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Synopsis: It was the worst possible relationship in every way but one.


Author's Notes: Ms. Kinnikufan posted a PPMB Iron Chef challenge in April 2010 for someone to write a Tom/Brittany ‘shipper. This was one of the offerings. It takes place in an alternate universe that diverges from canon near the end of the episode, “A Tree Grows in Lawndale.”


Acknowledgements: My thanks once again to Ms. Kinnikufan.











In the peace of that Sunday afternoon as he lay in bed, Tom Sloane remembered how it had started. He wasn’t stupid. Nothing would have happened if Brittany Taylor’s boyfriend hadn’t been dropped on his head by his teammates, who were carrying the triumphant quarterback off the gridiron after the Lawndale Lions finally broke a losing streak.


Quarterback Kevin Thompson had returned to football after injuring his knee during an ill-advised stunt with a motor scooter, and it looked as if Lawndale High’s glory days had returned as well. Tom had gone to the game with then-girlfriend Jane Lane, a Lawndale student herself, and the two of them and Jane’s best friend Daria had offered each other rude color commentary about cheerleader Brittany’s mind-numbingly lame exhortations to her boyfriend. Brittany was such a ditz—the sweetest person you could hope to meet, but a ditz nonetheless. There was that 27-7 victory over the visiting team, there was Kevin riding aloft on the Lawndale Lions’ shoulders, the hero of heroes, and then…


One of Brittany’s corn-yellow pigtails tickled Tom’s nose. Her cheek pressed against his naked chest, her head barely visible above the blankets. He slowly inhaled and smelled perfume and baby powder and the unmistakable scent of sex, felt and heard the faint sigh of her breathing as she slept. Her soft body radiated heat where it pressed against his.

News of the quarterback’s death, coming in the evening after that long-ago game, had of course shocked Tom. It had shocked everyone. All had hoped Kevin would snap out of his coma, but...

The Lawndale High Homecoming parade through town took place a month later, on a Saturday when Jane gave inexact instructions to Tom concerning which drugstore she wished to use as their meeting place. While waiting fruitlessly for Jane at the wrong place, Tom spotted a depressed Brittany on the crowded sidewalk. He didn’t recognize her at first without her cheerleader uniform or makeup, but she still had those golden pigtails and, beneath her hoodie and jeans, the curves of a Grecian love goddess. The curves had enflamed a predictable hunger for that body even as he had poked fun at her during the game, though of course he had said nothing to Jane about it. He wasn’t stupid.

He no longer remembered what his first words to her had been, though he recalled it had been something meant to be comforting and sincere. Guilt over the fun he’d made of her nagged him on. She was grateful for his kindness, but still dreadfully depressed. Giving up on Jane, Tom escorted the sad-faced Brittany to an ice cream parlor and bought her a small chocolate sundae. She ate it, talked a little, then asked if he would take her home. He did. She asked if he would help her with something upstairs. His conscience sounded alarms, but he ignored it and followed her to her bedroom. There she shut the door behind him, locked it, and that was the last sane memory he had concerning what happened next. And what happened a week later. He lost count of the times after the second. He swiftly broke things off with Jane, forgot a stirring attraction to Jane’s friend Daria, and gave no thought to either thereafter.

He wasn’t stupid. It wouldn’t last. It couldn’t. The two of them had nothing in common except being unbelievably good in bed together. They knew and enjoyed each other’s intimate terrain, delighted in their creativity in bringing the other to paradise. The sex and physical closeness seemed to help Brittany cope. She smiled more, talked more, dressed better, began to move on with her life. They even appeared in public together, dated and went to parks and places they both enjoyed while carefully avoiding topics and circumstances that might remind them of the gulf that lay between them.

And now it was a year later. She had graduated Lawndale High with a 1.78 average, and he was out of Fielding Academy with a 3.94. With one month left before college they were burning up the sheets with no sign of stopping. They did not talk about the future except in short sentences, without looking each other in the eyes. She was going to Great Prairie State in Illinois and he to Bromwell in Connecticut, almost a thousand miles apart. It would be over soon, everything would be over. And here they were, still in bed.

He wasn’t stupid. He could feel it coming, what losing her would be like. He would be ripped in two and it would feel in every way as if it were really happening. The pain would be unspeakable. He blamed no one but himself for it. It had started with sex, but in time it had opened his eyes to Brittany’s unshakable optimism, her earnest desire to give and do good, and the little flame of wisdom that burned within her. She was not a ditz anymore and had stopped looking like one long, long ago.

He remembered how it started, looked back upon it as he listened to her breathe, and each gentle wave that broke against him broke him in turn.

It was too late to save himself. He no longer wished to be saved. He had been stupid after all, so very stupid, and it was too late to change it.

He listened to the waves of her breath and closed his eyes and gave in. The rhythm guided him down the shore into the waters of that sea, a sea too dark and deep and wide to sustain him, and there he swam until he sank and was drowned.


Original: 04/27/10, 05/02/10