Robin turns her head, bows it to regard Steve with a questioning look from over her sunglasses. “What is it, dingus?” she says around her straw.
“As much as I’m enjoying sitting here with you while you…” he trails off and blindly waves a hand at the swimming pool. “Undress people behind your shades, I need to ask you for…advice.”
She grins, toothy and amused. “Well, well. Mr. Harrington, adviser extraordinaire, asking for my guidance?” she muses, playful and obviously trying to raise his hackles.
He offers her an exaggeratedly fake smile, running his fingers through his hair as he sits up on the chaise lounge. “Advice” he corrects, gratuitously. “And don’t think too much of it.”
She pushes her sunglasses up, using it as a makeshift headband. “Ok. Shoot, doofus” she sips at her drink for good measure.
Steve licks at his lips, paying his surroundings a cursory look to make sure no one’s listening in, then leans forward. “How did you…” his question dwindles, and given the questioning squint he studies her with, he seems to believe he got his point across.
“How did I…?” Robin inclines her head, brows rising. He looks downright pained as he opens and closes his mouth at a loss for wording. “Words, dingus” she drawls, annoyed.
Steve takes a breath, leans a little closer, and whispers something incoherent over the splashing of the pool.
Steve huffs. “How did you know you were… y’know..?”
“Gay?” Robin finishes off, lips twitching at his expression while he looks around again. “You’re acting more cautious asking about my gayness than you acted when we were trapped in an underground Russian base,” she states, her entertainment clear in her tone and the mocking twinkle in her eyes. “You think you’re gay, Harrington?”
Steve clenches his teeth, presses a finger to his lips to hush her. “Hshhh” he grits. “No! I just want to know how you… found out” he shrugs.
Robin blinks blandly, not convinced in the least that he just suddenly feels interested in her personal life. “Believe it or not, you were my gay epiphany.”
“Jeez, flattering” Steve mutters sarcastically.
“I told you the story. For the longest time I thought it was you I was jealous over” she laughs at her own words. “Seriously can’t believe I thought my standards were this...” she gestures for him, “low.”
“Hey, hey, hey!” Steve sings out. “Woah there. Some people would die to–”
“Spare me” Robin interjects. “What brought this on?”
At the question, and almost subconsciously, Steve’s eyes are drawn to Billy, sitting on the lifeguard stand, blue eyes hidden behind his Ray Ban sunglasses, whistle hanging around his neck, his golden skin drawn tight over the flex of his bicep and abs. If anything, the scar the Mindflayer left behind only made him look stronger, made him stronger.
The look only lasts a second, but Robin instantly looks over her shoulder, lets out a ‘haha’ of ridicule before looking back at Steve. “Good taste you’ve got there” she leans over to punch his shoulder playfully, “let’s hope his isn’t as good and we can hook you up.”
Steve stares at her, slightly annoyed with her demeaning of his princely looks, but mostly mortified (and touched, incredibly so) by the unabashed acceptance in her casual behaviour. “Just to – Just to make it clear, I love girls” he says, voice low and much shier.
“And boys obviously” she turns in her seat, blatantly gawking at Billy. “Damn, dingus.”
“Ok, stop staring” Steve orders, “he’ll think you’re eyeballing the..” he waves at his own chest, referring to the marks the wounds have left behind.
Billy pushes his sunglasses up into his unruly hair, and neither Steve nor Robin have the chance to look away, his blues perching on them in under a second. Robin is quick to turn her attention elsewhere, bringing her straw to her lips and stifling her laugh around it. Billy blinks at Steve, tapping an irregular beat against the metal of his stand.
Then he smiles. It’s slow and knowing and doesn’t at all lack the smugness he carries himself with. But it’s kind, reaches his eyes, makes Steve’s heart stop for just a second before he smiles back. His smile, according to Robin, is goofy and awkward but cute all the same.
He wants the ground to open up and swallow him whole.
They break eye-contact, return to their respective business for another half an hour before Billy’s shift ends.
And Steve can nail down the moment Robin’s swept off her feet by the next lifeguard. She puts down her drink, tucks her hair behind her ears and sits up. Steve’s cheeks fill with air in an endeavour to stifle his laugh as she pulls her swimsuit down to show off a little more cleavage. “Who is that?” she says dreamily.
“Heather Holloway” Steve answers. “Want me to introduce you?”
Robin waves him off and stands to her feet. “I need to make an impression” she says.
“Whatcha gonna do?” Steve looks up at her, shielding his face from the sun using his hand.
“Drown” Robin rolls her shoulders back, mentally preparing herself. “How do I look?” she looks down at Steve.
“A whole new woman” he throws her words back at her. “But maybe just–” he gestures for his own hair.
“If I want a mane like yours, I’ll just have a bird lay eggs in my hair” Robin says, the sweetness of her tone a stark contrast with the insult imbedded in her words.
“Don’t die!” he calls after her, laughs when she flips him off without looking back.
Steve blinks away from Robin to settle his eyes on Billy. “Isn’t your shift over?” he asks. He doesn’t mean for it to sound as sharp as it does.
Billy lays down on Robin’s chaise lounge, spreading his legs and locking them at the ankles as he reaches for her unfinished drink and takes a sip of it. He frowns at the taste and puts it aside. “Can we talk?”
Steve is frankly dumbfounded by the question. “Sure. You love hearing yourself talk” he says, effectively masking his surprise.
Billy smirks at the words, lifting a hand to play with the whistle hanging down to his chest. Steve’s eyes are drawn to the movement, to the scar up close. His fingers twitch at the idea of tracing it with them, to stroke away every vestige of insecurity Billy’s hiding behind his state of undress. Because people would have to be blind not to see the way he crosses his arms over his chest when no one’s looking, or how he keeps less buttons undone. The confidence his bare-chested condition exudes is a strong mask that takes a great deal of courage to put on. Much more to take off.
It’s simple, eloquent, but snatches the air right from Steve’s lungs. He keeps his cool, though. “For what? Being an asshole or almost getting yourself killed?”
Billy gives a toothy grin, one that makes his eyes crinkle at the sides. “Both?”
“I guess those tentacles nudged some manners into you” Steve tries to joke, then realises how insensitive it is and mutters an apology.
“For what? Being an asshole or mocking my near-death experience?” Billy retorts. It makes Steve laugh behind a closed fist.
“Both” he eventually says. “But I’m… glad you’re alive.”
That sparks off a laughing bout out of Billy. “Believe it or not, Harrington, you’re the first to say that” he says, shaking his head as he pulls Robin’s purple towel over himself, shielding his scars from Steve’s eyes.
This time, when Steve’s fingers quivers to touch, he doesn’t stop them. He reaches over, and lays hold of the towel. He sees the way Billy’s throat bobs when he slides it off. “Better” Steve says quietly.
Billy swipes his tongue over his lips and glances up at Steve through long lashes. “Pretty cool, huh?”
Steve humours his display of coolness and nods. “Yep.”
The splash of water hauls his attention to the pool, rolls his eyes at Robin’s travesty of acting. Her drama teacher would be downright horrified. But it works all the same because Heather is diving in a second after Robin calls out for help in the emptying pool.
Billy snorts. “That’s the shallow end.”
“Never letting her live that one down” Steve turns back to Billy.
“She your girl?” Billy nods his chin at her. Steve would be flustered by the question two months ago when he was still getting over his little crush on her, but right now, he doesn’t feel much. He doesn’t tell Billy she doesn’t swing that way, figures that’s her matter to tell.
“Nah, Robin isn’t my type” he says instead.
Billy sits up and leans forward, arms propped on his thighs. “What is your type?”
Steve glances at Robin, now wrapped in a towel and one of Heather’s arms. He envies her straightforwardness. Wishes she’d lend him an iota of it.
She lifts her eyes and catches his, then widens them slightly and jerks her head to the side in a ‘come on!’ motion.
So Steve comes on. He looks back at Billy, pushes his hair back in a way that disrupts his part line. “Assholes.” It takes him a second to realise what he’s said and how dirty it sounds. He means to take it back, but Billy’s head tips back and he laughs at the top of his voice, shoulders shaking, and tongue trapped between his teeth. “Such a fucking dork, Harrington” his laugh melts to something softer, fond and delighted.
He stands up, and Steve girds up his loins to get royally rejected and fucked over with a series of insults.
Billy raises a hand, chucks Steve beneath the chin to get his attention. Then he starts walking off and Steve feels completely, utterly humiliated by this alternative. He feels like getting slapped would’ve been a kinder option.
Billy keeps walking, even as he calls out a, “Tonight, Harrington. Seven. Don’t be late.”