Freddie leaned over the side wall of the fire escape, his hair blowing gently in the warm night air. From his position, he had a clear shot of the city streets. The lights. Buildings. The cars running along the wet pavement, heading toward whatever destinations awaited them. It was a great spot to think. Perhaps not the most picturesque location in Seattle, but Freddie thought it suited his needs just fine.
He focused on a red sedan that came to a rolling stop in front of a traffic light. As he sometimes did, he wondered about the nature of the person who drove a random vehicle. Whoever was manning the wheel had lived a complete life up until now. They grew up, went through various stages of development. Made friends. Lost friends. Forgot friends. That person, whoever they were, had complete memories of entire periods in their life. He wondered what it would be like to know that person. To know their memories, their life.
It was the sort of thing that he wondered if other people thought about, although he'd never say so out of fear that it would come across as weird. Freddie simply watched as the traffic light switched to green, and the small sedan trundled away. For a brief moment, they had been connected, but now as the car continued on its journey, they would most likely never have contact again.
Ugh, Sam's right. I am a nub. Freddie rubbed his arms with his hands, feeling a sudden chill come over him. Some of that dampness must have still been clinging around; after all, it did storm earlier that evening.
Startled, Freddie whipped around to find none other than Sam Puckett, reclining in the lawn chair he had set up, grinning at him. Freddie had to wait a moment to catch his breath.
"Jesus Sam, don't scare me like that." Still smiling, Sam hopped off her seat and closed the distance between them. When she came nearer, a lone ray of moonlight caught her face. A lump formed in Freddie's throat. He was struck very hard by how beautiful she was.
"Sorry Freddie," Sam said. Freddie's heart stopped for a different reason. The use of his proper name, her sincere tone of voice, that honest-to-goodness genuine no-sarcasm smile she was wearing. Not normal Sam Puckett behavior. At all.
"Yeah..." Freddie answered, somewhat suspiciously. He rubbed his arms again.
"Here." Sam pulled off the hoodie she was wearing and handed it over to Freddie. "You look like you could use this." Freddie fingered the fabric tentatively.
"O-kay." He hesitated. He held one sleeve of the hoodie with both hands.
"Something the matter?" Freddie peered at Sam. Her smile only deepened, yet every feature and characteristic of her right then reflected pure sincerity. Freddie's arms promptly fell.
"Yeah, something's the matter! The last time you spoke consecutive, unsarcastic sentences to me was in this exact same spot last year!" To Freddie's surprise, Sam laughed.
"Guess I'm in a good mood!" she exclaimed, chuckling girlishly. Her attention went to the hoodie in Freddie's hands. "Put it on Fredapus."
Freddie sighed. He still didn't understand what was going on here, but Sam's casual delivery of a taunting nickname soothed him a little. He stretched the hoodie by the bottom and slid it over his head. Somehow it actually fit him. This was surprising, considering that these days he was definitely bigger than Sam. Then again, perhaps she got it on the large side.
"Congratulations. You're now officially a member of the Ridgeway varsity soccer team." Freddie glanced down at the front of his new hoodie. A rendering of a soccer ball. This must have been part of the official warm-ups the school bought every year.
"Who did you get this from?" Freddie reached his hand behind his back. He stuck his fingers up as high as possible to feel out the letters of whoever's last name was there. He was again surprised when he made out a 'u,' then a 'c,' then a 'k.'
"Rip-off Rodney. He's dabbling into counterfeit sports wearables."
Freddie shot a sarcastic glare at Sam. "I'm wearing a hoodie that says 'Puckett' on the back?"
"Yup." Sam clapped Freddie genially on the upper arm. "You're from my camp now kid." Once more a, for lack of a better word, cute, grin lit up Sam's features. "So what are you doing up? I thought you were going to bed early tonight."
"I woke up and couldn't get back to sleep." Freddie thought for a bit. "I think a siren woke me up. Maybe a fire truck." For the first time during their encounter, Sam donned a very 'Sam'-like look.
"We live in the city Fredward. You hear fire trucks all the time." Sam cocked an eyebrow.
"Yeah, well this one woke me up," Freddie replied, sounding agitated.
"And it drove you all the way out to the fire escape?" Freddie put his hands in his pockets. He looked evasively at the ground as he stepped around.
"I was doing some thinking too."
"This wouldn't have anything to do with earlier when Carly said she wanted to get back together with you, would it?"
Freddie's mindless ambling immediately stopped. He hadn't said anything about that to anyone. Carly must have talked to Sam about it either before or after she talked to him. After weighing this, Freddie tried to appear unaffected by Sam's revelation. He shrugged.
Sam's gaze went to the side for a moment, then back to him. "Wanna go somewhere?" Freddie frowned.
"Wh – Sam, it's late. What could we possibly do?" It was Sam's turn to shrug.
"I dunno, walk around and stuff." Freddie crossed his arms. He was staring at Sam in a very shrewd sort of way.
"Wait a minute, what are you doing here at the Bushwell? You went home after school; I thought you were staying there tonight." The blonde adopted another unmistakable 'Sam-like' expression.
"Dude, it's like you don't know me at all. When do I expectedly spend the night at my own house?"
Freddie conceded the point. "Okay, fine. Lead the way." Sam slung an arm around him.
"As you wish," she said. A light-bulb flickered to life inside Freddie's head. He pushed Sam's arm away, grinning smugly at her.
"Okay Sam, out with it. Or should I say Melanie?" To Freddie's disappointment, this didn't seem to shock Sam. On the contrary, she found it rather amusing.
"You figured that out?" she laughed. Freddie scoffed.
"Yeah. I'm not stupid." Sam's eyebrow rose. "There's no way you're Sam. The real Sam would never willingly be this nice to me for this long. So nice try, but I caught you." Silence.
"Are you sure?"
Sam's eyebrow remained elevated. Slowly, her lips formed a shallow u-shape.
Licking it clean, Sam dropped her sixteenth and last bone into the large paper bucket. Freddie looked incredulously at the sheer amount of fried chicken the blonde had just consumed, and could only come to one conclusion.
"Okay, I believe you. You're Sam."
"So what's the deal?" Sam and Freddie were progressing through the empty sidewalk, each sipping from fountain drinks they had bought from 'Schneider's Late Nite Chicken Bucket'.
"With what?" Freddie could practically hear Sam's eyes fly skyward.
"With you and Carly, Nubulous!" Freddie was quiet at first. He simply sucked on his soda.
"I don't know," he said. Sam wrinkled her nose.
"You don't know?" she asked, like he had just said something really stupid.
"Yeah, I don't know!" Freddie was starting to get agitated. For some reason, he didn't want to talk about it right then. Not that night. Not with Sam.
"Come on Freddie." That warm, genuine, and almost disturbing sincerity that emanated earlier from Sam had returned. She placed a hand on his shoulder, which he could barely feel from under the thick hoodie. "Talk to me."
Sighing, Freddie reached to remove Sam's hand from his shoulder. "Sam, why are you acting so–" Freddie's eyes widened. "Whoa, you're freezing!" Freddie hastily whipped off the hoodie and shoved it at Sam. He felt the cold air greet his bare arms. He wondered when it had gotten so chilly.
"Freddie, I'm fine!"
"No, you're not. Put that thing on or you're going to get sick." In response, Sam wrestled Freddie to the ground, and literally stuffed the hoodie over his head. She lingered from her position on top of him, staring daggers.
"Don't play doctor with me," she warned in a steely tone. There was a tense moment where their faces were merely a foot apart. Sam's eyes slid south from Freddie's, settling on his lips. They remained there for a few seconds before turning upward. Sam hopped off Freddie.
"Get up Fredward." Freddie stuck out his hand.
"I'm not getting any help?" Sam chortled.
"Nope." Mumbling to himself, Freddie went to his hands and knees, then his feet. He brushed off the hoodie and pulled the rest of it down over his torso. The pair resumed walking. They did so in silence for a while, until Freddie eventually spoke up.
"I don't know what to tell her," he said. Sam looked at him quizzically.
"What do you mean? You loved the girl since the day you met her." Freddie kept his profile facing her. "I mean, look I understand why you broke up with her before. She was into you for all the wrong reasons. I think you made the right decision then. But why are you hesitating now?"
"'Cause maybe I'm in love with someone else!" Freddie exclaimed suddenly. He stared intensely at Sam, almost like he was willing her to comprehend. The blonde gazed softly back at him. For the longest time, neither said anything. Freddie felt his nerve began to wither. He averted his attention.
"You should consider it," Sam said. "You never know, it might work out." A pang welled up in Freddie's chest. He wanted to tell her. He wanted to tell her so bad. "Hey, this place look familiar?"
Freddie's anxieties melted away when he saw the shadowy shape of a familiar building. He snorted. "You led me to school on a Friday night?"
"I don't know, I haven't been paying attention to where we're going," Sam said. Her disposition had changed to decidedly girlish. She stopped walking, with Freddie halting behind her in tow. They regarded the building quietly. "We first met there. Remember that?"
"Yeah," Freddie grumbled, though in a fond way. "If I remember correctly, you took one look at me and said that for some inexplicable reason, you wanted to kill me."
Sam laughed. "I still kinda do."
"Oh yeah?" Freddie got Sam by around the shoulders and gave her a playful noogie, knowing full-well that she was bound to retaliate. When she didn't (and just laughed, like she was his best friend in the world), he was stumped. He wanted to shake his head. This girl. There was just no figuring her out.
Sam seemed to pick up on this. "Want to make one last stop?"
With her hair, eyes and lips glowing at him from under the starlight, surely, she was the most lovely thing he had ever seen.
"I can't believe they're still open." Freddie took in his surroundings from his vantage point at the table, near the entrance to the Groovy Smoothie. "It's," Freddie glanced at his cell-phone. "One twenty-three in the morning."
"I think they just started staying open late," Sam said. "Probably to compete with that other place that opened up."
"The Lucky Lemon?"
"That's the one!" Sam pointed a finger at him. She took a sip of her drink, eying Freddie while she did so. She smiled, that same sincere smile she had been wearing all-night.
"Like your smoothie?"
"Yeah," Freddie droned. He didn't try to hide it anymore. He couldn't take his eyes off her. Sam's head gave a slight shake, though her mouth was still curved in a grin.
"Why are you staring at me like that?" Freddie was gone. He had officially lost contact with the human race. Houston, we have a problem.
"You're just like you are in my dreams," he muttered. "I'm starting to think I'm in one." Sam leaned over the table toward him, ever the more beguiling.
"It's not a dream," she said. Freddie's heart froze when Sam leaned in even closer. His breath hitched in his throat. He couldn't move.
"Dance with me," she said, seriously.
I can be fragile, I can break, in, two...
The opening chords and lyrics struck Freddie like a blow. The song. The memory. It had reversed. He watched as Sam slowly backed away from him, and made her way to his chair. He got up. Not of his own accord, for now his body was moving independently from his mind. All he knew was that when he followed her onto the floor, he felt her guide his hands to her waist. She held onto his hands for a while, and then, gently, drew her arms over his shoulders. The intimacy in this was unlike any he had ever experienced.
And if you feel my love, just let it show,
And if you want my heart, just let me know.
"Do you like this?" Sam said in a husky voice. Freddie's voice was reduced to a croak.
"Why are you doing this?" he breathed. His eyes glazed threateningly. He shook his head. "If you don't mean it...if this is all an act..." The only thing he could do was keep shaking his head. Somewhere, deep down, he always knew she was like this. The way she was tonight. But now he was afraid to believe it.
"It's not an act," Sam whispered. "I want it just as much as you do. I wanted to bare myself for you. Just this once." Her lids squeezed to a shut. "But after tonight...things will be different."
As abruptly as it started, the song ended. The lights in the Groovy Smoothie switched off. Through one of the windows, Freddie made out a tree limb blowing in the breeze.
"What's going on?" Freddie whirled around. The room was positively empty. He noticed movement out of his periphery and saw Sam heading for the door. "Where are you going?" She looked back at him. Tears filled her eyes.
"We have to go home now Freddie. You. And me."
Freddie hurried out the door after her. He seized hold of her arm.
"What's wrong?" he commanded in a hurt voice. "Did I do something? Say something?"
"I took it too far," Sam said. Gently, she freed herself from Freddie's grip. "Give a second chance to Carly, won't you?" With that, she took off down the street.
"Sam?" Freddie called. It had no effect. She kept on running.
"Sam!" At first, he feared the worst. Her form only dwindled, becoming smaller and smaller. Then, when he least expected it, she stopped. Although he couldn't be sure, he thought her heard some form of cry from her. The next thing he knew, she was tearing back, running toward him at full-tilt. Freddie went to meet her. They stopped only inches away from one another. For a moment, he saw Sam shrink back. He feared she might run away on him again.
Sam seized Freddie's face in between two icy hands and plunged her lips into his. Freddie was blown away, overwhelmed at first by the cold coming from Sam and the air around them, then the warmth. The warmth overpowered the chill and swept into every crevice of his being.
"I love you Freddie Benson," Sam said when (she) pulled away. She traced the outline of Freddie's jaw with her index finger. "I always have."
She felt his face one last time, and left.
"Sam!" He ran after her, but a fog had materialized which obscured his vision. "Sam!"
This time, she didn't come back.
Freddie shot up in bed with a strangled cry, heart pounding. He huffed and puffed as he struggled to collect himself. Numerous beads of sweat had popped out on his forehead. Never in his life had he felt so alert upon waking. He let out a long breath and closed his eyes. Wow. I've never had a dream like that before. Freddie jumped when he felt fingers caress his forehead. His eyes snapped open.
"Mom?" Freddie's mother had pulled over a chair, and was sitting next to Freddie's bedside. Somehow, he had missed her when he first woke up, though now he could hardly see how he could have.
"What's going on?" Freddie glanced at the alarm clock on his nightstand. It read '10:12am.' Something was wrong. His mother never let him sleep in late like this.
"Shhh," his mom said. Freddie frowned. "I didn't want to wake you." A chill went up Freddie's spine. The tone of voice his mother was using. Her expression. She looked serious, but he could make out something that didn't belong there. Pity? Freddie took a second look at her position, and he had the feeling that she had been waiting there for a very long time.
"Wh-What is it? I don't understand. What's going on?" The look his mother was giving him compelled Freddie to stop asking questions. He saw what were indisputably tears rim her eyes. And then slowly, ever so slowly, she laid her hands on his shoulders.
"It happened while you were asleep," she whispered, her voice shaking. Freddie's brows furrowed even further.
"I don't..." he trailed off. His mother's hands massaged him gingerly.
"Sweetheart," she began. She was on the precipice of an almighty breakdown. "Sam died last night."
There was a crack in the universe. Everything, his hands, his feet, his arms, his legs, his mind, they all went numb. It washed over him like a wave, though he couldn't feel or understand what had just been revealed to him.
"It was around nine o'clock," Mrs. Benson went on in a very calm voice. "The storm. It doesn't happen very often but...well, they think that's what caused the fire. Mrs. Puckett wasn't home so she's alright. But Sam... ...she was in the house at the time."
Freddie stared out the window. He was lost in the blueness of the sky, the brightness of the sun. He could even hear birds chirping, though they sounded alien and far away from him.
"I'm sorry Freddie."
Freddie was jarred out his trance. His features hardened. "No." He turned to his mother. "No, i-it must have happened later I, I was with her last night." Mrs. Benson's face fell.
"Sweetie, you were having a–"
"It wasn't a dream. She said, it wasn't a dream!" Freddie stumbled out of his bed, hitting the floor. He struggled to stand up, but the room was spinning.
"Freddie!" Mrs. Benson's son just waved her off. He felt around for the wall, and put his hand on it for support.
"I, I, I gotta go."
Freddie crawled/stumbled/sprinted out of his room, not paying any further attention to the pleading calls from his mother.
The Groovy Smoothie was closest. His burst through the front door, nearly falling in the process, and soared at the register.
"T-bo!" Freddie screamed. T-bo was startled at first, but then regarded the boy's hysteric appearance with sympathy. He heard the news on the radio this morning on his way to work.
"Freddie-man, listen I'm so–"
"You guys are open late now, right?" This caught T-bo off guard.
"I don't get you."
"You guys are open now. LATE. On Friday nights. I was here." T-bo shook his head, confused.
"No Freddie, we closed at eleven like we always do."
"N-n-no!" Freddie stammered. "That's impossible, I was here. I..." He ran over to the trash can. "I put my empty cup right in here after we finished." He peered inside. Nothing was there. "Someone must have already changed it."
"Freddie," T-bo pleaded. He didn't know what this was all about, but he could sense that somehow, the boy was only causing injury to himself. "We change those at the end of the day. Now, I know you weren't here yesterday."
"The Chicken Bucket," Freddie mumbled. He hurtled out the door.
"Kid I don't know what you're talking about."
"We were HERE!" Freddie insisted. "We ordered sixteen pieces of fried chicken, and two fountain drinks."
"And I'm telling you, I didn't see you or any blonde-haired girl. Besides, we close at twelve am. There's no way you could have been here any later than that."
Her house was the last stop. He should have gone there first, but it was the farthest away. Once he saw it, once he saw for sure that it was still intact, then he'd be able to prove that it wasn't all in his head. That it wasn't all just a dream.
He saw the tower of smoke rising above the trees as he rounded the corner. Dread filled his stomach, but he refused to acknowledge this as any certainty. Smoke could mean anything. The closer he came however, the worse the feeling became. He couldn't handle it.
No no no NO NO.
It came into view all at once. Everything was black and burnt. Part of the north and south walls remained, coming together in a v-like shape. The old house was completely gutted out, a grotesque, tortured corpse. And it all smelled like death.
Freddie fell to his knees as he saw what was left of the place. The squad cars. The fire trucks. The caution tape. His vision became blurry.
You said it wasn't a dream. You promised.
He collapsed face-first onto the earth and wept.
He leaned over the side wall of the fire escape, his hair blowing gently in the warm night air. He was so different than the last time he stood here. Whether it was real or not, he was a totally different person now.
When he was himself again, he came back home. He knew that he probably worried everyone sick. It was a stupid thing to do. It was a childish thing to do. He knew it too while it was happening. He knew she was dead the instant his mother had told him.
Carly was waiting for him when he returned. She flung herself at him as he came down the hall and they broke down in each other's arms, with Spencer joining them a second later. It was all arms and legs and tears on the eighth floor of the Bushwell.
They hadn't found the body yet. It would take them a while to sort through all the debris, but they were told that they most likely would find something.
Mrs. Puckett had been notified early that morning. She had not taken the news very well. She was currently at the hospital, under heavy sedation.
Freddie sighed as he rested his chin on the wall. His gaze fell to the cars below. Driving cars seemed so ordinary now. He wondered again what it must be like to be one of them. To not know have these thoughts, this heartache.
"Oh Sam." Tears silently streaked down his cheeks. "Why did you have to go?"
He hung his head in misery. He would give anything, anything, just to have one last moment with her.
An icy wind brought Freddie to a full stand. He rubbed his arms, teeth chattering. He could see his breath misting up in quick bursts.
He didn't move a muscle. The cold, that ethereal cold was all over him now. Covering him entirely. Smothering every inch. It lingered there, every bit as motionless as he was. When he moved to the left, he felt the cold move with him. When he reached out his arms as far as they would go, from his wrists onward, he could feel past the edge of the cold, into the warm. He brought his arms back. Once again, they were in the cold. It was focused only on him.
"It's you. Ahhhh..."
Warmth pressed into him. It flooded every crevice, a thousand times more powerful than it was the previous night. It weakened and empowered him simultaneously. The love, the overwhelming love, he didn't know where it ended and where it began.
It was too much. Truly, it was so wonderful he could no longer bear it. He fell backwards, though it didn't hurt. As his head hit the floor, and as he slipped off into unconsciousness, he knew it was her.
Freddie awoke an hour later, wearing a gray warm-up sweater with the name 'Puckett' on the back. It was one that was never made, that no one could ever explain. The soccer team had never ordered any that year. Freddie would keep it the rest of his life. And on warm nights, for the rest of his days, he was greeted every so often by a cold breath of air. Which he knew was her
AN: Happy Halloween.
Disclaimer - I do not own iCarly, it's characters, nor any other shows, characters, music, and/or movies that may be referenced.