"Hi. You're from Anchor Beach's elementary school?"
"Yup," the woman behind the wheel replies, "I'm Samantha Matthews and the man in the back is Jude Jacob. Nice to meet you."
"Nice to meet you too. My name's Connor Stevens: I'm the one who will show you around."
He shakes her hand, waves at the kids and nods his head at her workmate.
"You can pull in here," he says, showing a free space in the courtyard of the fire station, "if you want. The kids will be able to get off the bus in completely safety."
"Thanks, Mr Stevens."
"Please," he adds while she's operating the vehicle, "call me Connor."
"Sure. By the way, call me Samantha."
After the bus is parked, he leaves so that the two teachers take care of the schoolchildren, looks around him and sees his best friend Asher talking to Trent away from the others: they must be up to something and wonders who will be their next prey. While he's still paying attention to his fellow workers, he feels like someone stares at him and thinks it must be the driver.
Here we go.
Connor can't help but sigh inside: it's true he's used to girls checking him out since the end of the middle school but, as time goes by, he got less and less patience for that. But, as he isn't rude and doesn't want to hurt their feelings, he takes on himself.
If it was flattering to be popular with girls first, it gradually got on his nerves. Especially since he knew they weren't his type.
Connor - determined to set things straight with her - turns around and faces not the woman but the most handsome man he's ever met: his thin and delicate pale face highlights his black hair and his deep dark eyes in which Connor feels like he's drowning and his sexy mouth which seems to hesitate between smile and smirk makes him want to kiss him. He can't take his eyes off his slender chest under his burgundy jacket and his grey shirt and notes that he wears around his neck a chain to which is appended a blue unicorn.
"Hi," the man says, "I don't know if Samantha introduced me to you: I'm Jude Jacob, the other teacher."
"Hi, Jude! Er, I mean Mr Jacob."
"Well, I'm Connor."
He feels pleasant goose bumps when they shake hands. Then he takes a few steps back, forces himself to look at everybody - even if he can't help but glance at Jude from time to time - and takes a deep breath inside before speaking.
"Hi, everybody and welcome to our house. I'm Connor Stevens and I'll be your guide. Well, does anyone have questions before we're starting the tour?"
"S-Sir," a little girl asks after raising her hand shyly, "w-what does the word on your shirt means?"
"It means I'm a newbie here: I've worked here for ten months. I'm the new candidate on the fire truck you see just behind me. I'm here to learn how to be a firefighter..."
"So you're not a real one," a boy next to the girl states.
"Mark!" Jude coldly admonishes him. "He's a real one: he's a full operating fireman like his fellow workers. No one can be an experienced one overnight..."
Did Jude just stand for me? How nice!
Connor can't help but grin: as soon as he smiled, he sees Jude blushing.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to..."
"It's all right. Your teacher's right: I have to be prepared for different eventualities otherwise I'd endanger the life of my friends, Mark."
"Apologize to him," Jude adds. "He deserves your respect. Even if he's a new one, he risks his life every day."
What happens to me? It's the first time I talk to a kid like that.
But Jude must admit it's been a long time since a man has such an effect on him. Connor is really breathtaking with his short sandy hair, his amazing hazel eyes his sun-kissed skin and his kissable lips. And he doesn't even talk about his body.
He's so hot with his t-shirt all tight like it spray-painted him on. There ought to be a law against that!
He can't keep his eyes off his chest, trying to keep a low profile. Even if it's really difficult not to glance at his skin every time his shirt is lifted. And Jude's eager to see more!
I'm beginning to think he's doing this on purpose. Look at his huge pecs and his nipples! I so wanna touch them, feel the softness of his skin and the firmness of his muscles. It must be so nice to caress his abs and kiss his collarbones too...
Jude slightly shakes his head.
Easy, easy, J! You sound like Marcus right now! If he were there, he'd laugh at you and you're sure he'd remind you your sassy comments on men and women who fantasize about firemen.
He smiles, while thinking of his best friend.
I can only imagine what would happen to me if he decided to take off his shirt: a geyser of blood would spew from my nose. Like the old pervert with his shell.
He can't help but chuckle: everyone looks at him all of a sudden. He looks away while rubbing the back of his head.
Take a deep breath and focus on his words and not on his body.
"I have something for you," Connor says, "if you'll come this way."
They walk into a small room where there are some fire helmets on a table: the kids shout for joy when they see them.
"Why don't Mrs Matthews and Mr Jacob have ones?" Another girl asks after every schoolchirdren picked one.
"You're so right," he replies while looking for two old hats and handing them to Jude and Samantha. "It's safer."
The kids break out laughing when Jude's helmet falls down over his eyes. Then they leave the room. So Jude decides to remove his hat, puts it under his arm, looks straight ahead and is immediately mesmerized by Connor's back.
This guy must spend his day and night at the gym! Look at his trapezius and his lats!
"I got another surprise but you must close your eyes! No cheating, right!"
The kids and Samantha obey.
Only Jude doesn't play along.
There's no way he closes his eyes because he knows his imagination will run wild: he would fantasize that he would slide his hands against Connor's sides, underneath of his shirt, caressing his soft and firm skin, feeling its heat. Then he would bring one hand to his abs and the other one to the top of his chest, his finger would keep sliding on his pecs and they would play with his nipples before taking slowly his shirt off. After that, he would brush his hand across the curves and the bumps of his back and finally...
Stop it right now, J!!!!
The other firefighters gradually form a guard of honor, according to Jude.
"All right, open your eyes!"
The kids are overtook by the show and, when Connor asks them to follow him, the schoolchildren hesitate for a while before deciding to walk a few steps behind him. Jude, who brings up the rear, looks amused that some boys even stick out their chest.
"It's an honor we reserve for the great figures," he explains.
Then they pass in front of a little gym which makes it possible to keep the firefighters busy and get their exercise too.
And Jude can't help but imagine Connor pushing the weight, shirtless and sweating. He discreetly shakes his head again to dodge the image.
Then Connor shows them the restroom, the kitchen, the equipment room and the locker room.
And Jude pictures Connor walking into the changing room, undressing - slowly, of course - and taking a shower.
"May I use your bathroom, please?" He suddenly asks, slightly stuttering.
He can't keep this up : he must cool down because he's just a bundle of uncontrollable emotions right now. As soon as he's in the bathroom, he closes the door, rushes to the washbasin, splashes his face with cold water, looks at his reflection for a while, chews out himself - while cursing Connor too - and wipes his visage. After taking a deep breath, he goes back to them.
He finds them in front of the rest room: the kids and Samantha, sitting cross-legged around Connor, carefully listen to him.
"Welcome back," he says - grinning at Jude who immediately melts inside - before showing something on his outfit. "So this is a pass alarm: if a fireman is totally still for more than eighteen seconds, a loud alarm goes off until he moves again."
Jude cautiously sits next to Samantha: he doesn't trust his legs anymore.
"Why?" Mark asks.
"Well, if he's hurt or trapped, we'll know where he'll be."
So he turns on the alarm and some kids immediately cover up their ears. After his little display, he keeps describing his equipment, while answering questions from time to time. Jude absentmindedly listens to him, gradually loses track of time and feels like he's under anesthetic.
After a while, Connor suggests to take a break in the restroom so that the schoolchildren have a little snack.
"We got a lot of good things like carrot and cabbage."
They immediately make a face.
"And some junk too," he adds, grinning at Jude again. "But don't tell your teachers."
No doubt he wants me dead.
The kids beam, follow Connor as far as the desk, take what they want and sit. When it's done, he looks at Jude and Samantha who opt for juice and is going to sit next to his workmate and in front of him. The three of them make small talk for a while.
"Who's this?" Samantha asks Connor, showing a picture behind his back. "There seems to be a family resemblance."
"My dad," he just replies and goes silent.
Jude looks up after hearing the tone of his voice and watches the picture of a man with a stern look, despite his smile and says to himself that he doesn't like him.
"So, what's next?" he inquires to change the subject.
"We will simulate an MVC but I shall say no more right now: there are some prying ears."
"Con?" a young woman calls him. "You mind helping me out here?"
"Sure, Em. If you'll excuse me..."
Jude notices that the woman tries not to burst into laughter and frowns. So, curious, he stands up and remotely follows Connor. As soon as he sets a foot outside, Jude hears a whistling noise and Connor yelling. So he rushes and sees him soaked from head to toe.
His brain can take it no more. Connor in a tight shirt is already overwhelming but Connor in a wet shirt which makes it see-through is beyond words.
Jude who feels like he hears Connor's voice from a distance is unable to say a single word and can't take his eyes off his shirt - chest? -, try as he might.
All of a sudden, a bell rings and a voice announces over a speaker.
"Accident. Construction site. Truck 77. Ambulance 59."
The firemen and the paramedics equip themselves straight away, get on the fire truck and the ambulance and move away at full speed.
"The tour's over, kiddos."
The next day
"What's wrong, Connie?" Emma asks while he helps her to clean the ambulance.
"It's all right," he grumbles. "Let's say I woke up from the wrong side of the bed."
Connor didn't have a very good night: as soon as he closed his eyes, he saw Jude's face. He wanted to see him again. No, he needed to see him again. It's been awhile since a man had such an effect on him. Actually since his first boyfriend.
"Liar," says Asher who brings some medical stuff to Emma. "He's just falling in love, Em. Right, Con?"
"You, I'm not talking."
"That hurts. I was just trying to help you. You needed to cool down: you were on fire."
"You think I didn't see the way you looked at that teacher? You can't fool me: we've known each other for far too long."
"You've got a shot," Emma comments. "She's into you: her eyes were locked on you."
Connor and Corey burst into laughter under her questioning look.
"He gets used to," his best friend explains after regaining his composure. "No, I was talking about the other teacher."
Then the three of them resume their work until a deep voice is being heard in the courtyard. Connor sighs, while his best friend looks at him sympathetically.
"It's been awhile since we saw you, Colonel. We missed your visits lately."
"Is my son here, Chief?"
"Yes, Colonel. He's here, despite it's his day-off."
"Like father, like son. The Stevens don't know what taking a rest means. Hahaha!"
"He must be in the ambulance with Emma and Asher."
Connor hears his father grumbling, as soon as his best friend's name is mentioned in front of him. He carefully listens to the creeching wheels of his wheelchair.
"Dad," he answers coldly.
"Colonel!" Emma exclaims.
"Mr Stevens," Asher says, smirking because his father has never been able to stand his sassy attitude.
"I was told what you did yesterday. Great job!"
Connor can't help but roll his eyes: he knows that his father only congratulates him because there are people around them. They would be alone, he would just be entitled to some grumblings: everything Connor does is never enough.
"It's true he was amazing," Emma confirms. "Without him, we don't know if Trent might've made it."
Then they have a small talk in the rest room until his father has to leave.
At the end of his "shift", he decides to spend some time in the gym to clear his head: he didn't stop thinking of the best way to see Jude again without that it seems strange or worse. He carefully listens to a verse of a song at some point of his workout.
We've seen the sun setting in their eyes.
It could be worse, it could be us.
Not another lifetime without you.
So he knows he's going to take his shot. "Whatever happens, happens" his grampa said. As soon as he gets out of the shower, he'll find an excuse to go to Anchor Beach.
"Con? You there?" Asher asks him who relaxes under the warm water for a while.
"What d'you want?"
"Someone's looking for you. I hold 'em off in the restroom."
Connor doesn't have time to ask their name: his best friend isn't there anymore. As he's still wary of him, he takes time to finish to wash: he's sure it'll be another Corey's joke. So he won't be fooled today. He takes some underwear, black shorts, a purplish tank top - but he immediately drops it in case his best friend gets the idea to water him again - and his sneakers in his locker and gets dressed, while going to the room. As soon as he walks in, he sees the back of a man which seems familiar.
"Well, what are you up to, Ash?"
"Mr Stevens," starts the voice which is familiar too, "I mean Conno..."
As the man turns to him, Connor recognizes Jude - who is suddenly unable to speak - and he can't help but beam at him. So happy to see him again, he rushes to the dark-haired man and hugs him before stepping back quickly.
"I-I'm so-sorry, I-I don't know what I-I was thinking."
Jude is not only mute but also crimson. And Connor can't help but smirk.
"Well, how can I help you?"
But he still doesn't say a word so Connor suggests him sitting down and offering a drink. Then he patiently waits that Jude gets his voice back. After a while, he notices that the man gradually regains his composure. Meanwhile, Corey, between the hallway and the restroom, doesn't waste any minute of the scene.
"I'm so-sorry," Jude eventually says. "I came by to check on you...Er, your t-team. Some k-kids learnt that you had some problems on the construction site and one of you had been injured. S-So I promised them to come by."
"It's really nice of you... and them. Unfortunately, as you were told, the ground collapsed under Trent's feet, while he helped the last worker and he fell one floor lower. He hurt his back but we could rescue him..."
"You rescued him," Asher cuts him off. "Don't listen to him, he's far too modest: he went downstairs and quickly found a way so that we could take him upstairs and then it was his turn."
Connor, awkward, chases him away.
"Don't mind him. Well, you'll be able to comfort your students now."
"Yeah, they'll be happy. I like you... Er, I mean we liked the tour."
Then it becomes eerily quiet.
"Thank you again for coming by," Connor eventually says, even if he doesn't want Jude to leave.
"I-I wanna ask you something," Jude blurts out.
Connor quietly looks at him.
"It may be uppish... D-Don't get me wrong but I'd like t-to t-take you out sometime... I don't remember... I think..."
But he doesn't manage to finish his sentence and lowers his head.
"I'd love to," Connor replies without hesitation.
Jude immediately looks up and beams. And Connor feels like he's drowning in his deep dark eyes again.