To John Sheppard, summer had always been about hot, endless days running around with any pack of kids that happened to be around, in whatever town he happened to be in. Summer was kids named Timmy and Billy and sometimes a girl who insisted on being called Joey and being just as sunburned and scrape-kneed as the boys.
Summer was riding around on bikes and daring each other to ride down the steepest hill in town. John was always the first to take the dare; being scrawny and always the new kid on the block, he always had something to prove.
John was always the first one down the hill, screaming his lungs out in wild joy, feeling the force of air against his chest, the wind whipping tears out of the corners of his eyes.
Other kids tried going down the hill, most of them ending up going ass over teakettle. Some of them ended up with busted heads or broken arms, but John never did. Because John never hesitated.
Once committed, you had to follow through. The worst thing you could do was try to hold back at the last minute. That was the mistake the other boys made. They tried to turn aside or hit their brakes too hard, and that only led to a trip to the emergency room and a long lecture from their parents instead of going on the fastest ride a kid could have.
When John looked over at Rodney, he knew it could go either way. Rodney did tend to panic and, at the moment, he was breathing hard and there was a greenish cast to his skin. The green might have been due to the sunlight pouring through the leafy canopy high above their heads, but John doubted it.
"Colonel, I don't think I can do this."
"Yes, you can."
Rodney clutched more tightly to the vine, never taking his eyes from the deep chasm before them.
"No, no I can't."
John didn't have to ask, because he was sure that Rodney had never sped down the steepest hill in town. He would have thought it was a perfectly idiotic thing to do and wouldn't have risked it, no matter how badly the other kids taunted him. He would either have sedately walked his bike down the hill, or gone home and invented a rocket fueled jet engine to put on his bike.
"You can do it Rodney. They're waiting to catch us on the other side."
"It's a vine," he snapped, shaking it, "We have no idea if it will hold."
No, Rodney wouldn't have gone down that hill. Not on his own, and not without a little push.
"I dare you."
Rodney's head whipped around and he stared at John. Their faces were only inches apart.
"Are you nuts?"
His heart was pounding like crazy and he couldn't stop grinning. Rodney looked like he was about to read John the riot act, but they really didn't have time for that. So John leaned forward and kissed him, hard.
He probably should have done this months ago. But the key to everything was follow through. It took him a while to figure out that he was ready to take the leap.
When John drew back, Rodney looked more than a little dazed. "Oh," he said.
"I double dog dare you," John said, his voice shaky.
Rodney looked at him for a long moment, then nodded decisively.
It was Rodney who kicked off. They were in freefall, swinging out, wind rushing over them. John screamed for the sheer joy of it, while Rodney simply screamed. But Rodney never wavered as they leaped into open air.