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By the time Martin returns to the beach house, he is shivering so much that he could hardly breathe. He walks into the bathroom and takes a long, searing shower until the cold subsides. He expects something to happen. Some sort of residual emotion. Fear, guilt, shame, something. Nothing. Joy, giddy bubbling bliss? Arousal? None. He just feels… like himself.

And he hasn’t realized how long it has been since he has felt that way. He hadn’t even acknowledged before that he could be anything lesser than himself. How does that even work? But now, he feels… free, like he’s breathing deep gulps of sea air and this time, it doesn’t suffocate him. He lets his mind wander for a moment and it lands on the memory of Tomaz admitting to seeing him naked when he was in the showers. He looks across the bathroom to check if he left the door open again, but he had closed it. He smiles a little to himself. Not that he minds.

And that’s what surprises him the most. If the door were open and he caught Tomaz staring at him, he doubts he’d mind. He’d probably smile a little at him, quiet, private, soft. He likes Tomaz, genuinely likes the guy. His company, his hair (even when it’s blue), his fingers as he sketches, the way Martin barely has to look at Tomaz to know that he has his attention, that he’d listen, he’d hear the dull ache every time Martin talks about his childhood and wouldn’t flinch at that. Martin doesn’t really make a habit out of talking about his father with other people; he supposes they’d offer pity, consolation, a hug. He doesn’t need any of that. He has lived through this long enough to know how to carry his own bruises. All he ever needed was just being able to talk about it, without anyone smothering him with sympathy. Just let him talk, which he doesn’t do much at home. And Tomaz, he gets that. He has always only listened, grunted, said a few words, “that sucks, man,” “your dad shouldn’t have”, “yeah it’s not on you”. Quiet affirmations that life had been horrible, but no pity in that. Just acceptance. I hear you.

He steps out of the shower with the thought, mindlessly wipes himself dry and puts on a worn t-shirt and clean boxers. When he opens the door, he finds Tomaz awake, leaning against the head rest and looking out at the sea. He doesn’t seem to acknowledge Martin’s presence although he knows he’s not alone. Martin grabs a cigarette and goes to climb into bed and sit next to Tomaz. There is reasonable distance between them that neither would feel like their personal space is violated. The room is silent except for soft breaths and Martin blowing out smoke. Neither felt compelled to talk for a long while. Martin shakes his legs lightly as he stares at the sea when he hears Tomaz take a breath as though he wanted to say something. Martin turns his head a little to look straight ahead at the wall opposite him to show that he’s listening.

“Where were you?”

He takes another puff and offers the cigarette to Tomaz. He answers as he exhales, “The beach. I went for a walk. And a swim.”

Tomaz huffs a little at that, “It’s fucking cold out there.”

“Yeah, couldn’t feel my balls.”

They snigger quietly. Tomaz passes the last of the cigarette to Martin and he snuffs out the fire in the ashtray on the table next to the bed.

“I thought you were gone.”

“Gone?” Martin looks over incredulously. “Dude, you drove me here,” he says with a disbelieving laugh.

“Yeah, yeah I know. I meant like… I don’t know. I just thought…”

Martin smacks him lightly upside the head and mutters, “Idiot.”

After a few moments of quiet contemplation, Tomaz shifts in bed as he yawns and asks, “When do you wanna leave?”

“Hmmm…” Still looking out the window, Martin replies, “Whenever.”

“That’s not an answer.”

“I don’t know, dude. I don’t care. If you’re in a hurry, we can leave in a bit.”

Tomaz lightly thuds his head against the headrest and looks up at the ceiling.

“Are you in a hurry?” Martin adds. “You wanna go see your boyfriend? We can leave after breakfast.”

He smiles a little as he says it, but he can’t help but recognise something hardening in his chest. A coiling in his stomach. Unpleasant and almost nauseating. He didn’t think it would bother him as much; after all, Tomaz is his best friend and will always be around, but after last night, perhaps he hasn’t noticed it before this, perhaps he thought maybe things would change between them. Perhaps he had hoped. Without his consent, his heart had set into motion a desire for more. He really should have known.

Tomaz side-eyes him and grumbles, “He’s not my boyfriend.”

Martin looks down at his lap and takes a steady breath, “Do you regret?”


“You know what, dude.” He lightly gestures to the both of them.

“Do you?”

He knocks his shoulder playfully against Tomaz’s only to have him nudge Martin back.

“I asked you first, idiot.”

“Well, I’m not answering to someone who calls me an idiot.”

“But you are an idiot.”

“Really now? Very mature.”

Martin’s smile grows for a moment before he grabs a pillow and places it on his lap for the lack of something to do with his hands.

“I don’t. Do you?” Tomaz says, looking at Martin but when he looks back, he drops his glance.

Martin resolutely looks at Tomaz as he replies, “No. I don’t regret it.”

Tomaz glances up for a second and this time doesn’t look away. They share a smile. Martin doesn’t know what game they are playing at. He doesn’t think he minds.

Feeling a little braver, he glances down at Tomaz’s lips before meeting his eyes again, “So… about your boyfriend—“

“He’s not,” Tomaz replies without skipping a beat. “I care for him, I like him, he lets me be-- ”

“Gay?” Martin asks jokingly.

Tomaz knocks his palm across Martin’s forehead and chuckles. “Yeah, I can be gay with him. I like that. But it’s still so new and I am not sure if I want him to be my boyfriend.”

“Do you want me to be?” Martin asks.

“My boyfriend?”

“Yeah, I guess. I don’t know if I’m gay; I like women.” He softly adds, “But I also like you.”

Tomaz grins and for a moment, everything is warm and safe. Safe. A word that Martin has always been cautious with. I trust you to keep me safe.

“Do you want to be my boyfriend?”

“I don’t know,” Martin answers honestly. “But I know I definitely don’t want him to be yours. I’ve not met the guy but… yeah.”

Tomaz’s face lights up with what looks like hope, “Shall we try? You and I? We can take our time. Would you want that?”

Martin mirrors him as he replies, “I do. If you want this too.”

Tomaz leans in then and pauses a breath away from his lips. Martin meets him halfway and they kiss chastely. Martin gives him small kisses. Light and fleeting. But when Tomaz groans a little, he smiles and presses into him harder, opening up under Tomaz’s tongue. He can’t tell how long they’ve been kissing but when Tomaz parts from him, he still feels the tingling buzz against his lips, between his ribs, in the pit of his belly.

“How about your dad though?” Tomaz asks as he strokes the hair at Martin’s temple.

“I don’t think this is any of his business. I’d rather he not know.”

“Okay,” Tomaz whispers as he leaves a small kiss on Martin’s nose. He nuzzles his cheek and breathes against his right ear, “Maybe we can stay here a little longer. Few more days, you think?”

Martin places his lips against Tomaz’ warm neck and melts into the half embrace as he wraps his arm around the other boy’s waist, “Okay.”

“Okay,” Tomaz mumbles as he pushes Martin flat on his back. Martin doesn’t mind this at all.