"THE SENTINEL"

Author: Janine
Pairing: S/B
Rating: G
Disclaimer: Disclaimers: I don't own any of these characters, they're the property of Ryan Murphy and company (sorry, but I don't know companies name); I'm just borrowing them for a short period of time.
E-mail: jbslayer27@yahoo.com  (Comments welcome, and greatly appreciated)

I could feel the cold from the floor against my skin, but it didn't matter because I was already chilled. I sat with my back up against the wall, curved, hunched over. My head hung limply. My eyes were open, I know this because I remember seeing white, it must have been the floor, blurry and wet with my tears. The room hummed, the gentle buzz of electronic devices filling the air.

I must have been sitting there for hours, I know that's what it felt like as my bones ached and cracked, my muscles cramping as I stood up later. People were there too, I remember people coming into the room at various times, doctors and nurses. I knew when they came in because they changed the sound, disturbed the hum, the rumblings of their voices disturbing our solitude. They were talking to me, `let's go for a walk', `can I bring you something to eat', `would you like a pillow', `is there someone I can call', blah, blah, blah. They all left eventually, finally realizing that stretching my legs, or filling my stomach would do nothing to lessen my despair, that I was inconsolable and that was the way I wanted it. That or they got tired of talking to themselves.

It was at Saturday, they were weekend staff so I forgive them. They couldn't have known any better. To the others, the ones who were there everyday, I had become like a ghost, haunting the room, haunting the hallways. And they knew, maybe they had seen it before so they knew that I was in a place beyond words. They would walk into the room and carry out their tasks wordless, preserving the silence and in return earning my gratitude, and then they would exit, casting upon me tender sad looks. Poor child, poor withering child with her greasy hair and her bloodshot eyes.

I had to share the room on occasion, but I felt no offense when it was them, only closeness and understanding. They knew because they felt it too. Even the little one was silent in that room, her tiny breaths seeming even smaller, respectful of her older sister. Every time they visited mother would ask me if I was coming home and every time I would say `maybe later'. She would nod with those slightly glazed eyes of her looking at me keenly, understanding and not understanding at the same time. I wouldn't leave until she woke up and told me to, or until the flashing red light on her bedside monitor ceased to glow. They would stand then, preparing to leave and as he walked by he would place a hand on my shoulder and squeeze encouraging, giving strength to the sentinel watching over his angel.

One day the sounds changed. I sat in some corner of the room, her brooding babysitter, when I felt my heart stop. Something was wrong, the sounds had changed. Immediately I looked towards her, to the side of her bed. It was still glowing. I leaned forward, creaking into an upright position slowly slouching over to where she lay. My body felt strange as it moved, like a rusted out bike brought out on a summer's day.

She exhaled. It was barely audible and I knew at once I couldn't possibly have heard it from where I was sitting before, and that it was this tiny emission that woke me from my slumber and brought me to her side.

I stood there looking down at her watching as the sounds became steadier, stronger. Her eyelids began to flutter and my mouth parted in anticipation. Could it be, Snow White about to awaken? And then in a moment, without further warning, without the slightest mores hesitation her eyes opened, and she was staring directly into my stupefied face.

"Sam?" she asked. Her voice cracked as she spoke and was barely more than a whisper.

"I think so," was my response. I managed to keep my voice from cracking, but it was just as soft as hers.

"So it was real?" she asked as her body shook, rattled by coughs.

"A real live nightmare," I responded taking her hand in mine. "Don't… you shouldn't talk, you've been asleep for a while."

"That's all the more reason to talk." She coughed again, her hand clutching mine more tightly.

"Please," I said lightly stroking the back of her hand with my thumb. "I'll go get someone. A doctor."

"Don't leave me," she responded holding onto my hand more determinedly. I could have easily broken the hold she had upon me, her grasp was week I could barely feel her fingers. "Not now," she added. Or I think she added. I've never been certain if that was a figment of my own overtired mind, or if she had actually said it, and I've never really wanted to ask.

"I won't," I responded. And she smiled at me; pale and brittle like an injured bird. It was the most beautiful sight I had ever seen. "I'm glad you're awake." I was sitting on the bed by the time I said this and she turned to look up at me, her eyes big and surprisingly bright.

"I'm glad I got to wake up to you."

This time it was me who smiled.

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Part Two

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They made me go back to school after she woke up. Something about my having to go on with my life, not to forget what happened but to heal from it. I didn't really want to leave, that room had become like my home, but I wasn't going to argue. It went completely against my nature, but standing there in the hospital hallway, Brooke lightly slumbering in the room beside us I just couldn't fight with them. I couldn't do it to them or to myself.

School, however was a serious mistake. I really think that they sound have suggested a nice stroll along the beach or an iced cappuccino from Starbucks for those certainly would have been far more therapeutic activities. Instead they threw me into the lion's den.

The moment I walked into the school there was a collective gasp and then silence, as the students suddenly parted in front of me like the Pastel Sea. I think that I laughed in my head. As I made my way through the halls the passage behind me would close up and I could hear whispers. I think that they were loud enough that I could have understood them if I had cared, but I had become quite adept at shutting out unwanted noises and I definitely didn't want them.

Lily was the first to spot me, don't ask me how because really I don't know. All I remember is feeling something wrap around me mid- section and looking down to see her enveloping me in a bear hug. Then moments after that I felt a warmth behind me, and suddenly I had grown two new arms. Carmen was comforting me from behind. They were talking to me but I don't couldn't hear what they were saying, and this time it wasn't my fault, mumbling as they were into my clothes and cutting off my oxygen supply with surprisingly strong embraces.

"Hi," I said as they pulled away.

After I spoke they both looked at me keenly for a few seconds then launched themselves back at me. I think that maybe my clothes didn't match and they realized what truly horrendous shape I was in. Needless to say, the hugging went on for quite some time.

"We heard she woke up." It was Josh who said this after Carmen and Lily had decided that I would be able to breath without them manually pumping me, and we stood in an awkward silence.

"Saturday night," I said nodding and turning to face him.

"Why didn't you call?" I recognized they sulky, slightly accusing voice as Harrison's without having to turn around. He was standing on the other side of me, leaning against a locker.

"I did, I called our parents and then we were all kind of occupied with the getting our hearts to beat again because she was actually going to be okay," I responded tiredly. I saw the others shot him a look. It was obviously a question that they had discussed beforehand and decided not to ask out of tactfulness or whatever.

"How is she?" Carmen asked moments later neatly diffusing the tension that had begun to begin moments before.

"She says it doesn't hurt, but she was also convinced for an hour or two that her IV pole was alive and kept calling it Mrs. Norris, so really we've mostly been talking to Morphine McQueen," I said rubbing at my eyes trying to get them to focus.

When I looked around at them, they all stood there eyeing me uncertainly. Didn't they know that dark humor was one of the best ways to relieve post - traumatic stress? Looking at their faces I was sure that if they had heard the jokes Brooke and I were making late Saturday night/early Sunday morning they would have fainted. They were in far worst taste, and cheered us up even more than the Jell-O pudding snacks we had been given earlier.

"The cuts and bruises are healing okay," I said choosing to ignore their looks and continue. "She's still got a concussion but the swellings gone down."

"And…" Carmen started then stopped, no doubt wondering if her question would distress me reducing me to tearful, mucusy sobs. But I knew what she was going to ask, she was going to say `and her leg' because those who were there saw the terrible angle it had settled at, and those who weren't no doubt had been told by those who were. There was nothing like a near fatality to bring people together.

"That's going to take some work," was all I said, was all I could say. I didn't like to think about her leg. "We should…you know, class," I continued immediately. They knew what this meant, no more talking about Brooke, at least for the moment, so the nodded and we head off.

Throughout the rest of the day I got similar questions thrown at me from everyone, but mostly from the people who knew her so intimately because they had seen her picture in the yearbook, or they stood behind her in the lunchroom that one time. Fakers, posers with their quivering lips and stuttering voices. I don't remember what I said to them if anything, just that they irritated me to no end.

I suppose, when something tragic and horrific and dramatic like this happens, it happens to every one. Everyone seems to realize how precious life is, how unpredictable, that at anytime anything could happen to anyone of them. It makes everyone melancholy and introspective, and they want to connect with it, somehow to be apart of it, maybe to learn or to assure themselves that they are still alive. So people like me are questioned and badgered and have to share our grief, our terror with the masses, like good little soldiers. "She'll be alright", but what if she hadn't been. "We're all just trying to put things back together", but things will always be different; nothing will be the same again. "She thanks you for your support"; she doesn't know you, just like you don't know her. It was suffocating, and I couldn't wait for the day to end.

Part Three

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

They came to the hospital with me after school. Josh, and Lily, Carmen and Harrison. They stopped outside the door looking in, hesitating. They said that maybe they should come back later, that she was sleeping. But I knew she wasn't sleeping, I could tell from the way her chest rose and fall and I walked into the room without them. She turned as soon as she heard my feet with her eyes were still closed. She could tell it was me the same way I knew she was awake. I told her had visitors and she looked past me to the door.

"Are they coming in, or should I yell to them over there?" she asked returning her attention to me.

As they threaded into the room all shuffling feet and wondering eyes, I backed away, retreated to my corner to watch the proceedings.

I wasn't surprised to see Brooke charm away their worry with an easy smile and careless grace. I knew that she had been handling everything that happened far better than anyone else in the family. Oh, I knew she was scared, and that she worried about her leg and what could have happened, but there was a calm to her that the rest of us didn't possess. Know that I think about it, maybe calm wasn't the right, the thing is I just don't know what is, maybe acceptance, maybe not, but either way she had managed to pull herself together much better than I had, and I was grateful for that because it made me feel better every time I looked at her.

Harrison was the quietest of the bunch, and more than once I caught him looking at me in my corner as I smiled softly at the others. Sometimes I would meet his eyes, and together our guilty hearts would commiserate together. Like me, he couldn't help but blame himself for what had happened, for the ménage trios of misery we had been living in before the accident. We were silly, silly children suddenly forced to grow up. After a while I stopped returning his gaze, he was depressing me and I'd had quite enough of that in previous days.

"Mom and Dad came by earlier," Brooke said to me after they had left and I was returning to her after closing the door. She had started to refer to my mom as mom; it was kind of sweet although I had only recently decided that. I was still calling Mike just that, but it wasn't out of resentment anymore or a desire for him to vanish from my universe like it had been before, it was just that while I had accepted him as my mothers husband, my sisters father, and a good, kind man, I already had a father. "I wondered where you were but…"

"They made me go back to school," I responded rather grumpily slumping into the chair beside her bed. "By the way everyone and their brother wish you the best of luck."

"Bad day?" she asked.

"Just wasn't in the mood for it I guess. Even Bio looked at me all weepy eyed. It was creepy," I responded shuddering slightly. "It looked like saline, like she had prepared the tears before class."

"I wouldn't put that past her," Brooke responded chucking slightly.

"And everybody was so polite, it was like being at an English funeral. I can't tell you how many times someone called me `dear'," I went on feeling more sorry for myself as I continued. "I hope it's okay that I brought them by," I said suddenly changing the subject. "I didn't really bring them, they just kind of followed me here, but they were worr…"

"It's fine," she said cutting me off. "By the way, what was up with Lily's fluorescent FTG pin?"

"Free the Gecko," I responded shaking my head. "Don't ask me, I don't know."

"Josh has two, she must not like them. I know I didn't," she told with a smirk.

"Marriage is all about compromise," I responded looking over at her. We held each other's gaze for a moment, and then broke out laughing.

"Do you have school tomorrow?" she asked once we had settled back down. "I don't even know what day it is."

"Tuesday, and yeah," I responded. "Why?"

"No reason," she said immediately shifting around on the bed. "I've been thinking about setting up a nap time schedule, just wanted to know when to pencil you in."

A few moments after that I got up, telling her that I had left something at the nurses' station and was going to get it. I hadn't left anything at the nurses station, I just didn't believe her and was worried that something was going on I didn't know about. I had become a little obsessive about keeping Brooke well, it was very important to me that she stay okay. I found out that she was scheduled for her first physical therapy session the next day and that the doctors recommended family or friends be present.

"Where is it?" she asked when I walked back into the room.

"Wh…in my bag," I responded quickly covering. I reaching into the small bag I had thrown across my shoulders I dug around trying to find something I could pass off as actually having left at the nurses' station. I settled on a deck of playing cards Emroy had given me.

"You don't match."

"What?" I asked looking at her perplexed.

"Your clothes, they don't match," she clarified waving her hand around indicating my body.

"I knew it," I responded actually looking down for the first time, making a face when I finally saw what I was wearing. "I…" I started trying and unable to find a suitable excuse for my attire. "I brought cards."

"What do you want to play?" As she asked this she started poking at random buttons on the controller attached to her muttering to herself when it wouldn't move the way she wanted. I watched this for a second smiling before walking over and offering to help. Taking the controller from her a pressed a blue button, which caused the bed to start vibrating, and Brooke to grab the controller back before pointing at me and saying `no more help'.

"How about strip poker?" I asked winking at her as I retook my seat.

"You'll have an unfair advantage, I'm only wearing one article of clothing and it's already open at the back," she responded.

"Really?" I asked my eyes lightening up. "Let's see," I continued standing up and placing my hands on her side like I was going to turn her over.

"Sam, I swear to god that if you try and violate my helpless ass, when I get my cane I will gleefully use it beat you about the head." This was said with her finger waving in my face menacingly.

"Who said anything about violating, I just wanted to look," I responded smiling down at her before she ordered me to reseat myself.

"Aces are wild," I said a moment later pulling out a card and holding it up for her to see. She grabbed my hand and yanked it down so that it came to rest on her stomach as she looked around the room nervously.

"Oh my god," she breathed out softly. "You asked a nurse to hold these!?!"

"What's wrong with them," I inquired innocently. "It's just the Flintstone's."

"They did that in the cartoons," she responded pointing to Fred and Wilma who were in a rather compromising position, as she tilted her head to the side curiously. "Is that even humanly possible?" she continued squinting at the card in question.

"You tell me," I responded. I still don't know why I said, I had been trying to get the image of her and Josh out of my head for over a year, and finally when I had managed to forget I had to go and asked that.

She looked at me questioningly for a moment, probably having just as much trouble believing I had said it as I had. "Not the way he did it," she responded softly. "I think you have to be pretty limber."

"You're a cheerleader," I pointed out.

"True, but he's not," she countered. "You and I would probably have more luck," she continued eyeing me momentarily before moving on with, "Are you going to finish dealing or what?"

Part Four

--------------------- *Note* Brooke's POV --------------------

I think the best thing about the hospital were the bendy straws. I'd always had this weird love the bendy straw and it's many positions. Dad used to say that could play with one for ten or fifteen minutes, which was like a lifetime for me, or so I'm told.

I had been aware of Sam's head on my shoulder for quite some time, but I hadn't realized she was asleep until I finished my Ginger Ale and put the bendy straw away. Turning my head to the side I looked down and saw her hair splayed out over my shoulder, her breath steady and slow. Her lips were curled slightly and her eyes darted around behind her eyelids. I imagined that she was dreaming about ending world hunger, or one day being the reporter to break the new Watergate. It brought a smile to my face, and I sighed happily.

Actually, I was quite satisfied to see that she had fallen asleep. Ever since I had woken up she had looked exhausted, even after mom and dad started forcing her to go home at night. She had earned the nap, and I at least hoped that my shoulder was more comfortable than the floor, although I somehow doubted it looking at the angle she was resting at and how her back bent over.

The nurses and doctors had told me about Sam during the day while she was away at school. Commenting with something close to awe on her dedication to me, on her stoic vigil over me. The way they described it she sounded like a war hero, awake twenty-four hours, on constant guard, no food, no light. My guardian angel, keeper of my heart.

I remember waking up feeling safe, feeling loved. After getting run over by ones former best friend, safe and loved isn't exactly what I would have expected to wake up feeling, but I did, and I know it was because of her. Because somehow, someway I knew she was here all that time, protecting me from unknown dangers.

I reached over brushing a strand of hair out of her face and she made a small sound and nestled further into my shoulder. Her lips were pressed against my neck and I could feel her soft breaths on my skin. I felt so close to her and so far away at the same time. I wanted her beside me, and quite selfishly I contemplated waking her up. If I had asked her to join me in the bed, to leave her trusty chair behind I know that she would have, but I didn't. Instead I turned my head so that I could just make out the outline of her face and I studied her as she slept.

I had noticed it before, but only came to really appreciate the flawlessness of Sam's skin in that room. Her skin was soft and inviting, as beautiful to the touch as to the eye. I know because on more than one occasion I find myself absently stroking her cheek. Sometimes she would mumble something leaning into me, other times she would move her head into my hand, and sometimes (my personal favorite) her lips would just curl up into an exquisite little smile.

"What the…!?!"

She mumbled this after she suddenly jerked awake, her head flying off of my shoulder like someone had set fire to her hair. She was looking around anxiously as if trying to figure out where she was and how she got there.

"You fell asleep," I said watching as she stretched her neck from side to side grimacing slightly as her muscles pulled. "You looked like you needed it."

"You were my pillow?" she asked as she rotated her shoulders.

"Yeah."

"Were you comfortable?" she asked smiling impishly.

"I'd like to think so," I responded holding out my hand. She reached out and grasped it. "Let me help."

"With what?" she asked rather distractedly. She seemed to be studying my hand though I have no idea what could have held her attention so raptly.

"Your shoulders. I give good massages," I responded rubbing her finger with mine to draw her attention back towards me.

"You're in the hospital," was her response. She said it with such authority and finality that I paused for a moment to see if I had missed something, I don't think that I did.

"So?" was my artful response. "I'm feeling better, I want to do something. I want to give you a massage."

"You'll have to sit up? What about that opened back robe of yours?" she asked, although as she continued to rotate her neck painfully, I could see the idea growing on her.

"First of all, it's not a robe, it's a dressing gown," I replied shifting myself into a sitting position. "And secondly, you'll be sitting in front of me so it doesn't really matter," I continued.

She stood up placing her hands on my shoulders pushing me back down.

"You shouldn't sit up." She was looking at my leg, which didn't hurt but looked like it should.

"I want…"

"I know, I know," she interjected looking a little annoyed. I found it charming. "You're a real pain once you've got an idea in your head, you know?" she asked stepping back a look of concentration coming over her face.

"I want…"

"I said I know," she interrupted again. "How about I just lie on the bed?" she asked surveying the situation with an architect's eye. "I should be able to fit in between your legs."

"Works for me," was all I said, slightly distracted in a rather pleasant way by Sam talking about getting between my legs.

"Okay, but you have to promise to drop this whole thing if I try and it hurts you." I nodded and she stepped forward, carefully maneuvering herself in between my legs.

"You're nap would have been a lot more comfortable like this," I said as I brought my hands up to her shoulders.

"Probably," was her non-committal response. I smiled.

"Next time you get tired," I continued starting to press down on her muscles, releasing a moan from deep within her throat. "Let me know will you. There's plenty of room up here…as you now see," I went on as I rubbed her shoulders.

"Brooke," she said very slowly, her voice rumbling. I could tell she was smiling. "Are you telling me that I can sleep with you?"

"If you want to," I responded. "Do you have anything on under this?" I asked fingering the material of her shirt.

"Tank top," was all she said.

"Take it off," was my equally short reply.

"What?"

"It'll be easier for me to give you a massage if I'm touching your skin," I told her as my hands came to rest on her hips.

"This is beginning to feel like a bad porn movie," she said as she turned around shooting me a dubious look. It was funny because I had been telling her the truth. The massage would be far more effective if I had better access to her.

"There are bad ones?" I asked raising my eyebrow in surprise. She turned around at that one looking at me keenly before reaching for the bottom of her shirt and pulling it over her head.

"Better?" she asked settling back against me.

"Most definitely. Prepare to fly with the birds," I said placing my hands on her shoulders once more beginning to rub them. "Really, I know what I'm doing," I told her trying to get her to relax. "Dad took me to Sweden once, and I had this au par who used to be a `masseuse'. She was supposed to be teaching about the formation of the American constitution, but she didn't seem to know a lot about that. Strange that the Swedish school system didn't spend more time on it really. Anyway, she ended up teaching me different massage techniques, I guess hoping that if I didn't make it as a historian, I could at least make a little money on the streets. So you, really you're in good hands." I felt her shoulders shake as she laughed silently and I smiled to myself.

"Do you really expect me to believe that you learned how to give massages from an old Swedish streetwalker who wanted a protégé?" she asked turning around.

"Yes," was all I said in response. "Now turn around and let me earn my paycheck."

As I manipulated her muscles I felt her body begin to relax, and her head dropped forward. Every once in a while she would release a tiny sound, or her body would move sensuously delighting in it's new slackness. We didn't talk as I massaged her shoulders and she made no comment when I stopped digging into her muscles and started to gently trail my hands over her skin.

"Brooke," she said reaching up and capturing my hands, snapping me out of whatever haze I had gone into. "This is the best I've felt it days."

"Good," I said leaning forward wrapping my arms around her in a momentary hug. She turned around and smiled at me once I leaned back against my pillows releasing her. Then she carefully got off of the bed so that she was standing beside me once more.

"Are you hungry?" she asked. The moment she said it her stomach rumbled and my eyes focused on her slightly exposed abdomen.

"I could eat," I responded.

"I'll be right back."

*Sam's POV*

Part Five

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

Three Weeks Later…

Brooke and I had always been at war: a war of the wits, war of the worlds, and a war of the wills. Now she had battle wounds. She had only been back home for a few days, and I had made it my job to take care of her, to make sure that all of her needs and wants were met. We were in her room, she was lying on her back on the bed and I was kneeling on the floor. My hand was on her leg gently trailing along it.

"It really doesn't hurt?" I asked looking at the long, nasty gash on her leg. The stitches were still in it and looking at it I could tell that it was going to scar.

"It itches sometimes," she said shifting so that she could see what I was doing, "but it doesn't really hurt anymore."

I dipped my finger into the jar of ointment that sat by my knee, bringing it up and spreading it along the wound.

"You don't have to do that anymore," she said softly. "I can reach."

"Do…do you not want my help?" I asked looking up at her blinking. I knew that she didn't really need my help anymore that she could function without me doing these little things now. The thing was that even if she didn't need it I did. I had to feel like I was helping, like I was doing something. I wanted to help her.

"Of course," she responded quickly looking a little surprised. "I just thought that maybe you didn't want…that you know you thought that I still, but…I mean, it's nice, knowing you're there. I mean…" She stopped talking as I smiled up at her and shook her head ruefully. "I can't even blame it on the drugs anymore," she muttered to herself as I finished up.

"I like you just fine sober," I said standing up. "And the stuttering is cute."

My last comment didn't get the sweet little smile I had come to anticipate from comments like that. Instead she looked at me rather seriously, her eyes capturing mine as she studied me silently. I wondered what she was thinking, if my comment had upset her.

"Sam," she asked softly. "Why are you doing this?"

"Doing what?" I asked.

"Everything," was her response. "Why?"

"Why not?" I replied more hopeful that she would let it drop than convinced that she actually would.

"That's not an answer," she said softly. "I wasn't…I'm not complaining. I just was curious I guess," she went on. Her eyes dropped from mine as she spoke, taking up an intense study of her sheet. I could tell that she was thinking more than she had told me.

"Why?" I repeated. "Why?" I said again shaking my head. "You couldn't have asked me something easy, like the meaning of life?" I went on beginning to pace.

The truth was I hadn't really given much thought to why. Certainly I had asked myself but the answer I came up with had always been because I needed to. That I did it because it was something I felt I should do, I had to do. And I never questioned myself further than that. So the question became, how was I suppose to explain why I was doing what I was doing to Brooke when I couldn't even explain it myself.

"I'm going to be honest," I said stopping the cycle of pacing I had begun moments before. "I don't know why, just that I…just that everything I've done felt like…I felt it inside, that…" I stopped talking when I realized that I wasn't even making any sense to myself. "Ah hell Brooke, I don't know why. Does it really matter?"

"No," she said looking over at with twinkling eyes. "I guess not," she continued.

"You know I love you right?" I asked, surprising myself with the sudden declaration. Surprising Brooke too from the way she opened and closed her mouth with no sound coming through. "I know that we've fought with each other like bitchy fags for pretty much all of our lives, but that doesn't matter. I mean, it's like part of our dynamic, we piss each other off, we help each other out, but most important of all we care about each other," I continued returning my gaze to hers. "You know that, right?"

"I know," she said holding me eyes. "How could I not? And just for the record, I kinda love you too," she said turning a funny colour red as the words came out of her mouth.

I smiled at the reaction and walked over to her sitting beside her on the bed.

"I should probably get to bed," was what I said as I looked at my lap.

"Yeah," she agreed sounding a bit disappointed.

"Tomorrow's banana pancake day," I said looking over at her. "The sooner the sooner."

"Yeah."

"Goodnight then," I said standing up.

"Night," she replied looking up at me.

Then before I knew it, before I could even think about it I found myself leaning down towards her, and then into her. Before I had time to process what it was I was doing I had brushed my lips against hers lightly. Then my brain caught up to my lips and I stepped back.

"I'll see you in the morning," I told her acting as if nothing had just happened.

"Yeah," she responded. "Sweet dreams," she added on at the end almost as an afterthought.

As I made my through her door into the bathroom, making certain to keep it open so that I could hear if she was in any distress during the night, I thought that it was very unlikely that I would have any dreams that could be described as sweet. I hadn't had any sweet dreams in quite sometime. In fact, the only times I could remember having decent nights sleeps were those days in the hospital when I took Brooke up on her offer and we fell asleep in each others arms.

Part Six

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============= *NOTE* Brooke's POV ============

I blinked into the darkness of the room drowsy and disoriented, but that only lasted for a moment. Even though I hadn't heard the sound again since waking up I knew wake it had been, it had been a nightly ritual from the day I had come home. Then, as I reached for the edge of my blanket to pull it off I heard it, a small whimper being carried through the open doors of our bathroom. Sam. I sighed softly standing up, placing my weight on my good leg as I felt around for my cane. Once I felt it's cool surface against my hand I ran my free hand through my hair and headed for the door.

I didn't even need to turn on a light because the route from my room to Sam's had by then become instinctual. I had made the trip in the dark depths of the night so many times I no longer needed to think about.

The sounds grew louder as I entered the bathroom, and they sounded to me as if they were coming for frequently. I would have quickened my steps at the sound of this, but I was going as fast as I safely could. It was just that hearing her like that killed me a little every whimper; it was like being stabbed with tiny little knives.

As I entered her room, the plush softness of her carpet contrasting distractingly with the coolness of the bathrooms tile, I saw her tangled up in her sheets tossing and turning. As I got closer I could see a thin sheen of sweat covering her face and that her hair was damp and matted. I looked down at her, my heart contracting painfully as I considered what to do. Normally I wouldn't want to wake her, but considering the fact that the demons she was fighting seemed to be in her dreams, waking her seemed to be the most human thing to do.

I reached down placing my hand on her shoulder squeezing it gently.

"Sam," I said, my voice a whisper even though I was supposed to be waking her up. "Sam," I repeated, but she was still asleep now struggling in my grasp.

Carefully I placed one of my knees on the bed so that I could lean over Sam and I placed my hands on both sides of her face, trying to steady her. "Sam," I said more firmly. "Sam wake up."

This time she stopped struggling and I felt her body relax, her breath steadying. Slowly her eyes fluttered open. "Oh Sam," I said quietly brushing her hair out of her face. "This isn't good."

"What?" she asked taking her eyes away from mine and letting them roam around the darkness. I sighed, and then shifted settling myself so that I was steady.

"I'm the one that got run over and you're the one that looks like shit. Something in this equation doesn't add up," I said cupping her chin and bringing her eyes back to mine.

"Right," she said struggling into an upright position. "And then you went unconscious. You didn't have to see the blood, or the angle your leg was bent at, or see the seizures and hear the little wheezes you were making as you struggled to breathe," she said staring me in the eye. "I did Brooke, I did," she said shaking her head and lowering her gaze, her voice sounding hollow and broken.

I didn't know how to respond to that so I too merely dropped my gaze leaving the room in silence. She was right of course, I didn't see the aftermath of the crash, I barely had time to process anything before the car hit me, and after I woke up everything was neat and clean, and bandaged, and I was being legally drugged up. I had gotten the clinical side of the accident and Sam got the bloody mess. I probably would have been having nightmares too.

"I keep on seeing it, reliving it. I thought you were dead. Everyone was yelling, saying you were dead," she said finally, her head still turned away from mine.

"But you didn't let go," I responded a small smile coming over my face as I turned to look at her.

"What do you mean?" Sam asked turning around sharply to face me.

"You were holding my hand," I said softly. "All the way to the hospital until the doctors dragged you away," I continued peeking over at her. At first I had thought that it was a dream, a figment of my imagination. But later, after I had woken up I learned that it was true. That Sam had been there the whole time.

"You were conscious!?!" Sam gasped sounding absolutely horrified.

"No, I don't think so," I responded. "It was more like a dream, like floating in water. I didn't hurt and I couldn't see but I could feel this presence, you," I went on snorting as I shook my head ruefully. "I know it sounds cheesy, Joanna Kerns movie of the week cheesy, but it's true."

"Why didn't you say anything?" she asked in a rather confused voice as soon as I finished. I couldn't blame her really; we had become so close after the accident, almost existing within our own little world. It just didn't make sense that I wouldn't have told her and now she wanted to know why.

"I don't know, it's just not something that's easily lends itself to conversation," I responded. "What was I suppose to say, `gee thanks for the cupcake, and by the way I could feel you while I was dying'?"

"I see your point," was her response accompanied by a brief little smile.

"Look," I said focusing on her fully. "Do you want me to stay?"

"I…" she started to say then stopped.

I could see that she was struggling with something; I had learned to read her rather well over the past few weeks, the subtle changes to her face and body language. I knew that she had to be feeling rather horrible after weeks of restless sleep. I knew that I was the catalyst of all of the nightmares, and that in the hospital when we slept together that she slept fitfully, and for no other reason that her own well being I hoped that she took me up on the answer.

"Would you?" she asked finally.

"Yeah," I said simply.

Her response to that was to simply slide over to the left making room for me on the bed.

"Do you need help?" she asked watching as I rested my cane up against her bedside table.

"Nah," I said turning around to face her. "Really, I'm coming along quite well," I continued as I slipped under the covers, dropping my head onto Sam's pillow. It smelled of her shampoo and I breathed in deeply as I turned to face her. "The doctors say it's probably due to a high calcium diet and an overprotective step-sister," I continued smiling.

"Very funny," she muttered staring up at the ceiling.

"I was only half joking," I said nudging her with my shoulder playfully. "Dr. Alvery says recovery is like half mental, and that the patients with strong family support tend to get better faster," I went on. "And you've helped most of all."

"Me?" Sam asked blinking in genuine surprise. "Really?"

"Yes really," I responded. "Mom and Dad have been great, but you…I don't have a word for what you've been. All I can say is I don't know what I would have done if you hadn't been around. You've been like this angel."

She stared at me for a long time after that, her eyes darting around my face, studying me before she looked away and tugged at her ear nervously. I had always found that particular gesture to be scandalously cute, but I found it even more adorable up close.

"Thanks for staying with me," I heard her say softly a few moments after she looked away.

"It's alright," I replied. "I kind of missed our sleepovers," I continued truthfully.

"Yeah?" she responded smiling somewhat impishly, "me too."

Part Seven

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

I don't remember exactly when it was that we stopped making excuses to touch each other, both to each other and ourselves, only that somewhere along the way a silent accord had been reached. If I were passing Brooke in the kitchen in the narrow space between the counter and the island I would place my hand lightly on her hips as I greeted her before brushing by, and while we watched TV I would sit on the floor in-between her legs as she absently played with my hair, stroking my shoulder to get my attention and point something out. And almost every night one of us would sneak into the others bedroom and stay for at least a few hours if not the whole night.

About a week after Brooke joined me in my bed for the first time my nightmares stopped. There was still the odd moment where I would become momentarily seized by terror at the thought of what could have happened, what did happen, but for the most part I was once again living in a very happy present.

A giggle broke me out of my revere and drew my attention to the other side of the room. Brooke was holding McKenzie in the air flying her around like a chubby little airplane much to the child's delight. Every once a while Brooke would make McKenzie swoop down so that she came to rest on her knee where she would tickle her stomach before picking her up again so that they could continue with their aerial display.

"Brooke dear," I heard my mother say from her spot on the couch next to Mike. "You're going to make her air sick."

"Nah uh," Brooke responded nonetheless stopping her motions. "She likes it. Don't you like it little Mac?" she went on in a baby voice. "It's a bird, it's a plane it's Captain Little Mac," she went on as McKenzie started to squirm and gurgle happily.

"As long as you're willing to be her airsick bag," was my mom's somewhat amused response. Brooke stuck out her tongue momentarily then returned to McKenzie.

I turned away and stood up leaving the room a few moments later. I was sure that had I been exposed to a few more moments of the unbearably precious display taking place in front of me that I would lose what ever solid material was left in my body to the mush Brooke was producing.

In fact, the effects Brooke had been producing in me had been weighing on my mind heavy for the past little while. The fact that I was attracted to Brooke, strongly attracted and not just in a physical way, hadn't been in question for quite sometime, it was just that with our increasing closeness it was getting harder and harder for me to ignore the feelings Brooke was producing in me, it was getting harder and harder for me to want to ignore the feelings, and it was starting to seep through into my every day life. I would sometimes find myself just staring at her lips wondering what they tasted like, or running my fingers along the soft skin of her hand, or her arm, in wonder at the sheer beauty of it. And those nights where my bed was I my own I would find Brooke with me in my dreams doing terribly wonderful things to body only to wake up finding that I had done it to myself and really enjoyed it immensely.

I could hear Brooke coming down the hallway before I actually saw her appear at my doorframe. Smiling at me she gave a little rap at the door and I made a big production about thinking about letting her in before I solemnly nodded giving her permission to enter.

"Mac was starting to look a little green around the gills so I gave her back to the parentals," she said as she walked into the room closing the door behind her.

I was lying on the bed with my legs hanging over its edge starring up at the ceiling, and when I didn't verbally respond to her Brooke came over and settled herself beside me, making the bed shake lightly. I remained quiet as she maneuvered herself so that she was flat on her back almost mimicking my position except for a slight allowance made for her leg.

`What's wrong?" she asked turning her head so that she was staring at the side of my face.

"Nothing," I responded keeping my eyes on my ceiling.

"I don't believe you," she said lifting her head up and tilting it to the side so that it came to rest on my shoulder. "I think something's been bothering you for a while, and you're going to tell me what it is."

"It's not that simple," I responded refusing to turn around and face Brooke. I still hadn't decided what I was going to go about the situation, and I didn't want to face Brooke with indecision in my eyes. When I turned to face her, one way or the other I had to be certain about what I was going to do.

"The important stuff usually isn't," Brooke responded softly. "I want to help Sam, whatever it is," she went on lifting her head off of my shoulder and bracing it on her hand so that so that she was looking down at me. "I care about you, I don't want to see you in pain," she continued stretching her free hand out as if she was going to stroke my face but pulling it back before she actually made contact.

"Brooke, believe me when I say that you really don't want to know what's bothering me," I said, my voice coming out a half sigh.

"Sam, believe me when I say I really, really do want to know," was her counter. "And that I'm not going to stop bothering you until you tell me or push me down a flight of stairs."

"That's not funny," I said not at all amused by the idea of more bodily harm coming to her.

"It wasn't meant to be, it was suppose to show my dedication to helping you even at high personal cost," she responded calmly.

I stayed in the position I was in for a moment more, and then I flipped onto my side so that I was mirroring Brooke's position. I watched her carefully, allowing my eyes to wander all around her face, the down the elegant lines of her throat, down to the swell of her breasts, and further still to the graceful curves of her hips, down her long tapered legs before settling on her cute little toes, finally drawing my eyes back up to her face.

"I…Brooke," I said shaking my head. "Look, just know that…that I never meant any harm."

"Harm by what?" she asked her eyes searching mine.

"By anything," I said and then I moved forward without any further hesitation and brought my lips to hers, brushing them lightly along hers before pulling back.

"Is that all?" Brooke asked her lips curling slightly. "That's what was bothering you?"

"I don't think you understand…" I started to say, but she reached out and placed a finger over my lips gently `sssshhhhing' me.

"I think I do," she whispered taking her finger away from my lips. "Perfectly." And with that she leaned forward and pressed her lips to mine, the contact firmer and far more delicious than with the almost educational kiss I had just given her. I leaned into her increasing the contact between us and as I did I felt her hand snake around to the back of my neck holding my head in place as she attacked my lips. Feeling her tongue gently running along my lower lip I parted my lips allowing her further access to my mouth.

Her hand came to rest on my hips as we continued to explore each others mouths fiercely, her hand trailing up my side, softly brushing across the side of my breast on its way back up to my neck, causing me to gasp into her mouth arching towards her.

"Okay," I exhaled pulling my lips away from hers, "maybe you do understand," I continued, my lips curving up into a full-fledged smile which she returned.

"If it's okay with you," she said reaching out and this time actually stroking my cheek. "I'd like to understand a little more."

I dipped my head and scooted closer to her so that we were now practically lying breast to breast then looked up at her playfully. "Let's learn about each other, baby," I said bringing our lips together once more. "Yeah."

Part Eight

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

Babies are funny little things, so needy, so cute. And they're great to play with as long as they're not your own. That's why having a wee tiny little sister was perfect for me, all the perks and none of the hassles. I got to dress her up in cute little outfits that would humiliate her later in life, and play peek-a-boo with her impressing myself with my ability to outsmart her, and when her diapers got messy I suddenly had something to do and Jane or dad got to take of it.

We were having a family gathering of sorts, sitting in the family room watching some lameo movie from like the eighteen hundreds that the parentals liked when they were our age. I didn't mind though, even though the movie blew it was nice to be in a family setting and actually feel like a family. For the first time in as long as I could remember I felt like I was part of a real family, sure it was a real nuclear family, but that didn't matter, it was all peaches to me.

"Brooke dear, you're going to make her air sick," I heard Jane say as Little Mac just completed a super duper loop de loop compliments of yours truly.

"Nah uh," I responded nonetheless resting the baby on my knees. "She like's it. Don't you like it Little Mac?" I asked her in a baby voice as she giggled at me and tried to suck on my thumb. "It's a bird, it's a plane," I continued picking her up again and flying her like a miniature, bald version of Superman, "it's Captain Little Mac," I concluded as Little Mac gave me a flying ovation, clapping her hands together and giggling.

Turning my head to the side I could Sam looking between me and her mother with a soft little grin on her face, it made my smile grow.

"As long as you're willing to be her airsick bag," Jane responded giving me an impish little smile. Now I knew where Sam got it from. I was sure that I was as powerless against the charm of the McPherson grin as my dad was. That was alright by me, it's nice when parents and children have something in common.

I stuck my tongue at Jane playful smirking as she pretended to pinch it before turning back to McKenzie who was starting to look rather board. The child had a shorter attention span than Mary Cherry.

Thinking about Mary Cherry usually brought my mind careening towards the subject of Nicole, a subject that I was usually against discussing with myself let alone other people. I sometimes wondered why she did, how things could have gone so horribly wrong, how my best friend could try and kill me. At first I used to wonder about things I could have done, if I missed anything in the days before the accident, what I could have possibly done to turn her. But eventually, with more than a little help my brown haired guardian, my sentinel, I came to the conclusion that it wasn't me, it was Nicole. Mostly when I thought of her after that I felt pity and sadness, and even a little anger, anger at the world that turned the sweet girl she had once been, the girl I admit I saw vestiges of long after it had vanished in most peoples eyes, into an attempted murderer.

I may have continued with thoughts like that as I sat there with McKenzie on my lap, but I saw Sam move out the corner of my eye, and helplessly – it was always helplessly – I turned my full attention to her. Our eyes met for a brief moment, and I could see something in them, turmoil I guess. She turned away from a second later though and mumbled something about having seen this one before then headed up the stairs. I stayed, and played with Little Mac for a more minutes, didn't want to make anyone suspicious after all, then I too got up telling them that I just thought it was boring, and headed up the stairs.

Sam was lying on her bed staring up at the ceiling as I knocked lightly at her door. She made a big, dramatic, and utterly cute presentation of pondering whether or not to let me in, and then nodded solemnly granting me permission.

"Mac was beginning to look a little green around the gills so I gave her back to the parentals," I said stepping into the room and closing the door behind me.

I waited a few moments for a response, but it soon become clear to me that I wasn't going to get one so I walked over to her bed and after tossing my cane onto the ground I settled myself in an almost identical position. Once I was settled I turned to my so that I was looking at her, and spent precious moments just watching her profile. She was the most beautiful person I had ever laid eyes on.

"What's wrong?" I asked still unable to look away.

"Nothing," she responded refusing to turn in my direction. Truthfully I had expected that answer, of the many things Sam was stubborn was high on the list.

"I don't believe you," I told her shifting my position once again until I was able to rest my head on her shoulder. "I think something's been bothering you for a while, and you're going to tell me what it is."

I felt her body raise as I said this, she had just taken a tremendously big breath. I think I was frustrating her, but that was just too bad for her, because quite frankly sometimes people need other people to tell them what's best for them, and at that moment Sam was one of those people in need. I would provide for her, just like she provided for me, that's how it was, I called it love.

"It's not that simple," she finally breathed out sounding rather irritated at my lack of understanding. Or maybe she was just distracted; sometimes with Sam it was hard to tell, almost as if being distracted irritated her or something.

"The important stuff usually isn't," I told her softly. "I want to help Sam, whatever it is," I went on lifting my head off of her shoulder and placing it in the palm of my hand so that I could see her better. "I care about you, I don't want to see you in pain." As I spoke, my hand snaked out was reaching out towards her face, I knew what I wanted to do, what I longed to do. To stoke that soft skin soothingly, to place a kiss on her cheek and hug her until whatever was haunting her went away. But I drew my hand back. That was my dream, my demon, my secret, and this was about Sam.

"Brooke," she said saying my name in a sigh, "believe me when I say that you really don't want to know what's bothering me."

"Sam," I said, my voice not wavering even the teeniest bit. "Believe me when I say that I really, really do want to know. And, that I'm not going to stop bothering you until you tell me or push me down a flight of stairs," I went on.

"That's not funny," she said sharply as she turned to face me.

"It wasn't meant to be," I told her honestly. "It was suppose to show my dedication to helping you, even at high personal risk," I went on. It was suppose to show her my love.

She was quite for a moment, then she shifted so that it was now she who was doing the mirroring. Head in hand she looked at me. First at my face, then her eyes started to trail lower and lower lingering for a moment here and there before continued down until she finally raised her head to look into my eyes once more. I was careful, as she looked at me, careful not to squirm not to let on the effect that it was having on me, not to show her how much I enjoyed it.

"I…Brooke," she said shaking her head dejectedly. "Look, just know that…that I never meant any harm."

"Harm by what?" I asked searching her eyes. I'll admit that kind of caught me off guard.

"By anything," was her response, then before I could even process what was happening I felt her lips brush against mine gently before she pulled back. It seemed to last forever and for no time at all.

"Is that all?" I asked barely able to contain my excitement. "That's what was bothering you?"

"I don't think you understand…" she started to same, but I reached out a hand placing a finger over her lips gently `ssshhhhing' her.

"I think I do," I whispered taking my finger away from her lips. "Perfectly." And with that I leaned forward and pressed my lips against her, the contact firmer and much longer than the rather chaste kiss Sam had given me moments before. Sam leaned into me increasing the contact between us and as she did I lifted my hand bringing it around to the back of her neck, holding her head in place as I continued to ravage her lips. I gently ran my tongue along her bottom lip, tasting her when she parted her lips allowing me more access to her mouth.

I rested my hand on her hip as we continued to explore each others mouths fiercely, my hand trailing up her side, softly brushing across the side of her breast on its way back up to her neck. As I did she this, she gasped and arched her body against mine, crushing her lips against mine much to our mutual delight.

"Okay," I heard her whisper as she separated, "maybe you do understand," she continued her lips curving up into a sexy smile that I couldn't help but return.

"If it's okay with you," I said reaching out and this time actually stroking her cheek. "I'd like to understand a little more."

She dipped her head down and scooted closer to me so that we were now practically lying breast to breast, then she looked up at me playfully. "Let's learn about each other, baby," she said lecherously before leaning in once more and pressing our lips together. "Yeah."

The End

Thanks for reading! Comments are always welcome ( jbslayer27@yahoo.com )

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