I guess it’s like camp or something, you just kind of band together because nobody’s got anywhere else to be.
Tom Hiddleston, Fall of 2011
The campers left the day before yesterday, but the counselors were on-site for a few more days. Camp America rules mandated that everyone pitch in and help with cleanup before going in for wrap-up interviews with Coach Jackson, but there was free time for the Ping Pong semifinals and finals (Tom wore his King Pong crown atop his blond curls for the rest of the night) and finally breaking out the beer at the last Twilight Campfire by the lake.
Pabst shouldn’t go with marshmallows, but nobody cared tonight. It took Chris all of his first bottle to stop listening for the kids in the water - three years as a swim instructor and lifeguard had left him with extremely ingrained habits.
Nearly everyone was two bottles down with a case and a half left, so the only sober one left was Coach Robert. “The kids do this on their last night, so in the seventh year of our annual tradition, we should too. It’s not like we have anywhere else to be. Why don’t we go around the circle-” - he put on the fake-cheery voice he used with the more stubborn juniors when they wouldn’t pick up the tennis balls after their lessons - “and everyone can share a favorite memory from the summer!”
“No way, Bobby,” Gwyn catcalled. “It was treacle when I was a camper, so we are going to switch it up this year. How about everyone has to say what their their biggest regret is?” Someone woo-woo-ed and there was a crash of applause on Chris’s left, probably from Other Chris and Tom. They were brothers or step-brothers - nobody had been told the same story - new to the camp this year, where they’d been co-counselors of the most mellow yet cheerful bunch of twelve year olds Chris had ever seen.
“I’ll even make the sacrifice of going first,” Gwyn continued. “I regret not going on the zipline because I had to deal with three sets of bee-stings.”
“Boring!” Natalie heckled her. “Make it regrets about someone if you want this to be interesting, because my biggest regret is dropping the woodworking hammer on Chris’s knee.”
“At least you didn’t break it,” Other Chris’s voice boomed out. “And you apologized by bringing Pop Tarts for all of the Warrior Bunk!”
“That’s also a boring regret,” Scarlett interrupted.
“But - ugh - he had to wear sandals with socks for at least a week,” Tom said in a disgusted voice.
“That’s your regret, Tom?” Bruce from Crafts asked quietly. “That you had to look at Hemsworth’s footwear?”
“Oh no, nothing so mundane.” He emptied the bottle, then stood up as he dropped it into the sand. “My deepest regret is that Chris never brought his campers to yoga class.”
“Of course I did,” Hemsworth said, shoving Tom’s shoulder. “You taught, I stood in the back and mocked you, twice a week at two in the afternoon.”
“Not you, idiot,” Tom said good-naturedly.
Chris had been peeling the label off his beer bottle when a shadow broke the warmth from the fire. Tom was suddenly standing in front of him looking ridiculously tall in a green sweater and black shorts, haloed by the fire’s glow. “I meant Other Chris. So tell me...” Everyone to Chris’s left had quietly moved over a few spaces, so Tom sat down and picked up Chris’s beer. “Why didn’t you?”
Chris wasn’t used to being in the spotlight like this. He tugged on his baseball cap and mumbled, hoping nobody but Tom would hear. “Too risky. And you always made Other Chris -”
“No, you’re Other Chris-”
Damn, if Hemsworth could hear him... Chris dropped his words to a whisper, but that meant he had to lean against Tom if he wanted to be heard at all and God, this wasn’t the relaxing-then-silly bonfire-then-karaoke experience he remembered from last year.
Last night at camp, back to school in two weeks, Tom probably heading back to England, so this is my last chance to say something, Chris thought. He drained the last of his beer, took a deep breath and just said it.
“I suck at lying and I don’t have a poker face. If I’d taken the kids to your classes, at least one would’ve noticed thatI was looking at you the whole time. I didn’t know if you’d be interested in crazy stalker boy staring at you while you were trying to teach.”
Tom’s leg brushed up against Chris’s. “But you didn’t avoid me all the time. The table tennis matches, Skit Night, the Color War campfire-building competition that you utterly trounced everyone in...”
Fuck, could Tom not realize the difference? “You’re not being bendy at a campfire or during ping pong. Well, maybe at ping pong, but it’s a different kind of bendiness, more of a stretching to get the ball kind of...” he babbled, then trailed off as Tom leaned back, then reached up to his baseball cap, pulled it off and leaned forward to whisper something more.
“I wouldn’t have minded you staring. I had hoped you were, a few times in the dining hall, or at that carnival, but I wasn’t sure,” Tom said, then he continued so low that Chris hoped only he could hear him. “Have you ever tried any yoga? I’ve been told that it can be very good for swimmers.”
“Yeah?” Chris breathed; maybe he wouldn’t leave camp with any massive regrets after all. He could hear the other conversations around them - shouts about burned marshmallows, spilled beer and random regrets filling the air - but he tuned it all out.
“I am certified to teach private classes, if you’re interested. But I’ve also heard that your lifeguard cert qualifies you to supervise moonlight swims.”
“Who’m I going to supervise?” Chris smiled, “And what if I’d rather participate?”
“You’re completely hilarious. How about we decide on the way to the dock? You can watch me skinny-dip, or you can dive in yourself.” Tom stood and held a hand out to Chris to pull him up, which caught the crowd’s attention once again.
Jeremy from Marksmanship and Gregg from Self-Defense stopped holding hands long enough to lead the applause as Chris and Tom stood, hand in hand, and ran towards the lake. This night, this last night, Chris was ready to leap.