Nine / Effortless
I'm not yours, and you're not mine
But we can sit and pass the time
No fighting wars, no ringing chimes,
We're just feeling fine.
"How can you not go to Freddie's party?" Carly wiggled further down into her bean bag, giving her friend a disapproving look as she kicked her legs lazily against the prop car. In a typical Sam fashion the blonde was trying to simultaneously drink a smoothie and eat a rib while lying upside down. It wasn't working out too well.
"Easy. I simply avoid crazy's apartment on that particular day in February. I haven't been in that place in like…three years? I doubt I'm suddenly going to get the urge to go there just because the nub's anti-bacterial underwear is going to be vacating it again." In truth, Sam was pretty sure she'd most definitely get an urge. For the last few weeks her mind had been in a battle on how to handle the whole…situation she had created with the geek. On the one hand she wanted to confront him, scream it out and finally- finally reach a conclusion to this thing that had been brewing for years. On the other she was pretty damn content with avoiding him for the rest of her life; it had the potential to work out much better than the whole confrontation idea.
"So you admit you're avoiding Freddie?"
"I admit that I'm naturally programmed to avoid that much crazy in one location." Sam pulled herself up and wiped the back of her hand across her mouth. She was pretty sure she had just gotten smoothie to drip out of her nose. Either that or barbeque sauce.
"You know Freddie and I had a talk, he's really upset by all of this." Carly shrugged. "I think it might really make him happy if you showed up."
"Yeah and it'd really make me happy if my mother stopped stuffing her bra with pudding packs- we can't all get what we want, Carls."
Carly sighed, shaking her head. "Promise me that if you're in town you'll at least stop by."
"I probably won't be in town."
"Thank you, that's all I a- is there barbeque sauce dripping from your nose?"
"Spencer did you wash your hands?" Spencer froze; hand halfway into the cake Freddie knew his mother had spent hours making with frown slowly slipping onto his face.
"Um…yes?" Spencer slowly removed his hand from the cake, revealing five icing covered fingers. "Uh, just wondering for no particular reason but what kind of soap do you guys use?"
"Why would you cut the cake with your hand?" Carly was chewing on her own piece of cake, skillfully making use of her utensils.
"And why would it matter what kind of soap we use?" Freddie chewed on his own cake- for a sugar-free, milk-subsisted yellow cake with fruit icing it was surprising tasty. Definitely one of his mother's better concoctions.
"I couldn't find a knife and I like that one soap with those little pieces in them the-"
"The one with the berries chunks that dissolve while you wash?"
"Yeah! How awesome are they? They like, massage my hand with soapy goodness while I wash." Spencer smiled, looking up at the ceiling as if he were imagining some kind of situation that involved the soap in question.
"Do you know that scented soap is .008 percent less likely to get your hands clean? Think of the diseases you're leaving on your hands by using that stuff." Freddie watched as his mother re-entered the kitchen, holding up a plain looking bottle of liquid soap. "I have some nice anti-bacterial, industrial strength soap right here, it suds to get all those little places in between!"
By now Spencer had taken to sucking on his fingers, staring at the bottle of soap warily. "I don't have any little places on my hands though."
"Non-sense, come on into the kitchen and I'll teach you how to properly wash your hands."
"I really don't think that's necessary-"
Carly let out a laugh as her brother disappeared into the kitchen. "Do you think she's going to teach him the 'We're washing our hands' song?"
"For his sake I hope not, she added another verse last year so it's like fifteen minutes long." Freddie smiled, letting his eyes stray over the apartment. When his mother had first found out his birthday fell on a weekend and insisted he fly back to Seattle for a party he had been wary. In the past his mother's party usually consisted of long lectures about the dangers of unmarked underwear and games like 'clean the spot off the rug' or 'list the seven signs of depression.' With that kind of reputation it was easy to see why half of his old friends were too busy to make the trek up to see him but the party had been surprisingly tame. His mother had restrained herself with asking him normal questions and only breaking out into one psychotic burse ('Are you depressed? Have you been drinking? Why don't you have better friends? We need to get you tested this instant!') before pulling herself together for the rest of the day. And with Spencer and Carly over Freddie could barley tell the difference between his party and one of the old afternoons he used to spend in the Shay loft. Well, there was one difference.
It wasn't like Freddie was even expecting her to show up. It was Sam after all, she wasn't one to get sentimental and actually put a hold on their fight for his birthday but still. A part of him wanted to pretend that he didn't know Sam as well as he did and believe she'd just waltz right through his front door any moment, demanding cake while putting in some jab about how he had broken a record by being a nerd for twenty three straight years. Unfortunately for him from the moment Carly told him Sam would stop by 'if she was in town' he knew he wasn't going to catch sight of the blonde.
"Thinking about Sam?" Carly stared at him with knowing eyes and he cleared his throat, scrunching up his nose in disgust.
"No. I have tons of other things to think about besides Sam."
"But she's what you were thinking about because you like her," Carly poked him with her fork. "It's still early, I'm sure Sam will show."
Freddie set her with a dull look. "Yeah, and I'm also sure Sam will become a vegetarian and join a nunnery."
"Have some faith, she's not completely heartless."
Freddie opened his mouth to disagree but snapped it close. He wasn't going to gain anything by proving Sam was heartless, if anything convincing Carly of Sam's lack of emotions would only depress him further. He sighed, running his tongue across his teeth and deciding to put the blonde at the back of his mind. Almost every day lately was punctuated in melancholy because of her and he decided that of all the things he was willing to give her, this day was not one of them. He was going to enjoy himself- enjoy his family, the people who cared enough about him to show- and let himself be free of Sam Puckett. If she didn't want him, he wouldn't want her. At least, not right now.
"Whatever. I don't even want to talk about it. I just want to eat my cake and enjoy in this gaiety atmosphere."
"Gaiety?" Carly snorted.
"Yeah, it means-"
"I know what it means." Carly looked down, hiding her smile. "Very cool word, gaiety."
Sam crossed her arms over her chest, giving the nub in front of her a hard slap to the head as he stirred in his Galaxy War sheets. She had been trying to be nice about the whole situation- it was his birthday after all- but his unconscious rejection stirred something vicious in her. Now she watched with a swell of pride as the geek shot up in bed, a bright red splotch slowly forming on his cheek. For a split second his eyes were wide and she swore she saw something pass through them- hope, maybe, she wasn't too familiar with the emotion- before his face went neutral.
"Oh, it's you." He actually had the nerve to lie back down, eyes drifting to the ceiling as he contemplated life or whatever it was he did with that useless thing in his head.
Sam narrowed her eyes, pulling out the chair from his desk and swinging it around to his bed so she could sit on it backwards. Chin coming to a rest on the back as she propped her shoe up on his bed. She already knew the ball was in her court and she had to be the one to do something with it but the fact that he was practically forcing her into action made her uneasy. Sam Puckett was not a girl who liked force action. "Yeah, well, I'm not exactly throwing up rainbows to see your face either."
"Why are you here then?" No curiosity, no emotions just a blank, monotonous inquiry.
"I don't know Carly was like, nagging me and stuff and last time she got mad at me she refused to send me a care package of fat-cakes." That had been a particularly dark month in the journeys of Sam Puckett that she didn't often like to remember.
"Carly already left," Freddie's eyes flickered to his alarm clock, sliding right over her. "Seeing as how it's…two am."
"Yeah, but you can tell her I was here next time you see her." Sam pushed herself away from his bed and spun around in the chair. She had already raided the Benson's fridge and after devouring that horrible thing facading as a cake she was feeling a bit sick. She liked it though, it was easy to focus in on sick and pass by all her other emotions.
"Well, if that's all you wanted I was in the middle of sleeping so-"
"I got you a present." Sam stopped herself, smiling as Freddie finally quirked an eyebrow. She waited, willing him to break his pouty little routine and let curiosity get the best of him like she knew it would.
"What is it? A pocket protector again?"
"Nah, even the nerdy stores like Techboys don't sell those anymore so I had to get you something a bit more current." She reached in her pocket and pulled out a box, throwing it over to him. It was unwrapped, of course, with a mess of clear tape keeping it closed.
"I swear, if it's another pair of clip-on earrings I'm going to-" Freddie paused, opening the box and examining the item inside. "A flash drive?"
"Not just any flash drive, it's yours. I stole it back in junior year for that one project." She was quite proud of herself for managing to find the thing. She had been sure she had used it as a tooth pick one time and thrown it away years ago.
"Thanks," he said flatly, "Is that it?"
Freddie picked the flash drive out of the box, squinting as if the action would morph it into something else. "What's on this?"
Sam shrugged. "Just some stuff."
Freddie rolled his eyes. "Helpful. Hand me my laptop."
Sam looked over her shoulder and then back at him. "Yeah, I think not."
"Why must you be so obnoxious?"
"Why must you speak like a nub?"
"Why must you-" Freddie shook his head. "You know what, no. Just tell me now, is this how you're going to be?"
"I don't know what you're-"
"Right. I'm going back to sleep." Freddie promptly fell back into his bed, closing his eyes. Sam felt her irritation rise. She hated this. She wanted to punch him or leave or do something that was like usual instead of sit here quietly and think like she was now. She didn't think about things, she did things. Yet somehow things with the nub required thinking- like he was too much of an uber geek to let someone get away with thoughtless in his presence.
"You kiss like a desperate stalker," she spun the chair again, closing her eyes so she could block out whatever expression the nub might have taken on.
"…A desperate stalker?"
"Or an inexperience loser." She shrugged.
"Oh." The silence was heavy and awkward and Sam had just about decided to leave when Freddie spoke again. "You're not exactly the best kisser yourself."
She spun on him, "What was that Frederly? Mama has won award with these lips right here."
"What awards are those?" He sat back up, crossing his arms over his chest.
"All the awards, I won't worry your little mind with them."
"More like you won't put out the effort to make fictional titles."
"Best kisser, sexiest kisses, most flexible tongue, best in show-"
"How would someone even judge most flexible tongue? And best in show, really?"
"What are you disagreeing Benson?"
"Not at all."
Sam ran her teeth over her lips, letting out a sigh. "Alright Benson."
"Alright, I accept that you don't like Carly." She needed something to chew on. She swung the chair back towards Freddie's desk, searching through the drawers for some kind of snack. With his health crazy mother he had to have a secret stash of goods somewhere.
"That's very mature of you." She could feel him roll her eyes as she went to the next drawer. Why he needed sticky notes in every color was beyond her.
"I figured even you couldn't be that pathetic to still have the hots for a girl who was obviously never going to like you back." She pulled out a snack bar and wrinkled her nose, apple and granola. She set it aside, still sure there had to be something better.
"Gee, I wish I had come to that conclusion myself." Sam heard him rustle behind her and turned back around to see him getting out of bed.
"The corner diner is open all night," he said of way of explanation.
She smiled, "You're paying."
"I'm never going to be able to go in there again!" Freddie still couldn't breathe, his heart was breathing painfully against his chest and his legs were sore from running. He was almost certain he had just had a heart attack and yet he couldn't even properly be worried about that since he was too busy being distracted by the blonde laughing hysterically on the ground.
"Your face…such…a…novice." She breathed out, her laughter finally dying down as she set a hand over her stomach. Her cheeks were flushed and she had the kind of sparkle in her eye he hadn't seen in a while. He missed it.
"Excuse me for not dabbling in illegal activities all the time. You know, they probably know who we are. I bet right now my mother is getting woken up by the police banging on her door."
Sam snorted. "I wish. I'd pay money to see crazy's face if she found out her precious son had broken the law."
"I'm an adult now, she's loosening up!"
"She brought you a rape whistle and one of those emergency senior-citizen bracelets for your birthday."
"They're both really reasonable gifts," he argued, reaching out his hand to help her up. She stared at his hand a moment before grabbing it and pulling herself up, eyes lowered to the ground as she brushed herself off.
"I have to say I'm proud Benson, I thought you were going to choke when that waitress called after you."
Freddie was rather pleased himself, though if you asked he was still adamant he was disappointed in their actions. When Sam had suggested they dine and dash- actually dine and dash, like they did in teen rom-coms, he had of course said no. Then she had teased him, insulted and said something about foot-y pajamas and the next thing he knew he was trying to catch up to Sam as their waitress screamed after them. He couldn't remember the last time he was so scared and yet at the same time he couldn't remember when he had last had so much fun.
"I don't quit things halfway," he said, frowning when it didn't sound nearly as cool as he had wanted.
"In that case we should go hit up that convenience store on ninth, last time I checked they didn't have security camera."
"We're not knocking off a convenience store just for the hell out it."
"Eh, I'm not in the mood anyway." Sam leaned back against the wall of some apartment or something. "Ah that pie hit just the right spot."
"Seeing how much you ate, it should." He leaned back too, shoulder barely brushing hers. The action should have been simple and meaningless but with her he felt the need to hyper analyze it. She wasn't moving away, that had to be a good sign, right?
Freddie wondered what time it was now. The sky was still a harsh blue but in the distance he could see that things were beginning to brighten and in the distance he could hear birds chirping. He doubted he'd be able to fall back asleep when he got home (and even if he did, his mother had a thing about sleeping past nine being a sign of depression). Besides that tomorrow he was heading back to Massachusetts and he didn't want to spend his last day in Seattle sleeping.
"When are you leaving?" He didn't actually want to talk about her leaving, but he also didn't want to call her later and find she was in Florida or some other random place.
She shrugged. "I don't know. My mom managed not to completely wreck my room and so I might stay here for a while. Spencer said he needed a model for some painting or whatever since Sasha is out of town."
"I thought you said you were never going to model for Spencer again," he said, remembering the fish sculpture.
"Things change." Freddie thought that was maybe one of the first times she acknowledged the fact.
"Yeah, they do."
Sam sighed, digging her hands into her pocket and closing her eyes. "Does it feel different, being older?" And he might be imagining it but he was pretty sure she was leaning her head on his shoulder. He was too afraid to look though.
"Not really. I mean I don't feel different but I know things are different. It just seems more apparent I'm an adult and this is how my life is going to be from now on."
"You think how our lives are now are how we are going to be forever?" Her voice was soft and he was sure she was falling asleep.
"Yeah…maybe. I think that now is the time to change the things we want to change; otherwise it will be too late."
"That's chiz," she mumbled and her head was definitely on his shoulder, he could feel her hair on his neck when she shifted. "I don't think I want my life to be like this forever."
He didn't know what to say so he pushed off the wall, Sam almost tumbling to the ground before groggily getting her footing and glaring at him. He squatted down, looking over his shoulder. "Back to the Carly's?"
"I'm not five," she huffed, nonetheless climbing onto his back and letting him carry her off. She refused to grab on to his neck though and so her arms hung lank by his side, making it even harder to balance her. He didn't mind.
"I don't think your life will always be the same," he said after a few minutes, finally deciding on his words. "I think you're already changing." This moment alone was enough to prove that. "Sam?" There was no response and after a minute he picked up on the light sound of snoring.
Some things didn't need to change.
This chapter was so horrible to write, I am beyond relieved to have it finished. I'm not really sure how I feel about it but whatever, it's done and I'm not thinking about it until the next time I decide to overhaul this fic. I think there's only going to be one more chapter- and possibly an epilogue, because I'm a freak and I don't want to end this on an even number.
You guys are absolutely amazing for keeping up with this story and thanks so much for all your reviews, I appreciate them so much. Big thanks to Pigwiz, Spinlight and KingxLeon21 for helping me when I hit a rut halfway with this chapter.