Under the summer sun, Salle can feel the beads of sweat forming on his forehead. He’s six and he doesn’t want to say goodbye to his mom. Sniffles leave him as he clings tightly to her, his big green eyes wet with tears threatening to fall. His daddy, as patient as ever, smiles kindly.
Salle has been told that it’s only for a short while, that he can come back once summer ends, but all he can think about is how the woman with his dad is not his mom, and why are we leaving her behind? I love her.
“Salle, dear,” his mom starts, her voice so soft that Salle almost misses it with how loud his sniffles have become. “I’ll be waiting for you and Cessie here, okay? I love you.” He’s gently tugged away. She bends down to press a kiss to his forehead.
“I-I love you,” Salle says as he wraps his short arms around her. He doesn’t want to let go but he has to as he’s urged away by his dad.
The ride to his dad’s vacation home takes too long, and with Cessie asleep, Salle has chosen to spend his time annoying his dad and the lady with his endless questioning. “Why can’t we just stay with mommy?” Is his most recent question, one he asks while trying to blink away the sleepiness.
The lady sitting in front, Hazel she told Salle and Cessie to call her, merely laughs at his question. Salle should feel offended but he finds her laugh nice. “Your mommy has to go on a trip for work, remember?”
She does. Doesn’t mean Salle can’t ask. “Why can’t we go with her?”
Hazel looks at his daddy this time, and it takes a while for Salle to receive an answer. “Your mommy can’t work while you’re there, S.”
Salle wrinkles his nose at the nickname. It isn’t bad… just new. He turns to look out the window. “M’kay,” he says.
The next few moments are spent riding in silence. Salle’s about to nod off when his daddy speaks. “Your friend Neo will be there.”
Somehow, hearing that makes his vacation almost better.
Salle’s still six when he runs around the beach, eyes looking around frantically in hopes of spotting his friend. Behind him, he could hear Hazel telling him to slow down, and he knows he should follow the lady’s words but the sight of the pale boy who’s easily the tallest among his peers urges him to run faster.
“Neo!” He hollers out, a wide smile on his face. When Neo turns and waves at him with an equally wide smile, he almost trips on his own feet. Luckily, Hazel grabs on to his arm at the right moment. He turns to Hazel to thank her before hurrying over to Neo who has already abandoned the small group he was with.
When they’re close enough, Neo tugs him into a hug, and Salle scrambles to return it. Pulling back, he’s happy to see that his friend looks as glad to see him. “I missed you!” Neo says, stepping back but still keeping an arm looped around Salle’s. “It’s not as fun without you here.”
He beams at his friend’s words. “I’m glad you’re here, too.” Glancing at Hazel, who has kept a respectable amount of distance between them, he lowers his voice into a near whisper. “I thought I’d have to have a sad summer because mommy isn’t with me.”
“You don’t have to! I’m sorry your mommy isn’t here with you but I promise we’ll have fun.” Salle believes him.
It’s one of the best summer vacations he has ever had.
Salle’s nine and complaining about friends who are inconsiderate enough to not use blankets during the summer.
“It’s hot ,” Neo stresses as Salle huffs. “You’ll all be sweaty and I don’t want to share a bed if you’re sweaty.”
With a scowl on his face, Salle points to the air condition unit in the corner of Neo’s room. “You have that! It makes the room cold!”
“Not that cold!”
“Yes, it does!”
Their voices have risen to a high enough volume to warrant the presence of Neo’s mom at the door. Her smile is soft as she looks at them both before she hands Salle a deep blue fleece blanket with cat prints all over it. Salle can’t help but grin as it reminds him of the color of his friend’s eyes. “Not too loud, okay? People are trying to sleep. You boys should rest as well, don’t you want to go swimming early in the morning?”
He and Neo nod. With a parting kiss to both of their foreheads, Neo’s mom bids them good night and shuts the door behind her. Salle eyes Neo warily for a few seconds, tugging the blanket around himself. “Are you going to complain about the blanket?”
Neo rolls his eyes and tugs Salle to lie beside him. “I won’t.”
“Good.” He says. “I won’t share it with you when you get cold.”
Salle cocoons himself with the blanket, resulting to his face the only part of him peeking out. He sticks his tongue out at Neo as he burrows deeper into the blanket. “That’s what you get. Didn’t you say it was hot?”
“But what if I get cold?”
“Then your bum will freeze.”
That prompts a whine from Neo. “Saaaaalle.”
“This is my bed.”
“I’ll sleep on the floor with this blanket then.”
Neo doesn’t respond. Salle takes the silence as signal to go to sleep, since Neo’s face is hidden by his pillow so he doesn’t really know if his friend is resting already. Salle’s about to doze off at that point, the events of the day catching up to him. It’s when his eyes have turned blurry and he feels himself in the clutches of sleep when Neo speaks again.
“You can’t move to the floor… I like sleeping next to you.”
Salle sluggishly tugs the corner of the blanket and Neo scoots under it. He falls asleep to the feeling of Neo curled up around him.
A summer storm surges outside when Salle’s twelve and stuck in Neo’s home. They had made plans in the morning to go swimming with Neo’s cousins and Cessie, but the clear skies had made way for dark clouds and rain and thunder, so now he and Neo are sporting twin pouts on their lips as they watched the storm from the comfort of Neo’s living room.
“No fair,” he mumbles, resting his chin on his arm. “I wanna swim.”
“You’ll drown if you swim now, stupid.” Glancing at Neo, he notes how the other boy’s eyes are still trained on the storm wrecking havoc outside. “If you drown I won’t have anyone to swim with anymore.”
“You’ll have to save me then.”
Neo snorts. “I’m not going out when it’s raining this hard. Guess you’ll have to drown, and then I’ll have to find someone new to swim with.”
Salle elbows him. It must have been pretty rough because Neo retaliates with one to Salle’s ribs. He winces, rubbing his side as he flops onto his friend’s lap. Neo tries to push him off to no avail. “Neo,” he whines, looking up at the other boy. “I’m bored.”
“What do you want me to do about it?
He shrugs. A flick to the forehead and he’s wrinkling his nose. He thinks about pinching Neo’s thigh but decides that the resulting shoves aren’t worth it. “Entertain me?”
Neo snorts. “Yeah, no.”
He pouts. “Please?”
Sighing, Neo pats the baby hair sticking up on Salle’s head. He gently pushes Salle’s head off his lap to stand and grab something from the bookshelf. When he returns he pats his lap again. His smile is small when he speaks, “want me to draw on your arm?” It is enough to catch Salle’s interest as he instantly shifts and places his legs on Neo’s lap.
The finger that runs down the expanse of his leg makes him giggle, and he giggles harder when he catches the serious look on Neo’s face. A few seconds pass and nothing is happening still. He’s almost tempted to whine again when Neo uncaps the marker and presses the felt tip to his leg.
“Sit still but don’t look, okay?” Salle nods. He sits as still as he can manage, and from time to time he eyes the window, still sad about the weather outside. Everytime this happens, Neo somehow finds out, as he keeps brushing his free hand on Salle’s skin, drawing his attention away from the window.
It takes a while for Neo to finish drawing, but when he does, it’s nothing Salle has expected. His friend looks shy as Salle traces the elaborate black marks making up the tree he had drawn on Salle’s legs.
Salle felt a bit stupid for not realizing how good of an artist his friend is, even after all those times Neo spends drawing whenever they aren’t swimming.
“I love it,” he breathes out. He knows he’ll get in trouble with his mom later, but the rewarding grin Neo gives him is more than enough to make up for it.
Salle’s fifteen when he sees a sunburnt Neo on the beach. Or to put it correctly, when Neo spots him first and tackles him into the ground while complaining about sunburn. He’s about to tug off his shirt when he hears someone call out his name. Surprised, he cranes his neck left and right, eager to see who it was. It isn’t that fun to go swimming alone, and Cessie’s inside sleeping while Hazel cares for his sick dad.
“Hey!” Salle startles once more when a body runs into his.
He squints up at his friend, Neo’s face as pink as the rest of his body. The towel that had been wrapped around his shoulders has fallen to the sound, but it seems that Neo doesn’t really care as he frowns at Salle.
“Don’t ignore me.” Salle honestly doesn’t understand why people see Neo as this aloof, mysterious young man when all he really is as a person is a loser. “I’m hurting all over.”
Salle finds himself laughing at the petulant look on Neo’s face. He slowly pushes himself up to a sitting position, his hand reaching up to ruffle Neo’s slowly drying hair. “You’re as red as a tomato,” he teases. “I have some aloe gel with me, it’ll help. Did you go swimming without sunscreen again? Your mom keeps telling you, I keep telling you to put some on before going into the water, Neo.”
Neo’s smile is sheepish as he slides off of Salle and pulls him up. Surprise colors Salle’s sense when he realizes the height difference, or the lack thereof. It was only two summers ago that he was taller than Neo, and now his friend has caught up.
“I know, I know, but I got excited.”
This time, Salle laughs. “Of course you did.” He makes sure to keep his touch as light as a feather as he runs a hand down Neo’s arm, stopping to clasp Neo’s hand in his. “C’mon, I don’t want you burning any more than you already have.” He leads Neo to his summer home. There, he nudges his friend to sit on the porch while he situates himself behind Neo.
A sigh leaves Neo’s lips as Salle presses the cool gel to his back. Same as before, he keeps his touches light as to not aggravate Neo’s skin any further, leaving sticky residue in his wake. It doesn’t take long for Neo to lean into Salle’s touch.
“There, all soothed.” Salle says, careful not to mention Neo’s weight against him. He knows how difficult it is for his friend to be comfortable with another person’s touch like this.
Neo glances up with drooping eyes, drawing out quiet laughter from him. He shifts for a bit, just slight enough to not dislodge Neo from his comfortable position. Neo’s eyes are near closed when Salle begins stroking his hair.
“You can sleep for a while. We can swim later.” Nobody needs to be made aware of the kiss he presses to the top of Neo’s head.
He’s eighteen and still bubbling with excitement when he takes the leap. The fire illuminates Neo’s face just enough that Salle can see the vibrant blue of his eyes. For once, his brown hair isn’t slicked up at the ends, and his temporarily sunkissed skin is hidden away by the long sleeved shirt he’s wearing.
His voice is soft as he sings along to the song blasting from the speaker they brought with them, and Salle can’t help how his eyes trail down to Neo’s lips, his traitorous brain wondering if they are as soft as they looked.
His same traitorous brain whispers that the only way to find out is to kiss Neo. And Salle’s an idiot so he does.
He and Neo are both surprised, that much he can tell judging from the sudden stillness of his friend; and even though Salle’s lips are tingling from the slight contact their lips have made, his head is reeling as anxiety pools at the pit of his stomach. Suddenly, despite the humid, salty air, Salle feels cold. He feels ill. He feels as if he has messed things up.
Neo lets out a peal of laughter from his soft, soft lips, and Salle’s rooted to his spot. Only a gentle touch to his arm invokes movement from him, and a soft gasp escapes him as Neo kisses his pink tinged cheeks once, twice, before brushing his lips to Salle’s.
He doesn’t feel so cold anymore.
Neo kisses like the sea in the afternoon. Slow, languid, his movement flowing so smoothly as he tugs Salle along. Their skins are both warm to the touch and yet neither of them can complain.
Neo’s just as tall as he is, but he’s slighter in build, more lithe than Salle can ever hope to be. This is only highlighted as Salle presses closer to him, eager to keep taking, and taking, and taking.
Before, Salle thought that it was jealousy brewing in his chest whenever he looks at Neo. Except, he knows it’s not. The burning sensation he felt in his chest was anything but. Passion… passion and admiration, really. It’s exhilarating, the press of their lips, the tangling of fingers in hair, the press of fingers on skin.
Their teeth clack for a bit, Salle experienced where Neo is not, but both of them are so, so eager. When Neo pulls back, breaking the kiss as he does so, Salle almost whines because why are you pulling away, did you not enjoy it as I did, do you regr— His musings are cut off by quiet giggles. It takes a few moments for him to join in.
When Salle looks at Neo, his thoughts are consumed by pretty, pretty, god he’s so pretty , and he finds that he doesn’t mind.