Title: Ebb and Flow
Fandom: Blue Water High (Series 3)
Pairing: Bec/Garry [image]
Challenge: kissbingo square – location: underwater
Disclaimer: Not sure who owns them (maybe ABC?) but it's not me, I can tell you that much.
Word Count: ~5,200
Show background: Blue Water High was an Australian kids show airing between 2005 and 2008. The premise is that 6 (or 7 in series 1) kids are selected to attend Solar Blue, a surfing academy in Blue Water, and compete for the opportunity of entry into the Pro Surfing Circuit via a 'wild card' and a year's sponsorship – one girl and one boy go through. Bec was one of the kids in Series 1, and she returns to manage Solar Blue in Series 3.
Bec has lived her entire life next to the ocean. It flows through her dreams and runs through her veins, shaping the way she sees the world in ways both big and small. She sees life as a series of swells: crests and troughs, one after another. If you're not careful, they'll swamp you and drag you under. The trick is to ride them all out.
Bec is a surfer – if there's one thing she knows how to do, it's how to ride a wave.
Of course, like everything, it's easier said than done.
Simmo is the one who talks her into taking that leap of faith and taking on running Solar Blue. But then he would be; he's always been far too fond of chucking them in the deep end just to see if they sink or swim, and it wouldn't be the first time she's cursed him for it. More than once, she wonders what the hell she's doing. She's twenty-one years old; she might have a shiny new degree in sports management under her belt, but she's still wet behind the ears and he should bloody well know that.
Of course, she's even wetter when he pushes her under. Baptism by fire, he'd have called it, and smirked at her the way he always did when she let her doubts get the better of her, only it's not baptism by fire. It's baptism by water – rebirth or renewal, or something like that – but that, at least, she should be able to handle. It might take her a while, but she's long since learnt how to break for the surface when a wave pushes her under.
But it's been more than four years since she last lived at Solar Blue, just turned seventeen and still stinging a little from losing the chance of making it on the pro circuit to Fly. Fly was always going to make something of her life, whether she made it on the pro circuit or not. Bec sees that now, just like she sees how, in the last few intervening years, Fly's lived up to her name. Not just flying, but soaring.
Bec doesn't feel like she's soaring – she's floundering, doggy paddling through it all. She has six sixteen-year-olds about to turn up on her doorstep and no Simmo there to take any of the load, not this time. She’s on her own and it's not like Angus Li is going to be much help, not when so far he's been nothing but a wet fish. But if it's sink or swim time, Bec will bloody well swim. She’s good at that – slow and steady, maybe, but gets where she’s going – so she does what she always does: grits her teeth, holds tight to her board, and paddles resolutely out.
This far out, waving and drowning are interchangeable, at least when seen from the shore.
There are loads of things that need doing, so Bec buckles down and does them, logically and one at a time. She makes lists and she fills out paperwork and she tries very hard not to leave Simmo too many voicemails telling him what a bastard he is and how stupid she is for believing him when he told her she could do this, that she was more than capable of it. She also tries very hard not to be terrified by the responsibility, or at least she tries hard not to let it show.
She thinks she manages that last part. The kids don't run screaming, and they don't give her anywhere near as much grief as she remembers her group giving Deb and Simmo. Of course, that could be simply rose-tinted glasses, or it could be that the kids are taking pity on her, going easy on her the way that her group hadn’t felt the need to with their appointed carers – Deb and Simmo were better at coping with teenagers, older and wiser, in theory at least. But she can't be doing too badly; she's not so old that she doesn't remember what being a teenager is like, and what being a teenager at Solar Blue is like in particular. Smart and determined and more driven than kids should by rights be.
Teenagers – especially Solar Blue teenagers – are like sharks. They can taste blood in the water from miles away, but they haven't started circling Bec just yet.
The one thing she's been trying very hard not to think about – finding a replacement coach now that Simmo's moved on – soon becomes urgent. The sharks may not be circling yet but it won't last, and she wouldn't blame them if they started to get antsy. They're here for a reason, and Bec doesn't fool herself that they're here to listen to her platitude of the day. She also doesn't fool herself that she could possibly step into Simmo's shoes. They need a surf coach who made it on the pro circuit, and she didn't even make it there; any regrets about that are fleeting and soon washed away by everything else she has to deal with.
Simmo must be of the same opinion as she is about the need for a coach. He might be ignoring her frantic voicemails and he's probably grinning each time she leaves one – especially when half way through each message she's already managed to talk herself back into persevering without even a word from him – but he finally sends her an e-mail with two names in it and a date a week away.
Bastard. She doesn't know whether to kiss him or kill him. If he didn't have three decades on her, she might do both. Instead, she bides her time and waits for the future to show up. And if it doesn't work out, well, she'll find other options and if she can't find them, she'll find a way to create them. She certainly can’t wait for Angus Li to do something useful.
As it happens, she takes to Garry immediately. He's quiet and calm and he looks her straight in the eye when he talks to her. His smile doesn't come easily but when it comes it's real, and Bec's smart enough – and old enough now – to appreciate the difference.
'Call me Dave' is a force of nature. He blows over her, washing all her objections away, and she finds herself retreating in the face of his bonhomie. There's something about him that leaves her wary, something too self-confident for her tastes, or maybe it's just that his overweening sense of self swamps her and leaves her floundering even more.
She smiles in all of the right places, not that he notices, and hopes that the kids are smart enough to make the right choice.
Garry's tough but not – no matter how much the kids whine about it – too tough. He’s smart and he’s focused and he and Bec work well together, whether it’s setting out a training package or hiking through miles of bush just to make sure that when they send their charges on a four hour hike, they’ll be safe.
He fits, and not just with the kids. He fits with her in places that she didn't even know were missing pieces. It's easy, too easy; there are days where she can close her eyes for a while and drift, letting everything go, knowing that he'll be there to pick up the little slack she leaves.
Sometimes, after the kids have started the new term and the house is empty during the day, she walks through the rooms barefoot, feeling the tiled floors cool and firm beneath the soles of her feet. Sometimes those same feet lead her down to the sea pool. She slides into the water and stares up into the sky, bright blue and stretching forever over her head.
Sometimes she closes her eyes and sinks beneath the surface, where it's cool and still and the only sound she can hear is that of her heartbeat in her ears. When she opens her eyes, the water stirs above her, leaving the world blurred and out of focus. The weight of it pushes her down but she doesn’t mind it - it’s bearable, almost peaceful. She’s at home here.
She holds her breath for as long as she can before she breaks for the surface. When she walks back to the house, tired but satisfied in a way she’d never be able to explain, she leaves a trail of wet prints behind, one after another, slow and steady.
There’s usually a towel on the counter and – if she’s lucky – sometimes even a cuppa brewing in the pot. She pours it out and drinks it down, her fingers curled around a mug that’s warming through, and listens to the quiet clacking of Garry typing up lesson plans on the computer in the study. That’s peaceful, too, in its own way, quiet and comforting.
She tries not to get used to it. Bec's the one who takes care of others; she doesn't need anyone taking care of her, no matter how nice it feels.
Bec remembers what it’s like, to be sixteen and in love. How everything is magnified, how a smile or a comment can make you walk on water for days at a time, or send you down into the crushing depths.
On the face of it, it’s a recipe for disaster – three girls and three boys, in the hothouse of competitiveness and cooperation that’s Solar Blue, especially when they have so little free time outside of school and surfing to socialise with anyone but the members of their select little group. But she has to trust them enough to work through whatever is going on – they’re good kids and anyway drama goes with the territory.
So she sits back and keeps an eye out for any ripples that threaten to spread and disturb the tranquillity, but doesn’t do more than share a wry smile with Garry occasionally.
She remembers what it’s like to be sixteen and in love. Thank god she’s grown past all that.
The first rule of any beach is be aware of the rip tides. They can sweep you up and carry you offshore before you can blink, and sometimes there’s no coming back from them.
Bec’s always been so careful. Until now.
There's always a first time for everything. That's the second rule, and she remembers it just a little too late.
Garry’s never made it a secret that he has a girlfriend – they might not share personal information with the kids but they’re comfortable enough with each other by now to let the occasional thing slip when they’re alone, and they’re alone for six hours or more a day.
If there’s one big taboo in surfing, it’s dropping in on someone else’s wave. Bec’s never done that and Bec never will. Except…
It’s the ‘excepts’ that suck her in, the ‘if onlys’ that swirl her around until she doesn’t know which way’s up and which way’s down. She’s always been a strong swimmer, but by the time she realises she’s out of her depth, the shore seems so far away and Garry is right there.
It’s even worse after she meets Garry's girlfriend. She likes Anna, she really does. Anna’s smart and Anna’s funny and Anna and Garry fit together in ways that Bec can’t even – shouldn’t ever – dream of. They know each other so well, start and finish each other’s sentences, and Bec smiles until her face aches with it.
But she likes Anna and that's the kicker, or it would be if Bec was ever foolish enough to start thinking seriously about things that she shouldn't, started to imagine things that can’t happen. Bec’s not the kind of person to drop in on someone else’s wave and Garry certainly isn’t. She knows – hopes – that much.
She should be smart about it. Really she should, but it's difficult to think clearly when the undercurrents that surge between them tug at her and threaten to pull her under.
If she lets go just for a moment, stops swimming long enough for the tide to take her, she’ll drown.
She’s smart enough to know that at least.
The year is rushing past, rolling over them all, early mornings and late nights, meetings and paperwork and payments, trying not to worry about meeting budgets or whether the council will accept their arguments over zoning changes. There are dramas and the kind of crises that go hand in hand with a houseful of sixteen-year-olds, and somewhere in there she turns twenty-two and she feels old. But she thinks she's getting the hang of it – that she and Garry will manage to ride these waves all the way into calmer water, and it's still exhilarating, how good it gets, the two of them working together, even if that’s all it can ever be – when life, once again, has other ideas.
Or maybe Garry does. Bec’s in so deep by now, in spite of her efforts to break free of the currents that ebb and flow between them, that she’s still not sure where one ends and the other begins. All she knows is that Garry has been quiet for days – quiet even for him. It’s instinct to wait until the kids are out of the house, instinct to make a brew and wait for him at the kitchen counter.
"You okay?" she asks. Her voice is quiet but even so Garry’s face stills for a moment before he sighs and reaches for his cup.
"I’m fine," he says but Bec’s not fooled. She’s never been stupid and she knows Garry well enough – and has enough experience by now from dealing with their sometimes troublesome teens and the drama they bring – to simply wait him out and say nothing.
When he glances over at her, she meets his eyes calmly, still waiting, and he finally smiles, a brief quirk of his lips. It’s better than nothing but she still waits.
"Not letting it drop, huh?"
"I’m worried about you," she says and she doesn’t reach out, doesn’t touch, no matter how much she wants to. They’re friends, and that’s important, more important than any stupid, hopeless other feelings she may have. "You’ve just been a bit quiet recently."
He makes a noise, something meaningless, and he doesn’t look at her this time. Instead he cradles his mug in both hands, long, strong fingers pressed tightly into the china. She watches the steam rising into the air and holds her silence.
"Anna and me, we broke up," he says finally.
"Do you need some time off?" she asks eventually, and the question is careful as she picks her way through the tide. He smiles again; it’s more genuine this time as he looks at her, but there are dark circles under his eyes. It’s not the first time she’s noticed them; she should have said something sooner. What kind of friend is she that she let it slide for so long?
"No." He shakes his head, suddenly back to Garry, all solid reliability and nothing of consequence showing on the surface. But his eyes are still shadowed, and his smile is a little sad. "It’s been a long time coming. It’s just… it’s been four years, you know?"
Bec nods, even though she doesn’t. She couldn’t – she’s twenty-two and her longest relationships are measured in months, not years. Four years, to her ears, sounds like ‘forever’, like ‘eternity’.
Four years sounds like a marriage.
Maybe that thought is why she persists when it’s none of her business, really. They're friends, but this... This is too personal, she thinks. "It would be fine if you did, you know," she says. "If you wanted to take some time and…" She trails off when he looks at her, suddenly uncomfortable and out of her depth.
Garry holds her gaze for long moments. "It’s fine," he repeats instead of telling her to butt out, which is what she’d probably say if their roles were reversed, except for the fact that they’re not and she wouldn’t. "We both decided it was time, okay? We’ve been drifting along for a while because it was easier, and that’s not a good thing to do. It’s just…"
She tears her eyes away and nods, feeling the blood rising slowly to her face.
"Bec…" His voice draws her back and her face is still flaming although she doesn’t know why. But his dark eyes are clearer now, no longer full of shadows. "If I thought there was anything left... if it was worth fighting for, I’d fight, okay?" His voice is gentle and she doesn’t know why that is, either. She should be the one comforting him, not the other way around, but he reaches out and rests the tips of his fingers against her wrist, just for a second. They’re still warm from the cup he’s been holding, or maybe that’s just Garry, and the flush finally ebbs from her face.
"Okay," she says and dredges up a smile for him from somewhere. "Another cup?"
He snorts, and that sounds more like Garry. "What I really want is a beer."
"No beer in the house, not with this lot." It’s automatic and she stops, horrified, as soon as the words are out of her mouth but Garry simply grins at her, his eyes lighting up, and she’s missed that.
"Of course not," he says, mock seriously and she doesn’t mind, even if the mocking is aimed at least a little at her. "Guess I’d better make a break for the pub tonight, then. Do you mind?"
"Of course not." It’s not until the words are out of her mouth that she realises they echo his and she flushes again, feeling the heat creeping up her face. But she rallies, like she usually does. "I’m sure I can hold the fort down for one night at least."
She smiles at him to show him she doesn’t mean it – or she does about being able to cope, because coping is Bec’s middle name. But he just tilts his head and looks at her for a moment.
"Are you sure you don’t feel like coming, too?" he asks, and his voice is serious. "I don’t think they’ll burn the place down. I can’t guarantee it, of course, but… When was the last time you got out, Bec?"
He’s unbearably sweet sometimes but it feels, for a moment, as though the going has turned treacherous. Bec is back to picking her way with care, trying not to read too much into it, trying hard not to hope for things she can’t ever have.
"You could do with the company?" she hazards, and his smile this time is relieved.
"Yeah," he says, touching her wrist again. His fingers slip away before she can do more than register the fleeting impression of his skin against hers. His tea’s grown cold; his fingers aren’t as warm as they were but Bec still burns.
"You’re a good mate, Bec."
Of course she is.
She’s not stupid enough to think it changes anything.
The weeks and months roll on, washing over them all. With a houseful of teens, there’s the occasional storm, of course, but they weather them. Both she and Garry keep things on an even keel, only stepping in when it’s absolutely necessary, when it looks like the latest scheme, the latest drama, might spiral out of control into something more serious, but they’re good kids – their kids – and it’s seldom necessary.
Still, they make her feel old sometimes; she’s got five years on them, five years worth of distance from being prey to hormones and from believing that nothing could be better, or nothing will ever get better, and sometimes even both at once. But if she ever feels smug about it, she only has to look at Garry and feel her heart skip a beat. There’s no distance there; if she was smart she’d want some.
It slowly becomes a thing, her and Garry, Garry and her, without it ever becoming a ‘thing’. She knows it’s just because they’ve been thrown together – the hours they work, the responsibilities they have – but sometimes, sometimes…
She’s not so far from seventeen that she doesn’t still dream of being swept off her feet by a handsome prince occasionally.
They go out for a pizza together or a beer every now and then while the kids stay home. Or they stay home together while the kids go out, make microwave popcorn and watch bad movies. Sometimes her friends tag along, and sometimes they don’t, and at some point along the way they start to become Garry’s friends, too. It’s comfortable and it’s real and it’s scary as hell. She tries not to think about it too often, like she tries not to dream. Sometimes she thinks she’s only treading water, but she hasn’t drowned yet.
That’s got to count for something.
Fond as she is of the kids, when Garry tells her of his idea that the six of them spend a weekend away from Solar Blue at an adventure camp run by his mate, Dan, she might have thrown her hands up into the air and said, "Yes!"
Garry laughs at her, his face creasing with mirth and his eyes dancing. He’s brought her a mug of tea; he places it down on her desk with a smile and it tastes wonderful because she didn’t have to ask for it, he just made it because he thought of her.
"I take it that means you’ve got no objections?"
She straightens up in her chair, folding her hands on the desk in front of her and giving him a look that’s intended to be serious but which – judging by the grin still playing around his mouth – doesn’t even come close. "I think that there’s nothing wrong with shaking them up a little. We don’t want them getting complacent."
His head is tilted to one side as he watches her, his eyes still amused, still warm, and she sobers up, clenching her fingers tightly together and ignoring the way that the warmth of his gazes surges through her. "No, I mean it. It’s a good idea. They need to be adaptable, and they do have a tendency to get into a rut and like it there. It’ll do them good."
"Gives us a weekend off, as well." He flashes her another grin, the dimple in his cheek deepening, and her heart does that thing where it skips a beat and leaves her breathless. "What will we do with all that free time?"
"Sleep," she says, and the longing in her voice is clear even to her. He laughs again, quietly, and – just as quietly – her heart clenches, tight in her chest. But she’s helpless and hopeless – she can’t help but return his smile with one of her own. "Oh, like you’re not thinking about having a lie in."
His smile deepens further; she drags her eyes away and stares down into her mug. Maybe if she stares hard enough, she’ll be able to read the future in it. She could do with a hint or two.
"Maybe," he says. "But I’ve got some other things I want to do as well."
The house is empty after he herds their pack into the combi and heads off; she walks through it and touches things, listening to the silence. It’s peaceful, but it’s not what she needs; after a while she finds her steps leading her back down towards the ocean.
The sun is low in the sky, turning the sea silver and gold; she stands by the sea pool, staring out and breathing in deeply. This, this is what she needs and it’s easy to slip into the pool, to float on her back and stare up into the forever sky.
The sun is setting and the sky has started to deepen towards indigo when she hears the footsteps, the tap-tap clear even over the sound of the surf. She turns her head, and Garry is silhouetted against the sinking sun. She has to squint to see him, at least until he sits on the edge of the pool, his feet dangling in the water, and then the sun no longer shines into her eyes.
"Hey," she says, rolling over in the water to face him. It’s deeper here, where she floats; her toes just touch the bottom. He tilts his head and smiles at her, and all of her other questions – how was the trip? Did they behave? – drift away. She doesn’t reach for them, and she doesn’t reach for Garry, but it’s a close run thing.
She doesn’t know how long he’s been back, but he’s already changed into his boardies and his skin shines golden in the evening light. It leaves her mouth dry, in spite of the water surrounding her.
"Hey," he says and he smiles. It lights up his face even more than the setting sun. "Thought I’d find you out here." He doesn’t say anything else, instead sliding into the water as she sculls away from him gently, still searching for words that won’t come.
He’s slick and he’s smooth and there’s barely a splash as his feet hit the bottom. He dunks his head under; when he surfaces again, he pushes his wet hair back and grins at her, and she can feel her face burning.
She ducks her head under as well, just to dampen that blush, and when she surfaces again, he’s right there. Tendrils of wet hair cling to her cheek, and he reaches out to pull them gently away from her face.
Her heart goes pitter pat as the wet strands cling to his fingers, and he must feel it, he’s so close to her. He’s in no hurry to let go; instead, he twirls one strand around his finger, looping it around and around until the back of his knuckle brushes against his cheek. His eyes are steady and calm, and there’s a smile in the depths of them, one that doesn’t yet show on his face. "Hey," he says again, and she can feel his breath against her wet skin. It makes her shiver more than the evening breeze coming in from offshore.
She’s wanted this – and wanted to not want it – for so long that part of her doesn’t believe it’s real. That’s the part she listens to because she’s twenty-two years old and this thing, this thing between them is a whale of a thing, too big, too real up this close to be anything but scary. She pushes away with her feet, letting the water carry her, bear her weight, as his fingers slip from her hair. Then she twists, sliding beneath the surface of the water again.
It’s still down here, still and quiet with nothing but the roar of her blood rushing through her veins sounding in her ears.
It sounds like the ocean, and Bec has never feared the sea.
She shouldn't fear this.
She pushes up, breaks the surface, caught between surging forward and being poised to flee. "Hey," she says, and it doesn’t sound like her. It sounds like a pale reflection, something washed out, left hollowed and breathless. Perhaps, if she’s lucky, he’ll think it’s the swimming, but Garry’s not a fool. He looks at her for long moments, his face strangely still, and then he gives her a little smile, something old and understanding but with something else – something sad – lurking beneath the surface.
It makes her heart beat even faster; faster and faster. This time when he sinks beneath the surface – when it's his turn to seek solace underwater – she follows him.
Her hair fans out around her, her hands moving in a graceful counterpoint that keeps her steady, keeps her under the water, close to him. There’s still enough sunlight to see him, and the salt water might sting her eyes but she keeps them open, just so that she can see him. She doesn’t ever want to look and not find him, or have him look and not find her – and that’s the scariest thing of all.
He’s watching her back, eyes as wide open as hers. She’s so close now she can see the tiny bubbles against his skin where the air was trapped as he sank below the surface; when she reaches out, his skin is as soft as she expected.
He captures her hand and pulls her closer; with no resistance from the water she goes easily, and closes her eyes when his lips brush against hers. His fingers tangle in her hair again; the strands wrap around him, around both of them, like it’s something alive.
She feels alive: blood rushing through her veins, heart pounding in her ears, Garry’s mouth moving slowly over hers as he pulls her to him again, closer and closer. But eventually she needs to breathe; she breaks for the surface and Garry lets her go.
He follows, more slowly. When he surfaces, he reaches for her but stops his hand before they touch. "Bec…" His voice is hesitant, almost scared, and that’s not Garry. She closes the distance between them, not scared if he is, not now, and lets her fingers stroke gently over his cheek again. And then she kisses him, slow and sweet; he tastes of salt, like the ocean, like the water in the sea pool, and she kisses him more deeply until it’s Garry she can taste.
He tastes like home.
"Bec," he murmurs against her lips, her cheek, his mouth moving against her skin. "Bec. Rebecca…" He’s grinning, delighted; she can taste his smile, and swallows it down.
He breaks away this time, for a breath, for a smile. He presses his forehead against hers and their fingers tangle together beneath the surface of the water. "So, have you got plans for the rest of the weekend?" She kisses him again, sinking her fingers into his wet, spiky hair, and his lips curve against hers. "Want to spend it with me?"
She kisses him again and again, all those feelings she’s been fighting for weeks, for months, washing through her, washing everything else away, everything but Garry.
When they walk back to the house, they leave a trail of footsteps, side by side, drying in the evening sun.
She leaves the windows open; she likes to hear the sounds of the surf at night, letting them ease her down into sleep, but she’s not sleeping, not yet, not tonight. Tonight the words he whispers against her skin – all of the hopes he's had, all of the dreams – drown out the ocean. His words pull her deeper, riptides and currents that she has no intention of fighting. She holds him close, drinking the words from his mouth, licking the taste of salt from his skin as he moves over and in her; when she comes she cries out, sharp and shrill like the seagulls and – like them – she soars.
Afterwards, she curls up in his arms, listening to the sound of his heartbeat; it echoes in her ears like her own does underwater, soft and steady. It sounds like home and it's that – not the ocean, not tonight – that sends her to sleep.
The sun is already high in the sky when she wakes up in his bed, in his arms, in his life. And when she kisses him, it doesn’t feel like drowning at all.