The week after Carly left, the apartment was as silent as a tomb.
It had never been this quiet, ever. Everyone had their own way of dealing with it. Gibby came over once, promptly bursting into tears. Freddie avoided the apartment like the plague. Sam came over at least once a day, generally avoiding the fact Carly wasn't there, almost acting as if her best friend was just upstairs or running an errand.
Spencer fell apart.
He didn't eat. He didn't sculpt. He called every day to make sure Carly was happy and healthy and adjusting to life in Italy. Otherwise, he sat on the sofa and stared into nothingness, until it got dark and he crawled into bed.
After four days, Sam had enough. She rather rudely picked up the back of the sofa and dumped Spencer in the floor.
"You're not going to do this to yourself." She insisted. "Carly is not dead. She's just on a temporary hiatus from boring old real life. Now get up, and cook me some bacon."
Spencer sat in the floor and stared at her for a very long time.
"Because I swear to God, Spencer, if you don't pull it together you're going to make me cry and then I'll have to kill you." She bit her lip, clapped her hand over her mouth, and turned her back to him.
He stood and wrapped his arms around her waist from behind. "Sam … "
"Stop!" she screeched, her voice full of emotion. "I'm not going to do this."
He tightened his arms around her. "Don't leave me, Sam." He whispered.
She turned and buried her face in his shoulder. "I'm not crying." Came her muffled voice.
"I'm not either." He answered, although it sounded very much like he was.
After a few minutes, they both pulled themselves together, but their eyes didn't meet.
Spencer wandered into the kitchen, pulling out a frying pan. Sam opened the fridge and placed the bacon on the counter next to him.
"Eggs?" Spencer asked.
"No." Sam shook her head. "Times like this call for bacon and Fat Cakes."
She dumped her purse onto the counter. Seven packages of Fat Cakes fell out.
Spencer finished cooking the bacon. They sat on the sofa together, eating their bacon and Fat Cakes, staring blindly at a television program neither of them was really watching.
"So what's new at the Puckett residence these days?" Spencer asked, changing the subject.
"My mother has a new boyfriend. He's such a jerk that he makes the Bobby the Body Builder and Terrance the Loner look good." She shrugged.
"That's why you avoid going home." He said softly.
She frowned at him. "You've known me for ten years. When have I ever not avoided going home?"
"Why don't you move in?" Spencer suggested. "You can have Carly's room … "
Sam was on her feet and halfway across the room in a flash. "No." She shook her head.
"Why not?" Spencer stood and looked at her dumbfounded. "I hate being alone. You hate being with your mother. This would work!"
"This will not work!" She cried, her eyes flashing.
He walked over to her. She punched him in the chest.
"Ow!" He howled. "Sam? What?"
"I'm going home now!" She shoved past him, headed toward the door.
"This is your home." He called after her softly.
She stopped and leaned her head against the door.
"Just tell me why." He pleaded. "You've spent the past ten years practically living here, so why won't you make it official?"
"Because Carly's not here now." She muttered.
"Oh." He sank back down onto the sofa. "I thought maybe I meant something to you too."
She turned to face him. "You do and that's the problem!" She shouted.
"Why is that a problem?" He asked, perplexed.
"Because all those times you've teased me about having a crush on you, it was true, okay!" She fumed. "I could be around here when Carly was here because there was always Carly to remind me of all the reasons it would never happen and what a bad idea it would be! But now Carly's gone and I don't think I can be around you all the time!"
"Sam," He said softly and waited until she looked at him before he continued. "I asked you to move in. Not Gibby or Freddie or TBo. Because you're the person I want around all the time. As inappropriate as that is, I have feelings for you too."
She stared at him in shock. "For how long?"
"For a very long time." He shrugged. "I don't know, exactly. It just kind of sneaked up on me, and hit me over the head when you were dating Freddie."
"Why didn't you ever say anything?" She asked softly.
"You were my kid sister's best friend." He told her. "And I was Carly's guardian. It would have been completely wrong. And besides, why would you want a law school dropout starving artist twelve years older when you could have someone handsome and successful your own age?"
"Because mentally, I'm older than you. And you are great artist. The world just doesn't know it yet." She replied firmly.
He smiled at her sadly. "Thanks. I think."
They stared at each other for several minutes.
"We could try and see what happens." He suggested.
"It would never work." She shook her head.
"This is a terrible idea." He agreed.
"The worst. Even for you." She informed him. "And you have some of the worst ideas ever."
"Yeah." He nodded. "But sometimes they're kinda fun." He grinned.
"We're twelve years apart in age." She pointed out.
"And you're still mentally older than I am." He reminded her.
"I was voted Most Likely to Serve Life Without Parole by my senior class." She added.
"All the 911 operators know my voice." He shrugged.
They stared at each other again.
"You always believed in me as an artist. And as a person." He told her sincerely. "More than anyone else in my life."
"You didn't leave me in Canada." She smiled sadly.
"There was a reason I cried when you and Freddie kissed and made up." He said.
"There was a reason Freddie and I broke up right after you and Jenna did." She answered with a smirk.
"My butt is not flat." He folded his arms.
"No, it's rather nice, actually. But I couldn't say that and freak out the kiddies, now could I?" She laughed.
"We can play Assassin whenever we want." He suggested.
"We could live on bacon and Fat Cakes." She gestured toward the kitchen.
"What will Carly say?" He looked at her seriously.
"That she wants the two people she loves the most to be happy?"
Sam crossed the room, pulled Spencer to his feet, stood on her tiptoes, and kissed him.
"You wanna go for a ride on my motorcycle?" She offered.
"I was hoping you would ask when I gave it to you." He confessed.
She took his hand and led him toward the door. "Come on Big Daddy. Momma's got some things to teach you."