[I saw three ships]
To: Keine
From: korel.c.
Fandom: iCarly
Threesome: Samantha Puckett/Freddie Benson/Carly Shay
Title: Rise To Fame
Requested Element: Threesome, not triangle. First time fics are great, but I would love anything with this pairing. I'm not picky about the ages of the characters if smut so long as they're older than 13. I'm also a fan of Freddie being somewhat angsty and unsure of how well he fits in the relationship. Also, I'd prefer more Carly/Sam interaction but an even balance between all three is appreciated as well (but please, no 'mostly Sam/Freddie or mostly Carly/Freddie'). Oh! And Sam has to stay in character so her picking on Freddie is basically a must (not required if it doesn't work in the story, but I just don't want Sam being all lovey-dovey with Freddie either, more accepting sure but not lovey-dovey).
Warning: author chose not to use standardized warnings; graphic lemon/sex, interesting grammar/capitalization/imagery (all intentional)
Summary: icarly lasts until when they thought it might last, their end of high-school, that far and no more. this is what they are afterward.

icarly lasts until the three of them are seventeen-going-on-eighteen, in their final year of high school. although their audience has grown up with them, and new audiences are joining all the time, efforts to keep their show clean are becoming more difficult by the day. it's not sam that swears first on live podcast, oddly enough—it's carly; she drops the f bomb (albeit quietly), but numerous parent groups ring in to complain. icarly is a groundbreaking podcast, after all, and many children watch and emulate them.

the official end of icarly was meant to be after graduation, as the three of them went their separate ways, and they planned for it.

the unofficial end of icarly was the second week of the third term of senior year in high school, when carly kissed a girl—sam—on live podcast, and very much so enjoyed it, and freddie either didn't pay attention or was too busy gaping to turn off the camera and claim 'technical difficulties'.

lots of parent groups rang in this time, and a number of them boycotted the show; banned their children from watching it. what really made icarly fall apart, though, was the number of perverted teenagers that flooded the forum, asking them to do it again, or maybe go further. freddie banned them. sam teased them. carly ignored them. the point was, though, that even more parents banned their children from watching.

then sam and freddie had an almighty fight, and things got tense. every week, the quality of icarly dropped bit by bit, as sam didn't look so much at the camera and instead focused on sucking up to carly; something that freddie didn't like so much, the male teenagers loved, and parents banned their children from watching.

so in a way, icarly's shutdown was in part entirely sam puckett's fault, but in the years ahead neither of the other two blamed her at all.

they did make it to graduation. they did have one last podcast, which they advertised widely. they bought extra bandwidth, got everything ready.

the server still crashed a week before the podcast was due to go on, purely because of the number of hits. they bought more bandwidth. again, a day before. more bandwidth. and even through all of the fights, the final podcast was their best, and the servers held all the way through, which was fantastic.

the servers then crashed immediately afterward, but that wasn't really their problem anymore.

left in the room with the camera turned off, freddie kisses carly softly, and then sam, slowly, lingeringly, and walks out of the shays' apartment—walks out of his girls' lives.

sam kisses carly, long, lingeringly, gropes her, and holds her in a bone-crushing hug. she leaves with a wave and a smile. carly packs up, stares blankly at the ibook freddie has left behind, goes up into her room, and cries.

[intricate liaisons]

the three of them, despite their parting and their ending up in entirely different colleges in entirely different cities, seem to follow each other all their lives. they all end up in huggert, ohio, at some point or another; they leave entirely different impressions on the city.

carly shay, as always, shows up on time. when she is twenty, huggert is the setting of a national drama that captivates the nation. movies begin to be filmed there, music artists record in the city. she arrives at the period when arts in huggert are at their highest, and she slams straight into celebrity. her brief infamy at the end of her podcast career provides her with a springboard into the performers' scandal, and her girl-next-door personality lands her with acting jobs in the theatre there, weeks before she is picked up by a major talent scout and catapulted into hollywood fame. paparazzi who scan her background try to find her co-stars, sam puckett and freddie benson, but both of them seem to have gone to ground and utterly vanished.

the reason for this is: freddie benson has taken a two-year trip to europe. bearing a camera, he takes pictures of not the landscape or people, but situations that have a decidedly tragic tint. or a melancholy one. perhaps it is something in his outlook, influenced by his compulsively overprotective mother, but he has an eye for it. with his photographs taking europe by storm under pseudonym, and many rural people willing to hide him, freddie benson is not findable.

when she is twenty-two, sam puckett shifts to huggert university. she hangs out in places where paparazzi would not go. the dirtiest, broken-down bars are her casual locations for a night out; she bunks in a marginally-clean apartment on a lumpy pallet a few minutes from campus. her degree is nothing that society would expect from a woman—but the circles of woodworking still close around her when paparazzi close in.

freddie benson finishes his europe tour when he is twenty-one. carly shay is an american star, and he watches her debut movie in a grungy theater just south of london bridge. his pseudonym's photograph thereafter, of carly shay smiling on camera juxtaposed with a much earlier photograph of her true smile, catapults carly to european fame. only carly realises that this photograph is a private one, that freddie took of her pre-split. her next film's smile is not as sad as the first—she knowsthat somewhere, freddie is still watching her. maybe he even still loves her.

sam puckett watches freddie benson's photograph of carly shay being displayed on her friends' walls. everywhere she turns, there is carly shay's expression, winking at her, reminding her of the way carly moved under her and kissed her, carly's nails scoring her back, carly's legs parted by sam's knees. she goes further into drink, takes to the comedy circuit, lowbrow and dirty humor. she gets a bit of a name for herself, but she uses a pseudonym, like freddie ("valiant"). the paparazzi come calling, of course, now that she's elevated herself to a little bit more fame, but sam puckett is a thief, a liar, and an actress, and she knows every escape route that is possible from everywhere (and occasionally creates her own exit herself). it becomes a game with the local paparazzi, and she even gets to know the local police on a first-name basis. she is walking into the jail to say hi to the officer on duty and bum a drink from the confiscated locker when she sees freddie's silhouette in the newspaper.

under his pseudonym freddie benson agrees to one anonymous, darkened, interview. in his interview, he tells the world that he has only ever loved three women all of his life, but that he will not see any of them again. he says that one of them, his mother, is dead.

sam puckett rolls her eyes when she sees this in the paper. she swears a truly ridiculous vow to drag benson home, dunk his head in a toilet, and make him see the error of his ways. but the questions that he answers—he's famous now?—are a bit of a jaw-dropper for her. she can't reconcile her image of camera nerd with this man who poses, faceless, for top-model european magazines. (oh. and the definition of him in black and white—mm.) still, she cuts his silhouette out of the newspaper (to the officer on duty's tired resignation) and keeps it in her wallet anyway.

carly shay, in california to shoot her latest movie, also sees this article in the paper. she buys the paper and shoots a smile at the girl manning the counter—the girl promptly stops breathing for a moment—and rolls it into her bag. something in her wants to find freddie benson and talk to him again. something in her tells her it's not quite time yet.

despite what she lives like, sam puckett is not poor. she lives in such a rundown place because she likes it. she doesn't take care of her appearance because she doesn't bother, not because she's ugly. she doesn't go to bars to hook up with guys because she's just lazy. she can cuss with the best of them, out-drink all of them, but she doesn't because—again—she can't be bothered. her guy friends take her as she is, but occasionally do tease her about her past; all of them think she's a lesbian, but when they jack off to her it's to their nameless fantasies. several of them do wank off to sam puckett and carly shay together, but even they think it's just a pipe dream. none of them know that once upon a time, it was real.

sam puckett herself does not dwell on the past, but if she did, she would think about carly, kissing the line of her jaw and trailing down her neck to her collarbone, nipping her shoulder. her small, smooth fingers, trailing down sam's pale skin, leaving trails of goosebumps. the backs of her knuckles, in the hollow under her ribs. her smile. her voice, breathy, panting out sam's name. but she doesn't dwell on the past. so she doesn't think of it.

when freddie benson dreams at night, he dreams that both his girls will let him between them, holding them as only he can, knowing them as only he can. he dreams that he is a bodyguard to carly, saving her from the paparazzi by being a cameraman himself and knowing all the tricks to evade himself. he has had all those tricks used on him over two years, after all. he dreams of sam, his last clear memory of her, vibrant, being a vengeful fury who grabs him by the hem of his shirt and kisses him, rough and brutal, while her tears soak their clothing. in his dreams, he grips her shoulders with his new-found strength and kisses her back, just as rough. in reality, he shrank back. in reality, sam pushed him away, and fled. in reality, they fought. these are in his nightmares as they are in his fantasies as they are in his daydreams as they are in his nights. as dawn breaks over another uneasy sleep, freddie benson picks up his camera. it is not his late mother who gives him his melancholy, but his regrets.

in an announcement and something of a minor scandal, carly shay says to her fans that despite any rumors about getting together with costars there has only ever been one woman that will hold her romantic interest for an extended period of time. likewise, there has only ever been one man. this announcement takes the world by surprise, and legions of admirers long to be that one man or woman. her general sweet outlook prevents hordes of homophobic groups landing on her, especially when she follows that statement by saying that those romantic interests will be entirely private, and one shouldn't criticise private lives at all.

spencer shay marries and has a child. carly shay remains single.

freddie benson returns to america and takes up a film/animation degree with a specialty in photography at the columbia arts college in chicago. the use of his name sparks a paparazzi interest, but like sam, freddie benson seems to evade paparazzi. eventually his name dies down, and he goes about his accelerated degree with professional confidence. he makes sure to take photographs in an entirely different style to his portfolio in europe, but they are still good enough to host in galleries around america. on his semester break, the pseudonym resurfaces as he travels around america, bringing more bittersweet pictures into people's life, bringing more recognition of tragedy, bringing more recognition of the happiness in their lives.

he arrives at huggert when he is twenty-three. as a student of the arts, he travels around the student facilities and tours all the tourist aspects of huggert. he makes friends with students, baristas, and tourists passing by, learning about the history and the subculture of the city. he approaches museums and art galleries, telling them that he is a struggling artist who needs his photographs up on the walls. they don't mind—he's a nice, polite boy, and he only approaches the galleries that have space for him anyway. wanting to base himself in the city, he walks into a company one day and tells them to hire him. his eye for photography, advertising, talent, and technical support (he fixes their server when he walks in, and they would have hired him just for that) shoots that little talent agency to respectability and competition with the greater talent agencies of hollywood and huggert. the little talent agency in fact scouts out sam puckett as she does one of her routines, and brings it to the ceo's notice. sam puckett is delighted to be approached, although she does cuss out the talent agent. the agent, not exactly a stranger to swear words himself, becomes one of her newer best friends.

freddie makes himself scarce whenever sam puckett comes over to visit the agency. the ceo, who has practically adopted him as a son, makes no mention of freddie to sam, although the information pathway the other way is as broad as the panama canal.

carly shay, freddie benson, and sam puckett all end up going to the same party at the same time. the party is wild as all hollywood-like parties are, with a little air of desperate abandon. all three of them have the same dislike for that desperation, but for wildly different reasons. carly, of course, has been in hollywood parties herself. freddie, having been to europe, is aware that at the core americans are still actually quite prudish, and sam puckett sees how the huggert stars try to be 'ghetto' and laughs at it.

her subsequent comedy routine on that imitation goes viral.

freddie benson, in his tux and as a representative of That Talent Agency, draws a cloud of wannabe actresses to him, all flirtatious and hoping to be the next great star. sam puckett wanders around the room, drinking cocktails and offending people, and actually sees freddie from a distance. but she is drunk by then, and as she wanders closer, his slightly-flirtatious voice completely misleads her as to his identity. knowing that he's from her talent agency anyway (and she can probably find him if she's interested, which she's not), she wanders away again.

carly shay arrives anonymously. of course, she's not anonymous for long, but she manages to persuade the people who recognise her that it's their personal secret. she is persuasive enough that she actually manages to keep her presence secret even though more than fifty people recognise her. rumors still spread, of course, but the party area is large enough and crowded enough that not many people swarm her for autographs.

carly shay does see sam, from almost too close. she sees only the back of her head and the lines of her strapless dress, freckles on tan shoulders, but carly can recognise sam puckett from a mile off. her entire body tingles with anticipation—but at this party, carly shay is a coward. she justifies it by thinking that she doesn't want to bring enormous media attention to sam. so she tips back another long island iced tea, and eventually sam wanders away again.

when carly gets home that night she stares out of her panoramic one-way window and fingers herself to that image of sam, alive and very well, the angles of her and the curves of her. she overlays her memory of sam over her memories of sam leaning over her and kissing her, her lips soft by texture and brutal by action. carly comes with a small gasp, arching her back and thinking of sam.

carly also catches a glimpse of freddie benson—and vice versa. but both of them find each other at different times, when they are busy with someone else. carly finds freddie just as a tipsy wannabe launches herself at him. freddie smirks, catches her, and places her aside (his hands are at her hips because he's still male and while he's quite honorable, he's also not above flirting—he has no chance of hiring them and he tells them so, but they stay anyway) carly looks away, slightly hurt. her one male real …interest, and he's moved on.

freddie sees carly just as one of her ex-costars catches up to her. they're engaged in conversation and her eyes light up like they did for him alone, once upon a time. inside, freddie is still somewhat insecure about how the women he loves think of him, and this only seems to be more evidence that carly shay, hollywood poster girl, has moved on from their humble roots together. he sculls the rest of his beer in one long drink, and moves to find more. he does not see carly watch him as he goes, does not see carly take in all of him at once (tight jeans, tight shirt, sunglasses and messy hair) and begin to breathe shallowly.

when carly lays on her bed alone, she dreams of freddie. she dreams of his silhouette in the european magazines, the black and white spreads of his body without a face, his muscles toned and chiseled, the way her small hands could push against him as she rides him, the way his eyes still look at her like she is stars, a living manifestation of beauty. he makes her feel like she is in space, each push of her wings forcing her to fly faster and faster until she cannot breathe for the wonder of it; her mind and body disconnect with the pleasure he will make her feel. sam makes her feel primal, animal; when she is with sam she is wholly in her body, rutting, dirty, hot. their combined scents (serenity with lines of poetry wafting around him, worldly with a chance of musky sticky sex, herself) tug at her brain, send prickles down her spine. cool detached roaring fire.

carly comes again without even realising what her hands are doing to herself.

sam puckett builds a shrine to freddie benson. it is a bit of a role reversal, a little irony that sam does not consciously recognise. freddie benson used to follow carly around and almost worship her, ignoring sam altogether because sam is always around him—because, she thinks, he was so fun to torment. now sam is building a shrine to mysterious benson, while she ignores carly, because carly is always around her.

her addictions pour into freddie and less into drink. she visits art galleries around the city, the ones that stock his and the pseudonym's pictures. even though she has the prints on her laptop (the one technological luxury that sam allows herself) she spends hours staring at the full-sized photographs, both the pseudonym's and those under his own name. the gallery curators get to know her personally. even though they are strangers to cuss words, gradually even they get to love her, in time. when she turns twenty-four one of the curators even gives her two books: benson's, and freddie-as-pseudonym's, prints as a present, and she thanks that curator profusely and kisses the seventy-year-old man on the cheek, nearly giving him a heart attack. sam puckett, even with a complete disregard for appearance, is striking.

every night, as sam stares up at the shrine she is slowly building for freddie, she dreams of him. dreams of his innocence, his naivety, dreams of her tormenting him again, living with him and annoying him every day. she insults the women that he dates, the supermodel women with the perfect figure to match his masculinity. she pranks him until he smiles at her and tolerates her and reacts in the way that only freddie can—the simultaneous exasperation, resignation, and masochism. it's something of a dream for her, something buried in the past. but freddie benson is difficult to find, more so difficult now that mrs. benson has passed on. his website states no address, local or email, and it is almost impossible to hack, even though he has to be updating from some ip that she can trace (she even gives one of her hacker friends exclusive pictures of carly shay to get him to hack into fredward's website. her friend tries to return the photos, because it's a shame to his hacker pride that he hasn't actually been able to get in.)

the impact that sam puckett leaves on huggert is entirely to do with social relationships. while carly shay rides on the upper crust and freddie benson makes friends with the students and vagrants, sam puckett is almost the darling of the working class in the city. she, as "valiant" or through simple force of personality, is a friend to everyone from the mailman in the most crime-filled area of huggert to the bouncer at the highest-end nightclub. the drag queens in the red-light district know her middle name. the owner of the latin restaurant that critics come from alaska to eat at, father of two, teaches her spanish.

[intricate lies]

it is at that latin restaurant that sam catches a glimpse of freddie benson. her almost-obsession over him leads her to recognise him immediately, and she walks over, parting the crowd with her expression. the men almost begin to trail after her like puppies. fredward himself looks a little scared. as he should. she is a tiger. rowr.

freddie benson was just going to a restaurant he'd heard about. having reservations there with his ceo (basically exactly like his mother with less crazy), he was just waiting for her to show up when he sees samantha puckett stalk towards him with a truly scary, maneating, expression on her face. like any sane man, he feels fear. like his past self, he feels attraction and a helpless lust. his experiences in europe have given him a measure of courage, so he stands his ground. he even manages to slouch in his chair and smirk at her from under his sunglasses.

sam plucks the sunglasses from the bridge of his nose and tosses them to the table. she straddles his lap and gets very, very close to his face.

"hello," she says, looking innocent and putting her head to the side. she sucks off one finger just to watch him freak out, and then licks his face. as she withdraws a few inches, freddie swallows and stares her in the eye. she's kind of shocked at the depth of his gaze, the strength of his personality. how is he not completely freaking out and trying to clean himself off by now?

even though it's extremely, extremely difficult, freddie manages not to break his gaze with sam. up close, she's unbelievably attractive, striking in a way that not even carly shay could ever imitate. when she grows older, he can tell with his photographer eyes, she will be striking no matter what age she is. as for now, though, she is on his lap and straddling him and licking him, and he's finding it rather hard to concentrate on what she will look like with wrinkles. funny as the image may be.

the owner of the restaurant arrives then, and sam and him break out into a fast-paced burst of spanish. freddie half-pays attention to the conversation, and smirks when sam is distracted trying to work out what the owner said and how to respond in kind. just when she's about to answer the owner about her prior love life, he leans forward and nips at her neck. sam swats him absent-mindedly, but is completely derailed. freddie wraps his arms around her lean, angular, body and holds her to him, memorising every inch of her. she leans into him without thinking, and the owner half-smiles at him from beyond sam.

"Ah, Samantha," the owner says. "I would like to speak to this boy."

sam uncoils herself off him, leaving him one last sultry glance, and moves to the other side of the booth, playing with the wineglass there, the stem swirling around her fingers. freddie ignores her. the owner sits down.

the man launches into a pure interrogation. keeping calm, freddie answers with the spanish he first learned from tapes in high school and broadened in sunny country villages in spain, the words rolling off his tongue with ease. he watches sam shiver out of the corner of his eye and almost smirks, then keeps the smirk to himself as the owner threatens castration with his bluntest kitchen knife if he hurts sam in any way.

their ceo arrives, and looks shocked at seeing sam there for a moment. she recovers remarkably quickly, however, and passes it off as being awed by the owner's presence. making small talk with the ceo, the owner quickly enters the kitchen to serve his semi-adopted daughter a meal. The very best food for his samantha, he says.

sam notices the comfort that freddie has around her ceo, and asks them straight out. freddie lies, and tells her that he is finding a job with their ceo. their ceo agrees, and proceeds to hold a mini-interview. sam chimes in now and again with embarassing stories, trying her hardest to shake his cool (and perhaps, not get him hired, but that is a fact of her relationship with fredweird. she sabotages him. it's her job, her career, her pleasure). to her surprise he doesn't seem put off at all. even at her most offensive freddie calms the situation with a few words of wit, and sam is left staring at him in bemusement.

when their ceo shakes his hand and welcomes him to the agency (again; she laughs on the inside), sam stares at the stranger with fredward's face and goes home in complete bewilderment. she starts to tear down his shrine and stops halfway through, resting her elbows on her dresser. she goes to visit the talent agency the next day, still somewhat confused.

freddie does not avoid the talent agency the next day. for all that he's changed, sam is still quite predictable. he even brings a ham sandwich (extra ham, less bread), knowing that she will steal it. it's something of an apology, something of a reassurance that he's not so different after all.

sam does steal his sandwich. to make herself feel even more better, and more like hell hasn't frozen over, she pranks fredward. in front of half the agency, she pulls his pants down around his ankles. (he wasn't wearing a belt that day in another gesture of appeasement. he expected something of the sort to happen. he had spare clothes in his office. not that sam knew he had an office.)

freddie smirks at her, pulls his pants up, asks her if she liked what she saw, and walks away. as soon as he gets into his office, he collapses and starts to reconsider what he did. sam could have changed, after all. she could have been completely turned off by what he did.

(he couldn't have been more wrong.)

[intricate leisures]

on the set of Dovetail, carly shay makes friends with an up-and-coming star from That Talent Agency, as everyone in the business seems to call it. it has a name. no one really uses it. the up-and-coming star tells her all the gossip in the agency, including sam puckett's and freddie benson's onesided prank war (three guesses as to who was doing the pranking, and the first two don't count). carly nods and laughs at everything, and doesn't let on that she can almost predict sam's reactions down to the last facial expression. she does listen attentively to what freddie does, though, almost too attentively. luckily, the up-and-coming star is still a bit bedazzled by carly, and takes her interest in freddie and sam as simply being carly's semi-legendary courtesy.

when her agent tells her that she can't do the job anymore because she's having a Baby, carly shay smiles, kisses her agent on the cheek, and tells her that she's loved having her as an agent. even after getting a new agent from That Talent Agency, she visits her old agent, especially to play with the little baby. she'll make a very good mother, her old agent tells her. then her old agent fixes her with a gimlet stare and tells her to get a move on, and find that one true boy. or girl. whoever makes her happy. carly's happy to tell her that she knows exactly where both of them are. her agent doesn't approve of her cowardice, but since she likes the girl so much, doesn't say anything.

That Talent Agency's reputation is boosted even further by carly shay's patronage. the up-and-coming star from Dovetail has rapidly become a close friend of carly's, but doesn't understand why carly hasn't actually been to her agency's building. as a fan of carly's movie career, she does not get the significance of those two names that carly is so interested in.

the paparazzi, however, do. when they get notified that freddie benson, samantha puckett, and carly shay are all working for the same company, one bright spark connects her 'one true male love' and 'one true female love': two and two makes four. the day after, TTA is swarmed by hordes of reporters.

carly stays determinedly away.

freddie benson knows very well exactly when carly signed up for his agency. the ceo (who knows freddie and carly's history now, he told her about icarly long ago) came in to see him and showed him her application. freddie swallowed and recommended an agent from the personnel file.

when the ceo was gone and sam burst into his office (she still thought it was a spare workroom and not his, completely justified as he used it as a darkroom at times) he simply held up the file and they looked at each other quietly for a while.

then sam bopped him on the head and told him that if he was completely chicken, she would approach carly herself. first. she started dreaming about what carly's tongue could do to her. quite loudly.

freddie frowned at her. he plucked up his courage, smirked at her, and told her that he would be the one seducing carly first.

"pah, you wish, freddumb," sam said. "you couldn't seduce a fly if you were covered in honey."

"oh?" freddie said lightly. "legions of french and spanish girls would beg to differ." his eyes darkened. "and i do mean 'beg'."

sam shrugged. "weak-minded women. but it's carly, you know, carly and me. you're not leaving me out of this, first of all—and second of all, we can resist your puny charms. physical or otherwise."

freddie smirked. "that's what you think."

he was confident, actually, that he could seduce either one of his women. he had spent far too long dreaming, predicting, practicing—it was what would happen afterward that scared him a little. what would happen—what could happen?

sam thwacked him in the forehead, laughed maniacally as he rubbed his head and said, "ow," and swayed (extra sexy) out the door. freddie glared after her and slowly smirked as a thought came to him.

[intricacy intimate]

the intercom buzzed. carly stretched and rolled over, her hand slamming for the alarm clock. damn it, it was a week off filming, she didn't have to wake up before noon. her alarm clock fell off the bedside table, but the buzzing kept going. as her mind cleared more fully, she realised that—yes, there was someone outside of her door, and yes, her bodyguards had actually managed to clear whoever it was. she stumbled over to the microphone and palmed it.

"Who is it?" she managed, yawning midway through. Whoever her bodyguards let through had to know she was tired, and perhaps go away.

"Hey, Carly," a very familiar voice said out of the speaker, and carly jerked into full consciousness. "Aren't you going to let an old friend in?"

"Freddie!" she squealed, a grin beginning to split her face. "I'll be right down!"

"I'll settle for the door being unlo—" he began as she cut him off, not caring about what she was wearing as she almost sprinted for the door. She opened it and wrapped her arms around his neck, squeezing him into a very tight hug.


"You've said that," Freddie said, his voice low and amused, and Carly drew back to see him. And up. And up. Her boy had grown very, very much taller.

Wait. Her boy? She got her mind back on track. No. Possessiveness only for boyfriends…and Sam…and Freddie. Nevermind.

"But I haven't seen you in ages, so I'm allowed to squeal your name."

Freddie bit back a remark. Carly grinned. "I saw that."

"Saw what?"

They were back to their friendly routine, albeit with a current of sexual tension under it all. But that had been present from the age of sixteen onward between the three of them, and Carly was good at ignoring things that she didn't want to confront at that particular moment anyway.

"That perverted thing you were going to say."

"What perverted thing?" he said, looking innocent.

Carly rolled her eyes. "Anyway. How did you know where to find me?"

"Reality show," he said, walking over to her pantry and finding the inevitable candy on one of the shelves.

"You're lying!" Carly said, laughing delightedly. Freddie turned to look at her, grinning and chewing on a gummi bear.

"Yup," he said. "Actually, I work for a talent agency."

"Oh," she said. "Marion's agency?"

"Your agent's, yes," Freddie nodded. "Actually, since I've been working there for a while, I was the one who recommended Marion to you."

"You did?" Carly said. "She's the best agent I've ever had. So thank you."

"You're welcome. …Where do you keep your mugs?"

"Drawer to your left," she said, walking over to stand behind him. Running her gaze down his body, she appreciated the line of his body and the cut of his jeans as he bent down to retrieve the mugs.

"Enjoying the view?" Freddie said.

Carly flushed bright red. "Oh, um, I mean, I…"

Freddie turned around. He mustered up his courage and suavity and looked Carly straight in the eye. It wasn't like talking to Sam, talking to Carly. Sam wouldn't take anything seriously. She was as likely to smack him on the ass as slap him in the face. Playing teasing games with Carly was so much more hit-and-miss.

Freddie turned to the sink and rinsed out the mugs, taking his time.

Carly kept watching Freddie's elegant, slightly smug movements, and thought that she might shock him a little. Waiting until her mugs were safe and his hands were free, Carly said, "And how's walking around half-naked because of Sam, going for you?"

Freddie staggered, utterly shocked. "Carly!" he said.

Carly started giggling behind her hand.

"I mean, it's, um, I…yeah," he said sheepishly. "It's going really well, actually. I quite enjoy it." His voice dropped low and husky on the last four words, and Carly choked on her laughter, her mouth dropping open and her throat drying out.

"You mean…you and Sam…" Oddly enough there wasn't any reaction from her gut. Carly had fantasized about Sam fucking guys and always had to stop; the jealousy grew too great for her to bear. But insinuating that Sam and Freddie had slept together didn't make the familiar gnawing sensation claw at her, didn't make her feel like she was pressing against a sheet of glass, moments away from breaking.

Instead, a little ember lit under her ribs, and she licked her lips.

"No," Freddie said. "It would be a little bit…odd." Freddie followed Carly's tongue with his eyes, and tugged his gaze away. He poured juice into both of their mugs and placed the highly convenient carton back in the fridge.

"Oh," Carly said. Her eyes flickered down to take in his arms again, whip-cord lean, before suppressing the thoughts. If he and Sam weren't sleeping together…strange, she didn't feel relieved about it.

"So…do you want to go out today, Carly?"

"Huh?" she said.

"We should walk around Huggert a bit. Maybe even go shopping or something."

Carly smiled. "Sure, alright. Let me go get changed."

Freddie smirked at her, and drained his mug in one long swallow.

[icarus's limbo]

carly pushes freddie back into the wall of her penthouse, nipping his shoulder. freddie looks at her, just looks at her, his eyes dark and tempestuous. semi-frightened, carly pulls away and wraps her arms around herself.

"is there…is there something wrong, freddie? something i've done wrong?" he does not look at her like stars. like sam, she knows that freddie has been in europe. the thought that he has changed through experience and that he is no longer the boy that she relied on is vaguely frightening. vaguely as in the sense that the world is shifting under her.

freddie shakes his head, and whirls her, pinning her to her own wall. he locks her in on both sides with his arms and kisses her gently, once, twice.

"is there anything you've done wrong?" freddie asks, mocking. his voice cracks, harsh and raspy with alcohol, fire burning down his throat and in his entire body. "no, carly, never."

carly breathes deeper at the scent of him, clean but strong, a faint husk of coconut soap and pine trees (some kind of aftershave?) his gaze, strong and firm, confident in his own prowess. even the hollywood costars that she has acted with, even those players who get a woman every night and discard them by morning, have not his sheer self-confidence. and so help her, she finds herself drawn to it.

"what is it?" he says next, his face close to hers. comfortably; she wraps her arms around his waist and buries her head into his shoulder, the checkered fabric shifting under her nose.

"will you," she pauses to get her breath, breathing him deep. "will you look at me…like stars?"

"is that all?" he says, amused, and draws away from her. something in his soul flashes deep, and he kisses her. her eyes close and she bites his lip. freddie twines his fingers into her hair and discovers, with their tongues, her reactions—her moans, her sighs, her gasps. when she opens her eyes again, he looks at her the way that his self, lonely and craving her company, has looked at her image over two years destitute of her.

she melts into freddie. her ground is solid now. her goal is ephemeral now—she is a sylph. she is a zephyr, feather-light. she takes his wrist, gentle, and pulls him onto her bed, laughing.

carly unbuttons his shirt with so much focus, her tongue poking out the side of her mouth, that freddie has to chuckle at her. his fingers are busy also—disregarding her dress, he works his fingers into her, and distracts her as much as possible. as his fingers find their way inside her, he tries to force down the haze in his mind. the alcohol emphasizes this—this ultimate intimacy. as always, he is so shocked, so awed, by his fingers being inside this woman; even more so that this is carly, carly this woman who he has grown up with and known so long.

not awed enough to stop, however—and carly arches her back and gasps, her fingers clenching around fistfuls of his shirt. her inebriation makes unbuttoning his shirt difficult, and freddie is not going to help her. for all his words to sam, seducing carly like this would be far too easy and mean too little. if he aches for the female body that much (he doesn't), there are more casual opportunities elsewhere.

he slides his fingers into her up to the second knuckle, and hooks his fingers. he strokes her, finding the bundle of nerves that all women he has known prize, circling her clit with his thumb. she flings her head back in pleasure and his shirt gives way a little, a few buttons popping out of their slits. if carly was slightly more coherent, his shirt would have been off in seconds. with a smile, freddie sets off to throw her even more off-balance.

freddie looks up at carly from between her legs, one hand stroking himself. carly eyes his shaft, biting her lip.

"how long has it been?" he asks, his rasp hot over her slit.

"too long," she whispers, and he lowers his head. she buries her fingers in his hair and arches her back, his tongue working into her and flicking, lapping, exploring. she hisses as a cat would and all her eyes register is the lines of the floral wallpaper, swirling in random directions, as unpredictable to her as the swirls that freddie's tongue makes to her.

her breath comes shorter and shorter as her muscles clench. freddie smirks and presses circles and spirals into her thighs with his knuckles. he sucks her clit into his mouth on one of her inhalations, a needy pant. he bites down gently as she exhales, and carly comes with a sigh.

it is gentler than she expects. the orgasms that she has given herself, rutting frantically on her own fingers and nails, are always frantic and often leave her more tense than she was before. with freddie, the pleasure comes gently, like the tide at a shoreline, breaking over her and unfurling. it is exactly what she expects from him, especially given that he has not actually entered her yet. her muscles all relax, and she is a puddle of relaxation, the alcohol warming her on the inside as her body begins to shiver from the after-effects of the stimulation.

she watches, heavy-lidded, as freddie comes into his own hand. she falls into slumber as freddie slips out of bed to wash himself off.

freddie re-enters the room and rests his head in wet hands. he can still taste her on his lips, on his fingers, on his soul.

he sighs heavily, kisses her on the lips, and tucks her under the sheets. he exits the building without a second thought.

[icarus lives]

sam puckett has the utter infuriation of greeting freddie the next day and watching a smirk grow on his face.

"what?" she demands.

"beat you," he says, and slouches back into his chair. sam narrows her eyes and her face grows thundery.

"beat me?" she says.

"slept with carly last night," he says.

her teeth grit. "you what?!"

"gave her two good orgasms, too," he says blandly, hiding his smile at her reaction. he lives to rile her, face-to-face. they have fallen back into their old bickering and bantering, ignoring the undercurrents that lay between them post-kiss in high school. even if they are talking about something neither of them would have talked about pre-split. "you can check with her."

sam's mouth opens and shuts. her usual lack of brain filter scrambles to find something offensive to say, but there is literally nothing going on in her brain at that moment. the thought of fredweird actually being casual about sleeping with the major crush of his life completely knocks her for a loop. in lieu of anything else, sam punches him in the stomach. freddie doesn't double over. sam stares at her knuckles, categorises the feeling, and compares it to punching other guys in the stomach.

"fredwina!" she says. "you've gotten muscles! let's take a look."

"sam…" freddie makes no more than a token protest. it wouldn't do any good anyway.

sam almost rips off his shirt. she straddles his lap again and runs her hand over his stomach, tracing the line of his abs with her fingers.

"nice," she says distractedly. "very nice."

freddie shifts awkwardly in his seat. it would not do for sam to discover—ah, too late.

"and what…is this!" she says, delighted. "is little fredweird getting an 'erection'?" she rolls her hips on him, quite deliberately, and freddie winces. he can't help himself, he's male and sam is warm and quite feminine, even if she does smell like not-so-cheap rum. "not so little," he says.

sam rolls her hips again. "little," she repeats.

"just wait," freddie says, resigned.

"why? it's not going to get any bigger," sam says. "…little fredward."

freddie knocks his head into her angular shoulder, and she pushes him back into his chair, her hand around his neck. almost strangling him, she uses her grip as leverage to rotate herself around so that she can use him as extra cushioning.

"ahh," she says. "now that feels nice. wrap your arms around me."

"wha?" he says.

"do it, or i stab little freddo here with one of your pens."

freddie shrugs and wraps his arms around her. sam relaxes into it, trying to fight a grin. she has missed this, this embrace of a masochist like freddie benson. nothing else like it in the world.

samantha puckett does not approach carly shay in the same way that freddie benson does. relying less on finding addresses in personnel files, sam instead talks to carly's attendants, finding out her routine. she spends more than an hour getting her 'casual appearance' just right, far more time than she usually spends on her appearance. she walks into the supermarket that carly frequents, and looks through all of the shelves. she gets momentarily distracted by the cold cuts section, but soldiers on.

carly shay is hiding under a hoodie and oversized sunglasses. but she's just like every other celebrity in the town, and she is radiant whether she's casual or not, so paparazzi don't try to capture pictures of her looking bad. except if she falls over. sam laughs at at the thought and saunters over to carly, leaning on her trolley and waiting for carly to turn over. carly is busy looking at the confectionery section and deciding which one to get that won't completely ruin her diet.

"personally, i think i'd favor the chocolate sauce," sam says, low and husky into carly's ear. carly jumps, coming down with her arms wrapped around her.

"sam!" she whispers loudly. "what are you doing here?"

"you know me," sam says. "meat."

she holds up her armful of ham—okay, so her 'soldiering on' after being distracted by the cold cuts was primarily due to giving in to the lure—and shrugs. "and you? aren't you, like," she makes several wildish gestures, "fully provided for in your suite?"

"yeah," carly says. "but sometimes i go stir-crazy, and come to buy some more chocolate."

"chocolate sauce," sam says. "the best kind."

carly bites her lip and shakes her head, hiding her eyes further behind her hair. "how have you been, sam?"

"absolutely smashing," sam says. "what's this i hear about fredwina giving you two orgasms?"

carly freezes. "uhh…"

"i knew it," sam says. "that freakin' liar!"

carly grabs sam's hand. "no! he's not lying. he did…he did."

sam eyes her and twitches slightly. "he actually did? two of them? real ones? you didn't fake them?"

"no?" carly says. "i wouldn't fake orgasms, sam!"

"oh." sam pauses. "good."

"so…" carly starts after the silence begins to lengthen. "how's your comedy routine going?"

"good," sam says. she pauses. "wait. have you been stalking me, carly shay?"

"shh!" carly says, because sam is loud and there are people turning in her direction. she places a can of chocolate sauce into her basket and begins to walk briskly to the counter. sam tags along, running her hands over her hunk of meat. there is an advantage to walking with sam, carly realises; the very disturbing things that sam does turns people away, while carly is very used to them. the cashier barely looks at carly as he watches sam caress her ham, and carly has to bite back a giggle at his expression when sam licks her finger, then licks the ham.

"i'm going to enjoy the…ham," sam says to her, and carly lets out a giggle despite herself. when several cashiers, mostly teenage boys, almost fall over themselves, carly twines her fingers with sam's and says, "i wouldn't mind enjoying that either," quite loudly.

her distinctive voice makes most of the men that hear her freeze in their spots, some walking into displays or other inanimate objects.

"wow," sam says. "this…carly, do you realise?" she gets up into carly's personal bubble, walking backwards ahead of her, her face glowing with unholy amusement. "carly! you hold…Ultimate Power! you have to use it for eee-veel!"

"ee-veel?" carly asks.

"you know, evil with the magic fingers. i would demonstrate, but there is all-important meat in my hand."

carly shay and samantha puckett have been best friends since middle school. regardless of differences there is always that awareness of each other, grown so much stronger over the intervening years. their dinner (ham and vegetables that carly forces on her friend) is filled with catching up on said differences—a domestic kind of conversation that mostly involves carly rapping sam's hand as she tries to sneak in more meat than vegetable.

"carly?" sam asks after their dinner. her face is luminous in the lamplight, uncharacteristically shy. "do you want to…keep going? i mean, you bought the chocolate sauce and everything."

"oh…" carly says. "um…i'm sorry, sam, but it was just last night that freddie came over, and i…"

on the inside, sam seethes at fredwina getting one over on her, and reserves a special prank from hell for him tomorrow. on the outside, she cannot force carly to do anything. "okay. well. sleep with me?"

"i can do that," carly says, and gathers sam up into her arms.

carly lies awake into the night as sam's breaths even out, her body warm and angular twined with her. she cannot believe that after so long—seven years!—sam is with her again, freddie will come over whenever. she can see both of her best friends, and wonder of wonders, they seem to be getting along with each other again.

carly focuses on holding sam close to her, burying her nose in sam's shoulder and her hair, and she dreams of freddie, holding her—holding them, keeping them safe. a thought occurs to her—a thought that would have been foreign to her seven years ago, but one that shines a light now, a light so bright as to illuminate and wash away the problems that she has had. the problems that the three of them have had with each other.

across town, freddie dreams of holding both his girls. unconsciously, he gropes for his camera; this is habit, long long habit. the fact that both of his girls are in the same town, in the same company, makes no difference. this dreaming is this dreaming. but at least, it is guaranteed, he will see sam tomorrow.

even in his dreams, longer habits take over, and freddie benson's survival instincts start organising how to get large amounts of appeasement food. sam is likely going to be sated after tonight, but just in case she's not (and even if she is) - his dreams begin to be filled with sam, sam moving on carly, the angles of her trailing carly's body, and freddie sighs in his sleep.


sam puckett walks into her talent agency's main office floor, plotting the Prank of Death, and stops stock-still. she sniffs at the air. once. twice. she swivels very slowly to face the door again. she walks out. and back in. she sniffs the air again.

"FREDWARD BENSON!" she screams at the top of her lungs. the office staffers, all casually munching away at their lunches, specially catered and delivered, barely even jump out of their seats. firstly, they're used to it by now. secondly, well—mr. benson had warned all of them. some of the staffers—especially the ladies—even stifle condescending smiles.

unaware of the rumors starting up around her, sam stalked toward freddie's office. she'd known it was his office for a while now; she just chose not to let him know because, well, it was funnier this way. oh, and she couldn't be bothered. it didn't make any difference, so why bother? sam made it through the door and stared.

"oh yes," she said, rubbing her hands together. she would've done exactly the same thing if freddie had been nake—SEMI-naked, where had that thought come from?! — in front of her and she had a whole shop's worth of toys to use. you know, fun stuff. "COME TO MAMA!" the prank of death, forgotten.

when freddie came into work properly (having kept his spare clothes in a supply closet, just in case), he walked into his office and frankly stared. sam puckett was actually fast asleep. no way—did he actually manage to get her enough food?

An eye opened.


"Hey, dipstick, you didn't order enough chow mein."

The eye closed.

Freddie shrugged, leaning against the lintel. "They ran out." seeing Sam like this made him compare her to a sleeping dragon—and, being a very knightly character, he would very happily poke her in the eye.

"How was the sex?"

Both eyes opened.

Freddie was reminded, once more, that dragons breathe fire. He grasped for that core of european poise he lost around carly and sam. Just in time.

"WHAT SEX?! THERE WAS NO SEX!" her voice pierced his ears, moments before she was on her feet and prodding him in the chest, almost forcing him backward from the force of her poke.

"Apparently you were better than I thought. She was worn out by the time I got to her."

"Oh," Freddie said, leering at her. "I'm much, much better than you think."

"Oh?" Sam said, getting right up in his face. "How many, then?"

"Lost count," he said easily, because it was true.

"How far did you get?"

"Which kink do you want to discuss?" He missed this, the easy banter. In Europe, no one could spar with him the way that Sam could.

"Which k—Fredward Benson, have you finally been initiated into the ways of domination and submission?"

Freddie rolled his eyes. "If you really wanted to play that game, one could say I was introduced to it before I even left America."


"By you."

"Oh, yeah," Sam smiled proudly. "Good times, good times. So, Freddo, top or bottom?"

Freddie smirked at her, tucking a hand into his pocket. "Wouldn't you like to know."

She ignored him and walked back to behind his desk, reclining on his office chair next to the enormous stack of empty cartons.

Poke, poke… "Is the great Samantha Puckett actually at a loss for words?"

"Oh, no," she said, looking at him, her expression dazed. "I'm actually thinking about how you would look like after I got done whipping you."

His cock twitched. "Um," he said.

"Or maybe when I suck you o—"

"Enough," he said quietly. "If you want a fuck, Sam, you know where I live."

She sniffed and put her nose in the air.

"Guess I'll call Carly for a second date then, since you're not up for anything."

Her gaze was right back on his in less than a second. "Don't you dare."

"Watch me," he said, and his eyes were on hers as he lifted his cellphone. He looked on the speed dial and pressed it for the first time in almost seven years.


"You bought chocolate sauce?! Why would you—oh, of course. Yeah, sure, why not? Call her yourself. …So what? I like having a penis. …Yeah, yeah. Oh, there's a story behind that, you know. That cow off to the side of—"

"Your sixty-second print, Liessel?"

Freddie covered the phone for a second to gape at Sam. "How do you know that?"

Carly said something. Freddie let go of the cover and nearly dropped the phone. "She what? You what?" his gaze locked on Sam for a moment, his eyes betraying the absolute shock. "You what? Why would you…I mean, I'm me…" for a moment, he was Fredward Benson, awkward geek in high school with two shockingly attractive female best friends with no chance of landing either of them, gawky and alarmingly nerdy. A moment, no more. By the time Sam opened her mouth to respond (her face red), he'd gotten his poise back and his slouch, and went back to talking to Carly. Sam distracted herself, not looking at Freddie, by finishing off the last noodle in every carton. There were a lot of of cartons. Maybe she'd missed one—? Not likely, but always a chance…

Freddie clicked the phone shut. He looked at Sam, his face clear with utter bemusement. Sam looked at him. They looked at each other in pure silence.

"Nine o' clock, tonight," Freddie said, quietly. "She's going to break out the chocolate sauce."

Sam's eyes glinted. "I'll be there. I'll even bring my toys, since you certainly won't be able to please either of us. Let alone both of us."

Freddie smirked at her. "Maybe I'll just take pictures after you're exhausted, then."

"Maybe I'll cut your balls off when you run out of film," Sam said, her eyes narrowed.

"Well, I would use film, but I don't think you're photogenic enough for me to want to keep it permanently o—urk."

"Care to finish that statement, Freddork?"

"Why, Ms Puckett, you certainly seem to like touching my penis."

"There's not even a blush! You've grown, Fredward. Though, apparently not here."

"Maybe your hands've grown smalle—ghhhrk."

On second reflection, that probably wasn't the right thing to say.

"Hi," Carly says at the door, wringing her hands, nervous under her poise. Freddie offers his ear to Sam, who seizes the opportunity and drags him inside by the ear. Carly starts laughing, and altogether they're together again, no nerves. They sit and talk to each other, what they've seen, how they've seen it. Freddie gets an uncharacteristically silent audience as he talks about Europe, about the tragedy and the melancholy and the joy and contentment. Sam tells them about the dirty comedy; Carly talks about the parties in Hollywood, and how she got picked up by a talent scout. But all three of them, despite their easiness with each other, are nervous, almost antsy. There is an undercurrent to the room, to every movement, every gesture.

Sam stands finally, breaking into one of Freddie's slowing stories.

"Enough," she says. "Let's get naked."

The other two gawk at her. Freddie gawks at her further as she pulls her top over her head. Carly shakes her head, and rises, anticipatory.

"Carly, get us all some alcohol. And whatever pussy drink Fredwina drinks. Clearly, we need to be drunk to do this."

"Beer for me," Freddie says, rolling his eyes. He looks at the ceiling, as if it's perfectly normal to have Samantha Puckett getting naked in front of him.

"What, are you gay? How can you not look at this fine piece of ass? Look at me, Freddork."

Freddie moves his gaze down from his contemplation of the plaster. Carly sets down a brace of beer bottles and a bottle of tequila.

"Let's get drunk," Carly says. It's the last coherent thing they do for a while.

"that was awkward," carly says, giggling. "you know what's not awkward?"

"mm?" freddie offers.

"you, and me, and sam, all of us, together. so not awkward at all. we're like family!"

"sexy family," sam says. "vaguely incestuous. a bit like you and spencer, then?"

"shut up," carly says, and sighs. "honestly, the paparazzi—just because spencer and i show our love physically is not the grounds for a completely unreasonable article li—"

"shh," freddie says, leaning back on the chair and watching the two girls. he puts his legs up on the table. "don't worry, it's over now, and we're here."

even drunk, he moves the bottles out of the way. "so let's get on with it. you know, why we're here."

sam looks at him, steely-eyed. "and how do you think we should start?"

"you're half-naked," he points out. "we could go from there."

"oh," she says. "so i am. …carly?"

carly pulls her top over her head. freddie licks his lips and sits back in his chair, unscrewing another beer and taking a long swallow.

sam leans forward and kisses carly. she tangles her hand in carly's hair and sucks her upper lip, slipping her tongue into carly's mouth. carly tastes different from when they were younger, she notes; this carly tastes of expensive rum, the highest-class you can get, so high-class it almost doesn't have a brand name. she only knows what it tastes like because she's—hello—sam puckett. but carly tastes like it. and she doesn't know why. she breaks out of the kiss, sucking her lips in.

"why do you taste like high-class rum?" she says, looking carly in the eye. those brown eyes look ashamed. "i wouldn't have called you for a drinker."

"it…" carly says, looking down at her hands. "it tasted like you."

"that wasn't sentimental enough. clearly, we're not drunk enough yet. fredwina! another round!"

"alcohol:," freddie says instead of sliding beers to the pair of them. "giveth the desire but taketh away the ability. when i fuck you two i don't want you to fall asleep on me."

"what kind of pussy thinks of shakespeare while he's drunk?"

"you apparently know the reference."

"yes, but i have a pussy."

"…prove it."

"…in your dreams, fredwina."

"dreams become reality, samantha. i used to dream of you two girls being naked and with me, and…why, look at us now."

"shut up, fredward."

"how can you use my full name to irritate me, when, sam," freddie says, tilting her chin upward with a hand and securing her wrists with the other, "—when i find you saying 'fredward' fiendishly attractive?"

"attractive?" her grin is evil. "how so?"

"your voice—carly's voice—both of you -" he flicks his gaze between both of them. "both of you, your voices are so distinct, so direct. i want you," he says, his voice deep and rich. "i want you both. now."

"so impatient," carly says, impish, shaking her head. her hair shifts as her head moves. fascinated, sam runs her fingers through carly's hair, marvelling at the gloss under the penthouse's blended lights.

"to get to the good parts?" freddie says. "of course."

"and," carly says, "just what are the good parts?"

"clearly the chocolate sauce and us kissing, because freddork wouldn't last longer than a five-dollar note on the sidewalks in manhattan."

"freddie?" carly's gaze is steady. "do you really want us to use the chocolate sauce?"

"i have seen—and done—many things in france, in germany, in spain," freddie says.

"in belgium, in poland, in russia," sam mutters under her breath.

"but out of all the places i have seen, the people i have known, the delightful women who have parted their legs and their problems, exposed their bodies and their souls, you two are the most beautiful."

"that's so sweet, freddie," sam says. her sarcasm is so thick one could place a ham on it, and it would float in mid-air.

"i would be delighted," freddie says with a roguish smirk, "to utilise chocolate sauce."

carly leads them both to her bedroom and her room-sized bed, tugging them both down onto the mattress until they sprawl across it. she offers him the jar of chocolate sauce and reclines on their bed, naked and beginning to gleam with sweat.

"paint me then, mr. photographer," she says, stretching with her arms over her head. "paint me with chocolate, with strokes of your fingers and hand; paint sam and i, and then—what you will."

"so formal, carly?" freddie says.

carly elbows sam in the side, again and again until sam rolls her eyes and lies back as well.

"i suppose," sam says, "i should be lying back, closing my eyes, and thinking of america?"

"thinking of england will do just fine," freddie says, concentrating on a vision. it is more difficult in a haze of alcohol. "england is a wonderful place."

"that's not my point," sam says, rolling her eyes. "honestly, fredward, you're so stupid."

"oh no," freddie said, "i got it. don't worry. though for that, i'll adapt my design a bit, so that you will truly suffer. carly, do you have a paintbrush? …oh."

he finds the little paintbrush under the cap of the chocolate sauce; despite the tightness of the cap, it is unsealed, and some of it already appears to have been used.

carly looks sheepish.

"i couldn't resist," she says, and freddie smirks. sam smirks, too, and traces geometrics on carly's thigh.

at least the sheets are cool on freddie's knees.

freddie paints them with a photographer's eye. he paints his want for them.

sam does not endure it; it is not in her nature to lie back and take it, after all. she disrupts his 'carefully' marked lines, delights in watching the annoyance in his eyes grow. she slides her leg over carly's until a streak of chocolate begins on carly's skin and appears to jump over to hers. freddie rolls his eyes and continues painting. sam revels in the heat, even as carly seems to look faraway. it's too far away for sam—sex is for the now, not looking ahead. she slides the back of her knuckles up carly's side, and suckles the skin at her neck when carly shifts away.

"don't move," freddie says, and sam almost wants to curse at him.

so she does.

"freddie," she says, "people move. deal with it. we aren't pictures in your head." she takes his hand and presses it to her breast. "we're alive."

freddie seems so lost for a second, his eyes dark with thought and rethinking. sam huffs and takes the paintbrush away from him. carly's eyes are brighter than usual, and she looks at sam as if sam has said something completely profound. sam shifts under her gaze, and smirks when carly's hand brings freddie's fingers to curl around her breast.

"and now," sam says, a smirk curling up her face, "you've reached the fulfilment of your childhood fantasies."

"who says i dreamed about this?" freddie says, but she can see it in her eyes.

"who wouldn't?"


"somehow i think that he did."

"why are we talking about gibby right now?" carly says, and locks her leg together with sam. "come to us, freddie. i've missed you, and meat-lover over here —"

"literally—" sam and freddie are never sure who says it first.

"—has missed you as well."

freddie kisses them both, one after the other, and his eyes look peaceful at last.

"now!" sam says. "sentimentality over! let's get to fucking!" she rubs her hands together, and her best friends laugh at her, and proceed.

the pressure that presses against all their heads is constant, bar the throbbing of their hearts. it gets to the point where thinking is something that is fought for, to keep alive. by the time it gets to that stage only freddie—because he over-analyzes everything—is still thinking. sam threw herself head-first into unthinking action a while back. carly gave in.

it all becomes a mess, a tangle of limbs, heat and sweat and touch. fingers that trail across exposed legs, knees that part each others', indiscriminate kisses.

"anything, the hand does," freddie whispers, resting his chin on a palm and stroking carly restlessly with the other. sam rolls her eyes from above him and wraps her legs around his head. she kisses carly and the room is hot, hot, hot.

"get to it, freddork," sam says as she breaks away. she traces the curve of carly's breast, tweaking the nipple and rolling it between her fingers. carly gasps softly, a smile tugging at her face. "if you even can."

this time freddie's eyes raise to the ceiling. he lowers his head in lieu of reply, and flicks.

"can he?" carly says, amused. she lets her breath out in a hiss as freddie's fingers hook.

"not-at-all," sam tries to say, but the catch in her voice makes the words almost unintelligible. "stop, unh, stop smirking, freddie."

"knew it, i'm irresisti-mmph," freddie begins, before sam forces his face into her. she bucks her hips up to keep him there.

carly hooks a leg between sam and freddie's and kisses down the line of sam's neck, nips and bites. sam closes her eyes and moans. it is like fire, like mild candleflame flickering down the curve of her neck, out past her collarbone; carly uses only the tip to tease, to lure. sam glares at her. carly is supposedly so sweet, but she is manipulative; she's on the side where sam can't get to her, because her other hand is buried between freddie an—ooh, that was—

her arm tingles. carly skims her fingers along sam's forearm and glides them up her shoulder, tracing each of the marks on sam's shoulders—some scars, recently acquired—almost absently. sam bites her lip, heat rushing to her face. her whole body begins to thrum, each heartbeat making the buzz surge forth in pins-and-needles, until she's almost trembling with it.

freddork's puffs of warm breath leave her and she is almost shaking with an odd kind of cold. carly traces over her with her fingers and the tip of her tongue. she has to return the favor, right? but she is so tired. she marks out the path between carly's breasts and pinches it, pinches it and twists it, her eyelids falling.

they jerk open when two fingers, rough with a calluses from hard work and photography, sink into her. texture, all coarse, circles her clit slowly—too slowly. she bucks her hips, but they don't change in speed or even pressure. his fingers move in her slow; they would be gentle if his in-stroke weren't so forceful.

carly shifts until she is completely tangled up with freddie, her breasts pressing against his back. she runs her hands over his back and kisses his shoulders, her hair falling around his sides. she pushes into him, kneading him, and kisses down the trail of his spine. she watches, the lightnings crowding each other in the back of her throat and through her, as he kisses up sam's stomach, upward to her chest, pushing himself forward.

"roll over," carly demands. everything is colored in her penthouse light, the pinks and golds of skin and time, molasses where everything could be going fast.

"gladly," freddie says, and he turns.

"uuuunnn," sam says, pushing her knees together. freddie forces them apart with his elbows and lies down on sam. she strokes his hair, and they both open their eyes to watch carly.

carly sucks in heavy air. they are so beautiful, the two of them, her best friends. her hearing is muffled. she can't hear. it's almost like she can't breathe. she can't think. everything's disconnected. disjointed. it would be awkward. but it's not. because this is just…just getting out tension. it doesn't mean, it doesn't mean anything more. so it's just…a play-by-play. she's happy about everything now. really.

she straddles freddie and sinks down on him. he fills her. the trust that sam and freddie show, watching her, that fills her, too.

she throws her head back and he bucks his hips up and they are moving all three at once, connected and unconnected, disconnected disjointed together, hair in faces and sweat born of intimacy shared and lost. brown eyes meet brown, dark with want and need and lust and want, and a hand creeps up to her and finds her wanting.

she throws her head back and keens, the line of her spine familiar to questing fingers and disbelieving fingers, between the other two etching out their patterns on their skin. one hand rough with climbing out-of-way places traces feral curves down her sides; those fingers deny a possibility of ever being straight; all is curves there, the power of curves that are subtle. fingers, longer fingers, rougher fingers, they mark angles on her skin, lines straight and unforgiving, pressure; he pushes into her warmth trickles down from between his fingers and his cock, until she is caught in the middle. as she pumps herself over him a tongue slips between her lips and the tang of spicy-dark musk, hot scent, primal scent, rutting sticky chocolate between her lips and her tongue, smeared down the hollow of her throat with those familiar fingers.

familiar fingers to her lover, her lover her love, familiar kisses with the twists and techniques but she has learned some few of her own over the years. her legs are lifted up and the ragged blonde hair sways as she throws her head back and she follows her and kisses her, rough fingers between them etching angles on their breasts and ribs, down to where they all mingle together, three as one and one as two and two as three, legs tangled with each other and thirty fingers in thirty traces over expanses of taut skin. heat, heat, heat, more heat. trails of it, trickles of it, rivulets and rivers of it, pulsing in ripples and waves, heat emanating from her core and her head and her heart until they are matched together, three layers of heat and three lovers and one body.

she presses her chest to her, and she kisses down her neck to her and slips her fingers deep into her, and he holds them both in the circle of his arms. they stroke him as he kisses the swell of her. they lose their minds to each other; no more exploring, only home home home.

he gasps as she pushes her palm into the spot under his ribs, narrows his eyes and streaks a harsh line diagonal across her shoulderblade, across her shoulder and onto her shoulder, their two shoulders, connecting them with his lines and bonds. he reaches out for his camera without thinking about it, the feeling of his arms around them too strong to be imagination, freezes as he contacts flesh; she has curled around his hand. he loses the obstacle of the camera at last, and reaches out to hold her. more than a handful is wasteful. he's glad that it's not wasteful at all.

she links them with strings and tangles them with legs. she follows the drops and the lines of the dark comedy that is their lives made flesh, until she traces their relationships through the prickles that echo up their spines together, worms her head through the gaps between she and he, concentrates against the indescribable pleasure that washes through her—glorious rich rum and meat, melt-in-the-mouth salt and tang, marination. meat—she thinks with a laugh, then doesn't think at all.

she projects her emotion onto the other two, the other one, the other parts of herself, the parts that went away and went low and return again (like they are returning to the how she needs the attention, she chokes out wordless pleas from the back of her throat) innocence is unwarranted and they have all lost their innocences to vagaries of their lives (but were they ever innocent? she does not know) but her emotion has always been the strongest part of them, he always confused and she never caring. she knows that she has always been the purest, the cleanest, and that has not changed with biblical carnal knowledge (she works a hand between the two of them, trailing up the pale skin to flick against her clit, quick rebound to stroke him once, and off again) cleanest, purest, and yes, she feels the most, most sensitive—most sensitive—most -

she jerks as she is filled completely, whole, completely, and sam is grinning up at her, and who is grinning up at her? mischievous face part of herself, understanding, she pushes her legs together until he forces them apart, mischievous mischievous, both parts of themselves ganging up on her so she gives in and pulls them to her, and they kiss her one each, their hands working on each other so synchronised that she wants to cry.

cold it's cold there why feeling, feeling across the inside of her— skin, was it skin, is it called skin? the inside of her, fingers fiery trails that blaze across left-right-top-under folds and slits and walls she is so hot is anyone else so hot? hot like the room is steaming up the windows cold because it is night, night of spring summer season fall, her name their name slipping beyond their grasp, his voice murmuring unintelligibles sweetly into the curves of their bodies, the angles of them. he sucks on her, his fingers lingering at the triangle of her hips. she slides down to kiss the back of her knees and she writhes, her knees, they're her weak spot.

"nnn," she says, and her mouth is covered by him, clean, winter-trees, europe, and her lips are swelling as she moves against him, against her fingers, her own fingers buried elsewhere in a part of herself theirself that cries out with different timbre, hands working him furiously until he looks at both of them dark and spills them onto the center of the bed, both on top of theirself.

"let me…" he says, and they grin at him, their eyes bright and they are looking at each other again, sharing a time without him, without this part that makes them more whole than when they were whole with each other.

familiar kisses, more familiar, more right, until they lock with arcs of bolts that jump from their tongues to their spines, racing up and down with the rhythm of full and rock forward, full and rock forward, theirself filled one after the other and multiple reaction back-and-forth rocking chairs, wood carved in feral curves and angles straight lines, harsh bony bodies and curves.

"uunh," he says, and shifts them as they let him shift them, shifts theirself until he-part is so deep in them both, different angle as they keep their movements, different angle time after time after time their lips part and their heads press into the bed-mattress creak of springs.

"pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease," she-part says that is not she, brown-hazelbright eyes lost to it all, lost to her fingers pinching and rolling her nipples and his cock in her and her rough tongue over her clit, and she sucks down and she comes without barely even thinking about it

"your turn," he says to her and his voice cracks and his eyes are wide as she welcomes him inside, antagonism they always fight but the truth is that she wants him and he knows it, but he wants her, he has always wanted her, and she knows it, and they are part of theirself now so it doesn't matter what they've wanted only what they're getting

she hisses as he sheathes himself in her full down all the way the angle slamming against her while a tongue and fingers used half-dreamily swipe across her, and she comes hard hot sticky fast, unrepentantly messy. she throws her head and arches her back and clenches, holds him while he's desperately pulling away.

he thrusts once, twice, thrice, she looks up at him and wonders how it is that he's still surviving, still tottering on the edge, and they kiss in front of him, she slips her rough fingers into a once-upon-a-time partner and deliberately moan each others' names and finger each other, slip their hands spread between their legs and shock each other until they are awake but he is not, he-self dark dark dark musk so deep with want, so deep with need

"yess," sam hisses, she has a name now, is it the right name? she does not recall—"come, freddie, come."

is it carly? maybe she has a new name new name they have moulded into each other, melded into each other, often enough before this without him. "freddork, do it."

he pulls himself out all of the way and they hold him and they suck him, they look at him dark eyes brown eyes and his control—slips -

he cries out wordless, scroans, they close their eyes all three all one

"you're like dogs," freddie whispers to them. he is too tired to watch what he is saying.

sam is too tired to even poke fun at him. "you calling us bitches?"

"no," he says, "but i'm watching you and you're licking an—"

"how do you even have the energy t—" carly says, her tongue dragging up sam's face. she winces. "you need to eat more oranges."

"yes, carly," freddie says, and smirks. he lies half over them, half under them; sam is half under him and half over carly, carly is half over him and half under sam. they are an impossible triangle visually but in reality, it is very possible.

"just do it," carly says, and sam rolls her eyes. freddie strokes the two of them absent-mindedly, and falls asleep between one thought and the next. the warmth around keeps him of dreaming of regrets.

sam twines their fingers together, all three of them in one clasp. carly would stare at her in astonishment—sam? do something emotional?—but she is far, far too tired.

there is nothing awkward between them the next day, even when freddie reports to work. he can't shake the grin and glow, and several people (the blunter ones) ask him how the sex was. he points to his grin and apparently can't stop from whistling, and they laugh back (one samuel mclenson pats him on the back and actually says that he envies him) and rumors fly as to who.

one of the rumors is right. but sam is nowhere to confirm it (she's taking the day off, and besides, she has a routine tonight)

her routine is conducted that night with an ear-splitting grin, and most of her jokes are ribald and sexual. but then her jokes have that usual tint anyway, and the only reason that the backstage crew will think that that night is unique is her off-key whistling when she is waiting for her turn on stage.

carly's quiet serene smile, usually present on her face, seems to be stronger than usual, and she goes about her acting that day with more spunk than usual. her comebacks, when her costar hits on her, are twice as sarcastic as usual, but also twice as targetted, and even her costar laughs when she over-exaggeratedly picks on him. her director watches her utter relaxation carry over into several difficult scenes, and what previously had taken her dozens of takes to get an adequate shot takes only two at the most, and what he sees is mind-blowing.

he asks her what her secret is, and she simply smiles at him.

freddie benson applies for leave to his ceo and hefts his camera. the smile hasn't quite left his face yet, and he develops his personal style further, angling and juxtaposing feral curves on architecture—curves that most people would not normally notice—with lighting that forces clear, clean colours. the lines from his previous work seem muted, the composition of each photograph crisp—like before, but this time each observation is so unique that the lines and curves and colours blend together; in this portfolio, sometimes the curves are more present, sometimes the lines, sometimes the colours, and sometimes they are all even (or one less present)—but in the portfolio, when taken as a whole, they are. they are all one, different and unique as each shot is.

when he releases this portfolio museums scurry to snatch it up. sam sees one of the shots on one of her museum trips and bops him on the head the next night in guise of an 'accident'. she spends a whole week of afternoons talking to one of the curators, who is trying to work out the meanings behind the themes. sam knows very well what the meanings are. instead, through subtle misdirections (there is not that many parts of her that think in straight lines anymore) she leads the curator in a vastly different direction.

when the curator publishes a book several years hence he uses the meanings that sam has directed him to think; that is the meaning that the world thinks of benson's Third Series, (oddly numbered as a first and second series were never titled that way, nor even appeared to exist at all)

they unite every other night in a blaze of steam, heat that melds them to each other. it is that knowledge of each other that keeps them going, creativity and instinctive knowledge warring in upmanship against each other. they build and build and touch the sky, inspire each other to touch the sky and be anchored, while the heat grows and cools cold air chill across the three of them, the curtains open and flapping over the skyline.

it will not last forever, they know, but they will take advantage of it while they can.

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