Title - Home

Rating - G for this part.

Disclaimer - Unfortunately, the OC does not belong to me. However if it did, it wouldn't be the OC

Summary - Completely AU. Seth and Summer make their individual ways back to Newport after 8 years only to find that some things never change.

Genre - Romance/Angst

Author's Note - Thanks once again for all the reviews

Chapter 7 - Fears

Summer sceptically surveyed her reflection in the mirror. In a vain attempt to soothe her frayed nerves, she repeated to herself, "It'll be okay! It'll be okay! It'll be okay!" She had been unsure about this from the moment Seth had suggested it. Her absence from all Newport society functions had been calculated. She had chosen to deal with her grief privately. The much- reviled but equally heartbroken stepmother, on the other hand, chose to deal with her grief by going to one glittering celebration after the other, bravely conning everyone, herself included, into believing that nothing was wrong. Summer no longer had the strength for charades. But Seth had cajoled enthusiastically and unendingly till she had given in. Now she wished...

Summer started guiltily as the doorbell chimed. Seth had done so much for her, this was the least she could do for him. Repeating her mantra, she hurried down the spiral staircase, took a calming breath at the foot of the stairs and threw open the door.

Seth, appropriately Armani-suited and Ferragamo-booted, lounged carelessly against a white pillar, a still-blooming white rose in hand.

"How did you know the colour of my dress?" she queried taking the rose from him.

"Magic," he said conspiratorially, straightening himself fluidly.

"Well, your mother is a magician. I would never have picked this for myself."

Seth gave her a sweeping glance and felt his chest constrict. There was a time when Summer's wardrobe had driven him crazy, all barely there-skirts and tight shirts. His vivid teenage imagination had had a field day. But since her return, her sartorial choices had been unusually subdued, devoid of bright colours and covering as much of her lush body as was humanly possible. This alternative Summer also drove him crazy. His imagination had been working overtime picturing all that the clothes hid. Tonight, for the first time he caught a glimpse of the lady she had become. Summer at 16 had been effortlessly enticing. Summer at 24 was effortlessly elegant. Clad in an endless cloud of filmy, white chiffon that left her shoulders and arms bare, cinched her tiny waist in even further and ornamented only by tiny diamonds on her lobes, she took his breath away.

Summer squirmed uneasily under Seth's unusually intense gaze. "Is it too much? Actually too little? I can change. Just give me a sec.."

Before she could turn, Seth caught her arm gently and silently shook his head. Taking the rose from her trembling fingers, he affixed it carefully in her chignon. Summer felt her breathing become ragged. This was the closest he had been to her in so long. She could smell his cologne and aftershave mixed with the scent of soap and the sea. She closed her eyes and fought the urge to rest her head against his shoulder. He lowered his lips to her ear and whispered, ruffling wisps of her hair, "You were always better than them. You never believed it but I always knew it. Trust me."

She slowly opened her eyes and looked into his. In his soft eyes, she saw disarming honesty and frank admiration, all that he had been too petrified to say and all that she had been too petrified to see. Swept up in the delicate emotion, she laid a hand on his cheek and stood on tiptoe to place a tender kiss close to his lips.

"Miss, you left your purse..Oh! I'm so sorry! I didn't know..."

Seth and Summer hurriedly righted themselves. Summer silently took her purse and distractedly muttered her thanks. Avoiding Seth's gaze, she took his offered arm and walked down the steps, deep in thought.

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Summer walked warily into the spectacularly chandeliered hall, bedecked with roses and candles. She unconsciously gripped Seth's arm as she heard the conversations lull and saw the heads snapping up in surprise. She desperately wanted to turn and run. Seth put a steadying hand over hers and mouthed confidently, "Trust me."

Their unexpected entrance had caused a minor spectacle and their individual handling of the situation was a measure of how much both of them had changed. Seth, once the quiet mocker, now cut through the swathes of well- dressed people with a practiced ease and assurance, guiding Summer away from the searching eyes and whispered questions. Summer, who not too long ago had been Newport's boldest junior queen bee in training, steadfastly kept her head down, avoiding all the discreet but unabashedly inquisitive stares, following Seth's lead till he came to a halt on the terrace. There, sitting on a lone table, covered with a snow-white cloth, strewn rose- petals and tiny candle-lit lanterns were a bottle of Mo√ęt, chilling in a silver bucket and crystal bowls of mint-chocolate chip ice cream. Summer looked at him gratefully, stumbling to express her heartfelt gratitude. But Seth put a stilling hand to her lips, arched an expressive eyebrow and asked simply, "Champagne?"