Growing Pains


[ ]

You've noticed some changes.

The first thing you really notice is the way the surge of fleeting, artificial relationships with boys who have ridiculous names like Cade and Pacey and Tiler with an 'I' and even more ridiculous hair, that came with the onset of puberty and your begrudging permission to date, sort of diminishes into nothing.

And you're ecstatic about it because Carly's last boyfriend, Wyatt, was an unnaturally good-looking guy who had absolutely no qualms about putting his stupid mouth all of your little sister right in front of you. Needless to say you were happy when she dumped him, even if he did steal your squirrel video camera on his way out but whatever, it was definitely worth not having to look at his stupid cleft chin and chiseled jaw line anymore.

But that relationship had been shorter than the rest and at least three months ago and as happy as the idea that Carly's given up dating until she's 40 or plans to join a nunnery, like you wanted, makes you. You're inclined to think something else is going on.

"Hey!"

"Sup, Spence!"

You look up from the basket of clothes that were white when you put them in the wash but were pink when you took them out thanks to a renegade red sock, and at Carly and Sam as the burst into the apartment.

"Hey, how was school?"

"Boring." Sam declares, dropping her checkered backpack beside the door.

"Fine." Carly sighs, dropping her bag too before glancing at the basket of clothes sitting beside you on the couch. "What happened to your clothes?"

"A stupid red sock." You mutter angrily and Carly just rolls her eyes and laughs. "So, what're you muchachas up too? Want me to make you guys some lunch."

"No, we're gonna meet Freddie at Inside Out Burger, I just wanted to check the website for something."

"Okay cool." You shrug, tucking the pair of pink underwear you're trying to fold, against your chest as Sam gives you a curious look, eyebrow arched and mouth twisted up into a smirk.

"Nice panties." She grins, following Carly across the living room to the computer and you frown at her.

"They're not panties." You hiss and Sam laughs, hopping onto the barstool next Carly.

You focus on folding clothes then, zoning out to the sound of Sam and Carly talking back and forth and you wonder if Socko knows anything to turn your whites back to their whitest and not like ladies underwear.

Then movement catches your attention out of the corner of your eye and you turn your head just in time to see Carly's hand reach out to touch Sam's back. And you know that shouldn't be weird because Carly and Sam have always been the kind of friends that can't be bothered by personal space despite Sam's habit of getting fighty when people get, as she so eloquently puts it, 'In her bidness'.

But you realize, as you watch you're little sisters fingers play with the hem of Sam's tank top before slipping underneath the shirt, that this isn't a friendly, reassuring touch or even a friendly shove or punch or any other act of violence. This is something else.

It's something else in the way that her entire palm is against Sam's back now and Sam's not reacting at all, just shifting closer to Carly to get a better view of the video of some guy putting his entire foot in his mouth.

You turn away quickly because it feels like your watching something sort of intimate. Your hair flops into your eyes and you make a mental note to get a freaking haircut before you start to look like some kind of gangly hippie and when you push the strands out of your face and at the girls, Carly's hand is gone like it was never there.

"Hey Spencer," Carly calls and you blink up at her stupidly for a second. "Do you wanna come with us to Inside Out Burger?" Carly asks, hopping off of the stool and Sam follows.

"No, I'm…I'm okay." You say, clearing your throat and folding a shirt. "But can you bring me back a Double Decker with Cheese?"

"Sure thing, dude." Sam grins and then they're heading out the door. You watch them go for a minute before going back to your folding.

You're definitely noticing some things.

[ ]

Freddie asks you for some advice about a girl that's not Carly and you notice that his lifelong crush has seemed to evaporate.

Which is strange because you can vividly recall Freddie showing up on your doorstep dressed as a giant, red, heart to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the first time Carly made eye contact with him, just a few short months ago.

"Hey Freddo, lemme ask you something." You start, interrupting his rather poetic description of the way the girl he's crushing on holds a pencil. "Are you over Carly?"

Freddie stumbles a little, his expressive little caterpillar like eyebrows furrowing together like they wanna kiss and you purse your lips expectantly.

"I...well…I just hear she's into someone else and I figure I should, ya know, move on." He shrugs, shifting awkwardly on the couch beside you. "Why? Did she say something about me? Is she jealous?" Freddie asks, moving from awkward to eager .

"Uh, no, I was just wondering." You mutter thoughtfully, piecing things together in your head. "Who's this guy that she's so into?" you ask and Freddie sort of flushes in a completely guilty way before the front door flies open and you jump to your feet with a shriek as Mrs. Benson comes hurtling in.

"Freddie c'mon. We're going to be late for our mother son break dancing class."

You blink and shake your head.

Poor Freddie.

[ ]

You use an odd and sort of unpleasant combination of your elbow, butt and mouth to twist the doorknob and push Carly's bedroom door open cautiously, the only light coming from the fading sun filtering through the curtains and the artificial glow from under the bathroom door as you juggle the a stack of boxes full of tube socks to be used in the next episode of iCarly, into her room.

You can hear water running and splashing as you near the bed, swaying under the weight of the boxes a bit and you're almost to Carly's desk where you plan to set the boxes when your foot catches on something and the boxes spill to the ground with dull thud.

You swear a little, cursing your big, clownish feet that've been as much as a burden as they've been useful, carrying you around and attracting girls that believe in urban myths.

But this time it's not your gianormous feet, no the culprit is a much smaller pink, black and white checkered high-tops with ribbons of shoelace swirling around them.

You know those shoes, tipped over on their sides in the middle of the floor.

Those are Sam's shoes.

You pick one up curiously, Carly didn't even tell you that Sam was here and you roll it over in your hands before tossing it on the ground again.

There's another splash of water as you pick up the boxes, setting them on Carly's desk, followed by the sound of Carly's voice.

Her words are muffled and you can't understand her and you open your mouth to ask her what she just said but there's a squeal of laughter and another voice that is definitely not Carly's.

That's Sam's voice…

And you're first immediate thought is that they're kinda old to be taking baths together and then you realize that they're definitely too old to be taking baths together.

You stare at the door open mouthed and frozen as your heart pounds in your ears. You don't know what to do. Because if this was a boy in there you would have no problem going in there and hauling him out and there'd be plenty of ass kicking involved but it's Carly and Sam and it's just…

You back out of the room awkwardly, narrowly avoiding taking a tumble down the stairs before heading down to the living room and sitting on the couch, swallowing hard.

You knew when you decided to raise Carly yourself that it would be hard but you hadn't been expecting this.

You have absolutely no idea what to do…

You're not sure how long you sit there but you look up at the sound of Carly and Sam thundering down the stairs.

"Hey Spencer." Carly greets and she and Sam both have wet hair and pink skin and you swallow hard.

[ ]

She doesn't tell you and doesn't seem to have any plan to and you think that's whats eating at you the most.

She's being secretive and you're playing dumb and that's why Sam's spending the night upstairs and that's also why every 7 minutes you go up there under the guise of games and foods and art.

That was Socko's idea. He says that it takes at least 7 minutes to really start fooling around.

Your watch beeps out another 7 minute mark and you wonder as you get up and pick up the 5000 piece puzzle you plan to spill on Carly's carpet, if you're going to have to do this everyday until Carly tells you.

And you still can't figure out why Carly wouldn't tell you. You of all people. You're her cool, artistic, completely open minded older brother and you told her about that weird rash you got and you figure this is just as intimate as that.

[ ]

They're making out.

You just know it…

Actually, you're not one hundred percent sure because it's not like you're watching or anything, in fact your on the other side of the apartment door in the hall, clutching a bag full of spark plugs because it took you longer than expected at the junkyard and Carly had called 25 minutes ago checking in and letting you know that she was home from school and that Sam was over too.

And you're not absolutely positive that they're in there fooling around, they could be doing homework or working on iCarly ideas or even tickling an alligator in there for all you know but they're teenagers and they're drenched in hormones and whatever else that makes teens horny beasts and more likely than not, they're in there hooking up.

So you drag in a deep breath, roll your shoulders and unlock the door while making as much noise as possible.

"CARLY! SAM! I'M HOME!" You cry, kicking open the door and you're expecting tangled limbs and touching on the couch but there's just Carly, face bright red with anger. "What's wrong? Where's Sam?" You ask, clutching the door to stay upright as relief rushes over you.

"Who cares!"

Uh oh

[ ]

They must've had some sort of petty high school fight and it sucks because you're left with dealing with a pissed off teenager in place of your normally pleasant little sister.

She's super slammy and yelly and every time you ask her what's wrong she just says nothing then goes to take a shower so long that you worry about the water bill.

[ ]

"Don't kill me!" You scream as a hand, albeit a tiny hand, clamps down on your shoulder and you cover your face with your clay covered hands and tuck into a ball while music blares in your ears. Then your ear buds are being tugged out of your ears and hands are turning you away from the giant caterpillar your sculpting to face her.

"Spencer, it's just me!" Sam cries, shaking you harder than a 17 year old girl should be able to and you uncover your face slowly.

"Oh God, I thought you were a zombie." You exhale, straightening and Sam gives you a funny look. "You're not are you?"

"No." She cries, shaking her head and you relax…a little, and watch her climb onto your couch, sitting on the high back and pressing her sneakers into the cushins. "Is Carly here?"

"No, she's in the shower." You reply gesturing over your shoulder and Sam nods, standing beside you to peer up at the 6 foot clay caterpillar.

"It's looking good." She mutters in appreciation and you nod, proudly.

"Yeah, though the legs were a little tricky. I couldn't remember how many legs they had…if they even had legs. In fact-"

"I need to tell you something." Sam whispers softly, completely cutting you off and when you glance at her she won't even look at you, eyes peering up at the sculpture but the shininess of her eyes give her away.

"You can tell me anything." You murmur, rubbing your palms together while your muscles tighten in anticipation. "You know that."

Sam takes a deep breath that lifts her narrow shoulders and talks…She doesn't say everything but she says enough.

[ ]

So, now you know. Well, sort of, mostly, in a kind of abstract way.

You have all of this information that Sam broke down and told you and you have no idea what to do with it.

You're not sure if you should confront Carly in a completely responsible big brotherly way or maybe go the complete opposite way and maybe send her a text message or an email. He can see it now.

Hay lil sis, r u gay? Y/N

For now you'll just wait because these sorts of things can't be rushed. You know that from experience when Socko confronted his brother Tyler and initiated the equivalent of a familial atomic bomb. And you definitely don't want that because you and Carly only really have each other.

Sam and Carly must've reconciled because the both of them are bouncing around the loft and you notice the way that they gaze at each other sometimes.

"We're going to do some homework." Carly says from halfway up the stairs as you jog into the kitchen in search of your right sneaker and Sam gives a quick glance, blushing bright, bright red, giving them away.

"Um, okay." You whisper slowly and Carly smiles, taking Sam's hand in a blink and you'll miss it sort of way. "I'll bring you guys a snack."

"No thanks." Carly shouts from somewhere upstairs.

"Protein is essential to brain health." You scream, rushing to the refrigerator and rooting through it. "I'm bringing you a snack in 7 minutes!"

[ ]

"MY EYES!" you scream, digging the heals of your hands into your eyeballs and you hear Carly shriek and Sam swear before you crash into the book case and send all of the odds and ends on top of it crashing to the ground. "IT BURNS!"

"Spencer!" Carly cries and when you open your poor traumatized eyes rules they're both standing on opposite sides of the coffee table, Carly adjusting her shirt and Sam running her hands through her hair, and you loose it.

"YOU…SAM…MOUTHS…MY COUCH…WHY?!...WHAT?!" You scream eloquently, gesturing widely and Carly winces glancing at Sam who looks like she might be sick. And they broke the 7 minute rule!

When you left them 2 ½ minutes ago to check the mail for the package you're expecting, they were watching Girly Cow and laughing like little kids and in less time than it takes you to open a mailbox and ignore the pain of an empty mailbox they're up here doing the things they were doing.

And you're not even really sure what they where doing and you don't want to know but all you know was that there was a tangle of limbs and horizontalness and mouths touching.

"Spence, look…" she starts, swallowing and glancing at Sam who can't seem to peel her eyes from the carpet. "Me and Sam. We're- "

You cut her off with a shake of your head and. "I already know! I'm not as stupid as I look. I mean…" You exhale hard, rubbing your hands over your face again.

"How did you...?" She wonders aloud and you glance at Sam against your will and then Carly's doing that thing where she drops all of her weight into one hip and puts a hand on her hip. That means she's pissed.

"Sam?"

Sam rolls her eyes at you, shaking her head a bit at you.

[ ]

When Carly cries, you cry.

Its hasn't always been like that because Carly was somewhat of a cry baby when she was younger but now she only cries when it hurts and she's crying now so so are you.

"I'm sorry." Its about the eight hundredth time she's apologized and you wish you were exaggerating but you're not and you pull her tighter against your side, kiss her head and sniffle against the burn of your own tears.

"It's okay. You've got nothing to be sorry for, Kiddo." You say honestly because it was never her relationship with Sam that was hurting you, sure, it was unexpected but the fact that she couldn't tell you is what cut deep.

"But…" She tries and you shake your head, resting your cheek on the crown of her head.

"Nope. I just want you to know that you can talk to me. I need you to know that." You whisper and she nods.

"I know…I was just…scared."

You can only imagine, liken it to when you dropped out of law school and thought you disappointed everyone.

"You don't need to be scared, Carls, not when I'm here." You whisper and mean it. "But you know I've notice some stuff."

"Like what?" she croaks and you run your fingers through her dark hair like you use to when she was a little girl.

"Like that you're smiling all the time now and how your eyes sparkle when you look at Sam. Sam seems different too; I saw her reading a book." You laugh and so does Carly.

"Those are all good things." She murmur and you nod, kissing the top of her head once more.

"Yeah, they definitely are."