"iFound Sam's Weakness"

Disclaimer: we do not own these characters

AN: As a part of the Big Fat Book of Episodes That Will Probably Never be Aired, this episode stands a little apart to us because of its…innocence, I guess. We call it the catalyst. It had to happen first, because neither Freddie or Sam have feelings for each other yet, and before Freddie could fall in love with her, he had to start thinking of her as a girl.

Ridgeway High, Junior Year

Yellow buses full of grammar school children roared away from RHS with clouds of exhaust. The crowd of highschooolers didn't linger in the misting haze of another Seattle morning and broke like a stream around one student who stood facing the parkinglot. Sam shouldered her backpack full of snacks as she searched for her friends. Carly got sick on buses, and Freddie's mother would die before letting him ride the germ infested death trap, so it was fortunate that their apartments were so close to the school that they could walk or ride their bikes. On rainy morning like this one, Spencer would probably have driven them.

"Sam," a tall boy called. He was easy to spot over the heads of freshman shaking rain off their dorky yellow raincoats. She turned at her name and frowned before she smiled at her boyfriend. "Hi Davis."

The basketball team captain grinned as he reached her and draped a long arm over her shoulders to steer her inside as they talked. "Baby why didn't you wear my jersey like we talked about?" he asked, noticing her skull and crossbones t-shirt under her hoodie and raincoat.

Sam shrugged. "I don't know, I forgot, sorry," she said, distracted as she looked over her shoulder at the student parking lot. She spotted Spencer's silver Volkswagen as Freddie waved thanks to the driver and slammed the door behind him to follow Carly's pink umbrella up the sidewalk.

"You forgot?" Davis asked skeptically. Sam sighed and looked at him with her full attention for the first time that morning. "Yeah, I had to wash your smelly sweat out of it and my mom didn't put it in the dryer last night so it was still wet this morning. I didn't want to wear a wet shirt to school, okay?"

Davis, just happy to have her full attention, smiled and held up his hands. "It's fine, whatever, I still know you'll be there to root for me tonight."

"Yeah," Sam lied as she opened the school door for herself, since Davis's arms were full of her and his basketball. Inside was bright, stuffy and loud with the sounds of Friday morning greetings and thousands of wet sneakers squeaking over waxed tiles.

Davis followed her to her locker and spun his basketball on a finger as he talked about his upcoming triumph over Ridgeway's rival school. Sam only half listened so that she could nod and give praise when he expected it as she marked random answers on her multiple-choice history study-guide that was due first period.

"Hey fatty!" Davis suddenly called, and before Sam could look up, he had thrown his basketball with enough force to knock a stack of books out of Gibby's hands as he and Freddie passed. The two nerds took the hazing with practiced grace, but Davis didn't stop there, having spotted Freddie. "1 2 3 Go Math! Whooo!" he mocked, slurring as if he wore a heavy retainer.

Sam closed her history book on the worksheets and turned on Davis. "That's not funny."

"Oh yeah,"' Davis said, sobering. He pointed at Freddie. "Sorry dude, I forgot you're part of iCarly too."

Freddie rolled his eyes as he helped pick up Gibby's books. Sam slammed her locker shut. "And Gibby?"

"What about him?" Davis asked with a self-satisfying snort. Sam sighed, biting back irritation at the noise. "That's it. I'm getting pretty tired of putting up with your Game-day Mode."

Gibby and Freddie paused to listen to this, as did the rest of the passersby. The meanest girl in school dating the basketball champ had been predicted to end in a number of ways. Now it looked like the larger pool was going to win the bet: the boiling pot was ready to blow its lid.

"Game day mode?" Davis asked arrogantly.

"Your macho-king-of-the-world-nothing-matters-but-my-game-tonight mode. You disregard everything on game days including who your girlfriend's friends happen to be!"

Gibby and Freddie traded a joyful glance as Davis snorted. "I apologized to Freddie what more do you want?"

"I want out." Sam said. Carly had rounded the corner just in time to hear the sentence that made the rest of the hall gasp. She gasped too and went straight to Freddie's side. "What did I miss?" she asked urgently.

"Sam's winning me twenty bucks that's what you missed," Freddie said quickly. Gibby answered the question more directly. "She's sick of his game mode."

"Ah," Carly said, familiar with Sam's annoyance at that side of Davis. Her eyes flew to the couple as if she would later be tested on the material covered. Davis had recovered from the shocking blow of being dumped and bristled. "You're breaking up with me for Gibby?"

"No, I'm dumping you because your nothing but a jock strap!" Sam said. "And this season, those nerds happen to be cooler than you."

The listening cheerleaders gasped. Wendy actually felt moved enough to pipe up, "Um, Sam maybe hold this for after the game? We need him focused tonight."

"Ah, shut it, Barbie," Sam said, not appreciating the interruption. The cheerleader squeaked and crossed her arms. "Well!"

"Let's get one thing straight," Davis said, looking down his nose angrily at Sam, who glared back up, unfazed. "No one is cooler than me especially math geeks," he said menacingly.

"Let's check the score board," Sam said. "Mathletes won last match. Basketball team not the last two."

Davis punched the locker and everyone jumped. Carly squeaked. "Sam," She whispered trying to wave her friend over surreptitiously before things got out of hand.

"Coming Carly," Sam said. She looked up at Davis. "It was fun, but we're over. See ya."

Under the eyes of an entire hallway, Sam shouldered her bag and walked to class with Carly, Freddie and Gibby at her side. Gibby and Freddie couldn't stop laughing in pure glee at what had just happened.

"A girl dumped a jock for me., Gibby said. Sam opened her mouth but he waved her down. "I know, just let me enjoy that sentence for a moment as it could be interpreted."

Sam laughed and shook her head. Carly smiled at her friend. "Why did you stick up for him, it's not like you haven't terrorized Gib."

"Listen, Gibby is my nerd. I'm the only one who gets to torture him, his therapist said so, right Gibby?"

He nodded. "I had a break through last month. Sam's pranks don't bother me anymore."

"And I think it's because you know she doesn't really mean anything by it," Freddie said, his tone daring Sam to contradict the matter. She rolled her eyes, unable now to admit that she felt a fondness for the round geek. "Whatever, Dorkweed… Gibby go away."

"See ya," he said just like a well trained pet, no questions asked. Freddie rolled up his sleeves. "Well I owe you a thank you. You're choice of break-up has won me twenty bucks."

"Isn't it odd that you two now profit from one another's failed relationships?" Carly asked. Sam and Freddie looked at each other and shrugged.

"Not really."

"I chose to see it as a business plan."

"Which reminds me, what's the likelihood that you would dump Georgia before she dumps you?" Sam asked. Freddie's eyebrows went up, "Throwing your opponents off by betting for me this time, I like it. Go with 50/50…" he thought about it for a few steps and then changed his answer, "70/30, she left fingerprints all over my monitor last night. Why do girls love to touch liquid crystal computer screens?"

Carly shrugged. "The pretty rainbow colors it makes?"

"Well it messes up the tubes," he said grumpily.

"Geek," Sam said with a shake of her head before the trio parted ways to go to their first period classes.

Sam's history class was upstairs and exactly two thirds jock- and cheerleaders. She took her usual seat in the back, even though it put her beside Davis, who looked mad just to lay eyes on her again so soon. When she walked into the room, everyone's conversations cut off momentarily and then started up again in whispers. Unperturbed since she had done the dumping for a sound reason, Sam made herself comfortable, turned in the study-guide and fell asleep, as usual.

The teacher, Mr. Horn, lectured for the first half and then left them with busy work as he smoked in the teachers lounge for the second half of class. Sam was asleep before he left, and as soon as he was gone, Davis pulled out a pair of scissors and snipped them menacingly.

Wendy turned at the sound and her jaw dropped when she saw that Davis was selecting a big lock of Sam's hair carefully so as not to wake her.

"You won't!" the cheerleader gasped flirtatiously, drawing the attention of the rest of the class. Peoples eyes widened and others jaws dropped as they witnessed Davis toy with the idea of chopping Sam's hair off.

"She'll kick your ass," an intelligent boy said from the front of the class. A majority of the class had to concur, but Davis' mouth turned down in a sour frown. "She can't do anything to me."

"Do it," Wendy said with a zealous light in her eyes. "I dare you."

"Better not," another cautious classmate warned. "I mean, you need to be fit for a game tonight, dude."

"Oh whatever, she's all talk," Wendy said when Davis hesitated. "Besides, it's just hair, and it isn't like she doesn't deserve it. Do it," she whispered. Davis looked at his fellow team members, who were grinning. "Get you're mojo back dude," one of them said.

"She'll rip his head off," someone whispered to a friend in the front row, who replied with a shrug. "So? I would like to see that."

With the motivation of friends who wanted to see him exact revenge and enemies who wanted to see him get the living chiz kicked out of him, Davis snipped away all the hair he could get at without lifting Sam's head form her arms.

The cheerleaders were sitting in mild shock as they watched their biggest enemy's beautiful hair fall to the floor. Any one who would have liked to put a stop to it felt as powerless as the nerds, who were smart enough to pretend they had no idea what was going on-for insurance later, when Sam woke up and demanded to know who was behind it all. The thrill of being committed to this dangerous crime made some of the girls giggle along with the laughing basketball players.

Sam was pulled from her sound nap by the sounds of idiot boys guffawing and catcalling and girls' high pitched giggles and whispers. The first thing she noticed was the hair that had fallen in her eyes. She sat up, pushing it out of her face, only to find that it came away with her hand. She woke fully and looked at the long, thick lock of hair splayed across her shaking fingers. Then she felt of her head and found more than half of her hair missing.

Only the fool hearted and brave were laughing now as everyone sat on the edge of their seats, not breathing as they starred at her. Her eyes flew to Wendy, who was laughing the loudest, and Sam saw Davis sitting next her with the scissors still in his hands. He swallowed, the vindictive smile on his lips faltering slightly as the first noise escaped Sam.

It wasn't a scream of rage. It was a hiccup of pure terror as she looked again at the mass of hair spread over her desk. She was visibly shaking, and as each person realized this, their mounting excitement for the fight to come evaporated and was replaced quickly with whatever guilt and trepidation her reputation had subdued at the start of the prank.

Sam screamed then, loudly as if she had just found a dead body, and bolted from the room. Under Wendy's forced laugh, the silent watchers listened to her running footsteps and the echo of retreating sobs.

Downstairs, Carly felt her phone vibrate in the middle of her Science test. If she checked her phone now her test would be trashed and she would receive a zero, something she could not risk with her current average in the class. She waited until she finished her test and turned it in before sneaking her phone out of her pocket and checking the text message from Sam.

Come 2 the BR on the 1st floor I need help

Carly asked for the pass at once and hurried to meet Sam with her purse full of tampons. She found the first floor girl's bathroom empty except for the sounds of a sobbing girl in the handicapped stall. Alarmed, Carly double checked each of the empty stalls she passed, so sure she was that it couldn't be Sam crying like this.

"Sam?" she asked, her question nearly cut of by the realization that there were long strands of yellow hair trailing directly into that stall. "Sam? Oh my God, what's wrong?"

The door creaked open and Carly could do nothing but stare at the sight she found. Sam with hair barely more than an inch long on one side and jaggedly hacked at on the other. The longest strands barely touched her shoulder, but it hardly mattered since there was no way to work the length into the recovery haircut. Her eyes were red and puffy, her nose was running and she held wads of toilet paper that she cried into when her attempt to talk failed.

"What happened?" Carly gasped, going to her knees on the textured tiles to hold her friend's knees. Sam covered her head in shame.

The bell rang, signaling the first class change, and plenty of people had questions and things to share as they met friends in the hall. Anyone not in Mr. Horn's class asked others what they knew about the Screaming Girl. The most dense basketball players bragged to anyone who asked them about it, saying, "Davis got back at Sam good!"

When Freddie heard this, he hurried straight to second period, where he, Carly and Sam shared a row in the middle of the classroom. Kids were talking about the Screaming Girl here too, and as Freddie waited for Sam or Carly to arrive, the story of Davis' mysterious revenge spread.

Mrs. Conner, the literature teacher, did not allow talking or bathroom passes in her class, since there was plenty of time between classes. Freddie couldn't concentrate on the material covered as he sat between the two empty desks all period. Toward the end of class, as the teacher assigned the students a chapter to read silently, a note fell on Freddie's paper. He looked up to see that Gibby had bravely tossed it across the aisle. If Mrs. Conner caught this they would both get detention and be suspended from next week's academic match, but Freddie wasn't too concerned about that right now, and neither was Gibby, who looked like he might throw up.

What did Davis do to Sam?

Freddie glanced at the teacher and then leaned toward Gibby. "I don't know," he mouthed helplessly. "I haven't seen her or Carly since—"

"Mr. Benson, do you have a question?" Mrs. Conner asked. Freddie snapped upright in his seat but the bell rang before he could think of an answer. The class scattered as usual, hurrying off to lunch. Freddie whipped out his phone and texted Carly.

What's up?

Meet me stairs

He starred at her cryptic answer for only a few seconds before he got in gear. "Gib get my books?" he asked.

"Yeah man, go!" Gibby said, having read the text over Freddie's shoulder.

"No running!" Mrs. Conner shouted after Freddie as he darted out of the classroom. He heard Gibby start an excellent excuse about a family emergency but didn't hear the rest of Mrs. Conner reply as she said, "He doesn't have a sister, Mr. Gibson, clearly-"

Carly was pacing a tight circle in the stairwell when Freddie elbowed his way down to the first floor. She looked relieved and somehow more distraught when she saw him. She grabbed his arm. "Come with me."

"Where's Sam?" he asked. "I heard Davis did something—"

"Oh he did something alright!" Carly said with such venom that Freddie tripped in surprise. She didn't slow her pace and he stumbled the rest of the way to the girl's bathroom, where they stopped outside the door.

"Listen," Carly said, her voice cracking. Freddie bent toward the forbidden door and heard the distinct sounds of a girl bawling. His eyes widened. "Not Sam," he said. Carly nodded grimly. "I'm afraid so. She's really hurt, Freddie. You won't believe what that jerk-off did to her!"

Carly was shaking with anger and it made Freddie scared to see her so worked up. "Tell me," he said. It was beyond his scope of imagination what could have upset Sam Puckett this much. Carly couldn't find the words. "See for yourself," she said.

Sam tried to reign in her crying when she heard the door open, but trusting that Carly would let no one else in, she believed it safe to say, "Carls, how am I going to walk out of here looking like this?"

"Let me see," Freddie said. His deep voice echoing off the walls was enough of a surprise to send Sam a foot off her seat. Freddie saw the discarded wads of tissue on her lap rain to the floor. He knocked on the stall. "Sam let me in."

"Why did you let Dorkosaurus in here?" Sam demanded loudly, wetly.

"Sam," Carly begged.

Sam starred at the door, imagining Freddie on the other side and his probable reaction to what he would find. She had a feeling it wouldn't be as sympathizing as Carly's had been. Her considerations had her mind off the sobbing and the bathroom fell eerily silent as she weighed the pros and cons of letting anyone else see her like this.

"Let him see," Carly gently prompted.

A girl came into the bathroom then and froze when she found a boy holding a stall's handle. Carly whirled and snapped, "Out of order! Go upstairs!"

Frightened, the girl ran away and Freddie tugged on the door. The lock kept it closed. "Come on, open up, Sam. You're really getting me worried! I mean, did he smack you?"

Sam laughed as Carly said urgently, "No, nothing like that."

"If he had he would be the one crying in a bathroom," Sam said, her old fierce hostility back in its smallest degree. Freddie and Carly smiled, pleased to hear it.

"Then open the door, Puckett, it can't be that bad."

The bathroom door swooshed open again, admitting the sounds of a busy hallway. "Dude! This is a girls—" a freshman started when she spotted Freddie. Carly cut her off with a scream, "Can no one read OUT OF ORDER!" She charged the girl and nearly ran over another one as the door opened a second time.

"Sorry, Sam, I have to guard from out here," Carly called angrily, shoving someone from their math class away as the girl asked, "Hey, what's Freddie doing in here?"

Once the bathroom was private again, Freddie turned back to the stall. Before he could think of another way to tempt the door open, it clicked and slowly fell open with a long, lazy creak.

Freddie's jaw dropped, but he cleared his throat. "He cut your hair?"

"Get it over with," Sam said bravely, standing and presenting all angles of her head.

"...It's not that bad," he promised. Sam rolled her eyes. "Sure, it's the style of the future."

"No, really…" he said. "Once you get it evened out… it could be cute…"

Sam smiled in appreciation with his attempt, but the longer he starred, the weaker her defense became, until she finally broke down again. He was momentarily alarmed to actually see her crying.

"Sorry," Sam said, aware that her reputation was now ruined. He would never take her smack-talk seriously now that he knew she cried about botched hair. "I don't care this much about my hair," she sniffed.

"Looks like it," he said with a playful, cynical snort. She tried to slam the stall closed again but he stopped it with an arm. She made a weak attempt to backhand him but he stepped out of reach expertly. Sam sat back down on the lip on the toilet and tore off some new tissue. Freddie leaned on the handicap access bar beside her. "So why the tears if you don't care?" he asked.

She sniffed and wiped her tears away with the heel of her hand. "It's mainly the fact that Davis did it-I mean, we borke up, but-I still trusted him!" she said between the building sobs. She covered her face and let out her misery, since there was no hiding it now. She felt Freddie tense beside her. Glancing at him, she had to blink back her tears, unsure of the change she was seeing coming over Freddie's face. No, she had seen right. He was getting angry.

She tried to speak but took too long to get her voice strong and didn't get a chance to finished her story. Freddie left the stall, shoving up his sleeves.

"I'll handle this," he said darkly, marching out of the bathroom. Sam blinked, hiccupped and dared to stick her head out of the stall to see where he was going.

"Freddie!" Carly said when he charged through the door, surprising a line of freshman to whom Carly had been lying about busted pipes. His face made Carly swallow her tongue. If she had to name it, it was the look of murder.

"Where's Davis?" he growled, barely stopping for the answer that Carly shouted weakly at his back, "Cafeteria, I think."

He ran out of sight and Carly stood with wide eyes in the midst of the frightened freshman. "Oh, boy that can't be good."

Sam's voice called to her from behind the door. Carly noticed a stylish hat in the hand of one of the freshman. She snatched it up. "Can I borrow this? Hair emergency, thanks!"

"Hey!" the girl called, but Carly shut the door in the Jr. cheerleader's face and held it closed with her foot. "Sam, here's a hat we have to go!"

"Where did Freddie go?" she asked, emerging from the stall with dried, though still puffy, eyes. Carly helped her hide her ruined hair under the cap as she explained, "I have never seen Freddie so mad. He's on the war path. We have to stop him before he gets himself killed!"

They ran out of the bathroom, bowling through the crowd of freshman as if they were pins at the end of a lane. The girls came up to the cafeteria to find it a chaos of shouting teachers, cheering students and clattering lunch trays. Elbowing their way to the front of the crowd, they saw that they were too late.

Davis and Freddie were already throwing punches. The nearest table was knocked out of the neat rows in which they were kept, the seats abandoned by frightened students, their lunches used as tools in the fight.

Freddie had two fist fulls of Davis' shirt and dunked two successive punches, then used his lower center of gravity to tackle the basketball player in rugby style. They toppled over the table, and out of sight. The watching crowd surged forward to keep them eyes on them. The teachers were shouting helplessly, all were women or old men hesitant to put themselves in harms way.

"Freddie!" Carly screamed in fear. Sam clapped. "KILL HIM!" she roared. Carly sighed in desperation for one of her friend's safety. "Sam."

"What?" she asked with a laugh, "This is the coolest thing I've ever seen! GO FREDDIE-where did he learn to fight like this?" Sam asked in wonder.

Indeed, when Carly took the time to asses the situation, she found that Freddie was actually winning. Impressed, half her fears ended, and she felt herself give into the energy of watching justice being served for her best friend by her other best friend. It was quiet thrilling.

"Well," Carly rationalized. "How many times have you wrestled Freddie to the ground? He's just doing what you were temporarily incapable of doing yourself."

Sam laughed and cheered louder for Freddie, who, after rolling away from the debris he and Davis had dragged to the floor when they'd gone over the table, got Davis in a standard head and shoulder lock, and was fighting to keep the jerk subdued with brute strength he didn't really have.

"You're going to get it, Benson!" Davis growled.

"You first!" Freddie growled back. Davis was managing to free himself with each squirm, and the cheers of the crowd turned as Freddie's fans were drowned by the rising roar of the jocks, who were just happy to see that the nerd wouldn't be winning for long.

Davis broke free and Freddie stood, backing away before he could be floored in a counter move. They turned half a circle and then charged each other like a couple of fighting dogs responding to a signal only they could hear.

Then the sharp sound of a whistle pierced everyone's ears and the gym teacher, who had been fetched by Principle Franklin, elbowed his way into the ring of death to separate the two fighting boys. Davis landed a punch, and Freddie went down to the shrieks and cries of Carly, Sam and most likely all of the female nerds of the entire school.

"THAT'S ENOUGH!" the coach roared, shoving Davis back when he looked to advance on Freddie. "Do you want play tonight? I said that's enough!"

This was a credible threat and sobered Davis' roiling temper. He visibly worked to calm himself down. Freddie stood up, wiping some blood off his lip and panting. He looked dead into Davis' eyes. "Don't ever mess with Sam again."

Carly felt a ripple go through the crowd as the on-lookers reacted to such a threatening tone coming from the voice-behind-the-camera of iCarly. Davis sneered and tried not to move in a way that made his shoulder pain obvious to the whole school.

"My office," Principle Franklin said with a good shot at lividness, though it couldn't mask his shock as he looked at Freddie. "Now."

Freddie looked around at the multitude of faces that were starring at him in wonder, shock, and awe. Sam caught his eye and mouthed a thank you. He nodded back. Beside her, Carly was already grimacing. He followed her gaze to the teachers, who were bewildered by the nice boy's sudden conduct. His back straightened and he dabbed at his lip again as he marched past Davis to follow the principle. The coach took a firm grip on Davis' arm and towed him out of sight.

The crowd exploded with mixed reviews of the fight, most were still just trying to figure out why it had occurred in the first place. Carly began to be aware of how many people were looking at Sam. Within minutes, enough people had put Sam's puffy eyes and Freddie's threat together.

"Whoa, so like Sam and the camera guy?" Carly heard a sophomore boy ask the lunch lady, who was smiling. "Evidently, dear."

Carly laughed and elbowed Sam so that she could get in on the joke, but Sam didn't look and Carly took a worried glance at her friend only to find that Sam was starring down the hall at Freddie's retreating back, a small smile on her face. Carly's eyebrows rose.

Gibby was, of course, leading the parade of praise for Freddie Benson, the first Mathlete who had ever walked away from a physical confrontation with a sports athlete.

"Okay, break it up, show's over!" Mrs. Briggs told the crowd, clapping loudly to get attention. "Back to your food, back to your classes. Move it!"

Carly and Sam moved with the crowd, but, rather than getting in the lunch line or going on to third period, they slipped down the hall to the principle's office. The school's receptionist didn't ask what they were doing there when they pushed through the heavy glass door into the front office. The old woman just smiled. "Here to represent the guilty?"

"Freddie didn't do anything wrong!" Carly said.

"Principle Franklin doesn't see it that way, I'm afraid."

"But, really, Mrs. Johnson, if you just knew why he did it!" Carly begged. She elbowed Sam. "Tell her…"

Sam had an internal battle and finally admitted as if the words caused her some pain, "He was protecting a friend." She removed the hat quickly, as if ripping off a band-aid. The receptionist's eyes widened and she covered her mouth. "Oh, dear!"

"So you see why Freddie sort of freaked-out," Carly rationalized.

Mrs. Johnson pulled her eyes from Sam's new look, smiled and picked up the phone, pressed a button. After a beat she said calmly into the mouthpiece, "Mr. Franklin, Freddie Benson's legal counsel has arrived….okay," she hung up and smiled at Carly, "You can go in, and Sam... I'm pretty good with hair-or would you rather leave it for a professional?"

Any reservation Sam might have had about letting the crazy receptionist lady restyle her hair was drown by her unwillingness to spend money in a salon. She rubbed a hand over her head and sighed, "I suppose I do need to go to third period at least once this week."

Mrs. Johnson winked. "That's the spirit." Then she motioned Sam to follow her into the inner offices of the staff-wing and Carly knocked on Principle Franklin's door.

The principle's office was soothing colors and clean spaces. Mr. Franklin stood behind his polished desk, his coat tails behind him and his hands on his hips. Freddie was reclined in a padded chair in the center of the room, one foot bounced between the metal legs of the chair, the other leg stretched out in front of him. He was holding a clear zip-lock baggie full of crushed ice from the cafeteria to his face.

When Carly came in, the principle paused in the middle of a sentence and Freddie turned to look up at her. His lip was really starting to swell and he looked racked with guilt that his pride was trying to hide from the room.

"Carly Shay; should have expected you to show up in his defense. Where's Sam?"

"Mrs. Johnson is helping her with her hair so she can stay the rest of the day."

Mr. Franklin frowned in interest. "She's not going to milk this excuse to get out of school for a day?"

Carly shrugged. "She's not as horrible as she seems most days…."

Freddie and the principle pulled faces at this and Carly amended, "Okay, so her mother wouldn't come pick her up."

Mr. Franklin smiled and motioned to the seat beside Freddie. "Take a seat Miss Shay. Freddie was just about to explain why he violently attacked Mr. Dueler in the lunchroom."

Freddie shifted the ice away from his mouth and gave a long drawn-out sigh as he gathered his thoughts. "I don't think a guy who will do something like that to a girl just because she broke-up with him should go unpunished."

Mr. Franklin took a seat and leaned back, the leather squeaked. "And he would have been, if you had let the proper authorities of this school handle it. Three years of junior high, two and half of high school I have watched you continuously turn out the top of your class Mr. Benson, and you are about to loose it all thanks to a temper tantrum. Now I know you know better than to take the law into your own hands. Carly why didn't you stop him?"

Sputtering, Carly tried to answer, but Freddie tensed at the principle's allegations and interrupted her, "Oh come on, Principle Franklin," he asserted. Carly locked her elbows, twisting her hands between her knees, uncomfortable because she had never heard him speak like this to a teacher before. "It would have been Sam's word against 'Mr. All American Team Champ'," he continued, "who do you think would've gotten detention, honestly?"

Mr. Franklin looked down in what could only be repressed shame. Carly crossed her arms, and leaned on the armrest between her and Freddie, displaying whose side she was on in this matter. It was the brutal truth; the system really was against Sam.

Mr. Franklin propped his elbow on the desk and sat his jaw bone on the length of his thumb to stare for a long while at his two favorite students. Then he took a deep breath. "All right. You will still be punished for your actions, and I will be calling your mother," both Freddie and Carly cringed, "but I think one detention should cover it. Mr. Davis has already been suspended from tonight's game and I will be talking with him further. You're dismissed."

In the open white space of the main office, Freddie looked around. "Where's Sam?"

"I think Mrs. Johnson is still working on her hair," Carly said, sinking onto the padded waiting bench. Freddie meandered over to the fichus plant in the corner to flick at the leaves. Carly crossed her arms and watched him until he noticed he had an audience. He laughed, embarrassed, and hid his lip behind the icepack again. "What?" he asked.

"I can't believe you just tackled a guy for Sam. I mean, I didn't know you had it in you."

"Thanks," he said sourly. Carly back-peddled. "It sounds bad, sorry, but seriously. You and I are the good kids. We don't freak out."

"Something just snapped. I mean Sam doesn't cry," he said.

"I know, I think that's only the second time I've ever seen it happen in eight years. I felt like kicking some butt too, I just didn't know what to do."

The parts of Freddie's mouth that could still move lifted in a grin that dimpled his cheek. He collapsed on the bench beside her and leaned back to let gravity hold the icepack to his face.

"It felt pretty good," he said after a minute. Carly laughed. "I guess we all need to blow a top every now and then," she said turning to him. "It was all just so…"

Freddie lifted his head to look at Carly and the melting bag slid from his face and bounced off his knee on its fall to the floor, where it made a squelching noise when it landed. She was looking at him strangely. For a second Freddie considered the likelihood that he was actually sprawled unconscious on the mashed-potato-covered floor of the cafeteria, because never in his waking hours had Carly actually looked at him like she was right now.

She leaned closer. "…sweet." she whispered, and he stopped breathing. Then she kissed him on the side of his mouth, where there wasn't any purple bruising. Carly's heart was racing. What a day, first she ditched every class, then she led a crowd in a cheer for a fight, and now she was kissing Freddie! She felt like she was in roller skates going down a hill and didn't know how to slow down.

After a beat of shock, Freddie kissed her back. Carly's racing thoughts slowed down as she heard once again the words of the sophomore kid to the lunch lady, "So Sam and the camera guy?" and dancing before her eyes was the sight of the gentle smile on Sam's lips as she watched Freddie being marched to jail.

Carly broke away from Freddie. "This is wrong!" ahe cried. He sat there still leaning toward her, his lips puckered. "No, it was good, it was really good!" he said gleefully. Carly stood quickly when he leaned toward her for more. "No, Freddie!"

He fell forward into her vacated space and caught himself on the lifting cushion. "Why not?"

"I'm sorry," she said, holding her forehead in both hands, trying to physically sort her thoughts. "I don't know why I did that, I shouldn't have, it felt wrong—like I was kissing a brother," she lied. "Not that I know what kissing a brother on the mouth is like, but, well, you know what I mean!" she cried.

Freddie visibly deflated. "Yeah. I guess you're right…" He shook his head, his smile splitting his lip open again. He picked up the dripping bag and stuck it back to the wound. "What a day…won twenty bucks, kicked some butt, kissed my dream girl and all I've got to show for it is a busted lip, a lost afternoon and…" he trailed off, having looked behind the reception desk.

Carly turned to see Sam had re-entered the main office with her hat in her hand and her fingers tugging at her new short, spunky hairdo. Apparently the teachers kept hair products in their secret sanctum, because Sam's hair-do was gelled and styled with a flat iron so that it resembled latest short-style fashion.

"Wow, look at you!" Carly said happily, reflecting the joy on Sam's face. Freddie stood and put his free hand in his pocket. "How do you feel?"

Laughing as she hugged Carly, Sam shrugged as she gave Freddie a short, one-armed squeeze. "Like my head is going to float away, it's so light without all my hair!"

"Mrs. Johnson you should open your own salon!" Carly praised. The lady blushed and batted it aside. "I just cut it off, Sam fixed it up."

"Well, you look really great," Freddie said. Sam moved the icepack to asses the damage. "You look like a swollen grape. Did you cry?"

Freddie sneered, "No I didn't cry."

Sam shrugged. "Most girls would."

"Hey how about some gratitude, okay? I just threw a guy over a table because of you."

"I didn't ask you too," Sam said with an ungrateful snort as she pulled open the door into the main hallway. Freddie shoved her through i , so she turned and tripped him. Carly glanced back at the receptionist with a smile. "Yay, they're fighting… the world makes sense again!"

Because Carly needed it to make sense; she wasn't sure if she liked this brave new world where Sam cried and Freddie got detention for violence and wrecking school property, it opened too many doors…like that kiss. She still didn't know why it had happened or why she had stopped it. There were way too many possibilities now, way too many doors!

Sam just wanted to put it all one hundred percent behind her. She already had plans to rebuild her reputation, starting with a midnight visit to Wendy's room to personally even the scoreboard—Sam wasn't dense, but Davis was-no way had he thought of it by himself.

Freddie felt like the king of the world when he remembered the cheers backing him as he was winning the fight, and then kissing his dream girl, but when he thought of how his mom would react to this business, he could feel the weight of the world pressing down on him.

The queerest feeling of all, however, was the way he could be on top of the world, while holding it… while it was crumbling in on itself! All because-despite her hobbies, likes, and dislikes—Freddie had realized that, at the end of the day, Sam Puckett was a girl.