The only face John recognizes in the crowd is Tony’s. This isn’t the first time they’ve ended up at the same strange and random summer camp. Last year was hiking in the Adirondacks. The year before that was camping in the Grand Tetons. This year it’s training to be a junior lifeguard in Monterey Bay.
“I swear,” Tony DiNozzo says as he slides up to John amidst the other rich and spoiled teens milling about the registration tables set up in the parking lot beside a gorgeous stretch of beach. “My dad must talk to your mom every year to figure out where to offload me for the summer while he jet-sets with the wife du jour. Where can I dump Junior? Somewhere with that Sheppard kid. So he won’t be alone.”
“Could be,” John says. While he doesn’t have a great relationship with his dad, he doesn’t envy Tony’s relationship with his. Tony’s mom is dead.
Dad never talks about it, but with Mom’s cancer, she is soon to follow the first Mrs. Anthony DiNozzo Sr.
“How was boarding school this year?” Tony asks.
“About as good as military boarding school, I suppose,” John says.
Tony makes a face. John will never tell Tony that he wants to join the military. He’s sixteen years old and his father thinks he’s headed for Harvard, to follow in the old man’s footsteps and take over the family business. John wants to break the speed of sound several times over.
“So, what’s the plan for surviving the next eight weeks of waterlogged hell?” Tony lowers his voice.
John says, “I’ll let you know as soon as I figure it out.”
As it turns out, wannabe lifeguard summer camp is less like Baywatch and more like military school, with running and calisthenics, swimming drills, rescue swim drills, and endless education about oceanography, weather patterns, safety risks, local marine wildlife, and advanced first aid, including CPR.
Tony and John remain partners through it all, Tony giggling and making a face whenever John attempts mouth-to-mouth on him.
They do get to spend several very educational days indoors at the aquarium, but it’s shaping up to be a summer of constantly being damp, pruney, and in desperate need of more sunblock.
John has always been a bit of a rebel, a bit of a boundary-pusher, so during free time on their eighth day at lifeguard camp, he wanders away from the stretch of beach where they’re usually drilling and running and whatnot. After their trip to the aquarium, he’s hoping to see some live baby seals or something.
So he rounds the point, where it seems there are plenty of rocks for seals to sunbathe on - and instead comes across a boy sunbathing. He’s spread out on a surfboard on the rocks, eyes closed, completely nude, skin golden.
For a moment, John can’t breathe, because -
He’s always known he likes boys at least as much as he likes girls, but he’s never really appreciated how beautiful another boy can be.
The boy has dark hair that’s gleaming and damp, and his lips are curved in a faint smile.
John must make a noise, because the boy’s eyes open, and he sits up, turns to look at John. He raises one knee as he turns, almost coyly shielding his groin from view, but John had seen the wiry dark curls there, had seen that the boy was uncut.
“Oh, hey,” the boy says, smiling, unashamed. “Didn’t realize anyone came over here besides me and the other community kids.”
“I’m sorry,” John says, falling back on Sheppard-trained politeness. “I didn’t mean to intrude.”
The boy looks him up and down, notes his uniform orange swim shorts and the white polo shirt with the camp logo on it. “Ah, you rich kids probably weren’t warned about the hippies who live around here, swimming au naturel and otherwise being a blight upon polite society.”
“Hippies?” John asks. “It’s 1986.”
The boy shrugs one shoulder. “For some people it’s a way of life, not a fashion trend.”
“I’m sorry,” John says again, even though the boy doesn’t look angry or offended. He has blue, blue eyes. “I didn’t mean -”
The boy laughs. “It’s fine. My name’s Evan. What’s your name?”
Of course the other boy has a name, it isn’t just gorgeous naked one. “I’m John.”
“Nice to meet you, John.”
Before John can say anything further, two more people enter the equation, one Tony, the other a naked girl.
“Hey, Bluebell,” the girl begins, and she comes up short when she sees John. Then she draws herself upright defiantly, daring him to make a comment about her state of undress.
Like Evan, she is tanned golden, dark-haired and blue-eyed, very pretty.
Tony says, “Hey John, what did you - whoa.” He stares at the girl.
She glares at him.
“Hey, Sparkles, this is John,” Evan says. “John, this is my sister, Tally. Her commune name is Sparkles.”
“Hey, uh, Sparkles,” John says, lifting a hand in a tentative wave. “This is my friend Tony. Tony, this is Evan and Sparkles.”
Tony is still staring.
John nudges him sharply and keeps his gaze firmly above Tally’s collarbones.
“Mom says she’ll need your help with dinner in about three hours,” Tally says.
John is stupidly relieved that she’s Evan’s sister.
“Okay. I’ll be there.” Evan smiles up at her.
She smiles at him, glares at Tony and John, and then picks her way back down the rock pile.
“Well, it looks like my time now has a countdown,” Evan says to John. He reaches down beside his surfboard and comes up with a fairly impressive digital, most likely waterproof watch that he fastens onto his left wrist - there is a paler strip of skin there, John sees - and then he finds a pair of boardshorts, pulls them on as well.
“What, no surfing in the buff?” John asks.
Evan arches an eyebrow at him. “You ever wiped out in the buff? Not good times, my friend.”
John thinks of the times he’s wiped out and says, “Point taken.”
Evan looks him up and down. “You surf?”
“Didn’t bring my board.”
“Well, if you ever get bored of being a baby Baywatcher, let me know. We’ve got spares,” Evan says. He lifts his board - it’s gorgeous, hand-painted from the looks of it, marbled blues and greens and yellows like the sun and sea, overlaid with a dark filigree pattern that reminds John of Indian paisleys, only they’re arranged to form a flower - or maybe another sun. Evan carries his board down to the water, drops it onto the water, lays on it, and paddles out to sea.
Tony says, “Damn.”
John had forgotten he was there.
“Dibs on one if you want the other,” Tony says, and John looks at him.
Tony realizes what he’s said, and he goes pale.
John says, “I like Evan. If you think you can get Tally to smile -”
Tony says, “Watch me.”
The next time John as a free moment - or a moment when he knows he won’t be missed, and for the first time he’s grateful for the other entitled, spoiled kids from upper echelon families who always make up his summer camp cohorts, because they keep the camp counselors very well occupied indeed - he sneaks away from their designated strip of beach and rounds the point to the rocks and looks for Evan.
Evan is there again, as nude and beautiful as before, only instead of sunbathing on his surfboard he’s got a sketchpad open on his knees, and he’s drawing.
He’s drawing John.
It’s a pretty damn good likeness.
“Hey,” John says.
Evan looks up at him, smiles, not at all embarrassed to be caught drawing another boy who’s basically a stranger, but he’s managed to capture the wildness of John’s hair, the embarrassing elfin-ness of his ears. “Hey.”
“So you’re an artist as well as a surfer.”
“No rule that I can’t be both,” Evan says.
Evan’s hands still. “You want to go surfing?”
“I’d love to,” John says.
Evan closes his sketchbook, puts away his charcoal pencils into an old wooden box, packs all his drawing gear away into a waterproof bag, which he stows higher up on the rocks, one rock on the drawstring to stop it from blowing away. He pulls on a pair of board shorts.
John peels off his shirt, and Evan ducks down on the other side of the rocks, reappears with a second surfboard.
“It’s just a little funboard,” Evan says. “I borrowed it from one of the other boys who has about your build, so the volume should be all right.”
“Thanks.” John isn’t sure what to make of Evan, a stranger, who’s always smiling and welcoming, who seems to have no agenda other than being kind to John.
“Do you need sunblock?” Evan asks.
John’s had enough sun over the past week and a half that he isn’t burning anymore. “I’m fine.”
“Okay.” Evan takes his board down to the water and pushes out, paddles further away from the stretch of beach designated for John’s camp, headed for some nice waves.
John doesn’t hesitate - he follows.
Tony, John knows, has skipped the rock outcropping where Evan spends his time and is headed for the commune where Evan lives, where apparently the rest of the commune spends the summer clothing-optional. The other kids have whispered about it, but most of them think it’s either crass - or very feminist. The camp is very divided.
None of them have been brave enough to see for themselves.
Evan is right - the board he picked is about the same volume as John’s own board. Evan must ride the waves every day, because he can climb foam and do other tricks. John is no slouch on a board, though, has been surfing since he was ten, would hit the waves whenever he was dragged along to Australia or Hawaii or any number of other surf-friendly spots while he was ostensibly tagging along with his father and learning how to be a good Sheppard Man.
Riding the waves is amazing. John loves it. He isn’t embarrassed when he wipes out, just climbs back on and keeps going.
When he and Evan are both out of energy, they paddle back to Evan’s spot, pull their boards up out of the water, and Evan shucks out of his shorts, lays them out to dry.
After a bit of hesitation, John does the same.
Evan says, “You don’t have to if you don’t want to.”
John, feeling a bit brave, says, “I want to see what it’s like.” He can’t help but sit with one knee raised so if anyone approaches from the camp side, his groin is out of view.
Evan says, “It just kind of is, I guess. I mean - it’s not like you have anything I’ve never seen, or vice versa.”
“True,” John says. “Although you - you’re not circumcised.”
“Hm?” Evan glances downward. “Oh, yeah.”
“What’s it like?”
“What’s being circumcised like?”
“Point,” John concedes.
Evan says, “If it’s not too weird, you can look, if you like. They never show it in textbooks. I mean - the whole taboo about it is silly. If it were really an issue of cleanliness, you’d see a lot more health concerns coming out of, well, the rest of the world.”
John is genuinely curious, but if he gets hard while he’s touching Evan or looking at him, will Evan be offended? There’s only so far Evan’s kindness will go.
Evan adds, “If he gets a little excited, well, it’s puberty, he sits up and takes notice at pretty much anything, and also you’re pretty hot, so -”
“You think I’m hot?” John asks.
“You - most guys wouldn’t just say that. They’d be afraid of getting punched or something.” John would definitely be afraid of that.
Evan shrugs. “Most guys who might punch me would’ve been really rude when we first met and I was naked.”
John swallows. “Well, I think you’re pretty hot too, but I do also just want to know.”
“The human body is nothing to be ashamed of,” Evan says, almost primly, and he turns, opens his knees so John can have a look.
“Sorry if, uh, if I sit up and take notice,” John says.
Evan shrugs one shoulder. “We’re teenagers.”
“How - how does it work?”
“Well, the skin just covers the head is all,” Evan says.
“But - during sex - I mean if you’ve had sex - or -”
“Depends on the guy, from what I hear.” Evan shrugs one shoulder again, and John is distracted by his collarbones for a second. “I’m not done growing, so - for some guys the head remains covered during sex, for some guys it retracts a bit.”
“What did your dad tell you about it?” John asks finally, because he had a pretty horrifying conversation with his dad when he was twelve, that he was pretty sure was about masturbation but that they never revisited, and then when John turned sixteen his dad had a firm conversation with him about respecting the Sheppard name and protecting the family integrity which he was pretty sure was about not knocking anyone up out of wedlock.
“My dad died before I was born,” Evan says.
Any horniness in John vanishes abruptly.
John must looked horrified or something, because Evan says, “No, it’s fine, I mean - I never knew him, and other guys on the commune educate me when it’s necessary. It’s just me, my mom, my sister, and my grandma.”
Any chance of sexy times has completely vanished, but John doesn’t mind.
Evan glances at his watch. “Speaking of my family - I’d better get back and help with dinner. Thanks for surfing with me, John.”
“Thanks for surfing with me too,” John says. “Thanks for borrowing me a board, and, um, educating me.”
Evan smiles, like absolutely nothing awkward has happened. “You’re welcome, John. Thanks for spending time with me.”
John nods, goes to pull on his board shorts and t-shirt, and then he says, “Can I kiss you?”
Evan’s smile is brighter and sweeter. He says, “Yeah,” and leans in.
John kisses him.
Evan’s lips are warm and soft, and when he parts them he tastes like the salt of the sea and the sweat of exertion and sunshine and -
Evan pulls back, panting. “Wow. Um, I really do have to go. But - if you manage to sneak away again, you know where to find me.”
John nods, a little dazed. “Yeah.” He finishes pulling on his clothes, and he heads back to join the others, who are doing running drills.
John falls in beside Tony, who is one of the best at the running drills, because apparently none of this summer’s fitness drills have anything on what they make him do at boarding school.
“So I hear you went surfing with Evan,” Tony says in a low voice as they dash back and forth between two lines drawn in the sand.
Half of the time, other kids give up and stop running before one of the camp counselors blows his whistle and calls them out, and the counselors have more or less given up on keeping track of who’s participating and not. By this point, a few of the girls spend all day sunning themselves on the beach and flirting with the real lifeguards, so headcounts aren’t all that useful either. No one has noticed John was gone. No one noticed when he returned. As long as he is in his bed at lights out, all will be well.
“Oh yeah? Heard from whom?”
“Tally says Evan was talking about it all morning. She couldn’t wait to get rid of him.” Tony grins.
“So you made Tally smile?”
“You bet I made her smile. Hard task, her being an older woman and all. Very educational.”
“Yeah,” John says. “The both of them are - educational.”
Tony waggles his eyebrows. “You too?”
“Not - not yet.”
“But you want to.”
“They’re both pretty hot.” Tony sighs. “But I’m not about to bring the wrath of Natalia Lorne down on my head, so Evan’s all yours. You can let me live vicariously, of course.”
“Of course,” John says, but he probably won’t. He’s not ashamed of Evan, of liking him, of spending time with him, even though despite Tony’s easy acceptance John needs to be careful. But he’s pretty sure what he has with Evan is very different from what Tony has with Tally.
Tony’s expression is knowing.
John rolls his eyes. “Come on. We’d better run.”
John and Evan go surfing every day after that, sometimes only for half an hour, one time for an entire day when John manages to skip a field trip to the local ER. After they’re done surfing, they’ll pull their boards up on the sand and make out. Evan shows John his real secret spot, a small low-tide cove on the other side of the commune, which is a scattering of houses, a small farm and orchard.
They’re protected from the sun - and others’ prying eyes, because while members of Evan’s community won’t judge him for his time with John, they will interrupt, because apparently no one under the age of twelve on the commune can function without Evan. They always need his help and advice with food and interpersonal disputes and one time an assignment from summer school. Evan is endlessly patient with the younger kids, which John finds both endearing and frustrating at the same time, because so far all they’ve done is get naked and make out and maybe rub against each other till they come (and then they splash in the waves to clean off, and John suspects that from a distance, the two of them golden-naked, he looks like any of the other commune kids), and John would like to try more.
After another fun afternoon of surfing and romping with Evan (in more ways than one), John is pretty sure he’s ready for more. He isn’t sure how far Tony’s gotten with Tally, and he’s not going to ask (but he’s pretty sure Tony is exaggerating for the sake of the other guys, who know Tony has been sneaking off to the commune, and Tony, out of a kindness, has been letting them think John has been doing the same with someone named Bluebell, who of course the other guys assume is a girl). John sits through supper and evening headcount and lights out in the cabins, and then he lays in his bunk and wonders. What does he have to do to get some real time alone with Evan?
The answer comes with a knock at the window.
The camp counselor is out like a light, snores like a malfunctioning buzz saw.
The other boys in the cabin stir.
There’s another knock.
Tony opens the window.
For one moment, John doesn’t recognize the figure in the window, all curves and thick, long, dark curls, but then she says,
“Tony, John, c’mon.”
John has literally never seen her with her clothes on.
“Hurry, before someone sees!” She beckons.
John is out of bed and into his board shorts and a tank top, flip flops on.
Tony is right on his heels, can dress at the drop of a hat (thanks, military school). He leads the way out the window, and John follows.
Tally is wearing a simple sundress, barefoot on the sand. She turns and dashes along the sand, and John pauses to take off his flip flops and holds them before they dash after her. All those running drills have been good for something. It’s dark as they round the point, and she leads them up the hill, across the tall grass instead of across the rocks where Evan likes to sun himself.
She leads them away from the water - and toward the commune. Tony seems to know the way, picks his way across the grass easily, but John has never been. He can see some kind of central bonfire. People are gathered around it. Most of them, John notices, are fully clothed, though some of the men are without shirts.
Probably not a good idea to be fully naked around a fire, he supposes, though humans must have done it in the past, still did it in other cultures, right?
Evan is beside the fire, teaching a group of little first-graders how to roast marshmallows. He has supplies laid by for making s’mores. It seems so normal that for a second John is confused. Evan, with his miles of golden skin and easy comfort in his own nudity and calm acceptance of John, seems so foreign and exotic somehow. But Evan’s just a boy, like John, with friends and family and other ordinary things, like school.
When John and Tony arrive, Evan looks up, sees John, smiles.
Tony is saying hello to a woman with a familiar smile, familiar eyes. Evan and Tally’s mother. He’s already met her. John is nervous, more nervous than when he met generals and politicians and leaders of small countries, when Evan peels away from the kids making s’mores and takes John’s hand, leads him over to his mother.
“Mama, this is John.”
Her smile is as gracious and sweet as Evan’s. “Hello, John.”
“Pleasure to meet you, ma’am.” He can’t help but fall back on Sheppard manners.
“Please, call me Bobbie. Everyone does.”
“Yes, ma’am. Um, Bobbie.”
“Evan says you’re a very good surfer.”
“Evan is too kind.”
Bobbie laughs. “So serious and polite. Go, boys, have fun. Be safe.”
“Thanks, Mama.” Evan kisses her on the cheek, and then he leads John away from the fire.
And toward one of the houses. Evan’s home. The house is small, quaint, two levels, with brightly painted shutters and window boxes full of flowers. The front door is a different but also bright color. Evan leads John inside, past a little foyer table and an open kitchen that leads to a den.
Evan’s bedroom is behind the kitchen. He has a single bed, his surfboard propped up against the wall beside the open window, and his desk covered with art supplies.
His bed is neatly made.
“We have all night,” Evan says quietly. He didn’t turn on any of the lights, and the only illumination they have is from the distant glow of the commune bonfire.
John swallows hard.
“Whatever you want,” Evan says. “It’s yours.” And he starts to peel out of his clothes.
John doesn’t know what he wants. Something. Anything. Everything.
He also takes off his clothes. He is now strangely comfortable being naked around Evan. He thinks it’s kind of backwards, that he’s more comfortable being naked around Evan, someone he’s attracted to, than he would be around someone he wasn’t interested in.
John makes the first move, draws Evan into a kiss. They kiss for a while, hands roaming, and when they’re both turned on and weak-kneed they tumble to the bed, breathless with laughter.
Evan isn’t kidding. They have all night. They’re young. They can go again and again. And they do. Evan shows John the pleasure to be had with his mouth, and John attempts to reciprocate what he has learned. It isn’t all fireworks and violin music. They’re clumsy and fumbling, hesitant, desperately aroused but nervous about hurting each other.
The first time John takes Evan, they’re face to face, pressed together chest to hips. Evan’s eyes are dark and wide with passion, and he’s got a firm grip on himself so he doesn’t come after only a few thrusts, but John doesn’t manage to hold out for long, and he comes after maybe four thrusts, and then Evan tumbles after him.
Then it’s Evan’s turn to take John, and this time they last a little longer.
Between each round, they lay curled together beneath Evan’s cool sheets, listening to the roar of the ocean and the laughter from the bonfire. They do their best to keep their voices down, because the little kids are still awake, and John figures out how to swallow Evan’s screams in a kiss while he comes.
They try it on their hands and knees, they try bottoming from the top. When they’re too tired for anything more athletic, they bring each other off with fingers and hands alone.
John falls asleep, delightfully sated and exhausted. He’s not sure how many times he’s come, especially since the last couple of orgasms were dry.
When he wakes the next morning, it’s to Evan kissing his shoulder and whispering that he needs to make his morning headcount.
Tony is leaning on Evan’s windowsill, grinning, both amused and smug.
John dresses, and he and Tony scramble back to their cabin.
John has heard of guys who give up after the chase, after they get what they wanted (which was to get laid), but after that night, John wants Evan even more. Wants to see him, talk to him, surf with him, spend time with him, just be with him, even if they say nothing.
It becomes a habit, for Tony and John to sneak out after evening head count and lights out, head over to the commune and hang out. John and Evan don’t spend every night in Evan’s bed. Sometimes they stay with the others at the fire, trading jokes and - once the kids are in bed - scary stories. They make s’mores, and more than once someone breaks out a guitar and John plays so people can song along.
Summer camp is winding down. There are only two weeks left, and the counselors really crack down on head counts and attendance. John and Tony work hard, to pass tests and drills and certifications. Most nights all John can do is fall asleep beside Evan, exhausted and sunburned around the edges.
And then it’s John’s last night at camp. It’s going to be a big beach party. Bonfire. Grill. Music. Dancing. Hanging out. A reward for work well done. (John and Tony half-assed most of camp, but between Tony’s military training and John’s natural athleticism, they came out top in the boys’ ranks. The others joke it’s because they have such awesome cardio from all the sex.)
John wants to spend that night with Evan. Tony seems happy, eating up attention from the girls who look at him as some kind of real lifeguard, for how good he did on his quals.
The counselors retire early - for their own party. One John is sure will involve booze. A couple of kids - stolid, responsible ones who worked hard all camp and came up in the ranks just below Tony and John - promise to make sure the bonfire is put out, and the counselors leave.
One of the other kids breaks out a stash of beer.
John takes the opportunity to duck away from the fire.
He starts up toward the commune but sees Evan sitting down on the rocks at the point, fully dressed, knees pulled up to his chest. John veers toward him instead.
Evan looks up at him. “Hey.”
“It’s our last night as junior Baywatchers,” John says. He sits down beside Evan, mirrors his posture.
“Means summer’s almost over. Back to school. Back to real life.” Evan glances at him. “You’ll go be you, and I’ll go be me.”
John says, “We do have phones out in Virginia. And post offices and mailboxes.”
“Like you’ll have time for me, between fencing and Latin and French and everything else at your fancy boarding school.”
John huffs. “You barely have time for me in the summer, looking after everyone and everything. How will you even stay alive when school is on and you have your own classes and homework to deal with?”
“Well, when you put it like that.” Evan turns to him fully. “Promise you won’t forget me?”
“How could I forget you?” John leans in, kisses him.
Evan kisses him back. He lays back, draws John down with him. They kiss and caress, rocking against each other till they’re both hard. John can’t help it - he slips his hands beneath Evan’s clothes and pets him, teasing his nipples, stroking the delicate skin of his belly and the hollows of his hips. Evan moans into the kiss, going boneless and pliant beneath John, lost in the sensation.
John slides Evan’s board shorts down off his hips, and Evan arches up, wriggles, helps him get them down, and then John is stroking his cock, tracing its familiar lines and curves, the vein throbbing on the underside.
Evan comes apart when John plays with his foreskin, stroking the head of his cock with it, and he’s begging, pleading, to be allowed to come, for John to take him, something, anything.
Instead John divests himself of his clothes, and he rolls them over so Evan is on top.
“Let’s take each other,” he says.
Evan is glorious in the moonlight, silver and shadows. He finishes taking off his clothes and settles astride John, and then there’s the slow, perfect slide down as Evan lets John into his body. They ride together, moving in smooth tandem, pleasure building between them, burning and blurring the lines until John doesn’t know where Evan ends and he begins.
Orgasm lances through him like lightning through the night sky, lighting up his world in a single blinding blaze, and then Evan is coming, head thrown back, eyes closed, lips parted.
He is too beautiful to be real.
And then he is sliding off of John, tumbling down beside him, breathless and giddy.
Once they’ve recovered, Evan says, “Have you ever surfed in the moonlight?”
“No, but I want to.”
“Good. I brought us boards.”
They pull on boardshorts, find the boards Evan planted upright in the sand nearby, and they ride again, ride together.
When the sun creeps over the horizon, it’s time for them to part ways.
“Remember me,” Evan whispers into their kiss.
“Always,” John promises.
He keeps his promises.
They write, and they call.
Evan hitchhikes across the country to spend two days in John’s arms after John calls him with news of his mother’s passing.
John’s father doesn’t understand why John chooses not to go to Harvard, doesn’t even apply, concentrates all his efforts on the west coast.
Tony, who has also fallen out with his father, heads for college in Indiana. He’s going to play basketball and football. That’s his ticket away from his father.
“What are you going to do?” Tony asks.
They are lingering on the edges of the crowd gathered at one of the Sheppard estates for a fundraising dinner.
“Evan and I,” John says, “are going to fly.”
And they do.