Their vacation had only begun the day before, but that didn’t stop Luke from feeling the utmost amount of annoyance that one can achieve in such a short span of time.
“You’ve gone the wrong way,” he repeats, for what seems like the hundredth time yet.
“No, I haven’t,” Michael protests. “We’ve just taken a shortcut, stop whining already.”
“And what shortcut takes an extra hour?”
Luke thinks that he hears Michael make some sort of snarky remark, but all other sound is drowned out due to Calum’s loud, obnoxious yodeling to a Katy Perry song that blares on the radio. He was singing horribly on purpose while simultaneously scarfing down a bag of potato chips, making his voice muffled but nonetheless annoying. Between arguing with Michael about where the hell they were and trying to tune out the other boy’s singing, Luke was beginning to develop a deadly headache that he knew wouldn’t vanish until he was out of this godforsaken car.
In the middle of all the chaos, though, Luke couldn’t stop himself from laughing. He was with the two people that he cared about more than anyone else in the world, aside from his family. They were traveling on the open road, the clear blue sky matched the color of his eyes, and spring had finally made way for summer. Best of all, however, they were finally done with high school. Like, for good. They were done with high school and they had an entire two months of bliss, sweet bliss that they were going to spend however they wanted to. Just the three of them, together, like it has been for the past few years.
It was almost overwhelming, if Luke was completely honest with himself. Despite the fact that the three of them had elected to attend the same university, this vacation still felt as if it were something final. As if, when it was over, they wouldn’t really be the same dorky boys that they had been before. It was a ridiculous thought, because no matter where they went or what they did, they’d always remain themselves. But, Luke still couldn’t shake the feeling that this would be more than a simple two-month getaway.
What he could do for now was shake the thought from his mind. And so he does.
“Hey, I think we were supposed to turn there?”
“What?” Michael tries shouting over the noise, but fails.
“I said—” Luke pauses with a huff, and leans forward from the backseat to reach for the radio, turning it off with a sigh of relief. “I think we were supposed to turn back there.”
For the first time in nearly half an hour, Calum stops singing and turns to give Luke a glare that only makes him look like a grumpy puppy.
“I was listening to that!” he yells.
“If we were supposed to go that way,” Michael interrupts in a tone that clearly tells how fed up he is, “then we would’ve. But we didn’t, so obviously we shouldn’t.”
Luke rolls his eyes. “That doesn’t make any sense!”
“It does! You’re not allowed to criticize me, you still don’t even have a license yet.”
The childish arguing only has a chance to continue for a few seconds this time, before they’re interrupted when Calum yells again.
“Shut up a second! Look, there it is!”
Luke leans back in his seat and sticks his head out of the window. Sure enough, the ocean surface had come into view at last; the afternoon sun reflects off the water and creates sparkles that were nearly blinding. It was one of the most gorgeous sights that Luke has ever seen in the eighteen years of his life. And, yeah, he’s been to the beach before. He’s seen the ocean too many times to count, to be honest. But this—this was different. This felt as if it were theirs, in a sense. After all, this would be their home for the entire duration of their two-month stay. In fact, perched on a hill at the far end of the beach and a little ways off from the shore, sat the old bungalow that they would live in.
“See, I told you I knew where I was going,” Michael scoffs, brimming with pride.
Luke only smiles, his gaze fixed on their destination.
When they arrive, the car has just barely stopped moving before they’re opening the doors and eagerly hopping out, including Michael, who almost forgets to put the damn thing in park. Then, they’re simply standing there, admiring the exterior of the little beach house. Somehow, they just know that it’s perfect.
“Should we start unpacking now?” Luke asks.
They all glance at each other for a brief moment before bursting with laughter at the obscene suggestion, and soon enough, they’re sprinting towards the front door like a mini pack of squirrels. Yeah, they’re definitely still the same dorky boys, Luke thinks to himself.
“Come on, just unlock it already,” Calum whines, impatiently bouncing on the balls of his feet.
“Alright, alright, jeez! Hold on a sec.”
Michael fiddles around with an array of keys before he finally finds the one that he was searching for. The key to the door is a slightly rusty little thing in appearance, but to them it was made of gold and held the answers to every question in the universe. Luke and Calum peers over their friend’s shoulders, watching with wide eyes as the lock is undone and their new home awaits them.
“Now lads, before we go in… I’d just like to say a few deep and meaningful words to forever mark this moment.”
Michael turns to them as he speaks, a solemn expression on his face that matches the seriousness of his tone. The other two boys quiet down and wait, the anxiousness building up inside with every passing second of silence.
Then, Michael smirks.
“I choose first!” he shouts, suddenly bolting through the front door and making his way towards the bedrooms.
“Oh, that’s just evil—you cheater!” Luke yells, both he and Calum scrambling through the door after him.
It was kind of pointless, though. Luke only ends up tripping over his own two feet and nearly landing face-first against the hardwood floor. By the time he eventually recovers, Michael and Calum are already squabbling over something about a ceiling fan. In the end, Luke gets the little room in the back of the house that faces the ocean.
Despite the fact that it’s the smallest one, Luke falls in love with it immediately. There’s a full size mattress on a wooden bed frame in the middle of the room, with a tiny wooden dresser on the right side that matches it. Other than that, the room is completely bare. What he adores about it, though, is the view.
His feet carry him over to the wide, sliding window. Though it was the only one in the room, the brightness and warmth of the sun that shone through could be felt in its entirety. He unlatches the window and opens it, the smell of old wood and dust in the room already beginning to be overwhelmed by the strong scent of the sea. Luke inhales deeply, taking it all in as a warm smile spreads on his face.
They were lucky to be here, in truth. Earlier in the year, they had decided that this was definitely where they wanted to go after graduation. After all, what could be better than lounging on the beach by themselves for an entire summer, and no parents around? The only problem was that it wasn’t exactly something they could afford, however. It took a bit of persuading, but eventually, Michael’s father had contacted an old friend, inquiring about the availability of the old beach house that they were staying in now. And, a small favor or two later, it had been proclaimed as theirs for the whole summer.
It was old, yes, but not ancient. Besides, the price that they were renting it for was extremely cheap, given the size of the place: three small bedrooms, a decent sized bathroom, a nice living room and kitchen area, and even a little laundry room near the back of the home. Luke had been able to afford his share simply by getting a part-time job for a couple of months and doing a little extra work on the weekends, not to mention the money that he received as part of his graduation gifts.
In a way, everything had worked out perfectly for them.
Upon exiting his new room and walking back down the hallway, Luke finds Calum sprawled out in the middle of the living room floor, resembling a starfish. Only, this starfish has the features of an eighteen year old boy with big brown eyes and tanned skin.
“What are you doing?” Luke asks, laughing softly. He doesn’t wait for an answer before he lies down to join the other boy on the cool floor.
“This is it,” Calum near-whispers, “I’ve died and gone to heaven. Or, I’m dreaming. But, please don’t pinch me.”
Luke does so, anyway. Just because he can.
“Ow, I said don’t!”
“You guys are morons,” Michael chimes in, and their pinch-fight is put to an end when he lies down on top of them, spreading his limbs across their bodies like some sort of housecat.
Luke squirms in protest, but it’s no use. “Why are you so heavy? You’re squishing me.”
“Don’t act like you don’t like it,” Michael teases.
Seeing as he’s pretty much stuck there for now, Luke gives up the struggle. It doesn’t really matter, anyway. The three of them are basically brothers, and lying together in a pile on the floor has more or less become the norm for them. Besides, Luke has had to deal with much, much worse things before.
There’s a moment of comfortable silence that floats over them. The only sounds that meet their ears are those of the ocean waves, crashing against the rocks at the bottom of the small hill. Occasionally, the rhythmic waves are accompanied by the shrieking of nearby seagulls, a sound that reminds Luke of nothing but beach and freedom. He could get used to this. In fact, he’s already beginning to love the feeling of the cool hardwood floor against his back, and the smell of sea salt that fills his nostrils with every passing breeze.
It was paradise.
“This really is nice, though… isn’t it?” Michael murmurs.
“What? You being on top of us, crushing our genitals?”
“No, Calum—okay, maybe, but that’s not what I meant!”
Michael lurches up from his previous position and crosses his legs underneath himself, an excited grin gracing his features; with his arms spread, he remains paused for a dramatic effect.
“I mean being in this place! It’s fucking amazing, right? To be honest, it doesn’t even look as old as it is.”
He was definitely right about that. The exterior was one thing, but on the inside, it was actually really decent for its age. Luke remembers hearing something about the owner renovating the place some years ago, but he’s not too sure on the details. What he could see, though, were sturdy walls and used furniture that almost looks new. He makes a mental note to try out the comfy looking sofa and armchair, as well as to check his mattress for bedbugs. Aside from that, all that the place needs is a bit of dusting. Surely they’d get to the whole cleaning aspect sometime soon. Definitely soon.
“So… what should we do first, then?” Luke questions.
The room falls silent again as they look back and forth at one another, hoping that someone has an idea of what they’re supposed to do first. Well, what they should do first. After all, they’re on vacation and no one is around to force them to do anything or tell them what is supposed to be done. Finally, Michael gives a lazy shrug.
“At the moment, I think I could really go for a nap,” he says, yawning.
Luke instantly sits up and stares at his previously-excited friend in disbelief, a small frown forming on his face.
“What? But we just got here.”
“Exactly. We’re here because I drove us here—which took hours, by the way. Can you really blame me for being exhausted?”
Luke rolls his eyes. “We stopped half-way and slept at a hotel—”
“Hours,” his friend repeats.
Michael lets out a long sigh and runs a hand through his… multicolored hair? Luke doesn’t know what the fuck color it is right now. It was mostly black, but there were specks of various shades of red and purple throughout the top of his head. He looks sort of like an emo Pokémon, in a way. Michael had wanted to dye it platinum blonde like he’d had it for a short while during the previous year, claiming that it was more of a ‘beach-y look’ than his current color, but that would’ve delayed their trip for yet another day. No one wanted that at all.
“Actually, I say we go down to the water. That’s basically the first golden rule of visiting the beach, right?“ Calum says, and he lifts a hand to list off these so-called ‘golden rules’ with his fingers. “First, you get sand between your toes. Then, you swim for a really long time until you become one with the ocean. Lastly, you talk to all the pretty girls while you’re still soaking wet.”
Michael nudges Calum in the ribcage with his foot and scoffs, “You act as if you won’t have two whole months to do that! All I need is an hour or two of beautiful rest, and then we can discuss getting wet and pretty girls.”
Calum snorts. “Is that supposed to be an innuendo? ‘Cause it wasn’t that good of one.”
“It wasn’t an innuendo! Well, not completely, but who cares. It’s naptime.”
“No, it’s beach time!”
Luke sighs and listens to his friends argue back and forth about what they should be doing, and he was suddenly annoyed again. He loves his two best friends, he truly does. Sometimes, though it was rare, he wonders what the hell he has gotten himself into.
“Guys, wait,” he cut them off at last, “You seem to be forgetting something really important.”
Michael and Calum look at each other in slight confusion, before turning to Luke with questioning stares.
“We still haven’t unpacked anything.”
Groans fill the room, and Luke could tell that his suggestion of their first vacation activity was liked least of all. But, he was only thinking logically! After all, there was no way he was sleeping on a bare mattress tonight. So, he explains that if they moved everything from the car to the house now instead of later, they wouldn’t have to do it when they were too exhausted from playing at the beach all afternoon. Apparently, his idea didn’t seem so bad anymore, and the other two eventually agreed.
“Fiiine,” Michael groans. “We’ll unpack and then go to the beach. But, I’m only helping with half of the stuff since I drove and you’re not letting me sleep.”
In the end, Michael actually ends up helping with most of the luggage because, apparently, Luke and Calum were going far too slow (they don’t tell him that they were purposely going at a snail’s pace, and it stays that way). Luke is fairly pleased when his room has been given a bit more character, now that it isn’t completely bare. His acoustic guitar sits in one of the corners of the room, his fingers already itching to play it; he probably will soon enough, but for now he smooths out the blue and white striped comforter on his bed and pushes his suitcase underneath it. He’ll have time to properly unpack his clothes later on, he’s sure.
They finally leave the house about an hour later, and even Michael is excited to finally go down to the beach and see all that it has to offer. It was already about three-thirty in the afternoon by this time and none of them have eaten lunch, but the anxiousness in their veins clouds over the emptiness of their stomachs. And, like the impatient teenage boys that they are, they don’t even properly set up a blanket and everything else that they’ve brought with them before they’re diving into the cool ocean water.
The first time that Luke meets him, he’s buried beneath the sand from the neck down.
“Look, I made you a friend!” Michael chirps, patting down the deformed sand figure that he’d just finished sculpting.
“What even is that thing?” Luke laughs. Every time he looks at it, it just gets funnier.
Michael doesn’t seem to think so.
“It’s a person, obviously. Can’t you tell? Looks, there’s even a little smiley—oh, shit, I messed it up.”
Luke chuckles again before he can even help it. “Oh, god—now it looks like some sort of deformed penis.”
“Fuck off, Luke. It’s art,” Michael insists. He pauses, tilting his head and examining the figure as if he could somehow fix it. He decides that it’s not really worth it, and smashes it back into its original form as a pile of damp sand.
When they’d gotten bored of swimming around and splashing each other in the seawater, they’d elected to take a break and build the most awesome sandcastle that the world had ever laid eyes on. Except, they didn’t. In fact, they very much sucked at making sandcastles and anything that even remotely resembles one. Instead, Michael and Calum decided that it would be much more fun to bury Luke in the sand, up to his neck. Now, Luke looks like some sort of bodiless monster with his head sticking out of the sand, surrounded by failed sand sculptures. And, really, he couldn’t be any giddier in this moment.
Michael sighs and sprinkles a bit of sand on Luke’s head. “Where the hell is Calum? It shouldn’t take this long to pee and buy ice cream.”
Luke wonders the same thing, and he would’ve looked around if not for the fact that he couldn’t really move his neck too much. After they had convinced him that urinating in the ocean wasn’t a good idea, Calum had run off towards the nearest bathrooms, though they were located on the opposite side of where the three of them had been playing. They’d also sent him on a mission to bring back ice cream and whatever else he could carry, since the hunger had finally caught up to them. However, almost half an hour has passed since then.
“I don’t know,” Luke replies. “He’ll probably be back in a couple of minutes from now. Maybe you should’ve gone with him, though?”
“I had to finish burying you!” Luke feels a small thump in the back of his head as Michael flicks him. “Not to mention revising our lovely fortress and its guards.”
“You mean the deformed penis sculptures?”
“Fine. You know what?” Michael stands up, then; his form blocks out the late afternoon sun from Luke’s vision, and now Luke can see the evil smirk that slowly forms on his friend’s face. Yeah, he probably shouldn’t have kept making fun of the sculptures.
“I’ll go find Calum, then.”
“…Wait, don’t go yet,” Luke begs.
“Don’t worry, it’ll only take a minute! I’ll be right back here before you even know it, pal.”
“Michael, I’m serious.”
“Don’t move, okay?” Michael says, laughing. “I mean, not that you can.”
“No, no no no no—come back!”
Luke’s protests are completely ignored as his friend walks off towards—well, somewhere. He still couldn’t turn his head, so he wasn’t sure which direction Michael had stalked off to.
“Okay, okay… This is fine. I’ll just—I’ll wait here, then,” Luke says, though mainly to himself since no one else was around. That was mostly true, despite the fact that there were actually quite a few people on the beach, right then. None of the other families and groups of people paid any attention to the head sticking out of the ground, though.
Whatever, it really was no big deal at all. They played pranks like this on each other all the time, surely Michael and Calum would return any second now and dig him out, then they’d sit together on the blanket and eat ice cream. Also, he wasn’t even close enough to the water to be in any real danger, so there was no need to panic. Nope. Definitely not.
A full sixty seconds pass by before Luke decides that he had been left there to die.
“Fuck me,” he curses aloud.
“Wow. That’s pretty straightforward, don’t ya think? I should at least know your name, first.”
Luke quickly opens his eyes and glances up at the source of the mysterious voice before him, but the sun was in his eyes again and he couldn’t really see them as well as he’d like to. One thing for sure was that this person was neither Michael nor Calum.
“Sorry, just a bit of crude humor. You alright down there?” the guy goes on to ask. “You look like you could use a hand. Or two.”
Realizing now that the questions were definitely directed towards him, Luke sputters before answering, “Um, no, it’s—I mean, I’m good. Yeah… my friends should be back any minute now.”
Even to his own ears, Luke knew that he didn’t sound too sure about that. The guy stands there for a couple of seconds before he shrugs and begins walking away.
“Well, alright. Good luck with that.”
Luke Hemmings, you are an idiot. The voice in his mind seems to repeat this a million times in a split second, before Luke gives in.
He speaks loudly to get the guy’s attention.
“Actually I could, um… use a bit of help, to be honest? If you don’t mind,” Luke mutters, sighing with defeat.
Whoever this guy is, he starts laughing—giggling?—and Luke finds the stranger crouching down next to him as he begins to remove some of the sand in big handfuls.
“No, I don’t mind at all,” he chirps.
Shortly afterwards, enough sand has been removed that allows Luke to finish the job himself, so he stands and shakes the rest of the sand from his body. It was perfect timing, too, because his legs had started to go numb and there was a subtle itch on his right thigh that he had really wanted to scratch but couldn’t, and it nearly drove him mad.
“Um. Thank you so…”
Luke trails off as he attempts to thank the man, while also hoping that he doesn’t look as lame as he felt stuck in a hole. But, now that the sun was no longer murdering his eyesight, he could finally get a proper look at the kind stranger. Kind, really attractive stranger was a better description, in truth. Luke suddenly finds himself a bit overwhelmed by curls. Lots of honey-colored curls and big dimples and—holy shit—really nice biceps and toned abs to match.
Okay, so there were probably lots of other attractive people on the beach, too. But, he doubts that any of them had the combination of soft curly hair (definitely soft, Luke was sure of it) and dimples and a great body to match that had Luke tripping over his own words. Plus, none of the other hot girls and hot guys had stopped to dig him out of a hole! Maybe he should’ve been embarrassed by that fact—yes, he definitely was—but even more so, he feels grateful.
“Hi, I’m Luke,” he blurts out, realizing that he’s kind of just staring at Mr. Honey Curls. Did he really just refer to him as that in his mind?
Yes. Yes, he did.
Honey Curls does that giggling thing again, though it’s much quieter this time around. It still has Luke’s stomach in a knot, especially when the guy grins and his dimples are in full effect.
“Ashton,” Honey Curls—Ashton—replies, then uncrosses his arms and extends one for a handshake.
Luke hopes that he doesn’t react too slowly when he takes it. He instantly notes that Ashton’s hands are bigger than his, even though he himself seems to be a couple of inches taller. Ashton is wearing sunglasses, so Luke isn’t sure what his eyes look like, though he wishes he could see them. He feels kind of exposed for some reason, standing there in his swimming trunks and not being able to make proper eye contact. What he notices last, however, are the red shorts and a certain word printed on them in yellow.
“You’re a lifeguard,” Luke says, stating the obvious.
Ashton follows Luke’s gaze and looks down at himself, an expression of mock surprise replacing his grin.
“Why, yes. Yes, I am.”
Only now does Luke remember that he’s still holding Ashton’s hand, so he quickly lets go of it and rubs the back of his neck instead, slightly embarrassed.
God, why did he have to be so awkward? He didn’t usually lose his cool this much in the presence of someone that he found attractive, even if they were a guy. He had accepted himself as being bisexual for a little over a year now, but he didn’t tell anyone that he identified as such until some months ago when he spilled it to Calum during a sleepover. So, he honestly had no idea why he was being such an embarrassment now in front of someone he’s met a few seconds ago.
“So, um… thanks for the help? Yeah. I don’t usually find myself neck-deep in holes…”
“It’d be a real tragedy if you did,” Ashton comments.
“…and, like, I hope I didn’t waste too much of your time.”
Ashton grins once more and shakes his head, the curls gently bouncing one way and then the other.
“No, not at all. It’s basically my job—you know, helping people out? Though, I’m usually required to save them from drowning and other very dangerous situations. But, nearly being buried alive really sucks, too.” Ashton bites his tongue then, and Luke can tell that he’s trying his hardest not to laugh.
Right now, Luke kind of wishes that he was in that hole again, this time buried completely.
“Well, I better finish making my round. See ya, Lucas! It was nice meeting you. Keep an eye out for more dangerous holes, okay?”
Luke merely watches, dazed as the cheeky lifeguard walks away, eventually disappearing from view due to the amount of people on the beach.
Calum and Michael return a minute later.
“I really was coming right back, you know.”
It was nighttime, now. The fierce heat of the day diminished as a cool breeze settled along the coast. They’d had a fulfilling dinner at some pizza joint about fifteen minutes from their place of residence. The energy in their young bodies had just about completely died down by then, the exhaustion from a long day taking over, and it took a bit of an effort to march back up the hill to the beach house. After a long shower, though, Luke feels much better than before and he doesn’t actually want to go to sleep, yet. The clock has just barely struck nine in the evening, anyway.
“Luuuke,” Michael moans when he gets ignored. “I apologized, how long are you gonna be mad?”
In truth, Luke had stopped being angry about being left in a hole many hours ago. As a matter of fact, he was wearing a smug grin because, yeah, he may have been left in a hole to rot, but Michael was the one lying miserably on the couch with a sunburn. Just to be a dick, Luke reaches across from his position in the armchair and pokes his friend where he knows it’ll hurt, eliciting a sharp yelp from the other boy.
“Oh, come on! I left you for five minutes!”
“Hey, Luke,” Calum says over Michael’s whining. He sits up from his previous place on the floor—Michael was taking up the whole couch—and pulls his knees to his chest. “Tell us more about the guy who rescued you from the hole. Like, besides how much you wanted to lick his abs.”
“I… I never said anything about wanting to lick him anywhere, oh my god.”
“Okay, but you’d definitely do it if he let you, right?”
Luke groans and covers his flushed face with his hands. He doesn’t really blame Calum for the stuck-in-a-hole incident, even though his friend had diverged from the ice cream mission and stopped to talk to ‘a few people’, whom Luke will just assume were pretty girls. He does kind of regret mentioning Ashton’s attractiveness when they had questioned how he managed to get out, though.
Luke doesn’t want to think or talk about Ashton, however. Every time that he did, their embarrassing conversation replayed in his mind over and over again, each time much worse than the last. In reality, he knows that Ashton had merely been teasing him, and maybe, just maybe he sensed a tiny bit of flirtation. Plus, Ashton seemed like a really cool guy.
The problem is that Luke doesn’t see himself as a cool guy; he’s dorky and awkward and sometimes he can be really shy, depending on the situation. He might look a certain way on the outside, with his piercings and pretty blonde hair and whatnot. But, when people get to know him, they might think differently of him in a bad way.
“There’s nothing to tell,” Luke says at last. “All I know is that his name’s Ashton, he’s a lifeguard, and now we can stop talking about him forever, thanks.”
“A lifeguard?” Michael suddenly pipes up, only lifting his head because the rest of his body is still sore. “Yeah, you probably should forget about him, then.”
“What’s wrong with lifeguards?” Calum asks. “This one seems nice. He helped Luke, after all.”
“Sure, they can be nice and I bet that they are. Most of them probably only go for surfers, but would it really be a good idea to hook up with one? Think about it: they spend the majority of their time at the beach. Since we’re gonna be here for a while, it’s highly likely that you’ll see them all the time. I mean, imagine getting on a lifeguard’s bad side, you’re swimming and suddenly you get attacked by a giant squid. Who’s going to help you? No one, the lifeguard and their pals pretend that they can’t see you being eaten because you fucked with the wrong crew.”
Michael’s long-winded rant is followed by an even longer period of silence. And, really, he should have expected it when both Luke and Calum erupt into a fit of giggles at the sheer ridiculousness of it all.
“That was the single most dramatic example that I’ve ever heard,” Luke manages to say through the laughter.
“Are you sure that didn’t happen in a movie or something?” Calum adds.
“Hahaha. Laugh all you want, it’ll be your fault when it happens!” Michael warns them, but even he couldn’t stop from laughing a little at the absurd thought. “Okay, okay. Just be careful, yeah? I know how we talked about doing all sorts of fun shit when we got here and maybe hooking up with people, but… you still have to know who or what you’re dealing with.”
This time they didn’t laugh, but Luke lets out a frustrated sigh.
“Okay, but you’re saying that with the assumption that I do want to try hooking up with someone, when I don’t really plan to,” he half-lies.
It was true that he hadn’t actually planned on going out and finding someone to have sex with, but, it was also true that he was the only one in their trio who was still a virgin. Yes, Luke knows that there’s nothing wrong with that. It was just a fact. He also knows that there’s nothing special about having a lot of sex or having none at all, even if people sometimes made it feel that way.
Regardless, he often found himself wondering what it would be like to have sex with someone that he liked. Maybe he only thought of it because he knew that his friends had done so before, or maybe because he was technically still a teenager and teenagers often thought of these things.
Either way, a great part of him craves the experience, whether it’s during this particular vacation or sometime later in his university days. There’s no rush, of course—but, damn, it sure did frustrate him at times. Like now, for instance.
“Anyway,” Luke quickly says, changing the subject because his own thoughts are starting to make him feel awkward, “we should check out the pubs, get a few drinks to celebrate?”
Michael clears his throat. “Um, hello? I’m still very much in excruciating pain, here.”
“No you’re not.” Calum argues. He reaches up to demonstrate, but Michael quickly swats his hand away.
“Don’t. Anyway, you stopped me from napping earlier. Now I’m twice as tired as I was before, thanks to you two.”
“But, drinks,” Luke repeats with great emphasis. “Fruity, alcoholic drinks that probably have the little umbrellas on the side.”
Calum gasps, and Luke knows that he’s won. “Oh! I love the little umbrellas.”
“The vote is two-to-one,” he announces with vigor.
Michael shrugs. “I’m still not going.”
“Not. Going.” Michael shifts the cold compress from one shoulder to the other and buries his face into the couch cushion. “I’ll gladly housesit, though. Just let me sleep, for god’s sake.”
“Alright, fine. Looks like we’re a duo tonight, Cal,” Luke huffs. He grabs the key to the front door from the little kitchen table and shoves it into one of his pocket. When they step outside into the night air, he stage-whispers before closing the door, “Drinks are on Mikey next time. Hopefully, he’ll have remembered to reapply sunscreen when he’s supposed to.”
The bar that they go to turns out to be near the restaurant that they’d eaten at only hours before, so the walk really wasn’t too far. Surprisingly enough, it was slightly crowded inside, though not so crowded that it became unbearable. Luke blames the crowdedness on the relatively small size of the place, as well as the fact that it was a friday night. None of it matters once he has enough alcohol in his system. He doesn’t plan to get shit-faced drunk, but the buzz turns out to be exactly what he needs to relax again.
“What’s that?” Luke asks when he sees the next drink that Calum returns to their table with; he sort of has to half-shout the question to be heard over the laughing, talking, and music playing throughout the place.
The beverage was some sort of pretty blue concoction with two small pieces of fruit perched on the side of the glass. It was much prettier than Luke’s simple piña colada.
Calum blinks, titling his head in wonder before he gives a lazy shrug.
“I forgot. But, look! My little umbrella is cuter than yours,” he beams with pride, twirling the little decoration between his index and thumb.
Luke snorts at that, and he’s about to ask just how many drinks Calum has consumed already (he definitely is not carrying his friend back up that hill) when he hears a loud, familiar laugh from nearby. Or, wait, it was more of a familiar giggle. He looks in the direction that he thinks of came from, and…
The universe had decided to let him be right about something for once, when he really wished that he wasn’t.
Standing at the bar only a few feet away was, of course, Ashton the lifeguard. He was sort of surrounded by a small group of attractive people, no doubt other lifeguards, and they must’ve just come into the bar recently since Luke would’ve noticed Ashton before then. Not that he’s staring or anything, but Luke gradually takes in Ashton’s appearance: he’s wearing a sleeveless shirt that doesn’t fail to show off his biceps, as well as a tight pair of ripped denim jeans that hugs his thighs and his hips and—and, a sudden dizzy feeling runs through Luke’s body. He blames it on the alcohol.
“What’s wrong?” says the voice next to him.
Luke whips his head around to face Calum again, who is looking at him with a great amount of concern.
“What? Nothing. Nothing’s wrong. What makes you think there’s something wrong?” he sort of blabbers in a rush, then attempts to slurp down an obscene amount of his drink at once.
“Well, for one, you keep turning your head to look over there every five seconds. Two, your drink is empty, so you should probably stop slurping at nothing.”
Luke frowns, looking down at his empty glass.
Fuck. When did that happen?
“Tell me,” Calum demands. He snaps his fingers in front of Luke’s face to get his attention again.
“Fine, alright, jeez… it’s just, he’s here. And, you know, it’s no big deal. I just—”
“You mean Ashton?” Calum cuts him off, and there was nothing secretive about the tone that he’d chosen.
“Yes, shhh—god, the whole planet probably heard you!”
Calum raises a brow in curiosity, but it’s immediately replaced with a look of mischief that Luke isn’t very fond of. Especially when his friend begins to chuckle.
“Okay, I don’t get it. Why are you so afraid of him? You don’t even know him. And, which one is he, anyway?”
Luke rapidly shakes his head. “I’m not… I’m not afraid of him or anything else, for that matter.”
Calum isn’t convinced.
There was no way that he was getting out of this conversation, Luke knew. The only option was to get it over with as quickly as possible so that he could stop being pestered about it. With an exasperated sigh, he rubs his temples in hopes that he could stall the headache that was bound to come soon enough.
“Light-brown, curly hair… grey shirt, denim jeans,” he begins to list.
Somehow, Luke catches himself before the words spill from his mouth, and he makes sure to properly kick Calum underneath the table, right in the shin.
“Abusive!” his friend laughs, and he promises to take the whole thing a bit more seriously. “Yeah, yeah, I see him…wow.”
“You should go talk to him,” Calum casually suggests, and then returns his attention to the drink before him.
“What? No, absolutely not. I-I can’t do that. That’d be weird.”
“How come? You already did it before.”
“Yeah, for maybe two minutes. You know, after he dug me out of a fucking hole.”
“Luuuke,” Calum groans impatiently, spinning in his seat until they were face to face. He places both of his hands on Luke’s shoulders and gently shakes him. “Luke, Luke, Luke. You need to just… chill, you know? Not everything is as bad as you think! If he turns out to be a dick, find someone else to flirt with, it’s as simple as that. Sometimes in life, you’re required to just say ‘fuck it’ and do what should be done. Go on, say it.”
“…Are you high?”
“If you don’t talk to him or at least give me a good reason as to why you can’t, then I’m going to talk to him.”
This was harassment. There’s no doubt about it. He was being threatened by his own best friend, his comrade. Sober Calum would’ve let it go by now instead of pushing his boundaries, but slightly intoxicated Calum could not be defeated. Also, Luke was slightly intoxicated as well, so this whole situation literally spelled out disaster. It wasn’t the least bit fair.
“Fuck it,” Luke mutters as he hops up from his seat—maybe not the best idea, but he manages not to fall.
Calum pats him on the back and shouts some words of encouragement, but all Luke focuses on is the short distance between their table and the bar where Ashton was standing. Well, it should’ve been a short distance, but it ends up feeling like walking a mile. This time, Luke doesn’t blame it on the drinks.
And of course he gets a bit of alcohol spilled on him when he tries to get Ashton’s attention. Amazing.
“Woops—sorry about that!” Ashton’s apology sort of comes out slurred after he had spun around, spilling a bit of his cocktail on Luke’s old vans.
“No, it’s my fault. Don’t worry about it,” Luke mutters. The words ‘fuck it’ are already beginning to mock him inside of his head.
Ashton looks up then, their eyes meeting properly for the first time and—oh. They’re green. Well, not quite green. The color of Ashton’s eyes seem to be a little more on the hazel side, a sort of strange mixture of the two. The shade isn’t really important, though.
What captivates Luke is that they’re just so big. They’re big, bright and full of life, and maybe it’s because his mind isn’t in the right place but he can see so much in them; joy, pain, innocence, guilt, strength, weakness, cautiousness but a carefree nature and a million other things and fuck. This isn’t a cheesy romance novel, his mind shouldn’t be this inebriated from a few simple drinks.
Get it the fuck together, Luke.
Ashton appears unfazed by the lameness, because a cheerful grin immediately forms and his dimples are killing Luke softly, once again.
“Oh, it’s you! Perfect timing.”
“Huh?” Luke frowns, more than a little confused.
Ashton turns back towards his friends and waves a hand in Luke’s direction before he shouts, “Hey, guys! This is him, the one that was in the hole.”
Like following the leader, all of the other lifeguards begin to laugh and cheer loudly, raising their drinks in a mock salute before going back to their separate conversations.
“Oh,” Luke murmurs once he understands. He feels his face begin to heat up from embarrassment and the confidence that he’d started building sort of sinks. He doesn’t want to be the laughingstock that’ll always be remembered as a head sticking out of the sand.
Suddenly, there’s a hand gently grabbing his wrist and he looks up again to find Ashton—who seems to have moved even closer—staring at him with an expression of worry.
“I’m sorry,” he says. “I promise I wasn’t making fun of you. In fact, you really gave me a good laugh today, so thanks for that.”
That… sort of makes Luke feel a little bit better. Just a bit.
“It’s just a thing between me and the lads,” Ashton goes on to explain. “We get together for drinks and tell each other about the crazy but entertaining shit we’d seen that day. It’s all in jest.”
As if to prove a point, Ashton points a thumb to the guy standing on the other side of him with a wicked grin.
“That’s Dan. Once, Dan thought that he saw a shark near the shore so he sounded the alarm and had everyone running. Turns out, it was just someone’s cooler floating around in the water!”
That really has Luke going, and he has to cover his mouth with a hand to stop himself from squealing with laughter.
“For the last time, it was my first day. Screw you, Ash,” the guy named Dan says, but he has to bring his beer back up to his lips to hide his smile.
“Love you, too,” Ashton chuckles.
And then Ashton is looking at him again with those wide eyes, and Luke feels his insides start to float around. He’s hit with a sudden desire to impress the curly-headed guy. In fact, it almost feels like a need. He needs to impress him, needs to get Ashton to like him and approve of him in some way or another. Luke doesn’t know why he feels like he needs Ashton’s approval, but he thinks that if he gets it, he’ll have accomplished something.
“So, where ya from, Lucas? What brings you to good ol‘ Byron Bay?”
Luke clears his throat before answering. “West Sydney. And, um… I’m on vacation with my friends.”
Ashton nods and leans against the bar in a way that Luke knows has to be a flirtatious pose, but he really doesn’t want to get his hopes up.
“Here for the adventure? Kayaking? Diving...?”
Luke shakes his head and a thought comes to his mind before he replies with, “Diving isn’t really my forte. When I go under, I usually end up… buried deep in the sand.”
It’s lame. It’s the lamest of lame jokes, but he figures it’s easier to get over the embarrassment of their first meeting if he makes fun of himself. Whether he actually finds it amusing or not, Ashton chuckles and Luke is sure that he sees a twinkle in his eyes.
“What is your forte, then? Wait, let me guess! You’re a surfer. Definitely a surfer. You look like one, after all.”
When Luke opens his mouth to deny it because, no, he definitely cannot surf, his slightly intoxicated brain decides that that’s not what he should say at all.
“Yeah, actually,” he lies, “I am.”
It’s no big deal, Luke thinks. Besides, when he sees the intrigued smile begin to blossom on Ashton’s face, he knows that he must’ve done something right. Maybe the guy has a thing for surfers? Luke can be a ‘surfer’, then.
“I think I’m really starting to like you, Lucas. Sex on the Beach?”
That catches Luke off guard. His eyes widen and he freezes up, his mouth opening and closing several times like some sort of stupid fish.
Apparently, Ashton finds his reaction to be the funniest thing in the world.
“The drink. I’m talking about—oh my god—I meant the beverage,” he explains through bouts of laughter. “I’d like to buy you a drink! Is that okay?”
Luke really, really wants to slap himself in the face.
When he calms down, Ashton orders two Sex on the Beach cocktails for them. He’s still grinning from ear to ear when he turns his gaze on Luke again.
“You’re really cute, you know that?”
No, he doesn’t know that. What Luke does know is that the next two months are most likely going to be filled with even more awkward moments and embarrassing mishaps, at this rate. But, a curly-haired boy with dimples and a smile that shines like the sun makes Luke feel like he’ll somehow manage to get through it all.