Title: Forever Alone

Author: Aeryn Sun

Email: willowrose_98@yahoo.com

Feedback: Yes, please

Archiving: Ask, and ye shall receive. Just ask first.

Rating: R/Violence and for a certain expected level of high angst and touchy subject matter.

Spoilers: Any episode is fair game, I guess. This is NOT part of the Strange Road universe or Under These Rocks and Stones. Ach, a new series??

Summary: Character Death, you've been warned.

Couple: ahh....let me get back to you on that one

Warning: If the idea of two women involved in a romantic relationship together disturbs you, run, run far far away and never look back. If it's illegal where you live, move quickly. Too young? Age quicker, it's fun here. Other than that, enter at your own risk, and enjoy.

Author's Notes: I wrote this kinda as a catharsis for myself. It you don't like it, for whatever reason, I won't post anymore of it.

Disclaimer: Not mine, they used to belong to Touchstone but who the heck knows now? Not making any profit.

Forever Alone

I'm the one that found her there, lying slack like a rag doll on the floor. At first, before I took a good look, I thought maybe she'd fallen. Maybe even passed out. Then I thought (hoped) she was kidding. Granted it wasn't funny but I hoped that's what it was. But I knew, with that sick sinking feeling you get when you realize that your whole life has just changed, that she wasn't kidding. She had gone and done the unimaginable, the unthinkable and left me to pick up the pieces.

In a fit of desperation, I pressed my lips to hers and tried frantically to breathe life back into her unwilling body. Her lips, which once smiled with such warmth and kindness, were pale now and cool to the touch. The warmth signifying the life once within them long since fled before I came across her. Never one to back down from a challenge, I tried again, ignoring the chill of her skin and the lack of response from her still body.

I begged her not to do this to me even as my tears splashed down on her closed eyelids. Eyelids that hid those sparkling, vibrant, and intelligent eyes that I knew deep down somewhere in the core of my being I would never look upon again. They would never sparkle or twinkle at me again, never glare, glower or flare at me again as they had so often as we had grown up together.

I pressed down on her chest in an effort to restart her heart despite the small voice in the back of my head telling me how futile my actions were. I didn't care; I had to keep trying. I couldn't let go of her that easily. I tried to ignore the crimson liquid staining her arms, the sink, the floor, her shirt and now coating my hands in it's stickiness. It reminded me of child's fingerpaint, in some twisted way. A macabre reminder of how we first met in kindergarten. I had fallen and scraped my knee and she was right there, picking me up and telling me I'd be fine. Despite the fact that we never really got along until recently, her mere presence was usually enough to comfort my pain. Until this moment in time, that is.

Even shaking as I was, I realized that she wasn't coming back to me. Her spirit had left her body although I could still feel her presence in the room, surrounding me, comforting me as I cried. But she had left us, stolen from ME the vibrancy and uniqueness that made her her. She left a great gaping void in our lives, a huge jagged scar on the cosmic psyche caused by her absence that can never be repaired or filled. Too extreme a statement? Not in my opinion. It doesn't even come close to describing the depths of the emptiness within my soul without her here.

I don't know how long I sat there on the floor holding her cold limp body. Hours maybe, I'm not sure. But I knew that once I let go and left that room, she was truly gone. The reality beyond the door was one without her in it and I didn't want to face that. So I held her, talked to her, soothed her and forgave her. I felt a momentary flash of anger at what she'd done but it passed quickly. I can never stay mad at her for long no matter what she does. Eventually though, the cruel reality was that I had to go tell our parents. So I gently, lovingly set her down and stood up. But how do you tell a parent that their daughter is dead?

We buried her on a Friday. I wasn't going to go. I felt that my presence would somehow defile the ceremony, I don't know why. I hadn't actually done anything wrong. But Lily came and got me, told me how she would have wanted me there. How I owed it to her and that it was my chance to say good-bye. So I went, because I did owe it to her and to our friends and family to do that much. I think she would have been surprised by the turnout of mourners, both popular and unpopular. I think most of the school was there. It was comforting to know she touched that many lives. Anyway, I didn't say good-bye. That's something I'll never do. It's too final and would mean she's really gone. And that's something I won't, I can't accept.

I never wondered why she did it. I never had to, somehow I understood. I would have even if she hadn't left the letter. The letter addressed solely to me. It never leaves me, her final words to me. I must have read it a thousand times or more. It's always neatly folded in my pocket or if I have no pockets, it's somewhere on my person. I'm never without it. It's the last piece of her that I have, aside from the lock of hair I keep in a gold locket around my neck. They are her words, her emotions; written by her hand on her paper. It even smells a bit like her too. When I read it, I can hear her beautiful tenor. The sadness she must have felt, the loneliness, the regret, bitterness, the love and sorrow. In some intangible way it keeps me connected to her.

She's been gone a little over two months now and in that time I've yet to sleep in my own bed. I moved into her room that day and I refuse to leave. Being surrounded by her things makes the ache inside me almost tolerable, although I doubt it ever actually will be. She's gone and my life will never be the same. I could rally against the unfairness of it all, how the one bright spot in my life was stolen from me, but it would be a waste of time. Same as being angry with her would be a waste of time. There's no blame to be placed anywhere and if there were then, well; I'd better look in the mirror first. It's as much my fault as it is hers.

I've fielded more questions as to why she did it than I'll ever be able to count, and I never have a satisfactory answer for anyone. It's never anything anyone wants to hear, just tired platitudes and cliches. There's actually no right answer to the question and I really wish people would stop asking me. Besides, I'll never tell the real reason, she told me that in her final confession in confidence and it is a weight I will carry to my own grave. It's none of anyone's business and if she'd wanted them to know she would have told them herself.

There were other letters for the other people in her life. I've read most of them but they lack the depth of emotion that mine contains. They all say basically the same thing, 'I'm sorry'. I believe that she is. But my letter is so much more and I wish that it hadn't come down to a lonely night in the dark for her to tell me the things written on those pages. She opened herself so fully in the letter in a way I've never seen before and wish I could have seen before the opportunity was so rudely taken from me. It's her soul written there for me to see and I treasure it and mourn what I had and didn't realize. And lost because I was blind to it.

And out of all of this, that is the one regret I carry with me, besides losing her at all. It weighs me down like the weight of the world on my shoulders. She was within my reach and I was afraid to stretch out my arms to her, afraid of the repercussions of rejection. I should have known that she'd never reject me, her heart is too open to hurt anyone least of all me. But still I hid from the possibilities and because of that, helped this tragedy along. I forgive her for her actions but I will never forgive myself for my cowardice.

I miss her, more than words could ever truly express. It's like a part of my soul is missing, the part that she held so effortlessly. I'll never be complete without her now; I know that as well as I know my own name. The place within my heart that she occupied is forever mared by her absence. There's an enormous black hole seeping into my chest and cutting of my air. I'm only half of who I was with her in my life and I will never be the same again. I never really realized how much she meant to me until I held her body in my arms, blurred by my tears and begged her not to leave me to this empty existance. But it was a fruitless endeavor. She is gone and I am forever alone.

The Letter

I had a bad day today, not that any day is good now that she's not here to share in it with me. But everyday seems to be getting progressively worse. It's strange, but without her, both of our groups of friends have spiraled into a horrible cycle of self-destruction. They all blame one another for what's happened, each and every one of them. They've descended into a Hell of backbiting and backstabbing that would just make her sad.

I know it's not what she would have wanted. I suppose I could stop it, just ask them to knock it off and tell them it wasn't what she would have wanted but I don't. Because I really could care less what they do at this point. Let them destroy each other if that's what they want, it's not going to bring her back. And if that's how they want to grieve, let them.

So here I sit on her bed, which has in effect become mine since she left thinking about how much she affected our lives and how little we apparently noticed it. I mean, our two little groups were never this bad even at the height of our rivalry. And even the friends within the cliques are fighting amongst themselves. Nothing is as it was or ever will be again. By removing herself from the equation, she started a ripple effect I think we're only now beginning to see the full effects of.

Our parents, once so strong in their relationship, hardly speak now, wondering, I think, if they missed something or caused this to happen. They don't want to place blame on one another so they say nothing. They hardly mention her, not wanting to upset the other, which is hard for me. I like to talk about her, it makes me feel like she's not really gone. I know I could ease their guilt and worry with a simple statement, tell them the truth, but I don't. Why should they have peace when I have none?

So, needing to hear her voice, I pull her letter from my pocket. It's getting kind of worn, I'm afraid. Maybe I should lamenate it or something. But then I'd lose the tactile feel of the paper and the lingering smell of her perfume. I could always photocopy it and lamenate that, that way I'll always have a copy should the real one wear out.

Anyway, I start to read and I can hear her speaking the words to me so clearly it's almost like she's sitting on the bed next to me. I can see her here with me but I know from past experience that if I reach out to her she'll disappear. So instead, I just read and listen and bask in her presence like I should have all along.

------`Saying I'm sorry seems so empty, meaningless in the face of what I've done. You must know that I am because I would never willingly hurt you. Actually, I'd do anything to spare you pain, especially this sort of pain. But despite that and all my good intentions, I imagine that this is going to hurt you in some way and `I'm sorry' are the only words I have. While I would never wish to cause you pain, I can no longer live with my own.'

`Please don't think me weak or a coward for what I've done. If only there were a way to make you understand the depths of the pain I feel. The raw ache that clamps down around my heart like a cold hand and never lets go. Every breath is an effort, every heartbeat searing agony. I'm glad you don't feel that way, actually. I'd hate to see you as twisted by it as I am.'

`I always kind of hoped that I'd find my way out of this hole, this emotional quicksand before I went completely under but I guess I didn't. No matter what I did, no matter how hard I fought I just sunk deeper and deeper until there was no hope or daylight left. Well, that's not entirely true. There was always one bright spot in my life no matter how dark it got. One ray of bright sunshine that broke through even the darkest of my rainclouds. In case you never knew, that one bright shining thing in my life was always you.'

`I should have told you sooner, in spoken words rather then written how much you mean to me. This is such a cop out. I feel somehow like I'm cheating you, robbing you of the truth by telling you this way. There are so many times when I tried to tell you how I felt but the words always seemed to get caught in my throat. My fear of your reaction kept them bottled within my chest, growing so large and so strong they nearly consume me. These feelings, this love, are the only source of peace I have.'

`Everyday, despite the pain that eats at my soul like a cancer, I'd wake with the hope of seeing your beautiful face. Your smile chased away the demons that clouded my mind, if only for that moment. You gave me peace from myself. Your voice is the music to which my soul sings and my spirit dances. Even when we fight, the words sting but the knowledge that you will never hate me soothes the pain like a healing balm. You are my warm, safe home; my comfort in the worst of the storms that batter my windows and threaten to drive me away. I really should have told you all of this sooner.'

`I love you. Three little words that can be interpreted in so many ways. I love you as a friend, probably the best I ever had. I love you as a sister, never had one of those before. And I love you as a lover would. Please don't hate me for that, I never meant for it to happen. But it did. I love you with all my heart and soul, or at least what I have left of them. I don't regret it, though. I could never regret feeling something so pure and right. I don't know how to describe it to you, it's like you touch my soul and make it whole.'

`But in spite of that, there is still this overwhelming pain inside of me that I just can't get rid of no matter what I do. It's black and sharp and it's like an acid eating away at everything good and leaving only this shell of who I was. I can't stand it anymore. And on top of that, feeling what I do for you and knowing that you will never feel the same only adds to my agony. Please don't feel guilty for this. You can't force emotions that aren't there and I understand that. And I'd rather have you as a friend than lose you altogether.'

`I know you. You're going to feel guilt even though there's none for you to feel. Please take care of yourself. If not for yourself or our family and friends, than for me. Live for me. Be strong for me where I'm not strong enough. Don't be foolish and squander your opportunities like I have. Your possibilities are endless, love. `Love.' How I longed to call you that in the darkest moments of the night. To trace your lips with my own. But I digress.'

`I know that you'll be the one to find me. Again, I'm sorry. But there's no one else I would rather have take care of me in those moments. God, all this writing and still no concrete reason why. It's like this: I hurt and can't live with that anymore. There's no one I can turn to, talk to, explain myself to. Not even you. I am utterly alone within myself and I'm scared. I'm at war with myself, tearing myself apart and I've lost the battle. I tried to find another way to deal with it, honest I did, but I'm all out of options. I'm down to my last choice.'

`Please, please, please forgive me. I will never leave you, even in death I will remain with you. I hope you know that. If you ever need me, for anything, you need only to call me and I will be there. Somehow I will find a way to be there for you. I'll be there in your dreams if you need me to comfort you for anything. I will see you graduate, grow, get married and have children. Every step of the way I will be by your side. If you want me there, that is.'

`So, this is my good-bye to you. I've told you what I have in confidence. Please keep this between us, if you can. It's the one thing I have to ask of you. I am very very sorry to have done this to you. I love you with everything I have and yet here I am hurting you in the worst way. I can only pray that you don't grow to hate me.'

`I love you.'-----------

She signed it in her beautiful handwriting. The last message I'll ever have from her. How could she think I'd hate her? If her pain was that overwhelming then I don't blame her. Wish she had found another way, yes; blame her or hate her, no. I also wish I could have helped her. She wasn't as alone as she thought. I would have listened, willingly, gladly. And I wouldn't have had to force any emotions. I loved her as well, I just didn't know how to tell her. It's kind of funny, in an ironic sense that we felt the same but neither of us could find a way or the courage to let the other know. We missed out on so much.

I put the letter away but she's still here and taking her advice, I call out to her, my pain is so much now. I lay down on the bed and swear that I can feel her arms wrapping around my body in a tight comforting hug.

"I miss you so much," I sob.

"I know," I hear her voice whisper back on the gentlest of breezes. "I miss you too." I lean further into her embrace praying she doesn't fade away and she doesn't.

"I do love you, you know," I tell her honestly and I hear a sad sigh. It breaks my heart even further.

"I know. I always knew," she says and I can almost feel her breath on my cheek.

"But it wasn't enough," I say sadly as I sniffle. She holds me tighter.

"It was, for a long time. But everything else was too much. I'm sorry."

"Don't be," I tell her. "I understand." I feel her arms begin to disappear and it reignites the pain in my chest.

"Thank you," she whispers as she fades away. I turn over to where she was in the bed but all that greets me is an empty space. I sob louder as I realize no matter how much I wish otherwise, she's not coming back to me. And I wonder exactly what I have left of my own live and who I am without her.

I have a recording of her on my voicemail that I haven't erased. I can't bring myself to do it. She sounds so normal asking if I could pick her up, although the message was made only two days before she took her own life. But if I listen close enough, I can hear the difference in her voice. The undertones of sadness that I missed when I should have been listening. The pain she was masking is there if you know to look for it. I am so, so very sorry. I should have been listening.

But I wasn't, caught up as I usually was in my own neurosis that I missed what was going on with the most important person in my life. Although I never told her that she was that person. God, if I'd only opened my mouth a little sooner and said something I wouldn't be sitting here alone now. Or maybe I would but at least she would have known and my regrets wouldn't weigh as much as they do. I'm not egotistical enough to think my petty words could have stopped her but maybe, just maybe it would have been enough. I'd sell my soul to find out. If I had a soul left, that is.

I know our parents are worried that I'm going to follow her into my own grave but I won't do that. She specifically asked me not to and I will honor that request. As much as it pains me to remain on this Earth without her, I will do as she asked. I will continue to breathe and exist but I will not have a life. There really is no such thing without her. I should have told her all this when she was here to hear it. Again I curse myself and my cowardice for stealing all that I could have had. She may have held the razor that cut into her flesh but I might as well have guided her hand that night. I held her life in my hands and I wasn't even aware.

Guilt and self-loathing have become my fortes in life now. I forget what I was like before I stumbled across her that morning. I live in that moment, sadly. My entire life comes down to, is and will always be defined by that one moment when I lost everything. It's kind of funny, in a totally non-humorous way that I lost everything that I never actually had. I finally understand with a cruel visceral clarity the meaning of having it all within your grasp and watching it slip though your fingers. The same way her blood seeped between my fingers that morning no matter what I did to stop it. We're both as alone now as we were when we were together, forever separated by something, only once where it was fear, now it's death. And where fear could have been overcome, death is insurmountable.


Author's Notes: I thought I was done after The Letter. Apparently I was wrong and this thing has taken on a life of its own.


I bought a bottle of her perfume today. Not because what's here is fading or what's left is turning but because I needed to do something for her. Just a little nothing and I know how much she loves this scent. So do I, in fact. It's her. You'd think that by smelling it I'd be reminded of everything that I've lost. That it'd hurt even worse. But instead it fills my heart with this warm ache, which is actually rather pleasant. It's the only time when living with myself and this torment is bearable. I guess in a way it soothes me.

Everything fell apart. Not that I'm surprised. People who were once friends are now enemies and new battlelines have been drawn. There are new cliques ruling the halls at school. Calling the shots and everything. Not that I care. I'm above all that now. Or below it, I suppose it depends on your point of view. The reality of it is, is that petty crap doesn't mean jack to me now. Popular, unpopular, in the long run what the Hell does it matter anyway? It's just a label that means absolutely nothing when you get right down to it. You know what they say, `You can't take it with you when you go'.

I haven't got any friends left really. It's just me and the solitude of her room. Everyone got tired of being patient. It's been long enough now since she left that everyone else has begun to move on with their lives. But not me, I'm stuck here. In this moment, THAT moment when everything changed. And I don't want to leave it no matter how much people try and drag me out of it. No one seems to understand that if I step away from that moment in time I'll lose her and I can't bear that. If I lose her, then I'll really be alone.

She kept her word. She comes to me when I call. She visits me in my dreams too. Those are the best times. It's in those dreams when this awful reality falls away and it's just the two of us. Time stops and we create our own world. I don't know if it's really her or a product of my grieving imagination but I don't really care. It looks like her, sounds, feels and smells like her and that's all that matters.

It's in those dreams when everything I wish we could have had is realized. There are no boundries there, no fears or constraints to keep us from each other. She kisses me…touches me and I feel things that I never imagined were possible. I reach new heights under the depth of her love and I never want to come back down. I silently beg whoever's in charge to let this be the time that I don't wake up because I want to stay with her. But each time I wake up alone and empty. And each time hurts worse than the last.

I sprinkle some of the perfume on the body pillow I bought for company and lay on the bed hugging it to me. I wonder if there's a psychiatric condition for doing something like this but I really don't care. It makes me feel like she's here, somehow. I mean, intellectually I know it's only a pillow but emotionally it's a lifeline. Pathetic? Maybe. But necessary at this point. I think without it and her things surrounding me, I'd lose it completely. I sometimes wonder if I already have.

Out of all of this, the person I actually feel the most sorry for is Mac. She lost her sister and the remaining one is no better than a ghost. She'll never get to know who her sister's were before the suicide. She was robbed of the specialness that I knew and that makes me feel guilty. Not that I can change anything now, but poor Mac will forever grow up in the shadow of what was and never will be again. Her parents' marriage falls apart a little more everyday. They've gone from not speaking to each other to screaming loud accusations and slinging hurtful words. Neither of them knows how to deal with what's happened and are taking their pain out on each other. I know what it's like to grow up in a single parent household. So did she. I think she'd be upset to know that Mac will probably have to face the same thing now.

I kind of wonder where my life is going to go from here. Because I really don't care to go anywhere. If I could, I'd just stop my life right now, right here and exist as I am now. Not that I'd die, just stop progressing. Although I do wish that I hadn't made that promise to her to continue. It gets harder and harder to keep that promise everyday. My pain gets worse, my loneliness grows and no one seems to see or care. I think I understand how she was feeling now. And I wish I could apologize enough for not being there for her.

I realize that somewhere along the line in my musings that I must have fallen asleep, because I'm now standing in a lush, green field. I smile for the first time in a long time because I know she's here, waiting for me. I turn around and there she is, as beautiful as ever, smiling back at me.

"Hey," she says in greeting, walking up and wrapping her arms around me. I don't care if it's a dream or a hallucination. I just never want her to let go.

"Hey," I answer back, burying my face in her shoulder and breathing in her scent. God, I miss her so much. She doesn't say anything for a while, she just holds me tight and rubs my back in comfort. Finally she pulls away slightly and cups my chin in her hand, looking deep into my eyes with those gentle eyes of hers that I miss staring into.

"This has to stop," she says sadly. And my heart stops and the world drops away. Surely she doesn't mean these visits! I'll die without them. Oh, please don't tell me that you're going to stop coming to me!

"What? Why?" I cry unable to stop myself. She wipes away my falling tears with her thumbs.

"Shhh, calm down," she whispers. "I'll never leave you," she tells me as if reading my thoughts. "I meant what you're doing to yourself. It has to stop." I stare at her in confusion.

"I don't understand," I lie. I know exactly what she means. This half-living that I'm doing. But I can't help it, I don't want a life without her. She smirks at me slightly.

"You lie so badly," she chides. "You know what I mean, love. You have a life to lead and you're not doing it." I lean back into her embrace.

"I don't want it. Not without you," I tell her honestly as I toy with her hair. She sighs. I hate that sound. It means that I've upset her somehow. She pets my hair for a moment before speaking.

"I'm sorry that I did this to you. It was selfish of me. But what you're doing now is selfish. There are people that need you right now," she explains so patiently and lovingly that it breaks my heart. I shake my head and raise it to look her in the eyes again.

"No they don't," I argue. "They're screwing up fine on their own." That just about sums that up perfectly, I think. She chuckles a bit.

"Because they've lost their center, their guide, love. They need you to help them find it again," she says. Doesn't she see that I don't want to help anyone? That the only person I care about is her? I was too late in life in letting her know that and I'm not going to squander the opportunity now.

"I don't care! I love you and you're all I care about!" I announce forcefully. She sighs again and I grunt in disgust at the noise.

"What about Mac?" she asks softly. "What will she do with no sister's at all?" I frown at her but say nothing.

"You're killing yourself slowly," she tells me and I know that it's true. I wasn't going to do it but I know that that's what I've been doing. There's only so much a body can take before it simply shuts down. I'm just waiting for my batteries to finish running down.

"If you're not there for her, who's going to teach her the things she needs to know?" she asks me. I shrug nonchalantly. I really don't care and pulling at that particular heart string is only pissing me off.

"She'll be fine," I tell her shortly. "She has her parents." She laughs at that and even I have to grin a bit at the statement. The parentals, while I do love them, presently are not a pair of winners.

"She needs you," she says simply. I shake my head.

"She needed you too," I declare. "That didn't stop you!" She flinches at my words and I immediately regret saying them. I'm not really mad at her, it's just that her argument is hitting too close to home and I don't like it. I don't want to care about Mac. I just want to stay here with her.

"I know," she whispers. "But I can't change what's happened. But I can stop you from doing the same thing." I reach out and hold her face in my hand.

"No, you can't. Not anymore than I could have stopped you," I say and the look of horror and fear on her face sends a bolt of pain through my entire body. She knows that nothing she says or does will stop me, no matter what I ultimately decide. Live or die, it's up to me.

"Please don't. You have so much to live for," she begs. I stroke her face and bring our faces together for a tender kiss.

"Enough talk for now," I whisper. "Just be with me for now?" I ask. She puts her forehead against mine and nods.


I wake up a long time later. I don't care how much later, feeling blissfully good for one split second. And then the reality of my situation crashes back down upon me and my chest feels like it's collapsed and I gasp in horrible pain. I can't keep doing this. I need her here with me or I need to be away from here, it's that simple. I don't know what that means, really. If I'll end it myself or simply wait for my broken heart to stop beating on it's own. Either way, I know that I'm not long for this world anymore. It gives me an odd sense of peace. I'll be with her soon. This torment will end and I won't be alone anymore.


Author's Notes: This one answers once and for all who was who. And I know I probably butchered the quote on the gravestone but the meaning is the same.


OK, now I'm annoyed. I've been patient, waiting for my time and yet here I am. Still waiting. I've always been a patient person, I can wait my turn but with this, the waiting is driving me crazy. No, hold on, I think, given the fact that I'm waiting to die, I already AM crazy. And now I'm babbling. Great.

She still tries to talk me out of it. She tells me how much I'm supposed to accomplish with my life and how I need to be there for Mac. My argument remains the same. There was a whole world of opportunities for her too. Mac needed her as well. What makes me so much more special than she was? It doesn't add up and only serves to make the wound deeper. She never has an answer for me either. She looks away and tries not to cry. Can ghosts cry? I mean, I think that's what she is now. I don't think she's a hallucination or a dream anymore. I know she's real. I guess that would make her a ghost or a spirit.

Our parents have tried to talk to me about what I'm doing, how I've closed up and turned away from them. They don't want to lose another daughter. I haven't the energy to fight with them. They want to medicate me, try to bring me out of the dark hole that I'm in. I told them that they can prescribe a million medications for me, but they can't make me take them. Then they mentioned institutionalizing me for awhile. I laughed at them. I actually laughed. It felt good, for a moment or two. I think I scared them by doing so, though. It wasn't the reaction they wanted. But do they really think that putting me in a padded cell and making me talk to licensed therapists is going to 'heal' me? Please. There's nothing anyone can say or do that can 'fix' me. Unless they can bring her back, that is.

So, here I sit at her grave. It's a trip I make at least once a week. It's pretty much the only place I go aside from school anymore. I know that she's not really here. And being here, seeing the marker makes it seem oddly surreal. I sit on the grass and trace the letters on the stone marker for what is probably the billionth time. I don't need to, really. The letters are burned into my memory. But I like to do it. The cold of the stone feels nice on my fingertips, soothing somehow and I feel like I'm closer to her. I stare at the words that are a part of me now and wish that the past few months were nothing but a horrible nightmare.

Samantha McPherson
Beloved daughter, sister
and friend.
'The light that shines twice
as bright, burns half as long.'

I forget now who picked out the quote but it's oddly appropriate. Sam really did outshine all of us. Especially me. We fought for so long over the stupidest things. But all I really wanted was to have her close to me. Fighting with her was my unconscious way of keeping her close and still at arms length. Now I wish I had wrapped my arms around her and never let go. How could I have been so blind to what was right in front of me? How could I have been so stupid? How could I not have seen her love for me or mine for her until it was too late?

It's not fair. I can say that now, I don't care how selfish it sounds. I know the beauty of what we could have had in life through her visits to me. It's beautiful, fulfilling, pure and wonderous and I hate that we were both robbed of it. I'm not mad at her as much as I am at me. Sam was so caught up in her pain that she couldn't escape. Looking back now I can see the times when she reached out to me and I ignored her. Or thought she was just being dramatic. I didn't see things for what they were. And I hate myself for that. I will never forgive myself for causing her death.

"I've told you that it's not your fault," her gentle voice makes me look up. She's sitting on the stone smiling down at me. I smile back slightly. I'm so tired that it's an effort now.

"I know," I sigh. "But it's how I feel." Sam nods and moves to sit beside me. She doesn't cast a shadow in the bright sunshine, I notice.

"It's weird, you know? Looking at your own grave," Sam chuckles. Her laugh washes over me and soothes the ache that has settled in my soul. She makes me feel warm inside and loved beyond belief. I lean into her shoulder and she kisses the top of my head. I briefly wonder what I look like to an outside observer. But then again, I really don't care.

"Why am I still here?" I whisper, begging her for an answer. I don't understand. Aside from actually doing it myself, there's nothing more I can do. She strokes my face gently and I can feel the warmth of her hand. She is so real to me.

"It's not your time, Brooke," she whispers back gently. "It won't be for a long time." I pull away and glare at her.

"Don't tell me that! I don't want to stay here. I want to be with you," I almost scream. Sam shakes her head and sighs.

"I want to be with you too. But you can't go looking for death the way you are, love. And you can't cut short your time when there's stuff left for you to accomplish," she says. That's an awful hollow argument coming from someone who did just that and I tell her so.

"We've had this argument, Sammy. I'm not doing anything that you didn't do. Why is it OK for you to kill yourself but I have to stay here and struggle through? I can't do it, I'm not strong enough," I rant. She hugs me to her and kisses my cheek.

"It wasn't OK for me to do what I did, Brooke. I know that now. I was wrong and I don't want to see you make the same mistake." I nuzzle her neck and settle into her arms.

"My choice, Sammy," I murmur.

"I know," she sighs. "I just wish you'd chose to live." She shifts to look at me again. "Brooke, even if you chose to live, I'll never leave you. As long as you want me in your life I'll be right here."

I wish that was enough but late night visits and things like that aren't enough. I want the little things. I want to wake up and roll over to see her asleep beside me, the sunlight shining softly off her brown hair. I want to see those deep brown eyes open and smile at me first thing and I want the chance to spend everyday with her. Every second with her. But because fate had other ideas, I can never have that. And now, I will never be happy with the life I do have. I will never be satisfied.

It's not going to be fair to anyone I ever decide to pursue a relationship with. There will always be Sam's ghost to measure up to, both figuratively and literally. If I did decide to continue with my life, I would never ask Sam to leave. I could never do that, I'll never let her go. Hmm, that sounded vaguely obsessive. I hope she doesn't mind that. Looking at the smile she's giving me right now, I doubt she does.

She leans over and kisses me softly, so full of tenderness that it makes me want to cry. Her lips are so soft and taste vaguely of blueberry lip balm. She is Sam, in all her glory, shining bright in my world. And knowing that all this could have been mine, knowing that I wasn't brave enough to embrace it when the chance was there, nearly destroys me. I burst into fresh tears and harsh sobs, pulling my knees to my chest.

"Brooke, are you all right?" Lily's voice cuts through the fog I've settled into and I realize that I've fallen asleep in the cemetary and it's dusk. Lily kneels beside me, where Sam once was and reaches out to hug me. I'm stiff in her arms. I don't want her comfort, I want my Sammy back.

"Brooke, everyone's been looking for you. I knew this is where you'd be though," she sighs. I shrug and move to stand up. The world tilts precariously and I wonder when the last time I ate was. I regain my balance and start to walk away.

"You're killing yourself," Lily accuses. I stop and turn to her, a blank expression on my face.

"So what if I am?" I ask bitterly. My voice doesn't even sound like my own anymore. It's hollow and dark. Lily scowls and approaches me.

"You think that's what Sam wanted? You to follow her?" she hisses. I say nothing but glower back at her. What the Hell does she know anyway?

"It isn't, Brooke. She loved you," my eyebrows just shot off the top of my forehead and Lily smiles. "Yes, I knew. I saw it each time she looked at you. I regret never saying anything. I just assumed eventually she would herself. And I didn't realize that she was hurting so badly or I would have tried to help her. Don't you see, Brooke? You're not the only one who lost her. She was my friend too. I carry as much guilt as you do over this but I chose to honor Sam's memory and keep living. You have to do the same thing."

"You have NO idea what this is like!" I suddenly scream, all my hurt and anger, guilt and longing rushing to the surface before I can stop it. "She loved ME! And I loved HER! But we missed out on everything because we were afraid. And now she's GONE, Lily! I can never have her back. So don't stand there and righteously tell me that you know how I feel. Cuz you have NO idea what I'm going through!" I turn and start to stalk back to my car, leaving a shell-shocked Lily behind me. She wasn't expecting such an outburst from me. Frankly, that's more emotion than I've shown anyone in a while.

I drive back to the Palace and collapse back onto Sam's bed. I ignore the requests from our parents to join them for dinner and just sit in the dark waiting. Waiting for Sam, waiting for death, I'm not sure which anymore. What I do know is that I am haunted. Haunted by Sam, which I like and welcome. But I'm also haunted by what could have been, should have been and never will be. Haunted by the possibilities that I never realized until it was too late.

"Hey," Sam says as she slides into bed with me. I roll over and latch on to her.

"Hey, you're here," I say, still surprised sometimes that she appears and I can touch her. She laughs slightly and my pain fades at that sound.

"As long as you need me to be," she whispers as she captures my lips in a burning kiss. I surrender to her and decide that for as long as I'm still breathing, I really like being haunted.


Author's Notes: You can either thank or blame a slow day at work for this one, it's entirely up to you.


I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. After all, when one goes looking for death, it often seems to look the other way. So now here I sit, three years after my life came to a screeching halt with her cold body lying on the bathroom floor. The dark night I lost everything I didn't know I had.

And still I lay here in what used to be her bed, trying to draw what comfort I can from what used to be, once was, and might have been. Her ghostly visits, my waking dreams and vivid fantasies ease my overwhelming pain somewhat, turning it into a dull ache instead of the sharp agony I've almost grown accustomed to. But I know it will never be enough. Without her true presence, my life will never be more than a cruel mockery, a shadow of the possibility it could have been.

I am now three years older and none the wiser for all that has changed. Nothing has remained the same. I graduated high school still at the top of the class. But it meant nothing without her to share in it with me. Our friends all grew up and moved on. I tried, I guess. I managed a semester at college before they politely asked me to leave. It seems that they expect you to attend class once in a while. The parentals were unhappy but since I had long expected to be dead by then, I could have cared less.

I've meandered from job to job since then. But I've never been able to stay very long in any one. I guess customer service isn't my strong suit. Again, I could care less. First there was Saks. I lasted two weeks before I told a woman that `yes, your ass does indeed look fat in that dress'. They fired me for that. Whatever. Next came Clinique. I lasted a week before I gave into the temptation to makeover one woman as a cheap two-dollar hooker. They fired me too. Fascists. Food service, receptionist, telemarketer, you name it and I've probably done it. Right now I've managed to last long enough at Barnes & Noble to become an assistant manager, mostly because the store manager, Steve, actually LIKES my `attitude problem'.

So I stay there for lack of anything better to do. And I still live at home, mostly because I can't bring myself to leave what remains of her. What remains of my Sam.

I feel her feather light touch on my forehead as she brushes my bangs out of my face. I smile and open my eyes to find her watching me closely. She hasn't aged since that…night, caught in her own way, as I am, in that one moment in time.

"I miss you," I sigh and I mean it. I don't seem to be seeing her as much anymore and it bothers me. It's not that I think that she's leaving me, because I know she never will. And I know we're not drifting apart. I just miss her.

"You too," she whispers, stroking my cheek. Her touch sears my skin and I lean into it yearning for more.

"You haven't been around much." I try not to sound like I'm accusing her of something but I still come across as bitter. A flicker of hurt flashes across her features and I instantly regret my words.

"I'm sorry," she apologizes solemnly. "I just want to give you room," she says absently. I frown.

"Why?" I wonder out loud as she lays down beside me and wraps me in her arms. God, she's soft and warm and I can smell the gentle scent that is uniquely hers and that I miss so badly.

"You're alive, Brooke. I'm not," she says sadly. "You need to remember that. Remember your opportunities…" I groan, cutting her off. It's a conversation we've had far too often for my tastes.

"Fuck it, Sam," I say tiredly. I don't want to argue with her. I just don't want to have this discussion again. Somehow I think in the three years since I lost her, I've aged thirty or more. I'm always tired now, always defeated. It's an awful way to live.

"Lily and Josh had a little girl not that long ago," I say to change the subject. Sam smirks knowingly.

"I know. I met her spirit before she was born," she says lightly. "She's going to be one special young lady. I hope those two realize that."

"Samantha Maria Elibeth Ford. They honored you," I point out. Her smile widens.

"I know," then her smile fades. "I wish they hadn't had to." I can feel her regret and remorse over what happened as clearly as I feel my own guilt. Damn us both for not acting sooner to stop it from happening. Almost like she can read my turbulent thoughts, she leans over and kisses me gently.

"What's done is done," she intones softly. I sigh knowing that it's the sad truth. Her sculpted fingers begin to tease the skin on my sides and abdomen, causing my pulse to quicken and my breath to catch. I moan into her next kiss, her lips are achingly soft against mine and I revel in the feel of her tongue. Our explorations are cut short, however, by a quiet knock on the door.

I ignore it, hoping whoever it is will go away. No one in this house really talks to me much anymore anyway. Mom and Dad amazingly managed to get past the rough spot after Sam's death. And after I failed out of college (and subsequent 5 jobs) I think they started seeing me as a lost cause. Not that I care or minded. I'm much happier being left alone anyway. I think they tolerate me because they're at a loss as to what to do with me otherwise.

But the person at the door knocks again and I sigh. That means only one thing.

"Bwooke?" the muffled voice of my baby sister carries through the door. I hear Sam snicker softly.

"Come in, Mac," I say and the door opens slowly. The four-year-old toddles in. Her resemblance to Sam is mesmerizing. Her hair is thick and wavy; a rich chocolate brown with odd blonde highlights that serve to remind me that she is indeed my sister as well. Her face is shaped like mine, but the features are Sam's. The full lips, the nose, and luminous eyes are all reminiscent of Sammy. But where Sam's eyes were deep brown, Mac's are a haunting grey color. And the dimples in both her cheeks are precious.

"Bwooke, weed me a stowee?" she asks walking towards the bed. She's carrying this big book I got her at work. It's from Golden Books but it's all the classic Disney stories. She loves the silly thing. I smile and nod at Mac even as I feel Sam nuzzle my hair with her nose.

"Of course, sweetheart," I coo as Mac climbs up onto the bed and almost into my lap. "Which one?"

"101 Dalmatians," she chirps brightly. "My favwite!" she beams.

"Mine too," Sammy whispers in my ear. I turn to the right page and start to read to them both, enjoying the quiet time with the two most important people in my life. It doesn't take long to read the story but I'm mildly surprised that Mac is still awake when I finish.

She looks at me with those eyes of hers for a few minutes; her lips pursed into a frown and then focuses on some point above my left shoulder. Those grey eyes are sharp and I wonder sometimes if she can't see Sam, especially times like now when she stares at where Sam is. Mac frowns a little more.

"You miss Thammy, huh?" she asks, her voice thick with more sadness than any child has the right to understand. I nod, unable to speak past the sudden lump in my throat caused by the pure innocence I see in Mac. And yet, she is not untouched by the tragedy. She will never have the chance to know her other sister as the rest of us did. To hear Sam's voice, her laughter, to play or cuddle with her. Poor Mac missed out on it all. I forget that sometimes in the face of my own grief and loss.

"I miss her too," Mac sighs sadly and I believe that she does. I hear a small sob from Sam and it breaks my heart even more.

"She visits me sometimes," Mac continues undisturbed. "When I'm scared at night or lonely. I see her." I tilt my head back and slightly to the left in silent question to Sam.

"Yeah, I do," Sam confirms. "She gets scared sometimes and I don't like that. I never want her to feel alone." I nod.

"And you `see' Sam?" I ask Mac. Mac watches me for a few moments and then tilts her head in a very Sam-like way.

"Don't you?" she asks back. She looks again over my left shoulder where I know Sam is sitting. It's slightly alarming to think that Mac can see her too…and oddly comforting.

"Yes, Mac. I see Sam all the time," I admit. Mac smiles brightly at that.

"See? Then she never left," Mac declares happily. Her face then grows serious again. "She said she was sowwee that she left `fore I got to know her. I am too." I hug Mac to me, our sadness is shared and like Sam, I never want Mac to feel alone.

"Brooke," Sam whispers. "Do you see now why you can't leave?" I frown at her and shake my head.

"That's different," I say out loud, not caring anymore what Mac thinks. Mac pulls away slightly and stares at me.

"You're leaving too, aren't you?" she asks a little fearfully. I shrug.

"I don't know, Mac. I miss her so much," a tear slips down my face because I do miss Sam so much and I want to be with her. But now I'm torn between her and being there for Mac. Damn it.

"S'ok," Mac sniffles, her own tears ruffling her. "I know." She's quiet for a long time and so am I as I think about what happens next.

There's an old song that goes something like `should I stay or should I go now?' That's how I feel. And I have no idea what to do. Things were a lot simpler in my mind before Mac began to develop her personality and actually became emotionally attached to me. And me to her, I suppose.

"Can I sleep in here with you tonight?" Mac asks around a huge yawn as her eyes droop shut. I smile despite myself and nod.

"Of course, sweetie," I kiss the top of her head as she snuggles against me.

"Good night, Bwooke," she sighs. "Love you."

"Night Mac, love you too," I respond and she's quiet again. I start to drift off as well with Mac in my arms and Sam's arms around us both. Then Mac's voice cuts through the darkness, the barest of whispers.

"'Night Tham, love you too."


I love watching her sleep. She looks so peaceful, calm. It's like the pain that haunts her every waking moment somehow can't chase her here. She's safe. And me, technically not needing to sleep, I get to watch her like this a lot. Although I sometimes do sleep, more out of habit than actual need. After all, I'm dead so it's not like I actually get physically tired. But I like to hold her while she sleeps, guard her and watch her slumber peacefully. And I love joining her in her dreams. That is reality to me now. Not this faded existence in-between. No, my reality is the one she and I have carved out and created for ourselves. That's what's real. Everything else, well, that's the unreal.

She's sleeping soundly in my arms and I wish I could fall asleep as well but I'm not very tired, mentally. Guess I've got too much on my mind. I've been gone 5 years now. Five years since my selfish mistake destroyed so much more than I realized it would. I just…HURT so badly at the time, felt so lost, empty, and alone that I saw no other solution. Of course, looking back now on the reasons `why', they still make sense but seem so…petty. Typical teen-age angst, really. But, I was so wrapped up in them and unwilling to ask for help that they got the better of me. Damn it. Looking back on them now, I have a better sense of clarity. Maybe it's because I'm dead but I can see the problem, and a BETTER solution.

I missed my Dad so much it was a physical ache. But, there was nothing I could have done to change that. I could have talked to Mom about maybe seeing a therapist. That might have helped. If I could have gotten by my stupid pride long enough to let it.

My grades had slipped because the work had gotten harder and it was making me feel stupid. But, if I'd spent more time on homework than my current `crusade', then maybe they wouldn't have slipped so far so fast. I needed to realize what was important. Schoolwork first, newspaper articles second.

Mom had Mac and I felt somehow like I was being replaced within my own family. Like she was erasing the old life she'd had with me and my Dad and was rewriting it with Mike and Mac and Brooke. Well, I should have talked to Mom about how I felt instead of letting it eat at me.

Brooke. God, how I loved her…how I LOVE her. That tore me up for a long time. I mean, how could I be gay? And of all people for me to fall for but Brooke McQueen?

It shocked me at first, when I realized that the people and images that were turning my head were women. I tried so hard to make a go of my relationship with George out of desperation to be `normal'. I knew I was attracted to Brooke for a long time and it disgusted me. I disgusted myself. I kept telling myself that I wasn't gay. I kept fighting it. And I kept getting angrier, hurting more and more; destroying the person I was with my own self-loathing. Until I couldn't seem to stop the downward spiral.

I mean, yeah, I realize now that I made a huge mistake but there's nothing I can do to fix it or heal Brooke. God, I'd give what's left of my tattered soul to repair hers. She is still so wounded even after all this time. Her pain is palpable, tangible and hangs around her like a dark shadow. It makes me sad knowing that I hurt her so much. I never wanted to hurt her like that. It honestly is my biggest regret.

I knew I loved her. And on some level I knew that she loved me as well. It was the unspoken, it was beautiful and I clung to it as long as I could even as my own void swirled around me threatening to swallow me whole. I saw the way she looked at me sometimes; surprise mixed with love and awe and it chased away my demons. At least temporarily. She was my safe place. But I never thought that we'd ever allow anything to come from that silent bond between us. And it was my true realization of the futility of my want that destroyed me.

What did I have to live for, really? I fancied myself this great investigative journalist. But all the papers that I'd applied to for summer internships had declined. What a wonderful blow to my somewhat inflated ego. My grades were average at best. There was no sparkling Ivy League future on my horizon, at least that I could see. I was a great disappointment to my family, in my opinion. I'd been replaced within that family and was now simply a leftover from a previous life. Oh yeah, and I was desperately in love with my stepsister whom I could never even HOPE to have. My head hurt, my stomach hurt, my heart hurt and finally I just…couldn't. I couldn't hurt anymore. I had to stop it.

I stood alone in that bathroom for a long time crying. I knew what I was about to do was the final solution. But in my pain, I saw no other choice. So, I begged Brooke for forgiveness and ended my life.

That's my other huge regret. Those frightening, lonely, last minutes. To lay there dying, watching my life seep out of me was just sick. And very scary. As soon as I did it, I regretted it. I wanted to take it back. But, then it was over.

God, I could literally feel Brooke's agony when she found me and failed to bring me back. She doesn't remember but she screamed. Howled really. Cradled my limp body carefully against her own and let out this long anguished howl of despair and desperation. Even dead, it gave me chills to hear. Still does, when I think about it. I shiver now and she instinctively moves closer to me, burrowing into my arms and sighing contentedly. I wish she didn't live this way, half-alive wishing she were dead. There's a whole world of opportunity out there for her but she refuses to see it. I try to show her. After all, I think I'm the resident expert on lost opportunities at this point but she fights me. Brushes me off. She doesn't want to move on with her life. Not if it means leaving me behind. And I hate myself for having done that to her. For reducing her to this state of living zombie-ism. And I think, if I'm not damned for the suicide, I'll be damned for destroying a spirit as beautiful and gifted as Brooke's.

Case in point? Kelsey. She's this girl that Brooke works with. Our age (or mine were I still breathing). She's a hot little number, long red hair, glittering sea blue eyes and a runners body. Not to mention a wicked sense of humor and a great personality. She's shown blatant interest in Brooke, even asked her out a few times. But despite the fact that she and Brooke get along fantastically, and that I've encouraged Brooke to pursue a relationship, Brooke constantly turns Kelsey down. Thankfully, I think Kelsey is the patient type so, we'll just have to wait Brooke out.

"Sammy…" she mumbles sleepily, not fully awake. She sometimes mutters in her sleep.

"Yes, love?" I whisper into her hair.

"I miss you," she mumbles. I blink back my tears at her words. What good are the tears of a ghost anyway?

"I know you do," I sigh. And really, I do. I can feel it inside my own heart how badly she craves my actual, real, physical presence. But no matter how much I may wish otherwise, I can't give it to her. "I'm sorry."

She hums in response.

"I'm always here with you, Brooke. Remember that," I reassure her and she smiles in her sleep.

"OK," she seems happy with that answer for now. After all, she's asleep and I do seem to be here. I wish I really could be here with her.

If I had only known…


A/N: *Phantom took place in 2006. It is now 2016.


Well this…sucks.

I don't care what Mom and Dad say, or the doctors. You can call it cancer if you want to but a broken heart is a broken heart. THAT'S what killed Brooke; not some lump of out of control cells eating away at her lymph nodes. No, they were just a convenient means of escape. I mean she tried to fight it, at first. But, then, I saw her just give up. And I mean, why shouldn't she? I may be only 15 but I'm not naïve. There was really nothing here for Brooke to live for. All she wanted, all she's EVER wanted for as long as I can remember, is Sam.

But Sam died when I was still a newborn. Committed suicide in the bathroom that they shared. Poor Brooke found her afterwards. It was never something Brooke liked to talk about a lot. But Sam did. Yeah, I said Sam. I don't know why but I've been able to see Sam's ghost my entire life. So to me, she was never really gone, just there in a different sort of way. She told me all about how she and Brooke used to be enemies and their initial `horror' at the merger of their families. Sam told me all about how she fell in love with Brooke. And she told me all about her pain. She wanted me to understand and forgive her.

There was never really anything for me to forgive but since it was what she wanted, I gave it to her. And as I've been growing up, I watched Sam take care of Brooke. From what I understand from people who knew her before the suicide, Brooke was a vibrant, energetic, outgoing young woman. My sister Brooke, the one I knew, was a sullen, withdrawn and sad individual. Lonely too. Despite Sam's `visits' she still wasn't REAL. And I think that killed her a little more everyday.

So, when she got sick, I think Brooke saw it as her opportunity. But, she had to try to fight, for my sake she told me one night. Brooke was never all that emotionally open to most people, but she was with me. She always made me feel special and loved and talked to me about Sam whereas she wouldn't with anyone else. I had a bond with Brooke that no one is going to ever understand. I understood her pain, even if I didn't know why I had that understanding, it was still there. I've always known that one of the main reasons that she was still around was because she wanted to be there for me, for my childhood. Because she loved me.

So watching from the back row as they lower her cherry wood casket into the grave is hard. I didn't feel like standing with Mom and Dad and they're too bereaved to fight with me. I miss her already. But it's hardly unexpected. There were many nights I went to bed fearing what would happen during the night. Brooke never did leave home; she stayed at the Palace, stayed in Sam's old room. I often wondered if Brooke would make it to the morning or would she simply never wake up again? And that was before she even got sick. There was just so much heartache and loss in her that eventually I knew she'd lose the fight.

"I'm sorry, Mac," I hear her voice behind me and I turn away from the mourners and the strangely macabre scene of my mother being helped off the ground from where she collapsed crying. I guess losing another daughter, even her stepdaughter, is too much for her. Really though, no one should have to bury two children in their lifetime.

"I told you, it's OK," I sigh. The wind whips my hair, an odd mix of Sam and Brooke, into my face as I look up at her. It strikes me as somewhat funny that the wind doesn't effect her. Brooke smiles that sad Brooke smile and shakes her head.

"No, it's not. Now you're all alone." She's close to tears. Damn it so am I.

"Brooke, we both know that this whole mess shouldn't have happened. From day one it was just wrong," I start ranting, ignoring the strange looks I'm getting from people leaving the cemetery. I suppose telling them that I'm talking to my recently deceased sister and have always been able to talk to my long-deceased sister would make me come across as...oh, insane? I grit my teeth and lower my voice.

"Someone who was supposed to be minding the station where ever fate and destiny is handed out, fucked up where you and Sam are concerned," I continue. Somewhere in the back of my mind I wonder if Brooke's buying me the complete series collection of Xena on DVD for Christmas last year was a good idea or not.

"They fell asleep at the switch when Sam needed them the most and we both know it. Hell, so does Sam. She never should have died. You two were SUPPOSED to have a chance and you were robbed of it."

"That doesn't change the fact that now neither of us are there for you," she points out softly.

"Yes you are, in all the ways that count," I counter. "And you were there when it was REALLY important, Brooke. You held on long enough for me to get to know you, to have you there as I got older."

"Mac, stop talking like you're 25," she laughs. I get that a lot. Everyone says I'm a 30-year-old trapped in a 15-year-olds body. I don't mean to be, I just don't know of any other way to be.

"Eh," I shrug. I look around and realize that someone's missing here. "Hey, where is Sam?"

Brooke's hazel eyes go wide for a second and then she looks down but not before I see the fear written clearly in them.

"Brooke, where is she?" I ask again, a strange sort of panic coming over me. If after all this someone upstairs is going to decide that they STILL can't be together well, I'm going to lodge a formal complaint. With who, I'm not sure, but I'll find someone. She shrugs.

"I don't know," she whispers. "She was there and then she…wasn't."

"I'm right here, love," Sam appears behind Brooke suddenly and we both jump. Ha, a ghost scared a ghost. I love it.

Brooke leaps into Sam's embrace and that's when it happens. All the grey shadows, the shrouds and darkness that always hung around Brooke are suddenly ripped away and I see her as she was meant to be seen. As the vibrant, alive, sparkling 17-year-old she was before she walked into that bathroom all those years ago. She died at age 34 but as she hugs Sam, those 16 years since Sam died are suddenly gone and she's the same age she was when Sam died; the same age Sam appears to be. And I realize it's because Brooke died that night too. It's only now that her body finally discovered that.

"Where were you?" Brooke asks as Sam kisses her. She rests her head on Sam's shoulder when they separate and I'm struck instantly by how beautiful they are together. How well they seem to fit. Sam looks at me sadly.

"I…uh, had some stuff to straighten out," she says cryptically. I arch an eyebrow at her and wait for her to continue.

"Like what?" Brooke asks, pulling away and looking into Sam's face.

"Brooke, honey, they weren't…they weren't going to let this be," she says quietly.

"WHAT?" both Brooke and I roar. We sound a lot alike when we get angry.

"They, whoever `they' are, said that you died naturally and can go on to the afterlife. I didn't so I can't, Brooke. I'm kind of, well, stuck," she explained, flailing rather helplessly. Brooke's ears turned red as she got good and angry.

"'THEY' took you from me when we were alive, Sammy. I'm NOT going to let go of you now!" she declared. Sam smiled.

"That's the funny thing, Brooke. `They' changed their minds. Apparently someone," and she looks pointedly at me. "Ranted about how this was all screwed up and that she was going to lodge a formal complaint." Egad, I think I'm blushing.

"So `they' investigated and yes, someone screwed up and it was decided to just let us be. We can come and go as we please. We're still dead, which sucks but, think of it more in the `Beetlejuice' capacity than the `Night of the Living Dead' one," she finishes.

"Boy those are old movies, Sam. You HAVE been gone a long time, haven't you?" I tease. She mock glares at me but then gets serious again. She grabs Brooke's hand and walks up to me. Suddenly I'm afraid that I'm never going to see either of them again and I feel tears starting to run down my face.

"Hey, Mac, calm down. We're not going anywhere," Sam assures me, seeming to read my mind as always. "We will ALWAYS be here if you need us. I just have a message for you."

"Really?" I ask, dumbfounded. A message for me from the other side? Isn't it enough that I talk to and see ghosts? And yo, I DON'T mean just Sam and Brooke.

"Yeah, kiddo, don't screw it up!" she declares before grabbing onto a giggling Brooke and kissing her passionately. They start to disappear as the wind picks up again.

"See you around!" Sam's voice echoes around the stone markers, reverberating along with Brooke's giggle. I'm so happy for them it's disgusting. I mean, they're dead. Shouldn't I be a little more sad than I am? Or maybe my knowing that they finally have their peace in each other makes it a little less unbearable to be the only child now.

I don't know; I'll worry about it later. For now, I have to go pick up the pieces of what's left of my parents and hope that together maybe we can survive this as a family unit.

But I have to wonder…what the hell did Sam mean?


*3 years later 2019

I swear to God, Sam, if you weren't already dead I'd kill you myself.

"'Don't screw it up', she said," I mutter to myself as I walk down the hall of the high school. Good old Kennedy High where I am my sister's legacy. I like it, being Sam and Brooke's little sister. They were very well liked.

Of course, if I had known what `it' was that I wasn't supposed to screw up, I would have just jumped into the hole after Brooke. I mean really, what God of cosmic bad jokes thought THIS one up?


"Hiya Mac," I must have just jumped about 3 feet straight up, catlike. I turn around to look at my best friend Semmie. OK, irony time. Semmie is actually Sam Ford, Lily and Josh's daughter. Growing up everyone still felt a little raw about losing my sister so calling her namesake by the same nicknames made them all uncomfortable. So they changed `Sammy' to `Semmie'. Plus it's a weird blending of Samantha, Maria, and Elibeth so it just sort of stuck.

She just turned 16 last week. I'm 18 and a year ahead of her in school. After Brooke died, Mom and Dad decided to take a year off and go on a family trip. It was actually kind of cool. I got a year off from school and we toured Europe. We went anywhere we wanted when we wanted. And we did a lot of talking. I think we're a lot closer now. I'm just sorry that they lost two daughters. But, we're doing OK.

So yeah, I came back a year behind but it's cool. I get to hang out with Semmie more who's incredibly intelligent and keeps skipping grades like rocks over a calm lake.

"How ya doing?" she asks, green eyes twinkling. And I know somewhere Sam is laughing her ass off. Brooke too for that matter. I am so smitten with this girl that I can barely speak half the time. Sam will probably make fun of me over this later but, she reminds me a lot of Lily, who by the way, is quite the hottie. You know, for an old chick.

"The usual; trying to stay out of trouble," I joke. "You?" She shrugs and opens her locker.

"I'm fine," she responds but I know her better. She's upset. Josh and Lily are getting a divorce. Lily got caught messing around with the pool boy and well, it ended badly. Poor Semmie idolizes her mother and to see her `fall' like that, it's hitting her hard.

"You sure?" I ask gently. She nods and looks at me with a totally lost look in her eyes. A look that I recognize a little too well. Brooke wore it all the time.

I wrap my arms around the smaller girl and hug her, feeling her start to cry.

"How can they hate each other so much?" she whispers into my chest.

"They don't, Sem, they're just hurting," I tell her softly.

"Don't they see that they're hurting me?"

If there's such this as being too smart for your own good, Semmie definitely suffers from it. And being so smart, so quick to pick up on things, she's easily hurt by them too. Being her best friend, I know Semmie's demons. I know the reason's behind the long shirts and the nights she can't sleep. She's a walking bundle of pain and I don't know how to help.

"I'm just so tired of dealing with it, Mac. I'm just…I can't," she pulls away and shuts her locker. "I have to go."

And then it hits me. The eerie similarities between this situation and another one 18 years ago. A pain so tangible it swirls around Semmie like a cloak. The things no one else sees because they don't understand. And I realize that somewhere, there WAS a reason for it. There was a reason for losing Sam and for Brooke's agony. A lesson that had to be learned.

They lost in life what they didn't know what they could have had because of fear and pain. Wasted opportunities that I don't intend to repeat.

I am MacKenzie McPherson McQueen. My sisters were Sam and Brooke. And I intend to learn from their mistake.

"Hey, Semmie, wait up," I call after the retreating form. She pauses slightly and looks at me. I smirk, the one thing I KNOW I got from Sam. "Didn't think I'd let you get away THAT easily, did you?"

She smiles.

"Come on, let's go back to my house and order a pizza. Besides, I kind of need to talk to you anyway," I say. She nods.

"I think I'd like that," she says. I vow to myself not to `screw it up'. I will tell her how I feel and I know that even if she doesn't feel the same way, she will know someone cares about her. And I know Semmie well enough to know that it won't freak her out…too much.

I jump slightly as I feel her slip her hand into mine. She rests her head against my shoulder and sighs.

"I'm glad I've got you, you know that?" she asks.

Yeah Semmie, me too.

The End

Aeryn Sun

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