The sun is low and golden by the time you and Gavin leave Loveland High. He’s about to make his way to the parking lot when you put a hand on his arm.
“Wait,” you say. “There’s one more place I want to visit before we go.”
There’s a basketball court a little behind the school, across the campus from the track. Beside it, always shielding half from the sun, stands an old gingko tree.
The you from seven years ago, and Minor, and later, Gavin, pass it every afternoon on the walk home after school. Every afternoon, Minor lingers outside it until the gingko tree’s shadow covers nearly three-quarters of the court, gripping the chain-link fence and swearing he’ll join the NBA one day, if only for Steph Curry.
You, already used to this routine, patiently remind him of the homework you two should be starting on soon.
But then Gavin starts walking back with you, and your easy-going two becomes an awkward three. When Minor stops to stare at the court, Gavin asks you why. It’s probably one of the first times he’s ever addressed you directly, and you stiffen, just a little, under his hard amber gaze.
“He wants to join the NBA?” Your nervousness turns the answer into a question.
Gavin scoffs a little, and the conversation’s over.
You pout when his eyes leave yours-- you don’t want to make trouble, he’s well, famous, for a reason or maybe two (his fists) and you’d rather not be on the opposite end of those anytime soon, no matter how much Minor clearly idolizes him.
(Thinking back to when you first met him, you really had no idea he’d have such an impact on your life.)
The first time Minor invites you out to play basketball with him, when you get to the court behind Loveland High, you nearly turn and run. Gavin’s with him.Of course. You really should’ve guessed, seeing how close the two were at the end of the school year. It doesn’t really make you want to run away any less.
Before your fight-or-flight instinct’s flight kicks in, though, a gentle breeze sends gingko leaves floating past you, and you remember more than the rumors, you remember a rainy afternoon without an umbrella, a wet kitten, and a boy’s jacket flung over your head-- by the time you went to move it, all you could see of him was that his ears were a bright red. You remember Minor falling into his seat next to you during lunch, a bruise on his cheek though his eyes were bright, his hushed whisper of “Gavin saved me,” and the boy himself pulling up a chair at your table with an awkward cough. You remember how he’d started walking with you and Minor, and no one had bothered either of you on the way to and from the school for the rest of the school year.
You’re still a little apprehensive, but maybe he’s not so bad, after all, you tell yourself. Maybe. But at the end of the day, you don’t really know him, not even from the walks back home after school, for better or for worse.
“Gavin’s here to play, too!” Minor calls to you with a wide grin as he runs over, oblivious to your conflicted thoughts. “He’s really good!”
Then, over his shoulder: “Aren’t you, bro?”
Gavin shrugs from where he’s leaning against the fence, just on the edge of the shade, the picture of boredom. He’s decked out in a dark hoodie and jeans you don't quite understand how he can wear under the summer sun. And, not that you’re in any place to judge what people wear to play basketball, but--
“I’m not playing.”
He closes his eyes as Minor starts to complain, and for all intents and purposes, seems to go to sleep right there on the spot. In lieu of getting Gavin to play with him, Minor tries to teach you to shoot, and you indulge him, and try not to wince too hard every time he tosses the ball in your direction.
The thing is, you’re actually a little afraid of basketball. You’re sure it’s just slipped Minor’s mind-- it had been a big deal at the beginning of the year that you’d desperately tried to get everyone to forget throughout the course of PE, but a boy had hit you with a basketball ‘by mistake,’ and you’d heard him laughing about it with his friends at lunch that very same day.
Sure, that doesn't stop one of your classmates from dragging you out to one of the school's basketball games, and maybe you'd thought the last dunk by that one player had looked downright dreamy , but neither Minor or Gavin need to know that. And since Gavin doesn't give any indication he'll be playing, let alone moving for the rest of the afternoon, you don't really mind playing with Minor, even if every shot you attempt misses.
Minor's far from what you'd call a good teacher, but his enthusiasm and genuine love for basketball is infectious. You take it all in good stride, laughing when the ball arcs at least two feet below the hoop, cheering when Minor makes a three-pointer, then chasing after the rebound when his next shot bounces off the backboard. You're exhausted by the time the summer sun's directly overhead, and you're about to call out to Minor that you're going to take a break when it happens.
Maybe it's the glare, or the way your vision's gone a little fuzzy from the exertion, your reaction speed slowed by a few precious milliseconds, but--
A basketball barrels towards you, and you freeze, can't even think to put your hands in front of your face or even move, all you can do is flinch back, screwing your eyes shut, prepared for the coming painful impact. It never comes.
You open your eyes to Gavin's scowl, his angry gaze directed over your head at a fervently apologizing Minor. The basketball bounces across the court in the opposite direction, then clatters to a stop against the fence under the gingko tree's spreading branches.
It takes your brain a long second to catch up.
Gavin protected you?
The thought's absurd, even to your heat-addled brain. And yet--
He looks down at you, his amber gaze softening a little, and the sight warms your cheeks. And maybe your heart flutters, just a little.
"You all right?"
"I- I'm okay."
You manage a shaky smile up at Gavin, and he stiffens a little, then steps away from you quickly, shoving his hands deep into his pockets. He clears his throat.
"Watch out, yeah?"
You swallow and nod, missing the reddened tips of his ears, the way his gaze tracks to yours, then darts away.
After that afternoon, Minor doesn't ask you to play with him. He gives you no less than five separate apologies, offers to pay for dinner that day, and ice cream, too, but you laugh it off, and try not to think about how close Gavin had been when he'd blocked the basketball, how his soft amber gaze had made your heart pound just a little faster.
To occupy your time, you wheedle a DSLR out of your father, and take to carrying it around, thick strap around your neck, the camera itself cradled protectively to your chest save for the moments you work up the courage to lift the viewfinder to your eye and snap a photo. At first, you think they'll just tease you, and Minor does, and you blush and screw the lens cap back on, the camera sitting in the crook of your arms, unused, as you watch him play.
It gets easier, over the course of the summer, after you sit through many an afternoon in the hazy heat where it's clear Minor now only cares about perfecting his layup and trying reverses, and Gavin, well, doesn't care. He leans against the fence instead of playing, (decked out in a dark hoodie and jeans you don't quite understand how he can wear under the summer sun) and tries to get Minor to miss -- you laugh at some of his funnier jibes and maybe his eyes linger a little longer on your grin, on your smile when Minor's complaining and chasing a rebound, but, well, that's his secret to keep.
You try to capture Minor's hoops. The photos start out frustratingly blurry, and you try to remember what your father taught you about all of the buttons, the aperture, the shutter speed, the ISO. You fiddle. The camera clicks. Gavin takes to peering over your shoulder while Minor tries shots, and you try shooting him. He never says much, just expresses a casual interest, gives you the occasional encouragement, and normally, you would feel pressured, but your shots improve along with Minor's.
(And somehow, the summer breeze feels cooler when Gavin's nearby.)
"Look," Gavin says, once, from behind you, and your fingers stutter on the camera shutter. The picture comes out blurry.
You turn to him with a scowl, ready to scold him for ruining your shot, but. Words fail you. He's close. Closer than you'd thought.
Vaguely, your brain registers a single fact: his face is a few bare inches from yours. Also: his surprisingly shy smile. The soft, startled look in his eyes.
An orange butterfly floats up in the space between him and you, its wings beating in time with your accelerating heart.
Both of your faces redden moments later, and you pull back, nearly tripping over your own feet as you come out of your crouch.
"I, uh, wanted to show you," Gavin says belatedly, eyes fixed on the ground, cheeks still dark, a little gruff. "It landed on me."
He clears his throat and makes to stand up. His eyes dart back to you, and he says, softer, while they linger:
"Thought it was pretty."
Another day, Gavin brings a book and settles down next to your usual seat under the shade of the gingko tree.
"What're you reading?"
You peer over his shoulder, or at least, you try your best to, catching a glimpse of constellations traced out across the night sky.
"Nothing," he mutters, shoving the book behind him before you can read any more, his ears faintly red.
"You like astronomy?"
"I said it was nothing," he repeats, but his ears burn a little redder. You smile.
"What's your favorite constellation? Mine's actually not a constellation, but I really like the Milky Way. Because of Double Seventh. And Zhinu and Niulang, it's probably really typical of me to say so, but I think their story's really romantic. Even if it's really sad, too."
You pause. Gavin's silent. Heat rises to your cheeks-- you realize you've been rambling.
"Sorry!" You blurt. "I got carried away--"
"I like Jupiter," he says before you can continue, finally meeting your eyes, gaze warm and steady. "Jupiter and how it always protects the moon."
One afternoon hotter than all the days before, you arrive at the court to the sound of raised voices. Minor's there, his fists raised, glaring hard at three sneering boys. At the sight of their faces, your blood runs cold. They go to Loveland High school too. In fact, if you remember properly, Minor had told you one time that the tallest one used to bully him in middle school.
By the looks of it, they'd seen Minor playing alone and had thought to make fun of him-- and the leader had paid in kind, there's the beginnings of what looks like a bruise forming around his left eye.
"Minor!" You call, before the rising tension can get any worse. You know it's a mistake the minute their gazes turn to you. The tall bully's sneer widens, and the way his eyes rove you makes you want to turn and run away. You'd taken to wearing short skirts and tank tops, not to be cute for anyone in particular, though it had been gratifying to think that someone might've seen and admired you, but this just makes you feel gross in a way you can't quite explain.
"So you're tight with Loveland High's Princess," the bully says, and the feeling you have worsens, a pit in your stomach that won't stop growing.
"Little lady, why don't you hang out with some real men for a change, how 'bout it?"
He addresses you with a smirk.
"Leave Minor alone!"
"Yeah?" He reaches for your arm, and you yank it away, heart racing-- even though Minor looks ready and willing to fight, and maybe he could win, but there's three of them, and you don't want Minor to get hurt--
"Let's go on a date, alright? Just the one, and I'll leave Minor-boy alone."
He reaches for your arm again, and you pull out of his reach, cheeks burning with anger.
"Stop it!" You cry, and Minor's moved to your side, eyes flashing, giving you the courage to glare a little harder.
"You can't just throw your weight around and expect people to go along with it!"
The bully shrinks back. His two followers look ready to run. You blink, then try to glare even harder. They all whiten.
Then, from behind you, low and angry:
Relief floods through you, and you exhale a breath you hadn’t known you’d been holding as the bullies run, and you turn to Gavin with a smile.
“Gavin, you saved us!”
His hard amber gaze softens under yours, and he gives you the smallest of smiles back before his eyes move to Minor.
“Hey, are you okay?”
The other boy nods wordlessly. Gavin claps him on the back.
“You got a good punch in. Don’t worry about them. If they ever come back, we can rough them up again.”
“Yeah. It’s nothing, though. Don’t worry about it.”
Minor sounds surprisingly dispassionate, and you blink up at him, but he turns away before you can properly read his expression, crossing the court to get his basketball.
He spends the rest of the afternoon practicing cheerfully without a shred of anger. You try to cheer him on normally from the shade of a nearby gingko tree and Gavin does the same, alternating between feigning boredom, poking fun or offering unhelpful advice.
"Minor," he says seriously, as the other boy attempts a lay-up for the fifth time. "I could just beat them up for you."
Minor scowls. The ball misses, and you spring up to chase after it as it bounces to the other side of the court, though you still hear his response.
"You don't need to do that, bro, I already told you, it's seriously no big deal!"
It's too-loud, too-perky.
Gavin doesn't speak again that afternoon, but his strong gaze never quite leaves Minor's panting form, except to throw you a glance every so often, when you laugh, huff, or frown. When the sun’s about to sink below the tops of the trees, he bids you a quick goodbye, casting a last look at Minor, who continues to dribble in the fading light.
It’s only when Gavin’s gone that Minor sinks to his knees, letting the ball roll free. He sighs heavily and takes the water bottle you offer him.
"I hate him," Minor says suddenly with a viciousness that startles you, a steady quiet burning anger at the bully that keeps your gaze to the ground-- you know, if you look up, you'll see the tears in his eyes.
"So what if I take care of how I look-- he's probably never looked in a mirror in his life.”
Then, quieter still: "So what if I think Fan Bing Bing is cute and Steph Curry, too? Fuck him."
"Minor--" you start, voice trembling, and reach to pat him on the shoulder. You don't know what to say, don't know what you could say. You'd heard rumors before, awful, vicious things people'd said behind his back that surely he'd heard and kept smiling still, but this feels different, to hear it from him, to see him lose control like this.
He shrugs out of your weak grasp and leaves before you can say a word.
The next day, you get to the court earlier than usual. To your surprise, someone’s already there, practicing their free throws. You sigh. You suppose it makes sense that Minor’s been practicing on his own-- you’re sure he’s still upset, and well, he has every right to be, you just wish he’d talk to you instead of practicing until his arms are sure to fall off--!
You’re about to call out to him and say as much to him out loud, but the player whirls, you catch a glimpse of his face in profile and you realize, you’re not watching Minor play, you’re watching Gavin.
There's a passion in his eyes you've never seen before, some softly burning fire, and when his shots go in, you think you see him grin. He looks somehow relaxed, in a way he never seems when Minor’s practicing, and you think it suits him, he looks more natural, more settled when he's in motion. Even if it's just him shooting baskets and catching the rebounds, he makes it look effortless.
As you watch him shoot, mesmerized, you suddenly remember another time-- an evening during the school year, when you’d been tasked with cleaning the gym up once basketball practice was over.
Even though you'd never liked basketball, somehow you’d always ended up with cleaning duty the days basketball practice was in session.
You’d peeked through the gymnasium’s doors, thinking it would be empty and quiet, but barely visible from where you stood just outside the doorway had been Gavin, playing alone, several basketballs rolling around the otherwise deserted gym floor. You hadn’t known what to do-- whether to call out to him, to ask him to put away the balls when he was finished, or even to leave. You’d stood there for an absurdly long time, unable to decide, watching him dribble, feint around imaginary opponents, then shoot. Each time, the ball had arced perfectly through the hoop, and you’d resisted the impulse to cheer.
You’d still been scared of him. Back then, you’d only ever known of him from the rumors always buzzing around the school-- that he’d fought thirty gangsters, that he’d almost ended up in jail, that one wrong move around him, and you’d end up in the hospital like the old principal had.
But watching him play that evening, you’d thought he didn’t look very scary at all, only maybe a little lonely. In the end, you’d left him to play, hiding in the back of the bleachers to work on the math problems due the next day, hoping he wouldn’t notice you were there, hoping he wouldn’t mind. The echo of the ball’s dribbling and the squeak of his shoes on the floor had been soothing, somehow.
By the time you’d finished your homework, though, the gym had fallen silent, and when you’d looked up Gavin had vanished, and all the basketballs on the floor you’d thought you would have had to clean up were neatly returned to their basket.
The rattling of the basket rim brings you back to the present just in time for you to see Gavin dunk. He wheels around with a whoop, the excited grin on his face boyish. It's contagious-- you can't help but smile, too-- but then he catches sight of you and he stiffens, grin fading.
“You,” he starts, abrupt in the sudden silence. You’re not sure exactly what you would’ve said if you’d been thinking straight, but what ends up coming out of your mouth is:
“Gavin! Your dunk was really cool!”
He looks away, bouncing the ball idly a few times.
“You don’t like basketball that much, though?”
“It’s not that-- it’s more like I’m scared of it.”
He’s looking at you again, expression open, curious. You realize belatedly that this is maybe the most relaxed you’ve ever been around him, the thought bringing a touch of pink to your cheeks.
“It wasn’t that big of a deal, just someone in PE hit me with a ball one time. So now, I find it a little scary.”
“Watching you and Minor play, though,” you continue, “and seeing how much you two enjoy it makes it a little less frightening.”
You smile at him again, and he’s silent for a long moment. You panic a little internally-- have you said too much? But then he responds, almost too low for you to hear.
“I could teach you to play. If you wanted.”
“I’d like that,” you say, and it comes out quieter, a little hopeful, your cheeks still tinged with a blush. It feels like a moment, or the edge of a moment, a hair’s-breadth away from something , though you wouldn’t be able to name it even if someone were to ask.
Even when Minor finally shows up, you fancy you can still feel it stretching between you and Gavin, that thread of something, something more.
Days pass in that fashion, Minor practicing with a vengeance, without a word to you and Gavin as the two of you orbit each other, almost. There’s a day when Gavin brings his book again, and settles down beside you, only to fall asleep in the middle of reading it, his head dropping dangerously close to your shoulder.
Minor grins at the sight when he stops for a drink of water.
“I was able to concentrate today-- I was wondering why, but it’s because my number one fan’s asleep!”
An awkward moment passes as you both stare in silence at Gavin’s sleeping form. You like to think that he looks softer like this, all his hard stares and glares and furrowed brows smoothed out.
“I’m sorry about getting mad that time,” Minor says without looking at you. “None of what they said was your fault, Sis. I shouldn’t have taken it out on you.”
"It's fine. You had every right to be upset. Just next time-- I want to be a friend who can listen and help, alright? If you'll let me."
Before you can say another word, Minor pulls you into a hug.
"Of course I will, Sis!"
Just like that, any remaining awkwardness between you dissolves, and you joke and talk like normal.
“Minor, the other day I saw Gavin playing, and I was just wondering…”
You trail off, hoping he’ll finish the thought before you have to say it aloud. Minor tips his head.
“Why isn’t he teaching me?”
You nod, looking away. He laughs, but it sounds a little sad.
“You know, Gavin, he taught me how to fight. I kept following him after he saved me that one time, and saw how he saved other people too with those fists, so I asked him to teach me. And he did.”
“But this, you know, I just feel like it’s something I have to do on my own, somehow. I asked him not to teach me, told him he didn’t have to come. ”
He smiles to himself.
“He came, anyway.”
Then, with a mischievous gleam in his eyes,
“I wonder if it was for me, though.”
You blush and don't reply.
When Gavin finally wakes up, Minor drops a bombshell. He's challenged the bullies to a basketball match. A basketball match that's starting in less than an hour.
“Two-versus-three? You’re on.”
Gavin’s voice is carefully bored, but when you look over at him, there’s a gleam of excitement in his eyes. For the first time since the start of the summer, he shrugs off his hoodie, tossing it aside as he moves to the middle of the court to join Minor.
“Good luck!” You call to them.
Minor flashes you a thumbs up and a grin. Gavin throws you a single nod over his shoulder. Then, the bullies arrive and the game begins.
You can't help the way your eyes follow the motion of Gavin's toned arms, the flex of his well-muscled shoulders-- for all you'd heard stories about him getting into fights, it had never occurred to you what exactly that meant in terms of, well, his physical fitness. Specifically, how built he is under the hoodie he always wears. If you were more shameless, you're sure you'd take the opportunity to raise your camera and capture a physique you can only describe as art. You consider yourself lucky that they're both so caught up in the game that they don't notice your pronounced blush and can't hear your extensive internal commentary.
You can't really say you're being biased-- you're sure anyone with eyes can see that he's made to be an athlete (there's a fluidity to his movements that you're sure even poets would be at a loss for words at). And, for all he teased Minor for the other boy's NBA obsession, even your unpracticed eye can tell: Gavin's good at basketball. There's something about the way he passes the ball to Minor, the way none of the other team's throws make it past him: it speaks of an ease that's only possible through months, years even, of experience.
It's no wonder Gavin and Minor win, easily. You think that Minor probably would've won, even without Gavin's help.
Nevertheless, the moment the game’s over, Minor runs over to crush you in a warm, sweaty hug. After a moment, he pulls back, grinning.
Gavin clears his throat. Minor’s grin widens and he turns to Gavin, beckoning him to join. After a moment, Gavin lets himself be pulled into the embrace.
(You notice in hindsight that Minor's the one who landed all of their team's shots.
Even more in hindsight, you remember the wind being particularly strong that day-- none of the shots of the bully's team had ever gotten close to the basket.
"Gavin, that day, the wind--" you start, as you gaze at the empty court, the two of you surely thinking of that same summer.
"He would've won either way," Gavin responds before you can finish. "But I wanted to make a point."
His eyes flash for a moment when they settle on yours, sharp and angry, and you remember the way the bully had taunted you, too. You swallow, and give Gavin a small smile, and maybe he sees a bit of his anger reflected in your gaze, because he reaches out and takes your hand without a word, holds it tight.)
After the game, the rest of the summer passes in a blur. Minor still practices his shots in the court just outside of Sunshine Alley, but Gavin stops teasing him about joining the NBA. One afternoon when you get there, camera in hand, Gavin has a split lip and bruised knuckles, Minor a black eye, and neither responds when you ask what happened and why.
You never see the bully or his friends again, but Minor'll swear up and down he and Gavin had nothing to do with it.
Some days, Minor doesn't bring his basketball, and you trail behind him as he makes the long walk to the track behind the school, Gavin, silent, at your side. The first time, you realize you've worn the wrong shoes when the backs of your sandals begin to dig red marks into your heels, and you have to take a moment to sit and pull them off, rubbing your feet. Gavin lingers beside you, and you try to shoo him after Minor's retreating back, but he waits until you're ready to walk again, and keeps pace with your pained steps. The next time Minor wants to run, Gavin's brought his motorcycle, and though you also wear more sensible shoes, you don't turn down the ride he offers.
"We'll meet you there," Gavin tosses over his shoulder as Minor salutes. You let your hands rest as lightly as possible on his back, and when he doesn't turn to look back at you the whole ride, you and your burning red cheeks are glad.
When you get to the empty lot by the track, your blush seems unwarranted-- Gavin offers Minor a spin around the lot, and a ride back, which the other boy eagerly accepts. While they ride, you crouch and capture pictures of the flowers blooming through cracks in the concrete, the blur of the motorcycle in the distance. After, they run, and you chase after them with a laugh to capture that, too, their backs illuminated by the fading summer light.
Gavin lets you sit behind him on his bike again one late summer evening after Minor's gone home and you blush when he pulls your arms a little more firmly around his waist and tells you, with a grin, to not let go this time.
You protest. It had only been once that you'd almost fallen off and that was because there had been three of you, you and him and Minor behind, and really, Minor had pulled you off-- but your indignant words are lost as he guns the engine, his chest shaking with laughter.
The wind steals the sound of his chuckles as the motorcycle leaps forward, tugs the tie from your messy braid and spins your hair into a fan, opened in the bike's wake. Gavin accelerates and you shoot across the lot, chasing the fading rays of sun, to the end of the horizon and looping around to the start. He looks back just once, amber eyes shining with more than just the sunset gold, and you're sure the grin on your face is just as wide as his.
You drive in circles until you're both dizzy and you press your cheek to his warm back, both of you shaking with breathless laughter, and you think recklessly, you don't want this to ever end, even though you both know that the coming school year is Gavin's last, one more summer and then he'll be gone, because this is a moment almost profound, golden like the setting sun, and moments like these, like the already darkening sky, are never meant to last.
That year, you see Gavin confront another boy in an alley. Cash passes in the space between them, from the boy's shaking hand to Gavin's open palm. You think you make a sound, maybe a quiet gasp, but Gavin's head turns, your eyes meet-- it's the same amber gaze as always, but you've never seen him so cold and angry-- and you bolt.
He never explains it to you. He never gets a chance to explain it to you. Time crawls by, and you see him less and less-- though you're never quite sure who's avoiding who-- until it's just Minor and you, and then just you and Minor's shaky smile, Minor pressing a bloody letter in your hand.
You don't need his "it's from Gavin." You don't open it, not the whole year.
By the time you finally decide to leave it at the bottom of your nightstand's drawers, the gingko buds are starting to bloom, and Gavin's graduated, somehow, gone.
You still pass by the basketball court every day on the way home. You still eat late night dinners with Minor in Lynn’s Kitchen when your father says he’ll be home late.
You leave a post-it note on the wall one time, when you go to eat alone.
I hate it when people leave without saying goodbye.
Minor leaves when you two go to different colleges. Your other high school friends scatter, too, petals caught in the wind, whether they go to Loveland University with you or not, you drift apart.
Two years into college, you get the phone call from the hospital. It’s your father , the nurse on the line says, and you don’t want to hear the rest.
When you’re old enough to inherit your father’s production company, you fight for it-- every new episode of Miracle Finder is yours, forged from tears and sleepless nights, team meetings with Willow and Kiki and ever-faithful Anna, gritted teeth and forced smiles as you strain and strain and strain, as you bow your head to the show’s patrons and bite back anger at their condescension, at their false condolences and greedy eyes.
Then the last episode of Miracle Finder airs, and it has better reviews than its predecessors have had in a while, thanks to Professor Lucien and his easy charm. You congratulate your crew, and make sure to thank them all profusely by treating them to a company dinner.
But when you watch the aired episode in the dark and quiet of your own apartment, and the credits roll with their nostalgic music, one last time, it feels a little like losing your father all over again. He’s gone again, without a goodbye.
You vent at Victor. He accepts your proposal, but gives you an absurd deadline to meet, and you’re floundering all over again. The company, yours to preserve, one last fading memory of your father’s legacy, put on the line. Again.
You strain. This is one thing, you vow to yourself, you’ll never let leave without a proper goodbye.
But Gavin comes back-- and it feels like a vicious cycle in your life’s been broken. You hold onto the company. And, finally, you remember what it feels like to not only survive, holding on by the barest inch, but to flourish. You come back together, in fits and starts. He saves you, in more ways than one.
"What are you thinking about?" Gavin asks you now as you stare at the empty basketball court of a summer long since gone. You're sure if you look close enough, there'll be flowers growing through the cracks now there in the concrete just like the ones you'd photographed once upon a time. And maybe you’ll never get that summer back, but Gavin came back, and he's here with you now, to see the gingko leaves fall and bloom again, to see this sunset, and this time, it doesn't feel like a moment. It feels like it could last forever.
You tip your head up to grin at him.
"Will you let me ride with you on Sparky home?"
He smiles back, soft and sweet and just for you, and you know, he remembers too.
"Don't let go this time," he says, and when he puts his spare helmet over your head, his hands linger, his eyes on yours. I remember everything, he seems to say.
Your heart skips more than a few beats, but you don't look away, and the wind picks up, too, sending gingko leaves swirling through the air around you both. As you look up at him, you fancy the glow of his eyes outshines the setting sun.
"I won't," you reply at last, and what you mean but don't say is I remember it all, too.
You rub your fingers over the bracelet around your wrist, and when he starts the motorcycle, and the two of you speed away in the fading gold light, you press your nose into his warm shoulder, listen to the sound of his steady heartbeats, and hold on tight.