Sam's heart rabbited in his chest, deepening the red tinge already coloring his cheeks and thudding in his ears to the exclusion of all other noise; his breathing sped up and his mouth turned dry and he knew that at that moment his muscles wouldn't obey him even if he had wanted to move – he was paralyzed by her eyes.

He watched her pause in front of him, his mind unable to achieve coherent thought but at the same time cataloging everything he could about her; the deep brown luster of her long curls, her slightly pale flawless complexion, her chocolate eyes that so mercilessly seized his own, the seductive fullness of her lips, curved now into an innocent smile.

"Sam…" She whispered his name, her face coming closer to his, filling his vision. He wondered how he could hear her over his own heartbeat, whether she could hear it too, whether she knew what effect she could have on him. Her face drew ever closer, her eyes semi-lidded though still locked with his.

"Sam", she breathed his name again; he felt her breath tickle his face and slid his eyes closed, reveling in the sensation. He could feel her breath on his lips now, feel the heat radiating from her body and adding to the heat already coursing through his; he was in heaven, and he would give anything to feel her lips on his…

"Sam".

Her voice was suddenly distant, her tone questioning. He could feel neither her tickling breath nor the warmth of her skin; what was happening?

Sam felt cold, empty. "No", he moaned in frustration.

"Sam!"

His eyes snapped open to the glare of his calculus classroom, his neck stiff from his awkward sleeping position - slumped over his desk. He groaned as the bright light from the classrooms fluorescents stabbed at his retinas.

"Sam, are you feeling okay?"

In his confusion Sam had yet to notice the person that was leaning over him, her hand resting lightly on his shoulder, peering at him with a concerned expression.

Laura Chapman. The girl of his dreams – quite literally.

Sam's heart skipped a beat from shock and he jerked his body upright; Laura snatched her hand back and jumped with alarm, colliding with the desk behind her.

His face growing hot with embarrassment, Sam squeezed his eyes shut and leaned his forehead against his desk.

"Sorry", he muttered, feeling totally lame.

"It's, ah… its fine, Sam…"

Sam dreaded to think of what she must be thinking right now. He knocked his head on the desk in aggravation.

"Uh, the class is over…"

"Mhmm. Thanks." Now please leave so I can die of humiliation.

"…Sam..." The sound of a chair being moved came to Sam's ears, and then rustling as Laura sat down. "Are you okay? I mean, you seem kind of… out of it… lately."

Sam turned his head to look at Laura. She was facing him from the chair to his right, resting her elbows on her knees and unconsciously chewing on her bottom lip. She looked hesitant and… worried?

God, she even looks beautiful sideways, Sam thought. He looked her straight in the eyes (something he usually didn't have the guts to do), admiring the way he could just lose himself in the swirls of color…

Sam realised he had been staring when Laura looked away, a pink tinge creeping into her complexion.

"I'm sorry – its none of my business, I shouldn't have pried–"

"No, wait." Panicked that she would leave Sam sat up and reached out and touched her hand then, realizing what he was doing, pulled his hand back again. Laura looked confused but stayed where she was.

Tell her you're distant because you can't stop thinking about her! Sam's mind screamed at him; Sam avoided her gaze for fear of her seeing the truth in his eyes.

"I-… um, it's just… I, uh…" Sigh. "No… no, I'm fine – just haven't been getting enough sleep lately," he lied. Oh could you be lamer!

Laura looked slightly skeptical but didn't pass comment. She probably just wants to get away from Sam-the-stammering-dork as fast as possible, he thought miserably. As if to confirm his suspicions Laura stood up quickly and grabbed her books off the desk.

"Well, I'm glad you're okay, then. See you round" She shot him a swift smile and walked towards the door.

"Thank you, anyway…" Where the hell did that come from?

Laura paused in her break for freedom and turned back to face him. This time her smile was wide and genuine.

"Anytime."

In his dazed state Sam managed to muster a silly grin before Laura turned again and disappeared out the door.

Well, at least you didn't have dribble on your face…

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"Anytime."

Laura's already pounding heart leapt into her throat as Sam grinned lazily at her; that cool, sexy grin that he hardly ever turned in her direction but that made her flush when he did. She was relieved that through her scattered thoughts she managed to steer herself through the door instead of into the frame, which was a definite possibility.

She couldn't seem to wipe her smile totally from her face as she wandered towards her locker and stashed her books. By the time she sat down to eat with her friends she was sure she had managed to get control of herself.

Jenny, Laura's best friend since middle school, glanced over at her in greeting then did a double take. Her hazel eyes narrowed with suspicion as she flicked her long brown hair out of her face.

"Hey, Lo, why the grin?"

Damn. "What grin?" Laura said shortly; Jenny might have accepted this and moved on but at that moment Laura glanced up and saw Sam walk into the cafeteria, and her face immediately betrayed her by flushing red.

Jenny followed Laura's eyes to Sam, then swiveled back to Laura. "For the love of God, Laura," Jenny moaned in frustration. "Not Sam again."

Sam again, Laura sighed in her mind. "Please, Jen. Just leave it alone."

"Lo, you know I love you; but this has got to stop! All this year – and half of last year - I've watched you pine for the guy, and you've never done anything about it. It's path-etic. You've asked guys out before; it's not as if you're incapable of doing it. Just do it; he'll say yes, I promise."

"Yeah, we'll even come with you and hold your hand, if you want," teased Ash, the self-proclaimed fashion guru of the group. Laura shot her a dirty and then ignored both of them, instead taking a bite of her sandwich. But every now and again her gaze would be drawn across the hall to where Sam sat chatting with his friends.

Laura didn't understand why she was so attracted to Sam; in the years they had gone to school together they hadn't spoken much and never quite became friends. They were both among the smartest in their class and they sat on adjacent desks in calculus, but as far as Laura could tell this was their only common ground.

He had, Laura decided, a fascinating intensity about him, a dark sexiness in his movements and expressions that contrasted with his sky blue eyes. It was true; Laura had successfully asked out and had relationships with other guys in the past. But none of those guys managed to jumble her thoughts with the intensity of his gaze, or make her feel either giddy with just a smile or confused and vulnerable with his indifference.

If she could keep her head together while talking to him long enough to ask him out, then she would. Unfortunately this had yet to occur; hence, the pining.

"Do you two want to hang at mine this arvo? My dad's working late so we can let loose, maybe decorate the kitchen with whipped cream again?" Ash's suggestion successfully pulled Laura out of her brooding and coaxed a grin onto her face.

"As long as we make sure the cream isn't off this time, I'm in." Jenny accompanied her proviso with some exaggerated retching, much to the amusement of her friends.

"Yeah, me too- oh shit no wait, I'm meeting with Brian about Decathlon after school. Damn. Sorry guys."

"Urgh, you're ditching us for your text books again! What kind of friend are you?" Jenny complained indignantly; Ash went for the pouting-and-puppy-dog-eyes-accompanied-by-high-pitched-wining approach. Neither worked – Laura simply smiled back at them and said nothing.

Jenny sighed dramatically. "I hate that you don't respond to emotional blackmail." Then, as if as an afterthought, she inquired "Have you found someone to fill the empty spot on your team yet?"

"No. Why – are you volunteering?" Laura teased.

"No. I was just curious," Jenny replied with an air of innocence.

While Laura wasn't looking, Jenny and Ash exchanged a cheeky glance that clearly said 'are-you-thinking-what-I'm-thinking?'

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Sam was attempting to rescue his history book from the jumble of stationary, rubbish and other books in his locker when he heard his name being called from down the hall. Holding his untidy heap of possessions in place with one arm, he turned to find Jenny and Ashleigh, Laura's two best friends, waving and smiling at him as they navigated their way towards him through the crowded hallway. What could they want?

"Hi Sam, how's it going?" Jenny chirped when they reached him.

Sam managed as uneasy half smile: they seem far too happy about something, and he knew that they had a well earned reputation for being two of the most devious and conniving girls in their class. "Um yeah, great. What's up?"

"Well," Ash gushed, "we were talking to Laura" – Sam's heart skipped at the mention of her name – "at lunch about Decathlon – you know, it's that extra-curricular where you answer weird questions?"

"Yeah I know; Brian's in the team too."

"Oh yes of coarse he is; silly me. Anyway, Laura was stressing out because they don't have the third member of their team yet, which means they can't compete."

"Which would be completely awful," Jenny chimed in. "And so we all brainstormed people who we thought would make good team members. Laura suggested Geoffrey, but I know he and Brian don't get along, and then I thought of Mia, who would be perfect, but then I realised that she's already preoccupied with her sports."

"Did you know she plays tennis, basketball and soccer?" Ash asked in amazement.

"And, of coarse, we didn't want her game to suffer; that would be a crime against school spirit," Jenny added gravely.

"So I suggested you," Ash finished happily.

Now the conversation was taking a turn that Sam hadn't expected and wasn't prepared for. He looked from one smiling face to the other, trying in vain to decide if they were serious. "Me?"

"Yes, silly. You."

Why would they think I would say yes to this? They must have lost it… Sam tried to sound apologetic as he began "Well, thanks, but-"

But Jenny had started speaking again. "And of coarse Laura jumped at the idea. She said you'd be perfect; that you're really smart-"

"I think she said genius, actually," interjected Ash.

"Right of course, my bad. And she said how nice you are-"

"No she said charming."

"Right, charming, and that she'd like-"

"-love-"

"-a chance to spend some more time with you," Jenny finished.

Sam was completely thrown off track by this point; Laura wanted to spend more time with him? Just the possibility of it made his heart beat faster. "She said that?" he questioned, his voice stunned and his eyes losing their focus.

The girls' smiles grew even wider and they both nodded emphatically; they knew how Sam felt about Laura – anyone who had been around them for more than 5 seconds could tell how they felt. They had been aiming for a reaction like this one. They had Sam cornered; now all they had to do was close the deal.

"But Laura forgot her Chemistry textbook, so she asked us to ask you for her. So what do you say; up for some Decathlon fun?"

Sam's thoughts were already flying ahead to spending more time with Laura, but he managed to concentrate enough to say "Huh? O yeah sure, sounds… yeah…"

"Great!" Jenny and Ash chorused.

"Laura's meeting with Brian this arvo to talk strategy. You should probably meet up with them then," Ash advised.

"Afternoon. Got it. Thanks." Sam grinned at them and turned back to look for his history book with renewed enthusiasm.

When Ash and Jenny were out of earshot they slapped each other a high five and let out the giggles they had been holding in.

"Isn't matchmaking just the funnest!" exclaimed Ash.

Jenny held up her arm for Ash's inspection. "I love doing that so much is makes my hands shake!"