NOTE: BIG THANKS to all of you readers who've stuck around this long! I love you all! For this chapter you will need the song "Kyoto" by Skrillex for the fight scene between Walter and the American Ghost, and then "The Difference" by the Wallflowers for Eddie and Rylie's little "adventure" in town. :)

45. Fire in the Sky



I look up lazily from the book I'm reading and throw a wry glance toward the ceiling. Yes? Part of me wishes he wouldn't talk to me right now. Reading is one of the few ways I can disappear from reality; it always has been. And right now, I want nothing more than to forget, for the moment, the looming threat of war, the government, and everything else.

Cadence is down in the garage.

I blink, quiet for a moment while I wonder why he's telling me something I already know. ...Okay?

Someone is there with her.

I am quiet for another moment, but only because I am letting his words sink in, like cold water trickling through my veins. A heartbeat later, I am on my feet, throwing the book down on my bed and racing down the stairs. Panic has filled me, seized me. Who is with her? I demand as I run.

Someone you know, and someone you will come to know, Manhattan answers.

I slow, my fingers hesitating over the garage door's handle. The fear fades, to be replaced by irritation. You couldn't have told me that before nearly giving me a heart attack? I snap. I thought you meant Cadence was in trouble.

If that's what I had meant I would have told you.

No, I don't think you would have. You always speak in goddamn riddles, I growl, then open the door. Now, who is it that's here?

But Manhattan doesn't respond, and even if he had I wouldn't have registered his words. Because when I step into the garage, I know who it is. I feel it in my bones, in every nerve ending in my body.

I just can't remember.


It's the last week of summer and I'm in the garage- rearranging the logs of firewood against the wall because I know my parents will be pissed if they see the mess Walter and I make with them- when I feel it. A spark in the atmosphere, a tingling along my skin. Glancing down at my arm, I realize that the hair is standing up along its length. I realize what it has to be right as a sudden gust of wind hits me and then disappears.

Looking up, I realize that someone is standing in the driveway, just outside of the open garage door. She is dressed all in black, her dusky brown hair pulled up into a ponytail. Attached to the belt around her waist are two large daggers, one on either side. A mask covers the top half of her face, but it's unlike any other mask I've ever seen before. It's made of intricate chainlink, and she's tied the two cords of leather attached to either side into her ponytail.

I blink, not just startled by her sudden, unexpected appearance but by her. She is so familiar...I feel like I know her, but I can't place where. The parts of her face that are exposed look hard, feminine but rough, as though she's weathered many a hard storm in her lifetime. She could be beautiful if she smiled...but something tells me doesn't smile, and maybe never has.

"Rylie?" she says, looking straight at me through the chainlink. I can't really tell what the rest of her face looks like through it since it's woven so tightly and intricately together, but her eyes look dark. Brown, maybe, or possibly blue...

"Yes..." I respond slowly. How does she know my name? And my nickname, of all things? Most people who don't know me call me Cadence.

Of course, she must know me. That much is obvious. But how?

She tips her head to one side, still watching me steadily, with eyes that never seem to blink. "I realize this must be a bit of a surprise," she says.

"Um, yeah," I reply, giving her a strange look. "Who are you? Did Dr. Manhattan send you?"

Yes, he answers in my head at the same time the mysterious woman nods and says, "Yes."

"Who are you?" I demand.

Her mouth twists into a crooked smile, one devoid of anything close to brightness or happiness. I feel strangely sick seeing this expression on her face- what could have happened to her to make her this...jaded? "I think it's best if you don't know my name," she says. "For now, just call me Ghost."

I stare at her suspiciously. "Why can't I know your name?" There is something about her...her name...her outfit...Suddenly, it falls into place. I gasp and I stare at her in shock. "You're the American Ghost, aren't you?" She just stares back at me silently, and that is answer enough.

Back in the day, when vigilantes were still legal, the American Ghost had been around. She had worked solo in New York for a short time, until she'd completely disappeared. There were many rumors surrounding her- that she'd been killed off by gang members, that the government had picked her off, even one that she had been abducted by aliens. There was also the one where she simply became another identity, another vigi. But no one truly knew.

"What are you doing here?" I finally ask breathlessly. But before she can answer, the door opens and I turn to see Walter standing in the doorway. He is staring at the Ghost with a look of shock and disbelief on his face. There is nostalgia in his eyes. I furrow my brows. Did he know the American Ghost in the past? They were vigilantes at around the same time, but I never read any articles about them knowing each other. I look back at the Ghost to see if I can read her expression.

But hers is even more startling than his. Her mouth is open, half-shocked, half-expectant. There is the hint of a smile- a pure one- on her lips. She knows him, I realize. I clench my jaw and ball my hands into tight fists. And she likes him, I also realize.

I am surprised by how much this realization pisses me off. There is a burning inside of me, a protectiveness that borders on possessiveness. She can't know him, she can't like him. Maybe in a different time and a different place, but not now. Now he's mine, I think with a little snarl.

A moment later, I shake my head, shocked by my feelings. Why should I care if she likes him, if they once had a partnership, or a friendship, or a...a relationship? Right. None of my business, I think with a disinterested little sniff.

But I'm not as distinterested as I wish I was.

Her half-smile has become a full-fledged grin. "Hello, Rorschach," she greets him.

Walter stiffens and his eyes flash blue fire. "Who are you?" he automatically demands, stalking over to stand at my side.

The smile never leaves her face, but maybe it becomes just a little more jaded again, a little more wry. I turn to Walter and murmur, "She's the American Ghost, Walter. Jon sent her."

He turns back to the Ghost, refusing to relax at this explanation. "Why are you here?"

The Ghost nods to me. "I'm here to train her," she replies.

I draw back- train me? I exchange a quick glance with Walter, who turns back to the Ghost with a hard glare. "Well, you're too late. I'm training her," he growls, a little possessively.

The Ghost just shakes her head, laughing a little. It's a harsh sound, but it's so damn familiar, as though underneath, there is a softer sound waiting to make itself known... "No, no, I don't mean train her to fight with her body. I mean with these," she explains, touching her hip where the dagger rests.

"Swords?" I squeak out in shock, feeling my stomach twist a little. How can I fight with those?

She smirks wryly and nods. "I had the exact same reaction when I started learning," she says, and chuckles, as though enjoying some inside joke. "But don't worry. I know you'll do fine."

"Wait, wait, wait," Walter interrupts sharply, holding up his hands. "Who even said she was going to learn? She hasn't agreed to anything," he growls, stepping in front of me protectively.

"Manhattan did," she replies steadily, unshaken.

I did, Jon agrees, and I know he's speaking to Walter, too, because I feel him stiffen next to me.

He grits his teeth. "How do I know you're qualified to teach her properly?" he snarls.

I elbow him sharply in the side and glare at him. "Walter, she's a vigilante!" I hiss to him. I realize there's a note of desperation to my voice because I know what he's going to do, and I really wish he wouldn't.

But the Ghost just smiles. This smile isn't like any of the rest; it's dark, filled with a grim, satisfactory gleam, as though she's relishing the challenge. "No, no. He's right. I should prove my worth," she says.

"Fine. Prove your worth," Walter sneers. "Fight me. Then we'll see if you should train her."

I bite my lip, feeling a tightening in my gut. I don't like this. I don't like that nearly fanatical gleam in her eye. "Wait, wait," I say quickly before either of them can move. I point to the Ghost's swords. "Take those off first. I don't want you getting any ideas. I want this to be a clean fight," I say, glaring at the Ghost sternly.

She simply grins back. "Whatever you say, Northpaw," she agrees, and then starts to unbuckle her belt.

Gaping, Walter and I exchange a glance, blindsided. How did she know my nickname? Walter starts to say something, probably to question her, but I shake my head at him and he falls silent. We can ask later. Maybe Jon told her, I reason with myself, but I'm still unsettled by how much she seems to know.

Once her swords are lying in a corner of the garage, the Ghost turns back to us and claps her hands together. "Right. So. Whoever forces the other to the floor for five seconds wins. Sound fair?"

Walter nods stiffly. "Sounds fair," he agrees, then looks at me. "Cadence, get out of the way."

I stay where I am for a moment, shifting from foot to foot uncertainly. It feels wrong to let Walter fight someone on his own; I feel like I should be there. He glares at me, prepared to snap out a quick order again, but he must see the panic on my face because his blue eyes soften slightly. "Go, Cadence. It's not a real fight. I'll be fine," he assures me. After another heartbeat of hesitation, I shuffle off to the side reluctantly, sitting down on the single step leading up to the utility room door.

It starts off as more of a boxing match than anything else, both of them dancing around each other in a tight circle, exchanging light, glancing blows. Testing each other out, like we do when we start a sparring session. But the dance gets steadily faster, steadily fiercer, until I am on the edge of my seat, almost unable to keep myself from jumping into the fight to help.

Because she is good. She's fast, smooth, and dangerous, every bit as skilled as Walter. They are equally matched and it makes me nervous. I've never seen Walter bested, but I'm terrified that today might be the day.

Suddenly, the circling ends. Walter strikes out, his fist aimed for her face. Quick as the strike of a snake, the Ghost ducks under and delivers her own swift punch. This one lands on his chin, and the force of it snaps his head back so fast and hard that he bends backward for a moment. Quickly he recovers, raising his arm up in time to block another blow. Shoving her arm to the side, he brings his other elbow up and slams it into her face.

But she flows with the movement, absorbing it, and then moves fast back toward him. For a moment, she forces him back with the ferocity of her savage blows, and I wince every time she hits him.

Finally, though, he starts to force her back and I nod frantically. I realize that I'm coaching him in my head, silently whispering the moves that I would deliver if I were him. Up, left arm, kick, yes, yes!

I have never seen a fight like this before. They are spinning around each other, twirling, dancing, and graceful. They are both covered in sweat and blood, but they remain steady, strong, and aggressive. She is a damn bulldog, but Walter is junkyard mean. I know he can hold his own.

But as the fight progresses, I am not sure he can win. I'm not sure either of them can win. They are perfectly, evenly matched, and a small part of me wonders how anyone could possibly train enough to become Walter's equal.

The fight builds, reaches climax, peaks, rises, and peaks again. My heart is pounding with its rhythm, thumping with each punch, stuttering with each swing. They move so fast I lose track sometimes of who threw what punch.

When it begins to slow, when they step apart for a moment, I am partly glad. Glad because it will give Walter a short reprieve. But only partly, because it gives me a chance to see the damage the Ghost has done. He is bleeding from a cut on his eye and his cheek. His bottom lip is split, too, leaking blood into his mouth. The knuckles on both of his hands are bruised and bleeding, and there is a large bruise flowering darkly just below his right knee.

Turning to the Ghost, I see with a fierce satisfaction that blood is dripping from her nose, and that she is limping slightly. Both of them are breathing heavily, covered in sweat, but they keep their eyes fixed tightly on each other, unaware of everything else, completely single-minded.

They begin to circle again. My heart rate increases with each step until I worry it might burst from stress. Once again they are twirling. The Ghost throws a punch but Walter grabs her arm and swings her around. She slams into the wall of the garage, but ducks out of the way just in time to avoid Walter's foot, which arcs up toward her jaw. Dancing back around him, she swings her entire body in an arc, keeping her elbow out, and tries to catch him on the cheek. He curves out of the way, though, managing to stay balanced though he is bent halfway over.

They spin around each other. One blow to the Ghost's stomach, one blow to Walter's back. Then, suddenly, the Ghost is twirling in mid-air, having leapt fantastically into the air over Walter's head. When she lands, her legs splay out to balance her as she skids backward. I feel my lungs twist with panic when I realize that she's just jumped directly into the corner where her swords are.

I leap to my feet, but before I can move to do anything the sword's in her hand with a sharp flash, and Walter is on the ground under her. The tip of the sword rests gently on his throat. He glares up at her, breathing heavily but staying still. She smiles down at him soothingly as she counts out loud. "One...two...three...four...five. Well, well. Looks like I win," she says.

Burning with resentment and fear and anger, I hesitantly approach her, unwilling to make her do anything rash with a sudden movement. "Get that fucking sword away from his neck," I growl, glaring at her dangerously.

She shrugs and steps away from him. "Sure," she agrees easily, grinning as I scoot in between the two of them and extend my hand to Walter.

"Are you alright?" I whisper to him as I pull him to his feet.

"Yes," he replies, but I see him wince as though in pain.

I hate this woman. I hate her and I wish she would leave. But Jon sent her, and he must know that someday I'll need the training she'll give me. Glowering frostily at the Ghost, I thrust Walter off to the side. "Alright. You've proved you can fight. So train me so we can get this over with," I growl.

She nods to me briskly, still grinning in that way I despise. "Great." Then she turns to Walter. "You should probably go inside and get yourself fixed up," she tells him.

But he stays where he is, sitting on the same step I had when I'd watched them fight. His eyes flash furiously, blazing. "You don't tell me what to do," he snaps. Then he looks directly at me. "I'm staying here. Just in case," he says meaningfully. I nod to him, knowing what he's saying- he'll stay here in case I need help.

The Ghost just shrugs. "Whatever you want. Here, Rylie. Take this," she says, holding out one of her swords. Reluctantly, I take it. "Now, Rylie. What you need to remember most of all during this training is that the sword is not just an instrument, or a weapon. It is an extension of yourself."

I nod, though I wish she would just shut up. I don't care about anything she's telling me and I wish she would just go back to where she came from. But I listen like a good little student, while Walter watches and the day grows old.


The American Ghost comes everyday for the next week to train me, and she trains me hard. She's about as obsessive over training as Walter is, and she's much less sympathetic, which I never thought was possible. It's as though she wants to see me break down and cry. She doesn't ever give me breaks, not even in the dead heat. Walter- who refuses to let her train me without him there as a referee- always insists she does, but she never listens.

On the third day, I had to run out of the garage and throw up just because the heat and the exertion got to me. I hadn't known Walter was there, holding my hair back, until the retching stopped. He'd quickly pulled his hands away as I looked up, but stayed where he was, looking at me in concern. "Are you alright?" he'd murmured.

"Oh, yeah. I enjoy puking," I had replied, giving him a weak smile.

"I mean do you feel cold?" he'd asked quietly, then pressed his hands to my face.

I'd known what he was referring to- heat stroke. But I hadn't felt cold. Just disgusting. "No, I'm fine. Scout's honor," I'd added when he hadn't looked convinced. He'd given me a disparaging look but I had ignored him and gone back to the Ghost, who was waiting impatiently.

On Friday, though, something changes in our pattern. When the Ghost gets here, she is subdued. Her lip is split and I can just barely see a black eye behind her chainlink mask.

Though there is a part of me that fiercely enjoys this sight, there is another part of me- the sweet side of my inner Sour Patch Kid, I suppose- that is alarmed by this, too. "What happened to you?" I can't help asking.

"Life, kid," she replies. "It'll give you hell. Trust me."

I watch her for a long moment. There's something about the way she says though she's talking about me specifically, about my life...

"This will be the last day I train you. And it'll only be a half-day if I remember correctly, so we'd better get started."

I blink, jolted from my thoughts. "What do you mean it'll only be a half-day?" I inquire. She's right- I had been planning on asking her to cut it short today because Eddie's coming over- but how had she known?

She shrugs. "Manhattan told me. Now grab a sword and let's get started," she mutters.

We train until one, and the Ghost seems to be in a hurry. "Alright, I think we should call it a day," she finally says all of a sudden, snatching the sword right from my hand.

I stare at her, surprised. "Okay..?"

"Sorry, kid, I'm just in a little bit of a hurry. Thanks for letting me train you," she spits out in a rush, thrusting the daggers back into their sheaths on her belt.

"Rylie. Who's this?"

All of us turn in unison to see Eddie, standing in the doorway of the garage. He stares at the Ghost in confusion and hesitance. There is something in his eyes...something takes me a moment, but then I realize what it is. It had been in Walter's eyes when he'd first seen her, too- nostalgia. I shake my head in disbelief. What is going on here? Why do all of us feel like we know this woman?

Turning back to her, I feel a jolt of pure emotion run through me. Not just surprise, although her expression definately surprises me, but sorrow. Because her face is stricken, her mouth open slightly in shock, almost like she's just had the air knocked out of her. And it's almost like I can feel her distraught sadness, it's that potent.

"Eddie. This is the American Ghost. Manhattan sent her to train Cadence," Walter explains quietly when I don't respond.

Eddie blinks. "Train her? Really?" He looks at me in surprise.

I nod, tearing my gaze from the Ghost. "Yeah. She's been training me for a week. Teaching me sword fighting," I tell him absently, still feeling strangely hollow. As though something has been taken from me, something irreplaceable and vital.

He lifts his eyebrows. "And you're only just now telling me this?" he replies. I hear the trace of irritation in his voice so I give him an apologetic glance.

"Sorry. We've both just been so busy lately." And that's partly the truth. But in reality, it's mostly because I wanted to keep Eddie from the Ghost. She seems dangerous to me, toxic almost, and I just didn't want Eddie to be in the same room with the woman who defeated Walter in battle.

"I really must be going," the Ghost says suddenly, but her voice sounds strangled and thick. When I turn back to her, I feel my entire body turn to ice. A single tear runs down her cheek, which she tries to hide by turning away. "Good-bye, Rylie, Walter...Eddie."

And then, in a sudden flash of blue, she disappears.

We all are silent for a few moments and then Eddie sighs. "Well, that was weird," he states.

I nod, still staring at the place where the Ghost had been. "Yeah..."

"So, you ready to go stir shit up?" Eddie inquires, nudging me with his elbow. His tone is teasing, but when I look at him I realize that he can tell something's wrong with me. Of course. He knows me so well.

So I force a smile and nod. "Always."

He nods, smiling back. "Alright." Heading over to the utility room, he reaches up to press the button that opens the main garage door.

"Shall I start getting things ready?" Walter inquires wryly.

"Well, I don't know...can you cook?" I reply.

He shrugs. "I used to fend for myself pretty well as a child."

Eddie elbows him in the side, grinning. "Thought you weren't ever a child," he jokes. I blink; he's in a good mood.

"Oh, I'm sorry, did I say child? I meant a shorter version of myself," Walter replies.

"I don't think that's possible."

Walter rolls his eyes and heads inside. "Don't get into too much trouble," he hollers over his shoulder as the door shuts behind him.

Eddie grins and claps his hand together, turning to me. "So. Ready?"

I grin back at him, feeling myself relax in his presence. The hollow feeling disappears and I suddenly feel like the outside world- blue sky, shining sun, brilliant warmth. It feels like summer inside of me.

I nod. "Let's do this."

Eddie drives us into town, the windows rolled down and the music blasting through the speakers. We sing loudly along to The Wallflowers and Sublime, enjoying the summer air and our closeness. This feels good after such a long, exhausting week. Eddie is like coming home.

We head straight for one of the fireworks stands on the edge of town. There's no one there, but they haven't bothered to move any of their fireworks simply because its in an enclosed area- barbed wire fence and the whole jag. Parking the car, Eddie grins at me. "Ready to put some of that vigilante skill to use?"

I snort. "I don't even need it. I'm too badass."

Quickly we scramble over the fence, leaping skillfully over the barbed wire at the top like Walter taught us. We are fast and efficient, stealing as much as we can. We stuff the smaller firecrackers into our backpacks, but it takes us several trips to get a few boxes of actual fireworks into the truck. Once we're finished, however, we peel out; we don't want to risk getting caught before we've even really started.

Next we stop at a gas station, one infamous among our group. This is the gas station that fired Jimmy because he started dating Damien; they hadn't wanted to be associated with a homosexual. Up until this point, we had all refused to go to this gas station. Now, Eddie and I pull into their small parking lot and I empty all of my firecrackers into the backseat. "Remember. Monster, but none of that original crap. I want the coffee kind," I mutter to Eddie as we both throw on a hat and some sunglasses.

"Whatever, boss," he replies, then grabs my backpack and darts out the door.

"Wait, wait!" I holler, and he stops midway to the store.


I don't respond, just motion to him to come back. He sighs dramatically and stands, arms crossed over his chest, watching as I bend over and start tearing off his front license plate. "What are you doing?" he demands.

"Well, I just thought it would be nice if they didn't have a way to convict us," I mutter in response. "Go get the back one."

He obeys, muttering something about being "over-paranoid", and once we've tossed the plates into the truckbed we head inside. The old guy working at the counter instantly looks angry, as though he wishes kids like us wouldn't come into his store, but we avoid his gaze and head immediately to the back.

"Okay, you go grab all the stuff you want, then come back here when you're done and throw it in," I murmur to Eddie, pointing to the backpack.

He nods. "Right."

"Quick as you can, alright? I don't really feel like getting arrested today."

"You worry too much."

I wait impatiently in the corner of the convenience store, pretending to look at gum, while Eddie gathers up all of our provisions. When he finally returns to me, I have the backpack open and ready for him. "Alright, as soon as all the shit's in here we need to run cuz I think that old dude's getting suspicious," he mutters to me.

I nod, and once Eddie's crammed all of the stuff into the backpack, we exchange one last excited grin, then leap into action. Speeding through the tiny convenience store, we dart out the door and into the truck, ignoring the old bag's protests behind us. Grinning, Eddie shifts into reverse. "Hold onto your seat," he says to me, then guns the car so fast I leave my stomach behind.

The truck swings around, and Eddie shifts back into drive mid-swing, so that by the time we're in the turn lane we are facing the correct direction and everything. We speed out of town as fast as we dare to go, not wanting to draw attention to ourselves but also unwilling to slow down.

As soon as we hit the city limits, we cheer, high-fiving each other. "Oh, dude, we are fuckin' beastly, do you know that?" I crow, feeling nearly blissful with exhileration. My face is stretched into a grin so wide that I feel like it might split open.

"Bonnie and Clyde, baby," Eddie agrees, grinning from ear-to-ear.

When we get home, Jimmy and Damien are already there, helping Walter in the kitchen. "Hey, guys. Did you get the stuff?" Jimmy exclaims, hopping over to us as we step inside.

I laugh, handing him the my backpack. "You make it sound like we were out buying drugs."

"Well, we all know you're a junkie," he mutters, practically burying his head in the bag. When he looks up, he gives me a disgruntled look. "Where are the fireworks?" he demands.

"They're still in the truck. Jesus, did you really think we could fit all of them into the backpack?" I reply, rolling my eyes.

"You guys come help me unload them. We'll store 'em in the shop until it's time," Eddie says, leading Jimmy and Damien outside.

I head over to Walter, who is stirring something on the stove. Leaning against the counter, I look up at him expectantly. "So. Whatcha' makin'?" I inquire.

"Ramen. And Jimmy and Damien made a veggie tray," he answers and then smiles, as though he can guess what I'm about to say.

"Oh, so you can cook, huh?"

"I never claimed to be a chef. Just that I knew how to operate a stove."

"Right. I called you on your bullshit and you know it."

"As only you can do, dear Cadence," he drawls sardonically, and then he gives me a look. "So. What all did you steal?"

"Well, fireworks, of course. And then Eddie stole all the good shit, so I'm not exactly sure. But I'd be willing to bet it's sweet, sugary goodness," I reply.

"Oh, great."

"Hey, you're a sugar junkie just as much as the rest of us."

"Yes, but I'm not a hyperactive teenager."

"No, you're just a hyperactive hobo."

"Oh, come off it, Rylie. When have you ever seen him hyper?" Eddie tosses from the kitchen door.

I think about that for a moment. "True."

Once the Ramen is done, we all gather at the kitchen table and eat our makeshift dinner while watching our current favorite show- Ridiculousness. Day fades while we laugh at the completely stupid things people do, but when twilight arrives we all exchange a group look. Without a word, we all leap into action. Eddie gets the truck started while the rest of us head out to the shop and load the fireworks back into the truckbed. Then, piling into the truckbed ourselves, we drive down to McLouth, the little country town closeby.

I give directions to an old, disused baseball diamond just northwest of the town and when we pull up there, we hop into action immediately. It's been a wet summer this year, so we don't worry about anything catching fire; things'll be too damp to catch. So we set up the fireworks and then Eddie and I head up to light the first one.

He looks at me before he strikes the lighter and smiles. "First one for good luck, yeah?" he murmurs.

I grin at him. "Light up the night, baby."

So he lights the fuse, and then we race back as far as we can before it goes off. The explosion is deafening, the sudden flare of light brilliant. Our eyes trail the fantastic tail of light as it climbs higher and higher into the sky, and then our eyes widen in wonder at the explosion. We let that one sit for a minute, so it can soak into the night, and then Eddie and I rush back to the fireworks to light them.

We don't waste time with theatrics this time; we light them all. And the effect is magnificent. Color and brightness fill the night, like neon on a black canvas background. It's brilliant and wonderful, and we all laugh and dance, filled with neon ourselves. We light our smaller fireworks underneath the fire in the sky, leaping and jumping around them, all except for Walter, who simply watches.

On the Fourth of July, it rained. It was like the Second Coming of Christ type of rain. So, as a result, there were no fireworks shows like usual. All of us were sorely disappointed, as it was tradition for us to drive up the lane and watch them.

It was Eddie's idea, of course, to have our own fireworks show, which Walter, of course, disapproved of at first. But I managed to convince him, and so that's how this night was born.

When the fantastic glow of the last firework fades to smoke and nothing, and the silence falls, heavy, around us, we slow to a stop, breathing heavily. Our smiles don't fade, however, they simply become bittersweet, content with the fire's end. Silently, we all pile into the truck and drive home.

None of us says anything. Not even when Eddie takes a detour and drives up the lane, like so many nights before us on the real Fourth of July. He stops in our usual spot, under the wide expanse of inky night sky and cold pinpoints of stars, and comes to join us in the back of the truck, turning up his stereo before he leaves just enough so that we can hear it.

Looking up at the stars- the quiet fire in the sky- we sing along to the 80s CD that Eddie's playing and provide our own brilliance to the night.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Originally this chapter didn't exist, but the ideas in it did. I, for one, am pretty glad I wrote this chapter, though; I think it turned out nicely, if I may be so bold. Now, enough tooting my own horn! Review, please, and eat cookies, for they are the food of gods! :D