Disclaimer: So, you probably know that I don't own iCarly, right? And that there will be swearing and sexuality and other immoral behaviors represented within this story? Good. That being said, it's probably not necessary for me to include a disclaimer at the beginning of EVERY chapter.
With a sigh, I dropped my head to the table, running my fingers through tousled hair. "Sam, you need to focus. We made an agreement, remember?"
"Yeah, yeah," she muttered, the sound muted by the walls of the refrigerator. Her upper body was immersed, a pair of shapely legs and the occasional scoff the only evidence she hadn't escaped to Narnia via the icebox.
"You're wasting your time," I informed her. "And mine. You're not gonna find ham in there. Or Fat Cakes. Or Peppy Cola. Actually, you're not gonna find any of your dietary staples in there."
With an exaggerated groan, she extracted herself from the refrigerator, slamming the door with such force that the appliance wobbled from side to side. "Do you seriously eat tofu?" Her nose wrinkled in distaste.
I lifted my head to glare at her. "Not by choice. Now, if you're satisfied that our food doesn't appeal to you, sit." I gestured to the chair opposite mine. "And start reading." The table was covered in folders, stacks of notes and several text books. My books, of course. As a "present" for my 18th Birthday, Sam had used hers to create hundreds of papier-mâché swans with which she'd decorated my car, my locker and my bedroom. I was still finding the stupid things. Needless to say, my fear of the freaks of nature, with their elongated necks and pointy beaks, had grown exponentially. I shuddered at the mental image.
"I can't focus without food," she whined, tearing me from my thoughts. "Just let me run across the hall for two seconds to grab something to eat, and then we c-"
"You don't need food to study," I snapped, exasperated. "And you agreed that we'd study for Calculus, so sit, Puckett."
She crossed the small room and stood before me, arms folded across her chest and chin lifted in defiance. "Actually, Benson, I don't recall there being any mention of these jank study sessions when we made our agreement."
"Nor was there any mention of breaking and entering at the Woodland Park Zoo so you could taunt the jaguars with raw meat and a water pistol, but what were we doing at 1:00 this morning?"
The scowl vanished, replaced by wide-eyed enthusiasm. "Dude, did you see the size of those fangs?"
At times, Sam was easily distracted. I had learned to use that weakness, one of only a handful, to my advantage. On this particular occasion, however, I struggled to maintain a harsh façade, but her ardor was catching, and I sensed my mouth twitching at the corners.
She sat then, if you could call it that. She hugged her knees to her chest and mashed a pair of bare feet against the table, her chair tipping precariously on two legs.
"Uh, we do eat here, you know."
She rolled her eyes. "Oh, please. Like Crazy doesn't bleach the table before every meal."
She was right, and so I ignored her, focusing instead on the wall of text before me. We were silent for a few minutes, me reading, Sam pretending to examine my notes.
Abruptly, she broke the silence. "So, when can we go to the Fair?" She had been pestering me to take her to the Snohomish Fair in Granite Falls, a relatively small town about an hour from Seattle. She insisted, of course, that attending the Fair and participating in Fair-like activities would be "beneficial to my mental state." I was beginning to think, however, that Sam was benefiting most from our excursions.
I pinched the bridge of my nose, willing the ache between my temples to dissipate. "I told you, we can go to the Fair as soon as you master derivatives." To accentuate my point, I shoved the Calculus book across the table.
She shifted her gaze to the ceiling and growled deep in her throat. "So, what you're saying is, if I can prove to you that I get this chiz" - she swiped a hand across my notes - "we can go to the Fair?"
I shrugged. "I don't see why not."
She was silent for several moments, eyes trained at the ceiling, as though she were waging an inner battle. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, she closed her eyes, took a shaky breath and spoke in a rush, her words nearly tumbling over one another. "A derivative is a function that gives the tangent of a graph at a given point, measuring the rate of change of 'y' with respect to 'x'. The derivative of any number is zero. The derivative of the function, 'y equals a x to the nth power' is 'd y by d x equals a n x to the power of n minus one'."
I stared at her, my eyes narrowed in shock and suspicion, her words hitting me like a slap to the face.
"The derivative of a sine is the cos-"
"Hold up," I demanded, flabbergasted, as I clamped a hand to her mouth.
She shifted an icy gaze to mine before licking the inside of my palm and then forcing my hand to the table. "Yes?" she hissed through clenched teeth.
"Well, w-when, I mean, why," I stuttered, searching the room for some indication that she'd stored the information where she could readily view it. Seeing nothing, I lifted a shoulder questioningly. "How do you know that?"
"Any of it. All of it!"
"I guess I'm not as clueless as you think I am. Surprise." Her tone was lethal.
"Yeah, but. . ."
"But what?" she asked, her eyes flashing. "School doesn't interest me. It doesn't mean I'm some idiot."
"No, I nev-"
"And if you ever mention this to anyone, anyone," she continued, hands flailing aggressively, "I will personally see to it that you spend the remainder of your life self-catheterizing."
"I won't, b-"
"Drop it, Fredward."
Noting her expression, I knew better than to press the matter. "Fine," I relented, exhaling heavily. "Consider it dropped."
"Good." She stood then, her features softening, and the chair clattered noisily to the linoleum. "Time for the Fair, then?"
I nodded slowly, my lingering astonishment numbing my reflexes. "Guess so." Sam was smart. That, I knew. She'd always been smart. But her wealth of knowledge on subjects so far removed from her interests never ceased to amaze me. She was an enigma.
Shaking my head, I followed suit and climbed to my feet, filling my backpack with an assortment of books while Sam gathered my notes. I knew that my mom would be angry with me for choosing to go to the Fair in lieu of studying for finals and that she'd probably assail me with one of her 'Sam is a bad influence' lectures, so I left my backpack and the sheath of notes on top of the table to serve as a not-so-subtle suggestion that I'd studied for at least a little while after school.
Sam retrieved her own backpack from where she'd left it next to the refrigerator and followed me to the foyer. I grabbed my keys from their appointed peg and set the alarm before we slipped noiselessly into the hall.
"Think Carly's home?" she asked, pausing at the door to the Shays' apartment.
"Nope. Biology review."
Nodding, she turned and headed for the elevator, and I followed closely behind. In a sense, I was relieved that we wouldn't have to respond to the inevitable question of what we'd been doing since school. If I tried explaining to Carly that I was "tutoring" Sam (though apparently Sam could tutor me), she'd think I was lying. And then I'd have to explain the entire agreement, and I wasn't prepared to do that. Not yet. Maybe not ever. Carly would freak if she found out about the anxiety attacks, and she'd probably demand that I seek professional help and, to be honest, I kind of liked pretending it wasn't a big deal.
Besides, I was dealing with it. In a way. Carly, like me, would try to seek logical explanations for my anxiety. Sam, on the other hand, ridiculed my irrationality and used brash, occasionally brutal, methods of strengthening my resolve. And, for reasons I wasn't able to grasp, it seemed like it was sort of working. Part of me wondered, though, if I was merely distracted by her presence. Amidst school, iCarly, our "jank" study sessions and the heinous activities she insisted I'd benefit from, Sam didn't grant me much of an opportunity to contemplate the future. On occasion, she'd even spent the night, claiming my bed, of course, while I got cozy with the floor. She adjusted the settings of my orthopedic mattress to her liking, drooled on my Galaxy Wars pillowcase and left crumbs in my sheets, but I guess I didn't mind terribly, because I never considered asking her to leave.
She was quiet until we had reached the parking lot. Shielding her eyes with one hand, she glanced at me. "So, where is the hunk o' junk?"
"The hunk o' junk? Remind me, Samantha - what are you driving these days?"
She shrugged, a light breeze blowing long strands of hair into her eyes. "Why should I drive when I have a personal chauffeur?" Brushing the hair from her eyes, she flashed me a condescending grin.
"A personal chauffeur whose car is a hunk o' junk," I clarified.
She appeared to consider this for a moment, her head cocked to one side. "Pretty much."
I gave her a playful bump with my shoulder, and she mimicked the motion with her backpack, nearly sending me to the ground. "You know, if you keep dissin' her," I warned, "you won't have a personal chauffeur for long."
She rolled her eyes, amusement pulling at the corners of her mouth. "Oh, I beg to differ." Spotting the vehicle wedged between a motorcycle and a busted convertible, she jogged ahead of me.
As I approached the vehicle, she was bouncing impatiently from one foot to the other and jiggling the door handle. "It's locked," I informed her.
"Yeah, no chiz. Ladies and gentlemen, Freddie Benson, master of the obvious," she deadpanned, gesturing dramatically.
Ignoring her, I unlocked both of our doors and occupied the driver's seat. Tossing her backpack to the floor, she slid beside me, lifting her arms so that I could reach across her to fasten the seatbelt. That was our thing. If I didn't fasten it for her, she'd refuse to wear it, and then I'd be issued a citation. And yes, I knew from experience.
"So, what makes it a 'her'?"
"What do you mean?" I was only half listening as I silently coaxed the engine to start.
"Well, you called the car a 'her.' What makes it feminine?"
When the engine sputtered to life, I gave the steering wheel an affectionate pat. "I don't know. Doesn't every guy refer to his car as a female?" I replied, easing the car into the overcrowded streets of Seattle.
She pressed her feet, now clad in florescent yellow flip flops, to the dash and lifted a shoulder questioningly. "Beats me."
When we had escaped the confines of the city and were heading north on I-5, the traffic thinned considerably, and Sam leaned forward to fumble with the radio dials. She flipped from one station to the next, finally settling for a rap "song" I couldn't begin to name. As she relaxed against the seat, she nodded in my direction. "You drive like my grandmother."
"Uh, your grandmother drives like a lunatic," I reminded her.
She was silent for a moment, contemplating this. "Okay. So, you drive like your grandmother, then."
That wasn't true. Not entirely. I mean, I was driving over the speed limit. Sort of. And what did she expect, anyway? My mom had taught me to drive. If it were up to her, speeds would never exceed thirty miles per hour.
"You know, we'd get there a whole lot faster if you'd let me drive," she continued.
I stole a glance at her, and she extended her lower lip in a pout. Cute but not that cute. "Not gonna happen."
The playful pout transformed into a frown. "Why not?" she demanded. "I can drive!"
"Sam, if your real-life driving is anything like your go-kart driving, I'll pass."
She groaned, raking a hand through her hair. "That was one time!"
"Yeah, 'cause we were banned from the track!"
Sam had treated her go-kart as if it were a bumper car, chasing me mercilessly around the track. She had also taken "short-cuts" across the landscaping and nearly severed an employee's foot when she failed to brake at the finish line. Not only had she been banned, but she had blamed the demolished flower beds and uprooted bushes on me, and so I had been banned as well.
"Whatever," she mumbled. "That place was jank."
I chose not to respond. Winning arguments was at the top of Sam's skill set, and this particular argument wasn't worth the effort. Of course, she misinterpreted my silence as non-verbal affirmation of her point and, therefore, maintained a satisfied expression for the remainder of the trip.
When we arrived at the Fairgrounds, the sun was beginning to set, and the lot was nearly full. Luckily, I was able to maneuver the car into a spot near the entrance. As I locked the vehicle and pocketed my keys, Sam grew impatient, grabbing at my elbow. To irritate her, I slowed my pace and glanced at my phone, noting three missed calls and seven text messages from my mother.
"Hurry," she whined, her elbow locked with mine. "If I have to pick you up, I will."
I stopped walking and shifted my gaze to her. "Really, Sam?"
She stared at me, unblinking, but I could tell when she was preparing to lunge, and I gracefully sidestepped, capturing her wrists and securing them behind her back. She gave a strangled cry and slammed her heel against my toes. When I yelped and released her, she smiled smugly. "That's what you get for trying to outsmart me. Now hurry up, or I'll stomp on your other foot."
Despite the satisfaction I was gleaning from her annoyance, I allowed her to drag me to the ticket booth. A teenager, probably younger than us, with red hair and freckles was operating the stand. The tickets were predictably overpriced but, when the girl asked how many I wanted, Sam eyed me expectantly, and so I begrudgingly asked for two.
She forced me to accompany her on an assortment of rides. Some were nauseating, some looked as though they'd been assembled with alarming haste, and some were simply terrifying. The first ride we tackled was the Ferris Wheel. Sam thought it'd be funny to rock the car from side to side while we were stopped at the very top. I envisioned myself vomiting over the side of the car and showering the people waiting below and decided it'd probably be best if I closed my eyes until we reached the ground. After that, we rode the Terminator, and she insisted it would be "beneficial to my mental state" if I held my hands over my head as we were repeatedly turned upside down. I disagreed. We reached a compromise, Sam elevating one of my hands with her own, me gripping the lap bar with the other. And then she decided it was an absolute necessity that we ride the Tilt-A-Whirl four consecutive times. Four. And we couldn't simply "enjoy" the ride. No, we had to make the car spin as fast as physics would allow. On one particularly vicious "whirl," gravity lifted Sam from the seat and chucked her into my side. The air was forced from my lungs, and I was almost certain I'd lose the kettle corn we had shared. She thought it was hilarious. In the Fun House, she declared that my warped reflection was an improvement on my normal appearance, and I learned that she was mildly freaked by clowns (though she pretended not to be), a tidbit I quietly pocketed for future use. Lastly, to my absolute horror, we had to ride a gigantic swan-boat in some lame version of the Tunnel of Love. I was antsy the entire time, and Sam shouted obscenities at the frisky couple ahead of us, and it was basically a disaster. But Sam was amused, and she giggled incessantly and, for the briefest of moments, I almost thought her amusement was worth my discomfort. Almost.
Eventually, when we'd ridden nearly every ride and I could barely stand, I stumbled to a small bench and collapsed against the wooden slats, dropping my head to my hands.
She sat beside me, curling one leg beneath the other. "You don't look so hot."
Despite my condition, I lifted my head to peer at her. "You mean, as opposed to how hot I usually look?"
She shook her head, amusement lighting her features. "Dream on."
Closing my eyes, I willed the dizziness to subside, my heartbeat to slow and the queasiness to abate. It felt like the first time I'd had too much to drink, when Carly, Sam and I had stolen beer and vodka from Pam's "secret" stash (AKA the stash she kept in the refrigerator, tucked behind a hand-written sign that read, 'Pam's Secret Stash'). I had puked in someone's pansies that time. Sam had found this absurdly coincidental and, therefore, stuck pansies in my locker every day for an entire month, often with notes that read things like, 'Pansies for a pansy' or 'What kind of a pansy can't hold his liquor?' See, she thought I'd been too drunk to remember how she kneeled beside me at the side of the road and rubbed my back as I drenched her neighbor's garden or how she helped me brush my teeth when I insisted on maintaining my bedtime ritual or that she sat at the edge of my bed and made silly conversation about Galaxy Wars until I had fallen asleep, but she was wrong. I remembered. I just pretended not to. It was easier that way.
"You need something?" She nudged me in the side, interrupting my thoughts.
"Sure." She jumped to her feet and shrugged her shoulders expectantly. "Wallet?"
"Don't you ever have money?" I asked, though I removed the wallet from my pocket and tossed it to her.
"I do. I just prefer spending yours." Of course. Silly me for asking. I watched her feet as she hurried in the opposite direction, her sandals making soft slapping sounds against the pavement.
When she returned several minutes later, she was carrying a bottle of water in one hand and a plate of fried dough in the other. My wallet was jammed between her teeth. Unclenching her jaw, she dropped the wallet to my lap and handed the bottle to me. I quickly downed the water, the nausea dissipating almost immediately.
"You want some?" she asked, reclaiming her spot beside me and waving the plate of dough beneath my nose.
"As appealing as fried lard sounds right about now, I'm gonna have to pass." She shrugged and shoved a sugar-coated wad into her mouth. Specks of powdered sugar dusted her shorts, and I brushed absentmindedly at them. "So, I'm curious. How is this" - I gestured broadly - "improving my mental state?"
She chewed quietly as she considered this. "That depends. Have you been thinking about your future?"
Well. . . no. Because I was focusing on my gag reflex. That didn't count, though. Did it? I chose not to respond. I didn't need to, really. She knew.
"Guess it's working, huh?"
"You're a clever one," I teased, shaking my head.
"Oh, don't pretend like you're not having fun," she admonished, finishing the last of the fried dough and handing the empty plate to me.
"Actually, I think I was having more fun studying."
She rolled her eyes and flicked the plate, sending a cloud of sugar to my lap. "Calculus would get you all hot and bothered."
"You know, speaking of Calculus. . ."
"Don't." She raised a finger pointedly. "That's our secret, remember?"
"So, does that mean I should nix the 'Are You Smarter than Sam Puckett' bit from the next iCarly?" I asked with a satisfied smirk.
"Shut the hell up." She pressed the sugar-coated finger to my lips, and it felt as though she had zapped me with a zillion volts of electricity, the sensation extending from the top of my head to the tips of my toes, and my body reacted in the violent manner reserved solely for Sam. The dizziness resumed, clouding my vision, something akin to butterflies fluttering inside of me, and I was fairly certain the Earth had shifted on its axis. Struck with the sudden and astonishing urge to take her finger between my teeth and remove the sugar with the tip of my tongue, I tried desperately to focus my attention elsewhere, but my eyes were locked to hers.
She felt it then. Either felt it or saw it in my eyes. And she yanked her finger from my lips as though she'd been burned.
I averted my gaze and, breathing heavily, willed my heart rate to resume a healthy pace. Why does everything have to be so complicated? I wondered. I was desperate to make sense of our "relationship," to define what I felt for her.
She was irritating, but it kind of bothered me in a way I couldn't name when she'd irritate someone other than me.
She laughed at my discomfort, but her laughter was strangely comforting.
She was my tomboyish friend who opened beer bottles with her teeth and burped the alphabet, but she was sort of incredibly sexy.
I wanted to smack her senseless yet make her feel so very good.
I couldn't credit my reaction to hormones. Not entirely. I mean, sure, I was hormonal, but I could say with absolute certainty that the Earth never moved when anyone else touched me. Like the other anomalies that occurred in Sam's presence, I chose to attribute it to adrenaline. Her pheromones elicited a nervous reaction in me that was absolutely unparalleled.
Running my fingers through my hair, I shifted uncomfortably beside her. We were silent for several moments, both of us feigning interest in the groups of people passing before us. Finally, she cleared her throat and stood. I glanced at her but, as always, her expression was unreadable.
"You wanna play a game?"
I nodded slowly, forcing a relaxed expression. "Sure." Hesitantly, she extended a hand to me, and I took it gingerly, careful to appear unenthusiastic. She pulled me to my feet, and I tossed the empty plate into a trash can before we merged with the steady flow of Fair-goers. As we passed one booth after another, I examined them, searching for a game simple enough that I wouldn't embarrass myself.
"I wonder if Zoltar's here," she murmured after a few minutes, tugging gently at my shirt sleeve.
Her eyes widened as she bunched the fabric in the palm of her hand. "Um, yeah? The fortune-teller slash wish-granter?"
She gave an exaggerated gasp and stopped walking. "Freddie. Big? Come on. It's classic Tom Hanks!"
Ah, of course. A movie in which the main character is a child trapped in an adult's body who has a trampoline in his apartment and plays with toys for a living. Not surprising that it'd appeal to Sam. "Gotcha." I uncurled her fingers from my sleeve and resumed walking. "You know," I informed her, "that's probably something that was created for the movie. It's not real."
"Yes, it is," she protested. "I've seen 'em on E-Bay." Stopping abruptly, as easily distracted as ever, she pointed to a small booth to the left of us. "How about that one?" The booth was manned by a lanky teenager, greasy hair hanging in his eyes. The game was the type where you have to knock a small group of bottles to the ground using a ball or some other object. It looked simple enough, so I nodded my agreement.
As we approached the counter, the sleazy guy stared directly at Sam. Not at her face, of course. No, to the bare skin below her shorts, the small amount of cleavage visible above the neckline of her tank top.
Annoyed, I waved a couple of bills in front of his face, but he barely acknowledged me as he snatched the money from my grip in exchange for three bean bags. "Three shots," he barked. When he spoke, I realized he was missing several of his teeth.
Sam, ever oblivious to the effect she had on the opposite sex, leaned against the counter, affording him the opportunity to stare unabashedly down the front of her shirt. "Think you can manage this one on your own?" she teased.
"Yes," I muttered defensively, preparing for my first shot. Unfortunately, I was so distracted by the creep - 'Al,' according to his nametag - and his unveiled admiration of Sam that I missed entirely. Anticipating a snide remark, I shot a warning glance in the blonde's direction, but she remained uncharacteristically silent. With my second shot, I nicked one of the bottles, but it wasn't enough to knock them to the ground. With my third and final shot, I whacked the group of bottles squarely in the center. Two toppled immediately to the ground while the remaining bottle teetered dramatically from side to side before repositioning itself. "Aw, come on!" I cried, gesturing angrily. "What is it, a trick bottle?"
Al, still staring unceremoniously at Sam, grinned and ignored the question. "You wanna try?"
"Yeah, I'll give it a shot." Right. Like Sam would ever pass on an opportunity to make me look like an ass. She smacked my shoulder. "Gimme your wallet."
I was ready to object when Al placed a bean bag in her expectant palm. "No charge for pretty ladies."
She lifted a brow derisively but closed her fingers around the bean bag. As she bent forward to prepare for her shot, Al leaned against the edge of the counter, cocking his head to the side in order to gain visual access to her backside. I had the overwhelming urge to physically remove the two teeth he had remaining in his head and/or wrap my arms protectively around Sam, though she was probably the last person on Earth in need of the minimal protection I could offer. Choosing instead to remain composed, I focused on her lackadaisical stance and the way she carelessly tossed the bag. It collided with the bottles and, not surprisingly, they toppled immediately to the ground. She turned to flash me a satisfied grin.
I said nothing but gave her the dirtiest look I could muster.
"Aw," she teased, grabbing the front of my shirt and dragging me closer to her, "don't be mad." I fought to escape her grasp, but she wound her fingers in the fabric, and I stumbled against her. "Just think of this as yet another thing I'm better than you at," she whispered, her breath fanning hotly against my neck.
I sensed the blood coloring my cheeks, but I wasn't sure if it was due to my irritation or if it was a response to her proximity and the fact that she was pressed to the edge of the counter, her back arched and the lower half of her body entangled with mine, her fingers clawing against me where she clutched my shirt. "Thanks for undermining my manhood," I muttered.
She tipped her head to the side and smiled coyly. "What manhood?"
"Funny," I deadpanned, weaving my fingers in the hair at the nape of her neck and pulling.
She gave a surprised squeak before she brought her foot to my shin. The pain radiated to my hip, but I refused to acknowledge it, and this served to further agitate her. When she lifted her leg to repeat the motion, I deftly blocked it. "Guess you're not better at everything."
She narrowed her eyes. "Here's an idea. Why don't you g-"
I became suddenly aware that someone was snapping their fingers in my face. And hers. They were Al's grubby fingers.
"What?" we demanded simultaneously.
"Pick your prize. People are waiting." He gestured to the small crowd that had gathered behind us.
"Sorry," I mumbled sheepishly as I untangled myself from Sam.
She was unapologetic as she scanned the barrage of toys, ultimately choosing a stuffed pig. Al produced a duplicate from beneath the counter and handed it to her without a second glance. Her feistiness had probably changed his opinion of her. Good, I thought.
"For you," she said, handing the stuffed animal to me. "You know, to serve as a constant reminder of my dominance over you." It was bright pink and had a misshapen snout and crooked eyes. It was ridiculous yet somehow endearing, and I smiled in spite of myself.
She waved a hand dismissively as we stepped aside to make room for the people who'd been waiting.
"So," I said, tucking the pig beneath my arm, "are you ready to leave?"
She yawned and stretched dramatically, the hem of her shirt lifting to expose her belly button. "So ready. But buy me some cotton candy first."
I rolled my eyes. "Well, since you asked so nicely. . ." I followed her as she cut between a couple of booths to circumvent the crowd.
As we searched for a vendor selling cotton candy, she tugged at the pig's crimped tail. "We should probably name him."
"Him? What makes it a 'him'?" I joked, mimicking her sentiments from earlier.
"Oh, shut it. If your hunk o' junk can be a girl, this little guy" - she poked at it for emphasis - "can be a boy." Her inclination to assign a gender and a name to a stuffed animal was kind of adorable and a bit girly and definitely not Sam-like. Not the Sam she presented most often, at least. She viewed those adorable, girly qualities as weaknesses, and so she typically hid them below the surface.
"Okay," I conceded, "it can be a boy. What'd you have in mind?"
She thought for a moment, her eyes narrowed in concentration. Finally, she turned to me, excitement lighting her features. "Bacon."
"Bacon. You're serious?"
She nodded enthusiastically, her bangs brushing her eyebrows.
"Gross, Sam. I'm not naming him Bacon."
"Why not?" she demanded. "He's a pig. Bacon comes from pigs."
"Why would you want to associate a cute stuffed animal with something you eat?" I shook the toy in her face, and she swatted at it.
"I won him. I get to pick the name."
"You gave him to me," I reminded her.
She stopped walking and gestured to the pavement. "Dude, do you wanna taste gravel?"
I raised an eyebrow. "Do you want cotton candy?"
She sighed and resumed walking. "Can't we have both?"
I ignored her as we approached a stand that had candy apples lining its countertops and enormous bags of cotton candy suspended from the ceiling. I purchased a bag, and she inhaled it as we made our way to the parking lot. In her defense, she did at least offer some to me. After she finished the last of the sticky candy, she tossed the empty bag to the ground.
"Uh, do you know how much the fine is for littering?" I asked as I retrieved the bag and deposited it in a trash receptacle not five feet away.
"Do you?" she countered.
I didn't. Not exactly. But that was beside the point. "It's high."
"Mm, how delightfully vague of you." She yawned again, rubbing her eyes. "I'm freaking exhausted." We had reached the car, and I quickly unlocked the doors. Once Sam was seated beside me, seatbelt fastened (thanks to me), she curled against the seat and closed her eyes. "Wake me when we're close," she murmured.
She was asleep within minutes, and the sound of her rhythmic breathing coupled with the hypnotic pattern of the heavy raindrops that had begun pelting the windshield made me sleepy as well. I struggled to remain focused as my own lids threatened to droop. When the Seattle skyline became visible, I sighed gratefully and reached across the seat, shaking her gently. "Wake up, Sam."
She groaned and covered her face, jamming a thumb between her teeth.
"Hey," I called, shaking her more forcefully, my eyes trained at the slick pavement. "Wake up, thumb-sucker."
At that, she sat forward and dropped her hand (and the offending thumb) to her lap. "I don't suck my thumb."
"Yeah, you do. Sometimes. Mine, too."
"I do not!" she cried, growing defensive.
I snickered at the outburst. "Actually, you do. Remember when Carly made us watch that hideous movie about the girl in love with her therapist and you fell asleep?"
"How could I forget? I nearly died of boredom."
"You were sucking my thumb then."
She wrapped her arms across her chest and shifted her gaze to the highway. "You lie."
I glanced at her from the corner of my eye. "Wanna bet?"
She ignored me, furthering my satisfaction. It wasn't often that Sam wasn't armed with a scathing reply. As we approached her neighborhood, she examined her nails, picking at flecks of chipped polish. Her neighborhood wasn't the nicest in Seattle, but it definitely wasn't the worst. The houses were small but surprisingly well-kept. You wouldn't find hobos drinking from paper bags or prostitutes adorning the corners. Sam hated being there, though I suspected it had more to do with her mother's frequent absences than the area itself.
"Think your mom's home?"
She chuckled humorlessly. "What do you think? She's dating this plumber now, so I'd imagine he's probably - "
"Sam," I interjected, "if you're gonna make a joke about his snake, please refrain."
A smile stretched across her face. "You know me too well."
I shook my head as I maneuvered the car to the curb in front of her house. "Guess so." For a moment or two, we remained silent, me drumming my fingertips against the steering wheel, Sam fingering the hem of her shirt.
"Well," she started, breaking the silence, "thanks." She grabbed her backpack with one hand and wrapped her fingers around the door handle with the other. "You know, for taking me."
"Well. . .thanks for schooling me in Calculus."
She rolled her eyes, but a small smile lifted the corners of her mouth. "Just remember. . ."
"Yeah, yeah." I raised my hands in mock surrender. "My lips are sealed."
"Good." She opened the door and stepped into the rain. It had increased its tempo, and the steady stream caused damp tangles of hair to cling to her cheeks. Droplets of water ran along her neck and disappeared behind the neckline of her shirt, and I forced my gaze to remain affixed to hers. Pulling her hair into a messy ponytail, she nodded at the backset. "Tell Bacon I said, 'good night'."
I glanced at the pig, tucked into a corner of the seat. "I never agreed to that name."
"Like it matters." She had to raise her voice to be heard over the rain. "It's not up to you."
"You can call him whatever you please. I refuse to call him that."
She nodded, arching a thin brow. "Yeah, we'll see. Night." Slinging the backpack to her shoulder, she gave a small wave before closing the door.
I watched as she sprinted across the lawn to the safety of her porch and waited until she had unlocked the door and thrown a second wave over her shoulder before I shifted gears and eased the car from the curb. On the way to my apartment, I struggled to categorize the friendship we shared. I needed to categorize it for my sanity. But every moment I spent with her was further complicating a relationship that was already infinitely complex.
To others, Sam maintained that we weren't friends, that we didn't even like each other. Externally, I often agreed. But it wasn't true. We were friends. Really close friends, actually. And we did like each other. To what degree, I was seeking to comprehend. But neither of us was willing to acknowledge that, to shift the basis of a relationship that provided such familiarity. And so we were reduced to a myriad of denials, fueled by our fear. Denial that we cared for one another. Denial that, over the course of our relationship, something highly volatile had sparked between us. Denial that our individual strengths complemented the other's weaknesses, as though we were disjointed pieces of a greater whole.
What would Sam do? I wondered. She'd never dwell on things essentially out of her control, right? And she'd never attempt to shape something that lacked definitive structure. No, she'd let it run its course, molding her as needed. Why the hell can't I do the same? I realized I was making myself anxious and decided that I needed to clear my mind of Sam, and so I mentally reviewed for my Physics final, pondered the technical aspects of the extravaganza we were planning for the final web show and practiced the argument I'd use to convince my mom that monthly visits to Massachusetts would not be necessary.
It wasn't until I was home and struggling to sleep, a disfigured pig eyeing me from his spot atop my bedside table, that I made a startling realization. I had just used components of my future as a means to clear my head. How something that had tortured my mind for months was providing sudden comfort in contrast to the inner turmoil Sam was causing was beyond the realm of rationality. And it terrified me.
"Bacon," I whispered, the sound deafening in the stillness of the room, "I think I'm in trouble."
A/N: Heyyy, guys! So, this will probably be my last author's note for a while, because I hate to detract from the storyline, but I had to apologize for the delay in posting this chapter. It's been written since the beginning of the year, but I wasn't happy with it, so I tweaked and re-tweaked it a billion times. I'm okay with it now. I think. ;)
Next chapter = Prom. And I don't think it'll be your typical iCarly/Sam and Freddie Prom story, so I hope you'll decide to check it out.
In other news, how incredible is it that iCarly won for Best Television Show at the KCAs for the third consecutive year? And that Jennette won for favorite sidekick? I think I may have definitely screamed to an embarrassing level during the show.
Lastly, who else is excited for iOMG? Less than one week, my friends! I. Can't. Freaking. Wait.
Anyway, thanks again for stopping by! Later.