just tonight, I will stay, and we'll throw it all away.
when the light hits your eyes it's telling me I'm right.

just tonight, the pretty reckless

(i)

Everything pulses.

The noise around her, the heat from the people pressed against her, the blood in her veins.

She throws her head back and lives.

(ii)

Her fingers find his on a blustery February morning, her gloved hands sending warmth hissing into his skin.

"Freddie," she mutters, their sides touching. "Aren't you cold?"

"Yeah," he says distractedly, tapping on the screen of his phone. "It's like minus six."

She shivers, trying to fight the urge to move closer.

"Freddie," she says again, and he sighs.

"What?" And he's never looked at her like that. Her stomach clenches.

"N-nothing," she mumbles, and she walks to school without him.

She didn't realise she was losing him.

(iii)

Some days he makes her laugh.

But lately she's terrified to talk to him because she feels like he doesn't want her there (and nothing's ever frightened her like that before).

(iv)

One day Sam asks her about that party some senior is throwing and, for once, she says yes.

Everything's too loud, too hot, and she practically has to crawl past two freshmen grinding into each other on the stairs.

The rooms on the first floor are cooler, quieter, and she considers staying up here until Sam's mom arrives with her truck and her nonplussed expression (after Sam vomits in the back seat).

But Shane and Sam find her and pull her downstairs and thrust a cup into her hand and no, no, she just wants to go home-

And her favourite song is pounding through the house.

(v)

When Carly dances that night, she lets loose and moves, never tiring, never wanting anything to make it easier (because it already is).

There is no alcohol in her blood and she feels proud when she's able to slap Sam's tenth drink away from her.

(vi)

Freddie doesn't speak to her on Monday and she cries in the second-floor bathroom the whole of lunch period.

(vii)

Sam glares at the only male part of their trio for most of History, holding Carly's hands under the desks. Freddie ignores her, but Carly notices the muscles in his back tensing every time she takes in an unsteady breath.

(viii)

Spencer is smoothing over a clay model when she gets home that evening, tongue poking out of his mouth.

"Hey, kiddo," he calls from the kitchen where he is working. "How was- whoa."

He's already rushing over to her, and she slumps into his arms.

"Carly," he murmurs, and her chest is hitching and she should be done crying now. "Carly, what's the matter?"

"Freddie's," she starts, but then she has to breathe. "He's ignoring me and saying all these mean things and I don't know what I did and..."

She tucks herself into her brother's arms and sobs.

"Do you want me to talk to him?" he says, and she detects an edge to his voice.

"N –no," she chokes. "I'll try again tomorrow."

"Again?" he says, and she didn't realise that maybe it wasn't all her fault until now.

(ix)

Sam has enough and punches Freddie in the stomach on Wednesday in the cafeteria.

Most students just look on, but some are perceptive enough to see the rift forming in the famous trio.

More catch on when Freddie gets up and shoves her hard.

Sam falls backwards, emitting a shriek of surprise. There is a unanimous inhalation of shock throughout the large room, and everything goes silent. Carly hurries over to Sam, hands shaking.

"Why did you push her?" she says, voice trembling and not meeting his eyes.

"She punched me," he says, as if he is speaking to someone very stupid indeed. "Did you not notice?"

He is sneering at her and this isn't her Freddie. (oh God, where did he go?)

She tries to ignore the lump in her throat and helps Sam up. Her best friend is breathing shallowly from anger and Freddie flinches a little.

"You asshole," Sam hisses. "Stop breaking her fucking heart, you loser."

And then she drags Carly back to their seats, not catching his face crumple.

(x)

iCarly is tense and awkward on Friday, and Freddie bolts as soon as he mutters his ending signal.

(xi)

Sam has never hugged Carly this much and it worries her. She likes the affection, but she knows that Sam is sad too. She'll never admit it, but there is a tiny part of her buried deep in her heart that cares about Freddie too. And they both miss him. A lot.

Freddie smiles and offers witty remarks and gives the best hugs ever and smells amazing (like boy and mint and chai lattes) and it just isn't the same without him.

(xii)

Carly goes to another party one Saturday and this time she does manage to get spectacularly hammered. The beer tastes gross but she doesn't want to feel anything anymore.

When she wakes up the next morning she thinks she remembers a pair of brown eyes and strong arms lifting her.

(xiii)

She doesn't ask him about that night and if he was at that party and why he suddenly decided to help her. She makes herself believe that he felt bad, and slams the door on any hopeful wonderings (that he might still care about her).

It's not like they're speaking again and she still has to restrain Sam whenever they pass him in the halls.

Some mornings she opens her eyes and just wants to shut them again. Some mornings she shoves it (him) to the back of her mind and wrenches herself free of the warmth of her bed.

She doesn't stop going, going, going. It distracts her, keeps her (in)sane and stops her concentrating on the dull ache in her chest.

She sees Sam and Spencer frowning at her over her piles of textbooks and folders, but ignores them.

(xiv)

When he loiters near her locker on a mid-March afternoon, she considers acting as if she doesn't want to talk to him or look at him.

(But he knows her better than she knows herself)

"Hi," he blurts, standing stiffly. "I – Hi."

She turns to stare at him. "You already said that."

"Yeah," he says, and he looks at the ground. "I – uh. I wanted to ask you something."

"Okay," she says, and she needs to know what the fuck he wants from her. "Go ahead."

"Are we," he begins, toeing the tiled floor. "Still. I don't know. Friends?"

"If friends suddenly start hating you and ignoring you for no reason," she replies hotly. "Then yes."

He swallows. "I've been pretty stupid."

"What did I do?" she asks thickly. "I didn't – I didn't understand. You were so mean. I thought I'd done something to hurt you."

His gaze flicks upwards for the tiniest moment.

"What did I do?" she asks shrilly, so that two sophomores glance over at them.

His mouth opens and closes.

"I can't do this here," he whispers. "I'll – I'll text you, or something."

"Freddie," she breathes, and she can feel tears on her cheeks. He won't look at her.

"I'm – I'm sorry," he mumbles, and then he presses his mouth to a teardrop on her skin. She grips his shirt, and their faces are inches away.

"N-no," he stammers, grasping her shoulders and pushing her away. "I can't do this."

She slams her locker door shut and leaves him alone.

(xv)

When she was five years old she wanted to grow up and be a pretty princess, and meet a handsome prince and run away with him into the sunset.

Now she wonders why she ever wanted to grow up; she'll never be a princess and her prince is fading faster and faster into the background.

(xvi)

He texts her a week later.

Fire escape tonight? Please.

(Carly Shay could never resist a boy with good manners and grammar.)

She lets her fingers reply, and when her phone buzzes again she has half an hour to figure out what on this earth he (and she) is going to say.

(xvii)

The escape where he hid that one time when everyone knew he was a kiss-virgin is much the same; dark, dreary, damp, like the sun forgot to shine there. Her clean pink converses step lightly onto the concrete, and she grimaces when a smear of dirt appears on the white leather of the shoe.

"It'll wipe clean," Freddie mutters from his chair, his head turned awkwardly towards her. His expression remains neutral.

"Yeah," she says quietly, and the dirt on her pretty shoes doesn't matter anymore.

"Hi," he says, again; like, does he have to make it even more awkward?

"Hello," she murmurs, going over to perch herself on the ledge. She notes the slight movement of his brow; he could care that one slip and she would fall and die-

"I," he leans forward, and she can smell that scent of him that she's missed for a month. "I'm sorry. That – that I hurt you."

She stares out at the city, watching the orange light of the streetlamps illuminating every raindrop on the roofs and sidewalks. "What made you act like that?"

She feels his eyes on her. "I thought it was a good idea."

"That makes no sense."

"I..." he tugs on her hand. "Look at me a second."

She turns her head, and he's giving her that look again. (like she's his last breath of oxygen)

"How long has it been," he asks slowly, playing with her fingers. "Since the taco truck thing?"

She frowns. "Since we kind of went out, you mean?"

"Yeah," he nods. "Since then."

She thinks back to those three days that were like a dream.

"A year, maybe," she says. "Why?"

His eyelids flutter shut again, and he leans his forehead on hers.

"I've loved you," he murmurs, and her heart jumps in her chest. "For four years. I've never minded that you didn't love me. It was okay, because you let me spend time with you, you hugged me and you appreciated me. You defended me when Sam said mean things or beat me up."

Oh God, she thinks. Oh God, he's waited too long. That's why-

"But when I pushed you out of the way of that truck and you thought I was a hero and you kissed me, this little hope inside me got stronger, Carly. I couldn't believe you liked me. After all the times you said no, it didn't make sense for you to like me."

"Freddie," she pulls her hands away, but he grabs them again. "Freddie, why wouldn't it?"

"You never even made it seem like you did before then," he says exasperatedly. "Don't you get it? It just came out of nowhere."

"Did you forget the dance?" she blurts. "After the girls' choice dance and Austin and Malika? And we'd had a horrible night and you asked me to dance and I put my head on your shoulder?"

"I'll never forget that," he breathes. "But why-"

"I'd never felt that safe before, Freddie," she confesses timidly.

He stares at her, and their heads are still pressed together and his mouth is so close and for God's sake, is he going to kiss her or-

He tugs her into his lap the second their lips collide, taking her away from the ledge. She grips the hair at the back of his head and loves, loves, that his hands rest on her back and his mouth is soft and warm and he tastes even better than he did a year ago.

His arms are strong around her, clinging to her and pressing their bodies together. This kiss is sloppy, desperate; she needs to feel him, feel him respond to her and touch her and set her skin alight. Their mouths break apart for just a moment, and she's panting against his cheek and he can barely breathe at all.

"Take off," she says. "Your shirt."

He quirks his eyebrows in his signature smirking expression but complies, and she leans back so he can tug it over his head. Then she cups his flushed cheeks in her hands and-

Wait.

Wow.

Where did those come from?

She stares down at his bare chest, eyes wide and roaming over the toned muscles there. He goes pink under her approving gaze.

"Stop it," he murmurs, tilting her chin upwards so he can kiss her again. She is immediately distracted by his tongue sweeping into her mouth, and decides that feeling his naked skin is better than anything.

When his fingers dip into the curve at her side and a bit under her breasts the alarm bells are going off in her head and there's a voice saying are you really going to do this and the answer is a resounding yes.

(xviii)

The fact that their first time is out on a cold fire escape somewhat unnerves her. She always pictured it to be on a big white bed with fluffy pillows and flickering candlelight.

But the location doesn't matter, not when his fingertips trace every nook and cranny of her body or when he finds that special place between her legs or when he gasps her name over and over.

It's Freddie. She can't think of anyone better to share something so special with.

(xix)

Her shoes are very dirty and her clothes are crumpled, but she sits on her bed with them all night.

He kisses her in the hallway between their apartments in the morning, and he tugs her into the back stairwell at school before their separate classes too. He says nothing, but his eyes are fierce and full and she knows this means everything to him.

When they sit too close together at lunch Sam's eyes widen slightly and she smiles into her plate of ham.

(xx)

Gibby has a party and the music is good and the beer is low in alcohol content and everyone's laughing. Freddie has his hand on her hip, his fingers sneaking under her spangly shirt and teasing the soft skin there. She leans against him, sipping her beer and catching his gaze through her eyelashes.

She's chugging her fourth drink when he starts laughing, and she spots Gibby wrestling Sam into his arms so they can slow-dance.

"Come on!" he whines, grabbing her wrists. "One dance, please."

"I don't slow-dance, you nub," she growls. Carly giggles and Freddie squeezes her slightly.

"But you look really pretty!" Gibby pleads, sticking his lower lip out and looking slightly ridiculous.

Sam scowls. "Stop it, you are not cute."

"My mom thinks I'm adorable!" Gibby exclaims indignantly, and Freddie chokes on his drink. Sam seems to grapple with her conscience and her dignity before huffing.

"Fine," she grumbles, wrenching his hands to her waist resting her hands gingerly on his shoulders.

Carly feels Freddie take the drink from her hand and lets him lead her towards the mass of swaying couples. He turns her around and pulls her closer, resting his head on hers.

"Hi," he murmurs as she winds her hands around his neck. "You're beautiful tonight."

She mumbles her thanks, closing her eyes and allowing him to wrap his arms around her hips.

"I never really explained everything to you," he says quietly, and her eyes open again. "Can I?"

She nods, and he breathes in.

"I couldn't fall out of love with you," he says. "I tried. I tried to date girls and distract myself with homework, but it never did anything. So I thought by removing you from my life – I thought it would hurt less."

She touches his cheek.

"I'm sorry," he says, and he's sad and upset and how could she still be mad at him?

"Hey," she whispers, stroking her thumb over his mouth. "It's okay, Freddie."

"I shouldn't even have thought that was a good idea," he babbles, hands pressing into her back as if he wants to imprint his touch there. "I'm so sorry."

"Freddie," she silences him with her hand and her smile. "You said that already."

He looks at her for a moment and then she feels his mouth kissing her palm.

(xxi)

She doesn't know if she's going to marry him, and she doesn't know how long they'll be together, and she doesn't know if he'll ever let her bring a scarf into his bedroom when they just need to touch and feel each other for a while.

But she does know that she loves him, and he loves her, and that's enough for now.

(end)

and here I am, watching the clock that's ticking away my time.
But I'm too numb to feel right now.


This is for the Croctober fic challenge over at the creddiefans forum. Hope you enjoyed! Please try to review as well as faving, and this is a oneshot. No need to put it on Story Alert. :)