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We Are But A Moment's Sunlight

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Oliver Weiss wouldn’t say he’s popular per se. Sure, he’s the stroke on his high school’s crew team and he won’t deny that he’s good. Really good . But as much as he’s considered a jock, he’s also considered a nerd: a quintessential combination if Oliver has anything to say about it. He’s in love with mythology, Greek and Roman alike, and studies ancient philosophy until his head spins. He plans on majoring in Philosophy and Classics in college, but that’s a whole different story.

See, Oliver’s parents are conservative, proper, wealthy, New England Jews. His grandparents moved from Brooklyn to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and his family has lived there ever since. His father is a physician and his mother is a philanthropist, AKA a stay at home “mom.” He uses the word mom in loose terms as they, of course, have a housekeeper, Camila, who has also raised him and his siblings since they were babies. Mainly, Oliver’s mom sits at home and hosts parties for her other wealthy friends. They’re typical members of the wealthy New England community: summers in Cape Cod or Martha’s Vineyard, apple picking in the fall, winter ski trips, sailing lessons in the spring, and crew year round. Their perfect nuclear family lives in nothing less than a mansion in a gated community, complete with a pool in the backyard and a four-car garage.

But back to college. Oliver’s parents expect him to go to an Ivy League school - Dartmouth, Yale, Harvard, and Princeton are on the top of the list - and study law or medicine or something equally as boring. But if Oliver had it his own way, he’d go to NYU or Columbia (still Ivy League!) and do his philosophy homework in the Greek wing of the Met. He knows he has the grades for it, it’s just a matter of convincing his parents. They’ve discussed it only briefly, but every time Oliver tries to bring it up, it turns into a massive blowout with Oliver’s father yelling about how he won’t pay for college if Oliver decides to take classes that he thinks are not worth the money.

Oliver is a senior at Phillips Exeter Academy. He doesn’t board there as he lives only thirty minutes away, but he almost wishes he did, if only to escape his family. But he has crew every afternoon and he has his friends, so at least he has activities to keep him busy. Now that it’s late August, school is starting up again, and Oliver has to get back in the academic groove. Although the varsity crew season isn’t until the spring, they have practices and lifts and group workouts nearly every single day until the season actually begins. On top of that, Oliver has to deal with his normal course load as well as his college applications. It’s shaping up to be a busy year, but it’s also senior year, and if he learned anything from his cousin Sarah who went off to UCLA last year, it’s to enjoy senior year as much as possible.

“Ollie, can you drive me to the movies tonight?”

“Hmm?” Oliver has his nose buried in the latest book he’s checked out from the library, and he barely registers when his sister, his youngest sibling, taps on his door frame. He’d been reading about Aristotle's education of Alexander the Great and barely registered what his sister asked him.

His sister, Rachel, flops onto his bed with a huff. She’s thirteen now, just starting eighth grade, and Oliver wonders when his kid sister became a full-on teenager. “I asked if you could drive me to the movies tonight.”

“What time?”

“Well, we’re meeting for dinner before, so maybe 5?”

“Can’t. Crew starts tonight.” He marks his page in his book spins his desk chair around so he can look at his sister. “Sorry kiddo. See if Mom can drive.”

“Ugh, she has a dinner tonight with dad.” Rachel flips her long brown hair over her shoulder and Oliver can’t help but laugh a little. “I can’t wait until Adam has his license.”

“Well, you’ve got a while to wait on that one.” Adam, Oliver’s brother, is just a sophomore but has a late birthday and won’t even start driver’s ed until the spring.

Rachel sighs and whips out her phone, immediately tapping away. “I guess someone needs to come pick me up,”

“I guess so.” Oliver turns back to his book, and the two of them sit in silence as Rachel scrolls through her phone and Oliver reads. He gets along well with his siblings, especially Rachel. She’s a good kid, smart and down to Earth even if she’s a sassy teenager sometimes. He and Adam hit a bit of a rough patch when Adam started at Phillips Exeter the year before. It was hard for Adam to adjust to having his older brother’s shadow hanging over him, and for the first six months, he was known as Oliver Weiss’ little brother, both by teachers and students. But Adam quickly made a name for himself given his success on the debate team. Rachel only has one more year of middle school before she starts at Phillips Exeter, but Oliver is sure that she’ll quickly find her place among the 1,000 other students.

Around 4, Oliver closes his books and stands, stretching out his limbs. “You wanna go down, grab a snack? I think Camila made her polvorones de canela.” He turns around to find that Rachel has already left and Oliver blinks, taking a second. He got so into his book he didn’t even realize his sister had gotten up, and he was sure she probably huffed and sighed the entire time when he ignored her.

He heads downstairs to find that yes, Camila had made her cookies, and Oliver stuffs two into his mouth on his way to the fridge. He chugs some milk straight out of the container and turns around to find Camila watching him with her hands on her hips.

“Hola, Camila. Lo siento,” Oliver says after swallowing. He swoops in to dip her a bit and kiss her cheek. She laughs and pats his cheek and all is forgiven. Camila has been working for their family for years , since before Oliver was born, and she’s like a second mother to him. They chat a little as he makes himself a plate with various cheeses and meats, Oliver attempting to utilize the Spanish she’s taught him over the years while he can. His alarm chimes at 4:30, and he sighs as he goes about gathering his gym bag and car keys.

“Gotta run,” he says, kissing Camila’s cheek again. “Bye!” he calls out to the rest of the house. He waits for a beat and gets a muffled bye from his brother who is shut up in his bedroom. His parents and Rachel must have already left for their respective engagements.

Oliver hops into his car, a red Jeep Cherokee, which he got for his 16th birthday. He knows that’s bougie as fuck, but it’s pretty much unheard of for any of his family friends to not receive a car once they get their license. He throws his bag into the front seat and the first thing he does, after fastening his seatbelt, of course, is turn on the radio. His CD of ‘80s hits is already in the car, and he hums along as he drives to Saltonstall Boathouse. He parks and slings his bag over his shoulder, whistling a Psychedelic Furs song as he takes stock of the cars in the lot. It looks like all his friends are there already, and he realizes he’s right when he’s attacked as soon as he steps into the boathouse.

“Weiss!”

Oliver cries out as he’s jumped from all sides by the other three members of his boat: Peter Cowper, the bow, Sean Oakley, number two position, and Noah Duff, the number three position. The only person missing is Liam Geary, their coxswain.

“Fuck! Fuck, c’mon, lay off,” Oliver says, swatting all around him until the guys all settle down and instead sling their arms around each other as they head back to the locker room. They chat about their summers, even though they’ve seen each other quite a bit over the past three months.

“Yo, where’s Liam?” Sean asks as the four of them lace up their sneakers. The plan for this evening is to start with some light cardio and lifts as per Coach Gellman’s email.

“He’s coxing for the JV double now.”

“Fuck, are you serious?” Oliver smacks Peter’s arm when he asks the question, aghast.

“Yep, texted me yesterday. Says he’s got too much on his plate with college apps and can’t keep up with the varsity schedule.”

Oliver sighs as he shoves his flip flops into his locker. “Well, this sucks . Do we know who is gonna be coxing for us now?” Liam has been with them since freshman year. It’s been the five of them since they all started together and Oliver hates that they won't finish up their high school careers together.

“No clue.” Peter stretches out his neck and back. “But we’re never gonna fucking see Liam anymore.” Luckily, all the boats for the men’s and women’s junior varsity and varsity teams get their own practice times since Phillips Exeter has their own boathouse. That is until the season picks up and they start racing against each other.

Oliver sighs and claps Noah’s shoulder. “Alright, boys. Let’s get this workout over with.”

They head out to the patio where they’re due to meet with Coach Gellman to go over the schedule for the year. Their coach is already out there as the boys take their seats.

“Hey, who is gonna be our new cox?” Noah asks as soon as they all sit on a bench.

“Hi, Noah, I’m doing well and my summer was great, how about you?”

Noah blushes at Coach Gellman’s comeback and slinks down a little. “Sorry.”

Coach Gellman laughs and shakes his head. “That’s alright.” He pulls out his infamous clipboard, the very one the boys have hidden from their coach multiple times over the years, and they start going over strategies and workout schedules for the next month.

Oliver drifts off a bit, thinking back on where he’d left off in his book, and he distantly hears a car door slam. He’s only shaking out of his daydream when Peter elbows him. He looks up and over his shoulder towards where the other boys are staring.

“Ah, here he is,” Coach Gellman says, holding out his arms. “Everyone, meet Elio Perlman, your new coxswain.”

And fuck, Oliver is fucking screwed . The kid is gorgeous. Like. The most stunning person Oliver has ever seen in his entire life. He’s got curly dark hair and bright green eyes and high cheekbones and a sharp jawline and pouty lips and he’s lithe and thin just like a cox should be and -

Oh yeah, that’s the other thing.

Oliver Weiss is queer. He identifies as bisexual, having realized halfway through Star Wars that yeah, Princess Leia is hot but fuck so is Han Solo. His parents don’t know. God no, they can never know. Only the other guys in his boat know, and he’s sworn them to secrecy. Because he’s heard the way his dad talk about gays before, or faggots as he likes to call them. And that’s part of why Oliver needs to go to New York. Needs to get the fuck outta dodge and live his best gay life.

But back to - what was it? Elio. Right. Elio Drop Dead Gorgeous Perlman.

“Uh, hi.” Elio rubs the back of his neck, flush high on his cheeks. “I’m Elio.”

“I’ve never seen you around,” Noah says immediately, which earns a shove in the ribs from Oliver because what the fuck, dude?

“I’m a transfer student. I just moved here with my family from Italy. I’m going to be a junior this year.”

Elio’s voice is like music and Oliver wants to listen to it for the rest of his life. But then Coach Gellman claps his hands and tells them to get to work.

Oliver and his boat immediately head to the row of ergs before they start on their lifts. Elio is instructed to run intervals during their workout. Coach Gellman will keep Elio’s lifting to a minimum so as to keep him light for the cox position. Oliver ends up staring over at Elio during the entire workout, and Coach Gellman has to tell him to keep pace more than once.

After their workout, the boys head back to the locker room together. The other three dominate the conversation and ask Elio a bunch of questions about which classes he’s enrolled in and what teachers he has. Oliver is only half listening because he got a glimpse at Elio’s phone and saw he was listening to classical fucking music while he ran intervals. What kind of ethereal being listens to classical while fucking running ?

Elio Fucking Perlman, the latest enigma that Oliver absolutely must figure out.

“Oliver?”

Oh, and Peter is talking to him.

“Sorry, what?”

“I said, you and Elio seem to have a lot of the same classes.”

“Oh?” He raises a brow and looks at Elio, which is a huge fucking mistake because his heart speeds up like he just ran a hundred miles.

“Yeah, I’m in a lot of AP classes. Trying to maybe graduate early.”

“Damn.” Noah bumps Elio’s shoulder. “So you’re brilliant. And you must be a pretty damn good cox since you made the varsity team.” He laughs and tosses his sweaty shirt at Sean. “Can’t wait to get out on the water with you.”

Elio smiles, this brilliant fucking thing that has Oliver’s stomach flip-flopping. “Me too. I rowed a lot back in Italy but we didn’t have a very good team.”

“Welcome to the team, buddy,” Peter says, clapping Elio’s shoulder. And Oliver is instantly jealous, a flare of mine mine mine flashing through him. But Peter has always been the friendly and welcoming one on the team and, Oliver has to remind himself, Peter is very much into girls, especially his girlfriend. Oliver watches out of the corner of his eye as he packs up his bag, watches as the other boys engage Elio in conversation.

“We need to all get together, outside of practice,” Sean decides as the five of them head out to the parking lot together. “This Friday. After school. We can all go to Peter’s house.”

“Hey!”

“What? You’ve got the best basement.”

They all head to their individual cars, except for Elio who heads towards a small station wagon that’s idling, a pretty older woman sitting in the front seat.

“Is that your ride?” Noah asks, perpetually nosey. Oliver has half a mind to tell him to mind his own business, but it seems that his words are still stuck in his throat.

“Uh, yeah. That’s my mom. I don’t have a driver’s license over here so…” Elio rubs his hand over the back of his neck again and Oliver is already enamored with the motion.

“See you tomorrow in physics, Oliver, yeah?”

And oh shit, Peter just asked him something.

“Physics, yeah. I’ll see you then. And uh,” he turns to Elio, who is looking up at him with wide green eyes. Oliver’s throat goes dry and he has to swallow twice before he can get words out. “I think I’ll be seeing you around tomorrow. Since we have classes together and everything.”

“Sounds like it,” Elio says, a smile playing across those pink and pouty lips.

They all say their farewells and head to their cars, and as soon as he’s on the road, Oliver blasts the radio. He thinks about the months to come, about finally getting back on the water with his boat. And fuck, he’s the stroke. And Elio is the cox. And that means they’re facing each other in the boat. That means Oliver is going to have to look into those green eyes every single time they’re on the water. Those green eyes and that dark hair and those perfectly plump lips.

Yeah, Oliver Weiss is totally fucking screwed.