I sit with my back pressed into his chest. With his arms secure around my waist and his fingers twisting with mine, I lean my head back into the curve of his collarbone. The wooden dock we sit on is cold and a slight breeze wisps past my hair and seeps its way into the seams of the soft, white down coat that shields my body. I shiver as I gaze up at the splashes of color igniting the night sky, the boom of the explosions rattling the bridge beneath us and filling the air with the sulfuric scent of spent gunpowder. The burning color reflects off the water and the show below is almost as dazzling as the bursts and splays of color raining from the broad band of blackness above.

I free my hands to reach into my bag and pull out my camera, adjusting the aperture for the vibrancy of the fiery sky, and point the lens at the horizon, attempting to capture the effect of the fireworks on the rippling surface, the click, click, click of the camera snagging each frame.

"Look at that, look at the water. Isn't that amazing? See how it looks like glass, the color reflecting off the movement. It looks like it's dancing," I say, and he breathes into the tiny sliver of exposed skin between my scarf and sweater.

"You've always been like this, you know? Noticing, observing, watching. The way you see things, things I wouldn't notice in a million years, you see them and make them noticeable for others. That, my dear, is what I think is amazing." His voice is quiet, as smooth and sweet as liquid chocolate, and I smile to myself at his recollection.

"You have no idea how many times I imagined this exact moment," he whispers into my ear, the warmth of his breath a relief from the icy chill and it causes goosebumps to dance across my skin. I crane my neck so I can see his face, the exploding color in the sky making his eyes shimmer in shades of red and green and gold.

"Oh, I think I have an idea," I reply, smiling up at him and shifting to get closer. His arms tighten around me and I feel him sigh, the fog exhaling from his mouth as the warmth of his breath mixes with the cold night air. "I just can't believe it took us seventeen years to get to this moment."

"No more 'maybe next year's' for us," he murmurs softly. His lips press into my temple and he lets them linger on my skin, breathing in and keeping our connection, a connection forged close to two decades ago in a very different time and a very different place.

Seventeen summers. I've spent the last seventeen years of my life trying to find a balance between loving him and hating him, belonging to him and resenting him for it, waiting anxiously for him to arrive and crying because I knew he'd have to leave, and yet, in his arms, I have never felt so complete. It took us seventeen years to realize what I knew in my heart when I was eleven.

He'd always been mine just for the summer. I never let myself believe he could be mine always.



Chapter 1 to follow shortly...

Many thanks to lovely betas n7of9 and SubtlePen.

Special love to darling miztrezboo for prereading my shenanigans.