Disclaimer: iCarly isn't mine, but Dan, if you're reading, you should know I need a job. 3
The thing that makes Freddie the most confused is that it isn't weird afterward. It's like, the opposite of weird. The thought to kiss her had occurred to him before, of course. He wasn't so blinded by puberty and awkwardness to not think that Sam, while being cruelly vicious in a near perfectly random sort of a way, was also hot. But it was the same sort of way he had thoughts about his young and pretty French teacher, or Uma Therman, or hell, Carly. Freddie is mostly friends with girls, and it's not like he's never appreciated the scenery.
But there's a distinct difference between noting how flexible Sam is while she's clipping her toenails on the Shay's couch, contemplating the way the bend of her back sort of arches in an interesting way, and kissing her on a fire escape. For one thing, when he's kissing her, he's more worried about when she's going to push him off the ledge and splat onto the cement eight stories below, than wondering abstractly about what her bellybutton must look like under all those layers she loves to wear. For another, when he pulls away, the haze of madness that must have consumed them both quickly retreats, and the words to put them back in their normal realities come spilling out of his mouth.
"I hate you."
Well that's a damn lie. But it seems like the right thing to say at the time, and she responds as she should. So it makes Freddie flush, more than he had when she'd cut him off in his suggestion to kiss, when he feels a sense of absolute correctness and truth push through him as he leans and watches her retreat.
The backs of her knees look soft, and he wonders, on one layer of his odd boy brain, if she is ticklish there. She'd probably break his knees, the fronts of them, if he tried to find out.
The next day of school comes as a shock, but only to Freddie. And quite possibly Sam as well. Everything is exactly as it was before, only not quite. Instead of a frozen silence, or awkward glances, or anger, it's like a reset. Maybe Sam had, in point of fact, been feeling guilty about harassing Freddie so much, and her apology had given them a fresh start? Maybe Freddie had just gotten a much needed jolt of confidence, finding out that he was probably a better kisser than an actual real-live girl? Whatever it is, it's like Sam and Freddie's friendship took a run through the spin cycle and came out crisp and clean, but still slightly worn.
Now, when they fight, half the time it's because Freddie starts it. Sometimes he catches her baiting him, specifically giving him openers, and he takes it; they're slinging verbal mud just to make the time pass. Sam pushes his buttons, she pushes buttons he didn't even know he had, and then she turns around and makes him feel like he actually belongs somewhere. The lack of weirdness in their situation throws him for a loop.
He doesn't feel weird about her leaning into him, whispering an insult into the air in front of them both. He doesn't feel weird about spending time alone with her, because he knows, somewhere in her rapacious soul, she wants to keep him around. And in another layer of Freddie's odd boy brain, the hole of needing a place to belong, to slot into, slowly fills. The two seem to dovetail together.
Now, instead of Sam dispensing her wisdom and attitude alone, it's usually Freddie who is standing behind her, giving a raised eyebrow or a shrug of his shoulders. When she goes too far, it's usually Freddie who pries her apart from the nub on the floor. When Freddie needs a push, Sam's there to push him, usually by a keenly chosen insult, and sometimes with her hands. Instead of Freddie spending his weekends online, Sam's there to pull him out into the world, dragging him away from his mother and through the rain.
When Carly starts to notice, she sits across the kitchen counter with a cookie to her mouth. "She's not threatening you to spend time with her, right?"
Freddie pulls the plate over to himself and picks one with chocolate chips. He hadn't started to really like chocolate until recently. "No, it's not like that."
Carly shrugs. "Well it's just kind of strange. On Saturday we were going to go shopping for homecoming dresses, and I find out later that she was watching some gross horror movie with you? How'd you get your mom to let you see that, anyway?"
Freddie shrugs. "According to Mom, I watched something about a fencing mouse on Saturday."
Carly's eyes widen. "See what I mean? Weird."
"It's really not weird at all." Freddie pulls their homework over between the two of them, flipping a page on their math text so they can start on the next problem.
The kiss isn't even there. It doesn't hang like a specter between the two of them, and it doesn't fill Freddie's every waking moment. Instead it's just something that happened, something that, most likely, will happen again, in a different way, at an unseen point in the future. There's no use worrying about it. It's hard for Freddie, who normally overthinks everything to the last, fraying end, to admit that he's confused not because he doesn't know what he feels, but because he does know.
Freddie knows that he likes being next to Sam. He knows that it feels good and right and true to cross his arms, cock his head to the side, and cop an attitude in identical motions with her. He knows that when she pushes him, he can push right back, just as hard, and she'll get a kick out of it. He knows she's rubbing off on him, but when he sees her turn back and help Jeremy up off the floor where he fell after a particularly bad sneeze attack, he's pretty sure he's rubbing off on her, too.
It's fruit kebabs. They're eating fruit kebabs after a particularly good webshow, rehashing the funniest bits, throwing out ideas for next week, when Sam yawns and collapses her top half onto the table. Freddie glances to the side, seeing her kebab plop out of her hand, and reaches under the table to poke her in the side. Instead of perking back up and taking her half-eaten stick of pineapple back up, Sam pushes his finger away with a grunt, and hands him her kebab without even looking.
"Tired." Her voice comes muffled through her hair. Freddie's hand, rebuffed from the poke, is grasped suddenly, under the table where Carly can't see. Sam sighs, loudly. Her hand is oddly warm, and small in his. She's got his hand clasped tightly, their fingers knitted together, and Freddie isn't phased. He just hunches forward so it doesn't look strange to Carly, who is still stuck rambling on some new bit for the show. It's not weird at all how Sam rearranges her legs in her chair so they're folded under her, and Freddie keeps rubbing her hand slowly with his thumb the whole time.
Carly looks worriedly at Sam, who barely ate two pieces of pineapple, and mentions that there's some barbecued chicken in the fridge. At this, Sam perks up, relinquishes Freddie's hand, and rummages in the fridge until she finds the leftovers. Freddie finds himself trying to think of more food you just need one hand to eat, and unfortunately chicken isn't on the list.
The chicken doesn't last long. It's devoured faster than Freddie can finish a third kebab, and then Sam's hand is back in his. This time, it catches him by surprise, and he drops a grape-filled skewer onto the table. "Whoops!" he says, a bit too loudly.
Carly ignores him, and keeps talking to Sam about some new contest idea. Sam yawns, cutting her off. "Being so funny tonight really took it out of me. I wanna get my nap on." Then she lets go of Freddie's hand and is off to the couch, flopping down with an air of finality.
Freddie glances back to Carly, who looks at the clock on the wall. "It's kinda early, but sure. I'm gonna go take a shower. Night, Freddie." She heads upstairs, and he can hear the rushing sputter of the shower turn on as he finishes his last grape.
There's a moan from the couch. Freddie gets up and walks over to Sam, who is draped artfully along the gold cushions. "What's wrong with you tonight?" Freddie asks.
"I don't know! I just want…something, and I can't figure out what it is." She flings an arm across her face.
Freddie slumps a bit, and slaps her legs lightly. She lifts them up, he sits down, and her legs are on his lap. "Well I guess it wasn't chicken you were looking for, huh?"
"I thought it was! But it wasn't." Sam rolls into the back of the couch, making whining noises.
"Speaking of, you got barbecue sauce all over my hand!" Freddie looks at his right hand, which is all smeared in red, and rubs it down Sam's arm. He can't help but notice her shirt is riding up a bit, so he takes his thumb, still smudged with sauce, and rubs in into the smooth skin between her ribs and her hips. She laughs and slaps his hand away. Ticklish, he notes.
Sam licks her fingers, and then rubs at her side, and licks her fingers again. "Yeah. Tasty, but not what I'm in the mood for."
"Well, we could go to that weird store for some of that potato salad…" Freddie's watching her lap at her thumb, so he takes her hand back in his. It's sticky. His mother would not approve. And still, this doesn't feel weird, either.
"Nah, I don't think potato salad is gonna cut it." She's looking at their hands, resting on their overlapped knees, and she sighs again. "This is pretty okay though. Don't you think?" She looks up into Freddie's face while she wiggles their hands a little.
Suddenly Freddie's struck with the strangeness of the situation and the distinct impression that Sam's been feeling weird about it all along. He laughs.
"What are you laughing at, Benson?" Sam's immediately on the defensive; she takes her legs off of his lap and sits up, but keeps hold of his hand.
"You! You do all these crazy, insanely cute things, and then all of a sudden it turns out you're way more confused than I ever was? This is hilarious."
"What? I wasn't doing anything crazy or insane or cute."
Freddie drops his chin and cocks an eyebrow at her. "Yes you were. Like, constantly."
"I have no idea what you're talking about, and I'm tired and weirdly hungry and I just want to go to bed." Sam tries to cross her arms while still holding his hand, figures out she can't, and drops her arms to her sides.
Freddie laughs some more, a low chuckle, and then he leans in, just like she taught him to, and kisses her barbecue sauce stained mouth. Their hands unclasp as she uses hers to keep her balance as he pushes her back, slow and steady, into his arm, which has wrapped around the small of her back.
It's not weird, and it isn't remarkable. He's pretty sure it'll happen again with a great deal of regularity. But it is a little strange that Sam doesn't stand up and walk away this time. She leans into his kiss, and he opens his eyes to find her staring straight back at him. Her eyes are enormous, and he can tell she's smiling by the crinkles in their corners. When he pulls away, she closes her eyes and takes a deep breath. She licks her lips. Then she yawns.
"That boring, huh?" Freddie feels oddly jovial, considering the circumstances.
"It's not that, you nub. I'm actually tired." Sam leans in and kisses his jaw quickly, and then flumps back into the couch.
There's no paradigm shift. There's that continuing sense of absolute correctness and truth, pushing through Freddie from his toes to his ruffled hair, as he hands her a blanket and heads out the door. It's really not all that confusing, until he starts to think about it.
A/N This was just something I really wanted to write, personally for myself. After iKiss I felt like it could have gone a lot of ways, but I also knew they'd keep things pretty much status quo due to the episodic nature of the show. I've been sort of working out how to deal with that. Also, I've never really written fluff, and I just… kind of needed to get it out of my system. "Cruise Control" will continue, but I don't know when. It's scaring the pants off of me and I've sort of frozen up about it. I'll keep writing fic, of course. Hopefully this will have jolted me out of my state of fear and I can sit down and start on chapter 3 of it soon. Thank you for all of your continuing encouragement, and remember, I loooooove reviews! 3