that’s…” Brooke started slowly, voice kind.
“Oh my God,” Sam said quickly, nearly scooting off the bed in her haste to stand. “This is horribly, awkwardly embarrassing, and I’m not going to make either of us go through it, okay. So, just forget I ever said that. Mentally erase it from your mind, and we can pretend I never did this and the awkwardness and the embarrassment don’t have to happen ever again.”
“Where are you going?” Brooke asked, slightly bewildered by the turn in events and by Sam’s near record setting departure out of her room. Calling after the rapidly disappearing figure, catching Sam with her hand on the doorknob, Brooke said evenly, “I never got to answer.”
Taking a deep breath, wanting nothing more than to turn the knob and disappear into the relative safety and comfort of her own room, Sam forced herself to turn around, plastering on a fake smile as she said with faux gaiety, “Okay then. If you feel your must…”
“Come back over here first,” Brooke demanded, pointing to the spot Sam had recently occupied.
Feeling herself on the verge of a whine, Sam hedged, “I think I’d rather stay over here.”
“Back. Now,” Brooke demanded, the authority in her tone making Sam jump. Almost sheepishly, the brunette reclaimed her quickly abandoned position, eyes downcast and shoulders slumped.
“Whatever. I’m back. Cop to an undying lust for Angelina Jolie and this train wreck can come to an end,” she muttered dejectedly.
Giving it a moment’s thought, Brooke allowed, “Angelina Jolie is hot, and I’m not going to deny that there may have been some intensely vivid dreams in which she focused heavily, but she’s not who I think about.”
Striving desperately for bored and disinterested, managing to eek out only mildly enthralled, Sam said steadily, “While I appreciate your flair for the dramatic, maybe you could speed things up a little here. I have some dying of embarrassment to do, and I’d prefer to be alone in my room for that.”
“You’re so completely obtuse,” Brooke said on a sigh, fighting the urge to rub her forehead in frustration. “It’s you, you moron. I think about you.”
Sam blinked, then blinked again, but the memory of what Brooke had said remained the same. Voice strained, she said softly, “Did you just call me a moron while telling me you have dirty, lurid fantasies about me?”
“I never said I have dirty, lurid fantasies,” Brooke said defensively, throwing in a definitive nod of the head for emphasis. “Which is not to say I don’t, but I didn’t and won’t and would not admit to any such thing.”
“Isn’t the admission of a refusal to admit just as good as an actual admission?” Sam asked, somewhat confused by the blonde’s logic. Then, deciding it was really a rather picky point when the broader picture had so much more to offer, she added hesitantly, “Not that I would mind if you did have dirty, lurid fantasies. Or, if you wanted to try one out or something.”
Sitting back, slightly aghast, Brooke said incredulously, “Did you just proposition me?”
Flustered, Sam stood suddenly, feet already itching to run. “No,” she protested emphatically. “I merely expressed a pre-agreement with any plans you might have for tentative exploration of the recently established mutual curiosity.”
“What the hell are you saying?” Brooke asked crossly, brow furrowed. “Have you always talked like this, because that made no sense.”
Sam felt anger and frustration bubble up, join together, and overwhelm her desire to find out more about just what exactly Brooke had meant when she said she thought about her. For some reason, she couldn’t shake the vague feeling of anticipatory humiliation that washed through her every time she met Brooke’s eyes, so with clenched fists, she growled, “I’m leaving now.”
Covers quickly thrown free, Brooke was on her feet in a second, hand reaching out to wrap around Sam’s wrist, pulling her to a stop. Brown eyes swung her way with a hint of incredulous expectation, and Brooke pulled herself upright, posture perfect as she said regally, “Well… aren’t you going to kiss me?”
“Kiss you?” Sam squeaked, an instantaneous blush rushing through her cheeks. She felt slightly disconnected from herself and definitely disconnected from the situation, because it was highly improbable that what she thought she’d heard had actually been spoken. In fact, it seemed patently ridiculous.
Tossing her hair back over her shoulder, Brooke said arrogantly, “Yes, kiss me.”
“Brooke, I think we need to think about this calmly and rationally…” Sam said placatingly, not quite sure how it was she’d ended up the sane one in the situation but determined to put the craziness in context.
“Oh, for God’s sake. You’re going to make me do it,” Brooke muttered, giving the wrist she was still holding a hard tug, spinning Sam around so that the girl was dangerously close. Closing the distance with a step, Brooke slid her hand behind the back of Sam’s head, lips unerringly finding the other girl’s for what she intended to be a brief, albeit mindnumbingly searing, kiss.
Then Sam moaned, body melting into hers, and Brooke decided that the value of making short, pointed statements was highly overrated. Letting go of Sam’s wrist so that she could wrap her arm around the other girl’s waist, Brooke deepened the kiss, tongue flicking out to brush against the brunette’s bottom lip. Taking full advantage of the moment, Brooke kissed the other girl thoroughly, only stopping when she felt Sam begin to stiffen.
Pulling away slowly, innately pleased to see that Sam’s eyes stayed closed a second longer than necessary, Brooke merely waited.
“Uhm,” clearing her throat to combat the crack in her voice, Sam said, “that was nice.”
“Nice?” Brooke echoed angrily, Sam’s words underwhelming her. “I blow your mind and all you can say is ‘nice’?”
Embarrassment rushed through her at Brooke’s words. She’d been far more affected by the kiss than she wanted to admit to herself, and certainly to the blonde. So, deep scowl descending instantly, Sam said defensively, “Narcissistic, much?”
“Please,” Brooke replied dispassionately. “If I’d kept going, you’d have been putty in my hands in less than five minutes.”
Deeply insulted, partly because she suspected it was true, Sam disengaged herself from the blonde’s hold. “This time I really am going,” she said determinedly, wondering what had possessed her to think that confronting Brooke might possible be a good idea. It was a horribly bad idea, that much was clear, but epiphanies weren’t of much help when they came five minutes too late.
She didn’t know why the girlishly insecure note in Brooke’s voice made her stop, but when the other girl spoke, Sam found, much to her disgust, she couldn’t move. “Sam, where are you going?”
For a moment she wondered if she was trapped in one of those horror stories where everything was destined to repeat itself. She threatened to leave, Brooke asked her where she was going, and then it started all over again. It was disgustingly juvenile, not to mention horribly inefficient. It was like she’d accidentally landed a starring role on Dawson’s Creek, only without the creek and the hefty paycheck.
“This is ridiculous,” she muttered, spinning around again, trying to ignore the way Brooke’s pout made her want to wrap the other girl in her arms and hug her until she could make everything all better.
Slinking back to her bed, settling uneasily on the edge of the mattress, Brooke crossed her arms over her chest and scowled. “We have to talk, Sam.”
Head already vehemently denying the necessity of that suggestion, Sam said quickly, “No. There’s been far too much talking already.”
Seeming to reach an inner conclusion, Brooke said decisively, “We’re going to have more talking, whether you want it or not. You obviously came in here wanting something, something which I think you found, but now you seem determined to run away and pretend like this whole thing never happened. And, I really don’t understand that. Why come in here and tell me you have the hots for me and find out I have the hots for you if you can’t handle all the hotness? I mean, we kissed one another, Sam. That’s a big deal.”
“You kissed me,” Sam pointed out with deliberate patience.
Rolling her eyes, Brooke grumbled, “Whatever. It still happened and you still liked it.”
“Maybe,” Sam allowed, “but then I realized how stupid the whole thing was. I mean, where do you go from here? Making out with your almost step-sister is probably pretty much the entire recipe for becoming a social pariah.”
“And here I thought you were above caring what other people thought of you,” Brooke scoffed. “It’s the only explanation I have for those bangs.”
Stepping back quickly, highly insulted, Sam nonetheless reached up tentatively, smoothing down said bangs as she said with far more insecurity than she’d like, “Do you really think they’re that bad.”
“They definitely need help,” Brooke replied with stark honesty, “but you’re avoiding the issue.”
“I can’t believe you so totally chickened out,” Brooke said with a sarcastic laugh. “You come in here intent on prying information from me. You find out what I highly suspect you were hoping to hear, then you freak.”
Slouching over to the bed, settling down beside Brooke, Sam sighed. “Maybe,” she allowed, “but I didn’t actually think it would turn out this way. I really just came in here to bury all hope, so to speak, and then you completely defied my expectations. Kind of like you always defy my expectations, like it’s your life’s goal to prove me wrong, and now I have no plan.”
“Planning’s important to you?” Brooke asked curiously, inching closer to where Sam was sitting. Hesitantly, she slid her hand across the satin of the duvet, twining her fingers with the brunette’s.
Alarmingly excited at the feel of Brooke’s skin pressing against hers, Sam nodded. “Surprises aren’t really my thing. I like to know how something is going to work out, then derive immense satisfaction when I’m proven correct. I prefer unparalleled genius to unexpectedly pleasant detours.”
“Unexpectedly pleasant?” Brooke repeated with a bit of a smile. “That sounds more promising than the mechanically scared ‘I’ve got to go’ you were trying to get away with a minute ago.”
Burying her head in her free hand, groaning, Sam murmured, “You’re disturbingly okay with this.”
“I know. It’s weird,” Brooke admitted with a little laugh. “I guess I’m just tired of telling myself that I’m not attracted to you. I’ve been all into this self-introspection stuff since Josh and I broke up, and I’ve decided that I don’t want to lie to myself any more. I’ve always tried to be what everyone else expects of me. Now I’m not even sure what I expect of myself anymore, but I think I want to find out. The best way I can do that is to be honest with myself, and if that honesty means that I have to go out on a limb and fess up to my supposed arch-enemy that I’m totally crushing on her, then I guess that’s what I’ll do. Or have already done, or whatever.”
“Okay,” Sam said slowly, unconsciously tightening her grip on the blonde’s fingers. “If you’re going to be honest, then I can too. I, also, may like you more than I’ve previously admitted. And, I did like it when you kissed me.”
“I think it’s pretty clear that romance isn’t your forte,” Brooke drawled, fighting the urge to roll her eyes. “Besides, I already knew both of those things. Try again.”
Frowning, tongue swiping over her lower lip as she pushed down the desire to re-enact the hair-pulling catfight they’d had earlier in the face of the blonde’s obstinate insistence on forcing her hand and increasing the uncomfortableness to near intolerable levels, Sam instead said, “How’s this… I wouldn’t hate it if you kissed me again.”
“I already knew that too,” Brooke said impatiently, though her soft smile took the sting out of the words. “But, I can’t always be the one who initiates things. You might get the wrong idea about who’s in charge in this relationship.”
“Relationship?” Sam asked with an arched brow.
Voice haughty, Brooke said, “Isn’t it obvious? We’re clearly going to date now.”
“No one said anything about dating,” Sam said quickly. “Well, maybe you did, but I didn’t. And there was definitely no consensus reached on who would be in charge in this hypothetical dating scenario.”
Feeling the frustration start to creep up again, Brooke explained slowly, “You dig me, I dig you. You like to kiss me, I like to kiss you. You want to kiss me again, I want to kiss you again. See how dating appears to be the next rational step here?”
“Uh, maybe you’re ready to come bursting out of the closet, Brooke, but I’m not,” Sam said stiltedly. “Since when did you make the transition from pin-up to poster girl?”
“Please,” Brooke said dispassionately, the response not wholly unexpected yet still disappointing. So, reverting back to the established order of things, she continued, “Like I’d even think about displaying you in public without making sure, in complete private, that you were worth it.”
Pausing, stiffening in the seconds following her words, Brooke muttered, “This is stupid. I just said I was tired of lying, and then I start all over again. I’m not ready to make some kind of sweeping statement about my sexuality, but I don’t want to act like I’m ashamed either. So, while I’m not going to buy my Dad a rainbow key chain and sign him up for PFLAG, I’m not going to be a dirty little secret. You think you can handle that?”
“I need you to tell me a little bit more about your plan,” Sam said honestly, a little impressed with Brooke’s stand. The blonde did have the disconcerting habit of surprising her, of doing the exact opposite of what Sam expected on occasion.
Taking Sam’s lack of an outright refusal as a good thing, Brooke elaborated. “I mean that we should give this a shot. Take things slow, try dating and see what happens. And, if that works out, then maybe we think about telling our friends.”
“But no pressure, right?” Sam asked hesitantly, not sure which was the more daunting prospect – embarking on a romantic relationship with another girl or embarking on a romantic relationship with Brooke. She was fairly sure it had to be the latter, because though she’d had time to consider the girl thing and had even had time to consider the Brooke thing, the reality (and irony) of dating a blonde, popular, head cheerleader was far more visceral than she’d anticipated. In fact, recent decision to try and merge the friend groups aside, she was almost fairly certain it was in some way humiliating. Like she’d caved, like she’d abandoned all of her values and jumped sides to enemy lines with the full intention to enjoy every second of it.
“No pressure,” Brooke echoed, oddly at peace with her words. Which was strange, she realized, because she was aware that Sam seemed to be hovering close to hyperventilation, and if anything, of the two she had far more to lose. After all, Brooke had to face the distinct possibility that her popularity-crazed friends would use any kind of relationship between Sam and her as an impetus to push her off of the summit. She’d wind up alone and friendless, though she suspected that Sam wouldn’t really gain or lose any ground in the popularity game, and the only friend problem she was likely to face was Harrison. But, knowing Sam’s friends, with their actual friend-like nature, they’d come around and be happy for her and accepting and supportive, and the whole thing would be life affirming and positive. Which, Brooke realized with a quirk of a brow, made it all the stranger that Sam was the one who seemed most upset by this turn in events.
Refusing to let herself get caught up in what-ifs, particularly since any public disclosure was contingent on an actual ability to get along with one another, Sam tried to smooth out her breathing. The whole relationship thing might sound surprisingly good in theory, but previous practice had taught her that her ability to maintain a relationship with Brooke that didn’t involve taunting, hatred, and the occasional randomly thrown object was slim to none. Not that she wasn’t interested in making this particular portion of their relationship work, but she wasn’t going to get her hopes up until she had a little more concrete proof that it was actually possible.
Relaxing visibly as her momentary panic attack subsided, Sam smiled. “It’s a surprisingly sound plan,” she said, a hint of tease in her tone, consciously suppressing any doubts. “I could be down with that.”
Pleased with the apparent resolution of Sam’s mental battle, the blonde leaned forward, bringing their shoulders together. “I say we seal it with a kiss,” Brooke murmured seductively, looking up at Sam through her lashes.
Pretending to consider it for a moment, Sam closed the slight remaining distance between them, eyes twinkling. Regardless of any social and emotional ramifications this particular joining might have, she was completely down with the physical ones. “Yet another surprisingly well thought out plan,” she said with a grin. “I never knew you were a master strategist.”
“Sam,” Brooke said sternly, the wide smile on her face belying the seriousness of her tone, “shut up.”
As Brooke’s lips met her own, Sam realized that, for once, she was only too happy to comply.