Jason squinted, lifting his hand up over his head to cover up his eyes from the glaring sun. “Remind me why we’re here again?”
Roy was busy lathering himself in even more sunscreen – as if he hadn’t put on enough when they’d left the hotel ten minutes before. “Because it’s a gorgeous day and we’re on vacation. We can’t not go to the beach!”
It was the exact same argument that Roy had been giving him all day. Jason should have known that he wasn’t going to get anything else out of Roy. “There was a double negative in that sentence.”
“Fine, grammar geek. Should’ve been an English teacher instead of a soldier,” Roy mumbled as he spread out the sunscreen over what was left of his right arm.
There was a part of Jason that wholeheartedly agreed with Roy. Life would have been very different for him, but that meant that he never would have met Roy. They’d met on a tour once and a few tours after that. They’d been in the same unit together their last tour. The one that had gotten them both medically discharged.
Roy’s injury was much more apparent than Jason’s. It was kind of hard to miss the fact that Roy’s forearm was missing. Jason could cover up the aftermath of his injury with a shirt on, but Roy always had to face what that last tour had done to the both of them.
Jason and Roy became quick friends during their many tours and Roy called him up out of the blue saying that he needed to go on a vacation and that Jason was coming with him. He knew Roy well enough that it wasn’t going to make a difference if he said that he didn’t want to go, so Jason just packed up and met up with Roy and now here they were. At a beach of all places.
Maybe he should’ve at least asked where they were going to go.
“You’re going to drown yourself in sunscreen,” Jason said. He kicked his shoes off and picked them up. If he walked over the sand with them on, the sand would be in there for the rest of eternity. Jason liked these shoes. He wanted to use them for as long as possible.
“I’d rather drown in sunscreen than look like a lobster.”
That was a good enough reason. Jason could totally understand because getting sunburn was the worst. He knew how easily it was for Roy to burn. He’d seen it happen a few times.
When Roy put the sunscreen back into his backpack, Jason stepped onto the sand. It was hot, but nothing that he hadn’t felt before. He just dug his feet further into the sand with every step to get down to the cooler sand underneath.
The beach was busy.
Which beach wasn’t when it was such a nice day? Roy was right. People would be crazy not to spend a day like this outside.
There were all sorts of people. Children running around with toys, teens posing by the water’s edge and taking pictures of themselves, and a varying amount of adults either sun bathing or swimming around.
“I’m not taking my shirt off,” Jason said. He was going to put that out there immediately.
“I’m not expecting you to.” Roy looked around, letting out a happy shout and he ran off to an empty spot. He pulled his backpack off and pulled out towels that he probably took from the hotel room.
Jason grabbed a towel from Roy and spread it out over the sand, making sure to cover up his shoes. This way there was a small chance of sand getting in them. He sat down and looked around. If it was up to Jason, he’d just stay like this for the rest of the day. There was no need to move. The sun felt nice on his skin and the sound of the waves – even under the cacophony of people – was calming. Jason couldn’t remember the last time when he was just able to sit down, relax, and not have to worry about anything.
“Hot damn!” Roy slapped his arm and kept slapping it.
“What?” Jason should’ve known better than to try to relax with Roy around.
“I know that it’s a stereotype for lifeguards to be incredibly attractive, but these two definitely fit that stereotype.”
Roy pointed out somewhere in front of them and Jason had to shift before he saw the two lifeguards that Roy was referring to. Two young men, walking side by side wearing red swim trunks and white tank tops. The taller one was wearing sun glasses and the smaller one had a hat on. They walked up to a lifeguard tower together, relieving the lifeguards who were sitting there for now.
Jason could see Roy’s point. The taller one was tanned and lithe, but he was very obviously muscled and the smile on his face was making some of the teenagers around them swoon. The shorter one was pale – almost as pale as Roy and Jason didn’t understand why he worked at a beach – and didn’t have muscles as clearly defined as his fellow lifeguard.
“The tall one sure,” Jason said with a shrug.
“Are you kidding me? The short guy is hot and totally your type. Can’t you see it?” Roy asked.
Jason sighed and looked over at the two lifeguards again. “I guess he has very nice thighs.” They were straining against the fabric of the lifeguard’s swim trunks every time he moved.
“You’re hopeless.” Roy flopped down on his towel.
“He barely looks like he could lift a wet towel. How is he supposed to save anyone?” Obviously it was the taller lifeguard that did all of the work between the two of them. The shorter one must just act as the eyes.
Roy just responded by throwing a handful of sand at Jason and covering his eyes with his arm. At least he wasn’t talking anymore.
Jason did feel bad that he was being so negative, but there was only so much that he could take. He felt uncomfortable with the way plans had been sprung on him today. He would’ve appreciated some warning so he could mentally prepare himself for going to the beach. He waited a minute to see if Roy was going to say something.
When the minute stretched on in silence, Jason lay down as well and closed his eyes. He’d only put sunscreen on his face, but he wasn’t worried. It wasn’t often that he got sun burns. He mostly just got red and tanned straight away. It never stopped amusing him the way a clear tan line formed on his skin after an hour of being outside. A lot of people were jealous of him because of it.
Luckily the spot that Roy managed to snag for them wasn’t very busy. There were people moving between the crowds and kicking up sand in people’s faces, but Jason hadn’t gotten covered yet. A small blessing in the end.
Sand really got everywhere.
He was contemplating turning onto his stomach to let the back of his arms and legs get some sun as well when Roy poked him. “Let’s go into the water.”
“It’s busy.” Jason didn’t want to be dodging around people just to get into the water.
“It’s died down a little because it’s lunch time. Now’s the perfect chance.”
Roy was right – again. For all that he had a big mouth and no filter, he did often make a good point. Now that Jason was staring at the water again, it started looking more and more enticing. “Race you there!” Jason pushed himself up and ran towards the water.
He heard Roy call out in surprise and laughed as he made it to the water’s edge. Jason was already knee deep in the water when Roy finally made it. “Cheater.”
“You wanted to get into the water, so here we are,” Jason said as he walked further in. The water felt very nice on his legs. It was exactly the right temperature. Cold enough to cool Jason down without making him feel like he was going to start shivering at any second. He happily went into a deeper area where he could float. If Jason stretched his legs, he’d still be able to touch the seafloor. Not that he particularly wanted to because there was seaweed beneath him. It felt slimy and gross and Jason brought his legs up under him to try and keep the plant from touching him.
Roy bobbed quite a bit more than Jason was as he swam over to Jason. “See? Isn’t this nice?”
“It is nice.” Just for this part, Jason was glad that he’d come along. Swimming was something he’d never done a lot of, but it was something that he enjoyed. In this case it helped relax him even more. It was much better than being out on the sand.
A larger wave rolled along them and brought them back closer to shore. So far the waves had been low, but it looked like the ones that were coming in were getting a little bigger as the wind picked up.
Roy took a deep breath and ducked under water as another wave came. He swam under it while Jason stayed above water and was dragged closer to shore again. Red hair was plastered to Roy’s face as he came back up. “We should see if we can make it to the safety buoy!”
There was a red buoy out further into the water. It looked like there was a chain and several small buoys attached to it to mark the line of how far swimmers were allowed to go out. “The waves are getting bigger.”
“Just swim under them! It’s easy.” Roy ducked under water when the next wave came along.
Jason simply swam against the wave, but Roy got quite a bit further by going underwater. He swam to Roy in between waves to catch up with him. “I bet I can get there first,” Jason said.
“You’re on. First round is on the loser.”
Jason held his breath and he dove underwater when the next wave came. He kicked his legs as hard as he could to propel himself forward. Hopefully it’d give him a head start against Roy.
After a few waves Jason came out of the water laughing. This was a lot more fun than he’d thought. Roy started laughing along with him and they both missed a wave.
“We’re almost there!” Jason looked over and estimated that the buoy was about three dives away from them.
“Jay, look out!”
He’d been so focused on the buoy that Jason hadn’t seen the large wave coming towards him until it was on top of him. The wave crashed into him and pushed him under water. Jason managed to swim back up to the surface with a cough and the uncomfortable taste of salt in his mouth, but he barely had a second when another wave pushed him under water again.
Jason lost any sense of direction as he was flipped and turned underwater. He felt his back hit the ocean floor and seaweed brush against his body. Up. He needed to get back up.
Even under the water Jason could still feel the power of the waves rock him. He tried to spot Roy, but the redhead was nowhere to be seen. Jason couldn’t worry about him though. His lungs were starting to protest when he finally spotted the sun. Jason pushed himself away from the ocean floor and he was swimming up when something tugged him back down. There was something wrapped around his leg. He reached down and felt it. Seaweed. He must’ve gotten tangled in it.
Jason tried pulling his leg away, but that didn’t work so he tried tearing the seaweed instead. However, his grip was weak and getting weaker as his vision start to go black around the edges. He’d gone through so much, live through so much. Life on the streets and shrapnel and flashburns hadn’t been able to get the best of him, but seaweed was. How pitiful, Jason thought to himself as his eyes slipped shut.
The next thing he knew was him taking a deep breath, which was interrupted by a wet cough. Jason rolled onto his side as his stomach leapt up into his throat and he coughed up a long stream of water. His chest felt tight as he tried to take deep breaths, which were slowly getting easier as he coughed up less and less salt water.
“There you go, cough it all up.”
Jason didn’t recognize the voice and he turned towards it. A young man was sitting right by him, a hand on Jason’s shoulder. He was sopping wet and his hair was dripping as it stuck to his face. His eyes reminded Jason of glacier ice. “I dead?” He asked.
“No, but you were damn close.” His voice has an annoyed tone to it and Jason couldn’t help but find it endearing.
“Not the first time,” Jason groaned as he rolled onto his back. The sun was bright and blinded him for a second.
“Jaybird! You really scared me!” Roy suddenly appeared in his line of vision, also dripping wet.
He lifted up a heavy hand and nudged Roy’s chest. “Can’t get rid of me that easily, Harper.”
Another man came into view and Jason immediately recognized him as the tall lifeguard that they’d been looking at. “Tim pulled you out of the water, but once you feel up for it, he’ll bring you to the medical tent.”
Tim? Jason turned to the first man he’d seen. Now that his head was clearing up, he recognized him as the smaller lifeguard. He was the one that had pulled Jason out of the water? It hardly seemed possible. Except for the fact that he was completely wet while the taller lifeguard was dry. They were the only two lifeguards on this stretch of beach as well. Had this small person really pulled him out of the water?
“Go with him. I’ll grab our stuff and meet you there,” Roy said.
“Yeah. Sure.” Jason groaned as he tried to sit up, his chest protesting. Tim’s hand was a steadying presence against his shoulder as he helped him sit up.
“Don’t rush. We’ll stand up when you’re ready,” Tim said.
Jason patted Tim’s hand. “’m good. Been through worse.” It still took him a few tries to get up though and in the end Jason needed to do it in steps. He got onto his knees first, then planted one foot on the ground and slowly pushed himself up onto the other foot. The entire time, Tim was right next to him.
Before long they were walking to the medical tent. There was a bit of a crowd and people were staring at him, but Jason stayed focused on where he was walking to.
“You’re really lucky. You started coughing up water by yourself when we got out of the water,” Tim said.
“That’s nice.” Jason felt like he was wheezing as they walked. It was hard to breathe deeply.
It was a relief when Tim guided him to a chair and let him sit down. “Dick called ahead. The onsite medic should be here any minute.”
“Dick?” Jason asked.
“That’s the other lifeguard.”
Jason snorted. What kind of a name was Dick? Who in their right mind would call their kid that? “I kinda thought he would’ve been the one to pull me out.”
“Why’s that?” Tim asked.
“Cause you’re scrawny as fuck and look like you could barely lift your feet,” Jason said. “Except you have nice thighs. Those are great.”
Tim’s expression went from annoyed to amused at Jason’s words. “Well, my thighs helped drag your heavy ass out of the ocean.”
“I’d like to thank those thighs,” Jason blurted out. Goddamn. The way Tim looked at him and the way his eyes widened ever so slightly. Roy was right. Again. For the however many times he’d been right so far this vacation. Tim was definitely his type. Lips that looked so soft that Jason wanted to see how they felt against his. Long eyelashes that framed his blue eyes. He wondered how those thighs would be likes wrapped around his waist.
For a moment it looked like Tim was considering shutting Jason down then and there, but he looked over Jason, hummed under his breath, and shrugged. “Okay.”
“Okay?” Jason had to turn to the side as he coughed. He spat out some phlegm and more salt water. What a disgusting taste.
“That’s what I said, didn’t I?” The corner of Tim’s mouth curled up.
God. Now Jason was going to have to thank Roy for bring him to the beach and he was going to be insufferable.
Although Jason supposed that, in the end, it might just be worth it.