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An Alternate Reality

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The evening sky was falling in reds and purples and oranges over the lake as the impromptu get-together thrived and went on and on. Becky had swum for a while, more splashing around than any true exercise, before setting down her little towel and bathing now in late summer sunlight. Hot had turned to warm had turned to just chilly enough to bring out the jacket, not to the point of discomfort. She was feeling so completely relaxed, perfectly at ease with her surroundings and her company. Of course, some of the guys had brought beers and she was nursing her second bottle, just a little buzzed. 

One of the new guys had laid out his towel next to hers a while ago and they had been making lazy conversation, a touch of flirting here and there, nothing serious. She was so relaxed she probably couldn’t even take flirting seriously if she’d wanted to - and she didn't want to beyond the passing flattery of feeling beautiful one day at the beach. She laughed at a stupid joke he made, stretched her legs and crossed them again, leaned back on her elbows to better take in the sunset. She had already forgotten his name but felt it might be impolite to ask now.

The sound of a car behind them startled her and, turning around, she recognized Tom’s battered old pickup. Her heart clenched a little with guilt and she scooted from the guy ever so slightly. If Tom noticed a thing, he didn’t let it show, only waving his fingers at her in the distance with the same easy smile as always. Becky smiled back. He was just out of his shift at the workshop, she knew by his overalls. She had told him vaguely about the outing, not necessarily to demand his presence but to let him know of her own whereabouts, but Tom did love to spend his time with her when he could. 

He went and greeted the other people he knew first, grabbed a soda with the boys by the fire. Sitting among them on a log, he chatted and joked around for a while, friendly as he ever could get, which was merely somewhat. She loved him all the more for that, making an effort to mingle and pretend to be the social butterfly he would never be. She smiled to herself all the more when he eventually joined her. 

"Hey," he said, taking the seat she offered on her towel next to her. 

He put a cautious foot of distance between them, eyeing her conversation partner with unconcealed curiosity, but she closed it. She kissed his cheek, which made the guy pause. Scratchy jaw from a couple of days unkempt. Work had made a man out of the boy she had fallen for. She liked that a whole lot. Leaning into Tom to pull his arm around her shoulders, she noticed his proud grin, like he hadn’t been certain she would acknowledge him. As if she wasn’t proud to be loving him and him alone.

"Having a good time?" 

"Uh huh", she nodded. 

She passed him the rest of her beer, which he chugged down. Putting it aside, he turned to the guy and held up a hand. 

"Hey man," he said with a smile. "Tom Houston." 

"My boyfriend," she hurried to add. 

Hands shook, though Becky averted her eyes to keep herself ignorant of whatever the guy might be thinking or showing. She could only stare up at Tom, his broad easy smile, the shine of a setting sun in his hair. Feeling much warmer, she nestled closer still. Without really paying it any mind, she registered the guy leaving, muttering something about there being s'mores by the fire, and she sighed in relief. 

Tom held her against him, looking lazily into the distance without a word. She could sense the rhythm of his breath and gave herself room between his arms to better feel it, her back to his torso between his legs. Tom held her all the closer, kissing her shoulder. Warm turned to hot again whenever he hugged her tight. She leaned her head against him and closed her eyes. Was there any place as comfortable, as safe as his arms around her? He smelled like sawdust and, sure, a bit of sweat, long shifts every day of the week, but nothing a bath together wouldn't wash away when they got home or in the morning. 

"Did you wanna stay late?" He asked after a long moment of peaceful silence. 

Night was falling more rapidly as the sun hid behind hills not to be seen till the next day. She breathed in deeply, evergreens and fire smoke and Tom, and stroked his arms up and down.

"Just a bit longer," she said.

"Alright," he replied and kissed her temple. 

Nearby, they could hear the chatter of the others, small groups scattered along the beach, the bulk of them around the fire, but Becky needed nothing else and no one else than him. She knew he would be getting tired soon, never a night owl and especially not after a day of hard work, but for her sake staying here with her. Still, she would offer to drive them home. Just a little more time, till the absolute end of a gorgeous sunset, and then she would offer.

"I love you, you know," he said.

He nuzzled the crook of her neck, delightfully itchy. His breath made a hot patch against her skin, his hands holding hers. 

"I love you too, Tommy," she replied in a comfortable sigh. "More than anything in the world." 

He nodded, though she couldn’t tell if he had had any doubt on the matter. An ever darker sky by the minute, people getting drunker too but Becky had had more than enough. The sun out, she was getting a little chilly, but she wanted the night to linger on to the fullest. Big hands over her smaller ones, his lips leisurely almost-kissing her neck, the steady rise and fall of his breath matching hers. Just a little while longer in his arms, taking the embrace till the very last of it, and then she would let go and get them home. Tomorrow could only dawn more of the love of Tom anyways.