Title: Inventory

Author: Megan

Disclaimer: I don't own any of the things related to the show 'Popular'. They belong to other people. Or companies.

Feedback: Yes, please: shy_grrl@hotmail.com.

Archiving: www.realmoftheshadow.com/megan.htm (Thanks, Kim)

Summary: Sam's doing a little Christmas cleaning and Brooke, of course, comes to bother her.

Author's Notes: A little too heavy on the dialogue for my own taste. Sam also feels a bit out of character. Oh, well. A response to Melissa's `To Facilitate the Holiday Season´ -challenge. It was the sole inspiration for the story, so a big thanks for that, Melissa.

The Challenge: "Pick your favorite Popular pairing and have one of the two give the other a gift out of the blue for the season, without a return gift from the recipient."

Sam sat cross-legged on the floor in her room. Directly in front of her decades old bookshelf, the only piece of furniture that had survived the move from her old room. On either side of her were large growing piles of books. She pulled out another one from the shelf and read aloud to herself, "A People's History Of The United States." A concentrated frown took over her facial features. "Hmm..." she muttered. This was a tough one. A good enough book to keep, no doubt about that. But also an extremely heavy read. And as such, she had to wonder whether she'd be rereading it any time soon. History really wasn't the closest thing to her heart. And anyway, any self-respecting library would have it, if a pressing need was to ever arise.

So, Sam was leaning heavily on the side of `To go´, when the door to her room slid open. She twisted her head around to see who had the nerve to interrupt her work. Ah, but she should've known without looking. It was, of course, the stepsister of Christmas Future.

"Hey... Sam..." Brooke mouthed awkwardly, taking in the surprising scene.

"What's up?" Sam asked, returning to stare at her book, and in the process turning her back to the blonde girl.

"I... uhm... was wondering that myself," Brooke said walking deeper into the room. She came to stand next to the slightly larger pile of books to the left of Sam.

"Huh?" Sam looked up again a little confused.

"With the... books," Brooke said and then quickly went on, "And never mind that. Have you seen my toothbrush?"

"Your toothbrush?" Sam blurted back, "Yes, yes I have. I buried it beneath the rosebushes, under the kitchen window," she grinned mischievously, "See, it's all part of my master plan."

"Your what?"

"Master plan," Sam nodded, "Now you don't have anything to brush your teeth with and in a few short years they'll start to rot. And then you'll be just as ugly as I am."

"That's your master plan?" Brooke said making a disgusted face at her.

"Aha," Sam nodded again, "Or to put it another way: No, I haven't seen your toothbrush." She disposed of the Howard Zinn book, placing it on top of the pile in front of Brooke. She reached out and pulled another book from the shelf. Crichton! Ugh! What in the name of god was that doing there?! There was no room for that pretentious hack in HER bookcase! To go! She rapidly piled it on top of the Zinn.

"What are you doing?" Brooke asked.

"Aww, you're still here?" Sam replied looking up boredly, "I thought I dismissed you already."

"Seriously, though," Brooke said, standing her ground. She crossed her arms across her chest and nodded towards the piles of books.

"Well, if you MUST know, I'm making room for my Christmas presents," Sam sighed, overplaying her annoyance. Truth be told, Brooke's presence didn't bother her all that much at the moment. That's how it had been for a while now. She was a little bit smitten, she suspected. Ready to admit it to herself, but not to Brooke. Yet. Although... would it really be that bad? Maybe she could try it out for size...

"Expecting a lot of books, are we?" Brooke interrupted Sam's musings.

"Well, sure!" Sam exclaimed joyously, "I've got two new soon-to-be relatives, eager to buy my love. And with the money to back it up! Hell, I'm expecting the greatest haul of all time!" she had a wide grin on her face by the time she was finished with the sentence.

And Brooke giggled quite happily all the while. "So, what are you doing with the unwanted books?" the blonde asked, still smiling.

"Burn them," Sam stated immediately, momentarily wiping the smile off of Brooke's face.

"That's a little fascist of you," Brooke said, with the smile returning as the joke started to sink in.

"Hey, burning a Crichton book is not a crime," Sam said grabbing the last book in her hand again and waving it haphazardly around. "It's our duty," she went on adamantly.

"Right," Brooke replied hesitantly.

"Okay, okay. You make a good point, McQueen," Sam ranted on, confusing the blonde girl even more, "Maybe I'll just give them away. In fact..." she dropped the book in her hand, turned to her right side and retrieved another book, "Here. Merry Christmas, Brooke," she said reaching up with her hand.

Brooke accepted the book after a short moment of consideration. "Thanks. I'm touched by how much thought you've put into my Christmas gift," she said with restrained sarcasm.

"Hey! Bite your tongue, Missy! The Shining is a good book!" Sam was shouting enthusiastically, "It was one of the keepers even. Plus, it has loads of sentimental value. My father gave it to me."

"Really?" Brooke's voice had an ounce of apology in it.

"Sure." Why not? Sam couldn't quite remember for certain. Her father had given her a lot of books in his time. She'd nabbed a few more after he had passed away. But the fact was she recycled books in an extremely rapid manner. Only a couple of them had stayed with her from her childhood and The Shining wasn't one of them. Sure, it had been with her for some years, but where she got it from? Sam couldn't remember anymore.

Brooke smiled a little and opened the book. Then frowned as she read aloud, "To Sam. On the occasion of your first period. Carmen."

"Oh," Sam muttered. Sure, now she remembered. She must've repressed the memory because, in all honesty, it was icky!

"Eww..." Brooke agreed with Sam's thoughts, "But thank you anyway," the blonde was handing the book back.

"No, you can keep it!" Sam quickly yelled. "Okay, here's what we'll do, I'll write you another inscription," she said, taking the book, and then added in a silent mutter, "And we can forget the first one altogether."

"You sure you want to part with it?"

"Gladly," Sam said, picking up a pen from the floor, "I mean!" she went on while furiously scribbling a note under Carmen's older one, "That's how much you mean to me," she said in a sugary sweet voice, finishing up and handing the book to Brooke yet again. With an innocent smile on her face.

"Thanks," Brooke laughed a little. And as she glanced down at the first page again a serious frown worked its way on her face. She looked at Sam briefly and mumbled, "Well, I'll let you get back to work."

Sam stared confusedly how the blonde made a hasty escape from the room, "Wait..." she tried to stop Brooke at the door. It didn't quite work and the door just closed behind her stepsister. "What did I write?" she asked from the empty room. What DID she write? She was pretty sure she copied some of Carmen's original message... Yes. `To Brooke. On the occasion of our first shared Christmas...´ and then what? There was more. But she hadn't paid attention all that much. Well, it couldn't have been anything too bad. She was, after all, a nice girl, she wouldn't write hurtful things to people.

Feeling pretty confident in herself, Sam decided to shrug it off and return to the task at hand. Another book and another interesting story. "Tolkien!" she quipped happily. Now it was getting interesting! "The Hobbit," she pronounced as perfectly as she could. It was the third copy she had owned during her short life. At least the third. She usually grew tired of the fantasy stuff very quickly after reading a book and then just got rid of it all. And a month later she'd regret the act, when the desire to read it returned again. Well, The Hobbit was quite thin, maybe there was enough space for it. For the time being, anyway. "Keeper," Sam said, placing it in the right-hand side pile.


Sam emerged from her room, awkwardly carrying a heavy cardboard box filled with books in her arms. Undeniably the most infuriating part of getting rid of the stuff was to find someone who wanted them. Sometimes she actually did just want to go into the backyard, soak the books with gasoline and light a match. But, like Brooke had pointed out, that was a little too Nazi-like for her taste.

She walked to the staircase and was just about to start the hazardous journey down, when she was interrupted. "Hey, Sam?" Brooke called from behind her.

Sam wavered there for a second and then managed to turn around to face the blonde girl. "Yes?" she said, trying to rebalance the box better in her hands.

"I... uhm... I don't really have anything for you," Brooke talked in an embarrassed voice.

"Anything?" Sam asked confusedly, not quite grasping her stepsister's meaning.

"A gift, I mean."

"Oh," Sam said and again shifted the box to get a better hold of it. It was really starting to get heavy. "That's okay. Christmas is two days away. And I have a long list of things you can buy me," she said shaking her head.

"Really?" Brooke laughed shortly, "Yeah, somehow I figured you would."

Sam nodded once and, smiling briefly, turned towards the stairs again.

"Uhm... Sam?" Brooke again stopped her.

"What, Brooke?" Sam said, straining to keep her patience, when all she wanted to do was fly down the stairs and get rid of the box. She again turned to face the blonde girl.

"So, you... uhm..." Brooke said looking down at the floor for a second and then frowning when she again turned her eyes to Sam, "You love me?"

Thump! The box slid off of Sam's arms, finally growing too heavy, and fell loudly to the floor. "Damn!" Sam hissed, staring after it. "Yes?" she said in a soft voice as she meekly lifted her head back up. "I mean, no!" she then shook her head rapidly a few times. "I mean, why do you ask?" she finally squinted one eye and furrowed her brow.

Brooke was a little taken aback by the obvious signs of schizophrenia. "You... kind of wrote it in the book?" she tried out carefully at first, and when Sam only stared back her confidence grew and she went on, "On the occasion of our first shared Christmas. I love you. I really, really do!" Brooke nodded once, "That's what it read."

"I really, really do?" Sam repeated incredulously, her frown growing even deeper. "I don't see how I could've written something like that... Are you sure you didn't add that yourself?"

"I'm almost certain," Brooke nodded again.

"Oh," Sam mumbled. Dear, she added in her mind as she knelt down to retrieve the box. "Then, yes, I suppose," she said, not quite daring to look up at her stepsister anymore.

There was a short silence before Brooke spoke, "Yes, you love me?"

"I don't know if I'd call it love, but I like you a lot, at least," Sam said, sighing deep as she met Brooke's gaze. "Now, if you could find it in your big heart not to ridicule me too much, I'd be really, really grateful," she said halfheartedly.

"Sure," Brooke nodded, too flabbergasted to reply anything more than that.

"Thanks," Sam muttered. She hoisted the box to her lap and slowly stood up. Eager to flee the scene of such a humongous embarrassment. And just as she was about to once again start descending the stairs, her stepsister took it upon herself to intercept.

"Sam?" Brooke called in a slightly insecure voice, "Where are you going?"

"I'm gona tour the nearby libraries, see if someone wants these books," she hastily replied, not turning back this time.

"Oh...kay," Brooke breathed out. Then waited while Sam walked down a few steps before going on, "Do you need a ride?"

Sam stopped and looked over her shoulder. The blonde girl was looking a little fidgety at the top of the stairs. "I was going to ask my mom," Sam said.

"Right," Brooke said with a nod. "Maybe I could drive you around, though?"

"You don't have to do that, Brooke," Sam said tilting her head slightly.

"But I want to," Brooke smiled thinly, "It sounds like fun."

"Yeah, I guess it does sound like fun," Sam agreed with a shrug, "Okay, then."

Megan Popular Main Index