Chapter 1: January - "We start the year off fine"
Author's Note: This story is a sorta continuation of my 2017 Pride fic, When We Rise.
The first sound of 2018 to greet Hamish Haddock was the disgruntled meows of his cat, Toothless.
"Ugggghhh." He groaned as he flopped over onto his back, his legs tangled up in his bed sheet. The mass of black fur looked at him expectantly, and pawed at his face for a few minutes before the cat's owner finally gave in. "Alright, alright... I'm up, Toothless."
Disentangling his limbs, Hamish sat up and gave the feline (which they were still yet to determine whether he was a Norwegian Forest Cat or a Maine Coon) a rub under the chin, and just above the base of his partially-amputated tail. Toothless purred happily for a moment, before he leapt down from the bed and onto the carpeted floor. "We've got to have another conversation about which one of us is the master and which one of us is the pet."
Hamish quickly dressed and grabbed his phone from his desk. He unplugged the charging cable and swiped the screen to check if he'd gotten any messages. He scrolled through the various New Years' well-wishing and Facebook posts he'd gotten, his face lighting up the instant he noticed a quick message from Jack:
He grinned and let out a short chuckle as he made his way to the kitchen with the hungry cat, it looked like the other young man had had a good time last night.
Hamish indulged Toothless with a moment to make sure the feline was enjoying the tin of chicken the green-eyed man had just prepared. Satisfied with the fact the four-pawed ninja was tucking into his breakfast with gusto, Hamish fed himself with a quick bowl of cereal before he brought up Jack's message again.
He checked the time on his phone; it was a little after half-past ten. He pressed the call button on Jack's contact and hoped that the other young man hadn't gone to bed at dawn... Although that was possible.
The phone rang three times before it was answered with an indecipherable: "Hurrhn?"
Hamish let out an amused snort. "Well, good morning and Happy New Year!"
The muffled sounds of movement made their way down the line, and after a minute Jack's voice returned, much more awake. "Heeeey. Happy New Year gorgeous."
"Sorry about waking you."
"S'okay. I probably would've slept in 'til the afternoon if you hadn't called, so you did me a solid."
"What time did you go to bed last night?"
There was a notable pause before Jack's hesitant response. "Late?"
Hamish shook his head in playful ruefulness. "You're your own worst enemy."
"Actually that would be Bunny. I get on just swell with myself."
"If you say so. Welcome to twenty-eighteen!" Hamish announced.
"Yaaay!" Jack responded with a thick layer of sarcasm. "Where are the robots and flying cars?"
"They were banned. By Trump. Apparently the robots were going to be made by South Korea and the flying cars by Japan, so he stopped them because they weren't American-made."
"Yeah." Hamish jokingly agreed. "They were gonna be amazing." He added in mock wistfulness.
"I know it can't be fake news when you say it." Jack chuckled. "How was your party last night?"
Hamish shifted on the kitchen stool to recline a little against the countertop. "Try to imagine it: Dad and Gobber, at least a couple of glasses of Akvavit in them already, greeting everyone enthusiastically and really letting themselves go with singing Auld Lang Syne."
Hamish winced a little at the volume of Jack's laugh. "I wish I could've seen that!"
"Dad's always been a good singer, but I'm surprised Gobber didn't break anything made of glass when he finished off the song."
"I'm not expecting to see either one of them up any time soon, and I guess they both deserve to have the morning off."
"Yeah. Was Astrid there?"
"For a little bit. Her Uncle and his family visits her's for Christmas and New Year's every year, so they usually have a family gathering."
"So talking about things we've been doing, what are you doing this week?"
Jack made a thoughtful noise down the phone line. "Nick's having a few of the family friends over later for a New Year's Day meal. I'm probably going to hang out with Jamie and some of his friends tomorrow... But beyond that I haven't gotten anything planned."
The auburn-haired man had been banking on Jack's weekend being free. "Do you want to meet up this weekend?"
Jack's voice sounded even more awake at Hamish's proposal. "Yeah! Sure! We could maybe grab lunch or something... Is there anything specific you'd like to do? I think the ice rink is still running in Kennedy Plaza."
"We could do that." Hamish nodded absently. "Just so long as I don't fall on my butt again."
"I'm happy to hold your hand. And massage your butt again if, you know, you fall over... Or stuff."
"You're always happy to hold my hand, and that way I can take you down with me. I'm not complaining about the getting my butt massaged again either."
The phone line didn't do Jack's laugh justice. "I've noted that down for future reference. And for the record having your pride hurt doesn't seem so bad when there's someone there to suffer with you." There was another laugh. "I'll look up the skating rink on Google, maybe a few other things too, just in case they're of interest."
"I'll go do that now before I get distracted. I'll text-slash-phone you in a bit with ideas."
"Love you too."
It had been just over half a year since Hamish had first met Jackson Overland at Rhode Island Pride, and even though the admissions of love to each other were still a relatively new development, they continued to leave him grinning like an idiot for several minutes after hearing Jack say those words.
It wasn't long at all before the first weekend of January had arrived, and bundled up in an emerald scarf and a black leather jacket, Hamish glanced around The Providence Rink, which had been set into a submerged section of the plaza, which itself lay in the geographic centre of Downtown Providence. There were a fair few people out and about enjoying the chilly air, and he was keeping his eyes peeled for his date who had disappeared (despite how white his hair was).
He locked sight on the blue hoodie wearer, who was perched against the side wall of the skating rink, his phone out and trained on Hamish. As the green-eyed man approached, Jack looked up and gave him a broad grin.
"Do a barrel-roll!" He laughed.
Hamish let out a hearty chuckle. "That wouldn't be physically possible."
Jack shrugged. "It'd be a lot of fun to watch though."
"I thought we were both hoping I wouldn't end up falling over again."
"Sure." Jack shrugged. "But I wouldn't mind kissing any bruises better."
"While I appreciate the thought, I'd rather not risk getting a sprained ankle."
Jack grimaced, but didn't respond to that idea. "Could you at least do a little twirl?"
Hamish let out an exasperated sigh, but then turned a daring smile towards his companion and his camera. "If you insist."
With a degree of grace that he didn't usually embody in pretty much any other part of his life, Hamish managed to perform enough of a spin on the ice to draw an approving whistle from the other man, although the finish was a little wobbly.
"Very." Jack smiled. "Hot chocolate? My treat for putting up for me."
"Lead the way." Hamish smiled, and they made their way off of the ice to remove their skates.
The two young men settled down near the on some steps near the Exchange Terrance end of the ice rink, with a Subway hot chocolate and double chocolate chip cookie each. From their position they had good views of the plaza Christmas tree, the Superman Building, and Providence City Hall.
"Thanks for this. The skating and the food."
Jack waved it off as if it were nothing. "I like skating, I like hot chocolate and cookies, and I like you, it's rolling four of my favourite things into one awesome day out."
"Yeah." Hamish nodded, and he took a sip of his drink.
The silence was friendly, but it was a little uncharacteristic for Jack, who was usually a livewire and a chatterbox. Glancing up at the man sat beside him, Hamish realised Jack looked a little solemn and pensive.
"Whoa, am I dying or something? I don't think I've ever seen you look this serious."
"It's nothing bad, I'm just... Thinking about something big."
"Big as in... 'Would you like to be my boyfriend' big?"
Hamish took another sip. "Aren't we boyfriends already?"
Jack gently rolled his drink in his gloved hands. "I mean, sure we go on dates all the time and sometimes spend the night at each other's places, but we've never really used the 'B' word officially. I'd like to make this completely official."
Hamish gave Jack a broad smile from across the table. "Then it's official. Jackson Overland is my boyfriend."
"And Hamish Haddock is my boyfriend. Although it'll probably be next week before I can get the cards saying that printed up."
Hamish shook his head as he chuckled. "Part of me is worried you'd actually do that."
"What can I say? I'm proud to come out and show I'm a card-carrying 'Hamishaholic'."
"'Hamishsexual'." The green-eyed man proposed.
Hamish snorted. "Gods, stop it."
With a daring glint in his eye, Hamish leaned over and planted a rough kiss on Jack's cheek.
A minute later, and after having taken a quick swig from his own drink, Jack retaliated with a smooch that had both men laughing ridiculously with molten chocolate on their lips. Based on how 2018 had been going so far, they'd started the year off fine.
Chapter 2: February - "You're my little valentine"
Jack and Hamish enjoy a Valentine's Day date in Providence.
Sorry that this didn't appear in February, I could've sworn I had uploaded it.
This was it. This was the moment Hamish Haddock’s life was destined to change. Blue eyes watched expectantly as teeth gingerly sank into pastry.
Hamish’s face morphed from tentative consideration to satisfaction, and he echoed his verdict in a “Mmmmmm” which verged on the pornographic.
Jackson Overland broke into a broad smile. “Good, isn’t it?”
“Where have these been all my life?” Hamish asked as he wiped away the remaining crumbs of shortbread.
“Just a car journey away from little old Berk.” His boyfriend joked. The white-haired man extracted one of the shortbread raspberry hearts they’d just bought and sank his own teeth into the treat.
They’d started their Valentine’s Day date in DePasquale Square in Federal Hill. They’d exchanged cards and a present with each other (Jack had gotten Hamish a cyptex-inspired USB flash drive, Hamish had bought him a bunch of booster packs for his Cards Against Humanity deck) on the rim of the fountain in the lower half of the cobbled square.
Following the exchange, the white-haired man had introduced the other man to Pastiche, an independently-run cafe and bakery that was hidden on the square’s north-eastern corner.
Hamish chuckled. “I don’t even own a car.”
Jack mulled over the point. “Theeeen you’ll just have to start walking faster.” Hamish looked less than impressed with his companion’s suggestion. “We can start now!”
“Hey… Hey!” Hamish protested as Jack suddenly took off toward Dean Street. “A little consideration for the mobility-impaired!”
“You adorable little liar! Don’t think I’ve forgotten how quickly you can run when someone’s hitting me with a protest sign!”
Hamish gave a theatrical sigh as he increased his pace to chase after his boyfriend. “It was worth a try!”
The two young men had chased each other until they’d reached the River Walk on the southern bank of the Woonasquatucket River, having burned through their stockpile of energy, Jack and Hamish settled into a relaxed amble.
A comfortable silence, brought on by the exertion carried them along until they approached the basin that formed the centrepiece of WaterPlace Park.
“This is one of my favourite places in the city, probably even more than the ice rink. There isn’t much to see now because the weather’s still too cold… But I want to take you to see WaterFire when it starts up again in April.”
Jack nodded. “Yeah, it’s a bunch of events they run in the park from spring to early winter, like performance art and festivals that they hold here in the park. It’s usually free to attend, and there’s usually a good cause… But the thing about it is they light all these… these…”
“Braziers?” Hamish offered.
“Yeah! They light these blaziers all along the water. There’s a big circle here, see?” Jack pointed out towards the water; Hamish could make out a series of metal baskets that stood above the surface of the river. “And there’s more going along the river… it turns right and goes along the side of the Memorial Park on South Main Street.”
“Neat.” Hamish grinned.
“You really need to see it, I’m not doing it any justice, trust me.”
“I do want to see it.” The green-eyed man nodded, Jack smiled at his companion’s enthusiasm.
“I should’ve invited you to see it last year; I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner!”
Hamish slipped his hand into Jack’s. He favoured the white-haired man with a fond smile. “Hey, you’ve thought about it now, so it’s something we can look forward to.”
“Yeah.” Jack grinned. He turned his attention back to the park. “I know I said there isn’t much going on here now, but there is something we can watch for free… But we need to get some good seats for it.”
Hamish followed attentively as Jack led him northwards around the curve of the river basin and up a short flight of steps. They crossed a metal footbridge that spanned the width of the Woonasquatucket.
As the couple walked, Hamish trailed his eyes across the park as it unveiled itself. On the north-eastern corner a collection of modern glass-and-metal apartment complexes rose to dominate the local skyline. Directly ahead of them lay a building with a clock tower, which billed itself as the WaterPlace Restaurant. Beyond the restaurant to the north was a hill which, according to Jack, led more-or-less straight to the Rhode Island State House (the building’s dome was sadly obscured by the crest of the hill).
To the west, the sprawling mass of the Providence Place shopping mall stretched from one side of the Woonasquatucket River to the other, and rubbed shoulders with the IGTC Center on the southern bank.
To the south lay Downtown Providence, the notable structures of that part of the skyline included the Art Deco Superman Building, the historic Providence Biltmore, its roofline aglow with neon signage, and the modern peaked roof of One West Exchange.
Jack was buzzing with enthusiasm and impatience as he hurried Hamish towards the concrete seating of the park amphitheatre. The makeshift benches were freezing, but the developing view made the conditions worth it.
As soon as they were settled, Jack dragged his messenger bag into his lap and proceeded to extract a few items from it. In addition to the bag of remaining shortbread raspberry hearts, he’d also procured some Valentine chocolate pound cake from the bakery, and a thermos full of hot chocolate he’d poured back at his apartment.
“You’re going to give me cavities.” Hamish quipped with a lop-sided smirk.
Jack made a dismissive noise. “Only from how sweet I am. I’ve followed most of Anna’s advice to the letter, and I’ve not had anything to worry about from my trips to the dentist.”
“‘Most’?” The other man quoted in query.
“Well…” Jack shrugged sheepishly. “I am a red-blooded man… I like chocolate too much to give it up completely.”
“Uh-huh.” Hamish playfully rolled his eyes.
“Which is why I packed a Plan B.” He retorted, and dug out a bottle of Fanta Zero.
His companion was suitably placated. “Nice.” Hamish accepted the bottle and cracked the cap. Beside him, Jack unscrewed the thermos and poured himself some hot chocolate.
“I never get tired of watching the sunset here, though it’s better when it’s longer in the summer.” Jack stated wistfully. Before them, the sunset had turned the sky into an inferno, setting the buildings of the skyline aflame with refracted light.
The spectacle was over as quickly as it had begun, and Hamish noticed the wistful look in Jack’s eye. He shifted to sit a little closer to the blue-eyed man, and Jack nudged him back in amiable companionship.
They drank and ate for a short while, but the darkening sky, and the flaring of the lampposts and footpath lights around the park made it clear that their picnic would have to end soon.
Jack packed the drinks and food away into his messenger bag. They both rose from their concrete seat, and Hamish gave his backside a warming rub. “I think if it was any colder, I’d be looking at frostbite.”
“Hah.” Jack chuckled and shook his head. His amusement softened into a fond look. “How are you feeling? Want to head back?”
Hamish shook his head. “I think I’ve got a few more hours in me, though maybe we could go somewhere a bit warmer for a while?”
“I think I know just the place, how about some arcade game action?”
Hamish grinned at the idea. “Sounds amazing.”
Jack grinned back. “There’s this place in the shopping mall over there…” He pointed towards Providence Place. “It’s called Dave & Buster’s, and I think you’ll love it.”
“Lead on, my little valentine.” Hamish encouraged.
Chapter 3: March - "I'm gonna march you down the aisle"
With the arrival of March, and their ninth month as a couple, Jack has decided to take Hamish on a springtime picnic in the city.
Sorry this missed this ended up being a little late.
“Just a few more things, I promise!”
Hamish rolled his eyes in mock irritation, failing to hide the broad grin spreading across his face. “We’ve already got enough stuff for a picnic, what else do you need?”
“No picnic is complete without Oreos, or Skittles.”
They were currently navigating the 7-Eleven on Weybosset Street that Jack had insisted they pop into en route to the park, and Hamish was now being marched up and down the aisles in search of some last-minute additions to the ad hoc picnic basket his snow-haired boyfriend had assembled.
The green-eyed man looked extremely sceptical. “What kind or picnics have you been going to?”
Jack tilted his head up and cupped his chin, striking a post that Hamish assumed was Jack’s attempt to look ‘cultured’. “Only the best kind.” They reached the cashier, and Jack dumped the Oreos and Skittles on the counter. As the items were being scanned by the staff member (who regarded their purchases and conversation with some bemusement), Jack suddenly slapped his forehead. “I knew there was something I was missing! Could you go back and see if they’ve got any candy rings?”
The other young man levelled a look bordering on incredulous at his companion. “Candy rings? Are you serious?”
“Pleeeeease.” Jack pleaded, flashing him with his biggest smile.
Hamish could feel his resolve crumbling under the weight of that earnest look. “Ugh… Damn you to Hel, Jackson Overland.”
The smile shrunk into Jack’s trademark grin. “Aw, I love you too, babe.” For extra emphasis, the pale-skinned man pressed a kiss against Hamish’s cheek.
Muttering half-hearted frustrations under his breath, Hamish set off in search of the candy rings his boyfriend and occasional source of exasperation had requested.
The search was ultimately fruitless, not only were there no candy rings, there weren’t even any spaces for them in the candy section.
Jack did look a little disappointed at the coming up empty with that particular treat, but he shrugged off his disappointment.
“Nuts, I would’ve liked to have had some for a few extra bits of awesome.”
“I can hear Anna from here thanking you for not buying any more 'bits of awesome’ that’ll rot your teeth.” Hamish quipped as they left the 7-Eleven.
“The trick is to brush properly and often. But then I wouldn’t expect you to appreciate that with all those crooked teeth of yours.” Jack smirked as he playfully nudged his boyfriend.
Hamish glowered for a moment. “You’re a real jerk.”
“Hey, would it make you feel better if I said I was happy to be your indentured slave?”
The other man returned the pun with an unimpressed stare. He then extracted his phone from a pocket in his cargo pants. “Hello, Police? I’d like to report a crime. My boyfriend’s murdered a joke with his blunt wit.”
Jack simply laughed as they continued walking.
The trip to Jack and Hamish’s picnic destination saw them cross the Providence River via the Crawford Street footbridge, and come within a stone’s throw of where they’d first met back in 2017. From there, they progressed north-east along the sidewalk towards Memorial Park.
Passing the curved, rust-coloured sculpture at the entrance to the Park, Jack led them along the brick pathways beneath the bare branches until they reached the World War I memorial. The white-haired man then steered them toward a low wall in front of the memorial, which overlooked the Providence River Greenway.
Jack set the picnic basket down on the wall, and he gestured for his boyfriend to take a seat. A moment after sitting beside Hamish and the basket, Jack began to dig through the container of food.
“Nice spot.” The green-eyed man observed. Across the river, the buildings of Downtown Providence towered over them, whilst on their site of the river, behind the statue-topped column of the memorial, stood the brick building housing the Superior Court.
“Yeah. It’s not WaterPlace Park, but it’s pretty neat in the summer, and they light some of the WaterFire braziers along the river there.” He pointed towards the prominent stone island that rose out of the river, topped with upturned metal dishes.
“Do you know when the first WaterFire event’s taking place?”
“I think it’s in April.” The blue-eyed man answered as he extracted some sandwiches from the basket. “The last time I checked the website all it said was 'coming soon’. I’ll let you know once they’ve posted the schedule, and we can try get to it.”
The other man smiled as he accepted a peanut butter sandwich. “Cool. You doing much for Easter?”
“Loads. Nick and Anna usually put on a cooked meal on Easter Sunday, with Aster bringing a few things from down under to make it a little more unique. Then after that there’s an Easter egg hunt for some of the neighbouring kids and friends of the family.” Jack detailed between mouthfuls of a BLT. “Does Berk put on much for Easter?”
“A little.” Hamish shrugged. “There’s stuff in the town square for the kindergarteners, and a special church service, but it’s all kinda small compared to what you’ve got on here in the city.”
“Do you do anything with your friends? Your Dad?”
Hamish shrugged again. “Not really. My family’s never been very religious… Though Gobber usually insists on inviting us over for a cooked lunch at his house, which is nice.” He remembered with a fond smile. “The most religious we get is we buy each other chocolate eggs.”
Jack broke out into a broad grin. “And what would Easter be without chocolate eggs?”
The green-eyed man flashed a wicked smirk. “Less commercial, more respectful and holy?”
Jack responded with a challenging look. “And where’s the fun in that?”
The freckled man let out a soft chuckle. “Some might say religious holidays aren’t supposed to be fun, that they’re meant to be about reflection and piety.”
“Are you saying that?”
Hamish considered the question as he took a sip of his can of Fanta. “I’m not… Specifically saying that… Just pointing it out.”
Jack chuckled, the sound was warm and bubbling, like a brook in summer. “Whatever you say, babe.”
Jack watched leisurely as a group of canoeists navigated the river, heading north. They’d polished off most of the picnic over the previous half hour, and they now sat in comfortable silence with Hamish’s head lying in Jack’s lap.
“I could get used to this.” Hamish admitted contentedly.
“You are used to this.” The blue-eyed man countered.
“Though I never get bored of having your head in my lap.” Jack flashed that 'butter wouldn’t melt in my mouth’ smile, and Hamish gave him a half-hearted thump.
“We’re in public!”
“Hey, don’t pretend you wouldn’t be tempted to do it in the bushes over there.”
“Not in March.”
Jack paused in exaggerated thought, before asking: “So you’re up for a little public indecency once summer rolls around?”
Hamish favoured his boyfriend with a somewhat withering look. “Jack, no.”
Jack shrugged. “Can’t blame a guy for trying.”
“Yes, I can.” Hamish smirked.
They lapsed into silence again for a few minutes, before a frown tugged at the red-haired man’s features.
“Uh-oh.” Jack observed. “What’s with the serious face?”
“Just thinking.” Hamish admitted.
“You do enough of that for both of us.”
“True enough.” The green-eyed man smirked. “I think maybe it’s time I showed you Berk.”
Jack’s dark brows rose a little. In truth he had realised the locations of their dates had been pretty one-sided until now, although his companion had stated early in their relationship that Providence had more to offer than his own home town.
“Sure.” Jack nodded. “You’ve seen plenty of what the city has to offer, it’s only fair I got to see what the countryside has.”
“Pfftt.” Hamish chuckled dismissively. “It’s hardly the country, not like rural Wyoming or Montana. Rhode Island isn’t that big. But I’d like to show you around.”
“I’d like that.” Jack knelt down and kissed Hamish on the forehead. “I could even ask my Mom if I can stay overnight, maybe make a weekend out of it.”
Hamish smiled. “A weekend together sounds good. Berk doesn’t have much of a nightlife, but you have to check it out what it has got.”
Jack smiled, and placed a kiss on the tip of Hamish’s nose. “It’s a date.”
“Yeah.” Hamish agreed. “It’s a date.”
“Thanks for this.” Hamish smiled as Jack walked him back to the bus terminal at Kennedy Plaza. They passed the ice rink from their first official date of the year, which was now dry with the end of the winter season.
“I was just doing my civic duty.” Jack smirked, his left hand grasped in his boyfriend’s, whilst his right hand carried the picnic basket. “Anyone would’ve done it.”
Hamish made a playful snort. “Yeah, sure.”
They arrived at the stop for Hamish’s bus home, and the freckled man turned to face his boyfriend. “I’m serious.” Hamish laughed out loud that time, and Jack shook his head, unable to contain his own laugh. “I know, I know! But I’m trying to be serious.”
He set the picnic basket down and dug out a bag of watermelon rings that Hamish hadn’t noticed earlier. “I’d wanted to give you that candy ring… If they’d had any… But these will have to do.” He explained as he tore the bag open, pulled out a single ring and slipped it onto the ring finger of Hamish’s left hand. “So we’ve been dating… What? Nine months now?”
His boyfriend nodded. “Yeah, hasn’t felt that long, though.”
“So I was thinking, I really like you, and I think you like me back, so I kinda wanted to make this really official and this ring is like my promise.”
A few emotions swam cross Hamish’s face. “What are you promising?”
“I’m promising that I’ll be the best boyfriend that I can be, and that if this isn’t too sappy or creeper-stalker for you; I’d like to make this an on-going thing… What did they used to call it? 'Going steady’?”
Hamish laughed in good nature. “I don’t know Jack, there’s this guy at the soda fountain that’s caught my eye lately, and my homeroom teacher tells me my 'duck and cover’ practices need work.”
They both laughed at Hamish’s flippancy. Trailing off into a more breathy laugh, Hamish rubbed his thumb against Jack’s hand. “I’d like that.” He smiled. “Although I think after seeing each other for three quarters of a year, we’re already pretty 'official’.”
Jack chuckled. “I know, but I felt I still needed to say it.”
The green-eyed man smirked. “Guess I’m in this for the long haul.”
“Thanks, good to know I’m a chore.”
“You are. You’re like babysitting an overgrown toddler… But you’re my chore, and I’m happy with that.” Hamish responded with a playful shove.
They kissed on the lips this time, and as they waited for Hamish’s bus out of town, Jack let out a satisfied sigh. “Who’d’ve thought getting hit in the face with a protesting bigot’s sign would lead to the best thing to happen to me?”
“Nobody… And maybe that little concussion knocked a bit of sense into you.”
Jack looked playfully shocked. “Ouch! Is that how it is? I had no idea I was dating such a jerk.”
“I have my moments.” The other man shrugged.
They spent the remainder of the time until Hamish’s bus arrived alternating between poking fun at each other, and sharing tender kisses.
Chapter 4: April - "You're the Easter Bunny when you smile"
Jack's trip to Berk has arrived, and he's about to find out that small towns can come with big personalities.
"Lunch will be on the table in ten minutes!" George Bletch's voice called out from somewhere in the direction of the kitchen.
"Just how loud was he shouting? I could hear Gobber clearly through my phone." The white-haired image of Jackson Overland remarked from the other end of the Skype call.
"He can get pretty loud when he wants to, I think it's a trick Scotsmen learn when they're younger."
Jack smirked. "Makes sense. Does your Dad have the same skill?"
Hamish looked from his perch in the window seat of Gobber's living room to where Stoick was busying himself with setting the dining table. "When he wants to use it. Usually when he's angry."
"Now that sounds like the voice of experience."
Hamish rolled his eyes dramatically. "You have no idea. We still on for next Saturday?"
"Yep! Really looking forward to see your pad."
"Just remember to be kind in your lies when you see how underwhelming it is."
"You do remember this was your idea, right?"
"Yep. I know, I know... It's just not much competition to Providence."
"You know I've been to New York, right? Providence isn't much competition to that."
Hamish let out a laugh. "Point. It'll be good to have you here."
"That's the spirit." There was an indistinct sound in the background and Jack glanced off-screen for a moment. "Alright, I think that was Aster yelling for me to join them. I'll talk to you later, babe."
Pocketing his phone, Hamish slipped off of the window seat and joined his father at the dining table.
"Ah, so the prodigal son has finally chosen to join us?"
Hamish rolled his eyes again. "Har har. Can I help with anything?"
Stoick Haddock took a glance over the table, the three places had been set, and George's daffodil and violet centrepiece had pride of place. The elder Haddock nodded towards the swing door into the kitchen. "Check with Gobber, everything out here is sorted."
Hamish pushed the door open and stuck his head into the kitchen. "Hey, you need any help?"
George looked up from the vegetables he was boiling; he was wearing an apron emblazoned with:
I DON'T HAVE THYME TO ACT STRAIGHT
"I was about ready to send out a search party."
The green-eyed man shot a half-hearted glare. "I wasn't on the phone for that long."
"Neil Armstrong was on the moon for less time than you were speaking to your beau." George smiled. "Check on the lamb, I think it's about done."
Hamish stood at the furthest end of the off ramp from Commodore Perry Highway, waiting patiently for the sight of a red 2011 Ford Crown Victoria. Due to the off ramp being a bit of a hike from Berk itself, Hamish had opted to cycle up so that he could meet Jack in person before he entered town. Although the weather had been overcast, with the lingering evidence of light rain earlier in the morning, it had been dry when he'd cycled up the road.
He'd just looked up from double-checking the time on his smart phone, when the Crown Victoria slipped into view as it navigated the off ramp, and promptly drew to a stop where he stood.
"Hey... Come here often? I'm looking for a good time if you are." Jack greeted with a scandalising smirk through the lowered passenger-side window.
Hamish's face flushed despite the amusing absurdity of his boyfriend's greeting. "Oh yeah, I hang out here all the time... It's a great hook-up spot for sexually confused boys with questionable bleach jobs."
Jack shot a theatrically pained expression. "Ouch." He then registered Hamish's bicycle. "You rode that up here?"
Hamish shrugged. "It would've taken me longer to walk."
"I could've met you closer to town."
"I know, I just... I wanted to give you a proper introduction, see your reaction to it."
Jack chuckled and shook his head a few times. "Alright. Pop it in the back." Hamish stowed the bike in the back of the car, and then slid into the seat beside the blue-eyed man. Buckled up, Jack pulled away from the verge. "Go on then." The driver prompted with a smile.
The very first marker for Berk, beyond the nondescript highway signs, was a painted wooden sign that looked like a throwback to a movie from the 1950s. The sign proclaimed in large, cheery letters:
WELCOME TO BERK
HOME OF THE VIKINGS!
"The High School football team." The auburn-haired man elaborated. Soon enough they passed the red brick and sandstone High School on the left-hand side of the road. In the distance, Hamish's hometown opened out before them. "This... Is Berk. It's sixty kilometres from Providence, and a short ferry from Block Island. It's mostly known for sheep farming, fishing, and a scattering of local folk-art and dubious amateur stage productions." Hamish chuckled. "The upsides are the beach, the skating rink and Barry Cuda's... Which is where I'll be taking you to dinner tonight."
"Awesome." Jack nodded with a smile. The scattering of houses on the outskirts of Berk had given way to neat little neighbourhoods, and clusters of businesses as Hamish conducted the personalised tour for his boyfriend.
The drive had featured a number of Berk's sights, but ultimately had to come to a premature end in order to get Jack's overnight things ensconced at Hamish's house. More importantly, Hamish had to conduct the nerve-wracking introduction between Jack and his father.
Jack slowed the car to a stop in front of Hamish's house, a handsome two-story wooden structure painted in burnt orange, with crimson trim. Hamish led the way up to the porch, which spanned the width of the house. He held the front door open for Jack, who hesitantly entered the front hall.
The white-haired man set his overnight bag down and took in Hamish's house.
"We're here!" Hamish called out.
"One sec!" Stoick's gruff voice called from toward the back of the house, and within a few minutes the broad, imposing frame of Stoick Haddock (also known as "Stoick the Vast", as Hamish had mentioned) approached from the kitchen of the house. Despite the fact he was casually dressed in a dark green button-down shirt with an emerald sweater vest, and russet slacks, he was quite possibly the most intimidating man Jack had ever seen, aside from Nick.
In fact, if he ended up in a fight with Nick, there was a good chance they'd be evenly matched.
"You must be Jack." He smiled, and the blue-eyed man felt a wave of relief. Much like Nick, Hamish's father could also disarm you with his friendly candour. Also like Nick, Jack was worried the older man might be able to crush his hand as he gripped it in a handshake.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Haddock." Jack hoped he didn't sound as scared as he felt. He really hoped...
"A man of manners." Stoick nodded approvingly. "Good. And what are your intentions for my son?"
"Dad." Hamish interjected.
Stoick glanced at his son with a disappointed frown. "You know I'm teasing." The elder Haddock remarked. "What perks do I have from being a parent if I can’t put a little bit of fear of the gods into my son's boyfriend?" He looked back at Jack. "Would you like something to drink?"
There'd been a bit of sun through the afternoon, but as soon as evening set in, passing clouds robbed Hamish and Jack of most of the sunset as they walked along Main Street towards their dinner date. The air had been chilly all day, and the departure of the sun was really starting to make its presence known.
As they walked, Hamish pointed out an antique store on the opposite side of the street. "...And that's actually where my Mom and Dad first met."
Jack gave the unassuming shop a decent glance. "No kidding?"
"My Mom used to work behind the counter on weekends, and one day, my Dad was taking some stuff of his grandmother's to be valued. He said..." Hamish paused for a moment and appeared to compose himself, to the point where he even changed his poise to look like someone beefier. "'I went in there with my grandmother's worthless costume jewellery, and left having seen the most gorgeous aquamarines in my life'." He quoted in imitation of Stoick's voice.
Jack chuckled fondly at the story. "Love at first sight?"
Hamish nodded with a bemused smirk. "I know it's corny, but I think it was the real deal for my Mom and Dad."
"Nice to know it happens." The blue-eyed man agreed.
An L-shaped single-story building that blazed with light slipped into view. Hamish had told Jack about the town's favoured eatery: Barry Cuda's, but it still defied Jack's expectations.
As Hamish led them up the stairs to the entrance, he looked back and smiled. "Welcome to Barry Cuda's. What it might lack in appearance, it makes up for in character and food."
The interior had been decorated to resemble the stereotypical idea of what a beach bar might look like, complete with kitschy themed items. Several of the tables were bustling with customers, whilst a handful of wait staff moved to and fro amongst the diners.
Instead of heading for one of the unoccupied tables, Hamish made a beeline for the small bar area near the kitchen, and caught the eye of one of the wait staff, a heavy-set man with blond hair and a friendly smile.
"Hey!" Fiske Ingerman greeted. "Good to see you!"
"Hey Fiske." Hamish nodded in greeting, and then turned toward Jack. "This is Fiske Ingerman; we've been friends since High School. Fiske, this is Jack Overland."
Jack held out his hand. "Nice to meet you."
"Same." Fiske nodded.
"It's his first time in Berk, so I was showing him the sights." Hamish elaborated.
Fiske jokingly bowed his head. "Then Barry Cuda thanks you for visiting. Would you like to choose a table, or did you want to have a drink at the bar before eating?"
"We'll grab a table in a bit. I was wondering if the Gobber was free? He was with Astrid and me when we met Jack, so I figured he might want to say 'hi'."
Fiske nodded in understanding. "I'll go see if he's free now, one sec." They watched as Fiske vanished out of sight.
"Gobber works here?" Jack asked interestedly.
"He owns the place."
Jack took another look around the restaurant. "Awesome."
"Oh look at this, if it isn't trouble breezing in my front door." George's Scottish brogue carried towards them from the short hall leading to the manager's office. "Jack, it's always a pleasure. You haven't brought any protesters with you this time, have you?"
"That happened once!" Jack playfully protested. He then accepted George's handshake. "Can't a guy ever live it down?"
"In this particular establishment, we celebrate those who stand up for our rights." George announced smugly. "So consider it my way of showing you a bit of Berk hospitality by your meal being on the house. Within reason." He added with a wink.
Jack and Hamish glanced at each other in their surprise.
"Th... Thanks Gobber, but you don't have to do that!"
The business owner smiled fondly. "It'd be my pleasure." He then glanced at Fiske. "I'll leave them in your capable hands, lad."
"Sure thing, boss." Fiske nodded, and saluted his employer. He led Jack and Hamish over to a free table near a large picture window toward the back of the restaurant. As they sat, he produced a pair of menus and a notepad. "What would you guys like to drink?"
Jack skimmed the menu. "Could I get a Pepsi?"
Fiske nodded. "Sure."
"And a Fanta for me, please."
"Coming up." The blond man nodded, and disappeared towards the opposite end of the restaurant.
"Nice place." Jack nodded approvingly. "I think I can kinda see Gobber's personality in the decor."
"He picked all the stuff himself, he spent a few days each summer gathering things to decorate the place before he opened the restaurant."
Jack nodded thoughtfully. "Seeing you know so much about this place, what would you recommend?" He gestured at the menu.
"Normally I'd go for the burgers and a sharing platter of curly fries... Either with ketchup or barbecue sauce."
"Make it barbecue and I'm sold." Jack smiled.
The burger and fries had left Jack and Hamish full and satisfied, and they passed on their compliments to George as the evening matured into night. Although Barry Cuda's was gearing up for the music and dancing portion of the evening, the two young men were content to walk home in each other's company.
As they reached the park that lay in front of the Town Hall, Jack suddenly chuckled to himself and extracted his cell phone. "I meant to show this to you earlier, but I was having a really good time back there." He swiped through the photos until he found the one he was after. "From the Easter thing I was at."
The photo in question was of a man with greyish-blue hair, dressed unhappily in a rabbit costume.
Hamish gaped at the photo.
"Who convinced Aster to wear that?"
"Ana." Jack laughed. "The poor guy just can't say 'no' if she asks him."
"And naturally you didn't make things easy for him either." The green-eyed man remarked.
Jack mad a scoffing noise. "He'd have done it to me if I'd been wearing that thing, it's the least I can do as his friend."
"Uh-huh." Hamish nodded, playing unconvinced.
"And he makes a pretty good Easter Bunny."
"Maybe, but you're more like the Easter Bunny when you smile."
A few emotions flickered across Jack's face. "Hey! That was an insult, wasn't it? Pretty brave for someone with your buck teeth."
Hamish gently elbowed his boyfriend. "You like my buck teeth."
Jack sighed in defeat. "I do... Though it's not my favourite part of you."
Hamish raised a daring eyebrow. "What is your favourite part of me?"
"Wouldn't you like to know?" Jack smiled, and he took off at a run. Hamish was quick to follow.
Chapter 5: May - “Maybe if I ask your dad and mom…”
It's the start of the WaterFire season in Providence, and Jack is pulling out all the stops to give his boyfriend an unforgettable night.
This story features some musical enhancement; the link is embedded in the song lyrics.
Music filled the air as dusk settled over Providence. The crowds gathering at the Waterplace Park Basin, and along the banks of the Moshassuck and Woonasquatucket rivers buzzed in anticipation. The braziers that stood above the waterline were loaded and ready to spark into life.
Jack and Hamish had arrived in that period of the day that could either be described as ‘late afternoon’ or 'early evening’, in order to guarantee they got a good seat and view for the first WaterFire event of the 2018 season. As the two men had waited for the night’s festivities to begin, they’d had an informal dinner of subs and soft drinks from the Subway in Providence Place, and shortbread from their favourite bakery in DePasquale Square.
Hamish didn’t want to admit to it, but he might be getting addicted to the sugary treats.
Jack drained the remnants of his Pepsi Max and scanned across the circle of water that comprised the park’s basin, there was a murmur of activity toward the edges, which may have been the organisers getting ready to start.
“Sorry it’s taking so long, they like to play up the ritual thing… Even though the thing’s only been going since nineteen ninety-four.” Jack remarked.
Hamish smirked. “Well, seeing as it’s older than you, and could legally drink if it wanted to, I’ll let it slid. Just this time.”
Jack pouted at the remark, and the expression lasted for the length of the moment before Hamish leant forward and kissed his boyfriend on the lips.
“That isn’t going to work every time you do it.” The white-haired man quietly injected, though he kept his forehead resting against his boyfriend’s.
Hamish smirked again, a wickeder and teasing expression this time: “It hasn’t failed me yet.”
They were drawn from their intimacy by a wave of susurration sweeping across the gathered crowd. Behind them, a procession of men and women, volunteers, civic and community representatives began to descend the staircase towards the basin, many of whom held aloft blazing torches.
Hamish and Jack watched the procession, and then looked around Waterplace Park, where further sparks bobbed into view, lining the perimeter of the public space with fire. Down on the water, a fleet of boats began to sweep into view as a selection of music from around the globe played through the P.A. system.
A shirtless man with a long ponytail stood defiantly on the prow of the boat leading the flotilla, and as it reached the edge of the park amphitheatre, he swung his right arm out, and a small orb of fire swung back to him as one of his poi ignited.
The Fire Dancer touched his unlit poi to its engulfed twin, and he proceeded to swing them around rhythmically as easily as if he were stood unmoving on dry land. With his poi ablaze, the torchbearers on the boats in his wake reached out, claiming their flames in turn.
The caravan flowed at a relaxed pace as they circumnavigated the basin, each torchbearer lighting a brazier as they progressed. In time, each of the 19 braziers that were arranged in a circle in the basin, burned brightly.
The last of the performance boats had slipped from sight, opening the 'floor’ to other vessels to enjoy the spectacle, including what looked like a gondola.
Hamish snuck a glance at Jack; his mouth was wide with a grin. The blue-eyed man had always talked enthusiastically whenever the event had come up in conversation, and now that Hamish had gotten to see it in person… He could see the appeal.
And there was plenty more yet to see.
“What do you think?”
The freckled man gave the blue hoodie-wearer a broad smile. “That was pretty awesome, the crowd really got into it once the boats started to appear.”
Jack nodded in agreement. “Sometimes you could cut the anticipation with a knife. I’ve been coming here since I was seven, and I think it’s gotten more popular each year. The tourists love it.”
Hamish playfully nudged his boyfriend. “It’s growing on me.”
Jack chuckled in response, and let the sound trail off until it was submerged by the broadcasted music. After a brief lull in conversation between the two, Jack dug out his phone and looked at the screen. He promptly pocketed the device and moved to stand, holding out a hand to a confused Hamish.
“We’re leaving?” The green-eyed man asked confusedly.
“The evening’s just begun.” Jack replied cryptically.
There’d been plenty of times where Jack had shown he enjoyed a relaxed, low-key type of dating that suited the both of them… Yet this was one of the times he revealed he could also be a suave bastard when he put his mind to it.
The white-haired man had led Hiccup on a short walk along the river, toward One Citizens Plaza. The flicker of flames followed them as they ambled past the Bridge of Stars, and along the curve of the Woonasquatucket where it would eventually join the Moshassuck.
Hamish had been expecting to make their way to the arts festival, or the light installation near the World War One memorial. Instead, Jack had stopped short, at a small dock overlooking the river, and a gondola.
“Surprise.” Jack grinned, and Hamish took a moment to take the development in.
Jack took Hamish’s hands in his own, and had the good decency to look sheepish. “I know it’s not the canals of Venice, but this is still something special… And I wanted to do something special for someone special.”
“Man…” Hamish began, quickly wiping a hand at his eyes. “…You have no right to be that sappy and that endearing at the same time.”
Jack rested his hands on Hamish’s arms and gave them a comforting squeeze. “Is it too much? We can do something else.”
The auburn-haired man shook his head with a chuckle. “No, no! It’s great… I’m looking forward to having a private gondola trip along the river with you.” He gave Jack a reassuring smile. “I don’t even know how much something like this would’ve cost to arrange, and I’m not about to waste it.” He broke their embrace, but kept Jack’s hand in his own to lead the two of them closer to the dock. “You’re amazing.”
As it turned out, Jack had one more ace up his sleeve in regard to the boat ride: one of the additional features of the service provided by La Gondola Providence was a bucket of ice and wineglasses for whatever beverage of choice you’d like. In this instance, he’d arranged to have the bucket stocked with an ample supply of Pepsi Max and Fanta for the two of them.
“♪E continuo a volare felice. Più in alto del sole ed ancora più su. Mentre il mondo pian piano scompare negli occhi tuoi blu. La tua voce è una musica dolce che suona per me…♫” The oarsman sang, he’d taken them out for a circuit of the basin, within the circle of braziers, and he was now pushing the boat out towards the Moshassuck River.
Hamish took a sip of his chilled glass of Fanta. “This is how we’d live, if we were millionaires.”
Jack frowned in thought. “Huh. I thought there’d be more eighties music.”
“If we were rich, we could pay the Gondolier to sing eighties songs. In Italian.”
Jack smiled wistfully, the glow of the passing brazier casting his face and pale hair in fiery tones. “Ooooo, nice. Now that’d be something.”
“Thank you for this.” Hamish returned contently. “I think this is my favourite night out so far.”
Jack gently nudged Hamish’s knee with his own. “Anytime.”
Most of the remainder of the gondola ride passed in silence between the two of them, excluding the harmonies and timbre of the man guiding their boat back towards the dock.
They walked hand-in-hand along the Canal Walk, on the memorial side of the Moshassuck. They’d checked out the arts festival and the merchandise stall, where Hamish had bought an orange and blue twisted glass Christmas tree ornament for Jack, and Jack had bought a pair of marble magnets (one emblazoned with a map of the Waterplace basin, the other featuring the event emblem) for his boyfriend - A compromise, as Jack had wanted to buy the other man a souvenir, and Hamish had insisted it not be something expensive, seeing as the boat trip had already been a gift.
Down on the river, the braziers they’d passed in the gondola illuminated the rippling water. In the distance, the circular granite colonnade of the World War II memorial was bathed in the candle flicker of luminaria, and the trees were adorned with glowing aqua stars. The two men slowed to take in the sight of the illuminations, Hamish gazing around as they were surrounded by the points of light.
“What are these for?”
“The stars are for 'Starry, Starry Night’; they’re like an illuminated wish tree… If that makes sense? You make a twenty dollar donation, and you write your wish on a card attached to one of the stars, and hang it on one of the trees.”
Jack then indicated the illuminations resting on the curved memorial. “The glowing paper bags are luminaria, they’re here for anyone who wishes to commemorate something, a hope… A person… Why you visited WaterFire, stuff like that.”
Hamish regarded the illuminations in thoughtful reflection; the explanations Jack had given
him had sparked a moment of contemplation…
Jack wrapped his hands comfortingly around Hamish’s waist as the younger man looked on at the luminaria that he’d placed at the base of one of the trees.
“You okay?” The white-haired man whispered, and Hamish nodded.
“Yeah. I’ll be okay.”
They’d first purchased one of the blue stars, to which they’d committed their hopes for the future together. Hamish had also purchased a luminaria, and dedicated it to the memory of his mother, Valka.
The auburn-haired man eventually led the two of them away from the lanterns, and they settled on an empty stone bench on the River Greenway. Jack hesitated in broaching the subject.
Fortunately, Hamish spared him: “She’s been gone most of my life, I thought I’d gotten past it by now.”
Jack shifted uncertainly. “She’s your Mom… That’s kinda a big deal. I know things aren’t the same for the both of us… But I guess… Grief… Mourning isn’t something we can always make sense of. Maybe you’d have had an easier time moving on if she’d been with you for longer?”
“Maybe.” Hamish nodded, a sliver of sadness in his voice.
“I wish I could’ve met her. Do the whole 'ask your dad and mom if I can take you to the junior prom’ thing…” He thought about the picture of Valka Haddock he was forming in his head. “I bet you’re a lot like her. No offense to your Dad or anything, but you guys couldn’t be much more different if you tried.”
Hamish laughed, and it was clear he was grateful for the change in tone. “You’d be right, Dad’s even said as much.” The tinge of sadness briefly returned. “I think he misses her even more, he’s just better at not letting it show most of the time.”
Jack nodded in understanding.
Hamish let out a ragged breath. “Sorry for screwing up our date, babe.”
Jack gave his shoulder a squeeze. “You’ve got nothing to say 'sorry’ about. You have a good cry if you need it. Real men aren’t afraid to cry. I cry all the time.”
Hamish gave him a bemused look. “You cried once when you found out Bunny had eaten all of the chocolate in the Neapolitan tub.”
Jack frowned. “You’d better believe it, that was great chocolate.”
The humour was welcome, and two young men chuckled comfortably in the firelight.
Hamish nudged Jack’s leg with his own. “Thanks for this, and tonight.”
Jack pulled him closer, and the green-eyed man’s head rested comfortably on his shoulder.
“Like I said before… Anytime, babe.”
A relaxed silence stretched out before them for several minutes, until it was gently disturbed by a voice singing in a foreign language from Jack’s cell phone:
“♫Cuando él te haga sufrir
Y te rompa el corazón
Nunca olvides que aquí
Te espera mi amor
Cuando no puedas sonreír
Y mueras de dolor
Ven a mi
Ven a mi
En mi amor puedes confiar
Nunca dudes en volver
Siempre te voy a esperar…♪”
“I love that you went to the effort to find that on YouTube, but I think they’re singing in Spanish.”
Jack made a face and swore loudly.
Chapter 6: June - “They’ll let me take you to the Junior Prom”
Rhode Island Pride 2018: An annual celebration of pride, and Hamish and Jack's (almost) anniversary of meeting. In a day full of friends, activity and celebration, it's always worth taking a moment to enjoy the little things.
Happy Pride month, guys! :)
Three hundred and sixty four. That’s how many days had elapsed since Jack and Hamish had first met. Whilst they hadn’t quite been dating for a full year (their first official date had taken place the week after they’d met), they were going to make the most of the eve of their anniversary, no least because it was also the day of the 2018 Rhode Island PrideFest and illuminated parade.
Their journey across the Crawford Street footbridge was flanked on both sides by towering banners, each a row of twelve which had been colour-coded to recreate the rainbow of the gay pride flag.
The last time Hamish had crossed this particular bridge, he’d been buzzing at the prospect of spending time at the festival, and getting to connect with the wider LGBT community. This year, he was practically beside himself (much to the bemusement of Astrid and George, who were a pace behind him) as he was getting to spend it with friends and his boyfriend.
Jack was by no means any less excited at going to festival and parade with a significant other at his side, though he was currently proving successful at maintaining a mostly cool and relaxed exterior. The day was already a change in routine for the white-haired man, as he normally would’ve been stationed with Anna at the stall for her dental practice. A certain Australian had swapped duties with him for the day, after having remarked:
“Alright, alight! I’ll do it if it saves me from having to see you tongue wrestle your boyfriend or look at him all doe-eyed every five minutes.”
Jack may or may not have made a not-so-subtle note of the fact that Bunny would get to spend the better part of the day with the woman that most definitely wasn’t his crush. The blue-eyed man had made a speedy exit before the surly antipodean could remonstrate with him.
“Good weather this year.” George noted. It was sunny, with the temperature just shy of the unpleasant mid-eighties. “Although I doubt the sun can compare to young Hamish’s smile right about now.”
Hamish let out a groan and gave the Scotsman an eye roll. “You made that joke last year.”
“I believe it was something to do with renewable energy… But the best jokes are the ones you can tell again and again and again.” The restaurateur smirked.
Jack smirked. “He’s just showing how much he loves you.”
“Yeah, at my expense.”
“You do sorta bring it on yourself.” Astrid chipped in. “You’re so excited I think you’re vibrating at a frequency only dogs can hear.”
Hamish gave his boyfriend a flat look. “See what I have to put up with?”
The blue-eyed man shrugged. “Hey, it could be worse.”
Hamish conceded to that. “Yeah…”
“Plus, I think maybe they’re just a little jealous that you’re holding hands with a hot guy, and they aren’t.”
“Is that so, snowball?” George noted with a mock threatening tone. “Choose your words carefully; I can always ban you from the restaurant.”
Jack’s look shifted from George to Astrid, who simply cracked her knuckles with an enthusiastic smirk. He then returned his gaze to Hamish.
“Don’t look at me, you got yourself into this.” He laughed, and then kissed Jack on the cheek.
The entrance to the street festival was as hard to miss as it had been the year before, a rainbow-emblazoned marquee that greeted:
Welcome to Rhode Island Pride
They dropped their entry donations (a suggested $1) into the buckets held by the event volunteers, and paused long enough to get their hands stamped, before they headed inside, and started to take in what the PrideFest had to offer.
There was the familiar assortment of food and drink stalls, charitable organisations, merchandise sellers, vacation providers and fun activities to be found along the length of South Water Street. The crowds were already giving the festival a healthy buzz, which was added to by the music winding its way over from the performance stages.
The group had just finished their visit to the Rhode Island Comic Con stall when a familiar logo caught Jack’s eye.
He nudged Hamish to get his attention, and pointed it out. Jack then turned to Astrid and George. “Seeing as you guys didn’t get a chance to meet them last year, fancy a little introduction to a couple of friends?”
Astrid and George followed as Jack and Hamish led the way. The Berkians were brought to the stall set up for the Fisher Dental Practice, which was currently manned by an Asian woman with multi-coloured hair (and wearing a T-shirt that parodied the Nike logo and slogan with a floss pick), and a gruff-looking man with blue-greyish hair, wearing a tank top emblazoned with:
STRAIGHT BUT NOT NARROW
“Hey guys.” Jack greeted, and the colourful woman broke into a broad smile.
“Jack! Hamish! How’s your day going?”
“Great.” Jack replied.
“Not bad, thanks.”
“Anna, Bunny, I’d like you to meet some friends of Hamish’s. George Bletch and Astrid Hofferson. Astrid, George, meet Anna Fisher and Edward ‘Bunny’ Aster.”
“Hey.” Astrid greeted as she shook hands.
“A pleasure.” George smiled.
“Gotten tired of the peroxide ankle biter yet?” The Australian quipped.
“Not yet, but he has his moments.” George chuckled.
“Seeing as you’re here, can I interest you in some free samples?”
Hamish gave his boyfriend a quick look, and the other man gave him a discreet nod in return.
“Sure.” The green-eyed man responded, and each member of the group was given a small pack of toothpaste and floss.
“How long have you two known Jack?” Astrid asked with interest.
“Too many years…” Aster droned.
Anna gave the man beside her an exasperated look of reprimand. “We’ve known Jack for about five years now.”
“Though it sometimes feels like longer…”
“And it’s always been a pleasure, hasn’t it, Aster?”
The man behind the counter suddenly flinched, and shot an accusing glare at her. He quickly turned to face them. “Sure.” He uttered without conviction.
“Aw, I love you too, Bunny.” Jack smirked.
“Seeing as you know Jack so well, why don’t you join us for dinner after the festival’s packed up?” George suggested. “I’m sure you could tell us so many informative things about the lad.”
Jack glanced towards the Scotsman, and Hamish swore he could see a hint of mild panic in his boyfriend’s eyes. He chuckled, suspecting Jack was now suddenly regretting introducing his friends to his boyfriend’s.
They’d bid a brief farewell to Anna and Aster, and moved on to take in the other sights and sounds that the festival had to offer. As the afternoon wore on, Hamish caught the attentions of George and Astrid:
“Jack and I are gonna disappear for a bit.”
“We are?” Jack asked, this was news to him.
“Yep.” Hamish smiled brightly.
Astrid shared a knowing look with Hamish, and then George. “See you guys in a bit, then.” The blonde remarked. “Don’t do anything you could get arrested for.” She added with a playful look.
“And try not to get into any fights this time, understood! I can’t always be ready to rescue you if you end up in distress!”
“We won’t get in trouble, I promise.” The freckled man responded.
“Trouble is his middle name.” George remarked, pointing at Jack.
“I’ve got my eyes on you, Jackson 'Trouble’ Overland.” Astrid playfully fired back.
“I don’t know… I think in maybe five minutes 'Hiccup’ will be the only one with his eyes on me.”
Hamish dragged his boyfriend away before the verbal sparring could get any further. He led him towards the entrance of the PrideFest, and on a short walk that took them across the river, and towards Downtown Providence. They didn’t stop walking until they reached the corner of Pine and Dyer streets, where Hamish drew them to a leisurely halt.
“Know where we are?” Hamish asked cryptically.
Jack glanced around the street corner for a couple of moments, before recognition dawned on his face. “Huh, yeah.” He pointed towards the sidewalk. “That’s where I got knocked on my ass by that crusty protestor.”
His boyfriend nodded. “Bingo. This is where we met.” Hamish rummaged in the backpack he’d been carrying, and extracted a thermos, along with two plastic champagne glasses.
“Prepared for everything.” Jack noted with amusement. “Is it coke? Fanta? Sprite?”
“Sparkling wine.” Hamish responded quietly.
Jack’s eyes widened. “What?”
Hamish glanced discreetly one way, and then the other. “A responsible adult may have decided to take a calculated risk, and slipped us a little something special for the occasion… Because Coke, Fanta and Sprite just wouldn’t cut it.”
“Was it Gobber? It was Gobber, wasn’t it?”
Hamish shook his head, a dangerously playful smirk gracing his lips. “Think… 'Closer to home’.”
Jack’s face screwed up in thought. It suddenly flashed surprise. “Your Dad?!”
Hamish smiled knowingly in response as he handed a plastic glass to his boyfriend.
“Holy shit. I didn’t know he had it in him.”
“He did say something to the effect of 'I wouldn’t trust Jack with this were he my son’…” The green-eyed man explained in imitation of Stoick Haddock’s distinctive brogue. “‘but I know I can trust you son, and I want you to have a good weekend with him’.”
“I can’t even be mad at him, I wouldn’t trust me if I were my son.”
Hamish winced. “That sentence was a grammatical nightmare.”
Jack smirked and slung an arm across Hamish’s shoulder in a half-hug. “I’m your grammatical nightmare.” He countered, and clinked his glass of sparkling wine against Hamish’s.
They sipped their covert drinks and passed the time by recalling that far-flung day. They’d found a mostly-comfortable perch on the edge of a brick planter. From there, they had an unobstructed view of their corner, their slice of Providence.
“I still can’t believe your Dad did this for us… I kinda feel like someone drinking spiked punch at junior prom.”
Hamish chuckled at the idea. “Speaking from experience?”
“Hey!” Jack protested. “That’s not the kind of practical joke I go for. And for the record…” He continued. “I’m glad there aren’t any protestors this time. I like nostalgia, but that’s the kind I can live without.”
“Word.” Hamish agreed. “Though the bruising really brought out the blue in your eyes.”
“I was barely hurt; I think the scratches from the road were worse than the hit from the sign. Still…” Jack mused wistfully. “I wish we could bump into that little girl and her moms again. I’d like to know how they’re doing.”
“Probably all the better from having met 'Jack, the homophobe slayer!’”
The two of them laughed loudly, and trailed off into breathy chuckles. Even the chuckles subsided after a while, and soon Jack was left quietly watching his boyfriend.
Hamish soon noticed, and gave him a quizzical smile. “What?”
Jack smiled, it was soft and affectionate. “I know the anniversary isn’t officially until tomorrow… But Happy Anniversary.” He held his plastic glass out.
“Happy Anniversary.” Hamish smiled as he clinked his glass against his boyfriend’s.
They’d taken their time to enjoy their drinks, and after Hamish had stowed the thermos and glasses away, he’d followed up the sparkling wine with some Zeppole, courtesy of Hofferson’s Café in Berk.
“You’re spoiling me, you know that?” Jack smirked, he wiped at a bit of cream that had fallen onto his blue tank top. Written across the garment was the declaration:
Hamish gave it a careful once-over. The cream had left a slight stain, but it was nearly invisible unless you knew what to look for. In contrast to the man sat next to him, he’d chosen to wear a black T-shirt, featuring a bi flag-coloured progress bar and the pun.
LOADING MY BI-NARY CODING
“Yep. What are you going to do to stop me?” Hamish retorted.
“Dunno? Something like this?” Jack leant over and kissed him on the lips.
After a while, the auburn-haired man managed to quip: “Uh-oh, don’t think Anna will thank you for giving me even more sugar.”
Jack chuckled against Hamish’s lips.
“You’re the one who’s all sweet and sappy.”
“Hypocrite.” Hamish smirked.
With some reluctance, the two boyfriends broke contact so that they could head back to the PrideFest.
They met up with Astrid and George, and later spent more time with Anna and Aster. Like all good things, PrideFest had to come to a close, and with that came the need to pack Anna’s stall away into the back of Aster’s van.
With the heavy lifting finished, the festival attendees retired to the calm and relaxed (as well as fan-cooled) surroundings of Circe, a Downtown restaurant and bar, for a well-earned meal.
With a selection of the restaurant’s New American and Rhode Island-centric menu laid before them, Hamish, Jack, Astrid, George, Anna and Aster had settled into a relaxed atmosphere of friendship.
“Thank you for the help everyone, packing the stall up usually takes twice as long normally.”
“It’s been taking twice as long ever since the show pony started having a romantic life.” Aster quipped. Jack stuck out his tongue in response.
“Children.” George interjected. “This is a place of elegance and sophistication.” He raised his glass of Glenmorangie. “To another year of being out and proud, and to new friends: may this be the first of many dinners together.”
The rest of the group raised their glasses in toast, and took a sip.
“Are you going to go to the parade after we’ve eaten?” Astrid asked, glancing toward Anna and Aster.
“I’d love to, but I need to get the things from the practice stored away.” The multi-colour-haired woman answered. “If I didn’t have to worry about that, then I’d be there with Jack.”
“I’ve got to drive Anna and her stuff back, and after that I’ve got some stuff I need to get sorted.” The burly man explained.
Jack was tempted to make a quip about Aster doing stuff with Anna, and it seemed the Australian sensed he was considering this, as the other man shot the younger male a paint-withering look. In the end, and in the spirit of self-preservation, Jack opted for a different response:
“Bunny runs his own garage and fixes up motorcycles. He also he runs this sort of club for bikers on Sundays.”
Aster frowned. “It’s not a 'club’ you bogan, it’s a gathering for motorcycle enthusiasts.”
Jack held up his hands in placation. “Hey, I’m no expert. But that totally sounds like a social club.”
Aster fired a dangerous smirk. “Come along on Sunday and say that to their faces.”
Hamish noticed the brief flash of apprehension on Jack’s face. “Can’t. I’ll be sleeping in with my gorgeous boyfriend here.” He leant over, and slung an arm over Hamish’s shoulder. “And if he’s lucky, I might even give him a-”
“That’s quite enough of that.” George interjected. He wasn’t sure if Jack actually was going to say 'blowjob’, but he didn’t want to risk it.
“-Kiss! I was gonna say 'kiss’.”
“Sure you were.” Aster crossed his arms, his face a sceptical smirk.
Anna and Astrid shared a slightly exasperated look across the restaurant table. “You’ve known Jack longer, is he always like this?”
Anna favoured Jack with a contemplative look. “Not always. Sometimes he can be even worse.” She laughed.
The darkening of the sky had heralded the departure of Anna and Aster, and the remaining Pride-goers stood gathered as the Australian and Chinese-American prepared to set off to their respective homes.
“It was great getting to meet you Astrid, George. Let me know when you’re next planning to visit the city and we’ll sort something out.”
“Definitely.” Astrid agreed.
“Aye, lass.” George nodded. “It was a pleasure.”
Aster offered a curt, but polite nod to the both of them, and then turned to Jack. “If you get arrested… Don’t call me, because I’ll be asleep in my bed.” He smirked.
“I promise nothing!” Jack retorted.
The Australian smirked. “See you later Q-Tip, Matchstick.”
Astrid glanced amusedly towards Hamish.
“Bunny’s way of showing he cares.” Jack elaborated.
They waved Aster and Anna off as the driver guided the van out of the parking lot, and down the block.
“'Matchstick’?” Astrid queried.
“Because Hamish is thin and dark at the head.” Jack explained.
George smirked. “And here I was happy to go with 'toothpick’. I’m disappointed I didn’t think of it myself.”
Hamish glared between his three companions. “Oh… Oh! Look at my friends; they think they’re soooo funny.”
“In fairness, you’ve given us a lot of your snark over the years.” Astrid responded affectionately. “You have to take as good as you give.”
“That’s not your policy when you punch my arm. I don’t even hit you.”
She shrugged. “Consider it as my brand of physical affection.”
“A.K.A: tough love.” Jack added.
George chuckled. “As entertaining as this little soiree of ours currently is, I’m sure we’d have a better time at the parade then stood in a parking lot.”
Hamish pointed towards his surrogate Uncle. “What the meathead with the attitude said.”
As night swept over Providence, their particular brand of banter followed them every step of the way as they journeyed to the illuminated pride parade.
Chapter 7: July - “You’re a firecracker all aglow”
It's the 4th of July, and for the first time Hamish gets to spend the Independence Day holiday with Jack.
Jack gave the back seat of his car one final inspection; he thought he had everything he needed for the trip.
“Food… Beach umbrella… Inflatable?” An Australian voice suggested. Jack shot a flat look at Aster.
“I’m not a ten-year-old and I can swim, I don’t need a pool float.”
“Who said anything about it being a pool float?” the Antipodean chuckled. “I was just suggesting it in case you strike out tonight.”
Jack glared at his friend. “This isn’t that sort of night out, but if things go that way, the only rubber we’ll be using is in my wallet, and the only thing I’ll be blowing-”
“Alright, alright. I didn’t need the mental picture.”
Jack replied with a smirk. “Hey, you brought my sex life into it.”
“Sex life?” A voice asked from the doorway leading up to the apartment Jack shared with Aster.
“Don’t ask.” The older man grumbled.
“I’m not sure I want to.” Anna grimaced as she stepped out to join her friends. “All packed?”
“I think I’ve got everything.” Jack shrugged. “If not, I’ll improvise.”
Aster groaned. “Please don’t.”
“Hope you have a good time with Hamish.”
“Thanks.” Jack smiled as he climbed into his 2011 Crown Victoria.
“Give the tin-footer my regards.”
Anna gave Aster a half-hearted reprimanding slap. “Give him mine as well, without the thoughtless nickname.”
“I will.” Jack grinned. “Happy 4th of July.”
“Happy Treason Day.” Aster quipped.
This time, Anna gave him a playful jab with her elbow. “Happy Independence Day.”
Hamish was glad he had his phone with him to pass the time, as the sign pointing out Raven Point Park (and the adjacent beach), even though it was swinging quickly from the steady breeze blowing out to sea, was proving less than a viable distraction.
The wind was another thing he was grateful for, the temperature was in the mid-nineties with heat advisories, and even though he was wearing a light green tank top and brown shorts, the heat had still been higher than he felt comfortable in. Fortunately, between the south-eastern breeze and the shade offered by the trees at the turnoff for the park, he was able to stay relatively cool as he waited for Jack’s car to ride into view.
The roads rolling past the park had been pretty quiet once the concert on the beach had kicked off, the town usually went-all out for the national holiday, and if the residents weren’t already down on the shore, or dining at Barry Cuda’s, they were probably off visiting relatives in or out of state. The youngest member of the Haddock clan was spending the fourth of July in a similar fashion to previous years: a beach-side barbecue with his father and Astrid’s family, although this year would be a little different… This year he’d be celebrating it with his boyfriend.
Over Hamish’s shoulder, he could hear the chaotic sounds of excited children playing in the surf, and the thrum of music rising up from the concert playing down on the beach. There was plenty for Jack and Hamish to take part in, once Jack got there.
A red dot appeared on the horizon, all the way up Matanuck Beach North Road, past the short length of Main Street. The dot steadily grew until it had evolved into a full-size Crown Victoria, and the instant that Hamish was able to recognise the driver behind the wheel, a pair of mirrored sunglasses flashed as they revealed a pair of familiar azure eyes.
“‘Scuse me, do you know where the park is? I’m supposed to be meeting this booty call I met on Grindr? He’s skinny, but has the biggest-”
“Jack!” Hamish laughed, part-mortified.
“-heart you’d ever seen.” Jack smirked.
Hamish walked around and hopped into the front-passenger seat. “You’ve been here five seconds and you’re already causing trouble. What would my dad say?”
“'That Jackson Overland is nothing but a peroxide blond nuisance’.” Jack remarked, affecting a poor imitation of Stoick Haddock’s brogue. His boyfriend broke into laughter, so it had the desired effect.
“Don’t ever let him hear you talking like that.” Hamish warned with a smirk.
“Hey! I’m no idiot, okay? I enjoy having my limbs attached to my body, and not being banned from seeing my boyfriend.”
Jack leant over the center console and planted a kiss on his boyfriend’s lips. “I’ve been really looking forward to today.”
The green-eyed man smiled softly back. “I can tell… You’re like a firecracker… All aglow.”
“And you’d know a thing or two about fireworks.”
Hamish shrugged, and then returned his boyfriend’s kiss. “I’m a complete amateur compared to the guys putting together tonight’s display.”
“I don’t know, you always leave me seeing stars…”
“Behave.” Hamish laughed whilst Jack pouted.
“Nice.” Hamish remarked as Jack lugged the beach umbrella out of the floor well. “There isn’t a lot of shade where we’re sat.”
Jack gently kicked the door closed and locked up. “I figured I’d bring it along, it was really useful when I went camping a couple of years back.” He slung the umbrella easily across his shoulder, and hung his right hand over the canopy to keep in place.
Dressed in khaki shorts and a blue tank top with white stripes, Jack was the embodiment of a carefree summer, even though by his own admission he much preferred winter. Hamish indulged a moment to appreciate the figure Jack cut, especially how the way he was holding the umbrella emphasised his jogger’s physique.
As soon as he realised Hamish was staring, Jack’s mouth split into a cocksure grin. “Like what you see?”
Hamish flushed, but he didn’t try to hide he’d been checking his boyfriend out. “I’ve stuck with you this far, haven’t I?”
Jack feigned a wounded expression. “Oh yeah, that’s what everybody wants to hear from their other half. Guess I have to step up my game before you find someone better.” He held out his free left hand, and Hamish grasped it as they walked towards the path leading to the beach. The auburn-haired man’s free hand held the handle of Jack’s food hamper as they sauntered over.
Even dressed in a casual steel blue polo shirt and gunmetal-gray shorts, Stoick still commanded an intimidating presence, which even a year after they’d first met, left Jack feeling a little overawed. Early into his relationship with the Chief of Police’s son, he’d wondered how father and son could’ve been so drastically different in body type. It was only after the white-haired man had seen some photographs of Hamish’s mother Valka, that he finally understood.
The elder Haddock had chosen a spot near the beach’s flagpole, in line-of-sight of the concert and only a short walk for anyone wishing to cool off in the waters of Block Island Sound. The spot was also far enough away that it avoided the thickest parts of the crowds.
Stoick was tending to the burgers and sausages on his portable barbecue when he spotted Jack and Hamish approaching. He raised his free left hand in greeting as he kept his right busy turning over the meat. “Jack.” He welcomed warmly.
“Mister Haddock.” Jack smiled. He then spotted a familiar braid of blonde hair that looked up to greet him. Astrid smiled as she temporarily abandoned a second beach umbrella that she’d been assembling.
“I was starting to think we weren’t going to see you.”
“What Astrid really meant is 'Good, you’re here. I won’t have to hunt you down because you disappointed your boyfriend who also happens to be my best friend’.” Hamish supplied.
Astrid shrugged with an intimidating smirk. “Well I wasn’t exactly going to tell him that, was I?”
Jack grinned. “If I ever let Hiccup down, you can have the first shot at me.” He held out a hand, and Astrid tugged him into an unbalanced hug as he struggled to keep the beach umbrella level.
Released from the hug, the threesome strolled over to the picnic bench, where Jack laid the oversized sunshade down on the grass.
“Working on your own, huh?”
Astrid nodded. “Almost done. Does yours need anything?”
“Just a quick adjustment.” Jack knelt down and unfastened the base from his umbrella. As he scooted under the picnic table, Hamish clambered up and fed the pole through table’s umbrella hole, and Jack promptly reassembled it. Happy with the connection, Jack clambered out and unfurled the sky blue canopy.
“Very nice.” Stoick approved. “That should give us plenty of shade.”
“Yeah.” Jack agreed, wiping away a small amount of sweat from his forehead. He looked around, there was somebody missing from the gathering. “Is Gobber not here yet?”
Stoick shook his head. “He’ll be at the restaurant until this evening.”
“He usually puts on stuff like live music for the big holidays - it brings in a lot of people from Galilee, Hazard Island… Not to mention tourists who come to see the fireworks.”
“He’s hoping to join us once it starts getting dark.” Stoick suddenly chuckled. “The big yin loves a decent firework spectacular.” He took a moment to set some of the cooked meat onto a plate to serve up. “In the meantime though, why not go over and say hello to Astrid’s family?”
Jack glanced over Astrid’s shoulder, towards a nearby fair-haired family who were setting up some folding chairs. “Sure.” He smiled. Jack and Hamish joined Astrid, and she led them over to her relatives.
“Jack, this is my Mom, my Uncle and Aunt, and my cousins. Mom, Uncle Finn, Aunt Kirsten, Alex, Blyn, this is Jack.” Astrid started the introductions.
“My boyfriend.” Hamish added proudly.
“Nice to meet you, Stoick’s mentioned you a few times.” Bertha Hofferson chuckled.
“Mom works with Stoick at the station.”
Jack stiffened up his posture, and shot out his hand. “A pleasure to meet you, Officer Hofferson.”
“I’m off the clock, so it’s just Miss Hofferson.” She chuckled.
“Jack.” Finn Hofferson welcomed with a friendly air.
“It’s nice to meet you.” Kirsten greeted in turn.
“Uncle Finn and Aunt Kirsten run the café.”
Jack nodded in understanding; he’d seen Hofferson’s Café during one of his last visits to Berk.
“-Where special discounts are reserved for friends of the family.” Finn added.
Jack grinned. “Well when you put it that way, guess I’ll have to come down from Providence more often!”
“Mmmmmm.” Jack let out a contented hum, prompting Hamish to chuckle.
“What did I tell you?”
“Can you blame a guy for thinking maybe you were a little biased? I mean, Hell… Nick might not make the best pizza ever, but he still makes a badass pizza… But man, that was the best cheeseburger I’ve ever had.”
“The secret’s in mixing the cheese, and adding a little Worcestershire sauce to the burgers.” Stoick explained, tapping his nose with theatrical secrecy.
“Did I hear somebody talking about 'Haddock’s patented patties’?”
The group turned to see a hulking figure approaching the picnic table, near-silhouetted against the sun setting on a burning sky. George emerged from the gloom, carrying a large Tupperware box.
“Always leaving your entrance to the last minute.” Stoick chuckled as he rose to greet his friend. “I was almost thinking about starting to worry. If old Gobber didn’t show up to see the sparks fly, I might have to put out an A.P.B.”
George shot an offended glare. “'Old’? I’m the same age as you, you bastard.” He gave Stoick’s shoulder a shove, and the Police Chief shoved back. A minute later, the two of them embraced in a bear hug, before they turned back to the people sat around the picnic table.
“Would you two sit down already?” Bertha groaned.
“Yeah, Dad. You don’t exactly see this much 'male bonding’ from Jack and me.” Hamish quipped.
“Such disrespect!” Gobber smirked as he set the Tupperware container down on the table. “And here I am bringing you disrespectful lot some delectable desserts.” He removed the lid, revealing an assortment of Zeppoles, Lun Epleterte, and Death by Chocolate.
“Thanks for bringing dessert.” Astrid smiled.
Gobber regarded the young woman favourably. “At least someone appreciates me.” He held the plastic container towards her, and she selected a Zeppole.
“Would you like something to eat?” Stoick enquired, gesturing towards the closed lid of the barbecue.
“I won’t say no to your famous burgers. In my haste I didn’t grab anything to eat at the restaurant… I haven’t missed the display, have I?”
Hamish checked the time on his phone. “The concert won’t be over for another hour.”
“Ah, excellent.” George smiled, and he settled down on a free spot on the bench attached to the table. “Bertha, Astrid, Kirsten, Finn, Blyn, Alex, always a pleasure.”
Bertha chuckled. “Never a dull moment, George.”
Gobber turned his attention towards his surrogate nephew. “I see you’ve brought along your little Rhodie of mischief.”
Jack fired of a wave as he grinned. “Hey, Gobber.”
“How’re your friends? The grumpy, hairy fella and the delightful multi-coloured lass?”
“They’re good, they send their best. Someday soon I’m gonna convince them to drive down here so they can check out the restaurant.”
Gobber nodded approvingly. “Good lad.”
“…And with one twist, he took my hand and swallowed it whole. And I saw the look on his face; I was delicious! He must have passed the word, because it wasn’t a month before another one of those sleekit sharks took my leg!”
“Is any of that true?” Jack whispered towards his boyfriend.
Hamish smirked and shook his head. “Nope. The last time he told this story, it was a bunch of ill-tempered sea lions.”
“The scary thing about you Gobber, is you can tell all this nonsense whilst completely sober.” Stoick’s voice interjected from across the table.
George preened himself up as if the remark was a compliment. “You have to be extremely talented to tell tales as grand as these. You don’t call me 'Gobber’ for nothing.”
Hamish knew from much experience that left uninterrupted, the two older men would’ve playfully sparred with each other until first light, but he was given a reprieve as a voice spoke out from the loudspeakers down at the stage:
“Ladies and Gentlemen I’m afraid we’re just about done with our set.” A disappointed chorus rose up briefly at the lead singer’s announcement. “But before we say 'goodnight’, we’ve got one last… And very important song to perform. If everyone could stand, please.”
Jack, the Haddocks, the Hoffersons and George rose to their feet.
“We’ve been The Outcasts, and we hope you’ve had a fantastic Independence Day! Happy Birthday, U.S.A!”
There was a brief lull of silence, and then the lead singer launched into the closing number: “♫Oh say can you see… By the dawn’s early light. What so proudly we hailed… At the twilight’s last gleaming?♪”
The crowd promptly joined in with the band.
“♪Whose broad stripes and bright stars… Through the perilous fight, o’er the ramparts we watched… Were so gallantly streaming? And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air. Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there. Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave… O'er the land of the free… And the home… Of the brave?♫”
At the last bar of the Star-Spangled Banner, the concert-goers burst into applause, which was shortly followed by the first burst of fireworks shooting into the sky with a shriek.
As red, white, and blue chrysanthemums exploded into life, silver spinners spun aflame, and multi-coloured peonys flared across the night sky, the crowds settled in to watch as America celebrated its 242nd Birthday.
At the picnic table, Jack scooted a little closer towards Hamish, and wrapped his hands around his boyfriend’s waist.
“Happy Independence Day.” He whispered.
“Happy Independence Day.” Hamish whispered back. He then twisted his head sideways so he could share a kiss with the other man.
Chapter 8: August - “When you’re on the beach you steal the show”
The long run of summer brings plenty of opportunities for Jack and Hamish to hang out, and the country boy decides to show the city lad just what he's missing out on when it comes to the state's beaches.
This story features some musical enhancement; the link is embedded in the song lyrics.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The sun-drenched trees and wood-clad houses along the stretch of Matunuck Beach North Road were quickly becoming a familiar sight through Jack’s windscreen, and there was something to be said about having some variation in scenery compared to the bustle and noise of Providence.
Turning off onto Jay Street, Jack drew his car to a stop in front of the burnt orange and crimson-trimmed Haddock household. As promised, his boyfriend and his boyfriend’s best friends were stood on the sidewalk in beachwear.
The azure-eyed man flipped down his mirrored aviators and flashed them a dazzling smile. “So who’s up for some high tides and good vibes?”
Hamish grinned and showered his boyfriend with a warm greeting and a quick kiss. “Hey m'lord, traffic must’ve been good.”
“U.S. 1 was pretty clear once I got out of Federal Hill, though I can’t wait for the construction work on the I-95 to finally finish, it’s been crawling every time I’ve used it.” Jack banished his grouse with another flash of his smile, and he addressed Astrid and Fiske. “Hey guys. So who wants to go to the beach?”
Jack’s ‘a little bit of everything’ playlist blared from the car stereo as they glided along Matunuck Beach South Road, out of Berk and eastwards along the coast toward East Matunuck State Beach.
The suggestion had been Hamish’s at the spur of the moment, which had come as a bit of a surprise to Jack, who’d assumed they’d be spending the day at the town beach, where they’d had the fourth of July barbecue. Still, considering there wasn’t much in the way of beaches close to central Providence, he was always happy to check out new shorelines and sand dunes.
As they made their way to the beach, he’d learned that in addition to being much larger than the town beach, it would often be quieter even in the height of summer… And had required a change of vehicle, as Astrid’s Volkswagen GTI was equipped with a season pass for the provided parking.
The structure of the beach pavilion stood out as an unmistakeable landmark even half a mile down the road, the largest object amongst a landscape dominated by low trees, tall hedges, telegraph poles and salt marshes.
“♪Woooooooah, we’re half way there!♫” Jack sang at the top of his lungs.
“♫Woooooooah! The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air♪!” Hamish, Astrid and Fiske joined in, before breaking into a round of laughter. They’d been supplying meme-responses since the song started playing.
Astrid did her best to keep her laughter under control as she drove. A rectangular sign quickly approached, announcing:
“Here we are, guys.” She smirked, the ghost of his laughter still in her voice as a second sign, advising to keep right swept past. Astrid followed the slip road off of the highway, drawing the car to a stop in a short queue leading up to the toll booth-like huts.
Jack settled back in his seat, and glanced towards his boyfriend.
“Looks busy.” He mused.
“Don’t worry; it won’t be as busy as it looks.” The auburn-haired man explained.
“So what’s the plan? Sun bathing? Volleyball? Building sandcastles?”
“Astrid’s got something planned.” Hamish remarked with a smirk.
Their driver quickly glanced away from the traffic. “It’s nothing fancy, but I think you’ll like it.”
Jack grinned. “Neat. Hamish and I will have whatever you’ve got planned sorted in no time.”
Astrid glanced back, now bearing a conspiratorial look. “Actually, you’ll be teamed up with me.”
Despite the initial flurry that had queued to pay, the parking lot for the beach was reasonably quiet for the day. As Jack climbed out of the V.W., he took in the towering sight of the wind turbine.
His gaze drifted down to the sprawling mass of the beach pavilion, which he only had a moment to admire before his attention was drawn back to the others in the group.
Astrid walked past with a familiar beach umbrella slung under her arm, and a tote bag of snacks slung over the other. Fiske followed a few steps behind her, carrying some folded up windbreaks.
“Jack?” He turned to face Hamish, who was holding out a zipped sports bag of items. He took the bag from his boyfriend, who had a bundle of beach towels in one hand, and a drinks cooler in the other. “Thanks.”
“No problem, babe.” Jack smiled, and shared another quick kiss with the other young man.
Hamish slid a pair of sunglasses into position as they resumed walking, following their friends towards a ramp leading up to the pavilion.
As they ascended the ramp, Jack took in the pavilion. Set atop a raised concrete platform, the two huts, like oversized boathouses, were decked out in tan clapboards, white trim and grey pitched metal roofs. Square windows dotted above head level gave occasional glimpses of indistinct illuminated interiors. Their path took them between the two huts, and out onto a large deck, with a covered picnic area and tables with parasols. Jack glanced to his left, and spotted a pair of signs that advertised:
SALTY’S BURGERS & SEAFOOD
WOODY’S FROZEN LEMONADE
As he glanced right, he could see the lifeguard tower rising over the roof of the hut containing the changing rooms. Three storeys tall, with an observation platform lining all four sides of the tower.
“Pssst, c'mon.” Hamish intruded with a good-natured tone, and Jack quickened his pace to join Astrid and Fiske who were now stood by the rail overlooking the beach. The others turned as they approached, and Astrid broke into a friendly smile.
“You wanted to know why your boyfriend brought you here rather than hang out on the town beach again?”
She stepped aside with a theatrical sweep of her arm.
“Here’s why.” Hamish gently finished, and Jack took it all in.
The sand stretched out as far as he could see to the his left and right. Before them, the sparkling waters of Block Island Sound reached out until they caressed the sky where it met the horizon.
“I know, right?” The green-eyed man grinned. “You stole the show when we were last on the beach, so I figured you deserved to see what else we had to offer.”
Astrid cleared her throat, levelling a challenging look on her three companions. “So, who’s up for a little game?”
A quick set-up on the sand later, Jack, Hamish, Astrid and Fiske gathered under the beach umbrella.
Astrid clapped her hands together as she began. “Hamish has told me that one of the things you love to do is get into in a good old snowball fight.”
The blue-eyed man raised his hands in surrender with a grin. “Guilty as charged.”
“And I trust him when he says you’re pretty good at it.”
“I believe my exact words were 'he’s a demon’.” Hamish interjected.
“So normally, I wouldn’t even suggest going up against you in a fair snowball fight. And as you may’ve noticed, it’s still summer.”
Jack nodded with a flippant air. “I had noticed.”
“Which gives us a nice handicap: how good are you with sandballs?”
Jack’s brows raised as Astrid produced a pair of plastic snowball sand molds. He accepted one of the tong-like objects. “Looks like we’re about to find out.”
Hamish and Fiske set themselves up less than a yard from the waterline, with Astrid and Jack facing them eight feet away along the shoreline. Each camp had erected a wind break to serve as the wall of their “fort”, and each team had a pair of buckets which they could use for water to make their “sandballs”.
“The rules are as follows: a direct hit results in a ten-second penalty before you can start firing again. You can fire at the opposing team while they go to get more water. Try to aim for the body rather than the face if you can help it. You are only allowed four bucket refills each, so the first team to run out of "ammunition” is the loser, so make those shots count!“
"I’d like to see a nice, clean fight guys.” Jack added, getting into the spirit.
“I’ve seen you when you get into a snowball fight, m'lord.” Hamish fired back. “You’re anything but clean.”
“That’s fighting words, Haddock!” Astrid challenged.
“You’re so on, babe!” Jack jeered, and loosed the first shot.
The first shot had smashed Hamish square in the chest, and from that moment on he’d chosen that all was fair in love and war. Although Astrid and Jack had the better aim of the two, Hamish and Fiske had employed strategy to combat their opponents’ athletic prowess. Jack and Astrid had been enthusiastic, but their rivals were patient, and made their water count. A good few shots from both sides ended up smashing against the wind breaks, and twenty minutes into the sandball fight, Hamish chanced a quick peek over the “parapet”.
He didn’t have a clear view of Astrid and Jack, but they appeared to be scrambling for supplies. He quickly ducked back down, and grinned broadly at his fellow soldier. “I think they’re out.”
Fiske looked hesitant, but optimistic. “Should we call them out?”
“I think we should charge them.”
The heavyset man nodded, though he didn’t look like he was keen on the idea. “I just hope this doesn’t end up being like the charge of the light brigade!”
They swung out from behind their windbreak, and made a run for Jack and Astrid’s, a sandball in each hand.
The green-eyed man wasn’t too surprised to see that Jack and Astrid had planned a similar response, and they leapt up out of cover, a sandball in each hand in mirror of their contenders.
Each participant unleashed their remaining ammunition, with the last shot, hurled by Fiske, having caught the white-haired man on the shoulder.
The battle descended into a chaotic effort of flinging loose sand at each other, and a truce was finally called when they got to the point where they were spitting sand.
Chests heaving and sweat coating their skin, Astrid, Hamish, Jack and Fiske flopped down. It had been silly and frantic, but it had been-
“Fun.” Jack let out a groan, but they knew he’d enjoyed himself. “Did you come up with that specially for me?”
Astrid nodded. “Yep.”
He gave her a thumbs up. “Awesome. The only other person to invent a game for me is sat over there…” He vaguely gesticulated towards his boyfriend. “But I doubt it’d be family-friendly enough to play on a beach.”
Hamish made a dismissive wave of his hand. “There’s too much sand, anyway. It’d get in everywhere.”
“T.M.I., guys.” Fiske interjected.
“Seconded.” Astrid agreed, raising a hand.
“Alright, you prudes, we’ll stop.” Jack chuckled. He made another attempt to spit out some more of the coastline.
“Drinks?” Hamish suggested.
“Drinks.” Astrid agreed, and the group pulled themselves up and gathered their warfare supplies.
“Jack, could you help me carry this stuff to the car? It’s less for us to carry later.”
The blue-eyed man shrugged. “Sure.”
Hamish shot Astrid a look, and she fired back as much of a reassuring smile as she could achieve in the short moment before they headed back towards her car. As Jack fell into step with her, she glanced toward him.
“Nice idea with the snowball makers, I have to steal that for next summer.”
She chuckled, unable to stop the smirk. “Be my guest.”
He smiled, and then glanced pointedly at her. “So what do you want to take to me about?”
To the point. “I wanted to ask how things were going, can’t I do that?”
“C'mon, Astrid. You’ve got Hiccup here most of the time, you’ve got plenty of chances to ask him how things are going.”
“I used to.” She conceded. “But I think I overdid it a little when you two started dating and now he gets exasperated with me.”
He glanced slyly at her. “You were that worried about me?”
She shrugged. “You were this guy from the city that neither of us knew… And I know that he can be a bit of a love-struck puppy when he has a crush on someone.”
“He’s told me something like that.” Jack nodded with a chuckle. “Okay, I’ll lay it out… Do you want it in one-hundred-and-forty characters, or Facebook length?”
They were clearing the edge of the pavilion; the parking lot and Astrid’s Volkswagen were in sight. “We’re starting to settle into a routine, but that’s normal… Isn’t it? I’m still having plenty of fun with him on our dates, and I think he is as well. I don’t see us stopping anytime soon.”
“What about the long-haul?”
He slowed. “I haven’t really thought much about it.” He shrugged. “I’m kinda taking it one day at a time.”
“Do you see yourself as still being with him this time next year?”
“Well… Sure, I guess. Has he said he’s losing interest, or something?”
“No!” Astrid responded suddenly. “No, he’s not said or done anything to make me think that.” She took a step closer to him. “You’re the first person he’s had a significant relationship with… I guess it’s my natural nosiness and protectiveness getting the better of me and maybe making me a little scary.”
“You were getting a little scary… But, I get what you mean and why you’re doing it.” He took a breath as they resumed walking to the car. “I don’t really want to make a plan and carve it into stone. I like being able to see where things go without the expectation to settle down, get married, have kids, get a dog…” His expression turned thoughtful. “I mean, yeah, I think I do want to have those things. I think I can have them with him, but I don’t want to think too far ahead: wasting the now to work out the later… Know what I mean?”
“Yeah.” She nodded. “I do.”
She extracted the keys for her car and unlocked the trunk.
“He’s lucky to have you.” Jack stated.
“Isn’t that my line?” She countered with a smirk, and he let out a chuckle.
“Sorry if I got a bit defensive back there. If you want to know how we’re doing, feel free to ask, or call.”
She nodded, grateful for the offer. “I will. Thanks, Jack.”
Hamish glanced up from his spot opposite Fiske in the shade. “Hey you two. I was about to call Dad and organise a search party.”
“Sorry.” Astrid smiled apologetically. “I was grilling your boyfriend and we lost track of time.”
“About what?” Hamish asked. Fiske reached into the cooler and extracted a can of Pepsi Max for Jack and a bottle of Clear American raspberry apple for Astrid.
“Stuff, things, the average unladen velocity of an Swallow. The usual.” Jack interjected as he sat down, accepting the cool can from the blond man.
“Pull my other leg, it’s real.” Hamish countered.
“Astrid was just doing what all good friends do with the people dating their best friend: making sure my intentions were honourable.”
Hamish turned towards his aforementioned-best friend. “Are they? Is he?”
She nodded as she effortlessly twisted the cap off of her bottle. “You’ve nothing to worry about.”
Hamish looked suspiciously between the pair of them. “Good.”
“Good.” Jack agreed.
“Good.” Astrid smiled.
Fiske looked between the three of them. “So, uh… How about those Bruins? Who’ll they get to replace Czarnik now that he’s going to the Flames?”
After the sandball fight, the four young adults settled down to spend the rest of their time relaxing in each other’s company. Fiske poured over his rule books for Dragons & Berserkers, making occasional notes as he went. Astrid was progressing through Dread Nation by Justina Ireland, and Hamish was contently lying with his head propped up, using his boyfriend as a willing pillow. The two of them passing time identifying shapes in the clouds.
The afternoon drifted on, with the sun starting to descend towards the west.
Astrid slipped a homemade bookmark back into her novel, and set it down to glance at Fiske. He appeared to have briefly dozed off, pen loosely held in hand. She trailed her gaze to Jack and Hamish, who were talking quietly between each other.
“…Doing anything for Labor Day?”
Jack shrugged. “Barbecue with Bunny, Anna, Nick, plus Jamie and the others… You?”
“Same. Dad will probably hold it in the back yard and we’ll have Astrid, her family and Gobber over like we did for the fourth. I might be able to spend some time that weekend in the city with you, though.”
“I’d like that.” Jack returned softly. He leant forward and kissed Hamish’s forehead. A moment later, they shared an awkward upside-down kiss.
Astrid smiled and shook her head. They were a pair of romantic saps, but she loved them despite that. She retrieved her book, hoping to squeeze another few pages out of the dying light, before they headed back to Berk.
Thanks for bearing with me with this. Due to the knocked back schedule September’s chapter may end up running a little behind. I’ll update you guys as things go.