You're fourteen when you go to the school dance with a pretty girl named Danielle. You make a complete fool of yourself. But then, you're young and you've got a lot to learn. It's okay, you tell yourself. There will be plenty of pretty girls to take to dances down the road.
You're fifteen when Sabrina asks you to partner with her on a project. She's funny and smart and she actually likes your jokes, and you can't believe your luck. You mess that up too, but that's not really your fault. It's Spike's, or it's Adam's. Your brother teases you about never having been kissed.
You're sixteen when you have your first kiss.
His name is Sebastian, and when he leans in and presses his lips against yours, your already-heightened senses go wild. He smells like shampoo and seawater and his hands are warm and firm on your waist. You kiss him and you kiss him and you kiss him, and it's like coming alive.
You're sixteen when you get your heart broken for the first time. Sebastian tells you pretty, pretty lies and you fall for them like some dumb kid. When he turns on you and instigates a rebellion against the bionic academy, your stomach boils with shame. Because you should have known better. Because this is all your fault.
You're sixteen when you meet Kaz, and he saves your life. He takes you to Mighty Med and fixes you up, and you remember all those times as a child that you were told going to the hospital would result in getting discovered and kept in a government facility.
Kaz isn't threatening or frightening or anything like what you thought doctors would be like, and you find yourself hoping more people were lucky enough to have a caretaker like him.
You're seventeen when you walk into a penthouse in Centium City and Kaz is there, and it's like stepping back into a wonderful dream. You share a room and you watch movies together in Mission Command. You fight alongside each other, and you count yourself incredibly lucky to know this strange and hilarious boy from Philadelphia.
You're seventeen when you get your heart broken a second time.
Her name is Reese, and she's witty and cute and everything you feel like you're missing. She follows you home and you're so happy to show her off to the team that you ignore all the warning signs.
You're seventeen when you come home to find your uncle dying on the floor of Mission Command, and it's your fault, your fault, your fault. You stay with him while the others go after Roman and Riker and Reese, and you beat yourself up for believing that you could ever deserve something nice.
When the Mighty Max officers drag Reese away finally, she sneers at you. "Smartest man in the world, huh?" she says. "Could've fooled me." Kaz goes to grab your hand but you shake him off; you don't want Reese to see you being weak.
You're eighteen the next time you let Kaz hold your hand, when the two of you are out on the terrace overlooking Centium City. Being near Kaz is like sitting around a campfire, letting the warmth and light surround you. And when he kisses you, it's sweet, like s'mores.
You're eighteen when you let Kaz into your heart, and he doesn't make you regret it. He's careful with you in a way that no one was before, in a way you never knew you always wanted. Being with Kaz is like waking up after a long nightmare.
You're eighteen when you finally wake up.