Sam's phone rang. She rolled up out of her bed, tore her headphones off of her ears, and checked to see who it was. Freddie's face, a lopsided smirk on his mouth as he peered up from a laptop, glowed on the screen.
"Hey. Look out your window."
Sam pushed aside her curtains and pressed her face against the glass. It was sunset, a little wet, but she could see something very red idling in her driveway. Disregarding her lack of pants, Sam pushed up the sash on her window and thrust her head out, slapping her phone back to her ear. The cold February air gusted into her bedroom, threading around her hair and curling her toes.
"No way! You got it already?"
"Yes way. Socko came through! Can you believe it?" Freddie honked the car's horn in jubilation. It sounded a little squeaky, like Freddie when he gets offended. Sam laughed, and waved at him from her upstairs window.
"Do you know that there's a rust spot on your brand new trunk?"
"Don't belittle my car, Sam! And get yourself down here. We're going for a spin." Freddie had rolled down his window, his elbow hanging nonchalantly out the side. He leaned out and cupped his hands around his mouth. "And I don't care if you need to put on pants!" he shouted up to her.
"Okay okay, hold your horses." Sam scuffled around her bedroom, finding the nearest pair of rumpled plaid shorts. She was freezing. Sam shut her window and opted for leggings, too. She rumbled down the stairs, bypassing the cat on the landing.
Sam's mom was in the den, watching some television. "Where do you think you're going?" she asked, flipping the channels.
"Oh, well, that's all right then. Don't scare the boy senseless." Upon hearing Freddie's name, Sam's mom relaxed her minimal concern, and resumed her interest in the TV.
Sam found her coat on the way out, and slammed the blue door behind her. She hopped down the steps, away from her little yellow house, and appraised Freddie's acquisition.
It was ancient, likely older than Freddie was. It needed a good scrubbing and an entirely new paint job, not to mention the dilapidated bits on the roof and trunk, but it was, overwhelmingly, bright red. It was huge, angular, and probably turned corners like a whale. Freddie sat proudly behind the wheel, gesticulating with a chipper grin. Sam swallowed her laughter, and opened passenger's side door.
"Oh my god, red leather interior." It squeaked under her thighs as she slid in. The dash was covered in a faux wood grain, and the radio was ancient enough to still have a physical dial. It smelled like grandparents and hastily deodorized cigarette smoke.
"So what do you think?" Freddie asked, a bit nervously. He rubbed his palms on the top of the steering wheel.
"You've bought a boat, Fredward." She glanced around, at the manual windows and locks, wondering just how many miles this car had on it.
"It isn't a boat, Sam. It's a 1992 Lincoln Town Car with Signature Series trim level in Cherry Red. If I take care of it, it will run forever."
Sam crossed her arms, the musty seat creaking behind her back. "Still a boat."
"Ah, but it is *my* boat." He lifted a finger into the air to punctuate his point.
Sam shrugged. "So why isn't Carls along for this inaugural joyride?"
Freddie relaxed his rigid posture and sighed. "She's on a date with Trey."
"Touchy-feely Trey?" She winced.
"The very same."
"That boy is such a slut. But at least Carly knows what she's getting into." Sam slapped Freddie jovially on the elbow.
"I already gave her the emergency bailout call. Evidently she's having a great time and didn't need a rescue." His eyes rolled as far back as possible, recalling Carly's bubbly voice over the phone.
Sam leaned up around over the seat and peered into the back. "You could fit a cow in that bench seat!"
"Speaking of which, let's go get some dinner." Freddie turned the key and the car rumbled smoothly to life. He grinned, a mile wide, and pulled out of Sam's driveway. "Seatbelts, please."
They stopped at some cheap Greek place on the edge of the city and ordered gyros and fries to go. Sam packed her pockets with ketchup packets while they waited for their order to come up. "You know I'm not paying, right?"
"Of course not." Freddie set the warm food on Sam's lap when they got back to his car. She inhaled deeply. "Not yet!" he chastised, as Sam reached a hand into the bag for a fry.
They drove about half an hour away, to a lake outside of Seattle. On the way, he filled Sam in on the art of negotiations with Socko. She'd known Freddie wanted a car more than anything, but it was only ten days after his sixteenth birthday. Instead of a party, he'd had a trip to the DMV and a driver's test. Sam had been sixteen for ten months now, and the idea of having enough money saved to buy a car, let alone one that actually ran, was completely unbelievable.
"Spencer must have told Socko about my mom." Freddie explained. "When he called me up to tell me he had an affordable Lincoln, he said something like 'she's a fine getaway car, if you know what I mean.' And then he sort of chuckled. It was creepy, but I decided not to ask."
Sam wondered if Freddie had checked for bodies in the trunk.
The sun was almost done setting when Freddie pulled to the side of the road, next to a little jut of land poking out beyond the railing. Sam looked curiously around. "Where the hell are we?"
"Oh, I don't know, I just picked a road and went with it. This seems nice, right?"
"What, are we going to have a picnic?" Sam peered at him in the dusk.
"I brought folding chairs! Open up the trunk. Don't mind the bodies." Freddie took their dinner out of Sam's lap and hopped the waist-high barrier that kept cars from driving straight into the water.
Sam opened the trunk and found two camp chairs, some blankets, and a flashlight. She grabbed them all and followed Freddie out to the edge of the water. The cold air rippled the surface of the lake, breaking up the remains of the sun's glow.
"So, sweet ride. Needs a name." Sam bundled under her blanket, stealing bites of Freddie's gyro.
"I'm thinking something like, the Bensonmobile." Freddie chewed, very seriously.
"What? No. That thing's got a backseat for twelve. I'm calling it the Love Boat."
"You're such a freak!"
"And you're an enormous prude. Don't tell me you didn't think about it when you bought the thing. I bet three generations have been spawned in that backseat!" She threw a french fry at his head and they laughed. A pause, and then, "Your mom is going to freak, and then use like twenty different kinds of bleach before she will be okay with you touching your own car, you know."
"My mom is exactly the reason I wanted to get that car."
"What, so you can tool around town and drive to your mother-son pottery classes in it?" Sam pushed at his leg with her foot, and he rotated his chair a little so she could prop her feet up on his lap.
"We made some lovely mugs in that class, Sam!" Freddie arranged the blankets to overlap, and rested his forearms on her shins.
"Whatever. You'll never get out from under her thumb."
Freddie scowled. "You know, I just want to drive down 101. All the way down. Just pick a day, leave for the coast, and keep going south until I don't need to go anymore." He slapped his palms together and shot a hand out, pointing over the now dark water. The breeze wafted onto Freddie's face, meshing the clear scent of the lake with the vinegary tang of ketchup and fries.
Sam reached over and flicked on the flashlight. "Do it."
"What? No. I couldn't. Like you said, Mom would freak. She'll have enough to talk about in therapy as it is, once she sees the Love Boat." He burrowed his arms back under the blankets, sandwiching Sam's calves between his elbows and lap.
She shined the flashlight in his eyes. "Benson, you are an unbelievable dork."
"Look, Sam, I'm not like you. I can't just up and leave. I can't make decisions like that."
"Then make decisions like me! Look, it doesn't have to be right now. You can go when it's warm, for one." Sam shivered a little, and sat up in her seat, curling her legs further onto Freddie's.
Freddie chuckled, a little sadly, and fidgeted with one of Sam's shoelaces. "If I made decisions like you, I'd probably be dead by now. Or at least in juvie. You've only stayed out of trouble as long as you have because of me and Carly."
"And my feminine wiles, don't forget those."
"And your feminine wiles." Freddie watched Sam pick the remains of the gyro out of her teeth by the shine of the flashlight she held in her free hand.
"Well fine then," Sam continued after flicking something off her fingers. "I'll be you. I can pull it off for at least week, I'm sure. I've probably saved up enough responsibility for the both of us, by now."
"What do you mean?"
"When we go on this road trip of yours, I'll only come with you if you promise to try to think like me. Be like me. Just for a little while. You know you want to." She looked up at Freddie and cracked a huge, affable smile. "You have to stop worrying so much all the time."
"But, that's what I'm best at."
"I'll do all your worrying for you. I promise." Sam stood up, brushed a few crumbs off her shirt, and thrust out her hand. "Do we have a deal, here, or am I going to have to make a bet with you?"
Freddie, still sitting, looked at Sam's hand with concern. He reluctantly put out his hand, and Sam pulled him up so he was standing. They shook on it. "Deal. I couldn't handle the consequences of a bet."
They gathered the chairs and blankets, and headed back to the looming bulk of Freddie's car. He took the short way back to Sam's house.
"Hey, how did you get out of the house to buy this thing and stay past dinner, anyway?" Sam hovered around the open passenger's side door, not quite wanting to call it a night.
"Mom was put in charge of the hospital's valentine's day singles mixer."
Sam's eyes widened. "I hope the doctors are fans of tofu hearts with red food coloring."
"I'm just hoping someone spikes the punch enough." Freddie nervously rubbed his hands together, looking at Sam out of the corner of his eyes.
"Happy valentine's, by the way." Sam mentioned, as off the cuff as possible.
"Yes. To you as well." Freddie waited a moment, unsure of what to say.
"Well, it's freezing! Goodnight!" Sam shut the door, turned and ran up the driveway, huddling in her coat. She ran inside, shaking off the worst of the chill, and picked up the family cat. Her mom was still in the den, the blue glow of the television peaking from around the corner.
"How was Freddie?" she asked when Sam's reflection appeared in the screen.
"Senseless, as usual."
A/N This is going to be around 10 chapters long. I'm writing in highly unfamiliar territory, so I'm doing lots of research for the subsequent chapters. As such, progress will be slower than my normal rapid writing, but I'll absolutely have a chapter a week, if not more. I could not write this without the assistance of Aergonaut here on FF. Please leave a review, I'd appreciate anything you have to say.