The most terrifying combination of words Keith could think of is “middle school summer camp”. Never mind just “middle school”. Oh no. Being young and being over pumped with hormones and grease was enough to make Keith sick to his stomach. Putting summer camp on top of that was even worse.
In all honesty, Keith was homeschooled until his freshman year, so he really dodged the bullet that was public middle school. Unfortunately that lead Keith’s parents to believe he was lonely and needed to make friends. So their brilliant solution was to chuck him in a mosquito infested lake with eleven other stinky oily hairy boys. It was possibly the worst day of Keith’s life when they told him he’d be spending his summer vacation, that he was really looking forward too, away from them and surrounded by water.
Oh yeah. Little detail. Keith fucking hated water. Sure, drinking it is fine, bathing is okay, but fucking swimming in it? Being in more than three feet deep in it? Feeling leaves and fish and shit in it? Keith wasn’t too thrilled about it. No matter how much his parents promised him it wouldn’t be that bad, he wouldn’t listen. If anything it would benefit him since he still wasn’t into the idea of showering everyday yet. Regardless, he said goodbye with a frown and his arms crossed.
“Cheer up, honey. It won’t be that bad,” his mother promised.
“I wish I could time travel to next month so I don’t have to put up with this,” he grumbled. His father shook his head chuckling.
“We’ll see you then, bud.”
“Okay, have fun, sweetie,” his mom gave him a kiss on his forehead before leaving with his father.
“Don’t worry, buddy. We’re all about making everyone feel comfortable.”
Keith glared at the counselor and picked up his bed before making his way to the cabins. All he had to go off of was the paper his parents gave him with his cabin number and the weekly schedule of activities. He made his way into his assigned cabin and instantly face planted himself into the bed. His bag plopped on the floor and he groaned.
“I didn’t know I was roomies with a whale,” someone said. Keith jumped and scrambled up to see who else was there. He sighed as he looked at the lanky teen laughing at him from across the room at his own bed.
“Jesus, dude…” he mumbled and ran his fingers through his hair.
“Sorry, man. I thought you saw me,” he replied. Keith shook his head and sat on the edge of his bed.
Keith didn’t want to pay much attention to his new roommate. His game plan was to just go through the motions and keep to himself until he could go home. No making friends. No forming bonds with counselors. Just clockwork. He managed to stick to that plan until that evening. It wasn’t apart of the schedule to go to the campfire with everyone else, but it was very clear that they all had to. They were all thoroughly introduced beforehand, and Keith didn’t like being surrounded by other only homeschooled kids. Like, yeah let’s just shove a bunch of socially awkward kids in one camp together. That’ll go great!
It wasn’t great. It was terrible actually. The only two that seemed to act like normal human beings were his roommate and some other kid in camp. They looked like polar opposites. Lanky and skinny next to strong and plump. Soft yet sharp features compared to the other’s angular geometrical features. They got along perfectly, and it made Keith kind of envious. He was certain he’d never have a friendship like that. No matter how much he tried to convince himself he didn’t care, he did. He did and it hurt to think about.
“Okay, kids! Anyone here with allergies?” The camp counselor, Coran, asked. Literally everyone raised their hands and he blinked.
“My mom says peanuts will make my face blow up.”
“I can have gluten. I’ll probably have a seizure.”
“Fruit makes my tongue itchy.”
“Sometimes water makes me through up.”
“Okay, Okay! Uh…maybe no s’more tonight. Your parents definitely emailed us about that, but the caterers are the ones who worry about that,” he assured them.
“Maybe you should worry about that too. Y’know. Since you were gonna handle food and potentially kill us,” said the kid next to Keith. He couldn’t help but try to stifle a laugh, but failed and made eye contact with the other kid. They giggled too and Keith looked away from their frames.
“D—I, um…maybe I should,” he nodded.
“I’m allergic to awkward camp counselors,” Keith’s roommate announced with a proud grin. His buddy shook his head disapprovingly despite his elbow nudging him.
“Sounds like a personal problem,” Keith said a little too loudly. They made eye contact from across the fire pit, and suddenly bright blue eyes zeroed in on him and Keith felt his gut tighten.
“I’m also allergic to whales,” he said with a snarky smile. Keith rolled his eyes.
“Is…Keith a whale?” Coran asked.
“Yeah, first thing he does when he gets in our cabin is flop down and groan like a freaking nautical giant,” he replied.
“Wow, big words,” Coran nodded.
“If you’re so allergic to everything, why are you even here?” Keith challenged.
“Ooooo…” his friend said.
“Because I want to, Keith-y boy,” he replied. “Why are you here?”
“Boys, let’s not get-“
“My parents made me…y…you…” Keith said, the last words dying on his tongue. The campfire was silent for a moment, and then his roommate finally spoke.
“Do you…not know my name?” Keith blushed.
“We spent like an hour introducing ourselves,” he continued. Keith felt himself get sweaty.
“Like, we all thoroughly went over that.”
“And you like…missed it?”
“Hey, go easy on him. He’s socially awkward just like the rest of us,” the kid in the glasses spoke up. Keith glanced over at them, but otherwise tried to disappear into nothingness.
“Yeah, but I share a fricken cabin with him,” he pointed out.
“Well he doesn’t talk much, so maybe he’s the one with the personal problem,” his friend murmured. Keith shook his head and stood up abruptly to return to his cabin.
That night he didn’t try to interact with his cabin mate when he walked in. He definitely didn’t reply when he asked him if he was sleep, and he especially ignored him when he called him out for being awake. Instead he just laid there and waited for him to move on so he could actually go to sleep.
For the majority of the time at camp Keith more or less stuck to his plan. The only exception was the kid with the glasses. Keith learned their name was Pidge, and took comfort in their lack of a need for conversation. He never really learned his cabin mates name, and had successfully avoided him every since the first night. Which was impressive given the fact that they live and sleep in the same space. Keith could tell it irritated him because every time Keith was near him he’d glare holes into his head. Clearly he really pissed him off.
Their second to last day was burning. The heat was unbearable, and everyone was in the lake and only a couple were the cafeteria with the AC. Obviously Keith was in the cafeteria with Pidge and his room mate was out in the water. He sat with Pidge and they played tic tac toe together. After that they played chess. After that checkers. Finally go fish. As the sun was starting to set they looked out the window and Keith smiled at the fact that he would be going home the next day.
“Keith, Pidge,” Coran called. “Go and fetch the other boys. It’s about to get dark.”
They didn’t argue. They didn’t fight. Instead they just bit the bullet and went down to the lake. Keith frowned at all the splashing and all the water on the dock and the grass. His frown turned to disgust when he saw how naked everyone was without a shirt. Sure they all had swim shorts, but nudity made him feel hot and nervous. So many guys in one space had him feeling suffocated. He couldn’t quite place his finger on why, but he felt like he shouldn’t be looking at them the way he wanted to.
“Yo! It’s the party poopers!” His cabin mate called. Keith rolled his eyes and crossed his arms.
“Coran says it’s time to come up. It’s gonna get dark outside,” Pidge told them. While most of the boys climbed out of the lake, the unnamed cabin mate stubbornly stayed in.
“Why don’t you come in and make me?” He challenged. Keith shook his head and started to walk away. “C’mon coward! What, are you scared?“ he teased.
“C’mon, dude,” Pidge said. Keith was tense at the idea of getting in the water with the other boy.
“What? I just wanna go for a swim. Don’t tell me you can’t even swim, Keith-y boy,” he egged on.
“Of course I can swim,” Keith lied crossing his arms. His cabin mate laughed.
“Sounds like your overcompensating! Come here and prove it!” He taunted swimming a littler further out from the dock.
“Guys,” Pidge sighed.
“I don’t have to prove anything to you,” Keith sneered coming closer on the dock.
“Yeah? Then I guess you’re just a loser who can’t swim,” he said with the biggest shit eating grin. Keith shook his head and glared hard.
“You’re so immature,” he grumbled. He swam closer holding his hand to his ear.
“What’s that? I can’t hear you over you being a frickin’ coward.”
“God, do you ever shut the hell up?” Keith spat.
“Keith, you can’t say that,” Pidge reminded him. Keith blushed and the immature boy laughed in the lake.
“Seriously, man. Get in the lake, you buzzkill,” he urged.
“Keith, lets just go,” Pidge sighed. He nodded and turned with them.
“Wait! Wait!“ he called.
“What?“ Keith nearly shouted. He swam to the dock and held up his hand.
“I need help getting out…I had to push the last guy out and so I’m like stuck now,” he said. Keith raised a brow.
“Yeah, he’s pretty stuck,” his chunky friend, Hunk, told him. Keith sighed and walked down the dock. He kneeled down at took the other boys hand.
Next thing he knew he was submerged in the lake water. He scrambled to get above the surface and gasped for air. The other boy was busy cackling as Keith clung to the post shivering. He glared at his roommate and shook his head as he laughed even harder.
“I can’t believe you fell for that, man! Literally! Oh my gosh,” he chuckled. Keith said nothing as he clung to the post tighter. The other boy stopped laughing as he noticed how terrified Keith was. “Yo, you alright? It was just a joke, dude,” he said coming closer. Keith tried to move away shaking his head and trying to climb up. The wood was too slippery, and he clung to it for dear life.
“Whoa, calm down. Okay?”
“Sh-sh-shut up,” Keith stuttered and dug his nails into the wood.
“Hey, it’s okay,” he cooed and reached for Keith’s arm. He squirmed away, but eventually had no choice but to accept the tan hand on his forearm. “Wow, you really can’t swim, huh?”
“G…g-g-g-god y-you’re an asshole,” Keith stuttered some more, his teeth chattering.
“Chill, man. I’m just trying to help you. You’re not gonna get out if you’re clinging on to this post,” the boy told him. Keith trembled silently before reaching out and accepting the boys hand. “I gotcha.”
“Y-you got n-nothing,” Keith grumbled.
“Just shut up and listen to me. I’m gonna pull you from the post, but you gotta swish your legs. Don’t just like flail them around. Just swing them like you’re walking fast,” he instructed. Keith reluctantly nodded and let his cabin mate lead him further into the open water. He kicked his legs and held on to the other boy tightly. He laughed, but this time not in a mocking way.
“Yeah, you got it, buddy!” He said with a wide care-free smile.
Keith looked at him just as the sun was setting and suddenly felt light headed. His heart was pounding as a sudden and strong burst of infatuation exploded inside him. Looking at his freckles and his smile and his blue eyes and feeling his skin. Keith couldn’t recall ever feeling this way about another person. He was never into girls. He always felt like he shouldn’t talk to boys a lot, but this one…he felt himself fall in love the minute he smiled at him in the lake.
“I’m Lance, by the way,” he introduced himself. “I dunno if you caught onto that, but…I thought I’d tell you face to face. Keith blinked and closed his jaw before nodding.
“Yeah…that’s…uh…th-th-thank you,” He stammered still gripping his shoulders. Lance laughed again, and Keith felt nervous about how much he liked the sound.
“Okay, let’s get out of here. Coran is gonna kill us.”