A/N: Here we are at Chapter 8! :) I'm pretty sure this will be the last chapter, so please R&R!
Disclaimer: Do I own iCarly? No, I don't. So sad. . . .
Chapter 8: Sacrifices
I'm not exactly sure what happened after that. All I remember was opening my eyes to find myself very much alone back in the iCarly studio.
But was I back in the right spot in time? Was I really in the future?
Glancing down at my wrist, I saw that the silver watch was still there, though it had undergone an odd change: The face had been completely smashed in, making the numbers and hands unreadable.
What did that mean?
I suddenly didn't want to think about anything but bolting out of the room . . . and so that's what I did.
I ran down the stairs, almost tripping over my feet in my haste to reach the bottom floor.
"Carly? Freddie? Spencer?" I called as I reached the last step, looking frantically around the room.
In less than a second, I was being embraced by Carly, who was apparently trying to hug me to death. I didn't notice she started crying because I saw the very person I had risked my life for standing just out of reach: Freddie Benson.
I could only stare, slightly open-mouthed, at him. He was staring back at me, some sort of immense relief washing over him, while Spencer came over and joined Carly in the Hugging Sam fest.
What was going on?
Carly and Spencer pulled back. Carly sniffled, then looked directly at me, and asked, "Where have you been? We thought you were dead!"
Dead? What an obvious sign that things weren't quite back to normal.
"I - What?"
"You've been missing for the last three days!" Carly informed me. "You disappeared, and no one could find you anywhere! Spencer even called the police and went down to the station to file a missing person report after the first twenty four hours because I hadn't seen you here since the day before!" Everything she said was like an accusation, like she believed I had purposely vanished from her sight.
"I'm sorry" was all I could manage. I knew it was a lame thing to say, but I couldn't tell her where I'd really been.
"Where were you?" Carly asked.
"Just . . . out."
"It doesn't matter where I've been, you wouldn't believe me if I told you, anyway," I said impatiently. "What did you guys tell my mom?"
"I called her and told her you were spending a few days over here," Spencer replied.
"And Principle Franklin?"
"Freddie and I told him you were really sick," Carly said.
I shrugged. "I'll just fake a doctor's note then. That should cover my absences."
Carly flashed a small smile at me.
There were a few moments of silence before Spencer spoke up. "I'm gonna head down the police station and sort everything out," he said, now heading for the door. He pointed a finger at me. "Stay put. I'll be back soon, okay?" And then he was gone.
Carly hugged me again almost immediately. Over her shoulder, I saw Freddie staring at the floor, his hands shoved deep into his jean pockets. He seemed to be in deep concentration, studying the floorboards.
"Come on," Carly said. "Let's go up to the studio and do a great iCarly webcast. We still have those idea cards," she added. She rushed up the stairs, leaving Freddie and me behind.
I tried several times to say something to him, but nothing came out.
"You know, Carly was really worried about you," he finally said without looking up.
I swallowed and cleared my throat, trying to force my voice to work. It ended up coming out kind of raspy. "And were you?"
He shrugged; he was now looking at his feet, refusing to meet my gaze. "You could say that, I guess. At least, Carly told me I acted. . . ." Freddie trailed off. A few seconds passed, and then he looked up at me. I could see a slight smile on his face now. "It's nice to know you're okay, Sam."
"Thanks," I said.
I knew a new iCarly webcast would take all our minds off of what had happened, even if the events were a little different for me. It was Carly's way of starting to get things back to normal. And at the moment, normal was all I wanted.
"So, I guess we'd better get on with the webcast."
"Yeah," Freddie said. "Let's go."
The webcast helped improve things for the remaining week of school. I took my faked doctor note to Principle Franklin, who hardly glanced at it, saying he was glad I was back. True, I hadn't taken many sick days from school at one time, but I was surprised by his happiness. What could make him smile like that? I shrugged it off, telling myself that it was insane to think he'd actually missed my troublemaking.
Carly was much more relaxed and comfortable to see my locker was being used, that I was actually there by her every time she was at her own.
Freddie was avoiding me as much as possible, which wouldn't have bothered me before I'd gone back in time, but since I had, I started getting more and more curious. He'd barely said anything to me.
I kept the broken watch on in hopes that he would catch sight of it. Would he remember?
The last day of school came and went, which meant a relaxing summer was on its way.
That weekend, I drifted into Freddie's apartment, knowing Mrs. Benson was out, and also knowing Freddie wasn't. I made my way out onto the fire escape, trying to collect my thoughts before I went and talked to him. What if he didn't remember?
I looked over my shoulder to see Freddie behind me. "Oh, hey."
He took a hesitant step forward. I took notice of his narrowed eyes and had the urge to laugh. "What are you doing here, exactly?" he asked slowly.
"I just wanted to talk," I replied.
"To me?" he asked incredulously.
I sighed. "Do you know the real reason I was gone for three days?"
I hadn't meant to blurt it out that way, but it was too late to take the words back.
A small crease appeared between his eyebrows. "No, you didn't tell anyone. You just took off."
Did that mean he didn't remember?
Freddie pointed to the silver watch. "Why do you wear that thing if it's broken?"
I smiled at that. "You would freak if I told you."
He nodded, taking my word for it. I supposed if he'd done and seen enough freaking out to last him a lifetime.
"Why have you been avoiding me?" I demanded.
"You'd freak if I told you," he said.
I laughed once. "All right, try me."
He took a deep breath and put a hand behind his head, trying too hard to seem casual. "You know, I was . . . worried when I found out you were missing." Freddie lowered his arm and then hurried on in a rush, looking at something in the distance: "I mean, Carly was worried, which made me worry -"
"Yeah, sure," I said, folding my arms. "Okay."
"So what's your excuse for disappearing?" he asked abruptly.
"Whoa, slow down." I held up both my hands. "One question at a time, Benson."
"Fine," he said. "I guess I can take a little more freaking out. What's with the watch?"
"Oh, this." I held up my wrist to show him the broken wrist watch. "Well, honestly, I was only wearing it because I wanted you to notice it."
He became even more confused. "Why, did you want me to fix it or something?"
I shook my head, staring down at my wrist. "No, I don't want you to fix it." I touched the band, where the hour glasses were engraved.
Struck by a sudden idea, I unfastened it. "Here," I said, holding it out to him. "Maybe you'll understand when you look at it closer." I was really hoping he'd remember something, anything. . . .
He took the watch from me and examined it for a moment. And then -
It was like watching it all in fast forward as I looked deep into his eyes. It was as if his contact with the watch had revealed the forgotten memories of my traveling back in time to save his life.
The flashes left his eyes, and he let out a great rush of breath.
"Whoa," he said. After another moment, he continued, "So they weren't just dreams."
My eyebrows rose in slight surprise. "You've been having dreams?"
"Every night since you left," he replied. His eyes were hazed over, like he was trying very hard to remember. "It was like a story, they continued, one after the other. . . ." Freddie finally glanced at me. "It wasn't all in my head, was it?"
The left corner of my mouth rose. "Unfortunately, no."
I gave him some time to let that sink in.
"So I believe you owe me a month's worth of whatever I want." I paused. "And there's no way you're getting out of this -"
I froze and stopped talking. Freddie had dropped the watch in what appeared to be shock.
"Freddie?" He had that faraway look on his face again.
Then he glanced at me, and sudden realization was in his eyes. He leaned forward -
And then I was flying.
I smiled against his lips, overwhelmed with joy. It wouldn't matter that no one else besides us knew what had really happened.
One thing he'd said came floating back into my mind at that moment, that the watch had been the key to saving his life. It looked like the watch had also been a key for me, a key to my happiness.
"I love you, too, Sam."
It seemed that my sacrifices hadn't all been for nothing.