JUST A LITTLE INSIGHT

By Misty Flores

Teaser: It was the sharp realization, sitting at that dinner table, as soon as Harrison had chosen her and Sam's eyes welled up with tears, that for all her protestations of sisterly love to the world about Sam, she was incredibly, hopelessly, desperately, IN love with her. There was enough difference in that statement to completely destroy any sense of stability she had.

Series: Popular, Sam/Brooke, Brooke/other, Sam/other

Spoilers: Post SII

CHAPTERS

Prologue | Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI |
Part VII | Part VIII | Part IX | Part X | Part XI | Part XII | Part XIII |
Part XIII | Part XIV | Part XV | Part XVI | Part XVI | Part XVII | Part XVIIIA | Part XVIIIB |
EPILOGUE

MAJOR props go to faechick for the awesome beta.

Prologue

In certain moments of extreme generosity, clarity, or sappy sentiment, Brooke McQueen would admit to herself that having Sam forced into her life had actually changed her for the better.

When she was at her worst, having a bad day, or completely livid because somehow Sam had managed to wipe half of her MP3's off of her IPOD, she would declare to the world that Sam McPherson had ruined her life.

There were two sets of extremes, both equally volatile and utterly sincere, and at first, Brooke had some trouble reconciling them.

Lying in a hospital bed, in the groggy sort of dispirits that came from spending two months in a coma because she had been run down by her best friend trying to murder her, Brooke had time to contemplate them both.

She remembered a tenuous truce struck, a hesitant sense of euphoria that came with that freedom, secret smiles and laughter in the midst of that whole mess with Harrison. She remembered admitting to herself that she loved Sam, and somehow shifting loyalties from blonde to brunette. She remembered a fight with Nicole for the sake of Sam, and it was never a question of choosing, just a question of when Nicole had pushed her enough. She remembered the line in the sand, drawn because Nicole had chosen to hurt Sam just when Brooke understood that she loved her.

It was because of Sam that she walked away from Harrison that night. Because of Sam that she realized she didn't CARE that Harrison had chosen her, that all she really cared about was the fact that Sam had tears in her eyes, and none of it was what Brooke wanted.

It was because of Sam that Nicole's headlights came burning down on her, and two months of her life were eaten away.

--

"I brought you something," Sam said, a forced cheerfulness in her voice that sounded fake and contrived. She cringed inside, just hearing it, and she hated that she couldn't help herself. The sight of Brooke, brown roots over taking the long blond strands that lay listlessly around the angular face, face sallow and tired and so... spiritless, brought out the inner cheerleader Sam had been horrified to discover that she had.

Brooke didn't even lift an eyebrow, turning her head from the blaring TV to watch her come into the room. "Hi," she said. "Is school over already?"

Sam paused, taking a moment to glance at blinds purposely closed, shutting out the sun intentionally. "It's a little dark in here," she said pointedly.

Brooke glanced at the blinds, then back at Sam. "The light was hurting my eyes." Her tone was even, almost annoyed.

Sam kept her place in the doorway, and made herself take a deep breath in. "Okay, but I think a little light would be good in here."

"It's a hospital room, Sam, not a spa."

"True," she acquiesced, "but I know he might appreciate it," Sam responded, and produced a little betta in a huge champagne glass. "His name is Little Bleu," she continued, coming forward with the little fish, swimming around in the swishing water with rapidly flickering velvety blue green fins. "Not B-L-U-E, but B-L-E-U. What do you think?"

"You got me a fish?" Brooke asked, in a tone that made it impossible to determine whether or not it was welcome.

Sam made a dramatic roll of her eyes. "No, blockhead, not just any fish. This is Little Bleu! He's a fighter. He's scrappy. And beautiful. Just like you." She offered a nervous smile before continuing, "And you don't have to worry about feeding him or changing the water, because I will be here every day to do that. He's pretty!" She finished her sales pitch with a little hop and a wave of her hands, positioning the little betta on the stand right next to her bed.

It was a struggle, to deal with this new Brooke, just when she had finally made her peace with the old one, but Sam had never been one to back away from a challenge. She had challenged Brooke before, back when she had decided she hated her, and had pretty much done every damned thing she could do to make that the case. While her currently resolution was decidedly the opposite, Sam's resolve was no less distinct. Post Coma Brooke was different, but it wasn't her fault. Sam was pretty sure if she had been mowed down by her best friend on prom night and left in a coma during the entire summer she'd be a bitch on wheels too.

"Sam... I..." Brooke seemed to finally give up on the television, at least, reaching up to flick it off with her remote. Her expression, however, looked more exasperated than anything else. "Thank you, but... "

"But what? It's cute! And he's smart. Okay? He swims around and when it's feeding time, he nearly has a cardiac arrest." When Brooke just stared, Sam blushed. "Trust me, it's cute."

"What are you doing, Sam? You don't have to spend every day here."

"I know I don't." Brooke's face was impossible to read. "Look, I brought your college apps that came in the mail," Sam continued, feeling oddly desperate as she began to shrug off her pack. "And Mike signed you up for the same day as me for the SATs...."

"Sam-"

"I figured we could study together-"

"Sam, stop. You're trying too hard."

It was excruciating, and as the words came out of Brooke's mouth, Sam found herself slumping forward, rubbing long fingers into her eyes. "God, I know. It's pathetic."

"Extremely," Brooke said, but not unkindly.

"I don't know why," she said, fingers curling into her lap. Sinking onto the bed, she ran her tongue over her bottom lip, a nervous tick. "I'm not saying it was ever easy," she began suddenly, eyes darting up to stare into the crystal clear orbs of Brooke. "But even when it was hard... it wasn't like this."

Brooke raised her knees to her chest, hugging them to her. "So why are you trying?"

The question was startling. "Why aren't you?"

Brooke's look was long, careful, and closed. With a small smile, she merely shrugged and looked away, reaching for the remote and turning away. "Thanks for the fish," she said, and with that, completely dismissed Sam.

The ache that flared inside of her was something Sam would never forget.

--

Brooke would never know if Sam understood exactly what happened in her hospital room that day. Honestly, she wasn't quite sure she understood it herself. All she knew was that Sam was a source of conflict and extremes, and it wasn't something she wanted to handle, not when Sam was trying so hard to be a source of calm, and through no fault of her own, failing miserably.

Cutting off whatever Sam was doing at the knees was what was best, and there was some relief that came from it. Brooke recovered at her own pace, now that Sam wasn't stopping in every day acting like her own personal misguided cheerleader. She studied in those long hours and learned the prep books that Sam had left behind backwards and forwards. When Harrison and Carmen and Lily and Josh came by she was polite and friendly, and when Mary Cherry stopped by with her tremendous story about her drag queen father and gangbanger sister, she really laughed for the first time in a while. She had a curious sedateness, and it suited her.

It was when Sam was around that she really would feel, and for some reason, the reaction frightened her. Sam would stop by, but only with Mike and Jane, and when Brooke was finally allowed to go home, impossibly skinny and a complete brunette, she and Sam had unconsciously reached a different kind of truce. Sam was considerate, sweet and distant, and Brooke was the same.

She didn't know if she blamed Sam for the accident, Brooke didn't want to be that closed minded or selfish. She didn't even know why she had chosen to freeze out Sam when she also missed her. There were moments when they would slip, both of them, either erupt in a horrible fight that would make Jane and her dad even crankier now because of little Mac, or fall into a moment where the veil of formality would slip and there would be a genuine smile, a genuine laugh, a minute second of sincere emotion.

It would always happen when she wouldn't expect it, like the day she was sitting on the couch and Sam came in carrying little Mac against her shoulder, bouncing her nervously because Sam always was a little afraid of the baby. Brooke had only looked up for a second, but the image touched her in a way that had her suddenly staring, and when Sam caught her looking, her step sister did the one thing that disarmed her completely: she smiled. The rush of emotion that came to her surface was nearly painful, and it wasn't long before the comfortable intimacy became uncomfortable awkwardness, and Sam had exited stage right, leaving the stale quiet behind.

In Brooke's room, Little Bleu swam around in circles, hiding among the soft bristles of the little fake plant Brooke had gotten on a whim.

He was just a fish, but Brooke could admit that she loved him.

--

"Honey, are you sure you want to try and take that fish with you?"

"Dad, I checked with the dorm. It's no problem. We're allowed to keep a small aquarium."

"I know, honey, but you have enough here, why don't you leave it for now and when you get settled, you can pick up the fish."

"It's not just a fish, Dad, I'm not leaving Little Bleu."

"I'm not saying you have to, just for the week."

Sam hadn't meant to eavesdrop. She had only meant to stop in and say goodbye, before heading back to her room to figure out how the hell to stuff an entire wardrobe into three suitcases. Still, there was something in that angry lilt that Brooke had in her tone, an angry bit of emotion that made Sam take pause. When she walked in, she saw Brooke hugging the over-sized champagne glass against her chest, brown hair pulled away from her face to reveal a resolved expression.

When they both glanced at her, she felt a little guilty, stepping back as if to ask permission. "Sorry, I was just ... coming to say good-bye."

"It's fine," Mike said, hands on his hips, as if annoyed he was even being forced to argue over a fish. "Maybe you can try to talk some sense into Brooke, here-"

"Mike, the stubborn apple does not fall far from the stubborn tree. You're not going to win this argument. Little Bleu goes." The smile she got from Brooke was the first real one she had seen in days.

"Jane!" Mike tried, just as her mother swept in behind her. "About this fish-"

"Mike, what do you have against the fish? It's Brooke's fish. She can take her fish."

Sam grinned, and was suddenly rewarded with an armful of Mac. "Mom-" But her mother was already gone, followed by a suddenly grouchy Mike, who complained loudly about the women to men ratio in the house.

"What's his problem?" Sam asked Mac, struggling to hold onto the slippery toddler as she tried to weave out of her grasp. "I think Daddy has a serious case of betta envy."

It was only when Brooke chuckled that she realized her stepsister was still in the room.

"So..." Sam began, licking her lips and coming forward with her acrobat little sis. "Need any help?" Brooke's bedroom was sparse now. An open luggage case sat on the perfectly made bed, and the little glass bowl that held Little Bleu was now next to an open zip lock bag, obviously being made ready for transport.

"No, I think I'm all set. But thanks anyway." Brooke wore a smile that was hard to look away from, and formalities over with, Sam found herself struggling for words.

"Brooke," she said finally. "I know we haven't really been close this year-"

"Sam..." came the soft, whispy voice. "You don't have to-"

"Yes, I do." The tears that sprang told her that, and she juggled Mackenzie and couldn't wipe at them as they stung. "I don't know what happened, Brooke, but I just... I need you to know that... that, for what it's worth, I-"

"Sam, please." Her vision was blurry, and still, her eyes shut tight when soft fingers began to wipe at the salty tears that stained her skin. "Your mascara."

"I'm sorry," she whispered, a gentle ache. "I'm sorry that I made you hate me."

"Oh, God, Sam... I don't hate you. I love you." Brooke's voice was rough, different than before, and Sam laughed pathetically, eyes opening to discover a pitying expression, a palm against her face.

Between them, Mackenzie squirmed, and Sam shook her head. "Remember when you hated me? God, Brooke, one word and I would crack that mask you wore, and for a second, I would see the real you. I may have told myself I hated you, but... but at least that was real. And it made me feel real. And then... before the accident it was... even with the Harrison madness-"

"Sam, you don't understand-" Brooke was so close now, eyes bright and moist, and it was more than Sam could bear, because she was sure Brooke pitied her now, and she still didn't know how it happened, why it happened.

"You're right, I don't." Stumbling backwards, she moved away, from the look on Brooke's face, from the flaring pain in her chest, from all of it. "And I don't want to. I just wanted to say good-bye, and to tell you that... you forced me to take a look at myself, and made me realize, I wasn't who I wanted to be. You changed me, Brooke, and I'll never forget that. For that, I'm thanking you. Give Little Bleu a kiss for me."

With a crooked smile, she carried Mac out of Brooke's room, and told herself she had said everything she needed to, and just like Brooke, she could move on.

--

Brooke dyed her hair blonde the first semester at USC. She rushed one of the sororities, and made it through the hazing even after she got snapped at for disagreeing a little too vocally about some of the more ridiculous demands placed on them by the sisters.

She dated one of the linebackers, a blonde, surprisingly sensitive jock named Adam, and thanks to that, found herself in the crux of the social circle at one of the biggest football campuses in the nation.

Her classes were large and somehow still intimate, and Rodeo Drive was only twenty minutes away.

She emailed Sam, at her new Northwestern University address, and in it she tried hard to explain the twisted logic behind the falling apart of their sisterhood. She tried to explain what Sam meant to her, and how she struggled between extremes, and couldn't quite seem to let go of the bitterness that came with it, because what she was living now was everything Brooke had wanted to achieve when she was a starry eyed sixteen year old and it wasn't enough.

What she wanted, she wrote Sam, was to feel again. To sit beside Sam like they did in chemistry and speak without speaking, with gestures and looks. To have that thrill she couldn't quite explain when she realized people were starting to see them as 'Sam and Brooke' and not just individual entities. She wanted the thrill that came with loving Sam, because Sam was beautiful and secure in herself, and Brooke came alive around her.

And, she also wrote, she hated Sam a little for that. Because all this stuff that was all so interesting before Sam wasn't interesting at all, and Brooke had begun to realize that it was really all she had, and she was looking at the rest of her life being bored stiff, because it was what everyone expected and Brooke had gotten run over when she had tried to push against it.

She wrote to Sam that it was wrong that Sam made her feel this way, because there was something twisted that her step sister was putting her through all this emotion, and sometimes it was easier not to feel. That was why she kept her at arms length, because the uncontrollable emotion that came from loving Sam nearly killed her.

Literally.

She tried to explain that she didn't know what she wanted, or how to control it, and wouldn't know for a while and it was easier to shut her out completely, and she wanted to tell her that watching Sam break down with little Mac in her arms had stayed with her and buried deep down inside of her.

She told Sam she was beautiful, that she had always thought so, and what she had really wanted was to forget Harrison and just go to prom with Sam.

She wrote it all, and when it came time to send it, Brooke's own survival instinct kicked in, and she closed the window and didn't save the draft. Instead, she CC'D Sam on her email to her parents, and hated herself just a little bit.

Little Bleu would get excited to see her, and wag his little tail when he saw her enter the room. Brooke knew there was a logical reason for it, he associated her with food, but she still smiled at him, talked to him, and forever branded herself as 'the Fish Chick' in her sorority because of her insane love for her betta.

Jane called her a week before Thanksgiving break, asking her when she was driving the forty minutes it took to get home. She included some general updates, and when Brooke hesitantly asked what day Sam was getting there, got a quiet pause and a response that Sam wasn't going to be able to make it back until Christmas.

Jane asked Brooke to call Sam, try and convince her to come back for the holiday, because Jane said she was sure the only reason Sam was staying away was because she was afraid, and if Brooke and Mike and Jane could only convince her that they were all perfectly fine with her being gay then maybe Sam wouldn't be so afraid of bringing her girlfriend home.

Brooke had been so stunned she hadn't been able to make a sound, and Jane thought she had been hung up on. It had taken five minutes of phone tag and mortified apologies and explanations on both ends before Brooke could close her cell phone.

It wasn't until then that she realized she was shaking.

End Prologue

CHAPTERS

Prologue | Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI |
Part VII | Part VIII | Part IX | Part X | Part XI | Part XII | Part XIII |
Part XIII | Part XIV | Part XV | Part XVI | Part XVI | Part XVII | Part XVIIIA | Part XVIIIB |
EPILOGUE