a/n: This is for you, Pyro – 'cause it's your birthday, and you're simply too fabulous for a PM to suffice. It's different from the Shane/Caity I'm used to, because they're usually so angsty. But I wanted to avoid that and bring on the fluff, because a girl (especially one as fantastic as yourself) deserves all the happiness in the world on her 16th. Have a good one, Ada!

Also, a special thank you to my favorite Kana (Overuse of Emoticons) in the whole wide world :P, who so kindly read this story over for me and helped me out. She saved me from a nightmarish story of jumbled up tenses – and, I might add, wrote a Shane/Caity for Pyro which is a million times better than what you will read below – go read it, seriously.


"Jump, and you will find out how to unfold your wings as you fall."

- Ray Bradbury


--

They were twelve when they began their never-ending game of dares. They snuck away from Caitlyn's parent's dinner party and ran straight to the park across the street. Caitlyn tugged her hated Mary-Janes off her feet and clambered up the oak tree, beckoning to Shane. He made a face to show his lack of enthusiasm for the idea, but was only rewarded with a "sucks for you" type of shrug from Caitlyn, who turned immediately and disappeared into the highest leaves of the tree. Shane groaned and hesitated for a moment before hoisting himself up onto a branch, following obediently. He grunted his way up to the very top, where Caitlyn sat in silence, looking out below her. Shane muttered an out-of-breath hello, but Caitlyn chose not to acknowledge him. Instead, she stared out at their surroundings in some sort of quiet awe.

"Wouldn't it be nice if we could see the whole world from this tree?" Caitlyn whispered thoughtfully, finally breaking the silence. Shane murmured something but Caitlyn hadn't really been looking for an answer, so she pretended not to hear.

"I dare you to jump."

Shane started to laugh at Caitlyn's sudden subject change, and then realized that she wasn't messing around. Her lips curled teasingly, presenting a challenge—and Shane never backed down from a challenge. And yet, there was something in her eyes that suggested they were talking about something much more serious. Shane wondered absentmindedly what he was getting himself into. Even then, Caitlyn was always two steps ahead of him, and Shane was never prepared. He spent a lot of his life trying to catch up to her.

"From here?" he asked, trying not to sound too skeptical as he peered down through the tree's branches warily.

Caitlyn grinned. "Too high for you, pretty boy?"

"No!" he protested, racking his mind for an excuse, "But I just got these shoes! And what about my hair?!"

"Your call," Caitlyn smirked, "you can buy new shoes, but you can't win back your pride."

Shane groaned. "You should really be a motivational speaker, you know that Gellar?" He rolled his eyes as Caitlyn took an exaggerated bow (or as close to a bow she could get without falling out of the tree).

"Hold these for me, will you?" he tugged his brand new sneakers off his feet and placed them gingerly in Caitlyn's hands, shooting her a warning glance.

"Yuck," she wrinkled her nose and held them at an arm's distance, fanning air away from her face with her free hand. Shane chose to ignore this as he took a breath and leapt off of the tree branch.

His stomach twisted uneasily for the few seconds of free-fall and his eyes squeezed shut of their own accord. He landed with a rather ungraceful thud, catching his balance before looking up defiantly at Caitlyn as if to say, 'take that!'

To his surprise, Caitlyn let out a somewhat uncharacteristic giggle. This was hardly the reaction Shane had been going for—wasn't she supposed to be impressed? He hardly had time to frown before she yelled, "Catch!" and tossed his shoes in the general direction of his face.

"Hey!" he yelped, grabbing them seconds before they could bash in his nose and looking up just in time to see Caitlyn jump nimbly from the branch, planting her own two feet down with much more grace than he had.

Shane gaped. "Wha—did you just—well hell, Caitlyn, what was the point of daring me to jump?"

"No reason," she grinned, "but it made you feel like a wuss, didn't it?"

--

They were thirteen when Shane found himself standing outside Caitlyn's bedroom window, throwing pebbles. He almost laughed at the clichéd situation he'd gotten himself into, but then he remembered Caitlyn's voice on the phone and suddenly it wasn't really all that funny anymore.

She'd called him at one in the morning and he'd rolled over and answered while he was still floating in and out of consciousness. "Not now, Caity," he'd groaned, and the line had fallen silent for a moment before she'd whispered, "I dare you to come save me." He hadn't known what that had meant, but she'd hung up before he had time to ask her. He'd debated rolling over and going back to sleep, but by that time he was fully awake and the thought of admitting defeat to this dare was not an option. Later he'd look back on it and realize that he would have gone even if she hadn't dared him.

He'd just thrown his last pebble and was about to give up when she emerged from the window wordlessly, tugging it open and heaving her legs over the ledge. She slid out silently onto the roof, crawling across the perimeter and leaping towards the deck. Shane lost sight of her in the shadows for a minute before she reappeared beneath her window. She smiled weakly at him and it was then that Shane heard the angry shouts of her parents in the living room.

Caitlyn bit her lip and said, "I just got sick of listening." Her voice quivered uncertainly and it felt natural for him to take her hand, nodding to show that he understood.

The dim light from her bedroom window threw crescent-moon shadows across her face, dancing as she shifted uneasily from foot to foot. Shane would return home hours later and wonder if it was all an eerie dream. She opened and shut her mouth as if she had wanted to say something, and then changed her mind. He gave her hand a squeeze and was surprised by the size of it, how fragile it felt in his own.

"You're welcome," he whispered, and then they ran, laughing as they sprinted through the lamppost-lit streets.

--

They were fourteen when Shane realized she was beautiful.

"I'm bored," Caitlyn said, and Shane sighed in agreement. They sat in Caitlyn's backyard, surrounded by the white glow of the candles that Caitlyn's parents had strategically placed everywhere for their annual summer dinner party. Adults chatted with each other, holding paper plates stacked high with pastries and strange, sticky desserts.

Shane entertained the thought of grabbing one of those strange desserts for himself, but he couldn't bring himself to get up and walk over to the buffet table. His eyes wandered aimlessly over Caitlyn's backyard and he said the first thing that came to mind.

"I dare you to jump in the pool."

Caitlyn stared at him wide-eyed, lifting her chin from her hands.

"Now?"

Shane grinned. "Yeah, you chicken?"

Caitlyn's mouth spread into a smile to match Shane's. "Never," she breathed, and she walked fearlessly to the lip of the pool, peeling her sweatshirt off and tossing it in the grass. Shane stared in silence as adults turned slowly in confusion to stare at Caitlyn, toes dangling over the edge. Someone in the background whispered, "What is she doing?" just before she let out an exalted whoop and jumped straight up into the air. Shane was expecting some form of a dive, but Caitlyn had simply cannon-balled into the water with a splash, her whoop still ringing in the air.

Shane felt his breath hitch in his throat as she surfaced with a laugh already on her lips, her curls unruly and her flowy top billowing out around her in the water. The candles cast a faded light over everything and it all felt like a memory, her giggles sounding warbled as they echoed through the backyard.

"You coming in?" she called, ignoring the gasps of her parents, who were now shrieking her name. Shane caught his breath and then broke out into a smile, lifting his own sweatshirt up above his head. He let out his own cheer of some sort of feeling he wished he could bottle and keep forever—something like freedom and magic and eternal summer—before he leapt out head-first into the water with Caitlyn.

--

They were fifteen when they stood in front of the gleaming red letters of the 24-Hour CVS that loomed ahead. Caitlyn gave Shane one last glare before she looked away.

"I can't believe you're making me do this," she grumbled, kicking at a stone.

"You have to, Gellar. I dared you, remember?"

"But—but come on, Shane. I don't think it's even legal for us to buy condoms!"

Shane smirked. "Excuses, excuses. Of course it's legal for us to buy condoms, dummy. The state doesn't want a bunch of teenagers getting knocked up, now do they? Not to mention the damper on society it would be if there were miniature Caitlyns running around all over the place…" he shuddered, grinning at a now furious Caitlyn.

"You say this all as if I'm really going to use the condoms."

"Well, I wasn't going to suggest anything, but if you're really that interested, we could always go to my place after—"

Caitlyn wiped the suggestive grin off Shane's face with a slap of the hand and left him in the parking lot running to catch up as she entered the drugstore.

By the time Shane had sprinted into the doors of the store, Caitlyn was already marching back from one of the aisles with a packaged box in hand. She didn't bother looking at Shane, who was already doubled over in laughter at the entrance. That poor check-out girl (who looked no older than Caity herself) was going to have no idea what hit her. Caitlyn walked determinedly to the counter, slamming the package down and shoving it towards the girl.

The girl stared at Caitlyn and then looked down at the package, blushing a furious shade of red.

"Um," the girl stammered, "will that be all for you today?"

Caitlyn nodded fiercely, shooting daggers at the girl. Shane stopped laughing long enough to realize that this would be way too easy if he didn't step in. No matter—that would be easy to fix. He grinned and snuck up behind Caity, slinging an arm easily around her shoulders. She flinched, looking up to send her daggers Shane's way. He grinned a little bit wider.

"Well, actually, don't you think we need the extra-large ones, honey bear?"

He felt Caitlyn tense beside him and he made sure to continue smiling pleasantly at the stunned check-out girl, certain that the intensity of Caitlyn's eyes would probably burn a hole through him if he turned to face her.

"Actually honey bear," Caitlyn spat through a clenched jaw, "I think extra-small suits you perfectly."

Shane stifled a laugh as he pulled her closer and whispered, "Ouch." Caitlyn ducked out from beneath his arm, hissing, "Just scan the damn thing," at the bewildered girl. She slammed a ten dollar bill on the counter and grabbed the package out of the girl's hand, stomping out of the store.

Shane watched her storm away, biting back laughter. "She's a feisty one, isn't she?" he said fondly to the check-out girl, who looked as if she was about to faint. "Well," he said cheerily as he backed away, waving a hand in her direction, "have a nice day!"

--

They were sixteen when Caitlyn gave Shane the only dare he didn't complete. They'd run out to the park and climbed up to the tree where they'd first started giving each other dares, realizing that the tree wasn't nearly as high up as they'd both remembered. They swung their legs from the thickest branch on the top of the tree, looking down at the park.

"Your turn," Shane said, and Caitlyn muttered half-heartedly, "I dare you to lick the tree." Shane laughed.

"Come on Cait, that's pathetic. I'll do it if you want—but are you really gonna waste your dare on that?"

Caitlyn didn't respond, and suddenly Shane felt a little bad for laughing. He kept swinging his legs and staring out to the park, watching a girl chase a boy up and down the plastic slides. He felt like he'd said something wrong, but he didn't know what. He looked at Caitlyn and suddenly remembered the question she had asked so many years ago.

"Maybe," he murmured without thinking, "maybe if you jump again, you'll be able to see the whole world from up here, Cait."

Caitlyn looked up sharply and their eyes locked, and Shane had realized that for once, maybe he'd been the one to be a step ahead of her. He held his breath for a moment, but then she opened his mouth and he realized that he'd never been ahead of her—she'd just gotten so far ahead that he couldn't see her anymore.

"I dare you to kiss me," she whispered breathlessly, and Shane's heart skipped a beat in his chest.

He swallowed and looked right into her eyes, thinking that he saw fear. He wasn't sure why, but he felt like he had to protect her. He leaned towards her carefully, running a finger tentatively down her cheek so that she shivered. He closed his eyes and inched forward, scared to breathe. He felt her shift beside him and he opened his eyes to see that she had jumped before he could make contact, her hair flying out around her as she soared gracefully down towards the grassy field.

--

They were seventeen when Caitlyn decided she was over Shane Gray. Every year she was able to convince herself that, and then summer would roll around and she'd fall in love all over again. They hardly saw each other throughout the school year—mostly due to the fact that Caitlyn avoided him like the plague. She hadn't wanted to fall in love with Shane. But he was outrageous and fun and caring and made her never want to back down from a dare—and so somehow it had just happened.

So when school got out for the summer that year, Caitlyn decided she wouldn't let herself repeat the same cycle all over again. He made her scared to make a move—and damn it, Caitlyn Gellar did not get scared. If it meant she had to stay away from Shane Gray, then so be it.

She biked home from school as fast as she could and tossed her bike down on her yard with her backpack, heading to the park to get her thoughts straight.

She was almost halfway across the street when she heard her name being called.

"Caity!"

She kept walking.

"Hey Cait, wait up!"

She walked faster—she would not let Shane catch up to her. She had to stay two steps ahead of him, or else he would catch her off guard—and Caitlyn Gellar did not get caught off guard. She always had to be in the lead.

"Caitlyn!" he called, and his voice sounded distant. Caitlyn grinned in triumph, slowing down a little. She was congratulating herself for having successfully ignored him when a hand grabbed her by the shoulder and spun her around, bringing her face-to-face with Shane Gray.

"Why were you ignoring me?" he asked quietly, and he looked so broken that part of her wanted to wrap her arms around him and insist that she'd done no such thing.

Instead, she'd smiled confusedly, choosing to play dumb. "Oh, were you calling me? Wow, I must really be going deaf, I didn't hear a thing!" Her smile grew a little bit wider and it gave her some sick satisfaction to show him that she had the upper hand here. Because damn it, Caitlyn Gellar did not get caught off guard and she was always, always in the le—

Her lips were still spread into a smile when he pulled her fiercely towards him, trapping her mouth carefully underneath his. His hands cupped her cheek with a gentleness opposite to that of his lips, which were now moving agilely against hers and sending a shiver up her spine. Her body rose up to meet him involuntarily as she stepped up on her tiptoes, being pulled closer to him by some invisible force. She gasped a little and fell unsteadily back to her normal height as he suddenly seemed to realize what he was doing. Her hands shook as he pulled his mouth off hers tenderly, the feel of his lips still lingering. His forehead rested on hers for a few seconds before she pulled away violently, thinking that if she stayed there any longer he might start to feel her heart pound through her forehead.

She stared at him with wide-eyes, afraid to admit that he'd been way ahead of her this time. Somehow though, she didn't seem to mind quite as much if he took the lead on this one.

"What…what was that for?"

Shane bit his lip and looked to the floor, breaking eye contact. "You dared me to jump," he said, so quietly that she almost missed it. Her shaking hands stilled themselves as Caitlyn wondered if maybe that was what she'd been asking for all along.

Before she knew exactly what she was going to do, she had stepped forward cautiously and was reaching up to touch his lips. She ran a finger across them and Shane waited, careful not to move beneath her fingertips. She placed her hands on his shoulders and looked up into his eyes, the smallest of smiles tugging on her lips. He gazed patiently back at her and for a moment Caitlyn felt as if the earth was dropping from underneath her, falling out from below her feet. The air between them seemed to thicken as Caitlyn leaned forward and pressed her mouth against his gently at first, and then with a sudden urgency she didn't know she possessed. He came to life beneath her lips, sliding his hand around her waist and pulling her closer.

Her eyes fluttered open as she pulled away, meeting his surprised stare. She realized that this must be the real thrill she had been searching for this whole time, the jump she'd always wanted. And she was certain that when she kissed him, she could see the whole world in his eyes—the world she could never see from the tops of the tree branches, no matter how hard she tried.

"And what was that for, Caity?"

Caitlyn smiled for real this time, taking his hand carefully in hers. "No reason," she whispered, "but it made you feel like a wuss, didn't it?"

--


a/n ii: Okay, so it was pretty dang cheesy. But hey – we all need a little bit of cheese in our lives every now and then, right? Hope you enjoyed, Pyro! Everybody else, do me a favor and go to Pyrolyn-776's profile and wish her a happy b-day. Then proceed to read her squeal-worthy fics. Run, my darling readers, run! Oh, and I wouldn't mind if you reviewed this, either. :)

Also – about the last line. I wasn't sure if I was being a total mood-killer after their kiss. Ah well, what's done is done. Let me know what you thought of it! Virtual hugs for everyone, yay!