A/N: So I woke up at three in the morning with this fic in my head and I couldn't fall asleep until I dragged myself to my laptop and wrote it. I haven't had anything do that to me in a long time. (Are you happy, Mr. Schneider?) I'm not really sure WHAT this is. A oneshot-type thing, is all I can say about it. Takes place almost immediately post-iLove You. I'm actually really torn on whether or not I think they ACTUALLY broke up (I guess we'll find out next week!) but this, here, assumes that they did break up at midnight.
Don't come up to the studio, Sam texts Carly, as Freddie is grabbing their two favorite beanbag chairs and putting them next to each other. Carly's response of Why not? goes unanswered, because by this time Sam's Pearphone has been left, forgotten, on Freddie's tech cart. To Carly's credit, she doesn't come up to the studio, though Sam does think she sees a shadow out in the hall one of the few times she bothers to open her eyes.
The alarm on Freddie's Pearphone goes off at midnight on the dot and he swears and jerks like he's been burned. In the quiet of the studio, it's too loud, and it sends both of them crashing back into all the things they were trying to forget. Freddie fumbles with one hand, pulling the phone out of his pocket and mashing the screen until the alarm shuts off. Once it goes silent, he lets it fall to the ground with a clatter, and somewhere in her still-hazy mind Sam realizes that Freddie usually babies that phone like it was a living thing.
Freddie presses his forehead to hers, gently. Both of them are holding their breath, and when Freddie finally lets his out Sam can hear it shake. One of his hands goes up to her face, palm pressing warm against her cheek and fingers wrapping themselves carefully in her curls. His other hand seeks hers in the dark. They clutch each other's hands like lifelines, and for once Sam thinks Freddie's grip might actually be stronger than hers.
Sam isn't sure how long they stay there like that, both of them silent. Their next words are going to break everything and they know it. There's an unfamiliar burning, prickling feeling in her eyes, and she becomes aware that there are the beginnings of tears pooling there. She hasn't cried in front of anyone except Carly (and once, Spencer) since the fourth grade, and she wills the tears back to where they came from. When she blinks, though, one catches on her eyelashes. It hangs for a moment. When it lets go, it falls and slides down her face, to where Freddie's hand remains on her cheek. The moisture seeps into the cracks and lines on his palm and he pulls it away, just for a second. Then his hand comes back, thumb brushing over the damp spot on Sam's face. She feels the tears pooling again and grits her teeth, forcing them back, but she's losing the battle and she can tell.
In the silence, the sound of two tears plopping onto the beanbags is noticeable, and Sam thinks they must be hers until she hears Freddie suck in a shaky breath.
"It's too soon," he says, and she could kill him for speaking even though he's right. It's got a myriad of meanings to it, but they're all true. She takes a breath to respond, realizes with some surprise that she's shaky, too.
"Yeah." Sam makes an attempt to control her voice but the word more or less bursts out of her and her breath catches and she stops a sob that manages to make it halfway up her throat and comes out as some sort of bizarre, strangled sound instead. A similar sound comes from Freddie, and then he's pulling her to him. She lets him, shifts so that her back is to him and so that she tucks perfectly into the space between his arms, his chin atop her head, the way they've done so many times in the past few weeks. It feels natural, now, and it hits her how weird the next few days are going to be. Not slipping her hand into his in the hallway, not kissing him after an argument, not using his lap for a pillow while he does homework on the Shays' couch.
Freddie shifts his head to the side, using his chin to brush away some of the hair from her ear. "When we're ready," he whispers, causing her hair to tickle her ear just a little, "it's going to be amazing."
"When?" she repeats, quietly, and he tightens his hold on her, arms (she can't believe how strong nerdy little Freddie Benson has gotten) folded across her chest and stomach.
"When," he confirms.
In the morning Carly finds them curled up on the same beanbag chair, and she's about to shake them awake and ask what, exactly, they thought they were doing falling asleep in the studio and did they realize that Freddie's mom is going to kill every single one of them when she realizes Freddie didn't come home last night and she's too young to die at the hands of a crazy murderous nurse. Then she notices the tear tracks dried onto each of their faces and she changes her mind and heads downstairs to make Sam's favorite breakfast (meat).
The next few days are weird for everybody, with half-uttered "baby"s and hands stopped mid-reach and careful measuring of distances. But Carly sees Freddie "accidentally" spill his drink on the chemistry book of a guy who was trying to get a little too close to Sam, and a girl from the soccer team who just happened to be hanging around Freddie's locker a little more than necessary winds up with a mild concussion when she gets three golf balls to the head during practice. (Carly can't figure out why the girl even stuck around after the first one, but to be honest no one ever accused her of being particularly intelligent.) It's so obvious that all Carly can do is roll her eyes and tap her foot impatiently. She wants nothing more than to just trap them in a room somewhere until they start kissing each other again, but they've always done things their own way and she's admittedly never quite been able to figure them out.
So when she comes home from a date one night to find them on her couch, watching a horror movie, with a blanket conveniently concealing their hands, all she can do is laugh.
"I thought you were going to help Sam study for her math test, Freddie," she accuses as she grabs a can of Peppi Cola to take upstairs with her.
"He was," Sam confirms, the flash cards on the coffee table supporting her claim, "but I convinced him this was a better idea."
"Convinced, my butt," Freddie grumbles. "She was holding my phone over a jar of pickle juice." But he's laughing, and so is Sam, and they're looking at each other like there's no one else in the room. And then Carly's laughing, too, because she really will never understand them, and maybe that's okay.
"Just make sure you guys lock the door when you leave," she says as she heads for the stairs, shaking her head.
"Who says we're leaving?" she hears Sam yell after her. The contrast of Freddie's loud laughter against the screams coming from the movie just makes Carly laugh again, and she yells at them to turn the movie down because she's going to bed and she doesn't want to have nightmares, thank-you-very-much. There's the sounds of a scuffle and then Freddie shouts triumphantly and Sam cries "Give me that!" and then the movie gets quieter, the better to hear their bickering, it turns out. Some things never change. But unlike when they were younger, it's tinged with playfulness and punctuated by laughter.
When they're ready, Carly thinks, tossing her purse on the nearest surface as she enters her room, it's going to be amazing.