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Her trembling hands slid around his neck, and she pulled him close to her and kissed him, stealing his breath, his thoughts, to add to the heart that she'd stolen so many years ago, when they were just kids. When he could finally grasp what was happening, he wondered how a moment could seem frozen, and yet be over before he knew it. Her tear-stained eyes locked into his, and her quivering lips, shining with moisture from being pressed against his, parted, and she breathed out the words that he never thought he'd hear.

"That's amazing," she said. And then, with slightly frightened realization, "...Oh, God....I love you."

This time, he pulled her in, with such gentle force it made her heart skip a beat before matching pace with his, and they kissed again. And again. And again....and....

Seth's eyes drifted open slowly, and he squinted at the sunlight creeping through the blinds. He blinked rapidly, trying to wake himself up, although he'd been having such an incredible dream, he was disappointed in having woken up at all. He stretched, and swiped the striped polo shirt that he didn't even remember discarding from the floor, and pulled it on to accompany his rumpled Nintendo boxers.

He stumbled out of his room, hit suddenly with the awareness that his head was throbbing.

His headache worsened as he tried to remember the previous night, which was fuzzier than the plush carpet he padded on as he headed downstairs. It had been his grandpa Caleb's big birthday bash, and something great had happened...something so great, in fact, that Seth decided he must've gotten wasted at the mini-bar afterward to not be able to recall it a short ten hours later.

Upon reaching the kitchen, Seth realized that his parents were out, and Ryan was still in the poolhouse. He poured himself some Cocoa Puffs, and retreated back to his room for a little breakfast in bed. But when he got to his door, Seth's hands went limp and his breakfast ended up on the floor. His mouth fell open, as he stared at his bed, at Summer, who was in it, wearing nothing but his plaid bed sheet.

She had jolted awake upon hearing the bowl of cereal hit the floor, and now she and Seth wore matching bewildered expressions. Her dark hair was tousled, her eyes bleary, and her hands tremored slightly as they held the sheet tightly around her torso. Her hands were shaking, just like last night, Seth thought. Was it possible that his dream had been reality?

"What happened?" Summer squeaked, in a tone much softer than her usual superior conviction.

"I...don't know," Seth answered truthfully, as chocolate milk puddled at his feet.

Summer ran a hand through her hair, and squeezed her eyes shut, as she began to massage her temples.

"God...I can't remember anything," she said. She began talking to herself, retracing her steps of the night before.

"It was Caleb Nichols' birthday party..I was talking to that cute investment banker..."

"And then you kissed me," Seth finished.

The sentence hung between them in the acrid air, which smelled of secrets.

Summer cast her eyes downward, as if she were trying to recall having done what Seth had just accused her of.

"No," she said certainly, "....then I talked to that cute pharmacist, and then......"

Summer's voice softened to an octave lower, and the sound was as beautiful to Seth as she was. If her voice were a color, it would be the tender pink of a newborn's skin, the creamy white of powdered sugar, Seth thought, letting these notions force themselves past the shock that was still muddling his brain.

"....and then you starting reciting I Wish I Was A Mermaid....and then...." Summer's wide eyes slid up to look into Seth's.

"And then I kissed you."

Seth could feel the skin between his toes getting sticky from the puddle of cereal, but he didn't care. This inner-epiphany that Summer was going through before his eyes, like a stunning butterfly emerging from her lackluster cocoon, one that was caused by him, was more important than his personal hygiene at this moment.

"So....then what happened?" Summer asked meekly. She knew the answer, they both did, but she had asked anyway.

"I can't remember," Seth said, finally moving from the doorway.

He tentatively sat on the bed opposite Summer, who immediately flinched, tightening her grip on the sheet that shielded her. It was probably a vain effort, she thought, since in the back of her mind, where she'd stashed her feelings for Seth, the ones she hadn't even known had been there, she knew that Seth had seen, felt, known everything last night.

"Which probably means we got totally wasted," Summer concluded,

"Yeah," Seth said, nodding heartily. The motion made his head swim, and he made an inner note not to do it again.

"Not that I wouldn't have if we wouldn't have," Summer said quickly. She realized that she hadn't made any sense, but was now too embarrassed to repeat herself with any clarity.

It didn't matter. Seth knew what she meant, but he didn't believe it. No way.

"Summer, don't," he said. "You don't mean that."

Summer closed her eyes, fighting to remember.

"But I do," she insisted, taking one hand away from the sheet and placing it, gentle as a dragonfly, on Seth's arm. He looked at it slowly, not wanting to move, for fear she'd snatch it back.

But she didn't.

"I can't remember what I said or did last night, Seth, but I do remember the way that I felt. Before we had anything to drink. That's why I started drinking, I think, because I needed to be numb to it, I couldn't believe I actually felt that way....."

Seth felt his eyes widen in disbelief. He resisted the urge to pinch himself. If he moved, it might shatter this perfect, fragile moment.

"....and I've never felt that way before, Seth," Summer breathed, her voice serious and intent.

"Summer, come on, I mean, all those guys-" Seth began protesting. Why the hell am I protesting, he wondered.

"'All those guys' meant nothing, Seth. They don't even know me, they don't care," she said sincerely. Dropping her voice to nearly a whisper, she added, "and I never did anything with any of them. With anyone."

Seth's breath exploded in shock, and he immediately apologized. He just couldn't believe it- Summer, a virgin? Until now, that is, he thought in the back of his mind.

"I never wanted to," Summer continued. "You can't tell anyone this, Cohen, I'd hate to ruin my shallow reputation, but I wanted it to be someone who cared about me, someone who really loved me, and you're the only person who ever has. I didn't even know until last night, when you started saying all those things, and then it was like, something clicked into place, you know?"

Seth had to be dreaming. Summer, clad in his bedclothes, sitting here, pouring her heart out to him in a voice that wasn't her own biting whine.

"Yeah, I do know..." Seth said, still in awe.

Summer continued talking, and Seth didn't ever want her to stop, he wanted the sound of her voice, stripped of her showy, public attitude, to fill his ears forever.

She looked down at her hands.

"I don't think my own dad even knows how I wore my hair in fifth grade," she laughed ruefully.

"French braid, Monday through Friday," Seth answered automatically.

Summer's face broke into a smile, and her eyes shined with something Seth had never noticed before. Summer the Ice Queen was melting before his eyes.

"Yeah, well, at least I didn't have a bowl cut," she said, grinning.

Seth gaped at Summer, who was smiling sheepishly like a shy kindergartener.

"You remember that I had a bowl cut in fifth grade!" he accused joyfully, pointing a finger at Summer.

She batted the finger away playfully.

"Whatev," she said, mocking herself. "Only because Marissa and I used to make fun of it!"

Seth smiled so hard he thought his face might break.

"Yeah, right, Summer. You thought I was a total hottie, didn't you? You did then and you do now!" he teased.

"Now Cohen, let's not get cavalier," she taunted, slipping her tone back into what Seth had decided was her true voice.

She noticed the surprise on Seth's face, and put her hands over his, feigning seriousness.

"Yes, Seth, I do know multiple syllable words. I'm not as....as I seem," she finished awkwardly.

"Why have you hid this all along?" Seth asked in amazed joy, thrilled that the girl he'd always known Summer was had finally shown herself, and to him, of all people.

"Hid what?" Summer asked.

"You," Seth breathed.
Summer closed her hands around his, leaned in, and kissed him gently.

"Because...it was just like you knew all along, what I realized last night," she whispered, having pulled back just enough to be able to look past his eyes and into his soul, so the words that followed would stay there forever.

"I was saving me for you. Just you."