Seth Cohen = perfect? I know that's probably the hugest flaw in this fic (among many, lol), but it's just not in me to make him mean, or not even mean, but anything other than "perfect." lol I haven't been able to find an angle in anything I've written to truly make Seth anything but good-hearted...that may be my next challenge. I'm not sure who "us" are --and scream into your pillows, it won't freak as many people out that way-- (yeah, I'm lame) but you may have just changed the direction of this story... lol Nah, maybe my next fic I'll make Seth this evil guy. Oy! So, if you will, forgive me. I think I went a little overboard with the fluff and sappiness with this fic, but it probably won't happen again for a while.

I left this a little open ended, just in case.

Oh, God. I am such a sap!

Thanks for the reviews and again, I'm sorry for making people want to scream. :( :p lol

_______

Seth felt sick. He'd just basically made the girl he supposedly loved feel guilty for wanting to follow her dreams. Yeah, in the asshole race, he was coming in first.

Checking his watch, he saw he had about seven minutes to get some much needed advice before the curtains went up and he was due on stage, starring opposite some total...and if wasn't so worried, he could think of a good insult; the point was he had to act opposite someone who wasn't Summer, while Summer schmoozed at some high-class art gallery, nerve-wracked and probably more than a little freaked out. Yeah, he definitely needed advice.

Sneaking out from backstage, he stealthy moved about the aisles, seeking out Ryan. Finding his pseudo-brother attached at the lips to Marissa, he didn't even bother with common courtesy of clearing his throat. He tapped -punched- Ryan on the shoulder and ignored the Death Glare he received from Ryan and the flustered look Marissa sent him, too. "Ryan, man, I screwed up."

Ryan wiped his mouth and turned in his seat. "That doesn't surprise me," he said, his voice monotone.

Seth crouched down. "No, listen. Remember that art thing I told you about? The contest thing Summer entered? Yeah, well, it's tonight and being the self-centred jerk that I am, I got mad at Summer for wanting to go to it. I mean, I know she was not as into this whole play hoopla as I was, but I know she was having fun, and of course if it came down to this or being able to create my very own comic book or video game or something of that nature, I would so bail, and I don't know why I didn't just say that, but I didn't, so now I let her go on her own and I'm a total sleaze. So, what should I do?"

Seth ignored the blatant look of distain Marissa shot him and focussed on the stoic glare Ryan was partial to. "Do you even have to ask?"

Seth held his index finger to his lip. "Right. Just tell my mom and dad... ah, screw it, I'm wasting time, tell them whatever you want."

Seth rushed back up the aisle and to the make-shift dressing rooms. It took him two minutes to peel the costume off his body and to get dressed in his own clothing. He didn't care if his shirt was on backward or he seemed to be missing a sock, he had already wasted enough time.

Spotting Devon milling around, he thrust the costume at him. "Here."

Devon, who had been leaning on a table, stood and examined the clothing. "What the hell's this?"

Seth couldn't be bothered with being intimidated, even though his eye still bared a yellowing bruise inflicted by the bigger boy. "The costume for Ethan. I need you to take my place."

"It's opening night!" Devon looked at him like he was some maniacal lab rat. The theme for Pinky and the Brain began to play in Seth's head.

"I'm well aware."

Devon shook his head. "I don't get it."

"You don't have to get it. Just go out there and don't forget your lines."

Devon tilted his chin up and narrowed his eyes. "Why're you doing this, Cohen?"

Seth shook his head, let out a strange laugh. "You wouldn't understand. Now, go change. Oh, and this is just for tonight, the rest of the week the lead is mine." Seth didn't wait for Devon's reaction, he was on a mission and nothing was going to get in his way.

_________

Kirsten and Sandy were late. Extremely late. Their little boy was all grown up and performing in the highschool play and they were late. And they really didn't have a good excuse. It wasn't Sandy's fault that his wife was so damn irresistible. Nor was it his intention to have a quickie after seeing Kirsten getting ready and dabbing perfume behind her ears. There were just some things a red-blooded American male could not resist and a half-dressed woman was one of those things. So yeah, they were late and the lights were already down and the auditorium was packed, but Ryan had promised to save seats if he and Marissa got there first, so Sandy really didn't get what the problem was.

"Do you see Ryan?" Kirsten whispered as they made their way down the aisle. It was difficult to see in the darkened room.

Sandy strained his eyes and searched the crowd. "No. You?"

"No. Oh wait, there he is." Kirsten pointed out the two teens glued together at the lips. "Should we?"

"It's your call, honey. Maybe we should just find other seats and let them get their mack on."

"Get their what?"

"It's a hip way of saying making out. Jeez, you've been spending way too much time at the office, you've got to get with the times."

"Shh!" Someone behind them whispered angrily.

"Sorry," Kirsten apologized and took Sandy's hand.

They walked together to the row Ryan and Marissa occupied, still immersed in each other. Sandy cleared his throat, a smile on his face. Nothing happened. Kirsten elbowed Sandy in the ribs and looked at him pointedly. Dropping her hand, he held out his own in front of him. "Okay. Okay." Tapping his adopted son on the shoulder, he watched Ryan pull away from Marissa and her eyes open in confusion. Marissa gasped and her face reddened. Ryan turned around and looked up at Sandy and Kirsten sheepishly.

"Uh..."

Sandy shook his head and laughed, receiving disapproving looks. Kirsten looked more sympathetic. "Sorry," she mumbled. "Has it started yet?"

Ryan turned in his seat, as far away from Marissa as he could possibly get. "Seth didn't call you?"

Kirsten looked between Sandy, Marissa and Ryan alarmed. "No, what happened?"

"Oh, nothing...just, well, Seth's not exactly going to be performing tonight."

"Stage fright?" Sandy asked.

"No, actually. See, Summer had this art thing and so she couldn't act in the play, so she went to that, and of course, Seth being Seth couldn't go on without her, so he followed her there."

"It was so romantic," Marissa supplied, dreamily.

"I think he gets that from me," Sandy offered proudly.

Kirsten and Ryan rolled their eyes.

"Oh yeah, a regular Casanova you are."

"Need I remind you why we're late?"

"Sandy!" Kirsten admonished, her face now going a similar shade of red Marissa's had just been.

Ryan looked horrified. Sandy only took up his wife's hand and gave it a little kiss. Kirsten couldn't help but smile.

"I guess there's no use in staying then," Kirsten looked up at the stage where two unknown teenagers had just taken up the centre. "You kids have fun."

"Yeah, and stay out as late as you want," Sandy interjected, ignoring the pointed look of disapproval Kirsten gave him.

"Bye," Marissa and Ryan said in unison.

"See, this is really a blessing in disguise," Sandy was saying as they disappeared into the darkness. "Now we can go home and..."

Ryan didn't care to hear the rest and turned to Marissa who had laced her fingers with his.

"That's totally going to be Seth and Summer fifteen years from now."

Ryan nodded. "That's really a scary thought. Poor Seth, he's going to be so whipped. So... where do you think we'll be in fifteen years?"

"Hopefully together," Marissa whispered, resting her head on his shoulder.

Ryan smiled and squeezed her hand. He could live with that.

_________

Summer chewed on her lip. All the paintings had been revealed and she'd had a chance to look at everyone else's work. There were a lot of talented people entered and her hopes were beginning to wane. She'd phoned her father and left a message about the change of plans, not that she had expected her father to come to the play anyway. He'd told her he was too busy dealing with legal mumbo jumbo and would be out of town yet again, but to take the credit card and buy herself something nice. She wasn't surprised. But still, there was still a part of her that wished she'd turn around and her father would be standing in the doorway and then he'd rush over to her and give her a hug and ask her to show him around. Of course, she wasn't naive enough to believe it would actually happen. Hell, the last time her father had hugged her she'd been ten and that was only because he was sending her to camp for the summer season even though she'd broken her arm the day before and wouldn't even be able to do any activities for weeks and because for one moment she let her weakness show and she shed a tear. She watched as her father and step-mother shared some secret look that she didn't fully understand but knew to be patronizing. It was the last time she cried in front of anyone. Well...until Seth Cohen came along.

Sometimes there were parts of Summer that were divided between who she pretended to be and who she really was. It wasn't until she'd really let Seth in that she realized it was okay to let her guard down. She sighed. What she really wanted to do was cry and she really wasn't all that clear on why.

The judging was about to take place and all the artists were corralled into a room that had refreshments and wine. After her last run-in with alcohol she wasn't too keen on drinking, so she got a glass of Mountain Dew instead, which was a bad choice since it reminded her of Seth. Looking around the room, she noticed everyone had someone but her. Proud parents. Supportive significant other's. Hell, one girl had her entire family, plus six friends. Summer had no one. She wanted Seth. And she wanted to cry.

Giving into her pity party, she felt her eyes well up, and had to blink several times to believe the image that sprang before her. She blinked several times to make sure it wasn't an illusion. The figure at doorway was coming closer. Summer wiped her eyes and gasped as Seth materialized. "What are you doing here?"

Seth cupped her cheek and let his thumb pull the wet drops from her face. "I came to support you. And looks like I got here just in time," he said, pulling her against his chest.

"What about the play?" It came out muffled, but Seth seemed to understand.

"It runs for a week, this art show is only for tonight. Besides the thought of kissing Tracy Shepard was even less appealing that kissing Luke."

Summer pulled away, one perfect eyebrow raised. "I don't know whether to be scared or grateful."

Seth laughed, shook his head. "Yeah, I dunno either."

"I know you're mad and you have every right to be and I'm sorry I bailed, but this is important to me-"

Seth's fingertips danced up and down her back. "Shh. Hey, I'm not mad. I mean, do I look mad?" She shook her head no.

They stared into each other's eyes and it was as if she was looking down on herself and not really there, because people as sweet as Seth Cohen did not really exist on earth. At least that's what she always believed.

"And in second place," the announcer was saying, "'Caught by Isolation' by Summer Roberts."

It was an abstract painting. The background was blue with beautiful swirls of saffron and sandalwood creating a chaotic cyclone effect. In the centre was what appeared to be a lone figure caught up in the storm. Everyone was clapping and she was vaguely aware of people congratulating her and Seth pulling her against him, but all she felt was numb and she couldn't really breathe.

She felt Seth guiding her to the podium to receive her prize money. A man took her slender hand and shook it, then gave her an envelope and a certificate with shiny gold leaf lettering done in calligraphy. Turning around, she was aware of more applause and she managed a smile as she walked back to where she had been standing. She stopped for a second, looked at Seth and then kept walking all the way out of the gallery. Seth was by her side in no time flat and asking her something she just couldn't grasp.

"What?" she finally asked, realising she was shaking.

Seth was smiling one of those big smiles he got every time something went right, like when he reached a new level on Playstation. "I said that you did awesome." His smile began to fade and his eyes weren't shining anymore, instead they were clouded. "What's wrong?"

"I got second place." She didn't recognize her own voice and was only vaguely aware that she was holding something in her hand too tight and was making a soft crunching noise like when she walked over sand with flip-flops.

Summer didn't miss the way his eyes changed from curious to concerned. "You got second place, that's huge!"

Her throat felt tight and she knew there were tears running down her cheek and even if she wanted to, she really couldn't explain it. "It's not good enough. I didn't win."

Seth shrugged, his hand tentatively reaching out and landing on her exposed shoulder. She shivered. "So you didn't win? So what? At least you tried and not many people are brave enough to do even that," he said, trying to be supportive.

"I wanted to win, though. I just thought...I thought maybe... You don't understand." She turned from him and started walking down the dark street.

Seth caught up to her and turned her around. "Then make me understand."

Summer swiped at her eyes. Her vision was blurry, but she could still see the desperation etched on Seth's face. "I wanted to win. I wanted to be able to say, for once, that I was good at something."

"Sweetie, you're good at so many things, especially art."

"I wanted to..." Summer lost eye contact and shrugged. "I want to prove something." She waited a beat and then said: "to my Dad."

Seth took hold of her shoulders and bent down so his eyes were level with hers. His fingers were warm, not really rough but not overly soft either. "Summer, listen to me, you don't have to prove anything to anyone but yourself. I'm proud enough for the both of us, and if your father doesn't understand what this -your art- means to you... well then, screw him!"

"I wish I could say to hell with him. I wish I could say his opinion doesn't matter, but it does. It mat-ters so mu-ch," she hiccupped, "I just... I wa-nt... I want him to love me."

"Come 'ere," Seth coaxed, pulling her against him and cradling her neck in his large hand. "You don't deserve this, Summer. No one should treat their own child like this."

She could feel the lump in her throat pull and tighten like a snake slowly suffocating her. There were too many emotions in her head to make sense of anything, but she knew, somewhere she knew, she loved Seth more than she had ever loved anyone or anything and that thought scared the shit out of her more than disapproval from her father, more than the fact that her mother walked out on her and maybe because of her.

Summer felt drained. "I want to go home, Cohen. Just take me home."

Seth nodded, letting her lean heavily on his side as they made their way to the Range Rover he'd haphazardly parked out front of the gallery.

_________________

Seth took Summer's keys and slid them into the lock in her front door. He pushed it open when he heard it click and gently coaxed Summer inside.

"No one's home?" Seth said.

"No one's ever home," Summer said tersely, snorting.

Seth's heart ached for Summer. He'd never known that kind of pain. His parents had always been there for him. Always. "Do you want to just go to my house? No one will mind."

Summer let go of his hand and stepped out of her shoes. "No. No, I'd rather wallow in my own misery in my own bed."

"Summer."

She didn't even bother to turn and look at him. "Please don't tell me not to think so negatively, Cohen. I don't want to hear that...at least not tonight. Just let me be as miserable as I want tonight, okay?"

Seth came up behind her, his hands dropping to her delicate shoulders, his lips meeting the softness of her hair. "Okay," he whispered and let his hands travel down her arms and hook around her waist.

They stood like that, gently swaying, as if to music, for a few minutes. Seth didn't want to move and Summer didn't seem to want to, either.

"Seth?"

"Hmm?"

"You're not going to leave, are you?"

Seth rested his head on her shoulder and kissed her neck. "Not if you don't want me to."

"Okay, good," she said, moving her head and rubbing her cheek against his.

"How do you think Devon and Stacy made out with the play?"

Summer stilled in his arms. "The play. I almost forgot." Summer turned, Seth still holding onto her, so they faced. "I'm sure they did okay."

Seth kissed the tip of her nose. "No, see, you're supposed to say they did horrible. That no one plays Ethan and Emma as well as we do. That they don't have any chemistry and the whole audience walked out by the second act."

Summer laughed, a real laugh. "Okay, whatever you just said times two."

"That's my girl. Oh, and Mr. Birdman probably had a canary."

Summer shook his head. "If you were going for funny, you missed."

"Ouch. No one appreciates my comedy like you do, Summer."

"What can I say, Cohen, I have standards and that just wasn't funny. You're slacking."

"I just can't think with you this close."

"Oh, then let me help you think more clearly," she teased, wriggling out of his arms.

Seth caught her and pulled her back for a hug. "That just makes it worse."

Summer lifted her hand to Seth's neck, let her fingers tangle in his curls and made him bend forward until their foreheads were pressed together. "Seth?"

"Hmm?"

"Are you sure you're not mad about missing opening night?"

"Not at all," he answered, stealing a kiss.

"Seth?"

"Uh-huh?"

"Let's go to bed."

Seth's eyes popped open. He stared down at Summer and noticed her eyes were dark and her skin was flushed. Instead of waiting for a response, Summer took Seth's hand and led him through the kitchen and into her bedroom.

___________________________________

Seth was going for stealth when he opened the front door and entered the house, but even his muted steps couldn't stop his father from openly glaring at him, arms folded across his chest and a bemused scowl on his face, from his place in the front hall.

"Where have you been?" Sandy asked, his voice surprisingly hushed.

Seth's eyebrows knitted together. "Whoa, are you mad?"

"You're darn right I'm mad. You spent the whole night away from this house and didn't even call. What do you have to say for yourself?"

"I was...with Summer. Perfectly good explanation. You're going to completely understand after I give you all the facts," he replied, holding a hand up to silence his father who found no humour in it. "See, there was the play, but then, there was the art show and Summer, well she sorta needed to go to the art show and of course, I couldn't let her go alone. Then, she got second place, which I thought was great, but her? Not so much. So yeah, turns out the whole thing was about her dad and proving herself. So then, she was just distraught...you know, with the tears and you know how I hate when girls cry, so naturally I couldn't leave her alone. So clearly I made the right decision. I mean, what was I supposed to do?"

Sandy remained unmoved. "I was worried sick."

"I'm sorry. Really, I am, but Summer needed me. You would've done the same thing."

Seth straightened, mimicking his father's stance, trying to remind him just how alike they were; Seth really was his spitting image. It was hard to stay mad at someone who reminded him of himself and Seth played it for all it was worth.

Sandy took in a deep breath, visibly relaxing; he let his hands fall to his side. "That still doesn't excuse the fact that your mother and I had no idea where you were."

Seth frowned. "Is mom as upset as you?"

"Fortunately for your mother, she fell asleep before I began to worry."

Seth nodded, a little too enthusiastically. "Awesome."

Sandy waved his finger at his boy. "Not awesome, son. I was up the whole night and now I've got a meeting to go to, but don't think this little chat is over just yet."

"Sure, dad. Whatever you say." Seth rolled his eyes.

"I'm serious, Seth."

"I know. Did you hear me denying that fact?"

Sandy shook his head. "Wait until I tell your mother."

Seth panicked. Clearly, they both knew Kirsten was more of a disciplinarian than Sandy was. "Come on, pops. She'll ground me. I hate being grounded. No Playstation. No television. No comics. It's not fun. I'll get bored and you know what happens when I get bored? I get chatty. Yep, you tell mom, and there'll be a whole lotta chatting happening around you. And I don't just mean sometimes, I mean all the time. Think about it, dad. Me, talking. All. The. Time." Seth smiled, letting the information marinate.

Sandy eyes grew huge. And just as Seth expected he was singing a different tune when he spoke again. "Your mother really doesn't need to know about this, but we're still going to have that talk."

"You won't hear me complaining."

Sandy grabbed his briefcase and pulled on the door handle and then he turned back to Seth. "Remember you said that. I've got to go, I'm going to be late for my meeting."

Seth scratched behind his ear, just as a yawn claimed him. "All right, but you're still going to make it to the play tonight, aren't you?"

"You're going to be in the play this time, right?"

Seth laughed weakly. "Yes, dad, no last-minute art shows this time. Although if Marvel calls, I'm so out of here."

Sandy smiled, ruffling Seth's hair. "I'll be there then... With the video camera. And maybe I'll invite your grandfather and Julie, I'm sure they'd like to see it."

"Dad!" Seth called after him.

"Son!" Sandy mocked throwing his briefcase in the back and getting into the drivers seat. He started the car and gave a wave. Seth watched until the car was out of sight before he closed the door and headed to his room to shower.

_________

The boardroom was hot. There seemed to be a layer of tension heavier than fog that hung in the air and made Sandy's mouth feel dry. He looked across the table, sitting opposite him Ian Roberts was the picture of calm. Sandy rolled a pen between his fingers as he read through the terms of the settlement, making sure everything was in order.

Signing on the dotted line, Sandy cleared his throat and slid the paper toward the other man. "I'm glad we could settle this so quickly."

Mr. Roberts scrawled his name and looking up, smiled at Sandy. "I can't waste months locked up in court, settling is, inevitably, always easier."

Sandy nodded slowly. "That's one way to look at it." He'd never been a man to judge, but what Seth had said to him the other day and that very afternoon was really weighing on him. What kind of a man leaves his teenage daughter alone all the time, knowing she's afraid? Sandy was also not one to hold his tongue. "I don't know if you are aware of this or not, but our kids are dating."

"It's hard to keep up with Summer these days." Mr. Roberts took out a cigar from his suit jacket and offered it to Sandy, which he declined.

"My son is Seth."

"That's right. I've met him. Seems like a nice kid."

"He is," Sandy said, his voice tight. "So is your daughter." He looked at Ian and waited for a reaction, but the only thing he got was a strange faraway look in the other man's eyes.

Sandy took his job as a parent very seriously. Too often he'd seen good kids turn into bad seeds after being neglected or abused. From the first moment Seth was born, he knew being a parent was the toughest and most rewarding job in the entire world and like all jobs, not everyone was cut out to do them. Ian didn't seem like a particularly mean man, but he didn't seem quite ready to take his parenting responsibilities for what they were. It had been the same with Dawn. And everyday he thanked her for realizing she wasn't up to par and bestowing upon he and Kirsten a beautiful responsibility.

Sandy knew that kids fell through the cracks and sometimes good kids, kids like Ryan or Summer, got the shit end of the stick in the parenting department. Those were the people that needed him to fight for them. It was partly the reason he'd become a public defender and though, it had been months since he'd been working there, he still could recognize that not all was right in the Roberts' household. "I know it's not my place to say, but I'm going to say it anyway: what are you doing, man? You've got a beautiful daughter-"

"Hey, stay out of my business." Mr. Roberts' eyes flashed with anger. "I don't need you to tell me how to raise my girl." He stood, picking up his briefcase and heading for the door.

Sandy stood and trailed him, planting a firm grip on his forearm. Sandy was not a man that lost his temper easily, but he was on the verge. When he spoke, his voice was deceptively calm, even though underneath he was seething. "See, that's the thing, you're not raising her, she's raising herself."

Mr. Roberts pulled out of Sandy's grasp. He stepped closer, his eyes dark. "You've got a lot of nerve."

Sandy refused to back down, refused to look away. "And you've got a daughter who's hurting and you can't even see it."

Mr. Roberts looked away, disgust weighing heavily on his shoulders. He walked back over to the table and pulled out a chair, letting his briefcase drop to the floor. "I don't think I need to tell you things have been difficult since Summer's mother left."

"It's been nearly eight years, Ian."

"I'm not trying to make excuses. I know it's been a long time and I know I've been doing the wrong thing, going on business trips just to avoid...life."

"At some point you're going to have to stop running."

"It's just so hard. I don't want to lose her. I know I wasn't a good husband and I know I'm not a good father, but I loved my wife and I love my daughter... I just... I don't know how to show her. When Summer's mother left, I was just so afraid of screwing up. I blamed myself and Summer, well she was so young..."

"She's grown up, Ian. She's grown into a beautiful, intelligent young woman and you missed it. Don't let another eight years go by before you reach out."

"What am I supposed to do? How am I supposed to reconnect? I don't know her anymore."

"You could start by coming with me to see a play tonight."

"How's that-"

"A play your daughter is in."

"She's in a play?"

"Yeah, it's at the school," Sandy said, checking his watch. "I'm going there now. You can ride with me if you want."

"I don't know. Do you think she'd want me there?" His eyes were pleading.

Sandy rested his hand on the other man's shoulder. "From what my son tells me, there isn't anything she'd want more."

"Okay," he said. "Okay."

_________________________

Summer leaned against the stairs, looking up at Seth, their hands entwined, swinging between them. "I've never seen you this quiet. Cohen, are you- you're nervous!"

Seth stilled their hands and took on a defensive, if not comically nervous, stance. "I am not, I just don't have anything to say."

Summer smiled, smugly. "You never have anything to say, but that doesn't prevent you from talking."

Seth brought their hands up and flicked her nose ."Look who thinks they're a comedian again."

"Aww, I think it's cute."

"Yeah?" Seth asked, his grin lopsided.

"Yeah."

"Well, good, 'cause I was thinking if you give me a little kiss I might feel a smidgen better."

"No."

"No?" he whined.

Summer shook her head, playfully. "You'll just have to wait for the play."

"Those are stage kisses, Summer."

Summer's nose scrunched up, her eyes sparkled. "You're greedy."

Seth's lips pursed together. "And?"

"You're impossible," she said, rolling her eyes.

"I know it, so you might as well just kiss me, because we both know how long I can keep this up, my tasty snicker-doodle."

"What?" Summer laughed.

"I was testing out a new pet name. You don't like it?"

"Not really, Cohen."

"Then what would you suggest?"

"There they are," Sandy said, gesturing to the front of the auditorium where Seth and Summer were standing.

At that moment, Summer looked up. Beside Mr. Cohen was...

"Daddy!?"

Seth leaned in. "Kinda kinky, but okay, we can go with that."

"No. There." Summer pointed, dropping one of his hands. "He's here."

Seth's eyes hardened.

Mr. Roberts tentatively took a few steps toward his only daughter. "I just wanted to wish you good luck, sunshine."

Summer was taken aback. "You haven't called me that since... since before mom left."

Mr. Roberts sighed, his eyes dark and a little glossy. "I haven't done a lot of things I should have since then, but I want to try. I-I've really screwed up."

Summer was silent. She was pretty sure she was squeezing Seth's hand too tight, but her grip wouldn't loosen.

"It's not going to be easy. I-I'm stuck in my ways. I can't make up the time we've lost, but I'd like to try to start over, if-if you still want me in your life. Not that I deserve it," he finished.

"I'd like that." Summer's voice was thick with emotion and when she heard Seth keen, she looked down at their interlocked hands and let go quickly. "Sorry," she said to him. It was going to be difficult and it would take time, but everyone was hopeful, especially Summer.

Seth flexed his hand. "Word of warning, Mr. Roberts, Summer has these Rage Blackouts, yeah, you might want to steer clear of those." Summer glared at him. "Oh, hey, looks like one's coming on right now."

Sandy slapped Mr. Roberts on the back. "We'd better find our seats. Why don't we all go back to our place after the show?"

Mr. Roberts smiled and nodded. Seth gave the thumbs...thumb up, his hand was still sore and Summer looked at Sandy with so much admiration, he felt himself go all mushy, clearly he could see why his son had fallen in love with the girl.

"Hey, you okay?"

Summer nodded, for the first time in a long time she really did feel like things were going to be okay. "I just... what do you think your father said to him?"

Seth shrugged. "I'm not really sure. But my dad can be pretty cool when he wants to be," he said with pride. "Are you going to be okay for a minute? There's Ryan and I have to talk to him."

Summer nodded, still reeling.

"Okay. I'll be right back."

_

Mr. Roberts and Sandy passed Marissa on the way to their seats. She smiled at them both and tried to hide her shock. When she finally got to Summer, she blurted out the first thing that came to her mind. "Holy shit, your dad's here!"

"I know," Summer said, smiling.

"That's...wow."

"I know. I think I love Mr. Cohen right now."

"Don't let Seth hear you say that, he might get jealous."

Summer laughed.

"My dad wanted me to give you this," Marissa said, presenting Summer with an envelope.

Summer opened it and peered inside. "It's a cheque."

"He sold your photo for the campaign. They loved his idea so much, he got a promotion and a raise. Next month your picture is going to be in every magazine from Good Housekeeping to Cosmo," Marissa prattled on enthusiastically.

"Wow. That's great."

"I-I took a look at the picture. I was really impressed. You've gotten really good. I guess I would have known that a while ago if I wasn't so wrapped up in myself and my problems."

"We've been over this, Coop."

"I know and I know you said it was okay, but it's not. Not really. I want us to be there for each other like we used to be...or at least I want to be there for you like I haven't been."

"I'd really like that. I could use a friend, especially since everyone's shunned me since I declared that Seth Cohen was my...well, you know."

"Well good, and hey, I like Seth...as long as he doesn't drag us all to a comic book convention."

Summer shuddered dramatically. "Oh, don't even go there."

Both girls began to laugh.

"Ladies," Seth said, approaching them. "What's so funny?"

Summer caught Marissa's eye and they began a new round of hysterics. Seth looked between them, puzzled. "Girls are so weird."

"Yeah, we've got cooties, too." Summer rolled her eyes and grabbed Seth's hand. "Come on, we're supposed to be backstage. We better get there before Mr. Birdman has a heart attack." Seth waved to Marissa and let himself be dragged with a smile on his face.

"See ya, guys. Good luck," Marissa offered and turned to go find her seat.

_____________

Behind the curtains Mr. Birdman was running around, frantically making last minute alterations to costumes and trying to get everyone settled, Seth and Summer looked on with amusement.

The lights went up and the curtains pulled away. The first set of actors took the stage while Summer and Seth waited for their cue.

"Go," the stage manager prompted, pushing them.

The bright lights blocked out the audience, so all Summer and Seth could see were each other.

"Ethan," Summer said curtly, turning her back to Seth as if to seem like they weren't conversing.

"Emma," Seth replied, just as short.

Summer examined her nails, sounding bored. "I didn't expect to see you here. Isn't a party like this below you?"

"I came for the free food. And what about you, shouldn't you be trying to land some rich man so you can marry him and then poison him?" Seth replied as Ethan, smirking.

Summer whirled around. "That's horrible. You're a mean, childish poser."

"And you're a brat, so I guess that makes us even."

Summer huffed and exited stage left, while Seth finished the rest of his lines.

"You're doing great, Summer," Mr. Birdman praised, holding a handkerchief to his sweaty forehead.

Summer smiled and watched as Seth took a pratfall, waiting for her next cue.

Seth and Summer were not naive and they knew the reason half the people showed up was to see them fail. Seth had always been an outcast and Summer had lost some of her popularity through her association with him, but neither seemed to care and their dedication to the production, and each other, showed.

Their synergy was undeniable. Seth and Summer worked the stage like pros, commanding the audiences attention. They had this great energy together; the ability to make fools of themselves one minute, forcing onlookers to break out in laughter, and then build suspense in the next.

The crowd ate up their banter. The first kiss, a stolen one by Seth went by with applause and catcalls. The second kiss towards the fourth act was from Summer in retaliation. Both were relatively calm, pecks, really and were supposed to increase the tension that their arguing was creating. It was a typical love/hate relationship, one Seth and Summer were very familiar with and didn't have to stretch themselves to make it seem convincing

The third kiss was the big one; it was supposed to be the dramatic climax where neither Ethan, nor Emma could deny the chemistry between them any longer. Again, not so much of a stretch for the pair.

"I'm sorry I've been so horrible, Ethan," Summer exclaimed, clasping Seth's hand in her own.

Seth smoothed his hand over Summer's cheek and smiled softly. "No need to worry about it now, Emma, my darling."

This was it. Seth leaned in. Summer tilted her chin. The crowd seemed to melt away. And then Seth's lips were on Summer's. It was slow and warm and no acting was required.

The crowd rang out in applause as the curtains came down and music swirled around them. When the audience refused to shut up, Mr. Birdman lifted the curtains again where Seth and Summer were still locking lips.

Behind them, as the rest of the cast filled the stage, someone snickered. Finally the couple broke apart, looking dishevelled and more than a little flustered.

"I guess it's over," Seth said.

Summer nodded, unable to find words to speak just yet.

Seth slipped his hand inside Summer's and took a bow. It was a complete rush. They exited the stage where everyone congratulated them.

"Cohen!" Devon called, jogging over to Seth and Summer.

Summer whirled around and faced her boyfriend's would-be tormentor. "Get lost, Devon. I'm so sick of hearing people talk trash about my boyfriend. There, I said it. Seth Cohen is my boyfriend and if anyone has a problem with that...well, it's just too damn bad. Deal with it!"

"Uh, actually, I just wanted to tell Seth it was really cool what he did for me opening night and that you guys were really good. And that I've been a jerk and I wanted to say I'm sorry."

"Oh."

Seth smiled, amused. "Thanks, man. Don't mind her, she's a little high-strung," Seth said, excusing them. "Aren't ya, sweetie?" he asked, leaning down and kissing her forehead.

Summer smiled. "Ew! Shut up, Cohen. People can hear you."

"Shutting up, my rosy peach."

"Cohen!"

"Yes, sugar-lips?"

"Ugh...nevermind...my little..." Summer struggled to find an appropriate nickname. Finally, she gave up and shook her head. "I'm not good at this."

Seth reached out and moved a stray piece of soft hair behind her ear. "Cohen's fine, I like Cohen."

"Okay. Cohen," she said, wrapping her arms around his neck and pulling him down for a tight hug.

"That's what I like to hear my little snuggle-bunny."

_______________

THE END!

phew!

I usually don't put notes at the end, but for those feeling ripped off that they didn't get some Seth/Summer lovin', it's just because I wanted to keep this basically PG-13, but if people want, I might write the scene that might have happened when Seth stayed over. If I decide to write it, it will probably be posted in the R section.

I hope no one was disappointed with the ending. Thank you all so much for the reviews. This was a challenge for me, since I usually only write one-part fics. In case I ever decide to do another one of these, I am just curious as to what people liked or didn't like about this fic. Did you have a favourite part? Were certain things too unrealistic? Or any other comments, Please let me know in a review or an email ( Lame_Trickster@hotmail.com). Thanks!