Books & Bounds
One: The Thing about Libraries
Freddie inhaled harshly, withholding a sneeze as the smell of dust and ageing literature flooded his airways. On most days the smell, once Freddie had taken his allergy pills, was calming to him; the knowledge and power implied with the scent washed over him with so much force he couldn't help but feel a bit more confident in himself. Then again, on most days he indulged in the smell of Ridgeway's library on his own agenda instead of being forced to experience it 'or else', or so the hastily scribbled note in his locker implied. The note was left without a signature, but Freddie would recognize the loopy, lopsided cursive anywhere. Even if he didn't, the little spots of spilled soda that sprinkled the paper were a dead giveaway that it was the work of a certain Sam Puckett.
In truth, Sam wasn't nearly as threatening to Freddie as she once was. At seventeen, Freddie had reaped the benefits of puberty and gained plenty of inches on his former height, settling in at a comfortable 5'9 while Sam never sprouted a centimeter past 5'5. Sure, she still had absolutely no restraints and was willing to hit, kick, scratch him anywhere at any time when she was mad, but her physical abuse wasn't nearly as painful as it had been when he was at the same height and barley weighed more than an Oxford Dictionary. That didn't mean that she didn't still have her fair share of tricks up her sleeve.
"Benson." Freddie jumped, knocking his legs painfully against the top of the table as Sam settled in across from him, patented smirk present on her face.
He flushed, ignoring the smugness that seemed to ooze out of the blonde and getting to the point at hand. "You're late," he told her, giving his leg a small rub.
"I can't just drop everything for you," she tilted her chair back and propped her feet atop the table. "I have this thing called a life – you know they're not just something they make up in those little comics you read."
"You were the one who called me here!" What were they? Ten? Twenty seconds into conversation and he was already at his limit.
"Technicalities, Freddifer, no need to get your panties into a bunch," she rolled her eyes before continuing, not giving him a chance to interject. "Look, I don't have time so let's just cut to the chase – I'm failing."
He scoffed, "No, really? I'm shocked." Sam had somehow found herself in all AP classes at the beginning of the year. Principal Franklin was insistent that Sam was actually some kind of genius who was just too lazy to put in the effort. With Ridgeway being one of the various schools in the country that was underfunded, there was only one AP program per grade. This meant he bared witness to how little Sam actually did in class- that was on the days she even bothered show up.
"Yeah, yeah. The point is now everyone's throwing around words like 'won't graduate' and worse, 'summer school,' so I got to past those damn tests they're giving us in a few weeks or else I'm going to have no other option but to drop out and join the circus."
Freddie cocked and eyebrow. "One, how is summer school worse than not graduating? Two, there are a million other options then dropping out and joining the circus – you just want to have a reason to join that won't have Carly biting your head off. Three, what does this have to do with me?" Though even Freddie had taken notice that their 'friendship' (as he was now allowed to call it with caution) had grown a lot over the years, Sam still wasn't one to come running to Freddie when she had a problem. In fact, she wasn't one to run to anyone when she had a problem.
"Your logic is such a complete fail. How in the world would not graduating be worse than summer school? It's school in the summer. Also, it's a known fact that if you drop out of high school at one point in your life you will in fact join the circus, I might as well join when I'm young and beautiful so I can be like Mermaid Girl or something," she paused for a moment and Freddie could see she was very seriously considering the pros and cons of becoming a circus mermaid. "Huh, you think they have invisible ninjas in the circus?" she paused again before shaking her head. "Nah, too cool. Anyway, obviously you're going to tutor me; I clearly explained it in my note."
Freddie chose to ignore the first two parts and focus on the third. "How does 'Library. Three Thirty. Be There.' equate to 'Hey Freddie, I was wondering if you would tutor me, please.'"
"Why else would I come to the library?"
Freddie opened his mouth but couldn't think of a good comeback. This was the first time he had seen Sam in the library, or any place where the main focus was to willingly let one enhance their knowledge. "I don't know, to hook up with Mike?" Mike was Sam's boyfriend of the day/week/month/however long it took for her to become bored.
"Nah, I don't hook up in libraries; they're full of dried-up perverts who would probably get their jollies off watching a hot beast like myself perform R-rated activities. Besides, I broke up with Mike."
Freddie scrunched his eyebrows in confusion. "What? When? Weren't you two making out just this morning?"
Sam cocked an eyebrow. "Why do you know where my lips have been? Huh, Fredaperv?"
"You were in the middle of the school entrance," he said flatly.
"Likely story," she dismissed. "Anyway, I broke up with him after that."
"When did you see him before then? You don't have any classes with him and you had detention during lunch." Freddie sighed. "And no, I am not stalking you; we have all the same classes."
"Uh huh," she pursued her lips. "I broke up with him before coming here. He kept nagging me about how I never called him and I never seemed interested and blah, blah, blah. Ever since he started thinking with his head instead of his 'head' everything just went downhill." Freddie felt something in his stomach shift as a slight taste of vile overtook his mouth; he accounted it to the allergies.
"You're so crude."
Sam shrugged. "Better than being a pansy. I thought guys were only supposed to only be after one thing but no, all of you get all needy and whiny as soon as you find a girl who won't try and tie you down."
"Well, you know some people believe in this thing called love." Sam set her eyes on him and for a second he swore something semi-serious passed through all the amusement.
"Ugh, yeah, I forgot you're one of those people," she sighed. "Whatever. Let's move on with this whole teaching me stuff thing."
"I haven't even agreed to tutor you. I have a lot going on; AV club, Chess Club, Poetry Club, Fine Literature club…"
"It's like you go out of your way to emasculate yourself," Sam shook her head.
"And that's another thing, why would I inconvenience myself and help you when all you do is insult me?" He questioned. Sam gave a small shrug, casting her eyes to the ceiling.
"I don't know, aren't you always yapping on about me and you being friends?"
Freddie raked his teeth over his lips, narrowing his eyes as he tried to get what she was playing at. More than likely she was just pulling out the friendship card to get what she wanted without meaning it but…they were friends, in the technical sense. He'd even go as far to say they were close friends, though having any kind of connection to Sam that lasted more than a week was considered close. He watched as she lazily played with a few stands of her hair, knotting it into an even more hopeless manner then it was already in. Hopeless. That was the perfect way to describe Sam, the perfect way to describe their non-existent tutoring exchange.
"It's you and I," he sighed. "You won't even show up."
She groaned, letting her chair fall back forwards and slamming her feet back into the ground before propping her elbows on the table. "Maybe I won't, maybe I will. C'mon, Benson, the fun is in finding out."
Freddie threw her a look. If he said no and Sam ended up flunking Sam would go around blaming it on Freddie, and Carly – though she would say she didn't blame him – would have that disappointed expression of hers. Also, it wasn't like Freddie hated being around Sam; sure they didn't usually go out of their way to see each other but if they ran into each other at the Groovy Smoothie it was natural for Sam to head over to his table and demand he pay for anything she may want. He'd never say it aloud but he kind of looked forward to their encounters.
Sam was now staring at him, eyebrow cocked – no doubt trying to use some kind of mental force to persuade him to do what she wanted. He inhaled sharply before throwing his hands up in the air.
"Fine, I'll do it. But if you don't show up or don't pay attention I'm quitting."
Sam grinned, "Yeah, yeah. Let's get started."
"We can't start today," he said and Sam's expression instantly morphed into impatience. "I have to see what areas you need help in, get a full idea of what level you're on right now and figure out what the problem is."
"I need help in everything and the problem is that I'm still required to show up to this damn insane-asylum five days a week, eight hours a day."
"Yeah, well, I'm going to have to test you."
Sam folded her arms across her chest. "Tests? Nu-uh, I don't even put up with that mind-numbing chiz in class."
Freddie could already feel a headache coming on; he knew this was a bad idea. Should've said no. "It's either test you or get your records from the school and they don't give those things out to students."
Sam scoffed. "I'll get the records."
"You can't, it's impossible to hack into the school system without getting caught. Remember how Carly and I tried and the police showed up at her apartment- which was all thanks to you, by the way."
"Yeah, that only happened 'cause you're amateurs. Leave it to the professionals, Benson."
"Fine," Freddie pushed back in his chair and stood. "But don't call me when you need bail money."
"Don't call me when you come to the startling realization that your life is nothing but a void of anti-bacterial underwear and tick baths."
"Be here tomorrow at three thirty," he ignored the jab. "And actually be on time this time." Sam stood, grabbing her bag and slinging it across her shoulder.
"I make no promises."
"How did you get these?"
Freddie flipped through the folder that lay in front of him, every now and then pausing to throw a disbelieving look to Sam who sat across from him.
"Don't question Mama," Sam said smugly, leaning against the table. The library was fairly empty, a few random kids scattering around all too engrossed in their own work to pay much attention to the odd pairing. Sam was still getting over the shock that someone could actually willingly give up their free time to study even after school was let out. Part of her just wanted to stand up and demand they all get a life before they got too accustomed to the habits of a nub. Speaking of nubs…
Her eyes darted to the boy who was furiously flipping through her folders with various expressions ranging from disbelief to annoyance. She wasn't sure why she had sought out him of all people; it wasn't like she didn't know anyone else who could help with her issue. Carly, for instance, would've been more than happy to help her boost her grades up. It wasn't like she was embarrassed to be failing; it was widespread knowledge that Sam Puckett wasn't exactly topping the dean's list.
Maybe it was because she hadn't seen the nerd around much as of late. With iCarly finished she wasn't over at Carly's nearly as much, especially since she was usually busy either trying to get a boyfriend or trying to dump one. It wasn't like she and Benson hung out in school either. They took to different groups; she took to the punks and the popular while he took to the brains and… socially impaired. In reality Sam knew Freddie wasn't that bad, and if he tried a little he could easily make his way up the ladder of social hierarchy; but none of that seemed to matter to him. He seemed to want more out of his friends then just the usual 'good time.' She didn't get it.
"Sam," Freddie shook his head. "This is horrible!"
She pulled her lips back into a frown. "They're not that bad."
He looked up to her, eyes wide. "They're not bad, they're great! The few standardized test you actually completed had amazing scores, better than mine. And your SAT score was two hundred points over mine – do you know how hard I studied for that test?"
Sam shrugged. "If the flashcards and creepy muttering were any indication, a lot?"
"More than a lot," he groaned. "Ever since middle school I've been studying away. I study all the time. Not just for the SATs, but for everything, it takes my all to get the kind of scores you do without even trying!"
Sam sunk her head down to the table, letting out a slow exhale of air. Everyone was always going on like she was some kind of genius, but she wasn't really. When it really came down to it Freddie was smarter than her, Carly was smarter than her, and most of the world was smarter than her. She was able to darken in a few of the right bubbles on a test. What did that prove in the long run?
"It's not like I don't take in anything, I listen in class." Sometimes.
"When? You're never in class!" Sam looked at him. "And I'm not a stalker," he added flatly.
"Look, Benson, if I'm so smart then why am I failing? Huh?"
"It seems to me you just don't put in the effort." That was true, for the most part, but sometimes she just really didn't get it.
"Fine then, I'll just put in the effort," she snatched back the papers and started to put them in her bag.
Freddie frowned. "Wait. Are you trying to say that it's not that you don't put in the effort, even though you never do any work and have unbelievably high test scores?"
"Well I certainly didn't seek you out as a tutor as a first, second or third resort."
He glared, holding out his hands for the file once again which she supplied begrudgingly. He took a moment, going over it with narrowed eyes, as if trying to literally pick up the words between the lines.
"Well," he said after a few moments. "It does seem that you got a lot of the algebraic problems wrong in the math section, and you didn't even bother with the English interpretations…" he looked to her for an answer, to which she responded with a shrug.
"I don't get how people can see a tree as anything more than a tree or the sun as more than anything but the sun."
He clucked his tongue in a way that seemed to say 'figures'. "You're pretty good at science, and you got near perfect scores in all your history stuff over the years. What electives are you taking this year?"
"Spanish two, home ec, health…"
"Which ones are you failing?"
"Spanish two, home ec, health…"
"So early math, figurative interpretations and electives are what we have to work on?"
"I don't know, you're the tutor."
Freddie shut the file with a small grin. "Well, that's not so bad. I'll check out the books we need and glance through them and work out a plan, sound good?"
Sam couldn't seem to control the quirk of her lips as she scoffed and looked away. "Whatever."
Sam&Freddie + Tutoring = Horribly Cliché, I know, but it seems I couldn't resist. Unless I screw things up, this piece will be just a short (3-5 chapters), lighthearted Sam&Freddie piece. Expect a mess of cliché, little angst and maybe a pinch of crude humor.
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