Title: Once

Rating: PG

Pairing: Marissa/Summer-ish

Summary: Post "The Graduates," Summer remembers.

A/N: I've been wanting to get into OC slash but I wasn't sure how, so this is what I got. I'll do more, probably with this couple too, later on. I'm not entirely happy with it, but hey, it's my first try. Sorry if it sucks.

When she walks into the house, Summer's singing. Kind of humming, under her breath, as she goes through the door. She doesn't even notice that she's bopping her head lightly through the chorus of whatever was playing on the radio. She can't remember the song anymore because she's just walked into the living room and everybody's looking at her and Summer can all but hear the air shifting, growing heavy with what they won't say. Summer looks at everyone and her eyes start to burn.

Sandy and Kiersten are huddled on one end of the couch near Ryan and Seth, looking at nothing but their feet. Julie's kind of wrapped around Summer's dad and crying softly. The boys are opposite the Cohens, Seth with a hand clamped over his mouth, presumably to keep from screaming. Ryan's looking as broken as everyone else only he's torn on the outside too. Summer can feel her chest tightening, but that's probably because she hasn't been breathing. As soon as her dad stands up with a "Sweetheart..." Summer's gone. She takes the stairs up two at a time and she's still not breathing.

Summer makes it to the bathroom and she's glad because she's pretty sure she's going to throw up. Her hands won't stop shaking and it can't be healthy how fast her heart is beating. Summer isn't sure how long it's been when her dad shows up at the bathroom door. She's curled up next to the toilet hugging her knees when her father comes in quietly and leans against the sink. Summer looks up at him through wet lashes as he starts to speak. Something about a car accident and that grungy Volchuck guy and how Ryan pulled her out but Summer doesn't hear most of it because her hands are pressed tightly against her ears and she's wondering if it's possible to unhear words. Her father's using phrases like "went quickly" and "better place now" because even he knows "Marissa" and "dead" don't belong in the same sentence.

But that's what he's saying. That Marissa is dead. And Summer can't get her head around it. Old people die. And sick people, and the goldfish Summer had when she was seven and forgot to feed. Coop wasn't old or sick or a goldfish, so Summer can't understand how she's dead. Then she remembers Biology freshman year and the stages of death and she can't not think about Marissa's body on a cold table while what makes Marissa Marissa is someplace that's else. Summer's definitely grateful she's made it to the bathroom.

Summer guesses her dad must've carried her to her bedroom because she wakes up in bed. Summer can't believe she fell asleep but her throat is raw and her cheeks are tear-stained and crying like that can really take it out of a person. She rolls over and pulls Princess Sparkle from her spot on the nightstand. Summer twists a lock of synthetic hair around her finger and tries to swallow past the lump in her throat. She closes her eyes against a sudden memory of golden brown hair and a shy smile. The almost sob-sound that creeps past her lips is strained by frustration and muffled by anger. Then Princess Sparkle is flying across the room because Summer threw her. Hard.

Summer's coughing because she's crying and she forgot to breathe again. She's been doing that a lot, but Summer thinks it actually hurts more to breathe and she really doesn't need to hurt more. She just wants her Coop back. She wants to pad across the hall barefoot in her pink pajamas and climb into Marissa's bed again. Summer doesn't realize her feet are taking her there until her hand twists the doorknob. She's all prepared to lie down, get under the covers that still smell like Coop and that $40 shampoo, but the door opens and there's already someone on the floor at the foot of the bed. Oh, Summer thinks, that's where she went. Kaitlin is clutching a pillow and her eyes are red and puffy but she doesn't yell at Summer to go away so Summer stays.

Summer pulls the purple Care Bear from the bed and slides down onto the floor next to Mini-Cooper. Then Summer thinks for the first time how infantile her habit of nick-naming people is. Kaitlin doesn't look over or say anything as Summer mirrors her position. Summer thinks that's okay because it's hard to reminisce when people are looking at you or talking. She just closes her eyes and tries not to hear Kaitlin breathing next to her. When she next opens her eyes Kaitlin isn't there and it is a lot easier to reminisce when people are gone.

Once, Summer had thought she might be in love with Marissa. She remembers when they were twelve and her mom was gone, it felt a lot like this. Empty and kind of cold. Only now Summer doesn't have Marissa run to. And that's all she wants to do. Run to Marissa with her long arms all made for holding and Summer small and made to be held. Then Summer remembers once, one of the countless times she had run to Marissa, how she fit so easily against her and Summer just wanted to stay like that forever. She hadn't slept that night. Because she had rolled over in Marissa's arms and to kiss her goodnight and caught her lips instead of a cheek. They had stayed like that for a long time, arms wrapped around each other and lips pressed together and Summer definitely thought they should stay like that forever. Then Marissa fell asleep and Summer watched her sleep until the sun came up.

Summer also remembers that Coop never mentioned it again. But when she would fight with Luke or if her mom had pissed her off or if she broke a nail Summer was always the first person Marissa would run to because that's what friends are for. And Summer was nothing if not a good friend. So if Marissa wanted to lay a hand on Summer's shoulder or a head in her lap or a kiss or her lips, who was Summer to deny her? And Summer would give anything to feel that again. When she crawls into the bed she tries not to think about what the curve of Marissa's bare hip feels like under trembling fingers or how the inside of her thigh tastes. Summer lays on her back and stares at the ceiling and thinks it looks better through a curtain of Marissa's hair. She closes her eyes and an image of Marissa plays on the inside of her eyelids as Summer falls asleep. Okay, so maybe it was more than once.