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was it love at first sight?

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Raleigh grinned when they approached the familiar turn to the parking lot at Cedar Hill Camp. The place had pretty much become home to he and Yancy - or, he looked forward to going back to camp just like everyone else at college looked forward to lounging around their own pool for the summer.

Then he looked at the clock. “Yancy, we’re gonna miss the boat at two-”

“We’re fine,” Yancy said, pulling the car in a wide arc to park next to a Jeep from Nebraska. “Grab your duffle and hustle.” Raleigh rolled his eyes. It wasn’t his lack of hustle that made them late.

They just made it to the boat, tossing their duffles into a pile along with about twenty others. Pentecost gave them a cool glare as he pulled the boat back from the dock.

“This sucks,” one guy said. “I can’t believe we’re going to have to on some island with the girls across the lake.” Raleigh shrugged and then glanced around at the rest of the counselors. He nodded at the Wei triplets, glad to see them back from last summer, and then stopped when he saw the kid sitting in the corner by himself.

He was tall, broad shouldered even though he was young, and his hair was sort of blondish red when the sun caught it.

Yancy elbowed him, hard, in the gut. “You know who that is, right?”

“Uh, should I?”

“Ginger, freckles, pale, sort of grumpy?”

“That’s Hansen’s kid?” Raleigh asked, and groaned when the kid looked over at him and narrowed his eyes in a determined smile. “He’s hot,” Raleigh whispered, and Yancy shook his head at him.

“Behave,” he whispered back.

 

One might have expected the son of Cedar Hill’s assistant director and staff supervisor to have actually, you know, been to Cedar Hill before, but they would be wrong. Chuck had spent his summers in Australia with his grandparents when he was younger, and then away at the more hardcore wilderness training and survival programs when he was old enough. He’d trekked the wilds of Wyoming with only the pack on his back when he was 16, so coming to babysit children at this stupid little camp on this tiny little island was kind of a let-down for him. And he didn’t care what Herc said, leading the kayaking course wasn’t the same thing.

But, in all fairness, he had been bitching to Herc about entering his freshman year of college without any spare cash, and Herc had been doing him a favor to offer him a job at the camp without needing to send in a formal resume or anything. So he tried to keep his complaints to a minimum - show his dad he’d grown up, and was going to school as a mature adult, or whatever.

Plus there was the fact that he got to spend the summer with Max, which, awesome. It sucked being away from him for that long, especially since he wasn’t allowed to take pets to college with him and he would only be able to see him on breaks for the next four years.

And there was spending quality time with Herc and all, of course, but mostly it was about Max.

That’s what he kept telling himself when he was slumped off to the side on this dinky little boat as the other counselors laughed and joked with each other, most of them friends from previous years. Even the new ones were joining in on the fun, but Chuck didn’t feel like it right now, too jetlagged to be up for the effort.

They probably wouldn’t want to be friends with him anyway. They’d think that he would tell Herc on them for any less-than-legal activities, or assume that he was some wussy little prick hiding under his daddy’s shadow, or just be generally turned off by his sarcasm and characteristic snark.

Like those two blonds over there. One of them kept eyeing him, and it looked they were whispering about him. How could they possibly have anything to say? They must have spotted the Hansen freckles and figured out who he was, or something. Thought he was some young kid who couldn’t bear to leave his father’s side for the summer.

He leaned back and crossed his arms over his chest, smiling at them with all his teeth, a predator’s smile. He wasn’t some sniveling little pussy. They’d find that out, soon enough.

 

Oh Christ, Yancy thought, when the Hansen kid grinned at them. There is no way this is going to end well. Fortunately, before things could escalate, Pentecost docked the boat and told all of them to report to the mess hall for their bunk assignments.

One of the benefits of being a returning counselor - and, apparently, the A.D.’s son - was getting to miss the first three days of mandatory training on the camp, safety, and not molesting children.

Tendo waved them over as soon as they got into the mess. The Weis joined them, doing the elaborate fist bump they’d concocted with Choi the summer before. One of the triplets - and, yes, Yancy was aware he should be able to tell them apart at this point - held his hand out to him. Yancy made a fist, hit some empty air, and wiggled his fingers.

“That was minimal effort, bro,” Raleigh said. He was still watching Hansen’s kid, who was sitting with Mako. Yancy was surprised to see her, since she should be at the girl’s camp orientation. Maybe she was just waiting for Stacker to take her back over.

“Right, then,” Herc Hansen said, walking to the center of the room with a clipboard. “Bunk assignments, and a welcome to our returning counselors. Wave, boys.” His grin was remarkably similar to the wolfish one his son had given them. Yancy did his best Queen Elizabeth wave in response.

“If I get Year 7 again I quit,” said Jin Wei. “Or same kids. Jake Sherman pissed himself every night. I will go home.” Yancy shrugged his shoulders. He was guaranteed the oldest kids his summer with their plush field trips as a reward for his four years of exemplary service.

The Weis each made one of those short, whispered “yes” sounds under their breath when the seven an  eight year old bunks were announced without them. “Becket - Rals - you’re in Sycamore,” Herc said. Raleigh grinned. Yancy had his suspicions for why he connected with that age.

The Weis drew the eleven year olds, which seemed fine with them. “Get to watch them on their first little socials,” Hu said.

“Choi, I’ve got you in Maple,” Herc said, and rattled off a few more names before he moved onto the next year 12 bunk. “Hansen, you’re in Birch.”

Yancy glanced over at Raleigh - usually it was protocol to put the younger counselors with the littler kids. No twelve year old would really listen to someone six years older. Benefits of being the A.D.’s son, apparently, you got out of dealing with homesickness, bed wetters, and brutal teddy bear murders.

“Becket, Yancy - you’re in Mount Marcy,” Hansen said, and Yancy nodded. “Now, everyone, pick up your stuff and move into your bunks. Then you’ll meet with your activity teams to go over summer programming.”

“It’s going to be a good summer,” Raleigh said.

“Provided you don’t get kicked out for sexually harassing the A.D.’s special little boy,” Yancy added. Raleigh rolled his eyes at him.

Yancy was going to have to watch him. The Hansen kid looked just his type, and if he was anything like his cocky bastard of his dad, he would be Raleigh’s archetype.

 

Yancy may have thought it was a privilege to get 12-year-olds, but Chuck grumbled under his breath and set his head down on the table when Herc announced his assignment. He knew why Herc had done it - had been told explicitly, in fact - that Chuck’s bedside manner wasn’t quite soft and cuddly enough to be taking care of young children. And maybe 12-year-olds didn’t normally listen to people six years their elder, but Chuck had a way of commanding attention, what with his not at all soft and cuddly bedside manner.

He only hoped he didn’t get in trouble for the inevitable cursing he was going to do. Summer in outdoor leadership schools and a life in Australia had not given him much training (or investment) in censoring himself.

Fact of the matter was, Chuck was going to have a lot of trouble not saying ‘fuck’ every other sentence. He’d already sworn to Herc never to use the word ‘cunt’ around the little bastards, which was pretty much the best he could do.

But fuck, 12-year-olds. Cocky assholes who thought they were the shit because their balls were just starting to drop, and because they were just figuring out what their dicks were for, and all. At least there were no girls in this camp. Hormones and puberty were bad enough without ridiculous posturing to make everything even worse.

He picked up his head. “Children,” he said with a tone of utmost loathing. “I bloody hate children.”

“Camp counselor might not have been the ideal career choice for you, I think,” Mako said thoughtfully.

He pinched her side. “Shut up.” He turned and glanced over his shoulder, whipping his head back around with an even more pronounced scowl. “What the hell is his problem?”

She turned. “Who?”

“That blond seppo who keeps looking at me,” he said, glaring at the far wall. He made a conscious effort not to look back.

“Oh, Raleigh?” She made eye contact with Raleigh and smiled. “He is a nice boy. How did you already manage to get on his bad side?”

“I didn’t do anything!” he said, voice strident with indignance. “He just -”

She laughed. “In that case…”

He squinted at her suspiciously. “No,” he said. “Don’t do this to me. Don’t make this weird.”

“I didn’t say anything,” she said in that annoyingly placid way of hers.

“But now I’m thinking about it.” He pinched her again. “Life ruiner.”

“And I’m sure thinking about that is such a hardship for you.”

“Shut up,” he said again.

Thankfully, that was when Herc dismissed them, and he gathered his shit and went to go find his bunk. About halfway there (directed by Mako, as he still had no idea where anything was) he veered off course and followed Herc to his own cabin to grab Max before continuing on his way to his assigned bunk.

He was about ten steps from the door of his cabin when Max spotted something in the distance and bounded off, barking. Chuck cursed and dropped his shit at the door before following after. He turned around the side of the cabin and stopped dead, almost stumbling over his own feet.

Max had found a friend, apparently.

Bloody septic.

 

“Aw, hey, Max!” Raleigh said, and he kneeled down so he could scratch the bulldog properly behind his ears. “Missed you, little buddy.”

“Oi, Max!” Raleigh looked up and smiled slightly when he saw Hansen, arms crossed over his broad chest. “Don’t go running off like that.”

“Well, we do know each other,” Raleigh replied, standing and offering his hand. “Raleigh Becket.”

“Yeah,” he said. His handshake was one of those overly firm ones - so we’re going to have a dick measuring contest? Raleigh thought, and it just made him grin. He would definitely compare dicks with the kid. “Chuck.”

“Great to meet you,” Raleigh said. “What’s your activity?”

Apparently no one had ever told the kid not to scowl like that or his face would stick that way. “I’m running tripping,” he said. “And doing kayaking.”

“You’re brave,” Raleigh said. They’d asked him to do tripping last year - and, while Raleigh really liked the kids at Cedar Hills, they weren’t enthusiastic about being taken into the woods on camping and portage trips into the Adirondack wilderness.

“Yeah, this is right back country,” Chuck said.

“Well,” Raleigh said, and he leaned down again to scrunch at Max’s ears, “I’ll be seeing you around - I’m at swim, so.” He nodded his head and then turned and headed towards his bunk.

Prickly little bastard, Raleigh thought, and he could hear Yancy in his head, admonishing him for being attracted to someone like that.

You can’t fuck someone nice for a change? he demanded. Raleigh had shrugged.

You love who you love, man, he said.

 

* * *

 

The night before the kids came they had a night off and a social with the counselors over at girls camp. The meal was nice, there were speeches telling all of them about the satisfaction they could get from working with children, and then they were given leave until midnight.

“Fuck, I need a drink,” Yancy said. “We’ll get the beer and you get the bonfire going, Tendo?”

Cedar Hills had long ago recognized that their counselors - especially the underage ones - were going to drink and socialize on their nights off. Not to mention that there was no where in the local town, just the convenient convenience store and gas station. So walking distance down from the parking lot was a bonfire site where most of the counselors gathered.

The Weis had the music going by the time he and Raleigh returned with a substantial amount of beer. Yancy immediately cracked his open and then moved, with Raleigh, in towards the bonfire.

“Denmark has her eye on you,” Tendo said, and nodded his head towards one of the girl’s sailing instructors. “Not a bad start.”

“I, unlike you, am not lining up all my fucks for this summer,” Yancy replied.

“So I can have her?” Tendo asked.

“No,” Yancy said, and before Tendo could say it, added, “Dibs.” He rolled his eyes - it was starting, before the kids even got her. You couldn’t avoid the regression, working at a summer camp.

“Looks like Rals has picked out his target for the summer,” Tendo said. “He’s a brave man.” Yancy inhaled and sighed before he followed Raleigh’s gaze to Chuck Hansen. He was lurking at the edge of the bonfire with Mako, drinking a beer and looking like he was already over the entire thing. “Oh, man, he’s headed over.”

“He’ll last two minutes,” Yancy said.

“I’m willing to give the kid three,” Tendo replied.

Yancy was glad he couldn’t see Raleigh’s face as he talked with Hansen. Wasn’t like it mattered. He knew the dopey, eager expression Raleigh got when he tried to flirt. Instead, he watched the scowl deeper on Hansen’s face and Mako’s expression sort of twist as she watched the whole thing unfold.

“Oh, Rals,” Tendo said. He looked down at his watch as Raleigh walked back over. “Two and a half. Huh.”

Raleigh, inexplicably, still had that grin on his face.

“Mako says Denmark’s name is Alona,” Raleigh said. “You are welcome.”

“I am not-”

“He called dibs,” Tendo said.

Raleigh laughed and went to the car for another beer.

 

“See?” Chuck said to Mako as Raleigh walked away. “He’s clearly not into…”

“No,” she said. “That was not for his benefit.”

He raised an eyebrow.

“His brother,” she said, nodding across the circle at the blond brothers. “Yancy.”

Chuck looked at them, now immersed in conversation. “You don’t know that.”

“I know them,” she said. “But, why so invested, hm?”

He glared and walked away without responding. No matter what he said, Mako would have twisted it around with her warped delusions and made it all about him being ‘so invested’ in whether Becket, Raleigh was interested in him.

Which, well - he had eyes, and Becket was - well. But that didn’t mean anything. He wasn’t going to pursue some grand, romantic summer romance with some swaggering American tosser, no matter how good he looked under the flickering firelight.

With that thought in the back of his head, Chuck went to go flirt outrageously with one of the lifeguards from the girls’ camp, just to make a point to Mako about how completely wrong she was, always.

It went well, but his heart wasn’t really in it, and he gladly took the opportunity when his beer was empty to escape from the conversation. He made his way to the cooler to grab another one.

 

“Oh, hi, Chuck,” Raleigh said. “Again.”

“Uh-huh,” Chuck said, and grabbed a beer from the cooler.

“Looks like you’ve got everything set up at tripping,” Raleigh said. Everyone was sizing each other up, trying to determine who they were going to try and get days and nights off with. Raleigh wasn’t fussed - as long as he had Yancy with him, and access to his car. When Chuck didn’t respond, he added, “I, uh, sometimes assist on the trips. As a lifeguard.”

 

Chuck shrugged one shoulder. “Well, I know CPR, so…” He didn’t finish the sentence, but he felt it was fairly obvious what words he was leaving unsaid. So I don’t need help, thanks.

 

“Right, uh, but I guess they require a life guard on some things,” said Raleigh. “Like the white water stuff. If you’re going to be doing that.” He rubbed at the back of his neck, suddenly feeling stupid.

 

Chuck restrained himself from rolling his eyes, but barely. Overprotective safety precautions, what a load of shit. These parents should try sending their kids into the Australian Outback with nothing but a bowie knife and a canteen, teach them to man up a little.

“Okay,” he said. “Great. Should be a real thrill.”

 

Raleigh decided to just go for it. Worse came to worse, he could blame the beer. So he widened his eyes into the expression Yancy always made fun of him for - he wouldn’t hear any argument about Raleigh’s success rates with it. He grinned at Chuck. “It could be,” said, and then took a long sip of his beer.

 

Chuck, who had been looking around the campfire at the other counselors around, shot him a wary sidelong glance. “Yep,” he said. “S’what I just said. So, uh, looking forward to it. I’m sure we’ll have a grand old time keeping kids from drowning together.” He took a small step back, assuming that the conversation was over.

 

Raleigh furrowed his brow - two options, then. Not gay, or not into him. A disappointing start to the summer. He opened his mouth to say something else, to try and salvage the encounter, but then Chuck took another two steps back from him.

“There you are,” Yancy said, the consummate big brother, and he slung his arm around Raleigh’s shoulder. “Who’s your new friend?”

“Yancy, this is Chuck,” Raleigh said, making sure not to say Hansen. “Chuck, this is my older brother Yancy.”

 

“So Mako said.” Chuck looked over his shoulder, kind of wishing he had just stayed in that conversation with Mako, awkwardness be damned. He felt a little out of his element here. “Been here for awhile, right?”

That information had come from Herc, who had mentioned them before. But Chuck wasn’t about to bring up his father.

 

“It’s my fourth summer,” Yancy said. “Raleigh is on his third.”

“Yancy runs the arts and crafts shack,” Raleigh said.

“You have any boondaggle needs, Chuck, you know where to come,” Yancy said, and then he tightened his grip on Raleigh. “C’mon, we’re gonna try and get into the Wei’s car and turn some real music on. Need you for look out.”

“Oh,” Raleigh said, and he glanced back at Chuck. “Sure. Um. See you around?”

 

“Yep,” Chuck agreed, saluting him with his beer. “I’ll be the bloke in the kayak.”

Noo, don’t flirt with the American, he thought, a second too late.

 

“Right,” Raleigh said. “I have a lifeguard whistle.” He was about to say something else, but Yancy began to drag him away. “Hey!” he said, once Chuck was out of earshot.

“Rals, I may not be a lifeguard,” Yancy said. “But I know a drowning victim when I see one.”

“I was - I was...fine,” Raleigh said.

“That was painful to watch,” Tendo said. “And so is this dub step. It needs to be remedied. Go and steal Hu’s sunglasses or something, Rals.”

Raleigh sighed, then reminded himself that Chuck had just blankly stared at him when he had unleashed his best flirtation face. Yancy was probably right. No need to mope about it, he thought, headed towards the Weis, who were flirting with some of the South African girls. The little monsters arrive tomorrow - better make tonight count.

“You gonna introduce me to your friends?” he asked, sliding in between Jin and Hu. The girls all smiled at him and he smiled back. “I don’t think we’ve met yet.”

 

* * *

 

Chuck sat on the step to his cabin, eating Skittles and tossing a tennis ball for Max. His campers were due in the next few minutes, and he was feeling a strange mixture of nervousness and apathy about it. On the one hand, he didn’t want to fuck this up. But on the other hand, how much did he care, really?

He poured out another handful of Skittles and ate them slowly, licking his palm afterward to get off the sticky candy coating that had melted onto it.

Children, he thought. I hate children.

The buses started to arrive then, with children pouring out in packs. Stacker and Herc herded them towards their bunks, calling the bunk names over the din and pointing them in the right direction. Chuck straightened when he saw a handful of kids coming his way, and whistled for Max to come over from where he was panting and rolling on the grass a few meters away.

“Hey,” he said when the kids got close enough. “Name’s Chuck, looks like I’ll be looking after you for the next however many weeks. Don’t be too annoying, and we won’t have problems. Any questions?”

One of the boys raised his hand. “Are you even old enough to work here?” he asked, and the other boys laughed.

Chuck pinned him with a glare. “That’s your first strike. You get to three, I get creative.”

“But you can’t actually hurt us, right?” said one boy, looking nervous.

“Thus the creative part,” Chuck drawled. “Can’t promise I won’t tip you off a kayak mid-rapids or get you lost in the woods, I’m sayin’.” He waited a beat. “That was a joke, if anyone asks.”

Chuck always believed in ruling through fear rather than friendship.

 

* * *

 

Raleigh peered down at the five children he would be spending the summer with. He recognized a few of them, but he had two new boys - probably the ones who looked like they were about five seconds from throwing up. “Hey, I’m Raleigh,” he said. “We’re gonna be hanging out this summer and having lots of fun. You want to see your bunk?”

The kids all nodded, and Raleigh opened the bunk door for them. He’d done his best to make things as inviting as possible, including putting the kids stuffed animals right in the center of their beds. “Now, there’s a couple of rules we have to go over-” The kids all groaned, and Raleigh waved his hand. “I know, I know, but. Can’t have any candy in the bunks.” He watched them, noting the looks on their faces - no better way to figure out who the hoarders in the groups were. “It attracts animals, and you don’t want to wake up with a raccoon on your head. Plus, I’m closest to the door, meaning I’m most likely to get eaten by a bear.”

“Bear?” asked one of the nervous ones.

“We had a bear last summer,” said one of the returners. “It got stuck in the window of the dining hall, they had to shoot it in the butt and then they took it away.”

“Let me tell you about bears,” Raleigh said, and he reached and grabbed the stuffed black bear that Yancy had bought him last year. “You see this guy? He’s a black bear, and…”

 

* * *

 

Yancy sat on the porch while his kids got themselves set up inside. They were fourteen and all of them had been coming here since they were eight. It kind of made him a little sick to his stomach - eleven thousand, times six years, that was close to tuition for him and Raleigh for the year. He shook his head. Lifestyles of the rich and famous.

“Hey Yancy.” He looked up and saw one of his kids from last year, Taylor. Quiet kid, spent a lot of time with him in arts and crafts. Definite talent there, though, and Yancy had done his best with him. He hoped Taylor had wanted to come back instead of being forced by his parents so they could spend their summer unhindered at the country club.

“Hey, kiddo,” he said. “You should be settling into your bunk.”

“Yeah,” said Taylor. “Um.”

“Who’s your counselor?” Yancy asked.

“Some Chuck guy,” said Taylor. “He said if we get three strikes, he’ll get creative in the way he deals with us.”

Yancy resisted the urge to roll his eyes. Number one mistake new counselors made - ruling through fear rather than friendship. “You’ll just have to stay on his good side, then,” he said. Chuck would be tied to the rafters in no time if that was how he was going to go about things. “Besides, you’re lucky. You’ll probably have Max around all summer.”

“Yeah,” said Taylor, brightening a little. “Max is pretty cool.”

 

* * *

 

Chuck got bored waiting for the older kids to show up for their session and paddled into the water, messing around a little to get a feel for the size and shape of the canoe. He’d already done a course with some of the younger ones, but that was primarily dominated by instructions on how to put on the life-vest, and he hadn’t had much time to do any actual kayaking.

He had 20 minutes until the session started, and he had taken off his life-vest to keep it from getting in the way, the sleeves of his stretchy black Underarmor shirt rolled up to the elbow. He paddled in a loose circle, then tipped the kayak over and held himself underwater for a minute before executing a quick Eskimo roll to swing back up into the air.

He frowned. The boat was heavy at the stem and stern, and wasn’t sleek enough for any real maneuverability. Built more for safety than speed, damn.

Testing, he tipped back and did a few cartwheels, scowling when he came back to a rest. Like he’d thought, too heavy. And the bow was too long, not blunted enough. Damn.

He took another few minutes to explore the kayak. As he did another lazy loop, he caught sight of the dock, and the shirtless blond on it.

Suddenly, his impression of Raleigh changed. Maybe he should put more effort into exploring Mako’s theory on Raleigh’s hypothetical interest in him.

Chuck ran a hand through his hair, tousling it up a little, and pulled on the sunglasses that he had tucked into a hidden panel in the kayak. Then he paddled over to the dock. “How ya goin’, mate?” he said, laying on the Australian accent a little thick.

For some reason, Americans went crazy for the Australian accent.

 

“Oh,” Raleigh said, and he tried to act like he hadn’t been watching the little show Chuck had been putting on with the kayak. “All right.” He turned his head, slightly, trying to figure out why Chuck was trying to channel Steve Irwin. “Um, I don’t know if there is much wildlife of interest in the lake.”

He twisted his hand around his whistle and smiled at Chuck.

 

Chuck blinked at him. “...Thanks?” he tried, having literally zero idea what Raleigh was talking about. “I’m, uh, more of an architecture person, but - cool, I guess?”

 

“Uh,” Raleigh said. He had been pretty sure Chuck had sort of tousled his hair before he had paddled over, but now he wasn’t sure. And the smile had seemed genuine enough, but - fuck, this kid, Raleigh thought. “Riight, well, at least you know what to do with the kayak. Last summer was a disaster - kid they hired didn’t know the difference between a canoe and a kayak. I actually had to pull him out of the lake once.” He nodded.

 

Chuck wasn’t the smoothest flirter around, but he wasn’t normally this bad. He absently wondered if it was Raleigh or himself that was making this such a shitshow.

“Yeah nah,” he said, letting the kayak drift a bit closer to the dock. “I’ve done a fair bit of kayaking. More of a rock climber though. Less risk of crocodile attack that way.”

 

There we go, Raleigh thought. Hopefully. He wished he knew if they were having a conversation or...something else. He usually could tell - he wasn’t a big fan of the term, but he usually had pretty good gaydar.

“Yeah, um. So you don’t wrestle them in your free time?” Raleigh asked.

 

“Only once or twice,” Chuck drawled. “You think you’ve got ‘em locked down, arm around the muzzle or whatever, and then wham, death roll, get you all shook up under the water so they can eat you.”

This was terrible conversation for flirtation, he realized. If he were a smoother man, he might be able to spin it in the right direction, but that wasn’t Chuck’s style. So he just shrugged. “Australia’s awesome, guess is what I’m sayin’.”

 

“Right,” Raleigh said. He glanced down at Chuck and wished he didn’t have the damn sunglasses on so he could get a look at his eyes. That might help. “Pretty sure everything in Australia wants to kill you.”

He ran a hand through his hair and then turned when he heard the sound of a whistle - the new batch of kids was starting to pour down to the waterfront, it seemed. Twenty minutes between activities passed quickly. “Right, well, I’ve got swim lessons, looks like,” he said. “Good luck with the Year 14’s - they’re, um. Well.” He winced, slightly. Yancy had asked for them, but it was only so that he could go on all of the expensive field trips that they went on.

 

Chuck looked back over his shoulder at the kayaks lined up on the shore. He didn’t seem very anxious, which was interesting, considering his prior apprehension. But that wasn’t Chuck’s element, the cabin. This was. Outdoor leadership programs were about 50% of his teenage years, so teaching a bunch of 14-year-olds how to kayak? Easy shit.

And if they didn’t behave, he’d send ‘em up on land and they could watch. That’s all there was to it.

“Awright, Ray,” he said, grinning at Raleigh. “S’been fun. I’ll see you around - keep an eye out for you and your whistle, and all.” If he hadn’t been wearing sunglasses, he might have winked, which is why it was a good thing he was wearing sunglasses.

 

Whistle? Raleigh thought - what does that have to do with anything? Then he remembered the stupid comment he had made the night before, about how he would be on the dock and have a whistle.

As he walked away, he admonished himself for his complete incompetence. It would be better if he knew what the kid was up to, of course - and how was it that he wanted nothing to with Raleigh last night but was perfectly friendly this morning?

Raleigh shoved his hands into the pockets of his shorts as he walked back over to where the kids were gathering around the Adirondack chairs on the lake shore. “That seemed to go a bit better, little Becket,” Tendo said, walking up alongside of him and twirling his own whistle in his hand. “Though kid’s a bit of a pussy, wearing under armor in the lake.”

“He’s from Australia,” said Raleigh. Maybe he needed to get out of the sun? He seemed afflicted with stupid. To finish it off, he added, “it’s warmer there?”

“Whatever,” said Tendo. “I’m a bit disappointed, but only because I bet Cheung a case of beer at closing night that there was no way you would tap that by the end of the summer.”

“What?” Raleigh said.

“Cheung figured you might have a shot if the prick got drunk enough, so,” Tendo said.

“He thinks I would take advantage of him?” Raleigh asked. Then he shook his head. Don’t even, he told himself. “It doesn’t make any sense, anyway. He couldn’t wait to get rid of me last night, now he kayaks right over-”

“I wonder, Raleigh, what the key difference is? Anything you can think of?” Tendo asked.

“Not really,” Raleigh said.

“Such a dumb ass,” Tendo said, and he flicked his whistle right into Raleigh’s stomach.

“Ow.”

“That did not hurt,” Tendo said.

Raleigh looked down at his stomach. “My stomach?”

“You are as dense as Yancy says you are,” Tendo replied, and he walked away from Raleigh as he considered his belly button.

 

* * *

 

Yancy sighed as he slung his backpack over his shoulders. The first week had been largely uneventful - probably because his kids hadn’t had a social with the girls side yet - but he was ready for their first day off. “We got plans, Becket Boys?” Tendo asked, meeting them at the dirt path down towards their launch to freedom.

“I’m not in mood for some big trip,” Yancy said.

“Sucks the Weis didn’t get the same day off,” Raleigh said. Yancy nodded - he liked the triplets, but they could be a bit of a pain in the ass. Or, more accurate, they were bad influences. It was how he wound up nearly dying last summer free diving off some cliff they had found. Watch for the rocks! they yelled, after he nearly hit the rocks. What they failed to mention were the black widow spiders and how their bites ate your flesh.

“Hotel room, booze...you know what girls are off?” Tendo asked. “Alona? The lady life guards - oh.”

Yancy followed Tendo’s gaze. Chuck Hansen was sulking at the launch while his father walked away with his dog. Usually people got their days off with their friends at camp - but then, he hadn’t really seen Chuck with anyone other than his campers.

Tendo nudged him, and Yancy inhaled. “Hey, Hansen,” he said.

 

Chuck looked up, eyes going a bit wide as if surprised to find them there. Evidently he’d been so distracted watching his dog leave he hadn’t noticed their approach.

“Um, hey,” he said, hands in his pockets, rocking back on his heels a little. “How ya doin’?”

 

“You got plans?” Yancy asked. They had he and Tendo’s car between them, so there would be more than enough room for Chuck, even with the girls that Tendo would invariably get to come along with them.

 

“I was gonna…” Chuck gestured back to his bunk, then trailed off. He hesitated for a minute. “Yeah nah, not really.”

 

“Cool,” said Yancy. “We don’t either, but we have room in our...cars.” Tendo sighed - probably related to the stupid bet he made with Cheung. Like Yancy was supposed to help facilitate that. “If you want?”

 

Chuck looked to Raleigh for just a moment before returning his gaze to Yancy. “Sure, if you’re offering. Do I have time to grab some of my shit, or…?”

 

Yancy looked over to Aleksis Kaidanovsky, who was leaning against the steering column of the boat. When he gave the nod, Yancy smiled. “Yeah, sure. Go ahead.”

 

Chuck turned to leave, but paused for one last question. “Uh, how long am I packing for? And what kind of shenanigans should I expect? I’ve heard stories about you three - am I gonna need my passport? An artificial defibrillator? Three hundred bucks to bail one of you out of jail?”

“We only get one night,” Raleigh said.

“No plans for Canada this time,” Yancy added.

“What do you have your own defibrillator for?” Tendo asked.

 

“Mate, my father is Herc Hansen,” Chuck said. “If you don’t think we had a defibrillator in the back of our Jeep, you don’t know him very well.” He didn’t explain that cryptic statement before jogging back to his cabin to grab a bag, returning only a few minutes later with a backpack slung over his shoulder.

 

Yancy watched Chuck as they took the short ride over to the dock at the girl’s camp. Despite the invitation, he had sat at the edge of the boat, looking back towards the island.

Which was fine, because it gave Raleigh the opportunity to sort of openly ogle him - though it was with one of his confused expressions. Great, Yancy thought, he broke Raleigh. His younger brother was usually pretty good with these kinds of things, much as Yancy would never admit it to his face. Sure, he usually tended to pick douche bags, but he successfully picked up douche bags and even managed to date some of them for a period of months.

Not that he had any idea if Chuck was interested in Raleigh - he missed a lot of the camp bullshit, up in the arts and crafts shack. It was why he had taken the assignment when offered. He had the fourteen year-olds to fill him in at everything that happened over dinner, anyway.

When they pulled towards the dock he watched as Tendo assessed the small group of girls who were waiting there.

“Aw, great, Mako got the same day!” Raleigh said, turning his attention from Chuck. “I told her to ask for it.”

“Excellent,” said Tendo. “Hopefully she’s managed to make some friends this time.”

Yancy shook his head and got off of the boat first. It took a few moments, but groups quickly formed and people made plans. “You mind taking the ladies, Tendo?” he asked. “Chuck and Raleigh can come with me and we can put everyone’s shit in our car, too.”

“Sure, yeah,” Tendo said. “So we’re just going to head into Schooner Lake, get a hotel room, get some dinner?”

Yancy nodded and then walked towards the car. Raleigh trotted right behind him, but when he turned, he saw Chuck was just standing at the dock.

 

It wasn’t his intention to be weird and awkward about this, it’s just, Mako was pretty much the only friend he had here, and the way Yancy had divided up the groups left them separated. And even if Raleigh was flirting with him (which Chuck still wasn’t sure about), and Chuck was kind of flirting back (poorly), he wanted Mako to be there with him, poking fun at their lame attempts and acting as a calming influence on his nerves - partially by being so smug and superior that he got angry instead of nervous, but still.

But he didn’t want to make a big thing of it, so he reluctantly tore his gaze from Tendo’s group and trudged over to Yancy and Raleigh. It occurred to him that Yancy might have split up the groups this way on purpose, which had the dual effect of increasing his nerves and giving him a sense of smug satisfaction. Of course, it was equally possible that Yancy just felt sorry for his lonely ass and thought it was his big brotherly responsibility to take the poor little Aussie under his wing, which was completely unnecessary and a little insulting.

In short, Chuck was conflicted.

He pulled a book out of his backpack before tossing it in the back of their car, finding the dog-eared page before gesturing to the car with his free hand. “Right, we off then?”

 

“Oh, no,” Mako protested, when they got to the parking lot. “Not in that car.”

“It is perfectly fine-” Tendo began. Mako shook her head and then quietly walked over to where Raleigh and Chuck were standing.

“It sort of...the engine started on fire last year,” Raleigh said, softly, so that the other girls getting into the car weren’t dissuaded. “I’m sure he fixed it, Mako.” She just shook her head and climbed into the backseat.

Nice cock blocking, Mori, Yancy thought, as Raleigh took the passenger seat and Chuck got in next to Mako. Chuck looked relieved, though, and he had jammed the book back into his backpack, so Yancy was willing to count this as a victory.

 

Chuck shot Mako a small smile, unsure if she had done it for his benefit or if she were actually worried about her own safety, but grateful either way.

He nudged her. “Alex texted me,” he said.

She raised her eyebrows. “Tell me you did not…”

“Nah, that’s over, I swear.” He rolled his shoulders. “Not looking to go to school with any baggage on my record. Besides, long-distance between Sydney and bloody Massachusetts? ‘m not that masochistic.”

 

“Where are you going to college?” Yancy asked, pulling the car out of the parking lot.

 

“MIT, full ride,” said Chuck, not exactly smirking but not totally stone-faced either. He got underestimated a lot, being that most of his leisure time was spent either snowboarding or rock climbing or water-skiing. People tended to assume he was just another dumb jock who couldn’t tell fission from fusion, and he liked to disabuse them of the notion.

Of course, he was there for architecture, but - He was taking plenty of math classes in the process, so the point stood.

Mako rolled her eyes. Full ride because he was there on a soccer scholarship, but she didn’t say anything about that.

 

Little shit, Yancy thought. Who tells people he has a full ride? Yancy was pretty sure he had never mentioned it once - fuck, he usually just told people he went to school in Massachussetts. Maybe that was because he and Raleigh were there on full rides because of lack of parents and gross financial need, though.

“Oh, that’s cool,” Raleigh said, nodding. Yancy elbowed him, content that Chuck couldn’t see it. He wanted to drag this out a little bit.

Raleigh didn’t get the clue, though. “Yance and I are at Amherst, actually,” he said, and turned around and probably gave Chuck one of those sunbeams and sparkles smile of his.

 

Little shits, Chuck thought. He hadn’t gotten into Amherst. Or, he had, but only after being deferred, and without any sort of scholarship, which was a little out of their price range. Even all of those programs every summer hadn’t added up to four years at a private liberal arts college.

“Yeah, I thought about there, but the architecture program is so -” He made a gesture that could have meant many things.

Mako, for the good of everyone there, cut in. It was probably too late to salvage the situation, she thought, but for Chuck’s benefit, she would try. “I sometimes wish I went to a Boston school, but the city is so small, you know? Not like a real city.”

Her version of helping.

Chuck shot her a glare. “It’s a -”

“Yes, but not really,” she said.

He pouted.

 

“Better than Amherst,” Yancy said, genially. In his head, he couldn’t help but think Beckets: 1, Hansen: 0. Not that this was a competition. “Although we do get buses of women on Friday nights from two different girls schools. Raleigh really likes that, don’t you, Rals?”

“Uh,” said Raleigh. “Not really? They usually just get drunk and…” He shook his head.

Yancy just about face planted into the steering wheel. He had been trying to help, and, as usual, it went straight over Raleigh’s head.

 

Chuck squinted suspiciously at Yancy, not really sure what he was trying to do. He had invited Chuck to join, and then to ride in their car - but then bragging about Raleigh’s aptitude with women? Very strange. It made the situation all the more confusing for him, and he didn’t like that.

Too bad it was socially frowned upon to ask people straight-up if they liked the cock. It would make the dating world an easier place for Chuck.

“I don’t think I’ll have much trouble finding women to root in Boston,” he said slowly. “Because it’s a real city, and all.” He elbowed Mako as he delivered this pointed statement.

She shrugged.

 

They deserve each other, Yancy thought. If Chuck did, in fact, like guys. Though they were both so dense that they might just cancel one another out. Yancy wished he knew more chemistry so that he could make a better analogy.

“Root?” Yancy asked. “What, you take cuttings and hope you’re going to grow yourself a girlfriend?”

 

“Blimey, mate, bloody septic thinks I’m takin’ a furphy, actin’ all bungers. Right up himself, some figjam, he is,” Chuck said, settling back and drumming his fingers over his thigh. Anytime anyone made fun of his accent or called him out on his use of Australian slang, that was his ingrained response - because they seemed to be asking so nicely for it, and all.

And Raleigh had thought he sounded like Steve Irwin before.

 

Yancy had to turn and look at Chuck. He supposed the kid had a point, though - not nice to make fun of someone because they come from a different country, and all. Not that he was going to admit to it.

Thankfully, Raleigh dispersed any and all tension - bless him. “That would be convenient, though,” he mused. “I think I’ve gone through just about every gay guy in a ten mile radius…” He blinked, considering it, and then nodded his head.

 

Well, that answered that question.

Mako turned and shot Chuck a look, one that very clearly said ‘see’ and told him that he was an idiot for doubting her.

Meanwhile, Chuck was stuck on something else. If Raleigh were that much of a player, he’d probably be pretty good at flirting too. And if Raleigh were good at flirting, then whatever he was doing with Chuck definitely wasn’t it. Which, QED, meant that he wasn’t trying to pull Chuck - and that was a little insulting, if he wasn’t good enough for a guy who’d fucked every other bloke in a 10-mile radius.

He crossed his arms. “Ten miles? That’s pretty impressive, mate.”

Mako winced.

 

“And you managed to land how many?” Yancy asked, because he saw Chuck’s expression. “Two? Three?”

“Um,” Raleigh said, and he actually counted on his hand. “Five, Yancy, actually. I’m not that much of a…”

“That is not a very good success rate,” Mako said.

“Uh,” Raleigh said, suddenly realizing the hole he had dug himself. “Well, some I just didn’t click with, you know? And then there were, uh, some rejections, and then...I mean, time was a problem, too, I spend a lot of time at practice and swim meets and man, we could use some music, don’t you think? Yancy?”

“My phone,” Yancy said, and shook his head. He was fairly certain Raleigh might have been dropped on his head as a child.

 

Brightening considerably, Chuck offered up his own phone to Raleigh. “I’ve got a road trip playlist on there already from last year’s cross-country adventure.”

“Disaster,” Mako corrected.

“Adventure,” he repeated. “It’s a lot of indie crap, but it’s good, if you like, like, Rilo Kiley and Gatsbys American Dream and Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros.”

 

“Right, OK,” Yancy said. “Raleigh?”

Raleigh reached back and took the phone from Chuck’s hand. Yancy did his best to keep his eyes on the road and to watch the interaction between them - the slight brush of their hands, the way Raleigh held on for just a second longer than necessary.

Then Raleigh had the phone in his hand and looked down as he plugged it into the car’s stereo system. A smile spread across his face and he tilted the phone towards Yancy. The background was Max with a shark costume on. His head was in the shark’s mouth and he looked incredibly unhappy with the arrangement.

The stuff on the playlist wasn’t exactly Yancy’s style, but he wasn’t going to argue with Chuck, who clearly was one of those people who prided himself on his indie cred. They drove, largely in silence, for the next twenty minutes until they got into Schooner Lake.

“We’re going to the Motor Lodge, right?” Raleigh asked, turning the music down slightly.

“But of course,” Yancy said. “Only place where they’ll look the other way to the eight people we’re going to jam into a hotel room and the inevitable skinny dipping. You want to be in charge of booze while Tendo gets the room?”

Raleigh turned back to Chuck and Mako. “You guys have any preference?”

 

Chuck was a little stuck on ‘skinny dipping,’ so Mako had to answer for both of them. “Any kind of scotch for Chuck, and I have no preference.”

Chuck snickered. “Yeah, when you get drunk off half a shot, I guess it doesn’t really matter what type of grog you’re drinking.”

She blushed and shoved him, and he grinned with his dimples and reeled her in to give her a quick noogie, ruffling her hair with his knuckles.

 

Raleigh frowned, slightly, and it took Yancy a moment - Chuck had mentioned rooting in women, after all. And maybe that was his plan.

It would probably a little bit of scotch to figure that out. “You’re old enough to drink Scotch?” he asked, as Raleigh took the ten dollars that Mako handed him.

 

“Drinking age in Oz is 18,” Chuck said. “So, yes, in the countries of the world where the laws aren’t stupid as hell.” As far as he knew, it was only the US that had such an insanely high drinking age, because they were neurotic freakjobs who didn’t want their teenagers to have any fun.

 

“Riight,” Raleigh said. “Well, we’d prefer it the other way, trust me. I’m gonna have to go by myself, though, just in case there’s any state police around. Sorry to have to kick you out.” His smile was legitimately apologetic, and Yancy felt that familiar brotherly tug for the kid.

He never would have survived in the wild without Yancy.

Raleigh drove off, leaving Yancy with Chuck and Mako at the little lakeside park next to the parking lot. “Tendo should be by once he gets the rooms,” Yancy said, and then he gestured towards the grass.

He sat down and stretched from the drive and took the opportunity to get a good look at Chuck Hansen. He was good looking, Yancy figured - he was not one of those straight guys who wouldn’t admit another male was attractive - and the ginger thing was definitely different. Pretty fit for his age, too, but there was a slight awkwardness in his posture - and the fact that his phone background was his dog in a shark suit - that made Yancy wonder what existed under the layers of sarcasm and dickheadedness he’d coated himself in.

Mako plopped down next to him. “I would like to have a relaxing day off,” she said.

“Then you should have gone with the other group,” Yancy said. “You were around all last year, Mako, you know what might happen.”

 

She pursed her lips as she looked at Chuck, who was sitting a little apart from them, lying on his stomach on the grass reading his book. “I could have told you this would be difficult. I could have told him, too. Chuck is…” She fumbled for words, and landed on, “Difficult.”

And Raleigh was sweet, and this could end well, technically, but it didn’t seem especially likely to her. Chuck turned into such an asshole when he felt vulnerable or off-kilter, which did bad things for his chances at romance, considering he always felt vulnerable and off-kilter when people flirted with him unexpectedly. It was a sad, pathetic paradox for him.

She shook her head and called to Chuck, “You know that book isn’t actually about a dog, right?”

Chuck raised his hand and flipped her off without looking up. He turned another page.

 

Tendo’s car rolled in, then, and he had deposited the rest of his passengers at the hotel. “Uh-oh, Mako,” he said. “Looks like you’re going to have to walk.”

“I will grudgingly ride in there for a short distance,” Mako said. She met Tendo’s eye as she took the passenger seat. “Please tell me we will go to the Inn for dinner.”

“Been dreaming of those mashed potato waffles all winter, then?” Yancy asked.

Mako nodded. “They are delicious,” she said, as they drove out of the parking lot.

“For you, Mako,” Tendo said. “We can. Hell, it’s our first day off. No need to eat at the hot dog stand.”

“I have been serving food to children all week,” Mako said, with a curl of disdain to her lip. “I would like someone to serve food to me.”

Raleigh was at the hotel when they pulled into the back parking lot near the lake, surrounded by the girls. “Yancy,” he said. “Have you met everyone?”

Yancy nodded at Alona - and she looked better, in the actual daylight - and then held his hand out to her two friends, one English girl, Imogene, and an older counselor from Russia, Sasha. “Have you met Aleksis?” he asked her. “He does the water ski program. And ferries us all back and forth.”

“Yes,” Sasha said. “He is a very big man.” She grinned at Yancy, and he wasn’t sure if she just meant tall. Which was her intention, to be sure.

Dinner was uneventful - decent restaurants tended to make people behave their best. They all crowded into one of their two rooms after they got back, though. “Right, then,” Tendo said. “Should we start with shots?”

 

“Fuck yeah,” Chuck said from the couch, where he was chatting with Imogene, showing her something on his phone. “‘m not going skinny dipping without some liquid courage in me to make me think it’s a good idea.”

Mako shook her head. “If your father asks about your day off…”

“I’d tell him the truth,” Chuck said.

“Aw, c’mon, man,” Tendo said, groaning. “You wanna get us all in trouble?”

“Mate, my father gave me my first beer when I was 13,” Chuck drawled, which was almost true - Herc hadn’t been the one to give him the beer, but he’d allowed Scott to do it without complaint, which was almost the same thing. “He’s not gonna flip out over some bloody scotch unless I show up with a dick tattooed on my forehead, or whatever.”

 

“Sharpie won’t count, yeah?” Tendo asked. He cracked open the bottle of flavored vodka Raleigh had brought and began to pour it into the small, plastic cups that Yancy kept in the back of the car.

“We only skinny-dipped that one time, anyway,” said Raleigh.

“And then the triplets took our clothes,” said Yancy. “Spent two hours wandering around in a fucking towel until we found them.” He shook his head.

“Well, we got them back,” Raleigh said. “Everyone good?”

“Cheers,” Imogene said.

“Skol,” said Alona. They all downed their shots and then Tendo set himself up at the dresser, where they had collected all of their alcohol, mixers, and packs of cigarettes.

“Room’s non-smoking, so if anyone wants one, go outside,” he said. “My credit card made the down deposit, so.”

He began to make drinks, and Yancy accepted his vodka and splash of cranberry without any comment. He was focused on Raleigh, who was chatting with Mako, and then looked over at Chuck, comparing cultural commonalities with Imogene.

Maybe not, then, he thought.

 

Chuck thought he probably could have kept up with Sasha in the drinking department, because for all the props people gave Russia for their drinking ability, they seemed to forget how little there was to do in Australia besides getting completely pissed all the time. But he wasn’t looking to get embarrassingly drunk and vomit everywhere, and being hungover on the ride back didn’t sound particularly fun either (ungh, combining nausea and boats, unpleasant) so he stayed relatively sober.

That didn’t mean he wasn’t tipsy, when he slipped out onto the balcony to smoke a cigarette. Tipsy enough to be enjoying himself, smiling at Tendo’s drunken antics and laughing at the story Imogene was telling him about American tourists thinking they were at Buckingham Palace when they were actually standing outside a very ornate shopping mall.

Tipsy enough to catch himself watching Raleigh Becket on more than one occasion, too.

It seemed prudent to take a moment to get some fresh air and sober up a little. He leaned against the railing, lit cigarette in hand, and blew out a stream of smoke as he looked down at the street below.

 

Yancy had been watching Chuck most of the evening. If the tales about Australians were true - and Yancy had seen Herc Hansen, once, with Stacker when they wound up at the same bar for a night out - Chuck was doing his best to keep himself relatively sober.

Which was admirable, Yancy supposed. Apparently the kids hadn’t gotten to him such that he felt the need to get blind drunk, unlike Imogene and Alona, who had decided that they were going to be the representatives of each of their respective nations and their capacity for alcohol. Neither was an embarrassing drunk, though, and both were on one of the beds and sharing pictures of their friends from their phone.

Chuck had kept himself a bit apart from the group - but he had been watching Raleigh, and he seemed to appreciate what he saw. It didn’t take long before Raleigh stripped off the sweater that he was wearing and was down to one of his tight, ill-fitting t-shirts. Yancy tried to do all of their laundry but sometimes he couldn’t intercept Raleigh.

“You don’t have a drink in hand,” Yancy said, and passed him a plastic cup with some scotch and ice in it. “Having an all right time, then?”

 

Chuck accepted the drink with a slight smile. From the amount Yancy was watching him, Raleigh might not be the only Becket to (ostensibly) be attracted to him. Not just at the hotel, but a couple times before, Chuck had noticed Yancy’s eyes on him as much as - if not more than - Raleigh’s.

Bizarre, all around.

He took a sip and decided to test the waters. He knew that Raleigh was gay, or at least attracted to men. Didn’t know about Yancy, though. Mako had said Alona’s name had been revealed for his benefit, but that didn’t mean much.

“Having a great time,” he drawled with a widening smile. “You make it a point to corrupt a lot of minors, Becket?”

 

“Depends on the method of corruption,” Yancy said. He held his hand out, fingers apart, and smiled when Chuck passed him a cigarette and then the lighter as well. Yancy inhaled. Sometimes, there was nothing better than a drunk cigarette. “Drinking, cigarettes, sure.”

He glanced back into the hotel room. Raleigh was sprawled out on the bed, now, attempting to demonstrate the breast stroke to...someone. Fuck my life, Yancy thought. Raleigh never would have survived in the wild without him.

“Oh, wait,” he said, when Chuck didn’t respond. “Are you looking to be corrupted, Hansen? Need someone to root? Pop your cherry? Is that what they call it in Australia?” He said the name of the country in the worst possible imitation of an accent he could muster.

 

Chuck just about gagged. While normally he would have responded with his normal spewed Australian nonsense, he had other things to think about here. Like was that an offer or not? Did anyone ever ask ‘are you looking to be corrupted’ who wasn’t attempting to be the one to corrupt?

He rocked back a little, peering up at Yancy quizzically. “Look mate, are you hitting on me or what?” He didn’t sound thrilled at the prospect - more genuinely puzzled at the way Yancy was going about it. ‘Need someone to root,’ what an awful-sounding come-on.

If so, the Becket boys were the weirdest flirters Chuck had ever met. If not, the Becket boys were the weirdest conversationalists Chuck had ever met.

 

“No,” Yancy said, and then he grinned. “Just inquiring, really…” He took a drag of his cigarette and then flicked some ash over the ledge. He turned, then, to draw attention to Raleigh. “Oh, he’s switched over the butterfly.”

Raleigh always did have a good sense of unintentional timing - he was on his back, now, and undulating and canting his hips to show the necessary double kick you had to do for a truly successful butterfly stroke. It definitely looked like he was fucking someone. Brilliant.

“Are you disappointed, Chuck?”

 

About to answer, Chuck turned his head and caught an eyeful of - whatever Raleigh doing, and his voice died in his throat. He stared for a long moment, then started coughing on the lungful of cigarette smoke he forgot he had.

He took a swig of scotch to help with the coughing, which didn’t actually help, but at least it dampened his throat while he coughed violently into his hands. Finally, when he had regained control, he glared at Yancy, eyes watery.

“Yeah, you may not be hitting on me, but you are having a laugh at me, and that’s not cricket,” he said, voice icy. “Oh wait, sorry, too Aussie for you? You’re making fun of me and it’s not cool.”

 

Yancy knew this - but he didn’t think the gentle ribbing was worth the response he got. Apparently Chuck didn’t do gentle ribbing.

Didn’t matter, though. The whole thing was basically a success, as far as fact-finding missions went. He had been pretty sure that Chuck was interested in men by how he asked him if he was offering, but after seeing his response to Raleigh’s demonstration he was now positive.

Also, Chuck had been exposed to that, which was a definite win. The things I do for you, he thought.

“It’s your version of baseball, right?” Yancy asked.

 

Chuck seemed wary, but answered, “More or less. Different gameplay, same basic idea. And I’m pretty sure baseball is your version of cricket, not the other way around.”

 

“Eh,” said Yancy. “I’m not up my sports history. Both are boring as fuck, though.”

 

“Well, we can’t all have sports that are an hour of standing around to every 10 minutes of actual gameplay,” Chuck said, deadpan. Seriously though, American football was terrible. The game took three bloody hours, even though there was only actually like 10 minutes of actual action. Why anyone watched it was completely beyond him.

 

“Oh, yeah, fuck football,” said Yancy. “I can’t stand it. More into hockey myself,” he said. “Shit, I appear to be out of vodka,” he said, and nodded towards the door. “You want to head back inside?”

 

Chuck looked surprised at the invitation. From what little of the conversation he understood, it hadn’t gone well. He didn’t know why Yancy was making the effort, considering half of their communication hadn’t been especially positive. “Uh, sure,” he said. “I’ll be in soon. Just gotta…” He waved his half-finished cigarette.

 

“Great,” Yancy said, and went inside.

Raleigh was back to being upright, sitting on the edge of his bed and sipping at something that looked like pure vodka. “Hey…Yancy, I was doing land swimming,” he said.

“Very successfully,” Tendo said, grinning at Yancy and then nodding his head to Alona. She was a bit too drunk, though - that definitely was not Yancy’s style. Though he was happy to lay the framework for something in the future.

“I think we could all use some snacks,” Yancy said, and before he went for the pile of chips and other drunk necessities, he checked outside to make sure that Chuck hadn’t bolted on them.

 

He hadn’t, and a few minutes later, he crushed the cigarette butt under his heel and made his way back inside. He sat on the couch and was joined almost immediately by Mako, who curled up into a loose ball near him, though not quite touching.

“Are you being angry-Chuck?” she asked with the slow solemnity of the truly inebriated.

“No,” he said, amused.

“Good,” she pronounced. “This is a good night and you should recognize it as such.”

Chuck smiled. “I’ll be sure to do that.”

“Good,” she repeated. “Did Yancy convince you to rip off Raleigh’s - mmph!“

Her words were cut off as he clapped his hand over her mouth. “Okay, Miss Mori, we’re gonna get you a glass of water and you’re gonna sober up a little so you don’t embarrass yourself, or me, alright?”

Mako nodded.

Chuck shook his head and went to go fetch some water.