Author: Janine
Title: "Well, This Happened"
Genre: Popular
Pairing: Brooke/Sam
Rating: NC-17
Summary: The real world pokes its head into the girls love bubble, and nothings going to be the same again.
Disclaimers: I don't own any of these characters, I'm just borrowing them for a short period of time.
E-mail: jbstories@hotmail.com 

| Parts 1-17 | Parts 18-29 | Parts 30-Epilogue |

 

Part Thirty

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There are certain rules that govern human existence, one of which is that the only thing that moves faster than the speed of light in the natural universe is the speed of gossip, which is directly proportional to the scandalousness of the information to be gabbed about and spread around like syphilis in a 19th century burlesque house. The more damaging the information, the juicer, the sexier, the better. The place where this phenomenon was first documented and studied were high schools, for nowhere else on the planet--besides Hollywood--could you find a population of people more willing and with more free time to spread and create this gossip gleefully. Days after Sam, Brooke and their respective associates partied in a mightily hearty fashion at 'Sirens', anyone who was interested in this verbal wonder would have done well to visit the hallways of Kennedy High, for they were simply abuzz with hearsay that simply had to be passed along, ripped apart and spread to the masses for general consumption. Simply put it had been a very good weekend for the rumor mill and this was a Monday morning that was humming away.

Discussion Number 1:

"They were sooo Elizabeth Berkley and Gina Gershon from Show Girls!"

"No!"

"Yes! I saw it with my own eyes."

"What the fuck were you doing there anyway man?!"

"Gay cousin Andrew and his partner took me. Free beer man. Anyway, I swear to god at one point Brooke had her hand up Sam's shirt! You should have come � I know I did later that night."

"That's sick man. So it was really hot?"

Discussion Number 2:

"How trendy. I expected more from Sam really."

Discussion Number 3:

"I heard there was so much sexual tension you wouldn't have been able to cut threw it with a Bob Vila chainsaw."

"You're so full of shit."

"I don't think so. I'm telling you I heard that they were positively ancient Greek about it. Everybody's saying so."

Discussion Number 4:

"Sleepovers at that house must be like the best in the whole wide world!"

Discussion Number 5:

"I don't know if that home needs improvement, but I'd sure like to be a fly on its wall."

"You don't seriously believe that shit, do you? Come on. Brooke's not gay�Sam maybe, but not Brooke. Whoever started this should have tried to make it at least a little bit believable. Like the Richard Gere gerbil story. Now that was juicy."

Discussion Number 6:

"I'm so serious, I half expected them to break it down on the floor. Hands were in naughty, naughty places."

"And how do you know about this? Were you there or something?"

"Uh�no."

"I can't believe you went to 'Sirens', that place is a tackily decorated STD."

"Yeah�well, you're ugly."

Discussion Number 7:

"I knew it. Yes I did. I so knew it."

Discussion Number 8:

"Ohmygod, I saw something like this on the Internet!"

"You do know that they're not actually sisters, don't you?"

Discussion Number 9:

"I knew it, I knew it. You can't have that much hate without there being something underneath."

"Does that mean that you're actually secretly in love with Bio Glass?"

Discussion Number 10:

"That's hot man. It makes me something else that starts with an 'h'." High fives are exchanged.

"Tell me about it. Rob said they were grinding it down hardcore man. He said they were like getting freaky man."

"We gotta start going to 'Sirens' dude."

"Definitely man, definitely."

Discussion Number 11:

"Is this a new trend? I hope we don't all have to start doing it. First Drew Barrymore, then Angelina Jolie, now this. I don't understand. Does it make you skinnier?"

"I'm not doing it. I don't care if it is popular. I think it's gross!"

"But does it make you skinnier? I'm just not into this Xena Warrior Princess shit, you know?"

"I don't know. Do you think it works if you just read Maxim? I can do that, but I'd actually read it for the articles."

"Did you see the one with Love, she was talking about this avocado mixture�"

Discussion Number 12:

"Gay? Like in an Elton John way?"

Discussion Number 13:

"I told you Brooke checked me out one time in the shower that time."

"Why would Brooke be checking *you* out if she has Sam?"

"Hello? Have you not been paying attention? She's gay...ish, I'm gay, maybe she was looking for some nookie."

"Once again I repeat, why would she be checking you out when she's got the sexiest, most delicious woman in the Western hemisphere at home?"

"Oh god, not your Sam fixation again. You sound like one of those thirteen year olds obsessed with the stars of the WB."

Discussion Number 14:

"What were *you* doing there?"

"I was checking out the guys�what do you think I was doing there. Hot Sapphic action you moron!"

"Somehow I get the feeling you really were checking out the guys."

Discussion Number 15:

"Did you say there was a video? I want the video dude."

Discussion Number 16:

"Brooke? Who cares about Brooke? What does this mean about Josh? Be still my throbbing loins!"

"He is in the musical."

"I know. Why do you think I joined?"

"Because you secretly want to be La Barbara."

"Secretly, please�"

Discussion Number 17:

"This is my greatest fantasy come true. Finally some grrlfriends that actually look like the ones on T.V."

Thus, we have the gossipmongers in their natural habitat. Fascinating.

* * * * * *

Part Thirty-One

---------------------

Brooke moved her spoon around her cereal bowl restlessly as she stared at the soggy flakes contemplatively. She looked over at Sam who seemed to be about as interested in finishing her breakfast as she herself was and wondered if Sam was thinking about the same thing she was thinking about. As she thought about this she noticed Sam look over at her.

"Have you been getting the feeling lately that you're�." Brooke started to say.

"Being watched? Yes. I thought it was just me," Sam finished for her, agreeing with the sentiment. She had felt like she was constantly being watched for a couple days, and had thought that she was being paranoid but now she wasn't so sure. "What about when you walk into a room? Does everything�" she continued.

"Suddenly go quiet? Yes, totally," Brooke responded excitedly. So she wasn't going insane, it was just everyone else.

"Are you finding it as annoying as I am?" Sam asked, making a face. She was beginning to feel like the chief suspect in a murder case. Everyone was eyeing her suspiciously but not saying anything directly to her, like they expected her to pull out a knife and slice them with it or something. It was highly irritating.

"At least as much. It's driving me insane," Brooke related, tugging at her ear. She was used to people looking at her, but this was different. It was like they were judging her, or at least studying her. She felt like one of those single-celled organisms that they learned about in biology class. She decided that she didn't like being under a microscope.

"I'm a reporter, I should investigate," Sam said decisively. Now that she knew she wasn't making it up she wanted to know what was going on so that she could make it stop. Immediately.

"For once, I'm all for it," Brooke responded. "Ouch!" the cheerleader declared a moment later after Sam slapped her slightly on the shoulder.

"Behave," Sam instructed with a mock sternness. "I have something for you."

"Is it another punch? Cause if it is I don't want it," Brooke replied petulantly though she looked over at Sam expectantly.

Sam leaned over and kissed her on the cheek lightly.

"Is that okay?" Sam asked, watching as Brooke's frown turned upside down.

"That's very okay," the blonde responded about to make an offering of her own when Jane walked into the kitchen.

As Jane looked at them, she once again got the distinct impression that she was interrupting something. There was just something in their demeanor when they were together that both charmed and alarmed her. "You've still got a few minutes," she said absently as she noticed them both start to stand up.

Brooke looked down into her bowl, which now basically only contained a pile of brown mush and turned to face Jane. "That's okay," she responded. And with that she began to migrate towards the door.

"Brooke," Sam said, halting her progress. The cheerleader and her mother both turned to look at her. "Are you forgetting something?" Brooke looked at her quizzically.

Forgetting something? Surely Sam didn't want a goodbye kiss. Her mother was standing right there, plus, they were going in the same car.

Seeing the utterly confused look on the blonde's face, Sam held up her school bag, then pointedly looked at Brooke's empty hands. "Oh," Brooke said suddenly. "Oh," she repeated. "I'll go get that."

As Brooke headed out of the room, Sam leaned against the doorway, rolled her eyes up towards the ceiling, and boredly starting making clicking sounds with her mouth, which eventually ran together forming a little song. This seemed to amuse her, because she smiled and then started to do it more intently, bobbing her head along to the beat.

"What are you doing?" Jane asked more to try and make her stop than anything else.

"Just working on my music," Sam responded, grinning at her mother, before turning to stare lazily into the kitchen.

"Are you alright?" Jane asked. The question was more than a brilliant bridge into a conversation that Jane had been wanting to have with her, she was truly concerned. For the past five days or so, Sam had been relatively easy going, but before that her moods had been all over the place. Jane now believed she knew the cause of Sam's earlier depression, but she still wanted to hear what her daughter had to say.

"Yeah," Sam responded turning to face her mother once again. She had that look on her face again. That look Sam had come to dread. It was an inquisitive and sad look, and she had noticed her mother looking at her with it for a while. This look made her nervous, it wasn't a good look on Jane. "Why?" Sam asked, a touch of suspicion clear in her voice.

"I'm a mother, we have to ask sometimes to feel like we're doing our jobs," Jane responded, hearing Brooke at the top of the stairs. "And at the risk of turning the conversation into a cheesy but informative social studies video, I want you to know that if anything is bothering you � or if you're confused about something or just want to talk I'm here for you."

"I know," Sam responded, avoiding her mother's eyes. She wished that that was true, she had always been close to her mother, and especially so after her father's death, but what was up with her was NOT something that you talked to your mother about. "I've always known," she continued with a smile small, unable to say anything else yet wanting to comfort her mother somewhat.

Jane nodded, then turned her head to watch Brooke's approach. The blonde held up her bag proudly with a smile. "Remember when we were at grandma's and the dog brought the bird it had killed to the dinner table dropping it on the floor proudly?" Sam asked as she to looked at Brooke and shook her head. "This reminds me of that�only the dog had something to be proud of." Jane turned to look at Sam, and couldn't help but laugh.

"What?" Brooke asked, reaching them. The McPherson's just chuckled while trying to act like they weren't. "Come on...what?" Brooke said, her voice verging on whining. Sam and Jane stopped for a moment and looked over at her, then just when Brooke thought they were finally going to stop, they started all over again. Brooke could tell this was just going to be one fabulous bitch of a day.

* * * * *

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Part Thirty-Two : "Sam and Brooke's No Good, Very Bad Day"

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Sam sighed and adjusted her bag, she could feel her heart rate increasing and knew that her palms were sweating, she could feel them all watching her. Dozens of pairs of eyes trained on her, thinking she didn't know what. It was like the walls themselves were watching her. Tilting her head to the side, her gaze caught Jason Burgess's roving eyes. Almost immediately a dirty smile appeared on his face and he licked his lips and winked at her. Sam immediately turned away and continued down the hall, a completely disgusted frown marring her features. She was still freaked and now she felt like she needed a shower. This was just the perfect day! She sighed to herself, things were getting ridiculous, it was ten times as bad as it had been the day before, now people weren't even pretending like they weren't talking about her, they would openly point! She sighed again, that was just rude. She wondered if Brooke was getting the same thing.

As she entered the cafeteria there was once again a wave of people that turned to look and look and look at her. Catching Brooke's eyes she saw a bewildered expression that matched her own. Sam quickly made her way over to where her friends were sitting and sat down, resting her arm on the table obscuring the side of her face from any watchers. Once safely tucked away she noticed that Harrison was sitting with them, it was the first time since she had told him about her and Brooke. Of course they had talked the day after her date with Brooke, and he had apologized for his behavior and said that things would change, however this was the first time she had actually noticed the change he promised. For the first time that day Sam's mood approached something resembling happiness. Maybe everything would be all right.

"Please tell me that you all noticed those children of the corn stares," Sam said looking at each of them beseechingly. In response the three other people at the table exchanged conspiratorial looks with each other and shifted in their chairs uncomfortably. Sam got a sinking feeling upon witnessing this. "What's going on?" she asked somewhat apprehensively.

"You seriously haven't heard?" Harrison asked somewhat dubiously. Sam was usually on top of these things. He was hoping that she had heard because he didn't want to be the one to break it to her. Honestly he wasn't sure, if push came to shove, that he could break it to her. Hell, he didn't even want to break it to himself!

"No," Sam responded in a distressed tone. He wasn't meeting her eyes. This was a bad sign. Whatever was going on was big, it was big and it was about her and she didn't even know what it was, she thought to herself working herself into a big 'ol panic. "I can't hear anything because when I approach people cease with the talking."

The three of them exchanged another set of looks.

"Everyone's talking about you," Carm finally said, her voice only a whisper.

"Yeah, I figured that much out on my own," Sam responded somewhat bitchily. Having the entire population of the school ogling her for days on end had really started to fry her nerves. "What are they talking about?"

"When I said you, I didn't mean you singularly, more like you as in you and Brooke, you," Carmen replied in a rush, refusing to meet Sam's gaze. "The general consensus is that you two are doing the horizontal mamba � and that lots of people wouldn't mind watching that particular dance."

Sam stared at Carm for a minute, the only motion in her body being her chest rising and falling at regular intervals. She continued to stare like this for quite some time before emitting a sound from the back of her throat that could only be described as the most pitiful whimper ever in creation before she dropped her head to the table and began whimpering some more.

"Look at the bright side, at least you won't be sent to an all girls school � or boot-camp," Lily commented. She immediately received a slap on the shoulder from Carmen and the stink-eye from Harrison. Sam merely moaned again and trashed her head about. This was officially a no good, very bad day.

* * * * * *

Brooke observed everyone at the table dubiously, but she paid special attention to Mary Cherry. They were all acting bizarrely, but Brooke was finding Mary Cherry's repeated inquiries as to whether or not she wanted to squeeze her ripe, juicy melons particularly off-putting. Sugar Daddy was an interesting shade of red and despite her repeated attempts he didn't seem to be able to look her in the eye. Besides that Josh was shifting and shimmying in his chair like someone had poured itching powder down his pants, Popita was wearing plaid for some reason, and there was a general feeling of tension at the table. She got the distinct impression that there was a secret everyone was in on but her.

"Will somebody please tell me what the hell is going on here?" Brooke requested. Immediately Mary Cherry raised her hand in the air and began to bounce in her seat. Seeing that the southerner was the only volunteer � which made her worry even more -- Brooke told her to go ahead.

Once Brooke had given her the okay, Mary Cherry took a moment to compose herself then launched into her oratory with an amazing verve. "It is nah commin knowledge," she started dramatically, "that you Brooke McQueen, home-coming queen and mah personal model for all that it means to be blonde and beautiful -- next ta the goddess Gywneth of course -- have," she paused here with positively theatrical timing, "tasted of the forbidden fruit," she intoned gravely, before breaking out into a wide grin. "That is ta say that like the great Tallulah Bankhead, you have vigorously embraced the love that dare not speak its name." She then leaned back in her chair proudly and folded her arms.

Brooke was silent for a moment, then she turned to face Nicole. "So they know about Sam?" she asked her friend. The shorthaired blonde simply nodded. Brooke nodded back at her then said, "Well, in that case there's only one thing to do."

Upon hearing this Nicole's face immediately brightened. This was going to be very interesting, when Brooke got her bitch on, she could go with the best of them. Nicole had known that the school wide discovery of her relationship with Spam had been on Brooke's mind since she had confronted Nicole in the Novak weeks ago, however Nicole didn't know that was how the Brooke planned on dealing with the inevitable spread of the information. After their heartrending meeting it had became clear to Nicole that Brooke had had a change of heart regarding how she viewed her own relationship, now Nicole was just intensely curious to see how this newfound pride played itself out in a more public arena. In other words she was waiting on eggshells to see if Brooke was going to be all, 'we're here, we're queer', or if she was going to employ the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy. Only time would tell, and that time was upon them.

Brooke allowed her gaze to float around the cafeteria for a moment, taking in all of the looks that were still being sent her way. She bit her bottom lip and let out a soft sigh. Catching the eye of a girl at a table off to her right Brooke stood up. She had had enough of this; it was time to end things one way or another. This was war, and in war there were always causalities. This girl, this unfortunate soul, was to be the first. Too bad so sad, c'est la vie.

"You. Capri pants and fuchsia scarf," she said, addressing the girl. "First of all, no," she said looking at the outfit and making a face and shaking her finger chastisingly. "Secondly, and this is the important part so pay attention now�what are you looking at?" Capri pants and fuchsia scarf merely blinked at Brooke in a stunned silence.

* * * * * *

"What's going on?" Carm asked looking over at Brooke who seemed to be harassing Kristen Sheridan. Carm didn't think that the outfit worked particularly well either, but that was no reason to single her out.

"I sense a kaboom," Sam stated pushing her chair back. "A big kaboom," she added, returning her full attention to the scene being played out in front of them.

* * * * * *

When Capri pants and fuchsia scarf neglected to reply, Brooke turned her attention to a girl off to her left who she had noticed looking at her earlier. "And you. Pleather and not quite DKNY," Brooke continued, addressing the girl with a raised eyebrow that was both questioning and disapproving. "Care to share what's so interesting?" Pleather and not quite DKNY apparently did not care to share because she simply gaped at Brooke like a hungry fish. Brooke sighed; this was getting her nowhere. These people were suppose to respond to her, not just sit there like they had the IQ of a box of hair. She was going to have to be more direct.

Turning away from the gaping figure in front of her, Brooke looked over to the side towards where Sam was. She spotted the brunette right away as she was now standing up watching Brooke with a curious expression. Brooke stared at her for a second, then began to walk over to her. She could see Sam, and feel the whole cafeteria, watching her every move and it felt like hours before she actually made it over to the brunette. When she reached Sam, she stopped just in front of her and greeted her with a small lopsided smile. Sam gave her a nervous smile back, and it was all Brooke could do not to erupt into a full-fledged smile. Sam was so cute sometimes.

"Journey's end," Brooke whispered, stepping so close to Sam that there was hardly any space between them.

"And lovers meet," Sam whispered back in a barely audible voice, still watching Brooke intensely.

"Do you know what I'm going to do?" Brooke asked stopping in that intimate position, still watching Sam.

"Yes," Sam breathed out in a tone just as quiet as Brooke's. As she spoke her lips twitched slightly, and Brooke knew that she was trying to contain a smirk. That was what she wanted to hear, what she wanted to see. They had to be in this together. Then without further comment Brooke, in one grand sweeping motion, brought her hand up to Sam's face and leaned in, bringing their lips together, in a brief but thorough kiss.

Up until their lips met they had both been painfully aware of the eyes on them, but afterwards, though they could both feel everyone gaping at them, it wasn't quite as painful anymore, like a distant hum, an abstract annoyance. Brooke had kissed Sam in front of the entire cafeteria, Sam had let her, and now there it was.

Separating herself from Sam, Brooke turned to survey the stupefied crowd once more. Silence greeted her and she knew that she was still ringmaster, at least for the moment. This was good. If anyone had been up to responding to her she didn't think she'd be able to handle it at the moment, because despite her composed appearance she was a nervous wreck.

"Are you happy now?" she asked, addressing anyone and everyone. "Is that what you wanted to see?" she continued, her voice a little tired. She should have been an actress. "Can we all go back to lunch now or is there something else I can do for you? Anybody need a kidney? A liver? A stick of juicy fruit maybe?" She paused there, waiting to see if anyone would indeed say something. She didn't think anyone would and she was right. "No? Good," she stated. "Carry on, carry on," she continued, waving her hand dismissively at them and turning back around to face Sam.

With that she whispered, "Just sit back down, and don't look at any of them. It'll be alright," then she herself turned around and headed back to her table not taking her eyes off of Nicole's smirking face until she reached it and sat down. There she slumped imperceptivity and her hands shook faintly, but nobody was watching her anymore. Brooke then surveyed the table, taking in their surprised (Josh, Sugar Daddy and Popita) and amused (Nicole and Mary Cherry) expressions. Her face fell, oh god what had she done?

As Sam sat back down, a mildly dazed look covering her features, Carm leaned over and whispered, "that was excellent," to which Sam smiled, then started to laugh, and soon they were all laughing, the same nervous, relieved, terrified, amused laugh. There is was, they all realized. Spread out like a two dollar buffet for everyone's consumption. Eat up, eat up, it's on us, Sam thought to herself, pausing a split second after the thought ran through her head. When she fully realized the implications of what they had just done she stopped, everything. She was no longer laughing. Oh god, she thought, what have we done???

* * * * * *

Part Thirty-Three

---------------------

Sam breezed into the house barely seeing. She felt light-headed, the ground under her feet felt like it was shifting, the air around her shimmering. She hardly felt stable and half expected to tip over at any given minute. There was no sound, and everything seemed warmer for some reason, blurry and intrusive.

"Why are you home so early?" Jane asked, sticking her head out of kitchen when she heard the door open.

"Half day," Sam heard herself say. She was impressed, apparently lying came naturally to her.

"Where's Brooke?" Jane asked curiously.

"I don't know, she doesn't exactly leave me photocopies of her daybook," Sam responded in a rather biting tone. Her head hurt, she wanted to go lay down, she wanted to strip down and run through the woods -- if there were any woods in L.A. that was.

"Sam," Jane stated. Her voice was reproachful and a little bit hurt. She was getting a little tired of daughter's mood swings. One day she's says she fine, the next she's hiding in her room or biting people's heads off.

"I'm sorry. Okay?" Sam said. But she didn't sound the least bit sorry, and things were obviously not okay. Jane didn't respond to abrasive offering, instead simply looking at Sam inquisitively. Seeing this look on her mother's face--a look she had become annoyingly used to--Sam sighed and rolled her eyes muttering, "I'll be upstairs."

Sam squeezed her eyes shut, holding them tightly together as she paced the length of floor. She shook her head from side to side, groaning pathetically as the scene from the cafeteria played itself in her head over and over again, mocking her, teasing her. She pinched the bridge of her nose and continued to pace, she was certain that she was muttering something, but if her life depended on it she wouldn't have been able to say what. For the past hour the entire world seemed to have been muted, everything had lost its luster, she was walking in a land of murky water colours.

She barely registered the door opening.

"Your mom said you were up�" Brooke started in a hurry, breezing into the room, pausing only when she saw Sam apparently trying to make a hole in her carpet. "Here," she finished softly, her eyes never leaving Sam's form as she locked the door with her right hand.

Almost immediately she crossed the small distance separating them. Coming up behind Sam, she wrapped her arms around her in what she hoped was a comforting gesture stopping, at least for the moment, Sam's insane cycle of pacing.

"I'm sorry," Brooke said in a small voice, head dipped down. "I thought�I mean we had talked about�"

Sam shook her head. "I just never actually thought�" she started, trailing off, shaking her head some more. She had thought that they were just talking out of their asses when they had come up with this particular contingency plan. When coming up with a plan, particular or not, most people talked out of their asses.

"Neither did I," Brooke responded truthfully. "I�at the time it just seemed like the thing to do," she tried to explain lamely. The truth was it had just seemed like the right thing, the only thing, to do at the time. She just couldn't explain the thought process, or processes, that had brought her to that conclusion now. Hindsight was bitch and it had just up and slapped her.

Sam didn't respond verbally, in fact Brooke couldn't even be sure that the brunette had heard her. Instead, Sam merely leaned back, snuggling into Brooke's willing arms even further.

"What are you thinking?" Brooke asked finally. She had to talk, if for no other reason than maintaining her own sanity. She did not want anymore silence, silence was no longer a friend of hers.

"Everything. Nothing. I don't know. I'm all jumbled," Sam responded haltingly. She stumbled over her words, raising her voice at the end of them, making them sound like questions. It was like they didn't quite feel right coming out of her mouth, as if they didn't quite roll off the tongue like they used to.

Brooke was quiet for a moment, then said, "I shouldn't have�I don't know what I was thinking. Mary Cherry was all�"

"Don't," Sam said, interrupting, her tone was laced with tender authority. "I'm not blaming you. I knew, I agreed. I'm just�dealing now," she continued, trying to soothe Brooke whose breathing had increased anxiously.

"I don't know what to do," Brooke admitted softly.

"I don't think there's anything to do," Sam responded. There were certain things where you simply had to admit to a loss of control. These things were put into motion, then they had to be left alone, to work themselves out. There was no way they could master this now, maybe there was never a way that they could, it was too big.

"What do you think is going to happen?" Brooke asked in a small voice. It was a tone that Sam had rarely heard from the blonde, and the times she had heard it she wished she hadn't. It hurt her to hear Brooke in pain, confused and lost. She wanted to wash it away, but how?

Sam paused, considering Brooke's question carefully although she was already fairly certain that she had no idea. "People are going to react. Either one way or another," was what she settled on, shrugging her shoulders somewhat feebly.

"I think that's a safe prediction," Brooke agreed with a small smile. The smile didn't remain on her face for long however; it was soon followed by the scrunching together of eyebrows and a sigh. "I'm a nervous wreck," she breathed out.

"Is that why you came home?" Sam asked, turning her head slightly so that she could make out some of Brooke's face.

"Is that why you came home?" Brooke asked back in a tone teasing.

"I asked first," Sam responded in a like tone.

"Yeah," Brooke said, letting out yet another sigh. "After I went and sat back down it was like everything went dark. I had to concentrate to make sure I was still breathing. I was barely functioning, I�I couldn't take another class or�"

"Walking through the hallways," Sam added.

"The looks. I got enough of them on the way out," Brooke agreed, shaking her head a bit, as if trying to dislodge the memory.

"We're fucked. You know this right?" Sam asked, turning around in the circle of Brooke's arms so that they were facing each other. Brooke smirked.

"We were fucked the moment I kissed three months ago. It was just a matter of time." She had predicted, even back then, all those months ago, as they lay together and she traced her hands over Sam's body, exploring her recently discovered landscape, her new altar. She had said it would be a complex mess of complications, and it had indeed turned out that way.

"Don't you think you're overestimating the power of your charms?" Sam responded quirking an eyebrow at Brooke playfully. The truth was she knew that Brooke was right, they had been lost from the very beginning, the rest of the players in this production were only just now catching up to them.

"Maybe�maybe not," Brooke responded non-committally, but the smile on her face told another story.

They stood there in silence together for a moment, each lost in their own thoughts.

"Is mom pissed?" Sam asked finally, a slightly worried expression coming over her face as she recalled her behavior when she had first come in the house.

"She's � worried," Brooke responded thoughtfully, diplomatically. Jane had not been pleased, that had been very clear to the blonde when she arrived at the house.

"She's been perpetually worried lately," Sam commented drawing away from Brooke minutely, moving into herself a little more. She was drawn back to the conversation she'd had with her mother that morning. It was funny, it hardly seemed like it had been only a matter of hours ago that they had spoken. It seemed like so long ago, a distant memory, already being glazed over in her mind. Sam realized that there was a reason her mother had been asking those questions, telling her those things. Things hadn't been right, they had been chaotic and confused, and Jane had picked up on it. She was right to be concerned.

"We've been acting like crazy people on and off, today being an on day," Brooke started carefully. "She has to have sensed that something is up," Brooke responded in a reasonable but subdued tone. The subject of their parents was one they tried not to think about too much, and when it was brought up it was always grudgingly, surface conversation. She knew that she didn't want to really think about what it would mean when they found out, and she knew that Sam felt the same way. It was so much easier to believe that they could keep it to themselves until some unspecified time in the future when it would be alright to let them know. So much easier, but wrong. Still, it was a nice thought.

"They're going to find out about this too�sooner or later," Sam said as if reading Brooke's mind.

"I know." Brooke pouted as she said this, a small frown marring her features.

"No matter how careful we are�" Sam continued, trailing off, as she got lost in her thoughts. "I can't help the way I look at you. Carmen says she's amazed they haven't figured it out yet," she continued. "She says I have bedroom eyes."

Brooke was quiet for a moment, as she thought about what Sam had just said, knowing it was perfectly true. Carmen and Lily had learned the truth through observing them, and so had Nicole. It was all just an issue of time. They spent more time around their friends, were more relaxed with them. But it had been months now, and they both knew that Jane, if not Mike too, had been watching them, and that like their friends they would piece it together too. "They don't want to figure it out," Brooke responded finally.

"Lucky for us," Sam replied, but she didn't sound too convinced.

"Lucky, yeah�but for how long?" Brooke added, biting her bottom lip, her eyes roving around the room fretfully.

Sam nodded her head but said nothing. She didn't want to think about that at the moment. She couldn't think about it. She only had enough reserves to deal with one catastrophe at a time and their parents' eventual discovery of their relationship was not the one she was going to preoccupy herself with at the moment. It was something that was to happen at some future date, and that meant that in the present it could be ignored. What couldn't be ignored were the ramifications of their lunchtime production.

"I don't want to go to school tomorrow," Sam said finally, breaking the silence that had come over the room.

"Neither do I," Brooke responded with a little laugh before her face turned serious again. It was funny in a sad way.

"Let's walk in together?" Sam asked. She didn't want to go, that was true, but it was inevitable; they would have to go back sooner or later.

"I'd have it no other way," Brooke responded, taking Sam's hand into hers.

"I love you," Sam breathed out, stepping closer to Brooke once again, wrapping her arms around the blonde's slender waist.

"You're my heart," Brooke whispered back, hugging Sam closer.

-----------------------

Part Thirty-Four

-----------------------

Brooke stopped walking as she sensed Sam freeze up behind her. Turning around she saw the brunette staring at the double doors leading into Kennedy High with a look of terror on her face. 'She looks like I feel', Brooke thought to herself as she backtracked so that she was standing beside Sam once again. Looking at the doors herself she knew exactly what Sam was thinking, and that thinking it wasn't going to do them any good. They had spent yesterday evening freaking themselves out, and it would do them no good to start again.

"Are you ready?" the blonde asked, looking over at her girlfriend. She wanted to get this over with. What was done was done, and the sooner they found out whether or not they had become total social rejects, the sooner she would be able to fill out her transfer papers and go where she had always wanted to, Beverly Hills High.

Sam looked over at her and smirked. "Does it really matter?" she asked, her body relaxing somewhat.

"I really don't think that it does," Brooke responded with a similar expression. They had to go in sooner or later. "Come on, let's get this over with," she said, reaching over and taking Sam's hand into hers. "What's your first class?" Brooke asked, trying to distract both Sam and herself as they pushed through the doors.

"English," Sam responded, looking around them with what she hoped were inconspicuous glances. She felt a bit funny, it didn't really feel like anyone was watching them. She had developed a kind of sixth sense for it over the past couple of days, and she wasn't detecting the curious stares.

"I'll walk you," Brooke responded decisively.

"You're a good girlfriend," Sam responded, smiling over at her.

"That's what I keep saying," Brooke replied somewhat distractedly as she squeezed Sam's hand reassuringly. Something was different today; people weren't paying as much attention to them as they had been previously. Brooke had expected more staring, maybe some pointed comments, but there were only a few sideways glances and low murmurs.

They walked the rest of the way to Sam's classroom in relative silence, drawing strength from each other's presence while staving off their paranoia. When they arrived in front of the room there were still a few minutes before the bell rang, so they joined the small crowd of students that were lounging by the doorway waiting to be let in. There were about four singles hanging about and one couple off to their left. Everyone turned to look at them when they approached, but then they soon turned back to whatever it was they had been doing before the brunette and blonde arrived.

Sam quirked an eyebrow at Brooke, and the cheerleader shrugged with a somewhat confused expression on her face. This was unexpected.

"It's like nobody cares," Brooke whispered into Sam's ear a moment later. To be sure they were receiving a few veiled looks from the people around them, and passersby, but for the most part the looks were just curious, nothing more. The thought brought a smile to her face and she could feel laughter building up inside of her. Impetuously, she leaned over and kissed Sam on the cheek, pulling back just before the laughter that was bubbling in her stomach boiled over. "We were just gossip," she said softly as she began to laugh, in fact it was really more of a giggle. They had just been the latest gossip, nobody really gave a good god damn, it was just something to talk about. Nicole's threats, her own apprehension, it didn't really mean anything. They were hardly the first gay couple at the school; hell they even had an openly gay teacher. In the larger scheme of things, nobody really cared that she was sleeping with Sam other than as a conversation piece, or leverage, or gossip. There would come a time today, or the next day, or the next day, where someone would say something derogatory about them, that was as inevitable as death and taxes, as the world was filled with assholes, and their relationship was easy to attack. But on a whole, they were just one more couple walking down the hallway. With everything they had put themselves through, it was looking as if nobody really gave a flying fuck.

Brooke leaned against the wall as she laughed. That was hilarious, in fact it was so funny that it almost made her want to cry.

--------------------------------------------------------

Part Thirty-Five : "Why Mary Cherry, Why?"

--------------------------------------------------------

Brooke led Nicole, Popita and Mary Cherry into the backyard of the house. Jane had suggested some alterations to their uniforms that the Glamazons had unanimously decided absolutely had to be done, so the four of them were to be Mrs. McPherson's guinea pigs. When they arrived, Jane was talking with her dad on the porch so Brooke decided to show them the new reflecting pond they had just had landscaped into the backyard. It was absolutely killer, and they were the first people on the street to have one. Nicole was going to flip.

* * * * * *

When Sam finished with the bird feeder her eyes immediately began to scan for the yard for her girlfriend. Spotting Brooke she began to make her way over, her eyes drifting uncomfortably to the deck where her mom and Mr. McQueen had been lounging, her brows drawing together in confusion as she noticed that Mary Cherry seemed to be talking to them. Stopping beside Brooke, she placed her hand on her shoulder to draw her attention.

"Why is Mary Cherry talking to mom and your dad?" she asked softly.

"What?" Brooke asked. "She's right," however as she said this Brooke looked around her immediate vicinity and noticed that Mary Cherry was indeed not with the four other girls. Turning her head towards the deck, her eyes widened. "Oh god no," she gasped, spotting Mary Cherry gesturing wildly to the parental units.

* * * * * *

"Mr. McQueen, almost Mrs. McQueen," Mary Cherry began. "I would jus' like ta take this opportunity ta say that I'm very impressed with your liberal open-mindedness. I think that it's absolutely fabulous that your'll so accepting of Brookie and Sam's so highly controversial union. Back home, if the aged P's wah eva' to find out that their daughters were engaged in sexual congress right under their very roof, heads would rollll! People like you are the reason why I love L.A. so very, very much! Thank you," Mary Cherry concluded, grinning.

* * * * * *

As the last syllable left Brooke's mouth, Mary Cherry began walk away from the parental units and towards the four girls. Likewise, Mike and Jane turned their heads so that they were facing the girls, and even from the distance they were at Brooke and Sam could detect the looks of surprise and confusion covering their faces. They weren't so much looking at them as they were gaping. Sam felt her hand drop from Brooke's shoulder although she wasn't conscious of doing it; everyone in the yard had seemed to freeze in position, still like stone as the implications of what had just occurred came to them, ramming into a certain brunette and blonde like a runaway freight train.

Then almost as soon as it happened, it ended with older ones turning away and walking inside the house, leaving the yard to the teenagers.

* * * * * *

Part Thirty-Six

----------------------------

This chapter has been brought to you by the conditions Confusion and Denial � "Bet You Can't Suffer A Nervous Breakdown From Just One!"

And now a few words from our sponsors�.

Confusion

; Mental perturbation or agitation such as prevents the full command of the faculties; embarrassment, perplexity, fluttered condition.

Denial

; Refusal to acknowledge a person or thing as having a certain character or certain claims; a disowning, disavowal.

 

Now, back to our feature presentation�.

 

Mike turned around and closed the screen door leading into the house, his movements very slow and very precise. He stayed facing the door for a moment, taking a deep breath then turned around to face his fianc� who was standing just across from him with her hands folded across her chest her eyes peering behind him and out the glass of the door. Crossing the few steps between them Mike placed his hand on the small of her back, leading her into the study, away from prying eyes.

"She said�" Mike began trailing off.

"Yeah," Jane agreed nodding her head, although she wasn't quite certain why.

"Brooke's not�" he replied once again leaving the sentence hanging.

"I didn't think Sam was, but�" Jane responded contemplatively.

"Not that there's anything wrong with that," they both injected a moment later, before nodding at each other in acknowledgment of the other's statement.

"A golfing buddy of mine is, you know," Mike said finally.

"I have a sorority sister who is too," Jane added. She wasn't quite sure if it was a relevant piece of information, and if it was why it was, but it seemed like a good thing to add at the time, so that's what she did.

Mike nodded along but didn't say anything for a moment.

"Wouldn't we have known?" he asked finally. He sounded more hopeful than convinced however.

"Maybe, I mean�maybe," Jane responded.

"Nobody guessed about Liberace," Mike observed thoughtfully.

"And Lily Tomlin. That one threw me," Jane added, shifting her weight. "Then again I never would have guessed about Ellen," she continued.

"There would have been signs," Mike stated, but really it sounded more like a question. He knew that with Sam, Jane had found the pamphlet but Brooke? Where were the signs? The preparation? The heart attack prevention measures?

"Ellen never really talked about her personal life in her routines," Jane responded. "Hers was always more situational comedy. Like that bit about why people put arrows at the bottom of pages, like they would forget to check the other side or something."

"I meant about Brooke," Mike injected, scowling at her.

"Oh. Sorry," Jane responded, shaking her head a little bit. She felt lightheaded, like on a hot day in Fresno.

"Wait. Brooke's got a copy of that movie 'Bound'," Mike blurted out. His mind automatically drifting to consider the uncanny physical resemblance between Sam and Gina Gershon. He wondered if that had done it.

"Sam was fascinated with the book 'The Edible Woman' until she found out what it was actually about," Jane related in a similar tone.

"Brooke has every Madonna album ever produced," Mike said, running a hand through his hair and tugging at it gently.

"Oh god," Jane muttered under her breath. She was finally able begin comprehending what Mary Cherry had told them, what seemed like eons ago, and she really wished she hadn't been.

"But�Brooke's a cheerleader!" Mike exclaimed looking over at Jane hopefully. Brooke couldn't be�with Sam, because Brooke wasn't gay, he reasoned to himself.

"Think about how they've been acting since we got back," Jane continued, not even aware that he had spoken, so busy was she trying to put the clues together. "Oh god, think about how we found them when we got back! And when I went to return Brooke's book, and�I need to sit down," she finished, plopping into a nearby chair.

"What are we going to do?" Mike asked with a dazed look on his face as he leaned against the desk wearily.

"We have to talk to them. If something is going on then we need to know what, and if nothing is going on then we need to know that too," Jane replied thoughtfully. "But for the moment, the name Jack Daniel's comes to mind." She paused. "At least for you."

* * * * * *

Part Thirty- Seven

-------------------------------

As soon as Mary Cherry approached their location Sam lunged at her, grabbing her shirt. "Mary Cherry, what did you say to them!?!" the brunette asked, shaking the southerner slightly.

"Oh mah gawd," Mary Cherry exclaimed in a panicky voice. "She's rumplin' my Versace!"

"Come on, Sam," Brooke said softly, placing a reassuring, but restraining hand on Sam's shoulder, rubbing it gently trying to soothe the irate brunette as she released Mary Cherry from her clutches. It was the mature thing to do, Brooke kept telling herself. Losing their tempers wasn't going to do anybody any good. Still, a little part of her wanted to have at Mary Cherry just like Sam had done. "We have to handle this responsibly," Brooke went on once Sam had let go and was engaged in taking some deep, calming breaths. "Mary Cherry," Brooke continued in a tone that oozed of barely restrained hostility, "you're going to me exactly what you said to our parents," Brooke went on, but she could feel herself slipping, and when Mary Cherry grinned that insane grin at her she lost it. "You're going to tell me or else I'll gas and burn your new Donna Karan," she exclaimed reaching for the girl herself only to be restrained by Sam.

"Where's the love, Brookie?" Mary Cherry asked somewhat petulantly. However, as she observed the tender embrace that Brooke had settled into in Sam's arms after the brunette had restrained the blonde from trying to maim her, Mary Cherry felt better. "Oh yeah," she drawled knowingly, as she grinned and ogled them suggestively.

This time both of them jumped at her and the only way Mary Cherry was able to save herself was by hiding behind Popita, using her as a type of human shield.

"I merely congratulated the Aged P's on accepting you controversial union with such grace and dignity," Mary Cherry revealed, suddenly concerned for her very safety. And she thought that love was supposed to make the heart grow fonder, it had just made those two homicidal.

There was a moment of silence following Mary Cherry's declaration. Then Sam turned to face Brooke, who was staring at the southerner in a wide eyed, open-mouthed stupor, and grabbed onto her shoulders, shaking her to get her attention.

"They know. We're dead. They're gonna murder us. We'll probably learn where Jimmy Hoffa is. We're dead," Sam rambled off.

"This is a lovely day, but not lovely enough to die. How far is it to Mexico?" Brooke asked no one in particular. Were her ears bleeding? She felt like her ears were bleeding.

"Oh no," Sam exclaimed, drawing Brooke's attention to her in the same way people's attention is drawn to car crashes.

"What?" Brooke asked softly, quite afraid of what the answer would be.

"Look, they're going for the liquor cabinet," Sam said, pointing to the window.

"We're going down," Brooke stated, her eyes shutting as she sighed deeply.

"Isn't that what got ya in trouble in the first place?" Mary Cherry asked, smiling from behind Popita, cowering slightly as Sam lounged at her again. Nicole merely watched the festivities with highly amused smile on her face. You couldn't buy this sort of entertainment.

"Run Poppy run," Mary Cherry exclaimed as Sam clawed at her. "We are no longer welcome at this bath house of fun!" she continued, grabbing Popita by the hand and dragging her towards the nearest exit.

* * * * * *

Part Thirty-Eight

----------------------------

Brooke and Sam marched silently towards the house having been summoned by their parents moments after Mary Cherry, Popita and a reluctant Nicole, made their escape. Sam was certain that if she listened very carefully she could hear a dirge being carried through the air towards them.

Upon entering the house they were then instructed to go into the living room and sit down where they would wait patiently to be joined by their parents. This was related to them in no uncertain terms, and they complied like well-trained border collies in the plains of Alberta.

Finally, after leaving the girls to sit in a tortured silence the parental units entered the room, directing the girls to sit on the couch side by side, where they then took up residence beside their particular child.

"So we had an interesting little chat with Mary Cherry," Jane began calmly. She felt like she was dying inside.

"Interesting," Mike confirmed. This was ridiculous. Brooke wasn't even gay.

Brooke and Sam, who had decided that staring at their feet was a brilliant course of action the moment their parents walked into the room, decided that that was still an appropriate course of action and continued to do so effectively not responding to their parents comments.

"Do you have any idea what we might have chatted about?" Jane asked when it became clear that neither girl was going to say anything. This inquiry too was met by silence. "Sam?"

"Dolce and Gabbana?" Sam responded in a quiet and somewhat pained tone.

"Do you want to guess again?" Jane asked, not terribly impressed with her daughter's answer.

"I would prefer not to," Sam responded honestly, her eyes still firmly planted on her feet.

Once again the room was covered in silence.

"Mary Cherry indicated�that is to say from her impression�that you, Brooke and you�Sam�are�which is to say�involved�as it were," Mike said, stumbling over his words. He wasn't quite sure how one went about telling one's own daughter and the daughter of one's fianc� that one had heard that one's said daughter and soon to be step-daughter were engaged in sexual congress.

"In a romantic sense�to phrase it, well, as a phrase," Jane added, trying to clarify what Mike had begun and only partially succeeding.

In response to their question Brooke blinked and twitched her nose while Sam sniffled and tugged at her ear lobe.

"Do either of you have anything to say?" Mike asked finally, at a loss for what else to do. They certainly weren't making this easy.

There was a momentary silence after he posed the question then Sam responded with, "The Bronx Zoo has a pair of male chimps who've formed a life bond and who forage and swing together, gathering food in preparation for disaster -- because they don't know they're in a zoo. They're monkeys after all. It's apparently quite moving. I've also heard they have a tap show."

This was met by the parents simultaneous and understandable exclamation of, "What!?!"

This was in turn met by Brooke, who after inserting her thumb into her mouth and biting down on it, mumbled, "I'm not pregnant, which I think in any situation�except for you know in cases of planned parenthood, is a good thing. Especially for a teenager�and especially-especially for one who cheerleads�or hikes, or swims, or something�you know?"

After that last bout of incomprehensibility Jane and Mike looked around their daughters at each other completely and utterly confused. Mike figured that what had just transpired was at least partially his fault for only demanding an answer, not one that made sense. It became clear to him that they were going to get nowhere with the discussion if they continued to beat around the block, and looking at Jane he could see that she had reached the same conclusion, so after a silent battle of the wills, Mike addressed the girls once more.

"Obviously there's only�we're just going to have to be straight forward here." He paused here to take a deep breath, then, "Are the two of you involved with each other romantically? Called dating in some circles."

The girls turned to look at each other communicating silently. They seemed to agree that the parents knew, and that the best course of action was to just be honest.

Brooke opened her mouth as if to respond, then closed it just as quickly, her eyes returning to the floor. She remained quiet like that for a moment before she took a deep breath and looked up again, this time when she opened her mouth the word, "yes," escaped, although it was barely audible.

"Yes?" Jane asked dumbly. Truthfully, she hadn't really expected either of them to admit it. She had expected to be able to go on believing that Mary Cherry was just a crack baby. She was wrong.

Sam pinched the bridge of her nose; she felt a migraine coming on. Sucking in a deep breath, she turned to her mother and said, "yes," in a breathy voice that was just barely audible. It was audible however, and was met with a steely silence.

"Since?" Mike asked, taking in a deep breath, and trying to curb the hysteria that was rapidly building up inside of him.

It was Brooke who answered this time; her gaze once again focused intently on her shoes. "While you were in Hawaii we�gained closeness," she related in a highly uncomfortable voice, shifting in her seat jostling her already discombobulated father.

Jane took in a deep, shuddering breath, then raised her hand to her head as her shoulders shook slightly. She was not prepared to deal with this. Sam and Brooke, despite what she had seen, she had never thought, never would have thought, couldn't have beared to think about it. But there it was.

"That's�a while," she finally said in a hushed tone, her voice cracking as she spoke. She raised her hand to her face again brushing a stray strand of hair behind her ear, trying to psych herself up for her next question. "Have you�" she paused her taking another deep breath, at least oxygen deprivation wouldn't be a problem for her, "been intimate?" she finally asked. Once the question was out of her mouth, she realized that the answer was bound to disappoint her however it went. If it was yes, then it was yes, if it was no, then it was a yet.

"Mom!" Sam squeaked, jumping up off the couch. She was seriously distressed. "You don't�you can't�boundaries�" she muttered, calming down and bit and sitting back down when her mother motioned for her to do so. "You just don't�" she continued lamely, looking at the cactus plant in the corner of the room like it was her new best friend.

"Brooke?" Mike asked anxiously, seriously unnerved by Sam's reaction. What the hell was that?

Brooke looked at him, blinking rapidly. "I � we � what?" was all she was able to get out before she dissolved into merely opening and closing her mouth, while occasionally scrunching up her brow in a look of intense consternation.

Mike and Jane turned and looked at each other. They could see it in each other's eyes. They were human, and they had been kids, and they both knew without a doubt that what their daughters lack of an answer meant was 'yes,' yes they had. They had, but they couldn't make themselves say it.

"We have to go," Mike responded finally. "Talk. We have to go talk," he continued haltingly, looking over at Jane, who didn't seem to be faring much better than he himself was.

"Yes, talk," Jane responded slowly, her mind slowly clearing a little. "Until�until," Jane continued lamely, "Sam will be staying with me in the guest room," she continued, lucid enough to realize that this was a necessary course of action.

"Mom!" Sam exclaimed, her proclivity towards indignation momentarily overwhelming her common sense.

"Don't," Jane said, turning to her warningly. "You don't even want to hear what my response would be," she continued in a low voice. Sam was quiet after that, thankful to still be alive.

"I get to stay in my room right?" Brooke asked. Mike responded by shooting her gaze of arctic temperature, and like Sam she too was quiet again.

After that was decided, Mike and Jane stood up, and headed out of the room, leaving the two quiet girls sitting on the couch. They both followed their parents progress, sighing deeply and leaning back against the back of the couch once they had exited the room.

"You know that this has only just begun," Brooke commented, her eyes closing. She felt like she was going to cry it was so depressing. The lying had been going so very, very well for them. Grey skies were finally starting to clear up, and now this.

"I have to move in with my mom," Sam responded, still harping on her mother's last declaration.

"They're gonna be watching us like hawks," Brooke pointed out, pouting.

"I have to move in with my mom," Sam responded. She seemed to be having difficulties moving past this particular particular.

"School's going to be the fun part," Brooke replied.

"This is so sad," Sam breathed out, turning to look at Brooke.

"I'm going to kill Mary Cherry," the cheerleader declared a moment later. Sam was right, this was very sad and Mary Cherry was to blame. Well, certainly, she and Sam played a little part in it, but it was much easier to blame Mary Cherry.

"I'll be your alibi," Sam responded.

"Acceptable," Brooke responded. They were young, and pretty, they could beat any criminal charges couldn't they?

"What now?" Sam asked, looking at Brooke searching for answers.

"I was planning on being silent and morose for a while. You could be brooding and introspective?" Brooke suggested at a complete loss as to what else to do.

"Sounds good," Sam responded.

And there was quiet in the room once again.

----------------------------------------

Thirty-Nine : "Broke-down Palace"

----------------------------------------

"She always has to push it," Jane said agitatedly as she paced the span of their bedroom restlessly. "The easy road, no not my Sam," she continued, shaking her head. "You know, I was really becoming okay with the whole Sam is gay thing. I was being very mom of the new millennium about it. I bought an Alice Walker book!" Jane exclaimed excitedly. "I think I could have come around to the whole Brooke is gay thing too. We do live in L.A. after all. But, this gay together ... this, this, this, being gay together. No. I'm sorry. I don't think it's too much to ask that they be gay with other people...other *celibate* people!"

"They said they didn't...you know, do it," Mike responded, clinging to the last shred of hope he had. Jane had had far more time to prepare for the gay in general than he did, and he most definitely wasn't ready to approach the gay together. How could both of them be gay? Seriously, what were the odds? He tried to calculate them, and they were about on par with the odds of the Florida Marlins winning the World Series. This was a mathematical improbability, he was sure of it.

"I know," Jane, said dismally. "That just means it's 90% likely they have! I mean, that's what I told my mom, and I SO had," she continued, spinning about to face her fianc�. Her soon to be husband. The man she had asked to adopt her daughter. Sam's soon to be father. She placed her hands on her head and took a deep shuddering breath. God, they were practically sisters. Sure, they weren't related by blood, and it wasn't illegal in 49 states or anything -- as far as she knew -- but still. Jane was officially overwhelmed.

"What are we going to do?" Mike asked. Of the two of them Jane seemed to have a better handle on the situation and he was willing to leave things to her discretion if it meant that he didn't have to think about it at the moment.

Jane stared at him for a moment, then dramatically threw her hands up in the air in the universal 'I duh nuh' gesture.

"Do you think they'll stop if we tell them too?" Mike asked hopefully. Jane shot him a look that could peel paint and he was quiet again.

* * * * * *

"What are you doing?" Sam asked, watching Brooke leaf through something in the kitchen. They had sat for a while, but upon hearing a thump upstairs, they decided that it would be better to be in an upright position so that they could run away, or leap over high furniture in a single bound, if need be.

"How do you feel about snow?" Brooke asked, trailing her finger down the piece of paper studiously.

"It's alright I suppose. Why?" Sam asked suspiciously as she walked over to Brooke.

"We could move to Ontario and get hitched. If we did that not only could they not do anything about it, we'd be able to legally drink in a few years, AND we'd get free medical care � I think, they're socialist right?" Brooke responded turning to observe Sam's reaction. The brunette merely stared at her. "It was just a suggestion," Brooke mumbled, putting the bus schedule away. "It could have worked," she responded when Sam continued to merely stare at her. Sam just stared at her some more. "Okay, maybe not, but at least I'm trying here."

"That's true," Sam responded thoughtfully. She should try and come up with something too. Unfortunately the only thing she could think of was, "They're also very tolerant in Sweden."

"Why are the cold countries so much more progressive?" Brooke asked thoughtfully as she idly leaned against the kitchen counter. Sam shrugged. Brooke shrugged back. They were too busy wondering where their parents were going to bury their bodies to consider such things at the moment.

* * * * * *

"Well, we've already established that Sam is moving into the guest bedroom," Jane said, trying to force her brain to work. "That conjoined bathroom is like a modern day underground railroad of debauchery," she continued somewhat bitterly as she frowned.

"We could also get cameras and an intercom system, and then yell at them over the loud speakers if we saw an inappropriate touching," Mike suggested, his mind filling with design specs instead of images of his daughter engaged in debauchery with Gina Gershon, Jr.

"Scar them for life so that they'll never be able to have a healthy relationship! Why didn't I think of that," Jane responded sarcastically, making it perfectly clear to everyone where Sam got it from. "What about boarding school?"

"They're mostly all girls," Mike responded. They looked at each other and crossed that one off the list. They were going to be at this for a while.

-----------------------------------------------------

Part Forty : "The End of The Affair"

--------------------------------------------

The silence in the room was deafening. Sam was aware of every whir, and thump, and tick in the house as she went about unloading her essentials into the guestroom. Her mother was on the other side of the room fixing the other bed. They had been in there for almost fifteen minutes and hadn't spoken a word to each other. The most contact they had had was Jane looking up at her when she entered the room and then pointing towards where Sam could deposit her things. Sam stopped what she was doing and looked across the room at her mother's back. Since the family chat in the afternoon, things in the house had been kind of surreal. The elders had spent most of their time upstairs discussing god knows what about the situation, and she and Brooke had kind of wandered around the downstairs in a stupefied haze. It was like they had been living in a bubble for the past three hours. Looking at her mom, and hearing only stony silence, Sam knew the bubble had burst. They were all now painfully aware of the reality of the situation.

"Mom," Sam said, unable to take the silence anymore. Jane turned to look at her, her face unreadable. She was pale and the muscles in her face were tightly drawn. "Where should I put my socks?" Sam asked, off-put by the unhinged look on her mother's face. She had planned on saying something meaningful, and significant, but she panicked.

"In the sock drawer, Sam," Jane responded tiredly. Sam nodded vigorously, the sock drawer, of course, and turned towards the sock drawer. Well, she thought to herself, that went well. Picking up her socks, she began to fold them. Suddenly folding her socks was of the utmost importance. With the attention she was paying to folding her socks, one would have thought those socks could one day be the cure for cancer.

Jane watched Sam folding those socks, studied her intensely, her stomach clenching and unclenching painfully as the reality of their situation clubbed her over the head in a psychotic circle. "Do you have everything you need?" Jane asked finally. Talking tended to distract her, and she was getting very tired of thinking.

"Yeah," Sam responded, hesitantly halting her sock folding. "Everything I need is here," she continued, fiddling with the sock she held in her hand nervously. She was lying of course, there were many things that she needed that weren't there. One being her spine, but the most significant being Brooke.

Jane nodded, her eyes drifting to the little table that Sam had set up to put her personal effects on. There were a few pictures of herself with Carmen, Lily and Harrison, the ever present picture of her father, and another one that hadn't been part of her set up before. It was of a little girl, and was resting against a flower vase. Jane stared at it for a moment in confusion until she realized that the little girl in the picture was Brooke. She remembered seeing the same photograph in an album Mike had shown her one time. It was in the She-Ra section. Still looking at the picture, she realized that the rose in the vase holding the picture up also must have come from Brooke. She turned her attention back to making the bed, something about the familiarity -- or if she was perfectly honest with herself, the tenderness -- of the display forcing her to look away.

"Are we going to talk about this?" Sam blurted out moments after her mother turned from studying the picture. There was a confrontational edge to her voice, an irritation that she hadn't meant to project, but there it was. And it was honest, she realized, it was there because that's how she felt. She had seen her mother looking at the picture of Brooke, she had seen the emotions float across her features, and she had seen her deny the meaning of the picture by turning away. The truth was that she didn't know what was going through their heads, she didn't know if they thought that she and Brooke were just in it for the sex or what. She didn't know because they hadn't talked about it. She was in love with Brooke, and if she was going to go down, she wanted that to be known at least. She wanted them to know that it was more than just fucking, it was love.

Jane turned around once again, meeting her daughter's eyes. There was a strength in them, an assertiveness that she hadn't seen only moments before. "To tell you the truth Sam, I don't even know where to begin," Jane responded finally. Her voice was heavy, like her body felt. It was an effort for her to remain standing, the weariness she felt seeping into bones, into her marrow.

"Just ask," Sam replied in a softer tone, watching her mother carefully. She wasn't really sure what she was watching for, or if she would recognize it when she saw it, only that watching her seemed to be a good idea.

Jane was silent for a while after Sam spoke. She had brought her hand up to her face and was tugging on her ear viciously. She sat down on the bed, then stood back up, then sat down on the bed again, all the while tugging on her ear and closing and opening her eyes. Sam could practically feel the tension rolling off of her. She got the distinct impression that the calm was gone, and the storm had arrived.

"What were you thinking!?!" Jane asked finally, standing up once more. Her voice was loud, a yell even, her tone critical, and confused and horrified. "Are you stupid!?! Is that it? Did I drop you at some point during your childhood and forget about it? What were you thinking!?!" she continued almost manically.

"I wasn't," Sam stuttered. She had expected something like that but at the same time she hadn't been prepared for it. She could count the number of times she had heard her mother raise her voice to her on one hand without doubling. As a result she had never gotten quite used to it. This time was different from those other few times however, this time there was something more to it, though what that more was Sam couldn't quite identify. "I mean�it just�I couldn't help it, it just happened," she continued still off-kilter.

"It just happened," Jane muttered under her breath incredulously, a darkly amused look coming over her face, a homicidal hilarity coating her tone. "What? She bent down to tie her shoe and you fell into her?" she continued, her voice raising sharply once more. "Spontaneous combustion just happens, sleeping with your step-sister doesn't just happen! Lying to me, and sneaking around behind my back doesn't just happen!"

The hostility in her mother's voice was enough to snap Sam out of the momentary daze she had gone into, and stepping forward she responded to her mother with as much passion as she had been spoken to with.

"But it does," Sam started. "That's exactly what happened. It was spontaneous combustion. I'm sorry I lied, and that we sneaked around, but I don't think that you can pretend to be shocked that we did. I mean, I liked MY room," Sam went on still not able to move past the repossession of her room. It came down to the fact that she had to say her peace, whether she said it now or later, it wasn't going to be easy, and it wasn't going to be fun, but it had to be done. The damage had been done, and honesty was now the only way to control it.

"You might not want to hear this, in fact I'm certain that you don't and that you won't believe me anyway � but I love her. Sincerely, fully. That's what just happened. It's like she set a fire inside of my heart," she continued, her voice cracking. Her tone had gotten softer as she spoke, more reverent and resonant. "I mean, come on. Do you really think that I would have chosen Brooke of all people if I had had a choice? Brooke who I've hated with a passion so intense it has no name since I came out of the womb?" Her voice was as incredulous as her mother's had been earlier when she asked this. She knew that both her mom and Mr. McQueen had been very aware of their previous hatred of each other, and thought that a reminder would help. "Come on mom! We didn't do this to screw you over. We didn't do this to be trendy, or to rebel against 'the man'," Sam went on. "We just couldn't not. We just didn't have a choice...I just love her more than I can express in words, and, well, this happened," she finished, flinging her hands up in the air with a flourish.

Jane sat back down on the bed, with what Sam would characterize as a pout on her face. There she sat, brooding and ruminating, and contemplating for a few moments before looking back over at her daughter.

"What am I�are we supposed to do about this, huh?" Jane asked finally. There was a note of helplessness and desperation in her voice. Like she was actually looking for suggestions.

"Nothing," Sam responded. As long as her mom was asking her opinion she could as well give it. "Short of sending one of us to another country. I'm in love with her, and I can't stop that any more than I could stop breathing," she continued, blinking back tears.

Jane observed her daughter thoughtfully for a moment, watching as she tried to retain control over her emotions, considering for a time what had happened. Her eyes drifted back over the picture and the flower, a reflective expression coming over her face. She continued to look at it for a moment more, then stood up and sighed before saying, "Finish folding your socks."

With that she stood up and walked out of the room leaving Sam to her thoughts, and her tears.

* * * * * *

Part Forty-One

------------------

Brooke tore her attention away from the hallway where she swore she could hear voices. She knew that Sam and Jane were fixing up the guestroom, she had been banned from helping, but her father had helped carry some of the heavier things across the hall. When he had finished about twenty minutes before, he had come to her room to talk to her.

"It's been a dry heat really. For me I think that's almost worse then when the humidity's really high," Brooke stated philosophically, turning back to face her father. They had been talking about the weather since Mike had joined her. Brooke was familiar with this type of conversation, they always talked about the weather when Mike wanted to talk to her about something but didn't know how to. When he had noticed her rapidly losing weight and not eating, they had discussed that feeling you get before it rains, and when they talked about her mother leaving, hurricane season had come up.

"Dry heat has always been the worst for me too," Mike responded. "There's just been no wind lately. When there's a nice breeze it can make up for the heat, but without it, well things just aren't that pleasant," he continued with a shake of his head.

"I heard a cold front is moving in from the north," Brooke commented. "That should cool things down a bit," she went on, hoping that things didn't get too cold. Despite the heat the cheerleading uniform didn't really provide much protection, and the last thing that Brooke wanted was to get a cold. That would just be like lemon juice in an open wound.

"Let's just hope it doesn't get too cold," Mike replied to that. "When it got really cold in March last year, I was never able to get used to it, ruined my whole week. This California climate's ruined me," he continued. Brooke nodded but didn't say anything.

They sat in silence, only turning momentarily when they heard raised voices from across the hall once again. Brooke looked out into the hallway longingly. Frankly, she wished that she and her dad could just duke it out like it sounded like the McPherson women were doing. McQueens, she had come to realize, didn't talk about problems, they let them fester, and grow, and then when they couldn't be ignored any longer, they had awkward conversations, where they beat around the bush until they were too exhausted to actually talk about what was wrong. However, Brooke no longer felt like discussing the latest news from the weather network, in fact it disturbed her that she had watched the weather network before coming up to her room because she knew what was going to happen. She wanted to talk to her father, she wanted him to yell at her, and emote and express his feelings. For once she wanted to have a normal fight.

"How come we can't do that?" Brooke asked finally waving her hand at the door. She sounded irritated, and she was.

"What?" Mike asked.

"Yell at each other," Brooke responded as if it was the most reasonable thing in the world. "That's what people do. The teen does something the parent doesn't like, the parent calls them on it, the teen makes some sort of smart-ass remark, and then comes the yelling," she continued gaining steam. "That's normal. This, contemplation of the weather is not healthy. I mean, don't you have anything to say? I mean, I'm dating your fianc�s daughter�doesn't that just make you want to yell like you care about something?" she finished in an agitated voice.

Mike shifted uncomfortably in his seat. Of course he wanted to say something, he had a myriad of thoughts, comments and questions about the situation, he just didn't know how to go about voicing things. People in his family avoided confrontation, it was how they had managed to appear to be a happy family for generations. You didn't confront things, you ignored them and hoped they went away.

"I don't know what to say, Brooke," he responded finally, standing up and beginning to pace the room. "I mean," he threw his hands up in the air and shook his head at her. "I don't know what to say, Brooke," he repeated helplessly.

Brooke sighed and looked at the floor. The cycle continued.

"I kissed her first," Brooke said finally.

"What?" Mike asked turning to face her.

"It started out as a bet, I had to kiss her to win it," Brooke went on, ignoring his question. "I thought it would be easy, and it was," her voice was soft, almost awed, "I just never thought...it was like everything went into Techni-Color. But it was Sam, and I tried to tell myself that I was having a mental situation, but it didn't feel like a mental situation. The only thing that felt wrong was denying it. And before I knew it, before I could even consider it and talk myself out of it, I had gone from hating her loving her. I love her, I need her," she continued her a rush, the words pouring out of her mouth without thought without hesitation. When she finished speaking she looked up meeting her father's eyes. Now all she had to do was wait and see what he was going to do with the information she had just given him.

"You don't know what you need. You won't know what you need until you're forty and you don't have it," Mike responded dismissively, somewhat unhinged by the flow of words and thoughts Brooke had just unleashed upon him.

"I need her," Brooke repeated, standing up and walking over to where he father was. "I love her," she continued somewhat confrontationally.

"No, you don't," he responded. His voice was still calm, but Brooke could tell that he was cracking under the pressure. A little bit more, and they would actually be having a conversation.

"Yes, I do," she said forcefully. "She's the first and last thing I think about every day," she continued, not backing down. "I've never felt the way I do when I'm with her."

"In all your extensive experience, right?" Mike commented sarcastically as he turned to face her. "How do you know what you want? What you need?" he asked dubiously. "You used to kiss your Scott Baio poster every night and every morning, I suppose he's your soulmate too! Come on, Brooke, you're not even old enough to remember who shot J.R.!" he continued.

"Age ain't nothin' but a number," Brooke responded, channeling Aaliyah for a moment. "We're older than Romeo and Juliet, nobody said they weren't old enough to be in love, to know what love was and that it was each other," she continued passionately.

"Why do people keep using that play as an example?" Mike asked irritably. "They died. It was a damn TRAGEDY!"

"But this doesn't have to be," Brooke said, pointing the doorway. "We don't have to be. The situation sucks, I get that, but IT IS the situation. Whether you believe it or not Sam and I are in love with each other, it's not rational, it's not convenient, and yeah, it's a little bit awkward but that's how it is!" Brooke yelled at him. "I'm telling you right now that after all we've been through, nothing short of death or expatriation is going to break us up!"

"Oh yeah?" Mike asked at a loss for what else to say. The truth was that the situation was harder for him to grasp because he could tell that there was a genuine depth of emotion between the two girls. If it had just been about sex, or about rebellion, or about fashion, he could have dealt with it, he could have put his foot down and demanded that a stop be put to whatever was going on. But now, there was Brooke taking about love, talking about commitment, and expatriation.

"Yeah," Brooke responded, somewhat confused by her father's schoolyard response but stepping up to the challenge nonetheless.

"Well�you're grounded!" Mike shot back immediately. "So there." Brooke gaped at him absolutely stunned. She couldn't believe what she was hearing. Was she talking to her father or her six-year-old cousin Russ?

"You can't do that! Grounding out of antagonism is strictly forbidden!" Brooke finally responded angrily. She could feel tears stinging her eyes and impatiently brought her hand up to her face to rub them away.

After Brooke spoke, Mike observed her intently for a moment. Her eyes were misty as she rubbed at them, but she wasn't outright crying. Her body was trembling slightly, but her voice was strong. Her tone was commanding, but her eyes pleading. She was terrified and was trying not to show it. It was what she was terrified of that caused him to pause. She knew that he wasn't going to kick her out of the house, that much had to be clear to her already. She knew there was no danger of physical violence. So what could she possibly have been so scared of? After a few moments thought, what seemed like a lifetime of contemplation, he was able to come up with only one answer, that Brooke was afraid that she would lose Sam.

"I know I'm not old enough to drink, or vote, but can't you understand that that doesn't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world of ours," Brooke went on when he didn't say anything. "You love Jane. I love Sam. It's the same thing," she continued in a rush. "There's a certain symmetry to that, isn't there?"

Mike was distracted from responding, by the sound of footsteps in the hallway. Turning his head to the side he saw Jane exit the guest bedroom. She looked around for a moment then spotted him looking out into the hallway from Brooke's room. She motioned him out into the hallway, and after muttering something to Brooke that sounded like, "we'll talk later," he followed Jane out into the hallway, closing Brooke's door behind him.

Brooke slumped down into her chair as soon as the door closed and sighed. "That went well," she commented to herself, before chuckling morosely and turning to look out the window. It looked like rain. She was right, there was a cold front coming.

* * * * * *

Part Forty-Two

--------------------

Sam rubbed at her eyes wearily, letting out a tired sigh. She didn't even need to look at herself to know that she had heavy bags under her eyes, and that she probably looked as bad as she felt. To call the previous night hell, would have been an understatement of epic proportions. Hell never looked so good. The entire evening had been marked by an oppressive, terse silence. Anxiousness pervaded their every movement, indeed, by the end of the night it seemed to Sam as if the furniture was becoming uncomfortable as well. And, when she arrived in the room she was to share with her mother -- for who knew how long -- things only got worse. They hardly spoke to each other, and when they did it was cumbersome and ungainly, as if they had been stranded on a desert island for years and had become unaccustomed to conversing with human beings -- halting, and stuttering and stumbling about. There had been an ease, a flow to their relationship with each other, Jane treating Sam with a respect and comfort that Sam had always appreciated and considered to be quite rare. That harmony which had characterized their relationship with each other had been disrupted now, polarized, until Sam hardly recognized it. When she got up in the night to go to the washroom and was questioned by her mother like it was the Spanish Inquisition, she realized what had changed. The trust Jane had always had in her was gone, that intrinsic belief that she knew who her daughter was, shattered. Sam felt like a stranger to Jane, and she was beginning to feel like a stranger to herself.

"We have to form a unified front." Sam blinked and turned her head to the side. It was Brooke. She had almost forgotten that the blonde was standing there.

"It's breakfast, not the invasion of Normandy," Sam responded. If she had worn glasses she would have taken that opportunity to take them off and clean them, staring into the translucent surface thoughtfully.

"This is not just breakfast. Certainly it's breakfast, but it's not JUST breakfast. This is the breakfast to end all breakfasts," Brooke responded tensely. Sam looked over at her thoughtfully. The blonde was paler than usual, her features tightly drawn, her lips forming a thin line. She looked older and, Sam thought, distinguished. Angst was a look Brooke wore well, wore with dignity Sam decided. Still, she would have washed every trace of it away without the slightest hesitation, if she could have.

"Maybe we should come up with a secret handshake, or buy matching decoder rings," Sam responded a moment later. Uniforms and secret rituals always made people seem more impressive than they actually were. Brooke glanced over at her but didn't respond to her verbally. Instead she took her bottom lip between her teeth, biting down softly and stared out the window with slightly hooded eyes.

"Your mom likes eggs benedict," the blonde said a moment later her voice curling as she spoke the last part making the whole sentence sound like a question.

"Yeah," Sam responded nodding her head. "And your dad likes grits," she added a moment later. They had prepared both of those dishes earlier on, with an impressive swiftness. Was it a bribe? A peace offering? A prostitution? They didn't know, they only knew that at the time, in the silence, in the dark of the early morning, it seemed like a good thing to do.

"It won't make a difference will it?" Brooke asked, releasing her lip and turning to face Sam.

"No," Sam responded. "I don't expect that it will."

"I think," Brooke began, then stopped. She was quiet for a moment, looking down at her feet, her lip back between her teeth being gnawed at once again. "I think," she said, starting once again, apparently having regained her train of thought, "that I had convinced myself that things would be different when they found out. You know, like one of those dream sequences in soap operas where everyone smiles and hugs, and rose petals fall from above, and a rainbow appears even though there isn't a cloud in the sky." She sounded damaged, like a ten-year-old who had just been told that there was no Santa Claus. Sounding terribly trite even to herself Sam thought, we're not in Kansas anymore.

"That's why I live mostly in my mind," is what the brunette said out-loud however. She had wanted to say something comforting, something that would make it all go away, something that could give Brooke her rainbow, but there wasn't anything she could say that could do that. This was the reality of the situation, and they had spent perhaps their entire relationship ignoring it.

Brooke was about to respond when the clicking of shoes on the tile of the floor brought her attention to the doorway. Sam followed her gaze and they both watched as their parents entered the kitchen. Their faces were as still as stone. Brooke opened her mouth to speak, she had pre-planned what she was going to say to them when they entered the kitchen, it was witty and charming, the perfect icebreaker or hostility disarmer. It was supposed to make them laugh easily, and then stop and think about the banality of the situation, the utter ridiculousness of it, and bring them to a new understanding, the rising sun shining brightly through the kitchen window warming them all. The reality was that almost as soon as she opened her mouth she closed it again and bit her lip once more, not emoting a word or a sound.

They took their seats.

Mike pinched the bridge of his nose, and sighed deeply. Jane rubbed her bottom lip with her thumb mutely, her eyes focused on her plate. Sam sat with her fork poised over her plate, the utensil shuddering minutely because of the trembling of her hand. Brooke sat still, except for her hands, which took off and replaced the ring she wore on her right hand repeatedly, her skin chaffing slightly under the assault.

The clock ticked noisily in the background. They still had thirty minutes before they could politely remove themselves from each other's company.

* * * * * *

Part Forty-Three

------------------

Nicole looked to her side, observing Brooke out of the corner of her eye. She and the taller blonde had been stalking through the hallways for almost fifteen minutes, but they had ended up nowhere. Brooke was walking, but Nicole was certain that she didn't have any idea where she was going, and she was pretty sure that she didn't give a good god damn about it either. She was walking because she needed to move, because if she stayed still, she would be forced to think and if she was forced to think, she might just have a mental breakdown.

"Everything's falling apart," Brooke mumbled softly as they passed their lockers for the third time. Thoughts of her rapidly deteriorating family environment were haunting her, silences and reproachful looks running through her brain over and over again, taunting her.

"You didn't need to be a close acquaintance of Dionne Warwick to predict that," Nicole responded. Brooke looked off into the distance moodily only regaining her focus when she heard her name being called from somewhere just in front of her.

"Hey, Brooke," Randy Dunn called from his position against his locker door. "Ellen called she wants her shtick back!" he continued, smiling at his own wit.

"Hey, Randy, Rick James called he wants his hair-cut back!" Brooke responded in a clipped tone. She wasn't in the mood to trade barbs with some insecure asshole at the moment.

"Dyke," Randy shot back. He liked his hair, and it was all he could think of.

"Was that you or your baby dick talking? I couldn't hear over the shrill cries of overcompensation," Brooke replied dryly, a small but suitably malicious smile working its way across her face as the people in the hallway around them chuckled at her comment.

"Bitch," Randy spat at her. How did she know?

"Don't talk about your mamma that way," Brooke responded, continuing down the hall effectively ending the conversation the undisputed winner. She hated to have a battle of the wits with someone so poorly armed, but a girl had to do what a girl had to do. The truth was she felt slightly better after ripping him a new asshole. As they continued to walk down the hall she wondered if Nicole had been onto something all these years.

* * * * * *

Sam rubbed at her eyes tiredly for what seemed like the billionth time that morning. "You don't understand. I got up to go to the washroom and it was like the Salem witch hunts."

"Can you really blame her? She's got to be paranoid. You and Brooke have been sneaking around with amazing proficiency for almost two months," Carmen responded.

"All I wanted was some water," Sam replied, pouting. "Besides I'm not an idiot, like I was really going to sneak into her the room the night they found out!" she continued indignantly. "I'm rather fond of this little thing called life."

"Despite the suspicion you've got it pretty good," Lily commented. "From what you said, it sounded like they handled everything exceptionally well."

"I know," Sam admitted grudgingly. "It's just that now everything's so tense. Breakfast was a nightmare, I was afraid to pass her the milk. And Mr. McQueen, you should have seen how he was looking at me. Suddenly I could identify most excruciatingly with the saying 'if looks could kill.'"

"Well, you are banging his daughter. Parents, especially fathers tend to get upset when people bang their daughters. In fact daughter banging is�" Carmen responded not quite able to hide her smile.

"Can you pretend like this isn't a supreme source of amusement?" Sam asked, interrupting her friend's diatribe irritably. Most of the time she dealt with Carmen's teasing well, she knew that the girl meant well, but there was a time and place for it and this wasn't it. "On the outside this might seem funny, but inside it's really, really sad," she continued wretchedly. "Did I tell you they're making us go to a family therapist!?!"

"That doesn't sound like such a bad idea," Carmen commented objectively. "You know, as long as you get to hit each other with multi-coloured 'take that bitch' padded bats," she continued making a whacking action with her arm.

"Yeah, those aren't so bad," Sam admitted before frowning again.

* * * * *

Part Forty-Four

--------------------

Mike closed the study door with a shake of his head. He couldn't believe he had forgotten to fax those papers to the office in Singapore. Then again considering the stress he had been under for the past few days, he realized that it was only bound to happen. He was just glad that he remembered in time to send them. As he headed to the stairs he heard Brooke's voice, and stopped his movements. Turning around, he looked into the kitchen, spotting two figures silhouetted in the moonlight. Blending into the shadows, he watched the scene unfolding in front of him.

* * * * * *

Brooke watched Sam with hooded eyes as she rested her weight on the kitchen table. "You look miserable," she commented finally. With the way everything had been since their parents found out, they hadn't had much time to spend together, even to talk, and now that they had stumbled across some alone time, Brooke wasn't going to waste it brooding in the dark.

"So do you," Sam responded, her lips twitching, but not able to form a smile. Her eyes didn't even try, maintaining that haunted look throughout her statement.

"That's because I am," Brooke responded with a weary half smile of her own. Her voice sounded distant, even to her, and she wondered if she looked as worn-out as she felt. The past few days seemed to have sucked everything out of her. Her reserves were depleted, and she knew it was beginning to show. She wanted to stay strong for Sam, but she could feel herself crumbling too.

"I guess it goes without saying that I am too," Sam responded, lowering her gaze to the floor, where it remained for a long moment. When she finally looked up, she sniffed and Brooke could see her trying to blink back tears. She raised her eyes to ceiling and breathed out, "God, I hate this. I feel like something's breaking inside of me," she continued a tear escaping the prison of her eyelashes and trailing down her face.

Brooke pushed herself off the table when she saw this and crossed the short distance over to Sam, regarding her helplessly for a moment before reaching out her hand and placing it on Sam's cheek, stroking the soft skin gently with her thumb. "Please," Brooke said in almost pleading tone. "Don't cry. I don't think I could take it if you cried," she continued, resting her forehead against Sam's. "It'll be okay," she said, she could still feel tiny shivers running through the brunette's body. She took her free hand and joined their fingers together. "We shall overcome," she went on somewhat desperately.

It paid off however, since she heard Sam chuckle softly, and whisper, "thanks Mrs. Tubman," before she buried her head in Brooke's neck, drawing the blonde into a hug.

After a moment, once she was sure that Sam was no longer crying, Brooke stepped back slightly so that she could see the entirety of Sam's face. She raised her hand to Sam's cheek once again, stroking it as she had before, a contemplative look on her face.

"I'm going to tell you something," she began a moment later, her voice low, but intense. "And no matter what happens I want you to remember this. I love you," she said stressing each of the three words. "Before you, I was walking in shadows, you showed me the sun. And, he can ground me, or send me off to England where I'll start referring to underwear as knickers, but it won't change the fact that I love you. I want you to remember that, to know that you're my heart," she concluded. Her voice had cracked a few times as she spoke, and she knew that she too know bore the telltale signs of fallen tears.

"Don't talk like that," Sam responded immediately. "Like it's already over. It can't be over. I need you," she continued, another tear running down her face as she stepped into Brooke once more where she was enveloped into an almost desperate hug.

Finally, pulling herself together, Brooke turned her head to the side and placed a soft kiss on the side of Sam's forehead. "It'll be alright," she said softly. Her tone was supposed to be reassuring, but in it Sam could hear that Brooke was just as lost as her, just as confused and heartbroken, and scared. She didn't know that things would be alright, she just hoped they would. She tightened the hold she had on the cheerleader.

* * * * * *

Mike slipped away after this, heading towards the stairs making very certain that they wouldn't see him. He made his way up the stairs on unsteady legs, quite shaken by what he had witnessed. Until he saw them there, interacting with each other so tenderly, he had truly thought that their relationship was just some kind of teen fling, but the agony in their voices couldn't be denied. The broken heartedness in Brooke's voice and Sam's tears had been evidence enough to force him to reconsider his thoughts on the situation. He realized that they sincerely meant something to each other, and although he wasn't sure how, he knew that that changed things.

* * * * * *

Part Forty-Five

--------------------

Mike watched Brooke head out the door, Sam had exited the house just before her and from his position in the hallway he could see the brunette getting into the back of Nicole's convertible. Brooke was soon out the door too, shutting it behind her with a soft click. He noted sadly that the fluidity of movement Brooke seemed to have been possessed with since she came out of the womb was absent then, and had been absent for a long time, since they had found out about the girls' relationship he admitted. Her shoulders seemed to now have a perpetual slump to them, and her feet dragged along the ground as if she couldn't spare the energy to lift them up properly anymore. There was an ungainliness to her movements, like the metronome inside of her, which had previously guided her motions, had been unceremoniously smashed into tiny little bits leaving her shaken and unsure. It broke his heart to see this shriveled up, broken down version of his daughter roaming around.

Jane walked up behind him, placing her hand on his shoulder. He had been staring at the closed door for over a minute.

"Come sit down," she said softly, guiding him towards the dining room.

"They're miserable," he said as he slumped down into the chair Jane had guided him to. She moved around the table and sat opposite him.

"I know," she said. Whatever it was the girls were feeling inside showed through every movement they made, every word they spoke and even more through every word they left unspoken. Despondency was draped around them, greeting you every time you looked at their faces. They were like shells of their former selves, hollowed out waiting for a time when they could come back into themselves without fear of having their hearts ripped again.

Jane blew out a tired breath, ruffling her hair as she thought about it. Every morning they woke up at the same time they always had, they put on the same clothes they had put on countless numbers of times before, applied the same makeup to the same places as they always had, and they ate the same breakfasts they always did. Yet, despite the sameness of their routine, despite performing the same activities that had always left them fresh and vibrant and shimmering with youth and promise, they now looked haggard, fruitless. Jane assumed that a large part of that came from the fact that they, or at least Sam, wasn't sleeping, just tossing and turning or wandering around the room like a ghost. It gave them the looks of those abused puppies in humane shelter commercials. There was a constant cloud over them, a gaping darkness sucking at them and those that surrounded them. They had come to embody misery, dejection and melancholy. They did not wear tragedy masks, they didn't need to, their actual faces were doing quite well on their own.

"They were talking in the kitchen a few nights ago," Mike revealed. "I listened," this was said in a softer, almost apologetic tone. He sounded guilty and Jane knew how he felt, they were guilty of the same thing, partners in life and crime. "I don't know what to think. They sounded so sincere. No artifice, no theatrics, just raw emotions, for no one's consumption but their own�or so they thought."

"What did you hear?" Jane asked, leaning forward slightly, resting her elbows on the table.

"Gentleness, concern, comfort, declarations of undying love, begging, fear. I heard a truth I could have blissfully ignored," he responded thoughtfully, his voice sounding far away. "I hesitate to call it love because of some antiquated notions I can't quite seem to get out of my head, but I do believe that�that they care deeply about each other."

"I asked Sam," Jane said a moment after Mike finished speaking, "what I was supposed to do about this," she continued folding and unfolding her hands. "She told me nothing�short of sending one of them to another country."

"That night, Brooke said not even that would be enough," Mike interjected, scratching his chin.

"I don't know about you�but I believe them," Jane responded, the last part of her comment coming out in a half laugh, half moan. The ludicrousness of the situation, the utter improbability of a condition like this one developing, momentarily overwhelming her. If she weren't so completely depressed by the circumstances she would have found it terribly amusing.

"Me too," Mike responded, a dark bark of laughter following the admission. He shook his head and scratched his chin again.

"What are we going to do?" Jane asked, rubbing the corner of her left eye. How many times had they asked each other this question? How many times had they wrung their hands, and shaken their heads trying to answer this one little question? If she had been keeping count, she would have lost track of it a long time ago.

"What can we do?" Mike asked haltingly, giving the question the feel of a semi-formed idea that reached maturity as it was spoken out loud. He had had an epiphany. What could they do? Nothing, nothing, and nothing.

Jane stared at him for a moment an irreverent smile appearing on her face briefly before she spoke. "Regulate," she answered finally. "Things have been done that can't be reversed. What we have to do is � manage," she said, choosing the word carefully, "the resulting situation. I'm not sending my baby anywhere which leaves�"

"Regulation," Mike supplied closing his eyes. "Oh lord," he muttered, shaking his head. "I'll go get some paper and a pen," all the ingredients needed for a royal decree, "you start thinking about what our � policy, should be," he continued, standing up and moving towards the door as Jane shot him a look. Why'd he get to be the paper gatherer? "Oh, and number ten or so should be that Brooke has to get rid of that 'Pull Up To My Bumper' poster," he continued ignoring the look Jane was shooting at him.

"The Brady's never had to go through this," Jane muttered as she thought about criteria for supervising the girls' relationship, and became utterly depressed by her hypotheticals.

"I don't know," Mike said as he started out the door. "I always wondered about Greg and Marsha."

-------------------------------------------

Epilogue

-------------------------------------------

All of the lights were out in the palace (otherwise known as the McQueen/McPherson residence), the only illumination in the whole house coming from the living room where the television cast off a soft glow about the room. In the softly lit living room there was a gathering. It was a small gathering, but a gathering nonetheless, informal, the coming together of friends (or at the very least frienemies). The two plush leather couches in the room were occupied by a shorthaired blonde girl with harlot red lipstick, and a long-haired blonde girl with a fashionable but not very politically correct fondness for fur. They were stretched out on the couches like reigning monarchs, or lounging goddesses. The only other seat in the room, a leather lounge chair, was occupied by a short haired brunette (who was surprising spry as the others found out in the foot race for the open chair) which meant that the other occupants of the room where relegated to the floor.

A blonde with hair that hung just below her shoulder sat with her back propped up against the couch the shorthaired golden goddess was currently occupying. Her legs were stretched out in front of her, positioned closely together so that they formed a pillow for the head of the luscious, long-haired brunette who was lying by her. The two of them, who occasionally bestowed each other with tender glances and whispered words, were the picture of domestic bliss.

Another brunette girl sat cross-legged off to the left of the goddess and picture of domestic bliss. She was sitting close to the fur-wearer, but not too close. She seemed uneasy and kept sending anxious looks behind her to the fur-wearer, who would then grin at her in a highly unsettling manner.

Next to the spry brunette in the chair sat a handsome young man with dark hair and soulful eyes. He sat leaned up against the side of the chair and could occasionally be seen casting longing though resigned looks to the picture of domestic bliss.

To anyone observing the scene from the outside it would have seemed like a quaint little scene indeed. Imbued with sugar and spice and nostalgia and all of those good things. It would have seemed like quite a charming little scene. But things always look different from the outside.

Inside:

"What are you doing?" Harrison asked peevishly, turning to glare at Nicole, even though he could barely make out her figure in the dark of the room. "Stop that!" He demanded when she didn't cease her actions immediately. She was fast-forwarding through the parts of the movie she deemed too boring to sit through, and he had had enough of it. They had missed every part of the movie where Brad Pitt wasn't on screen. "Give me the remote!" He demanded.

"Make me," Nicole responded, elevating a cocky eyebrow at him. A challenge. Nicole Julian didn't take orders. If you wanted something she had, you had to take it.

"Give it!" Harrison demanded again. Oh, how he hated this girl. He hated her even more than he hated Mary Cherry -- and that was a considerable statement considering that Mary Cherry, despite having known him for almost a year, referred to him as Joe for some insane reason.

"Since you obviously haven't figured this out yet, let me explain it to you in simpler terms. You're the Jimmy Olsen in this equation. That means that you sit there and be grateful that I'm letting you bask in my radiance," Nicole responded unfazed. The silly boy thought that yelling would intimidate her. Laughable, pitiful.

"GIVE ME THE REMOTE YOU SOULLESS HARPY!" Harrison yelled at her in response. Just once he wanted to be Superman; he was tired of being Jimmy Olsen. Jimmy Olsen never got the girl.

"Shouldn't you be obsessing over some girl that would rather date your mother?" Nicole asked tauntingly, smiling wickedly at him as the words left her mouth. She was so bad. She was utterly delicious.

"Hey!" Harrison, Brooke and Sam all exclaimed at once. This only made Nicole's smile widen. Yah, for her, that was a three for one, very rare indeed.

"I've got the perfect solution," Brooke said, reaching up from her position on the floor and yanking the remote out of Nicole's hand � a move that becomes particularly impressive when it is noted that she barely jostled Sam's head as she ripped the remote away from her friend. "Both of you, don't speak," she continued, pressing the rewind button. The movie was called "A River Runs Through It" and Brooke had yet to spot the river. All they had seen was shirtless Brad Pitt � not that that was a bad thing at all, Brooke just felt that they were selling themselves short by looking at nothing but naked man flesh.

"I--"

"No! Don't speak," Brooke exclaimed again holding up her hand and wiggling her finger, effectively cutting off Nicole's response.

"Can I please get the end of the couch?" Carmen asked Mary Cherry. Mary Cherry's response was to simply stare at her, and rather apathetically at that. "My ass has gone numb," Carmen explained, trying to appeal to Mary Cherry's heart, when she received no response from the other girl. This was her mistake, for Mary Cherry had a heart condition�she doesn't have one.

"Let me think about that fer a minute," Mary Cherry responded, tilting her head up to the ceiling thoughtfully. "After conversing with mah lord and savoir Jesus Christ, I'm afraid I have ta reply in the negatory," the blonde continued a moment later.

"Why?" Carmen asked.

"He don't want yer fat ass crinkling this gorgeous buckskin couch any more than I do," Mary Cherry responded plainly. "We're agreed that it'd be a terrible tragedy." With that out of the way, she promptly yawned and turned away from the gaping brunette.

"Brooke," Carmen called out indignantly.

Brooke turned her attention from Sam � who had interrupted her feuding with Nicole to protest the harsh treatment her head was receiving � and looked over to where Carmen and Mary Cherry were situated. She winced; this wasn't likely to be pleasant.

"Children please," Brooke said, though she was looking directly at Mary Cherry as she spoke. "Didn't anybody teach you how to play with others? Sharing is the first step in forming if not a lasting, then at least a non-combative relationship."

"She started it," Carmen and Mary Cherry responded simultaneously pointing at each other. Brooke sighed. This was a mistake; she never should have gathered this group of people together in a combined space. It was one of the pitfalls of being a dreamer. She was hopelessly optimistic. Sometimes it paid off, other times it slapped her upside the head.

"I'll go," Mary Cherry said a second later, "if I can share with Lil' Lily," she continued, grinning at the alarmed-looking brunette across the room.

"No," Lily said. "No way," she continued, getting more agitated. "No," she went on her voice taking on a horrified quality.

Brooke looked down at a grinning Sam who mouthed to her, 'I told you so,' then continued to chuckle. Brooke watched her highly amused girlfriend with a scowl. How could a loved one take so much joy in her pain? Turning her attention from Sam momentarily, Brooke looked up in time to hear Lily yell, "Why does everything have to come back to your ass!" at Carmen who yelled back, "What kind of vegetarian hogs a LEATHER couch? Newsflash, that comfy piece of furniture ain't made out of Tofu!"

Looking down Brooke saw Sam watching her, a gentle smile playing across her lips, and she shrugged her shoulders and leaned back against the couch happily. Sam lifted her head up at this and rearranged her position so that she was sitting beside Brooke and rested her head on the blonde's shoulder as the cheerleader wrapped her arm around the brunette's waist while whispering in her ear, "I guess it's true what they say about good intentions".

* * * * * *

"What's that sound?" Jane asked as they entered the house. Most of the lights were off, but they seen a faint light coming from the living room. This was the first night she and Mike had gone out since learning about the girls' relationship. After having laid down the ground rules--which they had an absolute aneurysm coming up with--they had finally realized that sooner or later they were going to have to leave Brooke and Sam alone together at some point. So the night before they had grandly announced that they had theatre tickets and that the girls would have the house to themselves. However, in a thoughtful gesture--perhaps having spotted the cold sweat they had entered while making the announcement--the girls had responded by asking if it was okay if they had a few people over. Mike and Jane nodded vigorously in agreement to this, warmed by the girls' sensitivity and delicacy, believing that the offer was an olive branch signaling that the girls realized what an unusual and confusing situation they were all in. But that's what they thought. The truth was--and it was a truth that they didn't particularly need to know--that Brooke and Sam had made this grand gesture knowing that, even though they had been living like nuns for weeks, they would not be able to have intimate relations knowing that their parents knew they were having intimate relations. They simply wouldn't have been able to perform, as it were, under those circumstances. They were psychologically blocked. This made acting mature and philanthropic much, much easier for them.

"It sounds like grunting," Mike responded, scowling.

Slowly they made their way towards the living room, glancing inside somewhat hesitantly. The noise they had heard was indeed grunting and looking at the occupants of the room they now knew the source of it. Mary Cherry had Carmen in a headlock, and because of this Carmen was grunting trying to free her cranium from Mary Cherry's tyrannical grasps. In response Mary Cherry grinned and was singing a song that sounded like "Baby-back, Baby-back, Baby-back riiiiiibs." Whatever that meant.

On the other side of the room Lily was sitting in the recliner like a centurion. She was holding the fire-poker in a death grip, her eyes trained on Mary Cherry. Every once in a while she would make a poking gesture, as if to tell the occupants of the room that she wasn't just holding the poker, she knew how to use it, before focusing on Mary Cherry once again with an almost homicidal intensity.

Nicole and Harrison were off by themselves, circling the coffee like a pair of rabid dogs. From his vantage point, Mike was ninety percent sure that Nicole had her teeth bared and that Harrison was foaming at the mouth slightly. In the center of the coffee table lay the remote, and every couple of seconds one of them would reach for it only to have their hand clawed at by the other. They would then draw the wounded appendage back towards their bodies and growl before beginning to circle the table once more. Mike was almost certain he had seen this before on the Discovery Channel, only it had been with baby Pandas.

And finally Brooke and Sam were by themselves sitting on the floor in front of the larger of the two leather couches. Sam was sitting in between Brooke's legs with her knees drawn up serving as a sort of desk for a notepad that Brooke was pointing and gesturing at emphatically.

Mike and Jane turned to look at each other. What the�

"See, it's clever." The parents turned when they heard Brooke's voice. They had been frozen in position by the utter strangeness of the scene they walked in on, and they were now unable to remove themselves. They were fascinated, and Mike thought that the little bit they had seen was much better than 'The Vagina Monologues' and he wasn't even paying to watch this.

"There's nothing there," Sam said, looking at the notebook Brooke had been pointing to before. Her voice was calm and soothing, as if speaking to a small child.

"That's it exactly. That's the point," Brooke exclaimed happily, glad that Sam finally seemed to have caught on. "That's why it's significant," she continued, dramatically resting her case.

"It doesn't mean anything," Sam insisted. Jane thought that she saw Sam smirk as she said this, but she couldn't be sure.

"But it does," Brooke responded petulantly. "It's a very significant statement. Without you, my life would be a font of nothing. That's a very significant statement," she repeated at a loss for what else to say. "And clever," she added at the last minute.

Sam responded to this by gently taking the unused pen out of Brooke's hand and patting the appendage patronizingly before beginning to write something in the notebook. Brooke watched all of this with a pout on her face, her head hanging in a mopey, hang doggish way, but she said nothing. She was certain that in the end she would be vindicated and it would be proved that 'font of nothing' was indeed brilliant.

"I like this better," Sam said finally as she pointed to the piece of paper.

"Life without you would be like a broken pencil," Brooke read aloud with an incredulous expression on her face. "The fuck?" she asked, looking over at Sam. Mike scowled some more when he heard this, his baby sure had grown up fast.

"A broken pencil is completely pointless. It's got this one purpose on earth and it can no longer fulfill it. It's an object without a function, it represents a life without meaning," Sam responded helpfully in a rather scholarly tone.

"That's the exact same thing as a font of nothing!" Brooke exclaimed in an agitated tone. Sam turned to look back at her girlfriend. Her face was red; she was all flustered. Brooke looked at her blinking, her lips quivering slightly. She looked like a puppy that'd had their favorite chew toy taken away. Sam was immediately contrite.

"I was just rompin'," Sam responded gently. She was helpless to resist Brooke when she was all flustered and doe eyed and utterly precious. Iced tea: a dollar fifty-nine. Lava Lamp: sixty-four dollars. Bonsai tree that dies three days later: fifty-dollars. Brooke all flustered and precious, priceless. "A font of nothing is brilliant," she continued, taking Brooke's hand into hers.

"That's what I thought," Brooke responded somewhat pacified by Sam's change of heart. Sometimes she thought that the brunette tried to get her all flustered on purpose. "Look, now I'm all agitated," she continued, dropping her head down to rest on Sam's shoulder.

"Poor baby," Sam responded, placing a kiss on the top of Brooke's head.

"Poor baby," Brooke mumbled piteously into Sam's shoulder. However, despite her tone there was a smile on her face and she pressed a brief kiss to the side of Sam's neck

"Mamma knows child, mamma knows," Sam responded, shifting slightly so that she could see Brooke's face.

"Font of nothing," Brooke mumbled. Sam observed her for a second with a smile on her face. Life without her certainly would have been a font of nothing. Wiping such depressing thoughts from her head she leaned forward and brought their lips together kissing Brooke chastely on the lips.

When they broke apart Brooke sent Sam a big goofy smile, and Sam smiled back at her with the same sappy-ass expression. After the cavity inducing moment, Brooke then, still grinning, playfully walked her fingers up Sam's side. "Brooke, no. No. Brooke!" Sam said pleadingly, but it was no use, the blonde started tickling her anyway. Soon Sam was reduced to a wiggling pile of flesh in Brooke's arms alternately laughing and pouting while the blonde hugged and prodded her happy as a lark.

At this Mike and Jane managed to tear themselves away from the scene in front of them and continued down the hallway to the stairs. They were quiet as they made their way up the stairs and across the landing to their bedroom, each occupying their own vista of contemplation, though they were considering the same subject. As they passed the guest bedroom -- now Sam's permanent residence, a fate the brunette had come to grudgingly accept -- she shook her head. She supposed that all things considered the new arrangement in the house was working out adequately. However, lord knew dinner parties were going to be a bitch!

"That was�" Mike said trailing off, shrugging his shoulders helplessly.

"Yep," Jane agreed smiling. "But if you think things are crazy now," she continued, sitting down on the bed and taking off her stockings, "you just wait until they find out I'm pregnant."

The End

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