1974

It was the last day of summer, and the end of their childhood.

No matter how much they wanted to hold onto the way things were, change was inevitable when they started going to separate schools. Especially to junior high. No longer were they going to be the little elementary school children, but blossoming grown ups in a world that was all about cliques. William already knew where he belonged, with the creative kids who took theater, poetry and chorus, while his best friend, Buffy was going to be one of the popular ones. At least he wouldn't be tortured every day watching her move with a crowd that would only look down on him.

Uncomfortable with the anguish of his thoughts he playfully reached over to tug on the long, brown pony tail that swung in rhythm with her steps.

"Stop it," Buffy giggled, running ahead of him.

Will joined in her laughter, even though his feet had forgotten how to work and pleasure was rushing through his body. He stared transfixed at her long, brown hair bouncing with each movement she made. Blinking, he tried to deny what he was feeling, but in the downward motion of his eyes, he found something else to capture his fascination. The seat of her well worn jean shorts was giving way to a flash of the whiteness of her bottom. Adrenaline raced through him, forcing any rational thought from him, as he needed something he didn't yet understand completely.

"Make me," Will yelped, sprinting to catch up with his best friend. He reached for her, but she'd taken off again. Her flip-flops slapped against the hot, summer pavement as she darted away from him. Buffy turned to look back at him, eyes dancing in laughter as she stuck her tongue out. The sensuality of the small, pink tongue licking against lips he'd been dreaming about for weeks brought a pain to his mid-section that almost forced him to his knees. "Can't outrun me," he taunted, desperately trying to find the boy he'd been only months ago, before he realized that he loved her.

"Can to," Buffy said, staying just out of reach.

It was a perfect moment that even a boy could recognize as rare, so he half-heartedly followed her. They continued to run through the neighborhood toward the corner store. The bright heat of the sun tangled through the dense branches of the oak trees above them as they moved along sidewalks that would burn the soles of their feet if given the opportunity. Their former baby-sitter Mrs. Baxter looked up from where she was watering her flowers to wave at them. They both raised their hands in answer before they turned the corner.

Buffy slowed on the busier road forcing Will to follow suit. Although he did reach out to grab her waist with eager fingers as he hollered triumphantly, "Caught you."

"You're such a dweeb," Buffy teased, leaning against him for a moment.

"Whatever, brat."

Will moved beside her, adjusting his long, lanky stride to match her smaller one. The comfortableness returned between them. His yearnings disappeared as quickly as they had come. They were back to being twelve-year old, lifelong buddies enjoying the last day of summer before school started. Nothing was going to spoil this day, as far as he was concerned. It just had to be perfect. He'd even written a song about it the night before. Tears had streaked down his face as he poured out his fear that he would lose the girl beside him.

"What'cha going to get?" Buffy asked, when the store came in sight. "I think I want a grape Nehi."

"You always get grape," Will responded, pulling the door open for her. "Why don't you live a little and get orange or strawberry?"

The coolness of the store was welcoming as they made their way inside. The rush of air brought a chill to his sweat soaked body. He shivered as he headed over to the drink cooler. He pushed the top back as he perused the choices, even though he knew what he would get. A YooHoo. In the end, he and Buffy were creatures of habit. The same drinks, candy and the same chips every time. After making their selections and popping the lids off in the opener attached to the cooler, they headed for the candy aisle. Buffy pulled the front of her shirt out so he could dump their selections there, two cherry flavored Tootsie Roll pops, a Hershey's plain chocolate bar for her and a peanut one for him. Then they grabbed bags of Lays potato chips before heading for the front counter with their bounty.

"You two ready for school tomorrow," Jimmy asked as he rang up their purchases.

"Geesh, did you have to mention it," Will groaned, throwing his head back. "Don't even want to think about it."

"I can't wait," Buffy said, with a big smile. "I'm going to try out for cheerleading."

"Ra, Ra," Will said, waving his hands around his head. He teased her about her aspirations yet he knew that she'd get on the team if she wanted to. Buffy had taken dance or gymnastic classes since she could walk. Since the year before she'd been practicing jumps and having him watch her so he could tell her how good she was.

An icy glare was cast his way as she put down the money to pay for their purchases. No doubt she was angry when she put her nose in the air as she marched back outside. He quickly grabbed the bag Jimmy held out before following her.

"Ah, come on, Buffy," Will said. "I was just teasing."

"You said I was good."

"You are," he told her as they automatically headed for the sports field of the high school which was only a couple of blocks from their homes. It was where they went when they wanted to daydream or talk without fear of being bothered. Many serious conversations had taken place there over the years as they dealt with class bullies, fighting parents and the changes of growing up. Very few secrets existed between them; nothing was sacred as they bared their souls to each other. He wondered if today was the day he'd tell her how he felt about her.

"You were being mean."

"Yeah, I'm sorry," Will said, throwing his arms wide, flinging his drink out in a wide arc that barely missed coating them with the sticky chocolate liquid. "Didn't mean to hurt wittle Buffy's feelings."

Her once proud stance changed as she dropped her head to stare at the ground where she walked. That, along with slumped shoulders told him what an asshole he was truly being. He trotted to catch up with her. This time she didn't run away. He sighed, shifting the bag to the hand holding what was left of his drink.

"Hey, I really am sorry," he said, slipping his now free hand into hers. "You're going to be the best cheerleader Sunnydale Junior High ever had." She didn't respond so he pulled her to a stop. "Buffy, don't be mad at me."

She looked up at him with tears welling in those endless pools of emerald that instantly tore his heart apart. "I'm not," Buffy said, trying to give him a smile. She tugged at his hand. "Come on, let's go eat."

The short walk to their spot was made in silence. It was at the far edge of the field where there was a small dugout for the kids who had to practice their athletic skills in the brutal California heat or in the relentless rain that soaked everything. It was the perfect place where they could be overlooked. He and Buffy settled on the hard wooden bench in a casual cross-legged position so they were facing each other. She doled out the goodies between them before opening her own candy bar.

"Mmmh, chocolate," Buffy sighed happily as she took her first bite. "It's exactly what I needed."

"You're such a girl," Will teased, already forgotten was the fact she'd been angry with him only a few moments before. They always forgave each other quickly so he didn't think twice about his comment until she flashed him that look again. The one that clearly said he was being not only a boy but an idiot as well. He sighed, shaking his head as he turned to concentrate on his left big toe sticking out from his sneaker.

A finger with chipped pink polish came into his view but he didn't look up. His body was tense as he watched it move toward the rip in his jeans at his right knee. Threads hung in tatters where he'd torn his favorite pair climbing over a neighbor's fence the week before. The price he'd paid when he and Buffy had gotten a craving for the oranges that were heavy in bloom, weighing the branches of the tree down, and forcing it toward the ground. Buffy considered it a favor to rid the tree of a few pieces of its sweet fruit. He was just been happy they hadn't been caught. There would have been an ass whipping along with the ruination of his jeans.

"Do you like being mean to me?" Buffy asked, in this breathy whisper as she tugged on one of the threads. Then she ran the fingertip along his bare knee and grabbed a thread on the other side.

"Oh, come on, Buffy," Will whined, batting her hand away in what he hoped was a casual gesture. "When did you get so sensitive?"

She shrugged, returning to her candy bar with an enthusiasm that left him mesmerized. Things shouldn't have to change. Not for them. He'd always had her back and she was always there to make sure he wasn't completely left out by the other kids. Buffy was the only one who didn't think twice about befriending the kid with the only divorced mother in the neighborhood. Of course, it helped that their moms were friends, and they'd known each other since the day Buffy came home from the hospital. But no matter how much shit he got for being different, her friendship never wavered. For that, he would take care of this girl no matter the price.

"I'm not," Buffy said. She shrugged, staring off into the distance. "It's just…everything is changing."

The candy bar wrapper was crumpled and tossed into the empty paper bag. She dropped it on the ground beside them before reaching for her chips. He didn't know what to say. She was right. And there was nothing they could do about it. Never again would they walk back and forth to school together. The lines drawn for elementary and junior high schools were different, separating them for the first time since kindergarten. And by the time summer rolled around again they would be different people.

"Yeah, it is," he finally said, just because it was the truth. There wasn't much time left before they had to say good-night, or was it good-bye? He didn't know. He just didn't want it to happen, but there wasn't any way to stop it. He threw the rest of the snacks in the bag. His appetite was gone. He swigged back the rest of his YooHoo, and then giving it his all, he burped. Buffy laughed as she waved her hand in front of her face which made him laugh, too. "Bet you can't top that one," he joked, knowing she couldn't turn down a challenge.

Will was right. She grabbed her Nehi and drank half the bottle at one time. Then with a grin, she belched. Very loudly and very long. They both giggled, unable to control herself, Buffy fell into his lap, and holding her sides. He collapsed on top of her as they let the joy of the moment take over. It changed when the laughter finally stopped, and he felt a long sigh ripple through her back. He stroked her side.

"What's up?"

"Nothing," Buffy said, pulling out from under him. "Everything. Want to go swimming or something?"

"Nah," he said, pulling his legs up and wrapping his arms around them. "Rather just hang out and talk or something."

"Fine by me. Let's go lay out so I can get a little sun."

Another crack about her aspirations to be a cheerleader came to him, but he bit his tongue. She might easily forgive him, yet he didn't want push his luck. They gathered up the rest of the goodies, putting the lollipops in their pockets and tossing the rest in a garbage can, before heading toward the field. He followed her, watching and memorizing, every movement she made so he could fantasize about her later. He knew he shouldn't, but he always did. Like so many nights this summer his hand would wrap tightly around his dick as he explored the first rushes of sexual pleasure.

"This okay?" Buffy asked, not looking up as she scanned the ground for anthills or other things that would make them miserable. Apparently, not seeing anything she plopped down onto the grass. He joined her a second later. The sky seemed to stretch out forever above them in endless blue, except at the horizon where purple crept slowly in signaling the beginning of day's end. Will hated seeing it. So he closed his eyes. Buffy wiggled around next to him, finding the spot where she would get the most exposure on her already brown limbs.

Will lay there, listening to her breath, inhaling the sweetness of her Love's Baby Soft perfume and the scent of sunshine that wrapped around her like warm molasses. He enjoyed just being with her. They'd done this countless times before, but today was different. Next summer they wouldn't find fun in the same things they did now. No more walking to the movies the long way just to play with Mr. Wilson's puppies, or creating fantasy games to play in his attic, or watching movies on Saturday afternoon in a dark theater, or a hundred other things.

"What are you thinking about?" Buffy asked, breaking through his misery.

"That's it's never going to be the same," William muttered, squeezing a little on the tiny hand now wrapped around his.

"I wish we could freeze time," Buffy sighed. "This summer has been so perfect. Damn going back to school."

"Thought you couldn't wait," Will said, turning his head to look at her.

"You're not going to be there," Buffy responded, rolling onto her side. "What am I going to do without you?"

"Anything you want."

Her fingers stroked the back of his hand while her breath brushed across his face. He smiled at the grape smell. It was Buffy. There wasn't anything about her that wasn't beautiful. For a long time they just lay there, staring at each other. His body was humming with happiness at the expression on her face. It gave him hope.

"Remember when…," Buffy started.

"I remember it all," Will said, turning on his side to face the girl who held his heart so firmly within her soul. He couldn't remember a time in his life when she wasn't there. Always Buffy was near him, whether they were fighting each other or the world, she stood beside him like the best friend she was. She was his girl and he loved her with everything he had. Now, he knew she felt it too.

A few tears slipped down her face. It wasn't supposed to happen, not to them anyway, but it was. The first layer of their innocence was dying here on this field; a graveyard for their childhood that was slipping away at that very moment. And no one in their lives understood the pain that was ripping their hearts apart. It was only them.

"I know," Buffy said softly. "I'm not ready for this."

It was then the grief over took her, sobbing, she reached for him. He took her in his arms. He felt his responsibility as a man to take care of his woman take over the little boy whose voice was just beginning to crack. Will pulled her until she was half lying over him, one leg between his. He prayed she didn't feel the erection that was instantaneous at the feel of her new breasts against his own chest. He felt guilty for his physical response to her as she cried. All he could do was stroke her back and hold her tight.

"It'll be okay, Buffy," Will murmured. "I'm always going to be here for you." He hesitated, but knew it was now or never. "I love you."

"I know you do," Buffy said. "You're my best friend…and I love you, too."

"We'll always have each other," Will said, not believing that she really loved him. She'd said it ease his breaking heart. It was all right though. Those words could be stowed away for those days when he was missing her. "Any time you need me, call, and I'll be there."

She nodded as she slipped off of him. Will jumped to his feet and held his hand out to her. It was time to go home. Dinner would be in a little while; they still had chores to do, and to get ready for the next day. Buffy wiped the tears from her face as they headed for her house. They walked close together, bumping into each other on purpose, trying to hold onto as much as possible.

"Will, do me a favor?" Buffy asked, stopping a few houses down from hers.

"Sure, what do you need?"

"Kiss me," Buffy whispered, stepping closer to him.

"Want to have something to tell about what you did this summer besides goofing around?" He asked, in irritation. He'd just bared his heart for her and now she was playing games.

"No, because I've been thinking about it all summer." Buffy leaned her forehead against his chest. "I just haven't been sure I was ready, but I know I don't want tomorrow to come and I never even tried." Her hand came to rest on his waist. Her voice was even lower when she added, "And I didn't know if you'd want to."

He cupped her face, pulling her up so that she was looking at him. Her face was bright red with embarrassment, making him feel like even more of a jerk. Without thinking, he caressed her cheeks with his thumb as he tried to figure out what to do next. Emotions overwhelmed him as he stared down at Buffy. It was what he wanted too. His fantasies and daydreams were here in his hands. All he had to do was take them.

"Yeah, I want to," Will said, softly. She looked back up at him in the second before his closed and he pressed his lips to her. They both froze. Neither knew what to do next. He pulled her against him as he moved his mouth against the softness of hers. She started to mirror his movements creating a friction that felt better than anything he'd ever known. Awkward and unsure he tried to hold onto the kiss as long as possible. The world was spinning around him and he'd forgotten to breathe.

It had to end as surely as the summer, so he pulled away, but not before he felt the tip of her tongue touch his in a gentle caress. Heat flashed through him and his dick hardened again, but this time he didn't try to hide it. Buffy didn't say anything about it pressing into her belly as they hugged each other in the waning light of day.

If Will remembered nothing else about that day, he'd always hold it close to his heart that they at least crossed the threshold of adulthood together. Buffy and him. The way it should be. Their childhood was gone when she finally stepped back, stood on tiptoes to give him one last quick kiss. Then she smiled at him before she turned and ran toward her house.

It was over. The summer was gone, and it was time for him to head home himself. But unlike that morning he found he had hope that everything was going to be all right in the end. He just had to believe it would be, with the innocence of a child.

The End