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We Belong To Summer

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The dust on the road could be seen from a mile away and Dick Winters sighs as he watches the jeep grow closer at a scary pace.

“We’ve got either an angry one or a hyper one. Hopefully not both” he says to Lewis Nixon, pointing out at the road.

“Or maybe they are driving at a normal speed and not everyone drives as slow as you” Nixon stands up beside Winters and looks at Winters with a fond smile on his face.
It is a week before Camp Toccoa is due to open. A summer camp designed for sixteen to twenty year olds whose parents didn’t want them around for the whole holiday. Or rather, ‘a summer camp designed to teach young adults how to interact in today’s society in a friendly and loving way’.

The camp was founded by Andrew Haldane and his husband Eddie Jones five years ago and surprisingly to them, the Camp became popular and fast. Earning five star ratings and numerous awards, the number of people signing up for the camp grew each year.

Andrew and Eddie usually stayed in the city of New York taking care of the financial and legal side of things. They left Winters, Nixon and Ron Spiers in charge of the camp which was situated in New Jersey, just a few miles outside the state line. Winters loves his job and he wishes he could say the same for his two friends. Nixon only signed up because well, there was a bar on camp and a summer without Winters- no way. Spiers was a mystery to them both. He just showed up one day and ran his sections like they were marine recruits. Winters always felt sorry for the kids that were left in his care. He rarely spoke the first year they worked there, always stayed in his room reading a book on serial killers or politics. It was not until the second year at the camp that Spiers finally spoke up, asking Nixon to pass the bottle opener. After that, he loosened up more but Winters knew more about quantum physics than he did about Ronald Spiers’s life.

The jeep pulls up outside the gate before a tanned arm reaches out the window to punch in the security code. The driver swerves into a parking space and hops out of the vehicle. Spiers comes out of the cabin at the sound of company. The three men watch their new employee as he yawns and stretches. His aviator sunglasses fall to the ground when his arms stretch over his head. He looks down at them and shrugs, opening the boot of the jeep to take out his luggage.

“Hi there, need a hand?” Winters calls down as the man starts lugging the bag up the steps.

“Thanks, I got this” the man replies with a friendly smile. He offers his hand to Winters when he makes it up the steps.

“John Bassilone” he introduces himself, the smile lingering in his eyes.

“Dick Winters”

Nixon lazily gets off his chair.

“Lewis Nixon”

Spiers doesn’t unfold his arms and just nods at John.

“Um, that’s Ron Spiers. Don’t worry, you will warm up to him in time” Winters chuckles when John’s face falls slightly at Spiers’s frosty welcome.

Winters proceeds to give John a tour of the camp. The camp itself is quite large. He begins at the cabins for the camp-goers. They are divided into six separate sections, three for males, three for females. There are eight cabins in each one, each housing four people.

“We usually patrol two each but now you’re here it will be much easier” Winters says, remembering one year when a rowdy group decided to go skinny dipping in the lake and ended up being chased by Spiers who just so happened to be in possession of a large rake. Even Winters had been terrified.

Next is the large dining hall where they eat their daily meals. Winters explains how hectic the hall can get, especially at dinner.

He shows him around all the different activity zones and explains what each one is used for. He ends the tour with the first aid cabin, a cabin frequently used here at Camp Toccoa.

“It’s a lot to take in, I understand but after a few days you’ll be on your feet” Winters smiles when they make it back to the managers’ cabin.

“This is great, I’m excited. I love this kind of job” John says, looking at Nixon and Spiers who were returning his stare with ones that read ‘are you out of your mind?’

“What? You guys not a fan?”

“I hate kids” they both reply at the same time in a monotone voice.

“They’re not really kids though; I mean the youngest are sixteen right?”

Nixon and Spiers look at each other and just smirk at John.

“Sorry, these guys are usually rude until after noon” Dick says, shooting Nixon a warning look.

John waves it off and asks Winters where he will be staying so he can leave his bag in. Winters opens the door to the cabin and takes him down to his room.

“It is opposite Nixon’s, just to warn you”

“Oh?” Jon looks up from unpacking his bag, a confused look on his face.

“He is fond of the drink” Winters keeps it at that, hoping John will be prepared for Nixon’s ability to be the loudest drunk on this Earth.

Winters leaves John to unpack and joins Nixon and Spiers on the porch.

“Guys, a little hospitality would be nice” he murmurs, settling into the chair beside Nixon.

“I like him” Nixon says and Spiers just looks out into the horizon, not in the least bit phased.

Winters sighs and tries to relax. Camp has not even started yet and he already feels the stress weighing down on his shoulders.

Over the next week, the four of them get the camp ready for the opening. They clean each cabin, making sure each appliance is working and that the rooms are up to standard. They make sure there is enough food stocked in the kitchens for the first week, knowing that once the chefs arrive that task will thankfully be out of their hands.

Winters also gets to know John. He is from New York and graduated high school but never went on to higher education. He hated school even though he excelled at it. School is also where he met his fiancé, Lena. He talks about her a lot, a shy smile playing on his lips with every word. She sounds great and Winters can’t wait to meet her, if that ever happens.

It is Sunday night, their last night alone in the camp. Nixon has his legs propped up on the table in their living room, a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other.

“I am not looking forward to tomorrow” he says, a cloud of smoke circling ominously above his head.

Spiers nods his head in solemn agreement and takes a long drag from his own cigarette.

“So, what are the rules on drinking/smoking in the camp?” John asks, waving the smoke out of his face.

“Well, Ack-Ack says we have to punish them but to be honest, we never really do. Unless there is a lot of alcohol being consumed, we turn a blind eye” Nixon answers because Winters is busy trying to fix the light bulb in the kitchen.

“Dick here thinks we should be stricter but we overruled him” Nixon says, rolling his eyes but grinning in Winters’ direction.

“I only said that after we found little Sammy Perkins in a ditch… naked” Winters scorns, a screwdriver tucked in behind his ear and a frown etched on his face.

Nixon and Spiers snigger into their bottles and John also hides a wry smile. Winters looks over at them and struggles to hide his own amusement. Eventually he cracks and the four of them laugh hysterically into the night.

~~

The following morning, Winters is up waiting for his coffee to brew at the coffee machine. Nixon stumbles into the kitchen in his boxers, his hair askew.

“You need to be dressed in five minutes Nix” Winters warns, stirring the contents of his mug with a spoon, the morning sun catching on the silver and bouncing back to shine in Nixon’s half closed eyes. Nixon leans on the sink and closes his eyes all the way, exhaling a long breath. Winters has to reach around him to drop the spoon in the sink and sympathetically pats Nixon on the back before making his way outside. Spiers is already at the gates, doing his weird exercises’ that Winters never questioned.

He hears the door to the cabin slam shut behind him and John is at his side.

“What in God’s name..?” he whispers, taking in Spiers’s ass which is up in the air and his head down on the ground, his hips moving violently side to side.

“I don’t know” Winters shakes his head and laughs at John’s bewildered expression.

“Right, let’s get this shit over with” Nixon growls, storming out the door and down to the gate.

Winters and John share an anxious smile and follow Nixon.

A bus arrives first which is both a good thing and a bad thing. Good because it gets a lot of people out of the way and fast. Bad because they were usually filled with hyperactive 16 year olds who don’t really listen to what they have to say.

Thankfully it is a busload of tired teenagers, who follow Nixon to their cabin without a word. A peaceful start.

The peace is ruined moments later when a car skids into one of the parking spaces with a loud bang.

The door to the passenger side opens and a loud, irritating sound is emitting from the car.

“Listen homes, you didn’t have to pick my hot ass up, you offered to do it, so quit fucking complaining about it”

“The next time I offer you something Ray, it will be an offer to take your life”

Winters takes in the sight of the passenger named Ray, a tiny kid with black hair and almost black eyes walking with an uncoordinated step and the driver, an extremely tall, almost god-like creature, standing tall with confidence and looking at Ray like he is a bug on his shoe. It is a comedic sight really.

Winters can hear Ray nattering the whole time as they make their way over to him.

“Hello, I’m Dick Winters” He says, offering his hand to them in greeting.

“Hey man, I’m Ray, Ray Person” Ray hits Winters’ hand in an awkward high five instead of shaking it.

“Brad Colbert” the tall one says shortly, nodding at Winters instead of touching him.

Winters looks down at his clipboard for their names and room numbers.

“You might be happy to know you guys are in separate cabins” Winters smiles sarcastically.

“Fuck man, I hope I’m not roomed with some asshole from a rich neighbourhood” Ray complains.

“Why? Will you feel like the lesser person, which you will be no matter who you are roomed with, and want to leave the camp for good to go back and fuck your cousin you inbred son of a bitch?”

Ray just snorts with laughter and looks at Winters waiting for his room information.

“Ok so Person, you are Cabin 21 which you will find just over there” Winters points at the third batch of cabins. The third row is usually where the 19-20 year olds stay.

“And Colbert, you are in Cabin 24”

“So close, yet so far” Ray grins a toothy grin and Brad just stalks off towards the cabins leaving Ray to run after him like a puppy.

The next to arrive is a large bus filled with 17-18 year old girls all screaming and giggling. Surprisingly this is Nixon’s speciality and he leads the girls to their cabins with ease.

A hot pink Volkswagen pulls up next and Winters expects another group of girls to jump out. He has to bite back a laugh when he is met with three males. Two have bright red hair and matching smiles and the other is a brunette with a grumpy expression on his face.

“That’s the last time I ever let Babe drive” he grumbles to one of the others and cricks his neck with a grimace.

Winters introduces himself with his clipboard ready in hand.

“Donald Malarkey” one of the redheaded guys introduces himself, shaking Winters’ hand in a firm grip.

“Ah yes, you will be in cabin 21” Winters hopes that Malarkey isn’t the rich stereotype the kid Ray was whining about.

“Great, see you guys later” Malarkey waves at his friends before hitching his bag up on his shoulder and strolling over toward the cabins.

“Edward Heffron” the other ginger says, blushing slightly. His friend mocks him and nudges Edward with his elbow.

“Call me Babe though” he says haughtily, nudging his friend back with more force that his friend had used.

Winters laughs and hands him a key to cabin 22.

“Skip Muck”

Winters scans the list for Muck and finds him.

“You mean Warren?”

“Oh man, I completely forgot my real name there” Muck laughs, looking surprised at his own slip-up.

Winters laughs and informs him his new residence will be in cabin 20.

“I was hoping this cabin would be far away from those idiots” he says but with a fond smile on his face and walks off after he locks the Volkswagen.

Winters approaches John to see how he is getting along and finds him struggling with two young men who are fighting. They are using so many curse words that Winters loses track within two seconds

“What’s going on here?” he asks the bewildered looking John.

John jumps, so immersed in the argument that he hadn’t noticed Winters.

“Oh well, this guy here” he points at the darker one of the two “I think he is called... Snafu or something strange like that, well he apparently stole the other guy’s last cigarette and they have been arguing for the last five minutes”

Winters coughs loudly and firmly, capturing their attention.

“Care to explain?” he asks, raising an eyebrow.

Snafu, if that is his name opens his mouth to speak but is interrupted by the other guy.

“Snafu here decided to nab my last cigarette; it was tucked behind my ear and everything. He thinks just ‘cause I was sleeping that I didn’t notice-“

“It blew out the winda’” Snafu says, his shockingly large eyes bulging out of his head.

“No it didn’t you lying sack of shit, I felt your greasy fingers-“

“OK!” Winters interrupted, a headache growing already and he sincerely hopes these two will not be roomed together.

“Names please”

“Snafu”

“Your full name?” Winters sighs, pinching the bridge of his nose.

“Merriell Shelton” Snafu grumbles, rolling his eyes at his real name.

“Cabin 22, off you go. And yours?”

Snafu smirks at Winters and grabs his bag out of the car before hitting the other guy on the back of the head.

“Bill Smith, but I’m called Hoosier really”

Do any of these people have a normal name? Winters thinks exasperatedly.

 

“Ok Hoosier, you’re in cabin 20” Winters thanks the gods in his head that they are away from each other.

“Sorry ‘bout the fighting” Hoosier mumbles before dragging himself away to the cabins.

John shoots Winters a grateful look before handling a carful of kids that just arrived. On his way over to meet some newcomers, Winters passes Spiers who is walking silently with
two young men following him, scared expressions on their faces.

“He’s kinda scary isn’t he Eugene?” the short blonde one says to his friend in a terrified whisper.

“Sure is Sid, still aint as scary as old Martin that lives beside my Grandma” the redheaded boy replies, a smile tugging at the corner of his lips.

Sid snorts out a laugh and Winters watches as they head towards cabins 16-24.

Winters approaches a car where a mother and father are saying goodbye to their son.

“Its ok Walt, you’ll be back with us in no time” his mother is saying gently while his father pats his shoulder. Walt looks devastated, his large green eyes nearly filling with tears.

Each year, Winters deals with kids who would rather be in hell than this place so he easily takes control.

“Walt is it?” he walks up to them and offers each of them a kind smile. “I’m Dick Winters, the head of the camp”

Walt avoids his eyes and looks at his mother instead who nods at him in encouragement. Walt finally raises his blonde head and faces Winters.

“Don’t worry Walt; you’ll fit right in here. And if you really do hate it, I’ll make sure you get home safe and sound. At least give it a try” Winters says in his most sincere tone.
Walt’s parents smile at him and he shrugs his shoulders.

“I s’pose it couldn’t hurt” he sniffs and lifts his bag from the gravel. He hugs his Mother tightly and shakes his father’s hand before following Winters away from their car.

“Walt, what is your second name so I can see where you’ll be staying?”

“Hasser”

Scanning the list, Winters notices Walt will be sharing with Brad Colbert. For some reason, he has a good feeling about this.

“Cabin 24 Walt, and if you need me Ill either be here at the gates, or there” he points at his own cabin and Walt smiles shyly and thanks Winters under his breath.

Winter’s is interrupted from making sure Walt gets to his cabin safely by a loud bang. He jumps around and sees a very barely running car conk out in a parking space. A young man emerges from the smoke, spluttering and muttering in Spanish. Nixon is good with cars and Spanish but he is nowhere to be found so Winters decides with an almost heavy heart to take care of this one.

“How may I help?”

The boy jumps and the cigarette dangling from his lips falls to the ground, causing patches of tobacco to flick across the concrete.

“Buy me a new car” the boy jokes and rubs his hands on his jeans before grasping Winters’s hand.

“George Luz at your service” he grins and picks up the fallen cigarette, looking at it dubiously before putting it back in his mouth.

“Well George, unfortunately I can’t buy you a car but I can tell you that you are sharing a cabin with the guy that owns that” Winters points at Malarkey’s Volkswagen. Luz bursts out laughing, causing the cigarette to once again fall to the ground.

“Oh man, I love this guy already”

Winters smiles and shows him which cabin to go to and Luz sets off with a merry skip to his walk. Needing a break already, he slips away to make a pot of coffee and finds Spiers in the kitchen nursing his own cup.

“Thought you’d be out scaring the kids?” Winters chuckles, leaning against the counter opposite Spiers and gazes out at Nixon laughing with one of the mothers. Spiers ignores him and scowls into his mug.

“Some kid annoyed me” Spiers says, well if Winters wanted to believe it he would say Spiers sulked. He bites the inside of his cheek so as not to laugh or respond sarcastically.

“Some kid called Nate Fick” Spiers spits out and continues staring at his coffee as if it is offending him. Winters waits for Spiers to continue. Pushing Spiers for information was like looking for a needle in a haystack.

“He arrived like he owned the place, completely sure of himself. Almost took charge of the camp himself the way he led ME to the cabins, like I don’t know where they are and he does?” Spiers fumes, shaking his head angrily.

“Maybe he has been here before Ron” Winters offers kindly but Spiers rejects that idea with a snort.

“He is one of them. Those leader types. I can smell it off him” the way Spiers says that is like the way one would say ‘the smell of dog shit off him’. If Winters was brave enough he would tell Spiers he must be feeling intimidated but leaves it at that, waiting to meet this Fick character for himself.

Deciding to leave Spiers to brood with his coffee, Winters walks out to meet a new influx of camp-goers. He spots a familiar face jumping out of a rusty pick-up truck and bounds down the steps to greet him.

“Gene Roe, my how you’ve grown!”

Eugene Roe was one of the first boys to attend the camp when it opened and he kept coming back. Winters never really knew why, he never bonded with his fellow campmates, he just struck up a comfortable friendship with Winters, Nixon and Spiers, sometimes even acting as their own personal doctor.

He turns around and envelopes Winters in a hug.

“How have ya been Dick?” he asks, his strong Cajun accent a familiar and friendly sound to Winters’ ears. Winters walks with him to his cabin, number 24, and they catch up on the way. When Winters reaches this row of cabins he realises they are mostly full already. They walk down to the end of the line and reach cabin 24.

“Well this is it, new people to meet” Gene hovers outside, looking at the cabin anxiously, as always.

“I’ve already met two of your housemates, they seem fine” Winters remembers Walt is in this cabin and thinks that Gene will be a perfect person for Walt to have around.

As Gene walks up the steps, Winters hears a ruckus coming from one of the cabins behind him. He pinpoints the source and strolls up to cabin 20 where there is a large group of people gathering around the door. He walks up quietly so as not to be noticed.

He observes Hoosier on the ground in the kitchen mopping up what looks like spilled coffee, an angry furrow to his brow. Standing over him with his hands on his hips is an equally angry looking skinny kid, with floppy brown hair and a sharp face.

“Oh man, can’t believe he knocked over that kid’s coffee with his blankets, fuckin’ idiot” Snafu drawls from near the doorway and laughs lazily.

Malarkey, Skip, George Luz and the redheaded kid that came in with Spiers are standing beside Winters, laughing to themselves.

“What happened in here?” Winters asks.

“This guy Liebgott, Joe I think his first name is, just made a fresh pot of coffee when Hoosier here came along and whipped a blanket out, knocking over the whole pot” Malarkey murmurs as they watch Hoosier wring the cloth into the sink.

“Sorry” he huffs, staring at Liebgott with his chin out, challenging him to argue.

“Whatever man, just remember, your big woolly blanket there isn’t a fucking cape and I aint no fucking bull!” Liebgott sighs before putting a new pot of coffee on.

Winters grins to himself, he didn’t even have to go resolve the issue, a new accomplishment.

He follows Snafu out after shooting him a warning look as he began to light his cigarette in the cabin.

“Hoosier has met his match with that guy” Snafu laughs through the puff of smoke circling out of his mouth.

“I thought he already had with you”

“Nah, that’s just how we communicate” he walks off, leaving Winters standing with a new sentence lost on his lips.

~~

Eugene Roe feels strangely at ease when he walks into his cabin. Usually he feels wary, always worried something bad will happen or that he won’t fit in with his roommates. He eyes the mug on the coffee table which is on a coaster with a smug smile and almost bumps into someone in the kitchenette.

“Sorry” the other person says, laughing as he grabs Gene’s elbow to make sure he doesn’t fall.

“S’ok” Gene smiles that shy smile of his.

“Runner Conley”

“Eugene Roe”

The stand in the kitchenette in silence but it is somehow not awkward. The next person to join them is what Gene would call a Greek god or some form of majestic creature. He has to lift his head to look him in the eye when he introduces himself to Brad Colbert. Gene blushes and hopes Brad doesn’t notice his staring. If he does, he certainly doesn’t show it, his face doesn’t change much in conversation.

“I already roomed with someone if that’s ok” Brad says to them, pointing to the door just at the left of the corridor opposite the kitchenette.

“Guess we’re roommates then?” Runner grins widely at Gene and Gene returns with a small smile of his own.

“So did you come on your own?” he asks Runner as they unpack their things in their bedroom which is right next to Brad’s.

“I came with my best friend Leckie, well his real name is Bob but that sucks so we call him by his second name” Runner says, his facial expressions changing with every word, an odd contrast to Brad’s continuous poker face.

“Cool, what cabin is he in?”

“Eighteen. Some guy called Chuckler is his roommate and then there is a….David something, Weblinson or something fucked up like that and some McGraw dude” Runner’s hands move fluently as he speaks, making Roe laugh. “What about you, you come with anyone?”

Gene just shakes his head.

“You’re from Louisiana right?”

“Sure am”

“You don’t know that Snafu guy? Kinda scary, big eyes… talks very slowly?”

“I seen him around here, but I have never spoke to him before”

“I can’t wait to see what happens when two Cajuns get together” Runner chuckles and they finish unpacking in a comfortable silence.

~~

Walt sits on his bed and hears his house mates talking in the kitchen. Never one for introductions, he decides to stay low in his room and unpack his things. He briefly said hello to Brad, his new roommate before Brad had left the room earlier.

After a while, they gradually disappear and Walt feels the familiar loneliness tug on his heart. He doesn’t want to cry but he feels a lump rise in his throat when he thinks of his mother and father at home without him. Starting to feel anxious, he decides to go outside to get some fresh air, maybe familiarise himself with the place.

He is still slightly panicky and upset when he suddenly bumps into somebody.

“Sorry- it was dark and I didn’t notice you-“he begins, the lump rising in his throat again with the worry that he might have upset somebody.

“Hey homes, no need to apologise to me, just fucking keep your head up and you might not knock so many of us tall folk down” he hears a loud voice shout and vaguely makes
out a small person standing in front of him. Walt guesses he is trying to be funny because this person is far from tall.

“I’m joking fuckface!” the boy laughs, his teeth causing a sudden gleam in the dark.

Walt forces out a chuckle and tries to walk around him.

“Oh hell no, the last time somebody fake laughed at me was in sixth grade, come on man, lighten up” the boy put his hand on Walt’s arm causing Walt to freeze up.

“Sorry man, I didn’t mean to- hey listen, I’m going to grab some shitty ass rat dinner in the hall, you wanna join me?” the boy offers. Walt is now adjusted to the light. The boy is about an inch smaller than Walt, dark hair and extremely dark eyes. He is skinny, really skinny. But he is smiling broadly at Walt, a friendly face that Walt can’t help but smile back at.

“Sure, why not” he says quietly.

“Fuck yeah, let’s go see what this fascist camp has in store for us tonight, I’m Ray by the way and the greatest person you’ll ever meet, don’t listen to what Brad fucking Colbert has to say”

 

“Oh he is my roommate”

“Oh dude, I feel so unbelievably sorry for you. Anyways, you got a name pimp daddy?”

Walt is astounded by Ray’s choice of words but ignores it and introduces himself.

“Walt” Ray repeats and he repeats it again in a fake British accent. He laughs at himself and talks the whole way to the dining hall.

~~

“Not again” Frank Perconte lets out a helpless groan as he looks at the sun cream that had burst all over the clothes in his suitcase. “FUCK” he shouts and throws his suitcase on the ground in frustration.

His roommate, George Luz, walks in and leans on the doorframe. He looks at the floor with an amused expression on his face.

“Priceless” he laughs and takes a photo of it with his iPhone.

“Fuck off Luz” Perconte snaps, grabbing the ruined clothes out of the suitcase and rolling them up into a ball.

“Hey, Malarkey, get a load of this!” Luz calls out to their other housemate. Malarkey bounds into the room and crack up laughing at the ball of soggy material in Perconte’s hands.

“Get a picture of that” he giggles and Luz shows him his phone causing him to shake with laughter again.

Perconte lifts up a pair of shorts that are covered in sun cream and throws them at Malarkey who dodges them and ducks out of the room.

“Ray just left for dinner, which sounds like a good plan to me, let’s go folks” Malarkey calls out from the kitchenette.

Luz looks at Perconte who shrugs and drops the ball of clothes before they rush out the door.

~~

Robert Leckie is unimpressed with what he was looking at. In the middle of the living room stands a giant television, a PlayStation 3 and an Xbox.

“Who in the name of fuck brings this to a summer camp?” he mutters to himself, throwing his book onto the abandoned sofa.

“I do” booms a voice from behind him and he jumps.

“Dave McGraw! But everyone calls me Captain America” the person to the voice says, shaking Leckie’s hand until Leckie is almost certain it will fall off.

“Um, may I ask why? Oh and Leckie is my name” Leckie awkwardly greets ‘Captain America’.

“In case I get bored, I’m an easily distracted man” he laughs loudly and obnoxiously. Leckie can’t help but thank fate he already roomed with Chuckler and feels pity for Webster who has to share with this asshole.

“Ah” Leckie says and picks his book back up. He is about to walk into his room but that’s when Webster emerges from his. Leckie hovers in the living room, wanting to see the expression on David’s face upon meeting this guy.

“You must be my new roommate?” Webster smiles at him and takes in the new equipment with a puzzled look.

“David McGraw but you can call me Captain America” McGraw shouts and shakes Webster’s hand as viciously as he did Leckie’s.

“Rrrright” Webster laughs warily. “I was just about to head to dinner, if you guys want to come?”

Leckie throws his book into his room and joins Webster at the door as they wait for McGraw to fix his short blonde hair in the mirror.

Leckie and Webster share a glance and snigger into their hands, looking up innocently when McGraw turns to look at them.

“Let’s go friends!” McGraw shouts and practically shoves them out the door.

~~

Nate Fick is a patient man by nature. He is particularly glad of this trait when he once again catches a glass that was about to smash on the floor.

“Oh god, sorry! I’m such a disaster” Babe Heffron laughs apologetically. Nate brushes it off with a brash laugh and places the glass in the centre of the table where Babe surely
can’t knock it off again.

He is glad of his patience again when he picks up another cigarette butt that his other housemate, Snafu just carelessly tossed on the floor.

“You know, our security deposit will be well and truly in question with you guys” he mutters to himself as he stands in the kitchen, dumping the butt in the trash can.

“You’re a saint” his roommate Sid Philips smiles at him, his southern accent strong and unusual in this cabin. Nate snorts and curls an eyebrow at Sid.

“You got any flaws I need to know about before I like you the most?” he asks a hint of a smile on his lips. Sid looks genuinely worried for a moment as he racks his brain for an answer.

“Well, I’m known for being quite a loud snorer” he breathes out, waiting for Nate to make an annoyed face.

“So am I” Nate smiles.

Sid’s friend, also from Alabama, Eugene Sledge pops his head in the cabin, the light of the television bouncing off his red hair.

“Me and the guys are going to dinner, you wanna join?” he asks not just Sid but Nate, Snafu and Babe too. Babe trips and somehow the glass does end up smashing on the ground as he jumps off the sofa moaning about how starving he is. Instead of reaching out to help him, Snafu folds his arms across his chest and laughs.

“Ah Ill clean it later” Babe groans in his strong Philadelphia accent.

Nate sighs and follows Sid out the door where they join Sledge and his housemates Liebgott, Hoosier and Skip Muck.

~~

The dining hall is packed with camp-goers and before there is the awkward question of where to sit, Skip’s friend Malarkey stands up on a bench somewhere in the middle of the hall and waves dramatically.

“Over here guys!”

Skip nods to the seven of them to follow him. From what they can tell it looks like half their row of cabins are all seated at the one bench. The hum of conversation and laughter is ringing out in the hall, especially from this end.

“Have you ever seen anything like this?” Nixon leans in to mutter to Winters as he watches an enthusiastic Babe leaning over a very hot bowl of soup to steal a chip off Snafu’s plate. It doesn’t end well as Snafu goes to punch him and Babe dives back, landing an elbow in the bowl. He howls in pain and the whole bench breaks out into amused laughter.
Winter’s smiles as he watches Gene Roe sweep in and immediately get to work on Babe’s elbow. He seeks out Walt and finds him laughing brightly at Ray who is poking Brad’s face trying to get a reaction out of him. There are so many interactions going on between this bench of almost strangers and this never happens, not on the first day anyway.

“No Lew, I have not”

Nixon’s expression softens as he takes in Winters’ excited look and they decide to leave Gene to take care of the mess that is Babe Heffron.

Chapter Text

David Webster wakes to a shrill sound piercing his ear drums. He nearly falls out of his bed due to pure shock. He finds the source of the noise and groans in anger, dives back under his blanket and shoves his pillow over his head. The door bursts open and Leckie sighs when he sees Captain America standing over Webster’s bed, a whistle in hand.

 

“What the fuck?”

“Rise and shine boys, it’s our first day we don’t want to miss a thing” Captain America booms, blowing into the whistle. Leckie strides into the room and grabs the whistle from his hand.

“This is a big no-no” he says, eyes boring McGraw’s, waiting for a fight.

Webster pokes his head over the sheets to watch. McGraw’s hands fidget at his sides but he forces a smile.

“Sorry, I just thought this would be the best method for the mornings”

Webster sniggers into his pillow and Leckie throws the whistle out the open window before storming out of the room. McGraw blushes and starts throwing his clothes on, muttering under his breath. Webster watches him with an exasperated expression on his tired face.

“I guess I’ll see you at breakfast” McGraw says, stepping out of the room and finally leaving Webster in silence. He settles down under his warm blanket again and revels in the peace. That is until he hears the front door to the cabin burst open and two loud voices shouting in the kitchenette. He is afraid to look at the time but eventually picks his phone up and curses when he sees that it is only half seven in the morning. He doesn’t have to be awake for at least another hour. The voices in the kitchen grow louder and no amount of pillows or blankets can block them out. Webster jumps out of his bed, not even bothering to put clothes on, and storms into the living area.

He sees Skip Muck and his skinny roommate, Joe Liebgott opening all the cupboards and slamming them closed shouting various curse words each time.

“What the fuck are you guys doing?” Webster fumes, his hands on his hips in a defiant manner.

Skip whips around and wolf whistles as his eyes scan up and down Webster’s semi-nude body. Which in turn causes Liebgott to stop rooting in the fridge and turn around.

“Every heard of a body wax?” he sneers, using a piece of half-eaten toast to point at Webster’s chest.

Webster ignores this. “What are you doing?” he repeats.

“We’re out of milk and coffee” Skip shrugs as he opens the dishwasher to peer inside.

“Well it certainly won’t be in there. And how is that possible? We only got here yesterday evening”

Liebgott laughs “Our cabin contains a wide variety of people who are probably only alive due to these substances. The angry, bitter people like myself and Hoosier, then you’ve got Skip here who is on a constant caffeine rush and old Sledge who apparently needs milk to strengthen his bones or some shit. Why, is our presence bothering you Web?”

The nickname makes Webster flinch. “Yes it is, and don’t call me that” he snaps.

Skip makes a face, faking offence but Liebgott’s face drops to one of genuine anger and he steps closer into Webster’s space, chewing his toast obnoxiously loudly. “Well Web, we won’t bother you again”. He grabs the milk that he spotted hiding behind the orange juice in the fridge and stalks out, closely followed by the innocent Skip. Webster lets out a
breath he didn’t realise he was holding in.

~~

The first activity on Snafu’s schedule is art. He scoffs at the idea of him even lifting a paintbrush but leaves the surprisingly silent dining hall and heads off in the direction of the cabin he is supposed to go to.

He spots a few familiar faces already seated in front of blank easels. His roommate Babe waves at him but the seats beside him are already taken. Snafu takes a seat by the door where a cold draft seeps in through the cracks in the wood and he is surrounded by no one. He hopes it will remain that way. Unfortunately, the cabin starts filling with more and more people and he keeps his eyes focused on his easel so as to ignore any overly friendly idiots.

“Can I sit here?” he hears a vaguely familiar voice ask. He looks up and sees the red headed kid from Hoosier’s cabin and shrugs. He moves his bag off the chair beside him to let the kid sit down.

“I’m Eugene Sledge, I’m in a cabin with your good pal Hoosier” he says, trying to be friendly with Snafu who lacks Sledge’s enthusiasm.

“Yeah, I know”

Sledge doesn’t seem bothered by Snafu’s hostility and keeps talking. “You’re in Sid’s cabin” he points out.

“Who?” Snafu sighs, even though he knows exactly who Sid is. Sledge knows this too so decides to ignore his question. He opens his mouth to speak again and Snafu thanks God when the art teacher finally walks in. He is young enough, around the same age as Winters and the others. He has dark brown hair and there is a hint of a scar on his right cheek.

“Good morning folks, I’m Carwood Lipton, your art teacher for the summer” he smiles broadly at the bored looking class. He claps his hands as if he is excited and grabs a paintbrush from his table.

“Art sucks. That’s what most of you think right? Sick of painting happy families, flowers, landscapes, all the boring shit”

A small snigger erupts around the room, ending abruptly at the still annoyed Snafu.

“Well here art is anything you want it to be, the way it should be. You don’t have to be an excellent artist to be in this class, hell, draw stick figures having sex for all I care!”

Snafu bites the inside of the cheek to make sure no one can see even a hint of amusement on his face.

“Ok so, why don’t you all just, do whatever you want today so I can see what you guys are like” Lipton says, nodding at the class to begin.

Snafu looks at his easel as if it is his worst enemy. What the fuck kinda shit is this anyway? He sits still for the whole hour and a half, not once lifting a paintbrush or pencil. He marvels inwardly at his own patience, entertaining himself by imaging the girl opposite him setting her hair on fire by accident.

When Lipton starts making his rounds of the class, Snafu sneaks a sidelong glance at what Sledge has been working on. It’s a dog. A black and white dog that Sledge has painted so accurately, Snafu can almost picture its tail wagging. He wonders what this dog means to Sledge but refuses to ask, knowing that Sledge would take it as some kind of cue for a long conversation. He certainly doesn’t notice the way Sledge’s tongue is sticking out and his eyebrows are pointing down in a look of utter concentration. Or the way his hands control the paintbrush so effortlessly. No. He only focuses on how much this morning and this class suck.

“Very nice” Lipton comments on Sledge’s painting and Sledge beams with pride.

“Ah…a true artist sits before me” Lipton says as he comes to Snafu’s easel. Snafu doesn’t speak and just lets a smirk cross his face. Lipton doesn’t say anymore and returns to the
top of the room.

“Well, you all seem to be very artistic, I’m excited to have you guys in my class. I’ll come up with our plan tonight and I’ll see you all tomorrow. If you guys don’t want to keep your paintings leave them there and I’ll throw them out. Oh and Babe, come up here so I can remove that paint from inside your ear!”

Snafu looks over at Babe who is blushing furiously and holds in his laughter. Sledge says a quiet goodbye to Snafu before heading outside, leaving his panting behind. Snafu waits until everyone else has left before he rolls Sledge’s painting up and stuffs it in his bag.

~~

At lunch, everyone seems to be seated at the same bench again, with the exception of Babe who was still getting his ear looked at, now in the medical tent and Captain America who is probably doing push-ups in his room.

Brad walks up to the vending machine when he accidently bumps into someone and knocks their tray onto the floor. In a horrifyingly cliché moment, he bends down to pick the fallen goods up at the same time as the other person. He abruptly stands up so as not to share a moment that he will look back on with embarrassment for the rest of his life.

“I apologise” he says to the person whose head is down as they pick up a stray apple, dangerously close to being trampled on by the hoards of hungry teens. Nate Fick stands to his feet.

“Its ok, at least everything was wrapped in plastic” his green eyes flicker with amusement as he holds out a shiny red apple which indeed is wrapped in plastic.
Brad is not usually the goofy type, in fact he is not in any way goofy so he turns a bright shade of red when he hears what sounds like a giggle escape his lips.

“Brad, right?”

Brad nods his head, dragging his eyes away from Nate’s hypnotising lips.

“Nate Fick, it’s a pleasure to meet you” if Brad was mistaken he is sure he sees Nate’s tongue flick over his lips and a flirtatious wiggle in one of his eyebrows. He does not have time to acknowledge this or even think about how to reciprocate because Nate walks back over to the bench, leaving Brad in a confused silence.

“Well, well, well. Fuck me pink!” Ray breaks his silence, coming up beside Brad and folding his arms across his chest smugly.

“Shut up Ray” Brad mutters, watching as Sid and Roe make room for Nate to sit down.

“I never thought this day would come. The day my Brad finally makes an absolute tit of himself in front of the man of everyone’s dreams. Well done homes, really smooth”

“I said shut up”

Ray laughs and takes Brad’s drink before squeezing onto the bench beside Walt, uprooting half the table.

Brad doesn’t even notice that Ray had took his drink or that he had bought one in the first place and he places another coin in the slot. The sound of the coin slinking down to join all the others snaps him out of his dumfounded silence. He watches in the reflection of the vending machine as Nate bites into the apple he saved and feels himself blushing as Nate licks his lips.

“Damn it” he growls and instead of joining Ray and the others, he walks to his cabin in a huff.

~~

“Oh man you should have seen Luz today in cookery! Funniest shit ever” Perconte is shouting to anyone at the bench who can hear and Luz is smiling amusedly into his sandwich. Hoosier is also laughing, a sight that truly confuses Snafu.

“He was told a small amount of salt. What does the idiot do? He throws about a kilo of sugar into his fucking soup. I feel sorry for the poor fucker who has to taste that!”

The bench breaks out into laughter and Malarkey takes a flask out of his bag.

“You mean this soup?” he asks, throwing a furious look in Luz’s direction. Everyone looks between the two and begin laughing even harder.

The only person not joining in any of the fun is Webster, pointedly burying his head in a book, trying to ignore the rest of them. He snaps his head up angrily when a hand slaps his book shut onto the table.

“It’s rude to read at the table, didn’t your mother ever tell you that Web?” Liebgott says from across the table, looking at Webster over the rim of his glass. Webster pinches the bridge of his nose and is about to retort but that’s when Babe walks in and everyone cheers loudly, standing up to make room for him. Liebgott and Webster remain seated, glaring at each other silently.

“What’s with you and Joe?” Leckie whispers to Webster after everyone realises Babe is ok.

“He is an imbecile” Webster spits out, hoping Liebgott overhears. Leckie just looks at him with a small smile on his face and returns to his food.

Their next activity is one shared by the whole camp and it’s a whole three hours of physical activity. Something most of them are having trouble dealing with.

“If any of those schmucks thinks that I’m gonna be running around for three hours has another think coming” Luz shouts, the usual cigarette hanging from his top lip. Hoosier lifts his bottle of Coke in agreement and there are a few mutters of approval around the bench.

“I think it is a good idea” Nate announces.

“Of course you do, you’re built like a tank” Sid grumbles into his folded arms.

“Ok before we all start complaining like a bunch of pussies let’s have a bet to see who will drop first, it might shut you guys up” Ray shouts from his end of the table. There is a silence as the idea makes its way around the bench. Suddenly there is an eruption of people shouting out names and throwing money into the centre of the bench.

It comes down to Perconte being the favourite to drop first and Fick is favourite to make it the whole three hours.

~~

Sledge slows down as he makes his way over to the field, most of the group running on ahead. He rubs his chest out of habit and gnaws on his lip. When he was five years old he suffered from bad heart murmur. It dissipated when he was eight, only to return worse than ever when he was twelve, restricting him from taking part in normal twelve year old activities. It explained why Sid was his only friend back home in Mobile Alabama. He was never allowed go paintballing or karting, Sid was the only one who stayed with him when everyone else was off having fun.

His father, a doctor, took care of him, nursing him back to health until the murmur disappeared again only last year. He was told not to perform any strenuous exercise or anything that would leave him short of breath.

“What’s the matter, scared you’ll lose?” he hears Snafu’s voice cut through his thoughts like a knife.

“Yeah actually, I put twenty dollars in there” he lies, laughing quietly and removing his hand from his chest. He feels uneasy under Snafu’s intense glare, almost like Snafu can smell the lie off him.

“Right. Well, you comin’? I wanna beat Hoosier” Snafu starts jogging towards the gate. Sledge ignores the internal battle in his head for now and follows Snafu onto the grass.

They are met by John and Spiers who are decked out in army gear.

“Hey Brad, bet you’re rocking a tent right now looking at these homos” Ray shouts from the line-up creating a thrum of held back laughter amongst the group.

“Person, is it?” Spiers steps over to Ray, void of any expression. Ray stands his ground and looks up at Spiers.

“Sure is”

Spiers nods his head and acts like he is pondering over something in his head.

“See the flag at the top of that pole” Spiers points at a tall pole beside the tall wire-mesh fence at the other end of the field. Flying wildly in the breeze is a flag with the camp logo on it. Ray nods his head, eyes narrowing suspiciously.

“Get it for me. And if you don’t, these ‘homos’, will have you cleaning out their toilet for a week” and with that he marches Ray over to the pole. He returns moments later and hides his smile when he sees the shocked expressions on everyone’s face. Or the amused one on Brad’s.

Basically the field is set up like an army boot camp, except everything is painted in bright colours to make it appear less gloomy.

“I hope girls don’t show up. One- I’d look like a fucking idiot and two, their boobs would be-“ Skip begins to say to Malarkey, his hands clutching his pecs but he is cut off shortly by a loud whistle right in his ear. It seems Captain America is a little more than enthusiastic about this part of the day.

“I thought I threw that fucking thing out?” Leckie fumes to Webster who is clenching his fists at his side, ready to flip Captain America onto the ground. Spiers just looks at Captain
America tiredly and tells them all to line up into twos. There is a bit of a squabble to get in line but they eventually fall into place at the top of the tires.

Sledge is beside Roe who looks just as excited as he is to do this. He feels a tap on his back and turns around. Sid and Snafu are behind him.

“Sledge, what are you doing?” Sid hisses. His eyebrows are creased in concern and his eyes flicker between Sledge’s chest and his eyes.

“What does it look like?” Sledge tries to shut Sid up with his eyes but Sid pokes him again.

“Go sit down over there”

Snafu is looking between the two like he is watching a tennis match. A match he doesn’t know the rules to.

“Sid, cut it out”

Sid just gives him the dirtiest look he can muster which is a tiny frown. But Sledge can feel the anger radiating off him and turns back around. He feels a strong surge of guilt bubbling in his stomach. When John signals for them to begin, Babe and Luz take off, leading the way. Surprisingly they are both nimble on their feet and make it through the tires in no time. A few pairs later and Sledge sets off, making it past the tires with Roe no problem. He feels fine but the worrying thoughts are still lingering around his brain, making him feel weaker with every step.

“Oh Brad you look like such a fucking idiot” Ray roars from where he is standing at the bottom of the pole as Brad worms his way into the tunnel.

Sledge follows Brad and he can hear his own breathing echoing around the tunnel like it would in an empty opera hall. Knowing Sid is watching him, he troops on and only stops when he comes to the wall. He watches as Brad effortlessly climbs over the 8ft high structure and drops his hands to his knees, trying not to gasp for air. He fails and ends up hungrily gulping in the air around him.

He feels a hand or two on his back, maybe more, but doesn’t look up. He tries to focus on the intricate design on his shoe and waits until the small black dots go away. He is used to this and tries his best not to panic, especially now in front of all the guys.

“Come on Sledge” he hears Sid say, but he sounds far away, Sledge’s own breathing is so loud it is creating an invisible sound barrier.

“Eugene!” he hears a New Orleans voice bark and looks up. He meets Snafu’s intense stare and lets himself be led away from the course. John sits him down on one of the benches on the side of the field. Snafu and Sid sit either side of him while John kneels on the ground in front of him.

“What is it?” he asks Sledge, his face twisted with worry and when Sledge finally catches his breath, he points at his heart. Sid remains silent, knowing how private Sledge likes to keep this.

“You’re having a heart attack?!” John asks, his frown deepening. Sledge shakes his head.

“I…I’m not supposed to do exercise…I used to suffer from a heart condition” he coughs out, ears reddening as he feels Snafu’s eyes on him.

“Well Sledge, you could have told us that when you entered the camp! There is no way we would have let you do this. Shall I bring you to a hospital?” John asks, his voice thick with
concern. Sledge shakes his head again unable to string together a sentence.

“I just need to rest and take my medication” he says faintly and gratefully takes the bottle of water Sid hands him.

“I’ll take him” Sid announces, grabbing Sledge’s bag from the pile at the fence. Sledge notices as Snafu makes to join them but is distracted momentarily by shouts of anger from the course.

“See ya later” he says shortly, the flicker of concern in his eyes replaced by the usual blank page.

~~

After the few hours the boys are laying on the grass with the sun pouring down onto their already warm skin. They are arguing over who was the first to quit. Obviously Nate was the first one to finish and Skip was counting out his winnings. Sledge and Sid didn’t count obviously but they were all debating whether Runner or Malarkey was the first to go.

“I saw Runner over in the corner, eating a bar of chocolate while I was still swinging like a fucking idiot from the rope” Malarkey fumes as Runner keeps quiet with his head buried in the crook of his elbow.

“Malark, just admit it, you lost” Skip says, poking Malarkey in the side. Leckie shoots Runner a knowing look but Runner just shrugs innocently. They come to an agreement and it ends in them deciding that it is a tie and everyone gets their money back anyway. Something Skip is highly unimpressed with.

“Ok, you guys deserve a good rest after that. I actually wasn’t expecting such an enthusiastic response” Spiers almost smiles and ignores the disgruntled murmur from the group.

This is when Ray runs over and hands the flag to Spiers, his eyebrows raised in amusement. Spiers looks down at the flag and calculates how to react. Nobody has actually ever even bothered to get the flag down.

“How?” is all he manages to ask.

“Well, when you place a flagpole beside a wire mesh fence, it can be quite easy to climb said fence, jump onto the pole and hoist yourself up to the top. Then you grab the flag and slide on down like the champ fireman that I am.” Ray is pacing the ground, delivering each line with an arrogant tone. Brad audibly groans from within the group and Spiers fights back a strangled laugh.

“Off you go” Spiers bites but watches after them with a small smile playing on his face.

“Man it feels good to be a legend” Ray sighs and earns a slap to the back of the head from Brad.

Thankfully they have the rest of the day off and they all go rushing back to Sledge’s cabin to check that he is ok. There is a moment where four of them are stuck in the doorway trying to get in until Nate finally takes charge and separates them into single file.

He is asleep in his room and Sid shushes them by frantically pressing his finger to his lips.

“Is he alright though?” Luz asks as he borrows a light from Hoosier.

“He is fine, he just needs to rest. So no offence guys but can you all get the hell out” Sid looks exasperatedly around the crowded cabin, especially at Babe who is resting dangerously on Chuckler’s shoulders. They all start to leave, avoiding a roadblock this time. Liebgott, Hoosier and Skip run for the shower and squabble violently over who gets in
first. Eventually they rock, paper, scissors for it and Skip triumphantly marches into the bathroom.

~~

That night they all gather in Cabin 24 after dinner. Webster seems to have cheered up slightly and with the absence of Captain America’s whistle he even lets himself laugh when something is particularly amusing. Sledge and Sid walk in after a while and everyone busies themselves making room for Sledge to sit on the couch.

“Hoos get the fuck up”

“Babe, seriously, your legs are not even that long how did I just trip over them?”

“Ow Ray”

“RAY!!”

“Oh god you just elbowed me in the balls!”

Sledge is trying to get everyone to stop scurrying around for him but nobody is listening so he just plonks himself down beside Hoosier and watches everyone with an amused expression on his pale face. When they’ve finally made themselves comfortable, everyone turns to look at Sledge. Their eyes are wide open as if waiting for him to spontaneously combust and he bursts out laughing.

“I’m OK! Jesus guys I just had a bit of a breathing problem, no big deal” he lies and avoids looking at Snafu who pulled his head back in confusion. He just silently hopes Snafu will keep quiet about the whole heart murmur thing. He doesn’t want anyone feeling sorry for him and is already embarrassed enough that Snafu knows.

Everyone settles down after that and they spend the rest of the evening getting to know more about each other and laughing throughout the night.

Chapter Text

After a week and a half at the camp everyone has got relatively used to their new schedules and life at the camp in general. Out of all the cabins, the only one that seems to have potential trouble is eighteen. Where Leckie, Webster and Chuckler are at their wits end with Captain America.

“Man, no matter what I do, he just always has another damn whistle” Leckie groans one afternoon as a few of them laze around cabin 24.

“Just wait, one day he will blow it around me or Snaf and then shit will really go down” Hoosier grumbles, absentmindedly taking a cigarette off Liebgott.

“God help him” Runner whistles before he walks into the bathroom to have a shower. Hoosier smirks in acknowledgement and angrily shakes his lighter when the flame refuses to appear.

“Here” Leckie roots around in his pocket and fishes out a green lighter and hands it to Hoosier. Their fingers lightly brush but they both pull away as if they received an electric shock. Nobody else notices their interaction and Hoosier lights his cigarette hurriedly while Leckie internally screams at his brain to stop turning his face a bright shade of crimson. There is quite an awkward silence until Webster lunges into the cabin.

“Hey guys have any of you seen-“ he stops when Liebgott’s head rises from where it was buried in the fridge.

“Web” Liebgott nods his head at Webster, the usual smirk planted on his face which Skip has decided to call his ‘Webster smirk’.

“Joe” Webster returns the gesture and his hand visibly grips the doorknob harder.

“You were saying?” Leckie asks, eager to avoid any more moments with Hoosier. Webster’s eyes refocus and he looks around the room.

“Have you seen my green scarf? With the dark green stripes?” he asks and Liebgott snorts into the milk carton he was drinking out of. Everyone shakes their head and Webster glares at Liebgott before disappearing again.

Runner comes running out of the bathroom and seems to be oblivious to everyone else presence as he skirts around the room throwing various objects into his rucksack.

“Um, Runner?” Hoosier looks at Runner with an amused smile. Leckie stares at the way his lips pull up for a moment too long and Hoosier catches his eye. Leckie once again falls victim to a red face and Hoosier frowns into his mug of coffee.

“Gotta go, I’m late for Archery” Runner says breathlessly, shaking his wet hair in an effort to dry it.

“Oh fuck!” Hoosier exclaims and nearly drops his coffee when he stands up, throwing his cardigan on, one sleeve refusing to cooperate. Leckie watches this car crash and stands up to turn Hoosier’s sleeve inside out. His fingers brush the skin on Hoosier’s arm momentarily and he watches as a couple of goose bumps rise like sudden mountains on his skin.

“Thanks” Hoosier grumbles, avoiding Leckie’s eyes before thundering out the door with Runner.

“Jesus Leckie” Liebgott smiles from his perch on the kitchen countertop, watching as Leckie closes the door after them.

“What?” Leckie asks, trying to look innocent.

“You have a boner for Hoosier” Liebgott states, shaking the carton as if milk will magically reappear.

“No I do not” Leckie can feel his face betraying him.

“Sure you don’t” and with that Liebgott throws the carton in the bin before strutting out of the cabin, a familiar green scarf poking out the side of his backpack.

~~

“Ray, why in God’s name did you sign up for archery?” Brad huffs, watching as Ray jabs the air with an arrow. Walt is supressing his giggles and dodges Ray’s sharp elbows.

“One reason Bradley, two words. Zombie apocalypse.”

Brad raises his eyes to heaven and starts walking to the mounts were they are supposed to stand. Ray jogs after him and Walt follows Ray, eager to hear his reasoning.

“Listen dudes, at the end of the day, we are gonna run out of ammunition during the apocalypse and the only way we will be able to kill those flesh-eating motherfuckers is with the skill of archery” he ends his point by waving an arrow around like a wand.

“Hopefully you will be one of those flesh-eating motherfuckers. You already have the mother fucking in the bag and all you need is to suffer a hopefully painful bite from a zombie. You know why? So I can kill you with several large bullets to the jaw.” Brad coolly says, looking out at the targets, sizing them up. Ray sighs and turns to Walt.

“You’ll make sure I won’t get bitten won’t you?”

“Yes” Walt squeaks, avoiding Brad’s icy stare.

“Idiots” Brad mutters under his breath and nudges Ray to go to his mount when their archery teacher walks onto the field.

“The names Buck Compton and today I’m going to teach all of you how to hit a target from miles away and your aim is to kill. Got that?” he announces, the broad grin on his face a strange contrast to the grim words. Everyone nods their head and a few people glance around anxiously.

He starts by showing each of them how to hold the bow and place the arrows on the bow properly. He proceeds to show each of them the steps of shooting the arrow accurately.

He hits each targets bull’s-eye without breaking a sweat.

“Thank god Babe isn’t in this class” Perconte leans in to whisper to Luz whose tongue is stuck out in concentration as he tries to pull the arrow back on the string.

“Damn right” Luz agrees and releases the arrow to only have it flop pathetically to the ground.

“Oh man this is fucking exciting” Ray jitters and laughs at the girl beside Walt whose arrow made it about two inches down the field. Walt looks a bit pale and his hands are shaking as he takes an arrow out of the sheath between him and Ray.

“You ok?” Ray asks, noticing Walt’s shaky hands. Walt just nods his head and lines the arrow up. Ray shrugs and closes one eye as he concentrates on his target. He releases an arrow and to Brad’s dismay it goes sailing through the air, hitting the target.

“Congratulations” Buck booms and strides over to Ray. “Our first person to hit the target everyone, I have not seen a shot like that since Shifty Powers the first year this camp opened”

Ray raises his arms in victory and sticks his tongue out at Brad.

“Suck on that Iceman” he smiles and after Buck walks away, he picks out another arrow.

“I’m gonna slay these assholes” he grins and lines his arrow up. Before he can release it, Walt drops his bow and runs off the course. Ray and Brad look after him, eyebrows burrowed in confusion.

“What and the fuck” Ray wonders out loud and turns to look at Brad who shrugs.

Ray puts his bow down on the ground and decides to follow Walt. He eventually finds him in his cabin, crouched down at the toilet.

“Hasser?” Ray quietly lets his presence be known, looking at Walt’s back as he heaves into the toilet. He rushes up and rubs Walt’s back in small circular motions.

“It’s ok Ray, I’m fine, you can go back” Walt manages to say.

“No way homes, I’m gonna go see if Roe is not in class, maybe he can give you something for it, you just wait right there” Ray stands up to run out but Walt’s hand weakly raises to stop him.

“Don’t please, its just- it’s just an anxiety thing” he whispers, as if he is afraid to speak out of fear of vomiting again. Ray kneels down beside him, waiting for Walt to go on.

“I freaked out a little bit back there because-“

“Hey, listen you don’t have to tell me anything ok?” Ray says gently, sensing Walt’s discomfort.

“No, I want to tell you, it might help me. At least that’s what my therapist says, you know, speaking helps, all that shit” Walt says and has now sat down on the ground beside the toilet. Ray smiles at Walt, waiting for him to continue. Ray speaks a lot, he knows that, heck everyone knows it. But he prides himself on listening. Well… when the time calls for it at least.

“Well, when I was younger, like about seven or eight, me and my younger brother Daniel were out by the lake helping my father fish. It’s what we did every Saturday. My uncle l-lived with us at the time and he liked to show off a bit, using just about anything to kill the um, the fish. So um..” Walt starts to look sick again and Ray resumes rubbing his back, listening intently to Walt speak. “He had a small fishing spear in his hand and he um, he lodged it into the water, aiming for a particularly large fish. He hit my brother in the leg instead. It was a complete accident, of course, but unfortunately it pierced an important artery, and he um-“

Walt is talking so fast and robotically that Ray decides to stop him. “Yeah I can figure out the rest Walt” Ray says quietly, taking in Walt’s exterior and trying to figure out the interior.

“I just got a little freaked out with the arrows I guess. It reminds me of the blood” Walt shrugs and dives his head back into the toilet to get sick once again. Ray keeps rubbing his back and racks his brain for the right thing to say. He scolds himself for being good at mouthing off about just about anything but can’t even form simple comforting words for a friend.

“Ray, you don’t have to say anything” Walt senses Ray’s sudden discomfort. Ray mumbles an annoyed apology and rushes up onto his feet.

“Come on” he says and reaches out for Walt’s hand. Walt, now sprawled out on the tiles, eyes Ray’s hand suspiciously.

“Where are we going?”

“Come onnnn” Ray whines and when Walt reluctantly grasps his hand, he all but pulls Walt out of the cabin.

~~

Brad is helping Buck put away the targets and is struggling with removing an arrow that Hoosier had lodged deep in the wood. Something he won’t be letting any of them forget. Brad is so focused with the task at hand that he doesn’t hear the footsteps on the stones behind him.

“Need help?” says a voice directly behind him, causing him to jump, snapping the arrow in half. He whips around to give out shit to whoever it is and freezes when he sees that it is Nate.

“I’ve got this” he says briskly and returns to the now nearly impossible to remove arrow. He tugs at it a few more times before huffing out an impatient breath. Nate swoops in and from his pocket, takes out a Stanley knife. He raises his eyebrows at Brad before casually cutting where the arrow meets the board and watches it fall to the ground. They stare at each other for a few seconds before Brad finally averts his eyes.

“Thanks” he reluctantly says, offering Nate an even more reluctant smile.

“You can thank me by buying me a coffee”

Brad’s eyes widen in shock.

“I don’t mean a date you fucking moron, I just mean I forgot my money and really need a coffee” Nate laughs, taking in Brad’s sudden awkward mannerisms.

“Yeah I know” Brad snaps and starts to walk toward the dining hall. “You coming or what??” he asks Nate, walking backwards. Nate is still laughing and starts to jog over to meet Brad and walk over to the hall.

~~

Sitting at their bench is a grumpy looking Babe, jabbing his fork around his plate of salad. Brad and Nate share a glance before walking up and sitting on either side of Babe.

“Something the matter?” Nate asks, grabbing the fork before Babe smashes the plate.

“The boys wouldn’t let me join archery” Babe sulks.

Brad almost laughs and Nate politely coughs into his hand before resuming his serious persona.

“Well Babe, for someone who can’t even take Art without ending up in the hospital, I’m sure you can understand where they are coming from” he says. Babe goes to speak again but is interrupted by a clatter of plates from the other side of the hall.

“Watch where you’re fucking going” a voice shouts and their attention is now on a bench near the door to the hall. Babe, Nate and Brad all stand up when they realise that the person on the receiving end of the shouting is Gene.

“Urgh this asshole!” Babe mutters, glaring at the guy shouting.

“Who is he?” Nate asks.

“Craig Schwetje. He is in my First Aid class. He gets everyone to call him Encino Man. He is a total douche” Babe sighs and they turn to watch.

“Sorry, I had my head down” Gene apologises, his face turning pink.

“Yeah well you just made me drop three plates bozo, now pick them up!” Craig has his arms folded across his chest and is staring Gene down. Gene starts to bend down to pick up the plates but Babe walks up and stops him.

“He aint picking up nothin’ for nobody” Babe says, squaring up to the relatively larger boy, a defiant look on his face.

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah” Babe nods his head. Craig pushes Babe roughly and he falls back into Gene who falls to the ground with the sudden impact. All hell breaks loose when Babe jumps on Craig. Craig’s friends start to dive on top of both Babe and Craig, who have toppled over onto the ground. Nate and Brad step in and start prying people apart as more and more boys from Craig’s bench join in. Some girls who are passing by stop and observe with bored expressions on their faces. Brad and Nate are too busy lifting people up off of Babe that they don’t notice the punch that lands directly between Gene’s eyes, knocking him to the floor once more.

Thankfully Liebgott, Hoosier and Malarkey chose that moment to walk in. It took them about a second to register what was going on and immediately jump into the roaring crowd. Hoosier grabs the arms of the boy about to hit Gene again and points him towards Liebgott who smacks him in the mouth. They smirk proudly at each other when they boy runs off and dive back into the fight. Malarkey grabs Gene by the scruff of his shirt and drags him away to an empty bench.

“You ok Gene?” Malarkey asks, pulling Roe’s bottom eyelids down.

“You gouging out my eyes is really helping” Gene groans, clutching his nose which has turned a bright shade of red.

They hear a whistle blowing amidst the throng of fist-throwing boys and know that Captain America is in there somewhere. Nate emerges from the crowd with a small guy in his grip and flings him onto a bench before brushing his hands off and re-joins Brad who is still trying to pry Babe off Craig.

After what seems like half an hour of loud shouts and bangs, Spiers and Winters rush into the hall. Winters rushes over to Malarkey and Gene to make sure they are ok whilst Spiers takes control of the situation. With a few quick mutters in Nate and Brad’s ears, they have everyone separated in a matter of seconds.

“OK what the hell happened in here?” Winters demands, pacing in front of the line of jostled up boys. They all break out into a babble of their own stories at the same time and Winters quietens them with a sharp wave of his hand.

“You” he points at Craig who is holding a bleeding lip and sporting a black eye. “What happened?”

“That idiot knocked plates out of my hand and I told him to pick them up” he points at Gene. “And then this fucker stepped up and acted all brave” he then points at Babe who is clutching a reddening neck and gasping for air. Winters eyebrow curves up, already guessing what happened next. “So I shoved him to get him to shut the fuck up and well, we all lost our cool”.

“I want all of you to apologise to each other and as punishment, you are not permitted to leave the camp this weekend” Winters announces after careful consideration. There is a frustrated grumble of apologies and harsh words against Winters’ punishment.

“Ok, our job is done here and if any of you are caught doing something like this again, you’ll be asked to go home. Anyone who is injured goes straight to the infirmary. Oh and Schwetje, you watch your language when you’re talking to me in future, you understand?” Winters says, shooting them all a stern look before leaving the hall. Before Spiers joins him, he grabs the whistle out of Captain America’s red-knuckled hand and pockets it.

~~

“Ray where are we going?” Walt asks, following Ray to the very edge of the camp beyond the cabins.

Ray doesn’t answer and stops at the edge of the fence. There is a tiny hole in the wire that only someone like Ray could fit through and he crawls through it with ease. He stretches it open and patiently waits for Walt to join him.

“Well come the fuck on Walt, I have not got all day” Ray whines.

“Will I get in trouble if we get caught” Walt asks.

“We won’t get caught” Ray laughs and Walt crawls through the gap and grumbles in complaint when he gets mud on his new jeans.

Ray looks positively delighted and starts jogging over the grass. Walt watches him exasperatedly and follows him.

They finally come to what appears to be Ray’s destination. It is a small mound of dirt in the middle of the grassy field. There is a small dent on the top where it looks like someone had been sitting.

“This is my spot” Ray beams, looking at the mound of dirt like it is his pride and joy. Walt looks at it with disinterest and back at Ray who is watching him carefully.

“Just sit on it and look over there” Ray huffs, pointing out at the city in the distance. Walt hesitates before sitting on the mound of dirt. Ray stands behind him and Walt looks over at New York’s skyline. It looks beautiful, almost black in the shadow of the setting sun. Walt is silent as he takes in the sight.

“It’s nice right?” Ray says, watching Walt.

Walt nods and turns to look at Ray. They smile shyly at each other. Walt tries to ignore the sudden burst of warmth spreading across his chest but finds it difficult.

“Don’t tell anyone I come here, they’ll think I’m some kind of softie” Rat laughs and nudges Walt to move over so he can fit on the mound.

They sit there until it goes dark and walk back to the camp in silence.

~~

There is a rush of bodies as people watch the red-nosed Gene and Malarkey who are carrying Babe into Gene’s cabin. He is still gasping for air and he is now clutching his chest. Liebgott is being held up by Hoosier and is laughing through a mouthful of blood, follows them in too.

“Clear out of the way” Gene shouts, sitting Babe down on the sofa, he casts a look at Liebgott and realises he will be ok due to the fact that Snafu is currently admiring his shining red teeth. He focuses solely on Babe who is still struggling for air.

“Hey, look at me” he mutters and softly grabs Babe’s chin in his hand. Babe’s eyes look out of focus as he meets Gene’s concerned gaze. Gene whispers breathing instructions to Babe whilst Liebgott spits his final mouthful of blood in the sink. Nate and Brad walk in and Hoosier bitches at them for not having a single scratch. They ignore him and walk over to Babe and Gene.

“You guys ok?” Brad asks, watching Babe who seems to be breathing steadily now.

“Yes, thank you” Gene nods gratefully at Brad and Nate.

“No need to go to the infirmary then?” Nate asks and looks reassured when Gene shakes his head, still focused on Babe.

“Ok, I’m ok” Babe finally says, smiling shortly at them all, his chest still moving up and down frantically. Brad and Nate take this as their cue to leave and brush out of the cabin just as fast as they walked in.

“I wish I had been there, I would have fucked shit up!” Snafu sighs, looking at Liebgott who is dramatically re-enacting the fight with Hoosier.

“Why did you start that Babe?” Gene asks, frowning at Babe.

“I’m not letting some asshole walk all over my friends.” Babe replies shortly, meeting Gene’s fiery look with one of his own. Gene just sighs and flops down on the couch beside Babe. After a while he nudges Babe’s leg with his knee and has a smile on his face.

“It was kinda funny when you jumped on that guy’s back” he snorts and Babe breaks out in a wide grin. Babe takes from that that Gene is grateful and looking around at the others he realises that a strong friendship now exists between them all.

Chapter Text

That weekend most of the guys were looking forward to the prospect of going into New York City on Saturday. All except Babe, Gene, Brad, Nate, Hoosier, Liebgott and Malarkey.

“Don’t worry, I’ll bring you back a doughnut” Ray slaps Brad on the shoulder as they all troop out of the camp in the early hours of Saturday morning. Brad ignores him but grabs Walt’s shoulder before he follows Ray out to the buses.

 

“Keep an eye on him” he mutters and Walt smiles and nods his head.

“Shits going to get RUCKUS” Luz shouts, offering Malarkey a sympathetic smile before hopping into the bus after Perconte who is wearing a neon green t-shirt that nobody had advised him to wear.

The only one who seems really annoyed that they are not going is Malarkey. He sulks off to his cabin as soon as the buses take off and nobody sees him for the rest of the day.

“Oh man, I hope Leckie really can get us some beer, that will be so awesome” Ray says to Walt, climbing over everyone’s seats with excitement.

“Have you ever been to a city before Person?” Chuckler asks as Ray’s leg shoots past his face.

“Yeah, I’ve been to lots of cities for NASCAR” Ray answers and finally settles down when Walt drags him down onto the seat. Everyone snorts and Ray frowns in confusion.

“Don’t get your hopes up!” Leckie grumbles, looking up from his book.

“Don’t be such a downer Leckie!” Runner shouts from the back. Leckie just raises his eyes and settles down for a good read.

He doesn’t manage that as the whole bus erupts into song at Ray’s sudden clap for ‘Tainted Love’.

“Brad is missing out” he laughs when they are finished their somewhat painful rendition.

They arrive in New York after an hour of travelling. They clamber off the bus and Winters tries to tell them to meet him back at the bus at ten but is certain no one hears him because they are all rushing off to find the nearest restroom.

“We really need to stop bringing them to New York” he texts Nixon and sighs heavily when he watches Snafu elbow a tourist who got too close to him. He rushes after the main crowd who are traipsing into the McDonalds just off Times Square.

~~

“This blows” Babe moans when another episode of Wife Swap finishes on the television in his cabin. Gene pokes his head out of the kitchenette and laughs.

“You only have yourself to blame” he says.

Liebgott is asleep on the couch; his legs sprawled out on the less than impressed Hoosier who is absentmindedly peeling the label off his bottle of Dr Pepper.

“Where are Brad and Nate?” Gene asks, dodging the balls of paper Hoosier is throwing around.

“Nate is trying to perfect his archery skills and Brad is probably watching him like the creep he is” Babe replies, flicking the station and beams when Mythbusters comes on. “Finally- explosions!”

In fact, Babe is completely right. Nate is in the archery grounds and Brad is sitting on the bench behind him, pretending not to be staring at the way Nate’s muscles flex every time he releases another arrow. They are discussing the merits of joining the marines, something which Brad is adamant on doing once he builds up the courage to tell his mother.

“Is that why you came here?” Nate asks, looking around the camp. Rumour has it that attending various camps or gay shit like the scouts is a good place to come before joining anything to do with the military. Brad shrugs.

“Either that or the very persuasive words of Ray Person dragged my sorry ass all the way here” Brad mutters and hears Nate huff out a laugh.

“Do you regret coming here?” Nate smiles smugly as he watches his arrow sink into the centre of the target. Brad looks up at Nate’s profile and feels his stomach clench. He thinks both yes and no.

“I guess not” he mutters, watching Nate carefully and the corner of Nate’s mouth turns up into a smile. Brad feels extremely annoyed as he realises with a sinking feeling that he has a big man-crush on Nate fucking Fick. Ray will get a kick out of this one.

~~

“Luz, the tomato sauce is supposed to go into one of these, not directly into your mouth” Winters sighs, thrusting a paper dish into Luz’s hand and pulls him out from under the sauce dispenser. As everyone eats, Leckie takes the opportunity to sneak off to the nearest liquor store, his fake ID resting like a massive weight in this pocket. It always worked for him back in Pennsylvania but this is New York, things might be different here. He already paid their bus driver twenty dollars to let him put cases of beer onto the bus without it falling into Winters’ knowledge.

He walks into the store with confidence and the worker briefly looks up at him before returning back to his magazine. Leckie lets out his held in breath and walks over to the beers, deciding that vodka might not be the best thing for the likes of Ray, Luz and Babe. He finds a deal that suits his budget and staggers up to the counter with his arms stacked up with two cases.

The worker doesn’t even bother to look up from his magazine as he scans the cases.

“I’ll be coming back for two more of these” Leckie tells him and receives a grunt of acknowledgment in return. Leckie smiles broadly, not believing his luck and makes his way over to the bus. The bus driver shoots suspicious looks around the place, looking out for Winters. He swiftly stocks the beer into the luggage compartment and Leckie returns ten minutes later with two more cases.

“Jesus” the bus driver raises his eyes and looks uncomfortable as he places them under the bus. Leckie thanks him and hopes that everybody is still in McDonalds. `He catches them as they are all leaving and Runner grins knowingly at him, nudging his side with excitement. Leckie avoids the others eye contact in case someone blurts it out and they all get in trouble.

~~

After Liebgott finally woke up and trudged after Hoosier to the dining hall, Gene and Babe were left alone in the cabin, engrossed in an episode of CSI.

“I would totally bone Craig” Babe notes as the character Craig takes a swab of blood from a corpse on the screen. Gene almost chokes on his water. Babe turns to look at him sharply.

“You’re-“

“Gay” Babe finishes Gene’s statement, prepared for an argument if necessary.

“Oh” Gene simply says and they return their gazes back to the TV but now Babe is pondering on Gene’s reaction and Gene is contemplating telling Babe the same thing.

“Cause of death?” Catherine asks from the TV and Gene turns to look at Babe whose face is currently matching his hair.

“So am I” he announces and Babe turns to look at him.

“No shit” he laughs, gaping at Gene.

“Why do you seem so surprised, is it because of my manliness?” Gene jokes.

“Obviously” Babe says with a broad smile and the two of them watch the rest of the show in a heavy but comfortable silence.

~~

Snafu is wishing he had been in the fight in the cafeteria when he is dragged into another photo with the naked cowboy on Times Square. He definitely won’t be telling Hoosier about this one.

“What’s wrong Snafu, is his massive bulge distracting you?” Ray quips from his position under the cowboys spread legs. Sledge is on Snafu’s right and raises his hand to his mouth to keep his laughter in. Snafu looks at him, feigning an angry expression. Sledge shrugs innocently and smiles for the disposable camera in Skip’s hand. When they think they are finally done, Ray jumps up and grabs the cowboys face in his hand and plants a wet kiss on his lips. The cowboy is struggling to throw Ray off who is gesturing wildly at Skip to take a photo. After a few seconds of shock, Skip quickly takes the photo and they all run off as soon as Ray lets go. They don’t stop running until they are reasonably far from the cowboy’s position.

Everyone clutches their sides from both laughter and exhaustion.

“Brad is going to kill me” Walt groans as he wipes the tears from his eyes.

“Feels good man, feels good” Ray grins, pleased with everyone’s reaction.

Winters who had been watching from the opposite side of the road, is texting Nixon what just happened with an amused grin on his face.

“You ok?” Snafu quietly asks Sledge who is clutching his side like everyone else.

“Why wouldn’t I be?” Sledge smiles confusedly at Snafu who raises an eyebrow at Sledge’s chest.

“Oh yeah, no I’m fine, honestly” Sledge says and smiles to himself when Snafu shrugs as if he didn’t care in the first place. They seek out Winters’ approval before they all hop on the sightseeing bus, sitting at the very top which in some cases is both hilarious and dangerous. Walt had to have a constant grip on Ray’s arm and Chuckler was the same with both Luz and Perconte, an extremely difficult task on his behalf.

~~

Back at camp, Liebgott and Hoosier were bored so they decided to wreak havoc in the camp in the sneakiest way possible. For some time, they sat in their cabin, mulling over ideas in their head.

Suddenly, Hoosier raises his head from his arms with a wicked grin on his face.

“Tell me” Liebgott sits up, waiting to hear the plan. Hoosier tells him what he needs to hear and in a matter of seconds they are both out the door and heading over to cabin 18. Hoosier roots around under the various plant pots on the porch and smirks when he finally acquires the key.

“Bingo” he whispers and holds his breath as he turns the lock. Liebgott bursts in when the door opens and Hoosier follows suit.

“So whose room first?”

“Captain America’s- we need to find his whistles and destroy them” Hoosier grumbles and turns the handle to Captain America and Webster’s room.

It doesn’t take long to decipher which side of the room is whose. Webster’s is on the left, the sheets on his bed crumpled but put together as neatly as possible. Books are spread all over the place and various items of clothing are thrown across a suitcase at the end of his bed. Captain America’s bed sheets are folded precisely as they should be, several compartment boxes lie under his bed where Hoosier finds his belonging and clothes.

“What a square” Liebgott huffs as he eyes up Webster’s side of the room angrily.

Hoosier roots in the compartment boxes but finds no whistles.

“This kid is a total douche” he concludes and pockets a lighter he finds lying amongst Captain America’s stationary.

He makes his way over to Webster’s side and picks up a book lying on his pillow.

“The complete works of WB Yeats” Hoosier reads and scoffs before throwing the book open and picks a page at random.

“I will arise and go now..” he begins in a fake British accent and raises his pinkie finger daintily in the air.

“Dude, Yeats was Irish” Liebgott scorns, but laughs as Hoosier continues in a now terrible Irish accent.

“Man that poem is dreary” Hoosier mutters when he is finished and ignores Liebgott’s glare.

“I like it” Liebgott shrugs. Hoosier just sighs and hands Liebgott the book before moving onto Webster’s clothes which he swaps with some of Captain Americas. Liebgott hesitates before joining him, the two of them laughing evilly. They leave the cabin and when Hoosier is not looking, Liebgott throws the book onto the kitchen counter.

They proceed to the different cabins, doing stupid shit like throwing toilet paper down the toilet, swapping the salt for sugar, all while laughing the whole time. They come to an end at Brad’s cabin where Babe and Gene are inside, laughing at something on the TV.

“What do we do now?” Hoosier asks, stubbing out his cigarette on the porch. Liebgott shrugs.

“It sounds like Drake and Josh is on” he says and the two of them join Babe on Gene on the couch.

~~

It is nearly ten when the boys leave the cinema where they had not paid one bit of attention to the film they had been supposed to be watching, well apart from Webster who was raging when he missed the pivotal scene due to Skip standing in front of him to lean over and take some of Luz’s popcorn.

They traipse onto the bus and when Winters thinks they will be relatively quiet due to the fact they had been on their feet all day, he is sorely mistaken. After suffering another rendition of Total Eclipse of the Heart, he texts Nixon. He is almost positive these guys are going to throw a party of some sort and when Nixon texts back “I might join them, these girls are giving me a headache” Winters pinches the bridge of his nose.

They finally return after an hour and Winters is first off the bus, meeting John and Nixon off theirs. They gather on the porch of their cabin and keep their eye on Winters’ bus.

They watch as Leckie with the help of Runner and Chuckler, carry the four crates of beer over to their cabin. They look at each other and Nixon shrugs.

“Where is Spiers?” John asks, breaking the exasperated silence.

“He text me earlier to let me know they will be late because some of the kids on his bus vomited after too much ice cream” Nixon laughs and walks into the cabin to grab a beer of his own.

Winters casts one more look over to the cabins and reluctantly follows Nixon and John inside.

~~

Everyone troops into Brad’s cabin and the place that was once quiet, bar the odd complaint from Hoosier, is now buzzing with noise.

“Turn that cowboy shit off Ray” Brad calls out when he walks into the cabin with Nate at his side. Ray grumbles and lets his iPod be replaced with Luz’s who seems to have every Britney Spears album on it.

“Did you behave?” Brad asks Ray who is holding a beer in each hand.

“Of course I did Brad. Did you?” Ray whines and then nods over to Nate with a cocky expression on his face. Brad blushes and mutters that he has no idea what Ray is talking about before ducking into the kitchen to grab a beer.

“Where is Malark?” Skip asks with a frown on his face.

“He has been in one of his PMS moods all day; go tell him the party is in full swing” Babe replies from his perch on the windowsill.

“How long have you guys been friends?” Gene asks, keeping a careful eye on Babe who is this close to falling off the ledge.

“Since kindergarten” Babe answers, a proud set to his smile and laughs when Skip trips as he walks out the door.

“You got a best friend Gene?” Babe asks.

Gene blushes and looks into his drink as if something interesting was floating around the alcohol.

“Well not really no” he mutters and jumps when Babe clasps a hand on his shoulder.

“Not to worry, you’ll make some here” Babe grins and downs the rest of his beer.

Gene laughs silently and sighs, hoping that after three years of coming here that Babe is right.

“LETS GET THIS SHIT STARTED” Skip shouts, bursting in the door with Malarkey trailing after him looking delighted that everyone is back.

After an hour or two the beers are rapidly decreasing- as is their sobriety. Unless you are Brad who needs at least ten more glasses of straight vodka to lose his cool. Which is why he is confused when he finds himself following Nate around like a lost puppy.

“Brad, unless you want to join me, I’d really like to pee in private” Nate smirks, trying to break eye contact with Brad as he closes the bathroom door.

“Are you flirting with me Nate?” Brad hears himself say with a smile on his face.

“Maybe I am” Nate shuts the door then and leaves Brad standing in the hall wishing he was dead.

“I can smell your boner from the porch homes” Ray pops his head around the corner, grinning at Brad widely. Brad drops his head against the wall and lets out an impatient breath.

“Ray-“

“Just kick down the door and take him already, at least you know his trousers will already be down, let him feel your Iceman icicle”

“RAY I WILL-“

“Guys, I can hear every word of this conversation” Nate’s muffled voice comes from the other side of the wall and the toilet flushes. Brad and Ray exchange worried and amused looks as the water runs and Ray makes a quick getaway when the door flies open. Brad flushes a dark red colour and makes to follow Ray. Nate’s smile stops him and the way his left eyebrow lifts just a little bit.

“I’m pretty sure Ray wants us to partake in some kind of sexual activities” Nate says, lifting his beer off the ground where he left it. Brad nearly chokes on his own spit.

“I’m sorry, he is an idiot”

“Don’t apologise, I think it’s…cute” Nate laughs.

 

Brad just stares at Nate open-mouthed. Nate’s eyebrow lifts even more and Brad can’t help but hold his breath when Nate’s tongue flicks out to lick his bottom lip.

Brad is standing perfectly still against the wall and is staring at Nate like a fucking moron. Nate grumbles impatiently and puts his beer down again. He pushes Brad against the wall and kisses him. Hard. Brad freezes momentarily but once he realises that Nate Fick’s lips are touching his own he whips into action. He grabs the collar of Nate’s shirt and pulls him in even closer, hearing a low moan erupt in the back of Nate’s throat. When Nate opens his mouth Brad is convinced he passes out for a second. He pushes Nate away from the wall and without disconnecting any part of their entwined bodies; he finds his bedroom door and drags Nate inside.

“GET SOME!” Ray shouts from his corner and rushes over to tell Walt not to go into his room anytime soon.

~~

“And then she said, my boobs are not yours to touch, how rude is that?”

Spiers tries his best to ignore what he just heard as he walks into the cabin to make sure nothing too wild is happening. Unfortunately for him, he is immediately dragged into a game of truth and dare by an extremely drunk Sid.

“Hey guys, its Spiers” he shouts as he clings to Spiers’s collar, ignoring the terrifying glare from the subject in question. A few of the guys stop dead in their tracks, trying to decide whether to run or not.

“You’re choking the poor guy” Hoosier shouts from somewhere in the corner, hiding behind Snafu who looks sober but is quite the opposite. Sid looks to his left and realises that Spiers’s face is red and releases his grip, apologising in an ashamed voice.

“S’ok, and everyone relax, I’m just making sure nobody is dead” Spiers is trying to sound friendly but his glassy stare still has the guys on edge.

Suddenly feeling out of place Spiers turns to leave, happy with the goings on around him.

“Where you off to buddy? I’m about to dare Luz to do seven tequila shots in a row” Perconte leans in to mumble to Spiers as he tries to sneak out the door. Not knowing, nor wanting to know, where they managed to acquire some tequila, Spiers takes this as his cue to leave.

As he strolls past the cabin he holds back a laugh as he hears “No Ray, that jock strap is not mine” flow out the open window. Kicking some stones on the ground as he walks, Spiers ponders what could possibly lie ahead for the overcrowded cabin he just left behind.