Title: One Crazy Night

Author: mysensitiveside

Fandom: Popular

Pairing: S/B

Rating: PG-17, eventually (PG-13, I guess, for now)

Disclaimer: Alas, I don’t own the characters of Popular. They belong to Ryan Murphy, but hopefully he won’t mind if I borrow them for a little while.

Feedback: Yes, please! mysensitiveside@yahoo.com

Summary: Sam and Brooke are in college. What happens in the aftermath of one crazy night...

A/N: This is my very first Popular fic. Or any kind of fanfic, for that matter. So please let me know what you think, cause I’m a little nervous about actually posting. And I haven’t actually seen all the Popular episodes (and the ones that I have seen, I saw a long time ago), so I apologize in advance if I get some facts or anything wrong.

A/N2: Thoughts are in [ ]. And memories/flashbacks are in italics.

PART 1 -- Freshman Year

Chapter 1

Brooke’s head hurt. A lot. She could tell that light was streaming into her room, but she couldn’t quite face opening her eyes just yet. As she lay motionlessly on her bed, flashes of memory suddenly came streaming back to her...

Her hands entangling themselves into the long hair of the girl below her.

Their lips coming together, first with hesitation, then with passion.

Soft hands urgently pressing on Brooke’s shoulders, pushing her farther downwards...

[ Oh god. ]

Was it all a dream? Instantly, Brooke became aware of the fact that she was not alone in her bed. How could she have missed this very obvious bit of information?? Her heart racing, Brooke finally teased open her eyes, bracing for the sunlight and whatever else she might find.

[ Yes, there is definitely a girl in my bed, but I can’t quite see her face. And her shoulder is making a very comfortable pillow. And I’m half on top of her. And neither of us is wearing clothing. Shit. What’s going on?? ]

The stillness of the dorm room was suddenly interrupted by the sound of a vibrating phone, sitting on top of Brooke’s desk. As quickly as she could, Brooke extracted herself from the arms wrapped around her and rushed across the small room, grabbing the phone before it could wake up her peaceful bedmate.

“Hello?” she whispered harshly into the phone.

“Brooke? Why are you whispering?” was the reply on the other end.

“Nic? Why are you calling so early?”

“Early? Brooke, it’s 12:30! You never sleep in this late. What’s wrong with you? Are you sick?”

Brooke whirled around to look at her clock. Sure enough, Nic was right. But her clock was sitting on the small table right next to her bed. Her bed that was not empty. Her bed that was occupied by -- she had been afraid to look, afraid to confirm her suspicions, but now she couldn’t help it -- occupied by Sam. Her step-sister. Her very naked step-sister.

[ Oh god. Not good. ]

Sam had rolled over onto her side, cuddling up with Brooke’s pillow. Brooke had just enough time to think about how cute Sam looked. Then she remembered that she too was naked, and she was still on the phone with Nic. Grabbing the bathrobe hanging on the back of her door, she quickly pulled it on and turned back away from Sam, while Nic practically yelled in her ear.

“Hellooooo?? Brooke, what the hell is going on?!”

“Um, sorry Nic. It’s just that, um, we had a party on the hall last night. And, um, yeah. I was up pretty late. And now my head really hurts. And I’m sure that, um, lots of other people on the hall are still sleeping too. And um, you know, walls are really thin here. So yeah, that’s why I’m, um, whispering.”

There was a slight pause. Brooke cringed, knowing that Nic wasn’t likely to buy her awkward explanation.

“That’s bullshit, McQueen.” Another pause, then, with excitement in her voice, “You slut! Who’s in your bed?? That’s why you’re acting all weird!”

“What?!” Brooke answered, louder than she meant to. She heard Sam start to stir behind her, but she refused to look back there. Returning back to whispering, she quickly went on, “No one is in my bed! Because right now, I’M not in my bed, and there is definitely no one else in there either.”

[ Don’t panic. Don’t panic. ]

“You are such a bad liar, Brookie. I’ve always told you that.” Brooke could practically hear the smirk that she just knew was spreading across Nic’s face.

“Look, Nic, this conversation has been lots of fun. But like you said, it’s late. And I have a lot of stuff to get done today, so I gotta go. But we’ll talk again later, sometime, okay? Great, bye!” And she hung up without waiting for an answer, and then immediately shut off her phone.

[ Don’t panic. Don’t panic. Hopefully Sam’s not awake yet, and then... And then what? We’re in my room, so it’s not like I can just leave. And what if she is awake? And I’m just standing here like an idiot, looking at my phone. ]

Slowly, Brooke turned around. Sam was sitting up in her bed, the sheets pulled up tightly to her chin. She just stared at Brooke with a definite deer-caught-in-headlights look. Brooke was sure that the look mirrored the one on her own face. They just stared at each other. Neither one daring to move.

Then Sam suddenly sprang into motion, jumping out of bed and grabbing the first bits of clothing she came across -- her own pants, but Brooke’s shirt, pulling it on inside out.

Brooke just watched the frantic action, unsure of what to do. Sam finally stood up fully, glancing briefly at Brooke’s stunned face, before her eyes continued sweeping the room, and she spoke her first words since waking up.

“Where’s my key to my room? I have to go.”

Grateful for something to do, Brooke also started looking around the room, her eyes finally landing on Sam’s keychain, halfway hidden under Brooke’s bra on the floor.

Reaching down to pick it up, she simply held it out to Sam, without saying anything. Sam grabbed the keys from her, mumbled what sounded vaguely like “Thanks,” and quickly left the room, leaving Brooke alone.

Brooke simply collapsed into the chair behind her and banged her head down on the desk.

[ What a great start to my day. ]

Chapter 2

Sam and Brooke sat next to each other on the plane. Sam had managed to avoid Brooke for most of the day before, and she was pretty sure that Brooke was purposely avoiding her too. But now, seeing as how they were both flying across the country, each heading to the same exact house, there wasn’t much that either of them could do about it.

So they sat uncomfortably. And said nothing.

[ This sucks. What am I supposed to do? Brooke won’t talk to me. Or maybe she’s just not talking to me because I’m not talking to her. But in order to find out if that’s true, I would have to talk to her. Which I really don’t want to do. I wonder what she’s thinking about right now. Damn it, why did we decide that going to the same college and living in the same dorm would be a good idea? This sucks. ]

For the hundredth-or-so time in the past few days, Sam tried to remember exactly what had happened on that Thursday, the last week before Winter break.

A smiling Brooke walked up to Sam’s table at the dining hall, where she sat eating lunch, looking over the latest edition of the school newspaper and making sure no typos were left in the final print. Sam looked up and couldn’t help but smile back. The girl’s obvious happiness was infectious.

Brooke walked right passed a surprised Sam, continuing around the table until she was standing behind her step-sister. Then she happily wrapped her arms tightly around the brunette, hugging her from behind, before finishing her trip around the table and sitting down across from Sam.

Sam smiled and raised one eyebrow in question, so Brooke explained, “Sorry, I just wanted to give you a hug, but didn’t want to make you get up, so I figured that this was the easiest, if somewhat roundabout solution.”

Sam just laughed in response. “You goofball. So what’s up?”

“I’m done! I am officially done with my first semester of college! I just handed in my last paper, and it’s probably a piece of crap, but I honestly don’t care anymore. So I’m done!”

“Hey, that’s great! Congrats!” And Sam proceeded to jump out of her chair, jog behind Brooke, hug her from behind, and then continue back to her own seat. Anyone watching the two friends would have thought they were somewhat insane. “Well we should celebrate! I took my last exam this morning, and our flight home isn’t until Saturday, so we totally have to have some fun tonight and make fun of our friends who are still working.”

“Actually that’s what I came over to talk to you about. Most of my hall is done early too, and it’s Charlie’s birthday, so we’re having a party. You totally have to come by and drink with us.”

Sam smiled. “Sounds like fun.”

[ And it had been a lot of fun. But how did it end with me waking up in Brooke’s bed on Friday morning? ]

Sam kept facing straight ahead, but glanced over so she could see Brooke out of the corner of her eye. The blonde had fallen asleep. Sam sighed, and allowed her thoughts to return back to that crazy night.

Sam watched Brooke dance with Charlie, the birthday boy. Brooke caught her eye and made a facial expression that made it obvious that she wasn’t very happy with the situation. Sam just grinned back at her, and laughed to herself.

[ That’s what you get, Princess, for being such a hottie. You always did tell me that being blonde and beautiful wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. ]

Then Sam noticed Katie, her roommate, and went over to join her. Katie had quickly become good friends with both Sam and Brooke. Together, the three of them had inspired the telling of quite a few jokes about, “a blonde, a brunette, and a redhead.”

“Hey, Sam, there you are. I was wondering where you’d gone off to. Your sister seems to be having a great time with Charlie. That guy seriously needs to work on being less sleazy.”

“Seriously. And she’s my STEP-sister, not my sister.”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever. You both keep telling me that, but I can just never seem to remember those extra four little letters. I mean, does it really matter?”

Sam considered the question, taking another swig of her drink, as she watched Brooke squeeze away from Charlie and make her way over to the keg.

“Damn, I’m not drunk enough for this party yet. My drink still tastes like shit. And yes, it does matter. Whether Brooke and I were at each other’s throats, or were actually friends, our relationship has never been exactly...sisterly.”

But soon Sam’s second drink turned into her sixth, and she no longer noticed the bad taste to the cheap alcohol. And before she quite knew how it had happened, she was dancing with Brooke. Brooke drunkenly draped her arms over Sam’s shoulders, as Sam clumsily placed her hands on Brooke’s waist and pulled their bodies together.

“Sammy, I just want you to know that I’m really really glad that we’ve become friends.”

Sam giggled. “I know, Brooke. You make a point of telling me that every time we get drunk.”

“Well it’s true! I mean, I eventually forgave Nic and everything, but ever since the accident, you’ve become the only person I can count on. The only person I really trust to always be there for me.”

Brooke leaned forward and softly kissed Sam on the forehead.

[ And then what? Then everything gets fuzzy. How did we get from dancing at the party, with so many people around...to standing in Brooke’s room, just the two of us? I honestly can’t remember how we got there. Does Brooke remember? What would happen if I asked her? But I can’t ask her! That would be way too embarrassing. So what else do I remember on my own? I remember kissing her. Lying down on her bed, pulling her on top of me. Flashes of us together. Was it good? I think it felt pretty good. And then waking up to her talking on the phone with Nicole, with Satan. I couldn’t handle it, I just had to get out of there. Shit! I can’t believe this happened, how the hell did this happen? ]

Sam groaned in frustration, waking up Brooke, who glanced over at her. Sam glanced back, before clenching her jaw and resolutely turning to look out the window. To look away from Brooke.

[ Well, it’s going to be a long vacation. ]

Chapter 3

Brooke found that it was a strange situation, living in such close proximity to Sam, but not talking with her. Their relationship had entered a new phase. They had been bitter enemies, friendly rivals, and close friends...but this was new, this weird and silent limbo where they weren’t quite fighting, but they certainly weren’t friendly with each other either. Brooke knew that their parents didn’t quite know what to make of it, since neither girl would explain why she wasn’t talking to the other one.

Brooke herself didn’t know what to make of the situation. She missed having Sam as her best friend. She thought about trying to just talk to her about what had happened, but the prospect of that was just way too frightening. So she just went along with it, avoiding the silent and brooding brunette whenever possible. Which was relatively easy to do, since Sam was avoiding her too. But it was getting closer and closer to Christmas, and Brooke had a feeling that Jane and her dad wouldn’t let them get out of the “family bonding time” that was sure to come. She worried that this was just “the calm before the storm;” inevitably, the silence was bound to break at some point, and Brooke had a vague feeling that it wasn’t going to be pretty.

Just then, Brooke heard Sam enter the house and hurry up the stairs. The footsteps stopped for a moment outside Brooke’s door, but then returned down the hall and into Sam’s room. And as had come to be the norm, this was immediately followed by the sound of Sam’s loud music breaking into the stillness of the house.

Brooke sighed, looking down at the book that she held in her hands, but hadn’t been paying at all attention to.

[ I’m pretty sure Sam was just out with Lily and Carmen. I wonder if she told them about what happened. That would make for some nice awkwardness the next time I see them. But they’ve come to be my friends too. Now that Sam and I aren’t talking, though, I wonder if I can still hang out with them while we’re all home. I mean, they’ve been friends with Sam for so much longer, they’ll obviously side with her. But what am I talking about? This isn’t really something you can take sides on. We’re not on opposite sides of anything. Are we? I just wish I knew wha-- ]

Startled by a loud and sudden knocking at her door, Brooke jumped off her bed, mid-thought, but then sat back down, trying to appear casual and indifferent to whomever might be outside her room.

“Come in.” Unfortunately, her voice betrayed her, as she answered with an obvious nervousness.

Sam entered her room and then simply leaned back against the door, staring intensely at Brooke. Shifting uncomfortably, Brooke just sat there, then went with the first thing that popped into her head. “God, Sam, do you have to keep that music blaring, when you’re not even in your room?” It came out sounding harsher than she’d meant it to.

Without a word, Sam turned and left the room.

[ Damn it, now I’ve gone and scared her off. Good job, Brooke. ]

But before Brooke could worry much about it, she heard Sam’s music turn off, and then Sam was immediately back in her room.

“There. You happy now?”

Sam didn’t sound very happy.

“Yeah, thanks,” Brooke mumbled. Pause. “So what’s up?”

Sam just continued to glare at Brooke for a moment, before finally breaking the silence. “Okay, so you know that crazy thing that happened the last week at school? That thing that we haven’t talked about?”

Brooke opened her mouth to speak, but Sam just continued, starting to pace around the room. “Well I don’t really want to talk about it. ‘Cause that’s just not a conversation that I want to have. ‘Cause that would be really awkward. I mean, this is already really awkward, but that would be even more awkward. Still, I think it’s safe to say that it was a really bad idea, but we were drunk, and it happened, and there’s nothing we can do about it now.  But like I said, I don’t really want to talk about it. But I just want to get one thing clear. You haven’t told anyone about that thing that happened, have you?”

Sam finally stopped pacing and stood staring expectantly at Brooke. Brooke merely blinked, still trying to process Sam’s sudden and very rapid outburst.

“Well?? Have you?!”

“Uh, no. No, I haven’t told anyone. Why, have you?”

“No, of course not. And I think it should stay that way. Right?” When Brooke failed to say anything quickly enough for Sam’s liking, Sam just continued talking. “Right. So we won’t tell anyone. ‘Cause I don’t think anyone else needs to know. Well now that that’s settled, I’m gonna go.” And she walked back out of Brooke’s room without another glance towards the blonde.

Brooke watched Sam leave with a stunned, and somewhat pissed-off, expression on her face.

[ So that’s it? That’s all she has to say to me?! She just waltzes in here, barely lets me get a word in, and then waltzes out. Of course, just because the almighty Sam doesn’t feel like talking about what happened, then we have to put everything on her terms. And of course, she doesn’t care about the fact that all this is confusing as hell, and I don’t know what to think, and I don’t know what to do...all she cares about is making sure no one knows that the perfectly-straight little Sammy hooked up with a girl! ]

Brooke groaned in frustration and threw her book across the room -- a sound that was drowned out by the once again blaring volume of Sam’s music down the hall.

[ Is vacation over yet? ]

Chapter 4

Sam returned to her room and let out a big sigh. She’d been extremely nervous about approaching Brooke. Especially since it meant mentioning “that thing that happened,” as she’d been calling it in her head. Once she started talking, though, her goal had become very simple: get out of Brooke’s room as quickly as possible.

[ So Brooke hasn’t told anyone. Well that’s good. It totally freaked me out when Lily and Carm started practically harassing me, trying to figure out why I was in a bad mood, and why I hadn’t brought Brooke with me. What would they think, if they knew what had happened? Lily probably wouldn’t care. Carmen would be shocked and probably wouldn’t stop gaping at me for at least ten minutes. But if Brooke had told Satan, that would have been a total disaster. I know Nic has gone through all that therapy and rehab, and is supposedly “a changed woman” and all that crap, but whatever. I will never trust that girl, and I think Brooke’s an idiot for forgiving her.

But anyway, the whole thing isn’t really a big deal, right? It was a momentary lapse in judgment. A one-time-only thing. I mean, it’s not like I want Brooke or anything. There’s no denying that she’s beautiful, but that doesn’t mean that I want her. That would be so weird. Not that there’s anything wrong with girls wanting other girls. But that’s just not me. Or Brooke. I mean, come on, how crazy and messed up would that be? Brooke probably hasn’t been worrying about it at all. She seemed totally cool about everything when I came in. Just sitting there, reading a book. Not freaking out, like I’ve been. She’s probably in her room now, laughing at me and my horrible bit of rambling in there. ]

Sam stopped pacing around her room as she heard her mom call them down to dinner. She was so busy worrying about whether or not Brooke had told anything to anyone, that she had forgotten to arrange it so that she wouldn’t have to eat dinner at the Palace. Well she’d been meaning to spend some more time with little Mac, anyway. Plus, her mom and Mike probably would have killed her, if they went another night without all five of them together.

[ I guess I’ll just have to try to make the best of this. ]


Dinner was not going well. Sam was somewhat surprised to find that Brooke wasn’t simply ignoring her as much as possible; instead, she was actively glaring at Sam with an open hostility. This, in turn, put Sam on edge, because she wasn’t sure what it was that had angered Brooke. Mike and Jane, meanwhile, sat helplessly by, wondering what in the world was going on between their eldest daughters, and trying desperately to both keep a decent conversation going and keep Mac happy.

“So, Sam...Jane tells me that you’ve been enjoying working on the newspaper. A little different than running The Zapruder, though, huh?”

“Uh, yeah, it’s been pretty good. I’m not doing too much now, but I’ve written a few articles, and they have me doing some copy editing.

Brooke suddenly jumped into the conversation, adding, “Oh come on, Sam, no need to be modest. Within a few weeks of getting back to school in January, I bet you’ll be running the whole thing.”

Sam just looked at Brooke in confusion. Though her words had sounded like they could be a compliment, the tone in Brooke’s voice made it obvious that it was anything but. “What?” was all Sam could think of to reply.

“Well I know how much you love to be in control of everything. I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re planning a major coup at the newspaper, so that you can run everything exactly the way you want to.”

“Brooke, what are you talking about? I’ve actually told you about how it’s been nice to take a step back and not be in charge of everything, for once. So what, is making shit up about me some new hobby of yours?”

“No, I’m just starting to see this controlling side of you that I hadn’t really noticed before.”

“Well you’re one to talk! Aren’t eating disorders all about needing to be in control?”

Brooke winced. “Oh, that’s a low blow, Sam, even for you.”

“Girls! That’s enough! I thought you two had gotten passed this crazy need you have to fight with each other!” Mike sighed, looking between the girls with a mixture of anger, frustration, and sadness.

“Yeah, well, apparently not,” Brooke replied sullenly, still glaring across the table at Sam.

Somehow, the dinner continued relatively uneventfully for a while. Sam didn’t really want to fight with Brooke. She felt this urge to not let the argument go, but she managed to keep it in check for a while. Mac was even able to lighten the mood a bit with her excited shouts of “Bam!” and “Book!” Mac hadn’t quite mastered the “s” or “r” sounds yet, and had apparently decided that both of her sisters’ names should start with the same letter. Unfortunately, the cease fire didn’t even last through the rest of the meal...

Jane once again tried to start what she hoped would be a safe topic. “So Brooke, we’ve heard a lot about Sam’s roommate, but how’s your roommate situation going?”

Before Brooke got a chance to answer, though, Sam immediately jumped in, with a sweetly sarcastic tone. “Oh, didn’t Brooke tell you? Miss Amazing over there has managed to charm her way into a single, so that she doesn’t have to deal with the annoyances of actually sharing a room.”

“Come on, Sam, that’s completely unfair, and you know it. I only have a single because my roommate spends literally all her time in her boyfriend’s room! They used to actually be in my room all the time, and I’d end up getting kicked out of my own room, just so they could hook up! So yes, I asked Maria if she would mind going to his room sometimes, and I’ve seen her maybe twice since then. What’s wrong with that?”

“Whatever. The fact remains that you’ve worked your way into a room for yourself that’s meant for two people!”

“Well it’s still smaller than your room. And you like your roommate, anyway! This is ridiculous!”

Sam’s next retort was interrupted by Mac, who had begun to cry. Jane scooped the child into her arms, trying to comfort her, and then glared at her other daughters. “There. Are you girls happy now? You’ve managed to ruin the first meal that we’ve all had together in months. I don’t know what’s going on with you two, but I suggest that it stops, at least when the rest of us are around.”

Sam and Brooke looked down at their plates ashamedly. Jane didn’t need to speak very loudly, but Sam heard her disappointment loud and clear. She didn’t really know why she had continued fighting with Brooke. It was like some kind of horrible compulsion.

The dinner was completed without another word. Sam ventured a look around the table. Her mom and Mike still looked upset. Mac had calmed down and was once again oblivious to the tension at the table. Brooke looked a combination of angry and contrite. Sam sighed.

[ I wonder if we’ll both survive this school year without killing each other. ]

Chapter 5

Brooke walked through the store, unable to focus on the usually enjoyable activity of shopping. She also wasn’t able to focus properly on the girl walking and talking beside her, and barely managed to utter “yeah,” or “sure,” or “of course,” whenever it seemed appropriate within the stream of conversation. But Brooke’s mind was not on the task of shopping, or of listening to Nicole talk.

Brooke’s mind was still on Sam, as it had been a lot lately. Since that disastrous dinner a few weeks ago, the two step-sisters had reached some kind of silent truce. They still weren’t talking much, and still got into the occasional petty argument, but Brooke hadn’t had the urge to throw anything at Sam recently, and she took that to be a good sign. Now she just had to worry about what would happen when they went back to school in a few days.

Just then, she noticed that Nicole was staring expectantly at her.

[ Shit, apparently Nic asked me something. Can I play it off as if I know what she’s talking about? No, it’s too late for that. ]

Brooke sighed and gave Nic an apologetic half-smile. “Sorry, I zoned out for a second. What did you say?”

“Brooke, you did not just zone out for one second. You’ve been off in your own la-la-land all afternoon, and frankly, I need more attention than that. I’ve dealt with your little one-word bits of input into my monologue, and while I don’t really mind listening to myself talk, this is just not working for me. So spill. What’s your deal?”

“Huh? Nothing. I just, I dunno. It’s weird being back here after a semester of college, you know?”

[ Well that’s true, but not exactly the answer Nic’s looking for. ]

Nic just stared intently at Brooke, apparently trying to intimidate the full truth out of her. Brooke eyed her friend warily before continuing, “You know, you’re pretty scary when you look like that. Mind easing off a bit?”

“Fine. For now. But I know you’re not telling me everything, and I assure you that I will find out what’s going on with you. I don’t like it when things are happening around me that I don’t know about.”

[ Great. So now I’ve got both Sam and Nicole to worry about. Okay, step one: start acting more interested in whatever Nic is talking about. ]

Things returned to normal for a while, and Nicole seemed happier with the increased attention. But then Nic brought up one of the topics that Brooke had hoped to avoid that afternoon.

“By the way…you haven’t been babbling as much as usual about Spam, your new BFF. How come? Are you two fighting again? Have you come to your senses and realized what a hopeless loser she is?”

[ Okay, really don’t want to talk about this...think fast. ]

“Uh, no, Sam’s fine. I just know how much you two still hate each other, so I thought you’d appreciate it if I didn’t start ‘babbling’ about her, as you so kindly put it.”

“Oh, how sweet of you. However, I still don’t believe you. Over this whole break, you haven’t tried to force us all to hang out together, even once. And as much as I may have appreciated it, it’s out of character for you. You’re hiding something from me, Brookie, and you should know by now that I’m going to figure it out eventually, so you might as well just get it over with.”

[ Just to get her off my back, I almost want to tell her everything that happened. You know, if I timed this right, I bet I could get her to spit out that iced latte she’s sipping...that sight might almost be worth it. But no, probably not a good idea. ]

With a sigh, Brooke decided to go with the easiest option for now: denial. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Nic. I think college has made you paranoid.”

“Yeah, okay. Anyway, this reminds me of the last time that I accused you of lying to me. Remember that time a few days before you got home, when I called you, and you were acting all weird and whispery? Yeah, what was THAT all about? I totally forgot about it until now.”

Brooke’s eyes widened as she practically choked on the frappaccino she was sipping.

[ Well that’s kind of ironic. And we’ve now arrived at topic #2 that I didn’t want to talk about today. ]

“Um, just like I told you that day. I was all disoriented because you had just woken me up, and I dunno, I was probably still a little drunk or something, and walls ARE really thin...”

Brooke continued to ramble for a bit, but she could feel her face flush and hear her voice rise in pitch. This was not going well.

Nicole just smirked in a very self-satisfied way. “Uh huh, whatever you say, McQueen. So I now know for a fact that you’re trying -- and failing miserably, I might add -- to cover up something that happened that morning, or the night before. Add that to the fact that you’re not getting along with Spam...”

Brooke tried to interrupt, but Nicole just shushed her calmly, and continued. “Right, so let’s say that these two facts are related. And yes, they are facts, hun, so don’t even bother trying to deny it. Anyway, that would lead me to my best guess at the moment, which is that you slept with some guy that Spam was crushing on. So am I right?”

Brooke just gaped at Nic for a second. “What? No!’”

“Hmmm. No, that would be too simple, and you wouldn’t be trying so hard to pretend nothing had happened if that’s all it was. So I’m close, but not exactly there. But I’m getting bored with this game, so I’ll let it go. For now.”

[ Okay, that was way too close for comfort. How does she DO that?? ]

Letting her mind wander once again, Brooke considered the girl beside her as she idly looked through the clothing rack at her fingertips. Over the past year and a half, Brooke had often wondered how she and Nicole had ever been good friends.

[ Nic and Sam are so different. Polar opposites. But I’ve thought of both of them as my best friend at some point or another. I know Sam thinks I’m an idiot for forgiving Nicole. But what Sam doesn’t understand is that Nic has always been a part of my life, and I don’t know how to let her go. But I don’t trust her. I will never fully trust Nicole ever again. I mean, how could I? And Nic knows it, too. She knows that her power over me is a lot weaker than it used to be.

And then there’s Sam. What am I going to do with that girl? She’s smart, and irritating, and funny, and stubborn, and caring, and obnoxious, and if my vocabulary was as big as Sam’s then I could keep going for a while. But now she can barely stand the sight of me. And I miss her. ]

Brooke barely noticed as Nicole went to try on some clothes. Nic had seemed to realize that getting Brooke to focus on anything was a lost cause at that point.

[ I wonder if it’s possible for me to love Sam and hate her at the same time. ]

Chapter 6

Sam woke up with a start, sweat covering her body. She’d had that dream again. Well, she didn’t know whether to call it a dream, or simply a memory while sleeping. Because it wasn’t like it was some fictional product of her subconscious mind. It was just an instant replay of that horrible night.

It was the night of Junior Prom, and Sam, Brooke, and Harrison sat awkwardly at the restaurant. Sam didn’t know why they had created this awful situation for themselves. She didn’t even really want to date Harrison. But he was about to give his choice, to make the final decision between long-term crush and long-term friend.

Suddenly, Brooke stood up. “You know what? I don’t want to know. Because this is ridiculous, and it’s only going to end badly. So I’m taking myself out of the running. And now I have to go.”

And then she just left, running from the building. Without thinking, Sam jumped up and followed, while a stunned Harrison remained at the table with his head in his hands.

“This is not what I wanted.” Brooke sounded so calm.

“This is not what I wanted, Brooke, okay? Just stop!” Everything was getting out of control, and Sam felt the threat of oncoming tears.

But Brooke just kept going, out into the middle of the street. And roaring around the corner, the sound of screeching tires. Sam saw the car, recognized it even, but couldn’t find her voice right away. Then, shouting out desperately, “Brooke! No!”

Sam watched in horror as Brooke stopped and turned to stare at the car in front of her. Both Brooke and Sam seemed to be frozen in shock. But right at the last second, right when Sam thought the car might be close enough for Brooke to see who was inside, Brooke moved to her right, and Nicole swerved in the opposite direction. Still, it was too late to avoid each other, and the edge of the car collided with Brooke’s body with a sickening sound.

Finally, Sam found that she could move again, and she was running down the stairs, running toward the heap on the ground that she knew to be Brooke. Tears were streaming down her face at this point, as she crouched down beside the moaning figure on the pavement.

[ Okay, okay. She’s not dead. It’ll be alright. Don’t panic. Fuck, what am I gonna do? ]

“Brooke? Brooke, can you hear me? You’re alright. Everything is going to be alright.”

“Sam?” Brooke’s eyes fluttered open. There was a deep gash across her forehead, and her leg was bent at an unnatural angle.

“Yes, I’m here, Brooke. I’m here. What do you need? What can I do?”

“It hurts, Sammy. Why did she do it?”

Sam didn’t need to ask to know about whom Brooke was talking. She brushed some hair out of Brooke’s eyes, and found that her hands were shaking. “I don’t know. I don’t know. I’m so sorry, Brooke. But you’ll be okay. Right? You’ll be okay. You have to be okay.”

“I’m not worried, Sam. I know you’ll take care of me.”

Sam felt a hand on her shoulder, and turned to see an EMT standing behind her. She hadn’t even heard the sirens from the ambulance.

“Sorry, Miss. Can I get down to see her? We have to get her on a stretcher, so we can take her to the hospital.”

Sam silently stood up and moved a little out of the way, so that the EMTs could work. She saw some more people dealing with Nicole, who had crashed into a tree. As Brooke’s stretcher was raised off the ground, Sam felt a weak hand reach out to her. She grasped tightly onto Brooke’s hand, raising it to place a light kiss on the soft skin. Her eyes locked with Brooke’s, and Sam could see the immense pain behind those hazel eyes. She had to let go of Brooke’s hand briefly, as they lifted her into the ambulance, but they reconnected as soon as Sam returned to her side.

As the ambulance door was about to close, Sam caught a quick glimpse of a terrified Harrison, standing outside. She had completely forgotten about him, but shouted out, “Call our parents! Meet us at the hospital!”

Then her eyes returned to Brooke’s, which were shut tightly in pain. She gave her hand a squeeze and whispered soft encouragements. She tried to be strong, tried not to fall apart in front of Brooke, as panicked thoughts ran through her mind.

[ Brooke’s strong. She’ll be fine. But what if she’s not? I never really hated her. I don’t know what I’ll do if she...no, I don’t even want to think it. She’ll be fine. She has to be. ]

Sam felt the tears still spilling from her eyes and made no effort to stop them or brush them aside, as the ambulance sped on towards the hospital.

It was then that Sam woke up from the horrible memory of that night. It had happened almost two years ago, but she still had that identical nightmare every once in a while. It had been a long time since the last one, though. Probably not since first semester.

Now, Sam sat up in bed in her dorm room, as her mind went through the rest of that hellish period in her life.

Waiting anxiously in the hospital for news about Brooke. Finally speaking with the doctor -- Brooke’s left leg was broken in two different places, she had a few broken ribs, and there was some internal bleeding. Sitting beside Brooke’s hospital bed, as she waited for her step-sister to wake up after surgery. Going with Brooke to physical therapy. Spending almost all her time at the blonde’s side.

It had been an incredibly difficult time for everyone involved. Once Brooke was able to focus on anything other than the pain, she had become angry. Angry at anything and everything. Sam was the only one who could ever get Brooke to calm down. It happened quickly and naturally, the two of them becoming best friends. Sam didn’t really know why the prospect of losing her step-sister had hit her so hard, but she didn’t question it.

Her dream had made Sam want to go check on Brooke. Reassure herself that Brooke really was okay. But Brooke wasn’t just right next door, like at home. She was five floors down, and their friendship still hadn’t completely recovered since that thing that happened, almost four months ago.

Now, though, Sam was once again surrounded by that horrible fear she had felt the night of Junior Prom -- fear that she was losing Brooke. Brooke had been the first person to break down a few of the walls that Sam had put up when her dad died. And while it was comforting, in a way, to finally let her guard down and let someone inside, it was terrifying too.

[ Maybe that’s why I freaked out so much after we hooked up. Because it wasn’t just the fact that she was a girl. It was the fact that she was Brooke, of all people. I had let her get too close. ]

Being with Brooke was so much different than being with someone like George. Because even though he was a great guy, George didn’t have the same kind of connection with Sam. With Brooke, everything Sam felt, she felt more strongly. But Brooke got too close, so Sam had to push her away.

[ But is it worth it? Because now I have her at a safe distance, just like I wanted. And I miss her. ]

Sam sighed, confused as ever, and lay back down, trying to will herself back into sleep.


At breakfast with Katie the next morning, Sam was off in her own world, still mentally going through the ups and downs of her relationship with Brooke, as she sullenly poked at the food on her plate.

“Okay, so what’s up with you?”

Sam looked up in surprise; she had almost forgotten that Katie was even there. She didn’t really know what the girl was talking about though, so she pulled together her journalistic skills, and went with the most eloquent response that she could come up with on the spot.


“Well, your bed is right against the wall, so I know that you can’t have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed -- it’s the same side of the bed that you get up on every day. And I know you’re not a big morning person, but this...” She gestured vaguely at Sam’s slumped form. “This is a whole new level of moodiness for you. So I repeat: what’s up with you?”

Katie’s logic managed to get a chuckle out of Sam, but then she simply sighed and returned to staring at her plate. “I dunno. It’s just this dream I had last night. It got me thinking about some things. But whatever, it’s not a big deal.”

“Let me guess, it has something to do with Brooke, right?”

Sam looked up suspiciously. “What makes you say that?”

Katie chuckled. “Oh, I don’t know. Just the fact that whenever you’re in a bad mood lately, it’s because you’re thinking about Brooke.”

“That’s not true,” Sam scoffed. Katie just knowingly raised an eyebrow. “Oh okay, fine. Maybe it’s a little bit true.”

“But seriously. Are you ever going to tell me what happened with you two? Last semester, all was well in the sunny land of the McSisters, but now...I dunno. It’s kind of been thawing out lately, but it’s still definitely been a lot icier. You guys are like Greenland, which you would think would be really nice and green and happy, but it’s actually icier than Iceland. And I’m not a big fan of the cold. Which is why it’s a total mystery, how I ended up in New York after growing up in Florida. It is crazy cold in this town during the winter. I don’t know what I was thinking. But anyway, that’s completely irrelevant to everything, and I have no idea why I brought it up.”

Sam just stared at her friend for a few seconds. “Have I ever told you that you can be very strange sometimes?”

The question only brought a large smile to Katie’s face. “Well, you have told me that before, yes, but it’s been quite a while since the last time, so I guess I was due for a reminder. And I see what you’re doing here, McPherson. I know you’re just trying to distract me with insults, so that I won’t ask you any more about Brooke. And fine, if you really want to be annoying like that, then I’ll let you. But you’ve got to fix this, Sam, seriously. Granted, I haven’t known you that long, but I know that you and Brooke were really great friends. And that should be worth fixing. So suck it up, and go talk to her.”

Sam knew that Katie was right. She had to do something.

[ Yeah, but easier said than done. ]

Chapter 7

Brooke walked into her apartment and promptly collapsed onto the futon, exhausted.

“Long day?” Alexis poked her head around the corner, having heard Brooke enter. Brooke immediately noticed Alexis’ hair -- it was a soft shade of purple. Hadn’t it been bright red when she left this morning?

“Ugh. Just about the longest of the summer. There were two new girls today, which always makes things kind of crazy, and one of my bosses left for vacation, so we were understaffed, and I got to sit in on a counseling session, and it was really cool, but horribly depressing at the same time.”

Brooke had decided to stay in New York for the summer. She was working at a clinic for teens with eating disorders, wanting a chance to help girls like herself, and also figuring that it went well with her decision to major in psychology. And while it was definitely rewarding, it was emotionally draining too.

“But nice hair, by the way. Not many people could pull that off, but it looks good on you.”

“Oh yeah, thanks. Just felt like changing it. Well hey, at least it’s the weekend. And I’m sure that Jason will have a few plans to get us out of the apartment, so now you get to just relax and have some fun for a few days.”

Just then, Jason walked into the apartment as well, calling out, “Hello, my lovelies!” Spotting Brooke, still slouched inelegantly over the futon, he commented, “What happened to you? We need to get some caffeine in you, or something, hun. You know I love you, but I have to say that ‘couch potato’ is not your best look.”

Brooke merely laughed, having learned that Jason should rarely be taken seriously. Living with Alexis and Jason had certainly turned out to be quite an adventure. None of them had known each other well at first, but had been in one class together, and all needed a place to stay for the summer months. And amazingly, it had worked out great. They were all pretty different, but their personalities somehow meshed together really well.

“Oh leave the poor girl alone, she’s had a rough day. And I almost forgot, Brooke, you had a phone call a few minutes before you got here.”

“Yeah? Who from?”

Alexis just smirked. “I’ll give you one guess.”

“Sam? Okay, thanks.”

Things were going a lot better between the step-sisters. The awkwardness was pretty much gone, the fighting for no reason was over, and they usually talked on the phone at least a few times every week. In a way, Brooke thought that the distance of the summer had actually helped their friendship. But she was confident that they’d keep moving forward when Sam came back in a few weeks, at the end of August.

[ I’m just so glad that Sam took that first step, and made us finally talk about everything.]

Brooke was nervous. Sam had sounded pretty serious when she called on the phone, asking Brooke to meet her in their favorite corner of nearby Washington Square Park. Brooke found the brunette sitting by herself, anxiously bouncing her leg up and down and chewing on a fingernail, as she stared off into space. Brooke sat down by her, giving Sam a small smile in greeting. She really had no idea what this was all about.

“Sooooo....” Sam managed to start the conversation, but failed to actually say anything.

“So.” Awkward pause. “What’s up?”

“Well, okay. So here’s the thing. And, I’d appreciate it if you just sit and listen for a bit, so I can try to explain what I’m trying to say. And it might take me a little while to get there, but I don’t want to get sidetracked, okay?”

Brooke heard the tension in Sam’s voice, but with any luck, the girl’s harsh tone was an effect of nervousness, not anger. She smiled in a way that she hoped was reassuring. “Yeah, sure, Sam. Of course.”

Sam glanced briefly towards her step-sister. Was that fear in Sam’s eyes? Why would Sam be afraid? When Sam continued talking, Brooke was glad to hear that the harshness had left her voice, although the tension remained. “Great. Well I had the dream again last night. You know? The dream about the mess that was Junior Prom.”

[ Wow. Sam still has that dream? I had no idea that it still bothered her. ]

“It had been a while. I’m sure you remember when I used to have that dream almost every night. But I had forgotten, I think. Forgotten what it felt like when I thought you were going to die. And, well, it’s a pretty sucky feeling, to put it mildly. I mean, I’m sure it’s not much, compared to how you felt. But I had to watch it happen, and I couldn’t do anything. And when I realized that you might die, thinking that I hated you... I mean, fuck, I just couldn’t let that happen, you know? But you know all this. We’ve talked about it before, so I don’t know why I’m saying it all over again. I don’t know what I’m trying to say.”

Brooke watched Sam close her eyes, take in a big, shaky breath, and try to gather herself. She waited quietly, knowing that Sam wasn’t done. She wanted to say something, though. Wanted to jump up and wrap her arms around the brunette. Because Sam still cared about her. Brooke had been so afraid that Sam no longer cared.

[ Oh, Sam. It’s okay, I understand. At least, I think I do. I hope you’re trying to say what I think you are. I hope you’re trying to say that you want it to be like before. That I’m going to get my best friend back. ]

“I guess...I guess what I’m trying to say is that...I want my best friend back. I don’t want to lose you. I miss you, Brooke, and I know things have been weird between us lately, but I think we’ve been through too much together to let one stupid night get in the way of all that. And that night...at Charlie’s party...you said that you could count on me, and that you trusted me to be there for you. I don’t want that to not be true. I’m so sorry that it hasn’t been true lately. But I want it to be true again.”

Brooke tried to stay serious and focused on Sam, but she couldn’t keep a huge grin from spreading across her face. Sam wasn’t looking at her, though, so couldn’t see Brooke’s reaction to her words.

“So, I don’t know what your thoughts are about this. I haven’t exactly been keeping up with your life this semester, so you’ve probably made a bunch of new friends, and don’t really need me anymore.”

But Brooke couldn’t keep quiet any longer, and she finally gave in to her urge to hug Sam. Sam was completely taken by surprise at first, but then settled gratefully into Brooke’s arms. “How could you ever think that? Of course I need you! You’re my Sammy...and I’ve really missed you.”


Brooke pulled back slightly, but continued to hold Sam by the shoulders, so she could stare directly into Sam’s eyes. “Yes, really. Sam, after that night...I didn’t know what to do. I thought you hated me, were disgusted with me. And it was just so much easier to avoid you, because being around you only made me nervous. And I hated that. I hated that I couldn’t just talk to you, and make all the awkwardness go away, but I didn’t know how. I mean, I barely even remember what happened, so I didn’t know how to even approach talking about it.”

Brooke could feel herself blushing, and saw the same reaction with Sam, but she was determined to maintain eye contact. Still, she let her hands drop from Sam’s shoulders. Brooke didn’t think that she could handle too much physical contact with Sam while they had this particular conversation.

“No, I didn’t hate you! I’m sorry if I made you think that. I just...I dunno, same thing as you, I guess. I was just so freaked out by everything, and I didn’t know what to do, and you know how I hate it when I don’t know what to do. And you have to admit, it’s always been so much easier to fight with you, Brooke, than to actually communicate in any meaningful way.”

Brooke smiled in response, acknowledging the truth in Sam’s words. She couldn’t keep the hesitation out of her voice or her eyes, though, as she asked, “Do...do you remember much? About that night?”

Sam looked quickly away in embarrassment, chewing on her lower lip thoughtfully, before replying. “Um, well, not really. Not too much. Bits and pieces of stuff. I remember the party, and dancing. And then some of....you know. But it’s all pretty vague and foggy. And then I was surprised to find that I was kinda sore the next day, and-- ”

A jolt of panic shot through Brooke, and she interrupted Sam, only managing to speak aloud a few words out of all the ones running through her head. “Oh god. I didn’t....did I? I mean....you hadn’t....your first....oh Sam, I...”

Somehow, Sam was able to understand what Brooke was trying to get across, and immediately tried to reassure the blonde. “No! I mean...no, I don’t think you did. That’s not what I meant. I wasn’t sore because of that. I’m pretty sure that I’m, you know, still technically a virgin.”

Sam’s face was a bright, beet red by now, but Brooke visibly relaxed.

“Oh, thank god. Because, I meant it when I told you that your first time should be special, Sam. And if I had reduced it to just some drunken hook-up... Well, I’m just glad that I didn’t. You deserve more than that, Sam.”

“Um. Thanks. I guess. Yeah.”

[ I can’t believe we’re discussing whether or not I took Sam’s virginity. This is definitely not a conversation I expected to have today. Or any other day, for that matter. ]

Suddenly, a different thought occurred to Brooke. “Wait a second...so if that’s not what you meant, then -- and I’m not sure I really want to know the answer to this, but -- why WERE you sore?”

“Ummm, well... Okay, maybe ‘sore’ wasn’t exactly the right word. And again, I only remember this very vaguely. But, it’s just, um...well, my shoulder the next day....”

Brooke was confused. What did Sam’s shoulder have anything to do with this?

“Well, I’m pretty sure that you bit me.”

Brooke’s eyes widened in horror. “I did WHAT?!?”

Brooke watched Sam struggle with embarrassment, as she mumbled, “You weren’t trying to hurt me or anything. I barely even noticed it at the time.” Then Sam’s eyes locked onto Brooke’s, and her expression changed suddenly, with Sam breaking into uncontrollable laughter.

“Oh, Brooke. Your face is just priceless right now.”

“What, so I didn’t bite you?? Was that just a horrible joke?”

“No, you DID bite me. But your face still looked hilarious just now.” Sam continued to laugh, even as she struggled to speak at the same time.

Brooke continued to stare in shock at Sam for a few moments. She bit Sam? Really? She had never bit anyone in bed before. Should she be worried about this? But finally, Sam’s infectious laughter and the ridiculousness of the whole situation caught up with Brooke, and she too burst into a fit of giggles. The girls practically fell on top of each other, trying to control themselves.

And that was it. That was all that was needed to break the solid tension between them, and their relationship had gradually but steadily returned to the strong friendship they had shared at the end of high school and beginning of college.

With her mind finally back in the present, Brooke remembered that she should call Sam.

“Hey Sam, what’s up? You called earlier?”

“Hi! Okay, so guess what? I’ve finished up work for the summer, as you know, and was getting really bored at home, sooooo...I came back early!”

“Wait, you’re in New York? That’s great! Where are you?”

“I’m at the airport. And I’m cheap, and don’t really want to start spending my new hard-earned cash, so I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind being awesome and borrowing Jason’s car to come pick me up? Luke offered to pay for a cab, but I don’t want to make him do that. So, yeah... Pretty, pretty, please, with a cherry on top?”

Brooke didn’t at all mind going to get Sam, and she was sure it would be fine with Jason, but something else caught her attention, and caused her forehead to crease in confusion.

“Luke? Who’s Luke?”

There was a brief silence, and then Brooke heard Sam whisper, “Shit!” before she continued, nervously, “Oh right, I haven’t exactly told you about him, yet, have I? Um, well, Luke’s my boyfriend.”

[ Boyfriend? Since when has Sam had a boyfriend?? ]

PART 2 -- Sophomore Year

Chapter 8

Sam had no idea what movie they were watching. She had started off paying attention, but somehow that just wasn’t working out. She figured that, at this point, trying to understand what was going on simply wasn’t the most productive use of her time.

Instead, Sam decided to think more about the two people sitting on the couch on either side of her: Luke and Brooke. Brooke had been the last one to arrive to movie night, and Katie, Alexis, and Jason had claimed all other available seating in the common room, so Brooke was forced to share the small couch with Sam and Luke. Not telling Brooke about him had been stupid, Sam knew. She didn’t even really understand why she hadn’t.

Things had been going so great that summer. She was enjoying her internship at the newspaper, she and Brooke were talking a lot, Mac was officially the cutest kid ever, and her mom and Mike were only mildly annoying. All was well.

And then she met Luke. And he was great. Nice, intelligent, worldly, and mighty fine eye-candy as well. They were part of the nice little quartet of interns -- Sam from NYU, Luke from Columbia, Julie from Northwestern, and Ethan from UCLA. She had honestly been completely surprised when Luke asked her out. Sam had been perfectly happy just as friends, but thought she might as well give it a shot. If it didn’t work out, then New York was certainly a big enough city that she knew she’d never have to see him again after the summer, if she didn’t want to.

So it would only be logical for Sam to talk about him to Brooke, her once-again-best friend. But she didn’t. At first, it just didn’t come up during their conversations. Sam would start with the intention of telling Brooke, but then would get side-tracked, and would forget all about him until after she had hung up. And then it seemed weird to mention him, once they’d already been dating for two weeks. How could she explain why she hadn’t said anything earlier? So she convinced herself that she wanted to wait and tell Brooke in person. Plus, since their newly-renewed-best-friendship, Sam worried that telling Brooke about Luke would change things between them once again. Things with Luke were good. Things with Brooke were good. Why shake everything up?

But then she had to go and ruin it all at the airport. She didn’t even think about it. Luke was standing right there next to her, also on the phone and in the middle of assuring his mother that they had arrived safely, and she just totally forgot that Brooke didn’t know that he existed.

Sam had been really looking forward to seeing Brooke, but that reunion at the airport had been so much worse than originally anticipated. Because even though she hadn’t talked to Brooke about Luke, she HAD talked to Luke about Brooke. So, while Luke greeted Brooke warmly, exclaiming, “Sam’s told me so much about you!”...Brooke smiled -- but in that way that Sam knew was nowhere even close to genuine -- and replied, “Oh, really? How sweet of Sam. And sorry, but I have a pretty shitty memory, so you’re going to have to remind me about all the things that she may or may not have told me about you.” Fortunately, Luke didn’t seem to hear the sarcasm in Brooke’s voice.

[ Still, I guess it wasn’t quite as bad as it could have been, at least. Brooke was obviously confused and hurt for a little while, but now she seems to be okay. And since then, she’s been nothing but nice to Luke. But still, something’s off. ]

“So, how’d you like the movie, Sam?”

Luke’s voice broke into the middle of her thoughts. She turned to stare at him for a few seconds before pulling herself together, and replying, “Uh, it was great!”

On her other side, Sam heard Brooke chuckle. “You weren’t paying at all attention, were you?”

Sam turned again, this time in Brooke’s direction, with an indignant protest on the tip of her tongue. But as she caught sight of Brooke’s amused expression, she changed her mind and grinned sheepishly. “No, not at all. Just couldn’t seem to keep my mind settled in one place.”

Luke spoke again, with Sam’s gaze returning to him. “Aw, I thought you would like this one, too. You tired, babe? Or just not interested in the movie?”

[ Well, neither, really. ]

But Brooke was actually the one to answer, and Sam once again turned to face her. “Knowing Sam, it’s probably neither. Last year, Sam, Katie, and I took an American politics course. It was a great class, but Sam could just never stay focused. Her notes would start out great, and then gradually get less and less detailed, as her mind wandered elsewhere. And adding caffeine into the situation only seemed to make her daydreaming start earlier. So inevitably, she’d end up asking to borrow our notes, of course. And then we’d get into a conversation about how interesting the course was, and Sam would vow to pay closer attention the next time, but she never would. If she hadn’t been so adorable about it all, it would have been highly annoying,” Brooke teased.

Sam lightly smacked Brooke on the arm, as Katie grinned and added, “Well in Sam’s defense, Professor Bailey did have a highly monotonous voice.”

Sam rolled her eyes and admitted sarcastically, “Yes, it’s true, I’m a horrible, unfocused student, and Brooke and Katie saved my ass many times last year.”

When Luke touched her lightly on the shoulder to get her attention, Sam’s neck started to hurt a little, from all the changing of directions. “Hey, give yourself a bit more credit, Sam.” Addressing the rest of the room, he continued. “Sam was totally everyone’s go-to-gal this summer. Out of all us interns, Sam was the most likely to always have all her shit together. She made the rest of us look bad a few times too many.” Turning back to Sam, he added, “So that pretty head of yours was definitely not ‘unfocused’ this summer.” He leaned forward, giving her a light peck on the lips. Sam was still uncomfortable with any kind of PDA in front of her friends, so she smiled at him, but pulled back slightly.

“Well, even if she is a horrible student -- just kidding, Sam! -- there’s no denying that she’s a brilliant journalist.”

Sam turned and searched Brooke’s face for sarcasm, but saw only sincerity. She smiled happily. “Thanks, Brooke. I’m surprised you’d say that, after all the shit I put you through in high school.”

At those words, Jason jumped into the conversation. “I would LOVE to have known you two in high school. I’ve heard some stories...your arguments sound like SO much fun.”

Katie turned to Jason and emphatically stated, “Yeah, not so much. I’ve witnessed a few of those infamous fights, and ‘fun’ is not exactly how I’d describe them. Brooke and Sam were totally Greenland.”

Sam just laughed as everyone else looked to Katie in confusion.


Later that night, Katie was reading at her desk, while Sam simply lay in bed, staring at the ceiling. Luke had wanted her to come back to Columbia with him (where he was lucky enough to have a single), but she didn’t really feel like it. Maybe she’d go over tomorrow night, but it had been too late when they all finished talking.

Something about that evening’s conversation was bugging her, though. It had been a perfect example of how something was “off” between Luke and Brooke. As always, they had both been perfectly civil to each other. But Sam couldn’t help but notice that both of them had a tendency to bring up stories that excluded the other one. Luke and Brooke had now known each other for over three months, so there were plenty of situations that involved both of them, but they seemed to avoid those topics of conversation. Sam wasn’t sure if they were actually doing it on purpose, or if she was just paranoid.

[ It’s almost like they’re competing for my attention, in this really passive-aggressive way. But no, that’s weird. I’m just making a big thing out of nothing. ]

“Hey Katie? You like Luke, right?”

 “Yeah, he’s really sweet. And he’s obviously into you, which is just adorable. Why? Is everything okay? Because if anything’s wrong, then I’m totally on your side, and I’ll go kick his ass.”

Sam laughed. “No, everything’s fine, and no ass-kicking will be required. Thanks, though, I appreciate the enthusiasm.” After a minute of silence, Sam added, “Do you think Brooke likes him?”

“Uh, sure, I think so. They’ve always seemed cool with each other. But Sam, who cares if I like him, or Brooke does? What matters is whether or not YOU like him. You do like him, don’t you? You’ve acted like you like him.”

“Yeah, I do like him. He’s great,” Sam answered honestly.

[ So why do I care so much what Brooke thinks? ]

Chapter 9

Brooke struggled with her luggage and her keys, before the door suddenly swung open from the inside, and a grinning Alexis appeared in front of her.

“Brooke! You’re back!” she shouted in excitement, before pulling the blonde into a tight hug.

Brooke grinned, and though she was somewhat surprised at the eagerness of her normally reticent roommate, she happily returned the hug with equal enthusiasm. It had been great to go home, but it was nice to have a good friend and roommate to return to as well.

“So, your hair’s still purple, I see. I thought you were going to change it up again.”

Alexis ran a hand absentmindedly through her hair, and then helped Brooke drag all her stuff inside their room. “Well I dyed it blue over the break, in honor of Hanukah. But then it faded to this horrible gray color, which wasn’t so hot, and the purple is my favorite shade so far, so I just decided to be boring and go back to this.”

Brooke laughed. “Damn, Alex. I think you’re the only one who could ever think of purple hair as boring.”

Alexis just smirked. “Anyway, I’ve been back for hours, but no one else is around yet, so I’ve just been waiting here with nothing to do. Where’s Sam? You two didn’t kill each other, did you? According to Katie, that almost happened last year, when you went home for the holidays.”

“Actually, yeah, she was getting on my nerves, so I decided that the simplest thing to do was just to kill her. The parentals weren’t too happy about it, but they’ll get over it. Hope you don’t mind. I know you and Sam had become friends too.” Alexis chuckled amusedly, as Brooke continued. “No, she just went to her own room to unpack a little and maybe take a nap. So yeah, things with Sam are...good.” Brooke smiled hesitantly to herself, as she thought about her evolving relationship with her step-sister.

When she looked back to her roommate, Brooke noticed that Alexis was eyeing her suspiciously. “Okay, you’ve got this weird contemplative look on your face.” The ringing of Alexis’ phone cut off anything else Alexis meant to say. “I should probably get that. But we’re going to talk about this later! I can tell that there’s more to things than what you’re telling me.”

[ Well I have to admit that she’s right. Everything certainly is a little more complicated than just “Things with Sam are good.” But I think I need to mask my emotions better. Between Nic and Alexis, my friends can apparently read me way too easily. ]


Two weeks later, and Brooke couldn’t believe that she had let Jason drag her here. She stood in line with an even-more-than-usually-excited Jason, and an amused Alexis, as they waited to get into the club. Her thoughts returned to the conversation that had brought them there.

It was the first night after arriving back from Winter break. Jason had been the next one to arrive back at the dorm, after Brooke and Sam. Katie wasn’t returning until the next day, and Sam was off somewhere with Luke, so Brooke, Alexis, and Jason sat hanging out and catching up in their favorite local coffee shop.

They made an interesting-looking group -- an “All-American” blonde beauty; a girl with purple hair and dark, smoky eyeliner; and a bald, clean-cut black man.

After a good half hour of chatting, Jason brought up the topic of Sam and Luke. “It’s too bad they didn’t come out with us. I know Luke’s taken, and not inclined my way, but I can’t say that I mind having a little more testosterone around sometimes. No offense, girls.”

Brooke sighed. “Ugh, no. I have seen way too much of that boy over the last few weeks.”

“I thought you liked Luke.” Alexis looked at Brooke questioningly. “Does this have anything to do with the reason that you got all thoughtful when I mentioned Sam, earlier? Everything IS okay with you two, right?”

“Yeah, everything’s fine. Really. And I do like Luke. I guess. He just seemed to constantly be hanging around. Though I’m sure Sam was happy about it, it sucked that he lives so close to us. Sometimes I wanted to spend time just with Sam, but he was almost always there, and it got kind of annoying. I think even Sam was getting a little tired of him by the end of break. My dad and Jane loved him, though, and were constantly hinting that I should try and find someone like him for myself.” Brooke grimaced slightly at the thought of her very-own Luke.

There was a short silence as all three simultaneously sipped at their drinks. Then, Brooke suddenly blurted out, “Jason, how did you know you were gay?”

Brooke cringed the second the words left her mouth. She hadn’t been planning on starting this particular conversation so soon. It just happened, before she could stop herself.

Two pairs of eyes widened and stared at Brooke. Then, a huge grin spread across Jason’s face. “Oh. My. God. Are you saying what I think you’re saying? Because I did wonder about you when we first met, but I thought I was completely off base, and my gaydar just needed some tweaking. But apparently not! This is SO exciting!”

“I don’t know what I’m saying. I just got to thinking about some things recently, and it’s all pretty confusing. I dunno.” Brooke sighed and ran her hand through her hair, feeling the start of what was possibly an oncoming headache.

Alexis reached out and gently touched Brooke’s shoulder, getting her attention. “You know you can talk to us about any of this, right? If you’re questioning stuff or whatever, maybe it would help to talk it out. But you totally don’t have to if you don’t want to. Right, Jason?” Alexis looked pointedly at Jason, apparently hoping he would control his obvious eagerness for continuing the conversation.

“Hey, she’s the one who brought it up, not me. I think she wants to talk about it. But yeah, I’m totally there for ya, Brookie, whatever you want. Oh, and to answer the original question...with the benefit of hindsight, I think I probably had a crush on my seventh grade math teacher. He was also my soccer coach and was absolutely gorgeous. But throughout high school, I actually dated a bunch of girls. I was a pretty big jock back then, if you’d believe it, and I went to the gym all the time. Of course, I probably paid a little too close attention to all the other hot bodies working out around me. And sophomore year, I was on a date with some girl, and had agreed to watch the movie, ‘How Stella Got Her Groove Back.’ I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Taye Diggs is a beautiful, beautiful man. So that was kind of my official awakening. I didn’t come out, except for a few close friends, until the end of senior year, though. So, to sum it all up, Taye Diggs is how I knew I was gay.”

Jason then turned his attention back to Brooke and grinned. “So, Brooke...how did YOU know you were gay?”

[ Oh, god. I should have known that he would have a field day with this. Oh well. ]

“I DON’T know that I’m gay. That’s the whole point! But yeah, it’s slightly possible that I might be. Or at least bi. Maybe. I dunno.”

Jason’s expression softened at Brooke’s obvious distress. “Look, hun, I’m sorry I’ve been jumping all over you. I know this can be really confusing and difficult and shit. I just want to help. You know that, right? But Alex is right. It would probably help to talk it out, I think. I wish I had had someone to talk to when I started dealing with all this.”

Brooke smiled gratefully at her two friends, took a deep breath, and tried to explain what she was feeling. It was hard to point to anything specific. Sam had been watching “Buffy” DVDs, and suddenly got into the idea of watching other stuff that some of the main actors were in.

So one night, Brooke, Sam, and Luke found themselves watching “Imagine Me & You,” a movie that none of them had heard of, but it had the actor who played Giles. Brooke got a lot more invested into the story than she had expected to. It got some thoughts running through her head. About how she certainly wouldn’t mind if Lena Headey came along and swept her off her feet. That was the simple explanation. Brooke chose not to explain that she was possibly developing a major crush on Sam. And she certainly wasn’t prepared to tell them that she had actually already hooked up with Sam. But she wasn’t sure if that counted, anyway, since neither of them really remembered much. While watching the movie, Brooke had been very aware that she, Sam, and Luke kind of formed a similar triangle to Luce, Rachel, and Heck. Except in her own situation, Brooke was the odd-one-out. But she wasn’t quite ready to talk about all that yet.

So now here Brooke was, fake ID in hand, about to enter her first gay club. Jason, the only one of them who had been there before, eagerly led the way over to the bar. “In honor of Brooke’s introduction to experimenting with her lezzy side and Alex’s willingness to be our token straight girl, first round’s on me!”

As the shot of tequila slid down her throat, Brooke took some time to scout the place out. It was pretty crowded, and there seemed to be close to equal numbers of guys and girls. There was an open dance floor leading right up to the bar, with a bunch of seating around the edges. There was also a small balcony overlooking the main area, with a sign indicating that some more seats and the restrooms could be found upstairs.

Somehow, Jason had managed to spot a few friends of his across the room. Each grabbing another drink, they maneuvered their way over to the table. After the standard introductions, Brooke allowed the conversation to flow around her, as she turned to take in the scene.

More out of habit than anything else, Brooke first found her eyes searching out the males in her vicinity.

[ Well, I have to admit that I still think guys are pretty attractive. But these ones certainly aren’t interested in me, and I’m not here to look for guys, anyway. ]

Next, Brooke let her gaze fall to the many women around her. Her heart beat faster, as she allowed herself to freely check out another woman for the first time. Soon, a light peal of laughter to her left caught Brooke’s attention. Turning in that direction, she found herself staring at a tall brunette, standing nearby in a small group of people.

[ My god, she’s gorgeous. ]

Just then, the girl happened to look directly towards Brooke, and their eyes locked. The girl smirked slightly, and Brooke quickly turned to face straight ahead, mortified to be caught looking.

[ Fuck. That was SO not smooth. ]

As the evening progressed, Brooke actually found herself having more fun than she thought she would. She was pleasantly tipsy, but while several girls had hit on her, asking her to dance, her only foray onto the dance floor was when she and Alexis sandwiched a giggling Jason between them. She had occasionally spotted “her girl” -- because yes, Brooke already thought of the striking girl as hers -- a few more times, only allowing herself some subtle (at least she hoped they were subtle) glances in her direction. She didn’t know why this girl had caught her attention so easily, but Brooke had to admit that her dancing form was very nice to look at.

Now, she leaned on the balcony railing, surveying the mass of bodies below her. Alexis and Jason had stayed close to Brooke all night, not wanting to abandon her on her first time at a place like this. But Alexis was currently outside getting a bit of fresh air, and when a hot guy had asked Jason to dance, Brooke smiled and assured him that she would be perfectly fine on her own for a bit. So now she stood, nursing her rum and coke, and subconsciously looking around for her girl. She couldn’t find her, though, and started to think that she might have left.

Brooke felt more than saw someone come and stand next to her, assuming a similar pose of leaning against the balcony. Her new companion cleared her throat, and then put her hand out for Brooke to shake. “Hi, I’m Liz.”

Brooke turned to shake the offered hand, ready to politely express a non-interest, but...

[ It’s her! ]

...she found herself staring into her girl’s smiling face. Brooke felt her cheeks instantly flush. Pulling herself together, she replied, “Uh, hi. I’m Brooke.”

[ Oh god. Okay, calm down, don’t be an idiot. I’ve always been able to deal with guys easily, so this shouldn’t be any different, right? ]

“Nice to meet you, Brooke. I don’t mean to embarrass you, but I couldn’t help but notice you looking at me earlier. I was waiting to see if you’d come up to me, but you haven’t, so when I saw you here, I thought I might as well come introduce myself.” Noticing the somewhat shocked look on Brooke’s face, she asked, “Shit, I haven’t weirded you out too much, have I? My friends always tell me I can sometimes be too aggressive. Sorry.”

“Uh, no. Not at all.” Brooke found herself smiling back into the warm face in front of her. She downed the last of her drink, and then, before she could stop herself, Brooke asked, “Do you want to dance?”

[ Shit. Did I really just ask her to dance? I can’t believe I just asked that. ]

Liz smiled brightly. “I’d love to. Let’s go.” And grabbing Brooke’s hand, she led the way back down the stairs and out onto the dance floor.

They started off somewhat awkwardly, with Liz initiating some light touches between them. But, as one song led to several more, and Brooke got into the feel of things, they slowly got closer and closer together, until Brooke felt Liz’s hands on her hips, and she slung one arm around Liz’s shoulders. Liz was certainly a better dancer than any guy she had ever been with. Brooke closed her eyes, letting herself go. This felt familiar, somehow. It felt right.

And before she knew what happened, she was being kissed. Brooke was shocked at first, and almost pulled away. But then, without letting herself think about it too much, Brooke was kissing back. It was a nice, gentle kiss. The soft pressure against her lips was different from kissing guys, but in a good way, she thought. Then the mouth against Brooke’s opened slightly, as her tongue ran lightly across Brooke’s bottom lip.

On one hand, Brooke knew that it was a very nice kiss. It felt good. But on the other hand, something felt very wrong. And suddenly, as she caught a whiff of lavender, it hit her. Because Liz looked kind of like Sam. And in her mind, she had been kissing Sam, not Liz. But Sam smelled like fresh apples, not lavender. And Liz was taller. It was all wrong.

Suddenly, Brooke felt very claustrophobic. She gently pushed Liz away from her, breaking the kiss. “I’m so sorry, Liz. I can’t do this. I have to go.” And without another word, although she could hear Liz calling after her, Brooke turned and squeezed her way towards the door. Jason and Alexis, who had witnessed the entire thing, quickly followed her outside, worried about the rapid change of events.

“Brooke, are you okay? What happened?”

“Yeah, I’m fine. It’s just...it was too much. I couldn’t...I dunno. I had a lot of fun, honestly. Thanks for taking me out. But can we go home, now?”

Sitting in the cab, joking around with her two friends, Brooke finally felt herself relax again. She was glad that they hadn’t pushed her for more information.

[ Well, I guess that answers the question of whether or not I like Sam. ]

WARNING: Heterosexuality ahead. This chapter is rated R.

Chapter 10

Sam woke up, but didn’t yet want to open her eyes. Stretching, she was surprised to feel another body in bed next to her. Her eyes shot open.

[ Oh, right. Of course. That was silly. Who else would be in my bed? ]

A half-naked Luke stirred, reaching an arm around Sam’s waist, but didn’t wake.

Looking at the clock, she saw that it was still early, so let herself relax back into Luke’s arms. She shifted positions, and felt a sudden and unexpected discomfort. And then it all came flooding back to her. She remembered what had happened. How could she have forgotten??

Luke and Sam had been dating for almost six and a half months. Everything was going smoothly. At least, it was most of the time. Sometimes Luke got too clingy, but then Sam would pull back a little bit, and he’d understand and would pull back as well without Sam needing to ask him to, and everything would be good again.

Things had been going well for a while now, and Sam was very comfortable with the relationship. Luke had been acting a bit strange, though, for about the past week. She knew he was taking her out to eat, tonight, but he hadn’t told her where. He was being altogether mysterious about the whole evening, but had told her to dress semi-formally. She tried to think...she hadn’t forgotten any special occasion, had she?

A knock on the door broke through her thoughts. Sam was nervous, but didn’t really know why. She wished Katie were here, but her roommate’s parents happened to be in New York, so she was staying with them in their hotel room for the night. Opening the door, Sam found a grinning Luke, bearing a nice bouquet of flowers. “Hello, my lovely. Ready for a night out on the town?”

Forty-five minutes later, Sam and Luke were seated at a nice Italian restaurant on the Upper East Side. She recognized it as the place where his cousin worked, and the connection had gotten them a bottle of wine, even though they were both underage. Luke cleared his throat, and raised his glass. Sam raised hers as well, curious as to where he was going with all this.

“Well, here’s to the start of what I hope will be an enjoyable evening. Happy Valentine’s Day, my dear.”

Sam giggled and looked at Luke questioningly. “Um, I hate to break it to you, but you’re about a week ahead of schedule. You do know that Valentine’s Day is traditionally on the 14th, right? Today’s only the 8th, Luke.”

If anything, Luke’s grin only got wider. “This is true. BUT, if my suspicions are correct, then I’m guessing that someone like you doesn’t really like to buy into the whole Valentine’s Day commercial craziness. Am I right?”

“Well yeah, I guess so. I mean, it’s an overrated day that was basically given meaning by Hallmark, in order to make us buy lots of stuff. Plus, Valentine’s Day when you’re single sucks, and no good holiday should make anyone feel bad. But anyway, what’s your point?”

[ I thought I had gotten pretty good at understanding him, but I have absolutely no idea where he’s going with this. ]

“Well, it all really comes down to my second suspicion about you. Which is that, underneath your hard exterior, you’re actually quite the romantic. And why shouldn’t you get a nice Valentine’s Day, just because it’s overly-commercialized? So, I’m preempting Hallmark, and declaring today to be our very own Valentine’s Day. Tonight’s our chance to do all the cheesy couple things that you would be way too mortified to actually do on the 14th. Does that work for you?”

Sam laughed out loud, and couldn’t contain her smile. “As crazy as that sounds, it may just be the most romantic thing anyone’s ever said to me.”

The candlelit dinner was followed by ice skating at Rockefeller Center, and then a cozy ride through Central Park in a horse-drawn carriage.

[ Luke was right. Tonight has been so much fun, but there’s no way that I would ever do these things on Valentine’s. Way too cliché. ]

When they got back to Sam’s dorm, she invited him up to her room, not wanting the night to end yet. She had only had a little bit of wine with dinner, but she felt almost intoxicated with the whole evening. And when she stared into Luke’s eyes, she was taken aback by the depth of the emotion she saw there. Was it love? Did Luke love her? Did she love Luke? She honestly hadn’t really thought much about it. And for the first time in a while, Sam felt a shot of desire course through her. She had certainly gotten fairly physical with Luke before, but he was always the one to initiate it, and while it definitely wasn’t unpleasant, it wasn’t something she actively wanted.

[ But now...now everything feels perfect. Luke has been nothing short of amazing for six months, and he’s never pushed me to do more than I wanted to, even though I’m sure that most guys would’ve expected to be able to sleep with their girlfriends by now. Brooke said that my first time should be special. Well, I don’t think that I love him, but tonight’s been wonderful, tonight’s been special. There’s nothing wrong with rewarding him for that, right? ]

Luke was looking at her curiously, and Sam suddenly realized that she’d been silently staring at him. She smiled, before walking over to him, where he sat in the chair by her desk, and reaching out to run her hand through his hair. “Thank you for tonight.”

He stood up and gazed into her eyes, then brought his lips down to hers. The passion between them escalated quickly, but Sam started to feel somewhat awkward, realizing that she didn’t really know what to do.

Luke led her back to her bed. First, Sam made a point of staying upright, simply sitting on the bed, but allowed his hands to wander over her body. Luke moaned into her mouth when Sam leaned back on the bed, pulling him with her. She jumped a little when she felt the bulge in his pants press against her.

He pulled back slightly. “You okay?”

Sam just nodded, as she didn’t trust her voice to work correctly. It had suddenly become so much more real. This was actually happening. She tried to keep herself from freaking out. Tried to just let herself go. Eventually, as Luke kissed his way down to her neck, she managed to relax a little more. But it was strange...she felt the pressure of Luke above her, but she somehow still felt detached from what was going on.

[ Right now, I almost just want to get this over with. Just want to know what all the fuss is about. Brooke would definitely not approve of this kind of thinking. But fuck, why am I thinking about Brooke right now?? ]

“Luke...do you...do you have a condom?”

Luke froze all motion, then lifted himself up to look at Sam. “Um, yeah. I have one. But...Sam, are you sure about this? Because I really don’t want you to--”

Sam interrupted him by reaching up and stroking his cheek. “It’s okay. I’m sure. I want this.” Sam wasn’t sure that she really wanted it, but hoped that she would convince herself, as well as Luke.

She apparently sounded convincing enough for Luke, who happily pulled off his shirt and reached down to his belt buckle.

When Luke first entered her, Sam cringed in pain. Luke didn’t see it, though, as his eyes were closed in pleasure. When she asked about the condom, she hadn’t meant for the foreplay to end, but once he had gotten the go-ahead, Luke had seemed eager to move forward before she changed her mind. He was very gentle with her, but it still hurt.

As he slowly moved inside her, the pain diminished slightly, but it still wasn’t exactly comfortable. She enjoyed the feel of him sucking on her neck and collarbone, though, so she tried to focus more on that. Luke brought his face back up to hers, mumbling about how good she felt and how beautiful she was. Sam smiled weakly in response.

His movements sped up, and Sam simply clung to him, trying to ground herself, to shake off some of the overwhelming loss of control that she felt.

And then it was over. Luke shuddered, crying out in ecstasy, and then collapsed on top of her, breathing hard. He kissed her, grinning blissfully. “That was fantastic, Sam. You’re amazing. Thank you.” And he rolled off of her, cuddling up to her side.

Sam felt weird, lying there naked, so had got out some pajamas, and Luke had pulled his boxers back on. She lay awake long after Luke drifted off. She couldn’t figure out how she felt. Her mind raced, trying to work it all out, before she finally fell into an exhausted sleep.

[ Oh god. I can’t believe I actually had sex with Luke last night. Do I regret it? No, not really. But I’m not exactly ecstatic about it either. ]

Sam turned on her side, studying Luke’s sleeping form. She wondered where everything would go from there. Would the relationship between them change? Would Luke expect to have sex a lot now?

[ Well, at least the sex will probably get better. Right? It has to get better. ]


A/N: Hope you don’t hate me for the hetero sex in this one...I know it’s not exactly what a lot of you (most of you? all of you?) are looking for. Sorry about that! But it’ll get better. Eventually.

Chapter 11

Brooke frowned, as she felt a shadow pass in front of the sun, which had previously been comfortably shining on her. She reluctantly opened one eye, squinting up at whatever obstacle was currently in the way of her perfect tan.

Sam stood in front of her, grinning. And wearing a very sexy green bikini.

[ Damn, where are my sunglasses? If I had them, then I could safely ogle Sam. ]

Brooke studiously kept her eyes from wandering over Sam’s body. Instead, she managed a fairly accurate impression of “nonchalant annoyance,” as she glared at her step-sister. “What do you want, Sam? You’re in the way.”

“I want you to get up off your lazy ass, and come swimming with me!”

“What, are you crazy? My hair was acting all funky this morning, and it took me a while to get it right. There’s no way I’m going to mess with it.”

Sam just scoffed. “Oh, come on. It’s Spring Break. We’re in Florida. On a beach. And the ocean’s probably about eighty degrees. Katie and Alex are already in there. You HAVE to go swimming! Besides, your hair always looks good, so no worries.”

And with that, Sam reached down, grabbing one of Brooke’s hands in both of her own, and heaved the reluctant blonde upwards off the towel.

“Saaaaaaam.” Brooke extended the name into a protesting whine. But Sam was stronger than she looked, and she apparently wasn’t taking “no” for an answer.

So Brooke found herself standing next to a triumphant Sam, who quickly kneeled in the sand to pull down Brooke’s shorts, leaving her in an equally stunning blue, white, and pink striped bikini.

Brooke, who had several fantasies involving Sam undressing her, felt a deep blush spread across her face. She noticed Sam hadn’t stood up again yet, so she glanced down to see why. Sam was staring straight ahead with a look on her face that Brooke couldn’t quite read. She felt herself flush even redder as she realized that Sam was staring at her scar. The one that led from the side of her left thigh, up and around towards her groin area. It was why she always wore shorts while sunbathing.

To break her sudden discomfort, Brooke lifted her foot to playfully push Sam backwards onto the sand. Sprinting towards the water, she looked back over her shoulder and called out, “Fine, I’ll go swimming! But last one in buys dinner!”

Brooke laughed as she saw Sam instantly struggle to her feet, muttering something about “cheater” and “SO not fair!”

But there were so many people on the beach, that reaching the ocean proved a more difficult task than originally imagined. And Sam was gaining on her. Brooke reached the ocean, right as Sam reached her. She let out a yelp of surprise when Sam wrapped her arms around her, tackling her as they both fell into the water.

Brooke felt like she should be upset, but they could both only burst out laughing as they lay in the shallow water, not even attempting to regain their balance right away.

As their laughter died down, Sam’s expression turned more serious. “Brooke, I’m really sorry I was staring. I just...I dunno, I just had never seen that one before. I mean, I totally wouldn’t have noticed it if I weren’t, you know, right there, and you really shouldn’t be embarrassed about it or anything, because it’s really not a big deal, and...”

Brooke just giggled. Normally she would, in fact, be extremely embarrassed about this. But she was determined to stay in a good mood and not let her insecurities ruin her vacation. “You’re babbling, Sammy. Don’t worry about it. I totally understand, so no need to apologize. Now come on, didn’t you mention something about swimming, not just sitting in the water?”

Brooke stood up, and now it was her turn to reach down and pull Sam to her feet.

It had been Katie’s idea for them all to head down to Florida. Her grandparents had a condo in Daytona Beach that they only used during the winter, so they were able to stay down there for the week for free. Jason couldn’t come, though, and after a few subtle hints from Sam that she didn’t really want her boyfriend to come along either, Katie informed a disappointed Luke that her parents didn’t want any boys staying in the condo, and it was too late to even think about being able to find him a hotel room.

So Katie, Sam, Brooke, and Alexis had the place to themselves, although they actually weren’t there too much. They slept and ate about half of their meals there, but the rest of the time was spent out on the beach, or shopping, or snorkeling, or riding bikes, or whatever else they felt like doing.

That night, the four friends were getting ready to head out to a club. Sam was in the shower, Katie was getting dressed in the room she was sharing with Alexis, and Brooke and Alexis were hanging out in the other bedroom, as Brooke applied her make-up.

Alex had returned to what seemed to be her favorite topic lately -- Brooke’s newfound questioning of her sexual orientation.

“I just don’t understand why you haven’t told Sam and Katie, yet. You know that you don’t have to worry about what they’d think, right? It’s totally not as big of a deal as you seem to think it is.”

Just then, Sam and Katie both entered the room, Katie from the doorway to the hall, and Sam from the adjoining bathroom. “Haven’t told WHAT to Sam and Katie?” they both asked simultaneously.

[ Shit! Damn it, Alexis...horrible timing! ]

Alexis just stared at Brooke apologetically, as Brooke looked back and forth between the two curious newcomers. “Uh, nothing much. Just that....that Charlie asked me out last week.”

Alexis’ look changed from apologetic to surprised. Brooke’s admission was certainly true, but it wasn’t the one Alexis had been expecting.


Sam was dancing. Smiling brightly as she moved to the music, completely at ease. Sam wasn’t drunk, but Brooke knew that a little alcohol always helped her loosen up more. And Brooke couldn’t tear her eyes away from her. She mumbled something about needing some fresh air, and bolted away from the tight circle of her friends. She found some space at the edge of the room, but maneuvered herself so she could still see Sam.

“I’m not sure if you’re even aware of it, but you’ve been watching her all night.”

Brooke looked sharply to her right, to see Katie smiling at her shyly.

“What? Watching who? I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Watching Sam, of course. I’m guessing that this, and not the romantic attentions of Charlie, is what you and Alexis were really talking about earlier?”

[ Fuck, am I that obvious? ]

Brooke just stared at Katie, her expression gradually shifting from tense and ready for denial to panic-stricken.

“Oh, Katie. What am I gonna do? I’m sorry I didn’t tell you. But I mean, it’s SAM, of all people! I shouldn’t be spending my night watching SAM!”

Brooke felt her heart pounding. It was the first time she had admitted aloud her crush...

[ Who am I kidding? This is way more than a crush, at this point. ]

...or whatever it was that she felt for Sam. It was both a huge relief, to have it out in the open, and completely terrifying at the same time.

Katie just reached out and pulled Brooke into a comforting hug, as she whispered soothingly in her ear, “It’s okay. Really. It’ll all work out, somehow. I mean, I’ll admit that the situation kind of sucks, but you’ll be okay, Brooke. Whatever happens, you’ll find a way to pull through. And I’m totally here for you, if you want to talk about it, or whatever.”

Brooke just clung tightly to Katie, trying to will herself not to cry. She was mostly successful, but a few tears fell silently down her cheeks. Slowly, she calmed herself down and pulled back from Katie. “Thanks. Sorry about the freak-out. Oh, and um, Alexis and Jason know that I like both guys and girls, but they don’t know about which girl in particular led me to that conclusion. I’m just not quite ready to tell everyone that yet. So, I know I can totally trust you, but I’d appreciate it if this didn’t go any further.”

“Yeah, sure Brooke, of course.”

Suddenly, Sam and Alexis appeared, laughing about something. Sam was the first to notice the serious expressions on her two friends’ faces. “Hey, is everything okay?”

[ God, I don’t know if I can handle going out there and dancing any longer. Because I want to dance with HER, not with her, Katie, and Alexis. ]

Thankfully, Katie seemed to read her mind. “Yeah, everything’s great. But I’m getting pretty tired, guys. Would it be okay if we head out?”

Brooke gladly breathed in the cooler night air, as they all exited the club. She was extremely grateful to Katie, both for being so awesome about the whole situation, and also for cheerfully carrying on the conversation, covering for Brooke’s thoughtful silence.

Crawling into bed that night, she felt both elation and misery. Because there was only one bed. So she got to share a bed with Sam -- so close to her, but not close enough.

Sam was asleep within a few minutes, but restlessness stayed with Brooke. She froze when she heard Sam sigh contentedly in her sleep, and then reach an arm across Brooke’s stomach, pulling her tight against Sam’s body. It was pure agony. Brooke knew that she wouldn’t be sleeping much tonight. Because she couldn’t let herself relax into Sam’s arms. If she did that, she’d never want to leave.

[ I wonder…does she even realize that it’s me that she’s hugging? Does she think I’m Luke? That would completely suck. Or maybe I just make a good pillow, and there’s nothing more to it than that. ]

But now that the unbidden thought of Sam and Luke in bed had entered Brooke’s mind, she couldn’t get rid of it.

Brooke was thinking about starting her psych paper when she heard a knock at her door.

“It’s open!”

Sam entered, closing the door behind her. She quickly glanced over to Alexis’ side of the room, but Alexis had just left for her early-morning run.

“Hey, Sam. What’s up?” Brooke was puzzled by Sam’s obvious nervousness. Sam opened and closed her mouth several times, apparently trying to figure out what she wanted to say. After a few moments, Sam drew her eyebrows together and seemed to make some kind of decision.

“I slept with Luke,” she blurted out.

Brooke felt some color drain from her face, and her eyes widened. It was way too early in the morning to deal with this.

“You what?” Brooke’s voice was barely above a whisper.

“I slept with Luke.” Sam’s voice sounded stronger this time, but she still looked a little shell-shocked.


If Brooke was honest with herself, she was actually surprised that this conversation hadn’t happened earlier. Still, that didn’t make it any easier to take.

[ So that’s it. They’re sleeping together. They’re really serious. I mean, they’ve been dating for so long, how could it not be serious? But I held some small bit of comfort in the fact that they hadn’t had sex yet. Oh well. There goes that. But I can’t let myself freak out right now. This is so big for Sam, I have to be the good friend that she needs. ]

“Okay. You slept with Luke. That’s…well, I’m happy for you guys. That’s a big step forward for you. Are you okay? I can’t tell whether you’re happy or not.”

Sam shifted back and forth on the balls of her feet. “I don’t know. It was okay. Not quite what I was expecting. I mean, last night, he was just being so perfect, and it all felt right, and I made a conscious decision to go ahead with it, but it was just weird, somehow.”

“Wait, so this just happened last night? Sam, it’s only 7am. Did he leave already?”

Sam looked sheepishly at her feet. “No, he’s still in my room. I felt too weird, being in there, awake, while he slept, so I came down to talk to you. He sleeps like the dead, though, and probably won’t even start waking up for at least another 2 and a half hours.”

Brooke hated that Sam had obviously spent enough time sharing a bed with Luke to learn his sleeping habits. She also noticed that Sam was acting more and more agitated. “It’s just…I definitely wouldn’t call it bad, but I wouldn’t call it good either. Do you know what I mean? But that’s just because it was the first time, right? It’ll get better?”

Brooke felt her heart skip a beat at those words. She didn’t know which would be worse to hear -- that sex with Luke was great, or that the sex was only so-so, but Sam planned to keep having sex with him anyway. But Sam looked so lost. Brooke stood up, took two long strides, and pulled Sam into a hug.

“Don’t worry, Sammy. It’s okay. It usually takes people a little while to adjust to each other like that and learn what’s good for each other.”

Sam kept her arms around Brooke as she mumbled into her neck, “Josh is the guy you’ve had sex with the most, right? Did it get better with him?”

“Honestly, not really. But Josh and I was never a good idea. So you shouldn’t exactly take us as a model.”

[ Poor Josh. Now I understand a little more why that never could have worked out. I think, in a way, I was crushing on Sam even way back then. ]

Brooke closed her eyes, gently stroking Sam’s hair. She could smell Luke’s cologne clinging to Sam’s body, and it almost made her physically sick. More than the smell itself, it was the idea of what the smell meant. Still, she held on until she felt Sam relax, and then finally released her hold on her step-sister.

“Well, I should probably get back up there. Thanks, though, Brooke. I’m really glad I could talk to you.”

She quickly hugged Brooke once more, and then left without another word. As soon as the door closed, Brooke collapsed back onto her bed, releasing a strangled sob.

Unfortunately for Brooke, that morning was not the last time she had to endure a tortuous conversation with Sam about sex with Luke. Because for some reason, Sam seemed to have decided that Brooke should be her post-sex analysis buddy. Brooke secretly thought that sex shouldn’t require that much thought, but it did for Sam, apparently. Now, Brooke allowed herself to turn and look at her bedmate.

[ Oh, Sam. You could do so much better than Luke. He’s a really sweet guy, but I can tell from listening to you that he’s not nearly as good for you as you deserve. ]

The next morning, Brooke dragged her extremely tired self into the kitchen. She glared around the room at her three very awake-looking friends. They all took one look at her and decided not to comment, just point towards the fresh pot of coffee.

After two cups of coffee and a bowl of cereal, Brooke started to feel better. She had come to a conclusion that night, as she lay sleeplessly in bed, and decided that now was as good a time as any to share it.

“You know, I think I’m going to say yes to Charlie. And I’ll clean my dishes later, but I’m going to go take a shower now.”

Brooke turned and quickly left the room, but after a moment’s pause, she heard someone jump up from the table and follow her. Once inside the bedroom, she turned to face Katie, who closed the door and then looked back with a very confused expression on her face.

“You’re saying yes to Charlie? Why?? I mean, last night...I thought it was pretty clear that Charlie’s not the one you’re interested in.”

“No, he’s not. But I can’t handle this. I can’t handle Sam right now. I can’t handle the way I feel around her. I can’t handle listening to her talk about Luke. Talk about the pros and cons of FUCKING Luke. I need some kind of distraction. Any kind of distraction. So, Charlie lucks out by being the right kind of offer.”

Brooke pled silently with her eyes for Katie to just let it go.

After staring at Brooke for another few seconds, she just shrugged her shoulders. “Fine. I don’t think it’s a great idea, but if that’s what you need, then fine.”

[ It’s not what I want, but it’s what I can have. ]

Chapter 12

Sam was about to knock on Brooke’s door, but she was halted by the sound of Brooke talking on the phone.

“I know! Look, I think it’s safe to say that I’m even less happy about it than you are. But it was the guys’ idea, and I couldn’t exactly say no, now could I? Maybe if I had more time, but they put me right on the spot, and I didn’t have a handy excuse ready.”

Sam didn’t like eavesdropping. So even though she was quite curious as to what Brooke was talking about, she raised her fist again and knocked. Brooke opened the door and waved Sam inside, but was preoccupied with listening to whoever was on the phone.

Brooke obviously wasn’t ready to go yet, though, as there were numerous shirts strewn about the room, but Brooke wasn’t actually wearing any of them. Sam blushed as she felt her eyes immediately drawn to Brooke’s pink bra, but she quickly looked away, giving Brooke her privacy.

“Yeah, she just got here...I’ll call you or see you later, to let you know how it goes...Yeah, thanks...Okay, bye Katie.”

Sam frowned. She had noticed that Brooke and Katie had gotten a lot closer lately. And she wasn’t quite sure how she felt about it. On one hand, she was happy that her two best friends got along so well. But on the other hand...she was almost jealous. Because sometimes it felt like Katie had taken over Sam’s role as Brooke’s confidant.

“Sorry, Sam. I’ll be ready in just a minute.”

Sam turned to face Brooke again, and was relieved to see her pulling on a shirt. At the same time, the door opened again, and Alexis walked in. For the second time in the last month, Alexis was once again trying out a new hair color. She was currently going with a multicolored, but primarily pink look.

“I sure hope that shirt is in the process of going on, not coming off...’Cause if it’s the latter, then I guess I’ll just leave you two alone.”

Sam chuckled, as Brooke blushed and glared at Alexis.

“Ha ha, you’re so funny. But no need for you to worry yourself, all is good and innocent, and my shirt will be staying on my body. Sam and I are about to leave.”

“Oh, right! It’s the big double date tonight! Good stuff. So where are the boy toys?”

“We’re meeting them at the restaurant,” Sam answered. “And with any luck, Brooke will be ready to leave soon, or else we’re gonna be late.”

Sam glanced over her shoulder, where Brooke had moved to search through some drawers for something or other.

“Awesome. Well, you kids have fun. I’m actually just stopping in for a minute. I had to come get my bio book, and now I’m off to chill with Jason and try to get some work done. Alas, while you two get to go out on a date, I get to hang out in a library.”

[ It almost sounds like Alex is saying that just Brooke and I are going on a date. Together. By ourselves. But that’s obviously not what she meant, so whatever. I don’t know why I just thought that. ]

Alexis continued, “But you gotta admit, gay guys can often be so much more fun than the straight ones. Anyways, see you two later.”

Brooke finally found what she was looking for -- a tube of lip gloss. “Well I’m ready, so we can all head out together.”

The subway ride to the restaurant was pretty quiet. Brooke seemed preoccupied with something, and kept tapping her foot at an incessant rate. At one point, Sam literally grabbed onto Brooke’s thigh to hold it still.

[ What is Brooke so nervous about? And she’s barely looked at me since I showed up at her room. ]

“Brooke, is everything okay?”

“Yeah, everything’s great. Why?” Even when talking to Sam, Brooke still looked straight ahead.

“You just seem a little...I dunno...agitated about something.”

“No, I’m fine. And this is our stop, so let’s go.”

The restaurant was just a few blocks from there, and they found Luke and Charlie already sitting down. Sam and Brooke joined them, each lightly kissing her respective boyfriend.

After they had all ordered their meals, Sam got up to go to the restroom.

[ This is so much more awkward than I thought it would be. I don’t even know why it’s so awkward...we all normally get along pretty well. But I guess it’s a whole different dynamic when it’s just the four of us. ]

As she was returning to the table, she saw that Charlie was talking. Brooke turned to look in her direction. She quickly looked away again, but then seemed to do a double-take, bringing her gaze back towards Sam. Sam wasn’t sure, but it almost seemed like Brooke’s eyes swept up and down Sam’s body.

[ Did Brooke just check me out? No, she probably just hadn’t noticed what I was wearing before, since she hasn’t looked at me for more than half a second before now. ]

Sam had actually had a lot of trouble figuring out what she was going to wear that night. She finally decided on a silky, red, tight-fitting v-neck top and black pinstripe pants. The shirt had been an impulse buy a month earlier, and she hadn’t actually worn it yet. She thought it looked good on her, but wasn’t sure. Brooke’s seemingly positive appraisal, however, eased some of Sam’s worries in that regard.

As Sam reached the table, Charlie was still talking, Brooke was now staring intently at her lap, and Luke was staring at Brooke with an expression of shock, mixed with what almost looked like anger. Brooke looked up to see Luke staring at her. She looked back at Luke defiantly. They simultaneously stole quick glances toward Sam, before going back to staring at each other. There was some kind of silent communication between them, and Sam had no idea what was going on. Charlie, meanwhile, had finally caught on to the fact that no one was really listening to him, so he also just looked around the table in confusion as to what had happened.

Mercifully, the waiter showed up right then to bring them their food, momentarily breaking the sudden tension at the table.

Fortunately, the good food gave them something safe to talk about for a little while. Luke kept looking back and forth between Sam and Brooke, though, and it was starting to get annoying.

Sam didn’t really understand what Brooke saw in Charlie, but she had to admit that tonight he was doing an admiral job of keeping some kind of conversation going. The guy could talk about anything, it seemed.

“My family has been acting so insane lately. We just found out that my older sister’s boyfriend is going to propose to her next weekend, and my parents are about to explode with excitement about the whole thing. Michelle totally knows that something weird is going on, but luckily, no one’s let the cat out of the bag quite yet.”

“So how’d you guys find out about it?” Sam was happy for something to take Luke’s attention away from her and Brooke.

“Well, he did the whole old-fashioned thing, and asked my parents for Michelle’s hand in marriage.”

Luke commented, “Nice. Classy.”

“No, wait. It’s not ‘classy.’ No offense to your sister’s boyfriend, Charlie, but I think it’s a horrible idea.” Everyone turned to look at Brooke.

Sam was worried to see Luke look almost excited at the prospect of an argument.

[ This is SO not going to end well. I just know it. ]

“Horrible? Don’t you think that’s a bit harsh, Brooke? I think it’s romantic. Aren’t girls like you supposed to like that kind of thing?”

Brooke frowned. “Okay, first of all...‘Girls like me’? What’s THAT supposed to mean?”

“Just, you know...girly girls. Girls that like shopping and want guys to take care of everything for them. The type of girl that Sam used to love writing editorials against.”

“Hey, don’t bring me into this. And yes, I used to write anti-Brooke editorials, but I’ve since learned that there’s a lot more to her than that, so I have to admit that I don’t know what your point is.”

“Thanks, Sam. And the point is that you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about, Luke. You don’t know anything about who I am.” Brooke’s voice remained eerily sweet and calm, but her eyes flashed with anger.

“But to get back to the original point, I like a guy to be romantic just as much as anyone else. But asking your girlfriend’s parents for their permission to get married isn’t romantic. It’s out-dated and misogynistic.”

“Where do you get that idea? It’s considerate. It’s respectful. It shows that you want to get along with her family, that you’re willing to go that extra step to make everything go smoothly. Having the parents’ approval ensures  all that.”

“But it’s not the parents’ decision! If my dad didn’t approve of the person I love, then that would suck, but it has nothing to do with him, and if we really loved each other, then the lack of his approval wouldn’t matter. You’re marrying the girl, not the father. The tradition of asking for a woman’s hand in marriage is rooted in the idea that the daughter has no say in the matter. She’s just a piece of property to be bought! I’m sorry, but I don’t find THAT to be considerate and respectful.”

Sam felt a thrill run through her. It has been a while since she had heard Brooke argue. And for once, she wasn’t on the receiving end of Brooke’s scorn. It was nice to watch her in action, without having to worry about holding her own. Seeing Brooke all fired up was definitely quite a sight to see.

Charlie grinned and slung his arm proudly around Brooke’s shoulders.

“I think my girl’s got you beat, there, Luke. I learned very quickly that it’s useless to have an argument with Brooke, because she’ll always win. You’d think that you would’ve learned the same thing with Sam. Just do me a favor, Brooke, and don’t think too badly of my sister if she’s totally charmed by the whole thing.”

Sam stiffened a little the moment that Charlie’s arm made contact with Brooke. She felt an immediate dampening of the feeling that watching Brooke had created in her. Somehow, she didn’t like the idea of Brooke being “my girl” to Charlie. Brooke had just finished ranting against male entitlement over women, and here was Charlie, possessively wrapping his arm around her.

Brooke merely rolled her eyes. She, too, seemed to deflate under the weight of Charlie’s arm, losing some of the fire in her eyes. Sam tried to catch her gaze, tried to read what she was thinking. Brooke looked uncomfortable. Like she wanted to be anywhere but there in the restaurant with the three of them.

[ Is this what Brooke was talking about, then, when she was on the phone with Katie? Was the prospect of tonight what she was so unhappy about? ]

As they exited the restaurant a while later, Sam managed to get Brooke’s attention. Brooke had kept a superficial smile on her face for the rest of the meal, but she only really brightened up when she could talk lightly with Charlie and not deal with either Luke or Sam.

“Hey, you alright?”

When Brooke turned towards Sam, a strand of hair hung in front of her face. Without thinking, Sam reached out and lightly brushed it back and behind Brooke’s ear.

The touch startled Brooke, and she quickly took a step away from Sam. She stared at Sam with a pained expression, as Sam looked back, her hand frozen in mid-air, unsure of what she had done wrong.

“Yeah, I’m fine.” Something over Sam’s shoulder caught Brooke’s attention, and Sam glanced back, to see Luke watching them, as Charlie tried to flag down a cab. Sam turned back to Brooke, who looked at her sadly. “I’m just tired. You should go with your boyfriend. He mentioned that you were thinking of going back to Columbia tonight, and that’s in the opposite direction. Charlie can get me home, so I’ll just see you later. Goodnight, Sam.”

[ What’s wrong, Brooke? Why won’t you talk to me? ]

In the cab with Sam, Luke didn’t wait long before venting his various frustrations with Brooke.

After letting him go on for a minute, Sam interrupted.

“Look, I don’t know what your problem is. I know that I’m dating you, but Brooke is my best friend, so I can’t imagine what you expect to gain by complaining about her to me! You’re acting like a jealous little kid, and I have no idea why. Brooke did nothing wrong tonight, and right now, all you’re succeeding at doing is making me wish that I had gone home with her, instead of coming with you!”

[ Whoever thought up the idea of a double date is an idiot. ]

Chapter 13

Brooke had been driving for about five hours, and it was almost midnight, but she didn’t feel like stopping yet. She drove along the near-empty highway, somewhere in the middle of New Mexico. She was pretty sure that Albuquerque would be coming up in an hour or so, and that seemed like a good enough place to stay for the night.

Brooke loved the stillness of the night -- the silence of everything except for Sam’s slow and steady breathing. Sam murmured in her sleep, shifting around in the seat. Brooke smiled, as she glanced over at her step-sister. Sam always looked so cute when she slept, Brooke couldn’t help but smile.

This was their fourth day on the road, and they would probably make it back home in another day. It had been a very long four days, but Brooke was absolutely loving it. At the end of the school year, Brooke’s dad and Jane had driven across the country to go pick up Brooke and Sam. The parentals then took a plane home, as Sam and Brooke were left to drive the packed car back to California. They had done pretty much nothing other than drive, but it gave them plenty of time to watch the passing scenery, and sing along to the radio, and just talk. Luke and Charlie hadn’t even called too often, which would have taken away from Brooke’s enjoyment of the trip.

Getting to Albuquerque took less time than Brooke had anticipated, and then it was pretty easy to find a cheap motel room. She managed to drag a still-very-sleepy Sam into the room, and although she hadn’t felt tired in the car, Brooke fell asleep almost as soon as her head hit the pillow.

The next thing Brooke was consciously aware of was the smell of fresh coffee. She reluctantly opened her eyes, and found that Sam was no longer in bed. She stretched, and the motion must have caught Sam’s attention, as she turned from her chair by the window.

“Brooke, you’re awake! I hope I didn’t wake you up. I tried to be quiet. But come look! According to this guide, those are the Sandia Mountains. ‘Sandia’ means ‘watermelon’ in Spanish, and some people say that they’re named that because of the pink color of the sunrise reflecting off the face of the mountains. Isn’t it beautiful?”

Brooke sleepily turned on her side, so that she could see the view out the window. Of course, Brooke thought that the view of the person right beside the window was worth a good look all on its own.

 “Certainly not a bad sight to wake up to. But who are you, and what have you done with my friend Sam? Because the Sam I know likes to sleep in until at least 10am. The Sam I know would definitely not voluntarily wake up in time for sunrise.”

Sam just grinned, as Brooke yawned. “Very funny. But if you include the sleep I got while you were driving, I got about 10 hours of sleep last night. I just happened to wake up on my own. But you must be exhausted! So don’t mind me, you should totally go back to sleep. We have more time before we need to hit the road again. I’ll even come and re-tuck you in.”

Sam walked over to the bed, and straightened the sheets which had gotten tangled up during the night, pulling them around Brooke. Brooke held her breath as Sam smiled at her, then bent down and kissed her on the forehead.

“Goodnight, Princess. Sweet dreams.”

[ If you’re in them, then I’m sure they will be. ]


One month later, and Brooke was bored. After an insanely busy previous summer, she had decided to take it easy this time. At first, it had been great -- plenty of time for sleeping in every day, and lounging around watching TV or going to the beach or shopping or whatever else she felt like. However, not having anything to do was starting to get old.

It was now noon, and she had yet to change out of her pajamas. The whole high school gang was coming over soon, so she knew that she should probably get dressed. But she had about an hour before they were supposed to show up, which was just enough time to get ready.

At that thought, the doorbell rang.

[ Damn it. Of course, they have to show up early, on a day I’m acting like a total slob. ]

But Sam was in the shower, and no one else was home, so Brooke had to be the one to answer the door.

Brooke grumbled as she opened the door, and started speaking before she even saw who was on the other side.

“You’re early, which is totally not cool, and...”

Brooke froze, staring in surprise at the two grinning, but unexpected, faces that greeted her.

“Charlie! Luke! What are you guys doing here? I haven’t gotten dressed yet. We weren’t expecting you. I can’t believe you’re here right now. I have to go get changed.” Brooke’s sentences followed in quick succession, and she then bolted back into the house.

On her way upstairs, she heard Charlie comment, “Well, at least she left the door open. I guess that means we can go in.”

[ Charlie’s here. At my house. Why is he here? He shouldn’t be here. Okay, you need to stop freaking out. He is, officially, your boyfriend, so I guess that’s a pretty legitimate reason for being here. But now you’re talking to yourself in your head, which probably isn’t a good sign. ]

She heard the shower turn off, so went to poke her head inside the bathroom.

“Jesus, Brooke! Knock much?! I’m kind of not wearing clothing, here!”

For once, Brooke was actually too flustered to get sidetracked by the fact that only a towel stood between her and Sam’s nakedness.

“Sam, Charlie and Luke are here! I don’t know why. You need to get dressed quickly and then go entertain them or something. I need a shower and can’t deal with them right this second.” She closed the door to the bathroom again, and went to continue her freak-out in her own room. The summer had allowed her time to forget about the problem of Charlie and what she was going to do about him. Until now.

A little while later, Brooke made her way back down the stairs, to find Sam, Luke, and Charlie all sitting in the living room.

“Hey, guys. Sorry about earlier. And to what do we owe this visit?”

Charlie stood up from the couch to give Brooke a hug and a kiss. “Well, baby...Luke lives nearby, as you know. And remember how I said my parents were thinking of taking a vacation out to San Diego? Well, we got out there last week, and then I took a train to Luke’s house yesterday, and we drove over today as a surprise!”

“Well, you certainly managed to surprise me!”

Just then, the front door opened as Lily, Carmen, and Harrison entered, simply letting themselves in. They were in the middle of conversation, but stopped as soon as they saw the two unfamiliar faces in the room.

Lily just smiled in greeting and walked right up to Luke and Charlie, extending her hand. “Hello! I’m Lily. And that’s Carmen and Harrison. Who are you?”

“Uh. I’m Luke. And that’s Charlie. We’re dating Sam and Brooke.”

At that, Carmen hurried over and smacked Sam on the arm. “Oh my god. You two totally didn’t tell us that your boys were coming! This is so exciting!”

Sam frowned as she rubbed her arm where Carmen had hit her. “Well, it’s kind of news to us, too.”

Harrison just remained standing by the door, his arms crossed in front of his chest, as he warily eyed the two guys.

The doorbell then rang again, and Sam went to answer it, revealing Nicole and Mary Cherry. They both brushed passed Sam, with Nicole “accidentally” running her shoulder into her brunette nemesis. “Ugh. I can’t believe I let Brooke convince us to come be in the same room as you losers. Brooke, hun, you’re lucky that I like you. But hello...who are these fine-looking gentlemen, and why haven’t I met them yet??”

After another round of introductions, everyone settled in to just sit and talk. Luke and Charlie looked a little overwhelmed by the craziness that was all of their friends. Brooke was just relieved that she didn’t have to focus too much attention on her boyfriend. It took all her and Sam’s energy just to diffuse the arguments that almost erupted between Nicole or Mary Cherry and someone else every few minutes.

“Now wait just one second, there, Mr. Luke. You tryin’ to tell me that you actually LIKE datin’ Spam? ‘Cuz that just seems mighty strange to me. Someone as good-lookin’ as you shudn’t be wastin’ yer time with someone like her. Now ME, on the other hand. I wud be the perfect catch fer someone like you.”

“God, Mary Cherry...you are so full of yourself! Luke obviously thinks that Sam is hot, and I think that the two of them make a great couple! You’d never be able to handle someone like Luke -- he’d use too many big words that you wouldn’t understand.”

“I don’t know what yer talkin’ ‘bout, lil’ Lily. If I was datin’ Luke, then he wudn’t be usin’ big words. He wudn’t have time to, ‘cuz we’d be spendin’ all our time makin’ sweet, sweet love! Ooh, I know! I bet Spam has put poor Luke under some kind of spell! Nic, we have to save Luke from Spam’s evil clutches!”

A few hours later, and the high school friends had left, leaving the rest of them to recuperate. Over the course of the afternoon, though, Brooke had been dismayed to learn that, while Charlie was planning on staying at Luke’s house, he would be sticking around for another week before he returned home to Chicago.


Finally, Charlie was gone. It had been a long week. Brooke tiredly entered the Palace, took a few minutes to chat with Jane and play with little Mac, and then dragged her feet upstairs, collapsing onto her bed.

She sighed, and then got up and let herself into Sam’s room. Sam was sitting at her desk, typing something on her computer. Sam glanced at her briefly, before continuing to type.

“Well, Brooke, how kind of you to finally grace me with your presence.”

[ Huh? What is Sam’s problem? ]

“Uh, I’m sorry, but I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Well try thinking a little harder, there, blondie. I mean, what could I possibly be talking about? Oh, I don’t know. Maybe just the fact that I spent an hour waiting for you at the gallery where you had promised to go see a photography exhibit with me. The one I had noticed especially because I thought you’d be interested. It was a great show, by the way. And I hope you don’t mind, but since you were a no-show, I called up Lily and she came instead.”

“Oh, shit. Sam, I’m so sorry, I completely forgot! I was with Charlie...and things went a little longer than I anticipated, and I just lost track of everything else.”

“Right. Of course. This whole week, you’ve been too busy sucking face with your precious boyfriend! I mean, who needs regular old friends to hang out with, when you’ve got a visiting boyfriend, right?”

“Oh, come on, Sam. No need to be overly dramatic. I really am sorry! This stupid visit has thrown me completely off-base this past week. I mean, he made the whole effort to come all the way out here, I couldn’t just ignore him. And I resent your implication that all we’ve been doing is making out, which is completely not true! I am sorry that we haven’t been hanging out together as much. But if you remember, over winter break, Luke practically lived here for a month, and I put up with that without complaint. So you’d think that you could deal with one week!”

Brooke didn’t really want to fight with Sam, but the stress of the week had been building up, and Sam was providing a perfect target for lashing out.

“But when Luke was here, I never ditched you just to go be with him. We at least did stuff together!”

“Yeah, and that was SO much fun for me! Hanging out as the third wheel with you and your boyfriend -- loads of fun!”

“Look, I guess I just really don’t understand what you’re doing with Charlie. You have nothing in common with him, he can be a total ass sometimes, and you become a completely different person when you’re around him! Suddenly, you become the perfect, stereotypical, blonde! You’re back to acting like you did in high school, with Josh. If that’s all he sees in you -- the trophy girlfriend -- then I don’t know what you’re doing, putting up with his shit.”

“Wow. I’m glad you’re finally telling me what you really think. So, my idea of being a good girlfriend couldn’t possibly lead to anything more than trophy status, huh?”

“Brooke, that’s not what I meant…”

“No? Because that’s what it sounded like! Well while we’re being honest, here, I have a few things that I want to tell you, too. You and Luke? Not a good couple! And the sex is not going to get better! You think about it too much!”

“Are you saying that it’s my fault that the sex isn’t good??”

 “No, not necessarily. I have no way of knowing about your personal contribution to the issue.”

Brooke paused momentarily, blushing, as it struck her that, technically, she did have a way of knowing. Because she had already slept with Sam. She looked at Sam, seeing the same look of alarm cross Sam’s features, and Brooke guessed that a similar thought process was running through her step-sister’s head. But they hadn’t talked about that night in over a year, and she didn’t plan to bring it up again now.

So, although a little more flustered, Brooke steeled herself and continued. “Well, whatever. I don’t know whether the sex is bad because you think about it too much, or whether you think about it too much because the sex is bad. Probably the second one, but in any case, that doesn’t really matter. The point is, the sex is bad, and it’s been bad for four months! I’m going to go out on a limb here, and guess that it’s still going to be bad another four months from now! And yet, you stay with him! Sex isn’t everything in a relationship, not by a long shot. But it is a major part! But you won’t break up with him. And you know why? Because you’re too nice, and because you’re a coward! Luke is ‘safe,’ for you now. You know what you’re getting with him. And you’re too scared that if you let him go, no one else is going to come along. And if you keep thinking like that, then maybe no one will. But if you open yourself up for once, put yourself out there, take a risk... Then you could have anyone you wanted.”

Brooke and Sam glared at each other wordlessly. The intensity between them was palpable. They hadn’t had a big fight like this in a long time; Brooke had forgotten how draining it was, how fighting with Sam always made her feel both exhausted and frustrated beyond belief.

She let her shoulders drop, as she sighed and looked at Sam sadly. “Anyway, like I said, I’m really sorry that I forgot about going to the gallery with you. I had been looking forward to it, too. But I came in here to tell you that I just broke up with Charlie, and it didn’t exactly go too well, and I had wanted to talk to you about it, but I really don’t want to be around you right now. So I’m just gonna go.”

Brooke saw Sam’s face immediately soften, but she just turned around and left, going to her own room to lie down on her bed and cry.

[ Why can’t I just like Charlie the way that I like Sam? Life would be so much easier! ]

Section 2


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