A/N: This story took a turn into angst without me planning for it to.
"I just—I need some consistency."
"I need to know that you're not gonna wake up in the morning and feel differently."
"And I can't give you that. Nobody can."
-500 Days of Summer
Sam likes to give mixed signals, likes to keep people guessing, because they'll never really get her, and that's the whole point.
But sometimes, very few times, Freddie Benson comes pretty close. And it's only natural then for her to, as Sam Puckett, throw him off course, create a whole new labyrinthine, and burn any leftover bridges – anything that could be used as a clue, because whether she likes to admit it or not, the nub can be pretty smart most days.
Paranoid? Maybe. She likes to think of it more as being safe.
They're at the Groovy Smoothies one day and Freddie's sitting on the other side of the table and it's only the two of them (damn it—why her?) and he's boring her to death, yet again, with his incessant and endless nerd talk when she notices the girl behind them has been eying him for the past few five ten seconds.
Freddie's oblivious of course. In fact, it seems he's always oblivious to girls crushing him, other than Carly of course, but she guesses that just comes with being tech geek and all – too much time creating long-term relationships with laptops instead of an actual human being of the opposite sex.
Anyway, that's beside the point. The point is the girl is staring shamelessly at him, the funny glint in her eyes, you know the one girls only get when they might be a little more than just a bit interested in a certain boy. She snorts, because please, is this chick for real – and no this has nothing to do with the funny feeling stirring in the pit of her stomach or the unconscious tightening of the hand underneath the table into a fist.
"And then I told Will maybe we should use the digitally enhanced pictures we took—"
"Hey." She nearly barks, nearly, she's got it under control so it's fine.
He gives her a deadpanned look, probably because of her tone, "What now?"
"Lean over." She commands.
The lifeless look in his eyes turns into a slightly confused and funny expression and he blinks once, twice, before saying slowly, "Uh…why?"
"Just do it!" Her tone is a bit more desperate, a bit higher.
"Aw Sam," he whines but leans anyway, still so unbelievably oblivious, it's pathetic, "I really don't appreciate when you show me new moves you've learned on me, in public—"
She leans in quick, gives him a rushed but clean peck on the lips, and keeps her hand on top of his, where all – including Miss Googley-Eyes, can see it on the table.
He seems frozen in place with shock, eyes wide and dark, and she has to suppress the roll of eyes and loud sigh that is so much needed at this moment.
"You can move now," she reminds him dryly, patting his hand in mock encouragement and he steals a quick glance to his left and right, as if to see if anyone's just seen what she's just done to him, just to make sure it actually happened or something.
She can't help the release of the sigh this time, because seriously.
"Wh—What was that?" his floundering words turn into an incredulous demand.
She shrugs, getting up from her seat with the last slurpie of the smooth he bought for her, and grabs her backpack and leans over one last time, this time to get her mouth against his ear, "Don't look now, but the girl behind you was totally checking out."
Of course, his head does a one-eighty. She rolls her eyes.
"She's not looking anymore, moron. She saw me kiss you. She thinks you're taken."
He turns back around, dark accusing eyes and hissing mouthing, "What the hell, Sam! She was pretty!"
She shrugs again, smiling enveloping her entire mouth, and pats him on the shoulder reassuredly "She was too good for you anyway."
"Hey—" now he's all riled up and insulted and ranting and if he didn't look so cute, she'd stick a wet finger into his ear to get him to shut up, "let her be the judge of that! I mean I just don't get you sometimes, Sam. Is it really that much fun ruining my—
She swoops down one last time and kisses his earlobe softly and he stops cold once again. From the corner of her eye she can see beach blondie eying them and the satisfaction is just too rewarding, "Meet me in the studio later, okay Freddio?" She says it a little louder than she needs to, walking away to the door and leaving Freddie at a loss of words.
It's a Tuesday and it shouldn't matter because technically it could be any Tuesday, except it isn't so that's the difference.
She lets him hold her hand once as they walk down the street but only because she feels like being nice, nothing more, and what the hell, she's feeling all around generous she guesses, because she even lets him kiss her once, twice, thrice—
He has her back against the wall, hands in hands, fingers entangled, foreheads touching, and the laughter on her lips dies away as he looks at her like that. Any other day, she'd tell him to stop and sucker punch him if he didn't listen, but today's today, and maybe she isn't so afraid anymore, maybe she's ready, maybe—
"Five, four, three, two," he counts down slowly, quietly, and her heart is beating so hard against her chest it feels like dying but it's not dying she knows, it's waiting, been waiting for far too long.
"One." She finishes for him, because she never wants him to have to say it, never, it's practically tradition by now, the only one she'll ever be okay with.
They meet somewhere in the middle and it's this unexplainable rush, like moving much too fast, thoughts running wild in your head, reckless syncopating heartbeats and his tongue dives over and over again into her mouth, his fingers in her hair, her hands fisted into the pockets of his jacket and this—this is something, that's all she knows.
She makes a funny gurgling sound out of pleasure or something and feels his knowing smile against her lips. What a loser, she scoffs to herself, pulling him closer regardless, fists still perfectly at home in his pockets thank you very much.
"We've got a spark," he remarks amusedly, walking towards her casually, intentions clear as day in his dark teasing eyes. She sits perfectly still on her stool, spine straight and rigid, face masked and apathetic.
She rolls her eyes, "Whatever you say, Frederico." She tries to push it down as nothing (but she knows better than anyone else, that it's something).
"Hey," He puts a hand on her shoulder before she can completely move it back towards the computer screen, and she doesn't know where he's gotten this newfound confidence, but if it's because of her letting him hold her hand in public, she's got a lot of work to do, because this confidence thing is not going to work, straight up.
"Hm?" She tries to remain blasé about all this but each second makes it a bit harder, with the way his eyes study her fearlessly.
"You don't fool me, Puckett." He murmurs it so softly it's almost unspoken. He moves to kiss her cheek but she moves her head (on purpose) so his lips find hers instead and she mumbles back against his, "I know."
This is them. This is them when no one else notices.
She's in love with him. She knows it. Has known it since – god, it doesn't even matter, all that matters is she knows, feels it willingly – finally.
It's the way they react the same way, with the same words, simultaneously. It's the way she can slap him and he'll know what she's thinking or the way he can pin her down and know just what she needs to calm down, can stop her before she does something she'll regret later. It's the way he talks back, banters with her and knows just where to stick it right back like no one else, the way their tempers can explode like dominoes falling back on one another, but when all is said and done, they're still completely cool with each other. It's the way he cares but doesn't like to be overtly obvious about it either.
It's the way he is her best friend and gets stuff, stuff like the fact that she's not entirely ready to label them, daddy issues, mommy issues, trust issues and all ("Just know I'll always be here, Sam. Just know you can always trust me.), but can still make her feel oversized moths fluttering in her stomach when he comes near her or looks at her from across science class and keeps her gaze there with his.
It's the way she's a girl and he's a boy and it's just pure chemistry.
"I think…well, I might uh be—" a nervous laugh, "wow, this is just some crazy chiz—but I think, possibly I could be—"
Love. It's like being a hundred feet high above the ground and afraid of heights, but jumping regardless, because that's living – that's falling.
She finds his hand, needles her fingers through his, like water through sand, "Freddie?"
They share a smile and then, "Oh and Freddie, another thing."
She turns back towards him, "Me too."
He's still sleeping on the couch when she wakes up with a start. She can't help laugh a little at the restful look on his face as she crawls out of his arms.
She sits there on the coffee table in front of him for a long time, studying his sleeping figure and feeling this unexplainable restlessness, this frenzy of energy and inherent need to do something.
She takes the sharpie off the table impulsively, opens the cap and starts scribbling along the skin of his arm. He mumbles something in his sleep but doesn't wake.
When she's done, she looks down at her handiwork, head tilted, soft half-smile, before quietly getting up and making her way to the door.
When he wakes up and finds the words, 'Hey dork, how goes it?' written across his wrist, he'll be fuming and call her in an angry rant about how the stuff won't come off for days now and how could he possibly explain this to his mother—but then he'll stop mid-sentence and hit himself on the head for not realizing sooner.
It's her way of saying, I love you, dork.
She follows him to New York City because it's inevitable, always has been, and look how the tables have turned, him leading, her following. She doesn't let herself think about it for too long though, because then the doubts start creeping in and she hates those doubts.
She camps out in his dorm all first semester, practically becomes family with his roommates after the first week, and one day while she's schooling one of his classmate at a burping contest, she catches his laughing eyes on her.
"Entertained?" she smirks, starting to laugh as well.
He shakes his head slightly, pulls her head closer and kisses the side of it as his roommates around him cheer him on, pipe in boisterously, things like, "Dude your girlfriend is officially awesome, where can I find one of these!"
"You really are, you know," he whispers against her hair as she elbows the closest guy in the chest.
She laughs and kisses him in response and this, this is something and it's starting to not feel as scary as it used to once.
"This is fun," she plays with the collar of his jacket, their noses just centimeters apart, enjoying the funny, a dazed look in his eyes, "You're fun."
He laughs, at a loss of words, "Thanks?"
She pulls him closer and kisses him soundly, right there in the middle of the Pear Store, as the passerbys and tech nerds around them stare, wide-eyed (and some sputtering).
And this really is, fun that is – being in love, completely and madly.
It starts slowly, seeps in so subtly, at first she barely notices. And then it hits her spontaneously, during random moments, while they're sitting at a coffeehouse, Freddie's nose stuck in between lecture notes and big sleek textbooks, or when they step out for dinner in the frigid winter cold and he zips up her jacket for her out of habit, gives her a quick peck on the forehead and a playful grin afterward.
It starts following her around more and more and then suddenly—
She's claustrophobic. Feels like she's been forced into a box against her will and she won't be able to get out if she doesn't think of something quick. She hates the feeling, it's a familiar one. Call it a bad habit but it's always in these moments she feels like getting up and getting away, as fast as her legs can carry her the most. Her heart is bursting to escape.
Caring for someone this much, it was nice, but truth be told she always knew this change in mood would come. This absolutely terrifying feeling of suffocation from commitment, from relationships, from love, it's entered her life time and time again, since she developed those mommy and daddy issues, since Melanie left her for a scholarship from that stupid boarding school, not one wavering glance back, since that one day in eighth grade Freddie caught her eyes in the school hallway and kept her gaze with his the entire time.
It's snaring her in, smothering her into the pillow and sheets that smell entirely too much like him and her feelings, till she starts to resent the sentiments almost.
Freddie finds her stuffing things like a madman into a duffel bag when he returns from class one day.
"Uh," he smiles slightly, confused, "What are you doing?"
"I'm going to Carly's," she says briskly, not looking at him as she continues to pack.
There's silence, a discomforting silence, during which even a pin drop could probably be heard, but she ignores it, ignores him and continues moving around, hands grasping anything and everything.
"What?" He finally gets out, voice numb of emotion.
She doesn't turn around, "What's so hard about this? I called up Carly and I'm leaving for the next flight—"
"—But Carly lives on the other side of the country – in California, Sam." His voice gets louder with each accentuation of a word, like he's talking to a child or something.
"So." She throws back callously, defense walls up and ready, "I can't go see a best friend when I feel like it? Is that what you're trying to tell me, Freddie? This is my life and I hate to break it to you kid, but you aren't the center of it or anything—"
"I don't expect myself to be," he cuts in louder this time, sarcasm dripping from his voice, "But sue me for wanting a word or two in advance about things like this, not just a "Hey, I'm gonna be leaving now, see you whenever, peace out—"
"You're not my boyfriend." She intercedes quietly.
There's dead silence once again.
"Are you kidding me right now?" He finally says, barely above a whisper, creases in his temple, eyes full of disbelief and helplessness, arms out by his side. "You live with me, we sleep in the same bed, you steal my toast and eggs every morning, we pool in our money together—Jesus Christ—we're practically married—"
"Don't." She stops him sharply, "Don't even think about using that word." She looks away in disgust, just thinking about the word making her sick.
There's a pause and then the sound of her zipping her bag completely and then a, "I'll see you around, Freddie," as she calmly walks out the door and leaves him behind.
It's only when she's sitting in the terminal, waiting, does she realize her hands have been shaking the entire time.
She's just never been good at routines, she guesses.
Carly opens her door to find her, red eyed, clothes rumpled, hair disarrayed, and pulls her into her arms wordlessly.
"Oh Sam," she breathes into her hair, eyes troubled as she rubs her back reassuredly, "Why do you always do this to yourself?" she asks sadly.
"It just felt like I couldn't breathe anymore," she chokes out, the words getting muffled against the fabric on the brunette's shoulder.
Carly holds her hand the entire night and doesn't ask a single question because that's what being best friends is all about.
"You should talk to him about this at least – it's only fair, Sam." Carly, always so wise, so sensible, so supportive - always looking out for her best interests, such a perfect, pretty girl.
She wishes she was more like her sometimes, because Freddie—Freddie deserves a girl like her.
"Whatever, he's an idiot." She gruffly replies, not turning her head away from the television screen.
"You don't mean that." She returns evenly.
She doesn't respond.
She can't breathe for a second, her lungs struggling for air, and she splashes cold water against her face to get her body to start functioning properly again but it feels pointless, everything feels pointless, god when did she become so melodramatic, it's all his fault, it's always his fault.
Why does everything have to be about him?
Carly finds her on the bathroom floor, leaning against the bathtub, face and hair wet.
"I miss him," she says, voice strange and far away, like it isn't even her speaking.
Carly gazes at her knowingly, kneels down next to her, nodding her head and running a hand through her tousled blonde curls, "I know."
Carly drives her to the airport, helps her with her duffel bag, gives her a tight hug and a light squeeze of the hand, and with one last encouraging goodbye smile, she says gently, "Be brave, please? You always were so brave."
She always was, wasn't she?
He comes back to his dorm room to find everything as it has been the past few weeks – except for the tiny little fact that she's back and sitting on the edge of his bed, legs dangling that is.
He drops his bag to the ground at the sight of her, his feet stuck in place near the threshold of the room.
"Hey Freddio, how goes it?" she asks, smiling wryly and trying to put on a brave face.
The silence seems to lapse between them and then she laughs nervously, "Aren't you gonna say something?"
"What do you want me to say?" He throws back, voice lifeless.
"I don't know," she starts carefully, slowly getting off the bed, "Hi. How are you? You know, the usual formalities you dorks like to go through—"
"Stop." He says, voice harsh, "Don't even try to joke around at a time like this."
He glares at her accusingly, eyes full of anger, as he continues, "How does someone—how do you, just leave, ignore my calls, avoid me, pretend I don't exist for a couple of weeks, and then just hop back on a plane, come back and act like everything's perfectly normal?"
"What do you want me to say?" She asks quietly, hopelessly.
He looks at her expectantly, a gleam of incredulity in his eyes, "Um I don't know," his eyes are dark and sardonic "let me think: maybe that you're not going to pull crazy stunts on me like this again whenever you feel like it," his words are full of spite, biting at her, "that you're not going to lash out at me, push me away then make a run for it every time—"
"I got scared." Her voice is feeble and small and she doesn't want to cry, she doesn't want to cry, god she doesn't want to cry because of him – because of anybody.
"Everyone gets scared!" he blows up, "look around you, you're not the only one with issues, okay?"
She nods her head a bit too hard, forces a laugh that turns into a sob.
His eyes soften and he takes a step closer, tucks a lock of golden hair behind her ear, "Look, this is about us now. I can't handle this every time, I can't pick up the pieces all by myself every time, I need—I need to know this thing between us won't change, that you'll stick around and not just give up and leave every time things get a bit too tough or scary—"
"And I can't give you that." She speaks up, still staring intently at the ground, tremors in her voice, "I can't give you a forever," She takes a shaky breathe and looks up, "Especially me, that's never been me – consistency, stability, commitment."
His eyes are glazed as he steps back like he doesn't even know who she is, did he ever?
"That's not fair," he remarks quietly, "How do you expect me to live like that, knowing any second you could just walk out this door again and not come back—"
"But I love you," her voice cracks, "Here, right now, I'm in love with you, Freddie—"
"—but that's not enough. " he cuts in, words listless and unforgiving.
There's silence and nothing more and she closes her eyes tight, wishes this was not real, that this was all made up in her head.
"So what?" she takes a gulp of air, tries to keep her ground, "Are you breaking up with me then?
He looks at her with a torn expression in his eyes, "We both know it's always been more complicated than that."
"Than what?" She spits out bitterly.
"Labels, break-ups, make-ups," He bites on his bottom lip a bit, eyes pained and full of regret, "I'm sorry, Sam."
That's all there is, that's all there can be.
It's a Tuesday. He breaks up with her on a Tuesday.
They can't go back to just being best friends – after everything, they just can't.
Or maybe it's just she can't.
Carly moves to New York City and it's about time too.
Sam tells her so, frank and to the point. Carly laughs and shakes her head, "Yeah, I get it, Sam. I kept you waiting. Now help me with these boxes."
It only makes sense that the two of them would move in together
He re-enters her life but not by her choice, more Carly's. He's still her other best friend after all.
At first it's awkward and she tries to keep out of the apartment whenever Carly's having him over but planning around him becomes far too difficult and not worth it, at least in Sam's opinion, after the third or fourth time.
She opens the door to find him on the opposite side of it.
He looks unsure at the sight of her and did he really never expect for them to encounter each other at any time during his visits to their apartment, "Uh, hi." He waves slightly (wow, really?), nervous smile and yep, still a complete dork.
"Hey." She cracks a dry smile.
Carly has a new boyfriend – who she's completely head over heels in love with by the way.
The guy kisses Carly at the door and she giggles. Sam glowers and tries to ignore them but could they really not have done this on the other side of the door?
When he leaves, Carly's still humming to herself, starry-eyed and foolish, and she can't help it.
"Love's completely overrated," she mutters, loud enough for her to hear as she passes by the couch.
"Mhm," the brunette singsongs, eyes laughing and glassy, "Whatever you say, Sam."
Life goes on.
It has to.
Carly gets engaged. Carly gets engaged and asks her to be her maid of honor and shit, when did they get so old?
She can't help wondering where the years went, if she wasted enough of them to accurately label herself as a failure by now. She thinks about it long and hard, when no one is looking. Thinks about if she'll end up all alone for the rest of her life, by her choice of course, always her choice.
Carly nudges her shoulder as they're watching some late night show. "Hey Sam?"
"It would be nice if you brought someone with you to the wedding, you know?"
Her throat goes dry and it's been years now but she still can't picture holding anyone else's hand, "I told you, I don't do relationships."
"Sam," Carly protests softly, sighing to herself, "When will you ever stop being so stubborn."
Never, she thinks to herself, It's always meant to be her downfall.
The engagement party is a small affair. Okay, not really, but still.
Freddie's eyes catch hers and he waves slightly and she can't help but laugh to herself at the gesture. He sees her laughing, his eyes instantly melting and mouth turning into that familiar smile, the one she used to kiss when they were still—
Something feels stuck in her throat but she ignores it.
People start to leave, the steps of footsteps and laughter and conversation lessening, but they remain there standing near the railing of the rooftop, at the very corner. It's getting late but there's so much to catch up on it seems like.
It comes out suddenly, spontaneously.
"We were always a losing battle, you know?" she whispers, slightly drunk, slightly heart broken, still, old memories washing up like sea shells behind the lids of her eyes when she closes them briefly and breathes in the dusky city air.
"But that was the whole point," he remarks resolutely, studying the rectangle cut-out lights in rows and columns on the building across them, "Life's all about fighting losing battles till you actually win one."
She shudders, her hold on the bottle in her hand a bit tighter, as she realizes that he's grown into this new skin of maturity in her absence.
"Isn't that so?"
Why does everyone have to grow up? Why does everyone have to move on?
"Yeah," she rasps, trying to clear up her throat desperately, as she opens her eyes finally, "It is."
Everyone, except her.
"Just so you know," she mumbles, looking away from the towering skyscrapers, the ones that seem to be touching the sky and keeping her attention on them for a while now, and towards her hand in his as he leads the way, the laughter crumbles away from the cusps of her mouth, "I never woke up one morning and felt differently."
He stops in place, right there in the middle of the sidewalk and looks at her, eyes dark and solemn. She shrugs, muffling her mouth against the sleeve of her jacket to stifle the sobs. He puts his hands on either side of her face suddenly, holds her against his chest and kisses the side of her temple, burying his nose into her golden halo of hair.
Her whole body shakes against his and being selfish always felt so good, so easy, so safe, but it's left her with nothing, absolutely nothing.
She wakes up to a throbbing headache, groaning in bed. There's a creak of the bed, as the weight of someone presses down against the mattress in front of her.
She doesn't open her eyes, doesn't care to at this point, because her head hurts like a—
"Some aspirin and water."
She opens one eye blearily, only to suck in a shallow breath through her mouth, because him being here, sitting in front of her, with two white pills and a cup of water means last night's late night drunk confessions was not just a dream like she had hoped it had been.
He's quiet, eyes serious. She takes the glass and aspirin from his hands wordlessly.
He hesitates, something in his eyes worrying, before taking something else out of his pocket, "Here – just so we're completely clear." He says simply, giving the piece of paper to her. The paper looks battered and worn, like it's fought in a thousand losing battles. The thought makes her laugh.
"I don't know why I carried it around with me for so long." He stops, looking pensive, "I suppose a part of me always knew I'd give it to you in the end."
He gets off the bed, eyes steady on her for a second, before he turns around and walks out the door.
How are you? I hope everything's going well. Okay, who the hell do I think I'm kidding? This is you and me we're talking about. Screw formalities.
But seriously, Sam. I can't stop thinking about you. I know, I know, at this very moment, while you read that line you're probably rolling your eyes and scoffing this off as something you would expect from 'the loser'. But Sam, I just, I just don't know anymore.
You and me – we were different, you know? We were something. Through all our fighting and squabbling and frustrating each other to no end, we made it work, for a while at least. And you know I thought we got over the final bridge when we both stopped saying "I hate you," to each other when we really meant "I really really like you" for all those years, but I guess I spoke too soon. I always do.
I don't know if we were made for each other, to be quite honest. I don't like to lie to myself or fool myself into thinking we were. If anything, we probably were completely wrong for each other, and maybe that's why this was for the best. But I can't explain it, something feels off without you. It's not about the kissing or arguing, the history of our forevermore complicated relationship, from kind of best friends to possibly more. It's about being enough for each other. I guess we weren't.
All I know is something's missing now, without you here, ruining my life or making it amazing, either way. You're just this great ball of energy, always in this constant need to be in motion, doing something. But you know, it's always felt like I could never keep up with you – and I'll let you in on what always scared me when we were together. That. You getting bored and running off, not one look back. You could come back every time, sure. But what if one day you didn't? What if one day you got lost along the way and didn't care enough to find your way back – to me?
For a while it was good, great even, and then you just took off – my worst nightmare coming true. I tried to not let it get to me. I mean it was you – Sam Puckett, what else should I have expected. And you came back, finally told me you loved me, and not in the "Sam" way like you usually did, but the normal way. Still, it wasn't enough for me. You left and I could never forget how that felt.
Did I push you too much or ask for too much? Was that it? I can't stop going over it again and again in my head - the breakdown. I can't think of anyone else to blame sometimes but myself. Except, I know it wasn't only me.
How do people fall in love, Sam? How do people start to love, want, need a person so badly, they start living a bit differently without even noticing, living a little bit less for themselves and more for the other? How do people go on when it feels like a part of them is missing, even if the missing is for the best? How can love be such a paradox?
I want to tell you to come back, I want to tell you to come back and never leave me again, but you're right: you can't give me that, nobody can. Nobody should have to.
But I hope you know that no matter what happens though, I meant what I said in the very beginning. Do you remember? You probably don't. Just know I'll always be here, Sam. Just know you can always trust me.
She runs, she's not sure where or to who, but she let's her legs guide her wherever they please. That's all she's ever known how to do after all.
She finds him just where her heart expected to find him, standing in front of the Central Park Pond, throwing bread crumbs to the ducks and their ducklings, in complete solitude. He always liked to come here. She could never figure out why or what his deal was with those stupid ducks for that matter.
"Did you mean it?" She calls out, heart pumping, and she's never felt more alive .
He looks back, smiles tiredly, eyes expectant, "Back then? Every word."
She can't breathe, "And now?"
Waiting, her heart is always waiting.
She lets him hold her hand the entire way back home but only because she feels like being nice.
Did anyone else totally see Sam and Freddie having a 500 Days of Summer kind of relationship. Yeah…just me then?